The Hitman’s Bodyguard: Movie Man Jackson

If Ben Affleck isn’t open to returning to play Bruce Wayne, Samuel L. Jackson can take his place. Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is considered the world’s top bodyguard. Once a CIA agent, he’s decided to take his skills and profit off of them. He uses his skills to protect some of the world’s most powerful figures, earning “Triple A” status in the process, never missing a detail. He’s the Uber of protecting people, if such a service exists.

Two years later, Bryce loses it all as the result of a client losing his life while he was on assignment. Now forced to rebuild everything, his next assignment—or rather only available assignment—sees him protecting a hitman, the free-spirited Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson). He’s made a mistake and lands in hot water in Interpol custody. His way out is testifying against ruthless dictator Dukhovich (Gary Oldman) in The Netherlands, but getting there isn’t going to be easy, as Dukhovich’s men will stop at nothing to make sure Kincaid won’t make an appearance in court. The two are very mismatched in personality, but need to lean on each other to save the day, if they don’t kill each other first.

The buddy cop genre. It’s a genre that’ll never cease to be out of style, because it’s a genre that can deliver a simple but sometimes memorable time. On the other side of the coin, it’s a genre in which movies in it can easily feel uninspired and fitting of the “middle of the road” descriptor. Though it’s working with big-name talent,The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a slight tick above the Mendoza line in this genre, but only barely.

Positives? Massive fans of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson will eat The Hitman’s Bodyguard up. The entire movie is built on this uneasy alliance, making it up to Ryan and Samuel to carry the proceedings. This duo carries real chemistry, getting some laughs out of a familiar setup. Nothing from these two that hasn’t been viewed before, though. SLJ is doing his SLJ thing, shouting expletives and having a good time, Reynolds playing more straight and witty, Wade Wilson-esque dialed down to about 3. They’re having a blast, and that makes it a little easier to take in THB, even when the jokes don’t land with the precision of a headshot.

Two other big names in Gary Oldman and Salma Hayek fill out the cast, to mixed results. Oldman particularly is a big waste of clout; his turn as a foreign Belarus dictator kind of embarrassing to watch. Hayek has one noticeable scene; otherwise, she’s relegated to dull love interest status just as Elodie Yung is. Again, this film is Jackson’s and Reynolds’ alone, non-fans are highly advised to stay away.

Aside from the comedy, action plays an equal significant part of The Hitman’s Bodyguard. On that front, it is adequate. Directed by The Expendables 3 director Patrick Hughes, for every good sequence, (the chase sequence is the best of the bunch) there’s one in which the action is sadly hard to follow due to shots that are too close-up. Hughes does some good stuff, however. Surprisingly, flashbacks are used moderately and most of them add a little meat and even heart to both of the lead characters. Midway through, the question of morality is raised as to who’s the good guy and the bad guy out of this tenuous partnership. It’s a little compelling, but not something that is fully explored by the end of the movie.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard runs long, too. Way too long for this average plot. Two hours gets up there, felt mainly in the first 20-30 minutes. Quite a while it takes to get moving. Honestly, this could be a 90-100 minute romp, and it would be all the better for it. Almost two hours has THB stumbling over landmines at times with regards to tone.

Not bulletproof but providing a little bit of the entertainment factor, The Hitman’s Bodyguard hits something. Just not center mass.

C

Photo credits go to deadline.com, pointofgeeks.com, and denofgeek.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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Lawless: Movie Man Jackson

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Subtitles. Lots of them. In 1930’s Virginia, the Bondurant brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy), Howard (Jason Clarke), and Jack (Shia LaBeouf) run things in Franklin County. They make a living running a bootleg moonshine operation during the Prohibition era. They are outlaws, living by their own rules, but not really going out of their way to make trouble. So, they’re your honorable outlaws.

Everyone wants a cut though. And the person who wants it is Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce), a slimy new deputy from Chicago who has no fear in going up against the “indestructible” Bondurant boys. What results is a clash between the clan and the corrupt law, and there’s only one way it will end: In tons of bloodshed.

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Lawless is straightforward. And yet, if someone asked me what the film is about, I would honestly probably struggle with giving a summary. That’s because the storytelling isn’t the real draw or strong point, but the overall world and locale is. What Lawless lacks in narrative, it makes up for in production.

With a limited feature filmography, director John Hillcoat (The Road, The Proposition) has proven that he’s really adept at creating worlds in his films. Whether it be a traditional western setting, a post-apocalyptic wasteland, or a 1930’s boonie town, all of these worlds are fully realized and immerse audiences with their legitimacy. Though it has a pseudo-western feel, and certainly the ol’ gunslinging and ruthless violence of that genre, it’s not a western. It’s a crime movie set in the prohibition era, an era that isn’t depicted all that often in cinema. Along with a superb soundtrack, it makes Lawless a pretty fresh viewing experience, all things considered.

But the production solely doesn’t make up a movie, and it is other areas where Lawless could have used a little more precision. As stated, Hillcott’s piece—storywise—is pretty straightforward. No twists or random occurrences, etc. Everything is pretty much set up as is with no extra meaning, which is completely fine. However, while there isn’t a lot going on per se, there is a feeling that yours truly had when watching in which I wasn’t really sure in what the goal was. For as much as the movie is perfectly content in being a violent but beautiful romp through the Virginia backwoods, a few moments exist in which emotionally, there is nothing of value. These moments are introduced just enough to dull the blade that Lawless carries.

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This is where the struggle to give a summary part comes into play. In my opinion, one could argue that Lawless is as much of a coming of age story/romance as it is a gritty Wild West—err—Deep South revenge story. If those parts worked, Hillcoat may have had a perfect film, possibly even an Oscar one. Alas, it just isn’t meant to be.

But, when a cast featuring Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Guy Pearce, Dane DeHann, and even Shia LaBeuof is assembled, disappointment with the script can’t completely mar what they bring to the table. Beware…there is a little bait and switch with LaBeuof and Hardy, and also with Gary Oldman, who appears for a memorable but shocking maximum of five minutes. While he still will likely never shed his kid role as Louis Stevens, Shia does turn in strong work here. His love story with Wasikowska’s character is hardly believable, and the two just feel forced together because there needs to be a love angle. But, he does well with most everything else; it just takes a little time to realize that this is his character’s story first and foremost.

Is there a more physical actor than Tom Hardy? That doesn’t mean that he’s throwing haymakers like Mike Tyson, but it does mean that he is entirely believable as the toughest guy in the room. Screen presence can be had in a multitude of ways, and Hardy has it not just in skill but in physicality. Like LaBeouf’s character however, his character’s romance with another female in the form of Jessica Chastain comes off as uninspired (Chastain and Wasikowska don’t really do anything). He’s great…just make sure to turn on the subtitles. I may have been really frustrated if I viewed this first in theaters. As for the others, Jason Clarke is less developed, but still delivers, even when he just grunts his way through his dialogue. Guy Pearce’s performance may be polarizing to some, I personally believe his detestable villain role is outstanding. Not to mention probably needed to fully draw the audience to the brother’s side.

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Like most strong moonshines, Lawless doesn’t always leave a great feeling behind. But typically. if someone’s drinking moonshine, I imagine they’re doing it for a specific reason (getting drunk fast). Same with Lawless. When yours truly is in the mood for a 1930’s period piece, this does the job well enough.

Grade: B

Photo credits go to collider.com, dispatch.com, blogs.wsj.com, and blueridgecountry.com

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Movie Man Jackson

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“Apes do not want war!”

The ape uprising is over, and their dawn is fully upon us. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes occurs 10 years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and it is now a whole new world. The ALZ-113 virus, otherwise known as the Simian Flu, has spread to every corner in the world and consequently has wiped out a substantial part of the human race. Though a small part of the human population is immune, there is no indication as to how large this pool of survivors is.

Meanwhile, the ape nation is experiencing an era of prosperity, led by their unquestioned leader Caesar (Andy Serkis). He has built a civilization in the Redwoods that is rooted on family concepts and the unbreakable bond these apes share. It has been a while since Caesar and others have seen humans, so they rightfully assume that the entire race has perished.

Or so they thought. One day, a band of human survivors looking for a critical piece that is the key to their survival stumble upon this new civilization. Immediately there is uneasiness, but understanding as well. Both sides coexist tenuously but appear to get what they want until all hell breaks loose. At this point, the rubber will meet the road as humans and apes will collide with the future in tow.

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On all fronts, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a spectacular film. It isn’t easy to improve upon things that were so well done in Rise of Apes, but the heights achieved here surpass anything done in its predecessor. If 2011’s film has yet to be seen for whatever reason, please, see that before this. Not only is it a great work in its own right, it will give that much more appreciation to this film.

Back to today’s feature presentation though. Part of why the movie is so enthralling is the attention it gives to character depth, both apes and yes, even humans. Caesar is once again the focus, brilliantly acted by Andy Serkis. In this, he has become even more fleshed out than before. He is not just a father to his kids (one newborn), but also serves as a father, leader, and general to his entire nation. You can tell that the stress of it all really gets to him, as he knows that one slight misstep on his part sets his civilization back to a figurative place they never want to return to.

Serkis is simply outstanding, and his performance is jaw-dropping. When he speaks, he does so with conviction, but he is even more impressive when he does not. Everything that Caesar is contemplating, feeling, and internalizing is clearly visible facially, especially in the eyes. When I see Caesar on screen, I do not see an actor playing a chimp, I see a chimp. It is a testament to the stellar CGI and motion capture but also the commitment by Serkis to mastering little animalistic details that make the investment in his character so much stronger for the audience.

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While definitely the biggest star, Caesar isn’t the only star. Maurice, Rocket, and others return as key cogs to round out the ape faction, but it is Koba who firmly plants his presence in the franchise. As a result of the inhumane testing done upon him in the first installment, this guy harbors a lot of disdain for humans, and it is understandable. His pain, both physical and emotional, help to create a character with many layers and grey shades.

The human characters are even interesting. Even if not on the intrigue level of their opposition, their plight is one I found myself caring about. Jason Clarke portrays Malcolm, the man who finds himself most often in contact with Caesar, and the film does a great job at making parallels between the two. At the core, they are the same. Malcolm, like Caesar, is doing everything in his power to protect his family (Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee) and make for a better future for the ones they love. There is a bit of skepticism, but also a healthy respect that the two give each other. Gary Oldman also is of note, and while he doesn’t appear a ton here, it is pretty clear on how his character mimics another. It is this sort of parallelism that shows that the two groups have way more in common than they realize.

Additionally, Dawn of Apes has some important messages to say. One main message is this idea that we cannot let our singular, initial experiences shape our entire idea of what those “other” people are like. It may be a simplistic message, but how it is executed in the movie is flawless. There is one moment that I am not going to spoil in particular that made me think of American History X, and if you remember the dinner table scene from that movie, you may find what I am hinting at here. So much in the movie hits emotionally, and it never feels forced.

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Production-wise, they do not get much better than this. It has already been a great year for technical blockbuster brilliance, and count this as part of the highlights. San Francisco and the resulting area returns as the backdrop for the movie, and everything is fully realized in amazing detail, from the sprawling redwoods to reduced rubble. Director Matt Reeves really knows to encompass scale; there is nothing like seeing Caesar’s army of apes follow diligently behind whether on foot or by horse. Action sequences and sound mixing are a thing of beauty, and every clash and shot fired is captured in full. The score, sort of a bland existence from the previous movie, adds immensely to the scope of everything.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a film that cannot be missed. Featuring complex characters, an emotional script, and superb effects, it is unlikely to disappoint. It is not just an amazing summer flick, it is just an amazing flick, blockbuster season or not.

Grade: A

Photo credits go to ign.com, hypable.com, & collider.com

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (trailer): Movie Man Jackson Analysis

One of the upcoming forgotten movies of the summer seems to be Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. With Godzilla, 22 Jump Street, Days of Future Past, Edge of Tomorrow, and others coming before it, there is a feeling of this flying under the radar. From the looks of this new trailer coming out today, this may just be the viewing event of the blockbuster season.

This sequel to 2011’s surprise of Rise of the Planet of the Apes appears to take place a few years after (maybe a decade?) the simian plague has made apes basically counterparts to humans. This ape nation is led by Caesar, and from the looks of it, the human population is declining at a fast rate. The remaining population appears to be split as to go to war with this evolved species. Some appear to sympathize with them, while others feel that a war is imminent. Judging by the trailer, I would say the latter is a correct assumption…

This trailer will do what it needs to do in generating hype for the upcoming film. There are some nice seconds of Caesar speaking and of the camera semi-panning to his ape nation behind him in presumably the Redwood forest, and this effectively captures the feeling that the scale of this film will be epic. The CGI/motion capture looks even more polished than Rise, and that is saying something as Rise’s was quite good!

As most movies that employ him have shown, you cannot go wrong with Gary Oldman. His name alone brings credence to the movie, but don’t sleep on Keri Russell either. It also appears that this will be told from a both a human and simian standpoint, which is a good decision. Still, the best thing about this trailer is that while there seems to be more build than previous ones, nothing feels like a huge reveal or potential plot spoiler. I still am a bit hazy on details, but that is OK. When it comes to trailers, I am not looking to get full. I am just looking to whet my appetite.

Everyone has their most anticipated blockbuster, and this is it for the Movie Man. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will be in theaters July 11th.

RoboCop: Movie Man Jackson

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“Dead or alive, you’re coming with me!

Comparison is a way of life. Surely, some of us do it more than others but the fact remains. This practice carries over to film as well; especially remakes of beloved films from yesteryear. The 2014 iteration of RoboCop attempts to capture the vibe of its 1987 predecessor. In the new edition, the year is 2028 and OmniCorp, a subsidiary of OmniConsumerProducts (OCP), is the forerunner, innovator, and sole distributor of robot soldier technology. Limited to military usage, CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) wants to implement these in the police force, particularly Detroit, but public sentiment as well as public policy is less than willing to hand over safety protection duties to machines.

But what if man and machine were melded? Sellars believes public sentiment would be more accepting of this, so enter Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman). After a failed sting operation, his car is planted with a bomb by the targeted syndicate while visiting his wounded partner. While at home with his wife and son (Abbie Cornish, John Paul Ruttan), the alarm on his car sounds and while attempting to stop it, the bomb triggers and he is utterly blasted. Unfortunate, but now Sellars has his prospect, and Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) is tasked with rebuilding Murphy in OmniCorp’s image. After all is said and done, Murphy will be the future of law enforcement.

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What isn’t the future is a sequel, as this is simply an average film. There are some positives though. I admire the fact that the writers attempted to make some changes and tweaks to the original. While the original was superb storytelling, personally I am OK with a remake trying to do different things. It was better than sitting through a shot-for-shot remake, a la The Omen (2006) and Psycho (1998), which is incredibly lazy. However, these changes and tweaks seem to miss more often than hit. The remake tries to incorporate a family element, but it often fails, resulting in moments that are clearly designed to invoke feeling from the audience but come off as forced. It is also more political than the 1987 movie; seen with the in-movie news show of “The Novak Element,” which showcases Samuel L Jackson as Pat Novak, an obviously biased host who is crafted in the mold of Fox News/CNN anchors. I assume this was the movie’s satire/parody attempt at modern culture, but it too is uninspiring, though the end is classic Samuel L. Going to be YouTubing that scene for a while.

If you are looking for satirical elements or even a bit of humor, look elsewhere. Aside from the sort of political attempts, none exist. As for directing, crime-ridden Detroit looks pretty tame visual wise, and it never truly feels like it is a hell-hole. This makes RoboCop seem like a luxury, not a necessity. I kind of hated the suit, the first one shown should have been kept. News flash: Black does not make everything look cool. The suit appeared to me made out of plastic, and neither looked nor sounded appropriate. And the running scene? Ugh.

The action scenes were rather uninspiring. Occasionally a few parts looked nice, but it really suffers from terrible editing and cutting. There are a lot of bullets, but half of the time you can hardly tell if they hit the target, and it is probably to blame on the PG-13 rating. I feel that the PG-13/R rating debate is overblown at times, but this film could benefit from a R. It might not have made a huge difference as far as writing goes because it probably still would have been weak in places, but I am fairly confident that the action would have been praised more, which would have caused people to look past the other flaws. Apparently, director Jose Padilha and lead Joel Kinnaman fought hard for an R but lost the battle as the movie’s inflating budget forced it to PG-13 in an effort by studio executives to get something back.

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The film was not devoid of excitement. There was a 15-20 minute span where I was really engaged in it, but it was fleeting. Keaton and Oldman are the bright spots of the film. They really did everything they could to bring intrigue, and I liked their roles.

I have been been pretty critical of the film by this point, but the biggest criticism of all, in my view, is RoboCop himself, or rather, the actor playing the part. Joel Kinnaman is so wooden and unconvincing. Within the first 5 minutes when he is talking with the police chief at the station, I was unimpressed. He felt robotic before he even became a robot! He looked unsure of himself in the titular role, and by result I was unable to get behind him. Jackie Earle Haley was useless. Completely unneeded role, and I was so glad when he left the screen. Abbie Cornish, Michael K. Williams, Jay Baruchel, and everyone else is OK, but they suffer from a lack of screen-time (Williams), or underwritten and unnecessary roles (Cornish, Baruchel).

Lastly, the film suffers from a defined villain, or villains. The original RoboCop did feature two baddies, but they were extremely fleshed out and despicable. Here, we are asked to keep up with three: Antoine Vallon, Sellars, and Norton. Vallon never makes his presence felt and is absent for most of the film, and I never felt that Keaton and Oldman were truly bad guys, aside from the end in the former’s case.

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Despite all of this, I am not ready to say this was a bad film. Again, I had fun in some parts and it looked cool occasionally. But by and large this was unnecessary. Perhaps if it didn’t have RoboCop as its name, it would be better received, and maybe if we stop comparing the two, it would get better. But c’mon! It has RoboCop as its title. I would watch again if family or friends wanted to check it out, but not one I’ll revisit personally, nor buy it for a dollar.

Grade: C-

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