*NEW* THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN REVIEW *NEW*

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Not that magnificent BUT still worth a watch. Yee-ha!

Seven gun men in the old west gradually come together to help a poor village against savage thieves.

It’s always going to be tough to follow in the footsteps of the iconic 1960 Western classic (When does anything ever beat the original?) BUT thanks to a talented cast and some action packed set pieces, this did just enough to stand on its own two feet.

I was happy to see another Western (NOT penned by Quentin Tarantino) sneak into the busy schedule of endless rom-coms, sci-fi epics and teen blockbusters.

The slow burning opener didn’t build my hopes up. The lacklustre lines, the cliched townspeople, that feeble introduction to a weak and weasley villain Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard – Jarhead). I was reaching for my tomahawk!

BUT thankfully once the mysterious Joe Chisolm wandered into town, my griping was subdued.

I couldn’t think of anybody better to follow in Yul Bryner’s footsteps than Denzel Washington. He was everything you expected. Cool, calculated and somebody you wouldn’t want to mess with.

The initial ‘getting the gang together’ spiel did take a while BUT I didn’t mind watching each member make their introduction into the mix.

Chris Pratt stole the show yet again by being . . . Chris Pratt. He’s no Steve McQueen BUT the card wielding smooth talker delivered enough charm and quick witted one liners to keep things entertaining.

It was good to see Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket) get a meatier role as Jack Horne. If Hodor came from the Deep South, he would probably look like him. “I think that bear’s wearing people clothes”.

Ethan Hawke was brilliant as the decorated veteran Goodnight Robicheaux. I wish more was made out of his partnership with the knife wielding Billy Rocks.

Finally Byung-hun Lee was able to show off those blade skills in something other than a G.I. Joe movie!

The pace dragged like a mule in the desert. BUT once the gang finally warmed up to one another and the uneasy alliance began, I was pleasantly surprised.

The heated tension subsiding into idle banter. Faraday (Pratt) and Vazquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) delivered some of the better exchanges.

I was a little disappointed that the feisty Haley Bennett (Hardcore Henry) was pushed into the background after taking a pivotal role in persuading the men to save the town. BUT this was always going to be about the Seven.

And that was the problem. There were too many characters. Luke Grimes (Fifty Shades of Grey) was completely unnecessary. He brought nothing to the mix. Another cook spoiling the broth.

Martin Sensmeier got lost in the thick of the action after making an impressionable introduction as Red Harvest; the Comanche dispatched on a tribal quest.

Mauro Fiore’s cinematography was breathtaking. He really captured the picturesque landscape. Brilliant.

And one thing can be agreed; Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day/The Equalizer) knows how to deliver a shootout!

The tension was perfectly executed as the gang bumped heads with “the local law enforcement”. Ticking all the boxes for a good ol’ fashioned Western.

I was hoping that Sarsgaard would have been a little stronger. He was such a nothingy villain.

I could get that with an army of a hundred mercenaries and endless wealth that he would be a little cocky BUT every scene he was involved in, he just didn’t do anything for me.

I wasn’t unsettled or hooked. Just bored and wondering what Denzel and that dude from Guardians of the Galaxy were up to?

For those familiar with the original, it stayed very true to the story line (Despite claiming to be a “reboot”). BUT it was still somewhat of a mixed bag.

It delivered enough bang for your buck and really pushed that 12A limit to the max with the violence. The number of flying axes and endless machine gun fodder. The body count was crazy.

BUT with so many characters in play; too many got lost in the mix of endless explosions and casualties, which spoiled things for me.

However, despite a drawn out pace and weak villain, this was still a fun, action packed blockbuster that complimented the original and delivered a thrilling and satisfying finale.

Let’s hope this might trigger a comeback for the Western.

3/5

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*NEW* SUICIDE SQUAD REVIEW *NEW*

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Meh. I didn’t hate it. Didn’t love it either.

Based on the DC Comic, the government gives a team of super villains a chance at redemption. The catch: their mission will probably kill them all.

The first 30 minutes was brilliant. It hit the ground running and got straight to business.

Director David Ayer’s rapid quick cut editing and mad eclectic soundtrack ticked all the boxes as each dysfunctional member of this demented squad were introduced with their own theme song and back story.

A little silly BUT it gave off that Guardians of the Galaxy vibe.

BUT despite doing a good job of flicking through everybody’s origins and getting them into the mix as quickly as possible, more time should have spent on that.

I don’t think newbies or non-DC fans need to know too much going in BUT I was more intrigued in the back stories we were teased with than the Enchantress’ apocalypse plot.

We only had a taster of the warped relationship between Harley Quinn and the Joker in several flashbacks.

The biggest scene stealer and the one I was looking forward to seeing was (of course) Margot Robbie (Wolf of Wall Street).

She captured Quinn perfectly. Mental and vexing in one scene, troubled and lost the next. And not too bad on the eye either (What?). She really picked up the pace which tragically lagged.

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Jared Leto, on the other hand, failed to make an impression on me. I was unconvinced by his clips in the trailers.

I said the same thing for Heath Ledger back in the day BUT he proved me wrong tenfold and became one of the best Jokers I’ve seen.

I mean there were a lot of factors going against Leto. BUT after hearing all the weird method acting rumours and the lengths he went to get into character, he was only in this for 15 minutes.

He looked the part BUT in one scene, he won me over; the next he infuriated and that laugh! Sounded like he was trying to cough up something stuck in the back of his throat.

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He wasn’t really necessary or needed in this piece as Harley’s origin story was rushed through too quickly.

BUT this wasn’t the Joker’s movie. It was supposed to be about the Suicide Squad.

I had to agree with someone who said this movie should have been called Deadshot. We had more exposition and focus on Will Smith’s hitman than we did on anybody else.

We had his troubled relationship with his daughter. Animosity towards the Caped Crusader.

I thought this could be a different role for Smith BUT he provided his usual spiel and whether it was the shoddy lines in the script, it just didn’t work. I was impressed with the effects and Deadshot’s shooting skills BUT it soon got very repetitive and very dull.

His fractious relationship with Joel Kinnaman’s Flag was the only thing that broke up the monotonous action. I haven’t really rated Kinnaman in his Hollywood endeavours (The less we say about Robocop, the better) BUT he was great as Flag. The rock that was weighing down on this bunch of parasites.

Jai Courtney’s Boomerang should have been so much better than he was. His quips and quirky behaviour had potential BUT wasn’t really explored. All we knew was that he carried cans of beer and a pink unicorn under his jacket. Okay then.

Karen Fukuhara’s Katana was a waste of time. An unnecessary addition to a bloated squad. Everyone else had a quick synopsis about their past. All we got was a quick flashback to an irrelevant street brawl to explain why she was late for the party.

Oh . . . and some guff about her sword bearing the soul of her dead husband?! What? Why? By the end, I didn’t care.

Adam Beach’s Slipknot was also another waste. His introduction nothing more than a statement from Flag (and a poor one at that). Jay Hernandez’ Diablo just moped around. His personal reasons for not fighting were so freakin’ predictable that by the time he wanted to share, I wanted him gone.

Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje (LOST) was another disappointment as Killer Croc. The make-up and effects were brilliant BUT he was in the background far too much.

Viola Davis (The Help) and Ike Barinholtz (Bad Neighbours) made more memorable turns! Frankly, Davis wasn’t in this enough BUT thankfully we might be seeing more of her.

The second half ruined the whole thing. It took such a sombre turn and got far too serious with our motley crew all suddenly growing a conscience.

I didn’t think the team really gelled enough to forge proper bonds and considering how violent and anti-social they were, they decide to look out for each other and become pals in one night? Come on. It hampered the momentum of the piece a treat.

They spent so much of the running time squabbling, escaping or sulking. The relationships were either forced or clichéd.

The middle act meandered along and when we weren’t subjected to petty feuds, we had a ridiculous end of the world plot that had me in stitches.

The supernatural stuff didn’t work one bit. Cara Delevigne did her best as the Enchantress BUT her character was far too weak and the shoddy CGI didn’t do her any favours.

What was the deal with her demon dance?! She was supposed to be summoning a death machine NOT the funky chicken.

The story line got so stupid that you began to wonder why we needed these guys in the first place.

Especially when we had cameos from a couple *COUGH* SPOILERS *COUGH* members of the Justice League. And that finale was so hammy and stupid. The demon fight sequence – what da fuq?

Mixed bag, to say the least. I’ve seen a lot worse.

A mad riotous opening first half was spoiled by a lagging pace, clichéd dialogue and a complete mismatch in tone with a ridiculous finale.

If Ayer could have kept that mad energy and stopped trying to be like every other superhero film, then we would have had a winner.

A fun mess that’s not completely worth the mauling it’s received.

2.5/5

*NEW* SABOTAGE REVIEW *NEW*

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This was sabotaged from the start.

Members of an elite DEA task force find themselves being taken down one by one after they rob a drug cartel safe house.

From the guys who brought you End of Watch and Training Day. That tagline delivered so much promise BUT failed on so many levels.

From the opening, I felt like I joined the movie halfway through. It certainly grabbed my attention BUT only because I was so bloody confused.

It kept flashing forward as we follow a botched raid on a Mexican cartel safe house and the ongoing investigation after a $10 million overhaul went missing.

Considering the strong cast consisting of; Terrence Howard (Empire), Josh Holloway (LOST), Sam Worthington (Avatar), Joe Manganiello (True Blood), Mirielle Enos (The Killing US) and Arnold “GET DOWN!” Schwarzenegger, I haven’t seen such an UN-interesting bunch of characters in quite some time.

The cliched macho talk and poor banter did nothing to win me over. The cartel stuff was so generic. It was merely used as a poor plot device to hide the inevitable backstabbing that would inevitably happen among the team.

This could have been a perfect platform for Arnie to have a pop at some serious acting. I couldn’t think of anybody better to play the head honcho of a dysfunctional and deadly team BUT I have to say that this was one of his most wooden performances to date. And that is saying something! He made something that should have been a sure thing on paper seem like such a stretch.

After watching Big Love and the American remake of the Killing, it made a change to see Enos play a drug addicted adrenaline junkie on the verge of a breakdown. Tragically, the more we saw of her character, the more annoying she got. So annoying in fact that I prayed for her swift exit.

Worthington’s performance was laughable from his mangled accent to his horrendous beard. A shame, really. His character was the only one that had a little bit of depth. Albeit, a cliched one.

The story line involving corrupt cops should have been writer David Ayer’s forte (by now) BUT alarm bells were ringing at the obvious plot holes – it had to be a team member that stole the payload. Because every other cartel member was butchered.

After a stupid BUT watchable first act, it took a good half hour before anything really happened. My curiousity was finally peaked when (out of the blue) a team member was bumped off in a highly gruesome manner. Olivia Williams’ (Rushmore) introduction was a much needed trigger and certainly got the ball rolling.

BUT I was too distracted by her nauseating accent. Her character was a total bad ass. BUT she caved into Arnie’s “charm” so easily and had a terrible sidekick in Harold Perrineau.

The wafer thin characters and agonizing pace didn’t do the movie any favours and even when the body count rose, my interest sank. The cloak and dagger stuff behind the task force had potential as Williams’ investigation was hindered by red tape.

I don’t mind dodgy and corrupt antagonists BUT I just didn’t care by the end. The Shield (one of my favourite shows) had me secretly rooting for the bad guys BUT the only rooting I did for Sabotage was for it to finish.

It felt like Ayer was poking fun at the very genre that he has been so accustomed to. For all their flaws, Harsh Times and Street Kings were solid efforts by comparison.

A dull story line with poor revelations was thankfully thrown out the window BUT replaced with an even more ridiculous shoot em up and a laughable street chase with incredibly dire techno video game music.

The ending was horrendous. It was supposed to be this big unravelling moment and a huge sombre footnote to the piece BUT it was just terrible. The overlong pace and poor storytelling literally left a stellar cast waiting around for Arnie to show more life than an IKEA table.

I’ve never been so disappointed in a Swarnie flick and it’s not as if the expectations were ever high in the first place.

2/5

FURY REVIEW

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Feel the fury! Well . . . Sort of.

NO! It’s not another Marvel hero origins movie. Although how good would a Nick Fury movie be? Anyway . . .

David Ayer (Training Day/End of Watch) pens a hard hitting visceral war drama with the aid of a stellar cast.

BUT with an overlong running time and a lagging middle act, it falls short of the greats.

It has been a while since we had a war film and within the last two years, we have been rewarded with several. A little resurgence, almost. Not a bad thing at all. The only problem after so many classics (The Bridge on The River Kwai, The Great Escape, The Guns of Navarone to name a few); is the next film that follows merely a regurgitation?

Saving Private Ryan and the equally brilliant Band of Brothers certainly broke that mould and proved otherwise BUT in the process left a tough act to follow. And I find it hard not to draw comparisons. The Monuments Men felt old before it even got a chance. A rehashed Dad’s Army with little on laughs and little on drama. Fury on the other hand . . .

“Ideals are peaceful. History is violent”.

Let’s start with the good. You can normally bank on Brad Pitt. And he delivers another solid performance. If you’re expecting Lieutenant Aldo Raine from Inglorious Basterds, you may be left feeling a little disappointed. But Pitt certainly brings a charismatic character to life in his expressions and posture alone.

Where Ayer excels is in the little things; the impact the war has had on the soldiers psychologically. Of course, Ayer shows the level of chaos and destruction that has been brought to Germany as the Allies make the final push. An opening sequence in which we have nothing but silence as a German soldier rides a horse over a field of fallen men was both haunting and harrowing.

Ayer makes an interesting commentary on the human condition. The fact that the soldiers no longer see themselves as human. They are simply killing machines, fighting for survival. The meal sequence perfectly demonstrated this. The scene may have dragged nearer the end and lulled what was a suspenseful and tense encounter but the point was still crucial.

Lerman played the part well as fresh meat Norman Ellison, a typist who has been called up to help in the final push. The juxtaposition between him and Collier (Pitt) work brilliantly. His quick lessons of war by Collier hit home.

The meal sequence was a perfect comparative piece as Collier (Pitt) and Ellison (Logan Lerman – Percy Jackson) attempt to have a moment of normalcy in which they sit at a table to have a meal with two German women. The rest of team inevitably crash the party. It was a perfect statement exemplifying that war changes everything and everyone.

That normalcy is weakness but where it was interesting at first, it dragged on far too long. Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) was demented but also quite irritating as his character continued to yammer. Where I felt compassion for the man, I soon prayed for a bombshell to get him off the screen. Terrible to say for such a film.

Shia LaBeouf (Transformers) was an unexpected surprise. After all the controversy surrounding his personal life and the rumours going around about his “method acting”; one particular rumour being that he actually pulled out one of his own teeth to get the feel of the character, he gave a good (and quite normal) performance.

The action was brutal, graphic and violent. It made a change to have a tank warfare film (I can’t recall too many tank movies in particular). The set pieces in which the tanks battle against each other were brilliantly executed.

The claustrophobia and pressure of fighting in a tank was captured perfectly. Ayer allowed for some moments of camaraderie between the rag tag team of misfits and showed how in sync they had to be to survive attack after attack.

To be honest, I was happy to see more of that. The only problem is that the more explosions and battle sequences we got in the second half of the film, they seemed to mesh into one continuous sequence and what didn’t help is that some of the characters didn’t really shine as much as you anticipated. You felt empathy because of what they were fighting for but otherwise . . .

Michael Pena (End of Watch) was highly unmemorable merely repeating other character’s lines and stating the obvious, “That’s five against 300”. A shame considering how talented an actor he is. Bernthal’s indecipherable yammering did my nut in and after a while LaBeouf’s preaching prattled on a bit.

The ending was tragically predictable which is a statement in itself as how many outcomes can there be in a war? I will certainly not forget what those men went through but will I remember this film? I mean Saving Private Ryan had an array of characters with such a simple story line but it had me engrossed, routing for them.

Fury caught my attention but I could feel my eyes wavering over that watch again.

The set pieces are good, if a little repetitive. The cast do their best if their characters are not as rounded as you would hope. Ayer delivers a visceral, if overlong, war drama but it didn’t quite hit it off for me.

3/5

THE EQUALIZER REVIEW

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Denzel + Hit Girl = a dull long winded action flick. Redeemed by a few moments of carnage.

The Equalizer or Man on Fire 2 (if Creasy chose retirement and decided to work in a DIY store) proved one thing. That Denzel Washington is still very much the man.

He provides yet another powerhouse performance proving why he is one of the best actors going. But I fear he may have taken too much on with this one.  Normally you can bank on Washington to carry films that (on paper) may be a little lacklustre but this really did test me.

Washington’s presence certainly makes this just about watchable but it’s still a disappointing mess reprieved by two good performances and some moments of mayhem.

An agonizing coma-inducing opening did not help matters. We get an idea of Washington’s life in a few shots that should have taken up a couple of minutes not twenty. It meandered along as Washington keeps up appearances blending in and trying to maintain a peaceful (and incredibly boring) life.

It was incredibly clichéd and predictable as Washington banters with the staff. That and a tedious subplot in which he helps his best friend Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis) train for his security guard exam. However, his little improvised dance routine is one I will be busting out the next time I hit the town.

Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick Ass) and Washington worked well together. You felt for her character instantly but the constant café meetings to build up a relationship that was clearly established just further slackened things.

I was waiting for the inevitable incident that would activate Washington to take action. An incident that would put Moretz out of action until the closing minutes when she pops back up as a mere afterthought. It’s surprising to see how grown up she has become but anyone could have played her. Anyhoo . . . By the 45 minute marker. FINALLY things got a little bit more interesting with Washington cracking skulls, taking names and dispensing B-movie one liners.

To be honest, every time he glared and tortured someone, I saw Creasy. The frenetic fist-fighting was a feast for any action junkie. The only problem is that the disposing of unmemorable henchmen was dealt with too quickly.

One niggle that irritated me through this. The Equalizer’s thing was his timing. In one particular scene, he threatens to dispose of the East (Or West. Not relevant) Coast Russian mafia in 16 seconds. Washington does his business in a bloody and incredibly violent fashion. BUT in . . . 30 seconds?

This happens constantly. He says 90 seconds to one person and takes five minutes instead. Is Washington getting too old for this shit? I may not have seen the famous TV series starring Edward Woodward (The Wicker Man) but messing up one of his hallmarks does not bode well.

The final 20 minutes made up for a film that desperately wanted to be cooler than it was. The DIY Die Hard sequence offered everything I expected throughout the film . . . NOT just for the ending. I am happy to wait for the violence and destruction.

BUT only if there is enough story or something going on that’s worth filling in that time. 132 minutes is far too long. The action that was delivered was fast and furious. Washington can most definitely still play the hardened action movie veteran.

Antoine Fuqua may have reunited with Washington for their second outing but Training Day, this ain’t. All the other supporting characters were so unmemorable and clichéd that it frustrated me. All except for Marton Csokas (XXX)

He was absolutely brilliant. A worthy adversary to Washington’s peace-keeping protagonist. His lines may have been hammy in parts but Csokas’ expressions and dead pan delivery made him a villain to remember. His presence in every scene created tension and suspense. Something that was much needed.

After commending David Arbour (End of Watch) for his performance in A Walk Among The Tombstones, I found his character in this very dull, passive and generally unnecessary. David Meunier (Justified) made a more memorable turn in just one scene.

I was annoyed that we barely scraped the surface of McCall (Washington)’s past and the only taster we get is a boring encounter with Melissa Leo telling us what we already knew. And Bill Pullman? Remember him? President of America in Independence Day (Or the dad in Casper). A mere chess playing cameo? Terrible.

Washington makes it rain with quality acting, charisma and some fist-fighting, blood curdling violence. Csokas offers a villain that makes up for the lumbering pace. However, all it made me want to do is watch Man on Fire.

It got there in the end but boy, oh boy. If the credits suggested another one in the pipeline, get a better storyline. Or least some more action. Give it a go but me . . . I’m going to get Man on Fire out of the DVD cupboard.

2.5/5 for me.

RIDE ALONG REVIEW

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Chug along? Cube and Hart make a cracking good duo. Fun enough BUT will it compare to the relentless list of cop comedies?

Security guard Ben (Kevin Hart) must prove himself to his girlfriend’s brother, top cop James (Ice Cube). He rides along with James on a 24-hour patrol of Atlanta.

A mixed bag. It all starts off very predictable, formulaic and unfunny with a deal gone wrong, an inevitable car chase and Cube tearing the place up. He played the straight faced Payton perfectly. BUT beneath the bravado there wasn’t much to his character.

A groggy start (with a feeble story line about infiltrating a crime ring and a rat in the office) is given a fresh boost when Hart is thrown into the mix. His military style precision on a Call of Duty style video game under the alias Black Hammer had me in stitches alone. I’ve been a fan of Hart for some time ever since the Scary Movie films. It’s great to see how far the little man’s gone.

He pretty much steals the show. His verbal diarrhea and high pitched screeching can get a little irritating. Inevitably, it took a little while for Ben and Payton to warm up to one another and the gags were few and far between. I could feel my excitement dropping quicker than Cube busting out a fresh freestyle.

Once the pair got going (Luckily) so did the film. There was a fantastic scene at the shooting range in which Hart is trying to show off. His feeble attempt blowing up in his face . . . literally. They did their best and it’s not a complete write-off. Hart upsetting a biker gang and picking a fight with a child. Brilliant.

Being held up in a warehouse in a battle of wits. Done to death. They had a nice angle with the Training Day parody but never really took full advantage of it. Maybe the 12A rating softened it all up but more could have been made. Hart being thrown about was only funny up to a point. He’s little. We get it. It got a chuckle. BUT doing it several more times? Come on now.

I liked the chemistry between Hart and Tika Sumpter (Salt). I would have been happy to see a little more of that than Cube’s stone cold expressions. Pardon the expression. BUT it was great seeing Cube keeping it dead pan with Hart coming out with all sorts of crazy stuff. Brilliant.

I was surprised to see the likes of John Leguizamo and Laurence Fishburne in this BUT they struggled to make a real impression with their dull and unmemorable characters. And that’s part of the problem. The terrible plot about a generic arms deal with the “surprise” twist being some predictable double crossing stretched the film out. It left little opportunities for gags and wasted a good cast.

When it was funny, it was on fire but when it’s wasn’t, it was slow and repetitive. Less Ride Along and more chug along. Hart was the man. I just wish he’d had better material. It did just enough. But if you’re looking for a consistently laugh out cop comedy, check out The Heat.

Cube and Hart did their best. And it did enough to get me excited for the upcoming sequel. Let’s hope they make amends with more gags or a better plot. If you’re up for a laugh, give it a go. Just don’t expect too much.

3/5 (Just)