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JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2

“People keep asking if I’m back and I haven’t really had an answer, but yeah, I’m thinking I’m back.”

RELEASED: October 24th 2014
DIRECTED BY: Chad Stahelski
WRITTEN BY: Derek Kolstad
PRODUCED BY: Basil Iwanyk & Erica Lee
MUSIC BY: Tyler Bates & Joel J. Richard
STARRING: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick, Ruby Rose, Common, Claudia Gerini, Laurence Fishburne, Peter Serafinowicz, Peter Stormare & Franco Nero

Unlike John Wick: Chapter 1, Chapter 2 seems to be just as good as I remember it being. While I will admit that some action sequences are better in the first movie, as a whole, the quality of the second film remains consistently high across all fronts.

For one, the action sequences are more bountiful and varied – you have car action, hand-to-hand action, gunfights, pencil fights, knife fights; the whole shebang. All of it is excellently choreographed, and while there are some action sequences that feel slightly repetitive; I suppose it makes sense that a dedicated assassin would have his go-to movies.

Chapter 2 opens with John Wick finally tracking down his car from the first movie, and finishing off the rest of his Russian rival’s forces. However, after inflicting so much carnage, John gets a visit from an Italian crimelord whom he owes a favour, and who has come to collect now that John is seemingly back in the game. Forced to take on a job he doesn’t want to do – one that will have dire consequences – John must once more take a whole lot of lives so that he can return to retirement.

The main problem with the first film was perhaps the script. Fortunately, the script for Chapter 2 seems to have improved greatly, despite being written by the same man, John Wick creator Derek Kolstad. Here, the dialogue is less awkward and more flowing, and John gets to develop his personality a bit more. The world he inhabits is further fleshed out, and the result is a fascinating and different action film to those that have come before. Whereas Chapter 1 had hints of this, it mostly centred in on the tired ‘practised killer, out for revenge after the death of a loved one’ trope, and while, of course, that can be done right, Chapter 1 just hit the same beats and relied heavily on its action spectacle.

Chapter 2 manages to create its own world that’s worth exploring, with interesting characters and an interesting plot and then heaping Stahelski’s excellent action back on top.

There are some great performances here; Common, I think, being the highlight for me, and Ian McShane’s Winston once again standing above the rest. Reeve’s Wick is less hammy this time around and feels more genuinely burdened as a result.

I’m not sure what exactly has changed here, seeing as Chapter 1 co-director David Leitch wasn’t credited on the first film and didn’t contribute to directorial duties at all on the second film, but his disappearance seems to make all the difference. Furthermore, if you look to his projects post-Wick (Deadpool 2), one can’t help but wonder if he was dragging the project down slightly.

Anyway, I give John Wick: Chapter 2:

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Posted by on May 20, 2019 in Movie & TV Reviews

 

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JOHN WICK | DVD Review

RELEASED: October 24th 2014
DIRECTED BY: Chad Stahelski & David Leitch
WRITTEN BY: Derek Kolstad
PRODUCED BY: Basil Iwanyk, David Leitch, Michael Witherill & Eva Longoria
MUSIC BY: Tyler Bates & Joel J. Richard
STARRING: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick & Willem Dafoe

John Wick: Chapter 1 is the explosive debut of the John Wick franchise; the third entry of which is in cinemas now. The film follows the titular retired hit-man after some punks steal his car and kill the dog his deceased wife left for him, and he is forced to get back in the game and get his revenge – racking up a sizeable body count in the process.

When I first watched John Wick, I went in with no expectations after randomly picking it up for £3 one morning after work. My positive opinion of it has remained with me ever since and prompted me to go see the second film, which I also enjoyed. With John Wick: Chapter 3 now in cinemas, I sat down to watch the film again for the first time in three years, this time with my action-cynical girlfriend in tow, to see if she would join me at the cinema. The end result, whether that be due to me seeing it through her eyes, or me just taking more of it in, is that this film is perhaps not as good as I’ve been thinking it was for the past few years.

The strength of John Wick comes from the trio of star Keanu Reeves, and the two directors, Chad Stahelski and (the uncredited) David Leitch. When it comes to action, Reeves immerses himself in a role, doing his best to do as many of the stunts as he can, and making sure he’s an expert in whatever action style he’s portraying. Similarly, Stahelski and Leitch are former stuntmen, who have experience working on action films with excellent choreography such as Captain America: Civil War. Here, as they make their directorial debut, you can see them bringing all that excellent stunt knowledge and style to the director’s chair(s), and the result is some beautiful action sequences.

The choreography is immense, and watching Reeves’ John Wick mow through his attackers with his ‘gun fu’ fighting style is gripping and visceral. The locales these fights take place in often make what you’re watching vibrant and alive, and so scenes like ‘the club’ section of the movie really shine and stick with you.

But outside of that, this film is a bit lacking. The story is simple (but admittedly poignant), and the script is not so great. While there are some funny lines, the dialogue is mostly quite weak, with awkward lines and a lot of (as Rachel pointed out) people just saying each other’s names. It’s meant to show that Wick is well known amongst this assassin’s community, and it works, but it also makes you feel like the action is wholly the focus (which it is, pretty much) at the expense of the dialogue. Of course, how well this dialogue comes off is also affected by the actor delivering it. Keanu, in true Keanu style, straddles the line between the amusing, detached assassin, and a hammy mess of a man. Ian McShane, conversely, brings a lot of gravitas to his lines, as he hints at potential set-up for the sequel, while other characters, like Palicki’s Ms Perkins or Nyqvist’s Tarasov, unfortunately, can’t make the weird lines they have to sprout feel genuine. Not necessarily their fault though.

Ultimately, John Wick is a great action spectacle in the first half, full of colourful shots and excellent action, but falls down as soon as you start to look too closely. The excitement also starts to drop off in the third act, as the rather short runtime still somehow seems to drag on.

All-in-all, I give John Wick:

I really hope Chapter 2 is as good as I remember.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2019 in Movie & TV Reviews

 

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DETECTIVE PIKACHU | Film Review

RELEASED: May 10th 2019
DIRECTED BY: Rob Letterman
WRITTEN BY: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Derek Connolly, Nicole Perlman & Rob Letterman
PRODUCED BY: Mary Parent, Cale Boyter, Hidenaga Katakami & Don McGowan
MUSIC BY: Henry Jackman
STARRING: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Suki Waterhouse, Omar Chaparro, Chris Geere, Rita Ora, Diplo, Ken Watanabe & Bill Nighy

Twenty-three years after the release of Pokémon Red and Green (/Blue, to western audiences), Pokémon has finally hit our screens as a live-action movie. And unlike the majority of video-game adaptations, it’s pretty darn good!

The film follows former aspiring Pokémon trainer Tim Goodman (Smith), as he is forced to venture into Rime City after his father, an ace detective, dies on a case. There, he meets his father’s amnesiac Pokémon partner, Pikachu (Reynolds), who for some unknown reason, Tim can understand. Pikachu is adamant that Tim’s father is actually alive, and so the pair set off the solve the cases of Pikachu’s amnesia and Tim’s dad’s disappearance, both of which are somehow connected to the mysterious genetically engineered Pokémon Mewtwo.

When it comes to making a live-action Pokémon movie, there’s one thing that the creators had to get right – the Pokémon. Which, fortunately, they do. Rime City is rife with Pocket Monsters ranging from those we first met in Red and Blue back in the late nineties, all the way up to appearances from newer creatures who debuted in the Sun and Moon entries just a few years ago.

Fan favourites like Charizard and Greninja get their time in the spotlight, while a wealth of other Pokémon such as Treecko, Pidgeotto and Rattata proliferate the background. The world truly feels alive, and you can totally buy into the harmonious relationship between humans and Pokémon, and how that all works.

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Posted by on May 14, 2019 in Movie & TV Reviews

 

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GHOST IN THE SHELL | Film Review

RELEASED: March 31sts 2017
DIRECTED BY: Rupert Sanders
WRITTEN BY: Jamie Moss, William Wheeler & Ehren Kruger
PRODUCED BY: Avi Arad, Steven Paul & Michael Costigan
MUSIC BY: Clint Mansell & Lorne Balfe
STARRING: Scarlett Johannson, Pilou Asbæk, Michael Carmen Pitt, Chin Han, Juliette Binoche & Takeshi Kitano

Ghost in the Shell follows Scarlett Johansson as ‘Major’ Mira Killian; a young Japanese woman resurrected in an artificial body after an untimely death and put to work as a new breed of police operative. However, after coming into conflict with a dangerous hacker, Killian begins to suspect that not everything she’s been told about her lost past is completely true.

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Posted by on May 8, 2019 in Movie & TV Reviews

 

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AVENGERS: ENDGAME | Film Review

“Whatever it takes”

RELEASED: April 25th 2019
DIRECTED BY: Joe & Anthony Russo
WRITTEN BY: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
PRODUCED BY: Kevin Feige
MUSIC BY: Alan Silvestri
STARRING: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brie Larson & Josh Brolin

When I walked out of the screening of Avengers: Endgame on Tuesday night, I was conflicted. I knew what I had watched was good, and I enjoyed a lot of it, but something didn’t sit right with me. I’ll probably have to watch the movie again (at which point I’ll amend anything in here that’s off) and I may even do a spoiler review at that point, but here are my initial thoughts…

Avengers: Endgame sees a world where the bad guys won. After snapping his fingers and wiping out half the life in the universe, Thanos has retreated to a distant planet to live out his days, while the Avengers are left on Earth to pick up the pieces. But after discovering Thanos’ location, the Avengers reunite and decide to take one last shot at retrieving the Infinity Stones and bringing the fallen back to life.

I had a fairly decent sense of how this movie was going to play out. Between set photos I’d seen a year or two ago, and the trailers (which show even less of the movie than you’d think) I had a reasonably good idea of what the various beats of this film would be.

And while I wasn’t wrong, I think for most this film will hold a lot of surprises. The first ten minutes quickly let you know that things aren’t going to go the way you think, before the movie proceeds to do a hard right turn into ‘bonkers’ territory. The tone is a lot more upbeat and goofy than what the trailers promised, and at times, that can be a bit jarring when compared to the expectations you enter the cinema with (that’s not the fault of the film-makers of course, so much as it is the audience and marketing). There’s a lot of humour, and from some characters, in particular, it can seem like a little much.

But there’s also a lot of heart. This film is a very emotional journey, but unfortunately, for me, on first viewing – not all of it resonated. There are some pretty big hits, and I was watching them knowing I was meant to be feeling more than I was (or at least something) and coming up short. Maybe that was down to the offbeat tone. Or maybe I’m just soulless. We’ll see after I’ve watched the film again.

However, in spite of both that and the fact we all know Spider-Man: Far From Home is coming out in a few short months, and the MCU will continue, this very much does feel like the end of the story, regardless of whether or not all these ends resonate with you. Marvel Studios could just stop here, and the series, as a whole, would work. There’s not a lot in the way of set-up for the future, just a focus on making sure what’s on the table now is taken to the wholesome destination it needs to go.

In this regard, praise should be heaped upon screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Here, they’ve managed to write a three-hour movie, full of fan-service and pay-off, and yet at no point does it feel like a drag, nor overly rushed. The character work is generally quite strong, with every character getting their time in the spotlight. Along with the directors, they’ve managed to make a movie that’s both breezy and epic, yet without being as action-packed as it’s predecessor. Instead, it’s filled with love for these characters and a desire to tell a very different sort of story to what’s come before.

But when the action does come around, it’s great. Although I felt a bit conflicted about the film as a whole, one thing that I am 100% certain on is that the action is fantastic. In particular, there’s one particular one-on-one fight that continues to display the excellent choreography on the Russo brothers’ previous films, and there’s one particular sequence later in the film that’s even more spectacular than ‘the airport scene’. I’ve seen someone describe it as something like ‘the most epic superhero battle of all time’. They’re not wrong.

Overall, this isn’t the best Marvel film of the lot. In my opinion, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Winter Soldier, Civil War or Infinity War. But maybe that’s not the point. It’s like watching a TV series. The penultimate episode is usually the most exciting – the one where the stakes are the highest. The final episode, in contrast, is more about closing things out in a satisfying way. And in that respect, I’d say Endgame succeeds.

However, I also feel like this is a similar feeling to how I felt about The Last Jedi. At first, there was a sense of melancholy (maybe I’m just depressed about the fates of some characters and I haven’t realised?), but as I continued to think about all the various factors in the film, the more I grew to love it. This is a very dense film, and I’m still processing it the next day, and for every **** bothered me a bit, there are five more instances of but I loved it when ***** did *****. But I’m confident with each subsequent rewatch I’ll grow to love it even more.


Due to my uncertainty about the film, my rating can be found on my spoiler review.

 
 

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GAME OF THRONES: SEASON 7 | TV Review

We’re now just a mere few hours away from the premiere of the final season of Game of Thrones, so it’s time for me to finally get my act together and review the penultimate season!

RELEASED: July 16th 2017 – August 27th 2017
SHOWRUNNER: David Benioff & D. B. Weiss
WRITTEN BY: David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman & Dave Hill
DIRECTED BY: Jeremy Podeswa, Mark Mylod, Matt Shakman & Alan Taylor
MUSIC BY:  Ramin Djawadi
STARRING: 
Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Aidan Gillen, Liam Cunningham, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Nathalie Emmanuel, Gwendoline Christie, Conleth Hill, John Bradley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Hannah Murray, Kristofer Hivju, Rory McCann, Iain Glen, Carice van Houten, Indira Varma, Alfie Allen, Jerome Flynn, Joe Dempsie, Richard Dormer, Paul Kaye, Daniel Portman, Vladimir Furdik, Joseph Mawle, Pilou Asbæk, Anton Lesser, Hafpór Júlíus Björnsson, James Faulkner, Tom Hopper, Mark Gatiss, Jacob Anderson, Diana Rigg, Gemma Whelan, Jessica Henwick, Rosabell Laurenti Sellers, Keisha Castle-Hughes & Jim Broadbent

After six seasons, Daenerys Targaryen finally arrives in Westeros, taking up residence in her family home of Dragonstone, and beginning a war against Cersei Lannister for control of the Seven Kingdoms. Meanwhile, Jon Snow, the King in the North, leaves Winterfell in search of allies to help against the army of the dead, while the Night King continues to accumulate power as he and his armies march on the wall.

Much like season six before it, season seven of Game of Thrones delivers a lot of pay-off and fan-service over its shorter runtime. We’ve been watching these characters grow for sixty episodes, and here, we finally get to see the majority of the cast come together at some point or another, revelling in their shared history, and setting things up for both the battle against the Night King and the Wight Walkers, as well as the battle for control of the Iron Throne.

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SHAZAM! | Film Review

“Say my name”

RELEASED: April 5th 2019
DIRECTED BY: David F. Sandberg
WRITTEN BY: Henry Gayden & Darren Lemke
PRODUCED BY: Peter Safran
MUSIC BY: Benjamin Wallfisch
STARRING: Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Mark Strong & Djimon Hounsou

Since its premiere, Shazam! has garnered critical acclaim, and is being touted as perhaps the best film in the ‘Worlds of DC’. It’s well directed, features a strong cast and has a well-written story that hits poignant beats and pulls off funny gags with ease. It’s a good film, without a doubt. But personally, I’m not sure it lives up to the hype that everyone else seems to think it does.

Shazam! is the story of Billy Batson, a foster kid who finds himself transported to the magical Rock of Eternity – the home of the ancient wizard Shazam. With a threat to the Earth on the loose in the form of Doctor Thaddeus Sivana and the personifications of the seven deadly sins, Shazam hopes to bestow his powers on a champion who is pure of heart and spirit. But having run out of options, he instead chooses Billy. Now gifted with a superpowered adult body, Billy is forced to become a superhero and stop Sivana from destroying the world.

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Posted by on April 10, 2019 in DC, Movie & TV Reviews

 

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