Tag Archives: david leitch

Bang! with Idris Elba and Mind MGMT get adaptations as Dark Horse and Netflix extend their partnership

Netflix and Dark Horse Entertainment have extended their first look deal. Under this multi-year deal, Dark Horse will continue to give Netflix a first look at its IP for both film and TV. 

Netflix and Dark Horse recently collaborated on the third season of The Umbrella Academy, which in its first four weeks reached the Netflix Global Top 10 in TV in 91 countries with 283.55M hours viewed (as of July 17, 2022) 

New projects in active development under the Dark Horse Entertainment banner include:

  • Bang! starring Idris Elba and directed by David Leitch 
    • Based on the comic series by Matt Kindt and Wilfredo Torres, the feature film adaptation of this stylish spy thriller will be written by Kindt and Zak Olkewicz
    • Producers: Mike Richardson and Keith Goldberg for Dark Horse, David Leitch and Kelly McCormick for 87 North, and Idris Elba
    • When a terrorist cult sets out to start the apocalypse with a series of novels meant to brainwash their readers, the world’s most celebrated spy is sent to track down and kill the author responsible.
  • Mind MGMT with Curtis Gwinn set to Executive Produce this series adaptation of the comic book series by Matt Kindt
    • A young woman stumbles onto the top-secret Mind Management program. Her ensuing journey involves weaponized psychics, hypnotic advertising, talking dolphins, and seemingly immortal pursuers, as she attempts to find the man who was MIND MGMT’s greatest success – and its most devastating failure. But in a world where people can rewrite reality itself, can she trust anything she sees?
    • Executive Producers: Curtis Gwinn, and Mike Richardson and Keith Goldberg for Dark Horse
  • Next up for Dark Horse is the 8 episode series Grendel, based on the classic comic by Matt Wagner. Andrew Dabb created the series, which is in post-production.

Previous Dark Horse Entertainment releases include the Netflix film Polar, starring Mads Mikkelsen, the Netflix animated series Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles, returning later this year with Season 2, and the animated film Chickenhare and the Hamster of Darkness, which recently spent four weeks on the Netflix TV (English) Top 10. 

Dark Horse Entertainment

Movie Review: Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw

Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw

David Leitch is one of the most kinetic directors working today. From his background in stunts and parlaying that into the masterwork that was the first John Wick, he catapulted into being one of Hollywood’s most visually interesting directors by following it up with Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2. And now with Hobbs and Shaw hitting theaters, you may wonder if we’re getting a watered-down- by-franchise Leitch, or if we’re getting more of the same of his brilliance. It is decidedly the latter, as Letch takes the mismatched buddy cop action comedy and destroys it in a giant explosion. This is a comic book movie that isn’t based on a comic book.

It’s not high art, but it’s a lot of fun.

The film begins with one of its most interesting visual flourishes, showing our two protagonists played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham as they go about their days and tracking down, unbeknownst to them, the same bad guys. Their settings and methods are different, and therefore Leitch lights them in very different ways but often splits the screen between the two to show a stylistic contrast.

This is classic Leitch, and especially some of the Shaw moments feel right out of John Wick or Atomic Blonde. It’s almost like the rule that dialogue should come from character, but as a visual medium, film has the ability to develop their characters based on their movement, lighting, and editing.

Leitch just shoots The Rock differently– like he’s this giant wall, a force of nature. But a final sequence set in Samoa is something that none of Leitch’s previous films felt: personal, important. Placing native Pacific Islanders and showcasing them in a way that highlights what is special about one of the most overlooked groups in popular media (indigenous/native people of any type, really).

While we have Executive Produce Dwayne Johnson to thank for insisting as part of doing this film that it include representation for Pacific Islanders, Leitch is able to make this come alive and feel special and, dare I say, cool. It’s sort of a mini-Black Panther moment for Samoans, and that’s unique and a great example of using your privilege to uplift others.

But the best performance here is Idris Elba as Brixton, the bad guy. Also, his motorcycle, which leads me to ask, “Should David Leitch do a Transformers movie?” But, as the leader of a cult of technology-obsessed-and-enhanced bad guys, he’s not really that different from most action movie bad guys. But his keniciticsm is unsurpassed by anyone else. Essentially, his cybernetics and AI upgrades allow him to analyze and dodge almost all attacks. It’s the 21st-century version of what Sherlock Holmes/Robert Downey Jr is able to do in the Guy Ritchie films.

We also have Vanessa Kirby as Hattie, an MI-6 agent who is the third wheel to the Hobbs and Shaw axle this film is built around. Similar to the way Leitch has been able to elevate his femme fatales in Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2 as major asskickers, so too is Hattie incredibly capable– easily able to square off against The Rock and Statham.

Leitch is a gifted comedic director (as showcased by his work on Deadpool 2), and this comes through in Hobbs and Shaw, where he even has his Deadpool 2 stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob Delaney cameo. In many ways, Deadpool 2 is the most similar of Leitch’s films to Hobbs and Shaw: they’re both the least visually experimental and groundbreaking, but they take the successful formula and kinetic action and place them in the bounds of a franchise. And fans eat it up.

However, as I said, this film is pretty braindead and expects viewers to completely ignore the laws of space, time, and geography. Jaunts from Moscow to Samoa seem to take mere minutes, and London to Moscow is an overnight red-eye flight. Also, apparently Moscow and Ukraine are really, really close to each other.

But perhaps the most egregious is a final climactic action sequence with a literal ticking clock running that expects us to believe that in the space of a half-hour we go from complete darkness before dawn, to golden-bathed morning on a clear summer morning to a torrential downpour. Time and weather do not work that way. Oh well. At least it all looked cool. Just don’t think about it too hard because its ridiculousness strains all credulity.

All this makes me think how absolutely spoiled we were by last summer’s Mission Impossible: Fallout. It’s instructive that director Christopher McQuarrie started in scriptwriting and Leitch started in stunts. Both of these films are the culmination of decades of their work in Hollywood– and it’s sort of a “two roads diverged in a wood” parable. McQuarrie brought the tight storytelling aesthetics of his early masterwork scripts like The Usual Suspects to become Fallout, and Leitch brought the kinetic popcorn sensibilities of his early stunt work and stunt directing to make Hobbs and Shaw feel all killer, no filler. But not everything needs to be so cerebral.

Still, I was not expecting to like Hobbs and Shaw as much as I did. It’s braindead, but it’s fun and lets Leitch paint on a much bigger canvas than before. Whether or not you have any investment in the Fast and Furious franchise, you could walk in and be entertained. Oh, and make sure you stay through the credits — all the way through — because the guy who made Deadpool 2 isn’t going to leave you without a tease for what’s next, would he?

3 and 1/2 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Deadpool 2

deadpool 2 imax poster

Deadpool 2 is a triumph of the genre of R-rated action comedy whose only peers are its predecessor and a few Shane Black movies. The major problem with this is the very obvious comparison to the first, which it doesn’t quite live up to, despite patented “Maximum Effort.”

The first was such a breath of fresh air and countered so many expectations. This is another bloated summer blockbuster sandwiched between Infinity War and Solo, and maybe we’re having a bit of remorse at eating at the all-you-can-geek-buffet of the Summer of 2018. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, after Infinity War’s dour ending, Deadpool 2 is the palate cleanser many of us need.

Enter our anti-hero, Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), who has become a worldwide assassin. But when he reaps the whirlwind from a hit gone wrong, he takes up with his frenemies the X-Men as a trainee. They begin tracking a troubled teenage mutant, who is also being hunted by time travelling mutant Cable (Josh Brolin). To keep up, Deadpool founds his own team called X-Force, and. . . wackiness ensues.

Anyone who owns a trade of Deadpool and Cable knows where this movie is heading, so there shouldn’t be too many shocking plot twists. However, the movie sure takes its time getting there. It starts with an absolutely gonzo bonkers opening, culminating with a James-Bond-style opening credits scene while Celine Dion sings.

Aside — Can we please make sure this is nominated for Best Song for the Oscars?

And then. . . it sure takes its time before getting going again. The middle half of the film is packed full of jokes and even a few cool action setpieces here and there, but it doesn’t ever get back to that place of greatness until its last half hour or so. And then it’s sheer perfection. It tops it all off with the single greatest post credits sequence of all time—worth the price of admission itself.

This begs the question, why pad the middle so much? One of the best parts of the first Deadpool was its all-killer-no-filler pace and leanness. This film felt like it was waiting for something (its sudden but inevitable twist!) to take that next step.

This is also surprising for director David Leitch, whom the credits refer to as “One of the guys who killed John Wick’s dog.” Leitch’s previous work on the John Wick movies and Atomic Blonde show not only a great sense of pace, but also a visual style and flair that is missing from this film. This film felt workmanlike and studio-approved-as-safe, but never pushed any boundaries. And that’s what Deadpool is great at.

Also what Deadpool is great at is understanding he is in a movie. That has never been more clear until Deadpool 2. That humor is front and center in the movie, as Deadpool kills not only every bad guy he comes across, but also mourns the death of Logan, kills himself (multiple times), kills different versions of hmself, kills Ryan Reynolds, and on and on and on. It’s so self-aware, and pushes home that if a Fox-Disney merger goes through, Deadpool will be the king of franchise-skewering and post credits scene massacres and cameos.

And while the film lies pretty squarely on the shoulders of Reynolds and Brolin, the supporting performances are really what make the film. Julian Dennison (who was also in Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople¸which is quickly becoming a major geek nexus) is Russell, our young mutant in need. Like his counterpart in Wilderpeople, he’s more likely to flip you the bird than say thank you, so he’s perfect for Deadpool.

Also pitch perfect is Zazie Beetz, who plays Domino. While Deadpool derides her mutant power of “luck” as being stupid and “not cinematic enough,” it is, in fact, her performance and powers that give the film what visual brilliance and fun it has. Unfortunately, too much of it comes too late in the film, leaving us wondering why we couldn’t have more Domino earlier.

And finally, a moment to talk about Negasonic Teenage Warhead, who it is revealed in this movie, has a girlfriend named Yukio.

Bravo to Fox, who is the first studio to reveal any sort of LGBTQIA superhero on screen in a major superhero franchise. You’d think it wouldn’t have taken this long, but it somehow did. And? It’s treated with such a non-plussed attitude, it’s refreshing. Yes she has a girlfriend. No, it’s not a big deal. At all. And isn’t that how it should be?

So this is a really fun film. It starts strong, then takes a nap for about 45 minutes while it churns through all of the plot, and then gets really great again. Deadpool fans will get everything they want and more. And it makes you even more amped for sequels featuring Cable, Domino, and everyone else.

4 out of 5 stars

Movie Review: Atomic Blonde

atomic_blonde_posterMix source material graphic novel The Coldest City with classic thrillers like The French Connection, add in some modern Hong Kong-inspired action sequences and killer-thrillers like John Wick, and set it to the soundtrack of a 1989 Berlin discotheque, and you have Atomic Blonde.

It’s a perfect cocktail of fun, sexy, cool, and brutal as MI-6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) combs through Berlin on assignment to find a secret dossier that details all the identities and dirty laundry of secret agents around the world on all sides of the Cold War. It’s literally the weeks before the Berlin Wall is about to fall, making it even more dangerous as both sides are playing as though they have nothing left to lose.

Complicating matters is Britain’s station chief David Percival (James McAvoy) who has gone native, engaging in smuggling and information brokering beyond his normal job duties. Lorraine is also tasked with using the hunt for the list to uncover a mole within the agency who has been passing information to the Soviets. Further complicating things is French agent Delphine LaSalle (Sofia Boutella), with whom things get too close, and too personal, for Lorraine.

The film is absolutely gorgeous to look at. Scenes are framed like comic book panels, and the cold blue and grey color palate — punctuated by the occasional stark neon — help evoke  the specific time and place of the film’s setting.

What helps set this even more in late 80’s Cold War Berlin is the film’s soundtrack. A heavy industrial synth backbone of Depeche Mode, Ministry, and New Order are offset by the tenderness of Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry,” which takes on an added emotional resonance as a sort of love theme in the film. Depeche Mode reminds us “Sweet little girl/I’d prefer/ you behind the wheel/ and me the passenger” which becomes a sort of feminist anthem as we recognize that songs is now about Lorraine and Percival– and also gets us amped for a cool action sequence. Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran” is used perfectly in an eye-popping, jaw-dropping chase scene, and David Bowie makes not one, but two appearances on the soundtrack, giving the film its sort of ethos of “putting out fires with gasoline.”

As amazing and perfect as the soundtracks to Baby Driver and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 were, this is the soundtrack of the year.

One of the other most fun elements in the film is how it’s told– completely in flashback, with a beat-up, post-mission Lorraine being debriefed by her MI-6 handler (a perpetually uncomfortable-looking Toby Jones) and a senior official from the CIA (an incredibly annoyed John Goodman). The interplay between Theron, Jones, and Goodman is masterful and is the apotheosis of the beautiful character work that prevents this film from being simply a bloody spy thriller. We also see Lorraine holding back key details, letting us know she isn’t exactly the most reliable of narrators. This draws heavily from other great thrillers that use this device like The Usual Suspects, but also manages to be its own film.

One of the things that makes this so unique is its portrayal of a completely bisexual protagonist. And unlike James Bond who seems to hold little sentiment for his various romantic conquests who end up dead, Lorraine is motivated by her feelings for those she has fallen for. But, she’s still a kickass spy who puts her business first– we just also see a very human emotional toll this takes.

So much of the credit for this film need to go to director David Leitch. Best known as a stunt and second unit director who also cut his teeth on John Wick, Leitch is able to bring a dazzling and unique visual style sorely lacking in so many blockbusters. He also puts together a hell of a fight scene, one where we as the audience feel the weight of every blow and crunch of every bone and sinew. It helps that he’s drawing from The Coldest City graphic novel, whose authors get a script credit, to bring such a great story to life. But he does it with such great visual and auditory panache that this becomes one of the best movies of 2017, and a super cool way to chill out during the dog days of summer.

Go see this, then spend hours with your friends coming up with slash/fiction where Lorraine, John Wick, and the characters from Kingsman all meet up and fight each other.

4 out of 5 stars