This movie means a lot to me, partly because I’ve watched it repeatedly and also because it’s one of the few movies that has made me cry as an adult.
In my defence, it was just after Valentine’s Day, I was single and I’d been drinking.
Picking up where the first movie left off with crazy Riggs (Mel Gibson) and family man Murtaugh (Danny Glover) as wisecracking partners we’re launched straight into the tone of the movie thanks to the Looney Tunes theme and then a big car crash where Riggs and Murtaugh chase a bunch of blonde crims and uncover a mass of gold coins.
The coins turn out to be South African krugerrands, which are illegal. Riggs and Murtaugh dig into it a bit more, but are warned off by the South African consul Arjen Rudd (Joss Ackland) and his heavy Vorstedt (Derrick O’Connor), and reassigned to look after Leo Getz (Joe Pesci), a loud and irritating witness. Pesci fills this role wonderfully and with the heroes forms a fast talking, quipping triangle which delivers some of the film’s big laughs.
Pesci’s character is annoying in places, but he should be applauded for softening as the film progresses. He gives Gibson and Glover someone extra to spark off, and fits well with the rapid fire, joke heavy dialogue. Of course, there’s plenty of this already thanks to the easy, natural feeling way that Gibson and Glover have Riggs and Murtaugh banter and bicker throughout, with the duo working together fantastically.
Leo is targeted and the duo protect him, and realize that he’s connected to the South Africans. This is apartheid era South Africa, so they also hassle Murtaugh and are instantly unlikable. I think this reason, along with growing up learning about apartheid is part of the reason I’ve had a problem with South Africa and been unable to cheer their sports teams on, although now as most of their players are post-apartheid kids it’s not quite as strong a dislike.
Riggs and Murtaugh then proceed to investigate and harass the South Africans, and Riggs woos Rudd’s secretary, Rika (Patsy Kensit), in a romantic subplot that is actually rather well done. It’s brief, but Gibson turns on the charm and his goofy, funny approach makes it easy to see why Rika might fall for him. The only problem is that during their flirting scenes Kensit’s South African accent clearly throws Gibson off and his Aussie side starts to come through a bit.
Rika and Riggs get it on, but their happiness is short lived as their attacked and captured by Vorstedt. Vorstedt reveals that they’ve known about Riggs for a while, and that when he previously got too close Vorstedt tried to take him out, causing the car accident that killed Riggs’ missus. This doubles Riggs’ desire for revenge and escaping he teams up with Roger and they both go out for justice on the dastardly racists.
Ackland is very good as the sleazy, menacing diplomat who abuses his power and diplomatic immunity to run his drug business, and the scene where a minor goon walks in to a plastic covered room is a nice touch. Ackland is the power and a hissable villain, but his right hand man Vorstedt is the physical threat and his tough one-on-one fight with Riggs near the end shows them to be evenly matched and has some bone crunching realism. It doesn’t quite match the Riggs vs Joshua smackdown of the original, but it’s pretty good.
That brings us to the ending, which is an action movie masterclass. After Riggs takes out his man he’s dramatically gunned down by Rudd. Rudd then taunts Murtaugh with his diplomatic immunity, teeing Danny Glover up to deliver one of the best action movie post-kill lines ever.
And then comes the part that made me cry. Already upset by the death of Rika, watching Murtaugh race to the fallen Riggs as “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” kicks in was all too much for me, despite knowing there were two more movies to come. This is down to the great directing of Richard Donner, who shoots it wonderfully.
Apparently at one stage Riggs did actually buy the farm, but thankfully, they decided this was too much of a bummer and an injured Riggs lives to fight and quip another day.
The impact of this scene is a sign of the movie’s major strengths, which is the way they build the relationship between Riggs and Murtaugh. They’re still very different and bicker away, but there’s definitely a sense that they know each other a bit better, sparking off each other and joking along.
There’s also more signs that their partnership is helping to soften Riggs’ and that he’s becoming part of the Murtaugh family, and this is one of the series major themes and biggest strengths, the redemption offered by simple human contact and interaction.
Glover is solid, dependable and likable as Murtaugh and gets the movie’s big moment, but Gibson steals the show, and is unbelievably charismatic as Riggs, a motormouth ball of energy who looks genuinely badass and crazy in places. This is one of the best examples of why Gibson was such a massive star, and he has the easy on screen charm that few stars possess, and continues to make Riggs a man crush of mine.
The next two installments might not match the first two, but they’re still entertaining movies and Gibson and Glover’s chemistry continues throughout, making Riggs and Murtaugh one of the best buddy duos around. And this stands out as one of those sequels which builds on and strengthens the first movie, getting you even more involved in the characters and their adventures.
The connection with Riggs’ wife is a bit heavy handed, and you can’t help thinking that with all their cop buddies dead along with Rika, and a threat to his partner’s family, Riggs has more than enough reason to go after the bad guys, but it still works and gives him the closure to move on in parts 3 and 4.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
I think I may be shamed soon. Why? Because despite my reservations I can already feel the distant drums of geeky excitement in my head, and all because of less than a minute and a half of footage.
Yes, I watched the trailer for the Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, JJ Abrams’ sequel to the original trilogy.
Previously I’d held on to my doubts. I’d been burned in 1999, when, having fallen head over hells in love with Star Wars I had gotten hyped up for the prequels only to be bitterly disappointed.
Sure, JJ Abrams has made some quality stuff in the past, and I’m intrigued by how they’re going to continue the saga.
But there are far too many doubts. Will the ageing cast still work in their roles or will this be another late addition which damages the original (like the last Indiana Jones flick). Mark Hamill has done great voiceover work, but Fisher and Ford are rusty, and Ford hasn’t had a truly great flick in years.
But despite this watching the trailer it got the geek fires burning. X-Wings, old Luke, the Falcon and a tease for the return of Han Solo, one of my first man crushes.
I got sucked into the hype last time, and I’m worried it’ll happen again. Sure I’m older but I still love Star Wars and love makes fools of us all.
I just pray to the geek gods that Abrams pulls this off and the sequels entertain in the way the originals did, but that the prequels failed to.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO
There are three different Hercules movies released this year, but this is probably the biggest, why? Because it stars Dwayne Johnson while the others star the WWE’s John Morrison and some bloke who was in the Twilight movies and will be in Expendables 3. So it’s already ahead in the leading man stakes, and also boasts a decent supporting cast.
It’s also nice because it plays with the story, we’re introduced to the familiar legend of Hercules, son of Zeus and his twelve labours, all being told by his nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie) who has been captured by pirates that Hercules has been hired to get rid of. When Hercules arrives however instead of the one man army the stories imply he’s actually assisted by a gang of mercenaries.
This sets up an element of doubt, is Hercules a demigod, or just a strong and able warrior. Hercules and his gang are hired by Lord Cotys (John Hurt), who’s waging war in Thrace against an army rumoured to include demons and centaurs. Hercules agrees to aid them and assists in training up the farmers of Thrace as soldiers.
At the same time Hercules is haunted by his past, the death of his family for which he was blamed and subsequent exile from Athens. His former king, Eurystheus (Joseph Fiennes) has expelled him, leading Hercules and his friends to act as mercenaries.
Hercules leads Cotys’ half trained men into combat reluctantly, and they triumph despite heavy casualties, and pursue the rebel Rheseus (Tobias Santlemann), defeating him and taking him prisoner. However, after their victory Hercules begins to question whether the cause he has fought for was just and whether he’s received the full truth from Cotys, who has now become king of Thrace.
I really dug this movie and found it to be a lot of fun. Dwayne Johnson has easy charisma on screen and the muscular build to ensure that it’s plausible that the people he meets would assume he was half-god. In the combat scenes he makes an impressive figure and at times he flashes his roguish grin and settles into action hero mode, but it’s nice to see him handle the character’s more troubled aspects. Haunted by muddled, hazy images of his family’s deaths and the image of Cerberus, the one labour he failed to complete, it’s handled well through flashbacks and Johnson does a good job of playing the damaged, shaken hero.
At times it’s predictable, you know that he’s been betrayed in the past and it’s fairly obvious early on by who and why. Similarly there are a couple of moments when you figure out what’s going to happen minutes before it does, but you could say that for any number of action movies, and it doesn’t stop them being enjoyable.
The fight sequences are well done, and director Brett Ratner (The Rush Hour series, X-Men: The Last Stand and Tower Heist) manages to make them engaging while and fast paced, but well edited enough that you always know what’s going on. He also has a knack for comedy and there are some delightfully overdone takedowns and quips.
One of the film’s strongest assets is the supporting cast, particularly Hercules’ posse, which includes Rufus Sewell as Autolycus, his old friend, a cynical, sarcastic knife thrower who gets some of the best lines. Also impressive is Ian McShane as another of his crew who believes he can see the future and has foretold his own death, as with Hercules’ godliness this is left vague and unconfirmed.
John Hurt, Peter Mullan and Joseph Fiennes all do the Brit baddies with aplomb too.
All in all it’s an entertaining romp which raises a few laughs, boasts a solid performance from Johnson, a good supporting cast and succeeds in subverting the legend while also including moments which muddy the water. Some of Hercules’ actions border on the incredible and so it’s never entirely proven that he is not the son of Zeus, which I found to be a nice touch.
Verdict: An entertaining adventure with some nice touches and an on-form cast, spearheaded by Johnson, who as well as looking the part manages to get the tone right. Great fun. 7/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Warning! Here be spoilers.
I’m still not entirely convinced they needed to make this into three movies, but credit to Peter Jackson for making another exciting and charming fantasy movies.
Picking up from where the last movie left off, we find hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) still traveling with the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the band of dwarves led by Thorin (Richard Armitage) as they seek to reach the lonely mountain and take back Thorin’s underground kingdom from the clutches of Smaug, the dragon.
Pursued by orcs who have a grudge against by Thorin they try to continue on their way, encountering a variety of characters and dangers along the way. Also they lose Gandalf, who travels to investigate a mysterious and evil force which is emerging.
They travel through Mirkwood where they escape giant spiders but are, apart from Bilbo, captured by the elf king Thranduil (Lee Pace), who offers Thorin a deal that is rejected, leaving the party in the elves’ dungeons. Bilbo, using the ring he nabbed in the first part and helps the dwarves escape. The orcs attack but the dwarves are helped by two of Thranduil’s fighters, his son, Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and she-elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly).
Legolas has feelings for Tauriel, but his father has warned her that this is not possible, and she also appears drawn to Kili (Aidan Turner), one of the party. Kili is injured during the escape, struck by a poison arrow, but the group reach Laketown, a settlement of man, aided by Bard (Luke Evans), a bargeman who is popular with the townsfolk and loathed by the town’s master (Stephen Fry). The dwarves are arrested by guards, but they are linked to an old prophecy that will return the town to it’s former glories. Bard, who hails from the town the dragon destroyed says that they should not disturb the beast, but the Master uses the mob’s greed to gain popularity and aids the party.
The wounded Kili is left behind along with some of the others to tend to him. Tauriel is following to help and Legolas joins her.
The continuing party reach the mountain and Bilbo enters to steal the Arkenstone (a big shiny rock which will allow Thorin to claim his place as King Under the Mountain and unite the dwarf armies, but also corrupted his grandfather). However, in the process Smaug is awoken and while Bilbo tries to flatter and convince him that he’s acting alone the dwarves are discovered and pursued by the dragon. Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) realizes that Laketown must have aided them and takes flight towards the town, leaving Bilbo and the dwarves behind.
I really dug this movie and felt it was an improvement on the first part, which I did enjoy, but was overly long. There’s still stuff that could be cut out here, but it has been a few years since I’ve read the book so it might be that things I think are irrelevant may come back to be important in part three.
Some of it I’m fairly sure wasn’t in the books, like the Legolas-Tauriel-Kili love triangle (from what I remember Tolkien isn’t big on romance) but this works in the film’s favour, adding a little bit more of an emotional impact, and while it’s a tad rushed I found the scenes between Tauriel and Kili rather sweet. Evangeline Lilly should be applauded as well for her fine work as Tauriel, who appears to be a lower order elf and so manages to add a more human/earthy quality than the rest of her ethereal species, and has a few outstanding action moments.
Other new additions prove themselves well enough, especially Cumberbatch’s booming vocals as Smaug and Luke Evans (fast becoming a man crush of mine) as Bard, who exudes a quiet nobility and who seems able to handle himself. His distrust of the dwarves seems well placed and he convinces as a man carrying a heavy burden of responsibility. I’ll be interested to see what the character gets to do in the third film.
The real star of the show is still Martin Freeman, who makes Bilbo a likable character despite his fussy mannerisms, and also succeeds in capturing the early signs of the influence of the ring as well as the character’s emerging and strengthening courage. It’s a warm, amiable performance and I find myself rooting for Bilbo more on screen than I ever did in print, which is testimony to Freeman’s strong performance.
Jackson is comfortable behind the camera, and the film is predictably gorgeous. His handling of the action sequences is sublime and he shows great skill in the way he shifts focus through some of the film’s skirmishes, but the stand out sequence for me was the escape from Mirkwood, with the questing troop riding barrels down the river. It’s a thrilling, fast paced sequence which shows a wealth of invention and humour and kept me engaged throughout, unlike the rather
There are flaws, of course, Gandalf’s investigations into evil may help build to the Lord of the Rings movies, but they feel bolted on and don’t add much to the actual plot, and it seems odd that if Sauron is regaining strength here that it’s still 60 years before he properly kicks off.
Also, there’s the appearance of Legolas, which makes sense and will please the fans, but Bloom looks considerably older than his last outing in the pointy ears and as my sister noted regarding the Tauriel angle, it feels silly to introduce new characters when you haven’t properly developed the ones you already have, and it’s true that most of the dwarf party continue to be largely anonymous or reduced to one characteristic.
The other problem I have is a personal one, in that I really don’t want Thorin to succeed in regaining his throne. I mean, Smaug’s gotta go, but Thorin’s just such a douche. There are flashes of compassion and decency, but they’re smothered by his obsession and blunt manner with people, and also he seems to be finding others to blame throughout (the elves for not helping, Bard’s granddad for missing the shot at Smaug).
However, these are minor quibbles and for the most part Jackson and co. should be applauded for creating a film which while epic in length and scale still includes some nice character touches and a sense of fun and thrills. Better than part one, and leaves you eager for the conclusion.
Verdict: Jackson’s direction and view of Middle Earth continues to impress and delight, and most of the cast are on fine form, even if some aspects are underwritten, but for the most part it succeeds and is properly entertaining. 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Back in 2009 one of my favourite Marvel characters got a solo outing on the big screen, and I was pretty excited to see X-Men Origins: Wolverine, unfortunately the film sucked. Despite some good casting (Liev Schreiber made a pretty good psycopathic Sabretooth and Ryan Reynolds would be perfect as Deadpool given a decent script) the whole thing felt watered down and lame, especially as it wasted some of the X-Men’s best characters (Deadpool, Gambit, Emma Frost).
You’d have thought that I’d have learnt my lesson, but no, when another solo adventure for Weapon X was mooted I found myself getting all caught up in excitement, especially as it became clear that it wasn’t going to be a direct sequel to the last one and that it would be set in Japan. Meaning it would involve ninjas, samurai and yakuza (oh my!). This is something they actually did in the comic books, with Wolverine having spent time in Japan learning to fight and trying to use the samurai teachings to control his anger.
So, I was pretty excited to check out The Wolverine yesterday.
Opening with a scene in World War II where Logan (Hugh Jackman) is a POW in Nagasaki when the bomb drops and saves the life of a young Japanese officer Yashida, from the blast by hiding in a prison pit and covering him with metal. Yashida witnesses Logan’s powers of regeneration.
In the present, following the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, Logan has withdrawn into the mountains and is haunted by having had to kill the woman he loved, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) who appears in his dreams. Trying to avoid violence and his former ways, he nonetheless gets involved in a bar brawl with illegal hunters, but is aided by Yukio (Rila Fukushima) a mysterious Japanese girl who has been following him. She informs him that Yashida is dying and wants to say goodbye, and reluctantly Logan goes with her to Tokyo.
Yashida has become a rich man, head of a powerful business empire. Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) but is at death’s door. He believes he can offer Logan a deal- that he can take Logan’s healing factor and “immortality” so he can live on and that Logan can finally live a normal life and die and be at peace. Dubious of this, Logan refuses and is suspicious of Yashida’s shady Western doctor (played by Svetlana Khodchenkova).
While staying at Yashida’s complex Logan sees the problems and tensions within the Yashida family, and is drawn to Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto), who appears to be controlled and trapped by her father and her strict sense of honour. After Yashida dies and Logan experiences bizarre dreams involving the doctor. At the funeral Mariko is attacked by yakuza heavies and Logan protects her, they escape thanks to the aid of a mysterious bowman who turns out to be Mariko’s ex, Harada (Will Yun Lee).
Logan and Mariko go on the run, but Logan realizes that something has been done to him and he is no longer healing as before. Weaker and more vulnerable, Logan still decides to protect Mariko and in hiding the two bond and try to unravel why someone is after Mariko and what’s happened to Logan.
Can they get to the bottom of things? Will Logan recover his powers and if he doesn’t how will he manage? And is the Wolverine side of his character really gone or does he need that savagery to win the day.
First of all, this movie is a vast improvement on Origins, but that’s faint praise. This movie is definitely more fun and while it doesn’t quite match up with the comic book character’s Japanese connections, it’s still an interesting spin. Wolverine is out of his comfort zone and struggles with some of the Japanese customs, and this, along with the loss of his healing powers ensures that the character is more vulnerable than before.
This is a nice move because his near-indestructible nature can strip some of the peril from his adventures. Here we see the character stripped of this and forced to adapt. Jackman does a great job capturing the surprise and confusion the character experiences throughout the film, while still being a total badass. It’s interesting because it highlights one of Wolverine’s flaws, he fights like someone who can’t be hurt and so wades in recklessly, which is usually fine and dandy, but here puts him at a disadvantage.
That’s not to say that the Canadian mutant can’t handle himself, and some of the fights are wonderfully choreographed, with him slashing, hacking and brawling through martial artists. I quite like that his fighting style reflects his character and that they didn’t just make him a kung fu master. Unfortunately, while there are feral about him we’re still yet to see the character fully unleash the berserker rage comic fans are familiar with. But I guess, they’re never going to make a 15 movie and lose a massive chunk of their audience.
Jackman, is as ever, superb in the title role. While some of the films he’s appeared in have been a little shaky, the actor always does a good job with the character, and here he manages to convey the conflict and changes the character experiences. From his haunted, despairing first appearances right through the film as Wolverine starts to live again. The growing passion and dedication bleeds into the character slowly, and is one of the character’s lasting traits- despite his protestations of being a loner and cynicism, Logan is still a hero and is unable to sit on the sidelines when he sees injustice going on. That being said, he does have a nice line in sarky quips.
It also has to be said that Jackman looks sensational, he’s insanely ripped and carries himself with this understated confidence which gives the impression that he is a man not to be trifled with.
The rest of the cast do alright too, especially Rila Fukushima as the young Japanese girl sent to collect Wolverine, she bosses him about, declares that she’s his bodyguard and brings a wonderful streak of humour to proceedings, and the two characters have genuine chemistry. Her own mutant power is handled well, and brings a touch of sadness to the character. Also, she’s never overly sexualised and something of a badass when she gets fighting, and I found myself really warming to the character.
As the love interest Mariko, Okamoto does well enough and is rather sweet and decent, but despite them making her know a bit of karate and be a skilled knife thrower, she does slip into “damsel in distress” mode a bit too much. And the whole Japanese honour thing is a little forced in places.
Famke Janssen’s dream appearances as Jean Grey are quite well done, giving insight into Logan’s turmoil, but with Jean also being rather nasty to the poor dude in places, showing how his subconscious is torturing him.
One of the flaws is there’s lack of any real villain until the end stages. The yakuza and ninjas are good heavies, but you know that as soon as Wolverine sorts out getting his powers back they won’t be much of a challenge. Svetlana Khodchenkova’s snakelike mutant is quite good fun, but underused.
And when the big bad does finally rock up it’ssomething of a disappointment, and looks kinda dumb.
There are a few nice touches of humour, and some good one-liners, and the script is rather well done, and manages to handle some of the dafter plot aspects well enough.
All in all it’s a thoroughly entertaining superhero romp, but compared to the Marvel Universe films this is lagging behind. Jackman’s performance is good and the action sequences are well done, and the ending is encouraging for further adventures where Wolverine won’t be quite as mopey,
Verdict: In terms of the X-movies this is one of the better installments and great fun, with Jackman continuing his great work as the cigar chomping mutant. He’s far and away the film’s greatest strengths. It’s a little daft in places, but pulls through, however it suffers from lack of a decent villain and in comparison to the Avengers movie universe it looks shakier. 7/10
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
When I was a teenager I used to watch a lot of pretty terrible B-movies. My friends and I had a bit of a soft spot for zombie movies, low grade sci-fi and monster movies. One of my buddies introduced me to the joys of the old Godzilla movies where a man in a lizard suit would routinely smash up a model of Tokyo and battle other dudes in a variety of monster costumes. Hollywood also made a few monster movies and the best of these are the old school 50s flicks, which have the same kind of cheesy appeal. More recent attempts have failed to inspire- I personally don’t mind the 1998 Godzilla flick, as it’s kinda funny, but it definitely drops the ball monster-wise, and the Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus style movies are just too intentionally bad and don’t get me started on Jackson’s King Kong.
So, I was kind of looking forward to Pacific Rim when I heard about it.
The premise seemed simple and daft enough to be fun- giant robots vs giant robots and it seemed to have a decent team behind it. I’m a massive fan of the director Guillermo del Toro’s blockbuster work (I haven’t seen Pan’s Labyrinth) with him directing a rather decent horror movie in Mimic, and three of my favourite comic book movies- Blade II, Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. And the cast seemed decent too, del Toro regular Ron Perlman was in it, and I love that dude. Perlman’s co-star from the awesome Sons of Anarchy show, Charlie Hunnam was in the lead and it also featured one of my man crushes, the super cool Idris Elba.
Then I saw the trailer.
It looked terribly serious and yet at the same time stupid, like those computer game adverts which take themselves a bit too seriously (scrap the “profound” voice over and the broody music, it’s essentially running around shooting people, alright?). It didn’t seem to have any of del Toro’s unique, kind of nerdy love involved and it made me think of two things, neither of which was that inspiring:
- The Power Rangers
- A massive toy advert
So, I went in expecting the worst but hoping for the best. What I got was about half way between the two, and that’s kind of the problem, while a lot of this film is fun and there are a couple of good ideas, if asked if it was good I’d shrug and say “It’s alright.”
The movie pretty much launches right into the action with a voiceover explaining to us that a bunch of monsters, or Kaiju (Japanese for “strange creatures”), started appearing from under the Pacific, smashing their way through various cities around the world. With conventional weapons being too slow in bringing them down the world unites to build gigantic robots called Jaegers (German for “hunter”). These are piloted by humans who’s movements are copied by the suit, but with the mental interface being so intense for one person the pilots work in tag teams, linking with each other’s thoughts and moving as one.
One of these teams is our narrator, Raleigh Becket (Hunnam) and his brother Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff), who use the robot Gipsy Danger and fight off the American Coast. During a fight with a kaiju the robot is severely damaged and Yancy killed. Raleigh pilots the damage Gipsy to land but quits as a pilot, having been left rattled by having his brother die in his head.
Years later the Jaeger project is being decommissioned to the objections of it’s leader and Raleigh’s former commanding officer Marshall Pentecost (Elba), as the powers that be decide a wall is a better tactic and that the Jaeger’s will be held in reserve. Pentecost tracks down Raleigh and hires him to come join the unit again.
The wall proves ineffective and public opinion endorses the Jaegers, who’s fleet is severly depleted and down to just four robots- the Russian Chemo Alpha, Crimson Typhoon from China and the Australian robot Striker Eureka, which is the best in the business and piloted by and old comrade of Raleigh and Pentecost’s Hercules Hansen (Max Martini) who works with his son, Chuck (Robert Kazinsky) who’s basically a cocky jerk. The final ship is the restored Gipsy Danger, which Raleigh has to find a co-pilot for.
Scientists are predicting that the kaiju attacks will become more frequent and eventually two or three will cross through the dimensional rift at a time. Pentecost’s plan is to send a powerful bomb through the rift and close it, despite this never having been possible before. He plans for Striker Eureka to deliver the bomb with the other three Jaegers acting as bodyguards/defence.
Pentecost’s right hand woman, Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) a young Japanese woman who wants to be a pilot and who has good test scores, but who Pentecost is reluctant to put in the mix. Raleigh likes her and senses her irritation at being on the sidelines and after a training session states he wants her as his co-pilot. Reluctantly Pentecost agrees but fears that Mako’s strong memories may distract her during the mental linking which is based on memories.
Can Mako and Raleigh overcome their personal problems to work as a team? Will Pentecost’s plan work? And what about the research of one scientist who attempts to mentally link with the kaiju to work out what they want, will that prove helpful or a risk to mankind’s fight for survival?
The cast are too good for the script, which is formulaic and rather cheesy, and the character arcs are all pretty clear from the start. That being said, it is fun in a loud, dumb way. It’s black and white as to who the good guys are, and the theme of countries coming together to fight is pretty cheesy but makes a change from the usual “America saves the day”. It’s also nice that the different nations robots have different styles and that the Aussies are at the forefront of it all. Sadly many of the crews suffer from what happens in the films of Robert Rodriguez- interesting looking characters aren’t given enough screen time to really show what they can do.
The thing that I was a bit disappointed with were the kaiju on jaeger fights. This will sound daft, but they’re a bit too CGI heavy, now I know busting out some dudes in suits would’ve invited ridicule but it might have been better or more interesting, but my problem with purely FX fights is that they just don’t feel real. There’s no sense of real peril or physical heft behind the pixels, which for me is a problem.
That being said, the fights are rather well choreographed and there’s a real brawling quality to the scraps which is entertaining enough in small doses. And at least you’re always clear on what’s going on, unlike the tedious robot on robot smackdowns of the the Transformers series.
There are flashes of humour and del Toro’s fanboy glee shines through at times, but it feels as though this quirky director is being restricted by the studio to deliver a more traditional, straight faced blockbuster. The only times the del Toro vibe really comes into it’s own is in some of the goofier dialogue exchanges and Ron Perlman’s character, who is rather entertaining, even if Perlman is seriously underused.
The cast all do their best with what they get, with Hunnam making a likable and charismatic lead, and looks like someone who can handle himself. His relationship with Kikuchi’s Mako is underplayed rather well, and the character of Mako is one of the film’s big plus points, as she’s a rather badass female character, clever and strong willed, and never treated as just eye candy and shown to consistently be able to hold her own alongside the boys.
There’s also something really sweet about her shyness around Raleigh, especially when she finds out he can understand what she’s been saying in Japanese. And the two share some chemistry with each other, even though their differences in character and culture, tying in with the theme of mankind being at it’s best when we pull together.
Idris Elba has the gravitas for the commanding officer role, and is still an engaging screen presence, but his character is cliched and his rousing speech at the end is a little too short to be genuinely inspiring (it’s got nothing on Bill Pullman’s Independence Day speech).
Everyone else does alright, but the comic relief of the stuck up, fussy English scientist grates within seconds of appearing, and the subplot of linking with the aliens, while helpful to the main plot is badly handled and the American scientist involved, who’s clearly supposed to be the goofy geeky comic relief actually just comes across as a bit of a pillock.
Overall I just found myself underwhelmed and frustrated because I kind of sense that del Toro is probably the Hollywood director who could pull of a big monster movie, but here he never hits his stride.
An interesting note is that this is the second mainstream Hollywood blockbuster I’ve seen this year where the objectifying seems to be of the male leads, the first being Man of Steel. The women stay fully clothed and shot respectfully (no leering camera angles) while the male leads both go shirtless to show off their ripped physiques. It’s a nice change, and both leads are extremely buff, but speaking for the out of shape fanboys out there, it does little for the ego. Although I guess that’s what women have been putting up with for years.
Verdict: Distinctly average, but with a couple of nice touches. Dumb fun in places but nowhere near as fun as it should have been. Disappointing given the director and the cast. 6/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
I headed to Cardiff yesterday with hopes of plenty of hope for plenty of fist in the air, no-nonsense classic rock and for the most part it didn’t dissappoint.
I’d queued up with my sister, noticing that for a change I was in the younger section of the audience at a gig and surrounded by older fans clearly recapturing their youth. The men were thicker of waist and thinner of hair than they’d probably been back in the day, but there was a pretty cool, friendly atmosphere and plenty of cougarish Whitesnake fans who’d probably lusted after David Coverdale back in the day.
Some of the younger fans might have hidden behind a mask of irony, but I think everyone was genuinely looking forward to belting out a few power ballads, it being a safe place free of judgement.
First up was Thunder, who I’ll admit were the band I knew least about. They were already in full swing when I got into the arena, and got the ball rolling pretty quickly. I only recognized one of their songs, “Love Walked In” but the rest of the set was pretty fun and got the crowd moving.
With members who have been playing together since the 80s they were pretty tight and reminded me of a pub band, but in the very best way. There was a real sense of fun to the performance and they were clearly having a whale of a time on stage. Frontman Danny Bowes played the crowd beautifully and seemed to have tongue firmly in cheek, injecting humour into his strutting performance.
By the end of the set I was keen to check out more of the band’s work and greatly impressed.
I’d wondered before the gig which one of the double bill headliners was to go on first, and it turned out to be Whitesnake. I saw them at Download back in 2009, and had really enjoyed their show then, so I knew what to expect and they delivered it in spades.
David Coverdale is a phenomenal lead singer, and was on fine form. He may be getting older but he still has the rock star aura about him, and was definitely proving to be a big hit with the older female section of the audience. There was a kind of gleeful, playful naughtiness in his performance.
When speaking Coverdale is oddly posh, and this along with his appearance makes him seem like a rather charming, disheveled old rogue. I’ve got to say I have a bit of a man crush on the dude, and he’s one of the best frontmen I’ve seen live.
Much of their stuff was kinda cool, bluesy rock but there’s a healthy amount of power chords and rock posturing. They blitzed through some lesser known hits before a good old power ballad singsong with “Is This Love”, one of the best examples of the genre. There was a bit of showing off from their guitarists, who duelled with each other.
Even the drummer got involved. Now, most of the time I’m against drum solos, as the boredom threshold is considerably lower than with guitar showing off. With drum solos you’re impressed for about half a minute and then you want them to wrap it up, but this one was saved thanks to Tommy Aldridge throwing away his sticks and using his bare hands to continue, which was kinda cool.
The set built up to a double whammy, with the group’s most famous hit “Here I Go Again” getting a massive response before they finished off with “Still of the Night”, clearly a fan favourite.
It was a brilliantly worked set, with the band keeping their momentum going and the crowd pumped, following up their slower songs with belting, more powerful ones to fire the audience up again. It was an awesome set and I had a big dumb grin on my face by the end.
Unfortunately, such a strong performance from Whitesnake left Journey with a tough act to follow, and they never came close to matching it.
That’s not to say they weren’t good and fun at times, but there were too many missteps. Firstly, there was the decision by Neal Schon to perform “Star Spangled Banner” due to it being Memorial Day weekend. Fair enough, if you feel like honouring the troops go for it, but did you really have to play the whole thing, Neal? It’s a bloody long song. And that’s without all the noodling and flourishes. It started off impressive and enjoyable, but by the end that was just gone and it seemed like self indulgent, needless showing off.
For me, their set never fully recovered after that. It robbed them of momentum and energy, and doing two slower songs back to back (“Open Arms” and “Faithfully”) didn’t help them out later, even if the crowd got into the first half of the ballad double bill.
The other downside was we all knew where the set was heading. When it comes to Journey, all roads lead to “Don’t Stop Believin'”, which they finished off with, and which, predictably brought the house down.
They weren’t completely terrible and most of the crowd lapped it up, but after Whitesnake if felt like a comedown. Although, I have a lot of respect for new frontman Arnel Pineda, the former cover band singer who had bags of energy, flinging himself about the stage with wild abandon. He had this kind of infectious enthusiasm and likability, and his voice is freakishly close to the original vocals on their big hits. He belted them out with great feeling and seems a born entertainer.
When they played their hits they were pretty damn impressive, and it was these songs that carried them through and made them quite good fun, but it was just let down by poor set structure and the fact every band member wanted their moment in the spotlight, leading to some tedious showing off parts.
A great night, but the wrong band was headlining.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Fillion has been involved in 3 of my favourite shows of all time- he briefly appeared as a charming villain in Buffy, and then took the lead in Joss Whedon’s phenomenal space western Firefly and now plays the lead in crime show Castle. Throw in Firefly‘s film spin off Serenity and goofy horror comedy Slither, as well as Whedon’s online series Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and his career is pretty impressive.
Specializing in playing charismatic, roguish types, usually with a softer centre he’s shown great comic timing and likability. Seems pretty cool in real life too and love his enthusiasm for Firefly and it’s fans. Also, he really is ruggedly handsome.
Man Crush Moment: Every gorram second he’s on screen as Mal in Firefly.
A string of great movies proves he’s got serious acting chops, ridiculously good looking and seems quite a cool, unique guy who doesn’t seem to like the fame side of his career. Seems to have a good sense of humour and perspective on things.
MCM: Jack Sparrow’s entrance, riding the mast of his ship in and impressive, heroic pose before the reveal of his dire straits. Perfectly capturing the character’s swaggering confidence regardless of his circumstances.
A talented footballer and one of a small number of England internationals who don’t seem to be d**kheads, seems like a genuinely nice bloke and dedicated family man. Also looks good when he’s selling pants.
MCM: His early “Spice Boy” period at Manchester United.
Viewing Magnum PI as an impressionable teen has clearly had a lasting effect on me (I still think mustaches and Hawaiian shirts are cool) and Selleck was awesome in that show. He also starred in heartwarming 80s feelgood movie Three Men and a Baby, as an example of a “new man” embracing his sensitive side and then in Friends he played an older charming, love interest for Monica, adored by the female characters and a hero to the guys, guys just cool as hell, alright?!
MCM: The moment in Three Men and a Baby where he makes his speech and sets up the living arrangement. Melts the heart.
That face. That voice. Washington is a superb actor and oozes cool on screen, in a series of enjoyable movies. Brings real gravitas and dignity to his roles, meaning that even when he plays the bad guy you’re kinda rooting for him.
MCM: “Now, explain it to me like I’m a four year old”- A powerful and charismatic performance in Philadelphia as the lawyer dealing with his own prejudices in the pursuit of justice. (More thoughts on the film here)
Utterly dominant in tennis for a few years, and Wimbledon champion on several occasions, I like Federer’s mix of level headed coolness and generally being a suave git. It’s hard not to be impressed by someone who was at the top of their game for so long, and Federer carried himself like a true champion.
MCM: Striding out for a Wimbledon final in his suit jacket, making his opponent look like a yob in comparison.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Last year I wrote about the fact that Hollywood is irritatingly still on this revisionist fairy tale kick, citing last year’s Snow White double bill (Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman) but did mention there was one fairy tale inspired movie I was looking forward to, this flick.
Part of the reason I was looking forward to it was because it was centred around a man crush/crush partnership of Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, who play the eponymous witch killing siblings.
The movie starts with the traditional story of the gingerbread house and pushing the witch into the oven, but with a few added bits. The kids are left in the woods by their father rather than a nasty stepmother (seriously, stepmoms get a bad rep in children’s stories) and Hansel is forced to eat the sweeties rather than just being a greedy douche as is normally the case. Having eliminated the witch the two then travel around Germany whacking witches using some pretty cool gadgets and weapons.
Their job brings them to a town where several kids have been snatched. They arrive just in time to save an innocent girl, Mina (Pihla Viitala) from being drowned and burnt as a witch by the bullying Sheriff Berringer (Peter Stormare), who they clash with instantly and who is annoyed that the mayor has hired them to rid the town of its witch problem.
Hansel and Gretel investigate further and discover that the behaviour of the witches in the area is a little strange and different from what they’ve witnessed before. With 11 kids already gone it appears that the witches are planning something big.
The witches are headed up by the powerful grand witch Muriel (Famke Janssen) who seems to know a lot about the siblings and their past. Unable to save the twelfth child before it’s grabbed and separated from each other, Hansel is aided by Mina and discovers a link to their past. While Gretel is rescued by the witches’ troll henchman and assisted by local lad, and enthusiastic fan Ben (Thomas Mann).
Can they stop the witches’ evil plan? What does their past hide? And is there more to Mina than meets the eye?
This is a very silly movie, and while far from perfect it’s jolly good fun.
I was a little surprised that they made it into a 15 certificate movie, as the people who are really going to love this flick are boys in their early teens, but the higher certificate means that the film is allowed to keep its fleeting nudity, frequent gore and cursing, which it delights in the way a rebellious teenager does. Oh, and there’s a headbutt, which oddly is something the BBFC is very strongly opposed to (Aragorn’s headbutt in one of the Lord of the Rings movies was contested and allowed to stay in because he was headbutting an orc, which is just racist).
Also for the teenage boy audience there’s the sight of Gemma Arterton in tight, low cut clothes and there’s even a rather gratuitous close up of her cleavage. Arterton seems to be enjoying herself however, and she’s quite good as the badass witch killer, handling the fight sequences well and carrying herself with confidence that suggests an ability to handle herself.
She’s equally matched by Renner, who continues his streak of good performances as the more cynical half of the duo. There’s a scoundrel, Han Solo vibe to Hansel, and Renner’s muscular charisma works well for the role, while he also manages to make him an engagingly sweet character through his genuine concern for his sister and his awkwardness around Mina, which feels natural. After all, this is a guy who’s only real contact with women is his sister or nasty witches that are trying to rip his head off, so it feels right that he’s a little out of his element when it comes to an attractive woman who’s interested in him for different reasons.
Both leads work well together and they convince as a brother and sister team. They look good and convince as fighters, even if there is a little bit too much posturing from both, although it felt kind of deliberate as the film’s tongue is quite firmly in its cheek.
The plot is highly predictable, and a few of the plot points could be seen coming a mile away (although Mrs Obvious behind me seemed caught out by them all and after a revelation would make comments like “so she was a witch!” loudly to her husband), but the film has a few nice touches, with the fight sequences being rather enjoyable and there being a kind of smashmouth style, with both heroes being knocked about a fair bit and mainly triumphing through teamwork, superior firepower and toughness.
The witches are pretty well done, including a great scene near the end of the movie where a council is held and witches arrive from around the world, dressed in different national costumes and designed in different styles and types, which makes the big smackdown at the end more interesting.
In terms of gore the film has a fair amount of the red stuff splashed about and there are a few icky touches, but on the whole the gore has a kind of enjoyably OTT vibe
As the movie’s big bad, Famke Janssen is on fine form, playing the role of Muriel with a kind of campy, vampish style and she’s still got a fair amount of sex appeal. She’s clearly having fun and it shows one of Janssen’s strengths, her willingness to ramp it up for fun, goofy flicks (see also Goldeneye and The Faculty).
The rest of the cast doesn’t have much to do, but they all do their jobs rather well, even if Stormare is clearly on autopilot for some of the flick. Probably the pick of the bunch Pihla Viitala as Mina, who’s rather sweet as the love interest and has an innocent allure.
The movie has a good visual style and some of the design work is sensational, and there are nice touches like the fact that Hansel’s gingerbread house eating as a child has made him diabetic being a nice quirk in the tale, and it has the decency to keep itself short at a light, fun 88 minutes.
It’s hardly life changing but it’s quite good fun and sits around the middle of the daft supernatural action movie genre, not quite reaching the heights of The Mummy, but miles ahead of Van Helsing.
Verdict: Enjoyably daft with the leads having fun and doing their jobs well and a few nice touches along the way, but far from a classic and a little too predictable in places. 6/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
I remember stumbling onto this flick a few years ago, I knew it was a team-up of two filmmakers I was already a fan of, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, with Rodriguez directing QT’s script.
It’s a pretty spacey movie to watch for the first time because it’s almost like two very different movies bolted together.
The first half focuses on fugitive criminals the Gecko brothers. Older brother, the suave and professional Seth (George Clooney) has been busted out by his unhinged younger sibling Richie (Tarantino). They flee for Mexico where they are due to meet a contact who will help them set up their new life South of the border.
To aid them in getting across the border they kidnap ex-preacher Jacob (Harvey Keitel) and his two children, Kate and Scott (Juliette Lewis and Ernest Liu) in order to use their camper van. Seth promises Jacob so long as he does what he says and doesn’t cause problems he will safeguard Kate from Richie, who is attracted to her and who believes she is also interested.
They arrive at the bar to meet their contact, the Titty Twister, a dive catering for bikers and truckers and populated by shady types and prostitutes and dancers.
Seth argues with the staff, but Jacob calms the water and urges Seth to follow his own advice and “be cool”. The headline act of the bar, Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek) performs and all seems good, but the brothers are attacked and while appearing victorious Richie is injured.
The sight of Richie’s brother causes Santanico to attack and the staff of the bar are revealed to be vampires who massacre the customers. Most of the patrons are quickly picked off, but Seth, Jacob, Kate and Scott survive, along with two other customers, hulking trucker Frost (Fred Williamson), a ‘Nam vet and biker Sex Machine (Tom Savini).
They must fend off the gathering vampires, armed with whatever they can find in the bar and what they remember from old horror movies. Who will make it to the dawn when sunlight and relief will arrive?
The reason it feels like two movies is that the opening part feels like a rather twisted crime thriller, and a rather unpleasant one at that, due to Tarantino’s performance as Richie, who we’re told is a convicted sex offender and who is distinctly menacing and unsavoury. There are some nice touches and Tarantino’s script is pretty good, with Clooney in particular getting some great lines.
There is black humour in the opening stages, but things get lighter once they cross into Mexico, with the Titty Twister being introduced by a barker outside who espouses the wares on offer at the bar/brothel and is played with over the top relish and bawdy humour by Cheech Marin, in one of his three roles in this film.
The bar is one of the best drinking establishments in cinema history, a dingy dive with blaring music, brawling customers and scantily clad dancing girls all around. If it wasn’t for the vampires it would be a pretty cool place to go for a drink.
Following Salma Hayek’s extremely sexy dance routine the movie then explodes into this gleefully stupid horror-comedy, complete with OTT, splattery effects and one-liners. The second half is much lighter, possibly because the monsters in this section are so alien to real life, whereas the monster of the opening stages, Richie, is slightly too close to the real world.
While Santanico and the rest of the bar might be vampires it’s really more of a zombie movie really, with the small group of survivors having to fight off wave after wave of attack and people turning when they’ve been bit. The cartoony violence and exploding nasties are definitely more of a zombie convention as well.
With all this vampire killing and ridiculous action going on the characters are likely to get lost, but while few are detailed, rounded studies of the human condition Tarantino’s script does expand them a little more than your average B-movie, and the cast are superior to the average horror players too.
The star of the show is George Clooney, who at the time the film was released (1996) was still mainly known as the ER guy. He’s on great form here as the tattooed, swaggering Seth who’s this extremely suave, ruthless criminal. In an early scene he explains the rules to a hostage in such a calm, cold blooded way you know straight away that we’re dealing with a badass. Even as things start to get weird he’s a tough, level headed leader who rallies the others to fight off the undead.
But despite how collected he is there are suggestions that he has the same temper that afflicts his brother, only with more control and without Richie’s more unpleasant desires. After Richie brutally assaults and slays someone while Seth is absent there’s a real sense of disgust and revulsion from the older Gecko, but his love and responsibility for his brother means he can not abandon him, even if his behaviour sickens him and insults his vision of himself as a professional.
It’s in his interactions with his hostages that Seth reveals more of himself, and seems almost eager to get them onside, chatting with them and buying them drinks, treating Scott like a kind of younger brother and encouraging Kate to rebel by drinking whisky. The only character he really butts heads with, aside from Richie, is Jacob.
Keitel is great in this role as the preacher who has suffered a crisis of faith and is attempting to look after his two children and decide what to do with his life now. He might be reluctant to drink or curse, but this is no goody-two-shoes and Keitel ensures that there’s a kind of grit to the character, who stands up to his abductors and who steps up when the undead start attacking.
Clooney and Keitel play off each other well, and there’s a sense that the fact Jacob won’t back down earns him Seth’s respect. There’s a wonderfully funny moment where Seth tries to fire Jacob up for the fight by goading him, asking the question:
“What are you, Jacob? A faithless preacher? Or a mean motherf**kin’ servant of God?”
To which Jacob responds, but censoring the language of the question.
The rest of the cast do well, especially Lewis and Tarantino. Tarantino is not the best actor normally, but he works here and really brings edge and an aura of unpleasantness to his character, while Lewis is on fine form as the plucky Kate, a young girl beginning to want to spread her wings and shows that she’s quite a tough cookie, there’s also a nice touch where Kate looks rather put out as the male patrons of the bar are captivated by Salma Hayek’s dance.
It’s not Hayek’s most challenging role, but it’s extremely memorable and her dance is, for my money, one of the sexiest scenes in movie history.
The film feels like a mix of the two filmmakers work and both manage to include some of their trademarks, with several Rodriguez regulars cropping up (Savini, Hayek, Cheech and Danny Trejo) and the usual mix of weird, outlandish supporting characters, with the stand out here being Savini’s Sex Machine, the whip wielding biker who also boasts one of the daftest/coolest weapons I’ve seen:
There are a few Tarantino touches as well, not just in terms of the way characters talk but this is the first appearance of Michael Parks as Earl McGraw, the Texas Ranger who would go on to appear in Grindhouse and Kill Bill.
All in all this is quite a fun, goofy film loaded with over-the-top flourishes and gore but grounded by a few great performances and some great dialogue. It might not be either filmmaker’s best work but it’s a whole lot of fun, and they’ve both done worse.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.