SUITE FRANCAISE REVIEW

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Zuts alors! I’ve seen more drama and heartbreak in an episode of ‘Allo ‘Allo!

Two stars for two charismatic leads.

During the early years of German occupation of France in World War II, romance blooms between French villager Lucile Angellier (Michelle Williams) and German soldier Bruno von Falk (Matthias Schoenaerts).

Such a shame. I really wanted to like this. It’s not all bad. Just a little disappointing.

For all the hype, I expected something more hard hitting.

The opening 15 minutes were slow burning BUT engaging. The archive footage showing German bombers descending upon Paris. Evacuees fleeing to the countryside in fear and desperation.

Williams’ shy protagonist and her uptight mother in law (Kristin Scott Thomas) trying to stick to their daily routine of collecting rent from their tenants. The tenants including several rather talented actors. Shame they weren’t used to their full potential.

Thomas (The English Patient) was good as the snobby sour faced mother-in-law. Stuck with a daughter who wasn’t fit to marry her valiant son and despised by the tenants for her ever-inflating rates.

However, there is also a little respect for her refusal to accept that the advancing Nazis are encroaching upon their village.

Williams (My Week With Marilyn) was excellent. She played the naive Lucile perfectly. Desperate to have a friend. Reduced to playing for a few minutes on the piano for leisure.

A harrowing bombing sequence in the countryside was unexpected and heart in mouth stuff. Villagers running for their lives. The Nazis showing no mercy. The silence through the aftermath was unsettling.

However, it seemed to take some time for the Nazi regiment to turn up. Despite the radio broadcast declaring France’s surrender. We are left with mindless chatter with the villagers about what the Germans might do.

The sound of the tanks and footsteps from the soldiers was brilliantly juxtaposed against the church singing as the regiment finally arrive.

Schonaerts (The Drop) made an instant impression. A well mannered officer who only wants a room to sleep and the key to the piano.

I expected the inevitable relationship between Williams and Schoenarts to take some time. BUT there wasn’t much else going on in the hour while this innocent encounter blossomed.

The leads had great chemistry and certainly kept me watching.

That’s not to say there wasn’t things going on BUT I couldn’t help question a few of them.

I felt the mish mesh of accents a little off putting. Considering Thomas is fluent in French, I expected her to see to speak a little of it. The only actor who did speak another language other than the Nazis was Lambert Wilson’s (The Matrix Reloaded) Viscount.

Ruth Wilson’s (Luther) broad English and Margot Robbie’s Aussie-Brit accent were a little annoying but alas, that’s Hollywood for you.

Speaking of which, Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street). I couldn’t help but question her relevance by the end of the film. Other than modelling a fetching set of silk stockings that every villager commented on and scowling, she doesn’t actually do anything or contribute to the story in any capacity.

There were a couple of interesting turns. The bureaucracy jibes being one particular highlight. Wilson’s snobby Viscount desperately bribing the Nazi commander just so his wife doesn’t have to keep an officer at their home.

The letters of gossip that were sent to the Nazis to settle old scores among the villagers was an eye opener. Accusing neighbours of being homosexuals, Jews and thieves. Shocking.

Tom Schilling’s introduction as Lieutenant Kurt Bonnet certainly picked things up. His presence soon becomes a problem for Wilson and Sam Riley’s (Control) family. Riley was quite good as Benoit Labarie.

The inevitable tension between him and Bonnet brewing up to a riveting if highly predictable finale.

But for the 107 minute running length, I felt myself wanting more.

Lucile and Bruno’s relationship was dealt with tactfully. Their brewing romance bubbling over music. Lucille’s loyalties soon torn as she finds herself in a position of power to help the community by using Bruno’s feelings for her.

That dynamic was quite interesting BUT not a lot was made of it. Some of the villagers respecting her for the help. Others disgusted for her affiliation with the enemy.

It certainly captures the humanity behind a brutal war and their relationship certainly carried the film.

BUT it seemed to build to a frantic finale after such a juddery pace. Only for it to end so abruptly with Lucile providing a voiceover summarizing what happened after the war.

Thomas was pushed further and further into the background despite being one of the more interesting characters in the piece.

The ending was quite pessimistic without spoiling too much. I understand that there are no happy endings when it comes to war. BUT it was too open ended for my liking.

Arguably, it was as poignant a statement for the time but when you have invested your time into these characters, a little closure (no matter how open or ridiculous) would have been nice.

It was tough not to make comparisons to other war dramas. I still find The Book Thief one of the better war dramas that I have seen in the last few years.

I kept expecting something more to happen. A bigger impact. Anything.

It was all left until the final 15 minutes and then didn’t wrap up well enough.

Disappointing.

2.5/5

JUPITER ASCENDING REVIEW

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The only place this film is ascending in is my Worst Films of 2015 list.

Messy Matrix effects + a moody Mila = one moaning movie goer.

I always felt the Wachowskis never could reach the bar they set with The Matrix. The sequels; Reloaded and Revolutions were superb in visual and action set pieces but pace and plot? Meh.

I admired their execution of Cloud Atlas even if it was a bit of a mess. The pace and the disjointed story lines didn’t deliver for me.

Now we have Jupiter Ascending. The thought of a Matrix reboot may not be so bad if the guys will stop doing films like this.

A little harsh. It certainly zipped along for its 127 minute length BUT the story made no sense and had more holes than a sponge. And the cast?! My God. They must have been paid a lot of wonga to take on these poorly written characters.

*WARNING* RANT MAY CONTAIN POSSIBLE SPOILERS*

So what’s it about? In a bright and colourful future, a young destitute caretaker (Mila Kunis) gets targeted by the ruthless son (Eddie Redmayne) of a powerful family who lives on a planet in need of a new heir, so she travels with a genetically engineered warrior (Channing Tatum) to the planet in order to stop his tyrant reign.

What?!

From the corny opening, I could feel myself wincing. Maria Doyle Kennedy (The Tudors) and James D’Arcy (Broadchurch) had enough chemistry to make it bearable as they fall in love. Inevitably leading to Jupiter’s conception.

It is only as the film concluded that I realised that the first 10-15 minutes were completely unnecessary and contributed nothing to the story. Only why Kunis’s character is called Jupiter.

D’Arcy’s father figure was prepared to risk his life with some ultra-violent burglars for a golden telescope. The relevance of said telescope in the film? A cryptic map to the universe? A weapon? No, just something really nice and shiny.

The whole ironic illegal “alien” and actual alien status surrounding Jupiter was a nice touch. We soon get a sense of her hum drum routine as a fed up maid. While in a galaxy far, far – No, Saturn. We have the intergalactic royal siblings (played by Douglas Booth, Eddie Redmayne and Tuppence Middleton) squabbling over their inheritance. Their inheritance being planets of the solar system. The most precious, of course, being Earth.

After his Oscar winning turn as Stephen Hawking in A Theory of Everything, I had high hopes for Mr. Redmayne. BUT boy, oh, boy. This is a step down. Razzie well and truly deserved. He must have been trying to do his best (well, worst) Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg impression from The Fifth Element.

Certainly got the haircut. His gravelly gangly master villain was something I expected to see in a pantomine. His volatile behaviour was laughable. At one point, he has a fit of rage that mimicked Delia Smith at that infamous Norwich game.

And she still delivered that with much more gusto. Granted she had way ti many martoonis. To make matters worse, he was virtually absent throughout the film, dispensing his Paul-esque alien henchmen to do his bidding or shrieking on a sofa.

The squabbling royal family had heavy Shakespearean undertones BUT it was hard to take it seriously with Booth and Tuppleton camping it up to the max. The whole solar system as their playground subplot seemed to dampen what could have been a darker affair.

There was a revelation halfway through the film that made things a little more interesting BUT there were still too many issues.

Channing Tatum did his best as the mystery genetically spliced bounty hunter. I’m sure ladies will be happy to see him roller blading in anti-gravity boots with his shirt off for nearly half the film.

There was little chemistry between him and Kunis BUT I got to admit I found Kunis quite weak in the leading role. I know it didn’t help with weak jokes and hammy dialogue. BUT she didn’t deliver any of them with conviction. Too laid back and flat for my liking. I mean her reaction when she is surrounded by bees was worse than Marky Mark talking to a plastic plant in The Happening.

BUT she did look stunning in a bin liner. No, seriously. She wears a dress that looks like a bin liner. Must have spent the budget on the lavish sets. Because it weren’t on the clothes or the writers.

The special effects were, to be expected, superb. The 3D was a little lacklustre for the ticket price. I’m surprised cinemas are still bothering with this silly little gimmick.

The chase sequences were intense. However, they seemed to go on far too long and there was too much going on that it was a little disorienting. And by the end, the animation was so cartoony that it killed off some of the action.

It may have looked good BUT the story was a mess. For every question I had, it was eventually explained but the answer was so ridiculous that I had even more questions. BUT by the end, I couldn’t care less.

I mean there were scenes in which the siblings were controlling ships from their bathing pools? Why? Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s big ears? What up with that? Sean Bean’s space cop and, for some reason, bee keeper mumbling some mumbo jumbo about the history of the universe.

Or should I say, Sean Bee-n (A-ha! I’ll get my coat). Why the bees? Some rubbish about bees detecting royalty. WHAT? The more Sharp explained, the more I switched off. It just got sillier and sillier that it killed the fun and made me a little numb. I was more surprised that Bean managed to survive his movie curse!

Even Tatum’s back story surrounding the origin of his albino werewolf alien hybrid just put me into a mini coma. It just felt that it had too many ideas meshed together with none of them really working.

The creatures that featured in the universe (Well, Jupiter. I think it was Jupiter? And Earth) were brilliantly constructed. An action packed crop chasing sequence that rivalled Signs silenced my nagging voice until a lame punch line involving crop circles was delivered.

The bureaucracy segment in which Kunis must register her “royalty entitlement” in an intergalactic DMV with a robot that could trump C-3P0 in a robo-camp off just didn’t fit with the tone of the film and went on far too long.

The only explanation I could find for it was the surprise cameo from the legendary Terry Gilliam. A sight for sore eyes. Wachowskis trying to do a Brazil reference? If so, don’t do it again.

I know these sort of things are done with a level of exaggeration BUT it helps to have characters you care about. That’s half the battle. The other stuff could be as stupid as you like BUT alas, it was not to be.

It was all rushed and resolved so cheesily and predictably. Hinting for another like all the endless teen sci-fi flicks. But hopefully no one will take the hint.

2/5

THE RAID 2 REVIEW

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The Dark Knight of Action Movies? Sorry guys not for me. The woes of hype and the dreaded sequelitis hinder a brutal tour de force of bone crushing awesomeness. By all means, it’s still one of the better films out there at the moment but at a whopping 2 and a half hours, some might feel they didn’t get enough blood for their buck.

Now, I loved the Raid. A friend recommended it. The premise was nothing special. Sounded like Dredd. A swat team hunt down a dealer in a tower block but what came next was something fast, frantic, furious and f- flipping awesome. The Raid knew what it was. Didn’t mess around. Quick set up of who is who. Bad guy. Good guy. Let the mayhem ensue. Leading to one of the best action films I have seen and no wonder it became a cult hit and no wonder that there would be a sequel.

Now finally getting the attention it deserves and a wider release, hype spreading like wild fire, the anticipated second serving is unleashed and unfortunately for me, it was a mixed bag. Now it would help to have watched the first installment and ideally quite recently as well; as I struggled in the opening 20 minutes to remember who was who. Kudos to Gareth Evans for actually attempting to tell a story and set up a plot. The flicking back and forth and a shocking opener had me amped up and ready. The general gist is that only a short time after the first raid, Rama (Iko Uwais) goes undercover with the thugs of Jakarta in an attempt to bring down the syndicate and uncover the corruption within his police force.

Once the flicking back and forth is dealt with and the premise set up, it does burn on the Bunsen at a low flicker which, to start with, works to its strengths. The plot set up juxtaposed between a worn Rama prepping for an intense prison punch up, delicately teases your blood lust and tests your patience. However, after a while, that latter part of the sentence soon grates on you as my eyes starting to wonder at the little hands on my watch. Evans is a maestro with the camera filming the fight sequences and like most big action movies, he wants you to wait. Feeding your action movie palette with little blood-curdling adrenaline pumped tidbits until that macho main course finale. However, what I liked about the first Raid. There was no need for that wait. I would happily wait if the story warranted the time. But for me, it didn’t.

The first half an hour in which Rama’s cover is set up was well worked and the prison sequences were fantastic. Tense, violent and brilliantly choreographed as Rama must earn the trust of the son of a kingpin, Uco (Arifin Putra) in order to work his way up the chain of command. Unfortunately, I have seen this premise done a lot better and a lot quicker. At first, endearing as Rama must distance himself from his family for their protection soon drags on and the next hour or so, is endless slow paced exposition with an intense five minute punch up or shoot em up, followed by more predictable back stabbing and droll exposition. A few twists pick up the pace, some unexpected, others blatantly obvious.

However, the final forty minutes. Now that is what I waited for. Bold, brash, brutal, gory, violent, breathtaking. The Bunsen is soon obliterated in a fierce finale with kick ass kitchen kick offs, crazy car chases and mindless violence. Check, check and hell yes! The car chase sequence was one of the best I have seen in a long time. Intense fighting and crazy driving surpassed the relentless CGI and intensity of the Matrix Reloaded by miles. Within the fight sequences, Evans created three memorable and soon to be cult classic characters that make worthy foes for our powerless protagonist. In the red corner, the shade wearing, hammer welding, alluring deaf assassin, Alicia or the appropriate named Hammer Girl (Julie Christie) and her baseball carrying nutter of a helper, the . . .  Baseball Bat Man (no, seriously, that is his credited name – played by Very Tri Yulisman) and in the blue corner, the double bladed bearing badass The Assassin (Cecep Arif Rahman).

It may drag with predictable climbing through the ranks exposition at a questionable length but when it unleashes the action, this is where it excels. Evans still recruits a strong Indonesian cast and hasn’t tainted or given in to Hollywood pressures, except for one minor scene in which they unexpectedly speak English. The cinematography gives off a more polished look to its predecessor which makes it stand out so much more. So well done, Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono. The real wizards are the stunt teams and the cast who perform them. So in all in all, not bad. Bigger? By the end, definitely. Badder? The foes? Definitely. But better? Not to me. Slow, meandering, the film could have been cut by an hour and been so much better for it. Invest by all means just be patient and the pay off will be worth it. If you want it fast, furious and constant, then go back to the first. 3.5/5

Currently ranks #22 out of 165!