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.
Game Night and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein
It’s not easy trying to release a movie in the wake of an overwhelming success like Black Panther or really ANY Disney movie nowadays, and the idea of Counter Programming (releasing a movie that targets an audience vastly different from whatever else is in theaters) is becoming an increasingly less viable route to go when success is as massive as these year round tent poles have become. With that said, it’s ALSO a common time to dump movies that the studio has little faith in as wasting a BETTER time slot in the year is the year would only make things that much worse for them. For me, seeing this trailer quite frequently in the last month or so, it looks to fall into the latter as the premise of the film and the gags they showed us wasn’t inspiring much hope in me that this was going to be much of a comedy classic, but I have been wrong before about movies and I’m like the ONLY guy who’s like Billy Magnussen in everything I’ve seen him in; and that’s including Birth of the Dragon! Does this action comedy bring the same fun and excitement you always hope to have whenever you have your own game night, or is this as exciting as playing Monopoly for two hours past the point everyone stopped caring? Let’s find out!!
Max and Anne (Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams) are the picture perfect mid-thirties couple that LOVES playing board games on their weekly Game Night along with their friends Kevin and Michelle (Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury) as well as good ol’ Ryan (Billy Magnussen) who frequently brings new dates to Game Name with the latest being Sarah (Sharon Horgan) . OH, and uh… they used to invite the neighbor Gary (Jesse Plemons) over to play with them, but no one likes to talk about Gary; especially after the divorce. ANYWAY, Game Night is the one thing that they all look forward to every week, but things start to run afoul this time around as Max’s brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) shows up out of the blue with his badass car and super smooth swagger to take over Game Night and make it an evening they will NEVER forget; something that gets Max rather pissy right off the bat. Oh, you know how brother are! Always trying to one up each other even when it comes to something as trivial as Trivial Pursuit! Brooks invites everyone over to his house to play one of those INTERACTIVE MURDER MYSTERY deals with actors pretending to be cops and robbers, but the party is crashed by ACTUAL robbers right off the bat; something that they REALLY should have realized was the case even if they were told this was going to be a big game. They don’t realize that these are REAL crooks invading the party and kidnapping Brooks though, but they will soon enough as they find out more and more about Brooks and just how much trouble he’s really in. Can Max, Anne, and their best buddies find a way to save Brooks before he gets two in the head? What will Max learn about his brother during this absurd quest, and what will he learn about… HIMSELF!? Anyone else feel like playing a game right now? King of Tokyo? Drop Mix? Yu-Gi-Oh?
Office Christmas Party and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon
Christmas themed comedies for the most part (at least the ones that aren’t made for TV) have a pretty solid track record with classics like Elf, Bad Santa, Home Alone, Christmas Vacation, and A Christmas movies among their prestigious ranks. I would also include How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the Ron Howard one) and even Jingle All the Way among those, but I tend to be in the minority with that particular opinion so we’ll save those arguments for another time. The point is that there’s a certain sense of… shall we say EFFORT that comes to be expected when trying to cash in on the holidays; even if the goal is to make it raunchy like they did with A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas (another classic) which seems to be the intent here as this movie seems to be a mix between Project X, The Hangover, and the first ten minutes of Die Hard before the terrorist took over the Nakatomi building. Does this wild party live up to the standards of excellence we expect from Christmas films, or is this just a lazy cash in that just so happened to wrangle in a whole bunch of popular comedians to do a whole bunch of lazy material before collecting their Christmas bonuses? Let’s find out!!
Our story begins at the Chicago branch of Zenotek which sells servers or something like that where we meet our key characters for the shenanigan fueled debauchery that will unfold in due time. We’ve got Josh (Jason Bateman) who’s basically if Jason Bateman worked at a branch of a tech company, Clay (TJ Miller) who’s basically if TJ Miller was in charge of said branch of a tech company, Mary (Kate McKinnon) who is what you’d imagine Kate McKinnon would do as a caricature of the head of human resources at said branch of a tech company, and a bunch of others played by Sam Richardson, Vanessa Bayer, Karan Soni, Randall Park, and Rob Corddry to fill out this scenario where a branch of a tech company as filled entirely by smart asses and awkward comedians. Oh, and Olivia Munn is in here too as the uber savvy hacker Tracey to be Josh’s love interest and to provide the very obvious Chekov’s Gun for the finale. Anyway, while we’re getting introduced to all these employees at Zenotech and setting up the boring typical Christmas Party, The CEO of the company Carol (Jennifer Aniston) who also happens to be Clay’s sister has informed them that the branch is about to get some HEAVY cuts and that the party is cancelled. Well that certainly sucks! If only there was a way to fix both problems at the same time… Oh wait! There’s a big contract up for grabs and the company’s representative is in town (Courtney B Vance) so maybe they can woo him into signing a contract with the BEST CHRISTMAS PARTY EVAR, giving their employees the great time they deserve and saving the branch in the process. It could work, right?
Central Intelligence and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber
That HAS to be the greatest tagline of all time, am I right? For months now, I’m been cautiously optimistic of this buddy film starring Kevin Hart as an everyday business man and Dwayne Johnson as… what can only be described as a puppy operated meat robot. Seriously, is there anyone more adorable than The Rock? Honestly, that’s the main reason WHY I was interested at all. The story looked average and the spy stuff looked simplistic, but damn do I love this guy and pairing him up with Kevin Hart seemed like a brilliant move. Well the movie is finally here, so does it live up to those expectations, or is this yet another non-starter for two actors who are absolutely fantastic but don’t always know how to pick a decent script? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) who’s been coasting through life for the last two decades now without any real vision or goals. Now it’s not like his life is terrible because he is married to his high school sweetheart and he did land a good job as an accountant, but in high school he was the most popular kid in school and was voted most likely to succeed by his peers, and now he’s looking down the barrel of a twenty year reunion with nothing much to show for it. The day before the reunion though, things take a very odd turn as one of his fellow classmates Bobby (Dwayne Johnson) gets in touch with him on Facebook and convinces him to hang out that night which he agrees to and is surprised to see the fat kid everyone made fun of has turned into… well Dwayne Johnson. Things seem to go well that night as Bob pours his heart out about how Calvin was the only guy in school to ever treat him with kindness and respect, and they end up having a great time. That is until Bob starts asking Calvin to look into some files for him which inadvertently pulls his ass into one big terrorism plot where an ALL POWERFUL COMPUTER CHIP is gonna get sold to the highest bidder and Bobby’s the only one who can stop them. OR IS HE!? The CIA get involved as one their agents (Amy Ryan) gets in touch with Calvin and lets him know that Bob is bug-fuck nuts and is probably gonna kill everyone. Not an unreasonable assumption to make considering how much shit he fucks up and how much he REALLY idolizes Calvin, so now it’s a race against time as Calvin has to find out who to trust, how to not get killed, and possibly save America in the process!
Zootopia and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore
With Pixar not really living up to its namesake in the last couple of years (not the biggest fan of Inside Out), it’s interesting to see their decline coincide with Disney Animation Studio’s recent output steadily increase in quality. I didn’t see Big Hero Six, but Tangled, Frozen, and Wreck-It Ralph are all very strong features from a studio that had been relying on Pixar for some time to keep Disney’s theatrical output relevant and groundbreaking. Not only that, but they’ve done a good job of keeping their ideas interesting and relevant, from Frozen’s LGBT undertones, to Wreck-It Ralph’s use of new(ish) media to tell a classic Disney fable about a lost princess. Now they’re giving something that ALL internet users are at least passingly familiar with; FURRIES! Does this anthropomorphic animal tale manage to continue Disney Animation Studio’s valiant escape from the shadow of Pixar, or are we in for another bland kid’s movie that’ll only succeed due to the brand name recognition? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows the trials and tribulations of one Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin); the first rabbit police in… the country? I don’t know the exact geography here, but her becoming a police officer (valedictorian at the academy) is such a big deal that she gets assigned to Zootopia; the most vibrant, diverse, and technologically advanced cities on Earth… or Animal Planet. Whatever. Unfortunately for our friend here, she’s relegated to menial tasks as the chief of police Bongo (Idris Elba) has no confidence in her abilities to perform in a job that is typically handled by much larger animals. When a case involving a series of missing animals (predators specifically) gets out of hand though, she has an opportunity to prove herself by tracking down an otter who was among those missing. However, because of the necessities of screenwriting conventions, Bongo somehow manages to turn this into an ego contest and has officer Hopps agree to quit the force if she doesn’t solve this case in forty-eight hours (I sense a reference there!) which you would think wouldn’t be something he can force her to do, but I guess she’s got something to prove and agrees to the wager. The only lead she has is a local fox who’s already been giving her grief named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) who may have seen the otter and knows where he might have gone. After some underhanded tricks of her own (hey, the fox started it!) she finally convinces him to assist her in finding this otter and find out what it is that has caused these animals to go missing. Will they be able to solve the case within the arbitrary time limit? What secrets are there to uncover in the dark underbelly of this supposed utopian city? Wait, is this gonna be the most socially conscious movie about race relations this year!?