THE PUNISHER (2017)
Spin-off series from season 2 of Netflix’s Daredevil finds ex-soldier Frank Castle aka “The Punisher” (Jon Bernthal) thinking he’s finished his mission of revenge and hanging up his skull adorned bulletproof vest under the new identity of loner, construction worker Pete Castellini. Upon being contacted by a whistle blower thought dead named Micro (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), Castle finds that there is a deeper conspiracy responsible for the murder of his family, one that involves high ranking military personal, dirty CIA agents and unknowingly himself. Castle returns to the road for revenge, but only now he has a tenacious Homeland Security agent on his tail (Amber Rose Revah) who has her own score to settle.
The Punisher solo series’ first season leaves some mixed feelings. Bernthal is still a great Frank Castle/Punisher and there is certainly a lot of the bone-crushing, brutal action like the character was involved in on Daredevil. The problems here are some sub-plots that don’t seem necessary or to add much to the proceedings and the fact that it once again takes nearly the whole season for The Punisher to really re-emerge. It’s more of a conspiracy show, a la the X-Files, which would be fine if it stuck to the conspiracy and it’s attention didn’t wander to sub-plots like a growing relationship with Micro’s “widow” (Jaime Ray Newman) and kids (Kobi Frumer and Ripley Sobo) and an emotionally disturbed young vet turned terrorist named Lewis (Daniel Webber). These sub-plots seem more like plot devices, one to keep his relationship with Micro antagonistic and the other to wrongfully out him to the world as a terrorist. At times they feel a bit like filler to stretch the series out to it’s 13 episodes when maybe a more streamlined 10 would have served it better and kept to the main story. Sometimes the violence seems a bit too over the top and Frank seems to bounce back from severe wounds or beatings far too quickly to be believable. If the show wants to ground itself in reality, which it does, than it’s hard to swallow a man entering physical combat mere days after being beaten practically to death. Still the show is well done and the acting is strong across the board, especially from Bernthal, Moss-Bachrach and Revah. Paul Schulze makes a detestable bad guy as rogue CIA director William Rawlins, one of the season’s main villains. There are also some returning characters From DDse02, such as Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page and Clancy Brown as Major Schoonover. While there are generous amounts of action throughout, once The Punisher suits up again there are some really intense action set-pieces, which illustrate just how bad-ass this incarnation of the character is. The show does have a kind of Sons of Anarchy vibe, it handled the theme of a combat vet’s life back home very well and a more focused second season could really fire on all cylinders for the character.
Overall, the first season for Marvel’s gun-toting vigilante wasn’t exactly on target, but has enough going for it to look forward to more. Now that the revenge and conspiracy elements are taken care of, season two can get down to The Punisher doing what he does best. Not a great first season, but one that shows a lot of potential if season 2 can lock it down.
- 3 AM – directed by Tom Shankland and written by Steve Lightfoot
- Two Dead Men – directed by Tom Shankland and written by Steve Lightfoot
- Kandahar – directed by Andy Goddard and written by Steve Lightfoot
- Resupply – directed by Karl Skogland and written by Dario Scardapane
- Gunner – directed by Dearbhla Walsh written by Michael Jones-Morales
- The Judas Goat – directed by Jeremy Webb and written by Christine Boylan
- Crosshairs – directed by Andy Goddard and written by Bruce Marshall Romans
- Cold Steel – directed by Antonio Campos and written by Felicia D. Henderson
- Front Toward Enemy – directed by Marc Jobst and written by Angela LaManna
- Virtue of the Vicious – directed by Jim O’hanlon and written by Ken Kristensen
- Danger Close – directed by Kevin Hooks and written by Felicia D. Henderson
- Home – directed by Jet Wilkinson and written by Dario Scardapane
- Memento Mori- directed by Stephen Surjik and written by Steve Lightfoot
BABY DRIVER (2017)
Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a music loving getaway driver for crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey). Doc caught Baby stealing his car, but was so impressed by his technique and driving that he is letting him work off his infraction by employing the orphaned young man to get his robbery teams out quick. Baby has almost worked off his dept and wants out, especially when he meets beautiful and sweet waitress Debora (Lily James), who steals his heart. But Doc isn’t about to let Baby get away that easy and when a big job brings in loose cannon Batz (Jamie Foxx), Baby might be in for the ride of his life…and maybe his last ride, too!
Written and directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), this is a routine crime thriller energized by having the action synced up with the film’s awesome soundtrack of classic tunes. In this aspect the film is impressive, especially on a technical level and does have some really energetic chase sequences when the law are in hot pursuit. The romance is also very hip and sweet between Baby and the captivating Debora and we believe these two kids are in love. The film is, overall, fun from start to finish, but does falter once the soundtrack syncing starts to wear out it’s novelty and we realize that underneath Wright’s showmanship is just another crime thriller about a good man in with some bad people. It follows the formula very closely, so it’s no spoiler to know that Baby’s plans to go away with Debbie are going to be thwarted by Doc, the last big job will go awry and we know Baby will be forced to go up against his former “friends” when Debbie gets caught in the middle. Even while very predictable, this is still an enjoyable thriller and Wright’s style of telling the familiar tale does freshen things up for a while. Edgar Wright may not always be the most original filmmaker in terms of his stories, but he is one of the more innovative ones when it comes to how he tells them.
The cast is really on target with Ansel Elgort being a handsome and charming young rogue with the beautiful Lily James being quite captivating as the sassy and sweet apple of his eye. They have chemistry and their scenes together are engaging, as they should be. Kevin Spacey is having a blast as the eccentric Doc and even manages to give the crime boss a little bit of heart underneath the bad guy veneer. Jon Hamm and Eiza González also sizzle as a married couple who are a modern day Bonnie and Clyde with González being a suitably sexy bad girl and Hamm being a likable bad-ass who becomes a real beast when things go wrong. Jamie Foxx is fine as Batz, though the character sometimes seemed a little too reckless to have lived this long in this business. Jon Bernthal also appears briefly as another member of Doc’s rotating crime team who doesn’t like that Baby never gets his hands dirty. A good cast who get the tone of the material and has a good time with their characters.
In conclusion this was a fun movie with a great soundtrack and some top notch action and editing. The romance elements were hip and sweet and the film only falters when it’s soundtrack syncing gimmick looses steam and we realize we’ve seen this movie many, many times before…thus making it predictable. It’s still worth watching, though, especially for the hip cast, fast action and awesome tunes, but by the end we do realize that this car is actually an old model, just one with shiny new rims.
Netflix may be keeping the release date for it’s new series The Punisher a secret for now, but they have finally released a trailer for the upcoming Marvel adaptation. Jon Bernthal stars as vigilante Frank Castle aka “The Punisher” who is avenging the death of his family.
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Sicario is an intense and gripping crime thriller that opens with an FBI raid on a house owned by a suspected drug lord and the gruesome discovery made within. Not only does by-the-book agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) discover bodies filling the walls of the house, but a booby trap claims the lives of two officers. Wanting to catch those responsible, Kate is asked to join a special ops team with mysterious government operative Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and even more mysterious ‘advisor’ Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). As the operation to bring down drug lord Manuel Diaz (Bernardo P. Saracino) and his boss begins and Kate is taken deep into the Mexican underworld, she starts to question who her new partners really are and what their real agenda is.
Written by Taylor Sheridan and directed by Denis Villeneuve, this is a very involving and sometimes shocking thriller about an idealistic FBI agent who may not be ready to deal with the realities of the war on drugs. We are taken inside this special ops team knowing as little about these men as she does and watch as she is drawn into a world she isn’t prepared for. Not only are the people they are pursuing capable of horrible atrocities, but her mysterious team members aren’t above breaking rules and crossing lines to accomplish their objectives as well. The line between good guys and bad guys becomes increasingly blurred and Kate is our voice of reason being drowned out in a world were reason and morality have long since been abandoned. The deeper she gets, the more she realizes she is in a world she doesn’t want to be in. As for her new team, they seem to have their own agenda and methods, that Kate is no longer sure she wants to be a part of. It’s a rude awakening for her and Villeneuve opens our eyes along with her. It can be a very intense ride and there are a few punch-in-the-gut scenes as true agenda’s and identities are revealed. This is a top notch thriller with some nail-biting action and one that takes us into world’s we don’t see on CNN or even NCIS for that matter…a world where there are no heroes or villains, just players in a brutal game. It also takes the time to give us a glimpse of what life is like for those that live closest to it. It’s an intense, suspenseful and well-crafted thriller that takes a noble woman and places her in a violent world without rules that she is not prepared to live in. It’s harrowing and skillfully told journey.
The cast are top notch and all do good work. Emily Blunt again shows she is a versatile actress who can take on tough physical roles with dramatic intensity. Her Kate is a woman with both a sense of duty and morals who is forced into a world were the book is thrown out the window along with morality and even the law she has sworn to uphold. She teams with men no better than those she vowed to bring to justice and Blunt plays the toll on Kate well. Josh Brolin is strong as the team leader shrouded in mystery. From the beginning we know there is more to this man than meets the eye and Brolin keeps pace as Sheridan’s script slowly unravels the layers of secrecy to let us know who the man really is and what his true agenda entails. Del Toro really impresses with a character that is soft spoken one minute, yet has no hesitation in torturing a suspect if it means getting what he wants. He is shrouded in mystery as is Brolin, but the man we are finally to discover is one you may not expect. The film switches focus to him a bit in the last act and it is here we discover his true identity and his real mission and it will really tear Kate apart when this strange man she starts to bond with, is unmasked. We also have a great supporting cast including Victor Garber, Marvel familiar face Maximiliano Hernández, Walking Dead‘s Jon Bernthal and Burn Notice‘s Jeffrey Donovan.
This is a strong thriller that can hit hard at times and takes you on a journey into a world of questionable morals and tactics with a character who has always played by the rules and tried to do what’s right. She is surrounded by men with their own methods and agenda’s operating in another world beneath the one she knows. There is some taunt suspense, some gripping action and some disturbing moments as Agent Kate Macer is drawn deeper into a war we only see the surface of on TV. There are some messages here, but they are not intrusive and the acting really makes these characters work, especially when the layers are slowly peeled off and true natures are revealed. A highly recommended thriller.
3 and 1/2 bullets.
Birdman is a quirky and refreshingly off-beat comedy/drama from director Alejandro G. Iñárritu and appropriately stars Michael Keaton as Riggan Thompson, an actor trying to reignite his fading star. Riggan was once world famous for starring in the lead of the popular superhero franchise, Birdman. Now he’s entering his 60s and trying to validate himself and add some relevance back to his life by writing, directing and starring in a Broadway play. Obviously, what can go wrong, will go wrong and there are an eccentric group of characters…including his imaginary, costumed alter-ego…in the mix to add to Riggan’s troubles. Iñárritu has a very original style that fits the story so well. It’s filled with lengthy tracking shots following our characters from scene to scene and some delightfully surreal moments as well. The cast are all top notch, with Keaton giving one of his best performances and it definitely is his show. He is supported by the likes of Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Andrea Riseborough who are all excellent in their roles, too. But, in my humble opinion, it is Emma Stone who steals every scene she’s in with her best work to date as Riggan’s fresh out of rehab daughter. She is simply a powerhouse in some scenes and holds her own…and more…with the seasoned veterans. A flick worthy of it’s praise. The only negative I had was that the jazz drum score got on my nerves after awhile. Otherwise, a great little movie.
If you are a fan of WWII flicks and all the familiar trappings, then you’ll probably enjoy this. I found it to be kinda dull and any dramatic weight or intensity of the action is brought down by an overload of clichés. The story, written and directed by David Ayer, finds Staff Sergeant Don Collier (Brad Pitt) leading his tank crew deep into Germany in 1945 to clean up the last of the German military resistance…and not having an easy time of it. Ayer throws every cliché in the book from situations to stereotypical war movie characters and adds some Private Ryan style violence, but the effect is still that we’ve seen it all before, since the very first WWII movie was made. The film is well-directed and action well-staged, but it’s just too familiar to be interesting and takes very few risks to liven things up. If you like this kind of film, go for it. Otherwise it’s nothing you haven’t seen in countless other likewise movies. The solid cast also stars Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña, Walking Dead’s Jon Bernthal and Logan Lerman as the stereotypical green newbie.