FOXCATCHER REVIEW

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Tough, slow and frustrating. I’d rather watch “What Did The Fox Say?” for two hours than endure this over-hyped ensemble piece again.

Watching this film made me feel like I had been in a wrestling match. Tired, achy, drained and frustrated.

When I first saw the trailers, I had high hopes. I went in ready to see a trio of talented actors take on what was potentially a game changer.

To be honest, it still was BUT the hype really did hinder!

So what’s it all about? The greatest Olympic Wrestling Champion brother team (Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum) joins Team Foxcatcher led by multimillionaire sponsor John E. du Pont (Carrell) as they train for the 1988 games in Seoul – a union that leads to unlikely circumstances.

Channing Tatum was very good as Mark Schultz. It has been a strange but interesting transition for the actor. I remember watching Fighting and thinking to myself, “Why is everyone going on about this guy?” An inaudible accent. A slacker posture. Was he trying to do a really bad Stallone impression? Is this a joke?

BUT he has progressed so far from that. Appearing in a range of films from Side Effects to 22 Jump Street. And I have had to eat my words. The make-up and prosthetics certainly changed his face but Tatum embraces the character perfectly.

His posture. His caveman dragging of the heels. Little things that make a big difference.

You feel for Schultz as he attempts to escape from living in his brother’s shadow. Feeding off what little scraps his brother David gives him. Metaphorically, of course. Giving him school visits that he doesn’t want to do, etc.

The sparring sequence was a perfect example of the brewing tension between the two brothers. A simple training exercise soon becomes a full-on brawl. Subtly, slow burning but tense. I expected more of this.

Instead, I just got slow, slow, slow!

Mark Ruffalo was fantastic but I’ve always rated him as an actor and felt he had that versatility. There wasn’t enough of him and I can see why he has earned that Best Supporting nod. He lifts every scene he is in and works really well with Tatum.

Steve Carrell was fantastic. The prosthetic certainly added to his creepy demeanour but his performance made all the difference. I couldn’t believe it was him. His presence haunts every frame.

Carrell has certainly proved that he can adapt and adapt well. If Carrell can keep this up, it will be a while before he returns to the comedy circuit.

If Norman Bates was a multimillionaire wrestling coach, then you would have an accurate depiction of duPont. Desperately seeking fame from his wrestling team and recognition from his reclusive mother.

Vanessa Redgrave was good in the small part she had. Sienna Miller . . . well, she had the easiest gig going. Anyone could have played her to deliver the three unmemorable lines of dialogue.

I didn’t even realise until the end of the film that Anthony Michael Hall (The Breakfast Club) was DuPont’s bodyguard.

It really is a SLOW burner. If you have the patience then you may be rewarded. BUT for me, the reward just wasn’t enough for the 129 minute length.

I’m prepared to endure with a film but the journey should be worth it. I could feel my eyes wondering to the little hands on my watch.

The slow talking, the endless staring and fox catching montages. I can understand the point of the imagery and the commentary BUT it seemed to go on.

Tatum’s breakdown was an unexpected but brilliantly acted scene. The pent up aggression released on one poor hotel room.

To be honest, I was a little lost in what Bennett Miller was trying to do with Foxcatcher. In one instance it felt like he was trying to make a commentary on the decaying ideal of the American dream; greed, money and power.

BUT on the other hand, it seemed like an examination but on who? The paranoid mummy’s boy millionaire? The fame seeking wrestler? His profit driven brother?

Schultz’s descent into darkness was a mixed bag. Mind-numbingly droll in one instant, tense and strange the next. The hold that duPont held over him was creepy. His play thing. A new toy.

The impromptu wrestling sessions in the middle of the night. DuPont’s constant craving for appraisal. A relentlessly long scene in which duPont keeps making Schultz pronounce the same phrase over and over to get it right was a perfect example of his relentless ego BUT it also bored the hell out of me.

I got it in 10 seconds NOT 10 minutes! “Philanthropist, philateler and ornithologist, Philanthropist, philateler and ornithologist” again and again.

It didn’t help that the film was about wrestling. The fight sequences were okay BUT if they haven’t got The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin or a steel chair then it’s going to be a little flat (What?).

The last 20 minutes I did find myself more engaged as the tension mounted. A cat and mouse game for Schultz’s sanity finally turned the heat up on this slow cooker. The closing moments finally got my attention but was it too little, too late?

This could have been cut by 30-45 minutes and been just as effective for it. The finale may have been shocking and sombre viewing BUT it just wasn’t enough.

Miller was responsible for Capote. A film I felt was incredibly overhyped. Hoffmann was outstanding but the film itself just wavered along. Overlong and overhyped. (See where I’m going).

Bennett Miller certainly delivered a story of jealousy, paranoia and greed with some fantastic performances that justify their Oscar nominations BUT pace, tension and story felt like mere afterthoughts.

2.5/5

Take it away, Hercules!

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SAY WHEN REVIEW

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WHEN! WHEN! WHEN!

When . . . will they stop churning films out like these?

A little harsh but oh so disappointing. (NOT Kevin Sorbo Hercules DISAPPOINTED!)

Keira Knightley certainly does her best but even with a decent supporting cast; you can’t help but feel that the film doesn’t deliver enough romance, enough comedy and enough of . . . anything really.

So what’s it all about? In the throes of a quarter-life (What?) crisis, Megan (Knightley) panics when her boyfriend (Mark Webber) proposes, then taking an opportunity to escape for a week, hides out in the home of her new friend, 16-year-old Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz), who lives with her world-weary single dad (Sam Rockwell).

Knightley has already proven with Begin Again that she can deliver an American accent and handle a leading role with no qualms. She certainly delivers another solid performance which helps carry this lacklustre affair.

We start with the inevitable cheesy (and nauseating shaky hand held camera) montage of Knightley and her teenage friends having fun during their prom. A little unnecessary and overlong. That then skips to the present with Megan’s slacker plodding along through life. Flipping signs for her father’s business and constantly making up excuses as to why she hasn’t seen her career councillor.

A character I could relate to a little too easily. Her procrastination and immaturity becoming a bug bear for all who know her (Not that bit . . . I hope).

Ellie Kemper (Sex Tape) was probably the only high school friend who had any decent dialogue or actual substance. Constantly trying to control and push Megan to sort her life out. The sort of friend that we all have or (if you’re lucky) used to.

Her cringe-inducing wedding dance made for unsettling but laughable viewing. I’m never going to listen to Daniel Bedingfield’s “If You’re Not The One” in the same way again. But then again, I never liked that song. But that’s a different story.

The wedding was the perfect platform for Megan to hit breaking point. There was one unexpected revelation that I didn’t see coming which made for a surprise. The inevitable friends growing up and moving on spiel is playing to its heart content. Weddings, babies, etc. The usual guff.

However, it is at this moment that Webber’s Anthony (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) decides to pop the question to Megan. Her response? She runs away while pretending to be on a life changing seminar, of course!

Taking some time to re-think all her decisions and frustrations, Megan seeks refuge in 16 year old Annika’s home. Moretz doesn’t do a bad job but her character is a little weak, in comparison to the number of meatier and more memorable roles she has delivered.

Once Megan meets Annika’s dad, the legend that is Sam Rockwell. Moretz seems to be pushed into the background. Only to pop back up when the story is lagging. Her subplot involving a crush on one of her high school friends was all too tame and horribly cliched.

Sam Rockwell was . . . pretty much being Sam Rockwell. Which just about works this time round. To be honest, his role was a lot smaller than I expected. He’s instantly likeable and very entertaining. He works well with Knightley and they have great chemistry. He also delivers some funny lines and a couple of (definite) improvised moments. You could tell the cast were trying not to laugh.

I was frustrated that Megan and Craig had to fall in love with each other. It felt forced. We know Megan was unhappy with Anthony but he wasn’t a complete tool. It just seemed unnecessary. It would have been more of a twist if they didn’t get together. The friendship would have worked better. Don’t get me wrong, K & R do just enough to pull it off . . . and make it bearable.

I was hoping for more of an examination of Megan’s quarter-life crisis, as a lot more people in their 20s are going through this sort of thing, but it’s all resolved a little too easily and with a simple and lazy fling? Run out of ideas, maybe?

The gags are sparse and not very funny. One involving an anorexic tortoise just came off hammy and rather pointless. I mean come on! What was the point of it? A bonding prop for Knightley and Rockwell? And the naming a baby after planets gag wasn’t funny from the first planet. We didn’t need the entire solar system named at us!

In terms of drama, there were some good moments. An awkward encounter between CGM and (the alluring) Gretchen Mol’s (Boardwalk Empire) negligent mother showed promise and allowed Knightley’s Megan to step up but a few sobering words and that’s it? Really? Anyone could have played Mol’s character and to be honest, thinking back the whole scene was a little pointless as she doesn’t make a reappearance.

There was a turning point nearer the end of the film that allowed the little drama that there was to finally kick off. BUT again it’s all swept under the rug and resolved d far too easily. Leaving us with a cliched and highly predictable ending. Flat and expected.

There were some good performances from the rather bland characters. I couldn’t believe Jeff Garlin from Curb Your Enthusiasm was in this. It didn’t seem right without him shouting all the time. He didn’t do too bad a job.

Kaitlyn Dever (Justified) was quite funny and did well as Annika’s mad BFF. Webber played the dimwitted Anthony well. A change from Pilgrim. Completely oblivious to Megan’s feelings but not fully deserving of her frustrated temper.

There was certainly no issue with the pace. It zipped along well enough. I just wish it had a bit going on, that’s all.

Such a shame that it’s not as hard hitting or as offbeat as you wish. A mess but a watchable one. Say When? When you have the spare time and nothing better to watch, I’d say give it a go. They may have changed the title to Laggies but I just wish they could have changed the content instead.

2/5

HERCULES REVIEW

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Can you smeeeellll what Hollywood is cooking? A mediocre action epic of a blockbuster that regurgitates the same old cheesy guff and desperately craves to be so much more but alas it was not to be. Still not a bad way to kill 90-odd minutes, jabroni!

Bless my soul, Herc is on the . . . No, enough of that. Wrong Hercules. If there was ever a man to play the ultra-strong demi-God Hercules, it is Dwayne “The Man that is becoming a Rock” Johnson. The man is a machine with enough machismo to inject the wrinklies for more Expendables movies. An absolute tank. Plenty for the ladies and even the fellas . . . if only to sigh at their feeble mortal body flab. On a serious note, Dwayne Johnson is not a bad actor (Hello? He was a wrestler) and always has a charismatic presence on the screen. He has proven to be a reliable lead and it’s great to see him given the platform yet again.

However, there are only so many poor lines that The Rock can make sound good. His stone cold stare and asking his foes if he looks afraid, brilliant. His longwinded chivalrous speeches about becoming the legends you were born to be, meh not so much. Brett Ratner (Rush Hour) has never been one for story and drama. His strengths have always been action and bringing the laughs. Now when the action does kick in, it’s pretty decent. The CGI actually helps make the scenes. The 3D was actually very impressive, if gimmicky. I mean a flaming arrow flying at you out of the screen is always going to be gimmicky but cool. (I know. Lame so sue me).

The animated adversaries that Hercules must fight are brilliant visual sequences as well as the battle scenes. That along with Hercules’ rag tag team of misfits makes this an easy going, silly but watchable movie like the movies of old. However, it is when the team disperse and Ratner has to tell a story to piece all the wonderful animation and good action together that it drags the film down and puts you into a lull. I know? Even at 98 minutes. Even with a decent cast, you can’t help but laugh or tut at the predictable and lazy guff.

It’s so corny and dull, you find it hard to keep an interest. I mean after all the promise of the opening with Hercules’ team fighting while delivering cheesy banter, I actually wanted more of that during the “serious getting to know the characters and trying to add dimensions to them” segments. Joseph Fiennes plays a restricted if perfectly type cast role as the sleazy King Eurystheus. John Hurt does his best to try and apply some acting gravitas to his frail malicious Lord Cotys (no, not Coitus! Stop it!). Peter Mullan is to be expected as the shady Sitacles. It’s great to see him getting in bigger movies. A great actor. Rufus Sewell and Ian McShane were certainly the most memorable out of the misfits.

Sewell is an underrated actor and it’s nice to see him play a good guy for once. He manages to come out with some of the better one liners. Ian McShane is pretty much playing himself but as a wizard who can see his own death. However, the rest of the cast are either flat or really irritating. Reece Ritchie and Rebecca Ferguson (no, not the X Factor singer!) I’m looking at you. Ritchie’s OTT narrator was awful. Sorry, only Paul Bettany got away with that in A Knight’s Tale.

To be honest, it has fun moments but it gets dragged down by its own lazy attempts to try and be serious. It’s big and dumb. Don’t try and be clever. While I was watching the Rock dispense enemies with a fist here and a mighty swipe with his club there, I really wanted more. I mean, not even a Rock Bottom or an Elbow of his people? Apart from punching a guy off his horse and one 50 yards across the field, there isn’t much else.

The idea of playing down Hercules as a demi-God and that he is a fraud, exaggerating stories to bring fear to his captives for his bounty is a good concept. But when you see him punch guys across the battlefield and fight giant lions, you’re not fooling anyone. I mean, look at him? It also made me want to watch The Scorpion King again. A film that by comparison knew it was being big and dumb and was better for it.

It’s okay. At it’s best, action packed and cheesy. At it’s worst, dull, boring and cheesy. Worth a watch if you want a no-nonsense punch up blockbuster but otherwise, invest in Gladiator or The Scorpion King!

2.5/5 for me. Next time, Mr. Ratner better banter, better baddy and a bit more fun. Screw the story. Do I look afraid?

Please find my Hercules related videos just to make a change.

1) The first one my reaction when I first saw the trailer for the new Hercules movie with The Rock

2) My reaction after watching said film using TV Hercules Kevin Sorbo

3) Just for fun