Thursday, July 15, 2021

LeBron tries to stir new 'Jam'; Tough gals really do it to thick 'Milkshake'

Teammates 'Bron and Bugs share a legitimately "Looney" reaction. 
He'll never be known as "LeBron James, Movie Star," but one of the top five NBA players of all time and certainly the best who ever wore a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform aqcuits himself well in trying to lift "Space Jam: A New Legacy" to new heights.

Still, the "stand-alone sequel" to 1996's equally looney "Space Jam," is no better -- or, thankfully, worse -- than that old Michael Jordan starrer, even if one of the tastiest servings of this "Jam" comes with a cameo from a very recognizable guy with a similar name. 

Speaking of monikers, there's also a notoriously funny rapping bit for cartoon wunderkind Porky Pig, who brings home the bacon everywhere he's seen as a real team player on the wacky "Tune Squad," put together by James and pal Bugs Bunny.

Otherwise, no surprise that the acting kudos go to Don Cheadle, as the mildly evil Al G. Rhythm -- get it? -- who pulls LeBron and his youngest son (likable newcomer Cedric Joe) into the "WB Serververse," where seemingly every Warner Bros. cartoon and movie character ever created gets at least a quick flash of screen time. (Incredibly, such oddballs as that scary Nun from "The Conjuring" franchise and Pennywise, the  "It" clown, both naturally cheering for Al G's "Goon Squad," are included along with the TV likes of Adult Swim darlings, "Rick and Morty.")

Th-th-th-that's not really all, folks, but you won't find more of the huge media conglomerate's tricky advertising gimmicks here.

(You can, however, look for them yourselves Friday at theaters everywhere or by streaming on HBO Max.) 

Rated "PG" by MPAA: some cartoon violence and language; 1:55; $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

If LeBron's father/son story takes place in a Tooniverse generally open to all ages, then please know that the mother/daughter doozy of a tale, smartly called "Gunpowder Milkshake," fills up a ruggedly violent, if colorful world strictly for adults only.

This guilty-pleasure thriller from Israeli filmmaker Navot Papushado ("Rabies") mostly begins with a hired gun (the fine Lena Heady) so much on the run she's forced to leave her youngster behind. (Before she departs, the two meet at a memorable diner/safehouse to share a sweet shake that will have to last them a long while.)

Fifteen years later, in fact, daughter Sam (nicely tough and vulnerable Karen Gillan) now has become an assassin, too. She's working for "The Firm," a mysterious business dealing in all things bad and instantly ready to dispose of employees who don't follow orders to a T. Uh, so guess who rarely does, despite the constant urgings of the outfit's ever-frustrated "PR man" (Paul Giamatti)?

In addition to the two on-target leads, an assortment of practically non-stop, mostly stylish action sequences, and a few darkly clever asides, three standout "librarians" try hard to save Sam's day, if not the entire movie. Yes, casting and experience always pay dividends, as strongly proven here by the trio portrayed by Angela Bassett, Carlo Gugino and Michelle Yeoh. I suspect we'll see most of this gang back together again in a sequel or series.  

(You can gulp "Gunpowder Milkshake" now on Netflix, or in a very select few theaters.)

Rated "R" by MPAA: Strong bloody violence throughout and language; 1:54; $ $ $ out of $5

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