Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: Allegiant (2016)

Allegiant poster

Shailene Woodley is one of my favourite young actresses.  Ever since she did that dramatic ‘crying-underwater’ scene in “The Descendents” she’s been someone to watch.  And, while it was another “Hunger Games” wannabe – “Divergent” was a good story, well acted and with good visual effects. 

Unfortunately the series has progressively gone downhill: “Insurgent” was poor but coherent; and now “Allegiant” is both poor and mind-numbing.

Allegiant 6
Superman and Batman had done the usual with the city’s skyscrapers, but glazing contractor Four has time for one last snog before getting back to work.

After the revelations at the end of “Insurgent” Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Christina (Zoë Kravitz), Peter (Miles Teller), Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and Tori (Maggie Q) defy Chicago leader Evelyn (Naomi Watts) and make a dash for escape beyond the Chicago walls to find those living beyond in the alleged wilderness. There they meet ‘Pure’ leader David (the ever-busy Jeff Daniels) and his acolytes. According to David, Tris is key to the world’s recovery.  But can he be trusted?  

Allegiant 2
Tris and Four were keen on practising safe sex, but it was difficult to see how the extra safe condoms were ever going to work.

It is telling that every screenwriter in this series has been different, and this time Noah Oppenheim (from the similar “Maze Runner”) with Adam Cooper and Bill Collage (from “Exodus: God and Kings”) have the pen, but do little positive with it. Much of the dialog clunks onto the ground much like the leaden transports featured in the film. And some of the plot points are obvious beyond belief. No real spoilers here, but when one of the lead characters gets shot it was so blindingly obvious that it was about to happen that I audibly groaned with disbelief that the writers had so little respect for the audience.

Allegiant 1
The dynamic team O’Haring it out of Chicago (geddit?).

As another example of bone-headed writing a nerve gas used in the film is so much heavier than air that it sits on the floor for minutes at a time. How will they ever escape in Chicago?  (Erm – climb up to a second floor perhaps?). Presumably everyone was OK since they only got a small dose… so were just ‘a bit’ brain damaged?  

Allegiant 3
Miles Teller as the ever-reliable Peter.

The special effects are pretty ropey in places. Some of the green screen work (an early shot with Miles Teller in particular) is really poor. Just about nothing looks real.

Allegiant 4
They’d been walking down Weston-Super-Mare beach for three days now but had still not reached the sea.

The director is Robert Schwentke (“Insurgent”; “Flightplan”; “The Time Traveller’s Wife”) but this doesn’t extend his reputation (apart from presumably with the studios, since poor as it is it’ll no doubt still attract an audience).

Allegiant 5
Eyes down gents for a gratuitous cleavage shot. Fans of the shapely Woodley will be pleased to hear she has her own Ursula Andress/Dr No detox scene to enjoy.

Shailene Woodley does herself credit with the material she has and has chemistry with the hunk of the piece, Oxford-born Theo James. But she is far better than this stuff. Unfortunately, this series doesn’t end as a trilogy: she will be back again as Tris is “Ascendent” in 2017. But before then she has a starring role in Oliver Stone’s Edward Snowden biopic, so hopefully can prove herself there.

Fad Rating: FF.


Posted in Films of the Year

One Mann’s Movies – The Best of 2015

Lists, lists… nothing but bloody lists.  It’s that time of the year again, and a chance to look back at the films that have thrilled, moved or excited me during the last year.  And then some of the turkeys of the movie season.  While some of these were released in 2014, they only reached my eyes in the cinema during 2015, so they count.

As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so you might not agree with my choices, but that’s the joy of cinema.  And with the benefit of hindsight, some which I rated very highly have slipped in my estimation, while some have stayed in my mind all year and as such deserve a place on the list.

By the way, don’t forget to enter your email address in the field on the home page (“Register here for future Reviews!”) to automatically receive my reviews through 2016.

So, here they are, in best countdown tradition in reverse order.  (For each film I have also picked my favourite picture/comedy caption combination!).  And if you want to see my choice of the festive turkeys of the year, you can find that here.

#10 – Bridge of Spies

They’d all bought tickets for the U-2 concert months in advance: can you imagine the disappointment?

Spielberg back on top form with a cold-war tale of spy exchanges in an atmospheric and beautifully recreated Berlin.  With Mark Rylance acting the socks off everyone else in the film.

#9 – Max Mad – Fury Road

The trouble with scantily clad babes is that they NEVER offer to help in the beach tug-of-war contest

George Miller’s insane 2 hours of adrenaline powered mayhem that makes you leave the auditorium feeling like you are smelling of petrol.  Very little plot, almost incomprehensible dialogue, but it just works.

#8 – Carol

For kids who can now take 36 photos in a single burst, a reminder of how it used to be. Rooney Mara as Therese.

A gorgeously recreated America in the 50’s and a lesbian love story that truly touches the soul. Both Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett should get Oscar nominations for this, with Mara winning.

#7 – Far From the Madding Crowd

The woman folk were mightily unhappy when Bernard gave up in the middle of the Macarena.

Extremely watchable (unless you are a sheep). A superb retelling of the Thomas Hardy classic in a bucolically photogenic Dorset. I take my (Golden) Cap off to it.

#6 – Birdman

What?  We’ve run out of Marmite – – AGAIN???

Surreal, quirky, extraordinary.  This WAS a Marmite movie, that some loved and some hated.  But I was in the former camp.  Emma Stone giving a manic and memorable performance.  And I could watch Keaton and Norton’s rehearsal scene – a masterclass in acting about a masterclass in acting – over and over again.

#5 – Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Hurting way too much to admire the view!

Probably not a film that is going to trouble the Oscars, but just one of the most wholly entertaining action films of the year.  Rebecca Ferguson kicks-ass in an ambiguous good girl/bad girl role and Tom Cruise’s aerobatic stunt makes for one of the most jaw-dropping openers of any film. A guilty pleasure.

#4 – The Martian

After 2 days Watney had decided it was time to ditch Green Flag and try a different recovery organisation.

Ridley Scott’s interplanetary version of Robinson Crusoe using the clever device of Matt Damon’s vlog to avoid the cinematic death-grip of the voiceover.  We learn that potatoes grow well in shit and that if you’re going to take gaffer tape to Mars make sure it’s the REALLY STRONG sort!

#3 – Ex Machina

After she’d put a thousand cars together, she got the rest of the day off

Unlike the next film in the countdown, a low-key science-fiction classic.  With Force Awakens alumni Domnhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac and the gorgeous Alicia Vikander, Alex Garland’s claustrophobic little tale ticked all my boxes.  It was probably the one film I massively under-rated in my original review.

#2 – Star Wars – The Force Awakens

Finn and Rey: incredulous at the news that Hollywood could even be considering a “Pitch Perfect 3”.

After all the hype, the reality couldn’t possibly meet the expectation could it?  For me, it did.  J.J. Abrams lovingly created a movie that ‘smells’ of the original trilogy, thankfully obliterating from the memory the lacklustre and CGI-rich prequels. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega excel in their new roles of Rey and Finn with the original stars reprising their roles, all older and wiser and all back in the cast list for 2017’s Star Wars VIII.

#1 – Whiplash

Andrew left the toilet seat up again

It’s easy when you do one of these lists to overlook the great films early in the year at the expense of the later ones you’ve seen.  But Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash is so emotionally powerful in its feral tale of bullying in a music academy  that it breaks through that bias to get my number one slot for the year.  A well-deserved Oscar for J.K. Simmons and a breakout role for Miles Teller.



Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: Whiplash (2015)

Whiplash poster

Whiplash is simply astonishing.  

Miles Teller plays Andrew, a gifted and highly ambitious drummer in his first year at an elite New York music academy.  There his talents are spotted by Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), an equally ambitious coach and mentor who is always looking for the “next big thing” but has never found it.  However, there is a very thin line between being an “ambitious coach” and a terrifying bully, and Fletcher constantly crosses that line sometimes inflicting a terrible impact on his young students.  

Timing is everything
Timing is everything

In an almost uniformly male environment, love interest is served from the cinema concessionary stand by Nicole (the charming Melissa Benoist) who the shy and uncertain Andrew finally plucks up the courage to ask out on a high-point in his emotional roller-coaster.

Spot the female, featuring Melissa Benoist
Spot the female, featuring Melissa Benoist

The ‘school for protégés’ theme has perhaps been trodden before by movies like Alan Parker’s “Fame”, and some of the emotional and creative jostling of elite musicians has appeared in films such as 2012’s “A Late Quartet”.  But none of these deliver the degree of passion and intensity metered out in Damien Chazelle’s movie.  

Miles Teller (“Divergent”) is superbly credible as the aspiring jazz drummer Andrew, and it is almost unbelievable that he was not a professional drummer-turned-actor for this film.  In fact, the more accomplished jazz drummer (very different to rock drumming apparently) is Nate Lang who plays Carl, his key competitor for the “percussion 1” role (see here). The two were apparently locked away in a drumming ‘boot camp’ for 2 months prior to the movie being filmed.  

Miles Teller and Nate Lang
Miles Teller and Nate Lang

But the starring role in the film goes to J.K. Simmons, probably best known in the supporting role of J. Jonah Jameson, the cranky editor of the Daily Bugle in the Spiderman films (and a number of other Marvel spin-offs).  Simmons is quite simply astonishing, channelling the sort of Oscar-winning performance of Louis Gossett Jnr (“An Officer and a Gentleman”) into his vicious drill-sergeant-style performance.  He has been nominated in the Best Supporting Actor role for both Golden Globe and BAFTA awards, and I would fully expect him to feature in the Oscar shortlist when they are announced on January 15th.  Personally speaking, he will be the one I will be cheering for in the awards themselves.  

Andrew left the toilet seat up again
Andrew left the toilet seat up again

Cinematography by Sharone Meir is outstanding, with every drop of blood, sweat and tears glistening on forehead and cymbal.  The editing by Tom Cross is also extremely tight, winding up the tension during key encounters.  The combination of the two together with Chazelle’s tight script effectively spears the audience in the gut.

The feature is based on Chazelle’s short film of the same name, and on this basis he is a name to watch for the future.

Gut-wrenching and enthralling, this film will spit you out the other end feeling emotionally drained.  This is simply a film you MUST see.  Let me drum it into you again.  GO SEE THIS FILM!    

Fad Rating:  FFFFF.