Saturday, February 28, 2015

Movie Review ... The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

 

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel poster“If you’re onto a good thing you stick with it” is a mantra that has served cinema well in the last few years.  ‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ differentiates itself by being the first sequel catering to older audiences.  Boasting a cache of elderly performers, their experience effectively serves the creaky plot.  Although predictable, it is still fun with the actors having a grand time amidst India’s lush vistas.

Evelyn (Judi Dench), Muriel (Maggie Smith) and Douglas (Bill Nighy) are enjoying their Indian stay.  Still residing in their favourite hotel, its popularity leads co-owner Sonny (Dev Patel) opening another one.  Whilst planning the new venture, he is also preparing to get married.  The arrival of Guy (Richard Gere) throws a spanner in the works as the various dilemmas of the hotel’s tenants quickly becomes entwined.

With so many characters ‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ could have been a mess.  Whilst occasionally the burden of multiple story arcs is apparent, Director John Madden skilfully handles this dilemma.  The generous run-time allows the script to breathe and add new wrinkles to the formula.  There is much that is familiar but the sequel doesn’t just re-hash its predecessor.  Fans should enjoy the new additions as they effortlessly slot themselves into the bohemian entanglements.

Not much can be said for the performances given the high calibre cast.  They all slip into their roles with ease successfully managing to balance the humour and pathos.  Each has their own distinct personality with their quirks adding to the overall joviality.  The Indian locations are superb as always.  Basically an extended advert for this amazing country, viewers may find the temptation to travel there hard to resist. 

‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ definitely isn’t second best.  Although conventionally corny, fans wouldn’t have expected any less.  It is an enjoyable romp to while away the hours in the company of some eccentric and unique ageing rebels.

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Movie Review Rating out of 10:  7

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Movie Review ... Project Almanac

 

Project Almanac poster‘Project Almanac’ explores time-travel, a concept used for decades in all forms of entertainment.  ‘Doctor Who’ is a classic example of using it as a basis for spectacular TV stories.  Like others, it asks whether viewers want to travel in time or to actually change it.  These tales usually have a moral message to be careful in altering anything.  This is an ideal the characters in ‘Project Almanac’ learn as they confront the ‘butterfly effect’ in messing with established time-lines.

A group of friends, including David (Jonny Weston) and Jessie (Sofia Black D’Elia), find plans for a time machine.  Eager to test their new discovery, they put their technological knowledge to good use.  Successfully using the machine to correct past errors, they become enraptured by possibilities.  Eventually exploiting time-travel for personal needs, they learn the cost this brings.  Desperate to right their recent wrongs, the gang struggles to re-set history’s course before time catches up with them.

‘Project Almanac’ is a reasonably diverting sci-fi yarn.  Overlooking the many plot holes turns the story into a fun ride in the time vortex.  How all deal with the consequences of their actions is interesting and well played by the decent cast.  Jonny Weston as David is particularly good in conveying the growing addiction his character has towards the machine.  Obsessed with correcting the time-line, his descent into near-madness ensures ‘Project Almanac’ is consistently watch-able.

Dean Israelite’s direction grapples with the story as best he can.  He would have been more successful had he reigned in overlong scenes and hidden the more illogical aspects of the concept.  Pedantic viewers may have a field day spotting inconsistencies although for this type of film ‘Project Almanac’ is more entertaining than most.  As a ‘found footage’ movie, it’s a complete failure with this visual trick detracting from the drama.  The story doesn’t lend itself to the format, although the cast do their best to overcome this obstacle.

Better than expected, ‘Project Almanac’ is worthy viewing.  No new ground is broken although time will be kinder to this film than to ‘Project Almanac’s’ wayward characters.

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Movie Review Rating out of 10:  6

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Movie Review ... Jupiter Ascending

 

Jupiter Ascending posterSince the Matrix trilogy ended, the Wachowski directorial siblings have struck out.  Subsequent outings ‘Speed Racer’ and ‘Cloud Atlas’ became costly flops. Their latest ‘Jupiter Ascending’ will do nothing to arrest their box office curse.  Although displaying creative imagination for which they are renowned, the sci-fi epic quickly falls apart under the weight of endless exposition.

Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) ekes out a living as a cleaner.  She meets Caine (Channing Tatum), a warrior tasked to protect her.  Whilst explaining Jupiter’s destiny, Caine reveals she is an evolved alien of royal nobility and is in line to be earth’s ruler.  Aggrieved is her brother Balem (Eddie Redmayne) who wants Earth for himself.  Determined to destroy any interlopers, Balem schemes to eradicate Jupiter from existence, with only Caine’s lethal skills ready to protect her.

‘Jupiter Ascending’ is a poorly written and acted film on a grand scale.  Whilst action scenes and CGI are incredible, none of it matters due to a bad script.  Chief amongst its flaws is the failure to successfully establish its alien universe.  Characters appear without explanation of their function to the story with Jupiter’s role in the cosmic puzzle never clearly defined.  It doesn’t help that her character is reduced to a helpless screamer making her claims to nobility laughable.

Kunis’ performance as Jupiter is as equally appalling as her co-stars.  Saddled with an unfocussed story, the actors follow suit by never fully realising their character’s potential.  The Wachowski’s appear so enraptured with the dazzling CGI they forgot about telling a gripping tale.  It all looks very pretty with plenty of gadgets confirming ideas for a toy-line must have passed the Wachowski’s gaze. 

A disappointing effort ‘Jupiter Ascending’ quickly goes nowhere.  The Wachowski’s can and have done better.  Hopefully they can re-discover their story-telling mojo matching their visual flair for space-age pyrotechnics.

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Movie Review Rating out of 10:  3

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Movie Review ... Kingsman: The Secret Service

 

Kingsman The Secret Service 98When James Bond first turned towards the gun-barrel in 1962’s ‘Dr.No’, a cinematic industry was born.  Spawning mega-fortunes for most concerned, the franchise has lasted decades.  No surprise many have tried to emulate its’ success.  Some have succeeded, others have failed.  Based on a comic book ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ liberally takes cue from 007’s adventures.  Smart, clever and resolutely stylish, it is a beguiling wink to Ian Fleming’s enduring creation.

Harry Hart (Colin Firth) is part of a top secret spy organisation.  Tasked with recruiting suitable candidates, he meets Gary (Taron Egerton).  A tough street kid, Gary’s roughish demeanour hides a calculating mind.  Seeing much potential, Harry begins training his new apprentice.  This can’t come soon enough when evil billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L Jackson) threatens the world order.  Quickly learning the ways of espionage, Gary sets his sights in becoming an agent worthy of valour.

Having directed the first ‘Kick-Ass’ and ‘X-Men: First Class’, Matthew Vaughn is an expert at comic-book movies.  ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ cements his fine reputation.  Fully embracing the outlandish story’s possibilities, he revels in the absurd situations and crisply written dialogue.  There’s a confident swagger about the script without being too clever.  He is ably assisted by the actors who throw themselves into this outrageous scenario with gusto.

‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ doesn’t take itself too seriously and nor does it attempt to be a ‘worthy film’. It is a straight-up thrill ride of brilliantly staged action scenes with easily identifiable characters.  The cinematography is a major plus with each scene shown in broad comic-book strokes full of colourful vitality.  Fans of Bond, Bourne and other spies will receive a kick out of the small nods to other thriller films while it delivers its own brand of secret agent hijinks.

After a slew of similar genre films not cutting the mustard, ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ delivers the goods.  Fun, vibrant and exciting, hopefully others will take a leaf out of its book by remembering to add some lush colours to the usual formula.

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Movie Review Rating out of 10:  9

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Movie Review ... Selma

 

Selma posterSometimes one person can make a difference.  Galvanising others to help right injustices, a lone voice can become an oasis in a desolate wilderness.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr. was unafraid in making himself heard.  Charting a turning point in American history, ‘Selma’ displays much of the fiery passion driving King in attempting equality for all.

Tired of the endless racial discrimination against American Blacks in 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr. (David Oyelowo) takes a stand.  Determined to achieve equal voting rights, he gathered like-minded groups to make their thoughts heard.  Marching from the township of Selma to Montgomery, King, with the support of wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo), wanted to create history.  Against violent opposition, the price of victory would mark a milestone in American society.

‘Selma’ is a fascinating examination of recent history.  Fighting against racism and apathy, King had major hurdles to overcome.  His dealings with President Lyndon Johnson, effectively played by Tom Wilkinson, show that smart political brinkmanship was crucial.  Negotiating with various factions with their own ideas on handling situations, King’s efforts are all the more remarkable.  Oyelowo perfectly embodies King’s sense of justice and magnetic charisma. 

The strong script is anchored by Oyelowo’s performance.  Wisely keeping the obligatory ‘preaching from the pulpit’ scenes to a minimum, it instead concentrates on King’s fellow activists and home-life.  Refusing to shy away from some of his less than noble personal traits, the story doesn’t portray him as a religious deity. Instead it shows his inspirational leadership to followers desperate to eradicate a dreadful situation.  The disgraceful attitude of decision makers of the time beggars belief making one amazed these events only occurred half a century ago.

Gripping and powerful, ‘Selma’ tells a remarkable true tale.  One could only imagine what King would have thought of the current American President.  No doubt he would be pleased his efforts indeed made a difference providing the opportunity to reach potential all deserved.

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Movie Review Rating out of 10:  8

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Movie Review ... What We Did On Our Holiday

 

What We Did On Our Holiday posterThe best stories usually revolve around families.  Whether literal or groups of close friends, the familial unit allows all types of tales and reactions to surface.  ‘What We Did on Our Holiday’ is a satisfactory addition to the formula.  A light drama full of genuine pathos and solid performances, it shows that blood ties can affect generations.

Travelling with their three children to the Scottish Highlands estranged couple Doug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) look forward to a break.  Arriving to visit Doug’s father Gordie (Billy Connolly) for his birthday, the family are eager to celebrate.  Other plans quickly de-rail the festivities.  Secrets surface and loyalties tested as everyone realises how fluid familial bonds can be.

‘What We Did on Our Holiday’ is a breezy affair imparting few messages.  Exploring how lies constrict people from communicating and the damage caused, it is interesting how each generation deals with conflict.  The children in particular are free of the burden of the frustrated dreams of their parents with the adults indulging in worse mis-behaviour.  Forced to examine their parenting, Doug and Abi have to find a way to re-establish parental boundaries in order to protect their family.

The fine ensemble creates a believable group of odd characters.  Their emotions can be seen in any large family trying to work together in maintaining personal connections.  Their quirky natures mirror the sly comedy even if the direction occasionally skims over the edge of sentimentality.  It is careful never to cross into silliness with various situations grounded in some form of reality.  The Scottish locations add to the emotional remoteness all feel. 

‘What We Did on Our Holiday’ isn’t perfect but it successfully raises a few laughs.  Full of charm with genuine poignancy, it plays to the actor’s strengths and underscores the old saying ‘you can choose your friends but never your family’.

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Movie Review Rating out of 10:  6

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Movie Review ... Fifty Shades Of Grey

 

Fifty Shades Of Grey posterLike the ‘Da Vinci Code’, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ became a publishing event.  Gaining infamy for its title alone, author E.L. James must be delighted to see it rack in dollars.  That doesn’t mean it was any good with the bestseller lists masking a poorly written tome.  Success breeds spin-offs despite poor quality which is something Hollywood knows.  Determined to capture a slice of commercial literary erotica, the film version adheres to its contrivances in cynical detail.

Ana (Dakota Johnson) is a literature student sent to interview wealthy businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan).  Enraptured by his charms, she falls under his spell.  Equally beguiled, Grey aims to control her affections.  Beginning a passionate affair, their sexual predilections know no bounds.  Discovering the man beneath the Armani suit, Ana’s life is altered in unimaginable ways.

Despite a reputation for saucy sexcapades rivalling Caligula, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is much ado about nothing.  The over-hyped sex scenes have been toned down for commercial consumption with Sam Taylor-Johnson’s direction only providing sketchy character portraits.  Ana and Christian are such uninteresting people with little charisma their sexual chemistry is virtually non-existent.  It doesn’t help that Dornan and Johnson’s wooden performances fail to bring life to the sexy shenanigans.

Whilst the idea of someone using unromantic sex to wield more power is intriguing, the script’s misogynist tone is hard to take.  ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ pretends feminism never happened with its antiquated attitudes undermining what’s left of Ana’s dignity.  The auto-tuned music adds to the screenplay’s predictability in spite of gorgeously shot locations.  Saddled with an unconvincing relationship and un-erotic couplings, any gains made quickly vanish under the weight of the film’s overly-earnest demeanour.

Due to a loyal fanbase and high advance ticket sales ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ will be a huge hit.  Sequels, already in the works, ensure the phenomenon will continue.  Non-fans may wonder what the fuss is about with the end product proving to be resoundingly anticlimactic.

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Movie Review Rating out of 10:  3

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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BOOKS

Monday, February 9, 2015

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Just For Fun 08 February

 

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A Gwen Verdon Moment

 

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Trivia Bits 08 February

 

Sir Don Bradman

Sir Don Bradman (pictured) often referred to as "The Don", was an Australian cricketer, widely acknowledged as the greatest Test batsman of all time was born on 27 August 1908 at Cootamundra, New South Wales.

The 1814 novel Mansfield Park was written by Jane Austen at Chawton Cottage, East Hampshire district of Hampshire, England, between February 1811 and 1813 and was published in May 1814 by bookseller and publisher Thomas Egerton.

About 1708 Johann Sebastian Bach composed the cantata Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir (From the depths I call, Lord, to thee), BWV 131, as a young organist at Mühlhausen's Divi Blasii church in Thuringia, Germany.

India is home to the world's largest population of tigers in the wild and according to the World Wildlife Fund, of the 3,500 tigers around the world, 1,400 are found in India.

English musician Ian Kilmister is better known as Lemmy and is best known as the lead vocalist, bassist, principal songwriter and the founding and sole constant member of the heavy metal band Motörhead as well as a former member of Hawkwind.

American film director, producer and screenwriter Chris Columbus is known for the debut of the Harry Potter movie franchise directing the first two films in that franchise and produced the third in the series of eight.

Released on May 24, 2005 Pon de Replay was the debut single recorded by Barbadian recording artist Rihanna, from her debut studio album Music of the Sun (2005).

By the Italian Renaissance artist Pisanello, the medal of the Byzantine emperor John VIII Palaeologus was the first Renaissance portrait medal and was likely to have been made some time between 1438 and1439 when John visited Italy to attend the Council of Ferrara with the aim of uniting the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches.

Probably derived from the Latin word caeruleus, "dark blue, blue or blue-green", Cerulean is a shade of the colour blue with the first recorded use of cerulean as a colour name in English was in 1590.

English poet, literary critic and philosopher Samuel Coleridge Taylor wrote the poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner written in 1797–98 and published in 1798 in the first edition of Lyrical Ballads.

American author and journalist Ernest Hemingway worked as an ambulance driver in World War I at the Italian war front.

Quotables 08 February

 

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Just For Fun 07 February

 

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A Guy Williams Moment

 

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Trivia Bits 07 February

 

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The cello is not the largest instrument in the string section of an orchestra – the double bass (pictured) is!

The main ingredients of popular dessert crème caramel are sugar, milk, cream and eggs.

Snowy (French: Milou) is a fictional character in The Adventures of Tintin, the comics series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé and is a white wire fox terrier who is a companion to Tintin, the series' protagonist. Snowy is a central character in all Tintin stories and debuted on 10 January 1929.

The real first name of the children’s character Doc McStuffens, a 2012 animated pre-school children's television series of the same name, is Dottie.

Directed by Harry Watt Target for Tonight was a 1941 documentary filmed, acted, and written by the Royal Air Force all while under fire and went on to win an honorary Academy Award in 1942.

The 1993 novel The Virgin Suicides, the debut novel by American writer Jeffrey Eugenides, features Lux, Therese, Mary, Bonnie and Cecilia Lisbon who are the daughters in a Catholic family living in Grosse Pointe, Michigan in the 1970s.

The ancient remains found in Lake Mungo were discovered in the 1969 - 1974 in the Australian state of New South Wales specifically the World Heritage listed Willandra Lakes Region.

For portraying both Rama and Sita in the 1917 silent film Lanka Dahan, Anna Hari Salunke is credited with playing the first double role in Indian cinema with Anna being an Indian actor who performed female roles in early Indian cinema and also a cinematographer.

The 2012 American television police procedural series starring Mary McDonnell Major Crimes is a spin-off of the 2005 TV series The Closer starring Kyra Sedgwick as Brenda Leigh Johnson, a Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief who has a reputation as a Closer — an interrogator who not only solves a case, but obtains confessions that lead to convictions.

With nearly 9.5 million active reserve and paramilitary personnel, North Korea reportedly has the largest military organisation.

Quotables 07 February

 

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Movie Review ... Foxcatcher

 

Foxcatcher posterActors known for comedic roles and turning to dramatic is nothing new.  Robin Williams, Jim Carrey and Bill Murray successfully moved between genres.  Whilst initially strange, the line between comedy and drama isn’t as huge as one would think.  Those well versed in comedy usually are able to embody some drama in any situation.  This is why Steve Carrell is so good in ‘Foxcatcher’.  Already garnering praise, it provides him with a career-best performance in a very engaging film.

Dave (Mark Ruffalo) and Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) are Olympic medal winning wrestlers.  Seeking sponsorship to train for the 1988 Olympics, wealthy heir John du Pont (Steve Carrell) comes to their aid.  Desperate to achieve respectability, du Pont allows the brothers to train at his estate ‘Foxcatcher’.  Increasingly moving under his control, the brothers discover a darker side to du Pont’s suave demeanour.  The trio’s lives take unexpected and deadly turns.

It would be remiss to say ‘Foxcatcher’ belongs to Steve Carrell.  Whilst he is amazing in his role, Ruffalo and Tatum provide equally fine performances.  All fully embody their characters with Dave’s calm disposition and Mark’s head-strong nature affecting du Pont’s viewpoints.  A strange, sad, pathetic sociopath, du Pont’s embracing of the Schultz’s brother’s ambitions is often eerie.  Through them du Pont validates his sense of worth as, despite his immense inherited wealth, his existence hasn’t amounted to much.

Director Bennett Miller wisely underplays the intense script by discarding the temptation to use melodramatic music to highlight the drama.  Instead he allows the personal relationships slowly to percolate into a crescendo of taut anxiety.  The cinematography effectively serves his bleak vision with the differing weather seasons mirroring the change in mood between characters. 

‘Foxcatcher’ marks Carrell’s entry into more serious roles. Hopefully he’ll continue in his popular comedic ones as well. In the meantime ‘Foxcatcher’ gives notice of another dramatic talent giving a fine performance in a consistently gripping true-life tale.

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Rating out of 10:  7

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Movie Review ... The Gambler

 

The Gambler posterGambling is one of the oldest forms of recreation.  Taking chances on a flip of a card, the gambler hopes to win big.  Money’s allure can become a dangerous addiction with the thirst for gaining dollars all consuming.  ‘The Gambler’ looks at how a man’s quest for cash becomes his undoing.  Exploring a dangerously dark world, it offers lessons in endlessly satisfying one’s cravings.

English professor Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) loves to gamble.  Desperate to satisfy his desire for the luck of the dice, he goes to any length to fulfil needs.  Borrowing money from various gangsters including Frank (John Goodman), he quickly is out of his depth.  Desperate to find a way out, Bennett hatches an audacious plan to escape the clutches of those trading in filthy lucre.

Like the spin of a roulette wheel, ‘The Gambler’ comes with mixed odds.  Neither fish nor fowl, it stumbles due to a muddled screenplay.  You are never sure of the reason for Jim’s behaviour and his tendency for self-destruction is unexplained.  Scenes with his mother Roberta, played by the always wonderful Jessica Lange, only provide vague clues.  As Jim has little redeeming features, ‘The Gambler’ is somewhat of a chore to watch.

In spite of these drawbacks and fine performances, Rupert Wyatt’s direction conjures some interest.  How various gangs use Jim as a bargaining tool in turf wars is fascinating with the tension of Jim’s situation keenly felt.  Unfortunately ‘The Gambler’ spends too much time on irrelevant character moments. Making for an unfocussed narrative, the themes ‘The Gambler’ pushes become frustratingly smothered.

‘The Gambler’ is still worth watching even if it isn’t as good as it should have been.  The gambling world isn’t made to look any better either with ‘The Gambler’ deftly providing a warning to not over-indulge in taking lucky chances.

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Rating out of 10:  6

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Movie Review ... Mortdecai

 

mortdecai-poster-1There is nothing worse than seeing a comedy struggling for laughs.  Desperately pulling gags out of thin air is painful to watch and is something which ‘Mortdecai’ does much.  Despite an all-star cast and high production values, this mish-mash of ‘Pink Panther’/’Austin Powers’ slapstick quickly falls apart.  Although comedy can be subjective, some mirth is needed for viewers to appreciate.  ‘Mortdecai’ has few and quickly plunges over a comedic cliff with little chance of revival.

Charles Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) is an impish British cad of the highest order.  Art dealer and con-man, his latest mission finds him searching for a lost painting.  Having the location to a horde of Nazi gold, the portrait is something Mortdecai must find.  Unfortunately the Russian mafia, MI5 and his interfering wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow) are just as eager. Juggling these distractions, Mortdecai goes to great lengths to obtain his cherished prize.

‘Mortdecai’s’ biggest weakness is the central character.  A direct clone of ‘Pink Panther’s Inspector Clouseau, Mortdecai quickly becomes irritating.  The stiff-upper lip ‘jolly good show’ caricature Depp relies upon swiftly becomes tiresome.  In small doses it is bearable but extended over movie-length it fails to service a jumbled plot.  Depp and cast wildly over-play their roles with nothing for the scatter-shot humour to grab onto. 

Often the screenplay runs away from the performers.  Despite amusing moments, director David Koepp fails to keep the struggling story under control.  It isn’t any wonder the cast ham it up for all its worth.  Despite many faults, ‘Mortdecai’ has a great visual style with flair gone into establishing the world-wide hunt for the painting.  This gives the movie some much needed scale even if the often bawdy humour derives from the vaults of antiquity.

Although there have been far worse films than ‘Mortdecai’, it still doesn’t make it any good.  Lumbered with a confused, rambling story-line and over the top acting, it is a mis-fire that all involved should avoid if they want future careers.

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Movie Review Rating out of 10:  3

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Postscript

 

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