Was I Entertained? (85)

Cast:

Robert De Niro                          Max Barber

Tommy Lee Jones                      Duke Montana

Morgan Freeman                      Reggie Fontaine

Zach Braff                                 Walter Creason

Emile Hirsch                              James Moore

Kate Katzman                           Megan Albert

Another weekend has arrived and we decided to take a break from all of our renovations and enjoy a film. Sure, we have watched some in the last few weeks, but I have not had the energy to take up the keyboard and write a review. For example, we watched a few half decent films that I would recommend i.e. Spiderman: No way home and Army of the Dead. Both were pretty good films if you are into the genre. This week we wanted to try something that was not a superhero film, or a zombie slasher (Finding films that are not the aforementioned are becoming harder and harder these days).

So with that in mind, we started scanning what Amazon Prime had to offer. We came across the “The Comeback Trail” starring 3 of our favourite actors, specifically, Tommy Lee Jones, Robert De Niro and Morgan Freeman. With a cast like that, how can you lose! We poured the wine and started the film. 

Now you may wonder, what is the “The Comeback Trail” about? It is a light-hearted comedy about a down and out movie producer, Max Barber (De Niro) and his nephew Walter Creason (Braff) who are struggling to stay afloat. Their company, Miracle pictures makes nothing but duds, they owe money to the local gangster, Fontaine (Freeman), and no matter what they do, they can’t seem to get a break. 

They do have one ace up their sleeve, and that is a script that one of Barber’s (De Niro) old protégés, Moore (Hirsch) wants for his own movie company and is willing to give them a lot of money for the it. This cash will not only pay off their debt to the local crime lord, but give them enough money to really make something. Barber (De Niro) does not want to part with this script as it is his one true project that he knows will make it big. However, he feels that is he is up against a wall. That is, until he figures out that if he insures his actor for a film and that individual dies, they can collect a payday from the insurance company.

So after a humorous trip to an retirement home for actors, they come across Duke Montana (Jones), a washed up actor who did primarily westerns and is now relegated to cheap used car commercials. What makes Montana perfect for Barber was that they caught him in the act of attempting suicide. After convincing Montana (Jones) to join the project, as in Barbar’s mind this was almost a win-win for both. Montana (Jones) could die, and he would get the insurance money. 

Barber (De Niro) at this point becomes almost Machiavellian, he finds an old movie set, talks Fontaine (Freeman) into fronting more money, and hires an inexperienced Director, and finally selects the worst script in his office to produce. All these things are in place, he is positive that he will succeed in his plan.

At this point, act 2 of the film commences. From here on out, it sort of reminded me of Wiley Coyote and Roadrunner from the old looney tune cartoons. No matter what Barber (De Niro) tried to do to end Montana (Jones) life, it always backfired and Barber would either be the recipient of the plan or an awesome scene would be shot for the film. I won’t go into it any further, but needless to say, everyone wins in the end of this film and a few laughs are had along the way.

So, what did we like about the film: Basically everything; it is light, takes nothing serious, takes a few potshots at the Hollywood establishment, and has some really good actors in the key roles. Of course, this is not an Oscar nominee or even capable of remotely winning an award, it is just a nice way to pass a few hours and enjoy a laugh or three. The premise while thin and not really complicated is enjoyable, and the actors all have a great chemistry with each other. While we are on the subject of cast, lets look at the main stars of “The Comeback Trail”.

Robert De Niro as Max Barber: De Niro is a family favourite. I am hard pressed to find a film with him in it that I don’t like. Even when he was with Efron in Dirty Grandpa, I thought he was hilarious. He has embraced his age and continues to act accordingly. Not like some former action stars who try to make us believe that at the tender age of 70, they can still kick ass like there is no tomorrow. In “The Comeback Trail” De Niro gave an amusing performance that allowed you to escape for a few hours. Yes, the scenes were at times cartoonish, and the plot thin, but at least it feels slightly original and it did not have a superhero dropping into a three-point stance before a fight. Those facts alone made it enjoyable. His chemistry with his co-stars, especially Jones was great! To us, this was another good performance by De Niro, while it was not the calibre of Deer Hunter, Goodfellas etc, it was still an enjoyable watch.

Tommy Lee Jones as Duke Montana: As with De Niro and Freeman, we are really big fans of Jones. For the most part he makes really good movies and his characters are stellar. He has also embraced his age and this role was perfect for him. As the down and out Western actor, he portrayed the character to a tee! He was extremely believable in the role, and his dead pan delivery of lines added to the humour in all scenes. His chemistry with all his co-stars was great, and really added to the films enjoyment. We really liked Jones in this role and hope to see him in similar ventures in the future.

Morgan Freeman as Reggie Fontaine: Even though Freeman’s role as Fontaine was not really given much screen time, his character was integral to the plot. As the friendly neighbourhood gangster, Freeman managed to convey the seriousness of De Niro’s predicament without going over the top. He also managed to have a few one liners to make you laugh and further enjoy his presence. Great chemistry between the two main actors. As with De Niro and Jones, not his best performance, but still a nice addition to his resume. A thoroughly enjoyable role and character.

Zach Braff as Walter Creason: While I am not a fan of Braff and have only seen him in a few roles, I found his contribution to be ok. As a supporting character and role, his contribution was important but not in such a way to make him a vital actor in this production. For some reason, he really reminds me of Ray Romano and I found it hard to watch this without thinking it should be Romano delivering the lines…who knows, maybe it would have been better with him in it? 

Emile Hirsch as James Moore: Another actor that I really don’t care for, Hirsch’s performance while adequate provides the impetus for the Barber (De Niro) and his plan for a future. Personally I found the character annoying, but I am sure that is what the director/writer was going for. So in that case, maybe it was a better performance than I gave him credit for. 

Kate Katzman as Megan Albert: Katzman was new to me and even when checking IMDB, I confirmed that there was no role/character/show that she had taken part of that I had seen in the past. However, having said all that, we liked her character. It fit with the plotline and tone of the film. She did an admirable job playing against the major stars that she was supporting. We look forward to seeing her in future productions.

Now comes the question, were we entertained? Yes, we were. “The Comeback Trail” is a light film with enough laughs to keep you going. Even though it reminded us of a cartoon, specifically the Coyote and Roadrunner with all the botched attempts, it’s plot was somewhat refreshing and enjoyable. While this is not an Oscar or award contender by any stretch of the imagination, it still made us laugh and escape for a few hours. One thing we really liked about this film was that people played the ages that they are, not what they wished they were. Would we recommend this film? Hell yes! Especially if you are a fan of light comedies and the three principal stars! No doubt in my mind that you will get a kick out of it as much as we did!

Our rating: 5/10

If you are interested in any reviews of films that have the principal cast, please check out the following Reviews on “Was I Entertained”.

Robert De Niro              The Irishman

Morgan Freeman          The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard

Till Next Time!

Cast:

Chris Pratt                    Owen Grady

Bryce Dallas Howard     Claire Dearing

Laura Dern                    Ellie Sattler

Sam Neill                      Alan Grant

Isabella Sermon            Maisie Lockwood

Campbell Scott             Lewis Dodgson

Jeff Goldblum               Ian Malcolm

Dewanda Wise              Kayla Watts

Mamoudou Athie          Ramsey Cole

Recently we went to COSTCO to pick up a few things…hundreds of dollars later we departed with not only everything we did not need (also forgetting to pick up what we went there for), but we also bought a package for the local cineplex at a discount. Our intent at the time was to see the upcoming new TOP GUN movie with it. So, Top Gun: Maverick is in our local theatre, we wait a few weeks for the crowds to subside a bit and make the walk over to the film. Even though it was playing in two screens within a half hour of each other, we could not get any seats. So, we looked at the marquee and decided on the latest Jurassic Park film. Jurassic World Dominion (JWD) to be exact. While it was not the reason why we went to the cinema (just like COSTCO), it was still a worthwhile choice. JWD is the sixth outing in this series and combines the principal characters from the 2 trilogies. 

This sixth and final film takes place 4 years after the destruction of Isla Nublar. Dinosaurs have pretty much expanded to live all over the world and are now co-existing with humans in a not so pretty balance. As is typical in this type of film besides demonstrating the good side of humanity that tries its best to co-exist with nature (morphed as it is) we also see the seedy underbelly as well. For example, we are introduced to the typical corporate greed storyline; i.e. the evil company (Biosyn) who is mutating locusts to a prehistoric version that will only eat wheat that is not of their manufacture, or to the cage fighting of smaller dinosaurs in gambling dens. As I said, the good and bad of humanity. 

For the first act of the film, we are basically re-introduced to all the principal characters from the Jurassic Park franchise. We find Grady (Pratt), Dearing (Howard) and Maisie (Sermon) living in the woods. The primary reason is to protect Maisie from the aforementioned evil companies and various bad-guys who would do her harm as she is a clone of Dr. Lockwood’s daughter, one of the founders of the original Jurassic Park. They are living in the woods, trying to keep a low profile, but as Maisie (Sermon) is now a teenager, and we all know how teenagers act, she does not follow the rules and just wants to go into town and explore. Grady (Pratt) and Dearing (Howard) are trying to do their best to raise her, while still fulfilling their own personal agendas. Dearing (Howard) and followers are having their own private war against Biosyn and what their doing to the dinosaurs and Grady (Pratt), is pretending he is a member of the Yellowstone cast as he gallops around the countryside hogtieing and lassoing the various wild dinosaurs.

Concurrently, we find Sattler (Dern) and Grant (Neill) reunite on a prehistoric dig. The reason for the reunion is that Sattler (Dern) has been involved in studying prehistoric locust who are decimating the food supply of the world…yet leaving anything Biosyn alone. She (Dern) is requesting Grant’s (Neill) help in finding evidence that Biosyn is behind this invasion of Locusts. 

So while the main characters are in the same film, they are actually following two separate storylines that we just know will intersect sometime further along. It is at this point we see poor Maisie (Sermon) kidnapped by some ne’er do wells who are in the employ of Dodgson (Scott) the CEO of Biosyn. So what we have here for the storylines are Sattler (Dern) and Grant (Neill) trying to pin Biosyn with creating a toxic Locust swarm and trying to save their day, and Grady (Pratt) and Dearing (Howard) traveling to Biosyn to save their adopted daughter Maisie (Sermon). Biosyn is the common thread, and it is there that they also all meet up with Malcolm (Goldblum) who is under the employ of Biosyn. All in all, a kind of twisted, intricate plot that will try and connect together in a reasonable and buyable conclusion. I won’t give out any more of the plot, needless to say, there is a lot of action, a plethora of dinosaurs (both new and old), chases, special effects and general mayhem throughout the film. 

So, what did we like about the film you ask? In the case of Jurassic World Dominion, we have almost as many likes as dislikes, but let’s start with the like portion.

  1. The return of Dern, Neill and Goldblum to the franchise. The three of them embodied what was great about the series. All solid actors with incredible resumes. You can see the chemistry between them at all times, and they still manage to take a weak script and make it enjoyable.
  2. Cinematography – We loved all the scenes in Malta, (primarily as it was one of our favourite holiday places), each scene brought back a memory of when we there and we both would point at the screen when certain sights/places would go by. The dinosaurs running around actually interrupted our memories!
  3. The Animatronics’ and CGI were also first rate as what would be expected from this franchise. We enjoyed when all the dinosaurs were active in the film, there were just not enough scenes with them in it.
  4. The additions to the franchise of Athie and Wise. They were both excellent supporting actors and I enjoyed their parts as well as their interaction with the main cast. 
  5. Homages to previous films – I also enjoyed the several touches to previous films in the series. i.e. The shaving cream can, several quotes and scene repeats. However, at times the repetitive scenes were getting a tad old, so it was a dangerous game to keep revisiting the same sequences that were used so well before. 
  6. D. Wong – on a smaller scale, seeing Wong again as the confused scientist who realizes what he had done was enjoyable as well. Even if his portion of the storyline was a little skewed.

Things that could have been done better.

  1. Script and plot – These were both very weak. At points it seems that the script was written by a child, especially where the villain was concerned. His dialogue and part were in my opinion, almost infantile. The special effects did not really enhance the story, i.e. the flaming locusts, but it rather provided a distraction from how weak it was. The plot holes and inconsistencies were so numerous it was hard to count. In one breath, it is said how dangerous all the creatures are, the next breath, we are seeing a cheap version of fight club with the dinosaurs. So they are extremely dangerous, yet some idiot can have some for pit fights. I was also amazed that a Yellowstone wanna be, was able to take down a huge dinosaur with only a trusty lasso and trained horse…come on, some things go just beyond believable.
  2. The Villain, Dodgson (Scott) was horrible. As I just mentioned, his dialogue was extremely weak, and he did not come across as a villain at all…more like a petulant child. I don’t know if this is the actor’s fault or that of direction/script, but it was horrible. 
  3. The over use of the outstretched hand – Ok, this started to annoy me about ¾ of the way through the film. I was just sick of that movement. It was used far too much and when they all do it near the end…it was actually a head smack moment.
  4. Overuse of previous film moments and blatantly stealing concepts from other films – it was ok to see a few scenes of homage to previous films in the series, but it was way overdone, and at some times ludicrous. So while I got a kick of seeing the shaving cream container from the first film, lets be realistic. That container was covered in mud etc, and no one knew where it ended up, so how could he have it in the office…another WTF moment. Also, some scenes I felt like we were in different films i.e. Fight Club, Star Wars, Fast and the Furious…to many ideas were stolen or repeated.
  5. Not enough Dinosaurs – This whole franchise was about dinosaurs being reborn. Yet they actually had minimal screen time. You think it would have been more prevalent within the film. While on the subject of dinosaurs, it was always great to watch them break the law of physics and nature, but that’s ok, it did make it or action packed sequences (even if realistically it would not make sense).

That’s enough what I found was lacking in the film as far as major points. Now lets look at the cast:

Chris Pratt as Owen Grady: I like Pratt in most films, and I even liked him in this one. Not his fault if the script or storyline was weak. He is another actor who has been around it seems forever and has been in so many projects that you actually forgot him and how long he has been acting. Personally, it was not until Zero Dark Thirty that I started to remember who he was. (I know for others it is more Parks and Recreation, but I was not a fan of that show). I also think that for most people, it was not until his inclusion in the MCU as Peter Quill/Starlord that his career really took off. The Jurassic Park franchise really helped his status in Hollywood as one of the new a-listers. In JWD, he had enough action and comedic sequences to keep you entertained, and keep watching, even with the weak dialogue etc. As I previously mentioned, I got really sick of the outstretched hand with every dinosaur as I felt that sequence was way overused in this film. Was it a great performance for him…not really, but it was not horrible either. At least this film wrapped up a franchise and/or trilogy so the chances of him joining another JP film should be minimal. For further reviews on Chris Pratt films, see my review of the Tomorrow War

Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing: Here is another case of an actress who I had to look up and find out where I had seen her before. Howard has been around far longer than most people would imagine, in predominately small roles. In the first film of this trilogy, I really got to like her character, and her as an actress. However, as the trilogy continued, I liked the character less and less. She was stronger in the first film than in this one, in my opinion. In JWD, she comes across strong at the start while she and her followers invade a company to investigate the illegal use of the new dinosaurs, and that just falls to crap as she then converts to basically a weeping mother throughout the rest of the film. Even though her chemistry with other cast members was adequate, it did not do enough to save her in this role. As with Pratt, not her best film. 

Laura Dern as Ellie Sattler: Dern is a family favorite, she has been around for ever and is an extremely talented actress. Her chemistry with Grant (Neill) is awesome. It was a real pleasure to see her back in the Jurassic Park franchise and have her reunite with Neill. In this film, her chemistry really comes forward with her co-stars and it actually demonstrates what all fans of the original movie wanted to see – and that was Sattler and Grant ending up together. A fine performance from Dern in a rather weak film. 

Sam Neill as Alan Grant: My opinion of Neill is much like that of Dern. A family favourite who has been in such great roles throughout his career.  I think the first film I saw with him was “Dead Calm (1987)” with Billy Zane and Nicole Kidman, and I thought that he was pretty good. Then came “Hunt for Red October” where he also excelled as a co-star. In the years that past, we saw him in numerous films and shows that displayed his talent on both the large and small screen i.e Jurassic Park, Event Horizon, Merlin, Tudors to name but a few. In JWD, I found his talent to be present as always, his only limitations were that of script and scenes that are ultimately beyond his control. As with Dern, his chemistry with her was fantastic and he actually played the ageing Professor just as I imagined he would act. In this film, I only wish they gave Dern and Neill more leeway with their characters, as I am sure it would have undoubtedly enhanced the film. 

Isabella Sermon as Maisie Lockwood: While the character of Maisie is integral to the storyline of JWD, I did not really find her character engaging. Mind you, she is still very new in the business and her only credits to date are those with the Jurassic World franchise (2). Her chemistry with her principal co stars of Howard and Pratt was pretty good and believable. I am curious to see what she does next. 

Campbell Scott as Lewis Dodgson: Scott playing the principal villain of this film was basically just a time vampire. He would steal time from other worthwhile characters without really contributing to the film writ large. You could have put the villain as some kind of anonymous entity that no one really saw and it would have actually enhanced the film. I had to look at his resume to see what he had done in the past. While he looked familiar, nothing stood out. I was completely surprised at the volume of Scott’s work according to IMDB. The only thing that sort of came to mind was his character in Spider Man. With respect to JWD, his character as written was weak and had no real depth. This is probably not the fault of the actor, but that of writer/director. But needless to say, this was not a very good role, probably for any actor/actress.

Jeff Goldblum as Ian Malcolm: Another iconic actor, Goldblum has been involved with some of Hollywood’s best films over the years. He returned to the role of Malcolm like a person putting on a comfortable glove. He continued his role and character just as any fan would imagine. Demonstrating great chemistry with his old co-stars of Dern and Neill, and also the same with Athie was enjoyable to watch. A talented actor who adds to any project that he has been involved with. The character of Malcolm while clichéd overall, is still an enjoyable experience on the big screen. 

Dewanda Wise as Kayla Watts: This character was new and a surprise for us. Watts (Wise), the mercenary pilot who was supposed to be one of the bad guys, yet becomes good. This is another case that Wise was familiar but couldn’t put my finger on it. According to IMDB, she has been around awhile, but for the most part has played more on the smaller screen. She has been a guest on many of the shows that I have liked over the years, “The Twilight Zone, Underground, The Mentalist, Boardwalk Empire and the Good wife” to name but a few. I enjoyed how she portrayed her inner turmoil as she made the decision to help our heroes, while still maintaining the “toughness” that she tried to exude in her character. I really hope that she gets some larger roles in the future as I believe that she has great potential. This was probably a good role for her to give maximum exposure for her talents.

Mamoudou Athie as Ramsey Cole: Cole (Athie) was the hand picked protégé/assistant to Scott’s Dodgson. He portrayed the right amount of subservience to trick Dodgson in the end. I really liked his character in this film. Another relative newcomer, I had only seen him in “The Circle” which I had previously reviewed, albeit he was in a minor role in that film. I enjoyed his role and his character and I really look forward to seeing him in future productions/roles.

So now comes the ultimate question, were we entertained? Yes, we were. Jurassic World Dominion is not a great film, but it is one that you can sit back and enjoy on a hot summer night. Watching this film on a big screen is a must as smaller screens will not do the special effects and animatronics the justice it deserves. Yes, the film has plot holes bigger than a brontosaurus, but it is still enjoyable nonetheless. If you are a fan of the franchise and the stars, then yes please go see this film. But really only to bring the series to a finale. The film may be the weakest in the franchise, but it does close some loops, bring the two trilogies together, and also to show the latest in special effects. If you are not a great fan, then give this a pass and try to go see Top Gun like we did!

Our rating: 5.5/10

Till next time!

Cast:

Scarlett Johansson                    Natasha Romanoff

Florence Pugh                           Yelena Belova

David Harbour                          Alexei

Rachel Weisz                            Melina

Ray Winstone                           Dreykov

Olga Kurylenko                         Antonia

William Hurt                             Secretary Ross

We finally regained power after a massive storm that wiped out most of the power grid in Eastern Ontario, we decided it was time to watch a good movie. One that both my wife and I would find entertaining. With that in mind, we went to the MC universe to find something that we had not yet watched. Black Widow seemed to fit the bill for this evenings entertainment. While this film was released last year, it was postponed several times due to the COVID pandemic so it was at least a year or so in the “can” prior to hitting the big screen.

There are currently 28 films in the MCU with at least 11 more in various stages of development. This film, the 24th in the series takes place shortly after Captain America: Civil War, and it does include some “Black Widow origin” material as well in the form of flashbacks. 

The film starts with a typical U.S. Midwestern scene, two young girls, a mother, and a father. Dad comes home for dinner and announces that the family must depart on an adventure. Everyone rushes to the car leaving everything behind as they race to a small private airstrip where a small Cessna is waiting. Just as they board, we can hear sirens in the distance as a bevy of police cars approach and try to block this seeming innocent families escape. After a typical shoot-out that results in many cars shot-up, blown up and/or wrecked, our family flies away with the father hanging onto the wing. What was interesting to note was that we, the audience, discover that the father has some pretty strong muscles that are reminiscent of other superheroes in the MCU. They land in Cuba, and our suspicions are confirmed. This was a Russian family that was in the U.S. as a sleeper cell. Now back in the hands of Mother Russia, the two girls are removed. 

Fast forward a number of years and we see a number of assassins working in Morocco. A young blond woman is battling her foes in a spectacular series of stunts and gunfire. At this point, I was hard pressed to try and figure out which girl she was from the start, but by the end of the fight sequence it did become apparent that she was the little “Sister” of Natasha (Johansson). We are also re-introduced to the father, Alexei (Harbour) who is now in a Russian gulag, reminiscing of his glory days fighting Captain America and pretty much shaming all comers in arm wrestling. We have seen how this once lean warrior in the opening sequences has become old, fat, and slovenly. However, he was still capable of fighting when required. Concurrently, Natasha (Johansson) is being chased by her former employer Secretary Ross to answer for her “supposed” crimes that were committed in Captain America: Civil War. I don’t want to go to deeply in the story (weak one that it is) in case you have not watched it. So, with all this in mind, you can pretty much figure out the rest of the movie from there. Family re-unites, fights common foe and each other, defeats enemy and leaves opening for further MCU adventures. Pretty predictable, right?

Now that we have a basic sketch of the film out there, let us look at what was good about “Black Widow”. 

  1. The cinematography: We loved the scenes from Norway, Hungary and Morocco. Each and every one of these scenes in the film brought forth our travel bug and urges us to plan another holiday. Besides the beautiful places that were filmed, we found the action sequences were filmed quite well, and did not seem to be too choppy or sped up to an unbelievable speed as it is done in some films of late. 
  2. Plot/premise: Ok, I do realize that the plot of this film is pretty weak and extremely predictable even for somewhat of an origin story, but I do like the fact that they showed the start of Natasha’s life to be somewhat reminiscent of the show “The Americans”. “The Americans” is a tv-series of a family of sleeper agents that is hiding in the USA in the early 80’s. (A fantastic show that I highly recommend!). In that aspect, I thought it was pretty good. I also did enjoy the addition of the new characters from Natasha’s past. Especially the “father” and “sister”.
  3. Character chemistry: The chemistry between the main characters was present, though not so much when it involved Natasha (Johansson). In my opinion it was the supporting cast, specifically Harbour and Pugh that carried the day in the film. Their comedic lines and deliveries were spot on, and for us, worked every time. Natasha (Johansson) seemed almost forced. She had better chemistry with her previous co-stars in the Avengers series than here.

Now what was bad about the film:

  1. Plot: Even though I had mentioned above that the plot was one of the good things, it was also one of the bad things about the film. Too clichéd, too many plot holes, and also most importantly, why was the story told? Was it only to be a vehicle for Johansson so that she could have the lead in an MCU film? Was it means to introduce Yelena (Pugh) into the MCU and also the upcoming series on Disney? Of the two, I would say it was more of the later, with a touch of the former. The worst thing about the MCU is that Black Widow and Hawkeye are really 3rdrate heroes. They have no powers or super technology, just some good fighting skills. Their storylines are never really amplified in previous films…they are almost like throw-away characters if you will. Put them in a situation where the real heroes have to save them. Additionally, at first this film felt more like a spy/thriller movie versus an MCU film, then in the last 20 minutes, it changed gears to be more “heroic”. I actually liked the first portion much better.
  2. Characters: Now that they have fleshed out the Natasha Romanoff character, I like it less then before. This character is more suited in a supporting role versus lead. I also felt that at times, Johansson’s acting was a little off and did not flow as well as her supporting cast. Also, Dreykov (Winstone) was poorly presented in my opinion, and his role of the enemy was pretty comical.

While on the subject of characters, let us look at the main actors and their roles within Black Widow:

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff: I usually enjoy Johansson’s roles for the most part in the MCU. However, this time as the lead character, as mentioned previously, it felt off. Almost like she was not fully invested into the role. Her chemistry was spotty with her supporting characters and at times the delivery appeared wooden. However, having said all that, who can argue when Johansson is clad in either white or black leather? That alone will surely appeal to many fans! I must give props to some of the action sequences, they were well done and I always enjoyed a good fight/combat scene. For some reason, her comedic sequences fell short when compared to her principal co-stars. Not her worst role in my opinion, but not her best either.

Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova: I have to say that Pugh’s portrayal of Yelena was actually the highlight of the film. Her comedic delivery, one liners, and action sequences were extremely well done. We almost fell off the chair when she accused Natasha (Johansson) of being a poser and always landing on 3-point stance and giving a hair flick before leaping into action. My wife has always laughed at these movies when that sequence is performed, and to have another character poke fun at it really enhanced the film for us. Granted it was the writers/directors who put the line in, but Pugh’s delivery made it hilarious. I also enjoyed her performance throughout the film, it felt it had more depth then that of the main star. I had not seen Pugh in anything prior to Black Widow, but I will definitely be on the look for her in the future, for I feel that she has great potential in the industry and am looking forward to what her next role will be.

David Harbour as Alexei: Alongside of Pugh’s performance, Harbour also gave a great portrayal of Alexei, the surrogate father of the two young ladies. Harbour is one of these actors that you see in everything, a supporting actor that probably works in more films then any A list star and has movie credits as long as your arm. To be honest, even though his face was always familiar, I never really started paying attention to him till the NETFLIX series Stranger Things. Looking at his resume, I realized that I have watched him in at least 25 different productions (film/tv series) over the years. Harbour was excellent in Black Widow, he was funny, action packed and was actually pretty integral to the story line. I especially enjoyed his “reminiscing” of previous greatness scenes, they were truly memorable. This was a truly enjoyable role to watch and I look forward to Stranger Things season 4 to see him again!

Rachel Weisz as Melina: Weisz, the ever stoic actress was OK in this film. She was great in the Mummy and a few other roles, but in this one, I found she was OK. Maybe it was the script or direction, but her character was not developed to the same extent of Harbour and Pugh. She could still carry some of the action sequences (maybe she learned it from her real husband, Daniel Craig), but the lighter side was not really present here. As I have said, an OK performance from this talented actress, she has done better in other roles, and I am sure she will in future ones as well. 

So, as with every review, now is the question. Were we entertained? Yes, we were. This was really a light film with lots of action and a few good laughs along the way. Was it a fantastic addition to the MCU? No, it was not. This was probably one of the weaker additions to the series, but one that does fill in a few holes in Natasha’s past. (let’s forget about any of the plot holes in this film). In “Black Widow” the real stars were the supporting cast, and Harbour and Pugh made the film worth the watch. I do look forward to seeing Hawkeye (whenever that gets released to something besides Disney) and seeing Pugh in action again. As previously mentioned, I also look forward to seeing Harbour in future roles, as I really think that here is another case of an actor who has been around for ever, but only finds his stride in their late 40’s. Either way, it was a fun film to watch, especially if you are a fan of the genre. 

Rating: 5/10

Till next time!

Review: 7500 (2019)

Cast:

Joseph Gordon-Levitt                Tobias Ellis

Omid Memar                            Vedat

Aylin Tezel                                Gokce

Carlo Kitzlinger                         Micheal Lutzmann

After a small vacation in the Dominican Republic, I felt it was time again to put fingers to keyboard and complete another review for “Was I entertained?”. I have pretty much gone through all of my unwatched blu-rays that I had collected prior to my retirement, so I am now relegated to either purchasing a new film or seeing what Amazon or Netflix has in store for us. With that in mind, I handed my wife the remote for Amazon and told her to select something good. While some of you may think that by giving my wife the remote we would be destined to watch a RomCom with Sandra Bullock or Reese Witherspoon or some type of musical, I have found that my wife can usually find something that will be pretty much obscure, yet entertaining. 

I went and grabbed a dram of scotch to enjoy whatever the choice would be and by the time I returned I saw that she had selected 7500 for the nights’ entertainment. I had seen 7500 in the menu on Amazon Prime for a while, but I knew that any movie that centred around flights usually caused my wife some angst, so I never selected it as I did not want to affect our upcoming vacation. However, as we had just returned from one, my wife must have decided that it was time to watch it. 

With that in mind, what is 7500 about. This film is basically a “Hijack” film. While this genre of films was huge in the 70’s and 80’s due to the fact that terrorists/activists would tend to hijack a flight to make their political statements. After 9/11, this type of film kind of went to the back-burner unless it was of course about 9/11. In my opinion, 7500 has built upon the foundation of the historical acts that involved hijacking and real events. In this film, we have Gordon-Levitt as the co-pilot for a European airline. Joining him, there is Capt Lutzmann (Kitzlinger) his partner and love, Gokce (Tezel), who happens to be a flight attendant as well. While the aircraft is getting reading for loading, we are shown some airport security cam footage of the likely suspects purchasing some alcohol at the Duty Free. Back in the cockpit we observe the usual banter between the crew as well as the couple of Ellis/Gokce (Gordon-Levitt and Tezel). At this point, I find the film somewhat interesting as it really focused on some of the details of the cockpit and what the crew does in preparation for a flight. This flight is from Berlin to Paris, a relatively short flight, actually a flight that is probably just a few minutes longer than this film. So you know action will have to start almost immediately. (Spoiler alert).The plane takes and the cockpit crew settle the aircraft on autopilot and the standard announcement is made about the in-flight service. The flight attendant knocks on the cock-pit door and is admitted. Now comes the action, the aforementioned “suspects” who were making purchases at the Duty Free have smashed their bottles and are now using the broken glass as knives to take over the aircraft. One of them makes into the cockpit and after a scuffle is laid out, but not before he wounds both pilot and co-pilot. 

It is at this point that the rubber hits the road in the film. Our “hero” has taken back the cockpit and has declared a “7500” this term is the code word to inform the controllers that the flight has been hijacked. The aircraft is now under his control and he is alone to make all the decisions. The bad guys are trying to break in and demanding that he let them in or they will kill some of the passengers. While Elis does not let them in, via CCTV he can see what is happening just outside of the cockpit door. 

I really don’t want to go further in the plot, as it is a short film, and if you decide to watch it, there should be some surprises for you. But let me tell you one thing, once the attack took place, my wife and I were on the edge of our seats. The tension in the film was amazing as well as the acting, specifically from Levitt. He is really the one and only actor in this film. For at least 45 minutes, we observe a roller coaster of emotions, action, and decisions made by him to try and ensure that he can get everyone to safety. 

As I have mentioned, there is really only one actor in this film and it is Gordon-Levitt. He has sure come along way since I had first seen him in the sitcom “Third Rock from the Sun”. While that show was not my favourite, Lithgow’s character would make me laugh on occasion and I would check out the show if there was nothing else on. I never really cared for Levitt’s character and so I kind of dismissed him for years. It was not until “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Looper” in 2012 that I actually started paying attention to his films again. It was at that point, we, the audience were really being introduced to his scope of talent. However, until this film, I had not really seen what he was capable of. His acting was incredible. You actually felt his stress, his indecision, and his love for his partner in a tumultuous journey between him and the terrorists. Throughout the whole film we felt that we were part of his struggle, not only his physical one, but also that of his mental anguish as he was always trying to do the right thing and bring the plane down and save the passengers. I especially liked the chemistry that developed between Ellis (Gordon-Levitt) and Vedat (Memar). They played off of each other extremely well and the conflicting emotions that they both portrayed were extremely believable and kept us watching. This was a truly wonderful character for Gordon-Levitt and he did it justice. 

What else did we like about this film. Well the cinematography was great! At first I was a bit unsure of the camera work and angles, but it actually added to the intensity of the film itself. After doing a bit of google research on the film afterwards, I found that this was not filmed on a set but on an aircraft that the production company bought for the purposes of the film. Thus the tight angles and the sometimes intense close-ups. But all of these features added to the grittiness of the film. Another thing that I really enjoyed was the fact that it seemed like everything being done in the cockpit was realistic. Not like some other films where the crew flips switches at random hoping that it will look believable. I also found out in my “google research” that the pilot Lutzmann (Kitzlinger) was actually a pilot for Lufthansa prior to acting and he ensured that all movements were accurate. A subtle touch, but one that ensured that all would enjoy the film and not have too many WTF moments. 

Even though the film kept us riveted, especially once the hijacking was underway, there were a few moments that made us shake our head. In this post 9/11 world that we are in, a few bad guys with broken glass would not have held back over 100 passengers. I am certain that in todays world there would have been a determined rush against them and they would be eventually overcome. (Spoiler alert), Also, after landing in Hannover and the police capturing the fleeing hi-jackers, why didn’t they board the aircraft from behind. The remaining hi-jacker did not have the necessary skills or even the tenacity required to hold them back. He would have been overcome in short order. There is also one last trivial observation about the security camera’s in Berlin’s airport. Would not have the writing on the camera been in German vice English? Also, I have been in most of Europe’s major airports and never have I seen them that unoccupied, even when I had to wait 6 hours through the night for my next flight then what was portrayed here. But hey, it’s a film. 

So overall, were we entertained? Yes! This was a film that I did not expect much from, but ended up making us glued to our seats to watch. Levitt’s performance was stellar and the story moved at such a pace to ensure that we would not wander from the screen. A truly great film that I believe was under rated. I would recommend this film to anyone who enjoys a good drama/thriller, and especially anyone who is a fan of Gordon-Levitt.

Our rating: 7/10

Till Next time!

Cast:

Ryan Reynolds              Michael Bryce

Samuel L. Jackson         Darius Kincaid

Salma Hayek                 Sonia Kincaid

Antonio Banderas         Aristotle Papdopolous

Morgan Freeman          Michael Bryce Senior

Well here we are again, time to put fingers to keyboard and eke out another review. It has been pretty busy in the nations capital of Canada of late. We have battled the last version of COVID, stores are opening, restaurants are back and soon all other restrictions will depart. Also, here in Ottawa we have had to endure the Freedom Convoy and all that entailed and now that is done, we are being inundated with news of what is happening in Ukraine. It seems that we are reliving the last century all at once, and instead of 100 years, we are trying to condense it to two. So with all this in mind, we decided to try and find a film that had some great stars, and most importantly some levity. The solution appeared to be the sequel to “The Hitman’s bodyguard”. So I grabbed the blu-ray, put it in the player, lit the fire, poured the wine and got ready to be entertained.

Before I get into what I liked, didn’t like, scratched my head in WTF moments, or even the odd shout of “seriously”, lets take a quick look at the slim plotline (very slim plot). The “Hitman’s wife’s bodyguard” is the sequel to the 2017 film “The Hitmans’ Bodyguard” starring Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L Jackson and Selman Hayek in the lead roles. That film had the recently discredited Michael Bryce (Reynolds) becoming the bodyguard to Darius (Jackson). Of note, it must be mentioned that Darius (Jackson) is the reason that Bryce (Reynolds) lost his triple A rating as a bodyguard and was shamed publicly in the occupation due to the fact that Darius (Jackson) had killed Bryce’s (Reynolds) client. Needless to say, in the first film, the two overcome their issues, manage to save the relationship of Darius (Jackson) with his wife Sonia (Salma), patch up Bryce’s relationship with his better half and naturally save the day. So when the sequel arrived we were naturally looking forward to it. The first film was very fun and entertaining and as it starred some of our favourite actors/actresses, so we were totally onboard with this!

The film starts and we see our stalwart hero attending therapy for his mental malaise. With the help of his therapist he decides to take a small sabbatical, and that is when everything starts to go pear-shaped. Lounging on his chair with his noise reduction headphones on, the world around him goes to hell. People are being shot, everything is going crazy while he sits oblivious to it all. Enter Sonia (Hayek) who takes him in hand to explain the latest situation. Without giving out too much and causing spoilers, here is the story in a nutshell. Darius (Jackson), Sonia (Hayek) and Bryce (Reynolds) must save Europe from an evil madman Aristotle (Banderas) who wants to destroy the economy of the leading nations so that he can save his beloved homeland of Greece. Throughout, they must rescue Darius (Jackson), fight Aristotle (Banderas), reconnect with family, that being Bryce Snr (Freeman) and save the day. There are a few twists and turns along the way, a surprise here and there, and of course some laughs where we find out that our heroes will be successful. All in all, a mildly amusing action/comedy romp with some stellar stars. But let us take a closer look at what was good and what I considered bad with this film.

  1. The scenery – For a couple who has been so hungry to be able to travel again, it was awesome to see all the sights that this film took place in. While predominately in Croatia, it epitomized what we love about Europe. The scenes were well done and we really loved all the panorama shots and coastlines, beaches, old towns etc. That part was fantastic.
  2. Chemistry - As this was the 2ndfilm that all the principle stars were in together, it was clear that they enjoyed working together and they easily fed off of each other to enhance the scene or dialogue.
  3. Plot – Ok, the plot here was pretty weak and extremely predictable for the most part. It was only on 2 occasions in the film that I was actually surprised by the twist. That was with the introduction of Morgan Freeman’s character as Bryce Snr, and the final scene/epilogue of the film. All the rest I could have predicted with my eyes closed and one arm tied behind my back.
  4. Action – There was plenty of action in this film to go along with the comedic sequences. The comedy was far more prevalent in this film compared to the original. While as mentioned previously, the plot was predictable, the action sequences and comedic interludes were enjoyable.
  5. Characters – This was a bit of hit and miss for me. While I enjoyed the original 3 of the cast, I found that Banderas was kind of miscast in this one. Additionally, while Morgan Freeman as Bryce senior was always enjoyable to watch, for some reason, besides the twist to the character it did not seem to fit for me. On another note, Bryce’s (Reynolds) girlfriend from the first film was no where to be seen or mentioned in this film. You would think that the importance that she played in the first film, that somehow in this film she would have made an appearance or at least a mention. 

While on the subject of the cast lets look at them at this time.

Ryan Reynolds as Michael Bryce: I have to admit, my wife and I are huge fans of Reynolds. We remember him when he was on the sitcom “Two guys, a girl and a pizza place” and he was pretty much the star of that program. From there, we enjoyed his performances in various films, Van Wilder, Foolproof, Blade: Trinity, Just Friends, X-Men Origins, Deadpool (1&2), and of course the first Hitman’ movie, The Hitman’s Bodyguard. In each film his sarcasm, wit, comedic and action talent shone through. Of course he has made some pretty lame films as well i.e. Green Lantern, but overall we like pretty much most of his films/shows. In Hitmans’ Wife’s Bodyguard, he was following a character that was already made and he just had to follow through with what was created already. He delivered on the action and comedy, but it in this case, it did not seem fresh and new. Maybe it was the Deadpool films (where he does an excellent job) that made this character somewhat lacking. In the action sequences I was almost waiting for an arm to be broken and repaired or appendage to be cut off and regrown. With the appropriate quips to go along with the action. Yes, it was funny at times, but not laugh out loud like some of the aforementioned films that he starred in. Furthermore, the script required him to have a level of sensitivity and insecurity that did not really play out well in the film writ large. As I have mentioned, we enjoyed this character, but not as much as some of his other performances. 

Samuel L. Jackson as Darius Kincaid: Jackson is a perennial favorite of ours as well. No one can say “Motherf*&cker” like he can, and most importantly, get away with it. As with Reynolds, this was a character that also was a repeat, so we were not required to have any backstory or build up of the character. His chemistry with all was great as always and his scenes were bang on. I have to say that his facial expressions are also one his greatest assets in the film. With just a glare or a head tilt he can convey numerous expressions or emotions, and in this film he still delivers. One thing I did notice, as Jackson is 70 plus years old now (even if he doesn’t look it), his physical action sequences were reduced quite a bit. But, it still did not take away from the film. Overall, we enjoyed Jackson as Darius, while not his greatest role, it was still fun to watch. 

Salma Hayek as Sonia Kincaid: Hayek also returned for this film as Darius’ wife, Sonia. As with the other two, this character seemed to have received and portrayed the most growth. While only playing a minor role in the first film, she was the impetus and driving force of the sequel. It was her desire to help her husband and start a family that initiated the adventure. As with the other two principle characters there is great chemistry between Hayek and all the principal stars in this film. Hell, she has starred with all of them in the past, so there was proven chemistry already in place. Her character is still a spitfire of a lady and she has learned to curse like Jackson. In this film, Hayek is actually my favourite as she is playing a role that is not normally associated with her style. Yes, she has been the heroine or femme fatale, but not with the same intensity in her action sequences as in this production. A good performance by Hayek that helped ensure that this film was enjoyable.  

Antonio Banderas as Aristotle Papdopolous: For me, this is where the film starts to lose it. I could not buy him as a Greek Tycoon/criminal. His Spanish accent cannot be hidden! As it was a European set film, just keep him true to form and make him Spanish, not Greek. It actually made me laugh a bit, though I don’t think that this was the intent of the directors/producers with this role. However, having said all that, he did play an ok villain, though I prefer him in the heroic role. While his chemistry was fine, I found his role was lacking and he could have been utilized better in this production. For Banderas, this outing was not his best by a long shot, however, nor was it his worst. 

Morgan Freeman as Michael Bryce Senior: Here was a surprise casting and character for me. It did get the requisite laugh when he was introduced and allowed for some comedic interaction between the principle characters. But, as with Banderas, I found he was under-utilized in this film. Not only in scenes that required gravitas, but also in the comedic sequences as well. He was not able to stretch his talent to the full width and breadth that he is known for. An accomplished actor, for me, this role was just one that was done for friend (Apparently he has known Jackson since they were young actors starting in the biz). I don’t know if that was the case, but as with Banderas, this was not his finest role at all. His scenes while important and mildly effective could have been so much more in my opinion. However, Freeman is still a fantastic actor over all and you just can’t but help but being entertained when he is on screen. 

So, now comes the question. Were we entertained? Yes we were. This film is light, has enough action and comedy to keep you watching and has a phenomenal cast, even if they were not employed to their best capabilities. While this film left an opportunity for a sequel open, I really hope that they don’t. It was stretched enough as it was for this outing if they hit the well one more time for these characters it might one time too far. Part of the reason is that some of the principal characters are starting to get quite a bit older (Jackson) so that the believability and possibility of the film would become even more ridiculous and would take away from the success of the first film (and the limited success of the sequel). Let the characters and franchise come to a stop with this film and call it a day. Would I recommend this film? Actually, yes I would. Especially if you are fan of the original and the principal stars. Don’t expect Deadpool or Shaft, but just enjoy it for the ride that it is.

My rating: 5/10

Till Next Time!

Cast:

Gal Gadot                                 Diana Prince

Chris Pine                                 Steve Trevor

Kristen Wiig                              Barbara Minerva

Pedro Pascal                             Maxwell Lord

Robin Wright                            Antiope

Connie Nielsen                          Hippolyta

Lilly Aspell                                Young Diana

For this edition of “Was I Entertained” we visited a film that came out last year between the COVID lockdowns in Canada. This film is Wonder Woman 1984 (WW84). As I was born in the 60’s, the first time I remember watching Wonder Woman was on Saturday morning cartoons, if I recall correctly it was a cartoon called “Superfriends” though I may be wrong on the actual title. We then moved to the mid 1970’s when Wonder Woman appeared during prime-time television. That version starred Lynda Carter, at that time, every adolescent boy had a crush on her, and every girl wanted to be her. It was a campy show that provided enough story and action to entertain pretty much everyone. So like anything else of that time period it came to an end, as well as the general fascination by everyone with superheroes. 

When the late 80s and early 90’s came about, the whole super hero genre was reborn. We had Batman, Superman, then came Spiderman in 2002. They all provided us fans with a story of good vs evil and that in the end, everything that is good will triumph. From then on, audiences were provided a constant stream of comic book heroes that were brought to life via Hollywood and CGI. But alas, Wonder Woman was not in the first wave nor the second wave of big budget films. It was not until 2016 “Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice” that Wonder Woman graced the big screen again. I remember when that film came out, there was a lot of speculation on how Gadot would perform. Many said she had big shoes to fill (in a manner of speaking) to replace Lynda Carter. However, in my opinion, I think she did a great job, and I assume so did many others as she managed to have a film series of her own as well as co-starring in the 2nd Justice League film. 

Now, let us take a look at Wonder Woman 84. The film commences with a flashback sequence that has a young Diana competing against some much older Amazon warriors in a quasi Olympic, Ironman (or should is say woman) contest. Though far younger, it is clear that she is faster, stronger and much more agile than her competitors. What she lacked was experience, and maybe some maturity, (watch the scene to see what I am talking about), she made up for in athleticism. After that, we see Diana (Gadot) at the Smithsonian talking with a co-worker Minerva (Wiig) as they peruse an ancient item that was sent over for analysis. Not really giving out any spoilers as it is on the box, we find out that this artifact grants the bearer one wish, yet it must also extract a price for that wish. 

Concurrently we are introduced to a slick TV celebrity who portrays the façade that he is a very rich Oil baron and who is an awesome investor and basically for all intents and purposes a modern King Midas. The truth is that he is a bit of a hack, but he has discovered that the museum is in possession of this magical artifact and manages to steal it. But this is not before Minerva (Wiig) and Diana (Gadot) both manage to make their own wishes. The film continues we see that Minerva (Wiig) gets her wish to be more like Diana (Gadot), and Diana (Gadot) gets her only love, Steve (Pine) back from the dead. Both wishes do come with consequences. Concurrently we find the antagonist, Lord (Pascal), having figured out a hack with the device, starts granting a bevy of wishes worldwide. This results in the fact that his wishes start destroying the planet and civilization while he continues to become richer and more famous.  

Wonder Woman (Gadot), with the help of her lost love Steve (Pine) figure out the problem and together they search out Lord (Pascal) in order to retrieve the artifact and make the world right again. Naturally, this also comes with a price as Wonder Woman (Gadot) has to not only combat Lord (Pascal) and his minions, but also a fierce combatant called the “Cheetah”, who is in actual fact Minerva (Wiig). The Cheetah does not want to give up her new found strength and battles Wonder Woman in a long drawn out fight sequence before the world comes back too normal and Wonder Woman (Gadot) saves the day. Ok, this was not a spoiler guys, we knew this was going to happen, so let’s continue with our review.

What didn’t I like about WW84? Well, first of all, I found the film a little long. Some of the fight sequences were drawn out to the nth degree. Sure, these are supposed to be what is exciting about a film, but if it takes to long to get the end of the fight, it can lose me. Also, in this adaptation, Wonder Woman only uses her Golden Lasso, where is her sword and shield from the previous films. She has more in the armoury than a rope! It actually made some of the fight sequences more comical than exciting. If she would have had the other weaponry, she would have been able to fight the Cheetah far more efficiently, and I actually think would have enhanced the films action sequences. I also did not care for the invisible plane that was used in the film. As this was taken from an American airfield, I would expect an American fighter/bomber, not one that was a make believe configuration. Have spent pretty much my whole working life in the military, I can pretty much identify most aircraft in the western militaries and many of the Russian airframes as well. When I saw this plane, it looked sort of familiar, but could not put my finger on it. It was not until I did some research that I found that an F-111 Aardvark and the wings and tail of a Panavia Tornado were used. Why? Could they not use an aircraft from the era? Besides making up the plane, no fighter from that era would have enough fuel to make it from Washington to Egypt in one tank of fuel, how did they get there? PFM? (Pure F(&^%&ing Magic). But I have digressed, while these points were minor in reality, they did cause me to shake my head several times. 

What was good about the film? Hmmm…I have to say the use of the 1980’s style, music, props etc were hilarious. It really brought me back to memory lane in several scenes. Steve (Pine) was entertaining in the WW84 version of Pretty Woman’s changing montage and his constant admiration of the fanny pack made me laugh out loud. The story moved on at a good pace, and besides a few things that irritated me was enjoyable overall. Minerva (Wiig) and Lord (Pascal) were great as antagonists. CGI was well done and the script flowed well. I also admired the chemistry between all the characters, which greatly enhanced the flow of the film. 

What did I think about the main characters of WW84? Let’s see:

Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman: I have to say I am a fan of Gadot. I have pretty much liked her in almost every film that I have seen her in, even if they were only small parts. To me, she pretty much has nailed the Wonder Woman character and it would be very difficult to find a replacement for her in this role (Not like Batman, Spiderman etc who have changed actors more than some people have changed underwear). She had great chemistry with her love interest Steve (Pine), and also played off well with friend and future adversary Minerva (Wiig). I really believe that due to her athleticism, she can play that role far better than that of my childhood crush Lynda Carter. Additionally, even her accent fits the character more, sure she is Israeli, not of Grecian descent, but it works. Overall another good performance by Gadot.

Chris Pine as Steve Trevor: Pine is another actor who has done exceedingly well over the years. He has a sarcastic kind of style that I like in films. The first time I had seen him was in one of my wife’s favourite films “The Princess Diaries 2”, then shortly afterwards in a film that I liked, but my wife did not “Smokin Aces”. In both films I thought he did quite well. Then came the Star Trek reboot. I know that some people did not care for his portrayal of Captain Kirk, but I thought he did great in it (including the sequels) and also did well when he played Jack Ryan in that reboot of the famous Tom Clancy character.  He has a natural sort of arrogance about him, and just enough sarcasm to make whatever film he is in fun to watch. As Steve Trevor, the supporting hero and love interest to Gadot, Pine made the character entertaining and believable. There is great chemistry between the two main stars and it shows throughout the film. What I also found entertaining is that he can pull of the “child like innocence” as well as the action hero when needed, and both in a very entertaining fashion. While his performance is not “Oscar” worthy, it is still enjoyable. This is another role in his resume of films that he should be proud of.

Kristen Wiig as Barbara Minerva: Most of the time I can take Wiig in a film, but not really enjoy the character, with a few exceptions (Bridesmaid, Paul, The Martian). However, I must say that in WW84, Wiig did extremely well. She started the film with her typical mousy, insecure character that we have seen her play numerous times, and slowly transformed to a confident lady and somewhat of a diva. The final transformation to the Cheetah went over quite well and I really enjoyed the scenes that she was in. In my opinion, the only fault was that the final conflict scene lasted way too long, but that is not the error of the actress, but that of the writer and director. I also felt that her chemistry with all the key characters was spot on and it was a joy to watch. I do like the fact that they did leave the opening for a return of the Cheetah in future films, as I did really like her character. 

Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord: Pascal played an excellent TV grifter. He oozed slime and desperation in such a way that you were not sure whether you should like the character or be disgusted. The snake-oil salesman in him was present at all times, yet you could not shake that he was hiding his fear of failure and that he could disappoint his son at all times. He performed the role of Maxwell Lord to a T. He was entertaining when he had to be, slimy when required, weak on demand and desperate at all times. I am sure it is difficult to portray all those emotions in one character in one feature but he managed to play it well. I also liked his chemistry with all his principal co-stars, and I look forward to seeing him in the Mandolorian whenever that comes off of the Disney channel and becomes available on some of the other streaming services. 

Lilly Aspell as Young Diana: Having only seen Aspell in one other film (that is the original Wonder Woman), I really had no other film or tv show to see her talent in this feature compared to any other. I am only including her in this portion as I found out after watching the film that she performed all of her own stunts as she could do it better and more believably then the stunt person who was hired for it. In that light, I must give her props for abilities in the stunt department. As for acting a petulant 12-year-old in the film, well she is a child, so I am sure it was not that much of a stretch. I was just totally impressed with capability to finish all the stunts. Well done her!

So, all in all, were we entertained? Yes, we were, WW84 was a light adventure/action movie with characters whom we were already familiar with. The performance by all key actors were solid and the chemistry between all were evident. As I mentioned before, it was a little long, and I was a little surprised that she did not have the sword/shield to fight the bad guys, but that would have made the film a little darker than it was. This film was suitable for children, while some of the other superhero films would be more tuned to the tweens and up vice the younger kids like this one. I would recommend this film for anyone who is a fan of Gadot and Pine or is into the whole superhero genre. 

My score: 7/10

If you are interested in any other features starring the main cast, please consider the following recommendations:

Gal Gadot                     Fast and Furious, Fast & Furious 5-7, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman, Justice League,  

Chris Pine                     Smokin Aces, Star Trek (Franchise), Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, The Finest Hours

Kristen Wiig                  Bridesmaid, The Martian, Paul

Pedro Pascal                 Narcos, Game of Thrones, Equalizer 2

Till Next Time!

Review: Unhinged (2020)

Cast:

Russell Crowe               The Man

Caren Pistorius              Rachel

Gabriel Bateman           Kyle

Jimmi Simpson              Andy

Happy New Year everyone! I know it has been a few months since my last review, but hey, I’m busy with my life in retirement! However, having said that I have my promised my brother “aka, the Chairman” of Notinhalloffame.com that I would give him reviews of shows from time to time. Over the last little while though, there has not been much on tv or Netflix/Amazon that I felt like reviewing. Come on, it was Christmas time, so we were inundated with a plethora of syrupy Christmas films that my wife likes to watch. Ok, there are a few that I did not mind as there were enough sarcasm, comedy, or gratuitous sex scenes peppered in so that I could sit through the film. But in the genre of Christmas films, these things are sometimes hard to find. No matter how much I tried to tell my wife that Die Hard and Lethal Weapon are Christmas movies, she does not seem to get it!

So here we are, a new year and a new review. For this blog’s selection, I decided to pick the movie “Unhinged” starring Russell Crowe as “the Man” or nemesis in the film. The reason for this selection is as follows:

  1. Russell Crowe usually makes great films, i.e. The Gladiator, Proof of Life, Cinderella Man, Broken City, Robin Hood to name but a few. (ok there were a few crappy ones too, Noah comes to mind)
  2. This movie was actually released during one of the small windows of the pandemic that the cinema’s opened. So my thought was that if the movie industry was brave enough to release it during Covid, it was worth a try.
  3. I had seen Pistorius before in “Offspring” a show that both my wife and I loved, and thought, hey she was ok in that, she might be alright in this film.

Unfortunately, my reasoning for watching this film were found to be erroneous.  I was wrong on so many levels. I know that you say, this can’t be true! Wrong on an opinion about a film before watching, say it isn’t so! But alas, “Unhinged” joins a long list of films that over promised, under delivered, and were just large piles of fecal matter. 

Before continuing on what I did and did not like about the film, let’s give a general outline of what it is about. The prologue of the film is a series of clips that outline how much road rage is hitting the country and that really no one is safe from it. Then the film really starts with a close-up of an obviously distressed man. At first glance, I thought it was John Goodman from years past, but no, this is a rather plump, heavy, bearded Russell Crowe. He is full of angst, popping some kind of pills like they are tic-tacs while looking at a home. Finally, he loses his proverbial shit, goes up to the house, breaks in, kills the occupants and sets it on fire. Then he returns to his truck and drives off. 

Cut scene to see a family trying to have breakfast. We are now at the home of Rachel, which she shares with her son, brother and I think his girlfriend. We are seeing all kinds of scenes on where they are trying to live a normal life, well almost normal for Rachel (Pistorius) for whom we find out that she is in the middle of divorce proceedings and her ex is trying for everything, and her career is in the proverbial toilet. Of course, she is now late for work, late for dropping off her kid at school and just basically having a crappy morning. So taking the freeway, she gets stuck in traffic and tries to find another way to try and recover her timings. In the process she pulls up behind the aforementioned truck. Still in a hurry, which the truck driver does not seem to be as he waits through a light, Rachel (Pistorius) goes nuts on her car horn, swerves around the driver while giving various hand gestures to the driver of the truck. Of course we know the driver is “the Man” (Crowe). He follows her, cuts her off a few times and then the fun begins. So, without giving out the whole storyline, we know that it is a serious case of road rage and fixation between “The Man” (Crowe) and Rachel (Pistorius), and that it will naturally end in a way that will be violent, bloody and oh so predictable. So as you can see from the quick synopsis, there is nothing here that screams Oscar winning storylines, or even acting. 

What did I like about the film…well not much really. The story line was weak and predictable, the dialogue appeared forced and there was little to no chemistry between any of them. But wait, I said what did I like about it. I would have to say the character of Andy, played by Jimmi Simpson. It does not matter what role I see him in, I always enjoy his slimy character portrayals. There is something about his characters that I always like. Unfortunately, he did not have much screen time and his character did end up as another victim of the man, sorry for the spoiler readers. But two minutes into the film, you would have figured it out anyways.

What didn’t I like? Well, it was nice to see Crowe in another product, but who knew we were going to see so much of him. I know that some actors gain/lose weight for roles, and I applaud them for that. However, in some instances is it really necessary for the story-line? In this case I don’t think it was necessary, he could have still portrayed the man who has lost it all with nothing left to live for without the massive weight gain. In my opinion that portion of the character was not really required. Hmm what else was there beside wooden performances from all of the characters…yes, the predictability. I felt like Nostradamus while watching this film, I could predict with uncanny accuracy what would happen next. There was no mystery for the film, no, what will happen next. See scene, know within 10 seconds what will happen in that scene and the next. For example, introduce young man at the gas station who offers our young heroine some help…you know his life span will only continue till the end of the scene and that he will be run over. No mystery here. There are so many examples of bad storytelling in this film that I could write a small book on them. Instead, I will content myself with this review. 

There were a few throwaway characters in the film, besides Andy (Simpson), the brother and his fiancée were included in the film to be merely cannon fodder for the rage of “The Man” (Crowe). You didn’t know why they were there in the first few minutes, thus I knew their characters would meet an untimely end in the film. If there was a little bit more mystery and maybe fleshing out some of the characters, it might have proved to enhance the film. I also found some of the technical aspects of the film to be way off base. For example, our young heroine starts her Volvo, and the dashboard has warning lights blazing that would put a Christmas tree to shame. Yet, she takes it on the highway and while being pursued by “The man” she drives it through hurdles that I am sure I saw on the Dukes of Hazzard. It really made me want to buy a Volvo, if it had that many issues and still could do all that…man, I need to buy me one! Also, for an individual who complained about the traffic and whose driving skills did not seem to be the best, she did learn fast and I was impressed on how the traffic would always clear for her when she was going down the congested road. A little too fake for my tastes.

Also, I found the role of the son, Kyle (Bateman), to be a little under developed. There seemed to be little to no chemistry between him and his mother. Yes, the character is important as there is nothing that can drive a storyline like a mother defending her child, in this case it just did not seem to work for me. 

As the characters in this film were so shallow, that the depth was that of a small puddle, I won’t go into how they were portrayed and what was good or bad about them. Just leave it to say that this was not a shining moment for Crowe (pretty much on par with his character of Noah in the film of the same name). I really hope that in Gladiator 2 (that is supposed to be in development) that he finds his mojo back and he returns as the actor that we all know that he is.

As for Pistorius, this is only the second character I had seen her in, and I hope that her choice of roles improves as to me, this was not a great leap for her, and did not display her talents. Will see what comes in the future.

Would I recommend this film, was I entertained? No on both counts. I would not recommend this film to anyone, even die-hard Crowe fans. Unless you can’t find anything else to watch on Netflix or Amazon, then maybe give it a try, other than that, I would give this film a hard pass and maybe watch an old classic with Crowe, i.e. Gladiator, Master and Commander to name but a few examples. 

Our rating: 2/10

If you are interested in any other GOOD film starring Russel Crowe, please consider the following recommendations.

Gladiator, Robin Hood, Master and Commander, Proof of Life, The Nice Guys, Broken City, The Next Three Days, A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man, L.A. Confidential

Till Next time!

Cast:

Daniel Craig                  James Bond

Ana De Armas               Paloma

Rami Malek                  Lyutsifer Safin

Lea Seydoux                 Madeleine

Lashana Lynch              Nomi

Ralph Fiennes               M

Ben Whishaw                Q

Naomie Harris               Moneypenny

Christoph Waltz            Blofeld

Jeffrey Wright               Felix Leiter

Hello again! Time for another review of “Was I Entertained”! For this edition, instead of perusing NETFLIX, Amazon Prime, or even my own Movie collection, we ventured out to the cinema’s to catch a new release. Due to COVID, we have not managed to see very many films in the theatre (naturally they were all closed) and going out to a movie, you almost have to take out a second mortgage on your house to pay for the tickets, popcorn and pop. Where are the days that I used to the movies with 2 dollars, buy my ticket, pop, popcorn and a chocolate bar and still have change? I must be getting old! Anyways, we had luckily won a gift certificate for the Cineplex from a charity lottery and this was the first time we were able to use it in the last 2 years.

There were a few movies that piqued our interest at the local movie theatre, and we had narrowed it down to 2 selections, Dune or No Time to Die. I wanted to see Dune as I was a big fan of the original series and the precursors that were written after Herbert’s death. However, my wife was not familiar with the series and stated that we should watch that one at home when it gets released to smaller screens so that if she bored she can pick up her tablet for another game of Candy Crush. So, with that in mind we went to see the latest James Bond flick, No Time To Die. 

Where do I start with this latest foray into British spy agencies and their war against terror? Well, the film starts (as most Bond films do) with a long prologue. He is gallivanting around Italy with another beautiful lady in tow. This time, one probably young enough to be his daughter. (I had to check IMDB on this one, and they are 17 years apart in real life, so that comparison is feasible, even if a bit of a stretch).

We also find out that he wants a new life with this nubile young lady, and it can only start if he closes a certain chapter in his life. This chapter is focused on Vesper, (another Bond love - from Craig’s first foray into the world of James Bond in Casino Royale), where he must close the door on his past, accept her betrayal and move on. Naturally, as this is a Bond flick, the tender moment at the grave site of Vesper becomes a trap. He fights them off, returns to his hotel room to find his new love, Madeleine preparing for departure. Bond (Craig) thinks that she set him up with SPECTRE (remember them, they are the bad guys for most of his films) and he grabs her and tries to evade the bad guys while trying to get his new love to confess her sins with respect to her betrayal of him. Of course, as this is a Bond flick, he trashes an exotic car (one of my personal favourites, gotta love these classic Aston Martins), blows up many people, trashes the scenery and does some incredible stunts with the car, on a motorcycle and even on foot! The prologue ends, and then we cut to opening credits where a pretty crappy theme song comes on after the traditional man in a barrel scene. I have to say, that while Billie Eilish can sing some nice songs, this one is not up there. Historically, Bond theme songs end up making their way up the charts and I can remember almost all of them… this one however, I wanted to forget.

The next scene opens about 5 years later with Bond (Craig) on a beautiful Caribbean island and we learn that he is retired. He is whiling away the days, swimming, fishing, drinking and we believe being a bit lecherous. He meets up with his old friend Felix Leiter who says he is in dire need of his assistance to thwart an old enemy. Not only does Bond (Craig) come out of retirement to fight again, he discovers that his once legendary position within MI6 has now been filled by another person who wears the title of 007. That is Nomi (Lynch), who not only tries to outdo the original, but she also seems to have a huge chip on her shoulder and inferiority complex where it comes to Bond.  

I really don’t want to give out too many spoilers from this point forward, but leave it to say that Bond (Craig) meets up old enemies i.e. Blofeld (Waltz), old loves i.e. Madeleine (Seydoux) and old friends, Moneypenny (Harris), Q (Whishaw) and the aforementioned Leiter (Wright). Whereupon, together they must combat not only the old enemy, but also defeat an enigmatic Safin (Malek) who is the principal antagonist of the film.  All in all, almost a standard plot line for any Bond film in the franchise. 

What did I like about the film? There were several points that provided enjoyment in this very long film. Let’s start with the cinematography, how can you go wrong with the scenes in this film. We have Italy, Jamaica, Scotland, UK and Norway. While each scene may not necessarily represent the supposed location, they were all extremely picturesque nonetheless. I also found that the camera flowed well in the action sequences and did not become choppy or sped up to such an extent that it becomes comical. I always hate it when that happens for it ruins the flow of the film for me, and makes any fight sequence look like a cartoon on fast forward.  Next, we have the cars…man, do I love Aston Martins. They are my dream car if I ever made it big. These cars are beautiful, fast and distinctive. Too bad they had to destroy so many of them while making the film! 

Next up, I actually liked the story line. It was a good way to finish off Craig in the role of Bond. The story flowed for the most part, and while there was the odd bump or scratch the head moment, it still was pretty good overall. The characters were well developed overall, for as much of the cast, they were just reliving an old role and carrying on. The continuation of Madeleine (Seydoux) as the principal love interest was a nice touch. Maybe, they could have selected an older actress to give a better representation, as for some, the age gap might prove to be detrimental to the story. But her character was instrumental to the story line and the end of the film. On another note, I also enjoyed Paloma’s character (Armas) in the film. It took me a second to recognize her as one of Craig’s co-stars in “Knives Out” a great movie that I previously reviewed on this forum with both actors in principal roles. Her role, while lasting only a few minutes of screen time was extremely well done and the action sequences were not only lively, but also fun to watch.

Now, what didn’t I like? Ok, some may cringe at the next statement, but for me, ever since Craig took on the mantle of Bond I found that that these films have ceased to be “James Bond – 007 films”. They are now good action movies that just happen to have the main character named Bond. To me this is not the fault of Craig who is an excellent actor, but the fault of the system (Director/writer etc) who wanted to modernize the franchise, in my opinion, just a little too much. The whole image that was started by Ian Fleming in the novels and original portrayed by Connery has somehow been lost over the years. For me, Connery is Bond! He was a fearless, womanizing, hard drinking, devil may care agent with a deathwish. While this attributes are not necessarily reflective of today’s society, that was the character that was created and some said inspired by Fleming’s own activities during the war. I know that the whole franchise has matured over the years and changed by the era that it was filmed or even the actor who portrayed Bond, but for me, the whole premise of Bond has changed to make it more palatable to viewers of today.

As I previously mentioned, Connery for me was the best. Yes, I know sometimes the scenes were cheesy and the fight sequences were almost laughable, but it was the spirit and the gadgets that I loved. Afterwards it Lazenby in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and his portrayal was comical. Connery returned for one more foray in “Diamonds are Forever” before being replaced by Roger Moore in “Live and Let Die”. (I am not counting “Never say Never Again” which was made independently of the franchise writ large). Moore, was almost a caricature to me. Sure he could look dapper, and he was a bit of a womanizer, but his action sequences while better choreographed then Connery’s looked comical. Remember the old joke in Cannonball Run…”You can’t hit me, I’m Roger Moore” that was a distinct slam on the character as was portrayed by him. Timothy Dalton joined the series for two films and while he looked more rugged than Moore, did not really pull it off. It was not until Brosnan took the helm as Bond that I really started to enjoy the franchise again. Brosnan was more of a composite of the previous versions of Bond, and we now find the scripts, plots and characters solidified. On Brosnan’s departure, we have Craig as 007. Due to the changing world around us, the character was changed to represent todays morals and what would become acceptable by today’s society. Ok, I get it, the world changes and what was acceptable or the norm before is no longer the case. Really I am ok with that aspect, but what I would like to see at this point, is just change the name of the principal character. It can still be 007, but it could be a different agents name in the role, then it would not matter what sex, colour, creed, or even orientation the actor is. Actually, this film introduces that concept, and quite well (storyline wise) I might add. So this might be the direction that the producers may be heading into the future. I hope so, as I think it will make it easier to adapt the main character to reflect whatever is acceptable at the time, without re-writing who Bond is and was originally created to be.

Ok, that was quite a tangent, hmm, where am I? Ok, at this point, I always like to discuss the characters and the actors that portrayed them. So here we go:

Daniel Craig as James Bond: This is the 5th and final foray for Craig as Bond. From what I have read he is starting to feel too old to carry the part anymore and make it believable to the audience. For this last venture I must say that he did a fine job for his finale. As I mentioned previously, while I find this latest series of films to be more action genre than traditional Bond, I can respect the fact that it was well acted role with plenty of stunts and action to keep me interested. I also enjoyed the fact that Bond finally found his love, his legacy and his purpose in this film. He demonstrated great chemistry with all cast members to include his love interest Madeleine (Seydoux), competitor Nomi (Lynch) and his nemesis Safin (Malek). His last Bond portray was a truly enjoyable performance. Craig is a solid action star who has also many other ranges, from drama to comedy to draw upon. I have no doubt that his next projects will be just as entertaining as this one. 

Ana De Armas as Paloma: Armas was excellent as Paloma. This role was far different than the timid and innocent waif that she portrayed in “Knives Out”. She was an action heroine, and did it well. Demonstrating physical skills that were not present in “Knives Out” not to mention some lighter moments her character of Paloma was a very strong supporting role that was actually more memorable then some of the performances of the other co-stars.

Rami Malek as Lyutsifer Safin: Malek is quickly becoming a fan favourite. He is extremely talented and believable in almost every role I have seen him in. From playing Dega in Papillon (which I have reviewed previously on this blog site) to Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody (also reviewed on this site) I have enjoyed each and every performance. When watching Malek, you know he is in the role and that whatever he does will be first rate. My only complaint for this character was that he did not get enough screen time or backstory to help fill in the holes of the “why” he was doing everything. However, that is not the fault of the actor, but the writer and director. In this case, as the film as very long to start off with, I can see where decisions would have to be made with respect to the storyline. Regardless, another good performance by Malek. 

Lea Seydoux as Madeleine: This is the first time I had seen Seydoux in a memorable role for me. Even though she was in Spectre, I really don’t remember her character, and I probably should I guess. Going through her IMDB resume, I see that she was in a few other films that I had seen in the past, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Spectre, Grand Central, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol to name but a few. In each case I have to really think on what role she played. In this film, I can truthfully say that I am sure I will remember her role within it. She played the love stricken damsel quite well. Her chemistry with Craig and Malek was noteworthy and added to the story. As the principal co-star and love interest, her character was intrinsic to the plot. I will have to go back to the previous movies mentioned and give them another watch to take a look on how she did in those s to really give a good comparison. However, with these holes in memory, I will just have to say that her performance was fine and I look forward to seeing her in future projects. 

Lashana Lynch as Nomi: While Lynch is not a bad actress, to me she did not fit in the role as an MI6 Agent. I don’t know what it is, but it just didn’t work for me. If I was casting that role, I would have probably picked Christine Adams (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Batman Begins) or Thandiwe Newton (Westworld) for that part. As I pointed out above, MI6 did re-issue the 007 moniker to Nomi after Bond’s retirement, and I do like the fact that this could possibly lead to a complete rebranding of the character. Like I said, keep 007 movies running, just remove James Bond from the character as it will now be able to transition to a new and contemporary hero that is acclimated to today, without offending any purists of the franchise. I also found that her chemistry with the other supporting characters was a little off, but that could be due to the fact that her character was to have a bit of a chip on her shoulder and a touch of inferiority complex when compared to her predecessor. For me, while the character was important, I found the portrayal a little lacking compared to the other cast mates. Having said that, I will pay attention to her future roles and see how her style and talent matures and progresses. 

Ralph Fiennes as M: Fiennes is a very accomplished actor and has had some very big shoes to fill in the role of M. In this role, I find Fiennes very believable as the head of the department. He has the necessary panache and style to carry the role and position. I do like the fact that in the World of Bond, Fiennes has made M his own, without trying to emulate previous actors/actresses who have held that role. 

Ben Whishaw as Q: Here is a case where I don’t really care for the new actor. To me, Q was an eccentric older gentleman who was a genius without social skills. Whishaw, while kinda filling out the genius portion with no social skills, I find he is too young to be believable, and he did not really come across as part of the team. 

Naomie Harris as Moneypenny: I like Harris as Moneypenny. When they re-cast Moneypenny for the 4th time (not including Casino Royale and Never Say Never again) they made a fantastic choice. I find her to fill in the role nicely, just like it was her own. Actually getting back to the character of Nomi, Harris could have done this as well, and I think in a much more believable fashion. Her range of emotions with respect to Bond was very well done as was the chemistry between all in her scenes. 

Christoph Waltz as Blofeld: Here is another actor who is fantastic and only received minimal screen time. However, for all intents and purposes, his character could have been written out and the screen time centered on Malek for the antagonist. But it is always nice to see him in any role. No one can play the smug, conceited bad guy like Waltz. It is always great to watch him in these types of roles as he never disappoints…in this case the only disappointment was that his role was not greater.

Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter: As the 8th iteration of Leiter, Wright does an admirable job. He is believable as the trusted American friend and his chemistry with Craig is good. An accomplished actor, I can’t really remember a time or role that I did not like Wright in. From Hunger Games to Boardwalk Empire he has played a diverse set of characters that always add to the story. As with the other actors listed above, I always look forward to seeing him in a supporting role for any film or show. 

So, all in all, were we entertained you ask? Yes, we were, “No time to Die” is an action packed film with a great cast. It was filled with all the necessary car chases, explosions, fights and guns to make an action movie enthusiast salivate. Additionally, this film does close a chapter for Craig as the latest Bond which some fans may find hard to take. Like I have opined several times, to me these are not Bond flicks anymore, but action movies, so I will rate this film as a great action film which happens to have a character named Bond. Who will be interested in this film, well first off, anyone who loves the franchise (even if in my opinion it has changed), loves action films or is a fan of Daniel Craig. If this is the genre that you enjoy, then definitely give “No Time To Die” a watch!

Our score: 7.5/10

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

Daniel Craig     Defiance, Spectre, Casino Royale, Logan Lucky, Skyfall, Knives Out, Quantum of Solace, Munich, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider 

Ana De Armas   Knives Out, Blade Runner: 2049

Rami Malek      Mr. Robot, Bohemian Rhapsody, Papillon, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, The Pacific, 24

Lea Seydoux     Spectre, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Lashana Lynch  Captain Marvel

Ralph Fiennes   Schindlers List, The English Patient, Red Dragon, Harry Potter (Franchise), Skyfall, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Ben Whishaw    Spectre, Skyfall

Naomie Harris   Spectre, Skyfall, Southpaw, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, 28 Days Later, 

Christoph Waltz Inglourious Basterds, The Three Musketeers, Django Unchained, Spectre,          

Jeffrey Wright   Shaft, Ali, The Manchurain Candidate, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, The Ides of March, Broken City, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Boardwalk Empire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Westworld

Till Next Time!

Cast:

Benedict Cumberbatch              Greville Wynne

Merab Ninidze                          Oleg Penkovsky

Rachel Brosnahan                     Emily Donovan

Angus Wright                            Dickie Franks

The weekend arrived and as we had nothing on our social calendar we went back to our lists on Netflix and Amazon, not to mention my ever dwindling stack of unwatched blu-rays. For this weekend, we tried to theme it a little and only select movies based on actual events. Our first film, “Bombshell” starring Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, Charlize Theron and John Lithgow was a fantastic film that focused on the controversy at FOX when Megyn Kelly (Theron) and Gretchen Carlson (Kidman) were basically thrown under the bus when they came forward with harassment allegations against Roger Ailes (Lithgow). This was a great film that highlighted some key events in the entertainment industry and brought to light the abuse that some television executives put onto their female employees. While this was a great film, with some stellar performances, it was not the film that I chose to review for this edition of “Was I entertained”. 

I decided to write on another film based on actual events that was more along my style of films and literary pursuits. This was “The Courier” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and Rachel Brosnahan. This film tells the story of Greville Wynne (Cumberbatch) who was used by MI6 and the CIA to relay messages to and from Lt. Colonel Oleg Penkovsky (Ninidze) of the GRU in Russia. This exchange of messages via the unorthodox relay of using an innocent British salesman was apparently instrumental during the early days of the Cold War, and most particularly during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Trying not to give away too much of the story (mind you, you can look it up anyways), Oleg Penkovsky, a Lt. Colonel in the GRU (which was the intelligence arm of the of the Soviet military, and was responsible for many operations overseas) comes across intelligence on what Russia was planning to do in Cuba. Sneaking a letter out via some visiting Americans, he advises them to bring the document to the embassy and tell them (the US) that he has information to provide in exchange for sanctuary in the United States. 

At the time, the CIA had a minimal presence in the USSR, so in order to take advantage of this new source of intel, they approach MI6 in England to garner assistance to run this potential source. I will have to say a manager in MI6 (his position is not really given), Dickie Franks (Wright) meets with his CIA counterpart, Emily Donovan (Brosnahan) to formulate a plan. Apparently Franks (Wright) had a friend who was a salesman for some kind of company that travelled regularly to Eastern Europe and would be the perfect conduit as a courier for all concerned. Wynne (Cumberbatch) was approached by Donovan (Brosnahan) and Franks (Wright) and was subsequently convinced to be a cog in this vital intelligence gathering scheme. 

So the film progresses with the Russian GRU Lt. Colonel Oleg Penkovsky (Ninidz) and Greville Wynne (Cumberbatch) developing a friendship that grew with the amount of intelligence that was passed to the west. We discover that this information becomes vital for the western response to the Cuban Missile crisis and the western intelligence services writ large. Naturally, as very few spies are ever totally successful, Penkovsky and Wynne both get captured by the KGB and are held for questioning and in some cases torture, or should we say some aggressive questioning. 

This is the story in a nutshell without giving out too many nuggets from the film, as I really recommend that you watch it. I found the cinematography to be very good, the acting from very strong too excellent, and the details from the time period to be far above average. I also enjoyed the use of historical footage of the era intertwined with the film to be extremely well done. The direction and script was also very well done. 

After the film, I did some quick research into the characters (you know with the all the COVID lockdowns, we are all google professors now). What I found extremely interesting was the fact that the writer pieced the story together from various sources, as the books later written by the real Wynne tended to have exaggerations and potential un-truths. So saying that, we know that the film had some artistic liberties around it, but enough truth buried within to keep it interesting. Additionally, it seems that there was no character of Emily Donovan during this incident, and that the character was a fabrication. I actually thought so while watching it, as I was unsure that a “woman” during that time period would be given such responsibilities or latitude within the CIA. (Believe me, I am not saying that women did not deserve to be high positions, just from my understanding it was not the norm in the 60s). I actually thought that the character was changed from a man to a woman to provide some “political correctness” to the film. However, as a fabricated character, I found the input to the story line to be intrinsic to the plot. I also found out that Dickie Franks actually ended up being the director of MI6 later on in his career, just another interesting factoid that I discovered.  

So, what did I like about the film? I have pretty much captured it above, everything from the character development, plotline, direction and the period that it was capturing. It all appealed to what I like in a film or story. As I have stated in numerous reviews, I also enjoy when the film is based on factual events, as these films are far more interesting than some of the slasher or special effects movies that are the norm these days. The chemistry between all the characters was evident as was the emotional outbursts or scenes portrayed by all the key characters. I did find the stereotypical British “stiff up lip” mentality amusing as well, that mentality while stereotyped, reminds me of several British officers that I had met over the years. I even enjoyed the Russian dialogue in the film. Having taken Russian some 30 odd years ago, it was enjoyable to try and pick out what was being said without reading the sub-titles. There were several actors that were quite easy to understand, which provided further enjoyment to the film.

Was there anything I did not like? Actually no, the whole film was enjoyable to watch from start to finish. So with that portion of the review closed, let us touch on the key cast members:

Benedict Cumberbatch as Greville Wynne: First off, I must say that I am a great fan of Cumberbatch, especially since I watched him in the BBC series of Sherlock! He is an extremely talented actor who can manage to pull of any role, be it Sherlock Holmes, Khan, Doctor Strange or a Colonel in WWI. His portrayal of Wynne was very believable, sure, there may be some doubts if it was an accurate representation of the real individual as indicated in some articles I read, but for the purposes of the film, I bought it. Also, I found the chemistry that was displayed between the other main characters to extremely evident, especially with Ninidze (Penkovsky) and his wife Sheila (played by Jessie Buckley). All in all another great performance by Cumberbatch!

Merab Ninidze as Oleg Penkovsky: This was the first time that I had seen Ninidze in any production, though from what I found on IMDB I see he has been on Homeland, however on a season that I have yet to watch. Overall, I was very pleased with his portrayal of the GRU Lt Colonel. He demonstrated concern for the state of his nation and its goals, fear was prevalent for his family as well as his dreams to one day be a cowboy in Montana. To me, his role was very believable and I really look forward to seeing him in other films or projects in the future.

Rachel Brosnahan as Emily Donovan: My wife and I first noticed Brosnahan in the Amazon show; The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. In that show we found her funny, talented and a real joy to watch. It was not till afterwards that we found that she was in numerous programs and movies that we had watched in the past, i.e. Patriots Day, Manhattan, House of Cards, Blacklist, and The Finest Hours to name but a few. In hindsight, after we became fans of Mrs. Maisel, I looked at some of her previous roles and really came to appreciate her talent. In this film, while really playing in a supporting role and a fabricated character at that, I found that she did well. Not as well as say her performance in Mrs. Maisel, but well enough to really contribute to the story. I also enjoyed the fact that while her character was instrumental in putting Wynne in harm’s way, she was also willing to put herself there to help him when in trouble. I enjoyed this character and performance overall, and even if a fabricated person in a historical tale, her role was intrinsic to the plot as a whole. 

Angus Wright as Dickie Franks: As I mentioned previously, Wright played Franks extremely well and came across as the stereotype that I had not only observed on the screen before, but also representative of some of the British officers that I had met during my career. He was believable and his chemistry with the other cast members was admirable. Even though his face was familiar to me, it was surprising on how many shows I had seen him in before. Regardless, I thought his acting and character that he embodied was spot on for the movie and period that was being presented. As with Brosnahan’s character, his role was intrinsic to the story and continuity. I did like the fact that this character in real life did end up being the head of MI6, kind of made me wonder if this small bit of activity in the 60’s was a key jumping point for him to attain greater things. 

As you can see by my comments, my wife and I were thoroughly entertained by this film. It had great a great cast, direction, script and continuity. As I have mentioned many times, it was based on real life events which always adds to the appeal of any film or television program. The chemistry between the cast was quite visible throughout, especially the main characters. All facets combined, made this film a truly enjoyable experience. I would recommend this film to anyone who is interested in real events, espionage, or is a fan of Cumberbatch. So if you are interested in this film, que up your Amazon account and give it a ride. I have no doubt that you will enjoy it as much as we did.

Rating: 7/10

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

Benedict Cumberbatch              1917, Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War, Sherlock, Doctor Strange, The Hollow Crown, The Imitation Game, The Fifth Estate, 12 Years a Slave, Star Trek Into Darkness             

Merab Ninidze                          Homeland, Bridge of Spies

Rachel Brosnahan                     The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Patriots Day, The Finest Hours, Manhattan

Angus Wright                            The Crown, Kingdom of Heaven, Charlotte Gray

Till Next Time!

Cast:

Elisabeth Moss                          Cecilia Kass

Oliver Jackson-Cohen                Adrian Griffin

Harriet Dyer                              Emily Kass

Aldis Hodge                              James Lanier

Storm Reid                               Sydney Lanier

Michael Dorman                       Tom Griffin

Well I’m back! After a month of trying to enjoy the last little bit of summer and a few road trips to the wine developing areas of our province, my wife and I decided to watch a film on a Friday night. For this film we chose the latest version “The Invisible Man” released in 2020. Throughout film history there has been somewhat over a dozen films that have captured the whole invisible man concept. Some better than others, several were comedies and a few had a string of sequels. In each instance they have tried to interpret the vision of H.G. Wells original thriller/sci-fi novel of 1897. Now of the dozen plus versions of this concept, in truth I have only watched a few i.e. Hollow Man, Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, Memoirs of an Invisible Man and Hollow Man 2. As I mentioned, some were better than others, but I have to say that this latest version starring Elisabeth Moss was one of the more enjoyable ones. 

This latest version did not emphasize on the scientist or madman who wants to become invisible, it centers on the victims. Cecilia Kass (Moss) is in a horrible marriage, she has been abused, beaten, assaulted and demeaned by her husband and she is just trying to escape. We, the audience find this out in the opening sequence as we watch a terrified Kass (Moss) run around the house looking for a way out while her maniac of a husband is chasing her. After a few close calls she makes it to the road, just running and screaming madly. Luckily, a lady stops on the road, picks her up and takes her to a friends’ house. We later discover that the lady, was in fact her sister Emily (Dyer) and her long time friend is James Lanier (Hodge) who just happens to be a cop and a single father to his daughter Sydney (Reid). In essence that was the first 10 minutes of the film. Sure, there are some holes in the story that we try to figure out, and it is not until the lady, ok her now you know that she is the sister drops by the friends’ house to tell her that her husband is in fact dead; so she can start to live her life anew. It is then that a few of these gaps are filled.

In the next scenes, we are introduced to a really sleazy lawyer type, Tom Griffin (Dorman) who is not just a piece of slime, he is also the brother of the deceased. After revealing that Cecelia Kass (Moss) will be the recipient of a large inheritance (with some conditions), she returns to her friend’s house to share her newfound wealth. Shortly after this, we see some strange occurrences in Cecelia’s (Moss) life. Things disappear, move, turn on/off and unexplained noises occur in the night. Naturally, Cecelia (Moss) becomes terrified as she believes that her ex-husband is still alive and it has been a huge plot all along. This is actually where the movie starts to get really interesting. Not wanting to give out too many spoilers, let me just state that the film’s intensity increases, there are a few twists and turns, and the film finishes with a great fight and a satisfactory conclusion. 

So let’s start with what I did not like about the film. First, after the initial opening where we find our heroine running around crazily looking for a way out of the house, the next 20 minutes is slow, and I mean slow. We have some characters with no real backstory or raison d’etre. For example, the friend where she finds refuge after leaving her husband. James Lanier (Hodge). Here we have a single father who is taking this crazed women in. Ok, she is a friend, but the back story of their relationship is never revealed. Especially when we find out how much cash she is willing to share with him and his daughter from her new found wealth. Now, this must be a great friend to share that kind of coin! There should have been at least a little more substance to those characters and their relationship. I spent a while just trying to figure out how he played into the story line, and whether there was some sort of sub-plot that I was missing. 

Additionally, the character of the sister, Emily (Dyer). Again, where is the substance and meat to the character. Ok, she is a sister so there is the familial bond, but too many times during their conversations there is indications that there is more to the relationship and how she helped her sister over the years. Were these story points left on the editor’s floor? Maybe, or did the director just want to get to the slash and gore and not worry on how they got there? I don’t know. Either way, I was not really impressed on this character’s development as well.

The final point that did not impress me in the film was the fact that the “invisible man” seemed to possess superhuman strength. This was a bit far fetched once the “invisible man” and what/who he is has been revealed. The fight scenes were a little out there in this respect, for when an individual would grapple with their invisible adversary, the only advantage would be that they could not see what he was doing and only feel the effects. But once the victim got a grip on their foe, the strength of the person should come through and make the battles a bit more even in some cases. However, it would not have the same dramatic effect on the screen if it was done that way.

Now let us look at the characters that make up “The invisible man”:

Elisabeth Moss  as Cecilia Kass: First, I must say that I am not a huge fan of Moss, I can pretty much take or leave her in a film. Sure, she was good in Mad Men, but that was an ensemble piece and she was in a supporting role. I have heard good things about the Handmaid’s tale, but I have yet to watch it. Besides this film, I have yet to watch her in something that she was the principal star. But enough of her previous work. In “The Invisible Man” I found her character to be a tad too eccentric for me, yes her character was supposed to be scared and recovering from an abusive marriage, but to me, it was an uneven performance. Don’t get me wrong, we did enjoy the film and her role as the lead, but to my taste, it was missing something. Maybe, it was the fault of the editing or script, I am not sure, as I could not put a definitive finger on what it was absent for it to be a truly great role. 

Oliver Jackson-Cohen as Adrian Griffin: Jackson-Cohen was the abusive husband, and to be honest was relatively new to me. The only other role I had seen him in was as Ronnie in Mr. Selfridge, a Masterpiece Theatre production that funnily enough is what my wife and I are watching right now. But, back to his character, Cohen only had a very limited amount of screen time, as his role was more that of the unseen nemesis. When on screen, he was usually yelling and running around so we did not really see any “talent” from him if you will. The main focus of his character was the pieces that you did not see of him, just what was described by the others. All in all, a minor role, with no real on-screen impact.

Harriet Dyer as Emily Kass: This is another role that only had minor screen time. Dyer played the sister well and demonstrated a believable amount of emotion and angst when dealing with her sister’s situation. Her chemistry with the main characters seemed weak to me, and even when confronting her sister (Cecelia – Moss), it appeared forced. Again, Dyer is an actress whose work is largely unfamiliar to me so I had nothing else to compare it to. So overall, her performance was adequate to assist the storyline and pace, but not something that was memorable in my eyes. I would have to see her in another role to give me something to compare this performance with. 

Aldis Hodge as James Lanier: I have mixed opinions on Hodge in Lanier role. First, while I found his acting to be fine, not great, but fine, his character was one dimensional and had no back story to justify the significance of his relationship with Cecilia (Moss). If he was such a good and old friend, so much so that she could stay with him and his daughter for extended periods, why did he not intervene earlier in her abusive relationship. On top of that, he is supposed to be a cop! Why did he not assist before? His character required more backstory and fleshing out. This is not the fault of the actor, but that of the writer/director/editor. For all we know there was more to his character than what was presented in the final film. Additionally, he is a big guy, while fighting the “Invisible Man” you would think that once he got a hold of the guy, he would be able to do some damage. Unfortunately, he gets tossed around and smacked down like a rag doll. Looking at his IMDB profile, he has been in many small roles in shows that I have watched over the years, i.e. Numbers, ER, Bones, CSI, The Walking Dead and a Good day to Die Hard. But obviously he nor his characters have left a lasting impression to me. However, I do see potential, and maybe he just needs the proper role to give his career a catalyst that it requires.

Michael Dorman as Tom Griffin: This was actually my favourite character of the film. He was equally spineless and sleazy at the same time. His sleaziness just oozed out of the character and infected everything around him. I thought that Dorman played this character beautifully! Even though he only had a small amount of time on screen, his presence had a great affect, and he literally stole whatever scene he was in. As with the other characters, when checking the resume on IMDB, I was surprised that he was in other films/shows that I had watched, but could not remember his role/character. However, after seeing him in “The Invisible Man” I will pay much more attention to his characters in the future. 

So what did we like about the film you ask? I actually loved the camera work and direction for the most part. The ability for the camera to look at a portion of the room to give you the impression that there was something there was fantastic. It just fit I also enjoyed how the camera would put the characters (visible ones) to the side of the frame, thus giving you the illusion that the nemesis was in the empty space. For me, that was the highlight of the film. I accepted some of the one dimensional characters and plot holes to watch the camera work the scenes and thus heighten the tension! 

So would I recommend this film and were we entertained? I would have to say yes to both questions. “The Invisible Man” was a fine addition to the H.G. Wells repertoire of film adaptions. It had the tension, and excellent camera work that some of the earlier versions lacked. As I previously mentioned, I enjoyed the perspective of the victim rather than the aggressor in the film. This was a new way of enjoying the film that set it apart from the others. If you are a fan of Moss and a fan of the genre, then please give this one a try. You may find the same one dimensional characters and plot holes as I did, but sit back and appreciate the camera work, you will be entertained. Of that, I am sure.

My Score: 6/10

Till Next time!

Cast:

Ewan Mcgregor                         Dan Torrance

Rebecca Ferguson                     Rose the Hat

Kyliegh Curran                          Abra Stone

Cliff Curtis                                 Billy Freeman

Zahn McClarnon                        Crow Daddy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Rating: 6.5/10

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

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

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

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

Zahn McClarnon            Longmire, Queen of the South

Till next Time!

Cast:

Emily Blunt                   Evelyn Abbott

Millicent Simmonds      Regan Abbott

Cillian Murphy              Emmett

John Krasinski               Lee Abbott

Noah Jupe                    Marcus Abbott

Djimon Honsou             Man on Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Rating: 6/10

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

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

Millicent Simmonds      A Quiet Place

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

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

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

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

Cast:

Chris Pratt                    Dan Forester

Yvonne Strahovski         Colonel Muri Forester

J.K. Simmons                 James Forester

Betty Gilpin                  Emmy Forester

Sam Richardson            Charlie

Mary Lynn Rajskub        Norah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our rate: 7/10

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

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

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

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

Betty Gilpin                  Nurse Jackie

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

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

Till Next time!

Cast:

Michael Pena                Mr. Roarke

Maggie Q                      Gwen Olsen

Lucy Hale                      Melanie Cole

Austin Stowell               Patrick Sullivan

Jimmy O. Yang              Brax Weaver

Portia Doubleday          Sloane Maddison

Ryan Hansen                 JD Weaver

Michael Rooker             Damon

Parisa Fitz-Henley         Julia

Kim Coates                   Devil Face

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our rating: 4.5/10

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

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

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

Lucy Hale                      Pretty Little Liars

Austin Stowell               12 Strong, Bridge of Spies

Jimmy O. Yang              Crazy Rich Asians, Space Force

Portia Doubleday          Carrie

Ryan Hansen                 ChIPS, Santa Clarita Diet, Central Intelligence

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

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

Till Next Time!!

Cast:

Harrison Ford                      John Thornton

Omar Sy                                   Perrault

Cara Gee                                 Francoise

Dan Stevens                         Hal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our rating 6.5/10

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

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

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

Cara Gee                                 The Expanse

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

Till Next Time!

Review: Stowaway (2021)

Cast:

Anna Kendrick              Zoe Levenson

Daniel Dae Kim             David Kim

Shamier Anderson        Michael Adams

Toni Collette                 Marina Barnett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our rating: 2/10

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

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

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

Shamier Anderson        Goliath, Defiance

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

Till next time!

Cast:

Adam Sandler                           Nick Spitz

Jennifer Aniston                        Audrey Spitz

Luke Evans                                Charles Cavendish

Terence Stamp                          Malcolm Quince

Gemma Arterton                       Grace Ballard

David Walliams                         Tobey Quince

Dany Boon                                Inspector de la Croix

John Kani                                  Colonel Ulenga

Adeel Akhtar                             Maharajah

Olafu Darri Olafsson                  Sergei

Luis Gerardo Mende                  Juan Carlos Rivera

Shioli Kutsuna                           Suzi Nakamura

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our rating: 4/10

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shioli Kutsuna               Deadpool 2

Till next time!

Cast:

Sam Worthington                      Lt. Rick Janssen

Taylor Shilling                           Dr. Abi Janssen

Tom Wilkinson                          Prof. Martin Collingwood

Agyness Deyn                           Dr. Freya Upton

Nathalie Emmanuel                   W.O. Tally Rutherford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our rating:  3.5/10

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

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

Taylor Shilling                           Orange is the New Black, Argo

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

Agyness Deyn                           Clash of the Titans

Nathalie Emmanuel                   Game of Thrones, Misfits, Furious 7

Till Next Time!

Cast:

Will Smith                                 Mike

Martin Lawrence                       Marcus

Vanessa Hudgens                      Kelly

Alexander Ludwig                     Dorn

Charles Melton                         Rafe

Paula Nunez                             Rita

Kate Del Castillo                        Isabel Aretas

Joe Pantoliano                          Captain Howard

Jacob Scipio                              Armando Aretas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our rating 6.5/10

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

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

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

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

Paula Nunez                 The Purge (series)

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

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

Review: 1917 (2019)

Cast:

Dean-Charles Chapman             Lance Corporal Blake

George MacKay                        Lance Corporal Schofield

Colin Firth                                 General Erinmore

Andrew Scott                            Lieutenant Leslie

Benedict Cumberbatch              Colonel Mackenzie

Mark Strong                              Captain Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Rating: 9/10

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

Dean-Charles Chapman             Game of Thrones, The Commuter

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

Andrew Scott                            Fleabag, Sherlock, Band of Brothers

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

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

Till Next Time!