By Khaleel Herbert
Proud Mary is a cross between Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver and Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself.
Taraji P. Henson plays Mary, a hit woman working with a crime mob. Her first hit is a gambling bookie, a man she sees as just another hit until she finds his son, Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) lost in video games blissfully unaware of his father’s murder. A year passes and Danny works as a drug pusher for the head druggie, Uncle (Xander Berkeley), who isn’t pleased with Danny spending some of the drug money to feed himself.
Mary finds Danny passed out in an alley from his beating by Uncle. She takes Danny back to her apartment and decides to look after him. Mary goes after Uncle to “teach him some manners,” killing him and his goonies. But complications arise when Benny (Danny Glover), her boss who doesn’t know she killed Uncle, thinks this killing will start a war over territories. Mary works hard to throw Benny off her trail and Danny grows on her, forcing her to contemplate leaving Benny and the crime life for good.
Proud Mary drives on action and emotion. Mary resembles Baby in Baby Driver because she’s not the bad guy. Benny and his son, Tom (Billy Brown) are. She wants a better life for herself and Danny. Benny took in Mary when she was a little girl because she was an orphan like Danny. Also, Mary puts the pedal to the medal when she goes to fight the bad guys like Baby did.
Henson intertwines her motherly instincts into Proud Mary. Although Danny isn’t Mary’s son, she treats him like it, mirroring her role as Sherry Parker to Jaden Smith’s Dre in The Karate Kid, Katherine G. Johnson in Hidden Figures and April in I Can Do Bad All By Myself. She brings out her April-side more because she’s all about her hustle. She doesn’t care about raising children. She even says, “What am I gonna do with kids?” in I Can Do Bad All By Myself and a similar line in Proud Mary. But Danny, like Jennifer,Manny and Byron, melts her heart and she would do anything to protect him.
Proud Mary has the right amount of action. It may not be like Uma Thurman’s Kill Bill or Angelina Jolie’s Salt, but it’s enough because Henson knows how to handle a gun and give a good ass-beating. We also get a lot of heart in Proud Mary…something a lot of these newer movies are missing.
Den of Thieves
By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Den of Thieves is pure dynamite. A gripping crime caper where the line between cops and criminals are so brilliantly blurred, the film focuses on a group of bank robbers, who plot to pull off the ultimate heist, and the tenacious determination of the Sheriff’s department to bring them to justice.
Set in Los Angeles, which the filmstates is the Bank Robbery Capital of the World, it kicks off with a violent shoot out right outside a Gardena doughnut shop where an empty armored truck is stolen. It’s a pre-job for a den of thieves, headed by Ray Merriman (Pablo Schreiber), a paroled leader of a gang of ex-military men who have bigger aspirations to rob the Federal Reserve Bank of downtown Los Angeles. With several officers shot during the robbery, a crime squad unit headed by “Big Nick” O’Brien (Gerard Butler) is dispatched to the crime scene and it’s not long before Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department zero in on Merriman. That’s when the film goes into high-octane gear and becomes a cat and mouse game between the cops and robbers, which ends with an explosive climactic showdown.
With touches of Heist and Heat, Dog Day Afternoon and a little of The French Connection, sprinkled in, it’s a complex heist flick with a fantastic twist and marks the directorial debut of screenwriter Christian Gudegast (Sequestro, London Has Fallen).
Each criminal has a likable side, making it easy to root for their success. From the preternaturally calm Ray Merriman (Schreiber), the disciplined family man and Special Forces explosives expert Enson Levoux (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson), to the naïve getaway driver Donnie, who is played with perfect pitch by O’Shea Jackson, Jr., it’s an ensemble crime drama which will stand up to repeat viewing. Filled with plot intricacies, an excitingrobbery and a thrilling shootout, it’s a smart, tense film, which will stimulate your adrenal gland. The twists, and turns of the plot are tense, while the ending is genuinely satisfying and surprising. This one gets extra points for a strong and unpredicted conclusion.
By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Everyone’s favorite bear is back for seconds in this delightful sequel, which follows the marmalade-loving Peruvian bear who can teach us a thing or two about courtesy and kindness.
A perennial family classic, Paddington was released in 2014 and followed a young bear who came to London in search of a home and family and touched on ideas of tolerance and acceptance. Fast-forward to this follow-up flick, he’s now happily settled with the Brown family in West London and is a hugely popular member of the local community. But all that soon changes when he is falsely accused of theft and winds up in prison and it becomes a toilsome quest to clear his name.
Paul King (Paddington) returns to helm this heartwarming sequel, which once again follows the antics of the little bear whose perfect manners and good intentions frequently lead to comical mishaps and moments of chaos.
It’s a funnier and more sophisticated sequel with the addition of the villainous Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), a one-time major stage star who is behind Paddington’s demise and “Knuckles” McGinty (Brendan Gleeson), a crazed and feared inmate Paddington, (voiced by Ben Whishaw) has to charm. Once he’s tried and convicted and lands behind bars, he finds he has his paws full dealing with several eccentric inmates and some of those prison scenes provide the film’s funniest moments.
While it is light, fun and entertaining, the storyline never loses sight of its theme of judgment. Once again, there’s a great injection of a West Indian calypso band, which clearly remind us of the immigrants’ experience in London. There are also several moments of unbridled physical comedy. For in one scene, Paddington runs into unforeseen ladder problems while working as a window cleaner and in another, he gives an unsuspecting customer a disastrous haircut while being mistaken for a barber. Much credit is due to the solid, clean and cohesive script, which has the right mix of wit and innocence to appeal to both children and adults.
This duffel coat-wearing, marmalade sandwich-loving iconic character, Paddington Bear, was first introduced in Michael Bond’s 1958 book “A Bear Called Paddington” and has been captivating British readers since. Showcasing great London landmarks from Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Hyde Park, Windsor Gardens, Paddington Station to Portobello Road, it’s a charming sequel with heart and humor.
The cast also includes Richard Ayoade, Joanna Lumley, Peter Capaldi, Tom Conti and Ben Miller and at 105 minutes, it’s not too long, not too short, but just perfectly right.