Monday, 26 August 2013

The World's End Review

The third instalment of the "Cornetto Trilogy."  But it isn't really a trilogy because the three movies (this, Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz) really have nothing to do with each other.  The stories are completely different and so are the characters.  In each of the three, you don't even have the actors playing similar roles to the others.  But they are a trilogy in styles.  There are similar jokes, shots and gags that run through all three.  But, most of all, they all place significance on seemingly insignificant things like colours, names, etc.  Because of that, these are more than just action comedies.  You really have to watch and pay attention to get the whole effect.

The World's End had a bit of a different feel than the others.  While there were some of the same gags, it felt more formulaic than the other two.  This is probably because the basis is a set out pub crawl that the characters have to wind their way through.  It made the flow seem a bit choppy and episodic.

But that is overshadowed by some very clever dialogue writing and superb acting.  The film is excellently cast with each of the five guys in the group playing the role that is perfect for them.  It was good to see Pegg as the clueless one and Frost as the level headed one in a bit of a switch.  Add in Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan and there is a terrific chemistry in virtually every interaction.  They keep it moving very fast with some superb comic timing.  They also do a terrific job of showing all of the characters' progression into a continuing state of drunkenness.

While it does feel different from the other two and has what seems to be a tacked on ending, it still entertains all the way through.  I laughed out loud a lot and it never felt forced.  It's another home run from what is, for my money, the funniest group the film industry has to offer right now.  See it.

Friday, 23 August 2013

RED 2 Review

I liked the first one.  The premise of quirky, past their prime spies running around and blowing stuff up while delivering witty dialogue appeals to me.  But, I knew when it was over that there would be a sequel and that it would be an ill-advised venture.  I was right.  This had all the potential to be quite good with a good cast.  But it ended up being very disappointing.

I've said before that a good sequel has to take the things that were successful in the first one and build on them.  After all, you should want to give people more of what they want.  It's what made The Empire Strikes Back better than Star Wars.  People wanted more Darth Vader so that's what they got.  In RED 2 I can see that they were trying to give us more of what made the first one good.  In RED, it was all John Malkovich.  He stole every scene and was hilarious.  They did give us more of him but his character went from being delightfully insane to just a bit quirky.  He still delivers it well but it isn't the same character that we wanted to see more of.  The same goes for Bruce Willis and Mary-Louise Parker.  Their characters were off from what we saw before.  I'd say that Bruce Willis might be losing his edge but it only seems to happen in sequels (A Good Day to Die Hard, The Whole Ten Yards, etc.).  And Parker played inconsistently between sassy, badass, and demure.  It was just all over the map for both of them.

Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins both deliver but they could phone it in and still be the best thing on any screen.  Catherine Zeta Jones is what she is: very average in every way.  Finally, I liked Storm Shadow.  He fit the role quite well.

As for the plot, it is very thin and shallow.  There are no surprises and it's actually quite mundane and boring.  I guess a movie about retired spies would have to deal with digging up stuff from the past.  But Cold War grudges and such just aren't interesting any more; especially when you try to intertwine it with relationship therapy between Bruce Willis and Mary-Louise Parker

Don't see it.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Man With One Red Shoe Review

If you want a fun little movie with a few laughs and that isn't difficult at all to follow, this is the movie for you.  It's the story of a guy who is unwittingly a pawn in a chess game between two rival CIA factions.  While the potential for a lot of twists and confusing turns is there, the film makers did a very good job of making sure that didn't happen.  in fact, it may have been too good because the movie is actually very shallow with little to no intrigue that a spy movie should have.

But this is, first and foremost, a comedy rather than a spy movie.  So ensuring that the intrigue is there is a much lower priority.  They focus on keeping it light and the result is some very funny bits with Tom Hanks being unaware of what is going on around him and the CIA agents suffering the consequences of his inadvertent bumbling around.  And Hanks plays this very well.  Even back in the 80s, he was a top actor.  Throughout this movie, his performance is stable and convincing even when his situations were not.  he is supported by a competent but not stellar cast that allows him to be the spotlight.

Like I said, it's pretty thin and there are a lot of holes and problems with the script.  But it is funny and only 1.5 hours long.  It's a fun diversion to turn your brain off.  See it.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Wolverine Review

I guess it's just time to stop.  The first three X-Men movies were OK but did get progressively worse.  The origins movie was quite forgettable.  There were significant problems with First Class.  But, in spite of all of these warning signs, I still wanted to see The Wolverine.  It's probably because Hugh Jackman as the titular character still seems pretty badass to me.  And, in this movie, he's still badass.  But that's really the only thing that is.

Jackman, as mentioned, delivers.  But, after playing the character five times, he would have to have it down.  He oozes cool and has always had the right look.  There is a lot of witty, sarcastic dialogue from him that adds to a decent level of comic relief.  So, on that front, it's OK.

The problem is the rest of the film.  It's an action movie and should deliver on that.  But the action sequences are few and far between.  When there is action, it's very good; especially the bullet train scene.  But if they are going to have so little of it, they need to rely on the story to keep the audience interested.  The Wolverine does not do this.  The story is very thin, predictable and, frankly, quite boring.  The villain has no personality and are pretty pathetic.  There is nothing that happens that makes you care about the fate of any character past Logan and you know that he's going to survive because Hollywood refuses to do anything against the same old tired formulas.

Don't bother seeing it.  I'm sure you'll be able to watch the next one without much need to catch up.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Smurfs 2 Review

As we all know, sequels (especially those to kids movies) have a well deserved reputation for being disappointing.  One of the things about the first Smurfs movie that annoyed me was the introduction of a completely unnecessary Smurf for the sole purpose of having a wisecracking Scottish gnome on screen to sell Happy Meal toys.  So when I saw that they were introducing two more new and "sassy" Smurfs for this one, I cringed.  But, being a child of the 80s, I went anyways.  And I'm glad I did.

While Gutsy Smurf was a superfluous combination of Smurfs we already knew, Vexy and Hackus are creations who's existence is central to the plot and even the story of Smurfette.  While I'm not a fan of the drastic changes and additions to the Smurfs, I can accept it if they work it into the story in a meaningful way and they did so here.  But I'm not sure two of them were necessary.  Vexy is important but Hackus was a little too much.  His moronic antics are cute at the start but are over used to the point that you just wish he'd go away (up until one part right close to the end that had me laughing out loud).  I understand why they had him and why he stopped short of being all there mentally. (Gargamel was trying to create an army and only had enough Smurf essence for 1.5 brains and needs to get more. - that isn't a spoiler.  It's the basic premise.)  And the kids were laughing at Hackus throughout and this movie is in their world now, not mine.

Back to the Gutsy thing, I was really glad to see them move all of the "new age" Smurfs to the background and give them moderately humourous one-off jokes while they stuck to the basics of five Smurfs we all loved as kids: Papa, Smurfette, Clumsy, Grouchy, and Vanity.  In doing this, they proved that you can take classic, bare bones elements and still update them through witty dialogue and make a decent movie that will entertain both generations.  These five Smurfs had changed very little but were still able to entertain.  It also helps that they ramped up the bumbling Gargamel and slapstick with Azrael.  That kept me laughing as well.

The movie is nothing too special.  The writing is average.  The human acting is passable.  The effects are very good but nothing innovative.  But the bottom line is that this movie is meant to entertain children.  It isn't like Pixar where they layer them to appeal to all generations.  This is out and out a kids movie and in that, it delivers.  It throws jokes like snowballs and has Chris Farley levels of characters running into things.

If you want a nice little entertaining diversion, see it.

2 Guns Review

I knew very little about this movie going in.  All of my information came from the TV ads.  I thought the idea of Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington engaging in witty dialogue and shooting a bunch of stuff would be fun.  As it turns out, I was right.  It is fun.  But it is also pretty basic too.

One thing you need to know about this movie is that it is based on a series of graphic novels.  I didn't know that until the end credits.  If I had known that going in, I would have had an easier time accepting the over the top comic-like qualities of the villains.  In that, it is reminiscent of The Losers.  It isn't enough to make you dislike the movie but it does take away a bit from the experience.  Had that been changed to be a bit more realistic, it would have made a better movie throughout.

That being said, the dynamic between Washington and Wahlberg is top notch.  Denzel has always been able to deliver terrific dialogue especially when working with another strong actor.  Wahlberg is decent at what he does especially when he's allowed to be a bit quirky and comical.  In 2 Guns, that's exactly what they did and it works as long as the two are on screen together.  When they are separated, the pace slows a lot and neither one performs as well as they do when together.

At the start, I felt like I was almost watching a remake of Bulletproof with some elements of the Last Boy Scout thrown in.  This made me think that I wasn't going to like it at all.  But then they moved past that with a couple of twists that grabbed my attention again.  Even though it did slow down at times, they were able to hold that attention throughout and make me care about the outcome of the film.  This is largely due to the fact that both leads were engaging.  And Wahlberg's fast talking is better than anything Adam Sandler or Damon Wayans can deliver.

It's nothing that is going to set the earth on fire but it is still worth a watch to see Washington and Wahlberg work together.  See it.