*NEW* WONDER WOMAN REVIEW *NEW*

The best DC movie yet. But is that saying a lot?

Superhero movie of the year? Or overhyped drivel?

Gal Gadot, be still my beating heart.

Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained warrior. When a pilot (Chris Pine) crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, Diana leaves home to fight a war, discovering her full powers and true destiny.

The only interesting character in Batman Vs Superman. Bearing in mind; I had no idea who she was or what she was actually doing (and why for that matter?)

Now we finally get some answers. Sort of.

The best DC movie outing but that doesn’t say much.

The opening origin story with young Diana was entertaining enough.

I never read the DC comics and knew only a little of the TV show with Lynda Carter. I don’t remember all this God stuff BUT the writers even managed to make the Lasso of Truth a believable (and lethal) weapon.

The 300 style training montage with the glorious Greek goddesses kept things ticking over as Diana defied her mother’s wishes by training to fight.

Robin Wright (House of Cards) and Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) were both underused as Diana’s sparring mother and aunt. One desperate to see Diana reach her potential, the other weary of it.

It was a little cheesy BUT it hit the spot as Diana grew stronger. The truth about her abilities rearing its ugly head just as a WW1 plane crashes into their safe haven. Opening a whole new world for our heroine.

The film was injected with the right balance of humour and heart. Something sorely missed in the other DC efforts . . . So far.

One particular highlight involving Diana, clad with sword and shield, strolling through a department store perplexed at the “battle” attire women wear.

The WW1 setting was a perfect focal point for our heroine. The film delicately handled sexism and politics quite well as Diana demanded to know why women couldn’t fight, vote or speak.

Not bad for a superhero movie.

The 3D was disappointing and hardly worth the ticket price BUT the special effects and action pieces were superb.

The No-Man’s land battle sequence was fantastic.

The chemistry between Gadot and Pine was perfect. A great duo. Steve’s bewilderment and Diana’s defiant (if slightly naive) approach to achieving her objective was the glue that kept this piece together.

The banter and bubbling tension helped drudge the meandering pace (which tragically could have been cut by a good 20 minutes).

I loved the supporting cast. It was great to see Lucy Davis (The Office) back in the limelight. She was hilarious as Steve’s long suffering secretary. Diana’s reaction when she was told the purpose of a secretary was brilliant; “So you’re a slave?”

Of course, Diana and Steve couldn’t achieve their mission alone. They needed a rag tag team of misfits. Said Taghmaoui (American Hustle) was highly comical as Sameer.

I was elated to see ol’ Spud (Ewen Bremner -Trainspotting) as the drunk and disillusioned Charlie.

Eugene Brave Rock was a little weak as the poorly titled Chief. BUT he was nowhere near as weak as the villain.

Danny Huston (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) was dreadfully bland and not quite as sinister as I had hoped. Reduced to popping pills and gurning some serious faces. Shame.

Elena Anaya (The Skin I Live In) drew more chills as Dr Poison (A terrible name!) with her scar and scary mask.

The finale was drawn out. It felt like the Man of Steel; once you’ve seen one super being smash another through set piece after set piece, it soon got a little repetitive.

Plus it rushed to such an abrupt ending that I was left wanting. Good in one sense but bad in another.

The only problem was that from all the hype, I also expected something a little more.

I have nothing against a strong female character taking the helm and to adapt a dated 70s TV show and make some of the sillier aspects into something empowering and less farfetched was a great feat.

BUT the drawn out pace and plot holed story line hindered an exhilarating blockbuster.

I was left asking questions (POTENTIAL SPOILERS, maybe?); if the Amazonian island was shielded away from the world – why was Trevor’s plane the one to break through? Explain the other wars after WW1 if Wonder Woman’s mission was to stop the God of War? What was she doing for the next century? Surely not sitting in a museum?

BUT for all its flaws, WW was still entertaining, engaging (if a little long at the tooth) and DC’s best effort to date.

There might be some hope for them after all.

3.5/5 (Just)

*DON’T SIT THROUGH THE CREDITS – there are NO extras, teasers, NADA*

FOCUS REVIEW

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The Fresh Prince does an American Hustle and it’s just as you expect.

Watchable but hardly memorable.

The allure of Margot Robbie almost made me lose my critical focus and the fact that beneath its easy going and glossy surface, there isn’t a lot going on here.

So what’s it all about?

Well this is a story all about how Will’s life as a con man got turned right upside down. And I’d like to take a minute. Just sit right there. And I’ll tell you how he got jiggy with a girl from Neighbours.

Okay, the serious blurb now. In the midst of veteran con man Nicky’s (Smith) latest scheme, a woman (Robbie) from his past (now an accomplished femme fatale) shows up and throws his plans for a loop.

First thing’s first. The positives. And there are lot more than I anticipated.

Will Smith is still a charismatic actor and knows how to boss the silver screen.

Only mark against him; I’m still waiting for another movie soundtrack.

Paired up with the beautiful Margot Robbie, we have gold. They have fantastic chemistry and certainly keep things watchable.

Their inevitable pairing was easy going viewing. Smith’s experienced hustler taking Robbie’s rookie under his wing as he shows her the tricks of the trade.

His network of hustlers and pick pockets was cleverly put together and certainly left me paranoid as hell, leaving the screen.

I couldn’t believe that Brennan Brown was in this. Brennan Brown? You don’t know? Come on. The Orange Wednesday guy!

Here’s a reminder . . .

Not enough of him. His role was way too small. Adrian Martinez (Yeah, the fat dude from Piranha 3DD) was quite funny but the rude pick up lines with Robbie fell faster than a lead balloon. I wish more of his screen time was given to the Orange guy.

It certainly killed the time and I wasn’t bored. As you know from my recent reviews, I’ve been having a bad run.

I say a bad run. A bad run of terrible movies.

Focus was very much in the reins of Ocean’s Eleven. Stylish with a great cast. MINUS the clever hustle. Xavier Grobet’s cinematography was a sight to behold. Let alone, Margot Robbie. Sorry.

Hey, ladies you got Will.

The only problem with these sort of films is that when you’ve watched 8 series of BBC’s Hustle, there aren’t many surprises that can get past you.

There was never really an air of danger around the couple.

AND even when things seem to heat up and trouble seemed to look a little more intense than an Asian guy that can’t grow a tash properly (I’ll get to that in one moment), you’ve always got that little niggle in the back of your head saying; “There’s another play going on here”.

Of course, there always is.

It was fun and charming. There was a sequence in which I felt things spiced up and looked to head in a different direction. Shame, it didn’t.

Now, the tash reference. It’s established quite early on that Will’s character is a hefty gambler. His ego is challenged quite easily by a drunk Asian businessman during an American football match.

BD Wong played the role brilliantly. A cat playing with a trapped mouse. Goading Will so easily into making a big mistake. It’s just a shame I couldn’t take him seriously with those strange patches on his upper lip. I don’t know what they were. BUT it was not a moustache.

Anyway, I think there was only one twist 30-odd minutes into the film that did stop me rambling.

From that, I hoped the film might do something. BUT it didn’t. This is where it lost points because the route it took (Although entertaining enough) was predictable as hell.

I hoped Robbie’s character wasn’t so weak. She seemed so strong willed and independent to begin with BUT falls into Smith’s arms too easily.

No, seriously. Every other scene. And they have a thing about not closing bedroom doors. My friend was complaining about it.

That’s the problem. If we have time to pick at stuff like that, the film is not doing it’s job of keeping our attention.

Rodrigo Santoro actually played his part well. He didn’t annoy the hell out of me. And it was good to see him fully clothed and without demented gold piercings.

The spanner in Robbie and Smith’s inevitable love machine.

Gerald McRaney (The Best of Me) was irritating. His sarcastic rambling came off unfunny and I found his character very unlikeable. A shame considering what a talented actor he is.

The closing act certainly made things a little more interesting.

BUT the end result was so predictable and surprisingly (the only surprise) open.

Just the two for the two of them. They could have made it if they tried with a smarter hustle and better dialogue.

It’s watchable BUT memorable? Sorry guys, it needed a little more focus (Puts on shades and walks out door) on substance, story and suspense.

2.5/5

FURY REVIEW

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Feel the fury! Well . . . Sort of.

NO! It’s not another Marvel hero origins movie. Although how good would a Nick Fury movie be? Anyway . . .

David Ayer (Training Day/End of Watch) pens a hard hitting visceral war drama with the aid of a stellar cast.

BUT with an overlong running time and a lagging middle act, it falls short of the greats.

It has been a while since we had a war film and within the last two years, we have been rewarded with several. A little resurgence, almost. Not a bad thing at all. The only problem after so many classics (The Bridge on The River Kwai, The Great Escape, The Guns of Navarone to name a few); is the next film that follows merely a regurgitation?

Saving Private Ryan and the equally brilliant Band of Brothers certainly broke that mould and proved otherwise BUT in the process left a tough act to follow. And I find it hard not to draw comparisons. The Monuments Men felt old before it even got a chance. A rehashed Dad’s Army with little on laughs and little on drama. Fury on the other hand . . .

“Ideals are peaceful. History is violent”.

Let’s start with the good. You can normally bank on Brad Pitt. And he delivers another solid performance. If you’re expecting Lieutenant Aldo Raine from Inglorious Basterds, you may be left feeling a little disappointed. But Pitt certainly brings a charismatic character to life in his expressions and posture alone.

Where Ayer excels is in the little things; the impact the war has had on the soldiers psychologically. Of course, Ayer shows the level of chaos and destruction that has been brought to Germany as the Allies make the final push. An opening sequence in which we have nothing but silence as a German soldier rides a horse over a field of fallen men was both haunting and harrowing.

Ayer makes an interesting commentary on the human condition. The fact that the soldiers no longer see themselves as human. They are simply killing machines, fighting for survival. The meal sequence perfectly demonstrated this. The scene may have dragged nearer the end and lulled what was a suspenseful and tense encounter but the point was still crucial.

Lerman played the part well as fresh meat Norman Ellison, a typist who has been called up to help in the final push. The juxtaposition between him and Collier (Pitt) work brilliantly. His quick lessons of war by Collier hit home.

The meal sequence was a perfect comparative piece as Collier (Pitt) and Ellison (Logan Lerman – Percy Jackson) attempt to have a moment of normalcy in which they sit at a table to have a meal with two German women. The rest of team inevitably crash the party. It was a perfect statement exemplifying that war changes everything and everyone.

That normalcy is weakness but where it was interesting at first, it dragged on far too long. Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) was demented but also quite irritating as his character continued to yammer. Where I felt compassion for the man, I soon prayed for a bombshell to get him off the screen. Terrible to say for such a film.

Shia LaBeouf (Transformers) was an unexpected surprise. After all the controversy surrounding his personal life and the rumours going around about his “method acting”; one particular rumour being that he actually pulled out one of his own teeth to get the feel of the character, he gave a good (and quite normal) performance.

The action was brutal, graphic and violent. It made a change to have a tank warfare film (I can’t recall too many tank movies in particular). The set pieces in which the tanks battle against each other were brilliantly executed.

The claustrophobia and pressure of fighting in a tank was captured perfectly. Ayer allowed for some moments of camaraderie between the rag tag team of misfits and showed how in sync they had to be to survive attack after attack.

To be honest, I was happy to see more of that. The only problem is that the more explosions and battle sequences we got in the second half of the film, they seemed to mesh into one continuous sequence and what didn’t help is that some of the characters didn’t really shine as much as you anticipated. You felt empathy because of what they were fighting for but otherwise . . .

Michael Pena (End of Watch) was highly unmemorable merely repeating other character’s lines and stating the obvious, “That’s five against 300”. A shame considering how talented an actor he is. Bernthal’s indecipherable yammering did my nut in and after a while LaBeouf’s preaching prattled on a bit.

The ending was tragically predictable which is a statement in itself as how many outcomes can there be in a war? I will certainly not forget what those men went through but will I remember this film? I mean Saving Private Ryan had an array of characters with such a simple story line but it had me engrossed, routing for them.

Fury caught my attention but I could feel my eyes wavering over that watch again.

The set pieces are good, if a little repetitive. The cast do their best if their characters are not as rounded as you would hope. Ayer delivers a visceral, if overlong, war drama but it didn’t quite hit it off for me.

3/5

RIO 2 REVIEW

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Enough silly animation to entertain the little ‘uns. A watchable, colourful sequel that fails to beat the original but just about gets away with it.

Here we join Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway), now complete with three loveable kids, as they trade the frantic festival city life of Rio de Janeiro for the wilds of the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in, he goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel (Jermaine Clement), and meets his most fearsome adversary of all: his father-in-law, Eduardo (Andy Garcia).

The animation is brilliantly detailed and very colourful, providing luscious landscapes which makes for great viewing. The story is hardly original but with likeable characters it just about gets away with it as everyone can relate to feeling the outsider or having to face their partner’s in-law or parent.

There’s enough action, gags and musical numbers to keep the movie flapping along nicely. Miguel Ferrer plays a relatively generic and stocky sinister logging constructor who is threatening to destroy the natural Amazonian habitat. Hardly memorable for the Kojak cherry lollypop sucking fiend. The real devil in this is the hilarious scene stealing Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords).

Always hilarious with his “altered” Shakespearean soliloquies and parody song numbers ripping a number of movies, it was a shame that Nigel was not in it enough. It felt like he was forced into the subplot a little. Luckily so.

His crew of misfits brought the odd laugh; the hyperactive poisonous frog with verbal diarrhea, the appropriately named Gabi (brilliantly voiced by Kristin Chenoweth – Pushing Daisies) and the silent Charlie Chaplinesque ant eater. Gabi’s infatuation with Nigel and song number, “Poisonous Love” was funny, if incredibly corny.

The cast bring the characters to life. Eisenberg and Hathaway convey the loving couple and Eisenberg is always good at playing the neurotic worrier, with his fanny pack in tow. The plot is corny, cheesy and predictable. What does stand out for Rio 2 is the supporting characters.

Will.i.am is dope as the pop-pop-poppin’ Pedro with the funky flapper Jamie Foxx. The talent show sequence was funny alone from the slow high-fiving tortoises, the wrecking ball swinging monkeys and a rapping Nicki-Minajesque sloth (Amy Heidemann from Karmin) that drops off after a rap that will have Busta Rhymes tipping his cap. Bruno Mars was hilarious as Roberto. His singing was decent, to be expected and his voice acting was actually pretty good as the lothario swooping in on Blu’s family.

However, certain characters were pushed into the background. George Lopez’s Rafael and Tracy Morgan’s dribbling pitbull, especially, were barely in it. While Tulio (I can’t believe it was 300’s Rodrigo Santoro) was unfortunately in it too much with his incessant squawking and stupidity. Andy Garcia was a surprise as the frustrated father-in-law. A nice change from the slimy slick roles we know and love him for. Leslie Mann also did her best with the limited screen time.

Not bad. Enough to keep the little ‘uns entertained for 90 minutes. If adults can get past the usual predictable guff then there’s just about enough to keep you giggling an’ all but hardly groundbreaking or outstanding.

Not the worst by a long shot but seen it a lot better. Got enough to keep flight but hardly soaring high or flopping like a turkey. Enough avarian based punnery, you get the gist. 2.5/5

Currently ranks #123 out of 168!

300: Rise of an Empire Review

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THIS IS . . . surprisingly watchable and not bad. We seek that day where sequels can surpass their masters. There have been legends. But alas, today is not that day. But don’t worry, it still bears the bare boned brutality, visual brilliance and enough gore and testosterone to cure your blood lust and fill up a swimming pool, well in this case, an ocean, a bloody ocean. I mean look at the picture. Anyway . . .

So what is this legend about, brother? Well, based on Frank Miller’s latest graphic novel Xerxes, and told in the breathtaking visual style of its predecessor, this new chapter of the epic saga takes the action to a fresh oceanic battlefield as Greek general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) attempts to unite all of Greece by leading the charge that will change the course of the war against the invading Persian forces led by the God king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), and vengeful naval commander, Artemesia (Eva Green).

Cue a watchable bloody battle of a movie in the best sense. The opening 20 minutes flicks back and forth and adds some depth and background to the blinged up, chained, tighty whitey wearing baldy badass that is Xerxes. It’s tough to call this a sequel as such. Rise of an Empire flicks before the infamous 300 battle, plays alongside the infamous battle time frame and then after. A bit like what Saw 4 tried to do. It works well and makes for a change. It zips along, delving into the Millerised Greek mythology chronicling the origins of Xerces and how he transformed from the weedy model looking Santoro to the testosterone pumped, voice changing reincarnation of Yul Bryner. It makes for good viewing and introduces Themistokles quite nicely, with Lena Headey’s somber narration guiding us along.

It does fill in a few gaps that the first left. Well little qualms. This is most notable when Themistokles rushes to Sparta to warn them of Xerves, just after Leonidas gave his response to the messenger. Unfortunately Leonidas is always somewhere else. I was hoping for one Butler cameo. It also worked as a great excuse to throw in some old faces from the original; Lena Headey, David Wenham (Lord of the Rings) and Peter Mensah (TV’s Spartacus). Stapleton makes for a likeable Themistokles and drops his so-so American accent. For those who might have clocked him, yes, he is the American in Strike Back. It’s tough boots for him to fill. Where he looks in the booming conviction (no one can top the sheer volume of Gerard Butler . . . well, Brian Blessed), he carries enough bravado to pull it off. It helps that Themistokles is an interesting character and a clever tactician. It made a change for the action to be taken out to sea and not repeat the 300 ground warfare, which makes for an entertaining battlefield.

However, all the build up and background is soon cast aside for the carnage. The visual effects are brilliant with the typical slow mo shots coming into effect. The blood spatter spraying across the screen does get annoying as it happens for almost every kill and gets a little cartoony. However, some of the kills are creative but it does seem to slow mo stab every soldier and animal. However, that is soon made up with crazy swordplay. The tactical battle sequences make for great viewing. The animation gets a little bit more messy as the film reaches its climax. The real scene stealer of the film is Eva Green, devilishly delightful, demure and demented. Crazy with a blade and a stunner to boot. There’s good chemistry between Green and Stapleton which inevitably leads to a fiery encounter on the battlefield . . . and in the bedroom. Seriously the sex scene. What was going on with that? Raunchy and rough soon climaxes (steady now) into an unintentionally hilarious punch up fist fight of a shag, I say. The cliched camaraderie between Testicles, I mean, Themistokles and his men is predictable and just doesn’t get away with it like the original. Surprise to see Jack O’Connell. He’s starting to show up in every thing, with his prison movie, Starred Up soon to hit the big screen. Shame, his character was a bit naff.

It might lack the cutting edge and tenacity of the original but is still watchable, gory and entertaining enough to kill 90 minutes. Hardly a war classic but not a complete ship wreck. 3 (just) out of 5!

Currently ranks #62 out of 154!