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Posts Tagged ‘Samuel L Jackson’

Blu-ray Review: Shaft

September 23, 2019 | by Herija Green | Comments (0)
Matrix cosplay is still going strong.

While the glory days of the Shaft films were before my time, I had a friend in high school that somehow became a big fan. His affection for John Shaft rubbed off on me to an extent, and though I’ve never gone back and watched the original Richard Roundtree films, I was fairly excited for the return of Samuel L. Jackson in Shaft nearly 20 years after originally rebooting the series with the late John Singleton in 2000.

THE PLOT

After surviving an assassination attempt, Shaft’s wife, Maya (Regina Hall), decides to take their son and leave Harlem. Some 20-plus years later, JJ (Jessie Usher; Independence Day: Resurgence) is now an MIT graduate and cyber-security analyst for the FBI. Following the suspicious death of his best friend, JJ decides to investigate on his own. When he runs into trouble, however, he reluctantly looks up his estranged father John, who is a private investigator.

As an old-school, non-PC relic of a bygone era, John and JJ don’t see eye to eye on much, but when John sees a connection between JJ’s case and a drug kingpin he’s been after for decades he decides to help. Their initial investigation points to a mosque that has received a major cash infusion from a local grocery store with known criminal ties. JJ brings this information to his bosses at the FBI, but when they move on the mosque it turns out everything is above board.

This misstep costs JJ his job at the FBI, and he returns to his father just in time to overhear John’s ulterior motive for helping him. With his friend’s murder still unsolved, JJ revisits a previous lead and learns what happened. He’s discovered, though, and his friend Sasha (Alexandra Shipp; X-Men: Apocalypse) is kidnapped. Now JJ will have to enlist his father and grandfather (Roundtree) to get her back and bring his friend’s killers to justice.

THE GOOD

We like Samuel L. Jackson, especially when he’s playing his signature role of being a bad-ass MFer that’s dropping clever one liners and spitting out profanities every other word. He was born to be the modern Shaft, and he’s unleashed in the 2019 version in a more enjoyable manner than he was in the previous Shaft film. He may actually have less screen time than Jesse Usher, but this most definitely comes across as Jackson’s movie.

To his credit, Usher plays off Jackson very well in the classic buddy cop formula of the straight guy and the rule breaker. Their chemistry carries most of the film’s funniest moments, and we’d be surprised if we don’t see this pairing in another Shaft movie down the line, even if this one felt a little like passing the torch. The tertiary roles even have their moments with Shipp a solid love interest, Regina Hall funny as the angry yet still interested ex- and Roundtree gets some pretty good lines in a brief turn.

THE BAD

We’re not the most PC people out there by any stretch, and we get that part of the story is about Shaft’s outdated attitudes toward people, but the whole “you’re sure you’re not gay, son?” subplot is questionable at best. It’s always played for laughs, and Shaft doesn’t seem to have any malice against homosexuals, but much of it is just old stereotypes. To be fair, JJ calls him on that, and the similar “too white” comments. It’s still a little much.

Conversely, the plot could’ve used a little more. It feels more like a collection of situations than a cohesive arc, and it’s all extremely formulaic and predictable. We’re told about this heinous drug lord that has eluded Shaft for years, but his role is so small that there’s no juice to the inevitable confrontation. The film as a whole lacks a decent bad guy, so while you can root for the Shafts there’s no one to root against.

THE BONUS FEATURES

A lengthy documentary detailing the original Shaft films with Richard Roundtree is by far the most substantive and interesting extra, assuming you care about the film’s origins. If not, the only other goodies are a 10-minute “making of” featurette, a handful of superfluous deleted scenes that check in at less than three minutes combined and a gag reel.

OVERALL

Classic cinema this is not, but we had fun with Shaft despite its shortcomings thanks to its supporting performances and Jackson being Jackson. Even after all these years, that man Shaft is one bad mother…

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Blu-ray Review: Kong: Skull Island

July 14, 2017 | by Herija Green | Comments Comments Off on Blu-ray Review: Kong: Skull Island
Visually, Kong is stunning. Filmed largely in Vietnam, the island assumes an otherworldly quality without the excessive use of CGI and green screen in the environment. Obviously, CGI is massively important in bringing Kong and several other unique creatures (like that giant yak thing) to life. The production team knew how vital it was, and they did a fantastic job from start to finish.
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Blu-ray Review: xXx: Return of Xander Cage

May 15, 2017 | by Herija Green | Comments Comments Off on Blu-ray Review: xXx: Return of Xander Cage
There’s a light-hearted vibe to xXx, even when the theoretical stakes are incredibly high, and it feels surprisingly fresh at a time when so many action films take themselves so seriously — it’s also what makes the Guardians films so different. Diesel’s carefree shtick isn’t all that convincing, but he’s surrounded with people that seem to be having a good time in their roles.
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Blu-ray Review: The Legend of Tarzan

October 11, 2016 | by Herija Green | Comments (0)
Set in the late 19th century against the backdrop of King Leopold II’s Belgian occupation of the Congo, we find Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) seeking out diamonds, ostensibly to pay for some grand army of mercenaries, but instead finding a tribe that kills his men. Rom survives, however, and is offered a deal by the Chief: bring him Tarzan and Rom can have all the diamonds he wants.
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Blu-ray Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service

June 2, 2015 | by Herija Green | Comments Comments Off on Blu-ray Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service
Like John Wick, Kingsman pushes the envelope with its stylized violence, mixing hand-to-hand combat with a generous helping of “gun fu.” The fight scenes are balls-out insane in the best possible way, highlighted by the absurdity that is the church massacre, which contains a nearly endless stream of countermoves and slick kills that leaves dozens of bodies in its wake. It’s played to such a ridiculous degree, however, that is never feels disturbing.
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