*NEW* SABOTAGE REVIEW *NEW*

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This was sabotaged from the start.

Members of an elite DEA task force find themselves being taken down one by one after they rob a drug cartel safe house.

From the guys who brought you End of Watch and Training Day. That tagline delivered so much promise BUT failed on so many levels.

From the opening, I felt like I joined the movie halfway through. It certainly grabbed my attention BUT only because I was so bloody confused.

It kept flashing forward as we follow a botched raid on a Mexican cartel safe house and the ongoing investigation after a $10 million overhaul went missing.

Considering the strong cast consisting of; Terrence Howard (Empire), Josh Holloway (LOST), Sam Worthington (Avatar), Joe Manganiello (True Blood), Mirielle Enos (The Killing US) and Arnold “GET DOWN!” Schwarzenegger, I haven’t seen such an UN-interesting bunch of characters in quite some time.

The cliched macho talk and poor banter did nothing to win me over. The cartel stuff was so generic. It was merely used as a poor plot device to hide the inevitable backstabbing that would inevitably happen among the team.

This could have been a perfect platform for Arnie to have a pop at some serious acting. I couldn’t think of anybody better to play the head honcho of a dysfunctional and deadly team BUT I have to say that this was one of his most wooden performances to date. And that is saying something! He made something that should have been a sure thing on paper seem like such a stretch.

After watching Big Love and the American remake of the Killing, it made a change to see Enos play a drug addicted adrenaline junkie on the verge of a breakdown. Tragically, the more we saw of her character, the more annoying she got. So annoying in fact that I prayed for her swift exit.

Worthington’s performance was laughable from his mangled accent to his horrendous beard. A shame, really. His character was the only one that had a little bit of depth. Albeit, a cliched one.

The story line involving corrupt cops should have been writer David Ayer’s forte (by now) BUT alarm bells were ringing at the obvious plot holes – it had to be a team member that stole the payload. Because every other cartel member was butchered.

After a stupid BUT watchable first act, it took a good half hour before anything really happened. My curiousity was finally peaked when (out of the blue) a team member was bumped off in a highly gruesome manner. Olivia Williams’ (Rushmore) introduction was a much needed trigger and certainly got the ball rolling.

BUT I was too distracted by her nauseating accent. Her character was a total bad ass. BUT she caved into Arnie’s “charm” so easily and had a terrible sidekick in Harold Perrineau.

The wafer thin characters and agonizing pace didn’t do the movie any favours and even when the body count rose, my interest sank. The cloak and dagger stuff behind the task force had potential as Williams’ investigation was hindered by red tape.

I don’t mind dodgy and corrupt antagonists BUT I just didn’t care by the end. The Shield (one of my favourite shows) had me secretly rooting for the bad guys BUT the only rooting I did for Sabotage was for it to finish.

It felt like Ayer was poking fun at the very genre that he has been so accustomed to. For all their flaws, Harsh Times and Street Kings were solid efforts by comparison.

A dull story line with poor revelations was thankfully thrown out the window BUT replaced with an even more ridiculous shoot em up and a laughable street chase with incredibly dire techno video game music.

The ending was horrendous. It was supposed to be this big unravelling moment and a huge sombre footnote to the piece BUT it was just terrible. The overlong pace and poor storytelling literally left a stellar cast waiting around for Arnie to show more life than an IKEA table.

I’ve never been so disappointed in a Swarnie flick and it’s not as if the expectations were ever high in the first place.

2/5

*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.

BIG EYES REVIEW

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Tim Burton goes back to basics with one of his most conventional films to date.

With mixed results but it’s still worth a watch.

Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz were superb. They had good chemistry and played the roles with aplomb.

So what’s it about? Big Eyes is a drama about the awakening of painter Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband (Christoph Waltz), who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s.

The cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel delivered a sunny glossy feel and complimented the tone of the film perfectly.

I was surprised that Burton had directed this. It’s so . . . normal.

Beneath the surface of Burton’s wacky and macabre collections were conventional stories BUT it was always the fantastical elements that stood out for me. Edward Scissorhands being a perfect example.

Granted. The last few efforts from Burton have been lacklustre to say the least. Alice in Wonderland was fun BUT missed the mark and Dark Shadows . . . Well.

Don’t get me started. You know you’re onto a loser when not even the legendary Johnny Depp can save the day.

This is a return of sorts with two cracking leads and an interesting biopic.

I wasn’t familiar with Margaret Keane but I was with her work.

The opening was easy going and zipped along as we follow Keane and her daughter as they try and start again. I think it helps to have a little context.

Back in the 50s, a divorce was a taboo subject. And then to have a woman try and apply for a job that wasn’t a typist or secretary, well get out of town.

We see Keane’s struggle as she tries to earn some income to keep a roof over her daughter’s head, while practicing her craft.

Danny Huston’s (X Men Origins: Wolverine) journo voice over was a little irritating. Talented an actor he may be. I found his presence unnecessary by the closing minutes. Merely a reference point to confirm that certain scenes happened.

All he did was spell things out that we already knew or were about to discover. A pointless character if I’m frank.

Adams’ Southern drawl was a little disjointed to start with but she soon adjusts to the role and delivers another solid performance.

Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad) was very good as Margaret’s sassy BFF DeeAnn. To be honest, I wanted more of her. (Steady now!)

Her supporting role was too small. She instantly made an impression and I was hoping for more of a clash between her and Waltz’s Walter. Her intuition sensing that something wasn’t right from the get go.

Waltz and Adams worked well together and made a good pairing. It certainly made the predictable union a lot more bearable.

It was interesting to see how a little white lie to sell one street painting became a decade long charade.

Waltz played the snake charmer that was Walter brilliantly.

The whole debate that a painting wouldn’t sell if the artist was female was crazy. And not completely unbelievable back in the 50s.

BUT Margaret’s one moment of hesitance soon became a prison sentence. Reduced to painting in the loft or being locked away in a private studio adjoined to their expensive villa to hide their secret.

There were a few twists that crept out of the woodwork. One I wanted explaining a little more. The sudden bombshell that Walter had another child from a former marriage wasn’t really covered.

Merely pulled out to break up the lull that this film seemed to be heading in.

Another twist was a little predictable but the discovery was still intriguing enough.

Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore) was funny as the snobby art dealer who snubbed Keane’s works and continued to do so even when it was a hit! Again, not enough of him. A mere cameo.

Waltz was able to balance the volatile behaviour of Walter very well. A smooth talker one second, an explosive drunkard the next.

Terence Stamp played the cynical art cynic as well as he could but he was merely the catalyst to antagonize Walter and push Margaret to realise (at last) that her dream man wasn’t all he cracked up to be.

The child actors that were hired to play Margaret’s daughters left a little to be desired.

My mum may be hard of hearing BUT even I couldn’t decipher what Madeleine Arthur (The Tomorrow People) was mumbling about. Understandably this was Margaret’s story but they were very one dimensional.

When Margaret decides to come clean, the drama does heat up BUT I felt certain moments went a little off kilter.

Margaret’s sudden religious awakening didn’t really come off as well as I think it was supposed to.

The appeal of living a life telling the truth certainly spurred her to take legal action but it came off a little hammy. If that is what happened then I can’t pick at it too much BUT it did feel a little disjointed.

The court case in the final minutes was a little too comical. The tone seemed to go all over the place. I felt Waltz was allowed a little too much freedom and his one man prosecution act was incredibly OTT and didn’t fit with the film.

And inevitably, the trial verdict soon relied on one vital piece of evidence with a predictable and flat outcome.

The contents of this biopic and the tone was something I expected to see more in a TV movie.

I also felt that Burton was restricted in applying his magic. The supermarket sequence in which Margaret sees everyone with BIG EYES was more along the lines of what I hoped. Similar to the vein of Big Fish.

It’s not all bad. It’s well acted and highly watchable.

A return of sorts for Burton. It gives me a little more hope for the (needless) live action remake of Dumbo.

3/5

The Grand Budapest Hotel Review

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Grand . . . to look at but beneath it’s eye catching decor, it doesn’t quite match your expectation and leaves a little to be desired. Hardly a film I would revisit but not bad for a weekend break, if you get my drift.

Right enough wordplay. This is really down to how much of a Wes Anderson fan, you are. Obviously, not as much as I thought. Wes Anderson already has an extensive collection attached to his name; The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou, Rushmore, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom to name a few. I personally didn’t mind Tenenbaums and Zissou but felt they were patchy and a little overhyped. Great to look at, with the occasional laugh but missing something. The film that delivered for me was the underrated stop motion animation adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox. It was eccentric, rapid, zany and hilarious. From the trailers, I hoped the Grand Budapest would follow a similar vein, but alas darlings, it falls short. It’s not all ghastly, however. I may pick at Anderson but one thing I’ve always loved with his films is his ambition and the ability to tell stories in such a different manner.

As soon as the film begins, all the Anderson traits are there (Watch out! It’s going to be a bit film academic-y here); the handmade aesthetic, signature curios and saturated colours. The hotel really is grand, bold, with it’s lavish decor and endless Shining-esque hallways. A feast for the eyes, bright, colourful. Every frame rammed with concierge, people and if not that, crazy props. It’s a little mad to start, but sets up what to expect from an Anderson film. From the get go, we’re presented with a complex narrative within a narrative within a narrative, as we follow several different people (A strange girl in a cemetery, to a renowned author (Tom Wilkinson), to a 20 year flashback of said author in the form of Jude Law in a rendez-vu with a recluse and owner of a failing hotel, named Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham – Homeland) in the middle of nowhere)

The gist, and more importantly, the main story flashes back to the 1930s, focusing on the adventures of the legendary GBH concierge, Monsieur Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes) and his loyal lobby boy, a young Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) as they must deal with the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting, as well as battle for an enormous family fortune, all against the backdrop of a dramatically changing Continent impacted by war.

The talented ensemble that Anderson has at his disposal makes for some surprising roles, and expected ones. The main man that stands out is the eccentric, charismatic and flamboyant Monsieur Gustave played with aplomb by ol’ Voldy himself, Ralph Fiennes. His delivery and witticisms are fantastic. There is great chemistry and camaraderie between him and Revolori, who makes an impressive debut performance. They are a great duo to watch. It all starts off quite light, easygoing with Zero being mentored by Gustave, which with the material and extensive cast, Anderson is allowed to wonder off at random tangents. However, it does have the tendency to drag and some parts come off a little hit and miss. As well as there being a checklist for Anderson traits, there has got to be one for the number of regulars he manages to grab to appear in this.

The film kicks off when Gustave is accused of killing the frail Madame D (Tilda Swinton) for her fortune. Kudos to the make up team for turning Swinton into the overanxious, love smitten pensioner. Once the chase is on and backstabbing begins, it all makes for a mad old ride. Anderson excels in his set pieces, which makes up for the more comical moments; most notably in the unintended hotel shoot out, the ski slope chase (which is in a similar vein to that of Mr. Fox). The elongated sequence in which Gustave must meet up with a secret contact in a monastery was a particular highlight and was almost Pythonesque. The elongated sequence with the numerous referrals to numerous concierge members just to get faces in, not so much.

The tone of the film is a little messy. It goes from whimsical, slapstick to dark and macabre. A bizarre and rather intimidating encounter between Madame D’s scorned son, (played superbly by Adrien Broody. If anyone can play a creep, it would be him), his relentlessly grim knuckle dust wearing henchman (gruesomely played to perfection by Willem Dafoe) and the oblivious lawyer (Jeff Goldblum) veers off from darkly comical to a suspenseful cat and mouse sequence with a feeble escape attempt that wasn’t very handy, shall I say? Anderson delicately attempts to balance the tone but at times, it’s unexpected and for a minute, you think, “Am I watching the same film?”. The prison sequence is brilliantly executed and funny to boot, if a little dark with a surprise cameo role. It’s a bit all over the place. Fiennes’ finesse and comic delivery is the much needed carrier and catalyst of this movie. When it’s funny, it brings out the odd chuckle, most notably with a funeral punch up and mad race across the Continent from a crazy collection of coppers under the leadership of the always talented Edward Norton.

I didn’t expect the darker elements, which made up for a meandering pace. However, it felt a little Midsummer Murder-ish to me. A bit OTT. But then this is Anderson. If you can accept that for some of the film’s more crazier and stranger elements and are an avid lover of his previous works, this one will go straight into your collection but if you’re still on the fence, this one might not help in pushing you for or against him. I felt the romance between Revolori and Saoirse Ronan got pushed back to the fold, which questioned its existence to begin with, which is a shame because the pair had good chemistry. There are so many faces and characters that others you want to see more of, disappear or don’t get enough of the screen, while others you can’t help but wonder why they’re there in the first place. The little things are what make it for me with Anderson. I really wanted a live animation of Mr Fox, with its eccentric fast paced zippy chaotic madness. Although I got that at parts, it just fell short for me and what was the point of the opening with the first narrator? It’s Anderson. Somehow not a good enough answer for me.

For the Anderson addicts, right up your street. For everybody else . . . well, it’s different. 3/5.

 Currently ranks #52 out of 152!