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Uncharted Review | Indiana Holland is Good as Gold



Nuns, why does it always have to be nuns?” asks Tom Holland’s Nathan Drake in the film adaptation of Uncharted. This is just one of the many references (some subtle, some not so subtle) to the great Indiana Jones, whose fingerprints, along with Lara Croft, are all over Uncharted. From the outfits Holland and Wahlberg wear to the Indiana Jones-like flyover of a map to the attitude of Nathan Drake in the video games, Uncharted owes a lot to the archeologist in a fedora. And while the latest attempt at a video game adaptation won’t please all fans of the video game franchise, it’s one of the best attempts at commercializing a franchise in recent memories, mostly in due part to the fact that you’ll forget it’s an adaptation of anything, quite frankly. Tom Holland is not a perfect Nathan Drake; at times it’s hard to see the stoic and blunt Nathan Drake of the video games, but it’s the boyish charm that has given Holland the career he’s had thus far that’ll make you smile whenever he quips while hitting people with bottles of alcohol, as cheesy as some of these moments are. Uncharted is a great adventure movie, and far better than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a movie even I, a bit fan of that franchise, have a soft spot for. As hard to believe as it is if Disney and co. want to take a few pages out of the playbook of Uncharted, it may be in their best interest to bring them back to their roots.

Uncharted follows Nathan Drake, who is roped into an adventure by Victor Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg), to hunt down the treasure of the Magellan expedition. 

We kick off Uncharted with a big action set piece: Tom Holland playing leapfrog across cargo crates (so great we get to see it twice!). Right when it starts getting good, we do the cliché action movie trope of (slickly) transitioning from one shot to another of Nathan as a young boy. This is where we get the brief backstory of Nathan and Sam, Nathan’s brother who likely listened to Only The Good Die Young one too many times, and then we’re reintroduced to Tom Holland who is, like Peter Parker, in NY. Nathan is a nighttime bartender and bracelet-stealing scoundrel, using his charm and bag full of magic tricks, by this I mean a lighter that can barely set alight given to him by his brother 15 years prior, to steal valuables unbeknownst of his victims. One night, Sully (Wahlberg), offers him an in on an operation that could make both of them a fortune, thus setting our adventure on its course.

Tom Holland stars as Nathan Drake in Columbia Pictures’ UNCHARTED.

The Nathan Drake of the video games, to my knowledge (of about two hours of playtime of Uncharted 4), is the amalgamation of two of Harrison Ford’s most iconic characters, Han Solo and Indiana Jones. The smug and witty nature of Nathan was always something I doubted Holland could pull off. Luckily, this young version of Nathan hasn’t had his heart hardened quite yet, just give it a few more years of chasing Chloe (Sophia Ali) to no avail, and that boyish nature has some more “shits” and drinks sprinkled that remind you that Holland is indeed an adult. More in line with the video game version of Nathan is Sully, played by the great Mark Wahlberg (more on him later).

It’s no secret that I’m oftentimes very critical of Tom Holland. As a teenager, I loved him as Spider-Man, but the gawky looks grew tired after a while. And while he doesn’t necessarily reinvent himself in Uncharted, even striking a Spider-Man pose or two, he plays the role of the hero well and with enough charm that it’s hard to not root for him. Part of that charm, however, is that “gee-whiz” energy when he exclaims: “Oh my god, I’m so sorry! It was completely reactionary!” after dodging a crate and watching it hit one of the nameless henchmen in pursuit (something I called would happen coming into the film). If you heard his voice when reading that quote, I’ve done my job and you’ll understand what I mean.

But Holland is undeniably good at playing the protagonist, and his Nathan Drake is still learning the game. Oftentimes too trusting, Nathan gets his ass kicked on numerous occasions as a result. It’s clear that this is a story devoted to showing the progression of Nathan, he seems far more confident by the mid-credits scene, and while waiting until the very end of a first movie in a (hopeful) franchise usually weighs down movies, see Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, seeing another few movies would be welcomed from this Indiana Jones lover.

Tom Holland stars as Nathan Drake in Columbia Pictures’ UNCHARTED. photo by: Clay Enos

Sully, like Nathan, was always going to be hard to nail. You had to pair someone with Holland who could pull off a mentor role, but he also had to be a little snarky in order to keep up with the expected quipping. Wahlberg plays Sully by “Mark Wahlberg-ering” his way through lines, which is not a completely bad thing (who doesn’t love Mark Wahlberg?), but this is where the commercialization of this film comes into play. Wahlberg is, more than anything, a big enough name to go second billing to Holland and draw some more butts in seats. Diehard fans of the game were likely upset, and that’s fair. But as far as a Hollywood version of the film goes, it worked. He’s sarcastic, throwing zingers right back at Holland (one about Holland’s height), and the two make for a fun duo. The same lesson from Nathan Drake applies: Go in with no expectations of his this character should be portrayed, and you’ll be fine. It’s perhaps a cop-out but think of Uncharted as a movie that takes inspiration from the video games, rather than a straight adaptation. More than Nathan’s right-hand man, this version of Sully is more like Sapito (Alfred Molina) in Raiders of the Lost Ark with a significant upgrade in lines.

Holland and Wahlberg are the standouts, mainly because they’re shoved down your face for most of the runtime, but out of all of the supporting cast, Sophia Ali is the standout by a wide margin. I don’t know her character of Chloe, but her scenes with Holland and Wahlberg made for fun banter. There’s a chase sequence involving Chloe and Nathan, and it was one of the most engaging scenes of the film. Antonio Banderas is kind of in the film, playing your typical Indiana Jones villain with daddy issues, but is hardly remarkable. He shares one scene with Holland, and perhaps to avoid going into any spoiler territory, his presence left a lot to be desired. An antagonist shouldn’t have enough screentime to barely cover a pee break, and it’s truly hard to remember any scenes with Banderas. It’s awfully possible he didn’t want a part of Uncharted, but he was willingly in Doolittle. He will appear in Indiana Jones 5, so maybe he was just holding out on us. Tati Gabrielle plays Sully’s rival, Jo Braddock, but even despite being in the film significantly more than Banderas, she wasn’t that memorable either. She holds a knife up to people’s necks enough times that it would get you a buzz if you took a shot with each instance, but that’s about it. I guess a fight in an international Papa John’s was cool.

Tom Holland, Sophia Taylor Ali, and Mark Wahlberg star in Columbia Pictures’ UNCHARTED. photo by: Clay Enos

Now, Uncharted’s biggest flaws are not doing much to raise its stakes. I get it, it’s an attempt to blossom into Holland’s “side hoe” franchise to the MCU, so inherently, the stakes were never going to be sky-high. But while a basic plot can be forgivable, (literal and metaphorical) constant double-crosses are not the way to go in an attempt to compensate. You’ll see them a mile away, and if any heist/adventure movie taught you anything, don’t trust anyone, except the lead character. Most of these double-crosses will likely come with no gasps from audience members, and it’ll make Death on the Nile‘s twists seem like shocking revelations.

The action set pieces are about as ambitious as a standard MCU outing. They’re visually engaging enough, nothing special, but the amount of hand-to-hand combat is welcomed. Yes, they’re filled with some cringe-worthy quips, but I don’t remember another movie where Holland was put in situations that he had to exchange fists to get out of.

There is some choppy pacing, which should be talked about. While Uncharted will never bore you, it comes at the expense of basking in a scene. As stated, the opening of the film is a set piece, jumping right to Nathan’s introduction and within what feels like 20 minutes, we’re already on a heist mission with Nathan and Sully. It’s great that it doesn’t slow, I’m not sure these characters need much expansion, but there are far too many montages while characters “research,” or should I say stare at maps and postcards, and those Indiana Jones-like map moments occur on more than one occasion.

Uncharted is a ton of fun because, well, it’s not trying to be a faithful adaptation of the video games. I’m sure there are plenty of nods to the series, I recognized a few story beats even though I am a very casual player, but it works as an adventure franchise movie that we rarely get nowadays. It’s just pure popcorn fun and likely accomplishes what The Lost City hopes to do later this spring. Don’t be scared off by the February release date, Uncharted is anything but your standard “Q1 disaster.” Maybe Sony wanted to ride off of the Spider-Man wave, but a spring/summer release date would have been even better.

Sony will release Uncharted on February 18.


Andrew is an entertainment journalist and film "critic" who has written for the likes of Above the Line, Below the Line, Collider, Film Focus Online, /Film and The Hollywood Handle among others. Leader of the Kaitlyn Dever Fanclub.

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Hypnotic Review | Robert Rodriguez’s Studio Bankrupting Actioner Is His Worst-Ever Film

Robert Rodriguez’s latest movie is his worst-ever project yet, with a baffling script and ridiculously inert performances from its leads.



Imagine a studio paying so much money for a screenplay that it literally bankrupted them. That’s what happened when Solstice Studios acquired Robert Rodriguez’s Hypnotic, which, on paper, does sound quite interesting: the film chronicles a police detective’s (Ben Affleck) quest to find Lev Dellrayne (William Fichtner), the person who kidnapped his daughter. Dellrayne is hypnotic, meaning he can easily manipulate someone’s mind and perception of reality by uttering a few words to someone.

Detective Rourke (Affleck) teams up with Diana Cruz (Alice Braga), a powerful hypnotic, to take town Dellrayne, but things are quickly not as they seem… Again, that sounds like an interesting premise, and it is seemingly very much a riff on Christopher Nolan’s Memento, Inception, and Tenet (perhaps in 2010, it would’ve been a box office juggernaut), but its execution is amazingly sloppy and barely watchable.

Rodriguez has always been known for making movies through a cheap and no-nonsense style, and it has worked to great effect in his El Mariachi trilogy and even in the Spy Kids flicks. Hell, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl is a guilty pleasure for many, even if its screenplay is one of the worst ever written, and the CGI is an absolute nightmare to watch. Rodriguez has also proven himself to direct massive blockbusters like Alita: Battle Angel and episodes of The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett. He is an incredibly versatile filmmaker, but his filmography has been mostly inconsistent.

You’d think that a scenario like Hypnotic would mean success for Rodriguez as he gives his own spin on Nolan’s trippiest movies, but he cannot save this film from being anything more than a disaster. There isn’t a single actor that gives a good performance here. Affleck looks particularly bored trying to assimilate every ounce of exposition Braga and Fichtner consistently deliver. None of the characters feel like they are human or live in a human world with extraordinary circumstances. The dialogue is mostly flat and unengaging, with Braga’s character being the worst offender of them all.

I cannot for the life of me explain to you all what a “Hypnotic” truly is because the film keeps adding more information to the concept without necessarily explaining how that’s important. Such an expository-heavy movie needs more time to make the audience understand exactly what’s going on, but it continuously jumps the shark whenever it gets quasi-interesting and has “fun” blurring the line between reality and fiction. Is what you’re seeing even real? Is it a construct of Rourke’s imagination? Is Dellrayne an actual character? Who knows, and who cares!

The film gives the audience little motivation or interest to care about what’s happening because it overexplains the concept of hypnotics to the point where no one truly understands their purpose and underexplains everything else. Of course, it’s fine for a movie to be ambiguous and suspend certain elements. But for the movie to do that, its narrative must be tight, and its thematic elements must be strong. Hypnotic doesn’t have any of that.

It also doesn’t help that none of the action scenes are remotely engaging. They’re shot with the energy of an Asylum flick and edited in the vein of an Olivier Megaton picture. You cannot see a damn thing, but what you actively see are the actors sleepwalking through the setpieces. There’s no engagement from any of the stars — they perform in those sequences as if they were handcuffed and desperately want to leave.

But the worst part of the film is its midpoint twist, which changes everything that came before and is ridiculously uninspired. It feels like a total cop-out. I won’t spoil what it is, and you’re better off discovering it on your own, but it is amazingly lazy and insults the audience’s patience and intelligence. It also thinks it’s smart to add in so many twists and turns to subvert audience expectations after its “core” twist, but they all fall flat and deliver absolutely nothing of note for the viewer.

There’s no fun to be had watching Hypnotic. Even Rodriguez’s worst films have a campy quality to them that makes them watchable. Hypnotic isn’t unintentionally hilarious, nor campy enough for me to have cared. It’s not worth anyone’s time, and it certainly wasn’t worth bankrupting an emerging studio for having paid way too much money for such a mediocre script…


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‘Navalny’ Review: Jaw-dropping Tale of Russia’s Most Fascinating Political Activist



There are times when we see a documentary and it forces us to think about subject matter that we might not have given thought to otherwise. Watching a documentary is never easy because it takes you on a journey that might trigger a lot of people. That’s what documentarian Daniel Roher did with his recent project, titled ‘Navalny’. Almost everyone knows who Alexei Navalny is, what he did, and why the Russian government fear him. But only a fraction of the population knows about the struggles he went through to make people realize how Vladimir Putin has been poisoning the minds of millions of Russians and running a government that is full of corrupt people.

Navalny is considered to be an influential figure in Russia and his story is nothing short of an edge-of-the-seat thriller. In the documentary, filmmaker Daniel Roher takes a journalistic approach and follows Navalny’s every move. However, the documentary primarily focuses on the events surrounding his poisoning in Tomsk, Siberia, in August 2020, and the subsequent investigation. It was a miracle that the Russian revolutionary survived and went ahead with the investigation. The extraordinary footage provided by Roher makes this documentary an enthralling watch and there are moments when viewers will be on the edge of their seats to see what happens next. From the footage of the poisoning and investigation to lengthy interviews with Navalny and his loved ones, this documentary will give viewers all the details of why Navalny became such an influential person in Russia and across the globe.

Through the documentary, Navalny comes across as a force to be reckoned with and a person who never shies away from putting on a show for his followers and his nemesis. But he is acutely aware of the constant shadow of death that looms over him. This is what makes him so relatable. If you ever take on a powerful person, you know he or she has all the resources of taking you down at any point in time. Navalny never thought of such consequences and moved forward with his strategies so that he could expose what Putin and his government is doing in Russia.

Despite being a documentary, ‘Navalny’ has all the hallmarks of being a spy novel and keeps the audiences hooked from beginning to end. One particular scene with Navalny talking to one of the men who poisoned him on a phone call is undoubtedly one of the most jaw-dropping moments in the history of cinema. These moments make viewers feel like they are watching a spy thriller and not a documentary. To be honest, this movie is more than just a documentary, it is a testament to what people have the go through while battling corrupt people.

Navalny [credit: HBO Max]

But one thing that this documentary does so well is that it shows how people around him were also at significant risk. His wife, Yulia, played a significant role in pushing Navalny forward and provides much-needed human moments Roher gets up close and personal with Navalny, who doesn’t shy away from answering tough questions, including ones about his past associations with the far-right in Russia.

It is one of the rare documentaries that are highly engaging and draws the audience into the drama through its skillful editing and pacing. From the very first frame, it is evident that ‘Navalny’ wants to reach a wider audience and comes forward with moments that are both emotional and thought-provoking.

The Russian revolutionary doesn’t want the public to stop if he gets assassinated or dies in prison and that’s why he categorically made it clear that this film should not act as a tribute to the work he has done in his life.

The documentary is a unique tale of one of the most brazen incidents of state-sponsored assassination in memory, making it a must-see film for any who is interested in knowing about a man fighting against his country.

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Shooting Stars Review | Unfocused Sports Biopic Throws a Brick

Peacock’s Shooting Stars has noble aspirations, but doesn’t amount to anything remotely intriguing or thought-provoking.



There have been several major basketball pictures this year, with Ben Affleck’s Air and Calmatic’s White Men Can’t Jump remake being considerable successes. This week, it’s Universal’s turn with Shooting Stars, based on the 2009 memoir of the same name written by LeBron James and Buzz Bissinger. The film chronicles the life of a young LeBron (Mookie Cook) as he plays in the St.Vincent-St.Mary High School basketball team with his friends Dru Joyce III (Caleb McLaughlin), Sian Cotton (Khalil Everage), Romeo Travis (Scoot Henderson) and Illya McGee (Algee Smith).

The film’s basketball scenes are shot with great verve by cinematographer Karsten Gopinath. Drones have been part of our collective imagination since Michael Bay showed the world how great of a filmmaking tool it can be with Ambulance, and here, Gopinath and director Chris Robinson use it to terrific effect. The film cuts to an overhead drone shot of a building slowly panning to LeBron during one of its opening scenes, and there’s an even more impressive shot of a drone going into a net, spiraling backward as if it were a basketball.

Stuff like this is so cool to watch, but it seems like Gopinath and Robinson use every trick in their arsenal during the film’s opening hour and starts to fizzle out afterward. The movie then becomes a highly conventional basketball picture with less interesting stakes and style than what came before. When Shooting Stars pushes the stylistic envelope, it’s a marvel to look at. But when it starts to morph into something terribly conventional and formulaic, it’s a massive bore.

Barring two great supporting performances, none of the leads are memorable in any way. Cook does his best as LeBron but can’t match the charm the real LeBron has had on the court and in film. The same can be said for every other lead: their performances are lethargic, and they feel devoid of any legitimate charm or kinship that would solidify a movie like this and make it memorable. Some of the scenes where they bond together on the court are well made (because of their impressive visual kinetics), but they seem to come few and far between.

Shooting Stars [credit: Universal Pictures]

Most of the character arcs and relationships feel underdeveloped since the movie focuses most of its time on the basketball scenes. And as impressive as they are from a purely visual standpoint, they’re not so impressive from a storytelling standpoint. The basketball scenes don’t necessarily develop the characters and don’t draw interesting stakes for the audiences to become invested in the film.

Thankfully, Wood Harris and Dermot Mulroney are excellent as coaches Dru Joyce II and Keith Dambrot, respectively. Harris is the film’s emotional core and the main reason why anyone would want to seek it out. His dramatic presence is unparalleled and delivers monologues of terrific profundity. It’s a shame that the leads can’t match, or at least can’t feel as tangible as Harris in this film and in most of the performances he gives.


Ultimately, Shooting Stars doesn’t hit a slam dunk. The film’s underdeveloped core of main characters, paper-thin plot, and formulaic structure doesn’t help it, even if the basketball scenes and two strong performances help it become quasi-engaging. But it’s not enough for me to recommend you seek it out, even if you’re a massive LeBron fan. You’re better off reading the book it’s based on instead of watching a biopic where you’ll learn nothing of value from LeBron or the “fab four” that shaped him.



Shooting Stars is now streaming on Peacock. 

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