*NEW* HELL OR HIGH WATER REVIEW *NEW*

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Best film of the year? Hardly BUT this is still one well crafted and brilliantly acted crime thriller. Yee-ha!

A divorced dad (Chris Pine) and his ex-con brother (Ben Foster) resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family’s ranch in West Texas.

A gripping opener certainly set the tone with the amateurish brothers holding two banks in quick succession. The contrast established early on between Pine’s nervous BUT calculated Toby to Foster’s volatile and reckless Tanner.

Pine (Star Trek) was a charismatic presence yet again bringing a subtlety to the troubled thief. BUT it was great to see Ben Foster (Lone Survivor) finally getting a role worthy of his talents. He lapped it up and delivered an engaging performance. You felt your loyalties tested as you loathed him with his bipolar mood swings in one scene and laughed with him in the next.

Suspenseful and intriguing as the crazy duo raced around a barren Texan landscape stealing from the very institution that was trying to steal from them. You could feel for the pair as we got a little hindsight into their fractured relationship.

The pace didn’t mess about for the first half. It jumped from one thing to the next. I was really impressed with Taylor Sheridan’s (Sicario) script. It oozed dark humour with some cracking one liners; “What colour were they? You mean their souls?” He captured a gritty Texan underworld with lively characters. A perfect neo-noir. Hookers sharking around the casino for a quick buck. The townspeople a law onto themselves.

At first glance, I could have argued that anyone could have played Jeff Bridges’ role of Marcus Hamilton. Apart from drawling out racist Native American jibes at his partner (Gil Birmingham – Twilight) and spitting feathers about his impending retirement, I was more intrigued with Hamilton’s interaction with the community.

Draining blood out of a stone as he questioned witnesses; “Yeah, I watched them rob the bank that’s been robbing me for 30 years”. Their unwillingness to help the cops (and banks more importantly) spoke volumes. Especially when the sheriff tries to take back a tip from a waitress (played surprisingly well by Katy Mixon – Mike and Molly) as evidence. A tip that made half her mortgage payment for the month.

Sheridan’s social commentary on the state of rural communities was food for thought; “It’s the 21st century and I’m racing cattle against a field of fire and I wonder why my kids won’t do this?” – a dark glimpse into the future. Ranches and farmers feeling the gloomy uncertainty of what the next generation will bring.

BUT great writing could only really come to life with talented performances, great direction from the Starred Up director David Mackenzie (He’s come a long way from Corbridge) and some picturesque cinematography by Giles Nuttgen. How could he make something so desolate look so stunning? I was even happier when I noticed the original score was penned and performed by Nick Cave.

However, the only problem with these gritty crime thrillers is that there are only ever two outcomes which made certain moments a little predictable and the promising pace did slacken in the middle act.

BUT just when I felt the momentum was dropping; the film swiftly cranked up the heat on this slow burner as a bank run went wrong. Leading to a tense, nail biting and gripping closing act. The adrenaline-fuelled police chase had me on tenterhooks.

Bridges’ character finally came into the fold (unleashing some of that Oscar winning prowess) after countless scenes of him wandering around and playing the waiting game.

The unravelling of the brother’s motives behind the robberies was actually quite clever. I loved how Sheridan encapsulated the hypocrisy of the financial system through the incompetent Loan Officer (Richard Christie). Bureaucracy at its best.

Hell Or High Water was very much in the same vein as No Country for Old Men. Just without all the cryptic metaphors. And the closing minutes. Tense doesn’t even come close. The bubbling tension and still atmosphere, aided by the mere sound of creaking oil pumps between the thieves and their fate, felt like something out of a Western. Perfect.

Film of the year? Too early to tell. BUT certainly worth your attention if you’re in the mood for a well acted gritty crime thriller.

3.5/5

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*NEW* THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART TWO REVIEW *NEW*

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The relentless bestselling blockbuster franchise comes to a close. Did it fly high or flop like a turkey?

As the war of Panem escalates to the destruction of other districts by the Capitol, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), the reluctant leader of the rebellion, must bring together an army against President Snow (Donald Sutherland), while all she holds dear hangs in the balance.

And now it comes to an end. A billion dollar franchise that spawned more bestselling adaptations than I could take and launched the career of one of Hollywood’s top leading actresses. Was it all worth it? After four films with one being split into two parts, did it conclude to my liking?

To an extent, it did. A mixed bag would be the best phrase to sum up my thoughts. A little disappointing after all that promise and build up. Now, I will admit straight off the bat. Like I normally do. I have never read the books BUT speaking with fans, they have generally been impressed with the adaptations.

I have enjoyed the movies. The first installment reminded me of a Twilight take on Battle Royale which worked a lot better than I expected with a stellar turn from that girl from Winter’s Bone. The pace was always a killer for me. BUT there was always something that made me want to see the next one. A twist, a revelation. And now here I am. Desperately seeking the finale to a franchise I never expected to enjoy.

Now, hardly a shocker BUT Part Two follows straight on from Part One with Katniss recovering from a vicious attack from Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). The opening was dreadfully slow but did just enough to keep me subdued as Everdeen watches from the sidelines. The war on the Districts pushing for more aggressive action.

Things did take a slightly more interesting turn as Katniss began to question the agenda of the movement and Coin’s motives (Julianne Moore). Forcing her to make a drastic decision. To go it alone and seek out Snow.

Once the decision was made and the hour marker hit, the film took things up a notch. It was fast paced, tense and gripping. Everything I expected from a finale. The sewer chase was exhilarating stuff as the gang battled demented white zombie creatures. BUT of course, Katniss was not alone.

Who on Earth in their right mind would bring along a brainwashed Peeta? Hutcherson did a great job as the traumatized fighter. His failure to grasp reality and continuous questioning was interesting to start with. BUT the endless “Real/Not Real” quid pro quo with Katniss soon dragged and annoyed the hell out of me.

But then there wouldn’t be any drama, would there? With a more infuriating love triangle than Lost, things come to an ugly head as Katniss is torn between the loyal Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and the volatile Peeta. It was good to see Hemsworth have a chance to step up after being in the background for the majority of the films.

My main issue with Mockingjay Part Two was that it seemed to suffer from the same problems that the final Harry Potters did. It skimmed past too many characters’ back stories and then quickly threw said characters back into the mix for one last hurrah. Jena Malone and Sam Claflin finally reappeared and made more of an impression this time around. To be honest, I had almost forgot about them after Catching Fire.

Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci were virtually absent in this one. Tucci was merely a passing cameo and Banks only reappeared to say farewell. Not even Haymitch’s advice was that memorable or entertaining. Merely regurgitating what we already knew. He literally just disappeared into the background. Shame.

The media or PR team led by Natalie Dormer added absolutely nothing to it at all. If anything, it made me question the relevance of them altogether by the end.

However, it wasn’t all bad. Jennifer Lawrence was superb yet again. The film took a much darker turn than I expected and there were a few shockers in the closing half hour. BUT what didn’t help matters was that we didn’t see half of them. It was merely implied or reported back to us by some extra. Infuriating after all the build up that things were happening off screen.

It killed off a good portion of the tension. There were still some touching moments BUT it came off a little flat and disjointed. I wish there was more of a showdown between Snow and Katniss. I really loved their fractious relationship and their final confrontation was certainly not to be missed BUT somehow despite some revelations, it just didn’t quite satisfy me as much as I thought.

It was also quite sad to see someone else taking a final bow. It may have been some time since his passing but it was a fine performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch. I’m not sure how much of his performance was altered to complete the movie BUT it didn’t spoil the character one bit.

I really do think it will come down to how much of a Hunger Games fan you are. As the credits rolled, a majority of the audience applauded. Guess what part of the audience, I was in. It was certainly watchable and there were some tense and brilliantly acted moments. It is tough to please everyone when wrapping up a series BUT for all the build up and insufferable Part 1 and Part 2, I was a little disappointed and left wanting.

Close BUT no cigar.

3/5

ANNIE REVIEW

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I think I’m going to like it here. Well, I didn’t like this.

A needless remake of a classic musical. OTT, ridiculously cheesy and to make it all worse, it was just rubbish.

From the opening musical number with the sassy Annie (Quvenzhane Wallis) making all the class clap and stomp in tune (The front row the rich, the rest of the class poor) I was cringing. I believe a face palm may have occurred.

Really, Hollywood? An urban take on Annie. On paper, I thought why not? There hasn’t been one BUT rehashing the classics badly with auto-tune? This could have been an opportunity to make a statement on foster care or the social care system under the veil of song but no, no, no.

A poor rehashing of the same old story line that felt even more dated and hammy than the original.

The music wasn’t bad but the “Hard Knock Life” remixed with “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” didn’t do it for me. I felt the choice of Hard Knock Life was a little lazy considering one (of a long list) of the producers was Jay Z.

The whole spring cleaning routine to it was choreographed well but it just didn’t work. “The City’s Yours” sung by Jamie Foxx and “Opportunity” by Wallis were very good.

I did warm up to Wallis by the end but I found her a little annoying and too headstrong for my liking. Look at me, I sound like an old man. But something just didn’t sit right until she was paired up with Foxx. They worked well together and made the predictable cheesy relationship a little more bearable.

Foxx delivered on the singing. Of course, he would. The man won an Oscar for Ray BUT his character Will Stacks was almost a caricature. A deluded politician out of touch with the people.

Hardly original but guzzling hand sanitizer after touching and kissing a few voters? Spitting food at the homeless? Too OTT for my liking.

The auto-tuning video of said food flinging incident did get a chuckle.

Cameron Diaz overacted to the max. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a musical but I couldn’t take her seriously as the volatile foster parent, Hannigan. I winced every time she came on wailing at the kids.

The conviction wasn’t there and she annoyed the hell out of me. That was until she sang. When she first started, I thought “Bloody hell” (Well there might have been a few other choice words) but as the song carried on, her voice got better.

And credit where it’s due. She hadn’t got a bad singing voice. One actress I wouldn’t have minded hearing sing a little more was Rose Byrne. In the scenes she supported, she had a nice voice.

I would have preferred to hear more of that than her long winded stereotypical Oxford talk about being a workaholic and having no friends. That was irritating.

Look, I know musicals are always exaggerated and in your face BUT normally you can switch off and be immersed in it. And that is because as much as the songs stand out, the characters do too but I felt they strung any old cliched character together and just thought “It’s a musical, they’ll love it”.

Let’s not forget Glee is going. The musicals losing their magic once again.

There were watchable parts and the pace zipped along for its two hour length. You could tell the cast were having fun and there were scenes where you got caught up in it NOT just poking fun at it.

The cast choices surprised me. They sung very well even if the reworkings were a little hit and miss. I think I’m Going To Like It Here wasn’t bad, bar Stephanie Kurtzuba’s ridiculous impromptu social worker performance. She did my nut in.

The cameos were a little random. Patricia Clarkson (The Maze Runner) as a focus group member suffering bad side effects after using one of Stack’s phones fell flat on it’s backside. Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje (Mr Echo from Lost) was nothing more than a smiling chauffeur. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

David Zayas (Dexter) didn’t do too bad with his flower shop mope role with a vendetta against the powers that be. Michael J. Fox popping up in a satirical PR campaign segment was a clever touch.

A mermaid movie premiere that ripped off Twilight involving Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher and Rihanna wasn’t bad. It certainly poked fun at the guff that makes money these days.

BUT the rest of the actual movie was just like it!

Bobby Cannavale was on scene stealing form until the last 15 minutes of the movie. Boardwalk Empire’s Gyp Rosetti singing and dancing?! Madness. His song and dance number with Diaz did leave a little to be desired.

But the whole PR campaign in which they used Annie as a marketing tool was a good little bit of satire. Shame there wasn’t more of that to make up for the lifeless characters. Cannavale’s ruthless PR executive certainly kept things moving.

Some of his one liners were spot on; “There have been worst politicians. I know. I got them elected. Schwarzenegger, Kim Jong-Il, that blood diamond guy”. It got one of a few chuckles.

The story was weak. Little orphan looking for parents that left her. Befriending a man out of touch and out of love. Finding each other. Yawnnn.

Plus the plot holes were terrible. Annie sings about the note left by her parents. BUT then later on, reveals she can’t read?! What?!

Granted. Someone could have told her what it said. It would have been more of a twist if the note actually said something else. OR if all the sub-plotting and twists weren’t revealed in song. Seriously you knew everything that was about to happen. Would have been nice to have a little mystery.

Still would have been predictable BUT something.

The film ended so frantically and cheesily that I was shaking my head. All logic out the window for a racy finish. It was stupid. BUT no worries. Throw in some schmaltzy dialogue and a few jazz hands and everything will be okay.

Shudder.

It will be a while before the sun will come out on messy musicals like this. Not a complete write off. There will be enough for the little ‘uns and the hardcore musical maniacs who are not deterred by this review. Sorry, it’s a no from me.

2/5

HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1 REVIEW

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Are you . . .? Are you . . .? Are you going to be seeing Hunger Games? It’s actually not that bad. For something that is essentially build up.

So here we are. The first part of the final film. A reluctant film gimmick that is starting to overstay its welcome. First Harry Potter, Twilight, the extended Hobbit trilogy and now The Hunger Games. It was only a matter of time.

I never read the books. BUT these films certainly got me wanting to. So I can’t make comparisons or comments on the adaptation BUT friends have told me it’s done a pretty good job . . . SO FAR. My main bugbear with the HG franchise is the slumbering pace. The cast cannot be faltered and if you were looking for a strong female lead, you could look no further than J-Law. The role was made for her. The satire and drama was very good but the two hour or so running time left me fidgeting.

The first half an hour of HG: MJ P1 was a little too slow (again) and disorienting for me. A confused Katniss is given a quick recap after destroying the games. Helpful for those not-so-die hard fans. (I know. Preposterous). I can’t believe it had been a year since Catching Fire was first released. How time flies!. The somewhat sombre opening had to introduce a new set of characters as well as explain what happened to the existing ones. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything.

A little patience was required. But once the plot was set up, Katniss caught up to speed and introduced to the full chaos and destruction surrounding the impending rebellion, the film hit its stride.

I was quite surprised at how dark this installment was. I always felt with these teen blockbusters that there was that hesitance to push it a little further. I mean, obviously it’s aiming at 12 and up. The desolate landscape of District 12 was subtly done. A harrowing sight with skulls and bodies making up the majority of the pavement. The silence as Katniss can only look in horror. Brilliantly captured.

The Capitol continue to enforce their dictatorship. Publicly shooting protesters in the main district squares and sentencing anyone seen wearing a Mockingjay symbol with treason. Yikes! While poor old Peeta (PEETA! Every time I hear J-Law warble that name, I think Lois from Family Guy) is being used as a PR tool for the Capitol. His condition, both mentally and physically, weakening by the minute.

Julianne Moore delivered a solid performance. President Coin’s stern demeanour made her a little flat and unlikeable to begin with BUT her encounters with Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) helped bring out her out of her shell a little bit. It is a shame knowing that this will be one of Hoffman’s last films. He was brilliant as Plutarch. A clever PR tactician. His presence will be sorely missed. The fact he can make a small supporting role so memorable just shows how talented the man was.

The green screen sequence allowed for some clever satire and some humour between him and J-Law. Woody Harrelson was great as Haymitch Abernathy. To be honest, there wasn’t enough of him. Arriving exactly where he’s needed. Dispensing his Yoda-esque wisdom while adjusting to being “dried out”.

It’s great to see Jeffrey Wright getting more big screen appearances after his fantastic turn as Valentin Narcisse in Boardwalk Empire. He plays the wheelchair bound Q or gadget geek Beetee well; providing Katniss with a whole new artillery. Explosive stuff. Nudge nudge wink wink.

Donald Sutherland was deliciously sinister as President Snow. BUT shamefully reduced to video speeches and evil orders. Even in the smallest scene, he is able to bust out that shark toothed grin and deliver his lines with sleaze.

Elizabeth Banks was in scene stealing form as Effie Trinket. Her expressions and one liners brought the odd chuckle. I felt that Sam Claflin’s (Love, Rosie) Finnick Odair didn’t really do much. Merely left to mope and deliver one authoritative speech which was nothing more than a distraction tactic.

The same can be said for Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones). Flailing about with a handheld camera. The camera crew was an interesting angle (What?) as they follow Katniss around to make the perfect PR piece to spur revolution among the districts. The editing and tweaking of certain video clips was an all too familiar trait with the current news affairs, let alone future ones.

Stanley Tucci was tragically reduced to nothing more than a boring BBC journalist role, asking an incarcerated Peeta what he would say to Katniss. No chance to shine or camp it up.

The action set pieces were good. The CGI and special effects were spot on. A scene involving Katniss, an arrow and a jet was awesome.

I was surprised at how good J-Law’s singing was. As if I couldn’t find any more reasons to fall for her. (What?) The girl can sing. The Hanging Tree is a broody, haunting but catchy song. Brilliantly composed by James Newton Howard. Different. A lot of people must have agreed as it managed to crack the UK Top 40 Music chart. To think, J-Law didn’t want to do it and tried to fob it off to Lorde.

The closing 20 minutes took the film up a notch. It was suspenseful, tense and promising. Something I want in a build up (Steady now) with some surprising revelations along the way.

I am a little anxious that the final part may be stretched. Something that let down the finale of Harry Potter for me. A book fan. BUT if this was just the build up, I cannot wait to see how it all ends. The closing minutes were unexpected, tense and irritating. Merely because I wanted it to carry on. Something I always expect from ongoing franchises that churn out endless sequels.

Some people may be left a little disappointed as this really is build up to the big finale.

BUT is Hunger Games worth checking out? In the words of Stan’s Dad from South Park, Hunger Games! YA, YA, YA!

3.5/5

If you’re thinking WHAT? Here is the clip in which it is revealed that Stan’s dad is Lorde!

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES REVIEW

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Turtle-y awesome. Cool as shell.

Right, enough reptilian punnery! Let’s do this!

Critically, it’s not perfect. Come on! It’s a film about teenage mutant ninja turtles.

BUT on the criteria of being a fun and entertaining family movie? I came out smiling and that’s saying something.

Now I grew up with the Turtles and was a particular fan of the original 90s movies. Well, the original 1990 movie. The sequels after that were . . . Well, meh. The Secret of the Ooze, oh dear.

Over the years, we have witnessed endless reboots and reworkings that were frankly doing my nut in and when I heard that Bay was bringing them back, I was livid!

I mean he already killed the Transformers franchise. Something that seriously needs to be scrapped.

The trailers gave me hope. They appeared to catch the essence of the gang but their 6 foot gargantuan Hulkesque appearances? Uh oh. But none the less, I went in. A 25 year old with my own gang of miscreants averaging the age of 22.

And I was surprised. Firstly, that there were no kids. All adults. Further cementing the cult status of these iconic reptiles. And secondly, in the film itself.

From the opening introduction, you knew what you were getting yourself into.  A quick explanation of some “scientific” mumbo jumbo about genetic engineering and the inevitable origins of some kung fu fighting critters. Some exposition about a crime syndicate known only as the . . .  Wait for it! The Foot Clan.

Okay, the story is ridiculous. I mean, come on. Any Foot related murders? Really? At least the writers allow the characters to poke fun at the stupidity of it all. A hilarious encounter between Megan Fox (Wowewow. What?) and Whoopi Goldberg (You read that. She’s back . . . in small roles) exemplifies that perfectly as April tries to explain about our heroes in a half-shell (Turtle Power!) to her editor.

Now this is not directed by Bay. It is a Bay produced movie. To be honest, the only thing director Jonathan Liebesmann has borrowed is the special effects, Megan Fox and the wafer thin plot line . . . Oh wait? I can see why the pair have been mistaken.

But Liebesmann and the writers have certainly skipped over the plot holes by filling it with comical scenes, action packed CGI sequences and fun. Something Bay has failed to deliver. Just boredom with overlong running times.

My main qualm was making sure that the essence of the turtles was captured and to that I must commend all involved. The voice cast were spot on. I felt each character was done justice. Some people had found it hard to distinguish between the turtles if not for the different coloured bandanas. I didn’t expect Johnny Knoxville from Jackass as Leonardo. But he certainly brought his gruffy gravitas to the role.

Noel Fisher (Twilight) however . . . TAKE A BOW! He was brilliant as Michaelangelo. Hilarious and instantly loveable. Scene stealing at every possible opportunity. His obsession with a cat playing chopsticks with chopsticks was one gag that did not get old.

The animation was fantastic. The expressions and movements certainly brought the green gang to life.

Megan Fox didn’t do too bad as April. However, just like the Transformers you could feel her character being pushed further into the background as the big guys went to battle. Her insufferable screaming did get a little irritating near the end. It felt like nothing more than a reminder that she was there.

It did feel that Fox was chosen to appease the fan boys of old and new. A news segment in which she must wear yoga pants and pounce on a trampoline said it all about female news anchors and a little about Fox. But she does look a damn sight better without that trout pout now. Anyhoo . . .

Will Arnett (Arrested Development/Lego Batman) was a perfect comedy sidekick and worked well with Fox. Not enough of him and his one liners, to be honest.

I was happy that the whole Raphael/Leonardo fraternal headbutting was breezed over. We had a lot of that in the original 1990 installment. Raphael was always the hot head but we didn’t need to tread through too much old ground.

Tony Shalhoub (Monk) brought some noble gravitas to our favourite furry fighter Splinter. He was certainly not as weak or as feeble as his 1990 movie counterpart. The fact his tail is now a fast moving weapon of its own accord made all the difference. Well, it would have to when he’s dealing with 6 foot muscle bounded turtle teenagers?

But of course, if the others have had an upgrade. That means the infamous sinister samurai Shredder will have one too. To be honest, they seemed to spend so much time on the heroes that Shredder seemed to be nothing more than an afterthought.

An expensive, gigantic mechanical master with several super swords afterthought. A visual threat. It’s just a shame his dialogue is as mechanical as his suit. William Fichtner (Prison Break) made more of an impression as his hammy minion.

Good to see Fichtner back in movies and not giving a stuff. Hamming it up to the max!

The special effects are brilliant. The ice truck chase was hilarious, entertaining and a visual feast for the eyes. However, it does get a little too cartoony by the end and the endless explosions do get a little much. Bay’s influence creeping in?

It kept my interest, had me laughing and to be honest I wanted more. The gang were done to justice. From their elevator beep boxing to spontaneous sewer dancing, they stole the show and are back for business.

Just next time (If there is one) give them a better baddie, a better plot and I’ll be happy to see more of this.

I’ve got to say it, “Kawabunga!” or “Give me another”

3/5

THE EXPENDABLES 3 REVIEW

Third time’s the charm?

They’re back. The Dad’s Army of movie action heroes return for another round of ridiculous mayhem, OTT action and cheesy banter.

It is what is. Big dumb fun. If you don’t know that by the third outing then why are you here?

I’m not going to lie. I didn’t rate the first Expendables. I was baffled when it was green-lit for another.

I remember reluctantly sitting through the second and being pleasantly surprised for what it was. Van Damme and Chuck Norris the saving graces!

So here we are. Yet another and the verdict? Not bad.

The only downfall was Stallone’s feeble attempt at injecting new faces to prolong a franchise no one really wanted. Especially when the newbies in question were so bland and cliched.

The opening prison train sequence got straight to business. The return of Wesley Snipes and Mel Gibson to the big screen was a sight to see. Despite their previous misdemeanours, both showed why they still know how to steal the show.

Snipes’ introduction into the mix was brilliant. When asked what he is in for, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be good if he made a tax joke” and before I knew it, bam! Tax evasion.

The banter and quick witted insults really livened up the hammy dialogue. I lost count of the speech digs at Stallone. Even being so bold as to pop a stroke gag. All in reasonably good taste.

Snipes seemed to take over Terry Crews’ role, which I found highly strange. Can’t there be two black guys? Apparently we’re only allowed one.

Crews had one moment to shine with a chain gun before swiftly picking up a weak injury and disappearing into the background. The real reason being a contractual issue BUT a missed presence nonetheless.

The first hour was surprisingly watchable and pacy. The camaraderie among the Expendables was decent. All the old boys having a laugh and not giving a sh- blind bit of notice. And why should they?

However, the middle act tested with lifeless exchanges, generic plot lines and clichéd one liners. Seriously, the story line was so predictable as Barney (Stallone) confronted an old foe and former Expendable in the form of William Wallace.

Cue a self-deprecating suicide mission with our hero pushing away the old gang and recruiting a new one (in the form of ex-MMA fighting champion Ronda Rousey and that dude from Twilight, Kellan Lutz).

It took a while for Gibson to shine. An initial ‘shout-off’ with Stallone didn’t build high hopes. It was laughable for all the wrong reasons. Stallone’s inaudible screeching. Yikes. I couldn’t understand a word that man was saying (More so than usual). BUT thankfully ol’ Blue Eyes managed to deliver some malice to the stale role.

The Stath’s acting was surprisingly wooden (I know. Shock horror!). Disappointing. While Antonio Banderas pretty much did a live action impersonation of Puss in Boots. His intro said it all with Stallone and Grammer an unsuspecting Shrek and Donkey.

Lundgren, Ford, Schwarzenegger, Snipes, Li and . . . Kelsey Grammer?!

Really? Frasier “I’m listening” Crane. What he’s going to do? Step on a rake and mutter away like Sideshow Bob? Anyway, I digress. In all fairness, Grammer was actually pretty good in his small cameo. Providing “valuable Intel” for Rocky as he selected the new recruits.

And that was the problem. The oldies were the appeal. They may lack the vigour and pace of their younger counterparts (I mean, give them a break, they’re in their SIXTIES) but their acting and charisma proved why they’re still the big dogs and these young pups still have a lot to learn.

Rousey and co may have looked tough and done their own stunts BUT when it comes to (I can’t believe I’m writing this) acting? Generic face pulling wasn’t enough.

The inevitable “out with the old, in with the new” spiel was unnecessary and so predictable. You were just counting down the minutes before the old crew returned.

Swarnie wasn’t in this enough. While Harrison Ford showed he still has a sense of humour. Playing the hard ass role to perfection even if his lines didn’t make any sense. Seriously, there was a clunky exchange about somebody messing up and him wearing it that had me scratching my head.

I can’t believe this script was penned by an Oscar winner.

The action pieces were entertaining enough BUT there were moments where the erratic camera work struggled to keep up. An issue I had with the first Expendables.

The finale got more ridiculous as it reached its explosive conclusion BUT with The Terminator bellowing endless “GET TO THE CHOPPER” quotes to my heart’s content, I was happy to oblige.

A guilty pleasure. Say no more. It wasn’t the best one of the bunch BUT it didn’t have that much to compare to.

If you’re looking for an action packed time filler with some of your favourite 80s/90s action heroes then give it a go.

Otherwise, move along folks!

2.5/5

THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN 2 REVIEW

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The-Not-So-Amazing-And-Incredibly-Corny-Spiderman.

Stunning special effects and 3D trickery does not a good movie make.

Certainly made it watchable BUT with a gushy teen romance subplot dominating an overlong screen time, villains that hardly threatened or entertained and a plot that was nothing more than build up for another inevitable installment, you can’t help but question why they bothered rebooting it in the first place?

Now, I loved the Sam Raimi trilogy (well Spiderman 3 was watchable. Seen a lot worse. Let’s not forget Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin, guys).

Tobey Maguire was an excellent Peter Parker (although he has been subject to some hilarious memes for his infamous face pulling).

When I heard there was going to be a reboot, I was baffled. Why? No need. Just carry on from Raimi and replace the cast if they want to leave. However, Marc Webb’s first installment was actually quite good. For an origin story, it did something that quite a few comic book adaptations don’t and that’s go back to the source material.

Andrew Garfield was a very likeable lead and a cooler, more laid back version of Maguire’s Parker. For its two hour-odd length, I could have happily watched more. My only qualm was that the villain was a little naff and the story was rushed. BUT I wanted to see more. And here we are . . .

An exhilarating (if mental) opener delving into Peter’s parents “accident”, and Spidey dealing with a crime spree, delivered high hopes. Cheesy, watchable and entertaining. BUT that soon spiralled into mediocrity.

Garfield and Stone had great chemistry and were a likeable couple in the first part. Inevitably their chemistry turned out to be more and they’re a real life couple. However, this time, the teen angst and will-they-won’t-they?-back story felt repetitive, tedious and incredibly cheesy. The sort of syrupy stuff you’d expect to see in a Twilight movie.

The way the movie was promoted, I expected something bigger, darker, badder. Bigger? Certainly. Darker? Hardly. The pair do their best and the chemistry was still very much on. BUT it felt because of the teen gossip, Webb allowed a little too much time on them. I mean we had all that will-they-won’t-they? stuff in the Raimi trilogy with Dunst and Maguire. Been there done that.

This was supposed to be a reboot. Doing something different. I know Parker’s torn loyalty between the woman he loves and saving the city was always going to be at the forefront. BUT it felt slapped together. Even the uneasy tension between Parker and Stacey’s dad (Dennis Leary) went nowhere. He just kept popping up, grimacing menacingly.

The visual effects, the set pieces and 3D were fantastic with bits flying out (steady now) all over the place. The camera work as Spidey swung around the New York cityscape was fantastic. However when some of the bigger battles commenced, the CGI got a little much and cartoony in places.

Webb reduced Peter and Aunt May’s relationship to nothing. A shame considering he had Sally Field in the role. Anyone could have played her.

The lovely Felicity Jones (Chalet Girl/Cemetery Junction) was reduced to playing a stocky, generic secretary. The same can be said for Colm Feore (The Borgias/The Chronicles of Riddick). He made more of an impression BUT a nothingy role nonetheless.

The villains, on the other hand, in the words of George Takei, “OH MY!!”

Jamie Foxx did his best with the material. His nerdy counterpart Max Dillon was incredibly weird. If anything he reminded me of Jim Carrey’s Edward Nygma from Batman Forever. His obsession with Spiderman, after a brief life saving encounter, bordered on creepyville.

However, once he transformed into Electro  (Fantastic visuals by the way), he got better. But memorable? The best villain in Spiderman history? Hardly. He came off more like a demented electrolysed Mr Freeze with a sore throat.

Don’t get me wrong. The fight sequences were decent BUT the dialogue and exchanges left little to be desired.

Marton Csokas’ evil scientist came off more like a pantomine villain. Paul Giamatti? What the hell? Legend that he is. His part was incredibly irritating and OTT. A change from his usual roles but really? The money must have been good.

Fair play to Webb for reworking the Osbourns. BUT Chris Cooper was reduced to a passing cameo as Norman. I know we had the talented Willem Dafoe BUT I would have been happy to see his portrayal. At least the origin of the Green Goblin was different.

Dane DeHaan (Chronicle/Kill Your Darlings) wasn’t a bad Harry. He looked shady enough with his slimy grin and slick back hair. BUT even ol’ squinty eyed Franco did a more menacing job. Plus the Green Goblin? Really? Again? I suppose he was one of Spidey’s biggest adversaries.

My main problem was that Spiderman was rebooted for its silly, OTT, ridiculous third installment. BUT this very film did the exact same thing. Bar a redeeming closing act.

I’m fed up of films building up for another one. The film I’m watching should make me want to watch the next one.

Garfield was still a likeable Spiderman that delivered some cheeky one liners. BUT the quick-witted banter was very hit and miss. It was all a little tame (Spiderman light) until the finale. An unexpected twist gave me hope. But it wasn’t enough.

I fear this franchise is heading for Schumacher territory. This ship needs moving into Nolan/Raimi waters or I fear it will sink. Get some better baddies and this reboot might just prove it’s worth.

At its best, watchable guff with some decent visual set pieces. At its worst, overlong, schmaltzy and all done before and much better. This Spidey fan is reaching for his bug spray.

2.5 out of 5!