Saturday, 17 August 2013


Not so long ago, the film industry was awash with the likes of Joel Silver and Jerry Bruckheimer productions - films with big names, big action sequences and loud music.

The late 80's and early 90's were the height of these "big on budget and low on script' types of film but then, like all things, their time came and went.

Well it seems that director Baltasar Kormakur doesn't agree with this.

His first foray into major motion picture territory is one that feels, looks, sounds and registers with those who were around back then as a film that was made in the early 90's and has been, up until now, lost in a storeroom somewhere in Hollywood. Your love - or toleration - of this genre will greatly affect your viewing outcome of 2 Guns.

From the get-go, we are given an introduction to The Denzel & Mark Show as the do their mis-matched cop buddy routine - and it's good.  Very good. The two banter back-n-forth relentlessly and effortlessly over such trivial things as what to order for breakfast and how much a tip should be (very reminiscent of the opening salvo from Reservoir Dogs.) And that's all in the opening sequence before the old school "one month earlier" scrawl appears and the story set-up begins in earnest.

Now the story of 2 Guns is one of no surprises to avid cinema-go'ers - there are crosses, double crosses and even at times the beginnings of triple crosses pouring out of the woodwork as the plot thickens and Denzel and Mark grudgingly try to trust each other to get to the bottom of things. This is all the while an elusive $43.125 million dollars (as mentioned by Bill Paxton channelling his nasty brother Chet role from Weird Science everytime he appears on screen) is being hunted by several groups of people from the mob through to corrupt CIA and dodgy DEA Agents. This set up of people all converging on the money casts shadows of the grand finale from True Romance which only solidifies the feeling of 80/90's cinema.

Now with such a run-of-the-mill story full of 2 dimensional baddies what starts to happen is "good guy disappearance" syndrome. Whenever The Denzel & Mark Show is not up upon the screen, the proceedings start to feel somewhat flat and protracted without their genuinely pleasing chemistry creating more back-n-forth than a ping pong championship final.

Fun but none-the-less fleeting, 2 Guns is an enjoyable ride but one that makes you want to go back and put on the likes of The Last Boy Scout to see how buddy flicks with double crosses and shenanigans should be played out. Long live the 80's!

UK release date: 16.08.13
Certificate: 15

Thursday, 8 August 2013


Word of mouth can sometimes be very misleading. Across the pond, the critics have been quite vocal regarding their opinion on the latest stab at one of histories longest running entertainment icons.

There has been comparisons to the ill-fated Wild, Wild West and in general, murmurs of displeasure and dislike.

Were they watching the same film?!?

What we have here is yet more proof that, despite the odd hiccups, there are certain things we can rely on: director Gore Verbinski knows how to deliver some Summer spectacle; writers Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio can deliver outstanding origin stories; and the one Johnny Depp is still THE quintessential quirky character creator. End of. Full stop.

For those not in the know, the list of people above are the team that gave us Pirates Of The Caribbean - the film that no one wanted, based on an outdated ride at Disney World. This origin story that launched a further 3 films - thus turning it into a surprise franchise - showed that when creating an opening salvo, they knew how to deliver the goods. Now with this stab at the story of the masked man defending the people which the law cannot seem to do, they have all created a film that is as smile-inducing, lean-forward laughing and iconic-image forming as their first team-up. Yep, you read that right - The Lone Ranger is as much fun as Pirates Of The Caribbean!

From the get go, the mission here seems to be pure and simple - entertain the heck out of the audience and not pay too much attention to such trivialities as historical timing or location. If it ain't fun or funny, don't leave it in!

With a set up not too dissimilar from the classic The Princess Bride, the story of our hero is told to a young child who, most likely as some audience members will do, interrupts the proceedings to question the motives and the clarity of the storytelling from the old narrator - in this case a 100+ year old Depp claiming to be the original Tonto. At times he looks even more Keith Richards than Keith Richards did in the Pirates sequel - a strange nod to the inspiration of one Captain Jack Sparrow. The plot is mostly linear except for one or two events which help build up abit of mystery around The Masked Man and the Insane Indian until the grand finale.

Before the "OMG" finale though, there is just a heap of slapstick, banter, quirkiness, stunning vistas, stupendous set pieces and one of cinemas greatest real life horses (Tangled's Maximus doesn't count here as we was all CGI.) The White Spirit horse - he doesn't become Silver until the end where Depp yet again steals the show with a corker of a line!) - acts alongside Tonto fantastically, even when he isn't standing in trees wearing hats, walking and running on roofs or licking scorpions off our heroes faces.

It all may sound just a tad too silly but believe that despite how strange it all sounds, it never feels like it's slipping into ridiculous levels where complete suspension of everything is necessary in order for you to survive it.

All of the above is pulled off seamlessly with Depp the right side of fruit loop and Hammer the square-jawed-but-niavely-trusting all-american hero. Their banter harks back to the Laurel & Hardy days of entertainment where looks rather than words speak volumes and creates laughs.

Then you're hit with the train chase finale. Imagine the chase sequence from Wallace & Gromit's The Wrong Trousers on speed, with full size trains, a serious lack of sleep, a serious amount of cash spent on special effects, the best use of a ladder committed to celluloid and THAT tune from The Lone Ranger finally blaring out across the speakers which had been noticeably absent until then, and you're half way there! Logistically, it's a nightmare keeping up with as the two trains become more and more detached as they chase each other through the glorious-but-blurred landscape but then you don'y have to! That's the point! Just sit back, relax and accept the insanity of it all and the pleasure that comes with it.

Immense fun and deserving of a follow-up adventure, ignore the American antipathy towards it and go see it for yourself! Hi Ho... Whoops, can't spoil it for you!

UK release date: 09.08.13
Certificate: 12A

Saturday, 27 July 2013


Along time ago, a certain chemist chain ingrained into our minds that the age of the lady was upon us with their constant advertising campaign tune of "Here Come The Girls"....

That journey, film-wise at least, is still a work in-progress, but is none-the-less moving in the right direction. After the femalisation of the male-orientated The Hangover with the "funny-as but not as successful-as"  Bridesmaids; it is now the turn of that other male-dominated staple of the "cop buddy" flick to be estrogenated. Where once the likes of Gibson & Glover stood tall with Lethal Weapon, there are some new sheriffs in town - Bullock & McCarthy!

The premise of The Heat is a simple and very well-trodden one - mis-matched cops trying to work together to solve a case that either is, or becomes, very personal to the both of them for different reasons. At least it is to begin with. The two anomalies that this latest offering of the "good cop, bad cop" scenario has over the efforts that have gone before are: as already stated its women this time round and not men, and the standard set of locations used are not adhered to. Normally, the city of New York would host the action so that the newcomer has to try and fit into the sprawling metropolis that is The Big Apple with its laughable lowlife and seedy streets. Here, FBI Agent Bullock leaves New York - all nice, clean buildings and quiet suburban neighbourhoods - and heads to Detective McCarthy's Boston - all lower working class, seedy streets - following a lead about a pretty nasty individual that no one has ever seen, except for the trail of bodies he leaves behind. Here New York is not the bed of iniquity and vice as normally experienced in film lore, but the serene, learned Boston is.

Apart from those two changes, everything else is familiar territory here. The two cops do not see eye-to-eye on anything. The methods that they use are deplorable to each other - one follows the rules and knows the rulebook inside out whilst the other knows the street rules and doesn't read books. One takes pride in their appearance and the other does not whilst they both have an opinion on the other's wardrobe. One quotes the book whilst the other throws the book - literally at a non-talkative suspect. So, all present and correct then.

However, what it does have is the genuine chemistry between the once Queen (and still should be seen as royalty) of "mainstream, inoffensive" comedy, Bullock, and the newcomer of "in yer face, rude" comedy, McCarthy. Both deliver exactly what you've seen from them before - McCarthy's non-embarrassed, socially-unaware Bridesmaids character, and Bullock's slightly uptight, self conscious While You Were Sleeping, Two Weeks Notice, Miss Congeniality character. Both work well together although at times the ying and yang and back 'n' forth between them does feel over exposed. This may be because at times the banter feels like more improvised than scripted and the film doesn't seem to know when to cut those scenes and move onto the next part. You feel that there are possibly a lot of jokes and banter that have been left on the cutting room floor in order to keep the running time down to a manageable amount for a comedy.

That is never more evident than when the bond between the two agents of the law become suddenly best buds instead of sheer duds. The move is all-too-quick to feel believable and seems forced to help move the story along - especially after all the aggression between them previously. They do get to share one of cinema's most funniest drinking scenes in recent years with both showing perfect timing but that should have been the catalyst for their bonding and not further cementing it as the script shows us.

Director Paul Feig has pretty much previously cut his teeth on the small screen rather than its bigger sibling with Bridesmaids being his only silver screen project before this. This does answer maybe why The Heat feels like a TV show expanded for the big screen with everyone making use of the freedom to swear which would be denied it if it were on the box. His duties on The Office, Nurse Jackie, 30 Rock, Arrested Development and Parks And Recreation makes The Heat feel like it could have been one of those shows. There the relationship could have been developed over a period of time and not rushed, but then again you wouldn't have got the swearing or the violence!

A fun outing for all, The Heat is worthy of its enticing trailer BUT be warned! It is NOT what it pretends to be at its very beginning! With its retro music and slightly tinted old film stock look along with split screen visuals, you'd think that you're in for a treat of an 80's cop buddy movie with knowing references and the like, but it is a lie! That is only over the opening title sequence and does leave you feeling abit cheated throughout and wondering how better it could have been if they'd just stuck with that idea. And if they'd added bloopers at the end! I mean, come on! ALL comedies should do that!

UK release date: 31.07.13
Certificate: 15

Saturday, 20 July 2013


What can be said about a very British institution that has, over the years, seen it move from quiet cult through to justified placement upon the world's stage? (gettit?) Alot, it would seem.

After a glib comment during an interview, the now named "3 flavours Cornetto trilogy" comes to an end with, quite dramatically, The World's End! Literally!

Any viewing and reviewing of The World's End will be, rightly or wrongly, accompanied with a nostalgic look back at the previous works of the three main instigators of the trilogy - Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. All have gone on to do their own things but most viewers will be expecting, and more than likely demanding, to see more of what the three did together rather than something that may show how they've grown since those early days of collaboration.

Despite not being an actual sequel, The World's End will undoubtedly fall foul of the sequel curse - fans want more of the same but something different. A very difficult line to tread, the boys have never-the-less gone for this whole-heartedly and this could be where original fans my feel alienated (pun intended) by their attempt at the sci-fi genre. This is not like the affectionately-lampooned zombie genre Shaun Of The Dead, nor the mash-up of American all-action, cop buddy flicks in Hot Fuzz relocated to a quiet English village.

Those first two parts of the Cornetto trilogy had what translated up upon the screen as specific films being lovingly recrafted and having the piss taken out of them but with affection, respect and love. Shaun Of The Dead had its Day Of The Dead. Hot Fuzz had its Bad Boys. World's End... upon first viewing has.... nothing! At least nothing obvious despite the genre of sci-fi being a veritable smorgasbord of rich pickings to rip off or lovingly recreate. Some may, after having watched it, reflect upon the idea that Pegg and Frost's non-Wright project - Paul - feels more like a fitting end to the trilogy than the actual offering delivered here. Paul has specific references to sci-fi films that Shaun and Fuzz depicted that you are able to clock off on your fingers whilst watching whereas their World's End does not.

What you get to clock off instead is a cast list of who's who from all their past collaborations. People from their humble beginnings of TVs Spaced - Mark Heap, Julia Deakin, Michael Smiley - The League Of Gentlemen's Apocalypse - Reece Shearsmith -  Shaun Of The Dead - Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy - and Hot Fuzz - David Bradley, Paddy Considine - all make appearances here in this finale. Infact, the easier thing to do would be to clock up the noticeable absentees from the final affair - Jessica Stevenson and Bill Bailey are the two main no-shows that would have been hugely welcome, even if just drinking in one of the twelve pubs in the background. Such is the pre-programming in us from our previous experiences from the trio's back catalogue, that we expect to see all the familiar faces from the past efforts all present and correct. And if not an exact appearance then at least an acceptable variation - Hot Fuzz had a James Bond with Timothy Dalton and World's End gets its Bond in the form of Pierce Brosnan.

So, what does it actually do then you wonder? Well, it definitely goes out with a bang! Literally! The team have a lot more buck to play with here and they use it wisely and wonderfully up upon the silver screen. The films and genres that they have parodied - or homaged - before were not necessarily known for their huge use, or reliance on, of special effects. Sci-fi films demand it mostly and the "robots that aren't robots" and the other non-human entities roaming the streets of Newton Haven are up-to-scratch with any of the big league blockbusters that delve into the world of science fiction. And maybe that's where this instalment falters alittle.

This feels abit like it suffers from the all-too-common- curse of the blockbuster - style over substance. This is because we are not presented with the normal dynamic between Pegg and Frost. Pegg is unrecognisable as the leader of the Famous Five who are trying to conquer The Miracle Mile's pub crawl that they didn't finish 20 years earlier. Here is shades of Frost's Ed from Shaun.. - all self-orientated, self-obsessed and selfish to the extent that you wonder what the rest see in him and why they still follow him around. There is no likable quality in the normally centre flag-poled Pegg and surprisingly, none of that seems to have been transferred other to any of the other four characters. Frost is angry at Pegg throughout the film and it's not until the final third act that we get to find out why that is. By that time then there's not enough minutes left for the forgiveness and re-bonding to begin between them and to wrap things up plot-wise hence the feeling of a rushed friendship bridge-building and the final fight to save Earth. Freeman, Considine and Marsen are the tag-alongers (as explained in the Pegg voiceover at the beginning) and have characterisation to match that standing in the scheme of things

It's these bold steps to differentiate this from their previous works that shows how they've grown work-wise but maybe how we as fans and viewers are not really ready for them to do so. Separately we can accept them expanding their horizons but when together, it feels like that they should be true to what and who they were. It's like having a loved pet replaced - it still is what it is in basic animal terms but it doesn't feel completely right.

The in-jokes are there still - the now infamous different ways of trying to climb a fence in a hurry, the look out for the Cornetto reference - but the more obvious ones are excluded deliberately by the trio in order to have this stand out from the other two efforts. A "you've got blue on you" would have been so easy to do (Shaun's "you've got red on you") but they don't go for it. All before has been so tightly cross-referenced that when they don't do it here you feel a tad disappointed.

Now, this does not make it a bad film - not by a long shot. It does make it a different film and how willingly you are to embrace that fact will depend on how much you will enjoy it. There are some quotable lines to match all their other great moments - the "we'll always have the Disabled Toilet" if there is any justice should be quoted alongside "we'll always have Paris" in equally awed tones.

Who knows, maybe after a few years and reflection, The World's End could become like the Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom episode where opinions change and it isn't considered the runt of the litter anymore....

Fun, filmatic and Friday night-friendly, it's a good and brave ending but here's to the hope that they, like Lucas and Spielberg did, make another film in order to say sorry to the true die-hard fans.

UK release date: 19.07.13
Certificate: 15

Saturday, 13 July 2013


What, if anything, do you think would come out of your mind if you were to think back upon your childhood and make a film from what you found there? Trying to buy alcohol and cigarettes whilst underage perhaps?

Well, luckily for us, and Warner Bros., the mind and memory of writer / director Guillermo del Torro has conjured up alot more than an ill-fated attempt at a grab-n-go from Threshers. Mixing his childhood viewing habits of Mexican and Japanese TV, he has created what can only be described as a 10 year old's wet dream before they know what wet dreams are supposed to be about.

Giant robots trying to whack the seven levels of hell out of giant monsters. Yes, it's a fully loaded, Summer blockbuster, CGI version of Rock 'em, Sock 'em Robots - even more so than the Hugh Jackman starring Real Steel attempt back in 2011. And, as John Hammond would say,this time round there's "no expense spared!"

Firstly, let's deal with what for some will be the elephant in the room - the man who wrote and directed the crafty and cult likes of The Devil's Backbone, Pan's Labyrinth, Cronos and the two Hellboy movies has gone full "Hollywood" and done a complete Summer blockbuster. Yes, he co-wrote it and directed it. There's no getting away from it and no doubt there may be cries of "sell out" from true fans upon seeing his latest effort. This is not what you'd expect from del Torro to deliver after him moving on to other projects from the back then much-troubled and often delayed The Hobbit.

For those accustomed to his style and unusual imagery and charm, Pacific Rim will not feel like a del Torro film at all. There is nothing within its 132 minute running time to distinguish it from say, the latest Jerry Bruckheimer or Michael Bay movie - apart from the ever-constant presence of Ron Perlman of course. At times, it feels like an alternate universe version of Transformers with never-ending, OTT punch ups that destroy everything around the battlers within a 10 block radius. The camera swirls around the fighters as they face off against each other; dramatic slides and back flips are orchestrated; shouting is done alot (more on that later) - yep, we are definitely in Bay territory here and not in del Torro's. However, maybe that's not a bad thing? Spielberg showed the world a change of style with his Jurassic Park and Schindler's List releases in the same year, so can't del Torro have a go at not being del Torro?

The reply is: No. And yes.

Those who have never seen any of his previous output will have a ball at the "quote it before you know it" dialogue and the "see it coming sandwich with a side order of cliche" served up. Now, don't get me wrong, that does not mean that Pacific Rim is an awful film. Not by a long shot. It's a fun, full-on cheese-fest from beginning to end - one that takes nothing serious at all, not even its own science in the end! So, regarding Pacific Rim, ask yourself this question: do I like Independence Day? If the answer is "yes" and you don't mind rewatching it - telepathic links let both sides of the war know what's going on; a big, explosive payload has to be delivered whilst in disguise in order to save the day; male ego's clash at inappropriate times - then you will sit and grin throughout this. True, you don't get The White House being blown to bits, frozen up or drowned out and washed away. What you do get however though is a new and just-as-much-fun image of a super tanker being hefted like a baseball bat in readiness to beat the living crap out of a monster just like a caveman would do to a dinosaur in a Ray Harryhausen B-movie.

And that is exactly what Pacific Rim is - a very big budgeted B-movie with thrills, spills and wooden dialogue to match from a bunch of cloned beefcakes (he's the dead brother? No, he's the mouthy rival. But they look exactly the same!) and of course, Idris Elba. He is about the only character to stand out - not just because of his colour in a sea of a caucasian cast, but for his extra loud shoutiness, his coolness and his "This is OUR Independence Day!" speech - here it's "we are cancelling the Apocalypse!" Unlike Bill Pullman's Independence Day President, he doesn't need a megaphone to address the troops with a rallying cry to arms - Elba can just shout it to them. With that form of presence, you can feel his absence from the storyline when it switches to either the troubled robot pilots/fighters or the two geek techs trying to find another solution to the threat that Earth and its populace is facing. Only Perlman fills in the Elba gap but then his appearances are few and far between too.

So, fun with a capital "f" and better at delivering on the promise of its trailer than Godzilla was, it's a great film for those who haven't seen a del Torro film, or for those with a 10 year old child still dominent inside of them or for those who have enough alcohol in them that the rediscover their childhood and ignore the illogic of throwing a monster around in the ocean where the water will only cushion its fall and not hurt it...

UK release date: 12.07.13
Certificate: 12A