July 22, 2013

Summer flicks feature action and comedy

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment, Movies at 8:44 pm by dinaheng

Moviegoers will enjoy both huge popcorn blockbusters and smaller, more sophisticated fare this summer.  Whether it’s sci-fi adventure laden with special effects, or the escapades of adorable animated characters, there’s something for every age group on the big screen.

One of the best action comedies out is Summit Entertainment’s  “RED2,” a sequel to the 2010 surprise hit, “RED,” which told the tale of several retired spies who proved they still had what it takes to kick butt and save the day. In “RED2,” retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses (played by Bruce Willis) is trying to enjoy life in suburbia with girlfriend Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker), who longs for danger and adventure.Dinah Eng

When Frank’s best friend and former partner Marvin Boggs (Frank Malkovitch) informs them that a dangerous Cold War weapon called Nightshade has resurfaced, the three must run for their lives and recover the goods before it falls into terrorist hands. Helping them are Victoria (Helen Mirren), a British assassin without equal; Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a Russian femme fatale from Frank’s past, and Han Cho Bai (Byung Hun Lee), a reluctant contract killer who has a score to settle with Frank.

Edward Bailey (Anthony Hopkins), the inventor of Nightshade, leads the intrepid ex-spies on a merry chase through Europe, giving audiences a vicarious taste of Paris, where several days of shooting took place. While the film is aimed at Boomers, anyone with a brain and appreciation of witty dialogue will enjoy the action and antics of some distinguished actors who prove more than capable of saving the day.

Fans of the old Japanese monster movies (think “Godzilla”) will enjoy Warner Bros.’ “Pacific Rim,” a sci-fi adventure about human pilots who synch their minds through a neural bridge in order to operate huge robots that combat giant alien creatures known as Kaiju.

Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi star in "Pacific Rim." Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi star in “Pacific Rim.” Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Directed by Oscar nominee Guillermo del Toro, this is a film where special effects rule in battle scenes that will particularly appeal to 12-year-old boys. The story, though, is a mish-mash of movie themes reminiscent of everything from “Star Wars” to “Transformers,” with nary an original thought in sight.

The international cast, clearly designed to appeal to an international audience, includes Charlie Hunnam (known for his role in TV’s “Sons of Anarchy”), Idris Elba (“Thor”), RInko Kikuchi (“Babel”), Ron Perlman (the “Hellboy” films) and others. For mindless entertainment and booming battles, this film is it.

When it comes to new takes on the Western hero, Disney’s action-comedy “The Lone Ranger” has failed to gain traction at the box office. But if you’re a fan of Johnny Depp’s loopy Captain Jack Sparrow character in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, you’ll enjoy his rendition of Tonto in this tale of how the masked ex-Texas Ranger (played by Armie Hammer) changed from John Reid, a strict man of the law, to an unlikely justice fighter in the Old West.

Told through the eyes of the Native American warrior, we learn that Tonto was not The Lone Ranger’s sidekick, but very much his equal. With looks both dour and sly, Tonto coaches the Lone Ranger on how to go after outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) and save his widowed sister-in-law Rebecca Reid (Ruth Wilson) from the clutches of railroad baron Latham Cole (Tom WIlkinson).

While the men ride tall in the saddle, it’s the woman with brains and a scrimshaw peg leg who stands out in this tale. Red Harrington, played by two-time Academy Award nominee Helena Bonham Carter, is the Southern madam whose business caters to  railroad workers. Shrewd and powerful, she knows how to attract men and save the day in her own way. It’s a shame the film wasn’t about her.

One of the summer’s most delightful films — for children and adults alike — is Universal’s animated “Despicable Me 2,” the sequel to the 2010 hit that introduced us to soft-hearted villain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), whose claim to fame included stealing the Moon out of Earth’s orbit. Now that Gru has adopted three sweet orphans, he must face the fears of his own past, and the terror of dating in middle age.

Along the way, there’s the chaos, the criminal tricks, and the chortles that come when Gru and his mini Minions team up with Anti-Villain League agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) to sniff out the bad guy who’s stolen something being developed in a super-secret research lab on a polar ice cap.

When it comes to family action comedy, this film is more than worth seeing. It’ll make you want to rent the DVD and watch “Despicable Me” all over again.

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