Two Will Smiths?
Oscar-winning filmmaker Ang Lee raises what could have been a conventional spy/counterspy action flick into an involving, technically stunning feature.
Smith portrays fifty-year-old government assassin Henry Brogan, who is ready to retire. But several government agencies, including Clay Verris’ (Clive Owen) top secret operation, believe Brogan knows too much about their illegal operations and have targeted the elite hitman for elimination.
In the midst of unending attacks from ninja-like predators, Henry befriends and protects another government operative named Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Brogan’s old buddy Baron (Benedict Wong) provides transportation, including a trip from Cartegena to Budapest.
Brogan’s principal foe turns out to be his lookalike. In a stunning bit of movie magic, the 23-year-old adversary has Smith’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” era face.
We’ve seen this “digitally de-aging” process before, notably in Jeff Bridges’ “Tron: Legacy” (2010), but in “Gemini Man,” the illusion is startling in its realism. However, in the final scene the young Will character inexplicably looks fake.
Rated PG-13 3 Stars
LUCY IN THE SKY
A stellar cast led by Oscar winner Natalie Portman as fictional astronaut Lucy Cola cannot save this drama loosely based on the “Fatal Attraction”-style story of female astronaut Lisa Nowak.
Co-written and directed by Noah Hawley, “Lucy in the Sky” does not work because its major premise remains so far-fetched. The message seems to be that after ten days in space, Lucy loses her mental balance. She flips out, but many astronauts have remained in space for years without losing their minds, Scientific evidence is brushed aside to tell this distasteful story of Lucy’s mental breakdown.
In addition to wasting Portman’s incredible acting talent in this film, her two A-List costars, Jon Hamm as her astronaut lover Mark Goodwin and Dan Stevens as her husband, Drew Cola, deserve far better than these roles. Other players include Ellen Burstyn as Lucy’s colorful grandmother, Nana, and Zazie Beetz (the “Joker’s” love interest) as rookie astronaut Erin Eccles.
Instead of merely being about an emotionally fraught woman jealous of her rival, the film identifies Lucy’s problems as a space-induced aberration.
Rated R 2 Stars
Even though six years ago Steven Soderbergh declared that he would not be making any more movies, thankfully he continues to produce, direct, edit and even serve as cinematographer on features such as this messy, but fascinating darkly comic-drama starring Meryl Streep as dowdy elderly widow Ellen Martin.
After several heartbreaking experiences, Martin discovers the existence of clandestine shell corporations and tax frauds emanating from Panama City law firm Mossak and Fonseca.
Martin remains a fictionalized character in a story based on actual events concerning the massive tax avoidance scheme revealed in Jake Bernstein’s article titled “Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite.”
In a feature which traces financial shenanigans somewhat reminiscent of those presented in “The Big Short,” this film entertains as it points out the shocking offshore criminal enterprise presided over by the arrogant and powerful Jurgen Mossak (Gary Oldman) and Ramon Fonseca (Antonio Banderas). (Oldman and Banderas appear throughout the film as a sort of diabolic chorus.)
Rated R 3 Stars