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Review: The Mule (2018)


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)


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!

Review: Robin Hood (2018)


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!

Review: Papillion (2017)


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