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Movie Review: ‘Mile 22’

Mark Wahlberg’s “Mile 22” character James Silva has a tick where he snaps a yellow rubber bracelet against his wrist. He does this many, many times throughout this all-out assault of a movie, which seems to have been shot and edited with the singular purpose of leaving the audience confused and disoriented at every turn. This restless camera can’t even hold still during a simple scene of dialogue, changing focus every two seconds — eyes, off-center face, hands, blood pressure monitor, and on and on.

That snapping sound is actually one of the more orienting things. Ah yes, you think, it’s Silva calming his mind, which is apparently quicker than most people’s resulting in both extreme intelligence and extreme anger, or so we’re told in a similarly frenetic opening credits sequence with a lot of voiceovers. His mother gave him the bracelet so that he could snap it as a reminder to pause. While that’s nice for Silva, it’s also incredibly annoying for the audience.

On a broad scale, this movie is about counterterrorism efforts and trying to predict the unpredictable. There’s a nuclear substance at large which, if released into the atmosphere, would be like “Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined” and all you need is “a kid with an envelope” on a street corner to release it. A man, Li Noor (the incredible marital arts stuntman Iko Uwais) comes to a U.S. Embassy saying he has the locations of the missing substance but will only give them up in exchange for asylum. So Silva and his paramilitary CIA unit, including Lauren Cohan, Ronda Rousey and Carlo Alban, all quit their jobs and become “ghosts” to take on the extremely dangerous operation of transporting Li 22 miles to a plane that will get him to the U.S. Overwatch is a “higher form of patriotism,“ John Malkovich’s director-type opines to no one in particular.

“Mile 22” is one of the more disappointing collaborations between Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who also made “Lone Survivor” (a similar assault), the self-aggrandizing “Patriots Day,“ and the quite thrilling and underappreciated “Deepwater Horizon.“ ‘'Mile 22” is the first that wasn’t ripped from the headlines. It’s a clear attempt at a franchise, and while this shadowy unit of operatives seems as fair game as any, Silva is a horrifyingly bad character, poorly developed and with no redeemable qualities who only ever seems to be shouting insults at all of his co-workers. They never seem all that fazed by it though. Is Silva just a maniac they tolerate? Did they all realize he’s all bark and no bite? Doesn’t that undermine his character from the get-go?


This is all too bad, because there are genuinely interesting elements about this film, like how at least 50 percent of the humans here, from intelligence officers, to code breakers, to ambassadors, are women. Not that that should be notable, but it is. Also Uwais has one truly stunning action sequence involving a gurney that is not to be missed. But the rest of the action is so obscured you’re not even sure who or what you’re watching most of the time. The only time it slows down is to show some of the most gruesome ways to kill someone that have been committed to screen this year (like how about dragging someone’s neck across the jagged edges of a shattered car window over and over? That one got one of the biggest groans I’ve ever heard from an audience).

The script has a few surprises in store, but it’s all too little too late even at a brisk 90 minutes. For a movie so excited to tell a story about the CIA’s “most highly-prized and least understood unit,“ it sure doesn’t do much to ensure you leave any more informed than you were when you sat down.

“Mile 22,“ an STX Entertainment release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of American for “strong violence and language throughout.“ Running time: 90 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

Movie Review: ‘BLACKkKLANSMAN’

Spike Lee wants President Trump to see his new movie, reports Reuters, and critics want you to see it, too. Based on the true 1970s story of a black police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan, BlacKkKlansman has a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics commenting on its timeliness in particular. More:

  • BlacKkKlansman is a furious, funny, blunt and brilliant confrontation with the truth. It’s an alarm clock ringing in the midst of a historical nightmare, and also a symphony, the rare piece of political popular art that works in all three dimensions,“ AO Scott writes in a glowing review at the New York Times. He calls the film Lee’s “best nondocumentary feature in more than a decade and one of his greatest.“
  • Brian Lowry at CNN agrees it’s “among Lee’s best films in some time.“ He “isn’t subtle about connecting the dots between the unsettling resurgence of white supremacist movements today, President Trump’s rhetoric and the Klan of four decades ago,“ and that makes the film “feel urgent and dishearteningly relevant.“ Lowry adds it also works as an “old-fashioned tale of undercover work.“
  • “Ultimately the film is a rallying cry,“ and you leave “shaken, remembering what happened not so very long ago in the name of ‘very fine people on both sides,‘“ writes Moira Macdonald at the Seattle Times. But as devastating as some moments are, BlacKkKlansman also entertains, Macdonald writes, pointing out the particular comedic talents of Paul Walker Hauser, who plays a Klansman.
  • Even when giving a history lesson, Lee manages to surprise in this “crazy, memorable, messy bombshell in classic bell-bottoms … viscerally exciting, fun and saddening all at once,“ writes Colin Covert at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. John David Washington offers “a density rarely seen in true-blue cop roles,“ Covert adds, while “the supporting cast can’t receive enough praise.“

Wu’s fight for ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ part of a bigger crusade

The Free Press WV

Constance Wu had resigned herself to the fact that “Crazy Rich Asians” was not going to work out for her. She was under contract for her sitcom “Fresh Off the Boat”, both were filming in the fall, and that was that. “Crazy Rich Asians” would be the first studio-made Asian-American movie in 25 years, and Wu, who has established herself as a crusader for Asian-American representation in Hollywood, would have to sit this historic moment out.

But then, feeling “kind of dramatic,” and thinking about the significance of the project to her and untold number of Asian-Americans who make it a point to tell her their stories because of her tweets and “Fresh Off the Boat,” Wu decided to give it one last shot and composed an email to director “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu.

“I said, I know the dates don’t work out and whoever you cast, I will be the first in line and I will be their No. 1 fan and supporter, but I did want to let you know that I would put 110 percent of my heart into this project and I know what to do with it and how to carry a movie and if you can just wait for me, I don’t think you’ll regret it,” Wu, 36, said. “I did NOT think this email would work. I did it more for me so that I felt that I had told my truth. But then he read it and said, “You guys, we’ve got to push the production.”

Sitting in a restaurant at the Beverly Wilshire, a hotel famous for co-starring in another “Cinderella” story, “Pretty Woman,” and sipping on a “cocktail” of grapefruit juice and sparkling water, Wu is describing how “Crazy Rich Asians,” out nationwide Wednesday is also a kind of “Cinderella” story. Based the first book in author Kevin Kwan’s popular trilogy, Wu’s character Rachel Chu is a middle-class economics professor from the U.S. who finds herself navigating the upper echelons of Singapore’s wealthy classes when her boyfriend Nick Young takes her home for a wedding and to meet his disapproving family and all the jealous women also vying for the attention of the “prince.”

“It’s a fairy tale, it really is,” Wu said. “And there are a lot of different shoes in the movie!”

A native of Richmond, Virginia, and a classically-trained theater actress with a passion for musicals, Wu has been working toward a moment like this her whole life, and taking it very seriously. During the shoot, she wouldn’t go out with her co-stars for karaoke nights or have a drink after a long day of work. She wanted to be clear of mind and she’d already promised her director that she was going to give it her all.

She knew how unlikely it was that she’d ever get an opportunity as an Asian-American woman to lead a studio movie.

“Even a terrific actress like Sandra Oh was always No. 2 or No. 3 in the movie, she was never No. 1 unless it was an independent movie,” said Wu, who is not shy about saying that she only wants to go out for roles where she is the No. 1 star. It’s a drive that has made some uncomfortable.

“People are like, ’Who do you think you are? And it’s like, I guess I think I’m a talented actor and I guess I’m not a person who is going to let you make me feel small anymore,” she said.

But Wu isn’t interested in making people feel comfortable at the expense of her truth, which is why at least part of her time is spent amplifying underrepresented voices on twitter, even knowing that it’s affected her employment opportunities.

Wu once heard from a friend that her liberal boyfriend said he didn’t like Wu’s politics.

“I’m like, ‘Does he not like my politics or does he not like that I have politics?’ And she asked him and he was like, “Oh I guess it’s that,’” Wu said.

Fame, she said, is silly in that regard. She thinks it’s “dumb” that she has a bigger voice than other people, like journalists or academics who are more studied in discourse on race and intersectionality. But, she also realized that while she has this platform, she can at least do some good with it.

Henry Golding, who plays Nick, is in awe of Wu’s fortitude.

“She’s such a role model for so many people. She has a backbone, which a lot of people don’t. She’s not afraid of saying what’s on her mind and really driving home what she thinks should be done, or what’s not happening in the industry that should be happening,” said Golding. “She’s going to go down as a real fighter and someone who can act the socks off anything. She is Rachel Chu.”

As for what’s next, Wu said she thinks she’s going to have a lot of choices in the coming years.

“I’m very privileged and lucky and I’m at a point where I can sort of get to decide where I want to go with my career,” Wu said.

And first up on her wish-list? A musical.

Movie Review: ‘Slender Man’

The reviews are in for Slender Man, the faceless character’s jump from the Internet to the big screen thanks to Sony Pictures and director Sylvain White, and they’re nearly universally awful. Four zingers summing up critics’ 11% rating on Rotten Tomatoes:

  • “Perhaps that’s one way to kill off Slender Man: make his story so dull that no one cares,“ writes Adam Graham at Detroit News.
  • Bill Goodykoontz at the Arizona Republic notes “Slender Man bravely goes against the well-established notion that scary movies should be scary.“
  • “Slender Man is a fundamentally derivative and empty-headed horror film,“ is how Owen Gleiberman puts it at Variety.
  • Glenn Kenny at the New York Times calls it “the most perfunctory horror picture I’ve seen in some time. It’s not even worth making a ‘thin gruel’ joke about.“

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