Triple Frontier, Review By Case Wright


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The heist movie or treasure hunt movie is always the same and always pretty fun.  It’s not supposed to be Shakespeare; it’s supposed to pull you in and be a thrill ride.  This iteration is all about the down and out Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans who decide to seek their fortune the old fashioned way: ripping off a drug kingpin!  In true heist genre fashion, everything works out great!

The characters came across as real Veterans to me.  After some research, the writer- Mark Boal was embedded with a platoon in Iraq and he also wrote The Hurt Locker.  The characters in Triple Frontier were like the men I knew: strong, divorced, and liked to joke.  Ben Affleck’s character Tom struck me as especially realistic.  He loved his daughter, but there was a distance because he was just not suited for civilian life.  She wanted him home, but he always wanted to be away.  You could see on her face that she knew the moment his buddies came calling that he was already gone.

Oscar Isaac plays Pope who has a gig doing private security/law enforcement in South America.  He is in pursuit of Lorea, a drug boss, who is causing all kinds of problems. Yada Yada Yada.  Pope finds the location of Lorea’s hideout which has hundreds of millions of dollars stashed inside, but he needs a team to kill Lorea, Lorea’s men, get the cash, and get out of the country.  He turns to his former squad to pull off the heist.  They need a little cajoling, but they come around. There isn’t a lot of dialogue after they agree to the heist, which makes sense.  They committed and now transitioned to soldier-mode.  The heist starts off with success in sight, but it’s not long before everything goes wrong and they are in a fight for their lives.

The film is shot really beautifully and has some high-priced songs for a Netflix program. Everything seemed very real.  Even the way the characters carried themselves and flowed through Lorea’s hideout was seamless.   They moved the way we are trained to move through rooms.  I am always looking for that in action films.  Are they not having muzzle-awareness (pointing there weapon accidentally at a friendly)?  Are they holding the rifle close to their face? Are they aiming right?  The answers to those questions were yes.   J.C. Chandor should be really proud of himself for the realism.

What kept pulling me into the story wasn’t the action (which was excellent BTW); it was that these men were like the ones I knew.  The team itself was representative of who does our killing for us: salt of the earth…men.   I like seeing women in action films and I am already excited about Black Widow, but the infantry in real life is male.  They are regular guys who are asked to do terrible terrible things.  When those terrible things are done, we cast the men aside.  The story concludes a lot like the war itself did with a lot of loss and not a lot to show for it.  This film has a political statement between the explosions and it’s worth listening to it. 

* I included Mary Pop Poppins by the True Loves in my review.  The song embodies the heist genre like no other.  Also, they are Seattleites!!!!

Film Review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle (dir by Matthew Vaughn)


Before I say too much about Kingsman: The Golden Circle, I do want to acknowledge a few good things about the movie.

First off, it doesn’t take long for the film to reveal that Harry (Colin Firth) didn’t actually die when Samuel L. Jackson shot him in the head in the first movie.  Undoubtedly, that diminishes the power of that scene but, at the same time, it also means that Colin Firth gets to come back.

Secondly, Taron Egerton returns as Eggsy.  The script really doesn’t give him too many opportunities to show what he’s capable of as an actor, largely because the character of Eggsy was fully developed by the end of the first movie.  Now that Eggsy is a fully trained and competent Kingsman, there’s not really much for him to do other than trade a few quips and take a few lives.  That said, Egerton is a likable actor and he’s fun to watch.

Third, Julianne Moore has a few fun scenes as the film’s main villain, Poppy Adams.  Poppy is the head of an international drug cartel.  She’s also obsessed with the 1950s and always amazingly cheerful.

Fourth, all of the Kingsmen still wear suits and Michael Caine-style glasses.  Colin Firth gets to use his umbrella as a shield.

Finally, Mark Strong is back as Merlin.

So, that’s five good things about Kingsman: The Golden Circle.  Unfortunately, all five of those things are somewhat obscured by the fact that the movie really, really sucks.

Admittedly, I had really high hopes for the movie.  I loved the first Kingsman film, which was a stylish satire that featured one of the greatest action set pieces of all time.  And I was excited to see that not only was Firth returning but Matthew Vaughn would also be directing the sequel.

But no.  This movie just doesn’t work.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle attempts to do everything on a larger scale than the first Kingsman.  That means more violence, more betrayals, and a longer running time.  This time, the movie not only features the Kingsmen but also the Statesmen, which is the American equivalent of the Kingsmen.  (The Statesmen all dress like cowboys and speak in exaggerated Southern drawls, which I got kind of sick of listening to after about three minutes.)  Along with the returning stars of the first film, Jeff Bridges, Emily Watson, Bruce Greenwood, Halle Berry, and Channing Tatum all have small roles.  Pedro Pascal (best known for playing Oberyn Martell on Game of Thrones) has a much larger role as a Statesman codenamed Whiskey.

Unfortunately, bigger is not always better.  The Golden Circle never comes close to matching the lunatic heights of the first movie.  There are a lot of action scenes but none of them match the church fight from the first film.  There’s a surprise death but it’s nowhere near as shocking or effective as Firth’s “death” in the first film.  Even the required barroom brawl falls flat.  Nowhere does The Golden Circle match the audacity of the first film.  The first film ended with exploding heads.  This film ends with the promise of more sequels.

But really, I think what really doomed The Golden Circle was that extended running time.  There’s really no good reason for The Golden Circle to last for 2 hours and 21 minutes.  Quite a bit of the film, especially during the first hour, felt padded out and, as a result, it seemed like took forever for the film’s story to actually get started.  Probably 40 minutes to an hour could have been cut from The Golden Circle without anyone missing it.

Ultimately, I think the main problem is that the first Kingsman felt like it was made by people who truly did love the material.  This film feels contractually obligated.  The Golden Circle has a lot of action but it’s just not very fun.

Playing Catch-Up: The Great Wall (dir by Zhang Yimou)


Remember The Great Wall?

The Great Wall came out in February.  Before it was released, I saw the trailer and I thought, “Well, that looks like it might be fun.”  However, I never actually saw the film when it was in theaters.  I think I was still recovering from Fifty Shades Darker when The Great Wall was released so I put off going to see it.  I thought to myself, “That’ll be around for a while.”  Of course, I was wrong.  The Great Wall played for two weeks and then it was gone.

That may not sound like a big deal when you consider the reviews that The Great Wall received.  If not for the fact that Fifty Shades Darker was released a week earlier, The Great Wall would have been the first critical disaster of 2017.  Seriously, the critics hated The Great Wall with a passion that took even me by surprise.  The comments went beyond the usual snarkiness to outright hatred.  Suddenly, The Great Wall — which, to judge from the trailer, looked like a harmless little monster movie — was being held up as an example of everything wrong with modern filmmaking.

The film was even attacked for starring Matt Damon.  As I said before, I thought the trailer looked like fun but, apparently, other critics watched that trailer and found themselves asking, “How dare Matt Damon appear in a movie that’s set in eleventh century China!?” And you know what?  I get it.  Whenever I’m watching a movie about aliens invading the 11th Century, my immediate concern is whether or not the film is historically accurate.  It’s bad enough that Americans are being taught that Matt Damon could survive on Mars.  Do they also have to be told that Matt Damon saved China from the space lizards!?

Even though I missed The Great Wall when it was playing in theaters, I knew that it was a film that I would see eventually.  Whenever a film gets totally slaughtered by the critics, I feel like I have almost a duty to watch the film and judge for myself.  Some of that’s because I don’t trust the majority of critics.  And some of it’s because, as a natural born contrarian, I’m always hopeful for any chance to go against the consensus.  Last month, I finally watched The Great Wall and you know what?

It’s not that bad.

Now, it should be understood that being not that bad doesn’t necessarily mean that The Great Wall is a good movie.   It’s a deeply silly movie and, occasionally, it’s also a profoundly dumb one.  Matt Damon plays a European mercenary who is sneaking around China, searching for gunpowder.  After he is captured by the Chinese and brought to the Great Wall, he is enlisted to help battle a bunch of space lizards.  Apparently, the space lizards attack the wall every 60 years but, this year, they’re arriving early.  Or something like that.  I really couldn’t follow the mythology of the space lizards and that’s probably for the best.  The Great Wall is not a film that demands or benefits from a good deal of deep thought.  This is one of those films where the best plan is to not ask too many questions because the answers probably won’t make any sense anyway.

As dumb as The Great Wall may be, it’s an undeniably entertaining movie.  Under the direction of Zhang Yimou, The Great Wall is a visual feast, full of epic landscapes and swooping cameras.  When a seemingly limitless number of space lizards appear out of nowhere and suddenly charge the wall, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the exciting silliness of it all.  When the Chinese army takes their positions on the Great Wall and prepare to repel the invasion, it doesn’t matter that none of the characters are particularly fleshed out.  Instead, you’re just overwhelmed by the vibrant colors of their armor and the determined fierceness of their expressions.  The Great Wall is shamelessly over the top and nicely self-aware.  This a movie that knows that it is ludicrous and occasionally incoherent and you know what?  The Great Wall is perfectly fine with that.

For all the criticism that he received for appearing in the movie, Matt Damon is ideally cast.  Whenever Damon is on screen, it’s as if he’s entered into a conspiracy with the viewer.  Matt Damon is one of the few actors who can maintain his balance while walking that thin line between drama and parody.  With every arched eyebrow and slightly sarcastic line reading, Damon is saying, “Sure, this is all kind of stupid.  But aren’t we having fun?”

When The Great Wall eventually shows up on the SyFy channel, it’s going to be fun movie to live tweet.  Some films were just meant to be watched and appreciated with a group of your snarkiest friends.  The Great Wall is one such film.

 

Game of Thrones Season 4 “Foreshadowing”


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April 6, 2014 is when we return to the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. We will see a continuation of the war and the storm of swords which troubles the lands. The Red Wedding will pose consequences for those who participated and across the Narrow Sea the Mother of Dragons begins her conquest and plans her inevitable return to reclaim the Iron Throne that is her birthright.

Here is a 14-minute sneak peek that foreshadows the events foretold for the upcoming season where Winter is still coming.