BUFFALO, N.Y. — The first thing the prospective filmgoer needs to know about Shaft is that it really lives up to it’s MPAA rating, for indeed it is chock-a-block full of really foul language, and lots and lots of violence. The second thing the prospective filmgoer needs to know is that it’s also very funny, and not just courtesy of Jackson (Captain Marvel, Snakes on a Plane), either. It is a solidly entertaining film action flick that consistently delivers through its entire run time.

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(L-R) JESSIE T. USHER as John "JJ" Shaft, SAMUEL L. JACKSON as John Shaft and RICHARD ROUNDTREE as John Shaft, Sr. in New Line Cinema's action comedy "SHAFT," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

That's quite an ensemble cast, and that isn't all of them.

Another generation of the Shaft family, John, Jr. (Usher, When the Game Stands Tall, Independence Day: Resurgence) is working in Law Enforcement in New York City. This youngest Shaft, however, works for the FBI as a Cyber Analyst doesn’t like guns, and doesn’t resort to profanity with quite the frequency and regularity as his estranged father. His mom, Maya, (Hall, Little, Girls Trip) left his dad years ago after their lives were threatened in a street side shootout. John, Jr. (J.J.) hasn’t heard much from his dad in the intervening decades, except for the wildly inappropriate birthday and Christmas presents (porno magazines, condoms, a Superbowl ring).  

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(L-R) REGINA HALL as Maya and JESSIE T. USHER as John "JJ" Shaft in New Line Cinema's action comedy "SHAFT," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Of course, Mom would really like it if Dad stayed all the way out of the picture.

So, when J.J.'s best friend, a friend since childhood, Karim (Avan Jogia, The Year of Spectacular Men, The Drowning), turns up dead, the victim of an unaccountable drug overdose, J.J. undertakes to find out what really happened. When an impromptu interrogation of a Bronx drug dealer (Ian Casselberry, Get Out, Dallas Buyers Club) goes horribly awry, J.J. decides to seek out his father’s help.  

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(L-R) JESSIE T. USHER as John "JJ" Shaft and ALEXANDRA SHIPP as Sasha in New Line Cinema's action comedy "SHAFT," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Kyle Kaplan

It's nice to have a doctor friend for when you get beat up by drug dealers.

There is quite a reunion when J.J. goes to see his father at his office; a reunion that includes a semi-naked woman answering the door, and the business end of a pistol pressed to the back of his head. Of course, when the elder Shaft discovers the injury suffered by the younger Shaft at the hands of the aforementioned drug dealer, the father decides to help out the son, and along the way, remonstrate in true Shaft fashion with that dealer over the treatment the younger Shaft received. It goes badly for the drug dealer. So, in spite of the fact that J.J. finds his father’s methods repugnant, the two team up to find out what really happened. A lot of gunplay, assorted violence, and funny, funny dialogue ensues.

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(Center) SAMUEL L. JACKSON as John Shaft in New Line Cinema's action comedy "SHAFT," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

He's gonna teach his son to be a playa, just like his old man!

As should surprise no one at all familiar with the body of Jackson’s work, his performance is the centerpiece of this film. Here is the thing that most elevates this film, however: the other principals, Usher, Hall, and Roundtree manage to hold their own in every scene with Jackson.  

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(L-R) RICHARD ROUNDTREE as John Shaft, Sr. and SAMUEL L. JACKSON as John Shaft in New Line Cinema's action comedy "SHAFT," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Kyle Kaplan

Like in this scene, right here.

This makes the dialogue every bit the equal of the action sequences in terms of sheer entertainment value. Shaft is simply the kind of film that is possessed of such good pacing, such clever writing as to elicit loud laughter and other types of spontaneous feedback from the audience regarding the goings-on onscreen. In short, quite an addition to be a solid private detective action flick, Shaft is a hoot.

Tim Story’s (Think Like a Man, Ride Along) direction is competent and clever. Story also manages to incorporate a certain 70’s vibe to the film. That, of course, makes utter directorial sense, given the vintage of the original Shaft (1971).  There’s runnin’ and gunnin’ aplenty.

The story makes some important social points, but those aren’t the point of the film. This film entertains. It does that so well, that it deserves 4 out of 5 stars.

Shaft is rated R for pervasive language, violence, sexual content, some drug material, and brief nudity and runs 111 minutes.

Men in Black International also is opening the Western New York Theatres. It stars Chris Hemsworth (Avengers: Endgame, Thor) and Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok, Creed). 

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Agent M (Tessa Thompson) and Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) in the lobby of MIB London in Columbia Pictures’ MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL.
Photo Credit: Giles Keyte

Yeah, that's Thor and Valkyrie.

They have considerable chemistry, but even with that, and a talented cast, Men In Black International is a galaxy away from great. In fact, Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian called it "Meh in Black." This reviewer thinks it's better than that, but not by much, and deserves 2 and a half out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

Men in Black International was directed by F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton). It's rated PG-13 for sci-fi action, some language, and suggestive material and runs 111 minutes. Emma Thompson (The Children Act, Nanny McPfee) is in Men in Black International to, but only for a little while.

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Emma Thompson (Agent O) in her office in Columbia Pictures’ MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL.
Credit: Giles Keyte. © 2018 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Thompson is also in Late Night, also opening in Western New York. It had a limited release on June 7, 2019. Late Night is a film about this reviewer's second favorite thing in the whole world, television.

Mindy Kaling (Inside Out, Ocean's Eight) wrote the screenplay and has one of the lead roles, Thompson the other. This reviewer likes Kaling, and Emma Thompson is one of his favorites, so you would think that a comedy with those two about TV would be a sure-fire thing. Not necessarily. Oh, Late Night is good, but good is a long way from great. Late Night is funny, and at times even sweet, but, it’s a bit uneven, and sometimes a bit preachy.  

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Mindy Kaling as Molly Patel in Late Night
Emily Aragones, Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Mindy's character looks so happy to be headed to her first job in television. In the real world, that would change with a quickness.

Three and a half out of 5 boxes of popcorn is about all I can muster up for Late Night. Its rated R for language throughout and some sexual references. Nisha Ganatra (Cake) directs this 102-minute long film. In its defense, it takes a pretty unvarnished look at some of the cruelest and unfair aspects of this business and manages to mine them for comedy. Kaling is good at that, and who knew that Thompson used to do standup comedy.  

Speaking of comedy, there’s nothing funnier than a good old Zombie based comedy.  

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(L to R) Bill Murray as "Officer Cliff Robertson", Chloë Sevigny as "Officer Minerva Morrison" and Adam Driver as "Officer Ronald Peterson" in writer/director Jim Jarmusch's THE DEAD DON'T DIE, a Focus Features release. Credit : Abbot Genser / Focus Features © 2019 Image Eleven Productions, Inc.
Abbot Genser / Focus Features

It seems like they're looking at us!

Jim Jarmush’s (Broken Flowers) The Dead Don’t Die looks like it may live up to that. It stars folks like Bill Murray (Ghostbusters, Lost in Translation), Adam Driver (BlacKKKlansman, Logan Lucky) and Chloë Sevigny (The Brown Bunny, Dogville) and looks like it might be awesome.  I can’t wait to see it.  It’s Rated R for zombie violence/gore…well, duh…and for language.