The November Man

 

The November Man is a decent enough spy thriller but it may seem like others you’ve seen before. Interestingly, even before its release, word is already out that the film will have a sequel.

In The November Man, Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) is an ex-CIA agent who is recruited come back and help bring down the Russian Federov (Lazar Ristovski) who is in line to become the country’s next president. Devereaux’s first step, getting a woman out of Russia, fails, thanks to the bullets of another CIA team.

Turns out that the unfriendly fire came from a group led by young David Mason (Luke Bracey), an agent who trained under Devereaux and years before was chastised by Devereaux for screwing up a mission and killing a child.

Devereaux goes to Belgrade to protect Alice Fournier (Olga Kurylenko) from nasty Russian assassin Alexa (Amila Terzimehic). Alice has the goods on Federov and his mistreatment of civilians during the Chechen war versus Russia.

Pierce Brosnan is a likeable actor who still carries some heft at age 61. And Luke Bracey, an Aussie who’s had little exposure on U.S. screens, is solid enough for the role as Brosnan/Devereaux’s CIA ally/rival.

Some of the film’s plot elements may leave you scratching your head and wondering, “why did they do that?” But it all comes together—sort of—at the end and good overcomes evil once more.

Whether you want to see The November Man depends on how big a Pierce Brosnan fan you are. This is not quite as iconic a role as Bond, but, presuming this film and its sequel do okay, it could become a trademark role for the sexegenerian.

 

 

 

 

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Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

 

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is beautiful and ugly—at the same time. The screen is filled with memorable images demonstrating the stark contrast between darkness and light. It’s a movie in basic black and white with color added sparingly to highlight key elements. Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is, stylistically, gorgeous to look at.

The ugly part comes from the bad behavior of the film’s characters. Gunplay, along with sword and arrow play, result in generous splattering of blood and moans of anguish. Though much of the damage to various bodies is presented with over-the-top, comic book unrealism, there’s enough grisly stuff here to elicit the occasional cringe.

The film’s voiceover narrations in classic film noir fashion are perfect. Dwight (Josh Brolin), Marv (Mickey Rourke) and Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) deliver monologues that advance the film’s plot and provide a window into their private thoughts.

Of the film’s stories, the most compelling is that of Dwight and the unhappily married Ava (Eva Green). He knows that she’s manipulative and will lead to trouble, be he can’t resist her charms. Green is model-thin but busty and unclothed for a great portion of her time onscreen. She is the dame to kill for. My favorite shot in the film is her dive into a swimming pool with the pool surface mirroring her graceful form.

After Dwight is roughed up, he visits the hookers in Sin City’s sleaze strip called Old Town. Led by Gail (Rosario Dawson), they heal his serious wounds. With help from the hookers, including the ninja-like Miho (Jamie Chung), and the fierce and enormous Marv, he goes back to exact his revenge.

Two other stories involve the evil Senator Roark (Powers Booth). He and his henchmen bring terror and pain to Johnny following Johnny’s big win at the poker table. And stripper Nancy (Jessica Alba) looks to avenge Roark’s killing of her guy Hartigan (Bruce Willis).

As with 2005’s Sin City, the new SC:ADTKF is more about look and characters than about the narrative. When good and evil intersect, there’s conflict. And there’s plenty of conflict to go around.

Other cast members worth mentioning are Dennis Haysbert, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Lloyd, Stacy Keach and Ray Liotta. (And the lineup of classic cars is very cool.)

Co-directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez have created one of my favorites of 2014. For fans of the film noir genre and the comic/graphic novel print format, as well as for those who appreciate the visual art of cinema, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is one to see and enjoy!

 

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

 

It’s always a good thing when a film turns out to be better than expected. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of those movies, though maybe its release could’ve been better timed.

April O’Neill (Megan Fox) is a New York TV reporter who wants to break the story of the vigilantes who are foiling bad guys but she can’t produce hard evidence of their existence. Her cameraman Vernon (Will Arnett) urges her to stick to the fluff stories she’s assigned.

When April finally gets the scoop on the TMNTs she can’t spill the beans, lest she blow their cover and sabotage their efforts. She and Will join in to help the Turtles stop the evil Foot Clan.

In this origin story, the four TMNTs are shown to have been spawned by a lab episode gone wrong. Turns out April’s dad was killed in an accident in that same lab and the tiny turtles who morphed into the TMNTs had been April’s pets back in the day. Small world, huh?

This campy tale brings to mind certain aspects of the Batman saga, such as the secrecy and the revenge factor. TMNT has some funny stuff, but can’t quite match up to last week’s release, Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s violence galore in this PG-13 rated film with a couple of battle sequences that last just a bit too long.

TMNT is a fun action film that offers great effects and a few neat surprises. If you like this sort of movie, see it and enjoy it.

But it is likely to be buried at the box office this weekend by Guardians of The Galaxy, which has great momentum and strong word-of-mouth buzz. GOTG should hold on to its #1 standing again this weekend. Had TMNT been released earlier this summer it might’ve had a better shot at hitting a box office homerun.

 

 

The Hundred Foot Journey

 

The Hundred-Foot Journey has excellent credentials. Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg are among the film’s producers. The great Helen Mirren is the main star. The film is set in France. It’s based on a popular novel. It promises and delivers gorgeous food images.

But it’s not a particularly good movie.

The Kadam family is forced to leave India. Their ultimate destination is France. They take over a building directly across the street from a Michelin-starred restaurant owned by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). The Indians, led by Papa (Om Puri), are boisterous in sharp contrast to Mallory and her refined crew. They are just 100 feet away. (And I’d always thought France was on the metric system!)

One of Mallory’s cooks, the gorgeous Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), befriends young Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal), sharing cookbooks with him and encouraging him to elevate his ambitions. He gets hired by Mallory, passes Marguerite on the kitchen pecking order and, thanks to his spicing up the food just a bit, brings the restaurant up a notch to two Michelin stars.

He then moves on the to big leagues, nabbing a chef gig in Paris. He leads an active social lifestyle, but begins to miss the folks back home.

Why does The Hundred-Foot Journey fall short of greatness? The characters are not particularly compelling. It’s pleasant to watch Hassan and Marguerite’s chaste budding romance, but I wasn’t particularly concerned about their ultimate fates. Meanwhile, it’s not a surprise when Papa and Mallory are shown to have soft spots in their hearts despite their tough exterior personalities. Still, I did not have a soft spot in my own heart for either of them.

Despite my misgivings, here’s why you may want to see The Hundred Foot Journey: It’s rated PG. No language, sex or violence. It’s like a Hallmark Channel movie with a bigger budget. Also, the food looks great. (Although this year’s other foodie movie, Chef, caused me to leave the theater hungrier than THFJ did.)

The film’s message—that different cultures (and cuisines) can combine to deliver great outcomes—is an admirable one. It’s also one that can be observed in dining establishments and other businesses around St. Louis every day.