X-Men: Days of Future Past Review – Time Warp


Director: Bryan Singer

Writer: Simon Kinberg

Stars: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence


Release date: May 22nd, 2014

Distributor: 20th Century Fox 

Country: USA

Running time: 131 minutes


 

4½/5

Best part: The kinetic action sequences.

Worst part: The slight tonal shifts.

I’m going to state a fact that will make almost every cinema-goer feel incredibly old: the original X-Men movie was released 14 years ago. Kicking off the current, and seemingly unending, wave of big-budget superhero flicks, the original threw mutant powers, attractive stars, and thought-provoking issues at a modest $75 million budget. Today, this amount feels insignificant compared to the sums thrown at blockbusters like The Avengers and the Amazing Spider-Man instalments. This year, the latest adventure, X-Men: Days of Future Past, takes the franchise in a new and wholly welcome direction.

Hugh Jackman.

Attempting to revitalise a once-declining saga, Days of Future Past comes out swinging and, for the most part, pulls off more miracles than effect shots. After the thumbs-up success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and thumbs-down debacle of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Days of Future Past proves just how prescient and touching these blockbusters can be in the right hands. Unlike the latest Spider-Man instalment, this movie ties multiple ideas together without giving off the overwhelming aura of studio interference. In this intricate and entertaining instalment, the X-Men characters we know and love – and even some of those we only mildly tolerate – come together after years of bickering and battling. The plot picks up with our heroes struggling to survive a 2023 Terminator-like apocalyptic wasteland, situated atop where our world once stood. Infected by destructive robots known as the Sentinels, the Earth houses mutant and human inhabitants under strict control. In the opening sequence, Several younger mutants try and fail to fight off the all-powerful Sentinels. Landing at a mountain-carved base, Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Storm (Halle Berry), Charles Xavier/Professor X (Patrick Stewart), and Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Ian McKellen) have a plan to end the war before it can begin. Sent back to a Nixon-drenched 1973 by Kitty Pride/Shadowcat (Ellen Page), Logan must find the younger Xavier (James McAvoy), Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), and Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) to prevent a vengeful Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating slimy military scientist/Sentinel developer Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage).

insta

Professor X & Magneto.

Despite all this, the greatest assignment, related to this production, has been handed to screenwriter Simon Kinberg. Avoiding hiring multiple screenwriters – unlike most modern blockbusters – Kinberg’s task revolved around tying the original X-Men trilogy, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine, and X-Men: First Class‘ timelines together. Being a stressful and obstacle-laden mission, this labyrinthine system pays off more often than not. Thanks to its favourable character arcs, tangible plot threads, and valuable thematic details, Days of Future Past smoothens out the franchise’s rough edges. X-Men and X2 director Bryan Singer returns with a grand vision in mind. Legitimising even the franchise’s most frustrating instalments, the narrative is never tied down by its exhaustive number of super-powered creations. Moving at a rollicking pace, exposition and questionable explanations are pushed aside in favour of awe-inspiring action sequences and memorable character beats. Efficiently, the story’s time travel laws are discussed and dropped at opportune moments. After Logan’s time-jump, fun comedic moments and solid performances elevate this otherwise confusing thrill-ride. In fact, Logan’s journey is the movie’s strongest asset. In the first 70s-set scene, the clawed crusader must contend with mobsters, half-naked ladies, lava lamps, and water beds. Making for an impressive sequence, Logan’s amusing facial expressions deliver the most essential details. Of course, like with the preceding instalments, the historical and social aspects cast an inspired shadow over the action-heavy narrative. Comparing Nazi Germany and the Vietnam War to the West’s stranglehold over Earth, major events and emotion-fuelled moments amplify this series’ true merits.

“All those years wasted fighting each other, Charles…but at least we got a few of them back.” (Magneto (Ian McKellen), X-Men: Days of Future Past).

Jennifer Lawrence.

However, the average filmgoer, looking beyond the Paris Peace Accords and John F. Kennedy’s assassination, is expecting to see our favourite mutants showing off their extraordinary abilities. For better or worse, those sequences fuel a good portion of the exhaustive 130-minute run-time. Some effects, ranging from Toad’s whip-like tongue to Iceman’s slick manoeuvres, overpower certain scenes. Occasionally, some set pieces come off as excessive more so than necessary. In fact, the excessive number of characters and superpowers occasionally shifts the tone. However, the grander set pieces, along with the eclectic 70s aesthetic, bolster this ambitious saga. The Paris sequence, crossing several plot-strands at once, delivers intensifying and heartfelt jolts. With allegiances and motivations tested by significant political events, this sequence sets certain characters on edge whilst introducing the world to our lead characters. In addition, the climactic battle in Washington D.C. could be the year’s best set piece. Thanks to Magneto’s stadium-raising prowess, this sequence caps off this already sumptuous and captivating superhero drama. Thankfully, despite limiting some major characters’ screen-time, the leads re-invigorate their roles. Jackman, in his 7th outing as Logan/Wolverine, carries this confronting narrative with style and charisma. Perfecting his character’s gruff tone and purposeful mannerisms, Jackman’s prowess remains immortal. McAvoy and Fassbender delve deeper into their roles with effervescent turns. Meanwhile, in and out of the blue make-up, Lawrence and Hoult make for worthy members of this ever-expanding cast.

Admittedly, I have a soft spot for this franchise. Having grown up with this series blaring into my consciousness, I eagerly anticipate every instalment. Thankfully, Days of Future Past is a mature, exciting, and meaningful instalment. Legitimising this series in this post-Avengers era, this instalment rights some wrongs and justifies each character and storyline’s inclusion. From Quicksilver’s bullet-time sequence to Xavier’s resurrection via Cerebro, the movie delivers more outstanding moments than superpowers (and that’s saying something).

Verdict: The most ambitious and entertaining X-Men flick yet. 

Locke Review – The Slow & the Steady


Director: Steven Knight

Writer: Steven Knight

Stars: Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott


Release date: April 18th, 2014

Distributor: A24

Country: UK

Running time: 84 minutes


 

4/5

Best part: Tom Hardy.

Worst part: The antagonistic boss character.

Over the past few years, cinema has displayed its potential to make the most tedious aspects of life appear invigorating and interesting. Most commonly, this refers to comic books, TV/film/book series’, and true stories. Eclipsing these blockbuster conceivers, the survival/bottle genre takes limited locations, characters, and concepts and develops invigorating narratives and thematically-sound thrill-rides. In British auteur Steven Knight’s new thriller Locke, a car is taken for a spin and pushed to the limit for a full 90 minutes.

Tom Hardy.

Facing such antagonists as highways, freeways, and Give ways, we take major risks whenever we step into our cars. Automobile travel, forcing us to share with others and attack those who refuse to play by the rules, pushes Locke‘s narrative and its straight-laced lead character. Here, the thriller vibe kicks in from the get-go. Overcoming its questionable and, to some, risible premise, Locke is a philosophical, dexterous, and ambitious joyride. Unafraid to stick to its impressionistic conceits, the execution separates Locke from other bottle features of recent memory. Before Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) steps into his car, the audience is introduced to a chilly British night. With Locke’s plight fighting its way to the surface, the first five minutes relish in the premise’s most intriguing ideas. After a long work day, Locke hops into his car ready to face his greatest obstacles. Driving from Birmingham to London, he uses his car-set phone to update people on his status. His wife, Katherine (Ruth Wilson), and their two sons, Eddie (Tom Holland) and Sean (Bill Milner), eagerly await his return. Preparing for a vital soccer match, the beer, sausages, and jerseys are all laid out for the occasion. At the same time, Locke’s lover, Bethan (Olivia Colman), is giving birth to their lovechild in London’s St Mary’s Hospital. Aiming to reach her location before the labor period finishes, Locke’s true feelings become shockingly clear.

More Tom Hardy.

Perplexingly, there are even more pressing concerns for our misfortunate and steady-handed protagonist to deal with. From the opening frame, Knight’s screenwriting and direction merge amicably to deliver an uneasy and relentless creation. In control of this unique experiment, Knight takes theatre and novel tropes and transplants them effortlessly onto the big screen. As, essentially, a one-man show, Locke proves that big-budgets, labyrinthine sets, and multiple plot-lines aren’t always needed to create complex dramatic stories. The narrative, unlike most survival thrillers, avoids cliches, saccharine moments, and ridiculous leaps of logic. This thriller doesn’t put anyone in danger. Instead, the drama examine’s one man’s choices and the ripple effects they’ve created. With his personal and professional lives in disarray, Locke’s 90-minute journey pulls at the heartstrings and throws tempers and allegiances into dangerous tailspins. If his infidelity wasn’t bad enough, Locke abandons his duties as a construction foreman just a few hours before a major concrete pour is set to take place. Known to put 110% into each assignment, his sketchy and unforgivable actions in the present place any future employment prospects in jeopardy. Talking to his boss, Gareth (Ben Daniels), and assistant, Donal (Andrew Scott), over the phone, Locke’s patience and guile amplify the movie’s magnetic and transcendent aura.

“I want to know that I’m not driving in one direction.” (Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy), Locke).

Even more Tom hardy!

Bravely, and appropriately, this car-staged thriller talks down to those against Locke’s every decision. This post-GFC drama, depicting honest people carrying out desperate acts for pride and desperation, delivers a heartfelt apology to the working class man from the one percenters. With Knight taking on sensitive characters and gritty topics, his style emphatically supports his lead character’s impulsive decisions. However, despite the well-intentioned effort, the voice-driven antagonists occasionally come off as obvious and treacle. Gareth, screaming every word whilst refusing to listen to Locke’s sound advice, hurriedly becomes an unnecessary hindrance. Thankfully, Knight injects sympathetic and electrifying traits into his lead character. As the epicentre of this crumbling universe, Locke’s witless resolve and steely resilience is worth the price of admission. Pushed by a figment of his imagination – resembling his father – Locke is a intelligent and unhinged presence. Regretful and likeable simultaneously, the titular character anchors this already intense and effortless feature. Hardy – known to take on menacing roles in big-budget features like Lawless, The Dark Knight Rises, and Warrior – insatiably adapts to this subtle and direct role. Gripping onto a Richard Harris-esque accent, Hardy’s purposeful mannerisms and distinct tone amplify his memorable turn.

As the most realistic survival thriller to date, Locke expertly rests on handful of ideas, sets, and roles. Before its profound finale, the movie throws us in the driver’s seat and takes us on journey of regret, hope, and acceptance. With Hardy’s prowess in full view, fans will lap up this magnetic and visceral one-man production. For Locke, the road to hell truly is paved with good intentions.

Verdict: An intense and pacy thrill-ride.

Godzilla Review – Monster Mash Mayhem


Director: Gareth Edwards

Writer: Max Borenstein

Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston


Release date: May 16th, 2014

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 123 minutes


 

3/5

Best part: The impressive action sequences.

Worst part: The underdeveloped characters.

Remember the 1998 Godzilla reboot? It featured a post-Independence Day Roland Emmerich, a bumbling Matthew Broderick, a kooky Jean Reno, and bizarre parodies of film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. Obviously, thanks to these ingredients, it was a bomb of gargantuan proportions. So, after that critical and commercial flop, how could Hollywood possibly re-reboot the King of Monsters on the big screen?

Bryan Cranston & Aaron-Taylor Johnson.

Well, the re-reboot could look at and imitate other blockbusters of its type. Subtly, this is what this year’s Godzilla re-imagining does. After Cloverfield and Pacific Rim took on the mega-monster genre and came out on-top, Godzilla was tasked with salvaging the titular beast from the disgraceful depths of a cinematic tomb. Thankfully, and ambitiously, the studio executives hired an intelligent and efficient director to tackle this popular subject matter. Gareth Edwards, known for creating indie sci-fi effort Monsters on a $500,000 budget, takes on this project with wide eyes and unique ideas. Indeed, his direction saves this blockbuster from becoming a forgettable retread. However, despite the high points, the movie still comes close to being inexcusably dour and laughably bland. So what does this reboot/remake/whatever do to separate itself from everything else? Ambitiously, from the opening frame, the narrative delves head-on into the darkest aspects of conspiracy theories, military control, and natural disasters. This version kicks off with a family on the edge of obliteration. Nuclear Plant supervisor Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) oversees one of Japan’s most important facilities. Looking out for his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche), Joe must watch on in horror as she and the plant are eviscerated by a cataclysmic event. The movie jumps 15 years ahead, and Joe’s son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is now a US Navy bomb expert with a lovely wife, Elle (Elizabeth Olsen), and a son of their own.

Elizabeth Olsen.

With familial feuds tested by horrific events, Steven Spielberg’s overwhelming influence casts a gargantuan shadow over Edwards’ style. Here, we see Spielberg’s thematic motifs and technical tropes being checked over and re-tested for our viewing pleasure. Admittedly, I know Edwards isn’t the only action-adventure director to be influenced by Spielberg. However, Godzilla never allows Edwards to craft his own style. Is this a conscious decision or a mistake Edwards will learn from in future sequels/prequels etc? We still aren’t sure, yet. After our characters are introduced, Edwards examines their identities as major life-changing events begin to transform our world. Bailing Joe out of prison, Ford is pulled into Joe’s peculiar conspiracy theory about the events in Japan. Simultaneously, two obsessed scientists Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) discover that these 15 year-old events add up to a much larger problem for mankind. These conundrums, used to set up the second-two thirds, rely on the characters more so than the skyscraper-tall monsters. This reboot, despite delivering several jaw-dropping set-pieces, is infatuated with human drama and quiet moments. In fact, Godzilla himself is, ironically, only a minuscule part of this intricate journey. Beyond the first-third’s father-son conflict, the narrative approaches much larger ideas than previous instalments and the aforementioned genre-smashing epics did. The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster and the US Military’s all-encompassing stranglehold lumber through this otherwise efficient re-imagining.

“The arrogance of men is thinking nature is in their control and not the other way around. Let them fight.” (Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), Godzilla).

King of the Monsters!

Sadly, though Edwards’ focus on human drama and relatable situations is appreciated, the narrative is hindered by action-drama clichés and awkward moments. With two-dimensional characters and conventional plot-threads smashing into one another, this reboot lurches lazily between set-pieces and revelations. Thanks to Max Borenstein’s by-the-numbers screenplay, plot-holes and contrivances also disrupt this otherwise entertaining thrill-ride. The characters, continually rattling off exposition and reacting to approaching beasts, distract from the premise’s most alluring conceits. Taylor-Johnson, working with a generic character, is upstaged by his more experienced co-stars. Olsen is under-utilised in a blank-faced role. Meanwhile, Watanabe, Hawkins, and David Strathairn aren’t given distinctive character traits. Thankfully, thanks to Edwards’ vision, the movie’s technical elements reign supreme. Thanks to a dynamic and intriguing opening credits sequence, the movie successfully establishes an ominous tone. Beyond this, the action sequences are wholly awe-inspiring. Defined by an epic scope, confronting cinematography, and impressive creature designs, Godzilla‘s monster battles and gunfights are more momentous than anything Emmerich or Michael Bay could ever hope to deliver. In true Spielberg fashion, the monsters are kept hidden from view throughout the first half. Building to an impressive final third, the movie’s promises pay off thanks to Godzilla and the MUTOs’ ever lasting might.

This Godzilla reboot, hiding under the 1954 original’s monstrous shadow, is a worthy effort. In fact, Edwards and the cast sufficiently overcome the underwhelming material. With the monsters and explosions pushed aside, the human characters do little but yell, look frightened, and run. Edward’s ideas are note-worthy, but would be more interesting if they were able to rise above the premise. If it’s any consolation, Godzilla’s trademark roar is still worth the price of admission.

Verdict: An underwhelming yet enjoyable blockbuster.

Bad Neighbours Review – Battle for the Street


Director: Nicholas Stoller

Writers: Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O’Brien

Stars: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco


Release date: May 9th, 2014

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 97 minutes


 

4/5

Best part: Efron’s charisma.

Worst part: Several irritating supporting characters.

Director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek) has, without a doubt, become one of Hollywood’s most successful and bewitching talents. His efforts, raking in major profits and alluring new performers simultaneously, fit a certain formula that modern audiences are infatuated with. His comedies, featuring gross out gags and a hint of sensitivity, reach multiple crowds whilst providing blood, sweat, tears, and fits of laughter. I’m stating this because his new feature, Bad Neighbours, breaks the mould by being more substantial than his previous works.

Seth Rogen & Rose Byrne.

Congratulations are in order for this dexterous filmmaker. Many filmmakers, no matter what their reputations may suggest, descend after their first or second efforts. With comedy being a tough nut to crack (no euphemism intended, I swear), Stoller bounces back from The Five Year Engagement to deliver a smart, electrifying, and consistent comedy. Obviously, neighbourhood feuds are commonplace. Undoubtedly, most of us have come across loud, obnoxious, or even dumbstruck citizens living next door. Therefore, to discuss this issue, Stoller’s latest comedy throws fraternities, major pranks, and legal conundrums at its charming lead characters. Bad Neighbours looks on in horror as a naïve couple, Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) and Kelly (Rose Byrne), move into their quaint, suburban home after birthing their lovely child Stella. Watching over the neighbouring houses, the couple’s underlying problems steadily rise to the surface. Sadly, this couple’s pressing situation gets worse when a fraternity moves in next door. The frat house’s inhabitants, led by Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco), seek to raise the roof off their comfortable new abode. Inevitably, the frat’s momentous parties throw Mac and Kelly for a loop. Before long, the claws come out and the battle for the neighbourhood begins.

Zac Efron & Dave Franco.

This premise, though ripe with brash jokes and valuable life lessons, does seem predictable and convenient. What kind of Home Owners Association or council group would allow a fraternity to move into a suburban neighbourhood? Confidently, the movie itself never lingers on this issue. Thankfully, thanks to its inherent charm and over-the-top comedic moments, the audience is also able to overlook this problem. From the opening scene, in which Mac and Kelly struggle to have sex in every room with their child watching on, the movie establishes a light-hearted tone and ambitious sense of humour. Despite the tiresome premise, the feud is brushed over by montages and shocking gags. Aware of its own conventional ideas, the movie’s glee-filled surprises and intelligent revelations lend wisdom to this otherwise immature farce. The battle, kick-started by an irritating police officer, allows our misfortunate characters to let loose upon the neighbourhood. Gracefully, the movie achieves a charming glow and memorable moments early on in the first half. Despite the contrived situations and perplexing motivations, the plot, unlike with several of Judd Apatow’s efforts, is never tied down by dour characters or a bloated Length. In fact, like Efron’s character, Bad Neighbours is toned, witty, and ever so slightly unhinged.

“We’re throwing a Robert De Niro party. It should be pretty loud.” (Teddy (Zac Efron), Bad Neighbours).

The ultimate party!

Inevitably, Bad Neighbours, during the kooky and delectable second half, leans on its impatient characters for guidance. Once the major conflicts kick in, the story takes a break to reflect upon each character’s burgeoning flaws. Thanks to this adult/teen conflict, Mac and Kelly look down upon the frat members and, more importantly, themselves. With Mac lurching back into his party-fuelled roots, their relationship becomes tarnished and battered by the neighbouring party-hounds. More importantly, maturity is this party’s overarching theme. Dressing down Efron and Franco’s loudmouth characters, the second half occasionally delves into their touching bromance. Providing the recommended hangover cure for its own party sequences, Bad Neighbours is surprisingly good for the soul. However, the party sequences, amplified to an insatiable degree in the second half, are highlights in this hysterical and unconscionable farce. The fistfight-and-neon-light-fuelled finale showcases several enjoyable gags and the lead actors’ immense chemistry. Relying on familiar ticks, Rogen’s likeable persona and bubbly sense of humour powers this slapstick-laden comedy. Elevating the obvious weed, dick, and fart jokes, Rogen is an enjoyable and empathetic screen presence. Enthusiastically, Efron turns his Brad Pitt-level charisma up to 11. As the frat’s energy-and-denial-choked leader, Efron’s cheerful performance and impressive physique will draw viewers in. In addition, Byrne cements herself as an intricate and expressive comedic force as the troubled housewife.

Dodging Apatow’s irritating and incessant tropes, Stoller’s latest effort, like Efron’s character, stands head-and-shoulders above everything else. With Rogen, Byrne, and Efron carrying this conventional and dodgy premise, the comedic moments and wise speeches lend fits of intelligence to this overwhelming and manic gross-out comedy.

Verdict: A hilarious and breezy farce. 

Sabotage Review – Bad Boys & Bullets


Director: David Ayer

Writers: Skip Woods, David Ayer

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Olivia Williams, Terrence Howard


Release date: March 28th, 2014

Distributor: Open Road Films

Country: USA

Running time: 109 minutes


 

2½/5

Best part: Schwarzenegger’s aura.

Worst part: The unlikable supporting characters.

Here’s a question, Hollywood: Whatever happened to guns in popular cinema? Over the past few years, studios have put down their guns and picked up everything else in sight. Noticeably, blockbusters try, and more often than not fail, to one-up those that come before them. Gleefully, Tinsel-town’s biggest and baddest action star has returned to the big screen to overshadow everything around him. Sabotage, despite irking nuances out of its dynamic performers, underwhelms more often than it enthrals.

Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Obviously, I’m referring to bodybuilder/action-movie icon/Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. In a previous review, I stated that he has “lived the life”. Returning to the silver screen after a string of controversies, the Governator’s latest effort is nowhere near as profound and intriguing as its lead’s reputation. Unworthy of Schwarzenegger’s aura, Sabotage is hyperactive and lazy simultaneously. This action-thriller – based to a certain extent on Agatha Christie’s seminal story Ten Little Indians – tries to fit round bullets into square targets. As cheesy as this metaphor seems, the movie clings onto a specific level of corniness to propel its static and conventional narrative. Whilst reading the synopsis, anyone with a basic understanding of plot mechanics will be able to predict where this action-thriller is going. Sabotage follows a no-nonsense group of DEA agents known for shooting first and insulting one-another later. Schwarzenegger plays John “Breacher” Wharthon, the leader of this outrageous unit. Known for his immaculate reputation, Breacher leads with his swagger and precise technique. His team, however, is made up of delusional and arrogant warriors. Rounded out by James “Monster” Murray (Sam Worthington), his wife Lizzy (Mireille Enos), Joe “Grinder” Phillips (Joe Manganiello), Julius “Sugar” Edmonds (Terrence Howard), Eddie “Neck” Jordan (Josh Holloway), Tom “Pyro” Roberts (Max Martini), Bruce “Tripod” McNeely (Kevin Vance), and “Smoke” Jennings (Mark Schlegel), the unit goes guns blazing into every assignment.

The DEA team.

Here is the thing about Sabotage – it’s neither good nor bad. In fact, it hits the 50% mark from the get-go and rarely shifts above or below that point. However, though it could have been worse, we should not commend this big-budget actioner for being mediocre. With better material, it could’ve been a transcendent return to form for Schwarzenegger. Director/co-writer David Ayer (writer of Training Day, director of Street Kings and End of Watch) yet again takes on LA’s ‘finest’ and presents his creations as machismo-driven outlaws. The whodunit shades kickstart after $10 million goes missing from a raid. With our characters being picked off one by one, Ayer and Skip Woods’ dumfounding screenplay grinds on the consciousness. Taking on corruption and interrogation techniques, these intriguing concepts are dropped in favour of car chases, gun fights, and horrific murders. In addition, like the team itself, the movie itself, from the opening torture sequence onward, barges through each unrelenting and abrasive moment. The story inexplicably sticks to its overwhelming and repulsive convictions. After barging headlong into a cartel safe house, one of many vile and cruel set pieces, the narrative takes several meandering and laughable turns. Sabotage, inexplicably, distorts its simplistic plot with a fiery mean streak and idiotic twists. Intent on dousing the audience in blood, the movie immediately kick-starts its unending rampage. Exploding heads and inappropriate gags turn this actioner into a nightmarish ordeal.

“Some of us are getting paid, the rest of us are just getting dead.” (Sugar (Terence Howard), Sabotage).

Olivia Williams.

For better or worse, this movie’s only memorable trait is its lead’s nostalgia-drenched glow. Like the Terminator, this celebrity refuses to slow down despite his damaged physical and psychological status’. Standing above the material, credit goes to Schwarzenegger for taking on this gritty and relentless role. Taking inspiration from John Wayne, Schwarzenegger’s post-political-career resurgence is seemingly mimicking the western-era icon’s work ethic. In the final few minutes, Arnie’s wish is granted as the movie transitions into dark revenge-thriller mode. Sporting a grimacing look and cowboy hat, it’s nice seeing the ageing star embracing his limitations. However, overshadowing the lead character’s magnetism, the supporting characters hamper this otherwise diverting experience. Spitting one-liners and evil-eyed glares at one another, commendable character actors like Olivia Williams and Harold Perrineau suffer significant career damage here. Sadly, almost everyone in this intriguing ensemble turns potentially gripping moments into hammy and ridiculous hindrances. Despite their loyalty to themselves and the job, these are some of modern Hollywood’s most detestable characters. To them, beating up bouncers and injecting illicit substances on company time are acceptable actions. Worthington, Manganiello, and Enos overcome hideous dialogue to come out relatively unscathed. However, Holloway and Howard are given little to do in two-dimensional roles.

Confidently, Schwarzenegger’s guile and confidence shimmer across tinsel-town. However, Sabotage, despite its engaging action sequences and alluring performers, refuses to get out of its own way. Attempting to take on multiple genres and plot-threads, Arnie’s latest action-thriller is little more than a destructive and forgettable ordeal.

Verdict: An over-the-top and silly explosion fest. 

Cinema’s Greatest Movie Monsters: Slimy and (Occasionally) Sympathetic


Article:

Cinema’s Greatest Movie Monsters: Slimy and (Occasionally) Sympathetic 

The Other Woman Review – Cathartic Cat-fight


Director: Nick Cassavetes

Writer: Melissa Stack

Stars: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

other_woman_ver2


Release date: April 17th, 2014

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Country: USA

Running time: 109 minutes


1½/5

Best part: Kinney and Coster-Waldau. 

Worst part: The awkward slapstick humour.

Ironically, The Other Woman, for a movie about its lead characters rejecting all quarrels and enjoying life, can only deliver a torturous experience. Right off the bat, this rambunctious and simplistic romantic comedy contradicts itself more so than its soul sucking, alpha male antagonist (and that’s saying something!). However, despite failing to reach my particular demographic, I was willing to go into it with an open mind.

Cameron Diaz & Leslie Mann.

Cameron Diaz & Leslie Mann.

So, after the past decade’s serving of forgettable and soapy rom-com junk, why would I be optimistic? Well, despite The Other Woman’s hypoactive/itch-that-needs-scratching marketing campaign, the world’s funniest and most insightful female performers need more screen time. Always highlighted as “the funny ones”, a handful of female comedic actors are chewed up and spat out for our viewing pleasure. We still aren’t sure if they’re being branded as cinematic treasures or extorted for our cynical amusement. To test this, two of these actors, Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann, have been thrown together for this ethically questionable rom-com. Relax people, I’m not complaining about the performers themselves. I’m simply lambasting the movie they’re stranded in. To kick things off, Diaz’s character Carly Whitten is even presented as a no-nonsense, highly-skilled lawyer. Dating handsome businessman Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), her newfound lifestyle is more enviable than even her impressive office space. Inevitably, with one fell swoop, this confident woman hurriedly turns into a bumbling idiot as her life crumbles. In a ‘hilarious’ turn of events, Carly discovers Mark’s closeted skeletons. His most frightening secret comes in the form of his kooky housewife Kate (Mann).

Kate Upton.

Kate, tracking down and questioning Carly about her husband’s indiscretions, leans on her new confidant for assistance. From the trailer, it is easy to see where the narrative is headed. Aided by Kate’s brother Phil (Taylor Kinney), Carly and Kate investigate Mark’s shady wheelings and dealings. Admittedly, the movie is held up by an intriguing and thought-provoking premise. With infidelity an intrinsic factor in the dating/relationship game, the movie attempts to unpack certain myths and truths valuable to its taboo subject matter. However, falling into sitcom territory, the narrative never questions its character’s startlingly brutal actions or the topic itself. At least He’s Just Not That Into You delved head-first into note-worthy ideas. This rom-com drifts from laughably earnest, to shallow, to bafflingly silly between scenes. Following this tiresome formula, the first half comes off like a series of bland montages. Used to sell its retro-pop soundtrack, the first half’s stroll-like pace is unwarranted. On top of that, the movie throws its half-awake audience into discomforting scenarios. Forced to delve into Carly and Mark’s doomed romance, clichés and underdeveloped characters weigh down an aesthetically pleasing coupling. In the second half, however, the story picks up and takes things to the next level. Forming an alliance with Mark’s second mistress Amber (Kate Upton), Carly and Kate’s uneasy alliance switches from painfully flat to…slightly less so. This rom-com quickly strives for a Horrible Bosses vibe. Noticeably, contrivances and revelations stall the already groan-inducing plot. Every so often, characters do and say bizarre things just so…the film can happen.

“We got played by the same guy…do you want vodka or Tequila?” (Carly Whitten (Cameron Diaz), The Other Woman).

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

A pop-star, a Sports Illustrated model, and Jamie Lannister walk into…never mind. Unfortunately, The Other Woman’s tonal inconsistency avoids charm, wit, and satire. With our three scornful women teaming up to destroy Mark, this sisterhood is supposed to ground an otherwise fantastical adventure. This half-hearted effort fails the Bechtel and laugh tests. On multiple occasions, Melissa Stack’s screenplay forces Diaz and Mann to commit unspeakable acts. Some scenes, setting up punch-line-free sequences, leave it up to the disastrous duo to tussle with and grope one another. In addition, beyond the useless slapstick gags, the gross out humour offends the movie’s already downtrodden audience. Offensive to men, women, and dogs, director Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook, Alpha Dog) abuses subtlety like Kate’s Great Dane obliterates Carly’s apartment. Beyond this fantastical realm of shiny locations and pretty people, its inhabitants lie, cheat, and steal to stay on top. Instead of simply divorcing Mark (like mature adults), the terrifying trio result to spiking his drinks with laxatives and oestrogen tablets. Sadly, this isn’t Diaz and Mann’s first ventures into atrocious rom-com territory. Diaz, delivering touching performances in There’s Something About Mary and In Her Shoes, continues her exhaustive run of critical and commercial bombs. Delving back into the What Happens In Vegas zone, her manic energy grates against the other performers. Worse still, Mann’s high-pitched voice and absurd mannerisms make for an apathetic and irritating presence. In addition, despite their good looks, Upton and Nicki Minaj look like they’re reading off of cue-cards.

I have no problem with rom-coms – every target demographic deserves specific genres to attach themselves to. However, The Other Woman is a forgettable, despicable, and cynical rom-com. With a rotten romance encased in frustrating slapstick gags and a cliche-ridden plot, this farce cements Diaz and Mann as critically and commercially derided comedic actors. It’s a shame, really. Thankfully, Diaz doesn’t have sex with a car in this one.

Verdict: A mean-spirited and unfunny rom-com.