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Review: Red Notice (2021)


Dwayne Johnson                       John Hartley

Ryan Reynolds                          Nolan Booth

Gal Gadot                                 The Bishop

Ritu Arya                                  Inspector Urvashi Das

After a pretty long break of providing movie and television reviews, I have decided to submit a new one. For this edition of “Was I entertained” I went to Netflix to select something to watch on a fall Saturday night. After logging into Netflix, I cued up my profile and started looking at the list I had created. Well, let me tell you, Netflix has a lot of great stuff, but we also came across a large number of crappy selections. So we started and discarded 4 films before we finally settled on “Red Notice”. 

We should have started with this film, as my wife and I are both fans of the 3 principal actors (Johnson, Gadot and Reynolds). For the people (like us) who do not rush to watch a new Netflix film once added, but wait a while, let me give you a quick synopsis of what “Red Notice” is about.

The film starts with a small (fictional) history lesson about 3 golden eggs that were apparently owned by Cleopatra after receiving them from Marc Antony as a wedding gift. Naturally, over the course of history, these eggs had disappeared only to be found by a farmer in the early 20th century.  Two of the eggs were recovered but the 3rd one was lost. Fast forward a hundred plus years, a very rich Egyptian wants to recreate the prestige of these eggs and present them to his daughter (also named Cleopatra) as a wedding gift, and he is offering 300 million to anyone who can provide them.

Enter Nolan Booth (Reynolds), the self proclaimed top thief in the world. He apparently knows the location of the third missing egg and is hell bent on stealing the other two from a museum and a gangster’s private collection. In the first scene where Nolan (Reynolds) is trying to steal the egg from the museum, he is being pursued by Hartley (Johnson), an FBI agent and an intrepid Interpol Inspector, Urvashi Das (Arya). The first contact between Booth (Reynolds), Hartley (Johnson) and Das (Arya) has an awesome chase sequence, with numerous quips, wanton destruction and everyone running full speed ahead. This actually sets the tone for the rest of the film as the heroes try to fulfill the rich man’s wish of providing the 3 eggs to his daughter as a wedding gift.

Due to a series of double crosses and twists, we find our two heroes in a Russian jail. Hartley (Johnson) and Booth (Reynolds) continue to perform a quick witted banter between the two and develop a friendship (Ok we knew this was going to happen, but it helps with the films enjoyment). We also are introduced formally to the Bishop (Gadot). We know that everyone wants the eggs, or in the case of Hartley (Johnson) a chance to clear his name as he felt that he was improperly incarcerated by Das (Arya). It is at this point, the action increases as the three are in search of the eggs while trying to elude Das (Arya). Not to give out too many spoilers here, lets just say that there are more double-crosses and twists in this film than a game of murder mystery. Some are predictable, some are downright surprising. Along the way, we are provided numerous scenic views from around the world (Rome, Bali, London, Valencia and Cairo to name but a few) and some stunning cinematography. While much of the film was completed in Georgia, there was still the actual cities filmed for the set-up of the scene if you will.  The jokes and action continue and we are also given an homage of sorts from other great movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark (trilogy), True Lies, National Treasure, The Thomas Crown Affair and Oceans 11. All in all, a pretty enjoyable action/comedy movie. 

What did we like about the film? Well, first I have to say that the chemistry between all the main actors was great. Granted, they have all been in at least one other film together besides Red Notice.  But to my knowledge this is the first time they have all been together for a film. The cinematography was excellent, the script was fast and funny and the direction seemed to be spot on. While there were some areas of predictability in this film, it was ok and we did not mind it. We were enjoying the experience. I also enjoyed the homage to the aforementioned classic films. It was clear that it was not a rip-off of ideas that some directors/films do, but rather a salute or acknowledgement of them. So in that aspect, we enjoyed that as well. 

As I mentioned, the chemistry was great between all concerned. So in that light, lets take a look at each character:

Dwayne Johnson as John Hartley: If you are a follower of these blogs, there is no doubt that you have determined that Johnson is a family favourite. I don’t think we miss any film that he is in as we know that it if Johnson is in it, we will probably like it a lot. Sure, some of his films are not as funny or action packed as others, but I really don’t think there is any of them that we outright disliked. In Red Notice, we find Johnson pretty much playing the role that he always does in his action comedies. Quick with the wit, the laugh, and the fists. His character, while not really “deep”, it is substantial enough that you don’t really see too many flaws. With the character of Hartley, you knew what you were getting, action, a few one liners and a few laughs.  It is proven formula for Johnson, and it works every time. Overall, we really enjoyed this character, and Johnson in Red Notice. Even though I have been watching his films ever since he crossed over to film from his wrestling days, I still enjoy pretty much all of his roles and characters. Sure, there maybe some weaker ones, but pretty much any film that he was a key character, has proven to be an enjoyable experience to watch in our household. All in all, another successful performance by Johnson.

Ryan Reynolds as Nolan Booth: Reynolds, much like Johnson, plays pretty much the same role that has made him a household name. He is quick with the wit, awesome one liners, and of course performs great action sequences. As with Johnson, he is also a family favourite. Hell, you could say he is a national favourite, as our city actually commemorated a street with his name just a little while ago. I have been watching his career progress since my wife and I first came across, “2 guys, a girl and a pizza joint”. For us, he made the show, and every film afterwards his career has just boomed, (well except for Green Lantern I suppose, but believe it or not, I actually did not hate that film as much as many others have). Deadpool is really where he came to his own and ensured that his fan base really solidified and gerw. In this film, I liken his character to what he played in “The Hitmans bodyguard”. Which was also an enjoyable character and role for him. He definitely has great chemistry with all his co-stars, and the character, while actually a bit shallow, was extremely enjoyable. From our perspective, another great film with Reynolds in it.

Gal Gadot as The Bishop: Gadot is really moving forward in the industry of late. I remember seeing her in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise and really wondered who she was. Time went on, she got more roles, some small, some large and her career just continued to grow. When she took on the mantel of Wonder Woman, she truly started hitting a-list roles and characters. In this film, she really plays both sides of the house, the antagonist, as well later on the protagonist (same as Johnson) and she did it well. Her comedic deliveries, while not as polished as Reynolds or even Johnson, were still well done and she played her character well off of their shenanigans and fast paced delivery. As with other co-stars, a fine performance in an enjoyable film.

Ritu Arya as Inspector Urvashi Das: This actress was familiar and it took me a bit to put a finger on where I had seen her before. It was not until I looked at IMDB that I found out that she was in The Umbrella Academy, a show that I found very intriguing. As the Interpol Inspector who was in hot pursuit of these ne’er do wells, she played it well enough against the star power of her co-stars. Her character actually reminded me of Reynolds love interest in the first Hitmans Bodyguard film. An important character, but yet one that could potentially be forgotten within the action and comedy of the film. That could be the problem when a relatively unknown actor is pitted against some major star power…the character can become lost. However, having said all that, we have to say her character and delivery was pretty good throughout the film, and her chemistry with her co-stars was also notable. Her character was actually the drive for many of the situations and the plot, but as I said before, it can almost get lost as you watch the film as you are anxious to see what will be the next and you forget that her character was the impetus. However, having said all that, her character was well played and we enjoyed it in the film.

So now is the question, were we entertained? Yes, we were. It was a nice light film that had plenty of action and laughs throughout. There was a solid cast, great snappy dialogue, wonderful cinematography and enough salutes to other films to make it worthwhile. We would recommend this film to anyone who is a fan of the 3 principal stars, or anyone who enjoys the buddy action flicks. All in all, a wonderful way to kill a few hours on a wet fall evening. 

Our rating: 7/10

If you are interested in any film that I have reviewed of the primary cast, please click on the links below:

Dwayne Johnson                       SkyscraperRampageJumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Ryan Reynolds                           The Hitmans Wife’s BodyguardCriminal

Gal Gadot                                  Wonderwoman 1984,  Criminal


The Comeback Trail (2020)


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!

Review: Jurassic: World Dominion (2022)


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!

Review: Black Widow (2001)


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!