Tuesday, 21 May 2013

258, Fast & Furious 6

Not many movies make it to a 6th instalment ever and keep the audience hooked - obviously, Bond is a stand out reference to a successful franchise (albeit re-vamped time after time) but over recent years there is far fewer than you may think.  Harry Potter, Saw, Nightmare on Elm Street & Police Academy are a few that spring to mind and each have secured a loyal fan-base along the way but for me - Fast & Furious 6 tops the lot.

I love this movie, infact - I love all of the movies.  Although the story flows smoothly from Part 1 (12 years ago) right up to the newest instalment they have swapped in and out cast members and not been afraid to introduce new stars along the way.  Recently, The Rocks involvement from Fast 5 and 6 for me really ramped up the action, both as an adversary and as an ally and it just proves once more that if written, shot and acted well - a good story can go a long way.

Episode 6 sees our gang of happy street racers relatively secure in their non-extradition countries, living well of the $100 Million heist form the last outing but this time around, its The Rock who comes looking for help to take down a new wave terrorist who brings more than just violence and mayhem - he brings Letty - Back from the Dead!!!  More than enough reason for Dom, Brian and the rest to come out of retirement and give something back - with the added bonus of full pardons if they pull it off.

The action here doesn't stop from the second the movie opens and as before, you are swept along for a fast paced, adrenaline fuelled adventure that will have you screeching out of the car park yourself by the time it's all finished!  Shaw, the newest enemy is an ex Special Forces operative, keen to steal a microchip that could spell total devastation for the world as we know it and Hobbs (Rock) has no choice but to enlist the help of the gun-ho street racers to help draw him into the open.

Most of this movie is filmed in London and it never looked better, hurtling around the West End in scenes filmed out in the open while the rest of us were glued to the Olympics.  Shot from street level as well as helicopter cams, the chase and ace scenes merge seamlessly around our beloved Capital with ease, only with far less Police to be seen although there is a welcome jibe to the number of 'big brother' CCTV cameras on show at every curve, crossing and street light.

The cast is better than ever although sadly missing our Mexican duo this time out (stuck at the Vegas Casinos) but Dom, Brian, Mia, Han, Gisele and (on finest form), Roman are all back with vengeance.  It's funny, sexy and breathtaking and has a few stunts that will make your heart stop - with the Tank / Bridge scene a firm favourite.

Sadly - I do have one gripe with the whole thing - the final scenes with the aircraft and Shaw's getaway seem to have been filmed on the world's longest ever runway!  Almost an entire 20 minute action sequence, shot entirely as a military cargo plane just keeps going and going and going - great to watch, but entirely unbelievable.  Such a shame, but if you ignore the continuity - the action makes up for it.

Finally, the credits.  Don't get up and leave just yet.  It's no secret that filming is already underway on Part 7 but who's the enemy next time out?  Well, that's the spoiler that even I'm not brave enough to give away but trust me, it's a crowd pleaser and one that will hear the audience gasp but most of all, it will without doubt ensure you book your seat early for the next one! 

Sunday, 19 May 2013

257, Mud

As its Blockbuster season its hard for smaller budget movies to get a look in. For me, Mud literally crept up from nowhere however seemed a quirky little number well worth a view. 

This film certainly wont entertain the die hard action buffs, nor will it tickle the fancy of comedy enthusiasts or even the love story tear spewers but if like me your a fan of movies such as Super 8, Stand by Me etc then there might be something here that will manage to crack a small knowing smile that this film offers something a little special.

Mud is the coming of age story of two young lads Ellis & Neck Bone (who's scarily comparable to a young River Phoenix - fuelling the fire for the Stand by Me comparison) who come across a storm stricken boat lodged in a tree on a remote island among the waterways of Arkansas.  Their prize, well worth retrieving is thwarted by the discovery of Mud, a rugged and lonely man (McConaughey) who's seemingly taken up residence within it.

The story thereafter - Well, Mud manages to talk the boys into helping him restore the boat for himself while slowly, the unravelling of Mud's existence and reasons for being on the island become apparent for all.  Our boys are torn between whats right, what wrong and behind it all, fuelled on by a love story that tugs at the heartstrings.  Its unlikely that you'd expect a movie like this to end with an all out gun fight on a makeshift houseboat with snipers, fight scenes and a daring escape.  But it does!

The cast - Well, Ellis & Neck Bone (Tye Sheridan & Jacob Lofland) are fantastic and easily comparable to some of the better known faces of Haim, Feldman & Phoenix who all started off their careers in these coming of age movies.  Reese Witherspoon plays a role she's already well suited to as the southern belle love interest of Mud, albeit this time a little more darker and devious than we've seen her play before. 

McConaughey is sensational in yet another fab performance that sees a return to form over recent years and with plenty more in the pipeline between now and 2015 lets hope it continues. 

I may be mistaken but I believe this movie had a delayed UK release seeing as I'm sure I read this was filmed before Magic Mike but that aside - I was glad I took the time to break up my Blockbuster Summer of movies to take in this little gem.

Yes, it feels long and ploddy in places but you never get bored and each event leads smoothly onto the next one and so on and so forth until everything is explained.  There are great little sub-plots along the way which include Ellis's own little love dilemma and his totally fearless approach to fighting far bigger and stronger opponents who cross those he cares about with no real concern for his own well being as well as his own friendship with Neck Bone (great name!) that is one that most kids of that age will easily relate too, especially in those long drawn out summers but we never had the luxury of our own motor boat - or the level of freedom that these two explorers readily enjoy, even in tough times.

If you want something a little different, loved Stand by Me or indeed any coming of age movie of the time then you wont be disappointed with this little offering.

256, Star Trek Into Darkness

Firstly, I certainly do not claim to be a 'Trekkie' in any way.  Even as a kid growing up - I rarely sat down to watch any of the original episodes with Shatner, Nimoy and the rest although like everyone else - I certainly was aware they existed. 

Even after these ended, the new adventures of Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager & Enterprise (I did my homework!) still didn't win me over as a fan - that was until J.J Abrams took the helm, introduced a cast that I totally rate (each individually and even more as a collective) and all of a sudden - I was hooked!

I loved the first instalment - as always, it takes time for a new team to get together and the initial outing covered that off very nicely, setting up our Enterprise crew as a likable bunch of young adventurous and knowing these relationships were already in place meant that part two could get straight down too it.

The special effects were awesome, 3D was spectacular, acting was superb, jokes were plentiful, action was breathtaking, I could go on and on.  For those that haven't seen the first one I highly recommend you watch it first even if just to familiarise yourself with the characters and their own reasons for being selected.  Each has a story and its important that you meet them all in the way J.J intended but once you've been formally introduced, you'll love them just as much as me.

Everyone returns for the sequel (why wouldn't they?) including Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood)who's been aged more than the rest of them but even so, Pine, Quinto, Saldana, Urban, Pegg, Cho & Yelchin (a.k.a) Kirk, Spock, Uhuru, Bones, Scotty, Sulu & Chekov make a dream team of gun-ho explorers who's camaraderie for one another is unrivalled.

There is however one more character that you wont want to ignore - Khan.  Our very own Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) is absolutely awesome as the villain, hell bent on taking down Starfleet to the best of his ability and with the introduction of the Klingon's as well (far more darker than those ever seen before) the table is set for a proper battle between good & evil.

To be honest - that's all I'm going to say.  I don't want to take anything away from the big-screen experience you will encounter when you sit down to watch this and the cinema is a must-see for all fans of the first outing.  Go Now!  Live long and prosper.

255, Iron Man 3

So here it is, the third and final (?) instalment of whats honestly been a pretty impressive trilogy.  For me - the lure of a good Superhero movie is one I can never walk away from, as with the recent Batman outings I always seem to crave the next big thing.  Iron Man 3, Avengers 2 & Man of Steel as well as few other pipeline movies will always top my most wanted list so to see them through to their end leaves a sense of emptiness once there done.

As for Iron Man 3 however I left feeling slightly confused.  I'm not going to give the game away entirely but as with Batman - we are left as an audience realising that the involvement of the lead character, cloaking up to defeat bad guys may be at an end but still leaving an opening for someone else to pick up the mantle - something that will be interesting to see played out due to the continuity of Avengers 2.  its no secret that Iron Man 3 picks up where Avengers left off - Stark himself having nightmares about the alien invasion and his fall from space that could have ended so differently had the wormhole closed with him on the other side.

With that and his now knowledge of other universal beings (Thor, Loki etc) this movie centres more around the demons within Stark rather than suiting up at every opportunity and when it all finally wraps itself up - you do wonder how Iron Man's involvement in the Avengers 2 will actually work - if of course he's in it.  (Although it is only rumoured at this time - according to IMDB).

Well, that's enough of the politics - lets get back to the movie. 

When it comes to Special Effects - action fans certainly
wont be left wanting more - there is plenty to keep the most hardened of us pleased and that by far is the biggest thumbs up I can give this movie.  The trailer?  Well that focuses on The Mandarin - Ben Kingsley's frighteningly scary terrorist who can strike at any moment, from anywhere.  There is however a likeable twist when it comes to this character which again - is too good to spoil but when the penny actually drops, lets just say there is definitely two sides to this so called ultimate bad-ass.

Stark & Potts, well, there is certainly more flesh on show from the gorgeous Paltrow and Downey Jr. himself certainly displays more humility in this than any of the others, appearing the most vulnerable you've ever seen him.  A well played back up cast sees regulars Don Cheadle & Jon Favreau doing their bit with gusto and new addition Guy Pearce is an unlikely choice for the one time geek turned potential heartbreaker and deadly new threat, Killian.

The plot - well, that's simple.  Terrorist wants to take down pretty much everyone and Iron Man steps up to take him down.  Nothing new there then!

There is no doubt this is to be classed as a Hollywood Blockbuster - a must see movie if you've followed the other two but for me it just seemed to lack a certain something.  Everyone was great in their roles but I just felt something was missing and the sad thing is I can actually put my finger on what it is. 

The actual 'threat' element of the movie, once explained left me feeling a little cheated.  Perhaps totally unbelievable (to me) in its theory but then, this is a movie that makes up a set of recent Marvel outings that see Intergalactic Gods fighting Ice Giants so who is to say whats believable or not.  I suppose because the other two Iron Man films were actually quite down to earth in comparison - this one just jumped a few steps too far the other way, but I believe I've got the Avengers to thank for that.

For fans of the set - you wont complain.  Its a fitting finale to a great trilogy of movies and who's to say we wont see an Iron Man 4 at some point in the future, not me!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

254, Olympus Has Fallen

Since 300, Gerard Butler has failed to impress me.  I'm sorry if you don't agree but he always seemed under valued as a true action movie candidate, destined for the big time.  Fair enough - there was moments of stardom including RocknRolla, Law Abiding Citizen and Gamer but on the whole - he has turned his arm more to a rom-com genre with a few beat em' ups along the way - well, Olympus Has Fallen certainly puts and end top that.

Butler plays Mike Banning - an ex- Secret Service senior tasked with the Top Job - Presidential Protection and seemingly is getting on fine until a freak accident leaves the 1st lady dead (car crash) and Banning bumped down to a desk job, albeit still in touch with his co-workers and ex-boss on a conversational & friendship level.

The movie gathers pace quickly as the White House plays host to a Korean ambassador who, unbeknown to him - has a secret band of terrorists in his ranks who are hell bent on a White House Take down - with dramatic consequences.  Their plight - to have U.S forces stand down their protection of the south Korean borders, something the president is unwilling to do - even at the threat of his life and those of his cabinet.

Butler - knowing the White House layout to a tee manages to infiltrate the defences, remarkably taken down within 15 minutes by a well planned and devilishly brutal attack sequence from the Korean forces that will leave the most action hardy of you screaming for more! and Butler continues to personally take down the bad guys 1 by 1 until the gripping finale that sees good obviously overcome!

And that's about it really.  It's a fast paced, fully fuelled action romp that as one of my friends stated - could easily have been titled 'Under Siege 3', purely due to the wrong place / right time scenario previously seen from Steven Segal in parts 1 & 2.  Although to his credit, Butler is by far the better actor.

Everyone shines - Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Rick Yune, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett and special recognition to Melissa Leo - who's part as the female Secretary of Defence really does command respect as her character shows a complete 'we do not negotiate with terrorists' approach - even after getting absolutely beaten senseless but the infiltrators - a brilliant role, excellently cast and played.

As for everything else - well this is one of the best action movies I've ever seen.  I know it cant be compared to legendary movies like the early Die Hard's or Schwarzenegger outings but of recent times at least - this one is right up there - a definite DVD purchase me thinks!

253, Oblivion

There is no denying that everyone loves a Tom Cruise Blockbuster.  The M.I Movies are some of my favourites and dating back over 20 years - Cruise seems to deliver every time.  

On review of the trailers, Oblivion looks like yet another epic Sci-Fi blockbuster with Cruise at the helm in a beautifully crafted masterpiece set to deliver on almost every level.

Oblivion sees the world after global Alien warfare, a battle won by the humans but due to Nuclear fallout, to the cost of the planet and civilisation (as we know it) now lives somewhere else in constructed Space Stations. 

Our Hero - Jack (Cruise) is one a few remaining technicians who's role it is to repair and maintain the drones, still surveying the land in a bid to expel any remaining Alien hoards.  Limited to a specific region of land due to uninhabitable radioactive territories, Jack and his female counterpart (and systems controller) Victoria (Riseborough) live and almost recluse lifestyle with only the voice of the base camp as a daily reminder they are not alone.

That is until Jack starts getting flashbacks from a supposed time once lived with a person he believed he knew and goes about daily life until he comes across a wrecked shuttle with human survivor's (albeit in stasis) and low and behold - its the dream girl! 

The entire build up to this movie was based around an Alien invasion and it would be wrong of me to spoil the plot for anyone not yet seen it - suffice to say the involvement of Morgan Freeman totally changes the premise of this movie and although for me, this film did take a while to get going - once the truth was explained - the pace certainly does pick up and after a slow start, the 2nd part of this movie is certainly worth the wait.

There is no denying that Oblivion isn't a beautiful movie - the special effects are stunning and the locations are baron and mesmerising however with the aforementioned ploddy beginnings it dropped a few points for me but that was more than made up for at the end - just a shame it took so long.

Cruise however is great, he really draws you into his world with seamless interactions which in the early stages are just him and the wasteland.  The rest - well, that's for you to find out but if I could say one thing - don't expect what you're expecting!

252, The Odd Life of Timothy Green

Sometimes you don't need that many words to describe a movie.  In the case of Timothy Green, by the time this blog gets written its probably already on DVD! however it would be rude not to at least acknowledge it as a cute movie that allows Disney to roll out out an already done movie plot - but with a twist.

As many of you will know, Nanny McPhee was the story about a lady who descends upon a family of unruly children and with each behavioural lesson learnt - her appearance improves, losing a sizable waist, a few warts, dodgy teeth etc along the way until the newly semi-fit McPhee has done her job, the kids are behaving and she moves onto the next lot - a twist itself on Mary Poppins.

Well, this film sheds a new angle on the above plot however this timeout we see a flip to parents needing guidance, not children and it opens with a childless couple who sadly cant conceive so decide to write all the things they would want for in a child and put them in a keepsake box, planted in the garden.  That evening - after a freak storm that sees rain fall in a drought ridden town somewhere is the States albeit only above their house gives birth (or growth) to Timothy Green - an adorable kid with the unique ailment of having leaves growing from his legs.

The rest of the movie?  Well that's sweet.  Each time one of the parents wishes comes true a leaf falls from the leg until all their dreams have come true and then its time for Timothy to move on.  Along the way you get some adorable stories being played out that will bring a tear to the more emotional of you and your kids will love it but fear not! As in all Disney movies - of course there is a happy ending.

As for cast - well, The parents being Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton are definitely well matched and easily likable as the distraught wanna-be parents as is Timothy himself, played by CJ Adams in only his third movie since 2007.  The rest of the cast are made up of a few recognisable faces but mainly - the focus is on the main three.

As far as feel good movies go - this one is definitely up there with a few tears for the those partial to a sweet story and if that's you - enjoy!