*NEW* BURNT REVIEW *NEW*

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Overcooked and overdone. Let’s hope Mr Cooper has a thick skin.

Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) is a chef who destroyed his career with drugs and diva behavior. He cleans up and returns to London, determined to redeem himself by spearheading a top restaurant that can gain three Michelin stars.

Penned by Steven Knight. Normally, I’m a big fan of the chap. Dirty Pretty Things was one of the best British films I had seen in a long time. BUT his latest offerings (Locke and Peaky Blinders) were very disappointing. Locke was an unintentionally comical showcase for Tom Hardy while Peaky Blinders (A fantastic gangster series that I had once called the best damn thing on TV) suffered from a stuttering second season.

Unfortunately (if you hadn’t gathered from that poorly punned tagline) that run has continued. Bradley Cooper does his best Gordon Ramsey impression BUT to no avail.

The first hour was actually quite watchable after a slow opening act with Cooper’s callous chef serving his “penance” by shucking out a million oysters. Yep. It really was as tedious as you think. BUT I was still intrigued to find out what Adam had done to make people detest him so much. Apparently, not a lot.

I would have preferred to see Cooper’s character burn out in the opening half than witness the dull aftermath. Some of the reasons were a little petty and boring while most of the group forgave him far too easily just because of his “reputation”. Best described using a Star Wars reference, “If he gets one more Michelin star, he’ll be like the Darth Vader of cooking”.

Cooper played it well as always. He had enough charisma to carry the piece BUT for every tense scene or engaging moment, there were a dozen cliched ones. Matthew Rhys was perfect as Adam’s old sous-chef (now bitter rival). If anything, I wished he was in it more. Their exchanges and fractious relationship was ripe for more heated confrontations. Unfortunately Knight only really scraped the surface.

And that was the problem. A great cast not used to their full potential. I couldn’t believe the amount of actors that popped up in this film. It was ridiculous. Daniel Bruhl didn’t do a bad turn as Tony. The son of a respected restaurateur trying to keep his late father’s legacy alive. The only problem was that his initial stubbornness and anger was always going to lead to the inevitable.

It was also a surprise to see Uma Thurman as a respected food critic. Shame that her character was only a passing cameo. Alicia Vikander was tragically wasted in her role. She looked stunning and had potential to cause so much more trouble for Adam. BUT it was resolved far too easily and didn’t even attempt to put out the fire burning between Cooper and Miller.

Sienna Miller and Bradley Cooper reunite once again (American Sniper). Their tense headbutting and predictable romance did enough to keep things ticking over. Cooper’s Ramsey-esque meltdown at her was brutal and nail biting. Miller was actually very good as the single mum battling to keep her catering career alive. The hokum romance did spoil things BUT their chemistry was good enough to roll out the doughy bits.

Emma Thompson was brilliant as Adam’s therapist. But heavily underused. Merely dishing out advice and keeping tabs on the recovering drug addict. A shame as the pair worked well together.

The shots of the meals and courses had my stomach rumbling. Food porn for the foodies out there. It was easygoing and pleasant enough with Adam’s tough guy demeanour finally cracking. There were even some zippy one liners; “What happened to your angel looks? Drink, cocaine and Louisiana”.

There just wasn’t enough made of the story or the cast. The second half lulled and sizzled out with a quite abrupt and corny ending. It was far too patchy, formulaic and predictable. That’s not to say it wasn’t watchable. Just disappointing.

2.5/5

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THE GUNMAN REVIEW

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Sean Penn doesn’t do many films but when he does . . .

They’re pretty damn boring.

So what’s it about? A sniper (Sean Penn) on a mercenary assassination team, kills the minister of mines of the Congo. Terrier’s successful kill shot forces him into hiding. Returning to the Congo years later, he becomes the target of a hit squad himself.

That was according to the IMDb. I had no idea what was going on. BUT by the end, I didn’t care.

From the director that brought you Taken . . .

Which one? 1-2-3? Oh, the first one. It should be okay, then. Biggest mistake of my life.

I expected no-nonsense, fist crunching, cars chasing, buildings exploding. ACTION! Not mindless exposition and cliched dialgoue with hammy characters that you couldn’t give two umphs about.

Sean Penn did his best. But his character was so weak and bland. He was the typical generic action hero.

Tortured good guy trying to do the right thing. Smitten with a woman he can’t have. Blah, blah, blah.

I don’t mind being force fed the same old predictable action movie bilge. Nothing’s original. BUT at least try and make it interesting or throw in lots of shiny explosions and high octane punch em ups to make up for it. Is that too much to ask?

Penn looked fit (Not in that way. Steady now). At 54, he proved he could still kick an ass or two. He dealt with the (little) action sequences we had on offer with ease.

I just wish his character didn’t feel like someone pulled out of The Expendables.

The plot was terrible. To make matters worse, it didn’t make any sense. The more they bleated on (and believe me, they did!), the more questions I had.

The opening didn’t really get things going at all. The whole Sky News reporting on The Congo showed potential. Keeping up with the times and building a story around it.

BUT oh how wrong I turned out to be.

The graphic footage and statistics were certainly an eye opener but they were soon pushed into the background for the usual Hollywood guff.

We are had to endure the drudge that was a hammy love triangle between Penn, Jasmine Trinca and Javier Bardem.

Bardem was probably one of the only saving graces. It’s just a shame that he got on my nerves as he went on. His *SPOILER* early departure from the film left a void that was never filled. The void being the rest of the film.

He played the part well as the sleazy operation leader hell bent on stealing Penn’s bird.

That was about as much as I got out of his murderous intent.

Seriously, the plot was that convoluted that it gave me a headache.

BUT don’t worry, it all ends the same way. That’s right. Corny as hell with no real thought or proper explanation. Lovely!

The problem with Bardem’s performance was that it was too manic. He went from a sleazebag to a drunken child within a few scenes. Bad writing. Bad interpretation. Shame.

Speaking of poor performances, Mark Rylance (Wolf Hall). Lordy lord. I couldn’t take him seriously. He sounded constipated. I kid you not. He looked the part. A slick, slimy corporate business type. Until he opened his mouth.

He wasn’t strong enough to be a lead villain. Even Penn didn’t look that convinced by him.

And Idris Elba. What was the point of him? What was his character’s relevance? He smarms his way in for about five minutes spouting some waffle to Penn about not building a treehouse in this garden today.

He chucks him a calling card (accompanied with a cheeky wink) and buggers off!

What a waste of a talented actor. The money must have been good. I mean, was his role cut in the film? To be honest, they missed a trick by not having his presence.

His character was a much needed injection. A bit of mystery. A quirky (if stupid) anecdote. BUT at least it was something.

The Gunman was dull, uninteresting and way too long. And considering it was called the Gunman. Penn didn’t use a lot of guns.

The action sequences were good when they appeared. Frantic, explosive but memorable? Hardly. They became a messy blur by the closing credits.

My main issue was that it seemed to take itself too seriously. The political commentary, the examination on the Congo, the endless “Will they, won’t they?” between Trinca and Penn (when we all knew they bloody would).

AND THEN as the final 30 minutes approached, they realised they had backed themselves into a corner and then desperately went out on an all-out offensive that just came off hammy, laughable and boring.

I mean, the showdown at the bull ring should have been brooding, tense and metaphorical. NOT hysterical.

I felt numb by the end. Deflated and my boredom still very much intact. To make matters worse, I looked to my movie massive (My two mates) and asked; “So why did they want him dead?”

The writer didn’t even make use of Penn’s forced plot device. A revelation that had potential to make this dud so much more.

Hardly spoilierific as it wasn’t explained or executed properly.

Penn’s character is diagnosed with an Alzheimers like disease. He has to record and write everything down. For a moment, I thought Memento meets American Sniper. Okay, let’s do this.

Oh no. Pardon the irony here but it seemed after introducing this newly discovered character flaw, they seemed to forget about it until the final 20 minutes when every time Penn has the chance to dispense some vengeance, what does he do?

He drops to the floor and wails about like’s he having the worst hangover ever!

The whole scorned man with nothing to lose as he’s about to lose the most precious thing of all has been done to death but it still could have offered something.

Not even Ray Winstone could save the day. You know you’re onto a loser when you’re praying for Ray’s messy mercenary to pop back into things.

Sean Penn should have corned him and said, “What are the odds of this film being recommended?”

(In gruffly Winstone voice) Defo worth seeing, san 1000/1.

Place your bets because I’m not.

And to make me laugh even further, I looked into the screenwriters. One of them. Sean Penn. Case closed.

AVOID.

1.5/5

AMERICAN SNIPER REVIEW

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Has Bradley Cooper got that Oscar in his sights? Only one way to find out . . .

Clint Eastwood delivers a riveting, if overlong, war biopic on the most lethal sniper in US history.

Bradley Cooper in one word. Fantastic.

I have been impressed by his versatility and range. To be able to go from The Hangover to American Hustle. His performances continue to surprise. As does this one.

The 132 minute length does test you a little in parts but every time I felt my eyes wandering, there was a revelation or a battle sequence to bring me back into the action.

It’s not perfect by any means BUT certainly one of the better ones.

The cinematography by Tom Stern (a regular Eastwood stalwart) provided a grainy murkiness to the Iraqi war zone. The panning shots as we followed the troops through the labyrinthine cityscape (now an open battlefield) got me right in the thick of it.

I couldn’t believe how much Cooper looked like Chris Kyle. Bulking up for the role and delivering a dusky drawl. A deserved nomination.

A simple cowboy who decided one day to become a SEAL. There were moments where I felt the whole ‘Murica spiel was a little schmaltzy for me BUT hey, that’s the cynic talking. I respect the man for his patriotism and that’s what he was. A patriot. He wanted to fight for his country. People have fought for less. So make of that what you will.

It didn’t spoil or hamper the film for me. The first act zipped along quite well. The opening certainly grabs your attention with Kyle having to make a serious judgement call involving a young boy and a suspected weapon.

It flicks back and forth showing his life as a young boy, his days as a cowboy and his SEALs training. The training montage was covered extensively in the opening of Lone Survivor BUT it was good to see the cast go through the process.

To be honest, I was happy to see more of this. It zipped along a little too quickly. It didn’t really put Kyle’s father in the best light. A stern man who wants his sons to be sheepdogs NOT wolves. Yeah, that didn’t make sense to me in the film. Nothing a good belting won’t straighten out.

It certainly gave you a sense of the man Kyle would become but maybe a little bit more depth would have been better.

The sniper sequences were tense and riveting. Seeing it through the POV of Kyle’s scope was harrowing and brutal. Hardly original to the Call of Duty nuts but effective.

There were moments of horror and suspense. It certainly plays the ethics card. Split second decisions that could save or kill the unit. Decisions I couldn’t even imagine making. Some heart in mouth stuff.

The sandstorm sequence was exhilarating. Some would argue that it was shot terribly but that’s kind of the point. You couldn’t see a thing. You couldn’t tell who was your enemy and in an ambush?! Words fail me.

I felt Eastwood spent a little too much time on the unit dynamic with a supporting cast that for a majority of the time either kept changing or were hardly that memorable. This was where marks got knocked down. I know this is Kyle’s story but there aren’t many who get a look in, including his own wife.

Sienna Miller was very good as Taya Kyle. She had great chemistry with Cooper. I never rated Miller’s past roles; the sex pot. But we got to see some actual acting from the gal. She nailed the accent and played it really well. I would have liked to see more of her. (No, not like that. Acting wise. Honest!)

I wanted more of the family dynamic. The last act does focus on that which certainly hits home by the closing minutes. BUT (for example) I wanted a little more explanation on Kyle’s brother, Jeff. Someone who we followed, with Chris, for a good 30-40 minutes of the film who then disappears without a real reason.

You get a general idea of what happened by how Jeff acts after his first tour in Iraq BUT it would have been nice to see him again, a passing comment OR at least a mention in the closing credits.

You can see Kyle’s dedication soon become an obsession. The more tours he embarks on, the harder the strain on his family. It certainly doesn’t paint Kyle as the all American patriot. Intent on catching The Butcher (Mido Hamada) and a (free-running) sniper hell bent on claiming the bounty of the legendary sniper felt like a morbid competition.

I’m a little concerned that Hamada and Navid Negahban (Homeland) have become typecast in the terrorist roles. They both play them so well but still . . .

Kyle’s re-adjustment into civilian life was heartbreaking. Every little sound keeping him on edge. His inability to cope. It was captured well and was subtle in it’s approach. The legend around him taking its toll.

This is where I became more engrossed. The final 30 minutes unearthed more on the treatment of the returning veteran and allowed for some harrowing statements.

I felt the CGI left a little to be desired. Cooper superimposed on a bull and the deer really stuck out. Also, don’t let the fake baby put you off. If you’re thinking, “What?” and are not aware of this; there is a scene in which Cooper is supposed to be holding his daughter and it is the worst fake baby I’ve seen. BUT don’t let this little plastic prop spoil what was a well acted scene.

This may not be the best war film. It’s tough not to compare it to so many other classics BUT it hooked me for the majority of the time (A challenge in itself) and by the closing minutes it got to me. I don’t want to spoil the film too much because I want people to see this.

BUT now, I find my loyalties torn on the Best Actor category now. I have to agree after seeing the majority of the Oscar nominated pics (Whiplash this week! EXCITED!) that the right people have been chosen this time around (Tatum should have got a nod BUT that’s another review 😉

With all the Oscar excitement, Cooper has to ask himself one thing. Does he feel lucky? Well . . .

If my pick loses, then I wouldn’t complain if Cooper took his place.

A sterling performance from a fantastic actor and an engaging, if flawed, biopic makes this one worth taking a shot.

3.5/5