Quickie Reviews: The Hitman’s Bodyguard; Logan Lucky; Patti Cake$

The Hitman’s Bodyguard falls into the bucket of mindless summer entertainment that offers a decent-enough cinematic escape for anyone willing to accept the movie for what it is and not over-analyze its foibles. Ryan Reynolds channels his Deadpool sarcasm to play Michael Bryce, a down-on-his-luck “protection agent” (i.e. bodyguard) who is called upon to safely transport his nemesis, notorious hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel “Snakes on a Plane” L. Jackson) to the Hague so he can testify against brutal East European dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). It’s a familiar formula: The clock is ticking. If the witness doesn’t get to the Hague before a 24-hour deadline, the evil dictator will surely walk free. Cue the overlong gun battles, myriad car and motorcycle chases, and outlandish boat escapes as Dukhovich’s cronies take aim at Bryce and Kincaid.

Quickie Reviews: The Glass Castle; Wind River; The Fencer; A Taxi Driver

I’m generally a fan of (or maybe a sucker for) movies based on real people and events, so that could be why I had a pretty good week at the movies with two mainstream dramas and two foreign films. First up: The Glass Castle, based on Jeannette Walls’s best-selling memoir about her unconventional upbringing and coming to terms with the complexities of her relationship with her dysfunctional parents and remarkably normal siblings. The film features a stellar cast that includes Brie Larson (Room), Chandler Head and Ella Anderson as Jeannette (through the years), Woody Harrelson as her fundamentally flawed but occasionally well-meaning father, and Naomi Watts as her eccentric artist mother. The parents are the types to define homelessness and squatting as a ‘lifestyle choice’. I haven’t read the book, but those around me who did seemed satisfied with the way the film played out. Others, however, (while still acknowledging the strong performances) criticized the movie for glamorizing or romanticizing what they saw as dangerous, irresponsible and often cruel parenting. I thought it walked the line fairly well, in much the same way as last year’s well-received indie Captain Fantastic.

Menashe Review

Most of us will never see the Ultra-orthodox Hassidic Jewish culture from the inside. Menashe is one such opportunity. Shot in Brooklyn and almost entirely in Yiddish, it’s the story of a widower named Menashe (Menashe Lustig) who seems destined to fail in the eyes of his community, leaving him all alone while his young son Rieven (Ruben Niborski) is forced to live with his brother-in-law. It’s really a simple story of a father struggling to get his child back while living within the strictures of his faith, which is not easy for him to do.

Ingrid Goes West Review

This is an odd and uncomfortable indie comedy. The Ingrid of the title has serious social/mental problems. Played by Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) she lives very much alone but online, and actually thinks people are her besties because she follows their social media feeds and knows all about them. In the first scene of the movie, Ingrid crashes a wedding she wasn’t invited to, assaulting the bride who she felt so close to because she’d seen and “liked” all the wedding plans on Instagram. But once that “relationship” has turned sour, she goes back online and finds her next victim/best friend who just happens to live in Los Angeles, and she’s off to insinuate herself into her life. Taylor Sloane played by Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene) is a lifestyle star on Instagram and is soon real life friends with Ingrid. But you are constantly worrying that she’s going to figure out she’s being stalked.

Quickie Reviews: The Dark Tower; Brigsby Bear; Detroit; Step; An Inconvenient Sequel; Escapes

The Dark Tower. I’m not a Stephen King purist so I didn’t go into this movie with the same high expectations as those who’ve read the series of books that The Dark Tower is based on. Perhaps that’s why I liked it – not a lot, but enough to slot it into the “acceptable summer cinematic escape” category for the 12-and-up crowd. It’s an action adventure fantasy flick with a confounding plot that boils down to a physical and psychological battle between good (Idris Elba as gunslinger Roland) and evil (Matthew McConaughey as creepy Man in Black) across parallel universes.

Lady Macbeth Review

No, it’s not Shakespeare’s play. But the lady in question does end up with a lot of blood on her hands. The film Lady Macbeth is an adaptation of a Russian novella, but set in a very isolated part of England in 1865. Young Katherine (Florence Pugh), is sold into marriage with an older man and seems destined to spend her life in crushing boredom. There are no people for her to interact with except her cold husband, his controlling father, and some servants. She’s forbidden from going out of the house, there doesn’t seem to be a library or a book anywhere, her marriage is sexless, and you can tell she’s about to go insane. But then her husband and his father are called away, and she not only ventures out of the house, but she begins a torrid affair with Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), a groom on the estate, which develops into a dangerous obsession for everyone involved.

Quickie Reviews: Atomic Blonde and Landline

Atomic Blonde is set against the backdrop of the fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989. As the Cold War appears to be nearing its end, the spy game is hot as ever. British MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is sent to Berlin to retrieve a stolen list that threatens to expose the identity of all Western spies. It’s a familiar plot line in espionage thrillers, and in this case, the convoluted plot is a mere vehicle for launching a tangled web of deceit among Broughton’s contacts (including James McAvoy as embedded station chief David Percival) and triggering a whole lot of extended fight scenes. Lorraine’s weapons of choice include anything she can get her hands on – from guns and knives, to keys and high heels – all swung with lethal force. The film is like a hyper-violent Jason Bourne or Bond movie with a lead that happens to be a badass chick.

Maudie Review

Based on a true story, this biopic is both sweet and disturbing at times. It’s the story of Maud Lewis, a folk artist who lived in Nova Scotia. It starts in the 1930s where Maud (Sally Hawkins) is a struggling young woman. Her brother has just sold her parents’ house out from under her, and she is destined to live with her strict Aunt Ida. But Maud wants to live and have fun and paint, despite some crippling birth defects that left her with gnarled hands and a bad leg. So when things get too stifling with Ida, she goes out looking for a way to support herself, and she finds a notice for a live-in maid. What follows is the often uncomfortable love story between Maud and her employer, the misanthropic fishmonger Everett (Ethan Hawke).

The Midwife Review

France’s two greatest female stars unite in this bittersweet drama about unfinished relationships. Catherine Deneuve is hard-living Béatrice, who’s been living out of a suitcase for decades making a living as a gambler. She reenters Claire’s (Catherine Frot, Marguerite) life just as both their lives are about to change drastically. Claire is a midwife who’s clinic is about to shut down and it’s the one place she’s really alive. Béatrice disappeared from her life without explanation many years early, but suddenly wants to be a part of it again? Claire isn’t so sure. Though there are other storylines in the movie, the center is these two starkly different women growing to rely upon one another.

Quickie Reviews: Girls Trip; Dunkirk; Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

This film is trippin’! It may not garner any Oscar nominations, but it’s definitely the most fun option of the week for anyone in the mood for a comedic escape. Girls Trip delivers what Rough Night failed to just a few weeks ago… and that’s a raunchy yet relatable female ensemble comedy in the spirit of the highly-successful Bridesmaids.