John Wick: Chapter 2 Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 movie posterSynopsis
After seeing John Wick (Keanu Reeves) come out of retirement, Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) returns to John to collect a debt. When Wick fulfills his contract, D’Antonio puts a bounty on his head. Wick must use all of his resources to get through the assassins between him and D’Antonio in order to get justice for D’Antonio’s betrayal.

Review
I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical about a sequel to John Wick, a surprise hit from 2014. I felt the story wrapped up well and didn’t really need a follow-up. I was afraid that we would get too much of a good thing and an awesome character like John Wick would be run into the ground trying to squeeze as much money out of him as the studio possibly could. After the film was done I took a sigh of relief, John Wick: Chapter 2 is not the cash-in I was scared it would be.

One pitfall that many sequels fall into, particularly an action sequel such as this, is that it tries to make it as similar as the film(s) before as possible. In doing so, it does not bring anything new to the franchise and feels stale. John Wick: Chapter 2 keeps the core of John Wick but at the same time, brings a fresh new experience. It does everything a sequel should: raise the stakes, flesh out the character, and expand the franchise’s universe. There are clear similarities, as there should be, but this is not a carbon copy of the last movie. This feels like a whole new experience instead of a simple rehash of the last film.

On that note, this movie also feels like a natural progression of John Wick’s story. The opening action-packed scene cleans up the threads from last film then jumps right into the new stuff. We learn more about Wick’s character, his past, and the assassin world.

Oh my goodness do we learn about the secret assassin world! One of my favorite parts about John Wick was the Continental Hotel and learning about this underground society of assassins that has their own sanctuary, currency, and code of conduct. That film only touches the tip of the assassin iceberg. This film greatly expands on that. A ton of cool and interesting information is revealed and I don’t want to give any of it away, I want you to learn it for yourself. Even though a lot of information is revealed, there is clearly much more to the secret society yet to be given.

Another great aspect from John Wick that I enjoyed very much was the choreography during the action scenes. They were vibrant and exciting. That same energy returns but larger and with more intensity. Director Chad Stahelski has a history as a stuntman and stunt coordinator. Using his experience, the action sequences are very crisp and well choreographed. The series’ signature “gun-fu” style of action is exhilarating to watch.

I mentioned in my review of John Wick that I really enjoyed Stahelski’s directing because unlike most modern action movies, it didn’t use much shaky-cam. Instead, it felt like classic 1980s action movies with long shots, maintaining a focus on the action going on on-screen. John Wick: Chapter 2, to no surprise, does the same thing. Even when in tight spaces, such as catacomb tunnels or a subway station, the camera still manages to keep all the important characters and action in focus. This leads to some of the best action cinematography I’ve seen in a while. Even during the non-action scenes, sweeping shots and vibrant colors make for a unique, visceral experience.

The standout performance from the last film was Keanu Reeves as the titular character. He easily brought Wick’s incredible skills to life but still felt vulnerable as the aged hitman. He brings back that same vulnerability and it still works. Common, Riccardo Scamarcio, and Ruby Rose do a great job as Wick’s antagonists, feeling like much more of a challenge to Wick than the Russian mobsters of the last film. The reunion of Neo and Morpheus with the appearance of Lawrence Fishburne was fun to watch. I expected a bigger role for Fishburne, which was more of a cameo than a significant role. Hopefully he will have a bigger role in the future. Maybe they’ll even bring in Carrie-Anne Moss for a reunion of The Matrix.

I thought John Wick: Chapter 2 was GREAT 😀 It does everything expected of a sequel, creating bigger challenges for John Wick and building his character. Chad Stahelski proves he has a real knack for action scenes, using spectacular cinematography to create some of the best action scenes in recent memory. I went into this movie unsure if I wanted a second John Wick film but I left greatly looking forward to a third.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Chad Stahelski – Director
Derek Kolstad – Writer
Tyler Bates – Composer
Joel J. Richard – Composer

Keanu Reeves – John Wick
Riccardo Scamarcio – Santino D’Antonio
Ian McShane – Winston
Ruby Rose – Ares
Common – Cassian
Claudia Gerini – Gianna D’Antonio
Lance Reddick – Charon
Laurence Fishburn – Bowery King
Tobias Segal – Earl
John Leguizamo – Aurelio
Thomas Sadoski – Jimmy
Peter Serafinowicz – Sommelier
Luca Mosca – Italian Tailor
Peter Stormare – Abram

Anniversary Week 2 Conclusion: My Fave Five New Movies I Watched During Year 2

I meant to post this on Thursday, my actual blogiversary, but because of the Christmas in July Blogathon and poor time management on my part (what else is new?), it wasn’t ready.  Every year, I like to look back at the new movies I watched, whether they were in the theater or simply new movies to me that I watched for the first time.  Last year was my freshman year as a blogger, so I made my fave five list of reviews I wrote, not the movies themselves.  Now that I have found my writing groove, this year, and probably in future Anniversary Weeks, I’m creating my list based on the movies.

When looking at the movies I reviewed, I discovered most (maybe even all) of the movies I reviewed from home video were ones I have seen before. Oops. 😛 As a result, all the movies on this list have been released between July 30, 2014 and July 30, 2015.  Now here are my five favorite movies I watched in the past 365 days.

Furious 7 movie poster5) Furious 7

Ever since Fast Five, the Fast and Furious series has gone in a fantastic direction. I really like the heist element that has been infused into every entry since. Furious 7 ups the ante and ridiculousness even further and is simply a fun ride. With the unfortunate passing of Paul Walker, this film had its share of problems. Luckily, Walker’s brothers took over and with some impressive CGI work, you couldn’t tell it wasn’t Paul. The tribute at the end was emotional and the perfect way honor to Walker.

4) InterstellarInterstellar movie poster

So far, I haven’t seen a single movie from Christopher Nolan that I haven’t enjoyed and Interstellar is no exception. The science can be hard to wrap your head around at times but the film did its best to explain it. It is also one of the best looking films of the year with its breathtaking special effects. Hans Zimmer’s score is spot on as always and adds some powerful emotion the what’s on screen. The final act may be a little out there but what would you expect from a Nolan film?

John Wick movie poster3) John Wick

When was the last time that you watched an action movie that simply enjoyed being an action movie? John Wick is, pure and simple, fun. It never takes itself too seriously and is a breath of fresh air for the action genre. Keanu Reeves gives a great performance as the titular character, a retired hitman, with a reputation that isn’t shown to the audience. Instead, the characters around him tell us what he is capable of before we even see it for ourselves. Plus the world of assassins it creates is ripe with story possibilities. I hope the next foray into the world is just as exciting.

2) Guardians of the GalaxyGuardians of the Galaxy movie poster

Guardians of the Galaxy is considered Marvel’s largest risk. Sure, people could believe a billionaire playboy philanthropist can build a suit of armor or a World War II soldier can be frozen for 70 years, but what about a talking raccoon or a tree that only says one sentence? Well it turns out audiences can. Leading with the ‘seems to be everywhere’ Chris Pratt, and sporting a wide variety of characters, every character brings something to the table. The main villain suffered like many Marvel villains seem to but not every villain needs to be a Loki or Magneto. Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t continuity heavy. In fact, the only continuity element is Thanos, who is getting set up for Avengers: Infinity War.  Given how it did with both critics and audiences, it is hard to believe people doubted this would work.

Inside Out movie poster1) Inside Out

Pixar is a pioneer in animated storytelling. In my opinion, Inside Out is up there with greats like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles. The animation may be the best they’ve done so far with its vivid colors and fun character design. And the story is heartwarming and understood by all audiences. Older viewers can understand what Reilly has gone through and relate to the parents. Younger viewers can use the movie to understand what they are currently going through and are feeling in their lives. The world created for inside Reilly’s head is absolutely ingenious. Your train of thought is an actual train, memories are stored in shelves like a library, and the list goes on. I think it’s safe to say that Inside Out is one of the most unique movies of the last few years, which is one reason why it has claimed the top spot on my list.


And that does it for Anniversary Week 2! I hope you had fun joining me all week, looking at the Ocean’s Trilogy (Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen) and the Toy Story Trilogy (Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3), as well as my Original Six reviews that kicked off this blog.

Entering my second year of blogging, I had two goals in mind: 1) build relationships with fellow bloggers, mostly by becoming more active across other blogs (liking, commenting, participating in bloagthons, etc.), and 2) I’ve been trying to figure out how to word this goal but it simply boils down to increase my number of “regulars,” which builds off goal 1.  I like to think that I have successfully accomplished both objectives.

I would like to end with a BIG thanks to every one of you! These last two years have been a blast and it’s honestly due to all the contributions from all of you.  Every time my phone pings with a notification of a like or comment always brings a smile to my face.  So thank you everyone! 😀 I look forward to seeing what Year 3 brings. I have notes for Jurassic World, Inside Out, and Ant-Man that I will eventually turn into reviews and a few awards to accept.  Now time for a break, I have some gaming to catch up on. 😛

Cheers!

John Wick Review

John Wick movie posterSynopsis
Retired hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) goes after his former boss, Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist), after Viggo’s son, Iosef (Alfie Allen), steals his car and kills his dog.

Review
I haven’t seen a new Keanu Reeves movie in quite some time (I missed last year’s 47 Ronin), so it was good to see him back on screen. I’ll admit I was mildly surprised how much I enjoyed John Wick. I had only seen the trailer recently, but it looked intriguing. John Wick provides plenty of action but it also isn’t afraid to have some fun along the way.

Pacing in an action movie can be difficult to pull off. One of my favorite aspects about John Wick is that there is constant action. Every few minutes there is another action scene. However, It never becomes too over-the-top, but at the same time, it doesn’t really slow down. There was just enough character development to keep me interested in John Wick, but that never took away from the action.

The camera work is better than most action films nowadays, too. It doesn’t cut away very often, allowing for the entire fight to be seen without getting disoriented. There was one scene in particular that takes place inside a dance club where it does cut away quite a bit. Usually this is a problem for me but I actually didn’t mind it too much here because it added to the scene. The choreography was pretty good, too. There are a few times I think it borders on the ridiculous and it reminded me of an 80s action movie, which added to my enjoyment, never detracting from it.

When John Wick is introduced, he is already in retirement and throughout the movie there are no flashbacks about his time as a hitman. There is some exposition (mostly by Michael Nyqvist’s Viggo) to learn about his past. But despite not seeing him be a bad-ass hitman in the past, it is established early on that he was.  Everyone was scared by simply hearing his name (look at the quote below, which happens in the within the first few minutes of the movie, to get an idea). Also, everyone seems to know him which makes for some pretty funny interactions.

Despite John Wick being an action movie, it never takes itself too seriouslyand was actually fairly whimsical. It throws in some good one-liners and the aforementioned character interaction were pretty humorous.

John Wick is more than a generic action movie. It provides plenty of action and great choreography without becoming too outrageous and even throws in a few good laughs. It’s great to see an action movie that doesn’t take itself seriously, allowing it to have fun, making it more enjoyable overall.

PS, John Wick’s dog in the beginning is absolutely the cutest dog I have ever seen in a film.

Rating
4/5

Also check out my review of the sequel, John Wick: Chapter 2.

Favorite Quote
Aureilo: [picks up phone] Aureilo speaking.
Viggo: I heard you struck my son.
Aureilo: Yes sir, I did.
Viggo: And may I ask why?
Aureilo: Yea, well, because he stole John Wick’s car, sir, and, uh, killed his dog.
Viggo: Oh. [Hangs up phone]

Trailer

Cast & Crew
David Leitch – Director
Chad Stahelski – Director
Derek Kolstad – Screenplay
Tyler Bates – Original Music
Joel J. Richard – Composer

Keanu Reeves – John Wick
Michael Nyqvist – Viggo Tarasov
Alfie Allen – Iosef Tarasov
William Dafoe – Marcus
Dean Winters – Avi
Adrianne Palicki – Ms. Perkins
Omer Barnea – Gregori
Toby Leonard Moore – Victor
Daniel Bernhardt – Kirill
Ian McShane – Winston
Lance Reddick – Hotel Manager
Bridget Moynahan – Helen
John Leguizamo – Aureilo
Clarke Peters – Harry

Trailer Round-Up 9/16/14

Wow, it has been too long since I posted some trailers.  To get back into the groove, here’s a trailer round-up with a few trailers that have been released over the last few weeks.  In this TRU, the three worst criminals return, we take another visit to the Thunderdome, our favorite museum security guard goes on another adventure, Keanu Reeves’ hitman comes out of retirement, and there is a double dose of Jennifer Lawerence. To jump to a specific trailer, click on it’s link below.

Horrible Bosses 2

Teaser

Full Trailer #1

Official Synopsis: Fed up with answering to higher-ups, Nick, Dale and Kurt decide to become their own bosses by launching their own business. But a slick investor soon pulls the rug out from under them. Outplayed and desperate, and with no legal recourse, the three would-be entrepreneurs hatch a misguided plan to kidnap the investor’s adult son and ransom him to regain control of their company.

Horrible Bosses 2 will be in US theaters November 26, 2014.  Returning are Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, and Jamie Foxx.  Joining them are Chris Pine, Christoph Waltz, Kelly Stables, Brendan Hunt, and Brandon Richardson.

Horrible Bosses 2 movie poster

Mad Max: Fury Road

Official Synopsis: Mad Max is caught up with a group of people fleeing across the Wasteland in a War Rig driven by the Imperator Furiosa. This movie is an account of the Road War which follows. It is based on the Word Burgers of the History Men and eyewitness accounts of those who survived.

Mad Max: Fury Road races into US theaters May 15, 2015.  It’s directed by George Miller and stars Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Nathan Jones, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Courtney Eaton, Josh Helman, and Jennifer Hagan.

Mad Max: Fury Road movie poster

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Official Synopsis: Get ready for the most wild and adventure-filled Night At the Museum ever, as Larry spans the globe, uniting favorite and new characters while embarking on an epic quest to save the magic before it is gone forever.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb roars into US theaters December 19, 2014, staring Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Rami Malek, Ben Kingsley, Dan Stevens, Rebel Wilson, Mizuo Peck, and Ricky Gervais.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb movie poster

Serena

Synopsis: Set in 1930’s North Carolina, George Pemberton’s timber empire is in jeopardy when it becomes clear that his wife, Serena, is as barren as the land he harvests.

Serena, adapted from the novel by Ron Rash, will be in US theaters November 12, 2014 and is directed by Susanne Bier.  It stars Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Toby Jones, Rhys Ifans, Sam Reid, Sean Harris, Blake Ritson, Charity Wakefield, Ana Ularu, David Dencik, Ned Dennehy, and Jim High.

Serena movie poster

John Wick

Official Synopsis: An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him. With New York City as his bullet-riddled playground, JOHN WICK (Keanu Reeves) is a fresh and stylized take on the “assassin genre”.

John Wick shoots into US theaters October 24, 2014.  It’s directed by Chad Stahelski and stars Keanu Reeves, William Defoe, Adrianne Palicki, Bridge Moynahan, Ian McShane, Jason Isaacs, Bridget Regan, Alfie Allen, and Lance Reddick.

John Wick movie poster

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Official Synopsis: Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself in District 13 after she literally shatters the games forever. Under the leadership of President Coin (Julianne Moore) and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss spreads her wings as she fights to save Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and a nation moved by her courage.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 hits theaters November 21.  Directed by Francis Lawrence, it stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hucherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donal Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Jeffery Wright.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part1 movie poster