*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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EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS REVIEW

Exodus-Gods-and-Kings-Poster-Bale-and-Edgerton

Exoduzzzzz. Basically the Dark Prince of Egypt. No singing, a whole lot darker and a whole lot longer.  A mess. A beautifully shot one but a mess all the same.

So what’s it all about? (For those who don’t know) The defiant leader Moses (Christian Bale) rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton), setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.

Another example of the ever-increasing decline of a great director.

Beautifully shot (with a talented cast) BUT overlong, drawn out and dreadfully dull. The Counsellor, Prometheus and now Exodus.

I couldn’t think of anyone better to take on the role of Moses. Bale brings his gruffly angry gravitas to the role BUT despite his best efforts, his performance was a little underwhelming.

I understand that there has been a backlash against this movie. To be honest, I gave up on Hollywood attempting any accuracy or authenticity on anything. Let alone the Bible.

Apparently, self-tanning solves the whitewashing issue that Hollywood have failed to resolve for the last 50 years.

Bale and Edgerton worked well together and made a good pairing when they got to be in the same scene. Edgerton (Warrior) was an excellent Ramses when he was allowed to act. Can you see where I’m going with this?

The first 30 minutes zipped along and was quite watchable. The scope and design was breathtaking. Captured perfectly by (regular Scott stalwart) Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography.

This time around, Moses is not just an Egyptian prince but a general trained in the art of war. Cue biblical battle sequences . . . for five minutes. The little action we got was delivered through tragically jittery camera work. My eyes struggled to adjust to the 3D and the huge numbers of extras. I couldn’t focus on any one set piece.

The 3D is a waste of time. Apart from a few arrows and blades flying here and there and seeing some teeny tiny seagulls soar above the waves, it barely appears in the 150 minutes and doesn’t justify the extra costs.

The battle sequence soon corrected itself but after that . . . Nothing. We are left with mindless exposition, delivered by stocky characters for another hour and a bit.

John Turturro was probably one of the main supporting characters that made an impression as Egyptian pharaoh Seti.

BUT that was mainly because I thought it was a bit strange that he would play the father figure. He didn’t look any older than the pair. However, I Googled Turturro and discovered he is actually 17 years older than them I don’t normally go on continuity quips but the lumbering pace gave me time to do some research.

Ben Mendelsohn stood out for me more. I couldn’t believe it was him after all the hard man roles in Starred Up and Black Sea. He was very good as the weasly and overtly camp Viceroy Hegep.

Sigourney Weaver, on the other hand, was wasted in her role. She brought her stone faced pallor to the character and maybe had one bitchy moment but apart from that, anyone could have played her! Shame.

As Moses inevitably found out the truth about his upbringing and is exiled for it rather hastily; the film withers away as did my interest.

Agonisingly slow. I really felt like I was stranded in a desert. Waiting for a decent character. A bit of plot. Something. Instead I have Moses wandering about. Slaying a random person here and there (For no reason). Marrying the lovely Maria Valverde. Promising not to leave her. Leaving her to free “his people”. After talking to a burning bush. Come again?

I’m not going to pick at the biblical story too much. The bush always did test me BUT then to have the messenger of God appear in the form of an 11 year old boy named Malak (Isaac Andrews) took the biscuit.

Moses’ conversations with Malak should have been dramatic affairs. Heated debates questioning the morals and ethics behind God’s plan to liberate the slaves. BUT all I got was Batman yelling angrily at a little boy for 20 minutes.

Andrews did his best but he seemed to struggle with some of the bigger chunks of dialogue and didn’t really have the conviction to carry it.

It didn’t help that only Moses can see Malak. So every time Aaron Paul’s Joshua checked on Moses, he could only see Bale losing his rag at a rock. That’s right, Jessie from Breaking Bad. Such a bland character. He nailed the confused slave look well. It was comical.

The plagues certainly got things moving. The visual effects were incredible, especially with the locusts, frogs and crocodiles. Wait, what?

Crocodiles. You read that, right? I’m pretty sure that wasn’t in the bible. It was certainly a visceral and dark moment. The carnage was relentless. The Nile turning into one blood soaked pool. Haunting.

Indira Varma (Game of Thrones) and Ewan Bremner (Trainspotting) played the High Priestess and Expert as well as they could. The fact their characters are given such wonderful titles said it all.

Their theorizing about what made the plagues happen was interesting at first BUT got irritating in an instant.

I felt that Scott (and the cast) went through the motions with the story. I mean at least Darren Aronofsky tried to do something different with Noah. Granted, it didn’t really work and did cause a bit of a stir but it was certainly more interesting than this.

I mean between Bale and Scott, they made Moses appear like a schizophrenic. Talking to inanimate objects one second. Flying off the handle the next. What made me laugh is that the slaves constantly question his leadership and yet when the shit hits the fan, they are screaming for Moses to tell them what to do.

The pace could have been cut down by an hour and been stronger for it. It hasn’t added anything new to the story or re-imagined it in any capacity. Scott didn’t even bother showing Moses unveil the Ten Commandments after all the build up.

The parting of the Red Sea was a visual feast for the eyes. A frenetic finish to a flawed flop.

If there was to be a re-telling of a Bible story, why didn’t Hollywood take on a story that hadn’t had numerous films before it? Numerous films that were much, much better.

God have mercy on this film. The special effects and set pieces were breathtaking but the lifeless characters and mechanical story telling left me yawning.

2.5/5