*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

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB REVIEW

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One last time? Probably for the best.

The first one I’ve actually seen all the way through and thankfully the last.

The others I’ve always caught bits. They seemed a little silly but fun. All you can hope for with the influx of films filling the big screen.

So what happens in this one? Larry (Ben Stiller) spans the globe (Well . . . London), uniting favorite and new characters while embarking on an epic quest to save the magic before it is gone forever.

In a word, meh. Not bad but not great either.

A bizarre Indiana Jones-esque opening didn’t really get things going. Some predictable Egyptian mumbo jumbo about a curse surrounding the magic tablet felt a little unnecessary.

However, we are soon back at the Smithsonian with the gang doing their thing. BUT alas, the tablet is corroding and the statues are acting weird. Causing havoc on the public and pulling strange faces.

It was a shame knowing that this was Robin Williams’ last film. Especially when his character Teddy Roosevelt was a little lacklustre and flat. His farewell speeches did hit home a little harder. BUT it felt like a blip on an extensive film career from a comedy actor that was gone too soon.

It was also farewell to another comedy icon, the late Mickey Rooney in a blink and you’ll miss it cameo.

The cast do their best but the gags seem few and far between. And the premise to get them all together for one last hurrah was lazy and a little tame.

Ben Stiller was entertaining (as usual). The discovery of his neanderthal counterpart Laaa shouldn’t have worked BUT somehow his stupid face pulling got a chuckle out of me.

BUT some of the gags were old hat. I mean the scene in which he must explain why Laaa must stay behind (Only to then follow him or mimic him) was predictable and done to death.

Dick van Dyke has still got the moves but I felt his appearance wasn’t needed. A feeble attempt to get all the gang back in the movie.

Ricky Gervais always did irritate me (in these films). And from the opening, he still did. However, the more rubbish he spouted and the flimsier his floundering became, I found my face cracking.

Things did seem to get going when Stiller finally got to London to stop the curse.

I thought Rebel Wilson was going to poke fun at the British stereotype a lot more and annoy me but no! She was just being Rebel Wilson. When she got to improvise it wasn’t bad. BUT she did go on a little too much.

Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) was brilliant as the newest addition, Sir Lancelot. He made a hilarious entrance and took it up a notch. However, once he started suffering from a little Buzz Lightyear syndrome, my interest waned.

The whole “I’m a knight not a statue” routine did go on. BUT that was only because there wasn’t much else on offer.

Even Larry’s subplot with his son seemed rushed and put together poorly to try and fill the void. The corny “Choose your own path and don’t drop out of high school” spiel just felt predictable and run of the mill.

The special effects were brilliant and I think they missed a trick by not shooting it in 3D. However, the overuse of CGI on Dexter the monkey did spoil things. BUT then you’re not going to get Crystal the Monkey to disco dance. Or hang off a trapeze for crying out loud!

For every good gag, they seem to repeat it or milk it dry. Tut tut tut.

Steve Coogan and Owen Wilson had two good gags that were heavily flogged in the trailers. One involving a giant Roman catapult to operate a keyboard to post a humourous comment and another involving a fire and a monkey that used the only liquid available at his disposal.

Yeah . . . You get the picture.

The pair were hilarious in the other two films but this time round, they weren’t in it enough and when they were; they just didn’t hit it off or make you laugh as much as you hoped. Which is pretty much my summary of the film.

And the big secret to help save the tablet was laughable. No, really! All those hit and miss shenanigans for a terrible conclusion.

There were some fantastic cameos that I didn’t expect from the legendary Sir Ben Kingsley, Alice Eve and a certain Marvel icon. I won’t say much more. It didn’t have me howling with laughter but he certainly got the odd titter.

A running gag with said mystery actor went on far too long.

The closing moments were nicely done but then it seemed to end so abruptly and flatly that was a bit anti-climactic. It made sense but I haven’t felt so baffled and disappointed with an ending since Lost.

If you want to distract the little ‘uns for 90 minutes, it does the trick but there are better family films out there. *Cough* Shaun the Sheep *Cough*

2.5/5

FREE BIRDS REVIEW

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A few strikes short of a turkey with this one, I’m afraid.

A 90 minute mish mash of animated buffoonery that couldn’t even keep the kids in the cinema interested.

Two turkeys enter a time machine in a government facility and go back to the first Thanksgiving in the 16th Century to get their race off the menu. (Yup, you read that right)

After a fantastic 3D opening credit sequence, I could feel my interest wavering like the hammy plot line. We deal with the usual spiel of the loner turkey Reggie (voiced by Owen Wilson) who is rejected, from the farmhouse flock, for being different.

His constant urge to break the mould leads to his exile and a hazy plot involving a pardon from the President of the United States. Bizarre. I don’t mind sitting for 90 minutes with an animated feature BUT it has to be either; a) watchable, b) funny, or c) utterly bonkers. Free Birds misses the mark on all three.

The introduction of the renegade turkey Jake (Woody Harrelson) was a much needed boost. Harrelson delivered the silly lines with aplomb. It also delivered a good duo set up.

Jake needs Reggie’s help to save their race after receiving a prophecy from the Great Turkey and a Sacred Time knob (No, seriously. Not making this up). Leading to a mediocre adventure. The government facility sequence delivered the laughs for me and one of the silliest one liners;

“We have a contaminant. It’s a turkey. How do we address the situation?”

Response – “Uh, with cranberry sauce” (Bad, but it got me. No? Don’t watch it then)

However, once Harrelson and Wilson escape the facility (in a brilliant piece of animation) with the time machine named S.T.E.V.E. (Space Time Exploration Vehicle Envoy), voiced by none other than the legendary George Takei, the jokes fall sparse and flat.

Wilson’s comedy schtick failed to make an impression on the protagonist. He just came across as neurotic, whiny and annoying. When the featherheads travel back in time, it didn’t get much better.

They go back to the 16th Century and discover a tribe of turkeys who run across trees and hide underground from the pilgrims (and surprisingly absent Native Americans) until the final minutes. The action sequences were very watchable and well executed.

BUT the promising duo set up between Harrelson and Wilson was soon torn apart by the usual love interest sub plot (Not even Amy Poehler could save the day with her feisty lazy eyed protagonist) and some stupid macho rivalry between Harrelson’s Jake and head honcho Ranger (Jimmy Hayward).

It stole a funny pairing and replaced it with an annoying one. At first, the rivalry did have its moments but it soon went on far too long. A stand off gag soon drolled out into a idiotic dance off. The more random skits that popped up in the piece surprised me more than the planned ones. A telenovela skit was unexpected but hilarious. Not even Dr Zulu with his patented phrase could save this dead bird.

And the turkey hunter. Apart from me wondering whether it was Ray Winstone voicing him for 20 minutes (Until I caved and checked the IMDB app. It wasn’t. It was Colm Meaney) was completely unmemorable and flat.

The 3D was not worth investing in at all. Another wasted opportunity. What annoyed me was that the film had a different, if ridiculous, premise that went nowhere. The story line was lazy. Filled with dreadful gags and animated buffoonery. The time travel aspect was barely touched on. And when it was, it was so lazily done and riddled with plot holes that I don’t know why they even bothered.

I know, it’s a kid’s film but come on? There are so many better family flicks out there. This was clearly just reaping the profits off the Thanksgiving season.

This really was a turkey, alright. It fell short on everything. I would invest in another movie for the little ‘uns.

2(Just)/5