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Just before settling down to watch this film again I decided to read up on the legend that was Leslie Nielsen, and it was only then that I learnt that the King of Deadpan was legally deaf, and wore a hearing aid for most of his life. I found this baffling. Nielsen has the kind of comic timing that mere mortals can only dream of, yet he managed this throughout his film and TV career while barely being able to hear what his co-stars were saying. 'Legend' is a word that has lost much of its meaning through overuse these days, but I think it's fair to say that Leslie Nielsen is a legend of comedy.
The Naked Gun is a classic Nielsen film, and arguably the one that he's best known for, despite coming along after Airplane. It's easy to see why this film has become a classic. There are very few comedies in the same vein as The Naked Gun that do it quite as well. The jokes come relentlessly throughout the movie, and they rarely miss the mark, with Nielsen's infamous timing and delivery an absolute joy to watch. Tenuous innuendo and simple puns become comedy gold when they leave his lips, and no matter how silly the jokes may be ("nice beaver"), you will find yourself guffawing like an idiot for the full duration.
It may not be Citizen Kane in terms of quality, but it doesn't need to be. In fact, most of the charm of the film comes from the satirised Film Noir techniques and hilarious overacting from the likes of O.J. Simpson. The script varies wildly between slapstick silliness and painfully witty jokes, which may feel irregular in any other film, but somehow feels quite apt here. The Naked Gun had been finding its place in 'funniest films' lists ever since its release, and I have a feeling it will keep on doing so for many years to come.
Michael Shannon is an actor who seems to constantly be 'the next big thing', yet never quite makes it as a household name. And, I have no idea why. He's a fantastic actor who has the ability to steal every scene he's in, has carried big roles in Man of Steel and hit TV series Boardwalk Empire, but somehow most people I speak to have never heard of him. I have heard it said that he has been avoided because he's not classically handsome and doesn't look and sound like Clark Gable, although I hope that's not the case. I still maintain that Shannon will get the big starring roles and become a huge talent in Hollywood, but I find it worrying that he hasn't already.
The Iceman is based on the true story of Richard Kuklinski. Nicknamed 'The Iceman' due to his ice cold, emotionless exterior, Kuklinski was a notorious contract killer who killed between 100 and 200 people throughout his nefarious career, and managed to commit these crimes without his wife and daughters ever suspecting a thing. As you may have guessed from my previous exaltation, Shannon was absolutely fantastic as the titular hitman. At 6'5″ and over twenty-one stone, Kuklinski was an absolute giant of a man - definitely not someone you would want to meet in a dark alley at night, as many unfortunate victims discovered. Now while Shannon is 6'3″, so he isn't exactly in a Tom-Cruise-as-Jack-Reacher situation, he is still a way off the stature of the character he's playing. Without prosthetics and camera trickery it is nigh impossible to make yourself look physically bigger than you are. However, Shannon pulls it off. His cold stare and intimidating demeanour cut a terrifyingly imposing figure when needed, and you truly believe that he is capable of the heinous acts he commits. In one scene he will be a gentle and loving family man, and in the next he will be ruthlessly killing a man with his bare hands.
The dynamic star is fascinating to watch and even draws the attention away from some much better known faces, with the likes of Ray Liotta, Chris Evans, Winona Ryder and David Schwimmer making appearances. The Iceman has the star talent, it has an incredibly interesting plot; it appears to have all the right ingredients for a modern classic, but the completed film is not nearly as good as the sum of its parts. It never quite gets the balance of the plot right. It focuses too much on the family life and murders of Kuklinski, while skimming over the more intricate details of his criminal life. It is these missed details that might paint a more complete picture for the audience. However, that is not to say that the film is a failure. The film is enjoyable and exciting, the plot is interesting enough to keep you gripped, and Shannon's performance alone is worth your time. It's just a shame that it's not as good as it could have been. As a side note, if you plan on reading more about Kuklinski after The Iceman, as I did, then don't expect to find the character to be as nice as he seems in the film. He may be painted in a bit of a sympathetic light, but Kuklinski really was a monster. I'll leave that for you to discover for yourself though.
As recently as ten years ago it would have been completely unheard of to make a mega-budget zombie blockbuster starring a Hollywood A-lister, and I'd wager that no studio would even have considered it if presented with a script. Zombie films used to be a bit of a niche category within the horror genre, albeit one with a ravenous cult following of fans, but it could never have been called mainstream. The point in which I believe we started to see a change was with the introduction of 28 Days Later, and the brilliant 'ZomRomCom' Shaun of the Dead, which both gained extraordinary popularity with budgets as low as £8m and £4m respectively. This new-found love for zombies was highlighted by the later successes of Zombieland and the hit TV series The Walking Dead. This brings us to 2013, where zombies had become the new vampires, and where a $190m undead blockbuster has been greenlit and unleashed in the form of World War Z. To put that massive figure into perspective, it is the joint 32nd most expensive film ever made, placing higher than The Dark Knight, and costing approximately 1,650 times more than Night of the Living Dead.
World War Z is loosely based (and I mean very loosely) on the book of the same name by Max Brooks. However, after rewrites that completely changed the script, Brooks has claimed that the only thing the two entities have in common is the title, and he has a point. The film plot bears no resemblance to that of the book, and the zombies do not follow many of the traits set out in the canon of the novel. This is not to say that it is a bad film. It is just not the film that the author envisioned when he sold the rights to Paramount.
The film focuses on former UN investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), who is tasked with the daunting challenge of travelling the world to find a possible weakness that could be exploited to prevent the undead plague from wiping out the remains of humanity. The globetrotting nature of the plot may actually be one of the strongest attributes of the film. This is because it lends a tremendous feeling of scale to the story; showing the devastation that has been caused across the world. It is a fresh change of pace from the standard zombie movie outline of 'find a secure building; try to hold out in secure building; secure building inevitably gets overrun', and the fact that there is a selfless ultimate goal other than survival allows for a greater presence of tension, thanks to the potential impact of the protagonist's failure.
The aspect of the film that stood out most for me, as a contrast to the majority of zombie films, was the speed of the afflicted undead. In the world of horror film fandom there are many 'zombie purists' who believe that the living dead should always walk, amble or lurch along on their decomposing limbs, and never run; these purists would froth at the mouth at the agility of the creatures in World War Z. The reanimated corpses are definitely not 'walkers', or even 'runners' ... they are the sprinting dead: a direct cross between the 'infected' from 28 Days Later and the velociraptors from Jurassic Park. They can clear one hundred metres in ten seconds flat, hurdle a car and then pounce 15 feet through the air to execute a precision tackle that would elicit a "clever girl" from even the most experienced hunter. While some may argue that faster predators equals a higher threat, therefore a scarier threat - I have to disagree. There is something innately unnerving about the jolting lurch of a traditional zombie that loses its effect when they sprint like athletes. In World War Z, the "Zekes", as they are referred to by the military, are at their most frightening when they are standing dormant with nothing to chase. It is only then that you can appreciate the grotesque twitching and spasming that the infection causes, and it is during one of these moments that the film delivers one of its only genuinely scary scenes.
When I first saw the trailer for '2 Guns', particularly the clip of the scene in the above poster, I instantly thought that this would be a Michael Bay film. Mainly because of the explosions, slow-mo and love-hate cop relationship, but also because of the inclusion of Mark Walhberg, who has recently appeared in Bay's 'Pain and Gain', and will soon appear in the next 'Transformers' instalment. It isn't Bay though. This is a film by Baltasar Kormákur, an Icelandic director whose work I have not come across before, but who has clearly taken some tips from the 'Baysplosion' style of film making.
The plot follows Bobby (Denzel Washington), a DEA agent, and Stig (Wahlberg), a naval intelligence officer, who are both working undercover in an attempt to infiltrate a drug cartel. However, their plan runs into trouble when it becomes clear that the two agents are unaware of each other's identities. Meanwhile, sinister orders from higher up label the men as fugitives from their own agencies, and force them to team up to stay alive. The plot is by far the weakest aspect of a film that is otherwise surprisingly entertaining and fun. It is convoluted enough to baffle some viewers, whilst lacking enough substance to get you fully immersed. Particularly as one character, whose fate hangs in the balance of the duo's success, is easily the most annoying and one-dimensional person in the film. Frankly, I didn't care if they lived or died.
Despite the poor plot, the dialogue is snappy and the adventure is explosive and exciting enough to earn the status of a passable action flick. However, there is one major detail that pushes this film beyond the mediocre and sometimes even threatens to make it brilliant, and that is the electrifying partnership of Washington and Wahlberg. The two leads are so much fun to watch that the film seems to fizzle to a standstill when they are off-screen. They bounce back and forth with zest, both offering attitude and charisma in huge quantities, whilst the delivery of their dialogue zips around like a pinball; hitting the right notes every time with pinpoint accuracy. These two have the kind of dynamic relationship that is reminiscent of much better known cult duos through cinema history - combining the brotherly zing of 'Bad Boys' and the mismatched anarchy of 'Lethal Weapon'. If only they were given a better platform.
In summary, the basic structure is okay, but Wahlberg and Washington are fantastic - resulting in an entertaining and exciting film that is great fun to watch. I sincerely hope we see the stars team up again in the future.
Before now I had only seen two films in 3D. By which I mean the modern resurgence of 3D, because I'm not counting the dinosaur documentaries I saw in various science museums as a young boy. First, I saw Avatar, the very film that made the advances to the technology and brought it back into society. I was not as impressed by 'Avatar' as a lot of people, I thought certain scenes looked good, but mostly I either didn't notice the extra dimension or thought it simply made certain focal points look like cardboard cutouts that were popping out of the screen. My next journey into the third dimension, several years down the line, was 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'. I did think that some improvements had been made when the camera was relatively static, such as in Bilbo's hobbit-hole during the opening scenes, but as soon as there was any action or movement I noticed a distracting blur. Once again, I would rather have seen the regular 2D version. So, it is clear that I am no advocate of the medium, and it was with some trepidation that I collected my Roy Orbison glasses and entered the cinema to watch 'Gravity'.
Now I can't tell you if it's down to improvements in technology, better utilised camera angles, or just the stark background of space that made this film look so good, but 'Gravity' looks absolutely astounding, and the 3D is jaw-droppingly effective. The Oscar-nominated film is simply stunning - it is quite possible one of the most visually impressive movies I have ever seen in the cinema. The vision of Earth from orbit is beautiful, and the constellations and interstellar sunrises are equally so. The 3D is used so brilliantly that I often wondered if it would be worth seeing 'Gravity' in standard format, and, unfortunately, I genuinely think it wouldn't.
The major downfall is the incredibly mediocre plot; following a basic structure, with some appallingly clichéd themes. The worst of which is the trope of the experienced astronaut's (George Clooney's) last trip into space before retirement. It's the kind of satirised line you'd get in an episode of The Simpsons! The plot follows the oddly-named Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a medical engineer who is aiding a mission to install experimental equipment on a satellite along with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney). The mission runs into trouble when a Russian missile strike sends satellite debris rocketing through Earth's orbit at 20,000mph, making the re-entry to Earth particularly tricky for the adventurers. It may sound rather linear, but that's because it is. The film's generosity with extra dimensions does not extend to the script.
Clooney does the calm and collected veteran role well, but you'd expect no less as he essentially seems to be playing himself. Bullock, however, is excellent as the focal point of the movie - portraying a vast range of emotions that increasingly accentuate the tense drama unfolding. I can see why she's up for an Academy Award this year, although I can't help but think she would have been missed off the list if there was a stronger selection of actresses on display.
Overall, 'Gravity' is an enjoyable and impressive film that is definitely worth seeing for the 3D and breathtaking special effects. Scientists may be quibbling over certain inaccuracies which would fly over most of our heads, but that is not the biggest flaw. The main issue is that it feels like the plot is secondary to the experience. I get the distinct impression that the makers decided that they wanted to create a 3D film in space, and only threw the script together as an afterthought.
'Pain and Gain' is something of a pet project for Michael Bay. For a director who is known globally for his mega-budget action blockbusters featuring giant robots and earth-shaking explosions, this obscure crime comedy about bodybuilders is a rather unexpected change of direction. And if the genre switch isn't odd enough on its own, then there's the fact that this is based on a true story. We are informed of at the beginning of the film, and need to be reminded of at the end, because the story really is insane.
The plot focuses on Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), a bodybuilding personal trainer who feels that he's been dealt a short hand in life and wants to rectify this by any means necessary. As Lugo proclaims, he is a "doer, not a don't-er", so he hatches a plan to kidnap one of his millionaire clients (Tony Shalhoub) and force him to sign over all his wealth. For this, Lugo enlists the help of some muscle-bound friends: the dim-witted Adrian (Anthony Mackie) whose steroid use has made him impotent, and born-again Christian man-mountain, Paul (Dwayne Johnson).
'Pain and Gain' is fast-paced, chaotic and entertaining, yet at times it doesn't seem to know exactly what it wants to be. It has the wacky nutjob plot of a bargain-budget indie flick, while keeping the clean, crisp Hollywood feel of Bay's usual movies. It is funny throughout and works as a comedy, yet some of the darker moments almost give the impression that Bay is trying too hard to embrace the adult themes that his blockbusters avoid.
The standout highlight of the film is the performance of the leads. Wahlberg is scarily convincing as the intellectually impaired meathead Lugo, and gives off the charm and starpower that we've come to expect from him. Meanwhile, Johnson is fantastically cast in his role as a religiously reformed criminal; drawing many of the biggest laughs of the film and simply oozing charisma. If there are still any doubters to the former wrestler's acting chops, then this film is likely to change some minds.
Overall, this is an entertaining and amusing film with a startlingly unbelievably, yet factual, plot. It is not Bay's best work - in places it is cluttered and it feels inconsistent throughout - but you won't be in danger of getting bored.
This review, and more, can also be found on my blog: http://johnmcclanesvest.wordpress.com/
I'm not the kind of person who would normally review a yoghurt. In fact, I'm not the kind of person who would tend to eat yoghurts all too often. My girlfriend buys in a lot of yoghurts, and occasionally I'll eat one if the mood strikes me - but I'm no connoisseur!
I do like Muller yoghurts though, and I enjoy the 'light' range, although not quite as much as the others. I would always choose a nice unhealthy Crunch Corner over a low fat alternative, which is why I decided to review this particular flavour. For a great cheesecake lover, the name alone was enough to entice me. So I eagerly looked forward to this today - and it was worth it!
The flavour of this yoghurt is amazingly sweet and delicious. It tastes just like a creamy, zesty lemon cheesecake, and the little balls of cake are an unexpected delight. The fat content and calories are an added bonus to this tasty treat.
I'm not sure there's much more I could say about a yoghurt, except that there are two more in my fridge that don't stand a chance of surviving the next two days. I think this is the first light yoghurt I have tasted that would be chosen before most full fat ones. A lovely little snack!
Before I start, something you should know about me is that I don't diet. I just want to get that out in the open so you know I have no past experience to compare this book to. I don't eat loads of junk food, although I occasionally eat more than I should, but I do have a very strong aversion to dieting that I can't really expain. That being said, I could do with losing a few pounds, and I think this book may be part of the solution!
My girlfriend wanted to get this book, and, as I do most of the cooking, I reluctantly agreed. I couldn't see past the word "dieters" on the cover, and I expected a book full of salads and tastless health food. However, this is absolutely not the case!
This cookbook has a huge variety of recipes that all look delicious and taste even better (at least the ones we've tried do)! There's a flavoursome chicken korma, some scrumptious desserts, a beautiful roast dinner, and even a full English breakfast. Not to mention a fantastic tuna nicoise wrap that has now become a regular in my work lunchbox. We've tried a handful of the recipes so far, and not been disappointed once. Granted, we have had to cut out a few ingredients occasionally to stop the recipe cost getting too high, but I find that is the case with most cookbooks - who really needs a sprig of parsley?
Since buying this book I have changed my outlook on cooking and on eating, and I have become more conscious about my calorie intake and kind of things I eat. My advice to anyone as stubborn as me, who think of healthy eating as salads without dressing and tiny portions - it doesn't have to be that way! The Bikers use ingenious techniques to cut down on calories without sacrificing flavour. A great example is using leeks instead of pasta in a lasagne - genius!
The biggest downfall is the cost of buying the ingredients in for a lot of these dishes. The 80% pork sausages for the breakfast cost a fair sight more than the usual bangers, for example. But it is possible to take shortcuts a lot of the time.
Charlotte Street is the first novel by writer, journalist and presenter (amongst other things) Danny Wallace. It is not, however, his first book. Wallace has amassed quite a following over the years with his selection of humourous books detailing the adventures and mishaps that he and his friends get into - usually on the tailend of a bet or a dare. I'm a big fan of his other published works, so I was very hopeful going into this novel.
I was not disappointed by Charlotte Street. Well, not entirely. I found the book to be witty, well written and suitably charming in places. It is a curious plot that keeps you intrigued, and, if anything, the sideplots are even more quirky and interesting. I have heard other opinions that they wished he would "get on with it" and hurry up the pace of the main plot, but I found that it was the smaller storylines in this book that gave it charm. The characters are brilliant and layered. I found myself annoyed by the antagonist's best friend Dev at the start, but he grew on me as the story progressed and developed into possibly my favourite character.
So, this brings us to the slight disappointment that I hinted at earlier. It seems like an odd gripe, but the novel had too much of Danny Wallace in it. It's understandable that he would write in his recognised voice and style, but it was so similar to his previous non-fiction books, that I found myself wishing he had done something a bit different. The plot of a man trying to track down a girl through photos found in her disposable camera was a nice idea, but the obsessiveness that he does it with makes it seem exactly like the adventures of his other books. Even Jason, his antagonist, seems like a thinly-veiled verson of the author.
However, these flaws were not a major concern, and would only really affect somebody who is familiar with Wallace's other works. The book is a great first novel from a witty and inventive author. I look forward to seeing his next novel.
"This is your mission, should you choose to accept it." - Those infamous words have once again been uttered to Tom Cruise's spy extraordinaire, Ethan Hunt, and he's never turned a mission down yet. However, with Cruise turning 50 this year, is it about time that he hung his lasers and explosives up in the wardrobe and let Ethan Hunt retire gracefully? Well, I don't think it's feasible to bring the Hollywood megastar's age into question when he's still doing all of his own stunts, and one of those involves sprinting vertically down the tallest building in the world (Yes, he really did that). Cruise clearly is still capable of taking the helm in a high tempo action film, so by all means he should continue doing them.
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is the latest release in the hugely successful franchise. If you are somehow unaware of the series, think James Bond meets Jason Bourne with an armoury of tools that would make 'The Gadget Show' presenters foam at the mouth. Like its predecessors, this instalment is ablaze with stunning special effects, exhilarating chases and exciting fight scenes. As an action film, it is a success. The scale of the plot is as big as ever, and you will be treated to some cinema-quaking special effects, along with more stunts than you can shake a stick of explosive chewing gum at.
Whilst the aforementioned factors will make it worth the admission fee, Mission Impossible 4 is far from perfect. Where the film is particularly lacking is, arguably, one of the most important aspects of any film; the human element. The script appears to rush through the plot, delving on the adventure of the story, and skipping swiftly past any attempts at character development. Due to this, the emotional scenes that do arise have very little impact, as we are not given a chance to relate to the characters, or feel any kind of attachment to them. The blame for this cannot be placed on the cast - Cruise is magnificent as always; the franchise newcomer, Jeremy Renner, almost steals the spotlight with his performance; and Simon Pegg delivers the amiable comic relief that lightens up any scene that begins to feel a bit heavy for a blockbuster.
Ultimately, it is the lack of emotional involvement that stops Ghost Protocol from being a significant addition to the franchise. The film is good, don't get me wrong, but you never relate to Ethan Hunt's plight for long enough to truly experience any sense of dread or concern at the impending disaster that the recently disavowed 'Impossible Mission Force' (IMF) must inevitably prevent. Of course, the film carries the unfortunate trademarks of a modern Hollywood blockbuster - product placement (BMW and Apple being the main culprits here), and cheesy one-liners (having a character comment on how corny a line was, does not make it acceptable!). But you will enjoy yourself watching the special effects that the blockbuster budget made possible, so we can't really gripe about the conveniently placed advertisements. The action scenes are immensely entertaining, and the extravagant stunts often wield suspense in one hand and awe in the other.
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is worth watching for the entertainment value alone. It fails to add any gravitas to the series, but it also doesn't detract from it - just focus on the mission and be glad it's not you suspended a couple of thousand feet above Dubai.
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Mixed martial arts (MMA) is currently the fastest-growing sport in the world. Largely thanks to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), a sport that used to be restricted to Las Vegas casinos and underground fight circuits is now a major deal that is televised internationally. So, with MMA grappling its way into the public eye, there is no better time for a movie like Warrior to emerge.
At its shallowest, Warrior is a modern rewrite of the 'zero to hero' fairytale - a carbon copy of Rocky superimposed onto a shiny new vehicle. At least, that was my opinion before I saw the film. Warrior follows the journeys of two MMA fighters on their road to the top. The two fighters, who happen to be brothers, are both competing in the fictional 'Sparta' tournament in order to win a huge cash prize, which they both require for charmingly selfless reasons. Meanwhile, their once-abusive father is trying desperately to rebuild the bridges between him and his formidable offspring; which is no easy feat. Oh, and before you ask - yes, there will be a montage.
When writing a sports underdog movie, the hardest task must be crafting a different film to its predecessors. The genre is rife with clichés, many of which are vital to the progression of the plot. Generally, to make a sports underdog film in the 36 years since Rocky smashed the box offices, is to offer a sacrificial lamb to the critics. Warrior takes the risks, and they pay off in its favour.
Where this film succeeds is not in avoiding the genre clichés, but rather in approaching them from a unique angle. At no point will you find Warrior cheesy. Instead of pretentiously cringing at lame one-liners or depthless, stereotyped characters, you can save your genuine cringes for some of the brutal fight scenes that occur towards the end of the film. Trust me, you'll need them! Warrior is gritty and real. the characters are not just emotionally scarred, some of them are broken beyond repair.
None more so than Tom Hardy, who plays Afghanistan war veteran, Tom Conlon. Hardy shines exceptionally as an introverted powerhouse who wants nothing to do with his estranged father (Nick Nolte). Out of the cage, Hardy is tortured by the memories of his military service, and he seeks to win the fight tournament so he can donate the $5million prize money to his brother-in-arm's widowed family. But before your cliché -detectors deafen you with blaring sirens, let me reassure you that there will be no overdone battle flashbacks or diving to the ground at backfiring cars - Tom Conlon's battle scars are buried deep, and he makes sure they stay that way. His rock-hard personality doesn't end outside the cage. Once the octagon doors lock, he fights with a frighteningly animalistic rage - tearing through his opponents with viciously brutal striking and thunderous power. If you had any doubts about Hardy's physical presence in the next Batman film as Bane, then let this movie dispel them. Bruce Wayne ought to be terrified.
The counterweight to Hardy's aggressive loner comes in the form of his older brother, Brendan (Joel Edgerton). Edgerton's role is the empathetic family-man; a former UFC fighter who traded his gloves in for a lab coat when he became a high school physics teacher. "Force equals mass time acceleration", Edgerton helpfully reminds us - although we are shown plenty of adrenaline-fuelled examples of Newton's law later on. The physics teacher is driven to strap on his gloves once again when the bills pile up and he is threatened with imminently losing the family home. Once the opportunity arises to enter the 'Sparta' tournament, Edgerton knows that in order for his wife and daughters to have a home, he must break some faces.
While Hardy and Edgerton both give very convincing performances, they are almost overshadowed by the most powerful and memorable performance in the film; that of Nolte. The septuagenarian actor plays the role of the father of the two warriors - a man who turned his whole family against him through alcoholism and abuse, and now seeks forgiveness and redemption as a born-again Christian. Nolte, as the brothers' childhood aggressor, has now become the suffering victim of his own abuse. He desperately wants contact with his sons and his grandchildren, but receives practically no sympathy other than that of the viewer. Arguably the most moving scene in the film is portrayed by this outstanding actor; it involves Nolte, Hardy and a Moby Dick audiobook - which sounds ridiculous, but Nolte will bring you to tears.
Warrior is a strong addition to the sports underdog movie club. The script sets a meaningful base to the film; crafting a powerful story and developing memorable characters. In fact, it does this so successfully that towards the end you'll feel that it's earned the forty-five minutes of ferocious high-impact fighting that is about to throw at you.