*NEW* THE GIFT REVIEW *NEW*

TheGift
Joel Edgerton’s debut is a gift that needs returning.

Slow, dreary and dreadfully predictable. Disappointed doesn’t even come close.

A young married couple’s lives are thrown into a harrowing tailspin when an acquaintance from the husband’s past brings mysterious gifts and a horrifying secret to light after more than 20 years.

That synopsis makes it sound so much more interesting that it really was.

Now I’ve been a fan of Edgerton for some time ever since his turn in Kinky Boots and Warrior. I really had high hopes for his directorial debut. A great cast do their best BUT you can’t hide a lifeless thriller with a surprisingly flat twist.

The opening got the ball rolling quite early. It set up the premise within five minutes. Couple. House. Creepy friend. Excellent. Let the game of cat and mouse begin.

The first half hour I was happy to allow the characters to develop. Always remembering that the inevitable was creeping around the corner. BUT by the hour marker, I was praying for it to come quicker (Steady now).

It was great to see Jason Bateman tackle a serious film for a change. I just wish he had a meatier role. He really excelled in the darker moments (which tragically there wasn’t enough of) and had good chemistry with Rebecca Hall.

Rebecca Hall is a very good actress but has this knack of featuring in mediocre films. Transcendence, anyone? She had an impeccable accent and carried the film for me. Lucky. Considering the film was very much focused on her character. The pawn in a very boring game of chess.

Edgerton was perfect as the troubled Gordo. The film picked up every time he appeared. To be honest, his numerous drop-ins at the family home felt like a minor inconvenience more than a stalkerish obsession.

I was impressed with Edgerton’s supporting cast. It’s just a shame that he didn’t give them better characters. Alison Tolman (Fargo) was wasted as the neighbour. It was extremely annoying because there was a strange moment in which Edgerton suggested something more suspect about her.

When Robyn (Hall) first meets Tolman’s character, she notices the baby is left crying in the back of the car. Hidden behind a veil. There was a slight Rosemary’s Baby vibe. BUT in the next frame, we have Robyn cradling the baby. It could have been a play on Hall’s paranoia BUT more should have been made of it.

How did Busy Philips from Dawson’s Creek get in this? She might as well have NOT been. Wendell Pierce was pretty much playing Bunk from the Wire. The same tired face and exasperated expression. Great for a Wire fan. Poor for anyone else. And he was only it in for 30 seconds and was completely redundant.

Eduard Grau’s cinematography may have provided a murky look to this supposedly “murky” thriller. But you can’t a polish a tur- turgid drama.

I’m happy to allow a slow burning thriller to unfold. If the pay-off delivers. The inevitable creepy tension as Gordo’s numerous appearances go from annoying to unsettling was too predictable. I could feel myself ticking everything off a check list. It was too formulaic. They have a pond. He buys them fish. They throw him out. He kills the fish. Oh no, they have a dog. What’s going to happen there?

It was inevitable that Gordo was a ticking timebomb. If anything Bateman’s reaction was more questionable as he finally lets his new guest know that he has overstayed his welcome. This is where the film did get a little more interesting as Simon’s (Bateman) past is called into question.

The cheap jump out of your seat scares felt desperate as the film continued to stagger along. I thought the shower sequence was merely a ploy to make sure the audience were still awake. Quick jump. Aaah! Right. Still with us? Back to the film.

The closing fifteen minutes finally delivered what I had expected from the rest of the film. A tense slow burning stand-off with the inevitable twist rearing its ugly head. And credit where it’s due; the twist was actually an interesting one. And I did appreciate Edgerton’s little nod to the Usual Suspects.

It did leave you pondering as the credits rolled. A nice touch. But once I got out of the cinema and into my car, I realised I had still wasted two hours for a mediocre conclusion and the revelation hardly matched all the mystery and hype.

Patchy at best but very disappointing for all the promise. Mr Edgerton, spend less time on wrapping and more time on picking a better present, eh.

2.5/5

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THE WORST FILMS OF 2014 – PART TWO

Did you walk out of a film feeling angry, disappointed, baffled, confused?

Did you walk out of a film for that matter?

Did you sit in your car (or at home) reeling? Questioning, debating, pondering how on Earth it even got through the pitching process?

Then, welcome.

I think I’ve already compiled my worst films of 2015 which doesn’t bode well for the year that lies ahead.

BUT let’s (finally) review the worst films of 2014!

My criteria; Basically films that destroyed all excitement and anticipation or failed to deliver anything (Acting, talent, story, suspense, a movie).

Films that made me cry a little, scream with RAGE or just say, “I don’t think I’m going to bother anymore” . . . With the cinema (Woah, let’s not get too down now).

So I’ve already provided PART ONE from 20-11. NOW, it’s finally time for PART TWO with 10 – 1

SCALE: 10 DISAPPOINTED! – 1 WTF!

I’ll stick a few comments with each crappy film title accordingly. Enjoy . . . OR NOT. In fact, you won’t with these 😦

 

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10. WALKING WITH DINOSAURS: THE 3D MOVIE

I know, it’s a kid’s movie. BUT the dino facts were so patronising and stupid that it put me in a rage! I mean, come on! Kids can read. BUT the slow TRI-CER-A-T-OPS pronunciation was infuriating.

Plus they interrupted any interesting development in the dull by the numbers story line. The effects were good BUT the 3D? What 3D?

Not even John Lequizamo’s vocal work could save the day. In fact he annoyed the hell out of me. A talking crow narrating the history of the dinosaurs to a family?

LOGIC?! It just didn’t help the main character grated against me and the story was so predictable and corny that you lost interest.

The purpose of a family movie is to appeal . . . to a family. I don’t even think the little ‘uns would be fussed about watching this one.

Go watch the vastly superior award winning BBC documentary series instead!

 

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9. THE HARRY HILL MOVIE

Harry Hill making a movie? Any good? There’s only one way to find out?

NO! Hill tries to incorporate his TV Burp format to the big screen with a silly premise about taking his ill hamster to Blackpool.

Johnny Vegas does his best to get a chuckle as Abu the hamster. Abu? Wait. Isn’t that the name of another furry sidekick? Hmmm . . .

It was a shame with the talent at Hill’s disposal. Julie Walters, Matt Lucas, Jim Broadbent . . . Will from Inbetweeners.

For every good gag, Hill manages to balance it with a dozen duds.

It’s surreal, stupid and a mess to boot. I felt like I was on something watching it. Maybe I should have to try and understand how Hill thought this would be entertaining.

 

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8. DEVIL’S DUE

Another regurgitated, predictable, lazy, teen horror movie that desperately attempts to reap from the Paranormal Activity hype.

Paranormal Activity was a treat, an actual creepy, tension builder, that recreated and improved what the overrated handy-cam trend setter The Blair Witch Project set out.

A couple go on an exotic Brazilian honeymoon. They get lost. Get drunk. Suspicious taxi driver recommends strange place. Takes them before they can say, “Wait a minute”. And that last drink, oh that inevitable last drink. Instead of passing out on the bathroom floor, poor Sam gets impregnated by a Satanic cult.

The main issue is that the writers and producers either have never seen Rosemary’s Baby and inadvertently delivered a poor modern day rehash of it or they knew what they were doing which is even more tragic.

However, too many movies have popped their ugly heads out from this craze and I pray that this be the last but unfortunately the true horror is that it won’t be. (Just keep scrolling)

 

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7. THE LAST DAYS ON MARS

The . . . last film they should do about Mars. Oh my days. Shambolic. The pain endured watching this space turd was like having a xenomorph burst out of my chest and that still would have been more entertaining than this drivel.

Slow, tension less, shoddily acted, more holes than a sponge. This film should be jettisoned into space. Okay, rant over. Better? Better.

It is such a shame that an underrated cast have the opportunity to shine in a perfect B movie-esque vehicle and miss at every angle.

They could have done a shot for shot remake of Alien and they still would have messed it up.

If it wasn’t for the fact it was funded by the BFI and Irish Film Board, this definitely wouldn’t have made it to the big screen and rightly so. The fact it only featured at my cinema for five days says it all.

Also the film is called Last Days on Mars and yet when we join them, they are 19 hours away from going home so surely THE LAST DAY ON MARS. Couldn’t even get the title right.

 

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6. NATIVITY 3: DUDE WHERE’S MY DONKEY?!

Ho, ho, ho – horrible!

From the moment the first badly mimed, badly choreographed and terribly out of sync flash mob started busting shapes, I knew I was in for it. And that was just from the adults. The kids hadn’t even started yet.

Just because it was Christmas that doesn’t mean you can slap any old thing together and expect people to pay and see it. It was lazy, unfunny and poor. At a push, worth taking the little ‘uns if they are aged up to 5 tops.

I’m sure it was fun for everyone who filmed it. It’s just a shame they couldn’t convey that for everybody else.

I didn’t get me in the Christmas spirit but it certainly got reaching for the ones in my cupboard. Should be Dude, Where’s My Money?

 

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5. TRANSCENDENCE

Transcen-dunce or dense. A mind numbingly drab affair of a concept that has just enough meat to be a generic TV movie you’d expect to see on late night SyFy.

You know you’re onto a loser when the opening five minutes pretty much tells you what to expect and an established cast sleepwalk their lines and fail to make an impression.

It just proves that a little thing called story, along with some others called character, plot and interest still count.

Sleep walking performances, along with a by the numbers story line, relying on the popularity of familiar actors does not a good or profitable movie make.

I hope the memory of viewing this film will transcend, evaporating like the little nano-bots into nothingness. Avoid or upload at your own peril.

 

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4. UNDER THE SKIN

Under the skin? More like grating against my skin. What the hell did I just watch? Now imagine Species. Replace Natasha Henstridge with the even more alluring Scarlett Johansson. Set it in a grittier, murkier Scottish backdrop and bang on, you have . . . something worse than Species.

In fact just watch Species or the even more dire sequels to this drivel.

ScarJo plays a flirty alien that feasts on weak, shallow, lonely Scottish men. How could this be so bad? How can the man who brought us Sexy Beast produce this?

I mean he did do the oddly bizarre Birth. You know Birth? Nicole Kidman and her husband who is reincarnated as a 10 year old? Oh, that Birth, yeah.

 

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3. INTO THE STORM

Where to begin? The insufferable shaky handheld camera work? The cheesy Day After Tomorrow guff that managed to be more vomit inducing than the Day After Tomorrow?

The redneck tornado chasers? Richard Armitage getting his arse sucked off by a twister? Well, it bloody looked like he was.

This just made me want to walk out of the screen. Go to the nearest store that had the Twister DVD. Go back to the projectionist and tell them to put that on instead.

It was cringe-inducing bilge. I have never laughed so much. This was a farce. I have seen B-movies on SyFy that have contained better story lines and characters than this.

 

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2. AS ABOVE SO BELOW

As I watched, the more it blowed. Now childish sulky comments aside. Another found footage “horror” film graces the big screen with cheap scares, poorly acted, badly written characters and a laughable premise.

There is no tension. Random characters get bumped off left, right and centre without any background, interest or concern. Suspense. Naff all.

Loud noises and screams may make me jump out of my seat but what do you expect when the story has put me into a coma, near enough.

Feldman’s character with a dark past who constantly keeps reiterating that he will not go down into the catacombs; inevitably gets pushed down into the cave and what is his big secret?

He’s CLAUSTROPHOBIC! Why didn’t he say that in the first place? Idiot. Oh my God, it felt like something out of a comedy sketch.

 

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1. AND THE AWARD FOR WORST FILM OF 2014 GOES TO . . .

THE PYRAMID

This film should be buried beneath a pyramid.

You know you’re onto a loser when the saving grace is Jay from The Inbetweeners.

What a load of s#@! The demon bared a striking resemblance to those devil dog things from the live action Scooby Doo reboot. The one with Matthew Lillard as Shaggy.

It took half the film before they even got into the flipping thing. The ending was abrupt and predictable after all that endurance with the shoddy, shaky camera work.

Seriously, these found footage films need to STOP. It was too dark to see anything. Half of the time you get an elbow or a nostril. Come on, we’re in the Go Pro age guys!

Mindless exposition about unoriginal premises that have been done to death with lifeless characters that bicker through predictable and unscary scenarios are not acceptable.

 

TRANSCENDENCE REVIEW

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Transcen-dunce or dense. A mind numbingly drab affair of a concept that has just enough meat to be a generic TV movie you’d expect to see on late night SyFy. You know you’re onto a loser when the opening five minutes pretty much tells you what to expect and an established cast sleepwalk their lines and fail to make an impression. The list of contenders for worst film of 2014 keeps growing.

*WARNING POTENTIAL SPOILERS* A surprising . . . ly slow and spoilerific post-apocalyptic opening made for strange viewing, followed by a flashback piecing together the aftermath. Slow but go on. This is soon hit with mind numbing techno gobbledygook that even the normally prolific powerhouse that is Johnny Depp is so bored of explaining. Basically the gist is that controversial scientist Will Caster (Depp) is the foremost researcher in artificial intelligence who is working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. ZZZZZZ! However, this has made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him. A crazy sporadic two minute killing spree soon stopped me fidgeting in my seat. Unexpected (if you don’t remember the trailer) and engaging, I thought here we go. Boy, was I wrong?

Their attempt to destroy Will inadvertently becomes the catalyst he needed to succeed. Fighting for his life, Caster becomes a participant in his own “transcendence” by uploading himself and becoming a power mad information feeding virtual freak. If I had known, the journey that was in store, I would have stayed at home. There is a surprisingly stale chemistry between the beautiful Rebecca Hall and Depp. It was as if writer James Paglan thought; well they are a couple, you must feel for them. We won’t enforce the feelings or develop them. Just insert some corny, generic couple-y moments that take up too much screen time. Once Depp is uploaded, he becomes a monotone and incredibly droll menace that dithers in the background. Hall does her best to carry the film with an impeccable accent. The divided loyalty and questionable motives behind the rebooted Depp made for potentially engaging viewing but it didn’t really go anywhere. An elongated and drawn out 45 minutes building up to Depp’s upload did not do any favours for patience. His drawn out complexion and wirey helmet (easy now) was reminiscent of a demented Hellraiser. Again, nothing surmountable.

I mean the battle and debate about the ever-growing potential of AI is always an intriguing one. “Was Caster really there at all or did the AI get too clever?” was intriguing at certain points. But at a whopping two hours, there just wasn’t enough with the inevitable ending vastly approaching. Fantastic to look at. The visual effects were good. A redeeming sequence in which “Caster” has managed to develop nano bots to create an army of super soldiers delivered the little action that appeared to be on offer with some more familiar supporting faces; Clifton Collins Jr (The Event, 24) and Josh Stewart (Criminal Minds, The Dark Knight Rises). However, there is one scene which had me in stitches, whether they ran out of budget or poor editing, one of the enhanced nano bots shows off his incredible talents by jumping up two steps on a ladder. If I could find it, I would show it. Hilarious.

That’s not all that’s hilarious. The story makes no sense at all. Cillian Murphy and Morgan Freeman do absolutely nothing to uplift this mess. Because their characters do absolutely nothing. Even though they are aware of the dangerous effects of Caster’s ever-growing power, they just look at charts, mumble some data mumbo jumbo, rush about at the end and . . . watch from the sidelines. Freeman proved one thing. That even with his dulcet tones, he can make any bad line good. “With one of the most advanced security measures in the world, my own team got killed by poisoned cake”. Paul Bettany’s character gets imprisoned by a terrorist cell. Sits about staring blankly into nothingness while being lectured at by Kate Mara’s cyber hippie terrorist. His motives become dreadfully unclear in which it skims forward two years and he’s joined the cell. Freeman even asks him how they got to him. A shrug. That’s all we get. A shrug. Something I fear the writer or director did while making this.

A dreadful directorial debut for Wally Pfister. Now Pfister is a talented cinematographer who has worked extensively with Christopher Nolan for the last decade on some of his biggest hits to date. With Nolan as executive producer, no one would have expected this. Pfister delivers a mess, a beautifully shot mess, but a mess all the same. Perhaps stick with the cinematography? Harsh, maybe. The idea was an intriguing prospect but a lack of pace, a plot holed story line with an inevitable ending is hardly going to make this a memorable film. I mean I’m going to remember this for the two hours I lost. This also marks another step down for the prolific Depp. He is still a talented actor and the argument that he has been poor since Dark Shadows is harsh. His performance redeemed The Lone Ranger in my opinion but it was still a flop. And this film will do him no favours. Perhaps a better look at the script before accepting the wonga. That’s the only reason why I think, or hope, that the cast took this.

It just proves that a little thing called story, along with some others called character, plot and interest still count. Sleep walking performances, along with a by the numbers story line, relying on the popularity of familiar actors does not a good or profitable movie make. I fear the memory of the film will transcend, evaporating like the little nano-bots into nothingness. Avoid or upload at your own peril. 1/5

Currently ranks #168 out of 169!