*NEW* SICARIO REVIEW *NEW*

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Two stand out performances redeem an overhyped and underwhelming thriller.

An idealistic FBI agent (Emily Blunt) is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.

After a gripping and brutal opening sequence involving a botched raid, the film seemed to meander along. Thankfully, Blunt was superb and really carried the film as she delved into the murky underbelly of Juarez.

The first hour was far too slow for my liking. BUT I was still intrigued to see where it was going. The cryptic conversations and stone walled pallor of Josh Brolin created an air of mystery and suspense. BUT I needed more. It didn’t help that a good portion of what was happening was very disjointed and confusing.

Luckily the introduction of Del Toro’s Alejandro spiced things up. He was brilliant. BUT after a while, Johann Johannson’s brooding soundtrack and Del Toro’s blank staring soon got on my nerves. I constantly questioned his motives and general relevance, to be honest.

Blunt’s frustration personified mine perfectly. Del Toro’s warning to her was a nice little indication of things to come. “Nothing will make sense to your American ears and you will doubt everything we do”. So I kept my griping to a minimum. Waiting for answers or a big twist to redeem this surprisingly patchy affair.

The sweeping shots of a downtrodden Juarez were a sight to see. Captured perfectly with Roger Deakins’ cinematography. A gritty underworld. The rifle fire riddling across the night sky like fireworks was a nice touch.

It was great to see Daniel Kaluuya from Psychoville in this. He delivered an impeccable accent and a sterling supporting turn. An impressive transition for the BBC Three star. I was also happy to see Jeffrey Donovan from Burn Notice finally getting a movie role. Shame, it was such a weak one.

Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) was completely wasted in his role. His character felt unnecessary and nothing more than a catalyst to spark some much needed action.

After all the slow burning build up, cryptic mumbling and waiting, I expected this to go out with a bang. It delivered a finale of sorts. The closing act was tense, atmospheric and nail biting. The answers finally revealed as we unearthed Alejandro’s true agenda.

The only problem was that after all the mystery, I really hoped it wasn’t going to be so predictable. The twist. Well, if you could it call it that. I saw it coming a mile away. Maybe I’ve seen too many thrillers of this genre to be surprised. For all the confusion, I was hoping that there would be more to unveil. BUT alas, it was not to be.

What didn’t help was that as Del Toro took the centre stage, it was at the expense of Blunt’s character who was pushed into the background. She was far too passive and really didn’t know what was going. It was disappointing that someone we had followed for two hours wasn’t really in the final moments.

If not for a tense stand off with Del Toro, her character would have gone out with a whimper. Which sums up my impression of the film.

At its best, tense, nail-biting and suspenseful. At its worst, patchy, overlong and dull. From the director of Prisoners? Thriller of the year? I expected so much more.

3/5

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR REVIEW

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I loved Sin City. It’s visceral hard boiled pulp story lines. The noir characters. The beautifully animated graphic underworld that literally lifts off the pages of Miller’s comic books. It was always going to be tough for a sequel. This time round, it’s a mixed bag. A violent, sexy one but mixed.

The animation is fantastic. The 3D? Well what 3D? Not an investment. (Yet again). The film launches you straight into the madness with an incredibly unhinged Marv going on yet another killing spree in the dark underbelly of Basin City. Rourke is brilliant but I couldn’t help but feel Marv’s irrational behaviour was ridiculous, bordering on overkill. His revenge spree in the first film had some warped justification. This time, not so much. I mean Marv is in a much more volatile state with blackouts and confusion galore. The littlest glance or grunt throwing him into a merciless rage.

Now I must advise you to watch the first movie. I hadn’t seen it in ages. And remember it has been NINE years. That’s right. Nine years since its release. This is very much a prequel/sequel of sorts. This will be made clear with Marv when a certain character appears. I was baffled and confused until I went back to the original. Scratching my head as to how he survived the electric . . . Oh wait. The same can be said for Dwight. Brolin takes over the helm from Clive Owen. Brolin’s drawl voice and grimacing face pulling are spot on. His delivery of Miller’s lines are sublime. A true noir actor. His storyline involving the dame to kill for (and I would kill for her) Eva Green reeked of the stories of old. The ultimate femme fatale. It may come off a little pastiche and predictable but it’s great to see a re-visiting of the classics.

Eva Green was born for the role. Conniving but attractive on the eye. Her beauty a trap for any foolish man. The reason why Dwight had to change his face. Miller seemed to cut the amount and reduce the length of story lines. There was two main stories with two little subplots (new stories for the movie) running along aside them. The new story lines involve Nancy (Alba) and Johnny (Joseph Gordon Levitt). JGL was to be expected charismatic and perfect for the part. He has proven that he can do the noir protagonist after Brick. He rolls off Miller’s lines like he was born in that world. He boosts the film and to be honest I wanted to see more of his story line.

However, for all it’s potential, it ends all rather abruptly. His speech at the poker table would be something that QT would love. A lesson in power if ever there was one but disappointing after such a suspenseful build up. But it is a typical noir ending as his cocky ambition gets the best of him as he takes on Rourke (Powers Boothe) in a game of poker.

Powers Boothe was deliciously sinister with his shark toothed grin, lapping up every moment of it. A perfectly cast villain, composing all his past bad guys role into one nasty piece of work. The one aspect of Sin City that I felt pushed this glossy colourful seedy crime saga over its ridiculously violent edge was the inhabitants of Old Town. Too much time spent on it in the first film. Miller must have realised this and only brings in Gail (Rosario Dawson) and samurai wielding assassin Miho (The alluring Jamie Chung now replacing Devon Aoki) to assist Dwight. And they are actually taken out of Old Town.

Dawson was less irritating this time round for me and Chung did as well as she could playing a silent killer. Of course, there was ridiculous sword play and white blood spread across the screen, along with various body parts. Dennis Haysbert was relentless as Manute (taking over the reins from the late Michael Clarke Duncan). He will always be David Palmer but it made a change to see him play the thug. It also made some of the references in the first film make so much more sense.

I never felt so dirty watching a film. Jessica Alba manages to outdo her infamous strip tease dance number. In fact, she delivers one every time one of the characters enters Kadie’s Club Pecos. To be honest, I wondered whether Nancy was only brought in to be the eye candy. Beautiful Miss Alba may be; I wanted to see some resolution following her story line after Hartigan’s sacrifice. Bruce Willis does make a return as Hartigan. It’s pretty clear from the trailers. But to what capacity? Well . . .  “POSSIBLE SPOILER” Don’t panic! He is very much dead. Even in death, you can’t escape Sin City.

The idea of Hartigan watching Nancy, seeing her deteriorate into a pool of grief and misery was a good angle. But at the same time, Willis does nothing else. He is merely a cameo that appears to say two little speeches and then bugger off. Might as well have not bothered turning up at all. It doesn’t help that for some reason in all it’s ridiculousness, he cannot talk to Nancy. But yet Benicio Del Toro’s Jackie could talk to Clive Owen’s Dwight? Strange. The switching back and forth from past to present did cause some confusion.

The cast were perfect, the animation always impressed me and the story lines were good but much more predictable. I felt that the film lacked something. I mean the characters were good but I wanted more of the memorable cult characters. The Yellow Bastard, Elijah Wood’s crazy cannibal Kevin, Rutger Hauer’s messed up priest. We only really got that in Stacey Keach’s Jabba-esque mob boss Wallenquist and Christopher Lloyd’s demented street doc Kroenig (Believe me, Doc Brown would be screaming more than Great Scott!). The pace lulled in parts for me. Story lines seemed to build up and end abruptly. However, I still want more and it was still very watchable.

Not as good as the first but still worth a go for fans and anyone with a little blood lust. 3.5/5 for me

THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY REVIEW

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Well done Mr Gunn! Marvel have done it again.

I would have thought after numerous Marvel entries and the fear of milking this rich cow dry, this may have pushed the mark.

I mean, another origin story to introduce another group of characters BUT with this cast and these characters, I’d be happy to see more entries like this again very soon.

Now, the plot is hardly original, the inevitable union of these intergalactic criminals was always going to happen, as well as those pesky sequel teasers propping up all through the film.

BUT what makes this sci-fi blockbuster hit tick all the boxes for the me is the pace, the humour and the fantastic soundtrack.

After a strong and emotional opening with 1occ’s I’m Not In Love playing, I knew I was in for a treat. It helps that the cast are perfectly chosen for their roles.

What’s it all about? Now keeping it vague as I don’t want to spoil this as I want you guys to see this . . .

Light years (in a galaxy far far away. No. Stop it) from Earth, 26 years after being abducted, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) finds himself the prime target of a manhunt after discovering an orb wanted by Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace).

The charismatic Chris Pratt, already on a roll after the mega blockbuster hit that is the Lego Movie, applies his laidback, fast talking schtick to the film’s protagonist Peter Quill to perfection.

You knew what to expect from the moment he breaks into a song and dance around a space cave using a mutated lizard thing for a mike.

Zoe Saldana just proves she looks incredibly hot as any alien or anything for that matter (What?) but is also fantastic as Gamora.

The surprise turn for me was Dave Bautista as Drax. Now let’s be honest, I know he’s had acting experience in WWE but this is a whole different playing field and I wasn’t convinced with his jughead performance in Riddick.

It helps to have great lines at his disposal but Bautista’s delivery is brilliant as the eloquently spoken if utterly stupid henchman. He takes everything literally which makes for some funny one liners and memorable moments.

Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel provide their voicing talents to two new animated cult characters. Scratch that, Bradley Cooper provides his voicing talents. Vin Diesel must have been laughing when he read the script and got his paycheck as the tree humanoid Groot.

The animation and detail on Groot is impeccable. I mean don’t get me wrong, Diesel’s conviction on saying “I AM GROOT” numerous times is good and no doubt an iconic one liner but come on?! Cooper is fantastic as the talking volatile raccoon hybrid Rocket.

Now while the animation is impeccable, 3D . . .  Not so much. It’s certainly more prominent BUT not a must.

Lee Pace and Karen Gillan were almost unrecognizable both by their incredible make up and by their accents as the villains in this space opera.

Michael Rooker (Gunn regular) was great as Yondu Udonta, the interstellar smuggler. The only problem with so many characters and such a big cast, some characters or actors (more specifically) get cast aside.

Glenn Close, sporting a funky haircut, as Nova Prime was wasted in this installment.

John C. Reilly, the comedy legend that he is, only really got to get a bit of meat to chomp on in the closing minutes.

Inevitably, Benicio Del Toro’s mysterious Collector pops his ugly white head again.

Djimon Hounsou was only memorable due to a humorous encounter with Quill in which he attempts to enforce his self titled nickname, Starlord.

Peter Serafinowicz (Shaun of the Dead)’s straight faced pallor had potential . . . BUT didn’t really get used. BUT that’s minor quibbles.

Now it’s hardly an origin story. It briefly provides a minor back story to answer the questions (as and when they pop up) to give a little dimension to our lively crew.

As it drew to its exhilarating finale, I found myself wanting more. There were unanswered questions which left it all open for more mischief.

Little teasers and “if there’s a sequel” hints . . . BUT with the wide array of characters in this universe and great music and great dialogue, I’m happy to strap in and go for another ride across the galaxy again.

Of course, they will return. One of the better ones.

4/5 for me

P.S. There is a little teaser at the end of the credits but I don’t think it was worth waiting around for. Nothing to quack home about. I mean, shout.