Viewed – 28 November 2016 DVD

aka The Brothers Grimsby

For starters, you don’t watch a Sacha Baron Cohen movie unless you have a pretty broad sense of humour.  Luckily I do and really stupid, often crude comedies tickles my funny bone almost every time.  This latest effort sees him as a local Grimsby guy, who lives on a housing estate, has an army of kids, gets drunk down the pub with his mates – you get the picture.  However ‘Nobby’ hasn’t seen his younger brother for over twenty years, following a stint in an orphanage as children, and is surprised to bump into him during a day trip to London.  However said brother, played by Mark Strong is now a deadly spy on a top secret mission – of which Nobby interrupts and causes all manner of calamity.

The Brothers Grimsby

It’s a brilliant premise and one that Baron Cohen takes to with vigour.  He’s a seriously gifted comedy actor and this latest creation, whilst not a huge leap from his Ali G persona is brilliantly observed and the idea makes for plenty of spot on gags and very funny encounters … especially if like I said, you have a liking for utterly crude, juvenile humour.  At times it all goes a bit too far (the elephant scene) and some situations are just ridiculous, but with Baron Cohen’s enthusiasm, and a great supporting casting including Penelope Cruze, Ian McShane and Ricky Tomlinson … along with some actually very well implemented action sequences (football hooligan vs martial arts expert?) – I still got a kick out of this.

As far as a spy movie plot goes, it’s nothing special, but I did like how some jokes earlier on had even funnier pay-offs later.  For fan’s of Sacha Baron Cohen this is a no-brainer, and for anyone after a good laugh, as long as you aren’t easily offended, I say check this one out immediately.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

Before I Go To Sleep

Viewed – 14 February 2015  Online-rental

This is rather unique for me, reviewing a movie where I am particularly familiar with the book it is based on.  S J Watson’s taught psychological thriller was a riveting read, and so naturally the prospect of a movie adaptation was quite exciting.  Then I learnt of the casting.  Not for a second did I picture either Colin Firth, Mark Strong or especially Nicole Kidman in the shoes of characters that were so interesting and well written in the novel.  Yet I approached this with an open mind.


Kidman plays Christine Lucas, an amnesiac who every morning she wakes up has to re-learn her life and who her husband is and her she is, before it is wiped again when she goes to sleep.  She was in a terrible accident according to her husband Ben (Firth) and it’s not until she receives a morning phone call from a psychiatrist, Dr Nash (Strong) that she starts to piece together her life in the hope of discovering exactly what happened to her.

It’s a good premise, not that original granted but gripping.  Sad then that the performances here let the show down, despite the principle leads acting credentials.  Lines and scenes are delivered very wooden, especially by an overly sincere Mark Strong and even Kidman who should be able to tackle this material with ease, seems overly pathetic and weak.  The movie is also in a hell of a rush to get to it’s conclusion.  It covered the major plot points so quickly I found it a challenge to keep up.  It jumps from one situation to the next so fast knowing exactly what was happening or feeling much of anything was impossible.  The book had time to create mood, explore emotions more deeply and form relationships.  The friendship between Christine and her estranged friend Claire is portrayed very matter-of-fact where in the book it was a pivotal part of the story and the bond between the two characters was clear.  Also the slightly flirty, will-they-won’t-they relationship between Christine and Dr Nash is very poorly explored and doesn’t come across as convincing either – the scenes where he says they may have feeling for each other, or the hug in his car felt incredibly forced.

With more attention to the little things, perhaps better casting and well, better direction this could have been an excellent thriller – but sadly it’s anything but.  Stick with the book.

Verdict:  2 /5

Welcome To The Punch

Viewed – 12 September 2013  Blu-ray

James McAvoy has so far impressed me with enjoyable turns in outrageous action flick Wanted and despite reservations, Xmen: First Class.  So a Brit crime thriller with him as a damaged but relentless cop and everyone’s favourite Brit bad guy, Mark Strong (Kick-Ass) as a master thief / bank robber … this can’t go wrong, can it?

McAvoy plays a tough detective on the mean streets of London whose relentless pursuit of a skilled, ruthless criminal is cut short when said criminal leaves him injured after a chase – but doesn’t kill him.  Switch to 3 years later and the criminal is called out of semi-retirement when his son is injured in mysterious circumstances, sparking the interest of metropolitan’s finest and soon it turns out both cop and criminal may have a mutual enemy.

Although extremely stylish and peppered with some impressive shoot-outs, this is let down by a very familiar setup – think Heat, Fast & Furious or even John Woo’s Hard-Boiled and you get the picture.  The two main characters are also pretty much stereotypes, lacking in depth beyond being grizzled and handy with a gun – and was that a homoerotic vibe I sensed?

There’s good support however from Walking Dead’s David Morrisey and also Andrea Riseborough, and director Eran Creevy shows no lack of skill by delivering cool action, beautifully framed shots and making London look like a cyberpunk anime fan’s wet dream.  Yet the clichéd ideas mar what is otherwise a fun, occasionally surprising thriller, greatly in need of imagination.  At least when Hot Fuzz attempted this, it was a satire.

Verdict:  3 /5

John Carter

Viewed – 20 February 2013  Blu-ray

John Carter is a down on his luck Civil War veteran who tells tall stories of caves full of gold, whilst being hunted by the authorities in 1868, trying to recruit him back into the army.  Yet on actually finding the professed cave he has been seeking, Carter stumbles upon a strange figure within, and following a struggle, takes in his hand a golden medallion – and is suddenly transported to another world.


So begins the story of this man who discovers a civilization living on Mars (locally referred to as Barsoom) and soon lands himself in  trouble with the local tribes people.  Based on the book by Edgar Rice Burrows (creator of Tarzan) this fantastical movie is full of spectacle and interesting characters, and felt like an amalgamation of movies like Planet Of The Apes, Star Wars and Avatar – no bad thing.  Lead actor Taylor Kitsch may be a poor man’s Johnny Depp, boasting a performance that jumps between heroic and arrogant, leaning more towards cocky for my liking, but carries the story well enough.  Supporting cast fair slightly better, with the always reliable boo-hiss Mark Strong as one of a race of supernatural beings, and a feisty Lynn Collins as Princess Thoris, the token eye candy (and then some), but spars well alongside Kitsch.  Effects-wise this delivers some impressive CGI, the tribal race oozing personality and emotion, stealing the movie at times from their real-life co-stars (helped clearly by good voice work from Willem Dafoe and Samantha Morton).  The action also is exhilarating with aerial battles and vast ground assaults, as well as a stand-out arena sequence.

At times the overdose of CGI does get a bit much, and I longed for some practical effects, and with a lead character who is  at times unlikable, this doesn’t quite make for essential viewing –  but more so one of those movies you might have over looked, but really shouldn’t have.

Verdict:  4 /5

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Viewed – 03 February 2012  Blu-ray

In the run up to the awards season, this has become one of the most talked about movies around.  With a heavy weight cast of top British thesps and a gritty cold war storyline, this is the movie many people are putting all their hopes in.  Call it this years The King’s Speech, if you like.  Adapted from the novel by John LeCarré … Gary Oldman stars as a former M16 agent who is persuaded by an old friend to come out of retirement in order to investigate the possibility of a Russian mole in the organization.  The movie jumps back and forth between time lines and shows us the history behind such suspicion after former boss John Hurt sends field agent Mark Strong to Budapest in hope if discovering the identity of the mole from a Russian contact.  In the present, Oldman must piece the clues together and line up the suspects, whilst uncovering a wealth of shady dealings.

For such a talked about movie, I admit to finding it extremely difficult to follow.  It is told in such a vague and scatter shot way, that I kept hoping for a narration to fill me in on who is who and what’s what.  But no, this is the sort of movie where you the viewer are left pretty much in the dark, and everyone on-screen seems much more well-informed.  Sometimes people would say things and the other person would look shocked, whilst I would respond with ‘huh?’.  I don’t know.  Other movies have played the trick of showing you something, making you believe its one way, then later revealing it wasn’t quite what you thought.  That can be cool, but here it was simply frustrating.  Gary Oldman is very good as the veteran MI6 agent ‘Smiley’ but doesn’t ever really have a moment to stand out, neither does John Hurt, who apart from an acceptable performance, is barely in it.  I actually warmed much more to underrated actor Mark Strong, as I felt his story was the most intriguing, but like everything here, it never really delves enough to totally satisfy.

Tomas (Let The Right One In) Alfredson’s direction, on a technical level is sublime and very stylish.  He makes the mostly London-set locations look gorgeous, and there’s no doubt he’s a genuine talent.  However the material he has been given is confusing, a little too sure of itself and ultimately … boring.  Really, when a movie can be summed up as two hours of stiff upper collar British chaps sitting in rooms looking confused, that can’t be good, can it?

Verdict:  2 /5