HARDCORE HENRY REVIEW

Stupid, ridiculously violent, messed up BUT . . . not bad at all.

Henry is resurrected from death with no memory, and he must save his wife from a telekinetic warlord with a plan to bio-engineer soldiers.

Imagine if Crank was made into a f**ked up first person shoot em up video game walk through and you wouldn’t be far off this.

A disjointed flashback with a wasted Tim Roth (Wasted as in talent NOT wasted in the other variety) and an ultra-violent 80s style James Bond title sequence didn’t build high hopes. Seriously I wasn’t ready to see a dude glassed in the throat super slo-mo styley within the first minute.

However, the opening lab sequence was engaging enough as Henry received new robotic limbs and instructions from the lovely Haley Bennett (The Girl on the Train). The make-up effects and CGI were impressive.

The whole thing felt like it had been taken straight out of a video game. The hum drum clunky dialogue between the scientists made me laugh. The gamer nerd in me smiling from ear to ear.

The only problem was that these are the sort of sequences I frantically press any button on the controller to skip.

BUT it didn’t mess about. Quickly establishing the premise and throwing us straight into the chaos by the 15 minute marker. Some guff about bio-engineered soldiers and Henry being the only one who can stop them. Blah, blah, blah.

Danila Kozlovksy (Vampire Academy)’s Akan looked like something out of Devil May Cry. The blond hair. The creepy demeanour.

His camp panto performance shouldn’t have worked as well as it did. BUT he was the perfect villain for this piece. Lapping it up and delivering one of the best lines I’ve heard in a while: “If I took this moment and put it in a cup of tea, I wouldn’t need any sugar”. Brilliant.

However, there was one man that stole the show. And sorry Henry, it wasn’t you.

Sharlto Copley (District 9), take a bow! I can’t tell if his turn was a master stroke or just plain bloody awful. Either way it was funny as hell. He was brilliant as Jimmy, Henry’s partner-in-crime.

Constantly popping up between each violent encounter as an even more ridiculous avatar. Be it an uptight colonel, a pot smoking hippie, a Sinatra crooner or a camouflaged hedge (Yep. You read that right).

What a ride! The action set-pieces and chase sequences were relentless as Henry jumped off moving cars, buildings and clocking up the body count in a number of brutally violent ways.

At one point, out hero strangles a dude with his own robotic eye socket! WTF! All aided by a cracking soundtrack. A mish-mesh of Russian techno and 80s synth pop.

The first person POV perspective was fun. The only problem was that as the action got more chaotic, the more disoriented I felt. The shaki-cam drew flashbacks to my first viewing of Cloverfield. Didn’t think I could get vertigo watching a film. Sheesh.

You could tell this was written by a gamer fan boy. The riotous brothel shoot-em-up was ridiculous. Especially when Jimmy upset some attractive katana-bearing ninja dominatrix assassins. I’m not making this up, I swear!

What helped was that writer/director Ilya Naishuller didn’t take this too seriously. It was fun for all the wrong reasons BUT done in the right way. I laughed at the chaotic conversations between the Russians as they kicked off, throwing the subtitles into one big illiterate mess!

The only problem was that as it drew to its stupendous finale, I felt exhausted. The carnage cranking up to 11 as a mangled Kill Bill/A Clockwork Orange homage-inspired showdown took the biscuit. Seriously, at one point, Henry was climbing up bodies suspended in mid-air.

I knew it wasn’t going to win merits for plausibility BUT it really bugged me that Akan was the only one with telekinetic abilities. Why? Something to do with the bio-engineering, I guess.

However, it all spiralled into one big bloody mess that ended rather abruptly. BUT by that point, I didn’t care. After the random cameos, I expected Henry’s big reveal to be somebody . . . big. No disrespect to Andrei Dementiov.

If you’re up for a frantic no-holds barred action bloodfest to kill 90 minutes, then look no further. Otherwise steer clear.

2.5/5

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*NEW* THE HATEFUL EIGHT REVIEW *NEW*

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Well, I didn’t hate it. QT is back and bigger than ever. But better?

In the dead of a Wyoming winter, a bounty hunter (Kurt Russell) and his prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) find shelter in a cabin currently inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters.

From the beautifully shot opening, I was entranced. The 70mm film format capturing the picturesque cinematography of QT stalwart Robert Richardson perfectly. The credit sequence accompanied by an original Ennio Morricone score (The first in 30 years) brought back that old school nostalgia of the classic Westerns.

However that nostalgia soon dissipated when Russell’s John Ruth crossed paths with Samuel L Jackson’s Major Warren sitting on a cushion of dead bodies. After an initially tense and intriguing introduction with QT’s chapters popping up left, right and centre, the first hour soon churned along at an agonizing snail’s pace.

There wasn’t enough tidbits, stylish dialogue or suspense to keep me going. It was almost mind numbing. I felt a sick feeling in my stomach. Russell, Leigh and Jackson were doing their best BUT it wasn’t entertaining enough. A running joke about Jackson receiving a letter from Lincoln did the job BUT I found the first act lacking. That was until they reached Minnie’s Haberdashery.

A grotty shack with even grittier lodgers. It really was a case of the waiting game. BUT was it going to be worth it? Trapped for the next few days during a blizzard, the tension bubbling. Each shady individual casually interrogated.

Russell and Jackson were superb. They had a real rapport and ran the show for me. Leigh was brilliant. A real rough looking menace with an acid tongue. It was great to see a good portion of the QT regulars popping up in this. What a supporting cast. However, some characters didn’t quite deliver as much as I had expected.

I have been a big fan of Walton Goggins for some time after some cracking turns in The Shield and Justified. QT finally gave him the platform he deserved as the gullible dim wit Sheriff Chris Mannix. He was perfect. His dumb theorizing and poor deducting skills delivered the laughs.

Tim Roth was great as the delightfully flamboyant Oswaldo Mobray. If anything, I wanted more of him in this.

Bruce Dern (Nebraska) and Michael Madsen weren’t quite as interesting as I’d hoped. Once Jackson delved into Dern’s past a little more, things got going BUT Madsen was a highly unmemorable red herring. Mumbling and grimacing away to no avail this time.

I was more entertained by James Parks (Kill Bill) as the unlucky stage coach driver O.B. and Demian Birchir’s (The Heat) Senor Bob.

At first, it had my curiousity. BUT once Jackson’s Major began to suspect foul play and connect the dots, it finally got my attention. It was funny how convenient everyone’s back stories were. Ruth conveniently bumps into the town’s new sheriff and hangman at the same time that he’s bringing in a huge bounty? Hmm . . .

After that insufferable and completely unnecessary intermission*, the second act redeemed itself. A tense little nail biter with a few twists here, some grandiose Jackson monologues there, and all the demented mayhem you could expect from a QT flick. It was bloody, violent and ridiculous. Typical of the man and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You really couldn’t take your eyes off it. Lulled into a false sense of security. The finale was every bit as outrageous and brilliant as I could hope for.

I was ashamed to doubt QT. It was always going to be tough to top Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction BUT this certainly wasn’t QT’s weakest effort. That honour goes to Jackie Brown or Death Proof.

Overlong and a little patchy in parts BUT once it going, it was everything you could want from a Tarantino penned Western.

3.5/5

*The intermission was a joke. I don’t know whether in the States QT did something special in those 15 minutes BUT over here, it did nothing. Probably didn’t help that the cinema had already closed the food and drink stand. Logic? None, apparently.

SELMA REVIEW

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David Oyelowo delivers an outstanding performance in this highly watchable biopic.

So what is it about? Selma is a chronicle of Martin Luther King’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.

I am a little ashamed to say that I knew nothing of the Selma March. I know who Martin Luther King is and what he stood for. BUT I didn’t really know the full extent of what the man accomplished. Other than deliver the “I Have a Dream” speech.

Farewell, Danny from Spooks. I was afraid that David Oyelowo would never be able to shake off that iconic TV role for me. BUT in the last two years, I have seen him popping up in films more and more with his performances getting better and better; Jack Reacher, Interstellar, The Butler.

I was waiting for him to get a meatier role to sink his teeth into and nothing could be bigger than the role of Dr King.

He was fantastic. I went back to watch the infamous speeches of Dr King and Oyelowo captures his posture, his voice, the little pauses and tone perfectly.

I am surprised that he didn’t at least receive a BAFTA nod for his performance.

I mean if Laura Dern could get a Best Supporting Actress nod for Wild, then the man definitely deserved one. No disrespect, Miss Dern.

The opening sequence surprised me in which we see Dr King receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Another fact I did not know. This is soon followed by the unexpected (No, seriously. I jumped out of my seat) and harrowing 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.

Director Ava DuVernay handled the material delicately. Four little girls killed through brutal ignorance. Subtle but tough viewing.

To be honest, Selma was a little slow to get going. Considering the powerful opening, the drama seemed to be put on the back burner. The back room politics was interesting enough with King attempting to peacefully negotiate the black vote.

BUT the constant flicking back and forth soon put me into a lull.

Tom Wilkinson played LDJ brilliantly. The very definition of a politican. Promising to do his utmost but afraid to make any drastic changes as *cough* another election *cough* is on the cards.

Giovanni Ribisi wasn’t bad. The only thing that was bad was his combover.

The conspiring between LDJ and Edgar Hoover was unsettling. It will always remain suspect what happened to Malcolm X and Dr King. Allowing Dr King to continue to be the face of black rights until he began to challenge everything.

While this is happening, we see the treatment of black voters in the southern states as they try and register.

Oprah Winfrey was very good as Annie Lee Cooper. She wasn’t in it enough to be frank. Her treatment was unnecessary. Having to learn and recite the constitution. Fill in every detail of her form. Quizzed on how many members in a particular state and their names. Doing everything within their power to stop her getting the register to vote.

King soon focuses his attention on Selma. A hot spot brewing with racial tension. The place where he will hold a peaceful march.

The fact he was put under heavy surveillance by the government was shocking stuff. Branded as an agitator for failing to listen to reason and disrupting the peace. A joke.

I thought King’s phone call with singer Mahalia Jackson was a little strange. Calling her in the middle of the night to hear a little gospel? BUT the stranger revelation out of the scene that it was logged in a surveillance report!

I always thought Malcolm X and Dr King were not just fighting for the same thing BUT fighting the same way.

I didn’t realise that King detested X’s violent methods and refused his help during the “peace” protests.

Mr X even tried to rationalize with King. Trying to offer his militant ways as a distraction. To stop the wrong attention being focused on King’s cause.

Tim Roth was very good as Governor George Wallace. He carried the accent well and brought a subtle menace to the role. Not enough of him to be honest.

BUT of course the real battlefield was on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Truly horrific stuff. The riots that ensued before and after the incident were bad enough but the attack on the Bridge was tough viewing. The sequence meshed in actual footage which really brought it home. Knowing that this actually happened. Shot for shot.

However, in between these horrific moments, there wasn’t much else.

It felt like they tried to piece more around the events of Selma.

The dynamic with King and his wife wasn’t explored enough for me. The threatening phone calls and the constant fear of what would happen was certainly a catalyst.

BUT there was a scene in which the government are desperate to destabilise his marriage by sending a recording of King with another woman. He doesn’t deny it very well. A mild insinuation that I wanted explaining.

No one is perfect BUT was it mind games? Or did the government find something on the pastor?

It was great to see Cuba Gooding Jr. and Martin Sheen in this BUT the roles they took on were so unmemorable and small that anyone could have played them.

The sermons, although brilliantly executed by Oyelowo, were a little long at the tooth for me and didn’t hit home as much as I had wanted.

Don’t get me wrong. Selma is still worth investing.

There were some interesting developments that I didn’t know about. The constant mind changing of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) who supported the cause when the odds looked good. Only to pull out when King and the protestors decided to take on the Bridge a second time.

The closing credits around particular protestors had some shocking revelations that I did not anticipate.

The march itself was tense to watch. BUT it just wasn’t quite as hard-hitting as it could have been. I understand that it is based on true events.

BUT it felt like something was missing. The length was a little long for my liking. The politics and sermons seem to kill the tension and pace that was spurning Selma on for me.

However, that doesn’t stop a sterling performance and interesting if (in parts) brutal re-telling of a crucial moment in history.

3/5

GRACE OF MONACO REVIEW

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Nicole Kidman pouts and frowns away as former Hollywood star Grace Kelly. Not as bad as you think but certainly not that good either. A film that questions its own relevance as its draws nearer to its pretentious finale.

We join Kelly as she deals with the crisis of marriage and identity during a political dispute between Monaco’s Prince Rainier III and France’s Charles De Gaulle in the early 60s. With the threat of a looming French invasion, Kelly must deliver her best performance yet. The premise really sounds a lot more interesting than this film actually is. I mean it zips along well enough to keep you watching. But it seems ridiculously exaggerated to keep you entertained and less dramatic than it should be.

I know there was a little controversy around the film’s release. However, it is done in such a light, fluffy style that you feel like you are watching one of those films on the True Movies channel. Kidman does her best but the material is corny, clichéd, predictable and all a little nothingy.

I was a little anxious on how Tim Roth would convey the Prince after his random twitching and creepy face pulling from the cancelled TV show Lie to Me. However, he was very good and played a much more revered role. To be honest, there is a great supporting cast and they do their best to bring this bumbling biopic to life. Parker Posey (Superman Returns) plays the sour faced cow of a personal assistant to perfection.

The eloquent speaker that is Frank Langella (Robot and Frank – He will always be Archer, Leader of the Gorgonites) providing his supporting gravitas yet again, even if I couldn’t determine what position in the papacy he actually had.

It was great to see Robert Lindsay (My Family) given the platform, even if his accent was a little wishy washy. However, there were a few duds. Roger Ashton-Griffiths (The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover) certainly looked like Alfred Hitchcock but his manner was all wrong and incredibly droll. Terrible. Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes) was a very weak and passive character. Anyone could have played him.

It’s beautifully shot. Kidman does her best. The fact that Kelly’s career was used against the Prince which put her in a state of isolation was an interesting angle that did deliver some watchable moments.

However, addressing the people and learning to act like a Princess came off very hammy. The training montage in which Kidman is pulling faces to convey emotions in a certain way was hilarious. It felt like a parody of The King’s Speech with Derek Jacobi (Gladiator) being a flamboyant Geoffrey Rush.

The whole crusade in which Kelly must choose between her acting career and family did make engaging if predictable viewing. However, the film gets a whole lot sillier and Kidman’s Kelly soon becomes a martyred Diana.

And that’s kind of the problem. The pressures of being a Princess and having a family is a good topic but it was always done so cheesily and predictably that it doesn’t amount to much. Kelly’s closing speech was merely an elongated collection of words with some operatic music for dramatic effect.

It made no sense. Kidman might as well have said this is the part where I say something that will inspire the people and help the nation. That naff, I’m afraid.

This film very much follows the vein of Diana. Corny, predictable, the cast do their best but for all its efforts, you can’t help but feel what the point was in the first place. 2.5/5 for me.

Currently ranks #144 out of 182!