*NEW* ATOMIC BLONDE REVIEW *NEW*

Charlize Theron kicks just enough ass to make this a little more than a generic actioner.

An undercover MI6 agent (Theron) is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents.

The slow opener didn’t build up high hopes as it flicked back and forth from bumping off obscure spies to Theron’s bruised bathing sessions.

I didn’t mind having to piece together this murky tale of deception and espionage. It just that it didn’t really amount to much by the closing credits.

The whole story was told in a series of flashbacks with Theron’s Agent Broughton recalling her mission in Berlin. And oh my God, was that John Goodman? Wow, the man is looking old.

The murky Berlin backdrop was a perfect political cesspool for treachery and backhanded deals.

James McAvoy was on scene stealing form as the eccentric David Percival. A rogue agent whose enjoyed a little too much freedom. A much needed presence in this super serious yarn. Or so I thought?

He worked well with CT. I just wish the pair were in it together more. They spent far too much time apart messing about with the cloak and dagger stuff.

I know a good portion of the film was spent trying to suss out whether the agents could trust one another BUT a lot of the fun and intrigue was lost in their separation.

The plot, for all its contrivances, was relatively straightforward and a little disappointing. The inevitable double crossing and back stabbing looming on the cards.

I was actually glad the film didn’t stick with the hum drum Cold War guff. It was getting dreadfully glum and boring.

The fight sequences were ridiculous. The set pieces took a similar style to The Bourne movies and cranked it to 11!

Kudos to Theron who did her own stunts. The punch ups were brilliantly choreographed (and redeemed a lumbering first act) as Broughton soon discovers that her cover was blown from the moment she landed on German soil.

The car chases were fast and furious. If full of continuity errors BUT I digress. All I’m saying is that one Jeep goes flying in the air, blocking the street and is miraculously gone in the next frame. Okayyyy thennnn . . .

The tone was a little mismatched BUT I enjoyed AB a lot more when it took itself less seriously.

The soundtrack was brilliant. Even with the umpteen variations and remixes of Nena’s 99 Red Balloons and New Order’s Blue Monday.

Jonathan Sela’s cinematography was brilliant and dull in the same frame. I know. Work that out. Murky and full of neon. And apparently in every room back in 1980s Germany.

I just wish more was made of the actual story line. There was a great cast at director David Leitch’s disposal comprising of the likes of John Goodman, Toby Jones (Captain America) and James Faulkner (Game of Thrones).

Sofia Boutella (The Mummy) didn’t fare too badly as the naive French ally Delphine. And no! Not just because of her raunchy rendezvous with Theron.

The pair had good chemistry and worked well together. In fact, she almost stole the limelight off McAvoy as he withered further into the background.

Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan) was completely wasted in his role as the defective agent Spyglass. Anyone could have played him.

The finale, with all the twists and turns, just didn’t do much for me. The pay off didn’t quite add up. And as I much as I love Theron, did anyone else find her accent a little muddled?

BUT by the end I wasn’t really that fussed.

A watchable actioner.

Thank God for Theron and that quick injection of high octane shoot-em-punch-em. Or else this feeble tirade would have been left out in the cold.

3/5 (just)

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*NEW* CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR REVIEW *NEW*

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Political interference in the Avengers’ activities causes a rift between former allies Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr).

The mega Marvel movie franchise have really hit their stride. Gripping, action packed and possibly the best film of the bunch.

Brilliant. It was good to see all that waiting pay off with subplots resolved, loyalties tested and great performances all round.

*HERE IS YOUR WARNING FOR POTENTIAL SPOILERS!* I DON’T THINK THERE ARE ANY BUT I’M WARNING YOU ALL THE SAME!

I’ve admitted numerous times that I had mixed feelings about the Marvel movies. I didn’t rate The Avengers BUT loved Age of Ultron.

Despised the endless Hulk reboots (Even though I enjoyed the Bana version. Whaaattt? I know). Loved the Thor movies. Loved Iron Man 1 and 3. Let’s not talk about Iron Man 2, eh? Felt Captain America was rushed to fit in with the first Avengers.

Thank God for Winter Soldier, one of the most underrated and unexpected surprise sequels of the year.

I was relieved to hear the Russo brothers was taking the helm again to bring Cap’s third outing to the fold and boy, oh, boy, what a treat!

It would help to watch the Cap movies to really enjoy the little subplots. My little brother had barely seen any of them BUT was still able to fill in the blanks and enjoy this just as much as I did.

Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely made this easily accessible for the less hardcore Marvel fans while not boring the hell out of the rest of us.

We finally got to explore the background of the mysterious Winter Soldier as the opening got straight to business flicking back and forth from the 90s to the present.

It was great to see Sebastian Stan (The Martian) take centre stage as the conflicted Bucky as his story line came to a head with Cap’s loyalty tested to the fore. Forcing him to make a choice between his old wartime pal and his Avenger colleague:

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“Sometimes I want to punch in your perfect teeth”.

RDJ delivered a much more sombre turn as Stark. It made a fresh change as the millionaire faced some of his own personal demons as well as battling it out with his closest friends. His fractious relationship with the Cap reaching boiling point as the Avengers face disbandment after a botched mission. Evans nailed it yet again as the Cap.

You could argue that it was always going to be tough to give such a plethora of characters a chance to stand out BUT it didn’t come far off. I could have grumbled at the list of absentees; *cough* Thor *cough* Hulk *cough* Pepper Potts (again) *cough* BUT there was enough going on to make me almost forget about them. Almost.

I know the die hard comic book fans were ripping the small airport battle sequence with their own list of absentees in the mix BUT the fighting sequences were excellent. Well choreographed, fast, furious and intense. The special effects were decent. One particular highlight involving Hawkeye and Ant Man surfing on an arrowhead.

Everyone had their moment to shine. Even the newest addition Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman – Get On Up) impressed in a top heavy cast. They managed to make his slightly silly costume look badass. BUT there was one character that really took the biscuit.

I enjoyed the Maguire-Spiderman movies (Yes, even the third one. What do you mean? What’s wrong with me?) and liked Garfield’s performance BUT hated the reboot. When I heard that Spiderman was being rebooted again (Confirming my reservations about the Garfield efforts), I was annoyed. Really? Is this doomed to fail like the Hulk movies?

Tom Holland (The Impossible) . . . Well done. He may have had the cameo with the most lines BUT he stole the show and captured Spidey to perfection. I am actually looking forward to Homecoming.

I think the only characters that suffered a little and fell into the background was Jarvis/The Vision (Paul Bettany) and War Machine. Cheadle never really had a chance and wasn’t strong enough. Terrence Howard was the man for me. It didn’t help THAT Cheadle’s Rhodes was never really brought into the mix in the other movies.

Marvel have really struck a winning formula while DC continue to splutter (So far). It had a bit of everything and nailed the dynamic perfectly.

The humour was perfectly balanced against some of the more serious moments. It tied in a few loose ends that had bugged me and actually made Emily VanCamp’s (Revenge) role necessary after her lacklustre turn in Winter Soldier.

There were revelations and twists along the way. It was tense, engaging, riveting and, despite the odd niggle and the pace testing its 147 minute length, highly enjoyable. Best film of the year? It’s a strong contender.

And of course . . . persevere through the credits. Yeah, I didn’t think I needed to tell you either.

4/5

*NEW* DAD’S ARMY REVIEW *NEW*

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This was doomed from the start. PANIC, Mr Mainwaring!

The perfect cast. The wrong script. A real bomb.

The Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard platoon deal with a visiting female journalist (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and a German spy as World War II draws to its conclusion.

Dad’s Army was (and still is) one of the best sitcoms I’ve seen. I was introduced to it (ironically) by my dad and still laugh at the same old scenes and one liners despite knowing every word. It may have been a silly (and dated) show about a bunch of old boys and misfits guarding the cliffs of Dover BUT it was funny.

Not many British sitcoms have fared well making the leap to the big screen and a remake? Well, the less said, the better. When I heard that a remake was on the cards, I was puzzled. Why? Have we really run out of ideas? However, my doubts were relinquished slightly when the cast were revealed. Doubt soon turning to excitement.

BUT that feeling was soon extinguished. Tragically, this failed to stand alone as a homage to the iconic series. The frenetic opening sequence with a couple of MI5 agents chasing a German spy was hardly funny BUT got things going as a piece of important code that “could end the war” landed on the cliffs of Dover with our loveable misfits.

A training exercise to retrieve an escaped bull with the camouflaged covered codgers was hardly laugh out loud BUT it delivered a smile. It was just a shame that there wasn’t enough of those moments.

Toby Jones (Captain America) certainly looked the part and didn’t do a bad effort as Captain Mainwaring. BUT he wasn’t old enough or strong enough. He was far too high pitched and squeaky. It felt like a case of grabbing the smallest oldest British actor they could find. BUT it was always going to be tough to follow in Arthur Lowe’s footsteps.

Daniel Mays (Atonement) played the spivvy Private Walker very well BUT then for anyone whose familiar with his previous roles, this was hardly going to be a stretch. Blake Harrison, on the other hand, was dreadful. On paper, you would have put money on ol’ Neil from the Inbetweeners delivering as simpleton Private Pike. BUT he was highly unfunny and irritating as hell. A running gag involving an obsession with Errol Flynn flicks never got going and failed to deliver one funny quip.

However, plaudits must go to Tom Courtenay (45 Years) and Michael Gambon (Harry Potter). I wasn’t sure what to expect from Courtenay. He was superb and channeled his inner Clive Dunn. He was brilliant. Bumbling and fumbling away. Gambon was delightfully naïve and bashful as Private Godfrey. Standing in Hawaiian gear with a cheesy grin. A curtsy and “a thank you sir” and I was chuckling. I would have been happy to watch these two for the next hour.

However, their absence in the movie left a gaping hole for laughs and gags. What didn’t help was that we had such a dull story line with the gang chasing after Zeta Jones’ flirty journalist.

It was funny at first with every one trying to woo and impress her BUT after half an hour, I was bored. Bill Nighy was disappointing as Sergeant Wilson. There wasn’t enough camaraderie between him and Jones’ Mainwaring. There was too much time spent on him pining for Zeta Jones. Her return to town sparking old feelings.

Sarah Lancashire (Happy Valley) was wasted as Wilson’s love interest. A great actress left moping and whining. Shame. I couldn’t remember if the Women’s Front was tackled in the sitcom and it would have been a fresh angle if they had better material.

Disappointing considering the talent. A great cast consisting of the likes of Alison Steadman (Gavin & Stacey), Annette Crosbie (One Foot in the Grave) and Emily Atak (The Inbetweeners). Felicity Montagu (Alan Partridge) did her best with the terribly OTT Mrs Mainwaring. BUT we already had a bunch of old fellas fumbling and falling about to no avail, we didn’t need any more people doing it. Crosbie and Steadman’s detective solving was the only chuckle I got. The only pair who knew what was going on.

BUT then again, there really wasn’t much. The German spy twist was so dreadfully obvious that I wondered why they even bothered. Mainwaring mispronouncing German words was funny for about 30 seconds BUT died a death quickly.

The beach finale delivered a little of what I had expected from the rest of the film. Silly, stupid and funny. A case of too little, too late with Mainwaring mistaken for Churchill. The gang trying to fight with disastrous results. Bill Paterson (Outlander) only got to shine as Private Fraser in this scene. His inevitable catchphrase didn’t quite have the same gusto as John Laurie. Otherwise he was quite weak.

I really wanted this to work BUT it merely delivered moments. Dud’s Army, I’m afraid. The hammy plot bored me that much that I didn’t even clock Ian Lavender’s cameo. This was doomed from the start.

2/5

TOP 20 BEST FILMS OF 2014 * PART TWO

SO HERE WE ARE . . . AT LAST. The second month into 2015.

I know, terrible. For those who are still interested, we have the SECOND PART of my best films of 2014. The top 11-20!

Feel free to search through my posts for my top 10. If you want, I can provide them.

The best (or better) ones of that mediocre movie year. My criteria mainly focused on the ones that surprised, intrigued and entertained me. And boy, it was tough. Many have been watchable. Okay at best. What was harder was condensing my 20 WORST films of 2014 (Which will be following shortly).

BUT there were diamonds in the rough sea of bilge that polluted the movie screens last year.

I have had to endure endless entries of mindless drivel regurgitating the same old plot, clichéd characters (even in their 3D wrapped foils) and excruciating acting or dreadful dialogue and to be honest, it’s killed my enthusiasm a little bit.

Now some entries you may question and unfortunately release dates are always different. My argument was films I saw in that year at the cinema. Some may have been released at the end of 2013 but I didn’t see them until early January 2014.

BUT that sums up my argument if they are in here.

I won’t go on too much about each film. That’s what the other posts are for but a quick two cents if you like. Some I hope you will nod in approval. Others you may scroll back and forth hoping that this is a joke. BUT my criteria is based on surprise, entertainment and engagement. So God knows what lies in store.

11. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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Now I am actually reading the book. This film lost marks for stretching out its source material to the max. However, Jackson still manages to deliver the goods by harvesting a special effects extravaganza of a movie. This slicker, darker installment made up for the lumbering opener that was An Unexpected Journey. The pace may still have been a little long at the tooth BUT was certainly the best in Jackson’s second trilogy.

12. Captain America: Winter Soldier

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A Marvel sequel that wasn’t needed but surprised me in surpassing the stuttery original. I felt the first Captain America was rushed to introduce the Cap in time for the Avengers and didn’t really cover as much of the WW2 elements as I had hoped. A superhero fighting in the war had a lot more promise for me. BUT the sequel had a decent story, good action pieces and added depth to the ‘Cap. Plus it gave a lot more screen time to the Black Widow and the legendary Nick Fury (At last!)

13. The Raid 2

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Fast and furious . . . after an hour of droll exposition. BUT it was still the most intense action film I saw that year. The final 45 minutes surpassed the original in suspense and action. Worth the wait. It may not have beat the original overall BUT other films need to use this as the next “How To Make An Action Movie” textbook.

14. St Vincent

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Bill Murray at his best in this easy going indie dramedy. It was funny, well acted with some cracking one liners and an impressive debut from young wunderkid Jaeden Lieberher.

15. Before I Go To Sleep

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A tense, slowburning but well crafted psychological thriller. Memento meets While You Were Sleeping. Even if I had sussed the big twist. The unveiling still took me by surprise. I thought the cast were fantastic. Kidman was on fine form and the last 15 minutes were brilliant.

16. The Maze Runner

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You read that, right? We had numerous teen book bestseller franchises flooding the screens. Divergent, Hunger Games, The Giver and . . . The Maze Runner. I went in, really expecting the worst and for the majority of the film, I was hooked. It’s hardly original but it zipped along and stopped me grumbling.

17. Nightcrawler

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A superb performance from Gyllenhaal. Deservedly earning a BAFTA nomination. Somehow managing to out-Bale Bale in this dark take on the American dream. Satirical, grim and engrossing. If a little predictable with an abrupt ending BUT still worth a gander.

18. The Guest

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Mr Crawley has left the Abbey and he’s kicking ass and taking names. A cracking and charismatic performance in this strange but riveting indie action flick. It felt like a film of two halves. Some may not like how it pans out BUT it certainly took me by surprise. Badass film of 2014? Hell yeah!

19. What If

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What if Harry Potter did an indie chick flick? It would be an easygoing and entertaining affair. That’s what. Radcliffe and Kazan had great chemistry and were a normal and believable couple. I actually cared what happened to them unlike the other umpteen romantic comedies that have wasted my time.

20. Blended

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I told you that I was going to think outside the box. I said surprised or entertained me. It has been a while since I have enjoyed a Sandler movie. And this says a lot from a die hard fan. Hardly die hard BUT I’ve endured them all. Blended certainly isn’t perfect but it felt like a return of sorts. It was certainly a return for Drew Barrymore. The plot is stupid and some gags fall flat on their backside.

BUT when it was funny, it had me in stitches. The family dynamic was dealt with well. The handling with the grief issues was done nicely and was unexpected. I enjoyed it. There’s still hope for the Sandler. I went in expecting nothing and was rewarded with something more. A good comedy. Hallelujah. Has the Mad Movie Ranter lost his marbles?

CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER REVIEW

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A welcome return from the First Avenger!

As Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) struggles to embrace his role in the modern world, he teams up with a fellow Avenger and S.H.I.E.L.D agent, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to battle a new threat from history: an assassin known as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

An enjoyable action packed romp. I felt Captain America: The First Avenger showed promise with a good set of characters that I hoped would have exploited the untapped World War backdrop. BUT alas it was not to be. Rushed to meet that Avengers Assemble release date, I was left feeling a little disappointed.

Right up to this point, some of the entries had been mixed (Despite my love of the Marvel universe) from the rehashed Hulk origin stories (Team Bana all the way!) to the brilliant Thor films. The first Avengers was over-hyped, overlong and OTT for me. Redeemed by an action packed finale.

However, this inevitable sequel (in a number of relentless comic book movies in the pipeline) managed to stand on its own, improve on the Cap franchise and make itself a worthy addition.

Despite my grumblings at how swift Rogers was pushed from WW2 to the present, WS made up for it by focusing on his transition. Providing some much needed depth. A man catching up with the times. A joke involving a “Things to check out on the Internet” list was nicely done.

However, a new war is brewing under the clean streets of Washington, one that compromises the very organisation of SHIELD, leading to an action packed, octane thrill ride (that is a little long at 136 minutes) that questions the Cap’s very ethics and honour. With a new war comes a whole new set of rules and lines he doesn’t want to cross.

The action set pieces were great to watch. The fight scenes were intense and brilliantly choreographed. The 3D element left much to be desired, apart from the explosive finale. Not a necessity in your viewing experience.

Evans was fantastic. He is Captain America. His presence, his build (The dude is hench!) and his performance were spot on. He had great chemistry with ScarJo. Is there a brewing superhero romance on the cards?

The directing duo The Russo brothers even managed to introduce and revamp another Marvel addition quite well. It helped having Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) taking on the role. Not enough of Falcon in my opinion. I loved the partnership between him and the Cap. More please.

Samuel L (the L stands for Mother – you get the idea) Jackson unleashes the Fury (ah ha) at last. Finally being brought into the action and given more screen time.

It might help to have watched the other entries to fill in the gaps BUT it’s not essential as the film does recap over crucial plot points for those who haven’t (or might have forgotten).

The Winter Solider was a worthy foe. However, his big reveal was hardly a twist or a shock. A bit too much build up and emphasis on that moment. I was great to see Robert Redford and he played the sinister Congressman Alexander Pierce to perfection. He does unfortunately dither into the background BUT the guy is nearly 80 so I’ll give him a break.

The supporting cast was impressive, if maybe wasted a little. Cudos to Maximiliano Hernandez for his turn as Jasper Sitwell (Marvel Agents of SHIELD TV fans will know). I had to laugh at Pierce’s Board Room of Doom featuring the likes of Jenny Agutter (An American Werewolf in London) and . . . Jim from Neighbours (Alan Dale).

Frank Grillo (The Purge) was menacing. While, the beautiful Emily Van Camp (Revenge), talented though she is, was given a relatively minor and passive role. Anyone could have played her. If not for a little twist, well if you can call it that, her character would have been pointless.

There may be plot holes and a questionable length BUT with decent set pieces, balanced humour and an actual story line that fleshed out the Cap, my faith has been restored in the First Avenger and I look forward to the next one.

3.5/5

Of course, stay for the credits for a mid-credit reveal. Don’t say to the very end, the clip was pointless. You might as well have had Stan Lee pop up and say, “You still here?”