Month: February 2017

John Wick: Chapter 2 – Review #64

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Image result for john wick chapter 2 posterJohn Wick: Chapter 2, directed by Chad Stahelski, is the sequel to the sleeper hit of 2014 John Wick, an
d continues right where the first movie left off, with John getting back his car. All seems relatively well, until crime lord Santino D’Antonio comes to his door. Under blood oath, John is forced back into killing, and in turn we get what we want, delicious action.

Like I said, the first John Wick came out of nowhere and surprised us all. An American action movie where you can actually see what the heck is going on? Yuen Woo-ping would be proud. The movie made Keanu Reeves into a legit action star, and an actually engaging story on top of that, even if it’s a simple one.

So, could this movie live up to the unexpected surprise of the first one? Can it do what a sequel is supposed to do, expand on the world of the movie and not be just a re-thread?

If you hoped the answer was yes, then you’re in luck.

Freaking hell, when’s the last time you remember a good sequel to an action movie? Expendables 2 maybe? John Wick: Chapter 2 strikes gold once again and becomes a rare freaking dodo of a movie as it can arguably be said that it is in fact better than the first movie.

It does everything that a movie is supposed to do, expand on the world of John Wick, where everyone in New York is an assassin apparently, and yet still hides John’s past enough to keep his aura of mystery. The action scenes are still some of the best that Hollywood has ever given us, attributed to the director being a stuntman and Keanu Reeves being a badass.

The characters in this movie are all just so slick and cool. You always get this feeling of they’re so much more than what they seem to be. Riccardo Scamarcio as the new villain is slimy, lying, despicable, basically everything we love to hate. Ruby Rose (hot damn) is his bodyguard, and she kicks ass, much better than her appearance in Return of Xander Cage, and rapper Common even has a grueling fight scene with Keanu. Props to him for actually going with it.

Is there anything bad to say about it? Not really. I mean, the worst thing I can think of is some shoddy looking motorcycle crash CGI, although I’m not even sure if it was CGI, so that point might be completely void.

…yeah, I got nothing. It’s just that good.

In conclusion, John Wick: Chapter 2 does what the best sequels do. They continue with the character’s story, introduce new characters and make them not wholly similar to the first ones, and introduce new additions to the world without completely de-mystifying it. Hell, it even pulls the home-run and leaves it open for another sequel, yet you don’t feel cheated on the ending. That’s like a once-in-a-blue-moon thing, and I’m glad to have seen that in the theater. A definite recommendation.

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xXx: Return of Xander Cage – Review #63

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MV5BMzcwMjkxMzQ3NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzgyNDA5MDI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_.jpgxXx: Return of Xander Cage, directed by D. J. Caruso, stars Vin Diesel as the titular Cage and is set years after the original movie, where Cage faked his death and went into self-exile. He is found and called back, and now he must race against time to recover a sinister weapon known as Pandora’s Box, a device that controls every military satellite in the world. Recruiting a new group of thrill-seeking cohorts, Xander finds himself entangled in a deadly conspiracy that points to collusion at the highest levels of government.

Believe me, it’s not as cool as it sounds.

How does one objectively critique a movie when it doesn’t take itself seriously? I mean, this movie certainly doesn’t. It has a cameo from a footballer whom apparently is secret agent worthy, for goodness sake.

The plot? Pffh. Who cares about something like that? It’s just there to tie up the action set-pieces, right?

I suppose the only way I can really judge it is on how entertaining it was to me. And for the most part, it was…lackluster. Anything that didn’t involve Donnie Yen or Tony Jaa was an incomprehensible mess, but hey, what else do you expect from a multi-million dollar mainstream action movie? We don’t want to potentially hurt our stars!

If it seems like I’m giving this movie a bashing, it’s because I am. We deserve better action scenes, damnit! The John Wick franchise won’t cut it!

But I will say that for the all around poor action scenes, the movie makes up for it with charisma and a general fun attitude. I won’t deny that I enjoyed myself in the theater.

The acting ranges from “eh” to “Jesus shit biscuits what were they thinking”. Vin Diesel blazes through the whole thing having the time of his life, and I’ll give the movie props for not casting Jaa and Yen as the silent, stern, no-bullshit kung fu master archetype, even though I myself actually like that archetype. They actually get to smile in this.

But when it drops the ball though…what the hell was Toni Collette doing? I have never heard dialogue delivery that frustrated me, but I guess there’s a first for everything. Her tone is off, her facial expressions are off, her delivery is way off; thank God she appears in the movie less than she could’ve had.

But besides that turd of a performance, it’s overall fine. You can see most of them are just doing whatever and having fun, and in a way I can respect that.

In conclusion, xXx: Return of Xander Cage is not a good movie, but it’s definitely a fun movie. It’s worth seeing it in the theater if it’s as a matinee price.

Split – Review #62

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Split, dirImage result for split movie posterected by M. Night Shyamalan, is the story of a kidnapping, with a very particular kidnapper. Three teenage girls are captured by a man named Kevin. Who’s also a man named Barry. Who’s also a woman named Dennis. Who’s also a woman named Patricia. Who’s also a 9 year old kid named Hedwig.

…let me explain. Or actually, let the film explain. Because this is a movie worth watching.

M. Night Shyamalan, a director whose reputation has made a name for itself. We all know the “what a twist!” meme and his less than stellar last few works.

My first real exposure to Avatar was his Last Airbender movie. I was 10. I had the DVD. I kinda liked it.

…the pitchforks can wait.

But yeah, besides that, I have no experience with his work. I haven’t seen The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, and not even his “so bad it’s good” movies. Besides The Last Airbender, that is. Heh.

But hey, I judge a movie on its own, not on its reputation it or its director might have. And in the instance for Split, it’s actually not that bad.

With a concept as…well, high as this, you go in to it with a sort of defensive stance. Dissociative Identity Disorder is a very real mental order, and the last thing any mental disorder patient needs is to be compared to a less than truthful or shining portrayal on the screen.

And, considering James McAvoy plays a serial kidnapper…yeah, this could have some problems.

But I’ll give Shyamalan credit where credit’s due. He uses the mental disorder as the crux for the villain, yes, but he also takes time to really give us the sense of tragedy this man goes through. You feel horrible for him, but you’re disgusted by him as well. He’s someone you want to be rid of, but not necessarily hurt him if possible. Shyamalan did that really well, with James McAvoy’s performances just being the cream on top. We’ll get back to him later.

The three main girls are played by Anna Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, and Jessica Sula in order of film prominence. Taylor-Joy is our main girl, and she was amazing. I saw her in The VVitch and she was absolutely brilliant in that, and here she’s no different. I haven’t seen Richardson or Sula in anything, but they were alright as well. Not as good as Taylor-Joy, but acceptable.

However, the guy we’re all there to see is good ol’ James McAvoy, and Christ on crackers he gives a stunning brilliance. The guy just gives it his all, he goes so over the top with it it actually turns around and becomes unbelievable. The movie’s worth seeing just for him alone.

Of course, this movie has its faults. Shyamalan has no idea howto write teenagers. He’s trying oh so hard, but it just doesn’t work. That Shyamalan stilted-ness is there. It’s actually not much present in the other actors, just the teenage girls.

And yes, there kinda is a twist to it. It’s less of a “changing the whole dynamic of the story” twist a la The Sixth Sense, it’s more of a “Huh, so that’s why this can happen” twist. Fair warning, if you haven’t seen or know his previous works, you might not get it. That’s all I’ll say.

In conclusion, Split was a surprisingly entertaining movie. It was well shot, it’s story well told, and the acting for the most part was solid. A good recommendation, this is.

Arrival – Review #61

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ArImage result for arrival posterrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve, tells the story of one Louise Banks, a university lecturer and linguist whose life is turned upside down when one day, out of the blue, 12 mysterious objects appear all over Earth. The governments of the world, understandably spooked by this, try to communicate with the objects, and the U.S. government call for Banks. What follow is a slow burner, a mind-bender of a film, and one of my favorite films of 2016.

Man, Denis Villeneuve is having a ball of a career, isn’t he? Dude’s getting accolades left and right not just for this film, but for his previous works as well. The only other movie I’ve watched from him is Sicario, but yeah, Sicario was pretty damn good, and I can’t wait for his Blade Runner sequel. People have compared him to David Fincher, and I can definitely see that. Meticulous in shot design, no directly distinctive and noticeable style or technique, his works stand on its own. You won’t be looking at a particular scene of his movies and go “hah, that is so a Villenueve shot”. A very workmanlike director, he is.

But anyways, back to Arrival, and yeah, the critical lauding for it is very well deserved. It’s been so long since I’ve seen a film that made me go “ooh”, and much longer since I’ve seen a sci-fi film that did it-I read The Martian before watching it. Heck, I don’t think it’s even happened before.

It feels so good to see a movie that doesn’t hold the audience’s hand. I want to say “high-brow” but that’s not really the word for it, is it? “Mature” seems more like it. It tells it’s story, and doesn’t give two shits if you get lost amongst the plot structure. The plot itself is easy enough to follow, but the way they told it completely twists your thought and perceivings of previous scenes, giving them a completely new context. I did not expect this type of mind-fuckery, and I’m glad it was in it.

Amy Adams helmed the film as Louise Banks, and she was amazing in this. Oscar worthy? I personally don’t think so, but I can definitely see why others would. The co-star Jeremy Renner was great as well, and the rest of the main and supporting cast all do well.

What stuck with me the most though, was the aliens themselves. In the risk of some of you haven’t seen it, I won’t describe how it actually looks, but they’re just subdued and hidden enough that it gives its sense of mystery and wonder to the audience with flying colors.

If Arrival can only win one Academy Award, it has to be for Best Sound Mixing/Editing purely for the aliens alone (I can never figure the difference between those two). It uses sound cues and effects to bring them to life, and it works wonders.

There really is nothing immediately wrong about this movie that I can immediately see. Everything works, and works amazingly well. If I really have to nitpick, and this is going into mild spoiler territory, is that in the beginning the way you think the plot was gonna go was quite…stereotypical? But in the end they completely subvert that, so really that nitpick is completely null and void. Eh.

In conclusion, Arrival is what I heard it was and what I wanted it to be, and it is that with excellence. This came to my country late, so that’s why I only got to review it now, but if a few of you still haven;t seen it, I very much recommend it.