The Hitman’s Bodyguard Movie Review

Had The Hitman’s Bodyguard been made in the mid to late 1990s, it may well have involved three of the performers present. We have Samuel L. Jackson as one of the co-leads. There’s Gary Oldman overacting his tail off as the main baddie. And Salma Hayek adds a sassy flavor as a love interest. There would be no Ryan Reynolds, who would have been in his late teens or early 20s at the time. Instead, maybe Bruce Willis or Kurt Russell could have filled his role.

As such, the three actors mentioned are a bit older and filling parts we’ve seen them cast in before. Bodyguard is joyfully R rated, filled with action genre familiarities, and (to use a reviewer’s cliche) it hits the mark sporadically. Reynolds is Michael Bryce, former CIA officer and triple A rated executive protection officer. What is exactly gives one the distinction of being triple A rated in this particular field? None of the other character seem to know, but he seems supremely confident in the designation. Essentially, he’s good at not letting the people he protects (some of whom are nefarious types) die.

His unblemished record is thwarted early here and his career goes down the tubes. Bryce gets back in the game a couple years later when notorious hitman Darius Kincaid (Jackson) needs a protector. He’s been imprisoned for some time and he’s a key government witness against a foreign dictator (Oldman) for his many crimes. There’s a whole army of the dictator’s henchmen who wish to keep Kincaid from the witness stand.

Much of the action here takes place in Amsterdam as Bryce tries to get his subject to The Hague to testify. Our two leads have a checkered history together and getting them to work together doesn’t come easily. Bryce believes his protection methods work best (don’t kill anyone) while Kincaid feels differently (kill everyone). The comedic banter between Reynolds and Jackson works well much of the time as they try to one up each other in their work.

Both principal’s have ladies in their lives. Elodie Yung is Bryce’s ex who he still can’t let go of. Hayek is Kincaid’s wife, apparently jailed simply due to her association with her hubby. Her character rivals his in their extreme use of the word mother****er, which had basically become Jackson’s catchphrase in countless pictures.

Expendables 3 director Patrick Hughes keeps Bodyguard charging along with action set pieces that are competent and pretty much instantly forgettable. We get some backstory of the pair and how they met their women. This is done so in flashback sequences that are a bit superfluous and complete with ironically cliched song choices. For someone who’s played some very memorable villains, Oldman’s screen time is too limited to make much impact.

 

The stars of The Hitman’s Bodyguard certainly keep it watchable and there’s a select few genuinely funny moments splattered around the cartoonish mayhem. On the other hand, Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Jackson have appeared in violent flicks before that you’ll remember in the morning. That doesn’t quite hold true here.

**1/2 (out of four)

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious is our eighth – yes, eighth – installment of a franchise that it would have been ridiculous to imagine there being that many entries. We’re a long way from the original 16 years ago that was sort of a drag racing rip-off of Point Break, or Point Brake as I deemed it in my review. That said, a common thread among the series is its willingness to be knowingly ridiculous while weaving in endless monologues about the importance of family.

The formula took on a different tone in predecessor Furious 7, which admirably managed to deal with the death of franchise stalwart Paul Walker in its conclusion. In that sense, Fate ushers in a new chapter. New characters are introduced, old ones are rehashed, and the level of silliness is brought to a level not quite seen before. Yes, cars go fast here. However, part 8 owes more to James Bond flicks when they were less grim (think Roger Moore era with a quarter billion dollar budget).

As I’ve written in previous Furious critiques, plot is secondary but here’s what you need to know: Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has turned on his team. Sort of. He’s being forced to team up with criminal mastermind Cipher (Charlize Theron), who evades authorities in the air on an invisible plane. See what I mean? Isn’t that the kind of villain 007 might battle in the late seventies? Now on the wrong side of justice, Dominic and Cipher must go against Dom’s “family”, including wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and the familiar players played by Dwayne Johnson (whose goofy character is still good for some funny and bizarre moments), Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Kurt Russell, and more. Part 7’s main villain Jason Statham is more of a team player this time around and even Oscar winner Helen Mirren turns up as his mum. Statham is granted a fight scene towards the end where he has to be delicate with some cargo he’s carrying (you’ll see what I mean). The scene is genuinely humorous and quite well choreographed.

The plot is all an excuse for the massive action spectacles and globe trotting we’ve become accustomed to and we have it here in Cuba, New York City, and Russia. The climactic sequence set on Russian frozen tundra employs the usual expensive vehicles, but we also are treated to tanks and submarines. Remember the ice action in Pierce Brosnan’s Bond flick Die Another Day? Think that, but it’s not embarrassingly awful.

Our Furious sagas rise and fall on the ability for us to check our brains at the Universal logo. By the third act, I’d succumbed once again to its cheesy charms. Maybe one day this series will truly stall like it briefly did in 2006’s Tokyo Drift. Not yet though and that’s some kind of testament to its durability.

*** (out of four)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It’s all about family in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the follow-up to the wildly successful 2014 entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Three years ago, Star-Lord, Gamora and company brought a humor and irreverence to the comic book picture previously unseen at that level. Of course, we saw flashes of it with Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and others, but Guardians felt fresh with its Top 40 oldies soundtrack and constantly winking screenplay.

James Gun is back as writer and director and the elements that made the predecessor successful are here again. Our second helping manages to provide enough material to admire, even if it can’t match what made the first one so special. We have a lot of subplots competing for screen time as the MCU continues to expand. The bulk of the characters here and elsewhere in Avengers world will eventually congregate and it’ll be a real test of script allocation for attention.

The attention here primarily focuses on Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and his backstory. As we recall from the original, he’s got some Daddy issues and after three decades plus, he mets him in the form of Ego (Kurt Russell). Dad is a part human and part Godlike being who quickly seduces his offspring with his nifty own planet that’s a marvel itself in production design.

The other Guardians are here with Gamora (Zoe Saldana) still dealing with her super jealous sister Nebula (Karen Gillian) and unspoken chemistry with Star-Lord. Drax (Dave Bautista) reminds us that he can charmingly insult people with the best of them and a lot of that is saved for Ego’s right-hand woman Mantis (Pom Klementieff). And Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel’s vocal stylings) return to provide comic relief. The nefarious Rocket and seriously adorable Groot are certainly allotted their share of smile inducing moments. Our family drama also means the return of Yondu (Michael Rooker doing fine work under all that makeup), who raised Star-Lord.

Pratt reminds us why Guardians rocketed him into silver screen stardom and Russell, with swagger to match, is an inspired casting choice. The action sequences are of the highest caliber and I’ll give the opening battle sequence credit for incorporating recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Electric Light Orchestra.

So while Vol. 2 is totally acceptable popcorn entertainment, it didn’t leave me grinning from ear to ear like during the first one’s conclusion. Perhaps the attitude that made 2014’s pic so effective feels more familiar now (Deadpool in its own more R rated way continued that trend). Perhaps there are too many plot lines competing against themselves. And perhaps the revelations in the aforementioned familial situations are a bit predictable. That said, Vol. 2 keeps the MCU assembly line pleasantly humming along.

*** (out of four)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Box Office Prediction

The summer of 2017 kicks off as it has numerous times before in recent seasons – with a major Disney/Marvel production expected to post gargantuan box office numbers. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 follows up the blockbuster that turned out to be the biggest hit of summer 2014.

James Gunn returns to direct, as does the superhero cast of Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and the vocal work of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel (as Baby Groot this time around). Also back are Glenn Close and Michael Rooker. Joining the mix in the sequel are Tango (Sylvester Stallone) and Cash (Kurt Russell)!

There is little doubt that Vol. 2 will post impressive results and quite easily outdo what its predecessor opened at three summers ago. Flashback to 2014 and Guardians was actually considered a risk. Strong reviews and word-of-mouth propelled it to a $94 million premiere and $333 million overall domestic haul. Expectations for the opening here are much higher. $150 million seems to be the low bar. Critical reaction to the sequel has been mostly encouraging and it stands at 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, with most reviewers saying it doesn’t quite match the freshness of the original.

A better comparison to its potential could be last summer’s Captain America: Civil War, opened the 2016 season with $179 million or Iron Man 3, which started off summer 2013 with $174 million. I’m predicting Guardians won’t quite reach those numbers, but come close.

My Vol. 2 projection puts it at the 9th largest domestic opening of all time, in between Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. My estimate gives it the 5th highest debut in both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the month of May and second biggest 2017 bow after March’s Beauty and the Beast. 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opening weekend prediction: $166.4 million

The Fate of the Furious Box Office Prediction

Universal Pictures’ billion dollar franchise keeps rolling along as The Fate of the Furious
parks into multiplexes on Easter Weekend. The eighth (yes, eighth) street racing action spectacle finds Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray taking over behind the camera. Fate finds the majority of thespians associated with the series returning – Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacis, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, and Nathalie Emmanuel. We also have a pair of Oscar winners joining the mix with Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren, as well as Scott Eastwood (whose dad has won some Oscars). Of course, this is the first picture (excluding 2006’s Tokyo Drift) without Paul Walker, who died during the filming of Furious 7.

When Diesel and Walker returned to the franchise in 2009’s Fast and Furious, it sparked a box office resurgence that’s never let up. That fourth entry debuted to $70 million with an overall $155M domestic haul. Follow-up Fast Five in 2011 opened to $86 million ($209M eventual tally). 2013’s Fast & Furious 6 made $97 million out of the gate and $238M eventually. And 2015’s Furious 7 easily set the high mark with a $147 million premiere and $353M overall.

The grosses of Furious 7 were likely (and sadly) expanded due to it being Walker’s last on-screen appearance. Therefore it stands to reason that Fate probably won’t reach the heights of that predecessor. That said, this looks to be a franchise that is still going strong and it would be surprising if it didn’t post the second largest bow thus far.

I’ll predict the fate of this is an opening gross in the low to mid $120M range.

The Fate of the Furious opening weekend prediction: $122.7 million

For my Gifted prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/04/09/gifted-box-office-prediction/

Who Should Play Donald Trump?

This news should come as no surprise as HBO has announced they will be producing a miniseries in the near future focusing on the 2016 Presidential Election. The effort will come from the team behind Game Change, which told the tale of Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore) in her quest to become John McCain’s (Ed Harris) VP in 2008. Game director Jay Roach will be behind the camera.

There is little doubt the project will heavily focus on the man who became the 45th President of the United States. So that begs the question: who will play Donald Trump? I imagine this will be the focus on much speculation until an announcement is made, so I’ll get in on it too. I’ve come up with a dozen interesting choices outlined in this here post. However, before we move to that, let’s discuss some choices that are sure to bandied about.

Name one: Alec Baldwin. Of course, he may be the first actor people think of due to his portrayal of the President on SNL. Yet I find it extremely unlikely that Baldwin would be interested (he’s already announced his impression of POTUS on SNL is soon coming to an end). The filmmakers themselves also might not be wild about casting the performer only known for an exaggerated comedic take on Trump.

Then there’s some big names that might be given the role if they’re interested. Two that spring to mind immediately: Kevin Spacey and Bryan Cranston. Here’s another – Matthew McConaughey. After all, he’s worked with HBO before on “True Detective”.

Yet I wish to delve a bit deeper into Hollywood’s rolodex for some other names. Here’s a dozen of them for your consideration:

Tom Berenger

This choice seems unlikely as he’s probably not a big enough name anymore, but he’s the right age (67) and he does kind of bear a resemblance to POTUS. It’s been over three decades since Berenger was Oscar nominated for Platoon, but he’s popped up occasionally in recent years in pics like Training Day and Inception. 

Kenneth Branagh

The Irish actor has been known more lately for his work behind the camera, including 2015’s Cinderella. Later this year, he directs and stars in the remake of Murder on the Orient Express. That should be a high-profile project and could dovetail well into this very high-profile experience.

Kevin Costner

Coming off a supporting role in the blockbuster Hidden Figures, I question whether Costner could get the look down. Yet he’s a big star who HBO would probably consider.

Russell Crowe

This is a possible example of HBO going with the Oscar winner if he wants to do it. Crowe would be a huge actor to cast in the part and he could potentially add Emmy winner to his award shelf.

Thomas Haden Church

The Oscar nominee for 2004’s Sideways is currently on HBO right now alongside Sarah Jessica Parker in “Divorce”. I could see him pulling off the look for Trump and see him as an intriguing prospect. Possible issue: big enough name?

Greg Kinnear

Another Academy Award nominee for 1997’s As Good As It Gets, it’s been awhile since Kinnear has had a major showcase role. I could see him totally pulling this off and he’s near the top of my choices.

Viggo Mortensen

Mr. Mortensen could be a fascinating pick and he’s coming fresh off an Oscar nod for Captain Fantastic. Like Kinnear, this pick would fascinate me.

Edward Norton

Like Crowe, this would be an example of a major movie star taking on the part. Norton can be a chameleon and I like this idea.

Bob Odenkirk

The Emmy winner for “Better Call Saul” could nail this part, I suspect. He’s shown both dramatic and comedic chops in his body of work.

Kurt Russell

Russell is simply one of my favorite actors period. He’s more versatile than he gets credit for and I totally buy him making this work.

James Spader

Another high-profile choice due to his exposure on “The Blacklist”, he’s toward the top of my personal choices.

Owen Wilson

Of all the choices here, I could really see him getting the look down. The big question: could his very distinctive voice pull off the tones of The Donald?

So there you have it! What actors not mentioned do you feel could step into the President’s shoes? And how about this question: how will Donald Trump react to his casting on Twitter??

 

Deepwater Horizon Movie Review

Recounting the BP Oil Spill disaster of 2010 that was both a human and environmental tragedy, Deepwater Horizon spends a good deal of its running time concentrating on the competence of those workers on the enormous rig. Peter Berg’s dramatization of the events off the Southern coast of Louisiana finds Mark Wahlberg’s engineer Mike and Kurt Russell’s supervisor Jimmy trying their best at their positions while dealing with cost cutting corporate elements. It’s something many in the audience are likely to relate to and the pic coasts for a bit on simply being a story about people working.

Yet it’s the elements that arrive later during that massive explosion that give Deepwater its disaster flick cred. Had this not been a true story, I’m not so certain the visual spectacle that pervades the third act would’ve been as meaningful. The action sequences are well rendered if not particularly anything new from a run of the mill summer blockbuster.

We get to know more than just Mike and Jimmy. There’s John Malkovich’s BP “company man”. He’s the guy cutting corners and the actor himself is given a pretty decent monologue about it. There’s Kate Hudson as Wahlberg’s wife, watching the drama unfold from afar and Gina Rodriguez as a fellow crew member.

Horizon also features a lot of technical jargon that those without an engineering degree or knowledge of the industry could be lost with. It doesn’t really matter. The script does a perfectly serviceable if unspectacular job letting us meet some people whose everyday occupations put them in previously unseen peril.

*** (out of four)

 

Deepwater Horizon Box Office Prediction

The last time that director Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg hooked up, their war drama Lone Survivor grossed a terrific $125 million domestically in early 2014. Nearly three years later, the pair have collaborated on Deepwater Horizon. This is another true-life tale focused on the 2010 BP oil rig explosion and the people who had to battle it. Costars include Kurt Russell, Kate Hudson, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, and Dylan O’Brien.

With a reported budget of $156 million, Summit Entertainment better hope moviegoers flock to see the disaster pic… or they may have their own financial disaster on their hands. Early reviews have been mostly strong. It stands at 82% on Rotten Tomatoes with critics particularly praising its technical aspects.

Lone Survivor earned $37 million in its first weekend of wide release. That is probably the highest of bars for Horizon. One difference is that Survivor benefited from strong military interest that simply won’t come into play here. Still, the combination of Wahlberg with this well-known story could be enough to get this to mid 20s, in range with the opening of Captain Phillips from three years back or Fury from two years ago.

Deepwater Horizon opening weekend prediction: $24.7 million

For my Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/21/miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-children-box-office-prediction/

For my Masterminds prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/21/masterminds-box-office-prediction/

For my Queen of Katwe prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/09/23/queen-of-katwe-box-office-prediction/

 

Oscar Watch: Deepwater Horizon

In just over two weeks, Peter Berg’s action packed retelling of the BP drilling rig explosion Deepwater Horizon hits theaters. Festival audiences in Toronto got their sneak peek at it yesterday and early reviews suggest it’s an audience pleaser that is likely to be a big hit.

Horizon teams director Berg with his Lone Survivor star Mark Wahlberg. The supporting cast includes Kurt Russell, Kate Hudson, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, and Dylan O’Brien. Even with its positive critical notices, Horizon is not expected to be any sort of player in the major categories. Mr. Russell was singled out by a couple of writers, but a Supporting Actor nod would be a major surprise.

Where the pic could make an impact is in the two Sound races (Editing and Mixing), just like Lone Survivor did with its nominations. Visual effects is a possibility, but it’ll have a lot more competition in that particular category. The film’s large $156 million budget is said to contribute to it sounding and looking pretty amazing and voters could reward it in these technical competitions.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Hateful Eight Movie Review

Quentin Tarantino’s “worst” picture is far better than most director’s best pictures and so it is with The Hateful Eight, his 8th effort (if you count the two Kill Bill’s as one). Incorporating aspects of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and a little Django Unchained and Kill Bill for good measure, Eight finally gave me a Quentin experience that I wouldn’t award four stars. That doesn’t mean it isn’t well worth the time – far from it. It just means it can’t quite measure up to what he’s given us for the last two decades plus.

The Hateful Eight could be a stage play and it wouldn’t surprise if it is someday. The pic takes place almost exclusively in a stagecoach and in a lodge known as Minnie’s Haberdashery sometime shortly after the Civil War. The stagecoach holds John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell), who is transporting his prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to her execution in nearby Red Rock, Wyoming. Along the way they pick up company: bounty hunter and possible war hero Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and former Confederate militia man Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins). Ruth is dubious of their separate appearances along the journey for two reasons: a nasty blizzard is approaching and there’s a $10,000 bounty on Daisy’s demented head. Nevertheless, they make it to the aforementioned Minnie’s where the owner is nowhere to be found. Instead, they find an old Confederate general (Bruce Dern), a Mexican (Demian Bichir) tasked with looking after the lodge, a mysterious cowboy (Michael Madsen) who claims he’s headed home for Christmas, and the man (Tim Roth) who just happens to the one that’s supposed to hang Daisy in a couple of days.

Inclement weather bounds these eight souls (and a couple more) together at Minnie’s and we soon learn that no one may be who they say they are. It sets up a nearly three hour mystery where the character’s motivations are constantly examined and reexamined. And in a true QT style, there are long monologues by the principles outlining their pasts and what they see going down in the future – with Jackson’s Warren often getting the juiciest and filthiest dialogue. Those of us (like me) who have truly loved the writer/director’s screenplays will relish so much here. We have an abundance of wicked humor mixed with menace. And those of us who cherish his stylized violence will find it in plentiful supply in spots. Heads explode as they should in this man’s oeuvre.

Tarantino knows better than most directors the importance of casting and he uses his company of regulars including Jackson, Roth, Madsen, and Russell (who gave one of the performances of his career in Quentin’s Death Proof) to fine effect. Yet it’s Goggins (who had a smaller role in Django Unchained) and Leigh who pretty much steal the proceedings. They are the characters among the eight whom you may find yourself thinking of the most when the lights come up.

As mentioned, the primarily claustrophobic proceedings are sometimes offset by glorious shots of the Western landscape courtesy of impeccable camerawork by Robert Richardson. There’s also a terrific Ennio Morricone score to boot (we also expect amazing music in QT’s pics and it’s here). The Hateful Eight is divided into chapters just as in Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds. There’s time shifting like we’ve seen in many of his works. And for the first time, every once in a while it feels like a Tarantino “greatest hits” instead of a singular great movie. Most of the time, it just feels great for fans like me that put him on a higher pedestal than his contemporaries. There’s a reason for it. He deserves it. It may have taken 22 years for me to downgrade one of his pictures from four stars to something slightly less, but Quentin Tarantino and his dialogue are still a bloody treat.

***1/2 (out of four)