*NEW* RIDE ALONG 2 REVIEW *NEW*

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The brothers-in-law are back. BUT bigger and better? Not even close.

As his wedding day approaches, Ben (Kevin Hart) heads to Miami with his soon-to-be brother-in-law James (Ice Cube) to bring down a drug dealer who’s supplying the dealers of Atlanta with product.

Kevin Hart stole the show yet again and did just enough to keep things watchable BUT memorable? Let’s be honest, the first Ride Along wasn’t perfect. It was silly, OTT BUT (for a good portion of the movie) funny. Worthy of a sequel? Not so much. BUT a smash hit at the box office meant one thing. SEQUELS, baby!

A promising opening sequence hit the ground running. A vast improvement from the original. Trading cliched cop guff for a hilarious Fast and Furious style stake out. It even came with a Tyrese Gibson cameo. I just wish more was made of it. BUT how was he going to compete with Kevin Hart in a ridiculous low rider?!

It’s just a shame that as this second helping chugged along, it failed to reach any level the original set. It was incredibly patchy and no where near as funny. Hart and Cube did their best BUT it wasn’t enough. Cube’s stone cold pallor got a few laughs and he did seem to lighten up this time round.

BUT the real scene stealer, other than Hart, was Ken Jeong (The Hangover). He wasn’t in this enough. From his nerdy improv to drunken madness, he was brilliant. When teamed up with Hart, they should have been as annoying as hell BUT it was comedy gold. Their stake out debates ranging from ranking Star Wars movies to Biggie or Sir Mixalot being the better artist delivered the chuckles.

Benjamin Bratt’s bland drug kingpin was weak. He delivered more sinister conviction as El Macho in Despicable Me 2. Olivia Munn (Magic Mike) was stunning BUT her character was terrible. Desperate to be the female equivalent of Cube and we all knew where that story line was going to lead. Besides, we already had Cube, we didn’t need another. She only really got to shine in the closing minutes. Too little, too late.

The pace and gags, like Kevin Hart’s shooting, were incredibly hit and miss. It didn’t help that we had a complete retread of Ben trying to win James’ approval. James desperate to see the back of him. Secretly hoping Ben will mess up the next mission. The lovely Tika Sumpter was tragically pushed into the background yet again.

The high speed Miami police chase sequence wasn’t bad with Ben having to visualize everything in a virtual Grand Theft Auto video game style. Signalling every direction he was going. Hart kept things above water. From flailing around in a silk kamino to pretending to be a demented foreign dignitary for his cover.

It just felt that for every good gag, there were a dozen duds. Hart’s dignitary spiel was funny BUT it was soon milked to death once he entered the embassy. The joke was dead and buried once a badly CGI’d croc was thrown into the mix.

The action sequences dragged on and failed to grab me. It reeked of desperation as the film rushed to its flat finale. We even had a regurgitation of the same old gag with Ben shooting another person by mistake. Really?

It was watchable enough and fun in places BUT the plot was dull and cliched to boot. And when the jokes fell flat, the film drudged along and the last 20 minutes really fizzled out with cliched speeches galore.

Move along, more like.

2/5

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*NEW* FAST AND FURIOUS 7 REVIEW *NEW*

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The action may have been fast and the plot may have made me furious BUT somehow I was still entertained with the SEVENTH offering of the Fast franchise.

Maybe they should just . . . STOP! BUT the first billion dollar grossing film for Universal Studios means one thing! More indecipherable grumblings from Vin Diesel, more stunning cars and more ludicrous set piece that defy the laws of physics.

So what’s this one about? Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family for his comatose brother (Luke Evans).

It’s strange watching this monstrous franchise continue to evolve. To think the original was about an undercover cop infiltrating a bootlegging ring. Even funnier when you realise the items they were stealing were TV/VCR combos.

BUT now? Well . . .

James Wan didn’t mess about. We open to a trail of carnage at a hospital ward as the Stath visits his little bro. He chewed up every scene and pumped up each naff line with a bit of machismo. Dark, brutal and utterly bonkers. A teaser of things to come.

I think it’s safe to say that the Fast films are guilty pleasures. One of those “leave your brain at the door” popcorn movies. The first half hour was zippy and quite watchable.

Until the Tank, I mean, the Rock flew out of a building and used his body as a human shield to protect his partner. Okay, the ol’ WWF fan in me had a moment of nostalgia when the Brahma Bull “rock bottomed” The Stath into a coffee table. BUT it was ridiculous! And that was only the tip of the iceberg.

Jordana Brewster had the easiest job going. She was very much pushed to the background. After an explosive opener, The Rock didn’t really pop back up until the finale. BUT that didn’t stop Wan adding more characters to the ever-expanding cast.

Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones) made a memorable impression as the alluring but geeky computer hacker Ramsey. Kurt Russell was superb as the appropriately titled Mr Nobody. He was having fun and made the implausible waffle almost believable. Plus he delivered the best spot of advertising for Corona I’ve ever seen.

The gang are recruited to retrieve a super computer program that can hack into any social network, CCTV and phone. A technology so powerful that Bin Laden could have been found in two hours not a decade. If they obtain it, they can find the Stath. Before he finds them :O

Two hours, too long. The pace dipped in and out. Reprieved by frantic action sequences. Letty’s amnesia subplot was far too corny and soapy for my liking. I cringed every time Michelle Rodriguez and Diesel were on screen together.

I could actually understand Iggy Azealia in the 15 second blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo. And it wasn’t as corny as Rita Ora’s. Tyrese Gibson delivered the laughs where he could BUT he did test my patience. His banter with Ludacris wasn’t that good either. Even he looked fed up with the exchanges.

Ronda Rousey’s acting left little to be desired. I know she was supposed to be a bodyguard BUT if she’s going to appear in more movies, she needs to up her game. The feisty punch up with Rodriguez was pretty decent though. Tony Jaa was relentless. Dispatching his trade mark free running fighting style. Shame that he was reduced to dispatching such terrible one liners.

BUT nothing compared to Diesel and Stath’s street fight. Both going at it (Steady now) with wrenches and car bumpers (You read that right).

The last 30 minutes really took the biscuit. It was laughable. The Rock shooting up half of LA with a machine gun. Driving super cars through both of the Al Bahar Towers in Abu Dhabi. Driving out of planes with parachutes! Paul Walker running up the back of a bus as it falls off a cliff. Come on!

I can’t believe I’m saying this but it might help to have a little knowledge of the other movies. I have to commend Wan and writer Chris Morgan for wrapping up something that had been niggling at me ever since Tokyo Drift. No spoilers here.

However, for it’s all silliness, it did deliver a fitting farewell to Walker that left a little lump in the throat. A talented actor that left us far too soon. The CGI on Paul Walker was impressive. You really couldn’t tell which scenes were altered. There were quite a few references through out the film that hit home. A racer yells to Toretto, “Ride or die, right?”. Toretto puts his head down and simply says, “Let’s just ride this time”.

They really should quit while they’re ahead. A surprisingly watchable, if incredibly overlong, OTT blockbuster of stupendous proportions.

3(Just)/5

NEED FOR SPEED REVIEW

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I feel the need, the need . . . to review this film, yo! We’ve seen the story before but where it lacks in that department (I mean, come on, it’s a car movie), it cooks up octane action and special effects with real cars in proper car chases without CGI, making this one to watch and I’m sure regardless of reviews, it will be breaking bad at the box office. What? Not subtle enough. It’s tough not to compare it to the Fast and Furious franchise and you can’t help but feel things might have been copied but it just about stands it’s ground and manages to still be an enjoyable ride. Check it out, bitch!

What’s it about then, san? Fresh from prison after being framed by a wealthy business associate (Dominic Cooper – Fleming), street racer Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul – Breaking Bad) joins a cross country race seeking vengeance. However, when said business associate learns of the plan, he places a massive bounty on his head as the race begins.

That’s the gist and you pretty much get that from the trailers. The opening 30 minutes sets up the vengeance seeking plot in which we follow Marshall, a struggling debt stricken mechanic who supes up old Gran Torinos and shows them off in street races. It’s all the same old cliched set up. Brooding shots, slow motion as he mourns father’s loss. The typical banter between his rag tag team of mechanics. The rivalry with the guy who got it all, even the girl. Michael Keaton’s irritating radio DJ narrating the obvious rivalry between Marshall and wealthy hot shot Dino Brewster (Cooper). Paul and Cooper are likeable leads and play their parts well. Cooper is exceptionally shady and sly and passes off a good accent. Marshall’s rag tag team of misfits, however, feel like a loosely based rip off of the Fast and Furious ensemble. The ultra cool Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi is really annoying, and feels like he’s trying to do his best Tyrese Gibson impression. The others, if not for a couple of moments of craziness, were hardly memorable which is a shame, considering the talent (Rami Malek – 24/The Pacific and Ramon Rodriguez – Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen).

However, the main stars are the cars. I mean Koenigsegg Agira R, Torinos, Lamborghini Elemento and a suped up Ford Mustang. Cracking cars. This is where the points are gained. The chase and race sequences are fantastic to watch. The camera angles are frantic, fast and really make you feel like you’re in the car. The build up in the opening race with the heart beat pounding, the engines revving and the first person shots are fantastic. That pause before the cars pull off or make a dicey movie. Brilliant. Waugh makes the city his playground. There were a few unexpected moments that stood out in 3D but not a huge investment. The race and chase sequences are very much faithful to the style of video game franchise; without feeling like you’re watching someone playing it. A noticeable nod to the EA franchise can be spotted, of course. I was surprised in the opening credits, they didn’t say EA Films. Challenge everything. One for the gamers.

The earlier city race sequence through the alley ways and underpasses is brilliantly done and brilliantly shot. Cudos to the cinematography of Shane Hurlbut. The earlier races are very reminiscent of the old car chase movies. A homage to the infamous Steve McQueen Bullitt chase flashes across the screen at the Drive Thru as the racers get ready. The Koenigsegg Agira R race sequence was incredible and what a stunning car. I’m not the biggest car lover but wow. A predictable and inevitable tragedy still surprises and catches your breath as Marshall is set up by Brewster, leading to a corny, OTT but thrilling ride. It can be patchy at parts (It drags). At two hours, it pushes it a little bit. However, it’s soon relieved by a thrilling chase here. A police car flagging up there. Pretty much like Need for Speed: Most Wanted. One of my favourite games.

The locations are perfectly selected for some cracking sequences. The cliff ambush being a particular highlight minus the ridiculous cliff hanger involving the Mustang and an Apache helicopter. Granted it was actually done and wasn’t CGI’d (well only to insert Paul and Poots). I didn’t think this film could deliver more cheese than the Fast and Furious franchise. It had an opportunity to be slicker and darker but went for the schmaltzy, corny route. It doesn’t spoil the sequences with chained safes, flipping oil tankers and bridge leaps as the later Furious films did but it certainly served it up with the characters. Some of the ‘banter’ comes with the odd chuckle, other moments are just stupid. The beautiful Imogen Poots manages to charm and annoy in alternate scenes leaving you on the fence about her. I think I liked her by the end. Her first meeting with Paul being a predictable corny set up, once again poking fun at the dumb posh English girl spiel. Wait a minute, she knows about cars? She said some things about engines. Shock horror! Come on guys, really? And Keaton may tried to Beetlejuice his role up (seriously) but he just recites what we’re all thinking. If it weren’t the fact, the big race was his creation, his character would have been pointless. Well, it already was.

It’s hammy, a little long, corny, OTT but despite all that, the chases are superbly shot, the action is tense, suspenseful, helped by a likeable lead. Just should have used the Fast and Furious as a guide book not a template. However, it’s all still watchable, with the odd tut or sigh. Can’t help but compare it to the F&F, it does stand along some of their weaker entries, which were still good. So 3 (just) out of 5!

Currently ranks #74 out of 153!