Film Review: John Wick 3 Parabellum

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Everyone’s favorite unemotional, ass kicker, Keanu Reeves, is back.  Let’s face it, Keanu Reeves is like staring at your 4th cousin’s hot ass, a guilty pleasure.  And we all know he’s limited in his acting range.  But expecting more out of him is like complaining that Greyhound buses are filled with people who think cruise ships or Jimmy Buffet resorts are high end vacations.  You know what you’re getting into.  And I’m fully on board the USS Johnny Utah.  The Matrix.  Point Break.  And more recently, the John Wick series.  I didn’t see the first film until it went on video after many people saw it and said it’s not a dopey B film.  It was a new type of action film: continuous shooting with no edits during action scenes.  It also introduced us to a new term, gun-fu.  Gun-fu is defined as close quarters martial arts fights using guns instead of traditional weapons.  These films have also ushered in innovative ways of taking out bad guys, including using a pencil as a weapon.  In this latest edition, he uses a large book to take a bad guy in the library.  The only thing missing as he bashed his head in with the novel is a pithy sign off line like, “Reading is fundamental, BITCH!”  Again, this isn’t the Godfather but it sure as hell entertaining.

The film opens up moments after the 2nd film, where Winston (Ian McShane) has declared him ex-communcado.  Wick is racing against the clock before the hour he has been given by Winston is up and that’s when the contract on Wick’s life begins.  In the first 5 minutes, there is a spectacular knife fight in Chinatown.  And that’s why these films are great; they make no bones about these being high octane films with a surprising, above average plots.  Besides the hit men out for John Wick; the High Table has sent out the Adjudicator, (Asia Kate Dillon).  She is not happy with those who have provided Wick help, (the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) and Winston) when he broke the rules at the end of John Wick 2.  Which is  So Wick has to deal with assassins and the Adjudicator’s hit squad of sushi chefs who are also a vicious ninja hit squad.  Yep, imaginations must have run wild in the writer’s room.  But not as wild as Bill DeBlasio thinking he has a shot to win the Democratic presidential nomination.  HAHAHAHAHH  Sorry, I had to wipe tears of laughter from my eyes.

Wick uses his last ace in his sleeve when he visits Anjelica Huston at her school of ballerinas/assassins to get him out of the country and to Casablanca.  That’s where we meet Sofia (Halle Berry) and her 2 killer dogs.  BTW, let’s acknowledge that Halle Berry looks AMAZING at 50+ and she shows off her fighting chops quite nicely.  This film is just a treasure trove of fantastic action sequences: Wick chased on a bike by katana carrying bikers, Wick being chased while on a horse by attackers, and the final gunfight just to name a few.  And let’s not fail to mention Zero (Mark Dascascos), the leader of the aforementioned Adjudicator’s hit squad.  His fan boy crush on Wick while giving the fights of his life.  He brings a whole new class of “villain” that’s well received.  And the final battle between the two is fantastic, especially the way the scene was shot and lit.  It really makes one appreciate how filmmaking can continue to ascend; even in a wham-bam ass kicking film that’s more than a guilty pleasure.  If you like the first 2 JW films, there’s no doubt you’ll love the 3rd.  And yes, he even sneaks in a direct line from the Matrix.  This fan-boy had a big ‘ol smile on his face when that happened.

John Wick: Parabellum is an 8/10.

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Film Reviews: Dunkirk, Atomic Blonde, and Spiderman: Homecoming

We’re almost at the end of summer and before you know it, certain things are going to happen.  They’re going to yank my favorite beer, Sam Adams Summer Ale off the shelves by the second week of August and replace it with GARBAGE Octoberfest.  A full month and a half before the actual Octoberfest and no one, repeat NO ONE, likes this beer.  It will also be time for me to take the annual trip for me to go Vegas for week 1 of the NFL.  And of course, it’s going to be soon enough when Hollywood drops a plate of continuous garbage into the theaters until November.  I did catch a few new films and I’m more than happy to tell you about them.

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Let’s be honest, it’s John Williams (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jaws) and then everyone else for film scoring.  But Hans Zimmer (Batman trilogy, Inception, Lion King) is a SOLID number 2.  I went to see Hans Zimmer at Radio City last week.  He played for 3 hours and all of the hits.  If you don’t know him, he’ll be on the Mt Rushmore of cinematic composers.   Being Zimmer is Nolan’s go-to guy for film score, he also does the latest Nolan joint.     As I’ve said before, no one bats 1.000, not even Babe Ruth. But Hans Zimmer is perfect in previous attempts and this is no exception.  Zimmer does such a job that it will be a bigger fix than the 1919 Black Sox if he doesn’t get the Oscar this year.  The score AND sound make will send shivers up your b-hole and if doesn’t, you ain’t alive.  

Now let’s talk about the actual film.  Nolan tells 4 different stories at the same time with some familiar faces from previous Nolan films, Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy.   The story of Dunkirk is the Brits and French (further perpetuating stereotypes) have been pushed to the shores by the Nazis (pre-USA intervention) and are looking to retreat via the sea.  But those pesky Krauts drop bombs and send torpedoes (actual torpedoes, not Sofia Vergara’s luscious cans) on the British naval ships that attempt to bring the soldiers back.  Harry Styles (of One Direction fame; note that not one of their songs is on my phone.  Not even as a guilty pleasure) plays the son of a former British soldier that takes his boys toward Dunkirk toward the rescue effort.  

There are problems with this film.  One, with the exception of Styles, his brother, and father off to help the stranded; there aren’t any characters that you feel any relationship with.  Cillian plays a pilot that is shot down and rescued by Styles’s father but you don’t get a feel for his character.  Same goes for fellow flyboy Tom Hardy.  Another group of soldiers that are holed up in a ship are another group you feel nothing for.  Secondly, there is no need for the roundabout fashion in which Nolan tells the story.  Some people complained that it was difficult to follow; I didn’t feel like it was but there were a few moments where you have to mentally jump back and forth.  Lastly, this film is 110 minutes but I felt it DRAGGED at times.  My friend Ryan made a great point about not having any relationship with the characters; being that this films was simply about survival and didn’t need to be a nationalistic film with sentimentality.  Fair points but this film didn’t grab me.

I just didn’t feel that invested in the story nor the characters.  However, it is beautifully shot and as I previously said, the score adds fantastic gravitas to the moments.  The dogfight scenes are amazing.   And this is also EXACTLY what I said about Nolan’s previous film, Interstellar.  Is Dunkirk as bad as I thought Interstellar was?  No, but it’s also not much better.  I think this is the film that may get Oscar noms when virtually every other Nolan film should have been honored.  Why?  Because it deals with history and we all know that as well as social issues are cheese in the mouse trap to get nominations.  Here’s something else about Interstellar that applies here: If you have any desire to see this, make sure you see it in the theater.  Because seeing it at home won’t give you the experience and you’ll dislike it even more if you’re watching on anything less than a big screen and 4dx sound.

I give it a 5.5 out of 10

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Atomic Blonde has been garnering comparisons to John Wick.  Yes, the fight scenes were choreographed by the same guy.  But it’s definitely not 2 hours of ass kicking, gun-fu.     There’s a story line here, much more involved than a guy hunting down the Russian mafia who killed his wife and dog.  And I loved John Wick and liked John Wick 2.  But this is deeper.  

Let’s go back to November 1989, a few days before the Berlin Wall comes down.  Charlize Theron (never on anyone’s top 10 hot list but she should be) is an MI-6 operative who is sent to Berlin to find out why her fellow compatriot was gunned down by a Russian assassin while hiding a list of agent code names as well as their real names.  And the game is afoot the second she touches down in Berlin; as she uses her stiletto shoe to thwart attackers in a moving car.  James McAvoy (Professor X in the recent X-Men films as well as the schizophrenic in that AWFUL film, Split) is a man who can get his hands on anything on the black market and his especially interested in getting that list or the man who memorized that list.  

The action scenes aren’t as many as Wick but they’re really good.  There’s one scene where Theron fights off 4 attackers in a continuous shot.  The camera work is amazing, you get a “Bourne Ultimatum” feel with some of these sequences.  And as an added bonus, you also get some quick shots of Charlize Theron’s boobs when she submerges in ice baths.  There’s even a lesbian sex scene with her and a French spy.  An enthusiastic thumbs up from this reviewer.  Lastly, you’ll totally dig the 80’s soundtrack playing throughout the film as well as footage from news organizations covering the events leading up to and the destruction of the Berlin Wall.

This film was a pleasant surprise on many levels and it’s a little more than just a typical summer action blockbuster.  It didn’t make big money on opening weekend but doesn’t that mean the audiences guessed right by passing on it.  It’s quite enjoyable with a few nice twists and Theron proves that women can kick ass without it being a forced feminism agenda.  You hear me, female Ghostbusters reboot?

I give it a 7/10

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Last and certainly not last, I saw Spiderman: Homecoming a few weeks ago but was lazy and never wrote the review.  This is the best Spiderman film of all time.  Tom Holland crushes it as Peter Parker, he gives the role a lot more fun as well as that nerdy aspect to it. It also doesn’t hurt having Downey Jr in it a few times, reprising his role as Tony Stark/Iron Man who gives Parker an upgraded suit.  And let’s not forget Michael Keaton who is having a resurgence for the ages.  I liked Birdman, LOVED the Founder, and he’s fantastic as the Vulture.  This film doesn’t miss on any aspect and has a fantastic twist in the third act with one of Peter’s classmates.  I eagerly anticipate anything Spiderman in the future as Holland did a great job of erasing any memory of Andrew Garfield and also nicely scrubbed Spiderman 3 from my cerebellum.  

I give this an 8.5/10

4 Film reviews: Logan, Get Out, John Wick 2, and the Founder

2016 was an AWFUL year for films.  I was hoping 2017 would have started out fresh and wow, has it ever.  I’ve got 4 reviews for you and it’s been too damn long and my apologies for not getting these out faster.

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First one is the final installment of Wolverine simply titled, “Logan.”  Hugh Jackman gets into ripped shit shape and straps on the adamantium for the last time.  This one takes place in the future and Wolvie is looking OLD.  He’s even having problems healing himself.  Hell, he’s even taken up being an Uber driver.  You think he looks bad?  Wait till you see Professor X, he looks like a mummy in a wheelchair.  Mutants are all but extinct.  So Logan is keeping Professor X hidden as the government put out an APB on him because Xavier’s uncontrolled mind powers have caused a few problems, including the Westchester incident.  Unfortunately, we don’t get a chance to see or hear more about it…unless they broke it down when I ran into the bathroom for 2 minutes.

Logan is approached by a Mexican woman who asks that she takes care of her daughter who turns out to be, surprise, a mutant.  Immediately, a security force wants her back and Wolverine is none too obliging.  X-23 is the mutant in question and she’s a Wolverine clone, amongst other mutants.  So of course, Xavier and Wolverine take on the challenge of getting her to safety.

The first 2 standalone Wolverine films are trash.  Xmen Origins and the Wolverine were major disappointments.  They were goofy (in a bad way, not like how Deadpool pulled it off masterfully), anti-climatic, and you left just not giving a shit what happened for 2 hours.  Logan is not disappointing for many reasons.  One: This is R-rated and you can take a good guess why.  Jackman slices and dices like OJ did Nicole Brown Simpson one fateful night in 1994.  You see limbs, heads, and dignity get sliced off with geysers of blood…as it should have been.  The other X-Men/Wolverine films were PG-13 so they were cautious about keeping the gore to a dull, singular spray of blood here and there.  Not Logan, they’re not shy about showing it all.  Secondly: this film is DARK, just as the way it should have been.  You feel for Jackman’s descent into loneliness as he attempts to patch all inward holes with drugs and alcohol.  You feel for him as he takes care of a degenerating Xavier.  You feel for him as he adopts the undesirability of protecting X-23.  One of the few knocks of this film is that I felt it did drag toward the end and could have cut out 10 minutes or so.

Third time’s the charm as they close out the Wolverine with class and sadness.

I give this a 7/10

Next up is the surprise hit of the year thus far, “Get Out.”  Jordan Peele of “Key and Peele” fame as well as infamy for “Keanu” (what a piece of cold dogshit that was) creates his directorial debut.  Get Out is the story of a interracial couple that visit the white woman’s parents’ house in upstate NY.  Chris, the lead character, has trepidation while meeting her parents (Allison Williams, the only attractive one in the show, Girls) that go over the top to prove that they’re not racist.  Katherine Keener plays Williams’s mother who is a hypnotist that can cure Chris’s penchant for smoking.  After tricking him into temporary hypnosis, he begins to notice things aren’t what they seem with the family as well as their friends.

And that’s all I’m going to tell you about this because the payoffs for this film are too great.  You can see Peele guiding the audience down a usual path in the first act but the 2nd and 3rd act are where his writing and directing skyrocket into the stratosphere.  This isn’t your typical thriller with cheap jump cuts with sound effects to scare the audience, this is much more than that.  You’ll thoroughly enjoy the ride as well as Chris’s best friend who is a TSA agent that fills his head with ideas about crazy white people.

This is easily one of the best thrillers I’ve seen and one of the smartest written films I’ve seen in a LONG time.  The hype is well deserved and this is hopefully just the beginning of a long, successful storyteller and director.

I give this a 9 out of 10

One of the surprise films of the last few years was “John Wick.”  When I saw the preview, I thought what most people did and that was, “Who gives a shit, it looks like every generic action film in the last decade.”  Well, this turned out to be a pleasant hit and a cult classic.  Keanu is back as the Russian hit man with little to say and a lot of ass whooping to do.  The film with him getting back his car that got his wife and dog killed in the first one.  Then, he’s called back out of retirement (again) when a favor is called in by your typical scumbag.  Keanu does it and of course, is double crossed and then has every hit man (and lady) hunting him down in NYC.  The only type of person NOT trying to kill him was a hipster on a unicycle.

This film seems to have coined the phrase, “Gung Fu,” which is the combination of kung fu and gun play and there is plenty of it here.  Plenty of solid action with a decent plot and they beautifully tee up John Wick 3.  If you like the first one, you’ll like the second one, maybe just a little less.

I give it 6.5 out of 10.

Last and certainly not least, is a holdover from 2016.  Michael Keaton plays Ray Kroc, one of the all time most recognized and reviled businessmen in this country.  The Founder chronicles how Kroc goes into business with the McDonald brothers, who created a workflow to get burgers to customers in less than 2 minutes, and then takes over by franchising their operation.  This film was completely shut out of the Oscars and what a joke that was.  Keaton MASTERFULLY plays the hero and the villain.  One moment, you’re rooting for Kroc to take McDonald’s to the promised land.  The next, you’re aghast he strips the McDonald’s brothers of their rights and profits.  Keaton should’ve been nominated as should have this film…and they both would have won in my book.  I only saw Arrival of the nominated films as of posting time of the article but I’ve yet to hear how Moonlight or the others could knock this off the perch.

I give this an 8.5 out of 10.