Film Review: THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD (USA 2017) ****

 THE HITMAN_S BODYGUARDThe world’s top bodyguard gets a new client, a hit man who must testify at the International Court of Justice. They must put their differences aside and work together to make it to the trial on time.

Director: Patrick Hughes
Writer: Tom O’Connor
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Elodie Yung

Review by Gilbert Seah
 
Actor Samuel L. Jackson is one bad ass mother f***er. When ever he appears in a film, even when playing the President of the United States, he has never failed to use his favourite catch phrase ‘mother f***er’, which he gets to use multiple times in this movie. Jackson is one of my favourite actors in films currently as he can always be counted on to deliver a solid, spirited performance, no matter what. In THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD, he also gets to utter the film’s best joke: “If life deals you shit, you go out and make kool-aid.” to which Ryan Reynolds remarks: “That is not how the saying goes.” Jackson also gets a lot of laughs doing his HOME ALONE expression. Another good joke (though this one belongs to Reynolds) is the one regarding the pen-knife. But the best thing in the film, is a segment where the two leads discuss the usage of the ‘mother f***er’ phrase. Priceless!

The story involves a bodyguard, Michael Bryce (Reynolds) assigned to keep a previous Hitman, Darius Kincaid (Jackson) alive so that he can be transported to Hague, to testify against a corrupt Russian warlord Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). The film plays the two against each other. The chemistry works, the laughs come fast and furious and the action segments are expertly executed.

The climax of the film includes a spectacular car chase that appear to take on the recent BABY DRIVER. Jackson takes off in a speedboat on the canals around Amsterdam pursued by the bad guys speeding on the streets around the canals. The sequence is well shot with good continuity that also includes another boat contains merrymakers split right into two. The camp factor is increased several notches with screaming prostitutes running around the streets. There is also n funny window-eye view of the chase as if seen by one of them through the glass.

As if this was not exciting enough, the car/boat chase is intercut with a foot case with Reynolds under pursuit. The two chases are brilliantly brought together with the fire of an exploding vehicle from which the camera pulls back now only to show the fire now from the grill in the kitchen in a restaurant which Reynolds breaks into.

Though the script is occasionally lazily written, with details left out, for example why Jackson landed in a Manchester prison, the jokes and punch lines are perfectly timed.
The camera placement is also excellent throughout the film, often with images to show Jackson’s expressions through the car front window or to see Reynolds somersault through the front windscreen to land standing up in front of the car after.

The main plus of THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD is that the absolute unexpected can and actually always occurs at any time. The two for example, end up at one point, hitching a ride in a van full of nuns with Jackson joining them in a singalong.
The film’s speed and spirit matches its message on life, that things happen but you got to do your ‘thang’. They just do not make enough films like this one.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4Afusxc2SM
 

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Film Review: KONG: SKULL ISLAND (USA 2017) ***

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kong_skull_island.jpgDirector: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Writers: Dan Gilroy (screenplay), Max Borenstein (screenplay)
Stars: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson

Review by Gilbert Seah

 There have been already too many films on King Kong. The first and most memorable one for me was the 1962 campy Japanese version entitled KONG KONG VS. GODZILLA where audiences were treated to the climatic fight between the two monsters executed by actors in monster suits. The KING KONG films have been improved in terms of special effects. Even Peter Jackson had a go at it in the horrid 2005 version with an overlong attack by Kong on NYC. This latest edition is a reboot with two writers Dan Gilroy and Max Borenstein and a new director Vogt-Roberts whose only other film is an indie called THE KINGS OF SUMMER. But this new version takes a bit from each of the previous King Kong films, in fact the best from them, resulting in a satisfactory adventure film filled with special effects, action and much more humour.

The film begins very oddly in the year 1944 when a Japanese and American pilot are both shot down on Skull Island in the South Pacific (hints of HELL IN THE PACIFIC), They fight each other, only to be interrupted by the appearance of the giant Kong. Flash forward to 1973

when former British Special Air Service Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) is hired by government agent Bill Randa (John Goodman) to guide an expedition to map out an uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean known as “Skull Island”. Randa also recruits the Sky Devils helicopter squadron led by Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) to escort them to the island, and the group is later joined by pacifist photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), who believes the scientific expedition to be a cover for an illegal military operation and plans to expose it. There, they find Kong as well as the American pilot, Marlow (John C. Reilly) now older, having lived there for 28 years.

The island is also the home of other giant creatures, the most fearsome being the Skullcrawlers, the biggest one of which battles Kong at the film’s climax, similar to the fight between King Kong and Godzilla. The other action segments involve the characters battling other monsters including a spider, ants and flying pterodactyl-like birds. The characters are trying to get to the north of the island in order to be rescued.

The Conrad and Mason characters form the boring romantic couple of the story. Fortunately, Vogt-Roberts treats their romance as slight. The more interesting characters are Packard portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson, obsessed by his aim to kill Kong. There has hardly been a single film in which Jackson has not uttered the words mother f***er. So wait for this special scene. Reilly also steals the show as the comical Marlow who saves Kong.

The new take on the King Kong story actually works. At least the audience is spared from Kong being brought back to American to climb the Empire State building. But Kong still has the ‘hots’ for Brie Larson.

But most important is to stay till after the end credits. In the comical post-credits scene that primes the audience for a sequel, Conrad and Weaver are detained by Monarch and informed that Kong is not the only monster to roam the world. They are then shown archive footage of cave paintings depicting Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AP0-9FBs2Rs

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Film Review: I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO (USA/Fr/Belg/Switz 2016) ***1/2

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iamnotyournego.jpgDirector: Raoul Peck
Writer: James Baldwin
Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, James Baldwin, Dick Cavett

Review by Gilbert Seah

The title of this new documentary immediately implies a film that would rock the boat in the topic of racism. It also implies an era when the ’n’ word was widely used before deemed inappropriate. The opening credits are done in black and white to emphasize the film’s seriousness.

I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO, by Raoul Peck attempts to reveal that the ‘negro’ thought understood by most Americans is in fact a stereotyped misunderstood one The doc is based on the unfinished book by James Baldwin (narrated by Samuel L.Jackson) and looks at the impressions made by 3 murdered negroes – Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. The three black men were killed roughly three years apart. As informed by the voiceover, these are three different men, each of whom have done so much for the people who have betrayed them.

The premise of the film is to tell the history of the black men as seen from the eyes of Medgar, Malcolm and Martin Luther as purported by a book that is to be written by James Baldwin. The book never got past 30 pages, due to Baldwin’s death. The film illustrates what happened and which truths have been revealed. The film gives the feel that director Peck wants his film to be as controversial as possible, hopefully to stir discussion on the topic of racism.

Peck spends screen time mourning the deaths of the three – with voiceover relating the details. He also mentions through Baldwin, that the Americans do not know what to do with the black population while the ‘nigger’ has never been happy in his place, just trying to survive in America. John Wayne and George Washington were the typical white men as perceived by a black person. Often he sees the piles of black men pile up. When the black stands up, he attacks the power structure of the entire world.

The film offers many arguments illustrated with many archive stills. The most interesting revelation of the film is the argument between King and Malcolm X – showing the two different approaches of dealing with black racism. The doc also includes rare clips of ‘negro’ old movies (WAY OUT, A RAISIN IN THE SUN, THE DEFIANT ONES, all with Sidney Poitier who appears in all the controversial movies) which were acceptable then but considered unacceptable now. Also shown are unforgettable scenes like one on on a bus with the segregation of black and white seating at the back and front of the bus respectively.

The film ends up successfully criticizing America from the black man’s point of view. It also riles up emotions of the black man with appropriate examples given. The film ends with the footage of the Rodney King beaten by white police – still a very disturbing scene to watch.

The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year (with long line-ups), garnering praises together with other racial-themed films like MOONLIGHT, LOVING and A UNITED KINGDOM. The film has been nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNUYdgIyaPM

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Movie Review: The Hateful Eight (2015)

THE HATEFUL EIGHT (USA 2015) Top 10 *****
Directed by Quentin Tarrantino
Starring: Channing Tatum, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Zoe Bell, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern

Review by Gilbert Seah

Review now embargoed until Dec. 24th
 

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnRbXn4-Yis