The only movie reviews you need

All you need to know in 3 short paragraphs because honestly, who wants to read more?

Photobucket





Friday, August 25, 2017

The Bodyguard's Hitman

Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson make quite the "Odd Couple" in director Patrick Hughes' high octane, no-holds-barred buddy action-comedy 'The Hitman's Bodyguard,' a movie in which a foul-mouthed Salma Hayek outshined (and possibly out-killed) both.  Part Quentin Tarantino and part Shane Black, THB is all fun and a reason why I love blood-soaked action comedies that don't take themselves too seriously.
 
Reynolds plays Michael Bryce, a former CIA agent-turned-private bodyguard, excuse me, "protection agent" who's the best in the business.  In fact, he's "Triple-A" certified and had never lost a client, until he did which caused his impeccable reputation and career to take a steep nose-dive.  When Interpol was compromised in its efforts to escort Samuel L's assassin, Darius Kincaid, to testify against Gary Oldman's notorious dictator of Belarus at the International Court of Justice for "Crimes Against Humanity" (massacring civilians), Bryce was given a second chance for redemption and to regain his lost standing by an ex who was the lone surviving Interpol agent.  Bryce must safely deliver Kincaid while hitmen galore working for Oldman declare open season on them.  Can they survive?
 
After 'Deadpool,' it's refreshing to see Reynolds take on a more serious, straight-laced role while Samuel L gets to have most of the fun.  The chemistry between them is great, as is Salma Hayek, whom believe me you do not want to mess with.  But THB is not just your typical mindless mayhem, oh no.  It's also a tender romance (between Darius and Hayek's Sonia) set to classic love songs.  So it's really the perfect date movie if you think about it.
 
Grade: A-
 
 hitman-bodyguard-poster-large

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Gunslinger & The Man in Black

Few writers had as much of their works mined for movie adaptation as Stephen King.  While the prolific novelist is considered to be the undisputed reigning “Master of Horror” and deservedly so, with most of his horror stories (novels and short stories alike) translated into films and mini-series, two out of three of my favorite adaptions of his extensive body of work are actually not in the horror genre, ‘Stand by Me’ and ‘The Shawshank Redemption,’ with ‘The Shining’ being the exception.  I admit I’m not the biggest Stephen King fan as far as his books are concerned (and I haven’t read most of them), but there are very few of his movies or TV mini-series I haven’t seen.  So despite the scathing reviews the critics have levied upon ‘The Dark Tower,’ I wasn’t about to break the streak.
 
Okay, so I haven’t read ‘The Dark Tower’ series either, but I figured that’s not necessarily a bad thing because I won’t be disappointed if the movie didn’t live up to the books.  TDT can be best characterized as a dark fantasy sci-fi western about Good versus Evil, a recurring theme of Stephen King’s.  In TDT we have multiple worlds and dimensions, a protagonist anti-hero in Roland Deschain (“The Gunslinger” played by Idris Elba) who’s sort of a knight in a western, and a soft-spoken evil wizard (“The Man in Black” portrayed by Matthew McConaughey) with the unpretentious name of Walter Padick.  There’s also the “boy with all the gifts,” 11-year old Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) who, as you might have surmised, holds the key to defeating “The Man in Black.”
 
TDT is a serviceable movie intended to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, but in light of its disappointing box office numbers over the weekend one can only conclude that it’s ill-conceived from the start.  By not being faithful to the book and in essentially making it into a YA movie, the vociferous TDT fans are not happy, but they’re not numerous enough to make TDT a financial success anyway.  OTOH mainstream moviegoers didn't exactly embrace it with open arms either.  While TDT was the number 1 movie last weekend, its $19 million in domestic ticket sales is the lowest of any “weekend box office winner” all summer.  “Serviceable” just isn’t good enough these days.

Grade: B

"The Man in Black"?  Isn't it the Men in Black?
darktowerintl2

Lethal Beauty

Simply put, I love women who kick ass and look good while doing it.  It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about an angsty teen who slays vampires and monsters (Buffy), wet work-specializing femmes fatales who kill with their looks as much as their “very particular set of skills” (Sydney Bristow and Nikita), or comic book superheroines like the recent Wonder Woman played by Gal Gadot.  It should come as no surprise, then, that Charlize Theron’s noirish Cold War spy actioner, ‘Atomic Blonde,’ is a “can’t miss” in my book.
 
Based on the obscure 2012 graphic novel ‘The Coldest City,’ ‘Atomic Blonde’ (the name itself sounds badass, doesn’t it?) is set in 1989 Berlin during the last days of the Cold War.  Even though the Berlin Wall is about to come down and a sense of chaotic euphoria is sweeping across the land, the spy game between the East and West still rages on.   After a British intelligence agent was killed and a list of names of every western spy (the Holy Grail in spy movies) falls into the hands of the KGB, veteran MI6 trouble-shooter Lorraine Broughton (the Atomic Blonde) is sent to Berlin to recover it and uncover a suspected double agent in MI6.  Yeah, the powers-that-be pretty much dropped her into a Hornets' Nest with no safety net.
 
If ‘Atomic Blonde’ reminds you a bit of John Wick, it’s probably because they’re both directed by David Leitch, whose camerawork and continuous-shot action sequences virtually set a new standard in action movies with his brutal and hyper-kinetic style.  Like JW, AB is an unstoppable maelstrom of poetic violence when unleashed, bloody and utterly uncompromising in a world of “kill or be killed.”  Punch-stab-kick and repeat.  It’s gritty yet also a thing of sheer beauty.  While there is a semblance of a plot filled with double-crosses and belief-defying twists, it merely provides a vehicle for Theron to wield her deadly arts and to satiate our thirst for visceral violence (and a good dose of gratuitous girl-on-girl action too).  Move over, Evelyn Salt.

Grade: A

Atomic_Blonde

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

2701: A Space Oddity

Prolific French filmmaker Luc Besson brings to the big screen the French sci-fi/action comic "Valerian and Laureline" by replacing Laureline with a gigantic space station hosting “thousands” of alien races in ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.'  V&TCO1000P is easily Besson’s most ambitious, sprawling, visually stylish and expensive gamble, I mean project, since ‘The Fifth Element’ starring Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich some 20 years ago.  Being a fan of T5E I marked this movie on my “to see” list ever since I initially saw its colorful and swashbuckling trailer packed to the gills with unique aliens and gee-whiz futurama, but in the deep recess of my mind lurked the nagging fear that it would turn out to be another ‘Jupiter Ascending.’  Therefore, I took care not to dial my expectations up too high.
 
Aside from the fact that I never read the comic which inspired it, that is perhaps why I enjoyed V&TCO1000P so much.  Major Valerian (Dane DeHann) and his comely and sassy blonde sidekick Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are elite agents of a special Space Police unit operating out of a giant space station named “Alpha” which hosts innumerable alien races (think Babylon 5 but much, much bigger) living in peaceful harmony.  A seemingly routine mission to recover a valuable device (a power converter) on a desert planet thrusts Valerian and Laureline into a web of deceit and intrigue involving a race of lithe, androgynous and translucent-skinned aliens.
 
5d9362b675399c9baeb285d7a2cf3d5f76387f91

Critics have faulted V&TCO1000P mostly for its weak and contrived story but come on, this is a Luc Besson movie we’re talking about.  While the plot isn’t exactly awesome or original for that matter, it is much more conventional and straightforward than, say, Besson’s ‘Lucy.’  With its campy humor, wild-eyed fantasy and high-tech Avatar-esque visuals, V&TCO1000P is a rollicking space opera that’s fun for the whole family.  I’ve learned long ago that Luc Besson movies are visceral experiences; don’t overthink them and just sit back and enjoy the ride.  Oh, and don’t forget the popcorn.

Grade: A 
 
maxresdefault

No Small Miracle

The 1940 “Miracle at Dunkirk” is the subject of Christopher Nolan’s latest big budget feature, a vast sweeping WWII epic and passion project from the acclaimed British director best known for the ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy and a couple of FX-heavy sci-fi mindbenders that start with an “I,” ‘Inception’ and ‘Interstellar.’  In turning an ignominious and unmitigated military disaster resulting from German “shock and awe” (aka Blitzkrieg) lightning warfare that brought France to her knees in a little more than two weeks into a symbol of British defiance, individual heroism and selfless sacrifice, the story of Dunkirk just begs to be re-told (there was a 1958 version apparently which I haven’t seen) to a modern audience who sadly know too little about world history.
 
The narrative of ‘Dunkirk’ is divided into three distinct but related parts.  “The Mole” follows a lowly British PBI (poor bloody infantryman) named Tommy (aren’t they all?) as he attempts to survive repeated Luftwaffe air attacks and reach “Home Sweet Home.”  “The Sea” is mostly told from the POV of a British naval officer (Kenneth Branagh) overseeing the evacuation effort and a yachtsman (Mark Rylance) who answered the call to join the hastily assembled fleet of private fishing vessels, yachts and ferry boats sailing toward Dunkirk.  Lastly, “The Air” is seen through the eyes of a RAF Spitfire pilot (Tom Hardy) who risks running out of fuel before he can return to base in order to provide air cover for the helpless (“where is the bloody air force?!”) Tommies who can only anxiously peer into the sky at the sound of approaching German bombers.
 
While the non-linear storytelling and down-in-the-dirt POV are effective in conveying the realism, chaos, fear, heroism and, yes, even cowardice one would expect in the unforgiving crucible of war and make for a harrowing viewing experience, the juxtaposition of the three subplots and the rapidly shifting perspectives achieved through cut scenes in editing prevented the movie from reaching greatness.  Even though the three parts did come together at the end (and two of them intersected at another point earlier in the film), it lacked the dramatic impact and emotional resonance of more linear war movies.  Nolan shouldn't have given 'Dunkirk' the ‘Memento’ treatment, but do go see it anyway because films such as this should really be watched on the big screen (unless you have a state-of-the-art home theatre system and don't mind the wait) so you can hear and feel the rumbles and reverberations of every explosion deep down in your very bones.

Grade: A- 
 
dunkirk

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Ape-pocalypse Now

The rebooted ‘Planet of the Apes’ trilogy comes to a fitting if somewhat sad conclusion in director Matt Reeves’s ‘War for the Planet of the Apes,’ the follow-up to ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ (2011) and ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ (2014) which tell the story of how a human-engineered “simian virus” decimated humanity and made monkeys and apes the dominant species on earth.  A modern take on the POTA franchise of the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s with prosthetic made-up apes featuring Roddy McDowall (few remember the 2001 Tim Burton remake starring Mark Wahlberg and Helena Bonham Carter), this new trilogy combined cutting-edge computer animation with facial mapping (notably Andy Serkis’s) to give the various apes in the films a hyper-realistic yet all-too-human quality.
 
So the (ape) shit finally hits the fan  in WFTPOTA and the war is on.  Going by its action-packed preview trailer one could easily come away with the impression that the conflict between homo sapiens and apes comes to a head and all hell breaks loose, but it’s actually quite a bit more complicated and nuanced than that.  Without giving away too much of the plot, suffice it to say that Woody Harrelson’s character (simply referred to as "The Colonel"), inspired by Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz in ‘Apocalypse Now’ and Caesar’s key nemesis in the film, didn’t have the luxury of solely focusing on wiping out ape-kind.  There’s a bigger picture at work here.
 
Even more so than the previous ROTPOTA, Caesar carries the weight of his people’s deliverance on his tired shoulders while Woody Harrelson’s “Alpha-Omega” paramilitary faction seeks to enslave and ultimately destroy them.  This Caesar isn't one to cross the Rubicon and challenge the humans in a war of annihilation where only the strongest survive.  Like Jesus, Caesar is more likely to extend an olive branch to his enemies with turn-the-other-cheek humility and grace, even if they shove it right back in his face.  Is peaceful coexistence between humans and apes even possible?  Not if "The Colonel" still draws his last dying breath.

Grade: A

wftpota

The Wishing Box

Teenagers love scary movies, even the bad ones.  It’s hard to go to a horror movie nowadays without noticing that a majority of the audience seems to be 20 or under, and a good portion of that even much younger.  Now that I think of it, I was probably one of them back in the day, since I’ve been a horror aficionado/gore-hound for as long as I can remember.  It’s no surprise, then, that the folks behind the ill-fated teen-centered horror flick ‘Wish Upon’ believe they had a built-in audience for their movie.  Well, they were dead (excuse the pun) wrong.
 
‘Wish Upon’ recycles the well-worn tropes of the “101 ways to die” ‘Final Destination’ franchise, providing it with a new twist by replacing the Grim Reaper with an evil octagonal Chinese demon box.  This weird and somewhat creepy music box, as the movie’s young protagonist Clare (Joey King) discovers, can fulfill all her adolescent dreams, such as literally causing the mean girl tormenting her in high school to rot and making the boy whom she secretly crushes on dump his hotter girlfriend and fall for her.  However, every wish has a price and Clare comes to the belated realization that her shallow and selfish desires are better left unfulfilled as they could very well consign her soul to damnation.
 
‘Wish Upon’ is a dumbed-down ‘The Box’ without the moral dilemma or surreal artsy trappings, a horror-lite clearly aimed at the 25-and-under demographic.  It’s a rather vacuous and gimmicky movie, but hardly an unexpected one considering such films’ relatively low budget.  I’m sure its disappointment at the BO will not discourage producers from making similar movies in the future, but I will have to try a bit harder steering clear of them though I fear I may not be able to resist ‘Happy Death Day.’  I’m so easy.

Grade: C

Wish-Upon-new-poster