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 Founder [2017]

The Founder [2017]

After watching bs[in my opinion, at least] like Passengers and xXx : The Return of Xander Cage, this film released, and the fact that it had something, nay, a lot, to do with McDonald’s attracted us all to the film. So, how does the film perform?

The Founder, first up, is based on the real-life story of how Ray Kroc came to acquire McDonald’s, and his history with the McDonald brothers, who were the founders. The story begins with Ray Kroc, who was then a travelling salesman, trying to sell milkshake makers and failing hard. He has a supportive wife Ethel and has saved up enough money to live a reasonably comfortable life, but Ray is not one to settle for small pleasures; he wants to achieve great success in life.

One day, Ray gets an unusually large order[6 milkshake makers] from a far-off diner. This is pleasantly surprising for Ray, considering he struggles to sell even one a day, and even that after much haggling. When he visits the diner, he’s in for more surprises. He is impressed, to say the least, with the fast service, good quality of food and the family-oriented atmosphere there; something that was sorely missing in all the other diners he’d been to. This was Ray Kroc’s first brush with McDonald’s. He takes so much of an interest in the McDonald’s diner after checking out the premises, that he signs on the dotted line to work under the McDonald brothers as someone who would expand the diner, without a second thought to any of the conditions and stipulations on the contract. I don’t want to reveal any more of the story for fear it might spoil the sense of discovery one feels when they watch or read something for the first time.

Image result for the founder

The plot is nothing short of brilliant; the adaptation of this real-life events to screen is fluid, and not a thing is amiss.Of course, there might be some creative liberties taken by the makers, but the plot progression of the film itself is spot-on. At no point does the film feel like it’s slowing down or such. The 1950s setting has also been recreated really well. As far as acting is concerned, Michael Keaton playing the lead role of Ray Kroc, is on point and is easily the best part of the film, with Nic Offerman[as Dick McDonald] and John Carroll Lynch[as Mac McDonald] playing strong supporting roles in the film. Laura Dern as Ethel, Ray’s wife, does well too, however her role is too short to make a significant impact.

This is the best film I’ve seen since the mind-screw that was The Chaser. So, as you’d expect. I strongly recommend The Founder to anyone who likes movies based on historic events or real-life incidents.

RATING : 9.5/10

PROS :
– solid acting, especially from Michael Keaton
– amazing plot
– good pacing

PASSENGERS [2016]

PASSENGERS [2016]

I watched this film about a week ago with my friends in 3D, so let’s talk about it now. So, is this Chris Pratt-Jennifer Lawrence starrer any good?

The movie starts off with a contingent of about 5,000 people in stasis, going off to a new planet named Homestead II in a starship named Avalon; a journey which lasts for 120 years. Along the journey, Avalon collides with a large asteroid that happens to be in its path. The resulting impact fries some important conections in one of the passengers’ hibernation pods. As a result, Jim Preston, a mechanical engineer, wakes up from his stasis, and gets out into the huge starship. As he wanders around, he makes contact with just the ship’s bartender Arthur, who is really an android.

Of course, he is surprised to discover that he is the only one awake in this journey, and finds out after asking some questions that the journey is still 89 years from completion. This really puts him in a binder, as for all he knows, he’s just going to die in the ship, alone for ever. After trying every thing he could to get into stasis again and failing, he is pushed to the brink of suicide. But then, he notices the beautiful Aurora Lane in one of the hibernation pods, and grows to like her more and more after reading her writings. Now, a new quandary strikes him; does he bring Aurora out of stasis for some company and love, or does he let her be?

This is how the film begins, and revealing any more might spoil the story, such as it is. Because even though the concept looks good on paper, it isn’t all that great on screen, because of the events that keep transpiring. It is really slow, and I found myself dropping off on multiple occasions. It actually felt sort of like the space version of Titanic to me at a certain point, and not in a good way. Nothing much happens for a substantial period of time in the film, which really sucks because the acting is pretty solid. Chris Pratt as the unfortunate Jim Preston is brilliant in most every way. Jennifer Lawrence as Aurora Lane looks great and does well in her role as the writer, and so does Michael Sheen as the android bartender Arthur. Laurence Fishburne has a cameo role[sort of] towards the later part of the film, and he does great as well. The CGI is undoubtedly one of the strengths of Passengers. The starship Avalon has been amazingly well-rendered, and the infinite space looks nothing short of gorgeous from the interiors of the ship.

Overall, I myself wouldn’t really recommend this film to you unless you are a true-blue fan of the lead actors.

RATING : 6.3/10

PROS :
– CGI is great
– solid acting

CONS :
– weak story
– way too many unnecessary events prolonging the film
– ending isn’t all that satisfying

 

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

 

Train to Busan

Train to Busan

I’ve seen the film Train to Busan make waves in my country recently. But this was well after I’d already seen this film with my friends in the native[Korean] language with subs. So I don’t have any clue of how the dubbed version is, but I can tell you about the original.

Due to some unknown reason, animals have started mutating into the undead fast, and through the death of a human, this very same contamination has entered the human population as well. Meanwhile, Seok Woo is being tormented by his kid daughter Soo-an of about 10 years of age, to meet her mother, who has been estranged from Seok for some time. He finally decides to take Soo-an to her mother, and also have a heart-to-heart discussion with her about their future. They get on the express train to Busan, only to hear on the news being telecast in the train compartments about the undead apocalypse that has unleashed itself over the country. What’s worse is that one of the undead sneaks into a compartment and kills a person, who soon turns into an undead as well. And with some good ol’ geometric progression, it’s only a matter of minutes before the train is swelling with hordes of the undead, and with Seok and his daughter caught in a battle for survival along with the remaining passengers: a middle-aged man with his pregnant wife, some students on a sports trip, a political bigshot and such. Watch as the lot of them try to do everything in their power to survive the undead apocalypse.

Image result for train to busan

The story is pretty generic and adds nothing new to the zombie-horror genre. The progression is pretty predictable as well, sort of. But the setting is really well done, I haven’t yet seen any zombie film shot in a train, and this novelty works for me. Far as character building goes, Yoo Gong playing the estranged husband and father of a 10-year old girl, is marvelous. His transformation from an apathetic person to a better one, is great to behold. Too bad I really couldn’t sympathize with any other characters[except for the political bigwig who showed the best survival instincts in all horror films I’ve seen]. The husband and pregnant wife were good in their roles, but I was truly pained by the whiny kiddo. And the students felt halfway like extras to me.

Train to Busan works better as a thriller film than a horror flick. There aren’t many scary instances in the film, but there are many scenes where your heart races for the survivors, especially the one where they are in the same compartment as the undead, and are trying to sneak out when the train passes through a tunnel. It’s moments like these which make this film a good one.

If only Train to Busan had a better plot, it would have probably been a revolutionary film in the zombie setting. Watch it if you like zombie-flicks in general, or thrillers for that instance.

RATING : 7/10

PROS :
– setting
– genuinely thrilling instances
– the lead and one other character are great

CONS :
– uninspiring and somewhat predictable storyline
– supporting roles aren’t good by any stretch of imagination

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