Category: Film Reviews 2014
Similar to the book reviews of 2014 but with films, instead of books. Duh.
22 Jump Street (2014)
I’ll makes no bones about it, and keep no secrets. I HATED this film. And i so didn’t expect to, considering i rather enjoyed the first. I don’t know what i was thinking – because i actually went to see this instead of Maleficent. Sigh. Anyway. One learns from their mistakes. And the mistake i made was trusting Jonah Hill not to annoy the hell out of me with every millisecond of his screen time.
I think, in all honesty, if you cut him out of this movie i’d love it. Channing Tatum is hilarious – some of his lines are spot on, and the action scenes, where he gets to dive about in slo mo and shoot bad guys and blow things up, are entertaining. Ice Cube’s police chief is brilliant in the way that only angry black men can be (i’m not being racist here!), and the plot is complex enough to be interesting.
But then Jonah Hill turns up and says something which either ruins everything or isn’t funny. Or in most cases, both. Its wince-worthy and i felt my fist clench every time he scuppered the plot with his face. In the same way he nearly did with The Wolf of Wall Street, which fortunately had the masterclass DiCaprio in there to save the day.
Try as he might, in this context Channing is no DiCaprio, so as a result, the film falls foul of my hating stare. By far the worst film i’ll see this year and well up for the top 5 of my least favourite films ever, alongside American Pie and Due Date.
God i hated it. Did i say that?
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
I approached this with no prior knowledge of the series, let it be known. I knew it existed in the Marvel universe, i knew Bradley Cooper was playing a Racoon and Vin Diesel the voice of a Tree, stretching his acting capabilities. Beyond that, Zoe Saldana was going to be green. And Benecio Del Toro’s marvellous character from the post-credits scene of Thor: The Dark World was somehow attached. The villain, i (incorrectly) assumed.
So when the trailers started turning up with a higher level of humour than i had expected, forgive me for being a little trepidatious.
The film does not fail in the regard of being a massive, explosive blockbuster full of enjoyable scenes, often hilarious tet a tets and some wicked CGI. The plot is fairly insubstantial, but there is an influx of characters all vividly ridiculous and very, well, very the opposite of DC are trying to do with their franchise. Marvel will always come out tops when doing daft.
It is, by any definition, a romp. A stellar romp through the expanded universe with some wonderful actors playing ludicrous parts and all having a great deal of fun doing so. And it shows. John C Reilly looks pleased as punch and Glenn Close (!) probably just decided to turn up on set with a silly hair do and see if she could get a part. Benecio Del Toro (double !) has gone all method and probably went round the world collecting one of every animal to prepare. The guardians themselves – of which there are only three, if you discount completely CGI characters – are fairly 2D. Don’t get me wrong, they all have their backstories, but the acting quality never reigns supreme. But, if you were expecting it, then you’re an idiot. For serious, you look elsewhere, because Guardians has its tongue firmly in its cheek for the duration. Except perhaps, when it decides to slide momentarily into genuinely emotional, which i found particularly noticable when Rocket does the rant about his past. (my favourite bit in the movie).
It was not brilliant, in my opinion, but certainly worth the time given and good for a fair number of chuckles. Its downsides were as follows; Groot was not as funny as everyone makes him out to be. The “star lord” thing reminded me of “Captain” jack sparrow, and the villain was boring. I assume Thanos will be bigger when he turns up in the series elsewhere…and i just found out he is played by Josh Brolin. This excites me.
And thats the base line; i enjoyed this more as a piece of the universe rather than a film as itself… unlike Captain America: The Winter Soldier, for example.
Oh and i may as well say the post-credits bit, which i thought would be excellent and worth the wait, was quite possibly the worst bit of cinema this year. (after Jonah Hill’s entire screentime in 22 Jump Street).
The Guardians of the Galaxy will return, though, according to the pre-credits announcement. Yay.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Following in the footsteps of Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck, Chris Pine takes on the mantle of Jack Ryan in this thriller, which, annoyingly, isn’t based on any single Jack Ryan novel. Which seems pointless to me. Anyway, i have just read that this is in fact more an attempt at rebooting the franchise. And based on what we have here this is an okay idea. Chris Pine plays Ryan well, especially considering hes up against the likes of Matt Damon and Jeremy Renner (Bourne) and Tom Cruise (Ethan Hunt and Jack Reacher) for franchise movies of a similar ilk. The plot is unfortunately infinitely forgettable; gripping when you watch it but once you’ve seen it, you probably won’t seek it out for some time after, maybe catching it years later and realising you’ve seen it before. Its all crazy politics, to be honest; some interesting set pieces but mainly just glowering at each other over tables and making scary threats without actually saying the words.
The let down is, i’m sorry to say, Keira Knightley. shes too annoying to be a functioning protagonist and her acting qualities – more suited to pride and prejudice / the duchess than anything else – are out of bounds here.
Kenneth Branagh’s direction goes unnoticed, and his villain is a bit pants. Nothing too wrong with his accent – its certainly no classic like Connery’s masterpiece or even Harrison Ford’s wonderful one in K19.
The selling point, i have to say, is Pine. He’s watchable and i would like to think theres a future to the franchise, even if just to deliver a sound political thriller every so often with some decent actors talking a lot about stuff you don’t really understand.
Oh and did i mention Kevin Costner? Hes brilliant.
ADDITIONAL: NINE YEARS ON
Hello everyone, its me from nine years later, 2023. Since i wrote this i have not watched the film again – but we have had another attempt at the Jack Ryan franchise in the form of John Krasinski – and, well sorry Chris… this man has nailed it. He may not be as awesome as Harrison Ford (who is, really?) and personally i think Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October was also pretty perfect…. but this new Jack Ryan (the show is actually called Jack Ryan) is for the modern audience and the streaming services. And its brilliant.
OH…. and why did nobody tell me i’d called it Shadow Pursuit instead of Shadow Recruit. I feel like an idiot. Well. I am, so thats right.
I added a pic to this review so it didn’t feel left out. Hope my newer readers can have a gander at the early work on this blog. Thanks for following, you’re all the best.
The Lego Movie
If you have played any of the Lego games, then you will already know that the people behind the little bricks have astounding imaginations, a spot-on sense of humour and, most importantly, a grasp of the difference between homage and pastiche. And therefore, when you hear the words ‘lego movie’, you don’t think, “ahhhh rubbish, bet its pants” you think, instead, “oh wow. That sounds amazing.”
So add to that already high-reaching expectation when you discover a voice cast that includes Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson (and some bloke called Will Ferrell, but lets ignore that one because i hate him).
And what results is hilarious. Mostly. At least 75% of the movie is brilliant. It has music (EVERYTHING IS AWESOME), it has humour so astoundingly spot-on you could nail it to a poster of blazing saddles, and, wonderfully, it has a cameo from Han Solo. What else do you need?
I loved this film, for the most part. I love the really silly, completely unneccessary thing with Superman and Green Lantern, but which for some reason is so astoundingly appropriate. I love the fact that not all humour / jokes stemmed from references to other things “hello, michaelangelo (looks at painter), and hello, michaelangelo (looks at turtle), but also there are their own jokes in there – SPACESHIP!. The animation was excellent; even the use of 3D was nice, although mostly unnoticable.
Liam Neeson walks away from this film the best voice in it and by a country mile. He was phenomenal.
The bit when little Emmett falls through the portal into ‘reality’ grates on me even now. I understand why it happens and it wasn’t entirely unexpected, but i still think…it just wasn’t necessary. There was a decent enough daft plot in there with regards to glue and what that represents, that we didn’t need the whole father-son bonding thing. It was unnecessary schmaltz. Plus i hate Will Ferrell, as aforementioned.
Other than that. Top Marks. And the closing joke was genius.
The Railway Man
Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman and Stellan Skaarsgard star in this adaptation of a bestseller, itself a true story of the horrors of war, and the ramifications of torture within a japanese POW camp echoing through life to the present.
Colin Firth is, by all interpretations, a geeky trainspotter. The opening of the film, which wonderfully manages a reference to Oban and the West Coast of Scotland, its extraordinary beauty and how one might fall in love with it. (something i know all too much about), sees him on a train chatting to recently seperated Kidman, and using the art of charm and personality known only as Colin Firthness, reigns her in. The two fall in love, everything is wonderful.
Except, its not. You see, Firth is still psychologically damaged (i use the word damaged but its such an understatement) as a result of something that happened to him during the second world war. At this point, we don’t know what. So Kidman, worried for her husband, contacts his old unit, and tries to find the truth. And to make matters worse, it turns out the japanese soldier responsible for whatever horrors occurred, is still alive. How will Firth react to that?
Its a harrowing tale, and certainly not a comedy. But what it also is, is phenomenal. Its a brutal slice of post-war reality and a story of the fragile human mind. The real clincher for me was that the only reason Firth was tortured is because the japs thought he was a spy – because he knew about the trainlines. And the only reason he knew about the trainlines is because he was a trainspotter. And because he didn’t have an app for it on his phone he drew a map, which fell into the wrong hands and raised the wrong suspicions.
A really well made film it certainly is. Not one i’d perhaps watch again anytime soon, but i could say the same for Schindlers List, or Empire of the Sun. (the latter being my favourite war film).
Hats off, however, to the only person in the film better than the great Colin Firth, and that was his younger self, played to perfection by Jeremy Irvine, most recently seen in War Horse.
My only gripe is trivial; i wasn’t as emotionally devastated as i was expecting to be. Weird complaint, considering perhaps being emotionally devastated is a bad thing, but nonetheless, i was expecting traumatisation, and instead i just got a dashed good film. Read into that what you will.
Firstly; what a cast! I mean, Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner all in the one film? In any circumstance, ONE of these hardhitters could have me in the cinema and paying attention. But all of them at once? This has one of two outcomes; a mess, where the ensemble engulfs the individual and the plot collapses, or, more likely given the quality of the director (whose previous film “Silver Linings Playbook”) was excellent, a perfectly executed story where the actors all play off each other and provide falls for the others whenever required, never exploiting anybody as ‘bigger’ or ‘better’.
Thankfully; the latter is the result. The actors all give way to the others for an almost structured amount of screen time. Each one of them, also of note, plays a character which is out of form of their other, perhaps more famous roles. Christian Bale is NOT batman, Jennifer Lawrence is neither Mystique or Katniss Eberdeen, Amy Adams not the chick-flick wide-eyed character, Bradley Cooper is NOT mike from the Hangoever and Jeremy Renner is NOT bourne 2.0 or Hawkeye. In fact, the open fronted Adams is deliciously different from anything else shes done and the slutty, white trash Lawrence is gloriously surprisingly coarse. This wonderfully shows the scope of actors these days, showing that despite being classed as Hollywood-elite pretty boys/girls, they can drop their pretence and be ACTORS. Christian Bale’s diabolical wig is an example.
Its fortunate then, that the actors drive the film, because the plot is a bit rubbish, unfortunately. Now, i say this as a fan of the British TV program “Hustle”. And the plot of this film is pretty much an episode of this show, on the big screen. And that, i’m afraid, nullifies most of the threat hinted to in the story. But theres always that niggling thought that they’ve planned ahead. And i wasn’t wrong.
Still; a fantastic watch. If even just for shallow reasons (Amy Adams’ dresses).