*NEW* ALLIED REVIEW *NEW*

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I surrender.

Good chemistry does just enough to make this typical Hollywood war romance watchable.

In 1942, a Canadian intelligence officer (Brad Pitt) in North Africa encounters a female French Resistance fighter (Marion Cotillard) on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressures of war.

Was this really penned by the man who gave us Peaky Blinders?

BUT at that same stroke, he gave us Locke and Mockingbird . . . So . . . yeah.

The opening act was slow burning BUT engaging as Pitt’s (incredibly bad CGI’d) Vatan descended onto the French Moroccan desert.

The tension slowly bubbling as the officer set out on his mission. The secret rendezvous. The cloak and dagger meetings. The questions piling up.

Cotillard stole the show from the get go. I expected nothing less as she did her best to hide Pitt’s school boy French. BUT it allowed for a nice icebreaker between the pair as they gathered Intel and rehearsed each other’s cover stories.

The detail was ridiculous from Vatan’s threads to perfecting his “Parisian” twang. He even had to sleep on the roof to establish the couple’s “reunion” as the neighbours watched from the windows.

The pace dragged BUT the pair’s blossoming partnership and chemistry made up for it as we played the waiting game. Cotillard’s Marianne proving she is more than just a piece of arm candy and up for the task in hand to the stern and dreadfully serious Vatan.

Don Burgess’ cinematography certainly left little on the eye. Casablanca didn’t look quite as romantic as the 1940s classic, that’s for sure. BUT that didn’t stop director Robert Zemeckis and co. piling on the cheese.

A little too Hollywood for my liking. No, really. I had to laugh at their whirlwind romance. Captured perfectly in a hilarious sandstorm bonk. Peer-leasseee.

Zemeckis’ track record has been hit and miss for the last 15 years BUT he knew how to deliver the suspense as the pair took on their risky mission. It was edgy, brutal and surprisingly violent.

BUT when the pair went back to London, the pace was tragically put on the back burner as they got hitched and had a child.

I had to cringe at Cotillard giving birth in the middle of an air raid. I’m sure it was meant to be a sweeping statement that war stops for no one BUT it was far too hammy.

Luckily it wasn’t long before the game was afoot again with a suspect Nazi agent in the ranks. The only problem was that the agent in question was Marianne.

Simon McBurney (The Conjuring 2) was quite creepy as the appropriately titled ‘Ratcatcher’. I wish he was in this more. Jared Harris’ (Mad Men) Frank Helsop, on the other hand, was a little tally ho and what for not. Shame.

The two men assigned to putting Vatan’s life in misery. My interest was finally peaked as Vatan sought to prove Marianne’s innocence; with failure to do so resulting in their execution. Grim stuff.

The final act delivered more of what I had expected from the get go. It was tense and, despite my grumbling, I was still guessing right up to the very end as Vatan had to re-evaluate the very woman he fell in love with.

I just wish Zemeckis had given us more suspense. I hadn’t been so anxious waiting for a phone to ring (Those who have seen it, will know what I’m talking about).

The lines weren’t quite as crisp or as memorable as I’d hoped and made some of the more dramatic scenes a little clunky. Oh . . . and Brad Pitt’s angry chair kick had me in stitches.

The supporting cast left little to be desired. Anyone could have played Lizzy Caplan’s (Now You See Me 2) part as Vatan’s sister. If at all. She was completely unnecessary and her silly romance with Charlotte Hope (Game of Thrones) felt tacked on and in the wrong film altogether.

I was more interested in Matthew Goode’s (The Imitation Game) disfigured war vet. He made more of an impression in five minutes than all of Caplan’s encounters combined.

I actually wanted to know more about his past with Vatan and the reasons behind his neglected hospital imprisonment. BUT alas, it was not to be.

Allied wasn’t as bad as I had originally anticipated. The two leads’ chemistry kept things watchable. It just felt like we had seen it all before and done much better.

Moments of quick violence and gore with patchy suspense sequences just didn’t quite cut it.

A watchable, if dreadfully muddled, affair.

So-so, all sport.

2.5/5

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*NEW* BURNT REVIEW *NEW*

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Overcooked and overdone. Let’s hope Mr Cooper has a thick skin.

Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) is a chef who destroyed his career with drugs and diva behavior. He cleans up and returns to London, determined to redeem himself by spearheading a top restaurant that can gain three Michelin stars.

Penned by Steven Knight. Normally, I’m a big fan of the chap. Dirty Pretty Things was one of the best British films I had seen in a long time. BUT his latest offerings (Locke and Peaky Blinders) were very disappointing. Locke was an unintentionally comical showcase for Tom Hardy while Peaky Blinders (A fantastic gangster series that I had once called the best damn thing on TV) suffered from a stuttering second season.

Unfortunately (if you hadn’t gathered from that poorly punned tagline) that run has continued. Bradley Cooper does his best Gordon Ramsey impression BUT to no avail.

The first hour was actually quite watchable after a slow opening act with Cooper’s callous chef serving his “penance” by shucking out a million oysters. Yep. It really was as tedious as you think. BUT I was still intrigued to find out what Adam had done to make people detest him so much. Apparently, not a lot.

I would have preferred to see Cooper’s character burn out in the opening half than witness the dull aftermath. Some of the reasons were a little petty and boring while most of the group forgave him far too easily just because of his “reputation”. Best described using a Star Wars reference, “If he gets one more Michelin star, he’ll be like the Darth Vader of cooking”.

Cooper played it well as always. He had enough charisma to carry the piece BUT for every tense scene or engaging moment, there were a dozen cliched ones. Matthew Rhys was perfect as Adam’s old sous-chef (now bitter rival). If anything, I wished he was in it more. Their exchanges and fractious relationship was ripe for more heated confrontations. Unfortunately Knight only really scraped the surface.

And that was the problem. A great cast not used to their full potential. I couldn’t believe the amount of actors that popped up in this film. It was ridiculous. Daniel Bruhl didn’t do a bad turn as Tony. The son of a respected restaurateur trying to keep his late father’s legacy alive. The only problem was that his initial stubbornness and anger was always going to lead to the inevitable.

It was also a surprise to see Uma Thurman as a respected food critic. Shame that her character was only a passing cameo. Alicia Vikander was tragically wasted in her role. She looked stunning and had potential to cause so much more trouble for Adam. BUT it was resolved far too easily and didn’t even attempt to put out the fire burning between Cooper and Miller.

Sienna Miller and Bradley Cooper reunite once again (American Sniper). Their tense headbutting and predictable romance did enough to keep things ticking over. Cooper’s Ramsey-esque meltdown at her was brutal and nail biting. Miller was actually very good as the single mum battling to keep her catering career alive. The hokum romance did spoil things BUT their chemistry was good enough to roll out the doughy bits.

Emma Thompson was brilliant as Adam’s therapist. But heavily underused. Merely dishing out advice and keeping tabs on the recovering drug addict. A shame as the pair worked well together.

The shots of the meals and courses had my stomach rumbling. Food porn for the foodies out there. It was easygoing and pleasant enough with Adam’s tough guy demeanour finally cracking. There were even some zippy one liners; “What happened to your angel looks? Drink, cocaine and Louisiana”.

There just wasn’t enough made of the story or the cast. The second half lulled and sizzled out with a quite abrupt and corny ending. It was far too patchy, formulaic and predictable. That’s not to say it wasn’t watchable. Just disappointing.

2.5/5

LOCKE REVIEW

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Tom Hardy is back. Better? Definitely beardier. Along with another strange accent. Unfortunately boyo I had to Google that you were trying to be Welsh. I thought he was doing a broken South African mish-mesh of an accent. Anyway, I digress. A strange exercise that tests the acting abilities of the charismatic actor but unfortunately at times tests the very patience of the viewer. I am just sitting here. Driving a car. Okay? That is pretty much the premise of Locke.

85 whole minutes of our leading Locke talking, swearing, revealing not so dramatic revelations and dealing with the aftermath as he drives down the motorway. I can appreciate Steven Knight’s ambition with a talented lead actor, this had all the potential to be something so much more. Attempts have been done before with one actor, one scenario for an extended time. Buried, Cast Away, 127 Hours come to mind. I’m sure you can think of others, hell even better ones. Now I’m a huge fan of Knight. I loved his previous efforts; Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises and the underrated BBC gangster series Peaky Blinders.

Interestingly enough Knight has recruited Hardy for the second series. However, Knight isn’t perfect by any means. Let us not forget the humdrum Hummingbird. However, he did get a convincing turn out of The Stath. I don’t really want to divulge into the story line. There is a dramatic incident that has caused Locke to drop everything he is doing and get on that motorway. When it is first revealed, it is quite suspenseful and tense. However, once the said incident or twist is revealed and Locke has to wait for the aftermath, we are left with his character talking to an empty seat supposedly possessing the metaphorical spirit of his dead dad or banging on about concrete.

I kid you not. I have now been educated in concrete. I did not know how important it was in the structure of a building. Consider myself told. The main problem is that even with Hardy’s conviction and stamina, it comes off almost like a parody. You feel like he is taking the mick out of himself. Random tantrums, weird accents, it’s all there. I was impressed with the cast. Well, the voices. They do their utmost to keep this project from flailing.

Olivia Colman provides the plaudits once again following an award winning turn in Broadchurch. Even if it is in reduced phone call tit bits. Ruth Wilson (Luther/The Lone Ranger) managed to make a mark, especially in the closing minutes as Locke’s wife. Ben Daniels’ character, appropriately labelled on Locke’s phone as the Bastard, brought the odd laugh. Intentional is another matter. The main scene stealer, however, is (Did You Miss Me Moriarity) Andrew Scott as the dimwit drunkard Donal. Scott manages to provide a much needed comic relief to something that just should be more dramatic but really isn’t.

Locke’s intentions and behaviour are bizarre but not completely unjustified but somehow it just doesn’t quite hit it for me. And for all his crazy driving, I expected a different finale but was left deflated and scratching my head. A topic that certainly has moments of well-acted, or well voiced moments, but really could or should have been put on Film Four as a TV movie. Nothing more.

Hardy manages to get this stuttering old (been there seen that) banger to its intended destination but I just wish they had given him a better vehicle on a better route if you get my drift. A missed opportunity for an ever growing prolific actor 2.5 out of 5!

Currently ranks #142 out of 182!