END OF THE ROAD (2022) – Netflix Action Thriller Doesn’t Go the Distance

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END OF THE ROAD (2022) opens with main character Brenda (Queen Latifah) having her credit card declined at the store, and then we see her moving her reluctant family, her teen daughter Kelly (Mychala Lee) and young son Cam (Shaun Dixon), out of their empty home, about to take a road trip with her brother Reggie (Ludacris) to the Southwest to stay with her mother. As the car pulls away from their home, the title credits emerge in bold letters, END OF THE ROAD.

It doesn’t take much imagination to understand what the title refers to, in terms of the lives of these characters.

The central premise of END OF THE ROAD, a new action thriller which just premiered on Netflix, I bought into and liked. Brenda, an ER nurse, is now broke because when her deceased husband took ill, all their money went towards his medical expenses. This plot point is very real, since it’s no secret that in the U.S. medical expenses are astronomical, and insurance plans are largely ineffective with ridiculously high deductibles. The angst she and her two children feel about having to leave their home is real and palpable, and since she’s the surviving parent, it makes sense that her kids kind of blame her.

Then there’s her loser brother Reggie, who can’t seem to do anything right, but he’s there for his sister and his niece and nephew, so at the end of the day, he’s not really a loser. So, I liked all these characters and their initial story, and as they travel through New Mexico, you know they are going to run into trouble, and they do.

In their motel room, they hear a fight in the room next door, and then a gun shot. Brenda and Reggie investigate, find a man who has been shot, and try but fail to save his life. They call the police, and after making statements, they continue on their way, and that is that. Except Brenda doesn’t realize that Reggie found a bag of money in the man’s bathroom, and he took it, thinking that it could solve all their problems, and Reggie doesn’t realize that the money is drug money which the local crime lord wants back badly.

Enter Sheriff Hammers (Beau Bridges) who is hot on the trail of this mysterious crime lord, and because the officers who first arrived at the crime scene allowed Brenda and her family to leave immediately, Hammers wasn’t able to question them, and so he’s also hot on their trail, guessing that they took the missing money and believing their lives to be in danger.

So far so good, and the first half of END OF THE ROAD is a pretty compelling drama, with a decent set-up for an action thriller. But then, in the second half of the movie, it all falls apart. Completely falls apart.

When forced to fight for her family against violent thugs and criminals, Brenda morphs into superwoman, making the action scenes in this one both ludicrous and far-fetched. This combined with an even more ridiculous plot twist involving one of the characters, and all the credibility which the first half of this movie owned, disappears like stolen money from a motel room.

END OF THE ROAD goes from being a compelling thriller to a laughable action flick in the blink of an eye, which is too bad, because the first half had a lot of potential.

It’s also a bit heavy-handed. Yes, race problems are real in the U.S., but the white folks in this movie are so over-the-top nasty they become cliche, and as a result, they simply don’t resonate. There’s nothing subtle about anything that happens in this movie.

The performances are fine at least. I enjoyed Queen Latifah in the lead role, and Mycala Lee and Shaun Dixon as her children, but most of all I enjoyed rapper Ludacris as Reggie, who’s the most interesting character in the movie, and also, sadly, the most underutilized. Ludacris gives the best performance in the movie.

Beau Bridges was fine for a while as Sheriff Hammers, at first playing a role similar to the one his brother Jeff Bridges played in the superior HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016). In that film, Jeff Bridges played a Texas Marshall hot on the trail of two bank robbers. Here, Beau Bridges plays a New Mexico sheriff hot on the trail of a drug lord. Both characters share a similar passion and drive. However, once the plot twist is revealed, Bridges’ performance goes out the window as it becomes part of a story which makes little sense and isn’t believable at all.

Millicent Shelton directed END OF THE ROAD, and technically there’s no problems here. The action scenes are all polished and slick. They’re just not very believable. I mean, Brenda is an ER nurse, not a law enforcement officer.

David Loughery wrote the screenplay, based on an original script by Christopher J. Moore. It’s a mixed bag, as it creates likable, sympathetic characters, and places them in a compelling situation, before it jettisons all believability as it deteriorates into a laughable action flick which by the time it ends no longer has any semblance of truth.

This one reaches the end of the road long before its end credits roll.

I give it two stars.

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THE GRAY MAN (2022) – Emphasis on Action over Story Hinders Netflix Pairing of Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans

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Too much action. Not enough story.

That’s how I felt after watching THE GRAY MAN (2022), a new action thriller from Netflix, which is also playing in theaters. In spite of an impressive cast and a pair of talented directors, at the end of the day, this one was all about the action, which admittedly was very good, but in terms of story, sadly, there simply wasn’t much there.

In THE GRAY MAN, a shadowy CIA assassin known as Six (Ryan Gosling), uncovers a plot by his superiors Carmichael (Rege-Jean Page) and Suzanne Brewer (Jessica Henwick) to assassinate a fellow agent who had learned of their illegal activities, and once Six learns this information, he also becomes a target. To take down Six, Carmichael hires their most ruthless and unpredictable assassin, Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans) who immediately abducts Six’s former handler FItzroy (Billy Bob Thornton) and his young daughter Claire (Julia Butters) for leverage.

Six ends up teaming with fellow agent Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas) who is also targeted by Carmichael and Lloyd, who seem to want to take out every other CIA assassin on the planet. And that’s it for plot, as the rest of the movie is simply a set up for one action scene after another as Lloyd and Six go after each other. And it’s not a very original plot either, as it’s right out of a Jason Bourne movie.

THE GRAY MAN was directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, the guys who directed AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018), AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019), and CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVL WAR (2016). They know how to make blockbuster action movies. The action sequences in THE GRAY MAN are excellent, and I’m not going to lie, I had fun watching them, but without an exciting story or fun characters, the action scenes on their own weren’t enough for me to really enjoy this movie.

There’s an exciting sequence on a plane, which hearkens back to two old James Bond movies, THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987) when Six is tangling with assassins on the plane which has a big hole in it, and MOONRAKER (1979) when Six falls out of the plane without a parachute and then fights a bad guy in midair, two sequences which were both done better in those aforementioned James Bond movies. There are slick car chases, lots of loud shoot-outs and explosions, and some nifty hand-to-hand combat scenes, all professionally executed, but without a story or memorable characters, none of them truly resonate.

Joe Russo wrote the screenplay, along with Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeeley, and all three of these guys have lots of screenwriting credits, but it didn’t really help them here. The plot, as I said, is right out of a Jason Bourne movie, and the characters are cardboard and dull, with the exception of Chris Evans’ character, Lloyd.

I’m a fan of the work of Ryan Gosling, and he’s enjoyable here as Six, and he’s also believable in the role of super assassin. But, Six is kind of a one note character, and ultimately, he doesn’t really give Gosling a lot to do other than to look unstoppable and heroic. And he is heroic. Unlike Jason Bourne, who in spite of always wanting to clear his name, still operated with a sense of uncertainty and explosiveness about him, Six is a good guy to his core, which kinda makes him boring.

Chris Evans has more fun and more success playing against type as the over-the-top villain, Lloyd Hansen. This guy is not Captain America! He’s the complete opposite of Six in that he is all villain. Strangely, at the end of the day, he’s also on the boring side. And that’s because even though this movie is called THE GRAY MAN, neither main character has gray areas, and that’s just not that interesting. Characters with more balance in general are more captivating. So, it’s kinda sorta fun watching Evans ham it up as a bad guy, but it’s not completely satisfying because it turns out Lloyd is nothing more than a glorified assh*le.

I’m also a huge fan of the work of Ana de Armas, and her performance as super tough assassin Dani was probably my favorite of the movie. She just starred in the latest James Bond movie NO TIME TO DIE (2021), a film I enjoyed much more than THE GRAY MAN, but it was a very small role, and basically, she just got to strut her stuff in one brief sequence. She’s in THE GRAY MAN a whole lot more, and the movie is that much better for it. She’s believable in her action scenes, and unlike Gosling or Evans, she holds back on letting us know who Dani is exactly, and if there’s one character in the movie with a gray area, it’s Dani.

THE GRAY MAN reunites Ana de Armas with Ryan Gosling, as the two co-starred in BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017), and they work well together, as in both movies they generated some decent on-screen chemistry.

Rege-Jean Page and Jessica Henwick are okay as the main villains in the movie who are constantly pulling strings behind the scenes, but neither of them is terribly exciting. Neither is Billy Bob Thornton as Six’s former handler Fitzroy. It’s a rather thankless role without any depth.

I did enjoy the work of Dhanush, who plays yet another super assassin Avik San who’s called in late in the game to take down Six. Avik, in his brief time on screen, benefits from some gray areas in his personality. If only the two leads had benefitted from the same.

Also in the cast are Alfre Woodard as another CIA handler, an unrecognizable Wagner Moura as a shady character who provides new identities, and in a blink-if-you miss him cameo, Shea Whigham plays Six’s abusive father in a flashback. This is the third movie in as many weeks in which the plot involved an abusive dad, following WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING (2022) and THE BLACK PHONE (2022). It’s also the third time that Wagner Moura has co-starred with Ana de Armas, as they previously starred together in SERGIO (2020) and WASP NETWORK (2019).

THE GRAY MAN was okay. With its talented cast, directors, and writers, it should have been better. And while I enjoyed its action scenes, even those weren’t fantastic. Another recent Netflix actioner EXTRACTION (2020) starring Chris Hemsworth had superior action sequences. But what ultimately drags THE GRAY MAN down is its unoriginal blah story, and characters who in spite of the film’s title, just don’t possess many gray areas.

All action and no plot make THE GRAY MAN a dull man.

—END—

INTERCEPTOR (2022) – Netflix’ Latest Action-Adventure Entertaining in Spite of Uneven Script

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After watching INTERCEPTOR (2022), a new action-adventure movie which just premiered on Netflix this past week, I couldn’t shake the feeling that had this movie been in different hands, and had it been a major theatrical release, it could have been so much better.

Instead, this tale of one woman’s stand against a band of terrorists as they try to disarm and destroy the last of the United States’ interceptor missiles, so that the Russian nuclear warheads they stole could be used to nuke a bunch of cities in the U.S., all in the name of burning a country to the ground which they had lost faith in, so they could build it back up the way they wanted, plays out like a “B” movie of old. Everything about it is decent and watchable, but none of it is amazing or first-rate.

Then again, even in the right hands, this tale may have been too convoluted to actually work. There’s a lot to swallow here.

INTERCEPTOR tells the story of Captain J.J. Collins (Elsa Pataky), an army officer who has been dealing with the backlash of calling out a superior officer for sexual harassment. As such, she receives threats and vulgar sexual slurs, as well as being assigned to a post in the middle of nowhere, a rig in the middle of the Pacific Ocean housing the U.S. interceptor rockets. J.J. barely has time to unpack her bags when the station is attacked by terrorists.

The terrorists, who infiltrated the station by posing as janitors, are led by the dashing Alexander Kessel (Luke Bracey) who in the spirit of movie supervillains everywhere, takes the time to explain to J.J. his plans. They’re there to destroy the interceptor missiles, which are the United States’ only defense against nuclear attack, and they want to knock out this defense so they can use the Russian nuclear warheads they stole to bomb major cities in the U.S. Everything has gone according to plan, except J.J. was assigned to the base at the last minute, and so they were not prepared for her, and she lets them know that she is more than up to the task of stopping them, even if it means taking them on single-handedly.

Kessel is assisted by army officer Beaver Baker (Aaron Glenane), a traitorous type who represents the far-right presence in the movie, as he constantly talks about minorities trying to take over the country, and that this is his way of “cleansing” the nation of these impurities. So as not to alienate one side of the political spectrum, Kessel holds another view, that basically the entire country needs a “re-do” because it’s the government and the elites who are ruining it for everybody, and he speaks about racial disparities and how people of color have it so bad and how nobody is doing anything to help. So, he’s there to do something.

But not if J.J. has anything to say about it.

Yup, INTERCEPTOR is pretty much a DIE HARD movie, with the Bruce Willis role changed to a female character. It’s the same formula, but not as well-done.

This is no fault of the actors who all do commendable jobs. I really enjoyed Elsa Pataky in the lead role as J.J., who she makes a believable action hero as well as a woman pained by constant attacks because she spoke out against a male superior officer who sexually assaulted her and basically got away with it. Pataky plays Elena in the FAST AND THE FURIOUS movies.

Likewise, Luke Bracey makes for a polished, handsome, and trying-to-be-charming terrorist Alexander Kessel. As I said, he would be right at home in a DIE HARD movie. The only knock against him is he went to the “Dr. Evil school of villainy” and talks too much about his diabolical plans of terror.

Aaron Glenane uses a thick Southern drawl to be that character you wouldn’t want to meet if you were hiking alone in the wilderness. Can anyone say DELIVERANCE (1972)? Actually, he plays Beaver Baker less like a hillbilly and more like a character who might cross paths with the heroes in SUPERGIRL (2015-21). In fact, I can almost hear Melissa Benoist’s Supergirl lecturing him now.

The biggest knock against INTERCEPTOR is its screenplay by director Matthew Reilly and Stuart Beattie. The dialogue is particularly bad throughout, and the plot is definitely convoluted and not all that believable. Since this is an action movie, the convoluted part didn’t bother me all that much, but the often-laughable dialogue was a major distraction. The script tries to cover both sides of the political spectrum in its plot to “cleanse” the United States, and to this end largely succeeds.

Stuart Beattie has written lots of movies. He’s worked on the scripts for some of the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies, and co-wrote 30 DAYS OF NIGHT (2007), an intense horror movie I really enjoyed. But he also co-wrote the screenplay for G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF THE COBRA (2009) and I, FRANKENSTEIN (2014), two rather dreadful movies.

Matthew Reilly’s direction is okay. None of the action scenes are all that impressive, and the fight scenes definitely seem slower and less intense than some of the hand-to-hand combat sequences we’ve seen in other movies of late, action films like EXTRACTION (2020) and ATOMIC BLONDE (2017).

All of this being said, I have to say I enjoyed watching INTERCEPTOR. It held my interest for its one hour and forty-minute running time, and while the dialogue could have been better, I bought into J.J.’s plight and was certainly rooting for her to take down the bad guys in this one. It’s an enjoyable ride even if it’s not all that believable.

So, as long as your expectations aren’t too high, you might have fun watching Netflix’ latest action adventure.

I did.

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UNCHARTED (2022) – Actioner Based on Video Game Wastes Talents of Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg

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UNCHARTED (2022) proves once again that movies based on video games often play out like… video games, and as a result, aren’t any more fun than sitting there watching someone play video games. Some people like that sort of thing. I don’t.

I only decided to watch UNCHARTED because of its two leads, Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, two actors I enjoy a lot, and I was curious to see how they would be working together. And you know what? After watching this movie, I don’t really know how they are working together, because they are playing two characters with as much depth as characters… in a video game. In short, while they were both doing their thing on screen, Holland acting like he walked off the set of his latest SPIDER-MAN movie, and Wahlberg like he was in another action/comedy, it didn’t matter, because the characters they were playing in this movie could have been played by any actor.

UNCHARTED, which is based on the popular video game franchise by Sony PlayStation, tells the story of Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) who is recruited by wisecracking treasure hunter…. always a bad sign in a movie when the main character has as his main job title “treasure hunter,”….Victor Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg) to help him find a treasure lost by Magellan some five hundred years ago. I swear, as soon as this plot point was mentioned in the movie, I was ready to bale. I mean, if there was such a treasure, these two knuckleheads would be the last two people to be able to find it!

Anyway, Nathan agrees to help Sullivan, or “Sully,” because Sully tells him he had been working with Nathan’s older brother, who’s been out of Nathan’s life for years, and if Nathan helps him, Sully promises that there’s a good chance he’ll find his brother. Now, you don’t have to listen to Sully talk for more than three seconds before you realize he’s about as trustworthy as a villain in an Indiana Jones movie, but Nathan listens to him anyway and joins him on his treasure hunt. Along the way, they join forces with fellow treasure hunter and equally untrustworthy Chloe (Sophia Ali), and cross paths with villains Braddock (Tati Gabrielle) and Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas).

Yawn.

And more yawns.

There’s no getting around it. UNCHARTED was by far the dullest and most boring movie I’ve seen all year. In spite of polished and energetic directing by Ruben Fleischer, the story is a snooze, and the characters are literally right out of a video game with no more depth than that. It’s also one of those stories where the main characters find all the clues so easily there’s simply no dramatic tension whatsoever.

The screenplay by Rafe Judkins, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway scores highest with the banter between Holland and Wahlberg, but at the end of the day, this dialogue doesn’t matter because neither character is fleshed out. The experience was like listening to Holland and Wahlberg exchange wisecracks while they were playing video games. Their characters were no more interesting than two dudes playing a game. And the story is dreadfully unbelievable and dull.

Director Ruben Fleischer has made some good movies, films like ZOMBIELAND (2009) and VENOM (2018), and this movie looks great, but none of it means anything. It’s one polished action scene after another with no compelling characters or story, the perfect recipe for a two-hour nap.

UNCHARTED opens with a rousing action scene featuring Tom Holland’s character battling bad guys while falling out of a plane. It’s a sequence that borrows heavily from a far better sequence in the Timothy Dalton James Bond movie THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987). The sequence in THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS was better because they had real stuntmen up there falling out of the plane, whereas here it’s all CGI. Plus, it’s the opening sequence of the movie, and we know nothing about Holland’s character at this point. More importantly, we don’t know why he’s up there in that plane. Imagine if RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) began with Indiana Jones simply fighting villains without seeing him attempt to snag the treasure first. You’d be like, neat action, but who is this guy and why is he fighting all these guys?

UNCHARTED, which premiered in theaters back in February and is now available to rent on Prime Video, is the emotional equivalent of its source material, a video game. Some people like this. I don’t.

And if you like movies, you probably won’t either.

So, for movie fans, UNCHARTED is best left unwatched.

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THE SUICIDE SQUAD (2021) – James Gunn’s Sequel Best Superhero Movie of the Year So Far

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The burning question behind THE SUICIDE SQUAD (2021), the follow-up to SUICIDE SQUAD (2016) is: is it a reboot or is it a sequel?

The promos and folks behind this flick have played coy with this information, my thoughts being that if they committed to calling this one a sequel, it would have had a stigma attached to it before it even played to an audience. It’s also the reason I’m guessing this one wasn’t called SUICIDE SQUAD 2. But I’m here to say without any secrecy that THE SUICIDE SQUAD is definitely a sequel.

And under the guidance of writer/director James Gunn, who was not attached to the first film, THE SUICIDE SQUAD is way way better than the first movie. In fact, THE SUICIDE SQUAD is so good it’s my favorite superhero movie of the year. Which I know isn’t saying a whole heck of a lot because I simply haven’t seen a lot of superhero movies this year, but it’s an exceptional movie, entertaining and fun from start to finish.

The first SUICIDE SQUAD (2016), which hails from the DC Universe, centered around a group of supervillains who were coerced into acting as superheroes, doing the dirtiest of jobs, the type that the authorities wouldn’t even think about approaching the likes of Batman and Superman to carry out. In short, these guys have no respect. They also have no choice, because their “handler”, the icy cold Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) injects implants into these dudes so that if they go off mission, they are killed instantly.

The first film was a mixed bag. Decent characters, pretty lame story, so-so writing, a very good performance by Will Smith, but it was Margot Robbie who stole the movie with her insanely electrifying performance as Harley Quinn.

Robbie returns as Quinn for THE SUICIDE SQUAD, and within the first few minutes of this second movie, the script jumps out at you with superior writing and just like that, you know you’re in for a helluva ride and a far better experience than what you had in the first film.

And that’s because THE SUICIDE SQUAD was written and directed by James Gunn, the man behind Marvel’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movies. Those films were highly entertaining, the writing comedic, and the exchanges between the characters laugh inducing. It’s the same here in THE SUICIDE SQUAD, only this flick is rated R, so the violence is bloodier, and the body count— including the “good” guys, is much higher.

The film opens as Amanda Waller sends the suicide squad on another deadly mission, this time infiltrating the island of Corto Maltese. There has just been a deadly coup, and the military generals on the island have executed the ruling family and have taken over. Normally, this wouldn’t interest the United States all that much, but the reason the events on Corto Maltese matter is the previous government had access to a super secret weapon with alien origins, and if it falls into the hands of the new ruling generals, could be used to harm countless innocents. So, the suicide squad’s mission is to infiltrate the island, get past the army, break into the secret lab, and destroy the alien weapon.

Easy-peasy, right? Wrong! They’re not called the suicide squad for nothing!

And they’re not the only suicide squad in town. For this mission, Waller also sends in a second team, led by Bloodsport (Idris Elba). This team also includes Peacemaker (John Cena), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), and King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone).

The less said about the plot of THE SUICIDE SQUAD the better. There are lots of twists and turns, and the less you know going in, the more fun you’ll have with this one. I will say that what I just described takes place in the opening moments of the movie. After that, it’s a roller coaster thrill ride that simply doesn’t stop as these misfit superheroes converge on the island and attempt to thwart both an aggressive military regime and a deadly alien technology.

The script by James Gunn is so good and so well-written, that it is levels above the plot description. It takes a standard story and turns it into something really memorable. The dialogue and banter between the characters is off the charts entertaining.

Gunn’s direction is equally as good. The movie is chock full of cool scenes and moments. THE SUICIDE SQUAD is not afraid to take its time when getting a laugh. There are some moments where the characters are allowed to react to things that will have you laughing out loud. And the action scenes don’t disappoint. Even kaiju fans won’t be disappointed.

Margot Robbie is excellent once again as Harley Quinn. Yet, she doesn’t dominate this movie like she did the first one, and that’s because Gunn has written equally compelling characters. So, Robbie is every bit as effective as she was the first time around, except this time, she’s sharing the screen with characters who are every bit as interesting as she is.

Idris Elba as Bloodsport is probably the central character in this sequel. Elba carries this movie. He makes Bloodsport the noble assassin who says he’s loyal to no one, but inside, he’s a leader who takes care of those who work for him.

His relationship with Ratcatcher 2, played by Daniela Melchior, is one of the best parts of the film. Melchior is excellent as Ratcatcher 2, a young woman who can control rats. She was one of my favorite characters in this movie, and her relationship with Bloodsport is a big reason why. Especially because she reminds Bloodsport of his daughter, and he vows to protect her, and she gives it right back saying she’ll be the one protecting him. Both prove to be true.

Both John Cena as Peacemaker and David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man have their moments and make for a couple of really interesting characters. And in a bit of inspired casting, Sylvester Stallone is hilarious lending his voice to the slow witted and very hungry King Shark.

Joel Kinnaman is also memorable as Colonel Rick Flag, reprising the role he played in the first movie. He’s far better in this movie, as is Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. The characterizations are just that clearer, they have more depth, and as a result the audience understands them better.

And like a lot of superhero movies these days, the villains in THE SUICIDE SQUAD are of less consequence, because so much of the focus is on the flawed heroes themselves. That being said, Peter Capaldi enjoys many scene stealing moments as the nefarious Thinker. He’s the closest thing to a main villain the movie has.

There are so many memorable moments in THE SUICIDE SQUAD, especially little ones, which hammer home themes like governments with secrets and the cost of keeping them. Peacemaker’s mantra is he loves peace but he’ll kill anyone to keep it. There’s symbolism with Ratcatcher 2’s rats, described as the lowest and most hated of all creatures, but even rats have value. And not to be a spoiler (so skip the next line if you don’t want to know anything about the film’s conclusion), but the final line of the alien creature was that it was happy floating in space looking at the stars, the implication being that yet again it was humankind who messed things up.

There are notable large moments as well, most of them unexpected, like the result of the romantic evening between the new dictator and Harley Quinn. He proposes to her, wanting to make her his queen, and since as she says he is so freaking hot, she says yes. But then he says the wrong thing, and that doesn’t sit well with Harley. Her brief diatribe after the fact about having bad taste in men, and the suffering men cause when women break up with these jerks, hits a bulls eye.

THE SUICIDE SQUAD is easily the most entertaining movie I’ve seen in 2021. It’s my favorite superhero of the year so far.

—END—

MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES: GOLDFINGER (1964)

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goldfinger poster

Welcome back to MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES, that column where we look at fun quotes from the movies.

Today we look at GOLDFINGER (1964), the third Sean Connery James Bond movie, and one of my all-time favorites.  When looking at memorable quotes in the movies, you really can’t go wrong with a James Bond flick.  GOLDFINGER is one of the best.  Let’s have a listen to some of these quotes from GOLDFINGER, screenplay by Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn.

As with so many of the James Bond movies, GOLDFINGER is loaded with double entendres, like this one in the exciting pre-credit sequence, where after a violent fight, Bond knocks his foe into a bathtub and then electrocutes the man by tossing in an electric fan after him.

After the man has died, Bond (Sean Connery)  says:

BOND:  Shocking! Positively shocking!

 

Later, after Goldfinger has disposed of the body of a dead foe by placing him inside a car and then having the car crushed at a junkyard, he gestures to the car and comments, setting up this Bond line:

GOLDFINGER:  Forgive me, Mr. Bond, but, uh… I must arrange to separate my gold from the late Mr. Solo.

JAMES BOND:  As you said, he had a pressing engagement.

 

And towards the end of the movie, after Bond kills Oddjob by electrocuting him:

FELIX LEITER:  You okay, James? Where’s your butler friend?

JAMES BOND:  He blew a fuse.

 

GOLDFINGER contains one of Sean Connery’s most playful performances as James Bond.  It’s the first of the Bonds that really rises above the straightforward spy thriller, following the more serious and restrained DR. NO (1962) and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963).  The third time is the charm for Connery, as his Bond here is more confident, more relaxed, and he exudes far more sex appeal this time around than in the first two movies.

As such, he enjoys many fine little moments in this movie, like in this scene early on, when he’s seeking out Goldfinger’s hotel room.  He charms a maid into letting him use the key to open the door.  Horrified, she says:

MAID:  But that’s Mr. Goldfinger’s room!

To which Bond smiles at her and says warmly:

JAMES BOND:  I know.

 

GOLDFINGER also contains one of the earlier scenes in the series where Bond interacts with Q (Desmond Llewelyn) and discusses the various weapons and gadgets Q has prepared for him.  In GOLDFINGER, they discuss perhaps the most famous car in the Bond series, the Aston Martin DB5, specifically, the ejector seat.  Let’s listen:

Q:  Now this one I’m particularly keen about. You see the gear lever here? Now, if you take the top off, you will find a little red button. Whatever you do, don’t touch it.

JAMES BOND:  Yeah, why not?

Q:  Because you’ll release this section of the roof, and engage and then fire the passenger ejector seat. Whish!

JAMES BOND:  Ejector seat? You’re joking!

Q:  I never joke about my work, 007.

 

And of course, GOLDFINGER includes one of the most famous female characters in the series, famous mostly because of her name:  Pussy Galore.  It still amazes me today that the movie was able to pull this off and get away with having this name in the film.  But they did.

Bond’s reaction to first learning Ms. Galore’s (Honor Blackman) name is classic.  He had been drugged, and when he awakes from his stupor, he finds himself looking at a beautiful woman.

JAMES BOND:  Who are you?

PUSSY GALORE:  My name is Pussy Galore.

JAMES BOND:  I must be dreaming.

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Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) introduces herself to James Bond (Sean Connery).

 

With apologies to Blofeld, Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) is arguably the most memorable villain ever to appear in the Sean Connery Bonds.  In this classic conversation, Bond and Goldfinger discuss the villain’s supposed plan to rob Fort Knox of its gold, a plan Bond thinks is ridiculous until he learns the truth behind Goldfinger’s plot:

BOND:  You’ll kill 60,000 people uselessly.

GOLDFINGER:  Hah. American motorists kill that many every two years.

BOND:  Yes, well, I’ve worked out a few statistics of my own. 15 billion dollars in gold bullion weighs 10,500 tons. Sixty men would take twelve days to load it onto 200 trucks. Now, at the most, you’re going to have two hours before the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines move in and make you put it back.

GOLDFINGER:  Who mentioned anything about removing it?  (Pauses to let this revelation sink into Bond’s mind.)  The julep tart enough for you?

BOND:  You plan to break into the world’s largest bank, but not to steal anything. Why?

GOLDFINGER:  Go on, Mr. Bond.

BOND:  Mr. Ling, the Red Chinese at the factory, he’s a specialist in nuclear fission… but of course! His government’s given you a bomb.

GOLDFINGER:  I prefer to call it an “atomic device.” It’s small, but particularly dirty.

BOND:  A dirty bomb? Cobalt and iodine?

GOLDFINGER:  Precisely.

BOND:  Well, if you explode it in Fort Knox, the… the entire gold supply of the United States would be radioactive for… fifty-seven years.

GOLDFINGER:  Fifty-eight, to be exact.

BOND:  I apologize, Goldfinger. It’s an inspired deal! They get what they want, economic chaos in the West. And the value of your gold increases many times.

GOLDFINGER:  I conservatively estimate, ten times.

BOND:  Brilliant.

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James Bond (Sean Connery) mulls over Goldfinger’s plot.

James Bond’s favorite CIA Agent Felix Leiter (Cec Linder) also appears in GOLDFINGER, and he and Bond share this humorous exchange near the end of the film:

BOND:  Special plane, lunch at the White House… how come?

FELIX:  The President wants to thank you personally.

BOND:  Oh, it was nothing, really.

FELIX:  I know that, but he doesn’t.

BOND:  I suppose I’ll be able to get a drink there.

FELIX:  I told the stewardess liquor for three.

BOND:  Who are the other two?

FELIX:  Oh, there are no other two.

 

And of course Goldfinger gets the most famous line in the movie, and perhaps the most famous line in the entire series.  It certainly belongs in the conversation.  Bond is strapped to a table, and a deadly laser beam is aimed at his body, sparking this question and Goldfinger’s infamous answer:

BOND:  Do you expect me to talk?

GOLDFINGER:  No, Mr. Bond.  I expect you to die!

goldfinger-laser

“No, Mr. Bond.  I expect you to die!”

And there you have it.  Some memorable quotes from the classic James Bond movie GOLDFINGER.  Hope you enjoyed them.

Join me again next time when we’ll look at more quotes from another cool movie.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (2016) Is Laborious & Dull

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I love the old Tarzan movies.

They’ve been around since the silent era and grew to epic proportions in the 1930s with the films of Johnny Weissmuller.  I watched these, but I grew up watching the color Tarzan movies of the 1950s and 1960s on TV, films that featured the likes of Gordon Scott and Mike Henry as Tarzan.  These films were colorful and fun.

It’s been a long time since there’s been a decent Tarzan movie.  I went into THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (2016) hoping it would be the movie to the end the Tarzan drought.  It’s not.

It certainly tries, and it does attempt to be a classy and elegant telling of a Tarzan tale.  The trouble is Tarzan and the rest of the movie are just so darned boring. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ character just can’t seem to catch a break these days.

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN opens with the nefarious Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) trudging through the Congo to make a deal with Chief Mbonga (DJimon Hounsou):  Rom is to deliver Tarzan to the chief, and in return the chief will give Rom unlimited access to the diamonds there.  What the chief doesn’t know is that Rom is really there to convert the natives into slaves. Which begs the question, if Rom intends to overthrow Chief Mbonga anyway, as is implied later in the movie, why waste half the film chasing down Tarzan?  Why not just conquer Mbonga in the first place?

We first meet Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard) living the life of a noble gentleman in London as John Clayton with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie).  They have put their time in Africa behind them, which is why John refuses to return when Her Majesty’s government asks him to travel to Africa as a special envoy.  But he’s persuaded to go by an American, George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) who tells John his fears that someone is turning the population of the Congo into slaves.  Jane returns as well against John’s wishes.  He fears for his wife’s safety, but she convinces him to change his mind, explaining that like him, her true home is also in Africa.

So, they return to the jungle, and as expected, Leon Rom is there waiting for them, but his men bungle their attempts to capture John and manage to nab Jane instead, which as you might expect, doesn’t make John very happy.  Not to be outdone by the main character in the film, Samuel L. Jackson’s George Washington Williams tells John he’s following him into the jungle, and the two men spend the rest of the movie chasing down Rom and his henchmen.

It’s not difficult to deduce which side will win.

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN has a lot of problems, but its biggest problem is the way it goes about telling its story.  Director David Yates and screenwriters Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer make some odd choices.  The film begins with the Leon Rom sequence, then jumps to London, and in a series of flashbacks recalls John Clayton’s origins in Africa, where his father is killed and he is “adopted” by gorillas.  These plot points are revealed in increments, as the film switches back and forth between these flashbacks and some pretty dull dialogue between John and Jane in London.  The result is a terribly slow and laborious first third of this movie.

Things do get better.  In fact, the movie builds to a rather satisfying ending, but it takes forever to get there.

Another problem is the casting.  I didn’t warm up to Alexander Skarsgard as Tarzan at all.  I found him terribly stiff and boring.  He makes for a quiet and somber Tarzan and gives the hero little or no personality.  I expected more from Skarsgard, who’s the son of actor Stellan Skarsgard.

Nor did I enjoy Margot Robbie as Jane.  She’s gorgeous and beautiful, but there’s something very annoying about her personality.  She pretty much tells Rom that her husband is going to fix him good, and that’s about it for depth:  she knows what Tarzan is capable of, and she seems to have zero doubt that he will rescue her.  Not one time does she even appear the least bit scared that she might die.  Nope.  Tarzan will save the day.  And I’m beautiful to boot!

Christoph Waltz is fine as the villain, Leon Rom, although he doesn’t stray very far from his comfort zone.  He could have easily walked off the set of SPECTRE (2015) where he played Blofeld, change clothes, and become Leon Rom.  Truth be told, I thought he was better as Rom than he was as Blofeld.

Then there’s Samuel L. Jackson, who seems completely out of place here.  The film is a period piece, taking place in the 1890s, yet Jackson’s George Washington Williams speaks like a 21st century character.   I kept waiting for him to don an eyepatch and declare he was Nick Fury in disguise.  In fact, at times it seemed this movie wasn’t a Tarzan film at all, but Nick Fury vs. Blofeld.

As a result, Tarzan is overshadowed by Jackson and Waltz. Skarsgard lacks their charisma, and there also wasn’t enough Tarzan in this movie. The satisfying scenes towards the end, where Tarzan interacts with the animals of the jungle, should have come earlier and been more frequent.

Things just don’t mix together well in THE LEGEND OF TARZAN.  You have Waltz on one side doing his thing, and Jackson on the other doing his, and a bunch of less interesting stuff in the middle.

The other jungle movie released this year, THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016) did a much better job telling its story.  And both films include a similar elephant scene, but the one in THE JUNGLE BOOK was more effective.

Even the animals here are rather dull.  While the apes look good, they don’t look as good as the apes in the recent PLANET OF THE APES reboots, nor do they possess the sharp personalities of the apes in those movies.

My favorite acting performance in the film belongs to DJimon Hounsou as Chief Mbonga, and it’s for one scene. When Mbonga laments that Tarzan killed his son, it’s the most powerful moment in the movie.  It’s such a strong sequence that I found myself wishing the film had been about Mbonga!

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN is an oddly constructed tale that eventually gets better but is so long getting there it’s almost not worth it.

Tarzan is a really cool character. He deserves to be in a really cool movie.

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN is not it.

Before this movie, I was eagerly awaiting the next great Tarzan movie.

I’m still waiting.

—END—