Sunday, 17 November 2013

292, Ender's Game

This is another of the movies that crept up silently, without a single trailer or clue what it was about before I came to watch it.  I literally knew that Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley headed up a pretty slick cast list about a space age generation, locked in battle with an alien race.

After coming close to extension - the bravely on one warrior, Mazer Rackham (Kingsley) gave his life to save the human race.  50 years on - and expecting a retaliation attack, Colonel Graff (Ford) is heading up an elite force of teenage warriors - leading the way with game strategy and computer based warfare intelligence to create a 'remote controlled' army - set to destroy the enemy race - The Formecs.

Don't get me wrong - its not all kids in-front of TV screens - there is some actual training and one-on- one combat between the trainee troops but its the skills of youngster Ender Wiggin, played by Asa Butterfield that catches the Colonel's eye and Ender is quickly promoted through the ranks to officer training and with his own battalion of like minded youths.

 The final training scenario sees a now hardened and strategically advanced Ender take on Bonzo - leader of the Salamanders and as such - promoted to lead (albeit remotely) the potential attack on the Formecs.

I wont go into to many details about the end of the movie as there's a cheeky twist that see's Ender and his troops come to realise exactly the situation he's advanced himself to with devastating effects however on the whole, this was a new twist on an old story and one that was well acted and well received.

Ford & Kingsley head up the cast in roles that I wouldn't have guessed either would be interested in.  Maybe Ford is getting used to begin back in space ahead of his (rumoured) Star Wars return in Episode VII, due 2015. 

The special effects were standard to any other space / alien movie but you have to award this one to the kids, with the exception of Bonzo, who just sadly came across as annoying.  Ender, Petra, Bean & Alai all seemed to revel in their roles and under the leadership of Ford and Kingsley made this movie a nice little surprise that was a definite one to watch on the run into the Christmas blockbuster season.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

291, Escape Plan

Those who have read this blog from Day 1 will know my love of 80's Action heroes.  Stallone, Arnie and the like and with Expendables 1 & 2, my childhood memories of huge explosions & 1 man armies was easily realised which meant that although being on a smaller scale - two of my all time favourite action stars teaming up for an intelligent 'prison break' styled movie was one I couldn't wait to see.

Sly plays Ray Breslin - the leading authority on private security and the type of guy who gets locked up (under cover) in some of the worlds toughest prisons, just to break out of them.

Breslin is seduced by the thought of topping his career by breaking out of the worlds toughest prison - location unknown, no safe words - a real lock down, but it soon becomes apparent that this ruse to get Breslin locked down is a set up and with no way out he has no choice but to defeat the most secure facility on earth - along with its own private army of guards.

Whilst inside he teams up with another aged but respected inmate (Arnie) who he manages to bring on-side with a promise of freedom if he helps Breslin crack the security protocols.  The guards (which include Vinnie Jones) are led by softly spoken Hobbes (Jim Caviezel) who although controlled and well mannered, shows an almost sadistic nature in his hold over the inmates and rules his prison with an iron fist.

The movie does plod along quite nicely and as with the Expendables - there are plenty of old age pranks between them both and a far more realistic and less 'gun-ho' approach to battle than their previous solo lone wolf outings. 

Caviezel is a new favourite of mine after the watching him in the brilliant TV show - Person of Interest and he is the perfect choice for this role however Vinnie Jones as the right hand 'hard-man' did seem to lower the tone ever so slightly - sorry Vinnie! 

On the flips side however - Sly's own team on the outside consist of Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson - who is actually entirely watchable and very impressive as the I.T brains of the business Breslin runs.  A far cry from the expected 'Gangsta' persona and one he'd do well to reprise if given the chance.

The plot is cleverly thought out and delivered smoothly - the thought behind the prison itself, once identified is a brilliantly perceived the escape plan itself - helped by a secret Arnie is hiding throughout the movie, only realised right at the end is a welcomed unexpected twist.

If you love your action heroes then it doesn't come bigger than these two but there's as much clever escapology and logic as there is fisticuffs and that makes for a believable and realistic movie that should go down well with fans of the overpowering twosome.

290, Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips charts the true story of Richard Phillips, Captain of the U.S flagged MV Maersk Alabama who was hijacked by Somali Pirates, the first American Cargo vessel hijacked in over 200 years.

Hanks plays Phillips in what most are saying is the role of his life and I for one have to agree.  The sheer scale of this film is firstly spectacular.  The opening scenes show Hanks preparing for the voyage, going through the motions of standard preparation and the journey to the airport where he meets up with his vessel & within 20 minutes we are on board and on the seas with a vigilant Philips questioning the pirate security measures, seemingly overlooked by a quite despondent crew.

Only after noticing a few small blips on the radar do the crew actually start to realise the potential danger they are in and in a brilliant first assault - the brave crew manage to fend of the Somali's - hell bent on securing the vessel for ransom.

Its Phillips leadership that manages to turn a handful of 'union' deck hands - initially stating they didn't sign up for heroism duty to man up and after a more successful 2nd attack - the ship is boarded and Philips taken captive while his crew hide out in the depths of the ship.

The movie is fast paced and punchy and only half of is it aboard the Cargo ship - the final half takes place on a tiny lifeboat - launched clear of the Maersk after the crew tactically overthrown the pirates but with a fear for his life - Philips ends up aboard the escape vessel with some quite panicked but committed pirates - led fantastically by Muse (Barkhad Abdi).

What goes down between the Pirates, Phillips and the US Navy is simply awe inspiring - edge of the seat stuff that sees one of the most dramatic ends to a movie I feel you will see all year.  Hopefully - this story is well known so no need for spoilers but the final scenes of the movie - with Hanks in the medical bay are some of the most moving moments you will ever see on film and will bring a tear to the hardest of eyes.

Best film of the year?  Well, Hanks certainly once more proves he is the stuff of legends and the 2hrs 14 minutes fly by in what seems less than 90.  The overall scale of this movie is fantastically mastered by director Paul Greengrass and if Hanks isn't given the best actor nod then I'd be very surprised - but who knows what else is to be released state side between now and the Academy getting together.

I cant fault this film in any way.  A true thriller with everyone turning in a fantastic performance and Hanks - the centre piece of my favourite film all year.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

289, Blue Jasmine

Sadly - I've never really been a Woody Allen fan.  I know this will probably cause uproar from some of my readers but I'm just not.

I understand the man stands close to genius when it comes to previous movies and his work is highly regarded by many but I find them a little slow and meaningless.  Whimsical romantic stories with stunning and notable casts but just aimed at an entirely different audience that that of myself.

So - when I sat down to Blue Jasmine and having no actual clue what it was about my heart sank when I saw it was written and directed by the man above.

This movie is a 50/50 mix between present day and flashbacks of a life led by Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) having to rebuild her life after hubby Hal (Alec Baldwin) is outed as a fraud and subsequently banged up. 

Now homeless and seeking refuge from her far less wealthy sister who she's ignored for years to the point of actually losing them a lottery fortune when she advised her sister and hubby to invest in a hotel of Hal's that went 'unexpectedly' under but refusing to take any blame - Jasmine plods through life supposedly unaware of her wandering hubby and his dodgy dealings and their life together makes up half the story with the other half coming to terms with having to work and find new love.

Basically - that's covered it.  Jasmine's fear of being alone and not looked after means she falsifies her life story to impress new weatlhy suitors in a bid to gain back her 'Gucci' lifestyle, to the point of even convincing her sister she can do far better than new beau - who she paired up with after the hubby left as a result of the lottery loss.

On the whole - Jasmine comes across as a deluded wannabee - expecting everything to be handed to her without lifting a finger to help anyone and by the time the movie ends - she gets her just desserts.

That's it for this blog - Woody Allen fans will love it I'm sure but sadly, I'm not one of them.

288, Filth

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect with this new movie starring James McAvoy. 

The trailer plays out like a fast paced hallucinogen - bouncing from scene to scene in seconds and portraying an 80's themed Trainspotting revival (after all - it is written by the same Author - Irvine Welsh) but what you end up with is something completely unique.

McAvoy stars as Bruce Robertson, a drinking, drug taking dirty cop who starts the movie dreaming of promotion but pitted against a handful of other officers in his department needs to make sure he does what's needed to secure the much sought after job.  You're also introduced to Robertson's wife Carole, although she's only seen in apparent dream sequences and sultry seductive images - and never with Bruce - instantly opening up the question of is she alive or not?

If ever a movie was hard to explain on paper then this is truly it!  Although I loved the film - being able to come away and write about it proved extremely difficult as I've never seen anything like it before.  Its rude, crude, funny, explicit, weird, confusing, sickening and in some elements, sexy but when I found it difficult to actually place the movie in any kind of time frame i.e 80's dial phones paired with flat screen TV's, Cars with 'S' reg plates but suits and sideburns from the 60's I felt it was in a limbo on genres, making it even more confusing but enthralling at the same time.

McAvoy spends the whole movie dealing with his tortured past and misdirected future.  The story of his wife plays throughout and culminates with an amazing twist that I worked out about 15 minutes before it made apparent.  McAvoy's betrayal of everyone he knows - from his colleagues (that include Jamie Bell) to sleeping with another's officers wife, causing conflict amongst the ranks in a bid to secure his own promotional successes and his 'Freemasons' connections and apparent best pal Bladesey (Eddie Marsdon) who he not only bullies constantly but also makes a play on his wife but in a far darker sense of the word.

Then there is the Jim Broadbent character who as the shrink, comes across in an almost freakish capacity with hallucination's playing a massive part as a result of all the drugs.

Then there is the violence, sex and language that accompany the dirty cop side of the movie and a disturbing scene involving a 15 years old girl and McAvoy's relentless disregard to for decency.

There is so much more to this movie that would take me hours to write down but basically - its everything the trailer promises it to be with an unexpected ending that does eventually tug on the heartstrings.

To sum up - with everything said and done (to the best of my ability) I totally loved this movie.  Completely unique & totally questionable in every way I promise you wont have seen anything like it before and wont do for a while to come.

If you want a movie that will most definitely take you way outside your own comfort zone  - then Filth is for you.

287, Runner Runner

Runner Runner is a quirky little no brainer that sees University student Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) as a broke student - desperate to get through to graduation but with funds causing a problem - and the Dean looking to bring an abrupt halt to his dodgy casino referral business on campus he has no choice but to gamble his remaining few thousand dollars on a bid to secure enough cash to finish his degree.

With a flair for numbers - Furst is confused when his early winning streak on a certain on-line gambling blackjack site takes a turn for the worst and after being outplayed at every hand - decides to look a bit deeper into the website, only to discover a fix in the program - cheating him out of his college fund.

In a weird plan to seek out the site's owner and resident multi millionaire Ivan Block (Ben Affleck), residing in Cuba and basically ask for his money back, Furst (after discovering the supposed 'bug' in the software) ends up being offered a 7 figure salary to work with Block as the local numbers guru and cash runner between Block and the authorities that allow him to keep his under the table operation running but wanting to have his cake and eat it - Block has his own plan to swindle the local authorities and make off to another non extradition country, leaving Furst as the fall guy for the whole operation.

Affleck and Timberlake are just standard in this movie although the supporting cast of Gemma Arterton as Block's right hand lady and object of Timerlake's desires Rebecca Shafran and the FBI lead agent on the Block case, Agent Shavers (Anthony Mackie) do manage to shine. 

I'm not sure if I was just expecting more from the two male leads but this movie just comes across as a time filler.  A quick pay check for those involved as they all gear up for bigger and better things over the next few years.

This film does have a lot of good things about it though - Arterton for one just keeps getting better and better and as expected - dazzles on the glamour front, furthering her own career I'm sure in the process, as well as breaking even more hearts along the way.

The story is fast paced and punchy and Timberlakes character is soon faced with the imminent threat of danger - forcing him to make his own plans to ensure he's not left holding the baby when it all goes tits up!

The only thing I have an issue with in this movie was the ending, which is sad as it takes the entire pace out of the film.  Block - an international gambling entrepreneur and general Mr Nasty just seemingly appears to give up in a very much - "Oh blast, you got me" scene that you expect so much more from and it just doesn't come.

That aside - getting there was fun enough so lets forgive the lame finale.  On the whole, an enjoyable and unexpected film that crept up on me with no real prior knowledge and one I'd recommend if you're after a no brainer, light hearted thriller with a few smiles along the way.

286, Prisoners

Prisoners is the chilling story of two young girls who go missing after walking between their two houses literally within 100 yards of each other during Thanksgiving in a leafy American town.

The families, celebrating at the time believe all is well, knowing the neighbours, living so close and once reality kicks in that they've potentially been abducted you can feel the panic set in and the movie plays out with a real conflict between two types of parents - those who want to let the authorities do their job and those who want to take matters into their own hands.

Hugh Jackman plays the latter - Keller and once the police quickly arrest a potential suspect who was seen lurking around at the time it doesn't take long for the story to unravel but with a lack of evidence and no sign of the girls he's released on bail - something Jackman protests greatly and deciding to take matters into his own hands, seeks to imprison the oddly behaved and seemingly guilty suspect Alex (played by Paul Dano) much to the disbelief of best friend and other parent Franklin Birch - played by Terrence Howard.

The involvement of Jake Gyllenhaaal as Detective Loki is a fantastic casting as the overworked and seemingly lonely officer assigned to the case and his determination to help the families sees him having to question if Keller's involvement is one step too far, in a way - making the victim a suspect in his own right.

This movie will leave most who watch it on a knife edge between what you would do for your kids and what's right in the name of the law.  The difference of opinion between the two families seemingly covers every base and with an immediate suspect in the frame - means there is no real guesswork as to who the guilty party (or parties) are although with that said, they have still managed to throw in a fantastic twist at the end that you wont see coming.

The sleepy and dismal setting of this movie does make for a visual dud in my opinion but the story doesn't really give way for light and cheerful scenarios and although the story is captivating - wanting the audience to make sure the girls do make it out alive it does seem to drag on somewhat.

There is no hidden agenda with this movie.  Its a moral standing on what's right and what's wrong, surrounding a potentially hideous crime that would make all parents sick to their stomach.  Your heart goes out to the families in this and although I wont give away the ending - you make your own mind up if Keller's or Loki's / Birch approach is one that you would take.

285, Rush

I have never claimed to be 'sporty' in any way shape or form and in some ways, the same can be said of cinema (apart from movies based on American football).  Historically - sports films normally fall at the first hurdle. 

However - take an old school rivalry from the 70's & super fast cars that defied most current safety laws and you have the stunningly exciting sport of Formula 1, bought magnificently to the big screen by Director Ron Howard, who charts the epic on (and off track) battle between James Hunt and Niki Lauda in the 1976 Championship.  A Championship that saw Hunt win his one and only title and that saw Lauda a victim in a horrific fire - but still battled through to a final race showdown.

'Senna' started it all off with the documentary on probably one of the greatest drivers ever but it was just that - a Documentary - this is a movie - and what a movie!

I don't even believe you have to like or indeed know anything about F1 to enjoy this film.  Howard has captivated the essence of the drama and action seamlessly with fantastic cars, great settings and what seems like real footage cut in amongst the 70's TV visuals of the races as they happened.

For those who don't know the story - James Hunt is the playboy racer, Lauda - his more reserved, professional nemesis and in the early races easily wiping the floor with Hunt until a crash and fire that sees him carried out of his car and for most, completely written off for the season - sadly the victim of terrible burns still seen to this day.

In Lauda's absence - Hunt 'wow's' the crowds - clawing back points from the absent Niki and its these wins that spur Lauda to recover and get back in the car for the finale - that actually sees him retire from the final race that could secure him the title had it not been for terrible weather conditions.

Hunt - with victory in his sights wins the race and takes his only title - something that he claims was through skill but in hindsight - something he would never achieved had Lauda remained competitive for the whole season (but you try telling Hunt that!)

Its the characters of this film that make it a winner - superbly portrayed by Thor himself Chris Hemsworth and his racing counterpart Daniel Bruhl as Lauda.  Their on and off track rivalry shows Hunt as the womanising, drinking party boy and Lauda as the reserved professional, with a fantastic final scene at an airstrip with Lauda questioning why Hunt wasn't testing and preparing for the following season, one Lauda went onto win himself and Hunt's response "I'm just enjoying being the Champ - you should try it" something Lauda went onto do 3 times in his career and one that Hunt never managed again.

At the Indian Grand Prix this weekend, Lauda was on camera saying he loved the film - a fantastic portrayal and something he was proud of, wishing Hunt had been alive to see it and that's good enough for me.

Being born in 1976 to a dad to loved F1, I too watched these races from as early as I can remember (and still do to tis day) but this year is one I wish I'd been able to see with my own eyes - stunning, adrenaline filled bravery and determination, something that just wont ever happen again with the Health & Safety and Rules and Regulations of today's quite tame comparison but I'm sure the drivers of today would state its even tougher out there now.

Having this movie made seems to have captured the essence of the 1976 season and I'm glad it was as good as it is.  If Niki Lauda approves - who am I to judge?

Friday, 20 September 2013

284, White House Down

You would be easily forgiven for thinking that Hollywood have gone MAD!  "Hang on - haven't I just seen this movie" I hear you all cry? but panic not - We've seen this before, quite a few times.

White House Down isn't the only movie that's easily comparable with another recent release (in this instance, Olympus has Fallen).  The other notable doubles are Liberty Stands Still (Phone Booth?), Day and Knight (The Killers?) and Oblivion (Moon?).  All have extremely similar plot lines and each released over an easily comparable time frame and I'm sure there are many more that I've missed so seeing as these two have both been blogged by me, which stands out as the 'must see?'

Well for me.  Olympus has Fallen is the better movie and I'll explain why. 

The North Koreans bringing 'Shock and Awe' back to Washington by pounding down the White House font door with nothing but big brass balls and epic force far outweighs the sneaky 'bomb in a bin' technique orchestrated by the Presidents own trusted allies (no spoiler alert - its obvious who's in charge from the first 5 minutes) used in White House Down.

I know - before you all moan - the Bomb was in the Capital Building but its what started the events and although far more believable - just lacked that big screen presence of its predecessor.

Then there is the cast, Tatum and Foxx are by far the bigger of the Hollywood players right now and I'm guessing more of a draw than comparable portrayals by Gerard Butler (Secret Service) and Aaron Eckhart (President) but that's what made Olympus so awesome - you weren't drawn into ego's which I feel you are with this newer rendition.

White House Down shows a wannabe Secret Service agent (Tatum) dreaming of getting the big gig and after failing the interview, ends up taking his daughter on a tour of the White House when it all kicks off.  After they end up separated, he seeks her out and after managing to rescue the President along the way realises his dream job is happening right now and with his family at risk as well as the safety of his boss, has to kick ass to save the day - single handed.

The stand out performance in this though isn't from Tatum or Foxx but Tatum's fantastic political geek of a daughter, Emily (played by the ever so cute Joey King) who's sheer belief in the Presidency and all it stands for give her balls of solid brass when squaring off with some pretty vicious terrorist, although funnily enough, one is played by StreetDance 2 star Ash / Falk Hentschel, but no pirouettes or jazz splits on show here! and he's not in the least bit scary.

The rousing finale which involves a limo chase across the White House lawn and a geeky President managing to lose a Rocket Launcher doesn't hold a candle to the bravery of Emily and her sheer determination - even after getting a proper whack from lead baddie Jason Clarke (Stenz) to raise the Presidential flag just as the bombers are set to obliterate the White House is close to tear jerking for the most hardened action nuts among you but other than the last 25 minutes - Olympus has Fallen wins the Action fest hands down.

Tatum is just a little bit too methodical and Foxx tries to offset his lack of hardness (he's more a number cruncher than warrior) with comedy and sadly fails.  Even the choice of the Presidential Nike Air's? when making a quick change just took it one step too far for me.

There is plenty of Bruce Willis style Die Hard 'vests' on show for the Channing Tatum fans but if you want true, non stop action that impresses on every level then the Gerard Butler version if far better, (Even though the Emily / Flag scene is one of the most moving things I've seen on screen this year).

283, Riddick

This is the third outing for Vin Diesel's apocalyptic styled character Riddick, who always seems to end up abandoned on desolate planets, fighting to protect himself from creatures of the night, helped only by his unique sense of survival, supreme fighting skills and an ability to see in the dark.

Maybe I should have paid closer attention to the other movies Pitch Black (2000) and Chronicles of Riddick (2004) as well as a TV movie?? & games of the same name but sadly I didn't, so when this third outing started offering flash backs I had no idea if they related to any previous movie and as such - was totally lost for about the first 30 minutes of this film.  Sorry! 

So - possibly offending the 'Die Hard' Riddick fans out there I'm going to casually skip to where I managed to gain focus which is when Riddick activates an outpost beacon, knowingly drawing two ships of bounty hunters to his destination to chase his well sought after bounty and assuming they want his head - sees this as the only way off of this abandoned and horrific planet and has to either win their trust, or defeat them trying!

This wont be the longest blog every written as the movie really does just plod along aimlessly.  Funnily enough I'm going to compare this to Predator (Schwarzenegger - 1987) and bear with me but you'll see why in a moment...

You can easily tell who's going to get picked off next and seeing the cast include one female (she'll obviously survive) a number of goofy ex marines (they'll die) and Batista from the W.W.E (who manages to hold them off a little longer, but also dies) you quickly realise that in all honesty - its just a space aged version of the Arnie classic, but with worse acting!  (Predator had Jesse 'The Body' Ventura, also W.W.F - in its day)  Comparable?  you decide.

The saving grace is the monster effects - Riddick's the pet Hyena / alien dog (?) although weird is quite endearing but even that is drastically let down by the awful CGI of the 'Harley Davidson' styled hover bikes / speeders that in all honestly look like they have been superimposed on backdrops with blu-tac and being even more honest - with today's technology available, the 'Return of the Jedi' Speeder chase through the Ewok's Forrest moon of Endor (filmed 30 years ago) was far more believable!  Shame on you!

Like I said, If I had paid more attention to the earlier movies then I may have a better word to say but don't get me wrong - I'm still loving the Diesel and Fast & Furious 7 (2014) and xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (2015?) are right at the top of my watch list.

282, We're The Millers

'We're The Millers' for me is one of the stand out laughter fests of 2013 so far.  Not really sure what to expect, I was brilliantly surprised when what appeared to be a good old fashioned comedy road movie quickly turned into a well written and brilliantly thought our plot line with a fantastic cast.

Firstly - if you've seen this movie then you'll easily forgive me for getting straight to Jennifer Aniston.  As in Horrible Bosses, this +40 year old still manages to wow a crowd by stripping off and in this she doesn't disappoint again!  Lets just say she leaves most of the 20+ year old's trying to compete for leading roles standing and seeing as she's still 'got it' she's more than happy to flaunt it.

The rest of the cast are led by Drug Dealer David (Sudeikis) who after taking a dodgy deal to transport a bit of weed from Mexico to the U.S by totally over the top businessman (and prolific weed baron) Brad (Ed Helms) who has an Orca in his fish tank (amazing) decides to rope in a makeshift family to reduce suspicion by hauling the dope across border patrol in a bog standard R.V.

The family include the aforementioned Aniston as his fake wife, the brilliant Emma Roberts as Cathy, Daughter / homeless girl and the star of the show, Kenny (Will Poulter) as the obnoxious but innocent neighbours kid who after his mum disappears after a 3 day bender - tows along for the ride.

Poulter is the stand out star of this show, his Brit innocence shines through in this against the hardened yanks and after his initially annoying role in The Narnia movie, really comes into his own in this.  Also - it cant go unnoticed that although weird (as on the outside its his Mom and his Sister) he gets to mosh lips with Aniston & Roberts as they teach him how to kiss, 'passionately' and taking it in turns the young actor certainly get the 'Lad' nod from me, as well as envy from all the male cinema occupants - albeit in the story the hilarity of getting caught supposedly French kissing his Mum & Sister (with his Dad watching) to the unaware is comedy genius!

When the 'tad' of weed turns into a few tonnes - the epic road movie and journey home becomes one of the funniest things I have seen since the toilet scenes in Bridesmaids and the fake family group have to actually stand together to get through it, something that warms the heart at the end when the final scenes are made clear and all will admit - it all works out in the end - for everyone!

The Shark / Orca hunt in the fish tank is an immediate & unexpected addition that you'd never guess and although only a few seconds long - it fantastically conceived and that matched with Aniston having to 'prove' she's a stripper really tick all the boxes that go towards making a good film great.

I'd recommend this to anyone who likes a good old belly laugh and for those like me who got annoyed with Poulter's portrayal of Eustace in 'The Dawn Treader' will see a naive comedy genius in the making.

Friday, 13 September 2013

281, Pain & Gain

From the trailers, this movie looked to me like an absolute hysterical riot.  Then you realise it's actually based on a true story and wonder that if that's the case - how funny can the kidnapping, torture and extortion of a businessman really be?

Well - the easy answer is about 3 minutes of funny.  The Trailer.

Sadly, if you are expecting a fun filled party with Wahlberg, The "Rock" Johnson & Anthony Mackie bowling around as three goofy body builders trying to make a quick buck then like me - you'll be in for a shock. 

The comedy moments are all in the cinema trailer with the initial fancy dressed kidnap attempt including a Samurai and Green Ninja mixed with The Rock's loss of his big toe are two of the stand out laugh out loud moments but what's left is easily described as quite a violent and brutal portrayal of how three guys played the criminal system for about a year resulting in life sentences for two of them and a number of murders along the way.

Dwayne Johnson is by far the stand out casting for this movie.  His character is the ex drug addict / re-born Christian who once the money rolls in quickly picks up his old habits making himself an obvious weak link in the secretive chain but he will have you in stitches doing everything from barbecuing corpses hands in front of Police to wearing a Crockett styled Miami Vice suit and getting ink bombed with a secure cash bag stolen from the high street.

Wahlberg is the brains of the operation, albeit completely botched from the start and Mackie's relationship with the brilliant Rebel Wilson will have you weeping with laughter into your popcorn.  Things start to get serious when retired Detective Ed Harris gets involved with the claims of criminal activity and as soon as someone with half a brain gets involved - the crew are taken down almost instantly.

No need for spoilers here as this was a well publicised case in the USA with one of the trio already out of prison, the other two facing death row for their actions and a few more who didn't make it through their sentences.

Its hard to question 'real life' movies as its only going to be as captivating as the actual events and it was nice to see the mug shots of the real criminals at the end which does bring a large element of realism to the whole movie but if I could hand on heart say that I got what I was expecting when I watched this film then I'd be lying.

If 'dramatisations' of real life crime stories are your thing then you'll love it.  I did enjoy it but only after reality kicked in that this wasn't just a straight forward comedy gangster movie.  If I'd known it had a violent plot, backing up the 'A List' cast then I would have gone in with a completely different frame of mind but now, looking back - its a real look at a hideous crime that took place not too many years ago and with that in mind (& considering one of them is now out of prison).  It was great :)