*NEW* NO ESCAPE REVIEW *NEW*

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There’s no escaping this tense little thriller.

In their new overseas home, an American family soon finds themselves caught in the middle of a coup, and they frantically look for a safe escape in an environment where foreigners are being immediately executed.

Suspenseful, pacy and brilliantly acted. An unexpected treat. This film nearly slipped under my radar. I’m glad I caught it.

A welcome return for Owen Wilson. He has proven before with Behind Enemy Lines that he can do serious acting and he succeeds yet again.

The set up was established quickly and got straight to it. The only thing that hampered the pace was Pierce Brosnan’s cringe-inducing cockney accent. It certainly didn’t help watching the chap sing karaoke. Come on, we already had Mammia Mia.

Apart from that, I was hooked for the first hour. I don’t think I even looked at my watch and that’s saying something. There was a fantastic sequence in which Wilson casually walks down the street to get a paper (Stay with me now). The moment when he realized that he had strolled straight into a riot was nail biting. All the little shops and street performers that he had walked past (moments before) were either ablaze or no more.

The shaky camera work was a little disorienting BUT it certainly added to the tension and confusion. I could understand the use of the shaky cam in the frantic chase sequences. BUT was it really needed when Wilson was carrying a boat or talking?

Lake Bell (Man Up) was brilliant as Wilson’s spouse. I’m surprised at how much Brosnan was flogged in the promotion when she played a much bigger part. I couldn’t fault the family unit. They were all perfectly cast. Even the little ‘uns played their parts well. The squabbling and bickering may have been a little frustrating BUT it added a much needed realism. I couldn’t imagine what I would do in a situation like that.

After the recent terror attacks at Mali, this hit a little closer to home. The fear and panic as the family do everything they can to evade capture and survive. The skyscraper sequence was heart in mouth stuff. I flinched and winced as each family member had to jump across from one building to the other.

Things only really hit a snag when Brosnan was involved. I’m sure his character was supposed to lighten what was a frightfully tense thriller BUT it felt like he was in the wrong movie. Luckily, he did grow on me when you find out his hidden agenda (Which predictably there was).

The pace may have dropped in parts, Brosnan’s performance was a mixed bag BUT it was frantic and exhilarating. I felt for Bell and Wilson’s despair as they do everything to try and save their children and keep calm in the face of utter dismay.

My main issue was that after a heart rending and tense race to the border, the finale was quite abrupt. It just ended. A slow burning build up, a nerve wracking middle act and then that’s it. A little disappointing. I mean it allowed for a nice, if dreadfully corny, end note BUT it just didn’t quite finish things off properly for me.

BUT that still didn’t stop what was a big surprise. If you’re in the mood for an adrenaline-induced little thriller, then look no further.

3/5

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MAN UP REVIEW

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Right leads. Wrong film.

An easygoing, if incredibly silly little rom com that does just enough to keep you smiling for 90 minutes.

A single woman (Lake Bell) who’s mistaken for a stranger’s blind date (Simon Pegg), leads to her finding the perfect boyfriend.

When Bell’s character Nancy first graced the screen, I could feel my face burrowing into my hands. And no! Not even in the guilty cringe manner. Her monotonous warbling and silly face pulling really didn’t sell it for me. Or get things going for that matter (I meant, in the context of the film. Come on, we’re better than that).

Her introduction didn’t fare well. It seemed to be needlessly rude. Desperate to keep in the same vein as The Inbetweeners. But that was only because it was made by (What do you know!) the same people.

Her impromptu comments about blow jobs and dead sisters at a wedding reception clearly established her poor social interaction skills but it was unnecessary. Especially when you could already relate to Nancy’s isolation and loneliness in her overlong opening conversation with the hotel room mirror. Luckily, her character does grow on you.

Lake Bell had an impeccable English accent. Rumours were that she kept in character until post production so no one knew she was American. Maybe a little too serious on the method acting but it worked.

Fed up and giving up on love at 34, things don’t seem to be going too well for Nancy. That is until a chance meeting with an insufferable chatterbox (The lovely Ophelia Lovibund. What?). Some waffle about a blind date and a self help book as their call sign. One things leads to another. Girl leaves book. Nancy tries to catch her. Cue Simon Pegg. Welcome, bienvenue.

As soon as Pegg entered the mix, sparks flew. Bell and Pegg had fantastic chemistry and really worked off each other. Things thankfully perked up. It was funny watching Nancy trying to blag through the date and pretending to be a 24 year old triathlete.

For a good portion of the film, it was easygoing, funny and I actually gave two monkeys about the couple. The premise was a little farfetched with everything supposed to happening during one night. Their silly theories, movie quotes and banter stood out the most for me.

My little gripe was that there wasn’t enough of Nancy’s family. Ken Stott (The Hobbit – the films. Not the man) was hilarious. The family angle was something that could have been tapped into a lot more. A missed opportunity.

A shame considering the talented supporting cast at the director’s disposal. Sharon Horgan (Drop The Dead Donkey) was playing it surprisingly straight faced which made a change. It proved she can do normal but I expected better lines and quips from her.

When the family were involved, it was comedy gold. Especially with Nancy’s breakdown. Unsure whether to cheer or boo from her reaction. Brilliant.

Simon Pegg was superb. His nerdy verbal diarrhea and mad impressions really made his character stand out. To be honest, he was pretty much playing himself. His perfectly choreographed dance-off with Bell to Duran Duran’s The Reflex was nauseatingly cheesy but got a guilty grin.

Inevitably as Nancy’s web of lies begin to unwind, it isn’t long before fists are flying! BUT Pegg’s character Jack has his own secrets. An encounter involving his ex wife (Olivia Williams) certainly turned the tables and made for entertaining viewing.

However, the film tragically got sillier and more ridiculous by the minute and the last 20 minutes really killed off what had been an entertaining rom-com.

Rory Kinnear’s weird stalker character was unnecessary. He was funny when he was first introduced. The desperate little man still swooning over his old secondary school crush. But he soon became a moronic blackmailer demanding a blowjob in exchange for not spilling the beans!

Stupid. And when he was waiting naked in a toilet, the joke went too far. It would have been better if he was the scorned crush but Google tracking her location and driving around a BMW like an nutter? NO.

What was with the Game of Thrones actors popping up in this? John Bradley? That’s right Samwell Tarly as a hotel bell boy (Uncredited. I can see why) and Dean-Charles Chapman (Martyn Lannister) as a pissed up youth crashing a house party.

Oh God, the closing scenes were terrible. Seriously, it was so OTT and vomit inducing. A simple request for directions at a house party led to Pegg running around the streets with a massive entourage of drunken kids.

It was needlessly silly and corny and ended with all the things you could think off to fill the chick flick checklist. Cliched speeches (Tick), the “Will-they-won’t-they?” (Of course), the bickering and splitting up (All within one night, might I add).

BUT great chemistry from two excellent leads certainly made this one to see. But with all the silly guff, it soon became one to forget.

By all means, it’s watchable. I laughed quite a bit but I just wished the last 20 minutes didn’t happen. That’s all.

Thumbs up for Man Up? More like a shaky hand.

2.5/5

MILLION DOLLAR ARM REVIEW

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Disney + Don Draper = one easygoing sports movie.

Jon Hamm takes the helm as J.B. Bernstein, a sports agent who stages an unconventional recruitment strategy to get talented Indian cricket players to play Major League Baseball. From the opening speech with JB attempting to sign a major player to his firm, the pitch and delivery just reminded me of Mad Men and how much I will miss it after next year. It felt like a what if scenario. What if Don Draper left advertising and became a sports agent? Hamm has proven yet again that he can take the lead and deliver a charismatic performance.

I fear that this could be the beginning of Hamm being typecast to play more Draper-esque roles. But it’s early days and for some people, certain actors will always be certain TV or film characters. For now, it works. He carries the film where the story may drag or dip into familiar cliched territory. I mean at least this story was worth telling. I didn’t realise that this had only happened recently. The fact that JB channel flicks to Susan Boyle’s Britain’s Got Talent audition. A perfect metaphor for judging a book by its cover. The very lesson this film aspires to teach.

Alan Arkin is . . . pretty much playing Alan Arkin. Sleeping, moaning and whining about the curry he ate the night before. Some of his quips were funny but he has played this character before and so much better in Little Miss Sunshine. He definitely has been typecast. He grumbles and has the odd liner but disappears all too quickly to make a good impression. He inevitably reappears and justifies his character’s relevance. Only just. Bill Paxton played his part well and to be honest, there wasn’t enough of him but this isn’t his story. But my God, he has aged. The years have suddenly caught up with him. I know he was probably made up to be a little older for the role but yikes. Anyway, the main story is on our three Indian protagonists.

Pitobash as the eccentric Amit was brilliant. Scene stealing at every moment. From taking every little phrase literally;

Arkin: “He’s got juice”

Pitobash: “You want juice. I get you juice”

To his documentary film making catching all the things JB wouldn’t want in a PR video, he always brings a smile. Shuraj Sharma as Rinku with a unique stance for pitching baseballs and Madhur Mittal (Slumdog Millionaire) as Dinesh play the parts brilliantly. At first, Lake Bell’s (What Happens In Vegas) character of the hot doctor lodger that rents JB’s outhouse bungalow was a little annoying and so predictable. However, Bell and Hamm manage to convey enough chemistry to stop it from spoiling too much of the fun, even if the outcome is so obvious. Aasif Mandvi (The Internship) was wasted in his role, bar one good joke about recruiting the only three Indians who can’t stand cricket. This did make it all the more interesting that the very pitchers they are looking for are field hockey and track athletes.

To be honest, the length didn’t really bother me. I normally complain about the wavering length and at over two hours, I thought there may have been more moments in which I would be glancing at my watch. Not so! The opening may have been slow burning but there was enough easy going humour, charm and story to get away with it. Director Craig Gillespie catches the hustle and bustle of Bombay perfectly and has a cheeky poke at their politics. “We don’t bribe. We simply bypass the busy system by offering a little money”, offers Darshan Jariwala’s incompetent but loveable aide Vivek.

The first hour allowed time to be spent on the character’s backgrounds and upbringings which gave them a more rounded dimension. It also allows for a compelling contrast when the lads are put up in a hotel and are lost in translation with an elevator and escalator. I expected a little more tension with Dinesh’s family with his strict father but an unexpected heart to heart surprised me. I also feared that the film would baffle me with baseball statistics and terms as I’m not a baseball (or sports in general) fan but they use only a few slang words which are easily explained.

However, it’s funny, easy going with a nice uplifting, if slightly abrupt, ending. A somewhat mish mesh of Jerry Maguire and Slumdog Millionaire. The cast work brilliantly together as their fractious relationship and unexpected union are tested as they work against the odds to prove everybody, and themselves, wrong that nothing is impossible. Awww. Nice stuff.

3.5/5 Certainly one of the better ones. Not without its imperfections but worth a watch.