10 CLOVERFIELD LANE REVIEW

*NEW* ATOMIC BLONDE REVIEW *NEW*

Charlize Theron kicks just enough ass to make this a little more than a generic actioner.

An undercover MI6 agent (Theron) is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents.

The slow opener didn’t build up high hopes as it flicked back and forth from bumping off obscure spies to Theron’s bruised bathing sessions.

I didn’t mind having to piece together this murky tale of deception and espionage. It just that it didn’t really amount to much by the closing credits.

The whole story was told in a series of flashbacks with Theron’s Agent Broughton recalling her mission in Berlin. And oh my God, was that John Goodman? Wow, the man is looking old.

The murky Berlin backdrop was a perfect political cesspool for treachery and backhanded deals.

James McAvoy was on scene stealing form as the eccentric David Percival. A rogue agent whose enjoyed a little too much freedom. A much needed presence in this super serious yarn. Or so I thought?

He worked well with CT. I just wish the pair were in it together more. They spent far too much time apart messing about with the cloak and dagger stuff.

I know a good portion of the film was spent trying to suss out whether the agents could trust one another BUT a lot of the fun and intrigue was lost in their separation.

The plot, for all its contrivances, was relatively straightforward and a little disappointing. The inevitable double crossing and back stabbing looming on the cards.

I was actually glad the film didn’t stick with the hum drum Cold War guff. It was getting dreadfully glum and boring.

The fight sequences were ridiculous. The set pieces took a similar style to The Bourne movies and cranked it to 11!

Kudos to Theron who did her own stunts. The punch ups were brilliantly choreographed (and redeemed a lumbering first act) as Broughton soon discovers that her cover was blown from the moment she landed on German soil.

The car chases were fast and furious. If full of continuity errors BUT I digress. All I’m saying is that one Jeep goes flying in the air, blocking the street and is miraculously gone in the next frame. Okayyyy thennnn . . .

The tone was a little mismatched BUT I enjoyed AB a lot more when it took itself less seriously.

The soundtrack was brilliant. Even with the umpteen variations and remixes of Nena’s 99 Red Balloons and New Order’s Blue Monday.

Jonathan Sela’s cinematography was brilliant and dull in the same frame. I know. Work that out. Murky and full of neon. And apparently in every room back in 1980s Germany.

I just wish more was made of the actual story line. There was a great cast at director David Leitch’s disposal comprising of the likes of John Goodman, Toby Jones (Captain America) and James Faulkner (Game of Thrones).

Sofia Boutella (The Mummy) didn’t fare too badly as the naive French ally Delphine. And no! Not just because of her raunchy rendezvous with Theron.

The pair had good chemistry and worked well together. In fact, she almost stole the limelight off McAvoy as he withered further into the background.

Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan) was completely wasted in his role as the defective agent Spyglass. Anyone could have played him.

The finale, with all the twists and turns, just didn’t do much for me. The pay off didn’t quite add up. And as I much as I love Theron, did anyone else find her accent a little muddled?

BUT by the end I wasn’t really that fussed.

A watchable actioner.

Thank God for Theron and that quick injection of high octane shoot-em-punch-em. Or else this feeble tirade would have been left out in the cold.

3/5 (just)

*NEW* KONG: SKULL ISLAND REVIEW *NEW*

One beast of a blockbuster!

A team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden.

From the people who gave you Godzilla . . . Greaaattt.

After watching that shambolic dino turd, I feared the worst for the reboot of yet another iconic movie monster.

BUT thankfully, my poison pen didn’t have too much to write about this time.

The mad opening sequence didn’t give me a chance to get comfortable. It felt like a different movie with two Japanese and American WW2 pilots crash landing on Skull Island and having a fight to the death. Mental.

It wasn’t even two minutes before a gigantic paw from a damn dirty ape came hurtling towards the screen.

I was expecting another drawn out blockbuster with the main attraction teased through out. Oh no! This got down to business.

The pace didn’t mess around. It flicked back and forth. Set up the premise. Introduced the characters and within 30 minutes, they were on the mysterious island being welcomed by a napalm parade and an angry inhabitant.

The soundtrack was on point. The track choices! The Stooges, Black Sabbath, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the list goes on!

The only problem was that the characters were a little wafer thin for my liking. The only memorable performance for me was Samuel L Jackson as the grizzly and disillusioned war vet.

Disappointed at the defeat of the Vietnam War and furious with a new foe disposing of his men.

That square-off with Kong. Brilliant. A blaze of fire separating the two as they stared each other out. Tense.

Tom Hiddleston (Thor) did just enough BUT he was a little too clean cut to play a seasoned mercenary for me. I think somebody like Gerard Butler would have suited the role better.

Brie Larson (Room) did her best with the role of the feisty photographer Mason Weaver. She had good chemistry with Loki but the suggested romance subplot felt forced and hammy.

John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane) and Corey Hawkins (24: Legacy) didn’t do too bad as the scientist duo. It was just a shame that they got pushed into the background as the movie progressed.

I don’t know what Toby Kebbell (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) has done BUT he never gets a break in these big movies. His role was dreadfully dull. And his muddled accent certainly didn’t help.

“That was an unconventional encounter”.

What worked for Kong: Skull Island was that it didn’t take itself too seriously. Godzilla was far too gloomy and dark for its own good.

Plus the bloody thing was only in the movie for 15 minutes! 15 minutes in a two hour movie? Come on!

And how could I say Samuel L was the only memorable character?

John C. Reilly was on scene stealing form as Hank Marlow. The WW2 castaway who spent 30 years on the island.

Now imagine Dale from Step Brothers as a crackpot recluse and you would be bang on the buck. He delivered a much needed comic relief.

The special effects were fantastic. The detail involved with Kong’s movements and expressions were brilliant. Let alone the numerous monster punch ups!

I loved Kong’s introduction. The Apocalypse Now sunset. The giant shadow with the helicopters basking in the dusk. Great shot!

The action was brutal, violent and intense. They really tested that 12A rating. The gore was crazy. Especially when a scientist was picked up by a flock of carnivorous birds. Yikes.

BUT every time I felt my interest wading, there was a bigger and nastier creature ready to attack. Spiders with camouflaged bamboo legs. Giant bloodthirsty dino lizards. Nice.

If this wasn’t a reboot, Skull Island could easily have followed on from Peter Jackson’s King Kong. Well, if they hadn’t killed him.

I went in (yet again) expecting nothing and was rewarded with something so much better . . . Or watchable anyway.

An entertaining creature feature that restored my faith in the monster reboots.

BUT if the writers could flesh out the human element a little more, that would be appreciated.

BUT then again, who are these movies supposed to be about?

3.5/5

*CREDIT WATCH*

For the junkies that love to sit through the credits hoping for tidbits . . . there’s a little cryptic teaser at the end. I thought it was a bit nothingy for the wait BUT I’ll let you be the judges! I don’t think Godzilla fans will be disappointed.

*NEW* CHRISTMAS WITH THE COOPERS REVIEW *NEW*

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This one got me in the spirit. The alcoholic spirits in my cupboard.

As Olivia Wilde’s character put it, “I can’t face the anticipointment. You know anticipation of disappointment”. Well, Ms Wilde. The anticipointment was still too much to bear.

It was watchable BUT enjoyable? I should have known what I was getting myself into. Shame on me. A vomit inducing, corny and God awful Christmas movie. Ho-ho-horrendous. A little late BUT I really don’t want to revisit this next December.

When four generations of the Cooper clan come together for their annual Christmas Eve celebration, a series of unexpected visitors and unlikely events turn the night upside down, leading them all toward a surprising rediscovery of family bonds and the spirit of the holiday.

Yuck. The opening narration with Steve Martin’s smarmy and condescending voice really didn’t get things going. Diane Keaton was unbearable. Her voice grated against me throughout the whole thing. She was too OTT and her whining was annoying.

John Goodman. What has happened to the big man? It just didn’t seem right watching the guy play a sap. His subplot with Keaton was dull as dishwater as the pair looked set to part ways with one final Christmas family gathering. Some guff about a trip they never took because of the kids. Now the opportunity has finally arrived again and Keaton doesn’t want to go. Will this be their last Christmas? Meh.

Timothee Chalamet’s (Interstellar) little story line about getting with his crush and battling body odour was silly. The kissing scenes had me gagging more than Ed Helms’ character. Unnecessary. Ed Helms (The Hangover) was completely wasted in his role. There was potential with his divorced dad character BUT it never went anywhere. They had Alex Borstein from Family Guy playing the scornful ex wife and she even wasn’t used to her full potential. She was barely in it. 

Blake Baumgartner’s bratty granddaughter was irritating. Sorry BUT a gag involving her and a choice swear word just didn’t tickle me. It wasn’t funny the first time and it certainly wasn’t the next umpteen times. Sigh.

Olivia Wilde and Jake Lacy’s (The Office USA) nauseating relationship had its moments. BUT it was soon soiled by it’s own schmaltz. The pair had good chemistry and made the unrealistic and questionable concept of a stranger making a random army guy her fiancee for the day watchable. BUT it was far too cheesy and predictable.

Marisa Tomei’s shoplifting sibling role could have gone down so many routes. I really thought more was going to made out of her incarceration in the back of Anthony Mackie’s (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) cop car. It was just another filler with Mackie’s dreadful emotionless “Robocop”.

Alan Arkin and Amanda Seyfried’s little relationship was endearing enough BUT it wasn’t really explored. It had the right balance as the pensioner chatted up the waitress 50 years his junior. BUT it was rushed with a silly spat that tragically pushed Seyfried into the background. It wasn’t really picked up again until the closing minutes.

June Squibb (Nebraska) had a nothingy role as Aunt Fishy. Considering this was a corny film about togetherness and family. It didn’t have a problem poking fun at a woman suffering from dementia.

Martin’s verbal diarrhea over every scene infuriated me. It would have been nice for these wafer thin characters to have a little depth instead of being told every little thing about them. It felt like someone was reading a book in a delightfully smug and pretentious drone.

If you loved Love Actually and are in the mood for a ridiculously cheesy Christmas flick then this might be of interest. BUT for all my cynicism, I liked Love Actually. It had interesting characters and some reasonable story lines. This struggled to muster one and was so lazily put together that it put me in the wrong kind of mood.

2/5 (Just)

THE GAMBLER REVIEW

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The odds on me telling you to watch this pretentious yawnfest are virtually zilch.

Harsh? Maybe. But I have never been so bored and disappointed with a film in some time.

Mark Wahlberg and Rupert Wyatt take on the remake of the cult Caan crime caper and, to be honest, by the end I couldn’t help wondering why?

So what’s it all about? Lit professor and gambler Jim Bennett’s (Wahlberg) debt causes him to borrow money from his mother (Jessica Lange) and a loan shark (Michael Kenneth Williams).

Further complicating his situation is his relationship with one of his students (Brie Larson). Will Bennett risk his life for a second chance?

Now I will be honest. I haven’t seen the original. But I certainly want to now. Surely if the purpose of a remake is to be a re-imagining or an improvement on the original, than it must be terrible, right? Hmmm . . .

The opening 15-20 minutes was slow-burning but seemed to set everything in motion. The moments in which Wahlberg’s Bennett gambles is tense and utterly bonkers.

Showing how easy it is to fall into an addiction. The adrenaline rush. The complete disregard. Clocking up debts left, right and centre.

However these are only moments. In between these tense tidbits, we are left with uninteresting characters, a lot of mindless exposition and barely any action or suspense that the film seemed to promise.

Wahlberg certainly did his best but his character was such a deluded self-deprecating simpleton that there was only ever going to be two outcomes.

Two outcomes that were predictable and made the whole thing a waste of time.

Larson (21 Jump Street) and Wahlberg managed to convey a little chemistry but Bennett was such an egotistical and unlikeable character that you felt Larson’s Amy was getting what she deserved for being such a silly little girl.

Jessica Lange (American Horror Story) was good as Bennett’s mother but there wasn’t enough of her. Her fiery interactions with her son made things a little bit more interesting but were either skipped over so quickly or left open that it made it all rather flat.

It would have been nice to have had a little more insight into their fractious relationship. Not little arguments, pointless flashbacks and a strange opening scene with a cathartic cameo from George Kennedy.

What infuriated me was how many opportunities Bennett had to get out of his mess but continued to cause hassle, borrow money and gamble it away. I was thinking, “You’re getting what you deserve, mate”.

Wyatt certainly captures the gruelling stakes of gambling with a man so frustrated with life that he is on this nihilistic path BUT it could have been done a lot better and a good portion shorter.

The classroom scenes felt one big rant at life. Philosophical meanderings that I’m sure were supposed to come of clever and thought provoking just came off pretentious, overlong and pointless.

If it was supposed to show the yearning desire between Larson and Marky Mark, it didn’t. If it was supposed to reveal more of Bennett’s character, it did a little.

Only that he is a plonker.

A waste of a talented supporting cast. You had a menacing (but incredibly fat and bald) John Goodman and Michael Kenneth (Omar from The Wire/Chalky White from Boardwalk Empire) at the helm of two very angry looking gangs.

All that supposedly cryptic, suspenseful and threatening dialogue leading to . . .

More talking and more pointless meetings.

Don’t get me wrong, Williams and Goodman do their utmost to make as memorable a mark as they can with the material. Goodman was particularly impressive in the small part he had.

The last 20 minutes finally got things going. Wahlberg’s moronic wheeling and dealing with the loan sharks all building up to one final roll of the dice. It was tense and I thought, “Finally! Here we go!”

BUT alas, it was done all too quickly, predictably and the final moments were unbelievably corny.

To be honest, one revelation certainly made one of Wahlberg’s rants not complete jibberish.

Greig Fraser’s cinematography certainly made this droll affair look stylish. BUT I was disappointed by Wyatt after he successfully managed to rework a franchise that I didn’t want rebooting (Rise of The Planet of the Apes).

I wanted a broody, stylish cryptic crime caper with one man battling his addiction.

To an extent, you do. But it certainly isn’t what you want or hope for. I’d gamble my chip on something else.

I would recommend to people who are still interested; just watch the trailer. Two minutes tells you everything and it will save you two hours of pretentious, feeble waffle that amounts to nothing.

Unfortunately, Marky Mark I didn’t pick up any good vibrations this time around.

2 (just)/5

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION REVIEW

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Trans-Bore-Mers: Age of The Extinct franchise. Michael Bay is back with more bang, more bucks and more . . . of the same old monotonous, mechanical overlong drivel.

Raking in close to a billion dollars, I am lost for words. You know you’re onto a loser when Mark Wahlberg can’t even save the day or make really bad lines good.

To be honest, I’m not the biggest Transformers fan. I felt the original was overhyped and took me a couple of viewings to get into it. I actually enjoyed the second instalment which was heavily panned and the third . . . well, the action was good and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley . . . wow! What?

Now to be honest, the opening half hour was actually not that bad. It was typical Bay; clichéd, corny, OTT, explosions everywhere but enough to keep you glazed over and attentive plus it was funny (for the right reasons? Meh). A couple of surprise twists involving some characters was unexpected but watchable. The idea of all Transformers being hunted down was a decent concept.

The 3D is fantastic . . . for the first 40 minutes then it seems to disappear. All the stuff that had popped out or flew across the screen vanished. The special effects were outstanding anyway but for once, I thought this could be a film that proves that 3D is not just a gimmick. Alas, it was not to be. Bay cannot be challenged on his visual mastery but when it comes to pace, characters and story, well . . .

After two hours, I was asleep. If not for Stanley Tucci’s egotistical demented take on the late Steve Jobs, I would have been out the door much sooner. Once you’ve seen Optimus smash up a dozen robots/buildings, it gets repetitive really fast. A couple of awesome bad ass moments from Prime does not excuse the fact that Bay has nothing else to offer.

The problem with these giant robot blockbusters is that what the hell are humans are supposed to do? Apparently scream and moan at each other. It would have been nice to see the Autobots not cause as much as destruction as their foes . . . or least try.

Kelsey Grammer proved to be quite sinister and badass. The only problem (apart from the fact the older he looks, the more he becomes The Prospector from Toy Story 2) is that his character is pushed into the background.

Titus Welliver (Gone Baby Gone) played a piece of work until the mad-dash finale that seemed to throw everything but the kitchen sink. Marky Mark and his funky bunch of young up and comers were increasingly irritating and clichéd as the film dragged on.

Wahlberg does his best but trying to make lines about spaceship insurance and being an inventor and having to invent not sound terrible was always going to be a challenge. He might as well have said, “I’m a peacock. You gotta let me fly”. The overprotective father spiel is old hat and beefing it up with Jack Reynor’s (Delivery Man) younger cocky Irish Seth Rogen looking boyfriend just came off hammy.

It was great to see the pretty Nicola Peltz (Bates Motel) get a bigger platform but to play another troublesome teenage daughter again? Not so much. Screaming and complaining about her father all the way through was disappointing.

Also an elongated joke revolving how the young couple came to meet was stupid and a little dodgy. I mean Reynor’s character carrying a Romeo and Juliet statute in his wallet? Really? What was that about?

Sophia Myles was wasted as a geological scientist. I mean, to be frank, her character was pointless. The only human actor to get out of this mess Scott-free would be the legendary T. J. Miller (Silicon Valley) as Wahlberg’s comic sidekick. A much needed boost in the endless drivel of predictable hokum.

The proof was in the pudding in how Bay had little to offer in story by the fact that Megatron is back yet again. Granted, it was clever how it was incorporated into the little story there was. The Autobots heralded a great voice cast including the likes of John Goodman, Ken Wantanabe and John DiMaggio (Bender from Futurama) but not even they could make some of the leaden lines jump off the page. Shame.

The jokes were flat and so OTT that I found myself shaking my head. I mean the sequence with Tucci and Bingbing Li kung fu fighting their way across Hong Kong felt like a drawn out live action cartoon skit. And Megatron demanding his minions find his seed was . . . just . . . oh my!

I mean, let’s be honest, Transformers is not that sort of film. It’s big, dumb and full of – robots. But it can be a whole lot shorter with more interesting characters and for once, maybe it should take itself a little more seriously because it’s getting ridiculous now.

One for the scrap heap? It’s in the crusher, waiting to be crushed but at the moment, my hand is just hovering over the button.

If there are going to be two more sequels (God help us), Bay better find his A-game fast!

2/5

Currently ranked 142 out of 197!

The Monuments Men Review

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Not a monument that will stand the lengths of time in the huge backlog of war classics we’ve had before. It checked all the boxes but failed to deliver anything new or interesting. Hardly a bomb site, but it lacked the right execution for this operation.

George Clooney takes the helm yet again in an ambitious war effort that just fails to hit the mark. The Monuments Men is based on a real operation that was approved by President Roosevelt himself to help retrieve stolen art and relics from the Nazis and return them to their rightful owners. However, as World War Two is coming to a close, Hitler issues an order to destroy all the art, making it a race against the clock. Now, an intriguing premise that suggested a treasure hunt with a dash of Indiana Jones and a hint of Dad’s Army for good measure. Not at all, old sport. What came was a well acted, if meandering drawn out crusade that if not for a couple of twists, would have been dead in the water. It is difficult to criticize when this is based on a true story, but it still can’t be excused as it raised too many questions.

It reeked of the war movies of old. The sort of maritime viewing you get on a Sunday afternoon. A nice melancholic feel but the problem was that it felt dated before it had even begun. It does start off quite easy going and watchable. The cheeky winking and lighthearted pace as Clooney assembles a talented ensemble of retired veterans and soldiers consisting of Bill Murray, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), Jean Dujardin (The Artist) and the underrated Bob Balaban (who has always stood out for me after his turn in The Lady in the Lake with his speech on characters. One for the writers, that). And of course, not forgetting the regular Clooney collaborators, Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett.

It’s always going to be hard to make a war film after so many classics but looking at this as a sole text, the tone is all over the place. It has the cheeky twinkle that suggests a Dad’s Army and Allo Allo vibe, especially with Damon’s badly spoken French. A reverse twist that had the odd chuckle, with the French begging him to speak English. There is the occasional titter but the material fails to bring a lot of humour and the partnership between Balaban and Murray could have been so much more. We know Murray is funny, so why not let him apply a little bit of his spiel? He seemed restricted. Well, if we’re honest, they all seem restricted. There was potential with Dujardin and Bonneville, especially in an exchange as to why Hitler only bombs places with no art or culture. Bonneville retorts, “Well they bombed London”. Dujardin smiles, “Yes, I know”. A little bit harsh but there could have been a little rivalry or banter exchange between them, but the two get paired up with the wrong actors, to be honest.

That is also the main problem, the gang inevitably have to split up to cover more ground, which is more miss than hit. Damon aimlessly wonders around the beautiful French countryside before he finally meets his contact, Cate Blanchett. Clooney just drives around, barking orders and taking inventory with young recruit Dmitri Leonidas (you may remember him from the fantasy dud of a TV reboot, Sinbad).  Goodman and Dujardin do have the more interesting adventures with snipers and concluding battle scenes as the Germans were being pushed out. Murray and Balaban bring the odd chuckle and are a good pairing but their adventures are a little nothingy. When Damon meets Blanchett, it does pick up and there is some great chemistry between them but it all gets quite corny and hints at a needless and unnecessary romance. 

There are sobering moments that do bring it back home with some unexpected twists that did surprise, without spoiling, and once the group reunite, the film picks up after a drawn out hour. The land mine scene may have been corny, but was funny and suspenseful. There is a harrowing little touch when the group come across more than they bargained for, when they discover barrels of gold wedding rings and teeth. Clooney’s cigarette speech with the head German officer in charge of disposing the art was brilliant. We finally got to see Clooney come back to the fore and act well, after being quite absent. The pace quickens as the gang have to race against the clock to retrieve all the art before the Russians arrive. There is also a nice aside at the end with a fitting tribute. 

However, The Monuments Men felt more like an extension of the Points episode in Band of Brothers and unfortunately that got the point across a lot better and a lot more riveting in a condensed hour. I couldn’t help feel that in a time of death, loss and destruction, who would care about some pieces of art? Understandably, it is true that by removing the history and culture, you are truly removing the people but it seems less important to the lives that were already lost. A watchable, if drawn out, corny and predictable affair that may get lost like the art in the plethora of war classics before it. 2.5/5

Currently ranks #86 out of 142!