Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Valerian & the City of 1000 Planets - Movie Review

Starring Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Ethan Hawke, Rihanna, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu, Sam Spruell, Rutger Hauer and John Goodman.
Written & Directed by Luc Besson.


The director of The Fifth Element gets even more crazy in this visually wonderful, narratively clunky movie that goes to some weird corners of the galaxy to tell its unique tale. In many ways, I admire some of the original avenues it wanders down, though ultimately its shallow story and questionable casting prevents it from being a hit.

I'm debating whether or not to even explain the plot. The plot doesn't really matter. We see an alien homeworld where everything is peaceful, like the Na'vi on a beach. Then a space battle above results in ships crashing into their ocean, on to their shores. Most of them are wiped out. That's the prologue. We cut to Valerian and Lauraline, a boyfriend-girlfriend unit where he also outranks her, and they're basically space cops. Eh, it doesn't matter. It's an excuse to go from world to world, retrieving a Macguffin to save the universe. Something like that.

The fun parts are the detours. Ethan Hawke popping up as some sort of space pimp, introducing Valerian to a shape-shifting erotic dancer whose favorite form happens to look just like Rihanna. There's another scene where Lauraline gets stuck in the cosmic kitchen from hell. There's a dimension-hopping chase scene. This is a video game I want to play.

Dane DeHaan is usually best as creeps. He doesn't have the Young Indiana Jones charisma the role of Valerian would call for. Let's just say Cara Delevingne as Lauraline fares better here than she did as Enchantress in Suicide Squad. There's not much chemistry between them, and I would have been cool with Valerian getting killed off halfway through and letting Lauraline finishing the adventure herself. I should be rooting for these two like Han and Leia, or Wesley and Buttercup, or Clark and Lois. Didn't really care.

If you missed it on the big screen, and you still want to see it, see on the largest TV or monitor you can. Otherwise you'd miss its point of existing.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Annabelle: Creation - Movie Review

Starring Stephanie Sigman, Anthony LaPaglia, Lulu Wilson, Talitha Bateman, Miranda Otto and Samara Lee.
Written by Gary Dauberman.
Directed by David F. Sandberg.


The first Annabelle movie profited from goodwill from The Conjuring franchise. It made enough money to justify a sequel, even though it was terrible. The sequel is a vast improvement primarily due to getting a new director, David F. Sandberg (Lights Out).

This is actually a prequel to a prequel. Don't get those often.

A little girl named Annabelle is killed by a car. Years later, her grieving parents open up their home as a boarding school for a group of Catholic girls, with one supervising nun. The girls start hearing things going bump in the night, and there's one particular doll that seems to move around on its own.

The dialogue here is as bad as the first movie, but the jump-scares are much more effective.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Kingsman 2 hangs on to #1 at box office

For the weekend of September 29-October 1, 2017, Kingsman: The Golden Circle managed to hold off American Made to stay #1 for the second week. Kingsman is already almost to $200 million worldwide and is on pace to be profitable.

American Made, following The Mummy, demonstrates that Tom Cruise isn't as bankable as he used to be in non-Mission Impossible movies. He's still big overseas, so this'll eventually break even (as did The Mummy), but it's the lowest domestic opener for him since Jack Reacher.

Flatliners had bad reviews and a weak opener and I imagine it will disappear from our collective memory the way unmemorable remakes like Fame and Footloose have. Other new releases (Til Death Do Us Part, A Question of Faith) didn't make much of a dent.

It continues to be a juggernaut, grossing over $550 million worldwide.

Battle of the Sexes and Stronger are getting great reviews, but they haven't been able to find their audiences. Victoria & Abdul is staying strong after adding some screens.

Opens October 6
BLADE RUNNER 2049 with Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright and Jared Leto.
THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US with Idris Elba and Kate Winslet.
MY LITTLE PONY with the voices of Emily Blunt and Kristen Chenoweth.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Big Brother 19 - TV Review

This was one of the worst seasons of the show overall, but the finale wound up being very satisfying and redeemed it a little bit.

This season's twist was having a veteran return (Paul) and having someone else go home on the first night (Cameron). What made this more and more frustrating as the season went on is that Cameron seemed like he would be an interesting player. Meanwhile Paul was given three weeks of safety and in that time he was able to mesmerize over half of the house. From Ramses' eviction on, every week was predictable. Jessica, Cody, Elena, Mark, Matt, Jason, Raven, Alex, Kevin all went in the order we'd guess. Mix that in with serious mob-mentality bullying and harassing, and it was unpleasant. Each year there are houseguests who display loathsome behavior, but this just felt worse than most. And yet, equally annoying were the ones who refused to play the game.

The best thing about the finale was the jury interaction. Mark blasting his frustration at Matt's terrible gameplay, Raven actually making decent arguments, Cody just staring straight ahead, occassionally shaking his head.

Now that it's all over, I think the producers and future players will learn a lot from this. Get players who actually want to win, not just make jury and coast. Get players who aren't idiots. And no more mixing of vets and newbies. I mean, if they want to bring back vets, bring back ones who were eliminated too early, like Cameron.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Kingsman: The Golden Circle - Movie Review

Starring Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Elton John, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Bruce Greenwood, Hanna Alstrom, Emily Watson, Edward Holcroft, Sophie Cookson, Poppy Delevingne and Michael Gambon.
Written by Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn.
Directed by Matthew Vaughn.


The first movie definitely left it open for a sequel, but this one goes directions I didn't care for.

1. If Eggsy was such a gentleman at the end of Secret Service, why is he still such a potty-mouth?
2. We invested a lot emotionally into Roxy last movie. Why kill her in the first few minutes here?
3. They did kill Galahad (Colin Firth) in the first movie. Why bring him back and in such a convoluted way?
4. The Stateman organization is set up like it's going to be a big deal, but Tatum and Bridges are barely in this movie. Elton John as himself gets more screen time.
5. There's a weird nastiness with the tone here. Two different people get shoved into a meat grinder.
6. This is the second movie in two months that features Tatum and John Denver's "Country Road."
7. Julianne Moore's villain is ill-conceived. At least she had a cool diaolical plan.

There's still a lot of fun to be had. The action sequences are still CGI'd to look like it's one amazing take, and allowing guys like Firth and Pedro Pascal (Narcos) to look like skilled fighters. Egerton's charismatic enough to make us forgive some slimy things Eggsy does (stuff I remind myself that James Bond wouldn't think twice about).

First movie was better.

Monday, September 18, 2017

mother! - Movie Review

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson, Kristen Wiig and Stephen McHattie.
Written & Directed by Darren Aronofsky.


This is a balls-to-the-wall tour-de-force by Darren Aronofsky. He had a vision and he dives right in.

We know something wild's going to happen because we see the movie start with a woman on fire. It zooms back to a burned house being restored, until everything is pristine, and then Jennifer Lawrence wakes from her bed to go make her husband (Javier Bardem) breakfast. Surely this will be a lovely day. Then strangers show up unannounced. Her husband just lets them in, lets them stay, and she's too polite a hostess to say anything, but why exactly are they here?

No one is ever given a name in this movie. In the credits she is referred to as "mother" and Bardem as "Him." The movie drops several clues where it's going, and I just watched with a giant grin when the action amps up to its psychotic, Biblical, uncompromising conclusion.

I'd say more than half the people in our audience hated it. When I started explaining to some people, I could tell their enjoyment increased. (Except for one guy, who tried to argue Appeal to Authority to me because he works in TV.) I think it's best an experience knowing as little as possible, and it's one I love debating and discussing with people.




This is what I believe the movie meant.

It reimagines God as a selfish male deity who creates life for his own ego. The beginning shows the ending of a cycle. The female deity/Gaia/Mother Earth destroys herself, and when all is renewed, she comes back with no memory and in the form of Jennifer Lawrence.

She serves him, and he is a poet, an artist who can't think of what next to create. Then the man (Ed Harris) shows up. He has nowhere to go. He has a rib injury. He's Adam. He goes to see Bardem's den, his place for creation. He shows him a molten rock that he keeps on display, the soul surviving item from the previous fire. It is forbidden fruit that Adam may not touch. Then the man's wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) shows up. She wants to see the rock more than Adam does. She finally touches it and accidentally breaks it. Bardem banishes them from the den and boards it up so no one may re-enter. (Cherubim and a flaming sword.)

Later the couple's two sons show up, arguing over a will. They fight, and the older brother kills the younger one. Cain and Abel. The older one even winds up with a mark on his forehead after the fight. Then dozens of people show up to mourn with the grieving parents. Bardem just lets them all in, and naturally, since they all seem to be familiar with his poetry and sing his praises. The more people that come, the ruder and more entitled they get. They also keep sitting on a sink until it bursts from the wall and floods the kitchen. This gives Lawrence the courage to yell "Get out!" and all of the people leave. Noah's flood. The humans are gone. She can now repair the damage done.

They fight and then have sex. She wakes up in the morning and knows she's pregnant. She's delighted. This inspires Him to write. He writes something beautiful. Scripture. People come from far and wide to hear and read his words. They come too quickly. They come with zealotry. He eats up the praise. She can't believe he keeps letting all of these people in. They start destroying the house. She goes into labor, and with each labor pang, the whole house shakes. The house is Earth, and she is tied to the Earth in ways He is not.

The baby is Jesus, and he wants to show the baby to the world, but she does not. She refuses to let Him hold the baby. She tries staying awake, but as soon as she nods off, her baby is gone. The houseguests carry the baby like a rock star over the crowd but someone accidentally kills him. Jesus is dead. Then they rip the baby apart and eat of his flesh. This is the sacrament of communion. The people start putting ashes on their foreheads to mark their devotion.

The movie speeds ahead until we finally get to the Book of Revelation. The apocalypse. She cleanses the earth with fire, killing everyone. In the end, only He and she remain. She's given everything. He wants the last drop of love in her. In the end, she's Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. She gives the last part of her existence to him. Her heart. He pulls it from her ribcage. It looks exactly like the molten rock we saw at the beginning. We gets all of the opening imagery again. The burning woman. The rock on a pedestal. The house being renewed. A different young woman waking up in bed. The cycle has started over.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

It Movie Breaks September's Box Office Record

For the weekend of September 8-10, 2017, It had the third-highest opening of the year. It shattered box office records for September (previous record was Hotel Transylvania 2 at $48 million). and is the highest opening ever for a Stephen King adaptation. It also has the chance of breaking The Exorcist's record of highest-grossing R-rated horror film of all time.

(Would now be a good time for a Killer Klowns from Outer Space reboot?)

The other new wide release was Home Again, a rom-com paycheck for Reese Witherspoon. It's the lowest opening for her since 2010's How Do You Know.

Opens September 15
MOTHER! with Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer.
AMERICAN ASSASSIN with Dylan O'Brien, Michael Keaton, Taylor Kitsch and Sanaa Lathan.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

It - Movie Review

Starring Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Skarsgard, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Chosen Jacobs, Wyatt Oleff and Nicholas Hamilton.
Written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga & Gary Dauberman.
Directed by Andy Muschietti.


It's tempting to say It reminded me of Stranger Things, but really, Stranger Things reminded me of It. Stephen King's classic 1986 novel remains one of his best, and the influence of King is felt everywhere.

It's an emormous feat to adapt an 1138-page book to the screen, but the first smart step was to cut focus only on the half that deals with the seven protagonists as kids. So you've pared it down to 569 pages. Still quite a task. (It 2 about the adults will surely come out in 2019.)

They've streamlined the book, left a lot out, changed a lot, but it's still true to the heart of the story. Seven 12-year-olds come together, known as the Losers Club. Their leader is stuttering Bill (St. Vincent's Jaeden Lieberher), whose younger brother is the first victim of It. He's joined by loudmouth Richie (Stranger Things' Finn Wolfhard), sickly Eddie (Me Myself & I's Jack Dylan Grazer), ostracized Beverly, fat kid Ben, worrying Stan, and parentless Mike. Each of them is visited in one way or another by It, usually in the creepy form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown, played with unsettling menace by Bill Skarsgard (son of Stellan, brother of Alexander).

The strongest parts of the movie are when the seven are just hanging out. It's about comraderie and community, and there's not a weak link in the performances.

I'd say it was a little funnier than I thought it would be, it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be (though it does have a couple really good ones), and it was a satisfying fun summer movie that just happened to open in September.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Logan Lucky - Movie Review

Starring Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Seth MacFarlane, Katie Holmes, Hilary Swank, Katherine Waterston, Sebastian Stan, Jack Quaid, Brian Gleeson, Dwight Yoakum, Jon Eyez, Macon Blair, Farrah Mackenzie and David Denman.
Written by Rebecca Blunt.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh.


This isn't as glitzy as Soderbergh's Ocean's 11 movies, but it's definitely better than the Ocean's sequels. By setting it in West Virginia instead of Vegas, it feels like the stakes are more real. These people actually need the money.

Channing Tatum plays Jimmy Logan, a blue-collar worker who can't seem to get ahead. "Logan lucky" refers to how unlucky his family is. He and his one-armed brother Clyde (Adam Driver) decide to rob a NASCAR event. They enlist their sister (Riley Keough) for help, and the plan grows from there.

There is such an ease to the flow of a Soderbergh movie. Throwaway scenes in any other film feel new here. he plays with timelines in a way that doesn't feel like cheating. There's also something about watching Daniel Craig let loose as a Southern safecracker. I can't remember the last time he looked like he was having this much fun onscreen.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Labor Day Box Office Lowest in 12 Years

For the weekend of September 1-3, 2017, it was the worst Labor Day weekend in 12 years, and this is after doing surprisingly better than last week's record low. No new movies cracked the top ten, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind re-release did better than any of them. The winner would still be The Hitman's Bodyguard, actually being profitable due to lack of competition.

The box office just seems on hold until Stephen King's It opens next week.

The IMAX release of the first episode of ABC's Inhumans had the highest per-screen average in the top thirty.

Tulip Fever bombed. Alicia Vikander has chosen it after her Oscar win for The Danish Girl, but Oscar dust did not sprinkle over the project, even with fellow winners Christoph Waltz and Judi Dench in the cast.

Opens September 8
IT with Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard and Jack Dylan Grazer.
HOME AGAIN with Reese Witherspoon, Michael Sheen, Lake Bell and Nat Wolff.

Atomic Blonde - Movie Review

Starring Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones, Sofia Boutella, Eddie Marsan, Til Schweiger and Bill Skarsgard.
Written by Kurt Johnstad.
Directed by David Leitch.


There is a fight scene in a stairway that lasts for over ten minutes, and it's all in one take. That alone is worth the price of admission.

This feels like a crime thriller that could have been a bad John Le Carre adaptation, but it's been amped up with stunts and swagger. Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, an MI6 agent sent to Berlin during the week in 1989 that the Wall is expected to fall. She needs to track down a spy who supposedly has a list of double-agents, and that could be dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands.

The soundtrack's full of 1980's goodness, and Theron knows how to combine sensuality and martial artistry. James McAvoy also has a good time in his very non-Professor X role as her contact in Berlin who may or may not be looking for an opportunity to betray her.

It's from the co-director of John Wick, and it shows.

The Mummy - Movie Review

Starring Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Russell Crowe, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance and Marwan Kenzari.
Written by David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, Dylan Kussman, Jon Spaihts, Alex Kurtzman & Jenny Lumet.
Directed by Alex Kurtzman.


This is the first movie in a planned Dark Universe franchise. Their first priority should have been to just make a good movie that can stand on its own. All it needed to do was be better than the Brendan Fraser version, and this is not.

Tom Cruise plays Nick, a soldier who happens to steal ancient artifacts in the Middle East. He and his buddy (Jake Johnson) are fleeing some insurgents when they stumble upon the tomb of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an evil ancient Egyptian princess who was buried 1000 miles away from home.

This movie isn't sure what it is. Is it horror? Is it action? What is its aim here? Nick is supposed to be this selfish weasel, and it's the first time I feel like the 55-year-old Cruise has been miscast. 39-year-old Jake Johnson as Nick would have been more like it.

Russell Crowe shows up as Dr. Jekyll, and the Oscar winner did not elevate the material. This is just a confused project that in trying to be many things winds up being nothing.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes - Movie Review

Starring Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Amiah Miller, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Judy Greer, Gabriel Chavarria, Toby Kebbel and Sara Canning.
Written by Mark Bomback & Matt Reeves.
Directed by Matt Reeves.


Andy Serkis & company do a wonderful job in the motion-capture performance area, the special effects are top-notch, and Matt Reeves has made another movie, as the first two, that follows but could still stand on its own.

Caeser and his apes are still dealing with the betrayal of Koba, the ape that set off the chain reaction meant war between apes and humans. The main threat these days are a base of soldiers in northern California being led by a maniac. Woody Harrelson has a lot of fun playing a Col. Kurtz type in charge of these soldiers (and in case you miss the reference, there's "Ape-ocalpyse Now" graffiti in a tunnel).

I liked it, but I have to address five problems I had with this movie:

1. This conclusion to the prequel trilogy to Planet of the Apes isn't just about how the smart humans were wiped out. This movie is designed for you to root for the extermination of the human race. That may be why there were hardly any black or female soldiers. Easier to root for white US soldiers acting like Nazis toward the apes. There is one Hispanic soldier sent up to be somewhat sympathetic, but that's it. If A.I. ever rises up and wipes out humans, I blame this movie more than The Matrix.

2. Where are the females? Among the humans and apes, they were over 90% male. Is the next movie going to be Planet of the Dolphins because the other smart races went extinct over having so few females?

3. A little girl walks through the middle of a prison camp of soldiers on high alert, and they even have spotlights shine over her, and yet no one notices? These soldiers are terrrrible.

4. They say the simian flu, the disease that's robbing humans of speech and intelligence, is dormant in everyone, but the triggering of it is highly contagious. That felt like a yada-yada explanation hat-tipping the Walking Dead's logic.

5. Why at this point is Caeser the only ape who can talk in complete, unawkward sentences? Almost all of the apes stick to sign language. Didn't more apes speak in the last movie?

The Hitman's Bodyguard is #1

For the weekend of August 18-20, 2017, The Hitman's Bodyguard was the last hurrah for summer. The reviews weren't great, but the trailer was funny enough that the star power of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson helped this movie find an audience.

Logan Lucky had better reviews, but the marketing never quite crackled. I hope it finds an audience. It's a fun heist movie.

Notable was the expansion of Wind River, the next crime drama from Taylor Sheridan, who wrote last year's Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water.

Opens August 25
LEAP! with the voices of Elle Fanning, Dane DeHaan and Carly Rae Jepsen.
BIRTH OF THE DRAGON with Philip Ng, Terry Chen and Billy Magnussen.
ALL SAINTS with John Corbett, Cara Buono and Barry Corbin.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Annabelle 2 is #1

For the weekend of August 11-13, 2017, Annabelle: Creation was the big winner. Horror has been underperforming all summer, but when a good one finally came along (RottenTomatoes at 69%), it was rewarded. It's the fourth movie in the Conjuring universe, and it's another profitable chapter. The fifth one comes out next summer and will center on the Nun character from Conjuring 2.

The Nut Job 2 was probably the least anticipated animated sequel since Hoodwinked 2, and it should disappear quickly.

The Glass Castle never could find a way to capitalize it being based on a best-seller and starring recent Oscar winner Brie Larson.

Opens August 18
THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD with Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson and Gary Oldman.
LOGAN LUCKY with Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig and Hilary Swank.
(exp) WIND RIVER with Jeremy Renner, Elisabeth Olsen and Martin Sensmeier.

The Beguiled - Movie Review

Starring Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Addison Riecke and Emma Howard.
Written & Directed by Sofia Coppola.


I never did see the Clint Eastwood original, but I can't help but believe there was more to it than what we get here.

Coppola sets up a dreamy plantation-style school in the middle of Civil War-torn Virginia. The fighting is never seen, just the occasional gunfire in the distance, beyond the trees. One day a wounded Union soldier names McBurney winds up at their doorstep. The school is run by two teachers (Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst), and they only have five students. There's a one-sentence reference to the slaves having left.

Colin Farrell is McBurney, and there's some instant amusement from the ladies' swirling hormones when a wounded gentleman is now in their care.

There's a gentle dreaminess to Coppola's movies, and also a delecate portrayal of sheltered women that tends to keep some of them from breaking out. I see a lot of similarities here to Somewhere, a movie where Elle Fanning bounced from hotel to hotel with her dad without much happening. Here the women and girls don't really leave the house, and they don't really know how to cope whne a man shows up.

The movie takes a darker turn in the third act, when McBurney's true nature is revealed. Once it was all over, it felt like another movie with little consequence or lasting impression. At least it wasn't long enough to get boring. What do I still think about? Those trees.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Detroit - Movie Review

Starring John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore, Anthony Mackie, Jason Mitchell, Hannah Murray, Jack Reynor, Kaitlyn Dever, John Krasinski, Ben O'Toole, Nathan Davis Jr. and Laz Alonzo.
Written by Mark Boal.
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow.


The point of this movie isn't to entertain you while you watch. It's to punish you and then make that feeling linger long after it's over.

This has a docudrama feel to it, especially in the beginning, going through the history that led to the Detroit riots of 1967, and then we settle into what will be the main plot, the incident at the Algiers Hotel. Once we start meeting the characters that will be pivotal, it has the trappings of a horror movie. This is a home invasion horror flick where we watch six black men and two white women be terrorized for a solid 75 minutes with no reprieve and no room to breathe, and by the end of that 75 minutes, three unarmed black men will be dead.

The third act is courtroom drama, and it feel simultaneously rushed and extemporaneous. The Office's John Krasinski shows up as the cops' defense attorney and it feels like he's doing a Dwight impression.

The Force Awakens' John Boyega is our portal into watching this, a security guard who's just trying to keep everyone alive but naive as to how to keep things from escalating. He really isn't given much to do and doesn't leave much of an impression. The standouts are Will Poulter, as one scary casually racist cop who doesn't seem to register the whole "innocent until proven guilty" part of the law; and Algee Smith, lead singer in an R&B group who must deal with his PTSD after this horrific ordeal.

This might be better to watch at home, where you can take a break; but then again, if you need a break, you might not ever watch the rest.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Dark Tower is #1 in slow week

For the weekend of August 4-6, 2017, The Dark Tower was #1 in the worst box office week of the summer. The first weekend in August is usually a very reliable springboard for box office success. Suicide Squad opened with $133 million here last year.

Detroit opened wide, and it was supposed to be Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar-buzz movie this year, but the studio Annapurna didn't seem to know how to handle the backlash of the true-life portrait of a group of black men being brutalized by white cops in 1967. The good reviews couldn't save it.

Kidnap was filmed almost three years and was finally dumped into theaters. At this point, $10 million seems good.

This is good news for Annabelle: Creation. With a bad week overall and summer not over yet, filmgoers may be poised to give a horror flick a chance. Previous attempts (It Comes at Night, Wish Upon) just didn't click.

Opens August 11
ANNABELLE: CREATION with Miranda Otto, Anthony LaPaglia and Alicia Vela-Bailey.
THE GLASS CASTLE with Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts.
THE NUT JOB 2 with the voices of Will Arnett, Katherine Heigl and Maya Rudolph.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Dunkirk - Movie Review

Starring Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Jack Lowden, James D'Arcy, Tom Glynn-Carney and Barry Keoghan.
Written & Directed by Christopher Nolan.


Nolan's WWII movie doesn't have a signature battle scene. It has men just trying to escape. We never see a Nazi's face. We just get the you-are-there experience of soldiers stranded on a beach, trying to survive from being sitting ducks.

Nolan has made an ensemble, but he's given the main roles to relative unknowns. Harry Styles is pretty famous, but this is his first real acting job, and he's very good at it. The kid has a future. The Jim Caviezel breakout here is Fionn Whitehead as Tommy. It's through his eyes we see the bleakness.

Some of Nolan's ensemble show up for support. Tom Hardy once again spends most of his screentime with his face covered like he did as Bane. Cillian Murphy shows up as a shellshocked soldier, a lone survivor of a sunken ship. Michael Caine's voice makes a cameo. Kenneth Branagh (Conspiracy, Valkyrie) plays a composite character, the admiral in charge, there on the beach with everyone else. Oscar winner Mark Rylance is one of the British citizens with small boats who sail across the channel to rescue however many they can.

The dialogue is sparse. I saw this in IMAX, the way it's meant to be seen, and it is an immersive experience. The viewer is there, standing on the beach, or flying in the plane, or sailing on the ship, or whereever Nolan takes us. He also does an interesting non-linear experiment with time. The Whitehead-led beach scenes take place over a several days. The Rylance-led boat scenes take place over a one day. The Hardy-led aerial scenes take place over an hour. It can create some confusion but all of the timelines meet in the end.

This approach also prevents it from becoming a masterpiece. Other than the flawed bookend Spielberg tacked on Saving Private Ryan, that's a classic that will survive for decades more to come. Nolan sacrifices narrative for immersion, and if he'd managed to throw in some better storytelling on top of everything else he'd provided, that could have been his best film to date. As is, I'd still put Memento, The Dark Knight, and Inception ahead of it.

I also like how Nolan kept it PG-13 so I could take my sons to it.

The Big Sick - Movie Review

Starring Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff.
Written by Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani.
Directed by Michael Showalter.


This semi-autobiographical tale was written by real-life husband and wife Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon. Kumail plays himself in the movie, and Zoe Kazan plays Emily. We see he's a stand-up comedian/Uber driver, and she's a therapist. They meet cute, they date, they break up, and then she gets a serious illness that puts her in a coma.

For much of the movie, we watch Kumail fall back in love with Emily while getting to know her parents (Holly Hunter, Ray Romano) at the hospital. It's certainly an awkward way for them to meet.

The movie also explores a lot of Kumail's Pakistani background, and how his own parents keep trying to set him up with a nice Pakistani girl. He can't bring himself to let them know he's fallen for a white girl.

The movie has plenty of laughs, a lot of heart, and it's nice to watch a movie that provides the perspective we don't often get to see in cinema.

Dunkirk is #1 at box office

For the weekend of July 21-23, 2017, Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk was the big hit. Nolan is still one of the most bankable directors in Hollywood, and he has made another critical and commercial success. The WWII drama, which is really about the largest evacuation effort of the war, managed to bring people in despite not having any stars in the main roles.

A notable success in its own right was second-place's Girls Trip. It may have looked like a similar effort to summer's earlier flop Rough Night, but reviews were much kinder and this one didn't have the twist of the girls accidentally killing a guy.

Valerian & the City of 1000 Planets is a bomb in the US. With a production budget exceeding $200 million, it'll need to be a massive overseas hit if it wants to make its money back. Personally I think Luc Besson should have tried to find someone more recognizable than Dane DeHaan in the title role.

Wonder Woman is now officially the domestic winner of summer. It'll pass $400 million soon, and it's been made official that the sequel will arrive in December 2019.

Opens July 28
THE EMOJI MOVIE with the voices of James Corden, TJ Miller and Patrick Stewart.
ATOMIC BLONDE with Charlize Theron, James McAvoy and John Goodman.

Monday, July 17, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes is #1

For the weekend of July 14-16, 2017, War for the Planet of the Apes was the big winner, able to take first place from Spider-Man. it was a slightly better opening than Rise of POTA but not as well as Dawn of POTA.

The other new wide release was Wish Upon, a forgettable low-budget horror movie that will appear on some streaming service in a few months.

The staying power of Wonder Woman is the story of the summer. It's on pace to pass Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and I don't see Spider-Man: Homecoming catching it.

Opens July 21
DUNKIRK with Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance.
VALERIAN with Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevinge, Ethan Hawke and Clive Owen.
GIRLS TRIP with Regina Hall, Jada Pinckett Smith, Queen Latifah and Larenz Tate.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming - Movie Review

Starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Bokeem Woodbine, Martin Starr, Martin Chernus, Abraham Attah, Michael Mando, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Logan Marshall-Green, Tony Revolori, Garcelle Beauvais, Chris Evans and the voice of Jennifer Connelly.
Written by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers.
Directed by Jon Watts.


Tom Holland is the third actor in less than ten years to play Spider-Man. He's also the youngest, and that's a good thing. This felt like a high school movie that happened to be a superhero movie too. There's a breezy fun to everything going on.

Fortunately since we've already met this Peter Parker during Captain America: Civil War, we don't have to go through his origin story again. I don't need to see Uncle Ben get killed anymore than I need to see Batman's parents gunned down again.

Director Jon Watts (Cop Car) does a good job of weaving together all of the character relationships, and while there isn't too much action compared to most other superhero movies, the giant set pieces he does have, he handles well. The ferry splitting in half scene in particular.

Michael Keaton's blue-collar Vulture has an understandable POV, as he and his crew go from legitimate demolition workers to underground traffickers of alien technology to get ahead. The arrogance of billionaire Tony Stark lingers over everything, and Stark's in this movie almost as much as he was in Captain America: Civil War.

My favorite scene is one in the car. You've seen the clip in the trailer of Keaton in the driver's seat looking back at Holland, but the way that whole scene plays just crackles. Keaton doesn't go for scenery-chewing; he goes for much more subtle menace. And hey, he has a family, so he can be reasoned with.

Hoping somewhere down the road we can get a Spider-Man/Ant-Man buddy movie.

P.S. Favorite Easter egg is Jennifer Connelly voicing an A.I., following in the footsteps of her husband Paul Bettany who voiced Jarvis for a few movies before he became Vision.


Also saw in 2017:

Starring Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, Angus Macfayden and Ian McDiarmid.
Written & directed by James Gray.

This old-fashioned "By Jove!" colonial travelogue of a movie tells the true story of Percy Fawcett, a man commissioned to help map the Amazon River in South America before and after World War I and came across what he believed was evidence of a lost city, an ancient civilized city. I liked some of the supporting work from Robert Pattinson (Twilight) and Angus Macfayden (Braveheart), but it ultimately got too repetitive.

Starring Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, Christopher Abbott and Riley Keough.
Written & Directed by Trey Stults.

This post-apocalyptic domestic thriller was marketed as a horror movie, and while it does have some horrifying things, it doesn't go in predictable directions. It raises more questions than it has answers for, and ultimately I felt hollow when it was over. It does a good job playing off of paranoia and suspicion, but it's also a cautionary tale on just how tribal people can still be.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is #1

For the weekend of July 7-9, 2017, Spider-Man: Homecoming had the second-highest opening of a Spider-Man movie, and with no competition, it easily won the weekend. It's the third highest opening of the year. Sony showed wisdom beyond its years in making a deal with the MCU to allow Spider-Man crossover.

The Big Sick is looking like the summer indie you might want to catch in theaters because it'll be nominated for Best Screenplay during award season in five months.

Opens July 14
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES with Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson.
WISH UPON with Joey King, Ryan Philippe, Sherilyn Fenn and Elisabeth Rohm.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Despicable Me 3 is #1

For the weekend of June 30-July 2, 2017, Despicable Me 3 was the big winner. Not as big an opener as DM2 or Minions, but these movies cost almost half what Pixar puts into theirs, so it'll be super-profitable. It's going to easily pass Cars 3 to be the biggest animated movie of the summer.

Baby Driver made $30 million through its first five days. It's the biggest opening ever for an Edgar Wright movie, and I'm glad he's found commercial success.

The House tanked. On paper, it looked like a surefire hit. Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler? But the reviews were terrible.

Wonder Woman and Pirates 5 have both hit $700 million worldwide. Cars 3 is on pace to be Pixar's second-lowest grossing movie (ahead of only The Good Dinosaur).

Opens July 7
SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING with Tom Holland, Michael Keaton and Robert Downey Jr.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Baby Driver - Movie Review

Starring Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, Eiza Gonzalez, Flea and Lanny Joon.
Written & Directed by Edgar Wright.


Edgar Wright has directed Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The World's End, and now this. He's 5 for 5 in my book.

Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars) plays Baby, a guy who's one of the best drivers on Earth. He's deeply indebted to a criminal kingpin named Doc (Kevin Spacey), so to pay off what he owes, he drives getaway for different groups that Doc hires. Mostly bank robberies. Baby has tinnitis and listens to music at all times to drown out the ringing, but the music is the soundtrack for his life. Everything that happens in the movie is done to the beat of whatever Baby's listening to. It's a cinematic trick that works.

Wright's talent is to take familiar genres and add thrilling new twists to them, and he does for car chase heist movies here what he did for zombies in Shaun, for buddy-cops in Fuzz, teen romance in Scott Pilgrim, and alien invasions in World's End. I really enjoyed what he did with Foxx and Hamm as two smooth yet dangerous bankrobbers. Baby's deep down a good guy who shouldn't be among these criminals, but he has no choice.

I had a blast watching it.

GLOW - Netflix Review

Starring Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Marc Maron, Sydelle Noel, Britney Young, Britt Baron, Gayle Rankin, Ellen Wong, Chris Lowell and Rich Sommer.
Created by Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch.

This Netflix show is utterly bingeable, a bright, campy 1980's comedy-drama that winds up having a lot of heart and interesting characters beneath the stereotypes they're supposed to play. I went through it in a week, then watched the 2012 GLOW documentary.

Alison Brie is Ruth, a workaholic actress who can't seem to catch a break. She shows up at an open audition, but she and the others don't know what it's for until they arrive. One thing I liked about the show after seeing the real story is how faithful the show was to the sisterhood and the audacity of the whole project.

Former WWE stars like John Morrison, Brodus Clay, Carlito, and Alex Riley show up. Chavo Guerrero Jr. trained the actresses for this TV show, just like his uncle Mando Guerrero trained the original GLOW ladies.

Marc Maron is great as the deeply cynical Hollywood director in charge of this project, and there are some other unexpected appearances along the way.

I also liked how we had a mini-Mad Men reunion between Brie (Trudy Campbell) and Rich Sommer (Harry).

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Transformers 5 is #1 at box office

For the weekend of June 23-25, 2017, Transformers: The Last Knight grossed $5 million ($69 million in its first five days), making it $265 million worldwide. The last two Transformers movie grossed over $1 billion each. This one will likely not get there. I don't know if the negative reviews would be much of a factor. These movies have never had a Fresh rating at RottenTomatoes. (In fact, Michael Bay's only managed one fresh rating his entire directing career, with 1996's The Rock.)

It'll be interesting to see where final numbers land for Cars 3 and Wonder Woman. I think WW will have the edge and hold on to #2. In fact, WW is on pace to pass Guardians of the Galaxy 2 to be summer's highest domestic grossing film. The only two upcoming titles that might have a chance to catch them are Despicable Me 3 and Spider-Man: Homecoming.

All Eyez on Me had a colossal 77.9% drop in its second week. Straight Outta Compton, it is not.

The Mummy is tanking in the US, but it's doing well enough overseas to be profitable. Just not by much.

In limited released, Sofia Coppola's The Beguiled and Michael Showalter's The Big Sick did great.

Opens June 30
DESPICABLE ME 3 with the voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig and Trey Parker.
THE HOUSE with Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Allison Tolman and Jason Mantzoukas.
BABY DRIVER with Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Wonder Woman buries Mummy at box office

For the weekend of June 9-11, 2017, Wonder Woman managed to hold off Tom Cruise and any other challengers to her box office throne. Anything less than a 50% drop in a second week is a great sign for longevity.

The Mummy is off to a rough start for the planned Dark Universe, where Frankenstein, Wolf-Man, Creature of the Black Lagoon, etc., are supposed to be part of this eventual franchise. It's the first big-budget movie Alex Kurtzman has directed. He's known mainly for producing films like Cowboys & Aliens and Star Trek into Darkness. Critics hated it. I expect it to break even thanks to overseas business.

Lower-budget fare like It Comes at Night and Megan Leavey didn't break out either.

Opens June 16
CARS 3 with the voices of Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt and Larry the Cable Guy.
ROUGH NIGHT with Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon and Jillian Bell.
ALL EYEZ ON ME with Demetrius Shipp Jr., Danai Gurira and Kat Graham.
47 METERS DOWN with Mandy Moore, Claire Holt and Matthew Modine.

Get Me Roger Stone - Netflix Review

Directed by Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMauro & Morgan Pehme.


Roger Stone has been a political operative for decades. Most people know him as the Dirty Trickster, that weird, sloping forehead guy who dresses in fancy pinstripe suits and is good friends with Donald Trump. This documentary shows just how long he's been involved, how deeeply he's been involved, and how he helped build a swamp that Trump claims he can drain.

Stone was a young man who first got into politics under Richard Nixon after being inspired by Barry Goldwater. His rapid ascension meant he could get any jobs he wanted, and he worked on the campaigns of Reagan, Bush, Dole, Bush, and now Trump. The doc does a good job of letting Stone be Stone, a charming snake-oil salesman who also has done more to corrupt politics in DC than just about anyone.

The movie does a good job of outlining the trajectory of his career, and also showing that since 1988, he's wanted Donald Trump to run for president.

When I got to the end, I still wasn't sure what Stone really cares about. He's about winning, he's about keeping his name in headlines, he's about ruining other people, crushing his enemies. Is there any soul there? He's the ultimate Machiavellian sociopath. It doesn't matter how low he goes as long as he accomplishes his goals.

He says that he welcomes those who hate him, because if he was unsuccessful, they wouldn't hate him. True. He knows exactly how to exploit people's fears, anxieties and weaknesses.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Wonder Woman - Movie Review

Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Danny Huston, Elena Anaya, Ewen Bremner, Said Taghmaoui, Eugene Brave Rock and Lucy Davis.
Written by Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder & Jason Fuchs.
Directed by Patty Jenkins.


After she stole the show in Batman v. Superman, I'm not surprised Wonder Woman is still winning in her own movie. The real surprise is that DC has delivered its first really good movie since The Dark Knight.

We met Diana (Gal Gadot) in modern times, but this is her origin story. Diana is being raised to be the next queen of the Amazons, but when WWI pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes on to their beach, these women need to confront the outside world they've been able to ignore for millenia.

Patty Jenkins (Monster) does a good job balancing action and humor. Act I has the beach fight; terrific. Act II has No Man's Land; excellent. Act III has the big-explosions showdown with the main villain. Honestly that might be the movie's weak link, in that all of these movies tend to end with big-explosions showdowns.

Gadot captures the combination of fierceness and naivete of Wonder Woman. She has the physiciality down, but she's quite charming in her fish-out-of-water scenes where this Amazon, who's never met a man before, must now fit in 1917 England. The chemistry between Gadot and Pine is solid. Like Christopher Reeve/Margot Kidder solid.

Really enjoyed it. It's in my top five for 2017 so far.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Wonder Woman opens to over $103 million

For the weekend of June 2-4, 2017, Wonder Woman broke some records. Highest opening ever for a female superhero movie. Highest opening ever for a live-action female-directed movie. And while it didn't open as well as previous DCEU movies, it wasn't expected to. In the long run, Warner Bros can see this as their biggest hit for all of the positive word-of-mouth this film will generate.

Wonder Woman is also the third-highest opening of 2017, behind Beauty & the Beast and Guardians of the Galaxy 2.

The other new wide release was Captain Underpants, based on a kids book series. I saw hardly any publicity for this, and its budget doesn't look like it was too much, so Fox is probably happy with these numbers, particularly when they saw the Wonder Woman wave coming.

Everything else dropped dramatically. Everything Everything was the only movie in the top 12 that didn't drop by more than 50%.

Next week Wonder Woman has a good chance of holding off The Mummy to be #1 for a second week. Pro.BoxOffice currently projects that film to open to $39 million.

Opens June 9
THE MUMMY with Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Sofia Boutella and Jake Johnson.
IT COMES AT NIGHT with Joel Edgerton, Riley Keough and Christopher Abbott.
MEGAN LEAVEY with Kate Mara, Tom Felton, Common and Bradley Whitford.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales - Movie Review

Starring Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brendon Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin R. McNally, David Wenham, Stephen Graham, Golshifteh Farahani and Orlando Bloom.
Written by Jeff Nathanson & Terry Rossio.
Directed by Joachim Ronning & Espen Sandberg.


Johnny Depp's mincing Captain Jack Sparrow is a constant. He never seems to grow or learn, regardless of what's thrown at him. Even death left him unchanged. Maybe that's part of the charm.

This fifth movie has Sparrow facing an old rival, Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), a Spanish soldier who'd tried to rid the sea of priates, only to be cursed for decades in the Devil's Triangle, tricked into there by a young Jack. When a destitute Jack gives away his magic compass, the spell that kept Salazar trapped is broken, and now he is free to seek revenge.

The first movie is still the best in the series, but it's arguable which one is the best sequel. I think this one ranks ahead of 3 & 4 and is about on par with 2. The knives were out for this one but it's actually enjoyable in many parts.

First, Bardem's Salazar is a great villain. A Javert who's been cursed to be the living dead, trapped in the Devil's Triangle. Second, the chemistry between the young love interests (Brendon Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario) is better than those two from 4, and maybe better than Bloom & Knightley. If anything, what used to be the best part of these movies is now its weakest. There's a lot of humor around Jack Sparrow that falls flat.

Oh, and after the credits, we get a stinger that signifies where Pirates 6 is going.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Pirates 5 is #1, Baywatch #3

For the weekend of May 26-28, 2017, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales sailed to first place, showing there's still life in the franchise. Unfortunately its budget was so large, it won't break even until about $700 million worldwide. Should be doable.

The other new release was Baywatch, which critics hated, and that killed it. It was tracking to open in the $30's last week, but too many people caught wind of how bad it was supposed to be.

In holdovers, the big surprise was Alien Covenant dropping 70% in its second week. Die-hard fans saw it in the first week, and it is not expanding its appeal. Its worldwide gross should still help it turning a profit and justifying another sequel, but probably just one more.

So, you ask, why are we getting live-action treatments of The Lion King, Aladdin, Dumbo, Pinocchio, Mulan, and The Little Mermaid, as well as a Cruella movie starring Emma Stone? Beauty & the Beast just $500 million domestic and $1.23 billion worldwide.

Opens June 2
WONDER WOMAN with Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen.
CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS with the voices of Ed Helms, Kevin Hart and Jordan Peele.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Movie Review

Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Sean Gunn, Ben Browder and Sylvester Stallone.
Written & Directed by James Gunn.


This movie is faithful to the original formula. It's a fan-pleasing sequel where some of the returning characters get more to do this time around while others don't.

Family is a big theme this time around, to the point that I started to wonder if Vin Diesel was going to pull up in a shiny new car. (Nah, he'll just voice baby Groot.) Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot still fly around the galaxy as paid mercenaries. But Quill runs into who turns out to be his father, a celestial being named Ego (Kurt Russell).

I liked the sisters subplot with Gamora and Nebula, where that relationship/rivalry is fleshed out more. I was amused by the antics of baby Groot. In particular I like how the opening battle was secondary to Groot chasing a space-rat, all to the tune of ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky." I like the addition of Mantis (Pom Klementieff) to the team.

Sylvester Stallone felt like he was wasted, but if what they did with him pays off in a future movie, then it was worth it.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage - DVD Review

Starring Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Toni Collette, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Rory McCann, Kris Wu, Michael Bisping and Samuel L. Jackson.
Written by F. Scott Frazier.
Directed by D.J. Caruso.


I must admit this movie was even cheesier than I thought it would be. When xXx first came out in 2002, it was supposed to be an edgier, hipper US antidote to James Bond, with a focus more on extreme sports and stunts rather than unreal gadgets. Vin Diesel thought he was too big a star to return for the sequel, so a quickly forgotten xXx 2 with Ice Cube looked like the end of a franchise before it could even begin.

Fast-forward a few years, where Vin Diesel movies that aren't part of the Fast & Furious franchise lose money, and it made sense for him to see if he could resurrect this. Domestically no, but overseas it made enough money to justify another movie, if the producers are so inclined.

Cage is a rebel, and when he's recruited to stop a handful of xXx-trained mercenaries who steal a superpowerful device called Pandora's Box (which is very similar to the Eye from F&F), there's always that edge of when he's going to ditch the government agents watching him and go rogue. It's the type of movie where whereever he goes, he's greeted by sexy young women who want to sleep with him. When he meets other people, they are surrounded by scantily-clad young women who serve as eye-candy, security, or whatever else excuse the filmmakers can conjure.

Even the geeky IT girl is played by the gorgeous Nina Dobrev, and she can't wait to tell Cage her safeword. Seriously.

So there are some cool stunts, some bad green-screens, and the whole thing felt so full of cliches that if they'd cast everyone 25 years older, you'd have The Expendables 4.

At least it had Donnie Yen as the antagonist. He was by far the best part of the movie.