Not rated. Stars Jeremy Renner, Hailee Steinfeld, Tony Dalton, Fra Fee, Brian d’Arcy James, Aleks Paunovic, Piotr Adamczyk, Linda Cardellini, Simon Callow, Vera Farmiga, Alaqua Cox, Zahn McClarnon, Florence Pugh, Vincent D’Onofrio.
With 2021 bringing both a Black Widow movie and a six-episode limited series about Hawkeye, each of the original six Avengers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have finally received their own solo project.
Given how much the stories of Black Widow and Hawkeye are intertwined, it makes sense for the movie and show to arrive within months of each other, as the show carries on a pretty important story thread from the film.
Hawkeye picks up several months after the events of Avengers: Endgame, as the world has more or less returned to normal following the final battle to defeat Thanos. The archer Hawkeye, aka Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), is vacationing with his family in New York just before Christmas. But his past comes back to haunt him when a black market auction gets a hold of the outfit he wore as Ronin, the persona he adopted to hunt down criminals who survived Thanos snapping half the population away when Clint’s family did not.
Caught up in the plot is Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), a world-class archer in her own right who worships Clint and hopes to become an Avenger like him some day (and is known as the second Hawkeye in the comics). The local mafia comes to believe Kate is Ronin and responsible for attacking them, so they start to hunt her down, forcing Clint to protect.
It turns out Kate’s mother (Vera Farmiga), CEO of a security firm, has her own connection to the local crime lords, which embroils Clint and Kate in a murder mystery that only complicates his efforts to get back to his family by Christmas.
Hawkeye takes a couple of episodes to find its footing, but by part three has all the pieces in place for a solid action-adventure, fueled by the tremendous chemistry between Renner and Steinfeld, as well as a strong supporting cast and a few notable guest stars from other Marvel properties.
Street Date 2/12/19; Sony Pictures; Drama; Box Office $2 million; $30.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray; Rated ‘R’ for language including some sexual references. Stars Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons, Alfred Molina, Sara Paxton, Mamoudou Athie, Spencer Garrett, Ari Graynor, Kaitlyn Dever, Steve Zissis, Bill Burr, Mike Judge, Kevin Pollak, Tommy Dewey, Molly Ephraim, Josh Brener.
The bright future of a rising political star runs smack into the maxim that “a lot can happen in three weeks” in director Jason Reitman’s exploration of the relationship between politics and media.
The Front Runner isn’t much of a political movie, in that it doesn’t overtly deviate into policy debates. Nor does it lay out any easy answers or preach to the audience what to think.
The docudrama relates the brief campaign of former Colorado senator Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) for the presidential election of 1988, when he was considered the most likely nominee upon entering the race in April 1987.
Hart had come close to becoming the Democrats’ presidential nominee in 1984 and was considered a favorite for securing the spot for 1988. However, dogged by rumors of womanizing, Hart challenged a Washington Post reporter to follow him around, claiming anyone who did so would be “very bored.” Subsequently, a team from the Miami Herald decided to do just that after receiving an anonymous tip that Hart was having an affair was planning to host the girl in Washington, D.C.
When the Herald reported that Hart had been seen at his home with a potential campaign worker named Donna Rice (Sara Paxton), the story exploded, though Hart denied having any inappropriate relationship.
Hart bristled at the notion that the public and the media should have any interest in a politician’s private life, but the exposure took a toll on his family, and within a week his political career was over (save for a brief return to the presidential race in December 1987, which the movie doesn’t get into, and some appointments during the Obama administration).
Reitman, who co-wrote the screenplay with journalist Matt Bai and political operative Jay Carson, describes the event as a defining moment of tabloid journalism swerving into politics, fueled by the expansion of telecommunications technology and the rise of the 24-hour news cycle.
In the past, members of the media had made an almost tacit agreement to ignore the infidelities of the politicians they covered. But at some point, notions of character and morality began to intertwine with notions of policy and perceptions of leadership, shining an ever-wider spotlight on the personal lives of those seeking the public trust.
As relayed in the bonus materials, in Reitman’s eyes, the Hart incident serves to presage a modern media environment in which every scrap of social media will be scoured, every statement dredged up and over-analyzed, and every stone unturned in an effort to extract a partisan toll.
In terms of framing the story, then, Reitman asks two competing questions: “what is important?” versus “what is entertaining?” Accordingly, he constructs almost every scene to give the audience more than one thing to focus on, putting it on the viewer to decide what is more important to the story, and how it reflects the overall message of the film.
But in leaving so much for the audience to decide, The Front Runner ends up as more of a conversation starter than a definitive statement on the issue.
Fortunately, the regular trappings of cinema on hand make for an otherwise entertaining movie. The performances are spot on, and Reitman does a nice job handling an all-star cast whose orbs of influence only occasionally intersect.
Likewise, Reitman deftly captures the feel of the 1980s with some subtle camerawork that reinforces the costumes and set design in evoking the mood of the period. In particular, Reitman notes, is his insistence on letting the rawness of the film as a medium speak for itself, and not to clean up the image using modern computer editing.
The Blu-ray includes an audio commentary with Reitman, producer Helen Estabrook, production designer Steve Saklad, costume designer Danny Glocker and cinematographer Eric Steelberg, in which they delve into all the techniques and artistic touches they layered into the film.
There’s also a 15-minute featurette called “The Unmaking of a Candidate” that touches on the making of the film and the themes it’s exploring.
There are also three deleted scenes, including a slightly alternate opening sequence, that run about four-and-a-half minutes.
Street 4/17/18; Lionsgate; Action Thriller; Box Office $36.34 million; $29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $42.99 UHD BD; Rated ‘PG-13’ for some intense action/violence, and language. Stars Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks, Elizabeth McGovern, Sam Neill.
The success of Taken paved the way for something of a cottage industry: The Liam Neeson action movie. The formula typically involves Neeson being an unassuming badass as he works his way out of a series of tense situations, often while being taunted over the phone by the bad guys.
From that it seems has sprung a distinct sub-genre: the Jaume Collet-Serra /Liam Neeson action thriller. The Commuter is the fourth film pairing Neeson with the director, following Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night.
That Neeson compares Collet-Serra to Steven Spielberg is but one of several hyperboles thrown around in the bonus materials, but does provide some insights as to why they enjoy working together so often. For his troubles, Neeson is likened by a producer to being a modern John Wayne-type hero, so I guess it all evens out.
In addition to those boasts, in the same one of the Blu-ray’s two short making-of featurettes, which run about 14 minutes in total, the film’s screenwriters have no trouble describing their effort as “Hitchcockian,” so it’s pretty clear no one involved is lacking in confidence or phased by higher expectations.
Commuter seems to takes a lot of its cues from Non-Stop, in that both films deal with a group of people confined on a mode of transportation, and evildoers threatening to destroy the vehicle and kill everyone on it unless Neeson does what they want.
In this case, Neeson plays an insurance salesman and former cop who takes a commuter train in New York everyday. He’s approached by a woman (Vera Farmiga) who proposes a hypothetical situation to him — asking if he would point out a random passenger for $100,000 and then move on with his life without knowing what happened to that person, but with the reasonable assumption they’d be hurt or killed. It quickly turns out her little game is all too real when he discovers the cash stashed in the bathroom.
He also finds he can’t simply walk away, as the bad guys are threatening his family and the rest of the train unless he points out a passenger who seemingly doesn’t belong. Neeson plays along, following the clues to the whereabouts of the mysterious passenger as he tries to work out how to protect that person while also thwarting the plans of a conspiracy that seems to be prepared for each of his counter-moves (one would think a conspiracy as well organized as this one wouldn’t need his help identifying the passenger, but then there wouldn’t be a movie).
He also turns to help from an old cop buddy played by Patrick Wilson, whose character is named Alex Murphy. Viewers can decide for themselves if his sharing a name with the guy who became Robocop constitutes an homage or is simply a distraction.
Anyway, fans of the Neeson formula shouldn’t be too disappointed as it marks off all the boxes on his checklist to produce a quaint, entertaining little thriller.