Tag Archives: John Cena

Bumblebee (2018) Movie Review By Philip Henry

Bumblebee Review, On the run in the year of 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie, on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken.

Director: Travis Knight
Screenwriter: Christina Hodson
Stars: Hailee Steinfeld, Jorge Lendeborg, Jr., John Cena

When the first Transformers movie came out I thought it was OK. It wasn’t going to become an obsession like Star Wars for me, but it was passable. Unfortunately, like a lot of franchises, the longer they go on the worse they get, so by part three I’d lost all interest in seeing giant robots punch each other and destroy cities as they get thrown about.

So if not for the positive buzz around this film, indicating that it wasn’t just more of the same from Michael Bay, I probably wouldn’t have even gone to see this film, but thankfully I did.

One thing I do remember about the first Transformers film is that Bumblebee was already here on Earth before the rest of them showed up, so this film, set in 1987, explains how he got here and lost the use of his vocal unit.

This film is basically the anti-Michael Bay version of Transformers. Sure, there are still big transforming robots that wail on each other, but this film actually has a human story and more importantly a heart, that was missing from so many of Bay’s attempts.

The cast are all unknowns (to me, at least). So much so, this almost feels like a low-budget indie version of Transformers, if such a thing were possible. The only cast member I vaguely recognised was wrestler turned actor, John Cena who plays the token military guy, but it’s Hailee Steinfeld’s character Charlie who carries the film and she’s very likeable as a sassy, kick-ass mechanic with some family issues. This is what I mean about it feeling like an indie; she doesn’t drive a $200,000 sports car or work for some Top Secret government agency. Her family are lower-middle-class working stiffs just trying to make ends meet, and this makes her a much more relatable hero than these films have given us in a long time.

Initially it’s a girl-meets-car love story, with some nice interplay between them, and even some visual slapstick reminiscent of Buster Keaton or Laurel & Hardy, thanks to Bumblebee’s inability to speak. He’s also lost his memory files temporarily, so the warrior transformer comes across more as an armour-plated Bambi, lost in a strange place and unsure of who to trust.

Unlike Bay who needs to have something blow up every ten minutes, this film moves at its own pace and allows the story to unfold naturally, firstly with Bumblebee and then with awkward love interest Memo, who has apparently been living next door to Charlie his whole life and never got up the courage to talk to her until now.

Of course a couple of Decepticons show up looking for Bumblebee and ally themselves with the military, who are led to believe Bumblebee is the bad guy. That all goes how you might expect, but there is a nice joke about the Internet in there. So all these blossoming relationships have to get put on hold when there’s fighting to be done, but the fact there is only three of them on the planet is a blessing. Some of the later Transformers movies had so many CG robots smashing so much other CG stuff, it just became a mess of pixels to me. When the showdown comes in this movie it’s all perfectly clear what’s happening and where everyone is.

So if, like me, you wrote this franchise off a long time ago, I’d urge you to give this film a try. It’s got a killer 80s soundtrack if that’s your thing – it certainly is mine – and it’s a much better movie than Bay ever made. Giving the story an emotional core and a sense of fun that Bay lost a long time ago, has transformed this ailing franchise into something new and wonderful.

Blockers (2018) Blu-Ray Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Blockers

Director: Kay Cannon
Writers: Brian Kehoe, Jim Kehoe
Stars: Leslie Mann, John Cena, Ike Barinholtz  

While Blockers is sure to amuse its intended audience, the film doesn’t make the most of its premise. The idea of three fiercely overprotective parents going to extremes to prevent their daughters from losing their virginity on prom night is filled with comedic possibilities. But this is one of those movies where, almost immediately, we can think of how we would have done it differently.

What would have been really funny is if the parents simply mistook their kids’ text messages for a sex pact. The extreme measures they take to prevent it could have been a clever and congenial comedy-of-errors just about any parent might relate to. But Julie, Kayla and Sam do indeed plan to lose their virginity in prom night; half of the film consists of the girls partying and puking with their dates. With the exception of Sam, the most insecure member of the gang who’s pretty certain she’s a lesbian, none of the teenage characters are particularly interesting. Blockers briefly addresses societal double-standards when it comes to girls’ budding sexuality versus that of boys, but it’s late in the film and more of an afterthought.

The parents’ adventures range from humorously observational to ridiculously over-the-top, with much greater emphasis on the latter. As Mitchell, Kayla’s sports-minded father who refuses to acknowledge she’s becoming a woman, John Cena is sometimes quite amusing. Considering Cena’s physique and WWE history, it’s funny that he found his niche in comedy. Ike Barinholtz also has some nice moments as Sam’s estranged, no-account father, evolving from a supremely obnoxious loser to the most empathetic character in the entire film. However, Julie’s mom, Lisa (Leslie Mann), is the polar opposite. A single parent who fears her daughter will make some of the same mistakes, we initially feel for her. But Lisa grows increasingly shrill and unlikable with every scene.

Despite a few fleeting attempts at poignancy, much of the humour in Blockers aims for the crotch, both literally and figuratively. Some of it is funny – Gary Cole and Gina Gershon are a riot as a pair of sexually-adventurous parents – some of it isn’t. Much of the time, story is mostly a clothesline on which to hang a series of episodic, scatological gags that could have been inserted into countless other explicit sex comedies.

I sometimes laughed out-loud, as I imagine a lot of people will. Fans of films such as Neighbours, Girls Trip and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates won’t have any complaints. As these things go, Blockers isn’t bad, but considering the cast and inherent potential of the premise, it could have been so much more.

Blockers (2018) Movie Review By John Walsh

Blockers

Director: Kay Cannon
Writers: Brian Kehoe, Jim Kehoe
Stars: Kathryn Newton, John Cena, Leslie Mann

Kay Cannon has taken the well trodden teenage sexuality comedy film and given it a good shake. I thought that I was done with these type of films after watching umpteen iterations of American Pie and the likes of Superbad. The latter was genuinely funny, with likeable characters and a simplistic plot. Blockers has similar plus points but also a split perspective plot that was surprisingly enjoyable. 

The premise is incredibly simple, focusing on three teenage girls and life long friends, who make a secret sex pact on the eve of their high school prom night. There’s Julie Deckard (Kathryn Newton), Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) and Sam (Gideon Adlon). It’s established very early that there’s a fundamental disconnect between the girls and their parents. The girls embrace their sexuality, independence and view the idea of losing their virginity with a mild indifference at best. Their mollycoddling parents however? Yeah, they have a bit of an issue with it. 

Making up the parents side of the story is Lisa (Leslie Mann), the mother of Julie who was left with a child, having had her heart broken chasing a boy when she was younger. She has separation anxiety and doesn’t want her daughter repeating her mistakes. Mitchell (John Cena), the father of Kayla, is a big softie at heart, highly overprotective and can’t come to terms with the fact his daughter is now on the brink of adulthood. Hunter (Ike Barinholtz), the estranged father of Sam, has been out of his daughters life for years, realises she is gay, wants to be a part of her life again and doesn’t want her making a mistake with a fat kid. 

We get to see the relationship between the parents and children in a rather quickfire montage within the films opening five minutes before the whole sex pact shenanigans is put into place. There’s a weird sort of symmetrical ying and yang effect that embodies the two groups and their relationships within Blockers. The parents are initially on close friendly terms before slowly growing apart over the years, but are brought back together with a common goal of scuppering any lewd antics. Meanwhile, the children have became inseparable, remaining so throughout, but then inevitably go their separate ways for college at the end. 

Now I don’t want to be giving the entirety of the films plot away, that would be stupid, but needless to say, evidence of the sex pact is revealed through an open group chat on a discarded laptop and the parents are whisked off on a hilarious cat and mouse chase with their unaware daughters. This takes place across the city and they do everything in their power to ‘block’ their children throughout. This is where the vast majority of the films comedic moments are to be found. Are some of their antics a little farfetched? Yes. Does it matter or hamper your enjoyment? Nope. This film is sheer unadulterated, comedic escapism.

I laughed the hardest at the adults series of unfortunate events. The girls have their moments too, but Mitchell in particular is by far the biggest provider of humour. The best examples of which being the “literally the copiest motherfucker” putdown; inadvertently being caught up in pitch black, blindfolded sexual games to chugging beer through the most unlikeliest of orifices. This film is worth watching for him alone. Lisa has her moments in her too. The electric shock incident with the TV was up there. Hunter isn’t the black sheep in this regard either, some of his facial expression are hilarious.

John Cena is slowly growing on me as an actor. He’s no Marlon Brando, nor will he ever be, but he’s improving incrementally every time I see him.

He’s one of the best things in Blockers and delivers a comedic masterclass with his antics. Ike Barinholtz is a chap I’ve long admired. I loved his performance in Suicide Squad and he’s great here too, arguably the standout. He goes from an obnoxious clown, out of touch with his daughter to becoming a father again whilst revealing his true, mellower nature. Leslie Mann was also extremely good as the over controlling, but ultimately well meaning mother that was Lisa.

Newton, Adlon and Viswanathan were all very decent. Each of them delivered authentic performances as teenagers experimenting with drink, drugs and just looking to have a good time. They genuinely felt like three high school friends that had known each other for years. The chemistry was there and hearing some of their crude remarks was both jarring and hilarious because it’s not something that I’m personally accustomed to hearing from female characters in films. If I was to pick a standout of the three I’d probably go for Viswanathan. 

Sam’s coming out story and uncertainty about how it would effect her friendship was one of the more emotive parts of the film. Her revulsion at actually going though with having sex with the fat kid was palpable. Julie’s battle for space and independence drove her mother to the brink whilst Kayla had such a free spirited, indifference to the whole thing, which was perfectly summed up by her trying a multitude of different drugs. Not to mention the deadpan, nonchalance with which she told her lab partner they were having sex that night. She had the best of the comedic moments in the girls scenes. 

Like I said previously, Blockers is a lighthearted, fun piece of comedic escapism. It’s one of the better comedies I’ve seen in the last few years and that’s because it explores some important themes on top of the humour. Most notably, the parents going through something of a mid-life crisis, almost living vicariously through their daughters and having to deal with them becoming independent adults, whilst also simultaneously letting them learn from their own mistakes and experiences. Which is something they all grow to realise in their own time towards the end. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Blockers. It was a great directing debut from Kay Cannon that had me roaring with laughter in quite a few moments. 

I would normally offer a viewing recommendation, good or bad, but this strikes me as a being potential marmite release. What I will say though, is that if you’ve enjoyed this genre before then this will not disappoint. 

Rating: 4/5

The Wall (2017) Review by John Walsh

THE WALL

Director: Doug Liman
Writer: Dwain Worrell
Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena, Laith Nakli

So I watched ‘The Wall’ last night and was pleasantly surprised at how much I actually enjoyed it. I wasn’t overly familiar with Doug Liman beforehand, but I discovered shortly afterwards that he directed the Edge of Tomorrow and played a big role in the Bourne franchise. I enjoyed the former and loved the original Bourne trilogy. This new film doesn’t really share much with either of those however. It’s more of a psychological thriller that features the acting chops of Aaron Taylor-Johnson. That alone would have me interested anyway, because I think that guy is gold and he doesn’t disappoint.

It’s a fairly short film, coming in at a mere 88 minutes, but believe me when I say that each and every second is utilised. Well, maybe that’s a small lie. Each and every second beyond the opening five minutes is fully utilised. It’s a fairly simple story in truth. Two U.S. soldiers are sent on a scouting mission to check for an enemy sniper that’s terrorised and killed contractors working within an isolated, desert area in Iraq. There’s Alan “Ize” Isaac (Taylor-Johnson) and Shane Matthews (John Cena). The former is more of a recon man, surveying the area for potential hiding spots where a marksman might be bunkered in whilst the latter is a more gung ho sniper himself. Matthews soon becomes bored at their tedious waiting game, perched on a hill and makes the foolish decision to stroll down for a closer look.

This is the spark for what’s to come, the moment the shit hits the fan, if you like, and after this point I never once took my eye of the screen. It engrossed me in a way that genuinely surprised me.

Matthews, who at first finds nothing too alarming, excluding the plethora of strewn corpses of course, is soon under fire from the elusive marksman, taking a hit to the abdomen for his troubles and sending Isaac on an ill fated rescue mission of his own to try and retrieve his stricken comrade. All he succeeds in doing though is taking multiple shots himself; including one to his water bottle, radio antenna and, more seriously, to his knee. He dives behind a dinky, little wall that’s practically (and literally at some points) falling apart and then almost immediately sets out to try and stem the blood loss before even attempting to formulate a plan. John Cena of WWE fame clearly wasn’t trusted with a more meatier role here and had to settle for a screen filler with minor dialogue parts. I say this because apart from the opening scene I mentioned before he does nothing of much importance. *Spoiler alert* He lies down in the dirt for a large part.

The Wall is most definitely an Aaron Taylor-Johnson movie. I mean, yeah, I’m stating the obvious there because he’s in the damn thing, but it’s HIS film and he’s the clear star of the show from a billing and performance perspective.

It would almost be a one man band effort too but for Juba (Laith Nakli), the sniper, who is ever present albeit constantly off screen and only interjecting at key intervals to verbally harass and torture the increasingly forlorn and despairing figure of Isaac. Incidentally, the two play off each other fantastically well. Their verbal game of cat and mouse throughout serves to increase the tension, whilst effectively giving an insight into both men’s personality and motivations for being where they are at that moment. A good example being when we discover the pent up anguish Isaac has surrounding an unfortunate incident with his friend and even the humanising story Juba tells of being a teacher and witnessing his school being hit with a bomb. This built a backstory, creating an emotional connection to the character and ultimately had me rooting for him to succeed.

Which brings me nicely and briefly onto the ending. Damn that twist was glorious, although slightly predictable, but my jaw still dropped nonetheless.

This is an easy one for me to recommend really. It’s a relatively short, little film with an engaging, if not simple story and a brilliant performance from both Taylor-Johnson and Nakli. The former was outstanding in Nocturnal Animals (the last film I watched of his) and has been outstanding in the vast majority of films I’ve seen him in, so that’s perhaps not too surprising. It’s not even close to being the best I’ve seen this year, but it’s decent enough.

Rating: 3/5