All posts by Daniel Hart

Do not tell me that you do not like films. I can't survive a day without coffee. Critic, Podcaster, Founder of Ready, Steady, Cut!

Review – The Hitman’s Bodyguard

What’s this? 

Somewhere in an air-conditioned office in Hollywood, a bunch of sweaty executives trawled through a big pile of scripts and raised this one in the air: The Hitman’s Bodyguard. The next task was to ensure that this explosion-filled blockbuster was going to make huge profits. How about Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds? A comedy action genre? Bingo. Insignificant history was born.

Oh dear.

Okay, I am being intentionally sarcastic. The point is, there is no point in me sitting here writing an in-depth review about a movie that was not made to be critically well received. There were two reasons why this film was made; for money to be made, and mass audiences to indulgently eat popcorn and enjoy it. Money first, of course. Did it succeed in that? Well, I cannot discuss the money as it has just come out as I write this, but there is no denying that The Hitman’s Bodyguard is fun.

Okay, interesting. What’s it about?

Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is a triple A rated bodyguard. That’s until one of his jobs goes terribly wrong. Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) is a famous imprisoned hitman that has been selected by Interpol to testify against violent dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). Despite their bitter past, Michael is forced with the task of protecting Darius as they go en route to the international court whilst the dictator has groups of corrupt men trying to stop them. That’s all you really need to know about The Hitman’s Bodyguard. The plot is irrelevant anyway.

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Review – The Dark Tower

What’s this?

Recently, on our Stephen King podcast episode, I pondered whether King was the most movie-adapted author of all time. My colleague removed all doubt with a positive confirmation that he is. Thinking back, I feel stupid for even questioning that statement. He obviously is.

The Dark Tower is based on a continuation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower Series, which consists of eight books. I have not read them but research explains that the novels are based on multiple genres. The unique selling point of a Stephen King adapted movie is that they are usually rich in narrative with deep but interesting detail. With the leading roles performed by Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, I was excited. Surely this had all the makings to be a classic?

What’s it about?

It is not difficult to explain. You have to expand your imagination to fully convey the plot but the premise is pretty simple. The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) seeks to destroy The Dark Tower, the key that holds the universe together. Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), the last Gunslinger, is on a mission to stop the Man in Black. If the Man in Black succeeds, it will be a fatal end to the universe. The poetic component to the premise is that only an innocent child’s mind can bring down The Dark Tower. This leads to the second part of the premise.

In New York, Jake Chambers is experiencing multiple horrifying visions of this world that the Man in Black and the Gunslinger reside in. Coincidentally, earthquakes appear to happen all over the world when he has the visions. Nobody believes him of course. His conspiracist nature and curiosity leads him to the Gunslinger, and this ultimately triggers the Man in Black wanting to find him. Jake and the Gunslinger go on a mission to stop the Man in Black from achieving his objectives.

It sounds like this needs some backstory right?

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Recap – Suits S7E6: “Home to Roost” 

After my disheartening recap last week, I was not expecting to say this. Suits is back. Well, nearly.

Okay, so this is better. In comparison to the slow starting first few episodes, this is an improvement. Suits is finally ramping up its usual gears that allowed me to enjoy it in the first place. What strikes me, is that as a concept, Suits is not complicated. The narrative is easy to explain. Okay, they have to get the legal terms correct but it is always forgiven for not entirely getting the law right. That is entertainment for you. My qualm with the dispiriting episode last week was that they have appeared to imbalance the relationships between the characters a little too much. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Most serial TV shows suffer from this. Only the best shows maintain satisfactory consistency.

Mike definitely went rogue for a moment. It was never going to last. He finally faced the consequences of playing with two separate firms. The violation of his agreement with Harvey was always going to result in a short fuse. It exploded, albeit softly but it represented the first round of Mike vs Harvey. Interestingly, Mike does not care about money and Harvey really cares about his finances. It is corporate law after all. Despite my annoyances with the rebellious Mike, I am looking forward to round two. Cage fight anyone? Rachel will be the celebrity guest referee. There is a feeling that she will be the key to resolving all this. It is not about the prison case anymore. It is a difference in morals. The other factor is Mike is feeling comfortable. Too comfy if you ask me.

Louis Litt. Bless. This episode represented another test of his new resolve for dealing with personal situations. Like Mike, he had to face the consequences. It cannot get more personal than a sexual harassment lawsuit against him can it? “Home to Roost” was probably his biggest test of the season so far. Stephanie, yes the loud-mouth intern, is suing Louis for his outburst before Donna fired her. It was never about striking him down in court. It was about growing up and showing respect to others, regardless of who they are. I honestly thought this was going to be the second downfall of Mr Litt. I have been proven wrong yet again. Maybe he has finally risen above his delayed teenage years. Expect Litt’s personal tests to continue throughout the course of season seven.

Suits went full circle since my last recap, dismantling my fear that the Harvey / Donna ball game had disappeared. The scenario is back. As usual, it is frustrating but in a good way. Donna’s unique moment of clarity that Harvey’s newfound relationship bugs her is another breakthrough. On a serious note, how long is this going to be dragged on for? Surely this is the season? Maybe a court case between the two will form a catalyst. However it happens, Suits will make it as dramatic as possible.

Despite my newfound enthusiasm for the season, it does feel that they are switching directions between episodes. There was little about Harvey getting a grip on his firm and Alex suddenly reappeared again. It went back to its core strength – the characters. I am not grumbling. I am only really interested in how this journey is going to end amongst this corporate group of friends. Let’s hope it continues to have moments of confrontations, legal twists and revelations for the rest of the season. Mike and Louis had to face the consequences in “Home to Roost”. Who will it be next week? Or will they just be one happy family? Kidding.

Biggest tip of the episode: do not get into a relationship with your ex-therapist. Bad call.

Enjoyed reading this recap? Then you will probably like listening to us too so check out our podcast

Review – Burning Sands 

What’s this?

Burning Sands originally appeared at the Sundance Film Festival on January 2017. Netflix snapped it up. They are slowly becoming the platform that exploits the festival market for their own advantage despite leading figures in the industry having reservations about streaming. Burning Sands is a drama story about an African-American fraternity.

What’s it about?

Five young black men pledge Lambda Lambda Phi fraternity at Frederick Douglas University. The men have to endure a week of big brother hazing at the campus and in the fraternity house. Leading the pledge is Zurich, who himself has to balance his education, family and personal life. This is the premise for a majority of the movie. You have to patiently stay with it in order to appreciate the movie’s conclusion.

Why?

In order for somebody to enjoy the characters, they would have to relate to them at some level. During my travels in the USA, I worked in a relatively rich area for a hotel/restaurant. At all the house parties I attended there were ‘brothers’ from other fraternities from different universities. Due to their status, they often grouped together at social events because of what they had in common. Let me put it this way; the weird events that I saw amongst these fraternity men were weird. Simple as that. As the British guy, I did not achieve common ground at all. It was obviously impossible. I did not get it. It is hard to contemplate and I appreciate the fact you have to be in it to feel it.

By the way, I am not saying all sorority and fraternity groups act like this. I appreciate that they all come in different shapes and sizes. Some require finances and reputation and others are just, well, normal. I hope.

The fraternity groups I came across indulged themselves in proud masculinity.

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Review – Naked

What’s this?

Naked is a remake of the 2000 Swedish film Naken. It is a Netflix Original romantic comedy about a guy who is pretty much naked for most of the movie. It also stars Regina Hall. The Girls Trip star seems to be appearing on Netflix alot recently. Or so my partner tells me.

What’s it about?

Confident, eccentric guy Rob Anderson is about to marry Megan, the girl of his dreams. Leading up to the big day everything seems okay, that is until the fateful night before the wedding when he decides to go out for ‘a drink’ with his best friend. He wakes up an hour before the wedding, naked in a broken elevator. With no clue of how to solve this predicament, Rob is forced to relive this agonising hour over and over again until he gets it right for his wedding day. Each time he gets it wrong, he wakes up again on the elevator floor. It is a time loop movie and it does this loop numerous times.

Is it good?

I honestly, hand on heart, believed Netflix was past regurgitating this generic rubbish but apparently not. I understand that this is based on a written story but surely this is not the product? Will Marlon Wayans ever be apart of something better than White Chicks? From a critical point of view, it is easy to discuss this in the three acts.

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Recap – Suits S7E5: “Brooklyn Housing” 

What the hell is happening?

I made a valid statement in the recap for “Divide and Conquer” that the shackles are off. I am not entirely sure what for. Rachel made a resounding point to put curtains on this episode; is it really worth Mike going behind Harvey’s back to help the clinic? I mean, let’s face it, Oliver is only clinging on to Mike because he cannot strongly represent anyone to make a good lawyer. Oliver has thrown the book at Mike since the start of the season, but he appears unphased by the illegal conflict of interest. What an insufferable hypocritical character the writers have thrown in.

Sorry. I am a little grumpy. I guess after seeing Harvey illegally hire Mike, defend him ruthlessly against all odds and smartly construct a legal scenario to release him from prison, I am flagrantly fed up. If anyone has risked their career for Mike it is Harvey. The storyline does not fit well with me. It appears they allow Mike’s personality to go off on tangents. Look, I get he has some moral high ground more than the other lawyers, but he was a fraud. Surely a principle he should hold onto is staying loyal to family. Returning to deal with prisoners against his old foe represents the abnormality of this character. Maybe he is destined to always be on the wrong side of the law.

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Review – Message From The King

What’s this?

Message from the King is a neo-noir action thriller. A Netflix Original. Wait, what? Yes, you read correctly. It appears the media giant is trying to distribute through every genre possible. It also stars Chadwick Boseman. Before he completely disappears into the Marvel Universe, we get to see him showcase his talents in this dark narrative. Intrigued? So was I.

What’s it about?

I am not going to lie. When I hovered over the thumbnail and read the description I rolled my eyes. I deliberated whether to press play. The Xbox Netflix app has this persistent feature where it either plays a snippet from the movie or starts the episode and, to my annoyance, it meant I had to press back a few times. Here is the basic premise: a South African man named Jacob King lands in Los Angeles to avenge his young sister’s death. It sounds like a typical action narrative that is good for the tired brain that cannot be bothered to concentrate. Here is how the premise really sets itself up: Jacob lands in LA, investigates the daily life of his sister in order to find her, ends up at a morgue as per advice from a local, identifies his bloodied and mutilated sister and gets extremely angry. Jacob is quite clearly a character that has more to him, yet reveals only grains of his personality. Who killed his sister is not clear, and who is important remains to be solved. The first twenty minutes of Message from the King gives you a convincing impression that we may have an absorbing thriller on our hands. I was surprised.

Did it deliver?

Yes, though with a few gripes which I will discuss later. The opening of the movie is immediate and straightforward. It does not begin showing his life in South Africa. It rolls from an L.A. airport where two unknowing border control men ask the suspicious questions and consider the shady answers. From there, it moves to Jacob investigating the whereabouts of his sister. Less is more because of the setting, the atmosphere between characters, and the slow revelations. It keeps you engaged. There is a moment in particular where Jacob passes his motel neighbour and she throws him the enquiring glance. He returns the favour so you know that she will be important at some point. By the time he finds his murdered sister you are ready. His pain and anger can be felt. Whether or not the slow build-up to the key moment was intentional, it works because when he first participates in an action scene you are exhilarated by his violent side. Message from the King wants you to know that this is not action reliant. There is a real character on display.

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