*NEW* KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE REVIEW *NEW*

Manners maketh the ridiculous sequel

When their headquarters are destroyed and the world is held hostage, the Kingsmen’s journey leads them to the discovery of an allied spy organization in the US. These two elite secret organizations must band together to defeat a common enemy.

Stupid, bonkers, OTT and yet . . . Still highly entertaining.

The Kingsman are back BUT better? Well . . .

It would help to watch the first one. BUT if you haven’t, it’s not the end of the world (Although YOU MUST! It’s rather bloody good) as quick plot points are skimmed over anyway.

I mean, my mind drew a blank in the opening sequence as Charlie (Who? Thankfully there was a quick flashback) ambushed Eggsy (Taron Egerton) in a mental cab chase punch up.

I was a little anxious with the frenetic opening. It was too chaotic and, dare I say, silly for my liking. The frantic camera work, the over-indulgent CGI, I feared the worst. The soundtrack was on point though as Eggsy and Charlie punched the living daylights out of each other to Prince. Nice.

BUT once the pace settled down and the humour kicked in, I was still happy to be caught up in this crazy mess.

Egerton ran the show yet again and carried the film (when it tragically dragged).

Julianne Moore had a tough act to follow after Ssssssamuel (One for the Kingsman fans) L Jackson’s stellar turn in Secret Service BUT she played the psycho Poppy really well. If anything, I was disappointed at how small her screen time was.

Beneath the smiley Desperate Housewives persona lied one twisted individual. Don’t eat a burger from her. That’s all I’m saying.

I liked the idea of the Statesmen. The Kingsman’s American cousin. All the satire ripe for the picking. BUT after a fun introduction and some punny wordplay on their operative names; Tatum, Berry and Bridges were all left watching from the side lines. By the end, I wondered why they even bothered. Shame.

Thank God for Pedro Pascal’s (Game of Thrones/Narcos) laser lasso throwing cowboy Whiskey.

Colin Firth was a welcome return. Even with his ridiculous (but surprisingly plausible in a “Kingsman” way) revival. A much needed presence. The camaraderie with Eggsy was the heart of the first movie.

His presence made up for some of the messier parts of the movie. The only problem was that once Harry was back, Merlin was designated to Q status. A shame as up until that point; Mark Strong (The Brothers Grimsby) had been on scene stealing form. Benched (with the majority of the Statesmen) right up until the explosive finale.

My main quibble with The Golden Circle was that where the original got away with poking fun at James Bond (and the spy genre in general); this really did take things up to 11. A bit like Kick Ass 2. Funny, messed up BUT pushing its luck.

The middle act dragged and a reconnaissance mission at Glastonbury took the biscuit for me as Eggsy “planted” a bug into a model’s (Poppy Delevigne – Yup Cara’s sis) orifice (Nope, you read that right).

Now don’t get me wrong, the original wasn’t perfect. And to say, this sequel was silly by comparison is . . . silly in itself.

Especially when you had Sofia Boutella’s lethal Pistorius blade combination, Jackson’s blood phobia and THAT church scene . . . (My God! Pardon the irony) I will never listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd  in the same way again!

I just wasn’t caught up in it as much this time around.

Bruce Greenwood’s cameo as the President of the United States was mental. He reminded me of a similar world leader (with no concept of empathy or thought. Make of that what you will). His unique hostage negotiating skills spoke volumes.

BUT the real scene stealer was Sir Elton John. The Rocketman was bloody hilarious. He really didn’t give a damn, wasn’t afraid to poke fun at himself and was surprisingly agile for an ailing musician 😉

Despite the relentless CGI, the malingering pace and some mad plot holes, K: GC was still crazy fun with some entertaining and delightfully bloody and visceral action sequences.

A fun time filler if nothing else that won’t disappoint Kingsman fans too much.

3/5

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*NEW* HELL OR HIGH WATER REVIEW *NEW*

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Best film of the year? Hardly BUT this is still one well crafted and brilliantly acted crime thriller. Yee-ha!

A divorced dad (Chris Pine) and his ex-con brother (Ben Foster) resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family’s ranch in West Texas.

A gripping opener certainly set the tone with the amateurish brothers holding two banks in quick succession. The contrast established early on between Pine’s nervous BUT calculated Toby to Foster’s volatile and reckless Tanner.

Pine (Star Trek) was a charismatic presence yet again bringing a subtlety to the troubled thief. BUT it was great to see Ben Foster (Lone Survivor) finally getting a role worthy of his talents. He lapped it up and delivered an engaging performance. You felt your loyalties tested as you loathed him with his bipolar mood swings in one scene and laughed with him in the next.

Suspenseful and intriguing as the crazy duo raced around a barren Texan landscape stealing from the very institution that was trying to steal from them. You could feel for the pair as we got a little hindsight into their fractured relationship.

The pace didn’t mess about for the first half. It jumped from one thing to the next. I was really impressed with Taylor Sheridan’s (Sicario) script. It oozed dark humour with some cracking one liners; “What colour were they? You mean their souls?” He captured a gritty Texan underworld with lively characters. A perfect neo-noir. Hookers sharking around the casino for a quick buck. The townspeople a law onto themselves.

At first glance, I could have argued that anyone could have played Jeff Bridges’ role of Marcus Hamilton. Apart from drawling out racist Native American jibes at his partner (Gil Birmingham – Twilight) and spitting feathers about his impending retirement, I was more intrigued with Hamilton’s interaction with the community.

Draining blood out of a stone as he questioned witnesses; “Yeah, I watched them rob the bank that’s been robbing me for 30 years”. Their unwillingness to help the cops (and banks more importantly) spoke volumes. Especially when the sheriff tries to take back a tip from a waitress (played surprisingly well by Katy Mixon – Mike and Molly) as evidence. A tip that made half her mortgage payment for the month.

Sheridan’s social commentary on the state of rural communities was food for thought; “It’s the 21st century and I’m racing cattle against a field of fire and I wonder why my kids won’t do this?” – a dark glimpse into the future. Ranches and farmers feeling the gloomy uncertainty of what the next generation will bring.

BUT great writing could only really come to life with talented performances, great direction from the Starred Up director David Mackenzie (He’s come a long way from Corbridge) and some picturesque cinematography by Giles Nuttgen. How could he make something so desolate look so stunning? I was even happier when I noticed the original score was penned and performed by Nick Cave.

However, the only problem with these gritty crime thrillers is that there are only ever two outcomes which made certain moments a little predictable and the promising pace did slacken in the middle act.

BUT just when I felt the momentum was dropping; the film swiftly cranked up the heat on this slow burner as a bank run went wrong. Leading to a tense, nail biting and gripping closing act. The adrenaline-fuelled police chase had me on tenterhooks.

Bridges’ character finally came into the fold (unleashing some of that Oscar winning prowess) after countless scenes of him wandering around and playing the waiting game.

The unravelling of the brother’s motives behind the robberies was actually quite clever. I loved how Sheridan encapsulated the hypocrisy of the financial system through the incompetent Loan Officer (Richard Christie). Bureaucracy at its best.

Hell Or High Water was very much in the same vein as No Country for Old Men. Just without all the cryptic metaphors. And the closing minutes. Tense doesn’t even come close. The bubbling tension and still atmosphere, aided by the mere sound of creaking oil pumps between the thieves and their fate, felt like something out of a Western. Perfect.

Film of the year? Too early to tell. BUT certainly worth your attention if you’re in the mood for a well acted gritty crime thriller.

3.5/5

SEVENTH SON REVIEW

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Not as you bad as you think. Or just as bad depending on your outlook.

Okay, it’s not great. BUT . . .

It killed the time, zipped along, didn’t mess about and knew exactly what it was. A big, dumb, action packed supernatural blockbuster.

Seventh Son is very much in the same vein as Van Helsing and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. Ridiculously stupid but entertaining at least.

So what’s this one about? Young Thomas (Ben Barnes) is apprenticed to the local Spook (Jeff Bridges) to learn to fight evil spirits. His first great challenge comes when the powerful Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) escapes her confinement while the Spook is away.

From the OTT opening music score, I instantly thought of the classic monster movies.

Not long before you’ve sat down in your seats, you’re soon jumping out of them as an imprisoned dragon breaks free to unleash mayhem.

Smaug got nothing on this one. However, the dragon soon transforms into a vamped up femme fatale. In the form of Julianne Moore.

Moore went completely against type and proved she can play the seductive vamp role well. (What?)

She camped it up and stole every scene. You could tell she was having fun.

BUT Jeff Bridges? Face palm. What on Earth is he playing at?

The reunion of The Dude and Maude Lebowski may have excited the movie nerd in me BUT it’s just a shame that Bridge’s character was so terrible.

He just about pulled off the no-nonsense embittered mentor with a terrible accent in RIPD. But he should have known not to pull the same trick twice.

I had no idea what accent he was trying to do. It was hysterical for all the wrong reasons. Half the time, I couldn’t understand him. The other half I couldn’t care.

Ben Barnes (The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian) was quite a charismatic lead. Even if his character was a little bland.

Luckily the chemistry he had with Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) sparked a bit more life into him.

There wasn’t enough of Vikander. And no! Not because I have a little crush on her. I felt that with Barnes, they made a good couple. Barnes and Bridges, on the other hand? No.

She was feisty and not too shabby to look at either 😉

The special effects were actually pretty good. Unfortunately, I saw the 2D version. A decision I instantly regretted. You could pick out several moments that would have been great to see in 3D.

The plot was pretty naff and full of plot holes. I could jot down the amount of questions; Why the seventh of the seventh son? What was the purpose of John DeSantis’ (The 13th Warrior) Tusk? Why did he have tusks? Why was he indebted to the Spook? How did he keep popping up when the Spook hadn’t told him where they were?

Little niggles, you know.

I wasn’t bored and certainly couldn’t knock Seventh Son for pace. It zipped along, and if I’m honest, a little too rapidly. The story was always going to the same old predictable guff. Young man sent on a quest and enduring love, loss and blah, blah, blah but they could have allowed a little more time on certain characters.

Most notably, Olivia Williams’ Mam Ward. Her forced mother/son relationship could have been a little more meaningful and interesting if they had allowed a revelation to develop. BUT instead, they focus on the monsters and the fight sequences.

Don’t get me wrong. Fun and violent they may be. It doesn’t help when you don’t really care about the characters. Mam Ward reveals something about her character halfway through the film that could have added something BUT instead she is pushed further into the background until she is no more.

A missed opportunity.

Kit Harrington. That’s right. Jon Snow. Had the easiest cameo going. I couldn’t believe he was in this. They must have grabbed him while filming Game of Thrones. His role was nothing more than a plot device to show how relentless Mother Malkin is.

Djimon Hounsou is reduced to nothing more than another angry servant. Pretty much the same character from Guardians of the Galaxy. Just an irate troll this time.

Also, why was everyone speaking with American accents? Especially when the majority of the cast were English or Dutch? But that’s just a continuity quip. Another niggle, that’s all.

It was hammy and OTT but gained points for fun.

It had the odd chuckle, zipped along and kept me quiet. However, a lot more points were lost for consistency, plot holes and direction.

The ending wrapped up far too quickly and was surprisingly open. With a faint hint of another?

I would be intrigued and if (A BIG IF) the gang were to return, they would need a lot of work. I enjoyed Van Helsing a lot more and we never got a sequel for that. So, don’t hold up your hopes.

This is definitely a teen fantasy epic if ever there was one. BUT we have had far too many. And even though they were flawed messes, they were still a little more memorable than this, I’m afraid.

BUT give it a go if you want a big silly creature feature to kill 90 minutes. BUT Jeff Bridges, come on man. You’re the Dude! Sort it out.

2.5/5

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