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.


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Life: Movie Man Jackson

Let’s have the rapper Big K.R.I.T tell the people what he has to say about life. All aboard the International Space Station resides a crew of six individuals. In their space exploration, the crew recovers a probe from the planet Mars. This probe ends up containing extraterrestrial Life.

Tests show that this tiny organism—dubbed “Calvin”—is multi-celled, reacting to stimuli quickly and evolving rapidly. However, a specific test ends up making Calvin “aggressive” in ways that cannot be believed. With the crew’s safety compromised, they have to contain the threat and eliminate it before coming back to Terra firma. Good luck.

With the arrival of Life in theaters, I think we’ve officially reached peaked space disaster survival movie levels, if we haven’t already. They’ve always been present, but, pun intended, they always felt spaced out release date-wise from one another. From Gravity to Interstellar to The Martian to Europa Report to Passengers, all may be slightly different in the questions they pose to audiences (sometimes, none), but they are kind of the same when boiled down to the core. This is a way of saying Life has some solid good thrills and chills, good direction, and yet is still sort of underwhelming.

All of those aforementioned films are survival films to an extent, but Life, directed by Daniel Espinosa (Safe House), carries a noticeable horror lean, which slightly separates it from its like minded brethren, even if ever so slightly. Taking cues from Alien, Espinosa creates palpable tension and a real feeling of isolation once s*** officially hits the fan. It’s a good looking movie overall, too, incorporating much more CGI than anticipated, but it blending seamlessly with the real-life cast. Some moments truly do stand out.

Generally speaking, yours truly likes his sci-fi to be thought-provoking, and raise a question or two. In the case of Life, that sadly never happens. Scriptwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick opt for the extremely conventional route here, settling into a (I hate this phrase, but it applies) by-the-numbers affair. Remove the organism, replace it with Jason, and voila! You’ve got Jason X. That’s not to say things aren’t still tense, but more predictable. The ending certainly leaves things open to more installments, though the prospects of this happening with the projected box office are slim to none at the moment.

Life boats three big name leads to carry matters, and they all do relatively good work despite being pretty flimsy. At times here, the great Jake Gyllenhaal looks like he’s sleepwalking through the proceedings, as a result of not having much to latch onto from a character perspective. But he, like all of the cast, still sells the fear that arises in being in space on a derelict ship with an unpredictable entity effectively.

This is a film that doesn’t concern itself with character information, just the scenario its characters find themselves in. The highlight of the movie is easily Ryan Reynolds, who brings levity to the situation without undermining it (in addition to having the most memorable scene). All of the cast members feel right at home as doctors and crew members in space, which does a lot for the believability aspect. Don’t expect to connect with any, though.

The fact of Life? It generates a passable pulse, taking similar jolts from other films to make a competent, if unspectacular, horror in outer space.


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Deadpool: Movie Man Jackson


It’s the Merc with a Mouth…actually with a mouth this time! Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) works as a mercenary, a relatively neutral guy who makes a living on doing sometimes crappy tasks for bad people. His whole life has been kind of crappy, but he finds a woman, escort Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), whose life is just as crappy as his. Immediately, the two fit like jigsaw pieces.

Life is looking up until Wade is afflicted with cancer. He’s mentally prepared to die, but loves Vanessa too much and is willing to do anything to rid himself of it, including undergoing a not-sanctioned-by-the-government dangerous experiment led by Ajax (Ed Skrein). The experiment rids Wade of cancer, but also makes him extremely erratic mentally, and unrecognizable physically. Driven by revenge, and armed with accelerated healing and a vulgar mouth, Wilson—code name Deadpool—goes on his merry little f**ked up way of dealing a dish best served cold.


As a God of War fan, watching Deadpool is probably the closest I’ll ever get to seeing Kratos and his blood-soaked Greek epic on the silver screen. And let’s face it, with the piss-poor track record that video games turned into big-screen adaptations have, it’s probably for the best. What yours truly is trying to say is that Deadpool, though probably not as ruthless/sadistic as Kratos, isn’t all that far off. It isn’t often that a chaotic neutral character is the sole protagonist in a feature, but that is exactly what 20th Century Fox and director Tim Miller choose to do here.

Despite what the character says about his own film being a different kind of superhero story, at the heart of it, Deadpool is still the basic type of superhero story. It is a basic origin story featuring a character with a rough upbringing/life, some mutation/experiment, and trying to get revenge on someone that wronged him. And of course, there is a love interest.

Where Deadpool does break away from the typical superhero mold is how its story is told. Yes, this is an origin story, but not from our hero’s inception, à la Peter Parker or Steve Rogers. Deadpool—not Wade Wilson—is the first person seen, and gradually through nonlinear storytelling that intersplices the first half’s action scene, it is introduced as to how Wilson became the Merc with a Mouth. In the eyes of yours truly, this method actually accomplishes two things: Giving the people what they want with enough Deadpool time, yet still showing enough of his alter ego to build a good character.


Years down the line, Deadpool will not be remembered for its well directed (and super-hyperactive) action, or its eclectic soundtrack and balls-to-the-wall score composed by Junkie XL (Mad Max: Fury Road). Nope, what people are going to remember most will easily be all of the fourth wall breaks that address everything in the superhero universe (X-Men Origins: Wolverine for example) to even anything outside of it (Limp Bizkit’s contribution to 90’s music), along with crude one-liners that have no shame in picking the low hanging fruit. Can the vulgarity and meta-ness feel a little too much at times, even like a crutch? Yes, but more times than not, it is legitimately funny.

The jokes are written well, but I’d say the delivery and commitment to them is even better. This recent incarnation of Deadpool has been Ryan Reynolds’ passion for a while now, and it shows in his performance here. There may have been a few others who could play the role, and it is easy to say this after seeing his full work as this particular hero, but it just feels like this is the role he was born to play, combining his chiseled physique with a quick wit and simple likability. The latter is the most surprising, as he does give Deadpool some emotional notes instead of a straight killing machine.

He and the love interest, played by Morena Baccarin, are effective as a romantic tandem. The rest of the characters are as one-dimensional as the opening credits suggest, but are equally effective. TJ Miller serves one purpose as a nonviolent comedic sidekick to Wade. Ed Skrein isn’t memorable as the big bad, but does his job in getting the audience to hate him. A CGI Colossus is great fun, and fellow X-Men member Negasonic Teenage Warhead gets a little time to shine. It wasn’t in the budget to feature A or even B-list X-Men, but the usage of less familiar ones adds to the movie’s subversiveness.


When in doubt, it isn’t a bad thing to stay close to the source material. Even a non-comic book nerd can see that while the Deadpool character himself represents reckless abandon, his treatment by his movie studio doesn’t. Who knows where the sequel will go from here, but I’m sure that The Merc with a Mouth will touch himself every night from now until then.

Grade: B+ 

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Self/less: Movie Man Jackson

selflless stub

“Do you feel immortal?”

You can shed the body, but you can’t shed the mind. In Self/Less, rich businessman Damian Hale (Sir Ben Kingsley) has built a New York empire in the real estate/architecture arena. Money is no problem, but health certainly is as Damian battles cancer, and the most optimistic timeframe only gives him a few more months to live. With this realization, he begins to wonder if what he has built will leave a lasting legacy.

Eager to ensure his work will, Damian researches and eventually undergoes a medical procedure called “shedding,” created by a company called Phoenix and its founder, Albright (Matthew Goode). Shedding means moving one’s consciousness to another body, usually a younger and healthier one. Damian’s old body, and life for that matter, is no more, but his consciousness remains in a new body where he is now known as “Eddie” (Ryan Reynolds). Everything seems perfect in the new vessel until “hallucinations” of a past life start to become stronger and stronger. Are they only a weird side effect? Or is this vessel really as empty and hollow as Albright claims it to be?


Is it wrong that I thought of Limitless when watching Self/less? Getting away from the topic at hand here, but it is sort of cool how that totally-not-perfect-but-very entertaining-to-watch 2011 movie has made its stamp on 21st century transhumanist movies such as Lucy and now this. So, is this as fun as those others, either intentionally or unintentionally? In a word, no.

Self/less does possess a fairly unique premise (even if a film called Seconds from 1966 apparently ran with it first), but maybe not as intriguing as other similar films, if that makes sense. There is a real rush in getting into the meat of the story, which ends up dulling the questions the film asks about immortality. It is almost as if the writers decided that simply getting to the moment where the main character becomes immortal in record time is enough to assume that it is important, instead of showing more of why immortality is so important to this character, what he really stands to lose if he dies, etc.


As it stands though, director Tarsem Singh (The Cell, Immortals) gets away from the science fiction set-up and opts for the more standard and unoriginal action thriller that looks no different than the average spy production. Really, it doesn’t look bad as the action is more than visible and shot well enough, but it is shocking and somewhat comical (wait for the flamethrower) how quickly this becomes a run-of-the-mill thriller. Once a character pulls out a handgun, the movie charts itself on a irreversible and mundane path that makes the second half of the 116 minute runtime awfully long. At least it has some catchy music that takes advantage of the New Orleans setting.

With a few tweaks and more time for the ideas to simmer, it is possible that the movie could have registered more both emotionally and thought-provoking. Saying that, however, yours truly is a little pessimistic if that would have definitely worked to a higher degree. Unlike Limitless, where almost everyone could relate to and even desire to be a laser-efficient person who used every single nook of their brain, I’m not sure how many people really relate to the idea of living forever. There’s enough out there that points to the belief that even if it were possible, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea. As stupid as it sounds to pick on an idea from that viewpoint, there may be something to it.


The actors give it their all, certainly. In what may be a surprise to some, Ryan Reynolds has some good moments, and he’s strong in scenes where he reacts to the side effects of the procedure. However, he’s just not the type of guy, as Grantland’s Wesley Morris  states, that can raise the fortunes of a flawed film. Ben Kingsley looks only to have been casted to have a big name attached to the project.

As the clear-cut foil, Matthew Goode is a good presence, even in the most basic sketch of a villain. In either a wink to the audience or just a coincidence playing a character with the name of Anton, Derek Luke makes an appearance. As a driver of the DL bandwagon, it is always cool to see him in anything. His character is sort of crucial, and considering that I was unaware of his appearance in this, one of the few positives to give with this is the fact that he was hidden from the trailers, which actually made for a nice first twist.

Still, even with notable cast effort, Self/less is largely uninteresting and overlong, which is a shame as the summer could use a respectable sci-fi right about now. It’s completely fine to be selfish and save some money sitting out this one.

Grade: D-

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