*NEW* TROLLS REVIEW *NEW*

I didn’t find my happy place watching this.

After the Bergens invade Troll Village, Poppy (Anna Kendrick), the happiest Troll ever born, and the curmudgeonly Branch (Justin Timberlake) set off on a journey to rescue her friends.

Curmudgeonly? Word of the day. Had to grab a dictionary for that little doozy. That’s what you get for “borrowing” press releases. Anyway . . .

I had to laugh at the irony that the singer cast in the lead role voices a troll that won’t sing (Well until 70 minutes into the film).

This really is one for the little ‘uns. I couldn’t take the sugary sweet highly saturated animation with its ever-so-corny life messages. An insulin overdose for this diabetic.

It certainly didn’t win me over when a group of glitter-clad trolls were shooting glitter bombs out of each other’s backsides. Too much!

How does Russell Brand still get in movies? He’s like a foul stench that won’t go away. It was a toss up between him and James Corden for most annoying British comic to voice a troll. I could feel my hopes fading fast and that was only in the first 15 minutes!

I actually prayed for them to be eaten by a Bergen.

Director Walt Dohrn made more of an impression in his hilarious and tragically small cameo as the (appropriately titled) Cloud Guy. Give me five! Woah. GEAR SHIFT!

BUT that’s not to say that the film didn’t have its moments. I couldn’t think of anybody better than Pitch Perfect’s Anna Kendrick to take on the role of Princess Poppy. Belting out some cracking medleys that meshed up Earth, Wind and Fire, Junior Senior and Simon and Garfunkel.

A crazy mix BUT it worked. Even my grumbling subdued for those sequences.

“The world isn’t all cupcakes and rainbows”

JT played the part of the miserable Branch brilliantly. The social outcast locked away in his Bergen proof bunker. Branded a laughing stock while the rest of the clan party, hug and sing (Shudders)

He worked well with Kendrick and the pair made an entertaining duo. Poppy’s mad energy and infectious enthusiasm battling Branch’s endless paranoia and pessimism.

I tried not to pick at the flimsy story line. Some guff about Bergens eating trolls as their source of happiness. A Bergen can never be happy if they have never tasted a troll. Really? They seemed pretty happy hunting them and cooking them.

Christine Baranski (The Good Wife) played the dastardly Chef with aplomb. Determined to hunt down all the trolls to save herself from exile.

Christophe Beck’s soundtrack choices were excellent. I didn’t expect to see the Bergens slumping around to Gorillaz’s Sunshine In A Bag.

Apart from JT’s (Oscar nominated) toe tapping Can’t Stop the Feeling, the original material left little to be desired. It didn’t help that Kendrick’s voice really grated against me while singing ‘Get Up Again’.

The silly little subplot involving King Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and his hand maiden Bridget (Zooey Deschanel) was entertaining enough and made up for the lacklustre journey.

I expected a bit more of an adventure. They got to the Bergen kingdom pretty quickly which made me think that they didn’t hide that well in the first place!

Deschanel was funny as the ditsy Bergen desperate to catch the king’s eye. Her attempts to woo him were comical. Her rendition of Lionel Richie’s Hello had me in stitches.

I didn’t even recognize The Big Bang Theory’s Kunal Nayyar as the auto-tuning troll Guy Diamond. Maybe that was a good thing.

It was a movie of moments. There were some good ones and some bad ones. It was watchable enough and killed the time BUT memorable?

It had enough to entertain the little ‘uns BUT the bigger kids . . . Well. I’d recommend Sing instead.

BUT I’ll let you be the judges.

2.5/5

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*NEW* THE ACCOUNTANT REVIEW *NEW*

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Best film of the year? Don’t count on it.

Warning contains moderate forensic accounting.

As a math savant (Ben Affleck) uncooks the books for a new client, the Treasury Department closes in on his activities and the body count starts to rise.

An engaging action packed thriller that delivers on the punch ups BUT stumbles on the plot and pace.

Ben Affleck played the stern faced socially awkward maths wiz perfectly. Unemotional, relentless and yet beneath his cold exterior; someone desperate to connect.

The first hour was slow burning BUT engrossing as the film flicked back and forth delving into the mysterious Christian Wolff. Cold, calculated and clever.

We watched him undergo his daily routine from eating with the same cutlery to wearing the same shirt. The questions mounting as he subjected himself to strobe lighting and heavy metal music while testing his sensitivity threshold. The flashbacks teasing mere tidbits of his troubled past.

I’m happy that the actual accounting side of it all was skimmed over. In that small 15 minute segment with stats and figures flying around, my mind felt numb. No matter how enthusiastic Affleck tried to make it.

We get it. People hide money. Well done.

The accounting angle simply established the inner workings of our protagonist. A meticulous mad man intent on seeing out the task in hand.

Thankfully, that was just a introduction for Christian to meet Dana (Anna Kendrick).

Kendrick was actually quite good. A much more subtle performance. I’m normally used to her doing the usual OTT fast talking schtick in everything.

The pair had good chemistry. Their blossoming relationship may have been a little corny BUT the awkward exchanges and glances allowed us to see a different side to the hard man as he grows concerned for the quirky clerk’s safety. Dana’s attempts to make conversation with Christian was cringe-inducing BUT endearing.

The fighting sequences were fast and furious. Affleck used all that Bat-bulk to deliver some well choreographed fist fights and shoot em up gun battles.

It was only when we moved into the second hour that things fell apart at the seams. The pace could have been cut by a good 30 minutes. Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Arrow) was completely unnecessary as Marybeth Medina. The analyst assigned to locating the accountant.

Her subplot was terrible. We endured a good portion of the film watching her regurgitate everything we already knew. She brought nothing to the fold. It didn’t help that she never caught up with the anti-hero at any point. Dismal. As much I’m a fan of J.K. Simmons; despite one revelation, anyone could have played him. If at all!

There were two areas where that time should have been spent. The first being Christian’s actual back story. The flashbacks into his past weren’t explored enough. They may have explained the type of autism that Christian had BUT I wanted more of his childhood. Especially when he had such a ruthless and unsympathetic father.

Robert C. Treveiler (The Mist) was menacing as Christian’s military dad. Refusing to accept his son’s condition and teaching him a harsh life lesson; ““If loud noises and bright lights bother him, he needs more, not less”. Forcing the boy to undergo intense training to adapt and not be a door mat.

I wanted more of this intense relationship BUT the tidbits were few and far between. Only really thrown in when the pace (tragically) dragged.

I also wish we had more of Jon Bernthal’s (The Walking Dead) Brax. A charismatic opponent and a bi-polar opposite of Christian. Not enough of him. Delivering suspense and tension with every unlucky person that had the pleasure of meeting him. A missed presence that was only really brought back for the frantic fiery finale.

John Lithgow (3rd Rock From The Sun) and Jean Smart (24) were completely wasted in their feeble roles as Christian’s corporate clients.

BUT it wasn’t all bad. At its best, it was brutal, gripping and tense with another stellar performance from Affleck. It was just a shame that the pace and flawed plot line hampered things. Despite an ultra-violent finale, that delivered a few twists, it ended on such a bum note. Shame.

If you’re a fan of the Bourne movies, then this one is for you.

3/5

*NEW* MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES REVIEW *NEW*

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Mike and Dave needed better writers.

Two hard-partying brothers (Adam Devine and Zac Efron) place an online ad to find the perfect dates for their sister’s Hawaiian wedding. Hoping for a wild getaway, the boys instead find themselves out-hustled by an uncontrollable duo (Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick).

OTT, crude with the odd laugh. Not as bad as I thought it would be BUT that not great either.

The opening didn’t really build my hopes up (I’m getting fed up of writing this sentence). It was established from the get go that the juvenile brothers were complete morons. Their feeble attempt at hustlin’ a new client to buy their booze was okay. BUT I could feel my eyes wandering towards my phone already. NOT even Plaza and Kendrick’s introduction did anything to improve matters.

However, once the wedding date proposal came into play, things picked up. The awkward dating encounters that the Brothers Stangle endured did have me smiling. Attracting all sorts of nutters. A particular highlight involving a man dressed up as a woman desperate for the vacation and willing to do anything for it.

It’s good to see Efron letting loose and poking fun at himself. Dirty Grandpa seemed to shake off his squeaky clean High School Musical image. I’ve never really rated Devine (Pitch Perfect). He always grated against me BUT (thankfully) by the end, the pair won me over. They worked well together and there were moments where you could tell they were trying not to laugh.

Speaking of Dirty Grandpa, Plaza played the feisty foul mouthed slutty role yet again with pretty much the same results. Hilarious in one moment, annoying as hell the next. If anything she played the part better when she was trying to be serious.

I was surprised to see Little Miss Pitch Perfect Anna Kendrick tweaking on ecstasy and effin’ and jeffin’. A complete role change for her. The silly subplot in which her character dealt with her own wedding grief didn’t really come off as well as it should have. BUT once Kendrick was able to bring her schtick to the fold, she nailed it.

“Did you just push your t*ts up and say feminism?!” There was fun to be had and there were genuine moments where I laughed out loud as Mike and Dave met their match with the two ladies. Devine and Plaza were good together especially during Tatiana’s attempts to evade Mike’s advances.

The rest of the supporting cast were a mixed bag. Jake Johnson (New Girl) was completely wasted in his role. Anyone could have played him. Was he supposed to be a passing cameo or was the rest of his part edited in the cutting room? Shame.

Sam Richardson (Veep) never really got going as Jeanie’s boring groom-to-be Eric. Once he broke out of his shell, he was hilarious. Not enough. Sugar Lyn Beard was quite funny as the Stangle’s little sis Jeanie.

Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) was mental as the creepy masseuse that gave Jeanie “the VIP treatment” (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink). Swinging his nude carcass in like a wrecking ball. However, the entertaining sequence soon went too far and killed the fun.

Alice Wetterlund was really annoying as Mike and Dave’s lesbian Cousin Terry. Her quest to steal any girl away from Mike for fun. The problem was that it just wasn’t funny. Her attempts to “woo” Tatiana and a naked punch up in a spa was just terrible.

Stephen Root (Office Space) didn’t really deliver as the frustrated father. I wanted more of him. The film did try to explore the characters as they addressed their flaws. BUT it was just never going to be that kind of movie. It just dragged the piece and came off really corny. Especially when they didn’t really change that much anyway.

It was watchable and killed the time. The quad bike incident was brilliant – “You look like Burnt Victim Barbie and . . .  you’re Black Ken”. If these quotes aren’t grabbing you, then this movie won’t.

The finale was stupid, OTT BUT left a smile. If you’re in the mood for a silly crude comedy that fits the style of Dirty Grandpa then give it a go. BUT otherwise, don’t bother.

2.5/5

*NEW* 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI REVIEW *NEW*

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Everything you could expect from a Bay flick and (surprisingly) more.

As an American ambassador is killed during an attack at a U.S. compound in Libya, a security team struggles to make sense out of the chaos.

At first; I didn’t know if I was going to be able to tolerate the relentless and OTT ‘Murica speeches, the nauseating clichéd family conversations and ridiculous banter from the incredibly macho team BUT once the siege took effect, I was hooked.

All that mind numbing rubbish thrown out of the window for a tense, riveting and nail biting thriller. A perfect platform for some very underrated supporting actors to steal the spotlight.

The first 40 minutes really was everything I expected from the Transformers director. It was big, bold with regular Bay stalwart Dion Beebe’s glossy cinematography making even the most grittiest Libyan slum look picturesque.

An incredibly unnecessary and testosterone fuelled stand off with James Badge Dale’s (Flight) cocky Tyrone and a group of Libyan rebels didn’t really give me high hopes. His macho demeanour and cock sure attitude just grated against me BUT once all the machismo and camaraderie between the group had subsided, he was actually quite good.

John Krasinki delivered a solid performance as newbie Jack. A perfect transition from the comedy circuit (The Office USA) to some serious acting. The last thing I watched this guy in was Lip Sync Battle against Anna Kendrick.

David Costabile (Breaking Bad) played the stuffy chief head caught up with the bureaucracy well. Not enough of him in my opinion. A lot more could have been made with his character. BUT it’s a difficult task when you’re trying to stay true to real life events. Something I was surprised to see Bay actually do. The only exaggeration here was, of course, the explosions and carnage.

Once the team of misfits were assigned to the Ambassador’s (Matt Letscher – The Flash) security detail, my interest was peaked. A slow burning thriller was set. The paranoia and tension bubbling away. I was completely caught up in it. Wondering if the casual passer by or cabbie was a possible enemy. Taking a picture of the compound to send to a militant? Or just sending a text? A distressed civilian trying to warn the guys? Or merely a distraction?

As night descended and the inevitable siege took place, a Black Hawk Down style scenario developed. Out manned, outgunned and no reinforcements on the way, 13 men had one hell of a task ahead of them.

You could bank on Bay to deliver an exhilarating and fast paced shoot em up. BUT despite a redemptive and thrilling second half, he still suffered from the same old flaws. The pace was far too long. This could have been cut by a good 30 to 45 minutes and been much better for it. It really did test by the closing minutes.

For all the intense and explosive action (Bay’s specialty), it was tough in parts to catch who was doing what. It was too dark. It helped add to the claustrophobia BUT you soon couldn’t see a damn thing. And then there was too much going on. Random blurs and endless numbers of faceless foes being shot left, right and centre didn’t help.

Toby Stephens (Black Sails) was wasted in his minute role. Anyone could have played the part. His character nothing more than a foot note to highlight the inefficiency and hypocrisy of ‘cutting through the red tape’ just to send support.

I was surprised at the dark humour and satire that popped up in this. Kids running around playing football while growing insurgents were creeping closer and closer. I couldn’t believe it. There was a moment where during the first wave of attack, the gang look over the compound wall to catch a neighbour sitting in his back garden watching the telly. What?!

The closing minutes may have tested as the explosions kept coming BUT it still left a little lump in the throat with a fitting tribute to the lives lost. Accompanied by real news footage of the Libyan civilians that mourned that fateful night.

A little long at the tooth BUT once it going, it was hard hitting and nail biting. A return to form of sorts for the Bay-ster. Good to see him do something other than Transformers.

3/5

PITCH PERFECT 2 REVIEW

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Aca-trocios

The Bellas are back. Prepare to get Pitch Slapped. (Delightful :/) Whether you’ll enjoy it this time around is another story.

After a humiliating performance at the Lincoln Center, the Barden Bellas enter an international competition that no American group has ever won in order to regain their status and right to perform.

Surprisingly, I actually didn’t mind the first film. I was “forced” to watch it (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). I’m not normally into things like this. Glee? No. PP was cheesy, OTT BUT funny and entertaining. Shame, lightning couldn’t strike twice.

It was watchable but it just didn’t quite hit the same notes that the first one did (Yeah, I made a musical based pun joke. Crushed it).

The heavily advertised opening didn’t get things going for me. If anything, there was too much going on. The acapella dance routine was manic. The choreography along with the bombardment of camera shots and angles made it all a little disorienting. There was a point to it by the end. But we had to endure several more sequences of it.

However, John (John Michael Higgins) and Gail (Elizabeth Banks) were back on fine form as the bitchy commentators. Higgins came out with some corkers straight off the bat.

A wardrobe malfunction with Fat Amy (Perfectly timed to a cover of Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball) in front of the President of the United States (And no! Barack Obama was not in the film. They allowed shots of him) leads to the lovely ladies getting banned from performing. Aca-no way?

The film does pick up and was harmless enough. Anna Kendrick was still pretty good. Great voice. A lovely little singer. We join Beca as she finds her obligations torn between the Bellas and her internship at a record label.

Rebel Wilson was actually not as irritating or in the film as much as I thought. She won me over in Pitch Perfect and seemed to fare better when she improvised. An anagram of Becca and Chloe got an anecdote I didn’t expect. But some of the bigger gags and stunts involving her were too OTT, unnecessary and unfunny.

An unexpected romance between her and another character didn’t really make any sense and didn’t add any depth to her character. Shame. I won’t spoil anything but it was sloppy.

Skylar Astin was a missed presence. He had the charm and charisma but was reduced to only a few scenes. Obviously, his relationship with Beca was set up in the PP but there could have been potential for more drama as Beca tried to balance singing and producing.

In all honesty, they didn’t make much of the record producing angle either.

Beca’s Christmas jingle with Snoop Dogg. You read that, right? Christmas in June? Say what? Snoop was off the hook. For shiz- He was okay. I thought he was Snoop Lion now?

Keegan-Michael Key was highly unfunny as Beca’s record producer boss. An ongoing joke with his cousin as a runner was dead in the water after 30 seconds. He even went for the same nauseating joke my uncle used to pull at parties with the “I’ll keep forgetting your name and say something else” spiel. Hilarious. NOT!

There was a lazy boot camp sequence that seemed like nothing more than a ploy to get Anna Kamp back into the mix. The camping gags were so-so but there were so many missed opportunities. Instead we had Rebel Wilson doing an incredibly OTT love song across a lake that went on far too long. Okay, I had a guilty chuckle as a passing car decided to disturb Amy’s groove.

When it came to the actual singing, the film thankfully hits its stride. A mish-mesh of 80s pop hits, 90s jams and current singles were incorporated brilliantly into the stand-offs. The Bellas’ cover of the soundtrack’s main song ‘Flashlight’ by Jessie J was brill. I preferred it to the actual song.

Das Sound Machine were the much needed catalyst that got the best of the characters that seemed to be pushed into the background. The lazy German/US rivalry was old hat but it was still entertaining enough. Their performances were superb.

I couldn’t believe that Birgitte Hjort Sorensen from Borgen was in this as the head honcho. She couldn’t dance though, bless her. The playful exchanges between Beca and Kommissar were quite funny as the towering blonde goddess (What?) used her prowess to unsettle the “feisty fairy”. The random babble that Kendrick came out with was very hit and miss.

Funny after all the advertising, the World War reference wasn’t even included in the theatrical cut. Hmmm . . .

It just didn’t work as well. Some of the better supporting characters were barely in it or quickly thrown in out of desperation to get a quick titter (Come on, don’t laugh at that word). Some bits worked and I wasn’t bored. BUT others didn’t and it was actually what I expected the first time around. Unfunny, dreadfully cheesy and OTT.

Adam DeVine’s Bumper returned? Why? Were they desperate to make everything full circle? He was too tame after his arrogant turn in the first. Boring.

Benji (Ben Platt) came off really weird and annoying. I felt sorry for the chap in PP1. BUT this time, he did my nut in. Hailee Steinfeld wasn’t too bad as the Bella’s new recruit but she definitely tried to channel her inner Benji and to be honest, one of them was enough. She really did grate on my nerves.

There was a nice cameo from Katey Sagal as Steinfeld’s mum. But her role was nothing. We know she can sing. All she gets is a backing vocal in a small choir. A waste.

Hana Mae Lee was great! Her inaudible comments delivering the (much needed) laughs. Chrissie Fit’s sassy Latina Flo felt like a mish-mesh of Lilly and Fat Amy. We already have one weird girl coming out with weird stuff. Well, two if you count Amy. The border patrol gags were a little stereotypical and just not funny.

They tried too hard and it just didn’t quite come off. The songs saved the day and it wasn’t a bad debut from Banks. But I’m sorry.

Aca-scuse me but it’s a . . .

2.5/5

INTO THE WOODS REVIEW

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Into the scrap heap? There’s only one way to find out.

This mixed bag of a macabre musical will certainly split audiences but I actually didn’t mind it.

(Said the guy who reviewed the Annie remake a few weeks ago)

I’m not a big musical fan BUT I’ve dabbled in the odd one or two. The classics; The King and I, The Sound of Music (Man points dropping with each title), Moulin Rouge (What?) and now Into The Woods.

I didn’t realise that this was adapted from a successful Broadway musical. So unfortunately I won’t be able to make comparisons.

Rob Marshall, the man who brought us the excellent Chicago and . . .  Nine, takes on another musical. With mixed results.

So what’s it all about? A witch (Meryl Streep) tasks a childless baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) with procuring magical items from classic fairy tales to reverse the curse put on their family tree.

The cast, bar one exception, were excellent. All perfectly chosen for their roles.

Meryl Streep proves once again why she is the best actress going, earning yet another Oscar nomination (and rightly so). I had forgotten what a great voice she had. I know! She was in Mamma Mia! But let’s be honest, that was a mess. Fun but a mess.

The sound of Pierce Brosnan’s “singing” voice will haunt my dreams forever. BUT that’s another story.

Anyway, Streep was superb and no uncontrollable arm waving this time.

She played The Witch with aplomb. Stealing every scene and singing some belters. Not enough of her.

Her closing song, “Last Midnight” was brilliantly done but her dramatic exit was a little unexpected and a bit abrupt. Which pretty sums up the last 20 minutes of the film.

After his turn in Horrible Bosses 2, I knew Chris Pine would be up for a laugh. His performance as Prince Charming was very good.

Especially during the “Agony” song. Pine and Billy Magnusson’s sing-off poked fun at the Disney prince archetype. Pine ripping his shirt off to show his muscles, Magnusson hitting the higher notes while trying to puff out his chest and flex. Hilarious.

Anna Kendrick was (to be expected) very good as Cinders. I knew she could sing after her performance in Pitch Perfect.

The opening prologue certainly got things going and introduced all the characters perfectly.

Daniel Huttlestone irritated the hell out of me in Les Miserables. A french peasant with a ridiculous cockney accent. You what? However he surprised me as Jack. Still a Cockney but it worked this time round.

Tracey Ullman (Where has she been?) was funny as Jack’s mother. Slapping him round the head in worry, hugging him the next.

Emily Blunt was fantastic (And what a voice!) as the Baker’s wife. James Corden was also brilliant. They had great chemistry and made a loveable couple.

The Baker couple were part of an original story line. It was clever how they reworked and incorporated some of the most popular fairy tales with their story line using the woods as the meeting point.

It didn’t cover too much of the same ground with the fairy tales we all love and know.

It merely showed each character returning to the woods after a pivotal moment in their story line i.e. Jack coming down the beanstalk with the gold egg, Cinderella running away from the prince, etc.

The Rapunzel story line didn’t really amount to anything. If not for Streep and Magnusson, it would have been completely unnecessary.

A revelation quite early on in the film involving her story line had so much potential but wasn’t never mentioned again or resolved. A missed opportunity. Mackeznie Mauzy certainly looked fantastic but didn’t really do much. I don’t think she even sang.

To be honest, if it wasn’t for Tangled, there would have been some serious plot holes for people not familiar with her story. (Man points gone!)

Johnny Depp had the easiest role going as the Wolf. He played it to perfection with his Bowie-esque voice.

But the song he sang. Hmmm . . . “Hey Little Girl” really made him sound quite lechy. If it wasn’t the fact that it was the Wolf singing about eating Little Red Riding Hood, it would have been a little unsettling.

Lilla Crawford had a fantastic little voice but I found her really irritating as Little Red. I mean I think Sondheim was deliberately portraying her as a little brat but she really did grate against me.

The film zipped along and kept things going but an hour and 30 minutes in, I wondered how much further this could go and with another 40-odd minutes, I could feel my attention wavering.

The songs were starting to go on a little bit and were not quite as gripping or as memorable. Don’t get me wrong, they were sang to perfection but hardly “The Hills Are Alive”.

What baffled and surprised me was how the film’s final act took such an unexpected turn. It flips everything up in the air with the stories veering away from their intended happy endings. The woods again being the brewing pot.

There were a few surprises to be had and I respected it’s attempt. It was actually a bit darker than I expected for Disney.

BUT it also left things a little too unresolved and ended abruptly with people disappearing with no explanation or a passing comment.

For all the bad press, I actually didn’t mind it. Not the best musical I’ve seen but a nice relief after the barrage of bilge I’ve had to endure this week.

3/5