*NEW* THE LEGEND OF TARZAN REVIEW *NEW*

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The king of the duds?

The cast did their best BUT it just wasn’t enough. A disjointed, drawn out and disappointing reboot of the iconic vine swinging jungle man.

Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard – True Blood), having acclimated to life in London, is called back to his former home in the jungle to investigate the activities at a mining encampment.

Once I got over the absence of a Phil Collins soundtrack, I was ready to embrace the start of the summer blockbuster season. On paper, this should have ticked all the boxes. BUT somehow it just didn’t quite deliver for me.

The opening was intriguing enough as Christoph Waltz’s shady Leon Rom (Spectre) struck up a deal with Djimon Hounsou’s (Gladiator) demonic Chief Mbonga. Simple. Access to the diamond mines in exchange for Tarzan’s capture.

However, the pace soon put me into a mini-coma as “civilised” Tarzan skulked around the incredibly drab (and appropriately titled) Greystoke Manor. It was a good 45 minutes before anything got going.

I could respect the writers for trying to shake up the legend BUT they skimmed through the origin stuff far too quickly and replaced it with a dull and predictable story line that was taken far too seriously.

The origin flashbacks were the most interesting bits. I was happy to watch the same old story of Tarzan raised in captivity and fighting with the alpha males.

The lovely Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street) was wasted in her role. She had good chemistry with Skarsgard BUT was confined to playing a damsel in distress. I was thankful that the flashbacks skimmed through their nauseating romance. It was only a few scenes and that was enough.

Waltz played the same stocky and slimy villain to laughable results. I couldn’t take him seriously. He may have had some moves with those rosary beads BUT Rom felt like a complete parody of Waltz’s former roles.

Skarsgard certainly looked the part and put my body to shame with his physique. BUT his broody demeanour and wooden delivery didn’t do Tarzan justice. He got better as the film progressed and won me over by the end BUT it was too little, too late.

Thank God for Samuel L Jackson (The Hateful Eight). A much needed comic relief to the piece. Considering the huge budget, I was disappointed by the shoddy CGI on offer. In one scene, the detail on the apes was uncanny. They looked as realistic as the ones in the latest Planet of the Apes.

BUT then the next sequence, we have Tarzan swinging from one badly CGI’d vine to another. Yikes. It spoiled the whole thing. I knew it was going to be a little ridiculous BUT the stampede finale was horrendous and far too cartoony.

Bearing in mind that Jumanji is over 20 years old (I know, right?!), I’m still impressed with the effects. BUT this latest endeavour actually had me wanting for the old school make up and props from the dated Christopher Lambert adaptation.

The last 30 minutes delivered a lot more of what I had expected from the get go! All the sombre serious drama thrown out for a funny, riveting (if disjointed) mad dash finale.

The fight sequences were actually well choreographed when Tarzan was allowed to show off his super strength. Because (of course) being raised by apes, you develop an incredible bone structure that allows you to dispose of numerous soldiers with one punch. BUT entertaining none the less.

It was all too disjointed for my liking. Robbie and Skarsgard weren’t really in it as much as you’d think. Especially Miss Robbie. She was either tied up (Steady now) or constantly recaptured.

Apart from Jackson, the rest of the supporting characters were either weak or unmemorable. For all of Chief Mbonga’s (Hounsou) promise, his reason for Tarzan’s capture was so predictable and dealt with far too quickly.

Disappointed, to say the least. We didn’t even get to see Skarsgard deliver the infamous jungle call. Just a couple of bellows off screen.

A meandering pace, shoddy CGI and weak characters ruined what could have been a fun B movie flick.

2.5/5

*NEW* IN THE HEART OF THE SEA REVIEW *NEW*

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Thar she blows. Yes it did. A meandering pace and shoddy CGI made this star studded odyssey sink faster than it’s aquatic antagonist.

A recounting of a New England whaling ship’s sinking by a giant whale in 1820, an experience that later inspired the great novel Moby Dick.

It was an experience. The opening didn’t really get things going with Ben Whishaw’s (SPECTRE) Melville bribing Brendan Gleeson’s (Gangs of New York) drunken sailor Thomas Nickerson for the story of a lifetime. Good actors playing dull characters that were merely narrative devices. Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones) was completely wasted in her role as Nickerson’s wife.

The first hour was a mind numbing affair. The pace was agonizingly slow. The drama was far too tame and the accents were terrible. I know they were supposed to be from New England. BUT the mish/mesh of English and American just didn’t work. 

I had full confidence in Chris Hemsworth playing the charismatic first mate Owen Chase BUT the ridiculously cliched introduction with him bidding farewell to his pregnant wife (Charlotte Riley – Edge of Tomorrow) was nauseating. And another waste of an actress.

There was potential in Benjamin Walker’s George Pollard. The captain born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Assigned to Chase’s crew through family ties. Simmering tension that went nowhere. Hemsworth and Walker (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) worked well together and made a formidable pairing. I didn’t realise how much Walker looked like a young Liam Neeson and he did have a particular set of skills. BUT things only really picked up when ol’ Moby made her introduction.

Creeping up like Orca the whale. The first attack was tense and nail biting. And for the next 20 minutes, my grumbling ceased. Howard crafted some much needed suspense as the relentless beast picked off each lifeboat one by one with a flick of her giant tail fin.

As much as I was engaged (at last!) with the action, I was soon put off by the horrific CGI. It was scarier than the creature itself. The white whale looked more like a painter’s radio. It was dreadful to look at. I was more afraid (And still am) of the mechanical monstrosity that was Jaws than ol’ Moby. Even when bodies were falling into the sea and the ship was falling apart, it was far too cartoony. A real eye sore.

Hemsworth (Thor) carried this as much as he could BUT the characters were so weak, bland and unmemorable. Tom Holland (The Impossible) delivered an underwhelming performance as a young Thomas Nickerson. He wasn’t strong enough. I know that he was playing a young sailor on his first voyage BUT if this lad is supposed to be the next Spiderman than I’m going to need more convincing. Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later) was probably the only other crew member worth giving a mention to. Until he was pushed into the background. Shame.

The idea of being stranded at sea for 30-odd days with a whale waiting to pick you off sounded great on paper. BUT this effort only managed to deliver in parts. The plot did take a dreadfully bleak and darker turn. Especially as the men were facing starvation. The inevitable mutinies and plotting soon on the cards.

When the CGI wasn’t ruining it, Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematography was beautiful to look at. Probably NOT the best thing as I was thinking of going on holiday more than wondering whether the characters would survive or not.

I’m normally a huge fan of Howard’s work. He was even managed to make the madness that was The Da Vinci Code enjoyable BUT somehow this latest offering just didn’t do it for me. It was disappointing.

It was far too patchy and didn’t have conviction to be a poignant sea faring yarn or a monster movie. The moral standpoint and grandiose speeches in the closing act really did hamper the whole thing. The conflicts with nature was only really touched on with the hunting sequences. More could have been made out of the meddling shareholders as an inquiry was held into the attack on the Essex.

BUT like the ocean waves, my interest went up and down. A missed opportunity. A black spot on Mr Howard’s impressive filmography 😉

2.5/5

*NEW* SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE REVIEW *NEW*

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Stupid, OTT, juvenile and absolutely hilarious!

Three scouts, on the eve of their last camp-out, discover the true meaning of friendship when they attempt to save their town from a zombie outbreak.

You knew what you were getting yourself into from the crazy opening sequence with Blake Anderson’s janitor (Workaholics) singing away to Iggy Azealia’s Black Widow while a zombie outbreak was brewing in a lab.

It was a brave move to have a virtually unknown cast running the show BUT the lads certainly delivered and will be ones to watch for the future. The feeble story line was a little predictable and formulaic. The camp fire shenanigans and petty squabbling about high school and quitting scouts was a little boring. BUT once the undead entered the mix, things got going and I was sniggering to the end.

The pace zipped and there were some genuine laugh out loud moments. A scene involving a zombie and a trampoline delivered an unexpected and outrageous gag. This was very much in the crazy style of Zombieland BUT the best way to sum up Scout’s Guide would be “If American Pie was a zombie flick . . .”

A group of horny teens trying to save the day. It was exactly what you could expect. Logan Miller’s quest for the perfect apocalyptic selfie with a pornstar looking police officer. A casual Britney Spears sing song with a zombie. A dodgy gum job from Cloris Leachman’s (Young Frankenstein) zombie neighbour. Yup. That sort of movie.

Tye Sheridan and Halston Sage’s (Paper Towns) love subplot was weak. If anything, I thought his character was going to hook up with Dumont’s sexy tomboy stripper (Sorry, cocktail waitress). So there was one surprise. Dumont may have stole my heart (What?) BUT Joey Morgan was definitely the main scene stealer as the over enthusiastic Augie.

The gore was brilliant and used quite inventively. Especially in the stripper club slaughter scene. Miller’s Carter using a bottle to smash in a zombie’s skull, only for the blood to pour out of the bottle neck and spill all over his face.

A blood-fuelled rave sequence delivered carnage a-plenty and a fitting homage to Peter Jackson’s cult classic Braindead. The nerdy saviors kitted out with an arsenal of weaponry; paintball guns, golf clubs, lawn strimmers! Perfect.

The biggest star that I could clock in this mad little zom com was Anchorman’s David Koechner. He certainly delivered as the deluded scout leader with a strange obsession for Dolly Parton. It was just a shame that he was reduced to only a few scenes.

It may have been in the same vein as Zombieland BUT it fell short by comparison. It was never going to match my favourite zom rom-com Shaun of the Dead BUT it certainly didn’t deserve the low Metacritic rating and panning that it has received.

Funny, mental, if a little flawed and predictable BUT fun. I think this one was unlucky to get lost in the SPECTRE and Hunger Games buzz. Shame. Definitely worth a watch for a quick laugh.

3/5

*NEW* SPECTRE REVIEW *NEW*

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Bond is back but bigger and better?

Well done, Mr Craig. You have finally won me over. To be honest, I loved his first outing in Casino Royale (my favourite in the Craig era). He had the charm, the one liners and the look. Ticking all the boxes. BUT Quantum of Solace delivered a much darker and angrier Bond. It was far too intense and serious for me. This had been attempted before with Timothy Dalton in A License To Kill to mixed results.

I didn’t have a problem with a darker Bond. Pierce Brosnan’s efforts (my second rated Bond) was bordering on cartoony CGI and Roger Moore territory. The Saint may have got away with it in the 70s BUT Die Another Day nearly ended it all. A game changer was needed. I respected the change BUT not the direction. It felt like they were trying to turn Bond into Jason Bourne.

However, it was the first series of Bond films that featured an ongoing story arc. Skyfall was very disappointing. For an entry that marked 50 years for the franchise, I expected something a little more. It was over hyped, overlong and if not for a surprising closing act, I would have rated this as one of the weaker offerings.

The one thing I could commend Skyfall for was the little things. The humour, Moneypenny, Q, the Aston Martin DB5. All the things that drew me to Bond in the first place. It gave me hope. Now here we are. The 24th entry of a super spy series. And boy,what a film.

The opening sequence for SPECTRE was fantastic. Slow burning, tense but action packed with a high octane helicopter sequence. As soon as Craig made his introduction, I was sold. The very pinnacle of the iconic spy. Cool, calm and slick. Casually adjusting his cuffs while donning a rifle.

Even Sam Smith’s opening theme delivered. At first listening, it sounded like a bland Eurovision track. BUT I have to say it has grown on me and really fitted the film.

It was great watching Craig enjoy the 007 status. The charisma. The debonair style. Very much in the vein of Sean Connery (My favourite Bond). Old school. Perfect. It brought something that had been lacking in the others. Humour.

I don’t want to say too much about SPECTRE as I want people to see this. BUT for the die hard fans, like yours truly, we witness the return of one of Bond’s most iconic villains. And I couldn’t think of anybody better to take on this prestigious role than Christoph Walz. He was superb. Slimy, sinister and on scene stealing form. My only gripe with his performance was that there wasn’t enough of it.

Dave Bautista was a unit. After his impressive turn in Guardians of the Galaxy, I wasn’t surprised that the former WWE star was offered the role of a Bond henchman. It was a shame that they chose to make him silent. He delivered his best impression of the Mountain from Game of Thrones. His scrap with Craig was one of the best villain fight sequences I’ve seen. You felt every punch.

For all the hype around Monica Bellucci’s role as a Bond girl (Or woman, should I say?), I was left wanting. Steady now. If anything her character was completely unnecessary. She certainly looked stunning and proved all those critics wrong griping about her age BUT her “love scene” with Craig came off unintentionally comical. Kissing while trying to talk chunky bits of dialogue didn’t work and killed the chemistry.

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However, Bond finally met his match with the feisty and resourceful Lea Seydoux. The pair’s chemistry and friction certainly kept things watchable when the pace seemed to drop.

The action sequences were brilliant. The plane chase sequence in Austria was mental. The car chase around Rome was fantastic with the new Aston Martin DB10. It was fast, frantic and hilarious as Bond battled to work out the prototype while dealing with henchmen and Italian pensioners fancying a late night drive.

What I also loved about this was how Logan brought in the rest of the team. It was great to see Ben Whishaw getting more screen time as Q. He had a much better rapport with Craig and was even brought out on location like Desmond Llewelyn used to with Connery. BUT at the expense of Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny.

She still made a made a memorable impression. Especially during a phone call with Bond mid car chase. Ralph Fiennes had a tough act to follow after Dench’s brilliant turn as M. BUT it was good to see him bring something new to the role and get in on the action.

It might help to have seen the other Craig entries BUT you won’t be too lost as Logan and Mendes briefly recap the story arc. As much as SPECTRE ticked the boxes, it wasn’t all perfect.

BEST BOND FILM EVER? Certainly not. The middle act lumbered the pace and when the action scenes had subsided and the couple were travelling, I could feel myself fidgeting after the 90 minute marker. Thankfully, things picked up when Walz was properly brought into the mix with his Dr No-esque lair.

This could have been cut by 30 minutes and been stronger for it. It was good to see a little more cheese and fun with this installment but for some it might be seen as a step down. And after 24 films, there are only so many different twists and turns that you can do with the Bond films. You can’t help BUT retread through old ground. There are only so many homages you can do before it gets repetitive.

The closing finale was fantastic and certainly left a satisfying if cryptic ending. Will Bond die another day? Especially when Tomorrow Never Dies? With the box office booming, is the world not enough?

Slick, stylish if a little overdone, Bond is back and on form. BUT better? Not quite, 007 but good enough.

3.5/5