The Expendables 2 Review

The Plot:

In the second big screen adventure for Sylvester Stallone’s superteam of action movie icons, our favourite gang of likeable mercenaries are back for war and out for revenge when one of their number gets killed on a supposedly routine mission. They’re also trying to save the world from a vicious crime lord threatening to plunge the world into nuclear war.

The Good:

Drenched in explosions and hysterical one-liners, The Expendables 2 delivers on the teasing promise of the first film and takes the concept of an action movie star mashup to the next level.

The tantalisingly brief cameo of Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger alongside Stallone was undoubtedly the finest moment of the first Expendables film. This sequel reunites these three titans of testosterone, at last giving fans the real gun totting team up they always dreamt of. Seeing them finally side by side blasting their way through an army of disposable bad guys will surly leave devoted action fans in delirious ecstasy.

Fans have waited a long time to hear Arnie utter his immortal catchphrase, and The Expendables 2 makes a fitting return to the screen for arguably the biggest action star of all time. Casting ‘The muscles from Brussels’ Jean Claude Van Damme as the film’s Kung Fu kicking eurotrash bad guy is totally clichéd but still utterly inspired genius.  Likewise, the addition of Chuck Norris and his perfectly groomed beard to the cast of The Expendables 2 is simply an embarrassment of macho riches. Watching Chuck Norris destroy tanks and openly acknowledge his own mythical action god status is pure joy on screen. Like many of the films best moments of knowing comedic nods and ridiculously excessive action, it’s genuinely hard to stop yourself applauding wildly.

The first Expendables effort occasionally took itself a little too seriously and failed to take full advantage of the delightfully silly side of Hollywood action blockbusters. The Expendables 2 is everything the first film could and should have been. It’s so packed with wisecracks and action heroes poking fun at each other that it verges on a outright comedy. Even the film’s brief attempts at serious dialogue can’t help but draw wry smiles and big laughs from amused audiences.

Though The Expendables was criticised for its gory violence and frequent torture scenes, but the sequel is so fast moving that its violent excesses are really on a par with our average computer game. Hardcore fans won’t feel like they’re missing any CGI blood splatter, but more squeamish film fans won’t need to hide their faces much either. It’s a perfect balance of explosive mayhem and sanitised evil doer dispensing.

The Bad:

The Expendables 2 is a guilty pleasure that will obviously bring considerable less pleasure to those unfamiliar with the musclebound heroes of the 80s and 90s. Those who miss the frequent in-jokes may be left a little bemused by the grunting macho antics of aging bodybuilders. The testosterone fuelled he-man parade is admittedly aimed very much at big boys who like big guns. But every film has its target audience and it’s impossible to please everyone, no matter how much star power and explosives you throw at the screen.

The most severe critics might point out that the film’s plot is little evolved from the standard genre fair in the last Expendables outing. BUT in truth a complex emotional narrative is utterly unnecessary so long as there’s a vague excuse to destroy vast armies of faceless bad guys. Armed with a silly sense of fun The Expendables 2 doesn’t have any of the scenes of mumbling sullenness that spoilt the party the last time. The new writers and director have made a massive improvement in overall quality.

The Ugly Truth:

The Expendables 2 is a gun totting orgy of musclebound cinematic excess. Anyone left at all disappointed by the first Expendables experiment will have their thirst for cheesy one-liners and explosive action hero adventure totally satisfied this time. The good guys are back for war and back for fun. It’s a safe bet they’ll be back again too. Hasta la Vista film fans….




Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World Review

The Plot:

As a giant asteroid hurtles towards earth, mankind struggles with the certain knowledge that the world will end in 3 weeks. Abandoned by his wife, a middle aged man strikes up an unlikely friendship with his pretty young neighbour and the two new friends set out on a road trip in search of the lost love of his life.

The Good:

Steve Carell is well practised at giving muted but likeable performances. If you prefer the sullen charms of his Little Miss Sunshine performance to the brash comedy of his Anchorman style morons, then this is another one for you.

Steve Carell’s placid smile and a magnificently well-chosen soundtrack of whimsical tunes keep the film from ever sliding too far into morbid despair and nihilism. Splashes of absurd humour, a cute dog and classic soft rock music on a perfectly sunny day give the film an oddly upbeat tone.

It won’t be for everyone’s taste but the film makes a brave choice to stare down the barrel o mankind’s impending demise and celebrate the fleeting beauty of joy and love even in the face of oblivion.

Keira Knightley and Steve Carell are undoubtedly an unexpected pairing, but surprisingly there are actual sparks of chemistry between them. Carell’s blank expression proves an effective foil for Knightley’s overly emotive hysterics.

The Bad:

There’s an obvious reason why the genre of apocalyptic Romantic comedy isn’t too common. It’s difficult to bring ourselves to emotionally invest in the lives and loves of characters doomed from the first moment we meet them.

The film tries to exploit the pressing urgency of the world’s end to force its characters and audiences to examine what really counts and what true love means. But not everyone will be able to distract themselves so easily from the grim fate that awaits, or appreciate the challenge to do so.

The film’s core subject matter will alienate audiences who turn to romantic comedies precisely because they want to escape the pressures of dealing with life’s daily cares and concerns for a few hours.

Keira Knightley also has a habit of dividing opinions. Some will find her performance earnestly emotive and charming, others will see it as yet another display of irritating histrionics and unnecessary crying.  Your own opinion about her acting merits will have a huge impact on how successfully the film leaves you entertained and hopeful.

The Ugly Truth:

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World is unusual and unexpected I a lot of ways. It’s less bleak and sullen than most would have predicted but far from the usual dose of feel good satisfaction that an average Rom-com audience will crave and long for.

The Dark Knight Rises Review

The Plot

8 Years after Batman took the blame for the crimes of ‘Two-face’ Harvey Dent, Bruce Wayne is a broken man, in reclusive retirement from costume clad crime fighting. The threat of a deadly new foe, the muscle-bound terrorist Bane, forces him to once again become the caped crusader and fight to save Gotham City. As always he has the support of loyal butler Alfred, gadget master Lucius Fox and Police Commissioner Gordon. The third and final instalment in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight saga also introduces idealistic young detective John  Blake and Selina Kyle – Batman’s morally ambiguous adversary/ally Catwoman.

The Good

The Dark Knight Rises is a fitting end to Director Christopher Nolan’s remarkable Batman saga, which has given on of the oldest and most iconic comicbook heroes an astonishing rejuvenation. Once again the film broods with well-crafted dark tones, propelled by yet another magnificent soundtrack from genius composer Hans Zimmer.

The film’s opening aerial sequence is a breath-taking statement of intent that easily matches the brilliance of The Dark Knight’s daring bank heist opening. Nolan was determined to push practical effects to the limit to ensure that The Dark Knight Rises was consistently and satisfyingly spectacular. Adding the infamous flying bat-mobile ‘The Bat’ to Batman’s arsenal of new gadgets certainly helped him achieve that aim.

New villain Bane has a powerfully imposing presence thanks to Tom Hardy’s impressively sinister physical performance. Bane provides a brutally violent threat unlike anything Christian Bale’s Batman has faced in his previous adventures. Hardy’s hulking physique is complemented well by a mask clad vocal performance that sounds like a creepy cross between Sean Connery and Darth Vader.

In sharp contrast, Anne Hathaway’s smoldering performance as cat burglar Selina Kyle is far more pleasing on both the ears and eyes. Fan concerns about whether the young actress could handle the iconic role seem to have melted away the instant she emerged on screen in knife-edged heels and a skin tight catsuit.

Christian Bale puts in another solid performance as a world weary Bruce Wayne, while Joseph Gordon Levitt manages to keep his earnest young character likeable thanks to all his usual charms. His performance was always going to attract fan scrutiny amid rumors he might play a bigger role in any future Batman films. Thankfully he stands up pretty well to the inevitable attention.

As always Nolan’s supporting cast littered with the likes of Gary Oldman, Sire Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman ensures that whatever the plot or dialogue is it’s always handled with a certain air of class.

The Bad

Living up to the unprecedented burden of hype and expectation was an inevitably impossible task for the final chapter of Nolan’s Batman saga. The Dark Knight set such an intimidatingly high standard, thanks in large part to an instantly iconic performance by Heath Ledger as Batman’s maniacal nemesis The Joker. The tragic loss of the Oscar winning young actor robbed The Dark knight Rises of its most tantalizing prospect, the Joker’s return.

Even avoiding unhelpful companies to its acclaimed predecessor The Dark knight Rises does fall short of the unquestionable perfection fan optimistically expected. After an explosive start the film proceeds at a fairly casual pace, leading to a lengthy run time approaching three hours. By the time the film reaches it action packed conclusion audiences might be busy fighting fatigue.

While all the new characters and elements successful entertain and add value to Nolan’s rich Gotham universe, sadly it is Batman himself who becomes the weakest link. Watching Bruce Wayne wallow in self-pity and battle apathy is a little less exhilarating than seeing him battling a clown faced psychopath. Though to be fair by the end both Bruce and the audiences have remembered why they love the caped crusader.

The Ugly Truth

The Dark Knight Rises stands alongside and towers above most summer blockbusters. Christopher Nolan delivers a fitting final chapter that draws a satisfying close to Bruce Wayne’s epic struggle to save Gotham; whilst leaving the door open to new adventures and a next generation of Batman films. It can’t surpass The Dark Knight, but it equals as much as any realistic fans could have ever expected it would

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter 3D Review

The Plot:

Based on the novel by cult genre author Seth Grahame-Smith, the film blends real life history with supernatural fantasy, reimagining America’s 16th President Abraham Lincoln as a fearless vampire hunter. The unlikely tale incorporates his quest to rid America of undead monsters into his rise to political power and the bloody events of the American Civil War.

The Good:

The film’s odd fusion of fact and fantasy is at least fairly original. It also deserves some credit for ambitiously attempting to fit a love story, a history lesson and sombre political messages about freedom in amongst all the frantic monster hunting.

Newcomer Benjamin Walker undergoes a fairly effective transformation while playing Lincoln, taking Abraham from a bookish young shop clerk to the iconic bearded presidential image we’re all familiar with. He cuts a fairly interesting figure in a jaunty top hat and flowing overcoat, brandishing a silver Axe. He also manages to give Lincoln’s immortal words at least some modest measure of credibility amidst his frequent vampire decapitating escapades.

Watching young Abe violently dispatch the vampire villains should satisfy fans with an animated bloodlust, but it’s all too quick and glamorized to traumatise those of a more delicate sensibility.

The Bad:

Director Timur Bekmambetov deploys the trademark style of over the top frenzied CGI action showcased in his Russian blockbuster Night Watch and western debut effort Wanted.  At best it will divide audience opinion. It flirts ill-advisedly with ridiculousness and seems better suited to computer games than a big budget summer blockbuster. One particular scene where Lincoln and a vampire do cartoonish super slow-motion battle while skipping across a stampeding herd of horses strains belief well past breaking point, relentlessly defying the laws of physics but lacking in joy.

Implausible action sequences and silly CGI really don’t help the fact that Abraham Lincoln is right from the start an unlikely action hero. It’s hard to reconcile the stale historical memory of a starch stiff American President with the super powered axe twirling monster killer presented here.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a wide eyed and beautiful young actress of evident presence and some promise. Sadly as Mary Todd Lincoln she’s left in a lacklustre film with little room to showcase her talents. Likewise, Rufus Sewell is a familiar face from television and films, but his lead vampire villain is absolutely lacking in substance, personality and menace. In general there’s little if anything to distinguish the vampires in this film from the tired CGI clichés you’ve seen in almost every other vampire flick for the past ten years.

The Ugly Truth:

With a more self-aware sense of humour and less sullen seriousness Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter might have been a better ride. Those with an overly abundant fondness for CGI blood splattered vampire killing may enjoy the hyper-stylized action, but overall the film is disappointingly generic despite its supposedly original premise.  It may find a cult audience, particularly amongst fans of the book, but lacks the quality to make it widely appealing or memorable.

Jaws Re-Release Review

The Plot

When a gigantic Great White shark begins to menace the quiet waters of the small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and a grizzled shark hunter set out to stop it.

The Good

Jaws is arguably the finest work of one of the greatest directors in the age of modern cinema, Steven Spielberg. It’s also the film that has single handily given generations of people around the world a terrified lifelong phobia of open water.  It’s difficult to overstate the timeless power of this film to entertain and traumatise audiences.

Jaws owe much of its memorable magic to the menacing soundtrack of John Williams. It’s iconic, thrilling, effective and utterly unforgettable. The same is true of the entire film.

Roy Schneider does a great job of standing in for the audiences as Brody, the Police Chief who’s reluctant to go near the water even before the 25ft killing machine starts devouring people. Richard Dreyfuss is the enthusiastic marine biologist Hooper, there to remind us that a 3 ton Shark is bot terrifying and amazing. While Robert Shaw is perfect as Quint, the ill-tempered harpoon wielding sea captain with a personal grudge against the man-eating aquatic monsters.

The magnificent chemistry between our three heroes and the thrill of the hunt ensures that Jaws remains not only horrific but also one of the very best action adventure films ever made. Often imitated but never equalled, not even a string of worsening sequels could tarnish the legacy of this undisputed masterpiece.

Jaws has permeated  almost every aspect of popular culture and boasts some of the most often quoted and best remembered lines in movie history. “You’re going to need a bigger boat!” remains the most eloquent expressions of feeling overwhelmed by a situation ever uttered on screen. It’s all testament to the fact that Jaws is so much more than just a ‘monster’ film reliant on a barely functioning animatronic shark.

The Bad

Among all those who have already re-watched Jaws endlessly on VHS, DVD and Christmas holiday TV; there will be some that question the value of paying for admission to see it once again. Hollywood is certainly guilty of cashing in on fans loyalty in recent years, with pointless big screen re-imaginings and re-releases for countless classic franchises. But if any film deserves to have a second bite at the big screen surely it’s Jaws. After all it’s the film that absolutely invented the concept of the ‘summer blockbuster’.

The Ugly Truth

Whether or not it’s entitled to another box office run or you think it’s worth seeing a film for the 100th time,  the fact remains this represents a wonderful and welcome opportunity for generations of fans to re-live Jaws on the big screen or see it for the first time in the ultimate format.  The only valid excuse not to go see Jaws in cinemas is if you’ve just booked an expensive summer beach holiday.