Was I Entertained? (75)

Cast:

Ewan Mcgregor                         Dan Torrance

Rebecca Ferguson                     Rose the Hat

Kyliegh Curran                          Abra Stone

Cliff Curtis                                 Billy Freeman

Zahn McClarnon                        Crow Daddy

Well it has been a few weeks since my last review, but as we are in the dog days of summer, I have been busy with other outdoor activities instead of writing reviews. That is not to say that I have not watched a few shows lately, but they did not drive me to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard if you will. For example, we did check out Jungle Cruise at the Cineplex the other day. While that movie did include one of our favourite action stars (Dwayne Johnson) we found it to be forced and the chemistry lacking between the main characters. Don’t get me wrong, it was not a bad film, just not as good as his similar outings in Jumanji (1&2). We also watched the film “Rental” on Amazon which outlined the possible horror’s of renting an AirBnB. Even with some solid actors, the plot was too predictable and the story line and script were kinda lame. We also checked out “Fatman” starring Mel Gibson who played a rogue Santa. This film though mildly enjoyable was primarily selected due to the fact that it was filmed in Ottawa and the surrounding towns, and it was nice to see areas around our home that we could relate to. 

As I have quickly touched on previous viewings, let us take a look at this film. For this week, we have selected Dr. Sleep. This a film adaptation of a Stephen King novel of the same name.  Film adaptations of King’s novels are traditionally a crap shoot. It can either be brilliant or huge piece of fecal matter. For example, Carrie, Misery, Dolores Clairborne, The Stand were all excellent in my opinion, then you take Maximum Overdrive, The Cell, Silver Bullet and Lawnmower Man, these films were time vampires…meaning I will never get the time I wasted watching them back. 

On the other hand, Doctor Sleep was pretty good. It followed the novel to a point, contained an interesting cast, was well directed, scripted and acted, and provided us 2 ½ hours of entertainment. For a quick synopsis of the film, we must first touch on the film and book titled “The Shining” also a film adaptation from Stephen King’s novel. In “The Shining” we are introduced to the Torrance family, who are a little down on their luck. The father is an alcoholic who is trying to recover his career, a timid wife and a child who seems to have special gifts in the psychic realm. They are caretakers of a once luxurious hotel called the “Overlook”. This hotel which is only open seasonally must be taken care of during the winter to ensure it does not get too damaged by the elements on the off season. However, the big secret of the Overlook is that it is haunted by numerous ghosts of past patrons who were either killed, committed suicide or died while being guests. Naturally, as with all Stephen King tales, the ghosts wreak havoc on the people, causing them to slip over the edge. The father’s insanity was encapsulated perfectly by Jack Nicholson when he crashed through the bathroom door with the axe and ad-libbed “Here’s Johnny!” Naturally the son, Dan Torrance survived so that he could be in a sequel book and film.

So now about Doctor Sleep. We find the son, Dan Torrance (Mcgregor) leading a life of drunken debauchery that would make his father’s inebriated adventures pale in comparison. He is having flashbacks to the hotel, remembering Dick Hallorann (Lumbly) who helped him before and just stumbling through life. He wakes up in a small town where he hooks up with Billy Freeman (Curtis) a recovering alcoholic who sees the good in Dan (Mcgregor) and tries to help him. Freeman finds him place to live and a job in the local hospice. Additionally, he brings him to the local chapter of AA so that he can start to clean his body and soul and commence life anew. 

Concurrently, we are introduced to a roving band of miscreants calling themselves the “True Knot”. Bedecked in costumes and clothes of days long ago we discover that they are sort of a modern day Vampire. They don’t drink blood, but inhale a person’s essence, (what they call Steam) to ensure a long and healthy life. Led by Rose the Hat (Ferguson) and Crow Daddy (Mclarnon), they travel the highways and bi-ways of the US looking for children for have the shining. Once they are discovered, they are tortured and subsequently killed so that they can capture the steam (or shine) from these special individuals.

Now back to the main star, Dan (Mcgregor) has now enjoyed a period of sobriety and has made a place for himself in the community when he starts receiving messages from an unknown entity. This entity we later find out to be Abra Stone (Curran) who has a shining like no other, and a power level that can knock Dan’s (Mcgregor) socks off. 

So, not to give out too much more of the plot, Dan (Mcgregor) and Abra (Curran) hook up to battle the nefarious “True Knot” cult. This is pretty much the story without giving out the twists and turns of the plot. 

So, what did we like about the film? First it was a well thought out script and it was acted out nicely. The characters were strong and likeable, hell, even the “True Knot” characters had some likeability to them. The chemistry between all of them was evident and it ensured that there was a smooth delivery of the story. While on the subject of the story, it was evenly paced and did not have any down turns or periods of boredom. That is mark of a good film, especially when it spans over 2 ½ hours. CGI was actually at a minimum (thank god) as were the special effects. For example, in the book, Rose the Hat would unhinge her jaw and one giant tooth would come out when she fed on the steam. However, in the film, she would just breath in and her eyes would glow. I think if they would have followed the direction in the book, it would have come across pretty cheesy and take away the dramatic effect that was present in the director’s version. I also liked the flashback’s from “The Shining”. The director/producer did manage to find some actors that resembled the original cast of “The Shining” and also recreate some of the sets. Sure this was special effects etc, but nothing that was over the top, and also in my honest opinion – integral to the story. 

What didn’t I like about the film…. actually there was really nothing that stood out as bad. They could have enhanced the “Doctor Sleep” portion a tad more, but that would have made the film even longer than it already was. Also, as for the “True Knot” characters I found the “Grampa Flick” (Carel Struycken) character to be a bit comical, but it did have an important role to demonstrate what would happen to them all if they were not fed the “Steam” that they constantly craved. Other than that, I can’t really think of anything else that bothered me when watching the film.

Now, that the storyline has been discussed, let us take a deeper look at the actor and characters in the film: 

Ewan Mcgregor as Dan Torrance: I pretty much liked Mcgregor in most of his films and “Doctor Sleep” was no exception. To me, he was a believable character that resembled what I had created in my minds eye when I read the book. He can be dewy eyed and innocent, or hard with equal ease. He is a talented actor who I believe portrayed Dan Torrance well. His chemistry with the other characters was believable and did not seem forced. Nor did his actions as a burn out drunk. All facets of his role were well played and added to the story and the enjoyment of the audience. Another fine performance by Mcgregor. 

Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat: I really liked this character, while she did not really look like what I pictured in the book, (having a far younger resemblance than what I thought), she still played the character well. As the “True Knot” in charge, she had a commanding presence that let you believe that she had full authority of the group while also portraying a tired visage of wisdom and hunger if you will. Her chemistry with her sidekick Crow Daddy (McClarnon) was well played as well as the final scenes when she confronts Dan (Mcgregor) and Abra (Curran). Looking at her IMDB resume, she has been in quite a few good shows and movies i.e. The White Queen, Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation and Ghost Protocol and Life. One film that I see her coming up in later this year is Dune, which I really hope her role is as good as “Rose the Hat” and lives up to the Dune legend. If she does well in the next film (Dune) I really think her career could be on a faster trajectory and lead to even more complex and varied roles for her. I am looking forward to seeing how her career moves in the next year or so. Overall, a really good performance by Ferguson. 

Kyliegh Curran as Abra Stone: This was the first time I had watched a film or show with Curran in it, and having said that, I was mildly impressed. I found her to be a talented young actress and am looking forward to see her in future productions. Curran’s chemistry with her other stars was evident at all times, especially with Mcgregor. While her character was the lynch pin in the destruction of the “True Knot” it did not overpower the other star’s contribution to the end battle. I have no doubt that audiences will see her in future productions and that her talent will continue to grow and mature as she gets older.

Cliff Curtis as Billy Freeman: Curtis is the ultimate co-star. He can play a terrorist, a dramatic role, or comedic doofus with equal ease. His portrayal of Billy Freeman was integral to the development of Mcgregor’s Torrance. Seeing the good in Torrance (Mcgregor), he gives him his first chance on getting clean and living a new and worthwhile life. Not only does he believe in Torrance (Mcgregor) he stakes his life on it. All of this was done in a believable fashion that did not make you shake your head in wonder. I think the first time I had seen Curtis in a film was Deep Rising in the late 90’s and I liked him that movie. After that he has been in several other films that I have enjoyed i.e. Six Days Seven Nights, Virus, Three Kings, Training Day, and Fear the Walking Dead but to name a few. In each case he has delivered, just as he has in Doctor Sleep. This was another fine example of Curtis’s talent in an already accomplished resume of film and television. 

Zahn McClarnon as Crow Daddy: McClarnon has surprised me in recent years. Even though he has been around in the film and television industry since the late 80’s he has not really come to my attention until the last few years. That is when we started watching Longmire (excellent series) and Queen of the South (also an excellent series). It was his work in these two television shows that brought him to our attention. He is an accomplished and talented supporting actor who portrays the stoic, honorable man with skill. His chemistry with his co-stars was evident and as mentioned previously, especially strong with Ferguson. As with his co-stars in Doctor Sleep, this was another fine performance by an accomplished actor.

Now for the big question, were we entertained? Yes, we definitely were. As I had previously mentioned, this was not the Stephen King masterpiece film adaptation like Misery and Dolores Clairborn, but it was a very solid film that provided us with an escape for a few hours. Overall a well presented film that can be enjoyed if you have read the book or not. I would recommend this film if you are a fan of the supernatural genre, and/or a fan of Stephen King and Ewan Mcgregor. Even if the supernatural is not really your cup of tea, I think the dramatic story line and solid acting will still make this film an enjoyable experience for all. 

Our Rating: 6.5/10

If you are interested in other films starring the principle cast members, please consider the following recommendations:

Ewan Mcgregor             Trainspotting, Black Hawk Down, Star Wars ep 1 – 3, The Island, Angels and Demons, The Men who stare at Goats

Rebecca Ferguson         Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation, Life, The White Queen

Cliff Curtis                     Whale Rider, Fear the Walking Dead, The Meg, Live Free or Die Hard, Training Day

Zahn McClarnon            Longmire, Queen of the South

Till next Time!

Cast:

Emily Blunt                   Evelyn Abbott

Millicent Simmonds      Regan Abbott

Cillian Murphy              Emmett

John Krasinski               Lee Abbott

Noah Jupe                    Marcus Abbott

Djimon Honsou             Man on Island

Over the last few weeks we have been extremely busy so we have not managed to catch a movie or show that I felt inclined to review. First, I tried a film that I had been looking at for awhile, it was a sci-fi adventure drama with Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones to name a few of the top billed actors. This film was “Ad Astra”, but like the Shania Twain song, that refers to Pitt (and also mentions rocket scientist like in the film) so it fit the song twice over, Ad Astra did not impress us much! So after 40 minutes of plugging through the film I had to stop it and move on. Flicking through the Amazon Prime selections we came across “A Quiet Place – Part 2”. Now, I reviewed the first film over a year ago https://www.notinhalloffame.com/blogs/was-i-entertained/11332-review-review-a-quiet-place-2018 and we found the film was pretty entertaining overall, so I was looking forward to the sequel.

In the sequel, the opening starts sort of where the last film ended, with a small addendum. They actually fixed some of the plot holes of the first film by showing a flashback on when the alien/monsters actually came to Earth and the carnage that resulted after their arrival. In the opening scenes we find our family alive and in one piece attending their son’s baseball game. We can tell that this is small town USA as most of the town is at the game, and watching with enjoyment. We are re-introduced to the main characters, Evelyn (Blunt), Lee (Krasinski), Regan (Simmonds) and Marcus (Jupe). We also see their younger brother who dies in the first film. Additionally, we come across Emmett (Murphy) a neighbour and friend. As his character is just thrown in, you know he will be important later.

So the game continues, Lee (Krasinski) shows up with some fruit for the kids after buying it at a local store. Mind you, while there we see a few scenes on the television in the background of things crashing to the Earth, not to mention a few shots of key items that were critical in the first movie’s story. So, lo and behold, a meteor cuts across the sky over the game, panic ensues as all the parents grab their kids to run to safety. It is at this moment we see the Alien monsters go whipping around the town killing/eating anyone that they can come across. 

The film flips back and forth a bit at this time, giving us a bit of a backstory on the attack as well as starting right after the last film where their home is burning, Lee (Krasinski) is dead and the remaining Abbotts are on foot looking for a new home. In short, they meet up with Emmett (Murphy) who is having a clash of conscience, Evelyn (Blunt) continues to try and keep her family safe, Marcus (Jupe) tries to find courage, Megan (Simmonds) has an epiphany on how they can destroy the aliens, and naturally the baby continues to cry. As this is a new film on the streaming services (as it did not really get a chance in the theatres due to Covid) I don’t want to give out too many spoilers. But needless to say, the film does have a lot of drama and sufficient action to keep you tuned in. While there is some predictability in the film and obvious foreshadowing at times, the action scenes and dramatic sequences still made us jump as the directors/script had planned.

So, what did we like about the film? We enjoyed the fact that this sequel actually filled in some story gaps that were present in the first film. In the first film, all we see is some newspaper articles and wreckage with no real explanation, the sequel expands on the few nuggets of information while providing some clues to what would become important in the film (i.e. the toy spaceship, the pharmacy etc). We also liked the fact that the children’s roles were enhanced and that this film was not just a film with Emily Blunt at the forefront. The story line was a fair continuation from the first film, and actually did not have too many plot holes or inconsistencies.

However, having said all that, lets take a look at what was lacking. One thing that always bothered me with this film was the fact that the Abbott family always walked barefoot, yet when they hook up with Emmett (Murphy) and go to the island, everyone else has boots on. What’s up with that? It is like I said in my first review, I could not understand the whole barefoot thing in the country.  Additionally, the tops of their feets are dirty, ok I can get that, but why not the bottoms, they should have been caked in grime.  Even though I enjoyed Emmett’s (Murphy) lair, his booby traps and hidey holes would have made McCauley Culkin proud. Yet, the one thing I noticed, it would have been extremely difficult to ensure that it was quite when the traps were being set. Would that not have called the monsters/aliens? Sure there are a few other technical goofs like how can a manual turntable be playing consistently for months without human interference, or why is a train car showing claw marks on the outside, yet when they enter it, the hole created on the side is from something escaping, or my personal favourite, Evelyn (Blunt) yelling “run” to her daughter who is deaf and facing the other direction …that one just made me want to scratch my head. I also found that there was more discussion in this film, the first one had very little talking, and they acted with their eyes, emotions and facial expressions. In this outing, there was more discussion so there was less emphasis on the acting, but still it flowed nevertheless.

While we are on the subject of the acting, lets take a quick look at the characters in the film:

Emily Blunt as Evelyn Abbott: Blunt pretty much is the focal point of the film, even when not on the screen her character affects all. As with the first movie, Blunt displays great chemistry with her co-stars and she portrays an intensity of a lioness protecting her cubs throughout the film. Another good performance by Blunt in a thriller/horror film. The more I see her in film/television, the greater I can appreciate her talents.

Millicent Simmonds as Regan Abbott: This is the 2nd film I have watched with Simmonds, but she is still playing the same character. In this film, her character has been expanded and we still see the obstinate teenager, but we also get to see the brains hiding behind the silence. Emulating her father for ingenuity, she realizes the importance of her hearing aid and the role it can play to defeat the aliens. Additionally, she puts the pieces together to use the devices with the Radio station as a weapon against them. Though she is relatively new to Hollywood, I am curious to see her in other roles and see how much her talents can grow. 

Cillian Murphy as Emmett: Even though Cillian Murphy has been around for quite awhile, I did not really pay much attention to him and/or his roles. However, along came Peaky Blinders, and during the last lockdown my wife and I managed to watch the whole series. It is at this point that I realized how talented Murphy was, and how many programs that I had watched over the years that he had either a starring role or a supporting one. In this film, while Murphy is in a supporting role as the family friend and fellow survivor he still manages to portray the intensity that we loved to watch in Peaky Blinders. Even though there was some predictability on whether Emmett (Murphy) would aid the Abbotts, you knew it was going to happen, it was just a matter of time. However, he did project enough angst in his decision process to make you wonder if he would. Another fine performance from Murphy…too bad Peaky Blinders is finished as I really liked him in the show and the character he built.

John Krasinski as Lee Abbott: Krasinski really only had a minor role in this film, primarily in clips from the first film and some scenes at the start with respect to the Aliens first contact. His small portions were played well and I did like the fact that some of the plot holes or questions were answered in this film. A good, but minor outing for Krasinski overall (as far as his acting is concerned), but as a Director he did a very good job not only in this film, but also the first one as well.

Noah Jupe as Marcus Abbott: I found Jupe’s performance far better in the sequel than he did in Part 1. His fear was amplified in this outing as well as his uncertainty, and he did an excellent job of projecting these emotions throughout the film. I did like the fact that his character ultimately found the courage that he was lacking in the first film. This is the 4th film I have seen him in and I enjoy the fact that his talents are expanding with each outing.  

Djimon Honsou as Man on Island: Honsou is a personal favourite of mine. He has a very small, un-named role in Quiet Place, Part 2, but it is integral to the climax of the story. I would love to say that his screen time was amazing and that he gave a great performance, but in this film, his part could have been played by anyone. They did not need an actor of his calibre for this, unless it was just another way to get a big name on the ticket. To me, his skill was underutilized for this film. I look forward to his next adventure/thriller movie where he will get a chance to show his talent on the screen again.

So, now, were we entertained? Yes, we were! My wife and I enjoyed the film, the story was well written and directed. It flowed well and the effects and script were fairly well done. We jumped when we were supposed to and cheered for the heroes on que. The added benefit was the completion of backstory which was lacking in the first film. My only criticism, was again, in this film they left it open for a sequel. Can Hollywood not tell a story from start to finish without leaving an opening for a further money grab? All things considered, we were entertained for a Friday Night, and we felt that our time was not wasted. If you are a fan of the original film, Blunt and/or Krasinski, give this movie a watch. You will enjoy yourselves, and should not be disappointed. If you are not into the whole Alien/Monster thing, you might want to give it a pass. 

Our Rating: 6/10

If you are interested in other films/shows with the main cast, please consider the following recommendations!

Emily Blunt                   Devil wears Prada, A Quiet Place, The Girl on the Train, Edge of Tomorrow, Sicario, Looper

Millicent Simmonds      A Quiet Place

Cillian Murphy              Peaky Blinders, Dunkirk, The Dark Knight Rises, The Dark Knight, Red Eye, 28 Days Later

John Krasinski               A Quiet Place, Tom Clancy’s: Jack Ryan, The Office, Jarhead

Noah Jupe                    A Quiet Place, Ford vs Ferrari, The Titan

Djimon Honsou             Captain Marvel, Furious 7, Blood Diamond, The Four Feathers, Gladiator

Cast:

Chris Pratt                    Dan Forester

Yvonne Strahovski         Colonel Muri Forester

J.K. Simmons                 James Forester

Betty Gilpin                  Emmy Forester

Sam Richardson            Charlie

Mary Lynn Rajskub        Norah

Hello Again! It has been a few weeks since my last contribution, but as it is summer, the COVID lockdowns have started to ease, we have just been a little too busy lately to watch movies and write a review. However, last night we managed to find a good film to watch and I take pen in hand (ok keyboard) and attempt another review of a film or program. 

For the last several weeks I have been seeing an interesting trailer on Amazon Prime every time I turn on the fire-stick. This film is called “The Tomorrow War” starring Chris Pratt. The trailer’s seemed interesting, the concept, while not new, appealed to the sci-fi geek in me, and it starred Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic Park, Avengers etc),  Strahovksi (Chuck, Stateless, Dexter),  and Simmons (Spiderman, Justice League, The Accountant, etc), all actors that I really like. So what could be wrong with the selection? Actually, nothing. The film was an enjoyable escape that was decently written, filmed and executed. While not perfect by any means, it was entertaining enough to keep us watching and enjoying the ride. Sure, it had some technical and story line goofs, a little too many clichéd lines and some very predictable scenes, but it was fun, and in this day and age, fun is what we were looking for. 

So you ask what “The Tomorrow War” is all about? I am glad you asked, this film starts with Dan Forester (Pratt) coming home to what seems to be a party, I can’t quite figure out if it was his daughters birthday, a party for a football game, or some other unknown occasion. Busy on the phone while juggling the all important beer case and other necessary supplies, we discover that Forester (Pratt) lost out on a new position that would have set up his family. In this scene, we also see a shadow box filled with military memorabilia, (so at this point we know he is a vet, for almost every Vet I know (including myself) we all have a shadow box to highlight our career). We also find out that he has an estranged father who is trying to reach out to him and it is to no avail (J.K. Simmons). These points become important later on. So, back to the opening, his daughter is waiting for him to watch the game with her, they sit down, and lo and behold, a series of light and mist appears in the middle of the game and a platoon of heavily armed soldiers suddenly appear. 

Naturally the crowd goes batshit, everyone is tuned to them and the leader of the group of soldiers informs the players, audience and the world at that time that they are from the future and they need help. Earth has been invaded 30 years hence from a group of aliens that look like a cross between Predator, Alien, Tremors and the sandworm from Dune. These aliens are winning the battle for earth, and our future children need our help. They convince the world powers to provide military assistance, and after a short time a world wide draft is brought into place. Anyone can be drafted to serve a 1-week tour of duty in the future. However, they must have certain requirements (we will find out what later). After the tour of duty, only about 20 percent of the time soldiers dispatched return, and many of them are expressing PTSD symptoms, and lost limbs like no other war. So the war continues, we see clips from the news on how its going and Emmy Forester (Gilpin) just happens to be a psychiatrist who is treating these returning vets, so we get a little dramatic foreshadowing of what to expect.   

Well we see it coming a mile away, Dan (Pratt) gets drafted and meets up with a bunch of other civilians who have never seen the dangerous part of a rifle or have heard a gunshot. They get a crash-course on weaponry, and then do the time-shift to the future to begin their tour of duty. It is at this time that the rubber really hits the road and the film’s excitement begins. Humanity is on its last legs, battles are raging world wide and valiant heroes are fighting the aliens in Miami Beach. There are the requisite clichéd one liners, some pretty decent CGI, and great amounts of gore and violence during the battle. Yes, there is some predictability as well as some plot holes and technical goofs. But the story moves at a brisk pace so that you don’t really say WTF till later when you think about the films plotline in further detail. Overall, a pretty fast moving film that kept you watching.

What did we like about the film? As mentioned previously, the CGI was pretty decent, and the aliens were pretty cool. Sure, it was a melange of some of the other aliens in previous films, but it did have one added feature. These bad guys could throw spikes out of their tentacles like one of the characters in an X-Man movie (X-Men: The last stand to be specific). So that was pretty cool. The story line was a bit of a twist on some previous time-travel films, but it did have a glimpses of “Starship Troopers” and “Aliens” that were brought to mind during the film. Not that I minded it, just some scenes appeared very familiar to me. The chemistry between the main characters were pretty consistent and enjoyable. I especially liked the chemistry between Pratt and Strahowski, as well as Pratt and Simmons. Some of the supporting cast were mainly present for comic relief and in some cases to fill in missing plot holes. So that was not too bad. 

What didn’t I like? (Some spoilers will be given at this point) The fact that they would time-warp individuals who were young or old, fat or thin, with no military experience (for the most part) provided automatic weapons, grenades etc with minimal training to fight the war seemed a little out there. But I believe that the writer/director wanted to demonstrate urgency for it. But in reality, there would have been more friendly fire deaths than the Aliens just due to lack of experience. As with all war/space movies, the limitless magazines always annoy me. I know firing an assault rifle on full auto will empty the clip in about 3 seconds. Yet these guys can fire for an eternity before reloading. There were a few technical goofs. Like flying a C130 about 3 times the range of the aircraft, they would have to refuel at least once. Also, what was the point of landing the plane, yet then travel on snowmobiles for hours. Would it not have made more sense to fly closer? Also, how can an alien get at least 3 mags full of bullets into him, then when all else fails, a pistol shows up, and 2 rounds later it is killed. It did require some consistency, this became even more apparent when the F35’s were dropping ordinance to kill them and it did not seem a problem, aliens would get blown up. So, if they can be shot or blown up, why were we losing? If something can be killed, it can be defeated. One thing that really did annoy me was that there was no real explanation for the time travel. There was some banal explanation, but it could have been amped up more. (at least in my opinion). Additionally, there were several other inconsistencies, but oh well, overall, it was a pretty good film.

Now to the subject of the cast, I am only going to discuss some of the key characters and they are:

Chris Pratt as Dan Forester: Pratt is used to playing the hero lately and he does it well. He often comes across as the unwilling hero who rises to the situation. He easily plays the action star who is quick with a weapon, wise-crack or solution to the problem. Naturally, as the script provided the foreshadowing, we see he was a Special Ops guy in Iraq conflict, so that is why he has all the skills, and that he is a bit of a amateur scientist, he has the knowledge to defeat them. All very convenient, but hey this is an action movie time-waster, not a documentary! Additionally, Pratt demonstrates great chemistry with all his co-stars and supporting cast. This is what helps make him a very marketable actor. All in all, a pretty good performance from Pratt in a decent film.

Yvonne Strahovski as Colonel Muri Forester: As I have mentioned in previous reviews (i.e. Stateless) we have been fans of Strahovski since her appearance as Sarah in the tv series Chuck. Again, she has proven herself to be an entertaining actress in a halfway decent role. Her portrayal as the future Muri, a combination warrior/scientist was pretty good and her action sequences were well played. The chemistry that she had with Pratt was believable and helped to improve the film. Another good role for Strahovski that she can put in the resume with her other ones. 

J.K. Simmons as James Forester: J.K. Simmons has seemed to be around forever. His booming voice and over the top style has managed to make his characters endearing in many of his previous roles. As the estranged grandfather with some very unique skills, he again delivered. Sure, his history and backstory in the film is pretty anorexic, and hardly laid out, but what the hell, He is the curmudgeonly grandfather who can fly a plane, work with transmitters, handle explosives and weaponry. But, he is exactly the type of character you need in this film to help save the day. Even though his screen time was extremely limited, it was still vital to the stories conclusion. 

Betty Gilpin as Emmy Forester: Gilpin, another solid actress with actually minimum screen time in this film. Basically, just the start and finish with a few memory sequences. While not a major player in the film, her character as well as the young Muri Forester (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) provided the anchor and the reason to succeed for Pratt’s father character (Dan). Additionally, as her character was a doctor trying to rehabilitate the returning veterans it provided some dramatic insight on what he would experience when Dan got drafted (as we all knew he was going to) once it was mentioned in the film. Not a bad performance by Gilpin, nor a great one. But done well enough to help the film along.

Sam Richardson as Charlie: I am only adding Richardson in here as he was great for the comic relief in the film. As a nerdy guy who gets drafted along with Dan (Pratt), he is carried along for the ride and the one liners. I had to look to IMDB to see what I had seen him in and was surprised on all his character work and voicework that he had done over the years. He is one of these “minor co-star/extra” that you see all the time and can never figure out where he was before. Regardless, I found his contribution to the film enjoyable and as with all of the action films to-date, he provided the comic relief in the middle of the battle sequence. 

Mary Lynn Rajskub as Norah: Here is another character that I had to give an honourable mention. When she gets drafted along with Dan (Pratt) and Charlie (Richardson), I had to do a double take to figure out who she was. Then it dawned on me that she was one of the central characters from 24! In the heat of her fight sequences I was waiting for her to shout for Jack Bauer to come save her! Not a major role for her by any means, but it was nice to see her in an action role instead of playing the voice/brains behind a keyboard.

Now the big question, were we entertained? Yes we were! The Tomorrow War is a nice little Sci-Fi romp with lots of action, one-liners and CGI. Sure it has plot holes and inconsistencies…(really what movie doesn’t?) and there were a few times that I scratched my head after the film. But, it is not an Oscar contender but a nice little escape for a few hours. Amazon Prime did well in obtaining the rights for this production and if you have Prime, like the Sci-Fi genre, and are a fan of Strahovski and Pratt, then definitely give this one a go! I don’t think you will be disappointed. 

Our rate: 7/10

If you are interested in any other productions from the main cast, please consider the following recommendations!

Chris Pratt                    Guardians of the Galaxy (Franchise), Avengers: Endgame & Infinity War, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Passengers, The Magnificent Seven, Delivery Man, Zero Dark Thirty, Bride Wars

Yvonne Strahovski         Stateless (https://www.notinhalloffame.com/blogs/was-i-entertained/11655-review-stateless-2020 ) , Chuck, The Handmaids Tale, 24: Live Another Day, Dexter

J.K. Simmons                 The Stand (2020), Justice League, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Patriots Day, The Accountant, Spider-Man 3, Numbers, The Mexican, 

Betty Gilpin                  Nurse Jackie

Sam Richardson            VEEP, Mike and Dave need Wedding Dates, We’re the Millers, The Office

Mary Lynn Rajskub        24, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Sweet Home Alabama

Till Next time!

Cast:

Michael Pena                Mr. Roarke

Maggie Q                      Gwen Olsen

Lucy Hale                      Melanie Cole

Austin Stowell               Patrick Sullivan

Jimmy O. Yang              Brax Weaver

Portia Doubleday          Sloane Maddison

Ryan Hansen                 JD Weaver

Michael Rooker             Damon

Parisa Fitz-Henley         Julia

Kim Coates                   Devil Face

Summer is finally upon us, the third wave of Covid is starting to get under control in my province and we have been spending more time outdoors, thus the reason for not watching as much television of late.  But, it has been more than 2 weeks since my last review, so I decided to give it a go once again. For this week, we decided to watch the latest adaption of Fantasy Island. Many people have fond memories of this weekly television show as it was a staple in most homes in the late 70’s. Fantasy Island as well as Love Boat, were my generation’s go to on night of television watching. For those people who were born much later, remember, during my youth there was no streaming services, and Blu-ray, DVD’s had yet to be invented, and even the venerable VCR’s, while in existence were only for the homes of the wealthy. The rest of us depended on either the old trusty antennae, (with rabbit-ears) or for the very lucky, there might have been cable service in their area. Also, in our house, as most homes at the time, we the children, were the parent’s remote controls to change the channel as well as move the antennae to get the best reception!

So with that in mind, we were left with what the 5 or 6 stations provided us on a weekly basis. Fantasy Island usually came on a Saturday night if I recall correctly and was a regular occurrence in our household when growing up. In a nutshell, the concept of Fantasy Island was that a guest would come to the island to have a fantasy come true. The wise and dapper Mr. Roarke (then played by Ricardo Montalban) and his ever present sidekick, Tattoo (Herve Villechaize) would welcome the arrivals. First with Tattoo running into the office shouting “The Plane Boss, the Plane” and Mr. Roarke serenely welcoming the week’s arrival, with “My dear guests! I am Mr. Roarke, your host. Welcome to Fantasy Island!” Each week, a selection of mediocre celebrities would join Mr. Roarke on the island, sometimes get their fantasy fulfilled or learn a valuable lesson about themselves or a loved one. As a young kid, I did not mind the show, it was better than what was on at the time and I did not mind if the plotlines were extremely thin, the acting mediocre and the sets kind of lame. Hell, we had nothing else to compare it to, and without Fantasy Island and it’s predecessor on primetime (The Loveboat) where else would stars who needed a job or give a reminder to fans that they still existed do!

With all the previous comments in mind, let’s take a look at 2020’s version of “Fantasy Island”. While loosely based on the original show (titles, characters and theme), this version went for a much darker portrayal. This film did not make a lot of money at the box office, and was panned by some reviewers and critic’s, however, I was actually looking forward to watching it. This was for several reasons, first, it did bring back memories of my childhood watching the show as a family, secondly, I like several of the cast, primarily Pena, Q, Yang, Hale, Rooker and Coates. While they may not be A-listers in Hollywood’s hierarchy, they are solidly in the B category and usually take part in films or shows that pique my interest and keep me watching. 

This film opens just like the series where a seaplane would fly over a pristine beach and plantation like house. A woman in this case, who we later learn is Julia (Fitz-Henry) runs into the house to shout the traditional line “The Plane”. Mr. Roarke (Pena) makes his appearance and strolls down to the pier to meet the aircraft. The hatch opens and the guests for this film exit the aircraft. So who do we have on board that will undoubtedly enjoy what the island has to offer? First we have Gwen Olsen, (Q) a stoic lady who carries a pained and lonely expression all the time. Melanie Cole (Hale), a young lady with a huge chip on her shoulder and an attitude to match. Stowell (Sullivan) a young man sporting Dog dags exits the aircraft along with Brax and JD Weaver (Yang and Hansen respectively). Brothers (by adoption) who are just out have a good time. With the opening sequence completed, the very “unique looking” porters take everyone to their rooms so that they can prepare for their Fantasy’s to come true. 

At the “Welcome Drink” ceremony, Roarke (Pena) says that they are all there to live out their fantasies and desires. However, if they want to continue they must see each fantasy out to the end and natural conclusion, and that it is the island that is fulfilling their fantasies, not him. Julia (Fitz-Henley) watches all this with a very strained look on her face. The reason for this will come out later in the film. 

Just to touch on the fantasies a bit, and not wanting to give out too much of the plot, here is what everyone has come to the island to fulfill:

Gwen Olsen (Q): Gwen (Q) is searching for redemption of a past decision. She wants to change her mind in a pivotal moment in her life where she could have had it all. A loving husband, a wonderful child and life of happiness. Due to her fear, she said no and from that time on, her life seemed to fail horribly.

Melanie Cole (Hale): Melanie is a troubled young lady with a huge chip on her shoulder and attitude to boot. Coming across as a rebellious youth and headstrong, she wants to wreak revenge on all who have wronged her in her life. Especially Sloane Maddison (Doubleday), who was the stereotypical mean girl in high school and started Melanie’ path to emotional hell, not to mention feelings of little worth and an abysmal level of self esteem. In Melanie’s eyes… Sloane ruined her life. Her fantasy is the most vengeful of all the guests. 

Patrick Sullivan (Stowell): Sullivan (Stowell) is a police officer who always wanted to join the military. He wears a set of dog tags that were not his, and all he wants to be is a hero and be honourable. A kind hearted individual, he is about to find out what being a hero truly is.

Brax and JD Weaver (Yang and Hansen): The Weaver brothers (brothers by adoption) are just out to have fun. JD, the older brother has always given up his dreams to help his younger brother and get him through life. They are the stereotypical frat brothers party people. High-fiving all the time, punctuated by the odd chest-bump, these two individuals don’t have enough intelligence combined to power a light-bulb. They just want to “have it all!” for their fantasy, and as Roarke warns them at the outset, if you have it all, someone will want to take it from you in the end. (…. oooh dramatic foreshadowing!!) 

So, I do not want to give up too many plot points, but let me put it this way, this is a new twist on the Fantasy Island shtick, such that there will be more horror and gory parts than light fanciful moments. We will find that all the fantasies actually intertwine with some unexpected results…. but…even though there are some twists to the tale, the outcome is predictable. 

What did I like about this film?  First, I liked the premise. For once, this is one show that I was looking forward to see the movie. I can’t say the same for the fecal matters that were favourite shows from my youth and then became horrible movies 20 years later (i.e. Dukes of Hazzard, Starsky and Hutch) Fantasy Island always had a bit more imagination involved. Also, we loved the scenery, as we can’t go on any holidays due to COVID, we must live vicariously through the movies and television. So all the beach shots and tropical settings were always considered a bonus. As I stated previously, I liked the main characters as well. They usually give half decent performances, and are in films/programs that I like. 

What didn’t I like? Well, even for the actors that I liked, they gave uneven performances. Roarke (Pena) did not really have any chemistry with the other characters. Also, Damon (Rooker) was almost a throwaway character. What part did he really play here? Even if he was not introduced, I don’t think it would have really changed the story arc to much. Even though I like Rooker and his crazy, mad scientist look about him, he was not really value added. Also, there were some definite goofs with respect to the Melanie Cole (Hale) character. Some of the dialogue that she says when alone does not fit with the outcome. Again, I don’t want to give out the plot, but when you watch the film you will see what I mean. However, this is not the fault of the actress, but the writers if you know what I mean. I also felt that Maggie Q and Michael Pena did not get the opportunity to flex their capabilities. I felt that they were really underutilized in this film. I also found Devil Face (Coates) to be a little over the top. But, it did add some camp to the film, maybe a bit of an homage to the campiness of the original series. 

While we are discussing characters, lets take a look at the main cast:

Michael Pena as Mr. Roarke: I have mentioned several times that I like Pena as an actor. He is extremely versatile and can play a comedic or an action role with equal ease. However, he is usually a side-kick or supporting actor. A supporting role is his wheelhouse, to be the primary lead in a drama/horror film, he did not seem to carry it well. His character was pretty one-dimensional and really lacked chemistry with the rest of the cast. There were a few glimpses of Pena’s talent through the film, but they were few and far between. Not his greatest performance, but it could be the fault of direction or screenplay, not necessarily the actor.

Maggie Q as Gwen Olsen: This is another case where an actor’s talents were not used to it’s fullest. Stoic and/or pained looking throughout the film made it hard for her character to connect with others. While she appeared to be the brightest of the guests in figuring out what was going on and help solve the issues at hand, it took a while to get there. Her chemistry with co-stars, while better than Pena’s, still had something to be desired. Her character was integral to the solving of the mystery, but her delivery, seemed forced. Again, maybe the fault of direction or script. She does have greater skill than what was presented. Much the same as the aforementioned actor, not her best role, but then again, not her worst either. 

Lucy Hale as Melanie Cole: Hale actually had the most opportunity to project her range. From her snarly attitude at the outset of the film, seeker of revenge, fearful and full of panic to rage yet again. She did the full gambit and did it well. Her character was pivotal to the film. Her chemistry with her nemesis, Sloane (Doubleday) was done well. We thoroughly enjoyed her performance in “Fantasy Island” and I have not doubt that I will enjoy seeing her in future productions. 

Austin Stowell as Patrick Sullivan: Even though Stowell’s character took me the longest to like, in the end I did. He held on to his fantasy in a believable fashion, especially when the world was falling apart around him. I had only seen him in a few productions previously and primarily in much smaller roles, this was the first time that I had actually noticed him throughout the film. For a little factoid, Stowell and Pena worked together before in 12 Strong (if you are interested in 12 Strong, I have also reviewed this film and it is located on this website) ! Not a bad performance from Stowell overall, and I am sure I will see him in future films/shows. 

Jimmy O. Yang as Brax Weaver: Brax (Yang) was actually my favourite character in the film. He balanced goofiness, fear, comedy and bravery all at the same time. Playing the “dufus” adopted brother to JD, he complimented Hansen’s own ineptness. They worked well together and his scenes were quite well done. I have seen him in a few movies and tv shows in supporting roles and always enjoyed his part. From what I read about him he has truly made an easy transition from stand-up comedy to acting. He is another actor that I look forward to seeing in future roles. 

Portia Doubleday as Sloane Maddison: Here was another actress and part that I enjoyed in the film. I had only previously seen her in “Carrie” another remake from my childhood, and her presentation of a mean girl in both films (Carrie/Fantasy Island) were extremely well done. She easily transitioned from the wounded and scared young girl and back to bitch in the blink of an eye. As the lifelong nemesis to Cole, she not only enhanced the scenes that she was in, but also made them entertaining. As with Carrie, she did quite well in this type of character, and I hope that in future roles she leaves the Mean Girl shtick and tries to broaden her horizons.

Ryan Hansen as JD Weaver: Hansen gave an admirable performance in this film. Usually relegated to much smaller roles in comedies and television, it was nice to see him in an ensemble piece where he managed to get the same screen time as his co-stars. He worked will with Yang, and continued to play the well meaning imbecile well. Not a break out role for Hansen, but still one that was enjoyable. 

Michael Rooker as Damon: First off, let me say, that I usually like Rooker in all of his roles and characters. However, in Fantasy Island, while his acting was fine, his character was almost a throwaway role. While he was wandering around the island looking more and more like a refugee from Robinson Caruso, it was hard to take in, even when it was explained why. Was this character essential to the Sloane/Melanie portion? Not really, it could have been written with either of the girls figuring it out, and/or maybe a lesser character, either way, Rooker’s talents were actually wasted in this film. Hopefully the next project I see him in, he will be far more entertaining.

Parisa Fitz-Henley as Julia: Fitz-Henley’s role and part of the film was actually quite predictable. It did not take long to figure out her importance to Mr. Roarke and the reason why. Her chemistry with the other characters seemed a little wooden, much like her character. This could have been due to the actress, or the direction, as I have not really seen her in many roles, I can’t tell at this time.

Kim Coates as Devil Face: I only included Coates in this review because I always like his twisted characters. He can look like a psychopath and carry it off like few others. While he played the un-named Devil Face, his accent and mannerisms were almost cartoonish. Sure, this could have been part of the camp that is Fantasy Island, but I wish that they did not play it up so much. He would have been scarier with a persona similar to the character he plays on Sons of Anarchy, then trying to lay on a cheezy accent, but it did add to the camp factor of the movie. As with some of the actors mentioned above, not his best role, but surely not his worst either.

So overall, were we entertained? Actually, yes we were. We enjoyed the storyline and the characters. It was not a great film by any means, but it had enough elements in it (characters, story, theme, cinematography) to keep us watching. I would only recommend this film if you were a fan of the original concept and of the key actors, if not, maybe you might want to give it a pass. 

Our rating: 4.5/10

If you are interested in other films/shows starring the main cast, please consider the following recommendations:

Michael Pena                12 Strong, The Mule, Ant-Man and the Wasp, CHIPS, The Martian, Fury, Ant-Man, American Hustle, The Lincoln Lawyer, World Trade Center

Maggie Q                      Designated Survivor, Allegiant, Divergent, Insurgent, Nikita, Live Free or Die Hard, Mission Impossible III, Rush Hour 2

Lucy Hale                      Pretty Little Liars

Austin Stowell               12 Strong, Bridge of Spies

Jimmy O. Yang              Crazy Rich Asians, Space Force

Portia Doubleday          Carrie

Ryan Hansen                 ChIPS, Santa Clarita Diet, Central Intelligence

Michael Rooker             The Dark Tower, Guardians of the Galaxy (Franchise), The Walking Dead, The Bone Collector, Tombstone, Cliffhanger, The Dark Half, JFK, Sea of Love

Kim Coates                   Sons of Anarchy, Entourage, Prison Break, Black Hawk Down

Till Next Time!!

Cast:

Harrison Ford                      John Thornton

Omar Sy                                   Perrault

Cara Gee                                 Francoise

Dan Stevens                         Hal

Well, it has been a few weeks since my last review so I figured I better spool up a film and give it a go before my brother (aka “The Chairman”) stops giving me my performance cheques for these blogs. Hey, wait a minute…I haven’t received my first one yet! Anyways, here goes with another review.

For this week we decided to go into another direction completely with respect to film genre’s. With that in mind, we selected “The Call of the Wild” for the evenings entertainment. This latest version stars Harrison Ford, a fantastic actor with an incredible film resume. You would have to be living in a cave for the last 40 years to not know of him and his impact on the film industry. Besides the Indiana Jones series (lets forget the last one…Kingdom of the Crystal skull was complete garbage), and the Star Wars franchise, Ford has been key in several other phenomenal productions; for example, Blade Runner, The Fugitive, Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games, Air Force One, and K-19: The Widowmaker. Each and every film I have previously mentioned has been iconic and left a lasting impression on all who have watched them. The other co-stars in this film, Sy, Gee and Stevens were known to me, but to a much lesser extent. But, one co-star was really not mentioned in the film’s cast above, and it is that of the CGI talents that created “Buck” the film’s hero. 

“The Call of the Wild” was based on the epic novel by Jack London. I remember having to read this book while in school, and have not really thought of it much since. If I am not mistaken, this film has been done at least 6 times, and also has had a few spinoff series as well. For this version, they have changed some of the character’s gender, race and even the tone to make it more inclusive and palatable to the audiences of today and ensure that it would be a true family film. For the few people who do not know what “The Call of the Wild” is about, here goes a quick synopsis.

“The Call of the Wild” is the story of “Buck”, a very large, exuberant, kind and intelligent dog who was dog-napped from his home in California to be taken to Alaska and be sold as a sled dog. While “Buck” is a cross between a Collie and a St Bernard, it actually resembles a Bernese Mountain dog more, but that is just my opinion. Back to the story, due to the Klondike Gold rush, dogs are in great demand to work as sled dogs to take the prospectors to their imaginary fortunes. “Buck” being for all intents and purposes a city dog, had led the life of luxury till then, but finds himself first in a crate, then subsequently a reluctant member of a sled team, to becoming the leader of the pack. However, after his capture and voyage to Alaska, he gets sold a few times, first to an arctic version of the pony express and then he becomes property of some rather stupid, and cowardly greenhorns looking for gold. Abused and left exhausted and near death by the aforementioned idiots, he subsequently finds a true home with Thornton (Ford) who nurses him back to health. Together, the trek northwards where Thornton (Ford) finds himself again, and “Buck” learns to trust his own wilder instincts and make a new home in the North with a pack of Wolves. Even with some instances of abuse to the animals and the demise of some of the characters, the tone of the film is very family friendly and is pretty much suitable for all ages.

What did we like about it? First, the story. While it is a classic tale, which has been told several times, with the advent of current technology, it pretty much allows the film to be told from the dog’s perspective for the first time. “Buck” was the principle character, and in the case of this film, a total CGI fabrication. It did take us a few minutes to adapt to this “dog” version, but after awhile, we could almost think he was real. As the dog was completely CGI, it allowed the director the opportunity to give the dog a greater personality and range of emotions, vice using a live animal and hoping that the dog would cooperate and do what was required of it. The CGI was impressive throughout the film and only added to the film, versus taking away from it, especially when CGI can either be overused or mismanaged. One thing we did find extremely interesting was that in film’s extra segments, there was telling information on how motion capture motion technology was used to assist the CGI creation. Apparently, Buck was a cirque-de-soliel performer who mastered a dog’s gait and movements in such a way that the other co-stars had something live to interact with when filming the scenes. Not like say a MCU film, where I have seen the extra’s and Thor is talking to a tennis ball on a pole to give him a reference. In this aspect I feel that “Call of the Wild” handled some of the CGI aspects in a superior fashion when compared to other films using this technology. 

While CGI was integral to the film, it was also used extremely well. The audience felt for the dog, could read it’s emotions and were in tune with “Buck”. Kudo’s to the CGI team who brought a fabled dog to life. With respect to the remaining cast, here is a quick breakdown of their role and contributions:

Harrison Ford as John Thornton: What can I say about Ford that has not already been said before by others. He is a fantastic actor with a substantial resume and even when the film is weak, he still adds to the overall enjoyment. In “Call of the Wild”, as John Thornton, he plays an old man who has lost his way and his family. He is trying to find himself again in the wilds of Alaska and become a better man, so that maybe, just maybe, one day he can go home. He is a kind hearted soul with a love for animals as well as alcohol as was evident throughout the film. He has truly aged well and has taken on the mantle of aged and exceptional thespian quite well, on the high side of 70, closer to 80, he can still manage to carry a film! We really enjoyed his performance in “Call of the Wild” and I truly hope that I can still catch him in a few more films in the future before he finally retires.  

Omar Sy as Perrault: I actually enjoyed Sy’s portrayal of Perrault. He came across as a genuine individual who not only cared for his job, but also his charges (sled dogs) and treated them with respect. To emanate these feelings while working with CGI is truly a testament to his skills. His character was integral to the early development of Buck and his transfer from a domesticated pet, to a leader in his pack. This transformation also introduced us to the wilder side of Buck that was buried beneath the surface. Perrault was a truly enjoyable character, even though I had seen Sy in other films/shows, this was the first time that I actually paid attention to his acting skill. I will pay more attention to his future performances.

Cara Gee as Francoise: Once I saw Gee on the screen it only took me a few seconds to recognize her from another favourite show “The Expanse” where she plays the hard as nails Camina Drummer. This role of Francoise was performed with equal skill. I must say that even though the character was changed from a male to a female for this adaption, it still worked, and Gee gave a good performance to support not only her partner “Perrault” but also that of the dog’s. Looking at her resume on IMDB, I see that she is predominately listed in supporting roles, I look forward to see how her talents grow. I do believe that she is someone to watch in the Canadian Film industry and that she will shine more if given the roles and the opportunity. 

Dan Stevens as Hal: Stevens played the role of pompous aristocrat or rich guy to a “T”. Mind you he has had plenty of practice in “Downton Abbey” where that is pretty much all what the cast play. Even though a relatively small role, his character was important as it led to the final joining of Thornton and Buck as a team. Stevens emoted the arrogance of aristocracy well, not to mention the entitlement. When it all crashed down on him, the petulance and revenge were equally well displayed, as was really his cowardice. A fine performance by Stevens to go along with some of the others that I have seen in the past.

So, overall, were we entertained? Yes we definitely were. “The Call of the Wild” had all the elements to keep a family entertained on a movie night. The CGI was fantastic, and the few real actors also gave a strong performance to keep us intrigued. The highlight of the film was the aspect in which it was shot, that of the “Buck”, not the humans interacting with him, a pleasant change! Would I recommend it, yes, definitely. Especially if you are looking for a family film that not only the kids will like, but also the parents. Heck, we don’t have kids, and we both enjoyed the film!

Our rating 6.5/10

If you are interested in further projects with the main stars of “The Call of the Wild” please consider the following recommendations:

Harrison Ford                      Indian Jones (First three movies), Star Wars (Franchise), Blade Runner, Air Force One, K-19: The Widowmaker, Apocalypse Now, The Expendables 3, Random Hearts, Clear and Present Danger, The Fugitive, Patriot Games

Omar Sy                                   Inferno, Jurassic World, X-Men: Days of Future past.                        

Cara Gee                                 The Expanse

Dan Stevens                         Downton Abbey, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, A Walk Among The Tombstones

Till Next Time!

Review: Stowaway (2021)

Cast:

Anna Kendrick              Zoe Levenson

Daniel Dae Kim             David Kim

Shamier Anderson        Michael Adams

Toni Collette                 Marina Barnett

Movie time was here again and we started scanning the NETFLIX menu for the evening’s entertainment. Almost right away, we came across Stowaway. Stowaway is another NETFLIX original, and of late, these originals can be brilliant, or, on the other hand a big steaming pile of fecal matter. When I saw the title and read the little synopsis that NETFLIX provides…I was thinking, “this could be another take on “The Martian”, would love to see how they manage to figure this one out?” I was really looking forward to it, especially when I saw that Toni Collette and Daniel Dae Kim were part of the cast.

Every film or program that I had seen with Collette, I pretty much enjoyed. Additionally, I liked Kim’s role in Lost as well as Hawaii Five-O, so pretty much a solid start in my opinion. With respect to Kendrick, I can pretty much take or leave her. Not really a fan of her work writ large, there are a few films in her resume that I have enjoyed, though, not really for her contribution. Anderson on the other hand, was more of an unknown to us. We had to check IMDB to verify his filmography and we found out that we had seen him in some other programs/movies, but his role did not really leave a lasting impact on us. 

So, at this point, we have scanned NETFLIX selections, selected a film, looked at the synopsis and made our final decision and started it. The film started out ok, the rocket was in the middle of a launch, we meet the first 3 principal characters Levenson (Kendrick), Kim (Kim) and the mission commander, Barnett (Collette). The Rocket is taking off, leaving orbit, there is a little bit of a discussion with mission control that the weight is slightly off, but it still takes off and enters orbit. 

Our valiant crew is in orbit and apparently starts the artificial gravity by spinning the vessel. Once the artificial gravity is in place, the crew commences to settle in for their 2-year voyage to Mars and back. There are a few scenes of mundane tasks, unloading packing things etc. Then the commander discovers a few drops of blood coming from a panel, Barnett (Collette) opens it to find an unconscious man inside. He falls to the floor, apparently wounded from some unknown action. Once he comes too, they discover that Adams (Anderson) is an engineer and he is unaware of how he managed to get sealed into the ship prior to take-off. Now this is where the tension starts to mount, he apparently is taking care of his sister as their parents are dead, and he needs to return home to take care of her. Unfortunately, there is insufficient fuel or means to return him to Earth so he must continue along with them as a member of the crew. 

Accepting this, they give him some menial tasks to perform and continue along happily to their destination of Mars. This is where they find out that their only CO2 scrubber has been damaged and there is no way to fix it. With the CO2 scrubber damaged, there will be insufficient oxygen available for the 4 of them to continue their 2-year voyage, so they must find other means for survival. 

I am sorry, at this point forward there will be some spoilers if you are going to watch this film. So, the CO2 scrubber is broken, they can’t return Adams and they must soldier on to their destination. This was the perfect opportunity for some ingenuity that was prevalent in the movie “The Martian”. Unfortunately, I was sadly disappointed. The crew sort of started down the path of creativity and imagination with the growth of the algae in the lab, but then it just went sideways. With the demise of the algae experiment, the only solution that is given to them from Control is that they must kill Adams or have him kill himself. Kim (Kim) takes it upon himself to reveal the truth to Adams (Anderson) of their dire situation and leaves a deadly needle with him so that he can do the honourable thing. Levenson (Kendrick) as the crew doctor takes umbrage to this course of action and comes up with the idea that they can take a space walk to the rocket portion of the ship and take some of the liquid oxygen stored there. 

Levenson (Kendrick) and Kim (Kim) undergo a spacewalk via climbing up two cables to the rocket portion to see if there is any liquid oxygen left in the tanks. To further complicate matters, it seems that Kim (Kim) has some vertigo issues, the tanks that they are carrying for the transfer are about twice the size of regular scuba tanks and they are manhandling them at the same time. They clumsily make the trip, find out that there is air there (They must fill two tanks to ensure that they can the trip for all 4 of them), and make the transfer. Oh no! Just as they are finishing filling the first tank, they find a solar storm is headed their way and Kim (Kim) and Levenson (Kendrick) must come back as soon as possible otherwise they will die. So rushing down the cables so that they can beat the storm, Levenson (Kendrick) loses the tank as she inadvertently lets it go. Returning to the shielded area with no Oxygen in hand, it is determined that someone has to go back and get the 2nd tank, otherwise there will be insufficient air left and they will all die. Additionally, even if they manage to get one more tank, there is only enough air for 3 people instead of 4. 

Levenson (Kendrick) takes it upon herself to get the remaining tank, even though the solar storm is still going on and with the knowledge that she will die. Luckily her suicide mission is successful, and she retrieves the tank of 250lbs of liquid Oxygen gives it to her mates while she waits for her own demise outside of the ship. End film. 

Ok sure I gave out pretty much the plot and probably the climax points of the film, but really, do you want to watch this poor imitation of a thriller? I may have saved 2 hours of your life from being wasted! So let’s look at the films issues and plot holes, which they are many:

  1. What kind of space agency would not take stock of all of their staff before take-off? If he (Adams) was missing for some time, would there not have been search?
  2. Adams (Anderson) was supposedly an engineer, could he not have tried to macgyver something or even attempt to repair the CO2 scrubber?
  3. What kind of agency would send a ship into space for 2 years with only one of each critical piece of equipment? There should always be redundancies built in.
  4. What caused the algae to die? No reason was given or even a half assed explanation.
  5. Upon discovery of the stow-away, would it not have come to light right away that there would be an oxygen problem, not to mention food and water? I am sure that the quantities of all essentials would have been calculated to the nth degree, so right out of the gate, they would have had to ration food and water to make up for the extra person. The importance of the weight of supplies was brought to light very early in the film with the little verbal sparring between Kim (Kim) and Levenson (Kendrick) over which University was better when she gave him Coffee in her mug from her own school. 
  6. Where did Adam’s (Anderson) extra clothes come from, sure some could have been provided by Kim, but they seemed to fit perfectly, and they were not quite the same size/build.
  7. How could 2 tanks of liquid Oxygen, about double the size of a scuba tank provide sufficient air for 5 months that they needed. I did a little bit of google searching and found out that a 75lb tank of liquid oxygen can supply a hospital patient for 4-8 days of air. Ok, so if they had both tanks filled, it would only add about 7 weeks’ maximum of additional air…and I am being extremely generous in my math. Ergo, they still would have all died.
  8. If the CO2 scrubber failed, would not the build-up of CO2 cause them to die anyway? Where did this plot point and scientific fact go?
  9. The liberal use of gravity in the spaceship was a little off the mark in my opinion. For example, when the hatch gets pulled off, it falls down. In space, would it have not flown off in a flat trajectory? Again, a serious miss here. 
  10. The vehicle was supposed to be spinning to cause artificial gravity. Ok, I realize I am not a physicist or scientist, but when the ship was being put against something that is stationary in space, (like some of the shots with the moon/earth in the background), would not the ship be spinning in those scenes?
  11. If you are on a 2-year mission, you let the doctor sacrifice themselves for the good of all? The botanist already lost their experiment due to the dismal use of the algae…would he have not been more expendable? 
  12. They had about 10 days left before it would have become critical…could they have not waited out the solar storm instead of letting one crew member sacrifice themselves?

Ok, I think I have bashed most of the plot points and holes enough, but I am sure that there are so many more that I missed. I could only say WTF so many times to the screen when we were watching before it really became monotonous. 

Were there any parts of the film that I liked? I actually liked the premise of the film, just too bad a successful outcome was not the result. Some of the cast did quite well, but they were given lame dialogue and a poor plot to work with, so I can’t really blame them for this. Besides the poor story, mediocre effects and poor dialogue, let us take a moment to take a look at the cast;

Anna Kendrick as Zoe Levenson: As I mentioned at the start, I am not a fan of Kendrick, but I have to say, she has been in a few good films. Not giving much to work with in this film, I believe that she did the best that she could do. She did come across as the caring doctor and she portrayed empathy to the stowaway in a somewhat believable fashion. Kendrick also displayed fair chemistry with her remaining co-stars. While the film was a dud, she has been in worse films in my opinion.

Daniel Dae Kim as David Kim: In this film, Kim did what Kim does best, play the strong silent type. Much as Kendrick, the script is not the fault of the actor, but of the screenwriter, so what he had to work with was not the best. His banter with Kendrick was somewhat believable as well as his personal angst in dealing with Adams (Anderson) when he gave him the needle. I have to say his space sickness and vertigo was not done in a believable fashion, but who knows, neither of us have been to space, so maybe he was believable. But, I drew on my own experience on sailing in the North Atlantic when the sea was rough, and I think my own expressions and resulting actions were a tad more colourful should we say. Kim is a good actor, and I really enjoy his roles in Hawaii Five-O, Lost, and 24 and I always look forward to his performances in TV or film.

Shamier Anderson as Michael Adams: Anderson was not really well known to us. His face was somewhat familiar, so I had to look him to see what had done in the past. While he had been in a few shows that I had watched, it was nothing memorable. In the case of Stowaway, I don’t think he was given much to work with and he did the best he could with the limited direction provided. For an engineer, you would have thought his character would have been more hand’s on in the Macgyver department and that he might have been able to figure out some other solutions. But then again, his role in the film did not allow for it. He had decent chemistry with his co-stars and his emotions with respect to his upcoming death and his departure were somewhat believable. Not a bad performance for what he was given, and I will keep a lookout for him in his future projects. 

Toni Collette as Marina Barnett: I always like Collette in any role I had seen her in. She has been around forever and even in some of the dud’s that she was in, I liked her character. Again, I will have to say the same thing for this film, even though the film was pretty lame, I actually liked her. She was decisive, no-nonsense type of leader. One thing that threw me for a bit of a loop, in all the time I had seen her in movies and shows, I never knew that she was Australian. When she was talking in with her normal voice in the movie, I was surprised and had to confirm that this was in fact her real accent. Well done to her in all of her other productions for producing a realistic American accent! However, back to Stowaway, while her character and role were actually good, I could not get past the film inconsistencies and plot holes. I must say this, if she was not in the film, I probably would have switched it off 15 minutes into it and searched for something else. 

So, now for the ultimate question, were we entertained? No, we were not. For a film that had so much potential and such a strong premise, it imploded itself. The plot holes were big enough to park a space station, and character development, dialogue and special effects were weak. Even strong actors like Collette and Kim, could not carry the weight of this flop on their shoulders. Would we recommend it…no we would not. If you have any affinity for the Sci-Fi genre, please give this one a pass and move on to a sci-fi movie that has a better plot, characters and effects. Stowaway just does not cut it. Hopefully NETFLIX will come up with some better sci-fi films in the future.

Our rating: 2/10

If you are interested in other films starring the main characters, please consider the following recommendations:

Anna Kendrick              The Accountant, Up in the Air, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

Daniel Dae Kim             Lost, Hawaii Five-O, New Amsterdam, Always be my Maybe, 24

Shamier Anderson        Goliath, Defiance

Toni Collette                 The Sixth Sense, Shaft, In her shoes, Little Miss Sunshine, The United States of Tara, Knives Out

Till next time!

Cast:

Adam Sandler                           Nick Spitz

Jennifer Aniston                        Audrey Spitz

Luke Evans                                Charles Cavendish

Terence Stamp                          Malcolm Quince

Gemma Arterton                       Grace Ballard

David Walliams                         Tobey Quince

Dany Boon                                Inspector de la Croix

John Kani                                  Colonel Ulenga

Adeel Akhtar                             Maharajah

Olafu Darri Olafsson                  Sergei

Luis Gerardo Mende                  Juan Carlos Rivera

Shioli Kutsuna                           Suzi Nakamura

Movie night is here again and we patiently (or impatiently as is the case of my wife) scanned through the NETFLIX menu to select the evening’s entertainment. After several discussions that were repetitious with several selections i.e. we’ve seen it, that is crap, seen it, don’t want to see it … we finally settled on Murder Mystery, a NETFLIX original. This film was selected primarily for two reasons, the first was that the film synopsis said that they were in Europe (and we are so vacation/travel starved it appealed to us) and the 2nd is that ever since she watched Friends, she has become a big fan of Aniston 

I on the other hand, agreed to the on-site Europe argument, kind-of indifferent to Aniston, but I do not really care for Sandler movies. They are kind of hit and miss for me….and often end up on the miss side of the spectrum. Sure he has done a few funny films in my opinion i.e. Big Daddy, Mr. Deeds, I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry, but there are some really bad ones as well; i.e. Don’t mess with the Zohan, Jack and Jill to name but a few.  Plus, at times I find his humour to be very infantile and I have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy it. 

Anyways, we agreed on the film, I filled our glasses, adjusted the recliner, and turned out the lights and started the film. Now to the plot of the “Murder Mystery”; Murder Mystery is a light comedy that loosely follows the formula of traditional murder mysteries made famous by Agatha Christie. In this film, Nick Spitz (Sandler) is a NYPD beat cop who continually strives to become a detective, yet fails at every attempt. Nick (Sandler) has been married to Audrey (Aniston) for the last 15 years. Audrey (Aniston) is a hair dresser, and continually pines for the vacation that her husband promised her on their wedding day…a trip to Europe. So it is their wedding anniversary, and Nick (Sandler) has not only failed his detective’s exam yet again, he is really dropping the ball on what to get her for a gift. So later that night, while celebrating their marital achievement, Nick (Sandler) lies to his wife again and says that they were finally going to take the long promised honeymoon and that they were leaving for Europe for a bus tour. 

Making last minute arrangements, they are now on the plane to Europe. On the plane, Audrey (Aniston) wanders off to the first class area where she encounters the mysterious Charles Cavendish (Evans) a member of the Quince family, which happens to be uber wealthy and obviously has a great deal of influence. After a few drinks, Nick (Sandler) shows up, they all meet, chat, drink and laugh and Cavendish (Evans) offers an invitation for the Spitz’s to join him on the family yacht. 

After landing at their destination, Nick and Audrey are about to board the tour bus, while demonstrating a great deal of trepidation, especially with respect to their fellow bus travellers. A stereotypical mass of screaming children, obnoxious individuals and a group of blue haired tourists. Seeing Cavendish (Evans) lounging at his expensive car, they change their mind and join him on the yacht. On the yacht they meet a number of famous, semi-famous, and rather outrageous individuals. For example, there is a movie star, Grace Ballard (Arterton), a race car driver with limited English, Juan Carlos Rivera (Mende), Evans ex wife Suzi (Kutsuna), and current wife of the rich Uncle Malcolm Quince (Stamp). Not to mention a couple of other oddballs, the Maharajah (Akhtar), his bodyguard Sergei (Olaffson) and the strange son, Tobey (Walliams). 

With this odd-ball cast, the Spitz’s try to fit in with typical poor jokes, observations and some rather poor attempts at slapstick humour. Once this glorious yacht sets sail, the mystery really begins with the unexpected death of Malcolm Quince (Stamp) the guest’s benefactor. This is very important as he was about to sign a new will that was going to disown everyone in attendance (except the Spitz’s naturally). With the dead Uncle/husband/friend/father down for the count the Spitz’s use their sleuth like capabilities to ferret out the culprits while they are being chased by an inept French Gendarme, Inspector De La Croix (Boon) who believes that they are the culprits of the brutal murder. 

I did not really give out any spoilers as the movie is titled “Murder Mystery” and the trailers even allude to the fact that the Spitz’s are being framed for the crime, so with that in mind, let us talk about the positive of the film: First off, I have to say we loved the European scenery, we have walked down the same streets in Monte Carlo, have seen Nice and Villefranche from our own cruise ship and have walked the cobblestones of Italy. So for us, the film brought back lots of memories and enhanced the films enjoyment. The characters while kind of two dimensional and stereo typical of a murder mystery, were actually put together in a very amusing fashion and for this film it worked. We also enjoyed the chemistry between the two main characters (Anniston and Sandler). They worked extremely well together and sounded like a couple who had been married for years. While this is their second film together, I hope that they do others as this combination really sings.

The script and direction were also ok, it made us laugh when it was supposed to, and there was just enough mystery in the film to actually have us trying to figure out who the main killers were. While we suspected the culprits as there was some dramatic foreshadowing included throughout, we were not quite sure till near the end. 

What didn’t we like about the film? Well actually not that much. Sure the characters were at times a little bit cartoonish, but we expected that going into the film. So with that in mind, lets take a quick look at the cast of this film: 

Adam Sandler as Nick Spitz: Sandler actually did quite well in this role compared to some of his previous ventures. He has mastered the down and out, dopey husband role and when combined with the chemistry he has with Aniston, the film turned out well. Even his 1970’s porn star mustache actually fit his role well and it even reminded me of Tom Selleck in the TV show Magnum P.I. (this is also a bit of foreshadowing for you, if you have not yet seen this film.)  At times, Sandler’s characters can be a tad annoying or whiny, but in this film, the few times he went down that path, it actually worked. I have to say, for me, it was one his better films in the last few years. 

Jennifer Aniston as Audrey Spitz: Aniston has come along way since her time on Friends. We find her to be at her best in comedic roles where she can play off of a husband/boyfriend. As Sandler’s wife, she was a hairstylist who had an affinity for murder mystery’s and was actually more of a cop than her husband, which is what I think made this film work. As I previously mentioned, her and Sandler have great chemistry together and I would like to see them pair off in future films.  

Luke Evans as Charles Cavendish: Evans role of Cavendish was just the right part of snobbishness and foppery for the film. He has the British upper crust annoyance down and worked well with all of the principal and supporting cast. While it would make you wonder why a rich guy like him would invite the Spitz’s on his yacht, he provides just enough reason for us to go along with it in the end. An ok performance by Evans in this film.

Terence Stamp as Malcolm Quince: It seems that Stamp has been acting forever, and he still can deliver a role with the necessary gravitas that it requires. Even in this film, which is a comedy, he played the straight, stuck up stereotypical rich old man to a T. While it was a short role for Stamp, he still did it well and his character provides the impetus for the film. 

Gemma Arterton as Grace Ballard: Arterton also played her role quite well as the socialite/b-level movie start. While this film is pretty much a caricature anyways, she adds to the overall enjoyment. She delivered her lines well and had pretty good chemistry with the rest of the cast. It did take me a while to figure out who she was at first, as I knew I had watched her before. Lo and behold, after a quick look at IMDB, I see that she had been in several films that I liked (Clash of the Titans, Quantum of Solace). Overall, not bad, and I look forward to seeing her in future productions. 

David Walliams as Tobey Quince: Walliams played the bumbling son of Quince, and for his short role in the film, he did not do it too badly. With only limited screen time, his contribution was minimal, but still fitting for this film.  

Dany Boon as Inspector de la Croix: As the principal detective for this film, I felt that Boon was kind of a cross between Columbo and Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther. With more of a leaning to Clouseau. His muddled attempts at solving the mystery were humorous and played well against Sandler and Aniston. I had not seen him in any other films as his resume is pretty much centered in European films, but I did enjoy his performance nonetheless. 

Adeel Akhtar as Maharajah: Akhtar was another actor I had not really heard of before. I found his character of the Maharaja to be entertaining and actually quite funny. His character played an important enough role to give him enough screen time to actually make an impact in the film. A really enjoyable performance.

Luis Gerardo Mende as Juan Carlos Rivera: Mende is much like Akhtar, I had not heard of him before or really saw anything that he was in, but his role as Juan Carlos was very enjoyable. The broken English and stereotyped reactions were very funny to us. His character is pivotal to the films conclusion and was value added. Mende had great chemistry with all of his co-stars, and I hope that I will see him in future shows/movies.

Shioli Kutsuna as Suzi Nakamura: A minor character, but with seemingly great importance Kutsuna did an admirable job within the film. Her role was sufficient enough to add to the films enjoyment without trying to take away from the story itself. 

So, what did we think of this film, were we entertained? Well, this is a Sandler film, so we knew it was not going to win any awards, or cause us a great deal of investment into the characters or the plot itself. However, having said that, there were enough twists, chemistry, snappy dialogue and most importantly, the scenery kept us watching throughout. Even though it had many of the stereotypes, every cliché in the book and at times an infantile Sandler, we still managed to laugh and kept watching. Overall, not a bad timewaster and if you are fan of the genre, Sandler and Aniston, then by all means, watch this film and enjoy the ride. If your tastes are more cerebral, then you should give this a pass. 

Our rating: 4/10

If you are interested in other films, projects with the main cast, please consider the following recommendations:

Adam Sandler               Spanglish, 50 First Dates, I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry, Mr. Deeds, Click

Jennifer Aniston            Friends, Horrible Bosses, We’re the Millers, Derailed

Luke Evans                    Midway, Dracula Untold, The Girl on the Train, Furious 7

Terence Stamp              Valkyrie, Yes Man, Get Smart, Wanted, My Boss’s Daughter, Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace, Young Guns 

Gemma Arterton           Prince of Persia, The Escape, The Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Clash of the Titans

Shioli Kutsuna               Deadpool 2

Till next time!

Cast:

Sam Worthington                      Lt. Rick Janssen

Taylor Shilling                           Dr. Abi Janssen

Tom Wilkinson                          Prof. Martin Collingwood

Agyness Deyn                           Dr. Freya Upton

Nathalie Emmanuel                   W.O. Tally Rutherford

As Ontario is in the midst of it’s third lockdown, and the weekend is upon us yet again, it is time to search NETFLIX or Amazon to find another film to entertain us, and yes, to subsequently review. We relegated to searching for older NETFILX or Amazon originals as Hollywood has pretty much stopped releasing any of their good titles till after the pandemic has subsided.  So with that in mind, we went to an old favourite and re-watched the Joker. We loved that film and it still entertains, even though it is the 2ndtime I have watched it. I have previously reviewed this film, and if you wish to read my review, here is the link https://www.notinhalloffame.com/blogs/was-i-entertained/11081-review-joker-2019. After Joker, we started searching for another film to entertain, as we continued searching NETFLIX’s choice of films. 

We stopped at the “True History of the Kelly Gang” and gave it a try. Well, after about 15 minutes of that fecal matter, stopped the film, removed it from my list and started searching again. Lo and behold we found “The Titan” (2018). This film stars Sam Worthington, Taylor Shilling and Tom Wilkinson, pretty much all solid actors, and for the most part I have enjoyed their previous performances. Before I continue on…what is it with Worthington and choosing titles with the word “Titan” in it…does he have some sort of fixation with the term..? Who knows, anyways, if you have read to this point, I am sure you are wondering what “The Titan” is all about. Well, “The Titan” takes place in 2048, and just as Stephen Hawking has predicted, the earth is overpopulated with little to no resources left and everyone is expected to die in the near future. Mankind’s only choice apparently is to travel to Saturn’s moon, Titan. According to the film, (as this is a place where they went scientifically wrong), the only body in the solar system besides Earth with an atmosphere is the moon of “Titan”. (What happened to Venus, Mars, Jupiter etc, they all have atmospheres…. just a little plot hole here, but let me continue). However, the chief scientist of the Titan program, Prof. Collingwood (Wilkinson) states that Titan’s atmosphere is inhospitable for humans, so that is why he has gathered a number of NATO’s military personnel to undergo a great transformation that will allow Humans to live on Titan. Thus saving the human race while concurrently stripping that moon for resources to send back home. In order to do this, Collingwood (Wilkinson) must inject these international volunteers with a drug cocktail that will enable them to morph into a new breed of humanity. One that can withstand extreme cold, swim great distances, glide through the air and see like a cat, not to mention that their 5 senses are so amped up that they are almost superhuman. 

The rest of the film is basically the journey from normal homo-sapiens too homo-superior. We find that this journey is wrought with danger, some of the subjects don’t make it and Collingwood (Wilkinson) is really just an evil Dr. Frankenstein, Abi (Schilling) loves her husband unconditionally, and will do anything to prove it, while Lt. Rick (Worthington) is a dedicated family man and extremely mission focused. 

What did I like about the film? For starters, the first half of the film was actually quite well done. The acting was solid as was the storyline. There was solid chemistry between Abi (Schilling) and Rick (Worthington), and the co-stars all played well off of each other. I even liked that this was supposed to be a NATO operation/mission and all the “Volunteers” came from the various participating nations. One thing that I really liked, that in this film, they were not all mid level officers, there was a hodge-podge of non-commissioned members as well as some several junior officers. That is pretty much where the good of the film ended… and the really bad started with the commencement of the third act. 

In the third act, this movie just fell apart. We spent more time picking out the plot holes and laughing when we probably were not supposed to laugh, instead of sitting back and enjoying the film. The metamorphosis of the volunteers was starting to become ludicrous. The homo-superiors were starting to remind me of the film “Splice” and it ripped off not only that film, but in one instance “The Terminator” with a hint of “Avatar” …hmmm…didn’t Worthington also star in a Terminator movie as well as Avatar...at least he is stealing from himself. Collingwood (Wilkinson) also falls off of the rails and becomes pretty much crazy. The other supporting cast, either die horribly as they cannot handle the “change” or their chemistry with the remaining cast starts to fall apart. It almost feels like they either changed writers or directors mid stream and the feeling was WTF, lets just throw a bunch of special effects in the film, let most of them die and just wrap it up. This may not have been the case, but it sure felt like it. 

The special effects were done well and I also enjoyed the films location, a small island of the coast of Spain that was just beautiful. That is pretty much all the good of the this film. 

What didn’t I like? Well, besides numerous technical goofs, some continuity errors, and laissez faire attitude in the third act, the following items kind of made me scratch my head and wonder what the hell;

  1. It is supposed to be 2048, yet everyone on this NATO base is driving 2018 Range Rovers that are pristine. Are they trying to say that there were no new models of vehicles made in 30 years? I would love to meet all the mechanics etc. that are making sure that these vehicles still run and look show room ready. No military vehicles look that good after 1 year, let alone 30;
  2. The blatant stealing of the weaponized hand from Terminator and Splice. There could have been another variation for this new type of homo-superior;
  3. So, the key soldiers have been mutated, and can only communicate via touch and sonar….so after all these mutations, they still know who they are, know their loved ones, yet have forgotten how to write and type to communicate? This was a horrible hole in the story;
  4. Making them change to become blue in colour reminded me too much of Avatar and Worthington. This could have been different as well;
  5. The world is overpopulated and polluted to hell, thus the reason for the trip to Titan, yet the NATO base is located on one of the more beautiful islands I have seen…trust me, most bases that I have been at are in politically expedient locations, or other armpits of the world, not on a pristine island and beach;
  6. Janssen (Worthington) is a 1stLt in the USAF, plus he is pushing the high side of 40. The only way he would be a Lt. still was if he was promoted from the ranks. Otherwise he would have been released/retired way before then. Since they did not allude that he was promoted from the ranks, they should have made him at least a Snr Captain or Major for believability.
  7. In the initial briefing, there were a lot more soldiers and I observed numerous flags on the uniforms, however, once the next scene starts, the numbers seemed to be cut in half with no real explanation;
  8. The weapons and uniforms for all the nation’s were pretty much todays uniforms. In 30 years, they would have changed their design pattern at least twice. I served for 29 years, and I can remember at least 3 different combat uniforms, 3 different work dress uniforms and 2 major changes in dress uniforms, plus numerous minor amendments over the years. I know for a fact, that all of our allies are pretty much the same in that regard. Now for the weapons, at least every 15-20 years, a new generation of small arms is incorporated into an armed forces. They were using weaponry of a current generation. They could have at least made a few modifications to them to make them look a little bit futuristic; and
  9. There were also numerous cutting/continuity errors. Several scenes had Worthington struggling to put on some clothes, first it was on his right shoulder, cut scene, then his left shoulder, cut scene, back on his right. Placement of characters, food, and also seemed to jump a bit during some of the scene cuts. 

Theses were just some of the issues that I picked up during the film, but I am sure that there were many others that I had missed. Now, lets address the cast of this film. 

Sam Worthington as Lt. Rick Janssen: Lets forget some of the issues I mentioned above for a moment, I actually liked Worthington in this role, especially for the first half of the film. He was believable and demonstrated solid chemistry with his principal co-stars. It is only when he became mutated, that I started to lose it a bit, but in this regard, I truly believe that it is the fault of the director/script, not the actor. Worthington is a pretty decent action star, and I feel that he was not utilized properly in this film. 

Taylor Shilling as Dr. Abi Janssen: I found Shilling quite believable as the wife of our hero. Her emotions were pretty solid and the chemistry felt true between her and her husband (Worthington).  As with the remainder of the cast and the film writ large, in the first 2/3 of the film, I found her performance very solid, only in the final acts did it seem weak and contrived. Again, I feel not the fault of the actress, but of the circumstances she was put into.

Tom Wilkinson as Prof. Martin Collingwood: Wilkinson has been around forever, and I feel that I have enjoyed his more recent roles (last 15-20 years) more than what he did when he was younger. Never a leading man, but a solid supporting cast. His portrayal of the scientist that was the cause of it all was pretty believable, and I did enjoy his downfall. (Pretty much the only good part of the third act).

Agyness Deyn as Dr. Freya Upton: As the Igor to Wilkinson’s Frankenstein if you will, Deyn did a fair job portraying the assistant. Her character was developed just enough to believe that she could change sides and support the Janssen’s in their battle, and that she could see Collingwood (Wilkinson) for what he was. She actually looked familiar to us and we could quite place it till we checked IMDB and saw that she was in Clash of the Titan’s…. another film with Worthington as well. I am seeing a distinct patter here, taking ideas from his previous films, as well as former co-stars!

Nathalie Emmanuel as W.O. Tally Rutherford: Emmanuel is one of the other volunteers that is given the most screen time throughout the film besides Worthington. Her character is fairly developed and she displays descent chemistry with her co-stars. I liked her character till the final act, and again, for whatever reason that only the director and screenwriter knows, it just gets stupid. Up to that point, her character was well done and I actually enjoyed her in the film.

So, as with all reviews, were we entertained. Actually, we were…sort of. As I had mentioned previously, the first 2/3 of the film was pretty decent. It had some good character development, the script while not Oscar worthy, was fine, and even if it did have some mistakes/errors in it, we could live with them. The final third as indicated several time above is what really dragged the film down. But we did manage to sit through the whole thing. Would I recommend this film…hmm, well only if you are a Worthington fan and a fan of the Sci-Fi genre, and, if there is nothing else on; give it a try.  

Our rating:  3.5/10

If you are interested in other films and shows from our principal actors, please give the following recommendations a try:

Sam Worthington                      Clash of the Titans, Avatar, Hacksaw Ridge, Everest, Man on a Ledge

Taylor Shilling                           Orange is the New Black, Argo

Tom Wilkinson                          The Grand Budapest Hotel, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Valkyrie, John Adams, The Full Monty

Agyness Deyn                           Clash of the Titans

Nathalie Emmanuel                   Game of Thrones, Misfits, Furious 7

Till Next Time!

Cast:

Will Smith                                 Mike

Martin Lawrence                       Marcus

Vanessa Hudgens                      Kelly

Alexander Ludwig                     Dorn

Charles Melton                         Rafe

Paula Nunez                             Rita

Kate Del Castillo                        Isabel Aretas

Joe Pantoliano                          Captain Howard

Jacob Scipio                              Armando Aretas

Friday night is upon us again and it is time for another Movie to entertain us. While our home province has now entered it’s third lockdown since the pandemic has begun, we have become quite adept at selecting films and tv-shows to pass the time. For this week, we selected Bad Boys for Life. This is the 3rdinstallment in the Bad Boys franchise and reunites Martin Lawrence and Will Smith again as “Edgy cops who will stop at nothing to catch the villain”. While this is a very formula driven film, it has also consistently produced good results and ensures that all are relatively entertained while watching it.

This film starts 25 years after the original Bad Boys (1995), and Marcus (Lawrence) and Mike (Smith) are racing through the city of Miami yet again.  Tires are screeching, sirens wailing, and sarcastic quips are flying between our two main characters. This style of dialogue works for Lawrence and Smith, sure it has been 25 years since the first installment and 17 since Bad Boys 2, but their chemistry is still strong. They have aged, (who hasn’t in 25 years) gotten a little heavier (especially Lawrence) again, who hasn’t; but their rapid fire one-liners are still as strong as ever. While this is a standard cop buddy movie (as were the last 2), this one seemed to remind me of 2 other films predominately, Lethal Weapon and Smith’s previous film “Gemini Man”. Many concepts and sub-plots were similar as well as the action sequences. Oh well, you can’t have originality every time…especially when it is the 3rdfilm in the trilogy. 

Back to the plot; we find out Marcus (Lawrence) is a new grandfather and has decided to retire from the force, much to Mike’s (Smith) chagrin. Concurrently, we are introduced to the villainess for the movie Isabel Aretas (Del Castillo), who is trapped in prison….well sort-of. She manages to escape in a very bloody fashion in order to return to her son and the Cartel that she once ran with her husband. Seeking vengeance for her incarceration, she dispatches her son to eradicate all who were involved in her capture and imprisonment. At this point we see her son has more skill in the assassination department than all of Seal Team 6 and Spetsnaz combined. Able to ride a motorcycle while sniping distant targets, more moves than Bruce Lee and accuracy better than Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry, the prodigal son of Aretas (Del Castillo), Armando (Scipio) is all of these rolled up into one. Giving a little spoiler here, Armando (Scipio) manages to wreak vengeance for his mother except when it comes to Mike (Smith). He is severely wounded and is touch and go in the hospital. 

While on his deathbed, Marcus (Lawrence) prays to the almighty to save his friend and partner, and if he does, then he will forgo violence for the remainder of his life. Showing the strength of prayer, Mike (Smith) recovers and joins his former girlfriend, Lt Rita (Nunez) and her new team of hot shot crime fighters called AMMO (seriously, who comes up with some of these acronyms) who use technology instead of street smarts to capture the bad guys. Somewhat unwillingly we find Marcus (Lawrence) join the team and all of them go forth to battle the Cartel, The Cartel’s boss and prodigal son, with their main goal to trike vengeance for the loss of their comrades, while remaining lawful all the time. 

Sure, I gave a bit of the story line out, but c’mon, it follows the traditional buddy-cop movie formula, especially once we are in the state of multiple sequels. We all know how it is going to end, there are a few twists and turns in the pursuit that most people will have seen coming, and a mild surprise or two. Did this takeaway from the film? Not really, we found the film action packed, with a lot of excitement. Great special effects were used in combination with a snappy dialogue, and highly charged action sequences. While we had a good idea on what would happen throughout the film, it was still fun to watch it unveil as the film progressed. The chemistry between all the characters were clearly evident, especially between our two heroes (Marcus (Lawrence) and Mike (Smith)). All of the supporting cast reacted and interacted well with each other as well. Even the fact that our heroes were getting a little older, their physical actions were not too far beyond belief. I especially enjoyed watching Lawrence as the aging cop…he reminded me a great deal of Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon and if he was playing an homage to that role, then it was well done!

While on the subject of the cast, lets take a look at the main players in this film.

 Will Smith as Mike: I have been a fan of Smith since his “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” days. He is an extremely versatile actor who can play the cut-up or a dramatic role with equal ease. For the most part, I really enjoy his films, sure there have been a few stinkers…I am thinking “After Earth” as a prime example, but he has also made some fantastic films in my opinion. In the case of Bad Boys for Life, Smith was back too normal and provided a very admirable performance. Even though he is in his mid-50’s, he can still carry the action portion of a film and his sense of humour has not waned. Quick with the fists, guns or quips he was fun to watch in this film. As I mentioned previously, his chemistry with Lawrence is proven and continues to entertain. While this is not his best performance, it is still fun to watch and if you are a fan of the genre and Smith, then this film is for you.

Martin Lawrence as Marcus: Though not a great fan of Lawrence overall, I find his performances with Smith is where he is best. Buddy films where he can bounce his own wit off of his co-stars is right in his wheelhouse, and in Bad Boys, he does it extremely well. I did appreciate the fact that he played off of the fact that he is not 25 years old, and he can’t move like he used to. It helped make his character believable in this film. As stated above, he does have a great chemistry with Smith, and I do enjoy when they do something together.

Vanessa Hudgens as Kelly: Hudgnis played Kelly, one of the AMMO crowd. In this film, she was supposed to be the tough cop, who looked cute and could flirt or shoot a gun with equal ease. Well, to me, I found her character lacking and actually kind of annoying. I have not really cared for her characters in many of the roles I have seen her in previously, but that could just be my taste in films. I had a hard time buying her character (or her) in this role, maybe casting Michelle Rodriguez would have been a better choice, except that she is a bit older to play a young smart-ass cop. But Rodriguez does have the attitude that would have helped the character. Hudgens’ character was a smaller supporting role, so it looks like she is using roles like this to develop a persona that can be called upon for action roles of the future. Personally, I found her performance lacking and she requires more time and experience in action flicks to carry off a believable performance. 

Alexander Ludwig as Dorn: Another of the AMMO crowd, Ludwig’s character Dorn, was the big burly Viking who is scared to cause to much damage, that is why he works with the computers all the time. I appreciated this version and role and found it to be a nice change from his roles of late (i.e. Vikings). I liked his character, and even though it did not have a lot of screen time, I found his scenes were done well. 

Charles Meltonas Rafe: Rafe was another member of AMMO and played the annoying young guy very well. He was pretty new to me and I had to look him up on IMDB and found that I had seen him on Riverdale (for at least the few episodes that I could stand). However, having said that, Melton’s version of Rafe was pretty good, I especially liked the ‘conflict” between him and Mike (Smith) trying too out-hotshot each other. Those scenes were funny and well presented. I am looking forward to seeing him in some future production where he may have a greater role. 

Paula Nunez as Rita: Nunez’s portrayal of Lt Rita, the AMMO team leader, and also old flame of Mike (Smith) was ok. I found her scenes as the Team leader to be less believable than that of being Mike’s ex girlfriend. I just did not get the “tough” vibe from her, again as far as casting choices, maybe Alice Braga from “Queen of the South” would have been a better choice. As a Latina actress who has predominately done Mexican productions, I have no gauge to judge her against any previous performances. However, having said that, I had seen her in only one other feature and that was the series “The Purge” where I though she did quite well.  

Kate Del Castillo as Isabel Aretas: As the principal villainess, Del Castillo carried that performance and role very well. She came across as evil very easily, adding just a hint of sexiness. Good casting in my opinion. I also found her scenes with Smith to be done quite well and it felt that the history between them was believable. I had only seen her in a few roles previously, but I did like her in this film. My wife and I both found that her version of the villain for the film was quite well done. 

Joe Pantoliano as Captain Howard: What can I say about Pantoliano, as a character actor, he excels. This is his third foray as Captain Howard and he wears it like a comfortable shoe. He has chemistry with the two prime characters and continues to entertain as the blustery Captain, who always ultimately gives in too his favourite protégés. A fun performance from a solid supporting character actor.  

Jacob Scipio as Armando Aretas: Scipio did an admirable job as the son of the villainess. His action scenes were well done, and his interactions with his mother as well as with Mike (Smith) were admirable for a relatively new actor. I have not seen him in any other production so I can’t compare this role to anything done previously, but I feel that he has the potential to have a pretty good action career. However, this role was supporting, and required him to mainly shoot, punch, kick or ride a motorcycle, so we did not really get the opportunity to see his full range. Maybe in a future film we will see some diversity from him. I will be looking to see what he does in the future, I see he is in a show that I want to watch “Tom Clancy’s: Without Remorse”, and I will pay attention to his character to see if there is any growth in skill. 

Overall, were we entertained? Yes, we were. My wife and I enjoyed Bad Boys for Life, it was full of action, witty dialogue and a true and tried storyline. Sure, there was some rip-offs from other films, (i.e. Lethal Weapon), but it was ok. I did not expect an Oscar Award performance or film, just a film that I could lose a few hours and enjoy the ride. I would recommend this film to anyone who likes action movies (especially cop-buddy films) or is a fan of Smith. To us, this film was better than the 2ndone, but not as good as the first, so at least it did not fall under the trilogy curse. So if you are skimming through your NETFLIX menu, and if you have not checked this one out yet, give it a try and enjoy the ride.

Our rating 6.5/10

If you are interested in other films with the key actors, please consider the following recommendations.

Will Smith                     I am Legend, Men in Black, Bad Boys, I Robot, Concussion, Ali, The Pursuit of Happyness, Hitch

Martin Lawrence           Bad Boys, Bad Boys 2, Death at a Funeral

Alexander Ludwig         Vikings (series), Lone Survivor, Hunger Games

Paula Nunez                 The Purge (series)

Kate Del Castillo            Jane the Virgin (series), Weeds (series), The 33

Joe Pantoliano              The Sopranos (series), The Fugitive, Bad Boys, Congo, U.S. Marshalls, The Matrix, 

Review: 1917 (2019)

Cast:

Dean-Charles Chapman             Lance Corporal Blake

George MacKay                        Lance Corporal Schofield

Colin Firth                                 General Erinmore

Andrew Scott                            Lieutenant Leslie

Benedict Cumberbatch              Colonel Mackenzie

Mark Strong                              Captain Smith

Another weekend has arrived in this COVID filled planet and my wife and I chose another film for our viewing pleasure. For this week, we put 1917 into the Blu-ray player. I have had this film for awhile and had not yet gotten around to watching it, but once selected I was really looking forward to it.  So after charging my wine glass (this means filling it for those readers who are not familiar with the military vernacular), adjusted the recliner and started the film.

For the few people who have not heard of the film or watched it (2 less now since we watched it this weekend), 1917 is a film about which captures pretty much a 12-hour period in WW 1, and more specifically the actions of Lance Corporals Blake (Chapman) and Schofield (MacKay) as they deliver an important command from their General to that of a Regimental Commander (Col Mackenzie played by Benedict Cumberbatch). To further add tension and impetus to their mission, Lance Corporal Blake’s (Chapman) brother is an officer in that regiment, and these order’s could not only save the life of his brother, but also ensure that a whole regiment of 1600 men do not get slaughtered.

Pretty much, that is the story in a nutshell, two intrepid soldiers delivering the General’s orders to the Colonel located miles away. Their journey is fraught with danger as they cross the no-mans land between the two opposing forces, snipers, German soldiers and the confusion of war. As this film captures basically a moment in time with respect to the first world war, it does not try to analyze which side is right or wrong, or give any message of morality. Instead it demonstrates the Brotherhood of War, how soldiers in wartime become brothers, how they risk their lives for each other, not for King or country. The mission success is a bonus; the real success is that they make it through the conflict together. To me, that was the film. 

While the plot was really the soldiers journey, both physical and mental, I must commend the two main characters Lance Corporals Blake and Schofield played by Chapman and MacKay respectively. While both actors were relatively unknown to me, either I had not watched anything that they did, or what I did watch them in, their role was a minor supporting one. I was extremely impressed with not only their acting in this role, but also the chemistry that they portrayed with each other. The determination to succeed and fulfill their Commanding Officer’s mission was clearly evident, and was only surpassed by Blake’s (Chapman) need to save his brother from potential death. The cinematography was fantastic and the film felt that it was presented in all one continuous shot. While it was not, it was so skilfully edited and filmed that the appearance of it being continuous was just amazing. It kept you glued to your seat as you watched the heroes trudge through the muddy battlefield to their ultimate destination. Additionally, not only was the cinematography and scenes bang-on, but for me the costumes and props were also relatively accurate. I did have to look up a few things, for example the flashlights that Blake and Schofield carried. While that design was prevalent, it was mainly for officers. However, at least they were right for the period. Another thing I had to look up was if the British army had integrated units, and I did find out that in WWI, there were some British units that were integrated. So, it was still another part of the film that was factually accurate which also enhanced my enjoyment of the film.

While there are a number of relatively big names in this film, their screen time is actually quite minimal. Their performances were used so skillfully to enhance the story and provide the proper gravitas or impetus as needed. Another example of excellent acting, directing and writing!

Now it is time to take a look at the principal actors in this film. I have included the big names who were actually in supporting roles to discuss their part.

Dean-Charles Chapmanas Lance Corporal Blake: It took me a few minutes to recognize Blake from his role in the Game of Thrones, but I must say, the presentation he does as Lance Corporal Blake is just great. He reminded me of several other young soldiers that I had served with over the years. His sense of duty and determination were clearly evident throughout the film. His portrayal was believable and it wanted you to follow him through his journey. His chemistry with his co-star, Mackay, was excellent throughout their scenes together. For me, the role got me to notice Chapman as an actor, while his previous roles that I had watched he was just part of the scenery. This part was a great jumping point for his career and I look forward to seeing him in future productions. 

George MacKayas Lance Corporal Schofield: In the case of MacKay, while he has been around quite a while, I had not seen him in any of his films or shows. However, having said that I was quite impressed with his ability and screen presence. As the co-lead if you will, he had great chemistry with Chapman as well as the other main stars of the film. He projected the stoicism of a soldier who had seen the horrors while still imparting empathy. He embodied the concept of the Brotherhood of War and how relationships forged in fire truly last. His character, and MacKay as the actor carried the film to its successful conclusion, as in the case of Chapman, I look forward to seeing him in future productions.

Colin Firth as General Erinmore: Firth only has a small role in the start of the film as the commanding General who gives our heroes their mission. An accomplished actor, his skill in stage and screen were evident as he imparted the urgency of the mission to the soldiers. Not only did he act the part, but he also looked it as well, he truly portrayed a stereotypical British General. Another fine, but short role for Firth.

Andrew Scott as Lieutenant Leslie: Another well known star with a small supporting role. Scott’s version of Leslie was excellent in his representation of a no-nonsense, war-weary officer. Displaying the dry humour, in a tired, yet also in an educational fashion was also extremely well done. The few minutes of screen time that he had were excellent and in my opinion added to the backdrop of the story.

Benedict Cumberbatch  as Colonel Mackenzie: Cumberbatch can command a scene when he is in it, regardless if he is Sherlock Holmes or Khan, he is the scene, and he will keep you riveted while there. Cumberbatch’s only screen presence throughout the film is at the climax when the hero finds him to deliver the message. Once received, you can literally see him pondering the orders and analyzing results, much like he does when he has played Sherlock. A great, but short performance from Cumberbatch in an all round enjoyable film.

Mark Strong as Captain Smith: Strong is another actor who has been around for a while, and his presence also adds to the film. Playing a stereotypical officer of the British Army, he carries the swagger but also the wisdom well. It is his sage advice to Lance Corporal Schofield with helps him find the courage to confront Colonel Mackenzie in the final act of the film. A solid actor, with a solid performance.

As you can tell, I enjoyed the whole film, and while some scenes and secondary characters stood out, I will leave it to you, the viewer, to determine what scene will stand out for you. In my opinion this film stands out in the war film genre and should be included with other films/shows of the same calibre (Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, Platoon, Patton, Hamburger Hill to name but a few). If you want to watch a good movie, I would highly recommend this film!

Our Rating: 9/10

If you are interested in other films/shows from the key cast members, please consider the following recommendations:

Dean-Charles Chapman             Game of Thrones, The Commuter

Colin Firth                                 Mama Mia, Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Kings Speech, The Last Legion, Bridget Jones Diary 

Andrew Scott                            Fleabag, Sherlock, Band of Brothers

Benedict Cumberbatch              Sherlock, Dr. Strange, Avengers: Endgame, The Imitation Game, Star Trek Into Darkness

Mark Strong                              Shazam, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Zero Dark Thirty, Miss Sloane

Till Next Time!

Review: Ava (2020)

Cast:

Jessica Chastain                        Ava

John Malkovich                         Duke

Common                                  Micheal

Geena Davis                              Bobbi

Jess Weixler                              Judy

Joan Chen                                 Toni

Colin Farrell                              Simon

Diana Silvers                             Camille

Looking to NETFLIX for this weekend’s movie, I perused my ever growing list of shows and Movies that I had identified for my wife and I to watch. I stopped at Ava. Ava stars Jessica Chastain, a young actress whose movies have entertained us for the last few years. Right off the top of my head, I can think of 4 movies that I had watched in the last few years starring Chastain that I really liked, Zero Dark Thirty, Miss Sloane, Molly’s Game and The Martian. In 2 of them she was the principal star, and the other 2 strong supporting cast. I enjoyed all four immensely and was actually really looking forward to watching Ava. Not only did it have Chastain, but also Malkovich, a family favourite and Farrell, who we have liked in many of his previous films. So with that in mind, we cued up the film and poured our drinks. 

So before I get into critiquing the film, let me touch on the plot of it a bit. Ava (Chastain) is about a young woman who works for an unnamed agency or corporation that specializes in assassination. Ava’s background and experience is revealed to the audience with the opening credits. Within the first minute or two of the credits we see photos and action snippets of her as an all star athlete in school, followed by joining the military and becoming some sort of Uber soldier. Interspersed, the audience is also shown a few fitness reports that state that she is a bit of a lone wolf, unorthodox and not willing to take direction. Post military service, a scoreboard of targets is shown with red X’s drawn across their faces. This tells us, that Ava (Chastain) is a real bad ass and she has killed more people than Bin Laden and that she is to be feared. 

Next scene, she is on a mission and has picked up her target from the airport. Before completing her mission, she wants to find out why she has been given the mission to kill him. Apparently questioning your target before execution is verboten in this un-named agency and it gets reported up the chain to Duke (Malkovich) and Simon (Farrell) her handler and boss respectively. As a form of punishment, she is set up on her next mission for failure, and probable death. Foiling this plan, she decides to return to her home after 8 years away. 

Re-uniting with her estranged sister (Weixler) and her new fiancée (Common) as well as her long lost Mother (Davis), Ava (Chastain) tries to find herself again. Concurrently her handler (Malkovich) tries to save Ava, his young protégé from the evil boss Simon (Farrell). This is displayed by a a few quasi dramatic scenes with Simon (Farrell), and his daughter Camille (Silvers) with Duke (Malkovich) that seemed forced and wooden for all concerned. Meanwhile, Ava is trying to make up for lost time with her family, trying to fix all wrongs and attempt a reconnection. As you can probably figure out (as this movie is so very predictable) Ava’s life is in danger from her previous organization and for the rest of the film she is either running/fighting for her life or saving her family. Even though some spoilers are given, I have not really delved into details to allow you the opportunity to be “surprised” as the film progresses if you choose to watch it.

What did I like about the film? I did like the premise and the cast member, and the story-line was actually laid out quite well…but that is pretty much it. 

What did I think the film lacked? Well, the script was pretty lame, and there was no chemistry between the characters, well except maybe between Ava (Chastain) and Duke (Malkovich). Overall The plot was extremely predictable and the supporting cast could have pretty much been replaced by cardboard cut-outs for the actual acting skill that presented in the film. Additionally, the fight sequence with Duke (Malkovich) was also overly choreographed and you could blatantly tell that the speed of the camera was increased to show that he was supposed to be a mighty warrior. Unfortunately, it just looked to contrived and actually funny instead of giving the audience a front row seat to a great battle. 

So, what are we left with? Well, the cast and my thoughts of their performance. 

Jessica Chastain as Ava: Usually I really enjoy Chastain in her films. As I mentioned previously, her performances in Zero Dark Thirty, Miss Sloane, Molly’s Game and the Martian were exemplary. Even in some lesser known films like The Zookeepers Wife and Lawless, I enjoyed her performance. However, I cannot say the same for Ava. While she is good in a dramatic film, when she becomes the action star I find her lacking. Her action scenes were forced and when she tried to play tough…kind of unbelievable. Don’t get me wrong, she can be tough in films, but more in a court-room, analytics, or board-room then in a street fight. I just could not get into the character and her persona as an action star. I know several leading ladies of the past went on to star in action flicks and managed to really portray a kick-ass, tough, street fighter (i.e. Jolie, Therron, Weaver to name but a few) but in the case of Chastain, she should stick to more civilized fighting in the courtroom/boardroom. That is where her style excels.   

John Malkovichas Duke: Malkovich is one of my favourite actors. He can make us laugh, cringe, hate and/or like him at the same time. In this role, while his talent is evident, the character did not mesh with the rest of the cast. He was the elderly mentor to both Ava (Chastain) and Simon (Farrell), and yet it did not play well. The only chemistry in the film (too me) was between himself and Chastain, it was really not present anywhere else. Also, as I previously mentioned, his fight sequence was comical instead of action packed. Only in RED did I find his fight sequences well done, but then it was slanted to the comedic side on purpose. What he needed to portray was the same kind of malevolence that he did “In the Line of Fire” against Clint Eastwood…now that was believable, but then again, it was almost 30 years ago. Unfortunately, he is a great actor that was put in a poor film. 

Common as Michael: Even though Common has been around for quite a while, starting in the music industry and then transiting to film, I have not really watched him in a lot to say that he was memorable. For example, John Wick 2, Hunter Killer, Oceans 8, he was in all of them and I enjoyed the films, however, I do not remember him at all. Just goes to show how great his contribution was to the film.  Obviously, they were neither great nor horrible, he was just part of the cast to keep the story going. The only role that I have really watched him in and remembered was his part in the series “Hell on Wheels”. While not a great actor in that show, at least I remembered his part and the role he played in the storyline. In Ava, you could have put a cardboard cut-out of any actor and it would have showed greater talent and skill. He just was a talking one-dimensional character that did nothing to add to the film. Even trying to portray his angst that Ava was a former lover and he is now with the sister came off horribly. A very poor performance overall, and I hope that he gets better roles for him to grow as an actor. 

Geena Davis as Bobbi: Once a great actress, Davis has lost her edge and her talent for acting. For the few scenes that she was in, it might as well have been phoned in for all the effort she displayed in this role. Obviously, she needed a few bucks and just took the role for something to do. Even the most touching scene (at least the one that supposed to be) where she gives Ava the big reveal on how horrible a mother she was….well, was just plain horrible. Another case of a once big name riding on her previous laurels from real roles and movies.

Jess Weixler as Judy: I found Weixler kind of annoying as the sister in Ava. The little sister who was left behind to take care of ailing family and pick up her big sister’s cast-offs (Common) was just a little too clichéd for my taste. While she did not act badly in this role, I can’t say she was great either. Mind you, it could also be with who she was working her scenes with. Common and Davis gave sub-par performances so she did not have anything really to work with. My only experience watching her in film/tv to date had been in “The Good Wife” where I really liked her role and character. So obviously, it is not a talent thing, but more of her script/direction and co-stars.

Joan Chen as Toni: Chen, once a solid B actress, she had kind of drifted off into roles that were getting progressively worse and in productions that were abysmal. Her character here as the syndicate Madame who ran a gambling den was not only cheezily stereotypical but also not needed. The only thing it did was offer the reason for Ava (Chastain) to demonstrate her new fighting skills and garner a reason to help her sister and ex boyfriend/future brother in-law out. A real throw away character that was poorly written and acted. Chen had much better days in years gone by, but unfortunately I think those solid roles are long gone.

Colin Farrell as Simon: Here is another actor who I either love his film or hate it. He has a lot of talent and has demonstrated it repeatedly over the years. However, in Ava, playing a kind of hitman agency king-pin he was wasted. The character could have used a bit more backstory and also explain on how he could be Duke’s first protégé in one breath, and now his boss in the second. Kind of disjointed if you ask me. Also, there was very little chemistry between him and his co-stars. The only scene that he truly looked like was acting (though kind of weakly) was in the final act where he and Ava confront each other. In my opinion a poor role and performance from Farrell, who is talented actor…he just needed a better vehicle to project his skills.  

Diana Silvers as Camille: I am only throwing this one in for comment as it is now the 2ndtime I have seen Camille in a role. First time was in “Space Force” that I reviewed last year and now she is Camille, Simon’s daughter. She really did not have much of a role except to either looked pissed or sullen in alternating fashion…oh year, and a very poor fight sequence. But then again, she is just starting out and has many years in which to perfect her talent. Of note, the last time I saw her (Space Force) one of her co-stars was also Malkovich…just as a little trivia piece. 

So, overall, were we entertained? Only in the most minor sense, while the premise was good and the film had several actors in it that I really like, it failed to deliver on most levels. For this type of film, I would probably skip Ava and move on to Atomic Blonde, Peppermint or Salt if you want to see something that has a little more finesse and production value and also keep you entertained throughout. But if you have watched everything else on NETFLIX or Prime, and you are a fan of Chastain, you might want to watch it…just be prepared to play a game on your I-pad to help pass the time during the boring sequences.

Our Score: 2.5/10

If you are interested in other films starring the main cast, please consider the following recommendations!

Jessica Chastain            Molly’s Game, The Zookeepers Wife, Miss Sloane, Interstellar, Zero Dark Thirty, The Martian

John Malkovich             Jennifer 8, In the Line of Fire, Con Air, Ripley’s Game, Red, Red 2, Space Force

Common                      Hell on Wheels, Hunter Killer, Oceans 8, Meagan Leavey

Geena Davis                  The Fly, Thelma & Louise, Beetlejuice, A League of Their Own, Long Kiss Goodnight

Jess Weixler                  The Good Wife

Joan Chen                     The Last Emperor, Twin Peaks, Judge Dredd

Colin Farrell                  Miami Vice, Tigerland, True Detective, Crazy Heart, The Recruit, Phonebooth, Hart’s War, Minority Report, S.W.A.T.

Diana Silvers                 Space Force

Till Next Time!

Cast:

Rami Malek                              Freddie Mercury

Lucy Boynton                            Mary Austin

Gwilym Lee                               Brian May

Ben Hardy                                Roger Taylor

Jospeh Mazzello                        John Deacon

Aidan Gillen                              John Read

Tom Hollander                          Jim Beach

I am still working through a stack of unwatched Blu-Rays that I had collected over the years, albeit with streaming services, the pandemic, and of course a reduced Hollywood production calendar, this stack is getting smaller every week. Grabbing the next disc, I was very glad to see that it was Bohemian Rhapsody, while I had bought this disc a year or so ago, I have just not gotten around to watching it. This movie struck a chord with my memories as a youth. Queen had an eclectic range of music that appealed to me and my friends. Songs like “We will rock you”, “Another one bites the Dust”, “Fat Bottomed Girls”, “We are the Champions” and of course the title song “Bohemian Rhapsody” were staples in our music library whenever my friends and I got together to have a party. Through the years, I have always smiled in remembrance whenever these songs come on the radio, while my music tastes may have changed over the years, my memories of Queen and their music were always enjoyable. 

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is a Biopic or Docudrama if you will, of Freddie Mercury rise to stardom as an individual and also as a member of the iconic Rock band “Queen”. As with many films of late, Rhapsody, starts with the end, and then flips backwards to tell you of the journey of the key characters and how they got to that point. Once in the flashback, we find a young Freddie Mercury (Malek), before he changed his name, working at an airport as a baggage handler during the day, and frequenting the pub scene at night. While on only touching on his origins, this film does display the early struggles of Mercury as an immigrant from Zanzibar with Indian roots, trying to assimilate in London in the early 1970’s. 

While touring the pubs and local music scenes, he meets up with Brian May (Lee) and Roger Taylor (Hardy), to join their band “Smile”, John Deacon (Mazzello) would join them in 1971. “Smile” would then be subsequently rebranded as Queen, just prior to their first album’s release.  

“Bohemian Rhapsody” portrays the band’s early struggles, internal and external conflicts, creation of the hits, recording, and finally in concert. The film had a steady pace that was easy to follow and when the music would begin it was part of the storyline and an integral inclusion. (Not like other films, where it would appear that they would break into song, without any consideration for the storyline at all). The casting was quite impressive, as many of the cast either resembled or were made to look like their real-life counterparts. While the songs were lip-synced, it was not done in such a way to take away from the story. Yes, it would have been more impressive if they performed all the songs, especially Malek, but not everyone has the chops for that kind of work. I was also very impressed with their movements while performing, specifically Malek, as it reminded me of the video’s and concerts that I had seen of Queen in my youth. Yes, there were some artistic licenses taken with the film, i.e. The signature mic-prop did not start during their first gig, the details around Mary Austin (from what I have read, changes were made to protect portions of her private life), and errors in dates for song’s and albums to name but a few. But none of these errors really took away from the film or the enjoyment. 

While the film centred on Freddie Mercury (Malek) there was also enough details about the other band members to ensure that they were not presented in one-dimensional way. Additionally, I was impressed with the way the film not only handled the craziness of a “rockers” life, specifically with respect to the drugs/alcohol and sex issues that would have had a great influence on their lives. Yes, these details were presented and shown, but it was done in such a way so that the film could actually appeal to a greater audience and not offend or overly distract from the story itself. 

The chemistry between the cast was quite impressive, each member played off of each other to ensure a great performance. I cannot really say that there were any weak characters in this film, as each and every one aided to the final product. Furthermore, while watching the film, it felt like you were watching Freddie Mercury, not someone playing him. Malek became Mercury, and you, as the audience forgot you were watching a film about the singer, and you could just sit and enjoy the ride. 

While we are on the subject of the cast, lets take a look at the major characters.

Lucy Boynton as Mary Austin: In our opinion, Boynton did a great job portraying Mercury’s best friend. You could see the love between the two characters that cemented their relationship as well as her acceptance of Mercury’s lifestyle. Not overly familiar with her past performances, as I had only seen her in “Murder on the Orient Express” a few years ago, I found that she supported Malek throughout the film and was integral not only to the story, but also that of the main characters. I look forward to seeing her in other roles in the future. 

Gwilym Lee as Brian May: First, I have to say that looking at Lee as May I must give kudo’s to the cast. They did a fantastic job of making him look like May. Like Boynton, I had not seen him in anything before, so I have nothing to compare his performance too. However, I found his performance to be extremely complimentary to the film and his co-stars. I thoroughly enjoyed his part in the film.

Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor: While not as good as casting choice in the “resemblance” department, Ben Hardy also did a great job as the drummer for Queen. His dialogue was well done, as well as the emotions during the tense moments of the band’s development and reconstruction. I was impressed that he learned to play the drums so that his shots during concerts etc. looked real and not staged. A relatively new actor, I had only seen him before in 6 Underground and X-Men Apocalypse. In both roles, he did a fair job, but as far as I am concerned, he came forward in Bohemian Rhapsody and really added to the product. 

Jospeh Mazzello as John Deacon: Another case of great casting of an actor to play a real person. Looking at the photos of both (actor/Deacon) there are enough resemblances to really add to the film. While it seemed that his character had the least dialogue or impact, he was still integral to the film. What I found the most surprising, was that it was Mazzello who I had seen the most in previous films/shows. Starting as a child actor, in such films like Jurassic Park and moving all the way to the mini-series The Pacific (also done with Malek) he demonstrates a wide range of characters throughout his life, and in roles that enhanced the project. In Rhapsody he continued to support the cast and move the story along. Overall, a pretty good performance!

Aidan Gillen as John Read: Gillen is another one of these character actors who always comes across as slimy or possessing a secret agenda. This type of performance continued, albeit at a lesser level in Rhapsody. As the manager to Queen, he embodied all the right characteristics of a manager in the music industry. His sliminess fit in the role and his chemistry was admirable in the scenes that he shared with the other characters. Gillen continues as always, to be a very good supporting actor.  

Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury: I saved the best for last, Malek as Mercury was formidable. I have been watching him in television and film for a few years and he never ceases to impress me. He was Freddie Mercury, he embodied the spirit, the movements and mannerisms of a Rock Icon who I remembered growing up. I can see why he won all the awards when this film was made, and he deserved every bit of it. Even watching some of the real footage of the Live Aid concert and comparing it to the performance in the film, it was like watching mirror images. Just fantastic, however, kudo’s are not only to him for emulating Mercury to such a tee, but also to the support/direction/script that enabled him to provide such an awesome performance. Malek has great on screen presence, and it really shone through in this film. Dialogue and movements were extremely well done, and as I had mentioned previously, even though he was lip syncing the music, it still came across as believable and not hokey. What can I say, a truly great performance by Malek.

What did I like about the film? I think I pretty much covered it. First, there was a great story that was expertly delivered, and even though there were some warts in the characters, the direction/script/actors allowed them to come forward without overpowering or distracting the story. Excellent soundtrack, and an extremely talented cast that not only let you think you were watching the real people, but let you immerse yourself into the story. I even liked the small cameo by Mike Myers, I actually did not recognize him at first and then had to double check with IMDB that it was actually him!

Overall a fantastic film, that any music lover will enjoy. As far as musical Biopics go, I have to say I enjoyed this a little more than Rocketman, but that could be due to the fact that I liked the music of Queen over Elton John. I highly recommend this film if you are interested in Biopics, and Music/Rock history, so if you have not yet seen this film, que it up on NETFLIX or AMAZON PRIME, open a bottle of wine and get ready to enjoy a great story with some fantastic performances, not to mention, great music too!

Our Rating: 8/10

If you are interested in further shows/films from the principal actors, please consider the following recommendations:

Rami Malek                  Mr. Robot, Papillon, The Pacific, 24 (Season 8), Night at the Museum, 

Lucy Boynton                Murder on the Orient Express

Ben Hardy                    6 Underground, X-Men Apocalypse                    

Jospeh Mazzello            Jurassic Park, The River Wilde, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, The Pacific, Justified            

Aidan Gillen                  Shanghai Knights, The Wire, The Dark Knight Rises, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Game of Thrones, Peaky Blinders      

Till Next Time!

Cast:

Gerard Butler                John Garrity

Morena Baccarin           Allison Garrity

Roger Dale Floyd           Nathan Garrity

Scott Glenn                   Dale

This week I decided to go back to Amazon Prime to see what I could find for a review. Lo and Behold, I came across Greenland as a new release and addition to the service. I watched the trailer, thought OK, a mild rip off of Deep Impact and Armageddon, with a hint of Geostorm and 2012. But, what the hell, will give it a try. Why not, it stars Butler and Baccarin, two actors that for the most part that I like their work. So, we queued up the film and settled in to be entertained. 

Now for a quick synopsis on what Greenland is about. I will try and not to give out too many spoilers, but in a nutshell, Greenland tells the tale of a family who is trying to survive after a near Extinction Level Event. A meteor called “Clark” (I found out later, named after Arthur C Clarke, and most specifically his story “Hammer of the Gods”.) will be hitting the Earth and basically wiping out all of civilization. Now, at first the public is told that it will miss Earth (even though the Gov’t knows it won’t) and they will only really see a meteor shower to provide some stellar entertainment.  Enter our hero of the story, John Garrity (Butler), he is a structural engineer and architect with marital problems. Going home (and into the spare bedroom) so that he can join his estranged wife and son to celebrate the son’s birthday, Garrity (Butler) receives a text and Presidential alarm stating that he and his family have been chosen to go to the Government bunker to weather out the calamity. As this warning happens not only when he is shopping for last minute party supplies, but again when all their friends and neighbours are at the house it makes for a few awkward scenes between Butler and Baccarin, as well as their house guests. Packing up their things, while their neighbours start to panic, primarily as they were not called we are presented with a scene much like Deep Impact when the lucky few were taken away to safety. The Garrity’s pack up and head out to the designated pick up point, and we are informed that there is a bit of an issue with respect to the son’s insulin medicine. This insulin is dramatic foreshadowing on what will play out later in the film.  

The Gerrity family is denied entrance to the base due to the medical issues of their son, becomes split up and must make their own way north. Allison (Baccarin) leaves John (Butler) a note stating to meet her at her fathers place in Tennessee. Again, I don’t want to give out too many spoilers, but let’s leave it to the fact that they all have very separate and distinct adventures, discovering the good and bad in their fellow citizens, and manage to re-unite at the father’s place (Scott Glenn) in Tennessee. 

While on the road, Gerrity (Butler) learns that Canadian pilots are ferrying people to the bunker located in Greenland so he decides that he must take his family North and eventually to sanctuary. That is pretty much the story, while I gave out some spoilers, (but were they really?). We knew from the outset that they would have problems getting to safety, that the destination was Greenland (hence the title), it was just the process of getting to sanctuary that I left out (sort of). 

So what did I like about the film, well, for once, Butler was not saving the world or a President, he was out to save his family. At least that was a welcome change. The acting and character development was not bad, not great, but not horrible. Butler usually delivers in the action genre, and he did so here. He played the father who just wanted to protect his family at any cost. He demonstrated good chemistry with his son Nathan (Floyd) and his estranged wife Allison (Baccarin). The only time that I found his character lacking was the scene at the in-law’s place in the barn. Ok, we had to find out why there was issues with his marriage, but it was poorly laid out and/or delivered. This could have probably been presented earlier in the film. 

Additionally, there were some pretty big goofs in setting and details in my opinion. Here are some of my first observations:

  • I don’t think the technology is in place for a specific persons tv to get a personalized amber alert (or presidential alert in the case of the film).
  • If there was enough research done for an individual lottery for rebuilding the states to include the families, I am sure it would have had the child’s diabetic condition.
  • Yes, the drive according to Mapquest, from Tennessee to Osgoode Canada is 12 hours or so as mentioned in the film. But the timing is given in perfect conditions, not when highways would be jammed, accidents and meteor holes throughout. So 12 hours would not be the case here.Additionally, I had problems with the border crossing. I have used the border crossing closest to Osgoode on numerous occasions, and it is not even remotely the same. At least have something better than a sign, perhaps an empty line wickets between the two nations with the flags flying, and maybe the ever-present duty free store? Furthermore, there is no airfield in Osgoode as mentioned in the film, but there is a small airfield located not far from there (as well as the Ottawa Intl Airport a further 50k or so down the highway). 
  • While on the subject of travelling from Tennessee to Osgoode Canada, the father in law (Glenn) says “take my truck, it has a full tank” well my friends, it would take more than one tank of gas to make it that far…at least 2 ½ to 3, depending on the gas mileage and speed. Could have shown our heroes siphoning gas from abandoned vehicles or even from a gas station itself.. However, this would further add to the 12 hour timeline for driving to Canada.
  • Using a Twin Otter aircraft to fly from Osgoode to Thule AFB Greenland is ludicrous. We are talking a flight of about 3500km with a plane that only has the range of about 900km. I have flown in this type of aircraft in my military career, and while a robust airframe, it does not have magical abilities to fly that far. The distance from Osgoode to Thule AFB is approximately 3500km, the top speed of a twin otter is 296kph, so for simple math it would take 11 hours to fly there, but the asteroid that will end all life is expected in 6 hours…hmm, methinks that should not be able to make it in time. If they picked a C130 Hercules, it would have taken 6 hours (max speed 592kph) …would have been close, but could make it in time. 
  • I have been to Thule AFB in Greenland on numerous occassions in the 80’s and 90’s, and trust me it does not look like what was portrayed, and I do not remember any “green spaces” like the film demonstrated. I do know that the film scenes for Greenland were shot in Iceland, thus the difference. But don’t make it look like the land of cream and honey when the countryside is very rough and barren. On a side note, I do have some great memories of the “Top of the World Club” in Thule…well ok, they were drunken memories, but it was a good time nonetheless. 
  • I also have some issues with the way that the shockwaves were portrayed, in one scene, all the windows get blown apart, the next it just moves things around and previously broken windows are now magically repaired, poor editing here I believe.

Now it is time to take a look at the principal cast members of this Amazon film.

Gerard Butler as John Garrity: As previously mentioned, Butler is best suited for the action genre (i.e. 300) then the romcom (PS I Love you). While he can do both, he is best at action films where he can make the quick decisions, use his mind, and fists to solve the day. While he did not do much fighting here, the quick tempo of the film (besides the first 10 minutes) did make it for some half decent entertainment. He demonstrated good chemistry with his principal co-stars (Baccarin, Floyd and Glen) and portrayed believable emotions while he was trying to find and subsequently save his family. Not his best performance, but not his worst by far. Overall, I liked him in this role and I always look forward to seeing what he does next.

Morena Baccarin as Allison Garrity: I first noticed Baccarin in Firefly, (a sci-fi Cult favourite) and then subsequently in the remake of the series V. She is pretty talented and can pull off the worried mother, or tough alien Commander with equal ease. In the case of Greenland, she stuck with the worried mother who as the film progressed became stronger and harder. I must say that this is the first time in a while (including guest spots on various shows i.e. The Good Wife, The Mentalist) where she did not really use her sex appeal to get what she wanted. (Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind when she does that, but this was the first time that I had watched her in a show where she did not!) Her chemistry with Butler was pretty good and you could see her feelings change throughout the film from and estranged wife who was extremely angry with her husband, back to falling in love again. Pretty solid performance from Baccarin, and on par with what I have seen in the past.

Roger Dale Floyd as Nathan Garrity: This was the first time I have seen Floyd in any production. For a young kid he was not bad. Emotions and chemistry were well presented and I think that he has the potential to go further. I see in his resume that he is in Doctor Sleep, a production that I look forward to seeing in the near future. 

Scott Glenn as Dale: Glenn actually had a minimal role in this film, but I had to include him as I always liked his style. Having been around for decades, he has pretty much played the full gambit of roles, everything from a cowboy to astronaut. However, this is the first time that I can say that he really looked his age of 81. Even though he had minimal screen time and had a cheesy scene with Butler in the barn, he still pretty much stole the scenes with his presence (his presence, not the dialogue). I understand why they had to include the character, primarily as a place where they could all meet again, but it was really a throwaway role for Glenn. This was not his best role by far, but it was nice to see him in a film again.

Now for the big question, were we entertained? Yes, we were. While not an awesome film by any means, it was good enough to keep watching and it did initiate some conversation between my wife and I when the goofs were noticed (She too had been to Thule a few times, so we did talk about our mutual memories of the place). This film was far better for Butler than the last one we watched (Angel has Fallen) with him but still not as good as say, 300. It passed the time on a weekend night, and kept us watching. Would I recommend it? Yes, if you are a fan of Butler and Baccarin, you should give it a run. Also, if you like the whole “Death to humanity by meteor shtick” then this one is not a bad film to watch. It is more like Deep Impact and 2012 than Armageddon, but it follows a proven action formula and will entertain you on a winter night. So if you like what I mentioned above, and you have Amazon Prime, give this a shot.

Our rating: 5/10

If you are interested in other films/programs with our key characters, please consider the following recommendations:

Gerard Butler                Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, 300, Gamer, Law Abiding Citizen, Machine Gun Preacher                    

Morena Baccarin           Firefly, Homeland, Deadpool (1&2), V

Scott Glenn                   Silverado, The Right Stuff, The Hunt for Red October, Silence of the Lambs, Backdraft, Absolute Power, Courage under Fire, The Bourne Legacy, 

Cast:

Tom Holland                             Peter Parker/Spider-Man

Samuel L. Jackson                     Nick Fury

Jake Gyllenhaal                         Quentin Beck/Mysterio

Marisa Tomei                            May Parker

Jon Favreau                              Happy Hogan

Zendaya                                   MJ

Jacob Batalon                           Ned Leeds

Even though we are living through another COVID lockdown, and every day seems to be another Groundhog Day, Friday came along, so it is another movie night in our household. For this week, we decided to revisit the Marvel Comics Universe again with the viewing of the latest Spider-Man film. “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is a light romp that takes place after Avengers: Endgame in the MCU timeline. With the movie selected, the bottle of Chardonnay opened and pop-corn popped we inserted the film to start the latest Spider-Man adventure.

Spider-Man has always been one of my favourite characters in the MCU. I remember as a child watching the cheesy cartoons on Saturday mornings. Even as an adolescent, I could see how the same frames were always being used to demonstrate Spidey swinging through the streets, but it did not matter. I enjoyed the story-lines and re-watched the episodes’ time and time again on weekend mornings. Not only did the cartoon’s stick in my mind, but also the theme song “Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can”. Don’t tell me you didn’t sing along with lyrics; and you can thank me for the ear worm that you now have with the song resounding in your head for the rest of the day.  Don’t forget, I am old enough that I remember when these cartoons were “new” in the late 60’s as was our colour television! Not to mention, this was pre-cable era and we only had a few channels, so whatever was on tv was what we had to choose from, and there were only a half dozen channels! But, I have digressed, we are here to read about the “Far From Home” not my memories of a cheesy cartoon from the 60’s.

“Spider-Man: Far From Home” stars Tom Holland in the title role. He is the 3rdSpider-Man in the MCU film adaptions, and for me, Holland actually embodies the Spider-Man of my young memories. The previous actors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were valiant attempts to capture the essence and youthful exuberance of Spider-Man, but I personally found them lacking. Especially Maguire, Garfield was a bit better, and with Holland, they have truly found “Spider-Man”. To round out the cast, we have Zendaya (MJ), Jacob Batalon (Ned Leeds), Favreau (Happy), Tomei (Aunt May), Jackson (Fury) and for the villain Jake Gyllenhaal (Mysterio). Each character adds to the film and balances it like only a proper MCU film can. 

While this film storyline continues shortly after “Avengers: Endgame”, it is robust enough that it can almost be watched as a stand-alone movie. However, having said that, if you are not familiar with the whole MCU film history, you may lose some of the nuances, inside jokes and continuity issues, but not enough so that you will not enjoy it. “Far From Home” is essentially about Peter Parker taking a high-school trip to Europe with his greatest hope of finally hooking up with his teenage crush, MJ. Prior to departing, Happy (Favreau) presents Peter (Holland) with a final gift from Tony Stark. This gift is in the form of a unique pair of sunglasses that will allow the approved wearer (in this case Peter) all the power of Stark Industries (To include a myriad of space based weapons systems, communications monitoring and a fleet of armed drones). Concurrently, we find Nick Fury investigating an otherworldly occurrence in Mexico where a demon of some sort is battling a new caped warrior (Gyllenhaal). 

Fury (Jackson) is trying to contact Parker/Spider-Man (Holland) while on the trip as he needs his assistance to combat these new bad guys (who we later find out are called “Elementals”). Ghosting Fury (Jackson) Peter/Spidey continues to try and woo his crush, MJ (Zendaya) while in Venice. At this point, I have to stray for a minute, my wife and I really loved the Venice scenes as it brought us back to a pre-covid trip where we spent a few days wandering/rowing around that fair city. The cinematography was excellent in these scenes and the memories that surfaced brought us extra enjoyment while watching it! Now back to the movie…we find our high school trip touring all the major sites of Venice, when suddenly, a new Elemental arrives and starts to destroy some of the historic buildings and sites. Quentin Beck (Gyllenhaal) shows up and starts to battle this new foe, and Peter (Holland) must ditch his classmates, don his Spider-Man persona and help him out. Together, the two intrepid heroes manage to save the city and destroy the elemental. 

Now that Spidey (Holland) and Beck (Gyllenhaal) have met, Peter/Spider-Man believes that he was given too much power and responsibility from Tony Stark (Ironman) and passes on his sunglasses to Beck so that he can do good with them. (BTW it is at this time, the term Mysterio comes into play and Beck takes on this new moniker). Peter then goes to rejoin his classmates and their tour, and hopefully his romance. Shortly after receiving his new powers, Mysterio/Beck’s (Gyllenhaal) true identity comes forth and we find that he is a disgruntled employee from Stark Enterprises. Not only is he upset with the way that Stark treated him, but he has surrounded himself with other upset geniuses from his former employer. Now in control of all of Stark’s toys, specifically the armed drones and illusion generators, Beck’s real dream of trying to out Avenger the Avengers comes to light. Beck/Mysterio (Gyllenhaal) wants to have monster illusions that only he can fight and demonstrate that he is the new hero of the world as the Avengers are all broken up as a result of Endgame. Ok, I have now pretty much given half of the movies plot, needless to say, Spider-Man has some other great adventures around Europe, keeps on putting the moves onto MJ, and it all culminates in a final battle between Spider-Man and Mysterio…and also not to mention leaving it open for the next phase of movies in the MCU. 

What did I find entertaining about this film? Well, for starters the story line was pretty tight. In our opinion this was one of the better Spider-Man movies to date. (We really liked the first one, and this was a close 2nd). The characters are continuing to develop, not only Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Holland) but also the supporting characters as well. The CGI was very well done and the cinematography was excellent. For us, as avid travellers, it really brought it home with some scenes as it brought back memories of us travelling all over Europe. The villain, Beck/Mysterio was enjoyable to watch, not to over the top as some villains are portrayed, but done well enough to add to the film. To us, this was important, as we are not really fans of Gyllenhaal, but at times he does some pretty good work. As I previously mentioned, even though it takes place after Endgame, it has enough meat to it and fill-ins so that you could almost watch this as a stand-alone if you are unfamiliar with the whole storyboard presented over the last 10 years or so. Also, we found the chemistry between all of the cast to be excellent which really added to the film writ large. 

Now, let us take a look at the main cast of this popcorn film;

Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man: I have already mentioned that I like Holland the best in the title role. To me, he really embodies Peter Parker and his innocence as well his desire to be the hero, help enhance the character immensely. What we really liked in this film was the way he portrayed his inner anxiety as he was torn between being a hero and also a teenage boy with his first love. He pulled off the emotions extremely well, and balanced the enought to bring out a truly strong character in this film. I really look forward to his next outing as Spider-Man in the third film and how he takes this character further.

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury: What can I say about Jackson? He is the consummate actor and even when he is in smaller roles, he leaves an impact. Samuel Jackson is Nick Fury! I can’t picture any other actor in this role who embodies the strength of character and leadership as Jackson has created in this franchise. While his role in this film is minimal, his contribution to the storyline is integral to it, and as usual, he delivers in all facets. What I always find amazing when he plays Fury (or Windu in Star Wars), is that he can actually speak a sentence without his trademark “MotherF*&ker”.  I know he is in 70’s and that his timeline for this role is limited, but I would be hard pressed to suggest a replacement. As always, his contribution to a film or project is a key ingredient to it’s success!

Jake Gyllenhaal as Quentin Beck/Mysterio: As mentioned previously, I am not a fan of Gyllenhaal, but I can recognize when he contributes to a film or performs well in a role on film or television. In the character of Quentin Beck, he did a fair job. Even in his first scene in the film, you could see that he had some ulterior motives but we were hard pressed to figure out what it was initially. When his true motives came out, it was done in a believable fashion which added to the character and the film. His villain of “Mysterio” was not really a villain like the Green Goblin, but more so a misguided individual who really wanted to be better than he really was and to prove his worth, not only to a deceased former employer, but to himself. In that respect, he did deliver those emotions to the audience. Gyllenhaal also displayed chemistry with his co-stars to not only enhance their performance, but also his own. Overall, not a bad performance, but not his best either. 

Marisa Tomei as May Parker: What can I say about Tomei, I have been a fan of her work since I first saw her in “My Cousin Vinny”. She is talented in comedic as well as dramatic roles. While her repertoire of films may not all be blockbusters or award winners, I always seem to enjoy her performance. Her portrayal of a younger “Aunt May” is refreshing compared to the older actresses who played that role in previous Spider-Man forays. She handles the role well, to include her knowledge of who Peter really is. Not a huge role for Tomei, but an enjoyable one nonetheless. I especially liked the chemistry between her and Happy (Favreau) and their own sub-plot that seems to be continuing throughout the series. 

Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan: Favreau is another actor that I always enjoy watching. He can switch from a bumbling idiot, comedic tough guy to a dramatic role easily enough. Though I prefer when he is in one of his more comedic roles. He has excellent chemistry with all of his co-stars (especially Tomei) and his character is integral to the “passing of the torch” if you will between Iron Man and Spider Man. A constant character in the MCU, he is always a joy to watch.

Zendaya as MJ: Zendaya is the 3rditeration of MJ (much like Spider-Man himself) and she brings her own style to the role. Even though her resume is quite impressive for such a young actress, I have only watched her in the Spider-Man franchise. Her portrayal of MJ is a bit more impish and sneaky compared to Stone or Dunst and more specifically less whiny than Dunst’s portrayal of the same character. Additionally, as they are supposed to be teenagers going to high school, (yes she is in her 20’s) but she does look a bit more like a teenager. I would be hard pressed to say which portrayal I enjoyed more, Stone or Zendaya, as each of them have displayed unique interpretations of the same person. Overall a very good performance and I look forward to seeing her in Dune in the upcoming year.

Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds: Batalon is an excellent sidekick to Parker/Spider-Man. I enjoyed his incredulity in the first film and how he has matured and grown (character wise) in this film. One thing I did especially like in this movie was the fact that he was not the typical “fat nerdy kid” and they let his character develop and have a girlfriend. He adds a touch of comic relief in every scene and does it well. I have only seen him in the Spider-Man franchise so have no other roles to compare it to, but I hope to see him in future films or television shows as I believe he has a comedic talent that has yet to be discovered. 

So overall, were we entertained? Yes, we definitely were. This was a light enjoyable film with a solid cast that kept you watching. The special effects, story-line and chemistry displayed throughout the film ensured that the audience was entertained throughout. Sure, there may have been a few errors or goofs in the film, but nothing that would detract from the viewer’s enjoyment. Would I recommend it? Of course, especially if you are a fan of the super-hero genre of films, or even if you want to watch a light action/comedy for entertainment. If you are not a fan of either, then you might want to give it a pass. 

Our rating: 7/10

If you are interested in watching other films/shows with the principal cast, please consider the following recommendations:

Tom Holland                 Avengers Endgame and Infinity War, Spiderman: Homecoming, Captain America: Civil War

Samuel L. Jackson         (Pretty much anything!) MCU Franchise (Capt America, Avengers etc), The Negotiator, Shaft, Glass, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Unbreakable,The Hateful Eight, Django Unchained, Black Snake Moan (and the list goes on!)

Jake Gyllenhaal             Life, Southpaw, Source code, Jar Head, 

Marisa Tomei                My Cousin Vinny, The Wrestler, Wild Hogs, Rescue Me,  

Jon Favreau                  MCU (Avengers, Iron-Man etc) Entourage, The Break Up, Four Christmas’

Till next time!

Cast:

Aml Ameen                               Remy Darbonne

Rhea Seehorn                           Dr. Brynn Stewart

Roxanne Mckee                        Ariella Barash

Well it has been a few weeks since my last review, this delay is not caused by not wanting to write about a film or show that we have watched, but primarily because every weekend’s movie has been pretty dismal. First a few weeks ago we started with “Breaking In” starring Gabrielle Union, I usually enjoy all of her films but this movie was so bland and predictable that I could not even get the urge to use sarcasm in a review. Then we tried “Palm Springs” which is currently on Amazon. While not a fan of Andy Samberg’s humour, we gave it a try. Man, were we disappointed, a blatant rip-off of Ground hog day with not enough originality or comedy to make it remotely watchable. (Though we did watch to the end, good thing we had lots of wine) and to round up this trifecta of fecal matter we suffered through “Angel has Fallen” starring Morgan Freeman and Gerard Butler. You would think with these two powerhouses the film would have been great…but Nay Nay my friends, this film goes straight to the garage sale pile without stopping at go and collecting 200 dollars. It was just horrible, even with stars of this calibre. So what do we have left to watch this weekend you ask? Well since we were on a run of horrible films, we tried the sequel Inside Man: Most Wanted (2019). Again, we were disappointed. Not only was this an unwanted sequel to a fantastic film (Inside Man (2006) starring Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster and Clive Owen) but there was nothing and I mean nothing original about this follow-up film. 

First, let me state that if you watched the original Inside Man or even Money Heist, you have the plot. It is identical with no surprises, and I mean no surprises. There were no twists, no turns, just a straight boring line of a plot. (well the original was good, but I watched that a long time ago.) Where can I start with this poor excuse of a film. It opens up in a scene during WW2, where an intrepid bunch of American soldiers find a cache of Nazi Gold and return it to the states. So, Ok, besides historical inaccuracies of an integrated unit fighting in WW2, I will continue watching the film. It can’t be any more farfetched can it? I am only 5 minutes into the film. But let me continue…fast forward 60 years, the story continues in NYC and we are introduced to a fast talking, identity confused hostage negotiator. When I say identity confused, I am talking about the character being portrayed. Remy Darbonne (Ameen), he is a hostage negotiator for the NYPD, however, his character is a cross between Martin Lawrence/Will Smith in “Bad Boys” and Dennis Quaid in “the Big Easy”. He is glib operator, who can’t retain an accent, or mannerisms. He flips back and forth between the various personalities faster than a corvette on a winding road. While he may be amusing at times, it tends to come across as more annoying as the movie progresses.

After this introduction we spy a bunch of ne’er do wells, who don’t look “suspicious” at all casing the US Federal Reserve in NYC, while concurrently we see a professor, Dr. Brynn Stewart (Seehorn) teaching hostage negotiations to a classroom of FBI wannabe’s. What can be more predictable…well, she is actually talking about the instances that were covered in the first Inside Man movie…please lord, let us have some originality in a movie!! Well she gets called into help because the aforementioned crooks have taken over the federal reserve, taken hostages are now looking for some Nazi gold that is in the vault. After following the same steps as the first Man Inside movie, (making the hostages wear the same masks and coveralls as the crooks etc) our FBI negotiator now has to commence negotiations with the crooks for the hostages’ release. Let us not forget that the FBI negotiator is actually an instructor for the FBI, but it seems that she will need help, so re-enter Darbonne (Ameen) who not only helps the FBI, but actually seems to take over and offer advice all the time. Really? The FBI is supposed to be the big league, but our wannabe Marwill Lawsmith (get it…combining Lawrence and smith!) comes off as the real annoying expert. 

So negotiations commence, some people get killed, the plot continues to follow the first Inside Man and Money Heist storyline. Like I said earlier, there is nothing really new here, but if you are going to watch the film I won’t continue with spoilers. Let us just say that the good guys win, not all the bad guys are really bad, there are reasons behind their decisions, and the negotiators save the day. Oh, that’s not all, they will leave enough openings for a potential sequel of this travesty of a film.  

At this point, let us look at some of the main characters/actors in Inside Man: Most Wanted:

Aml Ameen as Remy Darbonne: As I had mentioned previously, Ameen plays Darbonne as a cross between Will Smith, Martin Lawrence (Bad Boys) and Dennis Quaid (Big Easy). While there is some talent shown, there is no consistency. It is almost like he is trying to hard to be glib, cool, suave, and smart at the same time and all attempts are unsuccessful. If he would have stayed with one “homage” if you will to one of the aforementioned stars instead of trying to switch them up all the time it would have probably been better. His chemistry with Dr Stewart (Seehorn) was almost forced and actually hard to believe, even when he was being nice to her. What I found kind of annoying with the plot is that he is the negotiator for the NYPD, and is supposedly an up and comer within the department with his craft, when encountering Dr. Stewart (Seehorn) who is the presumed “FBI Expert” he seems to know more in real life than the FBI negotiator. I think they could have still presented the differences between the styles without making him a know it all, but that is just my personal preference. His scenes negotiating with Barash (Mckee) were played well and in my opinion provided more impact than when Barash (Mckee) and Stewart (Seehorn) played off of each other. Having said all that, I did find his character somewhat enjoyable, especially when he would stick to one character for a length of time. It was when changed them back and forth that I would lose it a bit. Even though Ameen has been around for awhile, this was the first time I had seen him in a film or television show, so I have nothing really to compare this role with from his previous endeavours. 

Rhea Seehorn as Dr. Brynn Stewart: Seehorn portrayed Dr. Stewart as a stoic know it all, with a perpetual stick up her butt. I found it hard to get invested into the character and for someone who was supposed to be the “Expert” in hostage negotiation and even instructing classes on the previous films case, you would think she would have been more on the ball. When in the field she came across more of a novice than an expert, was this so that it would be more believable to have the local negotiator helping her out? If so, then why would she be the expert, it would have been better if she was a new graduate of the negotiating classes and this was her first one. That way when Remy (Ameen) would show up the assistance would have been warranted. I found her character development lacking, as well as her chemistry with her co-stars. Even though she has been in several shows that I have watched in the past (i.e. Whitney and Veep), I really don’t remember her character standing out. Overall, I found her performance lacking in this film.

Roxanne Mckeeas Ariella Barash: I actually liked McKee the most in the film. She was assertive and confident throughout. She also displayed the inner turmoil on why she was doing this heist in a somewhat believable fashion. However, I did find her French accent to be a bit cartoonish, but the German one passable. Having watched the first film, I knew where she was going to go with almost every scene, though this is not the fault of the actor, but the director/writer. It was still not a bad performance overall. This is another instance where even though she has been in several shows that I have watched, I cannot really remember her character. I may have to watch them again (specifically Game of Thrones) to be able to really compare this performance with that of her previous work. I think that she has the potential for some good roles and time will tell to see what she will do next. 

What did I like about the film? I think if I had not seen the first movie, I might have actually enjoyed this one a bit more. As I had previously mentioned, once Ameen settled into a “character” be it Lawrence or Smith type, he was not that bad. Though he could have gotten rid of the Dennis Quaid, “Big Easy” accent/style. It actually took away a bit from the character. The storyline, while not original was ok, and flowed relatively well. Mckee did an admirable job as the bank heist leader, and her chemistry with the co-stars was evident throughout.

What didn’t I like? Well there was clear editing and direction errors throughout the film. First, the accents that were thrown around like rice at a wedding. Please, stick with one and roll with it. Also, there were some actually very funny errors that were consistent throughout. I had mentioned previously about the integrated army unit in WW2, in WW2 there were no racially integrated units within the US military, I know that Hollywood is always trying to be inclusive, but sometimes for something that is supposed to represent part of history it actually takes away from the story. In the case of this film, there were many more opportunities for inclusion without trying to rewrite historical facts…even it is supposed to be a fictional film. Other examples of inaccuracies or goofs are; you will see one of these big burly henchmen grab a bar of gold and carry it like it was 200lbs. The actor is huge, and has biceps bigger than my leg, yet this bar makes him strain. Yet a few scenes later, you see the guy grab two or three and a close up of the ingot itself saying it is 12.4 kg (or 27.4lbs). Seriously if you have pipes like these guys, there should have been no strain carrying this bar of gold. Additionally, after the same gold bar is melted into long golden rods, these same individuals throw them around like they are straws. C’mon guys, pick a lane here, are they heavy or light? Speaking of melting the gold, there was so much gold on site, they would have been melting for weeks, not just 8 hours. That is not addressing the excess heat and fumes that would have been generated during the melting process. I do not believe that bank/reserve basements have ventilation that could handle that load. 

I also found that some of the ‘tie-ins’ to the original film actually took away from the story itself. They should have left them out, and make it a stand alone film, and it might have made it better. Also, where did these guys get all the equipment to make the hole in the vault. I don’t remember seeing a scene on where it was brought in. Speaking of equipment, the water jet used to drill through the wall. To make this work it would have taken copious amounts of water, yet where did they hook it up? Did they bring in tanks of water? I don’t think a bank vault will have a faucet located within the room…just another mistake that the director/writer did not think to offer an explanation. These were just some of the errors/goofs in the film that I found hard to take and actually detracted from the storyline…however, if you give it a watch, I am sure you will find even more!

So now for the big question, were we entertained? Not really, we watched to the end primarily to see if they would follow the original film...(which they did) and if there was actually going to be a twist or turn. The acting while not great (as I am sure you have surmised already) was ok enough that I did not turn off the blu-ray player, but not good enough that I did not pick up my I-pad and do some surfing while watching the show. Would I recommend this film? Only if you have nothing else to watch, or if you had not seen the original, or Money Heist, then you might get more out of it. 

Our rating 2.5/10

If you want to see a good heist film check out the following recommendations;

The Italian Job (1969)

Heist (2001)

Logan Lucky (2017)

The Usual Suspects (1995)

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Till next time!

Cast:

Woody Harrelson                      Tallahassee

Jesse Eisenberg                         Columbus

Emma Stone                             Wichita

Abigail Breslin                           Little Rock

Zoey Deutch                             Madison

Avan Jogia                                Berkeley

Rosario Dawson                        Nevada

Luke Wilson                              Albuquerque

Thomas Middleditch                 Flagstaff

Christmas and New years are now in the past, and we were looking for something a little light to watch on a Friday night. Over the last few days we had tried several films to varying degrees of enjoyment for example, 3022 (2019) starring Kate Walsh and Omar Epps … well the movie felt it would last 3022 minutes, luckily we stopped it after 15 minutes…total garbage, don’t waste your time. We also tried the latest remake of “The Saint” (2017) starring Eliza Dushku and Adam Rayner, even though I was a fan of the original series starring Roger Moore, and even liked the first remake with Val Kilmer, this pile of fecal matter was 2 hours of my life that I will never get back. So when cruising by your selection on Netflix, keep going…! We then put on “Last Christmas” (2019) with Henry Golding, Emilia Clarke and Michelle Yeoh, while this movie was light, and actually entertaining, it is more of a seasonal film that will no doubt not last the time. It is now into 2021, and we have tried NETFLIX for the last few films, with no luck in choosing a film to review. I then decided to go back to our stack of unwatched films for the next review. 

So, with that in mind, I selected “Zombieland: Double Tap” for our viewing pleasure. The first Zombieland (2009) was light, fresh, and had some up and coming actors in it, centering around Woody Harrelson as the main draw. While not heavy on a plot, besides surviving a Zombie apocalypse, it did provide an amusing way to kill a few hours. In the sequel “Double Tap” we find our 4 intrepid heroes living in Washington DC, in the White House no less, and really, why not, you are surviving a Zombie Apocalypse, so why not live like you are the leader of what is left of the sane world? Anyways, 10 years has past since the first film, the characters have all grown (ok, well sort of, they are all still immature and kind of goofy) and have adapted completely to life in the new world. Also, we are informed in the intro, that it seems that the zombies have also mutated over the years, becoming even more agile, and smarter (some of them at least), and our heroes have to go to greater lengths to combat them. 

So now back to the plot, Columbus (Eisenberg) proposes to Wichita (Stone), and the new pressure that marriage brings becomes to much for Wichita (Stone) to bear. This leads to our two young ladies wanting to strike out on their own. Mind you for separate reasons, Wichita (Stone) to escape a potentially serious situation with Columbus (Eisenberg) and Little Rock (Breslin) to find herself a boy of her own age. 

Feeling lost and destitute, Tallahassee (Harrelson) and Columbus (Eisenberg) decide that retail therapy might be the key to feeling better, they go shopping. In the mall, after wiping out a few zombies, they come across another survivor, Madison (Deutch). Madison had been living in a cooler in the food court and is longing for attention, and maybe a few brain cells as the I.Q. fairy did not really give her any smarts at birth. She joins the two and return with them back to the White House, where she manages to get all the attention she needs, nudge nudge, wink wink!

Meanwhile, we find that Wichita (Stone) has returned “home” to the White House, looking for weapons, and finds not only them, but Columbus (Eisenberg) with his new paramour Madison (Deutch), and a lonely Tallahassee (Harrelson).  Finding out that Little Rock (Breslin) has hooked up with a hippie dippy type, Berkeley (Jogia), and has joined his search for the fabled Babylon, our heroes saddle up and start their journey to find their lost friend. So, at this point, I have given you the first 15 or so minutes of the film. Needless to say, for the rest of the film, they have some adventures, meet some other survivors, and make other comedic moments before they finally tee up again with Little Rock (Breslin) and Berkeley (Jogia) at Babylon. This reunion will culminate in a comedic battle with a zombie horde, where they will find themselves as well as each other all over again. 

Ok, so as you can see, not much of a plot, however, I did not watch this movie for the plot, but for some comedic escapism, and Double Tap did provide that. It was a silly romp, light on plot, anorexic in character development and dialogue, but it still gave enough humour that allowed us to frequently laugh out loud and escape from the doldrums of our COVID tainted lifestyle. Each actor gave something to the film that we could enjoy, while fully realizing that we are not watching any award winner or something that was deep and meaningful. While on the subject of the cast lets take a look at some of the main characters:

Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee: Harrelson is true to form in this film, he has mastered the good natured country bumpkin to a fine art, in the character of Tallahassee he has also included a bit of redneck to give it a bit of flair. I have been a fan of Harrelson since his early “Cheers” days and have enjoyed almost all of his performances in film and tv. He is an extremely gifted actor with a diverse set of talents that allows him to easily transition from action to comedy to drama. In this role, as the patriarch of their little group, Harrelson leads them across the nation in search of his “adopted daughter” if you will, with a joyful exuberance that is extremely contagious for the audience. His dialogue, while not really complicated or intricate, will make you laugh out loud, as will his physical comedy. For us, Harrelson proved he could be the centrepiece of a film that was light on plot/dialogue, but still could provide the entertainment required to pass the time and ensure it was an enjoyable experience. 

Jesse Eisenberg as Columbus: Eisenberg is one of those rare actors that will make you like the character, but if you meet him in real life you might find him extremely annoying. His nasal delivery and dry wit while funny in a film would probably get what little nerves you have if you are exposed to it for a long period of time. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy many of his films, however, in the case of “Double-Tap” he did not really extend his acting repertoire. He delivered his lines and character in the same way he has done for all of his films with little to no difference. As I mentioned before, there was no real character development in this film, the big item was that he proposed to Wichita to prove his love. Let’s be real, if it was a real life situation, Wichita (Stone) would have been so far out of his league, they would have been in different continents. But for the case of the film, they are the main love interest, and they manage to carry it for the film. Not totally believable, but well enough to make you laugh occasionally. This was not Eisenberg’s best roles, but not his worst either. He did not really have to work at it too much, so I imagine it was an easy paycheque for him. 

Emma Stone as Wichita: Stone is a very talented actress, especially in comedic roles. Her raspy delivery, and wry expressions are always an added bonus to any film that she is part of. She has even made films that are dud’s (i.e. Aloha) into something that I can at least watch till the end. As Wichita, and the main love interest to Columbus, Stone continued her performance as initiated in the first Zombieland. Her chemistry with the main characters were admirable, and I especially enjoyed the jabs that she delivered to both Columbus (Eisenberg) and Tallahassee (Harrelson). As with the other actors in this film, not her worst, and not her best, but still a solid enough performance to watch to the end.

Abigail Breslin as Little Rock: I have never been a huge Breslin fan, sure she has been around for nearly two decades, starting as a child star who was supposed to always be a little precocious. Unfortunately, I always found those roles a tad to annoying for my taste. Even though she has been in a number of entertaining films, I didn’t find her performance to be the anchor to the film or project. In Double Tap, she is no different than what I have seen in the past. While she has lost the “annoyance” factor that I used to dread when she was on the screen, she did not really pick up any real acting skills along the way. At least what was presented in this film anyways. To her benefit, as she was replaying a role that she was used to, she transitioned the character well enough from an annoying adolescent to young adulthood. While her character was the impetus of the storyline, luckily enough, her screen time was actually the least of the 4 main characters. As she is still very young, I am sure her talent and roles will improve and we will see how she grows into them.

Zoey Deutch as Madison: Deutch was actually relatively new to me. When she came on screen as almost a stereo-typed “Valley Girl” of the 80’s, I thought she was familiar and had to look up her career. To my surprise, while she has been in numerous projects over the years, I had only seen her in a few films (Before I fall and Dirty Grandpa). Deutch’s character “Madison” was supposed to come across as an annoying valley girl clone and she did it extremely well! Her intellectually challenged responses and expressions delivered repeatedly and fit her character to a tee. I would actually like to see her skills in an action or extremely dramatic role to see her capabilities. Her character actually made me laugh out loud on several occasions, as her delivery was extremely well timed as well as the physical comedy that she presented throughout the film. I feel like this was a solid performance from an actress who is starting to come up in the field and I look forward to seeing her in other projects, especially in an action or dramatic role. 

Rosario Dawsonas Nevada: Dawson’s films are always a mixed bag, either I really like the role and the film/project or I am completely indifferent. Taking a quick look at her resume, I realized how many projects she has been in that I want to watch but never got around to over the last 20 years, most recently some of the tv shows or series that she has been a part of. As Nevada, she plays a rough and tough survivor running a cheap hotel with an Elvis theme. As we all know, Tallahassee (Harrelson) is an avid Elvis fan, so naturally we can already see where their two characters will go. Harrelson and Dawson have good chemistry together and I enjoyed her character and role. As with the other stars, this will not go down in her award winning performances list, but alas, neither will the film.  

Luke Wilson as Albuquerque and Thomas Middleditch as Flagstaff: I am putting these two actors together as they are only in the film for a few minutes as “clones” of Tallahassee and Columbus. I enjoyed the scenes there were in as they met/confronted their alter ego’s. Their dialogue and physical interactions with Tallahassee and Columbus actually reminded me of early Pink Panther films and how the physical comedy ruled. While not large roles within the film, they did give an added bonus, and helped us enjoy the film writ large. In the case of Wilson, he was never a “A lister” with awesome films, he just plays the same person in each and every role, (much like his brother Owen), and they usually make me laugh a bit. His limited repertoire actually helps this film and his performance was on par with his previous projects. Middleditch was very new to me, and I found his “imitation” of Columbus to be amusing. I have seen that he has been in a great deal of films/shows, just not necessarily things that I have watched. In such cases where he has been in a show that I have seen his character, like in this film was very minimal. However, having said that, I did find both of them amusing in the film and we enjoyed the scenes that they were part of.

So, now the big question, were we entertained? Yes, we were. Zombieland: Double Tap was a light enjoyable film that did not require anyone to actually think to much. Solid performances from Stone and Harrelson helped propel this project to something that almost anyone would enjoy. Do not pick this film if you expect it to be as good as the first one (it was not), but only if you want to kill a few hours, have a few laughs and actually turn off the brain. 

Our score: 6/10

If you are interested in watching anything from some of the main actors, please consider the following recommendations:

Woody Harrelson                      Cheers, War for the Planet of the Apes, Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Hunger Games (Franchise), True Detective, Now You See Me, Zombieland, Defendor, Kingpin, Money Train.

Jesse Eisenberg                         Zombieland, Justice League, Batman v Superman, The Social Network, 

Emma Stone                             Easy A, Zombieland, The Amazing Spiderman, Friends with Benefits, Superbad.

Abigail Breslin                           Zombieland, Enders Game, Definitely Maybe.

Zoey Deutch                             Before I fall, Dirty Grandpa

Rosario Dawson                        Jane the Virgin, Sin City: A Dame to Kill for, Seven Pounds, Sin City

Wishing everyone a great 2021 and till the next time!

Review: Creed 2 (2019)

Cast:

Michael B. Jordan                     Adonis Johnson

Sylvester Stallone                      Rocky Balboa

Tessa Thompson                       Bianca

Phylicia Rashad                         Mary Anne Creed

Dolph Lundgren                        Ivan Drago

Florian Munteanu                     Viktor Drago

Russell Hornsby                        Buddy Marcelle

Brigitte Nielsen                         Ludmilla

Well it was Friday night and we were unsure of what to watch for this week’s entertainment and review. So, after perusing my stack of films that were still unwatched, I selected Creed II. Creed II is the latest in the long string of Rocky (or Rocky centric) films in the franchise. While these films are often predictable, they usually offer a great series of fight sequences to ensure that the viewer is entertained, even when the plot or dialogue may be weak. Creed II was really no change to the already proven Rocky formula, or even to be more specific “Rocky IV” script. The story lines were extremely similar, the set up as well as the finish, hell, even some of the concepts and sequences were (almost) replicas from the aforementioned film. So even with all that in mind, we did sit down to give it a watch. 

For a quick synopsis of Creed II, (start with story from Rocky IV…. just kidding), Adonis Creed has become the Heavyweight Champion of the world in a title match in Vegas, life is going well for him and his girlfriend/wife Bianca, and the world is pretty much his oyster. Now, cut to the former Soviet Union where we find Ivan Drago living off of the success of his son Viktor, an up and comer in the Russian boxing circuit. This success brings Viktor (Munteau) to the attention of fight promoter, Buddy Marcelle (Hornsby). Marcelle sees huge dollar signs, now that Creed is the champ, and Drago is a boxing machine. Wanting to relive the previous glory fight between Drago (Lundgren) and Creed (Withers) Marcelle (Hornsby) the slimy promoter that he is, plays on the fall of Drago (Lundgren) and his emotions. Not just pulling on his heart strings and pride, he also goes after Adonis Creed’s (Jordan) insecurity in not being as great as his father. So with all this going on, Creed (Jordan) takes the challenge from Marcelle (Hornsby) and the Drago’s (Lundgren and Munteau) to recreate the past. Rocky (Stallone) not wanting to relive his previous agony and trauma, refuses to help him for this bout. Now, as we know the standard Rocky film formula, Creed (Jordan) gets his ass kicked so hard and quick, that he ends up in the hospital. However, due to a call from a referee, Drago Jr, does not end up getting the heavyweight belt and his win is disqualified. After some soul searching by Rocky (Stallone) and Creed (Jordan), and with the assistance of Adonis’ mother (Mary-Anne Creed – Rashad), Rocky comes back to train Creed (Jordan) for a rematch. Meanwhile, the Drago’s are finding new found respect in Russia, and even the attentions of the estranged wife and mother, Ludmilla (Nielson). Living large and still wanting more, they quickly accept the re-match, except this time, it must be in Russia….hmmm just like Rocky IV you say…but that’s not all! Not only is the match (or re-match) an exact replica of Rocky IV, but also the training montages that follow are rip-offs from the earlier film. Except in the case of the Rocky/Creed, they are in the desert, vice the snow. Please! I am praying for some originality at this point with respect to the film, but alas, the Rocky IV clone continues on. 

We are now at the point of the big fight…everything feels the same…just some of the faces are different in this film. To sum it up…as we all know what will happen, Creed (Jordan) almost loses, finds his inner “Tiger”, and lays a beat-down on Drago Jr, and to add insult to injury Drago Sr. (Lundgren) must throw in the towel to save his son from further damage. This all culminates in Rocky pretty much passing the torch to Creed to continue the film legacy …oh sorry I mean original story lines from that point forward as Rocky moves to retirement. So touching…it made me a bit verklempt! 

Now that I have laid out the story, (as I did not worry about spoilers, because come on, there was nothing different here than from any other Rocky film), let us look at the cast of this film.

Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson: Reprising this role for the 2ndtime, Jordan proves again that he can act in a fight film. Now, don’t get me wrong, this film was predictable as all hell, but I have to give props to Jordan for the level of fitness that he is in, as well as the intensity it takes to do all the fight scenes. His acting, while rather stoic, and consisting of a mix between incredulity and clenched jaws, presented pretty much the full gambit of his emotions for this film. The character itself, is rather two dimensional, and if someone does not know the whole “Rocky story”, they might get a bit lost here as nothing really gets filled in. However, I really can’t blame Jordan here, as his main job is to either deliver or take a punch, and he does both of these actions admirably. To me however, I found his roles in Fahrenheit 451 and Black Panther to be better then his character in Creed II, but overall, I can’t complain about any of the fight sequences as I enjoyed watching them.

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa: Now what can we say about Stallone as aging Rocky Balboa…he made his image on Rocky (and Rambo) and career, he did this as he followed the formula about the underdog winning in the end. Now don’t get me wrong, I have watched every Rocky film (even the dismal Rocky V, that was just horrid) and pretty much enjoyed them all for one reason or another. I remember watching these films when I was young and it would drive you to work out and make yourself better. Ok, so the urges to go to the gym may have only lasted a week or so (at that time) but the films had impact, and even have lasted the test of time. I re-watched Rocky a few months back, and I still found the film to be great and enjoyed every minute of it. I did notice that if you look at Stallone in Rocky (original) and then saw him in the subsequent films, he got bigger and more cut in each one.  In Creed II, one factor that I enjoyed is that Rocky played his age, not like he did in his last foray as Rambo, he moved slower, tried to impart wisdom and sage advice, and knew his limitations. His character stayed the course that he had developed in the films Creed and Rocky Balboa. He was enjoyable (even if predictable) in the film and he added the gravitas that the film required. I liked him in this role and believe he should take on more like this at this time. Be the mentor, not the action star, your films will be better and more believable. 

Tessa Thompson as Bianca: As of late I have seen Thompson in many films and shows, from Thor/Avengers too Copper, Creed and Westworld and I have enjoyed her performance in each and everyone of them. In Creed II, the added bonus is that she actually sang in the film and it was not dubbed. While the music is not exactly my taste, I can appreciate talent when it is presented. I must admit, I enjoy her acting much more when she is in the “action” role (i.e. Thor, Avengers), but she can still portray a solid character in any genre. I look forward to seeing her in future productions and maybe as the lead character.

Dolph Lundgrenas Ivan Drago: Usually I don’t care for Lundgren in his films, I have seen him in many films that I have enjoyed, but I don’t usually like his character. In Creed II, I have to say that changed. He really played the tortured and beaten man well. In this film, the Drago’s were the underdogs, not Creed, and Lundgren played it to a tee! He was exceptional in this film and his character was integral to the plot, even far more than his son, Viktor (Munteanu) who did the fighting. In essence it was Ivan who was in the ring for this film, fighting not only for his retribution, but for his own dignity. I really enjoyed his performance here, and maybe this is another case on where actors can sometimes get better with age!

Florian Munteanu as Viktor Drago: As a fighter, and what he can display on screen, Munteanu is a monster. However, as an actor, he has a great deal to be desired. Luckily in this film, he does not talk much, just broods, stares and beats down his opponents, so pretty much in his wheel house. Would I go out of my way to watch a film with him in it again…hmm, if it was a fight movie, sure. But in anything might require some acting talent, then probably not. Even though he was supposed to be the one in the ring fighting, as I mentioned previously, it felt more that Ivan was there. He was just the person who was delivering the punches!

Russell Hornsbyas Buddy Marcelle: This film required a slimy promoter who would stop at nothing, and Hornsby did provide. I had only seen him in some of his guest roles in other programs so had nothing else to really compare him to. While his role was integral to the films progress, his on screen time was only used as the impetus to the fight, and while only there for a bit, his performance wasn’t too bad. 

Brigitte Nielsen as Ludmilla: I am actually only including Nielsen in as a “mention”. I always thought her acting was dismal and that her only talent was to look with disdain at everything. Well, in that aspect, she did excel. With little to no dialogue in this film, she would just walk into a scene/or depart and look down at everything with contempt….and with that in mind, she succeeded. If she would have had to act or show any emotion/chemistry of any kind…then I am sure it would have been comical and not in a good way, just like her parts in Red Sonja and Cobra. I actually had to look up in IMDB to see if she had been anything since those previously mentioned films and was very surprised to see that she had an active career. But like her acting, nothing of any merit or substance. 

Now for the big question, were we entertained? Yes, we were. Not because the film was awesome, it was not, or that it displayed any modicum of originality, no it didn’t, but because it was an ok fight film. It sorted of closed the chapter on Rocky, and passed the torch to Creed. The fight scenes, while predictable were enjoyable and they helped to carry the movie along, especially as there was only a minimal plot. One thing I did notice when watching the extra’s of the film, not once do they mention Rocky V, I guess even they realized what a piece of fecal matter it was! I would recommend Creed II to anyone who liked the Rocky films and especially Rocky IV, if you are not a fan of Rocky (franchise), then maybe you should give it a pass and spin up Raging Bull, Cinderella man, and Million Dollar Baby and give them a try. 

My Rating: 5/10

If you interested in any films starring the main cast, please consider the following recommendations:

Michael B. Jordan                     Fahrenheit 451, Black Panther, Creed

Sylvester Stallone                      First Blood, Rocky, The Expendables, The Escape, Rocky II, Rocky IV, Demolition Man, Cliffhanger

Tessa Thompson                       Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Endgame, Westworld

Dolph Lundgren                        Rocky IV, The Expendables, Universal Soldier

Till Next Time and Merry Christmas!

Cast:

Himesh Patel                            Jack Malik

Lily James                                 Ellie Appleton

Joel Fry                                     Rocky

Kate McKinnon                         Debra Hammer

Growing up I was never really a fan of the Beatles and their music. As I had stated in previous reviews, I was more of a Skynard, Clapton, ZZ-Top, Bob Seger fan, rather than the music of the Beatles and the Stones. However, when I came across this film in the local big box store, I thought I would give it a try. 

If you have not watched this film yet, and have only read the previous paragraph, “Yesterday” is a film that highlights the music from the Beatles, but it highlights it in a very unique way. Unlike some of Hollywood’s musicals of late where the music library is incorporated into the story-line in impromptu song and dance to drive the film (i.e. Mama Mia, Rocketman), “Yesterday” takes the Beatles library in a different direction. 

Jack Malik (Patel) is a struggling musician/songwriter who travels from one failed gig to another, while still maintaining his job at the UK version of a COSTCO. His music manager (and secret admirer) Ellie (James), is a school teacher who wants what is best for her friend and potential paramour. Returning home after another failed gig, Malik (Patel) crashes his bike when a worldwide blackout occurs. Waking up in a hospital, and suffering some minor contusions and broken teeth, Malik states a few phrases from modern pop culture, specifically about the Beatles, which no one seems to get. Returning home, he commences some google searches to discover that the Beatles could not be found on line anywhere, not to mention a few other items like Coca-cola etc. Continuing his life (and disbelief) he spends an afternoon with friends who are celebrating his recovery. First, receiving gag gifts which are typical from any group of close friends, he also gets a new guitar from Ellie (James). While giving his new gift a test run, he sings an epic Beatles song, which none of them had ever heard of before! He again searches on line for any reference of this iconic group to no avail. So, with this newfound knowledge in mind, he re-issues all of the Beatles library as his own. Not to give out any more spoilers, “his” newly released library of Beatles songs brings him fortune, fame, and a long inner journey to find out what really makes him happy.  That is pretty much the story in a nutshell without giving out too many details beyond what was on the blu-ray box cover.  

With the synopsis of the film behind us, what did I like about it?  The settings, dialogue and storyline were well done and made for an entertaining film.  I also liked the concept of the film, while not entirely new (think Hot Tub Time Machine 2), it was still new enough to give the audience a new take on music in film besides what has been shilled out in the latest musical biopics. I found that Malik (Patel) was actually pretty talented, he sang all the cover versions of the Beatles most famous songs and actually learned how to play the guitar. Additionally, the portrayal of the agents and the sleaziness that is prevalent throughout the entertainment industry was fun to watch. While the acting may not have been stellar throughout the film, there was still enough chemistry between the main characters to carry the film along. The appearance of Sheeran in the film was also a nice surprise, while not a stellar actor by any means, it was just nice to see/hear him in the film. Mind you, his role could have been completed by any actor, but having a real singer in the film did manage to give it some extra points. 

At this time, lets take a look at the cast:

Himesh Patel as Jack Malik: I will be the first to admit that Patel’s performance was not worthy of an Oscar or any other award for that matter, but I have to say that I enjoyed his portrayal of Jack Malik. His renditions of Beatle song’s were quite enjoyable and the chemistry he had with his main co-stars were quite good. I think he really nailed “dewey eyed” innocence and you could actually feel that he wanted to do the right thing. I looked him up on IMDB and had only seen him in Amazon’s Aeronaut, but I can’t remember his character. Additionally, I do see that he is in a movie that I want to see “Tenet” and I will pay attention to his character once I get around to watching it. Overall, I thought his performance was good and I give him extra props for learning the guitar and singing the songs himself. I look forward to seeing him in other features in the future.

Lily James as Ellie Appleton: Lily James was the prime love interest in this film. She started the film as Jack (Patel’s) manager for his very lacklustre career, but it was clearly evident in the film that she was taking care of him as she loved him. Jack (Patel) was just to slow on the uptake to realize that she wanted to be out of the friend zone and into the romance zone. Her chemistry with Patel was actually quite good and believable throughout the film. Her character, while slightly ditzy, was a welcome counterpart to Patel’s innocence and naivety. I had only really seen her in two other productions, Downton Abbey (as Lady Rose) where I felt she was quite good, and in Mama Mia 2 (where her role, much like the film was very lack lustre and left much to be desired). In Yesterday, she proved again that she was capable to play a love interest in a film and not come off as too serious. Overall, not a bad performance and I look forward to seeing her in other films in the future.

Joel Fryas Rocky: Every film needs a village idiot and in the case of “Yesterday” it was Joe Fry as Rocky. A well meaning friend/roadie, Rocky is forever at Malik’s (Patel) side and demonstrates his loyalty and friendship throughout. While his deck of cards may be missing all the face cards, he still manages to present a likeable character who is there to support his two friends. I found his performance amusing and with just enough comedy to lighten otherwise serious scenes. His chemistry with all the other cast was enjoyable and presented quite well. This role was a pleasant change from the last time I had seen him in “Game of Thrones”.  

Kate McKinnonas Debra Hammer: With respect to McKinnon, I either love her roles or hate them, depending on the project. In Saturday Night Live she is hilarious, and I especially love when pokes at the US political machine with her impersonations and quick wit. However, when I saw her in Ghostbusters, and Rough Night, I could not eject the disc fast enough from the machine. In the case of “Yesterday” I actually found her quite amusing as the smarmy music agent. She had just enough screen time and dialogue to add to the scenes (or in some cases steal them) and an important enough character to make her contribution integral to the film writ large, but not so much as to come off as annoying. She had great chemistry with the co-stars and bounced her lines off them in her patented quick delivery. Overall, her portrayal as the music agent that we all love to hate hit the mark right on. I found that what she contributed to this film was important, yet funny at the same time, while potentially giving an insight to the in’s and out’s of the music business. (At least that is what was stated in not so many words in the extra’s of the disc). A solid performance by McKinnon in this film. 

So no for the important question, were we entertained? Yes, we were. We enjoyed the film from the opening scene to the close. It was light, refreshing and a somewhat new concept, with pretty much a cast of relatively new (to me) actors. The music was really well delivered, especially to a person who did not really like the Beatles growing up, and as I mentioned before, the fact that Patel sang all the songs and played the guitar was also an added bonus with respect to the films enjoyment. If you are looking for a light film, with a relatively new concept with respect to music icons of the 60/70/80’s, then give this film a try. Additionally, if you are a Beatles fan, I think that you will enjoy the film as well (Hell, even if you are not, give it a spin, you just might like the music at the end!).

Our Rating: 7/10

If you are interested in other films or shows from the main cast, consider the following recommendations:

Himesh Patel                            Aeronauts

Lily James                                 Downton Abbey

Joel Fry                                     Game of Thrones

Kate McKinnon                         Saturday Night Live, Office Christmas Party

Cast:

Jason Clarke                  Louis

Amy Seimetz                 Rachel

John Lithgow                Jud

Jete Laurence               Ellie

Obssa Ahmed               Victor Pascow

Cast:

Taron Egerton                           Elton John

Jamie Bell                                 Bernie Taupin

Richard Madden                       John Reid

Bryce Dallas Howard                 Sheila

Steven Mackintosh                    Stanley