RED 2 / 2 Guns

120px-Film-stripOne sequel, one film with a “2” in the name that isn’t, and a very sore tummy from eating a landfill-engulfing quantity of jalapeños for dinner.


“What happens in the Kremlin stays in the Kremlin!”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: the good guys from the first film are targeted by the nastiest hired killers on the planet because they apparently have some information that they don’t

See it if you like: spy thrillers with a nice edge of humour

You may recall such recent reviews as Kick-Ass 2 and Despicable Me 2. Well, RED 2 can join the list of sequels which don’t try to be the first film all over again, and which are better for it.

Whereas the original RED had some exceptionally comic book-esque scenes (the sequence in the shipping yard being the prime example), these are generally lacking in this sequel which goes more for chop-socky fast-paced combat and over-the-top scenes with guns instead. The good thing is that it doesn’t suffer as a result.

All of the central original cast are there, and this time joined by some other big names. Anthony Hopkins turns up at one point, but I can’t go into detail as it may be spoiler-some. Suffice to say he’s brilliant and shows an impressive range with a very entertaining character.

Also appearing is one of my favourite unsung actors, Neal McDonough. Since seeing him in Boomtown (a superb series which should never have been cancelled), I’d always looked forward to seeing him in things and he is spot on in this. He plays a very determined, no holds barred, whatever it takes to get what he wants operative.

Add to this Catherine Zeta-Jones who has more slap on than three women working at the Boots make-up counter, David Thewlis as a hard-to-catch seller of secrets and Byung-hun Lee as the world’s most dangerous contract killer and you have a very good cast indeed.

The story is also good, and the dialogue fizzes. In particular, and as in the first film, Willis and Malkovich play incredibly well off each other.

There’s everything a decent spy story needs. Guns, women, explosions, tension, backstabbing, cars, guns, more explosions, poison gas, things blowing up… All with a decent number of laughs thrown in.

Yup, this one’s good.

2 Guns

“Are we people?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Uncovered undercover DEA agent his patsy find themselves hunted for stealing the wrong person’s money

See it if you like: gun-thirsty action thrillers which still make you think

Second up was this nice twist on the buddy story starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. Without giving too much away (no more than the trailer does, anyway), the two are drug-running and robbing places left, right and centre… but unknown to Stigman (Wahlberg), Washington’s character Bobby is an undercover DEA agent.

Thing is, despite this little fact coming to life at an inopportune time, the two end up thrown together in a bid to keep themselves alive and get revenge on various parties who’ve wronged them.

It’s pretty violent, but like RED 2, has some very humorous moments. The dialogue and chemistry between the two leads is great to watch with some fast-paced verbal jousting that’s either the result of a lot of rehearsal or a natural link. Either way, it makes many scenes very entertaining indeed.

Importantly, the story is good as well although it’s a little bit easy to guess who the overall bad guy is. This doesn’t steal any of the story’s thunder, though, and it rides well until a suitably chaotic and blood-soaked finalé.


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The Expendables 2

I’m cramming films in while my Cineworld card is still valid. Despite thinking the first one was a bit poo, I decided that as long as it wasn’t costing me anything I’d check out:

The Expendables 2

“Who next? Rambo?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: A recovery mission goes slightly bat-**** so the gang head out on a somewhat over-the-top revenge mission

See it if you like: watching things go “boom”. And “splat”. And “ak-ak-ak-ak-ak-ak”.

I didn’t enjoy the first Expendables film. I don’t know why, but I think it was because – after it got over the ridiculous cast – it became just another action film with a poor story, worse acting and nothing to hold the interest.

This, however… this is different. This is brilliant.

Importantly, it doesn’t take itself seriously. In fact, it goes right to the end of the scale marked as “self-deprecation”, more commonly known as “taking the piss out of oneself”. There are so many bits of bad dialogue that would have been right at home in an Eighties action film that they simply must have been put there for that reason. References are made left, right and centre to well known films and characters. Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis play Musical Catchphrases, using each other’s best known lines with wild abandon.

The opening sequence is bigger, louder and bloodier than most other action films can ever dream of having for a finale.

This really is a film you can’t afford to take seriously. The bad guys can’t shoot for toffee and despite loosing off enough bits of hot lead to sink an island nation, pretty much always fail to hit anything other than blank concrete and glass. Apparently firing a machine gun through a glass window will cause it to shatter but won’t pepper the enemies on the other side with bullets. Firing at soldiers from elevation with ridiculously powerful weapons will not cause the deaths of any innocents stood nearby. Ever.

Importantly, though… who fracking cares?

With a cast this size (and I mean that in all respects – they must have stolen the entire 1980’s Russian Women’s Olympic shot-put team’s steroid supply), it would be easy to expect most of them to be there just to make up the numbers. But with enough in-jokes about the actors themselves, quirks, piss-takes, banter and overblown action scenes that simply doesn’t happen. They even manage to shoe-horn a girl into the group this time out. Avoiding the obvious casting of Michelle Yeoh (surely the most well-known female Asian action star in the West?), they’ve gone for Nan Yu who I honestly haven’t heard of before. She’s good, though, and kicks as much ass as any of the inflated male cast.

This is, quite simply, a must-see. At one point, several members of the (small) audience cheered out loud. And I didn’t care. I was so wrapped up and giggling that it just seemed like a perfectly acceptable thing to do.

If you even remotely like action films, you’ll enjoy this. If you’ve seen the “classics” from days gone by then you will enjoy it all the more for the cast and references. Far, far better than it has any right to be – and the first film in a long time I’ve considered going to see for a second time. That alone makes it highly recommended.

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The Cold Light Of Day / Battleship

Starting to get back on form with a two-film evening, making three this week so far. Kicking off with…

The Cold Light Of Day

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Young man’s family go missing, but who’s to blame and who’s on his side trying to get them back?

See it if you like: Moderately low-budget Euro-thrillers

It’s always good to see Sigourney Weaver putting in an appearance and in this Spanish-set thriller she’s as much of a bitch as you’ve ever seen her. Alongside Bruce Willis, who’s in a hell of a number of films this summer, and new-ish star Henry Cavill (soon to don the blue, red and yellow of Superman)  the group tear up Madrid in this conspiracy thriller.

Dragged to Spain on holiday with his parents while his company goes under, Will Shaw (Cavill) gets in a bit of a strop and wanders off. Upon his return, he finds his family missing and a mysterious man rather interested in taking him in, too.

It turns out papa (Willis) isn’t a harmless government office bod after all, but a CIA agent in charge of a briefcase that quite a few people are very much desperate to get hold of. Desperate enough to kidnap his family, in fact.

Things take a turn for the worse by the end of the first reel and we’re left wondering as much as Shaw who can be trusted and who can’t.

The action scenes are gritty and the acting good from all the leads, although there are a few “twists” which are about a surprising as finding a cornflake in a packet marked “Cornflakes”. It’s got that very typical European feel to it, with the car chase scenes being very twisty turny rather than full of enormous explosions.

If I had a problem with it, it was the sound. This could have been due to the print or the cinema, but it sounded as if I was listening through earmuffs and made some of the dialogue very hard to make out. It suspends reality a little too much in quite a few areas, too – the falls and gunshots are lovely and brutal but the characters simply shouldn’t be getting up and walking after some of them!

Overall, it’s not too bad. Short and snappy like a short story, a decent plot and some good acting. No classic, but well filmed and worth seeing if you’re between other films.


Plot-in-a-nutshell: Aliens attack and this time it’s the navy’s turn to save the world.

See if it you like: Switching your brain to neutral and enjoying yourself. A lot.

I will say this now – Avengers Assemble has something to live up to. Battleship was so good that it’s already tainting my view of films I’ve not seen yet.

Remember that feeling you had when you first watched Armageddon or The Rock? Yeah, it’s like that. All the way through. Big, silly, overblown, funny, over the top, cheesy, exciting… it’s all of these and more.

Alex (Taylor Kitsch) and Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgard) are brothers, the former a waster and the latter an up-and-comer in the US Navy. After an amusing opening twenty minutes or so, Stone forces his brother to sign up in the navy and we skip forward an undetermined length of time to the present day.

Serving under Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson), the daughter of whom (played by Brooklyn Decker) Alex is dating, the pair are involved in an international naval manoeuvre when aliens respond to a signal we sent… by dropping some smegging huge missile-toting machines into the Pacific. Erecting a force field around the area, they cut a handful of ships and an island off from the rest of the world and start their plot to take over Earth. As aliens are wont to do.

Oh, they also blow **** up and sink ships and invade and stuff, too. All good fun.

The key story is split into two parts – the actions of Hopper Jr as he makes good on his wasted early life, and a small group on the island who take on the marauding aliens hand-to-hand. This group consists of Shane’s daughter, a mad scientist and a retired double amputee soldier played by Mick Canales – an actual retired double-amputee soldier. In fact, he’s not the only real veteran to play a part in the film. A sizeable group of retired sailors feature as well.

The board game of Battleships seems a weird film license, but they actually manage to shoehorn in the gameplay, believe it or not. They don’t, however, manage to get someone to utter the immortal phrase “You sank my battleship!” which is a shame. The thing is, it doesn’t matter.

Battleship is over two hours of hugely enjoyable explosions, one-liners, cheesy sequences, explosions, special effects, monsters, explosions… And some stuff blowing up.

It is completely silly and over the top, but it never makes any attempt to take itself seriously so all the nonsense is completely forgiveable. Even the complete disregard for the laws of physics. It falls very much into the Fast Five camp on that score.

I loved this film. I don’t know if it would bear a repeat viewing, but it’s definitely worth seeing on the big screen.


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Red / Burke and Hare / Easy A

Assuming that M Law Solicitors don’t demand I take down this blog post for defaming a film for giving it bad reviews (as they did with my post regarding Parking Eye, which I still maintain wasn’t defamatory as it was in the public interest), please enjoy the following catch-up from the last 2 weeks’ abuse of my Cineworld pass.


“Time to open up the pig”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: a group of retired secret agents take on the CIA to find out who’s put them on a “to be killed” list.

This is another in the current run of bigger-than-life action films that seem to be putting bums on seats at the moment. It’s also one of the best, mainly due to a novel idea and a superb cast. Come on – Helen Mirren with guns? How can that not be cool?

The rest of the eldsters are played by Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman. Freeman could be in the biggest cinematic turd in history and would still make his sequences worth watching, but fortunately Red is no such bum-dropping and is instead just good fun.

There’s plenty of action and it makes full use of the common trend of using CGI rather than stuntmen to a large degree. I still prefer more old-school effects (Raiders is the best Indy film by a mile for several reasons, this being one of them), but it doesn’t stop Red being any less enjoyable.

Definitely go see.

Burke and Hare

“That… would be an artery”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Two Irish guys stumble across a nice way of making money – selling corpses to a medical school. Only what happens when they run out of fresh meat?

Honestly, can Simon Pegg do know wrong? I honestly don’t think I’ve seen him in a film I’ve not enjoyed yet. When you add the likes of Andy Serkis and Tim Curry to the cast, then top it off with Ronnie Corbett it would take some kind of miracle to destroy it. Get John Landis to direct and you may as well buy your ticket without seeing a review.

Burke and Hare is perfect Halloween fodder. It’s set in the 19th century, it’s grisly, it’s tasteless and it’s funny. I’d not recommend it for younger kids due to some of the scenes being a little too “eeeeewww” but other than that it’s superb.

There are loads of little references in the background (Greyfriar’s Bobby makes an appearance) and the original historical tale does make for decent film material, even if the facts have been moulded somewhat.

Looking at the other horrors available this Halloween, this has to be the best of the bunch.

Easy A

“That’s the one thing that trumps religion… capitalism”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: shy teen pretends to nob schoolmates for cash/vouchers until it all goes too far

I didn’t expect to enjoy this, despite the trailer being “OK”. After all, it’s a teen-girl-at-a-school film, and they’re pretty formulaic. I just went as it was on at a good time for me to fill 90 minutes of an afternoon.

Oh, I love it when I’m proved wrong.

Easy A has a fantastic script, beautiful dialogue, an in credible wit and a decent story. Emma Stone is excellent as Olive, the girl who gets talked into pretending to sleep with a gay classmate to stop him being bullied for his sexuality. Who then recommends him to others, until she’s made out to be the school slut.

The supporting cast are all well-played from her hilarious family, to the wise-cracking English teacher and the bonkers Christian brigade. There genuinely is not a dull moment.

While Olive does bemoan the fact that her life story wasn’t directed by John Hughes, it could have been. It’s that good.

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Expendable Salt

The Expendables (2010 film)
The Expendables

A quick two-review post (sorry, buried in other work) on the day I renewed my Cineworld pass again. Damn, I was trying to resist. But there are too many good films coming out. I’ve found one flaw with the Edinburgh cinema, though – it is on a leisure park with a paid car park and the validation at the cinema only allows up to 4 hours of free parking. No good for a full day at the cinema! In fact, not long enough for two films back to back without running out, circling theblock in the car and going back in!


Alright, first up was Salt, the new Angelina Joli film that I believe – like a huge number of films out these days – is based on a comic.

Good action sequences, Joli is very good at them (no surprise after her turns in the Tomb Raider movies and, more recently, Wanted), and a very predictable plot. If anyone who sees this film doesn’t spot the ending a mile away then they seriously need to start thinking about going back to school.

Enjoyable, but ultimately unfulfilling. If it hadn’t been trying to be a thriller I’d have been more forgiving, but it needs more of a plot to reach that level.

The Expendables

And onto a film that’s been followed by the press since its very inception was announced. Featuring not just director/writer Sylvester Stallone, but also Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis this is the first film to actually star all three. Only it doesn’t really. Arnie and Bruce have nothing more than overlong cameos.

Instead, main roles are taken by Jet Li, Jason Statham and Dolph Lundgren with an aging Mickey Rourke playing the cool older guy. Certainly no lack of muscle talent, then. The plot certainly has a lot less meat on it, but who cares?

The film really does hark back to the action films of the 80’s with a thin story, beefy lead (well, about 3/4 of a tonne of them) and sequence after sequence of mental action. The explosions are simply huge and the action segments ridiculously overblown to the point of utter incredulity… but it’s fun. Not as much fun as The A-Team was (it lacks the humour), but fun nonetheless.

Must be seen on the big screen with a cracking sound system and thumping bass.

Told you they’d be short reviews. OK, back to the lesson planning.

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