*NEW* HOT PURSUIT REVIEW *NEW*

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Pursue no further!

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Well, Reese Witherspoon anyway.

This feeble affair desperately tried to be a sillier version of The Heat but it just left me cold. From the opening montage, you knew what sort of film you were getting yourself into. A bad one.

An uptight and by-the-book cop (Witherspoon) tries to protect the outgoing widow (Sofia Vergara) of a drug boss as they race through Texas pursued by crooked cops and murderous gunmen.

This should have been called Hit and Miss. We follow a young Cooper (Witherspoon) as she is practically raised in the back seat of her father’s cop car. We have the delightfully dull and predictable snippets of Cooper’s prom dates, her first encounter with a transgender individual, oh and sharing Christmas with a drunken Santa.

Now credit where it’s due. I respect Witherspoon for going back to her comedy roots. Let’s not forget Rushmore and Legally Blonde. Maybe forget Legally Blonde 2. It was good to see that she’s still game for a laugh after achieving Oscar status. BUT the money must have been too good to turn down.

She does her best but overdoes it with every gag. Maybe to compensate for the fact that the gags were really not that good. Plus she does not stop talking. Her verbal diarrhoea really went through me. At 87 minutes, I feared that this would go on too long.

From the moment we watch Cooper chase after a suspect that turned out to be her date, I could feel my hopes dying. A misunderstanding with the phrase “I’ll call shotgun” set up an incident with a taser that I didn’t see coming. An incident that would make Cooper a laughing stock among the force; “Hey. Don’t Cooper that sh*t!”.

BUT now she has a chance to redeem herself. By helping escort a witness to a safe house. That witness being Gloria from Modern Family. Sorry, Sofia Vergara.

I really hoped she would play a different character. I love Gloria. But in small doses and on Modern Family. Not in this. It felt like a prequel of Gloria’s life before Jay. As soon as I heard her shrill cry through the security intercom, I feared the worst. Stunning though she may be, the shot of her wailing in a Cadillac will haunt me for some time.

The plot was by the numbers and boring. The double crossing and triple crossing was so predictable. Dodgy coppers, murderous hitmen, yawn. And what the hell was Sean (Robert Kazinsky) from Eastenders doing in this? He still hasn’t mastered a Southern accent. You would have thought he’d have enough practice after True Blood.

It was all over the place. Just like the tone of the film. I don’t think it knew what it wanted to be. It was silly and OTT in one instant with Reese caked in “sugar” from Vergara’s briefcase. Her insufferable verbal diarrhea now ignited into a full frenzy.

And then macabre and violent in the next with a red neck shooting his finger off after Vergara and Witherspoon fake being a pair of lesbians to avoid revealing their identities. Strange but it got a little chuckle.

What annoyed me was that the pair had good chemistry and sparked in certain scenes. And they seemed to work better when they improvised. Vergara actually grew on me as the film chugged along. It did try and get a little too actiony and serious in the finale which only came off incredibly hammy.

The jokes about shoes and sex were a little repetitive and stale for my liking. Lazy. The gag about Witherspoon’s “diaper” panties was a complete rip off of The Heat. I appreciate that they tried to follow in it’s footsteps. But all they really did was stumble and trip up in it’s shadow. A running gag with the media messing up the duo’s descriptions was okay to start with but it soon got old really quick.

The only real laugh that I got out of it was when Cooper had to wear a disguise to infiltrate a Columbian cartel. She looked like Justin Bieber and a wardrobe malfunction in a ladies toilet delivered. A diamond in the rough, apparently.

I think the closing credits summed everything for me. Before anyone could escape (If they hadn’t already), we had five to ten minutes of outtakes. I laughed more in those ten then I did in the 87. The improvising and mucking about should have been in the film. You saw a completely different and less annoying side to Vergara. She was actually quite funny. Why didn’t we get that in the film?

Instead we had the odd gag among a dozen duds spread across a dull and lifeless cop thriller. I would definitely say the mismatched tone really hampered things.

BUT I wouldn’t say that this was a mismatched pairing and for all it’s flaws, it was watchable. Thankfully to a short running time. If you’re looking for another Heat, then watch The Heat.

Two stars for the two leading ladies for doing their darndest.

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CUBAN FURY REVIEW

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Get on your dancing shoes and get on it. Funny, feelgood, does what is says on the tin. Bosh.

It was never going to win plaudits for groundbreaking comedy or originality, we’ve seen it all before but at its core is an easygoing (and most importantly) funny comedy about an overweight unloved man who revives his long lost passion for salsa dancing and fights, well . . . dances for the love of his life. Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz/Spaced) always brings a likeable presence and applies his infamous comedy schtick to the role. He plays Bruce Garrett, a talented teenage salsa dancer who toured the world (Gloucester, Colchester . . . ) but gives it all up after a nasty encounter. Flashforward 25 years to the present and we see our hero plodding through life through his usual routine, with the constant ribbing and jibing of his so called friend, Drew (Chris O’Dowd – The IT Crowd/Bridesmaids). However that all changes when their new boss; the beautiful Rashida Jones (The Office USA/I Love You Man) enters the scene, cue the laughs and the rest of the film.

The journey may be the same with our hero stumbling and tumbling as he dusts off the cobwebs and reunites with his scorned mentor, Ron Parfait, the on form Ian McShane (Deadwood/Lovejoy) as he battles whether to dance or not to dance. However, it’s the supporting characters around Frost that make this film entertaining and memorable. The hilarious Olivia Colman who has excelled this year, most notably in Broadchurch, hasn’t forgotten her comedy roots (Peep Show/Hot Fuzz) as his zany sister. Not enough of her in my opinion but when she gets the time, she nails it. Rory Kinnear (Black Mirror/Lucan) and Tim Plester (you may remember him from Game of the Thrones. At the wedding. Yessss, him) play his “supportive” mates who report their “Weekly Round Up” of gaining girls numbers and making contact with one as they release their frustration at the golf course. In all fairness, they are all brilliant and all fight for the screen. However, there are two major players that stand out for me and that is O’Dowd (Come oonnnn!) and Kayvan Novak (Fonejacker/Four Lions).

Originally from the trailer I thought O’Dowd and Frost were going to be pals who unintentionally fall for the same girl and have a bit of banter. Nope. Dowd is a cocky, obnoxious, condescending . . . dick, really, who wedges in between the couple with his fat jokes and jibes. Some of the lines are brilliant. The friction between Frost and O’Dowd makes for quality viewing. The dance off car park fight sequence between the duo is worth the ticket price alone. Considering the crazy stuff the pair have done, I still couldn’t believe they did this. Hilarious OTT dance moves that makes for top viewing with an unexpected blink and you’ll miss it cameo that made it even better.

Novak is ultimately the scene stealer with the flamboyant salsa enthusiast Bejan. From his ball waxing to his still Fanta regime, the laughs come in thick and fast every time he’s on the screen. Fantastic comic relief. The dancing itself isn’t that bad and considering Frost’s build, he ain’t a bad little mover. Obviously the more complexed moves and OTT ones, you can’t help but notice that Frost has suddenly dropped a few pounds if you know what I mean. And I couldn’t help also noticing there might have been a bit of fast forwarding? However,  it might take the attention away and to be honest, the characters are that entertaining and the tone that easygoing that it’s not really needed nor does it really affect anything. There’s also great chemistry between Rashida Jones and Frost. Jones plays it quite straight faced but still stands out in a lively bunch of characters performed by a great cast. McShane as the grouchy alcoholic mentor was fantastic (I said, “Arms like an eagle”. Not a f@#king heron!). Alexandra Roach (who stood out in One Chance) was the only one I felt didn’t get a look in and got pushed into the background.

I could go on and quote some great lines and great to know that not all the best bits were in the trailers. But this film has a lot more to offer, may be a little corny and predictable but it’s fun, light and hilarious. It’s SALSA! 3.5/5

Currently ranks #50 out of 147!

12 YEARS A SLAVE REVIEW

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Harrowing, haunting, brutal, if a little overhyped. This is still one for your consideration.

It’s tough to commend the subject matter, but one can applaud it’s execution. Steve McQueen brings to life a visceral telling of an innocent man’s slavery. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a rightly deserved Oscar nominated performance as the mesmerizing Solomon Northup.

12 Years follows Northup in Saratoga, New York, in 1841. It flashes back and forth from a slow burning opening sequence of Northup’s slavery to him being a free family man. The flashbacks reveal quite early that gifted violinist Northup is lured to Washington, D. C. by two entertainers, promising work. But after a night of carousing, Northup wakes up in chains and is sold into a life of slavery.

As the closing credits rolled, I couldn’t believe this account happened. McQueen has never been one to hold back the punches or shy away from taboo subjects such as hunger strikes (Hunger) and sex addiction (Shame). 12 Years makes no exception. Never afraid to keep the camera fixated on the action, lingering, building tension and horror, providing some of the most memorable, if hard hitting, scenes.

Performance wise, this film is exceptional with a plethora of talent and how Ejiofor could still stand out shows how good his performance really was. I was also surprised by Paul Dano’s turn as the conniving slave master. Intentionally going out of his way to aggravate Solomon. He continues to excel ever since Little Miss Sunshine. Appearing in numerous Oscar nominated features (There Will Be Blood and Prisoners). Personally, I felt he deserved a Best Supporting nod.

Benedict Cumberbatch nailed the Southern accent as kind hearted slave trader Ford, a man forced by the times to own slaves but desperately trying to give them the best that he can. Paul Giamatti and Brad Pitt delivered in their surprisingly small roles.

A good portion of the plaudits should be awarded to McQueen regular, Michael Fassbender. He was brilliant as the religious zealot Edwin Epps. He nailed the accent and stole every scene with his menacing presence. Sarah Poulsen was great as the ice cold Mistress Epps. I’ve been a fan of her for some time. Ever since her turn in American Horror Story: Asylum and Coven.

BUT Ejiofor, an underrated actor in my eyes, was finally given the platform and he excelled with aplomb. You really cared for the man and his breakdown in the closing moments was endearing and brilliantly acted.

However, at the same time, 12 Years A Slave is hardly perfect. Personally I couldn’t help but feel that Oscar hype raised too many expectations. McQueen’s greatest strength was also his weakness. The lingering shots, though haunting and engaging; at times were drawn out which heavily slackened the pace and tension of the piece.  

Despite certain scenes delivering uncomfortable viewing, it wasn’t as controversial or as brutal as the hype suggested. For those who have seen Roots, this particular story will seem all too familiar. 

And as the closing minutes drew, Fassbender’s Epps wasn’t actually as demented as he first presented himself. BUT this is still a well acted, brilliantly shot and visceral film that is worth a watch

3.5/5