Category Archives: Film Reviews

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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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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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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Review – Girls Trip

What’s this?

About a year ago, a friend of mine pointed me towards a YouTube video in which a woman who calls herself Angel demonstrated how to use a grapefruit to enhance a blowjob. Angel’s technique – which my girlfriend wholeheartedly believed was a prank I’d somehow engineered for my own benefit – is perhaps the most terrifying thing I’ve ever witnessed, and I am a man who has seen a video of a hostage being beheaded by a terrorist, and a woman in Ibiza fire a rugby ball from her vagina with such velocity that it hit a patron twenty feet away.

Girls Trip is essentially a feature-length version of Angel’s grapefruit video. It even includes a scene which specifically imitates it, and I think it’s telling that this is somehow less ridiculous than the original footage.

I should clarify that none of this is a criticism.

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Review – Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox

What’s this?

As I’ve noted before in this very series, the idea of alternate timelines and universes and all their attendant paradoxes is largely what has prohibited me from becoming what one might describe as a “fan” of comic books, which some would consider a rather egregious oversight given my line of work. When I reviewed Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, another direct-to-DVD feature courtesy of Warner Bros. and DC, which also concerned a superhero team who ventured into a mirrored dimension to battle their doppelgangers, I expressed concerns about the futility of the endeavour, which I still hold. That movie surprised me, though, and it must be said that this one, which is based on the 2011 comic book crossover event “Flashpoint”, by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert, surprised me just as much, if not more so.

Why’s that?

A couple of reasons. The first, rather obvious one is that a standalone feature-film is a very different proposition from a concerted effort to mangle and merge a dozen characters’ established continuities. In comic books, these events are permanent – until, that is, the next one happens, or the whole line is arbitrarily rebooted, though even then the ostensibly clean slate still contains the sticky residue of versions past. It’s a nightmare. Something like Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox has the distinct advantage of having no obligation to a broader continuity. You can enjoy its hypothetical rearranging of DC’s stalwarts secure in the knowledge that by the time the credits roll, none of it will have mattered.

The second reason is that, unwieldy title notwithstanding, it isn’t a movie about the Justice League.

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