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Mini-Reviews: Mechanic: Resurrection, Pete’s Dragon, & Kubo and the Two Strings

Hey everybody!

So this has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. You know that I do sometimes multiple reviews over the weekend, but I fall behind on my movie watching and I feel like reviewing a week old or sometimes two week old film would be a little late or not worth it since many have already either seen it, or takes away from reviewing the newer films. So instead of doing big reviews, I’ll do these mini-reviews and get right to the nit-and-gritty.

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Mechanic: Resurrection

Director: Dennis Gansel

Writers: Philip Shelby & Tony Mosher

Cast: Jason Statham, Jessica Alba, Michelle Yeoh, Sam Hazeldine, and Tommy Lee Jones

Synopsis: Arthur Bishop thought he had to put his murderous past behind him when his most formidable foe kidnaps the love of his life. Now he forced to travel the globe to complete three impossible assassinations, and do what he does best, make them look like accidents.

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A sequel to the 2011 remake The Mechanic, Jason Statham returns as Arthur Bishop who is living a new life by himself, until an old friend, and now enemy, Crain (Hazeldine) finds him and wants him to do what Bishop does best: make his assassinations look like accidents. However, Bishop has extra incentive as Crain has Gina (Alba), a woman that has her own story for getting involved between these two, and threatens to kill Gina if Bishop doesn’t complete three different and difficult assassinations.

I don’t think anyone was really up for a sequel to The Mechanic, although it was one of the better string of Statham films for a while. When it comes to Mechanic: Resurrection, I think it was better left off without a sequel. Resurrection wasn’t a bad film, but it certainly wasn’t a worthy sequel that it should have been. In fact, Resurrection doesn’t even feel like a sequel at times, there is only one, maybe two, references to the first film.

Jason Statham does his thing, and is still great at it, but it’s the rest of the cast that falls a little short. Jessica Alba never stands out as much as she probably should have while Michelle Yeoh is wasted here and seemed like they just wanted a big name. Sam Hazeldine does okay as the villain, but we don’t get a ton of screen time with him and his arch with Bishop is really underdeveloped, and I think a flashback or two could have helped to really push the rivalry between Crain and Bishop. Finally, Tommy Lee Jones has maybe ten minutes of screen time, but it looked like he was enjoying his time playing an arms dealer.

All in all, Mechanic: Resurrection has some descent action in the film, but it did feel like a forced sequel. If you enjoy Jason Statham beating the crap out of people than this is the movie for you.

Mechanic: Resurrection

3 out of 5

 

 

Pete’s Dragon

Director: David Lowery

Writers: David Lowery & Toby Halbrooks

Cast: Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dallas Howard, Oona Laurence, Karl Urban, Wes Bentley, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Robert Redford

Synopsis: The adventures of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend, who just so happens to be a dragon.

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I don’t remember watching the original Pete’s Dragon, but I knew about it. So walking into this remake, I went in with fresh eyes and it was completely worth it. The film follows Pete (Fegley), who has lived in the forest since a small boy after an accident. However, Pete isn’t alone as he has lived with Elliot, a mythical dragon in the small town away from the woods. One day, Pete is discovered by Natalie (Laurence), her father Jack (Bentley), and her soon-to-be stepmother Grace (Howard), who is a park ranger for those woods. When they find him, however, it’s Jack’s brother Gavin (Urban) who thinks something is out in the woods, and soon discovers that he’s right: the problem? It’s Elliot.

Pete’s Dragon surprisingly adds more dramatic and personal stories than you would think from a Disney film and a summer movie season film, but it all completely works so I applaud director David Lowery and his co-writer Toby Halbrooks for doing so. But it is those themes that make the film so great. Pete’s Dragon is all about family and loss but it doesn’t beat you over the head with it, instead it lets its cast do it organically.

The cast is also great, Oakes Fegley is extremely likable as Pete, Bryce Dallas Howard brings the sense of wonderment to the film that it needed and Oona Laurence has her moments in the film and continues to show that she has a great career ahead of her. Karl Urban is the “villain” of the film, but Lowery and Urban do the right thing and don’t make Gavin too extreme of one. Robert Redford as Grace’s father Meacham, plays the only person in town that still believe Elliot is actually real and the dragon of the woods is out there. Finally, Elliot the dragon is so awesome to see. I’m sure if more people watched this, we’d be seeing little kids with Elliot’s plush dolls all around us.

All in all, Pete’s Dragon is a fantastic film that should be seen by everyone. It has a great message and flows beautifully.

Pete’s Dragon

5 out of 5

 

 

Kubo and the Two Strings

Director: Travis Knight

Writers: Marc Halmes & Chris Butler

Voice Cast: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Rooney Mara, Brenda Vaccaro, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, George Takei, and Ralph Fiennes

Synopsis: A young boy named Kubo must locate a magical suit of armor worn by his late father in order to defeat a vengeful spirit from the past.

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It’s hard to believe that Kubo and the Two Strings is only Laika Entertainment fourth film, but considering their films are so complex and intricate it makes sense. That is what makes their films so different and fun to watch because you know the years of hard work that goes into them.

The film follows Kubo (Parkinson), a one-eyed boy who lives with his sickly mother in a small town. Along with his magical guitar that allows him to control his origami creations tells stories about his legendary father Hanzo to the townspeople before the sun goes down due to his mother’s rules. However, Kubo doesn’t make it back in time one day and is attacked by The Sisters (Mara), who have been sent by The Moon King (Fiennes) for Kubo’s other eye. When his mother realizes what is happening she uses the last bit of her power to send Kubo away and bring a totem of his to life in Monkey (Theron) to protect him on his journey to find his father’s armor to defeat The Moon King. Along the way, they meet Beetle (McConaughey), a cursed soldier who used to work with Kubo’s father. He takes it upon himself to help Monkey and Kubo on their journey.

I absolutely loved this film in every way possible. There’s a lot more to the story I’m telling you because I want you to experience the story yourself first. I will say the production design is perfect and the score fits perfectly with the film that makes the experience so much better to watch. Kubo also continues Laika’s tradition of handling some darker themes of storytelling – The Sisters are a bit terrifying – but in a way that younger audiences can still enjoy and not feel too scared. However, the film also has a ton of humor to offset it if you’re worried about that.

All in all, I will say that you should go watch Kubo and the Two Strings. It has everything you can ask for and it’s a beautiful film to look at and experience. There is a character moment, and even story moment, late in the film that misses the mark just a bit but I enjoyed everything else about the film so much I could forgive the film for it. Lastly, there is an awesome and beautiful cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by Regina Spektor that plays during the end credits that I highly recommend you check out.

Kubo and the Two Strings

5 out of 5

‘Jason Bourne’ Review

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Director: Paul Greengrass

Writers: Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse

Cast: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles, Ato Essandoh, Scott Shepherd, Riz Ahmed, and Gregg Henry

Synopsis: The most dangerous former operative of the CIA is drawn out of hiding to uncover hidden truths about his past.

 

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

 

I’ve always been a fan of the Bourne films. There was something about them that made them different from all the other spy films at the time. It helped that Matt Damon completely evolved into the amnesiac CIA operative that went against the people that created him. Also, having a director in Doug Liman and then Paul Greengrass also helped. So when the films decided to go the spinoff route, it was understandable that fans were a little disappointed, but when Damon and Greengrass said they would return fans rejoice and waited for the next chapter of the Jason Bourne series. What we ended up with was a mixed bag of what makes the franchise great, but also a film that could arguably be considered a sequel we didn’t need.

Jason Bourne follows Jason Bourne (Damon) now living off the grid making money but street fighting. However, when former CIA analyst Nicky Parsons (Stiles), who now works for a Wikileaks-type organization, hacks into the CIA and finds a new program called Ironhand, and also finds out Bourne has been connected to the CIA’s deadly programs longer than he thinks, she takes the information hoping to get help from Bourne one more time. The hack doesn’t go as smoothly as she thought because it puts her in the crosshairs of new CIA director Robert Dewey (Jones), and CIA cyber ops head Heather Lee (Vikander). Dewey seemingly thinking Bourne is behind the whole thing sends a new asset (Cassel) to take out Bourne. What follows is Bourne doing this thing of punching, shooting and causing chaos everywhere he goes.

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Jason Bourne seems like it has a lot going on, but at the end of it all the film goes for the action rather than the subplot of political themes. The film looks like it is going one place in a post-Snowden world, but instead just puts it in the back burner after the first act of the film. It’s a bit of a shame considering the films have never shied away from tackling political themes in the past. Jason Bourne tries to go there, but instead chooses to elevate the action sequences – which personally I don’t mind, being an action guy – but knowing what this franchise was built on, it is a bummer to see the film go in that direction.

We even see Bourne finally looking like he’s broken down. He’s not hunting down people from Treadstone or Blackbriar, he’s fighting people for a living – easily winning – but when his memories starting to come back, it does look like it’s having a bigger effect on him. Sure we’ve seen Bourne hurt before, but that is all physical pain, and what we see early on in the film is mental. When Nicky finally finds him and brings him into the fold all that is pushed aside.

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So while it sounds like I didn’t like Jason Bourne, I actually did. The series did always have great action, but it wasn’t just built on it. This film has arguably a couple more action sequences than the other films. Not that it’s a bad thing since the scenes are great. The riot in front of the Greek parliament building really puts you into the action, and the final act of the film in Vegas is non-stop once the action starts and is topped off with the typical brutal and hard-hitting fight between Bourne and the asset.

The cast is great as always. Damon can play Bourne in his sleep at this point, but he never phones it in. Julia Stiles who returns for the opening of the film is a cool sight to see, but something seemed off about Stiles this time around, maybe it was me, but I don’t know. Tommy Lee Jones, who is known to phone it in a lot, looks like he’s there for the most part. It’s hard to tell, considering he plays the old time agent that knows all about Bourne. Alicia Vikander is a great addition to the series, but it hard to get a read on her character for most of the film until the end when we finally know where she stands.

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Vincent Cassel plays the asset aka the hit-man. Cassel’s asset is different from the other assets we’ve seen in the other films like Clive Owen, Karl Urban and Edgar Ramirez. Cassel does have connection to Bourne, and has another aspect to his character that seems rather too convenient, but Cassel is a great actor that it doesn’t almost matter because at least more people will get to know him. Finally, Riz Ahmed plays Aaron Kalloor, who does play a factor into the film, but is forgotten for most of the film, and doesn’t really leave in impact which is a shame because Ahmed is a fantastic actor.

All in all, Jason Bourne could arguably be labeled as an unnecessary sequel, but it’s great to see Damon and Greengrass back in this world, that is may not matter to people. The action is great as always and the cast all hold their own. While the film delves away from its political undertones, Jason Bourne has enough for fans of the franchise to enjoy.

Jason Bourne

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