John Wick : Chapter 2

John Wick : Chapter 2

The first iteration in the John Wick franchise was brutal and gory, yet the story was solidly made. John Wick, a retired contract killer, is reluctantly pulled back to his ways of old when the son of a Russian mafia don steals his car[a present from his deceased wife] and kill his dog. And we got to follow Johnny boy’s quest for revenge and oh boy, what a movie it was. So of course, I went in to the theater with high expectations.

The film begins with John Wick cleaning up the last remnants of the Russian boss’ family, and the boss’ cousin makes a truce with John for his life. John returns back home with his car, but then meets a ghost from the past. When John was trying to retire from being an assassin, he made a deal with Santino D’Antonio, one of the big names in the underworld, sort of. Now D’Antonio has returned for the favor he is owed. D’Antonio’s target : his own sister, who was set to inherit the seat among the big fifteen. John respectfully declines, stating he has left the world of killing for good, but D’Antonio doesn’t like that. He blows up John’s home, with him inside it; John barely manages to escape alive from the ensuing inferno.

But he couldn’t very well skip out on the contract he’s been offered, as he owed D’Antonio the favor, and the Continental guidelines also support the aggressor. Leaving John Wick in a contract which he just couldn’t back out of.  But as complicated as this may be, there are even more complexities in store; D’Antonio has set on John a tail in the form of Ares, a lady with a stare that could punch through you like daggers. Pretty soon the film turns into the good old killfest like in the first film, but this is not mindless, not by a long shot. As John races around from Rome back to his home town, there is only one thing he can be sure of; that everyone is after him. As they say, it isn’t paranoia if everyone is out to get you.

                                                      John Wick and the pills guy…

As it was in the first film, John Wick 2‘s strength lies in its action scenes. The hand-to-hand combat scenes and the gunfights are shot with style, and there is an undeniable sense of efficiency in the way John Wick disposes of his would-be killers. This is action at its finest. But it is not just the action; the story is pretty good too, unlike many other action films where the plot takes a back seat, if even that. Also, the main character of John Wick is more fleshed out now in this second iteration. I just love how everyone stands up and takes notice of John whenever he’s around. Acting is decent too; Keanu Reeves does great as John Wick, the reluctant assassin. Ruby Rose as the mute-but-menacing Ares is cool as hell. Also has a Laurence Fishburne doing a cameo, which got half the theatre screaming “Morpheus!”. Importantly, it is not every action movie that has an atmosphere as charged-up as this.

In the end, I’d say this is one of the best action movies to come out in recent times. I like the fact that John Wick 2 doesn’t rely on cheesy CGI and unnecessary explosions to keep the action rolling. And it does the job a sequel should do; improve upon the original in every way. If you happen to like action, then wait till you get a load of this!

RATING : 9.7/10

PROS :
– brilliant action scenes
– solid story
– electrifying atmosphere

CONS :
– extras do a kind of crappy job, sometimes

 

Nocturnal Animals [2016]

Nocturnal Animals [2016]

I finished watching Nocturnal Animals about an hour ago. And I must confess, it was a mind-screw type of film in some aspects. Best thing about it, is I’ve always liked such films. Also, I’m a sucker for Jake Gyllenhaal’s films; they always have the element of the psychological in them. Does this film by Tom Ford match up to those other films I like?

Susan Morrow is an insomniac; can’t sleep at night even if she put her heart and soul into it unless sleeping pills are also popped in concert with that glass of water she’s just had. But Susan’s problems are not just confined to insomnia, her personal and professional life[she’s an art gallery owner] both have started feeling really dull and unsatisfactory to her. But things start changing when she receives a manuscript of a novel her ex-husband had been working on for some time. The name of the novel? Nocturnal Animals. As she starts reading the novel, she is drawn deeper and deeper into the story, to the point where she is so immersed that something happening in the outside world would startle her back to life.

This is how the movie starts off. Once Susan begins reading the novel, a new phase of the film begins; the film now keeps switching between Susan and the happenings in the novel she’s reading. In the novel, Tony Hastings is out with his wife Laura and their daughter India for a camping trip out in Western Texas. But during the night, an altercation between the holidaying family and a group of delinquents turns unsavory, and quickly the situation turns horribly wrong. So basically, on the one hand the viewer sees Susan leading her mundane life with the regular staff meetings and discussions and such; on the other hand a thriller is playing out with Tony trying his best to keep his family safe.

                                                            This guy is freakin’ intense…

The plot is pretty much on point here, and the way the two arcs are handled deserves special praise; nowhere does it feel like either one of them is dragging. Also the reminiscences Susan has about her past life, are also well melded into the storytelling. Also, the eerie atmosphere of the novel when contrasted with Susan’s elaborate living conditions, makes for some sudden but great transitions between the novel and real life. Acting deserves special mention in this film; my man Jake Gyllenhaal does it again, as he has done so so many times. His double act as the novelist ex-husband Edward Sheffield and the terrified  family man Tony Hastings makes for a great watch. So is Isla Fisher’s Laura, Tony’s wife in the novel. But my personal favorite in this film was Amy Adams, who played the insomnia-ridden Susan. She is amazing in every which way throughout the film. By the way, watch out for Aaron Taylor-Johnson too, he’s the X-factor for this movie. He’s the most psychopathic character I’ve seen since Jake’s Nightcrawler, I think.

So, what do I say? If you are a fan of psychological thrillers, then you’ll definitely love this film. Although I must say, Nocturnal Animals seems like a film which will lead to polarizing opinions from the viewers. Let me know how you felt about the film.

RATING : 8.8/10

PROS :
– plot progression is neat
– smooth transitions
– great acting all over
– mind-screw

CONS :
– not for everyone

The Chaser(2008)

The Chaser(2008)

I have said it before, and I will say it again; Korean films are a blast to watch. Not because they are entertaining or fun; no one who has seen movies like Memories of Murder or Oldboy will say anything contrary to my statement. No, they are a blast because they are really intense pieces of art, which will make you question everything and assume not a single thing. Or maybe it’s just my awesome choice at picking out the cream of the Korean offerings, but anyways. Let’s get into The Chaser now, without further ado.

The film begins with the former Task Force detective-turned-pimp sending out one of his girls for business, if you know what I mean. But the guy is also getting paranoid about his state of affairs, as two of his call girls have quite probably just escaped without giving him any information of their whereabouts. He wants to tighten up his protocol to ensure these incidents do not repeat in the future. Unluckily, the girl who the pimp has just sent out, is also on her way to meet him. I don’t think I will be able to tell you readers any more about the plot, as some key details might be spoilt for those of you who wish to see the film. But I can assure you of one thing; it is pretty twisted and messed-up on a different level.

                                                                           The chase is on!

This is a different kind of film from the normal, as we already know the antagonist at the outset itself. Something I haven’t often seen in the suspense thriller genre. The screenplay ought to be tight, which is a requirement for this type of film, and thankfully the film delivers on that front. Also, this is quite possibly the Korean film with the fastest pacing I’ve seen yet. And the acting is spot-on, I must say. All the characters are fully fleshed out, from the pimp to the antagonist to the call girl and her kid daughter, to the police.  It is as if they are living in their roles. That might seem a bit cliche, but that is god’s honest truth. And the story is based on some real-life events, which honestly does throw up some red flags about the existence of hope in this world. This is some really depressing shit.

Overall, I’d say this: if you have watched a few Korean film, chances are you’ve watched this already. If you haven’t, guess what; it’s time for you to do yourself a favor already. And those of you who don’t[or haven’t yet] watched Korean suspense thrillers yet, this is a great way to initiate yourself into it.

RATING : 9.7/10

PROS :
– top-notch acting
– insane pacing
– pretty dark and disturbing

CONS :
– may be too dark for some

 

PEAKY BLINDERS [SEASON 3]

PEAKY BLINDERS [SEASON 3]

The third season of Peaky Blinders picks up about two years after season 2’s thrilling climax. Let’s check it out now [Note : Don’t read this if you haven’t seen the second season of Peaky Blinders].

After the successful coup on Derby Day to take over Sabatini’s racetrack gambling business and the killing of Major Campbell[along with Tommy’s all-too-close an encounter with death], we jump forward in time by about two years. Grace returned at the end of the second season, and the first episode begins with Thomas Shelby getting married to her. During the reception, a Russian refugee comes to the Shelbys and gives them a code for a money-exchange meeting between Tommy and an unknown other. Also, Tommy has entered into a deal with Father John Hughes and Co., not something Tommy wanted to be a part of, but something he can’t really help in his current situation. With the tensions between the Soviet and the British factions within the country increasing, Tommy is forced into a conspiracy  in which he has to plan and play both the sides to get out safe and sound. Can he and his Peaky Blinders gang survive this?

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                                                            One of the cool scenes…

Far as the setting and atmosphere are concerned, no worries about the creators messing them up; they do a clean job of conveying the conditions of the times perfectly, and the early-mid 1920s have been recreated well. But this was only expected from a team which has been consistent over two previous seasons. Also the pacing of the story has only increased, which is all to the better. Acting is top-notch as always. Some new characters have entered into the Peaky Blinders saga now. Chief among these are Paddy Considine playing Father John Hughes, and Gaite Jansen as Princess Tatiana Petrovna; both being nothing short of amazing. Just see for yourself, as revealing any details about their roles might spoil some of the sense of discovery to the viewers.

If you’ve watched and enjoyed the previous two seasons of Peaky Blinders, then there should be little stopping you from getting into the third installment as well. Great stuff as usual.

RATING : 8.6/10

PROS :
– even better pacing
– amazing new characters

 

PEAKY BLINDERS [SEASON 2]

Anyone who has watched the first season of Peaky Blinders and enjoyed it, ought to sign up for its next installment too. So without further ado, let’s jump into this. [Note : If you haven’t watched the first season of the show yet, you might find some spoiler here, so keep away!]

The plot picks up after the dramatic happenings of the first season, with the guns being found thanks to Grace’s spying from the inside of the organization, followed by her taking her leave from the country, off to America. About a couple of years after these happenings, we return to the show, just in time for Freddie Thorne’s funeral. While they were attending the funeral, someone blows up the Shelby pub. When Tommy goes to confront those who he thinks were behind this atrocity, he winds up in yet another conspiracy, this time of an even greater magnitude than the one before. As if that were not enough, Tommy’s old, old friend, Chester Campbell, now a Major, makes his way back to Small Heath to settle scores with Tommy.

Also, Tommy’s plans of expanding his business to London is met with hostility by the Italian gangsters working under Sabini. So, to get a foothold in the city of London, Tommy decides to join hands with a Jewish gang working under Alfie Solomons, a difficult man to predict at the best of times. Arthur is losing his mind due to recurrent flashbacks of his experiences during the war, and Aunt Polly is trying to make contact with her long-lost children who had been forcibly taken away from her. So basically, a lot of stuff is under foot.

Anyone who has watched the first season of Peaky Blinders should feel right at home with the sequel’s pacing too. The plot is solid as expected, and the character development is brilliant. New characters make their way into the show, and at least two of them are awesome choices. Tom Hardy plays Alfie Solomons, the Jewish gangster, and his depiction of the role is intense, to say the least. Finn Cole’s role of Michael Gray is careful and calculated, and the actor fits into the role like it was made for him. And all the familiar cast is great as usual, no complaints there. Arthur Shelby’s role has now been more fleshed out, a welcome addition, if somewhat unsettling to watch.

Overall, a great follow up to a great show. Watch it immediately if you have watched the first season.

RATING : 8.3/10

PROS :
– all the positives of the first season
– new characters are great

PEAKY BLINDERS [SEASON 1]

PEAKY BLINDERS [SEASON 1]

As I might have said before once or twice, I’ve always been a big fan of British/Irish films. Especially the crime-type ones, with their gritty, dark humor throughout. So I thought, why not watch a series instead? And that’s the gist of how I came to watch Peaky Blinders.

The show is set in the immediate years after the first World War, in the town of Small Heath, Birmingham. It kicks off with the discovery of a robbery of ammunition and weapons from a BSA munitions factory, with some telltale signs of it being the work of the Peaky Blinders gang. This prompts none other than Winston Churchill himself, to send in a special branches officer to Small Heath to retrieve and possibly, apprehend the Peaky Blinders in the act. Meanwhile Thomas Shelby, a WW I veteran and head of the family, has taken over the family business of gambling and bookmaking in the town, and has grand plans for expansion. The arrival of the special branches officer, Inspector Campbell, complicates things for Tommy Shelby and family, and now begins a tense game of cat-and-mouse between Campbell and Tommy. Also, where the hell did the munitions go?

Image result for peaky blinders

                                                                       The Peaky boys…

The plot is pretty tight and is relatively free of flaws. It is a bit slow at the start, but that is something I’m sure most would be fine with if they stick with Peaky Blinders for more than two episodes. Also the setting of the post-WWI conditions has been faithfully recreated, with great attention to detail. The cast is filled with amazing actors; Cillian Murphy as the battle-scarred Thomas Shelby is beyond brilliant. So is Annabelle Wallis’ portrayal of Grace, a new barmaid at one of the Shelby bars, and Helen McCrory as Aunt Polly. But my personal favorite was Paul Anderson’s act of Arthur Shelby. Even I myself don’t know why this is the case.

Get on the Shelby train if you are a fan of atmospheric dramas and gangster stuff. I’m pretty sure you won’t regret the decision. Because the show is great. Unless you don’t like watching good shows. But I digress.

RATING : 8.3/10

PROS :
– setting is faithfully recreated
– awesome acting
– slow, tense buildup

CONS :
– slow pacing early on

 

JACK REACHER : NEVER GO BACK

JACK REACHER : NEVER GO BACK

The much-awaited movie sequel of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series is back again, with Tome Cruise reprising his role as The Man. This time with Lee’s book Never Go Back as the source material. And since this film has released a week after Ben Affleck’s The Accountant, it is only fair to say that there are going to be comparisons between the two, what with both being of the same genre. So how does Jack Reacher 2 fare?

Never Go Back begins with ex-MP Jack Reacher going to visit Major Susan Turner, only to find out there that she has been arrested for leaking army secrets to the enemy, and is to be tried by the army court for espionage. Also, Jack is informed of a paternity lawsuit which had been filed against him during his absence. Leaving the lawsuit aside, Jack Reacher tries to find out more details about the warrant against Maj. Turner from her lawyer. And thus he discovers the reasons behind Turner’s arrest; the deaths of two officers under her command in the Middle East under shady circumstances. The true shocker comes next; the lawyer gets murdered by an unknown person, and the blame ends up falling on Reacher. Now Jack Reacher has to find some evidence to exonerate him and Turner from any crimes, while at the same time searching for the real killers.

Image result for jack reacher 2

Now, I myself have read only Killing Floor by Lee Child, but if that book is anything to go by, then I’m forced to infer that the plot has been dumbed down by a substantial extent. In this respect, I think the first film Jack Reacher was way better in terms of atmosphere and story than the sequel. Never Go Back could have been so much better if it hadn’t tried to pull off what seemed like a way too convoluted story which wasn’t really getting anywhere, to be honest.

Far as acting is concerned, Tom Cruise in the titular role of Reacher does a good job of course, but again, I liked him better in the first installment. And the Mission Impossible series, if I can count that too. Cobie Smulders as Maj. Susan Turner gets a substantial role in the film, and does a nice job too. Danika Yarosh as Reacher’s daughter[or not] does well too, although some of her actions in the film itself seem borderline retarded, which makes her character come across as somewhat of a pain in the backside sometimes. There isn’t much to complain about regarding the film’s antagonist either, played by Patrick Heusinger. Overall, I’m getting at the fact that acting isn’t an issue in this film. And the action scenes and stunts are probably some of the better parts of the movie. I especially liked the sound of the guns blasting away; it was reminiscent of Battlefield games, which are famous for their sound effects, if nothing else.

So, how does Jack Reacher : Never Go Back compare to other movies of the same genre? That is the film’s true weak point; it isn’t different enough from other action thrillers to stand on its own. Watch the film if you are a Tom Cruise fan; and don’t watch it if you have read the book already because I’m assuming it must have been way better than the film, what with the plot elements feeling toned down way too much and all.

RATING : 6.9/10

PROS :
– good acting
– solid action scenes and sound effects

CONS :
– story feels too unnecessarily convoluted and dumber down at the same time
– not too different from other action films
– first installment was way better