Sunday, March 15, 2015

John Wick (2014) (R)

Director: Chad Stahleski, David Leitch (uncredited)
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Defoe, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Adrianne Palicki, Dean Winters, Bridget Moynahan

Hearing nothing but good things about the sleeper action film John Wick (2014), I figured the high praise was enough give this one a go. Let me start by saying, nothing in this movie disappoints. The premise is ridiculous, the flick knows it’s off the rails, and what makes it work is that it simply does not care what you think. The people behind the revenge picture might as well have added a disclaimer that reads: “Sit down. Shut up. Enjoy.” And with that being said, (Holy Body Count!) was this a non-stop Funfest. (Even my Lady liked it. That’s saying something.)

John Wick (Reeves) starts off as a sympathetically stoic widower having a tough time dealing with the loss of his ailing wife (Moynahan). Keeping to himself, very little is given about his back-story, other than he has a sweet ass car and an adorable new puppy. At times the opening feels like they were going for the sappy levels we succumbed to in the gut wrenchingly somber intro of Up (2009). But that all comes to a screeching halt once the son of a Russian mob boss (Allen) takes an unhealthy interest in Wick’s car while filling up at a gas station (Word to the wise, don’t mess with another man’s ride.). After breaking into his home and stealing (amongst other horrific acts) the beloved vehicle, much (MUCH) more is of Wick’s past life slowly simmers to the surface and eventually leads to an all out boil-over of who this relatively quiet man truly was. And it just keeps getting better from there.

This movie was drag out, blood and guts, slam-bam (add more silly terms at your leisure) from the end of Act One on and it doesn’t let up until the final shot. Normally, this can be tedious and ineffective, but the world that opens up to the viewer is so well crafted that it leaves the audience clamoring for more. The supporting cast is amazing as well, dropping familiar faces into this gumbo of awesome at a steady, but not over saturated, pace. Rough, gritty, and self aware of it’s coo-coo bananas plot, the filmmakers put together a production that comes with a slick polish all the while throwing everything they could at the screen without apology. I haven’t seen a movie this confident in a crazy premise since Jason Statham ran amok in Crank (2006).

I can see why this film was not seen by a wider audience. On the surface, one would think this was another mindless shoot ‘em up, but John Wick is so much more. The trailers had to be mum about the storyline because to tell the entire plot would take away the dark but somehow comedic goings on of the picture. Hell, even the title tells you nothing. And if you can stay in that state of obliviousness until you see it, all the better.

This movie is not for everyone, mind you. Grandma may want to sit this one out (unless she’s cool, then I say game on). The violence is just that, violent. But what did you think you were getting from an action movie. The fight choreography and gun play were great. Look away for even a second and you've missed something. Bringing back the one man army that was Reeves in The Matrix series, John Wick keeps that mantra true to form throughout with a tight blending of fists and firearms. An action fan truly gets his money’s worth on this one.

As stated earlier, the body count in this film is staggering and unrelenting. So much so that if you look hard enough, you can find links on Youtube giving a shocking (yet accurate) number for the
titular character alone (worth a gander, but you gotta do the leg work on that one.). What makes this rough pill so easy to swallow is how the violence is presented. The rules of John Wick’s universe, once you are brought behind the curtain, is so over blown and aware of it’s cool, that as a viewer it never seems out of place. In fact, one might feel naked without it.

So, now comes the part of the review where I give my honest opinion. Smart. Mindless. Dark. Funny. Sad. Triumphant… most of all entertaining.  The scales are never tipped in one direction or the other emotionally. Every feeling is fair game and the ride begs you to get in line twice. And, you just might. Now shut off the lights. Turn up the sound. And hang on, because John Wick is going to beat some fun into your ass. (Was that too much? It might have been too much… Screw it. Your ass will be beaten with fun.). Enjoy!

Ruff Rider

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Big Game- Official Trailer (2015) (PG-13)

Sometimes it’s fun to watch the craziest common denominator on screen and just go with it. With that, I give you Big Game (2015). Quick plot synoposis: After Air Force One is taken down, The President of the United States' (Samuel L. ‘Snakes On A Mutha F*&$’n Plane’ Jackson) only hope to get home is a survivalist child with a recurve bow. Hell, yes! This best be good.

Monday, March 9, 2015

St. Vincent (2014) (PG-13)

Director: Theodore Melfi
Starring: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd, Terrence Howard, Jaeden Lieberher

Normally, I try to start a review with a slow build to what my true feelings about a movie actually are. This will not be one of those reviews. Do yourself a favor, as soon as you read the rest of this, turn off whatever device you’re using to read it on and watch St. Vincent (2014) directed by Theodore Melfi. I cannot recommend this film enough (seriously, I bet there’s bound to be a Redbox near by.)

Bill Murray plays Vincent, a drinking, smoking, gambling schlub with a snide comment for every occasion. After a minor run in with his new neighbor Maggie (McCarthy), a divorced lab tech working long hours to support her young son Oliver (played perfectly by Jaeden Lieberher), Vincent gets stuck watching Oliver when he gets locked out. Realizing there is a way to make a quick buck, Vincent offers to babysit after school so Maggie can go to work. I’m going to stop right there. To go on would do this film a disservice. You'll just have to see it for yourself.

So, what makes this flick so great? Hmmm. Where to start? Bill Murray (need I say more? Yeah, maybe I should.) is amazing as usual. The man has not lost that touch which made him so beloved to us over the years, he’s only made it sharper (I could go on for hours.). Next up on the roster is Melissa McCarthy. To be honest, I have been a fan of hers for years. But I’ll admit the goofy shtick was beginning to get old. But in this she’s back to that sweet realistic character who you can’t help but root for (we missed ya, kid.).

Naomi Watts was a complete surprise in a role which I was pleasantly not prepared for. Her comedic timing kept up with Sir Bill in spades (I won’t ruin it for you.). The endearingly funny Chris O’Dowd is excellent as usual as Brother Geraghty, Oliver’s quick-witty Catholic school teacher (check him out on The IT Crowd (2006). After you watch the movie, of course.). Terrence Howard, who I am hot and cold on for the most part, played his role with a a subtleness that adds levels to the character which I haven't seen coming from him since Hustle And Flow (2005). Which brings me to Jaeden Lieberher as Oliver. Keep an eye in this one, he is going to do some great things. He doesn’t over sell the part, he makes it his own. With many young actors, having the weight of working with veterans can be a challenge. Oliver comes off as a layered, well thought out character who isn’t overwritten to be smarter than he is.

The screenplay (also written by Melfi) was smart, building on each person gradually. Not rushing into spilling truths too early. Hinting and letting the reveal come with time. Finding films that do this well in these days of "getting to the point in the first act” is refreshing, showing a really love of the project from Melfi.

And yeah, I’ll admit it. I teared up (send your emails to and they will be deleted in a timely fashion). Now, I don’t want you to think that these were all just tears of sadness (maybe a few. No spoilers). Oh no, they were happy tears, sad tears, joyous tears (did I just write joyous. Sheesh. Moving on.). My friends, you will run the gamut emotions with this one. Alright, I’m going to wrap this up shortly. Remember what we talked about earlier. You’re going to watch this, right? I’m trusting you. In summation, St. Vincent is one of the those movies that hits a lot of notes and always stays in tune. It’s just a great film. Do enjoy it. And what’s not to enjoy. It has Bill (freakin’) Murray in it.

To the RedBox!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Automata (2014) (PG-13)

Director: Gabe Ibanez 
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Dylon McDermott, Melanie Griffith, Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Robert Forster

A few months ago I posted a trailer for what I thought looked to be an interesting movie. If you would like to a look back on that post feel free:

Welcome back. Now, lets get down to it, Boppers. What did I get out of Automata (2014)? Whew. Let me start by throwing out one bias towards the film that could swing this review in it's favor... or reverse the verdict all together. It took me about three sittings to watch this film mostly because it was late at night when I started it. That being said, my lord is it a slow start. I tried to get into this movie. I really did. Especially, because of my fondness for Isaac Asimov and his take on modern robotics. But this was a touch too much. And certainly not of Asimov standards.

Slow is not the word for this film. Dragging with a hint of dramatized over importance seems a better term. It took a long time in a very boring world to get to the interesting plot points which took place in an even more boring backdrop. Now, I am all for intellectual think pieces with smart payoffs. but this was trying my patience. I actually yearned for a few more explosions and mindless chase sequences. Something to keep me awake, until the mildly interesting third act.

As to not sound bitter and give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt (having worked in film, I know it's not easy), I think the film looked great. Shot well. Cut well. The special effects were tight. The acting... first let me say, I am a fan of Antonio Banderas. He pulled his weight. With the film resting mostly on his shoulders, he came off like a pro. Doing what he could with what he was given. That brings me to one Ms. Melanie Griffith. Having had her moment in the sun on past films, I wont't be too critical. But to cast her as a roboticist? Really? I won't go any further into the matter, but you get the point.

The concept is strong, I'll admit. But it's nothing you haven't seen before. (and you most likely will see it again). If there was a twist that could have redeemed the film, I missed it. And to write a review this scathing of a project that seemed like it was smarter than the sum of it's parts pains me, because not often do we find filmmakers trying to push the boundaries of what Hollywood has set as a template. Attempts to make smart film is tough to find in these times of mass appeal. To this, I applaud the makers, but try to not take yourself so seriously. If everything in the movie is bleak there leaves no room for resolve. And if bleak is your endgame, at least make the journey interesting. 

Enough bashing of people who are doing more than I can say I attempted to do in producing a motion picture. They tried and missed in my opinion, but maybe I missed something. Watch Automata at your own accord. You may take away something I just didn’t see. Even if the result is a differing opinion, at least we know something came of it.