Was I Entertained? (48)

Review: The Mule (2018)

Cast:

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  

Review: Glass (2019)

Cast:

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:

 (undefined review-split-2016) 

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!

Cast:

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!

Cast:

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

Cast:

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!

Cast:

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!

Cast:

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

Cast:

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

Review: You (2018-19)

Cast:

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

Rating: 7.5/10

Till next time!

Review: Venom (2018)

Cast:

Tom Hardy                                Eddie Brock/Venom

Michelle Williams                      Anne Weying

Riz Ahmed                                Carlton Drake/Riot

Jenny Slate                               Dr. Dora Skirth

Cast:

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

Cast:

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;

  • An old man who has lost not only a famous portrait as a result of WW2, but also his sister;
  • A young girl who was abused by a number of well to do, narcissistic ass hats;
  • His old boss who brings him soup to see how he his doing; and
  • A young man who is a budding artist, but may go down the wrong path to drugs and gang violence without his support. 

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

Review: Split (2016)

Cast:

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!

Rating: 7.5/10

 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 

Review: Upload (2020)

Cast:

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!

Cast:

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.

Cast:

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. 

Rating: 5.5/10

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

Cast:

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.

Rating: 5.5/10

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

Cast:

Taraji P. Henson                                    Mary

Billy Brown                                           Tom

Jahi Di’Allo Winston                              Danny

Neal McDonough                                  Walter

Xander Berkeley                                    Uncle

Rade Serbedzija                                    Luka

Danny Glover                                        Benny

After a long chat with the “Chairman” (aka my brother) of the “Notinhalloffame.com” website, he said that he liked my contributions so much so that he vowed to give me a 50 percent increase in my salary. Well since he doesn’t give me anything for these, this vow was like a promise from a politician…full of excrement! Good thing he lives in the Caribbean and I am still in Canada! But anyways, I do enjoy this, and it gives me something to do in retirement. In that light, we can discuss this week’s foray in into Movieland. Of late, most of my reviews have not been of great or even mediocre films, sadly this week is no change. I really want to see a good movie, but unfortunately, some of the movies in the stack of unwatched films just don’t make the grade, or any grade for that matter. 

We started on Friday with the “Longest Week”, starring Jason Bateman and Olivia Wilde. Unfortunately, or should I say fortunately for me, I stopped the film after 15 minutes as it was just too painful to watch. This is sad as I was looking forward to watching it as I like Bateman’s films for the most part, and am really enjoying his character in “Ozark”. But, that film, was just like my brother’s promise of a raise….” Just didn’t deliver!” We then tried something on Amazon Prime, and that was a comedy special by Steve Trevino, totally awesome, and highly recommend it. However, it was not suitable to write a review on a guy telling jokes, no matter how good they are. 

Then came Saturday night, and the next movie in the pile was ‘Proud Mary” starring Tariji P. Henson in the title role. I have come to like Henson in the series “Person of Interest” and the co-stars, Neal Mcdonough, Xander Berkeley, Rade Serbedzija and Danny Glover are all very well known entities, and have played varying roles in movies that I really like. So, with that in mind, I was really looking forward to watching it.  However, like my brothers promises of a raise, it was disappointing !

What is Proud Mary about? Well, it started promising with the 1970’s Black exploitation movie vibe that used to be so entertaining. The initial music was good “Papa was Rolling Stone” by the Temptations, and the opening sequences brought back memories of films from my childhood and even put a smile to face at the time…however, right after that, it all went south. We can allude at the start that Mary (Henson) is some kind of hitman/assassin as she breaks into an apartment and shoots a guy with extreme prejudice. After killing her target, she enters an adjoining bedroom to discover a young boy playing video games with headphones on. Even though she was supposed to kill everyone there to ensure that there were no witnesses, some long lost maternal instincts kicked in and she let him live 

Fast forward a few years, Mary (Henson) is tooling around NYC in a beautiful Maserati (as far as I am concerned, this car is the star of the film) as she is watching a boy deliver some drugs. We later find out that this is the same boy that she let live and she has been monitoring him ever since. This young fellow Danny (Winston) is now a drug trafficker for local thug called Uncle (Berkeley) who has a cheezy and very fake Russian accent. After getting smacked around by Uncle (Berkeley) for using his own initiative with a previous customer who tried to rip him off, Danny is back on the street and proceeds to get beaten up by some other ne’er do wells. Finding him curled up and twitching in the fetal position on the ground, Mary (Henson) becomes motherly and takes him home. After hearing the tales of woe from Danny (Winston), Mary (Henson) decides to be an avenging angel and takes out Uncle and others in the vicinity who may have harmed poor little Danny. Did I mention the Maserati? We get to see this car again a few more times as she drives around looking for the bad guys. 

Upon returning to her boss, we find out that Mary (Henson) is working for Benny (Glover) and his son Tom (Brown) and that the Uncle (Berkeley) was part of a rival gang. Fearing a war between the gangs, Mary (Henson) must kill another member of the Russian gang to demonstrate strength. In this instance it is Walter (McDonough), so after some very poor surveillance of the target (She is still in the Maserati, so no one will look twice at that car). Determining a pattern of sorts, she goes for a run, sees him and kills him outright. Meanwhile the Russian mafia leader Luka (Serbedzija) wants to get revenge, and a war brews between the two gangs, shots are fired, people are killed and chaos ensues between to the two rivals.

Meanwhile, Tom (Brown) who is not only Benny’s (Glover) son, but also a former lover realizes that Danny (Winston) is not only the son of a former hit, but also a previous employee of Uncle…putting 2+2 together to make 5, this brain trust finally figures out that Mary (Henson) and Danny (Winston) were the root of all of their problems and tries to take some decisive action. 

Without giving the rest of the story away, there are a few other conflicts, a kidnapping, some poor speeches and sudden insights from some of the cast to culminate in the final battle scene. Here Mary (Henson) thinks that she is the re-incarnation of John Wick or the Equalizer and decides to make a one man (woman) fight against all who have wronged not only the boy Danny, but also Mary herself. Driving into battle in that gorgeous Maserati, she manages to kill everyone in sight, save the day (but not the car) and rescue those who need rescuing. Only mildly wounded, she still manages to hit every target with a pistol while driving or running erratically, and her magic guns only seemed to require reloading twice. You gotta love those 500 round magazines that Hollywood pistols and assault rifles come with! 

To sum up with respect to the plot, it is a very predictable film. The Hitman finds redemption by writing an earlier wrong by blowing up everyone in sight and riding into the distance with her sidekick. The End.

What did I like about the film? Well, the music was good, there were several 1970’s tracks that I always liked, to include Proud Mary by Tina Turner. The initial 70’s vibe that started the film brought back memories of watching movies as a kid. Oh, and of course the Maserati, did I say how much l love that car?!?.

What didn’t I like about the film…well everything else. This film managed to take an exceptional cast and kill them with poor dialogue, a predictable plot line and crappy acting. Was everyone under a contract and had to sign on to this movie? It sure feels like it, there was no chemistry between the cast, the delivery was wooden and the story (besides being predictable) was stilted and jerked along like a millennial trying to drive a stick shift. It was just horrible, and I am surprised that I watched the whole thing. 

As far as the cast, I said before that there were some good actors here, but let’s take a look at them.

Henson as the title character, Mary. Her acting was abysmal, and her inner turmoil between trying to get her motherly instincts in track as well as her killer instincts at bay were horrible. Trying to play the “tough chick” with a gun was almost laughable. She did not move fluidly with the weapons or in the fight seasons. John Wick she was notand it was clearly evident. 

Billy Brown as Tom: given little screen time, he did not have much to work with here. We find out that he is the son of the boss and a former lover. However, even though he figured out who the kid was, he is no Sherlock that is for sure. Usually he is a solid supporting character in many shows (Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, The Following, etc) and should stay in that lane.

Jahi Di’Allo Winston as Danny: An actor that I had not really seen before, however, his acting was not all that bad considering what he had to work with. I hope that in the future he manages to get some better roles and co-stars that he can develop his skills. 

Neal McDonough as Walter: He actually had very little impact in this film, well except for getting killed by Mary (Henson). However, I must say, in our house McDonough has the rare talent that no matter what character he plays, we can’t stand him. So, that is either a testament to his acting skills or we just can’t stand him on sight. However, when he is the villain in a film, you know it and he can take the scene from anyone else that he shares it with. However, in this film, He did not have the chance to do so.  

Xander Berkeley as Uncle: Berkeley is an awesome actor...except in this film. As I mentioned before, this must be a case of where he had to do a film as part of the contract. His acting was as horrible as was his accent and it was a godsend when his character of Uncle was finally killed off. 

Rade Serbedzijaas Luka: Serbedzija is also another phenomenal actor who can play a villain like nobody else. But in this film, he was just a card-board cut-out and another b-list actor required to fill out the roster and be ultimately killed. Very disappointing!

Danny Glover as Benny: For me, this was the biggest disappointment of the film. Danny Glover was an excellent actor in the action genre. Who can forget him in the Lethal Weapon franchise? His line “I am too old for shit!” is quoted often in television and in pop culture itself. A prolific actor, who has seemed to have lost his way over the last decade as his appearances are now more of a guest or co-star with less and less impact on the outcome. Very sad, for as I mentioned, I always liked his films in the 80, 90 to 00’s. 

To finalize, did this movie entertain us? Sadly, no. A combination of a poor script, a tired formula and miscast actors/actresses who have all seen better films and days. Were there some highlights or redeeming factors? Well, the Maserati for one, and the final shoot-em up scene was not that bad once you got past Henson’s poor action sequences. Would I recommend it? No, not unless you really had nothing else to watch, and you had to be a fan of the genre and Henson.

Our rating: 2/10

If you are interested in other films/tv shows with the cast, please consider some of the following GOOD recommendations!

Taraji P. Henson            Person of Interest, Hidden Figures, Empire, The Curious case of Benjamin Button

Billy Brown                   Sons of Anarchy, The Following, Dexter

Neal McDonough          Red 2, Captain America: The First Avenger, Flags of our Father

Xander Berkeley            The Walking Dead, Justified, The Mentalist, 24

Rade Serbedzija            The Five, Downtown Abbey, Taken 2, 24, Space Cowboys

Danny Glover                Lethal Weapon (1 & 2), Dreamgirls, Bat 21, Flight of the Intruder, Predator 2                   

Review: The Meg (2018)

Cast:

Jason Statham              Jonas Taylor

Bingbing Li                    Suyin

Rainn Wilson                Morris

Cliff Curtis                     Mac

Winston Chao               Zhang

Shuya Sophia Cai           Meiying

Ruby Rose                    Jaxx

Page Kennedy               DJ

Robert Taylor                Heller

Olafur Darri Olaffson     The Wall

Jessica Mcnamee          Lori

Masi Oka                      Toshi

As we are all still locked down and there are limited choices of activity for us all due to the epidemic, my unwatched movie collection is starting to dwindle down. After having a dinner from a local take-out establishment (we do have to support local business’s at this time) I grabbed the next movie in the pile. This week, it happened to be “The Meg”. I had seen bits and pieces of this movie a few years ago when returning from a conference in Europe, but as with all trans-Atlantic flights you never really get to appreciate a film, or even watch it completely due to the many interruptions. Anyways, with a full belly, full glass of wine in hand, I put “The Meg” in the blu-ray player for this weekends entertainment. 

What is “The Meg” about you ask? Well “The Meg” is a quasi action/horror/sci-fi/comedy film that rips-off or pays homage to (depending on your perspective) several movies in Hollywood history. In essence this film is a Shark flick, with a hint of Jaws (plus sequels), The Abyss, Leviathan, Deep Rising and Piranha. I saw elements of each film in this action/comedy/horror/sci-fi romp starring Jason Statham. Before I start outlining the good/bad of the film, I will give a bit of a plot summary.

The film opens with a submarine that is disabled on the ocean floor and a rescue team and mini-submersible are on site trying to save everyone. The rescue team is led by a stone-faced Jason Statham, who instead of fighting a number of bad guys is now fighting the elements. During the rescue, we see a submarine that is taking on water and a hull that is crumpled up in sections (The Abyss?). This tension is further heightened (?) when the sub is shaken around a bit and a portion of the hull commences to be crushed in a way that resembles a large bite…hmm dramatic foreshadowing perhaps? Jonah (Statham) can’t save them all, so he releases the docking clamp and surfaces with only a portion of the crew, leaving a number to die to an unknown fate.  However, it appears that Jonah (Statham) is the only one who believes it is a sea creature and the rest of the world perceives him as a coward who lost his nerve and that he left people to behind to die. Cashiered out of deep sea rescue (or whatever he was in, Navy, Coast—guard, who knows, it is not really mentioned), he moves to Thailand (?) and commences a stereo typed life of a burn-out who is just drinking his life away. 

Meanwhile…. a company owned by Billionaire Morris (Rainn Wilson) creates a huge state of the art Ocean lab. This Lab is located in the South China sea (somewhere) and its purpose was to prove that the ocean was even deeper than imagined. The theory was that the sea bottom was actually beyond a thermal layer of cold water, and they were going to prove it. Enter a new group of intrepid travellers, Lori (Mcnamee), The Wall (Olaffson) and Toshi (Oka) are in a mini-submersible who penetrate the layer, and discover a whole new undersea world. Supporting this submersible is a whole cast of characters, the team leader Zhang (Chao) his daughter Suyin (Li) and granddaughter Meiying (Cai), Mac (Curtis) Jaxx (Rose) Kennedy (DJ) and the doctor Heller (Taylor). Observing the whole experiment is the wacky owner Morris (Wilson) who actually has his own agenda beyond that of the team leader Zhang (Chao). Now back to the submersible, while exploring, their mini-sub is attacked by a giant squid, followed by a save and subsequent attack by the Meg. The submersible is disabled, and the crew wounded. The Lab’s crew and owner watch this on their monitors and realize that there is no way to save them. Mac (Curtis) knows that his friend is lounging around on a nearby island goes to retrieve him (Jonas/Statham) and he is the only guy who can save them…even drunk. (Note: Maybe Toshi (Oka) should have used his special powers like he had on Heroes to save them…but that is just my imagination running wild here as the story could not quite keep me completely tuned in!)

The ever drunk Jonas (Statham) at first refuses to help, until he finds out that the damaged submersible is captained by his ex wife Lori (Mcnamee), and he naturally sobers up and signs up for the dramatic rescue. Jonas (Statham) and Mac (Curtis) return to the lab, Jonas meets the rest of the crew and owner. Finds out the doctor on the lab is the same one who called him a coward in the navy/coast guard/rescue team or whatever and still does not trust him and think that he is a coward. This results in some poorly acted tension between Jonas (Statham) and Heller (Taylor). Concurrently Suyin (Li) has taken matters in her own hands and has launched a “glider” to rescue the downed submersible and pull them back to safety. However, this is only a failed attempt at rescue and tension. Sober and full of action, Jonas (Statham) now has 2 submersibles to save. Needless to say, Jonas saves the two submersibles (but not everyone) returns to the lab and is thanked by all, not quite all… he does get some blame for leaving someone behind. However, unknown to the crew, due to their incursions a leak in the thermal layer is created and has allowed “The Meg” to escape to our waters. “The Meg” scares a few people in the lab, and then commences to wreak havoc in the surrounding waters. This “Meg” is a shark that is upwards of 70 ft long, approx. 70 tons and has a bite more powerful than a T-Rex. As all sharks are, the Meg is continuously hungry and searching for food, and just scary enough to make you jump every once and a while!

Jonas (Statham) and crew take it upon themselves to save the world as we know it and commence to track the “Meg” down to kill it. This is pretty much a foregone conclusion, as what would the movie be if the intrepid hero was not successful in this quest. They have some great adventures, a few laughs and some half decent special effects finding the Meg, tracking it and subsequently taking it down. Concurrently, some characters find love, themselves, inner strength, or even find out that they are destined to be lunch for the “Meg” itself. I glossed over the last part of the movie to not give out too many parts away if you have not yet seen the film.

Now to look at the Good, Bad and Ugly of this film. 

The Good: The CGI was actually pretty good and the chemistry between the main characters flowed satisfactorily. It was nice to see Statham in an action film where he did not have to fight 500 bad guys at once, but actually had to fight the elements, the “Meg” and actually his own fear. His dry humour was an added bonus as well as that of Morris (Wilson). There were numerous one-liners that did not make you laugh out loud, but at least give you a smile or even a slight guffaw. The interaction between Jonas (Statham) and Suyin (Li) was not bad. The acting was good enough for their flirtation to be somewhat believable (as believable as you can be with Statham trying to be romantic). Also, we found that the child actress who played Sunyin’s daughter Meiying (Cai) was adorable and added the right touch of “cuteness” you could say to the action movie. Additionally, either the intentional homages or blatant rip-off’s of other films were also not bad. We especially enjoyed the beach scene when the “Meg” was swimming around the crowded bay, looking for snacks. There were several instances that were right out of Jaws and it immediately too me back to that film, when I saw it as a kid. If you watch the film, you will see varied aspects of the previously mentioned films, Jaws, Piranha, Abyss, Leviathan in there as well. I will leave it to you to decide if they wanted pay respect to previous films, or just planned to rip them off! (Actually a side comment with respect to Statham, it is clearly evident that he is no stranger to water as his dives and swimming are smooth and fluid. For readers who are not aware, he was once a member of the UK diving team and participated in the 1990 Commonwealth games!)

The supporting cast of characters were also enjoyable. Morris as the idiot billionaire was humorous and added levity right until the moment his character was an active participant of the Meg’s dinner requirements. 

The Bad: There was a touch too many cliché’s in the film. Statham playing the burned out drunk who is looking for redemption. Heller (Taylor) being angry when Jonas (Statham) first shows up but then apologizes as he sees the error in his ways, and then seeks his own redemption. This is just an example of too many “stereotypes” that could have possibly been written better and with a little more imagination. However, I must add, that these factors did not overly detract from the film, it became what was expected. 

The Ugly: Many reviewers will have varying viewpoints on this with respect to “The Meg”, but for me, I would actually say the dialogue was the ugly, it struck me as very clichéd, and at times stilting. Yes, there were a few jokes and one liners that I found amusing, but nothing really imaginative or new here. Also, some of the supporting characters and even Jonas himself could have had more character development to show the “Why” or purpose of their contribution to the film writ large. 

Did I enjoy the film and was I entertained? Yes, I was entertained, but the film is not something that will win any awards or make you call for more. It was just good enough for me to watch it all, laugh a bit and enjoy the special effects. Would I recommend it? Only if you are a fan of Jaws type films and quality acting and dialogue is not a must. I have seen better films with some of the cast, and also some worse ones. But it will kill the time if you are so inclined to give it a try.

My Rating: 4.5/10

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

Jason Statham              Transporter, Expendables, The Mechanic, Spy, Fast and the Furious (Franchise)

Bingbing Li                    Transformers: Age of Extinction, 1911

Rainn Wilson                Juno, The Office, Six Feet Under

Cliff Curtis                     Fear the Walking Dead, Fracture, Training Day, Whale Rider

Till next time!

Cast:

Dwayne Johnson                       Will Sawyer

Neve Campbell                         Sarah Sawyer

Chin Han                                   Zhao Long Ji

Roland Moller                           Kores Botha

Noah Taylor                              Mr Pierce

Byron Mann                              Inspector Wu

Pablo Schreiber                         Ben

Mckenna Roberts                      Georgia Sawyer

Noah Cottrell                            Henry Sawyer

Hannah Quinlivan                     Xia

As the world and our nation is still under “quarantine” due to the COVID virus, we still look to films and tv’s for a chance to escape. For this week, we selected the blu-ray “Skyscraper” as our means of escape from the doldrums of confined life. Skyscraper stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Neve Campbell in the principal roles. This is the 3rdfilm that I have reviewed with “The Rock” as the lead, not that his films are the best in the industry, just that he makes a lot of films, and they are entertaining in almost every case. After watching the film, Skyscraper is probably on the lower end of the “The Rock” entertainment spectrum. It has loads of action, fantastic special effects, but a cast of characters that lacks chemistry and a plot with more holes and gaps then a brick of swiss cheese. 

Speaking of the plot, what is Skyscraper about? In this film, The Rock is Will Sawyer, a Veteran and former Hostage Rescue team member who is now employed as a security consultant. His job is not really defined at this point (or really throughout the film). Is he a risk assessor, Rent-a-cop security, or in charge of a burgeoning security firm? It was kind of hard to pin down. However, his career choice is a result of a hostage negotiation/rescue gone wrong, where he and the team were either killed or wounded. In Sawyer’s case (Johnson), he lost a leg. As a Risk assessor or security specialist for his own company, his close friend and former team-mate Ben (Schreiber) sets him up with this lucrative job. In that light, Sawyer and family travel to Hong Kong to provide a security assessment of the tallest building in the world, and I think hired on as head of security (not really defined here). The Pearl, as the skyscraper is called, dwarfs anything else on the planet for it’s design, height and opulence.  Will (Johnson), his wife Sarah (Campbell) and children Georgia and Henry are also the first occupants of this monstrosity. 

Will (Johnson) gives the Pearl a passing grade, the owner Long Ji (Han) is very happy and presents Will with a tablet that is keyed to his face and gives him full control of the building and all its safety features. With the “golden ticket to the chocolate factory” in hand, Will (Johnson) and Ben (Schreiber) head out while the family goes to the zoo to see some Panda’s, the tickets which were a gift from Ben. While departing the skyscraper en-route to the off site security/control facility, Will and Ben are accosted by a thief who steals Will’s man-bag, with the hope that the tablet is contained within. A chase and scuffle ensue, however, Will (Johnson) is slowed down by his artificial limb and the miscreant escapes. During the scuffle, Will (Johnson) did not escape unscathed, and both Will (Johnson) and Ben (Schreiber) return to Ben’s place to discuss. It is at this time that the nefarious plot is revealed. Ben (Schreiber) who is working for Botha (Moller) aka the movie “bad guy” discovers that Will still has the almighty tablet that controls all and a knock-down drag out fight between the two behemoths commences. I gotta say, that these guys do a great fight sequence, both huge guys, they totally trash the place and even though Will (Johnson) is an amputee, it does little to slow him down in the fight. 

To quickly speed up with the plot summary, after finding out the Ben (Schreiber) is a bad guy, and that he (Will/Johnson) has been set up, he rushes back to the Skyscraper to see that it is on fire around the 90thfloor. Unfortunately, Will’s (Johnson) family returning back early from the Zoo are situated above the fire along with a team of nefarious individuals led by Botha (Moller), and his boss, Long Ji (Han) with his own personal staff and security. Will (Johnson) goes into “Rock” mode, battles police en-route to the Skyscraper, the bad guys, and of course the burning skyscraper itself. Along the way, we find out the cheesy reason why it was taken over and the reason behind everything that has happened to him and his family. Ultimately Will (Johnson) saves the day, his family, his boss and the building itself. 

That is Skyscraper in a nutshell without giving out too many spoilers or hints. As I mentioned before, this movie was entertaining, but not really good if you know what I mean. Of course with the Rock in a film, you will have large explosions, larger than life stunts, raised eyebrows, Bicep flexes and incredible stunts. This is what we expect in one of his films, and he delivered as always. But, and I have to say a rather large but, the plot, character development and dialogue was weak. Will Sawyer (Johnson) is what he always is, you are introduced to the reason he has all the skills in the first 5 minutes of the film (Hostage/military etc) and why he has lost one leg. The remainder of the characters are only glossed over. For example, his wife Sarah (Campbell), she is the doctor who saves him, so of course they fall in love and have a family. But that’s not all, information is later provided that she was a military doctor and did several tours of Afghanistan. That must explain her fighting skills later. The remainder of the cast is also very one-dimensional, right from the billionaire building owner (Long Ji), to his children, Ben, Botha and the Police Inspector Wu. Dialogue is pretty stilted and even kind of simplistic. 

Dwayne Johnson as Will Sawyer: As I have mentioned not only in this review but in others as well. The Rock pretty much always delivers entertainment in any film. Even when the character development is lacking or the dialogue is weak, he can still carry the film enough so that you feel that you were entertained in the end. In this film, being an amputee was another hurdle for him to battle along with the fighting etc. Some of the stunts were a little far fetched, but hey, it is the ROCK, so just shake your head, take a sip of whisky and keep watching. The stunts only get better and more far fetched, but you will have fun. Overall, he was the Rock and as always carried the film (in this case he had a lot to carry), so that you were not too disappointed, and as mentioned earlier, not one of his better films.

Neve Campbell as Sarah Sawyer: Campbell did not really have much to play with here as far as a character. As the wife and mother protector of her children she was OK. She can present a tormented face with a touch of weepiness at all times, and if required scream repeatedly. Since her heyday in Party of Five, The Scream Franchise and Wild Things, she does more guest appearances in various television shows instead of carrying a film on her own. As previously stated she was OK in this film, nothing spectacular here, but then again, she was playing against a burning skyscraper and the ROCK…kinda hard to outshine them. Overall, she is not a bad actress and I really liked some of her earlier work, and I hope to see her in more feature films as time progresses. I believe that now that she is a bit older and mature she can play a variety of roles that were previously unavailable to her. 

Chin Han as Zhao Long Ji: Not much of a character here, he is the multi-billionaire with an inferiority complex (hence the huge building). His character is one-dimensional, there is no real depth to him. He has info on the bad guy to save his building, and it appears that he would cut corners to make sure his dream was built. But other than that, not much else to him. He was far better in supporting roles, for example Dark Knight and Contagion.

Rollan Moller as Kores Botha: speaking of one dimensional characters, Moller as Botha was pretty much a cardboard cut-out of a bad guy. He had no depth, and very little screen presence. For a rip-off or homage to Die Hard as this film was, the villain could have been more like Hans Gruber to give the audience something to bite into, and maybe even cheer for the bad guy (I do this sometimes if the villain is extraordinary!).  If you watch the film, Botha (Moller) does not really do much but grimace, shoot his weapon and demand the USB key. Other than that, he is pretty useless and ends up just being a punching bag and target for Will (Johnson). 

Pablo Schreiberas Ben: A former team-mate, friend and colleague Ben is the trigger for what happens to Will Sawyer, his family and the building. Provided very little screen time, there is very little time to learn about his character besides what was just mentioned. It appears that he does have a soft spot for the family and tries to arrange an excursion for them so that they will not be present when everything goes pear-shaped. But, that is about it. His great contribution to the film is the fight that he has with Will (Johnson) in his apartment. However, as would be expected when you watch a film with the Rock, there is no chance that he will win. Not really contributing much else to the film, Schreiber’s performance definitely did not leave a lasting impression after the film was completed. 

Mckenna Roberts as Georgia Sawyer and Noah Cottrell as Henry Sawyer: As the spawn of the Sawyers, they add little to the film except prove that parents will take care of their children. I don’t remember seeing the kids in any other films, they did ok, especially with some of the action sequences, but really nothing extraordinary.  It might prove interesting to see what else they star in as they get older. 

Overall, the storyline is a melange of other films, specifically Die Hard and the Towering Inferno. However, in this case, Will Sawyer is no John McClane, Botha is not Hans Gruber, but I must say, the effects and the building itself are much better than the (1974) Towering Inferno’s office building.  Action was paramount in this film, the CGI and the stunts were great. If you are a “Die-Hard” fan of movies starring the Rock, then I would recommend this for an evenings entertainment. But only if you don’t mind a weak story line or characters, if you are not a fan…then I would move onto another film to while away your time.

Our rating: 4.5/10 (only because we are fans)

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

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson               Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, San Andreas, Rampage, Fast and Furious franchise

Neve Campbell                                     Wild Things, Scream (Franchise) The Craft

Pablo Schreiber                                    13 Hours

Chin Han                                               Contagion, The Dark Knight

Till next time!

Cast:

Bruce Willis                              Paul Kersey

Vincent D’Onofrio                     Frank Kersey

Elisabeth Shue                          Lucy Kersey

Camila Morrone                        Jordan Kersey

Dean Norris                              Detective Kevin Raines

Kimberly Elise                           Detective Leonore Jackson

Beau Knapp                              Knox

For this week, I decided to try a re-make from a classic that I watched in my childhood. In 1974, Charles Bronson was coming into his own as an action star, and the movie Death Wish was the vehicle that he used to achieve it. In a nut-shell, Death Wish tells a story of revenge. In the original, Charles Bronson, a successful architect has his life destroyed when a bunch of robbers break into his apartment, kill his wife and rape his daughter. In his grief, Kersey (Bronson) becomes a one-man vigilante squad and wreaks havoc on the underworld of New York, desperately seeking vengeance for the crimes that had befallen his family. Death Wish (1974) was a great movie for the day, it established Bronson as an action star and marketable in Hollywood films of the time. Sure, he had a few other successes as the lead prior to Death Wish, Mr. Majestyk and the Mechanic to name a few. However, he was seen more in ensemble movies (The Great Escape, Magnificent 7, The Dirty Dozen) as an added bonus to these action movies, where others had to carry the weight of the film. Death Wish started a franchise for Bronson that spanned 5 films and 2 decades. 

As Death Wish (1974) was a classic, I can see where Hollywood would like to try and re-invigorate the franchise, especially as it seems that is all Hollywood can do at this time, revive ideas and scripts, dust them off and try to modernize them for a new generation. Death Wish (2018) is another example of the latest Hollywood fad of re-imagining classics. 

The plot is almost identical to the original except it is now in Chicago vs New York, and Kersey (Willis) is an Emergency Room Surgeon vs architect. Other than those minor differences, the general idea and plot line is extremely similar. Kersey and his family (to include his brother, a new character compared to the original) go out for a family dinner. The Valet, hears a discussion that the family will all be out together the following week for Paul’s (Willis) Birthday and takes a photo of the on-board GPS family address when returning the car. Naturally, the valet is a bad guy, he gives the details to a few thugs. Meanwhile, on the birthday date in question, the celebration is curtailed as Paul (Willis) is called to work at the hospital. As the would-be robbers expect the house to be empty, they break in to rob the family of all the belongings. Enter wife and daughter (Shue and Morrone) returning from a trip to the supermarket. They encounter the robbers, a scuffle ensues and Lucy (Shue) is killed and Jordan (Morrone) is wounded and ends up in a coma. 

Paul (Willis) is distraught, Detectives Raines and Jackson (Norris and Elise respectively) who are assigned to the case have no leads and Paul (Willis) is spiralling further down. This all changes when during an emergency room scene, Paul (Willis) encounters the same valet, who is now wounded and requires assistance. A pistol drops on the ground, and one of Paul’s expensive watches is visible on the Valet’s arm. He puts 2 + 2 together and realizes that this is a key to his recovery…ok, I mean revenge. He grabs the pistol, his watch and the valet’s phone. From this point forward, Paul (Willis) starts his path as a one-man vigilante squad. He learns how to fire, clean and aim his pistol (all done by today’s teachers – Youtube!) and goes out looking for the bad guys who messed with his family and life. Along this journey he encounters several incidents where crimes are committed and takes action, killing all the bad guys, saving the day and carrying on. However, this is the 2000’s and everyone has a cell phone camera and he is recorded and uploaded to the internet for all to see. 

Coined online as the “Grim Reaper”, and looking like a slightly older version of the main character in Unbreakable (Willis as David Dunn) he stumbles around till he finds out who messed with him and exacts justice in a fashion that John McClane from Die Hard would be proud of. Throughout the film, Detectives Raines & Jackson (Norris and Elise) continue to search for the criminals in question, suspect Paul (Willis) is the Grim Reaper. However, as the “Grim Reaper” is now gaining cult-like status in Chicago, and is admired by many, (including the Detectives), Paul (Willis) gets away with murder – literally. This pretty much sums up the movie, I know that some spoilers were given, but hey, this is a remake of a 46-year-old film and does follow a typical revenge formula. Nothing is new here.

What did I like about this film? The use of Chicago as the scene instead of New York was a nice touch, specifically due to the fact that the New York of yesterday is far more violent then that of today. Chicago has replaced New York for the title of cities with the most murders. So for realism sake, this was a solid change to the plot. The movie was updated to include various changes to technology and cultural norms. For example, getting the home info from the on-board GPS on the car, photo’s/video from the phone and even the ability to learn skills from youtube. All of these enhancements helped to move this film to present day, and were done well enough to entertain yet not take away from the story. Especially if you (like me) were comparing this film to the 1974 original.

Bruce Willis as Paul Kersey: of late, Willis’ films have been rather hit and miss. When he sticks to his tried and true method of being the sarcastic hero, with one liners shooting out just as fast his guns, he is in his comfort zone. However, playing a doctor in this case, he seemed to struggle to get the feel of the role. It was not until he started playing the “Grim Reaper” that he really started to come back to normal and be the Bruce Willis that fans want to watch. Overall, he had a pretty uneven performance, but there was just enough of regular roles/mannerisms in the film to make it entertaining enough to watch through. I did like the part where in his first shoot out, he managed to get cut by the Pistol’s slide across the web of his hand. This can occur very easily with in-experienced shooters and I have seen it on several occasions at ranges myself. A little bit of realism that did cause me to laugh a little. 

Vincent D’Onofrio as Frank Kersey: This was a new character compared to the original. I have liked D’Onofrio in films ever since “Full Metal Jacket”. He is a diverse actor who can add to any film or show that he is in. In Death Wish, D’Onofrio is the brother with actually no real role. You could take him completely out of the film and it would not change one iota. With some small dialogue tweaks, his contribution to the film could be completely wiped out. One scene that D’Onofrio shares with the Detectives Rains and Jackson (Norris and Elise) is somewhat out of place. We know that he is a bit down and out on his luck and has little cash (he is the family sponge), but where was it mentioned that he was bad enough to be considered as a criminal and suspect for the vigilante (Grim Reaper) murders that were conducted. The Detectives zoom in that he is left handed and that he made him a suspect. But why? Where was the background info that would have and should have been presented to lead them to it? Maybe it was on the cutting room floor, I don’t know. I felt that his contribution to the film was minimal and his talents were wasted. He would have played the robber/scumbag far better I believe than having a down and out brother who is just hanging around the family as a sponge. 

Elisabeth Shue as Lucy Kersey: Shue pretty much had a minimal part, much like her acting roles of late.  Popular when she was much younger (Back to the Future 2 and 3, Adventures in babysitting, Karate Kid), her career kind of floundered around for years, participating in middle of the road films. As the mother Lucy (Shue), does a fair job in the short time that she has on screen. Her role is important to the motive of the vigilante and the character’s importance cannot be understated. However, with the limited on-screen time she has, it did not really leave a lasting effect. If you are a fan of Shue, consider watching “The Boys”, an amazon original where she does an excellent job as the harpy CEO who is controlling all the superheroes. 

Dean Norris as Detective Kevin Raines and Kimberly Elise as Detective Leonore Jackson: They do an fair job as police detectives who are trying to find the killers/thieves and also the “Grim Reaper”. Their characters were pretty much 1 dimensional and had no real depth, but however, in this case they did not really require it either. Norris plays pretty much the same character he plays in all films/shows. Whether he is a cop, soldier, or mayor, he often plays roles of authority, and leads/directs with a bullish attitude that he can carry off very easily. Elise played the 2ndfiddle detective as well as can be expected with the limited time she had. Nothing dramatic here, I have not seen her in too many films/shows before, but do remember her in John Q which was a great movie. 

Camila Morrone as Jordan Kersey: This was the first movie I have seen her in, and from what I have gathered, modelling was her previous profession. Her character while critical to the story (as her mother Lucy/Shue was) required very little acting or dialogue. Heck, for the most part of the film she was in a coma and just had to lie there. Mind you, the rest of her scenes were not too bad. 

Beau Knapp as Knox: Knox (Knapp) is the ringleader who set the whole ball in motion for Kersey (Willis). His portrayal of a slime ball was pretty bang on, and while watching the film you are rooting for Kersey (Willis) to make short work of him and ensure that gets smoked in a most memorable fashion. I checked his resume on IMDB, and while he has been in some shows that I have watched, he has not left an impact with either his portrayal or characters for me to remember. While no Hans Gruber (Rickman in Die Hard), Knapp in this role, and in this movie, was OK. Like I alluded to before, slimy enough to dislike him and want him gone, but nothing like some of the other villains in Bruce Willis movies of days gone by.

To sum up, Death Wish (2018) has a number of actors who have seen better days, a few fair co-stars and maybe a potential up-and comer. The film was entertaining enough to watch to the end, and did not make you think too much. Was it as good as the original…I don’t think so. It is not often when a remake out performs the original anyways. Has Bruce Willis seen better days? I think so, lately many of his movies have gone straight to video/streaming and do not even hit the theatre. In my opinion, his last good film was RED 2..and even then the first one was better. As I mentioned earlier, films where he can shoot off his mouth as fast his gun is his wheel-house. That is where his best performances are. At 64, he should be looking more at the “mentor” roles, instead of the man-of-action. But he would still be able to deliver his signature style. Of that I am sure. 

Were we entertained…yes we were, but not greatly. Would I recommend it? Hmmm..only if you are a huge fan of his and could overlook some of the issues mentioned earlier. Remember, this is no Die Hard, RED or Sin City, but you can sit there with your bourbon and pretzels and waste a few hours. However, if you liked the premise, I would recommend the original first!

Rating: 4/10

If you are looking for films with the main cast, please consider the following recommendations:

Bruce Willis                  RED, Sin City, Die Hard (1, 2 and 3), 16 Blocks, Surrogates and Looper

Elisabeth Shue              Back to the Future 2 and 3, Hollow Man, Karate Kid, The Boys, and Leaving Las Vegas

Vincent D’Onofrio         Full Metal Jacket, The Magnificent Seven (2016), and Men in Black

Dean Norris                  Under the Dome and Breaking Bad        

Cast:

Emily Blunt                               Evelyn Abbott

John Krasinski                           Lee Abbott

Millicent Simmonds                  Regan Abbott

Noah Jupe                                Marcus Abbott

For this week’s review, we decided to try a horror film. Ok, it was not a decision, it was just the next movie in the pile. Actually, “A Quiet Place” is not just horror, it is a little bit Sci-Fi and drama all rolled up into the same film. Overall we enjoyed the film, we were entertained and even in the most intense sequences we only jumped a little bit. Luckily not enough to spill any wine or snacks! Even though we enjoyed this film, there were several blatant plot holes or story inconsistencies that were hard to take, but if you overlook them, the story works out just fine. 

So what is “A Quiet Place” about you say? Well, it is the near future and our family of hero’s are living in a post apocalyptic world. The film opens in a small town where you are introduced to the Abbott family. They are in typical “post apocalypse” clothes, with the striking difference that they are all barefoot. Rummaging in a pharmacy, it is clearly evident that they are trying to keep all sounds to a minimum, however the reason is not apparent yet. Everyone is using sign language to communicate, and we can see the hearing aid device on Regan (Simmonds) to help us understand why. After getting the required medicine, they make their way out of the store, unbeknownst to his parents, the youngest is carrying a toy Space Shuttle in hand. This toy was discovered in the store by the young fellow who just wanted to play with it, however, due to the fact that it made noise, his father, Lee (Krasinski) removed the batteries from it and set it down. However, as they were leaving the store, Regan (Simmonds) gave him the toy behind her father’s back, but did not see her brother grab the batteries. This proved to be his undoing as they made their way home, barefoot, walking on a sand path. On the way home, the little guy puts the batteries back in the toy, sparks it up, lights and sirens scream out from the toy, and then the little boy becomes lunch for an alien who is attracted to the sound. Meanwhile, the rest of the family looks on in horror, unable to scream/speak etc. as they too would be killed. 

The remainder of the film outlines their life as they try to move on. We find out why they can’t talk via newspaper snippets on Lee’s (Krasinski) desk. Apparently aliens landed and attacked anything that made noise. They are armoured, do not have a known weakness and are extremely hard to kill. They have pretty much destroyed the world as we know it, and there are only pockets of humanity left. This we can deduce by fires in the distance at night. These fires represent various survivors scattered across the countryside.  

We see the family live in tension, always on guard, always quiet, always living in fear. Scared of the slightest sound that can attract the aliens, scared for the future of the unborn baby soon to arrive, basically scared of everything and just trying to eke out a living. 

Not much more to this film than what was described above. Was this film done well? People have various opinions on this, my wife and I enjoyed the film. It was wrought with tension. Every little sound would make us jump and the use of the aliens was not overly done. We (the audience) got to concentrate on the story, the acting, the cinematography. Acting in a film such as this is even more difficult as the cast could not rely on dialogue to tell the story, it was all them. Facial expressions, sign language, and human interaction were the story line. We could see the anguish in the family, feel the frustration of Regan (Simmonds) as she felt the guilt of her brother’s death, and could smell the fear of Marcus (Jupe) when he went to the river with his father. All of these feelings and sensations were brilliantly presented to the audience. As mentioned previously, every sound would make us jump, we felt for the family, we wanted them to succeed. 

Were there problems with the story/plot that were hard to overlook? Unfortunately, there were. But we managed to skim past them to enjoy the film. Some of the plot holes were huge, others not so much. The following is a list of some of the errors that we caught;

  • Power to the lights etc.: Where did this come from? It is now years past the attack and I am sure that the reactors/hydro et al were long gone. If there was a generator, it would make noise, if they covered the noise to hide the generator, then how come they were so quiet in the house. They could have done the same there. If it was solar, a quick pan across some solar panels would have explained it. Was it a cache of batteries…we don’t know. This could have been explained far better.
  • The nail on the stairs: How did it get there, a nail in a board like that would be very hard to explain, it would have the head being pulled up, not the point. If it was for a previous carpet, then it would have been smaller. A 3-inch nail is not something widely used in stairs, especially in the middle of the steps themselves. This might have been better explained/demonstrated.
  • There is a huge silo full of corn. How did they reap the harvest? There is sand on the many paths, but not in-between the corn rows. Even husking a corn cob would make noise, let alone cutting them off and filling the silo. Harvesting would be risking death in itself, let alone prepping the food for storage.
  • Why even bring another life into the world? Evelyn (Blunt) and Lee (Krasinski) decide to have another baby. You can’t control a baby. It will cry and scream any time, same as a toddler. Was it an accident? Unknown, but they spend a lot of time making the small hideout in the basement to suppress the baby’s cries, but why couldn’t they have made it larger for them to lead a comparatively normal life.
  • Alien is armoured. This is seen on Lee’s (Krasinski) white board. It gives us the impression that they are almost indestructible. Yet, in the climax, Evelyn (Blunt) takes him out with a shotgun pretty easily. So if this was the case, are you telling me that when aliens invade, we can’t kill them with all the superior weapons systems out there? Yet a pregnant lady who is scared with shotgun can do the job…another major plot hole here. 
  • Why the bare feet? They could have soft soled shoes that don’t make sound either. I have several pairs of sneakers that are probably more quiet than my bare feet…especially when we walk and I would say Owww every 10 steps. Additionally, bare feet and wearing parka’s? Everyone would be in a perpetual cold and sniffles. I am not saying that feet won’t harden up over time and you would feel less. But in the process of the hardening, many would die from screaming ouch all the time!

I am sure that there are several other problems and inconsistencies in the film that I missed. But these were the ones that jumped out at us. However, did we enjoy the film? Yes, we did. The acting was great, Krasinski and Blunt had excellent chemistry (mind you, they should as they are married in real life). The children, pretty much unknowns were very good as well. Regan (Simmonds) and Marcus (Jupe) easily conveyed the fear and angst of the world that they were living in. The cinematography was great, beautiful scenery with a post-apocalyptic flair. Krasinski, also doubling as the director did an excellent job as well with this film. 

“A Quiet Place” was set up for a sequel, and it was supposed to have been released within the last few months, however with this Covid thing going around it has been postponed till the fall. Will we see the sequel? If it is as good as the first one, we definitely will. 

If you want to see a horror film that is slightly different from the norm, check out A Quiet Place. If you can get over some of the issues mentioned above, it will entertain you, just as designed!

Our Rating: 6.5/10

If you are interested in some films from the principal characters, check out the following;

Emily Blunt                   The Devil Wears Prada, The Girl on the Train, Sicario, 

John Krasinski               Jack Ryan, 13 Hours, The Office

Cast:

Sylvester Stallone                      John Rambo

Paz Vega                                   Carmen

Sergio Peris-Mencheta              Hugo Martinez

Oscar Jaenada                           Victor Martinez

Yvette Monreal                         Gabrielle

So Saturday night arrived, and instead of reaching into my stack of unwatched blu-ray movies, we decided to find something on one of the streaming services that we subscribe to. We started with Amazon Prime (their search engines are just as crappy as Netflix by the way), and I started scanning through what was new on Prime. Well lo and behold, I came across Rambo: Last Blood. I remember last year when it had a short stint in the theatres, and was surprised that it was already on the streaming services. Hell, I had not even seen it for sale on Amazon yet, so I was pleasantly surprised. Now, I loved First Blood, it was a fantastic film that set the tone for action movies of the era and really set Stallone’s career on the action trajectory after the fan base he created in the Rocky series. Not only was it a great movie, it was also a great book by David Morrell. 

The original that started it all, had John Rambo (Stallone) a highly decorated Special Forces Vietnam Veteran come to small town USA to visit one of his Army buddies. Ushered out of town by the local Sherriff Teasel (Brian Dennehy) who took umbrage to Rambo (Stallone), with his long hair etc. This action set the scene for all of Rambo’s rage and frustration to be unleashed on the Sherriff and the unsuspecting town. Needless to say, Rambo was victorious over the Sherriff, he escaped and started a series of films in the Rambo universe (First Blood 2, Rambo 3, Rambo and now finally Rambo: Last Blood). 

However, this review is not about previous Rambo movies, it is to discuss the latest one in the Stallone Franchise. Rambo: Last Blood has to be one of the worst pieces of fecal matter that Stallone has ever produced, and this is being generous. I watched the whole film, desperately looking for something to redeem it and make me like it. Unfortunately, I could not find any redeeming feature in this film, except maybe the gratuitous violence that was present in the action sequences. 

Before I really start bashing this film, a small overview of the plot. It is 11 years after his last film and he is now living in Arizona on the family homestead with an elderly lady and her grand-daughter. The grand-daughter Gabrielle (Monreal) calls him her uncle and looks up to Rambo as a surrogate father. However, in other films I do not ever recall a scene where he mentions that he has a sister. But I watched them so long ago that I may have missed it. On the ranch, Rambo has meticulously recreated a series of tunnels under the property. These tunnels are reminiscent of the tunnels the North Vietnamese army had constructed during the Vietnam war. Contained within the tunnels as a piece of dramatic foreshadowing, is enough weapons to arm a small south American nation. To add to the tension on the homestead, Gabrielle (Monreal) is searching for her father who left when she was young. Unexpectedly, Gabrielle (Monreal) is contacted by a departed friend who is back in Mexico and has discovered where her father is and calls Gabrielle to come and see. 

Naturally Gabrielle (Monreal) makes this fateful trip, against the wishes of her grandmother and Rambo. Rambo even gives some long winded speech on how she should drop the search..yadda yadda. Yet, like all teens she does not listen and heads south. Once in Mexico, she meets up with her friend who escorts her to her father’s abode, where she discovers how much of an asshole he truly is. They subsequently go to a bar to drown their sorrows and Gabrielle (Monreal) is given a roofie and becomes part of a stable of teenage prostitutes. 

Now Rambo finds out and goes to search for her (naturally), finds her friend, pushes her to show him where she was abducted. Once there he “persuades” the scumbag who drugged his niece to tell him where she was taken. With this information in hand he arrives at the gang HQ, does a poor recon of the area and subsequently gets his ass kicked 15 ways to Sunday by the gang and its leaders. These leaders, two brothers, Victor and Hugo Martinez run this gang of sex traffickers, druggies, arms merchants and whatever else that is bad in the world. Beaten to a pulp and looking like Rocky did when he lost, Rambo (Stallone) is graciously let go by one of the brothers (Hugo) after the other (Victor) leaves his mark on his face with a bowie knife. 

Enter Carmen (Vega) a freelance journalist who is also watching the Martinez brothers (as we later learn her sister was taken and killed by them). She saves Rambo, patches him up and gives him some information on them. After a number of days, he has healed a little and goes to save his niece. (Now, at this point the movie had already exceeded my tolerance for bad, yet I kept watching.) Rambo enters the brothel where his niece was being drugged/raped, kills all kinds of guys, with a hammer no less, grabs his niece and escapes. They have some more heartwarming dialogues in the truck on the way back home, but unfortunately it was too late. Gabrielle (Monreal) succumbed to her injuries and passes away. Rambo (Stallone) takes the body home and buries her in the family graveyard, prepares his home for battle, and then returns to Mexico. With the help of Carmen, he finds Victor’s home, kills countless bad guys, decapitates Victor (Jaenada) and pretty much has demonstrated that he is still a one-man army (Even if he is 69 years old), and that he is still a force of nature to be reckoned with. 

Accepting the challenge and seeking revenge, Hugo (Peris-Mencheta) leads his gang into the US via a tunnel system that would make El Chapo envious. What is now amazing, is that most of the gang is now equipped with modern military equipment and weapons. Additionally, they are conversant with military tactics and hand signals…wow… I did not know that gang’s ran a basic training camp?  But I have digressed yet again, Hugo (Peris-Mencheta) and his gang of ne’er do-wells have a convoy of expensive SUVs and approach Rambo’s Ranch. Now remember, I did say he had enough weapons for a small army, but that’s not all! Prior to their arrival, Rambo (Stallone) has secreted weapon caches all through the ranch and tunnel complex. Installed booby-traps that were reminiscent of “Home Alone” and prepared his place for the final attack. The vehicles enter the land, some get blown up out of hand and now it looks like more bad guys than you could expect have now appeared for battle. What is the most comical is that Hugo (Peris-Menchata) decked out in black para-military equipment, sporting a man-bun (or as I call them, Millennial Mullets) leads his now crack team into battle with series of hand signals and tactical élan. 

Still not far-fetched enough for you? Rambo (Stallone) now eliminates all of Hugo’s entourage (for some reason I found more dead guys here then were actually in the trucks) and continues to taunt Hugo and swears he will rip out his heart! After about 15 minutes of fighting, with only Hugo now remaining, Rambo wounded in 2 places (shoulder and side), he corners Hugo in the barn and manages to expertly fire several arrows into him (remember he has a bullet in his shoulder and side, but can still aim and have a steady hand) thus pinning him against the wall. Think that is it? Nay Nay my friend, now Rambo is in a cheezy kung-fu film, approaches the bad guy, says some lofty crap and then stabs him in the chest, rips out Hugo’s heart and puts it still beating in his face. Wow, is that even possible? But it is ok, he is Rambo, all the bad guys are now killed, Rambo goes to his porch, sits in the rocking chair for some needed rest (he is 69 after all), reminisces about his life and then the screen pulls back…great spot to end the film (finally), but no…it is still not over. Rambo is now Shane (if you have ever watched the classic western), and he has mounted his trusty mustang and gallops off into the sunset. My god the film is now over and the punishment can cease. I still can’t believe I sat through the whole thing!             

If you have read this far, you can easily determine that I did not like this film. I am a fan of Stallone movies, I like them for what they are, and will even let some far fetched, outrageous actions go in his films. But this was the worst by far of all of his films. (Well except, Stop! Or my mother will shoot! Which was even worse). Throughout his career, Stallone has created several iconic characters (Rocky and Rambo specifically) introduced the audience to other memorable action films and ensembles (The Expendables trilogy, Tango and Cash, Demolition Man, Escape). Each series or film was memorable in their own right and provided a great deal of entertainment. Rambo: Last Blood was like a traffic accident, I had to watch to the end to see what other crap he could pull out of his proverbial butt to make this film move along. Even the fact that the extended length was 89 min in total, it was actually 88 minutes too long for my taste. I am aware that some fans of the genre and Stallone will defend this film, and that is their right. However, in this house, it was a deemed a horrible experience under the guise of trying to entertain us. 

Stallone has to accept his age and pick movies accordingly (i.e. like Clint Eastwood). He did this with Creed where he was the mentor to Apollo’s son. What could have and should have happened in this film is this: Rambo teaches his niece the skills that she would need to survive in combat, she finds out from her friend that her father is alive. She then goes to Mexico, finds her friend and meets her father (we can leave him to be an asshole here). They go to the bar to drown their sorrows, the friend is taken and put into prostitution. She goes back home, tells Rambo, he helps outfit her, they rescue the friend, and the niece does most of the fighting. On the way home, the friend can die from the injuries, bury her in the family plot and then prepare the ranch for battle. Once prepared with all the booby traps that McCauley Caulkin would want in home alone, they return to Mexico to seek revenge. She kicks proverbial ass, kills one brother and issues a challenge to the other. Rambo and niece return home and wait. When Hugo shows up with his entourage, the niece can run around like Lara Croft and wipe out most of them while Rambo is in the with a sniper rifle and detonators to fire off the explosions when needed. Rambo gives her the tactical support for Gabrielle to wipe out Hugo and his band, save the day and then both ride out into the sunset. They could even have something after the credits where his niece is now in the military and becomes the first female Special Forces operator or something, and he claps from the stands on her graduation parade. This idea/version might have been more entertaining than the fecal matter that was in this film. Oh well, I suppose he got his paycheck and moved on to the next project…hmm, maybe Rocky: The Musical? Who knows?

Anyways, our rating for Rambo: Last Blood: 2/10 (it only got the 2 stars for the action sequences, otherwise it would have been 1 star).

If you want to watch some good moviesstarring the main stars:

Sylvester Stallone                      Rocky, Rocky IV, First Blood, Rambo, The Expendables, Tango and Cash, Victory, Copland, Escape, Demolition Man

Paz Vega                                   Spanglish

Till next time!

Review: Tag (2019)

Cast:

Ed Helms                      Hogan “Hoagie” Malloy

Jon Hamm                    Bob Callahan

Annabelle Wallis           Rebecca Crosby

Jake Johnson                Randy “Chilli” Cilliano

Isla Fisher                     Anna Malloy

Hannibal Buress                        Kevin Sable

Jeremy Renner              Jerry Pierce

Leslie Bibb                    Susan Rollins

Rashida Jones               Cheryl Deakins

As mentioned previously in reviews, Friday and Saturday are the nights that we watch movies instead of the various series and programs that proliferate cable and streaming services. With COVID news dominating the television lately, we wanted to watch something that was silly and entertaining. A movie that would be fun enough to make us laugh and not think about the plot, characters, or “how did they do that”, just a film that we could laugh and enjoy. I looked through the stack of unwatched films, and saw TAG! I figured that this movie would fit the bill.

What is TAG about? This comedy is loosely based on a true story of a bunch of men who had been playing the same game of TAG for 30 years. You would think that such a poor idea would not be well suited for a film, but alas, you would be wrong. This film centres on a group of middle age “adolescent” men who have been playing the same game of TAG for decades. For one month every year, the last person who was “IT” must search out his friends to TAG them. Nothing is sacred, and no plan is too lame for these men as they pursue each other. However, they have one mutual goal, that is to Tag Jerry Peirce (Renner). Jerry’s (Renner) claim to fame is that he has never been tagged in the history of their game. Jerry (Renner) is elusive, faster, agile, and more strategic than any of the other players, and has also taken great pride in the fact that he has never been IT! 

To give the outline of the film, as well as an outline can be given in a film like this; Hoagie (Helms), opens the film as he plans a surprise Tag on his friend Bob Callahan (Hamm) at his company. Callahan (Hamm) is the CEO of his own company and is in the process of getting interviewed for a major magazine by Rebecca Crosby (Wallis), when a janitor enters the conference room and the mayhem begins. The janitor is Hoagie (Helms) and the game of Tag starts again for another season. In short order they gather the rest of the crew from various cities and situations. The remainder are Chilli (Johnson) and Sable (Buress). The four men with the reporter (Wallis) and Hoagie’s wife, Anna (Fisher) in tow, head to their home town. Once home, they meet in Hoagie’s (Helms) basement to plan out their strategy. Of all the players, Hoagie (Helms) and his wife Anna (Fisher) are the most intense in the pursuit of Jerry (Renner), while the remainder of the crew are just in it for the fun, or the story, in the case of the reporter, Rebecca (Wallis). 

Shortly after arriving to their home town, the crew discover that Jerry is soon to be married. The marriage preparation and ceremony is where they feel that they would be best placed to finally tag Jerry (Renner). Several attempts to tag Jerry (Renner) soon follow, and it is discovered that Susan (Bibb), Jerry’s bride to be is pregnant. The crew are invited to the wedding, however, there are conditions that the game is not to interfere with the wedding in any way shape or form. Through these misadventures in tagging we meet several other characters, the loser bartender who always wanted to be part of the game (Lou Seibert played by Steve Berg) and a lost love of Bob (Hamm) and Chilli (Johnson) by the name of Cheryl Deakins (Rashida Jones). Throughout the film, each attempt to Tag Jerry (Renner) becomes more outlandish than the previous. Jerry (Renner) escapes each attempt with style and panache, further antagonizing his friends. It is not till the end of the film, where a secret is revealed by Hoagie (Helms) that he finally allows himself to be tagged.

TAG’s cast is littered with celebrities of various calibers. However, this ensemble works! Let’s start with Hoagie (Helms). He is a comedic actor with a prolific resume. Helms has either supported or led in many successful films or television shows. For example, his performances in The Office, We’re the Millers, and the Hangover Trilogy are hilarious. In this film, he also brings his comic intensity to the forefront. He is the ringleader of this game, his antic made me laugh out loud at times…everything from his costumes to his facial expressions added to the jocularity of the film. 

Jon Hamm as Bob Callahan: For me, Jon Hamm will always be known as Don Draper from Mad Men. He was the booze swilling, girl chasing, misogynist with a brilliant mind for advertising. However, of late, he has been delving more and more into comedic roles. In TAG, he plays more of a straight man with some well timed dead-pan wit. Even his physical humour has stepped up, for example, in the boardroom where Hoagie believes that he is trapped. Callahan (Hamm) picks up a chair and throws at a window so that he can make his escape, yet, the chair bounces back and knocks him on his head. Yes, another laugh out loud moment for something slapstick. Not only is he integral to the game, plot and the soon to be published story by the intrepid reporter Rebecca Crosby (Wallis), his whole character adds to the film. His portrayal of Callahan was excellent, and I look forward to seeing him in more comedic roles instead of just commercials for “skip the dishes” and smaller roles in other comedies (i.e. Bridesmaids). 

Annabelle Wallis as Rebecca Crosby: As mentioned previously, Wallis is the reporter who is doing a background on Callahan (Hamm) for her magazine. Once introduced to TAG as a witness in the aforementioned boardroom scene, she decides to “tag” along if you will to see the outcome. Using her shrewd investigative skills (and because it is in the script) she follows Callahan et al along for the ride and subsequently writes a story on the whole game. At first Wallis seemed to be new to my wife and I as an actress, however, her face was familiar. Little did we know that she had been in a number of films and tv shows that we had previously watched and enjoyed. For us, her most memorable role was that of Jane Seymour in “The Tudors”. However, we had also seen her in various other films, King Arthur, The Mummy and the show Strike Back. 

Jake Johnson as Randy “Chilli” Cilliano: Chilli is the group’s drug addled friend. Life is easy, just go with it, as long as the pipe and drugs are nearby to give a good buzz. Chilli can represent someone in any group of friends from childhood and is very relatable character. Johnson’s version of Chilli is entertaining and light and leads to some funny scenes amongst the group. Even though Johnson has been around for awhile and has an impressive resume, we have only really taken notice of him lately in “Stumptown”. He is a solid actor and routinely gives credible performances. Chilli was a value added character who helped to provide levity throughout the film. 

Isla Fisher as Anna Malloy: Anna (Fisher) is Hoagie’s wife and matches his intensity and devotion to the game. As the willing accomplice to any endeavour, she cheerleads from the side to give her husband the confidence and impetus to succeed. A very intense actress, Fisher can transit from playing the devoted wife, the nymphomaniac bridesmaid to be, or shopaholic with ease.  However, comedy is her strong suit and this is where she excels the most. We enjoyed her contribution to this film and are looking forward to more comedies with Isla as part of the cast. 

Hannibal Buress            as Kevin Sable: Sable was the neurotic friend, constantly looking for reassurance and compassion where there was none to give. While part of the core cast, we found his contributions to be minimal compared to the rest. He was often used to provide background info or just be a filler in the story between action scenes. 

Jeremy Renner as Jerry Pierce: Jerry (Renner) was the principal antagonist of the film, he had the swagger, speed and arrogance required to effectively carry off the part. Renner, normally an action/drama star (The Hurt Locker, The Town, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, The Avengers, and the Bourne Legacy to name but a few) rarely forays into comedic roles. However, as part of the ensemble here, he easily represents the target of their combined angst. His inherent mischievousness that is evident in every role he plays really shines through. A very physical actor (as demonstrated by his resume), he easily convinces the audience that he can out-manoeuvre any attempt at capture. Renner’s portrayal as Jerry was fun to watch, especially when he would do his “Pre-action” narration prior to any activity or evasion. 

Leslie Bibb as Susan Rollins and Rashida Jones as Cheryl Deakins: Both actress’s roles were really minor in my opinion. They were relegated to minor love interests and only assisted in a very minor fashion to the telling of the story. Susan (Bibb) as the bride to be was in important to the story, but her contribution was actually relatively minor. Sure, she played the fake pregnancy card and laid out some rules, but other than that, she was relegated to minor status. Cheryl (Jones) contribution was even less so. While part of a love triangle between Chilli, Callahan and herself as children, this part could have been erased completely with no real difference to the film’s outcome. She seemed to be added to the film due to the fact that she had so much history with the other cast members. Ok, she was a bit funny, not overly so, but again, this character could have been removed with no real impact to the film’s outcome. 

We did watch the bonus extras of the film where the real participants of TAG were interviewed and reminisced, so that did help in the overall appreciation of the film and provided a bit of the back story. Did we enjoy this film? Yes, we did. It was funny, silly and totally brainless. In this time of global stress and angst, this film was a small escape. All you had to do is cue up the film, open a bottle of Pinot Grigio (this is not a serious film, so something light is required), make some popcorn and sit and enjoy the ride. Remember, this is no work of art, but you will be entertained, you will laugh and will have a chance to escape reality just for a little bit and remember what it was like to be carefree as a child.

Our rating: 5/10

If you are interested in other films/TV shows by the principal characters, consider the following:

Ed Helms                      We’re the Millers, The Office, The Hangover trilogy

Jon Hamm                    Bridesmaids, Mad Men, Richard Jewell, Million Dollar Arm

Annabelle Wallis           The Mummy, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Jake Johnson                Stumptown, New Girl

Isla Fisher                     Wedding Crashers, The confessions of a shopaholic 

Jeremy Renner              The Avengers, The Hurt Locker, The Bourne Legacy, American Hustle