Friday, March 7, 2014

Movie Review ... Non-Stop

 

nonstop-posterThe more he’s aged the busier actor Liam Neeson has become.  His distinguished features have elevated several recent ordinary productions.  Liam’s presence has enabled them to paper over cracks of implausibility and mediocrity.  ‘Non-Stop’ effectively utilises his skills for its stock-standard heroics.  Full of his previous high-octane explosive action, it should satisfy fans of Neeson’s recently established action-man persona.

U.S. federal air marshal Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) ensures plane passengers have safe journeys.  Patrolling the skies with steely conviction, his abilities soon become tested.  A series of threatening messages received while on a long-haul flight worry him.  Stating passengers will be killed if some financial demands aren’t met, Marks quickly springs to action.  Unearthing clues to the culprits, his own life is endangered when deadly villains use any lethal force necessary to obtain their prize.

‘Non-Stop’ is one of those films daring you to criticise it.  Ridiculous, corny and predictable it’s also lots of fun.  A cross between a ‘Die Hard’ film and Agatha Christie, the whodunit action yarn works.  Chiefly due to Neeson’s dependable performance he makes sillier moments appear vaguely believable.  You can tell he’s enjoying himself as his character grapples with his sanity as suspicion falls on him.  How his paranoia becomes a potent enemy adds a layer to the wafer-thin script.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra displays an excellent sense of dramatic rhythm.  Effectively maintaining momentum ensures the action and drama seamlessly blends.  There are few flat spots with the screenplay remembering to craft characters to care about.  The action sequences are staged with suitably explosive flair with the unfolding mystery providing a genuine puzzle for audiences to solve. 

You know exactly what to expect with ‘Non-Stop’ and it delivers.  A diverting and entertaining slice of outrageous mile-high skirmishes skilfully adds another memorable work amongst Neeson’s increasingly hectic career.

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Movie Review Rating out of 10:  7

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Movie Review ... 300: Rise Of An Empire

 

300-rise-of-an-empire-poster1‘300: Rise of An Empire’ is a good example of cinematic exploitation.  With TV shows such as ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Spartacus’ returning the ‘sword and sandal’ genre back in vogue, it’s understandable Hollywood would cash in.  A sequel to 2007’s ‘300’ further embellishes the savagery and bloody conquests in which its protagonists indulge.  It ensures viewing the looming battles are never dull with the muscled and well-toned heroes and villains seizing the chance for enduring glory.

Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) is a skilled Greek general in 480 BC.  Willing to fight to the death for his country a deadly conflict arises.  Evil Queen Artemisia (Eva Green) and King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) lead the Persian invasion of Greece. Themistocles readies himself for war.  Facing an epic battle, he ensures his troops are ready to honour their country with a mighty fury their enemies have never seen.

‘300: Rise of An Empire’ isn’t the type of movie seen for its acting.  It’s a purely visual experience with the aim ensuring that viewers are put in the heart of battle spectacularly realised.  Every bruising, grisly fight is shown successfully conveying the adrenaline-charged zeal in the character’s quest for dominance.  Thankfully there’s a story to be found amongst the fights ensuring it doesn’t become a parade of endless battle sequences.  Historical fact is mixed well with the fiction maintaining interest until the next display of savagery.

Amongst the scenes of carnage, the performers are given a chance to act.  Stapleton makes for a stoic hero refusing to surrender.  He manages to make his role better than expected with Green gleefully chewing the scenery with her wicked maven.  The rest of the cast are generally nondescript although some manage to overcome the weight of their biceps and deliver strong back-up.  The other star is the amazing CGI highlighting the agony and the ecstasy of the world in which the characters live.

A solid action/historical epic ‘300: Rise of An Empire’ delivers on its potential.  It serves its genre well ensuring it will survive decades after its virtuous heroes have faded from view.

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Movie Review Rating out of 10:  7

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Movie Review ... Pompeii

 

hr_Pompeii_6In the 1970’s the ‘disaster movie’ genre was hugely popular.  Usually overseen by famed Producer Irwin Allen, it spawned a cavalcade of drama amidst a litany of natural atrocities.  Seeing death and destruction seemed to be popular with the genre never really fading.  ‘Pompeii’ is the latest to use this formula.  Adding a dash of the biblical epics from the 1950’s, it’s an enormous film in scope.  Whilst hardly original it succeeds in emulating the epic feel of its forebears as the death toll mounts.

In 62 AD, the life of slave Milo (Kit Harington) changes.  Seeing his mother murdered by evil Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland), he vows vengeance.  Growing to become a mighty gladiator Milo catches the eye of Cassia (Emily Browning) the daughter of Pompeii’s ruler Severus (Jared Harris).  Initially a pawn in Milo’s plan of revenge, Cassia is just as strong-willed as her new acquaintance.  Amidst this vengeful quest, Pompeii’s volcano threatens to erupt as forcefully as Milo’s percolating fury.

Although superficially exciting ‘Pompeii’ has little under its surface.  Overseen by the director of the ‘Resident Evil’ series, Paul W S Anderson, it’s hardly subtle.  The plot doesn’t amount to much given it’s merely a conduit for the admittedly eye-popping CGI and excellent action sequences.  These reveal Anderson’s visual flair with his imagination ensuring ‘Pompeii’ remains consistently watchable.

Apart from the spectacular images ‘Pompeii’ doesn’t amount to much.  The dialogue is laughable, characterisation is minimal and the acting uniformly dire.  It’s difficult taking things seriously when every Roman speaks in clear American accents.  Harington’s chiselled frame looks suitably gladiatorial despite his lifeless performance.  His co-stars ham it up for all its worth as they gently mock the cartoonish script.

‘Pompeii’ is a very silly popcorn flick requiring little thought.  By the time the volcano erupts it glides on auto-pilot with the facsimile of disaster epics failing to make one care about the fiery fate awaiting them.

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Movie Review Rating out of 10:  3

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Movie Review ... Need For Speed

 

Need-for-Speed._posterThe success of the ‘Fast and the Furious’ franchise spawned a host of imitators.  Using the template of fast cars, hot chicks and stoic men, many have attempted to grab a slice of the profitable pie.  ‘Need for Speed’ does its best to take a share.  Full of the elements needed to appeal to the male-skewering audience, it’s a full throttle ride devoted rev-heads should enjoy.

Framed for a crime he didn’t commit, street racer Tobey (Aaron Paul) determines to get even.  Released from prison he has powerful car entrepreneur Dino (Dominic Cooper) in his sights.  Aided by mysterious car dealer Julia (Imogen Poots), Tobey’s mission becomes more perilous.  With danger at every turn his vengeful odyssey knows no limits as he speeds towards a fateful climax.

‘Need for Speed’ can best be described as a ‘thought-free’ movie.  Requiring little use of brain cells, it’s an outrageous romp.  It has a bit of romance, danger and lots of car chases.  Unfortunately there are too many thrills and spills leading one to suspect they were used for padding.  What plot there is focuses on the basic good vs. evil concept as Tobey and Dino battle it out on the streets.  These scenes are very well realised and naturally provide the most interest in a generally forgettable film.

Paul equips himself well as the raspy-voiced hero with Cooper having the most fun as the hiss-able villain.  Director Scott Waugh shows some style during the car sequences with plenty of bangs for anyone’s bucks.  He keeps the mood light as ‘Need for Speed’ doesn’t take things too seriously.  His comic-book story-telling approach works given this is based on a popular console game.  It succeeds in becoming much better than most game-to-screen adaptations even if it goes on far longer than it should.

‘Need for Speed’ is total fluff still managing to entertain.  Its budget is well spent despite its predictability as it clocks more mileage along cinema’s long highway. 

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Movie Review Rating out of 10:  6

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Movie Review ... 3 Days To Kill

 

3-Days-to-Kill-Movie-PosterThe last decade has seen the emergence of the Euro-action genre.  Many have been made with an easy to spot formula.  Take a seemingly ordinary family-man, place his loved ones in peril and see them partake in shoot-outs amongst busy European streets.  Add to this mix an ageing Hollywood star and you have the picture.  ‘3 Days to Kill’ follows the formula to the letter.  Whilst totally unoriginal, it has a solid lead in Kevin Costner who brings his usual conviction as a character increasingly trapped within a foreign clime.

Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) is a CIA agent wanting to retire.  Estranged from his wife and daughter, he aims to re-establish himself into their lives.  Travelling to their home in Paris, he meets a frosty reception.  Working hard at building bridges, his task is made more difficult when fellow agent Vivi (Amber Heard) appears.  Informing him an international terrorist he has been after is in town, the temptation to track him down proves hard to resist.  Balancing deadly spy games and family dramas, Ethan has his work cut out keeping his head above water.

Directed by ‘Charlies Angels’ helmer McG, ‘3 Days to Kill’ features his usual stylish flourishes.  Adept at staging dazzling action sequences that become highlights.  Thankfully these don’t overshadow Renner’s efforts at re-uniting his fractured family.  This provides a lot of the light drama and high comedy which is mostly blended well with the stunts.  McG tends to meander at times with ‘3 Days to Kill’s run-time a bit too long. 

Making ‘3 Days to Kill’ a treat is Costner’s performance.  Playing a world-weary agent attempting to adapt to a normal life, he clearly relishes his character-driven role.  Often accused of being a lazy actor Costner makes up for it with some surprising comedic talent shown.  The Parisian scenery is well utilised as it adds an exotic touch to an otherwise formulaic movie.

‘3 Days to Kill’ breathes some new energy to the blooming Euro-action scene.  Displaying a good mix of humour and action it’s worth checking out with the French scenery adding much to its entertainment value.

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Movie Review Rating out of 10:  7

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Movie Review ... Convict

 

convict posterPrison-set stories have always managed to compel.  The mix of personalities confined in small spaces has provided a multitude of edgy dramas.  TV shows such as ‘Oz’ and ‘Prisoner’ used this setting to hugely popular effect.  The latest film from ‘Chopper’ director David Field, ‘Convict’ attempts to weave an engrossing narrative.  Despite milking the concept to its fullest, the execution falters with the much desired captivating quality seemingly sent to solitary confinement.

Responsible for an accidental death, Ray (George Basha) faces a tough test.  Being a soldier recently returned from a Middle Eastern tour of duty, his skills only provide scant use inside prison.  Striking a friendship with Aboriginal man David (Richard Green) his days become a daily battle for survival.  This is especially true when dealing with corrupt prison officers and inmates.  Ray soon develops a tougher skin in order to confront the harsh realities of a decayed system.

‘Convict’ creates frustrating viewing.  Whilst the central idea is sound and offers interesting moments, it fails to hold attention.  Due to some poor direction and amateurish acting, the myriad of themes become swamped by creative lethargy.  There’s no effort in providing something different from other prison-based films as it becomes a ‘greatest hits’ of genre clich├ęs.  The story follows a very predictable path with a conclusion too neatly tied together.

Richard Green as Ray’s friend is the stand-out of the ensemble.  He is one of the few to truly inhabit his character rather than acting out scenes with little emotion.  The clumsily handled fight scenes aren’t much help as they dilute any tension and ruin the atmospheric grittiness for which ‘Convict’ obviously strives.  In spite of many flaws, ‘Convict’ shows some potential with the producer’s next movie hopefully graced with a better script and performers.

Those wanting their fix of enthralling prison-based drama may be disappointed with ‘Convict’.  Devoid of much artistic flair or authenticity, it appears TV still has the market cornered in making jail-time look truly tortuous.

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Movie Review Rating out of 10:  6

Movie Review by Patrick Moore

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