Posted by: Dr P | April 25, 2010

Cemetery Junction

Have you ever wanted more from your life? Have you ever felt you could better yourself in some way? Maybe seeing your child smile improves your world – I know it does mine – or maybe you will only be satisfied when you’re walking in space? Or perhaps, if you’re from Rochdale, you feel there’s more to life than marrying your cousin. Whatever your attitude to self-betterment “Cemetery Junction” addresses those hopes and fears, and shows us the reality of working class England in the 70s.

Penned by Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais, masters of bringing us comedy with a harder edge, this is on one level an impressive movie, but it does suffer form some unpleasant moments too. The story follows a short period in the lives of three central figures, a close-knit group of young adults from the working class Home Counties suburb of Cemetery Junction: Freddie Taylor (Christian Cooke) is the central protagonist, a young man desperate to free himself from the shackles of family life – his dad (Gervais) is a factory hand, and the family dynamic is one of desperation and grim humour. So Freddie seeks a job with an insurance firm, run by the humourless Mr Kendrick (Ralph Fiennes), a man who has escaped his own upbringing in Cemetery Junction and is therefore an inspiration to Freddie.

Freddie’s best mates are Bruce (Tom Pearson), a typically arrogant, angry young man whose idea of a good night usually ends in being locked up in the cells. He has no respect for his father, and blames him for his mother leaving them. The third member of the group is “Snork” (Jack Doolan), the geeky, daft member of the trio, who has little social skills and constantly puts his foot in it. He’s desperate for a girlfriend, but with seemingly little chance of getting one.

Initially his mates are sceptical of his ambition, but as Freddie starts to gain a foothold in his job, the trio crystallise plans to break free of their surroundings. Freddie discovers that the boss’s daughter is his childhood girlfriend Julie (Felicity Jones), but any thoughts of rekindling their young romance is on the back burner. Julie is dating Freddie’s colleague Mike, an up and coming insurance salesman who is as dispassionate and uncaring of his clients and his relationship as Kendrick is of his own marriage.

The interaction and dynamics in the movie are utterly believable and eminently watchable. It’s all the better for Gervais only having a minor role, as he can often become overbearing and hard to watch. The younger stars dominate the scene, with Cooke and Pearson superb in their roles. The audience is drawn into the blossoming love story between Freddie and Julie, while we also come to learn a lot about Bruce, his upbringing, his relationship with his father, and the root of his rebellious nature.

Although at its core this is a coming of age story, it is also dramatic, funny, sad and moving in equal part. There are lots of truly superb laugh out loud moments, and also times when we’re pulled along for the ride and empathise with the characters and their various struggles and dilemmas.

There’s a magnificent moment at the annual insurance firm dinner, where Snork manages to get onstage and perform with the band – and then almost instantly ruins the feelgood mood he’s created with a random obscenity.. .about Noddy! It’s a cringeworthy and hilarious scene, and one which sharply brings home just how out of place the characters feel in their world.

Gervais and Merchant add a lot of period humour into the movie; one line which really amused me was where Snork and Bruce catch Freddie listening to a Vaughan Williams record, and breate him for listening to what is  in their view – “gay” music. “Stop listening to music made by poofs. Put some Elton John on!”  Within Freddie’s family, there’s also a gran who says totally inappropriate things – a bit like Catherine Tate’s Nan. She’s funny in an Alf Garnett sort of way – very funny lines but with an undercurrent of racism and homophobia that’s totally unacceptable in this day and age. Actually, that’s one downside to the film, there’s quite a lot of homophobia and while the writers may consider “hey, it’s 1973, it’s ok”, there’s probably no need to have included it, and some of the comments did take some of the sheen off what is otherwise a fairly polished big screen movie.

Overall though, the film is well worth a view and one which I came out of feeling pretty uplifted. More please, guys – just ease up on the stereotypes!

Posted by: Dr P | April 19, 2010

Clash of the Titans

Imagine a film that brings the ancient world to life in a stunning fashion. Imagine a perfect recreation of a bygone time when man and Gods waged war over the Earth, and where great heroes strove valiantly to overcome desperate odds. Imagine grand speeches, impossible valour, heroic – yet believable – action.

Well, you’d better imagine, cos Clash of the Titans is a bit of a turkey, folks. Our hero is the demigod Perseus, the bastard offspring of Zeus, a man brought up by humble foster parents to be a fisherman. His quest, revealed through the gods themselves, is to rise up and unite man in its struggle with the evil Hades, and to bring a peace back to Earth. Unfortunately they cast Sam Worthington in the role, and despite LOOKING the part (yes, ladies, short pants and sandals do work here) it’s fairly unlikely that such a man would have sported an Australian accent. Dear oh dear me, what were you thinking, Samuel?

This movie has clearly had multi-millions lavished, not only on the special effects (very good indeed) but also on assembling a pretty distinguished cast. In addition to Avatar’s Sam, we have Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes as Zeus and Hades, respectively, the utterly lovely Gemma Arterton, Pete Postlethwaite, and a fine assembly of actors and actresses. But boy does the script suck. When the likes of Neeson have to spout filth like “Release … the Kraken” you know it’s not good.

There’s also a ragtag collection of part-human nomads, the Djinn, who side with Sammy boy on his quest. Supposedly ancient desert nomads and warriors, they actually have blue eyes and look like a cross between a Wookie and an Ewok. Not impressive, not impressive at all.

The story itself is a real hodge podge of Greek mythological stories and an excuse to introduce one legendary character after another – there’s a boat ride across the Styx with Charon (fortunately they do pay the ferryman, against the sage advise of Chris de Burgh), an encounter with Medusa and her stony gaze, and no shortage of views of Olympus and the gods. And a final pitched battle with the Kraken. All well and good, but as is typical of a movie of this sort, the whole thing limps along from one lavish set piece to another, with no building of character at all along the way.

However, there’s another problem. Much of the story appears to be nicked wholesale from Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief! That in itself is a bit of an irony, as many of the ideas therein were stolen from Harry Potter, but a number of plot points and resolutions come directly from the Percy movie. Shocking really, with an entire Greek mythology to choose from, why use plot devices from another movie? Hmmm. Not clever.

Oh and don’t waste the extra money on seeing this in 3D, it really adds little to the whole experience.

Pretty poor, Hollywood, pretty poor.

Posted by: Dr P | April 8, 2010

Shutter Island

Shutter Island – the new name for Hillary’s Blinds! Actually, no, it’s the title of the latest Scorsese/DiCaprio tie-in, a thriller set in and around a mental hospital on Boston’s island of the same name.

As the film opens it’s 1954 and US marshal Teddy Daniels and partner arrive at the remote hospital; it’s a vicious, remote place, windswept and forlorn and filled with raving lunatics and delusional inmates. It’s Rochdale but without the tributes to Gracie Fields.

Daniels meets the strange Dr “Creepy” Cawley (Ben Kingsley), who informs him that despite their best efforts, one of their patients has gone missing. Quite how this is possible in a locked-down secure facility is bizarre enough, but when Daniels meets other guards and inmates, he starts to suspect that a very tangled and sinister operation is in place. As he probes deeper into the disappearance, it quickly becomes apparent that not all is as it outwardly appears … and just what is going on in the heavily-guarded and isolated lighthouse?

Before long, Daniels is warned that he may never leave the island, and so he is forced to go on the run – not easy on a rocky island battered by the elements – and also attempt to uncover not only what is happening at Shutter Island, but also work out the strange images and dreams he is having.

As the film moves into its final third, we start to question almost everything we have learned, and some fairly hefty twists and turns are thrown upon us. It’s a rollercoaster ride, although one which may not be quite as surprising as intended, if you watch the opening scenes closely enough.

DiCaprio puts in a superb performance as the tortured Daniels, a man coming more apart at the seams with every hour that passes, whilst Kingsley is also both disturbing and amusing as Cawley, a man whose words and actions challenge everything Daniels holds dear.

The early parts of the movie are quite jumpy, particularly the scene in the most secure wing of the hospital while the storm rages – but after the scariness of that period, the movie settles down into a routine psychological thriller. For me, that took a little of the edge off the piece, although I still enjoyed watching the story play out.

If you’re good at guessing twists you’ll already have figured out the movie’s big payoff by the time it’s delivered, but it’s still intriguing to watch it develop. Had the director thrown in one last twist to overthrow everything we’d learned that may have been even better, but as it stands it’s a not-quite-totally-satisfying conclusion.

A competent and enjoyable thriller, certainly worthy of 3 stars in my view, but perhaps the M Night Shyamalan “saw it coming” twist was slightly too predictable. One for fans of Scorsese and DiCaprio.

Posted by: Dr P | April 1, 2010

The Blind Side

Sandra Bullock made her name in Hollywood in fairly lightweight roles, such as a sideshow to Keanu and Hopper in Speed, and a succession of romantic comedies. However, her career has taken in more weighty material of late and in 2010 she has come up trumps with this Oscar-winning performance in The Blind Side. Having seen Jeff Bridges’ statuette-winning role in Crazy Heart a fortnight back, I thought it was time to compare the two.

Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, a wealthy Republican whose husband Sean (Tim McGraw) owns a number of food chains in and around Memphis. The story follows the family’s attempts to help Michael “Big Mike” Oher, a low IQ black kid from a broken home, by getting him enrolled in a Christian school and subsequently bringing him into their family. Such is Oher’s athletic prowess that he not only excels in the school football team, he comes under the attention of almost every big name college. In order to qualify for college, the family enlist a tutor to help Michael reach the necessary grades. Much of the story is based around Michael’s home and personal life, and the developing relationship between the Tuohys and their new “son”.

The film is based on Michael Lewis’ 2006 book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, which described the true story of Oher and the Tuohys. The timing of the film is nigh on perfect, as the book follows Oher’s life right up to successfully achieving a college scholarship. In the intervening years, Michael not only graduates but becomes a first round draft pick for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, an event covered right at the close of the film.

The film throws out almost every moral talking point you can think of – Michael’s drug-riddled mother has a dozen kids, with numerous fathers, his former teenage friends continue to reside on “the wrong side of the tracks” in a drug and crime-fuelled environment, while the shocked reactions of the racist dinner circle Leigh-Anne has surrounded herself with make for stark contrast with the love and support the family offer the boy.

It’s an inspiring movie and one in which the principals shine. Bullock is truly brilliant in her role, particularly given her own publicised moral objections to playing such a staunch Republican. McGraw offers good support as her husband and partner, while newcomer Quinton Aaron is terrific in his portrayal of the titanic Michael. The story is all the more compelling for it being based on a true story – had it been pure fiction it could easily have fallen into the traps of whimsy and cliche – as it is, it’s moving, heartwarming and definitely high on emotion.

Comic relief is provided by Sean Jr, the baby of the family; his interaction with his new big bro and the conversations with the visiting college professors (whether real or exaggerated) are superb moments.

I particularly loved the end credits where photos of the real Oher and Tuohys are shown from times and situations covered during the movie; this just reinforces what a touching and inspiring story it is. Hats off to all, and a richly deserved Oscar for the talented Bullock. Perhaps not as complete or devastating a performance as her male Oscar compatriot, but great nonetheless.

Posted by: Dr P | March 28, 2010

Kick Ass

If ever there was a movie that lived up to its name, this is the one. Kick Ass truly Kicks Ass, in spectacular style. A homage to superhero and geek movies in equal measure, this sensationally entertaining romp has already attracted huge amounts of media coverage, partly for its cartoony OTT violence, but mainly for the foul language which spews from the mouth of 11 year old “Hit Girl”, one of the films stars. It’s also attracted a lot of incredibly positive reviews. And you can add another one to that here.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is your typical geeky teenager, who forms part of a small clique of high school nerds who worship comic books and girls in equal measure – of course girls don’t spare them a second look, and most excitement in life generally passes them by. They’re regularly picked on by the local bullies and their lives are heading nowhere.

Lizewski decides he’s had enough of this treatment, and despite having no powers, training or abilities of any sort, he buys a superhero costume off the Internet and becomes “Kick Ass”. 10 minutes into his first assignment to stop a robbery he gets beaten up and then hit by a car – not the most auspicious of starts. Having had metal inserted into half his body and many of his nerve endings removed, he develops one property which will help his quest – he becomes almost impervious to pain.

Dave’s second outing sees him fighting off 3 muggers, and due to his new ability to soak up punishment, he somehow repels the three – all of this while being filmed on numnerous cellphones. The videos get posted on YouTube and all of a sudden, Kick Ass is the new phenomenon in town.

Not only is Lizewski’s secret identity beginning to become famous, he also finally attracts the attention of one of the school’s hottest girls, Katie (the gorgeous Lyndsy Fonseca). Only one minor problem … she thinks he’s gay (after all, what gay guy doesn’t attract the hottest females?). Of course Dave takes full advantage, after all there are only so many times you can say no to giving your “gal pal” a naked tan aren’t there?

Katie confides in Dave that she is being pestered by an ex, a drug dealer, and – as Kick Ass – her friend goes to give him a warning. Things are not turning out well, and indeed his life is in danger until a genuine ass-kicking heroine, the astonishingly tiny Hit Girl shows up. She dispenses choice language and colourful death in equal measure, and cleans up the baddies. All this under the watchful gaze of her father, the Batman costumed “Big Daddy” (Nicolas Cage).

Having apparently offed a number of his henchmen, local mafioso type Frank D’Amico (a very sinister Mark Strong, last seen dispensing mayhem in Sherlock Holmes) decides he needs to have Kick Ass killed – several attempts fail until D’Amico’s son, the reclusive and nerdy Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse aka McLovin!!!) comes up with a plan to lure Kick Ass into the open by becoming the superhero “Red Mist”.

The movie is relentless magic and mayhem from start to finish and its clear the screenwriter Jane Goldman (Mrs Jonathan Ross) had an absolute blast penning this – she was also the screenwriter of the magical Stardust, but that pales beside this work of genius.

I’ve not attended a movie at which the audience clapped, cheered, howled, tittered, groaned and covered their eyes in equal measure for quite some time. It’s a completely feelgood film which will genuinely have you laughing out loud and punching the air at times. The actors carry off their roles with some aplomb, but for me the big star is Chloe Moretz, who brings zest, life and an astonishing ability to shock to the role of Hit Girl (real name Mindy). She’s a pocket dynamo.

Johnson is very good in the lead role, he really is the typical nerd who tries to save the day and get the girl (will he, won’t he? Watch and see). Cage is also excellent, while Mark Strong seems to truly excel at the menacing bad guy role.

A total joy from minute 1, this is the most enjoyable 2 hours of cinema you can imagine. Forget the utter nonsense about a young girl swearing (it’s brilliantly funny and not overdone, and you hear far worse from almost every teenager) – and revel in the homage to every superhero movie you’ve ever seen. Utter, utter genius.

I recently said that Crazy Heart was my first 5 star movie of 2010. Now there are two.

Posted by: Dr P | March 28, 2010

I Love You Phillip Morris

When we look back at the great screen couples, we inevitably think of Bogie and Bacall, Hepburn and Tracy, Sam and Frodo … to that we can now add the unlikely duo of Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor. Their portrayal of doomed couple Steven Russell (Carrey) and Phillip Morris (McGregor) is both heart-warming and believable – scarily so, in fact, for two straight actors.

But rewind. As the film opens Russell is a happily married policeman with a young child, a seemingly idyllic life and is well respected by the law community. There’s just one small problem – he’s gay. A horrific car crash changes everything for Morris and he leaves his wife, moves to Florida and takes on a young male lover. But again there’s a problem. Being gay is EXPENSIVE. Now I’m not entirely sure if that’s true or not, but in Russell’s case it certainly is, as he showers his partner with lavish gifts. Of course he doesn’t actually have any money, so he is forced to do one thing which comes very naturally to him it seems – become a conman. “Accidental” falls, scamming insurance companies, whatever it takes.

Having finally been caught, Russell is sent to the state penitentiary, where to his shock he meets the instant love of his life, Phillip Morris, a softly-spoken sensitive soul. McGregor portrays this “leading lady” role incredibly well. The rest of the film follows Russell’s attempts to make a perfect life with the young Phillip, both inside prison and once they’re on the outside. Unfortunately this consists of increasingly-elaborate scams and charades which get more and more silly. At one point he even fakes his own death from Aids!

Incredibly, this is based on a true story, which just goes to show that truth is often stranger than fiction. It’s a charismatic, light-hearted romp through the mind of a con artist; everything Russell does, he does for his partner, and it’s very touching and sweet … and highly illegal!

This is a joyous movie from start to end; both leads are very good in their roles, particularly as they’re cast very differently to normal – McGregor in particular plays the gay wallflower most believably. His sheer despair and betrayal as Russell is caught time and again is palpable, while Carrey brings both joy and sadness to his role in equal measure.

A corking film!

Posted by: Dr P | March 26, 2010

Crazy Heart

In recent years there have been some stellar male leading performances – Mickey Rourke’s iconic performance in “The Wrestler” was by far the best performance of 2008/9, and, quite criminally in my view, didn’t win Rourke the Oscar. Who can forget either of Sean Penn’s statue-winning roles, and then of course there was McLovin in Superbad. This year, Jeff Bridges has taken up the mantle and his inspired performance as the drunk, ageing country singer Otis “Bad” Blake here quite deservedly scooped the plaudits – and the Oscar.

Crazy Heart follows the fading career of Blake, a long-term alcoholic and faded star, whose greatest achievement appears to have been mentoring the current superstar of the country scene Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell). As Sweet’s star rises, Bad is forced to spend his days on the road, lurching uncertainly from motel to motel, bowling alley to bowling alley for a few bucks here, and a middle-aged groupie there. It’s probably what Darren Day will be like in, um, well now actually. He spends his time perpetually drunk and chain-smoking and is a physical wreck.

After one of his gigs – ironically in a bar – Bad is introduced to Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a single mother and aspiring journalist who wants to do a piece on Blake for her local paper. There is an instant rapport and chemistry between the two, and it doesn’t take long for the normally-private Bad to open up to her; before long they’re sleeping together, and Blake seems to enjoy the company of Jean and her little boy – we learn that he has a grown up child himself that he hasn’t seen in over 20 years, and there’s a strong sense that Bad spends time with the boy in order to try and make up for his own lost family time. There’s more good news when Sweet requests that Bad open a gig for him and it proves so successful that he even asks Blake to write him new songs.

However, it’s not long before his destructive lifestyle catches up and puts everything in jeopardy. Blake spirals down into a dark depression, and it takes the intervention of his old friend Wayne (Robert Duvall) to get him into rehab. The final third of the movie then sees Bad attempting to piece his life back together. Will he get his career back on track, can he stay sober, can he win back the girl, will he ever have a shave?

This is a masterful performance from one of Hollywood’s greatest names. Bridges is simply superb. It’s all too believable watching him lurch from scene to scene in a drunken stupor; for my money it’s the finest “drunk” performance seen Nic Cage in “Leaving Las Vegas”, although UK readers may well recall a classic scene in “The Inbetweeners” which may well rival it! Gyllenhaal is also terrific in her role as Jean, and her constant battles between the maverick lifestyle Bad brings, and her necessity to provide stability for her boy give her a chance to bring a range of emotions to the part. Farrell too is superbly cast as bad boy Tommy Sweet, and both Bridges and Farrell perform their musical numbers well.

Just a terrific film from start to finish, and for once a movie of this sort contains an ending both uplifting and truly believable. My first 5 star movie of 2010.

Posted by: Dr P | March 21, 2010

The Green Zone

Anyone remember the classic scene in Airplane where the tannoy announcers at the airport start getting into a discussion while announcing what the red and white zones are for? Magnificent film making, that. Well, the Green Zone has nothing whatsoever to do with loading and unloading, but it is also magnificent film making.

Director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon (who I’m NOT sleeping with, although it appears everyone else is) memorably teamed up to make the superb Bourne movies, and there’s more than a touch of Jason Bourne in Damon’s character Chief Roy Miller. Miller is leading up a US army crew on the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but when the intelligence source apparently keeps leading them down false trails, Miller takes matters into his own hands in an attempt to work out what’s going on.

After yet another false lead, Miller is approached by an Iraqi who tells him there’s a secret meeting of some of Saddam’s former allies; this time the intelligence is genuine, but having retrieved what looks to be an important book from the group, a faction of US special forces soldiers arrive on the scene with hostile intentions toward anyone poking around in the intelligence chain. However, Miller smuggles the book away. To add to the confusion, Miller is also approached by CIA operative Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson) who also wants the book, and appears to be acting directly against the special force contingent and their superior, the white house aide Clark (Greg Kinnear).

As Miller probes deeper into the intelligence, both real and fake, he uncovers what appears to be a widespread conspiracy to fabricate evidence and lead the country deeper into chaos. Tensions between the various factions mount and there’s a desperate power struggle as each group seeks to get its hands on the Iraqi book and its material.

This is a rollercoaster of a movie, with the action relentless for its entire duration. Greengrass is a master of the fast-paced action film, and in Damon he has a believable, tough actor capable of lighting up the screen. Kinnear and Gleeson play their roles well, while Jason Isaacs (*not* Jeremy Irons, Big G …) is also well cast as the sadistic special forces group commander.

One of the more intelligent and hectic war movies of recent times, and proof once again that Damon is right up there with the action big boys. Highly recommended!

Posted by: Dr P | March 15, 2010

Alice in Wonderland (3D)

Part animated, part real actors, part CGI, Tim Burton’s wild reimagining of the classic Alice in Wonderland hit local cinema screens this past week, and so it seemed only fitting that Big G and I made the trek out. It was also only right that we decided to view in 3D after the comedy moments experienced during Avatar. Now we’d heard a few bad things about this movie, so our expectations were quite low going in. Fortunately, Burton’s vision of the Lewis Carroll story was much better than we’d anticipated.

What’s this? A Tim Burton movie? Let’s see if all the usual pieces are in place. Johnny Depp playing a quirky character? Check. Helena Bonham Carter? Check. Wild visuals? Check. A strong sense of sadness pervading every scene? Check. Trying to be Terry Gilliam and not quite living up to the master? Check.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the yarn – young Alice falls down a rabbit hole and re-discovers (yes, re-discovers, that bit is important) a fantasy world in turmoil and on the brink of a major conflict between good and evil. On the side of the good are such weird characters as the vanishing Cheshire Cat, the astonishingly Mad Hatter (Depp) and the White Queen (played by Anne Hathaway – the young American actress as opposed to the centuries-dead wife of Shakespeare, that would be just creepy). On the dark side are the Red Queen (the superb Bonham Carter) and her league of playing card-themed soldiers, led by the even creepier Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover).

Alice is taken to see Absolom, a blue caterpillar voiced deliciously by Professor Snape, sorry Alan Rickman, who informs her that she may – or may not – be the mythical Alice who is destined to defeat the fearsome jabberwocky and end the Red Queen’s rule. All the time you just want to hear the caterpillar say “Potterrrrrrr” and sneer, but sadly it doesn’t quite happen! Anyway Alice doesn’t quite know what to make of it all, and – as you would – denies all knowledge of needing to fight the terrifying creature.

Anyway, when some of her companions, including the Mad Hatter, with whom she has started to bond, are captured, Alice sets out on a quest to the Red Queen’s palace to save the day. She teams up with the White Queen, the white rabbit and various other characters, including the Matt Lucas-inspired “Tweedles”, Dee and Dum. Things start to drag a bit at this point, and Big G fell asleep during some of the key scenes … mind you, he falls asleep all the time, so it was no wonder.

Things build to the inevitable conclusion and just as Alice is about to fight the jabberwocky, I fell asleep as well. I have no idea what happened at that point, but I imagine things turned out ok as Alice ended up back in the real world with new adventures ahead. Big G had woken up and assured me that it was a satisfying climax. I can only assume/hope/pray he meant the film.

All in all, not a bad film at all. Depp is outstanding as the Mad Hatter, conveying a huge sense of sadness as well as fun, and to all intents and purposes playing Ken Dodd sans tickling stick on screen. The rest of the cast are passable, with young Mia Wasikowska playing a determined and spirited Alice. The various well-known voice actors are also a delight, with Rickman, Michael Sheen and Stephen Fry particularly prominent. Possibly one to take the (slightly older) kids to, and worth going just for the trailer of Streetdance 3D!

Posted by: Dr P | March 7, 2010

From Paris With Love

Well, this is a corker of a movie, made almost entirely by the genius performance of John Travolta. It was over 30 years ago that JT made his name for his cool dancing and attitude in Saturday Night Fever and Grease, and it took almost two decades before he recaptured his mojo in the wonderful Pulp Fiction. Yet his Charlie Wax character in From Paris With Love is right up there with the coolest of them all – a no-nonsense cop who shoots first and asks questions about a week later.

When rumours of a possible terrorist threat to a visiting US delegate appear, Wax is despatched to Paris to team up with American Embassy aide James (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). The latter is the assistant to the US ambassador and has recently started to work in the espionage field. Moreover he’s just got engaged to the super-hot Caroline (Kasia Smutniak, and yes she really puts the smut in Smutniak), so things are on the up for the young man.

Of course, as soon as Wax arrives in Paris, he engages in a massive campaign of violence against drug pushers, Chinese rebels, lowlife scum and basically anyone who gets in his crosshairs. He is a one man destruction machine, with one liners as killer as his guns. As the trail of intrigue starts to point to a source close to the embassy itself, James is also forced to make some pretty tough decisions, before we build to the turbulent, all-action finale.

Travolta owns the screen here. Every expression, move and quip ooze cool – it’s a stunningly good performance and you look away at your peril. Big G and I were almost punching the air at times, such is the hilarity on show. The bad guys don’t stand a chance. There’s even a Pulp Fiction reference thrown in for good measure (you won’t miss it), whilst JT’s corking use of the Karate Kid’s “wax on, wax off” made me giggle too.

Meyers is also pretty good in his role as the initially hapless, but eventually composed, embassy aide, while Smutniak absolutely smoulders in her sexy, sassy role.

If you’ve ever wanted to see someone driving down the French highways at top speed while wielding a rocket launcher, this is the movie for you! “Get me to the bridge!!!” High recommended as a cop thriller, even more highly recommended if you like Travolta. Enjoy!

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