With the window between theatrical and streaming collapsing as movies are coming hitting the home market mere weeks after their run in theaters, it’s getting a little too easy for me to just forget about something and return to it when it’s most convenient for me. Before, there was a window where missing it in theaters meant you couldn’t see it in any form for months, but now I can just hold out for a bit and see it when it’s still kinda relevant with the added bonus of being able to fold laundry when I do so. I’ll definitely try to get better about this, especially with so many big releases that need attention soon, but for now, let’s have some fun looking at three recent movies that were on your TV before you knew it!
John Wick: Chapter 4
John Wick: Chapter 4 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate
Directed by Chad Stahelski
John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is finally striking back against The High Table to take back his freedom, but with every life he takes, he incurs a greater debt that his friends and associates are forced to pay back. With his friend Shimazu (Hiroyuk Sanada) targeted and his other friend Caine (Donnie Yen) called in to take him out, John is forced to spill even more blood and find ways to work the system to his favor as yet another member of The High Table (Bill Skarsgård) has him in his sights. Will John ever get the peace he desires, or will his quest for vengeance be his ultimate undoing?
Now I actually did catch this one when it was still in theaters, but it wasn’t easy for me to come up with the right words for it back then. Perhaps the reason why is that the John Wick franchise has been a bit of a bugbear for me as I appreciate what it’s doing and how well it executes its vision but simply cannot get past the narrative which got worse with subsequent sequels. That issue, thankfully, has been mitigated here as the script does a lot to work around its more obnoxious conceits, though we still haven’t quite made it back to the first film as far as being a great movie instead of just an action-packed one; hence why I’m just now getting around to it. The lack of agency for our main character has been addressed as he has a clear goal he’s striving for instead of getting dragged around by contrivances, but with that freedom comes the expectation to have an actual character again and sadly he’s just not as interesting as he was in the first one; something that others have noticed as well as his word count in this final entry was a joke when it first came out. Thankfully the film’s solution is to introduce a lot of fun and interesting characters to pick up the slack, though it didn’t escape my notice that a lot of their plot threads are left dangling as Lionsgate is clearly interested in milking this franchise for years to come. Donnie Yen turns in a terrific performance and is frankly the star of this movie as far as I’m concerned as he has all the pathos that John should while kicking all sorts of butt in the many action scenes that he participates in. He’s easily the best character the franchise has come up with and I wouldn’t be surprised if Lionsgate is already begging him to be the lead in the next few of these movies. My personal favorite addition, however, is Scott Adkins who shows up doing a phenomenal riff on LeCheffe from Casino Royale. The guy is one of our best underrated-action-stars and he proves to be a natural comedian in a role that could have simply been a joke but is genuinely engaging, and his fight with John ends up being my favorite action scene in the movie. All of this is well and good, but a problem the films still haven’t addressed yet is the length as they’ve been creeping up past two hours since the second one and this one just goes on and on. No matter how good the action scenes are in this, and they are very good, it’s hard to sustain enthusiasm for as long as this movie expects you to. I know I’m a bit of a sourpuss when it comes to this series and I admit that a lot of my antipathy is specific to my taste in storytelling, but for what it’s worth this manages to be a high note for the sequels even if it still can’t quite recapture the magic of that first film.
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by Cathy Yan
I was probably on the kinder end of things than most people when it came to Suicide Squad; the DCCU’s attempt to be fun and wacky that ended up having all the edge of a limited edition holo-foil issue of Spawn from 1994. In its own tacky cobbled together way it did manage to eek out a bit of charm, but what people mostly remember from the movie was the performances; namely one Harley Quinn played with gusto by the phenomenal Margot Robbie. Now that we’re more or less in DCCU 2.0, it makes sense for this character to be given another shot away from the baggage of the movie that came before; even from the studio itself as Robbie basically put this thing together with Warner Bros maintaining a mostly hands off approach. Is this the breakout hit that Warner Bros has been hoping for yet could never make themselves, or is this a desperate Hail Mary that misses by a mile? Let’s find out!!
Harleen Quinzel (Margot Robbie) has had a rough go of it lately. She grew up with scary nuns, she had a string of bad relationships, she did at least get her college degree and became a psychiatrist but even THAT didn’t work out when she met some dude in clown makeup, and on top of that she had to fight a an ancient demon witch person or else have a bomb explode in her neck! Fortunately she’s out of prison and she even dumped the clown dude so she’s ready to start her life anew! A new pet, roller derby, and COPIOUS amounts of alcohol to deal with the unresolved feelings that she’s left with now that she’s single and away from the clown that made her life miserable. BUT ENOUGH ABOUT DAVID AYER (Ba-dum-tiss!), with the Joker in her rearview mirror it has given her a lot more freedom but also the ire of ALL the people they screwed over in the past, and as the one on the short end of this breakup some of them are ready to take their vengeance! One such vengeance taker is Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) who’s a mid-range mob boss with a hot temper, enough toxic masculinity to smother ALL the adorable baby ducklings of the world, and an alter ego just one step below Taser Face; BLACK MASK! Complete with second rate Die Hardman cosplay! Him and his associate Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina) are not only after Harley but ALSO after a diamond that somehow ended up in the hands of a young street hustler named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) and so perhaps there’s a way to kill two birds with one stone there, and on top of ALL that we also have a singer at Victor’s club named Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) who’s looking for a way out of the life, a mysterious crossbow killer (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who’s hunting down gangsters, Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) who’s stuck trying to untangle all these messy knots. Will Harley Quinn escape the payback that’s owed to her after working with the Joker for so long? Why is Roman so intent on getting this diamond, and who else may be gunning for it? Why DO they end up calling themselves the Birds of Prey anyway?
Live by Night and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by Ben Affleck
Look, we’ve ALL had a rough year, but let’s a take a moment to remember the less fortunate among us. Ben Affleck somehow managed to be in a WORSE super hero movie than Daredevil; a movie made EVEN WORSE when compared to the brilliantly done Netflix series. Not only that, but he’s roped himself into what SHOULD have been a sure bet franchise (how could they fuck up with characters like BATMAN!?) for the next decade or so which is probably gonna be longer than the current administration, provided he doesn’t change the rules and have to start calling him King or Führer. I kid of course, but for someone who clawed his way back from obscurity the way Ben Affleck did, it’s kinda disheartening to watch him get stuck in the middle of that mess. Oh well, at least he gets to make his own movies while Warner Bros tries to get its shit together. Does this gangster flick that is MUCH more in the Affleck wheelhouse the kind of film we need right now, or is this the huge let down we all deserve? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows affable rogue Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck) who’s some bank robbing punk in Boston that plays by his own rules and answers to no one! Not even the two major mobs in the city, the Irish led by Albert White (Robert Glenister) and the Italians led by Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone), can seem to tame this wild beast! Well… there is ONE person who’s thumb he’s under, and that’s his lady love Emma Gould (Sienna Miller) who JUST SO HAPPENS to also be one of Albert White’s mistresses. Needless to say that shit goes down with Albert, and Joe is left for dead as is Emma who the movie ASSURES us is dead despite not bothering to show it (hm…) which means this movie is about one thing. REVENGA!! As soon as Joe is out of jail, he goes straight to Maso to work for him (giving up on his play by his own rules principals) to see if he can deliver Robert White on a silver platter. Maso agrees, but in return Joe has to run his operation all the way in Florida for the foreseeable future which is where the majority of this movie takes place as the Boston stuff is pretty much an extended set up for the rest of the movie. While there, he has to wrestle with the Cubans, the Klan, and religious nuts just to name a few in his hopes of keeping Maso happy enough to eventually deliver on his promise of dragging Albert White back out into the open. During his stay in Florida, he’ll come across many friends like Dion Bartolo (Chris Messina) and Graciela Corrales (Zoe Saldana), as well as just as many enemies like scumbag klansman (but I repeat myself) RD Pruitt (Matthew Maher) or the really annoying preacher girl Loretta Figgis (Elle Fanning) who came to Jesus SUPER hard after getting off heroin. Will Joe eventually get the REVENGA he’s so desperate for? Will any of that even matter now that he’s building up this new life for himself? Is this AT LEAST more cohesive than Batman v Superman?