Saturday, 20 May 2017

REVIEW: KING ARTHUR-LEGEND OF THE SWORD

3/5

Game Of Stones.

126 Mins. Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, David Beckham, Eric Bana & Jude Law. Director: Guy Ritchie.

Swords up guys! Great British legend Ritchie switches his dearstalker for a hat of thorns and Baker Street's pipe and magnify glass for Camelot's sword and stone, as he follows his 'Sherlock Holmes' change of investigation direction with a game of crowns. But down by Law is it Watson who would be King? Or a 'Son Of Anarchy' raised under lock, stock and one smokin' brothel? The legend of Arthur is as sage olde as thyme itself and this theme of taking sword from stone is not for the feint of heart like pulling teeth, lifting the hammer or Avenging Norse God Thor, or a mere mortal of a man picking up the hoover on a lazy Sunday afternoon. And in the Summertime of Marvel, monsters, monkeys and even mummy's, Arthur looks to make heads roll through the castle walls. As like a King James in a different game, Cavalier talent Charlie Hunnam mans up to the rock like Nic Cage taking on Connery. But forget James Bond, or even Sherlock as the British Intelligence of former Miss American Pie, Mr. Madonna, Guy Ritchie brings us another national treasure coming home like the World Cup...and boy does he know how to bend it. But more on that later as the meat and mead of this Cockney, cock-eyed wide boy tale adds some big 'Lock Stock' smoke to the forlorn fog of old London town. Jesters beware! This ace in the hole, king of hearts is a diamond geezer. The only thing that's missing is Ray Winstone. 'Av at it my son!

Because 'Robin Hood', 'Men In Tights', or even 'Prince Of Thieves' this is not! This is a moat watery, muddy mess of a rugby scrum of bruised and bloodied action which begins with the stone and ends with a graver one. This is more like the George R.R. Martin legend of 'Game Of Thrones'...just with less t###. Unless you count the ones who think they're worthy of Exaclibur. As only the excellent and charismatic Charlie Hunnam is worthy of Caliburn. After showing he can take on Godzilla like Kaiju's on the 'Pacific Rim', this hells leather motorcyclist rips back across the coast to chop anyone down in his path. The versatile 'Crimson Peak' talent hits a new high in this bloodshed soaked story of dagger and boulder. As the throne fits for him like a glass slipper from a Prince, or his coat of arms and new/old world style clothes he's draped in that would even make an emperor red with jealousy. Even if the Law and ordained King is the devilish, ungodly 'Young Pope' himself, Jude Law. Reuniting with Guy after playing Dr. John partner to Mr. Holmes to show he is the one, true evil in this empire of God aspiring men who look more like monsters. Law's breaking talent for the wrong side of the hero/villain coin is so affordable in the second wind of his career, this season of character arc changing is arresting. Developing deeper traits under lock and key, the former baby-faced, sweet smile of 'Mr. Napkin Head' sneers with no more veneers looking like he could choke you with that very same cloth. 'The Holiday' and the honeymoon is over. Jude hasn't been this rude since he was tracking down Tom Hanks' 'Road To Perdition' gangster with a Tommy Gun and a camera. This 'Fantastic Beast' to be in full animalistic mode finds himself in some changing times and tides. And he plays it as well as 'The Talented Mr. Ripley'. Evil has never been so devilishly tempting. This lawless talent playing hatred for all it's scorned is the thing you'll love most about this realm.

Drawbridges are lowered for even more Kingsmen and Spanish 'Pirates Of The Caribbean' mermaid Astrid Berges-Frisbey on fine form with Merlin magic. Making a splash here in this mud and blood carnage for the crown. And how could you not watch this throne without a 'G.O.T.' cast member? As Aidan Gillen continues his ruthless streak with a bow and dragon fire arrow in this meat and potatoes story that also finds supernatural sorcery. There's enough to go to war with here as 'Amistad' and 'Blood Diamond' legend Djimon Hounsou moves away from filling 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' and 'Fast and Furious' franchises like Diesel and back to the shield and sword days of a 'Gladiator'. You thought he was done...but not yet. Even hulking 'Star Trek' villain Eric Bana returns like the time travelling husband of Rachel McAdams he was, keeping his 'Troy' toga on and showing worn wisdom and epic emotional character catalyst as this films father figure. But completing this round table comes a cameo from a man who could bend a football round the widest one from a standing free kick position. As England and Manchester United sports soccer legend David Beckham shows up as a party favour for his guy Ritchie. With scarface scarred Bradley Cooper Hollywood looks and an Eastenders accent this game midfielder is the right fit in winging it for a couple of minutes of time off the bench. Sure this destined world famous footballer hasn't attended an acting academy in his life, but you only have to watch a Marvel movie to know that cameos are just for fun and this guy brings a Stan Lee smile of surprise and recognition either way. And he actually acts funny to boot. It's another tried technique from screen tested 'Sherlock' director Guy Ritchie who brings more of that trademark slow-motion, stop-and-go stuttering action to the stylized set-pieces in some need of something more substantial. And knuckles bared sometimes balls to the wall, we just want to see people get on with getting it on. Pulling some punches and knocking out others though Ritchie's rich direction pays off mostly, even if some of the time it's giving to the poor. Some of this cult classic turned sci-fi geek crowd friendly film makes for quite a muddy, muddled mess. But what a mess it is! Because when it hits it strikes like a sword aglow worthy of the only man who can pull it from stone. Match the rugged Hunnam hero with Law's vile villain revolt and you have that iconic good vs bad dynamic looking to rule no matter how ugly it gets. This Guy of thrones lets this kings legend reign on with explosive fire. All hail! TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'Sherlock Holmes-A Game Of Shadows', 'Exodus: Gods & Kings', 'The Huntsmen-Winters War'.

Friday, 12 May 2017

REVIEW: MISS SLOANE

4/5

Sloane Ranger.

132 Mins. Starring: Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alison Pill, Jake Lacy, Sam Waterston & John Lithgow. Director: John Madden.

Miss Chastain. One woman. Millions of guns. In 'Miss Sloane', arguably the current best actor of our time Jessica Chastain plays Elizabeth Sloane. A D.C. lobbyist looking to oppose a bill in Washington relating to the rights and regulations of firearms. Yep, it's political. And hell yeah it's prevelant right now, as the double Oscar nominated Academy actress (how about another couple with her latest two?), who is standing up for womens rights and equal pay in a less than fair Hollywood stuck in the forties looks to take the fight all the way to the White House. With words, not weapons. And facts and figures, not what some would term, "fake news". Chastain's 'Sloane' looks to make N.R.A. gun nuts fold and fall like a house of cards. Even if those behind a desk in a suit and tie, armed to the blazer are packing more than a punch. As they more than passively aggressively threaten, "there's 5 million of us...and we're all armed". Red hot on the heels of standing on her own two up and against the Nazis in the true story of 'The Zookeepers Wife' and the incredible and inspired Mrs. Zabinski who hid 300 jews in her zoo during Hitler's occupation of Poland, the 'A Most Violent Year' actress goes against anything remotely of that nature and gives us one of her most powerful performances to date. In her 'Most' Lady Macbeth-esque, Machivellian machinations. More 'Zero Dark Thirty' than 'The Help', the influential 'Interstellar' and the out of this world 'The Martian' scene-stealer is giving us more and more of herself and films gravel grounded in the raw realities effecting us right now. Whether via a history lesson or a political one. Going all alone as Sloane, Jessica goes beyond tired gender stereotypes in this industry to show just what one person can do in the face of pure pressure. Whether political or by the pistol. But even under the gun, Chastain and 'Miss Sloane' are under compelling control.

Spotlight's shine on star and screen here in this desk debate heavy narrative like the time Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams et al took on the Catholic church in Boston last year and won. And just like that talk of the talk definitive drama, this gun issue still thrills and spills without a single trigger being pulled. As the central Sloane character and all the people in power she takes aim at really rings out. With this this just may be 'The Zookeepers Wife's' day, week, month and even year friends. As Jessica is about to play 'Molly's Game' and fans are also lobbying for this lobbiest to make for the perfect Poison Ivy in the forthcoming 'Gotham City Sirens' female-centric villain film from 'Suicide Squad' assembler David Ayer. The 'Huntsmen-Winters War' sequel actress is ice cold perfect and calculated in her reduction of arms. Prepared to be viewed as wrong all with the formidable forsight and fortitude to do the right thing, no matter the counter measure. After taking us to two 'Best Exotic Marigold Hotels' with retiring legends, 90's sweet love story signatures 'Shakespeare In Love' and 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' director John Madden (no, not the EA Sports guy) scores a touchdown with this one. As Q.B. for a very different and dynamic shift of tone in this political pounding that has so much to say from the hip. It's the type of D.C. drama in almost docu or T.V. series form that 'The West Wing's' Aaron Sorkin would be proud of. And something that in history and acting legacy will go down as something as important as Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman's typewriter Watergate journalists in the acclaimed 'All The Presidents Men', based on actual events or a true story we wish it was. Madden brings a measure of brilliance to this backroom white collar madness. Whilst an engaged Chastain behind the power suit shows the law a whole new order we wish we could all abide by. All to make the world a safer place beyond how the cliched saying goes. Gun lovers will hate it. And in America money wise it took just over half the figure of the population who carry firearms. But that's no reason to holster a clear critical classic. As movie fanatics will know it's not about money or those in "power" that try to oppose the meaning and message of this moving movie (see Chastain's 'Most Violent' co-star, the award worthy Oscar Isaac in his powerful 'Promise' of love in the face of war). There's so much more to the force of this film than bullets or dollars. And that's how you really effect global scale change for the better.

'The Zookeepers Wife' showed us what they did then. 'Miss Sloane' shows us what we can all do now. As with 'Zero Dark Thirty' ferocity Chastain hunts down this notion and anyone with a gun like she did Bin Laden. And joined by the strength of her. 00.30 co-star Mark Strong she has a lot behind her unwavering spine. No matter who looks to stab her in the back...or worse. The Great Brit Strong powers many pictures these days, from the Turing classic 'The Imitation Game' to the new Avenger Bonds of the 'Kingsmen'. But here he really leaves a mark. Just like stellar supporting actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw whose gone from 'Belle' to 'Beauty and the Beast' and beyond the wifely support of leading men like Matthew McConaughey and Will Smith in the revealing 'Free State Of Jones' and critical 'Concussion' respectively. Filmography versatile character actor Michael Stuhlbarg is also here on the reliable form of his life. Showing he's his own actor and more than someone that looks like Joaquin Phoenix's younger brother. Chris Evans' 'Snowpiercer' and 'Jessica Jones' Marvel P.I. actress Alison Pill also brings a dose of icy reality in this winter war over weapons in Washington. Whilst 'Law and Order' legend Sam Waterston with almost Watergate corrupt conflicted conviction believes he is going by the book (more old testament in his bedside table draw next to his sidearm and glass of water and false teeth), until Chastain's revelation turns the page. There's so much more to Sloane, from 'Carol' actress Jake Lacy lacing some love for sale implication subplot that screams for a deeper connection a cheque can't cut. To '3rd Rock' great John Lithgow's sly Senator, serving as judge, jury and gavel in this executioner debate. Reuniting with his 'Interstellar' grandaughter all grown up, Lithgow hasn't shone this much in cinemas since his 'Planet Of The Apes' rise. But from the frank face to facetime video screen opening to the brutal honesty and policy she emits throughout, no one chastises all the wrong today more than Chastain. But the wonder woman with the Black Widow do is doing more than just mouthing off on Capitol Hill. She's really saying something in a trumped up town and capital city that's forgot how to walk up the Lincoln steps of the mall and sit with honest Abe without looking like a Spacey-ed out caricature of presidency. This should grab their attention by the balls. Tell the leader of the not-so free world that ladies like this demand to come first. Even if they are in the line of all sorts of fire. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'Zero Dark Thirty', 'The Zookeepers Wife', 'Spotlight'.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

REVIEW: ALIEN-COVENANT

3.5/5

Android: Covenant.

123 Mins. Starring: Katherine Waterson, Michael Fassbender, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollett, James Franco, Guy Pearce & Noomi Rapace. Director: Ridley Scott.

Are we all in agreement that 'Alien: Covenant' has our faces hugging cinema screens in blockbuster anticipation this summer? This is the real close encounter bursting through your chest like the great John Hurt (Rest Peacefully. From the original to 'Spaceballs' no one will ever do it like you). E.T...run home! Because here comes the Xenomorph. Snarling and slobbering all over 'Covenant' like Beethoven...and we aren't talking about the classical musician. Director Ridley Scott composes another spaceship, thrilling horror classic as claustraphobic as those air ducts. As the alien with two heads, one lurking beneath jaws butts the glass windows of our craft like it was at a Metallica gig. In a Marvel sequel reboot age of mummies, monsters and planets of apes this old girl still rocks too. Just like the bald ambition of franchise legend Sigourney Weaver's Ripley, who is still inspiring bob-cut, muscle vest, beautiful heroines to this day and film. Nothing can stop this beast. Not even the new 'Life' given to this space-station, sci-fi gore genre by the Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal homaged horror blockbuster of just a month or so back that some may see as plagirism, but others maybe view even better than this. And when it comes to the legendary great Scott coming off his life on Mars with 'The Martian' Matt Damon and right before the '2049' sequel redux of his other signature science-fiction cult, classic like his star Harrison Ford, 'Blade Runner', nothing can survive this. He may have given the replicant plans to 'Arrival's' Denis Villeneuve, but when it comes to fellow, new sci-fi pioneering director Neil Blomkamp (of 'District 9' and 'Elysium' modern Phillip K. Dick future forefather fable fame), this chappie will have to be patient for his 'Alien' sequel still lying in wait behind the rib-cages. Still just like the only out of this world franchise to top this intelligent life and force it to the side of the solar system, 'Star Wars', there will be an 'Awakening'. But before you feel it, make sure you get too close to this creature for cinema comfort. As Scott resurrects his iconic 'Alien' predator, setting it free for something that his halfway between a 'Prometheus 2' and Ripley's game. Looks like the beast that Ridley said was "done and cooked" is back to eat.

And boy is she hungry! It's a good job Scott is serving up a bloody laundry list of colonizing couples boarding this Noah's Ark two-by-two on the menu. For starters Katherine Waterson is locked and mother expletive loaded on this mothership against the alien queen. She wowed us in 'Inherent Vice' and recently put as spell on us in 'Fantastic Beasts' but this actress of the moment really finds herself and leads here. No matter how many there are of 'Steve Jobs' co-star, Michael Fassbender. Weaving between some Sigourney, Rapace pacing and her own breakout character arc. Machine-gunning and switch-blading between tearing tear ducts of raw emotion and the ability to defiantly demand to know where this astronauts worst nightmare is out of an out for blood desire. Still despite the bones of Katherine's bold and brutual performance, humans aside this is Michael Fassbender's androids movie. Restarting his career life after the 'Assassins Creed' mis-cut fatality, one of the best actors of our time still moves metal like Magneto and minds like 'Macbeth'. And this time replicating his David to a whole other Mr. Robot, Michael is mesmerizing as a machine looking to make mans emotions and world his own. Fassbender fascinates going blonde on brown and switching between the two units, cohesively and effectively in their shared circuits and different strokes of the engineers cursor. When it comes to Ridley Scott's cinematic creations it looks like humanoids dream of electric sheep too. But is Fassbender's familiar face wearing wolf's clothing? And isn't this meant to be an extra-terrestrial film? Not a man-made cyborg one? As much of an upgrade as Fassbender is this is more of an android movie than an alien one. Perhaps it is more 'Prometheus 2' but not sold the same or as seen for that blockbuster popcorn money. And therein lies the problem of duality. Sure more than merely tingling the spine, there is enough Alien scenes that scare and aren't scarce to bring the "oohs" and "aahhs", then followed by the running and screaming. But we are still just a few air lock restricting scenes-as tense as the vents-away from Jeff Goldblum tapping on the glass and asking if there plans to be any aliens in our...erm 'Alien' movie. Are you in covenant?

Monster meals come in all sorts of shapes and sizes however. Some cooked and some microwaved. Some even fun-sized too. As did you ever think you'd see 'Pineapple Express' bros Danny McBride and James Franco in something quite like this? If we told you these boys were bound for a fantasy horror you'd probably think a 'Your Highness' sequel was on the way. But fear not, these guys are actually the captain and the pilot of this ship. And they're official too. We always knew a fleeting Franco here could play frank and to be fair although he brings the lions share of the comic relief, 'Eastbound and Down's' McBride in Idris Elba's cockpit with a stetson shy of a few corks is seriously good at going straight. Like all the A grade talent here on the kill or be killed list. Like fellow skipper Billy Crudup as 'Watchmen's' Manhattan looks green in the face of a hugger. Or 'The Hateful Eight's' Demian Bichir still slinging artillery like it was the spaghetti west. Just like 'Selma' and Waterston's 'Beasts' co-star Carmen Ejogo too. Bringing pure, blood slipping terror on the form of her career that started with Eddie Murphy's 'Metro' express. Even T.V. singing 'Empire' superstar Jussie Smollett is here and hits all the right notes. Just like an unforgettable scene with a flute that plays like the most tense scene recorded. All singing from the same 'Prometheus' hymn sheet for a who's who, roll call that even in the footnotes features cameos from 'Prometheus' prequel favourites Guy Pearce and a Leia like Noomi Rapace like in this films prologue. Youtube debuted like the first five minutes and everything else in the name of immersed hype, In Utero. All told Scott's shot in the franchise arm merges the beauty of 'Prometheus' with the brawn of the original trilogy to give us an advanced 'Alien' movie with more brains. It may take things a little too self serious at time but 'Covenant' brings together closet hidden messages of our creation mixed with the behind the door reveal of mans destruction in this red shirt porn that flirts between soft and hardcore. 'Covenant' covets more even if all some want to see is gore and the morph. Or to have Blomkamp's idea taken out of cryosleep. These horrors were always able to make us do more than jump. And this requiem plays almost like what fanboys and girls dreams are made of. But in this paranoid androids dream of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence like, new life colony passengers, perhaps before the next 'Alien' it was time we were all awoken. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'Alien', 'Prometheus', 'Life'.

#TapeDeckShuffle GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY-AWESOME MIX Specia

Crossing over with our sister blog AMPs & 808s for a mix of movies and music. It's time to plug in your amps and Walkman headphone jacks and get your tape deck's and Zune shuffles ready, as after 5 years our #TapeDeckShuffle series is back. And this week it's a special dedicated to the cosmic-book, space-age Marvel franchise 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' and it's new sequel, 'Vol. 2'. With our playlist picks selecting the best from each 'Awesome Mix' soundtracks volumes to get your Groot scootin' on to. Showtime A-Holes!

Side A-Vol 1.

Blue Swede-Hooked On A Feeling: "Ooh-ga chaka. Ooh-ga, ooh-ga". I can't stop this feeling. Deep inside of me. Just like G.O.T.G's themes song. The Guardians just don't know what they do to me. Ahh-ahh, ahh! You know the rest.

Norman Greenbaum-Spirit In The Sky: Last used on the 'Alien' like 'Life' spaceship with Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal. This decades gone, timeless classic set off the first full trailer for the first 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' film perfectly. If anyone teased that Marvel's movie about a talking tree and racoon was going to be a scud missile than they had no bark or bite after this laid everything to rest as they took us to the place that's the best.

Elvin Bishop-Fooled Around & Fell In Love: Getting 'Footloose' like his great hero Kevin Bacon. What better a song for Chris Pratt's Star-Lord to roll with than the one in which he and stick-up-the-butt, barge-pole love interest and green beauty Gamora shared their first dance to?

10CC-I'm Not In Love: You want an absolute 80's classic that fits the tone and texture of this throwback film? Than how about this then futuristic, atmospheric gem that hadn't been used this well since New York's finest the Fun Lovin' Criminals covered it so smoothly?

The Runaways-Cherry Bomb: No Jackson 5? Not Marvin's mountain (technically that was 'Awesome Mix Vol. 2'...just sayin')? Not even the 'Ooh Child' dance-off with the Five Stairsteps bro? Not one this 'Cherry Bomb' explodes the pre-finale fights, locked and loaded suit-up montage. Hello daddy! Hello mum!

Side B-Vol 2.

Electric Light Orchestra-Mr. Blue Sky: Annoyingly catchy. If you hate this song. You won't be able to help but loving it after you watch 'Vol. 2's' opening sequence as Baby Groot plugs this tune and dances around whilst his fellow Guardians protect the galaxy from what looks like the love child of Krang from the Turtles and the Kraken. This is not your average space Octopus or chip off the old Groot. But an oblivious baby Groot still cuts a rug...unless Drax is watching.

Fleetwood Mac-The Chain: Nothing speaks to the theme of this movie more than this absolute belter from the Mac that links all these sisterly and fatherly family ties together. The now signature Formula One theme sets off this sequels second trailer like Greenbaum with even more spirit in the sky.

Sam Cooke-Bring It On Home: Shall we dance again? The 'will they won't they' Fitz/Simmons of the Galaxy, Star-Lord and Gamora waltz to this love gospel that the live opening of Will Smith's 'Ali' used to knockout effect like Ego's living planet was a ballroom.

George Harrison-My Sweet Lord: A long haired, bearded Beatle over Ravi Shankar sitar is as trippy as it gets to continue this out of this universe experience so electric and eclectically.

Cat Stevens-Father & Son: There's no better way to conclude an epic, emotional end to a superhero film all about family than with 'Father and Son'. As the now Yusuf Islam sings "I know, I have to go" to the end credits if there's a dry eye in the house than I am Groot. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Friday, 5 May 2017

REVIEW: SLEEPLESS

3/5

Sleepless In Collateral.

95 Mins. Starring: Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan, T.I., David Harbour, Gabrielle Union, Dermot Mulroney, Octavious J. Johnson & Scoot McNairy. Director: Baran bo Odar.

Sleep isn't the only thing lost here in the new Jamie Foxx cop/crime thriller based on the French film 'Sleepless Night'. In this 'Sleepless' a million miles from Tom Hanks' Seattle, Foxx's son is literally being used as collateral. So expect some damage like the time he took Tom Cruise's awesome Mann made assassin for a taxi ride in downtown L.A. But this time it's the debauched city of sin Las Vegas that lays our action scenes like his digital era 'Miami Vice' days. And man how they unfold like a deck of cards across the electro neon strip which now seems to have added London's Eye to it's collector like site exhibits of the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty. Try your hand because this is an explosive killer like heartland rocker Brandon Flowers singing about girls like they were atomic bomb tests in the desert from the back of his Mustang. And as soon as Jamie Foxx's stops at a red light in his G.T.O. he just wishes Ansel Elgort was driving. But fear not! With this and Edgar Wright's forthcoming 'Baby Driver' this double-act looks sets to be Foxx's biggest Summer yet and the actor/singer/comedian triple threats biggest year since he almost did the Oscar double for 'Ray' and 'Collateral' in the same calender the 'Unpredictable' singer pulled a Streisand and won both an Oscar and Grammy. No wonder ATL, King of the South rapper Cliff "T.I.P." Harris-who Foxx collaborated with on 'Live In The Sky' is riding and rolling shotgun as our lead detectives partner in fighting crime the right way...even if a few pages of the book they go by is a little dogeared with some slight foxing on the edges. Don't worry! Try not to lose any sleep over it.

'Django' really is off the chain here too. Running up the hood of cars in a parking lot with a blunderbuss and giving gas mask villains what for (But wait a minute! That stellar scene from the thrilling trailer of our D.I. is M.I.A. presumed D.O.A. in a spate of lost and found footage for films these days). All whilst wearing his necklace chain badge across his chest like a pair of dog tags. In this revenge soaked thriller Foxx puts everyone in the hole, but you can't snare or trap him. His Vincent Downs cop character vehicle is putting anyone in his way down and in the sand as "the baddest finest" ladies and gentlemen drives his enemies in his trunk to the dessert with Drake's 'Energy' on repeat. All in the name of this fathers son and whether he'll see another one. It's pretty serious for some brilliant B-movie material in this genre ignited 'John Wick' age. But as Jamie says "you hurt my son...I'm killing all of y'all" much in the same vein as his "touch your guns, you die" 'Django Unchained' quote you know he aint playing. And just like Tarantino you're gonna love the way he shoots boy. Or just like 'Just Like Me' returning collaborator T.I. says, "yo man that was some 'Reservoir Dogs' s### back there man", as Foxx replies that "it's been a long day"-but not in those words-looking like he's just taken someones ear off (well he is about to play Mike Tyson). And the 'American Gangster' and 'Ant-Man' rapper/actor T.I. who really grew in the aforementioned and the remake of the T.V. adaptation of 'Roots' plants himself next to Foxx perfectly. As Foxx is on a one man manhunt he still needs back up and you can for sure call on Tip in the Vegas air tonight. These two might be another 48 hours away from being at the level of a Beverly Hills Cop but they make for a pretty jam-packed Rush Hour with less jokes but more human traffic.

'True Detective' Michelle Monaghan is the the real draw here too, no stay at home character b.s. assignment. This is the 'Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang' and 'Gone Baby Gone' stars moment to represent like when she took complete character command at 'Fort Bliss'. The 'Mission Impossible III' and 'Source Code' standout knows how to make her own name next to the biggest leading men in the world (Tom Cruise, Jake Gyllenhaal etc). And this leading lady whose character in her 'Due Date' reunion with Robert Downey Jr. was rumoured to be running away with Foxx's part really has something here with Jamie in their own little reunion. You can cut the good cop/bad cop tension with the corners of the book they throw at you. Meanwhile 1980's Hawkins, Indiana Sheriff David Harbour is harbouring more 'Stranger Things' than looking for justice for Barb'. As the character actor of 'Black Mass' and 'The Equalizer furthers his formidable filmography favourbly, despite now-thanks to last year-being most recognisable for being made household face-to-a-name famous in a binge watching minute of an evening. The A-list cast of multiple grades all step up their A-game though. Just like Gabrielle Union bringing it all together. An actress more than merely being Miss Dwyane Wade or another member of the Basketball Wives club. One who brings the most heat since she was in Miami with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence for 'Bad Boys II'. Meanwhile 'August and Osage County' actor Dermot Mulroney who seemingly appears in more films than we realise, recognise or remember plays so much Pesci meets De Niro 'Casino' grease that he should stay in the kitchen with the rest of the condiments bagged up to look like coke. And in this drug run turned cat and mouse Casino chase that races through 95 minutes of run-time like eyes on the ball of a roulette wheel there's even more players. Like 'Killing Them Softly' pain strummer Scoot McNairy who fingers the trigger on his own moment here after being like one of Ben Affleck's best friends that appear in all his films like Sandler's ones ('Argo', 'Gone Girl' and 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice'). Playing a vile villain with such inked and scarred conviction, Scoot is ready for his 'War Machine' with Pitt and the 'Aftermath' with Arnie himself. But lets hear it for and hand it to relative 'Coldwater' newcomer Octavious J. Johnson. Coming of age as our lead cops son. Swiss director Baran bo Odar who made his name with 'Who Am I? No System Is Safe' times all of this with precision perfection. Even if this scatter-gun movie moves at an abrupt pace it still keeps you guessing and wondering as to how they will get out of this jam at a shade over an hour and a half before they take the casino. From the sparkler fireworks of bottle service club carnage that could stick it to 'Collateral', to car chases of vehicular manslaughter like when Foxx flipped the very same cab on its top. Or the shootouts in this new Vegas similair to the Wild West. All set to a hauntingly tense score. And let's not forget the flour and cleaver, hells kitchen nightmares of what looks like a fight with Gordon Ramsey...perhaps they didn't like today's special. But here's something else too for your dessert out in the desert. Don't doze because this eye-opener 'Sleepless' is so slick there might just be a sequel in there. What happens in Vegas just stays going apparantly. Time for the next movie franchise to wake up. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'Collateral', 'Baby Driver', 'Triple 9'.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

REVIEW: THE PROMISE

3.5/5

In The Name Of Armenia.

134 Mins. Starring: Oscar Isaac, Charlotte La Bon, Christian Bale, Marwan Kenzari, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Angela Sarafyan, Rade Serbedzija, Tom Hollander, Jean Reno & James Cromwell. Director: Terry George.

Promises are broken all the time. In love, life and the politics of both. But one that will always be kept is the vow between Armenians to keep their people and their way of life alive, no matter what. Even in the face of extermination at the hands of pure evil. After the systematic genocide of 1.5 million of their Christian people in the Armenian Holacaust between 1915 and 1923 by the Muslim Ottoman government that the Turkish goverment still to this day unbelievably and shamefully refuses to acknowledge happened. Despite it remaining one of histories darkest times and empires like the Nazis in World War II or ISIS today. All you need to do is read the Christian Bale's quote about turning on the news to see sadly how important this issue is today. His face when his character is told there's no war here says it all with no words. All for the millions of people who died in an begging belief effort to wipe a race of people off the face of this earth that still many (including this writer before the film) know little, or nothing at all about. But as this films epic, emotionally evoking trailers say, "Empires fall. Love survives!" And for years this movie couldn't get off the ground. Simply because people tried to stop it being made. But like surviving oppression this is a story that needs to be told and heard. Even if critics seem to be trying to put an end to it too. But why are they turning their nose up at powerful movies of great importance? Sure Marvel's hugely popular 'Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2' sequel is out this week in blockbuster season. But this is a history lesson we all need to learn from Batman and 'X-Men: Apocalypse' star Oscar Isaac. Who like his wonderful 'A Most Violent Year' co-star Jessica Chastain-in the inspirational in the face of ignorant hate 'The Zookeepers Wife'-is starring in a critical piece of cinema right now that we should all see. No matter how hard it is to watch. As Daniel Day-Lewis' 'In The Name Of The Father' director Terry George-who brought the best out of himself and Marvel Avenging War Marchine, Don Cheadle in the harrowingly raw 'Hotel Rwanda'-brings us a love triangle to rival the forces at work in 'Allied' of 'Doctor Zhivago' sized proportions.

Oscar may be short of one. But Isaac's ways confirm the Academy actor as the best working one today not named Leonardo DiCaprio. The 'Inside Llewyn Davis' breakout star, who has already won a Golden Globe for his Springsteen-collared 'Show Me A Hero' HBO mini-series is so versatile he could one day play the Boss himself in a Bruce biopic. But here in a film that shares a name with one of the most underrated classic tracks off E Street, Isaac vows to show us his other worldly talents. The leading man who can look like both Al Pacino and Andy Garcia, all at the same time has already won over the cult sci-fi crowd, from the indie (the excellent 'Ex Machina') to the blockbuster mainsteam massive movie masses (his Poe pilot in the new 'Star Wars' trilogy alongside Domnhall Gleeson) can play across a wide range of cultures. Isaac of Guatemalan-American descent has played European, Egyptian, Polish, English, French, Mexican, East Timorese, Italian, Welsh, Indonesian, Greek, Cuban and Israelian people in his pictures. And now before he works on a George Clooney Cohen picture with Matt Damon and Josh Brolin, 'Annihilation' and 'Life Itself' he plays an Armenian with the weight of his people on his shoulders and heavy heart. It's an accented performance in all ways that isn't wasted like his mutant 'Apocalypse'. And is quite simply the stirring soul of this compelling look of the heart of hope surviving in the most cruellest of circumstance. You can hear it in the determination of his voice, glaring down fear as he says, "I have to get us out of here before it's too late". Showing love in the eyes of hate alongside 'Yves Saint Laurent' and 'The Walk' star Charlotte La Bon who is one 'Chocolat' like movie away from being the next Juliette Binoche. Brilliant here, La Bon is so good at bringing the beauty of love to screen, all so subtely. Torn between war and two men she shows the pain and not shame of a heart that yearns for someone else and the strength of mind that reaches for a life that will no longer be lived in any type of oppression. It's the kind of performance that puncutates scripts and roles that will keep rolling her way as more and more red carpets will be laid out with the big parts she's set to play. But this is a million miles away from the fake gloss of Hollywood and Charlotte stings like a hornet any notion that this movie is just a pretty postcard of love with a brutal backdrop. The heart of matters shows what keeps us going in war, but the raw soul reveals what really lies within each of us. Survival. And that as La Bon says will be their revenge.

Christian Bale also offers a spirited performance as a member of the Associated Press whose passion is journalism, but one that doesn't take him away from the love of his partner. Even if his necessity to report on the war and bring this story to the public awareness of attention and action risks the loss of his life and everything he loves. No third wheel, it's a part of real spine and the deepest chambers of heart from a man who won't just walk with oppressed people who others would simply turn a cheek from, but a man who will also stand next to the woman he loves and the man who loves her back all for the greater good. And the yearn for both love and life to make it. A bearded Bale who recently impressed in 'The Big Short' and 'American Hustle' goes from the money to take stock and risk of what really matters. 'The Dark Knight' star hasn't stretched to the limits this much since the 'American Psycho' starved his body and soul for the scrawn of 'The Machinist' and the bone knuckle punch of 'The Fighter'. It takes a real man to watch and help the woman he loves fall for the desires of another man, but Christian handles it with beautiful and faithful forgivness, hiding behind a tempered anger of acceptance purely put into his work. Each cast member brings so much more of themselves to this. Promising 'Collide' and 'Wolf' breakout actor Marwan Kenzari is a helping hand as a friend who behind the fun will do anything to assist. Whilst the recognisable voice of 'The Lake House' and 'Star Trek-Beyond' crew member Shohreh Aghdashloo is moving as Oscar's mother. Meanwhile the eyes of 'Westworld' and 'Twilight' star and actual Armenian actress Angela Sarafyan plays an enchanting bride of Isaac and 'Mission Impossible 2' and 'X-Men: First Class' actor of distinction Rade Serbedzija leads one hell of a revolution to pay for. Versatile British actor Tom Hollander (who we most recently saw impress in Tom Hardy's 'Taboo' for the BBC) also brings raw resistance. And there are classy cameos from 'Leon' legend Jean Reno as a French general and 'L.A. Confidential' great James Cromwell popping up as an American Jew more than sympathetic to the cause, inbetween his dedication and service to the Vatican alongside Jude Law's 'Young Pope'. 'The Promise' delivers an incredible mix of people that show just how much this life and world is worth. As Terry George brings us a film that mixes elements of 'The English Patient' and '12 Years A Slave' to show us today just how it really was as we relate to the characters portraying real people here in so many ways. One heartbreaking scene here as movingly haunting in its horror as the roadside one in 'Hotel Rwanda' by the stream of a lake will stay with you like the current. It's something sinister but still so necessary to see, especially with everything that stills go on today. Something you will not forget in a hurry and should always remember all for what it means. Say you will? As amazingly 100% of the proceeds of this powerful movie go to profit only charity. These people deserve your time and thoughts. And this is a promise we should always keep. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'Hotel Rwanda', 'Allied', 'The Zookeepers Wife'.

Friday, 28 April 2017

REVIEW: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2

4/5

Big Ego In Little Planet.

136 Mins. Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Sean Gunn, Chris Sullivan, Michael Rosenbaum, Ving Rhames, Michelle Yeoh, Miley Cyrus, Sylvester Stallone & Kurt Russell. Director: James Gunn.

Groot Scott! The Ego has landed...and we aren't talking about Chris Pratt's R.D.J. Stark, Iron Man rivalling Star-Lord. This is the frickin sequel to the 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' a-holes. So pop the 'Vol. 2' cassette in the tape deck. It's showtime! Now if you thought 'Civil War' was big Captain America, just you wait for the intergalatic one and all its infinite possibilities. After the racoon and talking tree of the first Guardians became an underdog hit that no one saw coming it opened all sorts of portals for Marvel's cosmic 'Doctor Strange' and the little/big 'Ant-Man' to grow. Now the thief, two thugs, assassin and maniac are back in 'GOTG Vol. 2' for a chance to give a s### again. Exploding like a cherry bomb in the solar system. And dynamic director James Gunn shoots for the milky way and all the planets once more with all his conceited d##### bags and young saplings. Gunning for something good, something bad and a little bit of both. As the 'Farscape' like serenity of this galaxy quest changing of the guard looks to bring more retro 80's nostalgic bang for your Rogers buck, as these hitchikers give you another tour de force of the space between far, far away. The next generation of Avengers are ready to assemble with earths mightiest heroes for next years 'Infinity War'. But right now in zapping the 'Justice League' Summer blockbuster competition of 'Valerian-And The City Of A Thousand Planets', 'Kingsman', 'The Mummy' and the 'Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes' they are adding another volume to the webs Spider-Man's 'Homecoming' spins across the world, aswell as the ghost riding 'Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.', the Netflix street-level 'Defenders' and the gladiators that missed the 'Civil War' in 'Ragnarok' work friends Thor and the Incredible Hulk. Sounds smashing!

Pratt, Pratt, Pratt. Say his name three times like the Candyman or his Twitter handle and Chris will still be anything but his surname, making his Hollywood Walk Of Fame one. Ever since the 'Parks and Recreation' star ditched the vacation body and knocked it out the park here like he did in 'Moneyball', he became one of Marvel and the whole cinematic universe's most bankable leading men. Starring in classic reboots of franchises like the monster 'Jurassic World' and the gun-slinging 'The Magnificent Seven'. Star-Lord, Marvel's answer to 'Star Wars'' Han Solo even managed to creep out the Mystique of X-Woman and 'Passengers' Jennifer Lawrence in what was either a spoiler or stalker alert. But here much more charming this smuggler is still a Walkman scene stealer charisma machine. Acting his tube socks off and riding rifle shotgun with sword slashing, green sci-fi queen Zoe Saldana as Gamora. The blue megastar of 'Avatar' in this blue sky like she was out of this world, beyond the 'Star Trek' energized reboot in a red dress shirt. Again the Hulk coloured envy of everyone including Thanos' daughter and Avatar-toned sister Nebula, played with bald, ballsy ambition by 'Doctor Who's' Tardis time jumper Karen Gillan, truly great here. Then there's Dave Bautista. Who wrestled with critics questioning Marvel's choice before he literally destroyed it as Drax, quite possibly the most hilarious thing about Marvel's funniest franchise. Nothing is going over our heads here, especially perfect comic timing from the man who went from odd-job to Bond henchmen villain with Jaws like fingernails. And of course who could forget the dynamite duo switching shoulders? Rocket and Groot. With the voices of arguably two of the most famous faces of this franchise. Rocket man Bradley Cooper, one of the worlds sexiest men playing a rodent with a vermin verve and voice so good you forget you're hangin' with Mr. Cooper. And as the circle of the tree of life must go on and find a way, how about 'Fast and Furious', gravel drive voiced Vin Diesel as the chip off the old block Baby Groot (and thinking of Marvel's hip-hop variant comic album covers. We need one with Baby Groot in the swimming pool of Nirvana's 'Never Mind', reaching for the Awesome Mix Vol. 2 Walkman cassette...twig included)? The cutest thing on screen reaching new heights thanks to the branching out Vin's pitch perfect delivery and secret script with James Gunn for more meaning. In what is the 'xXx' returning stars week, month and year he is always Groot.

Whistle whilst you watch though because 'Days Of Thunder' gunner Michael Rooker is back in the Ravaging spaceship driving seat. Dixie with an arrow for anyone willing to troll his new maverick mohawawk and the directors seriously good brother Sean Gunn by his sidearm. This surrogate dad is about to pop up like you've never seen him before. And boy is it going to be something. Empowering newcomer Pom Klementieff preys on peoples emotions too like an emphatethic Mantis. Whilst just when you thought she was going to play the amazing Angela, 'The Great Gatsby' and 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.' breakout star Elizabeth Debicki who managed the night with Loki's Tom Hiddleston is given the Goldfinger art deco treatment as Ayesha, another iconic villain in comic book lore. And that's not it for a cast list that includes everyone. From 'This Is Us' favourite Chris Sullivan as the amazingly named Taser Face. This being an actor that was the nicest thing about Season 1 of 'Stranger Things'. To even Lex Luthor for Detective Comic crying out loud. No not Jesse Eisenberg, but 'Smallville's Michael Rosenbaum...no one did bald quite like him. Sorry Chris...or should we say...Taser?! Not to mention 'Crouching Tiger' hidden legend, Michelle Yeoh, 'Pulp Fiction' icon Ving Rhames and the acting 'Wrecking Ball' of Miley Cyrus, lady of brother of Thor Liam Hemsworth. Even if the great Glenn Close is sadly not back for another encounter (just unfortunatly like 'Kong: Skull Island' favourite John C. Reilly), we have something like The Donald. Not Trump but the duck! Still if you want cult action hero legends then lets stay in the same Diesel 'Fast and Furious' lane like it was all 'Fat8'. As 'Big Trouble In Little China', 80's 'Escape' Snake hero Kurt Russell (who also gets the Michael Douglas young Hank Pym treatment), is a real big thing here. Carpenter's cinematic son plays Quill's pops, giving Star-Lord the 'Star Wars', "I am your father" shock treatment. Estranged fathers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes but this big Ego character that has a hell of a lot of super id is an actual Living Planet. Looks like his mums got some real explaining to do via her next mixtape. But hey at least the trade with Fox's 'Deadpool' for the kick ass Negasonic Teenage Warhead was worth it. And with some Cash for your money, how about a Tango too? As 'Judge Dredd' himself Sylvester Stallone breaks the big "I am" laws of space as Rocky climbs the steps all the way to the stratosphere. And it's another knockout for Balboa, even if it only takes a few rounds. Sly has barely looked better and cunningly it looks like he has something planned...and that may just be a hell of a lot of fun. These connections and family ties are all linked together by Fleetwood Mac's classic 'The Chain' that as soon as it's Groot plugged, Formula 1 sets this 'Awesome Mix Vol. 2' off like a E.L.O. 'Mr. Blue Sky' rocket boost. Just like the reel to reel of Beatle George Harrison's mesmerizing 'My Sweet Lord', Sam Cooke's beautiful 'Bring It On Home' (that made the opening scene of Will Smith's 'Ali' biopic truly the greatest) and the epic emotion of Cat Stevens 'Father and Son' parentage that keep this soundtrack as legendary as the movie that it's a huge part of itself hooked on a feeling. Marvel and the Summer season of blockbusters may be scorching, but these fireflies holding guard are hot like those coffees that have you playing the side of your take out cup like a saxophone. This is still great and we are still Groot. What more would you expect from a marvelling franchise as reality defying reliable as the classic cameos from it's creator (like the one they thought up with originally with The Collector which is as missed as Benicio Del Toro here) and the traditional post credit reveal scenes which your butt better hold on to for five times this go round? Well there's even more legendary cameos and easter eggs of Marvel and entertainment lore just weeks after he is risen in this game of Gods. Now Marvel's avenging cosmonaut Buzz Aldrin's and Lighyears are ready to go to infinity...and beyond. Time to play the big-three as Volume 2 is one awesome mix of A-holes...obviously! TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'The Avengers', 'Star Wars', 'Star Trek'.

Friday, 21 April 2017

REVIEW: THE ZOOKEEPERS WIFE

4/5

She Brought A Zoo.

126 Mins. Starring: Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh, Michael McElhatton & Daniel Bruhl. Director: Niki Caro.

Lions, tigers and bears. Oh my! This is 'The Zookeepers Wife'. Jessica Chastain's study of zoology. But save your 'Dr. Zoolittle' or 'Jessica Rabbit' pathetic puns. Because one of the leading actresses in the world today, the Academy Award nominated Jessica Chastain is getting real serious here and with her compelling career. This isn't no 'Zookeeper', Kevin James crass comedy. Or a light, 'We Brought A Zoo' feel-good flick. But something which we're amazed didn't garner at least an Oscar nomination for a woman whose work in 'Miss Sloane' should have also been honoured, as she would have gone up against herself aswell as Emma Stone and 'Jackie's' Natalie Portman. All we can say is we can't wait for 'Mollys Game' from 'The Help' and 'Zero Dark Thirty' actress who right now is on the form of her life. What more could you expect from a woman of great power and variety (and we aren't just talking about the New York publications feature)? One who is leading a revolt and a revolution to close the so behind the times it should have been removed way back when in Hollywoodland like the rest of that sign that became iconic once it changed (see?!) gender pay gap? One of our best actors (do we really need to distiguish?) that recently turned down a major role because her male co-star of equal billing was getting more zeroes for the same invested work (our money is on it being some sort of superhero movie for this heroine). Sure the actress who has starred alongside the leading likes of McConaughey (the incredible 'Interstellar'), Damon (the Mars mesmerizing 'The Martian'), Pitt (the otherworldy, outstanding 'Tree Of Life' origins...which she was in more) and Isaac (the major 2015 calender best, 'A Most Violent Year') is in the privilege position of being a millionaire who gets to act in parts she picks and wants to play for a living. But don't get it confused! With all due respect, like a Suffragette (she should have been in that movie with fellow icons Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep) for the rich and famous she's doing this for others too. All the young up and coming actresses who can't catch a break unless they are pigeon-holed into a sometimes sexual stereotype in this la la industry lands look at a world that in reality is full of characters as complex and collectively different as a round hole. But Jessica is willing to show us the square peg and not get in where she fits in (or some other tired cliche), but instead change the mould. Unlocking and breaking down the barriers of Diane Ackerman's book and real life story of Polish Zookeeper Antonia Zabinski who in a 1939 war-torn Warsaw saved the lives of around 300 Jewish people by hiding them from Hitler's Nazis in her zoo in World War 2.

Played with hope in the face of harrowing heartbreak like Oscar winning Adrian Brody's 'Pianist', to the book like Speilberg's 'Schindlers List', Chastain is gold as the amazing Antonia, playing the piano perfectly like in her creepy 'Crimson Peak' as a warning my day and a safe to come out now song by night. A monumental woman of history, Zabinski's story is one of many real-life inspirations from World War 2 that go largely untold to the masses. Much like the art saving old troops of 'The Monuments Men' that George Clooney and his Oceans of Matt Damon and Bill Murray and John Goodman, restored to underrated brilliance two years back. What Antonia and her zookeping husband Jan Zabinski did in saving so many persecuted Jews goes beyond the power of the sheer number, all the way down to the personal touch they beautifully gave to each person. Treating them like the individuals that they are and not a discriminated people based on their faith that the evil Nazis did...the darkest time in human history that still beggars belief. But even out of the bleakest time comes light and shining it on this story, 'The Moon By Whale Light' novel writer and poet Diane Ackerman and 'Whale Rider' director Niki Caro scream it from every rooftop many decades later for everyone willing to hear and learn about a story from history that teaches us yet again how to be today in a world needing more inspiration and less influence from the ignorant. Ingrained into our collective consciousness no matter how lacking of luster we are in a spiritually stunted modern world of discrimination still rampant across the borders by a captivating performance by Chastain. This the vegan actresses passion project as she describes a trust that lies in the eyes of animals that runs deeper than humans. As she rides around her zoo and all its inhabitants on her biycycle to start the day and film. With a polished Polish accent and the sincerity of this sweet lady showing unfathomable strength behind the shyness. Just like when she nurses a baby elephant calf back to health with the trunk of her protective mother bearing down. Facing up to abhorrent, bullying soldiers of inhumane evil, bravely in the wake of them torturing and cruelly killing not only her people, but the beautiful animals of her zoo too in some of the most horrific moments you'll avert your eyes from on screen.

Keeping and protecing jews under Nazi hiding lock and key is reminscent of the under the floorboards, terrifyingly tense, extended opening scene of Quentin Tarantino's 'Inglorious Basterds'. Done with much more dignity from the ketchup and spaghetti western director and his German, Oscar winning muse Christophe Waltz. And here his breakout Berlin star Daniel Bruhl is back in Nazi uniform again like this great actor really wants us to hate us. Coming off playing the unmasked Baron Zemo villain and Captain America's 'Civil War' with Iron Man orchestrata, alongside 'Thor' Chris Hemsworth's James Hunt nemesis Niki Lauda in Ron Howard's Formula 1 'Rush'. This recognisable face grows a terrible third reich 'tache and brutually buries any characterized confliction with conviction. It takes a truly remarkable actor to play someone so far gone evil, but Bruhl does it brilliantly with every emotion and doesn't play into the hands of uniformed cliche character fodder. On the right side of a revolt however we can't talk about 'The Zookeepers Wife' without honouring the husband himself. And 'Moscow, Belgium' actor Johan Heldenbergh plays Jan Zabinski with understated brilliance. Fighting for freedom and family in the forlorn face of unspeakable, insurmountable odds. One scene where he rescues a innocent child from the most horrific experience tears at every heartstring and remains the rawest emotional scene of a film full of tragedy at every turn (from brutal bombings to the subtely of the mistaken beauty of ash falling like snow). All until he helps arms open children onto a train, offering them some semblance of hope so they won't know the horrific end to the line that's coming. It almost sounds and seems crazy but it's all the man that did everything to save could do to ease a pain he couldn't protect. Now tell me that isn't a hero! Just like every common man and woman that strived and survived this war. Like the zoo worker that 'Game Of Thrones' actor Michael McElhatton captures with the genuine spirit of a sweet soul. Everyone from page to screen here is note perfect in retelling this story again and again with every moment of horror and heart unturned. It's the nature of nurturing the nicer stories of inspiration and humanity that came from a raw war utterly devoid of such. And in a year where best of British director Christopher Nolan is going to take us right into the sand of the beaches of 'Dunkirk' with Tom Hardy, his 'Interstellar' actress and the aformentioned actors 'Lawless' co-star shows us wars aren't just won by our best and brave soldiers...but everyday heroes that extend an unclenched hand too. And the actor that played the women that lead the manhunt for Osama Bin Laden and her help here may just be our leads leading picture in a formidable filmography.When it comes to Jessica Chastain's character chasing away Nazis she brings so much to this revolutionary role. And with Diane Ackerman's novel idea in mind, it's Antonia Zabinski's incredible, inspiring true story and legacy that will always keep. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'The Help', 'We Brought A Zoo', 'Monuments Men'.

Friday, 14 April 2017

#SilverLiningsColumn THE HOLLYWOOD 'LIFE' OF HIROYUKI SANADA

A Hiro's Journey. 

Australian actor and Hollywood star Hugh Jackman is currently cutting his claws one last time as the X-Men mutant Wolverine in the legendary, legacy making 'Logan'. Arguably both the most successful and popular movie for not only his character, but the 17 year strong Marvel mutant franchise as a whole...including Ryan Reynolds' 'Deadpool'.

Yet this isn't the first time Jackman and reuniting Johnny Cash biopic 'Walk The Line' director James Mangold have impressed the superhero genre. Back in 2013 Logan's run as 'The Wolverine' saw him lost in translation in Tokyo, Japan. Mixed up with all sorts of characters and assassins, from the neon night noir to bullet-train shot set pieces that streaked and illuminated. But one climatic fight scene resonated even more than all the high-wire action, especially on the deeper cutting R-rated edition of this movie.

And it was legendary Japanese actor Hiroyuki Sanada who played the opposing part perfectly as a villanious, but conflicted character who embraced the dark side for his final black rain at night temple showdown with the wolf. Combatting Wolverines claws with two samurai swords, dressed up like a traditional warrior and fighting to the death. Yet what was most impressive in this grotesque choreographed battle royale was his emotionally aggravated, but amazed acting in raw reaction to the Wolverine's renewed healing factor that really struck a far deeper cord.

This acting facet has been the 56 year old Sanada's Hollywood calling card for decades. From finding himself on the mysterious island series 'Lost', to 'Slumdog Millionaire' director Danny Boyle's stunning 'Sunshine'. But next week Hiroyuki goes up against Logan again with his 'Life'. Not a film to be confused with the 2015 magazine biopic of James Dean starring Dane DeHaan and Robert Pattinson. But an 'Alien' like, mars attacks, spaceship submerged sci-fi thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds and Rebecca Ferguson. Now that's quite a cast, but it's Sanada's opening moments of the international trailer that see him proudly show his fellow astronauts a video sonogram back on earth of his pregnant wife that brings real heart to this horror. "Hey guys...it's a girl" he beams like the sun, before jokingly telling Ryan Reynolds to "shut up" after he quips and asks who the father is. All in good nature.

'Life' should find its line in this pre-summer season of blockbusters that the post-apocalypse 'Logan' started. Even in the year of 'Alien: Covenant'. And it won't be down to just the A-listers. But the Japanese megastar and Hollywood household name Hiroyuki too. The Tokyo born actor currently staring in the T.V. series 'The Last Ship', who trained as an actor with martial arts legend Sonny Chiba and got his first real serious big break with the movie 'Mahjong Hourouki'.

A man who has also conquered the British Isles, earning himself an M.B.E. from the Queen in the process for his performance in 'King Lear' for the Royal Shakespeare Company. An actor who continues to capture the heart of Great Britain. From starring alongside national treasure Colin Firth in the revelatory, hard-hitting prison of war drama 'The Railway Man', to aiding an ageing, sage Sherlock in Ian McKellen's incarnation of 'Mr. Holmes'. You'll know this actor through plenty a filmography. Whether putting Tom Cruise through his paces in 'The Last Samurai'. Or a sword similiar, Keanu Reeves '47 Ronin' update, albeit in a much more modern, supernatural form. And who could forget his terrific turn alongside great friend and Chinese legend Jackie Chan in 'Rush Hour 3'? Playing Detective Lee's bad guy brother as Jackie and motormouth Chris Tucker chased him to Paris, France.

This mans even been a voice to millions in 'Minions'. But with a new 'Despicable Me' out this year and the world gone yellow C.G. crazy you can find new 'Life' this month with one of the greatest actors of our generation.

Just don't tell Hugh.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

REVIEW: THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS

3.5/5

The Fast & The Fury Road.

136 Mins. Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwyane 'The Rock' Johnson, Jason Statham, Charlize Theron, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel, Scott Eastwood, Kurt Russell & Helen Mirren. Director F. Gary Gray.

Straight outta petrol? Nah! Not with this gear shift. There's a new type of Diesel in the tank and this New York state of drive is not running on fumes or drifting like Tokyo. Changing lanes from L.A. to the Big Apple, the 'Fast and the Furious' franchise pole position driver is about to go all Mad Max with Furiosa by his furious side. All before turning into a baby tree with returning co-star Kurt Russell's Ego for Volume 2 of 'Guardians Of The Galaxy'. He is Groot. And this is Vin Diesel's month. If not the 'Return Of Xander Cage's' year he began with 'xXx' for his triple-threat. Now we don't know 'The Fate Of The Furious' in this eighth wonder of another 'Fast and Furious' installment, as modern day action hero Vin Diesel turns into this movie big bad and even has some candy a## beef with The Rock. But apparantly it's all 'F8' and in the wake of Paul Walker's tragic death and the beautiful tribute paid to him by his crew and real family brothers in 'Fast and Furious 7' this team just want to keep driving in his name until they see him again. And they'll sure have a lot to tell him all about after this long time as this formidable franchise with more track for the insane record than Usain Bolt hits the nitrus of the nitrus and lightning injects even more insulin into this cereal box, car candy, popcorn cinema sugar rush. Busting the blocks of the second chapter of 'John Wick', the last one of 'Logan' the 'Kong: Skull Island' reboot and the 'Ghost In The Shell' movie manga anime adaptation summer starters. All whilst veering off the road any hot season movies trying to take their turn whether monkey, 'Mummy' or Marvel. Ladies and gentelmen...restart your engines.

Wonder how this super 8 episode doesn't run out of tarmac on this long and winding road, whilst fans keep lapping it all up? It's automoblie B movie beauty in this age of Keanu Reeves new Neo cult characters. And taking the wheel from 'Star Trek-Beyond' Justin Lin successor James Wan ('Insidious'), it's 'Straight Outta Compton' and 'Law Abiding Citizen' actioneer director F. Gary Gray's-breaking all king of traffic violations-lane now. And the great Gary Gray-who once drove Minis through subways-drops Miley Cyrus' wrecking balls and das boot kicking submarines out of submersion like F bombs. Riding Mustang Sally shotgun to literal car jacks and pile up set pieces like the holy essence of the original street race wars. Reuniting with all kinds of 'Baby Boy' and 'Italian Job', street slick, car carnage actors and actresses aswell as Vin. Who truly becomes 'A Man Apart' here like the directing/acting dynamic duos most dynamite dual-picture pairing. Setting it off as always, Diesel is the pure petroleum powerhouse and the key to this ignition. This time going against his preached notion of familia and showing us that this modern day Stallone can play bad just as good as when he's on the right(ish) side of the law too like a Travolta/Cage unlocked 'Face/Off'. Fitting this costume change out as well as his Bruce Willis 'Die Hard' string vest complete with the silver cross he bears across his chest. Riding Clyde to Charlize Theron's 'Atomic Blonde' Bonnie. The dreaded, locked down hostage taking villain of this picture whose about to become the female 'John Wick' in her forthcoming flick. But behind a console more than a wheel we would love to see the ever thorough Theron with more 'Atomic' peroxide, showing the full fury of her 'Mad Max' Furiosa character. Especially as fellow shaved head Jason Statham has gone full 'Transporter' and changed 'Civil War' teams to the side of the road as his former 'Death Race' co-star Tyrese (I guess turning 'Tokyo Drift' star Sung Kang (we hope the rumors of this favourites return are true, because he's as missed as his former on screen love, 'Wonder Woman' Gal Gadot) into a spoiler alert is all forgiven). Becoming an 'Expendable' villain and teaming up with Dwyane 'Orange Is The New Rock' Johnson after a concrete hard prison breaking riot that ups the ante on the 'Daredevil' Punisher's cell block and counters. Action-hero Stath is as fun as he scene stealingly surprisingly was in 'Spy' as he and action Johnson turn this battle of the balds into some of the best dome shots and tank top one-liners you've seen since the baby oil and forehead back and forths. And even if The Rock and his almost milk carton screen-time with Diesel really is in a hard place the former wrestler turned Schwarzenegger shows that this isn't just his film but his franchise too. As the 'Baywatch' block stands guard on what might be his superhero becoming career year, going even 'Faster' than before, coast to coast. Berlin to Russia. A world as wide as his forearms.

Yet there's still so much more in the tank for this pure American muscle, epic, entertainment ensemble. Just like '2 Fast, 2 Furious' singing/rapping acting duo Tyrese Gibson and Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges making the 'Bad Boys' action/comedy in this rush hour looking all too easy. Black-Ty, the new punchline king here on his finest, formidable funny form...his best 'Fast' times since he siphoned the unleaded sequel loss of Diesel by stepping in and stepping up to the pedal. Whilst disturbing the online peace, Luda and returning 'Game Of Thrones' Fitz/Simmons 'Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.' like love interest Nathalie Emmanuel (car-pooling with Braveheart bearded, fellow 'G.O.T' star Kristofer Hivju) hack into Theron's 'Net' like cyber-bully Chiper. Whilst Diesel's co-original star and on-screen love Michelle Rodriguez is beautifully trying to bring her beau back, just like he did to her for all these amnesic years and films. Making up for the loss of Jordana Brewster (that comes with the Paul Walker's absent character territory) and the Eva Mendes 'Fast Five' cameo which looks like it will never come to full film fruition like '2 Fast' too. But there's a lot of famous faces, familiar too that bridge all these gaps like 'Thor' Chris Hemsworth's wife Elsa Patkay. But to reveal more would ruin all the sweetest surprises. 'The Hateful 8' star and 'Escape From New York' legend Kurt Russell rejoins this G.T.A. N.Y.C. (with even more bails) of 'Death Proof' American muscle in what between the rig of 'Deepwater Horizon' and his little big planet turn in 'Guardians of The Galaxy' sequel looks to be the second volume of his cult/action hero classic career, honed down to a science fiction. His Nobody character really is something. All God's eyes where on this 'Bone Tomahawk' wild west great in the last 'Furious' turn and this time he's bringing another legend in Clint's legacy making son Scott Eastwood along for the ride. And boy does the 'Suicide Squad', 'Gran Torino' star, young Eastwood have it down. But for all the parts under the hood its great Brit national treasure and 'RED' action O.A.P. heroine Helen Mirren that's truly the jewel in this crown or chrome spoiler. And after pulling off getting the biggest name of royalty guess whose mother she plays? 'Fast 8' really goes pedal to metal in a Universal franchise that according to wild speculation once tried to include Matt Damon's 'Jason Bourne' and even a Terminator to the engines machinery like a 'Men In Black' crossover off 'Jump Street'. Stranger things have happened in this 'Rogue Dom-A Fast and Furious Story' for a franchise that has now escaped the chase of 'Police Academy' number sequels. Now this raging series that keeps going like NASCAR is gunning all the way for a 10th lap, can we suggest the name 'F9' for the next go-round? If 'Fat8' will have it. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'Furious 7', 'Death Race', 'The Italian Job (2003)'.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

REVIEW: GHOST IN THE SHELL

4/5

Lucy In Translation.

106 Mins. Starring: Scarlett Johansson, 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano, Chin Han, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbaek, & Juliette Binoche. Director: Rupert Sanders.

She is Major. Scarlett Johansson. She's on site. Whether Avenging heroine, or 'Iron Fist' whitewash. 'Ghost In The Shell'. 'Lucy' in a futuristic Tokyo meets Osaka and Kyoto like skyline, shining like neon diamonds. This is Black Widow's peak, ever since she was last 'Lost In Translation' in Japan. And no one complained about her opening shot in Sofia Coppola's classic when she was still a teenager. Or her on-screen coupling with a middle-aged Bill Murray in the offbeat romantic tour de force, from the lights of Shinjuku to the crossing of the Times Square like Shibuya. But now this Hollywood actress is portraying a character from a cult Asian anime for cinema? It's all Matt Damon in 'The Great Wall' again. Do you remember anyone saying anything about Tom Cruise in 'The Last Samurai'? Or Keanu Reeves in '47 Ronin'? Difference is Matt Damon's 'Wall' hit critical concrete, whereas this 'Ghost' is no shell. It's a haunting, visual spectacle of future 'Blade Runner' stakes in the 2017 year of '2049'. Sci-fi forefather Phillip K. Dick and creator of all things 'Total Recall' and 'Minority Report' would be as proud as his popping pupils for this reload on 'The Matrix' cult sci-fi, real-life like avatar plug-in revolution. Sure, yes all you need to do is look to 'Pacific Rim' to find an Asian actress more suited to major. Or even the Marvel show 'Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.' for an Asian/American one. But Scarlett's action heroism honed in this continents 'Limitless' lengths of 'Lucy' is to the letter here. Sure there's an 'Iron Fist' race issue here, but just like that Marvel/Netflix show that shouldn't be confused for how actually good this is as a piece of entertainment. Even if a more fitting picture would make for this industries art. Either way this three dimensonal, block busting IMAX dream will leave you shell shocked.

Cultural appropriation may be the issue here, but this ghost in the machines shell suit raises a question of whether this cult adaptation is appropriate as Johansson basically looks naked in her Major get-up, like the time she truly got 'Under The Skin'. But the actress who argues that her skimpy Black Widow outfits are the same as her Thor and Captain America muscled and honed suit ups, is paying homage to the original 'Ghost In The Shell' source material look, all whilst affording more respect to the age appropriate crowds this movie hopes to please. And it makes for some cloaked and dagger, morphing action sequences that range with real power. Forget those Saben Iron Men looking "mighty" heroes and their fried chicken looking villains. Take the towering, formidable, first five minutes that debuted online to outstanding actioneering hits. 'Ghost In The Shell' has haunting, inspired imagery you couldn't design better. Spider crawling up the walls robot Geisha's and life like neon advertisings that are landamarks in their own right and light line the glass shattering towers of Tokyo that will make you spill your Sake. And for Major's sake, Scarlett Johansson gives maximum effort and in turn maximum output as this assimilating android, free falling from scraping skies as iconic as the Manga in cinema. She kicks ass in this video game dream as 'Lucy' or Widow per, but also brings a strength of soul of character in what serves as the actresses spiritual sequel to 'Lost In Translation' further East and into the future. After all this time translated you will find Scarlett's star power is still red hot in the land of the rising sun.

'Shell' holds plenty more users in 'Snow White and The Huntsman' director Rupert Sanders upgrade that gives this mesmerizing Manga and atmospheric anime the 'Tron: Legacy' polish and shine treatment. Fighting for this one and it's origins is Tokyo's own Takeshi Kitano. The Japanese acting, screenwriting and directing legend who usually goes to war with yakuza dramas is armed with a six-shooter and a car door here to the opening delight of all the true fans. He can't be beat. Whilst Chinese star Chin Han (you know the guy from 'The Dark Knight' whose "good with calculation") adds more to this set. Yet it's Danish 'Game Of Thrones' actor Pilou Asbaek (who is one for whitewashing controversy movies having just starred in 'The Great Wall') who makes a perfect Batou, going to battle and trust with Major. Speaking of robotics, 'Boardwalk Empire' star and Leonardo DiCaprio lookalike with Hollywood royalty as a surname Michael Pitt also computes, even if he too might be appropriating a little too. Still with more of a shell of a spindly frame this android counts his electric sheep too. Any legacy needing certification is confirmed by the presence of 'Chocolat' and 'The English Patient' legend Juliette Binoche. The actress who once turned down Steven Speilberg for 'Jurassic Park' has warmed to the idea of Summer blockbuster, monster movies having starred in 2014's 'Godzilla'. And even if this King Kong battling kaiju isn't as big in Japan as the one with a 'Shin' it's clear Binoche believes in blockbusters...at least smart ones. And this is exactly what this hardwired one is. So before you think this is built to self-destruct, it's time for a critical reprogramming. When it comes to reboots this 'Ghost In The Shell' has more power than those trying to take away from it. Whichever way you look at it. Even if a new anime has been excitingly announced by the original animators. This cyberpunk rocks. Shining like a neon night in the futuristic city of what we call 'Tokyosaka', this Ghost still keeps its soul and spirit. All whilst breaking free of its shell. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'Lucy', 'Lost In Translation', 'Blade Runner'.

Friday, 24 March 2017

REVIEW: LIFE

3.5/5

Life Off Mars.

103 Minutes. Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, Olga Dihovichnaya, Ariyon Bakare & Hiroyuki Sanada. Director: Daniel Espinosa.

This 'Life' as we know it finds a way to confuse us. Are we all in agreement that this is just another 'Alien' in the year of 'Covenant'? Or is this a 2015 James Dean magazine biopic starring Dane DeHaan and Robert Pattinson back issue repeat? An early millennium prison break comedy with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence breaking out the 'Shawshank' spoons? And people, why does Ryan Reynolds look so pissed in this above photo? Is it because someones shoved him in a washing machine at a laundrette? I know staring at a washing machine as a kid is fun, but being stuck in one is a different matter. No! No! And...well, perhaps. Like 'Prometheus' this is alien to Ridley Scott's infamous franchise. Apart of it, not a part of it. Even if the trailer for 'Covenant' coming before it will have all late comers in the dark spilling their corn and soda as they rush to their seats thinking the movies already started...not to mention escalated quickly. And this isn't the same 'Life' form of Dane playing Dean or Murphy getting 25 years too. There's so many reboots and remakes about these days it's a wonder there aren't more movie duplicates out now. Remember the 'Fast and Furious' confusion? Well before the 'F8' of that next Diesel power franchise lane and all the Marvel and monsters entering the Summer blockbuster race, 'Life' joins 'Logan's' last breath, the 'Skull Island' of 'Kong' and of course the man, the myth and the legend 'John Wick' to spring-step that season early. All with their own out of this world horror that will make the earthbound nature of Sandra Bullock's 'Gravity' and the literal life on Mars of Matt Damon's 'Martian' look like a moonwalk in the park on an interstellar level. Right before little green men start bursting out of everyones chests with all due respect and honour to the late, great John Hurt and Bill Paxton. Now in a space station odyssey turned into a tumble dryer, here's your latest close encounter.

Unlocking this pressure contained airlock of sci-fi horror is 'Safe House' director Daniel Espinosa who lets former Washington guard Ryan Reynolds back in. And from the opening eclipsing scene of the satellite station blinding like the sun behind it you know this is going to be as visual an experience as a visceral one. And this holds us even futher in this notion in the opening one shot camera grip that maps the entirety of this ship and introduces you to all the hard at working crew as they float around you and upside down in zero gravity. Impressive isn't the word. When it comes to these solar system crowded lost in space films, it's inspired. Much has been observed over the new creative trends of outstanding one shots. From Matthew McConaughey's undercover escape from a neighbourhood rife with racial raw tension and firearms in the first series of 'True Detective', to 'Daredevil's' double season namesake hallway hit 'em ups. And let's not forget the entire, epic, brilliant 'Birdman' movie that flew away with the Oscar. But this perfect pan has you floating and flying like Peter in perfect, synchronised time. But when it comes to the vice-like grip, face-hugger handshake introduction with this thing itself in Espinosa's alien picture that has influences from John Carpenter's Kurt Russell movie not set in China, New York or L.A. amongst other cult creature horrors and "nerd" references (even borrowing the 'Spirit In The Sky' volume off fellow spacemen the 'Guardians Of The Galaxy's' tape deck), this lotus flower come squid like creature is like no other. A far cry from those humanoid 'Star Trek' aliens that merely manifest a few bones in their cranium to convince us their other worldly. But with all due respect to the pointed ears this astronaut predator takes our eyes more. And anything else it gets its nerve pinching tentacles around.

Because when it comes to the man vs species they can't begin to understand, human nature of this survival in space story there is an international cast list on the menu in the form of this crew. Of course there is 'Deadpool' himself Reynolds. And the merc still has his trademark mouth that has got himself into all sorts of trouble. But how can you even be, let alone stay mad at this man and his quintessential quips when his light relief is exactly what you'd need in the solitary zero G's of space? Especially when he's on the traditional rocket boosted form of his life. But when the washing machine...or airlock door is closed on him in an iconic making moment, dates everywhere will get a treat as his Hollywood heartthrob, pin-up eyes are met by more in the two for the price of one leading man Jake Gyllenhaal. And the 'Nocturnal Animals' and 'Everest' star, clean-cut, shaven and looking like his wind the clock back, 'Day After Tomorrow' days traps us in the tortured loneliness of his characters just like he does in the arresting 'Prisoners', crumbling 'Demolition' or the skin of 'Nightcrawler'. Yet here isolated, even amongst others, looking out to the most beautiful view of planet earth and another world now so close, but a million miles and a record amount of 700 plus days away he's finally home. But even with this leading two dynamic duo, this is really Rebecca Ferguson's movie. And after stealing the show in the 'Rogue Nation' of Tom Cruise's 'Mission Impossible 5' and the gone girl of Emily Blunt's 'Girl On The Train' this is her moment...and boy does she own it in a commanding performance with the role as captain. Fellow great Brit Ariyon Bakare also graduates from the BBC T.V. series' of 'Spooks', the U.K. version of 'Law and Order' and a rogue cameo in last December's 'Star Wars' story with gripping first contact here. Whilst Russian actress Olga Dihovichnaya with her hair cut down to a Bullock bob, strapping herself into a spacesuit like a Sandra hero brings more grounding 'Gravity' to this film. As Japanese legend and '47 Ronin' star Hiroyuki Sanada completes this crew with heart of new family and so much soul, inspiring him to survive against any odds for what waits for him back on the blue planet. The man who from 'The Last Samurai' to 'The Wolverine' and 'The Railway Man' to 'Rush Hour 3' has always impressed brings so much more inspiration home here. There's so much life here in Espinosa's epic, breeding a new extraterrestrial one. And when it comes to the martian's, this is how Mars really attacks. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'Alien', 'Event Horizon', 'The Last Days On Mars'.

Monday, 20 March 2017

T.V. REVIEW: IRON FIST

4/5

Iron Man 2.

13 Episodes. Starring: Finn Jones, Jessica Henwick, Tom Pelphrey, Jessica Stroup, Ramon Rodriguez, Rosario Dawson, Carrie-Anne Moss & David Wenham. Created By: Scott Buck.

K.O.! Fists of fury fly as Marvel's one punch man finally claims his golden ticket a few courses away from the hand of the devils kitchen. All striking for his defence and fight for NYC. It's time. The back four of 'The Defenders' is complete before the eighth wonder of their Summer season plays the Ripley games of 'Alien' legend Sigourney Weaver. Still despite the assembling success of Marvel and Netflix's street-level superhero team-up, critics don't want to hand it to the last Defender. Instead they are throwing jabs at the 'Iron Fist' and Danny Rand is finding it hard to bob and weave. Lucky 'Game Of Thrones' star Finn Jones remembers his training. And that the legend of Marvel's Iron Fist began back in the seventies...no modern day appropriation. Even if critics are calling whitewashing like fellow Marvel Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson's 'Ghost In The Shell' manga anime live action remake. Sure there is definitly some ground for at the very passive racial discrimination. But in defence of these Defenders look what Marvel did with the unbreakable 'Luke Cage', the 'Jessica Jones' P.I. reveal and of course the blind ambition of 'Daredevil' (another martial arts expert like his energetic partner Elektra). But any critic calling this actually compelling set of (unlucky for some) 13 episodes bland don't have a leg to stand on when it comes to Rand's enterprise. And those white boy billionaire Trump comparisons? We won't go as far as to label it fake news. But what about that other billionaire, playboy superhero with a Stark Tower in New York? This glowing 'Iron Fist' pulls no punches even if critics are packing a wallop.

Good job Finn Jones knows Kung-Fu. And how to rock the Justin Timberlake N*Sync days blonde noodle curls. He really is taking it back to the days of 'The Matrix' (even 'Jessica Jones'' Carrie-Anne Moss is back, never one to dodge legal proceedings). Moving like Keanu in bullet time. From the first shot of the iconic 'Game Of Thrones' dark world style, meets martial arts ballet in a Turner painting over the skyline of New York theme, to all the fight scenes straight out of the hand-to-hand consoles of a video game. From hallway hatchets that rachet up the action ante, to unlimited cage fighting and iron link champion boss levels directed by 'The Man With The Iron Fists' himself. None other but the Wu-Tang Clan's RZA, straight outta Shaolin. Finn is emotionally engaged as well even if some times he comes across complaining like a spoilt brat with his new toy like he was holding Thanos' infinity gauntlet...hey he is a boy born into being a billionaire after all. More Iron Man than Ip Man, yet this "child touched by fire" sets alight this graphic, comic-book world that's not suitable for bed wetters. In each fighting style named episode, from Chinese New Year carnival chase clashes in Chinatown, to Samurai swords fights in the night rain of Central Park as atmospherically dramatic as the time 'The Wolverine' did this big in the temples of Tokyo, Japan. Baring it's knuckles this Iron Fist clenched by creator Scott Buck has a lot behind it. Espeically in the year that began with one last time for Hugh Jackman's 'Logan' and will soon dominate the seasons from volume two of the 'Guardians Of The Galaxy', to Thor's 'Ragnarok' team-up with the Hulk and Doctor Strange. Not to mention the long-awaited Marvel 'Homecoming' for Spider-Man. And that's just the blockbusting big screen. On the crisp smart-phone level this Defender starts the year of their Avenger like assembling, before Jon Bernthal's Frank Castle brings more binge watching punishment until your skull can't take the heat anymore. And you thought the 'Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.' had it good, rolling shotgun with the Ghost Rider. Well Netflix's Marvels are igniting too...and it's all in the palm of their hands.

Helping hands come in many 'guises for the Fist however. Especially in the form of a familiar foe from another show (no, no not The Punisher...don't let your gun go off). It's a relief Rosario Dawson's Rachel McAdams rivalling Night Nurse is back to patch and link-up all the Defenders before she joins them again in being the only character to appear in all six series'. Just imagine how the beds in her apartment will look like when her guerilla surgery skills have to tend to all the Defenders all at the same time. She isn't the only heroine helping the cause however. More aid comes from the Jessica's. Henwick and Stroup. Finn Jones' 'Thrones' co-star Jessica Henwick peaks Black Widow's a## kicking and even quivers Chloe Bennett's Quake. The X-Wing pilot from 'Star Wars' really is an awakening force at Kiefer Sutherland 24 years of age, giving a hand to Rand...and some love interest too. You could cut the sexual tension between these warriors spirits with a Katana. '90210' and 'The Following's Jessica Stroup is more of a boardroom brawler mind and the emotional family catalyst of this drama that actually aside from what they say is one of Marvel/Netflix's best, brilliant backstories yet. Alongside her on-screen brother, the instantly recognisable and vocal Tom Pelphrey who now will be so for this. A scene stealing enigmatic favourite who we are with no matter how many times he slips between the dark side and redemeption as many times as his slicked back, GQ suit matching, tailored business cut ends up looking like the hair of Percy Wetmore in 'The Green Mile'. But boy if you thought he was sort of bad in a series of uncivil good versus evil war were you can't make rolling heads or twisted tails of which side you're on, then just wait until you see the sins of the father. As '300' and Oscar nominated movie 'Lion' dad David Wenham is rip-roaring as a beast of a bad man just waiting to be let out of his Gatsby lonely, art deco penthouse cage. Even 'Transformers' and 'The Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3' support star Ramon Rodriguez's mysterious character has nothing on the meat and potato straight-forward hands of Welham who ham-fists one hell of death-defying human villain. Smack-dab in the middle of a Norman Osborne like characterization and a dark tower for a business as powerful and absolutely corrupting as Oscorp down the road. All in all these hands rock the critics cradle and anyone who finds this show boring may actually in turn need to wake up to this slap and high kick across the face. Because Marvel's Iron Fist hits you in ways no other Netflix show has concluding this solo legion of a group of avenging outsiders. Trumping any notion that this sky-scraping name is a Donald, Finn Jones' Danny Rand strives to be more than just his name, or the Iron Fist. No matter how many zeroes come after his name or the weight of gold light on his wrist. Perhaps it's not appropriate that this hero that honors martial arts and doesn't take from it is not Asian. But in origin sticking to the roots of character Marvel still pays homage to where martial arts comes from. And coming from within too it balances it all out like Chi, showing that anyone can be learn this art form as long as they pay their due respect. And that respect is measured in dedication without distinction. But remember no matter how strong the Iron Fist is. No student is a master quite like their sensei. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'Daredevil', 'Jessica Jones', 'Luke Cage'.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

REVIEW: BEAUTY & THE BEAST

4/5

Fantastic Beast.

129 Minutes. Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellen & Emma Thompson. Director: Bill Condon.

Beauty begins again as Disney go into live action beast mode with their Belle of the ball. And you're their guest Princess Hermione. 10 points to Emma Watson. She may not be the face of the 'Harry Potter' saga anymore, but she is the yellow dress of this fantastic 'Beauty and the Beast' thread of a classic coming into her own weaving and waltzing light. Shining in this Spring post Summer blockbuster that will last in theatres into the Winters beyond June. In a story as old as time. Or the original animated classic from 1991 itself. A roaring success from Disney that became the first animation in movie history to be nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award. This Oscar darling almost had it if it wasn't for those lambs that like to keep quiet and Hopkins' Hannibal beast with even more of an appetite. This monster almost even beat Schwarzenegger's 'Terminator' box-office machine. Fast forward to the Cybernet future of 2017 and on this judgement day this rebooted remake may just go down as the greatest Disney live-action film yet, again years before 'The Lion King' is set to make us proud. No matter how good fellow princess 'Cinderella', last years 'Jungle Book', or even Angelina Jolie's 'Maleficent' is. Certainly this film is on record to be the most successful live cinematic take yet...and you can expect it to flood the next Academy with awards that gleam like that iconic dress as well as the ticket gates. You really can't lock this beast away. Think you can? Be our guest!

Beautiful in her grace and humility, 'Harry Potter' megastar Emma Watson has just found a new franchise for her face as she really is the Belle for this ball. And oh how she is having one too. Singing and dancing like clockwork with candlesticks. No wonder she and the work and rug cut out for her passed on Emma Stone's 'La La Land' Oscar winning role alongside Ryan Gosling. In love with more than just an ugly duckling, this Emma has never had this much fun. And she's the effervescent energy and luminous light in potentially one of Disney's darkest sagas of their storied history made even more live action real and raw. If you thought 'Snow White' brought it to your castle door with the soldiers of 'The Huntsman', then just wait until this princess with a palace as iconic as the one on the Walt Disney introduction I.D. with a ring of roses around it. And we'll all fall down and in love with this. And it's not a case of Stockholm Syndrome. More a dream, in vision made up once upon a time by 'Dreamgirls' director Bill Condon, who also shone a light on the nightwalkers of the first two 'Twilight' epics...arguably the best ones. What? You going to go with the last ones epic end that was just a dream? This films finale is much more fitting. You've never seen last waltz's so wonderful without a glass slipper. Your eyes have never been glazed this much since Simba clawed on for dear life like Bambi's mum. You've never sung along this much since 'Frozen'...and yes, we're sure that remake is coming but for now it has to wait in line...let it go! Right now live action Disney films have never looked so real...or genuinely magical.

Beastly as he may seem, 'The Guest' star Dan Stevens really is the prince host of this picture that would be king. The 'Downton Abbey' star currently moonlighting for FX as a legacy made Marvel mutant in 'Legion' really is effecting something much more special here. The Great Brit knows how to play it up to the ham, like his Knight exhibition in 'Night Of The Museum-Secret Of The Tomb'. But here this hairy man in the mirror with horns knows how to reflect the deeper, realer anguish of a man made monster by a curse kissed from the thorns of a rose. Wilting before our eyes his motion capture goes from white dots and green screen to weeping and seeing to be believed in all it's beauty of each and every emotion. This man truly is a beast in more ways than one. Showing not only the tortured soul of torment behind the fur, but the warmth too. Watson may be the star power, but Stevens has the strength to shoot for more. And there's plenty more room on the table for a growing guestlist. Like the ever-glad Josh Gad. Already a Disney legend for his iconic Olaf snowman built of 'Frozen's' mass merchandised, powerhouse popularity, he now makes an even greater legacy of change, playing Disney's first openly gay character. Perfect alongside a man who is in real-life, Luke Evans. Here 'Dracula' plays the villain Gaston with untold brilliance, something like a 'Baston'. With the cocksure, 'Captain Morgan' fuelled arrogance of a man who thinks he really did slay a dragon like in 'The Hobbit's' 'Desolation Of Smaug'. No wonder Belle's father Kevin Kline is in and out with his blessings. But you have to hand it to all Kline does do that to here. Because we haven't loved this man this much since 'Last Vegas'. There's more chips off the old block, or clock as Sir Ian McKellen plays Cogsworth, moving hands like Magneto aswell as hearts. Whilst Ewan McGregor makes a French candlestick funny, scene stealing favourite and as much fun as the time he spent a night in the 'Moulin Rogue'. As the one for Ewan is a feather duster who goes by the name of the great Gugu Mbatha-Raw. An actress who made her name in no other but a film called 'Belle'. There's even enough notes for a stunning Stanley Tucci to get his teeth into the keys of a piano man with a Beethoven wig that would make his 'Hunger Games' host jealous. But it's Emma Watson's old 'Harry Potter' alumni Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts that really is just the cup of tea. As 'Nanny McPhee' is fantastic in singing the Celine Dion 'Beauty and the Beast' theme song as old as rhyme. Forget John Legend and Arian Grande. I'd know who I'd more like to have a brew with. This beast really is a chip off the old block. As tested as time itself. Because some love stories happy endings we're made to last no matter how they look. And there's nothing more beautiful than that. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'Harry Potter', 'Maleficent', 'Cinderella (2015)'.