Honor Among Thieves brings D&D to the big screen, Mystery 2 is charming, Wick 4 pushes limits

Aidan Monaghan/Paramount

Honor Among Thieves brings D&D to the big screen, Mystery 2 is charming, Wick 4 pushes limits

Now Streaming |Chuck Koplinski

Thieves a surprising, fun adventure

You could write all I know about Dungeons and Dragons on a grain of rice and still have room to inscribe the Bill of Rights. Be that as it may, it didn't prevent me from having a great time with Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, the second and much better attempt at bringing the role-playing game sensation to the big screen.

Chris Pine, never more charming, is Edgin, a quick-talking rogue who gets the band back together when he rounds up some old thieving cohorts of his to rescue his daughter, Kira (Chloe Coleman). The faithful warrior Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) needs no convincing to tag along, while the rescue of amateur sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith) from a mob of angry villagers compels him to lend what aid he can. Throw a shapeshifter (Sophia Lillis) into the mix, and they feel they're more than ready to storm the castle where their former cohort Forge (Hugh Grant) is holding Kira, aided by the sorceress Sofina (Daisy Head).

Though running over two hours, there's little downtime as directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who co-wrote the script with Michael Gilio, pack the film with fantastic action scenes and wry humor, making for a crowd-pleasing concoction. Pine, with a twinkle in his eye throughout, has great fun in the con man role, quick with a quip and quicker with an escape plan, which he and his crew are in constant need of. Rodriguez displays heretofore unseen comedic chops, her character dealing with a broken heart while mangling anyone who gets in her way, while Smith steals every scene he's in, bumbling through one misguided trick after another.

The tone of the film is perfect, as tongue is firmly planted in cheek by all, each reveling in, when they are not commenting on, the ridiculous nature of the entire premise. It's obvious this is intended to be the first entry in a franchise, and Paramount Pictures couldn't have asked for a better start. Reminiscent of Star Wars in its structure and execution, Thieves does everything right in terms of providing crowd-pleasing entertainment as well as wisely leaving us wanting more. In theaters.

Mystery 2 a charming diversion

In Murder Mystery 2, Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston return as Nick and Audrey Spitz, who are having a hard time getting their detective agency off the ground, despite solving the murder in the series' first entry. It should be noted, many people died before they caught the culprit.

Spinning their wheels and getting on each other's nerves, they're thrilled to get a call from their old friend The Maharajah (Adeel Akhtar), who informs them he is getting married and would like them to be at the wedding. Jetting off to an island paradise, the nuptials are interrupted when the groom is kidnapped and a ransom of $50 million is demanded for his safe return.

Metaphorically donning their deerstalkers, the Spitzes begin to analyze the long list of suspects. Could it be the Maharajah’s wife-to-be Claudette (Melanie Laurent)? Perhaps it’s his ex-fiancée Countess Sekou (Jodie Turner-Smith), or maybe the chairman of his board of directors, Francisco (Enrique Arce). Of course, his sister, Saira (Kuhoo Verma), certainly has her reasons. These usual suspects are joined by expert hostage negotiator Miller (Mark Strong), Inspector Delacroix (Dany Boone) and the Maharajah's bodyguard, Colonel Ulenga (John Kanni), all of whom are eager to solve this crime.

Each actor overplays their roles the tiniest bit, allowing the Spitzes to poke fun at them, leading to some generously hilarious moments. One of the highlights is a scene reminiscent of a sequence from the Marx Brothers film Animal Crackers in which a succession of people visit the Spitzes' room, all subsequently hiding from the others until there's nary an empty space left. The crackerjack pacing keeps the laughs coming at a steady pace, the cast all in tune with the ironic tone director Jeremy Garelick sustains throughout. By no means a classic, MM2 is still a pleasant enough diversion. Streaming on Netflix.

Wick 4 deliriously pushes the limits

Since bursting onto the screen in 2014, Chad Stahelski's John Wick films have become more and more outlandish, and in their own physics-defying way, have created a world unto themselves. In this universe, bones don't break, handguns never run out of bullets, international travel is accomplished without having to worry about money or passports, and Kevlar suits can apparently be produced to look like something you'd pick up at Brooks Brothers.

More than anything, the Wick films are extended tributes to the craft of stunt acting and the magic of movement. A stuntman himself, Stahelski has taken it upon himself to push the limits of his craft, all the while becoming the premiere action filmmaker of his age. As for the plot, it's thin, but hey, if you're plunking down 10 bucks to take in this flick, you're not expecting Knives Out.

Wick (the implacable Keanu Reeves) has been excommunicated from The Table, the deep state organization that seemingly runs the world and has an army of assassins at their disposal to make sure the trains run on time. The Marquis (Bill Skarsgard) decides he's going to make an example of the defiant killer, putting a $20 million ransom on his head while sending a league of assassins to take him down.

The mayhem that ensues is in equal measures spectacular and ridiculous, the showstopper being a car chase at the Arc de Triomphe, Wick driving his doorless Mustang against traffic, other autos and assassins on foot in pursuit. As our hero tries to dodge one oncoming car and killer that plagues him, the sequence becomes a real-life game of Frogger, villains left and right going splat.

Whether this is the end of the Wick franchise or not remains to be seen. While there seems to be a definitive closer, much like superhero films, there's always a way to justify one more go around. Here's hoping Laustsen is smart enough to make this the final chapter. Any more would be overkill. In theaters.

About The Author

Chuck Koplinski

Writing for Illinois Times since 1998, Chuck Koplinski is a member of the Critic's Choice Association, the Chicago Film Critics Association and a contributor to Rotten Tomatoes. He appears on WCIA-TV twice a week to review current releases and, no matter what anyone says, thinks Tom Cruise's version of The Mummy...

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