Friday, July 20, 2018

Equalizer 2

Denzel Washington reprises his role as the sullen, ex-CIA assassin who has taken on the greater-good role of watching out for the little guy. The opening scene is of him on a train in Turkey beating up 5 guys while retrieving a kidnapped girl for his local bookstore owner. He clearly has skills, to the point that he is basically invincible and whether he will win or lose any confrontation is not really a dramatic tension point in the movie. He will win, without help from anyone else. So the dramatic tension must come from somewhere else. There is an attempt to develop psychological tension as Washington still mourns the loss of his wife, and the loss of his friends. But perhaps the strongest message that comes through is Washington is lonely. He is looking to make connections, even though he professes that he does not want/need any. His taking of a young neighborhood kid under his wing drives at this point, suggesting he needs something out of the relationship too. This installation has definitely resolved all of Washington's past, and really has set up some interesting questions for how his character will move into this next phase of his life. I am more interested in how Equalizer 3 would play out, than I am in how 2 worked out.
3 stars (out of 5)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

21

Ben is a brilliant MIT student just about to finish his degree and move on to Harvard Medical. But he needs some money to pay that next bill. He joins a team of other brilliant MIT students (although he is clearly the most brilliant) led by their professor (Kevin Spacey) and begins earning money as a card counter in Vegas. Cool, have fun and earn some money to pay for Med school. Based on the true story of 6 MIT students who actually did this, the film version has Ben falling in love, losing some friends, getting in trouble, losing everything, finding his friends, and falling in love again. It is fun, it is dramatic, it is a bit cheesey.
3 stars (out of 5)

Friday, July 13, 2018

Sorry to Bother You

Uh... wow. I am really not sure what this film is. Lakeith Stanfield plays Cassius Green, a down on his luck guy just looking to make ends meet and hang on to his girlfriend. He gets a job in telemarketing, discovers (with some coaching by Danny Glover) that he can use his "white voice" and becomes extremely successful. But with success, he needs to decide what is really important to him, evaluating the whether the wealth that he has always strived for is really what he values. So in many ways, this is a classic rags to riches to existential crisis story. But the world which this takes place in pushes the buttons of slavery, bioengineering ethics, race and class struggles in ways that are strange and wonderful. While being billed as a comedy, I think this will probably struggle for viewers because it asks you to really think and consider value... which is not what most people look for in summer film, or even comedy.
4 stars (out of 5)

Skyscraper

Duane Johnson is an independent security consultant hired to assess the security of the worlds largest building so that it can be insured. As he is doing so, bad guys take over the building and start it on fire. But Johnson's family is in the building, so he has to get them out. [Spoiler alert] And he does. So clearly this is not Oscar material. It is straight up summer action. For these types of movies I am willing to go with the flow, overlook the deficiencies in plot, science, character development, continuity, etc. And when you do, it is kinda fun. But as a bottom line, I will say that this is the first film that I have laughed out loud in a long time at how blatantly obvious the bad science is. So much so that I gave up trying to remember examples so I could use them as teaching points. For the scientists, this is either an action-comedy or an action-horror movie. I chose comedy and thoroughly enjoyed it.
3 stars (out of 5)

Friday, July 6, 2018

Ant-Man and The Wasp

For me, this is the best implementation of the comic book type. It is sci-fi, action, subtle humor, character based story telling. But not too much of any of these. Paul Rudd is fabulous, and plays his not super bright, but enthusiastic dad, super hero role perfectly. He is currently near the end of his 2-years of house arrest for past illegal superhero activity. He is drawn back into drama when Pym and his daughter approach him to help retrieve the Mrs. Pym from the quantum realm. Lots of shrinking, and growing using Pym's tech, which works mostly pretty good, most of the time. And we also have a nemesis (the ghost) who is also afflicted by a quantum realm disease and wants to use Pym's tech to heal herself instead of rescue Mrs. Pym. Great supporting roles here fill out the story and make this film a full and enjoyable experience.
5 stars (out of 5)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Sicario: Day of the Soldado

A sequel to Sicario, some domestic terrorism happens and it looks like the terrorists have come in to the country across the Mexican/USA border. This prompts the government to approach Josh Brolin's character to initiate inter-cartel fighting in Mexico as a strategy to "soften up" the enemy. Brolin goes back to Benicio del Toro to help him. Recall that del Toro lost his family to the Reyes cartel and has a burning vendetta to exact revenge. The plan is to kidnap the Reyes girl, blame it on a rival cartel, and then inflame a cartel war. A few things of note. One, the arrogance and brutality of the US government and military tactic is raw and at the forefront of this story. The projection of force is scary, and to me, quite a sad commentary on our country. Two, how political will is fickle, and can lead to such dramatic swings of policy. The film shows in microcosm how a political decision can be "all in" on a strategy and allocate massive resources, only to change strategy mid-stream, leaving incomplete work, and unintended consequences scattered around. Three, seeing someone face to face has the power to change even the most vile hatred. This film shows it happen rather quickly, and we know in real life that the face to face often takes years to change peoples ideas. But it happens.

4 stars (out of 5)

The Incredibles 2

The (long awaited?) return of an animated classic from 15 years ago Much ado is being made about the "long-awaitedness", so much that it reeks of a publicity seeking, marketing campaign. Regardless, the story picks up where the last ended. Supers are banned and the Incredible family is basically jobless. When they open the film with an attempt to prevent the Mole guy from robbing a bank, the destruction to the city is huge. Nobody wants supers to be super. But then a local billionaire media mogul approaches Elastic-girl to go public and begin a global image makeover to make supers acceptable. Mr. Incredible becomes Mr. Mom, with a teen girl, an adolescent boy and a toddler just coming into his powers. Insert some pretty clever humor here playing on the stereotypes of these situations/people. But not everything is as it seems and the family has to overcome some surprising challenges. In general, these animated films are either kids films (that throw a bone once in awhile to the adults) or adult films (that have enough action/silliness for the kids). This film is closer to the later, but I would say even falls short in the "enough for the kids" category. This is entirely based on the family with 5 kids in the 6-12 age range that sat next to me in the theater. The kids were entirely bored for 80% of the movie. Too much dialogue, too much plot, too slow. But for the adult, who saw the first and remembers it fondly, nice job.

4 stars (out of 5)