*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

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*NEW* SPECTRE REVIEW *NEW*

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Bond is back but bigger and better?

Well done, Mr Craig. You have finally won me over. To be honest, I loved his first outing in Casino Royale (my favourite in the Craig era). He had the charm, the one liners and the look. Ticking all the boxes. BUT Quantum of Solace delivered a much darker and angrier Bond. It was far too intense and serious for me. This had been attempted before with Timothy Dalton in A License To Kill to mixed results.

I didn’t have a problem with a darker Bond. Pierce Brosnan’s efforts (my second rated Bond) was bordering on cartoony CGI and Roger Moore territory. The Saint may have got away with it in the 70s BUT Die Another Day nearly ended it all. A game changer was needed. I respected the change BUT not the direction. It felt like they were trying to turn Bond into Jason Bourne.

However, it was the first series of Bond films that featured an ongoing story arc. Skyfall was very disappointing. For an entry that marked 50 years for the franchise, I expected something a little more. It was over hyped, overlong and if not for a surprising closing act, I would have rated this as one of the weaker offerings.

The one thing I could commend Skyfall for was the little things. The humour, Moneypenny, Q, the Aston Martin DB5. All the things that drew me to Bond in the first place. It gave me hope. Now here we are. The 24th entry of a super spy series. And boy,what a film.

The opening sequence for SPECTRE was fantastic. Slow burning, tense but action packed with a high octane helicopter sequence. As soon as Craig made his introduction, I was sold. The very pinnacle of the iconic spy. Cool, calm and slick. Casually adjusting his cuffs while donning a rifle.

Even Sam Smith’s opening theme delivered. At first listening, it sounded like a bland Eurovision track. BUT I have to say it has grown on me and really fitted the film.

It was great watching Craig enjoy the 007 status. The charisma. The debonair style. Very much in the vein of Sean Connery (My favourite Bond). Old school. Perfect. It brought something that had been lacking in the others. Humour.

I don’t want to say too much about SPECTRE as I want people to see this. BUT for the die hard fans, like yours truly, we witness the return of one of Bond’s most iconic villains. And I couldn’t think of anybody better to take on this prestigious role than Christoph Walz. He was superb. Slimy, sinister and on scene stealing form. My only gripe with his performance was that there wasn’t enough of it.

Dave Bautista was a unit. After his impressive turn in Guardians of the Galaxy, I wasn’t surprised that the former WWE star was offered the role of a Bond henchman. It was a shame that they chose to make him silent. He delivered his best impression of the Mountain from Game of Thrones. His scrap with Craig was one of the best villain fight sequences I’ve seen. You felt every punch.

For all the hype around Monica Bellucci’s role as a Bond girl (Or woman, should I say?), I was left wanting. Steady now. If anything her character was completely unnecessary. She certainly looked stunning and proved all those critics wrong griping about her age BUT her “love scene” with Craig came off unintentionally comical. Kissing while trying to talk chunky bits of dialogue didn’t work and killed the chemistry.

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However, Bond finally met his match with the feisty and resourceful Lea Seydoux. The pair’s chemistry and friction certainly kept things watchable when the pace seemed to drop.

The action sequences were brilliant. The plane chase sequence in Austria was mental. The car chase around Rome was fantastic with the new Aston Martin DB10. It was fast, frantic and hilarious as Bond battled to work out the prototype while dealing with henchmen and Italian pensioners fancying a late night drive.

What I also loved about this was how Logan brought in the rest of the team. It was great to see Ben Whishaw getting more screen time as Q. He had a much better rapport with Craig and was even brought out on location like Desmond Llewelyn used to with Connery. BUT at the expense of Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny.

She still made a made a memorable impression. Especially during a phone call with Bond mid car chase. Ralph Fiennes had a tough act to follow after Dench’s brilliant turn as M. BUT it was good to see him bring something new to the role and get in on the action.

It might help to have seen the other Craig entries BUT you won’t be too lost as Logan and Mendes briefly recap the story arc. As much as SPECTRE ticked the boxes, it wasn’t all perfect.

BEST BOND FILM EVER? Certainly not. The middle act lumbered the pace and when the action scenes had subsided and the couple were travelling, I could feel myself fidgeting after the 90 minute marker. Thankfully, things picked up when Walz was properly brought into the mix with his Dr No-esque lair.

This could have been cut by 30 minutes and been stronger for it. It was good to see a little more cheese and fun with this installment but for some it might be seen as a step down. And after 24 films, there are only so many different twists and turns that you can do with the Bond films. You can’t help BUT retread through old ground. There are only so many homages you can do before it gets repetitive.

The closing finale was fantastic and certainly left a satisfying if cryptic ending. Will Bond die another day? Especially when Tomorrow Never Dies? With the box office booming, is the world not enough?

Slick, stylish if a little overdone, Bond is back and on form. BUT better? Not quite, 007 but good enough.

3.5/5

SURVIVOR REVIEW

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I don’t think anyone is going to survive from this tepid terrorist thriller.

An explosive and fiery opener certainly grabbed my attention. Shame, the rest of the film couldn’t keep that momentum. Thinking back. The opening didn’t really bear much significance to the story. Shame.

Corny, cliched, slow, boring and from the director of V For Vendetta? Words . . . Sigh . . . Escape me.

So what’s it about? A Foreign Service Officer (Milla Jovovich) in London tries to prevent a terrorist attack set to hit New York, but is forced to go on the run when she is framed for crimes she did not commit.

It really is as predictable and dull as you can imagine. No surprise, no twists and no thrills. The film meandered along and never really got going.

Jovovich has never been renowned for her extraordinary acting ability but I really thought this could have been the platform to show that she can do more than Resident Evil movies. Shame. Her acting was more wooden than an IKEA table. It didn’t help that her character was so bland and one dimensional.

The story was a pale imitation of a weak 24 story line that never made the cut. What infuriated me more was the British talent involved in the film that were playing Americans and . . . doing it badly!

Antonia Thomas (Alisha from Misfits) may have fared better with the American accent but her character was so minor and unmemorable. It was shocking.

And Frances De La Tour (Rising Damp), what on Earth was she playing at? Her accent was horrific. She seemed to give up 30 minutes in. Then realise “Oh, my character is in the American Embassy” and try and do her best John Wayne impression. Chloe from 24, she ain’t!

It was all so slow. The visa process may have been interesting for 30 seconds but after 15 minutes, I could feel my eyes wandering towards my watch.

Roger Rees did his best as the shady decoy that sets Jovovich’s character in play. Anyone who watched Warehouse 13 (Anybody? No?) will know he can play a shifty sod well.

Inevitably, not everything is as it seems (Go figure) and Jovovich snoops in all the wrong places. Cue a botched assassination attempt and Pierce Brosnan in a bad tash and a variety of terrible wigs. The Watchmaker? More like Inspector Clousseau.

The backstabbing and “twists” were so weak. You could call them from the opening five minutes. Jovovich’s introduction was so cliched. Hyped up as Washington’s top expert and some lazy and unnecessary reference to 9/11 to validate her integrity just hammed things up a treat.

Brosnan is looking old. I mean, come on, he is in his fifties but it has definitely caught up with him. The whole Bond gone bad spiel has been ongoing for some time. He does his best but his character is so laughable. The lines and his delivery really didn’t do him any favours.

However, every time he wasn’t in the film, I did miss him. Only because things seemed to happen when he was about. Silly, if racy, chases reprieved the film’s lumbering pace for a few minutes. Plus your attention on the poor plotting was distracted by a big explosion from the BIG BAD BOND. Even if it wasn’t necessary or relevant.

Dylan McDermott (Stalker) did the best he could but he was just running around aimlessly. Attempting his best Jack Bauer impression and delivering really cliched exchanges with Jovovich. Did their characters have a past? Don’t know. Don’t care.

James D’Arcy (Broadchurch) and Angela Bassett also tried to do what they could with their bland characters but it just didn’t work. The bureaucracy scenes have all been done before time and time again in numerous thrillers. Writer Philip Shelby didn’t even try to make them a teeny tiny bit interesting.

One thing I could commend was the flip reversal with the English refusing to help and hiding their intentions. Shame their intentions were really petty and stupid. Nice one, Shelby. Bassett’s ambassador was so weak. How much authority does an embassy ambassador have? For all the comments about red tape, they were obeying her like she was the bloody President! Hmmm . . .

Jovovich may be easy on the eye (What?) but her delivery was so lifeless. A zombie could have done a better job. Just watch when Brosnan first points a gun at her. I was in tears . . . Of laughter.

Considering her character was presented as America’s best, she wasn’t very clever. Didn’t even think that the Watchmaker may have put a tracker on her as he was always hot on her trail. One particular highlight for me was when her character was wandering around a park with a gun in her hand while people took pictures. And in one of the UK’s biggest CCTV hotspots?

America’s top security expert? Yeah, I can see why she was shipped over to handle border patrol.

It just chugged along like any old TV thriller. It didn’t try to anything different. By the numbers and formulaic. And the finale was a joke. As if to add insult to injury, the “action” hots up in New York during a New Year’s Eve celebration at Times Square (New Years Eve in a June movie? Really?).

As Jovovich battled the Watchmaker for the umpteenth time and delivered one of the stupidest one liners, I gave out an exasperated sigh. Defeated. Normally I’m one to commend a pun but the film had infuriated me that much.

(SPOILERS) As Brosnan’s badly CGI’d Watchmaker fell and Jovovich mouthed the words, “Time’s up” (Ah ha!), I said the same thing. James McTeigue must have needed the money. That’s the only conclusion I can come to. To go from an ultra-violent but clever political action thriller to this 24 hack job? Shame on you!

And the pretentious terrorist attack stats during the end credit sequence were completely unnecessary. Just like the film, really.

1.5/5

INTO THE WOODS REVIEW

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Into the scrap heap? There’s only one way to find out.

This mixed bag of a macabre musical will certainly split audiences but I actually didn’t mind it.

(Said the guy who reviewed the Annie remake a few weeks ago)

I’m not a big musical fan BUT I’ve dabbled in the odd one or two. The classics; The King and I, The Sound of Music (Man points dropping with each title), Moulin Rouge (What?) and now Into The Woods.

I didn’t realise that this was adapted from a successful Broadway musical. So unfortunately I won’t be able to make comparisons.

Rob Marshall, the man who brought us the excellent Chicago and . . .  Nine, takes on another musical. With mixed results.

So what’s it all about? A witch (Meryl Streep) tasks a childless baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) with procuring magical items from classic fairy tales to reverse the curse put on their family tree.

The cast, bar one exception, were excellent. All perfectly chosen for their roles.

Meryl Streep proves once again why she is the best actress going, earning yet another Oscar nomination (and rightly so). I had forgotten what a great voice she had. I know! She was in Mamma Mia! But let’s be honest, that was a mess. Fun but a mess.

The sound of Pierce Brosnan’s “singing” voice will haunt my dreams forever. BUT that’s another story.

Anyway, Streep was superb and no uncontrollable arm waving this time.

She played The Witch with aplomb. Stealing every scene and singing some belters. Not enough of her.

Her closing song, “Last Midnight” was brilliantly done but her dramatic exit was a little unexpected and a bit abrupt. Which pretty sums up the last 20 minutes of the film.

After his turn in Horrible Bosses 2, I knew Chris Pine would be up for a laugh. His performance as Prince Charming was very good.

Especially during the “Agony” song. Pine and Billy Magnusson’s sing-off poked fun at the Disney prince archetype. Pine ripping his shirt off to show his muscles, Magnusson hitting the higher notes while trying to puff out his chest and flex. Hilarious.

Anna Kendrick was (to be expected) very good as Cinders. I knew she could sing after her performance in Pitch Perfect.

The opening prologue certainly got things going and introduced all the characters perfectly.

Daniel Huttlestone irritated the hell out of me in Les Miserables. A french peasant with a ridiculous cockney accent. You what? However he surprised me as Jack. Still a Cockney but it worked this time round.

Tracey Ullman (Where has she been?) was funny as Jack’s mother. Slapping him round the head in worry, hugging him the next.

Emily Blunt was fantastic (And what a voice!) as the Baker’s wife. James Corden was also brilliant. They had great chemistry and made a loveable couple.

The Baker couple were part of an original story line. It was clever how they reworked and incorporated some of the most popular fairy tales with their story line using the woods as the meeting point.

It didn’t cover too much of the same ground with the fairy tales we all love and know.

It merely showed each character returning to the woods after a pivotal moment in their story line i.e. Jack coming down the beanstalk with the gold egg, Cinderella running away from the prince, etc.

The Rapunzel story line didn’t really amount to anything. If not for Streep and Magnusson, it would have been completely unnecessary.

A revelation quite early on in the film involving her story line had so much potential but wasn’t never mentioned again or resolved. A missed opportunity. Mackeznie Mauzy certainly looked fantastic but didn’t really do much. I don’t think she even sang.

To be honest, if it wasn’t for Tangled, there would have been some serious plot holes for people not familiar with her story. (Man points gone!)

Johnny Depp had the easiest role going as the Wolf. He played it to perfection with his Bowie-esque voice.

But the song he sang. Hmmm . . . “Hey Little Girl” really made him sound quite lechy. If it wasn’t the fact that it was the Wolf singing about eating Little Red Riding Hood, it would have been a little unsettling.

Lilla Crawford had a fantastic little voice but I found her really irritating as Little Red. I mean I think Sondheim was deliberately portraying her as a little brat but she really did grate against me.

The film zipped along and kept things going but an hour and 30 minutes in, I wondered how much further this could go and with another 40-odd minutes, I could feel my attention wavering.

The songs were starting to go on a little bit and were not quite as gripping or as memorable. Don’t get me wrong, they were sang to perfection but hardly “The Hills Are Alive”.

What baffled and surprised me was how the film’s final act took such an unexpected turn. It flips everything up in the air with the stories veering away from their intended happy endings. The woods again being the brewing pot.

There were a few surprises to be had and I respected it’s attempt. It was actually a bit darker than I expected for Disney.

BUT it also left things a little too unresolved and ended abruptly with people disappearing with no explanation or a passing comment.

For all the bad press, I actually didn’t mind it. Not the best musical I’ve seen but a nice relief after the barrage of bilge I’ve had to endure this week.

3/5

NATIVITY 3: DUDE, WHERE’S MY DONKEY?

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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?

THE LOVE PUNCH REVIEW

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I loved the cast. I just wish the gags had more of a punch.

It’s OTT, corny and absolutely ridiculous but fun enough with the odd laugh (BUT not as much as I hoped). However, one thing that this film does prove is that talented actors can make mediocre material much much more watchable.

Critically it’s a bit of a mess but for a cheap movie night, it’s worth a gander. So what’s it about? A divorced couple scheme to recover their stolen retirement money from a ruthless French businessman.

The opening chugged along as Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility/Nanny McPhee) and Pierce Brosnan (007! Come on!) snapped and griped at each other. Desperately trying to keep up appearances for their friends; the hilarious Celia Imrie (Calendar Girls/The Borrowers) and Timothy Spall (The Harry Potter franchise).

Brosnan and Thompson were a great pairing. They had good chemistry and you could tell they were having a laugh. Their bickering was certainly relatable and ticked all the boxes for any couple.

The realisation when their last child has flew the coop tied in with having to start all over again in their fifties was an interesting premise in itself. But that is soon thrown out of the window with a crazy crime caper that predictably reignites old flames and passions. Hardly a spoiler. It’s just that sort of film.

The supporting cast was a little disappointing. Tuppence Middleton’s (Tortured/Long Way Down) part was very flat and, to be honest, needless. Especially when some of the better jokes and screen time was spent on their interaction with their son Matt (Jack Wilkinson). An ongoing joke with a Skype conversation was actually quite funny. Great to see Ellen Thomas (Adoha from Rev) as Brosnan’s secretary. Kept expecting her to say “Hello Vicar!”. She manages to make a memorable impression in her two minute cameo. Shame.

The gag rate is very hit and miss. Spall and Imrie do deliver some of the better one liners from Spall’s random ex-war veteran tales to Imrie trying to handle a gun, “Hands up Melon Farmers”. The beautiful Louise Bourgoin was a stunner to boot but her character got incredibly annoying by the end.

Despite moving at an easygoing pace, the film does seem to run out of ideas and climaxes in sheer pandemonium. I mean this was never going to win plaudits for clever story telling but posing as American businessmen with the hope that maybe the slick French businessman Tom Morton (with a very mashed up accent) hadn’t met them before when he already had? Really?

It all gets rather silly and crashes into a ridiculous cheesy, predictable finale which downplays some of the more serious moments in which Brosnan and Thompson cross examine their relationship.

Without spoiling too much, there is a scene which perfectly shows what lies in store with this mad little movie. Both Brosnan and Thompson’s characters have allergies; Brosnan with cats and Thompson with flowers. They infiltrate a room which contains (what do you know) those very things.

The French landscape is shot beautifully. The content, well. At it’s best, a TV movie. But thankfully a well acted cast help The Love Punch get away with it. Almost reminiscent of the old sixties crime capers. Easy going, cheesy but dated.

A guilty pleasure if ever there was one.

2.5/5

A LONG WAY DOWN REVIEW

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A little long at the tooth BUT a pleasant surprise. A well acted and cheesy little drama.

Four people meet on New Year’s Eve and form a surrogate family to help one another weather the difficulties of their lives.

If you can get past the rather dark premise (which is delicately dealt with), this makes for good viewing. Inadvertently contemplating suicide at the same place. Four strangers decide to make a pact. A pact NOT to kill themselves before Valentine’s Day. A strange, unexpected BUT entertaining journey.

It’s a little corny and the schmaltz does overdo it in places BUT a perfectly chosen cast does just enough to keep things watchable. The surrogate family angle was a nice touch. Toni Collette (Muriel’s Wedding) was brilliant as the over anxious Maureen. Imogen Poots (Need for Speed) who, at first was a little irritating, soon grew on me as the utterly bonkers Jess.

Ex-007 Pierce Brosnan played the neurotic disgraced celebrity Martin Sharp with aplomb. Sometimes his cocky demeanour and endless rambling did gripe against me in places BUT it made a change for the super spy. Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) didn’t do a bad job as the mystery American pizza boy JJ.

The gang worked well together and you could tell in certain scenes that they were genuinely having a laugh. There was great chemistry between Paul and Poots. No wondered they were picked up for Need For Speed. BUT the rest of the supporting cast weren’t really used to their full potential.

Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) seemed to play a somewhat wasted role as the stereotypical toff and overbearing politician father. There was definitely a missed opportunity with him and Poots as the trouble making daughter. Their relationship was ripe for expansion and development but it was only brought up as things dipped in pace.

At least his character wasn’t as wafer thin as Rosamund Pike’s (Gone Girl). Anyone could have played her as the annoying morning news presenter. Merely a passing cameo. A plot device to create a rift among the group that was dealt with far too quickly.

The structure worked well. Flicking back and forth between the past and present. Allowing us to delve further into why each character was up on that tower. It did feel a little drawn out in parts. Disappointing considering the film was only 96 minutes. And the flashbacks, at times, didn’t really expand that much.

An intriguing prospect with Jess’ back story led no where. While Maureen’s story was very emotional and handled perfectly. You really felt for her. I was surprised at the bad rap this film got. BUT I haven’t read the Nick Hornby novel so I can’t make comparisons.

I was surprised this was adapted by Jack Thorne. From someone who wrote This Is England ’88, I did expect something a little darker. You could argue that there were missed opportunities and angles that the film could have explored. It wasn’t the strongest film to deal with this subject matter BUT it was still a well acted and easy going drama.

Corny, predictable but watchable.

3/5