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.
Godzilla vs. Kong and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by Adam Wingard
It’s no secret that I was not a fan of King of the Monsters which was particularly surprising to me as I always get a kick out of seeing giant monster movies! There was just too much pretention and import without enough depth or butt kicking fight scenes to justify how lethargic much of it was, but if there was anything about the movie that caught my interest (aside from them using the Blue Oyster Cult song for the credits), it was the promise of seeing Godzilla and the King Kong from Kong: Skull Island lace up the gloves and duke it out in a battle to end all battles! Well the one thing that giant monsters were not able to overcome was the Pandemic as this got pushed back for several months, but the day has finally arrived and they even put it on HBO Max to boot! Is this the titanic clash between two legendary movie monsters we’ve all been waiting for, or is this a bigger letdown than Batman v Superman? Let’s find out!!
Following the events of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Monarch has decided that instead of leaving Kong alone on his mysterious island that is probably not even on Godzilla’s radar, they’ll capture him, chain him up, and put him in a fake jungle so that… I guess he and Godzilla don’t have a punch up. It seems that Kong himself wasn’t consulted on this as he’s constantly wrecking up his cage and has to be restrained whenever he’s out of it, but in any case, along with that there’s a new Super Science company in town named Apex run by some dude named Walter (Demián Bichir) who believes that there’s some sort of Unobtanium-like SUPER OIL that requires drilling even deeper into the Earth to get. How deep? Well so deep that apparently you empty out into a whole new world which is where the monsters they’ve been dealing with are actually from. A rag tag team of scientists are assembled to try and prove this Hollow Earth theory and since they’ve already got a giant monster under lock and key, they can use his… something something science babble to help them find the entrance to the Hollow Earth and make perhaps the greatest discovery in all of human history! Said team is made up of some geologist dude (Alexander Skarsgård), Kong’s caretaker (Rebecca Hall), her adopted daughter (Kaylee Hottle), and Walter’s very annoyed daughter (Eiza González) along with like five or six nameless army dudes. Now all this however assumes that Godzilla, the supposed protector of Earth, doesn’t come in and wreck Apex/Monarch’s plans, but hey I guess if they’ve got Kong on hand anyway, why not let him punch the giant lizard a few times along the way? Oh, and Millie Bobby Brown is back on a Goonies adventure to discover the secrets of Apex along with a nerd (Julian Dennison) and a conspiracy theorist (Brian Tyree Henry) who has no problem dragged teenagers along on a life threatening adventure. Then again, Rebecca Hall has someone even younger tagging along with her, so either way there seems to be way too many irresponsible grown-ups running around here. Will Apex and Monarch be able to find the hidden entrance to the Hollow Earth and perhaps find some answers about Kong as well? What does Apex want with this new energy source, and could Godzilla’s recent aggression towards them be somehow connected? Am I the only one picturing a better movie where the giant ape and the giant lizard just say SCREW this and work together to destroy everyone involved with this ridiculous venture!?
Angel Has Fallen and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate
Directed by Ric Roman Waugh
I didn’t want to see this movie. Did ANYONE want to see this movie after that horrendous sequel? If anything worthwhile had come out this week I would have seen that instead, but for some reason things are just drying up between now and IT Chapter 2, so I guess I’ll take what I can get even if it’s… this thing. Frankly I would have preferred a sequel to that submarine movie he did with the dude from Black Flag, but no one went to see that one and EVERYONE went to see the one where Muslims destroy London, so once again I find myself at the mercy of mainstream taste when entering the multiplex. Hey, at least it got us the MCU and WAY more Purge movies than anyone could have expected, so it might be worth taking the bad along with the good. Does this movie manage to redeem a franchise after such an abysmal second outing, or will the trend continue downward with such velocity that it buries straight down into the center of the Earth? No I’m not sure what that means, but let’s find out!!
Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is the unstoppable badass of the Secret Service who kicks butt and takes names like nobody’s business in service of the President who is now Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) taking over for Benjamin Asher. I don’t THINK he died in the last movie so that would mean Trumbull got elected or President Asher died of some other means that Banning couldn’t punch his way out of. ANYWAY! What you may not have expected is that despite this being movie three it’s actually a Rocky 5 because all the damage that Banning has accrued over the movies we saw and the missions we didn’t have started to catch up to him as he has to take pain pills to manage his headaches and insomnia which have only gotten progressively worse. Maybe it’s time to think about a desk job like his friend Wade Jennings (Danny Huston) who runs a PMC that I’m sure will have NOTHING to do with what’s about to happen! While on a fishing trip, President Trumbull is attacked by a swarm of exploding drones that kills EVERYONE there except for Trumbull who is in a coma and Mike Banning who just barely escaped with his life. That’s the good news, but the bad news he’s about to hear is PRETTY bad as FBI agent Helen Thompson (Jada Pinkett Smith) has found enough evidence to convict Banning of trying to assassinate the president! Apparently he couldn’t knock him into the water and say he slipped, he had to send out EXPLODING DRONES to cause MASSIVE explosions that he could have easily been caught in and managed to kill everyone EXCEPT his target. Sure. Okay then. Well it’s hardly a surprise that Banning manages to escape custody and finds out that he’s being set up by the only new character introduced in this movie; namely his PMC buddy Wade who is using the full force of his company to try and kill him and any other American citizen in the way so he can cover up this frame job. Mike is gonna need to recall all his skills, his wits, and even enlist the help of his estranged father Clay (Nick Nolte) to clear his name, stop the PMC and save the President if there’s time for that too. Can Mike Banning save the world once again, even if his buddy is the one pulling the strings? What do they have planned once Mike is dead, and are there greater forces at play in this grand scheme of theirs? Out of ALL the people to put the frame on, why would they do it to the ONE person who managed to save the White House AND all of London already? Couldn’t they pin it on Agent Bob or something? I doubt he’s stabbed even HALF as many people as Banning has!
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum and all the images you see in this review are owned by Summit Entertainment
Directed by Chad Stahelski
So here we are once again. Now I wasn’t the biggest fan of the second movie, but the John Wick movies have their own sense of style and craftsmanship that’s hard to ignore even when the story begins to fall apart, at least as far as I’m concerned regarding that sequel. Now the time has come for them to hopefully right the ship and bring this franchise back to what made it great instead of the convoluted mess that we got last time. Will we be getting the conclusion to John’s story that will make this whole wild trip worth taking, or is this franchise already too far into the rabbit hole for us to reasonably expect them to dig their way out of? Let’s find out!!
The movie picks up mere minutes after the end of the last one where John (Keanu Reeves) has just been ex-communicated from The Continental for (SPOILER ALERT FOR JOHN WICK 2) killing what’s his face in the last film (Riccardo Scamarcio). Now obviously no one expects John Wick to go down quietly, especially not the owner of The Continental (Ian McShane), and yet a bunch of assassins take a swipe at the guy with about as much luck as you’d expect. However, John’s plan isn’t JUST to kill enough people to clog up the Hudson River; he needs to go and appease The High Table who I guess is in charge of The Continental and all the other Assassin Hotels which apparently was a THING in the last movie that I just forgot about. Now what’s his face that no one liked from the last movie was apparently a member of this table (can’t be THAT great if he got a seat) and so John’s up to his eyeballs in not just hot shots trying to make a quick buck, but basically everyone within the orbit of The High Table. This includes The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) who is there to clean up (i.e. kill) everyone with even a vague connection to John’s recent activities, and Zero the Assassin (Mark Dacascos) who’s band of ninjas have been hired to help The Adjudicator do his dirty work. So while that’s all going down in New York, John is trying to get a meeting with a member of The High Table which is no easy task as he has to cash in whatever chips he has left to get help from his former trainer (Anjelica Huston) and a former colleague who owes him one (Halle Berry); both risking a lot even if whatever assistance they offer is through official channels because The High Table is having none of that crap anymore. Will John find what he needs to in order to spare his life from the wrath of The High Table? What will those back in New York do now that they’ve gotten the ire of the people at the very top of the food chain? Just how many dudes do BOTH sides have to spare over this rather small dispute between the one guy none of them can kill and a dead dude who only got the job like a week ago? Is there REALLY no other way they can solve this!?
John Wick: Chapter 2 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Summit Entertainment
Directed by Chad Stahelski
WOO!!! JOHN WICK IS BACK!! Now I wasn’t as over the moon as some people were with that first movie (), but I am never the less EXTREMELY excited to see what Keanu Reeves has up his sleeve in the sequel! True, sequels to unexpected hits are almost universally terrible (*cough* Highlander 2, The Hangover 2, Taken 2 *cough*), but there’s not a whole lot of ways to screw up a formula like this; especially when what made it work the first time around was well choreographed and expertly shot action scenes; two things that Keanu Reeves and the returning director seem to prize above all else. Can this manage to be as exceptional as the man himself and ACTUALLY be a good sequel, or has the air gone out of this series the same way the Matrix did when we got ITS sequels? Let’s find out!!
The movie picks up RIGHT where the last one left off, namely with John Wick (Keanu Reeves) finishing off what remains of the Russian mob (his injuries have healed rather nicely considering how close he was to dying at the end of the last film) and getting his car back. Of course, because of how much noise he made doing so, he gets a visit from a former associate who wants him to do a favor despite his insistence that he’s FINALLY going to retire. This turns out to be a VERY bad move as the associate Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) then blows up his fucking house because of this. Doesn’t kill the dog though! No, he makes to the end! Anyway, apparently Santino has a Marker with John which supposedly makes all of this make sense (spoiler alert: it doesn’t) as a Marker is essentially a blood oath where one party owes the other a one-time request that they MUST do or else… I don’t know, they die? I mean, good luck finding someone to kill John Wick! Hell, if that was even an option, why don’t you send THAT person to do the job for you!? Well no one was asking for my opinion when they were writing this, so John takes the job, executes his target, and THAT’S when things go to hell as the target’s bodyguard Cassian (Common) was an old friend but now a SWORN MORTAL ENEMY, and Santino betrays John and tries to have him killed. I totally didn’t see that coming, especially when HIS bodyguard Ares is played by Ruby Rose and was giving John dirty looks throughout the first act (angry dirty; not sexy dirty). So now he’s got Cassian on his ass, Santino trying to kill him, and oh yeah A SHIT TON OF OTHER ASSASSINS as Santino has ALSO put a hit on him just for good measure. Will John be able to kill his way to Santino and finally get his retirement once and for all? Well… PROBABLY considering how good he is at head shots, but does Santino plan to keep John JUST out of arm’s reach? Who can John trust now that there’s a huge bounty on his head and hit men are coming out the wood work for his very valuable head? How many suits does this guy go through on a daily basis!?