Category Archives: Writing

The Hitman’s Bodyguard

The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Directed by: Patrick Hughes Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Ryan Reynolds, Elodie Yung, Gary Oldman, Salma Hayek, Tine Joustra, Joaquim de Almeida Rated: R for strong violence and language throughout It can be very freeing to walk into a movie with low expectations: either the movie is bad (and you’re right) or it’s good (and you get to watch a good movie). “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” invites low expectations. The previews make it look full of slapstick humor without an actual heart to anchor it. Thankfully, the previews are wrong. This is not a perfect film, but it’s mostly a very enjoyable one. Our titular protagonists are Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) and Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), a bodyguard and hitman respectively. Bryce has fallen on hard times after losing a client, and is offered a chance to get his reputation back if he escorts Kincaid to the Hague to testify against a villainous Eastern bloc dictator

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Written and Directed by: Luc Besson Starring: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Kris Wu, Sam Spruell Rated: PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, suggestive material and brief language Luc Besson’s films tend to be deeply strange and more than a little suspension-of-disbelief-crushing. “Lucy” had such bad science, it was actively painful, for example. But then, his films also have such strange and beautiful weirdness that if it’s your thing, you can gloss over the parts that don’t make sense or are otherwise annoying. “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is no different. There are a thousand things to love about it, and a thousand things to hate, and which of those will make you, as an individual, love or hate the film as a whole is almost impossible to say. The story boils down to a mystery involving a missing planet, a miraculous (and thankfully indestructible) alien creature, and a pair of

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The Mummy

The Mummy

Directed by: Alex Kurtzman Starring: Sofia Boutella, Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Russel Crowe, Jake Johnson Rated: PG-13 for violence, action and scary images, and for some suggestive content and partial nudity Universal Pictures is taking their monster movies out of deep storage, dusting them off, and trying to give them a new life. If “The Mummy” is any indicator, the project has some merit. This attempt at a new twist on the old story has some problems, but also gets a lot of things right. If all you want are awesome visuals and a halfway-decent story to hang them on, this is your movie. During a longish narrative opening (which only makes sense once you’re about halfway into the film), we get to meet Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an ambitious princess from ancient Egypt who attempts to gain ultimate power. Her ritual is interrupted, she’s mummified alive, and her sarcophagus is left undisturbed until two present-day

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Directed by: Gore Verbinski Starring: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Kaya Scodelario, Brenton Thwaites, Kevin McNally Rated: PG-13 for sequences of adventure violence, and some suggestive conten There’s a new “Pirates”tale in town, and if you have seen any of the previous films, you know exactly what to expect from this one. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” checks off all the expected boxes. There’s Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). There’s his crew. There’s an attractive young couple as secondary protagonists. There’s a supernatural villain who is covered in awesome special effects. What isn’t here is the spark that set the early “Pirates” films alight. The story revolves around Jack’s feud with Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem): Jack tricked Salazar into wrecking his own ship and killing everyone on board. Salazar and his crew have been biding their time as ghosts, waiting for Jack to do the thing that will set them

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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Directed by: Guy Ritchie Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, Tom Wu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Neil Maskell, Annabelle Wallis, Eric Bana Rated: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some suggestive content and brief strong “King Arthur” is pretty much everything you could want from a medieval Guy Ritchie film. More magic and castles, but still lots of action, sharp and fast dialog, and a gathering of loosely-connected plot elements into a tight finish. It’s a very loose adaptation of the story of King Arthur, but it succeeds at what it aims for: smashing Ritchie’s style together with a mostly straight-forward medieval fantasy story. Think of Richie’s “Sherlock Holmes” movies, but Arthurian rather than Victorian. The film starts with some backstory – an attempt at world domination by a Mage, the betrayal and murder of King Uther (Eric Bana), the King’s only son left to be found and raised by commoners.

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Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

e Saldana, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, Kurt Russell, Pom Klementieff, Bradley Cooper (voice), Vin Diesel (voice) Rated: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content 2014 brought us “The Guardians of the Galaxy,” an origin story for a collection of interstellar misfits who wind up having to save the galaxy. “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” picks up not long after the first one ended and takes off running. We learn a bit more about some of the characters, and there’s some sweet, heartfelt material here, but mostly? It’s Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and company trying to save the galaxy once again, and doing so spectacularly. The story mostly revolves around Peter finally meeting his father, Ego (Kurt Russell), and getting some answers about his past. There are a few side plots that intersect with the main one, but they’re all straightforward and make solid narrative sense. Really,

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The Fate of the Furious

The Fate of the Furious

Ealasaid A. Haas Directed by: F. Gary Gray Starring: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne Johnson, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood Rated: PG-13 for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language “The Fate of the Furious” is the eighth installment in the popular “Fast and Furious” franchise, and it continues the progression of escalating awesomeness and a steadily growing cast. Not having seen the other movies won’t interfere with enjoying the action sequences, but the secondary emphasis is on family relationships – and without the previous movies, you’ll have to just roll with a lot of the dialog. On the bright side, the progression from 2001’s “The Fast and the Furious” to the new film is a lot of fun to watch. These are movies worth marathoning. “Fate,” like the others, is a cheesy action movie, and it doesn’t just know it, it

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Life

Life

Directed by: Daniel Espinosa Starring: Rebecca Ferguson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Olga Dihovichnaya, Ariyon Bakare, Ryan Reynolds Rated: R for language throughout, some sci-fi violence and terror There are only a few requirements for a horror movie to be really good without being ironically good or campy: decent production values and acting, genuinely horrifying things happening on screen, and refraining from the ridiculous. “Life” succeeds amply in the first two categories, but face-plants in the third. How much ridiculousness it takes to ruin a film is a matter of personal taste, but some generalities are true of a whole lot of people, and “Life” checks several of those boxes. The setup is a familiar sci-fi and horror trope: half a dozen people are trapped in a structure along with a malevolent entity that’s picking them off one by one. “Life” adds in the requirement that the protagonists have to make sure the alien doesn’t get down to

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Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language They say there’s nothing new under the sun, and for most of “Kong: Skull Island,” that is definitely the case. The characters fall into archetypes established back on the silver screen, the monsters are mostly straightforward giant versions of familiar critters, and it’s pretty easy to guess how the film is going to go. There are deviations from the traditional here and there, but this is not a film to see if you’re looking for innovation. If you just want to go to the movies, eat popcorn, and watch a giant gorilla fight a giant dinosaur-looking-thing, it will not disappoint. An opening credits sequence takes us from 1944, when a young American pilot and a young Japanese pilot have the misfortune to crash

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Get Out

Get Out

Written and Directed by: Jordan Peele Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, Lil Rel Howery Rated: R for violence, bloody images, and language including sexual references Jordan Peele is probably best known for being half of the comedy duo “Key and Peele.” When previews for “Get Out” started appearing, the prominent inclusion of his name as writer-director combined with the not-campy clips made some folks wonder if it was a satire, or maybe something in the vein of “Shaun of the Dead.” It’s neither. It’s a straight-up horror/thriller movie that has a central thread of social commentary in it. It’s also really, really good. The film opens with a Black man walking in a neighborhood at night. A car passes him, then turns around and rolls up slowly beside him. We know how that story usually ends, and by evoking that cultural knowledge, “Get Out” reminds us how

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