Thursday, 27 June 2013

265, Snitch

When you see Dwayne Johnson in a movie nowadays that normally means you're in for a full blown action / adventure epic with awesome fight scenes, edge of the seat, jaw dropping special effects and basically - the stuff that captivates action junkies - with the odd cheesy kids flick thrown in to keep the fan base happy.

This movie however - doesn't tick all of the regular boxes and I'm finding it hard to understand why he was cast for the role.

Johnson plays a successful business owner of a construction firm, with a new wife and daughter and an pretty impressive homestead he has left behind an ex-wife an son that appear to not have been too fortunate.  In a daft turn of events, his son agrees to accept a package of drugs from a so called friend and before you know it the D.E.A have stormed the house and arrested the kid for possession with the intent to supply after being grassed up by his 'so called' pal to bid to reduce his own sentence by playing Snitch.

Offered the same deal to reduce his 'expected' sentence from 10yrs to 2, Jason (Johnson's son) is offered the same get out of jail card but not knowing any dealers and refusing to drop innocent mates into the frame he decides to man up and prepares to face time - however Dad is not too happy and approaches the Governor? (Sarandon) to see if there is anything he can do to bring down a few drug rings to help reduce the sentence.

This is where I thought The Rock would come into his own - busting out the biceps to wreak some damage to bad guys but he is every bit as much as out of his depth doing this as he would be partaking in the royal ballet!

Using money to bribe a few of his less than honourable employees he manages to infiltrate a drug ring and within a few conversations secures an undercover deal with a huge Mexican King-pin to transport $83mill across the Mexican border.

For a billed 'action' movie the 12a cert should have given the game away and to be honest, there is very little action to actually speak off.  The story is quite ploddy and long winded and The Rock actually gets a kicking rather than dish one out. 

There are a few moments of quality which involves a Mexican stand off and an attack on a drug dealers pad but each only lasts a few minutes and its not until the very end with the Semi Truck transport to Mexico of the cash do things actually speed up a little, but not too much because it all then kinds of ends quite abruptly and politely.  Sad really.

Had Dwayne of kicked right off and started cracking skulls I could have seen the link but to be honest, Steve martin could have done just as good a job.

For me - this seemed like a passing time filler between Fast & Furious 6 &7 as well as a few other up and coming movies and for me, should have been one he avoided but he got paid so in his shoes - I'd probably have done the same.

Only go to this if you have already seen Man of Steel and WWZ, if not - both of these other movies leave Snitch well and truly standing.

Monday, 24 June 2013

264, World War Z

There are Zombie films and there are ZOMBIE films - this my friends is the latter.  Luckily, World War Z(ee) is more action than horror otherwise I'd have switched off in the first 20 minutes but there is something about this that engages you from the outset.

Who ever came up with the notion that zombies would plod around aimlessly, leaving you plenty of time to escape a locked in loo let alone a country obviously hadn't discussed the notion with Brad Pitt as these bad boys (and girls) come at you like a Tsunami rather than a 'non' energised bunny to the point that within 10 seconds of being chomped on you're part of the clan and swept up in a constant, hunger fuelled rampage the only ends when the blood literally runs out.

Well - that's what you get with this movie - and its truly awesome.

I skipped over the Tsunami quote above but that's exactly the point of this movie - There is no slow-mo zombie attacks here  - the CGI of literally thousands of zombies charging down human fortresses is some of the best mass effects you will see in recent times and the whole idea of a virus or bacterial infection as the trigger is more than plausible - even if the symptoms are far from believable. 

Pitt plays an U.N official - drafted back in after early retirement to spend time with his family as the global epidemic of Zombie(ism?) takes over pretty much the whole globe.  His job, to leave his family on a floating aircraft carrier and head off to find patient zero and with it a cure, or at least some breathing space until someone can find out how to rid the world of the un-dead.

The plot here is fantastic - Pitt travels from Israel to Jerusalem to Wales to find what he's looking for and results in a climatic finale where Pitt has to go face to face with a Zombie to test his theory that could potentially save humanity and I had goosebumps popping from every skin cell on my body.

The whole cast is fantastic - from Brad Pitt himself right down to Pater Capaldi (BBC's The Thick of it) and everyone else in between.  To highlight a few, there is Pitt's family (wife and daughters) who are awesome, his U.N boss who plays the protector and guardian angel and the reasons for the family's survival in the first place and the W.H.O Dr's (I haven't got it the wrong way round - World Health Organisation) who 'man up' exactly when needed to assist Pitt.  Finally -  my favourite were the Marine squadron who assist in the plane refuelling with a real "Hoo-Ra!" attitude that rounds off the stand out cast.

There are few jumpy moments (its not all sweetness and light) with the most jumpy being the zombie leaping out from the dumb waiter on the passenger plane but on the whole - its not a scary movie so please don't be put off by it.

This has 'action' written all over it with awesome special effects and the falling of Fortified Israel (you'll understand) is one of the most awe inspiring visualisations of mass CGI Mapping you will ever see.  I cant fault it - from the first 10 minutes the action starts and its finale which is more edge of the seat anticipation than actual Zombie rampage finishes it all off perfectly.

As for happy endings - well apart from millions of humans dying globally it could have been better but do the strong survive?  Well of course they do.  Hollywood's not ready to kill of Mr Pitt just yet.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

263, Man of Steel

Its fair to say that Superman Returns was not the greatest comeback for the DC legend that its producers intended.  After the fantastically awesome Batman Trilogy something needed to be done to ensure the Superman franchise didn't fall in the wake of one of the greatest movie trilogies of all time.

With Man of Steel - we go right back to the beginning - as with the original Superman movie, we see the Baby Kal-el in his fathers arms in the midst of Krypton's destruction.  There is far more involvement as well between Kal's dad Jor-El ad Zod - the military leader of the home world who's standing up against the Krypton government in its dying hours. 

You can easily say this is a remake of the 1978 classic with the special effects out of this world, literally when it comes to the opening battles.  Then, we have the brilliant interactions of Earth parents Kevin Costner & Diane Lane bringing up Clarke as a boy but cut seamlessly as flash backs from an extremely muscular Kent as he comes to terms with discovering himself.

Even better - it only takes about 40 minutes until we see the suit adorned for the first time and as with Batman - its a far darker suit, very distant from the 'man in sparkly tights' from all those decades ago.

I loved this movie - the special effect are awesome & the music, almost deafening with bass and a melodic drum beat that builds and builds throughout some sequences - exploding as Superman takes flight for the first time.

Henry Cavill - well, there is no geeky journalist approach to this Clarke here, until the end at least and for the mad fan base out there - this movie ends with a truly fantastic opening to absolutely anything they want it too. 

I enjoyed all of the sub-plots and twist and turns that this movie had to offer.  They've gone places that none of the others Superman movies did, the most formidable change being Lois Lane knowing Superman's identity (not really a spoiler here - it happens early on) and bringing Zod in almost immediately - there is also a single reference to Lex Luthor but blink and you'll miss it as it's in the form of a Luther Corp oil truck (unless I missed more).

I could go on and on gushing about this movie.  Cavill is brilliant, Lane and Costner make fab older parents, Russell Crowe as the hard man father in Krypton and Zod himself, Michael Shannon who makes a stand out performance.  Amy Adams is every bit the legendary writer Lois Lane and shines in her portrayal of the pit bull reporter and who else but Laurence Fishburne could play the overbearing Daily Planet editor - Perry White.

Enough said - Awesome special effects and soundtrack - stand out performances by all.  This is easily on par with Batman Begins and I for one hope there is much more to come and with the closing scenes seeing Clarke take on the far more familiar 'cover' role as the geeky Journo - I expect there will be.

262, After Earth

Its fair to say that Will & Jaden Smith have both had their string of successes - Will for me has too many to mention and Jaden shone in Karate Kid.  Together, Pursuit of Happiness was a stand out tear jerker so to have them both back together in 'After Earth' left me wondering if they were still able to pull it off.

Well, luckily - the relationship between them in the movie is close to written off anyway which helps, minimising the element of gushing parent to perfect child - Will is the military commander, barely home enough to raise his own offspring and Jaden - determined to prove to everyone he is every bit his fathers son - with little acknowledgement back in return.

The movie is set way in the future - a Millennium after the human race was forced to leave Earth due to finally exhausting the planet for all its worth.  On an exploratory mission that goes bad - Will & Jaden find themselves crash landed on an abandoned alien world - as the only two survivors and with Cypher (Will) injured - it falls to Kitai (Jaden) to trek across a dangerous and unknown territory to the rest of the wreckage to collect the homing beacon that will bring the rescue ships in to pick them both up.  That world - Earth.  But now, everything has evolved to kill humans (even the cute monkeys!) so good luck with that!

As for Jaden - he is still young so can be excused for what I'm about to say but as for daddy Will - he's done far better work.  The acting comes across a little wooden which is sad as they both have the potential to be far more captivating than they come across and I'm not sure if that's due to the characters being far too over involved than they needed to be for a movie that only lasts 90 minutes.  A high point though, its old school timescale make for a snappy beginning and a fast paced story with little room for a slow in the action.

The special effects are pretty impressive and the CGI used for the wild animals tracking Kitai are smooth as silk with the story is well thought out and believable.  Jaden pulled off stroppy teenager to a tee, something even more believable if you saw him on the UK Graham Norton show where he came across more as 'brat boy' than 'saviour' however even Will let the adoring parent side slip out which made for awful viewing but they more than made up for it with the induced 90's Rap featuring Jazzy Jeff and Carlton from the Fresh Prince - best TV viewing ever!

As for the rest of the movie cast - there is no one else to really talk about.  The bulk takes place between father and son with Dad talking Son through the dangers he will face and being his eyes and ears back at the wreckage.  The tag line for this movie - "Danger is Real, Fear is a choice" (or something like that) sits well throughout the film resulting in a coming of age for young Kitai who even after a few rows with Cypher - manages to come good in the end.

This will not go down in my mind as the greatest movie Will has ever made but with so many success stories under his belt already - he's allowed one or two flops a decade - and on the flip side - this still makes Wild Wild West look awful!

261, The Big Wedding

Before you all strap yourselves in for a raucous hullabaloo of chuckles reminiscent of Father of the Bride or Bridesmaids then take heed - historically - Robert De Niro and comedies don't mix too well (in my mind anyway)

His previous outings in Meet the Parents and subsequent sequels definitely place him better as Mob Bad guys that laughable dad's and although he is loved my many in these roles, for me it just bordered on cringe worthy.

The other thing is don't think that this comedy - The big Wedding is kiddie friendly - although the 15 certificate gives this away its the language that should keep fun loving parents kids far away as De Niro dropping a "C" bomb in polite conversation is only part of the barrage of curses bestowed upon the audience which for some may be too much but for me - were the saving grace of this movie.

This film focuses on a long divorced couple (De Niro & Keaton) who for the sake of their adopted Italian Son (Ben Barnes) wedding to a very local American gal (Amanda Seyfried), have to pretend to play happy families for his visiting birth mother - a devout Catholic.

Throw into the mix De Niro's long time girlfriend (Sarandon) who now has to dumb down her role as Step-parent to the kids, and as one time best friend to De Niro's wife (I am sure you can imagine what happened there) you can only presume that their long standing feud could reach fever pitch.  Then there are the other two grown up kids (Heigl & Grace) offering their humorous quips that "it'll never work" and you end up with a very grown up affair.

I shouldn't moan too much - there were certainly plenty of laugh out loud moments and De Niro as the wealthy sculptor / swear box husband certainly out does his performances of other comedies he's been in.  Sarandon steal the show as the adulteress and sexy girlfriend - offering a slightly bitter approach to being side-lined as after all - she has raised Alejandro (Barnes) from a child / teenager.

Heigl as the older sibling has her own issues with a rowing husband who's absent for most of the movie and the extremely virginal Topher Grace - as the celibate Dr, waiting for Mrs Right is totally bowled over by his adopted brother's sister (yes its legal), a sizzling Latino lady who herself is out for some American kicks of her own.

Wrap all of this up and there is enough story and sub plot to make quite an amusing flick - and although the leading role falls to De Niro himself - there is plenty else going on to distract you from the fact that when all is said and done - comedies still aren't his strong point. Everyone else however (mainly Sarandon & Heigl) are Brilliant.     

Saturday, 8 June 2013

260, Epic

Half Term animated joy this year comes in the form of Epic.  A well casted story telling the tale of a world in miniature, playing out battles between good and evil all throughout the forest.  Almost invisible to the human eye, it takes the belief of one man, Professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis) to devote his life to finding these mystical beings, albeit losing his wife and daughter in the process, but when Bomba's daugher, MK (Amanda Seyfried) comes to visit and gets magically shrunken into the world of the Leaf Men its the belief of her father and the determination of MK to get back home that ensure a happy ending for all.

The 3D animation in this is by no means poor - the depth of field and the feel of the forest really make you believe you could fly on Humming birds or hide out in worm holes but its the high calibre of voices for me that stand this movie out above others.

BeyoncĂ©, Colin Farrell, Chris O'Dowd, Seyfried and Sudeikis (already mentioned) as well as Steven Tyler, Pitbull. Josh Hutcherson and the brilliant Christoph Waltz make up the A-list of names gathered for this latest animated extravaganza and you will have fun playing the 'guess who' game as each character presents itself.

The story itself - well, that was the dull bit.  Saving the forest from Mandrake (Waltz), hell bent on turning the lush greenness into darkness and rot, its down to the army of Leaf Men, led by Ronin (Farrell) and his unwilling soldier of a son, Nod (Hutchinson) to bring them down all under the watchful guidance of Queen Tara (BeyoncĂ©) and with the help of new forest recruit MK (Seyfried).

The jokes in this come thick and fast from Grub & Mub - the Snail & Slug combo seen in the trailers who's job it is too keep the newly blessed bud and future saviour of the forest moist and safe.  These two unknowing heroes get all the one liners, see a slice of the action and manage to wind the bad guys up with light hearted quips and comedic put downs.

There's not much else to say - the animation is every bit as good as anything else - if not better than what's out there currently, the expected happy ending is nothing new but it's the cast make this a definite one to watch - for the kids obviously!

259, The Great Gatsby

So, knowing I don't read (much) its always an eye opener for me to see a movie based on a well known novel that I've got absolutely no prior knowledge of before watching!  Of course I've heard of The Great Gatsby but I have no clue what its about so hopefully - based on the premise that others of you will have more of an idea than me, you will understand if I have nothing to compare it too.

This story is told from the perspective of Wall Street newbie Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) who moves into a quaint little groundsman cottage just next to the sprawling mansion of Jay Gatsby (Leo DiCaprio), a wealthy American gent living it up in the Roaring 20's. 

Carraway's cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) lives just across the bay, opposite Gatsby's pad with wealthy partner Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) who is a bit of a modern day 'lad' with his mistress Myrtle (Isla Fisher) as his bit on the side and that's most of the main cast covered, albeit for the very suave and sexy best pal of Daisy's, Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki) who acts as an initial liaison between Carraway and Gatsby in the opening scenes.

The movie tells the story of how Gatsby's life appears to be an entangled web of mystery with no one really knowing who he is or was or where in deed all the money came from - obviously there are plenty of theories but we find out more and more as the story develops and Carraway and Gatsby's friendship grows. 

The love story element is that of Gatsby & Daisy with a back story 5 years earlier making an appearance as the already once lovers and the reasons for Gatsby's relocation to the house on the other side of the bay and the lavish nightly parties?  Well, A ruse to gain the interest of Daisy all over again and with Carraway being her cousin, its only a matter of time until the two are reintroduced and try once more to carry on from where once they left off.

There is no doubt in my mind that Baz Luhrmann has created a visual masterpiece.  3D is not even required and the vivid colours and fast paced showmanship of Gatsby really leap of the screen in the 2D format.  Mix the colours and pure cabaret feel with the banging soundtrack of 20's Charleston meets modern day Jay-Z (which sounds amazing) and DiCaprio on his finest form (again!) this movie should not fail to please anyone who sees it.

There are definitely two parts to this movie - the 1st half has a distinctive light hearted, slightly comedic party feel to it, peaking with the introduction of Gatsby and Daisy to one another in a hilarious turn of events that's sees our leading man return to almost an childlike attitude towards meeting girls

The 2nd half takes a far darker turn as love story starts to go a little sour and the issues between Gatsby & the Buchanon's show our cast in a far more shadowy light.

either way - both parts are seamless and crafted magnificently.  I wasn't sure if this would be my kind of movie as I'm not a huge fan of Maguire in pretty much anything but luckily - the rest of the cast totally overshadow him, with Isla fisher and DiCaprio producing stand out performances.

Still not enough to make me want to pick up the novel though so I don't know how close the movie is too the original book but as a stand alone movie - Loved it!