*NEW* THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD REVIEW *NEW*

Hit and miss BUT still good fun.

The world’s top bodyguard (Ryan Reynolds) gets a new client, a hit man (Samuel L Jackson) who must testify at the International Court of Justice. They must put their differences aside and work together to make it to the trial on time.

Sometimes with movies like this, you just know what you’re going to get. A silly popcorn flick. It won’t win plaudits for plot and originality BUT if it does the job then what’s the problem?

Reynolds applied his usual quick-witted shtick. I thought I’d be getting fed up of watching him in “Deadpool mode” BUT he still owns it. Even if some of the quips came off a little flat in places.

BUT the main scene stealer was Samuel L (The “L stands for Motherf**ker”) Jackson. Cackling like a mad man and laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. He made this movie. If not for him, I don’t think this would have fared as well. Legend.

The supporting cast was disappointing. More so with the characters than the performances.

Did Gary Oldman even realise his character was a parody of himself? He played a cliche of his own evil Russian villain cliche. Yikes. The villain was too weak, even for him. He took the role far too seriously. Shame. I was hoping he could have lapped it up and poked fun at himself. Alas, it was not to be.

We’ve seen this sort of character so many times before and done better . . . By the man himself.

Even the fiery Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung – Daredevil) was reduced to a schmaltzy scorned ex subplot. Her verbal sparring with Reynolds was corny and dull.

There wasn’t enough Hayek. She was hilarious in the dreadfully small cameo. I would have been happy to have her on the road trip with the two hot heads. BUT then there wouldn’t be any incentive for Jackson’s character.

I’ll never hear Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’ in the same way again. A flashback to Hayek and Jackson’s love story had me in stitches. Their eyes met across a violent bar brawl. Brilliant.

The inevitable backstabbing and “reveal” of the mole breaching security was mind-numbingly obvious. And the “twist” (or reason) behind Reynold and Jackson’s heated rivalry was predictable to boot.

Thankfully the action sequences made up for the generic story line. The race through Amsterdam was riveting, utterly bonkers BUT entertaining to the max. Seriously, the punch ups were insane; especially Reynolds’ DIY store scuffle with a Goliathan mercenary.

The humour delivered in parts. Some gags overstayed their welcome. Watching Jackson sing-a-long in a bus with nuns? YES! YES! YES!

Listening to him share childish insults with Deadpool and singing over each other? Not so much.

The action sequences were decent, the hokey plot was passable BUT the credit goes to the two leads who made a somewhat TV movie premise a little more than the generic mess it could have been.

I just the pair could have improvised off the cuff a little more. It felt like the 15 certificate rating held them back.

Watchable guff though.

3/5 (Just)

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*NEW* LIFE REVIEW *NEW*

Despite the shoddy pace and wafer thin characters, there was still life in this tense little sci-fi horror.

A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form, that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

I didn’t expect much from this. The trailers bored me and the extended looks did nothing to win me over. BUT I was a fan of the line up. So was it shame on me?

Jon Ekstrand’s ominous score certainly grabbed my attention. The brooding atmosphere, the simmering tension, the nothingness of space. Seamus McGarvey’s glossy cinematography. Perfect.

It was just a shame that momentum couldn’t stick. The slow burning opening act soon put me into a mini-coma.

The disorienting claustrophobic camera work may have simulated the feeling of floating around in a space station BUT it irritated me. The POV angle of Ryan Reynolds’ Rory intercepting the damaged satellite was a nice touch.

BUT it didn’t help that the characters weren’t that interesting.

Rebecca Ferguson’s (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) uptight doc and Jake Gyllenhaal’s (Nocturnal Animals) depressed David were dreadfully dull.

I always felt Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai) was an underrated supporting actor BUT his character was dire. A perfect opportunity to shine squandered.

And Ryan Reynolds just played the same old spiel again. Adapting the role of the cocky fast talking joker. Boring.

There wasn’t any depth and the bland exchanges between the crew just killed the tension. Especially as they left messages for their loved ones and gave cringe inducing virtual tours of the ship to the “world”. Yuck.

Thankfully by the 25-30 min marker, the film finally hit its stride as the crew discovered life and the answers to the universe in the form of a squid-like jellyfish named “Calvin”.

Ariyon Bakare (Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell) made a memorable impression as Hugh. The delighted doc whose fascination with Earth’s new mascot bordered on obsession.

BUT I could still feel myself getting impatient as the crew carried out tests. However, one botched lab experiment later . . .

All that curiousity and wonder swiftly turned into sheer fear and panic as the crew’s new play thing decides to make a break for it. A bloody trail left in his wake.

The middle act delivered with an unnerving and nail biting thriller as Calvin continued to grow in size and intelligence. A game of cat and mouse set in motion.

“Calvin doesn’t hate us. He has to kill us in order to survive”.

The Alien meets Gravity vibe worked as the killer creature craftily picked the crew off one by one.

The special effects were brilliant. Calvin’s transformation creeped the hell out of me. His squid-like tentacles scuttling around the labyrinthine hallways. A spider toying with his prey. Shudder.

I was worried that the wafer thin character development would make me less interested in the crew’s survival BUT Gyllenhaal and Ferguson’s characters were thankfully fleshed out a little better as the danger ensued (Hell, I even warmed up to Reynolds).

There were genuine moments of suspense and I couldn’t see how it was going to end which made for a tense and thrilling finale.

And by the closing credits, I left the cinema pleasantly surprised.

Just persevere with the pace and you have a solid effort that does just enough to hold its own.

3/5 (Just)

*NEW* DEADPOOL REVIEW *NEW*

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Stupid, ridiculous, violent and . . . not bad at all.

I couldn’t think of anybody better than “God’s Perfect Idiot” to take on the iconic role of everybody’s new favourite foul mouthed anti-hero.

How many chances can Ryan Reynolds have bringing a comic book character to the silver screen? Thankfully third time’s the charm.

A fast-talking mercenary with a morbid sense of humor is subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers and a quest for revenge.

From the mental opening sequence, I knew what I was getting myself into. A lewd, crude, brutal BUT incredibly funny shoot em up.

The way people were raving about Deadpool; you would have thought you’ve never seen Ryan Reynolds shout and scream profanities!

The film swiftly flicked back and forth between Deadpool’s relentless revenge spree to his “unconventional” love story with the feisty hooker Vanessa (Morena Baccharin – Homeland).

I couldn’t resist laughing at Reynold’s quick witted one liners and smart ass insults while he clocked up the body count. This role really was made for him.

To be honest, the film only really lost momentum when it tried to take itself more seriously.

The pace lagging when we got to the origin stuff. Sorry, the NEW origin stuff. 

Apparently we’re supposed to forget about Deadpool’s origin story in X-Men Origins: Wolverine now. Especially during Wade’s experimentation.

Completely breezed over that little question with silly (BUT hilarious) meta-textual references. Reynolds even had a pop at himself with a Green Lantern gag for good measure.

I know we had to see the humble beginnings of this quick witted mad man BUT no matter how many sly digs, gags and 4th Wall breaking, you couldn’t hide the fact that it was the same old cliched story.

As much as Baccarin and Reynolds had great chemistry and the cheesy luvvy duvvy exchanges were replaced with messed up foreplay and a year long bonkathon montage to commemorate their romance, it was still boy meets girl.

“Oh, that’s because it’s Christmas Day Dopinder and I’m looking for someone on my naughty list!”.

I was actually more interested in the naive cabbie Dopinder’s (Karan Soni) subplot. Coaxed into ferrying Pool around on his vengeance-seeking killing spree.

I’ve never really rated Ed Skrein’s acting (The Transporter Refuelled) but he played the maniacal “British villain” Francis quite well. The man that made Deadpool; “A penis with teeth”.

Gina Carano (Haywire)’s delivery may have been colder than Colossus’ steel BUT she nailed the hard ass (and ironically titled) Angel Dust a treat.

T.J. Miller (Silicon Valley) was good as the Comic Relief BUT there wasn’t enough of him. 

The same could be said for Deadpool’s blind crackhead roomie Blind Al (Leslie Uggams).

The pair’s bickering over IKEA furniture while gunning up for battle was hysterical!

“It’s like the studio couldn’t get another X-Men”. I’m not going to lie. I’ve never read the comic books. I wasn’t aware that Deadpool existed in the same universe as the X-Men. 

Shock horror. It was great to see Colossus the metallic bad ass that owned the opening sequence from X-Men: Days of Future Past get a little more screen time.

We were even introduced to a new face; the moody emo-looking Negasonic Teenage Warhead (played brilliantly by Brianna Hildebrand). 

The unlikeliest crime fighting trio I’ve seen so far.

It was funny watching Deadpool ‘refusing the call’ to be an X-Men. Evading capture from Colossus by cutting his own hand off. Ouchie. God knows how he would fit in with that mad bunch?!

The shoot em ups and fighting sequences were brilliantly choreographed and deliciously gory. 

I just wish the deaths were a little more creative. Spelling enemies’ names with bodies, yes! Kicking a guard’s amputated head to disarm another guard, yes!

BUT once you’ve seen ol’ Pool slice and dice through a dozen bodies, it got a little repetitive. 

BUT despite it’s flaws, it was a breath of fresh air to see a film openly rip and poke fun at the endless superhero entries that are relentlessly bombarding the big screen. 

It really was a mad riot with Reynolds on fine form.

If that sounds like your kind of thing, then it won’t disappoint. 

I’m sure I don’t have to say it BUT please persevere through the credits for a little treat. Chicka chika!

3.5/5

SELF/LESS REVIEW

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Pace less BUT for all the negative press, I still found this quite watchable.

A dying real estate mogul (Sir Ben Kingsley) transfers his consciousness into a healthy young body (Ryan Reynolds), but soon finds that neither the procedure nor the company that performed it are quite what they seem.

It may have been cliched, plot hole ridden and a little patchy in places BUT the action sequences were fast, fierce, racy and Reynolds was on fine form. AND for a good portion of the film, I was entertained.

The opening act was slow burning but intriguing. A slick and ruthless Kingsley delivering DeNiroesque gravitas to the role of the ailing billionaire. To be honest, I would have been happy to watch his normal life as the dying mogul. His lesson with a young rival was compelling stuff.

BUT the sloppily put together relationship with his estranged daughter? Not so much. It’s great to see Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery popping up in more movies. But not in such weak supporting roles. Dull, cliched and boring. A waste. And a pointless character by the closing credits.

We follow Kingsley wallowing in his highly extravagant and isolated apartment as he must come to terms with his own mortality. The one thing in all his years he hasn’t been able to conquer. Until now.

Cue the slick but incredibly smarmy scientist Dr Albright. Matthew Goode was brilliant as the mysterious mastermind. The concept of body swapping/mind swapping was quite interesting. Can you put on a price on life? Would you do it?

BUT we know he does. Or else there wouldn’t be a movie. Tragically that means there is one massive Kingsley-sized void when the deed is done. BUT have no fear. Reynolds is here. He played the role quite well. Good to see him doing it seriously. The guy can be hilarious but I’m fed up of the fast talking douche.

The premise was handled with the right balance. A slight hint of believability. Or enough to make you buy into it. It was a nice touch seeing Reynolds in the early stages of his ‘infancy’ as he must learn to walk again.

It did require a little patience. You get the sense of his struggle within two minutes not twenty. BUT it did make a change to see him having to adjust and look like he’s actually gone through an experiment. Unlike Face/Off. Quick laser zap here and voice alter there. Done. (I love Face/Off. Man, I want to watch that right now. Anyway . . . )

I loved the one liners, “It still has that new body smell”. Cheesy but it did the job. Of course, once Reynolds has adjusted; he does what any elderly billionaire would do with a shed load of cash and Ryan Reynolds’ body! Get smashed, drive fast cars, get jiggy with the ladies and play basketball.

It chugged along. BUT it did lull. Luckily, not everything is as it seems. Strange fits and random memories of someone else’s life start plaguing the mind of our playboy. And thankfully, the film finds it’s stride . . . in places.

Damian soon realises that the “vessel” may not be all it cracked up to be. It’s all rather predictable as he asks too many questions and threatens to reveal the organisation to the public after discovering he has taken someone away from their family.

Cue an action packed race (Hmm) as Damian must fight to save his life and whoever the hell he has in his mind and his family.

Natalie Martinez (Under The Dome) did what she could with the role as the confused wife. BUT she was too whiney and mopey. The scenes with her and Reynolds were way too cliched for you to really care. It didn’t help that she kept asking the same monotonous questions. After Damian clearly says repeatedly, “I have no idea”.

Empire’s Derek Luke didn’t do a bad job as Anton. I just wish his henchman wasn’t so bland and unintentionally comical. Once the body/mind swapping ploy is introduced, he keeps popping up as a new face in every scene. It should have been sinister but it just showed how easy he is to dispose of. Wiped out every time he clashes with Reynolds. Oh dear.

Oh yeah. I forgot to say. Lucky for Damian that he’s managed to take the body of a highly trained marine whose skills conveniently kick in every time danger is afoot. The action scenes were quick, furious and quite violent. Apart from the bad body double punch up in the kitchen, I was impressed.

It was the much needed catalyst to get this film going. And it picked the film up every time the corny story line or pace seemed to linger. The final 20 minutes were actually quite good.

It was certainly watchable as Damian has to make a choice. To save this family and the mind of the body he took or . . . NOT. There was a good portion in which I thought things would take a darker turn as he tries his utmost not to help. BUT the end result was tragically predictable.

Matthew Goode was a dastardly villain. BUT he took the back seat for too much of the film. Only reappearing for the finale. A waste of a good character. And for all his secrecy, he was picked apart quite easily.

Things did get unbelievably corny in parts and killed the little tension that the film could muster. There was one scene. Hardly spoilerific. BUT while in hiding, the adorable Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen asks the man possessing her daddy’s body to teach her to swim. Wow. What do you know? There’s a pool round the back. And they must have remembered to pack her little bathing suit while being shot at. Delightful.

facepalm

Victor Garber was fantastic as Kingsley’s closest friend and business partner. His likeable supporting character actually gets a little subplot. Well, minuscule. BUT it only manages to pierce more holes in the flimsy plot as a “revelatory twist” ended up asking more questions than answering them.

Now did anyone else this but after seeing all the posters that maybe Kingsley would reappear in some other capacity? I thought that every time Reynolds would look in the mirror, he would see Kingsley. Or better yet have Kingsley talk to him. BUT NO! Missed a trick there. Gutted.

Watchable enough. Helped by a charismatic lead in Reynolds. Good action set pieces. BUT too many cliches and a questionable two hour running length spoil something that could have been so much more.

2.5/5

THE WOMAN IN GOLD REVIEW

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The Woman in Gold or was it dark blue? Either way, go see it.

Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren), an octogenarian Jewish refugee, takes on the Austrian government to recover artwork she believes rightfully belongs to her family.

FINALLY! I’ve managed to hit a run of good films. YES!

Mirren was superb. A perfect leading lady. Ryan Reynolds was also excellent. It was good to see him play a more subdued role. A normal guy fighting against the ruthless and contradictory Austrian legal system (Or the big guy).

I’m used to watching Reynolds play the same old obnoxious fast talking douche bag archetype. It was a breath of fresh air. Some proper acting from a talented actor (I knew he could. Just check out Buried for proof).

My only niggle was that you could tell the guy doesn’t wear glasses. You’ll know what I mean when you see it. If not, my four eyed brethren will understand.

They were a great pairing. I found the pace dipped a little in parts but it still keep me hooked. The set up took a little too much time to get going but I was distracted by the enigmatic duo as we delve into Maria’s past.

The film isn’t just about a painting. I’m no art lover but I wasn’t impressed by the actual art piece for all it’s controversy. BUT the story behind this cultural icon is something else. An icon that was stolen by the Nazis and never returned to the rightful owner.

Through a series of flashbacks and narration by Mirren, we soon discover the true origins of the renowned Gustav Klimt’s iconic painting of Maria’s aunt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. The flashback sequences were riveting, engaging and upsetting.

The treatment of the Jews was handled delicately. We watch as Jews are forced to clean pavements with acid. Shopkeepers made to close their stores and mark JEW on their doors. The public humiliation by bystanders as their locks are cut off by Nazis.

You soon understand why Maria is so adamant not to go back. A place she vowed never to return. Max Irons (The Riot Club) and Tatiana Maslany were also very good.

It was great to see Maslany getting a meatier role on the big screen after her award winning turn in the HIGHLY recommended sleeper hit TV series Orphan Black. She played young Maria brilliantly.

I couldn’t believe how quick the majority of the Austrian community turned against one another. Giving Maria’s family up without hesitation to the Nazis. A good portion of them had attended her wedding only a few days before.

The pace soon picks up as the film flicks back and forth from the past to the present (Well, 90s). The legalities and clauses appeared a little technical but were soon explained. The only problem was once it was explained, I couldn’t believe the difficulty that the pair had to endure just to get a case together.

Stalling tactics from the conniving Austrian officials as they throw ridiculous loopholes and rolls of red tape. It was never about the money for Maria. It was about doing what was right. For family and remembrance.

Maria was even prepared to let the museum keep the portrait but only if they admitted fault. But the officials couldn’t even do that.

It was intriguing watching Randol’s (Reynolds) transformation; a struggling lawyer who took on a case originally for a quick buck. However, the journey he takes with Maria changes everything. His breakdown after visiting the cemetery and Jewish memorials that commemorated his own ancestors really hit home.

The flashbacks, after a nail biting street chase and tense encounter with border patrol, seemed to end a little abruptly. Obviously, it caught up with the present but it would have been nice to know what happened to Maria’s husband after spending a good chunk of time watching him flee from Austria. A passing comment about him from Maria felt a little flat.

The flashbacks did re-appear in the closing minutes and brought a tear as Maria finally opens about the last conversation she had with her parents. A heartbreaking moment between Maria (Maslany) and her father (Allan Corduner) made sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

The supporting cast were good, if a little restricted. Katie Holmes played Randol’s wife well. But her character wasn’t really integral to the story and was very much in the background. The only roles she seems to get these days.

Daniel Bruhl was very good as the news journalist desperate to help Maria and Randol. Providing useful advice on the by-laws and using all the contacts at his disposal. It’s great to see him appearing in more mainstream Hollywood flicks. I’ve been a fan since Goodbye Lenin!

Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) had the easiest role going as Randol’s boss. The only thing that stood out for him was his commendable American accent!

The closing trial scenes were not as dramatic as I expected. I anticipated a grand trial with relentless closing arguments not a formal affair with the verdict riding on three art officials in a convention room. But the end result was still uplifting and the closing credits revealed some facts that surprised me.

Despite my little niggles, I still found The Woman in Gold a brilliantly acted and and engaging biopic that is definitely worth your time.

3.5/5

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST REVIEW

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A Million Ways to Die Laughing! Unfortunately not. MacFarlane takes on the Wild West and comes out more battered and bruised than his heroic counterpart. Applying his Family Guy spiel, this cowboy comedy yields mixed results this time round.

Now for the record I am a big Family Guy fan and thought Ted was a return to form from MacFarlane as Family Guy teetered on lacklustre but watchable.

His second feature to hit the big screen and a western. My hopes were high. The trailers signed me up from the get go. Job done as always. However, it seems a case of ‘best bits in the trailers’ syndrome. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad but it’s not all great either.

The main issue, two hours? Too long. It was only after the first 30-45 minutes that the film got into its stride. The story line is hardly original, merely a rehash of a classical western storyline. Probably one of the reasons why westerns are no longer plaguing our screens.

Local coward finds bravery and confronts nastiest gunslinger to win the town and the girl. Yadda, yadda. I really hoped for a demented Blazing Saddles but only got mildly hot flip flops. The lovely Charlize Theron and McFarlane were fantastic together. Good chemistry. You could see where they were improvising which made the banter all the more entertaining.

However, the main jokes and punch lines are few and far between. The bigger, better gags have been heavily advertised to get you to watch this mildly entertaining affair.

Seth MacFarlane’s rants felt, at times, like nothing more than him trying to do improvised stand up. Some parts fall flat on its backside, other bits bring the odd laugh. His speech on the law and order of the town was very good; “There is the mayor. He is dead”.

MacFarlane manages to carry enough charisma to keep his stocky character going. The funniest moments in the film for me were the unexpected blink and you’ll miss it cameos, containing the likes of Ewan McGregor, Ryan Reynolds and . . . my God, two brilliant cameos that were nearly worth the ticket. I won’t say for once.

Cameos you would have expected from MacFarlane but still manage to surprise and get a laugh.

Considering the number of musical montages in Family Guy, there is only one song and dance number. An irritatingly catchy one, at that. A missed opportunity in my opinion. I kept expecting Mr Conway Twitty to appear. Alas to no avail. Of course not literally as the poor man passed away some time ago.

I admit I did have to check Google on that. My bad.

In all fairness, the supporting characters bring the better jokes but they are barely in it. You feel that they are brought in to help the slackening pace or when MacFarlane and Theron have stopped messing around.

Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) was very funny as the mustached lothario Foy with his ridiculously cringeworthy but hilarious pun based insults.

It was great to see Liam Neeson as the villain. Unfortunately he plays it very dead pan. So serious, in fact that his character is just a stocky and highly unmemorable clichéd cowboy killer. I expected at least a Taken parody or something. Nope. At least he didn’t try and do an American drawl again after Seraphim Falls.

The same could be said for Amanda Seyfried who was nothing more than a bland caricature used as a plot device to spur our protagonist. Shame. A joke about her eyes brought an unexpected titter.

Sarah Silverman and Giovani Ribisi were hilarious together. However, they are only resorted to a drawn out gag about having a prostitute as a girlfriend and not sleeping together before marriage as it is not very Christian. The gag gets a little stale but the characters were funny enough to warrant more screen time than they got.  Inevitably, there would be a meeting with the Indians, I mean, Native Americans and a certain taking of various substances, leading to a trippy and surreal sequence that reeked of desperation, more than creativity.

Inevitably it all ends very . . . predictably which leaves you somewhat disappointed (if it hadn’t already).

It’s watchable at best. But I have later series of Family Guy for that. It kills the time, brings the odd laugh but hardly must see viewing. If you are looking for a laugh out loud rowdy riot of a western in the style of Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles, then I recommend . . . Blazing Saddles 2.5/5 for me.

Currently ranks #130 out of 179!