BIG GAME REVIEW

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BIG, DUMB, LAME?

There’s only one way to find out.

The trailer looked ridiculous. I really had low expectations. BUT yet I came out after those mental 90 minutes with a guilty smile. And all I can say is this film is BIG FUN!

Samuel L (The L stands for Mother F**ker) Jackson takes on the iconic presidential role (About time!) in this 12A hampered action packed tour de force.

So what’s it about? A young teenager (Onni Tommila) camping in the woods helps rescue the President of the United States (Samuel L Jackson) when Air Force One is shot down near his campsite.

If you looked at that premise and shook your head, then this really isn’t for you. It’s silly, OTT but hilarious. For the right reasons? Well, that will be up to you.

Brought to you by the people that made Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. Now that should give you a picture of what to expect. Ridiculous concepts played straight. A dangerous game but it almost worked.

The opening was a little slow burning. All the ridiculousness bubbling in the background. We are introduced to Tommila’s Oskari as he set on a big game hunt by his father. An ancient tradition among the local village that a young boy must take to achieve the path of manhood. Blah, blah, blah.

Tommila’s deadpan expression and dry delivery really made the film for me. I normally find when teenagers are the lead characters in movies like these; they instantly grate against me. Not this time.

Tommila and SLJ were a great pairing. An unexpected one but a good one, none the same. SLJ has proven before that he can make silly premises watchable. Snakes on a Plane was relentless BUT a typical grade A B movie flick (A B? You know what I mean).

Their introduction was hilarious. The plane crash being mistaken for an alien spaceship by the young hunter was corny but the exchange between the pair was worth it. You could tell SLJ was having a laugh especially when Oskari throws POTUS two cups on a string. “Don’t hang up. Did I really just say that?”

The whole terrorist ploy to kidnap the President in a Finnish forest was hammy. All the elaborate and destructive planning just to take some pictures of POTUS and then kill him anyway? Don’t think into it too much.

Luckily, Mehmet Kurtulus’ (Equilibrium) Hazar is so demented and OTT that he takes the attention away from that little niggle. He’s that reckless that you could almost believe his stupid intentions. His missile testing game may have been a rip off of The Jackal but it was quite dark for a 12A using villagers as target practice.

Director Jalmari Helander has an impressive Hollywood cast at his disposal. It was a shame that not all of them were used to their potential. I mean, the presidential back staff that sat watching the chaos in a secure communications room consisted of the likes of Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives), Ted Levine (Silence of the Lambs), Victor Garber (Alias) and Jim Broadbent (Harry Potter)!

All of them playing generic stock characters that were highly unmemorable. Well, Broadbent was the exception. He didn’t do a half bad American accent and I really wished his character had more screen time.

Ray Stevenson was actually quite good as the disloyal bodyguard. He has finally mastered the accent after so many poor renditions. *Cough* The Punisher: War Zone *Cough*

For all it’s silliness, it was strange seeing SLJ playing the role quite seriously. Normally in these stupid action movies or iconic classics i.e. Air Force One, the president instantly becomes a badass and disposes all of the baddies while his highly trained security detail are removed in the first act.

SLJ’s presidential character was quite weak. Flailing around and being knocked about. A little more realistic. If you can say that. It made a change. The badass attitude very much on the shoulders of Oskari.

His stand off with Stevenson’s bodyguard was comical. “Don’t worry, Mr. President. I got this”. Pinging a tiny arrow four inches into the ground.

Considering it was a 12A, it was highly violent and very dark. A scene in which SLJ looks up to see a trail of bodyguards sprinkled across the slope was a little graphic BUT the last 30 minutes was mental. More of what I expected from the get go.

OTT, fast, furious and oh so stupid! The freezer sequence had so many mixed emotions for me. Rolling down a ravine. Flying off a cliff. Dodging bullets. Words escape me.

It zipped along. Ended incredibly violently and oh so cornily. BUT I came out with a grin.

Did Jackson get to say his infamous punchline? I hear you ask. “You got to cock it, motherf-” Alas, the dreaded 12A certificate rearing its ugly head.

If you’re up for a laugh and a corny B movie actioner, then look no further. If you’re not, then keep on looking.

3/5

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THE GIVER REVIEW

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Hollywood gives us another post-apocalyptic teen franchise to sink our teeth into but does it make you want to?

In a seemingly perfect community, without war, pain, suffering, differences or choice, a young boy is chosen to learn from an elderly man about the true pain and pleasure of the “real” world.

Jonas: “If I’m the receiver of memories. What does that make you?”

The Giver: “I guess I’m the giver”

Childish laughter aside (I can’t believe they actually put that in there), we are handed another sci-fi teen flick with a protagonist who battles against conformity disguised as peace by a conniving dictatorship.

It certainly zipped along and wasn’t a bad way to kill 90 minutes but as I was watching I found it incredibly tough not to make comparisons to Divergent and Ender’s Game and as it concluded, all I could think was Hollywood better quit while they’re ahead before they kill more franchises.

Director Phillip Noyce has a great cast at his disposal; a mixture of fresh talent with the experienced Oscar veterans . . . and Katie Holmes. It was a surprise to see Holmes. Released from the Cruise cage to do a spot of acting. In all fairness, she doesn’t do a bad job. Let’s be honest, her acting was never brilliant. Meryl Streep does her best to make the role of Chief Elder engaging but the character is so mechanical and one dimensional that not even the Oscar winning starlet can work her magic. A shame as Streep is remarkable. She is able to pull in some emotion with her encounters with the gruffly Giver (Jeff Bridges).

Brenton Thwaites is a likeable lead. He has certainly been making the right impressions. Just not in the right films. Oculus was a dud no matter how hard Thwaites tried. Maleficent was actually not bad but his character was a little hammy. Yes, he was Prince Charming. However, he finally gets given a character he can work with and delivers a memorable performance. One to watch. Once Jeff Bridges gets over sitting looking angry and staring out Thwaites in a chair for 15 minutes, he delivers the goods yet again.

Odeya Rush (The Odd Life of Timothy Green) is also quite likeable and has some good chemistry with Thwaites. It’s a shame that there is always an inevitable romance brewing but if you finally fight conformity and stop taking a pill that suppresses emotion (Yep. I was thinking Equilibrium too), you would suddenly feel attraction, love, etc. Just a little corny for my liking.

Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood) was surprisingly wooden and seemed to be sleep walking the role but for those you have seen the film, I think there may have been a point to that. Speaking of which, I did not expect a cameo from a particular pop star as Rosemary. Let’s just say she made a swift impression.

Ross Emery’s cinematography is to die for. His use of monochrome juxtaposed against the introduction of colour as Jonas (Thwaites) begins to experience feelings and visions was a nice touch. The panning out to view the remaining colonies was a feast for the eyes. The 1984 overtones around the film was one aspect that did keep me intrigued and the idea of censoring people’s memories and using precision of language to specify exactly what they mean is something that feels all too real. And with the way political correctness is going . . . (REDACTED)

What I hate is that they give us little tidbits in the hope that we will be interested in another installment. Wrong. I want the first installment to hit the ground running and get me wanting another. NOT think that was okay. Maybe the next one will be really good. Noyce certainly ticked the boxes on pace. 97 minutes certainly breezes by with enough content to keep you watching. But the content, despite being brilliantly shot, has been done to death and so much better. A mesh of Divergent meets Equilibrium. I mean even the process in which the kids are given positions was just a futuristic sorting hat scenario from Harry Potter.

The film seemed all too nicey nicey. Until . . . a twist. A predictable one in hindsight. But a twist that turned the cheesy overtones to something much darker and it did make for a thrilling finale. However, it all ended too quickly and flatly for my liking. Now, unfortunately I haven’t read the Lois Lowry bestseller but I have it on good authority from fans that the film remains true to the source material. In that case, I will not be rushing to get the book.

At it’s best, it’s well acted, zips along, has moments of clever satire and action. At it’s worst, it’s predictable, a mix of teen and sci-fi flicks with an inevitable foot note that reeks of “THERE WILL BE A SEQUEL”

My main gripe with films like these is that they are just being churned out with no real attempt to be different. Originality is tough these days but I think Hollywood should spend a little more time looking at the source material, making a stronger film instead of relying on the same old guff or ripping off classics in such a lazy way. This is why The Host, Mortal Instruments and Ender’s Game all failed to earn another sequel. All best selling novels with die hard fans in their own rights. It’s always tough to impress fans but you can at least try NOT yammer on with corny dialogue, poor pace or stretching out a story to milk more movies. You need to impress us with the first. IF The Giver earns one, then they better come out guns blazing. A comment I use too often. (Even for Divergent).

3 (just) out of 5