*NEW* THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD REVIEW *NEW*

Hit and miss BUT still good fun.

The world’s top bodyguard (Ryan Reynolds) gets a new client, a hit man (Samuel L Jackson) who must testify at the International Court of Justice. They must put their differences aside and work together to make it to the trial on time.

Sometimes with movies like this, you just know what you’re going to get. A silly popcorn flick. It won’t win plaudits for plot and originality BUT if it does the job then what’s the problem?

Reynolds applied his usual quick-witted shtick. I thought I’d be getting fed up of watching him in “Deadpool mode” BUT he still owns it. Even if some of the quips came off a little flat in places.

BUT the main scene stealer was Samuel L (The “L stands for Motherf**ker”) Jackson. Cackling like a mad man and laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. He made this movie. If not for him, I don’t think this would have fared as well. Legend.

The supporting cast was disappointing. More so with the characters than the performances.

Did Gary Oldman even realise his character was a parody of himself? He played a cliche of his own evil Russian villain cliche. Yikes. The villain was too weak, even for him. He took the role far too seriously. Shame. I was hoping he could have lapped it up and poked fun at himself. Alas, it was not to be.

We’ve seen this sort of character so many times before and done better . . . By the man himself.

Even the fiery Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung – Daredevil) was reduced to a schmaltzy scorned ex subplot. Her verbal sparring with Reynolds was corny and dull.

There wasn’t enough Hayek. She was hilarious in the dreadfully small cameo. I would have been happy to have her on the road trip with the two hot heads. BUT then there wouldn’t be any incentive for Jackson’s character.

I’ll never hear Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’ in the same way again. A flashback to Hayek and Jackson’s love story had me in stitches. Their eyes met across a violent bar brawl. Brilliant.

The inevitable backstabbing and “reveal” of the mole breaching security was mind-numbingly obvious. And the “twist” (or reason) behind Reynold and Jackson’s heated rivalry was predictable to boot.

Thankfully the action sequences made up for the generic story line. The race through Amsterdam was riveting, utterly bonkers BUT entertaining to the max. Seriously, the punch ups were insane; especially Reynolds’ DIY store scuffle with a Goliathan mercenary.

The humour delivered in parts. Some gags overstayed their welcome. Watching Jackson sing-a-long in a bus with nuns? YES! YES! YES!

Listening to him share childish insults with Deadpool and singing over each other? Not so much.

The action sequences were decent, the hokey plot was passable BUT the credit goes to the two leads who made a somewhat TV movie premise a little more than the generic mess it could have been.

I just the pair could have improvised off the cuff a little more. It felt like the 15 certificate rating held them back.

Watchable guff though.

3/5 (Just)

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CHILD 44 REVIEW

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Tipped to be the biggest flop of 2015. An unjustified tag line may be undeserved but this clunky affair still leaves a lot to be desired.

A disgraced member of the military police (Hardy) investigates a series of nasty child murders during the Stalin-era Soviet Union.

Tom Hardy was superb. A powerhouse performance. He carried the film and was the only actor to deliver a convincing accent and keep in character.

The opening 30 minutes zipped along. If anything a little too quickly. We watch Hardy’s Leo Demidov climbing through the ranks from an orphan on the run to a decorated war veteran.

I expected more of a relationship between Hardy and Mark Lewis Jones’ Tortoise (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) but it didn’t really surmount to anything. He takes Leo in as a surrogate son but as soon as we are caught up to date, his character is pushed into the background. A shame.

Joel Kinnaman was actually quite impressive. He played the green eyed Vasili very well. A coward forever lurking in Leo’s shadow. A nutter hell bent on taking his anger on those beneath him.

His punishment on a family of farmers for hiding a suspected fugitive was relentless. However, there was a highly comical and OTT cornfield punch up between Hardy and Jason Clarke (Dawn of the Planet of The Apes) that killed the tension and suspense.

BUT an interesting development soon put things on the right track as Leo’s wife (Noomi Rapace) is accused of giving secrets to the British embassy.

For the first hour, I kept thinking to myself; “Where does the child killer story come into this?” It felt like a different film. Two story lines meshed into one and neither really came off.

I was more interested in Leo’s exile after refusing to give up his wife. Noomi Rapace and Hardy reunite yet again after their pairing in The Drop. They had good chemistry and certainly kept things watchable.

The exile sequence was compelling. I was happy to see more of that factory town situation. Leo reduced to the equivalent of a PCSO. While Rapace’s Raisa, a fully qualified teacher, is purposely made a cleaner at the school.

I was intrigued with the Stalin ideology that was enforced in the 50s. “There is no murder in paradise”. The deluded belief that no one kills in Soviet Russia was baffling. Those who opposed any ideals were removed either temporarily to these slum towns or permanently.

The child killer subplot finally arrives and it was interesting (To begin with). The killer sneaking around the tracks like Jack the Ripper. A cloak and cane being the only things we see as each child is picked off one by one. BUT it soon became a mindless walk through with terrible red herrings. It was sloppily put together and didn’t fit in.

The spluttering pace did test me. At a whopping 137 minutes, the film dragged. It seemed to be a case of all or nothing. In one scene we have an exhilarating escape attempt on a train as the couple evade capture. The next; mindless exposition. Boring forensic information delivered with no conviction or interest.

The killer is revealed to the audience too early on which kills any tension. And when we finally get the answers, I was left wanting. The film suggested that there was a bigger conspiracy at play with Leo being stopped at every possible opportunity. Was the killer within their own ranks? Oh no.

The conspiracy was that Vasili wanted Leo’s position and was jealous that his wife was not with him instead. That’s it. Leo had so many opportunities to dispose of Vasili and he refused. By the end, you were yelling, “Get rid!”. Foolish.

Gary Oldman didn’t make much of an impression at all. A talented actor reduced to an unmemorable role. He also seemed to forget he was Russian. His accent dipping in and out. It didn’t help that his character was built up to be a crucial figure in the case. But he was non-existent. Merely threatening Leo to stay out of his way and then allowing to do as he pleased.

While Leo was pursuing the killer, Oldman’s General Nesterov was just consoling the grieving families. And then he disappeared. Only popping back up in the closing credits to explain what he did after this daunting case. Not a lot afterwards, either. A waste of an actor.

I had to agree with someone that said the cast were doing their best Borat impressions. It was incredibly off-putting. But that’s Hollywood for you. Fares Fares (Zero Dark Thirty) was the biggest culprit. Terrible. Paddy Considine did as well as he could with the role but he didn’t really get to shine until the closing act.

After a lumbering middle act, the last 20 minutes was suspenseful, intense and ridiculously violent. Hardy goes through more soldiers than Rambo. His mud wrestling battle with a foe was unbelievably hilarious.

And as the film came to its abrupt close, there were plot points that just left me scratching my head. People being bumped off left, right and centre and without any real explanation or reason.

A wasted opportunity. When I last checked the box office records, Child 44 had taken $600,000 a $35 million budget.

A little harsh. It wasn’t all bad. But they took a gamble with a huge ensemble that didn’t deliver with a premise that was half baked. And penciling it in during the Avengers release was a big mistake.

Clunky, overlong, hammy. This may have been adapted from a best selling novel but I’m not certainly venturing out to my local book shop to purchase a copy.

The cons outweighed the suspenseful action sequences and charisma of the talented Mr Hardy.

2.5/5

DRACULA UNTOLD REVIEW

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Dracula Now Told! And it’s still the same old predictable guff. Ah ah ah . . . I’ll get my coat. But one thing is established. Luke Evans is ready to take on the big dogs.

Yet another Dracula reboot descends upon the silver screen. Why, oh, why? Have Hollywood ran out of ideas that they must revisit and rehash (emphasis on hash) old classics.

NOW credit where’s it due. Director Gary Shore certainly makes an ambitious debut and despite its endless flaws, I did find it highly watchable and not the worst way to kill 90 minutes. Dracula Untold was also the perfect platform for two up and coming stars.

We’ve seen Dracula as a baddie. Now we have the revisionist phase in which ol’ Drac is now the good guy. Wait? What? It kinda worked with Maleficent. Why not? Did Shore not watch the short-lived TV series with Jonathan Rhys Meyers? (A shame because JRM was actually pretty good).

So what’s it all about? As his kingdom is being threatened by the Turks, young prince Vlad Tepes (Evans) must become a monster feared by his own kingdom in order to obtain the power needed to protect his own family, and the families of his kingdom.

Luke Evans has been making waves for some time and has proven that he can make incredibly tame and flat characters quite memorable. His turns in Fast and Furious 6 and the Hobbit trilogy proved that. Now he has a bigger platform and a role to sink his teeth into (What? I couldn’t resist).

His charisma and conviction certainly made the predictably bland Drac stand out. He most definitely carried the film. Something you want from a leading actor.

Evans always had a tough act to follow with Christopher Lee and Bella Lugosi taking on the historic role before him (Gary Oldman didn’t do too bad a job of it). BUT he certainly held his own.

Charles Dance brought his creepy demeanor to the fold and made a memorable impression. “Let the games begin”. A cheeky Game of Thrones nod that soon overstayed its welcome. His make up was brilliant. I only recognized him by his voice.

The special effects were very good but the overuse of CGI made it all a little too cartoony after some cracking visual battle sequences. I think they missed a treat by not shooting this in 3D. I know 3D hasn’t really hit it off (Well, did it ever?) BUT is this one film that could have nailed it. When Evans first evaporated in a dark cloud of bats, it was pretty damn cool.

But after that, it got old really quickly. Once he’s dispatched an army here. And an army there. Exploded into bats and strutted like a bad ass. There wasn’t much else. The story line was ridiculously predictable and so flat. There were no twists or turns and the concluding moments were rushed into a frenetic finale that was so abrupt and open that it left me feeling a little miffed. Putting it mildly.

It didn’t help that, despite having a talented supporting cast, the characters were highly unmemorable and undeveloped. Dominic Cooper was wasted as the maniacal Memed. Left to merely pout and frown and get a two minute scrap. A real shame.

I couldn’t take Paul Kaye seriously as Brother Lucian. I couldn’t tell if he was meant to be that laughable or was just written that way. I guess it didn’t help seeing him in Spaced and Blackball. I couldn’t take him seriously in Game of Thrones either, to be honest.

The alluring Sarah Gadon had already stolen my heart after her appearance in Belle. She had good chemistry with Evans and for a brief moment, I actually cared what happened to the pair. I expect to see more of her. No, not in that way. Come on.

The two leads will come out of this relatively unscathed and Shore will also be one to watch. Once someone gives him a fresh, original idea. But his reworking of a constantly revisited icon wasn’t the worst one I’ve seen (Dracula 2000, anyone? Sorry Gerard Butler).

If you are a fan of Dracula, then invest. If you like your action fast and constant, then again invest. But if you were expecting something a little different, then you may feel a little drained (I know not my best).

A lot more watchable than I anticipated.

2.5/5 for me.

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES REVIEW

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Yawn of the Planet of the Apes? Not quite but a questionable running length does more damage than the simian flu in what could have been a visually stunning tour de force of a prequel/sequel/prequel sequel

I fear this film will split people. Not that it hadn’t from the get go with a Planet of the Apes prequel trilogy but some will be in awe of the incredibly visual work to even care that beneath the surface there isn’t a lot of story and in terms of human character development, there is zilch. I really wanted to this work and it does . . . in sorts. A mixed bag.

Visually stunning. Incredible animation. Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings) and Toby Kebbell (Rock ‘N’ Rolla) are fantastic as Caesar and Koba. Their expressions and movements are impeccable. You can actually suspend disbelief and become engrossed in the beautifully animated habitat. I know that the monkeys are at the fore front of these movies but it seems that no time was spent on providing us with human characters that we should care about. It is all clearly defined in the trailer; good guy, bad guy, good ape, bad ape.

The opening sequence in which we see the apes hunting and communicating through sign language is intriguing and suspenseful. They have developed a safe haven with rules and respect. That is until the humans come along. To be honest, the 3D is not a massive investment nor does it make a massive impact. The animation is good enough. Every time the humans enter the scene, you feel like the wind is being knocked out of the sails. It was great to see TV actors from the small screen get a bigger platform to perform but the characters are so clichéd and flat, that you find it hard to care. The time and energy is more focused on our primitive protagonists.

It was great to see Jason Clarke (Lawless) playing a normal good guy and he was probably the most memorable character . . . out of the humans. If anything it proved that Franco and Lithgow’s presences were very much missed. A passing reference with some video camera footage is we all get on old James ‘Squinty’ Franco. Keri Russell (The Americans) was the only female character that was so bland, it was such a shame. Any back story or mystery about the humans is soon exposed and leaves little interest. It felt like the writer had spent the time on the monkeys and thought, “Oh wait. We need some humans. Yeah, that will do”. It was great to see Gary Oldman but to be honest, anyone could have played him. All he did was cry or yell “They’re animals” over and over.

The main thing that kept this slackening piece going was the brewing rivalry between Koba and Caesar as Koba’s distrust for the humans seemed to threaten the very peace that Caesar worked hard to keep hold of. One thing that did irritate me slightly was once you have heard Caesar yell “No” or “Go” numerous times (with great conviction by Serkis), you can’t help but feel where is this going? We have seen all this before. For some, that will be enough. For others, you may be left wanting. Caesar is still a charismatic character and he steals the scene every time. But apart from Koba, there aren’t any memorable characters that can rival them.

It’s not all bad. Koba’s stake out sequences on the humans made for engaging viewing and when the action and suspense finally arrives, it delivers the goods. The final 20 minutes are riveting, explosive and action packed. However, you can’t help but feel that with the inevitable air of another sequel rearing its ugly head, that everything will either remain unresolved or be thrown up in the air. You find yourself picking out moments and guessing; this must be where the apes go full evil and enslave the humans, nope. Now, nope.

Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) does his best at taking over the helm but it all felt like build up. With confirmation that he will be directing the next instalment, two things are a must. More pace and better humans. Monkeys are A-OK. One slight qualm, how come Koba spoke more English than Caesar? Why aren’t they all speaking yet? But to be able to do sign language, hunt and build up a colony in ten years, some would say that’s plenty progress.

All in all, not bad. Fantastic animation, great visual and action pieces but a lagging pace and predictable human characters kill off what could have something so much better. 3/5

Currently ranked 64 out of 196!

ROBOCOP REVIEW

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I wouldn’t buy that for a dollar. Well, imagine the original cult classic in all it’s glory, being de-shelled, removing all the tasty innards, the icy satire, the hysterical commercials with the infamous one liner, and replacing it with generic characters, predictable boring corrupt copper spiel, and oh yeah, pimping it out with a gloss black finish and you’ve got a slight indicator of what to expect. If you didn’t already get that from the trailers. Not a complete write-off. Ro-bore-cop has impeccable special effects, combined with decent set action pieces (when they happen), but it doesn’t excuse or help defend the argument that remakes should be done. If anything this one is an example against that said cause.

Mini-rant over. Now to the rest of it. Now, dead or half-asleep, I’m going to review this. Now, I’m not going to lie. I am a huge fan of the original 1987 Verhoeven sci-fi classic. When I first heard about this remake and saw the proposed robo-suit, I was livid. BUT . . . I was proved wrong with the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake and the trailers for this rehash looked promising. So I went, ready to give it a chance. Hope went out the window when the 12A certificate came up across the screen. You know what to expect as soon as you open to Samuel L (the L stands for Motherfucker) Jackson doing Ron Burgundy-like vocal exercises before appearing on a news segment, criticising America for being “robophobic” (A guilty titter. It worked) and demanding to know why it is the only country not to have robots protecting the streets.

The opening sequence was very good and showed potential, brushing lightly on the satire of the Middle East with their new “protectors”, which soon leads to a gun frenzied attack on live air, which for security reasons, is cut short. The visuals are fantastic and the robots looks good. The action is pacy. Good start but that is soon droned down by more talking about why robots should be in America. I felt I was watching the news. Then the theme song kicks in, re-calibrated, tinny and awful. I thought it sounded a little dated before, but this film managed to make it stick out like a sore thumb.

Enter our hero, Alex Murphy played by Joel Kinnaman (you may remember him from the disappointing US remake of The Killing. However, I did like his performance . . . in that). Kinnaman is very wooden in this and he soon narrates a quick plot summary of a horrible weapons dealer whose working with corrupt coppers. Two of which are blatantly in the room with him.

We are soon lulled into a quick who’s who of stocky generic bad guys relieved by a reasonable gun blazing shoot em up. While that’s going on, corporate bigwig Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) is working with his team (PR guru Jay Baruchel in a minor and passive role. Plays it well. But he is a good actor) to try and market a robot on the streets, but they realise they need a human touch to it. Cue the inevitable double crossing and trusting the wrong people for poor old Murphy, who is then “dealt with” in the form of a ferocious car bomb. Would have been more of a shocker, if we didn’t see it coming. There was no suspense building to his inevitable demise. We were just waiting for “when he’s going to be Robo?” as the bomb was set up ten minutes before.

Now, the effects are very good and the suit looks decent and it was great to see a more slim-lined, less bulky, version of the original with the blue titanium. We soon get all the issues, man v machine, is he a human in a machine or a machine who thinks he’s human? Now, I can respect Jose Padilha and the writers for trying to do something different to the classic and break away from it, looking at aspects that weren’t considered or couldn’t be. But looking at this, maybe they should have just done it shot for shot.

Gone are characters like Louis, to be replaced by Michael K. Williams (the legendary Omar from the Wire/Chalky White from Boardwalk Empire). Williams does his best but his character gets pushed aside that much that he can only pop out two good one-liners. He isn’t even really brought back until the (much needed) explosive finale. Gary Oldman plays Dr Dennett Norton to perfection, with the beautiful, if wasted, Aimee Garcia (Jamie Batista from Dexter) as his lab assistant.

But it soon drags into a dull, mind numbing hour of training montages, reboots and battles with his body, bearing in mind, (in a beautifully animated if graphic display) that he is a head, set of lungs, heart and a hand. The training montage relieves with some action and clashes with head honcho Rick Mattox (Jackie Earle Haley – Rorschach from Watchmen). He subtly delivers the best line of the movie. Hint hint Robo fans. It is only after the first hour, when Murphy is let out on the streets that it picks up and gets more watchable. However, as a marketing ploy, they pimp him in black, which makes the suit look like bulky biker gear with enormous shoulder pads (or a black dildo). However, still looks good, badass and less stompy to his Weller predecessor.

Now, it only appears that as Kinnaman is supposed to be more robotic, that his acting gets better. Now Peter Weller was always a bit wooden with his monotone voice but Kinnaman appears to out-Weller Weller. BUT . . . he runs really funny. I mean I was in stitches. Maybe he should have kept the Weller stomp and the jump over the wall was OTT. The training sequence was also let down with OTT music that had ridiculous jazz flute music. I was waiting for Ron Burgundy to pop out.

There was needless time building up Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow), who was an awful baddie. Kurtwood Smith’s Clarence J. Boddicker just looked evil. We didn’t need to establish anything. It was evident that he was a piece of work. The baddies in this were generic, stocky and didn’t stand out. Might as well have been named Cannon Fodder #1, 2, etc. Oldman and Keaton worked well together. Oldman as the tormented compassionate scientist to Keaton’s devilish corporate money maker. Not enough of the pair and not enough going to keep them on. In the original, we had the malicious Ronny “Dick” Cox and gullible yuppie/guppie Miguel “Bob” Ferrer competing with their programs and their . . . explosive rivalry (What?). Not so much in this.

Also, as a side note, what was with Keaton’s lip-licking? Did he need Vasoline? Seriously he kept looking at Oldman like he was a piece of KFC. Understandable if it was Abbie Cornish. What? Cornish (Limitless. The movie. Come on, we’re better than that) did her best as the distraught wife and the writers tried to bring the family angle into it more but it just didn’t work and came off half-baked and corny.

The busts were even uninteresting. Trying to keep in with its teen audience, Robo does an emotional analysis on a druggie, his screen states: TOTALLY STONED. However, his screen’s visuals although cool are stupid. SUSPECTS LOOKS VIOLENT or something along those lines. Mate, I could have told you that and saved you a million bucks. Some liked the Knight Rideresque bike with his neon blue lights, I didn’t. I was waiting for it to say, “You’re not Michael”. Also, how much longer can films ride off a volatile Jackson shouting at you and spewing Motherfuckers everywhere. In this case, as its 12A, once and bleeped. Well he was on live TV. His biased news channel had the odd chuckle but the joke went on too long. The final 20 minutes made up for a hit and miss (more miss) ride with all out explosions and carnage.

Now what have I forgot to speak about? Call myself a Robo fan. ED209! Or E-D-209. Yep, not even ED. Looks incredible, says the command once maybe twice. But they can use stairs. Not as shocking a revelation as the Darleks. Craaaap! One cool little sequence redeems that with Robo running underneath them and because they are so big and bulky, they can’t actually fire at him in a Doomesque first person shooter point of view. That made up for an earlier night vision sequence that was erratic, flashy and all over the place. Did my eyes in.

It was always going to be tough to beat a classic, especially from the visionary Paul Verhoeven of Total Recall and Starship Troopers fame. It has a great cast (that was wasted), great special effects, good action but all let down by needless plot, mind-numbing pace and cliched characters. Padilha cannot be marked down for ambition but it was almost too serious. All too . . . mechanical. Yes, I wrote it. Very much like it’s robotic lead, the film had little heart, little brains and parts all over the place. Not one for the scrap heap, watchable (just) but let’s hope there’s not another reboot. 2.5/5

Currently ranks #108 out of 139!