Review: Assassin’s Creed

Historically, movie adaptations of video games have got a bad rep. Perhaps the translation of game to movie doesn’t quite mesh, changing an interactive activity into a passive one, or maybe it’s simply because the majority of attempts have been terrible. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, so where does Assassin’s Creed fit into the spectrum?

Read the rest of my review at Filmoria.

Review: 22 Jump Street

Reboots are a tricky business. Sequels are even trickier. When something is successful, Hollywood has a tendency of latching on and ruining a good thing, so when 22 Jump Street was announced the world got nervous. 21 Jump Street was an unexpected hit, with critics and moviegoers alike.

The last words of Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), “You two sons of bitches are going to college!”, in 21 Jump Street left us with no doubts about where the sequel was headed. Though the opening scene was the focus of much of the trailers and press junkets, and you will no doubt have seen it, it’s still hilarious and provides some great jokes and skits which will set you up ready to keep the laughs coming through the rest of the film. Push past the opening scene and 22 Jump Street heads straight to college, where Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) are set to work the same case again.

Read the rest of my review at Filmoria.

Review: The Raid 2

Having not seen The Raid, I entered the screening of The Raid 2 with some trepidation. I understand that fundamentally The Raid 2 is a fighting movie, and as I’m not a fan of the genre, perhaps my mind was already made up before the title credits had rolled.

The story, if you can call it that, follows Rama, the main character from the first Raid film, as he sets to uncover corrupt cops within the Jakartan justice system. Going undercover as a heavy working for a local politician, Rama starts his assignment by befriending the son of the kingpin, Uco, in prison which serves as his in with the family.

For me, the plot quickly loses its way, with the film becoming more and more about how much gore and violence it can cram in at the detriment of any plot that had lingered in earlier scenes. Considering Rama’s assignment is to uncover corruption, there seems it be very little of this, and more acting as a bodyguard for Uco.

The fight scenes, which obviously form a large percentage of the film, are well choreographed and slick. I always find it hard to really lose myself in a fight scene, where the only weapons are fists and feet. I cannot dispel the power of disbelief long enough to assume that the downed enemies will stay down from simply being punched, but they do and Rama is able to take down each foe with ease.

There didn’t feel like there was any real threat posed to Rama. As Rama constantly proves that he is more than capable of protecting himself, taking down enemies with ease, the foes that are presented to him are easily dispatched and it’s only in the final moments of the film that you start to fear for Rama’s wellbeing.

The Raid 2 is in UK cinemas from April 11th, and is a must see for fans of the first film and martial arts films. Viewers going in expecting a plot-driven film will be disappointed, but for pure action alone, you would be hard-pressed to find a better suited film.

3.5

Review: Last Vegas

Billed as The Hangover for pensioners, my first cinema trip this year was to see Last Vegas. With a central cast of Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline, the “Flatbush Four” head to Vegas to celebrate the marriage of Billy (Michael Douglas) and his 31-year-old fiancée (of course), where they meet Diana (Mary Steenburgen), a lounge singer in a casino.

The bulk of the film feels very predictable, with the first 30 minutes introducing the characters and their respective problems. The tone of the film is light, and there doesn’t ever seem a doubt that each problem won’t be left resolved. Some jokes you can see coming a mile off, and in a world where the shock factor seems to be the highest indicator of laughs, a change of pace on that front is not necessarily a bad thing.

Once the foursome arrive in Vegas, the predictability continues with gambling, parties, scantily clad women, and rather creepily, the Flatbush Four judging a bikini contest of girls young enough to be their grandchildren.

One gripe I do have is that what should have been the films biggest laughs, were left a little stale for me as they were featured in the trailer, which by the time the screening rolled around, I had seen more times than I care to count. The average cinema-goer doesn’t go to the cinema quite as often as I do, and judging by the laughs the gags still got, I was perhaps the only person who felt these certain jokes had become over-worn.

With six Academy Awards between the four main actors and Mary Steenburgen, the film is expectedly well-acted. Robert De Niro in particular stands out, stealing most scenes he is in, providing the emotion throughout the film as well as plenty of laughs.

Leaving predictability and perversion aside, Last Vegas is still a pretty good comedy film, more than matching recent comedy films I’ve seen (Anchorman 2 not standing). Whereas some recent comedies have jokes which are few and far between, Last Vegas keeps the jokes coming, and all feel well-timed and at the right level.

7.0

Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

As a writer, going into something knowing you’re going to have to write about it and being presented with a pile of mediocre blandness is terrible. Things you love, easy to write about. Things you hate, easy to write about. Things you just don’t care about either way, not so easy to write about.

Going into the latest Cineworld secret screening, I knew I was facing the world premiere of a movie, and as a pop culture blogger, knew I would be writing about the film I was soon to be watching. Scanning through a list of future releases, I had my fingers crossed for American Hustle, but luck was not on my side and the title card revealed we were seeing The Secret Life of Walter Mitty a month early.

Based loosely on a 1947 original, the 2013 Walter Mitty stars Ben Stiller as a daydreaming magazine photo proofer, and Kristen Wiig as his love interest. The film also stars many other big names; Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt, Shirley MacLaine, and a person who, thoughout the whole film I thought bore a striking resemblance to Sean Penn (the credits revealed that this person was actually Sean Penn).

Walter Mitty himself is bland and boring, and readily admits to having never been or done anything noteworthy or mentionable. Walter regularly “zones out” and daydreams at inopportune moments throughout the day, filling his day with fantasies and awkward moments with colleagues.

Throughout the course of the film, Walter goes from a day-dreamer to an adventurer as he tries to track down a freelance photographer to find a lost negative needed for the front cover of the final issue of the magazine they work for. Unfortunately, I found the whole film to be a little lacking in plot, and instead found that it relied heavily on the special effects of Walter’s daydreams, and the visual spectacular of the places Walter finds himself during his travels.

I felt I cared little about the fate of the characters, and didn’t really buy into the reality that Walter would just up and leave for Greenland, given that his job is on the line. There was just so much about the film that I wanted to invest in, but couldn’t because the characters didn’t develop fully and the plot didn’t give me enough opportunity to get behind the film.

Walter Mitty is by no means terrible, and probably won’t appear in my list of the ten worst films I’ve seen this year (though the jury is still out on that one), but when you leave a film thinking “Well, it’s not what I wanted to see, but at least it’s out of the way” you can’t help but feel the mark has been missed somewhat by the film-makers.

6.0

Review: Monsters University

Glastonbury festival is universally known for having something for everyone. As a film lover, I’m always interested in what’s on offer at the Glastonbury cinema, the Pilton Palais. Unfortunately, as most of it clashes with the musical acts, I don’t see many films there; in fact, of the two times I’ve been to Glastonbury, I’ve only seen two films at the Palais, both Pixar offerings.

Historically, Glastonbury has a way of obtaining the rights to early previews of Pixar films. In 2008 they showed Wall-E, and back in 2010, when I went, the Palais hosted a preview screening of Toy Story 3, six months before the film was due for general release. This year it was the turn of Monsters University, Pixar’s first prequel.

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Previous experience with the Toy Story 3 screening had taught me that these previews tend to garner a huge crowd. Not wanting to miss out, we turned up over an hour early for the showing and waited it out in the queue with the daily paper. Sitting in the queue and subsequently the tent, you really soak up the atmosphere; lots of excited children, and plenty more excited adults.

The film got off to a bad start with some technical difficulties (which also occurred later on too), but where a cinema audience might have complained, the festival viewers remained in high spirits with the children keeping themselves entertained making monster noises.

Once the film finally got underway (and later technical difficulties aside), it was much more than I hoped it would be. What could easily have strayed into an unnecessary Cars 2-esque sequel, was actually a charming new exploration of much-loved characters a la Toy Story.

Monsters University creates a real shift into the perception of characters. I’ve never been much of a Mike fan, seeing his character in Monsters, Inc. as a bossy control freak, who frankly, was a bit of a jerk. Monsters University really changed my opinion of Mike, and also Sully who goes from a loveable giant, to the atypical college burnout, who constantly butts heads with Mike.

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As the film and plot unravel, it is interesting to see the dynamic between Mike and Sully change, as the two go from rivals to develop the basis of the true friendship we all know from Monsters, Inc. The viewer is left with a deeper understanding of what drives the characters in the first film, including Randall, though he does not feature heavily in Monsters University.

The film is a great addition to the Pixar catalogue, and got me a lot more interested in the Monsters, Inc. world than I was before. The film is funny in all the right places, and as tense in parts as animated films get. Any reservations I had about the film were quickly dissipated as the film went on, and I have been telling anyone who will listen just how good the film is.

8.0

Review: Now You See Me

Some people love high school slasher films, some people like mall cop films. Myself, I like most films, but I have a real soft spot opening up for that favourite genre “magic films”.

As a Cineworld Unlimited customer, I am invited to the preview screenings the chain hold for upcoming films. Mostly, I let these pass me by as I always think I’ll catch the film at a later date anyway, and as screenings are on a Tuesday, I’m never with my cinema-going partner in crime. This screening was too good to pass up – even my parents went, sucked in by the excitement surrounding the event.

This screening was a tip-top secret. Cineworld invited all us Unlimited customers without telling us what the film was, revealing clues along the line. Tension mounted as the cinema workers remained tight lipped whilst being grilled by customers. Fellow guests fidgeted and whispered through the trailers as they tried to guess what was coming next. Suddenly, Jesse Eisenberg’s giant head filled the screen and he and his cast members introduced our next two hours.

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The film focuses around a newly created magical act, The Four Horsemen comprising of Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco. The Horsemen have been instructed to put on three magical shows across America, whilst dodging the grasp of FBI agent Mark Ruffalo, as their stunts become more daring and less legal.

The group dynamic works well, though at times it feels as if there is not enough focus on the relationships between characters. Certainly, the relationships are alluded to, but it often feels that the story will return and never does. The group has the benefits of each member having specialist skills, and the plot moves along allowing all team members equal screen time, but overall, being overshadowed by Mark Ruffalo who quickly becomes the central character, often stealing the show.

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I thoroughly enjoyed Now You See Me. The film felt fast-paced and the plot moved on with ease. The concept of three magic shows was introduced early on in the film, and this certainly helped with the pacing of the film, as the audience was left waiting to see what the Four Horseman could pull off next. Though some tricks were a little unbelievable, for the most part things were explained as Morgan Freeman’s character sets out to debunk the magic behind the tricks of the most popular magicians.

Now You See Me was a great choice for the secret screening, with the genre and plot of the film adding to the mystery shrouding the whole night. I would recommend the film to anyone looking for an interesting film, with plenty of twists and an exciting new concept.

7.5