Category Archives: Action

Review – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (12a) [2016]

BvS - title banner

Star Rating: 2/5

Director:

  • Zack Snyder – 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch, Man of Steel, Justice League: Part I

Executive Producer:

Cast:

Music Composers:

Batman v Superman…? The title alone draws a sigh. How can a mortal defeat an immortal? How can a man defeat a god? These questions already hint at problems with the film and that is before its 151-minute running time begins. And then there is the problem of Director Zack Snyder, and the sigh lengthens. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was doomed from the start, wasn’t it?

The villainous Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), getting in away of a first and tense encounter between Clarke Kent (Henry Cavill) and Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck).

The villainous Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), getting in away of a first and tense encounter between Clarke Kent (Henry Cavill) and Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck).

  Batman v Superman (BvS) is about… well, that is another of the film’s many problems. The first 90-100 minutes are a convoluted, chaotic and inconsistent muddle just to pit Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill) in a fist fight against one another. And this fist fight, which comes to include Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Doomsday (aka the Cave Troll from Lord of the Rings I: The Fellowship of the Ring) goes on for an Earth’s turn.

One would have thought that Zack Snyder had learned his lessons from Man of Steel and not put in a long (pointless and boring) fist fight in which collateral damage is caused on a colossal scale. (The first two-thirds of BvS bangs on about how much of a menace Superman is because of the collateral damage he caused in his flying fight with General Zod.) But no. The fight scenes at the end of BvS go on for even longer and cause even more collateral damage than in Man of Steel. It is quite astonishing, really.

What is not astonishing, however, are the twists in BvS. Worse, they are not in the least surprising. (The trailer gives most of them away anyway.) One twist in particular, which has to do with Clark Kent’s and Bruce Wayne’s deceased mothers, is downright stupid. Who thought that was a good idea? Was it you, Snyder? Really?

A fire-eyed Doomsday, ready to destroy all of mankind. Weta are behind the design of this 'terrifying' monster. Alas, the same company have used this monster before and he was defeated then. So what chance of him surviving this time around?

A fire-eyed Doomsday, ready to destroy all of mankind. Weta are behind the design of this ‘terrifying’ monster. Alas, the same company have used this monster before and he was defeated then. So what chance of him surviving this time around?

And whose idea was it to have an origins story for Bruce Wayne? We had that in 2005 with Batman Begins. There was no need to have it in this film; especially not with that utterly clichéd, slow-motioned “Noooooooooo!”. For goodness sake, in 2005 Darth Vadar did it in Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and it was laughable back then. So again, whose idea was it to put that in BvS? Was it you, Snyder? Or are you going to blame Christopher Nolan? (Yes, that genius who gave us The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception and a host of other thought-provoking films. Quite frankly, it is hard to believe that Nolan had any input into the plot for BvS as one can believe he can excrete a better film than this one.)

Whether Snyder or Nolan are to blame for the paucity of BvS, it should be noted that the actors are entirely blameless. In fact, Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons and Amy Adams should be commended for trying so damn hard to make something of this train wreck. No-one can question their efforts. Although, Clark Kent/Superman is by nature devoid of character, making him somewhat boring to watch; and Lex Luthor… well, it is hard to say what Snyder was aiming for with the character. Villains can be scary, cunning, honourable, witty, sadistic or cruel (or mixtures of all those traits). But villains cannot be annoying, and Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is bloody annoying. As a result, one wants him dead the moment he introduces himself and for all the wrong reasons.

Lastly, it should be said that even this disaster of a movie has some positive points. The relationship between Bruce Wayne and Alfred is one such point. Alfred might be the commander-in-chief of Bruce’s arsenal instead of his butler (just go with it), yet whenever the two of them are together on-screen the scenes are genuinely enjoyable and wryly funny. For a film that takes itself way too seriously (but has stupidly unrealistic fight scenes), Bruce and Alfred strike the right tonal balance so as to make the jokes apt for their circumstances.

Superman and Batman on the same side (shocking!), along with Wonder Woman (centre, Gal Gadot), to take down Doomsday.

Superman and Batman on the same side (shocking!), along with Wonder Woman (centre, Gal Gadot), to take down Doomsday.

The other major positive point is the visuals. Credit where credit is due: Snyder knows how to make his products look shiny. It is just a shame that the visuals have no substance under the gloss.

Over-all, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a mess. The storylines are all over the place, the tone is off, and the fight scenes go on for too long. Bruce Wayne and Alfred provide highlights that one can enjoy, but not even Ben Affleck’s and Jeremy Irons’ best efforts can make this film worthwhile. No, they and the rest of the cast have been badly let down by director Zack Snyder. The man should not helm another movie until he learns how to write a sound and logical script. Nevertheless, guess who Hollywood has signed up to direct Justice League: Part I & II? Yes, you guessed it: Zack Snyder. To quote Homer Simpson: “D’oh!”

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Review – London Has Fallen (15) [2016]

London Has Fallen - title banner

Star Rating: 1.5/5

Director:

  • Babak Najafi – Sebbe, Easy Money II: Hard To Kill

Cast:

  • Gerard Butler – 300, Coriolanus, Olympus Has Fallen, Hunter Killer
  • Aaron Eckhart – Paycheck, The Dark Knight, Olympus Has Fallen, Bleed For This
  • Morgan Freeman – Conan The Barbarian, The Dark Knight I-III, Transcendence, Olympus Has Fallen, Ben-Hur
  • Alon Aboutboul – Rambo II, Body of Lies, The Dark Knight Rises, Harmonia
  • Waleed Zuaiter – Sex And The City II, The Men Who Stare At Goats, The Free World, Billionaire Boys Club
  • Shivani Ghai – Bride & Prejudice, Cleanskin, Eastenders, London Life
  • Radha Mitchell – Finding Neverland, The Crazies, Olympus Has Fallen, Fugly, The Darkness

Music Composer:

  • Trevor Morris – The Tudors, Immortals, Olympus Has Fallen, The Borgias, Goon: Last of the Enforcers

2013’s Olympus Has Fallen was the (laughable) rehash of Die Hard, just in the White House and with North Koreans as the villains. It was loud, shouty, clichéd, and full of explosions and shoot-outs to save the President, with Gerard Butler playing the role John McClane. London Has Fallen is exactly the same, but in London instead of the White House.

The London Eye, one of the capital's known landmarks, is blown up in the terror attacks.

The London Eye, one of the capital’s known landmarks, is blown up in the terror attacks.

The British Prime Minister, James Wilson, has died. US President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) feels obliged to go to the funeral in London, along with all the other leading dignitaries of the world. But Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), the President’s top secret serviceman, is apprehensive about the President going to London. He fears that terrorists will spring a surprise or two.

(And wouldn’t you know it?) Banning is right. During the funeral, terrorists start shooting at the world leaders and blowing up London’s known landmarks. (Forget the unknown ones: they’re not worth blowing up.) President Asher is in the thick of the attacks and it is up to Banning to get him out of London and save him again.

London Has Fallen is exactly what one would expect, and enjoyable for it. The plot has all the (laughable) pros of its prequel, just with more swearing, more (nauseating) self-references to how great America is, no White House, and Muslim fundamentalists instead of North Koreans. What’s more, the special effects crank up the enjoyment factor to eleven as they are as good as the N64 game Goldeneye (which came out in 1997).

Vice President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) watching in horror as the known landmarks of London going up in smoke.

Vice President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) watching in horror as the known landmarks of London going up in smoke.

With a plot so clichéd and special effects so pitifully bad, it is hard to believe that the main cast members could take this film seriously. Yet, it appears they do. No-one looks embarrassed to be on-screen (unlike Charles Dance in Ali G: In Da House and in Your Highness, or the entire cast of Seventh Son). In fact, they all look like they are taking the film as seriously as if London really had been hit by multiple terror attacks.

Morgan Freeman plays his usual, charming self as the safe-handed stand-in President. (It helps when one has played the President in Deep Impact and God in Bruce Almighty). Aaron Eckhart is giving everything he’s got to play his first credible role since Harvey Dent in 2008’s The Dark Knight. And Gerard Butler is… well, doing what Gerard Butler does best. Since 300 came out in 2007, Mr. Butler has forged a (preposterous) career out of being an immortal, warrior king (300); a Hollywood hunk who ladies swoon over, and who all men want to be like (PS I Love You, The Bounty Hunter, and especially Playing For Keeps); and now an action hero (Olympus Has Fallen). In short, Mr. Butler is trying again to be all things for all peoples to add to his magazine of self-aggrandisement. (When is Mr. Butler going to say that enough is enough of this absurd self-propaganda? When is he going to do a proper role where he is not the flawless envy of the world?)

Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) running through the evacuated London underground trying to get President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) to safety.

Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) running through the evacuated London underground trying to get President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) to safety.

As for the villains and their performances… yeah, there is really not much to say about them. The villains are one-dimensional, bad, anti-Western Jihadis. That’s all there is to them and the sooner they are forgotten the better. Much like the film they’re in, really.

All-in-all, London Has Fallen is a laughably entertaining film for all the wrong reasons. It is loud, sweary, clichéd, and full of explosions and shoot-outs to save the President from Jihadis, with Gerard Butler playing the role John McClane. The special effects are contemptible. Then again, so is the serious nature of the acting and Gerard Butler’s insatiable need to be loved on screen.

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Review – Deadpool (15) [2016]

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Star Rating: 3.5/5

Director:

  • Tim Miller

Cast:

  • Ryan Reynolds – X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Proposal, Buried, Truth In Advertising
  • Karan Soni – Supremacy, Goosebumps, Other Space, Ghostbusters
  • Ed Skrein – The Sweeney, Game of Thrones, The Transporter Refueled, The Model
  • Stefan Kapicic
  • Brianna Hildebrand – Prism, First Girl I Loved
  • Gina Carano – Haywire, Fast & Furious 6, In The Blood, Scorched Earth
  • Morena Baccarin – The OC, Homeland, Gotham, Malevolent

Music Composer:

Ryan Reynolds has wanted to play Deadpool since 2005. In 2009’s (forgettable) X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he got his wish; although, it was an insignificant role and did such an injustice to the foul-mouthed, raunchy character that has lit up Marvel comics since 1991. Well, now, Reynolds has finally got his wish and has made a Deadpool standalone film. But is the movie any good? Does the movie do justice to the character?

Wade (Ryan Reynolds) with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). The two of them hit it off quickly.

Wade (Ryan Reynolds) with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). The two of them hit it off quickly.

Deadpool centres round Wade Wilson (Reynolds). Wade is a former US special forces operative who works as a mercenary in New York City. One day, he finds out that he has multiple and terminal cancer(s). Not wanting to die, Wade goes to a special, underground clinic that claims to be trying a new cure for cancer, which could potentially save him.

However, when Wade arrives at the dodgy clinic, he learns that Ajax (Ed Skrein), the one performing the experimental cure on him, is not trying to cure him at all. Rather, Ajax is attempting to create a mutant, super-slave and disfigures Wade. Wade escapes, but does not manage to kill Ajax before the latter gets away. Wade is out for revenge and puts on the red spandex for good measure.

Deadpool is an entertaining film. It is action-packed, rude and raunchy. Wade/Deadpool is also the antithesis of what a superhero should be. Spiderman, the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Captain America are modest, selfless and caring individuals, while Iron Man and Thor are egotistical maniacs yet altruistic characters at heart. Deadpool, on the other hand, is irredeemably arrogant and selfish, and Reynolds looks like he is revelling in it all. (And fair play to him too. If one generally waits a decade to play a role, one should enjoy every moment of it when it finally comes around.)

Wade about to undergo an experimental procedure, with Ajax (Ed Skrein) looking over him and telling him so much that he would not want to hear.

Wade about to undergo an experimental procedure, with Ajax (Ed Skrein) looking over him and telling him so much that he would not want to hear.

The film’s filthy dialogue reflects the character. Possibly the best element of the movie is the numerous, inappropriate jokes. Not only are they genuinely funny, they keep audiences entertained when the action is not taking place. Nevertheless, due to the way Tim Miller has put the film together, one is never more than ten minutes away from a shoot-out or an explosion. The movie starts on an over-the-top chase scene. It keeps cutting out/back in time during this chase scene to explain the background, with the (unneeded) aid of a voiceover from Wade, until the movie catches up with the chase scene. Then, the film continues with the action.

As one can imagine, this style of directing can become grating after a while; particularly as Wade/Deadpool is so unapologetically full of himself. Equally grating are the constant (and unsubtle) references to other comic-book films, such as The Wolverine and the X-Men franchise. (We get it, Deadpool, you were in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the studio did not want to pay for the entire X-Men cast. You don’t need to ram it down our throats every fifteen minutes.)

Furthermore, the plot is silly and the villain is clichéd. Indeed, the silliness of the plot and the clichéd nature of the stereotypical British villain (played with unrepentant glee by Ed Skrein) should have fans wondering if the creators of Deadpool could have been any lazier in their planning.

Wade in his Deadpool spandex, taking out those who are either after him or who disfigured him.

Wade in his Deadpool spandex, taking out those who are either after him or who disfigured him.

The women add nothing to the film too. They are either there to be the (hackneyed) damsel-in-distress or to kick some arse. These are comic-book tropes that have been done repeatedly since Sam Raimi’s Spiderman came out in 2002. All the same, if done well they make for entertaining viewing. And Deadpool is undoubtedly entertaining viewing.

Over-all, Deadpool is a fun film. It has action aplenty and enough genuinely funny jokes to render it better than most comedies. Of course the movie is silly, referential to other comic-book movies, filled with tropes from the genre, and annoying. Yet, that is all pars for the course with the character and the movie certainly does our rude, crude and foul-mouthed super anti-hero justice. Thus, Deadpool has exorcised the pale imitation that appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and is the film that Ryan Reynolds and fans of the comics have been waiting for.

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Review – Spectre (12a) [2015]

Spectre - title banner

Star Rating: 3/5

Director:

  • Sam Mendes – American Beauty, Revolutionary Road, Skyfall

Cast:

  • Daniel Craig – The Trench, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Defiance, Skyfall
  • Ben Whishaw – The International, Cloud Atlas, Skyfall, Suffragette, The Danish Girl
  • Naomi Harris – Trauma, Pirates of the Caribbean II-III, The First Grader, Skyfall, Our Kind of Traitor
  • Ralph Fiennes – Harry Potter IV-VII(i) & VII(ii), Coriolanus, Wrath of the Titans, Skyfall, Hail, Caesar!
  • Léa Seydoux – Inglorious Basterds, Robin Hood, Mission: Impossible IV, Blue Is The Warmest Colour, Gambit
  • Monica Bellucci – The Matrix II-III, The Passion of the Christ, The Sorceror’s Apprentice, On The Milky Road
  • Christoph Waltz – Inglorious Basterds, Carnage, Django Unchained, Big Eyes, Tarzan
  • Dave Bautista – WWE Smackdown, WWF Raw, Guardians of the Galaxy, Warrior’s Gate
  • Andrew Scott – The Scapegoat, Pride, Alice In Wonderland II, Denial
  • Rory Kinnear – Quantum of Solace, Broken, Skyfall, Penny Dreadful, Trespass Against Us
  • Jesper Christensen – Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, The Debt, The King’s Choice
  • Judi Dench – Bond 17-23, Shakespeare In Love, Notes On A Scandal, My Week With Marilyn, Philomena, Tulip Fever

Music Composer:

What is the role of secret agents, and in particular, James Bond in the current era? Sir Ian Fleming, the author of the Bond novels, wrote Casino Royale in 1952. That was at the height of the Cold War between the USA and the USSR, when espionage involving personnel was at its zenith. But in 2015, the USSR no longer exists and espionage involving personnel has been downgraded due to technology. So, again, what is the role secret agents/James Bond nowadays? Spectre, Bond’s 24th outing, deals with this question in typical Bond fashion.

James Bond (Daniel Craig), looking worn and tired after an eventful trip to Mexico, gets a dressing down from M (Ralph Fiennes) upon his return to London.

James Bond (Daniel Craig), looking worn and tired after an eventful trip to Mexico, gets a dressing down from M (Ralph Fiennes) upon his return to London.

  Spectre opens up in Mexico City, wherein James Bond (Daniel Craig) acquires a ring bearing an octopus insignia. Upon returning to London, M (Ralph) demands that Bond explain what he was doing in Mexico. Bond refuses to explain, which leads to M indefinitely taking him off duty as a secret agent. Upon returning home, Bond re-watches a recording from his former superior, reminding him about a mysterious organisation called ‘Spectre.’ Despite having been removed from duty, Bond leaves London to unearth more about this shadowy organisation.

Meanwhile, in London, M:I-6 has a new intelligence officer, C (Andrew Scott). C has his own plans to take M:I-6 forward; one of which is to dismantle the ‘00’ programme, putting him on a collision course with M.

Spectre, in many ways, is an archetypal Bond movie. Does it have a spectacular opening sequence? Yes. Is there a trademark song afterward it? Yes. Does Spectre have some witty (touché) dialogue? Yes. Does the film have a glamorous-looking cast along with breath-taking locations? Yes. Does the movie have some brilliant stunts, action sequences, and cool explosions? Yes. Does it have a weak storyline in which viewers have to suspend their disbelief to go through with it, without laughing at it? Absolutely! Therefore, Spectre delivers on its (formulaic) expectations for a Bond movie.

Dr Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), looking glamorous, joins Bond for dinner.

Dr Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), looking glamorous, joins Bond for dinner.

However, in two ways, Spectre differs from most other Bond films. One, it makes enough references to other Bond films for it to be an homage to the Bond franchise; particularly, to those of the Craig era. And, two, Spectre is conspicuously slow-burning. Bond films tend to be fast-paced and filled with action to keep viewers interested during the supposedly less interesting parts of the film i.e. when Bond travels from one dazzling place to another, to find out information for the mission. Yet, at 150-minutes, Spectre has so much (often pointless) travelling that even the action sequences cannot keep viewers interested. In short, the movie needed to be cut by 30-45 minutes, especially during the middle hour where little happens. But because it has not been edited sufficiently, Spectre borders on boring at times, which is very unlike a Bond film.

Nevertheless, during these ‘boring’ parts, one gets to explore a different (vulnerable?) side of Bond’s character; notably, whether James Bond actually enjoys being James Bond. Not only is this elucidated adeptly, but due to Daniel Craig’s aging appearance it seems entirely apt to have these questions raised. Indeed, Craig looks old and worn in Spectre, as if the strain of being Bond has taken its toll on him. Still, he is marvellous, tough and wryly humorous as Bond; probably more so than in Skyfall.

Likewise, Ben Whishaw is a joy to watch as the funny and smart Q, as is Christolph Waltz as the mysterious, villainous Oberhauser; and as is Ralph Fiennes as the serious M. Léa Seydoux plays quite well, too, as Bond’s temperamental love-interest, Dr Madeleine Swann. Surprisingly, she has been given considerable character depth for a Bond Girl. Seydoux may lack chemistry with Craig on screen, but her character often drives Bond and the plot forward in interesting ways.

Bond's cunning nemesis, Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), the shadowy figure at the head of a clandestine organisation, known as 'Spectre.'

Bond’s cunning nemesis, Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), the shadowy figure at the head of a clandestine organisation, known as ‘Spectre.’

Between her and Bond, and M and C), Spectre tries to intellectually tackle important questions that have become extremely relevant to Western politics since 9/11. Fascinatingly, the movie discusses the role of secret agents and technology, hinting at how times have changed since the Cold War; and how much power spy organisations should be given regarding the surveillance of ordinary citizens. Granted, Spectre only tackles these questions on superficial levels (and with answers that one could have guessed from a Bond film). But at least the movie brings up these questions. They also add a layer of depth to the storyline, which is always welcome.

Over-all, Spectre is an all right James Bond movie. It is quite long, but fun and entertaining in ways that are reminiscent of so many other, previous films in the franchise. Nonetheless, Spectre differentiates itself from other Bond films by winking at fans with self-reference; by giving Bond and the other characters some depth; and, most notably, by trying to address complex issues that have plagued Western governments since the turn of the 21st-century. Spectre makes some valid arguments on the role of spies, technology, and the extent to which security organisations should be permitted to use surveillance in the current era. All of which enrich the Bond experience and will leave audiences thinking about them after the film has ended.

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Review – Mission: Impossible V – Rogue Nation (12a) [2015]

MI-V - Title banner

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Director:

  • Christopher McQuarrie – The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie, Jack Reacher, Edge of Tomorrow

Cast:

  • Tom Cruise – Eyes Wide Shut, Valkyrie, Mission: Impossible I-IV, Jack Reacher I & II
  • Jeremy Renner – SWAT, Mission: Impossible IV, The Avengers Assemble I & II, , Captain America III
  • Alec Baldwin – The Aviator, To Rome With Love, Blue Jasmine, Still Alice, Caught Stealing
  • Rebecca Ferguson – Drowning Ghost, The White Queen, Hercules, Despite The Falling Snow
  • Ving Rhames – Pulp Fiction, Surrogates, Mission: Impossible I-IV, Operator
  • Simon Pegg – Big Nothing, Mission Impossible III-IV, Paul, Star Trek I, II & III
  • Sean Harris – Harry Brown, The Borgias, Prometheus, ‘71, Macbeth
  • Simon McBurney – The Last King of Scotland, Harry Potter VII(i), The Borgias, The Theory of Everything
  • Tom Hollander – Enigma, Pirates of the Caribbean II-III, American Dad!, Jungle Book: Origins
  • Jens Hultén – The Border, Skyfall, Ragnorak, Johan Falk: Lockdown

Music Composer:

  • Joe Kraemer – The Thirst, Confession of A Gangster, Jack Reacher, Titans of Justice

What has become of the Mission: Impossible franchise? The first film was a proper espionage thriller with a tough mission and the odd elaborate action stunt to give credence to the film’s title. But by the second film, the espionage element had given way to entertaining, if unfeasible action stunts and the veneration of Tom Cruise’s alter ego, Ethan Hunt. And by the fourth film, the storyline had given way to even more entertaining, unfeasible action stunts and venerated Tom Cruise’s alter ego to the point of deification. So what could one expect from Mission: Impossible V – Rogue Nation (M:I-V)? Well, more of the same really!

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) working together to uncover the Syndicate.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) working together to uncover the Syndicate.

M:I-V centres round Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, who else?) hunting down the Syndicate, an international criminal organisation, and its leader Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). However, the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) that Ethan is part of is being closed down by CIA Director Alen Hunley (Alec Baldwin). The CIA believes that the Syndicate does not exist and that the IMF is causing embarrassment to the CIA/America due to its unorthodox methods. They want Ethan to turn himself in.

But rather than hand himself in, Ethan chooses to go rogue so as to uncover the Syndicate and to find Lane, himself. And he will start by going after Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson).

That is the vague outline of M:I-V’s plot. But, in truth, M:I-V has no plot. The film flagrantly does not care for the spy thriller ingredient that made the first film so interesting. Instead, M:I-V prefers to go from one entertaining, over-the-top action stunt to another. Indeed, it wouldn’t matter which order the action stunts occurred as the storyline and the dialogue make no sense at all; although, having the first stunt as the one where Ethan hangs off a taking-off aeroplane does set the tone for the rest of the movie. And, astonishingly, Director Christopher McQuarrie manages to maintain this tone for its entire duration. The stunts get ever more outlandish and creative to the extent that one has to question who came up with these ideas (and how) because they are ingenious.

Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) on a bike and in possession of something Ethan needs. Thus, a high-speed bike chase is about to begin...

Isla Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) on a bike and in possession of something Ethan needs. Thus, a high-speed bike chase is about to begin…

However, M:I-V does not solely consist of ingenious, if totally unrealistic action stunts. The film consists of a good amount of banter between the protagonists (more so than in previous instalments), and gives viewers the sense that a family unit is developing within the IMF now that Tom Cruise and Ving Rhames has been in all five films, Simon Pegg has been in them since the third one, and Jeremy Renner since the fourth. Each member of the team has a particular role and whether it is Cruise as Action Man come again and the mastermind who exposes the movie’s villain(s); Rhames as Ethan’s reliable sidekick Luther; Simon Pegg as Ethan’s reliable but goofy, tech-nerd Benji; or Renner as Ethan’s boss Brandt (who Ethan regularly disobeys to ever positive results), each one of them looks like they are enjoying their roles and they make some funny puns whilst they’re at it as well.

Unsurprisingly, Cruise, Rhames, Pegg and Renner all play well in M:I-V even if they do nothing spectacular. Rather, it is the newcomers that arguably make the most impressions on viewers. Rebecca Ferguson, as the ambiguous Ilsa Faust, makes the greatest impression of them all. She is beautiful, sexy and can kick arse! That she holds up against Tom Cruise (and may, heaven forbid, outshine him in his own film) speaks volumes for her talents as an actress.

Yet, the rest of the cast do not have the same impact on viewers. Sean Harris plays decently as the main villain, Solomon Lane. Harris/Lane is cold, unflinching and meant to be scary. But because he is given little screen time or background story, audiences don’t get the chance to feel much for him by the end. For similar reasons, one feels little for Alec Baldwin as the CIA director and Simon McBurney as the head of the British secret services, even if neither of them play badly with the material or time they’re given.

Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the ice-cold, sociopathic villain at the head of the Syndicate.

Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the ice-cold, sociopathic villain at the head of the Syndicate.

It would have been intriguing to learn more about these characters as they seem, ostensibly, to have depth and more to say for themselves. But to explore them would have meant that the film-makers would have had to come up with a genuine storyline and spent less time showing us how awesome Tom Cruise is. And that would have defeated the whole purpose of M:I-V.

Over-all, M:I-V is a highly enjoyable action film. It has little place for clever espionage and has a veneer of a storyline that does not work at any level. Nevertheless, the movie glorifies Tom Cruise; has plenty of action sequences; several implausible action stunts; good chemistry and humour from the returning cast; and includes a gorgeous, strong female character that could fit seamlessly into any Marvel comic-book film. Thus, M:I-V delivers unashamedly on everything it sets out to achieve.

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Review – Spooks: The Greater Good (15) [2015]

Spooks - title banner

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Director:

  • Bharat Nalluri – Killing Time, The Crow, Spooks, The Player

Cast:

  • Kit Harington – Pompeii, A Testament of Youth, Seventh Son, Game of Thrones
  • Peter Firth – The Hunt For Red October, Pearl Harbour, Spooks, Risen
  • Jennifer Ehle – The King’s Speech, The Ides of March, Contagion, Zero Dark Thirty, A Quiet Passion
  • Tuppence Middleton – Cleanskin, The Imitation Game, Jupiter Ascending, War And Peace
  • Elyes Gabel – Game of Thrones, World War Z, A Most Violent Year, Scorpion
  • Tim McInnerny – Spooks
  • Eleanor Matsuura – Alan Partridge, The Love Punch, Residue, Burn Burn Burn
  • Michael Wildman – Family Affairs, A Bunch of Amateurs, Act of Godfrey, London Has Fallen
  • Lara Pulver – Spooks, True Blood, Edge of Tomorrow, A Patch of Fog
  • David Harewood – The Ruby In The Smoke, Homeland, Grimsby

Music Composer:

  • Dominic Lewis – Free Birds, The DUFF, The Player

When one watches a TV series from the beginning, one usually becomes emotionally invested in the characters. Whether it is Jack Bauer from 24, Homer Simpson from The Simpsons, the inbetweeners from The Inbetweeners, or the leading police officers from 21 Jump Street, viewers usually acquire affection (or disdain) for the characters, and normally they carry their sentiments on into the film adaptation(s) or spin-off(s). But what if one has not watched the TV series that a film is based on? Can one still enjoy the film to the same extent as if one had watched the show? Spooks: The Greater Good may give us an answer.

Harry (Peter Firth) convincing Will Holloway (Kit Harington), an ex-agent, to trust him and to rejoin M:I-5.

Harry (Peter Firth) convincing Will Holloway (Kit Harington), an ex-agent, to trust him and to rejoin M:I-5.

Spooks is based on the British TV series with the same title that aired between 2002-11 (although it was also called M:I-5 in some circles). The film is a spy thriller. At the start of the movie, Adam Qasim (Elyes Gabel), a terrorist wanted by US authorities, is in the hands of M:I-5. He is on his way to being handed over to the CIA in London when the vehicles driving him are attacked in a heist. Threatened with the deaths of agents in the streets, M:I-5 orders the agents to hand over Qasim to the armed attackers.

Now free, Qasim plans a terrorist attack on London. While M:I-5 looks for him and determines what he intends to do, Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) disappears. He is convinced that there is a traitor in M:I-5 who let Qasim free, and he re-recruits Will Holloway (Kit Harrington), an ex-agent, to help him find out who the traitor is.

Spooks is a solid espionage thriller. The film is quite grounded and beguiling with good acting and humorous dialogue. For one who has not watched an episode of Spooks the TV series, there are probably some subtleties that go unseen. But not seeing these does not make the film any less entertaining. Furthermore, the film is written in such a way that the allegiances (and rivalries) between key personnel in the upper echelons of M:I-5 are spelled out quite early on in the film. So, one should not have a problem understanding who is on whose side… until they switch sides, of course. But that happened in the TV series regularly, like in 24, and is also part and parcel of the spy genre in general. How much emotional investment in Spooks one needs prior to watching the film is debatable.

June (Tuppence Middleton), an M:I-5 agent, going in with a fellow agent to take out some terrorists.

June (Tuppence Middleton), an M:I-5 agent, going in with a fellow agent to take out some terrorists.

Yes, it may have helped to know what the shifty Harry Pearce, played well by Peter Firth, is like before going into the film in the same way it may have helped to watch The Simpsons on TV to appreciate what makes the blundering Homer Simpson so endearing before watching The Simpsons Movie. Similarly, watching Spooks the TV show may have helped to get to know supporting cast members played by Tim McInnerney and Lara Pulver. Both reprise their roles from the show well but are given little screen time during the movie (especially compared to Peter Firth’s character).

Nevertheless, for every actor reprising their character, there are a handful of new characters. Jennifer Ehle, Tuppence Middleton, Eleanor Masuura and, chiefly, Kit Harington were never part of the TV series. Suffice to say, all of them have a role in the film and add something different to the plot. Fans (and non-fans) of the show cannot have known these characters or anticipate their motives prior to the movie. This means that the film is going to deviate from the show and that whatever happened previously in the TV series is unlikely to be crucial.

Jon Snow... I mean, Will Holloway being the hero and using a gun to take out a foe instead of a sword.

Jon Snow… I mean, Will Holloway being the hero and using a gun, instead of a sword, to take out a foe.

Yet, if fans (and non-fans) are arguing over how alike Spooks the film is to Spooks the TV series, they are arguing over the wrong issue. How closely the film resembles the show pales in comparison to the problem of the film’s tone. Director Bharat Nalluri cannot make up his mind if he wants the film to be taken seriously, like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, or as a spoof, like Kingsman: The Secret Service. Bearing in mind the title of the movie reads and sounds close to ‘spoof,’ it may have been logical to make the film as a satire, as James Bond was pre-Daniel Craig. (Or maybe that conclusion is borne from not watching the TV series?) Either way, Spooks’ tone is confusing. Add in the (numerous) implausible plot twists and it is understandable that viewers get into a fuddle as to what sort of a film they’re watching.

Over-all, Spooks is an enjoyable spy thriller. It has been put together well enough to ensure that viewers who have not watched the TV series that preceded the movie are not worse off than those who did. The tone of the film may be puzzling and some of the Byzantine-like scheming makes no sense. However, Spooks: The Greater Good has got good acting, dialogue and intrigue, with semi-grounded action. Thus, like any film with such ingredients, Spooks is a decent movie and worth a watch.

PG’s Tips

Review – Seventh Son (12a) [2015]

Seventh Son - Title Banner

Star Rating: 1.5/5

Director:

  • Sergey Bodrov – Prisoner of the Mountains, Nomad: The Warrior, Mongol: Rise of Genghis Khan, Fool’s Game

Cast:

  • Julianne Moore – The Big Lebowski, The Hours, Maps To The Stars, Still Alice, Freeheld
  • Jeff Bridges – The Big Lebowski, Iron Man, True Grit, RIPD, The Emperor’s Children
  • Kit Harrington – Game of Thrones, Testament of Youth, Pompeii, Spooks: The Greater Good
  • Olivia Williams – The Sixth Sense, Maps To The Stars, Anna Karenina, Man Up
  • Ben Barnes – The Chronicles of Narnia II & III, Dorian Gray, By The Gun, Sons of Liberty
  • Alicia Vikander – A Royale Affair, Anna Karenina, Testament of Youth, Ex Machina, The Danish Girl
  • Djimon Hounsou – Gladiator, Eragon, Blood Diamond, Guardians of the Galaxy, Furious 7
  • Antje Traue – Pandorum, 5 Days of War, Man of Steel, Woman In Gold

Music Composer:

There are some films that can be boxed into the category of ‘laughably terrible.’ Batman & Robin, Birdemic, Season of the Witch, Conan The Barbarian, Sharknado, and Pompeii are all awful films, yet they all have the saving grace of being amusing in their awfulness. Sergey Bodrov’s Seventh Son is another such movie.

Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore), having returned, she is now back at home, planning her evil ambitions for the world.

Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore), having returned, she is now back at home, planning her evil ambitions for the world.

Seventh Son is based on the first book in The Wardstone Chronicles (although it is called The Last Apprentice series in America) by Joseph Delaney. Delaney’s website, Spooksbooks, defines the plot for Seventh Son as: ‘In a time long past, an evil is about to be unleashed that will reignite the war between the forces of the supernatural and humankind once more. John Gregory (Jeff Bridges) is a Spook, a person who fights against the Dark, who had imprisoned the malevolently powerful witch, Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore), centuries ago. But now she has escaped and is seeking vengeance. Summoning her followers of every incarnation, Mother Malkin is preparing to unleash her terrible wrath on an unsuspecting world. Only one thing stands in her way: John Gregory.

‘In a deadly reunion, Gregory comes face to face with the evil he always feared would someday return. Now he has only until the next full moon to do what usually takes years: train his new apprentice, Tom Ward (Ben Barnes), to fight a dark magic unlike any other. Man’s only hope lies in the seventh son of a seventh son.’

Yes, the plot is that laughable. It is plodding and silly, with predictable twists and a waterfall of fantasy clichés thrown into the mire. Indeed, there are so many fantasy clichés in Seventh Son that it is hard to believe that the film is anything other than an inferior derivative of other (better) fantasy stories. But unlike with other (irredeemably bad) fantasy films, like Reign of Fire and Rise of the Shadow Warrior, at least with Seventh Son one can enjoy pointing out where James Delaney/Sergey Bodrov have gained their inspiration from. In some scenes, the inspiration is so blatant one might as well re-watch or reread the works JRR Tolkien, Susan Cooper and David Eddings, and Dungeons & Dragons and Season of the Witch for good measure (to name but five). Some of the ideas in those stories might be bad or badly executed by today’s standards. But they were originals, if not classics, in their time.

Tom (Ben Barnes) and John Gregory (Jeff Bridges), pupil and mentor, going from place to place in classic fantasy style.

Tom (Ben Barnes) and John Gregory (Jeff Bridges), pupil and mentor, going from place to place in classic fantasy style.

Yet, if one thought the storyline for Seventh Son was the most ludicrous element of the movie, it pales in comparison to the dialogue. Unsurprisingly, the dialogue is lazily-written, clunky and hackneyed. But, at times, it is delivered with a campiness that one cannot help but laugh at, with Jeff Bridges being the Offender-in-Chief. Playing a cross between Gandalf and Rooster Cogburn, Bridges is barely comprehensible. Yet, he has a smile on his face for the entire film and looks like he is enjoying himself enormously in spite of (or maybe because of) the paucity of the script.

The same, however, cannot be said for the rest of the cast. Julianne Moore, habitually brilliant (and particularly so in the recent Still Alice), is shockingly dreadful as the one-dimensional, wicked witch. Appearing as a cut-rate cross between Queen Ravenna from Snow White and a latex rip-off of Melisandre from Game of Thrones, Moore looks bored at best and embarrassed at worst whenever she is on screen. Olivia Williams, Kit Harrington, Alicia Vikander, Djimon Hounsou and Ben Barnes all wear similar expressions during Seventh Son. It is as if this predominantly talented cast all know that they’re in a movie that stinks to the stratosphere and are just pleading for their scenes to be over so they can pick up their pay-checks and move on.

Alice (Alicia Vikander) rising seductively in the lake to entrance someone (I wonder who?) with her beauty.

Alice (Alicia Vikander) rising seductively in the moonlight to entrance someone (I wonder who?) with her beauty.

Likely, the cast had moved on and forgotten about this car-crash of a movie… until it returned to haunt them with its release in cinemas recently. Seventh Son was filmed in 2012 and was in post-production for more than two and a half years. The movie was supposed to have come out in 2013 and then in 2014, but was delayed on three occasions due to post-production troubles. Oddly, though, Seventh Son does not feel like a troubled production (unlike Transformers II, The Wolverine and The Hobbit III). It just feels wretched, pitifully comical and cheap, especially when it comes to the CGI. For a film which cost Legendary studios near $100million to make, one expects to watch a better movie, and consequently it is no surprise that the film has flopped. (Legendary studios expect to make an $85million loss on the movie.)

All-in-all, Seventh Son is an all-round awful film. From the script, to the acting, to the CGI, the movie is abysmal and filled with enough fantasy clichés to stuff a duvet. Nevertheless, the film has one saving grace: it is unintentionally hilarious. Thus, Seventh Son can be boxed into the category of ‘laughably terrible’ and can be enjoyed for the atrocity that it is alongside Batman & Robin, Birdemic, Season of the Witch, Conan The Barbarian, Sharknado, and Pompeii.

PG’s Tips