Samuel L. Jackson John Shaft
Jessie T. Usher JJ Shaft
Richard Roundtree John Shaft Sr.
Regina Hall Maya Babanikos
Alexandra Shipp Sasha Arias
Another weekend, another film to watch and review. For this weekend’s viewing pleasure, I decided to put in a film that stars one of my favourite actors, Samuel L. Jackson. Now Jackson is an awesome actor with numerous films to his credit. As with any actor who has a resume that is this extensive, some of the films are awesome, some great, some good and the remainder has something to be desired. In the case of Shaft (2019), I would say that this film was fair too good. The only reason that it would even rate an good score is strictly due to the talents of Jackson in the title character.
Shaft (2019) is the 5thmovie carrying the name, the first in 1971 (Shaft), Then Shaft’s Big Score (1972), Shaft in Africa (1973), Shaft (2000) and Shaft (2019). Now these films are not remakes, but sequels if you will. The first 3 starred Richard Roundtree in the leading role, Shaft 2000 introduced Jackson as the son, and now in 2019, we have Usher as the son/grandson depending on how you want to follow the lineage for the film. However, in all instances, Shaft has been able to save the underdog, find out what the crime was and ultimately do-good. Even if the path is a little crooked and confused along the way.
Shaft (2019) opens with a photo-shopped Shaft looking 30 years younger with his wife and new child. Husband & wife are having a heated discussion that does not seem to be going well for our intrepid hero. Next thing you know, his vehicle is being shot up by some guys looking for revenge. Naturally, Shaft (Jackson) escapes unscathed, as does his family. But sadly, his marriage is pretty much over due to this unexpected violence. Next, we jump 20 plus years and we see J.J. Shaft (Usher) working in the FBI as a cybersecurity analyst. As we find out, he is completely different from his leather jacket wearing father (Jackson). J.J. (Usher) does not like guns or violence, follows the rules (to a point) and would rather use his mind vice his fists to solve a problem.
When a childhood friend gets murdered in Harlem, J.J. (Usher) and his friend Sasha (Shipp) try to investigate what happened, to no avail. Figuring that there is only person that J.J. can get help from, they go to his father Shaft (Jackson) to get some much needed assistance and unique guidance in how to solve the murder of their friend. This is where the fun really begins. J.J. having a completely different style than his father is introduced into the “Shaft” way of doing things. This includes excessive violence, quips and one-liners and also a dramatic propensity for swearing. As this is a film that any fan of Jackson would want to watch, I will not go into too much detail; but it is safe to say that J.J. (Usher) reunites with his father, meets his grandfather, gets the girl, gets the bad guys and discovers that he is really a man worthy of the Shaft moniker.
In a nutshell, that was the story line without giving out any real spoilers. As all fans of this genre are aware, the formula is pretty predictable, and any film that wants to be remotely successful, will adhere to this tried and true process. What will make a film stand-out is how much the actors, script and/or direction gives the film it’s uniqueness. In the case of Shaft (2019) the really only factor that makes the whole film worthwhile is Jackson’s performance. The film’s plot was predictable as previously mentioned; the script/dialogue so/so, and the special effects/action sequences were completed reasonably well. I have no doubt that in the case of Jackson and Hall, that much of the dialogue was ad-libbed to make it feel real and also deliver the right amount of humour. While on the subject of the cast, lets take a look at some of the key players in this film.
Jessie T. Usher as John Shaft (jr): As one of the principal names on this film, Usher’s performance was kind of lacklustre. I had previously watched him in “The Boys” on Amazon as ”A-Train” and he provided a respectable performance. However, on Shaft, he was pretty much eclipsed by his father (Jackson). He really did not provide any zip to the character, and his delivery was almost always dead-panned. In “The Boys” I found him to be a little more animated than what he provided in this role. However, having said all that, his flat performance actually kind of complemented Jackson’s character. I did look to see what Usher had done in the past and besides “The Boys” he had only been a guest in some of the other shows that I had watched in the past, i.e. Numb3rs and The Mentalist.
Richard Roundtree as Shaft (Sr): Roundtree has been around for decades and made his name on the Shaft movies. He still manages to hold his own in a film at 76 years old, though his real purpose was to give some history to the film and also add another big name for the fans of the past. His chemistry with Jackson was fine as well as with the other co-stars. What I found interesting is that when the film was made, he was 76 years old, yet his “son”, Jackson was a young 70…guess he started making his family real young!
Regina Hall as Maya Babanikos: I have always enjoyed Regina Hall’s performance. She goes over the top and her hysterics and attitude were a perfect complement for Jackson’s character. She could deliver her profanity laced lines with the same verve as Jackson and would match him word for word, not mention her screams! Her chemistry with all the other main characters was evident and she was an added bonus to the film writ large.
Alexandra Shipp as Sasha Arias: Shipp played the love interest to J.J. While it was clear that she was interested in him, he was too dense to pick up on it for most of the film. She displayed good chemistry with Usher, and appeared to fit into her character well. Her performance was solid enough for me to look up what she had done previously, found out that we had seen her in small parts in the X-Men franchise. Having said that, I think that she has moved forward in her roles and skills, but also has further to go.
Samuel L. Jackson as John Shaft: I saved the best for last, Jackson delivered as always! Without his performance throughout the film, I don’t know if I would have finished it. No one but Jackson can spew profanity with such elegance and style. For example, my wife and I watched the series Deadwood years ago, and they use profanity in the place of punctuation in that film. My wife was not impressed with it and often said how much the swearing bothered her. Yet, when watching Jackson in a film, every time he utters MotherF*&%^er, she laughs and thinks it is funny. Who knew it, I guess it just the way it is delivered! Additionally, for a 70-year-old man, he is still very spry and he could still swagger with the best of them. Jackson continues to present his own style of tough, with a stare that can be almost as intense as Clint Eastwood’s or as psychotic as Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon. Jackson’s physical actions and facial expressions can say a thousand words, as long as they end in MotherF(*&er! He will play the hero or the villain with equal alacrity, and even actually play in a movie with out swearing (re: Star wars franchise). He is a talented actor with a specific flair that will be hard to reproduce when he has retired from acting. Jackson’s portrayal of this iconic character from the 70’s was and is still enjoyable.
There were some additional supporting characters that are worth mentioning. For example, Titus Welliver as special agent Vietti. He was J.J. (Usher) supervisor and plays an assh…e to a T. Does not matter what role I have seen him in, he will be a crooked cop, hit man, CIA agent etc. and present it in such a way that you love to hate him. Just goes to show how good he can be. While he did not have much screen time in Shaft, he did still manage to exude the same feelings when on screen. So kudo’s to him for continuing to perform in the niche that he is best known for. Additionally, I have to mention Luna Lauren Velez as Bennie Rodriguez. I had first noticed her in Dexter as the incompetent and insecure Lt Maria Laguerta, while not a fan of the character, she is much like Welliver. It does not matter what role she plays; I just don’t like her character. As a crook in this film, she continues to demonstrate that she is a niche actress that can play an unlikable character at all times. In both instances, even though I did not like the character, I can appreciate the performance and what they contributed to the overall product.
Now the big question, were we entertained? Yes, we were. The film had enough action, comedy and plot to keep us watching the whole film. Jackson in essence was the film and he brought the rest of the cast along for the ride. While the plot was a little lame at times (i.e. the reason behind the friend’s murder and what was being covered up), it did not really matter. Jackson’s profanity laced dialogue, raised eyebrows and penchant for using fists/guns to get his way carried the film. If you want to escape for a few hours and if you are a fan of Jackson’s style of acting, then this film is for you. If you don’t like profanity in films, crude one-liners and a thin plot, then you might want to keep scrolling through the Netflix menu. For us, as fans of him and his films, we will give Shaft a rating of: 6/10
If you are interested in watching further films/shows from the key characters, consider the following recommendations.
Samuel L. Jackson Patriot Games, Jurassic Park, Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction, Die Hard with a Vengeance, A time to Kill, Sphere, The Negotiator, Star Wars (Franchise), Shaft, Formula 51, Kill Bill Vol 2, Coach Carter, Snakes on a Plane, Black Snake Moan, Avengers (Franchise), Django Unchained, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Glass, Unbreakable.
Jessie T. Usher The Boys
Richard Roundtree Shaft, Earthquake, Se7en, Heroes,
Regina Hall Girls Trip, Scary Movie 2,3,4, Law Abiding Citizen
Titus Welliver Sons of Anarchy, Deadwood, Bosch, The Good wife, Prison Break, Gone Baby Gone, The Last Ship.
Till Next Time!
Lupita Nyong’o Adelaide Wilson/Red
Winston Duke Gabe Wilson/Abraham
Elisabeth Moss Kitty Tyler/Dahlia
Tim Heidecker Josh Tyler/Tex
Shahadi Wright Joseph Zora Wilson/Umbrae
Evan Alex Jason Wilson/Pluto
Well, it has been a few weeks since my last review. This is due primarily to the fact that every movie we tried watching over the last few weeks was discarded halfway, and of course the drama that was the US Election. Watching the debates, news conferences, and various speeches were in fact entertainment enough without having to go to a film. So, since we didn’t watch a horror film on Halloween, we tried one for this weekend. The next one to watch was the movie “Us”, which was written and directed by Jordan Peele. I was expecting something really unique and new from Peele, as my wife and I really enjoyed his last film “Get Out”, which surprised us at various times, not to mention his unique and different style for a movie of the horror genre. “Us” on the other hand, was quite a bit more predictable, and not as well written or acted.
The film opens with scenes of a little girl and her family at the fair. They are enjoying a night out when the little girl takes off and enters a “house of mirrors” where she then sees a reflection of herself that does not seem right. Besides the house of mirrors, there is also something that seems a little off with all the characters in the whole opening sequence. However, you, the audience will already get a sense of where this film is going at this point.
Fast-forward in time and we find out that “Us” is a film about a family who is taking their summer vacation at their recently deceased grandmother’s beach house. As many families do, they are having their own issues as a family. We have Adelaide (Nyong’o), who is an introverted mother, who really doesn’t want this vacation, (well at least the destination point), Gabe (Duke) the father (with a penchant for Dad jokes, and total obliviousness of his family’s wants), the son, Jason (Alex), a nerdy, slightly pyromaniac, wannabe magician and Zora (Joseph), the daughter, who is an athlete and just wants to have a good time. Throughout the car trip, Adelaide (Nyong’o) continues to have flashbacks of the night at the fair and we see that she is becoming more uncomfortable the closer they get to their destination. After a short time, this “normal’ family arrives at beach house after this tortuous drive.
The father Gabe (Duke), unwittingly increases the tension and family angst when he convinces Adelaide (Nyong’o) that they are to go to the beach to spend a day there with some friends, Kitty and Josh (Moss and Heidecker respectively). They go, have some “critical” dialogue with their friends, have an intense moment or two, and then throw in a couple of flashbacks for Adelaide to increase the tension before returning home. Once home, tension is further increased amongst the family, ranging from the father’s latest acquisition of a questionable speedboat to how Gabe (Duke) doesn’t listen to Adelaide (Nyong’o). Suddently, Jason (Alex) spies a family at the end of the driveway just staring at the house.
At this point, this is where the horror film starts and the drama ends. The family at the end of the driveway are doppelgangers of our intrepid heroes. Dressed in red jumpsuits, which appear to be rejected uniforms from “Orange is the new Black”, these duplicates (and others) start to terrorize the family and the surrounding countryside. I don’t really want to give out too many spoilers at this time on who they are, where they came from and what their goal is, but needless to say that our heroes fight the good fight, the doppelgangers origins are revealed, and the “twist” at the end, is actually very predictable if you paid a modicum of attention while watching the film.
What did we take away from this film? Well, throughout the opening sequences we see some dramatic foreshadowing on what will later be critical points within the film. Some of them are a little subtle, others hit you with a brick. Thus my comment about the film being predictable. The acting was so/so, and the script was mediocre compared to Peele’s previous outing in “Get Out”. The characters played by Moss and Heidecker were very one dimensional, and did not really add to the plot at all, well except maybe to provide targets of opportunity to the doppelgangers. I did enjoy the father’s (Duke) character, with his limitless dad jokes and continued attempts to please his wife and children, not to mention his own inner child. His acts of bravado when confronted were also well done.
I actually really liked the concept behind the film, and was hoping for it to be delivered with tension and excitement, however, at times I was disappointed. Specifically, when some of the co-stars or lesser characters were involved. With a little more attention to some of the backstory and the supporting cast, I think this film could have had more oomph. I must add that some of the doppelgangers, specifically the children played by Joseph and Alex were done well, while Adelaide (Nyongo’s) character would be detailed and complex in one breath, and then revert to almost comical actions or dialogue in the next. In my opinion, further development on the why and how the doppelgangers came into being would have provided a little bit more insight to the film. As it stood, it left to many holes to figure out, and actually gave too many openings for confusion.
Now to look at the cast;
Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide Wilson/Red: In my opinion Nyong’o gave a mixed performance. I know it is difficult to play multiple roles, and I give credit to her and the whole cast of “Us” for doing so. However, I must say, in “Us” I did not see the span of her talents like I observed in the first film I saw her in “12 Years a Slave”. Her Adelaide character, while not bad, could have been amped up a bit, while I found her doppelganger “Red” to be almost comical. The voice that she used as “Red”, while explained later as to the reasoning, did not actually really fit. At times, everything seemed a bit stilted and uneven, but, overall it was not bad. Not her best work by far, but still better then I have seen from others in this genre.
Winston Duke as Gabe Wilson/Abraham: As the father, I found Duke very entertaining, from his lame Dad jokes, to displaying his bravado or machismo when called upon. His character was enjoyable and well acted. As Abraham, he really did not do much except grunt and fight/attack. Even though he looked familiar, I could not place him in other roles, it was not until I looked at IMDB that I discovered that he had been in the Avengers/Black Panther franchise, and then I remembered who he was. Overall, not a bad performance by Duke in this film.
Elisabeth Moss as Kitty Tyler/Dahlia: Moss was actually very disappointing for me. I first really noticed her in Mad Men, then going back I found out how many shows/films she was actually in. Her character here was a caricature. Nothing substantial about her role or acting at all…not even her death scene (sorry for the spoiler, but it is a horror flick, so you know lots of people are going to die). Overall, pretty much a wasted character that really could have been just any 3rdactor/actress, or even excluded from the story all together. Very disappointing.
Tim Heidecker as Josh Tyler/Tex: Heidecker’s role was pretty much the same as Moss; a throw away performance that did little to add to the story or the excitement of the film. Apparently he has been around for a while in film, but obviously his performances have not left an impression on me. I was surprised to see that he had some bit parts in shows and films that I liked, but alas, I have no memory of the character or him playing in it. This will be much the same with this performance. This character, as in Moss’s could have been written out with no impact to the film.
Shahadi Wright Joseph as Zora Wilson/Umbrae: Of the children in this film, I liked Joseph the best. She did well as the teenager who just wanted to have fun without having her family (re mom and brother) giving her a hard time. Also, she played the dual role of Umbrae with a weird kind of intensity. She actually looked scarier then any of the other doppelgangers, and played the ‘evil’ role much better than the other kids.
Evan Alex as Jason Wilson/Pluto: Alex was not bad here either, not as good as Joseph, but still not bad. His character proved to be pivotal in the battle against doppelgangers, and his own doppelganger was portrayed as a mix of an extra from “Planet of the Apes”, Smigel from Lord of the Rings and a puppy. From a physical acting point of view he was pretty good in my opinion. However, I believe that with more maturity and experience he may develop into a very good supporting actor. Only time will really tell.
So overall, how did we enjoy the film? Were we entertained? Yes, mildly. As I have mentioned previously, this foray from Peele was not as good as his other movie “Get Out”, but was still not bad nonetheless. Even though we are not really fans of the genre, it still kept us entertained enough to complete the film. He (Peele) was effective enough in his “Dramatic foreshadowing’s” to keep us intrigued, even though the film writ large was pretty predictable. Direction/script was not bad, however, I think some of the characters (Adelaide/Red) specifically could have been enhanced with greater details. Additionally, some of the symbolism (rabbits) and the back story could have been either explained in greater detail. It would not have been necessary in the start (as it could have really given away the story) but as an epilogue if you will. Overall the acting was ok, but as I had mentioned previously, I felt that some of the characters could have been written out with really no impact on the story at all. I would recommend this film if you are a fan of Peele’s work specifically and secondly, a fan of Nyong’o. If not, move onto another horror classic like the Exorcist or even Peele’s previous movie Get Out.
If you are interested in other films starring the main cast, consider the following recommendations.
Lupita Nyong’o 12 Years a Slave, Black Panther
Winston Duke Black Panther, Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War
Elisabeth Moss Mad Men, The Handmaid’s Tale, The West Wing
Till next time!
Jamie Foxx Art
Joseph Gordon-Levitt Frank
Dominique Fishback Robin
For this week’s review, we went back to NETFLIX instead of my stack of unwatched Blu-Ray movies. I scrolled through “my list” of shows/films that I had created that might remotely interest me and stopped at Project Power. This latest NETFLIX film stars Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Dominique Fishback as the central characters. I watched the 30 second trailer that NETFLIX inserts as a promo and decided what the hell. Now, as some of you may remember, the last film I watched with Jamie Foxx, (Robin Hood – 2018), I panned horribly due to the fact that it was so terrible to watch. I was desperately hoping for Foxx to redeem himself in this film. Additionally, this film stars Gordon-Levitt, who I have found to grow considerably as an actor over the last few decades since I had first seen him in “3rdRock from the Sun”. Fishback on the other hand, was new to me, and checking her resume on IMDB I had not seen any of her previous performances.
In essence, Project Power is basically another super-hero, super-power movie, but with a slight twist. Taking place in New Orleans, well the seedier side of New Orleans anyway, a new drug is being peddled amongst the ne’er do wells of the city. This drug, can give the host super powers, but these super-powers are restricted by time and also the DNA of the host and what is in the pill itself. The pill harnesses the powers of an animal, amplifies it with the host’s DNA and expands them exponentially for a short time. However, one of the side effects could also be a horrible death by internal explosion. So in essence, it can make someone fast like a cheetah, armoured like an armadillo, invisible like a chameleon or super strong like an elephant. The only downside, is no one knows what their power will be until they take the pill itself! Will it give them power, or will it kill them, a kind of supersized Russian Roulette if you will!
At the start of the film, we see one of our films heroines, Robin (Fishback) trying to sell this drug called “Power” to some of the local toughs. Obviously, as this is a seedy part of town, these miscreants want to take the drugs and money from Robin so that they can become powerful if even for a short time. Enter the 2ndhero, a burnt-out cop (Gordon-Levitt) who will do what it takes to keep the streets safe. Doing what it takes, also means that he is not above taking the pills, in his case, when he takes the power pill, we find out he becomes bullet-proof. Meanwhile, we discover that these power pills are being sold as a means for a crooked pharma company to test their products on humans, thus avoiding any government restrictions.
Now, enter our 3rdhero, Art (Foxx). He calls himself the “Major” and he is trying to find out where the pills are coming from and also search for his daughter that has somehow become a prisoner of this crooked pharma company. Our 3 main characters hook up, with Robin (Fishback) being the nexus of their relationship. With Art (Foxx) and Frank (Gordon-Levitt) not really trusting each-other, it takes the street smarts and logic of a 13-year old, Robin (Fishback) to get them to work together. Once teamed up, they combat a bevy of powered individuals, and a number of security guards from the pharmaceutical company and a rogue portion of the government/military. Needless to say, they win, as was predicted, and the evil company et al are thwarted. So, even though this was a limited synopsis of the plot, the predictability of the film does not really give out any spoilers. How they manage to win, is something you will have to see for yourself if you choose to watch this film.
So, what did we think of the film? Project Power takes the concept of Limitless (2011), and combines it with a touch of the DC and Marvel universe. I liked the premise of the film, a Russian roulette of superpowers, with a fatal ending, combined with the standard avenging hero plotline; but it did have its drawbacks. The backstory of the drug development and testing was touched upon, and Art’s (Foxx) participation was glassed over, and could have used greater development. As did the explanations of why/where and how often these pills were pushed out in the various cities. Additionally, we find that Robin (Fishback) is pushing the pill, and that she does know Frank (Gordon-Levitt) (enough so that he gives her a confiscated motor-cycle), but why is he helping? Is it just that she supplies him with the drug? This was a plot hole that was hard to cover up. Especially later in the film, where he assists her mother when she is in a bind. Would he have not have had further information on Robin’s (Fishback) family beforehand? These plot-holes distracted us a little from the film. But we continued watching anyways.
Furthermore, I think that the pharmaceutical company/bad guy could have had some more development? Ok, they designed the drug, and Art (Foxx) as a member of the Special forces was experimented on (so he knows what it is all about) and the film touched on why the daughter was special. Another few minutes of either memories or explanation would have increased the film’s enjoyment, and also ensured that no-one got lost in the film’s CGI and actually followed a cogent storyline to the end.
As this is a film that almost everyone seems to have a power (for a short time), I have to say that the special effects were pretty good. The short term mutations were pretty cool, and I thought done well. (Not to the extent of the big budget Marvel or DC films, but well enough). I especially liked Newt’s (Machine Gun Kelly) transformation to the films version of the Human Torch, and Biggie’s Hulk like transformation. Both of them were done well and amplified the intensity of their respective scenes.
The final act, where we see our stalwart heroes fighting the bad guys to save Art’s (Foxx) daughter also had some pretty decent special effects, and actually an interesting animal’s strength to harness for the final confrontation. I won’t divulge the final power in case you want to see the film yourself, but needless to say, I actually had to look up that animal to see if it actually did possess that kind of strength/power; and, yes it does, sort of. The director/screen writer actually merged two variants of the same animal family to make the animal, but the strengths it (they) possess was close enough. Who says you don’t learn something from movies eh!
What didn’t we like about the film? Well, Robin (Fishback) and her propensity to Rap as it was some mystical talent that could save the day. Did it really have to be there? Could the screenwriter not have made something a little bit better for her? Maybe it is just that I don’t really get that type of music that was the reason, but for me, it was something the film could have done without. Also, as I previously mentioned, there were some story plot holes that could have been filled or expanded. I also felt that this concept of the “power pill” could have been better played out.
Now for a quick look at the main cast:
Jamie Foxx as Art: Foxx is actually a pretty good action film actor. I just wish that he would pick some better vehicles for his talents. While Project Power was OK, it was nowhere close to the calibre of movie that he has played in the past. In this film, he did get to show off his fighting skills, but he did not really show any depth of character. Ok, so we know he wants revenge on those who kidnapped his daughter, and he would show the requisite amounts of anger etc while in pursuit – but in this film, I just didn’t feel it. In Ray, Collateral and Django, I could see the emotion and the angst. But here it was just too one dimensional, however, it was still far better then the last film I saw him in (Robin Hood).
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Frank: Gordon-Levitt is also a talented actor who was wasted in this film. I have seen him in numerous films and television programs over the years and have pretty much enjoyed most of it. In films like 500 days of Summer, 50/50, Looper, and Sin City: A dame to kill for, his characters were diverse and entertaining. While in Project Power, there were some scenes that we could see some flashes of talent, a lot of the character seemed to be lost to either CGI, or just not there. This could have been the fault of the script and/or direction, either way, I have seen him act far better than he did in this film.
Dominique Fishback as Robin: As the teenage drug dealer (with a future), Fishback was not too bad. I had not seen her in anything else in the past, so I really can’t compare her acting here to any other roles. However, her character was central to bringing the key characters together for the final conflict. Like I said, I could have done without the Rap business, (again it could be that the music is just not my style), and believed that it was not required in the film, but in one-way shape or form, the script/direction had to give her some depth of character, and maybe that was the only way. I will be curious to see what other roles she takes in the future.
There were a few supporting actors that deserve some mention. Machine Gun Kelly as Newt was actually pretty entertaining. However, that was primarily due to the fact that the best parts of his role were enhanced by CGI to make him a pseudo flaming torch. Additionally, Rodrigo Santoro as Biggie, made me chuckle a bit as well. Much the same as Machine Gun Kelly, the best part of his role was also due to CGI enhancements. While entertaining, their characters were really just throw-aways to the whole plot of the film. The biggest disappointment for supporting actors was Courtney B Vance as Captain Crane and Frank’s Boss. Vance is extremely talented and I have enjoyed his films/Television roles every since I saw him in Hamburger Hill (1987). He followed this up with some other great supporting pieces in such films and shows like – Hunt for Red October, The Tuskegee Airmen, Law and Order, ER, and Flashforward. In each show, I found his role to be very entertaining, regardless of the length of screen time or importance of the character. In Project Power, he was completely wasted, and if he was given a greater role, it just may have enhanced the film a bit.
So, now the big question, were we entertained? Yes, sort of. We enjoyed the premise and the CGI. However, the character development and plot threads left a little to be desired. But, even taking those issues into consideration, we did watch the whole film and were mildly entertained. Was this a big budget Hollywood film with amazing stars and special effects? No, it was not. But for a NETFLIX original, it was not too bad, and it did pass a few hours. I would recommend this film if you were into the whole superpower thing and if you are fans of either Foxx or Gordon-Levitt. Otherwise, you may want to watch Limitless, which almost has the same premise, take a pill, get a power – but that one was done quite a bit better.
Our Rating 5/10
If you are interested in other films starring the main cast, please consider the following recommendations:
Jamie Foxx Ray, Django, The Amazing Spider Man 2, Due Date, The Kingdom, Jarhead and Collateral
Joseph Gordon-Levitt Looper, 50/50, 500 Days of Summer, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception
Elizabeth Banks Tori Breyer
David Denman Kyle Breyer
Jackson A. Dunn Brandon Breyer
Matt Jones Noah McNichol
Meredith Hagner Merilee McNichol
Looking for something a little different for our night’s entertainment, I selected “Brightburn” from my stack of unwatched movies. I remember that when I bought this film I was intrigued with the concept. The Director/Writers took the original story of Superman’s origins and added a twist, at least that is what the tag lines were promoting (not in so many words), and what I had understood from a trailer that I had seen a bit before purchasing the film. Well, while there is some similarity, it was not quite what I was expecting.
“Brightburn” has a reasonably unknown cast except for Elizabeth Banks, with that in mind, you know that you are not destined to get a blockbuster film or something with amazing special effects. While Elizabeth Banks is a pretty good actress, she is not an A lister in Hollywood. I would classify her as more of a B+ in the Hollywood scale. Additionally, besides a few comments I had heard from friends who had watched this film, and the one trailer I saw, I was not sure if I would like the film. I am a fan of the “superhero” genre and have pretty much enjoyed every one of the films from Marvel or DC to one extent or another. So, I was a little unsure about this supposed dark side of Superman’s origins.
With that in mind, we started the film and hunkered down to watch this anti-hero film. Well, the film starts out in a small farm in the town of Brightburn Kansas. A nice middle-aged couple, the Breyers (Banks and Denman) are struggling to start a family. Obviously, their fertility is in question by the actions of the characters, but they try desperately to conceive. Then one night, while they are “trying” there is a flashing light and a boom in the distance. (Sound familiar so far?). So they rush off, and then the next scene they are showing little baby Brandon, then a few other scenes of him growing up. So far, nothing really different from the original Superman storyline.
The timeline jumps about 10 or so years, and now young Brandon is starting to hear voices, walk in his sleep and starting to have strange urges. These urges are not like most adolescents and young teenagers, no matter what his father thinks. Additionally, he is now speaking a strange language that is not recognizable. His father, thinking that he is only experiencing the standard angst of adolescence has a painful “Talk” with him…even though it was painful to see, it was actually funny, as I am sure fathers the world over has felt the same unease over the “Talk” with their son’s for thousands of years. Taking the advice of his father, which was basically embrace the changes in his body, and demonstrate his feelings to his young crush, Brandon’s (Dunn) powers start to take form.
It is at this point the story goes from a superhero origin plot line if you will, to basically a rip-em up/off horror flick. Brandon (Dunn) dealing with his new found powers becomes basically a terror to his family and community and more specifically his school crush. This becomes amplified when he discovers the truth of his origins from his mother, Tori (Banks). Discovering that he is not from this world, he starts a reign of havoc on the local community, and wreaks revenge on all that have crossed him. While this is no longer a superhero flick (or anti superhero), it now transforms into a somewhat cheezy, very bloody horror film. This is especially evident in the last act, as the final confrontation is somewhat reminiscent of other horror films (i.e. Carrie, and The Omen), and almost blatantly ripping off the actual themes. I guess a good formula will always work eh?
What did I like about this film, well at first, the premise. Making an origin story of a superhero that is not really a hero, or becomes a bizarre superman was actually kind of refreshing. However, as mentioned above, it is not really the case. The first 20 minutes or so when they were setting up the story, I thought it would be interesting to see how he would turn evil, but for all intents and purposes, this just became a good excuse to rip people apart and cause copious amount of destruction and bloodshed. Once I got used to the new idea, it was not too bad. The cast was solid in this b film, and Elizabeth Banks did a pretty good job playing the tortured mother (emotionally and figuratively). The rest of the cast also gave an admirable performance, including the main character, Brandon. Additionally, I found the special effects to be ok (considering the caliber of the film) and the script and storyline flowed reasonable well. A few scenes made us jump, and even made my wife hide her face, so for respect to a horror film, I guess it filled the mark. We also enjoyed the Micheal Rooker cameo at the end, as the crazy conspiracy theorist who was spouting out that aliens were amongst us, showing clips of Brandon wreaking havoc. Rooker is a talented actor, maybe a bit typecast, but he always delivers. His last little cameo actually made me laugh out loud.
What didn’t I like? Well, this was advertised as a “Anti-Superman” origins story, but basically it was a horror film that ripped off (or should I say inspired by) several other films. I would have liked to see a real “anti-Superman” origin story, somewhat like the Amazon series ‘The Boys” delivers. So it was a bit misleading. But, having said all that, once I got used to the new take, it was ok.
As this film did not have a huge main cast, lets take a quick look at them:
Elizabeth Banks as Tori Breyer: As I have mentioned before, I find Banks a solid B+ actor. She is great in an ensemble piece, but I don’t think that she has the clout to carry a major film on her own. In many aspects, it is good that this was not a major film production, but one that is considered a lower budget production (according to IMDB, the film cost 6 million to make and only garnered 30+ million world wide). As the only real “star” in the film, her performance as Tory was well done. She emoted the love and anguish of a mother in a rather believable fashion and ensured that the story moved along. Pretty much the finale of the movie is almost a copy (or maybe homage) to Carrie, and she completed the scene well. There may be various opinions on how her performance was in this film, but we found it to be OK, we enjoyed her in Hunger Games far more, but also it was a bigger budget and a smaller role.
David Denman as Kyle Breyer: He was ok here, the funniest part of his role was the “Talk” that he had with his son. His acting was so-so, I thought he was much better in Logan Lucky or 13 Hours, but then again, as mentioned, this is a low budget flick with not much to help it out. His suspicion of his adopted son was believable, but at times it his fatherly emotions seemed forced.
Jackson A. Dunn as Brandon Breyer: As the principal actor in the film, Dunn did a pretty good job in our opinion. He conveyed the confusion and teenage angst quite well, and also the uncertainty of what he was meant to do. However, when he was talking “alien” and some of his subsequent actions as Brightburn, well, they came out almost comical when it was not supposed to be. He is a young actor who will no doubt have many more roles in the future to sharpen and enhance his skills. Overall, I would find his performance to be fair, though a bit uneven.
Matt Jones as Noah McNichol: Jones was the bumbling uncle in Brightburn. We found him amusing in his scenes, even if a bit cartoonish. However, if I recall correctly, whenever I saw him in other films or TV, he seems to play that same persona. On the plus side, he did have a great death scene, (sorry for the spoiler, but this is horror flick, everyone dies!), that was not only well done, but, I hate to say almost funny. (It reminded me a bit of the special effects used in American Werewolf in London, maybe that is why I thought it was little funny, instead of being gross). In short, his performance was ok, and his character did help the storyline progress to reach the end
Meredith Hagner as Merilee McNichol: Hagner played Merilee, Tori’s (Banks) sister and the aunt and school councillor to Brandon (Dunn). Not a huge role, but a supporting one nonetheless. Her performance was OK during the intense sequences with Brandon (Dunn) as she tried to council him at school and send him home after a late night visit to her place. Nothing extraordinary in it, just ok. However, this could have been due to limited budget, script or direction. I perused her IMDB resume and could not find anything that I had seen in her in, so I have nothing to compare this role to in her case.
Overall, how did we find the film? And, most importantly, were we entertained? Well, I will say yes, we were. The film, while actually a bit misleading in the concept, but did prove to be entertaining enough to follow through to the end. As the movie transitioned from an Anti-superhero film to a horror movie, it provided enough intensity and special effects to keep us watching. While there was nothing earth-shattering great about this film, it was good enough to sit through a few weeks before Halloween. I could even take the predictability and thefts/homage to other horror films of the past. The Micheal Rooker cameo at the end was well done and made me laugh out loud. One interesting point that I found out, was that during the Rooker’s monologue, it showed Brandon flying through and destroying a building. While this building looked extremely familiar, it was not until I was researching the film that I found out it was a building from my city that was destroyed a few years ago to make room for newer developments. So we found that part kind of neat. Anyways, I have digressed; would I recommend this film. Yes, if you are a fan of horror films and want to see something a little different then give it a try. If you want to see superheroes gone bad, then, pick Amazon’s “The Boys” as your go to film. But it is an ok little timewaster on a winters night.
Our rating: 5/10
If you are looking for other films from the main cast, consider the following recommendations:
Elizabeth Banks Hunger Games (franchise), Our Idiot Brother, W., Definitely Maybe
David Denman Logan Lucky, 13 Hours, The Gift
Matt Jones Breaking Bad
Kevin James Sam Larson/Mason Carver
Kim Coates President Miguel Cueto
Maurice Compte Juan
Zulay Henao Rosa Bolivar
Andrew Howard Anton Masovich
Yul Vazquez General Javier Ruiz
Andy Garcia El Toro
Rob Riggle William Cobb
Leonard Earl Howze Micheal Cleveland
Ron Rifkin Amos
Looking for something different to watch on a Saturday night, we decided to skim through the recommendations from Netflix. I really don’t care for their search engine, but after a few hits and misses, we settled on “True Memoirs of an International Assassin”. This is a NETFLIX original and was not released into theatres. For the purposes of title brevity, when referring to the title from this point forward, I will just call it “Memoirs”.
Memoirs stars a large ensemble of supporting actors centered around Kevin James in the lead role. This film is a cross between “Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Pink Panther, and the Secret adventures of Walter Mitty”. Taking some of those ideas and merging them with the comedic stylings of Kevin James make this film a fair little time waster.
Memoirs stars Kevin James as Sam Larson, an aspiring novelist whose real job is that of a struggling Insurance actuator. However, his real dream is to write a best-selling novel, but with very little real life experience he tends to lean on the stories of a friend who claimed to be an analyst for Mossad. Struggling over writer’s block, Larson (James) turns to Amos (Rifkin) for assistance. Even though Amos demands that these stories are not to appear in his book, he changes a few words and incorporates them into the story. Searching for a publisher for his novel, Larson (James) meets up with an independent agent who takes on his novel, but makes one small change to the title, by adding the word “True” at the beginning. This small amendment starts Larson’s new adventure. His book hits best seller status and, he starts promoting his novel on television. It is at this point that Larsen (James) actually starts living the life of the main character in his book. He finds himself in Venezuela where many parties all think that he is a world class Assassin and strongly persuade him to take on a hit for them. As this is a comedy, we see that each party wants Larsen to kill one of the others to promote their cause. Using the techniques that he has incorporated into his writing, he manages to thwart several criminals, outwit the CIA, get the girl, help the good guys and live a real adventure instead of writing one. That is pretty much the story in a nutshell.
Anytime you watch a show or movie with Kevin James, you know what you are going to get. You know you will have to put your brain away, not think of the all of the plot mistakes, over-use of clichés, predictable outcomes or even the expectation of a quality performance. Instead, you will get mindless entertainment that will make you smile, maybe even laugh out loud. “Memoirs” provided just that. We saw where the character was going within the first 10 minutes and could map out the general storyline, maybe not all the sub-characters, but at least all the main plot points and hints of what was to come. But, it did not matter, we just sat back and enjoyed the ride. What made this mindless little farce enjoyable, I would have to say the performances of the cast writ-large. They all played their stereo-typed characters to a T, and even with a little bit of flair. While we are on the subject of the cast, lets take a look at each character;
Kevin James as Sam Larson/Mason Carver: Kevin James is Kevin James, he never changes his character or style, but that is what makes (most) his films enjoyable. He bumbles/fumbles around, makes faces and almost has the agility of some other large comedians (John Belushi, John Candy, Chris Farly). While his performances rarely change, he can still carry an action/comedy to the end. It was actually fun to watch him embrace his fictitious character of Mason Carver and watch his metamorphosis into a hero. He had great chemistry with all of his co-stars, especially Andy Garcia, Kim Coates and Zulay Henao. While he was in essence Paul Blart on steroids, his character delivered the necessary laughs and let us escape for a few hours. Oscar performance it was not, but at least it had more laughs then a re-run of “King of Queens”.
Kim Coates as President Miguel Cueto: Kim Coates has been around almost forever, he usually plays the tough guy, killer or soldier. To see him play a comedic role was extremely enjoyable. He had a dry delivery that made us laugh at all the right times. His portrayal of an inept President was great! The one-liners and drunken appearance were extremely entertaining and the scenes with James were extremely well done. Even though I really like him in roles that he plays in shows like “Sons of Anarchy” or “Prison Break” he should look into some of these more comedic roles in the future as he played it extremely well.
Zulay Henao as Rosa Bolivar: Henao as Bolivar in this film was almost cartoonish. It was probably meant to be that way, and if so, they succeeded. Dressed up like a rip-off of Lara Croft, in an outfit that accentuated her assets, she still managed to pull off a few funny scenes. Her chemistry with James was pretty good and she added to the humour in their scenes. I looked at her resume on IMDB and only remember seeing her in Stumptown (which was a show that we liked, too bad it got cancelled). Other than that, it looks like she has only had some smaller roles, and maybe a bit typecast in them. Who knows what the future will hold for her in film, but I don’t think this movie added to her credibility or made it worse. Her acting while cartoonish, was exactly what the film was looking for and in that aspect she did it well.
Andrew Howard as Anton Masovich: Howard played the Russian mobster very well. He covered every stereo-type of the nouveau riche Russian mobster, and best of all, he made us laugh. His scenes were amusing and his repartee with James were well done. I had seen him in a few shows in the past (Copper, Hell on Wheels, Boardwalk Empire) and he had done well.
Andy Garcia as El Toro: Garcia is an excellent actor; he seems to give it his all in big parts as well as small. Versatile, he can play a comedic role and switch to action films or dramatic parts in a heartbeat. Even though a relatively small role in this film, his was actually one of the most memorable. As the revolutionary leader, he played his part with style. His stole every scene he was in and managed to make even the lesser actors look better. A truly talented thespian, he adds to any film or endeavor that he undertakes. We always look forward to seeing him in a show and look forward to the next one.
Rob Riggle as William Cobb and Leonard Earl Howze as Micheal Cleveland: As the token CIA agents in the film, Riggle and Howze did what they were supposed to do. They provided some of the key ingredients to tie some of the scenes together in a comedic fashion. While not primary co-stars, they still provided some entertainment and laughs when they were on the screen.
Ron Rifkin as Amos: While he actually had the least amount of screen time, his contribution to the story was the cornerstone of the plot. It was his character’s contribution to the story (and in this case I mean the novel James was writing) were integral to the outcome, and even though we could predict when he would come on screen and his subsequent actions, they were still well done.
So after all this, were we entertained by the Paul Blart, Pink Panther, Walter Mitty rip-off. Yes, we were. We parked our brains, turned off our thought and enjoyed the ride. If you like Kevin James films and are into his comedic style, then this film will entertain you for a few hours. However, if you are looking for a deep plot, with great character development and a stellar script…then keep on searching through the Netflix menu. “True Memoirs of an International Assassin” is a light film with a very basic plot, even though predictable as hell, and using every cliché or stereotype in the book, it still came together and provided us with an escape for a few hours. So in essence, it did its job.
Our rating 5.5/10
If you are looking for some other films from the key characters, please check out the following recommendations.
Kevin James Hitch, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, The Dilemma, I now Pronounce you Chuck & Larry
Kim Coates Sons of Anarchy, Prison Break, Black Hawk Down
Zulay Henao Stumptown,
Andrew Howard Hell on Wheels, Bates Motel
Andy Garcia The Mule, Book Club, Oceans Thirteen, Oceans Eleven, Godfather III, Internal Affairs
Till Next time!
Will Smith Genie
Mena Massoud Aladdin
Naomi Scott Jasmine
Marwan Kenzari Jafar
Navid Negahban Sultan
Nasim Pedrad Dalia
This week’s review is kind of a milestone, I have now been retired for a year, and this is the 50thcontribution to my brother’s website. There are probably a few regular readers of these blogs/reviews, and also some people who will just click on the movie poster as they might be remotely interested. However, I do enjoy writing them as well as watching the shows that are being reviewed.
So, with the 2ndwave of Covid hitting our city, and a quasi lockdown being put into place, my wife and I thought that a light hearted movie might be the trick to alleviate some of the more recent doldrums. With that in mind, I went to the trusty shelf of Blu-Rays and selected Aladdin. This is the latest remake/revision/re-imagining of the story by Disney studios. Now, as we do not have children, and neither of us have seen the previous Disney version of this film, we were going in with a clean frame of mind and not tainted with opinions of the previous effort. The previous film was animated and starred Robin Williams as the Genie, from what I understand, the original was a fan favourite and thoroughly enjoyed by young and old. This live action version, we have Will Smith acting as the Genie. Williams and Smith are both very talented comedians and actors, but with completely different styles. So, while choosing the film I did expect levity and a half decent nights’ entertainment, but not necessarily something that would be awards worthy.
So the movie was inserted into the player, the wine poured and the popcorn popped, we then started the film. For the 4 people in the world who really don’t know what Aladdin is about, I will provide a quick synopsis. Aladdin is the tale of a poor thief who falls in love with Princess Jasmine. However, behind the scenes, there is a vizier Jafar, who also wants to have the Princess and the kingdom that she represents. However, to do that, he must go into a magical cavern and recover a magic lamp. This lamp, when rubbed will release a Genie who will grant the holder of the lamp 3 wishes. Jafar, needs the lamp so that he can be Sultan, marry the Princess and have everything. However, Aladdin, manages to obtain the lamp, befriend the Genie and win the day, the girl and the Kingdom. This is not much of a plot, and even not taking the magical aspect into consideration, a story that has been told in numerous versions for as long as there was entertainment (Movies, books, plays etc).
This version of Aladdin started off very slowly, as I was not expecting a musical (I know silly me, this is a Disney production), I was disappointed by the opening with the opening. The film started with a small Dhow crossing paths with a galleon and we are introduced to a family that is sailing the Dhow. The Mariner (Smith) talks to his children and then breaks into song. So as this is Will Smith I was expecting a refrain from Fresh Prince “In West Philadelphia born and raised, On the playground was where I spent most of my days…”(now that I have that tune in your head, I will continue), but alas he went on to some tune that introduces the story. This was followed by a very mediocre scene in an Arabian market where we get introduced to Aladdin (Massoud) and Jasmine (Scott). They meet by chance, lie to each other, and start kindling their love. The evil vizier Jafar (Kenzari) is introduced, as well as the doting father, the Sultan (Negahban). So far, the movie does not really have anything going for it, and I almost turned it off. The story was slow at this point, the songs were horrible, and we were just not getting into it. However, we soon find the sinister Jafar (Kenzari) at the magical cave entrance with our hero, Aladdin (Massoud). Aladdin must enter the cave and obtain the magical lamp. As he really has no choice, off he goes and finds the lamp, and this is where the film actually gets better. After rubbing the lamp, the magical Genie arrives (Smith) and the fun begins. With the help of the Genie (Smith), Aladdin becomes a prince so that he can woo Jasmine (Scott), fight Jafar for the kingdom and the hand of the princess and save the day. To help him in this struggle, besides the powerful genie, there is a precocious monkey and a magic carpet that are willing and able to give Aladdin all the aid he requires. So, in a nutshell, this is the film.
What did we like, and what didn’t we like? Hmm, I have read other reviews of this film and was really surprised how wide the spectrum was; it ranged from utter distaste to ethereal enjoyment. However, it appeared that it was people who were fond of the cartoon that disliked this version the most. As I mentioned before, not watching the original first, we found this version to be ok. The CGI was done well, Will Smith was funny and once we got to the point where the Genie appeared in the movie, it was relatively enjoyable from that point onwards. I was actually impressed with Jasmine (Scott’s) singing and had to confirm that it was actually her voice, not lip syncing as we see in other films. But, I cannot say that for Aladdin, his was off tune and hurt our ears. But, he still probably sings better than I can. The scene with Aladdin’s entrance as Prince Ali was very well done and extremely enjoyable. We also enjoyed the Genie (Smith) when he would go off on his tangents. On the negative side…hmm, well the first 20 minutes or so were actually kind of lame, and I desperately wanted to turn it off. Also, Jaffa, the Sultan and Prince Anders were not really well done in my opinion. They were actually kind of cartoonish, but then again, I do realize that this is a Disney production and character development, and intricate plots are not really their forte, they mainly concentrate on good/evil and happily ever after endings. This is really understandable as it is actually a family movie, and films like this are not places for gratuitous sex or violence. To go further into the likes/dislike, lets take a look at the main cast.
Will Smith as the Genie: For the most part, Will Smith movies are very entertaining and we really enjoy them…(except maybe for Bright, that sucked!). He can change tracks from sci-fi, comedy to action hero extremely easily. His flair for comedy is well known and he can take over any scene that he is in and leave others in the dust. In Aladdin, while much of his on screen time is enhanced by CGI/special effects, and the sarcasm that he possesses in abundance shown through. We found him funny, entertaining and interesting throughout the film. Even though the film is called Aladdin, he is and was the true star of the film.
Mena Massoudas Aladdin: As the title character, we found Massoud’s performance to be somewhat lack-lustre. He does not possess the talent of his two principal co-stars and in our opinion was easily upstaged by anyone else in the scene….even the monkey and the flying carpet! Relatively new to the screen, I had only seen him in Jack Ryan before and don’t really remember a lot of details. I hope that he continues to grow and develop his craft.
Naomi Scott as Jasmine: We had first seen Naomi Scott in Terra Nova a few years ago, since then our only opportunity to see her act was in the movie ‘33’. She did not give a stellar performance in Aladdin, but we believe that she has potential and her skill and capabilities will grow in time. While not Oscar worthy if you will, she still did provide some entertaining moments throughout the film. One kudo we will mention is that when she sang, it was actually quite good and we were impressed by her range and capability. Her singing combined with a burgeoning resume will only lead to greater roles in the future.
Marwan Kenzari as Jafar: As the antagonist in Aladdin, Kenzari’s portrayal of Jafar was pretty one dimensional. Yes, this is a movie for the family and a Disney production, but I felt that his role could have been amped up a bit to really show some evilness and treachery. What was displayed on the screen was very predictable and actually at times kind of lame. He really did not stand out in this film and was quickly overshadowed by his parrot and of course the special effects. I thought he provided a far better performance in the Old Guard which I reviewed a few months ago.
Navid Negahban as the Sultan: The Sultan and father to the princess was pretty much a one trick pony in this film. He had to be the doting father, who apparently was not that bright, while still be able to run a small kingdom. There was no surprise or dimension in this character. Unfortunately, he did not get the chance to portray the range or depth of character that he provided in Homeland as well as 12 Strong. I like his style, (just not so much in this movie) and look forward to seeing him in something that he can sink his teeth into in the near future.
Nasim Pedrad as Dalia: Pedrad’s portrayal of Dalia, the princess’s handmaiden was quite funny and entertaining. Her dry wit and sarcasm came out perfectly and balanced Jasmine’s naivety nicely. She had great chemistry with not only Scott (Princess Jasmine) but also with Smith (Genie). Her lines and expressions bounced nicely off of them and helped us enjoy the movie. Of note, I have not really seen her in anything except Saturday Night Live, so I was pleasantly surprised to see her in this supporting role.
So, were we entertained? I would have to say, Yes. This was a standard Disney production that provided a few hours of escapism in a troubled world. Was the movie phenomenal? In that respect, I would have to respond, No, it was not. As I previously mentioned, the first 20 or so minutes kind of sucked, but once Smith came on board the film recovered nicely and managed to provide a few laughs and enhanced the film overall. The CGI was well done and helped move the story along at a reasonable pace. Even though some of the characters were poorly developed or one dimensional, there was still enough substance in the film to provide entertainment for the family. As I previously mentioned, I had not watched the animated version, so I can’t really do a Smith/Williams comparison, and by rights, no one should. Each of the actors have their own unique style and manage to make a character their own, regardless of the film. Also, no one should compare an animated film to a live action film anyways, they are two different beasts and forms of entertainment. But that is just my opinion. So, would I recommend this film, yes. If you are a fan of Disney films and enjoy Will Smith, then by all means cue it up and sit back and watch, and after 20 minutes or so you will start to enjoy the film. If you can’t get over the fact that it is live action instead of animation…then go watch the original.
Our Rating: 5/10
If you are interested in further programs with the main cast, please consider the following recommendations.
Will Smith Gemini Man, Bad Boys, Men in Black, Suicide Squad, Concussion, I am Legend, Seven Pounds.
Naomi Scott ‘33’, Terra Nova
Marwan Kenzari The Old Guard, Murder on the Orient Express
Navid Negahban Homeland, 12 Strong
Nasim Pedrad Saturday Night Live
Till next time!
Michael Ealy Scott
Joseph Sikora Mike
Meagan Good Annie
Alvina August Rachel
Dennis Quaid Charlie Peck
For this week’s entertainment, I went back to the Blu-Ray shelf and grabbed the next one in line. The selection ended up being the thriller “The Intruder” from 2019. This film stars Michael Ealy, Joseph Sikora, Meagan Good, Alvina August and as the villain, Dennis Quaid. I was not really expecting too much from this film as the trailers pretty much summed it up. A nice young couple move into their new forever home, only to find that the previous owner just can’t let it go. While this may be a slight variance to the “home invasion” genre, it pretty much stayed true to form with no real surprises.
As this is now an older film, and flows with the normal clichés, stereotypes and plotlines, I won’t worry about revealing any spoilers. The film starts out in San Francisco where Scott (Ealy) and his new wife Annie (Good) have decided to leave the hustle and bustle of city life for a new home to start a family in Napa Valley. While searching for their new home, they come across a century old mansion in a small town. This house has it all, character, space, beautiful landscape, and of course, the crazy owner, Charlie (Quaid). This is brought to the forefront in the initial meeting scene as the Scott (Ealy) and Annie (Good) are walking through the grounds, see a small deer and then witness it’s shooting by Charlie (Quaid). A little dramatic foreshadowing if you will to show what a Looney tune Charlie (Quaid) is.
Charlie (Quaid) then shows them the Mansion and the grounds, emphasizing that this home was built by his ancestors, (don’t forget about that part) and he and his family have lived there for generations. Emphasizing some of the family heirlooms, and more Victorian designer choices that were passed on, we get to see a side of Charlie (Quaid) that is meant for others, not the real Charlie at all. Annie (Good) falls for not only the house and property, but also likes Charlie, probably far more than Scott does at this point. So according to the standard plot lines for this type of film, the young couple purchase the house, move in, and old Charlie (Quaid) reluctantly gives up the keys to his ancestral home. After moving in and getting settled, Annie and Scott host a small dinner party with Scott’s business partner/friend and his wife, Mike and Rachel (Sikora and August respectively). After hearing about the previous owner (Charlie) and seeing the grounds, Mike (Sikora) is actually starting to feel something is up and advises Scott (Ealy) about his feelings and perceptions.
As Scott (Ealy) continues his commute from Napa Valley to San Francisco on a daily basis, we see some other aspects of the relationship between Annie (Good) and Scott (Ealy). While driven at work, Scott (Ealy) was caught for transgressions previously in their relationships and that Annie (Good) still has some trust issues. Additionally, we find out that she finds Charlie (Quaid) to be a Mans Man. A hunter, handyman, a man who works with his hands, a protector and provider. This is quite different from Scott (Ealy) who kind of plays a newer generation; an aversion to firearms (told in a backstory), kind of a lady’s man, not much of an outdoorsman and always goes to the modern solution vice dealing with it himself.
As the film progresses, we find Charlie (Quaid) not willing to give up his old home. He shows up consistently unannounced, cuts the grass like it was his own, does gardening and helps Annie (Good) around the house. This causes tension between Scott (Ealy) and Annie (Good), not to mention the rising ire that Scott (Ealy) feels for Charlie. Being fed by Mike’s (Sikora) theories of Charlie (Quaid) and also finding out some of the darker portions of his past, Scott (Ealy) demands that Annie not have any dealings with him and informs Charlie (Quaid) that he is not welcome on their property. As this movie is full of clichés and is predictable as all hell, this small confrontation between the two main characters sets the ball rolling for the inevitable ending.
Mentally snapping, Charlie (Quaid) takes matters into his own hands and tries to remove Scott (Ealy) while wooing Annie (Good) at the same time. As with all movies of this genre, it culminates to a battle between Scott (Ealy) and Charlie for not only the property, but also for Annie. As I mentioned before, there is nothing new in this film, it followed the traditional plot lines for films of this type and every action and scene were predictable in pace and sequence.
What did I like about this film? Well the scenery and setting was actually very nice. So nice, that it prompted my wife and I to discuss a future trip to the Napa Valley (Once the COVID BS is settled) and San Francisco. This is even with the full knowledge that it was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, but it still triggered our discussion nonetheless. The home used for the film was gorgeous as was the setting. Also, it is nice to see Quaid in the role of the villain, this is a welcome change from his earliest films where he was always the good American boy, clean cut and heroic (The Right Stuff, Dreamscape, Enemy Mine, The Big Easy to name but a few). Now as the villain, I feel that he is finding new ground, and expanding his repertoire.
What didn’t I like about the film? Even though this is a well worn genre and tends to follow a tried and true formula, the director/script could have had added a few twists and turns. At no point in the film did we come across a scene or dialogue that we had not predicted beforehand. Additionally, the characters of Scott (Ealy) and Annie (Good) could have been more developed. Bring the personalities more to the forefront, give us a bit more back-story. Anything to flesh them out a bit, as they were almost robotic in their characters and delivery, and following the formula till the natural end of the film.
While on the subject of the cast, lets take a deeper look at the principal characters.
Michael Ealy as Scott: Over the last few years, we have watched Ealy in more and more programs. Most recently in “The Good Wife” and “Stumptown”. However, I find him pretty dead-panned in his delivery in all roles, not just this one. He does not show emotion well, and is extremely stoic throughout the film. Even when he is supposed to be worried about his wife and Charlie, he clenches his jaw and broods. He needs more emotion in his acting to make it believable. Furthermore, he needed more of a backstory on who and what he was. We would get a glimpse here or there, but never enough to really know the character. Any small piece of information that was given, added to the predictability of the film. Maybe a few red herrings could have been included. Overall, there was nothing new or memorable here.
Joseph Sikora as Mike: Sikora played the friend and business partner well. He actually had more brains in figuring out what was happening then “Scott” did in the film. We have watched him in a few roles over the years and I believe that his time may be coming. Traditionally, he plays in bit and minor supporting roles, and I hope to see him in further films as the principal co-star to really see what he is made of. As the best friend, partner and one of the victims, he played it well and helped bring the storyline along. If it was not for his participation in the film, key plot lines or dramatic foreshadowing scenes would not have happened. As I previously mentioned, I look forward to future roles with him.
Meagan Good as Annie: Annie as a character was very disappointing in this film. I thought that I had not really seen Good in much beforehand, and I had to check IMDB to check her resume. Surprisingly, I found that while I had seen in her several films before, I guess her contribution did not stand out enough for me to really remember it. I felt that there was potential in the character that could have been developed further, however, I am sure it was primarily due to either the script or direction that the details were not presented, and was not really the fault of the actress. In “The Intruder” there was nothing in the Annie character to make it memorable or actually want you to have more, unfortunately, for us, it just wasn’t there. Again, it might not be her fault, but that of the script. We found her character to be extremely one dimensional, and also greatly added to the predictability of the film.
Dennis Quaid as Charlie Peck: Now, even though playing a typical maniacal killer and acted in line with typical film of the genre, we enjoyed Quaid in this performance. I have already stated that being a villain is relatively new for Quaid as he usually is the good old American boy, and it is only in some of his more recent roles that he takes on the role of the antagonist. As the antagonist or villain, Quaid brings forth an intensity that is actually missing in his more comedic or lighter characters; and I think he does it well. As “Charlie”, Quaid effectively portrays a twisted personality in an entertaining fashion. While some of the grimaces and scowls may have been over the top at times, I found that in this film, it actually helped it along. Quaid took a mediocre character and dialogue and made it his own. If it was not for him in this film, I would have turned it off 15 minutes into it. He is the only reason we watched it to its predictable end.
So, with all of the above in mind, were we entertained? Hmmm, sort of. Quaid was pretty good as the bad guy and we enjoyed him in this type of role, and the scenery was great. However, the story was weak and according to formula and the supporting cast did not really stand out for us, but we were entertained enough to watch it till the end. This film is for people who like this sort of “thriller” and are not disappointed with predictable films. Quaid fans will enjoy this as well as he strips his “American boy” persona for that of a demented villain.
If you are interested in films and shows from the principal actors, please consider the following recommendations:
Michael Ealy Stumptown, The Good Wife,
Joseph Sikora Boardwalk Empire, Ozark, Jack Reacher
Megan Good Prodigal Son, Californication
Dennis Quaid (Here are some of my favourite films/shows by Dennis Quaid)
Dreamscape, Enemy Mine, The Big Easy, Wyatt Earp, Frequency, Vantage Point, Goliath, Midway
Clint Eastwood Earl Stone
Alison Eastwood Iris
Dianne Wiest Mary
Taissa Farmiga Ginny
Laurence Fishburne Special Agent in Charge
Bradley Cooper Agent Colin Bates
Michael Pena Agent Trevino
It has been a few weeks since my last blog and review of television and film. This was primarily due to a visit to “La Belle Province” to visit my wife’s family. For those readers who are not Canadian, and don’t know what place I mean, I am referring to the province of Quebec. So with that in mind, I wanted to select a movie for this weekend’s entertainment that I was sure that I was going to enjoy. So I made a trip to the shelf that holds all the unwatched Blu-Ray’s and selected “The Mule” with Clint Eastwood. This film has a few things going for it right out of the gate, first, it stars Clint Eastwood! He is one of my absolute favourite actors! Second, it is based on a true story, this always appeals to me, as for those few that actually read all my reviews, I am very sick of Hollywood’s penchant for remaking films, rebooting or copying ideas. So anything that is “real” will always get my attention. Finally, it is also directed by Clint Eastwood, not only is he a fantastic actor, I rarely see a film directed by Clint that I do not like. So with this holy trinity of ideals in place, we put in the film so that we could be entertained.
So what is this film about? “The Mule” is about Earl Stone (Eastwood), an elderly man who loved his flowers and horticulture business above all else, and that included his family. This was demonstrated by him forgetting his daughter’s wedding and other important family events. However, his love of flowers, and the old way of running a floral business could not compete with technology. This resulted him losing everything within a few years, his home, his business, his daughter and wife. Once the bank took over his home and business, with nowhere else to go, he arrives at his granddaughter’s engagement party with all of his possessions in his old beat-up pickup. This is much to his ex-wife’s (Wiest) and daughter’s chagrin (Allison Eastwood), as they really don’t want anything to do with him. Making impossible promises to his granddaughter on how he will pay for the booze for the wedding (well he doesn’t have a job or home now), he is at his wits end. Another party guest, offers him a job due to Stone’s (Eastwood) love of driving and clean record. With no other option, Stone (Eastwood) takes up the offer and begins transporting duffel bags around the country. He finds these trips to be very profitable, and shortly discovers that he is now a Mule, transporting drugs for the cartel. Not looking a gift-horse in the mouth, Stone (Eastwood) takes advantage of his new found wealth, by not only helping his loved ones and recovering his home, but also making a few purchases to make his life a bit easier. Meanwhile, some intrepid federal agents who are looking to make a name for themselves, agents Bates and Trevino (Cooper and Pena respectively) under the leadership of the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) (Fishburne) decide that they need to apprehend this new Mule who is transporting all the drugs for the Cartel. The film culminates with Stone’s (Eastwood) apprehension by the law and some resolution between Stone and his family. Again, I am in a situation where I don’t want to give out any more spoilers for this film, as it is definitely worth the watch.
Before getting into the good/bad of the film. Let’s look at the main characters:
Clint Eastwood as Earl Stone; As mentioned previously, Clint is one of my all-time favourite actors. He was the ultimate action hero before all the special effects and steroids came to be so prevalent in the films of today. When I was a kid growing up, westerns were the craze, and in our household we watched them religiously. My father’s opinion was if it had a horse and a gunfight, then it was worth the watch. I remember many a day watching these films, and our favorite was Clint. He was iconic in Hang’em High, Fistful of Dollars, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and the Outlaw Jose Wales. No one could stare, spit, and then shoot with the accuracy of Clint Eastwood. He was Hollywood! Of course he moved onto other films that were equally great, Dirty Harry Franchise, Space Cowboys, Kelly’s Heroes, Unforgiven to name but a few. (However, I still can’t forgive him for “The Bridges of Madison County”, c’mon Clint doesn’t cry!) There might also be a few other weak films. But, overall it was a great career as both a star and director. In “The Mule” he does not disappoint. He continues to entertain with his direction and acting style. One thing we did like about his character was the fact that he played his age. He was not hanging on to the illusion that he could still swing a punch or shoot the wing off of a fly at a 100 metres. He was dramatic, he moved with the shuffle of a senior and his dialogue was also comparative. He is a 90-year-old man and played it as such. No special effects to make him look younger, or a stunt double to make him more spry or agile. He is what he is. The chemistry between Iris (Allison Eastwood), Mary (Wiest) and Ginny (Farmiga) was believable. Hell, his own daughter played his daughter, it just doesn’t get any more real than that. Stone’s (Eastwood) caring for his wife and granddaughter came through the screen and it added to the effect of the film. One of his final scenes with his ex-wife, Mary (Wiest) was especially poignant and it showed that Clint can actually demonstrate caring and love, not just anger, fists and intense glares.
As a director, he also was spot on. The film was a slow burn, the story slowly unfolded and the tension increased as the film progressed. We witnessed Stone’s (Eastwood) transformation from a man at his peak, to the man being crushed, and then the complete circle again. The dialogue flowed and was presented in such a way that you could almost even picture your own grandfather in the scene. While it might not be considered one of his best works, it was still extremely noteworthy. If this film is his last as a director, it was still an admirable way to finish his career.
Alison Eastwood as Iris: Well as she is one of Clint’s daughters in real life, there is already a bond in place. Also, as his real daughter, I am sure she could project actual events within their relationship to portray the appropriate feelings and chemistry between the two. While she does not have the screen presence of her father, she is still a fair actress and we enjoyed her part within the film. I had to look at IMDB to see what else she had done, and I have only previously seen her in Tightrope and Absolute Power, both films with her father. Obviously, she did not leave that much of an impact at that time if I had to look it up, but in this case, she did a fair job in the Mule and added to the general enjoyment of the film.
Dianne Wiest as Mary: Wiest is a very accomplished actress and always delivers in our opinion. We have enjoyed her in films for many years and she has mastered the mousy persona like few others can. As the Ex wife of Stone, Wiest imparts all the anger and frustration with a man that only an Ex can have, while combining it with feelings left over from the past. Her scenes with Clint were strong and left an impact. As mentioned previously, especially in their final scene together near the end of the film. Another strong performance from Wiest!
Taissa Farmiga as Ginny: Farmiga looked very familiar to us, when checking out her resume on IMDB, I saw that she was in “American Horror Story” an anthology series that we really enjoyed. Now taking that into account, I can see how her acting has progressed since that series. She did an admirable job as the granddaughter, ensuring she presented enough admiration for her grandfather while still trying to placate her mother and grandmother. The scenes with Clint were well done, and I believe that she has plenty of room to grow and expand her career and film resume. She is definitely an actress with potential and I hope to see her in future films.
Laurence Fishburne as Special Agent in Charge: We are fan’s of Fishburne, and have been for many years. However, in this role, his character is not really developed. Yes, he is the supervisor of Agents Bates and Trevino (Cooper and Pena respectively) but besides telling them to make a bust, he has no other impact to the film. Too bad, as we really like him in most of his films and it would have been nice to see him give a greater contribution to the film.
Bradley Cooperas Agent Colin Bates and Michael Pena as Agent Trevino: At this point I will put these two together. Much like Fishburne, they did not have as great a role as I would have liked to see. They were in pursuit of the fabled “Tata” as the cartel henchmen were calling Stone (Eastwood). There were a few good scenes with both Cooper and Eastwood, specifically in a diner and at a hotel, which did set up the ending. The chemistry between the two is pretty good, which is no doubt due to the fact that they have worked together in American Sniper. As previously mentioned, they could have played their parts in the movie up a bit to flesh out the characters, as they were pretty one dimensional through the film. But again, this film was about Earl Stone (Eastwood) not the cops who were after him.
There were several other supporting actors from the Cartel who gave some good performances as well, specifically, Robert Lasardo as Emilio, Paul Alayo as Sal and Daniel Moncada as Eduardo. As members of the Cartel their contribution to the film help enhance many scenes and provide Eastwood the proper characters/personalities to work off of.
So, were we entertained? Yes, we were. This was a solid film directed and acted by Eastwood. It further illustrated his talents both in front of, and behind the lens. The story was presented in a slow burn that managed to boil at the end, just as many of his films do. Was it a Gran Torino or Unforgiven, no it was not, but it was still an enjoyable film with a good supporting cast. In some instances, it would have been nice to see some of the other stars get more film time or development, but the film was good nonetheless. If you are an Eastwood fan, I would highly recommend this picture as it may just be his swan song in the industry. If you like a good drama, then this film is for you as well, not to mention people who like to watch films based on an event or person. If you are expecting an Academy award performance, then you may be disappointed. This is a good film to pass a few hours and catch one of the last Icons from Hollywood tell a tale and perform his art.
Our rating: 7/10
If you are interested in other films from the principal cast, please consider the following recommendations:
Clint Eastwood (I pretty much love all his films, but will mention what I feel are some of his best)
Hang’em High, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Kelly’s Heroes, Escape From Alcatraz, Unforgiven, Gran Torino, Dirty Harry, Space Cowboys, Million Dollar Baby, Trouble with the Curve, Heartbreak Ridge, Pale Rider
Diane Wiest Life in Pieces, Dan in Real Life, Parenthood, Footloose (original)
Laurence Fishburne Last Flag Flying, John Wick Chapter 2, Contagion, The Matrix, Boyz in the Hood, Apocalypse Now
Bradley Cooper American Sniper, Silver Linings Playbook, The Hangover, Limitless, American Hustle
Michael Pena Ant-Man and the Wasp, 12 Strong, Chips, The Martian, Ant-Man, Fury, American Hustle
James McAvoy Patricia/Dennis/Hedwig/The Beast/Barry/Heinrich/Jade/Ian/Mary Reynolds/Norma/Jalin/Kat/B.T./Kevin Wendell Crumb/Mr. Pritchard/Felida/Luke/Goddard/Samuel/Polly/The Horde
Bruce Willis David Dunn
Samuel L. Jackson Elijah Price/Mr. Glass
Anya Taylor-Joy Casey Cooke
Sarah Paulson Dr. Ellie Staple
Spencer Treat Clark Joseph Dunn
Charlayne Woodard Mrs. Price
Friday was upon us and it was time for another film from my stack of un-watched blu-rays. For this
week, I was looking forward to the last film in the M. Night Shyamalan trilogy, Glass. Not long ago, I
posted a review on the movie Split:
the 2nd film of the trilogy. While, it has been said, that Glass is actually a sequel too Unbreakable (2000),
to me it is actually just a series of films to be enjoyed together. Like Split, my wife and I thoroughly
enjoyed the film, especially the action provided by the main characters. If you haven’t guessed by now,
Glass is the culmination and ultimate finale for M. Night Shyamalan’s principle heroes and anti-heroes if
you will. This film stars Bruce Willis (as David Dunn) reprising his role from Unbreakable. Joining Willis
from Unbreakable, there is Samuel L. Jackson (as Elijah Price/Mr. Glass) and from Split, we have James
McAvoy, expertly portraying a multitude of characters collectively referred to as “The Horde”. They are supported by several characters from the previous films, i.e. Casey (Taylor-Joy), Joseph (Clark) and Mrs. Price (Woodard), and a new character in Dr. Ellie Staple (Paulson).
What is this finale about, you ask? Well, in this latest M. Night Shyamalan’s feature, we rediscover David Dunn (Willis), running a small security company with his son Joseph (Clark). David (Willis) is continuing his vigilante exploits looking for ne’er do wells and saving them from their ultimate demise. Meanwhile we find Elijah Price (Jackson) locked in a mental institution, looking pretty much catatonic. Like all roles that Jackson undertakes, he even manages to make a catatonic individual seem intense and scary. For the last of three main characters, “The Horde” (McAvoy) has imprisoned 4 cheerleaders in an old factory/warehouse.
As the kidnapping of the cheerleaders is all over the news, Dunn (Willis) decides to go on a patrol with the assistance of his son Joseph (Clark). After Dunn (Willis) and Hedwig (McAvoy) briefly touch each other while walking, Dunn (Willis) and son deduce where the cheerleaders may be hidden, and Dunn (Willis) subsequently goes to investigate. Naturally this leads to a confrontation between Dunn (Willis) and The Beast et al (McAvoy). The girls escape, and both Dunn (Willis) and “The Horde” (McAvoy) are captured and put into the same mental institution as Price (Jackson). Enter the new psychiatrist, Dr. Ellie Staple (Paulson). Staple has a few days to prove her theory that none of the 3 main characters are super strong, nor super smart, and that they are only suffering from a mental condition that makes them believe that they have the powers that they do. With this tight timetable in place, she (Paulson) goes to extreme measures to prove her theory, which ultimately will be her own professional demise. I am trying not to give out too many spoilers here, for I feel if you have watched the other two films (Unbreakable and Split), you have to watch this one to complete the trilogy and provide a conclusion to the tale. So, to summarize quickly, what we will see over the next hour is each of the three principle characters’ come together for a final confrontation where the truth of their origin is revealed, and how their existence is all tied together. Each of the supporting characters provide not only vital information on their respective heroes or anti-heroes, but also play a key role at the end of the film. These supporting characters all come from the previous two films. They are; Joseph (Clark), David’s son who acts kind of like a Robin to Dunn’s Batman character. Mrs Price (Woodard), Elijah’s mother who really believes that her boy is still good, and finally Casey (Taylor-Joy), the young lady who escaped “The Beast” in Split, but still has feelings for the other personalities. The hub, or central character is Dr. Ellis Staple (Paulson) who actually brings everyone together for the action filled final act.
Before going into what was good or bad in this film, lets look at the main characters.
Bruce Willis as David Dunn: Bruce does not really act much here. He plays the same, stoic hero; Iron jawed, stone faced and emotionless. This is Willis’s wheelhouse for many films of late. He has foregone the sarcastic hero of yester-year and has adapted this brooding character. Dunn, the “Unbreakable” human who has boundless strength and can feel what someone has done if they just manage to touch him is kind of one dimensional. He is either brooding, desperate or angry. Nothing else. His spectrum of emotions does not vary. However, having said all that, my wife and I still like the character and Willis in it. He is a known commodity, and when sticking to these lanes, we pretty much know what we are going to get from him. So no real surprises. What we did like with this character is the fact that he drew on the previous film from almost 20 years ago and that the time line seemed continuous. Between this movie and the first one, we deduce that he still continues to be the vigilante, righting what is wrong and saving the day. Even though he is much older, the character and storyline fits, so there is no real WTF moments in it.
Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price/Mr. Glass: Jackson always delivers, as a matter of fact that should be his
tagline on all his films. Elijah Price/Mr. Glass continues in his belief that life is just a series of comic book
stories. His devotion to the genre is unmistakable. What I liked about Jackson’s performance in this film,
is that even though he is comatose for the first half of the film, his facial expression can still be sinister.
Wheel chair bound and limited in what he can do, he still controls many of the outcomes of the film
and manages to outwit his captors repetitively and rather easily I might add. His is the character that
brings both Dunn and “The Horde” together and without him, the film would be for naught.
Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke: Taylor-Joy returns as Casey, and continues to perform admirably. As the
troubled youth from Split, Casey (Taylor-Joy) continues to impart empathy to the many personalities
that make up McAvoy’s character. Taylor-Joy and McAvoy share a great chemistry that has only grown
since their previous joint venture. While in more of a supporting role in this feature, her character is still
integral to the development of “The Horde” and all the personalities contained within it. Sharing a trust
with several of them i.e. Hedwig, Patricia, Barry and most importantly the host, Kevin Wendell Crumb,
Casey (Taylor-Joy) provides assistance and a calming effect when required. Additionally, she displays
a good rapport with Joseph and Mrs. Price as they try to assist and really save their respective loved
ones. As this is now the 2ndfilm I have seen with Taylor-Joy, I am looking forward to see what she can do
in another role besides that of Casey.
Spencer Treat Clark as Joseph Dunn: I had to verify with IMDB to see if this was actually the same actor that played Dunn’s son in Unbreakable. I was pleasantly surprised to see it was the same person. Especially in so many films where a character can be recast, especially as they grow up. Does anyone remember all the various actors who played the kids in National Lampoon Vacation movies? Each one had a different kid! However, I have digressed. I thought that I had not seen him in many films/shows previously, but when looking at his resume, I see that he has actually been pretty active in the past, primarily as a guest star in minor roles, i.e. Mad Men, Law and Order and NCIS to name but a few. His raison d’etre in this film was to be Dunn’s “Robin” and sidekick. He managed to fulfill this role, however, his performance (for me) did not really leave a lasting impact. He was crucial to the story as far as Dunn (Willis) was concerned, and he did play a part in the final scene to demonstrate how he, Casey (Taylor-Joy) and Mrs. Price (Woodard) managed to close the film and the trilogy.
Charlayne Woodard as Mrs. Price: As the mother to Elijah (Jackson), Woodard’s role was not really a key
player in the greater scheme of things. Her part was to play that of the mother, who was sure that her
son was not all that bad, no matter what he did or said. To that effect, she was fine. She displayed
good chemistry with Jackson and the others and did nothing to detract from the story writ large. An
accomplished actress in her own right, she has a prolific resume that have included many shows and
movies that I have watched over the years. Looking at IMDB I did find out something, she is actually
younger than the son that she portrays (Jackson)…just goes to show you what a good make-up crew and
Special effects team can do!
Sarah Paulson as Dr. Ellie Staple: Of late, we have watched more and more programs/films with Paulson
as a member of the cast. She is a talented actress who can play the villain or the injured with equal ease.
As Dr. Staple, it is hard to see which one she is, as her character actually morphs throughout the film and
the audience must keep on top of it to see the changes. In the start, we see her as an eager psychiatrist who is trying to prove her theory that superheroes are a state of the mind and not real. Later we see a more nefarious character, I don’t want to get too deep into this as it gives out a major spoiler. However, it is enough to say that her portrayal is believable and played with skill. She has great chemistry with the other principal stars and when in a scene, she is really only outshone by McAvoy, and holds her own solidly with the other two major stars, Jackson and Willis.
James McAvoy as “The Horde”: I am using the term Horde, as it was used in the film to represent the full range of personalities that were contained within. So saving the best for last, as with the film Split, McAvoy is the true star of the film. It really took these two films for me to see his full range and talent. He adroitly changed personalities/characters and portrayed them with such talent and emotion that it was a sight to behold. He truly is the film, with every personality change, his voice, mannerisms, physical attributes adapted in the blink of an eye. As with the previous film, our favourite personality was Hedwig, the way McAvoy can portray a confused young boy is amazing. This character has influenced us to the point that when we hear the words Etcetera or show in a news report, we both look at each other and laugh as we kind of hear the word in Hedwig’s voice. A true testament to his skill! In each and every scene that he is in, he is the star of the screen. The other main characters, who are all great actors/actresses in their own right, have to take a backseat to McAvoy’s talent. Even if you only watch this film to see McAvoy as the horde, you will not be disappointed.
What else did we like about the film? Well, lets see. As this film is part of a series, there really was no character that had to be further developed (besides Dr. Staple), and their roles were just a continuation or amplification from the original. Shyamalan’s script and direction were on par with some of his better films (i.e. Sixth Sense, Split, Unbreakable), however, I must say that some of his camera angles and techniques left us scratching our heads as it is not what we are used too. But, just because we are not fans of that particular style, does not mean that others will dislike it. This is just a matter of personal taste. The plot was well paced, and kept you wanting more, especially any scene that had the key actors in it.
What didn’t we like? The last few scenes actually lost us a bit. Was it setting up a further movie, did it wrap up every loose thread. Yes, and no; in our opinion, it could have ended with Elijah Price/Mr. Glass’s line, “it’s an origin story”. But I guess you had to kind of explain the Dr. Staples further as well as her origin as well. Also, the final scene in the train station, was a bit hokey, but like Dr. Staples, there had to be some way to wrap up the supporting cast as well. As I mentioned before, I don’t want to give out any spoilers, as I recommend you watch it if you have not. Especially if you are a fan of McAvoy, Willis and Jackson!
Our rating: 7.5/10 (McAvoy actually rates a 9.5!)
If you are interested in other films by the main actors, please consider the following recommendations.
James McAvoy Split, Atomic Blonde, X-Men: First Class, Wanted, Last King of Scotland
Bruce Willis Die Hard (1&2), RED (1&2), Surrogates, Looper, Tears of the Sun
Samuel L. Jackson Avengers (Marvel Franchise), 1408, Jumper, Home of the Brave, Coach Carter
Anya Taylor-Joy Split, Peaky Blinders
Sarah Paulson American Horror Story, American Crime Story, 12 Years a Slave, Deadwood
Till next time!
Taron Egerton Robin of Loxley
Jamie Foxx Yahya/John
Ben Mendelsohn Sheriff of Nottingham
Eve Hewson Marian
Jamie Dornan Will Tillman
Tim Minchin Friar Tuck
Paul Anderson Guy of Gisbourne
F. Murray Abraham Cardinal
Continuing with the weekends theme of Hollywood remakes/re-imaginings, I put Robin Hood into the old Blu Ray player for Saturday nights viewing. I have enjoyed the tale of Robin Hood and his band since I was a child. My father had given me a series of books when I was quite young that had all the classics, Count of Monte Cristo, Tom Sawyer, King Arthur, Three Musketeers, Robinson Crusoe and of course Robin Hood to name but a few. I loved those books and later in life enjoyed the films that were created as a result of these classics. So with these memories in place, I was looking forward to the latest version of the film. But before delving into this latest rendition of Robin Hood, lets take quick recap of other films that were made about Robin Hood over the years.
For decades I have watched many iterations of the film with varying opinions on their quality. In my opinion, The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) is still one of the best films telling the tale. I saw it for the first time when I was quite young, and while it may be a bit campy by todays standards, it had bright colours, humour and paid the proper amount of homage to the original tale. This early version of this classic is always worth watching, even if it does not match todays style of cinematography or special effects.
The next version of Robin Hood I remember watching was “Robin and Marian (1976)”, a tale of an aged Robin Hood and Marian. The cast was stellar for the day, Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn in the leading roles (Robin and Marian respectively) with Robert Shaw, Richard Harris, Denholm Elliot and Ian Holm rounding out the cast. This was a fair film, and I thought well done for the day. Especially as it was taking a new slant on the tale, and talking about the heroes when they were past their prime. But, I probably liked it more due to the fact Connery was just off his stint as James Bond and could really do no wrong at that time. (Ok, please forget Zardoz, that was just pure crap!). But it was still a very watchable film with some good acting to ensure an enjoyable experience.
In 1991, Costner tried his hand on the tale of Robin Hood. Titled Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, this movie while it had its own issues (accents, introduction of a Moorish character (Morgan Freeman)), also had an all star cast that kept you watching. The film had action, special effects, a recognizable story that ensured all the characters from the book were included plus a few others. There was great chemistry between Freeman, Costner and Rickman and the dialogue was both intriguing and at times funny. (Ok, again, please forgive Costner’s supposed British accent that would appear/disappear at a whim). Overall, a good film that can be watched several times, especially Rickman, who in my opinion stole every scene that he was in!
In 1993, a comedic take on the story of Robin Hood was released. Robin Hood: Men in tights: starring Cary Elwes hit the big screen. This farce was a parody of Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Nothing spectacular, but it was a light romp that would make you chuckle a time or two. I re-watched part of this film the other day, and it still made me chuckle. But even this farce did not destroy the legend of Robin Hood as this latest piece of fecal matter did, which I will get to eventually.
In 2010, Russell Crowe took on the mantle of Robin Hood. Still following the storyline (to a point), this version was a little darker, bloodier and more intense. I enjoyed this version even with it’s changes to the tale. The all-star cast made it extremely entertaining (Cate Blanchett, Max Von Sydow, William Hurt, Danny Huston, Mark Addy and Kevin Durand to name but a few) and made this action packed film worth watching. As a matter of fact, I just might re-watch them all to get the bad taste of the latest version out of my head!
Now to the latest piece of fecal matter (or reboot) that no one asked for! It has some up and comers, some solid stars and a huge budget. But did this help make it a film worth remembering? Nay Nay my friend, Nay Nay. This flop with a huge budget of 100 million only grossed 30 mil in the US and 86 million across the globe (according to IMDB). After watching this POS, I can’t imagine how it could have made so much money? In this day of social media and everyone having an opinion on everything, (including me!) how could anyone in their right mind recommend this film to anyone? I just don’t understand it! Again, after watching the film, I did not understand this film either. Was it a rip off of the Matrix, Arrow, was there a Robin Hood story buried somewhere that I missed? This version stars Taron Egerton and Jamie Foxx as the key players. Jamie Foxx is an accomplished actor with a resume of films that will make any actor jealous. Sure he has some questionable films, but look at his key roles, Django Unchained, Ray, Amazing Spiderman 2, The Kingdom, and Collateral. These were all great roles for him, not to mention great films themselves. Whatever made him join this production? Did he have a contractual obligation? Poor Agent? Lose a bet? I don’t know, but man o man, was this role a steaming pile of fecal matter. But I will get more into his character later. Now we have Taron Egerton, he is a bright up and comer. I have seen him in both Kingsman movies (first is better then the second) and from what I have heard about his performance in Rocketman, it was also lauded as a masterful. Now you have this…Robin Hood. No matter how much you polish it…still a piece of turd.
What makes this film so horrible…well where do I start? I guess with the concept or storyline if you will. The film starts in Nottingham where Robin Loxley (Egerton) is a rich lord who chases the ladies and spends his money foolishly, that is until he gets his Draft Notice from the Sheriff of Nottingham. Draft Notice? Really? Could they not think of something more apropos for the time period? Like maybe a royal summons? Anyway I have digressed and it is only the first few minutes of the film. He leaves Marian (Hewson) behind and goes off to war. This where it really starts going off the rails! However, I can’t forget to mention the Sheriff, who is wearing castoff costumes from the Matrix, to include a cape swish whenever he moves. Who comes up with this stuff! That must mean he is evil, but we will get back to him later. What ever they were smoking, I want some!
Robin (Egerton) is participating in the crusades, and hmmm, lets see, as a lord, he would have been a Knight, not running around in a get up that almost reminded me of the tactical vest I wore in Afghanistan. But that’s not all! He moves around the buildings, doing a sweep with his longbow like he is on Seal Team 6. Meanwhile, crossbows are firing him at him like Gatling guns, and the cross bow bolts are going through the stone and making explosive sounds. Ok, they are putting the tale of Robin Hood on steroids at this point, but something that is this overjuiced cannot keep level. Don’t the producers, writers, directors realize that the long bow is a distance weapon, not close combat? It is now after the battle and he returns to his “base” to see his commander, Guy of Gisbourne (Anderson) killing all the prisoners. Robin (Egerton) takes umbrage to this (now we have a tale of morality) and tries to rescue the young lad and the father who are prisoners. This turns to open rebellion and Robin (Egerton) manages to free Yahya (Foxx) and they both take off into the wild blue yonder.
Robin (Egerton) returns to England with Yahya (Foxx) closely following. Finding his manor in shambles, and now apparently property of the Sheriff. He also discovers that Marian (Hewson) is now married to Will Tillman (Dornan) and living out a “50 shades of Grey” fantasy. I think Tillman was supposed to be Will Scarlet…but again, they went so far off the mark it was hard to tell. He also finds out how corrupt the Sheriff and Cardinal are and how the poor populace are being robbed blind by the aforementioned miscreants. Yahya (Foxx) convinces Robin (Egerton) into becoming the Sheriff’s (Mendelsohn) inside man so that they can destroy him from within. Ok, I will be honest, this is the only good plot line in the whole film. Following his direction and also receiving instruction from Yahya (Foxx) on how to become a better warrior, just like a modern day Myagi and Daniel from Karate Kid! Robin (Egerton) figures out how to really make a long-bow a close action weapon and he learns to fight like the Arrow on Television. (Another blatant rip-off, not to mention the multi-arrow launch taken from the Costner version!).
In a nutshell, Robin (Egerton) starts robbing from the rich, giving to the poor, tries to win back Marian (Hewson) and does at least meet Friar Tuck (Minchin). I must say, he is the only character that I liked in the whole film...kind of a bumbling, well meaning village idiot. But at least he did it well. Of course he becomes victorious, over throws the Sheriff, exposes the Cardinal and hides into the forest.
I don’t know how I suffered through the whole film without literally tossing it into the garbage midway through. I can’t believe I paid 15 bucks for it! Having said that, the disc did not go into the collection, but went past go and directly into the Garage sale pile…Maybe I can pay someone to take it!
Ok, I have digressed yet again! Besides the crappy plot that I described above, what else was wrong with the film. Hmm…besides everything! I will try and be a bit analytical here.
Costumes: This was a melange of the worst pieces of various films. They tried to rip of the Matrix, The Arrow, high couture and modern day stylings. No matter what they tried, it just didn’t work. Robin (Egerton) looked like a poor imitation of Oliver Queen from the Arrow, with chain mail resembling a modern day tactical vest (that really is not tactical in this case) thrown in. Even the party scene was completely laughable, where was this director/writer going here?
Props: Molotov Cocktails, Long Bows with Brass Knuckles, Pleather, Quarter-staffs that looked like twisted walking sticks, explosive cross bow bolts, automatic cross-bows…and the list goes on. What other thing could they thrown in this film to make it more crap…hmm..I don’t know, maybe some costume cast-offs from Battlefield Earth?
Special Effects: ok, here I have to admit the effects were pretty good, even if they were not appropriate for the time period or film. Great explosions and fight scenes, they would have been better in Arrow instead of this film, but the effects and fight scenes were not bad.
Directing/Dialogue: Besides the story line itself, the dialogue and direction were so abysmal, it makes you laugh. There were tighter scenes in an old 3 stooges film compared to this, and the dialogue was far better!
Now it is time to take a look at the cast of this so called feature film.
Taron Egerton as Robin of Loxley: The first principal character in this poor example of cinematography is actually, what I believe an up and comer in Hollywood. I first saw him in The Kingsman and really liked the character he portrayed. The first Kingsman was great, the 2nd, still watchable, but not as good as the first. I have yet to watch Rocketman, but I have heard great things and am looking forward to giving it a try. If I am not mistaken, he even won awards for that film and was nominated for many more. I have to give him credit for getting instruction in archery and his physical acting. But I am sorry he did not have much to work on from a directorial standpoint or script. I truly hope that he can recover from this film and continue to make great films.
Jamie Foxx as Yahya/John: This was my biggest disappointment. Foxx is an extremely talented actor and for him to take on this role, it was just hard to digest. What made this role even worse, is that somewhere along the line, he gets morphed into “Little John” from the book with a cross of Mr Myagi. It was just hard to watch. Even for Foxx, who is talented and can carry comedy, action and drama (not to mention a musical number or two) he should be safe as this film really should not hurt his career, especially considering the that he has a solid base to work from. I must say, that through most of the movie, his facial expression looked pained…I think even he realized what a stinker this production actually was.
Ben Mendelsohn as Sheriff of Nottingham: I actually had to look him up to see where I had previously seen him. Even though he was in several films (some good, some bad) that I had seen before, I could not place him. In this film, dressed as combination Matrix/Mad Max type of Sheriff, he did not have much to work with. His script was weak, tiresome and extremely clichéd, pretty much like the character. I actually laughed at one point as he reminded me of Gary Oldman from the Friends episode…but the laugh I am sure was not meant to happen. Will wait and see what he comes up with next. I did see that he is in “The Outsider” series based on Stephen King’s book. Maybe he is better there.
Eve Hewson as Marian: As the “love” interest for this film, Hewson as Marian did not really add much to the film. Funnily enough, when she came on screen my wife and I both said, “where have we seen her before, she looked familiar”, so back to IMDB. Lo and behold, she was actually in Papillon the night before as his love interest. Though only for a few scenes. I think she may have potential, but from this farce it was kind of hard to tell.
Jamie Dornan as Will Tillman: As the husband to Marian, and the supposed Will Scarlet from the books, this character was laughable. Dornan played this role with the same skill and talent that he did for “Fifty Shades of Grey” … basically none at all. He is pretty much one dimensional and emotionless at all times. Even when he tries to emote…well, just looks like he is confused...very sad.
Tim Minchin as Friar Tuck: I actually liked this character. I hope he was supposed to be the comic relief for that is what he felt like. He made me laugh and his character gave the lighter notes to an otherwise dreary and horrible film. I still prefer the traditional character versus what was portrayed here, but at least his career should not be harmed too much from this atrocity.
Overall, as you can tell, my wife and I detested this film immensely. I would have stopped it 20 minutes in, but I did promise my brother aka “The Chairman” two reviews this week so we soldiered through. It was a time vampire, and sucked away two hours of my life that will never be returned to me! Would I recommend this trash? That is a big fat NO, but I do have some recommendations from some of the key cast members if you are looking for something good to watch.
Our rating 0/10 (if I could give negatives I would)
If you are interested in some GOOD films with the cast, please consider the following recommendations.
Taron Egerton The Kingsman, Rocketman
Jamie Foxx Collateral, Ray, Django Unchained
Till next time!
Charlie Hunnam Henri Charriere (Papillon)
Rami Malek Louis Dega
Well, it has been a few weeks since I have written a review as we were away visiting family. In that light, I decided to write two reviews from this weekends viewing. I elected to try a themed weekend by hitting remakes of movies that I had loved when I was younger. This is really easy these days as remakes (or re-imagining as they seem to call it) is all Hollywood does these days. Lack of originality permeates the industry of late…anyways, for Friday night I chose Papillon.
The original Papillon (1973) starred Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman and Anthony Zerbe. The original was amazing! I watched it sometime in the mid 70’s with my father and just loved the film. So much so, that we managed to find the paperback and read it as well. The book was also a fantastic piece of literature and I still remember reading it, some 40 years later. Steve McQueen (Papillon), was a force of nature in Hollywood at the time could not make a bad film! This film was right up there with “The Great Escape”, “Bullitt” and “The Magnificent Seven”, all phenomenal films and now considered classics. Hoffman also another fantastic actor did an amazing job as Dega. They could act, they had chemistry and they evoked emotions from the audience. With that in mind, I put in the latest version of Papillon (2017) into the blu-ray player and hunkered down to watch this remake.
Now, going into this film, I was not expecting greatness. Let’s be honest, it is not often that Hollywood can remake a classic and have it better than the original. As a matter of fact, I am having a hard time trying to think of a remake that was better. True Grit, did a fair job as well as the new franchise of “Planet of the Apes” (I am not talking the one with Wahlberg) Batman reboots were 50/50, as was Spiderman and Star Trek. But other attempts tend to fail miserably (i.e. Ben Hur, Amityville Horror, Around the world in 80 days and Arthur to name but a few).
The new version of Papillon stars Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek (Papillon and Dega respectively) in the key roles of the film. Hunnam, know primarily of “Sons of Anarchy” is a fair actor with a spotty record for films. For every good one, there are 2 or 3 which are sub-par. But, having said that, I really liked him in “Sons of Anarchy”, so I was hoping for the best. Rami Malek on the other hand is a very talented actor with an increasingly respectable resume (Bohemian Rhapsody, The Pacific, 24, Night at the Museum (Franchise), Mr. Robot). Each role is demonstrating his versatility and his adaptability to roles that are new and unique to him. While neither of them are McQueen or Hoffman, they do a fair job.
For those few in the world who do not know what Papillon is about, here is a brief synopsis: Based on the true story and auto-biography of Henri Charriere (Papillon). Papillon is a thief who was set up for a murder he did not commit in October 1931 in Paris. He was subsequently sentenced to serve his time at Devils Island, a Penal colony in French Guiana. On the transport to prison Papillon (Hunnam) meets Dega (Malek), a forger who was also sentenced to life at Devils Island. Taking Dega (Malek) under his wing, Papillon (Hunnam) creates a bond of friendship that supports them both whilst incarcerated. Papillon (Hunnam) the shrewd and wily thief who knows how to live with the dregs of society, and Dega (Malek) the forger with enough money to ensure that they live as comfortably as possible while in jail. Papillon (Hunnam) has dreams of escape, and he requires the funding and assistance that only Dega (Malek) can provide. Thus creating the genesis of their friendship. After several attempts, with Dega’s (Malek) assistance, Papillon (Hunnam) does manage his escape from this dreaded island where he manages to pen his memoirs to tell the tale.
In a nutshell, that is the story. An older version of Alcatraz if you will. However, this biopic version, manages to skim over some of the more memorable or key elements of the original. While it was still enjoyable to watch, Hunnam is not McQueen, nor is Malek Hoffman. However, they do manage to pull of the roles with enough skill and talent to make this film enjoyable. The scenes and cinematography were well done and the chemistry between the main characters was believable. The dialogue was delivered with enough emotion/angst to make it believable in the key scenes, and there was enough historical accuracy in the settings/props to ensure that the audience did not get distracted. Additionally, the use of supporting actors/actresses were reasonably well done and added to the plot as a whole.
Charlie Hunnam’s as Papillon: Hunnam’s performance was OK overall. There was enough of his own style and character in the film to show the differences between this version and Steve McQueen’s representation of the same character. I must commend him for losing the weight to give him a gaunt appearance. The only mistake, is that someone who is was so supposedly so undernourished would not have the muscular definition that Hunnam did. As mentioned previously, I find Hunnam to be a bit hit and miss with the quality of his work. This one was more of a hit, vice the miss I saw recently in “The Lost City of Z”. The chemistry between the two main characters was unmistakable, and they managed to portray the bond that they developed very well. Again, not to the same level as the original, but still done well enough. Hunnam’s style of acting is often portraying the aloof, stoic hero. Sometimes it works (Sons of Anarchy) some times it doesn’t (Lost city of Z). However, in this film, the style fit and helped ensure that the character was believable. Overall, not a bad performance from Hunnam.
Rami Malek as Louis Dega: Malek was the true star of the film in my opinion. A very accomplished actor, he really made this film. Heck, he even sounded like Hoffman at times! He displayed fear, loyalty, anger, angst, and admiration like a flick of the switch. His unique look also adds to the film, and the general appreciation of the character. As I mentioned above, my wife and I both felt that the chemistry between the two principal characters were believable and ensured that our interest was maintained. Malek is really coming into his own, and we look forward to seeing him in future roles.
So in summary, were we entertained? Yes, we were. The film kept our attention and the characters, cinematography and direction provided enough to the audience (us) to keep watching. We didn’t even pick up the tablet or laptop while watching it, well not exactly true, we did grab them few times to check where we had seen a supporting actor/actress previously, but would put them down once the answer was found. Was this remake/re-imagining better than the original. Unfortunately, No. However, it was still good enough to ensure that our time was not wasted, and that we were entertained for a few hours. Would I recommend this film? Yes, if you are fan of Hunnam and Malek, then definitely check it out. Conversely, if you want to watch a superior production that tells the same story, then I would recommend the original with McQueen and Hoffman.
Our Rating: 6/10 (Original film: 9/10)
If you are interested in viewing other works with the principal actors, please consider the following recommendations.
Charlie Hunnam Sons of Anarchy, Crimson Peak
Rami Malek The Pacific, Mr. Robot, Bohemian Rhapsody
Charlize Theron Andy
Kiki Layne Nile
Matthias Schoenaerts Booker
Marwan Kenzari Joe
Luca Marinelli Nicky
Chiwetel Ejiofor Copely
Harry Melling Merrick
Van Veronica Ngo Quynh
Well, after Friday nights dismal film that I reviewed last (The Predator), we decided to go back to NETFLIX and try something that people have been talking about for the last few weeks. One of NETFLIX’s more recent additions is “The Old Guard” starring Charlize Theron. Theron is an amazing actress with a prolific resume and accolades from numerous academy’s and award shows. For the most part, we have loved pretty much most of her films, yes there was the odd dud (Aeon Flux), but her movies are entertaining and action packed, especially the more recent ones (Atomic Blonde, Mad Max: Fury Road). With that in mind, we cued up NETFLIX, opened our wine and hunkered down to watch her next flick.
“The Old Guard” is based from a series of Graphic novels, and it tells the tale of a small group of immortals who have been affecting history for thousands of years. These immortals, born of mortal parents discover at some time during their life that they cannot be killed. As they are gifted with immortality, they feel it is their mission to protect mankind and basically save the world on a continual basis. These immortals are initially linked together by dreams and once they find each other, those dreams stop. Well, stop until a new immortal is created. The Old Guard starts with this intrepid team of immortal mercenaries being gunned down, and a narration provided by Andy (Therron) explaining that they are all immortals (sort of) and that they only have so many lives in them and after a time, they might actually die for real. Well, as this is the start of the film, it is not yet time, they arise, wipe out all the people who tried to take them out, then the story really begins.
After their resurrection and the action packed revenge sequence on the so-called ambushers, the team of immortals go into hiding in a safe house that has been theirs for decades. It is at that time they come to the realization that there is a new immortal being born if you will. Nile (Layne) a US Marine deployed to Afghanistan is killed by a Taliban, only to come back to life again soon after. The team all dreams of her at the moment of her birth (death) and Andy (Therron) travels to Afghanistan to retrieve Nile (Layne) and have her (reluctantly) join the merry team of immortals.
Once back in France at the hideout, a little more is revealed to the newest member. Andy (Therron) is the leader and the oldest of them all, not saying how old exactly, but it appears to be thousands of years. She mentions two others who were as ancient as her, a man who just didn’t recover after a battle, as his time was up, and another girl Quynh (Ngo). Apparently, Quynh and Andy were both captured centuries ago and as a punishment (and as the local’s thought they were witches), Quynh was put in an Iron Coffin and thrown into the ocean. It is there, that she would drown, come back to life, only to drown again. Pretty much spending eternity at the bottom of the sea. (This little tidbit of info will be important at the end of the movie). Andy searched for her for years, and then gave up looking. That is when she met up with the rest of her band. These are Joe and Nicky (Kenzari and Marinelli respectively), former soldiers from the Crusades (on opposite sides) who had found each other, found love and then found Andy. The last of the foursome is Booker (Schoenaerts) a former soldier of the US Civil War.
Now that they are all together and everyone is caught up, they look to wreak revenge on Copely (Ejiofor) the man who set them up at the start of the film. See, he is actually working for a big pharmacy company and an egotistical, narcissistic, rich, slimy piece of crap, who goes by the name of Merrick (Melling). Merrick wants to experiment on them to create a fountain of youth, for as he says if he doesn’t do it, someone else will. Of course, these heroic immortals track them down, exact their own style of retribution, all completed with gratuitous amounts of violence. As this film is pretty predictable, (Well come on, they are immortal after all!) we pretty much know who is going to win. I won’t reveal the how/why and methods, but it is full of action, a few surprises and the final solution might even make you laugh a bit. While not a definitive ending, as it did set up the potential for a sequel, at least it felt like a chapter was concluded.
At this point, let us look at the main cast a bit.
Charlize Therron as Andy: As the top billed star and central focus of the film, I found Therron able to deliver as usual. Over the last few years she has moved more and more to the action film realm over the drama’s and I think that she is really doing a great job of it. Naturally athletic, she can carry the action film without you scratching your head saying, isn’t she too old, fat, broken etc like I have been doing with some of the “old” action stars of late. She emotes intensity and compassion in equal measures in this film (as in all of her films), but does need a little bit more in the comedic department. In our opinion, she did a pretty good job as the Scythian warrior who never died. As always, we look forward to her next film or project, as she has never really failed to entertain us (ok, I already mentioned Aeon Flux, so lets not go back to that piece of fecal matter)
Kiki Layne as Nile: This was the first movie that I had seen with Layne. When checking her resume on IMDB, she has only been around for a few years and I have not seen any of the films or shows that she has been in. I think she did pretty good as the newest immortal, and her portrayal of a Marine was not way out there. What I did like about that part was her feeling of brotherhood (or sisterhood if you will) with her other squad mates. Also, her confusion and apprehension was sort of believable as she discovered who and what she really was. I think that she has a lot of potential and in time, she may even be able to carry a film on her own. I look forward to seeing what she will do in her career as time goes on.
Matthias Schoenaerts as Booker: As the former soldier of the US Civil war, Booker was an interesting character. He did not seem like he wanted the life of an immortal, yet he always wanted to do what was right. Sometimes, not with the expected ending. You could see that Schoenaerts character (Booker) was in love with Andy, but would not really admit it. He is a pretty good actor, and I have seen him in some other movies in the past (specifically Red Sparrow, The Drop and Black Book), and as I mentioned in my review of Red Sparrow, Schoenaerts does a pretty good job in his films.
Marwan Kenzari as Joe: As one of the Crusaders, I found Kenzari to be entertaining. He played his role admirably and it went along well with the storyline. While he did seem familiar to me when watching the show, I had to look to IMDB to see what else he was in. I had seen him Murder on the Orient Express, The Mummy and Ben Hur, however, none of these roles stood out for me. His character was important to the team and did provide ample support to Therron, Schoenaerts and Layne.
Luca Marinelli as Nicky: The second Crusader I found to be much the same. An entertaining character that helped fill out the team, but not necessarily one that would make an impact. This was the first time I had seen him in a film as much of what he does is in Europe. However, I think he does have some potential and am curious to see if he will take other films in Hollywood vice Europe.
Chiwetel Ejioforas Copely: Ejiofor is really the only other name in this film that was common knowledge to my wife and I. His role and character are vitally important to the film, not only as focal point for revenge, but also as a means to reveal the true purpose of the Immortals. He is an accomplished actor with an impressive resume of films. I had first seen his performance in the film Amistad, and his career has continued skyward ever since. Starring in such films as Inside Man, Children of Men, 2012, Salt and probably his most important role in 12 years a slave. Each film was well done, and his role/character was integral to the story. His acting always comes across as believable and completed with the appropriate amount of gravitas to suit the scene or situation. As always, he delivers in all films and I always look forward to seeing him in future films.
Harry Melling as Merrick: Melling is another one of those actors that you love to hate. His appearance and mannerisms always bring forth the urge to reach into the screen and smack him one across the face. Like I have said with some other actors who exude the same emotion, either they are so talented to make you feel that way…or they really are just a douche. Either way, his portrayal as the key money man and antagonist was spot on. You will hate his character (which is what they are going for here) and will be very happy when he finally gets defeated.
This film was pretty much packed with action and had some pretty good cinematography to represent the different parts of the world that they had visited in their lives and mission. What I found extremely interesting is that each immortal also carried a weapon that was symbolic of their own origins, not to mention the fighting styles. Joe and Nicky (The Crusaders) favoured their swords and hand to hand combat, while Booker and Nile (more modern warriors) stuck with the more modern firearms. Andy (Therron) was just as versatile as hell and could adapt to every style and form of weaponry. The storyline was pretty consistent and there were no real holes (well maybe a few small ones) in the story, but nothing serious enough to turn off the film or cry WTF. However, when I started watching this, I automatically thought of Highlander (classic 1986 film with Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert…remember the catch line…There can be only 1!), but there are enough differences in the film to make it more relevant and a little less cheezy.
I actually look forward to seeing the sequel(s) if they ever come about. Were we entertained? Yes, we were. I would recommend this film if you are a fan of action/movies and specifically a fan of Theron and her latest work.
Our rating: 6.5/10
If you are interested in seeing other films with the main cast, consider the following recommendations.
Charlize Theron Monsters, Mad Max: Fury Road, Atomic Blonde, Prometheus
Matthias Schoenaerts Red Sparrow, The Book, The Drop
Marwan Kenzari Murder on the Orient Express
Chiwetel Ejiofor 12 Years a Slave, Children of Men, 2012, Dr. Strange, The Martian
Harry Melling Harry Potter (Complete franchise)
Till the next time!
Boyd Holbrook Quinn McKenna
Trevante Rhodes Nebraska Williams
Jacob Tremblay Rory McKenna
Keegan-Michael Key Coyle
Olivia Munn Casey Brackett
Sterling K. Brown Traeger
Thomas Jane Baxley
Alfie Allen Lynch
Yvonne Strahovski Emily
Aaah, another Friday night, another movie. Instead of NETFLIX or Amazon Prime, we went back to the pile of unwatched movies sitting in my home office. For this week’s selection, we put in “The Predator” from 2018. This is a tentative “sequel” to some of the other Predator films in the past. Now, the original Predator from 1987 was a cult classic. I distinctly remember watching the original in a theatre in Fargo North Dakota in ’87 while I was traveling cross country to my new posting on the west coast. The original was epic, with Schwarzenegger, Weathers, Duke, Ventura and Landham. They were huge personalities with bulging biceps to match. The film, while thin on plot was heavy on the action and the one liners…for example who can forget Ventura (Blain), when told he was bleeding, shrugging it off and saying, “I ain’t got time to bleed” before letting loose with his mini-gun. Or even better, when Dutch (Schwarzenegger) rips off the Predator’s mask and says, “you are one ugly Motherfucker!” These lines are ones that are quoted by others continually in pop-culture conversations. In my opinion, Predator was near the apex of Schwarzenegger’s best films, (to include Terminator (1 & 2), Commando, Running Man and True Lies) … after those, his films went downhill. Weathers, still on the glow from his role as Apollo Creed in Rocky was still on a career high, provided the balance to Schwarzenegger, and did help with the plot (a bit), or what we could call the plot for the original.
The original spawned a weak sequel and then merged the two universes with Aliens to provide a bevy of other b-rate sci-fi films. Now, lets take a look at the latest venture into the Predator universe. Now, while this version stars a pretty good cast, they are unfortunately misused and left to fend for themselves, hopefully to find better roles in the future to help save their careers.
What is this latest piece of fecal matter about? Well, the film starts out with two spaceships in battle, one of them escapes into a wormhole (I think) and ends up over Earth. Crashing into the jungles of Mexico, this new Predator is hunted down and eventually captured. The original team sent to hunt him down gets massacred, well except for their officer, Quinn McKenna (Holbrook). As a result of the battle, McKenna (Holbrook) takes the helmet and some other toys from the Predator and ships them home.
At “home” his parcel is delivered from the PO Box to the residence of his ex-wife, Emily (Strahovski) and son Rory (Tremblay). The boy, who is mildly autistic opens the box and plays with the helmet. This results in him inadvertently calling the mothership of the aliens and having them come to Earth to find the “Predator” that has crashed and become subsequently captured by a super secret US military team. (Aren’t they always super secret…very clichéd here I must say).
Meanwhile, Mckenna (Holbrook) has been captured by the US Military and is being transported on a bus with other soldiers who are, shall we say, just a little off centre? Each of them have their own mental issues that they are dealing with, and this new cast of characters try to be humorous, but primarily fail in this endeavour. Concurrently, we now meet Casey Brackett (Munn), a scientist who has been called up by the Government to assist with identifying and analyzing the captured Predator. This whole scene seemed to me to be a blatant rip-off from The Sphere and the scene where they get the characters played Dustin Hoffman, Samuel Jackson and Sharon Stone to come to the “super secret” installation to study the alien sphere. This felt almost identical to me, even though it had been a number of years since I had watched that film.
Brackett (Munn) examines the Predator, makes some sarcastic comments, and discovers that this new Predator has some human DNA merged within the creature. At this moment, the creature awakens, kills everyone horribly (except Brackett (Munn) and Traeger (Brown)). Brackett (Munn) escapes the carnage and follows the Predator outside with a tranquilizer gun in hand. Miraculously, Brackett (Munn) is now a fully trained soldier and demonstrates abilities with weapons and tactical situations. She ends up hooking up with the busload of miscreants, by which I mean all the soldiers who were on the way to the military psychiatric centre.
McKenna (Holbrook) finds out that this creature is looking for his lost items which he had shipped home and is now in possession of his ex wife and son. Convincing them all to help him, Mckenna (Holbrook) leads this rag-tag bunch of misfits to pursue and save his family from the both Predators. Apparently, the 2ndPredator is on the scene and he too wants to capture the boy, as he is now mysteriously capable of reading their language and also able to use all the technology. There is a long fight between all the characters, cheezy one-liners, and in the end, the child and ex are saved, find new lives, and McKenna and son are working for the government, all accomplished with the minimal loss from his new suicide squad.
That is pretty much the story in a nutshell, nothing original, very clichéd and I can’t even say following the standard formula as they seemed to have lost the recipe for a good action flick. Even though the actors are actually really good in their own right, the script, character development and general outline was horrible. What I found extremely interesting was that the Director, Shane Black was in the original Predator as one of Schwarzenegger’s squad of elite soldiers. He should have stayed in that role, as a director and also writer of the script, I really found him to be lacking in the key elements for writing and directing a good film and story.
Now to take a look at the actors in this farce;
Boyd Holbrook as Quinn McKenna: Holbrook plays an elite Ranger Officer who is the principal star of the film. I have only really started noticing Holbrook since I saw him in “Narcos”. He is pretty good there, a solid actor with a good delivery of lines. In Narcos, he can either play a dramatic or action role, depending on the circumstances. However, in “The Predator”, I find his character lost. His dialogue is weak (not his fault) as well his character development. Unfortunately, not one of his best roles and I look forward to seeing him in films of the same calibre as Narcos and Gone Girl.
Trevante Rhodes as Nebraska Williams: as one of Mckenna’s new squad of soldiers, I found the character of Nebraska Williams to be somewhat entertaining. A botched suicide attempt is what garners him a spot on the bus of ne-er do wells, but he still portrays a solid character and emotes the aura of a professional soldier who may have made some mistakes. I have only seen him in a few other films (12 Strong, Bird Box) and he seems to be moving along in his career, however, I hope being associated with this film does not harm his career to much.
Jacob Tremblayas Rory McKenna: Tremblay is actually a pretty talented actor. I had first seen him in Room, and thought, wow, this kid is gonna go places. Now I see him in this…well, he was not the worst part of the film at least. His portrayal of a child with autism was ok I guess, and his character was pretty much the lynch-pin for some of the story arc. He did ok, but I am sure that there are much better roles out there in his future.
Keegan-Michael Key as Coyle: a rising comedian, Key is now in many of the films and shows that I have watched of late. His character of the “goofball” in this suicide squad was pretty much standard acting for him. He did not really have to stretch to make this character, so it was no real surprise. I preferred him in “Friends from College and Let’s be Cops” but he was ok here. Nothing stand-out, just ok.
Olivia Munn as Casey Brackett: For me, this was the biggest disappointment in casting. Munn is a talented actress who effectively plays the “pretty, sarcastic intelligent woman”. While “Brackett” in this movie is still more of the same, it was just the dialogue, and scenes written for her that I found her lacking. For example in Newsroom, she is very intelligent, with a dry sense of humour that carries her throughout the program. Here, it just doesn’t mesh, one minute she is a scared scientist, the next she is a female version of Rambo. Where did she learn her fighting skills and use of weaponry? All of a sudden, she is handed an assault rifle and she knows exactly what to do. Her character, while actually important to the story line could have been written a lot better.
Sterling K. Brown as Traeger: Another disappointment for us. Brown is a very talented actor who is making a huge name of late, especially in “This is us”. As the key bad guy who is trying to find the kid, the predator and control the world, his character basically sucks. It is one dimensional with limited development. As his career has spawned an impressive resume, I don’t think his participation in this film will harm him in the long run.
Thomas Jane as Baxley: This character was complete nonsense. As one of McKenna’s squad of malcontents, he was right out there, and his character was comical, and not in the good way. Jane is a talented actor who has carried a series (Hung) supported others (Expanse, Texas Rising) and starred in numerous films. In this film he is now relegated to 4th or 5thrate status. I really hope that he manages to recover from this…as his character was horrible.
Alfie Allen as Lynch: What was this character about, did not do much except fly a helicopter at a key moment. In Game of Thrones, Allen was a character that you would love to hate. In this film…who is he? Well, as a minor supporting role, this movie should not damage him too much in the grand scheme of things. Hopefully we will see him other roles similar to what he played in GoT in the near future.
Yvonne Strahovski as Emily: Another huge disappointment for me, after watching her last month in Stateless and being a fan of her in Chuck and Dexter, she is now doing a role like this? Man, she had a few dozen lines, that were delivered almost in a mono-tone and extremely emotionless. Good thing we had seen her in other shows that demonstrated her true talent, and did not judge her by this role.
Overall, as you can see we were not entertained. As a matter of fact, 10 minutes into the film, my wife picked up her tablet and started shopping on Amazon. I stayed through the film, as I was desperately hoping that somewhere along it could be salvaged, but alas I was mistaken. Would I recommend this film, no, not really, even if you had two hours to waste, I would consider other programs/films besides this one.
Our Rating: 2/10
If you are interested in GOOD programs staring the key actors, please consider the following:
Boyd Holbrook Narcos, Logan
Trevante Rhodes 12 Strong, Bird Box
Jacob Tremblay Room
Keegan-Michael Key Friends from College, Key and Peele
Olivia Munn The Newsroom, Office Christmas Party, X-Men Apocalypse
Sterling K. Brown This is Us, Black Panther, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Person of Intrest
Thomas Jane Hung, The Expanse, The Mist, The Punisher
Alfie Allen Game of Thrones, John Wick
Yvonne Strahovski Stateless, Chuck, Dexter, The Handmaids Tale
Till Next time!
Tom Hanks Captain Krause
Elisabeth Shue Evelyn
Stephen Graham Charlie Cole (XO)
After seeing several reviews on this film and recommendations from numerous friends, we decided to stream the film Greyhound. Usually, for a film like this, I would prefer to buy it as I know this is the genre, actor and exactly the type of film that I will watch numerous times. Mind you, if I purchased it, the time between purchase and initial viewing would be at least a year as it has to work through the stack of unwatched films that I already have.
Greyhound is a film about the North Atlantic resupply convoys of WW2, while not a “true story” if you will, as it is based on a novel “The Good Shepherd” and it has enough composite facts to make it realistic. In this film, one of the most prolific actors of our time, and a personal favourite, Tom Hanks (Captain Krause) is given command of a Destroyer (Call sign Greyhound), other escorts as well as a fleet of merchant ships for his first North Atlantic crossing. Taking place in early 1942, this crossing takes place shortly after the US has entered the war, Captain Krause (Hanks) must make take his command across the Atlantic ocean to bring much needed supplies to England in support of the war effort. Not only do they have to combat the ocean and the elements, they must also battle the fearsome U-Boats that are patrolling the ocean in search of easy prey.
To further complicate matters for Krause (Hanks), there is a portion of the North Atlantic that there is no possibility of air support, this area is the sweet spot for the German Wolf Packs to attack these convoys, as it makes their detection that much more difficult. The tension builds in this film once the convoy enters this zone of no air protection. In short order, a German wolf pack finds the convoy and starts picking off the merchant ships one at a time. For the next few days, the convoy is under constant attack from the U-Boats, while the escort ships continually try to protect their precious charges. This is while the North Atlantic continues to pummel them with rough seas, and cold that is so deep it freezes exposed equipment in short order. Given his baptism of fire, Captain Krause (Hanks) manages to get his fleet across the Atlantic while only losing several of the Merchant ships, but managing to sink 4 U-Boats themselves, which is lauded as an impressive achievement by the Admiralty on his arrival.
In essence this is the story, not really giving out any spoilers here, as the North Atlantic convoys are a historical fact, just as U-Boat operations were during WW2. What this story does is centre primarily on one man and the ship, there are really the only characters developed during the story, and the tale is told from only one viewpoint, that of Captain Krause.
While on the subject of characters, lets look at some of the key ones in “Greyhound”.
Tom Hanks as Captain Krause: As always, Hanks delivers! His portrayal of Captain Krause was incredible. Just as his previous roles in Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan and Castaway, you felt for the character and could feel his pain and frustration. In this instance, he was not a steely eyed commander who knew everything, he took advice when required from his XO (Executive Officer) or even some of his other junior officers when warranted. He did not know everything, but still managed to function in such a way that you felt he was doing the right thing at all times. He managed to get the nuances of command down, without over dramatizing or “hollywooding” it too much. Another excellent role in a long career.
Elisabeth Shue as Evelyn: This was a real throwaway character from my viewpoint. What was she even doing in the film? As I did not read the book, I do not know the importance of the character to Captain Krause as part of his backstory, but when watching the film, the only thing she gave was a small lead toy ship and slippers. Hell, he could have gotten this from his mother as a farewell gift in a parcel, why even introduce this character? Complete waste of time and also a talented actress’s skills. She has been around for decades and even though some of her film choices were weak, she has been in several key blockbusters over the years, i.e. Back to the Future (2&3), Leaving Las Vegas, mildly entertaining films, i.e. The Saint, Hollow Man, CSI (series) and also some duds….Piranha 3D. So pretty much a wide spectrum, but again her character did not need to be here. Why waste screen time on it?
Stephen Graham as Charlie Cole (XO): Graham is really the only other person given a lot of screen time besides Hanks. As the XO, Cole played an admirable role as the sounding board and second in command. The more films or shows that I watch with Graham, the more I become a fan. He is a talented actor who has been in numerous period pieces and programs, always portraying characters with admirable results. I wish he would have had more time in this film to flesh out his character a bit more, but I realize that the main characters besides Hanks is the ship, the convoy, the Wolf Pack and the Ocean itself.
The last line gave me a great segue to the other characters (real or otherwise). First the ship, USS Keeling, Call – sign “Greyhound”, a Fletcher class destroyer. As a kid I built a model of this Destroyer class, and I remember seeing a few of them in port in Acapulco on holidays in the late 80’s. (These ships were transferred to the Mexican Navy after service with the US forces had come to an end). I was familiar with their stylings and capabilities, both from reading books on Naval history and watching documentaries. This film had a Fletcher class destroyer operating at a time when the first one had not even been commissioned yet, nor in an ocean that they operated in WW2. From what I have read, it was not until the summer of 1942 that the first Fletcher class destroyer became operational, and it was in the Pacific theatre of operations. As with all subsequent Fletcher class destroyers, it was used only in the Pacific against the Japanese, not in the Atlantic against the Germans. Besides these goofs, the ship was really portrayed as a character itself, however, it could have used further amplification. For example, in some of the combat scenes, further action taking place on the guns, engine room or even within the Bridge itself would have increased the tension and action. Having sailed in the North Atlantic myself aboard HMCS Iroquois in the mid 90’s, I am familiar with the rough seas experienced and some of the scenes really brought that NATO exercise back. At times, I think I could even feel the salt air and waves during the film, which I think further enhanced the film experience for me. From what I have read on the film, some of the scenes were also shot aboard HMCS Montreal, this gave the film a further Canadian taste for me.
Additionally, the digitally mastered scenes of “Dickie”, a Flower Class Corvette was a nice and historic touch. A total of 294 Flower Class Corvettes served in the RN and RCN et al during WW2, and these ships were the principal escorts for many of the North Atlantic Convoys. HMCS Sackville (The last Corvette) was used in the film as the model for the digitized “Dickie”. I remember touring that ship when in Halifax, again, it brought back memories when watching the film which added to my general appreciation of the film.
The Merchant ships themselves, were in my opinion, the real unsung character of the film. Everything that was done by the escorts under Captain Krause’s command was done for the sole purpose of protecting these valuable ships. Unarmed, and heavily loaded, these transports were the lifeblood of the Allies during WW2, and without them, the victories in the European theatre would never have occurred. I salute those brave men who sailed them during the war, and unfortunately did not receive the credit that they deserved at the end. It takes a lot of guts to sail to war in an unarmed ship, where your final destination might be the cold waters of the Atlantic, not the friendly shores of England. I would like to see a film dedicated to these men and show from their viewpoint vice that of always the Naval escorts. Who knows, maybe in the future a film from that viewpoint may be made?
The Wolf packs: For all intents and purposes, the target themselves were also a character. The fear that they could exude from the crews were real, as well as the danger that they brought to the convoy themselves. From a special effects perspective, it would have been nice to have some interior shots of the U-Boats or scenes when they were being depth-charged. But I guess if you want to see that, watch Das Boot (A phenomenal submarine movie that everyone should watch, and watch it in original German (w/subtitles) to get the best effect!). The big mistake here is that the German U-Boats would never have used the radio to taunt the Allied ships, for it would have broken Radio silence and made it easier for them to track. A goof, but one that can be accepted to bring up the tension in the film.
So, did we enjoy the film, were we entertained? I was, my wife, not so much. I enjoyed the action, the memories and Hank’s performance in the film. As my wife is not a great a fan of war movies, she found it hard to follow and enjoy. Even though there were some historic inaccuracies, artistic liberties and even un-needed characters, there was still enough of history left to demonstrate the ordeals that the men went through in crossing the North Atlantic. The elements and the U-Boats were continually threatening their existence, and the chances that they would make shore was never guaranteed. Check out the film if you like War movies or are a fan of Hanks, and I am sure that you will be entertained. If you are not a fan, then you may want to give this one a pass.
Our Rating: 6.5/10
If you interested in other films from the key cast, please consider the following:
Tom Hanks Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan, Castaway, Forrest Gump
Elisabeth Shue Back to the Future (2,3), The Boys, Leaving Las Vegas
Stephen Graham Boardwalk Empire, The Irishman, Gangs of New York, Band of Brothers
Yvonne Strahovski Sofie Werner
Jai Courtney Cam Sandford
Asher Keddie Clare Kowitz
Fayssal Bazzi Ameer
Dominic West Gordon Masters
Cate Blanchett Pat Masters
When we finished watching “You” on NETFLIX, we searched for another program to replace it. My wife was searching for something new and innovative and came across “Stateless”. She zoned in on this program for a few reasons, during the winter we got hooked on an Australian program on NETFLIX starring Asher Keddie. This program was called “Offspring” where Keddie was the main character, a Pediatrician who got involved in everyone’s life, and it seemed that every child she delivered was related to her in some way or form. It was very amusing, and we got to like her as an actress. So that was the first indication that we were going to watch Stateless next. Additionally, we looked at the main cast and found that several of the other characters were also played by actors/actresses that we have liked. The principal character, Sofie Werner was played by Yvonne Strahovski. Strahovski came to our attention in the series Chuck, we loved that show, especially the first 3 seasons. She was new and fresh and her chemistry with Zachary Levi was phenomenal! To round out the cast of Stateless, there is Cate Blanchet, Dominic West and Jai Courtney, and several other supporting cast that we had become familiar with on “Offspring”.
To give further impetus for giving this show a try was the fact that it was based on actual events. Whenever possible, we try to find “real” movies instead of the tripe that Hollywood seems to be putting out lately. Which means it is either a remake, a sequel/prequel or just a blatant rip-off of some one else’s idea. With respect too Stateless, it is inspired by the story of Cornelia Rau, who was illegally interned in a detention centre run by the Australian Immigration department. While there are some aspects of the show that tell Rau’s story, there is a lot of artistic licence in it as well.
In the case of the limited series, Stateless tells the tale of 4 principal characters whose lives get intertwined at the Barton Detention Centre in Australia. These characters are:
Sofie Werner (Strahovski), a flight attendant who is mentally-ill and is trying to escape the clutches of a twisted cult and their megalomaniacal leaders, Gordon and Pat Masters (West and Blanchett respectively).
Cam Sandford (Courtney), a guard hired by the Korvo corporation who is feeling conflicted between what is right/wrong, his family responsibilities and his own personal morals.
Clare Kowitz (Keddie), a bureaucrat from the Australian Immigration department, recently promoted and now has to implement the policies that she had previously written. She too has to fight her own morale issues, follow the policies and directions from government superiors or trying to do what is right.
Ameer (Bazzi), a refugee from Afghanistan, who has fled this war-torn nation to try and make a better life for his wife and two daughters, unfortunately losing half his family, he tries to do everything properly so that he can give his sole remaining daughter a life that she deserves.
The series commences with Sofie Werner (Strahovski) flying home to visit her family for Christmas. Her family, immigrants from Austria have made Australia their home. We learn that the mother is a very stern, cold woman who favours the other daughter and only wants to get Sofie (Strahovski) married off. Her father, a weak willed man is completely under the wife’s thumb and that of his other daughter Margot. Due to her troubled home life, we see that Sofie (Strahovski) has joined a “dance troop” with extremely cult like aspects. Embracing this “self help, dance school, cult” and joining bunch of whack jobs being manipulated by the Masters (West and Blanchett). We discover that Gordon Masters (West) is really just a sick a..hole, who uses his position of “authority” to take advantage (rape) the troubled members, while his wife Pat (Blanchett) is aware of it and lets it happen.
Unable to deal with rape attempt, she escapes from their clutches, and as she is mentally unstable, changes her identity, her voice, name and accent. This results in her getting apprehended by Immigration as an unlawful entry and gets put into a detention camp.
Meanwhile we find Sandford (Courtney), a nice family man who is kind of down on his luck. His friend gets him a job with Korvo. This new position means that he is now a guard at the detention centre and he quickly finds out that the mentality of the other guards does not really mesh with his version of right and wrong, not to mention common decency to your fellow man/woman. But, as we see, he needs this job to please his wife and 3 kids. He also is conflicted with his sister who is an activist and is totally against the detention centres themselves.
Concurrently, Ameer (Bazzi) and his family are in India having recently escaped from Afghanistan. Trusting a people smuggler, he gives all his money to him in order that Ameer and his family can make a new start in Australia. As this smuggler is really just a scammer, he takes their money and leaves them on a beach to fend for themselves. Ameer and a friend take matters in their own hands and go back to retrieve their lost money. Killing the smuggler, Ameer manages to get his family away on a boat while he is left to make the voyage on his own later. When he arrives in Australia and subsequently the interment camp, he comes across some of his friends from India and also discovers that only one of his daughters had made it. His wife and youngest child had passed during the voyage to Australia. Devastated, he tries to console his daughter while they wait for the requisite paperwork to become landed immigrants.
The last principal character in the show, Clare (Keddie) arrives at the internment camp as the latest government administrator in what seems a long line of failed supervisors. Finding the camp in disarray, the security forces, nothing more than either babysitters or bullies (depending on the character) she is totally distraught and tries to straighten things out. Fighting a bureaucratic nightmare from her supervisor, the media, and various human rights groups, compounded by basically an incompetent or vacant staff she is left to her own devices to try and figure things out. Formerly a policy writer, she is now put into a position that she has to enforce what is written and finds out that it is not always black and white.
Not wanting to give out too many spoilers, needless to say all the characters are now intertwined at the camp and their lives are either further destroyed or repaired depending on the character and their storyline. While the main story is about is about Sofie (Strahovski) the other story lines are apparently taken from other immigration stories or composites thereof. The characters are well written and extremely well acted. You (the audience) can feel the stress, the anguish and their pain. This program really brings forward the plight of new (illegal) immigrants/refugees to various nations and how they can further be mistreated or left to rot. Actually for some of them, they left a place that was a horrible existence only to find themselves in the same situation again. Just the country and place had changed. Now, this program did demonstrate that some got to depart the internment camp and start a new life, but not very many. Overall, a very well written and acted limited series with a stellar cast.
Speaking of the cast, to touch on the main characters a bit further.
Yvonne Strahovski as Sofie Werner: As mentioned at the start, we became fans of Strahovski when we were watching her in “Chuck”. In “Stateless” she really stretched her acting skills and (to us) gave an outstanding performance. Her ability to project a person who was mentally ill, and confused was believable. One thing I did not know till I watched this show was that she was Australian herself, so when she talked with the Aussie accent, I was impressed…(till my wife said she was Australian!) then not so impressed, but her german accent was well done! We felt for her character throughout the program and were hoping that she would be saved. This was a great performance and we look forward to seeing her in future programs!
Jai Courtney as Cam Sandford: Courtney as Sandford, the guard with a conscience also does an admirable job. Usually seen in action roles (Spartacus, Die Hard, Divergent, Suicide Squad) this is the first time I have actually seen him act instead of beating up/blowing up or stabbing someone. He was not bad and I think that this role might give him the opportunity to build a more diverse resume of work. He effectively demonstrated the inner anguish of trying to still be a father and husband while his job slowly changed his personality to that of a bully/brute. I really hope that he takes on more roles that will stretch his acting capability instead of always playing the villain in the action films.
Asher Keddie as Clare Kowitz: We have grown to like Keddie in all of her roles to date, from Offspring too Stateless she manages to portray a person with a conscience and a desire to always do the right thing. In Stateless, she did not disappoint. Her character displayed a great deal of empathy and turmoil as she tried to do the right thing but still tried to save her position and career at the same time. What we also found amusing was to see her interact with other characters previously worked with in Offspring in a completely different fashion. We continue to be a fan and look forward to her future work.
Fayssal Bazzi as Ameer: Bazzi was completely new to us. He did a bang up job as the Afghan refugee who is just trying to make a life for his daughter. He projected his pain, and you could feel it along with him. He consistently strove to do the right thing and make sure that he was a model for his daughter to look up to. Even when he had to lie to protect her, you know he was doing it for all the right reasons, but the fact that he had to go against his own beliefs was killing him. A very accomplished actor, we look forward to seeing him in future projects.
Dominic West as Gordon Masters: West always plays a douche, but he does it so well. In Stateless as well as his other appearances he is a slimy P.O.S. The kind of character you love to hate. I cannot think of any role that I have watched him in that I actually liked the character. Even if he tries to play the good guy, I just don’t like him. I guess it’s a testament to his acting skill. In this role, as the “Cult” leader and head A..hole, he continues to perform and does not disappoint.
Cate Blanchett as Pat Masters: Blanchett, while not having a major role in this production is actually the biggest name. A very accomplished actress with a prolific resume on stage and screen, Blanchett never fails, her roles are always spot on and provided great entertainment while on screen. We always enjoy her performances and I am sure will continue to do so.
Too sum up, were we entertained? Yes, we were. Stateless is a thought provoking limited series that brought to light several issues that are currently plaguing Australia. It has a dynamite cast of accomplished actors/actresses that you may or may not be familiar with depending on your tastes in television. Additionally, as it is a show based on real life occurrences it brought further authenticity to the show that in this day and age is sorely missed. I would highly recommend this program if you are looking for something real, but not overly sensationalized. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as we did.
Our rating: 7.5/10
If you are looking for something with the key actors, please consider the following recommendations.
Yvonne Strahovski Chuck, Dexter, The Handmaids tale
Jai Courtney Spartacus, Divergent, Suicide Squad
Asher Keddie Offspring
Dominic West Centurion, Tomb Raider, 300
Cate Blanchett Thor: Ragnarok, The Hobbit (Franchise), The Lord of the Rings, The Gift
Penn Badgley Joe Goldberg
Ambry Childers Candace Stone
Victoria Pedretti Love Quin
Elizabeth Lail Guinevere Beck
Luca Padovan Paco
Jenna Ortega Ellie
James Scully Forty Quin
Carmela Zumbado Delilah Alves
Shay Mitchell Peach Salinger
John Stamos Dr. Nicky
Over the last few weeks, my wife and I have been watching “You” on NETFLIX. This series was recommended to us by a very good friend who knew our taste in television and movies. As always, they were bang on with their recommendations. “You” is an intriguing and refreshing show that has a cast of actors/actresses that are for the most part relatively new to us. To date there are two seasons that we have watched and NETFLIX has stated that season 3 should be arriving sometime in 2021, of course this is dependant on COVID and its further implications/hindrances to the film and television industry.
What is “You” about you ask? Well it is the tale of an insanely obsessive young man, who will fall in love at the drop of a hat. Once in love, he obsesses, fantasizes, and completely envelopes her with his devotion. Once captured if you will, he will do anything, and I mean anything to protect this lady and demonstrate his love and support for her. The flaw in his plans is that often, his actions will have disastrous results for others, and even at times himself. An important part of these story arc is that his obsessions run so deep, that his love sometimes ends in death...hmmm…do not marriage vows state, “till death do you part”? Anyways, in short, almost like the tag line for the series: Boy finds girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy obsesses over kill, boy protects girl, boy destroys girl.
The two seasons while separate, have enough tendrils between the two to link them. In season 1, we find Joe Goldberg (Badgley) a lonely and almost pathetic book store manager. Joe spots a girl from across the store, Guinevere Beck (Lail) and immediately falls in love with her. Using open source and social media investigation skills that would make an NSA or CIA analyst envy, Joe (Badgley) finds out everything about Beck (Lail) that is out there. This show clearly demonstrates the younger generations penchant for social media, i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat etc, and how much of people lives are out there for all to see. He commences to stalk Beck, and puts himself in a situation that he becomes the knight in shining armour and everything that she is looking for in a man. To achieve this, he must remove or outwit various obstacles, i.e. a useless boyfriend, a girlfriend who is just as obsessive about Beck as Joe is to name but a few. In each instance, he does it with flair and innovation, and with enough dark humour to make you laugh out loud. We also find out that there is a warmer side to Joe (Badgley) as he tries to help other strays and protect them from the evil that is out in the big city (NYC).
I am trying not to give out too many story points here, but needless to say, the series is intriguing and somewhat reminiscent of Dexter (Another personal favourite of mine, especially the first few seasons). The cinematography in NYC brought back many memories for my wife and I as we visited NYC last year, so it was great to see so many landmarks that we visited in the show. The character development is fantastic and you get inside the various characters and see what makes them tick, especially Joe. Additionally, we found the chemistry between all the main characters in Season 1 to be great. Joe’s (Badgley) interaction with Beck (Lail) was convincing and extremely interesting. They played off of each other well and set the tone for the rest of the characters to follow. Joe’s (Badgley) scenes with Becks friends Peach, Benji, Nicole and Kathryn were also very believable. You know that Joe did not really care for them, nor them for him, but it was the sort of forced friendships that can happen when a person is in a relationship.
The whole first season was well played with enough twists and turns to make it interesting and keep you on your toes. Even the sub plots (i.e. Paco, his mother and the abusive boyfriend) provided valuable information about the main character, Joe, and what he was made of, what made him tick and also what drove him to do the things that he did. Again, I do not want to ruin the show for you, so I purposely did not give out several integral plot points so that it will be a surprise for you if you choose to watch it.
For us, the first season set the hook in, but it was the 2ndseason that really reeled us in. Joe (Badgley) has now moved to LA to start life anew. Promising himself that he will change and that he will not be as obsessed as he was before, he searches for a new life, new name, new job and a new purpose in life. Finding a unique way to re-invent himself (watch the episode), Joe (Badgley) moves into a new apartment, meets his building manager Delilah (Zumbado) and her precocious little sister Ellie (Ortega), who end up playing a similar function as Paco and his family did in NYC. After the new apartment was secured, he searches for a new job, and lo and behold, he is again in the book department of a new wave, alternative store, which just happens to have the same name as his previous store (just spelled backwards). This little twist actually provides some very dramatic foreshadowing of the season if you can catch the reference and how it plays out. The owner’s children run the store/cafeteria/whatever this place tries to be. These young twins Forty (Scully) and Love (Pedretti), are actually polar opposites of each other and prove to be a very entertaining duo on the small screen. I still do not get the tennis score reference to the names of the two supporting characters, as it was really never explained.
As in season 1, Joe (Badgley) falls obsessively in love with “Love”, and the whole scenario repeats itself all over again. He uses his analytical skills to find out all about his new paramour, her likes, dislikes and what he needs to do to get her to fall in love with him. As with the first season, he meets her friends, and in this case her family and really has a completely different experience with them compared to his romance with Beck. We feel that Joe (Badgley) is learning, growing, well ok maybe in a little twisted fashion, but it is growth nonetheless. What also ties the two seasons together is that we see some re-occurring characters in either real life, or in his memories. These characters’ flesh out Joe’s past and we actually get to really learn why he does what he does. These memories/actions actually get us to really root for this dark hero, just like we did when we watched Dexter. (On a side note re Dexter, Badgley really looks like Dexter’s brother (The Ice cream truck murderer)).
The chemistry between all the characters in the 2ndseason surpass that of the first. The romance between Joe (Badgley) and Love (Pedretti) is believable as is the intensity. The friendships that are constructed throughout the season feel real, and all the actors/actresses play off of each other admirably. The audience still roots for the dark hero, but also feels involved in the supporting cast. Forty (Scully), Ellie (Ortega) and Delilah (Zumbado) really made you feel for them, and you admire Joe (Badgley) for wanting to help them, even if it was not always the solution that either they or Joe wanted. These characters also brought out further emotions and memories for our dark hero as he tried to find his new life in LA and reeled you in so that you will end up binge watching the 2ndseason. The final episodes reveal some very interesting twists and turns that I did not expect to happen, and at least one that I did. Additionally, I found the storyline more intriguing, especially with the return (imaginary/real) of other supporting characters from his past, and the dialogue and direction was also superior to that of the first season.
Now that I have given a very brief synopsis of the two season, lets look at the characters themselves:
Penn Badgley as Joe Goldberg: Badgley does a fantastic job as the main character Joe Goldberg. His acting is incredible and he really sinks his teeth into the role. One of the aspects that we really liked about his character was his voice over narration, again very reminiscent of Dexter, these “thoughts” filled the gaps in a dark and humorous fashion, that often made us laugh out loud. His obsessions are clearly laid out and visible when he interacts with the other leading ladies. His chemistry with all three ladies is admirable, but the interaction with Love (Pedretti) is by far the best. Not having seen him in very much before, only Easy A and Margin Call, where his performance did not stand out, after watching him in “You”, I must say that I look forward to seeing him in future roles.
Ambry Childers as Candace Stone: We are introduced to Candace Stone (Childers) originally as a memory of a long lost love. As the seasons progress, her importance to the story line increases exponentially. While my wife and I felt that she was the lesser of the three leading ladies, her participation/role is actually the most pivotal and integral to the story writ large. It will be interesting to see if the character returns in the upcoming series as either a memory or in life.
Elizabeth Lail as Guinevere Beck: Beck (Lail) is the main love interest in season 1. She does a notable job playing the insecure young lady, infatuated with successful people and social media. She will do anything to further her status in her social circle, even to the point of bankrupting herself to make sure her friends get a stellar gift. An aspiring writer in the season, Joe tries to bring out the best in her while supporting her dreams. However, to bring out the best in her, Joe sometimes has to do some pretty unorthodox things. Her insecurity and love comes out well, but you feel that she is holding back throughout the season and her best scenes are when she is in a scene with Joe (Badgley). She has not been around long, and I have not seen her in any other roles so I can’t comment on how she differed in this one.
Victoria Pedretti as Love Quin: Pedretti is the 2ndseason love interest, and has far more chemistry with Joe and intensity then Lail did in season 1. She really reminds me of a young Jennifer Garner and portrays almost the same type of acting style. Her character is deep, wounded and also very Machiavellian at times. I am really looking forward to see how her character further develops in season 3.
Luca Padovan as Paco: Luca did an admirable job as Paco the next door neighbour’s kid. His portrayal of a troubled kid was pretty solid and the interactions that he had with Joe worked in the context of the show. His character is integral to the show as it demonstrates the human and caring side of Joe in the first season, and without it, the dark hero would not have worked as well. For such a young kid, he has been in quite a bit over the last 6 years and I have not doubt that his career will progress as he gets older.
Jenna Ortega as Ellie: In season 2, Ellie is one of my favourite supporting characters. She is a street smart kid with loads of ambition and sarcasm. Her character, much like Paco in season 1 does a great job in showing the more human side of Joe and is important to the main character’s reveal if you will. She played extremely well with all the other main characters in the show, especially Joe. The only thing I did not like about the concept is that they almost regurgitated the “damaged kid next door” from season 1. Will this be a trend in Season 3? I hope not, as the program will then lose some of the freshness in it that we were looking for. Another aspiring young actor, she has been in numerous roles in a short time, and we had actually seen her in one of my wife’s favourite shows “Jane the Virgin” before. I am sure that we will see a great deal of her in the future as she has a lot of talent.
James Scully as Forty Quin: Every show needs a village idiot and Forty Quinn is the idiot in “You” season 2. He does a great job playing the rich spoiled kid, who does not have enough brains to form coherent sentences or thoughts. As the very damaged twin brother to Love, he is also an integral part of the show, as he manages helps bridge the seasons together, as well as connecting some of the disparate characters of the show.
Shay Mitchell as Peach Salinger: In season 1, Peach was Beck’s friend that everyone loves to hate. While coming across as all friendly and supportive to Beck, she is actually just as twisted as Joe was in his obsession over Beck. Mitchell does a bang up job playing the pretty, spoiled, narcissistic socialite in such a believable fashion that you just want to hate her! While she has been around for awhile, this is the first time I had seen her on a program. Though, I am sure that we will see more of her in future programming.
John Stamos as Dr. Nicky: Stamos inclusion in this show was a bit of a surprise to us. I only think of him as Uncle Jesse on Full House (a show that I could not stand, but my wife loved years ago). He enters the show late in season 1, and still has some appearances in the following season. As the token shrink on the show, he still came off as a smarmy, untrustworthy p.o.s, but I am sure that is the way the part was written. Overall, his inclusion and part was important to the storyline and he filled the bill admirably. Who knows, if he takes some more parts like this, I wont automatically hear the Full House theme song when I see him in future programming.
Overall we really enjoyed this show, as I mentioned previously, it is very reminiscent of Dexter, (a family favourite) and it is filled with the dark humour and dry wit. We were extremely entertained and we cannot wait for the next season, though, I must say that I hope they take it in a slightly new direction and not replay the same type of characters as the first two, i.e. troubled kid from broken home etc. Additionally, I think that only one more season would be enough, this type of story can only be done so many times before it jumps the shark and is ruined. I highly recommend this show if you were a fan of Dexter and like the dark, anti-hero theme. It is well written, acted and directed and will keep you entertained throughout
Till next time!
Amandla Stenberg Ruby Daly
Mandy Moore Cate
Harris Dickinson Liam Stewart
Patrick Gibson Clancy Gray
Skylan Brooks Chubs
Miya Cech Zu
Gwendoline Christie Lady Jane
Wade Williams The Captain
Denzell Washington Robert McCall
Pedro Pascal Dave York
Ashton Sanders Miles Whittaker
Orson Bean Sam Rubinstein
Bill Pullman Brian Plummer
Melissa Leo Susan Plummer
For this week’s selection, I decided to go the route of sequels, and after perusing my stack of unwatched films I selected “The Equalizer 2” as my next choice. Ok, for those few people who read this blog on a regular basis, it is not selected, it was just the next one in the pile. But I have digressed, The Equalizer 2 is the long awaited sequel to 2014s “The Equalizer”. Apparently called the “Sequalizer” by the cast when filming, this action picture stars Denzel Washington returning to the character of Robert McCall. Of note, according to the extra’s on the disc, this is the first time that Denzel Washington has reprised a character in his career of 50 plus films. Needless to say, we are huge fans of Denzel, loved the first movie, and were really looking forward to watching this one. So, after pouring another glass of wine for me, ice water for my wife, we put in the movie for a night’s entertainment.
What can I say about EQ2? Well, first, while it is an action film and stars one of the best actors of the generation, and, in my opinion, it is sadly not as good as the original. The original film was dark, action packed and almost visceral in its portrayal of Robert McCall, the retired CIA assassin who was just trying to rebuild his life while grieving for his late wife. In the first film, his moral responsibility to help people is his driving force for action and the tension builds and the action is non-stop. As you can tell, I just loved the first film in the franchise, however in this film, it appears like there are too many threads in the canvass, and you can get lost in unravelling them all. Yes, it has action, a few one liners, and a thin plot, but it does not deliver as much as it’s predecessor did.
What is the storyline you ask? EQ2 starts off on a train in Turkey and McCall (Washington) is dressed as an Iman. While entering the bar car, looking for some hot water for his tea, he spies his target, along with bodyguards. His target on this mission is a miscreant who kidnapped his own daughter from the mother for the sole purpose to cause her pain, not for love. Of course, McCall is there to rescue the daughter and bring her home. He wreaks his own justice on the group, rescues the girl and returns her home. This is all within 5 minutes of the opening credits. Wow, it did grab me right away as Denzel’s trademark of calm and exacting retribution did not fail to deliver. However, right after that scene, it seemed like the threads started to unravel.
We, the audience are introduced to several story lines where McCall exacts justice for the driver seat of his “Lyft” taxi service;
While some of the threads are intertwined, some just a bit of confusion as to where it falls within the major storyline. Were they part of the plot, or just some extraneous information on how good McCall (Washington) is? Well, I guess it was a bit of both. There are really two main threads to follow here, the first is McCall (Washington) taking the young man Miles Whittaker (Sanders) under his wing, giving him purpose and support. The support or mentorship is not only morally, it is emotionally and intellectually as well. Miles (Sanders) ends up assisting McCall (Washington) in not only undoing a gang’s vandalism in the neighbourhood, but also is employed to paint McCall’s apartment. Throughout the film, we see McCall (Washington) imparting wisdom and morality to his young protégé, and also ultimately saving his life, both literally and figuratively.
The 2ndand actually the prime thread in this film, is that of his old boss, Susan Plummer (Leo). We first see her having a meal with McCall and talking with him over bowls of soup. One of the 3 reoccurring characters from the first film, her husband Brian (Pullman) and McCall (Washington) being the others. After this meal, Susan (Leo) travels to Europe for her work in the CIA (investigating a murder), whereupon she also gets brutally beaten and also murdered. McCall (Washington) gets involved at the behest of her husband only to discover that his former team mate, York (Pascal) is also part of the event, though he is unsure of how.
It is at this point we do discover a little of McCall’s past. While it is alluded to before, McCall (Washington) was involved in Black Ops for the government and had lead his team in a number of missions to mete out death on behalf of the government. We also discover that McCall had staged his own death to live a new life after losing his wife and that his former team had basically gone rogue. Not only are they working for the government, they are selling their services to the highest bidder as well, regardless of the consequences.
Trying not to give out too many surprises or plot lines, as you can surmise, McCall (Washington) confronts his former team, exacts revenge for the death of his friend Susan (Leo) saves his new friend, Whittaker (Sanders) and tries to tie up some other storylines introduced within the film.
What did we think of the film? First my wife and I were entertained, but not as much as the first one. We found this film to be very predictable, I don’t think there was one scene where we did not see where it was going to go and how McCall was going to get there. However, having said that, Denzel Washington is still an amazing actor and his lines, delivery and actions were spot-on as always. Yes, he is getting older, but the movements are believable and don’t leave you scratching your head or calling bullshit. If there is any fault of his character, I would leave the blame with the director and screenplay writer for any portions that were either not explained enough, wrapped up, or even forgotten. An actor with an amazing catalogue of film and tv, Denzel Washington can be counted on to perform any role with skill. These roles can range from a hitman/assassin with conscience, a gunslinger, a soldier, doctor, teacher or lawyer…each and every performance is always first rate. His performance in EQ2 did not fail either, as mentioned previously, any failings in this film, would lie elsewhere in our opinion, and not tied with his performance.
However, now, with respect to the villain in this film, Dave York (Pascal), I can’t really say the same about his performance. While trying to play a government agent or mercenary/assassin for hire, I found him lacking. Even the scene where McCall enters York’s home, ingratiates himself with his family and actually leaves with them, Pascal did not deliver the emotions and actions that would be expected. Yes, he is a professional assassin etc, but I believe his verbal delivery and eyes should have been more expressive here to show the conflict. Additionally, we felt that his performance was very robotic and was lacking. If his portrayal was amped a bit, it probably would have made a better movie overall. Maybe if his other team member’s personalities and relationships with York and McCall were expanded it would have given them more teeth, than really being nothing more than paper tigers, and ultimately targets to McCall’s weapons.
Ashton Sanders as Miles Whittaker: I really liked his character, as the young man who falls under McCall’s (Washington) wing, he portrayed the requisite emotions for the tasks at hand. His troubled youth persona was believable, as you could see his turmoil with every decision or action. Does he go with the gangs, or does he work for a living doing what he loves, his artwork. He respects McCall, but also as the move progresses, you can see a bit of fear as well. He does not know what McCall is capable of, while at the same time, he is trying to understand the why. Why is he being protected and mentored? All of these emotions are portrayed well and the chemistry between the two is excellent. There are two stand-out scenes for them. The first, when McCall (Washington) extracts him from the gang’s lair and lectures him on what he could be, and the second, in McCall’s house during the storm. Each scene exhibits the emotion required and ensures that not only do you, the audience, feel for McCall, but you also want Whittaker (Sanders) to succeed as well. A very good performance.
Melissa Leo as Susan Plummer: His old boss and friend, Plummer (Leo) is integral to the plot as to why and how McCall is brought in to wreak his own kind of vengeance. However, in this instance, if you did not know her from the first film, you could be lost as to their relationship. It is mentioned, but not the importance of their bond. This could have been enhanced a bit more in the film, maybe even a flashback sequence from the first film? I believe that just by adding this small scene, it could have made her death more poignant to McCall and the audience.
Bill Pullman as Brian Plummer: As the last re-occurring character in EQ2, his role was the most wasted. I like Bill Pullman and his films, but here he was just another character that could have been written off. Actually in one aspect he actually is, after McCall takes him to a hotel room and explains that they (the bad guys) are trying to clean up loose ends, we never see or hear from him again. This is one of the threads that got lost in the film and had us scratching our head. His character was not really required, he could have passed the info in a phone call, text etc, and not even been included in the film. By having him there, and then forgetting about him, it actually made his non-relevance stand out more.
Orson Bean as Sam Rubinstein: Here is another character that really did not need to be there, except to demonstrate that McCall is a fixer and has more heart. The only reason that this story line could have been inserted is to demonstrate that McCall not only fixes unwarranted acts of violence/aggression, he can also fix someone’s spirit. So in that light, then maybe I buy it a bit, however, what should have and could have happened is at least a scene where he does a bit of research to find out Rubinstein’s long lost sister. Just having her show up at the end, was almost kind of a cheat, yes we know that McCall is behind it, but the “how” was not revealed. C’mon, McCall is not the amazing Kreskin or the “Mentalist”, he still has to research and find out things.
Overall, we enjoyed the film and we were entertained, but not as much as the original. Denzel was great as always, but his supporting cast was kind of uneven in their performances. We also found that there were some holes in the plot, and the reasons “why” something was done was either lost or forgotten completely. Besides the predictability of the film, the action sequences and cinematography were done very well and added to the film’s enjoyment. If you are a fan of Washington, then there is no doubt that you will enjoy the film, though, if you are a fan of films and cinema, I am sure that you will see some of the same errors or gaps that I did. But all in all, not a bad film. One final piece of advice, make sure you watch the original first, or you will get lost in this one!
Our Rating: 6/10
If you are interested in watching any films/shows with the main cast, consider the following recommendations:
Denzel Washington Glory, Pelican Brief, Courage under Fire, The Book of Eli, 2 Guns, The Equalizer, Flight (pretty much any of his films!)
Pedro Pascal Narcos, Game of Thrones
Bill Pullman Independence Day, The Equalizer, Sleepless in Seattle
Melissa Leo The Equalizer, The Big Short, London has Fallen
James McAvoy Dennis/Jade/Patricia/Hedwig/The Beast/Kevin Crumb/Orwell/Barry
Anya Taylor-Joy Casey Cooke
Betty Buckley Dr. Karen Fletcher
Haley Lu Richardson Claire Benoit
Jessica Sula Marcia
We were quite busy this weekend, so we did not get a chance to watch our weekend film till Sunday Night. In this edition of “Were we Entertained”, we take a look at the 2016 movie “Split”. This film, written & directed by M. Night Shymalan is a welcome return to quality film-making after several of his duds. I have enjoyed Shymalan’s films a great deal in the past, i.e. The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs were all great films in my opinion. But he also made some serious dud’s i.e. The Village, The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth, all films with great potential but lacked the requisite spark to entertain you and make you think about the film. “Split” was a return to great film-making.
Not expecting a lot from this film when I picked it up, (Due to the previous movies mentioned), I had heard that this was actually a sort of sequel to “Unbreakable”, and a must watch if you were going to pursue the third film “Glass”, but I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was this film well directed, written and acted, it kept us glued to the screen. I will try and give a synopsis with out giving out too many of the plot points or surprises away.
The film commences at birthday party for a rather spoiled teenager at a restaurant/mall. The party is over, and she (with 2 friends) and her father are lugging a vast number of gifts and leftovers back to the car. As these kids are pretty much selfish and don’t really help the father, he is left to load the trunk with her spoils, while they proceed to wait in the car. However, the father becomes incapacitated, and a stranger (McAvoy) enters the car. Once inside he sprays the girls with a mist which knocks them all out.
They wake to find themselves in a cell and discover that they are being held prisoner by the same stranger (McAvoy). This stranger appears to have multiple personalities and memories and each personality displays various character traits, clothes and mannerisms to delineate them. All personalities threaten them with the arrival of the “Beast” who will kill them all horribly before moving on. However, it becomes clear that really only 3 personalities are controlling the stranger at this time. Naturally, these girls are all trying to escape before the dreaded “Beast” personality awakens and kills them all. Concurrently, the stranger is also seeing a psychiatrist who is trying to help him with his 24 separate personalities. The psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher (Buckley), is well versed in her patient’s personalities and soon sees through the deception of the two strongest personalities. She rightfully deduces that the missing girls might be with her patient and they could be in serious danger and subsequently goes to her patient’s home to see. This leads to the climax of the film, where many other personalities are revealed and the girls, the doctor, and the personalities fates collide.
Ok, now to the meat of this blog, the movie and characters themselves.
For a film that I was unsure of at first, specifically due to the fact that Shymalan movies had really dropped in quality, I was very pleasantly surprised. “Split” was a new take on multiple personality disorder. It was expertly presented, with a central character that was both complex and entertaining in the same breath. James McAvoy was the principal star in the film. He played no less than 8 separate characters/personalities throughout the film in a convincing, sometimes chilling fashion. Crumb was the original personality or host if you will, and McAvoy easily transitioned to 7 others in some cases in the blink of an eye. He effectively played a little boy, a stern OCD type, a flamboyant designer, an academic, a proper English lady and the fearsome beast. All acted in a convincing and stellar fashion. This film truly was a vehicle for McAvoy to show his talent in both physical and character acting. As Dennis, the personality with OCD. He was a stern, chilling, almost psychopathic character with no humour, but some very distinct twists. This was quickly followed by Patricia, an almost stereotyped English lady, who with Dennis, controlled Crumb the most. As mentioned previously, there were other characters that McAvoy played within the “Crumb” universe if you will, but my favourite was Hedwig, the little boy. In this character, McAvoy was able to give humour and also a bit of innocence that was lacking in the other characters. Barry was the flamboyant designer who was usually the personality available when meeting with Dr. Fletcher (Buckley) while only glimpses of Jade, Orwell and the host, Crumb were only present for short intervals. The last character present, the “Beast” actually seemed to physically alter McAvoy as he took on this fearsome persona whose ultimate goal were to kill and eat…and apparently not necessarily always in that order. As you can see, I felt that McAvoy’s performance was second to none, he was amazing, altering his voice, persona, appearance and character to fit each personality. If you were not a fan of McAvoy before, after watching this film, you will be!
Haley Lu Richardson as Claire Benoit: As one of the three girls that were captured by Crumb/Dennis (McAvoy), Claire (Richardson) was portrayed as the stereotypical teenager who apparently seemed to lack for nothing. The event was her birthday party that started it all off, and it seems that she invited her whole art class, even people that she did not really care for i.e. Casey (Taylor-Joy). Once she awakens in her cell, it is clear that there is a delineation between the 3 girls as Claire (Richardson) and Marcia (Sula) stay together on the same cot, while Casey is left on her own. Her main contribution seems to scream and shout ideas on how to escape. While she does effectively escape from their cell (not the compound), she is caught again and is placed in another room to await the Beast. I have not seen in her in any other show that she has been in, so I can’t really comment on her resume of work, but she was not bad, but not great either in this role. Easily forgotten in the grand scheme of the story.
Jessica Sula as Marcia: The second girl of the trio is also new to me, she has been in a number of shows, but nothing that I had watched in the past. In this film, she is the typical follower. She agrees to everything and will follow whatever Claire says, and later, Casey. She too is separated from the others to await her demise. Marcia (Sula) does not really garner any emotion from the audience and actually after awhile I found the whining kind of annoying. Luckily she is not really a central character, but just one of the hapless trio who were captured. I hope that as she gets older and has more experience, that her roles and acting will progress.
Betty Buckley as Dr. Karen Fletcher: Fletcher (Buckley) is the psychiatrist that is treating Crumb (McAvoy) et all. Usually dealing with the Barry character, she appears to have had some exposure with many of the personalities within Crumb. Trying to increase her own stature within the psychiatric community, she uses her patient as a case study in several forums. However, it is she, who is first realizing that some of the more “evil” personalities are at the forefront and are trying to control Crumb at all costs. Knowledgeable in dealing with cases such as this, she does manage to provide Casey (Taylor-Joy) with key information in the film’s 3rdact which will prove to be pivotal. Fletcher’s role is extremely important throughout this film as it manages to find the missing pieces for the audience and helps (them/you) put the missing pieces together. A solid actress of many years, Buckley has been around for decades, heck, I even remember watching her as a kid in “Eight is Enough” in the mid 70’s. So she has had plenty of time to perfect her acting skills. As Dr. Fletcher, her performance was solid and the chemistry between her and Crumb (McAvoy) was believable. Her character was a great contribution to the film and story line itself and without her, there would have been several plot holes that would have been hard to fill.
Anya Taylor-Joyas Casey Cooke: The other principle character in this thriller and third girl who was abducted at the party. Casey (Taylor-Joy) is a troubled teen who came from a dysfunctional background. Her flashbacks tell a tale of abuse by a perverted and sick uncle and the unexpected loss of her father at a young age. She is a bit of a loner, only invited to the party as she was a class mate, and not really a friend of the hostess (Claire). However, in her case, it was the prime example of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Once awakened in the cell, it is Casey (Taylor-Joy) who starts putting all the pieces together, and actually comes up with several ways to confuse and even manipulate their captor(s). Casey (Taylor-Joy) comes across as a very intelligent young lady and manages to wear the mantle of heroine very well. She easily sees through the changes and character traits of Crumb’s (McAvoy) many personalities and has an excellent rapport with some of them, specifically Hedwig and Dennis. Her final confrontation with the “Beast” is thrilling and manages to close several story lines. Not wanting to give away the climax, it is safe to say that their encounter is full of tension and action. As you can see, Taylor-Joy and McAvoy make the film and it is their chemistry between them (regardless of the personality) that makes the film so enjoyable. As with the other girls, I have not watched anything that she has been in, but I will look for her in upcoming films. I think she has some great talent, and I can only imagine what the future may bring for this young actress.
Overall we really enjoyed this film. It had suspense, comedy, horror and thrills all in one. The cinematography was excellent and the 2 key players (McAvoy and Taylor-Joy) were phenomenal in their roles. It literally kept us glued to the screen for the duration of the film. If this is what Shymalan is returning to, then I for one applaud it. Overall, the film was thoroughly entertaining and I look forward to watch the last film in the trilogy, Glass. If you are looking for some quality acting and a story that will keep you glued to the screen, then I recommend “Split” to be one of your next viewing choices, I am sure you won’t be disappointed!
Till the next time!
If you are interested in films from the main actor, consider the following recommendations:
James McAvoy Atomic Blonde, X-Men (Franchise), The Last King of Scotland, Band of Brothers
Anya Taylor-Joy Peaky Blinders
Robbie Amell Nathan Brown
Andy Allo Nora Antony
Zainab Johnson Aleesha
Kevin Bigley Luke
Allegra Edwards Ingrid Kannerman
For this week’s entertainment, we decided to binge watch a new show that is on Amazon Prime. “Upload” is a new Amazon original starring Robbie Amell, Andy Allo and Allegra Edwards. It is a new and refreshing concept on the afterlife, with just enough social messages to keep it relevant to today’s society. Not only is this show a little stimulating and new, it has already been renewed for a second season, just one week after it’s initial release on Amazon Prime.
So what is “Upload” about? It is the near future, and a technology has been developed that will allow your memories, personality, thoughts and dreams to be uploaded into a giant server just prior to your death. In this new version of “heaven” a person can live a new and full life while they are waiting for a new technology “Download” to be developed thus allowing people to be reborn in a new body with all the soul of the original, basically creating immortality. The series starts off lightly, with our intrepid hero, Nathan Brown (Amell) deciding to drive his autonomous car manually, however the car has other ideas and takes over. Needless to say, in short order the car’s Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) fails and it runs headlong into a massive truck, thus severely injuring Nathan (Amell). Once at the hospital, his fiancée, Ingrid (Edwards) implores the staff to have him uploaded into one of the upper class, post death, virtual worlds. Once uploaded, he awakes and finds himself in a nice suite, that resembles one of the posh resorts in upstate New York. He is surrounded by the avatar’s of other well to do people and starts to make friends. (In this world, I guess you really can take it with you when you die!). Nathan (Amell) soon discovers that everything that he wants to do costs money, not his, but that of his fiancée (Edwards) who is financing his death. These costs are in the form of in-app purchases, the first time I saw that happen I could not stop laughing as this what the real world is these days. Nothing is free, and everything costs money! In that light, Nathan (Amell) must keep his fiancée happy (Edwards) so that she keeps him funded and his electronic avatar alive.
His Angel, (or if you will spirit wrangler) Nora Antony is played by Andy Allo. Her job is to make his transition and virtual stay as pleasant as possible. Nora (Allo) is pretty much tech support, wrangler, and customer assistance rolled all up in one. Searching for the elusive 5-star rating from all of her clients, she is trying to make ends meet for herself and family as well.
The script is well written and the chemistry between the main players works. The feelings portrayed by Edwards and Allo are expressed in a believable fashion, not to mention the confusion and empathy portrayed by Amell. All facets of the cast fit each other, and the supporting cast works well.
As this series is new, and I don’t want to give out any spoilers, I will just lightly touch on the cast and what I thought of their performance.
Robbie Amell as Nathan Brown: Amell plays this role well. At the start of the series, he is as shallow as a puddle, but as he actually grows within the virtual world he becomes kind, empathic to those around him and actually becomes a better person, even though he is dead. His chemistry with the other cast members and supporting characters is well played. Even though he seemed familiar, I could not place him in anything else I had watched till I checked IMDB. Once verified on IMDB, I saw that he was a guest on the Flash for several episodes, and I remember the character he played. I think that he has potential and look forward to seeing him in other movies and shows.
Andy Allo as Nora Antony: Actually this character is my favourite in the series. She is fresh, pulls off the innocent and naive card very well and has great chemistry with Amell. I have not seen her in anything before, and when checking her resume on IMDB, she has not been in a hell of a lot, thus the reason why I had not seen her. However, I find her to be quite good and now that I see that this is renewed for a 2ndseason look forward to watching it and seeing how her character evolves.
Allegra Edwardsas Ingrid Kannerman; Edwards does a great job as the narcissistic, pretty fiancée who is more concerned with how she looks and how others perceive her than what really matters. What I like about her character that we do find out that she really does love Nathan, and only wants what is best for him. Her character displays growth as the show progresses, and as much as I did not like her at the start of the series, by the end of season 1, she kinda grew on me. Even though some of her character traits are completely stereotyped and we have seen that type of role before, she does play it well. I had only seen her in “Friends from College” before, but I believe that she has some talent and hope that she does not get stereotyped into those kinds of roles.
This series is hard to pigeon hole as for a genre, it is a mashup of comedy, sci-fi, murder mystery and love story all in one. It actually appealed to both my wife and I, but for different reasons. Were we entertained throughout the season, yes we were. Like any other show, some episodes are better than others, but if you want something to watch that is light, new and does not really fit into any genre, then I would recommend “Upload” for you.
Our Rating: 6.5/10
Till the next time!
Steve Carell General Mark R. Naird
John Malkovich Dr. Adrian Mallory
Ben Schwartz F. Tony Scarapiducci
Diana Silvers Erin Naird
Tawny Newsome Captain Angela Ali
Jimmy O. Yang Dr. Chan Kaifang
Don Lake Brigadier General Brad Gregory
Lisa Kudrow Maggie Naird
Noah Emmerich General Kick Grabaston
Over the last few weeks, my wife and I have watched the full premier season of Space Force on NETFLIX. Space Force, NETFLIX’s newest original comedy is about the creation and early days of the current American administration’s latest military arm or command if you will.
This little time-waster stars the comedic genius of Steve Carell and John Malkovich in the title role as the Commanding General and Chief Scientist of the newly minted Space Force. Steve Carell is General Mark R. Naird, long under the thumb of the current Chief of the Air Force, General Kick Grabaston (Noah Emmerich) is finally given his own branch of the Armed Forces, Space Force. He takes over this new command, much to his dismay, as he was desperately hoping to command the Air Force itself. In creating the new element of America’s fighting might, General Naird (Carell) must battle an inept administration, political sycophants, jealous colleagues on the Joint Chiefs, a staff that is either too stupid, too smart, too incompetent or just spies for a foreign power. On top of that, he has a failing marriage and must raise a rebellious teen age daughter.Not exactly a recipe for success for a professional or personal life.
For it’s premier season, the story arc consists of General Naird with the assistance of Dr. Mallory standing up the Space Force itself. Naird’s (Carrel) mission, besides standing up the force is to put “American Boots on the Moon!” Naturally, when Naird (Carell) makes his speech during the inauguration of the command, his explanation of “American boots on the Moon” has his own unique spin to it, that I am sure everyone will enjoy.
From the creation of the Force, to the finale of landing on the Moon, Space Force is a light hearted romp. It is not always hilarious, though there are some scenes that are literally laugh out loud. It is amusing, sometimes very silly, and may not be for everyone. If you enjoy “The Office” or Steve Carell as an actor himself, you will enjoy this series. I also found that if you follow current politics in the United States, that there a number of subtle nuances and jokes that increase the potential for enjoyment. Additionally, if you are in the military, or have military experience, the humour and one liners will be appreciated immensely. If you don’t, there may be some nuances that will escape you.
Now to look at the cast:
Steve Carell as General Mark R. Naird: Carell is Carell, there is no escaping his style and delivery. As I mentioned previously, if you like the Office, you will probably like this show. Carell plays the tightly wound Naird, who is just trying to do his job, amidst all the problems that he is facing. He will break out into song when stressed, has no filter, and is sometimes oblivious of his surroundings or social nuances. Pretty much a typical Carell character. This character, while not unique, provides the vehicle for lead character to deliver the many puns, one liners and innuendos. Carell does a great job in this role, and I continue to be a fan of his work.
John Malkovichas Dr. Adrian Mallory: As I have mentioned in other reviews, Malkovich is a personal favourite of mine. His penchant for a dry delivery of jokes, laden with sarcasm contribute to many of the programs laughs. An accomplished actor, Malkovich continues to add style and substance to any production that he is involved with. As for his character, the self righteous scientist, Mallory is a natural balance to Naird’s “must follow the commands” mentality. The chemistry between Carell and Malkovich is great and really adds to Space Force writ large.
Ben Schwartz as F. Tony Scarapiducci: Scarapiducci is the Space Force public relations officer, or basically in charge of Twitter and social media. Personally, I find his character kind of annoying, but then again, I find most press media types annoying anyways. So I guess he is playing the role well. His character/role, much like all Public Affairs officers always tries to put a positive spin on all activities, no matter what he does to hamper the mission itself. Schwartz is relatively new to me as a viewer, though when I checked his resume, he is pretty accomplished in the comedic realm.
Tawny Newsome as Captain Angela Ali: Newsome portrays the only other really professional serviceperson in the series. A dedicated Air Force officer, her character is serious with a MacGyver like attitude to get things done. Her competence as an officer is a nice balance to the incompetence surrounding her. As with Schwartz, I have not really seen her in anything else, but she does have a prolific Comedy background and has been in numerous programs. I like her character and will definitely look for other programs that she has done and check them out.
Don Lake as Brigadier General Brad Gregory: The character like Scarapiducci is not up there on my “like” scale. I know he is supposed to be a comedic balance to Naird (Carell), but that is where I think they could have made that character even better. He should have been the consummate professional, trying to help Naird complete his mission. That would leave more avenues for Naird (Carell) to also demonstrate some of his comedic genius. Lake is a solid character actor who could be better employed/utilized in this program. Sometimes, a show does not need everyone to be useless.
Lisa Kudrow as Maggie Naird: Now we get to the characters who are part of Naird’s family. Kudrow is the estranged wife of Naird and is currently in prison. This further complicates his life as he tries to deal with his wife whom he loves, and the issues of now being a single parent raising a troublesome teenager. Kudrow is ok here, but I am sorry, to me she will always be Phoebe on Friends. I can’t see her on anything else unless the character is similar. Her role on Friends has pretty much type cast her (to me) in that role/character. As Maggie, she has a little bit of Phoebe, but not enough for me to really appreciate it. I hope that as this program continues (and I really hope it does), that I will grow to like her character.
Diana Silvers as Erin Naird: This is another new actress for me, and I have not yet decided how I feel about her talents/skills. Relatively new to the small screen, there is nothing in her resume that I had seen her in before to actually judge or compare. Mind you, she does play a teenager with great angst and confusion believably, I am just not sure on how I feel about the character at this point. As with the mother, (Kudrow), I hope that I will grow to like her character as the show continues.
There are a host of other actors/actresses in this series of various calibers to support this ensemble. All of them have varying pedigrees in television/Film and comedies specifically. Each and every one of them have brought their own talents to the show to make sure that it is enjoyable. Is this the best new comedy on television? No it is not. Is it consistently hilarious? Again, no. But, can you sit there and be entertained for 30 minutes and escape some of the worlds issues? Yes, you can. If you are looking for something light, topical and a show that while you may not always laugh out loud, you will smile at their antics, then “Space Force” is definitely worth checking out. Hell, there are worse ways to spend you time than this program. I especially recommend this program if you are a fan of Carell and Malkovich, these two are the key to the show and will make sure that you will at least chuckle every once and awhile.
If you are interested in watching something from the key cast members, consider some of the following recommendations:
Steve Carell 40-Year-old Virgin, The Office, Dinner with schmucks, Dan in real life
John Malkovich RED, RED 2, Billions, Burn After Reading, Con Air, In the Line of Fire
Lisa Kudrow Friends, Analyze This, Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion.
Ryan Gosling Neil Armstrong
Claire Foy Janet Armstrong
Jason Clarke Ed White
Kyle Chandler Deke Slayton
Corey Stoll Buzz Aldrin
Ciaran Hinds Bob Gilruth
Pablo Schreiber James Lovell
Shea Whigham Gus Grissom
Lukas Haas Mike Collins
After having a busy week looking for a new vehicle, we finally got a chance to put in a movie on Saturday night. For this week’s selection, or ok, next in the pile… is “First Man”. This film is a biopic of the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong. “First Man” has a solid cast and tells the extraordinary journey of mankind’s foray into space, which culminated in the fantastic achievement of landing on the Moon. Ryan Gosling plays the title character (Neil Armstrong) and is supported by a great cast of actors/actresses.
Does “First Man” live up to the hype and billing as advertised? Yes, and no. My wife and I always enjoy films that are based on a true story, person, and/or event. Primarily, as we have found that Hollywood is continually churning out variations of the same plot all the time, and if it is a true story. We kinda know how it is going to end beforehand. We just want to see how the film will depict it, and if it was worthwhile to spend the 20 bucks for the ticket, or blu-ray. “First Man” while a good movie, about a historic event, is not a great movie if you know what I mean. The cinematography was excellent in the launch/space/flight scenes and at times almost took your breath away. The Director (Damien Chazelle) expertly interspersed file footage with film footage to make you feel like you were watching it for the first time! The scenery, props, costumes etc were first rate. Being a child of the 60’s I remember many of the items fondly and it brought me a back to a simpler time, where my only responsibility was to pick up the toys (If I got around to it) and make sure I finished my dinner. However, I have just digressed, the props and supporting materials were excellent and fit the scenes and era. I looked for some out of place technology while watching and could not find any. (Not saying that there wasn’t any in the film, just that if there was, I did not see it). However, I did find the characters to be wooden and unemotional for most part and lacked chemistry between them, especially Gosling and Foy.
I have read that Armstrong’s children stated that Gosling and Foy portrayed an accurate portrayal of their parents, however, I found the on-screen presence of these actors lacking. Also, some of the integral portions of their lives were missed. We know that their daughter is sick and sadly passed away, but it was not really mentioned why. There were other holes in their own life that seemed to be missing, also, why were not the other children included in more scenes, as this was about him (Armstrong) would there not have been a little more of his family life? Additionally, why did the director not include the flag planting ceremony on the moon? We see it up in later scenes, but not when he actually planted the flag. I also read that this was a conscious decision by the director, but I firmly believe that this is an important scene that should have been included. Is the movie about Armstrong or NASA and the race to the moon? In either case, I believe it should have been included as it was important to both the agency and the individual. Also, I believe that the backstory of Armstrong should have been included more, even though he was a civilian within NASA, he was a former Navy pilot…easily could have been mentioned or alluded to. These aspects were missed.
This biopic only takes a small portion of Armstrong’s life. Basically starting with a test flight on Bell X-15 where Armstrong (Gosling) experiences technical difficulties before returning to land, and then culminating on the historic landing on the moon. Even if you are not a history buff, the average person will be aware of the first Moon landing and have heard the names Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. So really not much to add to that synopsis.
As you may have garnered, while I liked the film, I found that there were aspects that could have been better. Primarily, portions of the story line and the chemistry between the main characters. While I am on the subject of the actors, lets take a look at some of the main ones.
Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong: Gosling, a young Canadian actor who is making a name for himself with certain films, delivers (in my opinion) a very wooden and unemotional performance. There were so many aspects of the mans life that should have generated far greater tension or emotion than what was portrayed. However, if, as I have read, this is an accurate portrayal of the man himself, then so be it. But it did make the film seem slow at times, and almost drag on. Personally, I am not a fan of Gosling’s films as I find he always portrays pretty much the same type of character, and the film choices he has made have not actually been my type of films. I even found Blade Runner 2049 to be a slow film, and I was a huge fan of the original. Additionally, there was very little chemistry between Gosling and Foy. The bond that would be between such individuals who experience such hardships and time apart would be more evident then what was portrayed.
Claire Foy as Janet Armstrong: Continuing with the above thoughts, I found Foy’s portrayal of Janet Armstrong to also be wooden and unemotional. I enjoyed her in “The Crown” as Queen Elizabeth, but here it was just slow. Even at times of tension I could not get the feeling from her that it was tense and emotional. She is not the queen here; she could give more to the role.
Jason Clarke as Ed White: I like Clarke as White, he can easily play an astronaut, crooked politician, scientist or soldier. I first noticed him in the series Brotherhood, and as time went along he has been part of the cast of many more films that I liked, i.e. Zero Dark Thirty, White House Down, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Everest to name but a few. He easily fit into this role and the scenes with him were well done. As this is a historical film, his contributions were vital to the storyline and interaction within the film.
Kyle Chandler as Deke Slayton: Chandler always gives a solid performance in any film or show that he is part of, “First Man” is no exception. As with Clarke as White, as a historic film his contributions are integral to the story, and ensured that factual continuity was pretty much maintained. When on screen, he was value added and actually managed to convey intensity or emotion when required.
Corey Stoll as Buzz Aldrin: Every time I see Stoll on screen, I immediately can’t stand him. Either he is extremely talented, and picks roles that bring out the worst in him, or he really is that way. Either way, I cannot find a part or character in his resume that I liked the character portrayed. I actually had to stop the film to make sure that he was playing Aldrin. I had seen Aldrin on several shows and documentaries and he did not come across as such a douche. Regardless, Buzz Aldrin was a key character in the first landing on the moon, and maybe a bit more screen time and interaction between the two men would have been better for the film. If there was tension between the two, demonstrate that further, if they were buddies, give the audience that feeling. As it stands, because Aldrin was played by Stoll, and he came across as a bit of egomaniac and ass-hat, I could not get the feel of what the real person was.
Lukas Haas as Mike Collins: He actually had very minimal screen time in this film, and his only contribution was to play Collins. I am fully aware that most people only remember Aldrin and Armstrong, but Collins was part of the team and could have received at least some character development. He was pretty much a cardboard cut-out and the few lines he utters in the film could have been relegated to someone off screen. While historically Collins has a great deal to contribute, in this film, Haas was found lacking.
Pablo Schreiber as James Lovell: while Schreiber did not have much screen time, minimal dialogue and was most often seen as part of the ensemble, I found that I could not associate him as James Lovell. As Hanks had played Lovell in Apollo 13, that is what he looks like to me, and now that he looks more rugged, 5 inches taller and more of an action actor, he did not fit the character that most people will now associate with the real individual. Not really an issue, but when a lesser known actor plays a role that was already represented by an iconic actor, he or she will have some pretty big shoes to fill, and will undoubtedly fail in that representation.
Overall, we found the movie entertaining, though not necessarily due to the characters or the acting itself. It was the subject matter, cinematography, attention to detail of the era that drew us in. While you would think that this film is an action film as well as a biopic, it was slow and long. Especially as there are only a few scenes of intensity throughout this film, and while awesome, it was almost too little, too far apart. The opening sequence was amazing, as well as the launch and landing. Everything else was very slow. Would I recommend this film? Yes, if you have 2 ½ hours to kill and were looking for some authentic shots and great cinematography. But, if you want a more entertaining tale of the journey to the moon, check out The Right Stuff and Apollo 13. Both films had far greater tension and action than the First Man.
If you are interested in other films or shows by the key actors/actresses. Consider the following recommendations.
Ryan Gosling The Ides of March, The Big Short, Murder by Numbers
Claire Foy The Crown
Jason Clarke Everest, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, White House Down, Brotherhood, Zero Dark Thirty
Kyle Chandler Game Night, Manchester by the Sea, The Wolf of Wall Street
Corey Stoll Ant Man, House of Cards, The Romanoff’s, The Bourne Legacy
Jennifer Garner Riley North
John Gallagher Jr Det. Stan Carmichael
John Ortiz Det. Moises Beltran
Juan Pablo Raba Diego Garcia
Annie Ilonzeh FBI Agent Lisa Inman
Jeff Hephner Chris North
Cailey Fleming Carly North
Well, here we are again with a review for the Notinhalloffame.com website, blog section, “Was I entertained”. Even though, it is the end of May and spring is supposed to be here, back home in Canada, we had a cold snap over the weekend so it was time again to try a few different shows. After perusing NETFLIX for a bit and watching another episode of Wentworth (Great show), we decided to put in a film. So, after looking at the stack of unwatched Blu-Ray’s, I grabbed Peppermint (2018) to be the next movie to watch.
Peppermint stars Jennifer Garner and is Directed by the same director (Pierre Morel) who also was involved with the movie “Taken”. After watching Peppermint, this was really no surprise as the style, dialogue, etc was pretty much the same. Peppermint is a standard revenge flick. It adheres to the formula of likeminded films (i.e. Death Wish, Kill Bill) with no surprises, extremely predictable, and plot holes large enough to drive a Mack Truck through. However, it was still good enough to keep us entertained throughout the film.
Peppermint starts off with a pitched battle in a car between Riley (Garner) and some thug. After getting wounded, she gets the upper hand and manages to dispatch this miscreant and leave the car and corpse behind. The next scene starts 5 years earlier where we find out that she is a young mother with a small child, about 10 years old. Rilery (Garner) and her husband are trying to make ends meet, as all young families do. She works in a bank, and he in garage. However, as tight as the money is they still want to have what’s best for their child. In that light, Chris (Hephner) is approached by a colleague at the garage to be a driver in a planned robbery against the local gang, which is led by Garcia (Raba). After a change of heart, Chris tells his colleague no, and goes out with his wife and child to celebrate the daughter’s birthday. This is especially important as a local PTA villainess has destroyed Carly’s (Fleming) birthday party as a revenge tactic for encroaching on her daughter’s turf for selling cookies at the local mall. Actually pretty pathetic, but I understand that stuff like that happens all the time in some schools.
While at the fair, Garcia’s gang does a drive by and kills both Chris (Hephner) and Carly (Fleming), while leaving Riley (Garner) wounded on the ground, and watching her family die in front of her eyes. Detectives Carmichael (Gallagher) and Beltran (Ortiz) arrive, pick up the pieces and put Riley (Garner) in an ambulance and commence their investigation.
Riley (Garner) identifies the assailants in a line-up and they are brought to trial. However, because the legal system is so crooked, the killers get off, Riley (Garner) goes crazy and gets subsequently sentenced to a mental hospital for actions. Typical movie justice. En-route to the hospital, Riley (Garner) escapes and goes underground.
Surfacing 5 years later, Riley is back to extract revenge. She has learned new skills, and can handle a weapon or use her fists with equal dexterity. Bent on a path of revenge she commences to track down each and every person who has wronged her family and exacts her own particular style of justice. Detectives Beltran (Ortiz) and Carmichael (Gallagher) join forces with FBI agent Inman (Ilonzeh) to find out who the vigilante killer is that is hunting down all these ne’er do wells and executing them. Of course, as this is extremely predictable, they figure out it is Riley (Garner) and try to catch her before she can finish what the police force cannot do. I will let you watch the film to get the rest of the story line, but needless to say, this film follows all the formula’s for a film of this genre to bring it to a “no-surprise” ending.
Did we enjoy this film? Did it entertain? I would say yes, even though we knew exactly what would happen throughout most of the film, there were still a few surprises and red-herrings to throw us off a bit along the journey. As with the movie “Taken”, this film was full of action, the odd one liner, and some great fight scenes. Yes, there were plot holes, and a few WTF instances when certain things/events occurred, but they were easily shrugged off as Riley (Garner) caught another person on her list to exact her brand of justice.
Now to look at the cast.
Jennifer Garner as Riley North: Garner was in fine form for this film, coming back to action roles from a long hiatus while doing RomComs and family friendly films, Peppermint returned Garner to some of her action roots. The first time I remember watching her in a program was in Alias, where she was an international spy. Alias was an enjoyable tv program that lasted for 5 years and was no doubt instrumental in getting her a part in DareDevil and her own spinoff film, Elektra. While these films were panned critically, I found them enjoyable and full of action. Most importantly, it gave her the basic skills for an action film that were needed in Peppermint. What helped make this movie, was that Garner did her own stunts and fight scenes to add to the realism. There were no “face-fade” scenes where the action star would fight, but the face would be blurred to hide the stunt person. Garner has been in enough action films over the years to learn enough skills to make her action sequences believable (Elektra, Alias, DareDevil). For Garner, revenge was the key motivator throughout the film and it was effectively portrayed. While some of the other characters were lacking in development or motive, hers was strong throughout and kept us interested in what the outcome would be (even though we already surmised what it would be). My only problem with Riley’s(Garner) story in this film was that her back-story was not developed enough. It showed clips of Riley (Garner) learning how to fight hand to hand, but a mastery of automatic weapons was never mentioned. This could have been covered very easily with a montage of her at a range or something. Also, I think a scene or two of her researching where everyone who wronged her family would have helped the plot along as well, she seemed to find everyone to easily. Planning sequences would have helped out the continuity portion of the film.
John Gallagher Jr as Det. Stan Carmichael: He did a fair job as the ideological/burnt out (depending on the scene/time period) detective. It was believable, but not over the top. He projected his own inner turmoil well as he handled the drive-by shooting case. His burn-out, alcoholic tendencies come out later in the film, and you think it is for one reason, only to find out the impetus for these actions were another reason entirely. Well done in my opinion. Having watched him in 10 Cloverfield Lane, Newsroom and now this film, I look forward to other roles that he is in.
John Ortiz as Det. Moises Beltran: Ortiz is a solid supporting actor and has made his career doing just that. In Peppermint, there is no difference to his performance compared to his previous roles. He can be the tormented soul or disheveled policeman at the drop of a hat. In this film, as Carmichael’s partner, he gave us just enough confusion in his role to make it interesting. Was he a good cop, was he crooked, or was he just a coward. The finale of the film will give you the answer and it was actually the only real thing in the film that I did not predict in the end. A good performance that reminds the audience that any star, no matter how big, requires a solid support cast to make a successful film or program.
Juan Pablo Raba as Diego Garcia: While the antagonist of the film, his screen time was limited and his performance very wooden. I think a good “bad guy” would be more menacing and not be named after an island in the Indian ocean. His whole performance was lackluster and even though he was the main “bad-guy” it could have been played far better. John Leguizamo (Waco, John Wick 2, The Infiltrator) would have been a more menacing character than Raba played here. The character required more dimension and exposure, as well as better back story. Sometimes being the feared drug lord is not enough in a movie, the why, what and how have to be included as well.
Annie Ilonzeh as FBI Agent Lisa Inman: As a supporting role, Ilonzeh did not do much to add to the overall movie. Her main contribution to the plot was actually to start putting the pieces of Riley’s (Garner) actions together, far ahead of Carmichael and Beltran. While she looked familiar, I actually had to look up what other shows I had seen her in. However, after looking at her resume and remembering her roles (finally), I can see that her roles and talent will only increase in time.
Overall Peppermint was not a bad film, not great, but entertaining nonetheless. Garner does well in the action genre, delivering solid punches (if you will) and even some good one liners (If you watch the film, remember this when the bitchy PTA mother comes on screen, made for a darkly humorous scene). The plot, while predictable still had the odd twist and turn that will keep you watching till the end. If you can get by these factors, and the odd plot holes then you will enjoy the film.
If you are interested in seeing other films with the main cast, consider the following recommendations.
Jennifer Garner 13 going on 30, Alias, Draft Day, Ghosts of Girlfriends past
John Gallagher Jr Newsroom (Excellent show), 10 Cloverfield Lane
John Ortiz Messiah, Kong: Skull Island
Juan Pablo Raba The 33
Annie Ilonzeh Person of Interest, Arrow, Hatfields and McCoys