Click on the poster for the official trailer.
"Good or bad, when you work for the Agency it becomes your whole life."

Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner)

Sometimes it is hard to be a Kevin Costner fan. In a career that spans over 3 decades, all I ever get thrown at me when I mention that I am a Costner-ite is The Postman and Waterworld means that Costner sucks big time. And it is up to me to remind everyone that this is the same guy from Silverado, No Way Out, Field of Dreams, Thirteen Days... Have no doubt about it - Oscar winner Kevin Costner is one of the best leading men Hollywood has ever had, from making humans out of sports stars (Bull Durham, Tin Cup), rivaling Wayne and Eastwood in the Western genre (Dances With Wolves, Open Range, TV's Hatfields and McCoys) and heroic leaders of men (The Untouchables, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves).

Well, the haters have one more movie in their armour now... And sadly it is called 3 Days To Kill.
PictureAnother day at the office...
Director McG (Charlie's Angels, Terminator Salvation) travels to Paris to bring audiences the latest in a long line of thrillers from French film legend Luc Besson. Many critics would say that Besson has had a bit of a fall from grace since his heady days of Nikita and Leon (The Professional). His output of recent, while patchy as a director himself, has seen screenwriting credits for some entertaining films such as The Transporter and Taken. Unfortunately 3 Days To Kill falls into the other category of Luc Besson productions, sitting rather uncomfortably alongside such disappointments as From Paris With Love and Columbiana. The plot, for what it's worth, sees Costner play Ethan Renner - a veteran CIA assassin diagnosed with cancer. Upon learning that he has only a few months to live, he returns to Paris and to the wife and daughter he has left behind for Company work. Unfortunately for Renner, The CIA don't want to let him go - dangling a wonderdrug under his nose to entice him back onto the grid. Yes, we have another variant on the Taken formula - a middle-aged killer looking to repair relations with his estranged family. But while Liam Neeson utilized ultra-violence to entertain and enthrall audiences, poor old Kev is lumbered with teaching his teenage daughter to ride a purple bike. For a action flick there really isn't a lot of action, and what little we get is rather plain and un-interesting (McG may not be a great director, but at least he could handle an action scene before).

Picture"Luc, let's have a talk about this script..."
The script from Besson and Adi Hasak is pretty lacking in character, intelligence and drive. A talented cast that includes Connie Nielsen and Hailee Steinfeld are wasted in 2-dimensional roles that are screaming to be fleshed out into something truly relevant to the plot. As Renner's CIA handler, Amber Heard seems to have wandered in from the local dominatrix club and sits around waving a syringe of super-cancer medicine under our hero's nose and modeling a wide range of wigs. And the villains are rather anonymous, leaving the audience with a distinct lack of threat. Plot threads are left either unrealized or abandoned all together and the whole film feels unsure of whether it wants to be a thriller, a comedy or a family drama. Some small comfort in the script can be taken from the lack of hateful bigoted bile that left Taken with a nasty aftertaste, but this is really scraping for compliments. So thank goodness, then, for Costner - the fact that the film is even sporadically entertaining is due to his grizzled charm and leading man gravitas. This is one of these rare examples where you can literally see a great star carrying a film through to the end. The overwhelming feeling when you leave the auditorium will be that our Kevin deserved so much better than this - whether you like him or not.

3 Days To Kill is the very definition of mediocre - technically proficient, professionally photographed but lacking of thrills, smarts or excitement. But thanks to Kevin Costner's tough man charisma, the film just about makes it over the finish line.

Click on the poster for the official trailer.
"Royalty. Nobility. Gentry... How quaint."

Maleficent (Angelina Jolie)

PictureThe malevolent stalker...
From the start I must be honest; the choice of the evening's cinematic entertainment was given to the other half. As she was at great pains to tell me, Disney's original take on Charles Perrault's classic fairy tale was her favorite of Walt's back catalogue and so she absolutely HAD to see Maleficent. Being the skeptical Alpha Male that I am (ahem!) I had my reservations, but it was her turn to choose and so I bit my tongue and joined her. What I didn't mention was that Clyde Geronimi's 1959 animation was a particular highlight in the House of Mouse's canon, in my humble opinion. The main draw for the film was the fabulous villain at the Centre - a dark and sinister creation that frightened my very young self and gave me a serious distrust of green women (don't get me started on the Wicked Witch of the West). The central idea to this new take on the fable is certainly intriguing - did we misjudge the vengeful sorceress who cursed young Aurora to prick her finger on a spindle? What we are presented with is a well designed family adventure, but the early promise of this conceit is never fully explored - leaving us with a tonally unbalanced and strangely uninvolving movie.

PictureSpindles, Spindles, Never Touch...
That is not to say that the cast are at fault... Far from it. Angelina Jolie works her charismatic magic as the titular witch, bringing more pathos and emotion on the screen than the script can provide for her. Elle Fanning is innocence personified as Aurora and the three good fairies, portrayed by Lesley Manville, Juno Temple and Imelda Staunton, make for a sporadically entertaining fantasy-style Three Stooges. And the production design is faultless - although given that first-time helmsman Robert Stromberg was an established Art Director, this should not be a surprise. No, the main problems with the film are with the basic fundamentals: the script, the script and the script. Linda Woolverton's characterization is all over the place, struggling to determine whether Maleficent is bad, good, misguided, embittered... Sharlto Copley's King Stefan is introduced as a potential love interest in a potential twisted take on the love story, but the great opportunities to do something great are missed time and again - leaving Copley to try (in vain) to create any sort of character. The heroic Prince Phillip is presented as an insipid drip (poor little Brenton Thwaites) and spare a thought for Sam Riley - left in a redundant henchman role that does him little favor. The result is an inoffensive family fantasy film that struggles to linger in the mind when the viewer leaves the auditorium. Such a pity as the beautiful, haunting strains of Lana Del Ray's take on "Once Upon A Dream" in the promotional trailers promised us so much more...

Beautiful to look at but tonally erratic, Maleficent is a passable family entertainment. Sticking with the original Disney take on Sleeping Beauty is the preferable option if you have the choice, but in fairness to the film makers there are much worse movies out there.