*NEW* GHOST IN THE SHELL REVIEW *NEW*

Like the protagonist, beautiful to look at BUT no heart or soul. Shame.

In the near future, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.

It was always going to be a big ask to expect Hollywood to successfully remake a cult Japanese anime. I’ll admit. I haven’t seen the original BUT this effort has killed any interest to seek it out.

I could be doing a huge injustice by saying that BUT for all its moments, this sci-fi yawnfest failed to keep my attention.

The slow opener didn’t give me high hopes, despite the wonderful visual effects, as we watched Major’s ‘shell’ being freshly made off the assembly line.

ScarJo played the emotionless Major brilliantly. BUT her subplot was bland to boot. Suffering from ‘glitches’ (flashes/images of old memories), Major soon questions her origins. Wondering if the story of her “creation” was even true.

The only problem was that the truth had been revealed to the audience early on. So the puzzle solving was dull and formulaic as we waited for Major to reach the conclusion we already knew. A product. A military weapon. Nothing more.

Although . . . what a weapon. Her strangely alluring naked camo suit flagged mixed reactions. Especially when Major first stripped to reveal it. I’m sure that scene pleased the teenage fanboys.

The 12A rating restricted the little action that there was. Sacrificing bold visceral violence and the gritty neo-noir undertones for a wider market release. Tut tut tut.

Pilou Asbaek (BBC Four’s Borgen) was the only memorable supporting character as Batou. He worked well with ScarJo BUT the pair spent too much time apart. He bossed the military punk get up and funky Rutger Hauer look.

Jess Hall’s cinematography was incredible. The cityscape was a beautiful mish-mash of virtual avatars, skyscrapers and crazy neon colours. This could have easily fit into the Blade Runner universe.

It was great to see Takeshi Kitano in this. BUT after vowing to never make another American movie after his disappointment with Brother; I was surprised that this was the film to draw him back. Albeit, in an acting role.

A waste of a talented actor/filmmaker. His character nothing more than a zombified desk clerk.

And then in the closing minutes, the crew suddenly remembered that they had Zatoichi in their ranks and allowed him to dispatch some swift justice with an old revolver.

Where was that for the rest of the movie?

The cast sleepwalked through the generic murder mystery. The pace was agonizing. It felt a lot longer than 90-odd minutes.

How could a neo-noir murder mystery that tackled cyber terrorism, personal identity and corporate espionage be so god damn boring?

For all the fitting nods to Blade Runner, did they actually bother to watch the damn film? Come on.

Director Rupert Sanders featured a cast of virtually unknown/small time TV stars. Now that wasn’t a problem because this could have been the perfect platform for them to shine.

BUT with such weak and wafer thin characters at their disposal, it was never going to work.

Peter Ferdinando’s dreadful pantomime villainy did nothing to muster any spark in this cold and lifeless thriller.

If he hadn’t popped up in a giant spider tank (No, not a tank of spiders. An actual tank shaped like a spider) in the fiery finale, I would have forgotten about his character altogether.

I even felt the “surrogate mother” relationship between ScarJo and Juliette Binoche’s (The English Patient) Dr Ouelet was cold and forced.

There was potential BUT it never really got going and failed to make a lasting impression. Fans of the original may feel differently.

BUT disappointing is my final summary on the matter.

2/5

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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

LUCY REVIEW

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I love Lucy? Well I love ScarJo. But this movie? Not so much. A contender for blockbuster of the year. Luc Besson at his most ambitious. ScarJo at the helm. Hopes were high. But alas, it was not to be.

Now the film is about a woman named Lucy (You don’t say) who gets roped into the illegal drug trade. Abducted and forced to be a drug mule, one of the bag bursts unleashing chemicals that unlock the full capacity of her mind. Woah. Turning her into a mind controlling mercenary.

It sounds ridiculous but good, right? Let’s be honest. I was ready to accept a ridiculous premise if the action was good and the characters were entertaining enough but apart from a great opening, this film seemed to run out of ideas drastically, throwing all sorts of stupendous CGI in the hope of distracting us from it. The madness soon cranks up to 11 but ends so abruptly and bizarre, I was left scratching my head. I haven’t felt like that since I watched The Matrix Revolutions. Besson tried to be clever and philosophical but it came off pretentious and lazy.

A pacey opening sequence in which our alluring heroine is thrown into the criminal underworld had me gripped. It was suspenseful, gritty and intriguing. That and a collection of strange characters; Pilou Asbaek’s (Borgen/Eurovision 2014 host) dim-witted dispatcher, Min-sik Choi’s creepy Yakuza boss and Julian Rhind-Tutt’s (Green Wing) ultra-camp scientist appropriately titled The Limey had enough to keep me humoured. The concept is pretty much Limitless 2 with boobs (Ha. Boobs. Stop it). However, Besson tried to take it to another level. Another level that for me didn’t work and made me just want to watch Limitless again.

The initial transition when Lucy starts unlocking another section of her mind’s capacity is actually pretty good. Some fast action punch ups and shoot-em ups kept the film on its toes. However, as Lucy continues to reach her full potential, the movie hits a major lull as we drawn into scientific mumbo jumbo and random animation sequences as they speculate hypothetical “What If?” scenarios. It only highlighted the ridiculousness of it all. Not even Morgan Freeman’s eloquent tones could make that any more interesting. The only interesting fact that came out of it was that the first cave woman was called Lucy.

Limitless didn’t really try and pin point what could happen. While Lucy, the scenario is that our heroine will control mind over matter and even become matter herself. Wait . . . what? Controlling computers, people and emptying bullets out of police officer’s guns, cool. But ScarJo soon becomes more robotic, which I suppose is understandable as she is becoming something much more than human but her acting comes off a little wooden. And the more Morgan Freeman appears in this, the more I realise how pointless his character actually is. He even admits that this is far beyond his research and hasn’t got a clue. He is left standing on the sidelines shrugging his shoulders and collecting his paycheck.

The car chase sequence around Paris was brilliant. That is until our good friend CGI rears its ugly head and ruins what was a decent action set piece. Computer animated cars flying left right and centre just looked naff. However, the finale soon shot down any momentum and enjoyment that I had during the first 30 minutes. Lucy’s mind soon reaches the capacity *POSSIBLE SPOILER* and she soon turns into something that is a mish mesh between Superman, Neo and her alien hybrid from Under the Skin (I couldn’t stand that movie). Seriously, the finale was so frantic, ridiculous and bizarre that by the time I got past all the flashing images, it had ended and I was left baffled, confused and disappointed.

I say confused. I know what Besson was trying to say with his pretentious message but that was not what I expected from the trailers nor what I wanted this film to be. This is where it will make all the difference on how you perceive this movie. For me, a great opening was soon forced into a lull that sky rocketed into all out action finale (At last!) but was soon let down by a plot that had no idea where it wanted to go and unleashed an ending that would relieve the Wachowski Brothers after the Matrix trilogy.

Watchable. Yeah. Blockbuster of the year? Certainly not. Guardians of the Galaxy still takes that honour at the moment. 2.5/5 for me. Sorry Besson, go watch Leon and get back to basics. I do miss it.