Gridlocked (2015): ‘The Hard Way’ Sans the Humor (Review)

Cody Hackman and Dominic Purcell

Gridlocked feels like a remix of the 1991 Michael J. Fox film The Hard Way, sans the romance and the  laughs.  The film also lacks James Woods, but has Dominic Purcell as the millennial version of Woods and even has Steven Lang as the bad guy. Lang was the villain in The Hard Way as well.

There are elements of Assault on Precinct 13 without the Carpenter touch and the film even seems to borrow a bit from  Sabotage. Gridlocked has Cody Hackman as Hollywood star Brody Walker; a former child actor who, despite being a success at the box-office,  has issues. One  these problems includes  assaulting a member of the paparazzi.

To keep from doing jail time, Walker is assigned to Purcell’s character, David Hendrix, a cop recovering from being shot on duty. Stephen Lang is Korver, an old colleague of Hendrix’ who is after some bearer bonds in an evidence locker. Vinnie Jones and Danny Glover have small roles in the film, with Jones on team Korver and Glover as a cop.

(There is a self referential moment where Glover’s character sighs and says he is “Too old for this sh*t.” Something his character in the Lethal Weapon franchise was always saying.)

While the film does resemble the 1991 Fox/Woods vehicle, in this version, Hendrix is not trying to get rid of Walker. The cop opts to take the Hollywood bad boy under his wing instead.  Hendrix takes the star to the training facility, a ‘la “Sabotage,”  and Lang’s people, after disabling the building, attempt to overtake it.

There is plenty of action. Gunfights and hand to hand combat are the order of the day and the good guys have a mole on their side who is working for Korver.  As Lang’s character repeatedly tries to enter the building, Hendrix and his small team fight them off. Eventually  the bad guys get in and the fighting gets up close and personal.

As Gridlocked moves from a siege to an invasion, Hendrix has more problems. He has a mole  on his team, and  a personal connection with the bad guys who want in.

Aussie actor Purcell does a good job as the injured action hero and Hackman is convincing as the irksome Hollywood star. Lang really does give the best ”bad guy” in the business and Glover is splendid in his cameo as the cop  nearing retirement.

On a sidenote, there is a practical effect later in the film where one of the character’s is shot through the face.  Uncomfortable to look at, it looks real and not a little bit freaky.

Directed and co-written by Allan Ungar (his second feature length film) Gridlocked  flows well and does not drag.  The action may feel a bit formulaic and the plot does seem to be influenced by the above mentioned films. However, the cast keep things interesting and Purcell proves that he is more than a one trick pony. 

Vinne Jones has little to do other than to look menacing though later on he does fight Purcell’s character. (In terms of cameos, the excellent Saul Rubinek does  a splendid turn as Walker’s agent.)  

At just under two hours the film moves along at a crisp clip and does not drag at all.  While the film is more “action” than acting, it will never be mistaken for Shakespeare, Gridlocked does entertain.

This is a 3.5 star film.  Nothing to write home about but good enough to get lost in for an extended period of time. It is streaming on Netflix at the moment. Pop up some corn and pour some fizzy and see what you think.

Kill Kane (2016): No Budget Thriller With Vinnie Jones (Review)

Vinnie Jones in Kill Kane

Not having a discernible budget means little in the overall scheme of things.  “Kill Kane,” starring Vinnie Jones could have been an edge of the seat thriller.  Shane Meadows, for example, made the brilliant Dead Man’s Shoes (with Paddy Considine and Toby Kebbel) for a pittance and the film was unforgettable.

Director Adam Stephen Kelly, helming his first feature length film did not strike cinematic gold for a myriad of reasons. Kelly co-wrote the movie with Christian Sellers and Andrew Jones and this may well be a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth.

“Kill Kane” is a revenge film. Told haltingly via flashbacks and slow plodding scenes between all the characters. Vinnie Jones is P.E. teacher Ray Brookes. Ray is married with a wife and two kids. While out driving with his missus, the couple stop to consult a map. Brookes investigates some criminal activities in the industrial estate and witnesses a murder. 

His family are executed and only he survives after being induced into a three month coma. Ray wants revenge and he sets about getting it.

Jones as actor literally does best when he has little dialogue. (With the right lines and direction Vinnie can act his little cotton socks off, check out ABCs Galavant.) In this instance the former bad boy footballer manages to show a range of emotion. Although he could not cry, he came close and convinced me of his grief but not one tear was shed.

Sean Cronin was very effective as the cold and brutal gangster who carries out the hit on Ray and his family. Unfortunately the film has a lot wrong with it.

“Kill Kane” moves at a “molasses in winter” pace. At an hour and 14 minutes the film should have flown by. Unfortunately the pacing was so slow the film felt twice as long. The soundtrack was too loud, it felt as though the filmmaker wanted the sound to be very ’70s; harsh and clashing and intrusive.

Speaking of sound, the actors clearly looped or provided their online dialogue via ADR.  Lips did not match and the protagonists all sounded lethargic and bored.  The gangsters, and the DCI actually, all delivered their lines in a near monotone.  At one point, as the film was shot entirely in Wales, I wondered if they were speaking Welsh and the English was dubbed in. There was no proof either way except for those lips not syncing with the dialogue.

Another odd thing was the DCI having a shotgun handy in the boot (trunk) of his car. Britain has an armed response team and regular cops, even inspectors, do not carry guns. Shotguns are strictly regimented and must be locked in cases. It may have looked very good but is miles from reality.

“Kill Kane” was made with the idea that Vinnie Jones could carry a film.  This independent production must have felt it was a good idea and even though Jones is not a strong performer he could have made it work with better writing.

This English take on Michael Winner‘s Charles Bronson Death Wish” franchise may get better with a sequel or two but for now the film lacks so much.

For a myriad of reasons this film rates a 2.5 stars.  So many things conspired to drag this tale down, poor sound work, that included a too loud soundtrack, plus a snail-like pace just destroyed any chance this had of entertaining. On Hulu at the moment, watch this one  only if there is nothing else  to do. Sorry Vinnie, better luck next time.

Galavant Season Finale: “Here All Week Unless I die”

How can one not love the two-part season finale of Galavant, when it starts with such a brilliant recap song by the Jester, “Thank you. Here all week…unless I die.”

KAREN DAVID, JOSHUA SASSE, GENEVIEVE ALLENBURY, STANLEY TOWNSEND, TIMOTHY OMUNDSON, VINNIE JONES

How can one not love the two-part season finale of Galavant, when it starts with such a brilliant recap song by the Jester, “Thank you. Here all week…unless I die.” Followed by a running argument between Gareth and Madalena (with interjections by Wormwood) and a rousing speech by Isabella.

Galavant and Richard lead their army of  “half-dead” soldiers onto the battlefield while Chef and his “bae” realize they are right in the middle of everything.  Chester Wormwood turns into an evil, and male, Mary Poppins for the “Do the D’ew, D’ew D’ew” (which may, or may not be the title but it looks right…) just in time to keep Madalena from changing her mind about using dark magic.

Chester turns the zombie army against everyone. “You make a cake, you break a few eggs,” is his response when  Madalena complains. Later, she goes to save Gareth who is taking shelter from the dead soldiers with Isabella, Galavant, and his old pal Richard.

After the first half of Galavant’s season finale ends, the second half starts with a musical flashback where Richard and Gareth are children. (Keep an eye out for a splendid in-joke.) The entire opening takes a leaf from “The Kid” with Richard playing Bruce Willis’ part.

The zombies surround Gareth and Galavant while the “one true king to rule them all” goes after Wormwood.  In the interim Madalena and “Tiny Tot” do battle and Sid arrives with reinforcements (but no one famous due to budgetary reasons) and viewers with keen hearing will notice a Wilhelm scream at the end of one comic fight.

DARREN EVANS, SOPHIE MCSHERA
Chef and “bae.”

Happily ever after is a low key affair for one couple, or two if one includes a certain former royal staff member and his “bae” while the other two lovers manage to have a happy ending that could be termed a ball of fire.

There is one last surprise guest on the series as Weird Al Yankovic shows up as a marital monk, who sings what just may be the best song of the second season, and also performs a musical marriage ceremony.

Galavant, in its finale,  manages to have some really excellent sequences: The armies all rushing together to do battle. Gareth and Madalena expressing how they really feel.  Wormwood and Richard with their confrontation and the physical followup to the “cat-fight” song by Isabella and Madalena.

It is no secret that this show took some getting used to.  However, repeated viewings and a steady appreciation for what Menken and the writers were striving for (under the guidance of show creator Dan Fogelman) turned this reviewer around. 

VINNIE JONES, JOSHUA SASSE
Gareth (Jones) and Galavant (Sasse).

The season finale, where the players break the fourth wall repeatedly, brings up that Galavant may not be renewed for another run.  If that is the case, then fans can take comfort in a cracking end to a series that entertains and is able, just like the finale itself, to make the viewer laugh and perhaps shed a little tear.

(Although that could have just been me…)

The stars of the show,Timothy OmundsonJoshua Sasse, Vinnie Jones, Karen DavidMallory Jansen and Luke Youngblood all do  brilliantly in their respective roles. (Praise is also to be lavished on the Welsh actor Darren Evans who kills it every time he is on screen.) In terms of guest starring roles, Galavant has proffered the “creme de la creme” of talent from across the pond.

The actors who all appear in cameos, guest roles and recurring ones (Robert Lindsay for example) all went above and beyond the call of Galavant and apart from thrilling at least one certain fan, made the show a lot of fun.

WEIRD AL YANKOVIC
Weird Al and his Monks…

Galavant sails off into the musical sunset tonight after another rapid round of episodes. May the network demigods approve the show for further seasons and make room for even more great guests. After all, at least one character did not get her happy ending and it would be brilliant to see where this storyline could lead.

ABC airs the season finale tonight, tune in and see how many musical homages you can spot.

 

 

Galavant: A New Season, World’s Best Kiss and Simon Callow

Galavant has now aired. Its first two episodes, A New Season (AKA Suck it Cancellation Bear) and World’s Best Kiss were inexplicably slapped together for the season two premiere and repeated viewings have, admittedly, made the show grow on this reviewer.

KYLIE MINOGUE, JOSHUA SASSE

Galavant has now aired. Its first two episodes, A New Season (AKA Suck it Cancellation Bear) and World’s Best Kiss were inexplicably slapped together for the season two premiere and repeated viewings have, admittedly,  made the show grow on this reviewer. It is difficult to dislike a show that has Kylie Minogue and Simon Callow in its season two premiere.

Minogue is a personal favorite and Callow (who was easily the best thing in Four Weddings and a Funeral) is a delight no matter what he is in. Although it was interesting to hear Vinnie Jones sing, albeit with a very short little verse, once one got past the tunes all sort of sounding the same, the series became more entertaining.

The lyrics are funny as are the some of the sets. Princess Isabella’s “royal cell” looks amazingly like a big-sized “Polly Pocket” vanity case and while American audiences may not “get it,” the likeness to  this 1990s girly toy popular in England, made at least one viewer laugh a lot.

(The fact that Karen David, who plays Isabella, is 5’3″ tall helps create the illusion, it has to be said.)

There are bits of the show’s “double episode” season two premiere that could upset the more politically correct in the audience. The entire “Enchanted Forest” gay pub schtick was funny, the very fact that “gay icon” Minogue was used in the scene was, in itself, hysterical. The gag where Richard and Galavant escape via the nonexistent “Ladies Room” is also pretty giggle worthy. This could offend those who think this could be in poor taste…

The jokes, as pointed out in a previous season  two preview/review are unremittingly flung at the audience and, to be fair, most are  pretty damned funny.  Even the songs, once one gets past that “Blah-de-blah-de-blah-blah”  delivery (of all but the death song later in the season),  have a lot of clever and witty jokes included in the verses, and some choruses.

Apart from the songs, the storyline is pretty funny as well, although it does rely on an adolescent level of delivery, ie. fart jokes et al.  But…

There are many things that work well, once you get past those songs.

Things that work well:

The entire amulet gag.

The “Skype” amulet and crystal headed cane gag “Marry Harry, you’re gross…and a brown cow.”

Simon Callow.

The argument between Vinnie Jones (as the newly titled King) and the Queen, played by Mallory Jansen. “Who threw my painting in the toilet (moat)?” 

The unicorn.

Richard pulling the “golden sword” out of the “stump” (which may have been meant to represent a stone as in “Sword in the Stone.” (And in keeping with the “juvenile” level of humor the object is called the “hero sword.”)

The cast all bring something to the table. Brit actor Joshua Sasse and Missouri-born Timothy Omundson make a great double act and their reluctant “bromance” is entertaining.  Omundson delivers his lines with all the panache of a true upperclass English twit:

“Hey. Can you get cancer from walking? Because I really feel like my feet are getting cancer.”

Jansen is brilliant as the beautiful but “mean-girl” Queen as is David as the plucky heroine doomed to marry her pant’s wetting 11 year-old cousin. Luke Youngblood is good value as the “assistant” to the King, who almost gets thrown in the moat (toilet). 

Galavant manages to make fun of everything.  From replicating the opening of  The Brady Bunch to parodying the Sword in the Stone, nothing is sacred and no comic stone is left unturned.

After the two episode’s end, with the second one coming pretty close to matching the first for hilarity, Richard pledges his help to Galavant only to find that, despite having the “hero sword,” his kingdom has vanished.

Final thoughts on the return of Galavant:

Vinnie Jones is funny. There is no doubt that the former footballer turned actor can do comedy. Granted Jones has done so before  but generally more as an actor and less as a comic performer, but,  in a pantomime sort of way, he is funny and effective.

Once one gets past the “sameness” of the songs, as in tune, not lyrics, the comedy of the show shines.  Kudos to  Darren Evans, as Chef, who manages to make the line about keeping one daughter and throwing the rest to the “white walkers,” quite funny. 

It should also be mentioned that it is not necessary to watch the entire first season to “get the jokes” as they are not all plot specific. For instance, the whole “Enchanted Forest  gag” does not require previous knowledge of any plot points.

Verdict:

Galavant is a fun comedy which parodies musicals and provides a lot of “earworms” for the viewer.  One word of warning, do not overthink it, doing so takes the attention away from the clever and witty. There are a plethora of guest stars who impress in their own right, Simon Callow and Kylie Minogue in the first two episodes alone, not to mention the tiny cameo by John Stamos.

HINT:

Repeated viewing helps, because the show does grow on you…

Galavant: Season Two – ABC Tribute to Musical Comedy has Stellar Guest List

All right ABC, your tribute to all things musical; all triteness and trying to be too twee by half, does have some things going for it. After setting through seven of Galavant’s second season offerings, three are left and “unavailable” for viewing, it appears that a “re-think” may be in order.

Kylie Minogue

All right ABC, your tribute to all things musical; all triteness and trying to be too twee by half, does have some things going for it. After sitting through seven of Galavant‘s second season offerings, three are left and “unavailable” for viewing as yet, it appears that a “re-think” may be in order.

While the overall impression of the show is still one of surprise; as just how this odd-ball and slightly annoying series was ever brought back for a second season, there are a few bits that amuse. On top of the hit and miss comedy and the wildly irritating “one note” songs, the series does have a guest star list to die for and the show gets “funnier” as the season goes along.

Of course there would be  a few comic “hits.” When using the shotgun approach where every single line is a gag of one type or another, some of this scattergun ammunition will strike a target.  (The entire thing does really feel like a musical written by the “Airplane!” creative team though…just saying.)

VINNIE JONES, LUKE YOUNGBLOOD
Vinnie Jones, all right, I’ll admit it, he is funny…

Watching each episode (the things I do for my readers, eh?) the one thing that does leap  off the screen is the high quality show’s guest stars.  Some of these guest performers  will only be impressive to Anglophiles or Brits who grew up watching telly in the UK. Regardless of this possible  “topical” drawback, the calibre of entertainers who have stopped by to grace the English studio sets (season one was filmed in, according to IMDb, The Bottleyard Studios, in Bristol, so season two must be also.)

This filming locale may explain the amount of impressive performers who have stopped by to “sing” and dance a bit for the production.  International stars and actors like Kylie Minogue, Simon Callow, and Nick Frost as well as more “home grown” performers like (personal favorite) Robert Lindsay are showing up in varying sizes of cameos. (Although Lindsay is playing a recurring character.)

All lot of “names” have shown up in season two,  season one, which admittedly has only been “skip viewed,” had Rutger Hauer as King Richard’s brother. and an annoying Ricky Gervais (Sorry matey not a fan, I did love you in Extras though.) After having just seen Eddie Marsan (who seems to be in everything at the moment) in a brilliant cameo, and no it will not be revealed just who he plays, with only three episodes left of season two, the mind boggles at who else may turn up in a guest spot.

Simon Callow
Simon Callow

While the whole “breaking out in song” constantly is still not a huge hit with this reviewer, Galavant has worn down the initial resistance.  (Personal note: Admittedly, it has always been a lot more fun to be in musicals versus watching them.) Therefore, it should be pointed out, however begrudgingly, that  there are comic bits in the second season that are laugh-worthy. Some of these laugh-filled moment are even in the odd song, or two.

The “death song” (again, no spoilers but damn that whole routine was funny) and the high-pitched squeal for help (same episode) and Vinnie Jones doing a bit of song and “dance,” all actually entertained rather than irritated.   Speaking of that scream for help, after “skip” watching season one and now most of season two,  Yank actor Timothy Odmundson has become a firm favorite along with the rest of the cast.

Sidenote: Odmundson, who is playing an English “royal” was born in Missouri, just like the late and great Vincent Price who specialized in playing English characters throughout his long and varied career. Can we have a “hmmm?”

Perhaps the thing that has changed the comic tide is the cast’s dogged insistence on playing it straight, most of them anyway, and it has sold the comedy.  The only character who is not doing it “for realz, yeah” is Lindsay, but his role calls for that Pantomime (“He’s behind you!”) flavor of delivery.

Despite Galavant annoying the hell out of this reviewer initially, although it was great to see Kylie Minogue in the season two premiere episode, basically  you all had me at Robert Lindsay.  Once this brilliant actor appeared (fan since Citizen Smith…) it became fait accompli that this show would suddenly become elevated in these eyes.

The guest stars, which are impressive, amusing and turned into a sort of a “spot” the favorite type of fun, sealed the deal.

Do not be deceived, except for the “death song” the musical numbers still annoy more than appeal, they all sound too…”same-y.”   To be honest, however, that could just be this particular viewer’s perception. The characters are all starting to amuse more than irritate and, okay, there  is a unicorn!

Timothy Odmundson
Timothy Odmundson – King Richard

So, after a re-review, albeit without access to all the episodes of season two, Galavant has leapt up in entertainment points.   A combination of watching seven straight episodes and a stellar guest star list have elevated the status of this second season.  There is still an urge to fast-forward past the musical numbers after a moment or two, but that may change after repeated viewings.

Galavant airs January 3, 2016 on ABC. Even if musical comedy is not your thing, tune in, if for no other reason than to see the cream of English (and Australian – Minogue) talent that struts across the small screen. Tip: Leave your thinking cap off and enjoy the fun.