Vin Diesel and the gang are back for an eighth go-around the track with The Fate of the Furious. It might not be as great as the last few installments, but it’s still just good old summer popcorn flick fun (in April), with plenty of exhilarating car chase sequences, an evil villain (Charlize Theron) and some cheekiness (courtesy of Jason Statham).
Here’s my Happy Hour review, sipping on an F8 cocktail called the Fury. Check it out!
For all the criticism surrounding Ghost in the Shell — and there is plenty — the film pretty much accomplishes what it sets out to do. It’s a techie, visually alerting live-action take on the classic Japanese manga series, with kick-ass action star Scarlett Johansson, front and center.
The story revolves around the Major, a female cyborg living in a world where everyone can get enhanced robotic parts, if they want to. She, however, is the first of her kind — a fully formed, very skilled robot solider, who also happens to have a very human brain. The Major is part of an elite special forces unit, operated by Araimaki (Takeshi Kitano), whose job it is to track down mastermind criminals. When they are tasked to find out who is killing key scientists working for the top robotic company in town (and the ones who created the Major), a can of worms is opened up for the Major when she starts to uncover details to her mysterious past.
Ghost in the Shell received backlash, even before its release, with the casting of Johansson in a role that could have easily been played by an Asian actor. Calls of Hollywood whitewashing and whatnot dampened excitement about the film, while others accepted Johansson’s casting because of her global box office appeal.
Either way, the actress knows how to handle the action, even if Ghost in the Shell could have used more of it. The film did what it was supposed to do, in my opinion. Here’s my take, as I sip a little sake for the occasion.
In this week’s Happy Hour review, I’m drinking beer, eating chips and salsa and talking CHiPS, a mindless, raucous comedy loosely based on the popular ’70s TV show.
Suffice to say, the plot doesn’t really matter that much (Shepard is Jon Baker, a former motorcycle racing star turned rookie CHiPs officer, and Michael Pena is Frank “Ponch” Poncherello, an FBI agent going undercover to ferret out crooked California Highway Patrol officers). It’s really about Shepard, who wrote and directed the comedy, and Pena and their fun chemistry.
Ah, oui! Disney’s latest live-action adaptation Beauty and the Beast is magical and musical, just like the original. Here’s my Happy Hour review, in which I’m sipping — what else? — champagne! Be my guest, won’t you?
In this week’s Movie Kit Happy Hour, I review Kong: Skull Island — a fun, popcorn monster movie — as I sip on my banana daiquiri. Thing is, I’ve always loved King Kong and feel he’s much more than just an oversized ape, and thankfully, in Skull Island, he’s still just as lovable.
I’ve taken a little break from my blog, but I’m back with a new video series I’m calling The Movie Kit Happy Hour. In it, I’ll be reviewing a movie with an added twist: Alcohol! Each week I’ll review a movie and sip on the appropriate drink for the occasion.
This week it’s the excellent Logan, the latest in the X-Men/Wolverine canon, which takes a darker, grittier, R-rated look at one of our favorite comic-book heroes. Naturally, this calls for a short glass of whiskey… Watch!
Marvel has weaved its magic once again with Doctor Strange, perhaps a lesser known comic entity in the MCU but seemingly just important as the rest.
In this origin story, we meet Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a brilliant neurosurgeon who knows it. He is never shy to show off his considerable skills, sometimes to the detriment of his colleagues, like his former flame, Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams). However, Dr. Strange is taken down more than a peg when a terrible car accident leaves his hands virtually unusable, and he watches his career fade quickly away.
Desperate to regain his stature once again, he embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts – a world mostly hidden to the naked eye, but which is just as alive – and dangerous – as anything the Avengers have to face. Strange soon learns the trick of the trade by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and becomes a masterful sorcerer, as he is drawn into a battle with a rogue disciple Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), who naturally wants to end the world as we know it.
In the thriller The Accountant, Ben Affleck stretches to play Christian Wolff, a math savant who can uncook books like nobody’s business – and has coped being on the autistic spectrum with his own certain set of skills (Read our review).
At the press day, we learned eight things about Affleck’s performance and how he prepared:
On the challenges of this role:
Ben Affleck: It was a very challenging role and it required a lot of research. [Director] Gavin [O’Connor] and I went around and spent time with people who were at various places on the autism spectrum, and observed behavior and talked to them and engaged with them in everything from what their daily life is like to what type of movie they’d like to see about someone with autism. We got a lot of different responses, but really, the value was in grounding the guy and making him like real people we had met and seen in real life, rather than just an imagined version of what it might be. It was a cobbling together of observed behaviors and character traits from people we met. That’s what I anchored the performance in. Continue reading How to Interview: Ben Affleck on “The Accountant”→
Clint Eastwood has never been one of my most favorite directors, although I give props where props are due with films such as Unforgiven and Mystic River. He picks films that are definitely in his wheelhouse, subjects he can relate to, and is thrifty in his direction, almost to a fault. Eastwood makes lean, no-nonsense movies; he also lacks any vision or imagination and that has hurt many of his films in the past.
Sully falls a bit into this trap, but it is a true story about heroism that clearly speaks to Eastwood. Those moments when Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger must make some tough decisions as his airplane is failing him, and then making a near perfect landing on the Hudson River, saving everyone onboard — well, you’d be made of stone if it doesn’t get to you.
Tom Hanks is pretty amazing in the role, and every emotion imaginable plays on his face. Without his performance, Sully would sink because really, there isn’t a lot about what happened that lends itself to a whole movie. Besides the crash landing, there’s not much more. What the film tries to trump up is the aftermath, in which the National Transportation Safety Board questions Sully’s actions, on how he might have been able to land at nearby airports instead of risking a water landing. This is where Hanks saves it, as he plays this courageous man doubting what he did.
Overall, the conflict is minimal — there’s no substance abuse (like in Flight which handles the same topic far more compellingly), no family crisis, no secret agendas. Sully — and his experienced, highly trained flight crew (including his co-pilot played by Aaron Eckhart) — just did their jobs. Calmly and as efficiently as humanly possible. Plus, we know how it all turns out: Sully remained the hero he should be. So, a whole movie? Probably not necessary, but Sully still manages to eke out some tears when it counts.
Listen to more of my thoughts on Sully along with When the Bough Breaks, in the ScreenPicks podcast below.
In the hands of director Timur Bekmambetov, this re-imagining ofBen-Hur is true epic action adventure wrapped up in a classic story of brotherly love, betrayal, forgiveness and finally redemption.
ScreenPicks talked with the men of the film – Jack Huston (Judah Ben-Hur), Toby Kebbell (Messala), Rodrigo Santoro (Jesus) and Morgan Freeman (Ilderim), and learned these nine things about making Ben-Hur.
On apprehension of doing another Ben-Hur:
Morgan Freeman: None! All the more reason to do it. It’s a re-imagining of a story that’s already been told three or four times. At least twice before in movies. I worked with Timur before. I know he’s very innovative when it comes to special effects and stuff like that. I couldn’t see how it was not going to be an exciting adventure.
On playing Judah Ben-Hur:
Jack Huston: I initially went after the role of Messala, which was interesting because I went and sat down with Timur and in my rather impassioned way spoke about Messala. Timur being Timur just sat and wrote everything down. Then later he said to me, when I’d gone out for a few auditions, “I think you might be right for Judah. I think you’re our Judah.” Then I went and tested and I somehow got the role. He said later to me, “The reason I felt that about you as Judah is not only did you feel like Judah to me but it was the way you spoke about Messala. You spoke about Messala with such love that he was never the bad guy to you.” He said, “For you two to have that relationship, it had to stem from real love between two brothers, and that’s how Judah felt about Messala.” Inadvertently, it was a beautiful way into the character, because the people who love you the most sometimes are the ones who hurt you the most. For this movie to work, that had to stay true, right to the very end. For the redemptive moment, for that last bit of forgiveness, you need to feel these brothers’ love. I was like, “Hah, Timur, you’re a smart dude. You got this. I feel good.”Continue reading How to Interview: 9 Things to Know About “Ben-Hur”→