*NEW* NO ESCAPE REVIEW *NEW*

No-Escape-Movie-Poster

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

Advertisements

*NEW* RICKI AND THE FLASH REVIEW *NEW*

Ricki_and_the_Flash_poster

Meryl Streep sings and struts her way through this easygoing BUT tragically mediocre melodrama.

A musician (Streep) who gave up everything for her dream of rock-and-roll stardom returns home, looking to make things right with her family.

Penned by Diablo Cody. A somewhat mixed reaction for me. At her best, Juno. Her worst? Jennifer’s Body. This effort luckily fares somewhere in between.

We join Ricki as she performs at her local venue. A battered up pub with her regulars; half a dozen bar flies. I am a huge fan of the Streep. You know that with any film she will give 100%. It was a perfect showcase to see Streep do her best Stevie Nix impression. Anyone who has seen Mamma Mia and Into The Woods will know that she has a cracking voice.

The songs that were written for the film weren’t that bad. It was easygoing and chugged along. BUT things took a more interesting turn as Ricki has to return home to tend to her daughter (real life daughter Mamie Gummer) who is reeling from a bad divorce.

It was great seeing Streep act with her own daughter. Gummer gave as good as she got. As soon as she made her introduction and stormed into the room with her messy hair and dressing gown, I knew Streep had met her match. The fractious relationship between Ricki and Julie made for good viewing as the pair tried to reconcile their differences.

It may have been 33 years since Sophie’s Choice but Kevin Kline and Streep finally reunite once again. They worked well together and Kline played the role of the ex-husband Pete brilliantly. Desperate for the family to be together again. If anything, I was a little disappointed that he wasn’t in it enough.

And that was the main problem for me. There wasn’t enough drama. It didn’t kick off as much as I had hoped and was resolved far too quickly. A heated reunion at a restaurant was a perfect boiling point for Ricki’s sons to vent their anger at their mother who chose fame over family.

Audra McDonald’s Maureen and Streep’s Ricki sparred brilliantly together. It made for a compelling scene as we finally delve a little more into Ricki’s past. I just wish more was made of it. A few passing comments and snipey remarks wasn’t enough. You certainly felt for Ricki but you could also understand Maureen’s frustration after taking over as mum for all those years.

The problem was that after the hour marker, the film fizzed out. All the interesting family drama was put on the back burner and we were left moping over a silly little love subplot with Rick Springfield’s Greg.

Springfield played the love interest well enough. He was a likeable character BUT it was obvious that the pair would get together. To be honest from their on-stage banter and flirty exchanges, I thought they already were.

There were still some good scenes as Ricki desperately tries to hide her feelings and question why Greg would love someone like her. Awww. BUT it shied away from the real story for me.

And yes, I did clock Diablo Cody as one of the bar regulars. Ben Platt (Ol’ Benji from Pitch Perfect) still managed to annoy the hell out of me. Even in a small bartender role.

The closing quarter was far too schmaltzy for my liking. Don’t get me wrong, there were some nice moments as the family seem to accept her and she suddenly receives a wedding invitation. BUT there was a suggestion that Pete still had feelings for Ricki which was never really explored or bothered with.

It ended far too quickly and was dreadfully corny and OTT. A good old song and dance to make up for 35 years of neglect and anger? Okay. Obviously, Ricki is a singer and that was all she could offer. BUT come on! Streep may have nailed Bruce Springsteen’s ‘My Love Will Not Let You Down’ BUT, no disrespect to The Boss, I don’t think everyone would be raving to it at a wedding.

Predictable and a little too hammy for me. Streep was superb and the cast did their best. If it wasn’t for them, this could have been a very dull affair.

2.5/5

PAUL BLART: MALL COP 2 REVIEW

Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 Movie

What a load of old cop!

Ba-dum-tsssh! If you thought that was bad, you won’t like this!

After six years of keeping our malls safe, Paul Blart (Kevin James) has earned a well-deserved vacation. He heads to Vegas with his teenage daughter (Raini Rodriguez) before she heads off to college. But safety never takes a holiday and when duty calls, Blart answers.

Back, definitely bigger but better?

In a word, NO! God, no! But it wasn’t all bad. Just . . . Not that good.

I’ve been a fan of Kevin James ever since King of Queens. His movies may not have earned critical plaudits but as long as they were funny, I didn’t care.

I finally got round to watching the first Paul Blart not too long ago. It was okay, I guess. James using his size to his advantage for some Die Hard buffoonery.

It was watchable but the biggest joke was the amount of money it took! For all the hype and recommendations, I was left scratching my head. It delivered the odd titter but it went far too long. Too long at 90 minutes? Ouch. Inevitably, with all that box office wonga, a sequel was on the cards.

Now bearing in mind, I wasn’t that keen on the first, I found that better than this instalment.

The slating PB: MC 2 (Looks like an equation) has received was a little overkill. I did laugh. A couple of times. BUT it tried to outdo the first one and made the same silly mistakes.

The opening ten minutes certainly didn’t get things going. It was a little dark and random. Two cast members from the original removed in a matter of seconds.

One with a truck. The other . . . Obviously read the script and didn’t want to come back. Let’s be honest, Jayma Mays. You weren’t that good the first time round.

BUT she still dodged a bullet. Some lazy plot writing about anxiety and demanding a divorce after a six day vomit inducing marriage or something or other.

Yeah. Stupid and not very funny. See where I’m going.

James’ OTT and deluded alter ego Blart did enough to preserve through the drudge. I can’t believe how big he’s got again! I thought he was shedding the pounds after Here Comes The Boom! Clearly, the film needed those infantile fat jokes. That popped up at every opportunity.

However, considering his size, I couldn’t believe how quick James was on his feet. A scene in which Blart raids a hotel room for clues was hilarious. Running up the steps, throwing himself around, getting back on his feet. Damn!

His buffoonery did get a few titters. But it was too much of the same thing. Tripping over the carpet in an epic hotel lobby punch up? Good. Continuing to trip over every object every 30 seconds afterwards? Boring.

There wasn’t much of a story. Not that I expected one. But a lazy convention invitation to get Blart for more Die Hard shenanigans in a Vegas hotel was naff.

It didn’t help that it was so predictable and schmaltzy. Rodriguez and James work well as a father/daughter unit but why did it have to be so revoltingly cheesy?

Maya (Rodriguez) falls for a valet in a hammy and uninteresting sub plot. In fact you can hardly call it a subplot as Bakay and James couldn’t be bothered to put any effort into it. She inevitably avoids her blundering control freak of a mall cop dad who is in the middle of having a mini breakdown after losing the love of his life . . . after six days. Bleurgh.

BUT that’s okay. She gets kidnapped . . . AGAIN! And it’s up to dear old dim-witted dad to save the day whether she wants him to or not!

It’s just a mess. The main problem for me was that I was trying to work out how bad this film was. Let me explain. Nick Bakay (Salem! Salem from Sabrina. I know. GAY!) and Kevin James are funny. Surely, the dialogue and story line were written badly on purpose?

You can see where James is ripping off the old clichéd action B-movies. His slow motion leap from a “fast moving” Segway got a chuckle out of me. BUT everything else just came off unintentionally bad. Boring and unfunny. It was as if they took all the bad bits out of the bad action movies to make something even worse. A comedy masterpiece or just bad?

Either way, it didn’t really work. I mean, come on. Robert Rodriguez knew what he was doing when he made Planet Terror. It was a deliberately awful Grindhouse flick. Blart, on the other hand . . . Meh.

The daughter getting kidnapped spiel didn’t work in Taken and certainly didn’t work in this. It had potential but never really got anywhere. The only redeeming feature was the fact she wasn’t a complete moron and did some clever MacGuyer stuff to try and escape.

The supporting cast were a little hit and miss.

Shelly Dusai was funny as Khan Mubi. Not enough of him to be honest. His impromptu hug and greets and inability to stay awake at even the most intense situations was a much needed comedy injection. I could have done with more of him than Gary Valentine or Loni Love.

Love was brilliant when she was first introduced into the mix but after that, she soon got on my nerves. Yelling out, “This is real” and “That’s not real” got very old very quick.

Neal McDonough was a cracking little villain. His different coloured eyes and deadpan delivery trounced the mall muppet that we had in the first one. But he wasn’t used to his full potential. He had keyed in his inner Hans Gruber and deserved more lines and screen time. Disappointed.

I mean, his mad shout off with James showed McDonough’s potential. “I’m so crazy, I have two different coloured eyes. I don’t know what I’ll do next”. It doesn’t sound so good out loud but his delivery made it work. However, the shouting soon went on too long. AGAIN.

D.B. Woodside should have stayed in Suits. Old Wayne Palmer was so bland and unmemorable. He was nothing more than a henchman.

Daniella Alonso. Mamma Mia! Steady now. She played the alluring hotel manager well. What? It was a little funny when Blart kept insisting that she was hitting on him. His endless put downs and talks got a chuckle. The punchline inevitably being that she actually was hitting on him made me smile a little. Blart’s realisation at the mistake of turning her down was up there with Harry and Lloyd giving directions to that tour bus of models.

I know James and Sandler have been slated for years. They don’t care. And to be honest, I’ve enjoyed quite a few of their efforts that have been rated incredibly low on IMDb but although this was watchable, it wasn’t memorable.

It was along the lines of Grown Ups 2. It had a couple of laughs but went on too long and you couldn’t wait for it to end. BUT there were still laughs to be had. If you like your comedy silly and OTT and you liked the first one (A lot of people will be saying No one), then give it a crack.

Blart getting in a punch-up with a peacock was hilarious. Its velociraptor-esque roar as it stalked the mall cop made it for me. That and the smiling pianist who offered no help and merely background music wasn’t bad. Looked like someone out of The Shining!

James knows how to ride a Segway. I had a crash course on one of those. No, literally I crashed onto the floor. To be able to do the silly little tricks he does was fun to watch.

Running into clean glass doors and sliding across hotel lobby floors were (Pardon the expression) hit and miss but they still got a little smile out of me.

BUT James’ farting, tripping and blundering did annoy more than entertain. His ridiculous speeches were the sort of thing I fast forward through a naff B flick.

The corny confrontations with Maya over moving away to college was so tedious and hammy. I really didn’t care. Oh and the final punch line, I say punch line was terrible. James chatting up a mounted policewoman could have had potential. BUT nah. Let’s just have a terrible CGI horse kick James’ terribly CGI’d body into a car. Shame. A missed opportunity.

If there is going to be another, take another 6 years on top of another 6 years and find some better material, Messrs James and Bakay.

2(Just)/5

NATIVITY 3: DUDE, WHERE’S MY DONKEY?

lRTxKhKHz5OmvJBZQvCbFH6dNS6

Ho, ho, ho – horrible!

Dude, Where’s My Donkey?

No, not the long awaited sequel to Dude, Where’s My Car? (Well, I liked it). I would have preferred watching an attempt at that than endure this festive fiasco again.

From the moment the first badly mimed, badly choreographed and terribly out of sync flash mob started busting shapes, I knew I was in for it. And that was just from the adults. The kids hadn’t even started yet.

Now, I hadn’t seen the previous sequels before (and after this, I won’t be) but I thought a third installment? It must be doing something right. I can safely say that this should nail that lid to the coffin.

So what’s it all about? The pupils of St Bernadette’s and the madcap Mr Poppy (Marc Wooton) are back! When their new teacher Mr Shepherd (Martin Clunes) loses his memory as well as Archie the Donkey, it’s up to them to save the day and reunite him with his fiancée Sophie (Catherine Tate) in New York.

I’m a huge fan of Martin Clunes and knew he would be up for a laugh. He applies his Doc Martin spiel with aplomb and carries the film as much as possible. He managed to make certain gags that stunk (as bad as the donkey droppings that the numerous cast members stepped on repetitively) work.

The clothes they make him wear. He looks like a real life Christmas Where’s Wally? His singing. Yeah, he sings. My lord! The man could rival Pierce Brosnan from Mamma Mia!

Catherine Tate was incredibly flat and irritating. She seemed to be doing a really bad panto impression of her Impressions show?! Terrible. I thought having the comedienne would add something to this travesty but oh no!

Celia Imrie was delightful as the stand-in headteacher Mrs Keane or Mrs Mean. Yeah, that bad. Imrie works well with the children and to be honest, I would have been happy to see more of her.

Clearly her predecessor didn’t fancy another round. A cheeky nod to Martin Freeman and David Tennant with snow globes was a nice touch. Why on Earth did they do the other films? The money must have been good.

The Ofsted inspection subplot was completely unnecessary and didn’t go anywhere. Just an excuse for more naff tomfoolery with endless farting donkey gags and the droppings. Once was enough.

Mr Poppy, well . . . where do I begin? Marc Wooton certainly doesn’t care and fair play to the chap. BUT for the one good silly one liner he does deliver, there are a thousand million (in Poppy terms) incredibly annoying and terribly unfunny ones.

The teacher’s assistant with special . . . powers. I was exhausted with him after five minutes. It was like having a kid just watching him run and flail about. I wouldn’t trust him with my kids.

The little ‘uns might find him funny but the parents certainly won’t.

Now the kids who should be the main focus of the film seemed to be pushed to the background. Dragged along for the ride to burst out into a song or dance when the lazy and placid story line is running out of gas.

I expected more of an Outnumbered approach with the kids improvising. Nope. There was one scene that showed promise when the kids try to explain the Nativity to an amnesiac Clunes. A little girl’s answer about an angel was adorable; “An angel is someone who is half bird and half lady. AND she wears a really big white wedding dress”. More of that would have been welcome.

Now the flash mob sequences in which the children are allowed to shine are actually quite good. You can allow for some of the little tykes being out of step. The costumes and props were quite good.

What infuriated me was the fact they are forced to mime to their own singing . . . and badly. Just let them sing live!

Did I mention an amnesiac Clunes? I must have forgot to mention that (What?). He receives amnesia after being kicked in the head by a donkey. Hilarious, I hear you say? No, I didn’t think so.

The plot is terrible. I tried to switch off my critic voice in a film that’s supposed to be about Christmas and fun BUT stealing kids out of school and being looked after by a complete halfwit?

I mean, the amnesia ploy was all a bad excuse for the cast to have a Christmas tour around London and New York. The only part Debbie Isitt captured brilliantly and managed to make me a feel a little Christmas-sy and not just queasy.

Clunes had amnesia. He still had a wallet. You didn’t have to do a ridiculous flash mob dance to distract our apparently oblivious and incompetent border patrol officers so the kids could steal flight tickets and passports.

The lazy explanation from the psychologist was laughable for all the wrong reasons. Let’s flood his head with warm memories? There’s no physical injury. No physical injury bar the whopping donkey footprint on his forehead? Perr-leassse.

It seemed to me that we were watching established British TV comedy personalities trying to act like big kids in a poor panto. Why? You had the children right there. I have seen more originality and humour in my little brother’s school plays and they didn’t cost me a tenner. Not good enough.

The film is on far too long. 90 minutes was a push but 110? Behave. The length should have been swapped with its superior Christmas-sy competitor, Get Santa.

Adam Garcia played the panto villain well but his dancing was terrible. What was his profession again? A renowned dancer? Not from this. Ralf Little was brilliant as his dimwitted sidekick in a somewhat small cameo. Why didn’t he have a bigger role? He was funnier than half the cast in the 30 seconds he featured?

Jason Watkins (Trollied) was terrible. Normally a funny guy in his own right. Dull as dishwasher and irritating as hell.

Lauren Hobbs was adorable and did well as Clune’s daughter. She was probably the only memorable child in it. And that’s not the kids’ fault. I mean even the songs were highly unmemorable. And to make it worse, the kids have to sing them again AND again. It was like watching a really bad school panto!

I really laid into this one, didn’t I? I apologise but just because it’s Christmas; it doesn’t mean you can slap any old thing together and expect people to pay and see it. It was lazy, unfunny and poor. At a push, worth taking the little ‘uns if they are aged to 5 tops. Otherwise, go see Penguins of Madagascar, Paddington, anything BUT this.

I’m sure it was fun for everyone who filmed it. It’s just a shame they couldn’t convey that for everybody else.

Sorry but 1/5

I didn’t get me in the Christmas spirit but it certainly got reaching for the ones in my cupboard. Should be Dude, Where’s My Money?