Category Archives: Action

REVIEW: “THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT” (2022) Lionsgate

The Man. The Myth. The Legend that is Nicolas Cage.

If “THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT” had been made with and about anyone other than Nicolas Cage, it probably wouldn’t have worked. That being said, it is and it does. The film was written to highlight some of Cage’s best moments in his career, leaving the viewer with Easter eggs galore. Director Tom Gormican, who wrote the film as well, along with Kevin Etten, takes the direction of the film and taps into the action genre while still being a true comedy. And then, just when you think it’s just a comedy, it switches gears into a crime drama, and then just when you think it’s a crime drama, it shows it’s heart and gives us the family moments. This film is truly candy for your soul.

The premise is pitch perfect with Nick Cage (Nicolas Cage), realizing his life is a mess not just personally, but professionally and biggest of all, financially. So he accepts a crazy one million dollar offer from his agent Richard Fink (Neil Patrick Harris), to attend the birthday party of super-fan Javi Guiterrez (Pedro Pascal). Javi is either his best friend or a villain, and we are not sure which for some time, and there-in lies the bromance fun. Nick somehow winds up being recruited by Vivian (Tiffany Haddish), and Martin (Ike Barinholtz), and working for the CIA to find a kidnapped young girl.

If you love whacky and crazy then Nic Cage and Massive Talent is the film for you. Between this fictionalized version of the star and the younger Moonstruck/Peggy Sue got Married version he sees in his head, the references to the actor’s past films fly left and right. To be clear, this is a downright crazy-fun, goofy movie and everyone involved knows it, which is all part of it’s charm. Cage isn’t the only one taking this film by storm as the scene stealer here is Pascal, who is delightfully charming as the purported cartel kingpin. Pascal’s portrayal of Javi is so over-the-top fun, as he doles out his fandom praise onto Cage at every turn, ensnaring the persona of the actor into every part of his orbit, including the big reveal at the end. Adding in tons of side plots like that of Javi’s brother Lucas Guiterrez (Paco León), and even a romantic sidebar with Gabriela (Alessandra Mastronardi), adds to the film as it never stops moving and making it all work together.

With a supporting cast of Tiffany Haddish and Neil Patrick Harris backing you up, it would be hard for them not to add to the fun, and they do in their key supporting roles. Sharon Horgan is the perfect opposite for Cage, playing his ex-wife Olivia, and Lily Mo Sheen as his daughter Addy Cage, whose whole life has been playing second fiddle to her dad’s career. But it’s the chemistry between our two leads Cage and Pascal, playing off each other that is nothing short of brilliant and  whom deliver it all in one fail swoop of comedy, drama, action, and family combined.

The cinematography brings you to the gorgeous paradise of the film’s setting as the story is incredibly self absorbed and is essentially a film about film where they talk about making a film and maybe will make a film. It has its slower heart-felt moments, but they are timed perfectly and never boring, as it then it flips the script and hits you with belly laugh-worthy bouts of comedy, and true action. For as strange a film as this is, Gormican brings it all together and has everyone playing ball for the same team. Massive Talent is a tight, albeit almost looney film that works from beginning to end. It’s good original fun and goes to show audiences that in order to make a great movie – you do not need to be from the Marvel/DC Universe or more than two hours to be an excellent film. Seems as though all you really need is Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal.

Grade: A+

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Review screening: Tuesday, April 7, 2022 ~ courtesy of 42West PR/Lionsgate

“THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT” FROM LIONSGATE IS OUT IN THEATERS FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 2022

REVIEW: “THE NORTHMAN” (2022) Focus Features

As I struggled writing my initial mini-review of this film, at the same time, trying to convey what is to be said about director Robert Eggers upcoming film, “THE NORTHMAN”. The same way I’m struggling to put down in words here in my full review – to talk about this film as a whole.

So many are calling it so many things. With words floating about such as “masterpiece” it’s difficult to come out and say you don’t feel the same way as then there is wrath to face. Almost like the wrath brought down in the Hamlet-like version of a revenge story told here starring Alexander Skarsgård, Anna Taylor-Joy, Nicole Kidman, Bill Skarsgård, Willem Dafoe and yes, even Björk makes an appearance as a Seeress.

Alexander Skarsgård stars as Amleth in director Robert Eggers’ Viking epic THE NORTHMAN, a Focus Features release. Credit: Aidan Monaghan / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC

As it goes, Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård), is a Viking prince that as a young boy, saw his father King Aurvandil War-Raven (Ethan Hawke), murdered and his future crown taken, though he was able to escape before they could get their hands to murder him as well. Amleth then turns around and becomes one of the warriors fighting for the Vikings destroying village, possibly being one of the most berserkers of all the warriors in the group killing endlessly and mindlessly. Once he learns that his Uncle, Fjölnir the Brotherless (Claes Bang), i.e., the one who killed his father, he decides to leave and head off to make point of his childhood promise of “I will avenge you, Father. I will save you, Mother. I will kill you, Fjölnir.” This sends him to a new kingdom where he can come face to face with his Uncle to exact these words of revenge. Even though he is just a measly slave, he is patient in his ways, waiting for the right chance to make this happen, during this time meeting Olga of the Birch Forest (Anna Taylor-Joy), with whom he wants to make a life, but only once his revenge is enacted. Once there, Amleth is in for more than one surprise as while Fjolnir is still ruling over people, it is not the reign one would be expecting him to have. Queen Gudrun (Nicole Kidman), the mother of Amleth, with whom he thought was taken by force, might not be so upset after all. It’s a not a simple story to tell, watch or understand and it skips across years like the flight of the crow it presents in its myths.

The story told of Viking life in Iceland is not a light affair nor is it for the feint of heart. It’s a savage brutal affair full of mud, guts and one can guess glory at the end – if one can call what happens a victory, then by all means do. Raging full with a testosterone score-fest of blood, death and gore not seen since the days of Braveheart, the films fills the screen with toxic masculinity, myths, sorcery, rage, much to much grunting, and oddly, romance. While the film takes turns with itself, taking itself much too seriously at times, and at others the few spoken one liners are delivered so absurdly that the audience laughs, where it’s not meant to do so.

Claes Bang stars as Fjölnir in director Robert Eggers’ Viking epic THE NORTHMAN, a Focus Features release. Credit: Aidan Monaghan / © 2022 Focus Features, LLC

While one can see just by budget alone there was much thought and effort put into this, and some parts work better than others, but it never really comes together as a whole – most especially the last act which slogs it’s way through a sort of poetic refrain that just didn’t fit with the whole slash ‘n gore look of the beginning and the middle.

This movie is definitely an exercise, whether it’s a workout to watch for all whom aim to look like Alexander Skarsgård at the end will be a challenge for some as it was for me. That being said, I think many will attempt the feat and enjoy it much more than myself and how can one not be happy for that..

Grade: D

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Review screening: Friday, April 8, 2022 courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

Focus Features ‘The Northman’ will be out in theaters Friday, April 22, 2022

REVIEW: “THE LOST CITY” (2022) Paramount Pictures

Coming out in theaters this Friday, the 25th is “THE LOST CITY” with Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum, taking the leads in this comedy of a shut-away romance book author who gets talked into doing a book tour by her agent Da’Vine Joy Randolph. What ensues is complete hilarity for a good first portion of the film.

Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock), is a successful romance novelist, though she is also grieving the loss of her husband. She reluctantly agrees to do a ‘final’ book tour by her agent Beth (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), as she adds in the books ‘famous’ cover model Adam (Channing Tatum), to the tour much to Beth’s chagrin. As we soon find out, with Loretta and her husbands love of history, she has accidentally wrote in the book on where to find the location of fortune in an ancient burial spot of a notable King and Queen. This brings our villain, Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), out in full force with his team Rafi (Héctor Aníbal), and Julian (Thomas Forbes Johnson), who kidnap Loretta with the thought being, she can lead them to the site.

The first half of the film comes at you fast and hard, with one-liners and features most spectacularly, our two scene stealers. The first is ex-Navy Seal Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt), who is hired by Beth and her social media assistant, giving us our second scene stealer, Allison (Patti Harrison), that will have you laughing your socks off for the first half of the movie. Albeit, in the second half, the laughs slow down drastically as the film gets a lot more serious with attempts at character arcs and story moments, while not bad, they are ones we’ve seen a many times before. Going into full romance novel mode without as much comedy, the second half falls a little flatter than what it was going with.

Directors Aaron and Adam Nee do the smart move here with giving Bullock and Tatum most of the screen time, as their chemistry is undeniable. As well, Tatum doing full nod to ‘Fabio’ cover-boy in the beginning gives us a hoot of fun. Supporting cast does well to keep the pace and relevance with Brad Pitt, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Patti Harrison and Oscar Nuñez getting their fair share of inclusion in this movie to stay relevant to the plot and relationships of the character. I wasn’t in love with Radcliffe who seems a bit out of place as he goes almost too big in his role as villain, when some subtlety might have played better.

Had they stuck with the formula they were going with, this would be a great comedy instead of just a good one. As is, it’s still a load of fun and brings something new to the box office this weekend where it should do well.

Grade: C+

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Review Screening: Tuesday, March 18, 2022 ~Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

“THE LOST CITY” from Paramount Pictures is in theaters Friday March 25, 2022

REVIEW: “THE BATMAN” (2022) Warner Bros

Sitting down to write this review, reminding myself that there is really only three comic book characters I have ever truly cared about. The X-Men, which I devoutly every Saturday morning at 11am; Superman, along with having a weird connection to a few of the films – which is another story entirely, and you guessed it, Batman. Batman defied logic for me as he didn’t need a super power, his super power was being Bruce Wayne as well, as he fought off The Penguin, The Riddler, or The Joker, whichever villain you pick. And he always did it with the help of Alfred, who not only took the role of the dad figure in his life, but helped him become The Batman in every way. Sometimes there was Robin by his side, sometimes there wasn’t, but even from the beginning in order for Batman to be, there must be Bruce Wayne as well. And while there have been many actors portraying him, numerous takes and variations of him as well during the years, this time we have Robert Pattinson picking up the baton here in dual role of The Batman/Bruce Wayne.

This 2022 version of the film is directed by Matt Reeves and as noted, stars Robert Pattinson (The Batman) and features quite a few villains, bringing back The Riddler (Paul Dano), and The Penguin as his true self here, Oswald Cobblepot (Colin Farrell), in two very different plot arcs. The Riddler here as well, brings a very different look to what we normally see as his costume as revealed in the trailer. Dano wears what basically looks like a full head cover with goggle type eyes looking more Unabomber-ish than what we expect and know The Riddler to be, with his identity not being fully revealed for some time. And Farrell as The Penguin/Cobblespot is completely unrecognizable as himself with some incredible makeup/prothesis done here. As well, helping defend Gotham City on the law and order side is James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), who seems to be the only law enforcement that is on Batman’s side, but alas still with the inevitable mustache.

And yes, the story line is very much the usual fare of villains courting danger in the city of Gotham and one of our most prominent ones here is Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), who is running an underground club, and may or may not have connections to The Penguin as well. As always trusty Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis), is there to help The Batman through all the ups and downs of dealing with a city that has a love hate relationship with him. Speaking of a love/hate relationship, back again as well is Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz), and one of the true highlights of the film. And how can you not love that they take it back old school somewhat, as even in the cheesy TV show, Batman & Catwoman had constant love/hate relationship and here, that story line features again. As well Kravitz gives it back to the old school ‘exotic’ as well, heralding back to the days of Eartha Kitt, Julie Newmar and Michelle Pfeiffer, bringing back to the role something essential that had been sorely missed.

To delve into this entire movie after you see it is like unpacking after a long vacation, and I mean really long vacation as this is a very long movie with a lot to unpack. You won’t find me giving away any storyline spoilers here but there are moments to love, from the dark gritty mood of it all, to the set pieces, to the cinematography, and the remarkable film score are all simply wonderful. The action is good throughout most of the film, but slows itself down at times almost a second to much with making this Batman into more ‘detective’ versus a Caped Crusader who just gets summoned by the infamous bat signal to help whatever crime is occurring in the Gotham City. It also felt like it could’ve ended at least three different points in times before it did and left us with a bit of hanging suspense for what’s to come. The ending as is, plus the post-credits scene almost betrays the fact and leaves one to realize this is definitely not a one off Batman like they have professed it to be.

And then we come down down to performance as we all have our favourite Batman and on everyone’s mind is how Robert Pattinson will fare as The Caped Crusader himself, The Batman. For me your Batman is only as good as your Bruce Wayne, it’s a fine line and both have to be equally as good for a true Batman to be. But Pattinson doesn’t connect here at all with the Bruce Wayne aspect of the character, to the point where I had flashbacks to him reminiscent of his Twilight character days. His Bruce Wayne portrayal here is not done in the usual classy, almost elegant manner of the billionaire who hides behind his mask. Now, on the better point is his Batman isn’t bad, not great mind you, but definitely not bad enough to distract through the movie as a whole, but enough to distract when being Bruce Wayne. In other words, he is good, but not great. Farrell however is very good as Cobblepot and again, you wouldn’t know it was him had we not known in advance who was under that look. And Paul Dano, while not the best Riddler look, his performance of the character, especially at the end was nothing short of spectacular. But there is also one huge standout here and that my friends is John Turturo as Falcone. He is a perfect villain and gives everyone on the screen a go for their money with his role being as decadent as it is. And lastly we have Catwomen who with her eyes made up, brilliant and beautiful as Selina Kyle, add her cat mask and ‘adventures’ on her motorcycle, and again, the love/hate relationship with Batman done with some very real chemistry, here she is a big meow in all the right ways.

(Photo by MEGA/GC Images)

All in all as you unwrap it all in your head to process it, and it will take a more than a moment to do so, you can’t help but come to the conclusion that it was good, just maybe not great. But as well it’s probably, no it’s most definitely too long and it’s a bit unclear on the direction they will go next, but it’s a solid, entertaining time in the seemingly never ending line of Caped Crusader contenders. Where it rates for each person, will be just that, up to each individual person.

Grade: B

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Review Screening: Thursday, February 24, 2022 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros.

“THE BATMAN” FROM WARNER BRO. PICTURES WILL BE OUT IN THEATERS FRIDAY, MARCH 4, 2022

Review: “MOONFALL” (2022) Lionsgate

Going into director Roland Emmrich’s latest film “MOONFALL”, I kept an open mind knowing it was going to be a disaster film of some sort, expecting a dumb fun disaster film with some crazy fun set pieces. What I didn’t expect was it to be the complete disaster that it was.

To be noted, I’m not someone who will intentionally trash a film just for the sake of doing so, but this was just plain bad and there is just no way to sugar coat this plain in-your-face fact. If you go into this movie expecting anything other than cheesy acting and a preposterous story the you will be sorely disappointed.

The film’s premise is simple. The moon’s orbit is changing and making it get closer to Earth, raising the question, can Earth survive? Which doesn’t sound to bad as a whole to make a movie about as we’ve seen it before, but hey, who knows, this might be good right?! But instead the film decides is going to try to offer a cerebral and complex backstory to the moon for some reason, along with at the same time mind you, astronauts Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson), and Jocinda Fowl (Halle Berry), facing an alien while on a space mission singing “Africa” by Toto. Oh and let’s not forget the pill-popping conspiracy theorist KC Houseman (John Bradley), who of course has always wanted to be an astronaut trying to get into NASA and magically does exactly that. Then there is the car chase with Harper’s son Sonny (Charlie Plummer), and him getting thrown in jail, all the while, yes again, all at the same time then they have families that are escaping the imminent demise of Earth with tidal waves and all, mind you they are showing actual real disaster footage of tsunamis along with the inevitable CGI. Not even Michael Peña as step dad Tom Lopez, who is usually a spot on actor, can save this from complete mind numbing disaster. But it hasn’t ended, oh no it hasn’t ended, as a ten minute exposition where Harper ‘learns’ that humans actually originated from a halo ring, but then A.I. rose up and took over nanoparticles to kill humans, so the humans made 1000 moons and flew them to different parts of the galaxy. Say what now?

They literally throw the everything but kitchen sink at you including actual footage of the Endeavor space shuttle supposedly being commandeered out of the California Space Museum so it can be flown to the moon to blow up the bad alien that lives in the middle of it. And don’t get me even started on discussing the lacking of any intelligence dialogue along with just flat out bad bad acting by every single person involved in this film, not even Donald Sutherland coming in for a quick two-liner can help here.

John Bradley as KC Houseman in MOONFALL Directed by Roland Emmerich. Photo Credit: Reiner Bajo/Lionsgate

Of course you know never to take these films seriously, but as well, you do want to have some fun while watching, but instead of even laughing at the absurdity of it all, you will instead just be miserable for two hours and I honestly feel I should award myself, and anyone else points just for making it all the way through this one. I don’t think I could say not worth it in any other way but to simply state “Not Worth It.

Grade: D-

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Review Screening: Wednesday, February 2, 2022 ~ Courtesy of Lionsgate and 42West PR

“MOONFALL” hits theaters Friday, February 4, 2022

REVIEW: “THE 355” (2022) Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures and director Simon Kinberg brings together an incredible group of women from Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Penelope Cruz, Bingbin Fan and Diane Kruger in it’s latest release “THE 355”.

The film follows CIA spy Mason (Jessica Chastain), as she goes off-grid after a tangled mess up debacle with fellow agent/love interest Nick Fowler (Sebastian Stan). On the hunt for a new mass destruction techno weapon – one that could probably bring World War III about and possibly destroy the world through the power of technology, she teams up with her old friend MI6 cybersecurity expert Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o). But getting the disk eludes them as they battle as well against German BND Agent Marie (Diane Kruger), as they end up combining forces for the common good. As well, Colombian psychologist Graciela (Penélope Cruz), and Chinese MSS spy Lin Mi Sheng (Bingbing Fan), come into play as well, though Graciela is no spy – she is a mother with a family back home who was thrown into it all when her friend Luis Rojas (Edgar Ramirez) is killed. As well Lin Mi doesn’t join in until they get closer to the asset and expose the corruption that may take them down some paths that lead closer to home than they realize.

Now does this film involve brain surgery – no it does not. It is however full of decent action and can be entertaining for the most part – if it weren’t so darn predictable with the character story lines. It has it’s ups and downs, for the most part getting a bit more exciting in the second half where the device is put up for auction, but again, we are in the predictable ‘bad guys at the auction’ set-up here. And as I always say, you are only as good as your villain, which here is once again, predictable.

However all is not lost as the five leading ladies are all quite superb with their distinctive characters with all of them given a decent amount to do and flesh out their characters, though Fan’s Lin Mi character doesn’t show up till at least two-thirds of the way, she makes her mark. Their dynamics and chemistry are engaging as well though Chastain and Kruger’s respective agents spark off one another throughout with their entertaining, but averse relationship, while Nyong’o brings the ‘heart’ to the film in her role as retired MI6 computer expert. It is however, Penélope Cruz who comes close to stealing the show as Colombian psychologist Graciela, as she brings the much needed fun into the film with a character very much out of her depth in the espionage and action department. And lastly, the character of Marie – with Diane Kruger just bringing the bad-assery with her here every step of the way. She’s the character you love to hate, and then love again.

Again, while entertaining at times, and the bad-assery is quite on par, and ‘Girl Power’ definitely reigns supreme here, unfortunately the end result is a rather mish-mash affair that, while not really ever dull, never really feels all that fully exciting either.

Grade: C-

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Review Screener: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“THE 355” is out in theaters Friday, January 7, 2022

REVIEW: “THE KING’S MAN” (2021) 20th Century Studios

Having seen this one over a month ago, but not being able to even speak about it till Dec 6th, made me almost forget I’d even seen it. Or maybe that was just a wish that didn’t come true. Having highly enjoyed the original Kingsman: The Secret Service, and even somewhat Kingsman: The Golden Circle – I found myself looking forward to it’s prequel “THE KING’S MAN” as I was looking forward to some high paced fun. Instead for the first 45 minutes of this film I felt like I was in seventh grade history class and we had a substitute teacher who decided to show us a film all about what led up to WWI and who Rasputin really was. And not in a good way, but in an almost odd, campy way.

It starts with father and son, the Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes), the title character, and Conrad (Harris Dickinson), and wanders slowly through the beginnings of their relationship. Fiennes’ Duke of Oxford is at the right hand of King Edward (Tom Hollander) just as WWI is about to break out between England, Germany, headed up by Kaiser Wilhelm, also played by Tom Hollander, and the Czar of Russia, also played by you guessed it, Tom Hollander. Add in Rhys Ifans as Grigori Rasputin, the team of servant spies, including Polly (Gemma Arterton) and Shola (Djimon Hounsou), who are part of the few who can protect the Crown, and Matthew Goode as Morton, the good guy/villain. Add in a lot of camp with it’s first fun, action moment coming in right around the 60 minute mark, where by then three people had walked out of the screening, but Rasputin finally gives us this, and moments where you can actually see Fiennes action double take over, then this is your movie.

Honestly the main issue with The King’s Man is the script. It’s all over the place type jumbled and difficult to keep up with what the plan was because of everyone involved. The first half of this film feels like it’s moving slow because of everything that is being set up. Then, once they get into the actual story, it loses its footing, goes off the rails and tries to get into way to many storylines all at once. It felt like Conrad and the Duke’s relationship played a more important role than saving England from villains. In the end, both narratives end up fizzling out and the film never really creates any emotional connection to the original Kingsmen agency, or even father and son story which it goes into huge depth trying to explain to you in the first hour as well.

It was nice to see the who developed the agency as it at least gave Arterton a strong take in it all, but the story wasn’t executed well enough to make it as enjoyable as the others were. I think it there might be the camp who didn’t like the first two that will enjoy this one, and those that enjoyed the first two more, maybe won’t have the same feelings on this one and share mine. Who knows. But I can credibly say the campy nature of the espionage and the cheesy dialogue did not suit the era at all, which made some moments incredibly awkward and just overall, not my movie.

Grade: D+

‘THE KING’S MAN” is coming to theaters Wednesday, December 22, 2021

REVIEW: “THE LAST DUEL” (2021) 20th Century/Disney Films

The film that finally reunites Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as writers the first time since Good Will Hunting, and just as in Good Will Hunting they also share the screen acting wise, but with Damon picking up the more prominent of roles, though Affleck having a stand-out as well. This medieval times storytelling in “THE LAST DUEL” is done on a grand scale by none other than the grand scale director himself, Ridley Scott.

The film is told in three chapters each from the point of view of one of the three protagonists, the two duelists – Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), and the third by Marguerite (Jodie Comer), of why in this duel is taking place in 13th century aristocratic France. It is supposedly for truth and honour, yet this can not only be confusing at times, but when you have people telling the same incident from three people’s different point of views…. it can start to get tedious, and it does with a runtime of two hours and 32 minutes.

The action is here is brutal, the hardcore Medieval type brutal and though it is filmed well, you have to have a taste for these types of films and they are just not truly in my wheelhouse, yet Gladiator holds a place in my heart that will never be taken away. The story itself leans on Marguerite’s accusation against Jacques of rape. It is met with anger and hostility from both Jean, their friends, and pretty much the rest of France, as rape is not considered a crime against a woman, but a property matter. These kinds of things, while I know existed, just irk me in subject matter. Yet I guess my true excruciating anger came from the rape scene which is is played not once, but twice. As an audience of both male and female, it left a lot of mixed feelings amongst both as it’s incredibly hard to watch. My question would honestly be did Ridley Scott need to amplify the excruciating horror of the act by showing it to us twice? Would it have made a difference to the outcome had we not seen it so graphically performed in front of us on both accounts. I think not. Oddly you also realize what the outcome of the duel will most likely be during these points.

The set decoration, costuming and all seem quite fit for the time and not being an expert in French history of the 1300’s, I will say I was never entirely sure what accent Damon and the cast were employing with their characters as none were French, but it never distracted from the characters either. Comer was probably the best as I can’t imagine the subject matter at hand was an easy one for any actress to deal with. The highlight for me though was Affleck’s somewhat comedic portrayl of d’Alençon as it borders at times on camp, but seems as like it was likely intentional and oh so much fun. It lightened up the hardness of this film to at give it some ‘bon viveur’ as the French would say.

All in all, this film will be a sheer delight for those loving Medieval dramas and Ridley Scott fans. I’m somewhere in the middle of understanding it, being confused by it, angered by it. All in all a fine movie with fine writing, acting and cinematography. It is just not something special and we have seen it all be done better before. There is sort of gravitas missing along the lines and all in all, just did not sit right with me completely.

Grade: C

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Rosa Parra @RosasReviews who invited me along as her guest

“THE LAST DUEL” – is playing in theaters now

REVIEW: “JUNGLE CRUISE” (2021) Disney Studios

I was probably 4 years old when I was first taken to Disneyland. I can’t remember my exact age, but I do know I was very young and my parents took me on the Jungle Cruise ride – and I freaked out and started screaming and crying. Because yes, I thought it was real and I remember so well the big hippo opening his mouth right where I was sitting in the boat and I thought I was going to be eaten, and basically thought lions, tigers and bears were all after me. I cried so hard and was so terrified, that I never went on that ride again until I was a teen – possibly even older! Needless to say, there was no crying watching this version of Disney’s “JUNGLE CRUISE”, only laughter as it is definitely not that ride and a much different story to boot.

This adventure begins with Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), who hires a wisecracking skipper, named Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson), to take her down the Amazon in his ramshackle boat. Together, they search for an ancient tree whose petals hold the power to heal all — a discovery that will change the future of medicine. Along for the ride Lily’s posh, upper-crest brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall), who doesn’t clearly belong anywhere in a jungle, but succeeds in stealing a lot of his scenes with his over-the-top persnickety ways, most particularly his interactions with Frank’s pet leopard whom they have on board the cruise. The CGI might have been a bit lacking on the leopard, but Whitehall makes it funny so it’s very easy to overlook.

(L-R): Dwayne Johnson as Frank Wolff, Emily Blunt as Lily Houghton and Jack Whitehall as MacGregor Houghton in Disney’s JUNGLE CRUISE. Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2021 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

While ‘Jungle Cruise’ could have just been a simple escapade through the jungle with some good action and laughs thrown in, we do get some long drawn out sections with Johnson’s character Frank explaining a bit of a convoluted backstory of the special flower, and the enhanced version of the long dead enchanted conquistadors of his time. Kids especially, might get a bit lost here as let’s face it, they just want the lions, tigers and fun action aspects of his character that help endear Frank to us more. Director Jaume Collet-Serra gives us a big scale action adventure here with plenty of laughs thanks to Johnson giving us some of his best cheesy humour with one-liner awful, terrible jokes that are so bad they are absolutely downright funny. It’s perfectly done and no one in this film takes it all to seriously and that is possibly it’s biggest highlight except for the fact that the biggest thing that upstages them is the absolute wonderful, electric chemistry between Blunt and Johnson. This would have been a totally different movie without that as together they are an unbeatable team here and yes, the glue that holds this film together. But the supporting cast consisting of Jesse Plemons, and again, Jack Whitehall with his witty-ness, Edgar Ramirez, and Paul Giamatti, all add to the adventure as well and round it all up.

So my advice is no crying – and get your ticket for the fantastical journey that is – Jungle Cruise.

Grade: B-

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Review Screening: Monday, July 26, 2021 at El Capitan Theater ~ Courtesy of Disney Studios

“JUNGLE CRUISE” IS IN THEATERS AS OF FRIDAY, JULY 30, 2021 also VOD on Disney+

REVIEW: “RIDERS OF JUSTICE” (2021) Magnolia Pictures

It all starts with a stolen bicycle. Something taken from someone that usually might not have much merit to it, yet here in ‘RIDERS OF JUSTICE’, it has everything to do with what happens next in director Anders Thomas Jensen’s latest foray into a wonderful film that gives us drama, dark comedy, action and explores just how far someone can go to justify their anger and avoid facing their grief.

Markus (Mads Mikkelsen), is a soldier who is called back home due to his family’s being in a bizarre train accident. His wife Emma (Anne Birgitte Lind) tragically dies in it, but their teen daughter, Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg), survives. While grieving, she seeks answers for what happened and why. She’s coping by questioning the universe and religion as well, but Markus tells her those are nothing but dead ends. There is nothing good that will come from trying to make sense of it. It was all just a tragic accident and coincidence — end of story. But then where would be the storyline in all this – because one crazy tale is about to be told.

Markus is a soldier, and he sees himself as a man’s man so to speak, so he does what most men do to process loss: he tries to drink and smoke his pain away. He knows no other way to process his grief. That is until one day a mathematics/statistician named Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), and his colleague Lennart (Lars Brygmann), show up to tell him the accident wasn’t a coincidence. Now both of these characters have just lost their job, and because of this, they have time, time to research the statistics of this train accident. And in fact, all ‘stats’ show it was a planned murder by a local gang called Riders of Justice, and they can prove it. And so it begins – Operation ‘Make the Riders pay’ for what they have perceived to have done, is underway.

The team Otto and Markus assemble almost seem like a nerdy group of Avengers, as it’s essentially both of them, along with Lennart – who must be an absolute burden to psychiatrists round the world, and yet he fashions himself one as well, and Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro), a extremely sensitive I.T. genius. They look like they are highly intelligent and they are, but they are also physically and emotionally damaged men as well. Markus on the other hand, just doesn’t care. He’s fueled by the notion they have planted him with and will stop at nothing for revenge, he’s like a human torpedo determined to blow everything up — and by everything, I mean the guys he believes are involved in this plot. Markus is the muscle, the executioner, and the rest of the team is the brains behind the operation.

Jensen’s not interested here in making a plain, basic revenge movie. No, he wants to explore what’s beneath these men’s grief, shame, and humiliation. He pits Markus’ masculinity and the others vulnerability, using it against each other to see what happens as this group has only one common goal — destroy the gang — but seemingly not much else. Markus only knows how to solve a problem if it involves violence and guns, as ‘feelings’ and ‘words’ are useless to him. He only knows and believes that there is only one way to handle things, with action i.e., ‘actions speak louder than words’, a prevalent use of the motto for this film. He can’t find a way to connect with his daughter, who’s desperately in need of parental support and guidance, as she wants him to see a therapist. Instead he mocks the quasi-diagnosis his daughter and her boyfriend Sirius (Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt) make, even though he knows he will have to confront his feelings at some point. Markus refuses it because he realizes he couldn’t be in control of the situation, which is the only thing he has on the battlefield — and, ultimately, in life.

The rest of the characters are vastly different from Markus, but they all have their suppressed emotions to face as well and it’s kind of fascinating to see how the film lays them out in the most unexpected ways. Sometimes it almost seems far-fetched how Jensen makes the men connect, but he is once again, so good at creating unlikely bonds between the men, that it works out ridiculously well as the balance between very dark comedy, drama and action is perfectly handled. But makes no bones about it, there is a ton of shooting, killing, and bone-breaking in Riders of Justice, but ultimately, all that is a distraction. To be honest, the experience here is something like none other and is absolutely superb. It is comedy, it is war, it is death, sadness and violence – all wrapped up in one, but one in which in a portion of your mind, you are rooting for it in the weirdest way possible, and then you get slammed with a twist that in the darkest recesses of your mind, you never saw coming. Plus, the whole mathematical statistics of how they explain things is so very real, it makes you really take a moment to stop and think as well.

Honestly, Mikkelson is like a well balanced glass of wine here. One thing that is made clear after watching – not only does Mikkelson have the uncanny ability to be able to pick these projects, as well as have co-stars that just might be the most unlikely group to put together, yet are perfectly adept at enhancing his story and his performance every time. It also makes me so happy he continues to make quality films like this one, in his own language, as a translation to English, would just not be workable with a film like this one.

And it might also just be the best film of the year so far.

A

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Review Screening: Courtesy of ~ Ginsberg/Libby PR

“RIDERS OF JUSTICE” IS OUT IN SELECT THEATERS IN LA/NYC ON FRIDAY, MAY 14, 2021 // EVERYWHERE MAY 21, 2021