Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

Venom

An interstellar spaceship carrying parasites, known as Symbiotes , crash lands in Malaysia, and one of the Symbiotes escapes.  The flight is funded by tech billionaire, Carlton Drake. (Riz Ahmed)   Intrepid television reporter, Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) gets an interview with Drake and asks him about some experiments that Drake is doing with the Symbiotes.  Brock gets this information surreptitiously from his girlfriend, Anne Waying (Michelle Williams) who is a lawyer working on a class-action lawsuit against Drake’s company.  For his efforts , Brock gets fired from his job, loses his girlfriend, and ends up washing dishes to earn a living.

Without looking for information, the Drake story follows Brock.  He gets an unsolicited tip from Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate)  a scientist working on Drake’s lab experiments, who tells Brock that people are dying as a result of  Drake’s experiments.  Brock visits the lab, and sees one of his friends, a homeless woman named Maria, (Melora Walters) is dying from the experiments with Symbiotes, Brock tries to save Maura but she dies, and the Symbiote escapes.  Where did it go?  Does Eddie Brock stop Carlton Drake’s experiments on people?

There is one word for this movie and it is disappointing.  I waited 8 months for this movie and the result is an ultra-conventional superhero movie, with lots of chase scenes, and special effects and little in the way of character development or plot development.  The plot is threadbare, and the characters are so thin they are see-through.  The writers don’t have a simple understanding of parasites or symbiosis.  Symbiosis is supposed to create a mutually beneficial relationship for both organisms, and a parasite can’t live without its host.  Do the writers of this movie have even a basic understanding of science?  Science fiction fans will swallow anything if they like this movie.  To top it off the ending is underwhelming.

I love Tom Hardy, he is the reason I went to this movie, he genuinely tries to pump some life into his lonely, sad-sack, wimpy, loser, character, but the awful script ties his hands.  He has more fun with the Venom character and uses his voice to great effect, but this role is largely a wasted opportunity, the writers traded box office cash for real depth of character and plot.  Michelle Williams is also wasted as nothing more than a hollow love interest.  Riz Ahmed’s character is a little more interesting, he plays an evil Elon Musk character, but his execution lacks emotion, he sounds detached and uninterested.  Three really good actors can’t pump life into this movie, what does that say about the writing?  Not much. All the actors deserved better than this pedestrian script.

The director Reuben Fleischer directed Zombieland, which I liked, but this is a very vanilla directing effort.  There are the requisite action scenes, the requisite special effects, the requisite chase scenes, but there’s nothing iconic here.  He keeps things moving along, but doesn’t do anything to make this movie special.

Venom:  Should be box office poison, but won’t be.

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ant-man-and-the-wasp-

Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is encouraged by the return of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) from the Quantum Realm, wants to try to rescue his wife Janet (Michelle Phiffer) from the Quantum Realm.   Pym wants to build a tunnel, shrink himself down to sub-atomic level,  and rescue Janet.  But the tunnel is missing a part and black marketer Sonny Burch (Walter Goggins) has the part, and all he’s interested in is a relationship with Hope. (Evangeline Lilly)  Ant Man (Paul Rudd) is under house arrest, but escapes to help Hope find the missing part to the tunnel.  Before Hope can negotiate for the tunnel Hope is attacked by the Ghost, (Hannah John Kamen)  who steals Pym’s shrunken lab with all his expensive tech inside.  Ant Man tries to fight Ghost, but fails, and she escapes with the lab. Ghost’s body is phasing in and out of reality because of failed experiments and she ls desperate to find a cure for her physical instability

Pym is forced to go to ex-partner Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) to help track down the lab, Foster is bitter because Pym helped kick Foster out of the Agents of Shield.  Foster helps Pym, but only slightly.  He has an ulterior motive mot to help Pym.  What is it?  Does Hank Pym fix the Quantum Tunnel?  Does Pym rescue his wife?  Does Ant Man get released from house arrest?

Ant Man and the Wasp is a mediocre sequel to a promising Ant Man film, because it seems like the Ant Man character is a supporting character in his own movie.  Hank Pym is the leading character in this film, he gets the main story arc and all the interesting subplots involve Hank Pym and not Ant Man.  Ant Man gets to play with his daughter, and try to keep his goofy co-workers in line.  He gets to shrink and grow several times, a gimmick which the writers overuse by the way.  Moreover Bill Foster is not enough of a rival, and Ghost was not menacing enough.  The ending was not important, because of the post credits scene, another overused gimmick.

The acting is ok. Paul Rudd is a good actor, he handled both the comedic and serious scenes well, but the writers didn’t make him the lead in his own movies.  He’s more like the comedy relief.  Evangeline Lilly was also very good, in her role, she played the action scenes well, and had good chemistry with Paual Rudd, but again, she was relegated to the background.  Michael Douglas is a stiff as Hank Pym, no expression, no range, just an uptight character, and Douglas doesn’t emote well as an actor.  He found is niche in the Romancing The Stone movies, but his appeal and acting skills have slipped since.  Michelle Pfeiffer still looks young and beautiful at 60; the makeup people try to make her look older, but it doesn’t work too well.  The writers do her no favors, this is a bare bones character,  so she’s essentially wasted.  Laurence Fishburne is also wasted; Bill Foster has powers that the viewers never see. There are too many characters, and not enough lines to go around.

Peyton Reed directed Ant Man and The Wasp, he also directed Ant Man.  What’s most surprising is that Reed doesn’t seem interested in plot development, or character development, Reed seems more interested in setting up the action scenes and executing the action scenes than anything else.  The pacing is poor, all these movies seem to be over 2 hours, and some of them don’t need to be that long.

Ant Man and The Wasp:  The sequel bugs me.

MOVIE REVIEW PROUD MARY

Mary (Taraji P. Henson) is a hitwoman for a Boston crime family, headed by Benny. (Danny Glover)  One day, Marry carries out a hit on a bookie, but not his son.  Danny, (Jahi Di’allo Winston) the bookie’s son, becomes a drug runner for Uncle, (Xander Berkely) Uncle is from a rival gang of Benny.  Uncle doesn’t feed Danny, and one day Marry finds Danny, passed out and broke in an alley.  She takes pity on him and takes him home, Mary also feels guilty for killing Danny’s father.  A short time later, at Benny’s anniversary party, Mary introduces Danny to her crime family, and gives Danny and alias, but Mary’s ex Tom, (Billy Brown) figures out that Danny is the son of the man Mary killed.  Mary wants out of the mob, but her relationship with Tom and Benny complicates her wanting to leave.  Does Mary leave her mob ties behind?  Does Tom tell Benny about Mary killing Danny’s father?

I’ve seen a lot of so-called blackspoitation films, films of the 70’s where a black protagonist goes after corrupt black or white antagonists to get revenge.  Shaft, Superfly, and  Coffy are good films.  Not great, but given the production values, and lack of an African American presence in Hollywood at the time, these movies hold up well. Even though it tries to copy the genre, Proud Mary is not a good movie.  The problems begin with the script, it’s supposed to be a woman’s empowerment film, so why does the movie begin with the premise that Mary should have a maternal instinct?  Is that an inherent part of being a woman?  Or is it a script written by three men?  Why is Tom Mary’s boyfriend?  Why does Mary need a boyfriend?  These are all antiquated ideas of womanhood.  Mary continuously says she is leaving Benny’s gang, but does she actually leave?  The script belabors that point to the point of nausea.  The violence is beyond reason, the amount and regularity of the violence is unacceptable, it seems to be a substitute for plot, and that is a sign of bad writing.  The message seems to be women’s empowerment is easy, with a gun in your hand. That’s a message Hollywood has tried to peddle for years, except now they’re using women to peddle it. The ending is predictable,  but the movie is thankfully short.

The acting is surprisingly bad.  Taraji P Henson is actually pretty convincing as both hitwoman, and compassionate woman, she doesn’t need to prove her street cred, she does that already as Cookie, but she proved her range playing Katherine Johnson in Hidden Figures, a character diametrically opposed to Mary or Cookie .But the script doesn’t allow her to play little more than a street tough woman. Jahi Diallo Winston is no that good as Danny, he should be more sympathetic, but doesn’t have the ability to show anything but anger.  Billy Brown is also a one-note actor as Tom, Mary’s ex-boyfriend, he doesn’t exhibit any charm or likeability in the role.  Perhaps most surprisingly, Danny Glover giver an awful performance, dull emotionless, phoned in, like he was looking for a paycheck and nothing more.

The direction is made up of setting up one action sequence to another, no backstory, no visuals, no pacing, in a thankfully short movie, that seemed much longer.

Proud Mary:  Nothing to be proud of.

 

 

deadpool 2

After two years of working as a mercenary, and killing many bad guys, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) decides to start a family with girlfriend Vanessa. (Morena Baccarin)  When those plans are interrupted, Deadpool is convinced by Colossus (Stefan Kapcic) to join the X-men as a trainee.  His first mission is to rescue a teen boy named Russell (Julian Dennison) from a home for orphaned mutants, Russell is causing damage with his powers and the police are called, but Deadpool screws up the mission and both he and Russell  go to the Icebox, a mutant prison where their powers are controlled by collars around their necks.  While in prison, Russell seeks revenge on the headmaster(Edde Marsan)  of the orphanage and enlists the aid of Juggernaut,(himself)  the biggest prisoner in the Icebox.

From out of the blue, a soldier named Cable (Josh Brolin) breaks into the Icebox and attacks Russell, but Russell escapes Cable with his new friend Juggernaut, and heads for the orphanage to get his revenge on the headmaster,  Cable follows Russell, and Deadpool with his new ‘family’ the X-Force, which mainly consists of Domino (Zazie Beetz) and they go to find Russell.  Can Deadpool and Domino stop Russell before he and Juggernaut exact their revenge?  Can Deadpool stop Cable from killing Russell.

Deadpool 2 is a mix of a great deal of violence, scatological teenage anatomy humor, both disturbing and derivative plot elements, and what Hollywood does best, explosions substituting for plot.  There’s a joke in the film that refers to Ryan Reynolds saying. “He doesn’t like sharing the screen with others” which is basically wish fulfillment for the rest of the film.  This is Ryan Reynolds’ film, and he chooses to carry the load mostly on his own.  The mood alternates between frathouse humor and some very disturbing allegations at the orphanage, and the film doesn’t know if it wants to be a serious film about serious issues, or Animal House with mutants, and that is part of the problem .  The mood shifts are so sudden and violent that any viewer would suffer from being whipsawed between laughter and angst  It doesn’t make the X-men look very good either, sending a trainee on a mission they should be handling.  The ending is not surprising, because it’s a Marvel movie, and endings don’t matter in Marvel movies.

The acting s ok, just ok, Ryan Reynolds is not a great actor, he’s as average actor, maybe below average.  So maybe,  sarcastic, snide, comic book superhero Is the best he can do for himself.  His best movies are Van Wilder, and Definitely, Maybe, frathouse comedy romantic comedy.  Deadpool weirdly combines both genres, so no wonder he feels comfortable.   Josh Brolin was a serious actor, he was good in No Country For Old Men, he did a good job as George W Bush in W.  But now he’s not in one but two Marvel movies, playing the heavy, Thanos on The Avengers, but playing a more complex role, as Cable.  Since Brolin is not known for comedy, he plays Cable as a straight man.  Here’s a suggestion, how about Larry the Cable Guy plays Cable?  Need an assassin?  Larry would Get ‘er done!  All kidding aside Brolin is quite good in this role.  Zazie Beetz was a breath of fresh air as Domino, she added snark, and a woman’s perspective to the testosterone dominated cast  She almost steals the movie from the incessantly mugging Reynolds. .  Julian Dennison was a bit too whiny, as Russell, he was boxed in by bad writing.  This was not the comic book Russell’s origin story.

The direction was good, pacing was fast, not an over reliance on special effects,  the pacing is good, a few too many explosions.  He gets mostly good performances from the cast.  And the guy is a stuntman, which makes sense for a movie like this which involves big action scenes and lots of stunts.   He directed  Atomic Blonde too, which I did not like.

Deadpool 2:  Not quite dead in the water.

Fahrenheit 451

Guy Montag (Michael B. Jordan) is a firefighter in the future in Cleveland Ohio.  In this America, firefighters don’t put out fires, they start them.  Specifically they start fires to burn books that are deemed offensive by the government.  The government allows people to read the Bible, In the Lighthouse and Moby Dick, but bans all other literature.  There is a group of people that are fighting this censorship, derisively called Eels by the government and the firefighters.  Under pressure by Captain Beatty (Michael Shannon) a young Eel named Clarisse McClellan ( Sophia Boutella) gives Beatty information on one of her fellow resistors, an old woman with a vast library.  When Montag and Beatty get to the location, the old woman burns herself and the library.  Before she burns herself, she yells the word, “Omnis !” The old lady burning herself has a profound effect on Montag.  How does he change?  What is Omnis?

This is not a faithful adaptation of the classic book by Ray Bradbury, and that is not a good thing for viewers of this film.  The central premise of the book involves people turning away from reading books, in favor of other forms of entertainment.  This premise should be more prescient today with the advent of social media, online shopping, and streaming movies, but somehow this adaptation concentrates more on style than substance.  It changes substantial plot points until almost nothing remains of the original book but the title.  This new adaptation adds a meaningless romance to the story and changes the ending to make it look like every other action movie that Hollywood churns out today.  Do yourself a favor, read the book and skip this movie, it will make Ray Bradbury happy and save you the time of comparing this version of the movie to the book.  The book is vastly better anyway.

The acting is above average, for the most part.  Michael B. Jordan is convincing as the conflicted firefighter, where does his loyalty lie, to Beatty or to his conscience? He is boxed in by a script that doesn’t allow for character or plot development Michael Shannon is once again excellent, and turns the intensity up to 11 as Beatty.  He wants to find those eels and stomp out this movement.  Once again, the character is not allowed to develop, and seems one-dimensional.  Sofia Boutella is again hired for her looks and doesn’t even get a chance to show any range in her acting skills.

The direction is more interested in making this a fast-paced glossy image of a movie rather than conveying any big ideas.  So the viewer moves from chase scene to chase scene and images projected on sides of a building.  It’s all style over substance.  The pacing is surprisingly slow for a movie that purports to be an action film.

Fahrenheit 451:  Not So Hot

Avengers-Infinity-War

Thanos wants to steal all the Infinity Stones and kill half the universe’s population.  On the planet Asgard, Thanos (Josh Brolin) is searching for the Space Stone, encased in the tesseract , Thanos battles Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom  Hiddleston) on Asgard.  While the battle rages, Heimdall (Idris Elba) sends the The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) to Earth where Bruce Banner warns Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) that Thanos wants the Time Stone and already has the Power Stone.  Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) tries to take the Time Stone from Dr. Strange, but he refuses to give it up.

Some of Thanos’ minions attack Vision (Paul Bethany) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) but they are repelled by Steve Rogers (Chris Evans)  Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)   Thanos wants the Mind Stone from Vision, Vision wants to sacrifice himself, and destroy the Mind Stone.

The Guardians of the Galaxy rescue Thor from outer space after Asgard is destroyed,  Thor wants to go to Nioavillir tobuild the Strormbreaker an ax capable of killing Thanos, he is accompanied by Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot. (Vin Diesel)  Peter Quill (Chris Pratt)  and the rest of the Guardians go to Knowhere, where Thanos seeks the Reality Stone.  Gamora  (Zoe Saldana) knows a secret about the Soul Stone, that she effuses to tell Thanos.  Will Thanos learn the secret of the Soul Stone?  Will Thanos collect all the Infinity Stones?  Or will Thor build the Stormbreaker Ax and kill Thanos?

Infinity War does one thing well, and that is to give each character enough lines to make each character contribute an important piece of the film.  The premise of killing half the population of the universe is a dumb one, because repopulation  is a continual thing.  The humor is well-placed, but then becomes overdone, and completely contradicts the stark nature of the ending.  The ending is jarring, it left me depressed and angry, hardly feelings that I expected to have coming out of a superhero action film.  I didn’t expect to have such a visceral reaction to this film, but I’ve spent 18 years watching these Marvel films and suffered through a few bad ones, Thor 1 &2, the first Guardians, the first Avengers, and this is my reward?  The fate of these characters seems random and capricious, and any attempt to write a revision to this movie in the next Avengers movie should be met with loud displeasure.  I, for one will not watch the next Avengers movie, why should I reward such shameless manipulation?

The acting is very good.  At the head of this very big class is Josh Brolin, he is decidedly cruel, but he is also conflicted about killing, and he displays that dichotomy very well.  Robert Downey Jr. plays the snarky Mr. Stark to perfection, like Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, no one should ever play Tony Stark other than Downey Jr. because no one can play Stark better.  Benedict Cumberbatch does a nice job as Dr. Strange.  Chris Hemsworth is finally comfortable as Thor.  He is funny and having fun as the Norse god. And Zoe Saldana packs an emotional punch as Gamora.  She is fantastic.

The direction by the Russo Brothers is over the top.  Pacing to them is getting the audience from one action sequence to another, and jamming as many special effects into one movie as possible, which is fine if that’s all the viewer demands, but there is little time for plot development, character development or backstory, despite its 2 ½ hour running time.  They get good performances, but sometimes the special effects overwhelm the acting.

Avengers:  Infinity War: Thor-oughly unfortunate ending.

 

the-foreigner

An overprotective Chinese immigrant father named Quan (Jackie Chan) is living in London. He loses his daughter , Fan (Katie Leung) to an IRA terrorist bombing.  Despondent, he searches for answers.  He finds ex-IRA terrorist, Ian Hennessy. (Pierce Brosnan) Hennessy is now a British government official, who is trying to keep the 20 year peace accord between Northern Ireland and England.  Hennessy at first says he knows nothing about the bombing that killed Fan.  Quan doesn’t believe him, at first he is a nuisance calling Hennessy and staying in his office.  Quan then tries to blackmail Hennessy by taking pictures of Hennessy and his mistress, Maggie. (Charlie Murphy) Little does Hennessy know that Quan trained with the Americans during the Vietnam war, and will not give up fighting to find out what happened to his daughter.  What tactics does Quan use next?  How much does Hennessy know about the bombing that killed Fan.  Are there more bombings to come?

Why in the world would Jackie Chan and 3 Chinese media companies resurrect the Irish Republican Army to make them the central plot point of a fictional movie?  The IRA hasn’t been active in almost twenty years and the peace accords are holding strong.  With so many trouble spots around the world, why would Chan, and his fellow producers re-ignite a dormant war?  He could have picked Thailand to be living in and gone after an offshoot of ISIS or Al-Qaeda, he could shave been living in America and exposed an American cover-up about some group, Chan could have picked any locale and made the story more current and resonant.   Instead, the story seems dated, and filled with clichés.  There are also some sensationalistic aspects of the film that the story could have done without.

The acting is a mixed bag.  Jackie Chan is at his best in light comedic roles, like Drunken Master,  or the Rush Hour movies. His personality lends itself to those roles, he’s a likeable guy, who plays likeable characters.  Chan does not have the skill to play characters beyond that comic range.  But he attempts to play a laconic, non-verbal Rambo role and walks around in a stupor, until he gets his mission done.  It’s not a welcome change.  On the other hand, Pierce Brosnan is very good as a guy facing pressures from many sides, the viewer does not know where his loyalties lie, and Brosnan does a good job of keeping the viewers guessing.  He made this movie worth watching.

The directing is also a mixed bag.  The pacing is very slow at times, and that doesn’t help the movie at all. The director doesn’t use many visual flourishes, and he doesn’t get much of a performance from Chan.

The Foreigner:  Brosnan pierces the fog of formulaic writing.