Going in Style (2017)

Image result for going in style movieOh, would you look at it, another remake is here this weekend. Help us all.

A remake of a 1979 film of the same name, Going in Style follows Joe (Michael Caine), Albert (Alan Arkin), Wille (Morgan Freeman), all who recently who lost their pension when their plant is bought out. Three guys who now are all broke. After Joe is involved in a bank robbing, he takes it upon himself to get his group of friends to rob the same bank to get their happiness and money back and end their last years of life the right way.

Along with being a film getting lack of promotion, it’s being forgotten that this is a remake. A 1979 film that comes from director Martin Brest, a director who had a quiet great career. Right from the start, this remake has the perfect cast. Morgan Freeman has always has been charming, Alan Arkin is never not funny and Micheal Caine has put together top lead roles. Oddly the director to this remake is Zach Braff, who did the odd but great Garden State in his director debut but a guy who’s disappeared from Hollywood of late. Even with three good actors, it’s all too silly and unbelievable to think they would be able to pull off the heist like they want. The best performance is Alan Arkin who can be so funny at times and you agree with him because he can’t believe this could all go down either. It’s a third act filled with so many unbearable scenarios and bank robbing final that’s really dull.

What’s forgotten in this script is a good secondary cast. You have actors like Kenan Thompson who pops up as a main grocery story manager, a store that was robbed in a very unfunny sequence by the three leads. Even you have Christopher Lloyd in a HORRIBlE role as Milton, the group’s lodge friend who doesn’t do anything to the story. It’s even odd to see Matt Dillon show up as Hammer, the main FBI agent in the case in a role that leaves you with a lot to wonder. Lastly, lets not forgot actress Siobhan Fallon Hogan, as a waitress in a bland role. Actors all in these bit roles and where more talent is a waste. A film trying to run on the three main actors that just doesn’t work.

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Even if taking away this as a remake, this still anything special. Waste of a lot of talent, waste of a director and waste of good material. A film that was never in style.

2/5

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

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Even though she has her critics, it really should be appreciated what Scarlett Johansson has done in her filmography through the years and even more in recent years. Something like the odd character study Lost in Translation (2003) foreshadowed willing her to take different roles but really she’s showed the world she’s something more in recent years. She was in Don Jon (2013), an odd love story dealing with porn along the way. In the same years, she played a voice role in Her, a guy who falls in love with a computer operating system. Her last film in 2013 was Under Her Skin playing as an alien. Maybe the most underrated character in the Marvel universal, she has played as Black Widow through four films and more to come. In 2014, she played Lucy, a heavy action film. With a lot of comparisons to her Lucy and Black Widow character, she’s now a lead role in Ghost in the Shell playing another bad-ass action role.

Based on the Japanese novel and a 1995 anime film of all the same name, Ghost in the Shell follows around Major (Scarlett Johansson), a cyborg female from a previous accident who designed to stop criminals. Major is in the department of Section 9, a group meant to handle crime and stop hackers. Section 9 now must stop an enemy trying to stop Hanka Robotics (the company that created Major).

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Set in a world that looks exactly like Blade Runner (1982) or something like Fifth Element (1997), it’s inspired sci-fi world no doubt. Through colors, CGI and budget of $110 million, you’re filled in town with big buildings and a harbor. Your imagery is a spectacle and visually never gets old through this film. A film that reminds you of Hardcore Henry (2016) by the vibe that this feels like a video game. Major is your character and your playing her. She’s a character that provides fun and bad-ass action scenes but still has emotion to her that leads a backstory. Still, her backstory is muddled and has too many questions. Taking past the obvious issue to her whitewashing to her casting, it’s your typical Scarlett Johansson role as an actress that has a laid-back acting style and like how she’s in the Marvel and those other roles, she can do the heavy action and has a likeness to her. Next, to her side most the way of her is Batou (Pilou Asbaek) another sci-fi character who could be the male Major because he’s another character bringing action and similar sarcastic vibe like Major. The leader and somebody in charge of Major is Daisuke Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano), a character you can compare to Splinter of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. An older character who’s in charge of the section but does bring his own action and who’s strong. Regarded as a villain at times and maybe the creepy character is Kuze (Micheal Pitt). Like Major, Kuze that has a lot to him and leaves a lot of wonder to the audience. Even though he’s another character muddled than he should be, Cutter (Peter Ferdinando) is another fierce character who’s in charge of Daisuke and the department. A cast full of story and depth.

Next, to story, the action is the next big element here. The action that gets going right away that is again heavy in all its acts and really has a Matrix series vibe. Yes, action we have seen before that uses that budget and some slow-motion but still this action that shouldn’t be positive. Entertaining for sure.

Ghost in the Shell isn’t for everybody and it’s going to be too odd for some people. Yes, something like Blade Runner is better but we should be expected that. Being that it was 1995 when the anime film came out, this was a film was a long time coming. Due to that, this will find an audience with its following it has and because it has Johansson. Filled with new elements while some old, Ghost with the Shell is enough to please.

3.5/5

Life (2017)

 

Even though it’s a harder concept for a film, space film has been successful. In recent years films like Gravity (2014) or The Martian (2015) brought more an adventure idea to space while Avatar (2009) in an unoriginal way dealt with aliens race in a big budget. They are films that require a budget and usually have stars in its cast. Still, close to all through the years have had made money. The latest in the space genre is Life. With a budget of $58 million and stars, Life fits in everything to a space film. Still, script issues are a big problem to this.

Aboard an International Space Station, the crew members on the ship capture a space probe with a sample that could be the first signs of extraterrestrial life to the world. Once the crew learns more of this extraterrestrial life, they learn of its strength and the danger it possesses. A crew trapped aboard its ship with nowhere to go. Yes, this sure doesn’t sound like Alien (1979).

One of the main attractions to Life is the cast. You have Jake Gyllenhaal as Dr. David Jordan, a character who really turns into the star in this even those he’s not given much to do at times. Bringing the laughs is Ryan Reynolds as Rory Adams. Maybe the best character and the character you care most about oddly is Sho Kendo (Hiroyuki Sanada) who misses his family on earth and wants to meet his newborn child for the first time. Rounding out the cast is female characters is Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson) and Katerina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya), two very bland characters.

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As for elements, it’s turns into the typical space genre film. You’re in a typical space station with space in your background. Sure, its looks realistic and the $58 million shows but everyone has seen this before. In terms of the extraterrestrial, it’s the main highlight to Life. A creature that will be hard to describe and really leaves more to be desired and explained about but does provide interesting scenes that really can be intense with especially the Ryan Reynolds character. Once we get to its third act, Life turns to be a predictable ending that follows some Gravity ending ideas and sets it self up for a sequel though I don’t see one happening.

Image result for life film 2017I’m all for an inspiration film but Life doesn’t have enough new life in itself to be anything. Just an unoriginal ride and really nothing more.

2.5/5

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

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Even though it’s been around awhile, King Kong never did turn took off as a franchise as something like the Japan monster series Godzilla. When the first film came out in 1933, it was a modern film classic and ahead of its time. Sure, you got a 1933 film of it (Son of King), a 1976 version (King Kong) or 1986 version (King Kong Lives), three badly forgotten films but nothing came about it again till 2005 when Peter Jackson remade it (King Kong). Now in 2017, we have Kong: Skull Island which leaves the door wide open on the King Kong saga.

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts and reboot on its own, British Air Service Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) is hired by agent Bill Randa (John Goodman) to lead a mission to the mysterious Skull Island. An island with a mysterious past with unexplained happenings. Along on the mission is Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) who brings military into the story and lastly you have Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), a photographer with her own suspicion of the island.

Much like the 2005 version which had stars like Naomi Watts and Jack Black, and should be expected with any King Kong film, you were going to get a good cast to this new reboot. Tom Hiddleston is your leader who likely does too little in his role but Hiddleston still does it in a way that’s likable to make it be solid. Being how it seems he’s in every blockbuster, Samuel Jackson, of course, shows up this in a typical bad-ass performance and in a way he could be the main villain on his own. A character bringing the Vietnam feel and the 70’s. Much how Hiddleston isn’t given much to do, Lawson is just around to shoot with her 70’s camera but still another character/actor that’s hard to like. Maybe the dark horse character to the story is Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) who brings his own spin on the island and a character you could do a lot more with. Even in secondary roles, you have good likable actors like Thomas Mann, Corey Hawkins, Toby Kebbell and Jing Tian.

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Like the 2005 remake which also used Skull Island as a plot element, it’s the main attraction in this new reboot. It’s an island full of mystery and mystical creatures with beautiful special effects/imagery. As much as John C. Reilly, so much more is on this island and something bigger could be done with it. An island that makes it seem like more so a fantasy story at times and a film that feels like Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) or Jurassic Park 3 (2001). What gets lost through these new creatures is Kong himself. He takes his own absences but once he does show up, it is a spectacle and more good special effects/imagery. A violent character doing his own rampage. As much as any Kong film, Kong becomes our hero and our friend once its all over.

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If you compared this to the Godzilla reboot in 2014, this is slightly better and it’s on the same line as the 2005 remake. Kong: Skull Island has script issues nor doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary but still does enough to please and an homage film to 70’s life and Apocalypse Now (1979). The first type of blockbuster in 2017 that will make money. A solid hit.

4/5

The Shack (2017)

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Hollywood has had its share of lame trends in recent memory but among the lamest is the success of Christian films in recent years. Films like God’s Not Dead, God’s Not Dead 2, Risen or Miracles from Heaven make loads of money. All have a TV quality to them. The newest film in the trend is The Shack. The Shack is a original drama bringing big names to the screen and has some good moments but still leaves a lot to be desired.

The Shack is based off the novel of the same name by William P. Young published back in 2007. Mack (Sam Worthington) is a depressed father of two. Mack is living with his wife Nan (Radha Mitchell) who’s had a rough childhood. He is losing his faith in The Lord after his daughter Missy (Amelie Eve) is murdered on a camping trip. During a blizzard, Mack receives a letter from somebody named Pope (Missy’s nickname for God). This letter tells him to go to the same shack where his daughter was murdered. After arriving back in the shack, Mack goes on an uplifting journey that leads him to spiritual leaders Papa (Octavia Spencer), Sarayu (Sumire Matsubara) and Jesus (Aviv Alush).

As the plot would suggest and like other Christian films, this feels so much like a TV film. It luckily got big names Sam Worthington and Octavia Spencer. Besides Spencer and Worthington, it’s not a well put together cast. Your spiritual leaders are tame and boring during long scenes. Spencer’s character feels as though it was meant to be the main star but director Stuart Hazeldine can never decide between her and Worthington. It also could be argued that the film is a character study between these two and its just unclear. Not bad acting by either but even that can’t save their characters.

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The biggest plot hole is the shack itself. If a child murderer is killing kids in it, why isn’t it torn down or looked at as evidence? After that, nothing really comes of the shack and it just seems like a useless plot point. It’s an original idea but nothing more. The plot setting feels like something of the X-Files, Criminal Minds or the Friday the 13th series in a Christian film.

The Shack is a slow drag. A film that doesn’t attract publicity for a reason. It’s just another part of the Christian trend. Enough is enough.

2/5

Rogue One (2016)

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Even though I would be perfectly fine with just having six Star Wars films at time, in this day and age it only makes that we are getting more films to the Star Wars universe. Nothing nowadays seems safe or secure. You have two more Star Wars films that connect to the new trilogy, a Han Solo film in 2018 and a Boba Fett film which has run into preproduction problems. You have to wonder what’s next for the Star Wars universe. Anything in my mind seems possible with this universe and the future looks bright. The future now is Rouge One, a prequel to the 1977 New Hope. This film is surely a question mark because it’s seems too much of a hassle but it is still a fun ride nonetheless.

I have always more faith in prequels. Unlike a remake which is just redoing material, prequels add new material to the original story. Rouge One is adding material to the famous weapon Death Star which was the main plot point of the 1977 film. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a girl with her own troubled past along with a Rebel Officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) are on a mission to stop the plan of the new and powerful Empire’s new weapon, the Death Star.

Like what was a concern to the original Star Wars from 1999-2002, adding new characters is always a question mark (we know how Jar Jar Binks turned out). I really like Star Wars: Force Awakens new characters though. It’s hard to not like the Rouge One characters. Erso has a back-story that could be explored more and Felicity Jones does what she needs to do after a questionable performance in Inferno later year. Cassion Andor has a hero feel to him from the start and like Erso, he could be more explored more. Maybe even the biggest role and very important to the is plot Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen ) who is involved in the Death Star plans. He is a character you could have seen more of and it adds to the big year Mads Mikkelsen has had. Along the way, you have Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) who is basically the Hans Solo of this, the pilot of the gang.  You have K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) who is the spunky little droid who gives a lot of inspiration to the original C-3p0. New to frame with a new spin to him is Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), a blind and fun warrior. Maybe the most ridiculously character is Saw Gerrera (Forrest Whitaker) with very silly acting by Whitaker. Rogue One offers new characters while still showing respect for what came before all in a well-done script.

Yes, the first two acts do what it needs to but really it is the third act where everything comes together and the film’s main highlights come. From the last action scenes dealing with a tropical setting, the last act is big on visuals. Even with a budget of $200 million, it never gets old to learn of the lands of this universa or the large space battles we see. These scenes from space really do feel like something out of New Hope or the original filmsAnd yes, the easter eggs are in place here to show what came before that made the people in my theater applaud for a reason.

 

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I don’t think anything will ever beat the original Star Wars that spanned from 1977 to 1983. Still, like another famous prequel Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom, Rogue One adds a great new layer to the series and offers something completely different at the same time. With it getting so little press compared to last year’s film, Rouge One will get overshadowed. That said, it is a film that the average ten-year-old Star Wars fan will love and original fans of the series will enjoy and make you feel like a kid again. I can question  how Disney wants to keep churning out new Star Wars films but I am starting to question it less based on the first two films released so far.

More Star Wars films, please and thank you Disney!

4/5

Doctor Strange (2016)

 

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If you look at Marvel’s filmography, there seems to be a continuous trend. From 2008 on, Marvel started their film dominance by making films about superheroes people cared for and read about. People know who knew Iron Man is, we know the fantasies of Thor and the World War two story-line to Captain America is in our head. People knew those stories and read the comics but I don’t think we could expect how well the movies took off in terms of money and popularity like they continues to do. Now everybody is into to Marvel films now because it’s the trend. It’s really when Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) was released that I felt Marvel was getting greedy. Guardians of the Galaxy was never a big comic-book and it just seemed the company was putting anything possible together. It made it’s money off Guardians of the Galaxy and Marvel continued it’s trend by adding Jessica Jones and Luke Cage to both it’s own Netflix series, two characters nobody talked about until now. The latest Marvel film this upcoming  weekend is Doctor Strange. This is another film with source material we don’t know much about but it is still a phenomenal film either way.

Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is your typical hot-shot neurosurgeon who has the life and also a romance with surgeon Christine Palmer (Rachael McAdams). After a car accident that injuries his hand badly and while trying to seek out cure for it, Dr. Strange seeks out Jonathan Pangborn (Benjamin Bratt) who learned to heal himself under a secret compound of Kamar-Taj lead by Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and the even the more powerful Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). The societyas w created to protect three Sanctums consisitng of New York, Hong Kong and London. The evil Kaecillus (Mads Mikkelsen) is the guy that stands out above everybody.

Based off the plot alone, this is the strangest Marvel movie to date. An ancient sorceress is never what I thought would be in a Marvel film. Coming from director Scott Derrickson who never had much of a career is question mark. Bendict Cumberbatch again is in the lead. For sure, Cumberbtach has always had a solid career but it takes a certain actor like the Marvel guys Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr. to do what they do. Using an American accent, Cumberbatch does everything necessary here.. Sure, his humor isn’t great at times but that isn’t his fault. His action scenes are top-notch and he is likable and also has chemistry with Rachel McAdams (somebody I wish was given more to do). Even more in line with the character of Doctor Strange, the counterparts of Karl Mordo and Ancient One are different. Mordo is both a hero and then take an original turn in the third act that really could be something later in the Marvel Universe. The Ancient One isn’t male or female and yes, Tilda Swanton looks odd as she is bald here. Still, this character is so odd that I really wish she could have her own film because it’s such a different character. Even though too short on details, Kaecillius is another character so different and odd for a Marvel villain. There is nothing close to Kaecillius in terms of his odd details, and his look and mannerisms.

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As for the plot itself and if you looked at the trailer, a striking resemblance could be made to Inception from 2010. Sure, Doctor Strange is going through other dimensions which is basically what Inception was but the source material to Doctor Strange feels more like Thor but even weirder. This is like 80’s fantasy material here with 2016 quality visuals. Even more so, the plot is not so convoluted that you can’t follow it.

Because of the source material and surprisingly for a director that’s hasn’t done much in his career, Doctor Strange works so very well. I don’t have any doubt that this will make money and find its fans. Marvel continues to roll on films that maybe shouldn’t be a success. Why stop now?

 

4.5/5

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)

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However you feel about Tom Cruise and his antics in the media, he has had an impressive career throughout the years. Still, he has never stuck me as an action guy. He’s never had the vibe, attitude and he’s had a “dad vibe ” lately in roles. With the long running Mission Impossible series that’s made so much money, his star power has helped carry him through his action roles. After a successful first film that made money, it’s only makes sense we are getting Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, the newest sequel in the latest Cruise action series.

Set four years after the first and based again on a book, Jack Reacher (Cruise) returns to the grounds of his former military unit. Once he returns, we learn his old friend Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) is accused of espionage and big government cover-up is happening involving The Hunter (Patrick Heusinger). Reacher also meets teenager Samantha (Danika Yarosh) who just might have a big connection to his past. Really the typical, brainless action film plot.

Right away, Jack Reacher’s plot never seems to have a lot of logic to it. A lot of things work accordingly to the plan just too easily and so many scenes with a lot of commotion always seem to go unnoticed. The action is typical for what it is but again, the streets of Washington, DC or New Orleans (settings of the plot) never seem to care that big military police chase has happened with guns out.

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As for Tom Cruise himself, it’s not his best performance. You can tell at times he’s phoning it in and really he doesn’t have much to say. Still, he’s a character that’s trying not be liked which is different direction for these type of action characters. Cruise doesn’t have much chemistry with Cobie Smulders and character like Samantha Dayton is really only here to add more characters and to give Jack Reacher more to do.

Once the third act starts, it’s a little odd how much the film pickup ups. Using the New Orleans setting in a Halloween parade and uses a hotel rooftop as a neat action scene, this third act is really the only part of the film that’s creative. Sure, the villain, plot and the Samantha character goes the ways you expect but that should be expected.

Basically it’s a popcorn film in the middle of October. Much like a silmar action series like Jason Bourne, Jack Ryan, this series seems to be the typical formula of a big star and action to make money. Whatever formula you think is to Jack Reacher, it’s still just too dumb to work or at least take seriously.

2.5/5

Magnificent Seven (2016)

 

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Like the horror genre, it’s hard to make a western film. Like horror, western films are not modern culture and it is hard to find a target audience at times and really it’s a genre that has so many classics. Even oddly enough, the western remake True Grit from 2010 was a classic in its own right. Not as good as the True Grit remake surely but we are now getting a remake to the classic Magnificent Seven from 1960. It is a silly remake nonetheless that still has some charm to it.

Set right after the civil war, the town of Rose Creek is under siege by the rich and industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sargaard) who takes over the town as his own. With help from mainly Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), she hires local bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) to stop Bartholomew. Figuring out he can’t do it alone, Sam hires six other guys to help him capture Rose Creek back; Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt) a gambler, Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a guy known to be good with guns, Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) brought in for his tracking skills, Bill Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a top assassin, Vasquez (Manuel Garica-Rulfo), a Mexican outlaw who’s been on the run and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), a native-american warrior.

 

Based off of the trailers alone, it really seems like this film wants to showcase it’s cast and really why not. It’s an all-star cast but like The Expendables series, it’s more a mess of characters than it should be. This is a good deal of personality to the characters but still, Peter Sarsgaard is silly as a villain and absent more than he should be. Chris Pratt just seems off in his role and his humor doesn’t feel right.  Ethan Hawke is here with a character that be can all over the place and you don’t how you are supposed to feel about him. Even in a smaller role, Vincent D’Onofrio is a pretty funny character that is still too corny to really work. Denzel Washington is really the strongest character actor in a different role for him. Magnificent Seven is another example showing that you can’t rely on just actors to make your film work.

 

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Once you get to the plot, this film really wants to stretch this out as far as possible with a plot that is limited. That is why this film can wander and it really is too long as it is. There are nice sets and the film does introduce us to the 1870’s culture but for most part, the main highlight of this film is its last act with outstanding action and an intense gun fight. The kill scenes are so well done and pacing isn’t an issue here.

This feels like a summer film released in September which might be saying that Lionsgate Studios doesn’t have high hopes for this film. Director Antoine Fuqua has surely done better in his career but he has also done worse also. As with most remakes, we didn’t ask for this but actually I don’t think people remember the original for that matter. Magnificent Seven is not magnificent surely but a little above average remake that still should be better considering it’s cast.

3.5/5

Bridget Jones Baby (2016)

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It becomes tiresome year after year but we know that Hollywood is willing to put out really any sequel.We are also getting sequels so much later now like Dumber and Dumber Two (2014) twenty years later after the original, Finding Dory (2016) thirteen years later, Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) twenty years and now you have Bridget Jones Diary twelve years after its original. Even though this is another late sequel for a series, Bridget Jones Baby is one of the few sequels that we should have gotten earlier in the mid 2000’s. Both previous films in the series were such massive hits and Bridget Jones really is the character you think of when you think of Renee Zellweger. Maybe because I’m not the target audience nor can I relate much of this plot but I find that Bridget Jones Baby is a lot of romantic fluff that just doesn’t work.

Following the events of the previous installments, Bridget Jones (Zellweger) is still a single, spunky and lonely woman now at age 43. After hooking up with an American  author Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey) in a simple one-night stand and then hooking up with her ex Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) after oddly running into him a few times, Bridget learns that she is pregnant. Being how Bridget is, she leads both men along with both men not knowing who the father is with both men trying to win her over.

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Similar to how Father of the Bride Part Two used a baby as a main plot, the baby plot is becoming a common plot element for a sequel. Bridget Jones is a character that really can connect with the female audience and it is because actress Zellweger has that charm. She acts in a way that can really connect to women. She uses a lot of British humor and, she has chemistry with both Patrick Dempsey and Colin Firth. Of course, Bridget is just leading both of these guys on. Mark Darcy could be in such a better relationship with his style and money. As a character, Jack’s backstory isn’t much of anything so we feel like we don’t ever know the character and frankly I have never found Patrick Dempsey to be a very strong actor. Really what normal boyfriend would be willing to accept and deal with Bridget’s issues and not learn if he really is the father until the baby is born. I sure wouldn’t. The plot also forces us to be interested in Bridget’s job as a television producer which is the way the film adds secondary characters and plot.

However you feel about this series, this new sequel will be a hit and based off the final scene, I don’t see this series ending anytime soon. It has a loyal fan base but still, this is a forced sequel that really is only meant for the fans. Other than that, this doesn’t bring much to the table for an outsider like myself.

2/5