Directed by: Brian Kirk. Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Sienna Miller, J.K. Simmons. Runtime: 1h 39 min. Released: November 22, 2019.
An embattled NYPD detective, Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) is thrust into leading a citywide manhunt for a pair of cop killers and uncovers a massive conspiracy. 21 Bridges is a movie that I expected to enjoy given the talent involved – Chadwick Boseman stars and Joe and Anthony Russo are on as producers, as well. Boseman plays his character well as someone who lives in the shadow of his father, a cop who died when Andre was a kid. Andre is characterized as having a happy trigger finger and being the one who shoots first and never asks questions because they’re already in a body bag.
Boseman is easily the best part of this, and it’s interesting for the story that the trigger-happy detective leads the charge against a pair of cop killers. Everyone is out for blood as the stress is high, as Captain McKenna (J.K. Simmons) puts Davis on the case. It’s interesting as Davis picks tonight to be a good cop and ask questions first as everyone else becomes trigger happy trying to catch Ray (Taylor Kitsch) and Michael (Stephan James). Sienna Miller is also solid as Detective Frankie Burns who teams up with Davis.
Instead of really enjoying this, though, most of the film’s developments felt obvious to me and it all felt predictable. The action itself is fine and some of the manhunt scenes are thrilling. It’s just an old-fashioned cop movie, but it doesn’t do enough with its premise. The sound design isn’t good, either, as gunfire constantly drowns out dialogue. The score also misses in a lot of scenes because half the time the music just doesn’t fit the scene. It’s a big booming orchestra when Andre is just looking through the crime scene and then a similarly dramatic score during the big action scenes. It feels awkward.
The premise of the film works well and the fact that they shut down Brooklyn and all its 21 bridges is a good idea for a lockdown sort-of film, but they waste the premise on a standard story. The villains are okay, here. Basically, Ray and Michael learn about a shipment of cocaine and find way more than they thought there would be. They’re both trained military, and Michael has a strong backstory. As the film starts to tell its conspiracy, it’s all terribly predictable. I do think some of the action is good, but the writing showed its cards so often I couldn’t enjoy it.
Directed by: Tim Miller. Starring: Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Runtime: 2h 8 min. Released: November 1, 2019.
In Terminator: Dark Fate, an augmented human named Grace (Mackenzie Davis) and Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) must stop an advanced liquid Terminator – a REV-9 (Gabriel Luna) – from hunting down a young girl, Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), whose fate is critical to the human race.
It seems that the best way to breathe some life into a franchise is just to go back to the well and do the same thing over again. That’s what this does as it has a lot of similarities to Terminator 2: Judgment Day. They do a lot of the same things, especially with the REV-9 villain, who is basically just the T-1000, who’s made of liquid metal. The REV-9 is just regular liquid and this one’s new trick is turning into two separate Terminator’s.
Linda Hamilton works well here as Sarah Connor as for the past 20 or so years, she’s been answering anonymous texts that lead her to where Terminators will be. And she kills them, at least most of the time. That’s how she crosses paths with Grace protecting Dani Ramos. Dani is a fine John Connor substitute in this film and learning about her future is interesting. Mackenzie Davis is great as Grace, and she shows some true action star potential. I’ve only seen her in a couple mediocre comedies, but she’s impressive here.
What they do with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character is interesting, too. He’s still the T-800 but named Carl as he’s adapted to human life after accomplishing his mission and staying in our time. The dynamic between the T-800 and Sarah Connor is fiery and tense. Schwarzenegger’s performance is most enjoyable if you don’t try to make sense of the Terminator timeline, because it really doesn’t make sense.
The action in the film is also exciting and there are some good action set pieces. There’s a point where there’s a fatigue with the action, because the film feels long at 128 minutes, but it’s still worthwhile for the most part. The film doesn’t do a lot of anything new but considering Terminator: Salvation isn’t that great and Terminator: Genisys is just a mess, this is a welcome treat.
A little rinse and repeat goes a long way for this sequel that would be an appropriate send-off for the franchise because, while it’s set up for a sequel, I don’t think we necessarily need anything further from this story. We arguably didn’t need this one but I’m glad we got it – it’s just a bit of a shame this story couldn’t have been the fourth film in the franchise in the mid-2000’s when people still kind-of cared about Terminator.
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law. Runtime: 1h 46 min. Released: September 9, 2011.
Some spoilers follow.
During our Coronavirus pandemic, it seems like everyone is watching Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion. Last week I think this was at No. 35 on the Most Popular Movies IMDb chart and as of this writing (very early morning, March 21) it sits at No. 4 on that popular movie chart. This makes sense, because there’s no better way to make yourself more paranoid right now than watching Contagion.
The film itself is about a fast-spreading virus, the MEV-1, that escalates into a pandemic as the CDC works to find a cure. The spread of the disease is the most fascinating aspect in Contagion, originating in Hong Kong with Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) and escalating quickly from there when she returns home to Minnesota.
The way the virus spreads feels realistic and it’s interesting as it’s established what the “basic reproduction number” is and how quickly it will spread. It’s engaging to watch because of Soderbergh’s apt direction and I love his aesthetic in his own cinematography, as well.
I’ve always found this a realistic, engaging drama/thriller. I haven’t watched this since 2015, but watching this during a pandemic, the paranoia hits differently. The mortality rate depicted in the film is 25-30 per cent, where 1 in 4 people will die from it, and according to an article on Business Insider and, I’m copying and pasting this part, “according to Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, COVID-19’s mortality rate is probably around 1%, which is still about 10 times the flu’s.”
The pandemic depicted in Contagion is obviously more aggressive, but there are some eerie parallels to our real-life. It’s also impossible to watch this film and not spot the parallels to our life and this film. Even in the film’s tagline, “Don’t talk to anyone, don’t touch anyone,” feels like our world right now with social distancing.
In the film, the disease starts in a populous place like Hong Kong (Wuhan for Coronavirus), where tourists fly home, infect people at the airport, and then infect people back home as they go about their everyday life. The other big thing is the looting of supermarkets and stores. We’re not at the “looting” stage yet, but I think that all relates back to the panic buying of toilet paper of all things, and the bulk-buying of essentials that others need, too. And I’m sure if someone in real-life suggested there were a cure like in the movie (“forsythia” in Contagion), it could get a little crazy out there with people trying to get it.
Personally, I haven’t seen any of the “looting” but I’ve seen a lot of pictures online about empty grocery store shelves and the lineups getting into COSTCO, or people fighting over toilet paper. I mean, when I went to the grocery store around March 10, there was still toilet paper but less than there usually would be. I also haven’t been outside since March 15, before my province of Ontario declared a state of emergency, so I’m not sure what my local grocery store would look like right now.
As of this writing, Canada only has 1,087 cases, and I can only assume it will only get worse here. With some of what I’ve seen, especially the amount of new deaths everyday in Italy and the images of military trucks transporting coffins out of the area feels like it’s straight out of a horror movie. The aggressive way that’s spreading in Italy feels like Contagion, and the most unsettling scene in the film because of that is when a city runs out of body bags.
In our world right now, I think it’s the fear of the unknown of how long this virus will look a week from now or a month from now. When will be able to return to regular living? I go to the movie theatre once or twice a week, but how long will they be closed for? This is turning into a review of Contagion and my thoughts on the Coronavirus/COVID-19, but this is therapeutic sharing my thoughts on it, and also relating it back to Contagion, since I see the world through film.
Contagion could easily be an exaggerated docudrama. There are things here that feel “apocalyptic” that I don’t think COVID-19 will lead us into, but the fact that NHL, NBA and MLB have suspended their seasons and Las Vegas is shut down for 30 days is crazy. It feels different than anything I’ve lived through during my lifetime, especially H1N1 in 2009/2010. I was in high school then and surely did not miss any school because of it. I don’t know if the media is blowing it out of proportion – but when I see tweets of people losing their loved ones to it yet others are still out on spring break, it feels like this should really be taken seriously to “flatten the curve.”
Okay. I just have bad anxiety, depression and I can be a hypochondriac at times, so it’s just a freaky time. I’ll just talk Contagion now. I think it is at its most fascinating when it shows the spread of the disease. There’s one especially great scene when Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet), an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer, is trying to find out who Paltrow’s character has come in contact with and she calls someone who is sick on a city bus and tells him to get away from people. The shot of him touching everything is just effective.
The film is interesting when it brings Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) into play, a blogger/journalist and conspiracy theorist who thinks that the virus is manufactured as a profiting scheme for drug companies, using his large platform to stir this fear.
At times this isn’t the best with creating well-rounded characters, and some feel more-so identifiable by the actor playing them than the character themselves, and this is very much the case with Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Ellis Cheever, who works for the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). His development is the flattest of the ensemble. Other characters get sidelined, like Marion Cotillard as Dr. Leonora Orantes who is investigating how the disease started in Hong Kong and then totally gets sidelined for half the film for reasons that would spoil it.
Everyone plays their characters very well and the ensemble is impressive. The film is engaging throughout because it’s a fast-paced analysis of a viral outbreak, but for the human side it only shines in a couple moments. One such scene is between Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle), who is one of the players working to find a cure, and her father in a very sweet moment. I also liked Matt Damon’s character here, who is the husband of Beth Emhoff, who might as well as be Patient Zero. I think the first time I saw this film (in April 2012), the most surprising thing was Gwyneth Paltrow dying by the 8-minute mark. Once we see how aggressively this virus spreads, it isn’t that surprising, but as an audience member I felt the same way Damon’s Mitch Emhoff feels when he’s told his wife is dead because of the virus. “Right. I mean, so can I go talk to her?” he asks.
I think this is one of the best scenes in the film to show just how quickly it escalates. The fact that he loses his wife and then his stepson in a matter of 24 hours from this virus is so traumatic. There are ways his character could be fit into the story more – since he is immune, I think using his blood as a base for the cure would have given him more purpose – but the way his character plays out is believable. This is especially the case of how protective of he is of his daughter, Jory (Anna Jacoby-Heron), and not letting her interact with other people because she’s the only thing he has left. There’s a heartbreaking moment near the end of the film when Mitch processes what’s happened.
The film’s ending is anti-climactic as it shows the origins of the virus in a fascinating scene, to where it all started. It’s anti-climactic in the way that the virus shows up, it gets cured, and life gets back to normal. Hopefully, that will be the case sooner than later with our Coronavirus.
Directed by: Craig Zobel. Starring: Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank, Ike Barinholtz. Runtime: 1h 30 min. Released: March 13, 2020.
This review contains spoilers.
I was really looking forward to The Hunt when it was to be released last August before it was delayed because due to mass shootings. Now, when there’s reason to delay movies, the film sneaked into theatres for a week before the close of many all over because of COVID-19, and the film will be released On Demand tomorrow.
The reason it was delayed last August was because of its content. 12 Americans are kidnapped from all over and brought to a mansion in what appears to be rural Arkansas, as they wake up in a clearing and are hunted for sport by liberal elitists in The Hunt, also known as #ManorGate.
It’s called #ManorGate because there were rumours that wealthy liberals, who really appear to be social justice warriors who wouldn’t allow people of colour to be hunted because that’s too far, were hunting people for sport. The reasoning behind the Hunt is kind-of disappointing as it works into its commentary and satire.
I get the commentary and satire, though some of the political aspects would surely go over my head, but it’s not super effective. It’s written by Nick Cuse (TV’s Watchmen and TV’s The Leftovers) and Damon Lindelof (show runner for Watchmen and The Leftovers). Craig Zobel also directs it well (and he’s known for some directing work on Watchmen and The Leftovers so it’s a real reunion), and I am a fan of his film Compliance, one of those disturbing films that’s great but you never want to watch again. Zobel’s film here has more rewatchability.
The Hunt’s commentary doesn’t always work, much of it includes characters walking on eggshells afraid to offend anyone, but there are some strong moments. A great visual gag includes a tense moment of opening a crate, and a pig fitted with Shakespeare clothes jumps out. The film is usually more action than horror, but it’s solid. As for its commentary, I’m not sure what the film is exactly trying to say, other than that the jackrabbit always wins as Crystal (Betty Gilpin) tells in a dark story.
It is Gilpin’s performance that makes this fun, and some well-timed jokes, too. Gilpin embraces her character and shows she is completely within her element, and we learn throughout that Athena (Hilary Swank) has picked the wrong person to include in this Hunt. Without Gilpin, this wouldn’t be as enjoyable as it is. Most of the characters don’t pack much of a punch, but she does.
My main complaint is some of the Hunt participants that seem like they could be key players get killed off quickly and one is particularly disappointing, because I think seeing the character interact with Crystal would have been fun. It subverts expectations and establishes that there’s no central character, at least for the first 20 minutes. The first 20 minutes are fun, but it becomes a real blast when Gilpin comes into play, especially in the action scenes. I think this film works better as just a regular action movie than a commentary.
It’s also really entertaining seeing Ethan Suplee (I’m a fan since his Boy Meets World days) and he plays racist bigot very well (as he shows in his best known role in American History X). The film feels like Game of Thrones in how anyone could be killed at any moment in this kind-of film – so don’t get attached to your favourites (Crystal is the exception).
I enjoy these Battle Royale sort-of films with a high body count (WWE Studios’ The Condemned is a guilty pleasure for that reason), but keep in mind that, while this film manages to be memorable, there’s nothing new in this action thriller. As I’ve said before, Gilpin and the action make it worth the watch, but if you just wanted to watch (or re-watch) Battle Royale or even The Hunger Games again, I wouldn’t blame you. Still, if you want a good R-rated version of The Hunger Games, The Hunt entertains for 90 minutes.
Directed by: Jeff Howler. Starring: James Mardsen, Ben Schwartz, Jim Carrey. Runtime: 1h 39 min. Released: February 14, 2020.
A small-town police officer, Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) wants to move to San Francisco with his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter). Before meeting her there, he crosses paths with a fast, blue hedgehog from another world, Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz), on the run from an evil scientist, Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey).
Robotnik is handled well, a technology genius who wants to capture Sonic to further advance his technology. He’s a delightfully weird character who thinks every human is stupid and is convinced his technology is the future. When he’s introduced, there’s a great out-of-context moment where Robotnik says, “Check out what came out of MY egg sac!” and he shows us his fleet of drones. Jim Carrey finds the perfect balance for Robotnik, playing to his sense of superiority – especially when he bosses around assistant Agent Stone (Lee Majdoub) – while still being hilarious and weird.
It’s fun watching Carrey play a villain. It’s also fun seeing Jim Carrey be Jim Carrey again, tapping into his earlier manic roles and it feels like it’s been a long time since we’ve seen him have this much fun. The craziness isn’t always vintage Carrey (think something closer to Liar Liar in consistency), but there’s a scene in his evil lab where Robotnik dances to the Poppy Family’s “Where Evil Grows” and it’s his funniest scene here.
A bit more about the plot, while Sonic tries to escape Robotnik, he uses Tom’s garage to try to escape to another world with one of his golden rings – he just has to throw it on the ground, step in it, and he’s gone. Before he can run, he’s tranquilized by Tom – since he’s shocked there’s a talking blue hedgehog in his garage.
Sonic drops the bag of his golden rings into a portal which lands on a building in San Francisco, so the film turns into a road trip trying to get those rings back so Sonic can leave and Earth would be safe. The camaraderie between Sonic and Tom is fun to watch, and I like their dynamic. As for Sonic, the CGI looks great, especially after the character was re-designed after that initial trailer last April.
Acting-wise, Ben Schwartz has fun voicing Sonic, and Marsden is fine as Tom. We’re mainly here for Sonic and Jim Carrey, but Marsden is along for the ride and he plays it fine. As far as Marsden sharing the screen with CGI animals goes, this looks smoother than in 2011’s Hop when he shared the screen with the Easter Bunny. Marsden at least does more than Tika Sumpter, and the only interesting thing I remember her doing is supporting Tom’s decision to take a job in San Francisco.
There’s a lot in Sonic that’s derivative, like Sonic being lonely and wanting a family. Tom, whose main drive is wanting to save someone, and Sonic, who wants a family, develop a believable friendship that does start to feel like a weird little family. It’s familiar, but screenwriters Patrick Casey and Josh Miller know how to play the greatest hits of this sub-plot and they do a fine job with it.
Some of their best creativity comes in a scene where Sonic goes so fast he re-arranges things during a bar fight, and it’s like a callback to similar scenes like Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past. They made me want a sequel by the end of this, because the credit scenes show how a sequel could up the ante and that has me excited. That’s something I couldn’t say for last year’s Pokémon Detective Pikachu.
The action in the film is solid, and some of the best action happens when they’re on the road to San Francisco and Robotnik’s drones catch up to them. The humour in Sonic the Hedgehog is largely tailored for children, but some of that humour works for adults, too, and Jim Carrey makes this hilarious.
The film’s entertaining, which can’t really be said about a lot of video game adaptations. I don’t know if it would have been watchable with the original character design of Sonic, but their delay of the film shows they cared about producing something fans would enjoy. Director Jeff Howler achieves making something lite and enjoyable, and Sonic the Hedgehog is a fun film whose pace rarely goes below “gotta go fast.”
Directed by: Cathy Yan. Starring: Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Runtime: 1h 49 min. Released: February 7, 2020.
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) intends to make a name for herself in the crime world after breaking up with the Joker. Instead, everyone wants to kill her because she’s no longer under his protection, which makes for some fun scenes. Eventually, Harley teams up with Dinah/Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and police officer Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) to save a girl, Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) from crime lord Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor).
I’ll start with Roman, a.k.a. Black Mask. McGregor plays the character with some solid humour. He’s also scary, especially when flexing powers in misogynistic scenes played for intimidation. He’s a more imposing and interesting villain than Cara Delevigne’s Enchantress in 2016’s Suicide Squad, and McGregor has fun in this role. He fits the shoes well, though it seems like a role tailored for Sam Rockwell’s quirks, as far the humour side of the role goes. McGregor is a fine choice and he’s great when he finally puts on the Black Mask.
Margot Robbie is of course the highlight as Harley Quinn. She makes the character and has a lot of funny lines, and I like the bit about finding the perfect breakfast sandwich. Her action scenes are simply fun, and as far as the R-rated violence goes, a scene in a police station has some of the film’s strongest fight choreography.
The humour and action fits Harley as a character, as does the way the story that bounces around according to her train of thought and when she thinks it’s important to tell you something for the story. Screenwriter Christina Hodson understands Harley, and it’s a strong screenplay. This is two good screenplays in a row for Hodson after Bumblebee, and I mention that because she started off with two bad films, Unforgettable and Shut In, both of which I consider among the worst films of their release years. Hodson does well with this property.
This is more of a Harley film than a Birds of Prey film, they have both in the title but Birds of Prey is front and centre. The members of BOP show up throughout, but Dinah/Black Canary has the most to do throughout as an employee of Roman’s at his club. As a regular person, she’s the most interesting one here besides Harley.
Rosie Perez is solid as Montoya and I like the bit that she talks like a cop from a bad TV show. I like how all the characters come together through Cassandra Cain, a street-smart pickpocket who has a decent chemistry with Robbie. All of the core characters have solid chemistry with each other in the way they’re brought together but don’t really like each other.
I liked the humour for her Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Huntress and she has a couple moments to shine, even if she doesn’t do that much. One of my favourite parts of this is as she goes down a slide and uses a henchman as a sled as she stabs him to death. It’s a cool shot. Also when Black Canary is allowed to be super, her battle cry is worth the wait.
It’s the ending here when all the women band together to fight for a common interest in protecting the girl that the film really shines. It’s when the action is most memorable, too, and it’s a finale fit for a solid comic book film like this one. There is great comic violence throughout the film as the characters take care of business separately, but it’s just a different level of fun when they kick ass together. I wish they could have done that together for longer, but it’s a blast while it lasts. In general, too, Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is a good time at the movies.
Bad Boys for Life. Directed by: Adil and Bilal. Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens. Runtime: 2h 4 min. Released: January 17, 2020.
Bad Boys for Life is a lot of fun and, after this and Bumblebee, proves the best way to reinvigorate a franchise is to remove Michael Bay as director. Who knew?
The new directors here, Adil and Bilall, bring fun action and more importantly a solid story (screenplay by Chris Bremner, Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan) as Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence), narcotics cops with the Miami Police Department, don’t investigate narcotics this time. It feels fresh as it goes into a revenge story by someone from Mike’s past, and the film is revenge-fueled from both the villain and hero side.
As they’re older now, the film challenges Mike’s mortality and invincibility in interesting ways. It’s a story about knowing when to quit and because of that Marcus’ concerns feel natural for the plot because there’s a reason to get out of the game right now. In the first two films, the reason was just because Mike was a reckless partner. Mike is still reckless but he learns the importance of reliance, too. It’s a sequel with surprisingly insightful and emotional beats.
I liked the villains here a lot, played by Kate del Castillo and Jacob Scipio, but I won’t discuss their motives. I’ll just say they’re the franchise’s most interesting villains so far.
Familiar faces besides the main two are back like Reggie (Dennis Greene), Marcus’ daughter’s boyfriend who shows in his acting why he’s only ever had that role (sorry, Reggie) but it’s funny seeing him again. I also love seeing Joe Pantoliano as Captain Howard. Pantoliano gives me as much nostalgia as Mike and Marcus.
It is also intriguing how our Bad Boys join forces with others and that’s in the form of a new unit within the MPD called AMMO (Advanced Miami Metro Operations) which is the new driving out the old.
The crew consists of Mike’s sort-of ex-girlfriend Rita (Paola Nuñez), and their banter is solid throughout. The youth of this group features Vanessa Hudgens as Kelly, Alexander Ludwig as Dorn (a tech guy with a punch) and Charles Melton as Rafe. They’re a good presence but I don’t think anyone here but Hudgens leaves an impression. It seems to me like they’re going for a 21 Jump Street vibe with their youth and gadgets. They’re a good complementary team to the film and I’d like to see them team up with our Bad Boys in a future installment, but I’m not ready for a spin-off film with them. That’s because Will Smith still kicks ass in the role even at the age of 51.
Martin Lawrence isn’t a big part of the action scenes until the end for story reasons, but he’s great at the end and it’s nice to see that 25 years after the first film, their chemistry still shines. Their banter is great and I’d argue their chemistry is the best it’s been in the franchise. They still don’t see eye to eye, but they’re beginning to compromise.
It is delightful that this premise still works so well because there’s actually a good story and strong directing team to match the great pairing of Smith and Lawrence. Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (as Adil and as Bilall)’s directorial style never distracts, and they know how to shoot action. Some editing in action films can be hectic, but the action is shot well here by cinematographer Robrecht Heyvaert.
I don’t hate Michael Bay as a director, but his films can be headache-inducing with the style. It’s apparent the franchise doesn’t mean any ill-well against Bay as he plays a Wedding MC in the film, and that’s the best place for him where his directorial style can’t shoot the Bad Boys in the foot. He lets them do the shooting.
Adil and Bilall also make this story work because the direction makes the story feel less cartoonish than the first two films, but it’s still outrageous. It’s awesome that the Bad Boys have found a pair of directors that brings out the best of them: And that’s in terms of story, action, comedy and heart. Bad Boys for Life is the best and most balanced film in the trilogy.