John Wick


Viewed – 22 April 2015  Cinema

During the nineties I had a bit of an obsession with Hong Kong action movies, everything from Jackie Chan to the two-handed gun-play of John Woo.  Hollywood quickly followed up on this and the action genre became infused with the influence of far eastern cinema, spawning the likes of Face / Off and The Matrix trilogy.  There we come to Keanu Reeves, perhaps not the first person you may have thought of to deftly wield guns and kick ass considering he came from Bill & Ted, but this good looking and decidedly cool actor soon garnered a reputation as the go-to guy for such movies.

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He’s been fairly quiet for a while so this come-back vehicle seemed perfectly suited.  He plays the title character who following the death of his wife, lives out a peaceful existence with his sleek muscle car and pet dog.  However an unfortunate brush with a Russian gang causes a break in at his house, his car getting stolen and his dog to get killed.  Only thing is, the gang had no idea who they were messing with.

Perhaps an unintentional homage to classic movie franchise Death Wish albeit with ultra-stylish action that borrows (to an extent) from John Woo … this also feels like it’s own beast, and is carried well by Keanu on ice-cool form as a non-stop killing machine.  I sometimes think he’d have made a great Terminator.  Support comes in the shape of Willem Dafoe’s seasoned veteran as well as a sultry, sexy Adrianne Palicki.  On villainous duties is Michael Nyqvist (Ghost Protocol, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) who proves a more than suitable if clichéd mobster.  The set-up is simplistic and the characters slight and under-developed … but for this kind of movie where action is king, we get several stylish, well-edited and gripping encounters, all with a little tongue-in-cheek humour thrown in.  I also loved the backdrop of the ‘agency’ that looked after Keanu and his kind (featuring a cameo by Ian McShane) … certainly an idea that could be further developed in sequels.

As the directing debut of former stunt co-coordinator Chad Stahelski, this shows promise for a new visionary in the action movie field.  Roll on the already announced John Wick 2.

Verdict:  4 /5

A milestone and a venting


Yesterday, I was informed on here by my host WordPress that I had been running this blog for 8 whole years.  Wow…a lot has happened to me in those years.  I remember first starting this blog in 2007, a sort of re-invention of an earlier version of the blog that was an outlet for my hobby and well, a way to distract myself after an unpleasant experience at the time.  In those eight years that followed, I focused on my job as an administrative assistant in a doctor’s surgery, grew closer with work colleagues and made lasting friendships that mean a lot to this day, and gradually became ‘me’ again.  I realise I can be someone who can let otherwise small experiences effect me on a very deep and personal level.  Anyone who has read this blog at any length over the past year will already know how I have had difficulty coming to terms with the breakdown of a friendship (getting on for a year back now … damn).  Yet despite moments of regret and to some extent, resentment – I have stayed positive to prevent myself turning into a miserable, bitter old grump some day.

I also really need to stop obsessing over things … in the nineties I was into Hong Kong Cinema to such an extent I got seriously sick of it … I over-dosed, and well, my brain is still like that – it gets completely fixed on things and I struggle to move onto other things, to vary my interests or hobbies, I get locked on a particular subject then milk it to death.  Sigh.  I don’t like that aspect of myself that’s for sure – but at least it isn’t all the time.

On a lighter note and to prevent you guys from clicking to some other site for fear Craig’s going to get too mopey on us … I was glad to be finally continuing with the Netflix Alphabet Challenge again, something I had let fall by the way side a bit these past few months.  It’s certainly interesting looking for a single movie from each letter, and maybe watching something I would otherwise not bother with.  In the coming weeks I’ll also be posting more reviews, some Blu-ray, Cinema and gaming (impressions) with such titles as Keanu Reeves actioner John Wick, the re-issue of Robert DeNiro classic Midnight Run and the much anticipated The Witcher III.  As we go into spring / summer videogames will as usual hit a dry-spell, but a huge RPG should keep the months rolling until September and winter looms on the horizon … and then, hey – it’ll almost be time for Garbage in London – yippee!

I was going to remark on the whole Pat Pope photography kafuffle with regards to my favourite band, but more than enough has been argued on that subject already so I won’t remark other than to say – take it outside (or in private) next time people!

Thanks for taking the time to read this little rant / blog-post and I look forward to another 8 years humbly reviewing and moaning and well – being me, in the best way I can.  Cheers for sticking around.

Craig.

The Gunman


Viewed – 26 March 2015  Cinema

Sean Penn isn’t the first person that comes to mind when you’re talking action movies … he’s more your method actor thesp with a few decent performances under his belt.  However with not a great deal to choose from at the cinema recently, this movie from the director of Taken (is that a trusted recommendation these days?) made for an intriguing prospect.

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Penn plays a special forces operative in the Congo on a top secret mission where he is involved in the assassination of a politician.  He subsequently goes into hiding following the hit and has to turn his back on his sultry girlfriend (Jasmine Trinca) and his best bud (Jarvier Bardem).  Eight year’s pass and he’s working as an aid worker in a  village when a hit squad recognise him and attempt to kill him.  Scared and worried who might have been talking, Penn goes about tracking down his former colleagues in search of answers.

Penn is on fine form and handles some slick, violent action with ease – this is certainly a side we don’t normally see from him and like his predecessor Liam Neeson he acquits himself with honours.  This surprises and shocks in equal measure with some brutal violence and an intense, nerve-wracking tone.  A clever brain-injury plot device aside, It lacks the emotional wallop of Taken and Penn doesn’t quite have Neeson’s charisma, but buffed up and breaking skulls a plenty, he still does a decent job.  Supporting cast especially Bardem as the grinning, shifty friend and a weary-looking but enjoyable Ray Winston add flavour and we even get Idris Elba as a shadowy Interpol agent.

It’s not about to spawn a franchise like Taken (thankfully) and probably won’t become a classic due to a sometimes confusing plot, but for fans of gritty, bone-crunching thrillers that don’t let up – this one is worth your time.

Verdict:  4 /5

Ex_Machina


Viewed – 29 January 2015  Cinema

Simply, a single image made me want to see this.  A girl’s pretty face but with a transparent neck where a mechanical bone structure and wires were visible within.  I love science fiction, but there’s been too many movies that have just been throwaway pop corn fluff with sci-fi wrapping that haven’t really got me thinking about the possibilities of technology and what it could mean for our future.  Thankfully this is one such film that really massaged my imagination.

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Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson)  is a coder at a renowned internet company (think: Google) who wins the chance to spend a week at the home of the company’s reclusive CEO and discover just what he’s been working on behind closed doors.  Once there he meets Nathan (Oscar Isaac), who soon tells him he will be involved in a series of tests with an artificial intelligence called ‘Ava’.

I loved this premise, a single albeit beautifully high-tech (homes of the future) setting and three characters all very different and complex.  Ava, played by the exquisite Alicia Vikander is a revelation – human but subtly artificial, brought to life by not only Alicia’s vulnerably sexy and nuanced performance but also a ground-breaking special effect – she really does look like half girl / half machine with a stunning design with transparent arms, legs and stomach etc.  It harks back to I-Robot with a hint of ‘Hal’ out of 2001 A Space Odyssey and even Hayley Joel Osmet’s performance in A.I.  I loved every moment she was on screen.  Domnhall’s Caleb is equally complex and fascinating, the kid in the candy store but unaware of just what he’s getting himself into … should he find Ava attractive?  Should he really befriend her?  What will the tests all mean for her eventually?  Isaac’s Nathan is less appealing however – a drunken, somewhat clichéd ‘damaged’ genius who clearly is a bit of a bastard, but his presence still fills the movie with an uncertainty, beings as he’s the only one who really knows what’s going on.

I was puzzled by Caleb’s lack of amazement on first seeing Ava … his reaction to such a technological achievement more ‘ok, that’s cool’ – like he sees such like every day.  I’d have also liked to learn more about him too, apart from his parents being in a car crash – what made him really tick?  Nathan is also a pretty blank canvas.  So that leaves Ava, who thankfully doesn’t need a back story – she’s a robot after all, but probably the strongest light in this very different and at time freaky movie.  As a directing debut this is a bold and gripping story from Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Dredd) and shows he’s a voice (and visionary) to really take note of … who has probably delivered one of the best true science fiction tales we’ve seen in a long time.

Verdict:  4 /5