*NEW* MACHETE REVIEW *NEW*

Ma-sh*ty?

After being set-up and betrayed by the man who hired him to assassinate a Texas Senator (Robert De Niro), an ex-Federale (Danny Trejo) launches a brutal rampage of revenge against his former boss.

Brutal, ridiculous, stupid . . . but oh so fun!

The movie that was spawned from the silly parody trailers thrown in during the “intermission” of the Tarantino\Rodriguez Grindhouse double feature.

Still waiting on Thanksgiving, Mr. Roth. The crippling disappointment still hasn’t left me after the mishandling of the Grindhouse UK release.

Giving them separate releases and blaming the three hour movie length was a BIG no, no! They didn’t even show the mock trailers in the build up to either film?! (Or maybe that was just the crappy cinema I went to).

However once I was able to get my hands on said Grindhouse flick in all its bloody glory . . .

Planet Terror was everything I expected. A proper tribute. Trashy bedlam. Let’s not talk about Death Proof . . .

Okay it wasn’t that bad. Anyway . . .

Rodriguez has always been one to deliver action packed, maniacal, trashy (see where I’m going with this) tour de forces. As much as I loved Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn, they weren’t perfect.

You knew what you were in for from the get go. The ultra-violent opening set the tone as Danny Trejo’s bad ass Machete clocked up the body count within minutes. The silly cliches, the endless bloodshed and the gratuitous nudity. Oh, the nudity.

Seriously, a naked lady pulled out a weapon from a particular hiding spot I didn’t expect.

One delightfully gruesome scene featured our murderous machismo slicing a man’s hand off with the gun still in its possession, only to then use said hand to dispose of another with nothing more than a casual shrug to sum up the encounter. Niiiccee.

Shot in the exact same style as the old Grindhouse flicks. The dated look, the cheesy score, the OTT violence. And of course, those deliberately shoddy quick cuts and badly-put-together edits for good measure. Well, at least I hope that was intentional.

I had to laugh at Steven Seagal as the smug Torrez. Considering this was supposed to be a joke, Seagal seemed to take his role a little too seriously. And was STILL surprisingly wooden.

All the Rodriguez regulars featured left, right and centre. Man, Juni from Spy Kids has grown up (Daryl Sabara. Isn’t he marrying Meghan Trainor?). Anyway, moving on. Made me feel old.

Jeff Fahey lapped it up as the two faced conspirator playing off both sides. An underrated actor that delivered much more conviction than Seagal’s whispery samurai sword wielding weirdo.

“I don’t know what you know but I’m glad I know you”. Quotable one liners and a snappy script from Rodriguez is always a bonus.

The very definition of a Grindhouse flick is a film of “poor quality or low artistic merit”. Only Rodriguez could make something so trashy work so well as Machete made demented nun chucks out of scalpel knives and some bed sheets.

A pointless reference about the human intestine delivered a deliciously revolting and unexpected punchline in a hospital shoot em up.

My main grumble (and where Machete lost points) was the pacing. It took itself a little too seriously in places and it killed a bit of the fun (and momentum). Don’t get me wrong, the themes on immigration were bang on.

Eerily so; considering this film is (at time of writing) EIGHT years old.

De Niro’s evil politician McLaughlin spoke volumes. His “Don’t get caught on the wrong side of the fence” campaign was the very definition of irony. Especially with the De Niro/Trump feud. Replace that electrified fence with a wall and the irony is even more bittersweet.

Jessica Alba’s agent role was a bit nothingy. Stalking Michelle Rodriguez’s Luz and talking in riddles to no avail. Took a good 45 minutes before her path crossed with Machete and for her character to be of any interest. Other than playing on the Wii in yoga pants

What?

Trejo bossed it and once Alba was brought into the mix, the pair made a good duo. Another highlight involved Alba (Hang on . . . ) in hand to hand combat with a Mexican luchador using stiletto heels for knuckle dusters.

Seriously. God knows what Rodriguez was smoking BUT it worked. And of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Rodriguez flick if Cheech Marin didn’t make an appearance in another scene stealing cameo as Padre.

This wasn’t without its faults (Believe me) BUT Machete would fall happily in the “sh*t but good” folder. If you’re a RR fan or in the mood for an entertaining ridiculous bloodfest then look no further.

2.5/5

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FANTASTIC FOUR REVIEW

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The Fantastic Four – The College Years, more like.

A mess. A watchable one but a mess all the same.

A pointless rehashing of the same old origin story does nothing for the franchise and somehow manages to make their flawed predecessors look like a masterpiece!

I’m not going to lie. I enjoyed the other Fantastic Four films. What? They never took themselves seriously and that was their winning charm. Okay, The Rise of the Silver Surfer really did push it but I liked the cast. And no! Not just because of Jessica Alba. They also stayed true to the source material.

Did Marvel and Sony just reboot it because they suddenly realised that the Human Torch was Captain America?! Because Alba and Ioan Gruffudd were certainly not past it.

A younger cast was certainly ambitious and smart (in theory) if there was to be more of the little money makers. BUT this latest offering from Chronicle director Josh Trank didn’t set things off with a bang, I’m afraid.

A contemporary re-imagining? Well, it certainly changed things about but it didn’t quite impress and no matter how much you changed the package, it was still the same old guff inside.

So what is this one about? Four young outsiders teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe which alters their physical form in shocking ways. The four must learn to harness their new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy.

So no cosmic rays?! Crazy. The alternate dimension was a promising set up and had potential but it never really went anywhere. Merely a backdrop for their origin and for smash em up action. Nothing more.

The opening chugged along as we watch a young Reed Richards try and wow his uninterested school mates with inter dimensional travel and teleportation. Corny but watchable. He soon befriends a classmate whose family own the local scrap yard. That friend is Ben Grimm.

And that the rest is . . . A mess. I respect that the filmmakers tried to focus on aspects that the other films didn’t. Establishing Reed and Ben’s childhood friendship was a nice touch but it took up too much of the screen time. PLUS one of Marvel’s characters completely changing occupation? Astronaut to scrap nut? Really?

After some tame high school tomfoolery with a bitter Dan Castellaneta (Yes, Homer Simpson!), the film started heading in the right direction. Or so I thought. I kept saying to myself, “This is definitely just going to be build up”. BUT I didn’t care if the finale delivered.

The casting selections were a mixed bag. Miles Teller fared better as Reed Richards than I thought. When he was delivering quick witted sarcasm, I feared that he was just doing his usual spiel. BUT by the end, he made the role his own.

I didn’t have an issue with the “controversy” surrounding Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm. If anything, I had full confidence after seeing his impressive filmography. He was more than up to the task but he was just wasn’t given enough one liners or memorable dialogue. His Fast and Furious introduction got him into the mix well but his character was nowhere as charming or as entertaining as Chris Evans’ counterpart.

Kate Mara wasn’t that bad as Susan Storm BUT she was just too passive. Happy to let the guys get on with it. Alba was very active (Careful now) in the other movies. Plus how Mara’s Susan got her powers was a little silly. Seriously, an energy slap? You’ll know what I mean when you see it. The force field stuff was pretty cool, though.

Toby Kebbell was pretty good as Victor Von Doom. A much more troubled and demented villain. I always felt that Julian McMahon was too smug and smarmy for Dr Doom. An easily beatable Bond villain. BUT they rushed Kebbell’s transformation way too quickly and wasted a promising opportunity.

My biggest qualm with casting was The Thing. A Hulk-esque powerhouse. Chiklis was perfect for the role. So surely someone of his build and gravitas would be considered, right?

Jamie Bell.

facepalm

Billy Flippin’ Elliott?! Tough guy? What? Surely not because he’s Northern? Behave. The muscle? What muscle? He’s a lanky git. Does The Thing dance in the comic books? Anyway . . .

The special effects weren’t bad on The Thing. If you don’t mind him looking like a rocky Cheeto. But the voice work? He didn’t even sound like Bell. So why choose him?

Reg E. Cathey was excellent as Dr Franklin Storm. The man that would unite them all. His voice. Move over, Morgan Freeman. He should have been a baddie with those gravelly tones. It was a shame that his character got pushed further into the background as the film continued.

Tim Blake Nelson played the creepy corporate drone well. The meddling middle man more concerned with money than welfare. BUT it was all too predictable. How could the young “geniuses” not know that he had a hidden agenda?

The action set pieces and CGI were like the superhero flick. Hit and miss. Impressive in one second and disorienting and cartoony the next. The force field tricks and Reed’s face changing were decent BUT by the finale, it was all too frantic. There was too much going on that the effects became one big blur.

It didn’t help that the tone was all over the place. It tried to be too serious which worked for the first hour but it also took away a lot of the fun. Dr. Doom’s introduction via a lab massacre was deliciously violent for its 12A rating. Promising.

BUT with its darker tone, Reed’s elastical talents didn’t fit. If anything, every time he threw an outstretched punch or kick, it was hilarious. It just didn’t tie in with the other’s abilities.

The plot was shoddy. We spent an hour waiting for the inevitable. Waiting for the gang to get their powers. Hardly spoilers but then . . . POSSIBLE SPOILERS! It flashes forward a year. All that build up and we don’t get to see the guys adjust to their abilities? Granted we had two films of that before but for all the build up and time invested, why the hell not?

Just a quick two minute summary? Really? What made me laugh was that for all it’s re-imagining; we still had Ben and Reed fight. Ben bitter over Reed breaking his promise to make him human again and the same old love triangle between Doom, Reed and Susan.

Credit where it’s due. The love triangle was merely suggested but you just know where it’s heading. The only thing that I did find interesting was how The Thing became an army weapon but we only got little video clips. Johnny uses a suit to switch on his abilities to “FLAME ON”. He never needed that before. If he takes it off, is he just fire? Hmmm . . . Didn’t really explain that.

The finale was rushed. Were they afraid to break the two hour marker or something? Doom was finally brought in. Things getting tasty. At last. Nope. They dispose of him in a matter of minutes. It didn’t help that it was done in such a dreadfully corny and deflating way. A chance to improve from the originals and somehow managing to make the same mistakes even worse.

The closing scenes promised the laughs and charm with the team finally gelling. A hint of more fun and cheesiness. But hang on, I thought that was why the other two were panned? I understand a young cast was an investment for more movies. BUT you kinda need to make people want to see more of them?

It just wasn’t good enough. It killed 100 minutes, I guess. There could be promise in the next installment but it should make you want to watch the next one. NOT consider it.

Pretty poor from the four.

2.5 (Just)/5

*I did laugh when I waited with a packed screen of eager Marvel fans through the endless credits. I’ll save you the time. There wasn’t any! No Stan Lee cameos (Well, he was in the other two, I guess). Nothing. Just a nice thank you for all the people who are keeping their jobs. I think some of them will be missing them after this flop.

*THROWBACK REVIEW* ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH

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And the duds just keep on coming. I need to escape from the cinema for a while. Enough to keep the little ‘uns quiet for 80 odd minutes but parents might want to take in their Kindles (or a physical book if you’re old school).

Astronaut Scorch Supernova (Brendan Fraser) is a national hero to the blue alien population. A master of daring rescues, Scorch pulls off astonishing feats with the quiet aid of his nerdy, by-the-rules brother, Gary (Rob Corddry). However, when the brothers receive an SOS from a notoriously dangerous planet (Earth. What? Spoilers? Come on guys), Scorch rejects Gary’s warnings and bounds off for yet another exciting mission leading to his capture. Inevitably, it’s up to scrawny, risk-adverse Gary to do the real rescuing.

Brendan Fraser (The Mummy franchise/George of the Jungle) what happened? Oh how the mighty have fallen. In all fairness, his movie list of late is hardly legendary. He does his best to bring the laughs as chughead Scorch in his strangely Buzz Lightyear-esque attire.

It’s a shame with how much talent was attached to this. I know, it’s a kid’s film but Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks (most of the time) have delivered timeless classics with great stories, great characters and enough to entertain everybody. Unfortunately this one just doesn’t make the cut.

It’s not all bad. It has enough OTT slapstick gags to keep the little ‘uns giggling and the animation is brilliant. Visually colourful and detailed. 3D hardly a must but there were a couple of clever gimmicky moments in there. Corddry (Hot Tub Time Machine) plays the pathetic protagonist quite well.

Ricky Gervais once again pops up in a rather dull and fed up voice over as the computer system, BING, James Bing. Oh dear. Now I’m one for the puns and silly one liners but even that one got me cringing. Jessica Alba surprisingly goes against character type and plays the baddie for a change.

William Shatner provides his Trekky gravitas to the sinister General Shanker with aplomb. Sofia Vergara (Modern Family) plays a rather irritating and bland character that really doesn’t have a point or contribution to the film (Bit like Modern Family. Ouch. Stop it). Sarah Jessica Parker does her best with the lines, “Not bad for a mom who’s had two kids”.

As does Jane Lynch (Glee) as the one eyed creature and appropriately named Io, “First time I laid eye on you”. Does that line sound familiar? Hmmm I thought so too (*Cough* Monsters Inc *Cough*)

The characters that stood out for me were George Lopez (Rio/Rio 2) as the slimy slug hybrid Thurman. The ever talented Craig Robinson (This is the End) manages to make a memorable performance as the eccentric fast talking Doc. Steve Zahn (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) hippies it up as alien enthusiast Hawk. His first encounter with Corddry’s character was quite funny but it soon goes on too long and gets very annoying.

This isn’t the worst animation film I’ve seen this year. That honour goes to the turkey Free Birds (What?) but it’s pretty close. Interestingly enough for those who have seen Free Birds; was Escape from Planet Earth an unintentional spin off? The facility and more importantly, the quarantined Monsters Inc rip off suit guys look just like them.

Regardless, they steal the show in one tut worthy guilty pleasure of a scene in which they manage to parody a number of movies in a food fight. The Artist was a nice touch.

There is a cheeky pop at satire with the government propaganda video segment, “Do you believe in Communism? Then you are an alien”. Unexpected but not bad. The Beatle-esque aliens got a guilty laugh. The twist *POSSIBLE SPOILER BUT NOT REALLY* that humans have been capturing aliens and stealing their technology and claiming it for their own was a nice touch. Doc venting his frustration at the money he should be earning for Facebook was quite funny.

However, it gets all too corny and cheesy. For every good joke, there’s a dozen naff ones. I mean an encounter with a wacky waving inflatable tubed man brought the odd chuckle. But just doesn’t work as a recurring joke. Mainly because it wasn’t that funny the first time round.

If you’re looking for a quick distraction for the kids, then give it a go. Otherwise invest in How To Train Your Dragon 2 or something.

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR REVIEW

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I loved Sin City. It’s visceral hard boiled pulp story lines. The noir characters. The beautifully animated graphic underworld that literally lifts off the pages of Miller’s comic books. It was always going to be tough for a sequel. This time round, it’s a mixed bag. A violent, sexy one but mixed.

The animation is fantastic. The 3D? Well what 3D? Not an investment. (Yet again). The film launches you straight into the madness with an incredibly unhinged Marv going on yet another killing spree in the dark underbelly of Basin City. Rourke is brilliant but I couldn’t help but feel Marv’s irrational behaviour was ridiculous, bordering on overkill. His revenge spree in the first film had some warped justification. This time, not so much. I mean Marv is in a much more volatile state with blackouts and confusion galore. The littlest glance or grunt throwing him into a merciless rage.

Now I must advise you to watch the first movie. I hadn’t seen it in ages. And remember it has been NINE years. That’s right. Nine years since its release. This is very much a prequel/sequel of sorts. This will be made clear with Marv when a certain character appears. I was baffled and confused until I went back to the original. Scratching my head as to how he survived the electric . . . Oh wait. The same can be said for Dwight. Brolin takes over the helm from Clive Owen. Brolin’s drawl voice and grimacing face pulling are spot on. His delivery of Miller’s lines are sublime. A true noir actor. His storyline involving the dame to kill for (and I would kill for her) Eva Green reeked of the stories of old. The ultimate femme fatale. It may come off a little pastiche and predictable but it’s great to see a re-visiting of the classics.

Eva Green was born for the role. Conniving but attractive on the eye. Her beauty a trap for any foolish man. The reason why Dwight had to change his face. Miller seemed to cut the amount and reduce the length of story lines. There was two main stories with two little subplots (new stories for the movie) running along aside them. The new story lines involve Nancy (Alba) and Johnny (Joseph Gordon Levitt). JGL was to be expected charismatic and perfect for the part. He has proven that he can do the noir protagonist after Brick. He rolls off Miller’s lines like he was born in that world. He boosts the film and to be honest I wanted to see more of his story line.

However, for all it’s potential, it ends all rather abruptly. His speech at the poker table would be something that QT would love. A lesson in power if ever there was one but disappointing after such a suspenseful build up. But it is a typical noir ending as his cocky ambition gets the best of him as he takes on Rourke (Powers Boothe) in a game of poker.

Powers Boothe was deliciously sinister with his shark toothed grin, lapping up every moment of it. A perfectly cast villain, composing all his past bad guys role into one nasty piece of work. The one aspect of Sin City that I felt pushed this glossy colourful seedy crime saga over its ridiculously violent edge was the inhabitants of Old Town. Too much time spent on it in the first film. Miller must have realised this and only brings in Gail (Rosario Dawson) and samurai wielding assassin Miho (The alluring Jamie Chung now replacing Devon Aoki) to assist Dwight. And they are actually taken out of Old Town.

Dawson was less irritating this time round for me and Chung did as well as she could playing a silent killer. Of course, there was ridiculous sword play and white blood spread across the screen, along with various body parts. Dennis Haysbert was relentless as Manute (taking over the reins from the late Michael Clarke Duncan). He will always be David Palmer but it made a change to see him play the thug. It also made some of the references in the first film make so much more sense.

I never felt so dirty watching a film. Jessica Alba manages to outdo her infamous strip tease dance number. In fact, she delivers one every time one of the characters enters Kadie’s Club Pecos. To be honest, I wondered whether Nancy was only brought in to be the eye candy. Beautiful Miss Alba may be; I wanted to see some resolution following her story line after Hartigan’s sacrifice. Bruce Willis does make a return as Hartigan. It’s pretty clear from the trailers. But to what capacity? Well . . .  “POSSIBLE SPOILER” Don’t panic! He is very much dead. Even in death, you can’t escape Sin City.

The idea of Hartigan watching Nancy, seeing her deteriorate into a pool of grief and misery was a good angle. But at the same time, Willis does nothing else. He is merely a cameo that appears to say two little speeches and then bugger off. Might as well have not bothered turning up at all. It doesn’t help that for some reason in all it’s ridiculousness, he cannot talk to Nancy. But yet Benicio Del Toro’s Jackie could talk to Clive Owen’s Dwight? Strange. The switching back and forth from past to present did cause some confusion.

The cast were perfect, the animation always impressed me and the story lines were good but much more predictable. I felt that the film lacked something. I mean the characters were good but I wanted more of the memorable cult characters. The Yellow Bastard, Elijah Wood’s crazy cannibal Kevin, Rutger Hauer’s messed up priest. We only really got that in Stacey Keach’s Jabba-esque mob boss Wallenquist and Christopher Lloyd’s demented street doc Kroenig (Believe me, Doc Brown would be screaming more than Great Scott!). The pace lulled in parts for me. Story lines seemed to build up and end abruptly. However, I still want more and it was still very watchable.

Not as good as the first but still worth a go for fans and anyone with a little blood lust. 3.5/5 for me