The Hitman’s Bodyguard

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Swanner: Ryan Reynolds stars as Michael Bryce, an international bodyguard who has been forced to protect Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), a notorious hit-man who has agreed to testify against Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman,) a brutal eastern European dictator. Bryce needs to transport Kincaid from England to Amsterdam with every bad guy in Europe trying to stop them from completing their trip. With all that being said, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a comedy and a very funny one at that.

Director Patrick Hughes delivers a film that may offer a very big dramatic storyline but is filled with big laughs and action galore. I also enjoyed Tom O’Connor’s script, which comes to life thanks to the great chemistry of the two leads. Some people will probably look at the film as being unrealistic with it’s huge body count and snappy comebacks, but they do need to remember, it’s an action comedy. It’s suppose to be big and silly. I use this term a lot but this is a popcorn movie. It’s a well made popcorn movie.

I’ve always been a fan of Jackson and Reynolds in their comedy work. Jackson’s Django Unchained and Kingsman character show not only how versatile he is, but his brilliance. Whether a good guy or a bad guy, he’ll make you laugh. Give him a role and he’ll run with it. Ryan Reynolds, on the other hand, usually plays the handsome leading man. In Deadpool he proved he’s not just another pretty face. Salma Hayek, who plays Jackson’s wife, is also noteworthy. She gives terrific performance that reminds me of Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny, and we know where that lead. If the trailer made you laugh then you’re in for a good time.

Swanner: 3 stars

Annabelle: Creation

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Swanner: Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) is a doll-maker who lives in the country with his wife and daughter. After the tragic death of their daughter, the couple close themselves off from the outside world. Now, 12 years later, the couple have opened up their home to a group of orphans and a nun in need of a home. Before too long Janice (Talitha Bateman), the young girl suffering from polio, finds herself the target of the doll-maker’s possessed doll. Based on a character introduced in “The Conjuring”, “Annabelle: Creation” gives us the origin story of this haunted doll.

Producer James Wan has literally changed the scary movie scene. Instead of the killer with the butcher knife or a chainsaw, Wan frightens us with shadows and unexplained noises. Granted, Wan’s first films were the Saw movies, but after that he started making what would be his real scary movies like “Insidious” and “The Conjuring”. Now a huge franchise, Wan has brought in new directors and writers to continue what he started. Director David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) and screenwriter Gary Dauberman (IT) follow the winning formula of quietly telling the story with a talented cast so that our imaginations can run with it.

This is a really good film but it’s also a well made film. I know the horror genre is rarely taken seriously. The script and direction only work because all the elements are working together. The cinematography, production design, editing, and sound are right on. The film is rated R which has me perplexed because the film isn’t that bloody and has no sex or bad language. That means the film is so scary that younger folks might not be able to handle it. Personally, I’m not sure some of us older folks can handle it either. That being said, this is my kind of a scary movie. I’ll take the bump in the night over a guy with a machete any day.

Swanner: 3 1/2 stars

The Dark Tower

the-dark-towerSwanner: This is a story of good vs evil. The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds all worlds together. Based on a series of novels from Stephen King, The Dark Tower started out as short stories that would later became the novel The Gunslinger. A total of eight books were published in this series. 
 
This story follows Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), a young boy with the shine, who is being hunted by the Man in Black and his henchmen. The Man in Black thinks Jake’s shine will finally bring down the Dark Tower. Jake meets up with Roland, who realizes he can use the boy as bait to confront the Man in Black. Not having read any of the books, I’m guessing Director/writer Nikolaj Arcel, along with co-writers Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, and Anders Thomas Jensen were trying to create what they thought would be the most marketable story-line. I’m curious as to what other story-lines there were and why they choose this one. I ask because this doesn’t feel like it would have been the first book.
 
As a stand alone story it works but, without revealing too much, I’m wondering where they can go from here. Taylor and Elba are very likable in their roles; where McConaughey seems out of place. It felt like he was going to try to sell me a Lincoln at any time. His lines were delivered to laughs, but I still don’t get why the audience thought he was funny. I’m hoping there is a future for this franchise because fans of the books have been waiting a long time for it’s theatrical debut, and I don’t think anyone will be happy with this incarnation.  
 
Swanner: 2 1/2 Stars

Kidnap

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Swanner: Halle Berry plays Karla Dyson, a mother who witnesses her son’s abduction and continues the follow the kidnappers as they drive away with her child. I will warn you that the preview is one big spoiler. Every twist and surprise is in the trailer and, frankly, I was glad I didn’t watch it before I saw the film. The only thing that kept my interest was seeing if I could keep second guessing what was going to happen next. It doesn’t take a genius when everything is this predictable.

The film’s script is one big cliche. Halle’s character is a single mother, working as a waitress, who is trying to keep custody of her son from her ex-husband. At the time her son is kidnapped she is on the phone with her lawyer who is telling her that her ex-husband wants to have full custody just as her phone battery dies. As she looks for her son in the park where they were, she see a woman dragging her son to a car. As the car starts to drive away she grabs ahold of the car and is dragged around the parking lot. At that point, she drops her cell phone running to her car to follow the kidnappers. Most of the rest of the film has Berry following the kidnappers (white trash hillbillies), causing accidents up and down the freeways without either of the two cars ever getting pulled over. Maybe if she was texting someone, that might have gained the attention of the police.

The film is directed by Luis Prieto. I will admit, he kept my attention watching two cars aimlessly driving for most of an hour.  It all felt like a TV movie, which is where Prieto got his start as a director. Screenwriter Knate Lee gives us a simple story with very little dialogue, not that when there is dialogue it’s any good. All the twists are obvious, and the ending is disappointing. After a while the film was so awful it became funny. Looking forward to the goofy reaction shots from Berry and the carnage of car wrecks they left behind. I will say that Berry tried really hard to make it work, but a weak script and a TV director left her with very little. Save your money and watch this one on TV where it belongs.

Swanner: No Stars

Atomic Blonde

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Swanner: An undercover MI6 agent, Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), is dispatched to Berlin in the closing days of the cold war to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and to recover a list of double agents that was taken from him. Once in Berlin, Lorraine is to meet David Percival (James McAvoy), the sketchy Berlin station chief whom she must work with to find the list of agents. Directed David Leitch, who co-directed John Wick (uncredited) brings the same high energy here, with plenty of fantastic stunt fight sequences with Theron kicking some serious ass.

Judd: David Leitch knows how to direct fight sequences; he is one of the best in the business at this time. John Wick, and now Atomic Blonde, are perfect examples of how these types of scenes should be filmed. The camera is kept far enough away, and more importantly, steady enough to see what is happening. The choreography is spot on. The movie is based on a graphic novel series called “The Coldest City.” In addition to the fantastic fight sequences, the majority of the movie is cast in neon hues of pink and blue, which makes it feel like scenes were lifted directly off the pages.

Swanner: You know the production designers and costumers had a great time. If the 80’s only looked so cool. The film did have a great look to it. Cinematography and editing were terrific as well. I was never lost in the high action scenes whether in a car, on foot, or flying down a staircase. I also have to mention how amazing the stunts are in the film. The very first stunt with the MI6 agent blew me away. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that stunt done without clever editing.

Judd:  I wish the plot had engaged me as much as the stunts. As with most movie adaptations, plot lines are pared and character-arcs are dropped. The movie has many characters that serve one purpose, the watch dealer and the underground coordinator for example, that seemed like they should have had more to do. The movie also ends with some twists that were superfluous, especially after what could have stood as a throughly satisfying ending.

Swanner: I do agree the plot wasn’t as engaging as I had hoped. Screenwriter Kurt Johnstad approached the script very much like John Wick. It was all about the damage Theron leaves behind on her tour of East and West Berlin. The rest of the cast is made up of John Goodman, Toby Johns, Eddie Marsan, James Faulkner, Roland Moller and Sofia Boutella. I really enjoyed the film. I think it’s interesting that in a summer of what was promising big box-office films, most of which have disappointed, it’s the little guys that have delivered.

Swanner: 3 ½ stars
Judd: 3 stars