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Movie Review: Teen Titans Go!

It’s fun, it’s fast, it’s funny and it’s over in a phantom flash.

You don’t need to be a megafan of the Comedy Channel’s Teen Titans Go TV series to enjoy this film but it doesn’t hurt to have a fan explain the ridiculous premise to you (if you’re Gen-X or older).

Here’s the deal; The Teen Titans are led by Robin, of Batman sidekick fame, a teen with a utility belt and no real powers other than a giant ego and chip on his shoulder. He now lives in Jam City (safer than Gotham) and leads a band of talented teenage wannabe superhero misfits called Starfire, Raven, Cyborg and Beast Boy.

On a high from fighting off a giant pink inflatable villian that ends in an extended fart-taunting scene, the Teen Titans find themselves locked out of Batman’s latest superhero movie premier because they’re not real superheroes and Robin is just a sidekick. Humiliated, Robin, being the narcissistic teen he is, knows he will never be respected as a ‘real’ superhero until he gets a superhero movie of his own and for that he needs a supervillain nemesis.  

So the gang are committed to helping Robin find their villain and get his own movie. What follows are over two hours of non-stop crazy cartoon adventures that include travelling back in time to prevent all the superheroes tragic origin stories and thus preventing superheroes (Mwahaha), long-winded fart jokes, fantastic fight scenes and plot twists within twists (of course the villain is revealed to actually be…).

However the film’s highlights are the many weird in-your-face parody music montages including The Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life sung by Michael Bolton!

While definitely for the fans, there’s still plenty to enjoy for anyone dragged along by a mini teen titan. For the comic book-lover this film is crammed with upending tropes and wink-wink meta gags about superhero lore.

There’s a Stan Lee ‘cameo’ even though it’s the DC, not Marvel, universe. There’s loads of Deadpool references and Nick Cage voices Superman, a nod to his superman movie never being made. Like Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One earlier this year, there’s so many nods to the 80’s and the superhero genre, that if the film wasn’t so puerile (in a good way) and fast-paced, it would be geek-elitist.

★★★☆

Teen Titans Go! The Movie is out in cinemas on September 13.

By Irena Bee

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Movie Review: Despicable Me 3

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The popular minions are back for the fourth time in Despicable Me 3. Unfortunately for the funny little buggers, this time around they seem surplus to requirements.

Despicable Me 3 finds bad guy turned good Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and his partner Lucy Wilde (Kirsten Wiig) firmly entrenched in domesticity, caring for three orphaned sisters while struggling to be working parents.

After Gru is sacked from his job at the Anti-Villain League for failing to capture the dastardly Balthazar Bratt, he discovers he has a long lost twin brother named Dru (also voiced by Carell).

As well as getting to know the brother he never had, Dru has some ulterior motives, such as wanting to experience a life of crime like their infamous father. But will Gru turn his back on his new family and return to his former super-villain lifestyle?

While there is fun to be had as the brothers get up to mischief while ‘bonding’ to forge their relationship, the film peaks when Gru and Bratt engage in a battle of fighting skills, weaponry, wit and funky dance moves.

Moustache and synthesiser-guitar toting Balthazar Bratt is the star of this new Despicable Me outing. Enthusiastically voiced by Trey Parker of South Park fame, Bratt is a former 1980s child TV star gone-bad, with the fashion sense of Michael Jackson, the looks of musician John Oates (of Hall and Oates) and some evil plans for world domination.

Their battle scenes are funny and fantastically entertaining, harking back to the awesome 2004 animated superhero film The Incredibles. Scenes in Bratt’s hideout and an epic final battle in Hollywood are high points of the film.

However, not as successful are the unnecessary side stories including that of young child Agnes (Nev Scharrel) persistently chasing her dream – to find a unicorn. It’s an inane distraction from the main story.

And the minions, so popular that they demanded a self-titled movie of their own in 2015, seem superfluous and detract from the more enjoyable Gru-and-Dru and Gru-versus-Bratt narratives. The little yellow fellas do however star in one of the movie’s best sequences, after they are imprisoned.

The film also boasts a great soundtrack of classic 1980s tunes, from the likes of Phil Collins, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Van Halen, Lena and Dire Straits, while Julie Andrews, Jenny Slate and Steve Coogan voice secondary characters.

It’s said that too many cooks spoil the broth, and here too many secondary plotlines spoil Despicable Me 3’s flow.

Maybe on that front things will improve – and Dr Nefario will return – in the inevitable Despicable Me 4.

Words by Lee Oliver

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Movie Review: Baywatch

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The latest series to get a reboot in movie form is the Baywatch series. Starring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Effron in the lead roles the movie brings the popular 90s television series to the screen.

The movie follows the story of Mitch ( Johnson) an all- too serious life guard who thinks that he is also a crime busting cop, keeping his dirty beaches clean.  By day he patrols Emerald beach keeping the waters safe for beach goers with a squad of bikini clad girls who have indestigishable personalities and more than enough hair flicks to get whip lash.

When new recruit and ridiculously muscly fallen star, Olympic athlete Matt Brody ( Effron) is recruited as a PR stunt to bring some much needed new recruits to the beach Mitch gets his nose out of joint at first. However the two learn to work together when a large drug smuggling operation is discovered to be taking place right there on their pristine beach.

In a word, Baywatch is a flop. There are one too many dick jokes and cheap smutty humour. The antagonist is a bee stung lipped caricature  that almost resembles the likes of Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle and is nothing short of an insult.  Her one liners are pathetic and sexist all at once – if that is even possible.

To add insult to injury the floppy story line has a sub plot where the geek Ronnie ( Jon Bass) gets the hot girl in the end. The whole idea of this is enough to make any feminist or decent person sick with the constant zooming in on CJ Parker’s  ( Kelly Rohrbach ) boobs and ass the entire time the two share the screen. This tired sub plot that encourages rape culture is over worked and a theme that needs to be phased out of movies all together. Sorry guys but there is no way in the real world that the chubby geek with too much nipple hair would ever get the ‘babe’ and this ridiculous sub plot is beyond unbelievable.  To add insult to injury there are scenes between the two that are not crucial to the plot and are simply and attempt to get a few cheap laughs whilst succeeding in being completely superfluous excuses to give geeks hope that if they try hard enough they may just get the hot girl.

The plot is unoriginal and tired, there are one too many times where instead of laughing viewers are simply eye rolling at the riduculousness of this lame attempt at a comedy/ drama/ remake.

Do watch out cameos from the original Mitch ( David Hasselhoff) and CJ Parker ( Pamela Anderson) in blink and you will miss them scenes. Its a little tongue in cheek but worth the screen time for nostalgia sakes.

The only redeeming quality of this movie is that at least Zac Effron looks amazing without a shirt on with his multitude of muscles, the rest of it is seemingly forgettable and was best left as a cheesy 90s television series.

Baywatch is in cinemas on June 1.

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Movie Review: Ghost in the Shell

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In the late 90s the Manga movies were in full force with a large following. One movie gained cult status and that was the Cyber punk thriller, Masamune Shirow’s   Ghost in the Shell.

Directed by Rupert Sanders and written by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler and Ehren Kruger, based on the Japanese manga of the same name by Masamune Shirow. The film stars Scarlett Johansson, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbæk, Chin Han and Juliette Binoche.

Set in the future and with an abstract story line, it was always going to be a tough film to bring to the big screen and with an outline of an implied story in the original it was even more of a challenge for film makers. However, fans have been waiting for this to happen for almost 30 years.

Set in the distant future, Major ( Johansson) is the seemingly first of her kind. A human brain in a cybernetic body. Saved from a crash her brain has been saved and the ghost  – her soul partially remains. She is a purpose built killing machine, stopping criminals for the organisation Section 9.  When a terrorist appears, hacking and killing people she must use her unique skills to uncover the criminal. Along the way she will discover things about herself and her creation.  Upon the discovery of her creation she begins to uncover the truth, leading her to her past and an unlikely ally that unravels the truth about her existence. With the help of her team Batou ( Pilou Asbæk) and her boss Chief Daisuke Aramaki ( Takeshi Kitano) she goes to extremes to bring the terrorist hacker to justice and uncover the truth behind the attacks on her colleauges.

Fans of the original may or may not be happy with this slick remake. With the visual effects  being stunning and the stunts really quite impressive at times the story line falls flat. The original Manga did have an abstract storyline and it may have been hard to extrapolate

In order to make the movie more interesting a lot more has been added. Is the back story really necessary? For non- Manga fans it is, to establish some kind of link to the character. It helps bring Major to life and establish pathos for her situation. For the die hard fans of the original it may come across as tedious and not necessary. But for Hollywood and the public’s sake it has to be done. Not much of the original scripting or scenes remain from the anime version and at times it seeems like the idea was borrowed, the story line not quite as much.

What may also irritate cult classic fans is the casting of Scarlette Johannson as the lead. With the use of make up it has been attempted to make her look slightly Asian. This is a moot point with most Anime fans and like Aeon Flux before it, its not the first time Hollywood have opted for a bankable star instead of an authentic Asian actress. In the lead Johanssen is adequate enough, however her broodyness and pouting seems a little strange, when the original character was not as bothered by her status as a cybernetic being.  In the original it is unclear if Major is Asian or not, so having Johannsen as the lead is a move that makes the movie more appealing to a wider audience. Having already played a cybernetic being in Lucy (2014) , its a genre Johannson is familiar with and a safe choice.

Whilst the film more than delivers on the visual effects what it essentially falls flat on is storyline. It drags at times and the impressive action scene that captures viewers  attention at the beginning of the film is not repeated a whole lot. A fight scene between Major and a garbage truck driver that is played out on a lake is however visually stunning.

There could have been a lot more done to make this film more of a success  than it is. Uncessary back story, a broody character and clunky drawn out plot lines make it a rather forgettable film. The cross over between the hugely popular Anime series has always been a challenge and once again falls short.

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[Film Review] Emile

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When their parents head out for a dinner date, the Thompson children think that the new baby sitter Anna ( Sarah Bolger)  is pretty cool with her friendly manner and laid back rules. At first they enjoy breaking the rules and playing with things that they are not normally allowed to touch.

However as the evening wears on the children realise that Anna may not be all that she seemed at first. With their parents unreachable, the neighbours not willing to listen and all adult contact cut off its up to the children to make sure they can survive the night and the tricks that Anna has in store for them. As the parents dine and enjoy the evening they are totally unaware as to what is happening back at the house in their absence.

The movie is generally unsettling at times and quite disturbing as Anna’s plans for the children become clearer. She may not be an adult but she is one sinister child and the stuff of nightmares for most parents. Sarah Bolger gives a thrilling performance as the dead pan Anna and she leads the viewer down a dark path.

The movie plays on hinted violence and has the viewer in a nail biting battle hoping that the children do not succumb to Anna’s evil plan. With each suggested act it unravels that Anna is a dark individual with a motive to destroy the family. She really is the stuff of every parents nightmare that will make everyone want to cross check baby sitters from now on.

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[Film Review] Code of Honor

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Every man has his code. For Colonel Robert Sikes ( Steven Seagal) his code as an ex-special ops military man is to avenge the death of his family. When his wife and child are murdered in a drive by shooting he turns into a one man Army and vigilante to take down street gangs, mobsters, crooked politicians and anyone who gets in his way.

The key to taking him down is his former protégé and friend William Porter ( Craig Sheffer)  , the only man who can get inside Sikes’ head and bring him down before he rips apart the city. With the help of the local police department only one question remains- Can Sikes be stopped?

Hell bent on his rampage of revenge Robert Sikes has not a thing left  to lose and he will stop at nothing until his own brand of justice is served. He’s a hard man and he’s on a hard mission and it will take all of Porter’s own code to decide whether to stop Sikes or help him with his mission.

On the hunt for Sikes are the police and the criminal underworld that both seem to take exception to the fact that the former Special Ops agent has all the skills he needs to both evade and destroy them one by one and both separately hunt him.

Steven Seagal knows how to pack a punch and this movie proves that he’s still got that ice cold on screen presence that made him popular. With his slow deliberate performance Seagal is a veteran when it comes to being an action hero on a mission.

With a supporting performance from Craig Sheffer that leaves you wondering who’s side he is on and a team of police that don’t know whether to thank or arrest Sikes the only question is, who will find him first- the police or the criminal underworld.

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[ Film review] Mercury Plains

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Nominated in the top ten of break out stars for 2015 Scott Eastwood stars in this South of the Border flick about hunting down drug cartels in Mexico.

Living in Texas, Mitch ( Eastwood) is down on his luck and living in a trailer with his Mum and Step Dad. On the spur of the moment Mitch and a friend travel to Mexico where they run into a little bit of trouble. A local paramilitary officer ‘The Captain’ quickly recruits Mitch offering him a large sum of money to track down drug cartels in the  border towns.

Sent into to training Mitch must quickly learn that there is a pecking order to how things work with the other soldiers and even though he is naturally a leader there are consequences for dissent.

After a few botched missions and some of the team members getting embroiled in battles that leave the team a few men short Mitch begins to suspect that the operation is not as it seems. When a mission in Juarez goes horribly wrong there are devastating consequences that could leave Mitch in more trouble than he bargained for.

Written and directed by Charles Burmeister the movie is a thriller that earns its R rating with its action scenes being quite intense and fast paced as bullets fly and cars swerve in high-speed chases. With Eastwood as the headline star in this feature he shines with charisma and an enigmatic screen presence that will ultimately have him compared to his father.

For the first act of the movie it is fast paced as the action heats up and the characters are developed. As it progresses the story begins to slow down struggling to maintain momentum and tends to drift off. For the most part of the movie Scott Eastwood is topless, a detail many female fans will enjoy ( I wasn’t angry about it for sure). It is easy to see that with his on-screen presence that over the next few years his star will continue to rise, regardless of his famous lineage.

 

 

 

 

 

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[Film Review] Electric Slide

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In the new movie  Electric Slide  the old adage desperate times call for desperate measures surely rings true. When the smooth and slick Eddie Dodson ( Jim Sturgess)  finds that he has over spent on a loan from the bank he turns to local loan shark Ray Fortune ( Christopher Lambert) for money. When that money  gets spent Eddie turns to donning a suit and tie a local bank. With his sharp dress sense he manages to charm the teller into giving him the money without setting off the alarm until after he has left.

The plan a first goes well and he’s paying Fortune back. He some how manages to convince his girlfriend Pauline ( Isabel Lucas) to be his getaway driver and they start to hit banks all over Hollywood. It seems like a perfect plan to pay back his debts until the pair run out of money maintaining their lavish lifestyle. It’s then that things really go wrong when Eddie is recognised by a former girlfriend and has to abandon his car and Pauline. Eventually this twist of fate leads to the Police discovering his identity.

The movie pays great attention to detail in the costuming and styling of the era getting it very accurate. With a soundtrack that is effective the film does fall a little short with a lack lustre performance from Sturgess. It moves a little slowly at times and is a drawn out. It would seem that there is a little miss – casting and the director tried to do his best to combat this. Equally Isabel Lucas could have done a lot more with her character to bring her to life and together the two lack any real on-screen chemistry.

Based on the true story of Eddie Dodson the movie has potential to be great but never quite takes off fully. The real ” Gentleman Robber” Eddie Dodson evaded Police and robbed almost 70 banks over a period of 9 months.

It is still however a pleasant enough film to watch with the story of the notorious bank robber one that needs to be told. Good for a lazy Sunday afternoon watch if you have some spare time this movie is easy viewing.

 

 

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[ Movie Review] Zoolander 2

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In the 90s there was only one name in fashion. That name was Derek Zoolander and he was the world’s most ridiculously good looking male model.

Fifteen years later and after several tragedies  in his life, including child services taking away his son Derek Jnr away Zoolander ( Ben Stiller) is living as a ” hermit crab” in the wilderness, his hair having grown long and wild.

Drawn back into the modelling world by a string of celebrity murders where each victim has died with the famous “Blue Steel” look on their faces, Billy Zane is enlisted to bring Derek and Hansel back to assist in the investigation led by the beautiful Valentina ( Penelope Cruz) a former swimsuit model.

Of course the evil Mugato ( Will Ferrell) is behind it all and has planned it all from his maximum security prison cell with the assistance of Russian fashion designer Alexanya Atoz  ( Kristen Wiig) to trick Derek and steal the blood of Derek’s young son Derek Jnr. to attain eternal youth.  Tragically for him Zoolander’s  son is both unattractive and overweight, and issue that Derek must come to grips with whilst trying to discover who he is all the while thwarting Mugato’s evil plans of world domination.

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Bringing in a slew of cameo roles such as Katie Perry, Justin Bieber, Kate Moss, Sting,  Anna Wintour, Tommy Hilfiger, Valentino, Alexander Wang, Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang just to name a few. The movie generally sticks to the original satirical format and does reuse a lot of the same jokes and references. Fans of the original will love that it does not waiver from the format. It’s does score some new laughs with by satirising the current Hipster culture and millennial’s  need to seem disinterested. Benedict Cumberbatch makes a rather amusing appearance as androgynous model All  highlighting the ridiculousness of the fashion world and is almost unrecognisable, yet quite good.

There has been quite an amount of criticism for the film of late and perhaps this late 90s style satire is not for everyone, especially if it is not something that a viewer has been exposed to and is not aware of. Fans of the original will love the trip down memory lane with the addition of a few new zany characters.

 

 

 

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[Film Review] CREED

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The Rocky franchise of movies has been one of the most popular series of films over the last thirty years since the 1976 release of the first Rocky movie.

Creed is the first movie to be written by someone else other that Sylvester Stallone and also his first time out of the directors chair with Aaron Covington and Ryan Coogler in the hot seat.

Creed sees young Adonis Johnson Creed ( Michael B. Jordan) a troubled young man after the untimely death of his father and boxing legend Apollo Creed turns up on Rocky’s door set to seek training and follow in his father’s footsteps.

Reluctant at first Rocky shies away from training the young boxer, however Creed ( who goes by his mothers last name of Johnson) finally persuades him and Rocky is once again out of retirement to show the world that its not all over yet for the boxing great.

The major factor that audiences loved about the original Rocky movies was the under dog rags- to – riches tale, of a boxer that makes good and gets the girl. With Creed, the movie stays away from that theme and its not really clear as to why the young man is angry and aggressive until later in the film when we learn that Adonis is the illegitimate child and the product of an affair, so he has a pretty big point to make that he is not a mistake.

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Having been raised by Apollo’s widow Mary Ann Creed ( Phylicia Rashard) he finally gets to step out of his fathers shadow and with the help of love interest Bianca ( Tessa Thompson) a partially deaf musician he is able to step up and be the man he wants to be.

With a new writers and Stallone not sitting in the directing chair the movie does take on a lot of Blockbuster gloss with montages and highly emotive music at every turn. It can be a little hard to connect to the character when every time he has a break through or a crisis there is blaring Hollywood motivational music blaring which is borderline cheesy. Also the motivation as to why Apollo Creed’s widow would take in a child that is the product of her husband’s infidelity is never made that clear and not explored.

When Rocky becomes sick the movie takes a more serious turn and Stallone portrays the role of a cancer patient quite well- even if some of it is mashed up in montages the images it portrays are rather accurate. Stallone shows a lot of heart as the ailing Balboa and its rather a surprise to see him handle the emotion quite well.

Whilst the movie claims to be a reboot of the series and with the story line leaving open possible sequels without Rocky Balboa it would simply be another boxing movie. As it stands Creed is quite an enjoyable flick once it shifts into high gear.