A missed opportunity, this European action romp begins with a terrific premise but never quite makes anything of it. Finnish writer-director Jalmari Helander certainly knows how to make a sharp, snappy action-comedy (see Rare Exports), but this script is badly compromised by simplistic plotting and gags that go for the easiest target every time. Which leaves the actors looking like they're standing around waiting for something interesting to happen. And it leaves the audience feeling badly let-down.
It opens as 13-year-old Oskari (Onni Tommila) is sent into the mountainous Finnish wilderness to prove his manhood by hunting down a stag all by himself. His father (Jorma Tommila) isn't hugely confident, but wishes him well. Meanwhile, preening terrorist Hazar (Mehmet Kirtulus) has just shot down Air Force One as it flew overhead. As the plane goes down, the US President (Samuel L. Jackson) boards his escape pod, and the first person he meets on the ground is a gob-smacked Oskari. Together, they set out to get to safety while escaping the tenacious thugs who are after the President. And officials at the Pentagon (including Jim Broadbent, Victor Garber and Felicity Huffman) are watching everything unfold by satellite, while the President's security chief (Ray Stevenson) leads the ground party.
The set-up is great, and offers plenty of scope for both over-the-top action sequences and Home Alone-style mayhem, but Helander never quite settles on a tone, perhaps because the 13-year-old hero demands a PG-13 sensibility that undermines any chance of proper black comedy. Yes, there's plenty of violent destruction, but it's cartoonish rather than clever, so the film feels silly rather than exhilarating. Jackson is clearly having a lot of fun as the annoyed President, adding some gravitas to his usual action-hero persona while delivering his requisite snarky one-liners. But Helander never quite finds anything new for him to do. And young Tommila looks far too serious all the way along.
Continue reading: Big Game Review
Teens tackle yet another dystopian future in this well-made but derivative franchise-launcher. Filmmaker Neil Burger is more interested in whizzy visuals and a thorny plot to pay much attention to the characters or larger underlying themes, which leaves the film feeling eerily superficial. So while the film is relatively entertaining, it ultimately feels rather pointless.
The story's set after a war has reduced Chicago to a walled-in enclave of people divided into five stabilising factions: charitable Abnegation, peaceful Amity, honest Candor, defending Dauntless and brainy Erudite. Tris (Shailene Woodley) was born to parents (Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn) who are leaders in Abnegation, but when time comes for her to select her own path she discovers that she's Divergent, a cross-faction state that threatens those in power. So she chooses to join Dauntless, entering intense physical training under the tutelage of sexy hunk Four (Theo James) and harsh hunk Eric (Jai Courtney). then Dauntless' soldiers get caught up in a power struggle as Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet) plots to take governmental responsibilities from Abnegation.
All of this scene-setting takes about half of the film's running time, and it's frankly not very exciting. Burger makes sure it looks fantastic, with seamless visual effects, impressive stunt work and flashy action sequences, but the character drama takes longer to kick off. And there's also the problem that it essentially feels like a cross between The Hunger Games and Harry Potter as an unusually gifted teen takes on a controlling society.
Continue reading: Divergent Review
Marvel can't help itself: these movies have to get bigger and crazier. And this one leaves us wondering where they can possibly go next, as it spirals into a madly funny-scary thriller that threatens the existence of the whole universe. But it also feels like a story children would make up as they go along. Still, the sparky characters and wildly cataclysmic approach are hugely entertaining.
The action picks up right after the Battle of New York (see 2012's The Avengers), and scientist Jane (Portman) is miffed that Thor (Hemsworth) didn't call when he was back on Earth. She has just started dating a nebbish Londoner (O'Dowd) when her assistant Darcy (Dennings) stumbles into a spatial anomaly that draws Jane right into the middle of a 5,000-year-old struggle between Thor's home-realm Asgard and the dark elf Malekith (Eccleston), who wants to use a swirling goo called the Aether to plunge all of existence into blackness just as the universe aligns itself. As this convergence approaches, Thor defies his father Odin (Hopkins) and turns to his disgraced, malicious brother Loki (Hiddleston) for help.
The film is overcrowded with small but pivotal characters, including stern but helpful gatekeeper Heimdall (Elba), mad-doctor Erik (Skarsgard) and Odin's wise wife Frigga (Russo). All of them help distract us from the movie's wildly shifting tone as it darts from sardonic comedy to Lord of the Rings-style battles to silly romance to dark emotion. But the best thing is the tense, unpredictable relationship between Thor and Loki, an enjoyable mixture of sibling rivalry and brotherly love that's well-played by Hemsworth and especially Hiddleston. None of the other characters really has a chance to develop around them. But at least the actors have fun with their roles, including a number of hilarious cameos along the way (there are also two post-credit stings).
Continue reading: Thor: The Dark World Review
By ignoring everything that made 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra a hugely entertaining guilty pleasure, the all-new writers and director of this sequel have made one of the most abrasively annoying action movies in recent memory. And even worse, they have indulged in exactly the same over-serious idiocy that the first film was gently lampooning. Instead, this is just a bombastic, incoherent, offensive mess.
Since the US President (Pryce) has been replaced by an evil doppelganger from the villainous Cobra organisation, he now sets about destroying his enemies, the elite G.I. Joe force. Led by Duke (Tatum), they're sent to collect some rogue nukes in Pakistan, and everything goes wrong. Now it's up to three off-the-grid Joes - meatlead leader Roadblock (Johnson), shy muscle-boy Flint (Cotrona) and tough-sexy Jaye (Palicki) - to stop Cobra's nefarious plan, whatever that might be. Their key opponents are Cobra goon Firefly (Stevenson) and ninja Storm Shadow (Lee), who's more complex than he looks. And the Joes have secret allies in Asian pals Jinx (Yung) and Snake Eyes (Park), as well as the original Joe himself (Willis).
The main problem here is that producer di Bonaventura forgot that it takes a lot of skill to make a stupid movie that's actually entertaining. Instead, this film is predictable and inane, with action scenes that stretch the limits even of stupid-movie plausibility (such as a ludicrous Spidey-style aerial battle in the Himalayas). And the fist-fights are impossible to see because they are confusingly directed, jarringly edited and then converted into unnecessary 3D. When everything explodes in every single chase scene, it becomes a bit boring really. And while there are gadgets everywhere, none of them are very cool.
Continue reading: G.I. Joe: Retaliation Review
D'Artagnan (Lerman) is a country teen who heads to Paris to join the musketeers, special officers loyal to King Louis (Fox) but not the manipulative Cardinal Richelieu (Waltz), who has a guard of his own headed by Rochefort (Mikkelsen). D'Artangan immediately falls foul of the three musketeers Athos, Porthos and Aramis (Macfadyen, Stevenson and Evans), then teams up with them to fight off Richelieu's goons. And soon they're involved in a devious plot by Richelieu and Milady (Jovovich) to spark a war between Louis and England's Duke of Buckingham (Bloom).
Continue reading: The Three Musketeers Review
In the mythical realm of Asgard, King Odin (Hopkins) is about to hand his throne to cocky son Thor (Hemsworth). But Thor recklessly ignites a war with an old enemy, so is banished to earth without his powers. He adjusts to New Mexico life with help from scientists Jane and Erik (Portman and Skarsgard). As they fend off interest from SHIELD agent Coulson (Gregg), Thor's mischievous younger brother Loki (Hiddleston) is making moves to take over the kingdom. Then Thor's pals (Alexander, Stevenson, Asano and Dallas) arrive on earth to help.
Continue reading: Thor Review
New York cops Gamble and Hoitz (Ferrell and Wahlberg) have been relegated to unimportant positions by two teams of flashier detectives (Jackson/Johnson and Wayans/Riggle). But when Gamble arrests a millionaire investor (Coogan) for a minor infraction, he and Hoitz are plunged into a murky case involving a ruthless Aussie goon (Stevenson) and bribed city officials. Even their captain (Keaton) tells them to leave it alone, but Gamble can't let go and Hoitz sees this as a chance to stop being the "other guys".
Continue reading: The Other Guys Review
Eli (Washington) is a loner walking through a decimated American landscape some 30 years after "the war" brought about "the flash". His most precious possession is an old book, and he's willing to fight to the death to protect it as he heads west. Then he stumbles into a roughneck town run by the greedy Carnegie (Oldman), who's searching for the legendary book with his brutal henchman (Stevenson). And when the daughter (Kunis) of Carnegie's blind girlfriend (Beals) runs off after Eli, things get messy.
Continue reading: The Book of Eli Review
Darren (Massoglia) is an A-student 16-year-old whose best pal Steve (Hutcherson) keeps getting him into trouble. When they hear about the underground Cirque du Freak, they can't resist a visit. There they meet ringmaster Mr Tall (Watanabe), bearded seer Truska (Hayek) a snake boy (Fugit), monkey girl (Carlson) and many more. But soon they're entangled with the show's star, vampire Crepsley (Reilly), and his mortal enemy Mr Tiny (Cerveris). And when Crepsley makes Darren a vampire, Steve gets so jealous that he joins the other side.
Continue reading: Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant Review
To make this man interesting requires a certain amount of style and attention to detail, two of many qualities lacking in Punisher: War Zone, the newest Punisher... well, "adventure" sounds too frolicsome, so let's say "incident." Like The Incredible Hulk, Punisher: War Zone ignores but doesn't quite contradict the events of its immediate predecessor; it's not a direct sequel to 2004's The Punisher, but at least allows the previous film to take care of the origin business.
Continue reading: Punisher: War Zone Review
Date of birth
25th May, 1954