John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Directed by Chad Stahelski

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
After returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt, John Wick discovers that a large bounty has been put on his life.

My Opinion:

I think these John Wick films could grow on me if they keep making them. Although, having said that, I also hope they stop and make it only a trilogy to avoid overkill (Ha! Literally, since there’s a lot of killing in these!!!! Holy hell).

I reviewed the first John Wick HERE last week & gave it a sort of “meh” review. I’ve felt kind of bad about that ever since. It was a fun action film. If you don’t take it too seriously, you should enjoy it. I was possibly going to wait for the sequel to come to Netflix but an opportunity arose for me to go see it over the weekend so I did. I’m glad I did. This is one of those instances where the sequel has actually made me like the original film even more. Things are coming together and I think this becoming a trilogy will be perfect. We’re leaning more about John Wick and this crazy secret society of hitmen with their strict rules of conduct. But, at the same time, it maintains the air of mystery from the first film which at first slightly annoyed me but now makes more sense as I realize that maybe we shouldn’t know absolutely everything about the character of John Wick. We don’t need to. He’s an ex-killer. No… He’s had a change of heart but he’s still a killer. He’s far from perfect. But none of that really matters. We just want to see him kick ass. We still want to see him kick ass because THAT PUPPY WAS SO DAMN CUTE.

I’m going to keep this review short as I think I spent long enough explaining my feelings in my review of the first film. I want to love these movies as much as everyone else seems to but they still don’t quite resonate with me. I stand by my opinion that, when comparing Keanu Reeves action flicks, the John Wicks come nowhere near the awesomeness of Point Break. They also don’t manage to match up to Speed or The Matrix. However, I’ll give them this: John Wick: Chapter 2 is a very strong sequel that actually manages to elevate the first one whereas the Speed & Matrix sequels were so bad that they almost managed to completely destroy the original films.

These John Wick films are definitely headed in the right direction and I’m now looking forward to the next film much more than I’d expected. This sequel is even more slick & stylish than the first and the scenes in Rome plus an action-packed scene in a mirrored art installation were a joy to watch. And with so many exceptionally strong supporting characters (I’ve especially liked Willem Dafoe & Ian McShane but I could go on & on listing all the great characters), I can’t wait to see everyone again. The characters who are still alive, that is… 😉 Plus you know they’ll get just as many impressive actors for the next film as well since someone clearly has great Hollywood connections. Maybe Keanu is just friends with everyone in Hollywood. Who doesn’t love Keanu, right?

Oh! One last thought that I had in the middle of watching Chapter 2. Maybe this is why these films are subconsciously growing on me? In a youth-obsessed Hollywood, it suddenly occurred to me just how old the majority of the main cast in both John Wick films are. Keanu himself is (a very hot) 52! McShane (74), Dafoe (61), Fishburne (55), Leguizamo (52). Even the dead-flashback-wife is age-appropriate to her husband instead of being 20 years younger (Bridget Moynahan – 45). Wick 2 also has a very memorable scene proving that 45 can be sexy with a great performance from 45-year-old actress Claudia Gerini. And Common is as handsome as always in this sequel (I loved that he had such a big role) – It’s just funny to think that he’s kind of a youngster in comparison to everyone else (only 44!).


Anyway, this won’t seem like a big deal to twentysomethings but it was kind of awesome when I thought about it. These super violent, action-packed, stylish, well-acted, kick-ass John Wick movies star people old enough to be your parents & grandparents! And I’m thinking it doesn’t matter to the younger audience anyway, judging from the wide twentysomething to sixtysomething gender mix of those watching this in my cinema. They’ve managed to appeal to all ages & genders with these films, which is quite an accomplishment for action movies. I do get their appeal. They’re growing on me. I promise. I’ve upped my John Wick 1 rating (to the same as my rating for this one). If the next movie is just as good, I’ll up them all to 7.5. I promise. Let’s hope these films continue on this upward trajectory. Yeah, they might already deserve a 7.5. I may change my mind. I do that a lot. 😉 But for now…

My Rating: 7/10

I’m already thinking 7/10 may be a little low. FYI: This movie was FAR more violent than I expected based on its 15 rating in the UK. Just a warning for those with kids in the 15 age range. It was almost Tarantino-level violence. It was actually a bit much for me. (I’m a wuss). I’m a bit shocked that it’s not rated 18…

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Mystic River (2003) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Khalid of The Blazing Reel. Thanks for the review, Khalid! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Mystic River, IMDB rank 239 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

Very few people in Hollywood have had a career quite like that of Clint Eastwood. In a career that’s spanned over forty years, ol’ Clint has done it all; he’s starred in some of the greatest movies to come out during this time-period, played some of the most memorable on-screen characters, heck, the guy is basically the poster boy for badassery. He’s also one of the few actors who’ve made even better directors. But of all the Unforgivens and Million Dollar Babies, there’s one film that’s for me, stands out as the crowning achievement on his truly stellar career. That film is of course Mystic River.

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When the daughter of ex-con Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn) is murdered, two of his childhood friends from the neighborhood are involved. Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins), a blue-collar worker, was the last person to see her alive, while Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon), a homicide detective, is heading up the case. As Sean proceeds with his investigation, Jimmy conducts one of his own through neighborhood contacts, soon Jimmy and Sean both start to suspect their old pal, Dave, who lives a quiet life with his wife Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden) but harbors some disturbing secrets.

Dark, ominous and brooding to a fault, Mystic River is quite simply one of the greatest dramas to ever hit the screen. It’s a film that got unfairly swept under the rug when out came out twelve years ago mainly because of the buzz surrounding its two Oscar competitors, Return of the King and Lost in Translation. But while they were both great films, it’s Mystic River that stands out as the most emotionally resonant of the three.

Benefitting from some truly magnificent work by Clint Eastwood, screenwriter Brian Helgeland and an ensemble cast, firing on all cylinders, Mystic River had my attention from the very first scene and proceeded to engage me even more. Brian Helgeland ‘s brilliant script, adapted from the book by Dennis Lehane never loses focus of a story that may seem pretty conventional on paper, rather keeps surprising us with twists and turns that enhance the drama only more.

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And you can’t ask for a better display of acting than the one you get from this film and Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, both of whom seem to lose themselves in their roles, carry the movie with their mesmerising, Oscar winning performances. Many people were shocked when Penn beat out Bill Murray at the Oscars that year but while it’s debatable which performance of the two was better, no one can say that his performance wasn’t worthy of merit because as Jimmy Markum, Penn gives a complex, riveting and groundbreaking performance and despite that Tim Robbins -who’s equally brilliant, if not more- is able to steal so many scenes from him in his haunting turn as Dave Boyle.

Not to forget, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne and Marcia Gay Harden who provide great support as well. But ultimately though, it’s the film’s powerful emotional core that makes it such an unforgettable experience and the reason why I keep revisiting after all these years. The film has a very unique moral conscience and an exceedingly dense plot that sets it apart from most dramas and its stark depiction of tragedy and loss is perhaps one of the most compelling ones ever put on film.

The Matrix (1999) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Chris of Terry Malloy’s Pigeon Coop. Thanks for the review, Chris! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about The Matrix, IMDB rank 18 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list HERE. See the full list & links to all the films that have been reviewed HERE.

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Few films over the past 20 years or so have had as big an impact as The Matrix. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the most important films of all time.

Yeah, I went there.

Some people might not like it, but I don’t think anyone can argue over its cultural significance. It’s a bit like me and The Beatles. I get why they were so big and so important but I actually think much of their music is pretty crap.

I went there again.

The premise of film is that everything we know and see around us is a lie, an artificial reality known as the Matrix created by machines who use our bodies as fuel. Only some people are aware of this and have been freed to live in the ‘real world’, although they are in a constant war against the machines. Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) are freedom fighters of sorts and have recognised Neo (Keanu Reeves) as someone who could fulfil a prophecy and bring peace between the humans and machines.

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It’s a pretty crazy-ass plot and can take a quite a while to get your head around, but what an absolutely phenomenal concept; the kind of idea that only comes along every so often. Think Metropolis, 1984, Blade Runner; an idea so revolutionary that it inspires people to think differently. Not many films do that.

When we first see the ‘real world’ with the scary Giger-esque machines farming thousands upon thousands of humans all sealed away in little pods, it’s simply awe-inspiring and it just gets better and better from there on in.

Just think about it. There are so many standout, memorable and groundbreaking scenes and lines that it’s almost inconceivable they’re all from the same film. The first time we see bullet time; the lobby shootout; the subway fight; the meeting with the Oracle; even the notion that deja-vu is a glitch in the Matrix; all of these are scenes that have since become engrained in cinema’s pop culture, and there are many more besides. You only have to look at how many other films have taken clear inspiration from or have parodied The Matrix to see the effect it’s had.

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It even made Keanu Reeves look like a good actor. That might be slightly unfair but there’s no denying that Reeves was absolutely perfect for the role of Neo, and there have been few cooler moments in cinema seeing Neo kicking ass.

Unfortunately, The Matrix’s legacy has been tainted somewhat by two tremendously disappointing sequels. Both The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were totally unnecessary and whilst they had some fun moments were just far too complicated and self-indulgent. Despite the sequels, The Matrix remains one of the most original, groundbreaking and influential films of all time.

Apocalypse Now (1979) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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For today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review, we have J James of JJames Reviews (oddly enough!). He writes excellent reviews and watches LOADS of films. I can’t keep up with him! I’m forever apologizing to people on WordPress as I fall so behind on my blog reading & J James is certainly one of those people always receiving my apologies! But when I do catch up on his blog, I know I’ll always get reviews of all the most current theatrical releases as well as the classics.

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list HERE.

Now over to J James to hear his thoughts on Apocalypse Now, IMDB rank 35 out of 250…

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Apocalypse Now (1979)

Directed By: Frances Ford Coppola

Written By: John Milius and Frances Ford Coppola

Starring
Martin Sheen
Marlon Brando
Frederic Forrest
Laurence Fishburne
Sam Bottoms
Albert Hall
Robert Duvall
Dennis Hopper
Harrison Ford
Scott Glenn

Running Time: 2 hours 33 minutes

Adapted from: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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Plot Synopsis

After returning to Vietnam for his second tour of duty, special-forces trained Captain Benjamin Willard’s (Martin Sheen) superiors order him to track and terminate Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a formerly decorated US soldier who has begun leading a cult that unilaterally executes those they call enemy. With the aid of Chief Phillips (Albert Hall) and his crew of navy personnel, Willard travels the Nung River en route to Kurtz’ compound, all the while growing more disenfranchised with the war. And also more psychologically unsettled.

My Opinion

Frances Ford Coppola’s epic treatise on the Vietnam War needs little introduction, if only because those unfamiliar with the film’s content probably know the story of its creation, a fact that makes this film as infamous as it is respected.

To be sure, it is a quality picture, even if it is not perfect.

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More than most films, Apocalypse Now is theme-based. Good thing that Coppola and Writer John Milius effectively portray the senselessness of war and the fragility of sanity. Between Willard’s mission, Colonel Kilgore’s (Robert Duvall) unseemly obsession with surfing, Captain Colby’s (Scott Glenn) men mindlessly firing their weapons into uninvestigated space, Clean (Laurence Fishburne) shooting civilians, and soldiers responding badly to a USO show, Coppola shows how war creates bad decisions. In his hands, war becomes descent into madness, whether it is Kurtz’ explosive variety, Kilgore’s obliviousness or Colby’s soldiers’ emotional catatonia.

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Perhaps most impressively, Coppola’s filmmaking technique, especially the audio, helps us understand Willard’s descent. Early in the film, the sound design is conventional. We hear the sounds of the characters’ surroundings as they shout to be heard, but as the movie progresses, the audio becomes increasingly psychedelic, until, eventually, Willard’s environment is almost silenced by trippy and disturbing rhythmic noise. Apocalypse Now won an Oscar for Sound Design, and it is no wonder why.

Sound is not the only technical element that proves successful. So does the movie’s cinematography. Few motion pictures use darkness and (almost paradoxically) color to blind both the viewer and the characters, to produce uneasy nervousness.

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In other words, Apocalypse Now is very well made. It is also well acted. Robert Duvall shines as a crazed combat commander, as does Dennis Hopper as a hyperactive photojournalist convinced of Kurtz’ greatness. Of course, Marlon Brando is disturbingly intelligent as the malicious Kurtz, while Martin Sheen admirably anchors the movie.

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All of which is to say that Coppola’s epic is thematically and technically successful. Too bad it is narratively flawed. Most of Willard’s descent, for example, is told through dry voice over, not shown through action or other character’s dialogue, a direct result of Willard’s status as observer in his own story. He spends most of the movie watching other people’s insanity, instead of doing things himself. Similarly, we frequently hear about Kurtz’ charisma, most especially from the Photo Journalist (Hopper), but we do not see it. We see Kurtz’ intelligence and ruthlessness, of course, but not the likability that causes his followers to treat him as their god. Unfortunately, telling not showing continues throughout much of the film’s narrative.

Including with many of the side characters, none of which are well developed. Each has one trait, something Willard often describes in voice over. Ditto that for the consequences to many actions, including Willard’s choice to kill a wounded woman. He tells us that his companions now feel differently about him, but we don’t see their behavior change, really.

Finally, Apocalypse Now has zero notable female characters. While understandable given context, the absence of femininity makes the picture too macho.

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To be sure, none of the narrative flaws ruin Coppola’s film, but they do keep us at an emotional distance from the story. We are unable to immerse in the characters’ psychology and experience, a fact that means we never truly feel their struggle.

Conclusion

Apocalypse Now is a masterfully made thematic film that accomplishes its objectives. Even still, additional focus on narrative and character development would have produced a more emotional, and thereby more moving, final product.

Final Score: 7/10

Man Of Steel (2013) Review

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Man Of Steel

Directed by Zack Snyder

Produced by
Christopher Nolan
Charles Roven
Emma Thomas
Deborah Snyder

Starring
Henry Cavill
Amy Adams
Michael Shannon
Diane Lane
Kevin Costner
Laurence Fishburne
Antje Traue
Ayelet Zurer
Russell Crowe

Music by Hans Zimmer

Plot Synopsis:

Honestly, I can’t be bothered. Lol! It’s Superman. You know the general plot.

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My Opinion (no spoilers):

My reviews have gotten way too wordy. This movie will have already been reviewed a lot (I’m looking forward to catching up on all your great reviews here now that I’ve seen this). So I’m going to try to keep this short & sweet by doing my “good” and “not so good” thing.

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The Good:

– The casting. It was excellent. So many people in this were the exact right choices for their roles. I thought the very best were actually Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane and Michael Shannon. Now, Crowe and Costner are NOT actors I like all that much. But they were bloody PERFECT in these roles. And, luckily, Crowe doesn’t sing in this one. Lol. As for Superman himself, Henry Cavill, he seemed the right choice. I’ve only just seen this so still thinking about it. He certainly has the perfect look to play Superman (as I picture Superman which, to my mind because of my age, is mostly Christopher Reeve). I know nothing of the comics (give me a break – I’m a girl). :-p But his look seems just right. And Amy Adams is my favorite actress so I’ll say nothing bad about her. She’s sweet and has an adorable little nose. But she’s the one my hubby didn’t think fit the part. I dunno. I’ll let others decide on that – I just like her as an actress.

– The beginning. It was a little hard to get into at first as it’s very different from the 1978 Superman I grew up with and have an affection for even though I know it’s far from perfect. But thinking about it now, I really liked how Man Of Steel started. It was great seeing so much of his world and getting to know more of his backstory than I previously knew (I have very little Superman knowledge).

– Superman’s families. On his home world and on Earth. As I said, it was great seeing more of his home world and his mother & father. Crowe was perfect as his father. Ayelet Zurer, his mother, seemed a good choice as well from what we see of her. And as I said, Kevin Costner & Diane Lane were absolutely perfect. My favorite bits of the whole movie were probably the ones with Superman & both these families. Very good character development as far as all the parents & their relationships with Superman were concerned.

– Shirtless Superman. Very nice. Overall, he’s not my type. The face is too chiseled and I like my dark-haired guys to have chocolate brown eyes and I like them to have more of a “boy next door” look. He’s too handsome. Nice bare chest, though! And a bit of hair on his chest – not one of these hairless girly boys. Think I preferred him with the beard, too – hides that crazy “man of steel” jaw. Am I going on too much? I’ll shut up now. (Thor is hotter) 😉

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The Not So Good:

– Too much action & too much CGI. Yes, there CAN be too much action sometimes and there was too much in this, especially at the end. And too much CGI ALWAYS annoys me. I’m old school that way.

– Some of the character development. It wasn’t too bad at first but I really was expecting more than we got and am a little disappointed by that. Lois Lane was probably the most underdeveloped. Oh, and those she works with – we were suddenly meant to care about them at the end when we’d seen so little of them. And Superman himself could have done with a bit more development. They did try with him, however. But it didn’t QUITE work for me. I didn’t feel his “internal struggle superhero thang” as much as I’d have liked – I think they almost achieved this then messed it up at the end by going so overboard on the action. I’m not entirely sure if this was the fault of the actor, or the script, or what. Perhaps he wasn’t exactly right for the role? I’ve still not decided. And I didn’t fully buy into his relationship with Lois Lane. That felt a bit weak. Thank god for Superman’s parents – without the scenes with them, I think I’d have felt nothing at all for his character. He just really lacks a personality in this. However, we get a little glimpse of personality at the end that I’m really REALLY hoping we get to see more of in a sequel. Give him a personality! And more shirtless scenes.

The flashbacks. This is a minor thing but I didn’t like them showing his childhood & teen years in flashback. I felt the movie kind of lost something doing it this way. I really would have liked to see him grow up on Earth in chronological order. I just didn’t like the “back and forth” at that point in the movie. Plus I’d have liked to see much more of his younger years to better understand his character, especially as the second half of the movie ended up so disappointing compared to the first half.

The finale. It was too much. It was too long. It was WAY over the top. The more I think about it, the more I really did NOT like the last 45 minutes or so of this film. Or however long it was – it FELT very long indeed. Very disappointing after such a strong beginning & middle.

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Summary:

A promising reboot with a good beginning & middle that is, unfortunately, almost completely destroyed by a very disappointing and ridiculously over-the-top finale. Some excellent casting, particularly both sets of Superman’s parents, is what saves this film and gives it the depth and character development needed to make the audience care in the slightest about these characters & what happens to them. Without Crowe, Costner, Lane & Zurer (the parents), I have to be honest and say that this film would have been a complete and utter disaster. The final scene, however, gave me a glimmer of hope for the sequel. Overall, the movie IS “promising” in that I think there’s the promise of a brilliant sequel in Superman’s future if they do things right next time and make it far more like the first half than the second half of Man Of Steel. Unfortunately, we’re only given the hope of a great movie in the future instead of a great one this time. Disappointing.

My Rating: 6/10

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So where does Man Of Steel rank in my recent list of My Top Ten Superhero Movies? Have a look HERE. 🙂

And here for all the movies I’ve seen in 2013.

*preparing for the angry comments… Lol!* *Especially now that I’ve edited this & lowered the rating…*