Two predictable flicks, but Holler is full of originality

Hitman a loud bore
I missed going to the movies. You know what I haven't missed? Bloated action movies that don't contain a single original idea, just a plethora of rote action sequences that are supposed to pass for entertainment. Case in point, The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard, a needless sequel that brutally reminded me of how vacuous a film can be and how so many millions of dollars could be senselessly wasted.

Ryan Reynolds returns in the title role, this time roped into helping not only his former reluctant client, assassin Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) but his foul-mouthed wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek), as well. I can't bore you with any intricacies where the plot is concerned because there aren't any. There's an evil mastermind (Antonio Banderas) intent on wiping out all of Europe's internet databases for some vague reason, all the while, the bickering trio must dispatch a variety of bad guys as they attempt to stop him. Loud and dumb, this is an exercise in lowbrow entertainment that will regrettably find a wide audience that will embrace it. The mediocrity on display is exhausting, the constant use of the F-bomb passing for pithy dialogue, every explosion and gunfight proof that it lacks a modicum of imagination. In theaters.

Raw Holler a bracing look at modern poverty
Starkly rendered and powerfully told, Nicole Riegel's debut feature looks at one young woman's attempt to lift herself out of a dire situation not of her making. Jessica Barden gives an impressive performance as Ruth, a 16-year-old in southern Ohio who, along with her brother (Austin Amelio), has been left to fend for herself. Her mother (Pamela Adlon) in jail, the siblings have turned to salvaging scrap metal from the many abandoned factories that dot the landscape. It's dangerous but high-paying work, the only option they have if they want to scrape together enough money so Ruth can go to college.

Shooting on 16 mm film gives the movie a gritty feel that compliments the industrial blight the pair navigate as they dismantle equipment in the abandoned factories. Riegel pulls no punches, offering no simple solutions where Ruth's problems are concerned, instead shining a light on those who've been left behind in America's Rust Belt, where opportunities for a better life disappeared overnight. Barden is fierce and has us in Ruth's corner from the start, her strength and anger propelling her towards a sliver of tattered hope. Available through Video-on-Demand.    

Predictable Bees lacks sting
Chances are good your grandparents have never seen Mean Girls. That being the case, Michael Lembeck's Queen Bees will come off as remarkably original. The setting is not a California high school but Pine Grove Retirement Center, a palatial resort-like community where Helen (Ellen Burstyn) reluctantly goes for what she insists is a temporary stay, while her house is being renovated. There she encounters Janet, Sally and Margot (Jane Curtain, Loretta Devine, and Ann-Margret), the titular trio who bully their way toward running the place. Helen runs afoul of them but can see through their bluster and ends up winning them over, once she shows she won't be buffaloed.

Innocuous and predictable, the film plays out like a Hallmark movie for seniors, replete with a love interest in the person of James Caan, a charming widower who captures Helen's heart, despite her misgivings. There’s not a cliché that’s not covered here (aren't septuagenarians cute when they get high?) but the audience this is pitched to will likely welcome the lack of surprises, comforted by the familiarity it contains. In theaters.

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