Tag Archives: Michael Keaton

“American Assassin”



The well made, enthusiastic “American Assassin” feels crafted to appeal to the “rah-rah for ‘Mericuh” set but thankfully is more than watchable for the rest of us. If you’re looking for exciting escapism that’s packed with bloody violence and well choreographed fight sequences, this one delivers.

When a group of terrorists guns down his fiancée at a swanky beach resort, Mitch (Dylan O’Brien) vows to deliver his own brand of revenge by infiltrating a terrorist cell in the Middle East. Over the course of a year, he becomes a one-man stabbing, shooting, biting, bare hands killing machine. Once the CIA catches wind of this vengeful young man they approach him to join their super elite black ops team, and the hotheaded Mitch begins top secret training with grizzled ex-Navy SEAL Hurley (Michael Keaton).

O’Brien is cast well here and makes a pretty damn good young action star, racing around and falling and throwing deathly punches with confidence and flair. He’s believable as an anti-terrorism hero, a rogue young man with nothing to lose. Unfortunately this is far from Keaton’s best work, but at least the two men play well off each other.

What makes this film such an unexpected surprise is that it packs in far more ‘action movie’ than ‘dramatic espionage suspense.’ At times I had no idea where the story was headed, which kept things interesting through the plot’s hokey timeline, the unpleasantly racist hero, and the laugh out loud overacting delivered by the film’s big name star.

There’s a lot of information crammed into the story (this movie is based on a series of spy books by Vince Flynn), but it feels like the very best elements from each novel were condensed into one slam-bang action packed thriller.

Director Michael Cuesta doesn’t shy away from showing blood-spattered violence, a relentless, unflinching brutality that may make some folks cheer but encourages a deeper reflection by more sophisticated moviegoers.

Don’t mistake this for high art masquerading as pulse-pounding popcorn escapism, but there are some serious issues of morality simmering underneath all the bloody gunplay.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming”



If you want the good news before the bad, here it goes: Tom Holland, following in the footsteps of the home run that Marvel has earned from its casting decisions, is the perfect Spider-Man. The studio suits finally got it right with him, and he fits the character with a charming immaturity that is so charismatic you can’t help but love him. I wish I had more positive things to say about “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” but that’s where the glowing praise is going to end.

At least this is the best Spider-Man movie of the entire series (which isn’t saying much). It took six (yes, six!) screenwriters to put together this story, which in itself should start those alarm bells ringing in your ears. “Homecoming” attempts to give a fresh take on the franchise by exploring Peter Parker’s new transition into a serious superhero. Instead of parading Peter’s elaborate back story, the film assumes that its audience is already familiar enough with the origin of the character (which is fantastic).

The timeline of this story picks up with Peter living in New York City with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). He has an internship of sorts for Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and is thrilled to be taken seriously in his fancy new technologically advanced suit (also courtesy of Mr. Stark). As he attempts to navigate the pains of high school life with his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) while struggling to balance his new crime fighting alter-ego, Peter discovers a new weapons hungry villain called the Vulture (Michael Keaton) and gets in way over his head when he tries to single-handedly save the day.

The movie creates an atmosphere that’s overtly geared toward a preteen audience, and there’s not one thing wrong with that. But while the movie is entertaining enough, something just seems totally “off” about the whole thing. First there’s a forced multicultural aspect that is super obvious and distracting in its desperation to appear all-inclusive (look at the “Fast & Furious” franchise for sincere, organic multicultural casting). Second, there are several examples of dialogue that seem hell bent on offending or poking fun at the core adult nerd audience of comic book based films, like when Stark takes a snarky dig at fanboy writers (“these are real reporters too, not bloggers”). Some of the sarcasm works well, and most of it comes courtesy of Captain America (Chris Evans) in a series of very funny PSA videos.

What wrecked the movie for me is how fake Spider-Man looks when he’s swinging through the air and cutting back flips all over town. Look, if animators can make the most incredible realistic looking talking chimps in “War for the Planet of the Apes,” then surely these artists can animate Spider-Man so he doesn’t look like a low budget cartoon. The handful of effects that aren’t a complete failure are just so rowdy and noisy that they get lost in the spectacle.

I’ve never been a fan of Spider-Man and this film failed to win me over. I know many of you love the web slinging superhero and if you do, you’ll probably love this film and its new direction. When you see the movie, make sure you stay until the very end of the credits for a good laugh — although I think dry irony still looks the best on Deadpool.

“The Founder”



The story of the real McDonald’s brothers and how door-to-door salesman Ray Kroc creatively swindled them out of their rightful share of the McDonald’s franchise fortune is the focus of “The Founder,” a fascinating true tale about the building of an American fast food empire. What starts off as a retro-looking commercial celebrating McDonald’s later takes a darker turn with the realization that Ray Croc (Michael Keaton), while a savvy businessman, wasn’t a very nice person. In fact, he was a first class jerk.

Kroc was a nasty yet shrewd hustler, a man with a “me first” business sense that helped him steal and build a worldwide brand. It’s not that Kroc was particularly smart, but he was a savvy, cutthroat, persistent opportunist who paid attention to those around him and had no qualms about stepping on the little guy if it could work in his best interest. He’s the man you love to hate, but can you really blame him for recognizing an easy opportunity and seizing on it?  If nothing else, this film serves as a warning of what not to do when you’re making business deals. Kroc cheated the McDonald’s brothers (enjoyable performances from both Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch) out of their “handshake deal” to give them 1% of all sales (in what would amount to $100 million per year). As tasty as those crispy fries are, knowing the background story leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

And that’s where this movie really fails — in its contradictions. At first it’s a love fest for the fast food restaurant but then morphs into something different: “Yay, McDonald’s!” turns to “Boo, McDonald’s!” At first it left me craving a burger but by the end, it made me feel like boycotting the restaurant forever. It’s not exactly a comedy but it’s not exactly a drama either.

The McDonald’s franchise story is interesting and one that is extremely important to the history of American business, but the movie overall comes across as far too bland and pedestrian. As is a problem with most biopics, the actors are laser focused on getting the mannerisms of their real-life counterparts so perfect that they become trapped within their roles, becoming a restrained impersonator rather than a gusty performer. Keaton sleepwalks through the role to the point where it feels like he’s doing a cheap imitation of Croc rather than something new and interesting.

While I didn’t love the film, it’s well crafted, well photographed, and well written in a clear, concise and straightforward way. But with such a compelling story, I just wish it had been so much more.