*NEW* THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. REVIEW *NEW*

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Slick, cool, funny. Guy Ritchie is back with a bang!

In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill – Man of Steel) and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer – The Lone Ranger) participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons.

I know that this was based on the original TV show BUT I’ve never seen it so I can’t make comparisons on Ritchie and writer Lionel Wigram’s (Sherlock Holmes) adaptation.

The first hour was action packed and reminded me of the spy movies of old. An elongated opening car chase ticked all the boxes (Even if it was hindered by shoddy CGI). It certainly injected the fun back into the spy genre. Now that the Bond films have gone in a darker direction, I felt the corny one liners and light humour was a much needed tonic. Giving the piece a nostalgia feel.

Cavill was fantastic as Solo. The more I watched him steal the show, the more I thought to myself, “Bond”. Despite playing an undercover CIA asset, he would have been a perfect replacement. The looks, the charm and the charisma. But alas, the Justice League has claimed him as the Man of Steel for the foreseeable future.

I loved the dynamic between the trio. They were perfectly cast. The fiery Alicia Vikander playing the reluctant mother to two sparring boys. Cavill and Hammer worked well together and made Solo and Kuryakin’s fractious relationship entertaining as hell. “This is not the Russian way!” It was good to see Hammer excel as ‘The Red Peril’ after the lacklustre Lone Ranger.

The quick witted exchanges and uneasy tension kept me going (Through some of the sillier moments) with the pair constantly trying to get one up on each other at every turn. From their overcompensating gadgets and hotel room bug stand-off to dressing Gaby (Vikander) for her cover -“The shoes won’t match. They don’t need to match”.

Vikander and Hammer had great chemistry as Gaby is reluctantly assigned to Kuryakin as his undercover fiancee. I just wish Vikander’s back story was more interesting. The story line involving her missing scientist father was a little weak. I loved how we only got tidbits of Solo and Hammer’s past.

Jared Harris was wasted in his small supporting role as Solo’s handler Adrian Sanders. He delivered yet another another mangled accent BUT at least this one was better than his Irish rendition in that horrific Poltergeist remake.

However, the second half of the film was where things went wrong. It was very clunky and disjointed. The tone was mismatched and took a much more serious turn that didn’t quite work. A highly macabre scene involving the pair bickering while their suspect was being roasted on an electric chair in the background was too much. Especially after the easygoing pace and playful banter.

And tragically, the pace did get hampered by the plot. And for all its “complexities”; the story was far too predictable. Typical guff involving Nazis and the Cold War. Go, figure! It killed a lot of the fun and momentum that had kept me entertained for 60-odd minutes. The inevitable double bluffing and backstabbing between the team got a little long at the tooth for me.

Elizabeth Debicki (The Night Manager) was wasted as the femme fatale Victoria Vinciguerra. She did her best with the role but was left in the background far too much. Only coming back for the frantic finale.

The same can be said for Hugh Grant (Four Weddings and a Funeral). God, he’s looking old. He wasn’t in it enough. His renowned bumbling and quick witted exchanges a welcome return; “For a special agent, you’re not having a particularly special day, are you?”.

The finale brought everything back into play and made up for a stumbling middle act with a mad dash explosive climax and (Hardly a spoiler!) it left things open for another. One sequel I would look forward to watching.

If Ritchie and co can just trim the length, get a better baddie then we’ll be good to go. BUT this is still worth a watch if you’re in for the mood for a cool spy caper with a great cast.

3/5

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LOCKE REVIEW

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Tom Hardy is back. Better? Definitely beardier. Along with another strange accent. Unfortunately boyo I had to Google that you were trying to be Welsh. I thought he was doing a broken South African mish-mesh of an accent. Anyway, I digress. A strange exercise that tests the acting abilities of the charismatic actor but unfortunately at times tests the very patience of the viewer. I am just sitting here. Driving a car. Okay? That is pretty much the premise of Locke.

85 whole minutes of our leading Locke talking, swearing, revealing not so dramatic revelations and dealing with the aftermath as he drives down the motorway. I can appreciate Steven Knight’s ambition with a talented lead actor, this had all the potential to be something so much more. Attempts have been done before with one actor, one scenario for an extended time. Buried, Cast Away, 127 Hours come to mind. I’m sure you can think of others, hell even better ones. Now I’m a huge fan of Knight. I loved his previous efforts; Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises and the underrated BBC gangster series Peaky Blinders.

Interestingly enough Knight has recruited Hardy for the second series. However, Knight isn’t perfect by any means. Let us not forget the humdrum Hummingbird. However, he did get a convincing turn out of The Stath. I don’t really want to divulge into the story line. There is a dramatic incident that has caused Locke to drop everything he is doing and get on that motorway. When it is first revealed, it is quite suspenseful and tense. However, once the said incident or twist is revealed and Locke has to wait for the aftermath, we are left with his character talking to an empty seat supposedly possessing the metaphorical spirit of his dead dad or banging on about concrete.

I kid you not. I have now been educated in concrete. I did not know how important it was in the structure of a building. Consider myself told. The main problem is that even with Hardy’s conviction and stamina, it comes off almost like a parody. You feel like he is taking the mick out of himself. Random tantrums, weird accents, it’s all there. I was impressed with the cast. Well, the voices. They do their utmost to keep this project from flailing.

Olivia Colman provides the plaudits once again following an award winning turn in Broadchurch. Even if it is in reduced phone call tit bits. Ruth Wilson (Luther/The Lone Ranger) managed to make a mark, especially in the closing minutes as Locke’s wife. Ben Daniels’ character, appropriately labelled on Locke’s phone as the Bastard, brought the odd laugh. Intentional is another matter. The main scene stealer, however, is (Did You Miss Me Moriarity) Andrew Scott as the dimwit drunkard Donal. Scott manages to provide a much needed comic relief to something that just should be more dramatic but really isn’t.

Locke’s intentions and behaviour are bizarre but not completely unjustified but somehow it just doesn’t quite hit it for me. And for all his crazy driving, I expected a different finale but was left deflated and scratching my head. A topic that certainly has moments of well-acted, or well voiced moments, but really could or should have been put on Film Four as a TV movie. Nothing more.

Hardy manages to get this stuttering old (been there seen that) banger to its intended destination but I just wish they had given him a better vehicle on a better route if you get my drift. A missed opportunity for an ever growing prolific actor 2.5 out of 5!

Currently ranks #142 out of 182!

TRANSCENDENCE REVIEW

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Transcen-dunce or dense. A mind numbingly drab affair of a concept that has just enough meat to be a generic TV movie you’d expect to see on late night SyFy. You know you’re onto a loser when the opening five minutes pretty much tells you what to expect and an established cast sleepwalk their lines and fail to make an impression. The list of contenders for worst film of 2014 keeps growing.

*WARNING POTENTIAL SPOILERS* A surprising . . . ly slow and spoilerific post-apocalyptic opening made for strange viewing, followed by a flashback piecing together the aftermath. Slow but go on. This is soon hit with mind numbing techno gobbledygook that even the normally prolific powerhouse that is Johnny Depp is so bored of explaining. Basically the gist is that controversial scientist Will Caster (Depp) is the foremost researcher in artificial intelligence who is working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. ZZZZZZ! However, this has made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him. A crazy sporadic two minute killing spree soon stopped me fidgeting in my seat. Unexpected (if you don’t remember the trailer) and engaging, I thought here we go. Boy, was I wrong?

Their attempt to destroy Will inadvertently becomes the catalyst he needed to succeed. Fighting for his life, Caster becomes a participant in his own “transcendence” by uploading himself and becoming a power mad information feeding virtual freak. If I had known, the journey that was in store, I would have stayed at home. There is a surprisingly stale chemistry between the beautiful Rebecca Hall and Depp. It was as if writer James Paglan thought; well they are a couple, you must feel for them. We won’t enforce the feelings or develop them. Just insert some corny, generic couple-y moments that take up too much screen time. Once Depp is uploaded, he becomes a monotone and incredibly droll menace that dithers in the background. Hall does her best to carry the film with an impeccable accent. The divided loyalty and questionable motives behind the rebooted Depp made for potentially engaging viewing but it didn’t really go anywhere. An elongated and drawn out 45 minutes building up to Depp’s upload did not do any favours for patience. His drawn out complexion and wirey helmet (easy now) was reminiscent of a demented Hellraiser. Again, nothing surmountable.

I mean the battle and debate about the ever-growing potential of AI is always an intriguing one. “Was Caster really there at all or did the AI get too clever?” was intriguing at certain points. But at a whopping two hours, there just wasn’t enough with the inevitable ending vastly approaching. Fantastic to look at. The visual effects were good. A redeeming sequence in which “Caster” has managed to develop nano bots to create an army of super soldiers delivered the little action that appeared to be on offer with some more familiar supporting faces; Clifton Collins Jr (The Event, 24) and Josh Stewart (Criminal Minds, The Dark Knight Rises). However, there is one scene which had me in stitches, whether they ran out of budget or poor editing, one of the enhanced nano bots shows off his incredible talents by jumping up two steps on a ladder. If I could find it, I would show it. Hilarious.

That’s not all that’s hilarious. The story makes no sense at all. Cillian Murphy and Morgan Freeman do absolutely nothing to uplift this mess. Because their characters do absolutely nothing. Even though they are aware of the dangerous effects of Caster’s ever-growing power, they just look at charts, mumble some data mumbo jumbo, rush about at the end and . . . watch from the sidelines. Freeman proved one thing. That even with his dulcet tones, he can make any bad line good. “With one of the most advanced security measures in the world, my own team got killed by poisoned cake”. Paul Bettany’s character gets imprisoned by a terrorist cell. Sits about staring blankly into nothingness while being lectured at by Kate Mara’s cyber hippie terrorist. His motives become dreadfully unclear in which it skims forward two years and he’s joined the cell. Freeman even asks him how they got to him. A shrug. That’s all we get. A shrug. Something I fear the writer or director did while making this.

A dreadful directorial debut for Wally Pfister. Now Pfister is a talented cinematographer who has worked extensively with Christopher Nolan for the last decade on some of his biggest hits to date. With Nolan as executive producer, no one would have expected this. Pfister delivers a mess, a beautifully shot mess, but a mess all the same. Perhaps stick with the cinematography? Harsh, maybe. The idea was an intriguing prospect but a lack of pace, a plot holed story line with an inevitable ending is hardly going to make this a memorable film. I mean I’m going to remember this for the two hours I lost. This also marks another step down for the prolific Depp. He is still a talented actor and the argument that he has been poor since Dark Shadows is harsh. His performance redeemed The Lone Ranger in my opinion but it was still a flop. And this film will do him no favours. Perhaps a better look at the script before accepting the wonga. That’s the only reason why I think, or hope, that the cast took this.

It just proves that a little thing called story, along with some others called character, plot and interest still count. Sleep walking performances, along with a by the numbers story line, relying on the popularity of familiar actors does not a good or profitable movie make. I fear the memory of the film will transcend, evaporating like the little nano-bots into nothingness. Avoid or upload at your own peril. 1/5

Currently ranks #168 out of 169!

STOP! OSCAR TIME. THE RANT . . . I mean nominations.

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Awards seasons is well and truly underway and of course the OSCARS are vastly approaching. The nominations are here at last. Granted, I’m a little behind. Hey, I’ve been busy. Plus it’s been good to see people’s reactions on the list. Now, it’s my turn.

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  • So first up, here are the nominees for BEST PICTURE; 12 YEARS A SLAVE, AMERICAN HUSTLE, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, GRAVITY, HER, NEBRASKA, PHILOMENA and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET. 

Mixed bag for me. Some of these riding on too much hype. Hype always helps in getting films noticed but these ones? Hmmm . . . personally, I feel that American Hustle and Captain Phillips do not deserve this nod. BEST PICTURE to me, means the best film in story, acting and . . . well everything. Both excelled as acting showcases but all in all, were both drawn out, long winded affairs that lost my interest through the halfway point. There is no need to make a film two to three hours unless the ends justifies the means. Now, Gravity is another over-hyped example. Deserves all the nods for visual and special effects but at it’s core, I personally felt the film died off when *SPOILER* Clooney did. In all fairness, he deserved a Best Supporting nod. He stole every scene. At Gravity’s core, however, is the same old predictable story of survival. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I had more enjoyment out of Armageddon! If she died, would have been a waste of time, so only one way it could go and it felt like an eternity not 90 minutes.

The others I have yet to see. The joys of being in a town where there are no independent or arthouse cinemas. BUT I have done my research. It’s great to see Nebraska and Philomena getting a nod. Philomena is a fantastic film, if unexpected nomination. However, these are definitely going to be the outside bets. Same applied for Dallas Buyers Club. Now, this is where my bias kicks in. Huge Scorsese fan! So I want Wolf of Wall Street to win. But I would say 12 Years A Slave will get this in the bag. The reaction has been a lot more united on this picture, while American Hustle and Gravity have torn people straight down the middle.

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  • Next, BEST DIRECTOR! And the nominess are; Alfonso Cuaron, GRAVITY, Steve McQueen, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, Alexander Payne, NEBRASKA, David O Russell, AMERICAN HUSTLE, Martin Scorsese, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Directors- not too much to say. You know who I want to win and frankly he has been ignored for too long. Scorsese finally got an Oscar but one of his weaker projects. Getting one for Wolf of Wall Street would rectify that. But I think it will be between Cuaron and McQueen. It should be McQueen but can’t help but feel Cuaron will nick something from all that astronomical hype (See what I did there).

  • BEST ACTOR – Christian Bale, AMERICAN HUSTLE, Bruce Dern, NEBRASKA, Leonardo DiCaprio, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 YEARS A SLAVE and Matthew McConaughey, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

In all fairness, I wasn’t surprised that Tom Hanks didn’t get a nod for Captain Phillips. Tremendous actor that he is. He only really got the final 10 minutes to show why he has earned that reputation. It was a wasted platform for him. Christian Bale was a surprise. Powerhouse actor but I felt he was incredibly passive and to be honest I have seen him do much better. He should received this nod for The Machinist. A painfully drab film that was uplifted by his sheer performance. American Hustle not so much. In all fairness, I felt Idris Elba should have had one more for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. A flawed biopic that was carried by his sheer gravitas. I mean, Denzel Washington got one for Flight and well . . . that was nothing special. Even Colin Firth should have received one for The Railway Man. The emotion he delivers through his expressions is worthy alone. However, Leonardo DiCaprio has excelled film after film. He deserved an award for Django Unchained and should so for the Wolf. People are saying this is his year but how many greats have not been acknowledged by this noble award ceremony? Should be DiCap but money’s on Ejiofor. Great to see him get recognised for the talent actor that he is and no, not just because he was in Kinky Boots (that was filmed in my hometown. NORTHAMPTON!).

  • BEST ACTRESS – Amy Adams, AMERICAN HUSTLE, Cate Blanchett, BLUE JASMINE, Sandra Bullock, GRAVITY, Judi Dench, PHILOMENA and Meryl Streep, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY. 

Right, love Amy Adams and Sandra Bullock but Best Actress? No. Adams’ accents were irritating, especially her “English” one. Great performance but not Oscar worthy. Same for Bullock. She expressed and delivered all the emotions any one could feel in that situation but I struggled to keep up with the film. I mean Doubt was a slow-burner but I couldn’t stop watching because of Streep’s performance. Ironically, multi-Oscar winner Streep has been nominated yet again. Not undeservedly so. She may have done some duds, but no one can doubt her performances and abilities. Keeping in mind with my previous comments, an actress I couldn’t keep my eyes off (Not like that! Well a little) was Cate Blanchett. BJ (Come on! We’re better than that!) Blue Jasmine was a ‘GOOD BUT . . .’ film for me. BUT Blanchett’s performance was impeccable. I think she will win. I really want Judi Dench to win. A fantastic actress and her performance as Philomena was funny and endearing but the buzz is pointing to Mrs B. Also, where was Emma Thompson’s nomination for Saving Mr Banks?! Shocking. Can’t believe she got cut from the list.

  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Barkhad Abdi, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, Bradley Cooper, AMERICAN HUSTLE, Michael Fassbender, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, Jonah Hill, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET and Jared Leto, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

Now firstly, not a bad selection. However, I do feel Hiroyuki Sanada should have a nod for The Railway Man. However, I’m not going to lie, I get confused with the release date period plus in the UK we seem to get everything a few months behind. Abdi was incredibly sinister and played the part well in Captain Phillips. I want Bradley Cooper to win. He has excelled since the Hangover and he stole the show, well almost, in American Hustle. That nod goes to someone else.  Money’s on Jared Leto who has been the dark horse and winning a few awards already for his performance.

  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Sally Hawkins, BLUE JASMINE, Jennifer Lawrence, AMERICAN HUSTLE, Lupita Nyong’o, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, Julia Roberts, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY and June Squibb, NEBRASKA

There can only be one for me in this group who managed to make a quite pointless character enjoyable and memorable and that is Jennifer Lawrence. It’s a shame because Sally Hawkins was very good in Blue Jasmine. Interesting that Julia Roberts is supporting? From the trailer, I assumed that the main storyline revolved around her character and Streep was the supporting role? Hmmm.

Now, the others. Harsh but these ones get rushed across or are previewed during the relentless red carpet coverage or all the advertisements. It’s infuriating because these awards are still important; a good script with a good story makes a huge difference. Editing, sound, cinematography helps create a film and make it more memorable. If the sound doesn’t match or the film looks too grainy, that’s it, you’re out of there but hey ho.

  • BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – 12 Years a Slave, Before Midnight, Captain Phillips, Philomena and The Wolf of Wall Street

Money is on 12 YEARS A SLAVE!

  • BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club, Her and Nebraska

A tough one. All valid candidates for a change. Now, Alexander Payne is normally the king for nailing this so I would say Nebraska. But I feel O’Russell will lose out on the bigger fish and might just sneak this. However, Oscar nominee regular Mr. Woody Allen might fancy his chances. Tough call. Gutted that Kelly Marcel didn’t get the nod for  Saving Mr Banks.

  • BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest and Celestine, Frozen and The Wind Rises

Got to be between Frozen and Despicable Me 2. Now, I want Despicable Me 2! Minions all the way and if they could accept it either dressed as Minions or an animated acceptance speech, that would be great (In Office Space voice). However, Frozen would be more fitting of the Oscars though. Both enjoyable none the less.

  • BEST ANIMATED SHORT – Feral, Get a Horse!, Mr Hublot, Possessions and Room on the Broom

Money’s on Get a Horse! It’s Disney, John Lasseter produced, can’t see any others beating it. Feral as the outside bet possibly.

  • BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – The Grandmaster, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska and Prisoners

Money’s on Gravity. As much as it may have been overhyped, one thing that can’t be argued is the look of it. Beautiful and stunning. However, Prisoners was shot fantastically as well. But Gravity, all the way.

  • BEST EDITING – 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club and Gravity

American Hustle, methinks. I feel the film will pull in what it can because it may fall short of it’s buzz. However, Greengrass’ projects of late have been commended for their editing. Gravity may miss out in place for the more visual awards.

  • BEST COSTUME DESIGN – 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, The Grandmaster, The Great Gatsby and The Invisible Woman

12 Years and American Hustle look outstanding in their design but there can be only one for it’s lavish and luscious costume and that goes to the Not-So-Great Gatsby.

  • BEST MAKE UP – Dallas Buyers Club, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, The Lone Ranger

Would be great to see Jackass to win for Knoxville’s make up but as it’s “Oscar season”, money on Dallas Buyers Club. Although strangers things have happened.

  • BEST MUSIC – The Book Thief, Gravity, Her, Philomena, Saving Mr Banks

May have cut short on everything but surely Saving Mr Banks will win this one?!

  • BEST SONG – ‘Alone Yet Not Alone’, Alone Yet Not Alone, ‘Happy’, Despicable Me 2, ‘Let It Go’, Frozen, ‘The Moon Song’, Her, ‘Ordinary Love’, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Would love Happy to win. I mean it’s been number one in the charts over here for how long? Plus it’s a TUNE. However, Disney are a tough competitor. But let’s not forget that fateful year when Amy Adams sang live two or three songs that were nominated for Enchanted. Only for the couple from Once to win. Only one nomination in the group. Also, Three Six Mafia (Who?) have got an Oscar. Haven’t done much since. Didn’t do much before. Just stayin’ fly, I suppose 😉 Still don’t remember them? John Stewart said what everybody was thinking at the time, “Three Six Mafia 1, Martin Scorsese 0”

  • BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Gravity, The Great Gatsby, Her

Toss up between Gravity and OK Gatsby (What? It weren’t that good. Nice to look at, though). Got to be the Gats.

  • BEST SOUND EDITING – All is Lost, Captain Phillips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Lone Survivor

Gravity or The Hobbit. I would say, The Hobbit will get one preciousssss

  • BEST SOUND MIXING – Captain Phillips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lone Survivor

Inside Llewyn Davis might snag this one and hopefully avoid a complete snub. We shall see. If not, there is only one, preciousss because one film of this magnitude does not simply go to the Oscars and get one award.

  • BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger, Star Trek Into Darkness

Gravity. Sorry, oh Smaug, breathtaking beast that you are but you cannot match the beauty of the Earth. Star Trek, fantastic effects but alas, worse than that, it’s dead Jim.

The other nominations I am unfamiliar with and I don’t think it’s fair to comment. Plus not much buzz to go. Best documentary. I’d place my bets on The Act of Killing.

  • BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – 20 Feet from Stardom, The Act of Killing, Cutie and the Boxer, Dirty Wars, The Square
  • BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT – Cavedigger, Facing Fear, Karama Has No Walls, The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life, Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall
  • BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium), The Great Beauty (Italy), The Hunt (Denmark), The Missing Picture (Cambodia), Omar (Palestine)
  • BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me), Avant Que de Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything), Helium, Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?), The Voorman Problem

A breakdown will down later on, with my Oscar checklist and bets, plus more buzz on the later categories. And let’s see how many on the Oscar lotto I can get. Such fun! Plus Dory’s back! Expect selfies. Run Spielberg Run!