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4/10
Tim Burton Continues His Downward Trajectory
7 October 2016
After viewing 'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children', the only two reasons I can think to recommend it are Eva Green and some lovely visuals.

It becomes apparent that early on all of the kids in the film are one- dimensional, they have nothing interesting about them apart from their 'peculiarity' (mouth at the back of their head, invisibility, etc), Tim Burton and Jane Goldman don't humanise them, they're just defined by something superficial.

There is no emotional climax, as the story is so muddled and full of expository dialogue. They explain at length about all these different time loops that they must visit at certain points, and how they can revisit certain points, see certain characters again, but not see others, blah, blah, blah, it's just baffling. I was a big fan of Donnie Darko, so it's not like I'm not versed in complicated time-travel movies.

Some of 'Miss Peregrine's...' faults could be overlooked if we cared about the lead character, but Asa Butterfield's acting is so wooden, I just didn't buy his performance for a minute. Why bother with a phoney American accent? Have him be English, or just get an American actor to play the part. His love interest, played by Ella Purnell, is much more charming, but like the others, her character doesn't feel fully realised.

Unfortunately, this is just another 2016 major disappointment.
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Room (I) (2015)
10/10
Beautiful, moving, intense
16 September 2016
I haven't seen a genuinely emotional, smart, non-manipulative, heart- felt drama in a loooong time. Brie Larson deservedly won an Oscar for her performance in this, but Room should've swept the board in every category.

The film centres on a Mother and her five year old son, living inside just four walls, and it slowly transpires that she has been held captive for seven years, and had a child by her kidnapper. She creates a world for her son within their confines, not telling him the truth about their situation and what's outside until he's old enough to understand. After failed escape attempts in the past, but now with the help of her son, she gives freedom another try.

There were moments in Room that were so intense that I barely breathed. It never feels inauthentic, and thanks to incredible acting, it's always believable. If you want a straight-up thriller of 'bad guy commits crime, bad guy gets comeuppance', you'll be disappointed. This is about human resilience, the bond between Mother and child, selflessness, and finding your place in the world after having your understanding of it flipped upside down.
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Black Mass (2015)
7/10
Solid true-life Gangster Flick
11 September 2016
I think some of the negative reviews comparing Black Mass to classics like Goodfellas are being a little unfair.

Classics like The Godfather have already expertly dealt with the lure of power and how it ultimately corrupts, whilst Black Mass isn't in that kind of league, it does offer a fresh perspective.

Depp's character is facilitated by FBI agents, who use him to take down other crime syndicates, whilst turning a blind eye to his dealings. This idea that they created their own monster, believing that the end justifies the means, is an interesting theme, not really explored too much in this genre. Recently, The Departed touched on similar ground, with Jack Nicholson's character actually being inspired by the real-life Whitey Bulger, but Black Mass gives us the full story.

Depp gives a great performance as Whitey, all too often he's dismissed lately as a 'gimmicky' actor, but once again he proves he can deliver in a grown-up movie. Beneath the make-up he gives depth, and believable menace.
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8/10
One of the few decent movies this year
11 September 2016
What has happened to cinema in 2016? Disappointment after disappointment. It's like Hollywood just doesn't understand what entertains people these days. We don't want two and a half hour sermons about how much it sucks to be a superhero. Thank goodness for 10 Cloverfield Lane. . .

It's nice to be surprised. Like most people, I had no idea this film was even being made, until a few weeks before its release, and it's a damn fine roller-coaster ride of a movie too.

Most of 10 Cloverfield take place in an underground bunker, but the majority of its running time down there is more intense and edge-of-the- seat than Michael Bay/Zak Snyder destroying a hundred cities. A sharp script goes a long way, and is helped by wonderful performances. John Goodman is solid as ever, but it's Mary Elizabeth Winstead's show, and she's brilliant. Vulnerable, yet resourceful, kidnapped, yet refusing to be a victim.

Some people complain about the ending, but it is consistent with the tone of the movie, where the rug is always being pulled from under the characters' feet. It's only fitting that the pay-off would be, ahem, 'out of this world'. Imagine if it had turned out to be a reality TV show prank or something, then you'd have something to really complain about.
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Don't Breathe (2016)
5/10
Well crafted, but not well written
11 September 2016
In an interview about 'Aliens', James Cameron stated that as he didn't have enough time to go into the backstory of all the marines, the quickest way to make an audience care about a character is to make them funny. How a little humour would've gone a long way in 'Don't Breathe'.

Fede Alvarez knows there's no getting around the central problem of his three protagonists - they're criminals; so he tries to elicit sympathy by portraying their home lives as less than idyllic. Well, sorry, but that just doesn't cut it. He's wasting his time trying to justify their actions, because there's no justification, so he should've at least made them lovable rogues, by having them be witty. Unfortunately, wit is something this film doesn't possess. An 'X Factor' style sob story just doesn't do the trick.

If you look at other teen horrors like 'A Nightmare on Elm Street','Scream', 'Final Destination', etc, they were frequently funny due to the teens remarks about the situation, which makes you warm to the characters. If you don't care, you don't scare.

Having said that, 'Don't Breathe'is very well directed, Alvarez has some camera moves that would make David Fincher proud. It's just a shame not as much thought was invested into making the audience care what happens.
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The Revenant (2015)
1/10
What's a beautiful plate with nothing on it?
3 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
If ever there was a case of style over substance, The Revenant is it. Visually stunning, yes, but films have always been about more than that. If something nice to look at is what you want, go and stare at a painting or a photo for 2 and a half hours.

This isn't a bad film in the way that Adam Sandler films are bad, it's a bad film because there is nothing (bar the visuals) to enjoy. It is so unrelentingly grim, with zero character development, It left me asking, am I meant to care? As the film opens with the slaughter of half the group, it's a pretty brutal scene, but with no impact, as we weren't even introduced to them. This serves as a recurring problem throughout the running time.

The only thing interesting thing about this movie is that it serves as a metaphor for DiCaprio's own struggle to earn an Oscar. His character goes through so much Hell to survive, has everything thrown at him, and its' almost like Leo is pleading to the Academy - 'Look, look! See what I'm willing to put myself though?!'To be fair, it paid off in that respect.
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The Homesman (2014)
1/10
Awful and depressing
4 March 2016
How many different ways is there to say the same thing? Yes, life was tough for women in the old West, but it wasn't all smiles and sunshine for men either. The Homesman doesn't feel that it's quite enough to tell you how it tough it was for women, it instead beats you over the head with the message for two long hours.

When Hilary Swank isn't proving that women are as good as men by taking matters into her own hands, the viewer is subjected to mentally ill women screaming, biting and kicking each other in the face after their respective breakdowns.

Since this has been lauded as 'progressive' by the critics, and that word seems to hold more sway than whether the film is actually any good or not, I expect more miserable feminist revisionist Westerns to come. Unfortunately.
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Sicario (2015)
1/10
Once again, critics fawn over something that leaves audiences cold.
2 March 2016
Whilst watching Sicario, I was reminded of American Hustle. Not that the two have a lot in common, plot or character-wise, but rather they are both movies that were given ridiculously great reviews by critics, but left myself and others wondering, why?

The usually likable Emily Blunt has a dull character. She's one- dimensional, she has nothing distinct about her in any way, no quirks to suggest she's anything but a cardboard cut-out. This is a major problem when you feel that way about the lead character. How are you supposed to care about what happens in the story when you don't care about the lead?

The directing, also, it felt very detached and uninvolving. I didn't feel the impact of anything that was going on.
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1/10
Worst in the franchise
22 February 2016
Baffled by all the positive reviews, as this is dull as ditch water.

The series peaked with Brad Bird's wonderful 'Ghost Protocol', and this latest one is just a rehash of every previous film. You can make a check- list of what to expect and tick them off one by one: Good guy turns out to be bad guy, the IMF have to operate outside the law, they have to wear masks, etc, etc, except done without any of the flair of previous entries and with a rubbish villain.

The only saving grace is Rebecca Ferguson, as she offers a breath of fresh air to the stale atmosphere.Apart from her, there's nothing else to recommend it. It's definitely time that Tom Cruise laid this to rest, but since it's his only consistent cash-cow, I doubt that will happen any time soon.It's flashy and slick, but boring and soulless.
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1/10
When Spider-Man became pointless
22 February 2016
I disliked Spider-Man 3, but it wasn't so bad that the franchise needed to be rebooted and the audience delivered the exact same origin story.

Watching this as they try not to say classic lines such as 'with great power comes great responsibility' is cringe-inducing. When reappraising Sam Raimi's movies, you see how skillfully he set up all of the protagonists, and Spidey's relationships felt natural. The Amazing Spider-Man movies screwed-up it by attempting to alter the order slightly, to fool the audience that what they're seeing is fresh. Instead of an enjoyable, competitive friendship with Harry, Peter has no one to spark off. Instead of giving the school bully what he deserves, he just takes his basketball off of him and is even forced to apologise for that.

Then there's Andrew Garfield. At least Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker was a convincing nerd, what is Andrew Garfield's? He's a loner, yet popular. A science geek, yet skateboarder with perfect hair. It's like one character was made by committee.

What else to mention? The awful CGI rat? The sub-plots which go nowhere? I could go on, I just really hated this.
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