American Assassin

 American Assassin is a 2017 American action thriller film directed by Michael Cuesta. It is based on Vince Flynn’s 2010 novel of the same name and stars Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan, Shiva Negar and Taylor Kitsch. It follows Cold War veteran Stan Hurley and CIA black ops recruit Mitch Rapp when they receive an assignment to investigate a wave of random attacks on both military and civilian targets. After discovering a pattern of violence, Hurley and Rapp join forces with a lethal Turkish agent to stop the detonation of a rogue nuclear weapon.

 I’ve got to say I’m disappointed. I was expecting more from this film. And yes, maybe that’s my fault for giving it potential it should never have had but from the trailers I was expecting something more than a very generic action spy flick. I was expecting more thriller than…average forgettable cinema. Again, maybe that’s just my fault for going in expecting to see a different film but I always try my best not to read up to much about films before I see them. Open mind and all that. Unfortunately what we get is a formulaic, predictable affair with some fast cut close combat fight scenes and some rather shoddy CGI. This is more Jack Reacher than Bourne and having just watched the outrageous Kingsmen sequel it’s just too easy for a film like this to get lost in the shuffle.

It’s not that American Assassin is a ‘bad’ film, it’s just that there are many more that do everything this film can do better. Everything about this film is fine, serviceable, a C Grade if you will, but it just lacks anything extra that will make it a great movie. The performances are okay and I did enjoy Michael Keaton as Hurley but I feel like practically anyone could have played Mitch Rapp in their sleep. In reality there isn’t all that much going on with the character at all. Rapp is a man who follows his impulses rather than orders and frequently lucks out when things could and perhaps should all go tits up. Which could be true to the source material, which I’ve never read, or it could be just bland acting and lazy writing.

Ultimately, depending on your mood and expectations this could be an enjoyable movie to watch. Perhaps on a lazy Sunday afternoon when there is nothing else on TV and you’ve lost your Jason Bourne DVDs.

Verdict: Thumbs Meh-ddle (HAHA…aren’t I a clever little sod?)

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Kingsmen: The Golden Circle

Thumbs up or Thumbs down? Simple, spoiler free reviews.

kingsmanposter_0When their headquarters are destroyed and the world is held hostage, the remaining Kingsmen’s journey leads them to their US counterparts, called Statesmen.

Kingsmen: The Secret Service is one of my favourite films, not just recently, but ever. I think it is simply fantastic. It was fresh, fun and brutal. I actually thought from the original trailers that I would hate it, but boy was I proven wrong. In fact, I’ve watched that film countless times and have been looking forward to this sequel ever since.

As a result I actually risked over hyping its potential to myself and perhaps as a result of this I did start getting a little concerned about the quality the second film in the franchise could produce. To be honest, I’d almost convinced myself that this film would fail horribly and be awful. It was a clear case of lowering my expectations so that I wouldn’t be too disappointed. I need not have worried, Kingsmen: The Golden Circle is a cracking film.

Now admittedly, The Golden Circle is not as good as the original, but you know what? Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was not ‘quite’ as good as the original either but that does not make either of them bad films. Far from it, this second outing is a highly enjoyable romp throughout that keeps a lot of the charm whilst also going a bit more bonkers at times. The argument will be that what was once fresh, new and different is now known and expected but Kingsmen 2 delivers on those moments of similarity and doesn’t feel like a re-tread of what we’ve already seen.

In Julianne Moore we have another excellent and eccentric villain and the action is as brutal as ever. Sure, it’s a little over the top at times and often ridiculous but when you’re having fun with it, who really gives a damn? Plus it still has that brilliant, now iconic (in my opinion) camera work for the fight and action scenes. Granted nothing is likely to ever top the original church scene with Colin Firth or that bar brawl just because they were so iconic and well executed in the original.

All of the returning characters are still a lot of fun and the new additions from The Statesmen are great too. Plus there are a number of surprises as well as a hilarious cameo too.

Honestly, if you enjoyed the first film you will enjoy the second one and if you have not seen the first one. Firstly, why not? Secondly, do so. Thirdly, then go and see this film because you will also enjoy this one. It’s really that simple.

Verdict: Thumbs Up

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Thumbs up or Thumbs down? Simple, spoiler free reviews.

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a science fiction action adventure film based on the French comic series Valérian and Laureline, written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières. It stars Dane DeHaan as Valerian and Cara Delevingne as Laureline.

Now, granted I know absolutely nothing of the original source material but I simply refuse to accept that for something first published in 1967 all the way through to 2010 that this movie is the best that could be made. It’s rushed, sloppy and ultimately soulless.

It’s a shame because the opening scenes with Valerian and Laureline do show some potential, however unfortunately everything quickly devolves into a big mess of nonstop…Things happening. You meet this character for a scene and then this character for another. It is all so meaningless. The movie barely takes a second to breathe and when it does try, it misses the mark.

Valerian was written and directed by Luc Besson, who directed the cult classic Fifth Element and in many ways this does feel like a 2017 version. It has a similar vibe, the same bright colours and a daft, poorly executed plot. Truth be told, it is not as good as the Fifth Element. Maybe the whole thing just needed a Chris Tucker cameo to tie it all together though? Maybe…

Meanwhile you have Dane DeHaan, I just don’t see him as an action star. He’s has that scrawny, weird-looking kid kind of vibe about him. To me, he felt like a fish out of water but again, I do not know the source material so that casting could have been spot on. In my opinion it looked like a nerd trying to play a badass, but it wasn’t done intentionally for laughs. He’s just been miscast.

The main problem however is the lack of any sort of back story, who are these people? What have they done before? Couple that with very minimal character development and you leave me wondering why I should care about anything I am watching. I literally did not care for anyone in this entire film, they were either boring or CGI. Okay fine, I thought the little animal converter thing was cute, but that is just playing on my weaknesses. A friend of mine said that hopefully we would get more information if a sequel was greenlit but that is one film too late!

The love story, which is the only thing that you could even pretend had any development in was forced, on the nose and in honesty kind of boring. There is pretty much zero chemistry between the two leads. Valerian is meant to be some sort of big time ladies’ man, but I didn’t believe it and by the end I was just rolling my eyes.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets also ticks another box on my pet peeves list. Too much CGI! Many others are praising the movie for how good it looks and in some shots it is fantastic but the main aliens themselves reminded me far too much of John Carter and the Star Wars prequels. Which I believe we can all agree is not a good thing! Can we not get some make up and prosthetics up in here?!

Ultimately watching this film I was both bored and frustrated, which is not a particularly good combination to have. I have to say that I would not recommend it and in my opinion this movie is an absolute bomb. Which I take zero pleasure in saying. If you were hoping for a new ‘Guardians of the Galaxy out of left field’ hit franchise, this isn’t it folks. It’s more Jupiter Ascending.

Verdict: Thumbs Down

 

How Not To Adventure (Episode 3): Immediate Distractions, The Elven Tomb

Three months ago the township of Durgon’s Rest exiled Elia Fenfrost for practicing witchcraft. But now as the first harvest approaches the crops are failing, local farm animals are becoming sick with disease, and all of the food stores have gone foul.

The town’s folk suspect that the accursed blight is the work of Elia – exacting her revenge for casting her out into the wild. Our three brave, yet incredibly stupid, ‘heroes’ are the villages last hope, but can they find Elia and end the curse before its too late?

Probably not.

Players:

Dungeon Master – Doug

Dalton Sebastian Belvedere Grey – Rob

Jibblewick – Josh

Skaram – Chris

The majority of this campaign is based on the Dungeons and Dragons story ‘The Witchfire Curse’ from The Brinoceros, check it out! Other stories used are ‘Deepwood Memorial’ and ‘Workshop of the Mad Alchemist’.

Review – New Found Glory: Makes Me Sick

newfoundglory_makesmesickart_fullMakes Me Sick is the ninth studio album and follow-up to 2014’s Resurrection by the American pop punk band New Found Glory. It was released through Hopeless Records in April of this year.

Despite being a fan of New Found Glory (NFG) this one completely slipped past me, hence the review being in late June rather than April. Man, am I glad I realised though as this album might just turn out to be the soundtrack to my summer. I think it’s awesome!

This new record from NFG is easily my favourite of theirs this decade. That’s not to say Radiosurgery (2011) or Resurrection (2014) where bad, far from it. I enjoyed those too, but this one is a step above. Quite often you can say during reviews for bands who have been around for so long ‘you know what you’re going to get’ and while this is very much a NFG album in that sense I still am surprised by just how incredibly upbeat, catchy and most importantly fun this is. Overall it feels softer and more buoyant, through the synths, lyrical choices and melodies.

After 20 years, NFG know what they are and don’t strive to push the boat out too far. Their goal is to continue to make irresistibly catch tunes and they certainly hit the nail on the head more than a few times here. Makes Me Sick is full of great songs that will be in your head for weeks but if I had to pick my favourites right this second I’d say that ‘Party On Apocalypse’ (above) and ‘Call Me Anti-Social’ would certainly be up there. The only real curve ball here is ‘The Sound Of Two Voices’ which sticks out a little from the rest of the crowd. I still like it though.

Absolutely a must buy for any New Found Glory or pop punk rock genre fans in general. The clean and crisp production coupled with catchy pop hooks and sing-along choruses make this a very  pleasant listen. An early contender for favourite album of the year in fact!

Verdict: Thumbs Up

Money In The Bank 2017: The Thoughts On Wrestling Podcast

Join Rob and Dan for the Thoughts On Wrestling Podcast as they discuss the Smackdown Live exclusive PPV Money In The Bank 2017. Controversy throughout the PPV and the sudden British summer has the guys on edge this week!

Review: Baywatch

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Simple, spoiler free reviews.

 

 

Matt Brody is a former Olympic swimmer who wants to join an elite team of lifeguards led by the hulking Mitch Buchannon. Brody thinks he’s a shoo-in, but his casual attitude starts to instantly rub Mitch the wrong way. When drugs and a shady resort owner pose a threat to the bay, Mitch and Matt must put their differences aside to spring into action and save the day.

I’ve got to admit, I was honestly expecting Baywatch to be terrible. I thought it would be dumb jokes and boobs but it’s actually really funny. With dumb jokes and boobs… What I’m saying is it’s exactly what you think it is, but actually done really well.

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Baywatch isn’t just about boobs and Zac Efron’s abs, it’s also a funny film too. I’m not talking high brow humour or anything, but its a laugh!

At no point in time does it allow itself to be taken seriously. The whole premise and plot is ridiculous and Zac Efron has a great line when being told about previous cases on the beach sounding like a ‘entertaining yet far-fetched TV show’. This is a film that fully understands its roots and doesn’t try to be something it’s not. It’s a film about crime fighting lifeguards, obviously its preposterous! The cast seems to be having a genuinely fun time as well, which makes you have more fun with it.

I’d say about 90% of the jokes landed in Baywatch, now granted they often aren’t ‘high brow humour’, I’m talking dick jokes…other dick jokes. It works though and if you know what you’re getting into and just want to relax this is a good dumb movie to do that with. It’s just fun.

Dwanye Johnson, or The Rock as he’ll forever be known to me, is as charismatic as ever while Efron actually nails the self loathing part of his retired olympic medalist character too. Their back and forth is amusing throughout as well. Job Bass is entertaining as the awkward nerd of the group while Alexandra Daddario and Kelly Rohrbach are mostly in place to play up Baywatch’s classic ‘sexy babes’ angle. Both are more than happy to play the roles and mock them extensively, especially in the end credits. Meanwhile Priyanka Chopra as the villain is a bit of a one note character though and Ilfenesh Hadera gets far less love than any of the other lifeguards during the film.

I know this film has been slated by critics, but if you’re interested in a couple of hours of easy viewing that’ll make you chuckle throughout. Give this a go. I honestly can’t believe I’m actually saying this. I’d just assumed it would be rubbish, instead its fun rubbish.

Verdict: Thumbs Up