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.
Mulan and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Niki Caro
I’ll be honest, the animated Mulan wasn’t exactly one of my go to films when I was a kid. I was more of an Aladdin/Pixar fan and while I remember Mulan being GOOD, it never really stuck with me like a lot of other films did. But hey! That’s why Disney is doing all these remakes in the first place, right? To not only cash in on Nostalgia dollars for people who DO remember the original but to try and get the people who didn’t care for it the first time to invest in the property and maybe build a new theme park ride around it. Does this remake of the 1998 classic hold up to and even SURPASS the original, or is this another live action remake from Disney that fails to bring anything new or interesting to the table? Let’s find out!!
China is being attacked by the… Not Huns (Let’s get down to business! To defeat… the Rouran Khaganate!) and it seems they have a witch on their side (Gong Li) that’s wreaking havoc on their outposts along the Silk Road. In order to stop these invaders, the Emperor (Jet Li) orders the conscription of one man from every family in the country, and one of the villages they arrive at (which looks quite a bit like the slums from Kung Fu Hustle) is the home of Hua Mulan (Yifei Liu) and her family. Her father (Tzi Ma) having no sons of his own volunteers to go despite having fought in a previous war and has a disabled leg because of it, but as you know this doesn’t sit well with Mulan and so she goes in her father’s stead; leaving the village in the dead of night and donning the identity of a man. Mulan under the guise of Hua Jun must make it through the intense training of Commander Tung (Donnie Yen) while also keeping her identity as well as her overwhelming strength a secret; lest she bring shame on her family or even be executed by the very country she’s here to defend. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee) and the awesome witch lady might have the right idea, but Mulan is not about to let a little thing like impending death keep her from protecting her family and her homeland! Will Mulan be able to successfully navigate the men’s world of warfare without her secret being discovered? Who are these villainous rouges attacking China, and what’s driving them on their quest to conquer the country? If they make a sequel to this, will it ALSO be about a feminist revolution in China or will they go in a different direction with it?
xXx: Return of Xander Cage and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by DJ Caruso
I know I’ve SEEN the first xXx movie, but the only things I can recall are a fake diner, non-lethal bullets with fake blood in them, and a bunch of scientist being killed by the bad guys because reasons. Needless to say that it didn’t leave much of an impression on me considering how poorly I can recall it as well as the fact that I never felt the need to go back and rewatch it. Still, what with The Fast and the Furious becoming the most popular international franchise outside of Marvel, they obviously had to milk this franchise again; something that didn’t seem to go well the last time they did it with Ice Cube, but I guess now that XANDER CAGE is back, we can take one more swing at it! Does the return of Vin Diesel breathe new life into a franchise that’s been comatose for over a decade, or is this just one big Weekend at Bernie’s scheme gone even worse than any of us could imagine? Let’s find out!!
The movie opens up with NSA Agent Augustus Eugene Gibbons (Samuel L Jackson), who I guess was in the first movie, trying to recruit some football player (as in Soccer) to be a member of xXx, though I’m not sure if that’s a title, the name of the organization, or both. It doesn’t really matter though because both he and the football player (Neymar) are killed by a satellite that drops out of the sky. Normally these burn up on reentry LONG before they could really cause THAT kind of damage on the ground, but this is no the movie to be asking those kinds of questions in. The more important question is… WHO’S RESPONSIBLE!? Well, government operative Jane Marke (Toni Collette) seems to have an idea of HOW if not exactly WHO as the government JUST SO HAPPENS to have some sort of box that serves NO OTHER PURPOSE than to drop satellites from the sky. Okay… well the box is stolen by a bunch of badasses (Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Tony Jaa, and Michael Bisping) which means the government has to find an EQUALLY badass person to hunt them down; namely Xander Cage (Vin Diesel). It doesn’t take long for Jane to recruit him for the mission, and he brings along a crew of people with a certain set of skills to help him out. Adele the sniper (Ruby Rose), Tennyson the stunt driver (Rory McCann),a nd of course Nicks the DJ (Kris Wu) because apparently you need one of those for this kind of mission. Can this rag tag crew of Gatorade chugging XTREME athletes save the world before the OTHER Gatorade chugging XTREME athletes destroy it? What was the government planning to do with that ridiculously specific doomsday device anyway? Most importantly, does Vin Diesel look cool in this?
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Gareth Edwards
In what will surely be a yearly tradition until the day we all die, Disney has given us our holiday present in the form of another Star Wars movie. We’re only at two so far which means they PROBABLY aren’t gonna start half-assing these just yet, and in fact this one seems to be willing to take a few more risks than what we would normally expect from franchise features like this. Okay, the fact that it’s a one-time spin off means that they’re only so much damage this can do if it blows up in their faces, but the tone of the trailers and the nature of the story they’re telling at least inspires some hope that the franchise has gotten so big that they’re willing to let it take some chances. Does this experiment in growing the series turn out to be a total success, or will this somehow be the worst prequel yet? Okay, I kind of doubt that’s even possible, but you never know!
The movie begins a long time ago in a galaxy far far away where little Jyn Erso (Beau Gadsdon) has her life completely uprooted when her family is found by Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) who is a high ranking member of the galactic empire. Why did this guy hunt halfway around the galaxy for them? Well it turns out that Jyn’s father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) is an Empire scientist who defected and they need him back to finish some super weapon they’re working on. The good news is that Jyn manages to escape the Empire with the help of a family friend Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). The bad news is that her mother (Valene Kane) got killed in the process and dear old dad got kidnapped. Flash forward to sometime later where we meet grown up Jyn (Felicity Jones) who’s been rebellious youth-ing all around the galaxy and winds up at Rebel headquarters where they have a proposition for her. Go with the rebel agent Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) to find her father and stop him from finishing the Death Star as he seems to be looking for a way out once again. Okay, it’s not QUITE that simple, but that’s the basic idea of what they’re trying to do! Anyway, they’ll point her in the right direction in the hopes that her skills and connections will kill two birds with one stone; she gets her dad back and they get to stop the Space Nuke from being completed. Of course, nothing is as easy as it seems and there’s plenty of treachery to go around as the mission becomes only more difficult once the Empire get wind of what they might be up to. Can Jyn save her farther before the Empire find out if he’s been undercutting their progress on the super weapon this entire time? Does Cassian have a hidden agenda that he’s not telling Jyn about? On a scale of one to Vader, how screwed are they?