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!?
Hunter Killer and all the images you see in this review are owned by Summit Entertainment
Directed by Donovan Marsh
Ugh… you know what’s worse than being sick for two weeks? Being sick for two weeks and then getting better JUST IN TIME to see Hunter Killer. I didn’t get to catch Can You Ever Forgive Me while it was at the nearby theater! Oh no, I have to drive out of town to see it now if I’m lucky, but the latest Gerard Butler vehicle? Why that’s just a hop skip and a jump away! I’m sure I’ll be cursing my recent good heath by the time this is over, but I guess you never know until you see the movie itself, do you!? I mean sure it LOOKS like a generic submarine thriller starring America’s Fifth Favorite Action Figure, but… I guess it could be a FUN version of that! Let’s find out!!
As the movie begins we see an American sub is following a Russian sub before getting blown away by a third sub, and so The Pentagon needs to send a second sub of their own to find out what happened. Not just anyone can pull this mission off however! Oh no, they need a PROFESSIONAL hard ass with a heart of gold and a bladder of titanium! They need… JOE GLASS (Gerard Butler)! Joe takes the USS Arkansas along with a crew of very professional character actors to see if they can find the original US sub, and after a rather intense skirmish with a Russian sub (presumably the one that shot down the first American sub), they manage to find our sub… as well as their sub. Yes, it seems that the original Russian sub had been sunk somehow and JOE GLASS needs some answers! While all this is going on, Admieral Donnegan (Gary Oldman), Rear Admiral Fisk (Common), and NSA analyst Norquist (Linda Cardellini) are coordinating an effort to get a squad of US soliders on Russian soil to find out if President Zakarin (Alexander Diachenko) is up to no good! Said team is led by Lieutenant Beaman (Toby Stephens) along with the rookie Martinelli (Zane Holtz) and two other guys who find that things may not be as simple as we initially thought and that Zarkarin might be in danger himself. Will JOE GLASS find the answers he’s looking for on that mysteriously sunk submarine? What can Lieutenant Beaman and his crew do now that they know that something is up and they are the only ones in position to do anything about it? With so much danger under the sea, will this sub sink faster than Gerard Butler’s career!?
All Eyez on Me and all the images you see in this review are owned by Summit Entertainment
Directed by Benny Boom
If there’s one thing that we know Hollywood is good at it’s driving a good idea into the ground, and with the record breaking success of Straight Outta Compton, imitators were bound to pop up to try and ride its coattails. Now that’s not to say that piggybacking off the success of one film is necessarily a bad thing; especially when the film being made is good enough to deserve the attention it wouldn’t otherwise get by following in a successful movie’s wake. I know nothing about Tupac Shakur, but from what I understand he’s just as influential in the world of hip hop as NWA was in their day which makes his story ripe for adaptation. Does this movie manage to live outside the shadow of its most obvious influence and stand on its own as a great biopic, or will this fail to find an identity outside a Straight Outta Compton cash in? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows the life of Lesane Parish Crooks, also known as Tupac Amaru Shakur (Demetrius Shipp Jr), who rose to prominence as a rapper, actor, and black liberation advocate in the early and mid-1990’s. Starting out from a young boy, he saw the horrors that institutionalized racism inflicted on his community and his own family as his mother Afeni Shakur (Danai Gurira) and step father Mutulu Shakur (Jamie Hector) were prominent figures in The Black Panthers Party. After growing up in Baltimore where he met Jada Pinkett (Kat Graham) who remained a lifelong friend, he was eventually forced to move to California which is where he took off as a rapper and became part of the Digital Underground which is where he started to branch out as a solo artist and make a name for himself in the wider public. Of course, being a huge success comes with its own caveats and Tupac has to face a corrupt criminal justice system, disloyal sycophants who want to suck him dry, and even his own personal demons which are brought to the forefront once he becomes a household name and a superstar. Does this retelling of the life of the legendary rapper manage to capture all the nuances of the man behind the headlines? What can this man’s story tell us about how broken the system is even to this day? If this movie is anything to go by, was the dude even a human being or simply a demi-god walking among mere mortals?
The Shack and all the images you see in this review are owned by Summit Entertainment
Directed by Stuart Hazeldine
Geez, first we had Jennifer Gardner do one of these last year, and now ACADEMY AWARD WINNER OCTAVIA SPENCER? And the thing is, I had no idea what this was about until I walked into the movie! I thought it was Nick Sparks fluff piece or something like that, but no! Alright, so I didn’t have the best attitude once they movie let me know what it was about within the first five minutes, but it’s not like there aren’t ANY religious films I like! Certainly Noah counts, right? Anyway, does The Shack manage to rise above its contemporaries and be a thoughtful examination on religion and spirituality’s role in working through grief, or is it just like every other mediocre or downright offensive Christian film we’ve gotten since Pure Flix managed to make a few bucks at the box office? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with the wholesome Phillips family led by the father Mack (Sam Worthington) who one day decides to take the kids on a camping trip which couldn’t POSSIBLY go awry! Oh wait. The youngest of the group Missy (Amelie Eve) goes missing and presumed dead. I THINK the body is found in the titular shack in the mountains, but the movie is a bit coy on that detail; presumably so they can avoid showing a dead body in this wholesome family film. Anyway, the tragedy shatters the whole family including their son Josh (Gage Munroe) and their other daughter Kate (Megan Charpentier), but Mack is taking the brunt of the guilt; leaving the mother Nan (Radha Mitchell) to pick up the slack while he’s moping around the house. One day however, he gets a mysterious letter telling him to meet God in the shack where Missy’s body was found which sounds suspiciously like the opening to Silent Hill 2, but unfortunately we’re not in for that kind of movie. Instead, he steals his best friend’s truck (played by Tim McGraw) and drives up there thinking that he’ll find the killer waiting for him. No such luck so Mack has a near suicidal fit of rage and fury but is saved from blowing his brains out by some dude who JUST SO HAPPENED to be walking by at just that moment. Not only that, but the dude seems to know Mack and invites him to join his family in another nearby cabin. What’s odd though is that the weather instantly changes from the dead of winter to a bright spring day, and on top of that, the dude’s father is played by Octavia Spencer. So why would this guy played by Aviv Alush call this woman The Father? And who is this mysterious third person there played by Sumire Matsubara? Wait a minute… meet God in the cabin… there are three of them… oh. Okay, so we’ve got The Father (Spencer), The Son (Alush), and the Holy Spirit (Matsubara) basically pulling a Christmas Carol on this dude to get him over the death of his daughter by… sort of answering his very obvious and leading questions about the nature of God in a world that isn’t perfect. Uh huh. So then… does Mack manage to find a reason to live after spending a few days with these three charming fellows? What insights do they have that can apply to YOUR lives as well as his? Is there a book you can buy to go along with the movie that will shed ADDITIONAL insights and unlock the secret to true happiness!?
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!?
La La Land and all the images you see in this review are owned by Summit Entertainment
Directed by Damien Chazelle
Well this certainly jumped to everyone’s best of the year list, didn’t it? Too bad I didn’t get to see it in 2016 as the wide release wasn’t until January, but hey, at least I get to see it AT ALL. I mean who DOESN’T love song and dance numbers interwoven into a classic Hollywood love story, especially when it’s done as well as this one is supposed to be? Does this manage to be a film for the ages like those it takes its greatest inspiration from, or is this a mere copycat that doesn’t have a true identity of its own? Let’s find out!!
The movie takes place in present day Hollywood where we follow the struggling actress Mia (Emma Stone) and the struggling Jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) as they struggle their hearts out for their dreams and manage to find each other in the process. While Emma wants to simply get her big break, Sebastian has much more specific aspirations as he wants to open his own Jazz club right in the heart of the city, which is gonna be difficult because he’s flat broke and can’t even keep a steady gig going because he doesn’t want to play the set list provided… because he’s an artist I guess. Still, they manage to scrape by as they keep working towards their dreams while also putting on elaborate and non-diegetic song and dance numbers for our entertainment! Will the realities of the business crush their spirits and drive them apart as more and more chances start to slip away? Can a movie this unabashedly old fashion manage to work in a modern day context? Did they manage to outdo Tarantino as far as movie references!?
Hacksaw Ridge and all the images you see in this review are owned by Summit Entertainment
Directed by Mel Gibson
So The Birth of a Nation, while still being directed by terrible person with seemingly no interest in doing the hard work to change that, at least had the benefit of its filmmaker being a new voice with a desperately needed perspective in an industry that had grown pretty monolithic despite the way the world (and their audience) was changing around them. Mel Gibson on the other hand has been around for decades and is already part of that overly white-cis-het culture that needs to be changed (both in Hollywood and everywhere else) which is only compounded by him being a shit bag for WAY longer. Now I’m sure that he struggles with his demons constantly and that those kinds of fights are never easy to win, but no one owes this guy sympathy for those plights considering the harm he’s caused or their money to see his films even if it’s good in its own right. I’m a film critic, so I critique films and all I can do is try to relay what this movie is trying to do, if it succeeds in doing so, and how I reacted to it given the full scope of how and why it was created instead of just on how well they made it. Is this a masterpiece from a deeply disturbed filmmaker, or has the director’s own personal hang-ups dragged down a biopic about a much great man than him? Let’s find out!!
The movie is essentially a biopic of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) whose religious beliefs meant he would not carry weapons or cause direct harm to others, but he still wanted to serve his country and do what he can to help his fellow Americans fighting in the Pacific Rim, so he enlists anyway with the hope of being a medic. Now apparently medics STILL have to carry weapons and get weapons training, but he refuses to do even that much and becomes a target by his commanding officers (Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington) and fellow recruits who consider this an act of cowardice rather than religious conviction, and the movie takes great pains to explore the suffering he went through to earn the right not to carry a weapon as well as how he got these convictions (his alcoholic father Tom played by Hugo Weaving was a big influence), how this act of rebellion can ruin his life as well as the life of his wife Dorothy (Teresa palmer) and what he does once he’s in the field of battle with no way to protect himself. Does Desmond manage to keep his convictions even when faced with the horrors of battle? Will the rest of his unit learn to respect his convictions once he proves himself out in the field? Is the film drenched in religious symbolism and Jesus allegories? Does a bear shit in the woods? And is Mel Gibson a serial abuser?
Now You See Me 2 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Summit Entertainment
Directed by Jon M Chu
I didn’t HATE the first movie, but I wasn’t really a fan of it. While the magic performances as well as that one Dave Franco action scene were a lot of fun, the glue holding everything together was far from compelling and the twist at the end was MONUMENTALLY stupid; not just because it’s… well stupid, but also because of how it completely poisons the idea of repeat viewings as its one of those twists that unravels everything we saw and robs the story of any sort of tension. That said I wasn’t opposed to the idea of a sequel, especially once it was revealed that they got Daniel Radcliffe to be in it! Sure, the twist at the end of the first one kinda ruins THAT movie, but maybe they’ll build off of this one in an interesting and novel way! Does this manage to continue the trend of sequels this year being better than the original, or is this movie trying to pull a fast one on all of us? Let’s find out!! Oh, and we’ll be going into spoilers for the last film, so just a heads up.
After the events of the last movie where the Four Horsemen who are composed of Danny (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt (Woody Harrelson), Jack (Dave Franco), and Henley (Isla Fisher, or Sir Not Appearing In This Film) fulfilled the mission given to them by The Eye, they are now members of the secret organization under the watchful… well EYE, of Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) who was the FBI agent chasing them throughout the first one; the big twist of that film being that he was in on it the entire time! MAGIC SHOCK! So after robbing Insurance Mogul Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) of his fortune and getting Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) to take the fall for it, the Horsemen have spent the last year in hiding; waiting around for a sequel… I mean mission, from The Eye. Henley gave up after a while and went off to do her own thing (what exactly that is, I’m not sure considering she’s still wanted… I think) and Daniel is about to do the same if they aren’t given something to do, or at least get a chance to MEET this organization they’re supposedly working for with their only connection to them being Agent Rhodes. The day FINALLY comes though as they get a new member Lula (Lizzy Caplan) to join The Horsemen and they plan to crash a part announcing the release of the next iPhone knockoff which supposedly has a chip in it that will steal ALL the users’ data so they can sell it. I don’t know why this is a job for The Horsemen considering that shit would get discovered and jailbroken within fifteen minutes of its release, but whatever. The plan doesn’t go as… well planned, as their party crashing is interrupted by ANOTHER party crasher who reveals that Jack is STILL alive (he was presumed dead after the events of the last film) and that Agent Rhodes is actually working with them! Not only that, but during The Horsemen’s escape, they somehow find themselves ALL the way in China where some sniveling jackass named Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) reveals that he’s the one behind all of this and will get The Horsemen out of trouble (apparently he can do that) if they do a heist for him. While all this is going on, Agent Rhodes is still in the US trying to evade law enforcement and is trying to piece everything together as to whom else could have been in on this plot against them, and his focus invariably shifts right to Thaddeus Bradley who is loving every moment of this. Will The Horsemen be able to steal what Walter wants them to, and can he be trusted to keep up his end of the bargain? How exactly will Agent Rhodes manage to get the truth out of Thaddeus about his involvement in all of this, and does this have anything to do with his past? Look over there! Now here! Was THIS your card!?