Amandla Stenberg Ruby Daly
Mandy Moore Cate
Harris Dickinson Liam Stewart
Patrick Gibson Clancy Gray
Skylan Brooks Chubs
Miya Cech Zu
Gwendoline Christie Lady Jane
Wade Williams The Captain
With Canada starting to flatten the curve and people now being able to socialize a bit, (with proper precautions), we were able to catch up with some friends over the weekend and in the process we consumed far too much wine and scotch. With that in mind, we only managed to watch a film on Sunday night, and the next movie in the stack was “The Darkest Minds”. Even though the film and the book was targeted for a younger audience, and as a person who was closer to his later years than early ones, I found the book fair, and the film pretty much followed in its foot-steps, just OK. Nothing spectacular, but an ok time waster.
“The Darkest Minds” is based on a novel and series of the same name. In this near future world, a virus (sound familiar) has infected children around the world. This virus will do one of two things, either kill the child outright, or cause them to mutate and possess new superpowers. The powers vary and range from super intelligence, telekinesis, control of electricity, ability to create and spew fire, to the most dangerous – that of controlling the minds and will of people. This causes great fear in the adults of the world, and the government in it’s wisdom decides that all children are to be put in internment camps and be labelled with a colour that will signify their ability, (Green – Intelligence, Blue- telekinesis, Red - Fire, Orange – Mind control and Gold - electricity). The only catch is that if a child is labelled Orange or Red, they are to be executed on the spot as they are deemed too dangerous. In this world and film, the story centres on Ruby Daly (Stenberg). Ruby (Stenberg) is at home and has just celebrated her birthday (about 10 years old) when they watch the news about how children are becoming mutants if they survive the virus. Ruby sees the stress and the burden that she placed on her parents, and in the middle of the night, goes to their room to comfort them. However, once she touched them and tells them not to worry, she effectively wipes herself from their memories. The following morning, Ruby (Stenberg) goes to her mom and finds out that her parents have no recollection of her, she is then put into a garage until the authorities arrive and take her to a camp for all the children who have survived with powers. Once tested, she realizes that she is an Orange and would be ultimately sentenced to death. Manipulating the tester’s mind, she convinces them that she is a harmless “Green” and continues to exist for the next 6 years of confinement and abuse by the guards.
Introduce Cate (Mandy Moore) who is part of a secret organization “The Children’s League”. Cate (Moore) aids Ruby (Stenberg) in escaping. While on the lamb, Ruby manages to touch Cate’s partner, Rob, and finds out his darkest secrets. This scares Ruby, and she manages to escape and hook up with 3 other kids with powers who are also on the lamb. Liam (Dickinson), Chubs (Brooks) and Zu (Cech), who are a blue, green and gold respectively. The four kids are now chased by the Children’s League so that they can fight for their cause and also a number of bounty hunters who want to return them to detention. This is all happening while they search for their Neverland. This area is where the kids are free, they work with a legendary “Slip kid” who has escaped numerous times and have developed a community of their own. Once they find this sacred place, they come across the actual masterminds behind the whole confinement and pursuit, have a wicked superpower battle and manage to escape capture yet again. Thus leaving it open for a sequel, which I don’t believe is scheduled yet.
Was the film entertaining? Yes and no, the special effects were ok and the chemistry between the characters were not too bad. However, the storyline was predictable as hell (I did not have to read the book beforehand), and at times very clichéd. The Young Adult them of movies of late (Divergent, Hunger Games etc) have set the tone for this genre and it did not surprise me at all with anything new.
Now for the cast of this film.
Amandla Stenberg as Ruby Daly: I enjoyed Stenberg’s portrayal of Ruby. She managed to exude the right amount of concern, confusion, fear and anger as required. Her chemistry with her principal love interest, Liam (Dickinson) was ok. I had to look at her IMDB resume to see where I had seen her before and was pleasantly surprised to find out that she played “Rue” in the first Hunger Games. This was the only role that I had seen her in previously and liked her in both. This is another case where I look forward to see where her career takes her and the roles that she selects. While there is no sequel slated at this time, the movie ended with indications that one could be in the future. However, I would be surprised as the movie did not make a lot of money and barely recouped expenses when looking at the worldwide gross. If the books become more popular, there may be a chance that a sequel could be forthcoming, though I doubt it.
Harris Dickinson as Liam Stewart: Dickinson did a fair job at playing the love interest and hero to Ruby. Always stoic, and ever protective of his crush, he managed to convey what was required at the time/scene. Nothing stellar, but enough to get the idea. I checked his resume, and while he has been around for a number of years, this was the first time he was in something that I had watched. As mentioned previously he did have enough chemistry with Ruby (Stenberg) to ensure that their budding romance was at least remotely believable.
Skylan Brooks as Chubs and Miya Cech as Zu: While relegated to supporting actors, these two were our favourites in the film. Both of them made my wife and I laugh out loud on several occasions. Chubs (Brooks) had some good one liners and smarmy comments that would make us chuckle or laugh as required. Zu (Cech) on the other hand was purely physical acting as she did not speak. Her childlike innocence always shone through as well as her joy. Both of their characters were fun to watch. I looked at both of there film/tv resume’s and while I had watched some of their roles before, nothing stood out in my memory. However, having said that, now that I liked them in this film, I am sure I will pay more attention if I come across them in the future.
I will make some mentions of some of the lesser characters:
Patrick Gibson as Clancy Gray: What can I say about this character? I found him annoying out of the gate and completely predictable on what would happen between Ruby and him. As the President’s son, and the supposed “slip kid”, he was the architect of the whole crisis going on in the States for this film. While he did not really have a lot of screen time, the character’s influence is felt throughout. I guess you could say that he was a good actor if I did not like him, as I did not care for the character himself. He is another case that I had seen him in previous shows/films (The Tudors, Gold), but he did not leave an impression at that time. He may be one of these actors who develops and ends up always playing the villain. I think he is suited to that type of character, and I have no doubt that I will see him in similar roles in the future.
Mandy Moore as Cate: This was actually a throw away role for Moore, she received higher billing, but only minimal screen time. While she provides the means for Ruby to escape the detention centre, her character really could have been played by anyone, and probably better. It really felt like she phoned this performance in, and was only there for the paycheck.
Now there are two smaller characters that I would like to mention here. The first is Wade Williams as the Captain. Williams always plays a slimy, good for nothing, crooked P.O.S. But he does it well. When he is on the screen I know that something is afoot and that the “good guys” are going to be beaten, abused, captured or whatever. His roles are predictable as well as his characters (they are always the same) however, I like them. He has the Bully who is really a coward down to a fine science, he knows his niche and stays within it to always provide a good performance. Also, we have Gwendoline Christie as Lady Jane. I had to laugh at the name as I was unsure that it was not a little joke with her Game of Thrones character or if it was in the book. (I can’t remember). Either way, when I saw her actively pursuing the kids as a bounty hunter I had to laugh out loud. Not because it was supposed to happen as that her acting in this role was so horrible. She was more of a caricature than a real person, and her grimaces and hard looks were actually comical. If she would have played it like she did as “Brienne of Tarth” I probably would have enjoyed it more. Her calm, stoic demeanor on GoT was better suited to “Lady Jane” than this one-dimensional farce.
So in the end, were we entertained? I will say moderately. The movie had some high points and many low ones, but it still kept us tuned in enough to watch it to the end. We enjoyed some of the supporting cast far more (Chubs, Zu) then the leads, but it was ultimately OK. The Darkest Minds is probably the weakest Young Adult film that I have seen of late. Maybe it is the predictability, or that I have just grown tired of this sort of movie, or maybe I am just too old. The Darkest Minds was fair and killed some time and gave us a few laughs, but I would not rush out and watch it again or even get to the sequel. If you are into this type of film, I would recommend Hunger Games (franchise) or Divergent (franchise) over this one.
Our rating. 4.5/10 (as mentioned before, the supporting characters and special effects gave it the extra points)
Till next time!
Denzell Washington Robert McCall
Pedro Pascal Dave York
Ashton Sanders Miles Whittaker
Orson Bean Sam Rubinstein
Bill Pullman Brian Plummer
Melissa Leo Susan Plummer
For this week’s selection, I decided to go the route of sequels, and after perusing my stack of unwatched films I selected “The Equalizer 2” as my next choice. Ok, for those few people who read this blog on a regular basis, it is not selected, it was just the next one in the pile. But I have digressed, The Equalizer 2 is the long awaited sequel to 2014s “The Equalizer”. Apparently called the “Sequalizer” by the cast when filming, this action picture stars Denzel Washington returning to the character of Robert McCall. Of note, according to the extra’s on the disc, this is the first time that Denzel Washington has reprised a character in his career of 50 plus films. Needless to say, we are huge fans of Denzel, loved the first movie, and were really looking forward to watching this one. So, after pouring another glass of wine for me, ice water for my wife, we put in the movie for a night’s entertainment.
What can I say about EQ2? Well, first, while it is an action film and stars one of the best actors of the generation, and, in my opinion, it is sadly not as good as the original. The original film was dark, action packed and almost visceral in its portrayal of Robert McCall, the retired CIA assassin who was just trying to rebuild his life while grieving for his late wife. In the first film, his moral responsibility to help people is his driving force for action and the tension builds and the action is non-stop. As you can tell, I just loved the first film in the franchise, however in this film, it appears like there are too many threads in the canvass, and you can get lost in unravelling them all. Yes, it has action, a few one liners, and a thin plot, but it does not deliver as much as it’s predecessor did.
What is the storyline you ask? EQ2 starts off on a train in Turkey and McCall (Washington) is dressed as an Iman. While entering the bar car, looking for some hot water for his tea, he spies his target, along with bodyguards. His target on this mission is a miscreant who kidnapped his own daughter from the mother for the sole purpose to cause her pain, not for love. Of course, McCall is there to rescue the daughter and bring her home. He wreaks his own justice on the group, rescues the girl and returns her home. This is all within 5 minutes of the opening credits. Wow, it did grab me right away as Denzel’s trademark of calm and exacting retribution did not fail to deliver. However, right after that scene, it seemed like the threads started to unravel.
We, the audience are introduced to several story lines where McCall exacts justice for the driver seat of his “Lyft” taxi service;
While some of the threads are intertwined, some just a bit of confusion as to where it falls within the major storyline. Were they part of the plot, or just some extraneous information on how good McCall (Washington) is? Well, I guess it was a bit of both. There are really two main threads to follow here, the first is McCall (Washington) taking the young man Miles Whittaker (Sanders) under his wing, giving him purpose and support. The support or mentorship is not only morally, it is emotionally and intellectually as well. Miles (Sanders) ends up assisting McCall (Washington) in not only undoing a gang’s vandalism in the neighbourhood, but also is employed to paint McCall’s apartment. Throughout the film, we see McCall (Washington) imparting wisdom and morality to his young protégé, and also ultimately saving his life, both literally and figuratively.
The 2ndand actually the prime thread in this film, is that of his old boss, Susan Plummer (Leo). We first see her having a meal with McCall and talking with him over bowls of soup. One of the 3 reoccurring characters from the first film, her husband Brian (Pullman) and McCall (Washington) being the others. After this meal, Susan (Leo) travels to Europe for her work in the CIA (investigating a murder), whereupon she also gets brutally beaten and also murdered. McCall (Washington) gets involved at the behest of her husband only to discover that his former team mate, York (Pascal) is also part of the event, though he is unsure of how.
It is at this point we do discover a little of McCall’s past. While it is alluded to before, McCall (Washington) was involved in Black Ops for the government and had lead his team in a number of missions to mete out death on behalf of the government. We also discover that McCall had staged his own death to live a new life after losing his wife and that his former team had basically gone rogue. Not only are they working for the government, they are selling their services to the highest bidder as well, regardless of the consequences.
Trying not to give out too many surprises or plot lines, as you can surmise, McCall (Washington) confronts his former team, exacts revenge for the death of his friend Susan (Leo) saves his new friend, Whittaker (Sanders) and tries to tie up some other storylines introduced within the film.
What did we think of the film? First my wife and I were entertained, but not as much as the first one. We found this film to be very predictable, I don’t think there was one scene where we did not see where it was going to go and how McCall was going to get there. However, having said that, Denzel Washington is still an amazing actor and his lines, delivery and actions were spot-on as always. Yes, he is getting older, but the movements are believable and don’t leave you scratching your head or calling bullshit. If there is any fault of his character, I would leave the blame with the director and screenplay writer for any portions that were either not explained enough, wrapped up, or even forgotten. An actor with an amazing catalogue of film and tv, Denzel Washington can be counted on to perform any role with skill. These roles can range from a hitman/assassin with conscience, a gunslinger, a soldier, doctor, teacher or lawyer…each and every performance is always first rate. His performance in EQ2 did not fail either, as mentioned previously, any failings in this film, would lie elsewhere in our opinion, and not tied with his performance.
However, now, with respect to the villain in this film, Dave York (Pascal), I can’t really say the same about his performance. While trying to play a government agent or mercenary/assassin for hire, I found him lacking. Even the scene where McCall enters York’s home, ingratiates himself with his family and actually leaves with them, Pascal did not deliver the emotions and actions that would be expected. Yes, he is a professional assassin etc, but I believe his verbal delivery and eyes should have been more expressive here to show the conflict. Additionally, we felt that his performance was very robotic and was lacking. If his portrayal was amped a bit, it probably would have made a better movie overall. Maybe if his other team member’s personalities and relationships with York and McCall were expanded it would have given them more teeth, than really being nothing more than paper tigers, and ultimately targets to McCall’s weapons.
Ashton Sanders as Miles Whittaker: I really liked his character, as the young man who falls under McCall’s (Washington) wing, he portrayed the requisite emotions for the tasks at hand. His troubled youth persona was believable, as you could see his turmoil with every decision or action. Does he go with the gangs, or does he work for a living doing what he loves, his artwork. He respects McCall, but also as the move progresses, you can see a bit of fear as well. He does not know what McCall is capable of, while at the same time, he is trying to understand the why. Why is he being protected and mentored? All of these emotions are portrayed well and the chemistry between the two is excellent. There are two stand-out scenes for them. The first, when McCall (Washington) extracts him from the gang’s lair and lectures him on what he could be, and the second, in McCall’s house during the storm. Each scene exhibits the emotion required and ensures that not only do you, the audience, feel for McCall, but you also want Whittaker (Sanders) to succeed as well. A very good performance.
Melissa Leo as Susan Plummer: His old boss and friend, Plummer (Leo) is integral to the plot as to why and how McCall is brought in to wreak his own kind of vengeance. However, in this instance, if you did not know her from the first film, you could be lost as to their relationship. It is mentioned, but not the importance of their bond. This could have been enhanced a bit more in the film, maybe even a flashback sequence from the first film? I believe that just by adding this small scene, it could have made her death more poignant to McCall and the audience.
Bill Pullman as Brian Plummer: As the last re-occurring character in EQ2, his role was the most wasted. I like Bill Pullman and his films, but here he was just another character that could have been written off. Actually in one aspect he actually is, after McCall takes him to a hotel room and explains that they (the bad guys) are trying to clean up loose ends, we never see or hear from him again. This is one of the threads that got lost in the film and had us scratching our head. His character was not really required, he could have passed the info in a phone call, text etc, and not even been included in the film. By having him there, and then forgetting about him, it actually made his non-relevance stand out more.
Orson Bean as Sam Rubinstein: Here is another character that really did not need to be there, except to demonstrate that McCall is a fixer and has more heart. The only reason that this story line could have been inserted is to demonstrate that McCall not only fixes unwarranted acts of violence/aggression, he can also fix someone’s spirit. So in that light, then maybe I buy it a bit, however, what should have and could have happened is at least a scene where he does a bit of research to find out Rubinstein’s long lost sister. Just having her show up at the end, was almost kind of a cheat, yes we know that McCall is behind it, but the “how” was not revealed. C’mon, McCall is not the amazing Kreskin or the “Mentalist”, he still has to research and find out things.
Overall, we enjoyed the film and we were entertained, but not as much as the original. Denzel was great as always, but his supporting cast was kind of uneven in their performances. We also found that there were some holes in the plot, and the reasons “why” something was done was either lost or forgotten completely. Besides the predictability of the film, the action sequences and cinematography were done very well and added to the film’s enjoyment. If you are a fan of Washington, then there is no doubt that you will enjoy the film, though, if you are a fan of films and cinema, I am sure that you will see some of the same errors or gaps that I did. But all in all, not a bad film. One final piece of advice, make sure you watch the original first, or you will get lost in this one!
Our Rating: 6/10
If you are interested in watching any films/shows with the main cast, consider the following recommendations:
Denzel Washington Glory, Pelican Brief, Courage under Fire, The Book of Eli, 2 Guns, The Equalizer, Flight (pretty much any of his films!)
Pedro Pascal Narcos, Game of Thrones
Bill Pullman Independence Day, The Equalizer, Sleepless in Seattle
Melissa Leo The Equalizer, The Big Short, London has Fallen
James McAvoy Dennis/Jade/Patricia/Hedwig/The Beast/Kevin Crumb/Orwell/Barry
Anya Taylor-Joy Casey Cooke
Betty Buckley Dr. Karen Fletcher
Haley Lu Richardson Claire Benoit
Jessica Sula Marcia
We were quite busy this weekend, so we did not get a chance to watch our weekend film till Sunday Night. In this edition of “Were we Entertained”, we take a look at the 2016 movie “Split”. This film, written & directed by M. Night Shymalan is a welcome return to quality film-making after several of his duds. I have enjoyed Shymalan’s films a great deal in the past, i.e. The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs were all great films in my opinion. But he also made some serious dud’s i.e. The Village, The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth, all films with great potential but lacked the requisite spark to entertain you and make you think about the film. “Split” was a return to great film-making.
Not expecting a lot from this film when I picked it up, (Due to the previous movies mentioned), I had heard that this was actually a sort of sequel to “Unbreakable”, and a must watch if you were going to pursue the third film “Glass”, but I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was this film well directed, written and acted, it kept us glued to the screen. I will try and give a synopsis with out giving out too many of the plot points or surprises away.
The film commences at birthday party for a rather spoiled teenager at a restaurant/mall. The party is over, and she (with 2 friends) and her father are lugging a vast number of gifts and leftovers back to the car. As these kids are pretty much selfish and don’t really help the father, he is left to load the trunk with her spoils, while they proceed to wait in the car. However, the father becomes incapacitated, and a stranger (McAvoy) enters the car. Once inside he sprays the girls with a mist which knocks them all out.
They wake to find themselves in a cell and discover that they are being held prisoner by the same stranger (McAvoy). This stranger appears to have multiple personalities and memories and each personality displays various character traits, clothes and mannerisms to delineate them. All personalities threaten them with the arrival of the “Beast” who will kill them all horribly before moving on. However, it becomes clear that really only 3 personalities are controlling the stranger at this time. Naturally, these girls are all trying to escape before the dreaded “Beast” personality awakens and kills them all. Concurrently, the stranger is also seeing a psychiatrist who is trying to help him with his 24 separate personalities. The psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher (Buckley), is well versed in her patient’s personalities and soon sees through the deception of the two strongest personalities. She rightfully deduces that the missing girls might be with her patient and they could be in serious danger and subsequently goes to her patient’s home to see. This leads to the climax of the film, where many other personalities are revealed and the girls, the doctor, and the personalities fates collide.
Ok, now to the meat of this blog, the movie and characters themselves.
For a film that I was unsure of at first, specifically due to the fact that Shymalan movies had really dropped in quality, I was very pleasantly surprised. “Split” was a new take on multiple personality disorder. It was expertly presented, with a central character that was both complex and entertaining in the same breath. James McAvoy was the principal star in the film. He played no less than 8 separate characters/personalities throughout the film in a convincing, sometimes chilling fashion. Crumb was the original personality or host if you will, and McAvoy easily transitioned to 7 others in some cases in the blink of an eye. He effectively played a little boy, a stern OCD type, a flamboyant designer, an academic, a proper English lady and the fearsome beast. All acted in a convincing and stellar fashion. This film truly was a vehicle for McAvoy to show his talent in both physical and character acting. As Dennis, the personality with OCD. He was a stern, chilling, almost psychopathic character with no humour, but some very distinct twists. This was quickly followed by Patricia, an almost stereotyped English lady, who with Dennis, controlled Crumb the most. As mentioned previously, there were other characters that McAvoy played within the “Crumb” universe if you will, but my favourite was Hedwig, the little boy. In this character, McAvoy was able to give humour and also a bit of innocence that was lacking in the other characters. Barry was the flamboyant designer who was usually the personality available when meeting with Dr. Fletcher (Buckley) while only glimpses of Jade, Orwell and the host, Crumb were only present for short intervals. The last character present, the “Beast” actually seemed to physically alter McAvoy as he took on this fearsome persona whose ultimate goal were to kill and eat…and apparently not necessarily always in that order. As you can see, I felt that McAvoy’s performance was second to none, he was amazing, altering his voice, persona, appearance and character to fit each personality. If you were not a fan of McAvoy before, after watching this film, you will be!
Haley Lu Richardson as Claire Benoit: As one of the three girls that were captured by Crumb/Dennis (McAvoy), Claire (Richardson) was portrayed as the stereotypical teenager who apparently seemed to lack for nothing. The event was her birthday party that started it all off, and it seems that she invited her whole art class, even people that she did not really care for i.e. Casey (Taylor-Joy). Once she awakens in her cell, it is clear that there is a delineation between the 3 girls as Claire (Richardson) and Marcia (Sula) stay together on the same cot, while Casey is left on her own. Her main contribution seems to scream and shout ideas on how to escape. While she does effectively escape from their cell (not the compound), she is caught again and is placed in another room to await the Beast. I have not seen in her in any other show that she has been in, so I can’t really comment on her resume of work, but she was not bad, but not great either in this role. Easily forgotten in the grand scheme of the story.
Jessica Sula as Marcia: The second girl of the trio is also new to me, she has been in a number of shows, but nothing that I had watched in the past. In this film, she is the typical follower. She agrees to everything and will follow whatever Claire says, and later, Casey. She too is separated from the others to await her demise. Marcia (Sula) does not really garner any emotion from the audience and actually after awhile I found the whining kind of annoying. Luckily she is not really a central character, but just one of the hapless trio who were captured. I hope that as she gets older and has more experience, that her roles and acting will progress.
Betty Buckley as Dr. Karen Fletcher: Fletcher (Buckley) is the psychiatrist that is treating Crumb (McAvoy) et all. Usually dealing with the Barry character, she appears to have had some exposure with many of the personalities within Crumb. Trying to increase her own stature within the psychiatric community, she uses her patient as a case study in several forums. However, it is she, who is first realizing that some of the more “evil” personalities are at the forefront and are trying to control Crumb at all costs. Knowledgeable in dealing with cases such as this, she does manage to provide Casey (Taylor-Joy) with key information in the film’s 3rdact which will prove to be pivotal. Fletcher’s role is extremely important throughout this film as it manages to find the missing pieces for the audience and helps (them/you) put the missing pieces together. A solid actress of many years, Buckley has been around for decades, heck, I even remember watching her as a kid in “Eight is Enough” in the mid 70’s. So she has had plenty of time to perfect her acting skills. As Dr. Fletcher, her performance was solid and the chemistry between her and Crumb (McAvoy) was believable. Her character was a great contribution to the film and story line itself and without her, there would have been several plot holes that would have been hard to fill.
Anya Taylor-Joyas Casey Cooke: The other principle character in this thriller and third girl who was abducted at the party. Casey (Taylor-Joy) is a troubled teen who came from a dysfunctional background. Her flashbacks tell a tale of abuse by a perverted and sick uncle and the unexpected loss of her father at a young age. She is a bit of a loner, only invited to the party as she was a class mate, and not really a friend of the hostess (Claire). However, in her case, it was the prime example of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Once awakened in the cell, it is Casey (Taylor-Joy) who starts putting all the pieces together, and actually comes up with several ways to confuse and even manipulate their captor(s). Casey (Taylor-Joy) comes across as a very intelligent young lady and manages to wear the mantle of heroine very well. She easily sees through the changes and character traits of Crumb’s (McAvoy) many personalities and has an excellent rapport with some of them, specifically Hedwig and Dennis. Her final confrontation with the “Beast” is thrilling and manages to close several story lines. Not wanting to give away the climax, it is safe to say that their encounter is full of tension and action. As you can see, Taylor-Joy and McAvoy make the film and it is their chemistry between them (regardless of the personality) that makes the film so enjoyable. As with the other girls, I have not watched anything that she has been in, but I will look for her in upcoming films. I think she has some great talent, and I can only imagine what the future may bring for this young actress.
Overall we really enjoyed this film. It had suspense, comedy, horror and thrills all in one. The cinematography was excellent and the 2 key players (McAvoy and Taylor-Joy) were phenomenal in their roles. It literally kept us glued to the screen for the duration of the film. If this is what Shymalan is returning to, then I for one applaud it. Overall, the film was thoroughly entertaining and I look forward to watch the last film in the trilogy, Glass. If you are looking for some quality acting and a story that will keep you glued to the screen, then I recommend “Split” to be one of your next viewing choices, I am sure you won’t be disappointed!
Till the next time!
If you are interested in films from the main actor, consider the following recommendations:
James McAvoy Atomic Blonde, X-Men (Franchise), The Last King of Scotland, Band of Brothers
Anya Taylor-Joy Peaky Blinders
Robbie Amell Nathan Brown
Andy Allo Nora Antony
Zainab Johnson Aleesha
Kevin Bigley Luke
Allegra Edwards Ingrid Kannerman
For this week’s entertainment, we decided to binge watch a new show that is on Amazon Prime. “Upload” is a new Amazon original starring Robbie Amell, Andy Allo and Allegra Edwards. It is a new and refreshing concept on the afterlife, with just enough social messages to keep it relevant to today’s society. Not only is this show a little stimulating and new, it has already been renewed for a second season, just one week after it’s initial release on Amazon Prime.
So what is “Upload” about? It is the near future, and a technology has been developed that will allow your memories, personality, thoughts and dreams to be uploaded into a giant server just prior to your death. In this new version of “heaven” a person can live a new and full life while they are waiting for a new technology “Download” to be developed thus allowing people to be reborn in a new body with all the soul of the original, basically creating immortality. The series starts off lightly, with our intrepid hero, Nathan Brown (Amell) deciding to drive his autonomous car manually, however the car has other ideas and takes over. Needless to say, in short order the car’s Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) fails and it runs headlong into a massive truck, thus severely injuring Nathan (Amell). Once at the hospital, his fiancée, Ingrid (Edwards) implores the staff to have him uploaded into one of the upper class, post death, virtual worlds. Once uploaded, he awakes and finds himself in a nice suite, that resembles one of the posh resorts in upstate New York. He is surrounded by the avatar’s of other well to do people and starts to make friends. (In this world, I guess you really can take it with you when you die!). Nathan (Amell) soon discovers that everything that he wants to do costs money, not his, but that of his fiancée (Edwards) who is financing his death. These costs are in the form of in-app purchases, the first time I saw that happen I could not stop laughing as this what the real world is these days. Nothing is free, and everything costs money! In that light, Nathan (Amell) must keep his fiancée happy (Edwards) so that she keeps him funded and his electronic avatar alive.
His Angel, (or if you will spirit wrangler) Nora Antony is played by Andy Allo. Her job is to make his transition and virtual stay as pleasant as possible. Nora (Allo) is pretty much tech support, wrangler, and customer assistance rolled all up in one. Searching for the elusive 5-star rating from all of her clients, she is trying to make ends meet for herself and family as well.
The script is well written and the chemistry between the main players works. The feelings portrayed by Edwards and Allo are expressed in a believable fashion, not to mention the confusion and empathy portrayed by Amell. All facets of the cast fit each other, and the supporting cast works well.
As this series is new, and I don’t want to give out any spoilers, I will just lightly touch on the cast and what I thought of their performance.
Robbie Amell as Nathan Brown: Amell plays this role well. At the start of the series, he is as shallow as a puddle, but as he actually grows within the virtual world he becomes kind, empathic to those around him and actually becomes a better person, even though he is dead. His chemistry with the other cast members and supporting characters is well played. Even though he seemed familiar, I could not place him in anything else I had watched till I checked IMDB. Once verified on IMDB, I saw that he was a guest on the Flash for several episodes, and I remember the character he played. I think that he has potential and look forward to seeing him in other movies and shows.
Andy Allo as Nora Antony: Actually this character is my favourite in the series. She is fresh, pulls off the innocent and naive card very well and has great chemistry with Amell. I have not seen her in anything before, and when checking her resume on IMDB, she has not been in a hell of a lot, thus the reason why I had not seen her. However, I find her to be quite good and now that I see that this is renewed for a 2ndseason look forward to watching it and seeing how her character evolves.
Allegra Edwardsas Ingrid Kannerman; Edwards does a great job as the narcissistic, pretty fiancée who is more concerned with how she looks and how others perceive her than what really matters. What I like about her character that we do find out that she really does love Nathan, and only wants what is best for him. Her character displays growth as the show progresses, and as much as I did not like her at the start of the series, by the end of season 1, she kinda grew on me. Even though some of her character traits are completely stereotyped and we have seen that type of role before, she does play it well. I had only seen her in “Friends from College” before, but I believe that she has some talent and hope that she does not get stereotyped into those kinds of roles.
This series is hard to pigeon hole as for a genre, it is a mashup of comedy, sci-fi, murder mystery and love story all in one. It actually appealed to both my wife and I, but for different reasons. Were we entertained throughout the season, yes we were. Like any other show, some episodes are better than others, but if you want something to watch that is light, new and does not really fit into any genre, then I would recommend “Upload” for you.
Our Rating: 6.5/10
Till the next time!
Steve Carell General Mark R. Naird
John Malkovich Dr. Adrian Mallory
Ben Schwartz F. Tony Scarapiducci
Diana Silvers Erin Naird
Tawny Newsome Captain Angela Ali
Jimmy O. Yang Dr. Chan Kaifang
Don Lake Brigadier General Brad Gregory
Lisa Kudrow Maggie Naird
Noah Emmerich General Kick Grabaston
Over the last few weeks, my wife and I have watched the full premier season of Space Force on NETFLIX. Space Force, NETFLIX’s newest original comedy is about the creation and early days of the current American administration’s latest military arm or command if you will.
This little time-waster stars the comedic genius of Steve Carell and John Malkovich in the title role as the Commanding General and Chief Scientist of the newly minted Space Force. Steve Carell is General Mark R. Naird, long under the thumb of the current Chief of the Air Force, General Kick Grabaston (Noah Emmerich) is finally given his own branch of the Armed Forces, Space Force. He takes over this new command, much to his dismay, as he was desperately hoping to command the Air Force itself. In creating the new element of America’s fighting might, General Naird (Carell) must battle an inept administration, political sycophants, jealous colleagues on the Joint Chiefs, a staff that is either too stupid, too smart, too incompetent or just spies for a foreign power. On top of that, he has a failing marriage and must raise a rebellious teen age daughter.Not exactly a recipe for success for a professional or personal life.
For it’s premier season, the story arc consists of General Naird with the assistance of Dr. Mallory standing up the Space Force itself. Naird’s (Carrel) mission, besides standing up the force is to put “American Boots on the Moon!” Naturally, when Naird (Carell) makes his speech during the inauguration of the command, his explanation of “American boots on the Moon” has his own unique spin to it, that I am sure everyone will enjoy.
From the creation of the Force, to the finale of landing on the Moon, Space Force is a light hearted romp. It is not always hilarious, though there are some scenes that are literally laugh out loud. It is amusing, sometimes very silly, and may not be for everyone. If you enjoy “The Office” or Steve Carell as an actor himself, you will enjoy this series. I also found that if you follow current politics in the United States, that there a number of subtle nuances and jokes that increase the potential for enjoyment. Additionally, if you are in the military, or have military experience, the humour and one liners will be appreciated immensely. If you don’t, there may be some nuances that will escape you.
Now to look at the cast:
Steve Carell as General Mark R. Naird: Carell is Carell, there is no escaping his style and delivery. As I mentioned previously, if you like the Office, you will probably like this show. Carell plays the tightly wound Naird, who is just trying to do his job, amidst all the problems that he is facing. He will break out into song when stressed, has no filter, and is sometimes oblivious of his surroundings or social nuances. Pretty much a typical Carell character. This character, while not unique, provides the vehicle for lead character to deliver the many puns, one liners and innuendos. Carell does a great job in this role, and I continue to be a fan of his work.
John Malkovichas Dr. Adrian Mallory: As I have mentioned in other reviews, Malkovich is a personal favourite of mine. His penchant for a dry delivery of jokes, laden with sarcasm contribute to many of the programs laughs. An accomplished actor, Malkovich continues to add style and substance to any production that he is involved with. As for his character, the self righteous scientist, Mallory is a natural balance to Naird’s “must follow the commands” mentality. The chemistry between Carell and Malkovich is great and really adds to Space Force writ large.
Ben Schwartz as F. Tony Scarapiducci: Scarapiducci is the Space Force public relations officer, or basically in charge of Twitter and social media. Personally, I find his character kind of annoying, but then again, I find most press media types annoying anyways. So I guess he is playing the role well. His character/role, much like all Public Affairs officers always tries to put a positive spin on all activities, no matter what he does to hamper the mission itself. Schwartz is relatively new to me as a viewer, though when I checked his resume, he is pretty accomplished in the comedic realm.
Tawny Newsome as Captain Angela Ali: Newsome portrays the only other really professional serviceperson in the series. A dedicated Air Force officer, her character is serious with a MacGyver like attitude to get things done. Her competence as an officer is a nice balance to the incompetence surrounding her. As with Schwartz, I have not really seen her in anything else, but she does have a prolific Comedy background and has been in numerous programs. I like her character and will definitely look for other programs that she has done and check them out.
Don Lake as Brigadier General Brad Gregory: The character like Scarapiducci is not up there on my “like” scale. I know he is supposed to be a comedic balance to Naird (Carell), but that is where I think they could have made that character even better. He should have been the consummate professional, trying to help Naird complete his mission. That would leave more avenues for Naird (Carell) to also demonstrate some of his comedic genius. Lake is a solid character actor who could be better employed/utilized in this program. Sometimes, a show does not need everyone to be useless.
Lisa Kudrow as Maggie Naird: Now we get to the characters who are part of Naird’s family. Kudrow is the estranged wife of Naird and is currently in prison. This further complicates his life as he tries to deal with his wife whom he loves, and the issues of now being a single parent raising a troublesome teenager. Kudrow is ok here, but I am sorry, to me she will always be Phoebe on Friends. I can’t see her on anything else unless the character is similar. Her role on Friends has pretty much type cast her (to me) in that role/character. As Maggie, she has a little bit of Phoebe, but not enough for me to really appreciate it. I hope that as this program continues (and I really hope it does), that I will grow to like her character.
Diana Silvers as Erin Naird: This is another new actress for me, and I have not yet decided how I feel about her talents/skills. Relatively new to the small screen, there is nothing in her resume that I had seen her in before to actually judge or compare. Mind you, she does play a teenager with great angst and confusion believably, I am just not sure on how I feel about the character at this point. As with the mother, (Kudrow), I hope that I will grow to like her character as the show continues.
There are a host of other actors/actresses in this series of various calibers to support this ensemble. All of them have varying pedigrees in television/Film and comedies specifically. Each and every one of them have brought their own talents to the show to make sure that it is enjoyable. Is this the best new comedy on television? No it is not. Is it consistently hilarious? Again, no. But, can you sit there and be entertained for 30 minutes and escape some of the worlds issues? Yes, you can. If you are looking for something light, topical and a show that while you may not always laugh out loud, you will smile at their antics, then “Space Force” is definitely worth checking out. Hell, there are worse ways to spend you time than this program. I especially recommend this program if you are a fan of Carell and Malkovich, these two are the key to the show and will make sure that you will at least chuckle every once and awhile.
If you are interested in watching something from the key cast members, consider some of the following recommendations:
Steve Carell 40-Year-old Virgin, The Office, Dinner with schmucks, Dan in real life
John Malkovich RED, RED 2, Billions, Burn After Reading, Con Air, In the Line of Fire
Lisa Kudrow Friends, Analyze This, Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion.
Ryan Gosling Neil Armstrong
Claire Foy Janet Armstrong
Jason Clarke Ed White
Kyle Chandler Deke Slayton
Corey Stoll Buzz Aldrin
Ciaran Hinds Bob Gilruth
Pablo Schreiber James Lovell
Shea Whigham Gus Grissom
Lukas Haas Mike Collins
After having a busy week looking for a new vehicle, we finally got a chance to put in a movie on Saturday night. For this week’s selection, or ok, next in the pile… is “First Man”. This film is a biopic of the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong. “First Man” has a solid cast and tells the extraordinary journey of mankind’s foray into space, which culminated in the fantastic achievement of landing on the Moon. Ryan Gosling plays the title character (Neil Armstrong) and is supported by a great cast of actors/actresses.
Does “First Man” live up to the hype and billing as advertised? Yes, and no. My wife and I always enjoy films that are based on a true story, person, and/or event. Primarily, as we have found that Hollywood is continually churning out variations of the same plot all the time, and if it is a true story. We kinda know how it is going to end beforehand. We just want to see how the film will depict it, and if it was worthwhile to spend the 20 bucks for the ticket, or blu-ray. “First Man” while a good movie, about a historic event, is not a great movie if you know what I mean. The cinematography was excellent in the launch/space/flight scenes and at times almost took your breath away. The Director (Damien Chazelle) expertly interspersed file footage with film footage to make you feel like you were watching it for the first time! The scenery, props, costumes etc were first rate. Being a child of the 60’s I remember many of the items fondly and it brought me a back to a simpler time, where my only responsibility was to pick up the toys (If I got around to it) and make sure I finished my dinner. However, I have just digressed, the props and supporting materials were excellent and fit the scenes and era. I looked for some out of place technology while watching and could not find any. (Not saying that there wasn’t any in the film, just that if there was, I did not see it). However, I did find the characters to be wooden and unemotional for most part and lacked chemistry between them, especially Gosling and Foy.
I have read that Armstrong’s children stated that Gosling and Foy portrayed an accurate portrayal of their parents, however, I found the on-screen presence of these actors lacking. Also, some of the integral portions of their lives were missed. We know that their daughter is sick and sadly passed away, but it was not really mentioned why. There were other holes in their own life that seemed to be missing, also, why were not the other children included in more scenes, as this was about him (Armstrong) would there not have been a little more of his family life? Additionally, why did the director not include the flag planting ceremony on the moon? We see it up in later scenes, but not when he actually planted the flag. I also read that this was a conscious decision by the director, but I firmly believe that this is an important scene that should have been included. Is the movie about Armstrong or NASA and the race to the moon? In either case, I believe it should have been included as it was important to both the agency and the individual. Also, I believe that the backstory of Armstrong should have been included more, even though he was a civilian within NASA, he was a former Navy pilot…easily could have been mentioned or alluded to. These aspects were missed.
This biopic only takes a small portion of Armstrong’s life. Basically starting with a test flight on Bell X-15 where Armstrong (Gosling) experiences technical difficulties before returning to land, and then culminating on the historic landing on the moon. Even if you are not a history buff, the average person will be aware of the first Moon landing and have heard the names Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. So really not much to add to that synopsis.
As you may have garnered, while I liked the film, I found that there were aspects that could have been better. Primarily, portions of the story line and the chemistry between the main characters. While I am on the subject of the actors, lets take a look at some of the main ones.
Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong: Gosling, a young Canadian actor who is making a name for himself with certain films, delivers (in my opinion) a very wooden and unemotional performance. There were so many aspects of the mans life that should have generated far greater tension or emotion than what was portrayed. However, if, as I have read, this is an accurate portrayal of the man himself, then so be it. But it did make the film seem slow at times, and almost drag on. Personally, I am not a fan of Gosling’s films as I find he always portrays pretty much the same type of character, and the film choices he has made have not actually been my type of films. I even found Blade Runner 2049 to be a slow film, and I was a huge fan of the original. Additionally, there was very little chemistry between Gosling and Foy. The bond that would be between such individuals who experience such hardships and time apart would be more evident then what was portrayed.
Claire Foy as Janet Armstrong: Continuing with the above thoughts, I found Foy’s portrayal of Janet Armstrong to also be wooden and unemotional. I enjoyed her in “The Crown” as Queen Elizabeth, but here it was just slow. Even at times of tension I could not get the feeling from her that it was tense and emotional. She is not the queen here; she could give more to the role.
Jason Clarke as Ed White: I like Clarke as White, he can easily play an astronaut, crooked politician, scientist or soldier. I first noticed him in the series Brotherhood, and as time went along he has been part of the cast of many more films that I liked, i.e. Zero Dark Thirty, White House Down, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Everest to name but a few. He easily fit into this role and the scenes with him were well done. As this is a historical film, his contributions were vital to the storyline and interaction within the film.
Kyle Chandler as Deke Slayton: Chandler always gives a solid performance in any film or show that he is part of, “First Man” is no exception. As with Clarke as White, as a historic film his contributions are integral to the story, and ensured that factual continuity was pretty much maintained. When on screen, he was value added and actually managed to convey intensity or emotion when required.
Corey Stoll as Buzz Aldrin: Every time I see Stoll on screen, I immediately can’t stand him. Either he is extremely talented, and picks roles that bring out the worst in him, or he really is that way. Either way, I cannot find a part or character in his resume that I liked the character portrayed. I actually had to stop the film to make sure that he was playing Aldrin. I had seen Aldrin on several shows and documentaries and he did not come across as such a douche. Regardless, Buzz Aldrin was a key character in the first landing on the moon, and maybe a bit more screen time and interaction between the two men would have been better for the film. If there was tension between the two, demonstrate that further, if they were buddies, give the audience that feeling. As it stands, because Aldrin was played by Stoll, and he came across as a bit of egomaniac and ass-hat, I could not get the feel of what the real person was.
Lukas Haas as Mike Collins: He actually had very minimal screen time in this film, and his only contribution was to play Collins. I am fully aware that most people only remember Aldrin and Armstrong, but Collins was part of the team and could have received at least some character development. He was pretty much a cardboard cut-out and the few lines he utters in the film could have been relegated to someone off screen. While historically Collins has a great deal to contribute, in this film, Haas was found lacking.
Pablo Schreiber as James Lovell: while Schreiber did not have much screen time, minimal dialogue and was most often seen as part of the ensemble, I found that I could not associate him as James Lovell. As Hanks had played Lovell in Apollo 13, that is what he looks like to me, and now that he looks more rugged, 5 inches taller and more of an action actor, he did not fit the character that most people will now associate with the real individual. Not really an issue, but when a lesser known actor plays a role that was already represented by an iconic actor, he or she will have some pretty big shoes to fill, and will undoubtedly fail in that representation.
Overall, we found the movie entertaining, though not necessarily due to the characters or the acting itself. It was the subject matter, cinematography, attention to detail of the era that drew us in. While you would think that this film is an action film as well as a biopic, it was slow and long. Especially as there are only a few scenes of intensity throughout this film, and while awesome, it was almost too little, too far apart. The opening sequence was amazing, as well as the launch and landing. Everything else was very slow. Would I recommend this film? Yes, if you have 2 ½ hours to kill and were looking for some authentic shots and great cinematography. But, if you want a more entertaining tale of the journey to the moon, check out The Right Stuff and Apollo 13. Both films had far greater tension and action than the First Man.
If you are interested in other films or shows by the key actors/actresses. Consider the following recommendations.
Ryan Gosling The Ides of March, The Big Short, Murder by Numbers
Claire Foy The Crown
Jason Clarke Everest, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, White House Down, Brotherhood, Zero Dark Thirty
Kyle Chandler Game Night, Manchester by the Sea, The Wolf of Wall Street
Corey Stoll Ant Man, House of Cards, The Romanoff’s, The Bourne Legacy
Jennifer Garner Riley North
John Gallagher Jr Det. Stan Carmichael
John Ortiz Det. Moises Beltran
Juan Pablo Raba Diego Garcia
Annie Ilonzeh FBI Agent Lisa Inman
Jeff Hephner Chris North
Cailey Fleming Carly North
Well, here we are again with a review for the Notinhalloffame.com website, blog section, “Was I entertained”. Even though, it is the end of May and spring is supposed to be here, back home in Canada, we had a cold snap over the weekend so it was time again to try a few different shows. After perusing NETFLIX for a bit and watching another episode of Wentworth (Great show), we decided to put in a film. So, after looking at the stack of unwatched Blu-Ray’s, I grabbed Peppermint (2018) to be the next movie to watch.
Peppermint stars Jennifer Garner and is Directed by the same director (Pierre Morel) who also was involved with the movie “Taken”. After watching Peppermint, this was really no surprise as the style, dialogue, etc was pretty much the same. Peppermint is a standard revenge flick. It adheres to the formula of likeminded films (i.e. Death Wish, Kill Bill) with no surprises, extremely predictable, and plot holes large enough to drive a Mack Truck through. However, it was still good enough to keep us entertained throughout the film.
Peppermint starts off with a pitched battle in a car between Riley (Garner) and some thug. After getting wounded, she gets the upper hand and manages to dispatch this miscreant and leave the car and corpse behind. The next scene starts 5 years earlier where we find out that she is a young mother with a small child, about 10 years old. Rilery (Garner) and her husband are trying to make ends meet, as all young families do. She works in a bank, and he in garage. However, as tight as the money is they still want to have what’s best for their child. In that light, Chris (Hephner) is approached by a colleague at the garage to be a driver in a planned robbery against the local gang, which is led by Garcia (Raba). After a change of heart, Chris tells his colleague no, and goes out with his wife and child to celebrate the daughter’s birthday. This is especially important as a local PTA villainess has destroyed Carly’s (Fleming) birthday party as a revenge tactic for encroaching on her daughter’s turf for selling cookies at the local mall. Actually pretty pathetic, but I understand that stuff like that happens all the time in some schools.
While at the fair, Garcia’s gang does a drive by and kills both Chris (Hephner) and Carly (Fleming), while leaving Riley (Garner) wounded on the ground, and watching her family die in front of her eyes. Detectives Carmichael (Gallagher) and Beltran (Ortiz) arrive, pick up the pieces and put Riley (Garner) in an ambulance and commence their investigation.
Riley (Garner) identifies the assailants in a line-up and they are brought to trial. However, because the legal system is so crooked, the killers get off, Riley (Garner) goes crazy and gets subsequently sentenced to a mental hospital for actions. Typical movie justice. En-route to the hospital, Riley (Garner) escapes and goes underground.
Surfacing 5 years later, Riley is back to extract revenge. She has learned new skills, and can handle a weapon or use her fists with equal dexterity. Bent on a path of revenge she commences to track down each and every person who has wronged her family and exacts her own particular style of justice. Detectives Beltran (Ortiz) and Carmichael (Gallagher) join forces with FBI agent Inman (Ilonzeh) to find out who the vigilante killer is that is hunting down all these ne’er do wells and executing them. Of course, as this is extremely predictable, they figure out it is Riley (Garner) and try to catch her before she can finish what the police force cannot do. I will let you watch the film to get the rest of the story line, but needless to say, this film follows all the formula’s for a film of this genre to bring it to a “no-surprise” ending.
Did we enjoy this film? Did it entertain? I would say yes, even though we knew exactly what would happen throughout most of the film, there were still a few surprises and red-herrings to throw us off a bit along the journey. As with the movie “Taken”, this film was full of action, the odd one liner, and some great fight scenes. Yes, there were plot holes, and a few WTF instances when certain things/events occurred, but they were easily shrugged off as Riley (Garner) caught another person on her list to exact her brand of justice.
Now to look at the cast.
Jennifer Garner as Riley North: Garner was in fine form for this film, coming back to action roles from a long hiatus while doing RomComs and family friendly films, Peppermint returned Garner to some of her action roots. The first time I remember watching her in a program was in Alias, where she was an international spy. Alias was an enjoyable tv program that lasted for 5 years and was no doubt instrumental in getting her a part in DareDevil and her own spinoff film, Elektra. While these films were panned critically, I found them enjoyable and full of action. Most importantly, it gave her the basic skills for an action film that were needed in Peppermint. What helped make this movie, was that Garner did her own stunts and fight scenes to add to the realism. There were no “face-fade” scenes where the action star would fight, but the face would be blurred to hide the stunt person. Garner has been in enough action films over the years to learn enough skills to make her action sequences believable (Elektra, Alias, DareDevil). For Garner, revenge was the key motivator throughout the film and it was effectively portrayed. While some of the other characters were lacking in development or motive, hers was strong throughout and kept us interested in what the outcome would be (even though we already surmised what it would be). My only problem with Riley’s(Garner) story in this film was that her back-story was not developed enough. It showed clips of Riley (Garner) learning how to fight hand to hand, but a mastery of automatic weapons was never mentioned. This could have been covered very easily with a montage of her at a range or something. Also, I think a scene or two of her researching where everyone who wronged her family would have helped the plot along as well, she seemed to find everyone to easily. Planning sequences would have helped out the continuity portion of the film.
John Gallagher Jr as Det. Stan Carmichael: He did a fair job as the ideological/burnt out (depending on the scene/time period) detective. It was believable, but not over the top. He projected his own inner turmoil well as he handled the drive-by shooting case. His burn-out, alcoholic tendencies come out later in the film, and you think it is for one reason, only to find out the impetus for these actions were another reason entirely. Well done in my opinion. Having watched him in 10 Cloverfield Lane, Newsroom and now this film, I look forward to other roles that he is in.
John Ortiz as Det. Moises Beltran: Ortiz is a solid supporting actor and has made his career doing just that. In Peppermint, there is no difference to his performance compared to his previous roles. He can be the tormented soul or disheveled policeman at the drop of a hat. In this film, as Carmichael’s partner, he gave us just enough confusion in his role to make it interesting. Was he a good cop, was he crooked, or was he just a coward. The finale of the film will give you the answer and it was actually the only real thing in the film that I did not predict in the end. A good performance that reminds the audience that any star, no matter how big, requires a solid support cast to make a successful film or program.
Juan Pablo Raba as Diego Garcia: While the antagonist of the film, his screen time was limited and his performance very wooden. I think a good “bad guy” would be more menacing and not be named after an island in the Indian ocean. His whole performance was lackluster and even though he was the main “bad-guy” it could have been played far better. John Leguizamo (Waco, John Wick 2, The Infiltrator) would have been a more menacing character than Raba played here. The character required more dimension and exposure, as well as better back story. Sometimes being the feared drug lord is not enough in a movie, the why, what and how have to be included as well.
Annie Ilonzeh as FBI Agent Lisa Inman: As a supporting role, Ilonzeh did not do much to add to the overall movie. Her main contribution to the plot was actually to start putting the pieces of Riley’s (Garner) actions together, far ahead of Carmichael and Beltran. While she looked familiar, I actually had to look up what other shows I had seen her in. However, after looking at her resume and remembering her roles (finally), I can see that her roles and talent will only increase in time.
Overall Peppermint was not a bad film, not great, but entertaining nonetheless. Garner does well in the action genre, delivering solid punches (if you will) and even some good one liners (If you watch the film, remember this when the bitchy PTA mother comes on screen, made for a darkly humorous scene). The plot, while predictable still had the odd twist and turn that will keep you watching till the end. If you can get by these factors, and the odd plot holes then you will enjoy the film.
If you are interested in seeing other films with the main cast, consider the following recommendations.
Jennifer Garner 13 going on 30, Alias, Draft Day, Ghosts of Girlfriends past
John Gallagher Jr Newsroom (Excellent show), 10 Cloverfield Lane
John Ortiz Messiah, Kong: Skull Island
Juan Pablo Raba The 33
Annie Ilonzeh Person of Interest, Arrow, Hatfields and McCoys
Taraji P. Henson Mary
Billy Brown Tom
Jahi Di’Allo Winston Danny
Neal McDonough Walter
Xander Berkeley Uncle
Rade Serbedzija Luka
Danny Glover Benny
After a long chat with the “Chairman” (aka my brother) of the “Notinhalloffame.com” website, he said that he liked my contributions so much so that he vowed to give me a 50 percent increase in my salary. Well since he doesn’t give me anything for these, this vow was like a promise from a politician…full of excrement! Good thing he lives in the Caribbean and I am still in Canada! But anyways, I do enjoy this, and it gives me something to do in retirement. In that light, we can discuss this week’s foray in into Movieland. Of late, most of my reviews have not been of great or even mediocre films, sadly this week is no change. I really want to see a good movie, but unfortunately, some of the movies in the stack of unwatched films just don’t make the grade, or any grade for that matter.
We started on Friday with the “Longest Week”, starring Jason Bateman and Olivia Wilde. Unfortunately, or should I say fortunately for me, I stopped the film after 15 minutes as it was just too painful to watch. This is sad as I was looking forward to watching it as I like Bateman’s films for the most part, and am really enjoying his character in “Ozark”. But, that film, was just like my brother’s promise of a raise….” Just didn’t deliver!” We then tried something on Amazon Prime, and that was a comedy special by Steve Trevino, totally awesome, and highly recommend it. However, it was not suitable to write a review on a guy telling jokes, no matter how good they are.
Then came Saturday night, and the next movie in the pile was ‘Proud Mary” starring Tariji P. Henson in the title role. I have come to like Henson in the series “Person of Interest” and the co-stars, Neal Mcdonough, Xander Berkeley, Rade Serbedzija and Danny Glover are all very well known entities, and have played varying roles in movies that I really like. So, with that in mind, I was really looking forward to watching it. However, like my brothers promises of a raise, it was disappointing !
What is Proud Mary about? Well, it started promising with the 1970’s Black exploitation movie vibe that used to be so entertaining. The initial music was good “Papa was Rolling Stone” by the Temptations, and the opening sequences brought back memories of films from my childhood and even put a smile to face at the time…however, right after that, it all went south. We can allude at the start that Mary (Henson) is some kind of hitman/assassin as she breaks into an apartment and shoots a guy with extreme prejudice. After killing her target, she enters an adjoining bedroom to discover a young boy playing video games with headphones on. Even though she was supposed to kill everyone there to ensure that there were no witnesses, some long lost maternal instincts kicked in and she let him live
Fast forward a few years, Mary (Henson) is tooling around NYC in a beautiful Maserati (as far as I am concerned, this car is the star of the film) as she is watching a boy deliver some drugs. We later find out that this is the same boy that she let live and she has been monitoring him ever since. This young fellow Danny (Winston) is now a drug trafficker for local thug called Uncle (Berkeley) who has a cheezy and very fake Russian accent. After getting smacked around by Uncle (Berkeley) for using his own initiative with a previous customer who tried to rip him off, Danny is back on the street and proceeds to get beaten up by some other ne’er do wells. Finding him curled up and twitching in the fetal position on the ground, Mary (Henson) becomes motherly and takes him home. After hearing the tales of woe from Danny (Winston), Mary (Henson) decides to be an avenging angel and takes out Uncle and others in the vicinity who may have harmed poor little Danny. Did I mention the Maserati? We get to see this car again a few more times as she drives around looking for the bad guys.
Upon returning to her boss, we find out that Mary (Henson) is working for Benny (Glover) and his son Tom (Brown) and that the Uncle (Berkeley) was part of a rival gang. Fearing a war between the gangs, Mary (Henson) must kill another member of the Russian gang to demonstrate strength. In this instance it is Walter (McDonough), so after some very poor surveillance of the target (She is still in the Maserati, so no one will look twice at that car). Determining a pattern of sorts, she goes for a run, sees him and kills him outright. Meanwhile the Russian mafia leader Luka (Serbedzija) wants to get revenge, and a war brews between the two gangs, shots are fired, people are killed and chaos ensues between to the two rivals.
Meanwhile, Tom (Brown) who is not only Benny’s (Glover) son, but also a former lover realizes that Danny (Winston) is not only the son of a former hit, but also a previous employee of Uncle…putting 2+2 together to make 5, this brain trust finally figures out that Mary (Henson) and Danny (Winston) were the root of all of their problems and tries to take some decisive action.
Without giving the rest of the story away, there are a few other conflicts, a kidnapping, some poor speeches and sudden insights from some of the cast to culminate in the final battle scene. Here Mary (Henson) thinks that she is the re-incarnation of John Wick or the Equalizer and decides to make a one man (woman) fight against all who have wronged not only the boy Danny, but also Mary herself. Driving into battle in that gorgeous Maserati, she manages to kill everyone in sight, save the day (but not the car) and rescue those who need rescuing. Only mildly wounded, she still manages to hit every target with a pistol while driving or running erratically, and her magic guns only seemed to require reloading twice. You gotta love those 500 round magazines that Hollywood pistols and assault rifles come with!
To sum up with respect to the plot, it is a very predictable film. The Hitman finds redemption by writing an earlier wrong by blowing up everyone in sight and riding into the distance with her sidekick. The End.
What did I like about the film? Well, the music was good, there were several 1970’s tracks that I always liked, to include Proud Mary by Tina Turner. The initial 70’s vibe that started the film brought back memories of watching movies as a kid. Oh, and of course the Maserati, did I say how much l love that car?!?.
What didn’t I like about the film…well everything else. This film managed to take an exceptional cast and kill them with poor dialogue, a predictable plot line and crappy acting. Was everyone under a contract and had to sign on to this movie? It sure feels like it, there was no chemistry between the cast, the delivery was wooden and the story (besides being predictable) was stilted and jerked along like a millennial trying to drive a stick shift. It was just horrible, and I am surprised that I watched the whole thing.
As far as the cast, I said before that there were some good actors here, but let’s take a look at them.
Henson as the title character, Mary. Her acting was abysmal, and her inner turmoil between trying to get her motherly instincts in track as well as her killer instincts at bay were horrible. Trying to play the “tough chick” with a gun was almost laughable. She did not move fluidly with the weapons or in the fight seasons. John Wick she was notand it was clearly evident.
Billy Brown as Tom: given little screen time, he did not have much to work with here. We find out that he is the son of the boss and a former lover. However, even though he figured out who the kid was, he is no Sherlock that is for sure. Usually he is a solid supporting character in many shows (Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, The Following, etc) and should stay in that lane.
Jahi Di’Allo Winston as Danny: An actor that I had not really seen before, however, his acting was not all that bad considering what he had to work with. I hope that in the future he manages to get some better roles and co-stars that he can develop his skills.
Neal McDonough as Walter: He actually had very little impact in this film, well except for getting killed by Mary (Henson). However, I must say, in our house McDonough has the rare talent that no matter what character he plays, we can’t stand him. So, that is either a testament to his acting skills or we just can’t stand him on sight. However, when he is the villain in a film, you know it and he can take the scene from anyone else that he shares it with. However, in this film, He did not have the chance to do so.
Xander Berkeley as Uncle: Berkeley is an awesome actor...except in this film. As I mentioned before, this must be a case of where he had to do a film as part of the contract. His acting was as horrible as was his accent and it was a godsend when his character of Uncle was finally killed off.
Rade Serbedzijaas Luka: Serbedzija is also another phenomenal actor who can play a villain like nobody else. But in this film, he was just a card-board cut-out and another b-list actor required to fill out the roster and be ultimately killed. Very disappointing!
Danny Glover as Benny: For me, this was the biggest disappointment of the film. Danny Glover was an excellent actor in the action genre. Who can forget him in the Lethal Weapon franchise? His line “I am too old for shit!” is quoted often in television and in pop culture itself. A prolific actor, who has seemed to have lost his way over the last decade as his appearances are now more of a guest or co-star with less and less impact on the outcome. Very sad, for as I mentioned, I always liked his films in the 80, 90 to 00’s.
To finalize, did this movie entertain us? Sadly, no. A combination of a poor script, a tired formula and miscast actors/actresses who have all seen better films and days. Were there some highlights or redeeming factors? Well, the Maserati for one, and the final shoot-em up scene was not that bad once you got past Henson’s poor action sequences. Would I recommend it? No, not unless you really had nothing else to watch, and you had to be a fan of the genre and Henson.
Our rating: 2/10
If you are interested in other films/tv shows with the cast, please consider some of the following GOOD recommendations!
Taraji P. Henson Person of Interest, Hidden Figures, Empire, The Curious case of Benjamin Button
Billy Brown Sons of Anarchy, The Following, Dexter
Neal McDonough Red 2, Captain America: The First Avenger, Flags of our Father
Xander Berkeley The Walking Dead, Justified, The Mentalist, 24
Rade Serbedzija The Five, Downtown Abbey, Taken 2, 24, Space Cowboys
Danny Glover Lethal Weapon (1 & 2), Dreamgirls, Bat 21, Flight of the Intruder, Predator 2
Jason Statham Jonas Taylor
Bingbing Li Suyin
Rainn Wilson Morris
Cliff Curtis Mac
Winston Chao Zhang
Shuya Sophia Cai Meiying
Ruby Rose Jaxx
Page Kennedy DJ
Robert Taylor Heller
Olafur Darri Olaffson The Wall
Jessica Mcnamee Lori
Masi Oka Toshi
As we are all still locked down and there are limited choices of activity for us all due to the epidemic, my unwatched movie collection is starting to dwindle down. After having a dinner from a local take-out establishment (we do have to support local business’s at this time) I grabbed the next movie in the pile. This week, it happened to be “The Meg”. I had seen bits and pieces of this movie a few years ago when returning from a conference in Europe, but as with all trans-Atlantic flights you never really get to appreciate a film, or even watch it completely due to the many interruptions. Anyways, with a full belly, full glass of wine in hand, I put “The Meg” in the blu-ray player for this weekends entertainment.
What is “The Meg” about you ask? Well “The Meg” is a quasi action/horror/sci-fi/comedy film that rips-off or pays homage to (depending on your perspective) several movies in Hollywood history. In essence this film is a Shark flick, with a hint of Jaws (plus sequels), The Abyss, Leviathan, Deep Rising and Piranha. I saw elements of each film in this action/comedy/horror/sci-fi romp starring Jason Statham. Before I start outlining the good/bad of the film, I will give a bit of a plot summary.
The film opens with a submarine that is disabled on the ocean floor and a rescue team and mini-submersible are on site trying to save everyone. The rescue team is led by a stone-faced Jason Statham, who instead of fighting a number of bad guys is now fighting the elements. During the rescue, we see a submarine that is taking on water and a hull that is crumpled up in sections (The Abyss?). This tension is further heightened (?) when the sub is shaken around a bit and a portion of the hull commences to be crushed in a way that resembles a large bite…hmm dramatic foreshadowing perhaps? Jonah (Statham) can’t save them all, so he releases the docking clamp and surfaces with only a portion of the crew, leaving a number to die to an unknown fate. However, it appears that Jonah (Statham) is the only one who believes it is a sea creature and the rest of the world perceives him as a coward who lost his nerve and that he left people to behind to die. Cashiered out of deep sea rescue (or whatever he was in, Navy, Coast—guard, who knows, it is not really mentioned), he moves to Thailand (?) and commences a stereo typed life of a burn-out who is just drinking his life away.
Meanwhile…. a company owned by Billionaire Morris (Rainn Wilson) creates a huge state of the art Ocean lab. This Lab is located in the South China sea (somewhere) and its purpose was to prove that the ocean was even deeper than imagined. The theory was that the sea bottom was actually beyond a thermal layer of cold water, and they were going to prove it. Enter a new group of intrepid travellers, Lori (Mcnamee), The Wall (Olaffson) and Toshi (Oka) are in a mini-submersible who penetrate the layer, and discover a whole new undersea world. Supporting this submersible is a whole cast of characters, the team leader Zhang (Chao) his daughter Suyin (Li) and granddaughter Meiying (Cai), Mac (Curtis) Jaxx (Rose) Kennedy (DJ) and the doctor Heller (Taylor). Observing the whole experiment is the wacky owner Morris (Wilson) who actually has his own agenda beyond that of the team leader Zhang (Chao). Now back to the submersible, while exploring, their mini-sub is attacked by a giant squid, followed by a save and subsequent attack by the Meg. The submersible is disabled, and the crew wounded. The Lab’s crew and owner watch this on their monitors and realize that there is no way to save them. Mac (Curtis) knows that his friend is lounging around on a nearby island goes to retrieve him (Jonas/Statham) and he is the only guy who can save them…even drunk. (Note: Maybe Toshi (Oka) should have used his special powers like he had on Heroes to save them…but that is just my imagination running wild here as the story could not quite keep me completely tuned in!)
The ever drunk Jonas (Statham) at first refuses to help, until he finds out that the damaged submersible is captained by his ex wife Lori (Mcnamee), and he naturally sobers up and signs up for the dramatic rescue. Jonas (Statham) and Mac (Curtis) return to the lab, Jonas meets the rest of the crew and owner. Finds out the doctor on the lab is the same one who called him a coward in the navy/coast guard/rescue team or whatever and still does not trust him and think that he is a coward. This results in some poorly acted tension between Jonas (Statham) and Heller (Taylor). Concurrently Suyin (Li) has taken matters in her own hands and has launched a “glider” to rescue the downed submersible and pull them back to safety. However, this is only a failed attempt at rescue and tension. Sober and full of action, Jonas (Statham) now has 2 submersibles to save. Needless to say, Jonas saves the two submersibles (but not everyone) returns to the lab and is thanked by all, not quite all… he does get some blame for leaving someone behind. However, unknown to the crew, due to their incursions a leak in the thermal layer is created and has allowed “The Meg” to escape to our waters. “The Meg” scares a few people in the lab, and then commences to wreak havoc in the surrounding waters. This “Meg” is a shark that is upwards of 70 ft long, approx. 70 tons and has a bite more powerful than a T-Rex. As all sharks are, the Meg is continuously hungry and searching for food, and just scary enough to make you jump every once and a while!
Jonas (Statham) and crew take it upon themselves to save the world as we know it and commence to track the “Meg” down to kill it. This is pretty much a foregone conclusion, as what would the movie be if the intrepid hero was not successful in this quest. They have some great adventures, a few laughs and some half decent special effects finding the Meg, tracking it and subsequently taking it down. Concurrently, some characters find love, themselves, inner strength, or even find out that they are destined to be lunch for the “Meg” itself. I glossed over the last part of the movie to not give out too many parts away if you have not yet seen the film.
Now to look at the Good, Bad and Ugly of this film.
The Good: The CGI was actually pretty good and the chemistry between the main characters flowed satisfactorily. It was nice to see Statham in an action film where he did not have to fight 500 bad guys at once, but actually had to fight the elements, the “Meg” and actually his own fear. His dry humour was an added bonus as well as that of Morris (Wilson). There were numerous one-liners that did not make you laugh out loud, but at least give you a smile or even a slight guffaw. The interaction between Jonas (Statham) and Suyin (Li) was not bad. The acting was good enough for their flirtation to be somewhat believable (as believable as you can be with Statham trying to be romantic). Also, we found that the child actress who played Sunyin’s daughter Meiying (Cai) was adorable and added the right touch of “cuteness” you could say to the action movie. Additionally, either the intentional homages or blatant rip-off’s of other films were also not bad. We especially enjoyed the beach scene when the “Meg” was swimming around the crowded bay, looking for snacks. There were several instances that were right out of Jaws and it immediately too me back to that film, when I saw it as a kid. If you watch the film, you will see varied aspects of the previously mentioned films, Jaws, Piranha, Abyss, Leviathan in there as well. I will leave it to you to decide if they wanted pay respect to previous films, or just planned to rip them off! (Actually a side comment with respect to Statham, it is clearly evident that he is no stranger to water as his dives and swimming are smooth and fluid. For readers who are not aware, he was once a member of the UK diving team and participated in the 1990 Commonwealth games!)
The supporting cast of characters were also enjoyable. Morris as the idiot billionaire was humorous and added levity right until the moment his character was an active participant of the Meg’s dinner requirements.
The Bad: There was a touch too many cliché’s in the film. Statham playing the burned out drunk who is looking for redemption. Heller (Taylor) being angry when Jonas (Statham) first shows up but then apologizes as he sees the error in his ways, and then seeks his own redemption. This is just an example of too many “stereotypes” that could have possibly been written better and with a little more imagination. However, I must add, that these factors did not overly detract from the film, it became what was expected.
The Ugly: Many reviewers will have varying viewpoints on this with respect to “The Meg”, but for me, I would actually say the dialogue was the ugly, it struck me as very clichéd, and at times stilting. Yes, there were a few jokes and one liners that I found amusing, but nothing really imaginative or new here. Also, some of the supporting characters and even Jonas himself could have had more character development to show the “Why” or purpose of their contribution to the film writ large.
Did I enjoy the film and was I entertained? Yes, I was entertained, but the film is not something that will win any awards or make you call for more. It was just good enough for me to watch it all, laugh a bit and enjoy the special effects. Would I recommend it? Only if you are a fan of Jaws type films and quality acting and dialogue is not a must. I have seen better films with some of the cast, and also some worse ones. But it will kill the time if you are so inclined to give it a try.
My Rating: 4.5/10
If you are interested in other films with the main cast, please consider the following
Jason Statham Transporter, Expendables, The Mechanic, Spy, Fast and the Furious (Franchise)
Bingbing Li Transformers: Age of Extinction, 1911
Rainn Wilson Juno, The Office, Six Feet Under
Cliff Curtis Fear the Walking Dead, Fracture, Training Day, Whale Rider
Till next time!
Dwayne Johnson Will Sawyer
Neve Campbell Sarah Sawyer
Chin Han Zhao Long Ji
Roland Moller Kores Botha
Noah Taylor Mr Pierce
Byron Mann Inspector Wu
Pablo Schreiber Ben
Mckenna Roberts Georgia Sawyer
Noah Cottrell Henry Sawyer
Hannah Quinlivan Xia
As the world and our nation is still under “quarantine” due to the COVID virus, we still look to films and tv’s for a chance to escape. For this week, we selected the blu-ray “Skyscraper” as our means of escape from the doldrums of confined life. Skyscraper stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Neve Campbell in the principal roles. This is the 3rdfilm that I have reviewed with “The Rock” as the lead, not that his films are the best in the industry, just that he makes a lot of films, and they are entertaining in almost every case. After watching the film, Skyscraper is probably on the lower end of the “The Rock” entertainment spectrum. It has loads of action, fantastic special effects, but a cast of characters that lacks chemistry and a plot with more holes and gaps then a brick of swiss cheese.
Speaking of the plot, what is Skyscraper about? In this film, The Rock is Will Sawyer, a Veteran and former Hostage Rescue team member who is now employed as a security consultant. His job is not really defined at this point (or really throughout the film). Is he a risk assessor, Rent-a-cop security, or in charge of a burgeoning security firm? It was kind of hard to pin down. However, his career choice is a result of a hostage negotiation/rescue gone wrong, where he and the team were either killed or wounded. In Sawyer’s case (Johnson), he lost a leg. As a Risk assessor or security specialist for his own company, his close friend and former team-mate Ben (Schreiber) sets him up with this lucrative job. In that light, Sawyer and family travel to Hong Kong to provide a security assessment of the tallest building in the world, and I think hired on as head of security (not really defined here). The Pearl, as the skyscraper is called, dwarfs anything else on the planet for it’s design, height and opulence. Will (Johnson), his wife Sarah (Campbell) and children Georgia and Henry are also the first occupants of this monstrosity.
Will (Johnson) gives the Pearl a passing grade, the owner Long Ji (Han) is very happy and presents Will with a tablet that is keyed to his face and gives him full control of the building and all its safety features. With the “golden ticket to the chocolate factory” in hand, Will (Johnson) and Ben (Schreiber) head out while the family goes to the zoo to see some Panda’s, the tickets which were a gift from Ben. While departing the skyscraper en-route to the off site security/control facility, Will and Ben are accosted by a thief who steals Will’s man-bag, with the hope that the tablet is contained within. A chase and scuffle ensue, however, Will (Johnson) is slowed down by his artificial limb and the miscreant escapes. During the scuffle, Will (Johnson) did not escape unscathed, and both Will (Johnson) and Ben (Schreiber) return to Ben’s place to discuss. It is at this time that the nefarious plot is revealed. Ben (Schreiber) who is working for Botha (Moller) aka the movie “bad guy” discovers that Will still has the almighty tablet that controls all and a knock-down drag out fight between the two behemoths commences. I gotta say, that these guys do a great fight sequence, both huge guys, they totally trash the place and even though Will (Johnson) is an amputee, it does little to slow him down in the fight.
To quickly speed up with the plot summary, after finding out the Ben (Schreiber) is a bad guy, and that he (Will/Johnson) has been set up, he rushes back to the Skyscraper to see that it is on fire around the 90thfloor. Unfortunately, Will’s (Johnson) family returning back early from the Zoo are situated above the fire along with a team of nefarious individuals led by Botha (Moller), and his boss, Long Ji (Han) with his own personal staff and security. Will (Johnson) goes into “Rock” mode, battles police en-route to the Skyscraper, the bad guys, and of course the burning skyscraper itself. Along the way, we find out the cheesy reason why it was taken over and the reason behind everything that has happened to him and his family. Ultimately Will (Johnson) saves the day, his family, his boss and the building itself.
That is Skyscraper in a nutshell without giving out too many spoilers or hints. As I mentioned before, this movie was entertaining, but not really good if you know what I mean. Of course with the Rock in a film, you will have large explosions, larger than life stunts, raised eyebrows, Bicep flexes and incredible stunts. This is what we expect in one of his films, and he delivered as always. But, and I have to say a rather large but, the plot, character development and dialogue was weak. Will Sawyer (Johnson) is what he always is, you are introduced to the reason he has all the skills in the first 5 minutes of the film (Hostage/military etc) and why he has lost one leg. The remainder of the characters are only glossed over. For example, his wife Sarah (Campbell), she is the doctor who saves him, so of course they fall in love and have a family. But that’s not all, information is later provided that she was a military doctor and did several tours of Afghanistan. That must explain her fighting skills later. The remainder of the cast is also very one-dimensional, right from the billionaire building owner (Long Ji), to his children, Ben, Botha and the Police Inspector Wu. Dialogue is pretty stilted and even kind of simplistic.
Dwayne Johnson as Will Sawyer: As I have mentioned not only in this review but in others as well. The Rock pretty much always delivers entertainment in any film. Even when the character development is lacking or the dialogue is weak, he can still carry the film enough so that you feel that you were entertained in the end. In this film, being an amputee was another hurdle for him to battle along with the fighting etc. Some of the stunts were a little far fetched, but hey, it is the ROCK, so just shake your head, take a sip of whisky and keep watching. The stunts only get better and more far fetched, but you will have fun. Overall, he was the Rock and as always carried the film (in this case he had a lot to carry), so that you were not too disappointed, and as mentioned earlier, not one of his better films.
Neve Campbell as Sarah Sawyer: Campbell did not really have much to play with here as far as a character. As the wife and mother protector of her children she was OK. She can present a tormented face with a touch of weepiness at all times, and if required scream repeatedly. Since her heyday in Party of Five, The Scream Franchise and Wild Things, she does more guest appearances in various television shows instead of carrying a film on her own. As previously stated she was OK in this film, nothing spectacular here, but then again, she was playing against a burning skyscraper and the ROCK…kinda hard to outshine them. Overall, she is not a bad actress and I really liked some of her earlier work, and I hope to see her in more feature films as time progresses. I believe that now that she is a bit older and mature she can play a variety of roles that were previously unavailable to her.
Chin Han as Zhao Long Ji: Not much of a character here, he is the multi-billionaire with an inferiority complex (hence the huge building). His character is one-dimensional, there is no real depth to him. He has info on the bad guy to save his building, and it appears that he would cut corners to make sure his dream was built. But other than that, not much else to him. He was far better in supporting roles, for example Dark Knight and Contagion.
Rollan Moller as Kores Botha: speaking of one dimensional characters, Moller as Botha was pretty much a cardboard cut-out of a bad guy. He had no depth, and very little screen presence. For a rip-off or homage to Die Hard as this film was, the villain could have been more like Hans Gruber to give the audience something to bite into, and maybe even cheer for the bad guy (I do this sometimes if the villain is extraordinary!). If you watch the film, Botha (Moller) does not really do much but grimace, shoot his weapon and demand the USB key. Other than that, he is pretty useless and ends up just being a punching bag and target for Will (Johnson).
Pablo Schreiberas Ben: A former team-mate, friend and colleague Ben is the trigger for what happens to Will Sawyer, his family and the building. Provided very little screen time, there is very little time to learn about his character besides what was just mentioned. It appears that he does have a soft spot for the family and tries to arrange an excursion for them so that they will not be present when everything goes pear-shaped. But, that is about it. His great contribution to the film is the fight that he has with Will (Johnson) in his apartment. However, as would be expected when you watch a film with the Rock, there is no chance that he will win. Not really contributing much else to the film, Schreiber’s performance definitely did not leave a lasting impression after the film was completed.
Mckenna Roberts as Georgia Sawyer and Noah Cottrell as Henry Sawyer: As the spawn of the Sawyers, they add little to the film except prove that parents will take care of their children. I don’t remember seeing the kids in any other films, they did ok, especially with some of the action sequences, but really nothing extraordinary. It might prove interesting to see what else they star in as they get older.
Overall, the storyline is a melange of other films, specifically Die Hard and the Towering Inferno. However, in this case, Will Sawyer is no John McClane, Botha is not Hans Gruber, but I must say, the effects and the building itself are much better than the (1974) Towering Inferno’s office building. Action was paramount in this film, the CGI and the stunts were great. If you are a “Die-Hard” fan of movies starring the Rock, then I would recommend this for an evenings entertainment. But only if you don’t mind a weak story line or characters, if you are not a fan…then I would move onto another film to while away your time.
Our rating: 4.5/10 (only because we are fans)
If you are interested in other films starring the main cast, please consider the following:
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, San Andreas, Rampage, Fast and Furious franchise
Neve Campbell Wild Things, Scream (Franchise) The Craft
Pablo Schreiber 13 Hours
Chin Han Contagion, The Dark Knight
Till next time!
Bruce Willis Paul Kersey
Vincent D’Onofrio Frank Kersey
Elisabeth Shue Lucy Kersey
Camila Morrone Jordan Kersey
Dean Norris Detective Kevin Raines
Kimberly Elise Detective Leonore Jackson
Beau Knapp Knox
For this week, I decided to try a re-make from a classic that I watched in my childhood. In 1974, Charles Bronson was coming into his own as an action star, and the movie Death Wish was the vehicle that he used to achieve it. In a nut-shell, Death Wish tells a story of revenge. In the original, Charles Bronson, a successful architect has his life destroyed when a bunch of robbers break into his apartment, kill his wife and rape his daughter. In his grief, Kersey (Bronson) becomes a one-man vigilante squad and wreaks havoc on the underworld of New York, desperately seeking vengeance for the crimes that had befallen his family. Death Wish (1974) was a great movie for the day, it established Bronson as an action star and marketable in Hollywood films of the time. Sure, he had a few other successes as the lead prior to Death Wish, Mr. Majestyk and the Mechanic to name a few. However, he was seen more in ensemble movies (The Great Escape, Magnificent 7, The Dirty Dozen) as an added bonus to these action movies, where others had to carry the weight of the film. Death Wish started a franchise for Bronson that spanned 5 films and 2 decades.
As Death Wish (1974) was a classic, I can see where Hollywood would like to try and re-invigorate the franchise, especially as it seems that is all Hollywood can do at this time, revive ideas and scripts, dust them off and try to modernize them for a new generation. Death Wish (2018) is another example of the latest Hollywood fad of re-imagining classics.
The plot is almost identical to the original except it is now in Chicago vs New York, and Kersey (Willis) is an Emergency Room Surgeon vs architect. Other than those minor differences, the general idea and plot line is extremely similar. Kersey and his family (to include his brother, a new character compared to the original) go out for a family dinner. The Valet, hears a discussion that the family will all be out together the following week for Paul’s (Willis) Birthday and takes a photo of the on-board GPS family address when returning the car. Naturally, the valet is a bad guy, he gives the details to a few thugs. Meanwhile, on the birthday date in question, the celebration is curtailed as Paul (Willis) is called to work at the hospital. As the would-be robbers expect the house to be empty, they break in to rob the family of all the belongings. Enter wife and daughter (Shue and Morrone) returning from a trip to the supermarket. They encounter the robbers, a scuffle ensues and Lucy (Shue) is killed and Jordan (Morrone) is wounded and ends up in a coma.
Paul (Willis) is distraught, Detectives Raines and Jackson (Norris and Elise respectively) who are assigned to the case have no leads and Paul (Willis) is spiralling further down. This all changes when during an emergency room scene, Paul (Willis) encounters the same valet, who is now wounded and requires assistance. A pistol drops on the ground, and one of Paul’s expensive watches is visible on the Valet’s arm. He puts 2 + 2 together and realizes that this is a key to his recovery…ok, I mean revenge. He grabs the pistol, his watch and the valet’s phone. From this point forward, Paul (Willis) starts his path as a one-man vigilante squad. He learns how to fire, clean and aim his pistol (all done by today’s teachers – Youtube!) and goes out looking for the bad guys who messed with his family and life. Along this journey he encounters several incidents where crimes are committed and takes action, killing all the bad guys, saving the day and carrying on. However, this is the 2000’s and everyone has a cell phone camera and he is recorded and uploaded to the internet for all to see.
Coined online as the “Grim Reaper”, and looking like a slightly older version of the main character in Unbreakable (Willis as David Dunn) he stumbles around till he finds out who messed with him and exacts justice in a fashion that John McClane from Die Hard would be proud of. Throughout the film, Detectives Raines & Jackson (Norris and Elise) continue to search for the criminals in question, suspect Paul (Willis) is the Grim Reaper. However, as the “Grim Reaper” is now gaining cult-like status in Chicago, and is admired by many, (including the Detectives), Paul (Willis) gets away with murder – literally. This pretty much sums up the movie, I know that some spoilers were given, but hey, this is a remake of a 46-year-old film and does follow a typical revenge formula. Nothing is new here.
What did I like about this film? The use of Chicago as the scene instead of New York was a nice touch, specifically due to the fact that the New York of yesterday is far more violent then that of today. Chicago has replaced New York for the title of cities with the most murders. So for realism sake, this was a solid change to the plot. The movie was updated to include various changes to technology and cultural norms. For example, getting the home info from the on-board GPS on the car, photo’s/video from the phone and even the ability to learn skills from youtube. All of these enhancements helped to move this film to present day, and were done well enough to entertain yet not take away from the story. Especially if you (like me) were comparing this film to the 1974 original.
Bruce Willis as Paul Kersey: of late, Willis’ films have been rather hit and miss. When he sticks to his tried and true method of being the sarcastic hero, with one liners shooting out just as fast his guns, he is in his comfort zone. However, playing a doctor in this case, he seemed to struggle to get the feel of the role. It was not until he started playing the “Grim Reaper” that he really started to come back to normal and be the Bruce Willis that fans want to watch. Overall, he had a pretty uneven performance, but there was just enough of regular roles/mannerisms in the film to make it entertaining enough to watch through. I did like the part where in his first shoot out, he managed to get cut by the Pistol’s slide across the web of his hand. This can occur very easily with in-experienced shooters and I have seen it on several occasions at ranges myself. A little bit of realism that did cause me to laugh a little.
Vincent D’Onofrio as Frank Kersey: This was a new character compared to the original. I have liked D’Onofrio in films ever since “Full Metal Jacket”. He is a diverse actor who can add to any film or show that he is in. In Death Wish, D’Onofrio is the brother with actually no real role. You could take him completely out of the film and it would not change one iota. With some small dialogue tweaks, his contribution to the film could be completely wiped out. One scene that D’Onofrio shares with the Detectives Rains and Jackson (Norris and Elise) is somewhat out of place. We know that he is a bit down and out on his luck and has little cash (he is the family sponge), but where was it mentioned that he was bad enough to be considered as a criminal and suspect for the vigilante (Grim Reaper) murders that were conducted. The Detectives zoom in that he is left handed and that he made him a suspect. But why? Where was the background info that would have and should have been presented to lead them to it? Maybe it was on the cutting room floor, I don’t know. I felt that his contribution to the film was minimal and his talents were wasted. He would have played the robber/scumbag far better I believe than having a down and out brother who is just hanging around the family as a sponge.
Elisabeth Shue as Lucy Kersey: Shue pretty much had a minimal part, much like her acting roles of late. Popular when she was much younger (Back to the Future 2 and 3, Adventures in babysitting, Karate Kid), her career kind of floundered around for years, participating in middle of the road films. As the mother Lucy (Shue), does a fair job in the short time that she has on screen. Her role is important to the motive of the vigilante and the character’s importance cannot be understated. However, with the limited on-screen time she has, it did not really leave a lasting effect. If you are a fan of Shue, consider watching “The Boys”, an amazon original where she does an excellent job as the harpy CEO who is controlling all the superheroes.
Dean Norris as Detective Kevin Raines and Kimberly Elise as Detective Leonore Jackson: They do an fair job as police detectives who are trying to find the killers/thieves and also the “Grim Reaper”. Their characters were pretty much 1 dimensional and had no real depth, but however, in this case they did not really require it either. Norris plays pretty much the same character he plays in all films/shows. Whether he is a cop, soldier, or mayor, he often plays roles of authority, and leads/directs with a bullish attitude that he can carry off very easily. Elise played the 2ndfiddle detective as well as can be expected with the limited time she had. Nothing dramatic here, I have not seen her in too many films/shows before, but do remember her in John Q which was a great movie.
Camila Morrone as Jordan Kersey: This was the first movie I have seen her in, and from what I have gathered, modelling was her previous profession. Her character while critical to the story (as her mother Lucy/Shue was) required very little acting or dialogue. Heck, for the most part of the film she was in a coma and just had to lie there. Mind you, the rest of her scenes were not too bad.
Beau Knapp as Knox: Knox (Knapp) is the ringleader who set the whole ball in motion for Kersey (Willis). His portrayal of a slime ball was pretty bang on, and while watching the film you are rooting for Kersey (Willis) to make short work of him and ensure that gets smoked in a most memorable fashion. I checked his resume on IMDB, and while he has been in some shows that I have watched, he has not left an impact with either his portrayal or characters for me to remember. While no Hans Gruber (Rickman in Die Hard), Knapp in this role, and in this movie, was OK. Like I alluded to before, slimy enough to dislike him and want him gone, but nothing like some of the other villains in Bruce Willis movies of days gone by.
To sum up, Death Wish (2018) has a number of actors who have seen better days, a few fair co-stars and maybe a potential up-and comer. The film was entertaining enough to watch to the end, and did not make you think too much. Was it as good as the original…I don’t think so. It is not often when a remake out performs the original anyways. Has Bruce Willis seen better days? I think so, lately many of his movies have gone straight to video/streaming and do not even hit the theatre. In my opinion, his last good film was RED 2..and even then the first one was better. As I mentioned earlier, films where he can shoot off his mouth as fast his gun is his wheel-house. That is where his best performances are. At 64, he should be looking more at the “mentor” roles, instead of the man-of-action. But he would still be able to deliver his signature style. Of that I am sure.
Were we entertained…yes we were, but not greatly. Would I recommend it? Hmmm..only if you are a huge fan of his and could overlook some of the issues mentioned earlier. Remember, this is no Die Hard, RED or Sin City, but you can sit there with your bourbon and pretzels and waste a few hours. However, if you liked the premise, I would recommend the original first!
If you are looking for films with the main cast, please consider the following recommendations:
Bruce Willis RED, Sin City, Die Hard (1, 2 and 3), 16 Blocks, Surrogates and Looper
Elisabeth Shue Back to the Future 2 and 3, Hollow Man, Karate Kid, The Boys, and Leaving Las Vegas
Vincent D’Onofrio Full Metal Jacket, The Magnificent Seven (2016), and Men in Black
Dean Norris Under the Dome and Breaking Bad
Emily Blunt Evelyn Abbott
John Krasinski Lee Abbott
Millicent Simmonds Regan Abbott
Noah Jupe Marcus Abbott
For this week’s review, we decided to try a horror film. Ok, it was not a decision, it was just the next movie in the pile. Actually, “A Quiet Place” is not just horror, it is a little bit Sci-Fi and drama all rolled up into the same film. Overall we enjoyed the film, we were entertained and even in the most intense sequences we only jumped a little bit. Luckily not enough to spill any wine or snacks! Even though we enjoyed this film, there were several blatant plot holes or story inconsistencies that were hard to take, but if you overlook them, the story works out just fine.
So what is “A Quiet Place” about you say? Well, it is the near future and our family of hero’s are living in a post apocalyptic world. The film opens in a small town where you are introduced to the Abbott family. They are in typical “post apocalypse” clothes, with the striking difference that they are all barefoot. Rummaging in a pharmacy, it is clearly evident that they are trying to keep all sounds to a minimum, however the reason is not apparent yet. Everyone is using sign language to communicate, and we can see the hearing aid device on Regan (Simmonds) to help us understand why. After getting the required medicine, they make their way out of the store, unbeknownst to his parents, the youngest is carrying a toy Space Shuttle in hand. This toy was discovered in the store by the young fellow who just wanted to play with it, however, due to the fact that it made noise, his father, Lee (Krasinski) removed the batteries from it and set it down. However, as they were leaving the store, Regan (Simmonds) gave him the toy behind her father’s back, but did not see her brother grab the batteries. This proved to be his undoing as they made their way home, barefoot, walking on a sand path. On the way home, the little guy puts the batteries back in the toy, sparks it up, lights and sirens scream out from the toy, and then the little boy becomes lunch for an alien who is attracted to the sound. Meanwhile, the rest of the family looks on in horror, unable to scream/speak etc. as they too would be killed.
The remainder of the film outlines their life as they try to move on. We find out why they can’t talk via newspaper snippets on Lee’s (Krasinski) desk. Apparently aliens landed and attacked anything that made noise. They are armoured, do not have a known weakness and are extremely hard to kill. They have pretty much destroyed the world as we know it, and there are only pockets of humanity left. This we can deduce by fires in the distance at night. These fires represent various survivors scattered across the countryside.
We see the family live in tension, always on guard, always quiet, always living in fear. Scared of the slightest sound that can attract the aliens, scared for the future of the unborn baby soon to arrive, basically scared of everything and just trying to eke out a living.
Not much more to this film than what was described above. Was this film done well? People have various opinions on this, my wife and I enjoyed the film. It was wrought with tension. Every little sound would make us jump and the use of the aliens was not overly done. We (the audience) got to concentrate on the story, the acting, the cinematography. Acting in a film such as this is even more difficult as the cast could not rely on dialogue to tell the story, it was all them. Facial expressions, sign language, and human interaction were the story line. We could see the anguish in the family, feel the frustration of Regan (Simmonds) as she felt the guilt of her brother’s death, and could smell the fear of Marcus (Jupe) when he went to the river with his father. All of these feelings and sensations were brilliantly presented to the audience. As mentioned previously, every sound would make us jump, we felt for the family, we wanted them to succeed.
Were there problems with the story/plot that were hard to overlook? Unfortunately, there were. But we managed to skim past them to enjoy the film. Some of the plot holes were huge, others not so much. The following is a list of some of the errors that we caught;
I am sure that there are several other problems and inconsistencies in the film that I missed. But these were the ones that jumped out at us. However, did we enjoy the film? Yes, we did. The acting was great, Krasinski and Blunt had excellent chemistry (mind you, they should as they are married in real life). The children, pretty much unknowns were very good as well. Regan (Simmonds) and Marcus (Jupe) easily conveyed the fear and angst of the world that they were living in. The cinematography was great, beautiful scenery with a post-apocalyptic flair. Krasinski, also doubling as the director did an excellent job as well with this film.
“A Quiet Place” was set up for a sequel, and it was supposed to have been released within the last few months, however with this Covid thing going around it has been postponed till the fall. Will we see the sequel? If it is as good as the first one, we definitely will.
If you want to see a horror film that is slightly different from the norm, check out A Quiet Place. If you can get over some of the issues mentioned above, it will entertain you, just as designed!
Our Rating: 6.5/10
If you are interested in some films from the principal characters, check out the following;
Emily Blunt The Devil Wears Prada, The Girl on the Train, Sicario,
John Krasinski Jack Ryan, 13 Hours, The Office
Sylvester Stallone John Rambo
Paz Vega Carmen
Sergio Peris-Mencheta Hugo Martinez
Oscar Jaenada Victor Martinez
Yvette Monreal Gabrielle
So Saturday night arrived, and instead of reaching into my stack of unwatched blu-ray movies, we decided to find something on one of the streaming services that we subscribe to. We started with Amazon Prime (their search engines are just as crappy as Netflix by the way), and I started scanning through what was new on Prime. Well lo and behold, I came across Rambo: Last Blood. I remember last year when it had a short stint in the theatres, and was surprised that it was already on the streaming services. Hell, I had not even seen it for sale on Amazon yet, so I was pleasantly surprised. Now, I loved First Blood, it was a fantastic film that set the tone for action movies of the era and really set Stallone’s career on the action trajectory after the fan base he created in the Rocky series. Not only was it a great movie, it was also a great book by David Morrell.
The original that started it all, had John Rambo (Stallone) a highly decorated Special Forces Vietnam Veteran come to small town USA to visit one of his Army buddies. Ushered out of town by the local Sherriff Teasel (Brian Dennehy) who took umbrage to Rambo (Stallone), with his long hair etc. This action set the scene for all of Rambo’s rage and frustration to be unleashed on the Sherriff and the unsuspecting town. Needless to say, Rambo was victorious over the Sherriff, he escaped and started a series of films in the Rambo universe (First Blood 2, Rambo 3, Rambo and now finally Rambo: Last Blood).
However, this review is not about previous Rambo movies, it is to discuss the latest one in the Stallone Franchise. Rambo: Last Blood has to be one of the worst pieces of fecal matter that Stallone has ever produced, and this is being generous. I watched the whole film, desperately looking for something to redeem it and make me like it. Unfortunately, I could not find any redeeming feature in this film, except maybe the gratuitous violence that was present in the action sequences.
Before I really start bashing this film, a small overview of the plot. It is 11 years after his last film and he is now living in Arizona on the family homestead with an elderly lady and her grand-daughter. The grand-daughter Gabrielle (Monreal) calls him her uncle and looks up to Rambo as a surrogate father. However, in other films I do not ever recall a scene where he mentions that he has a sister. But I watched them so long ago that I may have missed it. On the ranch, Rambo has meticulously recreated a series of tunnels under the property. These tunnels are reminiscent of the tunnels the North Vietnamese army had constructed during the Vietnam war. Contained within the tunnels as a piece of dramatic foreshadowing, is enough weapons to arm a small south American nation. To add to the tension on the homestead, Gabrielle (Monreal) is searching for her father who left when she was young. Unexpectedly, Gabrielle (Monreal) is contacted by a departed friend who is back in Mexico and has discovered where her father is and calls Gabrielle to come and see.
Naturally Gabrielle (Monreal) makes this fateful trip, against the wishes of her grandmother and Rambo. Rambo even gives some long winded speech on how she should drop the search..yadda yadda. Yet, like all teens she does not listen and heads south. Once in Mexico, she meets up with her friend who escorts her to her father’s abode, where she discovers how much of an asshole he truly is. They subsequently go to a bar to drown their sorrows and Gabrielle (Monreal) is given a roofie and becomes part of a stable of teenage prostitutes.
Now Rambo finds out and goes to search for her (naturally), finds her friend, pushes her to show him where she was abducted. Once there he “persuades” the scumbag who drugged his niece to tell him where she was taken. With this information in hand he arrives at the gang HQ, does a poor recon of the area and subsequently gets his ass kicked 15 ways to Sunday by the gang and its leaders. These leaders, two brothers, Victor and Hugo Martinez run this gang of sex traffickers, druggies, arms merchants and whatever else that is bad in the world. Beaten to a pulp and looking like Rocky did when he lost, Rambo (Stallone) is graciously let go by one of the brothers (Hugo) after the other (Victor) leaves his mark on his face with a bowie knife.
Enter Carmen (Vega) a freelance journalist who is also watching the Martinez brothers (as we later learn her sister was taken and killed by them). She saves Rambo, patches him up and gives him some information on them. After a number of days, he has healed a little and goes to save his niece. (Now, at this point the movie had already exceeded my tolerance for bad, yet I kept watching.) Rambo enters the brothel where his niece was being drugged/raped, kills all kinds of guys, with a hammer no less, grabs his niece and escapes. They have some more heartwarming dialogues in the truck on the way back home, but unfortunately it was too late. Gabrielle (Monreal) succumbed to her injuries and passes away. Rambo (Stallone) takes the body home and buries her in the family graveyard, prepares his home for battle, and then returns to Mexico. With the help of Carmen, he finds Victor’s home, kills countless bad guys, decapitates Victor (Jaenada) and pretty much has demonstrated that he is still a one-man army (Even if he is 69 years old), and that he is still a force of nature to be reckoned with.
Accepting the challenge and seeking revenge, Hugo (Peris-Mencheta) leads his gang into the US via a tunnel system that would make El Chapo envious. What is now amazing, is that most of the gang is now equipped with modern military equipment and weapons. Additionally, they are conversant with military tactics and hand signals…wow… I did not know that gang’s ran a basic training camp? But I have digressed yet again, Hugo (Peris-Mencheta) and his gang of ne’er do-wells have a convoy of expensive SUVs and approach Rambo’s Ranch. Now remember, I did say he had enough weapons for a small army, but that’s not all! Prior to their arrival, Rambo (Stallone) has secreted weapon caches all through the ranch and tunnel complex. Installed booby-traps that were reminiscent of “Home Alone” and prepared his place for the final attack. The vehicles enter the land, some get blown up out of hand and now it looks like more bad guys than you could expect have now appeared for battle. What is the most comical is that Hugo (Peris-Menchata) decked out in black para-military equipment, sporting a man-bun (or as I call them, Millennial Mullets) leads his now crack team into battle with series of hand signals and tactical élan.
Still not far-fetched enough for you? Rambo (Stallone) now eliminates all of Hugo’s entourage (for some reason I found more dead guys here then were actually in the trucks) and continues to taunt Hugo and swears he will rip out his heart! After about 15 minutes of fighting, with only Hugo now remaining, Rambo wounded in 2 places (shoulder and side), he corners Hugo in the barn and manages to expertly fire several arrows into him (remember he has a bullet in his shoulder and side, but can still aim and have a steady hand) thus pinning him against the wall. Think that is it? Nay Nay my friend, now Rambo is in a cheezy kung-fu film, approaches the bad guy, says some lofty crap and then stabs him in the chest, rips out Hugo’s heart and puts it still beating in his face. Wow, is that even possible? But it is ok, he is Rambo, all the bad guys are now killed, Rambo goes to his porch, sits in the rocking chair for some needed rest (he is 69 after all), reminisces about his life and then the screen pulls back…great spot to end the film (finally), but no…it is still not over. Rambo is now Shane (if you have ever watched the classic western), and he has mounted his trusty mustang and gallops off into the sunset. My god the film is now over and the punishment can cease. I still can’t believe I sat through the whole thing!
If you have read this far, you can easily determine that I did not like this film. I am a fan of Stallone movies, I like them for what they are, and will even let some far fetched, outrageous actions go in his films. But this was the worst by far of all of his films. (Well except, Stop! Or my mother will shoot! Which was even worse). Throughout his career, Stallone has created several iconic characters (Rocky and Rambo specifically) introduced the audience to other memorable action films and ensembles (The Expendables trilogy, Tango and Cash, Demolition Man, Escape). Each series or film was memorable in their own right and provided a great deal of entertainment. Rambo: Last Blood was like a traffic accident, I had to watch to the end to see what other crap he could pull out of his proverbial butt to make this film move along. Even the fact that the extended length was 89 min in total, it was actually 88 minutes too long for my taste. I am aware that some fans of the genre and Stallone will defend this film, and that is their right. However, in this house, it was a deemed a horrible experience under the guise of trying to entertain us.
Stallone has to accept his age and pick movies accordingly (i.e. like Clint Eastwood). He did this with Creed where he was the mentor to Apollo’s son. What could have and should have happened in this film is this: Rambo teaches his niece the skills that she would need to survive in combat, she finds out from her friend that her father is alive. She then goes to Mexico, finds her friend and meets her father (we can leave him to be an asshole here). They go to the bar to drown their sorrows, the friend is taken and put into prostitution. She goes back home, tells Rambo, he helps outfit her, they rescue the friend, and the niece does most of the fighting. On the way home, the friend can die from the injuries, bury her in the family plot and then prepare the ranch for battle. Once prepared with all the booby traps that McCauley Caulkin would want in home alone, they return to Mexico to seek revenge. She kicks proverbial ass, kills one brother and issues a challenge to the other. Rambo and niece return home and wait. When Hugo shows up with his entourage, the niece can run around like Lara Croft and wipe out most of them while Rambo is in the with a sniper rifle and detonators to fire off the explosions when needed. Rambo gives her the tactical support for Gabrielle to wipe out Hugo and his band, save the day and then both ride out into the sunset. They could even have something after the credits where his niece is now in the military and becomes the first female Special Forces operator or something, and he claps from the stands on her graduation parade. This idea/version might have been more entertaining than the fecal matter that was in this film. Oh well, I suppose he got his paycheck and moved on to the next project…hmm, maybe Rocky: The Musical? Who knows?
Anyways, our rating for Rambo: Last Blood: 2/10 (it only got the 2 stars for the action sequences, otherwise it would have been 1 star).
If you want to watch some good moviesstarring the main stars:
Sylvester Stallone Rocky, Rocky IV, First Blood, Rambo, The Expendables, Tango and Cash, Victory, Copland, Escape, Demolition Man
Paz Vega Spanglish
Till next time!
Ed Helms Hogan “Hoagie” Malloy
Jon Hamm Bob Callahan
Annabelle Wallis Rebecca Crosby
Jake Johnson Randy “Chilli” Cilliano
Isla Fisher Anna Malloy
Hannibal Buress Kevin Sable
Jeremy Renner Jerry Pierce
Leslie Bibb Susan Rollins
Rashida Jones Cheryl Deakins
As mentioned previously in reviews, Friday and Saturday are the nights that we watch movies instead of the various series and programs that proliferate cable and streaming services. With COVID news dominating the television lately, we wanted to watch something that was silly and entertaining. A movie that would be fun enough to make us laugh and not think about the plot, characters, or “how did they do that”, just a film that we could laugh and enjoy. I looked through the stack of unwatched films, and saw TAG! I figured that this movie would fit the bill.
What is TAG about? This comedy is loosely based on a true story of a bunch of men who had been playing the same game of TAG for 30 years. You would think that such a poor idea would not be well suited for a film, but alas, you would be wrong. This film centres on a group of middle age “adolescent” men who have been playing the same game of TAG for decades. For one month every year, the last person who was “IT” must search out his friends to TAG them. Nothing is sacred, and no plan is too lame for these men as they pursue each other. However, they have one mutual goal, that is to Tag Jerry Peirce (Renner). Jerry’s (Renner) claim to fame is that he has never been tagged in the history of their game. Jerry (Renner) is elusive, faster, agile, and more strategic than any of the other players, and has also taken great pride in the fact that he has never been IT!
To give the outline of the film, as well as an outline can be given in a film like this; Hoagie (Helms), opens the film as he plans a surprise Tag on his friend Bob Callahan (Hamm) at his company. Callahan (Hamm) is the CEO of his own company and is in the process of getting interviewed for a major magazine by Rebecca Crosby (Wallis), when a janitor enters the conference room and the mayhem begins. The janitor is Hoagie (Helms) and the game of Tag starts again for another season. In short order they gather the rest of the crew from various cities and situations. The remainder are Chilli (Johnson) and Sable (Buress). The four men with the reporter (Wallis) and Hoagie’s wife, Anna (Fisher) in tow, head to their home town. Once home, they meet in Hoagie’s (Helms) basement to plan out their strategy. Of all the players, Hoagie (Helms) and his wife Anna (Fisher) are the most intense in the pursuit of Jerry (Renner), while the remainder of the crew are just in it for the fun, or the story, in the case of the reporter, Rebecca (Wallis).
Shortly after arriving to their home town, the crew discover that Jerry is soon to be married. The marriage preparation and ceremony is where they feel that they would be best placed to finally tag Jerry (Renner). Several attempts to tag Jerry (Renner) soon follow, and it is discovered that Susan (Bibb), Jerry’s bride to be is pregnant. The crew are invited to the wedding, however, there are conditions that the game is not to interfere with the wedding in any way shape or form. Through these misadventures in tagging we meet several other characters, the loser bartender who always wanted to be part of the game (Lou Seibert played by Steve Berg) and a lost love of Bob (Hamm) and Chilli (Johnson) by the name of Cheryl Deakins (Rashida Jones). Throughout the film, each attempt to Tag Jerry (Renner) becomes more outlandish than the previous. Jerry (Renner) escapes each attempt with style and panache, further antagonizing his friends. It is not till the end of the film, where a secret is revealed by Hoagie (Helms) that he finally allows himself to be tagged.
TAG’s cast is littered with celebrities of various calibers. However, this ensemble works! Let’s start with Hoagie (Helms). He is a comedic actor with a prolific resume. Helms has either supported or led in many successful films or television shows. For example, his performances in The Office, We’re the Millers, and the Hangover Trilogy are hilarious. In this film, he also brings his comic intensity to the forefront. He is the ringleader of this game, his antic made me laugh out loud at times…everything from his costumes to his facial expressions added to the jocularity of the film.
Jon Hamm as Bob Callahan: For me, Jon Hamm will always be known as Don Draper from Mad Men. He was the booze swilling, girl chasing, misogynist with a brilliant mind for advertising. However, of late, he has been delving more and more into comedic roles. In TAG, he plays more of a straight man with some well timed dead-pan wit. Even his physical humour has stepped up, for example, in the boardroom where Hoagie believes that he is trapped. Callahan (Hamm) picks up a chair and throws at a window so that he can make his escape, yet, the chair bounces back and knocks him on his head. Yes, another laugh out loud moment for something slapstick. Not only is he integral to the game, plot and the soon to be published story by the intrepid reporter Rebecca Crosby (Wallis), his whole character adds to the film. His portrayal of Callahan was excellent, and I look forward to seeing him in more comedic roles instead of just commercials for “skip the dishes” and smaller roles in other comedies (i.e. Bridesmaids).
Annabelle Wallis as Rebecca Crosby: As mentioned previously, Wallis is the reporter who is doing a background on Callahan (Hamm) for her magazine. Once introduced to TAG as a witness in the aforementioned boardroom scene, she decides to “tag” along if you will to see the outcome. Using her shrewd investigative skills (and because it is in the script) she follows Callahan et al along for the ride and subsequently writes a story on the whole game. At first Wallis seemed to be new to my wife and I as an actress, however, her face was familiar. Little did we know that she had been in a number of films and tv shows that we had previously watched and enjoyed. For us, her most memorable role was that of Jane Seymour in “The Tudors”. However, we had also seen her in various other films, King Arthur, The Mummy and the show Strike Back.
Jake Johnson as Randy “Chilli” Cilliano: Chilli is the group’s drug addled friend. Life is easy, just go with it, as long as the pipe and drugs are nearby to give a good buzz. Chilli can represent someone in any group of friends from childhood and is very relatable character. Johnson’s version of Chilli is entertaining and light and leads to some funny scenes amongst the group. Even though Johnson has been around for awhile and has an impressive resume, we have only really taken notice of him lately in “Stumptown”. He is a solid actor and routinely gives credible performances. Chilli was a value added character who helped to provide levity throughout the film.
Isla Fisher as Anna Malloy: Anna (Fisher) is Hoagie’s wife and matches his intensity and devotion to the game. As the willing accomplice to any endeavour, she cheerleads from the side to give her husband the confidence and impetus to succeed. A very intense actress, Fisher can transit from playing the devoted wife, the nymphomaniac bridesmaid to be, or shopaholic with ease. However, comedy is her strong suit and this is where she excels the most. We enjoyed her contribution to this film and are looking forward to more comedies with Isla as part of the cast.
Hannibal Buress as Kevin Sable: Sable was the neurotic friend, constantly looking for reassurance and compassion where there was none to give. While part of the core cast, we found his contributions to be minimal compared to the rest. He was often used to provide background info or just be a filler in the story between action scenes.
Jeremy Renner as Jerry Pierce: Jerry (Renner) was the principal antagonist of the film, he had the swagger, speed and arrogance required to effectively carry off the part. Renner, normally an action/drama star (The Hurt Locker, The Town, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, The Avengers, and the Bourne Legacy to name but a few) rarely forays into comedic roles. However, as part of the ensemble here, he easily represents the target of their combined angst. His inherent mischievousness that is evident in every role he plays really shines through. A very physical actor (as demonstrated by his resume), he easily convinces the audience that he can out-manoeuvre any attempt at capture. Renner’s portrayal as Jerry was fun to watch, especially when he would do his “Pre-action” narration prior to any activity or evasion.
Leslie Bibb as Susan Rollins and Rashida Jones as Cheryl Deakins: Both actress’s roles were really minor in my opinion. They were relegated to minor love interests and only assisted in a very minor fashion to the telling of the story. Susan (Bibb) as the bride to be was in important to the story, but her contribution was actually relatively minor. Sure, she played the fake pregnancy card and laid out some rules, but other than that, she was relegated to minor status. Cheryl (Jones) contribution was even less so. While part of a love triangle between Chilli, Callahan and herself as children, this part could have been erased completely with no real difference to the film’s outcome. She seemed to be added to the film due to the fact that she had so much history with the other cast members. Ok, she was a bit funny, not overly so, but again, this character could have been removed with no real impact to the film’s outcome.
We did watch the bonus extras of the film where the real participants of TAG were interviewed and reminisced, so that did help in the overall appreciation of the film and provided a bit of the back story. Did we enjoy this film? Yes, we did. It was funny, silly and totally brainless. In this time of global stress and angst, this film was a small escape. All you had to do is cue up the film, open a bottle of Pinot Grigio (this is not a serious film, so something light is required), make some popcorn and sit and enjoy the ride. Remember, this is no work of art, but you will be entertained, you will laugh and will have a chance to escape reality just for a little bit and remember what it was like to be carefree as a child.
Our rating: 5/10
If you are interested in other films/TV shows by the principal characters, consider the following:
Ed Helms We’re the Millers, The Office, The Hangover trilogy
Jon Hamm Bridesmaids, Mad Men, Richard Jewell, Million Dollar Arm
Annabelle Wallis The Mummy, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Jake Johnson Stumptown, New Girl
Isla Fisher Wedding Crashers, The confessions of a shopaholic
Jeremy Renner The Avengers, The Hurt Locker, The Bourne Legacy, American Hustle
Chris Hemsworth Capt Mitch Nelson
Michael Shannon Hal Spencer
Michael Pena Sam Diller
Navid Negahban Gen. Dostum
Trevante Rhodes Ben Milo
Geoff Stults Sean Coffers
Rob Riggle Lt Col Bowers
William Fichtner Colonel Mulholland
As with many others at this time, we have increased our consumption of television as a result of staying home. However, in our home, we have reserved movies for the weekend. Even when every day feels like a weekend lately. For this Friday’s feature we selected 12 Strong (2018). Based on a true story, this film tells the tale of the first military incursion into Afghanistan after the attack on the twin towers on 9/11. What also intrigued me about this film was the fact that I had really enjoyed the book, Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton. My wife and I both enjoy movies that are based on fact, so in that light, we were both looking forward to this film.
12 Strong is about Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 595 which was selected as the first Special Forces Unit to deploy into Afghanistan at the outset of the Greater War On Terror (GWOT). Once deployed into theatre, Capt Mitch Nelson and his 12-man A-Team must hook up with General Dostum and provide whatever assistance they can in these very early days. Not only does this team have to combat the Taliban, they also have to overcome cultural/language differences, long supply lines, and weather, but they also have to accomplish their mission before winter sets in and all activities would be curtailed. Their prime mission is to assist General Dostum’s forces in the capture of Mazar-i-Sharif. The liberation of Mazar-i-Sharif from the Taliban was the lynch-pin for the demise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and was an extremely important and strategic mission. The assistance provided by ODA 595 would primarily centre on the direction of air support and strikes on Taliban targets. As this film is of real events, it is not really giving any spoilers when it is stated that this support provided in the early days were integral to the demise of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Now, let us talk about the film’s main actors, their portrayal, and the scenery and cinematography.
Chris Hemsworth as Captain Mitch Nelson: The central figure in this film, Hemsworth did an admirable job portraying a Special Forces Officer. Not only can he look the part, but his attitude in getting the job done was portrayed in a believable fashion. Hemsworth is steadily becoming a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood, besides the Marvel universe as Thor, he has been in a number of films to show his diversity, i.e. Star Trek (George Kirk), Cabin in the Woods (Kurt), Red Dawn (Jed Eckert) and Men in Black: International (Agent H). Hemsworth will support or lead a film with equal alacrity. Ok, some of the films I mentioned (i.e. Men in Black) were not exactly great, but he is showing his diversity. As it always difficult to portray a real character, especially one still alive, Hemsworth managed to display the determination, leadership qualities and care for his men in a believable fashion. Action movies being his strong suit, Hemsworth did a great job in this film overall.
Michael Shannon as Hal Spencer: Shannon is becoming more and more prevalent in the industry of late, or maybe just in films that I have chosen to watch. His stoic demeanor was perfectly suited to play the role of a Chief Warrant Officer (CWO). A CWO is an expert and technical specialist in military activities with many years of experience to draw upon. There were several scenes with Shannon that I specifically enjoyed. The first was when Spencer (Shannon) interceded with the Commanding Officer to ensure that Nelson (Hemsworth) was back on the team. This scene clearly articulates the importance of a CWO in a military institution and how their advice and guidance is valued by the senior command. Just the fact that the CWO would vouch for the junior officer is testament to the faith in the Captains abilities. This trust will go along way with the Chain of Command, and obviously in this case, it did. The 2ndscene with Spencer (Shannon) that I liked was when his team pulled up on horseback to the battlefield and he had to be assisted off the horse as his back was in intense pain. This was realistic and also confirmed in the extra’s of the film. The real CWO Spencer (Bob Pennington) stated that he actually did have to be assisted off of his horse as his back was in so much pain. These realities helped make this film into a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Michael Pena as Sam Diller: Pena is in a supporting role here, and this is where he is best. He can play action, comedy or drama when required. His diversity is added bonus to any film that he is part of. In 12 Strong, he did not disappoint. Pena does an excellent job of articulating the military’s penchant for dark humour. His quips and barbs were well timed and delivered, further adding to the entertainment value of the film.
Navid Negahban as Gen. Dostum: Negahban’s portrayal of Gen Dostum was what I had pictured in my mind’s eye when reading the book. Dostum (Negahban) easily demonstrated the cultural differences that were present during this conflict. The west can try to understand Afghanistan and its people, but I fear that they never really will. In my own tours in Kandahar, and in my conversations with the indigenous populace, I always found the differences amazing and extremely interesting. When driving through Kandahar or even down highway 1 en-route to Kabul, we would receive the full spectrum of attention. Everything from smiling/waving faces, rocks/food thrown at our vehicles to even small arms fire. You would never know what to expect. Dostum’s (Negahban) actions throughout the film were in line with the climate of the time. He was well known leader in Afghanistan who was reputed to be extremely dangerous. There are several scenes in this film (and articulated in the book as well) which I found very interesting. The first is during initial meeting with ODA 595. The troops had brought in a gift of horse feed for the General, which he dismissed out of hand. It was not until the gift of a bottle of Vodka that he was more receptive of their arrival. The second scene of import (to me) was the first attack where he communicated with the Taliban in the village to see if there was a specific relative in place. They did not attack until it was clear that he was not present. This was also in the book, and I remember our own intelligence briefs prior to deployment on how the culture influenced their concept of war. Finally, it was Dostum’s statement that he could not afford to let the Americans get injured. He feared that if one of them would sustain an injury that American support would decrease and that he would again be left to fight the Taliban on his own. I enjoyed Negahban as Dostum and I think his role was integral to the plot of the film as well as the film’s success.
William Fichtner as Colonel Mullholand: Fichtner is a personal favourite of mine. Extremely versatile he can take on any role, however, it must be noted that most of his roles are playing those in uniform (Armageddon, Prison Break, Black Hawk Down, Invasion, to name but a few), but he has also dabbled in some comedic roles (Big Bang Theory, Blades of Glory, Mom) and has done an admirable job there as well. Personally, I think his portrayal of Colonel Mulholland was very well done. He had the appropriate air of command and gravitas that would be required for a person who had those responsibilities, though I must say, his shaved head did give him some resemblance to Golum in Lord of the Rings.
Rob Riggle as LCol Bowers: Riggle’s role here while integral to the plot was not stellar. While he could effectively portray an officer (hell, he was one), I found him to be a little stilted in portions of his delivery. I did find it extremely interesting to find out that he actually served under the real LCol Bowers in 2001. It is not often that an actor gets to play someone he knew in real life, so that might have been the reason where sometimes the delivery might have been a bit off. Maybe it was the fact that he was actually portraying a former commanding officer that intimidated him a bit, I don’t know, but I find he is far better in his comedic ventures than serious ones.
12 Strong was predominately filmed in New Mexico, and the scenery was very reminiscent of Afghanistan itself. The mountain scenes, sand, dunes etc. brought back many memories for me. While I knew it was not Afghanistan proper, it was similar enough to bring me back the memories of the terrain from many years ago. I enjoyed it and found it very interesting. Additionally, even the base in Uzbekistan was similar enough to what I experienced in Afghanistan to demonstrate some realism, so well done to the producers and director. The biggest fault I found in the film though was some of the battle scenes…. c’mon guys, your magazine’s are not limitless. I think I only saw one instance that they actually switched magazines. The amount of full-auto fire-power that was demonstrated would have each soldiers carrying about 50 lbs in ammo alone. But I know, it is a movie…and I did find it entertaining even with the unlimited ammo. Also, some of the bombs dropped on support were far too close then would be the case for them to really survive the explosion, but again it is a film, and it did add to the excitement of the battle sequences.
Overall how did we find this film? We enjoyed it, 12 Strong gave a fair portrayal of military operations, specifically in the early days of the war in Afghanistan. It was a true story that did not really stretch the facts to something unbelievable. The casting was above average for a film of this nature and the balance between action, humour and the telling of the story was well done. For my wife and I, both veterans of Afghanistan, 12 Strong brought back memories and instilled discussions between us of our tours and experiences. We especially enjoyed the quips and barbs of dark humour interspersed within the film, as we know how often lines like that are the reality in an operation. We were entertained throughout the film, and I think I would watch it again to get some of the nuances etc that I missed the first time around.
Our Rating: 6.5/10
If you are interested in other films from the main cast, please consider the following recommendations.
Chris Hemsworth Thor (trilogy), Avengers (trilogy), Cabin in the Woods, Red Dawn
Michael Shannon Knives Out, Boardwalk Empire
Michael Pena Antman, World Trade Centre, Chips, The Shield
William Fichtner Prison break, Armageddon, Black Hawk Down
Reese Witherspoon Alice
Micheal Sheen Austen
Candice Bergen Lillian
Pico Alexander Harry
Jon Rudnitsky George
Nat Wolff Teddy
Lola Flanery Isabel
Eden Grace Redfield Rosie
Lake Bell Zoey
Dolly Wells Tracy
Joaquin Phoenix Arthur Fleck/Joker
Robert De Niro Murray Franklin
Zazie Beetz Sophie Dumond
Frances Conroy Penny Fleck
Brett Cullen Thomas Wayne
Shea Whigham Detective Burke
Bill Camp Detective Garrity
Michelle Monaghan Eva Geller
Mehdi Dehbi Al-Masih
John Ortiz Felix
Tomer Sisley Aviram Dahan
Melinda Hamilton Anna Iguero
Stefania Owen Rebecca Iguero
Sayyid El Alami Jibril Medina
Fares Landoulsi Samir
Philip Baker Hall Kelman Katz