Sunday, October 8, 2017

THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD (2017) Ryan Reynolds, Samuel Jackson, Gary Oldman, Elodie Yung

Director:     Patrick Hughes
Writer:        Tom O’Connor
Actors:       Ryan Reynolds, Samuel Jackson, Gary Oldman, Elodie Yung

The title of this movie suggests crime, violence and suspense thriller, right?  To my happy surprise, it’s also a fun comedy.  Samuel Jackson’s character (Darius) has witnessed a crime and is set to testify in court.  The criminal he’s testifying against doesn’t want him alive, so a lot of bad guys are trying to kill Darius.  In fact, a task force headed by Elodie Yung (Amelia) is assigned to protect him until the trial.

Unfortunately, the task force team members keep getting killed.  So, Amelia knows someone who is the best when it comes to being a bodyguard.  This is Ryan Reynolds (Michael) who wants to be on the straight and non-criminal path.  Amelia, his ex, persuades him to take on the task of keeping Darius alive until the trial.

The chase and fight scenes are well choreographed and include some “make-fun-of-itself” moments, but it’s the “buddy” chemistry between Jackson and Reynolds that create a funny, enjoyable movie.  Salma Hayek, as Jackson’s wife, is hilarious and affecting as the tough tootsie with a dirty mouth who’s captured Jackson’s heart.  As usual, Gary Oldman is at his villainous best.

While the storyline is predictable, it’s a delight to watch Reynolds portray a tough guy who deals with murderous thugs.  His character is likable and charming.  He treats his job akin to a janitor cleaning out the toilet, “It’s a stinky job, so let’s do it and move on.”  He dispatches killers with effortless ease.  It takes a lot more effort for him to deal with Jackson’s crazy-guy attitude.  All in all, this is a fun movie.

TAGS:  Hitman’s Bodyguard, Ryan Reynolds, Samuel Jackson, suspense thriller, comedy, Patrick Hughes, Tom O’Connor, Gary Oldman, Elodie Yung

ATOMIC BLONDE (2017) Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman

Director:     David Leitch
Writer:        Kurt Johnstad
Actors:       Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman

COMMENTS:   Based on a graphic novel, “The Coldest City,” this movie is a suspense thriller filled with twists, turns and dramatic surprises enough to please any lover of spy films.

Ultimately, it’s all about Charlize Theron and how much fun it is to see her play the sexy, gorgeous and brilliant heroine of this movie.  Now in her early 40’s, she defies any preconceptions people might have of a woman no longer in her prime.  Her face is glorious, her body is slender and toned, and she moves with exquisite purpose.  Then, too, let’s not forget that her academy- award-winning acting prowess comes with the package.

As a super agent, she’s a visual wonder of physical agility as she displays solid martial arts and masterful work with any weapon she gets her hands on.  She is pitted against James McAvoy’s character, who is suspected of being a double agent, so sometimes they work with each other, and sometimes not so much.  James McAvoy, who has often played characters who are mellow and charming in other films, is tough, cold and ruthless in this movie.  I didn’t want to believe he was the “bad” guy in this story, but darn it, he was.  Except... was he really?

The plotline is certainly as complex as you would expect, filled with double agents and, ultimately, triple agents.  This is not a movie for children as it includes adult-themed scenes, all credibly worked into the storyline. 

Kudos to the choreographer of the fight scenes, featuring our heroine in full dangerous mode.  Theron is frighteningly believable as an unstoppable live weapon who fearlessly takes on her enemies with no regard for life or limb.  Yep, she gets scratched up, bruised and battered, but that’s life when you’re an agent.
TAGS:  Atomic Blonde, Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Kurt Johnstad, David Leitch, spy, thriller, The Coldest City

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017) Tom Holland, Robert Downey, Jr., Michael Keaton

Director:     Jon Watts
Writers:      Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Actors:       Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jacob Batalon, Zendaya
This is going to be another Spiderman franchise, and it begins when teenager Spiderman (portrayed by Tom Holland) is just learning how to use his newfound powers.  There is a great deal of charm and humor in this version..

Robert Downey, Jr. looks fabulous and is quite believable as the wannabe father figure for teenage Peter Parker.  Michael Keaton portrays the villain with frenzy and calm interfaced into his character all at once.  Marisa Tomei, as Peter’s beleaguered aunt, is delightful, and Jacob Batalon as Peter’s pal, is great. 

For me, the school scenes tended to slow down the momentum and could have been shortened somewhat.  CGI effects were excellent, and Vulture’s techno costume was impressive and scary.  Most of the charm was in the relationship between Tony Stark and Peter, Ironman stepping off his heroic platform to experience the impatience of a dismayed father over his disobeying son, and Spiderman feeling the helplessness of trying to please a father whom he adores.  Both Downey and Holland create a believable, dynamic interaction which we can relate to and sympathize with.

There’s one scene where Ironman has given young Peter a spiderman costume, and when Peter puts it on, it sags on him and we understand that he has a lot to experience before he can “grow” into his Spiderman persona.  This was a fun adventure movie filled with heartwarming characters, and I think we’ll all want to see how young Peter ultimately fills out his Spiderman costume and destiny.

GEN:  9   JUST: 8   HUVA: 7
TAGS:  Spiderman, Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Watts, Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Robert Downey, Jr., Marisa Tomei

Friday, August 25, 2017

DUNKIRK (2017)

Director:     Christopher Nolan
Writers:      Christopher Nolan
Actors:       Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance

Christopher Nolan wrote and directed this movie to dramatize the evacuation of Allied soldiers who are surrounded by German forces during World War II.  There is literally no escape from the beaches of Dunkirk except for the military ships, which the Germans destroy in a barrage of air firepower.  Ultimately, an appeal is sent out to civilian boats to come to the rescue of over 300,000 soldiers stuck on the Dunkirk shores.  Hundreds of boats -- trawlers, lifeboats, pleasure yachts -- answered the call for help.

The movie focuses on half a dozen soldiers, each with his own agenda, but all motivated to survive the disastrous trap.  There are fine soul-searching moments for the soldiers, and the fact that most of them are not readily recognizable superstars makes each scene more real and visceral.  Mark Rylance, as owner of a fishing boat who cannot ignore the call for help, is quite wonderful as a humble man who makes heroic choices. 

There are many emotional moments in this movie.  As a director, Christopher Nolan is brilliant in depicting the horrible aftermath of bomb attacks, underwater as well as on ships and land.  Some of the frames are virtual artistic masterpieces of cinematography.

For me, the storyline was very difficult to follow.   Because I wasn’t clear as to what was really happening, I was frustrated and confused at times.  It might have been helpful for Kenneth Branagh to take a more active role in the film to clarify the events taking place.   Perhaps Nolan didn’t want to insult his audience with narrative, but I would have welcomed a little more back story.  Nevertheless, this is a powerful film, depicting how life-threatening circumstances bring out the worst and best in people.

GEN:  8   JUST:  N/A   HUVA:  8
TAGS:  Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh,   Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard

Saturday, June 17, 2017

WONDER WOMAN (2017) - Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen,

Director:     Patty Jenkins
Writers:      Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder
Actors:       Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen

What magnificent Amazons the women are in this film.  Robin Wright, in the role of Antiope, the military leader of the Amazons, is absolutely wonderful as she twists and turns in the air to send a fury of arrows at the German soldiers attacking their invisible island.  Connie Nielsen, as Queen Hippolyta, is majestic and vulnerable as she tries to control and guide the young princess Diana towards her destiny as Wonder woman.   

Even Chris Pine, who portrays pilot Steve Trevor, is made more humane and manly in the presence of such awesome women.  I totally loved the choreography of the island battle.  Even as they battle, we watch the warrior women perform incredible feats, but never once do we even consider that it’s about prowess or superior skills or just plain winning.  Director Patty Jenkins made choices which encourage us to see instead the generous spirit of these women who only want to honor life and save the world.  The CGI effects are excellent.

Once Wonder Woman leaves the island behind and enters the WW II scenario, she still embodies that sense of spiritual and moral strength which define her Amazonian heritage.  Gal Gadot is beautiful and strong and steadfast as Diana Prince, Wonder Woman.  There is no arrogance in her possession of enhanced fighting skills.

The best thing about this movie, though, is the human focus on the big picture.  Patty Jenkins understands the true female spirit:  that when it comes to protecting and defending those we love, women are fearless and fierce.    

GEN: 9  JUST: 9  HUVA:  9

TAGS:  Wonder Woman, Amazons, Diana Prince, Gal Gadot, Robin Wright, Patty Jenkins, Connie Nielsen, Chris Pine, Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder

Saturday, June 10, 2017

KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD (2017) - Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, Eric Bana

DIRECTOR:  Guy Ritchie
WRITERS:    Joby Harold, Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram
ACTORS:      Charlie Hunnam, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, Eric Bana

I really liked this version of “King Arthur.”  It was more about the evolution of King Arthur from child-to-man-to-king, and the spiritual significance of why only Arthur can pull the legendary sword.    

Charlie Hunnam is wonderful in the TV series “Sons of Anarchy,” but, for me, he wasn’t the right choice to portray Arthur the king.  Of all our recent hunk-heroes, I think Channing Tatum could have given Arthur the soul and the heart which made him such a beloved legend.  Charlie has the looks, the physique and determination to portray Arthur, but I didn’t see the beleaguered heart of a great king who knows intuitively that whatever decisions he reaches as leader of his people, some of those people will die and/or be hurt by the choices he makes.

In “The Vow,” I saw Channing Tatum portray that heart and spirit in his love for Rachel McAdams’ character.  He drew me in emotionally. 

In this version, Arthur’s journey becomes more about his confronting his personal fears rather than the monster within himself he must battle.  King Arthur of legend is a king of magnanimous heart and spirit., one willing to sacrifice himself for his people.  Eric Bana as Arthur’s father depicted more of that in his scenes than did Arthur the man.

That said, CGI effects and cinematography are excellent.   Guy Ritchie has a strong vision of magnificence on the screen.  I did miss Merlin’s character.  I’m not sure being raised in a brothel creates “king” character better than being raised by a magician who understands politics, leadership and miracles.  Still, I did enjoy this movie.

GEN: 7  JUST: 8  HUVA:  5

TAGS:  King Arthur, Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Eric Bana, legend, Guy Ritchie

Monday, April 3, 2017

LOGAN (2017) - Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen

DIRECTOR:  James Mangold
WRITER:       Scott Frank
ACTORS:      Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook

No doubt about it, superpower movies are thrilling fantasy adventures.  They engage the adrenalin surge.  This movie, however, is more about engaging the heart than the adrenalin. 

Little did I realize “Logan” was a Wolverine story.  Nevertheless, I was immediately engaged because, from the beginning, it was evident to me this movie was more about the human condition than human superpowers.  We see Logan struggling to survive undercover as a mere human on the road to ultimate death.  We witness his gruff reluctance to save his mentor, Charles, now fragile and broken by the aftereffects of his own superpowers.

Disillusioned and bitter, Logan’s love and respect for his mentor renders him a vulnerable fragility which we can’t ignore.  The tenderness which cannot quite overcome the sharp ruthless edge of his metallic claws is heartbreakingly real.

He knows nothing else but that he must protect his loyal friends who are all quite overcome by their own superabilities which now betray them at every turn. When a new child mutant enters his life, one which possesses his own Wolverine traits, what choice does he have but to protect her too?

My journey in this movie was more about the challenges which arise because of conflicting emotions:  compassion vs. hatred; forgiveness vs. anger;  vengeance vs. love.   Sometimes the opposites co-exist.  What then do you do?  I absolutely identified with Logan’s dilemma.

Does he use his hated savage power for the good of others?  To save an innocent child’s life?  To guide that child to a gentler, more normal existence despite her Wolverine powers?

In the end, at great cost to himself, Logan has no choice but to allow his monster-self to prevail in order to defend those he loves most.  This is an excellent movie, directed with nuanced sensitivity.

GEN:  9;  JUST:  N/A   HUVA:  6
TAGS:  James Mangold, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Wolverine, X-men, Logan