Sat, 25 Oct 2014 02:39:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Movie Review: John Wick Fri, 24 Oct 2014 04:18:18 +0000 John Wick is a film about an ex-hitman who has recently been done wrong by some folks who are going to really regret doing so. Call it luck or karma but this is one hitman cannot get away from who he ultimately is. The film was directed by David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, both of whom have decades of experience in the film business as stuntmen. While it is not uncommon in major films to have the lead stunt-man run the second unit like an assistant director, this is the duo’s first attempt to reach the big leagues.

John WickThe film is set up primarily as a flashback. We open with a bloody John Wick (Keanu Reeves) stumbling out of a vehicle. He is clearly in dire straits, but he does not call out for help. Instead, he watches an old video clip on his smartphone of his wife – a day at the beach. An act that leads one to believe that Wick is on death’s door and that he wanted to see his wife just one more time prior to the end. Naturally, this is not the case and the flashback portion of the film begins as the bulk of the remaining screen time shows exactly how Wick ended up in the beat up shape we see at the open. This is initially told through a series of flashbacks within flashbacks as we see Wick with his wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan) – very much in love. We then see Wick on the way to visit her one last time in the hospital and then semi-linear time resumes and her funeral is shown. The only person who actually dares to speak to Wick at Helen’s funeral is Marcus (Willem DaFoe). Marcus offers his condolences and some sage advice about how screwed up life is; expecting otherwise is useless, he offers.

After the funeral, Wick receives a delivery at home. Helen sent him a puppy as a final farewell gift. After a day of acclimating to his canine companion, Wick runs into some creeps at a local gas station. Their leader is Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen) who unsuccessfully offers to buy Wick’s 1969 Mustang. Iosef does not handle the rejection of his offer well. Later, he and his two cronies break into Wick’s home; they beat Wick up and do far worse to his dog.

When Wick regains consciousness, he buries his dog and discovers the Mustang was stolen. Given his past, he knows just where to go to get a line on where the car might be and who stole it. Wick visits Aureilo (John Leguizamo) at his chop shop. There Wick learns the name of the man he needs to kill – Iosef. He also learns that karma is a bitch as Iosef is the son of a gangster, Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist). Things get much more complicated from here on as Wick’s body count starts.

Revenge films rarely end happily, few are even any good. For every Unforgiven (1992) there a hundred movies like, any Steven Seagal movie. These sorts of films are only successful when the action is spectacular, but not cartoonish, and the protagonist is believable. Note I said successful, I did not say good. Few revenge films are genuinely good or great films, critically speaking. That does not mean they cannot be commercially successful and/or worthy of some cult status (think The Replacement Killers [1998] or Payback [1999]; neither film won an Oscar or spawned a sequel, but I cannot turn them off whenever I happen to click into either one with my remote).

John Wick

Keanu Reeves in “John Wick.” Photo by David Lee – © 2014 – Summit Entertainment.

In the case of John Wick, the work that Reeves does here meets the test. Mostly because the stunts are excellent and Wick gets progressively more beat up as the film goes on. Wick isn’t a Terminator. He just happens to be very good with a weapon and never saw a close-up headshot he didn’t like. I can say there are a couple of stunts in John Wick that I had not seen done in quite the way they were executed in this film.

The bad news is the film’s ending. The script, by Derek Kolstad, is paint by numbers for the most part. The editing and layout of the flashbacks are actually pretty good in in the beginning, but the predictable nature of this sort of film means we know where we are headed throughout – a showdown. Unfortunately, that climax is disappointing. The denouement is a horribly trite tag-on. The film could have been so much better if the ending were removed and literally any other resolution were utilized in its place.

So, while John Wick was only shooting for a “B” movie status, it still missed the mark. But it was very close to hitting it with lots of great action, plus some decent laughs. But that will only get you so far. You have to put together an ending that satisfies, or failing that, avoids punching the audience’s internal WTF button.

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Movie Review: Kill the Messenger Thu, 23 Oct 2014 20:00:54 +0000 The history of America’s “War on Drugs” has produced many stories. One of the lesser-known ones is that of the late Gary Webb, an investigative reporter for the San Jose Mercury News who wrote a series of articles about the CIA’s involvement in cocaine trafficking into the United States. The film Kill the Messenger tries to tell the story of Webb and the backlash he faced because of his writing. Unfortunately, despite some good performances, the film falls short of its lofty ambitions.

Kill the MessengerGary Webb (Jeremy Renner), a journalist for the San Jose Mercury News, thinks he’s found the story of a lifetime when he discovers information that seems to expose the CIA’s role in arming the Contra rebels in Nicaragua and supporting their trafficking of cocaine into the United States. But after Webb’s expose is published, he becomes the target of a vicious smear campaign that takes a severe toll on his job, personal life, and sanity.

In terms of the cast, the star of the show is Jeremy Renner as Webb. Renner is obviously a very talented actor, but since he really came to prominence in The Hurt Locker (2009), he’s mostly been doing either supporting work or action films, neither of which give him much chance to really show what he can do. He does a great job of showing the immense toll that the events playing out take on Webb. But the fact that Renner’s facial hair makes him look like a younger Sean Penn is a bit distracting at times. Barry Pepper and Mary Elizabeth Winstead do solid supporting work as, respectively, Russell Dodson and Anna Simons, Webb’s superiors at the San Jose Mercury News. Watching the film, I felt so sorry for Rosemarie DeWitt, who has the thankless role of Susan Webb, Gary’s wife. DeWitt is a talented actress, but I cringed at her having to deliver the disapproving wife “can’t you see you’re tearing this family apart?” lines. The film also has small supporting turns from a number of notable actors, including Ray Liotta, Oliver Platt, Michael Sheen, Richard Schiff, Andy Garcia, Robert Patrick, and Tim Blake Nelson. Without doubt, my favorite of these bit characters is Michael K. Williams as “Freeway” Rick Ross, the convicted drug trafficker who presided over a cocaine empire in Los Angeles in the early-to-mid-1980s. Williams, best known as Omar Little on the HBO series The Wire, absolutely owns the screen when he’s around, and I could have watched an entire movie based on his character.

Kill the Messenger

Jeremy Renner in “Kill the Messenger.” Photo by Chuck Zlotnick – © 2013 – Focus Features LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The film’s story is the source of both its greatest strength and weakness. The scenes of Webb’s obsessive search for the truth are much more interesting than his family issues, which just felt like they had been manufactured for the film out of some perceived need for a human interest angle. If the domestic part of the story had been reduced, the entire movie would have been stronger. The film also suffers from noticeable pacing and editing issues. The second act of the film starts to drag after a while, with what feels like scene after scene of people questioning Webb’s story and him doggedly insisting that he’s right. And then the movie just kind of ends, with the rather critical information of what ended up happening to Gary Webb delivered via onscreen text. Ultimately, this story would have been much better served by either an in-depth documentary about Webb, or a film from someone like Oliver Stone who would really sink his teeth into this material.

As I’ve written before, the hardest type of movie to review is one that’s simply middle-of-the-road. Kill the Messenger is never terrible, but it also never achieves greatness. It boasts a talented cast and a great central performance from Jeremy Renner, but the flawed storytelling drags the entire film down. The story of Gary Webb is one that deserves to be told, but Kill the Messenger is not the movie to do that job.

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Watch the New Teaser Trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron Thu, 23 Oct 2014 02:40:35 +0000 The trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron has arrived online a bit early. Get your first look at Ultron trying to tear apart Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and the rest of the world in the first official teaser trailer for Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

Avengers: Age of UltronWe also get a good look at Iron Man’s Hulkbuster armor and Ultron himself along with the Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch.


MARVEL’S AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON begins when Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program. Then things go awry and it is up to The Avengers to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans.

Starring Scarlett Johansoon, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and James Spader. Written and directed by Joss Whedon.


For more information, please visit Marvel on FACEBOOK or on TWITTER

MARVEL’S AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON will be in select theaters on May 1, 2015!

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Honest Trailers: X-Men: Days of Future Past Wed, 22 Oct 2014 20:00:47 +0000 You’ve seen them tackle the X-Men Trilogy, now it’s time for them to take on the prequel-sequel that made the worst X-Men movie irrelevant and the worst Wolverine movie into a bad dream: X-Men: Days of Future Past with the latest Honest Trailer from Screen Junkies. Check out the trailer above!

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Watch the Official Trailer for Chris Rock’s Top Five Wed, 22 Oct 2014 09:00:22 +0000 Check out the new trailer for Top Five from writer/director Chris Rock.


TOP FIVE: Written, directed by, and starring Chris Rock, “TOP FIVE” tells the story of New York City comedian-turned-film star Andre Allen, whose unexpected encounter with a journalist forces him to confront the comedy career—and the past—that he’s left behind.

Starring Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Kevin Hart, Tracy Morgan, Cedric The Entertainer, J.B. Smoove, Sherri Shepherd, Anders Holm, Romany Malco, Leslie Jones, Michael Che and Jay Pharoah. Written and directed by Chris Rock. (PARAMOUNT PICTURES) Not yet rated.

For more information, please visit the TOP FIVE OFFICIAL SITE or on FACEBOOK and TWITTER

TOP FIVE will be in select theaters on December 5, 2014!

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