WILD CARD REVIEW

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I’m losing faith in the Stath.

Well, in his movie choices anyway.

So what’s it all about, san? When a Las Vegas bodyguard (The Stath) with lethal skills and a gambling problem gets in trouble with the mob, he has one last play . . . and it’s all or nothing.

I should have known what to expect when I saw the name Simon West pop up across the silver screen.

At his best, Con Air! One of the most iconic action movies of all time! Why didn’t he put the bunny in the box?

At his worst, Stolen. One of my worst films of 2013. Ironically both involving Nicolas Cage.

West normally has the right balance of cheese with all out action. Silly but fun. While Wild Card, on the other hand, was just terrible. My DISAPPOINTED Kevin Sorbo Hercules video doesn’t even come close to showing my frustration.

A slow opening sequence involving Stath and a little “matchmaking” hustle with the alluring Sofia Vergara (Modern Family) was silly but easy going.

For a minute, I thought it was going to be a little like Better Call Saul. They even had a similar office set up.

Jason Alexander! Good old George Costanza as a Saul Goodman type showed all the potential.

BUT oh no! All he did was introduce the Stath to Michael Angarano’s (Sky High) retarded tweenie gambler.

Leading to an uneven, badly acted and badly written film that failed on everything BUT the violence (The little that there was).

Okay, retarded was a little harsh. Angarano’s dweeby laugh and lead dialogue didn’t help me like his one-dimensional character.

Meanwhile, a more interesting subplot seemed to be emerging as we see Dominik Garcia-Lorrido’s call girl battered, bludgeoned and dumped outside a hospital.

However, before we get to find out the who, why and how? We have to drudge through mindless exposition and pointless sweeping night shots of the Stath driving around Las Vegas.

The cinematography was outstanding. I must commend Shelly Johnson for making this mess worth looking at.

But it didn’t stop me picking at the poor script. Written by William Goldman. A two time Oscar winning screenwriter penned this? (All The President’s Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)

Anne Heche and Hope Davis. Two talented actresses reduced to nothingy supporting roles.

Heche as a waitress. Purpose? To serve the Stath some lemonade and give him a break from talking to himself.

Davis as a card dealer. Purpose? To remind us that the Stath gambles. Go figure. I could tell that by the fact he was gambling!

And if that wasn’t bad enough, I was fed up with listening to Angarano’s insecure rich boy desperately seeking a friend.

However, we finally get back to Garcia-Lorrido. She seems to have inherited her actor father’s deadpan drawl. Yep, lifeless and dull.

She tried to pull off the femme fatale vibe but she didn’t have the conviction.

In between Stath’s babysitting subplot, we have a little vengeance ploy as his services are required to teach a harsh lesson to a deluded mafia monster.

Well, I say monster. More like moper.

Peter Petrelli? What happened? Milo Ventimiglia was such a whiney little nob. I couldn’t stand him. He played the douchebag mafioso well but he was just so irritating and pathetic.

I could understand him being a quivering whimp in one scene as the Stath and Garcia-Lorido dispense some justice with his manhood and some garden shears but otherwise, he lacked the conviction to be taken seriously as a scumbag.

It was such a shame considering the back story that Lorrido built up around him. The detail on what he did to her was gritty and gruesome. And then we see him and he’s an absolute plonker.

The film kept changing in tone and flitting about. Ridiculously silly one moment, brooding and menacing the next. I wasn’t sure what it was trying to be. It failed anyway.

I think the only reprieve for this film was the fight sequences. There weren’t enough but when the Stath did kick off, it was brutal, intense and brilliantly choreographed.

One particular highlight involving Stath using a knife to jam up a hitman’s firing pin.

To be honest, Stath deals with Ventimiglia too easily and we are left watching him gamble his life away.

The gambling scene was ruthless, tense and probably the most suspenseful sequence in the whole film.

However, I expected more of this in the horrendous remake that was The Gambler.

I’m sure Goldman was trying to make Wild Card a philosophical journey of one man’s decent but it was too pretentious, too hammy and just plain terrible.

I mean Stanley Tucci? What was the point of his character?

Donning another bad wig and smirking. With a look that said; “Am I really in this? Is this all they need me for?” A mediator for the mob who didn’t do any proper mediating and was only in the film for two minutes.

Easy money for the Tuc.

The frantic (and forced) fiery finale was manic, violent and everything I expected for the other 90-odd minutes.

Stath does his best to make it watchable and nearly pulls it off. BUT he gambled on the wrong project.

They didn’t even explain his knack for disposing of baddies by flicking cards.

I’m not even going to get into the fact that it’s set during Christmas and was released in March.

Too many questions, not enough action, story or character to keep me quiet, engaged or caring.

1.5/5

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GRACE OF MONACO REVIEW

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Nicole Kidman pouts and frowns away as former Hollywood star Grace Kelly. Not as bad as you think but certainly not that good either. A film that questions its own relevance as its draws nearer to its pretentious finale.

We join Kelly as she deals with the crisis of marriage and identity during a political dispute between Monaco’s Prince Rainier III and France’s Charles De Gaulle in the early 60s. With the threat of a looming French invasion, Kelly must deliver her best performance yet. The premise really sounds a lot more interesting than this film actually is. I mean it zips along well enough to keep you watching. But it seems ridiculously exaggerated to keep you entertained and less dramatic than it should be.

I know there was a little controversy around the film’s release. However, it is done in such a light, fluffy style that you feel like you are watching one of those films on the True Movies channel. Kidman does her best but the material is corny, clichéd, predictable and all a little nothingy.

I was a little anxious on how Tim Roth would convey the Prince after his random twitching and creepy face pulling from the cancelled TV show Lie to Me. However, he was very good and played a much more revered role. To be honest, there is a great supporting cast and they do their best to bring this bumbling biopic to life. Parker Posey (Superman Returns) plays the sour faced cow of a personal assistant to perfection.

The eloquent speaker that is Frank Langella (Robot and Frank – He will always be Archer, Leader of the Gorgonites) providing his supporting gravitas yet again, even if I couldn’t determine what position in the papacy he actually had.

It was great to see Robert Lindsay (My Family) given the platform, even if his accent was a little wishy washy. However, there were a few duds. Roger Ashton-Griffiths (The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover) certainly looked like Alfred Hitchcock but his manner was all wrong and incredibly droll. Terrible. Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes) was a very weak and passive character. Anyone could have played him.

It’s beautifully shot. Kidman does her best. The fact that Kelly’s career was used against the Prince which put her in a state of isolation was an interesting angle that did deliver some watchable moments.

However, addressing the people and learning to act like a Princess came off very hammy. The training montage in which Kidman is pulling faces to convey emotions in a certain way was hilarious. It felt like a parody of The King’s Speech with Derek Jacobi (Gladiator) being a flamboyant Geoffrey Rush.

The whole crusade in which Kelly must choose between her acting career and family did make engaging if predictable viewing. However, the film gets a whole lot sillier and Kidman’s Kelly soon becomes a martyred Diana.

And that’s kind of the problem. The pressures of being a Princess and having a family is a good topic but it was always done so cheesily and predictably that it doesn’t amount to much. Kelly’s closing speech was merely an elongated collection of words with some operatic music for dramatic effect.

It made no sense. Kidman might as well have said this is the part where I say something that will inspire the people and help the nation. That naff, I’m afraid.

This film very much follows the vein of Diana. Corny, predictable, the cast do their best but for all its efforts, you can’t help but feel what the point was in the first place. 2.5/5 for me.

Currently ranks #144 out of 182!