Posts Tagged ‘samuel l jackson’

captain marvel

Vers (Brie Larson) is a Kree warrior, who is captured by the Kree’s archenemy the Skrull, who search her memories for some information vital to the Skrull civilization.  Vers escapes her captors and crash lands on Earth circa 1995, followed in hot pursuit by the Skrull, who can shapeshift into any human on earth.  Vers and the Skrull are met by two Agents of SHIELD Nick Fury, (Samuel L. Jackson)  and Agent Coulson. (Clark Gregg) Fury kills one of the Skurlls, an takes part in an alien autopsy with his superior, Keller, (Ben Mendelsohn) who is really the Skrull leader, Talos in disguise.

Using Fury’s security clearance, Vers finds out about a secret Air Force project called Pegasus, run by Dr. Wendy Lawson.(Annette Benning)  Vers has some dim memories of Earth, and of Wendy Lawson, but she’s not sure if she can trust these memories.  So Vers and Fury go to Louisiana to see Maria Rambeau  (Lashana Lynch)  Does Maria remember Vers, or is Vers’ mind playing tricks on her?  What about Talos, is he a terrorist as the Kree think?

What happens when one has low expectations for a movie, and is happily surprised?  Captain Marvel happens.  The writers do an excellent job of turning the usual superhero narrative on its head.  The writers also make Vers relatable, they do this in several ways, and all of them work.  The movie also works as a buddy movie between Fury and Vers, although some of the banter seems forced, the characters seem pretty natural and comfortable with each other.  There are some sloppily written political messages interspersed in the movie, and probably one too many 90’s references, but above all, this movie is about a person’s search for her true identity.  The women’s empowerment message layered on top of the identity crisis is unmistakable and powerful. And the ending is satisfying, unlike Avengers Infinity War.

The performance by Brie Larson is multifaceted.  She gives her character vulnerability, but also strength, and wit and confidence, she makes the character her own, and the question of gender becomes irrelevant.  Samuel L. Jackson is very comfortable playing Nick Fury, and he’s clearly having fun with the character.  His chemistry with Larson is obvious, and it redounds to the benefit of the film.  Lashana Lynch plays a key role in this movie, and she makes it absolutely authentic, for the movie to work, Lynch’s character has to work, she has great chemistry with Larson and Jackson.  Annette Benning is another actress who is enjoying the complexity of her character.  It’s fun for the audience too, to see actors, not just play one dimensional characters.  Ben Mendelsohn also does a great job giving Talos multiple dimensions.

There are two directors, and they often work together on projects, even though this is the first big budget film they have worked on.  They keep the pacing brisk, after getting past the origin story and the exposition, the story moves along nicely.  The directors are smart to visually tell the story of a woman trying to reconstruct her life through montages and still pictures, and those visuals support the written story hand in glove.  The pair is also smart not to overuse special effects and let them dominate the story.

Captain Marvel:  Tip your cap to the filmmakers.

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Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and his wife Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) and their family Violet (Sarah Vowell) Dash (Huck Miller) and Jack Jack (Eli Fucile)  are arrested after stopping The Underminer (John Ratzenberger) because superheroes are now illegal.  But a wealthy family now headed by Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk)and his sister Evelyn  (Catherine Keener) want to start a campaign to bring back superheroes and make them legal again.  Winston wants Elastigirl to lead the campaign, Mr. Incredible reluctantly agrees to stay home and mind the kids. During Elastigirl’s first tv appearence, a new villain appears, Screenslaver (Bill Wise)  tries to hypnotize the television audience, and carries a troubling message.  Elastigirl tracks Screenslaver down almost immediately, and is surprised to find out that he is only a pizza boy.  She can’t shake the feeling that the capture of The Screenslaver  was too easy, that there was something deeper to Screenslaver.  Is she right?  Do the Supers become legal once again?

The second installment of the Incredibles has some good ideas, but if the viewer doesn’t listen carefully, those ideas are lost.  There are ideas about the role of superheroes in society,  the role of technology, including social media in society, but those ideas are contained almost exclusively in one soliloquy, and then those interesting ideas get obscured by more mundane ideas, and the Incredibles 2 just turns into another routine Hollywood action flick.  This movie is a case study in why sequels shouldn’t be made.  Sequels shouldn’t be made unless they have something new or different to say.   This one could have had interesting things to say, but it restrains itself.

The acting is good but predictable.  The idea of a superhero as househusband seems like it’s been done before, Craig T. Nelson tries to breathe life into this character again, but there’s not enough in this character in this movie to make him fun again.  Holly Hunter tries to make Elastigirl a feminist hero, but again that aspect of the character is not fully developed.   Samuel L. Jackson brings his usual energy and fun to the role of Frozone, but again he doesn’t have enough material to make the character interesting,  Catherine Keener is given an interesting role, but the viewers are never given insight into why the character behaves the way she does.  There just seems to be too many characters in this movie, and not enough depth in any one character

The direction is ok, there’s nothing visually spectacular in this movie.  Pixar has had some really visually breathtaking movies, but this one didn’t even try to have one scene that caught the audience’s eye.   The result was underwhelming.  The pacing was slow at times, during exposition, but sometimes had the pacing of an action movie, a brisk pace.  The performances were ok, not great.

The Incredibles 2:  Incredidull.

 

kongs kull island

In 1973,Bill Randa (John Goodman) works for a government agency called Monarch, Randa and his assistant Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) convince a Senator not to defund Monarch by showing him a picture of Skull Island, a heretofore undiscovered island.  Brooks says the U.S. must explore the island before the Soviets do, and that convinces the Senator to fund the trip, complete with a military escort. Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) leads the military escort, and brings along a tracker from the Royal Air Force, James Conrad, (Tom Hiddleston) who is paid handsomely for his duties.  The military escort also carries with it a photographer, Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) who wants to find out what the secrecy behind Monarch is all about.

The group flies through a storm and find Skull Island, they also find what Randa and Brooks are looking for, Kong, a giant ape who rules the island, and doesn’t care much for helicopters.  Kong slaps down the helicopters like flies, but miraculously, not only do Conrad, Brooks, Randa, Packard, and Weaver survive, they meet a group of natives, and Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) another American soldier, who has been stranded on the island since WWII. There are two schools of thought among the Monarch survivors, one led by Packard, wants to hunt and kill Kong for killing his men, the other, led by Marlow, wants to save Kong, because there are worse monsters on Skull Island.  Which side wins the argument?

The viewer has to suspend a lot of belief to find this movie the least bit believable.  First of all, suspend belief that the big hairy ape grounds all the helicopters and all the passengers don’t die instantaneously from impact or the conflagration that follows impact.  All sci-fi asks viewers to suspend reality to some degree, but this movie does so more than most.  The characters have no depth, even the main characters are one dimensional.  The story really adds nothing to the Kong mythology, Kong is still the protector of people, but yet he kills some people.  Kong also still has a soft spot for the ladies, a tired holdover from the Fay Wray era. And the shift in location and time period from Japan to an island off Vietnam, only sets off a faux debate on the merits of the Vietnam war.  This is hardly a topic to be discussed with sound bites in a science fiction movie about a giant ape.

For all the fine, A-list actors in this movie, the acting is only so-so.  Samuel  L. Jackson is clearly having fun playing an alpha-male bad guy, and it shows. Tom Hiddleston plays a mercenary with a heart of gold.  Has anyone ever heard of a nice guy mercenary?  Me neither, therein lies the problem.  Brie Larson won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for her performance in Room, but why would Larson  go from playing such a weighty role to a do-nothing character like Mason Weaver is mystifying. Larson essentially takes still pictures for the whole movie, like a glorified tourist.  John Goodman is convincing as a tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist, whose conspiracy turns out to be true. John C. Reilly provides a lot of the comedy relief as an American pilot who takes a decidedly Zen approach to Kong.  If Jackson, Goodman, and Reilly were in this movie alone, Kong Skull Island would have been a lot more fun.  Hiddleston and Larson play their roles a lot more seriously than they should, and that wrecks the campy nature of the film.

In a movie with a weak script, and somewhat lackluster acting, the direction is something that stands out for being quite good. The cinematography is spectacular, and the high altitude shots of Vietnam are spectacular, I’ve seen pictures of those mountains and it was very well represented in the movie.  The CGI, which usually interferes with my enjoyment of a movie, was really well done.  Kong looked very real and moved in a realistic way, some CGI just looks like a bad video game, but this CGI seemed natural for some very unnatural creatures, and the creatures were well integrated with their backgrounds, everything seemed well-matched.  The pacing was good, for a long movie, and  director Jordan Vogt Roberts got mostly good performances from everyone involved, although this cast didn’t need much help. Vogt Roberts is mostly a TV director, so this was an extremely ambitious big screen project to take on.

Kong Skull Island:  Kong doesn’t monkey around, but the film has limited a-peel.

hateful eight cross

In post-Civil War Wyoming, a bounty hunter named John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is transporting a prisoner named Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock Wyoming to be hanged.  Ruth is joined by another bounty hunter and black Union soldier named Major Marquis Warren. (Samuel L. Jackson) The stagecoach travels a bit when they encounter a third man, Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) who is soon to be sheriff of Red Rock.  The four passengers soon realize that they cannot make it all the way to Red Rock, because a blizzard is coming, so they stop at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a small trading post near Red Rock. At Minnie’s, Ruth, Warren, Domergue, and Mannix meet Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth)  the hangman of Red Rock, Confederate General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern) and cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) but Minnie (Dana Gourrier) is nowhere to be seen which raises Major Warren’s suspicions. Ruth has suspicions of his own, he suspects that somebody is going to team up with Major Warren, shoot him and split the bounty with Warren.  Where is Minnie?  Are Major Warren’s suspicious unfounded?  Are John Ruth’s suspicions unfounded?

For the first hour and a half, I thought this movie was destined to be another Tarantino classic, but then the movie was marred by projectile vomiting,  Major Warren’s frat-boy style revenge vignette, nonsensical alliances, and out-of -the-blue narration from none other than Tarantino himself, I thought I had turned on the director’s commentary by mistake.  All that, and the film was about an hour too long, Tarantino overindulged in his own dialogue, and no producer had the guts to tell him it was too long.  About 2 hours into the film, Tarantino feels the need to add some exposition, as to how certain characters came to Minnie’s Haberdashery, which was totally unnecessary. I don’t mind the violence, that’s a Tarantino trademark of sorts, but what I do mind is a badly written screenplay with easily correctable errors.

The acting was great Samuel L. Jackson did a great job making a non-likeable character almost likeable, Kurt Russell does the same thing, as does Walton Goggins.  Jennifer Jason Leigh does an adequate job with a badly written character, she had no depth whatsoever.  Not sure why Zoe Bell is in the film albeit for a cameo, her New Zealand accent belongs in this film like boxer shorts belong on the statue of David.  Thankfully, Channing Tatum has a relatively small role, and still convinces me that he cannot act.

Director Quentin Tarantino had a visual masterpiece going the mountainous background, the snowy foreground, the marvelous cinematography, but then writer Tarantino cut director Tarantino off at the knees, he forgets about the beautiful outdoor locations, and traps the characters indoors in a dark, dank cabin. I don’t know why Tarantino kept showing a cross in the wilderness, if he was trying to infer that one of these characters was Christ-like, he’s sadly mistaken. And actor Tarantino doesn’t help director Tarantino’s vision, with a robotic reading of the narrator’s role.  The scenes run too long, but Tarantino thinks that every scene is the perfect length as is. He gets good performances from the actors, but he has worked with Jackson many times, and Madsen at least once, so he’s not breaking any ground with them.

Hateful Eight: Eight Ain’t  Great.

CHIRAQ

Chi-raq (Nick Cannon)  is a rapper and gang leader of the Spartans in modern day Chicago.  During a performance, members of a rival gang, named the Trojans, try to kill Chi-raq. Chi-raq and his girlfriend Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris) escape unscathed, but that incident combined with the shooting of a little girl named Patty shakes Lysistrata to her core.  While staying with a learned woman named Miss Helen (Angela Bassett) Lysistrata learns about a woman in Liberia who ended the second civil war there by banding all of the women together and making them withhold sex from the male soldiers.  That gives Lysistrata an idea on how to stop the shootings and violence in Chicago, a sex strike.  She starts small with the girlfriends of the Trojans, but soon the idea takes root, and Lysistrata and a small army of women take over an armory in Chicago.

Patty’s mother Irene (Jennifer Hudson) and a priest in her church, Father Mike Corridan (John Cusack) try a more conventional way to find Patty’s killer, they offer a 5,000 dollar reward for any information on the killer.  Three months after the sex strike has begun, police commissioner Blades (Harry Lennix) is under intense pressure from the mayor of Chicago (DB Sweeney to end the strike, but the strike has gone to the White House and worldwide. Does Lysistrata get the peace treaty she wants, or does Chi-raq break the strike? Do the priest and Irene find Patty’s killer?

Chi-rac is an incredible movie.  It’s based on an ancient Greek play called Lysistrata by Aristophanes.  Some of the dialogue rhymes, I don’t know if that is a tip of the cap to Shakespearian quatrains or rap music, but it makes the movie more lyrical and whimsical.  Another aspect of the movie that I like is that it incorporates all aspects of African American life in the search for a solution to the problem of violence, including the black church, so many films forget that the black church is a vital part of African American life, Spike Lee includes the church, and I thought that added to the authenticity.  Lee knows there’s lots of blame to go around, so he spreads blame evenly, institutional racism, the gun lobby, the youth who glamorize the gang culture, none of the targets escape blame.  The comedy at times is a bit broad, but at its best reminds me of Dr. Strangelove. Any writer that can balance laughter and pathos like Lee and co-writer Kevin Willmott do, they deserve credit for the effort.

I have one complaint about the acting, and that is the choice of Nick Cannon as a gangster rapper, no matter how hard Cannon tries, (tattoos, muscles, trying hard to look like Tupac) it just doesn’t work, he can’t ditch that clean-cut image.  The rest of the cast is stunningly good, Teyonah Parris owns this role, she is a strong woman who uses sex as a weapon, and realizes the power of that weapon.  It would have been easy to make Lysistrata a superficial woman, obsessed with her looks, but Parris gave the character depth.  She was also good in Dear White People.  Angela Basset is incredible as a woman who has lost a daughter to gun violence, and wants the next generation to learn lessons from the reckless violence before it’s too late.  There’s a lot of anger simmering just below the surface of the Helen character, and Bassett only wants to show so much. Jennifer Hudson gives a great performance of just pure raw emotion of a parent who’s just lost a child, it’s compelling.  John Cusack’s roaring performance as Father Corridan is spellbinding, it is no doubt based on father Michael Phleger , a real life Chicago priest, and social activist.  Cusack, Hudson, or Bassett could have easily been nominated for Oscars.

Like all Spike Lee films this movie pops with color.  There are all kinds of visual cues that control the mood.  The juxtaposition of scenes is masterful, just when the viewer thinks this is a comedy, Lee pulls the viewer back to reality, and shows what this film is about, the pacing is brisk, and Lee gets great performances from the whole cast.

Chi-raq:  Not shy at all.

captain america winter soldier

Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) is back working with Shield, despite having some reservations about the methods they use.  Steve has been asked to work on Project Insight by Shield Director Nick Fury. (Samuel L. Jackson) Project Insight seeks to link next generation helicarriers to targeting satellites.  But Shield has been infiltrated and compromised by Hydra agents, Fury asks Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) Secretary to the World to delay Project Insight.  Shortly thereafter Fury is shot by a mysterious assassin named The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) while at Steve’s apartment.  Fury’s warning to Steve:  Trust no one. Fury gives Steve a thumb drive, which is promptly stolen by Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow,(Scarlett Johansson)  Steve and Natasha decide to work together. They can’t decrypt the files, but the program was created in New Jersey, what do the two find in New Jersey?  Can Steve trust Natasha?

I like this movie, but there is a lot of plot to unpack and it’s quite complex, so the casual watcher of this movie could easily get lost in any one of the tangents that this movie takes.  There are several twists, only one is really not believable, and the movie is quite long, so it’s easy to give up on this movie, but hang in there, once the mission comes into focus, it’s an exciting film to the end.

The acting is first rate, except for one glaring exception, Robert Redford, more on him later.  Chris Evans does a great job playing the conflicted hero, he would like to live in the simpler time in which  he was born, but he has to live in the here and now, where the innovations in technology speed past discussions of the ethics of using this technology.  Scarlett Johansson does a fantastic job of playing the cryptically ambiguous Natasha, and she handles the action scenes quite nicely, thank you very much.  Also, she has great chemistry with Evans, their verbal jousting adds to the overall fun of the film.  Samuel L. Jackson is great as usual, and has a soliloquy about his grandfather in the elevator, that damn near knocked my socks off.  Poor Anthony Mackie, he gives a strong performance as The Falcon and seems headed for perpetual sidekick status, as in Ant Man. Now for the fly in the ointment, Robert Redford, gives another flat, emotionless, performance.  He really is overrated as an actor.

The directors are not well known, but they acquit themselves quite well.  The action sequences are well staged, the pacing is mostly good, there are some slow spots for exposition, but the film is mostly fast paced. The directors also get very good performances from a veteran group of actors.

Captain America:  The Winter Soldier:  A movie I warmed up to.

Kingsmen

Harry Hart/Galahad (Colin Firth) is a member of an elite group of British clandestine spies called the Kingsmen.  Harry feels responsible for the death of Lee (Jonno Davies) one of his agents, in a mission gone wrong.  17 years later, a scientist named Professor Arnold (Mark Hamill) is kidnapped by an internet billionaire named Valentine. (Samuel L. Jackson) Another agent named Lancelot (Jack Davenport  is killed in trying to rescue Professor Arnold.  Harry, still feeling indebted for Lee’s death, gets Lee’s son Eggsy out of trouble with the police. Harry recruits Eggsy (Alex Nikolov, Taron Egerton) to join the Kiingsmen.  Despite his plebian background and his inability to finish school or military service, Eggsy has potential, according to Harry.

Eggsy has to compete with several recruits including a female recruit named Roxy (Sophie Cookson), and get through the training alive.  All the while, Valentine, who seems like an innocuous internet dweeb, who believes in global warming, has a devious plot afoot to end global warming.  Along with his beautiful, homicidal sidekick Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) Valentine hatches a plan that is well underway before Harry fully grasps the scope of it. Can Harry stop Valentine and Gazelle before their plan comes to fruition?  Can Eggsy survive the training, and beat out the other candidates to become a Kingsman?

This is quite an enjoyable action spy movie.  My first thought was why does Marvel need to update the spy movie when James Bond is still roaring away?  Well, this is more an homage to the Bond films, and it even acknowledges the Bond films several times, a Kingsmen martini, there’s even a scene were Harry shows Eggsy his spy gadgets..  There are several plot twists, and lots of humor, a lot of action, an interesting plot, and enough exposition to keep the storyline clear, so there’s nothing wrong with another set of spies based in England as long as it’s well done.  And for the most part it is.

But despite all the good, and there is a lot of good, this movie does have shortcomings, these comics turned movies have developed a habit of editorializing on politics and sometimes rewriting history.  Sometimes it works, like X-Men, sometimes not, like the Watchmen. In this movie it does not, the politics are all over the map, so everyone, whatever your political beliefs, will be angry at some point. This is also, even by Hollywood standards, a very violent movie, including a disturbing scene of violence inside a church. Most of the violence was gratuitous and unnecessary, but this movie not only displays numerous acts of violence, it seems to revel in them..  There was also sexism that went beyond the requisite 1960’s spy movie sexism. Roxy, the female recruit is squeamish to jump out of a plane,  until she gets reassurance from Eggsy, she’s the top female recruit in the program,and she won’t jump out of a plane?  There is also a very crude proposal from someone who’s supposed to be a Swedish princess, I know that’s another homage to Bond, but the writers could have toned down the language, and cut the nudity out completely. These sexist lapses are odd considering one of the writers is a woman.  Oh and by the way, if Valentine’s tech savvy enough to have fingerprint recognition security, he’s not using a mainframe. Just a little tech tip for the next movie. There’s also shameless product placement, a low-point for any movie.

The acting is top notch, Colin Firth plays Harry less like Bond and more like Patrick McNee of the tv show The Avengers he’s smooth and uses his umbrella as a weapon.  Firth just exuded charm, wit and grace, and was very believable as Harry.  Samuel L. Jackson excels as the nerdy villain Valentine, given him a lisp, so he sounded like an evil Mike Tyson.  Michael Caine is Michael Kane, and he puts in a solid performance as an elder statesman of the Kingsmen.  Taron Egerton was very good as Eggsy, and gave the role a real sense of flair for a young actor. And Sofia Boutella was a standout as the villain Gazelle, she was the take no prisoners type character Roxy should have been.  Gazelle sort of reminded me of Jaws, played by Richard Kiel in The Spy Who Loved Me.  Instead of using metal teeth, Gazelle uses metal prosthetics on her legs to attack her foes. Mark Strong is also very good as Merlin. He was last in the Imitation Game, in which he gave another outstanding performance.

The direction is good, the pacing is fast, Matthew Vaughn is a veteran action movie director, who’s directed films like Kick Ass, and X-Men First Class, he gets good performances from the younger actors, like Egerton and Boutella, and creates a very stylish look for the film.

Kingsmen:  Leaves its audience shaken and stirred.