Connect with us

Movie News

Movie Review: ‘American Assassin’ Misses the Mark

Published

on

American Assassin Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he opening scene of American Assassin is one too familiar in action-thrillers. The hunky Mitch (Dylan O’Brien) has just proposed to his girlfriend at the beach while filming it for all the world to see. She says yes, a surrounding crowd claps and he goes to the outdoor bar to grab her a drink.

You don’t have to be a genius to know something horrible is going to happen to this girl. I was prepared to watch her die in slow motion. I was not, however, prepared for that death to be part of a gruesome attack on the beach by gun-toting Muslim terrorists. That’s not fair. How can I laugh at the cliche and expected death when it comes slathered in blood, bullets and innocent people being gunned down ruthlessly?

American Assassin Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

Dylan O’Brien is out for revenge in ‘American Assassin.’

A major flaw with a thriller such as this is that it takes a cue from current events more than it should. It’s bad enough that the beach massacre reminds me of the many Muslim terror attacks with its gruesome and graphic violence, but it’s even worse to follow that up with a terrorist recruitment video, complete with rock music and footage of what looks like real deaths in the Middle East. This is where American Assassin lost me. Unless there is some meditation on how inhumane all this hatred and war has made the world, I’m not interested in the film’s central plot of revenge and nukes. Those silly and overused writing devices don’t deserve such reality.

The film seems to be on a mission to make its world as ugly, cynical and mean-spirited as possible. When we catch up with Mitch 18 months later, he’s overcome with fury to avenge his fiancee. He works out at a gym to strengthen himself, but he’s too aggressive with his trainers and is kicked out. He throws knives in his apartment, angering the landlord. He’s also trying to infiltrate a Muslim terrorist group so he can join them and then kill their leader. The CIA doesn’t like that, but he still leads the organization to a terrorist so they figure they could maybe use him. After all, they’ve run tests on him and they’re off the charts. I’m assuming these tests included how muscular he looks with his shirt off and how good he looks holding a gun.

American Assassin Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

Michael Keaton in the generic action poster.

He is trained to be an operative by Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton), a Cold War veteran that only teaches the best of the best CIA agents. Hurley’s training program is entirely combat oriented. He teaches knife-killing techniques by handing a knife to Mitch, instructing him to kill his instructor. He’ll awaken his troops with a gun fired wildly into the air, asking why nobody was on watch and declaring everyone now dead. They’ll later play a virtual reality simulation of shooting terrorists out of a crowd, a sharp electric charge coursing through their bodies if they get shot before they shoot first. I’m seeing an awful lot of combat here and not a whole lot of secrecy. I dunno, something about working for the CIA makes me think these guys should know more than where to stick a knife and who to shoot.

Mitch and Hurley, as well as some other operatives to act as terrorist fodder, are on a mission in Rome to stop some terrorists from making a nuke. Hurley tells Mitch an important aspect of the job is not to make it personal. Of course, the mission will become personal and Mitch will disobey orders to chase after leads. Hurley will also let the mission get personal when his former student has gone rogue. Even the supporting Turkish agent of Annika (Shiva Negar) also has a personal dog in this fight.

Related: Movie Review: ‘It’ Floats with Fear and (Horror) Fun

By Hurley’s logic, these are the worst CIA operatives for the job. Don’t pull that building character nonsense on me to justify their stupidity. There is no character here. Not when our leads are constantly talking about the mission, condescendingly arguing with each other or growling in expletives at the terrorists. There’s a scene where Keaton eats off the ear of a terrorist holding him hostage, smiling with blood on his teeth and snarling like a dog. This is just one of many opportune times to showcase him as a deeply flawed man with severe psychological problems. But, no, he’s just a quirky old coot.

Read more for the rest of the American Assassin movie review:

PreviousNext
View Next


Movie News

Review: “The House With a Clock In Its Walls” Ticks With Messy Magic

Published

on

Eli Roth’s The House With a Clock In Its Walls has a lot going on to be the type of haunted house horror perfect for the Goosebump-loving kids. It has warlock lore, a spooky house of surprises, a plucky young magician in training, and a sinister plot by a zombie to activate a magical doomsday device. And though Roth keeps his giddy gore desires in check for a PG picture, he may have toned himself down too much for a film that feels docile and messy when it has all the elements to be fantastical and exciting.

It’s a somewhat familiar staging of the underdog kid, Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro), being taken under the wing of a master of mysticism. Well, maybe not a master. Lewis’s uncle Jonathan Barnavelt (Jack Black) isn’t exactly the greatest wielder of magic given his residence of a creepy old house in 1950s Michigan. He can’t even hold an accent. What he can do is teach Lewis his ways of performing the fascinating tricks of harnessing energy, achieving floatation, and making your bed in the morning with a mere flick of the wrist. He also has a magically astute neighbor by the name of Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett), a witty witch that seems to have more problems with confidence than conjuring.

There’s certainly a lot going on inside Jonathan’s house of odd wonders. There’s a mysterious clock ticking in the walls that Jonathan hasn’t found since he moved in. Many inanimate objects become living characters, including a chair that acts like a dog. The ghosts of-of Lewis’s dead parents haunt him at night, pushing him towards clues to their revival. A book of dark magic remains locked away, never to be spoken of or used by Lewis, too irresistible for a curious kid to resist. And there’s a sordid history within the house of an evil magician (Kyle MacLachlan) and his magical doomsday device! Oh, and there are cookies that are apparently eaten at every meal.

And yet it all ends up being a mess that struggles through some very predictable scenes to get to the next set piece. So many gears are turning that the story hardly has time for the arcs of Lewis’s school friends of the bully Tarby (Sunny Suljic) and the insect-loving girl who could end up being Lewis’s crush. It’s rather a shame that Eli Roth’s family-friendly horror picture has to stay on such a rigid track considering how well the many dozen elements do on their own. The highlight of the picture is undeniably the chemistry between Jonathan and Florence. They’re so sharp and hilarious one wonders why the two of them even need Lewis in the picture

While I don’t want to be too hard on child actors, Owen Vaccaro has a handful of scenes that simply don’t work with his delivery, namely his tearful pleas which are so overblown I had to wonder if his character was faking the sadness. Another strong actor is Kyle MacLachlan when in the form of a sinister zombie, but his voice is given a demonic twang with electronic manipulation that makes him sound more like a robot with his lesser lines. Anyone who has seen him play the vessel of Bob on Twin Peaks knows that Kyle doesn’t need a deeper voice to be intimidating.

I was very torn with The House With a Clock in its Walls as a scary kids’ fantasy that sometimes has fun and other times going through the magical apprentice motions. Kids seeking some Halloween thrills will doubt get a kick out of the presentation, especially with the lowbrow gags of a topiary lion that can’t stop pooping. There’s some pluck and plenty of whimsy so much of it comes through a rather standard storytelling design that I almost wished Roth would break the monotony with a head explosion. He comes close in a scene where Florence starts using her wand as a shotgun to turn demonic pumpkins into piles of orange mush, but it’s still not quite enough to make the movie anything more than decent entertainment for kids seeking silly scares and a timid affair for adults seeking more.


Continue Reading

Box Office

The Predator Makes Mild Blast For Weekend Debut

Published

on

While last weekend was a stellar box office debut for The Nun, the weekend is much more low-key with reduced debuts and descending grosses. Shane Black’s The Predator, the latest sequel to sci-fi/horror Predator franchise, came in at #1 but still made a small amount with a box office debut of $24 million. It has a ways to go before toppling its beefy budget of $88 million, but it may survive through a rather slow September.

The Nun was not too far behind as a pleasing horror picture from Warner Bros’ The Conjuring universe. In its second weekend, the film made $18.2 million. While this is a 66% drop from its first weekend, the film did have an amazing start on its premiere that the total domestic is sitting at $85 million. So far, it’s the biggest success of September as the other premieres are not doing so well. A Simple Favor, the new comedy by Paul Feig, only made $16 million. White Boy Rick, a true crime story starring Matthew McConaughey, brought in $8.8 million. And even further down the list is Unbroken: Path to Redemption, the new religious sports film by Pure Flix, came in with $2.3 million.

No surprise that the strong films from August are still chugging away with small drops. Crazy Rich Asians, the hit romantic comedy, only took a 33% drop with its domestic total now at $149 million. The Meg, the giant shark movie starring Jason Statham, only took a 37% drop with a domestic gross of $137 million. And even Searching, the social media mystery movie, only took a 30% drop to have a total sitting at $19 million.

View the full top 10 weekend box office below:

The Predator ($24,000,000)
The Nun ($18,200,000)
A Simple Favor ($16,050,000)
White Boy Rick ($8,800,000)
Crazy Rich Asians ($8,700,000)
Peppermint ($6,070,000)
The Meg ($3,805,000)
Searching ($3,200,000)
Unbroken: Path to Redemption ($2,350,000)
Mission: Impossible – Fallout ($2,315,000)

Next weekend, The Predator will do battle with fantasy, drama, and politics. Eli Roth’s The House With a Clock in its Walls, a family-friendly fantasy film, will premiere in 3,300 theaters. Michael Moore’s political documentary Fahrenheit 11/9 will debut in 1,500 theaters. And the Dan Fogelman directed drama Life Itself, starring Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde, will hit 2,500 theaters.


Continue Reading

Movie News

Review: “The Predator” is a Humorous Homage, Sometimes Fun

Published

on

Shane Black’s The Predator is simultaneously the most no-nonsense and all-nonsense entry of the series. It does away with a lot of the fat for its story, skipping briskly through its introduction so that gory action of a human-hunting alien arrives quickly. It also doesn’t try to take itself seriously, favoring a comedic format to its writing so high on the goofiness it may as well be labeled a parody of the previous films. This odd assembly prevents such a generically titled film from becoming just another tired retread of a dug-up franchise, hit or miss though it may be.

In order to get the bloody gears grinding, Black throws a lot of inexplicably odd actions at the screen. I didn’t set my watch, but I’m pretty sure it was less than a minute before the first Predator marches onto the screen, crashing onto Earth and going about its secret mission. Encountering the Predator and his arsenal is sniper-for-hire and former Army Ranger, Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook), who not only takes to the Predator tech quickly but also takes the risk of swallowing some of it so it can’t be found. To cash in on newly acquired treasures from outer space, he decides to ship the rest of the alien technology to his mailbox. Seems like a ridiculous idea, but it needs to be done so that the story can arrive on schedule to include a Predator-savvy scientist (Olivia Munn), a greedy government villain (Sterling K. Brown), a savant of an autistic kid with a smart mouth (Jacob Tremblay), and a team of mercenaries that includes a jokester (Keegan-Michael Key) and one with Tourette’s syndrome (Thomas Jane).

L-r, Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Keegan Michael-Key, Thomas Jane and Augusto Aguiliera in Twentieth Century Fox’s “The Predator.”

I could detail the elaborate scheme of the Predators and the tactics used by the human characters, but does it matter? There are convoluted plot elements for sure, including the most ridiculous use of Asperger’s Syndrome as a plot twist, but all that this amounts to is the self-aware knowledge of a goofy gore fest. The script, co-written by Shane Black, always seems careful never to go overboard with exposition without a joke in between. A key scene that could have been a bore is the initial alien dissection scene, its purpose to describe the new Predator and decipher his visit. Munn harps on why the scientists have called the alien a Predator when his purpose seems more akin to a big-game hunter.

While the choice to favor knowing comedy or dark action is a smart one, it’s not exactly a home run of ideas. The first act, in particular, has some rather stale nostalgic callbacks that one would expect from a lesser retread. Variations on some of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s iconic lines from the first film about choppers and the ugliness of the Predator felt so lame that I started gripping my seat, bracing for the entire film to be this adrift of inspiration. But the film thankfully proceeds down its own silly path by the second act, turning into a non-stop bloody bonanza of alien-on-human action. The gore goes for the gusto so heavily that it becomes just as strong as the comical banter between Holbrook and his team of gun-toting good guys, trying to stop the Predator from killing a kid and the government from killing them first.

The Predator in Twentith Century Fox’s THE PREDATOR. Photo Credit: Kimberley French.

There’s a lot of dumb and messiness in The Predator, but the constant winking from Black’s director and the all-star cast save it from being another PG-13 snoozer of a repeat. Armed with machine-gun speed comedy, violence more than worthy of an R rating, and a giddy sense that is always present, what could’ve been a merry-go-round turns into more of a roller coaster experience of a Predator movie. Black doesn’t exactly rework the Predator mythos into something new or even more akin to its quality camp roots, but he does have fun with the material. And when you’ve got a multi-mouthed alien with braids turning humans into hamburger, you’ve gotta have some fun mocking the spectacle, especially after so many films that take themselves far too seriously.


Continue Reading

Find Us On Facebook

More

Movie News2 days ago

Review: “The House With a Clock In Its Walls” Ticks With Messy Magic

Eli Roth’s The House With a Clock In Its Walls has a lot going on to be the type of...

Box Office3 days ago

The Predator Makes Mild Blast For Weekend Debut

While last weekend was a stellar box office debut for The Nun, the weekend is much more low-key with reduced...

Movie News1 week ago

Review: “The Predator” is a Humorous Homage, Sometimes Fun

Shane Black’s The Predator is simultaneously the most no-nonsense and all-nonsense entry of the series. It does away with a...

Box Office2 weeks ago

“The Nun” Scares Up Strong September Box Office

September has its first box office champion to topple August’s hit of Crazy Rich Asians, and by a substantial amount...

Movie News2 weeks ago

Review: “The Nun” Offers Few Scares and Fun

And from The Conjuring another spin-off cometh, presenting origins we didn’t really need to know for spooky supporting demons. If...

Box Office2 weeks ago

Crazy Rich Asians Beats Foul-Mouthed Puppets At Weekend Box Office

The last weeks of summer are proving to be a boom for the romantic comedy. Crazy Rich Asians, now in...

Movie News2 weeks ago

Review: “Kin” Confounds with Crime and Blasters

There’s a hooker of gold that serves the purpose of the most memorable scene in Kin, commenting on how weird...

Box Office2 weeks ago

Third Box Office Weekend is a Charm for Crazy Rich Asians

The last weekend of August and the first of September tends to be a rather dead time at the movies...

Movie News4 weeks ago

“The Happytime Murders” is Filthy Fluff Without Cleverness

The humor, no, the entire appeal of The Happytime Murders is about how funny it is that puppets are inserted...

Box Office1 month ago

Crazy Rich Asians Strikes #1 For Summer Debut

As the summer winds down, so does the box office, but that still doesn’t mean some great movies can’t sneak...

Trending