EMILY THE CRIMINAL (2022)

August 11, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Aubrey Plaza proved during “Parks and Recreation”, and most every role since, that she is nearly unmatched in her ability to deliver blistering one-liners. However, over the last few years, she has expanded her repertoire and has become a fascinating, multi-talented actress who is exciting to watch. The feature film debut of writer-director John Patton Ford provides the opportunity for Ms. Plaza to push her dramatic chops into the world of crime. She not only doesn’t disappoint, she excels.

Emily (Ms. Plaza) is a struggling gig worker delivering lunch orders to office buildings. She has $70,000 in student loan debt and an assault conviction on her record that blocks her from any “good” jobs. We see how that past haunts her in an interview, and it’s also our first peek at her natural instinct to bow up and fight back in any situation she views as unjust. Emily is a Jersey girl living in L.A. with a bucket list that seems like a distant dream. One day a co-worker hooks her up with an opportunity to make $200 in one hour. Of course, the opportunity turns out to require her to do something illegal, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

The ‘training’ class is run by Youcef (Theo Rossi, “Sons of Anarchy”), a man with a gentle approach that disarms most attendees. Emily gets up to leave, but an exchange with Youcef (and a need for money) convinces her to stay and partake of the ridiculously easy money to be made from credit card fraud. The ‘dummy shopper’ approach can only go so far, and Youcef mentors Emily to take more risk for more reward. Additionally, their relationship escalates causing consternation from Youcef’s brother Khalil (Jonathan Avigdori), who points out that Emily is not the best at following rules, which puts her and the entire operation in jeopardy.

Liz (Megalyn Echikunwoke), Emily’s friend from art school, finagles an interview for her at the big-time marketing firm where she works. Gena Gershon has one scene as the hiring manager, and Emily proves yet again that her interview skills are a bit lacking. Only this time she’s chin deep in running crime with Youcef. One thing that is glossed over here, is that Emily surely has an advantage being an attractive white woman, while most of the others are people of color – automatically causing alert. Ms. Plaza and Mr. Rossi play off each other very well, but this is clearly her time to shine in a crime thriller. Although the story is actually very simple, and I’m not a fan of the ending, it’s certainly fun to watch Aubrey Plaza spread her wings as an actor.

Opening in theaters on August 12, 2022

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ROGUE AGENT (2022)

August 11, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Co-written with Michael Bronner (THE MAURITANIAN), co-writers and co-directors Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson base their first feature film on a remarkable true story … one whose final chapter may not yet be written. We are surrounded by fraud on a daily basis – emails from a Nigerian Prince and spam calls for an expired car warranty that never existed, to name a couple of mainstream schemes. But the real life saga of Robert Freegard takes fraud and the long con to a whole new level.

We begin in 1993 as Freegard (James Norton, “Happy Valley”) is working as a barkeep in a pub. He bewitches three college kids with the story that he’s an undercover MI5 agent, and that he needs their help to infiltrate an Irish Republican Army (IRA) group working on campus. Known for their bombings at the time, this is a dangerous and important mission, and he convinces the students that they are field spies in training and serving their country … though nothing is more important than their loyalty to him. Of course, Freegard is not MI5.

The film leaps forward nine years, and we find Robert working as a car salesman. He identifies local attorney Alice Archer (Gemma Arterton, TAMARA DREWE, 2010) as his next target. After some initial skepticism, she falls hard for his charms and his stories. Alice also serves as the film’s narrator and explains how Robert will look people in the eyes, holding the gaze just the right amount of time to gain trust. We watch as their relationship plays out, costing Alice so much of her life. But Robert underestimates Alice’s resolve. She doesn’t appreciate being played like a fool. She performs her own investigative work, and enlists the help of a police detective (Shazad Latif, “Penny Dreadful”) in an attempt to track down Robert, as well as Sophie (Marisa Abela), one of the original college students who is still missing.

A Private Investigator informs Alice that scammers are either mad, sad, or bad. We readily know which category Robert belongs in. He’s a master of hiding in plain sight and reading people. He believes “everyone has a story they want to hear” and he exposes that vulnerability. It appears his only cause was to line his own pockets with other people’s money. But it’s not that simple. He also seemed to thrive on the perverse power trip in keeping people isolated and under his control – a form of psychological warfare. The film shows us how Robert was caught, but it also details what’s happened since 2009. If there is a lesson here, it’s put the past in the past, once you make peace with it – and don’t believe swindlers who are interested in your money. The film offers some excellent drama, strong performances from Ms. Arterton and Mr. Norton, and a short course in psychology of the sociopath. For more information on Freegard, check out the Netflix docuseries, “The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman”.

Opens August 12, 2022

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FALL (2022)

August 11, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. If you’ve ever wondered what a recurring nightmare would look like if filmed for the big screen, writer-director Scott Mann (HEIST, 2015) and co-writer Jonathan Frank are here to show you. Not much plot exists, and the bulk of the movie consists of two characters stuck in one place. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well I can tell you that my palms were sweaty and the tension was high.

The opening sequence immediately evokes memories of the spectacular documentary FREE SOLO (2018) featuring expert climber Alex Hannold. Becky (Grace Caroline Currey, SHAZAM!, 2019), her husband Dan (Mason Gooding, SCREAM, 2022), and their friend Hunter (Virginia Gardner, HALLOWEEN, 2018) are climbing the face of a mountain when tragedy strikes. We then flash forward 51 weeks and find Becky is a still-grieving recluse drowning her sorrows in booze and contemplating suicide. We aren’t clued in as to how she has paid rent for the past year, but her frustrated dad (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) has had no luck getting her to “move on”, and has called Hunter in to see if she can motivate Becky to rejoin society.

Hunter’s big idea is for the two ladies to climb the 2000-foot tall B67 TV Tower, once billed as the tallest structure in the U.S., but now a long-abandoned relic. Hunter is the risk-taker of the two, and she has developed quite a following on her YouTube channel by filming her own risky stunts. The tower appears to be out in some desert just beyond a sign that warns, “No Trespassing – Danger of Death.” Terrific camera work shows us the loose bolts, shaky tension lines, and rusty ladder once used for tower maintenance. In fact, the terrific camera work and the performances of the two actors are what drive home the terror we feel once they have reached the top and realize there is no way down. If your acrophobia hasn’t shaken you enough, how about being stranded 2000 feet above the ground on a platform barely large enough for two people to sit? Your choices for dying include falling, dehydration, starvation, exposure, or being pecked by the local vultures attracted to the injuries sustained while climbing.

Resourcefulness involves cell phones with no reception, a pair of Chuck Taylors, a flare gun, and a new use for a sports bra … somehow hardly noticeable once it’s gone. The two climbers are trapped for most of the run time, turning this into quite a survival story. Mind games and psychology play a part once exhaustion sets in, and there are couple of twists, neither of which should surprise most viewers. While the tension created is commendable, one recurring irritant became a bit of a joke – the overuse of “Are you okay?” begins in the opening sequence and seems to be repeated every 4-6 minutes. If it were a drinking game, no viewer would remain conscious by the end of the film. Other than that, it’s one of the better cinematic versions of a nightmare you’re likely to find … plus it leaves us with the inspiration: “If you’re scared of dying, don’t be afraid to live.”

Opens in theaters August 12, 2022

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SUMMERING (2022)

August 11, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Obviously, I was never a young girl fretting over the first year of middle school, and I would venture a guess that neither were writer-director James Ponsoldt or co-writer Benjamin Percy. The reason for this point is that this is a story of four girls in this situation, as well as the stress their actions load on their four mothers. Ponsoldt and Percy make this an observational story, rather than a personal one … a significant point of difference for a film like this. I had agreed to review the film based on being a huge fan of Mr. Ponsoldt’s 2013 film, THE SPECTACULAR NOW, but while that one was adapted from a novel, this current film is an original, and it lacks the depth and refinement of that previous gem … despite some decent acting from the cast, young and older.

Daisy (Lia Barnett), Lola (Sanai Victoria), Dena (Madalen Mills), and Mari (Eden Grace Redfield) are best friends frittering away the last few days of summer by hanging out the way young kids used to. There are no scheduled soccer practices and no structured piano lessons, only (mostly) unsupervised freedom to explore and live the moments that make up a day. The mothers (Lake Bell, Megan Mullaly, Sarah Cooper, Ashley Madekwe) are normal moms – carrying the burden of parenthood, work, and self-identity. They care for their daughters very much, despite one of them spending most of her non-working hours in an alcohol and divorce-induced sleep mode, oblivious to the comings and goings of her kid.

The film has a terrific start. We see the girls simply enjoying being around each other and sharing their concerns for the upcoming school year. This segment seems very natural and realistic. We immediately pick up on their personalities. Daisy is reserved and longs to be noticed. Lola is spiritually connected and will be the guiding force for an activity later in the story. Dena is quite smart and grounded in reality, while Mari frets over wearing a skirt to Catholic school. The friends banter about their uncertain future and the conversation drifts and bounces, just as we’d expect.

Things change quickly as the girls head to “Terabithia”, their secret spot off the beaten path. It’s here where they discover the body of an adult man who seemingly jumped from “Suicide Bridge” above. It’s at this point where we realize this is a girl version of Rob Reiner’s classic STAND BY ME (1986). Only that’s not what happens. Instead, we are subjected to a Nancy Drew knock-off where the girls attempt to solve the case as they wax philosophically about growing older. Almost nothing works from this point onward. We don’t really get to better understand each of the girls, and significant time is spent on their mothers’ reactions. Ghosts appear, while dads are presented in unfavorable light. The narration is heavy-handed, and what started with the theme of ‘anything is possible during summer’, leaves us with clunky dialogue and very little insight to pre-middle school girls.

Opening in theaters on August 12, 2022

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BODIES BODIES BODIES (2022)

August 11, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. This one works much better as satire than horror-thriller, at least for yours truly. With whodunnit elements drawn from Agatha Christie’s classic “Ten Little Indians”, the play-it-straight approach to riffing on Gen Z draws laughs right along with the expected annoyances courtesy of a bunch of entitled trust fund twenty-somethings. Actor-turned-director Halina Reijn and co-writers Sarah DeLappe and Kristen Roupenian (first feature film for both writers) have based the story on the party game known as ‘Body Body’ or ‘Murder in the Dark’, or perhaps you know it by some other name.

The film opens with a close-up of a passionate kiss between Sophie (Amandla Stenberg, DEAR EVAN HANSEN, 2001) and Bee (Maria Bakalova, BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM, 2020). A picturesque road trip takes the couple to an isolated mansion where they are meeting some of Sophie’s old friends for a hurricane party. They arrive as the storm approaches and the others are taking a last minute dip in the pool. It turns out they are surprised to see Sophie since she has kept her distance from the group (and been unresponsive to the group texts) for quite a while. We do find out her reason, and the group allows them to stay … mostly since the mansion is owned by David’s (Pete Davidson, “Saturday Night Live”) parents, and he and Sophie have been best friends for years. Also attending are Emma (Chase Sui Wonders), David’s wimpy actor-girlfriend who is prone to instant tears; Jordan (Myha’la Herrold), Sophie’s tough-on-the-outside former (and sometimes jealous) lover; Alice (Rachel Sennott, SHIVA BABY, 2020) a podcaster and easily the most entertaining of this crew; and Greg (Lee Pace, THE FALL, 2006), Alice’s much older boyfriend via Tinder match. Missing is Max (Conner O’Malley) who, we are told, left in a huff after an argument the night before.

As you might guess, booze and other mind-altering drugs play a role here, as does the house itself – with multiple staircases and hallways. Once the game begins, the question arises … is it being played for real? A dead body raises the stress level, as does the dreaded tap on the back required by the rules of the game. In addition to the cocaine and liquid spirits, pieces of the puzzle include: glowsticks, pot brownies, zucchini bread, swords, trust funds, insecurities, a dead car battery, a power outage, and the always-present cell phone flashlights. This is a group of narcissistic, social media-influenced, childlike adults who wear their emotions on their sleeves. Back-stabbing and belittling is common, as is (ironically) playing the victim. There is no way we would think this is actual dialogue between humans if we didn’t all know someone in this age group – or have accidentally stumbled on their exchanges via posts.

As much as I enjoy a satirical look aimed squarely at today’s twenty-somethings, these characters are so extremely unlikable that most of us would leave the party in 2 minutes, taking our chances with the hurricane. Every possible buzzword is included as these self-centered richies take aim at each other. Of course, being older, Greg doesn’t really fit in – but then no one really fits in here. Ms. Sennott’s character provides the most fun for viewers, as these long-time acquaintances seem to have no clue what it means to be a friend. They don’t trust those they know, those they don’t know, or even themselves. This could be a contemporary version of SCREAM … well if that wasn’t the Timex of movie franchises. With no cell coverage for most of the movie, these folks are forced to have actual conversations and interact, exposing the lack of social graces which are enhanced given the situation. The ending is not likely to surprise you, but it’s quite fitting. This is certainly not amongst the best A24 offerings, but if you can put up with the lingo and irritating characters, there is some comedy to appreciate.

Opening in theaters on August 12, 2022

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EASTER SUNDAY (2022)

August 5, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Director Jay Chandrasekhar and co-writers Kate Angelo and Ken Cheng have crafted a tribute to the Filipino community, paying homage to family bonds and the culture. The obvious comparisons here are CRAZY RICH ASIANS (2018) and any number of Bollywood movies offering insight and a peek behind the curtain of Indian families. As global societies continue to disburse and intertwine with various races and cultures, it only makes sense for us to gain more understanding of each other … and what better way than through comedy?

In the film, real life comedian Jo Koy plays fictional comedian and aspiring actor Joe Valencia. Joe moved to Los Angeles, away from his Bay area family, to pursue a career in entertainment. It’s been a struggle, and he’s best known for a beer commercial where he looks into the camera and says, “Let’s get this party started, bayBee!” One of the recurring gags is how so many either recite the line to him, or plea with him to do so. Up for a big role in a TV pilot, Joe once again lets down his high school aged son, by attending an audition rather than a parent meeting at school. Junior (Brandon Wardell) is struggling a bit with his grades at the prestigious prep school he attends. See, Joe’s career as an actor might not be rolling, but his ex-wife is a powerful attorney married to a professional athlete.

The real fun begins as we see the tension between father and son on the road trip they make to join the rest of the family for Easter Sunday … an important day for Filipinos. Along the way, we experience two more of the film’s running gags: Joe’s mom (Lydia Gaston) pressuring him not just to show up, but to not be late, and Joe’s agent (played by director Chandrasekhar), whose use of ‘entering a tunnel, so I’ll be losing the connection’ is his standard way of ending a conversation when he’s done. Once they arrive, we get yet another running gag – the ongoing sister rivalry between Joe’s mom and his Tita Theresa (Tia Carrere). It’s a quick trip for Joe and Junior, but it’s filled with family drama, Joe’s impromptu stand-up in church, a love interest for Junior (Eva Noblezada), a run-in with a former lover (Tiffany Haddish) for Joe, a questionable business investment between Joe and his cousin Eugene (Eugene Cordero), a confrontation with a local gangster named Dev Deluxe (Asif Ali), and an all-in family karaoke song. There is even a Lou Diamond Phillips tie-in that adds a touch of class.

The writers and director have worked mostly in TV to this point, and that is just too obvious. A TV sitcom style rarely succeeds on the big screen, and though we do get some laughs, there is an amateurish feel to the proceedings. On the upside, some insight into Filipino culture is welcome, I now know Manny Pacquaio’s birthday, and it was my first exposure to “Hype Truck!”

Opens in theaters on August 5, 2022

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THIRTEEN LIVES (2022)

August 4, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. It is 2018 and a group of boys have just finished soccer practice. After some motivational words from their coach, the boys start joking around with one of their teammates who has a birthday party slated for later that day.  Boys being boys, they decide to bike over the local cave for some pre-party exploring. Their coach tags along to keep an eye on them. All of that sounds innocent enough until we realize this is the Tham Luang cave, and they don’t realize Thailand’s monsoon season is about to arrive early and with full force.

The film is directed by Oscar winner Ron Howard, who is adept at mainstream storytelling as evidenced by APOLLO 13 (1994), A BEAUTIFUL MIND (2001), and CINDERELLA MAN (2005). The script was penned by William Nicholson (GLADIATOR, 2000) and Don MacPherson (THE AVENGERS, 1998), and tells the all-too-true story of the daring rescue mission that most of recall following on news reports. When the boys were no-shows for the birthday party, parents and friends rushed to the cave to find the bicycles, but not the 12 boys and their coach. Immediately, rescue efforts began with Thai Navy SEALS rushing to the sight. Cave diving is a unique skill practiced by only a few, and is much different than the open water diving in which the SEALS excel.

British cave divers John Volanthen (Colin Farrell) and Rick Stanton (Viggo Mortensen) are called in. Volanthen is the father of a son, and can’t help but empathize with what the parents must be going through, while Stanton is crusty old geezer who admits to not liking kids, while also understanding he’s one of the few on earth capable of making the necessary dive. Once the two men reach the stranded boys and coach, it becomes apparent that, as difficult and challenging it was to find the group, getting them out of the cave seems all but impossible. Death hung heavy over the operation of last resort, which included calling in Dr. Harry Harris (Joel Edgerton), a cave diving hobbyist, and more importantly, an anesthetist.

The diving scenes are expertly filmed by DP Sayombhu Mukdeeprom and underwater camera operator Tyrone Canning. The ever-present claustrophobia and risk of disaster underscores how courageous these men were. Director Howard offers up multiple perspectives: the government, the military, the divers, and the parents. We get very little from those trapped, but that adds to the tension. We get a feel for the entire operation as water is being pumped out of the cave, a water expert and volunteers frantically divert new rainwater into the rice fields, and political maneuvering occurs as the outgoing Governor (Sahajak Boonthankakit) is being set up as fall guy in case the efforts fail.

So many elements could have caused failure – low oxygen levels in the cave, a brisk current of water making diving more difficult, and obviously too much rainwater entering the cave would endanger the boys and the divers. The rescue mission lasted more than two weeks. It’s a disaster movie based on a real event, and follows up the excellent 2021 documentary, THE RESCUE. Evidently the dramatization is for those who don’t watch or have access to documentaries, and as strong as Howard’s movie is, there is simply no way for it to eclipse the documentary or what occurred in real time. At its best, the film offers tension and a reminder of what can be accomplished with collaboration.

Available on PRIME VIDEO beginning August 5, 2022

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LUCK (2022, animation)

August 4, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. “Find a penny, pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck.” That’s how the old saying goes, and it plays a prominent part in this first animated feature film from Skydance Animation. Directed by former Disney animation choreographer Peggy Holmes, and co-written by Kiel Murray (CARS, 2006) and writing partners Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, who teamed on the “Kung Fu Panda” franchise (as well as other projects), the film’s approach shifted when Skydance hired John Lasseter as head of animation. You may know Mr. Lasseter as the creative force behind Pixar and such groundbreaking films as TOY STORY (1995), but he’s also the guy that faced multiple accusations of workplace sexual impropriety and left Disney Pixar in late 2017. His Skydance hiring brought a change of director to the project, and was the reason Oscar winner Emma Thompson recused herself, replaced by Oscar winner Jane Fonda, who evidently had no such qualms about working for Lasseter.

Sam Greenfield (voiced by Eva Noblezada) is a klutzy 18-year-old who has ‘aged out’ of the foster home where she has lived. Never experiencing a ‘forever family’, Sam has maintained a positive outlook on life, despite what she sees as a never-ending streak of mishaps, accidents, unfortunate coincidences, and overall bad luck. She’s been very supportive of her younger friend Hazel (Adalyn Spoon), who holds out hope for adoption and is a collector of good luck charms … missing only a lucky penny. While bumbling through her first days as an independent woman, Sam finds a lucky penny, only to have bad luck strike (in the form of an automatic toilet) before she can deliver it to Hazel. And soon, Sam is chatting up a talking black cat (Simon Pegg) before they both enter a portal that whisks them to the Land of Luck.

It might seem odd that a black cat brough Sam her first taste of good luck, but as the story develops, so does their friendship. The Land of Luck is run by a dragon (Jane Fonda), and it’s her Captain (Whoopi Goldberg) that has it out for Bob … and the shenanigans that Sam brings to this new world certainly don’t help. The Land of Luck consists of leprechauns and four-leaf clovers, rabbits (none missing a foot), and pigs (never knew they were considered lucky). Down below the Land of Luck is the land of Bad Luck, and it’s Jeff the Unicorn (a terrific Flula Borg) who is charged with keeping the ‘right’ mixture of good luck and bad that gets sent to the land of humans. Yes, it’s all a bit convoluted, but what the movie gets right are the colorful visuals and the fun characters. Sam, Bob, the Dragon, and Jeff are all memorable in their own way.

It seems pretty clear that John Lasseter’s fingerprints are on the final film, as influences from INSIDE OUT and SOUL are quite evident … although those films are far superior. Where this one falls short is in memorable and pointed storytelling, always a strength of Pixar. We are left a bit befuddled on the takeaway message. Are our lives determined by a mixture of good and bad luck? What about making our own luck and forging our own path? Taking responsibility for our own actions and building our own network of friends and acquaintances seems every bit as important as whether the toast lands jelly-side up or down. Despite all that, it’s a pretty solid first animated feature from a studio likely to continue to improve as more projects are released – assuming they have the best of luck!

In select theaters and on AppleTV+ on August 5, 2022

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BULLET TRAIN (2022)

August 3, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. If you are one that still needs proof that movie stars matter, this latest from director David Leitch (a former stuntman who also directed ATOMIC BLONDE, 2017) and screenwriter Zak Olkewicz (adapted from Kotaro Isaka’s 2010 novel, “Maria Beetle”) may be submitted as evidence. Replace Brad Pitt with almost any other actor, and this one becomes borderline unwatchable. However, with the Oscar winner, there is sufficient charm, humor, and entertainment to keep us around for the more than two hour run time.

Mr. Pitt stars as Ladybug, a floppy bucket hat wearing last minute fill-in for an assassin who called in sick. His handler (voiced by Oscar winner Sandra Bullock) walks him through what is supposed to be a simple snatch and grab job involving a briefcase. Of course, it turns out to be anything but simple as the train is filled with what seems to be an endless stream of contract killers intent on securing the same briefcase. Among those are Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry). Mr. Taylor-Johnson continues his tradition of over-acting and lacking the charm he believes he has, while Mr. Henry’s obsession with Thomas the Tank Engine at least gives his character a reason for us to be annoyed. The two are referred to as British brothers or even ‘twins’, which gives you some idea of what the film wants you to buy as humor.

A slew of other characters include Joey King as Prince, the “Shibumi” reading type who pushes a kid off a roof, and then uses her skill of crying-on-demand to escape most danger; Andrew Koji as Kimura, that kid’s distraught father; Hiroyuki Sanada as Kimura’s father; Zazie Beetz as The Hornet; rapper Bad Bunny as Wolf; Logan Lerman as the son of a Russian gangster, and Lerman spends much of the movie auditioning for the title character in “Weekend at Bernie’s”; and Michael Shannon as said Russian gangster, White Death. Beyond all of these highly recognizable folks, we also get two very high-profile cameos, both used for comic effect.

In between the one-minute stops on the trip from Tokyo to Kyoto, there is an abundance of fighting – comical, rapidly-paced, and violent – using such available props as the features on a smart toilet, knives, guns, swords, poison, bombs, and a venomous (incorrectly labeled as poisonous in the movie) Boomslang snake. Since most of the action takes place on the train, we get action in passenger cars, the galley, the lounge, the control booth, and even on top of the speeding train.

It’s Pitt’s character who keeps us interested, and the movie drags when he is off screen. Ladybug is a skilled improvisational fighter, although his recent personal growth through therapy has him eschewing guns, dwelling on his inherent bad luck, and reciting affirmations and wisdoms, when he can remember them. Mostly, by golly, he just wants to be a nicer person (quite a short trip for a contract killer). This chaos and spontaneous convention of bad players were all part of White Death’s plan, which is revealed late in the film.

It appears director Leitch (a former renowned stuntman) worked diligently to create a new form of zany by blending Guy Ritchie’s best work with Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” films, and then adding a dash of ‘who-done-what-to-whom?” Instead, with the near slapstick action and goofy dialogue, it plays more like a modern day CANNONBALL RUN, which was also directed by a former stuntman (the legendary Hal Needham). As a bonus, we also get the Japanese version of “Stayin’ Alive”, replete with Brad Pitt strutting through Tokyo in tennis shoes.

Opens in theaters on August 5, 2022

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TMI – Movie Backdrops/Backings

August 1, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. It’s unusual for a story on movies to mention such dissimilar films as Hitchcock’s NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) and the sci-fi cult favorite FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956), or two classics as diverse as SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952) and BEN-HUR (1959). What could these four films, and thousands of others, possibly have in common? The answer is the magic and artistry of backdrops or backings – a history as old as cinema.

This February 2020 segment from CBS Sunday Morning is only about six minutes long, yet provides a nice overview of how these have been used, and are continuing to be used, to create some of the scenery that sets the mood for memorable moments from our favorite movies (as well as those we wish we could forget).

Thanks to reader BG for passing this along:

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