Category Archives: Movies

“To the Bone” Movie Review

Damn it, Netflix. You’re $20 billion in debt currently, yet you continue to purchase and distribute original content to us. If you would slow down and give us quality like this, maybe you would be financially better. Oh well. This R-rated independent drama made a splash at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in the official competition. Shortly after its premiere, the online streaming giant Netflix acquired the distribution rights, one of many purchases at the event. Written and directed by Marti Noxon, the film is believed to have been inspired by her early battles with eating disorders. The story focuses on a young woman named Ellen who is struggling with severe anorexia, meaning she can’t eat food and she wants to vomit at the mere sight of food. Having run out of options, her family arranges for her to meet an unconventional specialist Dr. Beckham, played by Keanu Reeves. This specialist, refusing to let her give in, moves her into a house with other patients determined to fight their condition. So earlier this year, Netflix released the original teen drama series 13 Reasons Why. Many people loved it, but I saw it as a manipulative, insulting, and sometimes disgusting interpretation of its incredibly sensitive subject matter. It took the nature of teenage suicide and tried to make it into something intriguing and sexy, neither of which did any victims any justice. Because of that, I clicked “Play” on both this and the new series Atypical (Which may end up being a review soon) with serious hesitation. Would it take a taboo subject like eating disorders seriously or try to pander to the lowest common denominator? Thankfully, To the Bone falls into the former category. Lily Collins is an absolute revelation in the lead role as Ellen. Losing so much weight for the role, her character’s a complete wisecracking cynic. If they had gotten someone else for the part, she would have just come off as unlikable and insufferable. Thankfully, Collins’ subtlety and sharp tongue make a person we can understand and side with, even in her lowest moments. Alex Sharp plays one of the other patients, a ballet dancer who struggled to eat after breaking his knee. Despite his extreme optimism towards the other house members, you can tell that he mentally tortured himself and wants to better. Although he came off as a bit annoying at times, he really grew on me over time. Keanu Reeves, meanwhile, gives a performance totally unlike any previously in his action-heavy career. An uncompromising doctor with a fundamental sense of optimism, he at one point encourages Ellen to find the dispiriting voice inside her head and tell it “Fuck off voice.” His lines are the only bits of levity and balance in this film, delivered only the way Reeves could do it. That’s a relief because this movie is not a fun time by any stretch of your imagination. This is an absolutely bleak, mature, and sometimes disturbing portrayal of eating disorders, and refuses to pull any punches. Some critics have labeled To the Bone as corny or misguided in its approach to the subject matter. As a person who has actually met people with eating disorders, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this movie is not corny at all. In fact, it accurately portrays not just how Ellen reacts to her own sickness, but how her loved ones deal with it, and the results aren’t always easy to watch. Let’s talk a bit regarding the technical side of everything. Cinematographer Richard Wong frames the picture with precision and focus, often giving us wide takes of the dinner table or at group meetings. It allows for us to have a good view of everyone involved. My favorite scene in the entire movie came when the Beckham and patients visited an underground waterfall with a small natural light at the side. It was a gorgeously shot and directed moment that gave the characters a glimmer of hope. It also went down to the song “Water” by Jack Garrat, and witnessing Sharp’s dance moves to it was perhaps the one part of the movie that made me smile. Lili Taylor is an extremely underrated actress, having proven her worth on the excellent show Six Feet Under. In this movie, she plays Ellen’s biological mother, who hasn’t been a major part of her life for quite some time. She tries to offer her support to her, culminating in a beautiful scene near the end of the film. On paper, it would sound kind of dumb and awkward, but the way it’s executed completely floored me. In fact, would dare say that it is one of the most emotionally powerful scenes of the entire year. I will say, I don’t think I could ever watch it again. As relevant and well-made as it is, I feel it was too powerful an experience to have more than once. Also, some things that happen late in the film feel a bit tacked on and forced, almost like they could have been left on the cutting room floor. I don’t consider this movie to be perfect by any means. Even so, To the Bone is an unflinching yet empathetic look at a highly undervalued problem. The writing is already great, but it’s the performances of Lily Collins and Keanu Reeves that make it what it is. Be warned of how challenging it can be for those with a weak stomach.

Image result for to the bone netflix movie poster

“Kingsman: The Secret Service” Movie Review

I’ve come to the conclusion that this movie and its upcoming sequel are both more British than James Bond. And that’s saying something. This zany spy action-comedy from Kick-Ass director Mathew Vaughn held a surprise premiere at Austin’s Butt-Numb-Athon! event in December of 2014, before being released internationally on Valentine’s Day weekend of the following year. After that, it earned over $414 million worldwide against a ~$90 million, which is rather big for this kind of movie. Even though it’s based on the comic book series by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, the plot and characters are almost totally different than the source material. Think of it as one of those adaptations that use the original as a springboard for the opportunity to create something on their own. Taron Egerton stars as Eggsy, a troubled British youth leading a seemingly aimless life with his poor mother and abusive stepfather. One day, Colin Firth comes to his doorstep and invites him to join the Kingsman, a secret spy organization who Eggsy’s father was a member of. Following a grueling recruitment process, he joins a mission on stopping a wealthy megalomaniac, played by Samuel L. Jackson. Earlier this year, I reviewed the movie Atomic Blonde, a relatively enjoyable movie that suffered from a generic plot. And from the way that I just described the synopsis for Kingsman: The Secret Service, it sounds like it’s going to be another run-of-the-mill spy thriller that’s trying to copy James Bond, with just a dash of Men in Black. My friends, that is so far from the truth. This movie is anything but conventional for the genre. In fact, it goes so far out of its way to belittle cliches of the genre that you forget it’s trying to subvert them. There are many moments in the film where the characters specifically reference plot points from older Bond films like Thunderball and Goldfinger as comparisons for current happenings. As one person remarks, “This ain’t that kind of movie, bro.” It’s essentially the Scream of spy movies. I will say that sometimes, the film felt like it was a little too self-aware for its own good. But just the way it opens- “Money For Nothing” by the Dire Straits playing as a Middle Eastern compound is destroyed which inventively creates the title cards -lets you know that you’re watching a movie with a definite personality. As far as the performances go, this movie is filled with actors who surprisingly bring their A-game. Taron Egerton may be a newcomer, but damn if he isn’t one of the most promising ones to come along. You learn everything about his troubled past and the payoff for his training and hard work is so rewarding. Complete with a thick accent and endless charm, you’ll be rooting for him all the way through this 2 hour and 9 minute-long feature. Sofia Boutella, Michael Caine, Mark Strong, Sophie Cookson and even a cameo by Mark Hamill elevate their small characters to have a certain human quality about them. Samuel L. Jackson, meanwhile, overshadows all of them with his mere presence in each scene. His character has a weird lisp that can be kind of annoying, but the fact that he can’t stand the sight of blood makes him even more interesting and makes for some darkly comedic moments. Oscar-winner Colin Firth proves his worth as an action hero with the role of a mentor who teaches Eggsy how to be both a gentleman and a super-spy. According to IMDb, he performed approximately 80% of his own stunts, which makes him even more fun to watch. The film is also technically proficient, showcasing some excellent editing by Jon Harris and Eddie Hamilton through brutal and fast-paced action sequences. The camera work by George Richmond does fall into shaky cam at times, but to the point where you can’t tell what’s going on. The camera is constantly following whoever is the focus of the fight scene, including one particular sequence that I’ll discuss shortly. Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson provide the musical score which perfectly accompanies the crazy scenes. They seem to take some inspiration from both Jerry Goldsmith and John Barry, with high strings and bellowing horns overtaking big set pieces. But it’s not just original music, also some real-world songs that match the tone of the moments perfectly. One of those moments, the most discussed of the entire film, is when Colin Firth goes to a version of the Westboro Baptist Church and starts uncontrollably killing everyone inside. In fact, everyone starts killing each other, all of it going down to the guitar solo of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird.” So, in case you had any ideas about watching this movie with your young children, keep in mind that Kingsman is very much rated R. A plethora of F-bombs and other British slang I’m not even going to explain already populated the screen, but there are also many violent sequences and a final anal sex gag that cements its homage to the James Bond franchise. For some, these moments are too over the top or off-putting to be enjoyable, and I understand that. Although its mature content will definitely not win over everyone, Kingsman: The Secret Service is an extremely fun time that never takes itself too seriously. I’m still in shock at how they were allowed to get away making this romp. I’m very much excited for the sequel, The Golden Circle, coming this September, and am generally happy that we have a new spy series to get invested in.

Image result for kingsman poster

“The Dark Knight Rises” Movie Review

*Discretion: The Aurora, Colorado shooting is one of the most shocking, disturbing, and disgusting acts of violence I’ve ever witnessed against cinema. My heart and prayers go out to the victims and families of those who suffered.

Well, this is odd. Dunkirk has already been released in theaters, so the relevance of my Christopher Nolan film reviews leading up to it have virtually ended. So there’s really no relevance here in this review, but still. I had so much on my mind as I rewatched it recently that I still wanted to talk about it in-depth. Like to a spoiler degree. Consider yourself warned. The final installment of this gritty superhero thriller trilogy was released internationally on July 20th, 2012. Following the massive critical and commercial success of The Dark Knight 4 years earlier, this film went on to gross just over $1 billion worldwide at the box office. Accompanied by a mass viral marketing campaign, anticipation was so high that director Christopher Nolan had to verbally tell the actors the ending of the film to avoid any leaks online. It worked for me because I walked into the theater knowing absolutely nothing about the plot. Set 8 years after Harvey Dent’s murder was covered up for the better, Gotham City has become a quiet metropolis mostly void of crime. Bruce Wayne has been holed up in Wayne Manor, crippled and aimlessly willowing away on a cane with no further goal in life but to be alone with his butler Alfred. But now, a revolutionary called Bane, whose past is connected with Ra’s al Ghul has come in and swears to bring Gotham City to ashes. And now, Wayne must learn to become the Batman again in order to defend his deeply flawed city from burning to the ground. I’m just going to get this out of the way right now: The Dark Knight is one of my favorite films of all time in any genre. It was so much more than a comic book superhero film and became an intriguing crime drama with so much to say about the problems of modern America. So to say that I was eagerly awaiting a potential third film in this franchise would be the understatement of the decade. And fans of the trilogy are deeply divided on this one. Some love it, some hate it, and some just aren’t sure what to think of it. I don’t know how many followers I’m at risk of losing by saying this, by I gotta say I really like The Dark Knight Rises. However, if you find yourself as one of the people who hate this movie, I do understand where you’re coming from. But just hear out why I think it’s worth another look and your appreciation. Most all of the cast members from the first two films reprise their roles again here (R.I.P. Heath Ledger) The three new additions are Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Anne Hathaway. Hathaway is her typical sexy self as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, an antihero who’s not quite sure who’s side she’s pulling for. Gordon-Levitt proves that he has come a long way from appearing in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. He’s a new, honest cop who’s maybe a little too good at his job and wants to make Gotham a safer place than it already is. Tom Hardy is the real revelation as Bane, a menacing and unpredictable terrorist with an agenda. Carrying on the legacy of Ra’s al Ghul, he lives to see Gotham burned to the ground, even if it costs his own life. Now I’m going to do something I never do. After watching Red Letter Media’s (admittedly unfair) video listing some plot holes in the movie, I worked to find solutions to those problems. And now I’m going to list those problems and how I think they are answered. 1) How could Bruce Wayne get back to Gotham City in time to stop Bane and his army? In Batman Begins, we saw that he was capable of traveling across the world without any money to help him. He could have easily smuggled himself onto a ship or plane heading to the United States, then posed as part of the crew delivering food supplies. 2) How did Bane know exactly where to place the bombs? If you remember, Ra’s al Ghul once said that the League of Shadows has infiltrated every level of Gotham’s infrastructure- which could include people inside Wayne Enterprises. This isn’t a plan Bane cooked up yesterday; he probably spent years figuring out where everything was so meticulously. 3) How did Batman know exactly when to eject from the Bat to avoid the bomb blast? He had a T.V. is his prison, and likely watched the Gotham football game when Bane interrupted it. The scientist present said the blast radius was 6 miles, so that’s covered. 4) How could no one in Italy recognize Bruce at the end of the movie? Well, for one, just because so many people know your name doesn’t they know your face. And odds are, he used the “clean slate” along with Kyle to give himself a fresh start. 5) How could the police fight at the end when they should have been sickly, pale, and malnourished? One word: fiction. At the end of the day, no matter how realistic and gritty it may seem, this trilogy is ultimately based on a comic book series- where he battled mud monsters and ice men. Aside from all of that, you have to understand how deeply emotional this film is. Bruce Wayne may have hung up his cape and cowl, but he never moved on and tried to be a person. He’s stuck there, but can’t learn how to be good again. When Catwoman tells him that he’s given up everything for Gotham, he responds, “Not everything. Not yet.” Even though parts of the plot are questionable, The Dark Knight Rises is a grim but triumphant conclusion to a beloved trilogy. And you know what? You kind of have to turn your brain off to fully enjoy it. Please don’t kill me.

Image result for the dark knight rises

“John Wick Chapter 2” Movie Review

Are you familiar with the phrase, “The sequels are just never as good as the original”? Well, to that, you should remember something: There’s always at least one exception to the rule. This neo-noir actioner was released over Valentine’s Day weekend in 2017. While it faced tough competition against The Lego Batman Movie and (unfortunately) Fifty Shades Darker, it still managed to gross over $171 million, more than twice that of its predecessor. Although David Leitch ultimately ducked out to do Deadpool 2 and Atomic Blonde, former stuntman Chad Stahelski returns to direct this follow-up to the surprise hit of 2014, in a year full of surprise hits. Set only a few days after the events of the original, Wick is contacted by an old acquaintance after hearing of his recent exploits. Bound by a blood oath, he is forced to infiltrate and take out high-ranking members of an international assassins’ guild. His push out of retirement forces him to travel from New York to Rome and embarks on a journey that is best left unspoiled. The primary reason I held off on watching this picture for a while is that I hadn’t yet seen the first one. I’m the kind of person who likes to watch the original before the new one comes out, regardless if there’s any continuity. And in the case these movies, it’s especially important to watch the first one in order to gain a better understanding of the world built here. It jumps right in from the first scene- an exciting car chase through the streets of Manhattan -and never lets up. And from there, not only is Chapter 2 arguably better than the first movie, it’s perhaps the best action movie of 2017. And we’re knee deep in a year full of great ones. Keanu Reeves returns as the titular badass and hasn’t lost an ounce of his charm. One of the most likable movie stars on the planet, the fact that he is still making successful action movies at the age of 52 is really impressive. He also loves performing his own stunts, apparently getting himself into some hectic situations with the filming process. While John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, and Bridget Moynahan reprise their small but crucial roles, there’s a bevy of new characters- specifically villains -worth getting to know. Riccardo Scarmacio is our main antagonist and is pretty despicable. The task he gives Wick is difficult enough, but an action he takes later makes us love to hate him. Ruby Rose is his mute but efficient henchman while rapper Common is a bodyguard with a particular grudge against the main hero. Laurence Fishbourne shows up for about 15 minutes worth of screen time in his first collaboration with Reeves since The Matrix trilogy. Although he isn’t around much, his character is pretty interesting and makes for a nice change of pace with the dialogue. It’s clear that this film had a bigger budget than last time, given all of the lavish locations and glorious set pieces. Whereas last time it felt as though they blew most of their budget on the Red Circle Night Club scene, they had enough money to make as many extravagant sequences as they pleased. This film’s big standout was an escape sequence in the catacombs beneath a colosseum. My jaw was practically on the floor when it happened, and it may be- along with the car chase through the pass in Mad Max: Fury Road -the coolest action scene I’ve witnessed this decade. There’s another scene later on when John Wick is fighting these two hitmen who are after him and kills both of them with a pencil. With a FREAKING PENCIL! As if that story Viggo told us in the last movie wasn’t enough. The film already earned its R rating way early on with plenty of F-bombs and bloody action, but that scene cemented it. The film looks and sounds gorgeous, too. The many corridors provide an interesting backdrop for the action, drenching the characters in dark shadows and echoing footsteps. A film with this kind of gunplay is bound to have great audio, and it is really amazing. You can hear everything from the bullets whizzing by our hero’s head to the grunts from bullet wounds or hand-to-hand wounds. The color pallet is slightly differentiated from last time, but for the most part, it’s still a contrast between red and blue. And of course, the best part about the original John Wick wasn’t even the action scenes, but instead the inventive world-building. The credited screenwriter for this franchise thus far is Derek Kolstad, and he should get more name recognition for films like this. In the first one, he crafted a unique environment with enormous potential for a franchise, waiting for more interest to arise. Thankfully, he allowed this world to blossom in the sequel as we witness assassins not only all over New York City but everywhere in the world. All of the assassins, no matter what region they’re in, know who you are and the things you’ve done. This assassins’ guild, The High Table, may be the thing holding everything together, and there’s so much unexplained history worth exploring. You discover that the Continental Hotel reaches overseas, you see that their society is insistent on honoring codes, regardless of how bad they may be. It’s rare for action movies to build such a cool world while giving us some brilliant action scenes. Although a little less emotionally involving than the first one, John Wick Chapter 2 features incredible gunplay, intriguing world-building, and a badass hero staged at the center. Clocking in at just over 2 hours, it doesn’t ever feel like it drags on or rushes too fast. In short, it does what every sequel should do: doubling down on what the first one great and running with. So much awesomeness to watch over and over.

Image result for john wick 2 poster

“Atomic Blonde” Movie Review

So, many people will probably tell you that this movie is a cross between Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and a female version of John Wick. I, for one, beg to differ. It’s a female version of John Wick crossed with Cold War-era The Usual Suspects… kind of. This neo-noir spy thriller from director/stuntman David Leitch first made waves at the South by Southwest film festival in March of 2017. After its wide release on July 28, it earned back over $45 million against a $30 million budget. The film was bought before its source material was even published and was meticulously put together over time. Based on the one-shot graphic novel The Coldest City by Anthony Johnston and Sam Hart, Atomic Blonde stars Charlize Theron as Lorraine Broughton, a top-level MI6 operative in 1989. After a fellow agent/lover is cold-heartedly killed, she is assigned to find the killer who has a list of many other double agents smuggled into the West. Now she is sent to Berlin on the eve of when the Berlin Wall was torn down and gets entangled in a web of lies, spies, assassins, and murder. If the plot sounds like any spy thriller that you’ve seen before… that’s because you’d be right. I’ve always been optimistic about international spy thrillers, being a fan of films like The Hunt for Red October, Clear and Present Danger, The Bourne Ultimatum, and the Mission Impossible and James Bond franchises. They often tend to be the same, but it’s typically both the style and the characters that keep them separated in my mind. Atomic Blonde definitely succeeds on a level of pure style, but its story and characters leave something to be desired. The style itself feels like a mixture of 80’s action with the slick production merits of modern filmmaking. The credits are shown through an old-fashioned computer screen and some of the graphics are shown through spray-poainting. Pretty much its own way of saying, “Look how different we’re trying to make this.” Most of the same technical crew behind the John Wick series are returning here and much of their talent is reused here to pretty good effect. Jonathan Sela’s cinematography uses many of the same color pallets and cues from before and uses them here. Seriously, this guy loves the contrast between blue and red, especially in the scenes of both Broughton’s apartment and various German clubs she attends. And yet again, it flows nicely with the editing job of Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir in many of the action scenes. The most talked-about sequence is a long and grueling fight in a hotel staircase. In a single 9-minute take, we follow Broughton from the top of the stairwell through two rooms, the lobby, a car, and the open streets of Berlin. It was a brutal and fast moment that kept me gripping my shirt (My seat was already gripped by someone else) and shocked at how they did it. Charlize Theron completely owns her role, officially cementing herself as one of the biggest female badasses of the decade. Although not as cool as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, her character is relatively interesting and keeps you guessing as to her true motive for everything. Apparently instrumental in getting this movie made, it’s also worth noting that she did all of her stunts and even chipped a tooth during filming. James MacAvoy is devilishly charming as her handler David Percival, a lustful con of a spy moving from West to East Berlin on a daily basis. His profane nature and mystery is a great departure from his role of Professor X in the new Xmen films. Sofia Boutella is becoming one of the fastest growing stars in Hollywood, and it’s clear to see why in her small but semi-essential role here. Her French accent and physique already make her attractive, but the way she delivers her lines is great. John Goodman, Toby Jones, James Faulkner, and Bill Skarsgard round the supporting cast, and some shine more than others. Another thing worth noting is that Leitch clearly knew what to do about the music for this film. Even though Tyler Bates provides the original score, it’s completely overshadowed by the soundtrack of 80’s songs. From George Michael to the synthesized years of Queen to even some David Bowie, it was said that the director had requested a certain list of songs be used in the film, and roughly 75% of his ideas made it through. The film opens with a relatively tense scene set the beat of HEALTH’s cover of “Blue Monday,” which worked to establish the tough but fun tone. What weighs the film down is the execution of the story. As I said earlier, its plot is pretty much a retread of other spy films, specifically Mission Impossible from 1996. That would be fine, if safe, but much of the story is unfolding through a flashback inside an interrogation as Broughton is explaining the previous 10 days to her superiors. At that point, it felt like it wanted to be like Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects, even throwing in a big whammy twist at the end for good measure. But the problem is that it twists itself into a messy bow and did it simply for the sake of providing a twist to keep people guessing. Say what you want about The Usual Suspects, at least it tried to satisfy us with a reveal that made sense and brought everything together. Oh yeah, and there’s a lesbian subplot. So? How did that help the movie overall? It didn’t make it any less tough to follow. Here, the story started out good but soon took a few too many turns for its own good. Atomic Blonde boasts some outstanding style and a badass hero but lacks much staying power. You’d probably be better renting this one. You don’t necessarily NEED to see this film, but if you do I’m sure you’ll have fun with it.

Image result for atomic blonde poster

“John Wick” Movie Review

You know, I own a dog myself. A boxer, in fact, and she’s the most adorable thing on the face of this planet. If she was killed by some mobsters in the middle of the night, I would totally go after them and kill anyone standing in my way. This stylish neo-noir action thriller was initially released on October 24, 2014, when it quadrupled its $20 million budget following its premiere at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema’s Fantastic Fest a month prior. The script was reportedly tossed around for a while before Keanu Reeves caught wind of it. After that, he contacted Lionsgate, and now we’re here. Reeves stars as John Wick, a highly efficient and renowned assassin who has recently retired to live a quiet life. A few days after his wife dies, he is left with a dog in her memory, and while out on a road trip of sorts with it, insults some young Russian gangsters. That night, they break into his house, beat him up, steal his car, and kill his dog. Now Wick is on an Apache warpath for revenge, reigning down the wrath of God on the Russian mafia. Whenever Reeves is involved in the production of a film, I’m always cautious. In real life, he’s an extremely nice and likable guy, but his acting chops have been a bit hard to buy. He’s virtually been playing the same character for nearly 20 years since Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. And none of the advertisements really grabbed my attention. It just looked like yet another action film riding on our nostalgia from hits in the 1980’s as well as the 1990’s. But there’s none of that here. Turns out it’s actually a really fun time and feels so modern in so many different ways. For one thing, the action scenes themselves are remarkably constructed and brilliantly helmed. What makes them work is the fact that there is NO shaky-cam and very few cuts, allowing the audience to follow and see everything with ease. The standout moment for me, as it was for a lot of other people as well, was when John infiltrated the Red Circle Night Club and just went to town on every bodyguard centered there. Hands down the best night club sequence since Michael Mann’s Collateral in 2004, this will likely be evaluated as a new benchmark for action filmmaking. The cinematography by Jonathan Sela echoes something of Roger Deakins, as he uses controlled lighting to create harsh shadows and beautiful contrasts in color. Specifically, between a blue teal and light red. And Elizabet Ronalds’ slick editing is nice and doesn’t go all Tak3n on us. Let’s talk about the acting. It’s fine. Not especially impressive, but fine. Reeves plays arguably his best character to date, a morally ambiguous hitman who just wants to lay low. There are some scenes which require him to show off some dramatic feeling, and for the most part, it worked. He virtually has an immunity to bad dialogue and is perhaps the only person who could possibly make this series work. Not to mention, he brings a lot of physicality by performing his own stunts, and you can actually see his face. Michael Nyqvist stars opposite as the leader of the Russian mafia who wants to avoid a conflict with the titular hero. He doesn’t want to take over the world or even fight Wick; he just wants to keep his family business running. Game of Thrones alum Alfie Allen is foolish and cocky as his son who basically sets everything in motion. There are also a surprising number of supporting players, such as Ian McShane as the mysterious owner of an interesting hotel, both Willem Dafoe and Adrianne Palicki as two assassins from John’s past, John Leguizamo as a quirky head of a chop shop, and Bridget Moynahan as Wick’s deceased wife. All of them contribute something interesting to the overall package. The best part about John Wick, by far, is the intriguing world-building. At first glance, it looks just like any other action thriller that you’ve seen. But in reality, it spends time constructing a fascinating heightened version of the world we live in, built specifically for assassins. There’s an actual currency of gold coins, a clean-up crew for nasty jobs, hideout locations for various mobs, and an understanding of law enforcement. The biggest standout is the Continental Hotel, an international housing business that prohibits criminals from carrying out business on their grounds. And now, there’s a planned T.V. show centered on this hotel in development, so I’m definitely surprised by all of it. In a way, it felt kind of like a video game world, but you buy it. Just the creation of this whole world alone is worth repeat viewings to catch all of the intricacies because 1 hour and 41 minutes didn’t quite feel like enough to satisfy. Although it lacks a certain tangible depth for me to recommend for everyone, John Wick is an excellent return-to-form for its star and a really fun thrill ride. You’ll also see a review for the 2017 sequel in a little while, so keep your eyes peeled. In the meantime, you can enjoy this fast-paced action film and have some fun picking up everything in this complex world.

Related image

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” Movie Review

Director Luc Besson has given us a pretty kick-ass sci-fi space opera for a modern generation… called The Fifth Element, 20 years ago. And now, we are here. Let’s deal with it. This ambitious science-fiction action-adventure was released on July 21st, 2017. Estimates say that at a budget of nearly $200 million, almost all of it crowdsourced, this is the most expensive European film and the most expensive “independent” film ever made. This proved to be a disadvantage for the film, as it has yet to break just $50 million worldwide and will likely experience losses in the hundred million range. Based off the influential French comic book series Valérian and Laureline by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières, the PG-13 rated story follows Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne as Valerian and Laureline, two space-traveling agents who are in charge of fixing problems for the United Human Federation. They visit the intergalactic space station Alpha, which houses thousands of races and cultures from all over the universe. One of these races is an endangered kind that begins a series of pseudo-terror attacks and it’s up to Valerian and Laureline to figure out what exactly they want. Now when I say that the graphic novel was influential, I really mean it. So many iconic space operas, from Star Wars to Babylon 5, have taken visual inspiration from it. Just the way the technology looked as well as some of the alien designs paid homage to this series. In an ironic twist, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets the adaptation seems to want to pay homage to the early birds of that genre which itself highly influenced. Even Luc Besson’s cult classic The Fifth Element took inspiration, and that was a really enjoyable sci-fi. But Valerian is not enjoyable at all; in fact, it’s one of the worst movies of the year. Dane DeHaan is an undeniably great actor, I’ve seen it in The Place Beyond the Pines and Chronicle. But here, his character is supposed to be like Han Solo, in that he’s the most badass human being in the universe. And it’s really hard to buy him as it, considering that the titular character is a bit of a conceded prick for most of the runtime. Cara Delevingne, however, may just be a lost cause for the acting world. Her performance in Suicide Squad was a mixed bag for me, and now she tries to come off as a sexy gun-wielding savior of the universe. She is definitely sexy, but her scenes of action turned me off. The supporting cast is filled with a surprising amount of big names. Clive Owen shows up for the first movie I’ve seen in awhile and was pretty good in his own role. Though I have to say, it was fairly easy to see where his arc was going in this one. Singer Rihanna tries her hand at acting for about a 20-30 minute stretch of the film and does a surprisingly nice job. Her character was relatively interesting, even if it tried to ham-fist social commentary into the story. Meanwhile, John Goodman, Rutger Hauer, Ethan Hawke, and Herbie Hancock… are all given so little to say and do that it’s downright criminal, and ultimately feel more like glorified cameos. Hawke was particularly annoying, reminding me too much of Chris Tucker from The Fifth Element. In many ways, Luc Besson is like this generation’s version of George Lucas. By that, I mean that he has an incredible imagination and sense of creativity but these ideas are not always executed in the best way possible. There are some really neat concepts and ideas in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets to be savored. One of the races in the movie is based on beach-like terrain and uses sea pearls to fertilize everything. After the opening scene, our heroes arrive on a seemingly barren planet. But as soon as they put on special glasses, they see hundreds of markets, bizarre style, in an alternate dimension. But perhaps the coolest thing was the technology. Being a big sci-fi nerd, I love to see what kind of tech the world is able to offer. And one exhilarating chase sequence sees Valerian running through a wall and then shooting his gun to be able to walk on air. On the technical side of things, it’s a reasonably competent production. Alexandre Desplat’s score is an engaging, if not quite a memorable one. But the biggest thing this has going for it, by far, are the special effects. Utilizing 2,734 visual shots overall, the CGI is pretty impressive and sometimes just gorgeous. However, many scenes required some extensive green screen work and it didn’t always look convincing. But for the most part, it did look pretty. But it just comes down to the fact that this movie is detrimentally overstuffed with pointless characters and unnecessary subplots. Besson gives Marvel Studios a run for their money on how much you can pack into one movie. The romance aspect between Valerian and Lauraline is present in the film just as it is in the comics. But Develingne and DeHaan do not share good chemistry, so their hard-to-get relationship came off as forced and stupid. That whole thing occupied roughly 30 minutes of the movie. It’s already 2 hours and 17 minutes long, so if they just shaved that whole thing, it would be much better. While it’s undeniably ambitious in the scope, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a beautiful but insufferable mess with hollow characters. It’s a mystery movie without any suspense, it’s a romance without any chemistry or friction, and it’s a space opera with not much charisma. I was actually looking forward to it, but now I can safely say I saw it. At least I can say that much.

Image result for valerian