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 :)

280, Elysium

For those who saw and fell in love with the backdrops of Oblivion (Tom Cruise) then Elysium looked set to take it to another level. 

A diseased and ecologically ruined planet earth remains home for those who don't have the money to vacate its dying atmosphere and move to the ever hovering Elysium - a space station styled oasis that lets the rich and affluent live in perfect bliss with not only a fantastic climate and living quarters, but a disease free existence thanks to the help of some pretty impressive machinery that are capable of ridding cancerous cells and other ailments including everything from the common cold to broken bones.

Matt Damon is brilliantly cast as a normal working citizen who after a radioactive work accident is literally being given days to live with his only hope of survival being a healing booth on Elysium and without the acceptance of a citizen, faces certain death.

In a make or break dash to save his life he falls in with a group of rebels who have the means to convert him into a citizen but having to hijack a ship and break through the heightened security of Elysium, headed up by the ever sincere Jodie Foster proves no mean feat and once there - realises he has the chance to change the Elysium source code to  make every human on earth an Elysium citizen and finally bring peace, harmony and most importantly - perfect health to a dying race.

What a story!  I totally loved this movie.  The special effects are second to none, even with today's high standards and the casting is epic from every character listed.  Damon and Foster head it up but there are plenty of easily recognisable faces including the fantastic Sharlto Copley (Murdock / A-Team) who is almost unrecognisable as battered but devastatingly destructive Hitman, Kruger.

I don't want to give too much away regarding the plot but its one of those movies where you get a funny feeling someone is going to have to suffer for the greater good but as the movie pans out you end up wondering if its as straight forward as initially thought.

If Sci-Fi movie are your thing then this is definitely one to watch.  The Spaceships, Weaponry, Medi-Vac Doctors and most importantly Damon's exo-skeleton suit are fantastically designed and brilliantly conceived which makes for a cracking side story into Damon's own issues on a physical level as one as a medical and mental one.

I think many of you will find it hard to fault this one.  Yes, there will be comparisons to almost every futuristic movie made in the last 5 years which will include Dredd, Oblivion, Total Recall etc but this one really does shine in comparison and I urge you all to see it.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

279, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Its about time another Teen Fiction Fantasy made it onto our screen after the success of Harry Potter & Twilight (not for me you understand!) but for all those lost kids needing a new focus on life.  Luckily, the Author of the Immortal instruments saga really listed and paid attention to what's already proved popular as this movie has a little bit of everything, let me explain.

Its got Werewolves, Vampires, Magic, Hidden Castles, Warriors, Demons and much much more.  The story is quite simple.  After seeing a murder take place in a club that apparently is lost on everyone else, Clara (Lily Collins) discovers she is the most recent descendant in a long line of Shadow Hunters (defenders of a dark realm) and after the disappearance of her mother realises its time to take on her own destiny as she joins a band of warriors takes with keeping the demons at bay.

Its a great idea and one that is executed brilliantly.  As you've most probably guessed - I haven't read the books but it didn't matter.  I heard it on pretty good authority from a 'reader' that in all honesty, the movie is a really good adaptation.  All of the basic requirements are covered and it quickly gets into the 'who's who' of the storyline.  Clara heads the pack, with her 'bestie' Simon (Robert Sheehan) playing the besotted puppy following her every move, albeit nicely.  They team up with the Warriors - Jace, Isabelle & Alec played by relative unknowns but all of them brilliant.

The bad guys are led by the ever impressive Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Valentine) who's right hand man Pangborn (Kevin Durand) reprises a role similar to the one he plays in 'I Am Number Four', just without the teeth! There are plenty of others characters but to name them all would wipe out the rest of this blog!

What I loved about this movie is it takes the best bit of all the preceding franchises seen over the past 10 years, drops the pointless parts and focuses on all the good stuff.  Its got all the magic and captivation of the Potter films mixed seamlessly with a Twilight styled (and albeit brief) love story that soon comes to a crashing irreversible halt (you'll see).  The Vampires are more like Zombies than sweet an innocent 'day walkers' and the Werewolves proper 'Hulk' out when needed. 

The Demons are quite startling, taking form from everything from the sweet old next door neighbour to a snarling Rottweiler.  These are brilliantly hidden from the outside 'mortal' world leaving the Warriors to wherever possible deal their destruction in the shadows.

Lily Collins is fantastic and the 2nd part is already in pre-production for a 2014 release date so hopefully, we will get one of these a year to see the saga through and with each book taking a different direction I am hoping for a good run of films, each improving as they go. 

To be honest - I was expecting a lame Twilight rip off but this takes out all the fluff and really gets down to a cracking story line with more violence than you'd expect and a great twist that flattens any kind of romance before it really gets going, Who wants romance in a Vampire / Werewolf / Demon / Warrior movie any way?