“John Wick” – Don’t set him off!

I’ve been seeing a lot of articles lately mentioning how “John Wick” was a solid Keanu Reeves sleeper hit, and after seeing it I definitely understand why. I feel as if Reeves has gotten a lot of bad press from moviegoers, always linking his acting to either “Point Break” or “The Matrix”, when in fact he’s a great actor and he’s got a long resume to prove it. After a series of samurai-esque films he’s returned to a definite popcorn action flick with “John Wick”, and he definitely delivered. I’m not at all surprised that one of the lines of the film is, “Yeah, I’m thinkin’ I’m back.”John Wick

I was telling a buddy of mine about the movie because I read here about how he’s been added to Nicolas Winding-Refn’s new film “The Neon Demon”, a director we both loved due to the awesomeness that is “Drive”. He (my friend) seemed interested enough to see it after I told him the plot, so why not tell all of you as well? That is the purpose of this blog, right? Otherwise I’m spending $18 a year for a fancy domain name. Anyway, this movie rocked. It’s exactly what you’d think it is; Keanu Reeves keeping his cool and kicking ass. Oh, and it was directed by two fight choreographers, so the whole movie is a bunch of bullet fodder jumping around like freakin’ ninjas and pulling off epic neck-breaking moves. Honestly if there were an Oscar category for “Best Badassery”, this would absolutely be nominated.

So the film starts out with Keanu Reeves bleeding out next to his car, and his last minutes of consciousness he decides to watch old videos of his wife on his phone. WEIRDO. Then we flashback to “several days earlier” and start figuring out what got him to hemorrhage so much blood. Turns out he was in love with some chick who passed away and mailed him (posthumously) a puppy for him to take care of. While getting used to the cutest, most cuddleriffic pup in the cinema world he’s approached by Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen), who is essentially Allen’s Russian portrayal of Theon Greyjoy. Wick ticks off Tarasov by not naming a price for his car when Tarasov rudely asks, and this essentially becomes the catalyst for the rest of the film. Tarasov and some other Russian idiots break into Wick’s house and steal the car, among other things. Without going into details here, the first 20 minutes of this film hit me in the feels harder than “Up” did.

From there on the film is just 100 or so minutes of Keanu Reeves tearing things up. It’s done very well and honestly, the character of John Wick could easily go toe-to-toe with Ryan Gosling’s character from “Drive”, mainly because of how calm they are most of the time. The story is almost a perfect mashup of “Road to Perdition” and “Smokin’ Aces”, and here’s why. Iosef Tarasov is the son of the head of the Russian mob, so when John Wick essentially says, “Hey man, I know I used to work for you and all, but your son was a dick to me and stole my car, so…I’m coming for him”, the mobster sends everyone he has after Wick. Cute. What was really cool to watch as the amount of respect John Wick carries in the film. Clearly he’s been around the block a few times as one of the best assassin’s in the game, so his “return” is not taken lightly at all. Everyone is very respectable towards him, not so much because he’s a badass killer, but because while in the game he always stayed within the rules and was courteous to his fellow “players”. I want to command this kind of respect someday, though I’m not sure being a hitman is the route to go.

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Bill and Ted’s Radical Revenge

I don’t want to sound morbid but the blood spatters are great. These are small details that can really take you out of a movie watching experience, but these looked practical which is all the better. When you have amazing choreography and shootouts, only makes sense to have the special effects well past par. Movies these days tend to be reboots, remakes, sequels, or super hero films so I’m glad to see that something like “John Wick” really hit the mark. RottenTomatoes gave it a solid 83% and I sincerely hope will launch Keanu Reeves back into some hits, because he deserves the hitman respect. Though there’s blood and fighting and “intense language” it definitely keeps you interested and entertained. Oh, and it’s got Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane, Adrianne Palicki, Dean Winters, and that guy from “Fringe”.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: Excellent. I’d say “popcorn flick” but I’m pretty sure I was eating something much heartier while watching this, and I kept pausing my chewing so I wouldn’t miss the action.

SCENE COLLECTED: The morning after John gets the puppy he doesn’t have any puppy chow for him, so he pours the dog a bowl of cereal and they eat together in silence. Perfect.

FLICKCHART RATING: 604/2272

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“The Hunter” – Some Mysteries Should Never Be Solved

If you are reading this, then you are here because you want to follow my film reviews here at “The Scene Collector”. If you are reading this by mistake, feel free to stay awhile and read up on some films I’ll be reviewing and then head over to whatever site you meant to be at. If you can’t read, well, there are pictures.

My first post is going to be about Daniel Nettheim’s, “The Hunter”, starring Willem Dafoe, Frances O’Connor, and one of my personal favorite actors, Sam Neill. The film isn’t out yet in the states but it should be hitting theaters (possibly only select, I’m not sure) around April. Don’t ask how I came across a copy, I just did. And I was blown away.

I was captivated by the trailer because for a title like “The Hunter”, you’d expect a gruesome, man-against-wild, thriller. However it’s far from it. Dafoe’s performance is extraordinary, spending most of his time being silent and almost unaware of the fact that he’s being filmed. Also the fact that it’s set in Tasmania, which just looks gorgeous from all angles, really pushed it for me. Last but not least, the score. Matteo Zingales, Andrew Lancaster, and Michael Lira are welcome newcomers to my iTunes library, and I can tell you that today alone I’ve relived scenes four or five times thanks to them.

Coming off of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”, a film which dragged for what seemed like hours I was skeptical when I realized this was also going to be a “slow” film. However after about 45 minutes in, this was no longer an issue. Scenes showing vast landscapes, lush foliage, and even Dafoe’s Martin David shaving while listening to opera, they all kept the pace going. Nettheim takes us from the structured lifestyle of a mercenary to the lawless family of three, and then jumbles them together. The outcome is one you would expect as we’ve seen it a hundred times, but it still feels new. The premise, one created by Julia Leigh who is the author of the original novel, is also unique. I’ve always been a fan of cryptozoology so a story involving a possibly extinct animal (wikipedia claims that there have been sightings of the Tasmanian Tiger since 1933, when it was deemed extinct) definitely grabbed my attention. But just like that, the story becomes much more complex than a man looking for an animal.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: See this as soon as it comes out. If nothing else, it will make you want to visit Australia.