Geostorm (2017) – Teaser

Outlook: Utter garbage

Director: Dean Devlin

Cast: Gerard Butler, Abbie Cornish, Ed Harris, & Andy Garcia

Hollywood must need a payday. Geostorm delivers our yearly disaster-movie that copies, almost frame for frame, the 2004 disaster film, Day After Tomorrow. The only alteration to its story is its storms’ origin. Day After Tomorrow‘s storms were a result of climate change, whereas Geostorm‘s occur due to a malfunctioning weather machine. Everything else appears unchanged.

Dean Devlin wrote and directs the movie. Devlin is a disaster film veteran, but this trailer reveals that he has learned little from his long career. His writing and production credits include Independence Day, Godzilla (’98)and 2016’s pitiful Independence Day: Resurgence. His filmography has been on a downward trajectory and I would wager Geostorm will continue this trend.

I reckon with Warner Bros. struggles with the subpar results from its D.C. properites, they’re looking for a sure payoff, but this movie will not be it. Its only solid star is Ed Harris and I doubt his name will connect with Geostorm‘s target audience: teenagers.

The movie’s CGI is beautiful, a prerequisite for a disaster film, so the movie might breakeven. The trailer does its job showing the correct amount of stern expressions, massive storms, and impending death, but I just can’t get past its hackneyed story elements that line up with Day After Tomorrow‘s plot: The tornadoes are identical to the ones that ravage LA and the tidal wave that appears at the end of the trailer is indistinguishable from the one that floods NYC.

The movie is due out in October 20, 2017. I will be seeing something else that day.

Deadpool 2 (2018) – Teaser

Outlook: Insanely great

Director: David Leitch

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Maria Baccarin, & David Harbour

20th Century Fox smartly placed this teaser in between Logan‘s trailers and the starting scene of Logan with no MPAA green splash screen. Without the screen, its start appeared to be the opening scene of Logan, so when Wade Wilson removes his hood, its a total surprise. I fell over in my seat laughing from the shock. The teaser epitomizes what Deadpool stands for: subverting the superhero genre through ruthless mocking. This trailer specifically mocks Superman, Spiderman, Stan Lee cameos, and of course, Wolverine. The trailer continues Deadpool‘s  awesomely crude humor with my favorite line being- “Zip it, Stan Lee!”

Things to note:

  1. On the phone booth someone has written “Nathan Summers cumming soon.” According to Wikipedia, Nathan Summers is an antagonist in the X-Men universe and his superhero name is Cable. I don’t know much about comic lore as I’ve never read one, but go to Wikipedia to learn more.
  2. The Firefly posters in the window behind the phone-booth. I’m sure this is a nod to Morena Baccarin’s most famous role besides her role as Wade’s girlfriend, Vanessa.
  3. The Deadpool Cliff Notes version of The Old Man and the Sea. In it Wade humorously harps on the similarities between the Old Man’s bad luck with the fish and his bad luck with Vanessa in Deadpool. Parts of it also sound like Donald Trump’s tweets. I’m not sure the connection there, but it is definitely worth a read.

Deadpool 2 is scheduled to be released sometime in 2018. Can’t come fast enough.

 

Logan 

Movie Score: 5 out 5 (The only classic Marvel film so far)

Director: James Mangold

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Stephen Merchant, Richard. E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, and introducing Dafne Keen.

Saul’s Review

Logan stands alone as a classic film from the superhero genre. Remove the abilities, and Logan is a gritty film contending with violence, desperation, hope, and family. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart return to roles that have defined their careers, delivering their best performances as The Wolverine and Professor X. Out of the two, Jackman truly shines,depicting Logan not as a hero in any sort, but as a man crushed by a hostile world, frayed by years of hiding and tainted by a long life of misery. Set in a dystopian premonition of Trump’s America, the superheroes in Logan are not invincible, but vulnerable, and it is their vulnerability which makes them so dangerous. This is the most human superhero film ever made. Nor does the film waiver, like so many blockbuster films, from its own serious tone. Logan unflinchingly shows the consequences and deaths which ensue The Wolverine’s actions.

A great final performance

In Logan, The Wolverine has shifted from being a man with nothing to lose as seen in earlier films, to a man who wants to die. It takes an actor with an understanding and an appreciation of a character, like Hugh Jackman, to successfully affect such a subtle shift. Down to his physicality, The Wolverine is a broken man, shuffling onto the opening scenes, dragging himself against the worries of the world. Although he is older and wearier of violence, The Wolverine’s anger is unbridled once provoked rendering him even deadlier than ever. Director James Mangold, who directed The Wolverine before Logan, understands the character, and is able to present a darker depiction of The Wolverine, injecting enough levity into the plot to stop Logan delving into melodrama.

Professor X is no longer the leader of the X-Men but an ailing and elderly man who has moments of lucidity. Patrick Stewart always fitted the role of Professor X, but in Logan we see two refreshing sides to the character. Professor X alternates between a caring grandfather figure towards the young mutant Laura (Dafne Keen), to a stern and mainly ungrateful father and mentor to The Wolverine. Both Stewart and Jackson had great chemistry together in earlier X-Men films, but Logan’s focus upon the pair adds to the close relationship these characters have, and how ultimately, they need each other.

Dafne Keen, without revealing too much about her character, is the mirror to The Wolverine. Her youth and rage matches The Wolverine’s weariness and age. While watching her character, she repeats many of the mannerisms, and flaws, of a younger Wolverine, and clearly needs his help to accept who she is.

Despite William Boyd, of Narcos fame, delivering a great turn as head villain Donald Pierce, lacing his role with humour and a clear admiration for mutants, it is Stephen Merchant who surprises as mutant Caliban. Merchant’s performance was refreshingly serious, with his comedic quips only adding to a character who I became quickly attached to. I hope Merchant receives more serious roles as a result of Logan, he definitely has the talent to succeed.

Weird West

Logan is a hybrid of dystopian and Western themes which draws from Rian Johnson’s Looper’s setting and themes of family, love and redemption. It is a credit to Mangold and screenwriter Scott Frank that Logan steps onto well used tropes, but remains unique. By straddling the America-Mexico border, the film subtly comments upon temporary America, juxtaposing the desolate but peaceful Mexico borderlands with the aggressive patriotism and debauchery of El Paso, Texas.

Broad landscape panoramas of Mexican plans cut against well scripted fight scenes that flit between steady cam and fixed camera shots. The car chases scenes take inspiration from Mad Max: Fury Road, delivering moments which appear like a choreographed dance. Pitting The Wolverine and Professor X against The Reavers, mechanically enhanced mercenaries, evens the odds. Every encounter with The Reavers is a hard-won fight, as opposed to earlier X-Men films where it was all too obvious which side would succeed.

Verdict

Not since Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight has a superhero film felt as grounded in realism, where actions have a cost and the characters are not fantastical, but people trying to better the world, however bleak. If you have the time, go see Logan.

Recommended audience: Comic-book lovers, Marvel Fans and anyone who does not want to see a typical blockbuster film.

Hagood’s review:

I couldn’t think of a better send off for my favorite member of the X-Men. This “final” Wolverine film surpassed Superhero clichés in the best way: intense drama. Deadpool & Guardians of the Galaxy both circumvented such clichés, but did so by mocking or over-exaggerating them. After a string of decent Wolverine movies (X-Men Origins: Wolverine & The Wolverine), Logan does more than deliver breathtaking action. It brings intense emotion fueled by complex characters.

The movie starts with a weakened and aged Logan dedicatedly nursing the sick Professor X south of the Mexican border. Neither he nor Professor X have a true purpose in life. Both struggle in their day-to-day lives, but then enters the young and tumultuous mutant, Laura (the debut role of the superb Dafne Keen), who is being hunted by mercenary Donald Pierce (played by rising star, Boyd Holbrook).

Suddenly, these two aging mutants have a purpose to live: Protect the last child of their race.

But the plot goes deeper than “racial” eugenics. It boils down to the fiercest bonds humans share: Family. This is where Logan bests its Marvel and DC brethren. Most gloss over such important bonding elements and instead focus on delivering a massive third-act battle royale, which can be fun, but quickly becomes boring. Logan does both: it packs in several concentrated and extreme battles, but it doesn’t withhold the quiet moments where characters connect.

My only gripe with Logan is that at 2 hours and 17 minutes, it is a bit long. Honestly, I cannot recommend a scene to shorten or cut, so maybe it doesn’t need a cut.

Please, go enjoy this pleasantly deep Marvel film.

Target audience: Teenage males (for the bloody action) and serious movie aficionados

For the trailer follow the link 

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) – Teaser

Outlook: Shamefully Poor

Directors: Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandburg

Cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom (rumored), Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, & David Wenham

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales comes out on my birthday. May 26 has seen the release of many great summer blockbusters, including a few Star War films. Thankfully, this year I will be in India, where I will hopefully not be near a theater playing this movie.

Disney is really scraping the bottom of the (rum) barrel with this fifth installment in the Pirates franchise. The trailer proclaims that this is Jack Sparrow’s “Final Adventure.” I certainly hope their statement is true.

The trailer repeats the plot of the franchise’s predecessors: Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) running away from some half-dead man who is out to kill him. Javier Bardem’s character, Spanish Captain Salazar, could easily be exchanged for Geoffrey Rush’s skeletal-zombie Barbossa from the first film, or Bill Nighy’s mutated Davy Jones from Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. Salazar looks like a mix between these two previous villains.

I would gladly open my wallet for Jack Sparrow if Disney put him on a different adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed the first film and liked the third one as they were different and fun. The second and fourth, Dead Man’s Chest On Stranger Tides, bored me because of their lacking plots, tired dialogue, and flat characters. I wanted to leave both. This movie, like those predecessors, looks fatigued.

The only part of the trailer that interested me was the introduction. I would love if this movie utilized a more historically accurate story instead of mystical elements and zombie villains. That would be a welcome change. Young Jack Sparrow looked like a stone-cold badass. I want more of him.

Sadly, it appears Disney is sticking to the formula that they know works. They’re even attempting to revive the Elizabeth Swan-Will Turner relationship without Kiera Knightley and Orlando Bloom. At least those two actors have the sense to stay away from a bad movie. It appears Johnny Depp either doesn’t care or needs the money to help maintain his stupidly opulent lifestyle.

I’m a HUGE Disney fan and I strongly believe it is a mistake to continue this franchise with such a recycled story. I hope that I’m wrong.

By Hagood Grantham

 

It Comes At Night -Teaser

Outlook: Spine chillingly good

Director: Trey Edward Shults

Cast: Joel Edgerton, Riley Keough, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr.

In the wake of The VVitch and The Blackcoat’s Daughter, A24 has been developing a fine pedigree in the horror genre. It Comes At Night looks to be the darkest horror film produced by A24 so far.

The film’s premise is that two families, escaping an unknown menace ravaging America, find refuge together in an isolated hut. Yet the threat outside their shelter is quickly overshadowed by the enmity and paranoia which develops between them all.

It Comes At Night is directed and written by Trey Edward Shults, a rising director who gained critical acclaim for his debut film Krisha, about an estranged woman trying to reconnect with her family. Brandishing a larger budget for his second film, Shults has crafted a post-apocalyptic horror which borrows heavily from The Road, which is one of my favourite films. From the teaser trailer alone, both films explore the themes of family, love, and survival in a brooding and eerie post-apocalyptic setting where danger is everywhere. One scene in the teaser trailer, where the camera silently pans down a dimly corridor adorned by family photos, is reminiscent of the cannibal’s house in The Road.

Unlike The Road, where the apocalypse is caused by an unknown cataclysm, It Comes At Night suggests an unknown, but palpable force is sweeping across the world. Horror films have been using the trope of an unseen menace since The Blair Witch Project,  to create the monster in the audience’s own imagination.

Horror based on suggestion is effective but also destructive. The trope creates a subjective expectation of what the menace is, which often surpasses the final reveal and renders a film anti-climatic. The better horror films which rely on suggestion conclude without any revelation. Paranormal Activity did an excellent job in crafting the house’s dark presence without divulging anything at the film’s end.

It Comes At Night bears the challenge of delivering upon the threat outside, without the revelation being disappointing or jarring with plot’s slow-paced tension. Regardless, I am excited to see this film on release, and from the trailer alone, Trey Edward Shults has the potential to be a great director.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below:

Alien Covenant- Teaser

Outlook- Promising, but there are doubts

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Katherine Waterston, James Franco, Danny McBride, Michael Fassbender, Billy Crudup and others.

Prometheus was the first draft of a film, rather than the complete tale. It tried to explain the background to Alien, while exploring the premise of human life as an accident, devoid of intelligent design. The film was ambitious but relied on inferences and assumptions to cover up gaping holes in the story. To audiences who had not seen Alien or who were not fans of Scott’s work, Prometheus was incoherent. Ridley Scott is a talented director who can muster another  masterpiece equalling his earlier films. Following the teaser trailer which came out a few months ago, Alien: Covenant will be another classic film crafted by Scott’s hands.

20th Century Fox has just released the official trailer for  Alien: Covenant. Visually, the film is a gorgeous blend of CGI, practical effects, set-pieces, and on-location filming. The cut between the Covenant gliding across the stars to their landing on their new home was breathtaking. The trailer follows the transition of a great horror film, from cautious optimism to increasing terror. Scott has perfected the ambience for this film.

Alien: Covenant boasts a great cast overall, and their respective characters have been developed through the ominously titled The Last Supper prologue for Alien: Covenant. The scene itself presents the traits of the main characters very effectively through snippets of dialogue, and imparts a real sense of comradeship, excitement, and trepidation as the Covenant’s crew embarks on the landmark colonisation of a distant planet.

I would recommend watching The Last Supper prologue before watching the Alien: Covenant trailer.

 

While watching the full Alien: Covenant trailer, I occasionally noticed the same incoherence that afflicted Prometheus. The trailer reveals multiple threats to the Covenant’s crew, a hooded-figure, an airborne virus, and strangely enough two different types of alien. The alien in the later scenes of the trailer is the classic xenomorph we know and love, but halfway through, one of the covenant’s crew is gored by an anaemic and wiry variant. Hopefully Scott has returned to Alien’s template of a monster film in space, instead of building an overly complicated plot like Prometheus.

I still have issues with Katherine Waterston as the lead character, Daniels. Alien and Prometheus centred upon a strong female lead, and so far I have only seen Katherine Waterston playing helpless and unsympathetic characters. Scott has stated that casting is the pivotal part of his film-making process, but Waterston still comes across as wet, which disappoints me because in Inherent Vice, she tantalised us with glimpses of potential.

Having watched the trailer a few times, here are a few things I have noticed so far:

1.36: The dog-tag in the Alien ship definitely belongs to Elizabeth Shaw, the sole human survivor of Prometheus, as the Weyland corporation logo is present.

1.56: The hooded figure, seen in the teaser trailer and who does not belong to the Covenant crew, heads towards an engineer settlement, surrounded by dead xenomorphs and maybe even dead engineers. From the number of bodies which fill this large landscape shot, it looks the engineers made one last stand against the xenomorphs.

If you are a fan of Ridley Scott’s work, check out our 4th wall post, Ridley Scott and the value of life: part one . This is the first piece in a miniseries exploring Alien, Blade Runner and Prometheus.

Let us know if you spot any more secrets in the new trailer!

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below:

Ridley Scott and the value of life: part one

Alert: Spoilers below for Alien, Blade Runner and Prometheus

Science-fiction is a genre which invites writers and directors to explore deeper topics and philosophical questions. No other director working today has better used Sci-fi for this purpose than Ridley Scott, renowned for AlienBlade Runner, and Prometheus. 

We see the human race as the world’s axis.  Our species continues to grow and consume at an unsustainable pace, placing our demands above all other forms of planetary life. Western religion claims that we are the pinnacle of creation, moulded in the image of God. Outside the West, other philosophies and religions share the belief that humanity alone has been imbued with a soul, placing us apart from the rest of creation.

AlienBlade Runner, and Prometheus are each a different premise where Scott questions our beliefs, and our hypocrisies about the value of human life.

Alien and ‘intelligent life’ 

Around 400 years ago, people still believed the solar system revolved around the Earth. Humanity has moved on since then, but we still perceive the universe from a self-centered perspective.

Today the world balances on the axis of humanity, and the universe revolves around our pull. In popular culture our forays into space commonly belong to three types: conflict, contact or isolation. In film, typically, humanity is found by another species with a familiar system of civilization and technology to our own. The arriving species may invade our planet, or guide us, or we attack them. The final two types are contact and isolation. Humanity comes into contact with something incomprehensible like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey or we wander the galaxy, completely alone.

Few have depicted a universe where humanity is inconsequential, even unnoticed. These works belong to Cosmic Horror, a genre formed by H.P. Lovecraft. Cosmic Horror topples the assumption we have held, from biblical times and beyond, that we have some measure of control on the world. Western thought has developed the idea that we were designed for a purpose, that we can master everything both tangible and intangible. Plato’s The Republic is the earliest work I know that claims we will eventually understand everything, becoming gods in our own right. Plato’s concept of the Philosopher-King, just like Nietschze’s Ubermensche, shares the belief that humanity’s pre-destined superiority over the world, and the universe, will arise.

Cosmic Horror challenges humanity’s sense of purpose and superiority. Across Lovercraft’s works, in the Universe beyond our understanding, characters come across forces far more powerful than ourselves. Humanity’s divine trajectory to masters of the universe is shattered, our species is shown to be at the whim of random, and often chaotic forces beyond our grasp.

Alien and Prometheus both draw from Cosmic Horror, although in different ways. Prometheus upends the Christian belief that humans were purposefully created. Instead humanity, just like Frankenstein’s monster, is the product of an experiment gone awry, feared by our creator, who is bent upon destroying us. While Prometheus challenges humanity’s purpose, Alien questions our superiority.

Alien exists in a future where space, the last frontier, has become tamer than a front lawn. The crew of the Nostromo are not daring adventurers, but space truckers who want to get home and get paid. The Nostromo’s crew stumble upon a life form that is the polar opposite of human beings. It makes no attempts to understand the crew, the alien is designed to kill and is driven to survive, at the cost of all other life. 

The alien is not a monster, but the first intelligent life this universe has come across. The most chilling scene in the film is when the android Ash, gurgling from his detached head, admires the alien as superior to humans. To Ash, the alien is not a monster, but the ‘perfect organism… designed to survive… unclouded by delusions by remorse… or delusions of morality.’

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrf0cH4o_g4

Ash’s final words reveal the true horror of Alien. A being emerges from the depths of space, shattering the belief in our own dominance in the universe. Despite our technology and brainpower, the lifeform butchers the Nostromo’s crew in a few hours. By the end of Alien, humanity is no longer the masters of space, but weaklings in a universe where darker beings, just like the Alien, may be lurking on forgotten planets. Space no longer tanatalises us with the chance of discovery and progress. The optimism we held for space in the 1960’s has been replaced, with a dread of what lies beyond our planet.

The alien is, like Ash states, intelligent life. If a being like an Alien did exist, it would challenge what we consider to be intelligent alien life. It does not have our intelligence, or social structures, but it lives and strives to survive above all else. How would we value such a being, and more importantly, how would we deal with it?

By Saul Shimmin

 

 

Song to Song (2017) – Teaser

Outlook: promising

Song to Song is the latest film by American auteur Terrence Malick and will continue Malick’s blend of gorgeous cinematography and editing while contending with emotional and philosophical themes.

Malick has accrued an ensemble cast once more for his latest film, boasting Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Mara Rooney, Natalie Portman and also the legend that is Iggy Pop. Hopefully old Iggy’s role will be more substantial than a concert cameo.

Song to Song’s plot revolves around two love triangles between bandmembers in Austin, Texas. Michael Fassbender’s lust for Gosling’s girl, played by Mara Rooney, sparks off the whole affair. I have never seen Shame, but Fassbender strikes me as someone who could comfortably play a seedy lothario.

Malick’s filming style changed between The Tree of Life and his previous film, Knight of Cups. Malick’s approach in The Tree of Life alternated between sweeping landscapes to an intimate focus upon characters, cropping out of other portions of those individuals that were not necessary. In Knight of Cups, Malick seems to use wider angles and a steady-cam, giving the film a more immediate grounding in the story. Song to Song is a mix of both styles, and I am eager to see how Malick’s style has changed once again.

Ryan Gosling provides vocals during the trailer for Song to Song, and following La La Land audiences will be eager to hear Gosling deliver another musical performance. Gosling continues to eschew typecasts, flitting between the tougher persona of an action hero in Drive, to a comedic performance in The Nice Guys, to more dramatic roles in A Place Beyond The Pines and Blue Valentine. Gosling’s motivation may lie in his struggle to overcome typecasting as a child actor, but he has become one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood, and in terms of awards, one of the most overlooked.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below:

T2 Trainspotting

Score: 5 out of 5 (Classic)

Directed by Danny Boyle, director of the original Trainspotting, and sporting the same cast, T2 returns to Edinburgh, revealing what has happened to the original gang in the past 20 years.

T2 is a rarity in cinema, a sequel which stands alone from the original as a complete whole, bearing the hallmarks of a classic film in its own right. In an era where films are not tales which begin, develop and end, but form a conveyor belt of Easter Eggs and teases, T2 is a refreshing anomaly.

The original Trainspotting captured the zeitgeist of the 1990’s. T2 also shares the nostalgia of Renton (Ewan McGregor) and Spud (Ewen Bremner) for that lost era, while presenting the failure of British society to realise the optimism of the 1990’s. Across Edinburgh, the haunts of the working class have disappeared. The pubs and estates of Trainspotting are gone, replaced by upscale bars and high-end apartments. Sick Boy’s (Jonny Lee Miller) pub, a family business which holds more memories than customers stands amidst a sea of redevelopment.

T2 begins with Renton, but the narrative truly focuses upon Spud and Begbie (Robert Carlyle), two characters who are stuck in the past. T2 delivers a more sympathetic portrayal of both Spud and Begbie. Spud is a man whose life has been consumed by Heroin, leaving him at rock bottom. Begbie, although never stated within the film, has become institutionalised during his imprisonment after the first film, fixated upon revenge against Renton. During T2 we come to understand Begbie, although I cannot divulge any more details. It is a testament to the original film that I never noticed how one sided both Begbie and Spud were, playing the role of thug and fool respectively.

Boyle is the best British director alive today, as proven by T2. He splices the real world with CGI effects and projected images, letting us see the memories and internal struggles of the main cast. Boyle makes us understand and sympathise with characters without resorting to dialogue.  This accomplishment is remarkable because the main cast are unlikable people who often betray one another for self-gain. Boyle expertly uses shadows and flashbacks to show how Renton has not overcome the life he lead 20 years before. Renton’s shadow transforms into the profile of his dead mother when he returns to his family home. When T2 concludes, a younger Renton returns home. Personally, young Renton’s appearance at the conclusion signals that Renton is only now ready to move on with his life, despite his 20 years away from home.

John Hodge, the writer of T2, alongside Danny Boyle’s directing, temper the dark subject matter of T2 with humour, leading to scenes which will cause audiences to laugh out loud. These comedic moments are bolstered by the acting of the main cast, especially Robert Carlyle in his portrayal of Begbie.

The best scenes in the film revolve around Spud and his attempts to overcome his heroin addiction. Boyle uses special effects and camera work to flesh out his character. Spud’s life has been consumed by heroin, shown by the empty and soulless council flat he calls home. Spud’s addiction is both a friend and a monster, at times appearing as Spud’s double or a black shadow on the wall lunging for heroin, invoking  the spirit of Nosferatu.

T2 is the sequel which Trainspotting fans had been hoping for, delivering a satisfying finality to the story and the characters. T2 also stands by itself and can be enjoyed without having to watch the original.

Target audiences: Everyone and anyone over 15.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer see below:

 

P.S: Please watch Boyle’s Steve Jobs,  a hidden gem which starred Michael Fassbender as the legend behind Apple. For the trailer see below:

John Wick: Chapter 2

In this sequel to 2014’s sleeper hit, John Wickthe action picks up where the original ended. John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is still tracking down his 1969 Boss 429 Mustang, the car that Russian thug-prince Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen) stole after killing Wick’s puppy. Wick quickly dispatches the remainder of the Russian syndicate and attempts once again to retire from the assassin brotherhood. However, the loathsome Italian mob boss, Santino D’Antonio (played tremendously by Riccardo Scamarcio) recalls a debt from the night of Wick’s “impossible task” that allowed him his freedom. The boss, Viggo Tarasov, alluded to this night in John Wick and how his freedom had a price. In exchange for his prior aid, D’Antonio demands that Wick assassinate his sister, Gianna, who is about to become the head of the Camorra, a title which her brother desires for himself.  

I will stop there because I don’t want to give too much away.

Movie Score: Five out of Five (Classic)

We at Title Roll Reviews, try to reserve this “Classic” ranking for only the most superior movies, but I have to bestow this title on John Wick: Chapter 2. It not only made me incredibly happy, but its director, Chad Stahelski , also kept the action tight while keeping the atmosphere lighthearted despite the gratuitous gore.

My favorite aspect of Wick Chapter 2 was that the producers and Stahelski refused to recycle the first movie for some easy money. Instead, they expanded the world of Wick, adding restraints to the deadliest man on the planet. Wick Chapter 2 also mimicked the exoticism of earlier Bond films.

The first movie’s scale was small: Local Russian mob v. Wick. While its body-count was extremely high, the writers set the movie exclusively in New York. The characters hinted at a larger assassin network and it was this well-established world with smartly funny rules that provided John Wick with a solid foundation that set it apart from increasingly boring action movies like Jason BourneThe Mechanic, and any recent Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Expendables, The Last StandSabotage, etc.) Wick 2 expanded its scope, revealing the intricacies of Wick’s world and some of his past while maintaining Wick’s intrigue (I pray they never make a prequel).

Also, Stahelski and writer Derek Kolstad showed impressive restraint in both John Wick’s resources and in the amount of violence in certain scenes. For example, instead of jumping right into Wick’s famous double-tap, in the first action sequence Wick only uses hand-to-hand combat. This trend of restraint continues throughout the movie. Wick constantly running out of ammunition, adding a sense of realism to the world.  We all know that guns have to be reloaded and ammo is not just laying around downtown NYC, a fact that most action movies seem to forget. The one death that revealed the writer’s greatest restraint was Gianna’s. I won’t spoil it here, but it was quite different and most importantly, it was believable in relation to her character.

john-wick-2-baba-yaga

Finally, Wick Chapter 2 took us to interesting places: the Roman Forum ruins and very futuristic locations in New York. They retained a hint of exoticism that James Bond used to have, with the ruins hosting a strange dubstep group that provided a fun backdrop for a fight. The museum in NYC that hosted the final showdown was beautiful and extremely well shot. It contained vibrant colors and countless mirrors. I have no idea how they choreographed the fighting and camera-work so kudos to Stahelski and his stunt coordinators.

Most importantly, Wick Chapter 2 does not take itself too seriously. There are added moments of humor and winks to the audience that it knows how ridiculous its premise is. I applaud Kolstad for striking this balance between humor and badass badassery.

Please, skip Fifty Shades Darker and talk your significant other into seeing this phenomenal movie. Yes, it is brutally violent, but it is vastly better made than that BDSM garbage.

Target Audience: Teens, adults, gamers, and anyone who enjoys action flicks.

For trailer, see below.

By Hagood Grantham

Two movie buffs readying to conquer the world.