Archive for June, 2024

A Wilderness of Mirrors

Chief of Station

Director: Jesse V. Johnson

Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Olga Kurylenko, Alex Pettyfer, Chris Petrovski, Nick Moran, Daniel Bernhardt, Laetitia Eldo

Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes

Film Rating: 5.5 out of 10

Aaron Eckhart, Alex Pettyfer and Olga Kurylenko team up in this murky spy thriller, which is very moody and sombre to the point that audiences might be tricked into thinking they are watching a 1980’s Soviet era spy film.

Stuntman turned director Jesse V. Johnson directs Chief of Station about CIA agent Ben Malloy played by Aaron Eckhart whose wife Fallah played by French actress Laetitia Eldo is killed in an explosion at a posh restaurant in Budapest where they were meant to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

Six months later, Ben retraces his steps from Washington DC back to Budapest, Hungary where he confronts a suspected Russian FSB Officer Evgeny Maltsev played with panache by British actor Nick Moran (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels).

Ben discovers that in the deceptive world of espionage, it is truly a wilderness of mirrors as he initially trusts shady Eastern European Chief of Station John Branca played by Alex Pettyfer (Magic Mike, In Time).

As Ben tries to identify who the true villain is, his son Nick played by Macedonian actor Chris Petrovski (Ray Donovan: The Movie) is kidnapped in Croatia by a rogue unit of the CIA.

Ben is trapped on a supposed CIA safehouse, a boat on the river Danube when he is fortunately rescued by his late wife’s colleague Krystyna Kowerski played with cool grit by Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, Black Widow).

Unfortunately Chief of Station does not live up to expectations as an action spy film, with too many gaping holes in the narrative and a film with bad lighting and a confusing narrative. Even when you think the characters have been killed off in an action scene, they unexpectedly reappear. The storyboard for the films action scenes did not always make sense.

The actors do their best in this substandard action film but the direction is unimaginative and the action scenes are not even thrilling. As a viewer one got the sense that the film ran out of budget before completing filming. The production values are very low budget and generally the stars have very little to work with.

Potentially Chief of Station could have been a much better film, but it just doesn’t take off the ground despite the talents of Aaron Eckhart and Olga Kurylenko, whose agents should know better than put these actors in such a bad film.

A bad script, poor lighting and confusing characters cause this film to get a film rating of 5.5 out of 10. The best thing about the film is the running time.

Machismo isn’t Dead

Bad Boys: Ride or Die

Director: Ardil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah

Cast: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Eric Dane, Paola Nunez, Tasha Smith, Jacob Scipio, Tiffany Haddish, Joe Pantoliano, Ioan Gruffudd

Running Time: 1 hour 55 minutes

Film Rating: 7 out of 10

Belgian director duo Ardil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah return to the Bad Boys in the highly anticipated 4th instalment simply titled Bad Boys: Ride or Die and rest assured in this action packed buddy movie, machismo isn’t dead. In fact it is very much alive and has a strong sense of humour thanks for funny man Martin Lawrence as Mike Lowry’s hilarious partner Marcus Burnett.

In this instalment the dynamic duo investigate the death of their former Miami police chief Captain Howard, played in digital flashbacks by Joe Pantoliano who has consistently appeared in all four bad boys films starting with the original which was made back in 1995.

Consistency is the key to maintaining an entertaining and trustworthy franchise and having the same actors back including Will Smith, Martin Lawrence and Alexander Ludwig all part of the corruption riddled Miami PD. In this respect the Bad Boys franchise has always delivered to its fans.

The adrenalin fuelled franchise has always been flashy complete with fast cars, sleek skyscrapers crowding the Miami skyline, witty repartee and most importantly lots of action. Certainly in Bad Boys: Ride of Die all the elements are there to make a brilliant fourth film and the directing duo do just that exceptionally well.

Ardil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah deliver a slick fast paced action film with great heroes, strong messages of community and an evil villain, McGrath wonderfully played by TV actor Eric Dane, who is suitably menacing and deadly in this role.

Villains are as important in this franchise and luckily Eric Dane nails this part in this Miami set action film about drug deals, escaped convicts including Armando played by British actor Jacob Scipio and crooked politicians.

Audiences should watch out for a vibrant and bitchy cameo by Tiffany Haddish (The Card Counter) as a foul mouthed Florida brothel madam Tabitha.

Screenwriters Chris Bremner and Will Beall deliver a distinctly masculine formulaic action film filled with some brilliant sequences especially the helicopter crash scene in the Florida everglades and the final showdown in a not so abandoned alligator farm. Bad Boys: Ride or Die is an entertaining action film which ignites the American 2024 summer blockbuster season in a sense that George Miller’s Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga didn’t quite achieve. Unfortunately 2024 is still suffering the icy after effects of the Barbieheimer phenomenon which enthralled the 2023 summer blockbuster season.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die is an enjoyable action film serving up two hours of escapism and pure adrenalin that will not disappoint.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die gets a film rating of 7 out of 10. Grab some buddies and watch this action film in cinemas everywhere. Recommended viewing.

Lessons from the Wasteland

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

Director: George Miller

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Anya Taylor-Joy, Tom Burke, Alyla Browne, Lachy Hulme, Nathan Jones, Josh Helman, David Field, Charlee Fraser, Angus Sampson

Running time: 2 hours and 28 minutes

Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10

The 79 year old Australian director George Miller returns to the Mad Max crazy universe in his new film Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga starring Anya Taylor-Joy (The Menu, Emma) as Furiosa starring in her first big budget film. Australian actor Chris Hemsworth (Rush, Thor: Ragnarok) plays Dementus the evil leader of a desert biker gang in a dystopian world characterized by random violence, territorial disputes and scarcity.

Furiosa was kidnapped as a young girl from a utopian area filled with lush greenery and an abundant supply of water. She manages to survive mainly disguising herself as a boy for 15 years until she accompanied Praetorian Jack played by British actor Tom Burke as they travel from Gas Town to Bullet Farm, trying to escape Dementus and his deranged gang of bikers that often attack the rig, a heavy duty truck fitted with all sorts of menacing gadgets to fend off attackers on the wild desert roads.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga had a glittering out of competition film premiere at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival before a general theatrical release in May 2024. The film from the visionary mind that brought audiences all the Mad Max films, is beautifully crafted with an exceptionally fascinating colour palette making use of the contrasting starkness of the Australian outback coupled with gritty production design. The costumes are equally a delight, designed again by Oscar winning costume designer Jenny Beavan who won Oscars for A Room with a View, Mad Max: Fury Road and more recently Cruella.

Despite the bizarre characters with names like the brothers Erictus and Scrotus, the storyline for Furiosa is not brilliantly told and the casting of the film needed some work. Personally I found Chris Hemsworth wrongfully cast as the villain Dementus – it should have had an actor like Tom Hardy to play that role. Hemsworth after playing Thor in the Marvel films doesn’t have the ability to play a hero and a villain successfully. In this film, he looked like a truly demented cult leader clutching onto a teddy bear and barking cognisant orders to his insane group of bikers who follow him like obedient animals.

Anya Taylor-Joy made the most of her role as Furiosa although I also felt she was miscast and they needed a more muscular actress to play this pivotal role. Tom Burke was well cast as the tough truck driver Praetorian Jack who has a fleeting romance with Furiosa before they both get threatened by a turf war between Dementus and The Organic Mechanic played by Angus Sampson from The Lincoln Lawyer series on Netflix.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is saved by the unbelievable action sequences especially in chapter 3 of the film, entitled The Stowaway.

As a dystopian action film, the running time was way too long and could have been edited drastically. If audiences enjoy the Mad Max desert scarred universe, the go and watch Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga at cinemas, it is visually compelling although let down by misinformed casting and a rickety narrative.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is saved by extraordinary production design entirely shot in the Australian outback and gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10. It is a cinematic opera about cruelty, scarcity and tenacity – lessons from a bleak wasteland. See it to believe it but recommended strictly for fans.

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June 2024
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