It’s no accident that the trailer for “The Gunman” notes prominently that it comes from the director of “Taken” (Pierre Morel), the 2008 thriller that transformed Liam Neeson into a no-nonsense, border-hopping, middle-aged action star.
It’s true, the movie, also called “Danny Collins,” opens with a 1971-set prologue where a young, “The Panic in Needle Park”-era Pacino lookalike sits, trembling, for what looks like his first interview.
Stiller appeared in a dark electric blue suit-and-tie ensemble with a navy trenchcoat. Wilson, sporting shaggy long blond locks, strutted in a shiny light blue pajama print outfit with blindingly white sneakers, topped off with an eggshell blue trench coat.
What “Cinderella” IS, though, is touching, visually stunning, and very satisfying. Director Kenneth Branagh, working with a high-wattage cast led by the winsome and genuine Lily James, sticks to tried-and-true narrative formula, and infuses it with wit and style. If the glass slipper ain’t broke, he seems to be saying, why fix it?
Vaughn plays Dan, a St. Louis sales exec who quits his job toiling for a bullying boss named Chuck (Sienna Miller, gamely overdoing a brassy American accent) and starts his own company with two fellow workplace outcasts: retirement-age Timothy (Tom Wilkinson) and sweet-natured but slow-witted Mike (Dave Franco, you-know-who’s little brother).
It’s set in a near-future Johannesburg policed by robots, but it’s not about law enforcement or social order. It focuses on the first creation of a sentient artificial intelligence, yet it’s not about the consequences of this radical invention or the nature of consciousness.
Tony Shalhoub (a Tony nominee for “Act One” and “Golden Boy,” and a multiple Emmy winner for the TV series “Monk”) plays a charmingly condescending, witty liberal Jewish author named Howard, living in Georgia and long married to a smart Southerner, Lucinda (Diane Lane). Shalhoub is a delight, making Howard lovable despite his pompous pronouncements and latent racism and homophobia.
The sequel brings us back to Jaipur, India, a few years after the British retirees first made their home in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, where they discovered that although the place wasn’t as luxurious as advertised, it was full of life — and life lessons.
“Maps to the Stars” is a strange and intoxicating mix of satire, ghost story and family melodrama, with a plot and ultimate point that remains hazy throughout despite an ardently linear structure.
“It’s about distraction,” explains Nicky, the con artist played by Will Smith in “Focus,” the consistently entertaining new film by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (“Crazy, Stupid, Love.”). And that’s what the filmmakers do to us, too — they distract us more than once by making us think we’re watching a predictable, even silly story.