Archive for April, 2023

Fast Film Reviews on talkSPORT radio

Posted in Podcast with tags on April 30, 2023 by Mark Hobin

This was recorded Sunday, April 16th: THE SUPER MARIO BROS. MOVIE continues to be a phenomenon at the box office. RENFIELD is a new release that barely made a dent. I talk about both on UK-based talkSPORT. My segment begins 5 minutes into the 2:30-3:00 segment (about 25 minutes from the end). Enjoy!

Source: Live Radio, Breaking Sports News, Opinion – talkSPORT

Fast Film Reviews on talkSPORT radio

Posted in Podcast with tags on April 30, 2023 by Mark Hobin

This was my Sunday, April 9th appearance on UK-based talkSPORT. AIR (in theaters) reunites Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in a sports drama about how the Air Jordan came to be, and OPERATION FORTUNE is a spy thriller (available to rent) starring Jason Statham. My segment begins 2 minutes into the 2:30-3:00 segment (about 28 minutes from the end). Enjoy!

Source: Live Radio, Breaking Sports News, Opinion – talkSPORT

Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant

Posted in Action, Thriller, War with tags on April 27, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Even though The Covenant noticeably includes the filmmaker’s name in the title, this is not a typical Guy Ritchie movie. The designation was ostensibly done to differentiate itself from others with similar titles. The most well-known being a Renny Harlin-directed flick in 2006 about high school boys descended from colonial witches. Ritchie’s latest may be another macho tale for the director, but it still upends expectations. For one, it lacks the comedy brimming with witty one-liners that usually highlight his movies. This is a seriously-minded military action drama.

It’s been 18 years since Jarhead, the Persian Gulf War drama starring Jake Gyllenhaal. The actor returns to those military digs. Here he portrays U.S. Army Sergeant John Kinley needing an interpreter in Afghanistan in 2018. He selects Ahmed (Dar Salim), a local Afghan man whom John is told can be difficult. Ahmed proves to be a loyal and dedicated guide. The Afghan aide saves his life; now, various events lead to a situation where Jake must return the favor.

The Covenant is not based on any one specific account. However, it is inspired by the genuine relationships between Afghan interpreters and the U.S. Armed Forces. The War in Afghanistan began shortly after 9/11 in 2001 and would continue for 20 years. The U.S. exited the country in 2021. The applicants were promised visas to America. That’s the agreement, but thousands were left behind. The Taliban took control of the country within weeks of troops exiting. These supporters were hunted down as traitors. A title card emphasizes this in a bit of commentary in closing.

The saga leans into the features of a traditional war movie with straightforward action. As such, the chronicle is less concerned with detailed specifics of the Afghanistan War. Nevertheless, it’s thoroughly entertaining. Several tense and exciting sequences punctuate the narrative. That would have been enough, but the story’s heart is the close relationship that develops. John and Ahmed comprise one of the more engaging male friendships as of late. Gyllenhaal often affects this stoic, blank stare in his performances as an actor. That quality works well for this war-torn sergeant. Actor Dar Salim (Game of Thrones) is even more impressive as his interpreter. He, too, is a man where “actions speak louder than words.” Yet the unspoken bond that emerges as two men interact in various situations is compelling. What transpires is an emotional tribute to the human spirit.


How to Blow Up a Pipeline

Posted in Crime, Drama, Thriller with tags on April 24, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 4 out of 5.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline is as incendiary as it sounds. Originally a 2021 nonfiction book by Swedish author Andreas Malm whose politics on climate change have been described as Marxist. He advocates eco-terrorism; that is, he maintains that economic sabotage is an effective form of environmental activism. It’s a controversial opinion.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline (the movie) is a creative adaptation of his book into a fictional story. It concerns a disparate (and desperate) group of youthful zealots that decide to do precisely that. It’s an extreme undertaking and not easily defensible. Nevertheless, one need not subscribe to Andreas Malm’s beliefs on how to protest for change. It is a tense thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat as this faction of radicals attempts this task. The impending danger that the bomb makers will inadvertently blow themselves up is a constant threat.” Will they accomplish the deed?” is an ongoing question.

The diverse band of eight young actors is charismatic. Each one has a backstory that offers just enough info as to why they’re doing what they’re doing. Directed by Daniel Goldhaber, he co-wrote the screenplay with Ariela Barer and Jordan Sjol. Co-writer Ariela Barer also stars as Xochitl, the eco-terrorist organizer whose mother died after a freak heatwave accident. Xochitl’s childhood friend Theo (Sasha Lane) has been diagnosed with leukemia due to toxic pollution. Meanwhile, Native American Michael (Forrest Goodluck), frustrated with his mother’s pacifism, relies on Youtube tutorials to make homemade bombs. Dwayne (Jake Weary) is a married father with a baby daughter. The government has seized his land and home due to imminent domain. Actors Kristine Froseth, Lukas Gage, Jayme Lawson, and Marcus Scribner portray the other four. The cast’s naturalistic performances and the film’s low-budget aesthetic add significantly to the atmosphere. The cinematography almost feels like someone in that collective was documenting their work.

The tenets of good old-fashioned storytelling bolster this chronicle. The account paints this discontented gang as idealistic heroes. The filmmakers are sympathetic to their ideology. Yet this propaganda is compelling for reasons that have nothing to do with accepting the writer’s worldview. As these anarchists explain their motivations, we get a fully realized portrait of their cause. Those existing on the left and right-wing fringes have more in common than you might think. These personalities blame fossil fuel companies for all their various problems, and that despair is gradually suffused with an air of delusion. These aren’t perfect people, but hey — highly flawed individuals have always been more entertaining. This depiction imbues nuance and subtlety that elevates it to the next level. I was captivated by their humanity, if not their methods.


Boston Strangler

Posted in Crime, Drama, History on April 19, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Boston Strangler was an infamous serial killer who, in the 1960s, allegedly killed 13 women in Boston, Massachusetts. This saga concerns the investigative journalism surrounding that true crime tale. Our chronicle narrows its focus to the trailblazing ladies who broke the story.

The picture boasts two talented actresses. Keira Knightly is Loretta McLaughlin. Loretta works in a male-dominated environment, so she has to break through the proverbial glass ceiling to get heard. She does manage to stand out, as her reporting skills are top-notch. She is assisted by another reporter named Jean Cole, played by Carrie Coon. The two work together to become the first journalists to connect the murders to a single perpetrator. According to this, the men in the newsroom initially ignored McLaughlin and Cole’s demands to bring their revelations to the press. Editor Jack MacLaine (Chris Cooper) ultimately trusts her instincts. Surprise! Their perseverance paid off.

There’s nothing overtly terrible about the account. It’s a serviceable retelling, dutifully told. The presentation is competent with deferential, almost obsequious respect for its dogged reporters. However, the screenplay by Matt Ruskin is intellectually shallow and emotionally vacant. Furthermore, the mood is gloomy. The heavily filtered atmosphere of grays and greens recalls better productions like David Fincher’s Zodiac. Given that the details of this case have long been mired in doubt, it’s challenging to make a definitive statement on this subject. As a result, the denouement is hampered by an ambiguous ending that closes the production on a weak and unsatisfying note.

Boston Strangler is currently streaming on Hulu in the U.S. (Disney+ in other parts of the world). It debuted on March 17 and briefly occupied Hulu’s #1 most-watched movie for six days.



Posted in Comedy, Fantasy, Horror with tags on April 17, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Renfeield is a modern update of an old tale. This version is based on characters from Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, but it also relies on the visual look of the 1931 movie starring Bela Lugosi. Nicholas Hoult is R. M. Renfield, the obedient servant of Count Dracula. Nicolas Cage embodies the legendary vampire from Transylvania and Renfield’s demanding boss. The premise is that Renfield has had enough of procuring his master’s prey and doing his every bidding. It’s been centuries, but he’s ready to break free from this life of servitude.

The initial concept is creative, and given the two thespians involved, I was excited to see this. The duo has moved from Transylvania to New Orleans. Renfield attends meetings there to help deal with his codependent relationship with a cruel boss. I was enjoying this at first. Unfortunately, an auspicious beginning is unnecessarily complicated by a major detour involving a mafia-style mob family pushing drugs into the city. The Lobo family is an organized crime empire in New Orleans that controls everyone in the police department. Awkwafina portrays a traffic cop named Rebecca. She may be belligerent and irritable, but at least she is not on the take. Although Renfield and Rebecca have zero chemistry, their interactions inexplicably lead to a blossoming romance. Oh, and when Renfield eats bugs (spiders, ants, etc.), he unlocks the ability to fight like Bruce Lee. Nothing makes sense.

The screenplay — written by Ryan Ridley (Cartoon Network TV series Rick and Morty) from a story by Robert Kirkman (AMC TV series The Walking Dead) — begins with a rather clever setup. Renfield plans to use his group therapy sessions to identify abusive people. He’ll hunt less virtuous souls for Dracula so he feels less guilty about their deaths. That’s funny. I appreciated those bits, but the developments vacillated from light comedy to extreme brutality. The schizophrenic shift between the two is awkward.

The bloodshed includes savage casualties with stomachs sliced open, entrails spilling out, human limbs being ripped off, and liquid blood spurting out like a volcano. I could go on, but you get the idea. The excessive gore is meant to be hilarious because it’s so outrageous. Trust that the violence is somewhat amusing in small doses. When a character uses severed arms as weapons, it is laughable. But after a while, the sheer amount of carnage is oppressive and overbearing. I didn’t relish the gratuitous displays. A good introduction is undone as the humor fades, and a generic plot with routine fights takes over. Renfield is indeed horrifying. However, it’s the gap between idea and execution that is most appalling.


Fast Film Reviews on talkSPORT radio

Posted in Podcast with tags on April 16, 2023 by Mark Hobin

On Sunday, April 2nd, I was UK-based talkSPORT radio. I discussed DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: HONOR AMONG THIEVES, a fantasy with Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez, and THE LOST KING, a true-life drama starring Sally Hawkins. My appearance begins 4 minutes into the 2:30-3:00 segment (about 26 minutes from the end). Enjoy!

Source: Live Radio, Breaking Sports News, Opinion – talkSPORT

Fast Film Reviews on talkSPORT radio

Posted in Podcast with tags on April 16, 2023 by Mark Hobin

This was my Sunday, Match 26th appearance on the radio for UK-based talkSPORT. I spoke about CHAMPIONS starring Woody Harrelson — a feel-good sports comedy in theaters, as well as BOSTON STRANGLER, a crime drama starring Keira Knightley streaming on Hulu. My appearance begins 19 minutes into the 3:00-3:30 segment (about 11 minutes from the end). Enjoy!

Source: Live Radio, Breaking Sports News, Opinion – talkSPORT

The Super Mario Bros. Movie

Posted in Adventure, Animation, Comedy with tags on April 13, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

There’s nothing wrong with giving people what they want. This is sometimes necessary when adapting a video game into a feature-length film. A collection of references only a connoisseur could appreciate satisfies a fundamental requirement. The Super Mario Bros. Movie honors the original entity, which makes it far better than the infamous 1993 adaptation Super Mario Bros. It checks all the boxes as fan service at its most effective. Why did this take 30 years?

It’s a basic hero’s journey that the youngest viewer will understand. Based on Nintendo’s popular video game series, the chronicle concerns a pair of Italian-American plumbers from New York City. Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) leave their employer Spike (Sebastian Maniscalco), to start their own plumbing business. While fixing a leaky pipe in a Brooklyn sewer, the duo is sucked into a portal and separated into alternate dimensions. Luigi plummets into the Dark Lands, ruled by a ruthless fire-breathing Koopa King named Bowser (Jack Black). Meanwhile, Mario arrives in the Mushroom Kingdom, ruled by Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy). There he also meets an anthropomorphic mushroom named Toad (Keegan-Michael Key). They all join forces. Mario’s goal is twofold: find his brother Luigi and save the world from Bowser.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is centered on the platform game of the same name with a long history. Developed for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), it was first released in Japan in 1985 before making its way to the rest of the world by 1987. However, a myriad of spin-offs featuring the Mario character exists. Even oldsters (Hello, me!) will recall this all started with Donkey Kong in 1981. The premise here is to celebrate the totality of all the various iterations in the franchise and reward knowledgeable viewers.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is a Nintendo lover’s dream. Early on, the brothers appear in a commercial for their new plumbing business. They don yellow capes a la Super Mario World. The brothers sprint lively through Brooklyn in the classic side-scrolling manner of the computerized game. In her empire, Princess Peach shows him an obstacle course that alludes to Super Mario Bros. 2. The powerups are introduced, which include eating mushrooms. The gag is that Mario hates eating the fungi back in the real world, but in this realm, they allow him to grow by one foot and jump even higher. Later in Kong Kingdom, Mario must fight Cranky Kong’s (Fred Armisen) son Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen), who throws barrels at him in the arena Super Smash Bros.-style. Mario rings a bell, giving him a catsuit (Super Mario 3-D World) to win. The heroes design their custom go-karts to go after the Koopas, and the display menus are lifted directly from Mario Kart.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is straightforward children’s entertainment presented as an amalgamation of nostalgia. The latest offering from Illumination — the studio that brought you the Minions — is directed by Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic (animated TV series Teen Titans Go!) from a screenplay by Matthew Fogel (Minions: The Rise of Gru). The film isn’t deep. The script for The Lego Movie or Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers have significantly more substance for a film of this type. It’s simply a greatest-hits anthology. A compendium of “Easter eggs” designed to create as many “I remember that from the video game!” exclamations as possible in an efficient 92 minutes.

The rudimentary story is pitched more to children but gives a few nods to more mature viewers. A soundtrack features tunes that adults will recognize: “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” (Beastie Boys), “Holding Out for a Hero” (Bonnie Tyler), “Take On Me” (A-ha), “Thunderstruck” (AC/DC), and “Mr. Blue Sky” (Electric Light Orchestra). Even voice actor Jack Black gets to sing as Bowser in a tribute to the musician’s rock group Tenacious D. At one point, his character sits at a piano and croons a power ballad called “Peaches” to his unrequited love. The Super Mario Brothers is a colorful bit of undemanding fun that disappears from the mind a day later. I enjoyed it in the moment.



Posted in Drama, Sports with tags on April 10, 2023 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The NBA’s official profile of the Chicago Bulls legend begins, “By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time.” So it’s a testament to his all-consuming legacy that the movie Air is about a Nike salesman and his desire to sign Michael Jordan so they could market a shoe that nears his name. Of course, I’m talking about the Air Jordan, a global phenomenon first released to the public on April 1, 1985. The sneaker would not only transform the company but also change the industry in the way advertising contracts with sports stars are written.

Air is not a Michael Jordan biopic — though the chronicle tangentially concerns the champion. His presence is deemphasized to focus on the various corporate creatives involved. Our story here is constructed around Sonny Vaccaro, played by Matt Damon, who works for Nike and is willing to bet their entire budget and his career on the basketball player. The rookie had played for North Carolina in college and was now entering the NBA. In this case, the concept will be different. The man is not simply going to advertise an already existing sneaker. Nike will create a shoe that bears Michael Jordan’s name because he inspired it. Ben Affleck not only directs but also has a supporting role as Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike. The ensemble of business executives also includes Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Messina, and Chris Tucker.

Nike looms large over the athletic footwear world. It’s hard to believe now, but back in 1984, the company was struggling. It was a distant third to Adidas and Converse. Both had more cachet. In fact, Michael Jordan wore Converse while playing for the University of North Carolina. So the drama comes from Nike being so much smaller than its competitors at the time. Persuading him to sign with them over another athletic brand would take significant effort. This also involves talking to his parents. Actress Viola Davis has a memorable part playing his mom. At one point, Sonny says, “A shoe is just a shoe,” and Mrs. Jordan replies, “Until my son steps into it.”

Air is an entertaining record about the most successful athlete-endorsement deal in history. It also would have lasting repercussions on how these agreements were structured and written. The account benefits from an intelligent screenplay by Alex Convery. Ben Affleck’s fable relentlessly mines period detail to accentuate the spirit of the 1980s. The opening intro is an amusing montage of cliches. A soundtrack of catchy scene-specific needle drops plays nonstop throughout. Anyone who needs clarification on how this turns out hasn’t been a resident of planet Earth for the past four decades. Sure, it’s predictable, but that’s not the saga’s strength. It’s a feel-good tale about people who excel at what they do. A surprisingly old-fashioned approach in 2023, but in the best possible way. Do you still need convincing to see this movie? Just do it.