THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN REVIEW

Normally films like this put me on edge.

High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) when her best friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating her older brother (Blake Jenner).

I didn’t think I’d enjoy this at all.

The endless praise and surprisingly high ratings piqued my curiousity. When I saw Miss Steinfeld in True Grit, I thought to myself, “She is going to be one to watch for the future” BUT the last few films I’ve seen her in, I’ve been disappointed. Playing nothing more than a neurotic, fast talking, annoying teenage daughter.

She really grated against me in Pitch Perfect 2.

Within the first ten minutes of Nadine’s verbal diarrhea, I thought I might have to switch this off. Her melodramatic cries for attention had me wincing. That was until she shared her feelings with a seemingly uncaring teacher (Woody Harrelson).

What ensued after was a pleasantly entertaining coming-of-age family drama that hit home.

The film flicked back and forth as we got a glimpse into Nadine’s past right up to the . . . edge of 17. The melancholy and nostalgia ripe for the picking as she made her first friend at pre-school and bumped heads with her erratic mother (Kyra Sedgwick).

Her dad being the wedge between them. An endearing relationship that was cut short (rather unexpectedly).

It was easygoing and funny enough as Nadine dealt with growing up, high school crushes, her sibling rivalry with her over achieving brother Darian (Nope, not a typo. Actual name) and those . . . embarrassing haircuts. Rocking a do that bared striking similarities to Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite.

However, being a teen drama, it wasn’t long before Nadine’s relatively tranquil and normal life came crashing down after walking in on her BFF in bed with Darian.

Throwing her into a helter skelter of emotions and self-reflection as she threatens to lose her only real friend and cause a rift in the family.

After commending Harrelson’s performance in Three Billboards last month, I was impressed to see that the comedy actor wasn’t a one trick pony (I know! True Detective, yeah yeah yeah). He really has matured as an actor and delivered a sterling turn as the cynical Mr Bruner.

I loved the dynamic between Nadine and her long suffering tutor. The tit for tat banter really made the film. A constant thorn in the miserable mentor’s side. BUT beneath that gloomy exterior, lied a man with a good heart. Desperate to see this neurotic teenager find her way and . . . leave him alone for a god damn second.

Hayden Szeto was brilliant as Erwin. The geeky film nerd desperate to win Nadine’s love and affection. The awkward cringe inducing first date, the idle chit chat, we’ve all been there. I felt for the poor chap as he got “friend zoned” again and again.

What I loved most about this film was how writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig tackled loneliness and isolation among the characters.

Nadine’s depression and frustrations reaching breaking point as she tries to break up the people who are desperately trying to help her. The stubbornness and refusal to see other people’s problems over her own as she acted out.

I was a little embarrassed to admit that I could relate to the headstrong 17 year old girl. I was dropped by my best friend in sixth form out of the blue which knocked my confidence for six and forced me to re-evaluate myself.

I know the situation was reversed for Nadine BUT the anguish and awkward encounters as she tried to branch out struck a chord for me. Brilliantly captured and acted perfectly by Steinfeld.

I wasn’t sure on what direction the film would take as it reached it’s emotional finale. I won’t spoil it. BUT worth a watch.

A pleasant surprise. Not without its imperfections. It was still a little cheesy and the pace did test in places BUT hype definitely helped this time around.

3.5/5

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*NEW* GOLD REVIEW *NEW*

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McMumbler does just enough to make this mediocre biopic alright, alright, alright.

Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey), a prospector desperate for a lucky break, teams up with a similarly eager geologist (Edgar Ramirez) and sets off on a journey to find gold in the uncharted jungle of Indonesia.

First thing’s first . . .

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Right, now I’ve got that out of my system. I can review this properly.

I was actually looking forward to this. And . . .

The opening 20 minutes was painfully slow, disappointing and uninteresting as Wells scraped the bottom of the barrel.

An incredibly dull encounter with his father (A waste of Craig T Nelson) did nothing to get things going. All the metaphors in the world couldn’t liven that scene up.

A flawed protagonist fallen from grace. His family legacy gone; a respected and lucrative prospecting firm now nothing more than a made up office in a dingy bar for the remaining loyal employees. A laughing stock.

I actually struggled to understand McConaughey in the first act. It was True Detective all over again. I should have seen the Audio Described version.

His receding hair line and beer belly won’t win the ladies over. Seriously, he looked like Les Grossman from Tropic Thunder.

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I know we were supposed to see a man at his wit’s end BUT the whole “gold calling him in a dream” spiel was a little hokey. An act of desperation. One last roll of the dice. Pawning his own wife’s watch for a plane ticket to Indonesia.

Break or bust. And the rest . . . was thankfully a little bit more enjoyable.

Whether it was a case of sitting too close to the big screen, I found Robert Elswit’s grainy cinematography naff to look at.

It was great to see Martinez finally get a meatier role after popping up in minute parts (Joy, The Girl on the Train and *shudder* that Point Break remake).

He worked well with McConaughey and they made a convincing duo.

The hard grafting and turmoil in the jungle was the much needed spark as Wells bartered and borrowed every penny to get that payload. Hell, the guy even battled malaria for those precious minerals.

At one point, things were getting desperate that Acosta (Ramirez) offered clean water to the workforce in exchange for payment.

The middle act was the saving grace as the pair made the biggest score of a lifetime. You felt for Wells as everything finally fell into place BUT it wasn’t long before our good old friend Greed popped its ugly head.

You had to laugh at all the big fish trying to get a piece of the action and brown nosing the chap after years of snubbing and dismissing his reputation.

Corey Stoll (The Strain) was good as the shifty Wall Street backstabber trying to push Wells out of his cut.

I’ll know some will argue BUT once McConaughey was let loose; he proved once again why he deserved that little golden statue on his mantelpiece.

His charisma and enthusiasm kept things going as the pace stumbled along. I’m not saying his performance was perfect BUT I don’t think I would have been interested at all.

It was a little too stop-start for my liking. The Hangover style shenanigans with an Indonesian playboy millionaire felt like it was in the wrong movie. The CGI’d tiger was a little much (“I’m touching a tiger!” Really?).

Bryce Dallas Howard played the supportive wife well BUT anyone could have played her. Their relationship was far too cliched and bland. A shame, really.

Every time we went back to their melodrama, it disrupted what little momentum it had.

The alluring Rachael Taylor (Jessica Jones) could have played a better femme fatale BUT Wells succumbed to her advances far too easily.

However as more people tried to get a piece of the action and Well’s ego grew that much bigger, trouble wasn’t far behind.

The murky Wall Street backdrop swallowing our hero into the abyss. The film flicked back and forth as Wells came under heavy scrutiny with his own story falling apart. Did that conversation happen? Did they even find gold?

What has Toby Kebbell got to do to get a decent movie role these days? He was completely wasted as a generic FBI agent. Woeful.

The script could have been so much better. Some of the lines McMumbler churned out just didn’t have the dramatic impact that it should have.

The final 30 minutes redeemed what was a drawn out and patchy affair.

It was intriguing, engaging and everything I expected from the rest of the film. I was actually impressed with the surprisingly ambiguous ending. I was left smiling like our bewildered protagonist.

BUT would I rush to see it again?

Meh. It was alright, alright, alright BUT nothing more.

2.5/5

*NEW* NOW YOU SEE ME 2 REVIEW *NEW*

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And now for my next trick. Watch a franchise that nobody wanted . . . DISAPPEAR!

The Four Horsemen resurface and are forcibly recruited by a tech genius to pull off their most impossible heist yet.

Now You See Me was an enjoyable romp. Hardly ground breaking BUT easy going fun with a group of magicians hustling some rich conglomerates. I didn’t expect the finale and was even more surprised when a sequel was confirmed.

I hoped the next outing would carry that same level of energy and fun BUT this was utterly dreadful. Irritating characters, drawn out pace, a terrible story line, farfetched stunts that pondered all levels of plausible acceptance and really shoddy CGI made this one to avoid.

It’s not essential to watch the first outing. You get the entire plot summarised in the first 30 seconds. The opening showed promise as we explored Dylan’s (Mark Ruffalo) past and the reason behind his rivalry with Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman).

BUT once it flashed forward to the present, the intrigue was lost. Eisenberg’s Atlas was far too serious and sulky. I don’t know whether he was still getting over losing his hair for the shambolic superhero saga that was Batman vs Superman BUT his griping and silly backstabbing antics were dull as dishwater.

We had a new Horseman, person or Female Horseman (Whatever) in Lizzy Caplan (Mean Girls). I thought she would be a worthy addition to the mix. BUT she was incredibly annoying. She wasn’t funny and her verbal diarrhoea was insufferable. I think Isla Fisher made the right decision not to come back.

What didn’t help was the agonizing pace. The film should have been cut by a good 30 minutes. Mark Ruffalo (Avengers) was the most interesting character and he was barely in it! Every time Dylan appeared, things happened and I was hooked. I was happy to follow his subplot NOT the Horsemen. Battling to keep his cover under the watchful eye of Sanaa Lathan (who was wasted in her role).

Proof in the pudding when one of the best scenes was Dylan causing havoc in a Chinese street brawl. The fight sequences combined with a series of magic tricks were well choreographed and stopped me fidgeting in my seat.

I have to admit the Horsemen really did infuriate me. Woody Harrelson had been on resurging form with his recent endeavours (True Detective) BUT this was a complete misstep. He went full retard as Merritt’s twin Chase with his Will Ferrell-esque wig and badly capped teeth. An unnecessary character that tested me in every scene.

Dave Franco (NERVE) did his best with his role BUT was lost in the mix. Eisenberg eventually lightened up and delivered his usual schtick BUT it was too little, too late.

You know you’re onto a loser when Morgan Freeman’s dulcet tones are doing your head in. His silky voice couldn’t save this leaden script. If anything, it highlighted the clunky exposition. A revelation about Bradley unintentionally undermined pretty much a good portion of the premise from the first one.

Daniel Radcliffe wasn’t too bad as the weasely Walter Mabry. He played the slimy techno villain well BUT he wasn’t in it enough. NOT even the return of Sir Michael Caine did anything for me. He was laughable. Doing his best Victor Meldrew impression. Dismal.

What made matters worse was that the actual hustle and magic tricks were far too OTT and farfetched for my liking. I know it’s only a movie BUT some of the big reveals defied physics or common sense to work even in a Hollywood universe.

An elongated card flinging sequence took the biscuit. Watching the gang flick a badly CGI’d card in the air and around their torsos to smuggle a computer chip was just plain terrible.

However, the finale delivered a little of what I expected from the get go. The effects actually did impress; especially when Eisenberg disappeared into a puddle of rain. Tense, engaging and watchable. WHERE WAS THIS FOR THE REST OF THE FILM?!

The characters were dull, the pace was too long, the effects were hit and miss and the twists were either too predictable or just plain ridiculous. They even missed a trick by not calling this Now You Don’t BUT if there any rumours for another; my title would be:

NOW, PLEASE STOP!

2/5

*NEW* BASTILLE DAY REVIEW *NEW*

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BLAST-ILLE DAY! Or Luther pick-pockets Paris with that guy from Game of Thrones.

An entertaining and explosive little actioner that does the job.

A young con artist (Richard Madden) and former CIA agent (Idris Elba) embark on an anti-terrorist mission in France.

An eye-grabbing opener certainly got things going as a naked woman (What?) paraded around the Sacre Coeur. A perfect distraction for Madden’s master thief as we watch him do what he does best; pick pockets.

It was quick to skim through the frankly dull and clichéd police guff as Elba’s wildcard Briar is assigned to France against his superior’s (A heavily underused Kelly Reilly) better judgement. You couldn’t get anybody better than ol’ Luther (I mean Mr Elba) to play a stern no-holds-barred copper that does what it takes to get results.

Elba certainly did his best with the wafer thin role. His gravelly voice and stern delivery making the most generic of lines sound not quite so terrible. Madden was a charismatic lead. He has popped up in a number of different roles since GoT. One to watch. At least his troubled pick-pocket had a little more depth.

Most importantly when the bag he steals contains a bomb. Completely unaware, our small time petty thief dumps the bag, triggering the bomb and unleashing a mad packed chase around Paris.

The plot delivered enough suspense and cryptic puzzle solving for the first hour. A bigger play always in the work. BUT once the unravelling began, there were more questions than answers by the closing minutes.

If anything, it was a little ridiculous and oh so dreadfully predictable BUT what did you expect from a shoot em up? The action sequences were well executed. Tense, frantic and violent as hell. A rooftop chase was choreographed brilliantly. Nail-biting stuff.

Madden and Elba weren’t a bad duo. They worked well together BUT it just felt that with a better script and some better characters, this could have been so much more. It could have done with a little more banter and humour.

Some of the jokes just didn’t quite polish off as well as they could have. That’s not to say that there weren’t moments to be enjoyed. When an angry Briar finally catches Madden’s Michael and demands why he ran. Michael simply responds: “Have you seen yourself . . . You’d run to”.

Charlotte Le Bon (The Walk) played the conflicted resistance fighter well. It was just a shame that her character was pushed into the background once Madden and Elba were united. Only re-surfacing for the the mad dash finale.

Anybody could have played Kelly Reilly’s (True Detective) handler. And despite trying to involve her character (in a highly predictable twist) three quarters of the way into the film, you soon realised how unnecessary her character was. Disappointing.

Just when I thought the pace was lagging and the cliched exchanges were beginning to rear their ugly heads, I was soon rewarded with a frentic, in-your-face finale that was everything I expected.

It may have missed an opportunity BUT it was still an action packed thriller that hit the spot and killed the time. If you were expecting anything else, then move on.

3/5 (Just)

*NEW* SPOTLIGHT REVIEW *NEW*

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A slow burning, well-crafted and brilliantly acted little drama.

Spotlight is the true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese. One that would shake the entire Catholic Church to its core.

An intriguing opening sequence piqued my curiousity as we witnessed a priest being released from the police station. No questions asked. A shrug from the police and two priests riding off into the darkness.

BUT after that promising opener, the first twenty minutes was a little too slow for my liking. I could feel myself slumping into the seat as we waited for the stellar news team to find their story. Once Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber – Ray Donovan) was brought to the fold and Spotlight’s sights were set on a priest, that was a repeat offender, I was hooked to the very end.

Schreiber was very good as the mysterious Miami media man. Taking on the Boston Globe and determined to use Spotlight’s abilities to their fullest. I wanted to see more of his performance. BUT it wasn’t his story. The Spotlight cast couldn’t be faltered. It’s great to see Micheal Keaton’s resurgence after Birdman. He played Walter ‘Robby Robinson’ with aplomb.

I felt every one had their moment to shine. I wasn’t sure why Ruffalo in particular was considered for an Oscar nomination BUT it was still a sterling turn from the Avenger. His anger coming to boiling point at the scale of this horrific cover up in a fantastic rant.

“Mitchell Garabedian. He’s a character”. I couldn’t think of anybody better than Stanley Tucci (Hunger Games) to take on the paranoid skeptic. A lawyer intent on getting justice for his clients. Treading carefully. Afraid that the Church are watching his every move. Not enough of him.

The lies, the cover ups. Afraid to mess with the Church. A “holy” institution that took advantage of so many. The statements from witnesses was harrowing stuff alone. Confused children sleeping with priests because they were afraid to “refuse” God.

Just when I couldn’t be more surprised at the stories and the statistics, the team would discover another revelation. One that was too close for comfort for one member of the team. Discovering that a treatment centre for “reformed priests” was located right around the corner from his home.

Rachel McAdams’ (True Detective) crazy confrontation with said “reformed” priest was baffling. Openly admitting to everything. John Slattery did his best BUT he will always be Roger Sterling from Mad Men. The office attire and quick witted one liners didn’t help his case.

The closing act, aided by more harrowing facts, really hit home. I couldn’t believe that the original news story was “buried” years before. And the scale. So many stories. The States being only the tip of the iceberg.

The pace may have tested in parts. BUT that didn’t spoil what was a harrowing and insightful drama. One that I never expected to be so engrossed in. All aided with a superb cast makes this one to watch.

4/5

*NEW* SOLACE REVIEW *NEW*

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A strange premise and two talented leads reprieve a generic by the numbers crime thriller.

A psychic (Anthony Hopkins) works with the FBI in order to hunt down a serial killer (Colin Farrell).

A watchable mess. A mind numbing opener didn’t get things going for me. It certainly didn’t help with Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s droll delivery. We had to drudge through mindless CSI exposition while we waited for Hopkins’ Clancy to come out of retirement.

Hopkins’ performance certainly lifted a lead script. His character John Clancy definitely got things going. An old man wallowing in his own exile. It picked up when we were finally able to delve into his past and, more importantly, his ability.

As soon as Agent Cowles’ (Abbie Cornish) hand brushed Hannibal’s (Sorry, John) shoulder, a quick flash (and jump from yours truly) and we see her pretty blond head covered in blood. Different. And a little creepy.

The case itself, on the other hand, for the first half hour was very dull. Formulaic and uninteresting with a number of unmemorable red herrings. Kenny Johnson (The Shield) was terrible as a sexually confused murder suspect.

It was very patchy. Cornish and Morgan did their best with their characters but they were oh so boring and clichéd. Cornish’s character did get better when her fractious relationship with John gelled. The pretentious therapist sparring with the ageing psychic was always going to be ripe for a little friction. The occasional quip and one liner livened up a few scenes.

Brendan Galvin’s cinematography was fantastic. Sweeping shots and overhead camera angles really made this stuttering effort worth looking at. The musical score, on the other hand, was incredibly OTT. It hammed up some of the better moments. If anything it felt like the composer had leant on the volume control panel.

The haunting visions and creepy little messages from Farrell’s killer certainly broke up the case. The idea that they were chasing a killer who was always one step ahead was interesting. And Hopkins’ future flashes delivered some little shocks. BUT the visions and cryptic images soon got repetitive very quickly. Especially all the snippets with Cornish and Morgan.

For all the mystery around Hopkin’s character, it was hardly a surprise when the truth was revealed. In fact it was quite predictable. It also took over an hour before Farrell and Hopkins’ characters met. BUT when they did, it was worth the wait. Almost.

The two psychics walk into a bar stand off was a cheeky little nod to Heat. They were brilliant together. It brought a much needed tension and urgency that the film desperately lacked. Farrell’s performances of late have excelled. If it wasn’t for him in True Detective, I don’t think I would have bothered.

The closing 30 minutes delivered. It was everything I expected from the get go. It was action packed, tense and suspenseful. I just wish Farrell was brought into the mix sooner. I’m happy to persevere with a slow burner BUT the characters or the story have to offer something.

Farrell’s MO sparked an interesting moral debate without going into further detail. The cat and mouse stuff was brilliant. I loved the personal video addressed to Cornish’s character. Farrell watching her every move. Even though it’s only a recording. Creepy. And the notes left with exact times of arrival was mental.

I really wish more was made of that. The psychic stuff was it’s unique selling point and the redeeming feature. The cliched cop stuff should have been thrown on the back burner.

It wasn’t a complete write off by any means. In fact, it was quite watchable. It’s solace being two stand out performances from two talented actors.

But tragically it just wasn’t enough.

2.5/5

THE BEST OF ME REVIEW

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Not the best for me. Two stars for the two couples.

James Marsden (X Men), Michelle Monaghan (True Detective) and their “younger” counterparts do their best to uplift an incredibly tame and cheesy love story but . . . alas! To no avail.

Another film to be adapted from another Nicholas Sparks novel and hopefully the last.

A little harsh but if they are NOT going to try and do something different than why bother?

The Notebook and even the one with that couple that I can’t remember were so much better. Oh hang on, Endless Love.

It didn’t help that I had quips about Luke Bracey (G.I.Joe: Retaliation). Now despite being the same age as myself or I (Never get that right), he looked considerably older than Liana Liberato (If I Stay) AND James Marsden.

Bracey is supposed to be a younger Marsden. NOW Bracey is 6 foot something while James Marsden is a good head shorter. I know you shrink when you get older but come on! That’s when you’re in your 70s/80s not 40s. Even Liberato beared some similarities to Monaghan.

Anyway, rant over . . . On that little quip.

Liberato and Bracey have good chemistry as do their future counterparts M&M. BUT it’s all so dreadfully corny, predictable and at a whopping 132 minutes, I expected a little bit more drama to justify the length.

It’s certainly watchable. And I guess it helps to be part of a couple not a miserable cynic like yours truly. BUT after the nicey nicey opening hour with all the luvvy duvvy guff, I found myself looking at my watch. Liberato and Bracey will certainly be ones to watch for the future and making waves in the right places.

Sean Bridgers was delightfully sinister as Dawson’s (Bracey/Marsden) redneck father Tommy Cole and brought in a darker undertone and the much needed drama I seeked. He will certainly survive from this film relatively unscathed and made a memorable turn. But with that blasted 12A certificate hovering over this story, I knew the story couldn’t go as far as you could have. A shame.

BUT that’s not to say there were wasn’t some unexpected twists. Predicted but considering the fluffy tone that this film first portrayed, it was still unexpected without spoiling the film for those who are still tempted to give it a go.

The closing moments also fitted that heading appropriately. Dreadfully predictable but, none the less, grab your tissues if you’re one for the weepies.

Now I admit, I have had a teary eye in the odd rom drom BUT this made me cry for all the wrong reasons. It’s not all bad. Certainly watchable but there have been so many couple movies out this year worth seeing. I enjoyed Love, Rosie a lot more by comparison. This was lazy, slow and ended so predictably that I’m not surprised that it’s leaving the box office quicker than it entered.

There are some endearing moments, especially with the couples’ relationship with Gerald McRaney’s (Jericho) Tuck. McRaney was brilliant and really did justice to a character that shouldn’t have been as memorable. He also works well with Bracey which made their relationship a little more likeable. I haven’t read the novel so I cannot say whether the film has done it justice. BUT one thing, it most certainly hasn’t spurred me on to read it.

The cast do their best to uplift what really is a Sunday matinee TV movie that you’d expect to see on True Movies. It’s watchable BUT I ‘d already forgotten it as soon as I left the cinema.

2/5