*NEW* BATMAN VS SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE REVIEW *NEW*

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Yawwwnnnnn of Justice. Oh dear. Oh dear. Was it a DC disaster? Or a misunderstood masterpiece?

There’s only one way to find out . . .

Fearing that the actions of Superman (Henry Cavill) are left unchecked, Batman (Ben Affleck) takes on the Man of Steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs.

All that hype. All that anticipation. My brother fell asleep in the cinema. People argued with me on how terrible it was. The feeling of disappointment hit me in the gut like a punch from Supes himself.

Yet somehow on second viewing, it wasn’t quite as bad as I remembered.

The strong opening delivered everything I hoped. A brooding, dark, tense action packed sequence with stunning visuals and a menacing score from the Mad Max maestro Junkie XL and Hans “Gladiator” Zimmer.

While the credits rolled, we had the quickest recap through Batman’s origins. No matter how many sequels, reboots and remakes; it’s always the same story. I wondered why Snyder grabbed The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo as Bruce’s parents. A real waste. They didn’t have any more screen time in the Extended Edition!

However, I liked how the writers answered one question straight off the bat that bugged the hell out of me during the Man of Steel finale; “How have Superman and Zod not killed any people with all that destruction?!”

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The answer was simple. They did. The eerily 9/11 vibe to the Man of Steel’s destruction was unsettling as Zod (Michael Shannon – Midnight Special) and Superman ploughed through tower after tower. One of the buildings being none other than Wayne Enterprises.

A haunting image of a bitter Bruce Wayne cradling a child covered in rubble and carnage. Cue the movie title.

A shame that momentum couldn’t be carried on. I wasn’t overly impressed with Man of Steel BUT thought Cavill was brilliant as the man in the red cape. It was long at the tooth and far too serious for its own good. Only lightening up in the closing act.

Bit like this one, really . . .

BvS: Dawn of Justice should have been called Man of Steel 2 ft. Sulky Batman.

I liked the idea. It was just the execution that spoiled things. The whole debate about Superman being a false God and the security risks were all too realistic and the surprisingly bleak and cynical undertone offered a completely different direction to the Avengers.

This should have been a shot out of the ball park with the Watchmen (Very underrated film) director at the helm.

The main issue was the disjointed and incredibly convoluted plot. Amy Adams was completely wasted as Lois Lane. She was sent off on some uninteresting goose chase around the States bugging senators about experimental warfare and some ruse involving African terrorists and Russian gangsters that . . . basically was a shoddy excuse to force our two “heroes” to meet. Either that or fishing around for a spear of Kryptonite. Yup.

And the end result was so tragically predictable.

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Jesse Eisenberg’s (The Social Network) take on Lex Luthor was a mixed bag. I was always #TeamBatman BUT I did enjoy Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey’s take on Supe’s renowned foe.

BUT Eisenberg just flailed about and waffled insufferable verbal diarrhea. Applying his usual schtick. Instead of taking the opportunity to play a different character. There were moments where he showed potential. An interesting anecdote about Granny’s Peach Tea delivered an unexpected punch line.

Now onto the Dark Knight. Batfleck was superb. He was an excellent Batman and an even better Bruce Wayne. It was going to be tough to follow on from Bale BUT he nailed it. His Batman counterpart followed on from the Bale Bat quite well.

If anything his character had become embittered and disillusioned. Branding his victims with a mark of justice that was pretty much a death sentence. Brutal. Angry with the world. The good men are gone.

“Even you’ve got too old to die young. Not for the lack of trying”. There wasn’t enough Jeremy Irons as Alfred. Desperate for the billionaire to seek something other than vengeance.

“Crime spree in Gotham. Water is wet.” Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) was on fine form as the Daily Planet Editor Perry White. I wanted more of Gal Gadot’s character. The mystery surrounding Diana Prince as she stumbled into Wayne’s dangerous game of chess was much more interesting than anything Luthor could conjure up.

It was at the half way marker where my patience was tested. It didn’t help having one of the most disjointed flash forwards (teasers) thrown into the mix. It didn’t fit in with the film at all. A bold statement by the producers (hoping that more movies will come to explain it) BUT it was completely out of sync with what was going on.

It certainly wouldn’t have made any sense to the DC newbies. I know it was played off as a strange dream sequence that introduced another Justice League member BUT it didn’t work.

“Black and blue. Fight night. The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world: God versus man; day versus night; Son of Krypton versus Bat of Gotham!”

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The build up, the anticipation, two flippin’ hours of mindless exposition! All for an intense 15 minutes.

The brooding, the stare-offs, the tension. A training montage that could have parodied Rocky IV with ol’ Bruce dragging massive tyres and lifting weights while Kent traipsed around a snowy mountain.

The special effects were fantastic. The minute fight sequence was set up quite well as the Caped Crusader set up an obstacle course for the nearly indestructible son of Krypton.

Cavill and Affleck worked well off each other and made the fractious exchanges much more watchable and entertaining. I just wish they hadn’t spent so much of the film apart!

And the final 30 minutes offered more of what I expected from the get go. It took itself much less seriously and threw in some needed humour and once Wonder Woman got involved, it was a riot. That score every time she came on though. Talk about overkill with the horns. Jeez.

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Despite my initial disappointment and nitpicking, this wasn’t a complete write-off. It showed promise and offered a completely different direction to the Marvel movies. One that may be darker, broodier and bloodier.

By all means NOT a bad thing. BUT can they work on crafting the characters, a better story and the flipping pace first?!

3/5

*NEW* NOW YOU SEE ME 2 REVIEW *NEW*

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And now for my next trick. Watch a franchise that nobody wanted . . . DISAPPEAR!

The Four Horsemen resurface and are forcibly recruited by a tech genius to pull off their most impossible heist yet.

Now You See Me was an enjoyable romp. Hardly ground breaking BUT easy going fun with a group of magicians hustling some rich conglomerates. I didn’t expect the finale and was even more surprised when a sequel was confirmed.

I hoped the next outing would carry that same level of energy and fun BUT this was utterly dreadful. Irritating characters, drawn out pace, a terrible story line, farfetched stunts that pondered all levels of plausible acceptance and really shoddy CGI made this one to avoid.

It’s not essential to watch the first outing. You get the entire plot summarised in the first 30 seconds. The opening showed promise as we explored Dylan’s (Mark Ruffalo) past and the reason behind his rivalry with Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman).

BUT once it flashed forward to the present, the intrigue was lost. Eisenberg’s Atlas was far too serious and sulky. I don’t know whether he was still getting over losing his hair for the shambolic superhero saga that was Batman vs Superman BUT his griping and silly backstabbing antics were dull as dishwater.

We had a new Horseman, person or Female Horseman (Whatever) in Lizzy Caplan (Mean Girls). I thought she would be a worthy addition to the mix. BUT she was incredibly annoying. She wasn’t funny and her verbal diarrhoea was insufferable. I think Isla Fisher made the right decision not to come back.

What didn’t help was the agonizing pace. The film should have been cut by a good 30 minutes. Mark Ruffalo (Avengers) was the most interesting character and he was barely in it! Every time Dylan appeared, things happened and I was hooked. I was happy to follow his subplot NOT the Horsemen. Battling to keep his cover under the watchful eye of Sanaa Lathan (who was wasted in her role).

Proof in the pudding when one of the best scenes was Dylan causing havoc in a Chinese street brawl. The fight sequences combined with a series of magic tricks were well choreographed and stopped me fidgeting in my seat.

I have to admit the Horsemen really did infuriate me. Woody Harrelson had been on resurging form with his recent endeavours (True Detective) BUT this was a complete misstep. He went full retard as Merritt’s twin Chase with his Will Ferrell-esque wig and badly capped teeth. An unnecessary character that tested me in every scene.

Dave Franco (NERVE) did his best with his role BUT was lost in the mix. Eisenberg eventually lightened up and delivered his usual schtick BUT it was too little, too late.

You know you’re onto a loser when Morgan Freeman’s dulcet tones are doing your head in. His silky voice couldn’t save this leaden script. If anything, it highlighted the clunky exposition. A revelation about Bradley unintentionally undermined pretty much a good portion of the premise from the first one.

Daniel Radcliffe wasn’t too bad as the weasely Walter Mabry. He played the slimy techno villain well BUT he wasn’t in it enough. NOT even the return of Sir Michael Caine did anything for me. He was laughable. Doing his best Victor Meldrew impression. Dismal.

What made matters worse was that the actual hustle and magic tricks were far too OTT and farfetched for my liking. I know it’s only a movie BUT some of the big reveals defied physics or common sense to work even in a Hollywood universe.

An elongated card flinging sequence took the biscuit. Watching the gang flick a badly CGI’d card in the air and around their torsos to smuggle a computer chip was just plain terrible.

However, the finale delivered a little of what I expected from the get go. The effects actually did impress; especially when Eisenberg disappeared into a puddle of rain. Tense, engaging and watchable. WHERE WAS THIS FOR THE REST OF THE FILM?!

The characters were dull, the pace was too long, the effects were hit and miss and the twists were either too predictable or just plain ridiculous. They even missed a trick by not calling this Now You Don’t BUT if there any rumours for another; my title would be:

NOW, PLEASE STOP!

2/5

*NEW* AMERICAN ULTRA REVIEW *NEW*

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Ultra-boring, more like.

A stoner (Jess Eisenberg), who is in fact a government agent, is marked as a liability and targeted for extermination. But he’s too well-trained and too high for them to handle.

Eisenberg and co do their best BUT for all the promise, it fails to reach anything you could have expected.

The slow opener didn’t get things going BUT it suggested a Burn After Reading meets Pineapple Express vibe. Unfortunately it offered little on both. Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart reunite (Adventureland) and make a watchable couple. BUT it wasn’t long before I got bored of all the pot smoking and arguing. Especially when it wasn’t even funny.

The first 20 minutes was mind numbing. Connie Britton did her best to make the CIA back room melodrama seem interesting BUT it was dull as dishwater. Some waffle about a “project spring clean” and Eisenberg’s sleeper agent facing termination. This was thankfully reprieved by a fantastic turn from Topher Grace (That 70s Show). There wasn’t enough of him. He really took things up a notch and played the douchebag supervisor brilliantly.

I prayed for Eisenberg’s “activation” to come quicker. Watching the stoner smoke pot and battle his fear of flying while doodling graphic novels about a monkey astronaut was just terrible. Trust me. I’m making it sound a whole lot better than it was.

FINALLY after Britton’s funny rendezvous with a stoned Eisenberg, the film appeared to offer more of what I expected from the get go. Emphasis on the word appeared.

Eisenberg proved he can do fight sequences and do them well. I actually had doubts about the chap playing the iconic role of Lex Luthor in the upcoming Batman Vs Superman movie but the supermarket shoot em up sequence reassured any anxieties I had. He looked sinister and completely bad ass as he crept out of the smoke grenade ridden mist.

Normally I’m a fan of Britton BUT her character was far too serious for its own good. Arrested Development’s Tony Hale, who played her partner in crime, was tragically unfunny and completely irrelevant by the time the credits rolled. Shame.

John Leguizamo was also incredibly annoying as Eisenberg’s dealer Rose. He had one funny exchange with Eisenberg and then went on far too long. The bullets not coming quick enough.

It felt like the writers didn’t know what tone to take with the piece and tried a dab hand at everything. The action scenes were fantastic. The kitchen ambush sequence involving a bullet and a frying pan was cool. BUT they were few and far between.

As were the gags. It wasn’t funny enough. The best gags were heavily flogged in the trailer. Stewart and Eisenberg’s relationship was put to the test BUT their bickering just hampered things terribly. There was a twist half way through the film that was so dreadfully predictable that it added nothing to the mix.

Walton Goggins’ (Justified) Smiler had the potential to be a decent little villain with his hyena-esque laugh BUT it was a wasted opportunity and the character was far too weak.

The finale did deliver some frantic fist fighting and utterly bonkers shoot em ups. BUT it felt like a case of too little, too late. And it was still light on the laughs. DISAPPOINTING.

Unfortunately, American Ultra was very much like its protagonist; messy, all over the place and annoying.

2/5

RIO 2 REVIEW

 

Enough silly animation to entertain the little ‘uns. A watchable and colourful sequel that failed to beat the original but just about got away with it.

Here we join Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway), now complete with three loveable kids, as they trade the frantic festival city life of Rio de Janeiro for the wilds of the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in, he goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel (Jermaine Clement), and meets his most fearsome adversary of all: his father-in-law, Eduardo (Andy Garcia).

The animation was brilliantly detailed and very colourful; providing luscious landscapes which made for great viewing. The story was hardly original but with likeable characters, it just about got away with it as everyone can relate to feeling the outsider or having to face their parents-in-law-to-be.

There was enough action, gags and musical numbers to keep the movie flapping along nicely. Miguel Ferrer (Hot Shots: Part Deux) played a highly unmemorable villain as the sinister logging constructor hell bent on destroying the natural Amazonian habitat.

The real devil in this was the hilarious Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords). Nigel stole the show from the “altered” Shakespearean soliloquies to his mad parody song numbers ripping off a number of movies.

A shame that he wasn’t in it enough. It felt like he was forced into the subplot a little BUT luckily so.

His crew of misfits brought the odd laugh; the hyperactive poisonous frog with verbal diarrhea, the appropriately named Gabi (brilliantly voiced by Pushing Daisies’ Kristin Chenoweth) and the Charlie Chaplinesque ant eater. Gabi’s infatuation with Nigel and “Poisonous Love”song number was funny, if incredibly corny.

You can normally bank on Eisenberg to deliver as the neurotic worrier (A role I fear he might be getting typecast). His bumbling Blu (with fanny pack in tow) did grate against me in this second helping.

Will.i.am was dope as the pop-pop-poppin’ Pedro. The talent show sequence being a particular highlight; from the slow-motion high-fiving tortoises, the wrecking ball swinging monkeys and a rapping Nicki-Minajesque sloth (Amy Heidemann from Karmin) that snoozes after dropping a rap that will have Busta Rhymes tipping his cap.

Bruno Mars was brilliant as Jewel’s ultra-cool ex Roberto. His singing was decent (To be expected) and his vocal acting was actually pretty good as the lothario swooping in on Blu’s family.

Andy Garcia was a surprise as the frustrated father-in-law. A nice change from the slimy slick roles we know and love him for.

However, George Lopez’s Rafael and Tracy Morgan’s dribbling pitbull were pushed into the background. While the irritating Tulio (I can’t believe it was 300’s Rodrigo Santoro) was unfortunately in it too much with his incessant squawking and stupidity. Leslie Mann did her best with the limited screen time.

R2 was cheesy and entertaining enough to keep the little ‘uns quiet for 90 minutes. If adults can get past the usual predictable guff then there’s just about enough to keep you giggling but hardly groundbreaking.

Not the worst by a long shot but seen it a lot better. Enough fun to keep flight but hardly soaring high or flopping like a turkey. Enough avarian based punnery, you get the gist.

2.5/5