FlixChatter Review: The Hitman’s Wife Bodyguard (2021)

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It hasn’t been that long ago that The Hitman’s Bodyguard was released in 2017, and I remember it being quite a pleasant surprise despite its inherent silliness. It’s a spoof of the buddy cop action comedy but with two bodyguards forming an unlikely bond of friendship between Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) and Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson). While it was enjoyable, I hardly think it’s a story worth revisiting but whaddayaknow, we end up getting a sequel/spinoff no one asks for, this time centering on Kincaid’s wife Sonia.

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Despite having a ludicrous plot involving an Eastern European dictator (Gary Oldman), the amusing hilarity of the Reynolds-Jackson pairing were enough to keep me engaged with the first movie. Well, the sequel makes the first one seems much more sensible as director Patrick Hughes dials up the screwball comedy factor so far it’s off the chart. The tone is far more slapstick this time around with full on action from start to finish.

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At the start of the movie, we see Bryce trying desperately to keep his bodyguard career behind him. His therapist urges him to be on a ‘violence diet’ which includes the no-gun rule, but of course, as soon as he goes on vacation, his past soon catches up with him, literally. The action is always loud, frenetic and violent, and you can practically describe Sonia (Salma Hayek) the same way. She suddenly shows up right in the middle of Bryce’s Greek holiday asking him to help her free Darius who’s taken up by mobsters. The hapless Bryce immediately gets dragged on by the persistent Sonia who does not take no for an answer. On their journey, they end up teaming up with Interpol (Frank Grillo, in his usual intense/angry mode) to help locate a megalomaniac Aristotle Papadopoulos (Antonio Banderas). Papadopoulos is a caricature of a Bond villain meets Onassis meets Liberace who’s hellbent on destroying Europe to avenge Greece for being imposed more sanctions. 

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Reynolds’s self-deprecating humor can be charming and he seems to relish being a suffering fool. He’s tossed around so much like a rag doll by his two co-stars it’s cartoonish. I read on IMDb that Hughes deliberately wants to put him through the wringer which explains the amount of suffering he’s put through here. But of course, much like most fantastical heroes like James Bond, John Wick, etc. Bryce seems to be indestructible as well as he survives multiple car crashes (and worse) and come out virtually unscathed.

Though the first one has some slapstick comedy elements, the sequel is pretty much all slapstick screwball stuff that rivals the Hot Shots or Naked Gun franchise. It’s as if the direction for the lead actors are to be as hammy and over the top as possible. It’s pretty typical to see characters insult each other in these types of comedies, but here Jackson and Hayek are downright mean-spirited at times, mostly directed at Reynolds. Just like the first one, wer’re bombarded by a deluge of F-bombs and bullets + explosions. 

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They also poke fun at themselves in egregious manner, which can be amusing and off-putting at the same time. Hayek’s obviously proud of her large boobs which are played for laugh so much here, as well as her heavy Mexican accent. She certainly looks amazing and looks to be enjoying herself playing the batshit crazy title character. Fans of Desperado would likely enjoy seeing her reunion with Banderas, though the plot is pretty predictable and farcical.

I think the one truly hilarious bit that actually got the entire theater laughing, which involves Morgan Freeman’s character. To say more about his character will be a major spoiler, but let’s just say he plays an important figure in Bryce’s life. During that scene, I thought how fun would it be to see Kevin Costner’s cameo, as the first movie used that Whitney Houston’s famous ballad I Will Always Love You from the 1992 movie The Bodyguard. Speaking of the cast, there are a bunch of good British actors like Richard E. Grant and Caroline Goodall who are thoroughly wasted which are par the course in a bombastic, big-budget action flick like this one.

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The one major highlight for me is the beautiful locations: London, Italy, Croatia… clearly it’s like a free vacation for the cast. I was drooling over the Amalfi Coast scenery… so there’s that escapism factor. Overall though, this movie is pretty much a rehash of the first one, only much dumber with even more senseless violence + raunchy humor. In a way, Bryce’s extremely exasperated reaction to Darius + Sonia’s vulgarity is exactly how I feel about this clichéd + verbose movie. It’s not a long movie but by the end of it, I felt tired from both the non-stop action and the banal plot, which is made worse by a promise of yet another potential sequel [cue eye roll].

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Have you seen The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard? I’d love to hear what you think!

Trailer Spotlight: Terrence Malick’s ‘Knight of Cups’ starring Christian Bale

I don’t usually post a trailer spotlight so early in the week, but I’ve been waiting for this movie since back in 2011! Knight of Cups was also on my most-anticipated films of 2013, alas it’s Terrence Malick we’re talking about here. But looks like we WILL see this one in 2015 as apparently the film will now open at Berlinale, Berlin Film Festival, next February.

I was already sold on this film when they cast Christian Bale and the incomparable Cate Blanchett. There’s something about Bale’s look in this film that really appeals to me. At the time, all that’s known about the premise is that it’s the story of a man, temptations, celebrity, and excess. Check out the trailer:


Well, per Deadline we’ve not got the full synopsis:

“Once there was a young prince whose father, the king of the East, sent him down into Egypt to find a pearl. But when the prince arrived, the people poured him a cup. Drinking it, he forgot he was the son of a king, forgot about the pearl and fell into a deep sleep. Rick’s father used to read this story to him as a boy. The road to the East stretches out before him. Will he set forth?”

I must say I’m quite mesmerized by the trailer. But then again, Malick’s films are always chock full of gorgeous, poetic and evocative imagery. He’s working with his longtime cinematographer Emanuel Lubezki again so we can expect another visual spectacle.

Somehow though, this one doesn’t seem as cryptic as his previous films. The story seems to be a cautionary tale or even just a commentary about the repercussion of hedonistic lifestyle.

“You don’t want love… you want to love… experience.”

“You have love in you… I know it.” 

Of course with Malick, he tends to communicate via metaphors and such, so who really knows how accessible and comprehensible this film is.

With the bass-heavy paired with all kinds of debauchery and decadence in the first half, and later with a more soul-stirring classical style, it’s such a beautifully-cut trailer that I hope the film itself will live up to. As I’m watching it, it made me think that Malick should perhaps do a short film. I think if you take out all the reflective long shots, this story could potentially be told under 20 min. Heck, given his penchant for leaving so much stuff in the cutting room floor, you’d think short films would be his forte.

The cast is pretty eclectic, though some of them are barely featured in the trailer. For sure we’ve got Natalie PortmanJason Clarke and I hear Antonio Banderas‘ voice on there. The rest: Brian Dennehy, Freida Pinto, Wes Bentley, Isabel Lucas, Teresa Palmer, Imogen Poots, Armin Mueller-Stahl and apparently, the voice of Ben Kingsley.

I’ve seen four of Malick’s films so far and I actually like all of them to varying degrees. Even though I didn’t quite comprehend Tree of Life, there are still a lot to like about it and I appreciate Malick’s poetic style. That reminds me, I should rent To The Wonder at some point. So yeah, I guess you could say I’m anticipating this now, even more so than before.


What do you think of this trailer? 

Counting down to TCFF: ‘Ruby Sparks’ Review and Q&A

In about three months time, one of the most exciting event in my neck of the woods is touching down. YES, the Twin Cities Film Fest starts on FRIDAY, October 12 through Saturday, Oct. 20!

For more info, click on the banner to go to the official site and also LIKE TCFF on Facebook!


I’ve always loved a movie about writers. And the premise of Ruby Sparks no doubt intrigues me:

A novelist struggling with writer’s block finds romance in a most unusual way: by creating a female character he thinks will love him, then willing her into existence.

Now, what writer hasn’t dreamed of having this happens to them? Especially when one of your characters has all the criteria of the man/woman of your dreams 😉 But as Calvin Weir-Fields finds out, it’s a lot trickier than you think. At first glance, this movie shares some similarities with Stranger than Fiction, but with a few twists on its own. Whilst the Will Ferrell movie focuses on the character who finds himself the subject of narration only he can hear, this one focuses more on the writer.

Paul Dano stars as Calvin, a young writer who’s under pressure to relive his shining moment of having a New York Times best seller before he turns 20, but now suffers from a massive writer’s block. The way he portrays that agony is spot on and I immediately empathize with his character. One day Calvin sort of got his mojo back after having a vivid dream about a girl. Ruby Sparks is the name of that ‘dream’ girl, the protagonist of Calvin’s narration – a vivacious, bubbly red head, played with an infectious zest for life by Zoe Kazan. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, there she is! A living, breathing person who looks and sounds just like how he’s imagined her.

The moment Ruby enters Calvin’s life, hilarity ensues. Calvin is downright flabbergasted but Ruby is baffled by his reaction and acts as if she has always been living in his house the whole time. It’s a hilarious and endearing, funny and touching at the same time. Both Dano and Kazan played their part convincingly.

Some of the funniest moments also comes from Calvin’s married brother, Harry (Chris Messina), a stereotypical guy’s guy who thinks Calvin ought to get out more. He’s the only one who’s read Calvin’s unpublished draft about Ruby, so the moment they all meet over dinner is a hoot! They find out that Calvin can make Ruby do ANYTHING he wants, just as soon as he types it into the story. She can speak French, be a gourmet chef, etc. and of course the first thing Harry thinks of is all the um, physical alterations Calvin can do on Ruby, and basically whatever a man would want their dream girl to be and do for them.

Whilst it has plenty of amusing moments, things aren’t always so rosy. In fact, there’s a lot of dark moments here that merits its R rating. In many ways, the tone and themes are similar to Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ 2006 debut, Little Miss Sunshine where thigh-slapping humor are seamlessly mixed with intense pathos and emotional anguish. In fact, there is a fight scene towards the end of the film that is so raw, intense and utterly gut-wrenching.

The acting is top notch here. The two young cast, Dano and Kazan, definitely carry the film with aplomb. They have amazing chemistry together, Ruby’s spunky-ness perfectly balances Calvin’s awkward, somewhat socially-inept self. The supporting cast add richness to the story: Annette Bening plays Calvin’s sympathetic, free-spirited mom, Antonio Banderas as her warm, carpenter boyfriend and Elliot Gould as his therapist. Steve Coogan and True Blood‘s Deborah Ann-Woll had bit parts but are memorable despite their brief screen time.

My only issue with the film is the predictable and rather saccharine-sweet ending. I feel like if it had ended just a few minutes before the final scene, it would’ve been perfect for me. I kind of like a little bit of uncertainty at the end, where things are not always neatly tied with a big, red bow. Still, Ruby Sparks is a well-written, engaging love story.

Final Thoughts: I highly recommend this one, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry and definitely enjoy the performances. As Dayton and Farris used to be music video directors, the use of music is also compelling here, I’m sure the soundtrack is equally charming. Props for Zoe Kazan for writing an offbeat love story that feels refreshingly authentic, which is rare to see. It reminds me a bit of (500) Days of Summer, but to me, Zoe Kazan is far more endearing than Zooey Deschanel.

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Summary of the TCFF Q&A with the filmmakers and leading cast:

I saw this last Monday July 16, and what a pleasant surprise to see both filmmakers and the two leading cast, Zoe and Paul were in town to promote the movie! I knew TCFF had announced there’ll be a Q&A afterwards but I didn’t think the cast would be there. TCFF executive director Jatin Setia moderated the event.

One question from the audience was about the believable chemistry between the two leading cast. Well, straight from Paul himself, apparently he and Zoe are dating. Zoe is just as bubbly in person as she is in the film, which is cute to see. I realized shortly afterwards that she is the grand-daughter of Elia Kazan! Obviously she shared his talent and I do think she has a bright future in Hollywood.

Paul seems more introverted and shy, and this is the second time he collaborates with the husband-and-wife directing duo as he previously starred as the reclusive, Nietzsche-obsessed teen in Little Miss Sunshine.

I asked Paul how he portrayed the novelist persona so convincingly, especially in conveying the writer’s block with such agony. I told him that though I knew he was an amazing actor, I wonder if he did any extensive research on that, y’know, like following a real novelist for a week or something like that.

Well, apparently he didn’t. Paul explained in his modest manner that he as an actor, he could easily empathize with a writer’s plight as he put it, ‘we’re artists who live and die by their work.’ He said that it can be extremely agonizing for an artist to be required to produce something creative, whether it’s a narration or performance, in a given allotted time in order to meet deadline. I thought that was a cool answer!

One insight I got from the filmmakers on the music was the fact that their experience as music video directors comes in handy in that they’ve become quite efficient in their film productions. They also understand the importance of music in film, so even on a paltry budget of $8 million, they had a 60-piece orchestra for the soundtrack!

Paul Dano complimented the filmmakers in that on top of being musically and visually gifted directors, Dayton and Farris also have a keen talent for story and character, which definitely shows in Ruby Sparks!

What’s next for Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan?

Paul’s been steadily turning up great work in a relatively short career. He’s worked with renowned directors like Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) and Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are). At the Q&A he said that from Minneapolis he’d be off to Louisiana to film Twelve Years A Slave with Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt and Benedict Cumberbatch (wow!) for British director ‘du jour’ Steve McQueen. He’ll also be seen in Looper with equally gifted young actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

This is the first time I saw Zoe Kazan on film, but she’s got almost two dozen TV/movie work under her belt. She’ll be starring with Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe in an upcoming romantic comedy The F-Word.

Ruby Sparks filmmaker/cast with TCFF staff

Thanks to TCFF and Allied Integrated Marketing for bringing such a special screening to Minneapolis!


Thoughts on the movie and/or the talents involved? Let’s hear it in the comments.

FlixChatter Review: Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Haywire’

The one thing I found appealing right away is of course the cast: Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton… and the femme fatale, a real mixed-martial arts fighter Gina Carano. Steven Soderbergh confessed to the Hall H panel at Comic-con that he ‘discovered’ Carano fighting in a cage whilst watching TV on a Saturday night. According to this NY Post article, after he’d been fired from directing the Brad Pitt starrer Moneyball, he said he decided to make ‘an action flick that looked beautiful.’ Upon seeing Carano, he ended up building an entire script based on her.

Soderbergh with his muse

So was this a good move on Soderbergh part?

After seeing this, my answer is a resounding YES. I like the director’s style in filming this, consistently keeping Mallory Kane, the black ops super soldier [ex-Marine, natch!] as the main focus from start to finish. Right away we find out she’s betrayed by the people who hired her on a mission in Barcelona and the rest of the film follows her hot on the trail to exact her vengeance. Yes, it’s a simple story, this is no twisty espionage thriller so there’s no convoluted plot to deal with. Soderbergh simply creates a vehicle for Carano to be her bad-ass self and it works!

I’ve heard people comparing this to Angelina Jolie’s SALT. Now I haven’t seen that movie and there probably is some similarities, but if these two were to be in a fight together, no doubt Carano would take Jolie’s bony frame down in a matter of seconds. Y’know she made me think that she could practically take down the rest of the Expendables cast, ahah.

Don’t I look like James Bond? Complete with my kick-ass Bond girl!

The action sequences are the reason to watch this film. It’s done without the overblown fast cuts, or slo-mo or nauseating hand-held style employed by many action directors [just as Ted has pointed out here]. Those are done supposedly to make the sequences look cool but it’s hard to see just what the heck is going on. No, Soderbergh filmed the fight scenes realistically, you could see every punch/blow/kick the characters endure. The most intense one is in the clip shown at Comic-con, involving the Bond-like Michael Fassbender [as an MI-6 agent no less!]. So going in I already knew his fate, ahah. But still that is one kick-ass fight scene, woof!

This is not an *acting* film for everyone involved, especially for Carano who never acted before. That said, Carano acquits herself well as Soderbergh is smart enough not to give her long monologues or complicated emotion to convey. Now of course I wish there’s more character development in play, I wish there was a bit more background on Mallory, but y’know what, there’s a certain appeal to its minimalism. In fact, my hubby said it reminds me of Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï in its stark simplicity and pacing. We didn’t really know much about Alain Delon’s Jef Costello either, but it’s still interesting to watch him in his journey.

Run Mallory Run!

The star-studded male cast don’t exactly show their range but they’re still fun to watch. They all seem well aware when they signed on that they won’t be given much to do than being the next target of Carano’s vendetta. In the case of Bill Paxton as her author dad, his character is given a bit more emotional weight, but not by much. The ending does seem abrupt but also brilliant at the same time. It ends with an expletive uttered by a character who realizes that his blissful island life with his model girlfriend is about to go um, haywire.

I feel like giving Soderbergh’s other works a watch now. I haven’t seen too many of them, but Out of Sight and Traffic are some of his best films I’ve seen so far. I appreciate his unorthodox style and his effort in experimenting with different genres.

Final Thoughts: Gina Carano certainly makes for a convincing action star whilst still retains her feminine aura. This dynamic action thriller will please any action fans with its high adrenaline-stunts and gritty fight sequences. If you’re a fan of Soderbergh’s other works, this one is definitely worth a watch.

4 out of 5 reels

Have you seen this movie? Well, what do you think?

Flix Poster of the Week: You Will Meet a Tall, Dark, Stranger

Another year, another Woody Allen’s ensemble-cast movie. I’m not one to rush to see his movies, in fact, I can count with one hand how many of his films I have seen. But these posters of his upcoming rom-com just spell lovely. I love, love these! The illustrated silhouettes are so simple yet sooo romantic, seductive and makes me want to see the movie, which is the idea right? I don’t know which one I like best, probably the right one with the creative use of negative space and just a dash of spicy red against the black and white.

The trailer’s out on Apple‘s trailer page, and here’s the synopsis:

After Alfie leaves Helena to pursue his lost youth and a free-spirited call girl named Charmaine (Lucy Punch), Helena abandons rationality and surrenders her life to the loopy advice of a charlatan fortune teller. Unhappy in her marriage, Sally develops a crush on her handsome art gallery owner boss, Greg (Antonio Banderas), while Roy, a novelist nervously awaiting the response to his latest manuscript, becomes moonstruck over Dia (Freida Pinto), a mystery woman who catches his gaze through a nearby window. Despite these characters’ attempts to dodge their problems with pipe dreams and impracticable plans, their efforts lead only to heartache, irrationality, and perilous hot water.

You Will Meet a Tall, Dark, Stranger also stars Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts and Anna Friel. Now, the movie would have been VERY appealing to with an entirely different cast [perhaps with Matthew Goode or my new crush Karl Urban :)]. But Josh Brolin?? Major meh! I hope he ain’t the tall dark stranger, ’cause he definitely doesn’t come to mind when I think about such a man. Banderas maybe, if you’re into the heavy-accented, latin lover type. The way it is now, the only interesting part of this movie is just the posters. Oh, and perhaps the title, too. It’s long, but catchy.