Saturday, January 9, 2016

Daddy's Home (2015)

When it comes to being the top Dad; the gloves really come off!

When a caring step father Brad Whitaker, trying desperately to get in touch with his step children, has his world turned up by a surprise visit from their biological father Dusty. What follows is a tale of nearly unbelievable one up-man-ship, as the two try to influence and impress their children. By the end, they might just learn the true meaning of family, if they don't kill each other first....

Will Farrell and Mark Wahlberg team up for the first time since "The Other Guys" and once again bring uproariously laughter and fair amount of cringe worthy content to the big screen. Farrell is his usual comedic self, with the whacky facial expressions and dead pan delivery of some classic one liners. His portrayal of the desperate to be accepted "Brad Whitaker" is excellent, but at times does leave you wanting to shrink into your popcorn with embarrassment for his character. He plays the role with a feeling and sincerity which we haven't seen since "Frank the Tank" in the delightful "Old School" and it's a side of his talent which is very enjoyable to behold.

Mark Wahlberg seems to be coming up in absolutely everything at the moment and returns for the first time since his Bostonian drawl drew us all in, in "Ted 2". His portrayal of the muscle bound, hardly ever around, "Dusty Mayron" is heart felt and very enjoyable, showing a more sensitive side to his skills and his ability to work seamlessly with child actors. His initial bad-ass attitude, softens as the film goes on and by the end, he will be your favourite character.

Linda Cardellini takes on a very different role than her last outing in "Avengers - Age of Ultron" to take on the challenging task of the motherly "Sara", trying to hold together her new family while the two men in her life try their best to outdo each other. Young Scarlet Estevez brings the cute factor with her role as "Megan" while Owen Vaccaro does some superb work as the young "Dylan". The funniest character by far is "Leo Holt", played by the Mercurial Thomas Haden Church. His portrayal of a radio station manager will leave shaking you head in wonder, as story after inappropriate story rolls off his tongue.

Hannibal Duress, is a lovely surprise as "Griff" and fits in fantastically with both of the leads in this film, be sure to also keep an eye out for a cameo from WWE Superstar, John Cena.

This is a really enjoyable and heart warming film and one which most.....of the family will be able to relate to. You leave the cinema with a warm glow, but also with aching sides from having laughed too much. Well worth the price of admission!


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Krampus (2015)

Be careful what you wish for this Christmas, It may just come true....

An extended family is forced to spend the Christmas break together. Things start badly with a lot of infighting, but when the youngest member of the family destroys his wish list for Santa Clause and stops believing in Christmas, it awakens an ancient being...

A paralyzing snow storm is the perfect setting for the family to discover the true meaning of the festive season. If they can work together, they may just be able to defeat a being, Hell-bent on ruining their Christmas

 A perfect comedic-horror romp, just in time for the holidays. Dark enough to frighten the kids, but comedic enough to allow adults to nervously laugh at things which go bump in the night.

It is a very hard task to mix horror and comedy and make it credible and this movie, fails to really achieve this. The cast; led by easily recognized comedy actor Adam Scott (Tony Engel) - Whose last outing was a very creditable showing the dramatic "Black Mass", he now returns to his favourite genre and although he does well, a more serious role, does seem to suit him better.

Australian actress Toni Collette, does well as "Sara Engel", the long suffering wife of Adam Scott, giving a convincing performance, as the stressed host of a large family holiday gathering.The true star of the show comes in the familiar form of  Conchata Ferrell (Better known to the world as "Berta" from 9 seasons of Two and a Half Men) - Pretty much reprises her role as the very comical "Aunt Dorothy".

Twelve year old Emjay Anthony takes on the biggest role of his young career with the semi-lead as "Max Engel". His disbelief in Santa Clause, starts all of the trouble and he does really well throughout. Austrian actress Krista Stadler, deserves a strong mention for her role as "Omi". Her wise words seemingly going unheeded as the story unfolds, but the rest of the cast learns to listen to her by the end.

The special effects team are the ones who deserve highest praise on this one, creating some very interesting, if somewhat unbelievable festively themed monsters to antagonize the family. This was an enjoyable film throughout, although I found it hard to take seriously with a well known comedian in the lead role.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Elysium (2013)

In the future, an exclusive world will be the ultimate destination; but only those brave enough will ever make it there...

In the distant future, the super rich have created a world for themselves in nearby space, called Elysium, where there is never any illness, violence or sadness. The rest of the people on earth are left to fend for themselves with little access to medical care and living in slum conditions.

When "Max" is struck down by radiation poisoning after an accident at work, he knows his only way to survive is to access the medical scanners only present on Elysium. He has to bypass the security fields and make his way to the promised land without being shot down in the process. When he robs and murders an important man in his quest to reach Elysium, he comes face to face with a force who has sworn to protect the elitist way life, no matter the results...

South African director, Neill Blomkamp, returns to the big screen for the first time since his epic debut in "District 9" with a film which feels remarkably similar, but covers a far different terrain. His style is courageous and daring, but very entertaining no less, but the film could almost be a big brother to his first effort. It will be good to see what his next film does, as he needs a change of scenery.

Matt Damon takes the lead role as "Max" a former child of the street, whose lifes goal it is to reach Elysium. His portrayal is gritty, yet surprisingly sensitive and he does well in a challenging role. It is a good outing to follow his recent showing in "Behind the Candelabra", but the role did not come close to testing his talents.

Jodie Foster returns to the big screen for the first time since her stunning role in "Carnage" of 2011, with a decent showing as Head of Elysium security "Delacourt". She gives a stylish performance, with the only detracting factor being that her accent seems to be all over the place. She starts off French, the moves to English, American and in one scene even takes on a South African twang. Despite that it is good to see her back on the screen in this convincing role.

The star of "District 9" Sharlto Copley, plays almost the exact same character as the one which shot him to stardom, but this time seems a bit darker, and if anything, a LOT more crazy in his portrayal of "Kruger". His performance is superb, and along with Brandon Auret and Josh Blacker they make very motley crew of South African mercenaries. This is a good showing from Copley, but it would be very interesting to see this actor do a non military role.

Alice Braga gives a quite good showing as "Frey", this Brazilian actress showing that she is not only beautiful, but also rather adept in a number of different genres. She shows a far more caring side to her talents as a doctor and a mother in this one, and I look forward to seeing her next movie performance.

William Fichtner can seemingly not stop making good films. Following up his great role as "Butch Cavendish" in "The Lone Ranger", with another stunning performance as businessman "John Carlyle". He takes care of the dirty business, about which the citizens of "Elysium" do not want to know. This is a challenging role, which he manages with ease.

The film is decent stand alone effort, but with an almost identical setting and a few of the same actors, it is bound to draw comparisons to "District 9". It is enjoyable, but does drag a little in the middle. There is a fair amount of violence and bad language, so probably not one for the entire family, but a good way to spend an evening.


Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Conjuring (2013)

An evil spirit latches onto a young family and its up to a pair to Ghost Hunters to try and save their lives...

When the Perron family move into their new home with their five daughters, they have no idea of the history which comes with the house. Soon they are being terrorized by an evil spirit and they have no option but to turn to a pair of professional Ghost Hunters. The Warrens, are recognized by the Catholic Church for their skills in finding and removing evil, but even they have trouble in coming to terms with what is inside the Perron house. If they can keep control over their own emotions they may be able to stop the presence which seeks to destroy both their and the Perron families, lives.

In what seems to be a glut of "based on true events films", Malaysian director James Wan (He of "Saw" and "Insidious" fame), brings us the next film which is meant to make us cling to our seats and watch the screen through our cool drink bottles as he tries to scare us. In this he does quite a decent job as the movie certainly will make you jump a few times, and even elicited the odd screech of fright from the audience. On the back of that, it does drag in places, and is a little predictable, but all in all is a quite good film.

Vera Farminga and Patrick Wilson play "Ed" and "Lorraine Warren", she a psychic and he a demonologist, who go around college campuses discussing their "trade" with whoever will listen.  Both give decent performances, but you come away from the film, not really convinced by their characters. Some of her "experiences" are far from believable, but the couple does keep the film chugging along.

Lili Taylor, spends most of her time on TV screens, in the likes of "Hemlock Grove" and "Blood Ties", but makes a good step onto the big screen as "Carolyn Perron". Her transformation from courageous home maker and mother to five daughters, into possessed maniac with a blood lust for killing children is impressive. She may well have found her niche in horror and should be interesting to see how her next few showings pan out. Ron Livingston completes his seventh project for 2013 with his role as "Roger", but never really brings anything to the party and is almost forgettable in this one.

John Brotherton grows a mustache and gives a very decent performance as "Officer Brad" in this film, reminding me a lot of "Deputy Dewey" out of the "Scream" franchise, and even managed to bring the odd laugh with his antics. It would be interesting to see him in a more serious role next time.

The undoubted star of the show is the young Joey King, whose career continues to go from strength to strength in the role of "Christine".  The fourteen year old, who we saw recently in "White House Down" and "Oz The Great and Powerful" is a true joy to behold in this film, despite having a far smaller part than she deserves. It is hugely encouraging to see a youngster with this much talent and viewers should look forward to each and every project in which she is involved.  A truly inspirational performance in a film which made it hard to do so. Another talent to keep an eye out for is the much younger Kyla Deaver, whose showing as "April" shows she also has a big career ahead of her.

The film is one of those which will make you jump and laugh nervously afterwards, but does not go as far as to truly frighten the audience. As a story it is decent and worthwhile of your time, but for hardened horror fans will be a bit of a joke. For those not too familiar with the genre, it is a good stand alone film and left itself open for possible sequels.


Monday, August 26, 2013

The Lone Ranger (2013)

The story of a masked man and his Indian companion as they look to find themselves in the early days of the Wild West.

The retelling of the classic tale of the Lone Ranger and his trusted side kick Tonto, all told to a little boy through the ancient memories of the great warrior. When John Reid returns to his small home town of Colby to practice law, little does he know he will be drawn into a web of suspense and intrigue that will make him question everything for which he stands.

Together with his "Magical" steed "Silver" and his trusty companion "Tonto", he will risk life and limb to avenge the murder of his brother and bring down the bloodthirsty gang leader "Butch Cavendish".

Legendary Director Gore Verbinsky, the genius behind the "Pirates of the Caribbean" and most recently "Rango", now turns his attention to a rather more well known story, bringing to the big screen "The Lone Ranger" and his companion "Tonto". He does a fairly decent job on this film; one which could have gone either way with his audience over the age of 35 who remember the classic series.

Johnny Depp does a great job in the role of both the Aged and Youthful, "Tonto", bringing a comedic element to the film which keeps it rolling nicely, with a laugh here and there as the action continues unabated. Once more Depp moves slightly further away from his iconic "Captain Jack Sparrow", but never strays too far from the core character which has elevated his star to the very top of his profession. His portrayal of "Tonto" is enjoyable and he makes the character a lot more fun that one might have expected.

Armie Hammer returns to the big screen for the first time since donning his tights as "Prince Alcott" in "Mirror Mirror", this time taking a far more serious role as "John Reid" and "The Lone Ranger". He gives a decent performance, showing a good amount of versatility which may leave the audience wondering what is next for this talented actor. His vengeful, yet contained portrayal of the much loved law man is worth the admission fee alone, but you do wonder if he could have brought a bit more manliness which the role demanded?

William Fitchner seems to be at the very peak of his career, rolling out one film after the next. Hot on the heels of his showing as "John Carlyle" in Elysium with Jodie Foster and Matt Damon, he plays a far more darker character in the form of the ruthless killer "Butch Cavendish". Fitchner brings style and panache to a difficult character, combining the "Devil May Care" attitude along with the cold and calculating ruthlessness of a career criminal. He truly is the highlight of the film for me and his sinister portrayal mixes well with the comedy from Depp and Hammer.

British veteran Tom Wilkinson is excellent as "Latham Cole", the ruthless railway company boss, who will stop at nothing to achieve the goals which he has set for his transport conglomerate. Helena Bonham Carter once again gives a great performance as the Madam "Red Harrington", her ivory leg and dark cynicism, always good for a few laughs. Ruth Wilson does well as the love interest "Rebecca Reid" and this should prove a useful step in moving her from a TV career and onto the big time.

The film, as a standalone piece,  is a good bit of cinema, but for those of us who grew up with the original series, it seems to pale slightly.  The action is good, but is fine for all of the family, while the story carries on at a decent pace, but will never really have you on the edge of your seat. The combination of Depp and Hammer is a good one and would be interesting to see again. Worth a watch.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Kick Ass 2 (2013)

Three years after Kick Ass first jumped onto our screens, he is back and this time looking to join a team....

Crime fighting super hero Kick Ass has now reached high school and decides to take his heroic escapades to the next level, by joining a team.

With the help of a group of like minded crime busters, he goes to work cleaning up the city, but will have to deal with the evil intentions of his Arch nemesis, "Red Mist", who is hell bent on revenge after the slaying of his crime-lord father.

Both sides will form armies and fight to the death as the deranged "Red Mist" does everything in his extensive array of powers to avenge his fathers' demise. A world of change awaits Kick Ass, as he comes to terms with the reality of the dangers involved with the costume he has chosen to wear.

The second in the highly successful series, returns the popular Kick Ass and Hit Girl to our screens, once more trying to rid the worlds of the criminal element. A good attempt to revive the glory of the first smash hit, but one which falls sorely short in entertainment value. The characters have to come to terms with teenage angst and a few more reality checks, which leaves a distinct lack of comedy in this second incantation.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson reprises the role which rocketed him to fame in 2010 giving a decent showing as both "Dave Lizewski" and the inimitable crime fighter "Kick Ass", but there is something missing from the loveable teen of the first film, a darker, more serious side seems to have taken hold of the character and for me, not one for the better.  In his first outing since "Anna Karenina" he gives a good performance, but the character and the way it is written lets him down. Keep an eye on this talented actor and look for him to take on more serious roles in the coming years.

Chloe Grace Moretz first burst into our collective consciousness as "Hit Girl" a foul-mouthed pre-teen, expertly trained by her rather deranged "Big Daddy" to be the ultimate killing machine. We have seen her sparkle in the likes of "Hugo" and "Dark Shadows" since then, showing the acting talent which has already made her a super star, but her high school version of "Hit Girl" is not one that will be long remembered. The role was perfectly suited to an 11 year old girl in 2010, but now as a moody and troubled teen does not hold the same fascination as before. A truly talented actress, but not her best outing as both "Hit Girl" and "Mindie Macreedy"

Christopher Mintz-Plasse is the one shining light in this one; moving from his character of "Red Mist" to the vengeful and power mad, "MotherF*cker". He is hell bent on avenging his father, who was killed by "Kick Ass" with a bazooka. His portrayal of the truly deranged character brings some much needed comic relief to the film, as he appoints himself the worlds' first super villain. His building of a gang of super criminals is entertaining and also a little sick, but makes for a few, much needed high points in the film.

Young Claudia Lee, who makes her big screen debut in this one as the arch high school nemesis of "Hit Girl", does a sterling job as "Brooke" and I think we can expect big things from this talented 17 year old.

Clark Duke, known to the world for his roles in "The Office" and "Robot Chicken", gives a very decent performance as "Marty" as well as the deceptive crime fighter "Battle Guy". His natural comedic talent shines through in this role and adds a lot of much needed substance to this film. Legendary funny man Jim Carrey, returns to the big screen for the first time since "Mr Poppers' Penguins" , with a great, if far too short, showing as "Colonel Stars and Stripes". His borderline lunacy and dedication to the cause are commendable and he is a shining light in a movie which would otherwise have been short of appealing features.

The film fails to deliver in the wake of high expectations, falling a bit flat and is not the finest piece of cinema you will see this year. The established characters are tired and possibly a bit too old in this one. The lack of comedy is noticeable and in places the film is down right depressing. I was expecting something a lot more light hearted and was disappointed.

Not an alltogether bad film, but I was expecting a lot more...


Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Impossible (2013)

The true story of a young family, torn apart by the tsunami which hit Thailand in 2004.

Based on a the harrowing yet triumphant story of courage and survival of a Spanish family who were victims of the tsunami which hit South East Asia on Boxing day of 2004. The adventure follows the lives of five members of the "Bennet" family, torn asunder by the might of the unexpected waves and how they come to terms with not only the thought of losing each other, but risking their very lives in order to find the people they value most.

Director Juan Antonio Bayona switches to English for the first time in his nine film career and delivers one of the finest films of 2012/13. His retelling of the harrowing ordeals faced by so many tourists and locals in Thailand on Boxing day 2004 and the days which followed is horrific, but alarmingly real, and gives the average audience member a true sense of what it must have been like to experience this ultimate natural phenomenon. His direction is superb and it is truly disappointing that he was not giving more award nominations for this fantastic film. There are sure to be many good things to come from this talented Spaniard in the future.

English born Naomi Watts, gives what is quite easily the best performance of her career in this film, and is more than deserving of her Best Actress Oscar nomination, the second of her career, after getting the nod in 2004 for "21 Grams". Her role as "Maria" is inspiring and spectacular and gives you a true, heartfelt idea of what it was like to go through this tragedy. Her range of emotions is fantastic and the raw determination that her character shows throughout is remarkably inspirational. One of the finest performances I have seen in a long time, and in with a very good chance of walking away with an Oscar.

Ewan McGregor gives a very decent performance as "Henry", playing his emotional role well and bringing a lot of the more tender moments to this moving film. He continues in the fine vein, which have seen him deliver, "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" and "Haywire" in the past year. His interaction with his family is convincing and he plays an integral part in making this film as good as it is.

The most pleasant surprise in this great film is the performance given by the sixteen year old Tom Holland in the role of "Lucas". This youngster gives a showing, you would expect of actors with more than 20 years experience, drawing on all of his extensive talent to ride out triumphantly on the emotional roller-coaster that is this movie. One can only hope that this is just the start of his career and that the various "best young actor" and "best newcomer" awards will continue to rain down on him. He is an exciting talent and I cannot wait for his next feature film. His role is a real treat for each member of the audience.

Samuel Joslin and and Oaklee Pendergast also give stirring performances as the young "Simon" and "Thomas", adding to the emotional angst that keeps the film at fever pitch throughout. Expect big things from both of these talented youngsters in the next five to ten years.

This film is brutal in its intensity, and incredibly real. There are many times throughout the 114 minutes of this epic, where you really do feel as if you are going through this disaster with those who suffered it first hand. The cinematography is fantastic, the setting is brilliant and the realism, often makes you want to turn away from the sheer force that is mother nature. Make sure you watch this one from start to finish.

For me, the best film I have seen in 2013