*NEW* MOANA REVIEW *NEW*

Easygoing fun.

In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by the Demigod Maui (The Rock) reaches Moana’s (Auli’i Cravalho) island, she answers the Ocean’s call to seek out the Demigod to set things right.

Typical Disney. But it still hit the spot.

The animation was stunning. Beautiful to look at. I just wanted to dive into those clear blue waves. Yes, I know they weren’t real! BUT that’s how good the visual effects were.

The opening song numbers weren’t too bad. They set up the story and established Moana’s background perfectly.

Torn between exploring the world and fulfilling her duties as the new Chief of her people.

The running theme of identity and personal being was an intriguing one as the deviant Moana opposed her father’s numerous attempts to keep her on the island.

The Hawaiian folk lore and supernatural guff was entertaining enough. The cheesy singing and mad journey was fun.

BUT I was a little disappointed with the songs. They weren’t really that memorable.

It only takes somebody at work to say, “Let’s get down to business” and I have to fight the urge NOT to burst into the Mulan jam (Go on, confess. How many of you are right now?)

No?

Don’t get me wrong, they were easy listening gems and Cravalho has a lovely voice BUT I could only remember two tracks off the top of my head while writing this.

There was certainly plenty of humour and heart. A gag involving tweeting drew a guilty grin from me.

A predictable journey lifted with some fantastic supporting characters from Hei Hei, the special chicken to . . .

The Rock. My God. He stole the show as Maui. The guy is a demi-God. Let alone voicing one.

They must have had him in mind from the get go as the tattoo woven, bicep flexing, eyebrow raising (They even included the Brahma Bull’s brows) machismo.

His conflicted character had me in stitches. I loved his little tattoo. A Jiminy Cricket running around all over his body to let the big guy know when he’s making a big mistake. Brilliant.

And who knew the big guy could carry a tune?

Any WWE fan will know the Rock can sing.

I didn’t think I’d throw that into a review any time soon. You’re welcome. See what I did there?

Just when I thought the pace was beginning to lull and Moana was thrown into the water by Maui for the umpteenth time, thankfully there was a new challenge or foe to keep things going.

I didn’t expect Flight of the Conchord’s Jermaine Clement to appear in this. Applying his David Bowie-esque gravitas to the troubling Tamatoa.

Shiny, shiny! He was hilarious as the conniving crab.

As much as I was entertained, for all the hype, Moana just didn’t stand out.

The journey was all too predictable and normally I’m one for the ride NOT the destination BUT it just didn’t quite hit those highs for me like her Disney predecessors.

Moana was a resilient and resourceful heroine BUT her character seemed to get a little lost in the ever-growing Disney universe.

BUT this is coming from a cynical man reaching his thirties so make of that what you will.

It killed the time, the animation was amazing and the True Grit dynamic between Moana and Maui was a nice touch.

So despite my grumblings, this was still a charming little film that Disney fans will lap up a treat.

3/5

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*NEW* SPECTRE REVIEW *NEW*

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Bond is back but bigger and better?

Well done, Mr Craig. You have finally won me over. To be honest, I loved his first outing in Casino Royale (my favourite in the Craig era). He had the charm, the one liners and the look. Ticking all the boxes. BUT Quantum of Solace delivered a much darker and angrier Bond. It was far too intense and serious for me. This had been attempted before with Timothy Dalton in A License To Kill to mixed results.

I didn’t have a problem with a darker Bond. Pierce Brosnan’s efforts (my second rated Bond) was bordering on cartoony CGI and Roger Moore territory. The Saint may have got away with it in the 70s BUT Die Another Day nearly ended it all. A game changer was needed. I respected the change BUT not the direction. It felt like they were trying to turn Bond into Jason Bourne.

However, it was the first series of Bond films that featured an ongoing story arc. Skyfall was very disappointing. For an entry that marked 50 years for the franchise, I expected something a little more. It was over hyped, overlong and if not for a surprising closing act, I would have rated this as one of the weaker offerings.

The one thing I could commend Skyfall for was the little things. The humour, Moneypenny, Q, the Aston Martin DB5. All the things that drew me to Bond in the first place. It gave me hope. Now here we are. The 24th entry of a super spy series. And boy,what a film.

The opening sequence for SPECTRE was fantastic. Slow burning, tense but action packed with a high octane helicopter sequence. As soon as Craig made his introduction, I was sold. The very pinnacle of the iconic spy. Cool, calm and slick. Casually adjusting his cuffs while donning a rifle.

Even Sam Smith’s opening theme delivered. At first listening, it sounded like a bland Eurovision track. BUT I have to say it has grown on me and really fitted the film.

It was great watching Craig enjoy the 007 status. The charisma. The debonair style. Very much in the vein of Sean Connery (My favourite Bond). Old school. Perfect. It brought something that had been lacking in the others. Humour.

I don’t want to say too much about SPECTRE as I want people to see this. BUT for the die hard fans, like yours truly, we witness the return of one of Bond’s most iconic villains. And I couldn’t think of anybody better to take on this prestigious role than Christoph Walz. He was superb. Slimy, sinister and on scene stealing form. My only gripe with his performance was that there wasn’t enough of it.

Dave Bautista was a unit. After his impressive turn in Guardians of the Galaxy, I wasn’t surprised that the former WWE star was offered the role of a Bond henchman. It was a shame that they chose to make him silent. He delivered his best impression of the Mountain from Game of Thrones. His scrap with Craig was one of the best villain fight sequences I’ve seen. You felt every punch.

For all the hype around Monica Bellucci’s role as a Bond girl (Or woman, should I say?), I was left wanting. Steady now. If anything her character was completely unnecessary. She certainly looked stunning and proved all those critics wrong griping about her age BUT her “love scene” with Craig came off unintentionally comical. Kissing while trying to talk chunky bits of dialogue didn’t work and killed the chemistry.

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However, Bond finally met his match with the feisty and resourceful Lea Seydoux. The pair’s chemistry and friction certainly kept things watchable when the pace seemed to drop.

The action sequences were brilliant. The plane chase sequence in Austria was mental. The car chase around Rome was fantastic with the new Aston Martin DB10. It was fast, frantic and hilarious as Bond battled to work out the prototype while dealing with henchmen and Italian pensioners fancying a late night drive.

What I also loved about this was how Logan brought in the rest of the team. It was great to see Ben Whishaw getting more screen time as Q. He had a much better rapport with Craig and was even brought out on location like Desmond Llewelyn used to with Connery. BUT at the expense of Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny.

She still made a made a memorable impression. Especially during a phone call with Bond mid car chase. Ralph Fiennes had a tough act to follow after Dench’s brilliant turn as M. BUT it was good to see him bring something new to the role and get in on the action.

It might help to have seen the other Craig entries BUT you won’t be too lost as Logan and Mendes briefly recap the story arc. As much as SPECTRE ticked the boxes, it wasn’t all perfect.

BEST BOND FILM EVER? Certainly not. The middle act lumbered the pace and when the action scenes had subsided and the couple were travelling, I could feel myself fidgeting after the 90 minute marker. Thankfully, things picked up when Walz was properly brought into the mix with his Dr No-esque lair.

This could have been cut by 30 minutes and been stronger for it. It was good to see a little more cheese and fun with this installment but for some it might be seen as a step down. And after 24 films, there are only so many different twists and turns that you can do with the Bond films. You can’t help BUT retread through old ground. There are only so many homages you can do before it gets repetitive.

The closing finale was fantastic and certainly left a satisfying if cryptic ending. Will Bond die another day? Especially when Tomorrow Never Dies? With the box office booming, is the world not enough?

Slick, stylish if a little overdone, Bond is back and on form. BUT better? Not quite, 007 but good enough.

3.5/5

*NEW* TRAINWRECK REVIEW *NEW*

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Was it one big train wreck?

I was a little anxious to see this. I couldn’t get into Girls, didn’t mind Bridesmaids but have always found Apatow’s works a little hit and miss.

BUT it’s always good to be proved wrong. Move over, Miss McCarthy. I have a new lady in my life. Well played, Miss Schumer.

Having thought that monogamy was never possible, a commitment-phobic career woman (Amy Schumer) may have to face her fears when she meets a good guy (Bill Hader).

It’s hardly perfect but I can actually say that I came out of the cinema smiling for the right reasons.

I wasn’t convinced by the opening as we watch a young Amy and Quinn (Brie Larson) being educated by their deadbeat dad (Colin Quinn) after being caught cheating. His analogy using dolls was hilarious.

From that moment, we see the anti-monogamy chants drilled into a young Amy Schumer. 20-odd years down the line and we have our protagonist. Sleeping around, getting drunk, and effing jeffing. I’ve never really found that stuff funny. It got a little repetitive BUT it introduced the selfish and quick witted monster perfectly. Her one liners rolled off a little too fast for me. They didn’t really flow.

HOWEVER, once the film found its tempo, I enjoyed it. Schumer’s improvisation and messing around were generally on the ball. There were patches where she went on just a little bit. There was a moment where Larson and Schumer were looking at pictures of their mother and Amy starts talking about her boobs. It ruined a nice moment and wasn’t that funny.

It’s always a gamble on calling a scene when you’re firing off belters; “Stop walking like the Hulk. I can see that you’re mad”. BUT what helped was that Schumer was assisted by a surprisingly funny supporting cast. John Cena. Words escape me. He was absolutely brilliant. Some of the best acting I’ve seen him do. EVER. Well, since WWE.

He stole every scene from failing at dirty talk in the bedroom to his homo-erotic put downs during an altercation at the cinema. I also loved the short film being played in the cinema scene. The “pretentious” Dog Walker skit featuring Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei got a chuckle. If anything, I wanted to see more of that.

Tilda Swinton as Amy’s boss Dianna was a mixed bag for me. Her put downs and random story telling were bloody mental. BUT I couldn’t get over her raspy Cockney accent. She made the regulars in Eastenders look like Oxford scholars. What was she playing at?

There wasn’t enough of SNL’s Vanessa Bayer for me as Amy’s naive work colleague. LeBron James was very funny. Not all athletes can make the transition to the big screen but he nailed it! From his strop about Downton Abbey to his endless scrimping and bickering over paying the bill. Scrimping? With all those millions? Come on.

It was also good to see Bill Hader playing it straight faced. It was a fresh change and proved the guy can do deadpan and do it well. The crazier moments were certainly left for Miss Schumer. And she most certainly delivered. They had excellent chemistry which really made their inevitable pairing that much more enjoyable.

My main problem with Apatow’s movies is the running length. This is 40 and Funny People were okay films but went on far too long. This film did not need to be two hours long. After the hour marker with the relationship unwittingly taking hold, things did slacken.

It’s all relatable as Amy tries to fight her feelings but it wasn’t very funny. Easygoing enough. I had hoped that the scenes with Brie Larson would have been more entertaining. If it wasn’t for the odd witticism from Schumer, I would have cut them. And things did seem to take a more serious turn.

The subplot involving their dad in a care home never really got going for me. Amy’s character had more than enough flaws to keep things watchable. It felt tacked on and did hamper things. Even if Method Man was his nurse. You read that right.

BUT luckily the film found a second wind as Amy inevitably goes out of her way to complicate matters. The squabbling and tests certainly added an extra depth to the couple. BUT the only problem was that the end result was always going to be the same.

The closing scene was unbelievably corny. I mean it totally fit for all the in-jokes that Schumer and Hader had between each other. BUT at the same time, it didn’t quite fit the overall tone of the film after such a serious middle act with Amy re-evaluating her life. It was all or nothing.

When it’s funny, it’s on fire. When it’s not, it’s a little more testing but certainly watchable. I’ll be more looking forward to Schumer’s next offering.

A trainwreck? Hardly.

3/5

MAGIC MIKE XXL REVIEW

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Too many problems but somehow (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) it wasn’t all that bad. In fact, you could say it was . . . Alright, alright, alright.

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Three years after Mike (Channing Tatum) bowed out of the stripper life at the top of his game, he and the remaining Kings of Tampa hit the road to Myrtle Beach to put on one last blow-out performance.

I never expected to enjoy a film about male strippers and I didn’t. The first time. I finally mustered the strength to see Magic Mike a week ago. I didn’t expect to be impressed by the gyrating movements of Tatum’s torso but I was hoping after all the hype for something a little more.

It was boring. Reprieved by McConaughey’s Dallas and some entertaining song and dance numbers. Everything else was far too tame, corny and drawn out.

BUT of course, I’m a movie masochist. My vow to try and review as many films as possible biting me on the backside. So a second helping of stripping. Greeaaaattt.

However, I actually enjoyed this a lot more than I expected. A vast improvement on its predecessor. I laughed a lot more (For the right reasons) and didn’t find myself half as bored. BUT it doesn’t get off the hook that easily.

Credit where it’s due. The film got straight to business as we follow Mike struggling to make ends meat. A quick phone call. A few passing comments explaining the absence of three characters. Bye Bye, Dallas, The Kid and Cody Horn’s Brooke. And we were good to go.

To be honest, Horn’s absence was a relief. I found her acting terrible and she lacked any real chemistry with Tatum. The endless staring and mumbling did my head in. McConaughey was a missed presence but it did give Joe Manganiello a chance to step up. It was a shame that Pettyfer didn’t return but rumours suggested that he and Tatum didn’t get on during the filming of the first one.

For those who haven’t seen Magic Mike (How can I say such a thing?), it isn’t crucial for the sequel. There are just little bits that might skim over your head but somehow I don’t think this is the sort of film where plot is imperative.

Within 15 minutes, the gang were all back together! So it made the finale of MM a little pointless really. But there are no guarantees for success in life. Plus Hollywood really wanted a sequel. For the first half hour or so, it zipped along. The camaraderie and banter (That appealed to me the first time round) was very much on fine form.

Tatum can dance. Unfortunately Step Up hasn’t been top priority on my movie list. What? Anyway, he delivered the charisma yet again and you could tell he was having fun doing it. His reaction when his trade mark stripper song Ginuwine’s ‘Pony’ came on the garage radio said it all. That inevitable dance imminent as soon as the beat dropped. It was like something out of Flashdance.

Tatum had good chemistry with the lovely Amber Heard but her character was a little weak. I feared a retread of the Horn disaster with the pair muttering and mumbling away. However, despite their improv going on for too long, they still delivered enough charm to keep it watchable. Just.

Matt Bomer’s character Ken was a bit shady to start with. Jealous of Mike’s return. I was hoping for some of that heated tension that Dallas and Mike shared in the closing minutes of MM. Plus let’s not forget that Ken wasn’t that squeaky clean.

But it was resolved far too quickly. A quick slap with some wood. Hang on, let me rephrase that. A testosterone/drug/drink-fuelled stand off in a beach with a log of wood and a jab in the gut and the pair were all smiles. Boy, Bomer can sing though.

Jada-Pinkett Smith may be rocking it at 44. Even if she might have had work done. BUT I found her character Rome very annoying. Every scene involving her went on far too long. It was obvious within 30 seconds that Mike and Rome used to work together. I didn’t need 30 minutes of mindless chatter in her strip club with a shirtless Childish Gambino doing some long winded rap that wasn’t that good.

I can’t believe I’m writing this but the strip dance offs in Rome’s club were the only redeeming moments. Childish Gambino fared better when he just sang.

The dance routines were actually well choreographed and quite entertaining as the gang decide to jazz up their stale material. The ladies will definitely love them. Manganiello’s set pieces had me shaking my head. And not just out of jealousy for his toned bod. His attempt to woo an attendant at a gas station was ridiculous but hilarious.

Kevin Nash (Kevin Nash? WWE Kevin Nash?) can’t dance to save his life but at 6 foot odd, the 50 something former pro wrestler gave it a good old go. The final 20 minutes was cheesy but fun enough. I got a smile. I know the ladies certainly were. The gang must have had a good laugh while filming this.

I couldn’t believe the cameos that popped up in this. Elizabeth Banks? Andie MacDowell as a bitterly divorced MILF?

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It’s flawed beyond belief and that’s not coming from a jealous heterosexual but it was a vast improvement from the original and wasn’t all bad. Don’t expect too much in terms of character development and plot but I’m sure that the audience, it’s aiming at will not care one little bit.

2.5/5

THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY REVIEW

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Well done Mr Gunn! Marvel have done it again.

I would have thought after numerous Marvel entries and the fear of milking this rich cow dry, this may have pushed the mark.

I mean, another origin story to introduce another group of characters BUT with this cast and these characters, I’d be happy to see more entries like this again very soon.

Now, the plot is hardly original, the inevitable union of these intergalactic criminals was always going to happen, as well as those pesky sequel teasers propping up all through the film.

BUT what makes this sci-fi blockbuster hit tick all the boxes for the me is the pace, the humour and the fantastic soundtrack.

After a strong and emotional opening with 1occ’s I’m Not In Love playing, I knew I was in for a treat. It helps that the cast are perfectly chosen for their roles.

What’s it all about? Now keeping it vague as I don’t want to spoil this as I want you guys to see this . . .

Light years (in a galaxy far far away. No. Stop it) from Earth, 26 years after being abducted, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) finds himself the prime target of a manhunt after discovering an orb wanted by Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace).

The charismatic Chris Pratt, already on a roll after the mega blockbuster hit that is the Lego Movie, applies his laidback, fast talking schtick to the film’s protagonist Peter Quill to perfection.

You knew what to expect from the moment he breaks into a song and dance around a space cave using a mutated lizard thing for a mike.

Zoe Saldana just proves she looks incredibly hot as any alien or anything for that matter (What?) but is also fantastic as Gamora.

The surprise turn for me was Dave Bautista as Drax. Now let’s be honest, I know he’s had acting experience in WWE but this is a whole different playing field and I wasn’t convinced with his jughead performance in Riddick.

It helps to have great lines at his disposal but Bautista’s delivery is brilliant as the eloquently spoken if utterly stupid henchman. He takes everything literally which makes for some funny one liners and memorable moments.

Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel provide their voicing talents to two new animated cult characters. Scratch that, Bradley Cooper provides his voicing talents. Vin Diesel must have been laughing when he read the script and got his paycheck as the tree humanoid Groot.

The animation and detail on Groot is impeccable. I mean don’t get me wrong, Diesel’s conviction on saying “I AM GROOT” numerous times is good and no doubt an iconic one liner but come on?! Cooper is fantastic as the talking volatile raccoon hybrid Rocket.

Now while the animation is impeccable, 3D . . .  Not so much. It’s certainly more prominent BUT not a must.

Lee Pace and Karen Gillan were almost unrecognizable both by their incredible make up and by their accents as the villains in this space opera.

Michael Rooker (Gunn regular) was great as Yondu Udonta, the interstellar smuggler. The only problem with so many characters and such a big cast, some characters or actors (more specifically) get cast aside.

Glenn Close, sporting a funky haircut, as Nova Prime was wasted in this installment.

John C. Reilly, the comedy legend that he is, only really got to get a bit of meat to chomp on in the closing minutes.

Inevitably, Benicio Del Toro’s mysterious Collector pops his ugly white head again.

Djimon Hounsou was only memorable due to a humorous encounter with Quill in which he attempts to enforce his self titled nickname, Starlord.

Peter Serafinowicz (Shaun of the Dead)’s straight faced pallor had potential . . . BUT didn’t really get used. BUT that’s minor quibbles.

Now it’s hardly an origin story. It briefly provides a minor back story to answer the questions (as and when they pop up) to give a little dimension to our lively crew.

As it drew to its exhilarating finale, I found myself wanting more. There were unanswered questions which left it all open for more mischief.

Little teasers and “if there’s a sequel” hints . . . BUT with the wide array of characters in this universe and great music and great dialogue, I’m happy to strap in and go for another ride across the galaxy again.

Of course, they will return. One of the better ones.

4/5 for me

P.S. There is a little teaser at the end of the credits but I don’t think it was worth waiting around for. Nothing to quack home about. I mean, shout.