Greyhound (4 Stars)
News of the World (3.5 Stars)
Tenet (3.5 Stars)
Love and Monsters (3 Stars)
Mulan (2.5 Stars)
‘Action’ movies are films that emphasize a lot of human physical action with an emphasis on chase scenes, fighting, and things going Ka-boom. Audiences are likely to use examples like the Batman, Matrix, or Lord of the Ring movies as examples. Professional critics might point to older, maybe a little more subtle films like The Seven Samurai or North by Northwest as more classic examples. But either way, we are talking about movies that make you say wow!
Now, having said that, my favorite film in this year’s action genre has to be Greyhound, but it isn’t exactly ‘action’ in the traditional sense. Let’s face it, battleships take a long time to turn, so dodging torpedos and targeting submarines takes on a challenge that is very different from the benchmark action films. But the character development in Tom Hanks’ portrayal is deep and, somehow, the adrenaline moves even though the theater of action is, mostly, the bridge of a ship.
Although Tom Hanks isn’t known for being an ‘action’ star, he appears in another of this genre’s movies, News of the World. Yes, there is some traditional action in this film, but really the most interesting parts are in the characters Captain Jefferson (Hanks), and the young girl he picks up, Cicada/Johanna, who says very little but communicates so much through her facial expressions and body language. This is a good movie, but also maybe not ‘action’ in the traditional sense.
Tenet, this year’s sci-fi blockbuster, has a lot of traditional action, so if that’s what you want, and you haven’t seen it yet, then, by all means track it down. But it is also a very difficult movie to make sense of. Even the actors reported that, at times, they had a a difficult time understanding the script. So, as you bounce around in time, and in the direction time travels, be prepared for some fun, but confusing, action.
Love and Monsters involves both of the topics in the title, but not exactly at the same time. Nominated for visual effects, the film does a wonderful job of portraying snails, frogs, centipedes, and crabs on a giant scale and the story is a romance-fueled adventure of a guy trying to reunite with his high school sweetheart. The whole thing doesn’t offer a whole lot of depth, but is a delightful confection and worth two hours of ‘escape time’. Oh, and yes, the hero does fight monsters!!
Finally, there is Mulan, the first movie I reviewed this year and one I wanted to like. Rich in costumes and with action scenes trying to mimic great films like Enter the Dragon, and Crouching Tiger…, Mulan is a real disappointment because the characters seem stilted and undeveloped. I wanted to like Mulan, maybe even love her, but I never got to know her.
If you are looking for something from last year, then you probably don’t have to go any further than the blockbuster, Avengers: Endgame. The movie set all-time records for box-office draw just before the pandemic brought down movie theater performances. The film is, of course, action packed with a story and visual effects that are out-of-this-world.
I also liked the more earthly ‘sports’ film, Ford v Ferrari. The movie puts you in the driver’s seat of a formula one race car and it will keep your adrenaline moving. The story line, involving the origins of the Ford Mustang, is an intriguing one.