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John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
John Wicked some A$$
Keanu Reeves returns in this anticipated sequel. Does it deliver everything that audiences loved about the original but bigger and better? I'd say that's a definite yes. If you're looking for story and depth then this isn't your movie. If you're looking for non stop action and where the body count is too high to keep count, then this is your movie. It was a lot of fun. The movie is gritty but it also knows how to keep things light. Reeves shows no signs of slowing down as he unleashes his arsenal of weaponry and hand to hand combat on anyone who gets in his way. It was also cool to see him and Fishburne share the screen together again. I'd definitely recommend this to fans of the genre.
Suicide Squad (2016)
DC on life support
I wanted to like this movie. I really did. The trailers and advertising was so good that it was impossible to not feel some hype. I'm also a big DC universe fan and really wanted to see them finally find some footing. Sadly this movie was a let down. The first act is all one giant spoon fed exposition as we have only a few of the casts backstories jammed down our throats. The rest of them are left one dimensional and they never feel more real than cartoons. A good film doesn't need to spend so much time shoveling out exposition. Look at Guardians Of The Galaxy. That movie just did such a great job creating rich characters, each earning their time on screen, who's chemistry with each other was electric that you got everything that you needed to know about them.
Will Smith is great at playing Will Smith. He's as charismatic as ever and definitely adds some fun moments. However he is NOT Deadshot and portrays the character far more as a redeemable hero than he is meant to be. Margot Robbie is every bit as good as we all hoped. She's one of the few things that the movie totally delivers on. Jared Leto as Joker ... where oh where did you go wrong? This is the first cinematic version of the character that falls flat. He brings nothing memorable or interesting to the character. With how much he was hyped, with his method acting and claims about how terrifying he was on set, I definitely expected more. True his screen time is minimal but the second you saw the other Jokers that's all you needed to know that they were iconic. This Joker just wasn't. I mean he wasn't bad but he fell into that just barely serviceable category which is extra disappointing in a way. I expected so much more from him and now I'm very unenthusiastic of him appearing in future films. Jai Courtney is fun but under used. I kept forgetting that Killer Croc was in this movie. The rest of the cast does OK with what little they have.
The threat in the film is way too supernatural and cartoony to fit the gritty dark world surrounding it. It's amazing how many possibilities they could have taken with villains and that this was the best they could do is pretty baffling. The action has it's moments but is also pretty repetitive at times. Sure there was some key moments that I enjoyed. It's just as a whole the movie was a let down. The cameos were fun I guess. The music was solid but the movie some times felt like a giant advertisement to buy the soundtrack with how often songs were forced in. All in all it's just another brick in the wall. Uninspired and unmemorable. It's not going to do much to help establish the DCEU. They really need Wonder Woman to be something special to pull this series out of this state of just being "OK". They need to be great next time.
Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)
Batman: The Joke Killed
Batman: The Killing Joke is one of the most iconic graphic novels ever written. We've waited years to see this adapted as an animated movie. Hopes were raised with the great adaptations of the Year One and then The Dark Knight Returns. Then Bruce Timm was connected to the project and it seemed like there was no going wrong. Sadly there was a way to go wrong and this adaptation found it. The movie shifts focus to being more about Batgirl, aka Barbara Gordon, pining over Batman and their totally irrelevant and subsequent love affair that adds NOTHING to the story. We waste half of the story on a narrative angle that's so detached and so uninteresting that you're almost ready to turn off the movie before it even reaches the comic. It's so filled with cliché dialogue and heavy in tropes that it plays like an eye rolling chore at times. Then when we finally get to the true story they add on incredibly unnecessary screen time with trivial crap like Batman interrogating criminals for the Jokers whereabouts, which in the comics was covered in a single page. Something about the ambiguous ending doesn't translate well to this film either. Now it's not a total waste. The voice acting of the great Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy is on point as usual. There are moments that they handled well from the story. It's just as a whole, really disappointing when compared to other DC adaptations.
"Where is Godzilla?" I was wondering the same thing Watanabe
I was a bit unimpressed with the movie. They spent almost an hour totally devoted to setting up the Muto's. That entire time I just assumed that they were setting up Godzilla because why would you devote so much time to anything else that isn't Godzilla in a movie titled Godzilla? Then finally around the halfway point they introduce the title monster, except with much less build up and mystery as the Muto's. They rush through Godzilla's set up with a spoon fed exposition that lasts all but a few minutes in comparison to all of that time spent on the Muto's? Just baffling how misguided the focus was. Then finally we get these two misters to face off and ... oh wait ... instead we are going to cut away to some totally forgettable moment with what ever lame thing Aaron Johnson is doing. It's like having Superman versus Doomsday and instead of showing them fight, we watch Jimmy Olsen running to the roof of a building to get a good picture. True we finally get a pretty good fight at the very end but by that time, it's too little too late.
Passed these issues, of course there's the incredibly boring and one dimensional characters populating this world. Ken Watanabe appeared to be bored and counting the seconds until he could return to his trailer to sleep his entire performance. I wonder if the writers made it a game to think of ridiculous and convenient ways to include Aaron Johnson in every major scene of the movie. I spent the entire time wondering why the hell Elizabeth Olsen was involved at all. The only actor and character to bring any real weight to the movie was Bryan Cranston and he's definitely not as major of a player as the deceiving trailers would have you believe. Now I don't blame the cast for the lame characters. That blame clearly falls on the writing and direction.
There's good effects and a few cool action beats but over all this update felt very misguided. I understand wanting to withhold Godzilla to build the anticipation of his arrival but they mishandled that. Focusing on the Muto's as much as they did just made Godzilla feel less important. Having a balance would have worked but instead the scale was tipped way more towards the Muto's and Aaron Johnson in terms of focus. Godzilla was reduced to a few steps above being a cameo. The first act should have built up Godzilla and finished with his reveal, then have him be perceived as the main threat, only to realize that the real threat are the Muto's. Also Cranston should have been the main character as he easily would have carried the film. The way the film was handled, I just didn't feel much investment and I was bored in general.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
Not Jack Ryan
It's ironic that "Jack Ryan" is part of the title for this one because this is the furthest from the character that any of the films have been. Beyond a some what similar back-story, the doctor soon to be wife, and that he works for the CIA, Ryan is not Ryan. They turn him more into a spy/field agent than the brainy analyst that he's meant to be. As a result, there is nothing in this movie that makes it stand out from the rest of it's genre. It's just another spy movie with an over the top villain that's plotting world domination. It's predictable and generic. They sacrificed what made the Jack Ryan character unique.
I'm not saying that the movie didn't work as some Bond/Bourne/Mission Impossible wannabe with bits and pieces slapped together from every spy thriller ever made. It captured successful elements from those films pretty well. It's just a shame that they relied on recycling tired and over used narrative when there is still a bunch of great Ryan books that they have yet to adapt. There should be no reason to slap together this films story when a much more talented writer like Clancy still has more stories to draw from. I agree with Peter Travers comment "It's a product constructed out of spare parts and assembled with computerized precision."
Despite following a predictable formula very closely instead of the source material, the movie still works as entertainment. Chris Pine is great, despite the writers failing him, and he really carries the movie. He could be a great Jack Ryan if they actually wrote the character correctly. Branagh delivers a pretty good villain, even though he's more suited for a Bond film. There are a couple of scenes that deliver good suspense. It's just not a Jack Ryan movie. It seems that they only used Jack Ryan for the brand name rather than faithfully trying to tell a story about him.
Killing Them Softly (2012)
Killing Me Softly ... with boredom!
Killing Them Softly will go down as the movie that killed critics opinions for me. Critics out there praised this movie up the butt and I was a fool enough to listen to them and waste my money. You could have told this movies plot in thirty minutes if you scraped away all of the unnecessary and irrelevant plot threads, like a certain character whining about their wife for at least 20 minutes of screen time. There are all of these attempts at being artsy and different with editing and cinematography choices but it always distracts from what little story is there. It tries to pretend to be smart by shoving down the elections and the state of America down our throats for a cheap social commentary. Really, this is a stupid movie trying to disguise itself as a smart one.
I kept checking the time and considering walking out but thought that maybe there would be at least one surprise from this boringly straight forward story. Instead there is an incredibly unsatisfying and abrupt conclusion and you're left sitting for a moment, wondering if critics are getting paid off for their praise. Minus a good cast and some pretty visuals that were totally unnecessary and self indulgent, this has little going for it.
The Bourne Legacy (2012)
The Boring Legacy
I will admit that there was some good action beats, though most of them were reused from the previous films. I'll even admit that Renner was good in the movie.
However, almost every element that made the original trilogy great was absent here. The sense of urgency that made the other movies so well paced is gone. The awesome trademark Bourne music that beats like a clock is gone and is replaced with totally boring and forgettable crap. Instead of moving quickly and constantly making the audience engaged in a feeling of danger this movie seems comfortable hanging around in unnecessary scenes that don't really move the plot too much. Most movies move quickly through transitional scenes like going through an airport, but this movie takes about 15 minutes on it. The whole time you're just waiting for the movie to get to the point but it never really does. Nothing is really accomplished by the end other than one really uninteresting and drawn-out story point. It takes the movie 2 hours and 15 minutes to accomplish something that most movies get to about midway through. This gives most movies the chance to then build to some kind of greater goal, but not this one.
And the final kicker, and this should be a big one to fans of the series, they totally make everything that Bourne fought, sacrificed, and bled for in the previous trilogy meaningless. You know that awesome climax and resolution to Ultimatum where Bourne finally got the upper hand? How satisfied it felt as a fan of the series to finally see him complete his goal? Yeah they pretty much wipe that clean and stomp all over it in this one. Apparently everything that Bourne fought for didn't work and the previous three films were pretty much pointless. Thanks for spitting in the face of the fans. The Bourne Legacy my butt.
30 Days of Night: Dark Days (2010)
30 days of ... what ever
You pretty much get what you would expect from a straight to DVD sequel with this movie. Nothing more and nothing less. I've certainly seen worse and at least this film make some small attempt at adapting the book which it is based on. It also is some what successful at being a continuation of the first film. Of course the biggest problem is that it never strives to be anything more than what it is. It lacks vision and drive. It is so by the book that the first viewing feels like the tenth. You can see every plot point, character turn, and scare coming before it happens.
One of the bigger weaknesses narratively is that we are lead to believe that the group of vampire hunters have some idea of what they are doing and yet they jump into every situation head first. They never seem organized or seem to have a plan. They never even bring enough ammunition. They come across as a group of drunks that decide randomly to go vampire hunting.
Another issue is that Stella suddenly comes across like a military trained Rambo. If memory serves correctly, she was constantly the damsel in distress in the first film and Josh Hartnett was constantly rescuing her. Now suddenly she is leading a team of vampire hunters, knows how to operate explosives and fire arms, and is an around Ripley wanna be bad ass. I don't buy it.
Finally my last big issue is the finale which is pretty unsatisfying and anti climactic. Of course with a straight to DVD budget, that is expected. Still it didn't really seem like a great deal of effort was put into it. Also, with out spoiling anything, once the climax is over things are way too neatly tied up. Plus the film adapts the weakest thing from the book which was the resolution, which kind of defeats the purpose of Hartnett's sacrifice in the first film.
I'd recommend this to fans of the book I suppose, though it is bound to be disappointing to some degree. Fans of the original are also pretty much sure to be disappointed. If you go into this film knowing that it's smaller in every way from the original than you may get some entertainment out of it.
Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010)
DC animated films have certainly fallen to a new low in quality. You would think that targeting a more mature audience with a PG-13 rating would mean that the story is written with that audience in mind. It may have more violence and action but the story is more of a mess than kindergarten art work. Too many characters, too many locations, too much action, among many other things, make this a convoluted mess.
The story started off strong but very quickly tries to tell too much too quickly. We bounce from place to place and never really get a chance to ground our feet to get invested in what is going on. With in the first 30 minutes of the film, we bounce over months of the story and only spend a few minutes at a time on a day here and there. Because of this we never get to fully understand how a character transitions from one moment to the next. Not allowing an audience time to feel like they are a part of a characters emotional journey disconnects the audience from the character. It would be like having a character that wanted to be a cop and then suddenly skipping ahead a year in that persons life to show that they have become a criminal, never showing what events shaped that person change of heart. It's messy story telling and would make any screenwriter shake their head.
Another grave error by the film is that the story is impossible to follow unless you're very familiar with the comics. Part of a screenwriter's job in making an adaptation is to make the story accessible to people who are unfamiliar with the source material. This film fails miserably in that responsibility. I'm not even sure why Batman is included in the title since he really is a supporting character to Superman and Supergirl. I would not recommend that anyone spends money on this unless you're a huge fan of the comic. I really hope that DC animation gets their act together. I hear they are going to adapt Batman Year One and I really don't know if I trust them any more to give it justice.
Best looking CGI/3D film to date
I usually wait for the 3D films to come on to DVD but I decided to check this out because I was a big fan of Snyder's work on Watchmen. I was very impressed with the film of a technical level. I don't why critics are complaining that it's incoherent and hard to follow. I had completely zero trouble following the narrative and the characters. The kids in the theater seemed to have no trouble either. I've heard critics say that you can't tell the characters apart and again that's rubbish. They are all very unique in how the talk, how they move, and how they look. No trouble at all. Also it's not that violent. There are deaths but never any blood. It's about as violent as Star Wars which isn't that violent at all. The visuals are amazing and for once I support the 3D used in this film. Usually I hate 3D, and for the most part think it should be banned, but just this once it worked great. Beautiful looking CGI. It had a great tone of adventure and laughs. Having an all Brit or European cast was a great choice and made for some nice Brit humor moments. The only complaint that I can think of is that it was too much of a rip off of Star Wars. Otherwise I'd highly recommend it.