Saturday, 31 January 2015

Predestination (2014)

A sci-fi thriller that only really livens up in the final third, Predestination is a fun head-scratcher from the Spierig brothers, the men who also gave us Undead and Daybreakers (both fine films).

There are more than two people in the cast, but the focus of the film remains on Sarah Snook and Ethan Hawke. The latter is, as we learn in the opening scenes, a time-traveller who has been trying to catch a killer for a number of years. The former? Well, Snook plays someone who may just lead Hawke right to his prey. But not before telling him a tale, one that describes a fairly unique, and interesting, life.

I'm loath to criticise Predestination, because in many ways it is everything that I want from my dark sci-fi fare. It IS interesting, it has some great ideas being thrown around, and the acting is pretty good. There are characters here that you become genuinely interested in, making you more invested in the twisty climax.

Yet there are also a number of big mis-steps. The biggest hurdle that the film can't quite overcome is the fact that about an hour of the movie, or possibly even a little bit more, is essentially nothing more than everything being set in place for the finale. Yes, many movies could be described that way, if you break them right down, but it's a much bigger problem here, especially during some scenes that may test the patience of viewers.

The other big problem that the film has is predictability. The Spierigs may think that they're always one step ahead of the viewer, but they're not. To be fair, there are a couple of times when they ARE (and these times raise up the whole film). It just doesn't happen as often as they think, with at least one major reveal completely robbed of any power due to how easy it is to see coming a mile away.

Hawke and Snook give good performances here, with the latter given the more difficult role and working even harder to make it consistently authentic (within the context of the rather outlandish premise). Noah Taylor has a small role, and does what's required of him, and that's about it. There are other people acting onscreen, but they're always background details for the story being told between the two main stars.

You could never accuse the Spierig brothers of a lack of imagination. While this may be their weakest movie yet, it's still an enjoyable experience. I will continue to look forward to seeing their names appear onscreen, whatever they decide to serve up next.

6/10

http://www.amazon.com/Predestination-Spierig-Brothers/dp/B00QGL1P5G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420824120&sr=8-1&keywords=predestination



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The UK version can be bought here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1395945647&sr=1-3&keywords=movie+guide

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As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Big Hero 6 (2014)

A treat for both Marvel and Disney fans, Big Hero 6 is great family fun, full to the brim with humour, in-jokes/references and gorgeous animation. It's got a big heart, and features a central character, Baymax, that should easily win a place in the heart of any child.

Hiro is a young boy with a fantastic brain for science and robotics, but no self-motivation. If he applied himself then he could do something truly great, and his brother, Tadashi, knows this. Tadashi takes Hiro to his place of work, a surprise visit that opens Hiro's eyes to the cool possibilities available to someone of his intellect. He also gets to meet Baymax, a health care robot that resembles a humanoid made from marshmallow (yes, he's a BIT like Mr. Stay Puft). It's not long, however, until tragedy strikes. Struggling to cope with his grief, Hiro ends up growing closer to Baymax, and eventually retooling the robot into something quite far removed from his original incarnation. This might help them to bring down a strange supervillain who has appeared in town, one wearing a Kabuki mask. However, Baymax encourages Hiro to contact, and receive support from, a number of friends, which allows a small team of potential heroes to be formed.

Although it's a bit too sweet and cutesy at times, I can't recommend Big Hero 6 highly enough to those who want to watch a superior animated movie aimed at a younger audience. From the city environment - San Fansokyo (a lush amalgamation of San Francisco and Tokyo architectural styles) - to the character design, and the tech on display, this is one of those movies that serves up a veritable feast in every scene.

Directors Don Hall and Chris Williams oversee everything with keen eyes, keeping those gorgeous visuals attached to a script (written by Jordan Roberts, Daniel Gerson and Robert L. Baird) that never shifts the focus away from the main characters. The voice cast includes quite a few famous names (Alan Tudyk, James Cromwell, Damon Wayans Jr, Maya Rudolph, Jaime Chung, T. J. Miller, Genesis Rodriguez), and every single performer does a great job, with highlights being Wayans Jr, Miller, and Rudolph. The two leads may not have name recognition, Ryan Potter voices Hiro and Scott Adsit voices Baymax, but the most important thing here is that their voices work, and work brilliantly.

You're never more than a few moments away from a good laugh, the action scenes are exhilarating, and any one of the main characters could make a cool role model. But be warned, the film also manages to explore loss and grief without sugar-coating the heartache. There may be one or two conversations being had between parents and children as they leave the cinema, and it's something worth being prepared for. Is there anything here on a par with the potential trauma many of us experienced when we first saw Bambi? Maybe not. But it's almost too close to call.

Based upon some comic material that I was formerly unaware of, this proves once again that you don't necessarily need brand recognition or a built-in fanbase to deliver a near-perfect blockbuster movie. You just need some TLC.

8/10

http://www.amazon.com/Big-Hero-Blu-ray-DVD-Digital/dp/B00O4ZC57I/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1420386478&sr=8-3&keywords=big+hero+6



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The UK version can be bought here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1395945647&sr=1-3&keywords=movie+guide

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As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Wolves (2014)

I first heard of Wolves when someone described it as being like Twilight, but with the focus on werewolves instead. For some reason, I knew that I had to check it out. Thankfully, it's a better film than Twilight.

Cayden Richards (Lucas Till) is a young man who starts to develop a bad habit. When his primal urges, such as anger or lust, increase then so does his body hair and his propensity for violence. It all goes a step too far, to put it mildly, when he attacks his girlfriend during a makeout session, and then kills his parents in the night. Hitting the road, and trying to evade the authorities, Cayden ends up in a small town that is full of many of his kind. One takes quite a liking to him (Angelina, played by Merritt Patterson) and one really doesn't (Connor, played by Jason Momoa). Despite trying to keep his head down, and settling into the job/lodgings offered to him by a kindly man named John (Stephen McHattie), it's not long until his arrival in town leads to all kinds of trouble.

Written and directed by David Hayter, this is a real mixed bag of dubious delights. The effects work, for example, is often very good, but one or two of the lead characters look a bit too cute and cuddly when in wolf form (including Cayden, of course). The plotting is entirely predictable, some of the dialogue will make you wince, and the main romance is tedious to get through, for a viewer like myself (who put those teenage angst years in the past a long time ago, thank goodness). But the pacing is zippy, there's a decent amount of action, with a decent amount of blood sprayed around, and the cast features some fun performances.

While Till may not be a very strong lead, he does well enough in his role. The fact that he manages to be quiet and burdened with guilt without being constantly mopey and irritating is a big plus. Patterson isn't too bad in her role, and she's certainly attractive enough to make the central plot point believable. McHattie is often a pleasure to watch onscreen, as is the case here, and Momoa gets to scowl and arch an eyebrow in almost every scene. He's a fun baddie, with his formidable size and intimidating demeanour.

Although Wolves struggles to break out from the confines dictated to it by the target demographic, it has a few pleasant surprises in store for those expecting a sappy and sanitised piece of dross. Horror fans will always have other films to prioritise above it, but this isn't too bad for something that could have been laughably atrocious.

6/10

http://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Lucas-Till/dp/B00P80Y3WI/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1421399349&sr=1-1



Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Prince Of Darkness (1987)

A bunch of scientists come together in an abandoned church to investigate a mysterious object that seems to be defying the laws of physics. As the behaviour of the object gets stranger it becomes clear that there may be some higher power (or, more appropriately, lower power) at work.

Arguably the beginning of the end of writer-director John Carpenter's peak period (although he would follow it up with the fantastic They Live, and direct In The Mouth Of Madness before the REAL downward slide began), Prince Of Darkness is a messy film, yet it's also full of great individual moments that retain the power to scare the pants off viewers.

The script also has a number of brilliant ideas, including the clash of science and religion, methods of communication used by those with advanced knowledge, and the behaviour of tormented souls. It's just a shame that a lot of the actual dialogue stinks, with a number of uninteresting characters either trying to over-explain things or just forced to speak in a way that's supposedly reflecting their personality as they deal with the building horror.

But scripts are often the weakest part of a horror movie. It's not the worst crime. Prince Of Darkness could have overcome the poor script if the casting had been better. Sadly, it's the worst aspect of the film. Donald Pleasence and Victor Wong are the best of the bunch, although the former is sadly resigned to acting as nothing more than Doc Loomis in a dog collar. Jameson Parker and Lisa Blount are the central couple that viewers are invited to root for, I guess, and both pale in comparison to previous stars used by Carpenter. Parker, in particular, just feels like a second-rate Tom Atkins, which may make you wish that the real Tom Atkins had landed the role (I know I did). Dennis Dun is a fun presence, until his constant wise-cracking starts to grate during the more intense moments in the third act, and few others stand out, with the exception of Susan Blanchard, doing her best in every scene that she's in, and Jessie Lawrence Ferguson plays one of the creepiest characters to appear in any John Carpenter movie ever. And that's saying something. There's also a decent little role for Alice Cooper, as the mute leader of some strange homeless people who start to congregate around the church.

So we have a poor cast, overall, stuck with poor dialogue. Thankfully, that's not enough to spoil the film completely. Carpenter focuses on atmosphere and moments of real tension, all underlined by another fantastic score from the man, and he still manages to do enough good work to make this a small film that hints at a terrifying bigger picture.

It's not exactly top-tier Carpenter then, to sum it up, but it's also far from his worst.

7/10

http://www.amazon.com/Prince-Darkness-Collectors-Blu-ray-Pleasence/dp/B00D7AM5XU/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1420670057&sr=1-1&keywords=prince+of+darkness



You know how you can show your appreciation for bloggers? If you share and share then every additional reader helps. Connect through Google or Blogger or any way you can, and rest easy in the knowledge that you've made little ol' me a very happy man.

And/or you could also buy my e-book, that has almost every review I've written over the past 5 years. It's very reasonably priced for the sheer amount of content.

The UK version can be bought here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1395945647&sr=1-3&keywords=movie+guide

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As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Five Dolls For An August Moon (1970)

If you're a horror fan who hasn't heard of Mario Bava then, as the saying goes, you'd better check yourself before you apply a not inconsiderable amount of damage to yourself. Bava is a towering influence over the horror genre, a man with an eye for gorgeous visuals, and also quite a few gorgeous women to cast in main roles. That doesn't mean that I love everything he ever did. I am one of the few people who doesn't view Planet Of The Vampires as a masterpiece. This is another film that I view as a lesser outing from the man, but it has just enough in the mix to make it worth your time.

A bunch of people are gathered on a small island. Most of them are simply hoping to relax, but some are trying to persuade Professor Gerry Farrell (William Berger) to sell a new scientific formula that he has come up with. And then someone turns up dead. Soon followed by someone else. It's not long until everyone is fearing for their lives. But who is the killer?

Working from a story by Mario di Nardo (an idea taken, apparently, from an uncredited, classic Agatha Christie tale), this is a fun, if lightweight, whodunnit. In fact, the third act pulls the rug from under the feet of viewers in a way that underlines the humour of the piece. Bava often laces his movies with black humour - arguably peaking in the punchline that would end his next film, A Bay Of Blood - and this is another that will make you smile in between the bloodshed.

It's a shame that this feels so ugly and unstylish compared to Bava's other movies, and the drab visuals and low energy levels end up dragging the whole thing down a level. Compare this to the likes of Blood And Black Lace, for example, and the differences seem vast. Others may disagree, but this felt like the most un-Bava movie I've seen yet from him.

The cast all do what is required of them, although nobody really stands out. Well, apart from the glorious gorgeousness that is Edwige Fenech, who would stand out in anything. Fenech is a highlight, due to the fact that she's Fenech, but Berger, Edith Meloni, Ely Galleani, Helena Ronee, Howard Ross, Ira von Furstenberg, Mauro Bosco and Teodoro Corra all try their best. Corra, in particular, has fun as the man who owns the island, therefore making him a prime suspect when the killing begins.

No Bava film is ever bad, from the selection I have seen so far. It just so happens that some aren't as good as others. This one isn't half as good as his best outings. It's still alright though. And when was the last time you read a movie review that ended on that kind of ringing endorsement? Sometimes the words just seem to flow right through me.

6/10

http://www.amazon.com/Five-Dolls-August-Moon-Remastered/dp/B00DI67N94/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1419351638&sr=1-1&keywords=five+dolls+for+an+august+moon



Monday, 26 January 2015

What We Do In The Shadows (2014)

A few years ago I saw, and enjoyed, a film called Vampires. It was a little vampire movie, done in the fake documentary style. I don't think many other people saw it. Which is why I may have been one of the few people hesitant when I started to hear the praise heaped upon What We Do In The Shadows - a vampire movie done in the fake documentary style. I needn't have worried. This is deserving of all the praise it has received so far.

Written and directed by stars Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, this is a film that mixes obvious jokes with more inventive moments, utilising some great FX work to not only create great gags, but also ensure that the horror element is also genuinely horrific at times.

Waititi is Viago, one of four vampires living in a house together. Viago is the guy who arranges the house meetings and worries about everyone keeping a normal home, despite their abnormal lifestyles. Clement is Vladislav, a once-legendary vampire who has lost his mojo in recent years. Jonathan Brugh is Deacon, the coolest of the bunch, and Ben Fransham is Petyr, an ancient nosferatu type. The four become five when a young man (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) is turned and this newcomer changes the whole dynamic of the group, highlighting the need to adapt to life in the 21st century.

There are so many great moments here that it's hard to know where to begin. This is the kind of film that leaves you mentally picking out highlights as soon as the end credits roll: an encounter with some werewolves (NOT swear-wolves), an attempt to drain blood from someone without getting too much on the furniture, a shaming ceremony conducted when someone is ostracised from the group. These are just a few of the moments that will make you laugh.

It's also worth noting, however, that this is not for the squeamish. There are some impressive displays of bloodletting, and one or two moments that you could easily class as the stuff of nightmares. If you were faint-hearted enough.

The acting from everyone involved is perfectly suited to the material. All of the main vampires may be slightly over the top, but that isn't a problem. Waititi, Clement, Brugh, and even Fransham (as mute as his performance is) are all playing specific types of people/vampires. Gonzalez-Macuer is very much an interloper, a tourist not familiar with the ways of the locals. Stuart Rutherford is wonderful as a human who becomes a friend to the vampires, Jackie van Beek is also great as a familiar growing impatient as she anticipates being turned by Deacon, and Rhys Darby raises quite a few laughs as the alpha male lycanthrope trying to keep his pack members calm.

A real treat, thoroughly deserving of all the compliments that it's received in the past few months, What We Do In The Shadows has big laughs, a surprisingly big heart, and some big arterial spray mishaps.

9/10


The Equalizer (2014)

I'm pretty sure that if Denzel Washington and Liam Neeson ever starred in a movie together then every criminal on the planet would either be dead, dying or fleeing to outer space to escape their fate. These two men have kicked more ass in the latter portion of their careers than most younger stars do in their entire filmographies. And I, for one, am happy to see it.

Anyway, forget about Liam Neeson now. He's not in this film. This is a vehicle for Denzel, and what a great vehicle it is. Updating a popular TV show from the 1980s, director Antoine Fuqua reunites with his Training Day star to deliver an immensely entertaining tale of vigilante justice.

Washington plays Robert McCall, a quiet, kind man with a secret past. He works in a DIY store, he likes to read books, and he often heads out to a local diner for a cup of tea when he can't settle down for the evening. This diner also has a regular patron in the shape of a young prostitute named Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz). Teri dreams of becoming a singer one day, and McCall encourages her to keep striving to make that dream a reality. That becomes a lot harder to do when Teri is hospitalised after being beaten by her boss. Which is when McCall realises that he needs to step up and try to make things right. He's civil at first, but when that civility is thrown back in his face he replies in the only language that these people seem to understand. Violence and death.

Although it runs for a little over two hours, The Equalizer is not a film that feels bloated. The few main characters are set up nicely, the action set-pieces deliver plenty of impressive pain and bloodshed, and there's a lot of fun to be had in watching McCall resign himself to the fact that what he does best involves punishing criminals who have managed to evade the long arm of the law.

Denzel is excellent in the lead role. Some may feel that he's simply repeating the performance he gave in Man On Fire, but I prefer his work here. It's more fun to watch him move between two different personas, and the editing and other technical aspects are much better, complementing rather than obfuscating the acting on display. Moretz does just fine in her role, even if it is the pretty standard "young innocent in trouble/hooker with a good heart" that we've seen many times before. Marton Csokas is an entertaining, ruthless villain, and David Harbour does well as his temporary right hand man. Johnny Skourtis should win over most viewers as Ralphie, a man being helped by McCall to lose weight and pass the fitness test required for a security guard job that he's keen to land. There are also a couple of good cameos that I won't spoil here, although I am still sorry that we never heard an updated version of the classic TV show theme tune.

The script by Richard Wenk is well put together - having McCall work in a DIY store is a stroke of genius (okay, I might be overstating it, but it's a very good move) - and it's nice to see the film take the time to properly establish all of the main characters, even if some of their moments are cliched and slightly cheesy.

Fuqua manages to keep everything tense and visceral, handling the material with ease. Those with weak stomachs may find some of the violence a bit strong, but I think Fuqua knows his audience well and pitches the nastier moments at just the right level. The action is shot in a way that makes it cool, admittedly, yet it also constantly reminds viewers of just how quickly McCall gets himself into situations that are very, VERY dangerous.

The film covers a lot of familiar ground, yet it doesn't feel lazy or stale. And it has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to fan-pleasing Denzel moments. Not quite as good as the TV show I was so fond of (and, yes, I have my rose-tinted nostalgia glasses on), this does end up being a surprisingly close contender. Dare I say that it's . . . . . . . . . . . almost its equal.

8/10

http://www.amazon.com/Equalizer-Blu-ray-Denzel-Washington/dp/B00NX6WZIS/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1420407989&sr=8-2&keywords=the+equalizer



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And/or you could also buy my e-book, that has almost every review I've written over the past 5 years. It's very reasonably priced for the sheer amount of content.

The UK version can be bought here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1395945647&sr=1-3&keywords=movie+guide

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As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Mr. Jones (2013)

Written and directed by Karl Mueller, Mr. Jones is an interesting movie that I just didn't end up liking that much. It did, however, have some decent moments here and there, and it certainly tried to do something interesting.

The basic story concerns a young couple named Scott (Jon Foster) and Penny (Sarah Jones). Scott has taken himself into the middle of some woods to work on a nature documentary, and Penny has decided to join him. As time moves on, it becomes clear that Scott isn't really getting much done. This puts a strain on their relationship. But then a distraction comes along in the shape of the mysterious Mr. Jones, an artist who has become something of a myth to those who know of him. Scott and Penny catch a glimpse of Mr. Jones, before realising who it is, and then quickly put the pieces together once they see where he lives, and spy some of his art. Scott thinks that he could change his documentary subject, but that might not be such a good idea.

While there's a lot of camerawork in Mr. Jones that will deter those who dislike "found footage" films, it's constructed in a way that lets Mueller off the hook when he wants to take a break from that particular stylistic choice. It's to his credit that the filming style changes to suit the aim of the scene without ever feeling like it's cheating.

Foster and Jones both do well, despite the fact that neither really seems strong enough to carry the movie. They work well together, which is the most important part of their performance, and at least aren't turned into caricatures of either good or bad people. This could have easily been a film about two completely innocent souls stuck in a cabin in the woods, or it could have been about two irritating people who spend a lot of time winding each other, and the audience, up. Instead, the two leads are allowed to find a middle ground. A reality, or as real as things can seem when positioned in the middle of this movie premise.

With some interesting ideas, scenes that mix jump scares with a growing atmosphere of intense dread, and general trippiness here and there, Mr. Jones feels like a crossover from the world of experimental cinema and more mainstream horror. I won't watch it again, yet it has one or two sequences that I won't forget.

Despite my disappointment with the final result, and my view of it as being a below-average movie, it wouldn't take much restructuring to turn it into something very impressive. I look forward to seeing what Karl Mueller does next. Well . . . . . . as long as it isn't a sequel to this.

4/10

http://www.amazon.com/Mr-Jones-Ethan-Sawyer/dp/B00IF8Q8XC/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1416354798&sr=8-5&keywords=mr+jones



You know how you can show your appreciation for bloggers? If you share and share then every additional reader helps. Connect through Google or Blogger or any way you can, and rest easy in the knowledge that you've made little ol' me a very happy man.

And/or you could also buy my e-book, that has almost every review I've written over the past 5 years. It's very reasonably priced for the sheer amount of content.

The UK version can be bought here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1395945647&sr=1-3&keywords=movie+guide

And American folks can buy it here - http://www.amazon.com/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395945752&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=TJs+ramshackle+mov

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

The Quiet Ones (2014)

Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. The Quiet Ones is another in the long line of movies that people can point to and use as an example of all that is wrong with modern horror. There are, of course, many fine examples to counterbalance this awfulness, but it can often be easier to remember the bad than the good.

Jared Harris is Professor Joseph Coupland, a man convinced that if people can cure one person who seems to be affected by supernatural forces then that could lead to a cure for the masses. He aims to test his theory on a troubled young girl named Jane (Olivia Cooke), and enlists some students to help him. Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne) and Krissi (Erin Richards) are there to, apparently, help with the scientific side of things, while Brian (Sam Claflin) is asked to document everything on film.

It's hard for me not to use this review as an excuse to string together a lot of expletives. Hammer have gone from being "the studio that dripped blood" to "the studio that dripfed audiences jump scares" and those responsible for dross like this are, as far as I'm concerned, tarnishing a good name that was once, despite some ups and downs, synonymous with fine British horror.

The script by Oren Moverman, Craig Rosenberg and John Pogue (who also directed) alternates between uninteresting moments, horribly unbelievable moments, and those jump scares that I just mentioned. It's based on an original screenplay by Tom de Ville, although with all the rewriting done I can only imagine how far removed this is from the original work. As for Pogue's direction, it's mediocre at best.

Claflin tries hard in his role, at least remaining earnest in most of his scenes, but he can't do enough to make up for the lack of presence that Fleck-Byrne and Richards have. He also can't distract viewers from the fact that Harris and Cooke end up desperately overacting to make up for the fact that their characters are so poorly written.

Basically, nobody comes out of this looking good. I would feel sorry for the cast if most of them didn't seem to be compounding the script problems. And I haven't even mentioned the ridiculous finale, another insult that throws in a couple of "twists/revelations" that will only come as a surprise to the youngest, and most naive, horror fans. And I actually mean pre-teens.

Technically competent is about the nicest thing I can say in my attempt to end this review on a positive note. But it's definitely not worth your time.

3/10

http://www.amazon.com/Quiet-Ones-Blu-ray-Jared-Harris/dp/B00KOBUO42/ref=sr_1_2_twi_2_twi_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1420668107&sr=8-2&keywords=the+quiet+ones



You know how you can show your appreciation for bloggers? If you share and share then every additional reader helps. Connect through Google or Blogger or any way you can, and rest easy in the knowledge that you've made little ol' me a very happy man.

And/or you could also buy my e-book, that has almost every review I've written over the past 5 years. It's very reasonably priced for the sheer amount of content.

The UK version can be bought here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1395945647&sr=1-3&keywords=movie+guide

And American folks can buy it here - http://www.amazon.com/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395945752&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=TJs+ramshackle+mov

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

Jack Ryan. At first he was played by Alec Baldwin. Then Harrison Ford took over the role for a couple of movies. And then Ben Affleck was given a shot. Now it's the turn of Chris Pine, having been handed the role for a film that plays out as a bit of an origin story for our main character.

The story isn't exactly complex. After an opening sequence that shows Ryan involved in a helicopter crash that seriously injures his spine, we see him work towards his recovery and fall for the woman helping him back on his feet (Cathy Mullan, played by Keira Knightley). He's then recruited by Thomas Harper (a decent supporting role for Kevin Costner) to work for the CIA. He is supposed to work as a covert analyst, a job that will allow him to inspect financial transactions and use the information to bust any criminal activity, but ends up out in the field, in Moscow to be exact, when he has to follow up a bad feeling he has about Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh trying on a Russian accent).

Data analysis may not sound like the most exciting thing to base an action thriller on, I agree. Thankfully, that's only the springboard to launch Ryan into an entertaining adventure. The script, by Adam Cozad and David Koepp, stays true to the central character, despite the youthful make-over, with the focus on intelligence rather than strength or fighting ability (although, it must be said, the first big challenge for Ryan when he enters Moscow is a physical one).

As well as portraying the villain of the piece, Branagh directs the film. He has shown over the years that he can work with popular entertainment just as easily as he can work with Shakespeare, and he puts together a nice slice of entertainment here for those who enjoy cat and mouse scenarios. The opening sequences aren't exactly full of promise, but that's only a minor wobble. Things improve considerably once we get past the obligatory detailing of just how much inner steel Jack Ryan has.

Pine is an actor I've enjoyed watching for years now, and he slips into the role of Ryan comfortably enough. Knightley isn't as well-served by the script, although she tries her best in a role that adds up to little more than "love interest who may need extra protection when things start to get more heated". Branagh is a lot of fun, even if he dances in and out of moments that feel like parody. His villain is the kind of cool, intelligent, cultured individual often seen mentally sparring James Bond, and that's no bad thing when it's done as well as it is here. Costner also has fun, just in a different way. He's the typical mentor here, giving Ryan the details without ever bullshitting him, and also helping the young man when he's struggling to deal with incidents that he remembers from his own past experiences.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit may not have set the box office alight, but don't let that put you off. In fact, we should all know by now that box office figures are no sure-fire indicator of quality. The only reason I mention the performance of this movie here is to say that I hope we still get another instalment with these characters in place. I'd definitely see it, and I hope that others feel the same way.

7/10

http://www.amazon.com/Jack-Ryan-Recruit-Blu-ray-Digital/dp/B00AIBZMM2/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1420666622&sr=8-3&keywords=jack+ryan




You know how you can show your appreciation for bloggers? If you share and share then every additional reader helps. Connect through Google or Blogger or any way you can, and rest easy in the knowledge that you've made little ol' me a very happy man.

And/or you could also buy my e-book, that has almost every review I've written over the past 5 years. It's very reasonably priced for the sheer amount of content.

The UK version can be bought here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1395945647&sr=1-3&keywords=movie+guide

And American folks can buy it here - http://www.amazon.com/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395945752&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=TJs+ramshackle+mov

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Stage Fright (2014)

If you don't think that musical numbers can enhance a comedy slasher movie then you should run off right now to watch, and enjoy, The Legend Of Beaver Dam. It's a short film written and directed by Jerome Sable, with help in the music/lyrics department from Eli Batalion.

Stage Fright allows the two to stretch out the weird juxtaposition of bombastic tunes and copious amounts of bloodshed. It provides some amusement, but ultimately just ends up proving that the short film form was the best way to package this material.

After a great performance in The Haunting Of The Opera, a starlet named Kylie Swanson (Minnie Driver) is violently murdered by a masked killer. Fast forward many years later and we are introduced to a bunch of characters looking forward to some time in that most traditional of slasher movie settings, the summer camp. This particular camp is overseen by Roger McCall (Meat Loaf), the ex-boyfriend of Kylie. There are also two camp workers (Camilla, played by Allie McDonald, and Buddy, played by Douglas Smith) who happen to be the children of Kylie. The summer camp is focused on musical theatre, and I think you can guess what their big production is going to be for this year. And a masked killer strikes again as Camilla decides to try her luck and audition for the main role.

Thanks to a strong opening sequence, followed by a musical number that features some highly amusing lyrics, Stage Fright looks like it could be bloody good fun. As long as you know what you're in for then you can sit back and expect to enjoy yourself. Unfortunately, it starts to slide downhill quickly, trudging through a fairly redious middle section and then on to an unexciting and uninspired climax. Any supposed shocks in the third act are entirely predictable, although I do suspect that Sable made them that way on purpose, an extra joke about the standard slasher movie template. Elsewhere, the non-musical moments are tiresome, none of the characters stand out (not even any of the leads), and the song lyrics (once more crafted with help from Batalion) quickly become quite bland and unfunny.

Meat Loaf isn't too bad in his role, but he's one of the few highlights. He brings a bit more personality to any role he plays, of course, and this helps him to overcome the weakness of the script. McDonald and Smith don't fare so well, although they both have at least one scene each in which they show the potential to be better. And Brandon Uranoqitz, Ephraim Ellis, Kent Nolan and Melanie Leishman all blur in to one big mass of potential summer camp corpses.

Some of the kills are fun and I'm still not completely against the idea of a slasher movie that mixes such differing musical styles for comedic results. I just hope that the next time this is attempted, IF it is attempted again, the end result is a big improvement.

4/10

http://www.amazon.com/Stage-Fright-Blu-ray-Minnie-Driver/dp/B00JVFRH7E/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1420398308&sr=8-2&keywords=stage+fright



You know how you can show your appreciation for bloggers? If you share and share then every additional reader helps. Connect through Google or Blogger or any way you can, and rest easy in the knowledge that you've made little ol' me a very happy man.

And/or you could also buy my e-book, that has almost every review I've written over the past 5 years. It's very reasonably priced for the sheer amount of content.

The UK version can be bought here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1395945647&sr=1-3&keywords=movie+guide

And American folks can buy it here - http://www.amazon.com/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395945752&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=TJs+ramshackle+mov

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Mrs. Brown's Boys D'Movie (2014)

I don't like Mrs. Brown. There's no point in me starting this review without making that clear. If you like Mrs. Brown's Boys, and certainly enough people do, then feel free to ignore this review completely and rush to see a movie that you'll probably enjoy. Personally, I don't see the appeal of any of the characters, don't find anything funny in the few snippets of the show that I have seen, and wish the character would just fade in to obscurity.

Why am I even bothering to review the film? Because that's what I am compelled to do. And, as I have said many times before, I genuinely approach every film viewing with at least a grain of optimism.

The slim plot sees Mrs. Brown (Brendan O'Carroll) in trouble. She's been landed with a huge tax bill and may well lose her market stall. On the plus side, she has a lot of people who want to help her. On the downside, most of them are pretty incompetent, despite their good intentions.

From what I can tell, this movie follows the form of the TV show almost to a tee. It has all of the usual characters, of course, and even has moments in which mistakes are shown, breaking the fourth wall in a way to wring a few extra chuckles.

This isn't a completely laugh-free zone. I admit that one or two moments amused me, thanks to the fact that the script, written by O'Carroll, throws in everything from an A-Team reference to blind ninjas to a lawyer who suffers from Tourette's syndrome when stressed. Elish O'Carroll is also consistently enjoyable in her supporting role. The direction from Ben Kellett keeps everything fairly plain and simple, with the exception of one or two moments that pretend to be upping the spectacle of the whole thing (such as an opening song and dance number).

O'Carroll is fine, I guess, in the main role. He certainly seems to know his audience. But I have to seriously wonder about anyone who finds his other small role funny, a Chinese man named Mr. Wang portrayed in a way that easily scrapes the bottom of the barrel when it comes to "Chinese" people in cinema. You know, characters like . . . . . . . . . . . . Mr. Yunioshi, played by Mickey Rooney, in Breakfast At Tiffany's. At least Mr. Wang doesn't take up too much screentime, otherwise we might not have time for the gag that involves some Irish men who decide that it is time to solve problems with another bomb, forgetting that their old age might make things a bit trickier. Oh, how I laughed at that particular punchline.

If the bad moments weren't quite SO bad then I could have grudgingly rated this as an average comedy that just wasn't for me. Unfortunately, the worst elements really do a lot of damage, forcing viewers to re-evaluate many of the other gags, none of which hold up well under closer scrutiny.

Of course, fans of the show will already have seen/bought this. So my opinion ultimately means feck all.

3/10

I see no reason why you would want to order this movie, but here is a link anyway - http://www.amazon.com/Mrs-Browns-Boys-DMovie/dp/B00OTTDHNK/ref=sr_1_3?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1420387257&sr=1-3&keywords=mrs+browns+boys



You know how you can show your appreciation for bloggers? If you share and share then every additional reader helps. Connect through Google or Blogger or any way you can, and rest easy in the knowledge that you've made little ol' me a very happy man.

And/or you could also buy my e-book, that has almost every review I've written over the past 5 years. It's very reasonably priced for the sheer amount of content.

The UK version can be bought here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1395945647&sr=1-3&keywords=movie+guide

And American folks can buy it here - http://www.amazon.com/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395945752&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=TJs+ramshackle+mov

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Divergent (2014)

Based on a novel by Veronica Roth (the first in a trilogy), Divergent is another movie aimed squarely at the Young Adult market. It focuses on a young woman who ends up being trained for combat in a system that rewards those not up to the task with a type of banishment, or sometimes even possible death. It's also about a society ruled by people who may not always have the best interests of the public at heart. Despite these similarities, and one or two others, this ISN'T The Hunger Games. Even if it hopes to grab a piece of that pie. It's actually a bit better than The Hunger Games, in my opinion.

Shailene Woodley plays Tris, a young girl living in a society that is determined to avoid another major war. To ensure this, everyone is sorted in to one of five factions. There's a test to be taken just before you choose the faction, but you're still supposed to be able to choose a different faction if you wish. It just makes you stand out a bit if you don't follow on the path set down by your parents. The five factions are Abnegation (selfless), Erudite (intelligent), Amity (peaceful), Candor (honest), and Dauntless (brave). When Tris takes her test she is advised to pretend that she had to leave early after taking sick. It turns out that she's divergent, able to think more independently than most and not be so easily controlled. Divergents are viewed as dangerous. And Tris makes her situation worse when she goes to the choosing ceremony the next day and decides to give the Dauntless faction a go. She doesn't realise just how tough the training will be, and falling too low on the scoreboard is not an option when the consequence is being sent away to live outwith any of the factions.

Although it runs for over two hours (it's about 140 minutes, approximately), Divergent doesn't feel overlong or bloated. There are plenty of action beats that help to move things along, and the inevitable potential romance is evenly spread out throughout the second half of the film, making it less likely to induce vomiting. The screenplay by Vanessa Taylor and Evan Daugherty does a great job of getting, and keeping, viewers up to speed without grinding proceedings to a complete halt, although there are times when it's a very close call.

Director Neil Burger makes all of the right choices for the material. It's generally light, although one or two moments do venture into impressively dark territory, the soundtrack has some tracks that teenage girls should enjoy, the action is solid, although it doesn't get in the way of the character moments, and there are so many odds stacked against Tris that every small victory has the potential to make viewers smile/breathe a sigh of relief.

There's also the cast. Woodley isn't a particularly strong lead, but she's acceptable enough in the role. Theo James, as Four (a Dauntless man who takes a shine to Tris), is suitably strong and handsome, and Jai Courtney plays a bit of a git, which works perfectly considering how much I dislike him anyway. Miles Teller and Zoe Kravitz are the two other Dauntless recruits who stand out from the pack, for different reasons, and then there are supporting roles for Ashley Judd and Kate Winslet, with the latter somehow managing to be brilliant every time she's onscreen despite often appearing to deliver more exposition.

I hoped to get through Divergent without hating it, or myself, too much. It turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise. So much so that I'm now looking forward to the sequel.

7/10

http://www.amazon.com/Divergent-Blu-Ray-digital-download-certificate/dp/B00GQQ77IU/ref=sr_1_6_twi_2_twi_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1420319217&sr=8-6&keywords=divergent



You know how you can show your appreciation for bloggers? If you share and share then every additional reader helps. Connect through Google or Blogger or any way you can, and rest easy in the knowledge that you've made little ol' me a very happy man.

And/or you could also buy my e-book, that has almost every review I've written over the past 5 years. It's very reasonably priced for the sheer amount of content.

The UK version can be bought here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1395945647&sr=1-3&keywords=movie+guide

And American folks can buy it here - http://www.amazon.com/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395945752&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=TJs+ramshackle+mov

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

Monday, 19 January 2015

The Riot Club (2014)

The Riot Club is a film designed to paint the upper-classes at their very worst. It's interesting, although far too simplistic at times, and it's one that should start some interesting conversations after the credits have rolled.

Max Irons plays Miles Richards, one of the new boys starting his time at Oxford University. He's a posh lad, but one with a good heart. That's shown by how quickly he develops a relationship with Lauren (Holliday Grainger), a girl who isn't from any of the big schools. When Miles is invited to join The Riot Club he thinks that he's about to make some good connections, occasionally drink to excess, and generally have some fun in between studies. He soon starts to view the club differently during a grand meal that shows the members at their very worst.

Written by Laura Wade, who adapts her play "Posh" for the big screen, The Riot Club isn't exactly predictable at every turn, but viewers are usually able to realise what's coming in the next few scenes. That's okay though, this is not a film wanting to surprise you. It's one that uses your possible perceptions and prejudices of "the 1%" to give you a slick thriller that reinforces everything you think they get up to anyway.

Director Lone Scherfig has been doing solid work for a good few years now (I highly recommend both Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself and An Education) and this is another success, even if it's lacking in comparison to many of her past works. The pacing is almost perfect, the mix of characters helps to make everything that bit more palatable, and the ending is . . . . . . well, you'll have to wait and see.

Irons is good as the lead. He's believably earnest, and easy to root for, even as he's drawn further and further towards a very bad place. Grainger is even more likable, thanks to her dismissal of the snobbery around her, and Jessica Brown Finlay and Natalie Dormer both do well in smaller, but no less crucial, roles. Tom Hollander makes an impact with only one or two scenes to work with, and the actual members of the riot club range from the unmemorable (Olly Alexander and one or two others) to the memorable-for-all-the-wrong-reasons (Douglas Booth and Sam Claflin). Despite the fact that some don't make as strong an impression, everyone feels just right in their respective roles.

There are times when the film tries to make the lifestyles of the rich and wannabe-infamous seem enticing, putting viewers in a place that allows the characters to almost speak directly to them when they claim that the have-nots are just jealous of their riches and accessories. That's the main area in which the film stumbles. When it aims just for slick thrills, however, it quickly gets back on track.

7/10

UK is the main market for the disc just now - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Riot-Club-Blu-ray-Natalie-Dormer/dp/B00NAWK9F6/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1420304607&sr=8-1&keywords=the+riot+club



You know how you can show your appreciation for bloggers? If you share and share then every additional reader helps. Connect through Google or Blogger or any way you can, and rest easy in the knowledge that you've made little ol' me a very happy man.

And/or you could also buy my e-book, that has almost every review I've written over the past 5 years. It's very reasonably priced for the sheer amount of content.

The UK version can be bought here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1395945647&sr=1-3&keywords=movie+guide

And American folks can buy it here - http://www.amazon.com/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395945752&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=TJs+ramshackle+mov

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Annie (2014)

Yes, I was as dismissive as a lot of other people when I heard that we were about to get another remake of Annie, the musical that gave us the songs "Tomorrow" and "It's A Hard Knock Life", and starred a little red-headed girl being annoyingly precocious. The 1982 movie isn't, as far as I can recall, that great a movie anyway, so I just didn't see any point in going back to that well. And when I saw the first trailer for this movie I was slightly smug, safe in the knowledge that this was a movie that I needn't prioritise, what with it having the potential to be absolutely bloody awful.

Well, I can always admit when I'm wrong (because it happens so often, unfortunately), and in the case of Annie I was wrong. It's not going to be one of my favourite movies, and it suffers from many of the failings that the original movie had, but this is a fun, energetic, musical that should keep the family entertained for the duration.

Quvenzhane Wallis takes over the titular role, and just fine she is too. She's an orphan who lives with the constant hope that one day she will be reunited with her parents. Meanwhile, she is stuck in the care of the bitter Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), a nasty drunk who regrets the opportunities she missed out on in her past. Jamie Foxx is Will Stacks, the character substituting for Daddy Warbucks here. Stacks is a billionaire business tycoon trying to become mayor of New York, and when his approval rating jumps up after he's filmed saving Annie from being hit by a truck his staff decide that he could benefit even more if he offered Annie a temporary home.

I started to warm to this version of Annie in the first few scenes. In fact, the very opening moments provide an amusing little fake-out before moving in to a credit sequence that nicely riffs on the well-known musical numbers with a makeover that feels genuinely appropriate for the new audience without seeming horribly desperate. And everything kept ticking over nicely, for the most part.

There are two main problems that prove insurmountable for director Will Gluck, who also worked on the screenplay with Aline Brosh McKenna (with help from the past versions of the tale, of course). First of all, this isn't a musical full of the best songs. I'm sure many musical fans will disagree, but I've always found Annie to have more filler than thriller, to put it simply. Two good songs just don't cut it, especially when one of those isn't really all that good as opposed to just being one of the most familiar. The second big problem is Cameron Diaz horribly overacting in the role of Miss Hannigan (and let's not even mention the horrible backstory given to her). I've been kinder to Miss Diaz than most, over the years, but she's sorely miscast here, and an undeniable weak link in the cast.

Wallis is bright and sweet in the main role, just about avoiding feeling too precious, Foxx is a lot of fun as the rich man who tries to keep his defences up at all times, Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale are both good as the advisors who watch things unfold from two very different perspectives, and David Zayas and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje do well as two men, one a store owner and one in the employ of Stacks, who try to help Annie as much as possible.

Overall, the flaws in this version are similar to the flaws in the previous versions. The fact that it tries so hard to win viewers over with a better cast, for the most part, and ever-so-slight adjustment of the twee factor means that it's far from the worst family movie to come out in recent years, even if it will never be one of the best.

6/10

http://www.amazon.com/Annie-Blu-ray-UltraViolet-Digital-Copy/dp/B00R878NI4/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1420223100&sr=8-5&keywords=annie



You know how you can show your appreciation for bloggers? If you share and share then every additional reader helps. Connect through Google or Blogger or any way you can, and rest easy in the knowledge that you've made little ol' me a very happy man.

And/or you could also buy my e-book, that has almost every review I've written over the past 5 years. It's very reasonably priced for the sheer amount of content.

The UK version can be bought here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1395945647&sr=1-3&keywords=movie+guide

And American folks can buy it here - http://www.amazon.com/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395945752&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=TJs+ramshackle+mov

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

American Sniper (2014)

American Sniper is a tough movie to review. I'm going to start here by making things easier on myself. I'm NOT going to delve into the politics of the movie. That's an entirely different conversation, and one that will no doubt come up between friends or loved ones who go along together to see the film in cinemas. I'm also not going to try to pin down the REAL character of Chris Kyle, the man portrayed here by Bradley Cooper. The movie plays out in the style of "print the legend" so let's just leave it at that.

Cooper is the man who turns out to be a bloody good shot, leading to him heading off on multiple tours of Iraq. He has a lovely wife (Sienna Miller) waiting for him at home, but civilian life is hard to adjust to when his natural state has seen him poised with a rifle for so many hours. He shoots lots of bad people, of course, and becomes a bit famous, but not in a good way. No, the baddies put a price on his head because he's causing them so many problems. And . . . . . . . well, that's it.

Written by Jason Hall, who was adapting the tale as told in the book written by Kyle, Scott McEwen and Jim Defelice, this is surprisingly shallow stuff. It's also riveting at times. That's the nature of this material. One man with his finger on a trigger, waiting to make the right call every time he sees a potential threat. It's just a shame that nothing else is added to the content. We see Kyle as a sniper. We see him as a husband. Each scene, whether he's in the former role or latter, seems to be little more than a repeat of the previous one, with the exception of the opening flashbacks that show how he got to his current position.

Director Clint Eastwood should have been able to lift this up, to look at the central subject from all angles and create a number of more interesting moments, but he doesn't. Whether he was playing it safe to ensure no disrespect to his central subject or whether he just didn't put in enough effort, either reason doesn't make up for this being such a disappointment.

Cooper is great in the lead role, bulked up and happiest while looking down the barrel of his gun. It's a good job too, because only Sienna Miller makes an impression alongside him. Everyone else is either a fellow soldier or an enemy fighter, with scarcely enough detailing to differentiate any individuals on either side of the battle.

So, as it turns out, American Sniper is, when everything else is set aside, not such a tough movie to review. It's just a shame that everything I've set aside here was also set aside by Hall and Eastwood, effectively neutering what could have been a great character study.

6/10

http://www.amazon.com/American-Sniper-Blu-ray-Digital-UltraViolet/dp/B00RGZ915C/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1421342459&sr=1-2&keywords=american+sniper



You know how you can show your appreciation for bloggers? If you share and share then every additional reader helps. Connect through Google or Blogger or any way you can, and rest easy in the knowledge that you've made little ol' me a very happy man.

And/or you could also buy my e-book, that has almost every review I've written over the past 5 years. It's very reasonably priced for the sheer amount of content.

The UK version can be bought here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1395945647&sr=1-3&keywords=movie+guide

And American folks can buy it here - http://www.amazon.com/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395945752&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=TJs+ramshackle+mov

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Paddington (2014)

I've never read any of the original Paddington Bear stories, but I did grow up watching some of the delightful stop-motion TV episodes, narrated by Michael Hordern. I liked the little bear, initially because he was an identifiable figure (he is, after all, a small, curious child with an addiction to a certain type of sandwich), but later on I viewed him with enduring affection because he was a quintessentially charming British creation. Despite hailing from deepest, darkest Peru, Paddington is as synonymous with the UK as red telephone boxes, a good cup of tea, and people who will do anything to avoid social embarrassment.

And it is this quaint, and largely bygone, view of Britain that makes Paddington such a great success on the big screen. It celebrates many of our idiosyncracies, while also viewing them with the look of puzzlement that they probably deserve.

The basic plot sees Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) arriving here on our shores and hoping to find a new family. He is eventually approached by the Browns, ending up being allowed to share their home until he finds somewhere else to settle. While making many strange new discoveries, Paddington causes numerous accidents (some minor, some pretty big). He soon starts to outstay his welcome. Meanwhile, a taxidermist named Millicent (Nicole Kidman) finds out about this rare beast arriving in the UK and wants to add him to her collection.

Directed by Paul King, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Hamish McColl, this is the very definition of fun for all the family. Kids will love the central character and many of the jokes. Adults will also enjoy many of the jokes, while also being able to spot a myriad of subtler gags and references strewn throughout the film (a personal favourite of mine involves the Brown family in a reversed "Evolution Of Man" tableau). The pacing is perfect, the rendering of Paddington feels very real, and a number of set-pieces ensure that you'll be hoping to see more antics in a sequel even as the end credits are still rolling.

Whishaw is a perfect vocal fit for the main character, helping Paddington to remain very much the furry child that still has so much to learn. The Browns are nicely portrayed by Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville (as the mother and father), and Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin (the daughter and son). Hawkins gets to have the most fun with his role, but Hawkins also has some great little moments, while Harris and Joslin both react very differently to the presence of the little bear in their home. Julie Walters is the housekeeper who seems unfazed by anything, and even thinks that the Browns may benefit from Paddington's presence, and Peter Capaldi is a nosey neighbour, providing some more laughs in the second half of the film. This may not be the kind of film that you'd expect Kidman to do well in, but she does. Her villain is perfectly balanced, she's a genuine threat to Paddington without ever being TOO terrifying for younger viewings. And the motivation for her character is surprisingly brilliant.

With cameo appearances from many other fine British performers (Jim Broadbent, Michael Gambon and Imelda Staunton in voice form, Alice Lowe, Steve Oram, Matt Lucas, Geoffrey Palmer and Simon Farnaby being the main ones), a lively score by Nick Urata, plenty of iconic imagery and clever use of pesky pigeons, this is a film that easily proves more than just bear-able.

Oh come on, I got all this way without one groan-inducing pun. There had to be one.

9/10

The movie won't be out on shiny disc for a while, so treat yourself to some nostalgia here - http://www.amazon.com/Paddington-Bear-Complete-Classic-Various/dp/B004HI79LY/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1419689429&sr=1-1&keywords=paddington+dvd



You know how you can show your appreciation for bloggers? If you share and share then every additional reader helps. Connect through Google or Blogger or any way you can, and rest easy in the knowledge that you've made little ol' me a very happy man.

And/or you could also buy my e-book, that has almost every review I've written over the past 5 years. It's very reasonably priced for the sheer amount of content.

The UK version can be bought here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1395945647&sr=1-3&keywords=movie+guide

And American folks can buy it here - http://www.amazon.com/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395945752&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=TJs+ramshackle+mov

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014)

The continuation of the franchise that was superbly rebooted with Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, this is that rare thing indeed - a Hollywood movie sequel that stands toe to toe with the preceding movie. It is, no pun intended, a slightly different beast, yet it still mixes the same smarts and eye candy that the film before it had in abundance.

About ten years have passed since the events of Rise, and that decade has seen many humans die out from a nasty virus while the apes have grouped together and developed their societal structure to best keep themselves safe in their brave new world. Caesar (Andy Serkis) is still the leader, which is all well and good until the camp is unwittingly trespassed upon by a group of human survivors on a recon mission from a nearby base. Led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke), the humans are hoping to fix a power system that resides within a large dam. Unfortunately, that large dam resides within the territory of the apes. Malcolm determines to show that humans can be trusted, once he gets over the initial shock of meeting these intelligent apes, and this leads to a fragile truce. Koba (Toby Kebbell) sees the truce as a sign of weakness on the part of Caesar, and hatches his own plan to ensure that apes are kept safe from humans.

Matt Reeves has taken over the directorial duties for this instalment, and he's quick to show that the franchise is in safe hands. An opening sequence, showing the spread of the virus that appeared at the end of the previous movie, gets everyone up to speed before things settle down as we get to see the heirarchy and day to day workings of the ape community. This also allows everyone to adjust to the amount of CGI onscreen, which I have to say feels quite flawless for about 95% of the time. There are wobbly moments here and there, but the computer-generated characters and visuals on display here rank up with the best that I've seen. Reeves complements the CGI work with smooth, and sometimes vertiginous, camerawork, perfect pacing and a nice sense of restraint.

A lot of the good work starts with the script, by Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, which takes time to show main characters and dynamics, translating a lot of the ape communication that is in the form of sign language (which means, impressively, that this is a mainstream blockbuster that also forces people to read during quite a few scenes). Every step is taken to ensure that there's a touch of realism at the heart of everything.

Serkis and Kebbell may not be visible onscreen in human guise, but it's their work that should be praised above anyone else. The two men give fantastic physical performances that make their lead characters just as real as anyone else onscreen. Clarke does a great job as the good man who may win Caesar's trust, and he's ably supported by Keri Russell and Kodi Smit-Mcphee. Let's not forget the fact that they were probably acting out most of their scenes alongside actors in motion-capture suits, or even just props that allowed them to maintain eyelines, so the full integration of CGI and non-CGI characters here is testament to the hard work from everyone involved. Judy Greer, Nick Thurston and Karin Konoval also get to monkey around, while Gary Oldman is the other notable human performer (and he's as good as ever).

Smart, touching, often tense, this is a real treat. There are one or two mis-steps, including a disposable human character who may as well just have "stubborn ass" tattooed on his forehead, but if the next movie maintains this level of quality then we may just end up with the greatest ape-centric movie trilogy of all time. Not that there's much competition, mind you, but it will still be a great achievement.

8/10

http://www.amazon.com/Dawn-Planet-Apes-Blu-ray-Oldman/dp/B00MH8DU9Q/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1418937298&sr=1-2&keywords=dawn+of+the+planet+of+the+apes



And remember that you can go ape for my e-book. It's very reasonably priced for the sheer amount of content.

The UK version can be bought here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1395945647&sr=1-3&keywords=movie+guide

And American folks can buy it here - http://www.amazon.com/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395945752&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=TJs+ramshackle+mov

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Whiplash (2014)

Jazz. Nice. I'm not the biggest fan of jazz music, but it's hard to deny that it's the type of music that often seems to require the most dedication and skill from those who practice it.

Whiplash is all about a young man (Andrew Neiman, played by Miles Teller) who wants to be one of the great jazz musicians. He's a drummer, and over the moon when he's picked out from his class at Shaffer Conservatory to take a place in the band being conducted by the famous Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons). It soon becomes clear, however, that Simmons won't settle for anything less than the best. He demands perfection from his musicians, hoping to push them to a point that makes or breaks them. More often than not, it's the latter result.

Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, this isn't highly original stuff, and some have complained that it's ill-informed and misguided, at best. The battle of wills between master and pupil, the musician dedicating so much of his blood, sweat and tears to his art, even a climax that leads to what you could loosely term as a final battle. Forgive the pun, this hits a lot of familiar beats. Yet it does everything so brilliantly that viewers won't mind, and may even embrace, the moments that seem stereotypical.

It's hard to decide who is better between Teller and Simmons. The former has alternately entertained and annoyed me in some of his roles, but he easily earns a lot of the praise that has been heaped upon him for this performance. It's a hugely demanding, physical role, and Teller nails every moment. Simmons would seem to have the easier role, he gets to cut loose and be an absolute monster for most of his scenes, but that should take nothing away from just how great he is. The movie lives and dies by their performances, and I think the effusive praise aimed at it from so many, including myself, tells you that they don't disappoint. Paul Reiser also does well, playing Teller's father. He may not be AS supportive as he could be, but he certainly wants the best for him, even if he's not sure how to go about it. And Melissa Benoist also makes a good impression as Nicole, a young woman that our main character falls for. But can anyone dedicated to something so passionately also maintain a relationship?

If you really dislike jazz, or drumming, then this may end up grating on you. It's unrelenting, as it should be, dragging the viewer alongside the main characters as practice follows practice follows practice. Blisters are covered over with band-aids, hands are dunked in ice water, and skin is constantly in danger of being broken, in more ways than one.

If you're after a fantastic film featuring two stellar lead performances then I have to say . . . . . . . . yes, you know what I'm about to say . . . this is hard to beat.

9/10

http://www.amazon.com/Whiplash-Blu-ray-J-K-Simmons/dp/B00PT3AUYO/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1421053937&sr=8-2&keywords=whiplash



You know how you can show your appreciation for bloggers? If you share and share then every additional reader helps. Connect through Google or Blogger or any way you can, and rest easy in the knowledge that you've made little ol' me a very happy man.

And/or you could also buy my e-book, that has almost every review I've written over the past 5 years. It's very reasonably priced for the sheer amount of content.

The UK version can be bought here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1395945647&sr=1-3&keywords=movie+guide

And American folks can buy it here - http://www.amazon.com/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395945752&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=TJs+ramshackle+mov

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Into The Woods (2014)

From my very limited experience of Stephen Sondheim, I have to say that I'm not a big fan. I'm not sure what I'm missing that everyone else gets from his work, but I certainly seem to be missing something. Of course, I've not yet seen any of his works on the stage, where they may shine at their brightest, but this is my second time viewing a movie based on his work. The first time was Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street. I didn't love it. Yet I didn't dislike it either. It grew on me. The only thing I still don't love about it was, unfortunately, most of the soundtrack. I left the screening of Into The Woods trying hard not to hate it.

The story is as follows: a baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) are unable to have children. They are offered the chance to change the situation by a witch (Meryl Streep), and to appease her they must find a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, a golden shoe, and hair as yellow as corn. The witch then disappears in a swirl of witchiness, leaving the baker and his wife to cross paths with Jack (Daniel Huddlestone), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy).

It's a star-studded affair, no doubt about it, with some lovely production values and competent direction from Rob Marshall. But it's also such a drab, lifeless affair that I can't see anyone being overjoyed by it, except perhaps fans of the stage show (and even they may be disappointed by the handling of the material - as can happen with anything being adapted into movie form). The script, written by James Lapine and Sondheim, seems to spend a lot of time wringing comedy from the fact that it's so amusing and sly and subversive when it's not. People have been reworking and twisting fairy tales almost as long as fairy tales have been around, and this plot throws everything around in pretty haphazard manner that never allows viewers to forget that different elements are being shoehorned in to fit alongside one another.

The cast all do a decent job though, so that's another plus point. Streep is a fun witch, Kendrick is suitably sweet as Cinderella, and Corden and Blunt do their best to make their characters likable (although it's a struggle). Crawford and Huddlestone both feel right for their roles, and they get their fair share of screentime, which is more than can be said for poor Mackenzie Mauzy. She's consigned to little more than a bit part, and is given very little to do when she IS onscreen. Chris Pine steals the show as a dashing prince, Billy Magnussen tries hard as another prince, Tracey Ullman is underused (playing Jack's mother), Johnny Depp has an enjoyable cameo, playing The Wolf, and Christine Baranski, Tammy Blanchard and Lucy Punch prove to be consistently entertaining as the evil family unit that Cinderella is stuck with.

Despite my own opinion of the film, it's worth noting that this is already a big success at the box office, and probably nowhere near its final total haul yet. So perhaps many other people are taking something away from it that I missed. Like an appreciation of Sondheim's talent.

4/10

http://www.amazon.com/Into-Woods-1-Disc-Digital-Blu-ray/dp/B00Q7WBFTA/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1421058827&sr=8-3&keywords=into+the+woods



You know how you can show your appreciation for bloggers? If you share and share then every additional reader helps. Connect through Google or Blogger or any way you can, and rest easy in the knowledge that you've made little ol' me a very happy man.

And/or you could also buy my e-book, that has almost every review I've written over the past 5 years. It's very reasonably priced for the sheer amount of content.

The UK version can be bought here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1395945647&sr=1-3&keywords=movie+guide

And American folks can buy it here - http://www.amazon.com/TJs-Ramshackle-Movie-Guide-Reviews-ebook/dp/B00J9PLT6Q/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395945752&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=TJs+ramshackle+mov

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.