Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

Kingsman

Eggsy (Taron Edgerton) is firmly ensconced as a member of the Kingsman.  He is being chased by Charlie (Edward Holcroft) who is a disgruntled Kingsman trainee, with a robotic arm.  Charlie fails to take down  Eggsy, but his robotic arm hacks Eggsy’s profile and gains valuable information on the Kingsmen.  Charlie works for an organization called the Golden Circle, a secret organization, headed by Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) which wants to destroy the  Kingsmen.  With the information Poppy gets from Charlie’s robotic arm, she destroys the Kingmen locations throughout the country.  Only Merlin (Mark Strong) and Eggsy survive, what do the two remaining Kingsmen do with no  headquarters and only two agents?  Who is Poppy Adams, and why is she bent on destruction?

The Golden Circle starts out like many action films often do, with a high octane action sequence.  The movie lags when the exposition begins .  It is shamelessly sentimental, on many fronts, including Harry, Merlin, and   Princess Tilde.  The romance between Tilde and Eggy is so forced and unnatural, that it reminds me of how the two lovers first met, which was the worst part of the first movie.  The movie has a thinly veiled feminist justification for Poppy’s villainy, but it’s poorly thought out and realized. The writing anti-drug-in a passive aggressive way.  There are also more of the stereotypical dumb redneck characters in minor roles and major roles, therefore reinforcing a tired movie trope. Add to that that the movie is too long and way too violent, and the result is a truly boring, often redundant sequel to a passable spy flick.

Taron Edgerton is a good young actor, too good to be trapped in a crap soufflé such as this.  He was excellent in the first Kingsmen movie, as well as Eddie the Eagle, and Sing.  Hopefully he can return to more versatile roles, and can quickly erase this mistake from his resume.  Mark Strong is an established veteran actor, but he is someone who can move from role to role with little damage to his career, so hopefully he too can leave this role in the rearview mirror. I guess Colin Firth ran out of Bridget Jones sequels to make.  Julianne Moore doesn’t exude the kind of joy that is required to play a real evil villain, she seems to be going through the motions.  Channing Tatum cannot act, that doesn’t change by adding a badly executed Southern accent.  Jeff Bridges is misused, and Halle Berry is badly underused. A great cast is badly sabotaged by criminally bad writing.

The director does a good job with the action sequences, but the pacing is really slow in the scenes between, which makes a 2 hour, 20 minute movie into what seems like a never-ending dud.  The overreliance on violence is telling, violence is often a filler in a story when the writers can’t think of actual plot, and this movie is no exception. The choice of music is odd, “Take Me Home Country Roads” is an odd choice for music because it refers to West Virginia, and the American part of the movie is in Kentucky.  There is also another John Denver song in this movie, and a John Denver reference, I don’t really understand the reason for these 1970’s references in a movie almost 50 years later.

Kingsmen:  The Golden Circle.  A royal pain.

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Dunkirk

In 1940, thousands of Allied soldiers are pushed back by the Nazis to the city of Dunkirk in France. They are surrounded by German soldiers on all sides, and waiting to be evacuated.  Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) is a British private who survives an ambush attack, he helps get a soldier onto a British hospital ship, which is bombed by the Germans before Tommy gets on and sunk, Tommy saves Alex (Harry Styles) before the hospital ship sinks.  Tommy gets onto a destroyer, which is also sunk by a German U-Boat. A third soldier, Gibson (Aneurin Bernard) saves Tommy and Alex, and they are towed by a rowboat back to shore. Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branaugh ) explains to Colonel Winnant (James D’Arcy) that destroyers are too big to aid in the evacuation, and the British Navy has requested civilian vessels to help with the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Gibson, Tommy and Alex make it onboard a trawler and wait for high tide, but when the trawler gets underway questions arise about Gibson.  Is he a spy?

One of the civilian vessels requisitioned by the Navy , Moonshine, is captained by Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance) his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and Peter’s friend George (Barry Keoghan) set out for Dunkirk.  On the way, they rescue a shell-shocked solder (James Bloor) from a sunken ship.  When the soldier realizes they are going back to Dunkirk, the soldier objects, does the soldier succeed in turning Moonshine around?

In the air, three Spitfire pilots fly toward France, the squadron leader is shot down soon after their mission begins.  Farrier (Tom Hardy) takes the lead and shoots down several German aircraft, but he realizes that his fuel gauge is broken on his plane, so he has to rely on the third pilot in the squad, Collins (Jack Lowden) to monitor Farrier’s fuel.  Can Farrier adequately protect the requisitioned fleet or any other allied seafaring craft from the Nazi bombing campaign?  Do Farrier and Collins make it back home safely?

Dunkirk is unique in that it is a story told from a perspective before Pearl Harbor Day, most Hollywood movies focus on events after the Americans enter the war, this movie has more of a European perspective to the storytelling.  Dunkirk tells the story of the evacuation of Dunkirk from three distinct perspectives, the ground, frim the point of view of a private named Tommy, from the sea, from the point of view of a leisure boat captain, named Dawson, and from the air from a Spitfire pilot named Farrier. Christopher Nolan creates a screenplay rife with conflict, one storyline has a man vs. man conflict, another is man vs man and also man vs machine and one storyline is just a commentary about the utility of war. The insight into mankind’s condition when placed in a situation of ultimate stress is what makes this movie interesting, the viewer actually sees how different people react to the threat and reality of a world war..  The endings are realistic, yet satisfying.  Seeing all three subplots play out is what makes the movie so entertaining.

The acting is superb.  Tom Hardy is one of my favorite current actors, he can say a lot without saying, anything, and that’s good because he doesn’t have a heck of a lot of dialogue in this part.  His instruments are failing him, his plane is going to go down, what is he going to do? It’s great acting, when  he can transmit emotion by just letting things happen. James Bloor also does an excellent job in an unlikeable role as the shell-shocked solder.  He conveys the desperation of a man suffering from PTSD well.  Mark Rylance is superb displaying the quiet determination of the captain of a civilian vessel willing to do  his part to aid in the war effort.  Kenneth Branaugh is steady as the man in charge of the docks in Dunkirk. Barry Keoghan is also excellent as George, a teenager who has never done anything noteworthy.  He wants to make his mark in W.W.II.

The direction is electric from the first scene to the last.  The first scene has German propaganda leaflets like rain and sets the mood for the rest of the film.  The audience follows a British private named Tommy, and sees the evacuation from his point of view, that really gets the viewer involved.  Then the viewer sees Mr. Dawson, his son, and George, and then Farrier in the air.  The scenes are intercut so well that no one storyline goes on too long and no other storyline lacks attention.  The dogfight scenes between Farrier and the Germans are exhilarating, and the music by Hans Zimmer made the action pulse forward with incredible urgency. Christopher Nolan as a director, knows how to make his movies visually stimulating, and pace his movies at a breakneck pace. Nolan takes what could have been a dull, dry subject and makes it exciting.

Dunkirk.  Well-done.

wind river

Corey Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is an animal tracker, living near a Native American reservation in Wind River Wyoming.  Corey is divorced from his Native American wife, Wilma (Julia Jones) and planning to spend the day visiting his son, Casey. (Teo  Briones) While tracking a lion, Casey finds a girl who has been raped and murdered. Casey knows the girl, Natalie, (Kelsey Asbille) Natalie was friends with Casey’s daughter, who also died under mysterious circumstances.  An F.B.I. agent named Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is called in to investigate the crime because it occurs on federal land,, but the coroner, Dr. Whitehurst (Eric Lange) rules the death resulted from hypothermia.   Corey and Jane then have to prove that Natalie was murdered.  They ask Natalie’s parents, and get nowhere.  They proceed to ask Natalie’s brother Chip (Martin Sensmeir) and he gives them the name of Natalie’s boyfriend, Matt. (Jon Barenthal)  Do  Casey and Jane find Matt?   Does that lead to Natalie’s murderer?

Wind River should have been a taut thriller with a murder mystery to resolve, but what it became was a fish out of water story about an FBI agent from Florida trying to solve an apparent murder on an Indian reservation in Wyoming, and because she doesn’t know the culture or customs of the native people, there are a lot of awkward silences between her and the victim’s family and friends.  Casey finds himself manslplaining to Jane what it takes to track down clues in the wilderness of Wyoming. The outsider theme overtakes the movie and subordinates the murder mystery, and the mysteries surrounding Casey.  The murder is resolved to quickly and easily, and the ending falls flat, it is also awash in violence, a lot of which could have been avoided.

Jeremy Renner is actually good in this film, for the first time since The Hurt Locker, I enjoyed seeing Jeremy Renner in a film.  He should stick to these small,  indie type films, he’s not an action star, he’s proven that in his roles in the Mission Impossible, Avengers, and Bourne film, the kind of low-key character he plays here is more his style.  The problem with this film is casting Elizabeth Olsen as Jane the FBI agent, everyone else in this movie is trying to play a character here and she is just playing herself, there is nothing there, no emotion, no energy, just a flat, monotone reading of a script.  There is no chemistry of any kind with Renner, they’re not friends, co-workers, they’re like strangers who don’t like each other, but are forced to work together, and I don’t think that was purposeful.  Graham Greene was great as the tribal policeman Ben, Greene gives Ben an easygoing wit and charm that lesser actors wouldn’t have.

The direction, which has been lauded by many critics is nothing special to me, the pacing is very slow, except when the ominous background music swells, that is a tip off that something suspenseful is about to happen.  There is nothing visually arresting in this film, and first time director Taylor Sheridan should have taken more advantage of those surroundings.  Sheridan wrote Sicario, which I did not like, and Hell or High Water, which I have not seen.

Wind River:  Full of hot air.

the last jedi

General Hux (Domhall Gleeson) launches an attack to wipe out the last of the resistance fleet, but Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) launches a counterattack that disables a dreadnaught, one of the First Order’s most powerful ships.  The counterattack is a costly one and Poe disobeyed Leia Organa’s (Carrie Fisher) orders not to attack the ship, so Leia demotes Poe.  Leia is injured in a subsequent attack and hands power to Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) who proceeds to retreat out of range of the First Order’s ship, but Hux’s ship can track the Resistance ship, even in hyperspace, and the resistance ship is running low on fuel, so time is running out for the resistance.

Finn (John Boyega) wants to escape the ship and find Rey, (Daisy Ridley) but he is stopped by Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) Rose’s sister, Paige, (Veronica Ngo) was killed in an initial attack on the dreadnaught, so Rose takes her resistance role seriously.  Rose and Finn figure out how to disable the tracking device, but Maz Kenata (Lupita N’yongo) suggests that they need a master codebreaker, so they travel to the Canto Bright casino to find the codebreaker.

Meanwhile Rey finds Luke (Mark Hamill) on the island of Ahch To, where he is on self-imposed exile. While on the island, Rey is discovering her powers within the force. Luke is disillusioned with being a Jedi, because of his inability to train Kylo, and does not want to give Rey the training she desires.  She is also using her powers to hear the voice of Kylo Ren (Adam  Driver) Kylo is trying to bring Rey to the dark side, Rey sees  the conflict in Kylo’s heart and tries to pull him over to the side of the resistance.  Who wins the mental tug of war?  Kylo or Rey?  Does Luke train Rey? Do Rose and Finn find the codebreaker?

There’s a lot to like about the new Star Wars movie, the Kylo/Rey/Luke storyline is probably the most interesting.  Luke is probably more interesting as a character than he’s ever been, because he’s conflicted. The Rose/Finn casino storyline falls flat, because it’s just silly, it’s as if Casino Royale breaks out during a Star Wars movie. Admiral Holdo is one of the worst characters ever written, she orders people around, doesn’t explain her plan, and gets things mansplained by Poe.  It’s an insult to women everywhere. DJ, the codebreaker is one of the few new characters that works in this film.  But the movie doesn’t end when it should, and the movie limps to an end, and I never thought I’d say that about any Star Wars movie. Despite all the problems with plot and character, the movie works, primarily because of the intensity of the Kylo/Rey/Luke storyline.

The acting varies greatly.  Daisy Ridley is a great actress, there’s something about her eyes and face, that makes the viewer want to watch her.   Adam Driver is superb as Kylo Ren, he brings an intensity to the role that fits the character to a tee.  John Boyega’s role is a little less central to the movie, but he brings the same enthusiasm to his role.  Oscar Issac has a lot of magnetism to the role of Poe, but the script shoots him down several times, and he’s not allowed to show Poe as the daring flyboy he is. I wish Mark Hamill was a better actor, because this version of Luke Skywalker is almost Shakespearean in its complexity.  Unfortunately, Hamill  is not up to the challenge.  Kelly Marie Tran plays Rose like a lovesick teenager, and has no chemistry with John Boyega.  But Laura Dern gives the worst performance in this movie by far, she plays an unlikeable person with no emotion at all, which makes a boring character even more boring.

Riann Johnson is a good director, I liked Looper, I didn’t especially like The Brothers Bloom.  He keeps the pacing going well, I would have cut the casino scene entirely, and worked on another scene to get Rose and Finn together.  People can differ about the casino scene, but I absolutely blame Riann Johnson for not being able to decide on an ending, he actually wrote the perfect ending, but he didn’t end the movie there, he ended the movie much later than he should have.  Also, as director, he didn’t bring the disparate subplots together in time to tell the story in a cohesive manner.

Star Wars:  The Last Jedi:  A flawed tour-de force.

baby driver

Baby  (Ansel Elgort) is a young getaway driver who works for Doc (Kevin Spacey) who’s a mobster.  Baby’s first job is driving Griff (Jon Bernthal) Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Elza Gonzalez) away from a bank robbery.  He does this in a red Subaru.   Baby’s second job is a Brinks truck heist featuring three different criminals, Eddie (Flea) J.D. (Lanny Joon) and Bats. (Jamie Foxx)  Once again, Baby escapes with his life.  Doc promises Baby that’s his last job and Baby is glad, because while going to the same diner every day, because his mom used to work there, he meets Debora (Lilly James)a cute waitress, and the two fall in love.  Baby is out of the getaway driving business and working as a pizza delivery boy, when Doc calls with one more job, involving money orders and the post office.  After a threat from Doc, will Baby take the big job, or forget his life of crime and run off with Debora?

Most people have heard of a mash up in music, Baby Driver is a mash-up of genres.  It’s a crime caper, it’s a drippy romance, and it’s got so much music, it might as well be a musical.  But the music and the romance divert attention from the crime drama, in ways that didn’t help this movie.  There are coincidences that would never happen in real life, like two cars looking just like the getaway car on the first getaway, there are backstory elements that only serve to garner sympathy to the Baby character, and there’s a badly mismatched cast, which makes the viewer wonder if this group of people would ever do anything together, much less plan robberies together.  It’s got that one last bank job cliché, and then it breaks that promise, because there is not enough material in the film to maintain interest. The ending would have been fine, if the movie had ended five minutes before it did. If this movie wasn’t a mash-up of genres, it would have been just another heist movie with a lot of shooting and fancy driving, so I guess the touches of style are better than nothing.

This movie features some of the strangest casting in any recent movie I’ve  seen.  Ansel Elgort is good as the innocent getaway driver, but does anyone believe that a guy like that would actually be a getaway driver?  No.  And Elgort laid that Southern accent on a bit too thick, it was noticeable.  The writers failed to give Baby any dimensions though, he was basically all good all the time, and that got boring quickly. Jon Hamm is great in Mad Men, but he is not a thug, and making him dress up in a leather jacket with stubble doesn’t exactly make him look tough, he just looks out of place, like he missed a revival of Grease or something. Casting 27 year old Elza Gonzalez as Hamm’s girlfriend when Hamm is 46, makes the idea of Hamm in this movie even more ridiculous.  The two were obviously badly mismatched, and Gonzalez was only used for eye-candy purposes.  Kevin Spacey plays what he always plays, an authority figure who everyone fears for some unknown reason.  Well I hope he enjoyed himself in this movie, because he’s finished in Hollywood. Jamie Foxx plays what he always plays, a slightly crazed, unpredictable character who makes jokes. One can argue about casting any of these people, but what are Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and 70’s lounge singer Paul Williams doing in this movie?  Strange casting indeed.

The direction is not great, the pacing is uneven, it goes from a faced paced action flick to a slowly paced romance, and back and forth between the two.  The director used the beat in the music in concert with some of the action, which is unique, but hardly worth sitting through this movie for.  Watch Drive with Ryan Gosling, which also has arthouse excesses, but it’s got a better story and better acting than this movie.

Baby Driver:  Drove me to drink.

 

 

thor ragnarok

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is locked up in a cage by Sartur (Clancy Brow) a demon who claims to have initiated Ragnarok, a prophesy where Sartur will destroy Asgard.  Thor thinks he’s already stopped the prophesy, but flies to Asgard to talk to his father, Odin.  (Anthony Hopkins)  Instead of Odin, Thor finds Loki (Tom Hiddleston) who seems to have replaced Odin on Asgard.  With a little help from Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) Thor finds Odin, only to find that he’s dying, and Hela (Cate Banchett) who is Goddess of Death and also Odin’s first born, and also Thor and Loki’s sister, plans to take over the family legacy.When Odin passes away, Hela will have infinite power.  Odin passes away shortly thereafter, and the race is on to get to Asgard.  But Thor and Loki get sidetracked to planet Sakaar, which is ruled by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) who wants to pit Thor against his champion in a gladiatorial battle.  It turns out Thor already knows the champion of Sakaar, it’s the Hulk, but will beating the Hulk be as easy as Thor thinks and can Thor get back to Asgard before Hela takes it over?

Thor Ragnarok did something that I didn’t think was possible, it made me like a Thor movie.  The previous two Thor movies took themselves so damn seriously, this was a refreshing tongue in cheek take on the Thor story that this trilogy needed in the worst way.  The story is simple, which is crucial to a superhero movie, don’t overcomplicate things.  The backstory with Hela is equally as good, and those two elements alone make this movie worth watching.  There are drawbacks however, the whole Hulk fight scene is unnecessary, in fact Hulk is unnecessary, as is Dr. Strange.  Writers have yet to find a way to integrate Hulk into any avengers movie much less make a decent Hulk movie, in this one the Hulk is little more than comedy relief.  The ending is predictable, and when Hollywood runs out of plot, it pours on the fight scenes and special effects.  Thor Ragnarok is no exception, but Ragnarok is a welcome relief from a character and trilogy that was rapidly losing relevance, in the Marvel universe.

The performances are very good.  Chris Hemsworth is a funny guy, anyone who’s seen him in the Ghostbusters remake, admittedly not that many saw this, but those who did knows he has great comic timing.  Tom Hiddleston is also great as Loki, as he plays up the sibling rivalry again, this time for laughs.  But the best performance in this film undoubtedly belongs to Cate Blanchett, yes she is evil, but she underplays the evil so well that it’s subtle, and she has a reason for being angry, and that makes her performance all the more intriguing.  There are also good performances by Idris Elba Karl Urban, Tessa Thompson and of course Anthony Hopkins. These performances make a well-written movie even better.

The direction is good, the scenes burst with color, yes there’s a lot of CGI, but the film I is not overwhelmed by it.  The pacing is good, the movie moves along at a brisk pace for a movie that’s over 2 hours long, and the director gets a lot of good performances from a very talented cast.

Thor Ragnarok  Rock on!

thelma and louise

Louise (Susan Sarandon) is bored with her life, and with her boyfriend Jimmy, (Michael Madsen)  so she decides to call up her friend, Thelma (Geena Davis) who is sick of her domineering husband, Darryl (Christopher McDonald) and so they decide to drive to Mexico.  Thelma ominously brings her husband’s gun along, in case there’s any trouble.  They go to a bar, and right away, Thelma gets too drunk and too flirtatious with a guy named Harlan. (Timothy Carhart) Harlan takes Thelma to the parking lot of the bar and tries to rape her.  Luckily, Louise gets to the parking lot just in time and shoots Harlan.  They are now fugitives from the law, on the run.

Louise calls Jimmy and asks him to wire her own savings to her; Louise also picks up an attractive, young hitchhiker named J.D., (Brad Pitt) at Thelma’s urging.  When Louise goes to pick up the money, Jimmy is waiting for her.  He asks Louise to marry her.  Does she accept?  Is J.D. is innocent and carefree as he appears?    What of Hal, (Harvey Keitel) the cop who doing the leg work to find Thelma and Louise, does he track them down, or do they escape to Mexico?

The first time I saw this movie, I thought it was an acceptable escapist feminist revenge fantasy.  I see it now and I can’t stand this movie.  The only character who’s got any redeeming characteristics is Louise.  Thelma does one stupid thing after another that gets them deeper and deeper into a hole. So much for being a feminist’s dream movie. J.D. is not what he appears to be, Darryl is the king of the jerks, Jimmy who appears decent has a dark side, and Hal the cop chasing them seems to be the only man who has any empathy at all.  Even the waitresses and superficial and empty headed.  Bar patrons are rapists, and truckers are harassing stalkers.  Khali Khouri who was lauded in the book I just read, wrote a screenplay full of one dimensional, superficial characters in my opinion.  Thelma is supposed to show some growth but her dramatic arc from stupid to wise happens too quickly to be believable.

The acting is adequate.  Susan Sarandon really stands out in this movie, as she does in most movies, and gives a hellacoius performance.  She’s gotta stay one step ahead of the law, and one eye on her friend, and her performance illustrates the frustration she must endure, and also the joy of being free from the things that are shackling her.  I don’t think Geena Davis should have been Oscar nominated, she’s playing the ditzy airhead she always played and wasn’t convincing when her transformation takes place.  Brad Pitt was just asked to be a pretty boy, take his shirt off, and flex his muscles and that’s what he did.  Michael Madsen was very good as Jimmy, he gives the character depth, and a quiet strength. Harvey Keitel with a Southern accent is unintentionally funny, and the accent makes it difficult to take the performance seriously.

The direction is only so-so, while there are some stunning visuals of the American Southwest, but the pacing is inexcusable, it is so painfully slow that it’s painful to watch.  I kept watching hoping the story would move and it didn’t move fast enough, not even remotely fast enough for me. There was so much about what a great director Ridley Scott is in the Over The Cliff book, and he is a good director for science fiction, this story is not his milieu, so he was right in not wanting to direct it.  He shouldn’t have.  He got some good performances, and some not so good ones.

Thelma and Louise.  Don’t Louise sleep over this one.