SIDE EFFECTS review

Starring: Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes), Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago), Channing Tatum (Magic Mike)

Director: Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven)

Writer: Scott Z. Burns (Contagion)

Runtime: 1 hour 46 minutes

Release Date: 8 February (US), 8 March (UK)

Side Effects is supposedly Steven Soderbergh’s final theatrical release (his true final film, Behind the Candelabra, has been relegated to an HBO TV movie). Is this the swansong such a renowned director deserves, or is it a final effort not worth remembering?

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The plot of Side Effects is so full of twists and turns that I can’t even describe the basics without spoiling pretty much everything; you just have to see it for yourself. Just know that the trailers are throwing you for a loop and this is a much deeper and darker film than the marketing is letting on. Whilst the film starts pretty slow, a particular scene about a third of the way through (one that got the entire audience I saw it with to gasp) suddenly creates a huge turn and immediately got me intrigued and invested in the story. From there, the movie really kicks into gear and is a story that will be very hard for anyone to predict. I can’t say much more; now go see it for yourselves.

The cast does a great job with their roles; none of the main players disappoint. Law plays obsessive well, and his frenzied nature and inability to comprehend what is going on perfectly matches the state of mind most of the audience should be in. Mara gives her arguably the best performance of her career in a role that I think most actresses would struggle with due to its complexity, but she pulls it off perfectly natural. Zeta-Jones, whilst possibly a bit too suspicious at times, also gives her best performance in a long time. Tatum isn’t in the movie as long as the marketing tries to convince you he is, but in his brief time he also manages to emote much more than he averagely does.

Soderbergh has a very distinct but simple style to his movies, and that is all over Side Effects. Whilst the movie does have that graded look that a lot of Soderbergh movies have had recently where everything is tinted urine-yellow, it isn’t as strong or distracting as it was in Magic Mike or Contagion. The cinematography is pretty basic but effective, whilst the music fits the odd style the film is going for.

Side Effects is the first truly great movie of the year and is Soderbergh’s best film in a quite a while. The story is intriguing if occasionally confusing and the central performances are all very strong. All in all, Soderbergh couldn’t ask for a better movie to close his curtain on.

FINAL VERDICT: 9/10

OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL review

Starring: James Franco (127 Hours), Mila Kunis (Black Swan), Rachel Weisz (The Brothers Bloom), Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine), Zach Braff (Garden State)

Director: Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead)

Writers: Mitchell Kapner (The Whole Nine Yards) and David Lindsay-Abaire (Rise of the Guardians)

Runtime: 2 hours 10 minutes

Release Date: 8 March (US, UK)

The Wizard of Oz is one of those classic movies that we were all forced to watch when we were young, and it is a film that I fondly remember. Despite several attempts, no one has ever been able to capture the magic of Oz the way the original did back in 1939. With the success of Alice in Wonderland several years ago, Disney is now taking a stab at L. Frank Baum’s work in the form of an unofficial prequel. Should you head down the yellow brick road again, or should you tap your heels together immediately and escape back to Kansas?

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The story of Oz is tale that has been told in many different ways before (even Raimi’s own Army of Darkness has the same basic story), but one that naturally fits the classic style of the rest of the proceedings. The film feels well structured and the pacing makes the 2-hour plus runtime fly by, but the dialogue could have used more work. I know it’s a kid’s movie, but too often I felt the dialogue was very on-the-nose when it really didn’t need to be. The film has a lot of humour, mainly between Franco and Braff, and most of the time it works well. They never have to resort to pop culture references or bathroom humour in order to create gags the way most family films do these days; it is all through character interaction. Nothing cheap and forced here like that other movie (coughMADHATTERBREAKDANCINGcough). The film also has plenty of references to the original film, from its black-and-white opening scenes to subtle references to characters and locations. It never feels too forced nor does it distract you from the story at hand. The film is an origin story for not just Oz, but the Wicked Witch of the West as well, and this story is handled generally quite well. I know fans of the musical Wicked are probably crying foul, but (as someone who hasn’t seen the show) I can say I have no problem with both versions of the story existing. This is simply just another interpretation of the character and neither version is truly canon with either the books or the original film. The film captures the feel of the 1939 version well; it merely expands upon through the use of a modern perspective and craftsmanship. I’m also glad the film didn’t resort to using a standard action climax and go against the entire style of the source material the way Burton’s Wonderland did. Here, there is a climax but one that feels much more natural to the story and doesn’t feel anywhere near as forced as Alice fighting a Jabberwocky purely to create tension and a sense of threat.

The cast of the film works, though maybe not the most ideal. Franco seems an odd choice for Oz at first (the original choice of Robert Downey Jr would have probably worked better), but he warms on you by the end. Weisz and Williams do well with their roles, even if Weisz hams it up a bit at points. Zach Braff is great as the monkey and has great chemistry with Franco, whilst Joey King as the china girl provides some much needed heart and emotion. My main problem with the cast is Mila Kunis; the way her character develops later on in the film (which I won’t reveal for spoilers sake) feels natural on paper, but Kunis doesn’t sell it convincingly enough. Maybe it’s the over-the-top nature of her performance, maybe the fact Kunis usually doesn’t play this broad a character, I’m not sure. There’s probably an actress out there who could have pulled this off better; I’m just not sure whom. Oh, and before I forget, there is a Bruce Campbell cameo for you Raimi enthusiasts. Whilst not his best, it is amusing and even calls back to his Evil Dead days.

Like Burton’s Wonderland, Oz was shot primarily on green screens with effects to create the magical land of Oz. Like it or not, it is still very visually impressive. The whole film has been designed beautifully, both in its original parts and those lifted from the original film. Raimi utilises his love of moving cameras and odd angles to great affect here, and the 3-D is actually worth the price this time round. Danny Elfman’s score for the film works most of the time, but whenever that choir kicks in it feels too much like a Burton film. And not in a good way.

Oz: The Great and Powerful is good return to form for Raimi, and probably one of the better live-action family films in recent memory. It’s a good companion piece to the 1939 classic as well as a good film on its own, and is a much better film that Burton’s Alice in Wonderland in every possible facet. It ain’t perfect, but that didn’t stop me from having a fun, nostalgia-filled time at the movies.

FINAL VERDICT: 8.5/10

STOKER review

Starring: Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland), Matthew Goode (Watchmen), Nicole Kidman (Eyes Wide Shut), Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)

Director: Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy)

Writer: Wentworth Miller (Prison Break)

Runtime: 1 hour 38 minutes

Release Date: 1 March (US, UK)

For a movie from the director of the brutal but brilliant Korean picture Oldboy, you’d hope that his Hollywood debut would have much more impact. Sadly, Stoker is a misfire of a film; one that has a solid starting point but ends up crashing short of the finish line.

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The basic premise of the film is intriguing and it is what mainly carries the film throughout. It fulfils what most thrillers lack these days: unpredictability. I honestly had no idea where this movie was going, and once the truth is revealed it is genuinely shocking. Unfortunately, the film then falls into a rushed and anti-climactic ending, one that doesn’t seem to gel with the previous eighty minutes. The film is very much a slow burner, making the film feel much longer than its actual brief runtime. This works well at the start, but the film begins to drag before suddenly moving too quickly to properly comprehend the meaning of its ending. The film’s writing is inconsistent, moving from pretty decent to downright amateurish. The film’s opening scenes are full of “subtle” exposition that feels unnatural, and everyone outside of the main characters feels like a cookie-cutter stereotype. Wentworth Miller has never been that great an actor, but he should probably take a few more writing classes before he attempts to touch a word processor again.

The film has a strong principal cast who are given material juicy enough to have fun with, but they all often seem lost and confused. Wasikowska is again playing the emo-ish oddball she usually plays but to much more eerie effect, but she never really gives us enough to fully understand what is going through her warped mind. Matthew Goode’s performance feels too over the top; I know we’re supposed to be suspicious of him, but does he constantly have to act so creepy. We get it! Nicole Kidman is decent in her part but never gets enough to do, and Jacki Weaver briefly enters the picture before unceremoniously disappearing. The actors don’t feel well directed enough, possibly the result of a foreign director’s vision either not being spelled out well enough or getting lost in translation.

If I can say anything extremely positive about the film, it at least looks very pretty. The cinematography makes a lot of use of long tracking shots that are executed well, as well as plenty of other neat camera tricks. This gives the film a sense of style and originality the rest of the film is sorely lacking.

Stoker is a film that I can’t hate, but it lacks so much that I can scarcely call it good. It lacks enough originality and suspense to make it feel compelling, further worsened by poor writing, mediocre performances and a confusing ending. Park Chan-Wook was aiming for a Hitchcockian feel with this one but we instead got a Brian DePalma film, and not a good one.

FINAL VERDICT: 5/10

CLOUD ATLAS review

Starring: Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan), Halle Berry (Monster’s Ball), Jim Broadbent (Hot Fuzz), Ben Whishaw (Skyfall), Hugo Weaving (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy)

Writers/Directors: The Wachowskis (The Matrix), Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run)

Runtime: 2 hours 52 minutes

Release Date: October 26 (US), February 22 (UK)

Based on the absurdly long book by David Mitchell (no, not that David Mitchell), Cloud Atlas is an absurdly long movie by the creative minds of The Matrix trilogy and Run Lola Run. Does this collage of stories and talents amount to more than the sum of its parts, or is it a jumbled mess of ideas?

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The film is made up of six different stories, with elements, themes and occasionally characters crossing between them. The problem with it is that these stories are told all at the same time, cross cutting between them constantly and randomly in attempt to highlight the similarities between them. What this ends up doing instead is making the film hard to follow at times. Often, certain stories are left to gather dust for a while for far too long, leading me to say “Oh yeah, that story still exists” more often than I should be. The film’s runtime is far too long; a good half hour could have been lost easily in the cutting room. The stylistic differences between stories also cause some major tonal whiplash. One second, you’re watching Halle Berry being chased by a hitman through San Francisco. Next second, you’re watching Jim Broadbent and his wacky pals get into some hijinks at the retirement home. It just feels uneven and makes it hard to care about all these stories. That, and some of the stories just aren’t that interesting. After seeing which directors directed which sections, I discovered tended to like Tykwer’s parts more than the Wachowskis. Being a big fan of The Matrix, this is upsetting. After this, Speed Racer and The Matrix sequels, its fair to say these siblings are one-hit wonders.

The cast of this movie is full of notable stars playing multiple varied roles. Actors change age, race and even sex between stories, which can lead to both amazement and unintentional hilarity. Tom Hanks probably performs best through all of the stories, confirming that he is still one of the best actors working today. Berry is better here than she has been in a while, but I’ve never thought she was that great an actress to begin with. Broadbent is as wonderful as he is in everything, whilst Whishaw provides a great performance in his centrepiece role. The ever-threatening Hugo Weaving plays the villain in every story he’s in, but it’s hard to take him seriously when he’s in drag doing his best Nurse Ratchet impression. Pity these performances are wasted on such weak material.

Despite the story woes, at least Cloud Atlas is a technical achievement. Every story has its own visual style and flair, making them easily distinctive and easier to identify when flip-flopping around constantly. The music is beautiful and easily the best thing about the film. There has been much debate about the quality of the make-up, and I’d say it is pretty mixed. Often it’s really impressive (several times, I didn’t realise who played who until the credits), but at other points it’s just unnerving; the aforementioned Weaving in drag and Doona Bae made up to look Caucasian are the two obvious ones. I’m not saying it’s racist, it just isn’t very convincing.

Cloud Atlas is a bold and beautiful experiment, but one that fails miserably. The intentions are noble and craftsmanship accomplished, but the film is too muddled and inconsistent to leave me feeling anything other than utter confusion and disappointment.

FINAL VERDICT: 4/10

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD review

Starring: Bruce Willis (Looper) and Jai Courtney (Jack Reacher)

Director: John Moore (Max Payne)

Writer: Skip Woods (X-Men Origins: Wolverine)

Runtime: 1 hour 37 minutes

Release Date: 14 February (US, UK)

What can I say about Die Hard that hasn’t been said? It’s the pinnacle of action movies, a game-changing motion picture that influenced the action landscape forever and made Bruce Willis an icon. The following sequels, though never living up to the original, were also entertaining diversions. I even like the fourth one, ridiculousness and all. But is the fifth outing one worth gearing up for, or has John McClane finally run out of luck?

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The plot of Die Hard 5 (I refuse to call it by that ridiculous title) is so bland, so banal, so utterly generic, that I’m struggling to remember key plot details just mere hours after watching it. After an incredibly slow start, the film finally kicks into gear but doesn’t keep up the pace. When there is action, it’s pretty run of the mill. When there isn’t, it is downright torturous. The film attempts to bring in a father-son dynamic between Willis and Courtney, but in the most half-assed overdone way. The constant bickering, the refusal to call McClane “Dad”, McClane always saving his son’s ass and not thanking him for it. It all just feels ripped from other movies; Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade this ain’t. At least the movie is short.

If you know what to expect from Bruce Willis these days, you’ll get exactly that. His portrayal of his iconic role feels half-baked, as if Willis doesn’t know what’s going on or doesn’t care. His one-liners are pretty weak 85% of the time; some of them don’t even make sense (“I’m not smart. I’m just on vacation” WTF?). He doesn’t even feel like John McClane; it’s just Willis being Willis for the umpteenth-bazzilionth time. Jai Courtney attempts to pick up the slack, but the character of McClane Jr is given so little personality that he has nothing to work with. The two’s chemistry is passable at best, never getting close to the kind of relationship Willis had with Samuel L. Jackson or even Justin Long. But the villain is good, right? The Die Hard franchise is known for its memorable cast of villains, from Alan Rickman to Timothy Olyphant (OK, maybe not Olyphant). And the villains here are…Russians. Nothing that special or memorable about them. They’re just Russians. The film tries really hard to make these guys seem evil and just fail. They even try to tread out a real-life tragedy in attempt to make them seem more villainous; that’s just lazy and disrespectful.

But what about the action? That’s what we come to see these movies for. Every Die Hard movie has it’s memorable action scenes, from as simple as jumping off a building to as ridiculous as crashing a car into a helicopter. Many took issue with Die Hard 4.0 for taking the action to ridiculous levels, and those people are probably going to be even more pissed with this one. The action here is preposterous and not in a good way. Once in a blue moon does the film do something interesting, but nothing that memorable. The John McClane of the original Die Hard would never have survived some of the s*** he pulls off here. Remember how much glass hurt him in the first movie? F*** that, he’s constantly crashing through the stuff here with barely a scratch! Combine the unimaginative action with constant shaky-cam and sloppy editing, and you’ve got yourself a bland action movie that hardly feels like a Die Hard movie at any point. All in a day’s work for hackmaster John Moore. Even the biggest hater of Die Hard 4.0 would be begging for Len Wiseman to come back after seeing this atrocity.

Die Hard 5 is a spit in the face of the franchise, an embarrassment that should be quickly forgotten about and never spoken of again. The film barely resembles its roots and just goes for generic thrills straight out of the Michael Bay School of Schlock Filmmaking. Willis has already said he’s up for at least one more. It can’t get any worse than this, right? Right?!

FINAL VERDICT: 3/10

WARM BODIES review

Starring: Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class), Teresa Palmer (I Am Number Four), Rob Corddry (Hot Tub Time Machine), John Malkovich (Con Air)

Writer/Director: Jonathan Levine (50/50)

Runtime: 1 hour 38 minutes

Release Date: 1 February (US), 8 February (UK)

Many are quick to dismiss Warm Bodies as yet another lame attempt to cash in on the Twilight craze. Does this film suffer from the same problems as those abysmal films, or does this zom-rom-com have more on the inside?

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The plot of Warm Bodies is a very loose adaptation of Romeo & Juliet, but about as loose as you get. The film follows the romantic comedy structure to a T, but with its setting and characters it remains fresh. The film keeps up a good pace throughout, scattering just enough humour as it goes, before entering an entertaining but extremely brief climax. The writing here is consistently witty, with enough jabs taken at both the zombie and rom com genres to entertain fans of both genres.

The little kid from About a Boy has come a long way, hasn’t he? In what is his first leading role in a major film, Hoult excels. He plays undead well, letting his face do a lot of the talking to convey his emotions when his ever-constant monologue decides not to chime in. Palmer is decent as well, though her character isn’t as developed or interesting as Hoult. Rob Corddry provides a lot of good humour, whilst the enigmatic John Malkovich is barely used in a stereotypical role that could have been played by anyone.

Possibly the most unfortunate thing about Warm Bodies is the lack of gore. I know they’re trying to appeal to the teen market, but even for a 12 rated film the violence on display here is pretty tame. Sure, we get to see headshots and even some brain devouring, but it all feels held back. They could have gone a little messier and still gotten away with the rating. The movie also has a very indie soundtrack, often segwaying into montages that seem out of place at times.

Warm Bodies is the first genuinely good movie of the year, and does enough new things to make it stand out. Whilst not a classic, it is entertaining and has plenty of laughs to be worth a watch.

FINAL VERDICT: 8/10

WRECK-IT RALPH review

Starring: John C. Reilly (Boogie Nights), Sarah Silverman (School of Rock), Jack McBrayer (30 Rock), Jane Lynch (Role Models)

Director: Rich Moore (Futurama)

Writers: Phil Johnston (Cedar Rapids) & Jennifer Lee

Runtime: 1 hour 48 minutes

Release Date: 2 November (US), 8 February (UK)

Disney’s new film set in the land of video games has finally arrived on British shores (seriously, what is with Disney and their stupidly staggered release dates?). Is it worth dunking your quarters in, or should you just call it game over?

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Whilst Wreck-It Ralph does take place in a unique and interesting world, the story here is pretty standard fare. It’s still consistently entertaining and never boring, but anyone with a basic knowledge of story structure and clichés can probably see several plot points from miles away, which really put a damper in a movie that is otherwise very imaginative and fun. The writers have clearly done their homework, filling the film with many creative in-jokes that only the nerdiest of gamers will get (which includes yours truly!). References to everything from Street Fighter to Metal Gear Solid are scattered around, which add a real authenticity to the film as well as adding some neat gags. Still, the film could have done with even more, especially in regard to the worlds we see. The film has so much promise with all these different games we could be hopping between, but we spend most of the film stuck in one environment. If and when they make a sequel, more gaming jumping is immediately required.

Wreck-It Ralph’s cast seems perfectly tailored to their roles. Reilly plays the titular character well, providing the sympathy required for such a character. Silverman, whilst occasionally grading, provides an equal quality as Vanellope. McBrayer and Lynch are fantastic in their roles and I wish we could have gotten more of them. Alan Tudyk also shines in his role as King Candy, perfectly mimicking the Mad Hatter voice in a way that feels appropriate.

The animation on display here is phenomenal. The way they’ve designed and animated these character to be like actual video games characters is astonishing and again adds to the authenticity of the proceedings. The film is constantly visually interesting, and the music is also great at mimicking that video game feel.

Wreck-It Ralph is the best animated film I’ve seen in a few years and one I’m keen to revisit soon. The film is begging for a sequel, and I will be first in line if it does indeed get made.

FINAL VERDICT: 8.5/10

FLIGHT review

Starring: Denzel Washington (Training Day), Kelly Riley (Sherlock Holmes), Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2), John Goodman (The Big Lebowski)

Director: Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump)

Writer: John Gatins (Real Steel)

Runtime: 2 hours 18 minutes

Release Date: 2 November (US), 1 February (UK)

Denzel Washington stars as a pilot with a serious drinking problem in Flight. Does this film take off in style, or does it crash and burn?

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The opening scenes of Flight are some of the most expertly crafted and intensely thrilling scenes I have seen in a long time. The plane crash centrepiece feels authentic and really puts you into the moment, and the way the film quickly sets up the character of Whip shows great character work and performance. Once that plane crashes, however, the film takes a slight dive in quality. The film goes around in circles for a little while trying to emphasize Whip’s tragic flaw, but his problem is pretty clear within the first scene; we don’t need to be constantly reminded. A scene or two could have been cut here and had no impact on the emotional climax of the film, which truly forgoes usual movie logic and seriously grounds the movie in reality. By no means is the rest of the movie bad, it just fails to match the stupendous quality of those first fifteen minutes.

Denzel is probably one of the best actors working today, and he delivers another marvellous performance here. His portrayal of an alcoholic feels much more genuine and believable than most film drunks. While his character could easily come off as a self-destructive asshole, Denzel manages to keep enough of his natural charm to make sure the audience is balanced towards his side. The rest of the cast does a great job as well. Kelly Riley truly gets to show off her talent here playing a recovering heroin addict, but her character gets faded out of the movie with little impact and her story never feels properly concluded. Don Cheadle and Bruce Greenwood also provide good support as Whip’s defense. John Goodman is also here playing comic relief that too often feels out of touch with the rest of the movie, almost as if he walked right off the set of The Big Lebowski. He’s good with what he’s given, but he just seems a little OTT for such an emotionally dark film.

It’s great to see Zemeckis working in the land of the living again instead of with soulless mo-cap, and he’s still got it. Zemeckis directs the film effectively, but never lets his style get in the way of the drama. Apart from the plane crash, this is pretty much a straight drama, and the film never tries to hide this with fancy cinematography or bombastic music. The film features heavy use of Rolling Stones music, which eventually gets overbearing. I love the Stones as much as the next guy, but this just gets bloody ridiculous.

In the end, Flight is an engaging film with an opening that is worth the price of admission on its own. Zemeckis has returned to live action in style and, while its unlikely Denzel will walk away on Oscar night with a statue in his hand, he gives a wonderful performance worthy of praise regardless.

FINAL VERDICT: 9/10

LINCOLN review

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood), Sally Field (Forrest Gump), Tommy Lee Jones (Men in Black)

Director: Steven Spielberg (War Horse)

Writer: Tony Kushner (Munich)

Release Date: 9 November (US), 25 January (UK)

Spielberg’s long gestating biopic about the freer of the slaves has finally reaches British shores. Is it made of pure Oscar gold, or is it just bait?

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Being a British person, I don’t have an encyclopaedic history of the life and works of Abraham Lincoln but I know the basics. Luckily, the film covers just about enough of it that it is understandable to an uninformed audience. However, that doesn’t stop the movie from being sluggish. This film is far too long by a good half hour and could have been easily cut down without missing too much. That’s not to say that the movie is bad; in fact, when it’s good it’s amazing. But there were far too many moments where I started to get restless and wanted things to move on. To worsen these matters, the film has a great ending point but then prattles on pointlessly for another 15 minutes just so we can see Lincoln’s death (c’mon, that’s not a spoiler!). We didn’t need to see that; the movie had accomplished its goal by that point.

Spielberg has assembled a massive cast for this film, so much so that great respected actors get relegated to measly roles in some cases. Regardless, everyone is really good. Praising a Day-Lewis performance is as expected as the sun setting, but it is really good anyway. He commands every scene he’s in and truly inhabits this character more than anyone who has ever played the role. Sally Field is also great as his wife, whilst Tommy Lee Jones shines in his supporting role that provides some great drama and even a little comedy.

You generally know going into a Spielberg movie how it’s going to feel, but that never stops it from being beautiful. They’ve really managed to capture the feel of the period, from the costumes to the sets. The cinematography here is really good and keeps the film flowing even during its slow moments, whilst John Williams supplies a familiar but still fitting and grandiose score.

Overall, Lincoln is exactly the kind of movie that appeals to the Academy, but not so much for me. Maybe it’s because I’m not American, maybe it’s because I’m too young, but it didn’t appeal to me so much. It is worth seeing and does deserve some awards come Oscar night, but I have no really want to ever watch it again.

FINAL VERDICT: 8/10

THE LAST STAND review

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator), Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), Peter Stormare (The Big Lebowski), Luis Guzman (Boogie Nights), Jamie Alexander (Thor), Johnny Knoxville (Jackass)

Director: Kim Jee-woon (The Good, the Bad, the Weird)

Writer: Andrew Knauer

Runtime: 1 hour 47 minutes

Release Date: 18 January (US), 24 January (UK)

The legendary king of action has returned to his roots for his first leading man role in 10 years. Can an old dog still learn new tricks, or should Arnold have never said, “I’ll be back”?

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Let me get this out of the way quickly: this movie is f***ing stupid. Ridiculously so. But that by no means it is bad. This is classic dumb fun, and no amount of nitpicking can stop it from being so. Sure, there are plot holes abound and moments where the laws of physics takes a nap, but the film’s complete lax attitude towards common sense means it never bothered me. The dialogue, however, is another story. Action movies like this are rarely the work of Shakespeare, but the exposition dumping here is colossally clunky and never feels natural. On the other side of it, the film lacks good one-liners; for an Arnold movie, that’s majorly disappointing. The film is also quite slow at the start, but sitting through it is worth it to get to the last half hour, which is an action extravaganza that will constantly leave you in both shock and laughter.

I hate to say it, but it’s true: Arnold Schwarzenegger has never been a good actor. I love the guy, faults and all, but age and experience hasn’t exactly done much to improve his acting ability. Regardless, it’s great to see him back. The rest of the cast are capable, but none of them truly shine that bright. Whitaker often looks like he’s going through the motions, whilst Stormare gives the usual strange performance he gives in 95% of his movies. Guzman and Knoxville often lighten up the film during its duller moments, but the film really needs much more Arnold that it has.

When The Last Stand gets into action mode, it goes straight for the highest gear. The stuff on display here doesn’t exactly break the mould like The Raid, but it is still crazy and bombastic enough to entertain thoroughly. The cinematography really livens up the action, though it is still occasionally too close for comfort. That combined with some choppy editing can sometimes ruin the flow of the carnage, and that’s disappointing. When will action filmmakers take a hint and film action from a distance? For every film like Skyfall or Jack Reacher that does it right, we get a dozen movies edited in this nausea-enducing fashion. Despite this, the film delivers on what it promises.

The Last Stand is loud, idiotic, violent trash…and bloody great fun! I went in not asking for anything thought provoking and came out with a smirk on my face. Arnold is back on screen and, though maybe not in the best shape or in the best film, I couldn’t be happier.

FINAL VERDICT: 7/10