REVIEW: “THE OLD GUARD” (2020) Netflix

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Twenty-Five minutes in and I knew Director Gina Prince-Bythewood‘s “THE OLD GUARD” was most likely based on some type of book/comic series that was not known to me. Sticking with the film though was a decent pleasure and doing a touch of research after gave me the insight needed.

Turns out ‘The Old Guard‘ is based on the recent 5-part graphic novel of the same name from Image Comics, and stars Charlize Theron as “Andy”, along with Booker (Matthais Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli) make up the tight knit group of four covert mercenaries who fight to keep peace.  With a seemingly almost immortal mysterious inability to die, a trait that once exposed on surveillance tapes by supposed ex-CIA agent Coply (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who had ‘hired’ them for a job to save a group of school children who had been supposedly kidnapped, gains unwanted attention from eccentric British pharmaceutical executive Steven Merrick (Harry Melling), who plans to experiment on the four for the good of mankind aka ‘profit’.

Greg Rucka, creator of the graphic novel series, writes the screenplay, and it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The fleshing out of the team’s backstory brings with it some emotional ties to the past, which work effectively as without knowing any background, you’re able to follow along. All too often though, the dialogue falls into cliched and stale traps – like when they are trying to look all undercover while meeting in a local street bazaar, they end up standing out so completely that you almost have to have a laugh at it. But it feels particularly clunky when the team come to explain their unusual abilities to newcomer Nile (KiKi Lane), a young U.S. marine who discovers she is just like them while on duty in Afghanistan.

KiKi Lane showcases Nile’s innocence and shock well, as she discovers she may not be quite like other marines in doing what they’ve clearly been doing for hundreds of years. Theron gives a plaintive performance, conveying the weight on Andy’s shoulders and the burdens carried through the years convincingly enough and at least they didn’t try to have her do too many of those floppy comic lines sometimes found in similar type features. Her fellow mercenaries though never really get as much of a chance to make their mark with the exception of what takes place between Booker and Andy. Theron really kicks ass in the well choreographed hand-to-hand combat scenes she does get as does Lane, and there are bouts of bloody action to enjoy, but these are over rather quickly, with the team never really feeling like they are in any kind of danger. In truth, it’s yet another Netflix release that falls into the usual category; not a classic by any stretch, but definitely a passable and watchable two hours.

Grade: C+

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“THE OLD GUARD” IS AVAILABLE TO WATCH ON NETFLIX

Review: “THE MARTIAN” (2015) 20th Century Fox

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I’ve always had mixed feelings about Director Ridley Scott and his films. Some are fantastic and some..are not. Here he is back once again to exploring a familiar territory – space.

“THE MARTIAN” truly strikes cinematic gold here with what could be looked as a quasi-instruction manual on how to survive surefire death on Mars. Though this adaptation of Andy Weir’s novel (which I haven’t yet read) is the best thing Scott has given us in quite some time, he still goes where others have gone before – only this time, with a perky, life-affirming attitude.

The concept is catchy and simple: While on a mission on Mars, a major storm hits the crew of the Ares III facility causing them to abort and head for their escape rocket. As Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain), cyber-whiz Beth Johanssen (Kate Mara), flight surgeon Chris Beck (Sebastian Stan), pilot Rick Martinez (Michael Pena) and chemist Alex Vogel (Aksel Hennie) head out into the vicious winds of Mars where botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is hit by debris and disappears. The others think he’s dead and leave without him. But guess what?! He’s alive! the_martian_2
And in order to survive he must “science the shit” out of the remaining supplies in a lab that was created to last only 31 days. His wit, scientific know-how and vlogs are what sustain him until the people at NASA – including NASA director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels), mission director Dr. Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and flight director Mitch Henderson (Sean Bean) – can figure out how to save him. Add in the back ground techies Mindy Park (Mackenzie Davis) & Rich Purnell (Donald Glover) who literally come up with the live-saving idea that make it possible to go back and get their man!! All the while they make this trip to Mars almost scenic as you can almost feel the atmosphere while watching.
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There are shifts here between humor, heart and suspense which are all handled quite well. Plus the soundtrack..ohhh the soundtrack… with it’s precise way that it works in the disco from the made-fun-of playlist of Lewis’ – with just a sampling is “Waterloo”
(ABBA) “Don’t Leave Me This Way” (Thelma Houston) and Vicki Sue Robinson’s “Turn The Beat Around” – is not only truly ingenious but yes, fabulous as well. It hits all the notes at just the right moment in Watney’s journey, giving us a look into his in-the-moment feelings in a perfectly stated way.

While this film is almost all Matt Damon, his very adequate supporting cast really gives the film a huge boost..along with the fact that it engages us intellectually, but not over the top as they make it all relatable and with a dose of humour I just loved. So it makes it hard to even list the one small unfortunate thing about THE MARTIAN as it’s good..really good.. it does stop just one step short of being electrifying. And in this case..that’s still not a bad thing.

Grade: B

Screening: Monday, September 21, 2015 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Nationwide Release: Friday, October 2, 2015