*NEW* JOHN WICK CHAPTER 3: PARABELLUM REVIEW *NEW*

The Baba Yaga is back! With guns . . . Lots of guns.

And so are the reviews! At last! A review after so many months of static and re-posts . . .

But anyway . . . back to this brutal, action packed tour de force. This year’s The Raid 2!

After killing a member of the international assassin’s guild and a $14 million price tag on his head, the super assassin (Keanu Reeves) is now the target of hit men and women everywhere.

“Wasn’t just a puppy”.

A franchise I never expected or thought I needed in my life. Woah.

Following straight on from the events of Chapter 2; we join Wick (with his adorable dog in tow) desperately racing against the clock to use any favour, grudge, and shiny gold coin to get him out of the city.

Tense, nail biting and oh so violent! The first 40 minutes left me breathless with Wick using any (and I mean any) object/obstacle to stay alive.

I see you’ve played knifey, spoony before?

I have to commend the set pieces and stunts. Brilliantly executed with some insane gun-fu choreography. And Dan Laustesen’s cinematography?! It really was a visual feast for the eyes appeasing the gore junkie and film fanatic. Seriously, the neon-infused battle royale in the hotel was like something out of a Tekken video game.

I feared repetition with all the body take downs but that soon subsided with every new setting thrown into the mix from libraries to antique shops and stables.

One particular highlight involved an almost cartoon-esque sequence with Wick rapidly making up a gun out of old antique pistols to dispose of an impending assassin running up the stairs.

It was great to see some new faces. Angelica Huston was brilliant as the cold-hearted Director. Providing some surprisingly reveals about the Baba Yaga’s origins.

Asia Kate Dillon (Billions) impressed as The Adjudicator. Delivering enough pantomime villainy to the chaos. My only complaint . . . The endless introductions. Sheesh. We get it. You’re ‘The Adjudicator’! Seriously, you could have done a drinking game!

However, the real scene stealer was Mark Dascascos’ Zero. A truly eccentric super villain. Deluded, ruthless and yet oh so entertaining. A fan boy savouring every conflict with the exhausted hitman. Lapping up every exchange and moment of combat.

I was a little disappointed at the lack of Laurence Fishburne and no, not just because I wanted more Neo/Morpheus confrontations; I just loved the man’s OTT personality as The Bowery King.

Ian McShane and Lance Reddick delivered as usual. Bringing some much needed humour to the blood fest that really pushed that 15 certificate.

However (Oh no!) . . .

It wasn’t all perfect. Unfortunately the adrenaline junkie in me got a little impatient when Halle Berry’s Sofia made her introduction.

Despite providing some interesting depth, fractious chemistry and more mystery around Wick’s past, I felt the pace lagging around the middle act.

However, that soon changed when Berry brought her two furry companions (Dogs. I’m talking about dogs, you cheeky devils).

A motorcycle chase sequence involving samurai swords was hampered by some shoddy CGI that killed a little bit of the fun.

And the final scenes pushed it for me. Ironic considering the mayhem that had ensued before and the fact that this whole thing spiralled from a Mustang and a cute little beagle.

Gulp!

But despite my grumbles (Nothing has changed there), this was still one hell of an action movie that was worth the wait with Neo showing he still has the moves.

And as it stands, this has already jumped into my top 5 of 2019.

3.5/5

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*NEW* JUSTICE LEAGUE REVIEW *NEW*

Justi-zzzzzeeeee League?

Fuelled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s (Henry Cavill) selfless act, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), to face an even greater enemy.

Okay, it wasn’t THAT bad. BUT . . . it wasn’t that great either. A watchable mess. My most coined phrase of 2018 and I’ve barely written this year!

Sweet Jesus! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s . . . Who is it?

As soon as the film opened with this shot, I feared the worst. I mean, really? Technology that can bring Paul Walker and Peter Cushing back to the silver screen and we get this? Even worse when the scene was completely unnecessary!

The world is mourning Superman and all hell has broken loose (Apparently). The situation perfectly captured in a brilliant sequence as some brutish thugs kick some fruit stalls over. Pfft. I’ve seen worse at the pub down the road.

Thankfully, once Gal Gadot (The saving grace of DC) made her introduction; things got a tad better. The action sequences were entertaining enough and the pace didn’t mess about.

No, seriously! Where I berated Batman Vs Superman for a torturous pace; this chaotic action fest felt a little rushed. I actually wanted more time and depth spent on the new additions!

I was impressed with the cast selection. The surprise turn for me was Ray Fisher as Cyborg. I expected him to be the weakest asset BUT he played the tormented droid well. I know we had a marginally brief origin set up for the guy BUT I would have been happy for a full feature. I loved the father/son dynamic with Silas (A wasted Joe Morton).

Jason Momoa nailed it as Aquaman. Not enough of the big man. Humour isn’t always the answer. But come on, the dude is an underwater god that gets drunk on whiskey?! Lapping up the ridiculousness of it all (Which helped a lot as the film drew to its clumsy conclusion).

Ezra Miller was great as the neurotic Barry Allen. A completely different (and fresh) take to the CW TV series. Bringing some much needed comic relief.

I actually rated Ben Affleck’s performance as Batman in BvS (What?). He nailed the Bruce Wayne persona in JL with aplomb. Even if he had issues deciding on what tone (A bit like the film really) to use as the billionaire.

BUT his performance as the Dark Knight left me wallowing into the abyss. His lines were bad enough without those puppy dog eyes when Superman returned *Shudders*.

However, I did enjoy the chemistry brewing between Prince and Wayne as they worked together to make sure Superman’s sacrifice wasn’t all in vain.

“Moustache Gate” aside; Henry Cavill’s return to the mix gave the missing depth and tension to the piece that I was praying for. Shame, it was all thrown out of the window for a quick smash ’em grab ’em finale.

Ciaran Hinds delivered enough creepy vocal gravitas to the villain Steppenwolf (Every time I type that, I just want to sing ‘Born to Be Wild’). BUT despite the iconic name, he just wasn’t that memorable. I know Jesse Eisenberg’s Luthor was memorable for the wrong reasons BUT at least he stood out!

Amy Adams was (AGAIN!) tragically left on the sidelines. A shadow of her own character waiting for Superman. Yikes. Equally as disappointing was J.K. Simmon’s Commissioner Gordon. A passing encounter? Is that all the Whiplash actor deserves?

BUT once that Danny Elfman composed theme rippled through the speakers and the team united, I was still caught up in it. The dynamic worked. Even if the hokum plot and CGI left me wanting.

I just wish the producers would stop meddling and rushing these projects out. Marvel have perfected a winning formula and are reaching their Endgame (See what I did there). Use their success as a foundation. DON’T grab the same writer and try and do the same thing.

I loved how broodingly intense and dark BvS was. JL tried to be a much lighter and more comical (Laughable for the right reasons?) affair. Too many ideas and too many cooks spoiled the broth by the end.

Great cast, great characters. All we need is a better story, better villain and better effects and we’re pretty much there. Not too much to ask *GULP*

Not the worst DC entry. A watchable, if terribly flawed, mess that killed the time if nothing else. 

2.5/5

*NEW* JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM REVIEW *NEW*


Jurassic World: Fallen Franchise, more like.

When the island’s dormant volcano begins roaring to life, Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) mount a campaign to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from this extinction-level event.

Okay, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Jurassic World BUT at least that was enjoyable.

Any entry after Jurassic Park was always going to suffer that inevitable scrutiny and comparison from yours truly BUT Trevorrow and co really have run out of steam.

Fallen Kingdom almost felt like a direct retread of The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Throw in a fiery volcano, a dozen more unmemorable stocky characters and we’re pretty much there.

The frantic, action packed and (I’ll admit) exhilarating first half felt more like the ending of a film than the beginning of one. For a moment, I thought I had walked in halfway through!

The special effects were (of course) impressive to boot and the volcano stampede sequence was relentless. BUT at times, it was too chaotic with the CGI meshing into one blurry palette. And in one instance, comical. Don’t even get me started on Owen’s inebriated lava escape.

Run, Forrest, Run!

The environmental commentary was perfectly executed in an unexpected and touching scene; that broke up the calamitous mayhem as the crew watched helplessly as a brontosaurus was engulfed in a pool of lava. 

The main issue for me with FK (along with the incredibly wafer thin plot line) was the characters.

Dallas Howard infuriated. Justice Smith’s shrieking tech nerd annoyed the hell out of me. Daniella Pineda’s dino-vet was laughable. Dispensing sarcasm at the medical treatment of the dinosaurs, despite never actually working on one.

Too picky? Maybe. If the film had more about it, I wouldn’t have had time to pick at the little things. I mean, it is a blockbuster sequel about dinosaurs, what should I have expected? Apparently too much.

Despite Rafe Spall and Toby Jones’ best efforts, they were nothing more than generic corporate types with the same old dull, predictable and underwhelming profit-making schemes; oh look! Another mutant hybrid dinosaur. Ah, cloning again. Greaattttt.

Thankfully, the main redeeming feature of the JW entries was Owen and Blu’s relationship.

The saving grace?

That dynamic still delivered with some genuinely moving moments as the handler did everything to save his friend (Yes, I know she’s a CGI’d raptor!). The glue that loosely kept this messy offering together. 

I just wish more time was spent on that dynamic than Maisie Lockwood’s (frankly unnecessary) subplot.

For all my griping, it still killed the time, the effects and creatures were superb BUT it stumbled every time their Neanderthal counterparts got involved. I really feel that this franchise is very much on the way to extinction. 

The park is gone. And so is my interest.

2/5

*NEW* THE QUIET MAN REVIEW *NEW*

A Ford/Wayne collaboration that wasn’t a Western?

A retired American boxer (John Wayne) returns to the village of his birth in Ireland, where he finds love in the form of a fiery redhead (Maureen O’Hara).

Easy going, comical, perfect Sunday viewing. Is this really from the man who gave us The Searchers?

“This is Ireland, Sean”.

Once I got over the fact that this wasn’t a Western, I was happy to bask in the charming silliness and Winston C. Hoch’s lavish (Oscar winning) cinematography.

The fantastic tracking shots complimenting the picturesque and idyllic Irish countryside.

The use of bright colours really livened the piece. Even in the dimly lit church sequences, you could notice a considerable difference. Adding to the easygoing feel.

It was fun to see The Duke lighten up. Delivering another charismatic performance as he dealt with the eclectic and nosy Irish community. A running gag about the latest fad, “a sleeping bag” delivered the laughs.

The corny exchanges and Victor Young’s cheesy score should have been laughable BUT thankfully it only added to its charm. I mean, give it a break. The film is (at time of writing) 66 years old?! BUT unfortunately NOT all classics can age as gracefully.

Maureen O’Hara (Another Ford stalwart) was brilliant as the fiery but head strong Mary Kate Danaher. A real match for the stubborn boxer. And what a voice as well! Singing several songs throughout the film.

Their inevitable romance was engaging enough. Thanks to fantastic chemistry and an underrated supporting cast as the pair toyed the “Will-they’won’t-they?” spiel.

The courtship sequence was highly entertaining. Especially when they had Barry Fitzgerald’s drunken Michaleen Oge Flynn as chaperone. Hilarious. With a horse in tow that conveniently always seemed to lead him back to the pub no matter where he went.

Despite its corniness and charm, the Ford Western tropes were still very much there; the saloon brawl, the love interest, the bitter feuds, the reluctant call to heroism, the Duke on horseback.

And Ford wasn’t afraid to break the rose tinted atmosphere. Unleashing an unexpected flashback to Wayne’s boxing days (executed in a haunting black and white sequence). Dark and almost out of place. The real reason for his return?

I never realised The Quiet Man featured this infamous kiss scene.

 

A scene that inspired another iconic film . . .

Nerd! I hear you say. BUT nothing like a good meta textual reference to tick the boxes.

The humour was well written. Even if it might have stretched the stereotypes a tad. Most notably on the gambling priest. The opening sequence said it all as a pair of train conductors broke out into fisticuffs after Sean (Wayne) simply asked for directions. Setting the tone, the characters and the fun that lay in store.

BUT of course, it wasn’t going to be that easy as Mary Kate raised the bar every time Sean met her demands and members of the community threw spanners in the works by refusing to sell his childhood home.

However, the themes on community and, most importantly, honour were handled well as Sean had to restore Mary Kate’s reputation and receive her arrogant brother’s blessing.

Leading to one of the longest and most comical fist fights I’ve seen. Seriously, it was like something out of a cartoon with every villager involved at one point!

It may be a little dated and the pace does test in places (Ford spending a little too much time on those beautiful landscapes) BUT it still holds and makes for enjoyable Sunday viewing.

3/5

*NEW* MACHETE REVIEW *NEW*

Ma-sh*ty?

After being set-up and betrayed by the man who hired him to assassinate a Texas Senator (Robert De Niro), an ex-Federale (Danny Trejo) launches a brutal rampage of revenge against his former boss.

Brutal, ridiculous, stupid . . . but oh so fun!

The movie that was spawned from the silly parody trailers thrown in during the “intermission” of the Tarantino\Rodriguez Grindhouse double feature.

Still waiting on Thanksgiving, Mr. Roth. The crippling disappointment still hasn’t left me after the mishandling of the Grindhouse UK release.

Giving them separate releases and blaming the three hour movie length was a BIG no, no! They didn’t even show the mock trailers in the build up to either film?! (Or maybe that was just the crappy cinema I went to).

However once I was able to get my hands on said Grindhouse flick in all its bloody glory . . .

Planet Terror was everything I expected. A proper tribute. Trashy bedlam. Let’s not talk about Death Proof . . .

Okay it wasn’t that bad. Anyway . . .

Rodriguez has always been one to deliver action packed, maniacal, trashy (see where I’m going with this) tour de forces. As much as I loved Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn, they weren’t perfect.

You knew what you were in for from the get go. The ultra-violent opening set the tone as Danny Trejo’s bad ass Machete clocked up the body count within minutes. The silly cliches, the endless bloodshed and the gratuitous nudity. Oh, the nudity.

Seriously, a naked lady pulled out a weapon from a particular hiding spot I didn’t expect.

One delightfully gruesome scene featured our murderous machismo slicing a man’s hand off with the gun still in its possession, only to then use said hand to dispose of another with nothing more than a casual shrug to sum up the encounter. Niiiccee.

Shot in the exact same style as the old Grindhouse flicks. The dated look, the cheesy score, the OTT violence. And of course, those deliberately shoddy quick cuts and badly-put-together edits for good measure. Well, at least I hope that was intentional.

I had to laugh at Steven Seagal as the smug Torrez. Considering this was supposed to be a joke, Seagal seemed to take his role a little too seriously. And was STILL surprisingly wooden.

All the Rodriguez regulars featured left, right and centre. Man, Juni from Spy Kids has grown up (Daryl Sabara. Isn’t he marrying Meghan Trainor?). Anyway, moving on. Made me feel old.

Jeff Fahey lapped it up as the two faced conspirator playing off both sides. An underrated actor that delivered much more conviction than Seagal’s whispery samurai sword wielding weirdo.

“I don’t know what you know but I’m glad I know you”. Quotable one liners and a snappy script from Rodriguez is always a bonus.

The very definition of a Grindhouse flick is a film of “poor quality or low artistic merit”. Only Rodriguez could make something so trashy work so well as Machete made demented nun chucks out of scalpel knives and some bed sheets.

A pointless reference about the human intestine delivered a deliciously revolting and unexpected punchline in a hospital shoot em up.

My main grumble (and where Machete lost points) was the pacing. It took itself a little too seriously in places and it killed a bit of the fun (and momentum). Don’t get me wrong, the themes on immigration were bang on.

Eerily so; considering this film is (at time of writing) EIGHT years old.

De Niro’s evil politician McLaughlin spoke volumes. His “Don’t get caught on the wrong side of the fence” campaign was the very definition of irony. Especially with the De Niro/Trump feud. Replace that electrified fence with a wall and the irony is even more bittersweet.

Jessica Alba’s agent role was a bit nothingy. Stalking Michelle Rodriguez’s Luz and talking in riddles to no avail. Took a good 45 minutes before her path crossed with Machete and for her character to be of any interest. Other than playing on the Wii in yoga pants

What?

Trejo bossed it and once Alba was brought into the mix, the pair made a good duo. Another highlight involved Alba (Hang on . . . ) in hand to hand combat with a Mexican luchador using stiletto heels for knuckle dusters.

Seriously. God knows what Rodriguez was smoking BUT it worked. And of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Rodriguez flick if Cheech Marin didn’t make an appearance in another scene stealing cameo as Padre.

This wasn’t without its faults (Believe me) BUT Machete would fall happily in the “sh*t but good” folder. If you’re a RR fan or in the mood for an entertaining ridiculous bloodfest then look no further.

2.5/5

*NEW* THE SECRET OF MARROWBONE REVIEW *NEW*

A secret worth finding out?

From the writer who penned The Orphanage . . .

I will admit I may have set my expectations a little high. To see a low key period horror pop up during the summer blockbuster season was a shocker enough.

A young man and his three younger siblings, who have kept secret the death of their beloved mother (Don’t worry. That’s not the secret!) in order to remain together, are plagued by a sinister presence in the sprawling manor in which they live.

As their mother crossed a line across the dusty and dilapidated landing, a promise was made: “No more memories. We are the Marrowbones”.

I feared the worst with the nauseating opening act (and Anya Taylor-Joy’s (Split) dreadfully corny introduction) as the kids adjusted to the seemingly peaceful and idyllic tranquility of the Marrowbone estate. Free from their troubled past.

BUT thankfully that didn’t last long. Or else we would have had one hell of a boring affair.

I couldn’t really call this a horror. I felt a little misled by the marketing BUT that didn’t spoil too much of my enjoyment. Especially when the delightfully shady estate lawyer Porter (Kyle Soller – Poldark) reared his ugly head.

If anything, Marrowbone was more of a psychological thriller. NOT to say I wasn’t wincing in places. There were some brilliantly executed moments of tension. It’s funny how several sinister chords and a tattered sheet over a broken mirror could leave me with no finger nails.

By the 30 minute marker, I was hooked. Right up to the gripping finale as the siblings did everything possible to keep up the rouse.

Every time poor Sam (Matthew Stagg) went off for a wander, I feared the worst. Tiptoeing around the house, afraid to wake the ghost. A story to keep young Sam out of trouble? Or something more?

Creepy and unsettling. This reminded me very much of The Others and The Innocents. 

The pacing stumbled in parts and the big reveal of the secret will definitely split people. Some will laugh at the convoluted unravelling, others may be surprised and love the direction it took. I was somewhere in between.

BUT I have to commend the impressively talented and underrated cast; featuring the likes of Mia Goth (A Cure For Wellness) and Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things).

I wasn’t sure that George MacKay would be strong enough for the leading role. I was never convinced with his turn in Sunshine on Leith (despite stellar supporting turns in Pride and Captain Fantastic) BUT I have to say I was impressed with his performance. Showing his range in the final third.

Everyone got their moment to shine. I loved the chemistry between MacKay and Joy. Thankfully Joy’s character came into the fold a lot more as everything came to a head.

It wasn’t perfect and its tough not to discuss plot points without spoiling crucial twists.

BUT it was different, killed the time and if you’re in the mood for a low budget creepy little mystery, check it out.

2.5/5

*NEW* DOCTOR STRANGE REVIEW *NEW*

doctor-strange-poster

Strange is right.

A former neurosurgeon (Benedict Cumberbatch) embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.

Fresh, different, throw in a few crazy visual effects and we’re onto a winner.

Ol’ Cucumberbatch nails it as the cynical and quick-witted super doc. Imagine if House had super powers and you pretty much have Steven Strange.

The opening sequence left me in awe. The visual and special effects were incredible. Imagine all the dream welding sequences in Inception and crank that up to 11! It really was a feast for the eyes and that was before Strange got to mess with the dimensions!

The fight sequences were brilliantly choreographed as the masters manipulated time, space and every object possible to gain the upper hand. Twisting and bending skyscrapers to their will.

The film didn’t really mess about. It zipped along. Jumping from one thing to the next. Establishing the egotistical Strange early on and channeling a little bit of Sherlock. Only taking the cases that interest him. Showing off his talented surgical abilities at any opportunity. That was (Of course!) before tragedy struck.

I could feel the pace lagging a little when Strange went through his self-loathing phase before discovering Kamar-Taj; a spiritual Tibetan safe haven that would set our hero on his true calling.

Tilda Swinton (We Need To Talk About Kevin) was on scene stealing form as The Ancient One (No seriously, that’s her name). She rocked the Avatar/Morpheus look.

Frankly, she wasn’t in it enough. I was a little disappointed after having such a heavy involvement in Strange’s training that she just disappeared into the background. Shame.

Mads Mikkelsen was brilliant as the sinister Kaecilius (Even if his name was a little silly-ous). I don’t think you could have had anybody better than Hannibal Lecter to play the maniacal nutter hell bent on summoning a powerful demon to harvest the energy of the planet. Armed in tow with a cult of warped followers (wearing some crazy eye make up); Strange was up for a challenge.

After watching so many Marvel movies, I was worried that I’d get bored of watching another origin story and enduring another training montage BUT Doctor Strange brought something new to the table. All the portal conjuring and space shifting stuff subdued my griping.

There was one sequence in which Strange was having an out of body punch up with another adversary while a doctor was trying to resuscitate him. It was mental. Exhilarating, funny, riveting. I loved it. All aided by another fantastic movie score from Michael Giacchino.

There was the right balance of humour and trippy dimension bending. And that Cloak of Levitation . . . Seriously, it was like Aladdin’s magic carpet. Choosing the stubborn doc as its new host. Coming to his aid at the best time.

Benedict Wong (The Martian) was hilarious as Wong (No typo), the sworn guardian of the Ancient One’s library. I loved the awkward banter as Strange attempted numerous times to make the stern faced monk crack a grin.

Rachel McAdams (Spotlight) was tragically reduced to playing the love interest left waiting on Strange’s beck and call. A waste of a very talented actress.

Tragically, the incredibly repetitive finale with all the timey wimey guff left things on a bit of bum note. Once you’ve seen Strange pulled about into various shapes and sizes through all the multi-coloured shapes and dimensions, I did get a little fidgety.

Cumberbatch and Chiwetel Ejiofor were a great pairing BUT they didn’t quite get the screen time that I wanted and the 12 Years A Slave actor got a little lost in all the chaos.

However, it was still entertaining, funny and enthralling. Doctor Strange showed enough promise for things to come and is most definitely a welcome addition to the ever growing Marvel movie-verse.

3/5

Now, I don’t want to sound like a school teacher drolling on. BUT it’s a Marvel movie; so what do we do when the credits roll?

That’s right. You park your butts on the seat and wait for the teasers. I won’t spoil any BUT there are TWO! So don’t get up after the first one.