Was I Entertained? (64)

Cast:

Rami Malek                              Freddie Mercury

Lucy Boynton                            Mary Austin

Gwilym Lee                               Brian May

Ben Hardy                                Roger Taylor

Jospeh Mazzello                        John Deacon

Aidan Gillen                              John Read

Tom Hollander                          Jim Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Rating: 8/10

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

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

Lucy Boynton                Murder on the Orient Express

Ben Hardy                    6 Underground, X-Men Apocalypse                    

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

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

Till Next Time!

Cast:

Gerard Butler                John Garrity

Morena Baccarin           Allison Garrity

Roger Dale Floyd           Nathan Garrity

Scott Glenn                   Dale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our rating: 5/10

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

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

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

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

Cast:

Tom Holland                             Peter Parker/Spider-Man

Samuel L. Jackson                     Nick Fury

Jake Gyllenhaal                         Quentin Beck/Mysterio

Marisa Tomei                            May Parker

Jon Favreau                              Happy Hogan

Zendaya                                   MJ

Jacob Batalon                           Ned Leeds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our rating: 7/10

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till next time!

Cast:

Aml Ameen                               Remy Darbonne

Rhea Seehorn                           Dr. Brynn Stewart

Roxanne Mckee                        Ariella Barash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our rating 2.5/10

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

The Italian Job (1969)

Heist (2001)

Logan Lucky (2017)

The Usual Suspects (1995)

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Till next time!

Cast:

Woody Harrelson                      Tallahassee

Jesse Eisenberg                         Columbus

Emma Stone                             Wichita

Abigail Breslin                           Little Rock

Zoey Deutch                             Madison

Avan Jogia                                Berkeley

Rosario Dawson                        Nevada

Luke Wilson                              Albuquerque

Thomas Middleditch                 Flagstaff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our score: 6/10

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

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

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

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

Abigail Breslin                           Zombieland, Enders Game, Definitely Maybe.

Zoey Deutch                             Before I fall, Dirty Grandpa

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

Wishing everyone a great 2021 and till the next time!

Review: Creed 2 (2019)

Cast:

Michael B. Jordan                     Adonis Johnson

Sylvester Stallone                      Rocky Balboa

Tessa Thompson                       Bianca

Phylicia Rashad                         Mary Anne Creed

Dolph Lundgren                        Ivan Drago

Florian Munteanu                     Viktor Drago

Russell Hornsby                        Buddy Marcelle

Brigitte Nielsen                         Ludmilla

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Rating: 5/10

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

Michael B. Jordan                     Fahrenheit 451, Black Panther, Creed

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

Tessa Thompson                       Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Endgame, Westworld

Dolph Lundgren                        Rocky IV, The Expendables, Universal Soldier

Till Next Time and Merry Christmas!

Cast:

Himesh Patel                            Jack Malik

Lily James                                 Ellie Appleton

Joel Fry                                     Rocky

Kate McKinnon                         Debra Hammer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Rating: 7/10

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

Himesh Patel                            Aeronauts

Lily James                                 Downton Abbey

Joel Fry                                     Game of Thrones

Kate McKinnon                         Saturday Night Live, Office Christmas Party

Cast:

Jason Clarke                  Louis

Amy Seimetz                 Rachel

John Lithgow                Jud

Jete Laurence               Ellie

Obssa Ahmed               Victor Pascow

Cast:

Taron Egerton                           Elton John

Jamie Bell                                 Bernie Taupin

Richard Madden                       John Reid

Bryce Dallas Howard                 Sheila

Steven Mackintosh                    Stanley

Review: Shaft (2019)

Cast:

Samuel L. Jackson                     John Shaft

Jessie T. Usher                          JJ Shaft

Richard Roundtree                    John Shaft Sr. 

Regina Hall                               Maya Babanikos

Alexandra Shipp                        Sasha Arias

Review: Us (2019)

Cast:

Lupita Nyong’o                         Adelaide Wilson/Red

Winston Duke                           Gabe Wilson/Abraham

Elisabeth Moss                          Kitty Tyler/Dahlia

Tim Heidecker                           Josh Tyler/Tex

Shahadi Wright Joseph              Zora Wilson/Umbrae

Evan Alex                                  Jason Wilson/Pluto

Cast:

Jamie Foxx                    Art

Joseph Gordon-Levitt    Frank

Dominique Fishback      Robin

Cast:

Elizabeth Banks                         Tori Breyer

David Denman                          Kyle Breyer

Jackson A. Dunn                        Brandon Breyer

Matt Jones                                Noah McNichol

Meredith Hagner                      Merilee McNichol

Cast:

Kevin James                  Sam Larson/Mason Carver

Kim Coates                   President Miguel Cueto

Maurice Compte           Juan

Zulay Henao                  Rosa Bolivar

Andrew Howard            Anton Masovich

Yul Vazquez                  General Javier Ruiz

Andy Garcia                  El Toro

Rob Riggle                    William Cobb

Leonard Earl Howze      Micheal Cleveland

Ron Rifkin                     Amos

Review: Aladdin (2019)

Cast:

Will Smith                                 Genie

Mena Massoud                         Aladdin

Naomi Scott                              Jasmine

Marwan Kenzari                        Jafar

Navid Negahban                       Sultan

Nasim Pedrad                           Dalia

Cast:

Michael Ealy                             Scott

Joseph Sikora                            Mike

Meagan Good                           Annie

Alvina August                            Rachel

Dennis Quaid                            Charlie Peck

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

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

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

Cast:

Charlie Hunnam                        Henri Charriere (Papillon)

Rami Malek                              Louis Dega