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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The Worst Heroes Ever turn the DCEU upwards in this joyful romp., 4 August 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When the world first met Superman, we were lucky he liked us. Spec ops operator Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) doesn't want to take that chance with the next metahuman. She assembles a special unit of career criminals to work as a last line of defense against supernatural threats, in exchange for shorter prison sentences and other such perks.

But Waller's arrogance works against her when one of the squad, Enchantress (Cara Delevigne), goes rogue and awakens her ancient brother in a bid to make humanity worship her once more.

It's now up to this rag-tag band of misfits to save the very people that ruined their lives. Lurking in the shadows of this simple story is The Joker (Jared Leto), who can't bear to be away from his Harley (Margot Robbie) and will stop at nothing to get her back in his crazy arms.

Director David Ayer (The Fast and the Furious, Fury) is no stranger to ensemble filmmaking, and he's in his comfort zone here. Some characters are more important than others, certainly, but everyone gets their time to shine.

De facto leader Deadshot (Will Smith) is wonderfully fleshed out as a devoted dad/serial killer, who can fire off a round almost as fast as he can shoot off his mouth. Davis is chilling as the callous, unflinching Waller: a woman confident enough to handle things herself, but not too proud to call for "help" if it gets things done faster.

Jay Hernandez is El Diablo, a former West Coast gang member whose inability to keep a cool head - literally - leaves him on the sidelines while his squad-mates do the fighting. Haunted by the sins of his past, Diablo is the cathartic heart of a film you'd otherwise expect to leave such emotional soul-searching at the door.

Robbie's Quinn is more The Animated Series than Arkham series. Her whimsy is matched only by her mean streak, though there are fleeting moments where she displays her last lingering shred of sanity, struggling vainly to break free amongst the madness in her mind.

Leto's Joker is an enigma. Far too psychotic for your average villainous crime lord, yet too cold and calculating for the Clown Prince of Crime. Nonetheless, he makes the role his own.

The greatest pleasure of Suicide Squad comes simply from sitting back and watching each of these characters interact with one another. Indeed, the story is so refreshingly basic that the film demands we make our focus the characters, and how they fit into a world that deserves them, but ultimately doesn't need them.

The entire affair abounds in levity and simplicity, two unchecked boxes that hurt Batman v Superman in a way that ultimately caused irreversible damage. This trim, taut tale told in a touch under two hours – almost unheard of for modern blockbusters – moves briskly without feeling choppy.

The film is let down by a little too much exposition (perhaps necessary for viewers unfamiliar with the characters) and some occasionally schlocky, melodramatic dialogue, but those minor gripes do little to detract from the overall experience.

A long time coming since the disappointing events of BvS, Suicide Squad turns the DC cinematic universe in an entirely new direction: one of joy, excitement and boundless entertainment.

11 out of 36 people found the following review useful:
Abrams brings the wonder of The Force to a new generation., 16 December 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If you don't include the dreadful prequel trilogy from George Lucas, many Star Wars fans have spent over thirty years waiting for the next great addition to the sci-fi saga worshipped the world over.

With The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams has delivered a thrilling, energetic, though not altogether mind- blowing film that has deftly added to the rich tapestry that is Star Wars, putting the saga in good stead for years to come.

We first meet the villainous First Order and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) through the eyes of heroic Resistance fighter pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). Hidden inside Dameron's droid, BB-8, is a map to the mythic Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, who has disappeared off the face of the galaxy since overthrowing the Empire many moons ago.

When Dameron is captured, disillusioned stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) helps him escape, and the two team up with backwater scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) – and some familiar faces – to find Luke before the enemy can.

The film ticks all the boxes demanded of the tent pole of a new trilogy. Our new heroes are introduced organically and the effortless chemistry between them is immediately apparent.

More importantly, each character just feels likable; a far cry from the cardboard caricatures and stiffly spoken occupants of Lucas' prior trilogy. Boyega, the most lighthearted of the three, is particularly great at mixing comic relief and deathly seriousness to form a well-rounded, magnetic character. No Jar Jar Binks is he.

The trio is still made up of the handsome, rougish pilot, the unwitting and sometimes unwilling youngster, and the anti-damsel-in-distress whose mysterious origins confound her comrades, but each character has enough individualism for this to not be a huge problem.

Somewhat more concerning is the film's over-reliance on fan service and obvious hark backs to the original trilogy, and Episode IV especially. More than once, Abrams' safe decisions cross the line from merely winking at the audience to recycling giant chunks of a plot we've already seen before.

The main setting is a bigger, badder Death Star. The main battle is waged both on the ground between mentor and fallen apprentice, and in the sky between fighter squadrons. The main revelation is again familial in nature. The film spends so much time making these comparisons glaringly obvious that it detracts from the other major arcs a couple of new characters go through. As a result, their journeys feel rushed and perhaps more suited to span across two or three movies, not one.

Regardless, The Force Awakens does everything a Star Wars film should. It is blistering, absorbing, and ends on a heaving, operatic note sure to leave fans theorising until Episode VIII.

*You can contact me at and let me know what you thought of my review. If you're looking for a writer for your movie website or other publication, I'd also love to hear from you.*

Ant-Man (2015)
18 out of 39 people found the following review useful:
Marvel crawls over familiar ground in this by-the-numbers blockbuster., 22 July 2015

"Give the audience what they want": it's been a staple of Marvel's on-screen storytelling for years. It's produced franchises, crossovers and billions of dollars, but along the way someone forgot to tell the studio giants what keeps movies fresh: variety.

Paul Rudd is Scott Lang, a cat burglar ex-con keen to quit "the life" and make amends with his young daughter. After denying several advances from his old crew of bumbling thieves (Michael Pena, David Dastmalchian and rapper T.I.), Lang is approached by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the original Ant-Man, with an offer to steal a copycat suit and prevent it being sold for warfare.

Even a screenplay co-written by the clever Edgar Wright (The World's End, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) can't polish the studio's insistence on returning to the same tired, formulaic jokes time after time.

With each new film, Marvel's cinematic universe continues to cross more broadly the line separating action and comedy. This is all well and good, provided the humour carries some wit or originality with it, which this film does not. Were it not for the comedic sensibilities of Rudd and the malleable Pena, Ant-Man would be the most groan-inducing Marvel release yet.

Rudd makes a very likable hero, and Douglas gives a typically committed performance. Corey Stoll's Darren Cross, though, makes for a pretty goofy villain. His involvement in the story may have worked better did he not take himself so seriously, as he sticks out sorely in an otherwise lighthearted movie. His cliché-ridden dialogue during the climax feels lazy and brutally exposes the character's hollowness as a true threat.

Still, the film has its positives. The story is well paced, and the balance it strikes between a smaller scale adventure and one that still manages to feel important is a welcome change from the unfettered CGI carnage that comes packaged with some of the studio's bigger names.

The refreshing absence of exploding buildings and forty-minute firefights allow director Peyton Reed (Yes Man) to explore fun, unique fight scenes that make the most of Ant-Man's abilities.

The film also does a good job of taking what could've been the lamer aspects of the character – namely, his ability to make actual ants do his bidding – and explaining them in a way that sounds practical and important.

Ant-Man isn't the most insulting film of the summer. It just falters in the same places that have kept the MCU in a rut for far too long.

*There's nothing I love more than a bit of feedback, good or bad. So drop me a line on and let me know what you thought of my review. If you're looking for a writer for your movie website or other publication, I'd also love to hear from you.*

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Mysteries of the Orient., 24 May 2014

An adaptation of the two hundred year old French novel of the same name, director Jin-ho Hur's Dangerous Liaisons remains fairly faithful to the book, with the noticeable exception of landing the story in 1930s China.

In a world where power is as metaphysical as it is monetary, the sensual and conniving Miss Mo (Cecilia Cheung) enlists the allure of notorious playboy Xie Yifan (Jang Dong-gun) to help her toy with the relationships of unsuspecting acquaintances. When the cruel pair makes a bet that Yifan has no hope of seducing the prim and proper Du Fenyu (Zhang Ziyi)- a wager neither party has even considered losing- matters begin to spiral out of control as young lovers Beibei and Dai are thrown into the mix and the human element rears its ugly head.

The film looks fantastic. The overall camera-work is inspired and dynamic, while the interior cinematography is tinged with a golden hue that gives each scene a unique and stunning richness. Exterior shots are almost Snyder-esque, making modest use of computer-generated imagery to recreate post-WW1 Shanghai in all its splendour.

But aesthetic appeal aside, the strength of this film rests on its characters. Here the audience is presented with a couple of individuals who have achieved great success in their own lives by blocking out their natural human states and manipulating 'weaker-minded' counterparts for their own amusement. As a result, the film accommodates a lot of intrigue when these raw emotions inevitably boil over and consume them.

Unfortunately, Hur's ambition in attempting to weave a multitude of arcs together during the third act gets the better of him, as a need to neatly wrap up the holistic plot overwhelms the emotional investment placed in each solitary character. As the closing credits roll, it becomes apparent that Dangerous Liaisons lacked the urgency and genuine thrill demanded, or at least permitted, by the subject matter.

It is bittersweet, then, to assert that the film stumbles at the final hurdle when everything leading up to that point is actually quite fascinating. No character is omitted from the story for any extended time, motifs in the form of letters, mirrors and closed doors intelligently hint at the exclusive, secluded world these people live in and the epilogue is rare in that it is both cathartic and memorable in the way that many others are not.

At its core, Dangerous Liaisons is an atypical and worthwhile tragic love story; Shakespearean in enterprise despite lacking in execution.

*There's nothing I love more than a bit of feedback, good or bad. So drop me a line on and let me know what you thought of my review. If you're looking for a writer for your movie website or other publication, I'd also love to hear from you.*

You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be inspired to update your resume., 24 May 2014

Only a couple of years into the syndication of his two most famous projects, Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill, comedian Mike Judge tackled live-action laughs with Office Space, one of the most endearing and relevant comedies of the 1990s.

We follow mindless office drone Peter (Ron Livingston), who gets by each day by doing the bare minimum at his tedious job while thinking up ways to patch things up with his estranged wife. When the couple's hypnotherapy session goes awry courtesy of the therapist dying of a heart attack, Peter is left in a state of eternal calm. Realising it's time to get one over on his insufferable boss, he recruits gangster rap loving white boy Michael (David Herman) and easily-angered foreigner Samir (Ajay Naidu) to teach the IniTech brass that greed isn't always good.

The film hits the perfect note between comedic exaggeration and grounded reality, as things may start to feel a little too real for anyone stuck in the same dead-end job as Peter. Creeping around in the background of almost every scene are the tiny idiosyncrasies that make the typical workplace that little less bearable on an everyday basis. The rhythmic ringing of phones, monosyllabic conversations around the water cooler and endless amounts of menial tasks give Office Space a true sense of, well, space, and make our connections with its poor inhabitants all the easier.

Most of the comedy may come from just how real everything feels, but don't underestimate the bit parts played along the way. Surrounding Peter's trio are a host of funny but fleshed-out side characters, including Peter's love interest Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), unfortunate office punching bag Milton (Stephen Root), world-weary and naturally cynical Tom (Richard Reihle) and passive-aggressive, scene-stealing boss Lumbergh (Gary Cole). Simply put, Office Space has something for everyone. And who knows, you might just hate your job a little less when it's over.

*There's nothing I love more than a bit of feedback, good or bad. So drop me a line on and let me know what you thought of my review. If you're looking for a writer for your movie website or other publication, I'd also love to hear from you.*

0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Do you believe in Bay?, 22 May 2014

"My name is Daniel Lugo, and I believe in fitness." So begins the latest Michael Bay trashfest in the most Michael Bay way possible: jacked on glistening testosterone, violent camera-work and glorious slo-mo. It's a sign of things to come in Pain & Gain and, in a strange sort of way, the crazed director's stubbornness in blocking out the haters and sticking with a winning formula is almost admirable. But anyone who feels that Hollywood lost its last shred of cinematic integrity a long time ago doesn't need any further convincing from this self-indulgent garbage.

Based on a true story (no, really), we follow ambitious bodybuilder Daniel (Wahlberg), who feels like life has cut him a tough break and that he deserves his slice of the warped American dream. While working as a personal trainer for the wealthy and arrogant Victor (Tony Shalhoub), Daniel hatches a foolproof plan – with the help of fellow musclemen Paul (Dwayne Johnson) and Adrian (Anthony Mackie) – to kidnap and extort Victor. The execution half goes to plan, until Victor enlists the help of a retired PI (Ed Harris) to track down the trio, who have since fallen deep into the abyss of criminal excess.

The film is not slow, per se, but it simply rambles on care of some borderline schizophrenic storytelling. Everyone who's anyone gets their own tacky voice-over narration, the character arcs traverse into ludicrous territory, and the two hour runtime feels much like the final superset of an all-day workout: it can't come fast enough. By the end of a mentally – and even somewhat physically – exhausting watch, the film feels like a dream sequence; you roll with the punches while it's happening, but once you've regained consciousness and spent two minutes thinking about it, it's clear that absolutely nothing made sense.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment here is the butchering of the subject matter. The true story is an absorbing one; a tale of high stakes investigation packed with real-life twists. There is nothing wrong with rehashing the facts and moving in a more comedic direction, but the whole experience eventually degrades into a point-and-laugh session directed towards the 'roid-head culture. Wahlberg's Lugo is the definition of an antihero: a man who does bad things but with good intentions. After taking what he wants from Victor, he's content to spend the rest of his life organising neighbourhood watches and pick-up basketball games, but the allure of one more job is too tempting – all of which is merely glossed over.

Australia's Rebel Wilson contributes nothing in a thankless and unfunny role, but the leading team's natural chemistry does draw a handful of laughs amidst the chaos. These moments of clarity are few and far between, though, drowned out by the incessant noise demanded by a project more concerned with panoramic beach sweeps and mind-boggling amounts of ass shots. His name is Michael Bay, and he doesn't believe in subtlety.

*There's nothing I love more than a bit of feedback, good or bad. So drop me a line on and let me know what you thought of my review. If you're looking for a writer for your movie website or other publication, I'd also love to hear from you.*

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Django & Jenko vs. Commie Nazi Terrorists., 22 May 2014

Having already blown up the Presidential Palace once in Independence Day, and returning to crash an aircraft carrier into it in 2012, blockbuster maestro Roland Emmerich takes his political sensibilities to the edge with White House Down, a cheese-coated gun-fest that gets by on good looks alone.

Aspiring secret serviceman John Cale (Channing Tatum, with a performance somewhere between 21 Jump Street tongue-in-cheek and G.I. Joe action hero) has brought his politically-obsessed daughter Emily (a baby-faced but often impressive Joey King) to the White House for a tour while he tries to secure a job as the President's top protector. But when a crack team of motive-lacking terrorists compromises the compound, Cale must escort President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx, climbing the corporate ladder from gun-toting slave to wise-cracking POTUS in six months) through the devastation and, well, save his nation.

Anyone familiar with Emmerich's work should know exactly what's coming, but that doesn't make the flat moments any more bearable. The labyrinthine interior of the White House almost feels like a character in itself and, despite a disastrous script, Tatum and Foxx manage to haul the film on their natural chemistry. Serving up a counterpunch to our buddy-buddy heroes is Aussie Jason Clarke (coming off a strong turn as Jay Gatsby's assassin), who makes for a truly detestable villain, along with an equally menacing big name, who turns to the dark side when his personal agenda gets in the way of worldwide supremacy.

The film never gets convoluted, but does suffer from trying to squeeze too many arcs into a popcorn feature. Evidence of this is everywhere, but it's best exemplified with an ending straight out of Scooby-Doo. The crime has been solved, the swamp monster caught and everyone is safe – until it turns out the amusement park owner was trying to scare off his customers all along. When Maggie Gyllenhall's US agent tells Cale that "it's not over yet," the realisation that the story hasn't stopped trying to dig itself out of a predictable hole makes for a truly deflating experience.

The action is bloodless and choppily edited, and the film is so saturated in blind patriotism that one might expect one of the baddies to be pecked to death by a flock of bald eagles at a moment's notice, but White House Down, in a sort of watered-down delivery of the high-energy fun that was sister film Olympus Has Fallen, just barely manages an entertaining product in spite of its cringe-worthy flaws.

*There's nothing I love more than a bit of feedback, good or bad. So drop me a line on and let me know what you thought of my review. If you're looking for a writer for your movie website or other publication, I'd also love to hear from you.*

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
This quintessential gateway to movie fandom hasn't aged a day in 75 years., 22 May 2014

If the ultimate mark of deciding the greatest film of all time is the sheer number of people who have seen it, then a strong case could be made for The Wizard of Oz being the most enduring achievement in Hollywood history. Beloved by everyone from eight to eighty, the musical has entertained countless generations since its spellbinding release in 1939. It remains one of the first cinematic memories entrenched in the minds of many a self-respecting cinephile and now, on the eve of its 75th anniversary, the film has been re-released (in 3D, naturally), in all its visually arresting glory.

When bloodthirsty farmgirl Dorothy Gale (a fresh-faced and stunning Judy Garland, in the role that launched her towards unabashed superstardom) is transported to the surreal landscape of Oz, she kills the first person she meets, then teams up with three strangers (Ray Bolger, Jack Haley & Bert Lahr) to kill again. Okay, maybe writer Rick Polito's famous synopsis is a little deceiving, but this is truly a film that needs no introduction.

It's hard to forget just how gargantuan a legacy the film has left on the world of cinema and, indeed, the pop culture landscape. A delightful screenplay brimming with quotable material from co-writers Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf, and a range of eclectic musical numbers work in perfect harmony, from Garland's spine-tingling rendition of Somewhere over the Rainbow and the Tin Man's touching If I only had a Heart to more upbeat diddies like Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead! And We're Off to See the Wizard.

Although seasoned with an innumerable amount of on-set dramas and ludicrous urban legends, the film hasn't lost a touch of respectability in any department three-quarters of a century later. Margaret Hamilton's Wicked Witch is just as traumatising; the pulsing aesthetics of Oz just as mesmerising; the virginal Dorothy's realisation that "there's no place like home" just as sympathising. The whole experience is a product of a simpler time, so rich in history and innocence that even youngsters will somehow find themselves reminiscing about remote 1930s Kansas and its bone-deep, home-cooked morals.

The 3D gives the film a little extra pop in places, but much like other conversions, it falls into the background after a while, likely to be all but forgotten by the time we get our first technicolour glimpse of Munchkinland. Of course, this is no major gripe, existing only as a small bonus on top of what is a near-unbeatable big screen experience.

*There's nothing I love more than a bit of feedback, good or bad. So drop me a line on and let me know what you thought of my review. If you're looking for a writer for your movie website or other publication, I'd also love to hear from you.*

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Not your typical Greek tragedy., 22 May 2014

Based on the kid's novel by Rick Riordan and directed by tween-friendly filmmaker Thor Freudenthal (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Hotel For Dogs), Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters picks up from 2010's origin story and introduces us to a new world of half-bloods: products of their mum or dad doing the nasty in the pasty with a Greek god. Seen as outcasts in the normal world, these children have taken refuge at Camp Half-Blood, where they live in harmony under the protection of Zeus' magic dome. But when evil forces find a way to penetrate the barrier, the ambush stinks of an inside job, forcing Percy and friends to recover the mystical Golden Fleece and restore peace.

The franchise loses some star power in the sequel (Sean Bean's Zeus, Steve Coogan's Hades and Uma Thurman's Medusa are all gone), but it compensates with cheeky cameos from Nathan Fillion and Stanley Tucci, on top of an unfair amount of impossibly good-looking young thespians. Tucci is particularly fun, hamming it up as Dionysus, connoisseur of fine wine/borderline alcoholic, and reluctant caretaker of Camp Half-Blood. His running feud with Zeus – who keeps using his powers to turn wine into water – delivers cheap laughs, none more so than when Dionysus threatens to turn to Christianity because "their guy can do that in reverse."

The film isn't all cartoons and comedy, because when the series of events actually kick into gear, it develops into a pleasantly absorbing adventure. Pieced together on a spare change budget of $95 million, a series of thrilling set pieces allow the SFX department to flex their muscles. The bloodless, PG action and truckloads of CGI can only take the experience so far, but the film never feels like it's cutting corners, instead showing a del Toro-esque patience to wow the crowd while deftly keeping the novelty from wearing off.

Consideration is also given to weaving in some of the finer points of Greek mythology. Anyone familiar with the quasi-religion knows it plays out as some sort of ancient Jersey Shore; a rich tapestry of backstabbing, double-crossing and one-night-stands, all arguably stemming from Zeus' inability to keep it in his pants. Again, things aren't quite that graphic, but family films have traditionally manufactured lamer villains than one who gains strength from eating his own children.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters proves a surprisingly enjoyable romp, delivering a story naturally tailored to an established audience, but doing just enough to keep things fresh and exciting for big kids too.

*There's nothing I love more than a bit of feedback, good or bad. So drop me a line on and let me know what you thought of my review. If you're looking for a writer for your movie website or other publication, I'd also love to hear from you.*

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Machete kills it in this rip-roaring sequel., 21 May 2014

Three years ago, we all learnt that Machete don't text. In the blasting, blistering sequel, Machete Kills, everyone's favourite renegade federale informs us that he don't tweet, fail or, apparently, do things by halves. Again teaming up with Mexploitation master Robert Rodriguez, unlikely leading man Denny Trejo – and an eclectic cast that reads like a guest list of Hollywood's most debaucherous house party – have created an inexplicably enjoyable summer romp; a film that plays by its own rules and never alienates the audience despite an increasingly ridiculous plot line.

After earning his green card for his previous heroism, Machete is recruited by the US government to take down one of the world's most wanted criminal masterminds, Mendez the Madman (Demian Bichir). Along the way, he is ensnared by the seductive but sinister Madame Desdemona (Sofia Vergara), who blames Machete for the death of her daughter (Vanessa Hudgens) at the hands of Mendez's cartel. The plot thickens when the mysterious arms dealer Luther Voz (Mel Gibson) threatens to launch his piece de resistance into space. It's up to Machete to stop him, provided he can outrun the ruthless bounty hunter La Chameleon (Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Walton Goggins all contribute as the master of disguise).

Yeah, there's quite a bit going on in this one. While some might argue – perhaps with good reason – that Rodriguez could've used someone on set to tell him "no" every once in a while, the end result is a rampantly good time buoyed by the intentional goofiness of each character.

Lady Gaga holds her own in her feature film debut, Charlie Sheen/Carlos Estevez earns votes as a drinking, swearing, whoring, blackmailing President, and the rest of the big names ham it up as needed, with the only speedbump being Vergara's somewhat tiresome Austin Powers-inspired femme fatale, complete with dominatrix whip and standard issue nipple-guns. The star, however, might just be the lesser-known Bichir. Nominated for a Best Actor Oscar in 2011's A Better Life, he steals the show as a drug lord with a severe case of split personality; his jumpy and unpredictable demeanour making for big laughs when he shares the screen with the no- nonsense Trejo.

Rodriguez has put himself in the best possible position as a filmmaker facing potential scrutiny here. Any moments of brilliant action or cracking dialogue (and there are plenty of them) can be chalked up to his talents, while cheesy character arcs and gaping plot holes (which aren't exactly lacking either) are overlooked because, well, that's just grindhouse. But put simply, Machete Kills just doesn't care, in the best possible way. It throws all conventions of typical action movie-making out, or rather, through, the window, and never fails to ensure pure, unadulterated fun is its top priority.

*There's nothing I love more than a bit of feedback, good or bad. So drop me a line on and let me know what you thought of my review. If you're looking for a writer for your movie website or other publication, I'd also love to hear from you.*

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