John Wick

b5-wick

Keanu keeps knocking them out of the park – he’s probably the most successful diverse A-List male star at this point in time. By that I mean that he bounces between genre films, smaller budgets, huge budgets, all generally with great box office success and audience enjoyment. John Wick is another action notch on his cap and while it doesn’t come near the majesty of The Matrix it’s still another fun, ridiculous slice of bullet mayhem and grim faces.

Sometimes in action movies, simplicity is best. We’ve seen a lot of overly grim, or needlessly convoluted, or overblown epic action movies in recent years so to have a plot stripped back to basics is pleasing. What’s equally important is that the complexity and finesse which the plot lacks is transposed onto the action – which is fantastic. As always, Reeves fully commits to this side of his character – the unstoppable hitman who never lacks a sleeve to whip out a pistil from. This being a Reeves vehicle, there is a certain moody quality to proceedings – dialogue is light, facial expressions are as blank as the victims of his bullet storm. The cast spices up any gaps in acting exuberance, with veterans such as Ian McShane and John Leguizamo bringing exactly what you would expect them too and Alfie Allen and Michael Nyqvist heading up the villains. Co Directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch bring a certain brutal realism to the over the top frenetic action – the pair well versed in action and stunt co-ordination having worked with Reeves during The Matrix Trilogy. The sort of balletic gunplay merged with martial arts with be familiar to fans of The Matrix and shows that the directors have a love for the films of John Woo and friends, and the minimalist characterization of European action heroes of old.

The plot, already the subject of many a meme long before I’d even seen the film, sees John Wick mourning the recent death of his wife. She left him a puppy, hoping he could find some comfort in overcoming his grief. Enter Russian gangsters who take a fancy to Wick’s vintage Mustang – they attack his house, steal his car, and kill the dog. Wick, we learn, is a recently retired Hitman – the best in the business, and he wants revenge. The rest of the film is little more than a sequence of action set-pieces and world-building. A puzzle unfolds with each new face Wick interacts with – a random guy on a street may be a deadly assassin, a luxurious hotel is a hub for the world’s payed killers, and we get snippets of information about their rules, integrity, history, the people who hire them and the people they re paid to kill. It’s all very shadowy but it quickly reaches the point where it seems pretty much every person in the world is involved.

As furious and neck-snapping as the action is, there’s still an inevitability to it all – you know what the outcome will be – but that’s not necessarily a criticism. We’re here to see the ‘good guy’ win, and it doesn’t matter how many hundreds of faceless or gimmicky henchmen are sent his way. It takes the final premise of Game Of Death – fighting a procession of increasingly deadly warriors to reach the end goal – to the next level, toning down the philosophy but instead crafting a world of intrigue and danger. It’s the sort of film which has a charm and enthusiasm which will win over viewers who don’t usually care for this sort of thing and with the style and invention to please hardened action fans.

Let us know what you think of John Wick in the comments!

Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey

Bogus Journey

Two years on from the original and we are into the nineties. Grunge has taken over from hair metal, and some intelligence has been injected back into rock music. Therefore the antics of slackers Bill and Ted do not have the same impact as they had in their first movie. However, this is still a worthy sequel, and a funny movie.

In the future, the music of Bill and Ted has led to world peace, but a maniacal villain decides that if he can go back to before Bill and Ted were famous and kill them, he can change the future thus preventing their music from being heard. He creates two robot versions of Bill and Ted who quickly kill the humans and take over their lives. If the robots mess up the Battle of the Bands contest, the future will be sealed. Meanwhile Bill and Ted find themselves in Hell, their eternities going to be spent living a constant ironic punishment. This can be seen as a metaphor for the decisions youth must make- should we be forced to choose one path and follow it for the rest of our lives? Like the first film, the theme of choices, and what to do with your life is prominent here. Bill and Ted however realise the alternative- Defeat Deat at Chess, and return to the land of the living once more. This they do, and return to earth, via Heaven, to take back their lives, and save the world. Death comes along too.

The film has many moments of humour, lots of one liners and keeps the charm of the first outing. Yes it is all still very simple, with the message that music can heal the world being a little child-like and dated. However, if you read the message as being-music is escapism, freedom, then it works better than most other films. Reeves and Winter again are perfect for their roles, Death is excellent, and Rufus is as cool as always. As with the first film, it is not as stupid as it sounds, with many references to past works of art and literature mirrored beside modern works of music. An entertaining film whichever way you choose to look at it.

The DVD only has a trailer, but as with many others which cost a fiver, you can’t ask for more

As always, feel free to leave your comments- did you think this was better than the original?

Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure

A Most Excellent Adventure

Another great, innocent eighties teen movie about rock, hope, the future, the past, the present, babes etc. It may seem to send out the message that rock fans are dumb, these two are, but it is a comedy and wouldn’t work if they weren’t. The film is simply about friendship and trying to do something worthwhile in your life, that even a high school nobody can make a difference. Hardly original ideas, but given a totally excellent twist for the genre.

Bill and Ted are two typical high school losers from San Dimas. They love their rock music, dream of being in a band and meeting some radical babes. Reality states otherwise- that exams are approaching and if they fail, it’s off to military school. As they believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife, their prospects of passing their history final are not good. One night, hanging around the Circle K, they meet themselves-from the future, and a guy named Rufus. He tells them they must pass their exam or there will be grave consequences for the world. They must travel back in time to find historical figures to bring back for their exam, travelling in a phone booth of course. On the way they fall in love, meet many people and get into a few scrapes. Soon though, their historical figures run riot in a local mall and get arrested. Time is running out- but they have a time machine…

A silly idea, but very cleverly executed, and the result is much smarter than you might expect. Keanu and Alex are both excellent in their roles, and the rest of the cast are all very good. Special mention to Terry Camilleri who is very funny as Napolean. He gets some of the best lines-‘Le Glace?’ and ‘Idiot!’ amongst others. There are many one-liners, the film creating an inane language of its own which is both repeatable and harmless. The plot does fly all over the place, but it remains easy, and deals with the concept of time-travel much like Back to the Future did. There are many references which rock fans will get, modern audiences may not understand half the film now and will no doubt see it as extremely cheesy. The dialogue and fashion may have dated hideously, but so will all today’s teen shows and movies. This however retains charm over the years, and is still cool. There are many interesting ideas here, some very funny moments, and is more original than many would admit. Good solid entertainment, executed with a unique style. Not many extras on the DVD though.

As always, feel free to comment: What do you make of a young Keanu Reeves? Is this a guilty pleasure for you?

Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey: Party On Bill! Party On Ted!

Die Hard 2: Die Deader

Will and Ted’s Bodacious journey is an existensial trip through themes of mortality, religion, time, Heaven and Hell, man’s quest for fame and his fears of the body being overcome by a soulless machine. It is the most intelligent work of fiction since Paradise Lost and references many great past works of art- Dante, Iron Maiden, Virgil, Shakespeare. This time the dudes are a famous rock band having travelled through time collecting icons from the past- Napolean, Joan Of Ark (Noah’s wife), Oscar Wilde, and Charles Darwin. They took the skills they learned from each of these people, abducted a couple of Princesses, and finally learned to play their guitars and write hit songs. These songs teach the world to love again and war, hunger, evil are vanquished for eternity. We fast forward into the distant future where an evil dictator who despises good music called Simon Cow-Al wants to rule the world. He eats Rooshus (the cool guy from the first film who helps Bill Playboy Esquire and Ted Theodore Alvin) and gains the power to send two cyborgs back in time. The cyborgs are living tissue over metal exoskeleton and coated in memetic poly alloy allowing them the survive the turmoil of time travel, and they can imitate anything they sample by physical contact. It is their job to Kill the good Biff and Fred and take over their lives by making terrible music that no-one could like. By doing this they will change the world forever- Gryll and Jed’s music will never be made leaving a world of war, famine, and hatred, and more annoyingly, bland boy/girl group pop music. There is a startling twist as the good guys actually are killed and they have to work out a way to save the world, themselves, and their wives from the evil Dopplebangers inhabiting their bodies.

Penelope Spheerhead shows her knowledge of both youth culture and real culture by mixing modern day music and phrases with post modern sets and artistic references, and seeks to teach us all something by delving into our very psyche to show us ourselves. She presents the nightmares which faced the late 80s teen in a society which had abandoned them and beckons us to dissect the post structuralist jingoism, self love, and malaise of the time. Charging us with a belief that we can indeed change the world it is an inspiring message, but in oeder to achieve such dreams we must traverse and indeed face our nightmares. To overcome is to succed, to defeat Death is the first step in truly living and not merely surviving. In the words of Kenneth Reeves- ‘Wow!’

Best Scene: For a fun game- see how many songs, bands, and albums cover references you can spot throughout the film. There are at least 6.