Sunday, 27 August 2017

'The Hitman's Bodyguard' (2017) Review: Genuine Article

Half Price: The antics of the two leads more than make up for the film's shortcomings

When a movie gets too self-aware for its own good, it can go either way. They can be fiendishly clever playing on the tropes of its genre, or it can feel like it reaches for brilliance, but never quite makes the mark. 'The Hitman's Bodyguard' might fall into the latter camp, but that's not to say there's no fun to be had with this R Rated action comedy.

Watching Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson play themselves was more rewarding than I expected. It really ought to be, since it's the roles they know best, and to their credit, the duo plays off each other like the dream team 90s buddy comedies they're trying to emulate. They have a hysterical back and forth as they riddle their enemies with bullets, the same way the script is riddled with plot holes and exposition. Then again, anyone who complains about such things is a stuffy film snob who has no business seeing 'The Hitman's Bodyguard'

"Hmph. Ask me I say a woman superhero is a step backwards for cinema"

The roles of the film are in the title. Jackson plays the Hitman, Reynolds the bodyguard. The two are mortal enemies from the start of the film and share a storied history. The bodyguard protects, from the hitman. Their relationship in the movie is marked by constant bickering, and with a clear "you and I couldn't be more different" buddy movie dynamic. All you need is a Jackson munching on a carrot and Ryan Reynolds with a lisp, and I'd mark this a quiet release of an R Rated Looney Tunes cartoon.

Reverse the roles and the resemblance is uncanny.

Yet despite how obvious it would be, I found there was a charm to the film. Sometimes, there's nothing more that I'd like to do than be transported to the world that looks like mine, but without the negatives. There's violence in this film, but you'll never feel your heroes are in any grave danger. For a movie that felt as though it was going to buck the trends of its genre, 'Hitman's Bodyguard' is quite comfortable doing the same old thing. While familiarity usually breeds contempt, I appreciated the film for at least delivering an entertaining ride, even if it doesn't reinvent the wheel.

I mean they pretty much nailed it the first time.

It's not that I'm giving the film a pass for its errors, but for the entire experience, I'd say its issues were minor. The second half of the film especially capitalizes on the film's strengths. It gives you more of what you like, the witty banter, implausible action, and does it in a way that wasn't just a distraction from the film's errors, but genuinely impressive. The movie crafts some truly interesting action scenes that reward the attentive viewer, even if the rest of the movie lacks that level of intelligence.

'The Hitman's Bodyguard' is a movie that knows exactly what it wants to be, and for the most part, achieves that. The best thing it does is lets its two leads, Jackson and Reynolds, run the show they were meant to run. When the movie's about to overindulge in their performances, it provides a decent ridiculous action movie. Kudos should also be given to Selma Hayek, who was easily my favourite performance in the film. 'The Hitman's Bodyguard' is not a film for the ages, but what it is, is a harmless, fun, creative, and entertaining film you should see at a discount.

Rating: Half Price

Monday, 21 August 2017

Movie Money Episode 26 (21.08.2017)

I wish there were more to say about this week's box office, but alas, August continues to be a cruel mistress. Hitman's Bodyguard and Logan Lucky were the heavy hitters this week, and those heavy hitters seemed to be films best suited for a DVD release. At #1 we had 'Hitman's Bodyguard' with $21.3m, against a budget of $30m. The action comedy will no doubt make back its modest budget, but it's nothing that will garner sequels and spin-offs until kingdom come. 'Logan Lucky' came in with $7.6m at #3, and no doubt suffered from the incredibly sparse marketing of the film. Perhaps this time Soderbergh will be out for good, considering the film opened with less than a third of its $30m budget.

The rest of the box office had the old familiar faces. 'Dunkirk' made $6.6m at #4 and brought it's domestic and worldwide totals to $165.4m and $395m respectively. To still be in the top five after 5 weeks is remarkable for this film, but entirely expected considering the dry wasteland of August releases. Also benefitting from being the only other film out at the moment, 'Annabelle: Creation' dropped down to #2 with a $15.6m weekend, with a domestic total of $64.1m and a whopping worldwide total of $126m. While I despise the movie, you have to respect getting almost more than 10 times your $15m budget in your second weekend.

Underwhelming for the new releases, but good for the old ones, this weekend was ultimately disappointing as the top spot barely etched over $20m. The box office doesn't seem to be picking up much steam either, as theatres may continue to be empty, as the next big release is all the way on September 8 with 'IT'. Hopefully, this Stephen King adaptation does better than the last, as 'The Dark Tower' went from #4, all the way to #9 this week.

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Monday, 14 August 2017

Movie Money: Episode 25 (14.08.2017)

After last week was a earnings low for the summer, things seem to have picked up a bit for the weekend box office. Coming in at number 5 we have the lego movie lite, 'The Emoji Movie' with $6.6m, bringing its domestic total to $63.5m and its worldwide total to $97m. A $100m worldwide cume is inevitable at this point, but that's hardly a success considering the film was expected to make at least that domestically. With a 58.9% drop this week, 'The Dark Tower' came in at number 4, with $7.8m. The film has made under its budget of $60m, with a worldwide total of $53.6m. At the rate it's going, it's safe to say 'The Dark Tower' is a dud.

The promising source material sadly led to a disappointing adaptation.

This week in films no one asked for, 'The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature' brought in under $10m, with an $8.9m weekend, leagues below its $40m budget. Compared to the first film which opened with $19m, and went on to make $120m on top of a $42m budget, the sequel is as successful as the film is entertaining. Hardly.

I'm so surprised by this result. Shocked. Appalled.

Still in the number 2 spot for the 3rd week in a row, 'Dunkirk', brought in $11.4m this weekend, and collectively has brought its worldwide total to $363.7m. It's a phenomenal success, and it shows no signs of slowing down, with no reason to considering the lack of competition it faces this August. One such competition was the number 1 film this week, 'Annabelle: Creation', which brought more than double its $15m budget, to a grand total of $34m. Foreign box office surpassed that number giving the film a $71.7m worldwide gross in just its first week.

That's the box office this week, as always for the podcast discussion, hit the link below.
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Sunday, 13 August 2017

'The Dark Tower' (2017) Review: A Fantastic Sedative

Catch it on cable: A meandering movie that will be remembered as the film you couldn't remember if you watched it or not.
For those that declare cinema dead and Hollywood to be out of ideas, this is another notch in the win column for you. ‘The Dark Tower’ is yet another adaptation of a classic story by Stephen King. This time, instead of killer clowns and rabid dogs, the horrors of this tale lie in the mystical dark tower, a gargantuan structure with the sole function of keeping at bay evils from a different dimension. The evil man in black seeks to destroy the tower, and it’s up to a young man and a gunslinger to stop him.

Like many films, ‘The Dark Tower’ is a perfectly acceptable movie on the surface level. It has characters that embody age old archetypes. The reluctant hero, the chosen one, the all powerful supervillain. The character’s themselves are flat, but the roles are perfectly serviceable. It’s only when you dig a little deeper that the film begins to fall apart. The movie has a lot of ideas, most of them good, but brings them across with all the finesse of a rickety bridge.

Funny thing is, this looks like it could be in the movie.
At the heart of ‘The Dark Tower’ is a simple idea: The innocence of a child is the key to saving the world. With so many films predicated on the idea of innocence being a hindrance, it was refreshing to see something new. The trouble is the movie betrays this idea almost immediately, and insults your intelligence in the process. Instead of providing the deep, complex story it set up, the film would rather show a slick action scene or two.

On that note, if you're rushing to see 'The Dark Tower' on account of the impressive gunplay Idris Elba's character displays in the trailer, you'd best stay home. Most of what's already been seen is all there is. That's because 'The Dark Tower' is not an action film. In fact, it avoids violence when it can, and treats it as a last resort. There's a message about the weight one carries when they decide to put a gun in their hands which is effective when it wants to be, but ultimately falls apart when the depictions of gun violence are so enticing.

"Don't use guns unless you absolutely have to. Now watch how cool it is to use a gun"
With a non-engaging script and characters that are hard to root for, ‘The Dark Tower’ is a certifiable dud. Even its cast, bookended by two of the most charismatic actors working today, can’t save this film from feeling like an opportunity to catch up on some much-needed rest. Even the story, which for all its “end of the world” gravitas, feels extremely low stake. ‘The Dark Tower’ feels like the beginning of a tv series, and that’s exactly where it should be seen.

Rating: Catch It On Cable.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Movie Money: Episode 24 (06.08.2017)

Movie buffs that follow the year's releases are well aware of certain dead spots in the year. January, early October,  and August are notoriously bad release windows for movies. The movies are either poorly received critically, or commercially, or both. With that in mind, let's take a look at the first weekend in August.

Topping out the top 5 with a modest opening of $19.5m is 'The Dark Tower'. The Idris Elba led picture benefited from a lack of competition this week and managed to gain a third of its $60m budget. Worldwide the film has grossed $27.5m. It's likely that the film will eventually earn back its budget, but it's not quite the success it was hoping to be.

Dark Tower gets the top spot, but won't be making any box office records.

At number 2 we have 'Dunkirk' making a whopping $17.6m in its third weekend in a row, bringing its domestic total to $133.5, and its worldwide total to $314.5m, way past its $100m budget. Number 3 is 'The Emoji Movie' which experienced a 50% drop this week, with a take of $12.3m. The movie based off of icons in your smart phone made $49.4m domestically this weekend and $62.1m worldwide. With a budget of only $50m, the film is a success, but not the runaway hit expected by Sony Pictures.

Rounding out the top 5 we have 'Girls Trip' continuing its phenomenal run with $11.4m for its 3rd weekend, bringing its domestic total to $85.4m, and a worldwide total of $90.8m. The movie continues to be a crowd pleaser, as it experienced a mere 41.9% drop this week. It's well on its way to making a $100m. Finally, at #5 we have 'Kidnap', with a weekend gross of $10.2m, about half of its $20m budget. It seems star power won the day for this film which had little to no marketing. The film should make back its budget provided it maintains its luck.

The "'Taken' with Halle Berry" angle seems to have come through for Relativity Studios.

That's all for this week, join us again next Monday for another report. We'll see how the current landscape gets changed with the release of 'Annabelle: Creation' which is sure to draw in more than enough to cover its small budget.

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Wednesday, 2 August 2017

'Girls Trip' (2017) Review: A Movie That Tries To Have It All

Half Price: A movie that should be seen in the cinema with a crowd to back it up. At a discount.

As they get older, most people find it increasingly trying to make time for their social lives. Some have families, some have work, some have both. 'Girls Trip' is a story about 4 women going on a relentless, wild adventure, reliving their glory days, and acting as young as they feel no matter how old they are. A story told a thousand and one times with men but one that's all too uncommon for women.

They made two of these movies. TWO.
Puzzlingly, 'Girls Trip' is a movie that has everything you've seen before, and things you never thought you'd ever see. In terms of its plot, it's entirely predictable. A few moments were surprising twists and turns in the road, that ultimately led to the same tired destination. In terms of spectacle, the movie is an entirely different ball game. 

You might be able to see moments coming, but knowing is only half the battle. You'll still be woefully unprepared for the limits the film will go beyond. In fact, 'Girls Trip' will put you in a state of perpetual denial about its antics. There's a temptation to deny the movie's unlimited raunch. This is pointless. Before you can say "There's no way they'll do that", it's too late. It's already been done.

Shock value trumps all else in 'Girls Trip', with scenes designed to leave you contemplating the reality of the movie itself. In a way, this movie earned my respect. I might not have laughed for first 20 minutes of 'Girls Trip', but that doesn't mean there were no laughs to be had. In fact, the audience I saw the film with was uncontrollable. Never before have I wished a film was subtitled, as the audio just could not compete with the thundering roar of the crowd.

The constant expression of my 'Girls Trip' audience

Personally, I'll admit to being swept up by the movie's energy, but by and large, the jokes in 'Girls Trip' were met with disbelief. Sometimes by their content, other times by just how bad they were. The movie was a mixed bag from start to finish. The same can't be said for the cast, each of which fit a relatable, yet over the top archetype, with their own role to make the group feel balanced.

There's Jada Pinkett-Smith, playing Lisa, the party girl turned strict and uptight mom. Queen Latifah's Sasha, the one who could be doing better, Tiffany Haddish's Dina, the rambunctious wild one, and Regina Hall's Ryan, the main character who has it all. They play off each other mostly well and have an engaging screen presence together. By their nature, some characters get more play than others, but at least the movie wasn't bogged down by multiple sub plots, just a few grating moments.

As if the movie wasn't imbalanced enough, there's a slight tonal dissonance to 'Girls Trip'. One minute your four leading ladies will be zip lining between terraces, and then later, the movie will drop some hard truth bombs about social inequality. Honestly? I would've been thrilled had the movie explored those moments more. The film is well aware of the importance it holds, having an all female cast comprised of women of colour.

The backdrop of the trip is an event for Essence magazine which serves as a celebration of black artists. Countless celebrity cameos can be found throughout the movie, as a reminder that black stars are out there, and they're important. These moments might've been jarring, but they were definitely appreciated. When it wanted to, 'Girls Trip' told its messages well.

'Girls Trip' ropes you in, and makes you enjoy it just a little, even if you didn't want to tag along.

There are some movies that strive to be relatable. Showing us a story that reflects our own lives, through characters we see ourselves in. There are other movies that dabble in fantasy, being completely unrealistic and giving us a form of escapism as we're whisked away into the film's incredible world. 'Girls Trip' does as 'Girls Trip' would, and tries to pull off both. Sometimes successfully, most times not. 'Girls Trip' may not have been the film for me, but it was certainly the film for many.

Rating: Half Price

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

'Atomic Blonde' (2017) Review: Beautifully Brutal

Big Screen Watch: A movie that tries to be more than your average fanfare and succeeds. Mostly.

From one-half of the directing duo that brought 'John Wick' to life comes yet another film about a character with a very particular set of skills. This time, the titular Atomic Blonde is Lorraine Broughton, played by Charlize Theron, a spy for the British government. Set in 1989, right before the fall of the Berlin Wall, 'Atomic Blond' follows Lorraine on a mission to secure a list of every working intelligence agent within the Soviet Union. Essentially the pre-internet version of WikiLeaks. Since her failure could mean the continuance of the cold war, it's safe to say Lorraine is under a tad bit of pressure to succeed.

As I was watching the film, it struck me that this was likely the most adult film I have seen in a while. Many films deal with mature themes and show explicit content, but something about the way 'Atomic Blonde' did this made it a cut above your typical R rated film. There's nudity, blood & gore, cursing, and each is handled extremely effectively.

Much like another movie I enjoyed this year.

Fight scenes in the movie are brutal. There's the same incredible choreography that exists in 'John Wick' films, with Lorraine affecting merciless punishment on her opponents. The movie's bleak cinematography gives way to action that was at times more visceral than entertaining. The film immerses you in spectacular fashion, as you go from admiring the way Lorraine dispatches her enemies, to feeling every blow she delivers.

Most of what sells Atomic Blonde's dreary environment is its characters. It was refreshing to see an action movie that didn't feel the need to wink and nod every few moments with a quip or two. Tension doesn't get broken in 'Atomic Blonde' and rather than be exhausting it was simply captivating. The music in the film helps this as well, and is used cleverly for the most part, but completely on the nose for others.

The movie is set in Germany in the 1980s, you can bet your ass they played this song.
While the film has many successes, it is by no means perfect. The first half of the film has pacing issues and the story is filled with so many details it can be hard to follow. Both those issues are minimized by the end of the film, and the film does more right than wrong. Charlize Theron carries it even through its most painstaking moments, and I was always engaged and entertained. It's worth the price of admission.

Rating: Big Screen Watch