Tag Archives: Jennifer Garner

Peppermint (2018) Blu-Ray Review By D.M. Anderson

Peppermint

Director: Pierre Morel
Writer: Chad St. John
Stars: Jennifer Garner, John Gallagher Jr., John Ortiz

Brash, bloody and shamelessly manipulative, Peppermint is exactly want you think it’s gonna be. And if you’re reading this, that also means it’s exactly want you’re hoping for. The movie may not have a lot of substance – or brains – but it is a lot of fun.

The peppermint of the title refers to the flavour of ice cream chosen by a little girl just before she and her father are gunned down in a drive-by shooting. The wife & mother, Riley North (Jennifer Garner), is shot in the head, but still able to identify the shooters, who are soldiers of notorious drug lord Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba). It turns out the husband was considering teaming with a buddy to steal Garcia’s cash, but backed out at the last minute. Too late to avoid Garcia’s wrath, though.

Because the judge and both lawyers at the trial are on Garcia’s payroll – the unscrupulous defence attorney paints Riley as an unreliable witness due to her use of painkillers – the shooters are all acquitted. Riley understandably loses her mind in the courtroom. A crooked judge orders her to be restrained and sent to a psych ward. However, she escapes and disappears.

Five years later, Riley returns to Los Angeles to get the justice she never got in court. Now a highly-trained, one-woman wrecking crew, she goes after everyone responsible…the lawyers, the judge and Garcia’s entire operation, as well as anyone she comes across who happens to be a horrible human being. In the meantime, Riley becomes sort-of a local hero because, unlike Paul Kersey in Death Wish, everyone is well-aware of her story due to social media. Two cops and an FBI agent follow the trail of bodies to try to stop the mayhem, but even though we learn of an informant on the force – you’ll easily figure out who – they are mostly inconsequential to the story other than providing exposition.

Both narratively and aesthetically, Peppermint treads familiar ground. There’s little in the way of tension and nary a scene we won’t see coming from a mile away. The film is also loaded with implausibilities and plot contrivances. However, it does push all the right emotional buttons. By having Riley’s misery increasingly compounded by various scumbags throughout the film, the numerous scenes where they get their comeuppance are gleefully rousing and fittingly brutal. I do, however, take issue with the decision to gloss over the death of one of its most hateful characters.

Speaking of which, the characters themselves are generally one-note, especially Gracia, your garden-variety seething ball of viciousness. The important exception is Riley, who’s easy for any parent to empathise with. Garner makes a welcome return to the action genre with an intense and convincing physical performance. The action itself is well-staged, bloody and generally pretty exciting, even during some of the more outlandish moments. As someone who finds a perverse amount of guilty pleasure in revenge movies, I found it quite satisfying (then again, I also enjoyed the recent remake of Death Wish more than I probably should have, so maybe I’m the wrong guy to ask).

Is Peppermint a great film? Not by a long shot. Never intended to stimulate the intellect, it mostly delivers as promised, sticking to the tried-and-true with a story that’s been told before and doing it with a lot of flare. If nothing else, this is a film that certainly knows its audience. Anyone who enjoys a heaping helping of revenge (with a big side of deja vu) are encouraged to check it out.

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Peppermint (2018) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Peppermint

Director: Pierre Morel
Writer: Chad St. John
Stars: Jennifer Garner, John Gallagher Jr., John Ortiz 

Five years after her husband and daughter are killed in a senseless act of violence, Riley North (Jennifer Garner) comes back from self-imposed exile to seek revenge against those responsible and the system that let them go free. 

For me Peppermint is an enjoyable 101 minute action / revenge film that surprisingly has been receiving a few bad reviews prior to me going along to see this on it’s first day here in the UK. It’s not perfect but if you enjoy the Death Wish or Punisher storyline then you will get some enjoyment out of this film. Where I suppose it may fall flat with some people are the villains aren’t exactly fleshed out and are basically your standard ‘bad guys’ and I get that. More and more audiences want to see the mind workings of both good and bad but writer Chad St. John focuses more on the point of view of Riley North. I didn’t have an issue with this as I felt the story had to show her anguish in her loss and how this character would develop. 

Jennifer Garner as Riley North was fantastic in the role. The first 30 minutes set up the character as a Mother and Wife and the relationship between Garner, Jeff Hephner as Chris North and Cailey Fleming as Carly North is important and must be believable to the audience to experience the loss and feel sympathetic to Riley and more importantly accept the change in her character. Believe me, Jennifer Garner’s transformation is brilliant and well executed. If you are familiar with the plot or watch a lot of vigilante films then the change doesn’t come as any surprise but how the character is written and how the actor executes the part is where Garner excels. Riley North has lost everything and the justice system has betrayed her. This allows the character to go hell for leather throughout the film but I’m glad they allowed a five year gap before her return to seek justice as her skills and tactics are very impressive.

The relationship between John Gallagher Jr’s  Detective Stan Carmichael and John Ortiz’s Detective Moises Beltran is also another key element in the film that I would like to have seen developed a little more. As partners there is almost nothing there in any form of relationship and the characters come off as they have been forced together by their superiors. John Gallagher Jr is a terrific actor and I enjoyed seeing him play Emmett in 10 Cloverfield Lane back in 2016. His portrayal of Carmichael is almost a good cop who is restrained by fear of the Cartel and the consequences of taking them on. This is mostly suggested at the beginning of the film and Beltran reminds him of this. Ortiz is another fine actor and perhaps plays second fiddle to Gallagher Jr’s character. Ironically the last film I saw Ortiz in was The Cloverfield Paradox from this year. Both characters turn up at in the aftermath of each crime scene and the way both these characters are portrayed aren’t all they seem (spoiler free review here, so I’ll say no more on this)

I was glad to see Pierre Morel directing this film as I enjoyed his Directorial style in “Taken”. The Frenchman can combine the action with “to the point” dialogue and emotion without bogging us down with over dramatising the scene. I found the killing of the husband and daughter scene fast and effective from a story telling point of view. Some might say that it may have lacked enough emotion but personally I felt it handled it well. I got it. They are dead and have been killed in front of the Mother / Wife. I didn’t need a slow motion montage of memories and tears at this stage. We would get that in her quieter moments throughout the film. Morel is excellent at not lingering on the moment too long and I found his decision making in the pacing of the opening 30 minutes just right.

Overall “Peppermint” is a good film. Garner is playing the role out of her skin and it’s great to see the actress at the forefront of a film of this genre. The audience can feel her range of emotions throughout the story and it’s definitely the strongest element to the film. The pacing is frantic and the action is on point thanks to Morel’s direction. The villains are perhaps a little two dimensional if I was nitpicking but it didn’t bother me that much as the main character Riley was fleshed out and developed by the writer. Recommended. 

Danny Collins (2015) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

DANNY COLLINS

Director: Dan Fogelman
Writer: Dan Fogelman
Stars: Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, Christopher Plummer

Al Pacino is Danny Collins in Dan Fogelman’s musical and spiritual journey of a man, an artist, a performer and a vulnerable human being.

The Movie opens with Danny interviewed by a music magazine where Danny references John Lennon as a major influence.

We wind on four decades to Danny now in a corset, fake tan and hair tints performing his most famous song “Sweet Baby Love” which really is a “version” of Neil Diamond’s hit “Sweet Caroline.” He is now an ageing, alcoholic, cocaine-addicted performer, disillusioned with his current state of faking it through sold out performances, playing the same old repertoire to the same crowd.

There are echoes of various artists in the character of Collins. His early self is very reminiscent of a Lennon or a Dylan in 1971 intellectually astute and confident of his abilities and his work. The later stage of the artists career is more reminiscent of Elvis in his final years or perhaps Tom Jones or Neil Diamond (previously mentioned) chiming out the greatest hits (chicken in a basket music) night upon night to what looks like the same audience.

At this point I was already convinced we wouldn’t be seeing many flashbacks with the young Collins which I felt would have been interesting to observe and to understand how he became the person he ended up being. This was a missed opportunity as I felt Eric Michael Roy who portrayed the young Collins not only looked like a young Pacino but as an actor could have had a more filled out role an although most of his roles are in TV and TV movies perhaps Fogelman wasn’t confident enough to expose the actor to such a role (who knows)

Danny is celebrating his birthday with all his “friends” who appear to be hangers on and sycophants. His only genuine oldest and dearest friend Frank who is played by Christopher Plummer eagerly presents Danny with a gift that he has been holding on to for three months and bought it through a collector. A letter that was sent to Danny in 1971 by John Lennon, but which Danny never received.

Lennon had sent him a letter with some advice about his songwriting and suggested they meet up. Danny is shocked and traumatised as he wonders how his life might have changed if he had received the letter. Unfortunately this was held back deliberately by a former manager of Collins who knew one day the letter would be worth something to a collector and now 40 years on the letter finally reached its destination.

This story of Danny Collins I might add is based loosely on true events (in the words of the opening text to the movie “Kind of”) on the true story of folk singer Steve Tilston.

Al Pacino is enjoyable and great fun as the eccentric Collins. Pacino gives a brilliant performance in a role that you can only describe as satisfying. Pacino has perhaps being on the wrong end of some of the critics reviews in some of his more recent work but in Danny Collins he really has picked a winner here and by the looks of it really enjoys and embraces the role. Much so that there are YouTube clips out there of Pacino playing the role at random events and blasting out “Sweet Baby Love” You can never underestimate what a great actor Pacino is and although previously mentioned he may have chosen a few bad movies in recent years, his performances where never in doubt. In Danny Collins, he will make you love him, hate him, pity him and sometimes want to be him.

Annette Bening plays Mary, the flustered hotel manager in New Jersey really is the perfect role up against and side by side with Danny when he takes up temporary residence at her Hotel. Mary is the slap in the face Danny requires at times when his life is looking derailed and really is the bedrock of the story along with Plummer’s Frank.

Bobby Cannavale once more delivers the goods playing Danny’s estranged son Tom. Having Pacino and Cannavale for the film and the two sharing great chemistry in their scenes is exhilarating at times, emotional and suspense filled on when the audience is half expecting Danny to ruin what he is attempting to build with his son. Cannavale handles the role naturally and really gels with Pacino in the Father and Son scenes.

Dan Fogelman’s direction is excellent and he really nails the theme of the movie within the first 5 minutes from 1971 to Present Day and the opening shots of Danny arriving on stage really sent a message out to the viewers that we were going to be entertained for the next hour and a half. It has to be said that although the story is based on a John Lennon letter, Fogelman’s angle is only using the letter as a prop and a turning point in the story. Lennon’ music is used correctly depending on the scene and it was a joy to hear the original tracks of the man used instead of cover versions.

Danny Collins is an easy entertaining movie to watch. Seeing Al Pacino in a different role than we are used to was enjoyable and refreshing. Danny Collins is also a nice feelgood movie and better then I expected it to be. I highly recommend this movie to anyone who hasn’t watched it yet.