Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Summer Catch-Up
(Newer movies that I’m just getting to now)

Image result for arrival 2016
I’m beginning to get a little down on Denis Villeneuve because Enemy was odd without much of a payoff and Sicario was very good in spots but overall just ok.  Prisoners remains a true masterpiece which is why I continue to check out his work.  But man, Arrival is another disappointing entry.

It’s a combination of things that sorta get to me.  It’s not only on the slow side but also depressing as hell.  The entire world doesn’t want to work with each other to figure out what these freaky aliens in their admittedly neatly designed spaceships want.  Instead it’s unsurprising dicks China that seem eager to go to war with the visitors and it’s a few US insurgent assholes that try to ruin shit for all of humanity.  I’m not saying this isn’t a realistic and effective approach to the material, but when the whole world turns on itself and everything’s going to shit because some people can’t keep cool heads it’s too damn sad and frustrating.  Welcome to Earth, I guess.

There are other issues though like the film being too dimly lit (did anyone else have trouble making some shit out?), the uninteresting alien design, the extremely plain title and the very bland lead characters.  The introduction of Jeremy Renner (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) is especially bad where he picks a fight with Amy Adams (The Fighter) for no reason other than to have some brief manufactured tension.


Image result for arrival 2016The biggest aspect that has me scratching my head though is the reveal at the end.  You see throughout the movie Amy Adams has these flashbacks to her daughter who ended up dying at a very young age of a rare disease.  Well it turns out these aren’t flashbacks at all but visions of the future.  Adams’ encounter with the aliens and her ability to learn their language enables her to possess this clairvoyant power.  However it’s a little weird that she seems to have these powers before she meets the aliens.  Whatever the filmmakers got me, I fell right into their trap.  But is it clever or stupid?  I honestly don’t know.

There’s also the part where Adams saves the world by getting the Chinese head honcho on the phone and reciting his wife’s dying words to him.  The implication is this guy understands there’s something way more to these aliens and their visit so he decides to get off the warpath.  Adams has a vision of the Chinese leader expressing his gratitude for calling him on his private number and telling him his wife’s deathbed words.  So that’s sorta how Adams knew what to do and say.  But how did she know these things unless she had already done them once before, which she had not?  There’s a similar problem in The Terminator with Kyle Reese being John Connor’s father.  How could John send Reese back in time if Reese needs to go back in time to father John to begin with?  The actions Adams takes in the present are based on her vision of the future.  But that vision is dependent upon the action she takes at that moment in the present, which involves knowledge she didn’t know ever.  Ok I know I probably lost you but trust me, it’s fucked.

No More Spoilers

Image result for arrival 2016The coolest thing in the picture is the crazy looking written language the aliens have which supposedly is a real somewhat functioning language that was created for the movie.  It’s in a unique form where sentences are written in ink blot circles.  You could say they look like coffee cup ring stains but I’ll totally give the filmmakers credit for opening my mind to something like that.  Apparently it’s not only possible but it really exists.  Neato.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

John Wick: Chapter 2

Summer Catch-Up
(Newer movies that I’m just getting to now)

Image result for john wick chapter 2 commonAwwwww shit.  Now this is what I’m talkin’ about fellas.  In this installment Wick (Keanu Reeves (The Neon Demon)) is called back into action because of a sacred promise he made to an Italian mobster (Riccardo Scamarcio (Go Go Tales)).  Either John takes the job or violates the oath which means this asshole can kill him with no consequences.  Decisions, decisions.  Anyway, after his house gets blown up John figures he ought to accept the task and goes off to do what he does best (kill folks, that is).  But Wick gets double crossed and suddenly every hit man in America is out for him.  Wow, all this from one carjacking and puppy murder.

Chapter 2 is superior to the first in almost every way.  The action is staged better, shot better, the ideas are better, the dialogue is better, the stunts are crazier, the dry humor is funnier, the cinematography is more focused, Reeves’ movements are even more fluid and precise, and you get the point. 

The only thing is the story isn’t as strong.  Yes, both involve pretty thin fuckin’ plots but the impact of witnessing a man’s dog being killed (which was a posthumous gift from his dead wife no less) is incredibly moving.  Wick’s vengeance is fully justified, I suppose.  With Chapter 2 it’s about survival which is good too but we’re not tied to Wick as powerfully on an emotional level like we all were the first time around.  But if every other aspect is a step up then I gotta go with 2.

Director Chad Stahelski (stunts: Escape from L.A., Live Free or Die Hard, The Matrix and a million others) made a great debut with Wick 1 and shows very nice improvement with the sequel.  The movie feels more confident and seems to hang back a drop to allow the action scenes to breathe a little more.  His weird touches are so much fun too like the 50’s/60’s looking telephone operators with lots of tattoos that put out the bulletins for hit jobs, or that one mute henchwoman that appears to sign in not regular sign language but some other form with random hand gestures, or that there are hitmen at literally every turn made up of all shapes, sizes and genders.  Not to mention the finale is an Enter the Dragon rip off but like times a hundred with what must’ve been the most confusing mirror set every conceived.  First of all, how the hell did they shoot that shit?  But second, how the hell did they shoot and edit that shit and keep it actually comprehensible?!  It’s unbelievably impressive.

Image result for john wick chapter 2 common

Image result for john wick chapter 2 common

Image result for john wick chapter 2

Image result for john wick chapter 2But the biggest thing I love about the sequel is there’s way more hand to hand combat.  Both pictures showcase a ton of cool gunplay (including a scene in 2 where Wick and Common (Terminator Salvation) are shooting at each other at close range from either side of some parked cars that’s reminiscent of John Woo) but the first one relied on it a bit too much for my taste.  Chapter 2 lets John boy take down more bad guys with only his bare fucking hands and man are these fights put together well.  There’s a better balance of action here with a nuts car chase/battle, long shootouts, martial art/knife scuffles and even one encounter where John kills two assassins with a goddamn pencil (and it’s just as horrific as it sounds).

I thought Wick 1 was real good but not great.  Wick 2 is great.  The opening scene alone is better than anything in the first one in my opinion.  Holy shit I’m stunned at how much of a good time I had watching this.  I’m ready for more.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


Summer Catch-Up
(Newer movies that I’m just getting to now)

Image result for logan fight
The big deal surrounding this one, at least pre-release, was that we were finally gonna get a rated R Wolverine picture.  The character lends itself to that type of edgier material and appeared to be somewhat confined over the years in the PG-13 realm.  The Wolverine was busting at the seams and wanted to be R badly but director James Mangold (Walk the Line) and co couldn’t convince the Hollywood suits.  So now that this cream dream has come true, how is it?

Goddammit, I hate to be an asshole naysayer but this wasn’t nearly as good as everyone had been telling me.  Since this was such a long time coming and the filmmakers at last had their R rating locked in it feels like they overcompensated by making the film stupidly gratuitous.  There’s an unending barrage of very nasty shit like Logan stabbing countless bad guys in the head and face, him unnaturally cramming the word “fuck” into almost every sentence, a little eleven year old girl killing a whole lot of people with no problem, she also stabs a million dudes in the face and neck, mutant children being abused and murdered, child suicide, boobies for boobies sake, an innocent family gets caught in the crossfire and is completely slaughtered, several head shots, Logan and children severing limbs, etc.  This movie’s brutal in not a very fun way.  The old classic line from Jurassic Park is apt here: “…[they] were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Image result for loganOn the positive side of things Hugh Jackman (Swordfish) is fucking awesome and by far the best part of the film.  Older Wolverine dealing with his diminishing healing powers and the beautiful respectful relationship he and Chuck Xavier (Patrick Stewart (Gnomeo & Juliet)) have are all handled well.  And sure, I can even appreciate the bizarre child murderer angle (albeit in self-defense) because it took some balls to go in that direction.

But all of the shitty looking CGI blood splatters, the middle of the road directing and visual style, the undefined villain role that gets split between three people for some reason, the not terribly interesting story, the really boring stretch leading up to the finale (which kind of abruptly starts up from nothing and suddenly has to kick into high gear) and etc is too much to overlook.

I mean I enjoyed Logan enough but not any more than most of the other Marvel movies.  I doubt I’ll revisit this guy in the future.