Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Punisher: War Zone
Director: Lexi Alexander
Writer: Nick Santora, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway
Based on: Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru‘s comic character
Cast: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Doug Hutchison, Colin Salmon, Wayne Knight, Dash Mihok, Julie Benz, Stephanie Janusauskas
Seen on: 7.9.2022

Plot:
The Punisher (Ray Stevenson) has been haunting the city for six years now – six years where he killed the villains of New York. The police haven’t caught up with him, despite knowing that he is Frank Castle, but they are not entirely dissatisfied with his work, so their motivation is not very high. During yet another shoot-out with the mob, Frank not only maims heavy hitter Billy (Dominic West), but he also kills an undercover cop. This prompts renewed interest in the police investigation, and it makes Billy – who had prided himself on his looks so far – swear revenge on The Punisher.

Punisher: War Zone is an extremely gory and violent take on the Punisher that glorifies him a little too much for my taste.

The film poster showing Frank Castle aka The Punisher (Ray Stevenson) shooting his guns.
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The Gray Man (2022)

The Gray Man
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writer: Joe Russo, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Based on: Mark Greaney‘s novel
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Billy Bob Thornton, Jessica Henwick, Dhanush, Alfre Woodard, Regé-Jean Page, Wagner Moura, Julia Butters, Shea Whigham
Seen on: 1.9.2022

Plot:
Many years ago, Six (Ryan Gosling) was recruited by Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton): in exchange for release from life-long imprisonment, Six would be an assassin for the CIA. Off the books, of course, taking on the cases that the CIA needs to handle quietly. His latest assassination goes a little awry, though. Six does succeed in killing the target, but also ends up with an encrypted drive and some doubts about Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page) who was in charge of the operation. Rightly so, as Carmichael immediately hires the ruthlessly violent Lloyd (Chris Evans) to take Six down, triggering an international manhunt.

The Gray Man is completely what you’d expect which in this case is unfortunately more of a polite way to say that it is boring than satisfying. There are good moments and a whole lot of potential, but it just never goes anywhere.

The film poster showing Six (Ryan Gosling), looking over his shoulder, an eyebrow raised.
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The Hate U Give (2018)

The Hate U Give
Director: George Tillman Jr.
Writer: Audrey Wells
Based on: Angie Thomas’ novel
Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Anthony Mackie, Issa Rae, Common, Algee Smith, Sabrina Carpenter, K.J. Apa, Dominique Fishback, Lamar Johnson, TJ Wright
Seen on: 18.8.2022

Content Note: police brutality, (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Starr (Amandla Stenberg) lives in the rather poor, mostly black neighborhood of Garden Heights. But she has been attending the richer, white prep school a little outside of Garden Heights for a while, so she has been out of touch a lot with her childhood friends. So when she attends a party in Garden Heights and she runs into her former best friend Khalil (Algee Smith), she is overjoyed. When the party disperses in a rush after somebody pulls a gun, Khalil gives Starr a ride home. And then the police stop them for a traffic check – an encounter that Khalil doesn’t survive: he is shot by the police officer. Starr is left traumatized and the only witness – and she has to figure out how to deal with both facts.

The Hate U Give is a strong film with a slightly bewildering ending. But given the, unfortunately still timely, topic and Stenberg’s fantastic performance, it really hits home.

The film poster showing Starr (Amandla Stenberg) holding a sign with the movie title.
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Locked Down (2021) – DNF

Locked Down
Director: Doug Liman
Writer: Steven Knight
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anne Hathaway, Dulé Hill, Jazmyn Simon, Mark Gatiss, Ben Kingsley, Ben Stiller, Stephen Merchant, Mindy Kaling, Claes Bang, Lucy Boynton
Seen on: 4.8.2022

Plot:
Linda (Anne Hathaway) and Paxton (Chiwetel Ejiofor) have been a couple for a while. But they were in the middle of breaking up with each other when Corona and the resulting lockdown hit them. Now, they are both at home, trying to avoid each other best as they can. Linda takes meeting after meeting online, drowning in work she questions more and more, while Paxton who usually works as a delivery driver is bored out of his mind. When Paxton is supposed to make a delivery with a false identity that connects to Linda’s job, the two have an idea, though: they start to plan a heist.

Locked Down should be good. A heist movie with Ejiofor and Hathaway sounds absolutely ideal. On paper. The actual film is so dreary that I called it quits 50 minutes in, not willing to waste any more time on it.

The film poster showing Linda (Anne Hathaway) staring at Paxton (Chiwetel Ejiofor).
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Taking Lives (2004)

Taking Lives
Director: D.J. Caruso
Writer: Jon Bokenkamp
Based on: Michael Pye’s novel
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Ethan Hawke, Kiefer Sutherland, Gena Rowlands, Olivier Martinez, Tchéky Karyo, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Paul Dano, Justin Chatwin
Seen on: 24.5.2022

Plot:
When French police uncover a case that point to a serial killer, they ask FBI profiler Illeana (Angelina Jolie) for support, much to the annoyance of leading detective Paquette (Olivier Martinez). By chance, they find a new lead. Artist Costa (Ethan Hawke) was witness to an attack by the killer and can give a description. But this also puts him in the crosshairs. As the investigation intensifies, Illeana finds herself drawn to Costa. But will this attraction compromise her abilities?

Taking Lives is okay. The idea isn’t bad and the cast good, but the movie tries to surprise where its obvious and Illeana is filtered through the male gaze a whole lot which makes it a little tedious.

The film poster showing Illeana (Angelina Jolie) with a hand wrapped around her wrist, close to her neck.
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The Raven (2012)

The Raven
Director: James McTeigue
Writer: Hannah Shakespeare, Ben Livingston
Cast: John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson, Kevin McNally, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Jimmy Yuill, Sam Hazeldine
Seen on: 9.5.2022

Plot:
Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) is not what one would consider a successful writer. Barely making enough money, poverty exacerbated by a drinking problem, he has really nothing but a bit of infamy. He would like to marry Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve), and she him, but her father Captain Hamilton (Brendan Gleeson) disapproves. When a mother and daughter turn up murdered just like in one of of Poe’s stories, the suspicion of the police fall on him at first. Especially when another body turns up. But Poe can convince Detective Fields (Luke Evans) that he is not to blame. Instead, they team up to find the killer before he can use another of Poe’s stories.

Although the film is loosely inspired by some circumstances of Poe’s life, you should not make the mistake of thinking it is any way, shape, or form realistic. It’s the fever dream version of Poe’s last weeks of life. Unfortunately, it’s not a particularly interesting fever dream.

The film poster showing Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) walking fiercely, gun in hand. In the background behind him stretch a pair of red wings in which we can see a crying woman, a dead body and men looking fiercely.
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In the Shadow of the Moon (2019)

In the Shadow of the Moon
Director: Jim Mickle
Writer: Gregory Weidman, Geoffrey Tock
Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Cleopatra Coleman, Bokeem Woodbine, Michael C. Hall, Rudi Dharmalingam, Al Maini, Quincy Kirkwood, Sarah Dugdale
Seen on: 10.4.2022

Plot:
Locke (Boys Holbrook) is a police officer hoping for a big career move. When a mysterious killing spree hits Philadelphia, he connects the dots and traces the bodies and their unusual way of dying to a mysterious woman in a hoodie (Cleopatra Coleman). This realization is only the start of decades of obsession for Locke – and the end of his life as he knew it.

In the Shadow of the Moon has a couple of interesting ideas, but it didn’t quite win me over. I think that’s because it chose the – to me – wrong angle to tell its story.

The film poster showing half of Locke's (Boyd Holbrook) face. Superimposed over his shoulder is a street at night, a giant moon in the background, and Rya (Cleopatra Coleman) wearing a hoodie and holding a strang weapon in the front.
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The Batman (2022)

The Batman
Director: Matt Reeves
Writer: Matt Reeves, Peter Craig
Based on: Bob Kane‘s and Bill Finger‘s comics character
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, Colin Farrell, Paul Dano, John Turturro, Andy Serkis, Peter Sarsgaard, Barry Keoghan, Jayme Lawson, Gil Perez-Abraham
Seen on: 9.3.2022
[Here are my reviews of other Batman things.]

Plot:
For the past two years, Batman (Robert Pattinson) has been a vigilante in Gotham City, one who divides opinions. On Halloween, he is called to a crime scene be Lieutenant Gordon (Jeffrey Wright): the mayor was brutally murdered, and a riddle was left for Batman. When he takes up the trail, it leads him to a nightclub run by Oz (Colin Farrell) with ties to Carmine Falcone (John Turturro). And it leads him to Selina (Zoë Kravitz) who works as a waitress there and has her own investigation. As more people are murdered and more clues left, it becomes a race against time.

I really did not expect much of The Batman. Everything about it screamed that it would not be a good experience. But it is a Batman film, so I couldn’t resist. Anyhow, turns out that I was mistaken: The Batman is even worse than I thought it would be.

The film poster showing The Batman (Robert Pattinson) standing in a fog of red lighting.
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Death on the Nile (2022)

Death on the Nile
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writer: Michael Green
Based on: Agatha Christie‘s novel
Sequel to: Murder on the Orient Express
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Tom Bateman, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Emma Mackey, Letitia Wright, Sophie Okonedo, Annette Bening, Rose Leslie, Ali Fazal, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Russell Brand
Seen on: 14.2.2022

Plot:
Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is in Egypt on holiday when he runs into his old friend Bouc (Tom Bateman) who is traveling with his mohter (Annette Bening). They are in the country for the wedding of Simon (Armie Hammer) and Linette (Gal Gadot) who have invited their wedding party to Egypt. But not only their guests have come to the Nile, but also Jacqueline (Emma Mackey) who used to be Simon’s fiancée until she introduced him to Linette. When Linette is killed shortly afterwards, Poirot has to untangle the net of personal relationships that surround them all to find the murderer.

Death on the Nile really isn’t good, despite a fantastic cast. But with a bad script, a weird look and some very questionable choices by Branagh in his role as director of the film, not even a good cast can save this film.

The film poster showing the large cast of characters on a staemer on the Nile, behind them the pyramids and the sphynx.
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Nightmare Alley (2021)

Nightmare Alley
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writer: Guillermo del Toro, Kim Morgan
Based on: William Lindsay Gresham‘s novel
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, David Strathairn, Mark Povinelli, Peter MacNeill, Holt McCallany, Jim Beaver, Clifton Collins Jr., Tim Blake Nelson, David Hewlett
Seen on: 1.2.2022

Plot:
After hiding a body under the floor and burning down the house around it, Stanton (Bradley Cooper) is leaving town. He ends up with a traveling carneval troupe, and he seems made for that career, learning the tricks of the business from Zeena the Seer (Toni Collette) and her husband Pete (David Strathairn). Stanton is ambitious, he definitely has plans to make his own way and he hopes to bring Molly (Rooney Mara), beauty of the carneval along for them. After they do make their own start, psychologist Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett) shows up at one of their performances – and Stanton believes that they can build a business together.

Nightmare Alley was quite a disappointment with strange casting choices and pacing issues that completely hobble the film. I was expecting more form a del Toro film.

The film poster showing Stanton (Bradley Cooper) and below him Zeena (Toni Collette), Dr. Ritter (Cate Blanchett) and Molly (Rooney Mara).
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