movie reviews October 2018


hunter killerjohnny english strikes again

Ratings range from "0" (watch TV instead) to "5" (a must-see).

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Johnny English Strikes Again
Reviewed by Bruce Rodgers

Spending time with Rowan Atkinson in his third “Johnny English” installment is like slipping on a comfortable comedy shoe — nothing tight, plenty of room to wiggle for the laughs. Yet it takes awhile for Johnny English Strikes Again to move beyond the tired pratfalls and facial hits English encounters as a geography instructor teaching his class the art of secret agent sleuthing.

The lessons end with a call from Pegasus (Adam James) from MI7. The spy agency has been hack and all MI7 agent’s identities have been revealed save one — Johnny English.

Easily coaxed out of retirement, English enlists his Bough (Ben Miller) to help track down who is hacking into MI7 computers and other government networks. As bedlam takes hold across London, the Prime Minister (Emma Thompson — no doubt cast to lend some weight to this essentially silly movie) alternates between drink and demand for corrective results from Pegasus.

Forgoing any digital weaponry, even turning down a cell phone, English taps into his analog arsenal to find the evildoer. In one lengthy and funny scene, English dons a viral reality headset and steps out into the real world. Chaos spills out onto the London streets with English mistakenly attacking an old woman in a wheelchair, a tour guide on a bus and battling a luncheon counter clerk with two French bread loafs as his headset visualizes he has nunchucks.

Meanwhile, stepping up to solve the problems for the Prime Minister is Jason Volta (Jake Lacy), an American Silicon Valley billionaire. Oily as an engine’s dipstick, Volta quickly solves the high-tech problems without much difficulty since he’s the source to begin with. His plan is to take over all the data in the UK and eventually the world. D-Day is at a planned G-12 meeting in Scotland. Now all English has to do is prove to the Prime Minister prior to the meeting that Volta is the bad guy.

Complicating his efforts is Ophelia (Olga Kurylenko), a Russian spy embedded in Volta’s entourage. Naturally, it isn’t long before Ophelia stops trying to kill English — she thinks he’s brilliant but Moscow wants him out of the way — and joins forces with him to save the West from the American high-tech tycoon.

It may be tough competition between Atkinson and Jim Carrey as to who has the most rubber in their face. In a scene with Ophelia at an upscale bar, English expands, warps and contorts his face and eyes after eating some hot nuts to an extreme that’s both admirable and extremely hilarious. Later in his hotel room, English mistakenly takes secret agent energy pills instead of a sleeping aid. He hits the hotel lounge dance floor in such a frenzy that Ophelia can’t get a shot to take him out, decides to dance with him then collapses trying to keep up, while the DJ spinning the discs eventually falls asleep in the early morning even as English dances on.

The story behind Johnny English Strikes Again is nonsensical, sometimes laughable and not remotely grounded in reality. But interestingly, it can cause one to shift their perspective a little as to wonder about subtle clues in the film like: Is it making fun of British culture, American culture, befriending Russia or supporting the old analog way over the digital revolution?

Regardless of any juncture hidden in the storyline, Rowan Atkinson delivers his comedy and cluelessness in the time-honored dignified English way. (PG) Rating: 2.5 Posted on 10/26/18)

Hunter Killer
Reviewed by Bruce Rodgers

Want a war movie where testosterone oozes like sweat as men cling to cloistered walls in fear waiting for the next unseen attack? Submarines. Want a war movie where the second in command questions the captain when the thinks he’s not going by the book? Submarines. Want a war movie where the only women shown are in photos taped to the bottom of a bunk or at some distant military situation room squabbling about decisions made by men during a crisis? Submarines. Want a war movie with an outrageous story line presented by a bevy of mostly little known actors yet still keeps an audience in their seats? Hunter Killer does most of all that. Submarine.

Gerard Butler is Capt. Joe Glass of the USS Arkansas. His name seems to purposely give off a working class vibe. After all, Capt. Glass didn’t go to Annapolis and he’s got that “I-know-what-your-job is because I’ve done it” command philosophy. Glass runs a tight ship. His XO Brian Edwards (Carter MacIntyre) has to wonder.

Glass gets orders to head north, within 40 miles of the Russian coast. Communication has been lost with the USS Tampa. It had been tailing a Russian sub. When found, it had been torpedoed and is resting on the bottom. All hands lost. While scanning with a remote underwater drone, the Arkansas picks up another ping. It’s the Russian sub, sunk by a blast from its interior. Sounds coming from the sub indicate possible life still on board. Glass orders a rescue, arguing that the Russians don’t appear to want save their sailors. XO Edwards objects.

Capt. Andropov (Michael Nyquist) and a few sailors are taken aboard the Arkansas. Defiant despite having been saved, Glass lays out some submarine logic to Andropov — brothers taking the same risks in different uniforms — and shows the photos indicating sabotage on the Russian boat.

Back at the Pentagon, the feeling of possible war looms. Two subs lost, no obvious answers why. Rear Admiral John Fisk (Common) is ordered by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Charles Donnegan (Gary Oldham) to send in a team of Navy Seals. Their goal to observe a nearby Russian naval base. All deniability in place if they’re caught. Donnegan puts the military on alert.

The Seal team makes it to the Russian naval base informing U.S. command of the presence of Russian President Zakarin (Alexander Diachenko) along with the Russian Defense Secretary Admiral Dimitri Durov (Michael Gor). The team observes Zakarin’s aides being killed and the president kidnapped by soldiers under Durov’s command. Fisk along with NSA official Jayne Norquist (Linda Cardellini) conclude it’s a coup with Durov seeking war as Moscow apparently unaware of the situation. With Russian President Zakarin held captive, he is unable to communicate with Russian high military command. Gen. Donnegan raises the alert level and sends a U.S. fleet toward Russian waters.

Fisk and Norquist offer up a plan to slow the rush to war. They suggest the Seal team kidnap the Russian president and rendezvous with the USS Arkansas then immediately have him contact Moscow head-off a confrontation with U.S. forces. Donnegan argues against it (as Oldham only can in a loud, obnoxious, vociferous way that he’s demonstrated in a number of films except as Churchill in Darkest Hour where he received rightfully earned praise). U.S. President Dover (Caroline Goodall) goes for both options — orders the Arkansas to head for the Russian naval base while the U.S. military go to DEFCON 2.

Silently the Arkansas glides pass underwater mines and sonar detection devices into the fiord leading to the Russian naval base, guided by Russian sub Capt. Andropov. XO Edwards’ objections noted but ignored. Soon, bullets fly, missiles launched, depth charges exploding off a destroyer’s deck into the water and the Arkansas’ crew bang against one another in claustrophobic confines, everyone tense and fearful. Then Capt. Glass takes an unbelievable gamble. Submarine. (R) Rating: 2.5 (Posted on 10/26/18)

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