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Review: Jurassic: World Dominion (2022)

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!

Review: Black Widow (2001)

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!

Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021)

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!