BLACK SEA REVIEW

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Like the submarine, it’s dark, too long and rusty in all the wrong places.

I didn’t want the cast to walk the plank. Just the writer.

Jude Law was fantastic. I’ve always rated him as an actor. He plays the gruffly Scot Captain Robinson well. His accent was very good and he delivers enough charisma to hold his own against a talented cast of misfits.

So what’s it about? In order to make good with his former employers, a submarine captain (Law) takes a job with a shadowy backer to search the depths of the Black Sea for a submarine rumoured to be loaded with gold.

The running length was far too long. It’s gritty, at times claustrophobic and suspenseful but to be honest if it wasn’t for Law and Mendelsohn, I fear this film would have sunk faster than its naval counterpart.

The opening was painfully slow. Law did his best to keep things watchable and we feel for his character after being made redundant.

However, a plan is already in motion. A dangerous heist that could pay out big. 82 million to each participant.

Yes, that’s right. Nazi gold just sitting in a shipwreck. A shipwreck that happens to lie in the darkest, deepest regions of the ocean. Easy.

The set up was terrible. Forcing relationships between ship mates to make them more relatable.

The cliched exchanges between Konstantin Khabenskiy (Night Watch), Daniel Ryan (Mount Pleasant) and Law were so boring and unnecessary.

It felt hammy and drawn out. Writer Dennis Kelly tried to pump some life into the characters but it just didn’t work.

If Daniel Ryan’s character wasn’t so pessimistic and had that “I don’t think I can do this” expression smacked all over his face, I might have been surprised that he would turn out not to be in the rest of the film.

Tobias Menzies (Game of Thrones) had the easiest job going as the “shadowy businessman”. I mean, come on. Look at him. He’s look like a shady politician. Throw in a scowl and he’s done.

Five minutes of empty threats and predictable guff about failing to deliver and that’s goodbye from him.

Instead, we get a wimpering Scoot McNairy (Monsters). Don’t get me wrong, he plays it well. He was just irritating. Forced by Mr Shady (no, not Eminem) to protect his investment and join the crew.

Jodie Whittaker (Broadchurch) was reduced to nothing more than featuring in some dreary dream sequences or being stalked by Law. Nothing was really made of their relationship at all. A missed opportunity that her character just as redundant as her husband.

Once they got into the sub, things got a little more interesting. Just.

Director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) captured the claustrophobic setting of the submarine perfectly.

Robinson’s runts featured the likes of David Threlfall (Shameless), Michael Smiley (He will always be Tyres from Spaced) and the legendary Ben Mendelsohn (Starred Up).

The inevitable friction already brewing between the crew before they even descended.

Mendelsohn was superb as the volatile Fraser. The perfect catalyst to get things going. A ticking time bomb.

The predictable bust up looming in the cards still managed to surprise me.

I expected a little punch up BUT what happened instead was the much needed oomph I was craving for.

And for another 20 minutes or so, I got into the film.

Unfortunately the film has only really has a few moments of brilliance. The sequence in which they are evading other submarines and transporting the gold was suspenseful enough. It was tense, and watchable.

Wondering whom the ocean would take next into the dark abyss.

BUT what didn’t help was that the murky darkness was surprisingly too dark to see anything. If not for Law’s commentary, I wouldn’t have had a clue what they were doing.

Grigoriy Dobrygin (A Most Wanted Man) was highly unmemorable. I kept hoping he would do something. Bar the final three minutes, I would have said he was completely useless. Silently stewing in the background while fondling his beard.

Bobby Schofield didn’t do too a bad job as he took his first proper feature role as the young outcast Tobin.

His introduction helped provide a little more depth to the crew and eased up this incredibly droll and all too serious affair.

The crew banter was quite good. A naive Tobin standing with a squeegee and bucket asking, “Where are the windows?”.

However, the whole father/son vibe between him and Robinson’s Law was a little cheesy. BUT you just about routed for them.

The pace and story just didn’t justify the 114 minute running time. Not enough going on.

It didn’t help that the explosive finale got things going again and then just ended. Abruptly and predictably.

Shame.

It wasn’t all bad but it wasn’t that great either.

2/5

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DRACULA UNTOLD REVIEW

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Dracula Now Told! And it’s still the same old predictable guff. Ah ah ah I’ll get my coat. But one thing is established. Luke Evans is ready to take on the big dogs.

Yet another Dracula reboot descends upon the silver screen. Why, oh, why? Have Hollywood ran out of ideas that they must revisit and rehash (emphasis on hash) old classics.

NOW credit where’s it due. Director Gary Shore certainly makes an ambitious debut and despite its endless flaws, I did find it highly watchable and not the worst way to kill 90 minutes. Dracula Untold was also the perfect platform for two up and coming stars.

We’ve seen Dracula as a baddie. Now we have the revisionist phase in which ol’ Drac is now the good guy. Wait? What? It kinda worked with Maleficent. Why not? Did Shore not watch the short-lived TV series that was on this year with Jonathan Rhys Meyers? (A shame because JRM was actually pretty good).

So what’s it all about? As his kingdom is being threatened by the Turks, young prince Vlad Tepes (Evans) must become a monster feared by his own kingdom in order to obtain the power needed to protect his own family, and the families of his kingdom.

Luke Evans has making waves for some time and has proven that he can make incredibly tame and flat characters quite memorable. His turns in Fast and Furious 6 and the Hobbit trilogy proved that. Now he has a bigger platform and a role to sink his teeth into (What? I couldn’t resist).

His charisma and conviction certainly makes the predictably bland Drac stand out. He most certainly carries the film. Something you want from a leading actor.

Evans always had a tough act to follow with Christopher Lee and Bella Lugosi taking on the historic role before him. (Gary Oldman didn’t do too bad a job of it). However, he certainly held his own. I expect to see more of him.

Charles Dance brings his creepy demeanor to the fold and makes a memorable impression. “Let the games begin” was a cheeky Game of Thrones nod. Cheeky. The first time. The second and third time after was just plain lazy. His make up was brilliant. I only recognized him by his iconic sinister voice.

The special effects are very good but the overuse of CGI makes it all a little too cartoony after some cracking visual battle sequences. I think they missed a treat by not shooting this in 3D. I know 3D hasn’t really hit it off. Well, did it ever hit it off? But this is one film that could have nailed it. When Evans first evaporates in a dark cloud of bats, it was pretty damn cool.

But after that, it’s get old really quickly. Once he’s dispatched an army here. And an army there. Exploding into bats and walking like a bad ass. There isn’t much else. The story line is ridiculously predictable and so flat. There are no twists or turns and the concluding moments were rushed into a frenetic finale that was so abrupt and open that it left me feeling a little miffed. Putting it mildly.

It didn’t help that despite having a talented supporting cast, the characters were highly unmemorable and undeveloped. Dominic Cooper was wasted as the maniacal Memed. Left to merely pout and frown and get a two minute scrap. A real shame.

I couldn’t take Paul Kaye seriously as Brother Lucian. I couldn’t tell if he was meant to be that laughable or was just written that way. I guess it don’t help seeing him in Spaced and Blackball. I couldn’t take him seriously in Game of Thrones either, to be honest.

The alluring Sarah Gadon has already stolen my heart after her appearance in Belle. She has some good chemistry with Evans and for a brief moment, I actually cared what happened to the pair. I expect to see more of her. No, not in that way. Come on.

The two leads will come out of this relatively unscathed and Shore will also be one to watch. Once someone gives him a fresh, original idea. But his reworking of a constantly revisited icon was not the worst one I’ve seen by a long shot. (Dracula 2000, anyone? Sorry Gerard Butler).

If you are a fan of Dracula, then invest. If you like your action fast and constant, then again invest. But if you were expecting a little more and something a little different then you may feel a little drained. (I know not my best).

Certainly a lot more watchable than I anticipated.

2.5/5 for me.

HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS REVIEW

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Oh Hec . . . Well this is a mixed bag, isn’t it?

One thing that can be agreed is that Simon Pegg is brilliant and shows how much he has progressed from his Spaced days. Providing charisma and charm to an otherwise weak protagonist made all the difference.

The end result did leave me with a smile but the journey along the way seemed to stumble and stammer along, failing to decide on what tone to set. It teeters from feel good dramedy to hard hitting drama with the results mixed as none of them really gel or hit home as much as you’d expect or hope.

The slow burning opening does put you into a bit of a lull which is not a good start. Of course, the point is that we are supposed to see the source of Hector’s frustration as he plods on through his mundane life on auto pilot. But we get that connection in the first two minutes not twenty.

Pegg has great chemistry with the alluring Rosamund Pike but she is soon cast aside to Skype cameos as we follow Hector on his pursuit for happiness (No, different movie) after a mini-meltdown with one of his clients and Pegg’s many comedy counterparts Tracy Ann Oberman as the ill-titled Pathetic Jane.

The meltdown sequence allows Pegg to shine (with a catchphrase to remember). However, there only seems to be moments. A moment where Pegg can be funny. A moment where Pegg can act. It’s just not consistent enough.

A humourous incident in which Hector tests the versatility of the unbreakable cutlery on the first class flight was a good gag. A conversation with a cancer patient made for sobering viewing but was ignited by solid acting. We get to travel across the world(Well, China, Africa and America) to find the essence of happiness.

To be honest, the main message I got from the film was travel the world. Not just Africa. An elongated kidnapping sequence just didn’t seem to fit in the film at all and how Hector got out of it involving a pen from a drug kingpin was just stupid.

It helps that Pegg has a good supporting cast. It’s just a shame that anyone could have played their parts. Jean Reno played the arrogant and erratic drug king pin as well as you would expect but this didn’t seem like the sort of film to make satire. Satire that is not that subtle or clever.

Stellan Skarsgard was wasted as the affluent businessman who has it all. An encounter on the plane made for funny viewing as Hector irritates Skarsgard’s slumbering businessman. However, once they get into China, Skarsgard’s character is pushed aside.

At times, it was hard to feel sorry for Hector when he tends to act quite selfishly, especially when he has such a supporting and caring wife. I know, that’s life but as a film when you’re supposed to be rooting for the little guy, you end up wanting to slap him round the head and tell him to go home.

A lapse in judgement nearly leads to our “hero” sleeping with a hooker (played well by Ming Zhao). Why go out for burgers when you have steak at home? According to my brother who attended the screening with me.

Togo Igawa played the kind hearted monk well and to be honest, I wanted to see more of him. I know that this film was adapted from a book but this only spurred me to read the book to see if it is as bad as the film.

The weird cast asides and little convos with Hector’s inner child and childhood dog didn’t go anywhere and didn’t really fit. They felt forced into the film. Toni Collette played the old flame as well as she could bar one good scene in which they confront each other over their past.

Christopher Plummer makes a crazy cameo as the eccentric professor who can detect happiness in the brain. (Yeah, it really was as boring as you think). But Plummer manages to make any scientific mumbo jumbo sound believable with his dulcet tones.

It’s all hit and miss. Certainly watchable and Pegg has proven that he can act and act well. It will be great to see his next project with a better character, better story and a bit more room for him to apply his spiel.

The better moments seep through when Pegg is allowed to be . . . Pegg. It’s not bad but if you’re looking for a feel good travel movie then watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

It has good moments and an easy going message by the ending. That corny predictable ending.

2.5/5 for me.

Not bad not not great. Shame.

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!