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I don't care what Tom Cruise's religious beliefs are. I don't care if he acted like a pork chop on Oprah. I don't care if the tabloids love to hate him. The Cruiser is a one-of-a-kind megastar responsible for a consistently excellent output of work since the eighties. Back for his fifth impossible mission at the spritely age of 53, he's showing no signs of slowing down either. The ridiculous pre-credits aircraft stunt, where Cruise hangs on to the side of an Airbus A400 whilst it takes off, attests to that. There's also a thrilling car-and-motorbike sequence (bringing back memories of the awesome Bourne Supremacy car chase) that sees Cruise commit to most of the high-speed driving/riding himself. It's this willingness to go above and beyond, as well as a preference of practical effects over CGI, which imbues Rogue Nation with nail biting tension and non-stop exhilaration. Not as stylish as J.J. Abrams (M:I3) or Brad Bird (M:I4), writer-director Christopher McQuarrie brings a hard-hitting brutality to the screen instead, arguably delivering the most violent entry in the franchise. McQuarrie's script is suitably meaty too, giving the cast plenty to chew on when not performing death defying acts, pummelling each other without remorse or manoeuvring in an assassination showdown. Cruise is reliably sensational as top dog and newcomers Rebecca Ferguson and Sean Harris are fantastic as, respectively, the femme fatale and unrelenting villain, but Jeremy Renner looks bored and Simon Pegg overeggs it on occasion. With ballsy action scenes that pack a punch and a gritty story to keep you excited, this is definitely worth forking out your hard earned to experience on the big screen.
"The man beyond the myth" reads the tagline for this dramatic take on Baker's Street famous detective, and it couldn't be more accurate. Eschewing the superhuman investigative skills and talent for hand-to-hand combat that modern Sherlock audiences are familiar with, this version instead focuses on an elderly Holmes (Ian McKellan) filled with regret and guilt. Traveling along multiple story lines delicately woven together by screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher Mr. Holmes finds the ex-sleuth pondering his retirement of 35 years, subsequently unravelling an emotional mystery he had long repressed. Although letting the pace slip in the flabby middle section, filmmaker Bill Condon's careful shot construction wisely ensures the attention is firmly on his 76-year-old star, whilst also highlighting the stunning period detail. Condon is aided by the glorious sun-soaked cinematography of Tobias A. Schliessler and a stirring score from Carter Burwell, the two combining to create a delightful, almost celestial atmosphere. Inevitably though, this movie belongs to the one and only Ian McKellan. As a curmudgeonly nonagenarian taking a final stab at redemption, McKellan strikes an impeccable balance between annoying old codger and lovable, heartbroken grump; ultimately delivering a majestic performance to absolutely relish. Those looking for the crime-centric thrills of Cumberbatch's TV Sherlock or the action-packed nature of Downey Jr's big budget Sherlock should be warned: this is as far removed from those incarnations as possible. Those seeking an intelligent, contemplative tale of late-life concerns with a masterful central turn and emotional resonance, you've come to the right place.
Even by comic-book movie standards, a thief who can shrink himself to the size of an insect as well as being able to telepathically control ants is a totally bonkers premise for a blockbuster. As their sensational Guardians of the Galaxy proved, however, Marvel Studios isn't afraid to take left-field ideas and turn them into cinematic gold. It's a shame then, that Ant-Man is more of a mildly diverting setup for phase three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, rather than a wholly entertaining flick that can stand on its own two legs. It's also arguably the least action-centric Marvel film to date, with barely a punch thrown or weapon fired until the final act, save for an unexpected (and highly enjoyable) scrap between the titular hero and a recognisable face. Where this idiosyncratic heist flick scores big points though, is in the comedy department. With a script worked on by Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish and Paul Rudd, it's hardly surprising to find a tongue-in-cheek tone and a healthy splattering of jokes; Michael Pena's goofy sidekick bagging the biggest laugh with an energetic monologue. On leading man duties, Rudd is eminently lovable as burglar Scott Lang his effortless charm ideal for such a breezy adventure whilst Michael Douglas brings gravitas to mentor Hank Pym. Coming so soon after Terminator: Genisys gave us a decent-looking youthful Arnie, the digitally de-aged Douglas in the opening scene here is scarily good too, with the CGI staying at a top level throughout. Devoid of an interesting villain and largely lacking in thrills, this is somewhat of a missed opportunity in the Marvel universe. Yet with a strong protagonist (who will be superb when thrown into the Avenger mix), a solid gag rate, and a light-hearted mood (resulting in a PG rating), it's an amusing film suitable for the whole family.
Much like Jurassic World last month, judging this reboot against the classics of the franchise (both T1 and T2) is utterly redundant. But does Genisys stand out in the crowded blockbuster season of 2015? Not particularly, however it still serves as a diverting piece of cinematic escapism with a few noteworthy elements to make it recommendable. Director Alan Taylor (Thor 2) knows a thing or two about action and, due to the jumping narrative timeline, gets to unleash an array of melees (all with top notch CGI) set in the 80's, basically-present day, and the apocalyptic future. Some work better than others. The first act showdown with a T-1000 is exciting and playful, whilst the climactic battle against a new form of Terminator displays some ingenuity. On the flip side there's a helicopter chase that is entirely bland and unwarranted, and a Golden Gate Bridge set piece that's not as thrilling as it could have been. Taylor and his writing team wisely settle on a tone somewhere between the overly jokey T3 and the pretentiously serious Salvation; they land a few key gags without overdoing it. Yet in their attempt to restart the series without excluding anything that has come before, a la J.J. Abrams' Star Trek they have crafted a ludicrously convoluted story rife with internal logic issues. Arnie returns to the mix with a much better performance than what he gave in T3, whilst Emilia Clarke is solid as the badass Sarah Connor and Jason Clarke impresses as a more mysterious John Connor. Conversely, Jai Courtney's intense turn as Kyle Reese is a tad overcooked and J.K. Simmons rocks up in a superfluous minor role that wastes his immense talent. An 80's-era Arnie also gets a look in with a couple of fights in the opening act which, although not mind-blowing, demonstrate just how close we are to completely photo-realistic computer generated humans. Genisys is likely to be a disappointment to hard-core Terminator enthusiasts, but there's just enough here to please the more casual cinemagoer.
Here I was thinking Entourage was going to be the biggest comedic disappointment of the month, and then along comes the abomination that is Ted 2 to prove me wrong. Onto his third feature film as writer-director and Seth McFarlane appears to have run out of gas already; this is somehow an even bigger dud than his sophomoric misfire A Million Ways to Die in the West. There's not a single, solitary laugh-out-loud joke to be had in the entire (dragged out) runtime, and all of the titter-worthy gags are in the trailer. A Million Ways may not have been as humorous as expected, but at least it had energy and ambition, two elements sorely missing from a stale sequel that nobody seems interested in doing. Even Mark Whalberg an actor who is nothing if not committed merely goes through the motions and offers up a completely inoffensive performance, which, in this genre, is just plain offensive. Throw in a midday-movie-ish score, McFarlane's trademark fetish for misplaced musical numbers, and way, way too many scenes of po-faced sincerity, and you have a genuine turkey of a film. Oh, and the straw that broke the camel's back? An utterly awful Liam Neeson cameo that makes him look like an amateur. Ugh, it's that bad.
By the time the end credits rolled on the first Despicable Me, the gibbering, yellow henchmen had already outgrown their malevolent master. Finally (and unsurprisingly) getting their own movie, this prequel begins with a clever montage charting the evolution of the eponymous critters as they follow one doomed boss after the other. Settling in to the 1960's for the bulk of the adventure, this whimsical comedy focuses on three brave minions who journey to Orlando for a villains-convention of course then London, in search of another boss. Not all the jokes work and chief new addition Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock) lives up to her name in the worst possible sense, but the gag rate is so high there is still a healthy dose of laughs. The trademark minion chatter has evolved with an increase in recognisable words but remains just as amusing, whilst the cheeky visual gags and hidden references ensure there's humour for all ages. Where this film differentiates itself from the Despicable flicks though, is by homing in on, and adding depth to, a specific trio of minions: optimistic leader Kevin, laidback crooner Stuart and the indefatigable ball of joy Bob. Another bonus for the parents in the crowd is the ridiculously good soundtrack featuring classics from The Beatles, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, The Turtles, The Kinks, Aerosmith and The Who, to list but a few. More of a carefree, in-the-moment joyride rather than an animated heavyweight with lasting power, Minions is a bundle of silly fun.
I'm loath to compare the latest Jurassic sequel with the 1993 Spielberg original, because, quite simply, the latter is a bona fide blockbuster classic that very few can compare with. Even taken on its own, more lenient popcorn-merits though, this CGI-laden dinosaur romp is a bag of liquorice all sorts. On one hand there are some rip-roaring set pieces that evoke a child-like joy, on the other a clutch of embarrassingly corny moments (hello, heroic velociraptor in slow-mo) that should have never made it past the drawing board. For every amusingly tongue-in-cheek line delivered by Chris Pratt's charismatic protagonist, there's an equally dumb plot hole like a ludicrously stupid creature cameo in the climax that reeks of a subpar script. The CGI is not as distracting as you might think and provides director Colin Trevorrow with the opportunity to craft a few spectacular sequences, yet there's a disappointing lack of tension and scares on display. The hit and miss output stays true for the eclectic cast. Pratt is affable, Bryce Dallas Howard is steely but likable, Jake Johnson is humorous in full-nerd mode, and Irrfan Khan and Omar Sy add gravitas in small roles; whilst Vincent D'Onofrio is depressingly one-dimensional, and child duo Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson are unbearably awkward and bland. An admirable effort to rekindle the dino-magic that falls squarely into the good-but-not-great category, its spate of flaws makes it hard to recommend with confidence.
If you didn't watch the hugely popular HBO show that precedes this movie, then you can stop reading. Both the film and my review will have little of interest to you. Those who loved the TV series, prepare to be sorely disappointed, for this cinematic effort is reminiscent of the tedious and shallow final seasons rather than the energetic and exciting initial seasons. Going into cameo overdrive with a smug glee, there's a massive over-reliance on familiar faces (and naked women) to sustain the illusion you're in the throes of a superstar's life. With a threadbare plot and zero character development, Vinnie Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his eponymous buddies E (Kevin Connolly), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and the agonizingly unfunny Drama (Kevin Dillon) are left to meander. Somehow spending time with the gang has become a chore rather than a pleasure. Their banter feels forced and their latest "issues" are tired rehashes of more compelling crises they faced on the show. Thank the Hollywood gods, however, for Ari Gold. Easily the series' greatest asset (with three Emmys and a Golden Globe to prove it), Jeremy Piven's exuberant and hostile mega-agent is once again a whirlwind of scathing sarcasm dishing up memorable lines and laugh-out-loud insults. The only other cast member who even warrants a mention is, astoundingly, Haley Joel Osmont; the former child star amusing as a confident Texan billionaire complete with bushy facial hair, bulging gut and a bad bedside manner. When Piven is on screen there are moments of Gold, but it's not enough to save this drearily repetitive cash-in.
This live-action Disney effort is nothing if not ambitious. Not only because of its grand aspirations from a story and visual perspective, but due to its firm targeting of a demographic rarely catered to specifically. Aimed at children who are outgrowing animated kiddie flicks and yet to progress to (the increasingly dark) mainstream blockbusters, Tomorrowland could be your child's first foray into intelligent, thought-provoking sci-fi. Big ideas wrapped up in a mystery-driven plot wrapped up in a fun chase movie, all delivered without pandering or condescending; the pre-teen audience fully respected in the process. A sense of wonder, of nervous excitement when venturing into the unknown, is captured superbly by director Brad Bird, and will no doubt allow those stuck-in-the-middle cinema-goers to connect on every level. But what about the rest of us? Unfortunately, those outside the key demographic are likely to experience a whole lot less wonder and excitement, but more eye-rolling and yawning. Narratively flawed, structurally tiresome and at least 30 minutes too long thanks to an inflated prologue and dragged out finale, it doesn't land the same punch for fully formed sci-fi enthusiasts. All, however, should delight in the numerous set pieces on display, not least a booby-trapped house sequence that is essentially Home Alone with lasers, as well as a toy store melee with a spot-the-Disney-reference bonus game. Tomorrowland will mean different things to different people, but my suggestion: see it with a family member aged between 8 and 12 (best guess, could be broader) and just watch their eyes fill up with amazement.
Midway through the opening sequence I knew I was going to face an uphill battle to find enjoyment in this disaster flick. Full of limp action, woeful CGI and dialogue determined to make your ears bleed, the pre-credits scene is, sadly, indicative of the entire movie. As each set piece gets bigger and louder, yet less exciting thanks to Brad Peyton's bland direction, the narrative stupidity increases to a level that's extreme even for this inherently bombastic blockbuster genre. Not helping is the complete lack of tension despite the apparent high stakes; so dull are most of the action sequences that it becomes more fun to pick out the plethora of errors, plot-centric or otherwise. It also boggles the mind, considering the film's reported $110m budget and the fact that photo-realistic CGI has been around for years, at how the computer effects can be so poor. The ridiculously charismatic Dwayne Johnson injects energy wherever possible and Carla Gugino sharing an unexpectedly good chemistry with Johnson is dependably solid, whilst Ioan Gruffudd gets shafted with a laughable, about-turn role and Alexandra Daddario fails to impress. As for why thespian legend Paul Giamatti is in this at all? Well, everybody has to pay the bills. Notwithstanding the admirable efforts of a few key cast members, there's very little to praise in this over-scored, over-edited and overblown mess. Ultimately though, the biggest fault of San Andreas is being excruciatingly boring.
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