A very odd blend of caper action, dark drama and romantic comedy, this slickly made con-artist romp never quite finds its stride. There's a merciful vein of sharp wit in the script, thanks to writer-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy Stupid Love) and a spiky performance from Margot Robbie. But Will Smith's presence leaves everything feeling rather tame, compromising his character by making him a nice-guy crook rather than the unpredictable black-comedy protagonist he really should have been.
It opens as the wide-eyed Jess (Robbie) approaches veteran grifter Nicky (Smith) about learning the art of the con. She follows him to New Orleans for some major pickpocketing and double-crossing in the run-up to a big football championship, but Nicky unceremoniously dumps her afterwards. Three years later, they meet again in Buenos Aires, where both appear to be running scams centred around the Formula One team owned by Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro), who's never far from his right-hand goon (Gerald McRaney). With help from his old pal Farhad (Adrian Martinez), Nicky sets out to run his sting. But Jess is a distraction, and the stakes are too high for him to take his eye off the game.
While it's one of the running gags, Nicky's soft centre is a serious problem here, making the movie feel like a vanity project for Smith, who seems far too determined to be sympathetic. (Ficarra and Requa know how to make an anti-hero likeable: see Bad Santa.) Instead, Smith is a jarring combination of beefy physicality, fast-talking thievery and squidgy emotions. Robbie is able to more effectively merge Jess' gung-ho personality with her gleeful criminality, but when they're both together on-screen it's impossible not to feel like everything about the characters' relationship is a big con. So we wait for the script to reveal its clever twists and turns. But they're surprisingly few and oddly inconsequential.
Continue reading: Focus Review
Rodrigo Santoro - A variety of stars were photographed as they attended the World Premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' new film "Focus." The premiere was held at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California, United States - Wednesday 25th February 2015
After the snappy, clever 2011 original, this sequel feels rather lazy by comparison: it's still visually colourful and sometimes witty, but the overcrowded story is all over the place, mixing wacky slapstick and corny satire with a political message. And none of this is edgy enough to make it memorable, except perhaps the addition of one new character, a deranged poisonous frog with delusions of romance, voiced by the riotously operatic Kristin Chenoweth.
At the centre again are the rare blue macaws Blu and Jewel (Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway), who now have three feisty kids at their bird sanctuary in Rio de Janeiro. Then their human keepers Tulio and Linda (Rodrigo Santoro and Leslie Mann) spot another blue macaw deep in the Amazon, so Blu and Jewel fly off to investigate with their children and buddies (including Will.i.am and Jamie Foxx). Sure enough, this turns out to be Jewel's long-lost family, overseen by her father (Andy Garcia) and guarded by her heartthrob ex Roberto (Bruno Mars). But there's an evil logger threatening the rainforest, and Blu's old nemesis Nigel the cockatoo (Jemaine Clement) is out for revenge.
After the oddly flat prologue in Rio, the film kicks up a gear when it arrives in the jungle, where the imagery becomes far more dense and colourful, leading to some wonderfully outrageous musical numbers and raucous action sequences. The level of detail is impressive, as is the range of creatures thrown into the story. But the script never quite rises to this level of invention, once again simplistically putting the city-bird Blu in an alien natural environment, with added in-laws and ex-boyfriends. Much more fun is Nigel's interaction with his poison-frog sidekick, even if his subplot never builds any steam.
Continue reading: Rio 2 Review
Monty Trainer, William D. Talbert III, Jemaine Clement, Kristin Chenoweth, George Lopez, Rodrigo Santoro, Andy Garcia, Anne Hathaway, Carlos Saldanha and Jamie Foxx - The stars of the animated family film 'Rio 2' attend the inauguration of Miami's first-ever Walk of Fame - Miami, Florida, United States - Friday 21st March 2014
The fantasy action sequel dominated the US box office during its first weekend.
300: Rise of an Empire had a storming first weekend of release during which the new fantasy action film raked in $45 million. The Zack Snyder-directed sequel battled off competition from Dreamworks' animated Mr. Peabody & Sherman, which took a rather disappointing $32.2 million, as well as the Liam Neeson thriller Non-Stop and the fantastically successful The Lego Movie.
'300: Rise Of An Empire' Has Walloped All Competition Over Its First Box Office Weekend.
300's victory may have been trumpeted but its success falls short of its predecessor's $70 million debut seven years ago and the film hasn't exactly fared well at the hands of critics. Nevertheless, the movie enjoyed a healthy opening with 3D representing 63% of all tickets sold, according to Forbes. As the only R-rated movie currently on release, 300 stands to continue its success for several weeks with only Arnold Schwarzenegger's thriller Sabotage set to pose any threat when it arrives on the 28th March.
Fans of the 2007 Spartan war romp 300 probably won't care that this spin-off is even more chaotic and much murkier to look at. It still features armies of scantily clad muscle men grunting idiotic declamatory dialogue as they charge into cartoon-style battles against all odds. No, this isn't particularly subtle filmmaking: it's loud and brutal. And good for an unintentional laugh.
At the same time as Spartan King Leonidas (a briefly glimpsed Gerard Butler) is leading his 300 men to battle against Xerses (Santoro), Greek General Themistocles (Stapleton) approaches Leonidas' wife Gorgo (Headey) for help facing Xerses vengeful military commander Artemisia (Green) on another front at sea. Themistocles' main officers are Aesyklos (Matheson) and Scyllias (Mulvey), whose son Calisto (O'Connell) secretly joins the army as they set sail for an epic ship-based battle against Artemisia's fearsome forces. And there are two more watery conflicts to come, each more outrageous than the one before, as Artemisia taunts Themistocles seductively while dispensing fiery death and destruction at every turn.
The addition of two strong women adds a bit of interest here, but the focus is still on the bare-chested men, even if only three or for of them actually emerge into proper characters. Headey's chief contribution is a rambling voiceover narration explaining everything for us, while Green's wry smirk and momentous glower let her steal every scene. By contrast, the men seem rather feeble. Stapleton is manly and commanding, but not hugely charismatic. Rising-star O'Connell barely gets two decent scenes. Santoro is hilariously grouchy eye candy. And everyone else is clearly expendable.
Continue reading: 300: Rise of an Empire Review
Prepare for the bloodshed to continue, as the 300 series will continue.
Seven years after the original 300 caused students to yell “THIS. IS. SPARTA!!!” at every beer-fueled rager for months on end, we get the trailer for the sequel – that’s not really a sequel – 300: Rise of an Empire. The film has new direction – Noam Murro, taking over from Man of Steel’s Zack Snyder – and a whole new focus and as Murro has pointed out, this will not be a sequel per se – in. It will be more of a prequel and sequel at the same time in terms of the timing, the events take place before, during and after the events of 300. Instead, this new installment will shift its focus. Based on the graphic novel Xerxes by Frank Miller, the film will open with Greek general Themistocles getting ready to battle an invading army of Persians under the mortal-turned-god, Xerxes.
Check out the trailer for 300: Rise of an Empire below:
Continue reading: 300: Rise of an Empire - Battles, Blood and Brand New Characters
Brace yourselves, the Sparta memes are coming
Right on the heels of “Man of Steel’s” release, the trailer for director Zach Snyder’s new movie has been released. “300: Rise of an Empire” is set to premiere on July 3 2014. Is this a sequel to 300? No! THIS. IS. SPARTA. Apologies, we couldn’t help ourselves. Anyway, this really won’t be a sequel. MTV News quotes Noam Murro – the film’s director, who is a newcomer to the franchise - as saying that this film takes place before, during and after the events of the last one – it just has a much broader scope.
New 300 movie runs parallel to original
Neither a sequel nor a prequel, 300: Rise of an Empire is set at the same time as the original movie 300 but this time, the action takes place on the sea. Once more, the stylized look of the movie takes its cue from the graphic novel by Frank Miller, USA Today reports, but the ocean setting allows for a vaster landscape in which the action can take place. The movie’s director Noam Murro explains that the new movie “is tied visually to the original,” but adds “there is a whole different choreography of fighting and war.”
In 300:Rise of An Empire, the Greek general Themistokles (played by Sullivan Stapleton) and his “common-man troops” fight the Persian army out at sea. Murro explains that the action takes place over a number of locations: “The opportunities for the six distinct battles are even greater with different locations and tactics.” The ‘few against the many’ arc is still present though, as it was in the first 300 movie. “It's hundreds vs. hundreds of thousands. It's about taking on the mightiest power of all with wisdom and tactics.” The mightiest army, in this case is led by Eva Green’s Artemesia, second-in-command to the mortal turned god leader Xerxes. “She does most of Xerxes' dirty work in this film. She's seeking revenge, and she does it well," Stapleton explains. "She's a force to be reckoned with."
Korean filmmaker Kim played with the Western genre before in his wacky 2008 pastiche The Good the Bad the Weird, and this film is just as chaotically uneven, mixing cartoon-style silliness with grisly violence. But the high-energy approach holds our interest, as does Schwarzenegger's immense screen presence in his first starring role since his political career. The film is far too jumbled to hold together, but its sardonic sense of humour makes it a decent guilty pleasure.
Arnie plays Sheriff Owens, who has a quiet routine in his sleepy Arizona-Mexico border town. So when a stranger (Stormare) appears, he sends his deputies (Alexander and Gilford) to investigate. Things get violent quickly, so he deputises a drunken veteran (Santoro) and a moronic gun-nut (Knoxville) to work alongside another deputy (Guzman). What he doesn't yet know is that the baddies are part of an elaborate plan to help a drug kingpin (Noriega) escape from a Law Vegas FBI Agent (Whitaker) and cross the border to freedom in Mexico.
The whizzy plot actually has promise as a straightforward action movie, but Kim throws so much nuttiness at the screen that we can't take anything seriously. The story zings from set-piece to set-piece without much concern for credibility or coherence. It's all very cool, especially the baddie's glimmering, super-fast prototype Corvette, which travels "faster than a chopper" on isolated country roads that are improbably smooth. And his climactic plan to get over the border is astonishingly silly, but played dead straight.
Continue reading: The Last Stand Review
In Atlanta, TV fitness guru Jules (Diaz) is about to reveal that she's pregnant by her celebrity dance show partner Evan (Morrison). Meanwhile, Holly and Alex (Lopez and Santoro) are looking into adoption even though they're not sure they're ready; Wendy and Gary (Banks and Falcone) are finally expecting after trying for years, only to be upstaged by Gary's dad (Quaid) and his much younger wife (Decker); and food truck operators Rosie and Marco (Kendrick and Crawford) rekindle their teen romance with unexpected results.
Continue reading: What to Expect When You're Expecting Review