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Review: “Equalizer 2” Provides Equal Thrills and Flaws

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Denzel Washington is more of a force than a character in Equalizer 2. Around the Boston community he resides, he’s a kind guardian, watching over the citizens with good deeds and moral lessons, for the troubled youth to confused elderly. Around assassins, the man is an unstoppable killing machine that outright states who he is going to kill and informs his enemies they’re making a mistake going to war with him. He has some problems with coming to terms with his wife and their home, but there’s no time for that. Not in a jumbled thriller plot where there are throats to slit and necks to snap.

Director Antoine Fuqua is at least smart enough to know the biggest weapon in his arsenal for this film is Denzel, and we get plenty of him as ex-agent Robert McCall. It’s genuinely pleasing to watch him pursue the quiet life of a Lyft driver, occasionally breaking into his old assassin routine when some rich punks harm an innocent intern. He drives an old man in his feeble plans to find his lost family, paints the graffiti off of his apartment building, and tries to help out a young artist before he turns to a life of gangs. While I dug watching Denzel as the secret ex-hitman with a heart of gold, I kept thinking this is too much for him to take in, especially with a series of murders in Brussels that are pushed to the side until it’s needed later. Would you believe he’s trying to read a book in between all this?

Robert McCall (DENZEL WASHINGTON) insists that Miles (ASHTON SANDERS) leave with him in Columbia Pictures’ THE EQUALIZER 2.

It’s almost a shame that as the movie keeps cutting back to Brussels, where Denzel never ventures, reminding us that a standard government thriller arc is on its way, whether it fits in with the rest of the narrative or not. Scratch that; it is a shame. Denzel is such a paragon of virtue and violence in his smaller conflicts with ordinary people that the third act’s hitman conspiracy killing chain is a tiresome resolve. His charm depletes as he throws on the emotionless stare when he finds out who has been targeting his old friends, namely the chummy Susan Plummer (Ashton Sanders). A sad sign of a sequel is when they quickly sweep away characters we’ve grown to like from the previous film. The same can be said of Bill Pullman, returning for a role so minor I wondered why he even bothered coming back for a movie that can’t use him.

Equalizer builds up a thrilling and warm high from Denzel’s glow that unfortunately dims as an action set-piece wraps things up too quickly and routinely. Still, the action remains more cleverly intact than the arc of McCall. It’s hard not to get excited in a fast-paced moment where the driving McCall defeats a passenger attacking him with a butcher’s knife (interesting choice for a car assassination). Though that scene ends with perfectly-placed gunshots that’ll make audiences cheer, there’s an equally intimidating scene where Denzel bursts into a gang hideout and doesn’t even fire a shot as he escorts a young kid out of the gun-toting group.

And for as standard as the climax becomes, there’s still some brilliance in the staging of McCall picking off CIA assassins in a deserted town with a raging hurricane. In the same wall that McCall made great use of a Home Depot to defeat the killers, he takes advantage of woodworking shops and bakeries to prove he doesn’t need an arsenal to be a killing machine. What he does with a building of baked goods is nothing short of astonishing, especially for the gory end it deals one unlucky hitman.

Miles (ASHTON SANDERS) finishes the wall as Robert McCall (DENZEL WASHINGTON) watches him n Columbia Pictures’ THE EQUALIZER 2.

Fuqua had said that Equalizer 2 would only happen if audiences and Denzel Washington wanted it. I could see why Denzel wished to return as there are bits and pieces of that mesmerizing performance he does so well. It’s certainly an audience pleaser to be sure, packed with kills that shock and after-school special talk to make moral-seekers nod with approval. But there’s such an abundance of plot stacking going on that many of the characters and stories are either chopped up or kicked aside so that Denzel has an obligatory one-on-one battle to the death with the head bad guy, atop a towering structure no less. The routine showdown wasn’t as exciting or engaging as Denzel foil some bad boys while on Lyft duty or painting his apartment building to brighten his community. If only the film realized that enough to cut out the fat of a lingering CIA plot I wish would stay buried. It’s easy enough to see why McCall faked his death to leave that dreary life behind.

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Izzy

Movie Magic: The De-Aging Technique of The Irishman

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Robert DeNiro de-agedHave you read Izzy yet? If so, you know that Izzy makes the apples that give the Gods their youth and immortality. It also seems Robert De Niro discovered one of Izzy’s apples too… In Martin Scorsese’s upcoming biographical film, he stars as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a labor union leader and alleged hitman for the Bufalino crime family. The trailer for the movie, which will premieres NEXT WEEK (!), also features a “de-aged” De Niro. “We’re so used to watching them as the older faces,” Scorsese said in an interview on the A24 podcast. “Does it change the eyes at all? …If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?…How do we get that? I don’t know.” Some might consider this magic and I for one can’t wait to see the impact of Izzy’s apples on screen for myself. ????

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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