GI Joe: Retaliation (2013)

GI Joe Retaliation (2013)

Do you remember when toys and games were just that? You know… they were just pieces of plastic that you’d play with in your room or in the bath? Oh come on, it wasn’t just me playing in the “water arena” with my pieces of plastic was it? I was about 5 or 6 okay?! Well, I remember those days… and your imagination was definitely enough to dream up all manner of scenarios and events for these toys. Sure, there might have been cartoons, but no-one wanted to make a film about plastic toys. Then the world changed. Our plastic heroes were suddenly on the screen… and before you knew it Hasbro had somehow managed to put Battleships (a game where you just shout grid co-ordinates) into your local cinema. So after the ridiculously underwhelming “success” of GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra in 2009, Hasbro has now brought you the much delayed GI Joe: Retaliation. Now with 100% more Channing Tatum. Well… sort of…

Dwayne "The Traps" Johnson...

Dwayne “The Traps” Johnson…

GI Joe: Retaliation follows on from the events of the first film, but decides to scrap the majority of the existing cast in favour of following our new group of “Joe’s”, Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Duke (Channing Tatum) and Jaye (Adrianne Palicki), over another bombastic set of events. I don’t feel like I’m “spoiling” anything here to say that I wouldn’t get too attached to Tatum here… his role is very similar to that of Side Effects. It’s another instance of him being billed ludicrously high as a draw card… you will be disappointed. Be warned.

Anyway, this time around the Joes find themselves “betrayed” as an act of “retaliation” from Cobra – their arch-nemeses. What follows is an attempt to restore their good name as US heroes and stop Cobra’s wicked plan from succeeding. I honestly can’t bring myself to write an engaging plot summary, as I dreamt up more thrilling scenarios in my bath last week when I was a child. Oh, and this time around you can add in the original Joe – Bruce Willis as the GI’s attempt to restore their good name. There was a time where I’d always see Bruce Willis being in a film as a true positive… but this time around? Well, you’ve seen A Good Day To Die Hard haven’t you?

Gi Joe Retaliation (2013)

GI Joe: Retaliation isn’t the action movie you were hoping for. This should have been obvious when Paramount delayed the release from June 2012 to April 2013 to add 3D to it. Now, 3D can work – I’m not the critic to tell you that I despise it. It works sometimes, it doesn’t others. But a massive delay to ADD 3D screams cash grab. Some speculated it was to add a bit more Channing Tatum, as his star has risen dramatically following Magic Mike and 21 Jump Street. I’d fall more with the former, as opposed to the latter, that’s for sure!

What of the action? Surely there has to be some great action though right? Well… there are bangs and pops, that’s for certain. Indeed, the children in the audience were whooping and laughing at every single Cobra member that had their rappelling cord cut in a cliff scene. Oh, it’s all fun and games for them. What of the families? They were sons and daughters to people! Children nowadays have no concern for the wellbeing of a family. That’s what’s wrong with Britain! But seriously, there is enjoyment for the younger audience members. For everyone else? You’ve seen it all before.

GI Joe Retaliation (2013)

What you might not have seen before is the size of Dwayne Johnson nowadays. This guy (aka, The Rock) has packed on an immense amount of muscle. Look at his traps! (Traps are the muscles in his neck / shoulder region that make him look so massive). That guy has been doing a hell of a lot of shrugs down the gym. I feel for Johnson, as again he’s in a meat-head role that requires very little acting ability. But he does look massive, so that’s good for him. Hopefully this year’s Pain & Gain can deliver some goods for him. He looks massive in that too! What of the others? I wouldn’t write home about them to be honest. Tatum rivals Anne Hathaway‘s performance in Les Misérables… but only insofar as time on-screen, not in acting ability! And Willis? Once again it looks like he’s wandered onto a set as if by mistake. He seems distracted and a little too laid-back. Looper stands as his only recent performance that really shines. Come on Bruce… please bring back your A-Game!

Ultimately, GI Joe: Retaliation is an underwhelming amalgamation of explosions and muscles. There’s a plot there, but it’s very thin on the ground. It tries to inject suspense and thriller-esque imagery, but fails. Having said that, the film gets an extra half-Phage purely because of Dwayne Johnson‘s traps. That guy deserves the extra half for all that gym time! If you were looking forward to seeing a solid action film, then you’ll be disappointed. Just await the next explosion-fest to hit your local screens in about 2 weeks’ time.

GI Joe should have been left in my toy chest / at the bottom of my bath. Somewhat alarmingly, it appears as though a third instalment is on its way though. Hopefully the script-writers will come and ask me for a decent plot line. I can conjure them up some fantastic ideas. They’ll be way better than the big screen adaptations of Kerplunk and Buckaroo that I’ve got brewing. I’ll go and let the bath run now…

Phage Factor:

1.5 Stars

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Zero Dark Thirty (2013)

Zero Dark Thirty (2013)

With the Oscars’ nominations comes the slew of “hot” films from the US. I say “hot” films… they’re pretty luke warm once they get here, considering they’ve been out across the Atlantic for a good few weeks or months. And with those accolades comes a hell of a lot of pressure, as you’re almost pre-conditioned to expect the film you’re about to see to be at the top of its game. For some, it can also alter their opinions: for better, or for worse. On one hand you may be so psyched for the film that it’s not going to live up to its hype, but on the other hand your opinion could be favourably improved as you sit there thinking “well, everyone else loves this… Perhaps I do too?” I can tell you that The Phage is as swayed by these opinions as an oak tree is. We like to make up our own opinions… so let’s begin the season to be jolly glamorous daaarling with Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty (2013)

This is a film that can’t have escaped your attention owing to the fact that it also made international news headlines thanks to its touchy content: torture and the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Yes, this is that film. Behind the camera we have Kathryn Bigalow – the Academy Award winning director that brought you The Hurt Locker – another current affairs / war based epic. I still think Point Break‘s her best outing to date, but who doesn’t love a bit of surfer Keanu Reeves dude? Bodacious. Gnarly. Rad.

But back on track and onto the plot (if you hadn’t guessed it already). Zero Dark Thirty follows the posting of CIA agent Maya (Jessica Chastain) to the Middle East as she attempts to track down the leading Al-Qaeda generals that were on the loose following the events of September 11th 2001. And who’s the big target? Osama Bin Laden, of course. I can’t spoil the plot as every man and his dog knows the outcome of this particular hunt for America’s previous “Most Wanted”, but not many people appreciate how much intelligence work went into the man hunt. The film swears its telling the true accounts of people that were there over the decade-long hunt for Bin Laden – the US government disagrees with this statement somewhat, so I guess it’s up to you to make up your own minds.

Zero Dark Thirty (2013)

Zero Dark Thirty is a very dry movie – it’s heavy on emotion, heavy on drama and heavy on suspense, despite the fact that you know the outcome from the outset. The torture scenes are indeed barbaric and retreading all of the terrorist events, from the attack on New York in 2001 to the July 7th bombings in London and everything in between and since, has been covered. For some it’ll re-open wounds that are best left to heal. Some may argue that this film is “too soon”, just as The Hurt Locker was “too soon” after the US-Iraq War. I’ve got to hand it to Kathryn Bigalow; she’s a gutsy woman to tackle all of this. But what concerns me is that she’s followed up a “true to life” war drama with… a “true to life” war drama. I really worry about her becoming set in a rut here if she continues this. If 2014 brings Point Break 2: Bodacious Waves then maybe she won’t succumb to being tarred with that brush.

Aside from the content of the film, much has also been made of Jessica Chastain‘s performance here. I’m very relieved to say that she is utterly compelling as Maya. You see her development from a somewhat shocked rookie through to hardened and determined agent. She runs every emotion over the film’s lengthy 157 minute runtime and really sells you every single one. I’m convinced she’s a shoe-in for an Award in the upcoming season. Sure, I really liked Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook, but it can’t compare to this, can it? A lot of credit has to go to the entire supporting cast too, especially Jason Clarke‘s Dan, but this is really Chastain‘s vehicle, with many other characters simply being “there”.

Zero Dark Thirty (2013)

Whilst I admired how gritty and real Bigalow has kept Zero Dark Thirty (I don’t think I’ve ever heard a machine gun sound so offensively realistic in a cinema. Absolutely sublime editing and effects), it still had its problems for me. I just found myself getting distracted as the film progressed. Some of the sections just felt very long-winded and drawn out, as I waited for the pace to once again pick up and become engaging. Sure, Chastain held every scene admirably, but I wanted more. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting a war movie here. This isn’t meant to be Full Metal Jacket and I get that, but I still wanted something else.

Overall, I’m in agreement that Zero Dark Thirty deserves the praise that’s being lauded on it: it’s visceral, suspenseful and supremely acted out by Jessica Chastain. But it just failed to hit those really high notes for me. I definitely can’t brand it a classic, as I can’t see myself wanting to re-watch it again, which for me is the hallmark of a truly fantastic movie. But it is another solid film for Kathryn Bigalow. I just hope that she diversifies her subject matter in future endeavours.

So despite the hype, I fail to see why Zero Dark Thirty should stand head and shoulders above the other nominations that I’ve seen so far. Although we remain highly impartial until we’ve seen the film ourselves, we can’t help but feel a little let down that it isn’t the stone-cold classic we were anticipating. Having said that, if someone wants to start hyping up Point Break 2 then I’m totally on board that hype train. Full steam ahead dude!!

Phage Factor:

4 Star