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.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing
Directed by Jason Reitman
I was a pretty big fan of the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot and am still a bit salty that we never got a sequel to it, so seeing the trailers and just how much the studio was backtracking to safe and familiar nostalgia was pretty demoralizing to see and left me with a bad feeling about this. A Stranger Things knockoff that revels in the legacy of the first two films while grabbing a mostly indie director who just so happens to be the son of the original films’ director just felt like too many ideas on how to make this a MARKETABLE Ghostbusters movie instead of a GOOD one. Still, Reitman is a good director and the buzz so far has been good for the movie, so perhaps I’m being a bit overly critical before even seeing the darn thing. Did my low expectations set me up for a pleasant surprise that finds the balance between mining nostalgia and finding new ideas, or is this a cynical paycheck from a guy whose complicated history with this franchise landed him in the director’s chair long before he ever picked up a camera? Let’s find out!!
Many years after the events of the first movie (and the second presumably), Egon Spengler has made a new life of sorts in a total nothing town somewhere in the Midwest, and while it’s probably not much of a spoiler considering that the actor is no longer with us, he has recently died under mysterious circumstances, and his estranged daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) has come to settle his affairs as well as start a new life for her and her two kids Phoebe and Trevor (Mckenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard). While packing up his things though, Phoebe finds the PKE Meter as well as Egon’s ghostbusting Batcave, and Trevor starts to see some strange things around town; especially while hanging out with Lucky (Celeste O’Connor) at the nearby mine, which is… a thing kids do I guess? In any case, Phoebe starts to investigate the strange occurrences in the town with her paranormal podcasting friend named Podcast (Logan Kim), but more importantly starts to learn more about her grandfather and, by extension, herself. That, and her Summer School teacher (Paul Rudd) is a total nerd who was obsessed with the Ghostbusters when he was a kid, and so the stage is set for the next generation to take up the mantel once these strange things around town turn into STRANGER things! What was Egon doing in this Podunk town in the first place, and is there more than just his old eighties crap that he’s left behind for his family? How will Phoebe and Trevor deal with their newly discovered legacy, and why was their mother hiding it from them all this time? Do you think in thirty years someone will try to do one of these for the 2016 Ghostbusters movie? I mean how ELSE are we supposed to get a sequel!?
Star Trek Beyond and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Justin Lin
We’re once again invited to visit this new Star Trek universe, though it doesn’t quite have the same shine that it used to now that we saw the bafflingly mishandled Into Darkness, and even that really crappy video game that came out. Remember that? While we all may fondly remember the first reboot film in this series that kicked off this new universe, there’s no doubt that some damage has been done in the intervening years that it’s now up to this movie to start correcting. Do they manage to steer the ship back on course, or should we all start heading for the lifeboats before this whole franchise crashes and burns? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows the crew of the USS Enterprise who are in the middle of their five year mission to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and civilizations, and to boldly go where no one has gone before. Of course, for some reason there’s a Federation space station in the middle of this supposed unknown, but whatever. They need to fuel up the tank every once in a while. Anyway, during their pit stop at the space station Yorktown, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is getting ready to give up his command of the Enterprise… for some reason, but can’t do it just yet as a distress ship manages to make it to Yorktown with an alien who’s begging Starfleet to help them out. Kirk agrees to get everyone back on board the Enterprise (probably pissing off a lot of the crew in the process) and heads to wherever this planet is which honestly doesn’t seem to be too far but there’s a giant nebula between Yorktown and this mystery planet so maybe it’s just that no one wanted to fly straight through that. Kirk does however, but once they make it to just outside the planet’s orbit, a fleet of a bajillion tiny ships tears the enterprise to shreds and the bad guy of this movie simply known as Krall (Idris Elba) JUST SO HAPPENS to find that the Enterprise is carrying the ONE piece of a superweapon that he’s been searching for all this time that’s only on the ship due to a fluke peace mission from some point during their five year mission. Luckily Kirk manages to hide it before the ship goes down in flames, but now the crew is completely separated and needs to find a way to get back together, defeat Krall, and get the hell off this planet. Spock and Bones McCoy (Zachary Quinto) are together constantly kvetching at each other, Scotty (Simon Pegg) ends up meeting a local alien trying to get herself off the planet too named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), Uhura and Sulu (Zoe Saldana and John Cho) are captured by the enemy along with most of the remaining crew, and Kirk and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) are left with the alien who initially sent them to this planet and are working together to find what remains of the enterprise. Can these heroes set aside their differences and work together so they can survive this mission? What is Krall planning to blow up with the super weapon once he finally gets the pieces together? Most importantly, just how grumpy can Bones get!?