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As Hollywood studios continue to clamor for viable franchises to turn into nine-figure blockbusters, there are going to be … let’s call them miscalculations. For every successful series that breeds summer hits, a half-dozen very expensive failures will land on screens with a thud before quietly (and quickly) disappearing.

Unfortunately, the latest effort in that vein “Men in Black: International” – the fourth movie in the “MIB” series and the first without stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones – falls into the latter category; the new film has its moments but is largely lacking the spirit of its predecessors.

It’s not an outright failure (well, creatively speaking – the initial box office estimates do not speak well of its commercial viability), but director F. Gary Gray never quite figures out how best to utilize the clear and present chemistry of his two leads; Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson are dynamite together – the MCU has proven that a couple of times – but while their dynamics are a major highlight, the relationship isn’t enough to elevate the film beyond its myriad narrative shortcomings.

Published in Movies

Eventually, we’re all going to have to come to terms with the end of the “Liam Neeson avenges a relative after something bad happens to him/her” subgenre of films. As much as we might want to think he can do it forever, the truth is that Neeson will have to stop someday.

But today is not that day.

“Cold Pursuit” – an American adaptation of the 2014 Norwegian film “Kraftidioten” (“In Order of Disappearance”) – is the latest entry into Neeson’s old guy action oeuvre. He’s done planes and trains, so it was only a matter of time before we got to snowplows. Yes, really. It’s the story of a simple man who vows to determine the truth behind the loss of a loved one; his quest leads him to take up arms against a variety of bad guys, even though it might well wind up costing him everything – including his humanity.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 20 November 2018 11:52

‘Widows’ an engaging, atypical thriller

What happens when an Academy Award-winning director teams up with a bestselling novelist-turned-screenwriter to make an unexpected and unconventional heist movie?

“Widows” happens.

Director Steve McQueen isn’t necessarily the guy you’d think of when it comes to gritty gangster noir fare, but this film – which he also co-wrote alongside “Gone Girl” author Gillian Flynn – is all that and more. It’s a tense thriller, yes, but it’s also a work of feminist empowerment. And oh yeah, it has something to say about the American political system as well.

It’s a beautifully-crafted film, aesthetically stylish and narratively surprising, featuring a peak-of-his-powers filmmaker assembling an incredibly talented ensemble to create a movie that, while hauntingly familiar in some respects, is still something you’ve never really seen before.

Published in Movies
Friday, 12 January 2018 12:04

'The Commuter' goes off the rails

It seems crazy that it has only been a decade since Liam Neeson, Pierre Morel and Luc Besson joined forces for “Taken,” the film that turned Neeson into a tough guy star and spawned an entire subgenre. And while many actors of a certain age have taken swings at their own old-guy-action movies, Neeson remains the king.

His latest is “The Commuter,” which puts Neeson’s now-typical “everyman-but-not-REALLY-an-everyman” character into yet another bizarrely contrived situation that only his particular set of skills (one of which, in this case, is riding the same train to work every day) can put right.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 10 February 2016 13:20

Celeb Slam - (02-10-2016)

The real McCoy

When it comes to Celebrity Slam, we tend to focus more on the world of entertainment. Musicians, actors, reality stars those are the famous folks who usually wind up in our particular spotlight.

However, there's no disputing the fact that athletes are entertainers in their own right. And while their names might not be quite as widely familiar as those of the stars of stage, screen and song, that doesn't mean that they aren't pretty darned famous.

So when they do idiotic things, well it's only right that we're there to give them the business.

Published in Celebrity Slam
Wednesday, 10 October 2012 15:37

Taken 2' The Takening

Flat sequel mostly a rehash of the original

There are certainly valid reasons for the spate of sequels that Hollywood has been trotting out in recent years. Moviegoers often like seeing stories extended beyond the 120-minute running time of a single blockbuster or beloved characters placed into new circumstances. Not to mention the sheer lucrative nature of the beast.

Of course, the downside is that you regularly get crap like 'Taken 2.'

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 04 April 2012 14:43

'Wrath of the Titans' a myth-fire

Action film offers little in the way of plot, performance

One of the reasons we go to the movies is to escape. We want to go to a place that is different than the one in which we live. Sometimes, we want to watch someone do something that neither we nor anyone else could ever do. It doesn't need to be challenging. It doesn't need to be inspired. We just want to get away for a while.

Big, dumb and loud will never go out of style.

That's not a value judgment I love getting simple and explode-y as much as the next guy. However, all big action epics are not created alike. Sometimes, they work wonderfully. Other times, something is missing and the film never quite clicks.

Unfortunately, 'Wrath of the Titans' falls mostly into the latter category.

Published in Movies

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