Review – Sabotage (2014) – Totally recalling the best action hero?

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“They don’t make ’em like they used to” is the usual cry from action film aficionados who idolise everything from the 80’s. Apparently todays modern actioners don’t stack up to the golden oldies and everything was done much better before anyone had ever heard of CGI or 4k digital projection. In the case of Die Hard and the like, fair enough, a very valid point. But are todays actioners just like that annoying little kid trying to act cool in front of the older, cooler kid in the corner wearing a leather jacket and smoking? Absolutely not.

In Arnie’s case however, most of his better output came in the days before politics came a-calling. The likes of The Last Stand and Escape Plan genuinely do not stand up well to the likes of cult classics like Total Recall, Predator etc etc. Let’s be honest, most of us at one point or another have shouted in a friends face “GET TO THA CHOPPER!” Chances are that we probably won’t be quoting Arnie and Johnny Knoxville’s witty ripostes from The Last Stand in 20 years time.

And now we move on to another post-politics Arnie flick with Sabotage, a tale of how a crack DEA team starts getting picked off one by one after a bungled attempt at stealing some cartel money. Anyone looking for the usual Arnie one liners, a bucket-load of action and three breasted whores should probably look elsewhere because as far as Arnie films go, its a relatively slow burner, focusing more on suspicion between members of the team than using the Korean army’s entire armoury to blast their way out of trouble Expendables style.

The Governor is his usual charming, gun toting cigar chomping self, in charge of looking after his team and dealing with his own personal demons of loss. He may be knocking on a bit and not as ripped as he once used to but there’s no elder statesman you’d rather have backing you up. Sam Worthington manages to show off a side that goes beyond his usual Keanu-style monotone mumblings and manages to convince us of the fear that his character feels regarding who’s next on the cartel chopping block. Not a jaw dropping performance by any stretch of the imagination but it’s an improvement.

"Pandora? Get your ass to Mars instead..."

“Pandora? Get your ass to Mars instead…”

The film manages to do well at keeping the viewer guessing who’s behind the killings. There’s always the cartel there as the big bad guys but there’s always this apparent inward suspicion of each other between the DEA agents which manages to keep things interesting. Although I do believe that it was overdone with a rather dramatic character and plot twist at the very end which doesn’t as much tarnish the entire film but just slightly soils it.

There’s a good few car chases and gun fights for those of us who love nothing more than seeing a bit of mindless action on a Saturday night but as stated previously, it’s not budget busting “classic” Arnie. It does the job though.

It’s a welcome return to form for our favourite Austrian, a very enjoyable thriller with some pretty smart action sequences and decent performances all round. Even if most of the budget did go on feeding Arnie’s cigar habit throughout the film (is there one scene in the movie where Arnie isn’t either fighting or smoking?) it’s still a decent little flick that manages to avoid the confines of the formulaic genre it comes from.

Will we be quoting from this in twenty or thirty years time? I ain’t got time to quote…

7/10

 

 

Rick

Review – The Frozen Ground – Get given the cold shoulder…

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the_frozen_groundNicolas Cage seems to be in quite the career funk at the minute, almost aping Jason Statham in his quest to attach his name to practically every limited / straight-to-DVD release possible. After scouring IMDB for some of his latest works, I’m genuinely unsure whether it was one of Seeking Justice, Rage, Stolen, Trespass or A.N.Other Thriller that I watched a good few months ago. What happened to the man who thrilled us in Leaving Las Vegas (not a thriller by any stretch of the imagination but an indication of what the man is capable of) and the mighty Con Air?

Speaking of Con Air (that was a nice segue wasn’t it?) Cage and John Cusack reunite once again in The Frozen Ground, a based on true events story of the police man hunt to capture and charge Robert Hansen with the murder / disappearance of a vast number of young women in Alaska the 70’s and 80’s. Vanessa Hudgens also stars as Cindy Paulson, one of Hansens victims who managed to escape. Young High School Musical fans looking forward to another highly schmaltzy, saccharine sweet, all singing, all dancing number with their favourite gal Vanessa would be well advised to steer clear of this.

Today I'm going to revisit my top five murders, I mean break-ups

Today I’m going to revisit my top five murders, I mean break-ups

 

The film sets it stall out rather quickly, identifying its target very early on and focuses more on gathering evidence and good old fashioned detective work in order to convict its bad guy, rather than a darker, torture porn esq flick. It does still have its moments that are a bit grim where a couple of attempted escapes and dead bodies are portrayed on screen. Family viewing, this is probably not.

The performances, Cusacks in particular, deserve some attention. Cusack is rather menacing as the god fearing family man / serial killer and his transformation between the two is commendable, especially in the latter stages of the film where he realises that the game is nigh on up. A snarling, angry, loathsome beast which is deserving of such a violent and depraved man. Hudgens proves she’s more than just a cheerleader with a decent enough performance as one of Hansens escaped victims and the subsequent meetings between the two give plenty to rave about. Cage is Cage, he never really seems to, or has to, get out of second gear for this performance, playing the detective who’s a couple of weeks away from re-assignment and gets handed this case. Sure there’s plenty of shouting and determination to find the missing link for the case, but it’s been done far better on far too many occasions. As far as Cage performances go, it’s rather bland and tame, certainly not the mark of Big Daddy.

The film follows the well travelled path as most police procedurals do but sadly takes too long chewing through the evidence gathering and supposition before getting into the meatier stuff. Admittedly my attention was long waning before a half decent final 20 minutes which saved the film from being no more than a straight to DVD hatchet job. The performances are solid enough but ultimately thanks to a rather poor script it’s left with the unenviable job of being lumped in with almost all of Cage’s latest output. Will I be able to differentiate between this and Seeking Justice in a years time? Without the help of this review… Probably not.

4/10

 

Rick

Why “Rock Star” is more than just a film to me

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This post is partially inspired by the fact that tomorrow I shall be forgetting all about fixing vending machines for a living, forgetting about my perpetual struggle to get on the housing ladder, forgetting that I live in a country where far right extremism is on the rise and will be heading off to my spiritual home at Donington Park for Download Festival. 5 days of heavy metal, living like filth and drinking a can at 8am without society dismissing me merely as a “Wetherspoons Wino.”

My home away from home...

My home away from home…

So what does this have to do with films, I hear you ask? Did you blink and miss the transformation of this blog into “Musings of Metal?” Will it be a somewhat tenuous link to how I’ll be filming myself for five days, adding a piano track and creating my own modern day silent film? Sadly not. It’s about a film that means a great deal to me: Rock Star. Y’know, that Marky Mark and Jennifer Aniston film where she’s dressed in leather and he’s a lead singer in a tribute band and gets the chance to be the singer of the band he’s paying tribute to. I can’t blame you if you missed it, I only managed to stumble upon it by chance 4 or 5 years ago, thanks to a former colleague and good friend of mine being incredulous with rage after being told by me that I’d never seen or heard of it. I watched it one night when I was at a loose end, fully expecting a 2 hour Spinal Tap style mockumentary ripping the piss out of a genre and lifestyle I’ve spent the vast majority of my adult life adoring. I fully expected to be going into work the next day armed with a list of faults and complaints and why I hated such a bland and uninspired piece of film making.

Leather... So much leather

Leather… So much leather

But that wasn’t the case. I spent those 105 minutes that night laughing along hysterically and downright adoring the film and was waxing lyrically like a madman the day after at work at what a fantastic movie it was. But why, you ask? It wasn’t generally well received at the box office, or by the critics (it’s 6.1 rating on IMDB is proof of that) and being a wannabe critic myself, how can I explain why the fim speaks to me in such a way that I’m inspired to spend my valuable free time talking about how much I love it?

Many reasons in fact. Films to me have always been about escapism, forgetting about the ills of our modern world and our constant struggles to stay ahead and enjoying a damn good story on screen where we can empathise and can live our dreams which to most are unobtainable in the real world. I dare anyone to say they’ve never been day-dreaming at work, listening to music and picturing themselves up on stage singing songs to thousands of screaming and devoted fans whilst living out a lifestyle of excess, resplendent with limo’s, hotels and chucking TV’s out of windows. It’s not just this though, I could have said a similar sort of thing had I watched some sort of uninspired, self flagellating pile of toss like the Justin Bieber and One Direction cinema events (I’m rather unwilling to call them movies….) It’s a whole multitude of little nods, tidbits etc, such as a young Michael Starr, you may know him as the lead singer of parody act Steel Panther, auditioning alongside Mark Wahlberg for the Steel Dragon singers berth. The two rival tribute acts squaring off against each other in the car park, fighting their respective band members. ZAKK WYLDE! Jason Bonham, Myles Kennedy, amongst other rock royalty. The soundtrack: How can anyone not adore a soundtrack that features Motley Crue, Def Leppard, AC/DC, KISS etc. Songs written for the film (performed by Steel Dragon) which don’t sound like parodies and actually sound like they could, and should, be performed in a muddy field in front of 80,000  pissed up metalhead devotees. Spoiler coming up, although if you’ve read this far then you’re probably familiar with the film already… The film also mirrors reality with Mark Wahlberg giving up on his dream of singing in his favourite band and becoming a lumberjack shirt wearing singer in a tiny cafe right at the start of the grunge movement. It’s never fully implied in the movie but it’s there for all to see.

Steel Dragon turned me down

Steel Dragon turned me down

Not to mention that the film is rather loosely based on Judas Priest, with Tim “Ripper” Owens who was lead singer in a Priest tribute act who managed to live out his dreams and become singer of the band he idolised. If that isn’t a rags to riches story to look up to and be inspired by then I don’t know what is. Did I also mention Jennifer Aniston wearing leather?

Rock Star and heavy metal share so many of the same characteristics. It’s always been the outsider, never really loved or understood by the critics or the mainstream and has always had to fight for acceptance in a world where image and being a pretty boy usually prevails over talent. But there’s a growing number of millions worldwide who adore it and spend their lives defending and championing the genre and the lifestyle. I’ll forever love Rock Star and how much of a true labour of love it is and how it shows off the best of what heavy metal has to offer to the world. Not to mention that it’s still also a damn good rags-to-riches tale of the good guy overcoming all manner of obstacles.

There’s one quote from the film which I believe is a perfect way to end on and it sums everything up in a way that a mere mortal like myself could never say well enough:

After the nuclear holocaust, the survivors will crawl out of the rubble, in the dark, light a fire and then one man, The Singer of Songs, will sing, and that’s the essence of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Rick

Review – The Amazing Spider-Man : Suited and Rebooted

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A pessimist once told the world to “quit while you’re ahead.”Sage advice for those of us who only have fleeting moments of greatness, not so sage for those who are destined for a lifetime of it. Unfortunately this advice wasn’t well heeded by the team involved with the original Spider-Man outings, a highly successful franchise practically destroyed in 2 hours with a third installment filled with villain overkill and a badly advised and even more badly received Peter Parker catwalk strut.

Rather than have the studios cut their losses with the franchise or try to repair the everlasting damage, they’ve gone for the ever popular and easy option of a reboot. A re-telling of the story of Spider-Man, different actors and a different spin to keep the money rolling in. A more polite way of saying that the last outing was a bit naff. And who can blame them. The Spider-Man franchise pretty much heralded the boom of modern day superhero movies and it could be argued that without everyone’s favourite leotard wearing roof jumper paving the way along with Wolverine and his mutant cronies, Iron Man and Co might not have had quite the same box office success and critical acclaim that they’ve had in recent years. But I digress…

Taking over the reins from Tobey Maguire is Andrew Garfield as our titular masked hero. Kirsten Dunst and Mary Jane are relegated to the bench and in comes Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, Spider-Mans love interest / eye candy. The opening ten minutes could basically have been taken from any high school movie of the past twenty years, the tortured outcast struggling with acceptance in school and struggling to get the girl to notice him. Not to mention the issues with Parker being abandoned as a youngster by his parents. Daddy issues? It seems to be the main prerequisite of being a superhero these days…

Even though the whole “high school outcast” schtick has been done to death, it actually works well in this. Spider-Man isn’t a Batman blessed with money and gadgets or an Iron Man blessed with being a playboy philanthropist, he’s just a normal lad blessed (through blind luck?) with great power.

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The main gripe with Tobey Maguire for me was that even though Spider-Man is supposed to be relatable and more like an everyman than a murderous nasty bastard, he managed to overplay that everyman role to such an extent that it made the character more annoying and unbelievable than relatable. Emotional range as the main thing that’s unbelievable in a film about a guy who gets bitten by a spider and can swing from rooftop to rooftop whilst battling giant lizards… Yep. Garfield manages to play that vulnerability to a tee, keeping Parker / Spider-Man as a relatable and “human” character without overplaying it and becoming more like a figure of ridicule than a superhero.

Garfield and Stone’s sheer likeability gives the film a fair amount of heart, especially in the latter stages, showing us that superhero movies can still be allowed to have a few tender moments and hit those emotional high notes as opposed to just seeing “cool shit getting blown up for 2 hours.”

It’s what you’d expect from a modern block buster: Man starts as tortured man, man gets powers, man is misunderstood, man fights evil, man is understood. All the bases are covered, but it still manages to feel fresh and more than just a rehash of a tired franchise with new faces. The Spider-Man franchise had a lot of soul searching to do after the pitiful 3rd installment, but with this reboot they’ve managed to put a new spin on a much loved and popular character and ensured that the superhero juggernaut has no signs of slowing down. I just sincerely hope that they’ve learnt from their mistakes in the past and don’t make Garfield strut smugly down a dimly lit street in the next outing…

8/10

 

Rick

Review – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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I am genuinely of the opinion that Marvel could release a film that was nothing more than the Avengers characters farting into a microphone and dicking around for two hours and it would still be far superior to practically anything else released in the movie world. Sure there’s been some slight misfires along the way (Thor, Iron Man 2 etc, although these still piss on any of the poor relations in the comic book world such as Fantastic Four and the never-to-be-spoken-of-again Green Lantern and Spider-Man 3) but with a canon as strong as Marvels they can practically do whatever they bloody well like to for all I care.

It’s the return of the Cap for Marvels latest blockbuster. After the shenanigans of The Avengers, Steve Rogers finds himself still in present day America trying to adapt to modern life, doing his usual fearless soldier schtick whilst battling with some naughty folk from his past. Basic premise: There’s a mole within S.H.I.E.L.D and it’s up to Cap to find them and save the day as usual. Plenty of S.H.I.E.L.D, the lovely Scarlett and nods to the other players in The Avengers, but the focus remains firmly on Cap and it certainly doesn’t feel like Marvel are just killing time until Iron Man or The Avengers can ride again. It’s everything you could want from a Marvel film; the usual insane action sequences, the usual pop culture and poking fun at themselves gags and the usual Stan Lee.

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This is how superhero films should be. None of this “oh no, I’ve lost my superhero mojo, I need to find myself, become in control and powerful and save the day again.” Just plenty of Chris Evans / Cap doing what they do; cracking some skulls and getting the job done. I’m glad that Marvel didn’t go down that “finding himself” route as seems to be the norm for superhero sequels these days. This is briefly touched upon with Cap trying to adapt to life away from gramophones and box social dances (or whatever those crazy kids did in the 1940’s) but thankfully it was a just a brief nod to that instead of a two hour hour soul searching feature. Cap’s not someone who needs to find himself and become the hero that S.H.I.E.L.D needs him to be, because he already is that hero. A soldier, a patriot and a lean, mean, bad guy grilling machine.

I feel like I’m one of the few people who adored the first Captain America film and it baffles me that people consider Thor and the like to be bigger draws at the box office. Fair enough I’m a sucker for an origin story and the 1940’s, but still… With such a great and well rounded character, incredibly strong solo feature films and with him basically being Top Dog in The Avengers, you’d expect him to be knocking Iron Man off his lofty box office perch.

Everything is set up nicely for Marvels next major ensemble piece, but this is far more than just a stop gap feature, it rightly deserves to be up with there with the cream of the Marvel crop. A stunning addition to an already stunning set of films.

9/10

 

Rick

Projectionist – Not just a job. A constant longing for the past

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For eight years of my life I worked at my local multiplex cinema as a 35mm projectionist. Unfortunately I have no tales of Tyler Duerden style splicing different movies together. The logistical nightmare of pulling apart miles of film to insert a couple of stray frames and my lack of desire to search on eBay for “35mm adult film stills” meant that it was something that the people of North Lincolnshire were safe from for many years.

The role was a little more complicated than just merely “sitting by a projector watching the same film five times a day.” Our little team of anti social hermits were responsible for everything in the booth, and the cinema as a whole, from maintenance of projectors to film exhibition to fixing all the cinema floor things that the ushers would inevitably break. Basically if it didn’t involve speaking to members of the public then we were probably responsible for it. Usually there was just the one projectionist responsible for running the entire booth for 8 hours at a time. Our booth was relatively small when it comes to multiplexes with only 7 screens and projectors for us to run, a cakewalk after a few months experience. Part of me felt relieved that I didn’t have to single man a 20odd screen multiplex. With my sausage roll and cigarette loving ways I’d have no doubt been a dribbling, out of breath mess after an hour on shift.

Exhibiting a 35mm film was a tad more than just taking it out of the box and pressing play. The film usually came in a box and was separated into between 5-8 (dependent on the running time of the film) different sections, or reels. It was our job to splice the reels together, making sure they were in the correct order before putting the film onto a giant platter, which was shaped a lot like a giant cake stand, before it could be anywhere near ready to be exhibited. After the film had been plated on to the platter, it then needed to be laced through a massive obstacle course of rollers and pulleys before being threaded through the projector itself. Then over a few more rollers and pulleys so it could head back to the platter ready for a later performance. The most terrifying and daunting thing in the world the first time you laced a projector. After you’ve done it 30 odd times a day for 8 years it becomes as natural as breathing.

Your movie: As delivered to booth

Your movie: As delivered to booth

 

The magic : Commencing

The magic : Commencing

Every new 35mm film needed rehearsing before it was played to the paying public. Which meant one projectionist (or all of us if it was a major release. Just because we loved films, not because more eyes are better) sitting in an empty theatre watching the movie in full checking for any damage to the print or if any of the audio was out of sync or crackly. All this while GETTING PAID!! The Departed on the big screen on my own on a Friday morning: the best cinema experience I’ve ever had. Sex And The City 2: not so much. It was the best perk in the world if it was a good film.

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

And after this process was complete you could then exhibit the film to the public. Threading up every show, checking presentation on screen such as focus, racking and sound levels and making sure that the film was presented as it was intended . After that? Well deserved coffee and cigarette time.

All of this ended nigh on two years ago now with the meteoric rise of digital and 3D projection. Unfortunately for me, stacks and stacks of servers are far more efficient time keepers and need less emotional coddling than an arrogant, chain smoking, coffee drinking, sarcastic projectionist. Sad but that’s the way of the world now.

Projectionists D-Day

Projectionists D-Day

I’ll go into more detail of my years in booth in the future if there’s demand for it. A few paragraphs on a blog can’t do the role justice. I had some of the happiest years of my life in the projection booth, made some of the greatest friends I’ll ever know, got paid to do what was basically a hobby and even now, 2 years on, I still constantly yearn for the past where I had the best and most enjoyable job I could ever possibly dream of having.

When you’re a cinema employee you become desensitized to a lot of the magic of the cinema. Every time I return now I feel the smell of popcorn wafting through my nostrils again, feel the shared excitement for a major release and feel like at I’m at a big event again. However there’s always that sad part of me that looks back towards the little light porthole at the rear of screen and knows that there’s no longer a chain smoking, coffee drinking social hermit like myself ensuring that the show goes on.

Viva 35mm, I’ll never forget thee.

 

Rick

Review – The Wolf Of Wall Street – Drugs Are Bad Mm’kay

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wolfSteak and Chips. Roast Beef and Yorkshire Puddings. Beer and Football. Scorcese and Di Caprio. Some things just go together perfectly and produce amazing results. From Gangs Of New York to The Aviator to The Departed to Shutter Island to their latest collaboration, The Wolf Of Wall Street, their bromance shows no signs of running out of steam any time soon.

The Wolf… Is loosely based on the story of 80’s stockbroker Jordan Belfort and his subsequent rise and dramatic fall in the industry. Chronicling his start on Wall Street as a bright eyed idealist chasing the American dream and the various excesses associated with bucketfuls of money and power.

wolf stillBut this isn’t just a one man show. The supporting cast all play their roles to perfection. Matthew McConaughey’s stock (intentional pun) keeps going through the roof and he’s certainly done himself no harm with a brilliant, if slightly short, role as Belfort’s first superior, a man who sets Belfort well on his way to being master broker and master drug abuser in equal measures. Jonah Hill also shows that he’s more than just a comedy side kick with a major role as Belfort’s right hand man, a man like Belfort with humble origins who begins to live out his greatest fantasies whilst trading (and skimming) penny stocks.

So much has been said about Di Caprio’s lack of awards (well, the big one really…) for this role that I feel I’d be treading already well covered ground if I were to weigh in with my thoughts on a large scale. I don’t buy into the back patting, self congratulatory awards season which tries to ignore the main-stream as much as possible, but he certainly does deserve all the acclaim and recognition he’s received for his larger than life portrayal of a man consumed by greed and staggering excess. It may be ridiculously over the top but never does it feel like he’s over-doing the role or hamming it up.

I’ve found that a lot of films that centre on the banking or stock market industries dwell quite often on the assorted ins and outs of the assorted money making schemes and sometimes manage to overwhelm the audience slightly with their insistence on going deep into the intricacies of the job. In this the major points are covered with enough detail to ensure you know whats going on but doesn’t make you feel lost in a world of number crunching fetishists, a point alluded to when Belfort goes on to talk about what his next major money making scheme is. In spite of this, it never feels like it is pandering to its audience and treating them like idiots which is a highly commendable thing.

The only thing that really could’ve done with a bit of tweaking was the ending which I felt was slightly rushed considering the films 180 minute run time. Who knows, hopefully in the future we’ll get an extended directors cut edition and a longer look at the life of the man after the events.

The Wolf Of Wall Street is yet another slab of cinematic glory for Team Scorcese and Di Caprio and further proof that together they can practically do no wrong in the industry. A quite simply entertaining and brilliant character study of capitalist decadence. A lot more “Motley Crue: The Dirt” than “Wall Street 3” but is all the better for it. Even if their next collaboration is a reworking of White Chicks, I and countless other millions of movie aficionados around the globe will happily pay hard earned cash to see it.

9/10

Rick

Review – The Recruit – Spies R Us

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Ever since story telling began, there’s been tales and tales about moles within government agencies. There’s always some shifty so and so trying to do wrong by their fellow country men for “the greater good.” Quite frankly, if every films depiction of government agencies is anywhere near correct I genuinely struggle to see how anyone employed by the CIA / Feebs gets any work done due to devoting all of their time to spying on the cubicle next door.

The Recruit is yet another tale of espionage starring Colin Farrell, a man recruited by CIA man Al Pacino to join the forces in charge of protecting the good ol’ US of A. Farrell, a man tortured by the disappearance of his father years previous, is a gifted MIT student, hand picked as a perfect candidate for the agency. From there we see his training time at The Farm where we’re told at every opportunity that nothing is as it seems.

recruit stillThe film plays a lot like Full Metal Jacket in the sense that it feels like two different films rolled into one.The first half of the film centres squarely on the training processes and the relationships forged between the potential recruits and their handlers. And the second half focuses mainly on the field and operational side of things after “graduation” so to speak.

As you’d expect from a spy thriller there’s plenty of twists and turns along the way, as the script constantly likes to keep reminding us. I’m unsure whether it was a stylistic ploy to keep the audience guessing about the outcome of the film but all it really managed to do was ensure that the big reveal wasn’t actually that surprising at all. With spy thrillers you know what you’re getting and the need to keep constantly reassuring the audience that nothing is what it seems was quite unnecessary.

The Recruit does have its moments with some great cat and mouse sequences and other espionage-y goings on between the assorted players. Chases through train stations are quite regular occurrences in these sort of films but in this it still managed to entertain and keep the heart rate at a slightly high level. But the constant need to try and appear intelligent while not being so was disappointing and ultimately turned the last 20 minutes into nothing more than a bit of a damp squib. Still, I’ve seen far worse in my time and will no doubt see far worse in the future. A fairly pedestrian effort that sadly runs out of steam long before the end and both Farrell and Pacino are capable of far better.

5/10

 

Rick

Review – Welcome To The Punch. The Strong arm of the law…

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Mark Strong has made quite the career out of playing nasty, villainous hard-man types, almost becoming like a Gary Oldman of the 2000’s. The Guard, Green Lantern (I swore I’d never speak of this film again but for some reason it keeps coming back to haunt my memories) and Kick-Ass to name but a few where Strong shows off his nastier side. Who knows, in 10 years time when the Batman films get rebooted yet again, Strong can further replicate Oldman and become Commissioner Gordon. We can but hope.

True to type, Strong is back on bad guy form in Welcome To The Punch, playing obsessive and determined detective James McAvoy’s long time foe, back in Blighty after a 3 year absence after his son becomes entangled in a bit of a pickle with the police. Nothing like keeping criminal habits within the family I guess.

The film begins with a throwback to events 3 years prior, setting the scene and the tone for the film. A high octane bike chase followed by a brief meeting with McAvoy and Strong really highlights the reasons for the beef between the two and ensures that McAvoy’s obsession with getting his man is justified.

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What starts off as your basic “cat and mouse, catch the bad guy” caper slowly morphs into more than that and we’re left with a half decent conspiracy thriller which turns relationships on heads and sends the film into a different direction whilst still trying to stay true to its origin. There’s a few twists and turns along the way to keep your brain thinking but it’s nothing that your noggin won’t be able to handle and hasn’t seen before. There is a certain degree of ambiguity regarding the ending which you should enjoy if you get a kick out of that sort of thing. Me, I felt the ending was slightly rushed somewhat and probably deserved another few minutes adding on to its relatively short run time.

There was one piece of foreboding imagery which really impressed me, quite a nice touch for those of us who try and look past the main happenings on screen. I won’t say too much, but it involves a photo frame somewhere, very crafty and intelligent piece of filming and thinking from those responsible. I must also add that it was good to see David Morrissey (or the eye patch wearing, zombie brain pickling Governor for you Walking Dead fans) back in his native tongue putting in a decent performance as McAvoy’s superior, a career detective with the best interests of his force at heart, whatever the cost…

Welcome To The Punch is a welcome addition to the crime thriller genre, but isn’t without its flaws. It may be a well crafted Brit crime caper perfect for a bit of Saturday afternoon viewing, but there’s nothing we haven’t seen before and nothing to really elevate it into a genre defining classic.

7/10

Review – Zero Dark Thirty

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The 10 year man hunt for Osama Bin Laden.

A few years ago, a film called The Hurt Locker really grabbed my attention. I’d seen trailers, got caught up in all the awards season buzz and really wanted to watch it. When I finally got round to watching it a few months later, I was incredibly disappointed. Much lauded by critics, hated by me. I hated the pacing, felt it lacked tension, was badly acted and the chauvinist in me decided that it was only Oscar nominated because a woman directed it (ahem)

And so we get to Zero Dark Thirty. Another war film, another film by Kathryn Bigelow (A WOMAN?! They’ll be wanting the right to vote next, pfft) The action buff in me couldn’t wait to watch it, the eternal pessimist in me said to calm down as it’ll just disappoint like The Hurt Locker did.

Thankfully this time the disappointment wasn’t forthcoming. I was a bit skeptical during the first half hour of the film (torture scene aside) as the pacing is very slow, much like The Hurt Locker. Once you get used to the pacing, allow the situation to develop organically and let yourself become immersed in it, it becomes a lot more enjoyable.

Action purists looking for a thrill ride of bombs, guns and explosions should probably give this a miss. This is more of a cerebral (not in the sense that it’ll hurt your brain watching it… I’d be worried if you’d read the synopsis of this film and were still lost) film as it deals more with intelligence gathering and wading through the political and analytical minefield that is the CIA.

Much has been made of Jessica Chastain’s performance as Maya, the CIA operative who makes it her lifes mission to capture The Bearded One. Her character is pretty one dimensional, we never really see (or need to, for that matter) an emotional range that goes beyond that of “focused to the point of obsession.” But she’s good enough value and deserves her plaudits. The big finale is well worthy of its 2 hour wait, there’s a lot of tension in the build up right beforehand, and during the raid the use of switching between night vision and “normal” vision is very inventive and really makes you feel a part of an incredibly tense, world changing situation.

Bigelow has managed to do something that I thought would be nigh on impossible: Created a film about the man hunt for Osama Bin Laden and not turned it into a 2 and a half hour piece of US propaganda. A sterling effort that manages to be dialogue heavy and entertaining in equal measures.

9/10

 

Rick