Film Review – Black Widow

18 07 2021

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour

Directed By: Cate Shortland (Lore)

Written By: Eric Pearson (Godzilla vs. Kong, Thor: Ragnarok)

Hard not to be impressed by what Disney/Marvel have accomplished with the MCU, even the weaker entries are generally worth watching and given some more emotional weight as part of the larger universe. Black Widow certainly is not the best of the Marvel offerings but it is definitely worth watching based on the strength of its characters and some excellent performances by the cast.

Special effects and fight scenes are as over the top as one has come to expect from a Marvel flick, which is to say that they are seamless and entertaining as a comic or video game come to life. The scripting is a little weaker than one would hope, particularly for a backstory of a character like Widow who is supposed to be struggling with a troubled past.

The film takes place shortly after the events in Civil War which sees the Avengers split by the Sarkovia accords and Black Widow a fugitive on her own. She soon reconnects with her sister and adopted family from Russia and heads forward to right the wrongs done by the evil Russian assassin training program that developed her own skills. The script is funny enough to give the actors something to play with but not deep enough for anyone to really push any emotional depth. Pugh, in particular, is able to shine while delivering some one liners and being as emotional as the lukewarm script allows.

Overall this is worth a watch – it is nice to see Marvel films stripped back from cosmic threats to something more Earthbound. That said, script issues keep it from reaching the heights of other lower powered films like The First Avenger, Black Panther, or The Winter Soldier. Watch for the well choreographed fight scenes, the connections to the MCU, and the performances put forward by Johansson, Pugh, and Harbour. 4/5

Review: Paddleton (2019)

28 07 2020

Starring: Mark Duplass, Ray Romano
Director: Alexandre Lehmann
Screenplay: Mark Duplass, Alexandre Lehmann

The story of a man diagnosed with a terminal illness and how he and his closest friend deal with the news.  Although it moves slowly at the start you eventually come to love both main characters and the non-traditional lives they have built.  Despite a somewhat lonely existence they found each other and have carved out happy lives revolving around Kung-Fu movies, homemade pizza, and a racquetball/tennis hybrid called Paddleton. 

The fallout and reaction to the diagnosis take up the bulk of the film as we see them come to terms with the news.  Duplass is excellent as the afflicted character while Romano does an almost perfect ‘Eeyore’ impression in a great supporting role.  There are genuinely funny moments as they take a road trip and argue over medications as well as some heart wrenching moments involving feelings that guys just don’t discuss with each other in a world where male emotion is frowned upon.  These unspoken conversations between the characters are performed skillfully and lift the script to a level it could not have achieved with lesser actors.

In the end, predictably, they find acceptance and grow as people but not before you shed a tear for what is lost.  Their child-like relationship built on a foundation of poorly dubbed action movies turns out to be the exact kind of grown-up relationship we all wish we had with our closest friends. Even though it shouldn’t be confused with the best dramas out there it is worth a watch and overall an example of what great acting can do with an average script.


Contraband (2012)

19 01 2012

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Giovanni Ribisi
Director: Baltasar Kormakur
Screenplay: Aaron Guzikowski

I went into this one expecting a vanilla Mark Wahlberg action flick.  In what is a criminal case of misrepresentation by trailer this was not at all what I got.  Instead of the fast paced action movie the trailer sold me on this turned out to be a plodding grind of a film which wasted my time and money.

The familiar plot follows an ex-smuggler (Wahlberg) who gets pulled back into his life of crime through the actions of his brother in law.  He deals with one last smuggling run while fighting off threats against his family leading up to the anti-climactic big reveal of the boss behind it all.

Saddled with a very predictable and familiar plot the cast does little to entertain.  Wahlberg pretty much plays himself (again) and there is so little chemistry between his character and his wife (Beckinsale) that I found it difficult to maintain any level of tension when she is in danger.  Dialogue is poorly written and delivered flatly by a supporting cast that is frankly better than what they are given to work with.  Ribisi, often a scene stealer in stronger projects, is a sad cliché and much like Ben Foster and the rest of the cast wasted.

Pacing is uneven and slow most of the time leading one to ask “When does this end?” about 40 minutes in.  Overall there is very little to redeem this attempt at an action movie.  Hold out for whatever comes out next.