FOCUS REVIEW

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The Fresh Prince does an American Hustle and it’s just as you expect.

Watchable but hardly memorable.

The allure of Margot Robbie almost made me lose my critical focus and the fact that beneath its easy going and glossy surface, there isn’t a lot going on here.

So what’s it all about?

Well this is a story all about how Will’s life as a con man got turned right upside down. And I’d like to take a minute. Just sit right there. And I’ll tell you how he got jiggy with a girl from Neighbours.

Okay, the serious blurb now. In the midst of veteran con man Nicky’s (Smith) latest scheme, a woman (Robbie) from his past (now an accomplished femme fatale) shows up and throws his plans for a loop.

First thing’s first. The positives. And there are lot more than I anticipated.

Will Smith is still a charismatic actor and knows how to boss the silver screen.

Only mark against him; I’m still waiting for another movie soundtrack.

Paired up with the beautiful Margot Robbie, we have gold. They have fantastic chemistry and certainly keep things watchable.

Their inevitable pairing was easy going viewing. Smith’s experienced hustler taking Robbie’s rookie under his wing as he shows her the tricks of the trade.

His network of hustlers and pick pockets was cleverly put together and certainly left me paranoid as hell, leaving the screen.

I couldn’t believe that Brennan Brown was in this. Brennan Brown? You don’t know? Come on. The Orange Wednesday guy!

Here’s a reminder . . .

Not enough of him. His role was way too small. Adrian Martinez (Yeah, the fat dude from Piranha 3DD) was quite funny but the rude pick up lines with Robbie fell faster than a lead balloon. I wish more of his screen time was given to the Orange guy.

It certainly killed the time and I wasn’t bored. As you know from my recent reviews, I’ve been having a bad run.

I say a bad run. A bad run of terrible movies.

Focus was very much in the reins of Ocean’s Eleven. Stylish with a great cast. MINUS the clever hustle. Xavier Grobet’s cinematography was a sight to behold. Let alone, Margot Robbie. Sorry.

Hey, ladies you got Will.

The only problem with these sort of films is that when you’ve watched 8 series of BBC’s Hustle, there aren’t many surprises that can get past you.

There was never really an air of danger around the couple.

AND even when things seem to heat up and trouble seemed to look a little more intense than an Asian guy that can’t grow a tash properly (I’ll get to that in one moment), you’ve always got that little niggle in the back of your head saying; “There’s another play going on here”.

Of course, there always is.

It was fun and charming. There was a sequence in which I felt things spiced up and looked to head in a different direction. Shame, it didn’t.

Now, the tash reference. It’s established quite early on that Will’s character is a hefty gambler. His ego is challenged quite easily by a drunk Asian businessman during an American football match.

BD Wong played the role brilliantly. A cat playing with a trapped mouse. Goading Will so easily into making a big mistake. It’s just a shame I couldn’t take him seriously with those strange patches on his upper lip. I don’t know what they were. BUT it was not a moustache.

Anyway, I think there was only one twist 30-odd minutes into the film that did stop me rambling.

From that, I hoped the film might do something. BUT it didn’t. This is where it lost points because the route it took (Although entertaining enough) was predictable as hell.

I hoped Robbie’s character wasn’t so weak. She seemed so strong willed and independent to begin with BUT falls into Smith’s arms too easily.

No, seriously. Every other scene. And they have a thing about not closing bedroom doors. My friend was complaining about it.

That’s the problem. If we have time to pick at stuff like that, the film is not doing it’s job of keeping our attention.

Rodrigo Santoro actually played his part well. He didn’t annoy the hell out of me. And it was good to see him fully clothed and without demented gold piercings.

The spanner in Robbie and Smith’s inevitable love machine.

Gerald McRaney (The Best of Me) was irritating. His sarcastic rambling came off unfunny and I found his character very unlikeable. A shame considering what a talented actor he is.

The closing act certainly made things a little more interesting.

BUT the end result was so predictable and surprisingly (the only surprise) open.

Just the two for the two of them. They could have made it if they tried with a smarter hustle and better dialogue.

It’s watchable BUT memorable? Sorry guys, it needed a little more focus (Puts on shades and walks out door) on substance, story and suspense.

2.5/5

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RIO 2 REVIEW

 

Enough silly animation to entertain the little ‘uns. A watchable and colourful sequel that failed to beat the original but just about got away with it.

Here we join Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway), now complete with three loveable kids, as they trade the frantic festival city life of Rio de Janeiro for the wilds of the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in, he goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel (Jermaine Clement), and meets his most fearsome adversary of all: his father-in-law, Eduardo (Andy Garcia).

The animation was brilliantly detailed and very colourful; providing luscious landscapes which made for great viewing. The story was hardly original but with likeable characters, it just about got away with it as everyone can relate to feeling the outsider or having to face their parents-in-law-to-be.

There was enough action, gags and musical numbers to keep the movie flapping along nicely. Miguel Ferrer (Hot Shots: Part Deux) played a highly unmemorable villain as the sinister logging constructor hell bent on destroying the natural Amazonian habitat.

The real devil in this was the hilarious Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords). Nigel stole the show from the “altered” Shakespearean soliloquies to his mad parody song numbers ripping off a number of movies.

A shame that he wasn’t in it enough. It felt like he was forced into the subplot a little BUT luckily so.

His crew of misfits brought the odd laugh; the hyperactive poisonous frog with verbal diarrhea, the appropriately named Gabi (brilliantly voiced by Pushing Daisies’ Kristin Chenoweth) and the Charlie Chaplinesque ant eater. Gabi’s infatuation with Nigel and “Poisonous Love”song number was funny, if incredibly corny.

You can normally bank on Eisenberg to deliver as the neurotic worrier (A role I fear he might be getting typecast). His bumbling Blu (with fanny pack in tow) did grate against me in this second helping.

Will.i.am was dope as the pop-pop-poppin’ Pedro. The talent show sequence being a particular highlight; from the slow-motion high-fiving tortoises, the wrecking ball swinging monkeys and a rapping Nicki-Minajesque sloth (Amy Heidemann from Karmin) that snoozes after dropping a rap that will have Busta Rhymes tipping his cap.

Bruno Mars was brilliant as Jewel’s ultra-cool ex Roberto. His singing was decent (To be expected) and his vocal acting was actually pretty good as the lothario swooping in on Blu’s family.

Andy Garcia was a surprise as the frustrated father-in-law. A nice change from the slimy slick roles we know and love him for.

However, George Lopez’s Rafael and Tracy Morgan’s dribbling pitbull were pushed into the background. While the irritating Tulio (I can’t believe it was 300’s Rodrigo Santoro) was unfortunately in it too much with his incessant squawking and stupidity. Leslie Mann did her best with the limited screen time.

R2 was cheesy and entertaining enough to keep the little ‘uns quiet for 90 minutes. If adults can get past the usual predictable guff then there’s just about enough to keep you giggling but hardly groundbreaking.

Not the worst by a long shot but seen it a lot better. Enough fun to keep flight but hardly soaring high or flopping like a turkey. Enough avarian based punnery, you get the gist.

2.5/5

300: Rise of an Empire Review

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THIS IS . . . surprisingly watchable and not bad. We seek that day where sequels can surpass their masters. There have been legends. But alas, today is not that day. But don’t worry, it still bears the bare boned brutality, visual brilliance and enough gore and testosterone to cure your blood lust and fill up a swimming pool, well in this case, an ocean, a bloody ocean. I mean look at the picture. Anyway . . .

So what is this legend about, brother? Well, based on Frank Miller’s latest graphic novel Xerxes, and told in the breathtaking visual style of its predecessor, this new chapter of the epic saga takes the action to a fresh oceanic battlefield as Greek general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) attempts to unite all of Greece by leading the charge that will change the course of the war against the invading Persian forces led by the God king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), and vengeful naval commander, Artemesia (Eva Green).

Cue a watchable bloody battle of a movie in the best sense. The opening 20 minutes flicks back and forth and adds some depth and background to the blinged up, chained, tighty whitey wearing baldy badass that is Xerxes. It’s tough to call this a sequel as such. Rise of an Empire flicks before the infamous 300 battle, plays alongside the infamous battle time frame and then after. A bit like what Saw 4 tried to do. It works well and makes for a change. It zips along, delving into the Millerised Greek mythology chronicling the origins of Xerces and how he transformed from the weedy model looking Santoro to the testosterone pumped, voice changing reincarnation of Yul Bryner. It makes for good viewing and introduces Themistokles quite nicely, with Lena Headey’s somber narration guiding us along.

It does fill in a few gaps that the first left. Well little qualms. This is most notable when Themistokles rushes to Sparta to warn them of Xerves, just after Leonidas gave his response to the messenger. Unfortunately Leonidas is always somewhere else. I was hoping for one Butler cameo. It also worked as a great excuse to throw in some old faces from the original; Lena Headey, David Wenham (Lord of the Rings) and Peter Mensah (TV’s Spartacus). Stapleton makes for a likeable Themistokles and drops his so-so American accent. For those who might have clocked him, yes, he is the American in Strike Back. It’s tough boots for him to fill. Where he looks in the booming conviction (no one can top the sheer volume of Gerard Butler . . . well, Brian Blessed), he carries enough bravado to pull it off. It helps that Themistokles is an interesting character and a clever tactician. It made a change for the action to be taken out to sea and not repeat the 300 ground warfare, which makes for an entertaining battlefield.

However, all the build up and background is soon cast aside for the carnage. The visual effects are brilliant with the typical slow mo shots coming into effect. The blood spatter spraying across the screen does get annoying as it happens for almost every kill and gets a little cartoony. However, some of the kills are creative but it does seem to slow mo stab every soldier and animal. However, that is soon made up with crazy swordplay. The tactical battle sequences make for great viewing. The animation gets a little bit more messy as the film reaches its climax. The real scene stealer of the film is Eva Green, devilishly delightful, demure and demented. Crazy with a blade and a stunner to boot. There’s good chemistry between Green and Stapleton which inevitably leads to a fiery encounter on the battlefield . . . and in the bedroom. Seriously the sex scene. What was going on with that? Raunchy and rough soon climaxes (steady now) into an unintentionally hilarious punch up fist fight of a shag, I say. The cliched camaraderie between Testicles, I mean, Themistokles and his men is predictable and just doesn’t get away with it like the original. Surprise to see Jack O’Connell. He’s starting to show up in every thing, with his prison movie, Starred Up soon to hit the big screen. Shame, his character was a bit naff.

It might lack the cutting edge and tenacity of the original but is still watchable, gory and entertaining enough to kill 90 minutes. Hardly a war classic but not a complete ship wreck. 3 (just) out of 5!

Currently ranks #62 out of 154!