*THROWBACK REVIEW* MR PEABODY AND SHERMAN

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Nothing to bark home about. (What? If you’re tutting at that, then this film is not for you. If you tutted but had a cheeky little grin, then this might be). Enough hi-jinks and 3D animation to keep the children wagging their tails but it’s hardly a rollicking family movie.

It’s not all bad and to be honest, it jumps straight into the action with Mr. Peabody (voiced brilliantly by Ty Burrell or Phil Dunphy from Modern Family BUT less annoying) making a brief introduction about his numerous achievements from birth, after being neglected for being unique (the usual spiel). His greatest challenge, however, was adopting seven year old Sherman.

We join the dynamic duo on a time travelling escapade, basking it up in the 18th Century French Revolution before its inevitable uprising. It zips along, the 3D is actually quite good with the swords and spears pointing out of the screen. The one liners are guilty pleasures, silly but funny pun gags.

One particular guilty chuckle was during a zany escape attempt from the guillotine that is as bonkers as the Sherlock fall. Mr Peabody delivers the punch line, “The best thing to do is be calm and keep your head”.

However, this is all thrown aside as Sherman attends his first day of school. And before you know it, he’s in a fight with a bully. Twist, the bully is a girl named Penny (voiced by Ariel Winters or interestingly Alex Dunphy from Modern Family). This leads to the gruesome child protection services officer Mrs Grunion (Mom’s Allison Janney), who bears some deep resentment towards dogs owning children. She threatens to take Sherman away.

In attempt to prevent the pair being torn apart (Aww. Yuck) Peabody invites Penny and her parents over for dinner. Penny and Sherman inevitably refuse to get along. That is until, against Peabody’s wishes, Sherman introduces her to the Way Back (time machine).

The pod looks exactly like the one from Free Birds. This film may not be great but it’s better than that turkey (What?). However, the jokes are few and far between. And the overall story is the same old guff. The time travel sequences end up visiting all the obvious famous figures, Shakespeare (check), Van Gogh (check), Da Vinci (check) – cue a highly predictable gag about the real reason behind Mona Lisa’s smile.

It seems like the movie ran out of gas by the hour mark and threw the lazy plot device of the time machine’s power being drained so they have to stop at random points of time. In all fairness, the 14th Century Florence skit with Stanley Tucci’s Da Vinci wasn’t too bad and his creepy child machine was very weird but funny. The ruse that Mona Lisa was all for tourist promotion wasn’t bad.

However, there is the usual cheesy father/son/dog/pup spats and brewing, if unnecessary, romance between Penny and Sherman. OTT slapstick and silly gags. However, after the hour, the film does find another gear and revs up to a mad timey wimey finale. The Troy sequence was hilarious with the testerone-pumped dimwits led by Agamemnon, voiced expertly by Patrick Warburton (Joe from Family Guy). The comparisons between their weird family upbringings was a surprise and one for the adults. “Don’t get me started on Oedipus. You do not want to go round there at Thanksgiving”.

The timey wimey stuff made it more interesting once they start breaking up the space time continuum and the past goes back to the present but it all got ridiculous with the inevitable cheesy, corny happy ending. Watchable, brilliant visuals, if predictable guff. Shame considering the talent; I mean come on, Mel Brooks, Dennis Haysbert, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann! Enough for the little ones but the bigger kids will be fidgeting . . . towards the exit door.

2.5/5 for me

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

MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM REVIEW

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That was a looooong . . . film to watch. At a whopping 2 hours 26 minutes, you might say that this tends to stagger on and skim through crucial events of one of the most inspirational figures of our time, Nelson Mandela. But where it might miss the mark, it is quickly redeemed by sheer emotion and acting gravitas. Idris Elba (or ol’ Luther) is a powerhouse actor and it’s great to see him given a meatier role which he delivers brilliantly.

Now, I know little about Mandela. I will say that now. I know the basics which is disgusting considering he is an historical figure, whether people agreed with him or not. I was unaware of his incredible height, forever questioning why the likes of Dennis Haysbert and Idris Elba were playing such a man and why there was such a controversy about hiring “short” actors during it’s filming. But this does not undermine the man, which is what this film tries to capture. The life of one man who tried to bring change . . . and after a long tested struggle, made history in the process. Hardly a spoiler. I was ignorant but not that ignorant.

This film is good, but I couldn’t help feel that something was missing. It hits hard at home and delivers emotion, but also frustrates and leads to one looking at one’s own watch. This film deals with and effectively covers the crucial points of Mandela’s life. However, there were opportunities and moments that could have been explored if the research is correct. For one thing, it was interesting to see Mandela’s tribal roots and his initiation into becoming a man. But this is quickly rushed through and we barely get an understanding of his relationship with his mother before it goes forward 20 years to Mandela as a fully qualified lawyer. Another fact I was not aware of.

However, the court hearings and proceedings demonstrate Mandela’s hunger for justice and respect. It also unearths the rising racial tensions in the country. The tension is brilliantly executed and this soon spurs Mandela into peaceful protests. The film delicately deals with the issue of race. It is shocking to see how Mandela desperately and continued to be peaceful when the resisting forces relentlessly came down on them quite unnecessarily. Long Walk to Freedom is beautiful shot, bringing out the luscious natural African landscape while also capturing the gritty, dilapidated slums well. It also doesn’t paint Mandela as a complete saint, in which during his rising reputation, he was a little Luther-io (see what I did there, TV fans), sleeping around and hating his first wive’s interrogative questions.

The chemistry between Elba and Naomie Harris as his second wife, Winnie Madikizela was fantastic and it’s great to see two underrated actors get given a bigger platform. The Sharpeville protests scene was violent and incredibly harrowing. It was also seen as the crucial turning point in which Mandela reluctantly went from peaceful means to violence, joining the freedom fighters. The film’s overall reception is down to how you feel about Mandela’s actions and whether he feel his bombings were acts of terrorism or protest. He targeted factories and closed offices. The film lays it out there but leans more towards the fact that Mandela did what he did for the people, which I feel is true.

It took twenty years for Mandela’s cause to be noticed properly and then he was imprisoned for life for it. The scenes at Robben Island were brilliantly delivered and emotional to see the conditions and brutality the man and his fellow prisoners had to endure. At first, engaging and intriguing with Mandela attempting to gain respect in the prison and fighting against the wardens who tried to break him down, refusing to give him trousers and redacting his letters so he can barely read them. It was sad and brilliantly acted by Elba when Mandela received the news about his son’s death.

The film doesn’t just focus on Mandela, it does show the plight that Winnie had to suffer through while Mandela was incarcerated. She was constantly plagued by authorities and was even put in solitary confinement for 16 months after being savagely beaten during interrogation. A truly haunting scene. The problem is Mandela, although shocking, spent years in prison and house arrest, as a film, it does push the clock a little bit. It is a great marker to delve into Mandela’s history but this could have been the complete package that I didn’t have to check on Google to make sure the events were correct as they skimmed through them.

A brilliantly acted and well shot biopic that could have been much more, despite still being a fitting and engaging, if a little overlong, tribute to a great man. 3.5/5

#Currently ranks at 33 out of 127.