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Review: The Courier

This is another “based on true events” film. The story begins in 1960 as Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev is threatening to bury the West. The CIA and MI6 are scrambling for ways to get some inside info on the Soviet nuclear program, and to that end they make the unlikely decision to recruit a British salesman, Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch). He’s done business for some time in Eastern Europe so heading to Moscow wouldn’t be a red flag to Soviet intelligence. And he’s not expected to do anything except be a courier for leaked intel. Former Soviet military intelligence colonel, now trade minister Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) has already made contact. He has unfettered access to all the crucial intelligence, and he’s got a conscience. He may be a believer in the Soviet Socialist system, but he’s willing to work against it to stop the march towards what he sees as inevitable nuclear war. And together Oleg and Grenville save the world. Really.

American Ultra

I’m not sure what this movie was trying to be but it’s a hot mess. Here’s how it was pitched:

American Ultra is a fast-paced action comedy about Mike [Jesse Eisenberg], a seemingly hapless and unmotivated stoner whose small-town life with his live-in girlfriend, Phoebe [Kristen Stewart], is suddenly turned upside down. Unbeknownst to him, Mike is actually a highly trained, lethal sleeper agent. In the blink of an eye, as his secret past comes back to haunt him, Mike is thrust into the middle of a deadly government operation and is forced to summon his inner action-hero in order to survive.”

When I read the synopsis, I expected to see something along the lines of the fairly entertaining action-comedy-crime-stoner movie Pineapple Express. Ha! Joke was on me.

A Most Wanted Man

There is really just one reason to go see A Most Wanted Man — Philip Seymour Hoffman. The film, while good on its own terms, mainly serves as a reminder of what an immense talent we lost. Hoffman plays a German spy in this John le Carré adaptation from director Anton Corbijn who brought us the equally thoughtful The American. And like his previous film, this one depends on the audience getting inside the protagonist’s skin. I’m not sure it would have worked without Hoffman.

Haywire

Mixed martial arts (MMA) superstar Gina Carano plays the lead and does all her own stunts in Steven Soderbergh’s latest action flick Haywire, which comes off feeling kind of Bourne-lite. In it she is surrounded by a pretty yummy collection of today’s high powered male stars: Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, even Michael Douglas. And that is the problem with the film. Carano is not an actress, and she really cannot hold her own with the big boys.

X-Men: First Class

This movie is everything a prequel should be: entertaining in its own right and true to the characters we’ve come to know in the previous franchise films. For the uninitiated, the X-Men (and women) are a superhero team sprung from the pages of Marvel comic books. They are considered mutants because they have an extra “X” gene that gives them each a unique power or ability that normal humans lack.