Justice League Review

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As trendy as it is to bash DC movies, I have to admit in 2017, DC has improved considerably from 2016. They have addressed a lot (not all) of my complaints about Batman vs. Superman and Suicide Squad. Because of this, Justice League is entertaining enough for me to watch, but not enough for me to get pumped up for the franchise. I am not convinced they have “Found their stride” for a lack of a better term.

Watching Justice League, I noticed that they took a lot of the critical consensus from last year into account. That is admirable. The tone was not as murky and depressing as Batman vs. Superman, it is not overly zany and jarring as Suicide Squad. The character development still needs work (especially Cyborg) but it was miles better than Suicide Squad just to name a few critiques.

What I ultimately got out of Justice League was a basic plot that was easy to understand and mildly entertaining. It is the kind of movie you would watch to pass the time. Sometimes that is all a movie aspires to be, which I am fine with. Justice League has more ambition than that. The end product is not good enough be an outstanding superhero movie that you would expect or want. It’s just another superhero movie.

To put in perspective how ordinary it is, the villain is the most generic villain ever. He is called Steppenwolf and his movie is to destroy the world, Why? Who knows. I bet you have never heard of a movie villain like that before! He aims to destroy the world through the unification of three boxes that represent power. One box is protected by the Amazonians, another box is protected by the Atlantians and the third box is protected by humans.

Another thing about Justice League you may need to know is that it’s entirely the Superman show. Justice League shows you how omnipotent he really is. In Superman’s first fight sequence, it goes to show how insignificant the rest of the superheroes are. The rest of the characters have some form of inner conflict or vulnerability, but Justice League does not follow through with them, making them small insignificant in comparison to Superman. At least they all want to work together this time.

When I first saw Wonder Woman, I felt it was a great launching platform for a bigger movie down the line. Justice League is not that bigger movie down the line, even though it aspires to be. Nevertheless, it is a step up from BvS and Suicide Squad purely because it addresses a lot of what annoyed me about those movies. However, if you wanted an epic movie where well-developed superheroes united to fight a well-developed villain, well, you would want more than what Justice League gives you. ⭐⭐3/4

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Geostorm: A disappointing Shitstorm

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Me and disaster movies do not mix well generally. There is more emphasis on special effects than on characters. Therefore, most disaster movies are meant to look awesome than give off a sense of danger and urgency. The problem is, most disaster movies have laughable special effects too.

I broke a cardinal rule that I placed upon myself. That rule being watching the trailer and I swear to you, with the laughable and over-exaggerated special effects that the trailer seems to give off, I expected a shitstorm. There was a moment in the trailer where a tornado caused a high-rise building to topple over into other high rise buildings, creating a domino effect.

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This reminds me or Man of Steel: Skyscrapers being toppled with zero impact.

I was expecting the next Sharknado. I was banking that the only chance Geostorm is a figurative (and near-literal) shitstorm that I would be able to laugh ironically at. I hoped that was the movie’s intention

But as most blockbuster movies, Geostrom seems unwilling to commit to a crazy idea. It was not funny-bad, it was generically bad. It is taking itself seriously with some of the most tedious drama possible with bad scriptwriting and some wooden acting. Having said that, this is the best film, Gerard Butler has been in for the past two years I have been reviewing movies.

You see, Geostorm is not only generically bad, it is also inconsistently bad, meaning that I found aspects of it that are actually good. Geostorm is a movie where Gerard Butler is sent to space to fix the satellite spaceship that he created that controls the weather. Butler himself was fine. He did not make me want to mentally check out like I normally would. The special effects in space were also fine. It’s not Interstellar or Gravity levels or greatness, but it is good enough to easily suspend disbelief.

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Based on the trailer, I was actually confused that Geodtorm had decent special effects in space. It’s like asking for top notch CGI in Sharknado or Kung Fury.

The problem comes when the plot has to kick in and Geostom cannot juggle the disaster and human elements right, nor could they make either of them work separately. The relationships between Butler’s character, his brother (Jim Sturgess) and his daughter (Talitha Bateman) feels forced and inauthentic. There was a point early on in the movie where the daughter says to Butler’s character that she resents him for abandoning her and then in the same scene says that she loves him. I groaned with how rushed this movie was going to be.

The time when the special effects are terrible occurs when the disaster scenes happen. There were shot for shot comparisons with The Day After Tomorrow where I could tell that Geostorm wanted to top it by being bigger and deadlier but not having the budget to make these special effects look more convincing. It was not TV movie level bad but not much better. But since the main conflict in the story involves someone controlling the satellite and thus the weather, you see all sorts or major disasters with sizes of sheer magnitude and I did not give a shit.

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Mind blowing special effects. I feel like I’m there 🙃

There was a corrupt energy company called Enron who postulated that they could commoditize the weather and thus control and trade it. Obviously, this did not come to fruition, but it makes me wonder if Geostorm foreshadows a future of sheer brutality if a corrupt man could control the weather. I know this movie was not meant to be of that high-concept.

But I do hope there is a good man who could control the weather and blow this movie away ⭐1/2

Blade Runner 2049

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*Note, when I am referring to “the original” Blade Runner I am referring to the directors cut, as that is the only version of Blade Runner I have seen*

Blade Runner 2049 was a surprising entity for me. Like the original, it was more story-centric than the marketing department would leave you to believe, which is a good decision from director Dennis Villeneuve and combined with fantastic sets and visuals, it did keep me invested for the 161-minute running time and that is worth a lot of praise.

However, even describing a brief synopsis for Blade Runner 2049 is both complex and constitutes spoiler territory so I will only say two things about it 1. Ryan Gosling is a Blade Runner and 2. Harrison Ford is in it. I would say that watching the original Blade Runner will help the viewer to understand the world it occupies and why you need to be emotionally invested in Harrison Ford’s character because Blade Runner 2049 draw so many parallels to the original that it is not funny.

Literally, from the first shot, Blade Runner 2049 pays homage to the original Blade Runner. There were so many moments and scenes that aim to replicate the original that I can make direct comparisons. I have concluded that the even though the original was a stronger film, it was only stronger by a whisker. That is because Blade Runner 2049 has many twists and turn to not only the story, but to the themes that the original evokes such as what humans perceive as love, identity, and existence.

My favorite scene involves Harrison Ford’s and Jared Leto’s characters meeting the first time and what the scene develops into. That scene does expand the notion of the perception of love itself from the original movie.

There were also many other scenes that differed from the original that worked in their own right but the movie always lost me slightly when they did all the callbacks as I was thinking “The original movie did it slightly better” I don’t want to be reminded of that in any movie I see, I want a movie to earn it’s own stripes or and stand on its own accord. This is especially frustrating when a movie like Blade Runner 2049 was hitting a home run anyway.

The visuals and set pieces were the best things in the movie. In terms of cinematography, a lot of it looks like a digitized version of sepia tone, which gave off a warm absorbing effect, yet gave off the scene of dread. It was unique, simple and effective. It may rival Dunkirk so far for the best cinematography of 2017. For the set designs, it is like going into a candy shop if you have seen the original Blade Runner. That is because you know where the characters are heading and it’s intriguing. The set designs give off the right mindset of understanding of the world geographically.

I cannot deny that Blade Runner 2049 is an absorbing movie that kept my attention for a long period of time. I did not reach the level of emotional brevity that this film tries hard to do (admittedly, that is not even a negative critique as that is a massive undertaking) but I was in it with the story and characters the whole way with plenty of visual delight and ideas that make it a worthy candidate next to the original ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/4

A Relentless Battle in Dunkirk

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Dunkirk is one of the rare war movies that spends the entirety of it’s running time in conflict zones. This may sound normal in a war movie but normally there is some sort of an aside like scenes on the homefront, flashbacks from the lead or even a life before a war. Dunkirk is deliberately made to show the war from beginning to end and leaves us with wondrous visuals, a uniquely executed story but a lack of character development.

There is little story in Dunkirk in terms of a large sequence of events. The battle of Dunkirk is the entire movie.

According to the man himself, Nolan intentionally made Dunkirk have a lack of character development and one could easily speculate why. I believe that he wanted Dunkirk to have a ring of authenticity in which characters are not explored as they are focused every minute on survival. Is this a mistake? Who knows? Dunkirk was an excellent movie either way. I believe it is more emotionally resonating in a war film if there were characters you get to know and therefore care more. I am reminded of Hacksaw Ridge in which Andrew Garfield fleshed our a memorable war hero called Desmond Doss who fought on and off the battlefield for his faith and everyone around him. Dunkirk has very few discernible characters let alone well-developed characters that I saw in Hacksaw Ridge.

Despite that one main complaint, I still recommend seeing Dunkirk because aside from little character development, Nolen does everything you could possibly do for a movie of this nature. He does achieve setting the realism being under attack. Instead on focusing on the casualties he focuses on survival. I would argue that Dunkirk is more sensory than anything else.  The visuals are something that you need to see on the big screen. Every location from land, air, and sea is something that is breathtaking. For most war movies you will see shades of green, in Dunkirk, you will see it in shades of blue. There are many wide shots of the planes hovering above the sea which was the best visual in my opinion. The sound of the planes swooping in the land are piercingly loud and music literally sounds like ticking time bomb. The visuals and sound mixes beauty and tension together to create a unique war movie.

I also like the cohesiveness of Dunkirk despite the multiple perspectives. Generally, when I see movies that decide to this I normally dread it. That is because the movie comes off like an unfocused mess. In Dunkirk, all of the transitions from the multiple story threads feel like they together to make one overarching story. I don’t have to think “what was that subplot about 40 minutes ago?” and I actually know when the transitions occur unlike in Manchester by the Sea. The smooth transitions in Dunkirk reminded me of the smooth transitions of the movie Nocturnal Animals in that it feels like one movie and they were all coherent.

This is one of the rare times I will say this but don’t watch Dunkirk with a critically open mind. Don’t expect to know people’s names let alone their personality. I am not saying that Dunkirk is a dumb movie but I believe it’s more of a movie best left experienced than watched. It is not a film with a message on war like Apocalypse Now, nor is a film that involves developed characters and emotional swings like Hacksaw Ridge. Dunkirk is a movie more set on realism than anything else. So get swept up by that realism and even though I thought it was great, you might like it more than me. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Cult Following will be Strong With Baby Driver

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Baby Driver is going to be a cult movie because of all the interesting quirks targeted at a young audience. One of these quirks is how they introduce Baby. All you need to know about Baby is the cadence and rhythm of his walk to the beat of his music as he orders coffee. We know who he is while nothing was said and it is damn fun to watch.

Yes, Edgar Wright has done it again. His movies are both style and substance intertwined with multiple genres and Baby Driver is no different. Wright is famous for the Cornetto trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End) This time, Wright has created another miniature film festival contained in a movie. Baby Driver reminds you of the classic car movies of yesteryear for today’s audience.

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The gang

Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a professional getaway driver that has been forced into a life of crime by Doc (Kevin Spacey) Baby repays his debt to Doc when he has something new at stake: a waitress (Lily James)who is the woman of his dreams.

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The Job

Baby Driver is a template for great escapist movies. It relishes in minuta while constantly focusing on the story. It is constantly fun and engaging and many elements of Baby Driver does that with the brilliant dialogue, the fleshed out performances from the entire cast, the stories twists, and turns, the stripped back realistic action sequences. All of this makes it feel like a fun and creative low-budget thrill ride.Another excellent element I have noticed is that Baby Driver is the rare movie that used rock music as the tone and not merely as a gimmick. Lots of movies (including Marvel movies) use retro songs in scenes as if to scream out “this is the scene that you need to have fun in” Baby Driver uses the music to serve the purpose of creating a rhythm in all the scenes. The music is a seamless flow like a movie should be instead of coming off like a rigid formulaic structure.

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The girl

What also works seamlessly in Baby Driver the genre shifting from action to comedy to romance and how well all these elements work together. What is also surprising is the unpredictability of the changes, yet the transitions are so smooth that the changes never feel out of place. Never is Baby Driver a predictable film in a mad libs fashion like “Insert joke here” “Insert catchy song there”. You never knew what was coming around the corner while covering a variety of styles and tastes. This is especially entertaining as a person who has an eclectic taste in movies.

 

In combination with the various styles, sequences, and genres Wright has come up with a blueprint for making a great movie. Baby Driver is the movie college freshmen in film school will draw inspiration from. It’s the small movie in the sea of blockbusters that stands out for its uniqueness and will garner a cult following over the next several years ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

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The end baby!

Transformers: (Hopefully) The Last Knight

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Acting: ⭐⭐
Build: -☠☠
Writing: -☠☠
Characters: DUD
Visuals: ⭐⭐⭐

Transformers: The Last Knight is like Batman vs. Superman overloaded with more vacuity. It starts off with promise before the story gets lost in the bad humor, slow motions, unfunny jokes, fast cars and overbloated special effects.

At the end of the movie a child said to his father “Daddy that movie was so awesome. I took two naps!” I thought “You lucky bastard”. I was not surprised if anyone got multiple naps in as the movie went for 149 minutes.

The story to Transformers: The Last Knight begins with a segment of the story of King Arthur and Merlin before it segways into Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and Laura Haddock (Viviane Wembly) being the present day embodiment of the medieval characters as the try to save the world from Transformers that crash land into earth.

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I can see the difference between two bulking scraps of metal in Transformers: The Last Knight. That’s a good start!

There were so many things that were wrong with this picture but the one good thing was the cinematography at a certain level. Transformers: The Last Knight does look visually pleasing and I can tell which Transformer was fighting what or whom. I could even tell which one was winning.

Beyond that what you have got here is an overblown, convoluted mess. The sound was too loud, the script was full of anti-wit containing moronic unfunny jokes and dumb insults, each scene feels like forever and you just lose complete focus because of the structural mayhem.

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Bay’s pyrotechnician.

The structual mayhem primarily comes from the editing. The movie just cannot cut away fast enough to get the next shot from the multiple camera angles that Michael Bay set up. You are given absolutely no room to breathe or take anything in. It aims to do a 149 minute sprint by which I did not (nor any reasonable person should) have the stamina for that speed.

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Every second shot, the aspect ratio changes (the black bars on the screen)

What made the cinematography and editing even worse is I noticed the images were stretching in and out constantly. What I had realized was that Transformers: The Last Knight changes aspect ratio nearly every single shot. Once I noticed this, I could not help but notice the black bars on the screen changing sizes. It was distracting as hell to watch.

Transformers: The Last Knight was a film that I expected and dreaded because the June/July session is when movie studios put their blockbusters out on release and normally any semblance or sanity or even excitement is crushed by the weight of visual and auditory sensation.This is often done without and substance, context or justification. To paraphrase The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot. Transformers: The Last Knight is “Shape without form, shade without color, paralyzed force, gesture without motion” This movie talks about the chosen knight but has the heart and soul of a hollow man, a stuffed man. ⭐

P.S. The revisionist history this film make up is hilarious. In this movie, autobots were responsible for the toppling of the Third Reich, the abolishment of slavery, the medival Chinese wars and toppling the Saxons. In the movie there are photographs and sketchings of the autobots and yet the movie want me to believe that the transformers did it all secretly.

The Mummy: Dead on Arrival

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Acting ⭐1/2
Build ⭐⭐
Writing ⛧⛧
Characters ⭐3/4
Visuals ⭐⭐1/2

Creating Universes are now a trend in movie industry now more than ever and Universal have responded badly to the changing trend. The Mummy, the first movie of the “Dark Universe” franchise Universal have made and it’s like watching paint dry. It is so boring that Tom Cruise couldn’t save it. If an energetic Tom Cruise can’t save it, that’s all you need to know about how bad The Mummy was.

Tom Cruise plays a soldier stealing ancient artifacts and selling them for profit. When he gets involved in a conflict zone, he finds an underground temple that awakens Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) and Cruise has to stop her from creating her new world order.

That is the jist of the plot, though The Mummy makes it feel needlessly complicated. To be fair on the movie’s part, there are two action scenes that were good and the CGI is not too terrible. While in any movie, that is not a pass mark, it is certainly a redeemable film if I can easily spot some redeeming qualities.

What redeeming qualitys The Mummy had however vwas swallowed up in a sea of bland boring badness. There are many bad things about The Mummy but I will limit it to two major components which are the tedious dialogue and the zany genre shifting that never gels together nor works on their own.

The writing is terrible in ways that make me wonder if the six writers ever proofread what they were writing. The writing is a flood of expository dialogue that is never interesting. This is due to The Mummy needing to “build the franchise”.

The expository dialogue is either narration, expositions of mythology or lazy writing to get out plot holes. Russel Crowe must have been bewildered with the amount of dialogue he had to read for his role. Eventually, The Mummy stopped becoming a film and more about an audiobook on ancient Egyptian mythology narrated by Russel Crowe.

Beyond the bad writing, The Mummy also loves to shift between genres like horror and action-comedy whenever it wants to without it ever feeling like a smooth transition. This did not matter much as the horror scenes were not scary, the comedy was not funny and the action only mildly thrilling. The only good scenes are when Tom Cruise gets to be Tom Cruise (which is about two or three sequences). Trust me, you will know what those are because they will stand out from the 120 other minutes of nothing.

The Mummy is the worst kind of franchise building that you could imagine. It’s the kind where they introduce characters and have limited depth to them for which they will be revealed in subsequent films. It also feels like a stopgap for other subsequent movies and this is the first in the franchise. The Mummy is unusually bad. ⭐1/4

Baywatch: In Name Only

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Zack Efron and Dwayne Johnson’s physiques are emblematic of Baywatch the movie: All strength and no stamina. Every actor’s talents were wasted by the actors playing themselves or stock characters. Baywatch might have gotten away with it if it was at least funny.

Admittedly, I did laugh twice. But twice in the span of 116 minutes is quite a thin spread. Baywatch is in name only as it’s less of a movie about lifeguards on the beach as it is a buddy cop movie. It kept reminding me of a far lesser grade of Beverly Hills Cop. Or if that’s too archaic of a reference, it more like a lesser grade 21 Jump Street.

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I expected Johnson and Efron to interduce themselves as Axel Foley and Sgt. Tagget. Only 80’s movie fans will get that joke.

The story follows a two-time olympic gold medalist Mike (Zac Efron). Mike has fallen from grace as he vomited into a swimming pool competing for this thrid gold medal. Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) is the head lifeguard at Baywatch and both have to investigate a drug ring that is smuggling flakka on the shores of Baywatch.

You may wonder why lifeguards, not the police, are investigating and planning a potential drug bust. I saw the movie and I am still wondering why. It has too many tonal shifts between beach comedy and drama and action comedy and drama. It eventually settles with criminal espionage with lifeguards instead of cops none of which is particularly funny or thrilling.

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Where the gags go in Baywatch: In the bin and recycled again and again.

There are gags in Baywatch that constantly repeat, making me want them to move on. There is one where they constantly reference that hot people run in slow motion and another string of gags where lifeguards name Efron’s character different teen-bop artists. While not particularly funny, at least there is variety in the name calling with the various punchlines. He was called “Justin Bieber” “NSNYC” New Kid on the Block” and various other names. Those gags got tiring quickly and the movie constantly rehashed the same joke.

There were also scenes that were a complete waste too as they added nothing to the story. There were entire scenes which you could take out and the movie would have made just as much sense. Why they made an entire scene with David Hasselhoff instead of a quick cameo appearance with Pamela Anderson I have no idea. Why Efron did a complete obstacle course that had nothing to do with the lifeguard recruitment process I also have no idea.

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“Baywatch works because we follow rules” HAHAHAHAHA!

Overall, I believe that Baywatch is so long because all the actors have to get all their shit in while constantly running out of steam by flip-flopping between genres and locations. It also looked like the editor forgot his scissors on he day at work as pointless scenes made the final cut and made the movie 116 minutes long. Because of this, I highly doubt the filmmakers had a solid idea for the movie before they started filmmaking. ⭐3/4

PS: Baywatch has the fakest CGI fire I have ever seen. I have seen Zack Snyder films with more convincing CGI.

Wonder Woman- FINALLY!

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After three movies in their cinematic universe, DC have finally got a firm step in the right direction with Wonder Woman. Prior to Wonder Woman, I felt that DC movie had a vision of what they wanted, they just did a bad job executing it. Now, with Wonder Woman it looks like they have realized that vision. I got what they were going after but now I am starting to like it.

Set in the time of the First World War, Gal Gadot plays Wonder Woman- Known as Diana and raised on a secluded island of female Amazons- who sees a pilot (Chris Pine) who crashed his plane next to the island, fleeing from German forces. After the pilot tells his story of escape, Wonder Woman believes that Aries, the God of War, is the instigator of the war and seeks out to defeat him.

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The island Wonder Woman inhabits during the first act. Well shot, looks luscious.

Yes, it took me awhile for me to program the fact that an ancient God instigated a war, but in the mind of Wonder Women, that’s her belief as she was a sheltered child who knows nothing about the outside world. This film is aware of her naiveté but I’m glad the movie never makes her look dumb and stupid. Chris Pine, does a great job of reacting to her flaws, generating both light-hearted humor and drama without being too condescending to her. He does a great job here is an underrated actor.

Wonder Woman has taken all the good of previous DC movies and pushed away a lot of the bad from DC movies. It has the darkness of Batman vs Superman minus the murkiness. Wonder Woman incorporates mild doses of humor to compliment the dark tone of the material whereas Suicide Squad did it so erratically.

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One of the minor problems in the movie is the sword. It a payoff that ultimately does not happen for its purpose.

Adding from that, Wonder Woman has told a story which never feels confusing or lost in the making of the film. In the combination of both the balance in tone and creating a simple story that never feels confusing, DC have made a good film. Six months ago, that thought would have never entered my head.

I don’t see Wonder Woman as the breakout movie for DC that will immediately turn heads, but I see Wonder Woman as the starting block. Even though it was an entertaining film, I still think there is a better film from DC that has not been made yet. It is certainly a firm step in the right direction ⭐⭐⭐3/4

John Wick Chapter 2: A Hit and Miss

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This is what happens when you say “I crush and microwave my Weet-B  ix”

The good: The creative action sequences in the second half
The in-between: The supporting cast, the story (it coherent and makes sense)
The bad: The numbing and boring action sequences in the first half

I am surprised that many critics thought that John Wick Chapter 2 was completely innovative. I think it is innovative… in the second half. Mostly I was mildly interested, sometimes I was bored in the first half of the movie. As a matter of fact, a lot of the movie is completely generic.

The plot is that John Wick (Keanu Reeves) a retired hitman is brought back in the game reluctantly by a secret assassin society. The gangster that hires him Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), wants Wick to kill his sister in Rome to consolidate power in the society.

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Ian Mcshane plays Winston who I like to call “Da Boss”. I like his delivary when he says “excommunicado”

In the beginning of John Wick Chapter 2 John Wick is gets run over by evil henchmen three times and there were so much gunfire and murder. As a story I ask myself “Structurally, how is John Wick going to top this opening because I am pretty desensitized to this point” they do top it admittedly it was quite clever how it was executed.

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This “Hall of Mirrors” scene looks and is pretty cool. Well shot and choreographed.

I counted and there were about six moments that were actually cool. That’s a good number however nearly all of them were condensed in the climax meaning the first 90 minutes were a medicore affair. John Wick Chapter Two plays it’s hand in the final act. There are two action sequences. One of them is in the subway station both. The other one takes place inside a hall of mirrors. They both scenes that were both thrilling and inventive. Both are gimmicks that have been used before in movies but they have not worn out it’s welcome.

What has worn out its welcome in action movies are two things

1. The protagonist having 100% accuracy with a gun and
2. The arm bar.

 

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John Wick (and Mike Banning) never gets this notification. Lock-on is the equivalent of steroids in the bodybuilding world.

The “Man who never misses when firing his gun” cliche reduces action movies in a risk-free killing spree making it hard to care for John Wick’s fate since I believe he is not in any sense of danger.

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Now this is an arm bar

The arm bar to me has become a recent crutch in action movie. It’s like depending on swearing for a joke to be funny in a comedy. It’s been overused recently because people are now into Mixed Martial Arts. I have gotten tired of it. If someone is going to apply and armbar, I actually hope someone would actually break hyperextend or even break the arm for the sake of variety.

All the action in the first half of John Wick is a combination of those two boring and repetitive things. Oh and Wick gets run over by several cars. He has legs of steel.

I would argue that John Wick Chapter 2 were two separate movies. The first half I was deprived off anything that was interesting the story fell like a cheap knock-off of The Godfather. The second half consists of the John Wick Chapter 2 I wanted to see. It’s no great action movie Casino Royale or Face/Off but it sure isn’t as cartoonish and self-serving of a bad action movie like xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. ⭐⭐3/4