‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Review

Director: Rian Johnson

Writer: Rian Johnson

Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis and Benicio Del Toro

Synopsis: Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker on an adventure with Leia, Finn and Poe that unlocks mysterious of the Force and secrets of the past.

 

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

 

When The Force Awakens ended, everyone went crazy trying to figure out how the next movie was going to approach everything we just saw and was introduced. Enter director Rian Johnson and when that first trailer dropped everyone went crazy all over again after hearing Luke’s words of “it’s time for the Jedi to end.” Since then The Last Jedi has been on everyone highly-anticipated movies of the year. So now that it’s here, was the wait worth it? Is it too over-hyped? Both? Neither? Well, let’s find out.

The Last Jedi has three stories going on. The first is the story that ended The Force Awakens, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has found Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and is there to try and convince him to come back and help the Resistance, but to also help her find her place in everything and help her with her newfound abilities. The second follows Poe (Oscar Isaac), along with the Resistance Fleet fending off an attack by the First Order and butting heads with Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) and even Leia (Carrie Fisher) herself. Poe, finding out something dire, decides to send Finn (John Boyega) and a technician, Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), to another planet to find someone that can help them. The final story is Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) still struggling with the darkness inside him and finally trying to prove himself to Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis).

The Last Jedi is an interesting film. On one hand, it is a true Star Wars film that is filled with great visuals, great cinematography – here by Steve Yedlin – an amazing score by John Williams and great moments that the franchise is known for like epic battles and twists. On the other hand, the film feels a bit too messy for its own good, but in that messiness it does bring some surprises that is obviously causing some fans to be very divided. Yes, that’s vague but this is a spoiler free review.

What I’m okay with saying and giving away is The Last Jedi does have some pacing issues. You definitely feel that the movie’s length by the end of it all, but at least director and writer Rian Johnson is able to make it captivating that you don’t really care too much – at least at the end of the movie. The subplot with Finn and Rose going to a different planet and run into Benicio Del Toro’s DJ, feels a little off from the rest of the movie, and while I think I understand what Johnson was trying to do with that part of the film, that section could have been cut down a little.

Other big thing that The Last Jedi does is that it does take some risks – at least in terms of revelations – with its storytelling. However, those risks/revelations are the things that are diving fans, at last from what I’ve seen. Storylines and teases from The Force Awakens are brought up and played around with, even going as so far to give us some answers or, unfortunately, more questions. It’s these little things that pile up that keep The Last Jedi from being the awesome and great film we’d hope for, and instead being a messy Star Wars film that has awesome and great moments.

This isn’t me saying The Last Jedi is a bad film – you notice I never said that – but after watching The Last Jedi I felt a lot of conflict – like Kylo Ren – about my impression of the movie. I’ve seen it twice now, and while the second time I had some more fun with it, the flaws are there once you start to dig around and discuss the film. That said, the pretty great moments are there too, but that’s not enough for me.

All in all, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is definitely a film that Star Wars fans will argue about for a long time. Does it have everything a Star Wars film is suppose to have? Yes. It’s fun, action-packed and funny when need be. Does it extend the ideas and uses the storylines that were paved for it in The Force Awakens? Yes, but it also does something that is frustrating, and has made frustrated which I understand. However, at the same time, I see what Rian Johnson was trying to do, so I can’t be too upset over it.

Needless to say, if you’re a Star Wars fan, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is worth the watch, and, for the most part, you’ll have a great time watching. Visually, the film is great to look, and the cast is finally able to cut their teeth in more meaty material this go around. Finally, yes, like The Force Awakens, this draws a lot on past Star Wars movies – whether that’s good or bad is up to you.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

4 out of 5

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Mini-Reviews – Justice League, Lady Bird, Coco & Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Hey everybody!

Welcome to another edition of Mini-Reviews. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. I know I’ve been slacking on my movie reviews, so please forgive me for that, I have been watching movies but I haven’t had a real chance to sit down and write full reviews. So this is going to make up for it, with some of the big movies I’ve watched. Movies not included are Daddy’s Home 2, Roman J. Israel Esq., Murder on the Orient Express.

 

Been a while since I’ve done one of these, so please, bare with me. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Lady Bird

Director: Greta Gerwig

Writer: Greta Gerwig

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Beanie Feldstein, Lucas Hedges, Odeya Rush, Timothee Chalamet, Jordan Rodrigues, Marielle Scott and Tracy Letts.

Synopsis: In the early 2000s, an artistically-inclined seventeen year-old comes of age in Sacramento, California.

 

Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial effort, Lady Bird is a great coming-of-age story following Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), who wants out of her town but is not financially able to go to a big college. It also doesn’t help that her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf) is working non-stop and thinks she should think more logically about college. During all of this, we follow Lady Bird, which is what she wants to be called, go through her final year at school, love and thinking what her future holds for her.

I had heard a lot about Lady Bird during its film festival run, and when I finally got the chance to see it, I can see why people really loved it. Gerwig’s writing was fantastical, nothing ever felt forced and Ronan is simply amazing as Lady Bird. The main thing for me about the movie is, despite the movie being set in 2002, it doesn’t really feel that way. Sure we have flip-phones and the whole, “the government is going to put trackers on us” mentally by one of the characters Lady Bird interacts with, and the news of attacks overseas by our government, but the time period isn’t really that important – at least from my point of view of watching.

The thing that makes Lady Bird work for me is the chemistry between Ronan and Metcalf. Any time they are on the screen together it makes the film pop, and it’s both fun and hard to watch as you see them argue and fight one minute and then suddenly have a heart-to-heart the next. It would be really hard to imagine if none of these ladies including Gerwig, are not nominated for the major award shows.

All in all, Lady Bird is a greatly acted film with top notch writing and humor that feels real. While I did feel it loses only a slightly bit of steam near the end, the cast and the script really make Lady Bird worth the while.

Lady Bird

4 out of 5

 

 

Justice League

Director: Zack Snyder

Writers: Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon

Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Joe Morton, Connie Nielsen, Amber Heard, J.K. Simmons, Diane Lane, Henry Cavill and Ciaran Hinds

Synopsis: Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.

 

Justice League has had a long and hard road to get to the big screen. From the scarped George Miller-directed movie, to the DCEU’s battle to get fans and critics to go all in for their movies, the movie has finally arrived and it’s just okay. If you didn’t know, Zack Snyder directed the movie at first, but had to step down for the reshoots because of the death of a loved, and Joss Whedon – who had done some script work – came in to take over.

To be honest, I didn’t have a lot of hopes for this. I still had the bad taste of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with me, but I was willing to really give Justice League a chance. Unfortunately, Justice League was a huge misstep for me. The CGI was really off in places – I’m looking at you Henry Cavill mustache removal!

Justice League has a rather simple plot; Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) gathers together the team of the Amazon, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), the speedster Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), the loner Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and the cybernetically enhanced Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to stop the threat of Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds), an intergalactic threat that comes to Earth to find the Mother Boxes, cubes with massive power. It’s up to them to stop him and save the world.

The problem with Justice League is, besides some of the terrible CGI, is it doesn’t really take the time to get to know the new characters. We know Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman, but we get the cliff notes of Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg, which doesn’t help considering we’re suppose to care for these characters, and they’re the new big characters we’re going to follow. Miller’s Barry is too jokey; Stone’s Cyborg is a bit too stoic – although he does loosen up at the end – and Momoa’s Curry/Aquaman is a bit too “bro” for me, which is fine for a new approach, but I didn’t really get into it.

All in all, despite all that, yes, Justice League does have some fun and cool moments, but a lot of the negatives and drawbacks of the movie – some I didn’t even mention – really make it hard to enjoy the moments entirely. Justice League does take the DCEU into the right direction of more hopeful and fun, instead dark gritty. Hopefully, the DCEU continues down this route, otherwise the franchise is in a lot of trouble.

Justice League

2.5 out of 5

 

 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Director: Martin McDonagh

Writer: Martin McDonagh

Cast: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Lucas Hedges, Caleb Landry Jones, John Hawkes, Amanda Warren, Samara Weaving, Kerry Condon, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Clarke Peters, Sandy Martin, Zeljko Ivanek, Abbie Cornish, and Peter Dinklage

Synopsis: In this darkly comic drama, a mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder, when they fail to catch the culprit.

 

Martin McDonagh, who directed In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, is a director that I will also keep a look out for now. When I found out about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and the cast, it immediately jumped into my “Must Watch” list, and I’m glad I did, because this was a film that really stuck with me.

The film follows Mildred (Frances McDormand), who has recently lost her daughter in a brutal way, and after the police have seemed to give up on the case, she decides to buy three billboards that target the police for not doing their jobs. The billboards get the attention of the police, more specifically Sheriff Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) and Officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell), and the townspeople who are heavily against them. The film then follows Mildred as she deals with everyone seemingly against her, and Dixon and Willoughby trying to finally figure out the case.

There is a lot more going on in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri that I won’t even hint at here, mainly because this film really does lend itself on knowing the least amount of information possible to thoroughly enjoy it and really get into the world that this movie takes place in. I will say it’s a dark comedy, so prepare yourself for that, and if you seen McDonagh’s other films, then you’d know what to expect.

I will say Frances McDormand is great as always, but I’d argue that this movie belongs to Sam Rockwell. He’s absolutely fantastic in this, and dare I say, this is one of his best performances he’s ever done.

All in all, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a wonderfully entertaining dark comedy with great performances by Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell. Seriously do yourself a favor and try to avoid anything about the movie, and go watch it.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

4.5 out of 5

 

 

Coco

Director: Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina

Writers: Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich

Voice Cast: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Alanna Ubach, Renee Victor, Edward James Olmos and Benjamin Bratt

Synopsis: Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family’s ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to work out the mystery.

 

I am willing to admit that I had serious doubts about Coco. I knew that Pixar had been working on a Dia de los Muertos movie for a while now, but I was a huge fan of another Dia de los Muertos film called The Book of Life. However, Coco completely blew me away. The movie follows Miguel, who is banned from playing, listening or even thinking about music, but like all kids, he doesn’t follow his family’s rule. Miguel is inspired by a deceased musician from the town, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), and through magic, enters the Land of the Dead on The Day of the Dead to find de la Cruz and find his place in the world.

Along his journey there, he meets his deceased family and a con man named Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal). But, Miguel finds out that he has to get back to the living world before he’s stuck in the Land in the Dead forever.

Like any Pixar movie, the movie has a great story, great characters and amazing visuals. The beautiful and bright colors of The Land of the Dead really pop and I kind of wish we could see more of it as a whole, and not just sections. I also liked that they really dug into the actual culture of everything, and it’s cool to see that represented in a movie like this.

More importantly, and the thing that will put any movie on my list of anything, this tugged on every emotional string that I had. I’ll admit, I was on the verge of tears A LOT. The characters actions and even some of the music, more specifically “Remember Me” started up the waterworks.

All in all, Coco is a great film with eye-popping visuals and an amazing soundtrack. I will admit, something in the final act was a little jarring, especially for a kids and Pixar movie but I guess it worked out at the end of it all.

Coco

4.5 out of 5

 

‘Geostorm’ Review

Director: Dean Devlin

Writers: Dean Devlin and Paul Guyot

Cast: Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Alexandra Maria Lara, Zazie Beetz, Eugenio Derbez, Daniel Wu, Talitha Bateman, Ed Harris and Andy Garcia

Synopsis: When the network of satellites designed to control the global climate start to attack Earth, it’s a race against the clock to uncover the real threat before a worldwide geostorm wipes out everything and everyone.

 

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

 

Natural disasters movies are probably, and arguably, the best escapism movies in Hollywood. There’s something about watching cities and monuments getting destroyed that we see every day or want to visit. But, let’s be honest, natural disaster movies have kind of lost their luster. There’s only so many times you can watch the Statue of Liberty get destroyed, or a massive wave destroying a city. Eventually, everything is going to get done, so you’re left with trying to do something different.

Off that note, Geostorm already had an uphill battle against the plethora of other natural disaster movies, so it decided to include all of them, and add the sci-fi element of a machine that can control the weather. Does it sound ridiculous? Of course it does! But we’re talking about people being able to control the weather with a machine. Oh, and it’s directed by Dean Devlin, who has produced all those disasters movies.

Geostorm is set in a world where after climate change has gotten so out of control, the world leaders finally band together to create what is dubbed “The Dutch Boy,” after the story of a boy who stops his town from flooding by putting his finger in a hole. The Dutch Boy is a series of satellites that control the weather from the International Space Station, the creator of the program is Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler), but it taken away from him after a series of events and given to his younger brother, Max (Jim Sturgess), who then has to fire him. We skip forward a few years, and after dangerous malfunctions starts happening, killing thousands of people, Max finds Jake and sends him back to the station to figure out what’s going on.

Meanwhile, Max, who is having a secret relationship with a secret service agent played by Abbie Cornish, deals with the problems on Earth as much as he can, before finding out there is something bigger to the whole picture. Now, the two brothers have to put aside their different and stop whoever is using the Dutch Boy as a weapon, and save the world.

I didn’t want to dislike or hate Geostorm, unfortunately the movie doesn’t do itself any favors. Like I said, Geostorm had an uphill battle from the beginning, and it also didn’t help that the movie came out after real natural disasters that people are still recovering from. Moreover, the movie did end up doing a lot of reshoots to apparently fix a lot of issues (I can only imagine what those were).

That’s not to say Geostorm doesn’t have some good aspects to it. There are some dumb popcorn-movie entertaining moments, and some descent funny lines, but the movie doesn’t really have anything groundbreaking that we haven’t seen before. It’s a rather safe natural disaster movie which kind of defeats the purpose on the genre.

All in all, Geostorm is an uninspired natural disaster movie that never really capitalizes on its own “new” concept. The acting is borderline flat, with the destruction being a mix-match of things we’ve seen before, but more importantly, Geostorm is rather predictable with its twists, which take you out of the movie a bit. Like I mentioned, I didn’t want to dislike or hate Geostorm as much as I did, but the movie didn’t do itself any favors.

Geostorm

2.5 out of 5

‘Happy Death Day’ Review

Director: Christopher Landon

Writer: Scott Lobdell

Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Charles Aitken, Rachel Matthews, Jason Bayle, Laura Clifton and Rob Mello

Synopsis: A college student relives the day of her murder with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end until she discovers her killer’s identity.

 

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

 

Slasher movies are a dime a dozen in the horror genre, however, what use to be the dominant subgenre in film has pretty much kept itself to VOD or Red Box rentals. That’s not to say the subgenre isn’t great anymore, but it’s not as good as it was back in the day – probably. That being said, you got to give props to anyone who has the gull to do a modern day slasher nowadays and give it a twist. That’s what the folks over at Blumhouse did, giving Happy Death Day the Groundhog Day treatment, and despite my early thoughts on the movie, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. However, it does misstep on a lot of areas.

The movie follows Tree (Jessica Rothe) – short of Theresa – on her birthday. She wakes up, hungover, in a dorm room that belongs to Carter (Israel Broussard), and as she leaves she comes across certain things; her father calling her, a weird guy checking her out, an activist trying to get her to sign a petition, sprinklers going off on a couple, a car alarm going off, a pledge off, an admirer, dealing with her sorority sisters and meeting with her married professor. Along with a few other things, it all comes to a head when a masked killer kills her – however, when she dies she wakes up back in Carter’s room and relives the day. Tree must then try to put the pieces together, and find out who has been trying to kill her. Lucky for her, she has an unlimited amount of lives.

Happy Death Day was not a movie was I really looking forward to, but I kept my reservation to myself and took the movie in like I do for every movie. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by the movie, but that’s not to say the movie was all that great. Happy Death Day has a pretty good concept, and I applaud writer Scott Lobdell and director Christopher Landon for fully embracing it and not making the movie too cliché. The movie does unfortunately carry some tropes with it, but the concept and the movie not trying to take itself too seriously, does help it out just a tad.

Given the concept, Jessica Rothe is left to carry the movie on her shoulders, and for the most part she carries pretty damn well. Rothe’s Tree does make bad decisions like expected, but she does bunker down to try and figure out what exactly is going on. Tree also isn’t the most likeable person either. In fact, none of the characters, with the exception of Carter and a random girl sitting outside the sorority, are terrible people and not likeable at all. It’s to be expected, but it is off putting for a while.

Although, I’m not one to complain about a movie’s rating, Happy Death Day’s rating of PG-13 doesn’t do it any favors. Which is odd, considering you can get away with a lot in PG-13 movies nowadays, and this movie could have benefited more with a hard PG-13 rating. Given the concept, I thought there would be some elaborate or even at least one creative kill, but the movie shows them off-screen, and even when they are shown, they’re very bloodless – unless you count the blood on the masked killer’s knife. I know there’s a lot of debate amongst horror fans about PG-13 and R-rated horror movies, and while I don’t need every horror movie to be rated-R, Happy Death Day could have benefited by pushing the rating, at least for one kill.

Another con I would point out is even though the movie has a brisk one hour and thirty-eight minute runtime, Happy Death Day loses some steam before the final act. However, the final act does tighten everything up. Additionally, there is one particular subplot that involves Tree that seems rather important, and hints at connecting to the overall story, but it’s never really fleshed out and feels rather weird when it’s bought up and stops the movie completely. Landon has mentioned in interviews that this would be bought up in a potential sequel, but it is rather glaring when you sit down and think about it after watching the movie.

All in all, Happy Death Day is rather entertaining, and Jessica Rothe carries the movie on her shoulders. However, Happy Death Day also has glaring and unfortunate missteps that make the movie okay as opposed to be potentially great.

Happy Death Day

3 out of 5

‘Blade Runner 2049’ Review

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Writers: Hampton Fancher and Michael Green

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James and Dave Bautista

Synopsis: A young blade runner’s discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who’s been missing for thirty years.

 

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

 

The first, since Blade Runner 2049 is a sequel, Blade Runner came out in 1982 and was directed by Ridley Scott. The film, in many people’s eyes changed the way sci-fi films, and even regular films, were made. The film raised questions and with all the different versions of the film, made the audience fill in some gaps. With the sequel, it expands on a lot of points the first film brought up, while giving us an enthralling story, great characters, and beauty cinematography.

That being said, I want to note that this review is going to be pretty vague. Not because the movie is a sequel – although if haven’t seen Blade Runner by this point, will you? – but because I think the less you know about the movie the better.

Set thirty years after the events in the first film, Blade Runner 2049 follows new Blade Runner in LAPD detective “K” (Ryan Gosling), who hunts down the synthetic humans created as a work force called replicants. On his recent assignment, he comes across something that is not only surprising, but something that can change everything. This eventually puts him on track to find former Blade Runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who has been missing for thirty years. Unfortunately for K, this also puts him on new replicant creator Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), who sends his employee Luv (Syliva Hoeks), to keep an eye on K.

Right from the opening scene, we know this story is going to be different on a lot of levels. Most of it comes from Gosling’s K. Again, I’m going to give you very little about the film, and even the characters because it’s pretty great to watch them evolve and react in front of you. Gosling does do a great job here, having K be a man of a very words when need be, and having a certain restraint for most of the film. On the other end, there’s Harrison Ford, who thankfully doesn’t even give an impression that he’s phoning it in. Although, I will let this slip, he’s not in the film as much as you think or as the ads would make you think as well.

The rest of the cast is a mixed bag, not in the usual way where there’s good or bad performances because the film is filled with great performances, but in terms not everyone has enough time to shine. Most of the characters that enter server their purpose like Lennie James’ Mister Cotton, Barkhad Abdi’s Doc Badger, Hiam Abbass’ Freysa and Dave Bautista’s Sapper, but it’s the other characters that you think would have a bigger amount screen time. Jared Leto’s Wallace, who could easily be the “villain” of the movie only has a handful of scenes, while Hoeks’ Luv does all the heavy lifting on the antagonist side of things. Mackenzie Davis pops in as Mariette, and has a scene that I’m curious how people will react too, and Ana de Armas plays Joi, which will undoubtedly make her a household name.

However, one of the best things – besides the mystery story – is the production design by Dennis Gassner and cinematography by Roger Deakins. If anything, the film is stunningly beautiful to look at it. The use of colors and sets are pause worthy so you take it all in. I don’t want to say this is Deakins best work – only because I haven’t seen all of it – but I don’t think anyone would argue with that statement.

Unfortunately, not everything about Blade Runner 2049 is great. I’m not one to complain about a film’s runtime, but Blade Runner 2049 does feel like a long film. That’s not to say the movie is boring, but there are a lot of shots that are long and maybe too drawn out for their own good, but the run time did way on me, which doesn’t happen often. If anything, that would be one of my complaints and cons for the film.

All in all, Blade Runner 2049 is a great film with amazing production design and, to no surprise, amazing cinematography by Roger Deakins. Ryan Gosling delivers on everything he given, and works well with the supporting cast of Harrison Ford and especially breakout star Ana de Armas. Take my word for it, the less you know about the film, the better the experience will be. Also, if you can, watch it in IMAX, or at least Dolby.

Blade Runner 2049

4 out of 5

‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’ Review

Director: Patrick Hughes

Writer: Tom O’Connor

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Elodie Yung, Joaquim de Almeida, Yuri Kolokolnikov, Gary Oldman and Salma Hayek

Synopsis: The world’s top bodyguard gets a new client, a hit man who must testify at the International Court of Justice. They must put their differences aside and work together to make it to the trial on time.

 

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

 

When the trailer dropped for The Hitman’s Bodyguard, it instantly put the movie on my must-watch list – already being on my radar anyway. Having two big personalities like Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson is guaranteed to at least be damn fun, right? Thankfully, the movie is just that – a hell of a lot of fun. Also, the movie is the quintessential Samuel L. Jackson movie aka hearing him say motherfucker for two hours straight.

The film follows former AAA-certified bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), who is down on his luck after a client ends up dead on his watch. Bryce is given a second chance and a way back into the game from his ex-girlfriend Amelia (Elodie Yung), an Interpol agent, is in charge to bring in renowned hitman, Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), to The Hague and the International Court of Justice to testify against Belarusian war criminal Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). With time against them and a shaky partnership due to their a bad history – Darius trying to kill Michael twenty-eight time – Michael and Darius have to put aside everything, avoid getting killed and killing each other.

It should be noted right away, The Hitman’s Bodyguard isn’t a fully serious action movie. Not that the trailers give that impression anyway, but the movie has fun with itself too. It’s an action comedy movie that fully takes advantage of having Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson. I mentioned above that the movie is the quintessential Samuel L. Jackson movie where he says “motherfucker” in different ways, variations and situations.

More importantly, the chemistry between Jackson and Reynolds is fantastic and keeps the movie from falling apart at the seams. A good majority of the film is the two bickering at each other and even trying to one-up each other. While I think some will find it eventually annoying or off-putting, it really keeps the film together and they are so great at insulting each other that it just makes the film fun. Jackson’s Darius is the more loose, devil-may-care attitude while Reynolds’ Michael is more of the straight-man that thinks “boring is better” when it comes to protecting people.

Another highlight character is Salma Hayek’s Sonia, Darius’ wife, who is prison for Darius’ actions. You can tell Hayek had a lot of fun filming this because she swears up a storm that rivals Jackson’s Darius. She doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but when she’s on screen, she’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Sadly, the rest of the cast are kind of throwaway characters. Elodie Yung’s Amelia doesn’t do too much after she passes Darius to Michael, and Gary Oldman’s villain could have easily been played by anybody else, but Oldman does have a certain feel during the end that makes it worth it, but he is pretty wasted here.

The film’s overall story is pretty thin, and the film is broken up by flashbacks on how Darius met Sonia and how Michael met Amelia. The scenes are pretty funny, especially Sonia’s but they do kind of slow the movie down. This is also why the chemistry between Reynolds and Jackson needed to, and is, great. The story is thin, but seeing these two guys with great sense of timing and being a little self-aware make the film worth it.

All in all, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a ton of fun to watch. Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, and even Salma Hayek, make the film worth it with their chemistry. The action isn’t too bad either, but if you’re looking for a serious action movie, this isn’t it, and that’s okay.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard

4 out of 5

‘Annabelle: Creation’ Review

Director: David F. Sandberg

Writer: Gary Dauberman

Cast: Talitha Bateman, Lulu Wilson, Stephanie Sigman, Phillippa Coulthard, Grace Fulton, Lou Lou Safran, Taylor Buck, Alicia Vela-Bailey, Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto

Synopsis: Several years after the tragic death of their little girl, a dollmaker and his wife welcome a nun and several from a shuttered orphanage into their home, soon becoming the target of the dollmaker’s possessed creation, Annabelle.

 

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

*Reviewer Note 2: There are two Post-Credit scenes.*

 

The Conjuring unexpectedly started its own universe when it was released back in 2013, when the studio decided to give the Annabelle doll its own movie a year later. Annabelle acted as a prequel to The Conjuring, showing the horrors of the haunted doll before landing in the Warren’s Cursed Object Room. While I enjoyed Annabelle for what it was, it wasn’t all that great to me. However, everything about Annabelle: Creation in the trailers and TV spots was great and promising. I was lucky enough to see an advanced free screening of it, and good god did this scare the crap out of me.

Annabelle: Creation is set in the 50s and follows a dollmaker, Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife Esther (Miranda Otto) who after losing their daughter Bee in a tragic and sudden accident, believe they are visited by her spirit who wishes to live within a doll. However, they soon realize something sinister surrounds the doll and they lock it away. Years later, they take in a group of orphaned girls lead by Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Stigman), thinking it would be good for them. The two main girls we follow are Janice (Talitha Bateman) and Linda (Lulu Wilson), and of course, Janice ends up finding the doll and starts to unleash an evil amongst the house.

Despite the first Annabelle being just okay, Creation ups the ante in every way possible. Right from the beginning we get just a little creeped out by close-up shots of Samuel making the dolls, but it’s followed by seeing this family being happy before Bee’s accident. From there, we jump forward a couple years and we see the former happy home a little beaten up as the bus with the orphaned girls comes driving up the dusty road. Thankfully, we get a feel for some of the characters from the get-go before everything starts going to hell – not literally, but you know what I mean.

The cast is pretty solid, although you got big names in there like Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto in there, the film belongs to the young co-stars, more specifically Talitha Bateman’s Janice and Lulu Wilson’s Linda. As you spot from the trailers Janice finds the Annabelle doll and starts to experience weird and unexplainable things. She believes this is because she’s the weakest because she has Polio, and walks around with a crutch. It’s Bateman’s raw emotion that really makes us scared for her and wishing that someone would come in to save her. As for Wilson, she already has horror acting chops in last year’s – surprisingly good – Ouija; Origin of Evil, although here she plays for human side as opposed to the demon side. However, it’s also the friendship and bond that Janice and Linda have that makes the film great. The two want to find a home, preferably together, and we believe the friendship they have, which makes it somewhat gut-wrenching to see their friendship get tested when Annabelle shows up.

The rest of the cast is okay, Philippa Coulthard’s Nancy and Grace Fulton’s Carol have their own experience with the Annabelle doll and what she can affect that leads to some pretty cool scares, but they are usually followed by two other girls that somewhat disappear throughout the film only to reappear near the end to experience the mayhem. Stephanie Sigman’s Sister Charlotte doesn’t get to do a lot in the film, but does have a big scene with Miranda Otto – who also doesn’t have a ton of screen time. Anthony LaPaglia’s Samuel plays the stricken-father to a tee, but it sometimes comes off as creepy and way too cold.

Director David. F. Sandberg does an incredible job setting everything up with his cinematographer Maxime Alexandre, because Sandberg loves to play around with darkness in film. Much like his last film Lights Out, which James Wan also produced and was based off a short of Sandberg’s, Annabelle: Creation’s scariest and most horrifying scenes take place once the sun drops and the lights go out. Obviously, this is standard amongst all horror films, but there something about Sandberg’s approach to it that makes it all the more horrifying and great to watch.

Speaking of the scares, they are nonstop. Seriously, once it starts it never lets go. Usually horror films will save the good scares for the last act, but not here. Annabelle: Creation has multiple long scare scenes scattered throughout the film that are truly terrifying and probably best to watch in a packed theater with everyone shouting “NO” or “RUN.”

All in all, Annabelle: Creation is a great addition to the new Conjuring universe, and dare I say is one of the best films yet. The scares are top notch, the two leads in Talitha Bateman and Lulu Wilson are great and it’s horrifying to watch. I definitely recommend watching Annabelle: Creation in the biggest, loudest and darkest screen possible.

Annabelle: Creation

4.5 out of 5