American Assassin

american-assassin-postersFueled by rage following the death of his fiance in a terrorist attack Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) dedicates himself to the destruction of the cell responsible. Later picked up by the CIA he is trained by ex Navy Seal Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) just in time for his first operation to retrieve a stolen nuclear device.

Based on a series of novels by Vince Flynn, American Assassin feels like a quintessential spy thriller from the 1990’s. A much harder edged Patriot Games with much less nuance.

Where it excels is in some incredibly brutal action scenes. This assassin is not afraid of an 18 certificate and a lot of blood. Far from gratuitous, these scenes actually give you a sense of consequence to the violence. Keaton is good as well as the “seen it all before” veteran trainer despite his character being an archetype of the spy thriller.

Plot and character wise it will be nothing new, but it is perfectly serviceable as entertainment, but unlikely to stay in the memory for long. The only thing to leave a sour taste in my mouth was how the film seems to represent American foreign politics.

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It

770a84b6ee3ee8f05246812ff3d98bad-halloween-movies-scary-moviesIn the summer of 1989 in the small town of Derry children are going missing and it falls to a group of outcasts to battle against the malevolent manifestation of evil that is Pennywise the Dancing Clown.

“It” has a lot to live up to if you are of a certain age. Not only is it based on an iconic Stephen King novel, but there is also the Tim Curry starring mini series that scared many a child in the 90’s. Thankfully this updated version is spectacularly good, managing to be unbearably tense at times and featuring a delightfully chilling performance from Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise.

Rather than take on the entire 1300+ page novel, this film is just the children’s story with the adult tale due to follow in a sequel. Ultimately the film feels like a coming of age story as it follows the 7 children across a Summer, albeit whilst they fight the embodiment of evil that feeds on their fears, both real and imagined. Adults appear rarely in the story and when they do its generally not as a force for good, the kids have to face their fears together as they become adults.

As far as the horror goes, this works really well at ratcheting tension and has some good effects work, but it shouldn’t scare you out of your wits. Pennywise is chilling but as the children come to understand what he is you too should find his spell breaks a little.

Highly recommended and once you have seen it I am sure that you will float too.

 

Patti Cake$

patti-cake-20170803022437Patti dreams of being a rapper whilst living a paltry existence in Jersey. She works two jobs, has an alcoholic mother and an ailing nan. Will she make it to the top or burn out like her mother?

Following the music/sports tropes of downtrodden talent living in adversity this film has a few things going for it that lift it up to being worth your time. The cast are universally good at making the characters worth rooting for and the tunes are catchy as hell.

So whilst you will see a life of adversity, a glimpse of talent, a montage where it comes together, a final hurdle that gets in the way only for that moment of triumph to appear, it will be an entertaining journey.

Danielle MacDonald, Siddharth Dhananjay and Mamoudou Athie as Patti, Jerry and the Basterd respectively make this the film that it is. Sparking off each other and showing the audience something to root for. And Danielle’s rapping skills sell the whole thing as authentic.

Logan Lucky

logan-lucky-poster-2Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) enlists the help of his brother Clyde (Adam Driver) and sister Mellie (Riley Keough) to pull off a heist at a NASCAR event. Matters are confused by the Logan curse, the fact their safe cracker Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) is in prison and that he wants them to include his idiot brothers.

Steven Soderbergh retired from film making in 2013 to pursue other projects and frankly it’s great to see him reversing that decision, because he is a phenomenal and experimental talent. This film is quintessentially his work as it is both consummately put together and also not quite the perfect product.

Where this film works really well are with the two sets of siblings and the heist itself. The Logan’s feel like a closely knit group who look out for each other and feel like genuinely ‘good’ people. The Bangs on the other hand are a bunch of screw ups and only Joe seems to have anything going on between his ears. Daniel Craig is great as the extrovert safe cracker who is “in-car-ce-rat-ed”! And the heist is genius, lots of moving parts and characters involved with moments early on in the film paying off later. This after all is from the man who gave us Oceans Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen.

Where it doesn’t quite pay off are in an experimental piece of casting and perhaps too many characters not quite getting fleshed out. Seth MacFarlane is famed for his voice work but whilst funny, his believability as a British entrepreneur investing in NASCAR is a stretch. Where as Katherine Waterston and Hilary Swank show up much later in the film as a love interest and FBI agent respectively with roles that feel underwritten or cut for the sake of running time.

So, overall a smart and entertaining romp that is fractionally short of great. But much better than your average fare.

Rough Night

rough-night-poster-13Jess (Scarlett Johansson) is an uptight woman running for office and preparing to get married. Cue a bachelorette party organised by her best friend from college Alice (Jillian Bell) and a night to never forget when they accidentally kill their stripper.

A comedy in the same vein as Bridesmaids and the more recent Bad Moms, but failing to be as funny as either, or indeed funny at all. There are moments that bring a broad smile, but nothing laugh out loud.

Bright spots tend to lay around the periphery. Demi Moore and Ty Burrell as swinger neighbours and the entire group of groomsmen being more effeminate than the women are funnier moments. The comedy within the main group tends to focus on Jillian Bell’s outrageous brand of humour as seen in 22 Jump Street and Fist Fight and Kate McKinnon’s screwball comedy as seen in Office Christmas Party and Ghostbusters. Although McKinnon, usually a safe bet fails to make any big impact because her Australian accent is so off putting its hard to concentrate.

It’s not unwatchable, it’s just a big disappointment given the cast.

American Made

feito-na-america-trailer-posterBased on the real life exploits of Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), American Made charts a course from how Seal went from TWA domestic airline pilot to taking pictures for the CIA to smuggling weapons and drugs for the US Government and the Medellin Cartel.

Given the subject matter it’s incredibly hard to describe just how fun this film is. Seal as a person seems to live on adrenaline and Cruise could not be a better choice to portray him (even if Seal in reality bares no resemblance). Watching him juggling work for the CIA and the Cartel whilst dodging every type of law enforcement is an absolute blast. Cruise of course choosing to fly the twin engine planes himself.

The subject matter will be familiar to any fans of the Netflix series Narcos, but  even with that knowledge you will find it no less unbelievable when you see the tactics the CIA and America used to fight communism and drugs in Central and South America. Artistic license creating a hugely entertaining film and perhaps sparking an interest in recent history.

Bringing back the Actor/Director combo of Edge of Tomorrow is a big success. Hopefully Doug Liman’s film finds an audience at the cinema this time unlike that cracking action film.

The Dark Tower

darktowerintl2Jake (Tom Taylor) has dreams of The Gunslinger (Idris Elba), The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) and their battle for the fate of The Dark Tower. A couple of lines of text at the beginning of the film inform us that the tower is important and that people say a mind of a child can destroy it. Aside from this, you won’t find much more out from the remaining 90 minutes.

Based on a series of Stephen King novels published between 1982 and 2004 The Dark Tower is meant to be a sweeping fantasy tale across King’s universe. This film feels barely finished and hollow. I actually remained in my seat as it finished stunned by what I had just seen. Despite four credited screen writers and a supposedly vast canvas to draw from the film literally explains nothing. Why does The Man in Black want to destroy the tower? What are gunslingers? Who are the weird henchmen with fake skin?

Aside from the massive pitfall of zero story, little else is good about the film. The special effects are decidedly ropey in places, McConaughey phones it in whilst looking ill, Taylor is wavering on the annoying child actor side of the scales and Elba is completely wasted with a fairly committed performance. And an end of credits sting is also baffling and seemingly pointless.

It actually seems as though they realised how badly it was going halfway through the creation of this film and just thought they would cut their losses, stop and release it anyway.

 

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

captain-underpants-new-posterSchool boy friends Harold and George love creating comic book stories and playing pranks on their teachers. Their nemesis, Head Teacher Mr. Krupp intends on spoiling their fun however and separating them at school. In a last-ditch effort to stop him, the boys hypnotise him into thinking he is their favourite comic creation, Captain Underpants!

Whilst having a fairly fun and round animated style and a few novel ideas to mix up the story telling (using the boys comics and addressing the camera directly whilst the action is frozen) this is not a film aimed anywhere else but the young members of the audience. The humour is rooted in farts and toilets and a grown man wearing pants after all.

As far as the youngsters are concerned though, there is a lot of fun to be had in some pratfalls and toilet humour.

Atomic Blonde

atomic_blonde_xlgMI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the death of a fellow agent and to retrieve a list of undercover operatives before it gets into the wrong hands. Unable to trust anyone in a world of secrets and double crosses she must navigate her way through the treacherous landscape

This is a film oozing style and filled with breathtaking action scenes. Agent Broughton is introduced to us in an ice bath, battered and bruised. She is an ice queen up until the moments she explodes into action, matching the Bourne’s and Wick’s of this world for inventive defense and clinical head shots. Atomic Blonde is directed by David Leitch, co director of the first John Wick and his history of stunt work and framing are on display here in spades. An action scene set on the stairs of an apartment block is frankly so good it makes this film worth watching on the strength of it alone. Seemingly one cut (it isn’t) we are thrown directly into the wince inducing action and see the consequences and pain first hand.

It is not just in the action sequences that the film impresses. The 80’s soundtrack fits perfectly, Theron’s outfits are exquisite and the supporting cast work well. James McAvoy and Sofia Boutella are Allied operatives also in Berlin whilst John Goodman and Toby Jones are the suits debriefing Broughton in a flashback structure. None of whom feel completely trustworthy as befitting a Cold War film.

So far so good, but there is a flaw. The actual plot and reason for being there is rather weak. The list of names plot device feels pulled from the original Mission Impossible and unlike in that film there never seems to be too much peril about what would happen should it fall in the wrong hands. So whilst the reason for us being in Berlin never feels totally gripping, everything else is.

Style over substance maybe, but what style!

The Hitman’s Bodyguard

hit-body-poster-smallDown on his luck Executive Protection Agent Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) gets a chance at redemption when he is offered the task of shepherding the world’s greatest hit man Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) to the Hague to testify at the International Court of Justice. These two have history, but can they get along to get to the court on time?

This is a film that seems to wear its generic nature as a badge of honour. The plot and casting tell us exactly what we are going to get. Ryan Reynolds is fantastic at playing dead pan world weary sarcasm, so lets get him to do that. Samuel L. Jackson is great at swearing and being a bad ass, so lets have him do that. We can even do that with the supporting roles. Gary Oldman is a good villain and even better as an eastern bloc dictator. Salma Hayek is a bombshell who can handle herself in a fight. And if you need a shifty mole why not get Joaquim de Almeida? On to the story line then, we have an against the clock race to get an ostensibly bad person to a court to testify against a really evil person. That race against the clock will be fraught with moles, protagonists that do not like each other setting aside their differences and learning from each other and lots of car chases and shoot outs.

So, is all of that a problem? Yes and no. If you go in knowing what to expect then that will help a lot. But it is still going to grate during the 2 hour running time. There are some amusing moments and some jokes that really fall flat (Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson singing in a car is not fun) and there are some decent chase sequences and shoot outs.

Entertaining enough, but also painfully generic.