Point Blank – review (Netflix)

     With the conclusion of the MCU’s Infinity saga with April’s epic Avengers Endgame release and all of the characters – and actors who play them – taking a break, except for Spider-Man: Far From Home having Tom Holland reprising his role as Spider-Man/Peter Parker and Samuel L Jackson returning as Nick Fury. 

    The rest of the main players, with, once again, the exception of the omnipresent Jackson, have been doing other less celebrated projects. Without the juggernaut that is the MCU and because so many of the actors are now wedded to their famous super-powered personas, getting eyeballs on to their other films and projects is challenging. 

    Chris Hemsworth, brilliant as Thor in the MCU and a person whose personality transcends the screen in interviews and public appearances, has struggled to replicate or to even garner a percentage of the traction of his MCU appearances in any of the many films he has been involved in over the same period he has inhabited the role of the god of thunder. 

   Still, acting is the chosen profession of those lycra-clad guys and gals who have brought us so much joy in the MCU for the past decade and a bit, and as such, they probably chose the profession so as they could play various parts, inhabit different roles. No doubt, the success of the MCU has afforded many of them the luxury of being able to pick and choose their roles, perhaps even to experiment a little. 

   Two lesser lights of the MCU, Anthony Mackie, and Frank Grillo, who played Sam Wilson/Falcon and Brock Rumlow/Crossbones respectively in the MCU, come together for a Netflix film, Point Blank. Not to be mistaken for the Lee Marvin 1967 classic of the same name, Point Blank finds Mackie’s Paul, a nurse working in a local hospital, looking after a John Doe (Grillo) who has been admitted to the hospital after being hit by a car and shot. 

    Paul has a heavily pregnant wife, Taryn (Teyonah Parris), who he has left at home as he goes to work his late shift. As Paul goes to check on the John Doe, he gets attacked and the assailant takes his identification. When the police turn up, he finds out that the John Doe is the chief suspect in the murder of a member of the District Attorney’s office. 

   Lieutenant Regina Lewis (Marcia Gay Harden) wants to get the person who did it. The police know that whoever committed the crime took a bullet, but with the John Doe being unconscious they have to wait for him to come around. 

   Paul returns home and tells his wife he got attacked at work. He gets attacked and knocked unconscious. When he comes to, awoken by his mobile ringing, his wife has been taken. On the phone is the John Doe’s brother, Mateo (Christian Cooke). He tells Paul that If he wants to see his wife again he has to get his brother out of the hospital. 

    Paul breaks the brother out of the hospital, reviving him. The John Doe, who Paul finds out is named Abe, takes charge of their situation. He contacts his brother. Mateo is panicking having taken the heavily pregnant Taryn. Abe asks if he has the flash drive. He does. Mateo keeps receiving threatening texts from Big D (Markice Moore). The brothers owe Big D a lot of money. 

   Lewis finds out that Mateo has a flash drive that can end the careers of a lot of corrupt law enforcement. Abe trie to ditch Paul. Paul refuses to leave as he wants to get his wife back. They go to meet Mateo in a mall, but Abe realises it is a trap and they are forced to flee. 

    Mateo escapes with Taryn, Abe and Paul are still together. Paul gives Abe another shot of drugs to keep him going. They are attacked. Abe hands out a beat down on the guy and they steal a car. The woman they stole the car from reports it stolen and Lewis is in pursuit of them. They escape, helped by a homeless man who Paul had befriended. He gets them to Cheetah,  (Daniel R Hill), a pawnshop broker that Abe knows. A desperate Paul calls Lewis.

    Abe is trying to make a deal with Cheetah, Mateo is calling but Paul rejects the call. Outside, Lewis, along with Masterson (Boris McGiver), a colleague who was a former lover and helped to cover for her when the department was being investigated. there is another officer, Jones. They bust into Cheetah’s place, shooting.

    Lewis kills Cheetah and beats on Abe, asking him for the drive. He does not have it. Abe asks her if she is going to make his death look like a murder like she did with the DA. Masterson realises that Lewis is corrupt. She shoots Masterson. They hear over the police radio that more units are coming. Lewis tells Jones to clear up whilst she stalls the police. 

    Paul grabs a gun that was left on the floor during the confusion and kills Jones. The two men escape again. One of Lewis’ dirty cops, Farmer (Adam G Simon) finds Mateo and Taryn. He kills Mateo and takes Taryn. Paul and Abe go to the warehouse and Mateo dies in Abe’s arms. 

   Abe goes to see Big D and tells him he can get his money and a lot more but he needs some help. Big D agrees to help him. Lewis, who has Paul’s wife, tells him to bring her the drive. Big D finds out where the wife is being held and Abe formulates a plan. They cause a commotion and get into the police building. 

     Lewis, realising that it is a ruse, returns to the precinct but is caught by Abe. Farmer attacks Taryn and Paul tries to stop him. Whilst Farmer is beating on him, Paul stabs him in the neck with a syringe. Taryn goes into labour. Abe tells Lewis he not only has the drive but he also has a tape of her killing Masterson in Cheetah’s shop. 

    Abe leaves and gives the tape to a local news crew. Paul delivers his baby. Lewis is found by the police and, seeing no other way out, raise the gun to kill herself and is killed by the officers. A year later and Taryn and Paul are celebrating the baby’s first birthday. Paul gets a message from Abe wishing the baby a happy birthday. Abe is driving along a long road. The end. 

     Point Blank, written by Adam G Simon and directed by Joe Lynch, is a pretty silly film made entertaining by the strength of the performances. The central three of Mackie, Grillo, and Harden, commit to their characters enough to make the film’s flimsy premise work. Making the old flash drive, critical information ruse work in a time of cloud storage and rapid wifi transference is difficult one that they somehow pull off.  

    Lynch’s pacing of the film probably helps in this regard, moving through the eighty-minute runtime at such a pace, one barely has time to ponder the gaping plot holes. Truth be told, there is more a feeling of pace and urgency, rather than scenes of such. With Harden’s Lewis after the drive and Grillo’s Abe trying to keep himself and Paul alive, the pace is somewhat built-in. Though there are a few chase scenes and several fight scenes, they really do not take up much of the runtime. 

    Even with the lack of a cohesive story, Point Blank rumbles along nicely and is entertaining enough to waste eighty minutes on.  



Dark Phoenix -review (Netflix)

   I want to be objective. Hatred for a person you’ve never met or even seen in interview is probably unwarranted. Can you really dislike a person that you’re not even sure what they look like? Human emotion is a strange thing and, as I ask myself these questions, I am trying to be rational. Let me explain. 

     I am a comic book movie fan. In my youth, I collected comics for many years but, even before that I loved Spider-Man on television and the Christopher Reeves Superman films. When Tim Burton’s Batman came out, I was all in, even as the quality of that initial Batman franchise diminished. 

    Truthfully though, I was always more of a Marvel fanboy, specifically, the X-men. I collected the entire Chris Claremont run. All of it. The same run that gave the world the Phoenix Saga. Even before that, before the New X-men, which the Phoenix Saga was part of, I was an X-man fan.

    So obviously, when the first X-men film came out, I was there. Bryan Singer’s first two films were brilliant. They were not comic canon, with definitely some artistic licence taken, but they were better than expected and, under Fox, had no challenge from the future juggernaut that would be the MCU. 

    I have watched every one of the X-men films under Fox, even the god-awful, The Last Stand. The Last Stand was written by Simon Kinberg, the same man who helms and wrote the final instalment in the X-men series under Fox, Dark Phoenix. Predominantly a producer, Kinberg has been involved with the franchise since the risible The Last Stand. 

    So, with that in mind, and my unreasonable disdain for him, how was Dark Phoenix? Not terrible. With all the rumours that surrounded production and the less than secret news that the X-men was going to be under the umbrella of the MCU and Kevin Feige’s Midas touch post-film, Dark Phoenix had a lot to battle against. 

    Unfortunately, most of the issues created in Dark Phoenix are due to previous decisions in the series and poor casting choices and a weak script. The film needed the audience to be invested in the characters, but due to poor decisions, the dominance of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine over the franchise and the underwritten roles of every other character since the second X-men film, you just do not care about any of the protagonists. 

    Tye Sheridan’s Cyclops is woeful. Horribly served in the previous films, Sheridan struggles valiantly to create a history between him and Sophie Turner’s statuesque Jean Grey, a history that previous films barely hinted at. That is just the begin of the problems with this story. 

    Rightly, the film does not follow the comics. Instead, like over at the MCU, it tries to take some elements and blend them into a new and, hopefully, engaging story. What Fox and Kinberg have got wholly wrong is trying to truncate the story and elicit emotion for characters nobody knows. 

   Logan, the best superhero movie ever made (it’s my blog, so my opinion. Fight me), works because we know the character of Logan/Wolverine. Obviously, the consistency of having the same actor portray the character has helped, but Logan would have worked even after the second X-men film because we knew the character. We do not know the X-men. 

    Sophie Turner is beautiful, absolutely stunning. A statuesque, imposing visual presence. She is completely wrong for the film. Her performance is completely committed and would have been brilliant had she been even partially well served in the previous films. She was not. 

    When an actor is portraying a well-known character, unless they have been allowed to make that character their own, in say the way various actors have made James Bond their own, a viewer will always compare the character to the original source material. 

     Jean Grey in the comics is not an imposing presence, not physically. She is intelligent and powerful, even more so when she gains the Phoenix power, but not an Amazonian presence. Turner is Amazonian. She makes Sheridan look like a young boy, and she towers over Jessica Chastain’s power seeking, body stealing alien, Vuk, even though she is wearing heels. Like Famke Jansen before her, Turner is simply too much of a presence as Jean Grey. 

     Alexandra Shipp, like Halle Berry before her, is completely wasted in the film. With no real character interactions, she is basically in the film for her undoubtedly stunning looks, to make up the numbers and as someone to utilise special effects through. If she had not been in the film, she would not have been missed. 

    Evan Peters’ Quicksilver is quickly – haha! – dispatched in the film, his leg broken in the first fight and Jennifer Lawerence’s Mystique, who is a villain in the comics – a villain! – gets killed by Jean early on, giving Michael Fassbender’s Magneto a reason to get involved in proceedings.

    The acting is, as one would expect with the talent on show, top draw, with everyone trying desperately to breathe life into a script that is almost Man of Steel Goyer-esque in its blandness. With the decision to dismiss the character most likely to bring levity – Quicksilver – early in the film, Dark Phoenix pushes miserably through its hour and fifty-four minute runtime, fraught faces and tense music aplenty. 

   There is a strand early in the film, which matches up with the comics, where Jean, shortly after gaining the Phoenix power is extremely thirsty, almost as a nod to her furnace like appetite, created by having to harness so much power. It does not go anywhere. 

   In the comics, the power is such that she consumes a planet. In the film, the Phoenix power consumes Vuk’s planet and she follows the power through space and witnesses Jean absorbing it. Following her back to Earth, Vuk and other survivor’s of her world decide to manipulate Jean to take over the Earth. Yes, that is their plan. 

   Like I said earlier in the article, the biggest negative in the film is you just do not care. Outside of the super beings and aliens, nobody seems in imminent danger. It is like watching a disaster happening on the other side of the world. You care on a humane level, but once you turn the television you forget about it. 

    Fox made the mistake of chasing money and competing, instead of trying to create the best product they could. With the final X-men film in Dark Phoenix, they bow out of the superhero game with a whimper. Such a pity.   



Captain Marvel – a review (not a marvel)

    As a marketing ploy, releasing Captain Marvel on International Women’s Day must have felt like a stroke of genius. As the MCU’s first female lead superhero feature film, it is a film that has garnered much attention, especially off the back of the frankly epic Avengers Infinity War and its brilliantly teasing post-credits scenes.

   A few things had alarm bells ringing for me personally. Sometime back, I reviewed another female-led film, the Alicia Vikander reboot of Tomb Raider, suffice to say, it is awful. The relevance of that is one of the writers for that film, Geneva Robertson-Dworet, also managed to wrangle her way onto Captain Marvel and, unfortunately, it shows. 

   The story and script are poor. A first-year scriptwriting graduate would have gotten so many red lines through this effort, they might have considered a different career. What is even more worrying is I cannot even say there is a better story buried in the film. There isn’t. 

   There were signs that the MCU was not overly confident with this film. Whenever the stars do excessive press – even more than the norm – it is not a good sign. Brie Larson has been everywhere. Morning shows, radio shows, daytime, blogs, podcast, the poor woman has been pushing hard! 

   The film is not unwatchable, after all, it has two excellent leads in Brie Larson and Samuel L Jackson, but the basic precepts of drama are wholly absent from the film. At no point in the film’s entire two hour and four minutes runtime does our hero seem in mortal danger. 

   Captain Marvel or Carol Danvers or Vers, as she is called through most of the film, is capable on a level that one could only dream of. She is supposed to have scant recall of her life as a human or, as we find out later, a possible Kree. 

   Even with no real idea who she is or supposed to be, she takes to every task she encounters with consummate ease. The antagonist, the Skrulls, are not utilised at all well. I am not one to scream about not following the comics, but with regards to the Skrulls, they should really have made an exception. 

   I understand that the Kree have been set up as the ‘big bad’ of the MCU, but that should not have created this character disservice to the Skrulls. In a better film, the misdirection could have really worked, unfortunately, the set up is so poorly executed that one is left barely caring about the outcome. 

   As with Ben Affleck over at the DCEU, some in the webverse feel that their wholly unwanted – not to mention inexperienced – take on who should play the as yet introduced Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel role, should not have been Brie Larson. 

   That fact that, with Kevin Feige at the helm, the MCU has hardly made a misstep casting wise, it seems to be the ultimate in egotistical hubris for those comic page-turning, keyboard critics, to be announcing their displeasure at the casting. 

   In my opinion – it’s my blog, so my opinion – Larson works well with the somewhat poor material she has to work with. Her chemistry with Jackson is evident and she carries off the fight scenes with aplomb.

No doubt, off of the hype of the upcoming sequel to Infinity War, Captain Marvel will do well at the box office and probably spawn a sequel. 

   In conclusion, I would say Captain Marvel was somewhat underwhelming. The acting performances across the board are good, as is the talent on show – the CGI deserves a special mention – what fails is the story and a patchy script. Captain Marvel is, regrettably, not a marvel.