December Movie Releases

It’s December, ladies and gentlemen!

The year is almost over! How has your year been, because it’s been a great year for films, huh? December is also a tough month to set, because this is the big Oscar month, so a lot of films end up getting limited releases, expansion releases, and then wide releases. So if anything is off, it’s because of that. I’ll do my best to get everything where it’s suppose to go, and if not I’ll come back and update the schedule.  So let’s jump right in the films that will close out the year.

Also, Happy Whatever-It-Is-You-Celebrate!

 

2nd

Limited Release: Jackie (Biography Drama – Fox Searchlight Pictures/Why Not Productions/Wild Bunch)

Following the assassination of her husband, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (played by Natalie Portman) fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children and define her husband’s historic legacy. The film has gotten a lot of love at the film festival circuit, and is getting a lot of Oscar buzz. It probably helped that this film has been in the works for a long time too. Jackie also stars Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, John Hurt, Billy Crudip, Max Casella, Richard E. Grant, and Caspar Phillipson.

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Limited Release: La La Land (Drama Comedy Musical)

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone reunite for La La Land which follows a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. The film is getting a ton of great reviews from the film festival circuit so this one is one you should keep your eye out for. Also the trailer really gives off the vibe that the film will be a nice tribute to films of old. The film also stars Finn Wittrock, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend, Jason Fuchs, Hemky Madera, and J.K. Simmons.

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Incarnate (Horror Thriller – Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/WWE Studios/IM Global/High Top Releasing/Deep Underground Films)

A scientist with the ability to enter the subconscious minds of the possessed must save a young boy from the grips of a demon with powers never seen before, while facing the horrors of his past. The film stars Aaron Eckhart, Carice van Houten, David Mazouz, Emjay Anthony, Matt Nable, and Catalina Sandino Moreno.

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9th

Expanded/Wide Release: Nocturnal Animals

Expanded Release: La La Land

Expanded Release: Jackie

 

 

Office Christmas Party (Comedy – Paramount Pictures/DreamWorks Pictures/Bluegrass Films)

When his uptight CEO sister (Jennifer Aniston) threatens to shut down his branch, the branch manager thrown an epic Christmas party in order to land a big client and save the day, but the party gets way out of hand. The film also stars T.J. Miller, Kate McKinnon, Jason Bateman, Rob Corddry, Olivia Munn, Jillian Bell, Jamie Chung, Abbey Lee, Randall Park, Matt Walsh and Courtney B. Vance.

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16th

Limited Release: The Founder (Biography Drama)

Michael Keaton stars in this film that tells the story of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. I don’t think I’ve ever actually thought about the story of McDonald’s and since I’ve seen the trailer, it’s peaked my interest and I’m sure to many others as well. The rest of the cast includes Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson, Linda Cardellini, Nick Offerman, B.J. Novak, and John Carroll Lynch.

 

 

Collateral Beauty (Drama – New Line Cinema/Village Roadshow Pictures/Overbrook Entertainment/Anonymous Content/Likely Star/PalmStar Media)

An advertising executive encounters three mysterious figures who encourage him to move on from the past. The film looks like it’s going to be a powerhouse with the cast, but the idea does seem odd, and one that you can probably figure out from the trailers. Hopefully the execution works. Will Smith, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Edward Norton, Naomie Harris, Michael Pena, and Helen Mirren star.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Sci-Fi Adventure –Walt Disney Pictures/Lucasfilm)

Gareth Edwards directs the first spinoff/standalone film of the new set of Star Wars films, which actually takes us back in time as it follows Rebels on a mission to steal plans for the Death Star. Listen, it’s Star Wars, people are going to go watch it. However, the film’s last two trailers were freaking awesome, of course the film however, will have some closer eyes as the “dirty” word in Hollywood has hit the film: reshoots. Nonetheless, the film looks great and more importantly it looks different. The film stars Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Jonathan Aris, and Forest Whittaker.

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21st

Sing (Animation – Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment)

A koala named Buster (Matthew McConaughey) recruits his best friend to help him drum up business for his theater by hosting a singing competition. I don’t know if I’m over talking animal animated film this year, but I’m not getting behind the Sing train. The voice cast also includes Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, John C. Reilly, Seth MacFarlane, Taron Egerton, Nick Offerman, Peter Serafinowicz,  and Jennifer Saunders.

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Patriots Day (Lionsgate/CBS Films/Closest to the Hole Productions)

Directed by Peter Berg, the film is an account of Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis’s (played by John Goodman) actions in the events leading up to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorists behind it. Berg has already made a splash this year with Deepwater Horizon with Mark Wahlberg, so I can only think that this will be either as good or just as good. Patriots Day also stars J.K. Simmons, Kevin Bacon, Melissa Benoist, Michelle Monaghan, Alex Wolff, and Rachel Brosnahan.

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Passengers (Sci-Fi Adventure – Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Village Roadshow Pictures/LStar Capital/Original Film/Start Motion Pictures/Company Films)

A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence) are awakened 90 years early. Two of the most liked and extremely talented actors in Hollywood are getting together for a film, and one that looks not too bad, I think we looking at a big hit here, don’t you think? Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, and Andy Garcia also star.

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Assassin’s Creed (Action – 20th Century Fox)

Based on the popular video game franchise, Michael Fassbender stars as Callum Lynch, who with the help of revolutionary technology that unlocks his genetic memories, experiences the adventures of his ancestor, Aguilar, in 15th Century Spain. Callum discovers he is descended from a mysterious secret society, The Assassins, and amasses incredible knowledge and skills to take on the oppressive and powerful Templar organization in the present day. Justin Kurzel, who directed the well-received and great film Macbeth, directs and reunites not only with Fassbender but Marion Cotillard as well. The film also stars Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Ariane Labed, Mathias Varela, Brian Gleeson, and Michael Kenneth Williams.

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23rd

Limited Release: A Monster Calls (Fantasy Drama – Focus Features/Participant Media/River Road Entertainment/Apaches Entertainment/La Trini)

Based on a script and book by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls follows a boy as he seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom terminal illness. The film stars Liam Neeson as The Monster, Felicity Jones as the Mother, Sigourney Weaver as the Grandmother, Toby Kebbell as Dad, and Lewis MacDougall as the boy and Lily-Rose Aslandogdu as Lily. The film looks fantastic and I can’t wait to see how it does. The limited release is due to Focus Features trying to get the film an Oscar run. The film will come out early next year.

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Limited Release: Silence (Drama)

Directed by Martin Scorsese and based off the novel by Shusaku Endo, the film is set in the seventeenth century, where we follow two Jesuit priests that face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and propagate Christianity. The film has been looking for a release date and what better date to come out in than in December around Oscar season right? The film stars Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Shin’ya Tsukamoto and Tadanobu Asano.

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Why Him? (Comedy – 20th Century Fox/Red Hour Films/21 Laps Entertainment)

A dad (Bryan Cranston) forms a bitter rivalry with his daughter’s young rich boyfriend (James Franco). The film looks decently funny, at least we can hope, and seeing Cranston on the big screen is always nice – even if it’s a film like this. The film stars Zoey Deutch, and Megan Mullally.

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25th

Limited Release: 20th Century Women (Comedy Drama)

The story of three women who explore love and freedom in Southern California during the late 1970s. The film stars Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Alia Shawkat, Laura Wiggins, and Billy Crudup.

 

Limited Release: Paterson (Drama Comedy) 

Set in the present in Paterson, New Jersey, this is a tale about a bus driver and poet, who also happens to be named Paterson (Adam Driver). I saw the trailer for the first time recently, and it looks like a great little indie film that will showcase Adam Driver.

 

Limited Release: Hidden Figures (Drama)

Based on a true story, a team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical date needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kristen Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, Glen Powell, and Kevin Costner.

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Limited Release: Live By Night

Based off the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, Ben Affleck writes, directs and stars in this great looking film that is set during the Prohibition and follows Joe Coughlin, the son of a prominent Boston police captain, as he rises through the ranks of the criminal underworld and the trouble he falls into along the way. Besides the film looking great, it has a great cast in Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Sullivan, Anthony Michael Hall, Titus Welliver, Max Casella, Chris Messina, and Chris Cooper.

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Fences (Drama – Paramount Pictures/Scott Rudin Productions/Bron Studios/MACRO)

Based on the play by August Wilson, and directed by Denzel Washington, Fences follows an African American father who struggles with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s and coming to terms with the events of his life. The film stars Washington, Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby and Stephen Henderson.

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So, what are you looking forward to?

Mini-Reviews: Headshot, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, & The Handmaiden

Hey everybody!

Welcome to the fifth edition of Mini-Reviews. This is the final installment of mini-reviews of the films I had the pleasure of watching at the Chicago International Film Festival last week. I’ll have another mini-review post up soon with films still in theaters.

 

 

Headshot

Directors: Kimo Stambeol and Timo Tjahjanto

Writer: Timo Tjahjanto

Cast: Iko Uwais, Chelsea Islan, Julie Estelle, David Hendrawan, Epy Kusnandar, Zack Lee, Very Tri Yulisman and Sunny Pang

Synopsis: An amnesiac with a serious head injury whose past comes back to haunt him shortly after being nursed back to health by a young doctor.

 

If you’re a fan of the Indonesian actions film The Raid and The Raid 2: Berandal, then Headshot is a natural progression film for you. The film brings together the same team behind the camera and in front of the camera, for the most part, and it leads to a brutally beautiful film that won’t disappoint any action fans.

Headshot follows a man (Uwais), who is found on a beach and is taken to a hospital where he spends three months in a coma. When he wakes up he doesn’t have any memory of who he is or what happened to him. His doctor Ailin (Islan) tries to help him and gives him Ishmael. However, Ishmael’s past comes back to haunt him as a mysterious and dangerous man known as Lee (Pang) comes back into the picture with his deadly army of assassins. To make matters worse, Ailin gets captured by Lee’s men and Ishmael races to save her and face his past.

Some will find the tonal shifts a bit jarring, and even I’ll admit I was a bit thrown by it at first, but Ishmael’s story and of course the action, keeps you invested through the shifts. The film does take a “breather” at one point as it gives us some backstory on Lee, which is really just an exposition dump, but right after that is when the action level goes up to eleven.

Of course, most people are going to watch this for the action – me too to be honest – and you will not be disappointed. The film gets really brutal and down-and-dirty, which is what we expected, and the film is called Headshot after all. Iko Uwais is one of the best martial arts stars we have working today, and seeing him working again with this Raid 2: Berandal stars Very Tri Yulisman and Julie Estelle is a great sight to see. Although they don’t really reach the same levels of iconic characters like Baseball Bat Man or Hammer Girl, but they do have their moments and are just as deadly.

All in all, Headshot is a brutal fighting film that is wrapped around a drama about a man trying to find out who he really is. While the film isn’t perfect, the action is what most will remember taking away from the film, and it isn’t really a bad thing.

Headshot

4 out of 5

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The Autopsy of Jane Doe

Director: Andre Ovredal

Writers: Ian B. Goldberg and Richard Naing

Cast: Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Ophelia Lovibond, Michael McElhatton and Olwen Catherine Kelly

Synopsis: Father and son coroners who receive a mysterious homicide victim with no apparent cause of death. As they attempt to identify the beautiful young “Jane Doe,” they discover increasingly bizarre clues that hold the key to her terrifying secrets.

 

The Autopsy of Jane Doe is one of those films that I personally feel the less you know the better your experience will be. The film starts off rather grisly as Sheriff Sheldon (McElhatton) discovers a brutal crime scene, but finds something out of place in a mysterious body. With no visual signs of a cause of death, he sends the body of Jane Doe (played by Olwen Catherine Kelly) to father and son coroners, Tommy (Cox) and Austin (Hirsch). What follows is Tommy and Austin experiencing things they can’t clearly understand, or want to, and soon figure out that it may be connected to Jane Doe.

The film is a hell of a lot of fun, and it also helped that the crowd was also really into it too. Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch have tremendous chemistry together as father and son, and really play off the horror elements of the film, as well as the autopsy parts where they seem to be enjoying themselves. If anything, the movie is held together by the always reliable Cox and Hirsch. However, the biggest props goes to Olwen Catherine Kelly as Jane Doe. One, for being a dead body the whole time, but the other is she still pulls off the creepiness of the role while laying on a table stiff. It’s rather impressive.

When the film picks up its eeriness is when the film becomes really fun. I won’t go too into details, but there are some pretty clever stuff that director Andre Ovredal (Trollhunters) and cinematographer Roman Osin pull off here. Also the reveal of what is causing all of this is rather interesting, and while the reveal is only limited to Tommy and Austin, I wish they could have gone more into it.

All in all, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a hell of a lot of fun to watch. It’s funny, scary when it needs to be, and Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch keep you invested from start to finish. The film does a great job of building everything up for its finale, that will probably make you even more afraid of going into a morgue.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

4 out of 5

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The Handmaiden

Director: Chan-wook Park

Writers: Chan-wook Park and Seo-Kyung Chung

Cast: Kim Tae-ri, Min-hee Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Jin-woong Jo, Hae-suk Kim, and Sori- Moon

Synopsis: A woman is hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress, but secretly she is involved in a plot to defraud her.

 

Famed, and amazing, director Chan-wook Park has given us some great films in the past like Oldboy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Lady Vengeance, and Thirst. Now, Park has come back with a somewhat different film in The Handmaiden. Based off the novel by Sarah Waters called Fingersmith, the film is a very exotic, drama thriller that never lets go from beginning to end.

The film is set in Japanese occupied Korea and follows Sook-Hee (Tae-ri), a young theif who is part of a band of thieves, who just landed a massive job. The plan is for Sook-Hee to become the handmaiden of the wealthy Lady Hideko (Kim) and make her fall in love with “Count Fujiawara” (Ha) so they can get married, take her fortune to split it amongst them, and throw her in a madhouse. However, as the days go by Sook-Hee finds it harder to betray Hideko as she’s gotten to know her.

The Handmaiden has a ton more going on than the trailers and even the synopsis has you believe. So much so that the film’s long run time is justified, and to some extent, I kind of wish the movie was a little longer so it can drawn some more things out. Saying that, the film could be one of those films that you have to revisit to see if you can catch things you didn’t notice before.

Also, Park is back to his ways of making his audiences feel just a bit uncomfortable. Of course, most of the scenes involve the exotic scenes that Park does find a way to actually make work for the film instead of just having a random and gratuitous sex scene. It fits the story and even connects to one of the many themes the film has. I know that sounds vague, but like The Autopsy of Jane Doe, the less you know the better your experience will be watching this.

The performances are also top notch. Of course the film is driven and held together by the leads in Min-hee Kim as Lady Hideko and Kim Tae-ri as Sook-Hee, who are amazing to watch together and Kim is especially great by herself as well. Jung-woo Ha as the Fujiwara and the leader of the group of thieves has his real big moments, and Jin-woong Jo appears as Hideko’s uncle Kouzuki plays a major role in Hideko and Fujiwara’s arcs, and one of the things I wish was expanded on a bit.

Finally, one of the things I was not expecting – besides the twists – was the how funny this movie was. Even the weird and uncomfortable scenes had some humor to them, which also the film just a bit, because the film gets a little heavy at times.

All in all, The Handmaiden will definitely not be for everyone, but if you could try to avoid any more information about the film you should. The film is a beautiful, exotic, funny romance story that I was never expecting, and I’m glad I got to experience it.

The Handmaiden

4 out of 5

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‘The Martian’ Review

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Director: Ridley Scott

Writer(s): Drew Goddard

Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Askel Hennie, Mackenzie Davis, Donald Glover, Benedict Wong, and Chiwetel Ejifor

Synopsis: During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit, and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Andy Weir, director Ridley Scott takes the helm of telling a story of probably someone’s worst fear: being left behind alone on a different planet. Scott has been on slump lately, but The Martian is the film that may get him back on track.

 

The film really jumps right into the action and story. The film take place on Sol 18 (“Sol” is a Martian day) of a 31-Sol mission on Mars. Astronaut Mark Watney (Damon) and his fellow Ares III crewmembers are hit by a storm sooner than they anticipated. Seeing that they are left with no choice, Commander Lewis (Chastain) orders the crew to leave Mars, but while the crew attempts to escape, the storm hits and Watney is struck by debris and vanishes into the storm. Lewis stays back a bit to search for him, but the crew eventually assumes he’s dead and leaves. Of course, Watney survives – not without getting impaled in the stomach – and makes his way back to their base of operations known as The Hab.

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There Watney realizes besides his biggest problem of being left behind on an isolated planet has to deal with other problems. He has no way to communicate with NASA, he doesn’t have enough food and the food he does have only will only last a few weeks, and finally, the next mission to Mars won’t arrive for four years. So left on the planet with nothing but wits and need to survive, he’s going to, as he puts it, “science the shit out of this.”

I actually read Andy Weir’s book prior to watching the film and Ridley Scott and writer Drew Goddard keep the spirit of the novel intact, and while changes were made The Martian is a pretty faithful adaptation. The film leaves out a good chuck of the science that Watney talks and does about his time on Mars, and what he does to make sure he doesn’t run oxygen, water, or food. Instead, Scott focuses more on the immediacy of the issue that Watney faces, and while some of the science is there, it’s scattered throughout, and the focus becomes how Watney will survive on Mars and what NASA is doing to save him. It’s really a bad move really, even though the film marks in at about two and half hours.

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Despite this, a film like this lives and dies with the lead, and Matt Damon’s Mark Watney is great. Damon may have not been on everyone’s wish list to play Watney, but Damon brings everything to the character that he can and that task is not easy. Damon is pretty much alone for the whole film and thanks to Damon’s always reliable acting chops. We feel for Watney and want to root for him. The other thing that Damon brings to Watney, and the film that will surprise some people, is humor. The Martian is surprisingly funny and filled with humor throughout. If you’re wondering how Watney doesn’t go crazy – and how the humor comes into play – Watney video records everything for NASA’s log and much like a scientist, he is documenting everything he does taking us along for the ride.

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While The Martian is on Damon’s shoulders to carry, a lead is only as good as their supporting characters, and the film has great supporting characters and actors. The Ares III crew chemistry is solid and you believe that these people have been together for months with the banter being fresh and quick. Jessica Chastain’s Commander Lewis is the stern and no-nonsense leader, Michael Pena’s Martinez, the pilot, shares most if not all the banter between Watney and its pretty damn great to hear and watch. Sebastian Stan’s Beck, the doctor, and Askel Hennie’s Vogel, the chemist get lost in the shuffle a bit, but have their moments. Finally, Kate Mara’s Johanssen, the tech, gets her moment to shine too, but with Pena and Chastain getting more of the attention, she also gets lost.

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The NASA and Earth characters are as great as Damon. Jeff Daniels plays Teddy Sanders, the head of NASA, and is looking out the agency as a whole and while his decisions may look like he’s being a hard-ass or the suit bad guy, Daniels gives Sander a special feel. Chiwetel Ejifor’s Vincent Kapoor plays the Mars Missions supervisor and has some great moments especially when he’s across Daniels and Sean Bean’s Mitch Henderson, who is the Ares III’s supervisor. Anytime the three characters are together, the scenes pop because everyone is trying to pull the power away from each other. The scenes also bring the two different sides of the argument that people would face if this ever happened.

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Kristen Wiig plays NASA spokesperson Annie Montrose who has some funny scenes and honestly, I thought was great casting, although I wished they kept more of her lines from the book. Mackenzie Davis plays Mindy Park, who is the first to discover that Watney is alive on Mars and keeps track on him through satellites. Finally Donald Glover and Benedict Wong plays an astrodynamics engineer that tries to figure out a way to bring Watney home and an engineer that works at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that tries to communicate with Watney on Mars and brings up an idea that could get Watney more food.

The Martian won’t be for everyone. The film does follow Watney as he’s on Mars and tries to survive, and while it’s great to see how he does it and not go crazy, the film is a slow burn and moves at pace that could make people lose focus. However, the pacing and the editing between Earth and Mars should make the film go by fasting that it really is.

All in all, The Martian is a great human story about survival. What helps the film is the great cast, especially Matt Damon who carries the film with ease, and director Ridley Scott who shots the film in such a way that it does make you think they shot the film on Mars. The Martian is definitely one of the best films of the year.

 

The Martian

5 out of 5

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‘The Gunman’ Review

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Dir: Pierre Morel

Writer(s): Don MacPherson, Pete Travis (screenwriter), Jean-Patrick Manchette (novel)

Cast: Sean Penn, Jasmine Trinca, Mark Rylance, Ray Winstone, Javier Bardem and Idris Elba

Synopsis: A sniper on a mercenary assassination team kills the minister of mines of the Congo. Terrier’s successful kill shot forces him into hiding Returning to the Congo years later, he becomes the target of a hit squad himself.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

Based off the novel “The Prone Gunman” by Jean-Patrick Manchette, director Pierre Morel, who arguably, rejuvenated Liam Neeson’s career with Taken tries to do same here with Sean Penn. The Gunman takes some of the same elements from Taken but fails a little short of getting to Taken’s level.

 

While in Congo, a group of humanitarians try to do the best they can during a mining crises, little do some of them know, there are a few of them like Jim Terrier (Penn), Felix (Bardem) and Cox (Rylance) that have their own mission. Jim ends up killing a top official and, per orders, is told to leave the continent leaving his life behind and the love of his life Annie (Trinca) without a word. Jump to eight years later, Jim is back in Congo to do real good and build wells for the villages, until three men come to kill him specifically. Jim jumps into action, kills the men and then leaves looking for answers.

 

It’s interesting how the film is structured. If you walked in not seeing any of the ads you would think you are going to watch a political thriller/drama with the way the film opens with news broadcasts telling us what the Congo is going through. Not that it really matters, the film is not a commentary or trying to give us a message, in fact the Congo stuff is an overall problem for Jim, but we only spend the first twenty minutes of the film in it. Not that it really matters anyway right? You’re probably watching the film for the action.

 

Speaking of the action, excluding Jim taking on the three assassins at the beginning, it takes a while for the action to pick up. In fact, after Jim finds out why he’s being targeted – and when the film starts picking up steam – the action scenes come more often, and some of them don’t disappoint. A house shootout and a fight between Jim and one of the baddies are the highlights of the action scenes in the film.

 

So you’re probably wondering if Sean Penn could pull off being the aging Hollywood star/action star. Well the quick answer is, yes, yes he can. Penn nails a ruthless demeanor and brings the sense that this character knows his stuff and is someone you do not want to piss off. Penn even beefed up for the role, to the point that I think he demanded shirtless scenes or shots that showed up his physic, because holy cow was he buff. I will admit though, after the third shirtless scene, it got a little distracting.

 

The supporting cast is okay at best. The film does belong to Penn, but it is kind of a shame that the supporting cast is either underutilized or just bland, which is a shame because they are great talents. Trinca playing Annie doesn’t do much for the story expect being Jim’s way of having a better life, constantly needed to be protected or saved. Also, for a film being rated R, they never actually show her naked. I don’t want that to sound pervy, but there are moments where Annie is shirtless or is about to put clothing on and any other film would have shown the actress’s breasts, but Morel doesn’t, which I do tip my hat to him for it, but it is very noticeable in where it looks like the camera tilts up right away, another distraction.

 

Bardem’s Felix is a bit odd, I won’t spoil it obviously, but you can clearly tell his character is a bit slimly. Ray Winstone plays the only friend to Jim, Stanley, which against is heavily underused. Finally Idris Elba pops up as a mystery character, which is easily the most underused, although he does have a great scene with Penn before the last act of the film.

 

All in all, The Gunman has a strong lead with Penn who delivers some descent actions scenes and scenes that really suck you in. However, it does take a bit to really find its footing and even stumbles at times. Nonetheless, The Gunman will be sure to you entertain you in some way.

The Gunman

3.5 out of 5

‘The Family’ Review

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Dir: Luc Besson

Cast: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron, John D’ Leo, and Tommy Lee Jones

Synopsis: The Manzoni family, a notorious mafia clan, is relocated to Normandy, France under the witness protection program, where fitting in soon becomes challenging as their old habits die hard.

 

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always.”

 

Based on Tonino Benacquista’s novel Malavita, The Family stars Robert De Niro as Fred Blake aka Giovanni Manzoni, a one-time mob boss now in Witness Protection after ratting out his pals. With a bounty on his head from an imprisoned former Mafia cohort, the authorities (led by Lee Jones) relocate Fred and his family — wife Maggie (Pfeiffer), daughter Belle (Agron), son Warren (D’Leo), and dog Malavita — to Normandy.

Fred and his family try to adapt to life in a boring small French village where the townsfolk don’t seem to be happy with Americans moving into their small town. This leads to altercations with neighbors, local officials, shop keepers, school, you name it. Meanwhile, the mob narrows their search for the family. Needless to say, it wouldn’t be a movie if the bad guys didn’t eventually catch up with the good guys (or in this case, the less bad guys) in a bullets-blazing finale and in a true Luc Besson fashion.

It’s interesting to see De Niro, Lee Jones and Pfeiffer play up their somewhat “typecast” characters. De Niro has poked fun at his mobster film legacy for quite awhile now and he does it here again, but it still works. Pfeiffer, whose early mob wife roles include Scarface and Married to the Mob, puts on an Italian/NY accent that doesn’t sound out of place. Then there’s Tommy Lee Jones playing an unsmiling, no-nonsense lawman. But it all works because there good actors.

As solid as all three major stars are in the film, you may find yourself equally impressed with the two younger leads playing the Blake kids. Agron shows she can do more than simply be that girl from Glee, although at times her performance for me was a bit too much, while new comer D’Leo steals his scenes and proves he’s truly his father’s son.

Like I said this is a Luc Besson-directed movie so there’s plenty of violence (but not gory) and action. Besson throws in flashbacks to Fred’s past criminal life, which helps us get to known more of De Niro’s character. It also helps since the movie is told through Fred’s voice because he’s writing his memoirs. But through this, we see how Fred holds nothing back. He knows he’s done bad things in his past but we still root for him and his family in the end.

All in all, The Family has it all; action, drama, comedy, and a little romance. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves and it leads to us having a good time too. Are there things that are a bit predictable? Sure, but it’s still fun to see.

The Family

4 out of 5