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A suicide bombing in a Kansas City grocery store kills fifteen people. The United States government responds by authorizing CIA officer Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) to apply extreme measures to combat Mexican drug cartels who are suspected of having smuggled the terrorists across the border. Graver and the Department of Defense decide the best option is to instigate a war between the major cartels, and Graver recruits black operative Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro) for the mission. Gillick assassinates a high-profile lawyer of the Matamoros cartel in Mexico City while Graver and his team kidnap Isabel Reyes, the daughter of the kingpin of the Matamoros' rival, Carlos Reyes (who ordered the killing of Gillick's family in the previous film), in a false flag operation. Graver, Gillick, and their team take Isabel to Texas and stage a fake rescue with the help of the DEA and local police, trying to make her think she was kidnapped by her father's enemies. Gillick bonds with Isabel, and the team makes plans to transport her back to Mexico. They plan to leave her in territory controlled by her father's rivals to further escalate the inter-cartel conflict. However, after they cross into Mexico, the Mexican police escorts double-cross them and attack the American vehicles. Graver and his team kill 25 Mexican policemen to escape the ambush. Amidst the chaos, Isabel runs away into the desert. Gillick goes after her alone while the rest of the team returns to the United States. Meanwhile, the American government determines that at least two of the suicide bombers in Kansas City were actually domestic terrorists, not foreign nationals, and thus were not smuggled into the United States by the cartels. To quell tensions with Mexico, the Secretary of Defense orders the CIA to abandon the mission. Learning that Isabel witnessed the Americans shooting the Mexican police, the Secretary orders the team to erase all proof of American involvement by killing Isabel and Gillick. Graver in turn orders Gillick to kill Isabel, but Gillick refuses and turns rogue to keep her alive. Graver and his team fly covertly into Mexico, using a GPS device embedded in Isabel's shoe to find them. Gillick knows that if Isabel remains in Mexico, she will be killed. With few resources, he disguises them both as illegal immigrants and pays human traffickers to help them reenter the United States...
Rotten Tomatoes critical consensus reads, "Though less subversive than its predecessor, Sicario: Day of the Soldado succeeds as a stylish, dynamic thriller—even if its amoral machismo makes for grim viewing." Variety's Peter Debruge called the film "tense, tough, and shockingly ruthless at times," and wrote, "Soldado may not be as masterful as Villeneuve's original, but it sets up a world of possibilities for elaborating on a complex conflict far too rich to be resolved in two hours' time." Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter praised the film as a "worthy, rough-and-tough sequel", highlighting the direction, lead performances and Sheridan's script, and saying "Sicario: Day of the Soldado emerges as a dynamic action drama in its own right." Time magazine's Stephanie Zacharek found the film to be adequate, though lacking the presence of a character in the sequel as emotive as the one played by Emily Blunt in the original, stating: "There's not a Blunt in sight, though special task force macho men Matt Graver and Alejandro... return. This time their job is to stir up a war between rival Mexican drug cartels; part of the scheme involves kidnapping a drug lord's scrappy teenage daughter. Although she has enough teen-beat orneriness to kick both Matt's and Alejandro's butts, the movie doesn't let her."
"Sicario: Day of the Soldado" is not as good as Denis Villeneu´s first film, but it has it´s moments for sure. The first film was by far a fantastic dark, brutal and very realistic piece of film. Denis Villeneuve could not return to direct this sequel due to scheduling conflicts with "Arrival" and "Blade Runner 2049". Nevertheless, I like the cinematography and the direction in this film as well and they have used similar sound structure from the first film, but the storyline is not as good as in "Sicario" I think. And without Emily Blunt a piece is missing in my book. Emily Blunt was originally attached to reprise her role as FBI Agent Kate Macer. However, director Stefano Sollima ultimately decided not to use Blunt or her character in the film, noting that Macer represented the moral compass in Sicario (2015), whereas he did not want any character to serve as moral guidance in the sequel. Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, who wrote the story and screenplay for both films, also stated in interviews that he could not think of a reason to keep Agent Macer in the second film, and that her character's story had already come full circle in the first installment. I am not sure if I fully agree on this opinion as her presence would add weight to this follow up. With that said Brolin and del Toro are both still in high form here and gives us great performances. But "Sicario: Day of the Soldado" is simply not as good as "Sicario", but there´s still value despite a weaker story and editing.
Set 13 years after the first film, Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) remains depressed as ever, upset his "happy ending" did not pan out, as he is again addicted to sex and alcohol. As he tries, and fails, to kill himself, he is visited by Thurman "The Kid" Merman (Brett Kelly), who has just turned 21 and works at a sandwich shop. Unfortunately, Thurman's father has abandoned him and his grandmother has passed on two years before - making Willie the closest thing to family he has left. Thurman delivers to Willie a package containing a large sum of cash, and Willie soon finds out it's from Marcus (Tony Cox), his former partner who has been released from jail after the events 13 years earlier. Marcus, expressing sincere remorse for betraying Willie, tells Willie he has an opportunity in Chicago, a deal that can potentially net them millions, though he is unwilling to disclose the name of his contact. Willie reluctantly agrees, while unsuccessfully trying to help Thurman lose his virginity before he leaves for Chicago. Upon their arrival, Willie is annoyed to learn that not only is a target of the con a charity, but that his estranged mother, Sunny (Kathy Bates), who uses "shit stick" as a term of endearment for Willie, is Marcus's contact. Willie reluctantly agrees, since Sunny is suffering from early stages of Parkinson's Disease, though he secretly makes a deal with Marcus to cut Sunny out when the time comes...
Rotten Tomatoes critical consensus reads, "Loaded up with the same scatological and misanthropic humor as its predecessor but precious little of its heart or genuine wit, Bad Santa 2 presents a foulmouthed shadow of Christmas past. Alex Welch of IGN gave the film 5/10, and wrote that it "does little to dispel the notion that most sequels simply aren't necessary." Kyle Smith for the New York Post described it as "vulgar, nasty and offensive, but it has flawed aspects also", and "so raunchy, you may feel the urge to wash your ears out with soap, not that the language is the only dirty thing about it." Ben Kenigsberg for The New York Times also found the film wanting, although praised Kathy Bates' performance. Vince Mancini for Uproxx said that the sequel will make [one] appreciate the original, and criticised the film's humor as "plug-to-play one liners", while also noting that the film "isn't terrible". Amy Nicholson for MTV mockingly referred to the film as Badly Traumatized Santa, and wrote that "[it] doesn't hate Christmas. It just hates women."
In a simple way, "Bad Santa 2" is just a rehash of the original film, but hardly as good in my book as many others have pointed out. The first one that came out in 2003 is still a X-Mas favourite of mine as the black humour in it is just wonderfully over the top in all directions. But, it works and I love how politically incorrect the film is. "Bad Santa 2" is unfortunately uninspired, it misses the charm of the first one, the performances are slightly tired (Billy Bob Thornton is nowhere near his great performance in the first one) and there´s a too strong love for faul language that doesn´t work compared how it did in the first one. Yes, there are some moments, but the first one should´ve been the only one about Willie Soke.
After being killed in Daredevil, Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner) is revived by blind martial arts master Stick (Terence Stamp). He teaches her the ancient art of Kimagure, which provides its practitioners with precognition as well as the ability to resurrect the dead. Elektra is expelled from the training compound because of her inability to let go of her rage and fear from seeing her mother's killer as a child. She leaves and uses her training to become a contract killer. Years later, Elektra infiltrates a heavily guarded area and succeeds in slaying her target, DeMarco. McCabe, Elektra's agent, receives an unusually large offer from an anonymous client wishing to hire Elektra. The only stipulation; she must spend a few days in a rented home on the island where the assassination is to be performed before the names of the targets are revealed. During the wait, Elektra catches a girl named Abby trying to steal her mother's necklace. She sends her away, and later meets and befriends her father, Mark Miller (Goran Višnjić). Abby later invites Elektra to dinner on Mark's behalf. Elektra develops a romantic interest in Mark, but soon learns that he and Abby are the targets she has been hired to kill. Elektra spares them and leaves, but later returns in time to protect them from assassins sent by The Hand, a crime syndicate of ninja mercenaries...
The film received largely negative reviews from film critics. Rotten Tomatoes critical consensus reads: "Jennifer Garner inhabits her role with earnest gusto, but Elektra's tone-deaf script is too self-serious and bereft of intelligent dialogue to provide engaging thrills." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 1.5 stars out of a possible 4. He writes: "Plays like a collision between leftover bits and pieces of Marvel superhero stories. It can't decide what tone to strike." Helen O'Hara at Empire magazine gave the film 2 out of 5 stars, and says "Despite oozing star quality, Garner struggles to rise above the limitations of the script." Brian Lowry of Variety writes: "Elektra" proves no more than fitfully satisfying, a character-driven superhero yarn whose flurry of last-minute rewriting shows in a disjointed plot."
I liked "Elektra" so much better than "Daredevil", and I assume I am not really alone in that opinion. I think Jennifer Garner fits the character very well and she carries the role in a proper fashion, while Terence Stamp adds nice weight to the film as Stick. The action is well balanced with the story and for being made in 2004 the effects/CGI are pretty good. In an interview with UK's Empire Online, director Rob Bowman stated that the original director's cut was a R-rated film and he had to tone the film down (due to contractual obligations) which I think is a shame.
During the Korean War, the Soviets and Chinese capture a U.S. Army platoon and take it to Manchuria in communist China. Three days later, Staff Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) and Captain Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) manage to return to UN lines. Upon recommendation of the platoon's commander, Captain Marco, Shaw is awarded the Medal of Honor for saving their lives in combat. Shaw returns to the United States to a hero's welcome where he is exploited by his mother, Mrs. Eleanor Iselin (Angela Lansbury), on behalf of the political career of her husband and Shaw's stepfather, United States Senator John Yerkes Iselin (James Gregory). When asked to describe him, Marco and the other soldiers automatically respond, "Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.", even though Shaw is a cold, sad, unsympathetic loner. In the years to follow, Marco, who has since been promoted to major and assigned to Army Intelligence, suffers from a recurring nightmare. In it, a hypnotized Shaw blithely and brutally murders the two missing soldiers before an assembly of military leaders from the communist nations, during a practical demonstration of a revolutionary brainwashing technique. Marco is compelled to investigate, but with no solid evidence to back his claims fails to receive support from his uplines. However, Marco learns that another soldier from the platoon, Allen Melvin (James Edwards), has had the same nightmare. When Melvin and Marco separately identify the identical two men from their dreams as leading figures in communist governments, Army Intelligence agrees to help Marco investigate. Meanwhile, Eleanor drives the ascension of Iselin, a McCarthy-like demagogue stirring domestic turmoil and climbing the political ladder based on claims that varying numbers of communists work within the Department of Defense. Shaw, who broke with the couple immediately upon his return to America, is gradually revealed to have had been programmed by Russian and Chinese communists to be a sleeper agent who will blindly obey orders without any memory of his actions. His heroism was a false memory implanted in the platoon during their brainwashing in Manchuria. His programming is triggered by seeing the Queen of Diamonds card while playing solitaire after being induced by his handlers...
Rotten Tomatoes critical consensus states, "A classic blend of satire and political thriller that was uncomfortably prescient in its own time, The Manchurian Candidate remains distressingly relevant today." Film critic Roger Ebert listed The Manchurian Candidate on his "Great Movies" list, declaring that it is "inventive and frisky, takes enormous chances with the audience, and plays not like a 'classic' but as a work as alive and smart as when it was first released".
"The Manchurian Candidate" is seen as a classic and the story is certainly there with the Cold War paranoia in the centre, but at the same time it didn´t make that of a strong impact on me I was hoping for. Which in return made me a bit sad, as I was expecting to be blown away literally. There´s a great story there, but the film itself doesn´t manage to make the story come alive full on. The film was released in the United States on October 24, 1962, at the height of U.S.–Soviet hostility during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was well-received by critics and was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress (Lansbury) and Best Editing. "The Manchurian Candidate" is slowpaced and a bit too long, but we get powerful performances from Laurence Harvey and Frank Sinatra. The cinematography is intriguing as well. However, the film left me wishing for something more powerful that would leave me truly intrigued and satisfied.
On the planet Corellia, orphaned children are made to steal to survive. Young adults Han and Qi'ra make an escape from a local gang. They bribe an Imperial officer with stolen coaxium (a powerful hyperspace fuel) for passage on an outgoing transport, but Qi'ra is apprehended before she can board. Han vows to return for her and joins the Imperial Navy as a flight cadet. When the recruiting officer asks for his surname, Han explains that he is alone with no family, so the recruiter gives him the last name "Solo". Three years later, Han (Alden Ehrenreich) has been expelled from the Imperial Flight Academy for insubordination and is serving as an infantryman on Mimban. He encounters a group of criminals posing as Imperial soldiers led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson). Han attempts to blackmail them into taking him with them, but Beckett has him arrested for desertion and thrown into a pit to be fed to a Wookiee named Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). Able to understand Chewbacca's language, Han persuades him to cooperate to escape. Beckett, aware of the usefulness of a Wookiee's strength, rescues and enlists them in the gang to steal a shipment of coaxium on Vandor-1. The plan goes awry when the Cloud Riders, led by Enfys Nest, arrive, resulting in the deaths of two crew members, including Beckett's wife, and the destruction of the coaxium. Beckett reveals that he was ordered to steal the shipment for Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), a high-ranking crime boss in the Crimson Dawn syndicate. Han and Chewbacca volunteer to help him steal another shipment to repay the debt. They travel to Vos' yacht where Han finds Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke), who has joined Crimson Dawn, and is Vos' top lieutenant. Han suggests a risky plan to steal unrefined coaxium from the mines on Kessel; Vos approves but insists Qi'ra accompany the team. She leads them to Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), an accomplished smuggler and pilot who she hopes will lend them his ship. Han challenges Lando to a game of sabacc, with the wager being Lando's ship. Lando cheats to win but agrees to join the mission in exchange for a share of the profits...
Star Wars creator George Lucas began developing a Han Solo prequel in 2012, and commissioned Lawrence Kasdan to write the screenplay. After Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012, Kasdan was hired to write Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), leaving his son Jonathan to complete the Solo script. Principal photography began in January 2017 at Pinewood Studios, directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. The duo were fired in June 2017 following "creative differences" with Lucasfilm, and Howard was hired as their replacement. With an estimated production budget of at least $275 million, Solo is one of the most expensive films ever made. The film is the first in the Star Wars franchise to be considered a box office bomb, grossing $392 million worldwide, thus becoming the lowest-grossing live-action film in the franchise.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus reads, "A flawed yet fun and fast-paced space adventure, Solo: A Star Wars Story should satisfy newcomers to the saga as well as longtime fans who check their expectations at the theater door." Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4, complimenting the cast but criticizing the lack of creativity, saying, "somehow Han Solo—the roguish Star Wars hellion famous for breaking all the rules—finds himself in a feel-good movie that doesn't break any." Bernard Boo of PopMatters wrote, "If what you want from a Star Wars movie is an action-adventure romp, and the last two movies in the franchise (The Last Jedi and Rogue One) felt a little too dreary and heavy on pathos, Solo is sure to lift your spirits and give you more thrills than you can handle. Some of the action sequences are seriously breathtaking and will keep you teetering on the edge of your seat." For the New York Post, Johnny Oleksinski gave the film one star out of a possible four, writing that while Glover was "amusing" in his role, Ehrenreich was "given an impossible task: to make us forget about Harrison Ford, easily the most iconic action hero in modern cinema.
I thought that "Solo - A Star Wars Story" was quite entertaining and I do like getting to know Hans Solo´s backstory. It´s such a well made film in terms of visuals, action sequences and creative direction. But, the plotline and story is a bit too thin for a 2 hour film. What´s missing is a proper narrative with a tad bit more flesh on the bone. And I do think that Emilia Clarke is truly miscasted. She doesn´t fit at all. While Alden Ehrenreich fits pretty good as Han Solo making the part his adding to Harrison Ford´s interpretation of the character. When the original director (actually two in this case) is fired over "creative differences" that means you have a difficult film on your hand. Ron Howard was hired as the replacement and no shadow over Howard, but he is an average director in my book, so I was concerned this would bomb, but "Solo - A Star Wars Story" is pretty alright as said. Yes, it´s hardly the best in the Star Wars franchaise, but it´s better than "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" if you ask me.