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The Accidental Spy Parasol Umbrella Jackie Chan, Eric Tsang, Vivian Hsu, Kim Min-jeong, Wu Hsing-kuo, Cheung Tat-ming, Pauline Suen, Alfred Cheung, Scott Adkins,

The Accidental Spy (AKA – 特務迷城, Tè Wù Mí Chéng): an exercise equipment salesman from HK must hunt down his absent – now dead – father’s fortune and lung cancer cure. The story is a bit of a mess; far more convoluted than it needed to be, and for the most part – quite difficult to follow. The film mirrors this, opening with a rough Taliban-style massacre; then switching to a comedy Jackie Chan workout – and ping-ponging between quite dark elements and light entertainment. The action sees an older (but still totally ripped!) JC swap out some of his trademark physically demanding fights for more traditional big budget moments: an entire wooden pier gets trashed; and  planes, cars, & flaming tankers all explode after driving through every obstacle known to man. The highlight is a footchase from a Turkish bathhouse that sees Chan fight off various henchmen butt-naked whilst simultaneously covering his modesty; cheeky and entertaining – you couldn’t imagine anyone else pulling it off. People marvel at ‘peak’ Arnie, or Sly, but I’d rather have 1% of JC‘s agility and finesse than all the muscles in China! Overall, it’s one of the more forgettable Jackie Chan outings (like a lot of his made-for-the-west output), but even an average JC film is better than most action films. The Accidental Spy never overcomes the tonal mismatch of having the cheeky and goofy everyman surrounded by heroin-addicted damsels, violent terrorists, and absolutely retarded writing at the end (C.I.A. twist).

Score: 6/10

The Accidental Spy Turkish bath Jackie Chan, Eric Tsang, Vivian Hsu, Kim Min-jeong, Wu Hsing-kuo, Cheung Tat-ming, Pauline Suen, Alfred Cheung, Scott Adkins,

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Body of Lies - Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, Golshifteh Farahani, Oscar Isaac, Ali Suliman, Alon Abutbul, Vince Colosimo, Simon McBurney, Mehdi Nebbou, Michael Gaston, Kais Nashif, Jamil Khoury, Lubna Azabal,Body of Lies: while hunting for a big fish terrorist, power and the upper hand continually shift between the Americans, Jordanian secret service and the man on the ground trying to bridge the cultural gap. It has the look and feel of an action thriller, but there’s not a whole lot of action (although when it’s on, it’s fairly violent). There’s a romance corner, an espionage corner, a cultural differences corner – it juggles quite a few things,  which are all are done reasonably well, and fused together nicely. The problem is that with all of these things going on, it feels less focused than something like Zero Dark Thirty – the peripheral stuff detracts from the central terrorist plot. Also, because the whole Jihad genre has had a lot of material lately, they all sort of blend in to one – it took took well over an hour to realise I’d already seen this. Acting wise, you completely buy in to Di Caprio‘s conflicted character; Crowe properly gets on your nerves as the brash and cocksure US agent; and you marvel at Strong’s portrayal of an old-school espionage master. Body of Lies looks and feels as slick as you’d expect from Ridley Scott; it’s also acted beyond what you’d expect from A-listers; unfortunately the plot feels completely borrowed and unimaginative. Despite looking a little worn and generic these days, it’s still completely serviceable modern jihad-thriller.

6.5/10

Taken 2: Bryan Mills and his ‘very particular set of skills’ are hunted down by the relatives of the bad guys from Paris (Taken). If Mr Megaton had stuck to the surefire winning formula of the first film, he’d have been OK, however, he strays way off topic. Action, drama and no-brain story: 66% – this is far to silly to have any sense of drama or threat. Hard-hitting fight-scenes: 33% – my beloved, worn-down, Taken DVD is 18-rated, this was a 12A, with all of the bloody bone-crunching edges are taken off. Liam Neeson acting well: – 15% – he totally looks like he can not be arsed here, as do most of the cast. A brief list of the memorable moments tell you more about the tone of the film that any sensible review could:

  • Maggie Grace gratuitously running around in a Bikini
  • Maggie Gracehaving not passed her driving test – executing perfect evasive/offensive driving
  • Maggie Grace throwing grenades on Istanbul roofs so Neeson can locate her.
  • Neeson being left in a room, alone, for a long time
  • Neeson having a mini-phone in his pocket
  • Neeson walking through Istanbul navigating using only his ears.

Overall, it feels like far more like a “Shit, we accidentally got a worldwide hit from a B-movie – may as well cash-in with a rushed sequel” affair, over a well-thought out, original, nasty, well done action flick. All that being said, Taken 2 is nowhere near as bad as the critics have made it out to be, there’s more than enough mindless action scenes to keep audiences entertained.

Score: 5.5/10

Skyfall: James Bond comes back from the dead to help MI6 – and justify his existence – during the agency’s darkest hour. The story is easily one of the strongest in the franchise, split in to three well-defined acts, and even at 2.5 hours it never feels like it over-stays its welcome, as most scenes reveal something about at least one of the central characters.

Javier Bardem‘s villain perfectly mangles the theatricality and campiness of the Bond classic villains (Scaramanga / Blofeld) with a dark, maniacal and twisted persona that’s among the best modern cinematic antagonists (The Joker / Detective Stansfield). It’s also a testament to Daniel Craig that he never gets out-performed – some previous Bond’s would have struggled. As for the under-discussed Bond Girls Sévérine perfectly plays the vulnerable and dangerous seductress; on the other hand, Bond’s field agent colleague Eve was pretty rubbish, lacking any believability, conviction or presence – she looked like she was on daytime TV.

The film’s well-paced, directed, and looks fantastic, with plenty full-frame/wide shot of landscapes & sets and – as you expect from the travelogue element of every Bond film – there’s a ton of stunning locations to take in; Turkey, Shanghai, the abandoned Hashima Island, Glencoe, and an eerily beautiful shot of a misty Glen Etive.

This film also continues to keep Daniel Craig’s outings firmly rooted in the ‘reality’ of the post-Bourne action film, steering well clear of the fantasy / ridiculous / gadgetry elements. Although this is the current style of most action movies, it would be good to see some gadgets and stunts that brought a bit of the classic Bond magic, although the line between magic and cheese is very grey.

The most interesting aspect of Skyfall is that it focuses on James Bond more than any other outing: not just through questioning his relevance in the modern world, or whether he’s still physically / mentally capable, but it also goes back to his pre-spy roots, fleshing out his childhood & backstory, giving the audience an insight into how he became the fearless, suave and dangerous 007.

You couldn’t ask for much more in a 50th Anniversary Bond film; most of the classic elements are there, even if they’re hinted at, or – like the famous ‘gun barrel sequence’ – simply tagged on to the end again. The story, characters and direction are all well above the average for a Bond film; however, more mentions of the previous 22 movies would have been the cherry on the cake, and added a truly celebratory vibe to the longest-running cinema franchise in history.

Score: 8.5/10

TOP TRUMPS

Villain: Raoul Silva – camp, cunning, crazy, deformed… just not in enough screen time 9
Henchmen: Patrice, the capable and silent assassin, + a few dozen mercenaries. 6
Babes: 50% classic beautiful siren, 50% awkward and rubbish. 7
Action: Opening mission / MI6 Bombing / Shanghai / Casino / Underground / Skyfall Shootout. 8

For reviews of every other James Bond film, click HERE

Rubber [Blu Ray]: For reasons unknown, a discarded tyre comes to life, and starts a murderous rampage using its psychokinetic – head exploding – powers. There’s an awesome short movie in here, but in order to ‘beef it up’ into a film, several (ridiculous) elements are thrown in that don’t really do it for me. A film that’s punctuated with meta sequences and references should have a better reason for doing so than simply adding to the runtime; the entire observer side-story just broke up and detracted from the fantastic personification of a demented tyre. The SFX and direction are impressive – the tyre’s personality is built up piece by piece as he shakes, moves, inquires, turns, breathes, rolls, crushes and showers all on its own. Moreover, the film has an art exhibit / music video style and feel throughout, with fresh visuals and great cinematography featuring the Californian desert. The BD picture is among the best I can remember watching, every texture is rendered crisp and sharp; audio is generally flat, but bouncing when the music kicks in. I liked Rubber, but really wanted to love it – ultimately, it should have either been a 20 minute intense short, or full-on 80 minute character study of the tyre.

Score: 7/10

MacGruber: Silver screen spoof of TV’s most resourceful hero McGyver. For a Brit that has never seen McGyver or the SNL skits it comes across as an American equivalent of Austin Powers?? The range of humour isn’t very wide; all jokes are either gross-out or something built up then made to look stupid… which starts to wear a little thin by the end. It’s also potty, very potty, with constant sexual references and a couple of back-to-back romance scenes that rival the Team America one. Some gags – like the villain’s name ‘Cunth’ being repeated – get boring pretty fast. The cast all hit the right buttons with their humour & delivery, and the WWE cameos were pretty sweet, especially the Big Show, who was good game. Val Kilmer (ate all the pies!) plays a Seegal-looking villain, and while he’s alright, he doesn’t seem to care much. The whole retro spoof has been done before but this more watchable because it’s done with conviction – the clichéd dialogue/script in particular was my favourite aspect, executed brilliantly for the most part. The soundtrack’s fairly bland, just song after song but with no real purpose other than just being from the 1980s. While it’s not the most polished or sophisticated film in the world it is funny for the duration, totally quotable and has ‘cult comedy’ written all over it. One of the better comedies so far this year.

Score: 7/10