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Gemini Man: Regardless of your sign or gender, you will like this film | Movie Review

In any profession there comes that time when one knows he or she just doesn’t have it anymore. For the government’s top hitman, Henry Brogan (Will Smith), it’s when he aims his high-powered rifle at his target’s head but hits his neck.

As Henry sets to retire, he finds that someone he has killed per government instructions was actually an innocent civilian. Henry’s superiors decide it’s best to exterminate the retiree. Blame the Russians. And have him go out as a hero.

He connects with another agent (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who’s sent to tail him. She’s conflicted as to whom to believe, the top brass who wants Henry killed. Or, Henry who claims he’s being unfairly targeted.

Realizing that Henry is the best at what he does, his bosses know that they have to send the very best to take him out. When Henry comes face to face with his determined nemesis, he’s shocked to find out that it’s a cloned 20-year-old version of himself.

Speaking of 20 years, Gemini Man’s route to the big screen took two decades. Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, and Sean Connery were among the actors associated with the project at some point.

This end-product starring Will Smith is creative and entertaining and gets a “See It!” rating. Smith’s now 51. So, the Fresh Prince is middle-aged! He’s outstanding in this role, playing both the aging icon and the bureau’s youthful, hope for the future. Filtering makes the half-century-old, Smith look like a very young man.

The characters actually have scars and bruises from fights that don’t heal right away. As the days go by the marks gradually fade, adding realism rarely seen in films.

There are also some different types of action scenes like young Henry using his motorcycle to give his older version a beatdown. There’s even some humor. When the older Henry speaks of his situation with a Russian counterpart, the Rusky teases him: You American agents get your feelings hurt when your government decides to kill you. With us, we call that Tuesday!

Gemini Man gets a B+ for cast diversity. Obviously, there’s Will in the lead role. Benedict Wong plays Henry’s trusted friend. Two Asian companies play major roles in the production of Gemini Man as that part of the world increases its influence in the film industry.

It’s rated PG-13 for violence and action throughout, and brief strong language, and is 116 minutes in length. Gemini Man’s uniqueness and attention-grabbing scenes make it worth your while. It’s a, See it!

Ad Astra doesn’t add up. [Movie Review]

Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels to outer space to figuratively kill two birds with one stone - or one trip. There are electronic waves coming from the heavens threatening earth and this phenomenon leads scientist and high-level government officials to believe that there’s a connection between the waves and a space voyage 30 years earlier led by McBride’s father (Tommy Lee Jones) from which his father never returned.

Despite Brad Pitt’s stellar performance, Ad Astra never really takes off and it gets a Rent It rating. Screenwriters James Gray and Ethan Gross layout the story effectively and clearly. There’s the threat to destroy the world which is likely connected with the McBride’s father space journey decades earlier. But other than that, this story moseys through a series of modestly interesting scenes serving as little more than filler until McBride reaches his final destination.

And those of you who expect Star Wars-type battles and scenes, you’ll be disappointed. Many of the scenes are serene and calm – which probably better represents what outer space is really like. There’s a mildly amusing portion: The film is set in the future where passengers can take commercial flights to the moon. Those wanting the comfort of an on-flight blanket pay a cool, $125!

Again, Brad Pitt does all he can to propel this story into an entertainment sphere. And the cinematography is out of this world, with creative angles and vantage points. However, those features are not enough.

Ad Astra gets a “B” for cast diversity. This is very much a white male-dominated cast. However, Ruth Negga has a major supporting role. Kimberly Elise plays an astronaut, but with very little to say. There are other people of color with visible but minor roles.

Ad Astra is rated PG-13 for some violence and bloody images coupled with brief strong language. At 124 minutes, it’s too long.

In the end, Pitt’s performance coupled with the visually stimulating scenes is what gives this film some entertainment value. But don’t see it now. Wait and Rent It

Ready or Not is Gruesome [MOVIE REVIEW]

One of the days many women dream about from childhood is their wedding day. Grace (Samara Weaving) can’t hide her excitement about marrying Alex (Mark O’Brien). They have been blissfully happy together for years. And today, they both are thrilled to formalize their love before family and friends. However, the night after the wedding, Grace, and Alex join in a ritual that has been a part of Alex’s family for generations: selecting a game to play. When Grace pulls the hide-and-seek card as the selected activity, her dream day turns into a nightmare.

Ready or Not is bloody, violent, bloody, morbid, bloody, intriguing, and bloody. If you’re a horror film fan, you’ll love it. And it gets a See It! rating. The screenwriters' layout of this story, detail by detail. Viewers know what’s going on and why. Every character plays a valuable role in the development of this movie.

Samara Weaving is a sympathetic protagonist as the young, trusting, and very much in love bride ultimately relying on her wits to win this life or death game she never imagined playing. Without her strong performance, this film doesn’t work.

The directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett visually highlight the macabre results of every act of violence. You’re not human if don’t wince a few times watching this film.

It’s hard to give Ready or Not, a cast diversity rating because it centers on the (Caucasian) groom’s few family members. I guess they could have had a person of color as part of that group which in this day and age wouldn’t have been uncommon. But they don’t. However, at Grace’s and Alex’s wedding earlier that day, the guests include several people of diverse races.

Ready or Not is 95 minutes in length and rated “R” for violence, bloody images, language throughout, and some drug use. Ready or Not is an exceptional production and again, gets a See It! rating.

Good Boys is sort of good. [MOVIE REVIEW]

Twelve-year-old, Max (Jacob Tremblay) has a lot to worry about. He’s invited to his first kissing party and panics because he doesn't know how to kiss. His friend Thor (Brady Noon) convinces him to spy on a teenage neighbor and her boyfriend, to get lessons on how to smooch. So Max, Thor and another friend Lucas (Keith L. Williams) decide to use Max's dad's drone -- which Max is forbidden to touch -- to spy on the couple. Their plan goes awry and the drone gets destroyed. Leading the kids on an arduous adventure to replace the device before Max’s father gets home - while also learning how to kiss.

Good Boys, directed by Gene Stupnitsky, combines coming of age humor with a bunch of crazy events happening in a short period – in this case, one day. A filmmaking style made famous in 1983 by Tom Cruise’s Risky Business. Most of the laughs center on the boys’ swearing and trying to figure out what the purposes of the devices Thor finds in his parents’ bedroom.

The film also touches on serious topics like parental divorce.

But ultimately, Good Boys is just a series of funny screens, but nothing filmgoers need to see right away. It gets a Rent It rating.

Good Boys scores an “A” for cast diversity. This is a highly diverse group in this film. Max’s dream girl is an adorable teen of color. Good Boys is also diverse in character roles. Max’s friend Lucas, the black kid, is not the stereotypical thug. Rather he’s a nerd. A rule follower. The nice guy in the group. Additionally, the Alpha Male, the coolest dude at their school is a petite, Asian American (Izaac Wang).

While Keith L. Williams is a head taller than his two Good Boys co-stars, he’s actually the youngest of the three.

Good Boys is rated “R” for strong crude sexual content, drug, and alcohol material, and language throughout and is 95 minutes in length. Again, no need to take the time and spend the money to see this at the theater. Wait and Rent It.

Luce is a loser [MOVIE REVIEW]

Despite being only a teenager, Luce (Kelvin Harrison, Jr) has had an eventful life. Rescued from a war-torn country and adopted by an American couple, (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth), he becomes an excellent student, stellar athlete, and the pride of his school. But all he has worked for is in jeopardy when one of his teachers (Octavia Spencer) makes a troubling discovery in his locker. The question becomes is Luce the person everyone thought he was or does his teacher have a vendetta against him?

In my rich and varied experiences as a black man in America, I sometimes see films with African American casts and storylines, and I find myself asking, “Who wrote this?” Because in Luce, as in others, the behavior and dialogue lack authenticity. And almost always I find the writers are not people who know the African American experience. And such is the case with Luce, written and directed by Julius Onah, who was born in Nigeria and raised there as well as in the Philippines, Togo and, the United Kingdom. Onah did go to high school in Virginia while his father served as a diplomat in the U.S.

He creates three black teens in the story, Luce, who as the story references, is Obama-like – at least as it appears. The two others are thugs, fighting, swearing – every other word is MF and N. These young men are stereotypes. As a person who has taught and worked extensively with urban youth, I know that young black men are so much more diverse and complicated than this film shows- one good kid, maybe, and two hoodlums.

Octavia Spencer’s character, in addition to being at odds with Luce over the locker incident, has a mentally ill sister who shows up at the school one day and behaves in a disturbing fashion. This entire subplot adds nothing to the film.

Another problem with this story is one which is common in screenwriting when writers use dialogue to share information with viewers. There are discussions between people such as spouses who have been in longterm relationships, revealing information as “new” that any real couple would have talked about before.

Tim Roth and Naomi Watts who play Luce’s parents have a close relationship. But Roth who has no trouble being frank with his wife, states that from the beginning he had apprehensions about adopting Luce. His wife is surprised. But wouldn’t a husband who communicates with his wife have brought up these concerns before delving into the difficult process of adopting a child from another country? Or talked about it sometime in the over a decade and a half they have had Luce as part of their family? These doubts help viewers to understand the father’s view but are not credible because as devoted as this couple is betrayed to be, they would have had this discussion before.

This film shot in grainy 35 MM, leaves some questions about who’s right and who’s wrong in this story. But neither of those issues deflect from the quality of the movie. Luce is done in by its overwhelming lack of credibility.

It’s 109 minutes and R (for language throughout, sexual content, nudity, and some drug use). It gets our lowest rating, “Dead on Arrival!” In other words, skip this film.

 

Fast & Furious . . . is both! [MOVIE REVIEW]

The story behind the newest edition of this series, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is relatively simple. A virus which threatens all humankind is up for grabs. Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) team-up to keep the virus out of the hands of mechanical man, Brixton (Idris Elba). Brixton represents a group that wants to use the deadly serum to weed out those they believe to be inferior. The situation is complicated by the fact that the virus is housed in a capsule implanted in the arm of a British agent, named Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), who also happens to be Shaw’s sister.

Fast & Furious is fabulous. There’s frankly not much new about the storyline. Hobbs and Shaw don’t like each other. It’s not that unusual to have a conflict between guys on the same side. Of course, there has to be eye candy which Vanessa Kirby provides. Like all films of this genre, there’s punching and kicking that would break faces, arms, and legs in real life but of course, in the movies, characters walk away from these battles unscathed. Finally, there are the must-have daredevil car and trucks feats.

The director, David Leitch takes all of this we have seen before and makes it seem new.

There’s a lot of verbiage in this film. Much of it is tied to the bickering between Hobbs and Shaw. There are also lines that are difficult to disgust. When confronted with an unexpected situation, Hobbs says, “What the fresh turkey hell!” If I were Johnson, I would have used my prerogative as a star to rephrase or skip that line all together!

The action is indescribable and is simply a feast for the eyes.

The cast is exceptional. Johnson, Statham, and Elba meld together in a way that leads to the excellent execution of this script. However, Hollywood has been criticized for sexism and ageism especially pertaining to women. Deckard and Hattie are siblings. Childhood photos show that he’s five to six years older than her. However, Statham is actually 21 years older than, Kirby, his onscreen little sister.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw gets an A- for cast diversity. It is strongly diverse except for the absence of prominent appearances by Hispanics.

The film is estimated to have cost a whopping $200 million to produce. It should make that back and more! It’s rated PG-13 and is a lengthy two hours and 18 minutes. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw gets a See It rating!

Stuber Stumbles [What’s The 411 Movie Review]

Stu (Kumail Nanjiani), a mild-mannered sporting goods clerk, moonlights as an Uber driver. When a hardened, veteran detective, (Dave Bautista) crashes his car in hot pursuit of a sadistic, bloodthirsty terrorist, he calls Stu to pick him up to continue the chase. At the same time, Sara (Karen Gillan) the woman of Stu’s dreams, texts him to come over and spend the night with her. For the rest of the evening, Stu is torn between aiding the detective and responding to Sara’s pining for him.

Stuber is a collection of funny scenes which never truly come together as a successful comedy. And it gets a “Rent It” rating. Patterned after highly successful films, such as The Hangover, where individuals endure an unbelievable series of events in one night, Stuber takes viewers through sometimes humorous and almost always implausible incidents. (Like a cop calling Uber to chase criminals.)

Stuber the movie lead characters Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani in Uber vehicle photo courtesy of Walt Disney 710x400

Dave Bautista (left) as the veteran cop and Kumail Nanjiani, as the Uber driver in the movie, Stuber. Photo courtesy of Walt Disney.

The film includes the standard dubious storytelling devices, like ruthless criminals who kill others without hesitation, but when they get the chance to blow the heroes away, they engage in lengthy dialogue, giving the good guys time to figure out an escape or an opportunity for rescuers to arrive.

Kumail Nanjiani is superb in the lead role. He’s so credible as the super nice, very principled guy being held “hostage” to this situation. Kudos to Dave Bautista as well, playing the type of cop that isn’t much different than the bad guys he pursues!

Stuber also gets an “A” for cast diversity. People of every race play lead and supporting roles.

Stuber is rated R for violence and language, some sexual references and brief graphic nudity. It’s 93 minutes in length. No need to see it right now. Wait and “Rent It”.

Dark Phoenix rises. [MOVIE REVIEW]

X-Men, the mutant subspecies of humans born with superhuman abilities returns to the big screen.

In Dark Phoenix, the mutants do battle with one of their own, Jean Grey who possesses telepathic and telekinetic skills. While on a space rescue mission, Jean barely escapes death after being hit by a mysterious cosmic force. When she returns home, a routine exam shows that this force gave her power beyond what any gage could measure. But this force leads her to react in ways she neither understands nor can control. Not only are her loved ones at risk, but she disrupts a fragile peace with both the humans and other X-Men communities.

There have been 11 X-Men films which in total produced almost $6 billion in revenues. The studios and writers strain to come up with new and interesting stories from the Marvel comics concept. This story of the powerful and out of control Jean Grey works and Dark Phoenix gets a See It! rating.

I really liked the plotline of a woman being the kick-ass, strongest character in the heavily male-dominated X-Men series!

Fundamental to the X-Men story is the battle with humans. And then there’s the intragroup debate with some mutants supporting a peaceful coexistence with humans, while others see fighting it out as the answer. It has been written that this debate was patterned after Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy of nonviolence in dealing with American racism versus Malcolm X’s more aggressive and confrontation approach. These recurring conflicts have served this series well. And there are elements of these controversies in Dark Phoenix.

Much the appeal of the sci-fi genre is the mind-blowing special effects and this film like most of the big-budget productions doesn’t disappoint.

Diversity, or the lack thereof, has always been an issue with the X-Men series, which is not surprising considering the characters were created over 50 years ago. Men of color are especially lacking in the series. There is the introduction of a black character, Jones, played by Ato Essandoh, who is an X-Men adversary. Dark Phoenix earns a “C” for diversity.

It’s rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action including some gunplay, disturbing images) and brief strong language and is 113 minutes in length. It gets a See It! rating.

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