Review: Collateral Beauty (2016)

Seriously, what happened to Collateral Beauty? I saw a trailer for it once or twice last year, and then it just came and went. I can only assume it got buried under all the Oscar movies and Rogue One. Anyway, my good friend Jenna came to see the new house last night, and trying to find a movie that neither of us has seen yet can be quite the challenge, so we settled for Collateral Beauty. Besides, we both love Will Smith (who doesn’t?) so we couldn’t go too wrong.

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Howard (Will Smith) suffers a terrible family tragedy that throws his entire life off balance. In his despair, he writes letters to Love, Time and Death, pouring his sorrow into the words. What he doesn’t expect is a visit from Love, Time and Death themselves (a bit like Scrooge’s visits!) which makes him see things in another light.

collateral-beauty-mixed-reviewsSomething I find really cool about this movie is how much it seems to have split the opinions of the viewers. Check out it’s current ratings chart on Letterboxd! I haven’t seen a more split opinion since watching The Fountain, which for the record, I still don’t know how to feel about. The other thing I got excited about very early on is that this movie is very different to how the trailer makes it out to be. There is so, so much more to the story that what those 2 minutes show you. This was a good surprise, rather than a “what?” kind of Passengers surprise.

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As for the movie itself, it’s messy, sadly. It has a huge, star-studded cast (Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Pena, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley to name a few) and each has their own complicated story. There’s simply not enough time to get to know these characters well enough, so the emotions thrown at you don’t have a chance to really sink in, leaving you feeling like a bit of a monster for not really feeling anything for them. That said, they have interesting stories to be told, and given some extra time and better pacing, it could have been so good!

What you can’t argue with is Will Smith’s acting talent. I’m not sure if he was trying to bait the Academy with this movie (he was very quiet this year, no?) but his emotions feel genuine, and I can’t stand watching people cry, only because it makes me cry too! To tell you any more about this particular scene would spill into spoiler territory, and I really think if this is something you’d like to see then you should go in as blind as possible.

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I’m sure if I watched this again I’d pick up on all sorts of plot holes, but as a one-time experience, I really enjoyed it. It’s a movie with so much heart and a lot to say, so it’s a shame it wasn’t paced very well or in-depth enough. One thing I will say is that the ending in particular is shocking; for better or worse will depend on each individual viewer, but it’s an ending I certainly won’t forget for a long time.

Whether you love it or hate it, Collateral Beauty is a movie that’ll get any movie fan talking at least. I give the movie 3 and a half falling dominoes out of 5!

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Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

beauty-and-the-beast-2017-reviewYou want to know the only thing that moving house hasn’t stopped me from doing? Going to see my all-time favourite childhood movie being turned into a live action remake! Plus, with the week off work we’ve had, it meant getting to see it while everyone else was either in school or work. Empty screen, result! Also meant that I could sing along without being kicked out, bonus!

Normally our cherished movies being remade is a reason to sulk and moan, but I’ve been so excited since Disney announced Beauty and the Beast was the next to be revisited. I didn’t need a new angle, a new story, I just wanted to see that wonderful old animation get the live action treatment. I was so impressed with the casting! Hermoine was my idol growing up so I knew Emma Watson would nail the role, and Josh Gad is so perfect for LeFou I swear his animated counterpart was drawn with him in mind already. Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen could do no wrong in my mind, and although I wasn’t 100% on board with Luke Evans as Gaston, I was open-minded.

Thankfully, the story hasn’t been changed much at all. The plot holes that the die-hard Disney fans picked up on have been filled, and we got a lot more backstory into the Beast and Belle herself. We didn’t need it of course, but it was interesting at least. I’m sure it’s going to be a sour point for some critics, but this is how I feel; I love cake and chocolate, and if someone gave me more than I could eat, I don’t see that as a bad thing.

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Let me tell you what I loved. Hearing my favourite songs remade. I genuinely shed a tear during Belle’s song, it was perfect. Yes, Emma Watson has been through the auto tune several times, but she probably still sounds better than I do singing in the car. Gaston! Luke Evans completely won me over, I’m converted. LUMIERE. That wonderful candlestick went from being an okay character in the original to completely stealing my heart in the remake. He stole the show in every scene he was in! Also, that snowball fight was brilliant.

Here’s my little nitpicks. I was so excited to see Josh Gad, but he completely overdid LeFou, and I didn’t like the voice he put on for it. The bromance was already evident in the original, and I just don’t see the need to push it so hard like he did. They changed Gaston’s song too, and I still don’t know how I feel about it. Still, when that’s all I can really complain about, it’s not half bad is it?

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All in all, I loved it. These live action remakes really are strong. I wasn’t a massive fan of the original Cinderella and Jungle Book, but the remakes won me over, and Beauty and the Beast was just as strong. I’m excited for whichever one is next! This movie gets 4 and a half out of five dozen eggs.

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Review: The Happening (2008)

the-happening-movie-review-2008I was too much of a wimp to see Split (2017) in the cinema in January, and the wait for it to be released on DVD is killing me. I’m not a hardcore Shyamalan fan per se, but I love a thriller movie with a twist! I’m pretty sure I’ve seen all the ‘good’ Shyamalan movies, but I was desperate, and so despite the fairly cold reviews, I gave The Happening (2008) a try the other night. This is a movie that I’ve forever mixed up with The Knowing (2009) which I now realise is just called Knowing, so it looks like I’ve been pulling a Hidden Fences blunder for years.

Moving swiftly on…

Guys, there is no way I can discuss this movie without spoilers. Let me tell you the plot, and if you want to watch it un-spoiled from that, then please just close down this page and hunt down a copy. I’ll save the ‘I told you so’ for when you come back. In The Happening, a strange plague hits Central Park in New York which causes people to kill themselves. A lady stabs herself in the neck with her hair accessory, and workers jump from scaffolding into the streets. Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) and his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel) flee their home.

Right. Now we enter spoiler territory. The greatest plot twists are those that seem so outrageous at the time, but when you start to backtrack through the movie, the clues were all there in plain sight for you to see, leaving you feeling a little hurt, but amazed. The worst kind are either outrageous with no reasoning behind them, or so bleedin’ obvious that you wonder whether there was a twist at all!

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Setting the scene here, at the opening of the movie, Mark Wahlberg is a Science teacher talking to his students about an incident where thousands of bees simply disappeared without a trace, no bodies left behind. After a discussion with the group, he tells them that Science may give the situation an explanation, but what actually happened was a force of nature, and is unexplainable. Right, so I’m guessing that this plague is a force of nature that can’t be explained then? An hour and a half later, yes, I was right. Oh.

If you can move past that, and the horrendous acting (how did this cast make the dialogue sound so bad?) this might be a good movie to watch this friends and a few too many alcoholic drinks. Let me highlight some of the crazier parts for you:

  • Mark Wahlberg has a serious conversation with a house plant, basically asking it not to kill him, just to find out it’s made of plastic.
  • He also creeps into some old lady’s bedroom to find a hella-scary doll tucked into the bed. WHY.
  • When the gang realise it’s the plants killing them (or sending them crazy) Mark Wahlberg shouts for them to ‘outrun the wind’. Um…what?
  • Have I mentioned yet that the Earth’s population is being murdered by plants?

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At least when I get this movie confused with Knowing, it won’t matter any more, because they’re both terrible. I’m not going to lie though, I had a brilliant time watching this, laying out on the sofa with my headphones in, giving a running commentary to my very confused husband. I think he thought I was joking most of the time. 2 out of 5 murderous plants from me!

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Review: Fifty Shades Darker (2017)

fifty-shades-darker-movie-review-2017The UK is going through a bit of a crisis right now. No, our tea levels are just fine, but we appear to have a shortage of lettuce thanks to bad weather in Spain! Supermarkets are even putting out signs limiting customers to only 3 lettuce (lettuces?) per customer. Like, who even needs that much salad anyway? What we don’t seem to short of, is cucumbers. We have so many cucumbers that people are leaving them behind in the cinema after watching Fifty Shades Darker.

I’d like to say I watched Fifty Shades Darker because it’s my duty as a movie blogger, but actually, I just love trashy movies, and any excuse to go out on a Wednesday night with one of my girls is good with me!

So, you know the story so far, right? Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) is a billionaire with very particular tastes in the bedroom, and he meets Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) who seems determined to change him. They split up at the end of the first movie because Christian was a little too…rough. *cough* Sorry, it’s the awkward Brit in me, unable to talk about anything sexy without either giggling or coughing and looking away.

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This second instalment of the series is darker, obviously. Ana has a new job, which comes with a creepy boss (Eric Johnson) who brings Ana coffee and would like some…gratification for it. Ahem. There’s also a creepy girl with a bandaged wrist following her around with a gun, and Ana also gets to meet Mrs Robinson (Kim Basinger) who’s responsible for teaching Christian all these terrible things in the first place.

So yes, there’s a lot going on here this time. I’m not sure if I’m dedicated enough to do the math and tell you whether there’s more sex this time, but we’re certainly introduced to some new things. Mainly a pair of silver balls (which do not go where Ana thinks they go) and a spreader bar. Gee, I’m feeling embarrassed just typing this!

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Let’s talk about the good things. The soundtrack is pretty decent, like last time. The story feels much bigger, Dakota Johnson is as lovely as ever, and if you’re watching with friends, it’s a funny experience. If you love trashy movies, of course.

What’s not so good? The first movie was downright hilarious in many places, although I’m not sure if that was intentional. This second movie doesn’t bring many laughs at all. It also feels like it was originally a 4 hour movie that got absolutely slaughtered in the editing room, but it’s long enough as it is, so perhaps I shouldn’t complain. That’s what she said.

All in all, Fifty Shades Darker was exactly what I expected it to be. Haters gonna hate, yadda yadda yadda, but grab a bottle of wine and treat this movie the way you’d treat Sharknado, and have a bit of fun with it. With my blogging hat on however, this movie gets 2 out of 5 cucumbers.

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Oscars Special: Lion (2017), Hacksaw Ridge (2017) & Hidden Figures (2017)

I’ve done it, guys. More than 2 weeks to go until Oscars night and I’ve seen all of the Best Picture nominees. Mostly thanks to advanced screenings at my local cinemas considering the fact some of these movies aren’t on a wide release yet. Help us out, Academy! The UK loves movies too. This is a super positive Oscars Special post today, because I absolutely adored all three of these movies.

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I’m still thinking that La La Land will take the win, but after watching each of these movies I’ve changed my mind on what my personal favourite is. My other Oscars Special featured Moonlight, Loving and Hell or High Water. I’m yet to write down my thoughts on Manchester by the Sea, because I still don’t know how I actually feel about it.

Also – this Sunday is the BAFTAs! The only award show I get to watch at a decent time of day. I’ll pop together a predictions/wishes post for that later this week, and I suppose I should watch I, Daniel Blake, after all the love it’s been given. Has anyone even watched it?

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I wanted my last Best Picture movie to be something I was really looking forward to seeing so that it didn’t feel like a chore, but part of me wishes I’d seen Lion first now. It’s the story of a young boy named Saroo (Sunny Pawar) who gets separated from his brother and ends up on a train to Calcutta, thousands of miles away from his home. Saroo faces many devastating hardships before he is adopted by a loving Australian couple, and when he grows up, he uses his memories of home and Google Earth to find his family again.

Firstly, little Sunny Pawar is absolutely incredible, and could have handled this entire movie if needed. Equally, this was the best I’ve seen Dev Patel. The story of Saroo is heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure, and the only negatives I can give are some pacing issues around the mid-way point, and the fact I didn’t like Rooney Mara’s character at all. It’s sometimes hard to imagine this is a true story, and when I finally learnt why the movie is called Lion, I ugly-cried everywhere.

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One of the few Oscar movies I could convince my husband to see with me, and maybe the only one I wasn’t looking forward to much. Only because I just don’t do war movies. I can tolerate one for Andrew Garfield though, especially in our local cinema’s special screen with enhanced sound. Hacksaw Ridge is the story of WWII Army Medic Desmond Doss, played by Andrew Garfield, who serves during the Battle of Okinawa without brandishing a weapon.

This is the movie to change my mind about the genre. It was amazing. Gripping from start to finish despite it’s lengthy run-time, and scared the absolute crap out of me in several parts. If you want to know why I don’t watch horror, it’s because I lost my sh*t during the nightmare sequence and the green flare. Our row was laughing at me. Speaking of laughter, how nice was it to see Vince Vaughn giving his funniest performance since the early 00’s? He killed that role!

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It took far too long for me to see a trailer for Hidden Figures. I’d read reviews from other bloggers and that was enough to get me excited, but I didn’t realise it would be such an entertaining movie! Hidden Figures is another true story, this time about three incredibly talented African-American female mathematicians working for NASA during the race to put a man in space, and their struggles with racism. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe play the lead roles, and they are fantastic.

As I said, on the back of a serious and shocking story of racism in the workplace, Hidden Figures is a highly entertaining movie. From the opening scene, these three ladies are so likeable, you just want them succeed, no matter what. Watching the rest of the workforce’s attitudes change is a delight. Although the plot is entirely predictable, it’s forgiven for being so darn fun.

Review: The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

Preparing for a house move is going as well as it can do right now. Our weekends have been spent doing big sort outs rather than relaxing, but it feels good to make a head start at least. There was a moment of sadness in the house on Saturday when my husband had to pack all of his DC, Marvel and Star Wars Lego away in plastic storage boxes, so the timing of a preview weekend for The Lego Batman Movie couldn’t have been more perfect!

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If you watched The Lego Movie back in 2014 (clearly The Academy didn’t because it was ROBBED of a nomination) you’ll already be aware of Lego Batman, voiced by Will Arnett. He’s back, with his own movie this time, and I’m willing to bet my hard earned cash that it’s the greatest DC movie that’ll come out this year.

It’s common knowledge that The Joker is Batman’s greatest villain. Sure, Gotham City has many great bad guys, but it always comes back to The Joker. That’s played on throughout the entire movie, in a humorous, anti-romcom kind of way, which never gets old. The Joker is voiced expertly by Zach Galifianakis, and plays a huge role in this movie, unlike that other recent DC movie where a green-haired Joker barely featured.

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Seriously guys…this movie even handled Batman’s tension with Superman well…and no one had to even mention Martha.

 

To attempt to list the number of characters that feature in this movie would take forever, but it has Justice League members from Superman to Martian Manhunter, and Villains from Bane to The Condiment King. There are also some err, other villains that I don’t think anyone was expecting to turn up. To tell you would be a spoiler, but one character in particular, voiced by Jemaine Clement was simply hilarious.

 

The plot is simple enough, and if you’ve seen the trailers you’ll know most of it already. Batman refuses to admit to the Joker that he needs him, so the Joker sets out to prove him wrong. Along the way, Batman accidentally adopts a young orphan by the name of Richard Grayson (Michael Cera) who you may know better as Robin! Robin just wants a family of his own, and Batman’s greatest fear (apart from snake clowns) is being part of a family again, so that causes issues along the way. It’s a plot that the kids can keep up with, but there’s so much else for the grown ups to enjoy.

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I’m not well versed in Batman lore, but I understood enough references to feel part of it all. There are references everywhere, for Batman fans of all ages, and I have a specific moment in my mind when I say that. The soundtrack is great, but the best tracks are the ones that Batman himself sings/beatboxes/raps. He even narrates the only boring part of movies, the opening title credits!

The Lego Batman movie will appeal to all ages, and just like it’s predecessor, it demands at least one rewatch to spot all the hidden jokes that the animators have hidden. It’s the perfect movie to unwind with in between all these dramatic Oscar movies! 4/5 Lego Bricks from me! Just be careful not to step on them…

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Review: Fences (2017)

When the Oscar nominations were released, I’d seen 4/9 of the Best Picture nominees. That sounds pretty bad, but it’s certainly a much better position than I’ve found myself in previous years. In fact, I’m feeling pretty confident that I’ll have seen the full 9 by the time the big night rolls by. The difference this year is that I genuinely want to see all of them, none feel like they’re going to be a chore.

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If there was one movie I was slightly unsure of, perhaps ‘on the fence’ about (geddit?) it was Fences. Not because I didn’t think it looked very good, it just seemed like it was going to be more of an experience than an enjoyable watch, the kind of movie you had to really be in the right mood to see. That was definitely the case, but what a fantastic experience it was!

Set in the 1950’s Troy (Denzel Washington) is a family man living with his wife Rose (Viola Davis) and youngest son Cory (Jovan Adepo) in Pittsburgh, USA. Troy is bitter about a lot of things in his life, not being able to get credit, being overlooked for promotions at his job as a sanitation worker, and his long lost dreams of being a professional baseball player. His gripes are valid, but they have tainted Troy’s once cheerful outlook on life.

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We get glimpses of a happier Troy through conversations with his friend and work colleague Bono (Stephen Henderson), often over a bottle of gin drank in Troy’s back garden, where he’s promised to build a fence with the help of Corey. These moments are far too brief however, as something to make Troy snap is never far away, be it his older son Lyons (Russell Hornsby) asking to borrow $10, or Corey mentioning the upcoming visit of a college football recruiter.

Just…don’t mention the football recruiter. Seriously. I hope that in my lifetime I never made Denzel Washington mad at me. Dude is scary as hell. No, scrap that actually. I hope I never disappoint and upset Viola Davis. Denzel might have made me shrink in my seat, but Viola broke my heart. These are two of the greatest performances I think I’ve ever seen.

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This isn’t a movie for everyone. It’s dialogue heavy, and clocks in at over two hours, although I’d argue it doesn’t feel that long. Most of the movie is set in the back garden, which is understandable as it’s based on a play, but it’s not the kind of movie you would sit down and watch on a Saturday night with a takeaway and a few beers. I’m certainly glad I watched it though, and I’ll be gutted if Viola Davis doesn’t win that Oscar!

On my silly ratings scale, I’d give Fences 4/5 fence panels.

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