American Assassin

American Assassin

  Directed by: Michael Cuesta Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Charlotte Vega, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan Rated: R (strong violence throughout, some torture, language and brief nudity) There’s something uniquely disappointing about a movie that checks off all the tick-boxes for a decent action-thriller-type film but just doesn’t pull it all together. “American Assassin” is a film in this category. Worse, it doesn’t have enough self-awareness to make it campy and fun. This movie and its characters takes the whole thing very, very seriously. The sole exception is Michael Keaton, but he’s not enough to save this movie. Our protagonist, Mitch (Dylan O’Brien), loses his girlfriend in a terrorist attack and becomes obsessed with infiltrating and executing terrorist cells. The CIA saves him during a mission, then recruits him into a small program where people like him get trained to do that kind of thing professionally. The program is run by Stan Hurley (Keaton), who has seen

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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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The Dark Tower

The Dark Tower

Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel Starring: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor Rated: PG-13 for thematic material including sequences of gun violence and action. Translating a book (or books) into a movie is a tricky proposition, like disassembling a car for parts and using those parts to build a motorcycle. They’re both story-telling vehicles, but they have a whole bunch of differences. The “The Dark Tower” books by Stephen King have been thoroughly popular for years, offering an epic story packed with complex interrelations and details. By its very nature, a film was going to have to distill at least a good-sized chunk of that material down into just a couple of hours. Even without having read the books, it’s obvious that while they were doing that, one of the things that evaporated was its heart. The plot works great on paper: young Jake (Tom Taylor) keeps having nightmares about a struggle between the last Gunslinger,

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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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Spider-Man: Homecoming

Directed by: Jon Watts Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Jon Favreau, Zendaya Rated: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments In the last 15 years, we’ve gotten five Spider-Man movies. Do we really need more? Having seen the newest one, I can tell you the answer is yes. Yes we do. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is the Spidey movie we’ve been wanting and not quite getting: it’s funny and exciting, it’s visually stunning, and Peter is actually a teenager. More importantly, Peter as a character is captured far, far better than in the previous films. This is a fun ride even if you’re not a Spider-Man fan, but if you were the kind of fan enraged by “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” this new film will almost certainly delight you. The movie opens with a quick origin story for our villain, Adrian Toomes (known in

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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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