Archive 3
Kingsmen - Golden CircleAmerican Made — Hitman's Bodyguard Detroit Dunkirk The Big Sick War for the Planet of the Apes Spider-Man: HomecomingDespicable Me 3 The House Cars 3 The Mummy Baywatch How to be a Latin LoverSnatched

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Kingsmen: The Golden Circle

The Hitman’s Bodyguard
So, OK, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is another “gotta keep the witness alive and get them to court to testify in time” buddy film. But just as there are many variations of the hot dog (though Chicagoans know there is really only one) so too are there several ways to execute this reliable plot. Reese Witherspoon’s 2015 Hot Pursuit, for instance, was an example of how not to.
This one, thankfully, rises above the formula. The action is consistent and engaging; bodyguard Ryan Reynolds and hit-man Samuel L. Jackson share great chemistry. You almost forget you've seen the same film many times before.
Here, Jackson needs to testify against Gary Oldman (who deserves better than this movie) in the International Court of Justice in order to secure the release of wife Salma Hayek. Because so many prior witnesses never made it alive, Interpol brings-in Reynolds who, despite some history with Jackson, agrees to get him to the church on time, as it were. Notwithstanding a few twists, things go as expected.
Jackson’s trademark MF-this and MF-that gets old fast so it’s up to Reynolds to really carry this one, which he does with his wry delivery.
Not great, but great fun.


America was afire in the 1960s. Literally. For nearly a week in 1965 the South-central Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts was ground zero for rioting and arson amid chants of “Burn, Baby, Burn” after a motorist there was arrested for drunk driving.
In Newark, not too long afterwards, 26 people died over four days of rioting and looting that was precipitated, apparently, by police beating an area cab driver.
And in my hometown of Chicago, when the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. sparked violence that actually reduced some streets to rubble, legendary Mayor Richard J. Daley issued the famous edict to police to “shoot to maim or cripple looters” and, “shoot to kill arsonists.”
In the heat of the fight   
For my money, the best film to depict the turbulent times of the 1960s is Norman Jewison’s In the Heat of the Night based on John Ball’s novel.
Sidney Poitier is a Philadelphia detective who finds himself in the deep south reluctantly helping a racist police department (who begrudgingly accept his aid) solve a murder.
Even today, fifty years later, it feels edgy and authentic. I can only imagine how powerful it was when first released back in 1967 at the height of racial tensions.
In the Heat of the Night  went on to win five Oscars including one for Rod Steiger yet surprisingly nothing for Poitier whose 1963 performance in Lilies of the Field earned him one.

In reality, what begat the unrest was much more complex than the events that triggered it.
Unfortunately, Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow and her frequent collaborator writer Mark Boal (the two worked together on The Hurt Locker and 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty) miss an opportunity to delve into those causes instead focusing on one particularly egregious incident during Detroit’s 1967 12th Street Riot.
Minimal backstory — e.g., many of those that came north in the Great Migration had yet to benefit economically — introduces the riot’s flashpoint: Detroit police, tipped by an informant, raid an unlicensed neighborhood club. On the following night, one of two Detroit policemen pursuing a fleeing looter, shoot him in the back. Remarkably, and a testament to the grim times, the officer is permitted to remain on active duty.
At the onset of the riot, the Michigan Governor dispatched some state police and activated the National Guard. The militarization was a powerful vision to longtime Rochester Councilwoman Sandra Means who lived in Detroit at the time and wrote on Facebook, “It was beyond horrific with the sound of bullets, curfews and the presence of army tanks” though she lamented that little of this comes across in the movie.
The film’s raison d’être unfolds as law enforcement gather not far from the neighborhood’s Algiers Motel where one of the borders there thinks it might be fun to shoot a starter pistol out his window towards the officers.
The police, already on edge from incidents of active snipers, react, or rather over-react, in full force. Two particularly sadistic cops line-up all of the guests in the motel’s annex and terrorize them in order to learn the location of the weapon and the identity of the shooter killing three of the suspects in the process; state police and other agencies opted not to get involved. In the epilogue we learn an all-white jury exonerates the police.
And that’s it.
With obvious parallels to recent incidents there is no deep exploration of the root causes, no examination of the psychology of police in crime-ridden areas. No talk of the fog of war, chaos, misguided attempts to keep the peace and preserve property.
Attenuated where it could have been provoking, Detroit is a poor execution of a critical chapter in our history. Perhaps the usually capable Kathryn Bigelow was not the best choice to bring this story to the big screen.

  Detroit has received the #CriticsChoice Seal of Distinction from the BFCA!


Dunkirk has a problem and it’s not the bizarre claim that a beclowned reviewer leveled at director Christopher Nolan for siding with history rather than political correctness to depict an embattled military clash absent women and people of color.
Nearly 400,000 allied troops were pinned-down by Germans in the small town on France’s northern border in the early part of WWII. With bigger fish to fry (i.e., more winnable battles), the allies were slow to commit the resources necessary to evacuate them. So desperate soldiers and area loyalists miraculously rallied locals (most of them fishermen) and their more than 800 small boats to execute the rescue making several trips back-and-forth to safety  — though we don’t really get a sense of that scale save for a small vanguard against which we are left to extrapolate.
An ensemble of mostly unfamiliar faces (except for pilot Tom Hardy) makes it difficult to call-out a particular standout which is not necessarily bad though it highlights Dunkirk’s miss: none of the characters appear to have a backstory. Cohesion is paramount to victory but each of even the most reluctant individuals there had a life and a motivation to get back home.
Nolan opts for a you-are-there feel with many intense moments that don’t quite rise to the opening of Saving Private Ryan but nonetheless feel authentic. I was struck by the selflessness and wondered if the products of today’s culture could boast the same mettle, make the same sacrifices, as the greatest generation. Maybe. Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.

   Dunkirk has received the #CriticsChoice Seal of Distinction from the BFCA!

War for the Planet of the Apes


   War for the Planet of the Apes has received the #CriticsChoice Seal of Distinction from the BFCA!

The Big Sick


Spider-Man: Homecoming

I O.D.’ed on superhero movies, like, eight or nine films ago. So when the latest chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe opened — yet another reboot of Spider-Man, to make it even more agonizing — I was ready with a one word review: “Meh”
What I was treated to instead was a fresh take on the youngest in the spandex squad. This one maintains just enough connective tissue  to the franchise (Tony Stark mentoring and Captain America in some clever high school PSAs) while keeping a safe distance from that which has been done and redone in the Avengers series.
Peter Parker’s not happy being just a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, he wants to be an Avenger and is accepted into an internship with Stark Industries. So a lot of this one has him angling for the attention of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) whose Iron Man has to bail out the young arachni-kid more than once.
Donning wings again (remember 2014’s Birdman?) is Michael Keaton as supervillian Vulture.
Great pacing, amazing score (I mean, who uses Traffic’s Low Spark of High Heeled Boys?!), and a few surprises.
Lots of fun.

Despicable Me 3
Let me start with this: I could do without the Minions — the little yellow suppository-sized sidekicks to the one-time super villain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell). Gru, a formidable body on toothpick legs, is a hoot just to watch but when Carell adds a muddled Baltic accent I’m on the floor with even the most mundane dialog.
In this 3rd installment (the original Despicable Me opened in 2010), Gru has joined the Anti-Villain League and is on the trail of a bitter child-star turned madman named Balthazar Bratt (South Park’s Trey Parker) out to get revenge on a Hollywood that turned its back on him. Along the way, Gru is reunited with Dru (also Carell), a handsome mega-successful twin brother whom he didn’t know existed.
Dependably fun, vibrant and well-paced though at times Despicable Me 3 relies too much on nostalgia for 1980’s pop-culture. There are other ways to appeal to a broad audience.

The House
When their daughter’s scholarship craps-out, Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler (with degenerate gambler-friend Jason Mantzoukas) start a home casino to raise money for her tuition.
Things progress predictably with the pair gradually becoming caricatures lifting bits from the iconic Casino.
The laughs are consistent and the over-the-top moments hysterical.
Watch for living-room comedian Sebastian Maniscalco whose exquisite purposeful drawn-out timing needs to be seen to be appreciated.

Cars 3
Count on Pixar to turn a trite plot (essentially Rocky 3) into a thoroughly enjoyable ride.
This go-around Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is feeling obsolete as the high-tech rookies look to sideline the classics with lines like, “Can I get you a drip pan, old man?”
Most of the original cast returns (Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, and thanks to some unused original footage, the late Paul Newman as Doc Hudson) and the film maintains the same vibe as the 2006’s Cars.
Typical Pixar broad appeal (the Forklift band plays Bruce Springsteen’s Glory Days) buoys this one and for some reason I got a huge kick out of McQueen’s alias: Chester Whipplefilter

The Mummy
Serious question: who thought this was a good idea?
I mean, Brendan Fraser’s 1999 reboot had the right mix of plot, humor and effects. (Not to mention my fellow St. Laurence High School alum Kevin O’Connor whose character “Beni” stole the show.)
This Tom Cruise version is derivative and dark. I get this is a just a part of Universal’s larger Dark Universe so taken as a whole — Javier Bardem as Frankenstein’s Monster, Johnny Depp’s The Invisible Man, a rumored Dwayne Johnson as The WolfMan, and the as yet uncast Creature From the Black Lagoon, Phantom of the Opera, and Hunchback of Notre Dame — so it may be unfair to pick on an individual episode. But I will.
Here Dr. Jekyl (Russel Crowe) heads a secret organization battling evil which is a common premise. Kong: Skull Island did it earlier this year, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen brought together several legendry bodies years ago as have nearly every superhero film since.
Cruise is a tomb raider a preserver of antiquities. With his sidekick (the usually hysterical Jake Johnson) the two stumble on an ancient tomb after which Cruise is cursed and Johnson becomes a zombie who subsequently hectors him in an almost frame-by-frame rip-off tribute to An American Werewolf in London.
Like Fraser’s Mummy, this plot unravels (ha!) in modern day as the reconstituted body seeks to fully reanimate itself on the living.
The usually bankable Cruise delivers nothing new or, for that matter, engaging. Fans of the vintage Universal Monsters, especially, will be left unsatisfied.

The big screen treatment of the mock-worthy 1990’s mainstay Baywatch is nearly two hours of preposterous crime-solving, goofy gags, and babes in tight swimsuits running in slow motion. In other words, while this one is not great, of how many movies can you honestly say, “It was exactly what I expected”?
Touch that dial
   It’s never been unusual for film to exploit the popularity of shows on the little screen. A few of the serious executions like Mission: Impossible, The Fugitive, and, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., have even eclipsed their tubular progenitors. Most of them, unfortunately, to borrow the words of Maxwell Smart, “Missed it by that much.”
Click here are a few of the popcorn-worthy ones

Well, yea, but I could have done without the tsunami of F-bombs and the predictable cameos (David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson) that felt too much like afterthoughts.
From Horrible Bosses and Identity Thief director Seth Gordon, this one would have been flotsam without the wry comic art of Dwayne Johnson. Co-star Zac Efron is a disgraced Olympic star and one of several new recruits under Johnson who happens on an exotic drug ring headed by a local club owner.
What ensues is nominal sleuthing and optimal cleavage.
Not the best TV-to-silver-screen treatment but not the worst, either.

How to be a Latin Lover

“I don’t want to be him,” young Maximo says of a wealthy older man in a magazine ad. “I want to be her,” he tells his sister pointing to the much younger woman beside the man.
Fast forward many years, and as many pounds. Maximo (popular Mexican actor/comedian Eugenio Derbez) is not the gigolo he once was. And when he’s pushed out of his cushy gig by Michael Cera, insult is added to financial injury.
With nowhere to go, he first takes-up residence in a playhouse on the estate of a flush grandmother serviced by another gigolo (brilliantly played by Rob Lowe) before eventually landing on the doorstep of his sister (Salma Hayek) and her son Hugo (Raphael Alejandro).
Predictably, he takes young Hugo under his wing to school the boy in the art of manipulating women. But, in fact, Maximo is only interested in the billionaire grandmother (Raquel Welch) of the boy’s crush.
Lots of PG-13 laughs, sight gags, and witty dialog (“I’m looking for someone with a big heart,” Maximo poignantly confesses at one point, “but not necessarily a strong heart.”)
How to be a Latin Lover  works on so many levels in part because laughs are smartly mined from even the smallest roles like mobile advertiser Rob Riggle or perky Yogurt server and cat lover Kristen Bell.

Goldie Hawn gave me my start in show business — my wife and I were extras in one of her comedies, seems like, a hundred years ago. So I am being especially generous when I say, with all due respect… this film is not good.
Penned by Katie Dippold, who wrote The Heat, the laugh-out-loud 2014 comedy starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, Snatched teams perennial funny-girl Goldie Hawn (her first film in 15 years) and the popular Amy Schumer.
Schumer’s banter is always fresh and she doesn’t disappoint but Hawn, as her “careful” mom, seems uncomfortable in the role. Joan Cusack (Toy Story 2/3,  School of Rock ) co-stars as a former special ops agent who cut-out her own tongue to prevent her from leaking secrets if tortured, and the always reliable Wanda Sykes as her partner.
The four meet in Ecuador where Hawn and Schumer are vacationing before the mother/daughter are kidnapped.
Not without laughs but the headliners deserve better. And so do the moviegoers.




© 2008, 2017 Chris Miksanek, The Med City Movie Guy
  Last updated: 2018 February 6
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