Tag Archives: Djimon Hounsou

Milkbone of Blood

Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank

by Hope Madden

Who’s up for a perfectly harmless, slight, not especially funny cartoon? Well, depending on how hot it is outside and how bored your kids are, Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank could be worse.

Hank (Michael Cera) dreams of being a samurai. Ika Chu (Ricky Gervais) dreams of ridding the land of this ugly little town that ruins the view from his palace. How about making Hank the samurai that protects that ugly village? Hank will be a terrible samurai! He’s a dog! Who ever heard of a dog samurai?

Well, who ever heard of a cat Western? But that’s what we essentially have here, because Hank has crossed many treacherous lands to find his way to the land of cats so he could fulfill his destiny, even if nobody there wants him. Like at all.

OK, maybe little Emiko (Kylie Kuioka), who also dreams of becoming a samurai. But definitely not Jimbo (Samuel L. Jackson), the town drunk who used to be a samurai before shame led him to catnip.

It sounds like it should be funny. There’s also the supporting voice cast, if you need to be impressed: George Takei, Michelle Yeoh, Djimon Hounsou, Aasif Mandvi, Gabriel Iglesias, Mel Brooks.

Brooks also co-wrote the screenplay, which explains a lot. A dozen or so jokes littered throughout the film might have been funny 60 or so years before the target audience was born. Very few jokes connect to dogs, cats, samurai films, Westerns—anything in particular, but they lack that fun, random feel. A giant toilet figures prominently. There is flatulence.

Cera and Jackson definitely share an odd couple quality—enough that I’d love to see them do a live action film together. But Yeoh and Takei are wasted, and Gervais gets no good dialog to deliver (though he does a villain well). Hounsou’s fun.

The movie looks fine—not great, but fine. Its themes about acceptance are muddled and soft peddled, though—another victim of weak writing.

A profoundly odd short film called Bad Hamster precedes Paws of Fury, though. There’s that. Just depends how hot it is, I guess.

Word Up or Nerd Up

Shazam!

by George Wolf

To paraphrase a classic segment from the old Letterman show: Can a guy in a supersuit get into a strip club?

Easily, which is pretty exciting for the teenage boy inside the super man inside the suit. And it’s just one example of the irreverent vibe Shazam! rides to bring home one of the most fun origin stories in recent memory.

The teenage boy is Billy Batson (Asher Angel), who’s just been placed in the latest of a string of foster homes. Just as he’s getting to know his foster family, including the superhero-crazed Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer from IT, impressive again), Billy is chosen to replace the aging Wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) as protector of the Realms, bringing a youthful energy that will ensure the Seven Deadly Sin-Monsters cannot assume Earthly forms.

The super-villainous Dr. Thaddeus Silva (Mark Strong, gloriously slimy) does not approve, and vows to defeat the new Shazam (Zachary Levi) and assume all his powers.

So it’s on!

But first, Billy and Freddy have to find out just what superpowers are brought on by saying that magic word, which sets up a series of amusing tests and is the springboard for getting to know this grown up superboy while he mulls over possible super names.

“Thundercrack?” “No! That sounds like a butt thing.”

If you’re thinking Big (and the film acknowledges that you are with a cute homage), you’re right on. Writer Henry Gayden (Earth to Echo) fills the script with action, humor, heart and spunk, while director David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) keeps things lively and engaging with plenty of impressive visual pop.

The entire cast is wonderfully diverse and consistently winning, and a few corny moments aside, makes the feels on friendship, family and responsibility land nearly as flush as the winking riffs on superhero tropes.

There really isn’t much Shazam! doesn’t deliver (okay, maybe it delivers a slightly bloated running time that includes two post-credits stingers), and as fast as you can say the magic word, DC has the best film in its universe since Bale was the Bat.

 





Fish Story

Serenity

by George Wolf

NIGHT. FISHING BOAT CABIN. DESPERATION HEAVY IN THE AIR:

McConaughey takes a long, emphatic drag on a cigarette, then downs a shot of rum, his constantly wet t-shirt screaming for mercy.

Hathaway vamps in from the thunderstorm, wearing a hat pulled down low and a raincoat from the “nothing underneath” collection at Victoria’s Secret.

“I still love you, high school sweetheart, and now you have to save me…and our child,” she purrs. “Take my abusive husband Jason Clarke out on your fishing boat, feed him to the sharks, and I’ll give you ten million dollars.”

SMOKE, DRINK, STARE, T-SHIRT SOMEHOW WETTER INSIDE.

Yes, the noir is strong with Serenity, with familiar tropes laid so heavy you know something must be up. So when writer/director Steven Knight finally does make his pivot a la Gone Girl, the real eyebrow-raiser is why.

Knight, whose career has shown flashes of brilliance (Eastern Promises, Locke), takes his latest in some wild directions, almost none of which make much sense. There’s plenty of pretty island scenery, “fish on the hook” and “one that got away” symbolism, along with some random supporting talent (Diane Lane, Djimon Hounsou) that feels as wasted as the leads.

The spoon-feeding that’s waiting at the end of Serenity is well-intentioned but structurally misguided, landing so far from the mark that just embracing that early Body Heat wave and riding it out might have made for a better crash.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbrOMrjhyvI

 

 





Blinder Side

Same Kind of Different as Me

by George Wolf

It’s been over a year since the trailer for Same Kind of Different as Me arrived, and was promptly met with the widespread mockery it deserved.

Planned release dates came and went. Was it retooling, or rethinking? Maybe they weren’t really going to put out a film with so much apparent racial condescension and white guilt?

They were, they are, they did.

It’s based on the best selling memoir – steady yourself if you haven’t heard this title – Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together.

Subtle.

Ron and Debbie Hall (Greg Kinnear and Renee Zellweger) were rich white Texans in an unhappy marriage. They met homeless man Denver Moore (Djimon Hounsou) and struck up a friendship which led to millions of dollars raised for the needy.

It’s a nice story. Helping thy neighbor is a lovely message. Why does it have to be delivered this way?

Denver seems like an interesting character, and he’s listed as a co-author on the book. Did anyone think to tell the story from his point of view?

No, we must get more precious white saviors, and celebrate them for taking a black friend to their white country club while they wash their hands of violent racism with empty voiceovers (of course there are voiceovers!) such as “there are things I just don’t understand.”

Bless your heart.

Not one thing in director/co-writer Michael Carney’s feature debut feels authentic. Even smaller details, like Debbie sleeping in full makeup or a young, poverty-stricken Denver sporting gleaming straight teeth, feed the notion that this is all just a self-congratulatory show.

Well, congratulations, this might even be worse than The Blind Slide.

 





Something Special in the Air

 

How to Train Your Dragon 2

by George Wolf

They had me at “Drago Bloodfist.”

Actually, they had me four years ago, when the original How to Train Your Dragon was not only one of the best films of 2010, but one of the most visually stunning 3D films ever.

Part 2 may fall a hair short of those original lofty heights, but you can still expect an exhilarating, often eye-popping family adventure.

Writer/director Dean DeBlois returns to catch us up with Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his dragon, Toothless, five years after they showed their village that dragons and Vikings can be buddies after all.

Things aren’t so harmonious in neighboring villages, as the evil pirate Bloodfist (Djimon Hounsou) has his henchmen always on the hunt, looking to capture new additions for a growing dragon army. Hiccup favors reasoning with the pirates but his father, Chief Stoick the Vast, (Gerard Butler) prefers a pre-emptive strike.

With obvious parallels to current global terrorism, HTTYD2 offers more mature, darker themes, but wisely doesn’t overplay this hand. The franchise, with part 3 already on the way, continues to be anchored by the bonds of family and friends, and the special relationship that can develop between man and beast.

What may make the younger viewers start to fidget are two backstory sequences, one involving Bloodfist and another featuring Hiccup’s mother Valka (Cate Blanchett). Though hardly fatal flaws, the compelling nature of the story begins to wander away, safely returning when Hiccup and Toothless get back into focus.

As the showdown between pirates and Vikings draws near, the visual elements continue to impress. With an assist from esteemed cinematographer Roger Deakins, the effects department again illustrates the glorious possibilities of 3D animation. The in-flight sequences make the heart race, and when Valka runs to the edge of a cliff to grasp the size of the approaching armada below, the aerial shot is simply breathtaking.

Boasting inspired storytelling, magical visuals and enough subtle, real world sensibility to give it resonance, HTTYD2 keeps this franchise crackling with vitality.

 Verdict-3-5-Stars