Sunday, 29 January 2017


Starring Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths and Vince Vaughn. Written by Andrew Knight and Robert Schenkkan. Directed by Mel Gibson. Budget $40 million. Running time 139 minutes. 15 Certificate.

The true life story of Desmond Doss, the second World War conscientious objector who whilst refusing to bear arms against his fellow man still enlisted to become a battlefield medic. The film follows his life from young violent boy, the son of a traumatised WWI corporal, who grows up to be a devout Seventh Day Adventist. After enduring a bruising basic training and being court marshaled for disobeying a direct order, Desmond (Andrew Garfield) is given the right to go into battle unarmed. Then it's a cut to the Hacksaw Ridge of the title for a harrowing, brutal, bruising and extremely gory hour of non-stop action and bloodshed, just to show our plucky hero what he's missing. In the ensuing battle Desmond single-handedly rescues 75 of his fellow comrades thus winning the Congressional Medal of Honor. Oops, spoiler alert, but then this is a 'true story'.

Extremely well directed by Mel Gibson, who seems to have finally atoned for his past indiscretions, this movie is as much about faith as it is anything, which coming from a devout Catholic like Gibson is hardly surprising. Although for a film whose hero is a pacifist it certainly doesn't skimp on the action. This is most certainly a film of three acts. The first deals with Doss's life back home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and his romance with nurse (Rachel Griffiths). The second act is the training camp, which is perhaps the most entertaining and enjoyable and the third act is the assault on the ridge. Of the three acts, it's the first part which is perhaps the least successful. It's very much a Norman Rockwell rendition of rural America, all good teeth and clean white linen, despite the post-traumatic syndrome and Doss is presented as almost the personification of virtue. Although that said, where as the Bible features heavily and various characters talk about religion this aspect of the story always feels skimmed over and Doss's personal faith or beliefs, apart from the not killing and not eating meat is never really completely explored. It all feels as if Gibson is marking time and setting the groundwork so he can get on with the bit he really likes, the violence and action. And in that department, very much like Braveheart and Apocalypto, he doesn't disappoint.

The acting is good surprisingly from both Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington and even Garfield, although he still has a face you want to hit. But this isn't a deep and cereberal film, it's a Ronsil movie and does exactly what it says on the tin. It's a harrowing and visceral film enriched by footage at the end of the real Doss and those who knew him including, in one case, a man whose life he saved.



Starring James McAvoy, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Anna Taylor-Joy and Betty Buckley. Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Budget $9 million. Running time 117 minutes. Certificate 15.

Three girls are abducted by James McAvoy's Dennis and wake up locked in a basement to discover they are all the victims of a man with 23 distinct and separate personalities and told they are to be a gift to a Beast, who is soon to become the 24th member of Dennis' extrememly crowded cranium. What follows is a tight, thriller as the girls lead by outsider, Anna Taylor-Joy try to survive while Dennis comes apart at the seams and his psychiatrist, Betty Buckley tries to unravel and help him.

Don't want to say too much more than this. It's an effective and entertaining thriller that is sadly let down by an ending that doesn't have closure or at least enough of it to satisfy me. Instead it opts for ending, which annoying lays the groundwork of a very unexpected sequel.

James McAvoy is utterly superb in this film and the best moments come between him and Buckley as she explores his damaged psyche and the scenes between him and Anna Taylor-Joy as the brave, resourceful but believable Casey, with her own demons.

This is without doubt Shyamalan's best film in years, indeed I'd say since Unbreakable. But it still doesn't forgive him for The Happening, Last Airbender, Lady in the Lake, The Village or Signs all of which are woeful.



Starring Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu, Roby Rose, Rory McCann, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Toni Collette, Ice Cube and Samuel L. Jackson. Written by F. Scot Frazier and directed by D.J. Caruso. Budget $85 million. Running time 107 minutes. Certificate 12A.

A film utterly beyond parody, a film so aware it's stupid that it decides to not only writ it large but to do so in 50ft neon letters with a great-big, flashing arrow pointing at it in case you miss it. Throwing away the need for a coherent script, a logical plot or even an ounce of intelligence the film opts instead for one ridiculously silly action sequence after another and doing away with proper dialogue by having all of the characters talk in soundbits and quotes.

The story, I can't say plot, sees a Macguffin, that controls satellites and uses them as orbital missiles, stolen by a group of super-extreme sportspeople lead by Donnie Yen (the best thing in the movie) and the efforts of Toni Collette's C.I.A to retrieve it with the aid of 49-year old, 'down with the yoof' action star, Vin Diesel as Xander Cage. Cage, who's been pretending he was dead by hanging out in the Dominican Republic and stealing cable for the drug dealers. He quickly recruits his own crew for the mission, a sniper, Ruby Rose, a man who crashes cars for kicks, Rory McCann and a DJ, for you know laying down bustin' chones. They travel to the Philippines for a party and meet up with Donnie's crew and then sort of bond while fighting a group of covert agents before discovering that the 'what-a-ma-call-it' device is in the possession of someone else. So the gang now race off to face the baddy which ultimately leads to a showdown in a wharehouse between the goodies and a hundred crack, C.I.A assault squad, while Vin fights other baddies, onboard an cargo plane as another satellite falls to Earth.

Oh gosh! Will our heroes save the day, or will the baddies win? I wouldn't dream of spoiling the excitement, however I will say this. If the hundred members of the crack C.I.A assault squad were to fight the same number of Storm Troopers then both sides would run out of ammo long before a single one of the were killed or slightly injured.

I'm not a huge fan of pantos, but I find that if you go in knowing what to expect and prepared to take part you'll have a fun time. The same can be said of this ridiculous nonsense. Nothing makes sense, there are no consequences to any actions and the action is downright stupid. However there comes a point, when the 3rd act starts (don't worry a subtitle card pops up announcing it) the film stops being fun and becomes rather, well boring, it's just one long gun battle with limitless ammo and none of our heroes even troubled by a graze let alone a bruise.

At the end, the baddies are thwarted and the heroes are victorious and the ground work laid for a series, this is clearly Vin Diesel's attempt for a second franchise to rival the Fast and Furious one, which this film has very carefully aped in style and construct. Diesel has surrounded himself with a cast of likeable characters and realised that for xXx to work successfully it has to be as tongue in cheek as its star.

A silly, stupid, action panto that loses momentum once the extreme sport stunts stop and the consequence free shooting starts.


Sunday, 15 January 2017


Starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Written and directed by Damien Chazelle. Budget $30 million. Running time 128 minutes. Certificate 12A.

The all singing, all dancing story of what happens when a middling actress meets a failed jazz musician on the crumbling streets of LA. Cue a handful of unmemorable songs and some so-so dance routines. I so, so wanted to LA-LA-love this film, I've been looking forward to it for ages and went in with a spring in my step and a song in my heart. I left over two hours later with a sense of what could have been, or more importantly what should have been with a cast as charismatic as this, and with a director as good as he is. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why this film didn't click with me, but there's something missing for sure.

Certainly the critics love this and it's sweeping up the awards, but after a weekend that included Manchester By Sea this just feels a little flat in comparison. It never leaps, it never reaches the stars it keeps singing about. None of the dance numbers have any of the gloriousness of the old musicals it so wants to emulate. It starts strong and the story structure starts off interesting enough, telling the story in tandem, from each of the young lover's point of view. But there comes a point where it sort of just putt-putts when is should have zinged!

Maybe the camera should have pulled back a little more, maybe the songs should have been more surreal. I longed for a studio set and found all the locations a little uninspiring, that said we do get one studio set song and dance number and all that does is to reinforce what we're missing and that frustrated me. As always with this sort of tale, boy meets girl, falls in love with girl then loses girl and so it is with this. However, late in the third act when, after a break of five years, our two lover's worlds collide again and all the magic and love we've experienced up till that point totally disappear. It's hard to accept her life choices when opportunity knocked or to accept that she would have just forgotten her old life so completely, but she does. A glimpse of what could have been if only their first meeting had ended with a kiss just sort of reinforces what a missfire the ending of this film is.

All that said, this is still a fun film, but perhaps a little too long. Both leads are terrific, Ryan shines and Emma Stone is the living embodiment of perky and their chemistry sings. But the story ultimately lets this down. I was reminded of the wonderful silent black and white movie The Artist of 2011 that for me perfectly captured the magic of the bygone days.

This should have been a delight but sadly for me it just sort of tripped up.


Saturday, 14 January 2017


Starring Will Smith, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, Michael Pena, Naomie Harris, Jacob Latimore, Kate Winset and Helen Mirren. Written by Allan Loeb and directed David Frankel. Running time 97 minutes. Budget $36 million. Certificate 12a.

Will Smith is Howard Inlet, a fantastically amazing advertising executive of a fantastically amazing and successful Manhattan advertising agency and Edward Norton, Michael Pena and Kate Winset are his dear, dear friends and co-partners. However, three years later and poor old Howard is crippled by the tragic death of his six year old daughter and utterly unable to function in the real world and instead spends his time building elaborate domino runs and writing letters to Death, Love and Time. His trio of good, good buddies terrified that their cash cow is going to leave them penniless when they lose their biggest client thanks to Howard's misery decide that what they need to do is prove Howard is insane with grief and thereby they can take control of the company in a boardroom coup. To do this the trio hire three actors to pretend to be Death, Love and Time to confront Howard, while it's secretly filmed, then, later they'll be cgi-ing out of the footage, so it looks like Howard's talking to himself and thus proving he's mad. In the meantime, Howard struggles to come to terms with his bereavement on his own terms and starts to attend a support group run by the kindly Naomie Harris, who's also lost a daughter at the same age. Hmmm....

This is an odd, odd film. It starts off like a light-hearted comedy and is filmed liked one but as it drags on it becomes more and more morkish and overly sentimental, which is a shame. If this film had just been Will Smith struggling with his loss and coming to terms with it I think it would have been a fantastic film, particularly if the trio of actors, as promised by the trailer, were actually Death, Love and Time then it would have been a far better film.

However, when we discover that each of the three friends have their own problems that could be helped by Death, Love and Time the film begins to lose it's credibility. Added to that there a growing suspicion that this film is desperate to be considered something magical. Then there's the problem that Will takes a back seat to Norton, Knightley and Pena and their problems for large portions of this film and when that happens we sort of lose interest, because they're just three greedy bastards.

This film has one rather moving twist in the third act, which goes someway to redeeming the movie, but by then it's a little bit too little too late. Overall, I don't think it's as bad as the critics claim, but it's still mawkish, over-sentimental and overwrought. All that said, Will Smith's portrayal of grief is poignant and painful to watch and emotional.

The ending offers us the possibility of a happy ending and also one last revelation about our three actors, although by this point I don't think we really care anymore.



Starring Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Lara Pulver, James Faulkner, Charles Dance and Tobias Menzies. Written by Cory Goodman and directed by Anna Foerster. 91 minutes too long. $35 million budget. 15 certificate.

The plot to this movie is so labyrinth and convoluted that I simply don't have the wherefore all to do it justice so instead I give you this link to the film's Wikipedia page which does a bang up job of describing it.

Thus freeing me to launch into a gentle and none angry review.

Oh. My. Sweet. Mother-fucking. God. Please kill me now. Seriously what a total bag of utter bollocks. In fact this is a staggeringly useless and anemic sac of shit that it's left me debating which breed of cinematic vampire I hate more, these useless bunch of double fanged twats or the sparkly Twatlight ones? Honestly I can't decide. I mean by rights I should hate the Robert Paterson/Kirsten Stewart ones the most, but after this I really don't know any more.

Now, I have to admit to not having watched all the Underworld movies. I know I've seen the first one, and from what I dimly remember it was quite silly but fun, and I've seen one where this big hybrid vampire/werewolf thing was in it and Bill Knighy got sliced in half, and I seem to remember one really terrible one about a little girl, and there was one set in the past about a war between werewovles and vampires and had Michael Sheen in it, but I really don't know or care. Anyway, this fifth entry in the seemingly undead franchise brings back Kate Beckinsale as the Death Dealer Selene to wear a pretty impressive leather jump suit and kill werewolves. Shot entirely in infuriating grey and steel blue and featuring some genuinely unimpressive CGI effects this is a poe-faced, dull as ditch water stinker which is about as scary as a Scooby Do and Scrappy Do cartoon. The high points are Charles Dance who seriously deserves better and um, the death of one of the baddies which is wonderfully funny. Apart  from that, I'd rather have my teeth pulled than watch this again. Actually I'll never watch this piece of shit ever again, not if you paid me. Although I probably would if you paid me, but it would have to be atleast £10, cos' I'm not cheap.

There's a group of vampires in this stupid film that are clearly inspired by those Lord of the Rings Elves, being all white haired and crap. They seem utterly balls and die easier than ants.

God this was dull. Dull, dull dull. There's a big fight at the end which is okay, someone gets their spine ripped out and one of the vampires looks like my mate James so that was funny. But apart from that. Just don't bother.

Imagine all the cut-scenes of a rather inept first-person video game cut together into one film, and you'll get the idea.

I saw it so you didn't have to. Big balls 2/10.


Starring Ben Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Sienna Miller, Elle Fanning, Brendan Glesson, Chris Messina, Robert Glenister and Chris Cooper. Written and directed by Ben Affleck. 129 minutes long. Budget $65 million. Certificate 15.

Ben Affleck is Joe, the Boston son of an Irish police chief (Brendan Glesson) and a First World War veteran who comes back from the war a changed man, a man who refuses to obey the laws of anyone ever again, thus becoming an outlaw. To achieve this he robs banks and shags the moll, Emma (Sienna Miller) of Albert White (Robert Glenister). That is until White finds out and kills Emma and Joe is jailed for 2 years for the deaths of 3 police men.

Two years later, Joe is released two weeks after his dad dies and he heads out on the revenge trail, by teaming up with White's rival Italian mob boss, Maso (Remo Girone) and taking over the lucrative rum business in Tampa Bay and running White out of town. Then he has to battle the KKK, an evangelical preacher in the shape of Loretta (Elle Fanning) and Maso's stupid son known as the Digger. All the while Joe falls in love with the sister of a Cuban gangster Graciella Corrales (Zoe Saldana). There's lots of other stuff that happens but I wouldn't want to spoil the whole film for you.

This is a well mounted but utterly dreary plod through a boring man's exciting life. Told without a modicum of wit, excitement or drama this film is totally ruined by the blandness of its leading man, author and director, Ben Affleck. He sleeps through the entire film and offers only one small flash of emotion and that's in the films dying minutes. The rest of the time he plods along in one ill-fitting suit after another delivering lines in a monotonous drone and occasionally shooting a gun.

In a film overburdened by a stupidly dense plot, this film never stops for a moment to flesh out the story, it just keeps on putting down more and more plot as we trudge through one gangster's rather bland rise to the top. It builds to a big shot out glimpsed in the trailer and then very quickly ties up a couple of lose ends, chucks in one last cheap emotional kick to the teeth before slowly grinding to a halt.

This looks good, great art direction, a couple of dramatic shot-outs and car chases and some good performances. The rest of the cast try hard but are all hamstrung by a writer/director/star who just seems to be phoning in his performance. Perhaps he was more interested in what was going on behind the camera instead of what was going on in front of it. There's a sense that Affleck was trying to make a 21st Century Godfather, instead it's just another Godfather 3.



Starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Gretchen Mol and Lucas Hedges. Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan. Budget $8.5 million. Running time 137 minutes. Certificate 15.

Just superb. A true masterpiece. One of the most satisfying movies I've seen in an absolute age!

Casey Affleck is Lee Chandler a man living in self imposed exile as a quiet reserved janitor. From his single basement room in the bottom of a Boston tenement, that resembles a cell, Lee spends his days  clearing the paths of snow, unblocking toilets or fixing the numerous problems of his tenants. Then in the evenings he gets roaring drunk in a dingy bars and gets into fights for no good reason.

That is until one day when he gets a phone call and learns his beloved brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler) has died and so he heads back to his hometown of Manchester to arrange the funeral only to discover that Joe has not only left him the family home, a trust fund, the family business - a working boat - but he's also made Lee the legal guardian of his 16 year-old nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Trapped in Manchester until the frozen ground has thawed enough to allow Joe to be buried, Lee is forced to relive some painful memories and try to bond with his emotionally stunned nephew.

Over the course of the next two hours, through flash backs, we discover Lee's truly tragic past and watch as he struggles to find himself and bond with his nephew, while his old friends and ex-wife try to reconnect with him.

This is a genuinely stunning movie. Beautiful to look at, staggering well written and acted and truly heart-breaking. I utterly loved this film and would have happily sat through another four hours of it. That said, it won't be for everyone, it's painfully slow, like molasses. It's filled with ennui and at it's core is a heartbreaking revelation. Like life, there is no plot and conversations ramble and often end without a full stop.

For some unknown reason, I adore these sorts of slow, slow burn movies about seemingly nothing, I find them almost intoxicating. Casey Affleck is brilliant in the role, as is new comer Lucas Hedges and Michelle Williams as Lee's ex-wife, Randi brings an agonising poignancy to the role and the glimpses of their past life together as a loving married couple are beautiful to behold.

But this isn't all tears and heartbreak, it's also painfully funny and filled with naturalistic humour that brings some all-too-brief warmth to the proceedings. Likewise, the scenery is beautiful and the direction by Kenneth Lonergan is subtle and un-showy.

I don't often say this, but I urge you to see this, it deserves to be seen.

A modern masterpiece. 10/10


Starrring Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Lewis MacDougall and Liam Neeson. Written by Patrick Ness and based on his book. Directed by J. Bayona. Budget $43 million. Running time 108 minutes. Certificate 12a.

It's January, which can only mean one thing. Tis award season. That time of year where we're spared the usual special effects spectaculars, action flicks and super hero movies and in return given, whether we want them or not, movies with proper stories to tell and souls to reveal, and to that list we can offer up this, A Monster Calls starring two female SF heroines, one old and one new in the guise of Sigourney Weaver and Felicity Jones, as well as a hard-boiled action hero Liam Neeson and a stunning new young actor Lewis MacDougall.

The film, heart-crushingly poignant, sees young Connor O'Malley (Lewis MacDougall) struggling to come to terms with a world that is crumbling around him. His parents are divorced and his father (Toby Kebbell) is visiting from the States, his mother (Felicity Jones) is slowly dying of cancer and he is forced to go and live with his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) with whom he doesn't get on with. Plus he's being horrifically bullied at school and seems powerless to act or tell anyone. Oh and the ancient Yew tree that lives on top of a nearby hill has transformed into a gigantic terrifying wooden monster (Liam Neeson) who visits Connor over four nights, promising three fairy tales on the first three nights, which are lies, and on the fourth night he tells Connor that the boy will tell a story in return that is true.

Despite being very well acted, well directed and visually stunning I wasn't wholly won over by this and I don't really know why. At its core the relationship between Connor and his mother is wonderful and I found myself wanting to stay longer with them rather than with the other family members who, in my mind, just became frustrating particularly in their inability to see how much pain Connor is suffering and that began to annoy me. Plus, no matter how impressive the monster is, and it is, believe me, it's superb, I found it strangely jarring. You find yourself waiting for its next appearance, but each visit pulls you out of the story and ultimately frustrates because each of the Monster's fairy tales are so annoying (although visually stunning) that they somewhat kill the mood and it takes a while to get back into it once the Monster has gone and Connor's life continues.

Overall I found this a moving and powerful movie and well worth seeing but frustratingly I wasn't won over by it. That said, it sure beats the usual action packed candyfloss spectaculars we're normally given in our wonderful multiplexes so I'm gonna enjoy them for as long as I can.


Saturday, 7 January 2017


Starring vocal talents of Ryo Narita, Aoi YĆ«ki, Nobunaga Shimazaki, Kaito Ishikawa and Kanon Tani. Written and directed by Makoto Shinkai and based on his manga. 107 minutes long. Certificate 12a.

A stunning, beautifully animated and staggering engrossing story of star crossed young lovers. The story is rather complicated but very worth while sticking with. Set in present day Japan, the story unfolds during the visit of a comet which last passed Earth over 12 hundred years ago. One day a young Tokyo boy wakes up in the body of a Japanese coastal girl with no idea what is going on. It transpires that without warning these two students will swap bodies for a day and the film follows the consequences of what has happened as each grapples with the bizarreness of the situation while trying to make a go of it. This flits between funny, touching and dramatic.  Then the third act arrives and literally changes everything and the film becomes a very touching and dramatic adventure of two young lovers literally out of time.

What elevates this above the norm is that despite it being an anime it's shot as if it's a live action film. The shots and cinematography are just sublime and I loved every minute of this touching and heart rending movie. If you get a chance to see it on the big screen do, it's just wonderful.

Not a thing to fault this wonderful, beautiful and compelling film. 10/10

Monday, 2 January 2017


Starring Micheal Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling and Michael K. Williams. Written by Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage. Based on the video game franchise published by Ubisoft. Directed by Justin Kurzel. Budget $125 million. Running time 116 minutes. Certificate 12a.

Hooray, it's a new year! I can't wait to see what exciting new films there are to wash away the mainly foul taste of 2016 from my cinematic palette! I bet the Michael Fassbender produced affair that is Assassin's Creed will restore my faith in cinema! I mean the games were great fun, all that running around killing people and climbing up tall building to jump off them while performing stunts, great fun! Just don't ask me what the plots were about cos I always fast forward through the cut scenes so I have no idea, and besides we all know that games don't have plots!

But enough of all that, what about the film!

Well, congratulations 2017 you've clearly started as you mean to go on with another huge dollop of cinematic meh. Welcome to Assassin's Creed the movie, a murky dirge of brownish, greyish sludge with a group of moping, gloomy grumps who never learned to smile let alone laugh. It's directed methodically and shot almost entirely in slow-motion, all the action is anyway, as is all that jumping off stuff, or at least it felt that way. Likewise, everyone talks quietly and no one ever bloody smiles, like not even once! No, these guys are really serious, there's just no time for fun when you're doing parkour in olden days Spain and stabbing dudes in faces and shit. But every week on You've Been Framed we get to watch wanky parkour runners fall face first into stuff, and that's bloody funny! But not for the Bottom Creed, they never fall over, not once, not ever.

The plot, well I'm not sure I can summarise it well enough to do it justice but I'll give it a go. There's this bloke played by Micky Faceblender whose name is Ass Creed and he's recruited by this big super powerful organization, which has a 2 billion dollar a year budget to help them locate the apple that Adam and Eve ate, to do this they have to use the descendant of a dead assassin from the time of the Spanish Inquisition who stole or hide the apple. And that's where Mike Bassblamer comes in, you see not only is he a direct descendent but so were his parents, grandparents, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces, or so it seems. Anyway, Jeremy Irons and his daughter Marion Cotillard (I'm sure they have proper character names, but I can't remember) run this super secret base from the middle of Madrid and they attach Mike Bassfender to this very large trash picker and shine 30 watt bulbs in his eyes. This allows Mick Massmender to relieve all the murdering he did back in the good old days while he was a member of the Arse Creed. Meanwhile Jezer and Marrion have also recruited all the other descendents of the A-hole Creed and they don't want Mikel Fastsender to help for some reason, don't care, can't remember. After that lots of waffle about stuff and free will and then Charlotte Rampling turns up and spouts bollock about Apples and pears and it all ends with people leaping off buildings while the Eagles play Hotel California.

ANYWAY, there's lots of eagles soaring over dusty Spain and lots of hoodies doing parkour while stabbing people, it's all very serious and very, very earnest and I'm sure it's the first part of a much need new franchise, because if there's one thing this new cinematic year is crying out for it's a new movie franchise!

In a nutshell, this is a dusty, dull, dreary dirge which ends up with lots of stabby stab-stab. If you've played the games then don't worry this hasn't ruined those for you, and if you haven't, then I don't know if not playing them will damage your enjoyment. Either way, it's probably far more fun playing the games then watching this poe-faced, stupidly serious, shit.