John Wick: Chapter 2 Cordially Invites All to A Party In Rome


In 2015, a little film from Lionsgate came out during that time between the summer blockbuster and the awards seasons. It’s sort of the time of the cinematic year when a film is not good enough to be a blockbuster and not enough pedigree to be seen as awards-worthy.

This film was John Wick and it starred Keanu Reeves. It was also directed by two filmmakers more well-known for choreographing fights and action scenes than a full feature film.

John Wick had the last laugh as it surpassed everyone’s expectations to become one of the best action films of recent memory. It helped resurrect Keanu Reeves as a bonafide action star once again.

At this year’s New York Comic-Con the first teaser trailer for the second chapter of the John Wick story dropped to the howling delights of all attending.

We still have to wait until 2017 for John Wick: Chapter 2, but until then let’s stare in awe at John Wick doing what he does best.

Scenes I Love: John Wick


JohnWickBabaYaga

“John wasn’t exactly the boogeyman. He’s the one you sent to kill the fucking boogeyman.” — Viggo Tarasov

To finish off the trifecta of all things John Wick I would like to share one of my favorite scenes from this excellent film. The scene arrives once the introductory session showing the title character’s domestic life away from the world of assassins, gun molls and erudite crime lords.

Most films that uses exposition to explain a certain plot point or describe a character tend to fall flat and forced. It stops whatever momentum a film’s narrative has gained. It becomes the tool of a lazy writer and in the hands of an average to bad director it’d turn out to be a scene killer.

This particular scene from John Wick falls under exposition done right. We see the Russian crime lord Viggo relating to his idiot son his disappointment at what he’d done to John Wick. Of course, the son doesn’t know who this John Wick fella is, but good ol’ Dad was more than willing to tell him a sort of bedtime story that describes John Wick in epic and mythical terms.

It’s a scene that builds up the title character through anecdotal examples. This is a crime lord who rules all he surveys, but the notion that his son has started a chain of events involving John Wick terrifies him. The fact that the son tries to put up a brave front to fix the problem gets a reaction that was one of the funniest bits in the entire film.

John Wick is a film that perfectly shows that a film doesn’t have to be overly complex in it’s plot. Even the simplest narrative of a man out for revenge could be turned into a full on romp of entertaining mayhem.

Song of the Day: Killing Strangers (by Marilyn Manson & Tyler Bates)


JohnWickManson

John Wick wasn’t just a surprise hit (relative to it’s modest budget) of 2014, but it was also one of the best films of that year. It was part of a renaissance in action film making that was ushered in by the two-punch combo of The Raid and The Raid 2 that came out of the mind of Gareth Evans.

This Keanu Reeves revenge action thriller didn’t just excel in the visual mayhem and the alternative world the title character lived and killed in, but it also was accompanied by a kick-ass soundtrack created by the underrated film composer Tyler Bates.

“Killing Strangers” is one of the songs from the film’s soundtrack. A song that perfectly captures the character of John Wick that’s sung by Marilyn Manson and composed by Bates himself.

Killing Strangers

This world doesn’t need no opera
We’re here for the operation
We don’t need a bigger knife
(Cause we got guns)
We got guns, we got guns
We got guns, you better run
(you better run, you better run, you better run)

We’re killing strangers
We’re killing strangers
We’re killing strangers, so we don’t kill the ones that we
Love
We’re killing strangers
We’re killing strangers,
We’re killing strangers, so we don’t kill the ones that we
Love, love, love, love

We pack demolition
We can’t pack emotion
Dynamite, we just might
So blow us a kiss, blow us a kiss
Blow us a kiss, and we’ll blow you to pieces

We’re killing strangers
We’re killing strangers
We’re killing strangers, so we don’t kill the ones that we
Love, love, love, love

We got guns, we got guns
Motherfuckers better, better run
We got guns, we got guns
Motherfuckers better run
And we got guns, we got guns
Motherfuckers better, better, better run
We got, we got guns
Motherfuckers better run

We’re killing strangers
We’re killing strangers
We’re killing strangers, so we don’t kill the ones that we (better run!)

We’re killing strangers (we got guns!)
We’re killing strangers (we got guns!)
We’re killing strangers, so we (we got guns!) don’t kill the ones that we
Love, love, love, love
Love, love, love

4 Shots From 4 Films: Sabotage, The Raid 2, John Wick, Fury


2014 had it’s share of very good action films and here are four that I was particularly drawn to. While the film themselves were of varying degrees of quality in terms of storytelling. These 4 films all had one thing that I enjoyed despite their films’ flaws. They all had action scenes that I thought were quite excellent.

You have gritty present-day action thriller, an operatic gangster epic, a revenge thriller and a war film. One stars an aging action star back from playing politician. Another a foreign film whose filmmaker and star have set the bar for all action films for years to come. Then there’s the stunt coordinators and 2nd unit directors finally making their mark with their first feature-length film. Lastly, a war film that brings the brutality of World War II tank warfare to the forefront.

4 SHOTS FROM 4 FILMS

Sabotage (dir. by David Ayer)

Sabotage (dir. by David Ayer)

John Wick (dir. by Chad Stahelski & David Leitch)

John Wick (dir. by Chad Stahelski & David Leitch)

The Brief Thrill Of The Phoenix Film Critics Nominations


Lego MovieI have to admit that, when I first looked at the just-released Phoenix Film Critics Nominations for 2014, I got really excited.  I saw The LEGO Movie listed among the nominees for best picture and I thought to myself, “Oh my God!  Could The LEGO Movie be set to be the fourth animated film to score a best picture nomination from the Academy!?”

Seriously, my inner movie trivia lover was so excited!

Then, of course, I remembered that critical recognition doesn’t necessarily translate into Oscar nominations.  And I was forced to admit that The LEGO Movie probably will not be nominated for best picture, though it definitely remains a front runner for best animated feature.

But, for a few moments there, I was truly an excited Oscar watcher.

Anyway, here are the Phoenix Film Critics Nominations!

(h/t to Awards Circuit)

BEST PICTURE/ TOP TEN FILMS OF 2014

  • A Most Violent Year
  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • Gone Girl
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • The Imitation Game
  • The Lego Movie
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
  • David Fincher, Gone Girl
  • Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman
  • Richard Linklater, Boyhood

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
  • Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
  • Brendon Gleeson, Calvary
  • Tommy Lee Jones, The Homesman
  • Michael Keaton, Birdman
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Amy Adams, Big Eyes
  • Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
  • Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
  • Hilary Swank, The Homesman
  • Reese Witherspoon, Wild

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
  • Logan Lerman, Fury
  • Edward Norton, Birdman
  • Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
  • J. K. Simmons, Whiplash

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
  • Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
  • Carrie Coon, Gone Girl
  • Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
  • Emma Stone, Birdman

BEST ENSMEBLE ACTING

  • Birdman
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Into the Woods

BEST SCREENPLAY WRITTEN DIRECTLY FOR THE SCREEN

  • A Most Violent Year
  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Whiplash

BEST SCREENPLAY ADAPTED FROM ANOTHER MEDIUM

  • American Sniper
  • Gone Girl
  • The Imitation Game
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Wild

BEST LIVE ACTION FAMILY FILM

  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Into the Woods
  • Maleficent
  • Muppets Most Wanted

BEST ANIMATED FILM

  • Big Hero 6
  • The Boxtrolls
  • The Lego Movie
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2

OVERLOOKED FILM OF THE YEAR

  • Calvary
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • Obvious Child
  • The Skeleton Twins
  • Snowpiercer

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • Force Majeure
  • IDA
  • Mood Indigo
  • The Raid 2

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • Citizenfour
  • Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me
  • Jodorowsky’s Dune
  • Life Itself
  • Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  • Everything is Awesome, The Lego Movie
  • Immortals, Big Hero 6
  • Lost Stars, Begin Again
  • Miracles, Unbroken

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  • Birdman
  • Gone Girl
  • The Imitation Game
  • Interstellar
  • The Theory of Everything

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • A Most Violent Year
  • Birdman
  • Interstellar
  • Into the Woods
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Unbroken

BEST FILM EDITING

  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • Gone Girl
  • Interstellar
  • Into the Woods

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • Interstellar
  • Snowpiercer

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Inherent Vice
  • Into the Woods
  • Maleficent
  • The Theory of Everything

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  • Interstellar

BEST STUNTS

  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • John Wick
  • Need for Speed
  • The Raid 2

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE ON CAMERA

  • Ellar Coltrane, Boyhood
  • Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
  • Jenny Slate, Obvious Child

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE BEHIND THE CAMERA

  • Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
  • Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
  • Gillian Robespierre, Obvious Child
  • Jon Stewart, Rosewater

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A YOUTH – MALE

  • Ellar Coltrane, Boyhood
  • Daniel Huttlestone, Into the Woods
  • Jaeden Lieberber, St. Vincent
  • Ed Oxenbould, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
  • Tony Revolori, The Grand Budapest Hotel

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A YOUTH – FEMALE

  • Lilla Crawford, Into the Woods
  • Mackenzie Foy, Interstellar
  • Sterling Jerins, And So It Goes

grand-budapest-hotel

Trailer: John Wick


hr_John_Wick_2

I usually have a good idea of upcoming action films once they’ve been announced into production, but I have to admit that Keanu Reeve’s upcoming action film, John Wick, has been quite the ninja. I’ve not heard one thing about this project until I came across the just released trailer earlier today.

The trailer itself pretty much lays out what looks like a basic premise for the film. The title character seems to be some sort of retired badass who is brought out of it to get his revenge on the idiots who killed his cute little dog (given to him by his dying wife) during a home invasion robbery.

I know there are many whose brain starts to wander and/or seize up whenever they hear the name Keanu Reeves. I, fortunately, am not one of those people and I actually think that Reeves has been much-maligned throughout his career. For one thing he does seem to handle action scenes pretty well and this trailer for John Wick just continues to reinforce that thought.

John Wick will be setting wrongs right and bringing killer of dogs their just due this October 24, 2014.