*NEW* 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI REVIEW *NEW*

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Everything you could expect from a Bay flick and (surprisingly) more.

As an American ambassador is killed during an attack at a U.S. compound in Libya, a security team struggles to make sense out of the chaos.

At first; I didn’t know if I was going to be able to tolerate the relentless and OTT ‘Murica speeches, the nauseating clichéd family conversations and ridiculous banter from the incredibly macho team BUT once the siege took effect, I was hooked.

All that mind numbing rubbish thrown out of the window for a tense, riveting and nail biting thriller. A perfect platform for some very underrated supporting actors to steal the spotlight.

The first 40 minutes really was everything I expected from the Transformers director. It was big, bold with regular Bay stalwart Dion Beebe’s glossy cinematography making even the most grittiest Libyan slum look picturesque.

An incredibly unnecessary and testosterone fuelled stand off with James Badge Dale’s (Flight) cocky Tyrone and a group of Libyan rebels didn’t really give me high hopes. His macho demeanour and cock sure attitude just grated against me BUT once all the machismo and camaraderie between the group had subsided, he was actually quite good.

John Krasinki delivered a solid performance as newbie Jack. A perfect transition from the comedy circuit (The Office USA) to some serious acting. The last thing I watched this guy in was Lip Sync Battle against Anna Kendrick.

David Costabile (Breaking Bad) played the stuffy chief head caught up with the bureaucracy well. Not enough of him in my opinion. A lot more could have been made with his character. BUT it’s a difficult task when you’re trying to stay true to real life events. Something I was surprised to see Bay actually do. The only exaggeration here was, of course, the explosions and carnage.

Once the team of misfits were assigned to the Ambassador’s (Matt Letscher – The Flash) security detail, my interest was peaked. A slow burning thriller was set. The paranoia and tension bubbling away. I was completely caught up in it. Wondering if the casual passer by or cabbie was a possible enemy. Taking a picture of the compound to send to a militant? Or just sending a text? A distressed civilian trying to warn the guys? Or merely a distraction?

As night descended and the inevitable siege took place, a Black Hawk Down style scenario developed. Out manned, outgunned and no reinforcements on the way, 13 men had one hell of a task ahead of them.

You could bank on Bay to deliver an exhilarating and fast paced shoot em up. BUT despite a redemptive and thrilling second half, he still suffered from the same old flaws. The pace was far too long. This could have been cut by a good 30 to 45 minutes and been much better for it. It really did test by the closing minutes.

For all the intense and explosive action (Bay’s specialty), it was tough in parts to catch who was doing what. It was too dark. It helped add to the claustrophobia BUT you soon couldn’t see a damn thing. And then there was too much going on. Random blurs and endless numbers of faceless foes being shot left, right and centre didn’t help.

Toby Stephens (Black Sails) was wasted in his minute role. Anyone could have played the part. His character nothing more than a foot note to highlight the inefficiency and hypocrisy of ‘cutting through the red tape’ just to send support.

I was surprised at the dark humour and satire that popped up in this. Kids running around playing football while growing insurgents were creeping closer and closer. I couldn’t believe it. There was a moment where during the first wave of attack, the gang look over the compound wall to catch a neighbour sitting in his back garden watching the telly. What?!

The closing minutes may have tested as the explosions kept coming BUT it still left a little lump in the throat with a fitting tribute to the lives lost. Accompanied by real news footage of the Libyan civilians that mourned that fateful night.

A little long at the tooth BUT once it going, it was hard hitting and nail biting. A return to form of sorts for the Bay-ster. Good to see him do something other than Transformers.

3/5

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*NEW* POINT BREAK 3D REVIEW *NEW*

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What was the point?

A young FBI agent (Luke Bracey) infiltrates an extraordinary team of extreme sports athletes he suspects of masterminding a string of unprecedented, sophisticated corporate heists.

Woah. This was bad. I don’t know why I expected anything else. A needless remake of an iconic action thriller that did nothing to justify its production.

Now credit where’s it due. The opening was actually quite watchable and zipped along. A silly introduction made full use of the gimmicky 3D. Something I haven’t been able to say for the majority of these heavily flogged features. Bracey’s Utah blazing sand and gravel from his dirt bike straight out at the screen.

It was a little corny BUT it set up Utah’s thirst for adrenaline. A necessary skill set. Apparently. A botched stunt soon sets him on the straight and narrow. And we flash forward to the present with Utah now enlisted in the FBI. Woah.

Bracey (The Best of Me) was perfectly cast as Utah. And for the first 30 minutes, I was actually NOT hating it. He looked like a surfer dude and channeled his inner Keanu. Oh, how wrong I was. Like the great (and dare I say, CGI’d?) waves that Utah and Bodhi surfed, the pace meandered along and had little to offer in plot, action or quotable dialogue. Even the little nods to the original came off half-arsed. Okay, the President faces laminated on the motorbike helmets wasn’t a bad touch.

Now the heists were actually quite good. The special effects were brilliant. A fantastic sequence in which the suspected criminal gang of adrenaline junkies unleash millions of dollars from a plane stopped my griping for a moment. The 3D gimmick flickering dollar bills at my face. BUT the problem was that there wasn’t enough of these moments.

One good scene does not a good movie make. Ray Winstone’s performance as Pappas was dreadful. It didn’t help that he had to drawl out some cliched and incredibly naff dialogue BUT his character had nothing on Gary Busey. Speaking of drawls; was Winstone supposed to be American? His mish-mash accent didn’t work at all. Just keep it cockney, Ray.

Delroy Lindo (Gone In Sixty Seconds) was completely wasted in his role as Instructor Hall. He should have been in it more. His reaction when Utah tries to explain the incredibly hammy plot entertained me more than the rest of the cast.

Edgar Ramirez (The Bourne Ultimatum) was always going to struggle to match Patrick Swayze’s charm BUT he didn’t do a bad Bodhi. A charismatic presence in a lifeless piece. His relationship with Utah didn’t have that natural chemistry like the original. It felt rushed and was cliched to death. The macho street brawls, ridiculous ‘hippy’ mantra and cheesy bro-mantic hugging was too much.

The pace dragged when the heists weren’t taking place. We had to drudge through droll dialogue, cheesy exchanges and a laughable plot line that went no where. Utah’s romance with Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies) was completely unnecessary. It added nothing to the mix and the pair didn’t even have the same chemistry as Reeves and Lori Petty (Free Willy).

The premise was weak. A group of adrenaline junkies attempting to complete a teaching called the Ozaki 8. Eight ordeals to honour the forces of nature. Yeah, I know right? The whole taking from the rich and giving to the poor spiel was fine BUT it was so obvious that it was Bodhi’s gang doing this and yet our hero couldn’t see it. Even when he was taking part in one of the crimes?!

Ericson Core’s cinematography made this like something out of a Michael Bay flick and there were a couple of decent set pieces BUT otherwise, this remake was terrible. Boring, predictable and thoroughly disappointing.

A washout indeed.

2/5

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES REVIEW

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Turtle-y awesome. Cool as shell.

Right, enough reptilian punnery! Let’s do this!

Critically, it’s not perfect. Come on! It’s a film about teenage mutant ninja turtles.

BUT on the criteria of being a fun and entertaining family movie? I came out smiling and that’s saying something.

Now I grew up with the Turtles and was a particular fan of the original 90s movies. Well, the original 1990 movie. The sequels after that were . . . Well, meh. The Secret of the Ooze, oh dear.

Over the years, we have witnessed endless reboots and reworkings that were frankly doing my nut in and when I heard that Bay was bringing them back, I was livid!

I mean he already killed the Transformers franchise. Something that seriously needs to be scrapped.

The trailers gave me hope. They appeared to catch the essence of the gang but their 6 foot gargantuan Hulkesque appearances? Uh oh. But none the less, I went in. A 25 year old with my own gang of miscreants averaging the age of 22.

And I was surprised. Firstly, that there were no kids. All adults. Further cementing the cult status of these iconic reptiles. And secondly, in the film itself.

From the opening introduction, you knew what you were getting yourself into.  A quick explanation of some “scientific” mumbo jumbo about genetic engineering and the inevitable origins of some kung fu fighting critters. Some exposition about a crime syndicate known only as the . . .  Wait for it! The Foot Clan.

Okay, the story is ridiculous. I mean, come on. Any Foot related murders? Really? At least the writers allow the characters to poke fun at the stupidity of it all. A hilarious encounter between Megan Fox (Wowewow. What?) and Whoopi Goldberg (You read that. She’s back . . . in small roles) exemplifies that perfectly as April tries to explain about our heroes in a half-shell (Turtle Power!) to her editor.

Now this is not directed by Bay. It is a Bay produced movie. To be honest, the only thing director Jonathan Liebesmann has borrowed is the special effects, Megan Fox and the wafer thin plot line . . . Oh wait? I can see why the pair have been mistaken.

But Liebesmann and the writers have certainly skipped over the plot holes by filling it with comical scenes, action packed CGI sequences and fun. Something Bay has failed to deliver. Just boredom with overlong running times.

My main qualm was making sure that the essence of the turtles was captured and to that I must commend all involved. The voice cast were spot on. I felt each character was done justice. Some people had found it hard to distinguish between the turtles if not for the different coloured bandanas. I didn’t expect Johnny Knoxville from Jackass as Leonardo. But he certainly brought his gruffy gravitas to the role.

Noel Fisher (Twilight) however . . . TAKE A BOW! He was brilliant as Michaelangelo. Hilarious and instantly loveable. Scene stealing at every possible opportunity. His obsession with a cat playing chopsticks with chopsticks was one gag that did not get old.

The animation was fantastic. The expressions and movements certainly brought the green gang to life.

Megan Fox didn’t do too bad as April. However, just like the Transformers you could feel her character being pushed further into the background as the big guys went to battle. Her insufferable screaming did get a little irritating near the end. It felt like nothing more than a reminder that she was there.

It did feel that Fox was chosen to appease the fan boys of old and new. A news segment in which she must wear yoga pants and pounce on a trampoline said it all about female news anchors and a little about Fox. But she does look a damn sight better without that trout pout now. Anyhoo . . .

Will Arnett (Arrested Development/Lego Batman) was a perfect comedy sidekick and worked well with Fox. Not enough of him and his one liners, to be honest.

I was happy that the whole Raphael/Leonardo fraternal headbutting was breezed over. We had a lot of that in the original 1990 installment. Raphael was always the hot head but we didn’t need to tread through too much old ground.

Tony Shalhoub (Monk) brought some noble gravitas to our favourite furry fighter Splinter. He was certainly not as weak or as feeble as his 1990 movie counterpart. The fact his tail is now a fast moving weapon of its own accord made all the difference. Well, it would have to when he’s dealing with 6 foot muscle bounded turtle teenagers?

But of course, if the others have had an upgrade. That means the infamous sinister samurai Shredder will have one too. To be honest, they seemed to spend so much time on the heroes that Shredder seemed to be nothing more than an afterthought.

An expensive, gigantic mechanical master with several super swords afterthought. A visual threat. It’s just a shame his dialogue is as mechanical as his suit. William Fichtner (Prison Break) made more of an impression as his hammy minion.

Good to see Fichtner back in movies and not giving a stuff. Hamming it up to the max!

The special effects are brilliant. The ice truck chase was hilarious, entertaining and a visual feast for the eyes. However, it does get a little too cartoony by the end and the endless explosions do get a little much. Bay’s influence creeping in?

It kept my interest, had me laughing and to be honest I wanted more. The gang were done to justice. From their elevator beep boxing to spontaneous sewer dancing, they stole the show and are back for business.

Just next time (If there is one) give them a better baddie, a better plot and I’ll be happy to see more of this.

I’ve got to say it, “Kawabunga!” or “Give me another”

3/5

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!