How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to tell us our life is not our life. It is just a story we’ve told about our lives. A story about our lives told to others, but mainly to ourselves.
One of the closing lines of the film sums the story up so well. Jim Broadbent plays Tony Webster, a man who has retired to run a small camera repair shop in order to keep himself busy. He’s divorced, but on good and friendly terms with his ex-wife Mararet (Harriet Walter). Their daughter Susie (Michelle Dockery) is pregnant and close to giving birth. One day he receives a letter from a solicitor telling him he is owed an inheritance from the mother (Emily Mortimer) of an old girlfriend Veronica (played by both Charlotte Rampling in the present day and Freya Mavor as the young Veronica). Tony tells us a story about his first love (mainly by relaying it to his last love), how they met, and how they broke up. About meeting her family, and about meeting his best friends in school. About how his friend Adrian fell in love with Veronica and about how he committed suicide. Veronica’s mother Sarah, has left Tony Adrian’s diary in her will. How did it come to be in her possession? Why did she leave it to Tony? Why is Veronica preventing him from getting it? As Tony recalls the past, and reacquaints himself with Veronica and other old school friends, the blanks are filled in, and things are not how he had remembered it, and his distorted view of history takes its true shape once evidence of the past is revealed.
This was an interesting look at how we remember the events of our own lives. We often “mis-remember” things, or embellish or omit details, especially when dealing with sensitive or painful memories. When I tell the stories, I’m pretty sure everything was my ex-wife’s fault, but if I think back and concentrate really hard, I probably can remember doing one or two things wrong too… That’s kind of what happens with The Sense of an Ending, Tony remembers a version of events that paint himself in a better light, not that it has really harmed anyone to this point, it has just been the version of history he’s been living with, and that allows him to sleep soundly at night. As we learn the whole truth (and what we assume is the actual truth) from the film, we see that there are things that went on that he didn’t even know about, but we don’t see Tony as being an evil person, who has lied his way through life. With his eyes opened, it actually becomes a coming of age story for this sixty year old man who learns how to deal with his past, and he tries to better himself in his own future.
The story was very well written, and was based on the book of the same title by Julian Barnes. It was a compact tale, but I can see how some viewers could find it a little hard to follow with the flashbacks, memories and mis-remembered memories. Jim Broadbent is tremendous as Tony and quietly delivers a powerful yet subtle performance. His Tony is a bit of a curmudgeon, but still likeable and relatable. I also really liked Freya Mavor (The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun) as the young Veronica, I just wish she was on screen a bit more. Charlotte Rampling was also excellent as the rather aloof, and somewhat nasty older Veronica. Director Ritesh Batra previously directed The Lunchbox, which I also quite enjoyed.
Quite enjoyable, and surprisingly not that heavy handed even though I guess the takeaway from the film is that we should all take an honest look back at our own lives.
Bottom Line: Hey, I’m finally caught up on my reviews!
Antonio Banderas plays Eddie, a retired army captain who has been out of work for two years since being discharged. He probably suffers from PTSD and hasn’t seen his wife and young daughter in a year either, but he finally lands a job as night security in a mall. The mall is set between two towns with high crime rates. Drugs run the towns, so the drug users regularly try to break into the mall to steal anything they can sell to feed their addictions. Eleven year old Jamie (Katherine de la Rocha) is a key witness in an upcoming trial who escapes to the mall when the US Marshall convoy bringing her to the trial is ambushed by a small army of criminals led by Ben Kingsley. The small five person security detail now have to fight off the heavily armed criminals and assassins until help can arrive, help they aren’t even sure is on the way.
This wasn’t the best movie, but I did enjoy it, even though it drew on a lot of tropes and wasn’t overly original. You had the retired military guy who has to take charge and lead the untrained troops, you had the mysterious bad guy, the super strong bad guy, the quirky and diverse group of good guys, and of course the protect a child trope. The action was pretty good and the fights, while not always believable, were action packed. It brings to live the fantasy of fighting off bad guys in a mall using anything you could find as a weapon. The defenders have a few mall issued tasers, some archery equipment from the lousy sporting goods section of a department store, they mount a webcam on a remote controlled car and basically try to become lethal MacGyvers. Banderas does a believable job taking charge of the situation and leading the security guards, and Ben Kingsley plays a fantastic and understated bad guy.
My only complaint really was the ending, and it’s not so much a complaint as something I wish they’d done, something I think could have made the movie better. Naturally the good guys come out on top, though not unscathed. At the end of the film the FBI (or the US Marshalls, I can’t remember) arrive with paramedics and take care of the bad guys and the injured. We see Eddie next in the hospital talking with Jamie about the trial and where she’ll go afterwards, then we see Eddie meeting back up with his own wife and daughter. All pretty predictable. I just wish they ended it like the old Dirty Harry movies, when Eddie is sitting at the edge of the ambulance, the cops are all there and everything is wrapped up, pull the camera back, get a big wide shot of the mall parking lot full of law enforcement and then fade to black. Leave the family resolution stuff to the imagination. Ah well, I’m not the director.
Bottom Line: Guilty pleasure admission, I really like the new rebooted MacGyver.
China meets India in the latest action/comedy/adventure film from Jackie Chan. I enjoyed Kung Fu Yoga a lot more than I did the last Chan film I watched, Railroad Tigers. This time out, Jackie is a famous Chinese archaeologist (call him Jack) who has been contracted by a university in India to discover the resting place of an ancient treasure that was lost after a battle where a Chinese general and his army assisted the true rulers of India in an war against a hostile Indian general. The treasure is naturally being sought after by two sides; the bad guy is Randall (Sonu Sood) whose character is a descendant of the bad guy from the battle thousands of years ago, the good guys are Jack, two of his TAs, Nuomin (Miya Muqi) and Xiaoguang (Yixing Zhang), a treasure hunter/tomb raider named Jones (Aarif Rahman) and the beautiful Indian archaeology professor Ashmita (Disha Patani) and her assistant Kyra (Amyra Dastur). They travel from the ice caves of Tibet to the streets of Dubai to a mountain temple in India in search of even greater treasures. Randall seeks the treasure to claim power for himself, Ashmita seeks it to give to the Indian people, and Jack seeks it for its archaeological importance.
Jackie Chan’s films are interesting to say the least. There are are several different types now, in the past he did the classic kung fu, hardcore action films (New Fists of Fury, Police Story) , then he moved on and started doing family friendly action films and action comedies (Rumble in the Bronx, Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon) and recently he has done historical dramas (1911, Dragon Blade, Railroad Tigers) this was definitely in the realm of the family friendly action films, but not quite an action comedy. Sure, the CGI lion in the back seat of the car he steals for a car chase was pretty funny, and there was a lot of comic relief in the film, but there was more action to it. The hunt for the treasure leads to a big fight scene in the ice cave, and the discovery of the the first treasure. There was some double crossing as Jones steals the treasure to sell it to the highest bidder, leading to a big chase scene. The car chases were full of exotic cars and exotic scenery… and the CGI lion of course. Randall kidnaps Kyra and Nuomin, holding them hostage for the treasure, which leads to them being rescued by a reformed Jones and Xiaoguang, but the bad guys get the upper hand again and have Jack and Ashmita (who is not really a professor, but the heiress of the ruling Indian army who had the treasure originally) lead them to an even bigger treasure which leads to an even bigger fight and showdown at a golden temple. When the treasure promised by ancient prophecy turns out to be scrolls of scientific knowledge, the bad guys accept it and everyone dances! Bollywood style!
Now, I haven’t seen a lot of Bollywood movies, but do they all just end with people resolving the conflict and dancing? I guess if they do, writing the ending is a bit easier, but it seemed rather sudden. I thought quite a few things in this movie happened a bit to quickly as well. The team discovered the whereabouts of the ice cave on their first attempt, the bad guys hideout was easy to find, solving the puzzles to get to the right temple was pretty quick and easy, and then the final resolution that led to the dancing happened pretty quickly as I said. The film was clearly pulling a lot of things from the Indiana Jones stories, but even Indy didn’t get it right the first time, every time.
Chan himself was enjoyable, and while he was involved in most of the action he was involved in fewer of the fight scenes. He makes these films fun though, and that’s what I’m watching for. The rest of the cast weren’t as capable as Jackie, especially the Indian actresses. They were fine in the action scenes, but their acting wasn’t the best. The villain of the piece was rather one dimensional, but he did deliver a better performance, even though the script didn’t give him a lot to work with. And for a film titled Kung Fu Yoga there wasn’t a whole lot of yoga, even with Muqi Miya who is known as China’s most famous yoga instructor; she did deliver a good performance though. The script still was the weakest thing in the film, but I could get by that for the most part to simply enjoy it.
Bottom Line: I saw a trailer recently for The Foreigner with Jackie Chan, and it looks really good!
Based on the book by Stephen Fry, The Hippopotamus follows disgraced poet Ted Wallace (Roger Allam) who is commissioned by his goddaughter Jane (Emily Berrington) to investigate a series of unexplained miracle healings that have supposedly occurred at Swafford Hall. Jane has terminal leukemia but appears to be cured after a visit to the house. Swafford is the country mansion of Wallace’s old friend Lord Michael Logan (Matthew Modine). Wallace and Michael had a falling out some years ago, but he’s still part of the family, so he is given pretty much free range over the grounds where he meets with Michael’s wife Anne (Fiona Shaw) who apparently was cured of asthma. The family is rounded out by the Logan’s teenage son David (Tommy Knight) and his older, more rational brother Simon (Dean Ridge). David who is Ted’s godson, also wants to be a poet. he house had always entertained various guests, but now they seem to be coming not for the English countryside but for the miracles. The guests who know how the miracles are performed, include a rich woman (Lyne Renee) brings her awkward teenage daughter (Emma Curtis) to be “cured”, and flamboyant theatre director Oliver Mills (Tim McInnerny) seeks a miracle for his heart condition. Ted may be a drunk, and a lousy sleuth, but he has a fine nose for people, and something at the mansion smells rotten. He soon discovers that everyone believes David has the “healing touch” and is responsible for the miracles. It first manifested years ago when he saved his mother from a near fatal asthma attack with just a touch to her chest, now he continues to heal not only with his touch, but with his divine essence, a more powerful, more concentrated application of his healing powers.
The Hippopotamus was an extremely British film; dry wit, snappy dialogue, and the absurd magnified by a stiff upper lip. Very enjoyable, but if you’re not a fan of British humour, you likely won’t enjoy it. I laughed quite a bit throughout the story. The performances were good, and I really think that Roger Allam fit the role perfectly. Even though the film was set in the modern times, it still felt like an Edwardian mystery at times and that kind of lured me in.
Bottom Line: It seems that David naively did believe in his own healing powers, but he could have just been a horny teenager knowingly seducing everyone with the lure of his “magic” semen.
Colossal may have been billed as a sci-fi comedy, but the “comedy” part may have been a little misleading. Yes, there were some comedic moments, and some hilarious moments too, but boy did it turn a corner and get very dark all of a sudden! When Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is dumped by her boyfriend (Dan Stevens), she leaves her life in New York City, and moves back to her small hometown where she meets back up with Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) an old friend from school. Oscar never left the town and has taken over his late father’s bar. Down on her luck, Gloria accepts Oscar’s offer of a waitressing job, which might not be the best idea for a girl whose alcoholism had already cost her her job and her boyfriend. She soon takes to drinking in the back room after the bar closes with Oscar and two of his regulars Joel and Garth (Austin Stowell and Tim Blake Nelson). Unable to walk the entire way home, Glora starts sleeping on a park bench in front of a small play area. When reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul, she gradually comes to the realization that she is somehow connected to this phenomenon. Somehow, at 8:05 am, whenever Gloria walks through the playground, the monster appears in South Korea, mimicking her steps and movements. Realizing what she is doing, Gloria struggles to stay on the wagon and away from the playground so she doesn’t hurt anyone else, but Oscar doesn’t make it easy.
So, now that turn to the dark side (SPOILERS highlight to read): It seems Oscar has been stalking Gloria for years after she left their small town, keeping tabs on her relationships and her career, seemingly waiting until she would come back and he might have a chance with her. When the group discovers that she is manifesting the monster in Korea, it gets weird, but even weirder when Oscar steps into the playground and projects a giant robot onto Korea as well. Was he mad with power, or was he mad all along? Oscar now threatens the South Koreans with giddy disregard in his drunken states, and becomes particularly nasty when he learns that Gloria spent the night with Joel. After a tense confrontation, Gloria gets Oscar to leave the park, but Oscar is jealous, and an alcoholic. Later that night at the bar, he demands that Gloria have a drink with him, and even threatens her by saying he he will go to the playground in the morning if she doesn’t drink with him. It is clear that Oscar wants to have her and to control her. He issues her an ultimatum basically, stay with him or he’ll smash South Korea. To finally free herself from Oscar (and her drinking problem) Gloria flies to Seoul and enters the area where her monster appears, sparking the monster to appear in America at the playground where she (as the monster) grabs Oscar…
Colossal was incredibly original, but it was more than just a quirky little concept film there was a much deeper message and meaning to it, and that all happened once it turned that corner I spoke of earlier. Both Hathaway and Sudeikis give strong performances, but once that corner is turned their performances get even better. While I knew Anne Hathaway was an excellent actress, Sudeikis was a pleasant surprise when he elevated his game to match the Oscar winner. The film was a big metaphor for addiction and the pain that addictions like alcoholism can cause. The film also explores how those addictions can hurt those around us, and even people who are not directly around us. The people of Seoul are definitely innocent in all this, but still feel the effects of Gloria and Oscar’s drinking, and they’re on the other side of the world. The consequences of all our actions are real. Ultimately Colossal deals with overcoming our inner demons and dealing with the decisions we make in our lives. It does so in a clever, sometimes humourous way which makes it entertaining and thought provoking at the same time. Colossal really is a “hidden gem”, and was definitely worth watching.
Bottom Line: Even though it didn’t go into much science-fiction detail, Colossal does show us the origin of Gloria’s monster and Oscar’s robot.
The day after I saw Baby Driver, a friend an I went out and saw Spider-Man Homecoming. Now, I haven’t seen the original Sam Raimi Spider-Man films in quite a while, but I think this could quite possibly be the Spider-Man movie I needed it to be. I loved it.
At a science exhibition, nerdy high school student Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider, granting him incredible powers. When a burglar killed his Uncle Ben, Peter vowed to use those abilities to protect his fellow man, driven by his uncle’s words: With great power comes great responsibility…. but we all knew that, and fortunately Spider-Man Homecoming knew that we knew that, and didn’t bother wasting any time telling it to us again. We jump right in with Spider-Man shortly after Captain America 3: Civil War, now back in New York City and being monitored by Tony Stark’s driver/chief of staff, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is not as hands on as you would think he’d be with the young hero, who he’d given the upgraded costume we saw in Civil War he actually kind of ignores him. This could be because he has seen how dangerous the super-hero life can be first hand, most recently when his best friend Rhodey was seriously injured in Civil War. He encourages Peter to leave the big and dangerous missions to more experienced heroes, to be a “friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man”. But when street level thugs start using high-tech weaponry (possibly not of this earth) in his neighbourhood, and Iron Man doesn’t take his calls, Spider-Man has to take action for himself. Eventually though he gets in over his head and makes a error in judgment that could have killed a lot of innocent people, which forces Stark to take back the suit. Now limited to his original homemade suit and web-shooters, Spider-Man readies himself for a final showdown with the Vulture.
Can I say that it was “amazing”? This is Spider-Man in the MCU, and it was amazing. I loved it, so I’m just going to point out a lot of the things that made me love it:
• I loved that they chose to set Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in high-school which gave the film’s title a double meaning. It was the homecoming dance where Peter has his climactic encounter with the Vulture (Michael Keaton) and the character came “home” to Marvel Studios from Sony Pictures.
• I loved the cast of characters that they used in the film and that they somewhat re-imagined. There was no Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane Watson though Michelle (Zendaya) reveals at the end of the movie that her “friends call her MJ…. Now, let’s be clear, Michelle is NOT Mary Jane, but the character was great, funny, sarcastic, and smart; so she could be a great alternative to the comic book (and movie) MJ as Peter’s new love interest.
• It was very “John Hughes-like” in the way it treated the high school aspects of the film and the high school characters. Homecoming is really just a big coming-of-age tale (albeit one with superheroes and villains), and Hughes told those better than anyone.
• Tom Holland got Peter Parker completely right. He wasn’t a socially awkward skateboarder who twitched and couldn’t make eye contact, he was shy, and nervous, and he was a nerd (his bedroom was full of Star Wars toys and he and his best friend were planning on putting together the LEGO Death Star!). He was smart, but he was the underdog, and we loved him for it. This was an “everyman” Peter Parker I could relate to.
• We got a great new rendition of the Spider-Man costume, complete with resizable eyes and the web wings in the armpits! The eyes were great and gave all the expressiveness that is hard to relate when your character’s face is completely covered by a mask (just like Deadpool’s eyes/mask did in his movie). We also didn’t have to have the mask coming off all the time to show the character’s expressions.
• When they show the Marvel Studios logo at the opening of the film, we get an orchestral version of the Spider-Man cartoon theme song. That theme song did make an “appearance” in Spider-Man 2 when Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker gave up being Spider-Man for a time and a busker is playing the song in a subway station.
• Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) wasn’t a jock, he was on the quiz team, but was the smug rich kid and still a bully.
• Ned (Jacob Batalon) was a great “partner” for Spider-Man and a great friend for Peter. Now, I can’t remember if they said his name was Ned Leeds or not, but that would be very interesting if it was. Ned Leeds in the comics was one of several men who took the guise of the Hobgoblin, one of Spider-Man’s deadliest enemies. Ned Leeds also married Betty Brant who was J. Jonah Jameson’s secretary in the comics (and previous films). Brant was also in Homecoming as a student news presenter.
• The wit was back. It was nice to see a wisecracking, funny Spider-Man like he was pulled from the comic books.
• In the comics, or at least the old ones that I used to read, Spider-Man talked to himself a lot, or at least thought to himself a lot. He’d ask himself questions, get angry at himself, lament his terrible luck, and we were there for the ride, but that’s kind of hard to do in a movie. You can’t really see a character’s thoughts, and soliloquies haven’t really been that popular since the days of Shakespeare, so fortunately we had Karen, the Spider suit’s AI (voiced by Jennifer Connelly) for Spidey to talk to.
• Peter struggles to balance his double life, and we see once again how important that is to him.
• Michael Keaton was great as Adrian Toomes, the Vulture was an excellent choice for the film, and they way they power him up makes sense. Of course it’s great that Keaton was also just in Birdman where he played an actor who had previously played a superhero on screen….and that he also actually used to play another superhero on screen….(he was Batman!)
• We also got two versions of the Shocker (Logan Marshall-Green then Bokeem Woodbine) and the Tinkerer (Michael Chernus) in the film, plus a pre Scorpion Mac Gargan (Michael Mando), hints at the Prowler (Donald Glover), and possibly Miles Morales…
• Other great nods to the comics were there too, but the most obvious and my favourite was when Peter was trapped under the rubble of the building while fighting the Vulture and though on the verge of giving up, after crying out for help, how when he sees his mask half in the water and the reflection of his own face in the water, (giving the classic half and half Spider-Man shot) he summons up the strength of character and the physical strength to free himself to continue on, just like the scene in Amazing Spider-Man #33. Panel 1 Panel 2 Panel 3 .
• Stan Lee of course has a cameo, and it was pretty good.
• I loved the Captain America cameos too, as we see Cap via videotape passing on PSAs to the students of Midtown High in gym class and in detention.
• There were two after the credits scenes, the first one is serious and involves some villains coming part way through the credits, and the other is for humour only, and comes at the very end of the film. I’m glad I had the patience to stick around for that one!
A great story all around, and it captured the heart of one of my favourite superheroes of all time. I love Doctor Strange, but Spider-Man was probably one of the first superheroes I was ever introduced to, so to see it done right makes my day.
Bottom Line: There was one joke in the movie that made me laugh for a long time.
Stark: You screwed the pooch, but then you did the right thing and took the pooch to the clinic and raised the hybrid puppies … Admittedly not my best analogy.
The part about the hybrid puppies is still making me laugh.
In Baby Driver, writer/director Edgar Wright has combined music and action to create one of the most exciting and stylish heist films I’ve seen in a long, long time. It may have been a little heavier on style than it was on plot, but the mix made it incredibly entertaining.
Baby (Ansel Elgort) is the best getaway driver criminal mastermind Doc (Kevin Spacey) has ever met, but now Baby wants out. The timing couldn’t be better, he’s paid off the debt he owes Doc, and he’s just met an attractive waitress named Debora (Lily James). But getting out of a life of crime is never as easy as one would think. Doc has another robbery planned, which could be the most dangerous yet, not just because of the target, but because of the crew: Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza González) and Bats (Jamie Foxx). Buddy and Darling are a couple and Bats is ….. well it’s probably best to describe him as batty…. or bat-shit crazy. Baby is a great driver and when he’s behind the wheel he can escape any situation on the road, but once Bats discovers that Baby is trying to leave the crew on the night before their heist, he also discovers who Debora is (and where she works), then the real escape plan begins. Baby has to find a way to get out of the heist, get Debora and get out completely, all without anyone following him, and without getting hurt.
When you heard talk of Baby Driver you probably heard people talking about the soundtrack, and it was incredible. A fantastic mix of music that meshed organically and naturally with the action on screen. It would be a shame if the film is not nominated for a few of the more technical Oscars this year. I could see it getting nods for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, and possibly even for Film Editing. The thing about Edgar Wright’s films that I love is the amount of detail that goes into the script, the planning and that ends up on the screen. During the opening credits, Baby is dancing along to the music (Harlem Shuffle) while on a coffee run and several of the lyrics appropriately show up on the screen, hidden in graffiti in the background at just the right time. As in several other of Wright’s films, key plot points of the film are subtly foreshadowed well ahead of time. Lines overheard on television end up being lines used by characters, and lines you think are throwaway lines end up coming true.
Solid acting was guaranteed with two Best Actor Oscar winners in the cast in Foxx and Spacey, but James and Elgort gave equally excellent performances as well. The stunt work was top notch too, especially the driving (obviously). I even managed to resist the urge to speed on my way home after seeing this in theatres. Usually after seeing a movie that features a lot of car chases, I want to drive just like the people I saw on screen. Heist movies are always fun, but Baby Driver managed to be more than just a simple summer popcorn flick. It balanced the action, music, drama and even humour perfectly, creating a film that will be enjoyed for many years to come.
Bottom Line: I can’t wait to pick this up on Blu-Ray. Wright usually puts a “trivia” track on the home video releases of his films so we can see exactly what he was thinking when a shot plays out, or we can see the Easter eggs he had hidden throughout the film. I like to think I pick up on a lot of them, but it will be nice to see how many I miss!
Howard Hughes is one of the most interesting people in American history. Aviator, inventor, filmmaker, and possibly insane, Rules Don’t Apply opens with a packed newsroom awaiting a phone call from Hughes (Warren Beatty) who has holed up in an Mexican hotel room, to debunk a tell-all book about him, and prove to the world that he is still alive, and that he is not crazy. The film then jumps back in time and tells us the story of hired driver Frank (Alden Ehrenreich), and one of Hughes’ contract actresses, Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins). Hughes of course has a strict no dating policy between his drivers and his contract actresses, but naturally sparks fly between the two, but ambitions on both sides get in the way.
She wants to be an actress, he wants to invest and develop land with Hughes. Both want to meet their reclusive boss, and when he does arrive on the scene and each does get to meet him, things get a little crazier and a lot more complicated. Beatty’s Hughes is a character I’d love to meet. He was a bit nuts, but often times he was still the smartest man in the room.
The film was enjoyable, both as a look at a bygone Hollywood age, and as a fictional biopic of Howard Hughes. Warren Beatty really stood out in the film, which is not surprising as he was screenwriter, director and star. That aside, his performance really was excellent. He walked a fine line between sanity and insanity, between genius and insanity. The film almost felt like Sunset Boulevard with Howard Hughes instead of Norma Desmond. Lily Collins (daughter of Phil Collins) had great chemistry with everybody, and I really enjoyed her singing too. The film really brought together a great cast including Matthew Broderick, Martin Sheen, Candice Bergen and Oliver Platt among others.
At times I do think that the film lost it’s course a bit and couldn’t decide if it was supposed to be a comedy or a dramatic tragedy, but overall the story was light and it was enjoyable. The pieces they chose to show of Hughes’ life were interesting and they even managed to throw a few twists in that I did not see coming.
Bottom Line: I thought I should watch The Aviator to get some more Howard Hughes, but I decided to watch The Rocketeer instead. I love The Rocketeer!
Usually the climax of an action film is the shootout, in Free Fire, the entire movie was the shootout! In 1970s Boston, two sets of criminals arrange a gun deal, but one of the henchmen (Harry) recognizes one of the other henchmen (Stevo) from a bar fight the night before because the latter assaulted the former’s cousin. Bernie (Enzo Cilenti), Stevo (Sam Riley), Frank (Michael Smiley), Justine (Brie Larson), Chris (Cillian Murphy) are the buyers and Ord (Armie Hammer), Vernon (Sharlto Copley), Martin (Babou Ceesay), Gordon (Noah Taylor), Harry (Jack Reynor) are the sellers. Just when things are almost settled between the two sides someone pulls a gun and shoots someone. Though they are initially split by geography and loose loyalties, it soon becomes a deadly game of “everyone for themselves” as everyone grabs a weapon.
Set entirely in one place (an abandoned factory/warehouse) the story is a bit claustrophobic, but I think it was saved by the characters and the cleverness of the dialogue. While the action was completely over the top, I found it to actually be fairly realistic. Even though they seemed to have an endless supply of bullets, our bad guys (because they are all terrible people who you can’t really root for) do have to stop and reload. Every one of them got shot at some point: a bullet in the arm, a shot in the leg, one man gets grazed in the head exposing his brain; and while it may be gruesome, the violence wasn’t glorified. I also appreciated that the bad guys were not really good shots, it’s difficult to shoot and hit your target especially when you’re a target yourself, and have been hit yourself as well.
Sharlto Copley (District 9, Elysium) pretty much stole the show, but Michael Smiley (Luther) came really close too. I loved the dialogue he had with Armie Hammer, almost as much as I loved the back and forths between Copley and Brie Larson. There wasn’t really a whole lot of a message or purpose or complexity to the movie which is fine, it was pretty much just a black comedy thriller about two groups of trigger happy criminals trying to survive by killing the other guys. It was fun, and that’s all it needed to be. I think it’s safe to say this film was a bit of an experiment, so the runtime of 91 minutes was perfect. I don’t think the film would have worked if it was any longer.
Bottom Line: It’s a good thing there’s no honour among thieves, because if the gun deal went down smoothly, Free Fire would have been an awfully short film…
Once Upon a Time In Venice was pulpish, noirish, and funny with an incredible array of characters. I found it extremely entertaining. It wasn’t the best movie, it certainly had flaws, but I enjoyed it and that is what I base my ratings off of, how much I enjoyed the film.
Bruce Willis plays Steve Ford, the only licensed private investigator in the Venice (Los Angeles not Italy) and he gets himself mixed up in a lot of odd cases. His partner John (Thomas Middleditch) narrates us through the story as we see Steve track down a missing sister, only to sleep with her and incur the wrath of her overprotective brothers, who he escapes in a naked skateboarding scene… He meets a friend whose car was stolen and he tracks it back to a drug dealer named Spyder (Jason Momoa), who he steals it back from by crashing out of his garage. When he gets home he finds out that his sister’s house has been robbed, taking his niece’s X-Box, their television, and Steve’s dog Buddy who his niece takes care of after school. They were robbed by punks who needed money for drugs, which leads Steve back to Spyder who controls the drug trade in town. Now Steve has to apologize for wrecking Spyder’s garage, and what he feels was “his” car (even though it was stolen) in an attempt to get Buddy back. Spyder agrees, (Steve’s gift basket of muffins helped smooth the tensions between them) and he’ll give Steve the dog back, if he’ll retrieve a case of cocaine that was stolen from him by a hooker. Things don’t get any easier for Steve who is trying to buy back his parent’s house that he was forced to sell years ago to Lou the Jew (Adam Goldberg) and help his best friend Dave (John Goodman) who is selling his surf shot to get through a tough divorce. Lou is in a bind too, because someone is painting pornographic graffiti on a building he owns that he’s trying to sell. So if Steve can catch the graffiti artist, he’ll get the house back, if he can find the drugs he’ll get his dog back, easy right?
When I first heard of this film, I thought it was trying to be a John Wick rip-off, action star Bruce Willis trying to get his dog back sounds a bit like action star Keannu Reeves trying to get revenge on the guys who killed his dog. Boy was I wrong, if this film was trying to cash in on any of the perceived similarities with John Wick, it did so totally with tongue in cheek.
I think what made Once Upon a Time In Venice work was the very clever script. The dialogue was snappy and natural, and really plays off the comedic talents of the lead, Bruce Willis. Bruce Willis is very funny, and has great comedic timing. I wouldn’t have thought that “tough guy” Jason Momoa would be as funny as he was either, but perhaps it was the juxtaposition of these tough actors playing these tough roles with a lighter twist that made it work. Having more seasoned comedic actors like Thomas Middleditch and John Goodman in the film also helps carry the story. Quite good, and quite entertaining, if you’re looking for a few good laughs, give it a try.
Bottom Line: Every time you thought a situation was resolved it just got more and more absurd! Every time things seemed sorted, a new character came in and twisted the plot into something more absurd than the last character did. I loved it.