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 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; 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

 

SUPERHOT

SUPERHOT

As I was checking out new indie games which I could play on my dying laptop, I came across SUPERHOT, supposed to be one of the most innovative game of last year. Of course I was intrigued by this description, and decided to try it out myself. So, is it worth playing?

When you first boot into SUPERHOT, you are greeted by what is supposedly another player of the game[in the game world], urging you to try out the game. Once you boot up superhot.exe from the  game menu, you are thrown into a few random situations where the game’s mechanics are explained to you, in what is ostensibly a tutorial. Here you are introduced to how time works in the game. Basically, only when you move, does time also. This lies at the core of SUPERHOT, and the most important thing to keep notice of, is how you’re going to utilize this mechanic.

Because even though the game is a first-person shooter at the outset, you absolutely have to be on your toes trying to figure out which ones among the red guys you have to focus on. The one who’s firing at you with a shotgun, or the one who’s right next to you and will punch you in the gut? Or is it the location from where you just heard a pistol pop off? All the varied possibilities and choices one can make, make for interesting dynamics. This game is essentially a puzzle where the pieces move as you do.

Not to say that it doesn’t have a story as such. We start off by just trying out this game at a friend’s recommendation, but the soon after everything goes sideways. At the start, we cannot get into the full game because the later game levels are password-protected, but then we manage to somehow get in due to some glitch. Soon enough, the game turns into something else entirely.

All of this is neatly packed into a short but satisfying 2.5-3 hours of the game. Yes, SUPERHOT is pretty small, but is totally worth every second of it. And the fun doesn’t end once the story is finished; you can try out the Endless Mode which gets unlocked after the story completion.

In the end, I’d like to say that this game is nothing short of marvelous, and is worth trying out. Anyone who is even remotely into indie games would find this a worthy buy.

RATING : 9.7/10

PROS :
– innovative mechanics
– great concept
– story

CONS :
– campaign is too small
– frame rates were occasionally bumpy[maybe because I was streaming]

Watch me play SUPERHOT on my twitch channel flamenfeed.

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

 

AJIN [SEASON 2]

AJIN [SEASON 2]

The second season of Ajin finished airing just about ten days ago. Those of you who haven’t yet caught up on the anime after the season one cliffhanger, get ready to jump on the hype train! [Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen S1]

So the first season ended with Nagai Kei and his new companion Nakano Kou making a break and escaping the clutches of Tosaki and Shimomura. And in the meantime, Satou has issued an ultimatum to the Japanese government to include provisions for ajin to be treated as normal human beings, and to stop using them as guinea pigs for experimentation. The alternative being that Satou and his fellow ajin go after 15 officials who are the main culprits regarding this matter. The second season picks up from there, with Satou beginning to make good on his promise. On the other end, Nagai and Nakano want to stop Satou from executing his master plan, but they are severely lacking on manpower. Nagai comes up with the idea of pairing up with one of the main officials in secret so that this issue ceases to remain an issue anymore. And guess who that is… Tosaki himself!

Image result for ajin satou

                                                                  Way too OP…

The story is pretty fast paced, as it was in the first season. And it doesn’t waste time in pleasantries of any sort. The action keeps moving from Satou’s perspective to that of Nagai and Tosaki, and these switches have been handled well, so that the viewer is not distracted in the least. And as it was in the previous season, the action scenes are amazing; especially the ones where Satou goes berserk in killing people, they are truly badass moments in the show. The characters have been further developed, and some backstory for Tosaki and Shimomura comes in too. Nagai and Co. are great, no doubt about that. But my favorite character would be Satou, as is only to be expected. The guy says so many awesome things in his trademark nonchalant style; the writers did a fantastic job with this particular role. It’s as if he is the anime version of Vaas from FarCry 3. And just in case you don’t know this guy, let’s just say he is still the best villain I’ve seen in a game yet.

The only real issue with Ajin is the same as it was with the first season; the frame rates. I know that the production crew decided to do it the hard way and make it a 3D animated show, and I laud them for it. The actions are remarkably human-like, as a result. But more than occasionally, you’re left trying to see if you can differentiate one frame from another during some of the quieter moments of the show. Other than that, the show is pretty slick.

In conclusion, I would personally recommend Ajin to anyone who watches anime, and have done it on numerous occasions already. If for nothing else, just for the amazingly haunting background score that plays at the beginning and end of each episode…

RATING : 9/10

PROS :
– good plot pacing
– action scenes are even cooler
– amazing background score
– Satou-san OP
– improved 3DCG

CONS :
– frame rate is still a bit unsatisfactory

 

 

 

 

 

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