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Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier

JACK REACHER NEVER GO BACK

Director: Edward Zwick
Writers: Richard Wenk (screenplay),  Edward Zwick (screenplay)
Stars: Tom Cruise,  Cobie Smulders,  Aldis Hodge

Plot:  Jack Reacher must uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy in order to clear his name. On the run as a fugitive from the law, Reacher uncovers a potential secret from his past that could change his life forever.

Running time: 1 hour 58 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 37%    Audience  42%

Why I watched it: The first Jack Reacher film was fine, wanted to see where they would go with the character in the second one.

Random thoughts: It’s hard getting a new franchise going, the second one is very important cause you have to keep the momentum going, building a franchise off a character from a book who have to do two things, either have him developed as a character and put him in interesting plots or have him build as a character as he goes through these stories.  These two films rest on Tom Cruise’s shoulders, they live or die with him.

What I liked: Like him or not Tom Cruise is a movie star, his charisma and charm carry him and he’s a good actor not great but he plays the “Tom Cruise” role better than anyone.  He’s a likable actor.  This is not a great film or even a good film but one thing about Cruise is I’ve never seen him sleep walk through a film, he’s committed to every role he takes and I respect that.  To be fair there’s not a lot to like about this movie but the opening scene set in a diner is very cool and very well filmed and done if only the film continued like that.  The other acting is fine for the most part no one stands out, safe to say Cruise is the best part of the film.

What I didn’t like:  This film has all the problems of a star vehicle, Cruise is good but the film suffers cause nothing is as good as him and also for the film to be really good than it would be less in Cruise’s wheelhouse. After the first scene this is a boring and really boring action film.  To be fair this film is a conspiracy theory film but the plot and the conspiracy starts off as really dense and complicated then ends up stupid.  What hurts the film is that Jack Reacher is on the run with a Major played by Colbie Smulders and a teenage girl who may or may not be his daughter.

All of that is forced, they bicker they fight and none of it means anything.  It not only hurts the film but also the Reacher character cause he’s not a bad ass action guy he’s just another action guy, what makes Jack Reacher special, the fact he yells and argues with two female characters who don’t listen to him and don’t respect him, Reacher saves Smulders life a couple of times and she stays by the fact that she didn’t want or need his help.  The film doesn’t know what it wants to be, are we trying to give Reacher a make shift family and if so for what reason.

Let me say this about this girl being Reacher’s daughter, he says at the beginning he never had a daughter that he didn’t know and hadn’t meet the mother so there’s no tension there, it’s a plot point it’s something for Reacher to do and also we know the only reason the character is there is so the bad guys will try and kill her and yes use her against Reacher.  Everything in the film is under written, no character is fleshed out no arc, no motivation is giving or earned for that matter.  The bad guys are a joke, the main hitman played by Patrick Heusinger, in a real bad performance, is just a psycho, he seems to be working for this evil company just to randomly kill people, heck when he should be helping his bosses he’s trying to kill Reacher’s maybe daughter, oh why you ask, cause he wants Reacher to feel real pain.

Why, he doesn’t even know Reacher they have no backstory.  Also they keep Reacher a fugitive and being on the run by doing the old cliche of every time Reacher talks to someone the bad guy kills them and blames it on Reacher.  This gets kind of laughable, let me get this straight, he broke himself and someone else out of a military prison and is an elite solider but he doesn’t think of putting on gloves when he kills someone.  The other main problem this film has is it’s way too long, man this is tough to sit through.

Final Thoughts: Sadly this is just a badly made film, the story is weak and really nothing clicks here, this film just feels off.  The character is probably done now as this didn’t do well but it’s too bad cause I think Jack Reacher had a really good movie in him but we just haven’t seen it.

Rating: 3/10

50/50 (2011) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

50 50

Director: Jonathan Levine
Writer: Will Reiser
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt,  Seth Rogen,  Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston, Matt Frewer, Philip Baker Hall

I recently revisited the movie 50 / 50 starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam a  27-year-old guy who learns of his cancer diagnosis, and his subsequent struggle to beat the disease. Now for anyone who hasn’t watched this yet, this may sound like a depressing drama full of patronising clichés. In fact, “50/50” is a comedy of sorts and handles the subject with the right balance of enlightenment, inspiration, hope and care.

It’s always going to be difficult for any writer to angle for a comedic side to a story based on a cancer diagnosis, but Will Reiser who wrote “50/50” handles the topic with care and believe me the funny parts are funny and along the way there are some beautiful and surprisingly tender scenes between the characters.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has this knack of being a very likeable guy no matter what role he plays. Adam is a good guy who writes for a living for a local radio program and lives with his girlfriend Rachael (Dallas Howard). We find through conversation that the relationship is faltering and it’s really only when Adam is diagnosed that the couple become a bit closer to each other although it is short lived when Adam’s friend Kyle (Rogen) discovers Rachael is being unfaithful to Adam and captures this on his Cellphone. Bryce Dallas Howard although has limited time in the movie adapts very well as the girlfriend who bails on her Boyfriend when the tough gets going.

Gordon-Levitt portrays the role of Adam as a very subdued and content guy but as the story unfolds his temperament begins to unravel slightly when he begins to learn of his illness and dealing with the breakdown in his relationship. Gordon-Levitt is very subtle in his anxieties of his struggles and you only get to realise this more so in his therapy sessions that he has been attending with Katherine (Kendrick) these scenes at first are portrayed awkwardly and both actors really play off each other well in the situation.

Anna Kendrick as Katherine is a great choice of casting and plays the role perfectly as an inexperienced therapist (Adam is only her third patient) But by the time the movie concludes, she really comes into her own and all those little quirks she has early on are away as she begins to develop a closeness with Adam and understands him more.

Angelica Huston plays Adams mother Diane. We are introduced to Dianne when Adam decides to let his mother know of his condition and although she comes off as a little controlling and dominant to a degree we learn that her husband and Adams father Richard (Serge Houde) is suffering from Alzheimer’s and Diane is really just trying to hold things together. Huston although is in very limited scenes is very powerful in them and no more so in the scene when she reveals she has been seeking counselling herself to deal with her Son’s illness. It’s a very touching scene and this is where the writers find the balance and trust the audience will accept the seriousness of the situation in a “comedy”. I always believe there is a fine line between comedy and tragedy and it is really evident in “50/50”

Although Serge Houde as Adam’s father doesn’t have much to do it really is handled well between the relationship with Diane and his son Adam. Even more so when Adam is about to go into theatre as a last ditch chance to save his life. I’m telling you, get the hankies ready as Houde portrays a man who might not see his son again and looks lost and sad not knowing what is going on. I’m not really selling this movie as a comedy am I?

Seth Rogen for me is hit or miss. I always felt this with certain comedic actors that sometimes too much is…… too much. Hey I felt that way about John Candy sometimes so don’t judge me! Rogen in “50/50” does what he does best. He portrays the bumbling drunken friend that although comes across as trying to consume Adam’s life and giving him bad advice is at heart a good guy. Probably for about 85% of screen time Kyle is a pain in the ass and downright irritating but Rogen manages to even make that screen time funny and the payoff to his character is in the last third of the movie as we discover his insecurities, anxieties and a caring side to him and Adam’s conditions really has effected him.

Writer Reiser should be commended for these really fleshed out characters and Levine (Director) keeping the flow of the movie interesting and the pacing consistent. This is  evident in most scenes where the dialogue is consuming the screen and Adam’s hospital visits introduce us to two cancer patients in Mitch and Alan portrayed by the brilliant pairing of Matt Frewer and Philip Baker Hall. The chemistry between the three actors is balanced and adds light to the difficult storyline.

“50/50″ is a well written and directed film that has a strong cast and a great chemistry between them. Although released over 6 years ago the story and the characters is what makes the film rewatchable and enjoyable to revisit every few years. I recommend this movie to anyone who hasn’t watched it as I feel the right blend of comedy and drama will keep you interested. Highly Recommended.

Morgan (2016) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier

MORGAN

Director: Luke Scott
Writer: Seth W. Owen (as Seth Owen)
Stars: Kate Mara,  Anya Taylor-Joy,  Rose Leslie

Plot: A corporate risk-management consultant must decide whether or not to terminate an artificially created humanoid being.

Running time:1 hour 32 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes score: Critics 40%   Audience 30%

Why I watched it: Mostly the cast, the trailers looked not bad and they did a good job of marketing.

Random thoughts: When the film was first being marketed they were using the tag line “What is Morgan” which was cool but then it became clear this was about a robot, or an A.I and the film became a little less interesting.  The film is directed by Ridley Scott’s son so we know at least through his father and some of the other film’s he’s worked on he would be could in the sci-fi world.

What I liked: The film opens with a bang, we see footage of some attacking another person and stabbing them in the eye.  Decent start we find out that Morgan was the “thing” who attacked one of the people who look after her and she’s now being locked up to see what can be done.

So a risk-management consultant comes to decide what should be done.  Easy parallels about being arrested and being locked up.  The age old question can robots, computers thing, can they feel, is shutting them off or unplugging them like killing them?  That part of the film is fine, we’ve seen it before but they set it up well and we get to see the team around Morgan and how they have become a family.

The film is lean at your over 90 minutes and it moves pretty well. The one thing I liked about the character of Morgan is that it’s clear she doesn’t know what she is, she’s not just a victim she is actively trying to control her own destiny.

A good performance by newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy.

What I didn’t like:This film has a lot of problems the biggest is they waste a very good cast, let’s be clear Jennifer Jason Leigh is in like three scenes and the only important thing is she’s the one who gets stabbed in the eye and basically is in bed the whole movie.

Paul Giamatti has one scene and to be kind he’s terrible, his character acts like an idiot and really it seems like Giamatti came in and said look it’s one scene I’ll just do a parody of myself and get it over with.  To say that a doctor would be this dumb is really stretching it.  Boyd Holbrook wh seems to be on the rise is wasted to the point of yeah if we cut his character out altogether it wouldn’t effect the plot.

Toby Jones and Michelle Yeoh try to bring life and a sense of character but they’re not on scene enough, the plot eats all these performances.

Kate Mara is the lead here and to be kind she’s very, very miscast, a don’t buy her at all.  She’s a decent actress but she doesn’t have the kind of presence needed for this role, she’s not badass, Emily Blunt would have been a better pick.

Now I have two main problems with this film the main one is every character who is part of the team that has created and looks after Morgan seems to love her blindly, they seem more like cult members, Morgan jumps a table and stabs someone in the eye three times, why she wasn’t allowed to go outside, now person or machine that’s a huge red flag but at least 5 characters are like no no Morgan is a good person, she’s a her not an it but we don’t see why we don’t see Morgan than anything other than a machine gone wild.

Now there’s a twist and I will say this without spoilers, I saw this 15 minutes in, it’s badly played, the fact that the film and how this is acted is a spoiler, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and if you add that Kate Mara is a risk-management consultant that carries a gun, do all of them?

I was like what is going on here. There’s also the lost point of what Morgan was made for, or what they were hoping to do with her, is she a weapon cause if she is, then stabbing people in the eye would be useful.

The film is full of half ideas that never get expanded or talked about in an intelligent way.

Final thoughts: This was never a thought provoking study about machines being human or a good old fashioned thriller about a robot gone out of control.  They had an idea and a good cast and they didn’t use either one well.

Rating: 3/10

Slow West (2015) Movie Review by John Walsh

SLOW WEST

Director: John Maclean
Writer: John Maclean
Stars: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael Fassbender, Ben Mendelsohn

John Maclean isn’t a directorial name I’ve ever heard of before, a fact which conjures up a degree of shame with him being a fellow Scotsman and all, and his zany, intriguing, 2015 feature film debut Slow West also managed to fall under my radar. It’s a rapidly quick paced, fairly short little film that belies it’s titular name. Excellently casted, featuring a predominantly European cast and perfectly crafted by the ex-musician come filmmaker. It’s a surprisingly good western on the surface that’s about a lovesick boy, but also attempts to convey the real struggle that native Americans faced at the hands of their colonial settlers.

The film opens with the attention very much on the aforementioned lovesick chap, 16 year old Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) journeying on his lonesome and heading towards a Native American settlement that looks to be under attack by union soldiers. Even without uttering a word in the first five minutes you get an immediate sense that he’s way out of his depth in the alien ‘New World’ landscape of North America (actually New Zealand, but that’s another story). Skinny, with more than a hint of naivety, he’s got a certain ballsiness and continues making his way forward despite thick smoke obscuring his vision and ash falling. When he meets a group of soldiers using a fleeing man as target practice things turn rather pear shaped, with the leader paying no heed of the youngsters protestations at being British and meaning no harm. Step forward Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender), an experienced outlaw with a hidden agenda to save the day.

He kills the soldier dead without a second thought and immediately advises the bewildered and rather flustered looking Jay that he’ll be in need of a guide in those parts. A role he’s only too happy to volunteer for at a price. The basic premise of the story thereafter is essentially the blooming relationship between the pair of them and their journey together in search for Rose (Caren Pistorius), the previously mentioned girl he’s infatuated with. There’s ups and downs, dark humour aplenty, no holds barred violence, an ill judged attempted escape from Jay which leaves him stranded in the middle of an expansive desert with an uncooked egg to his name and several hilarious scenes between both Jay and Silas. The best of which involves the drinking of absinthe after the arrival of one Silas’ old acquaintances Payne (Ben Mendelsohn), a dodgy figure and leader of an outlaw group closely trailing our protagonists for much of the film.

I like the way Maclean fleshed out the backstory of Jay via a series of flashbacks set in the Scottish highlands the character calls home. It allowed the viewer to be given an insight into his motivations, whilst slowly introducing us to him, Rose and her dad John (Rory McCann). and also the reasons behind their decision to leave. It also allowed for a nice change in tone from the present day action which was absolutely relentless in its ferocity and pacing. It’s a quite short film at an hour and twenty odd minutes and they really utilised each and every second of those effectively. The growing bond and relationship between Silas and Jay was very nicely handled too. Both were able to help each other out with the latter showing Silas that there was hope and reasons for optimism even in the Willd West, meanwhile Silas did his best to imbue the younger gentlemen he was growing increasingly fond of with a dose of reality.

There’s some really good performances in this film, most notably from Smit-McPhee. The character of Jay was awkward and slightly eccentric, and Kodi was perfectly cast for it, filling that role with a confidence belying his relatively young age of 19. Michael Fassbender was also outstanding as the outlaw Silas, a cynical man with a plan who starts out as a cold fish and eventually mellows as the film progresses, developing an unlikely bromance with his younger companion. Mendelsohn’s part as Payne isn’t quite as big as the other two, but he lights up the handful of scenes he features in and that majestic fur coat of his almost deserves a mention of its own. Shoutouts to Pistorius as Rose, she steals the finale with an emotionally powerful performance and the main man Rory McCann as John. He doesn’t have an enormous role, but such is my love for his character in Game of Thrones, it would be sacrilege for me not to mention him and he does do a decent job in a relative cameo role.

The film doesn’t hold back in the violence stakes with plenty of murders occurring, never shirking away from showing blood. Having said that, it’s a rated 15 film and it’s not terribly violent by any means. Still, there is some striking moments in there. One scene in particular involving a desperate mother and father in a store with their young children waiting outside was particularly profound. The ending had a unique way of sequentially panning to every single person killed in the film, which to be honest, I thought was rather cool. Which brings me onto the cinematography. It’s was stunningly shot by Robbie Ryan. There was several beautiful moments, such as that scene I mentioned in the wide, expansive desert and even the sweeping vistas of the Ross’ prairie house at the end where just a delight on the eye.

I really, really enjoyed this film. I went in with zero knowledge of its existence and was pleasantly surprised at the quality. The ensemble performances were for the most part excellent and the story whilst rather simplistic at heart was still very well implemented and there was the obvious underlying thematic elements in regards to the Native American mistreatment. I can’t really think of any glaring negatives in there and would have no problems recommending it.

Rating: 3.5/5

Tomorrowland (2015) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

TOMORROWLAND

Director: Brad Bird
Writers: Damon Lindelof (screenplay), Brad Bird (screenplay)
Stars: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie, Thomas Robinson

Tomorrowland is the movie Director Brad Bird opted to make instead of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. I remember at the time thinking “You’re a Star Wars fan but you decided not to accept Lucasfilm and Kathleen Kennedy’s offer of directing the next chapter in the Star Wars Saga…..are you mad?”

Having watched Tomorrowland I can now appreciated Bird’s decision and understand as a fan of the Star Wars Saga he wanted to enjoy the next episode as a fan and also now viewed Tomorrowland and it’s concept I fully understand why a guy like Brad Bird was more inclined to be attracted to this movie.

Having something in common and a shared destiny, Casey Newton (Robertson) bursting with scientific curiosity and a ton of questions and a former inventor and boy-genius Frank Walker (Clooney) embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory.

I have to admit that I had to watch this twice before deciding to review this movie as although the storyline isn’t at all complex, there is a lot happening in this plot. The opening sequence to this movie finds young Frank (Robinson) in the early 1960’s attending a science fair in which he had brought along his latest invention, a jet pack that he wishes to be accepted in by the fair via a man named “Nix” played by Hugh Lawrie. At first, I believed the young girl “Athena” (Raffey Cassidy) with Nix was actually his daughter but there is a reveal  later on in the movie in regards to their relationship that I don’t want to spoil for anyone who hasn’t watched the movie yet.

After his invention is rejected he is encouraged by Athena to follow him with Nix’s party into a secret part of the fair Frank discovers a portal to another world and time that will change his life forever. At this point I am trying my best not to uncover too much of the plot but I think it’s fair to say that this other place is ahead of it’s time and more advanced than Earth in the 1960’s.

One thing I have always enjoyed is the futuristic theme that is ironically set in the past. To give you an idea of this, if you have ever played the game “Fallout” on any home console you will get what I mean. Even those World Fair scenes in Captain American: The First Avenger or going further back with another Joe Johnston project “The Rocketeer” I have always found it fascinating on how the past has tried to project an idea that is “futuristic” Well that is the theme and tone to a lot of this movie. I hope i’m making some kinda sense?

Present day America and it is young Casey Newton who discovers being in contact with a pin transports her to a glimpse of this world that a young Frank discovered all those years ago. She must now seek out the older Frank to discover the secret behind this strange land and why he was banished from it forever and also uncover a secret that only Frank knows about the fate of earth.

Tomorrowland as previously mentioned is a straightforward storyline but a lot happens in this movie at an alarming rate that you will miss things on a first time viewing. Visually this movie is a masterpiece and top marks to the visual effects guys who pulled off the almost impossible task of making the audience believe in this world. The action is just as important and the visuals help these sequences become believable and will keep you engrossed for the duration of the film. This is why I now understand the creative freedom Brad Bird would have had on this project as opposed to the Star Wars brand.

The cast are phenomenal in every aspect and have great chemistry between them in particular Clooney as old Frank with the brilliant Britt Robertson and equally brilliant are Thomas Robinson as young Frank and Raffey Cassidy as Athena. The humour in this movie reminded me of the chemistry we saw with Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford in the original Star Wars movie that combined great action and danger with the right amount of humour to keep it light. Having said that, this film does have some darker tones for a Disney movie and some of the fighting sequences are quite graphic (Robertson with a Baseball Bat anyone?)

Tomorrowland is a highly recommendable movie that all the family can enjoy from start to finish. Going into this movie I did expect it to be more for kids and it is to an extent but all age groups will enjoy this movie and my only regret is not seeing this in the cinema on it’s release. If you have already watched Tomorrowland then I’m sure you will appreciate it for what it is and it definitely is a movie you can revisit. For anyone who hasn’t watched it yet, I can’t recommend this enough.

The Whole Truth (2016) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier

THE WHOLE TRUTH

Director: Courtney Hunt
Writer: Nicholas Kazan (as Rafael Jackson)
Stars: Keanu Reeves,  Renée Zellweger,  Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Plot: A defense attorney works to get his teenage client acquitted of murdering his wealthy father.
Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes
IMDB Score: 6.1

Why I watched it: The cast, the trailer played like an 80′s thriller so there was that and I won’t lie the running time of 1 hour 33 minutes helped me watch it, I like shorter movies.

Random thoughts: You never know with Keanu Reeves, he’s been in some great genre films and others well not so much and he as an actor is very hit and miss his’ laid back approach sometimes really pays off and others he seems really miscast.  This film also kind of reminded me of Presumed Innocent  for some reason.

What I liked: This plays more like a film noir than a courtroom thriller, now with that being said a lot of this movie plays out in court so yes it’s very much a courtroom thriller but you throw in the dead husband who was wealthy and her son saying he did it but not speaking to anyone even his lawyer who also happens to be a family friend then this also qualifies as a film noir at least a little.

The film is pretty tight, not a lot of characters and really it turns into a mystery of who is the killer and of course why they did it.  The acting is pretty good across the board, Belushi is seen in flashbacks and is pretty slimy one of those rich guys everyone secreted hated.  Zellweger has a tricky role, she’s a grieving wife, a worried mother a possible liar.  She’s pretty good here I think she’s a tad miscast but she does her best. Reeves is pretty much like he always is likable but a bit wooded.  His character is kind of stuck with a client who won’t work with him and always the fact that he use to work with the victim and were friends.

There’s one thing in the film they do that I really like, the film uses flashbacks but during testimony as the witness  is answering questions we see what actually happened, so we get their version of the truth with the whole truth is you will.  The courtroom stuff is handled pretty well I think the film knows we’ve seen this kind of stuff a million times so they keep it quick and they keep things going towards the mystery of who did it.

My favorite part of the film is the ending and yes it’s a twist and it’s a good one, actually i didn’t see it, I went in a different direction, it’s a good twist and it works,  This isn’t a case of a screenwriter throwing in a twist to save a bad movie this makes the film more complex and better.

What I didn’t like: Th cast was fine but I do thing that the two leads played by Reeves and Zellweger could have benefited by different actors, a more femme fatalish  actress and a more gruff and  haggard actor, I see a younger Nick Nolte here.  There’s a sub-plot with a lawyer helping Reeves’ character and they give her backstory and she’s fine but she and her backstory play no part in the film, she’s more of a red herring.

Final verdict: I liked it for the most part a solid mystery and like I said I liked the twist, it’s always nice when a film surprises you.
Rating: 7/10