Monday, 13 February 2017

John Wick: Chapter 2

Before he is the leading face from The Matrix, Keanu Reeves made his name from top billing action films such as Point Break and Speed, two of the most iconic action films in the 1990s. Although I don't think he is a good actor, but I can't deny his dedication to his role in his films.

The first John Wick film was a sleeper hit, it did not gather much attention until late into its box office life, but it was a damn fine action flick. John Wick is one of the action films in recent times, along with Mad Max: Fury Road, to try to restrain themselves from doing too much, no bombastic explosions, physics defying stunts, unkillable protagonists and etc.

I usually don't review sequels by showing the originals as I think films need to be viewed individually, while comparing one or two aspects of the originals. However, I can't help it but to embed a clip from John Wick, as it is just to awesome! The film spent the first 30 minutes to build up John Wick's character, how he was the bona fide hitman in his heyday. John Wick is not a man to be messed around, as paraphrasing characters in the movie, "He killed three man with a fucking pencil". So the first action scene after 30 minutes is such a huge pay off for the character, that sheer ruthlessness and precision are on display, and that's just the first action sequence! However, John Wick is not invisible, he can be beaten, that's what makes the film so intense as you never know how hard he's going to take.

John Wick: Chapter 2 looked like an extension to the first one, and it delivers. It essentially begins where John Wick left off, where Mr. Wick applies his finishing touch to his previous work. He begins to meet with his former accomplice to work on a job and well, shit happened. Due to this, John Wick starts off another rampage to get to the bottom of it.

While John Wick did not contain a excellent storyline by any means, the story itself was justifiable enough to drive John Wick's reason to go for a killing spree towards his enemies. Chapter 2, however, fell short in terms of story, Wick's continuation of rampage was slightly off in terms of execution. It was not bad by any means, it just kind of bland in comparison. I felt it could be a little better, but not a big minus, just that the drive was not as strong. One thing I like about John Wick and Chapter 2 is that it is a universe filled with notorious crime lords throughout the films, yet it did not felt the movie flooded you with needless expositions and character building.

However, Chapter 2 did get the key of John Wick right, the action sequences. The film followed the previous recipe of restrained actions, realistic stunt works, steady camerawork and a match up of similarly strong henchmen and villains to go against John Wick. The action sequences are throughout this film, from start to finish. It did stutter in some parts of the film, but not anything significant once the film got back the pace again. Most of the scenes were so restrained that even film students with rules applied by their lecturers can pull off, but the execution was so good and slick, that me and the audiences got all the thrills by just watching it. One particular sequence that stood out for me was that long brawl of John Wick and fellow hitman Cassian (played by Common), seeing them made the scene so clear cut of who is fighting who and both of them going against each other is immensely satisfying, not to mention that the scene ended in quite a humorous way.

I do want to point out, however, that I felt that the film's ending was a bit unrealistic, in terms of the execution. It is regarding the world of crime lords, it did felt a bit overblown, for me at least.

Neo & Morpheus reunite in John Wick: Chapter 2

John Wick: Chapter 2 is a slick and fine sequel to John Wick. It is so well-made because the film did not try to outdo the first one and kept itself from doing over the tops sequences like many action films do today (Fast & Fu *COUGH* Fast & Furious). The film kept itself grounded and simple, and it resulted in one of the slickest and most entertaining action film in recent years. John Wick is the spiritual successor to Die Hard for the 21st century.

Score: 4.5/5

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Personal Top 5 Films of 2016

I finally decided to write about my personal Top 5 films of 2016. I choose to wrote it a month down 2017 is not because that I forgot to write about it, it is a lot of films that are released at the tail-end of 2016 only made it to Malaysia on the January of 2017. While personally I believe that blockbusters were not as good as 2015, but some of the smaller films have made a great showing.

Without further ado, these are my top films of the year:

1. Arrival

Sci-fi films these days are mostly focused on the action sequences to see which films can pull of a better moves or cooler weapons. Arrivals went against the status quo, by having characters race against time to find common ground with the aliens by using critical thinking skills and intelligence, something to remind of the current social issues of action first, think later. With Arrival and Sicario, Denis Villeneuve is starting to be my favourite director.

2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

At this pace, my list have to be a Top 6 to accommodate Star Wars in its yearly release, or else it could be unfair to other strong movies out there. Rogue One presents a great risk for Disney, as the success of this film will decide how Disney will plan its Star Wars expanded universe films in the future. Luckily for them, Gareth Edwards managed to pull off another gem in Disney library in their quest for cinema dominance in recent years. Rogue One managed to tell a tale well-known by all the fans and presented in ways that still managed to entertain both fans and casual movie-goers alike.

3. Zootopia

Another gem from Disney, currently Disney animation division have a stronger run compared to Pixar in the past two or three years. Zootopia is a solid entry to Disney animation library by telling a great story yet serves a very good lesson for the young audiences that it targeted, by replacing human problems with animals. Not to mention that it was full off animal puns and amusing from start to finish.

4. La La Land

La La Land is an old-fashioned movie, very old-fashion. It feels like it was made in 1950s and then was remastered for 2016. Yet, the film use this to its advantage. The story itself wasn't that great, the singing of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling aren't that fantastic (good but not amazing) to make the film more "realistic", but the cinematography was well-timed, the camera directions, choreography and the colours did pop out in dark scenes. La La Land is imperfectly perfect.

5. 10 Cloverfield Lane

One of the major surprises of 2016. This is because Paramount and J. J. Abrams deliberately hid the release of 10 Cloverfield Lane until it was close to release, surprising the audiences and critics alike. Presented as a spinoff to Cloverfield, it has very little connection to the film. Instead of a found footage alien invasion movie, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a closeted psychological thriller focusing on unstable relationships of three people stuck in a bunker. I enjoyed 10 Cloverfield Lane for its simplicity and the amount of intensity throughout the short film and the small bunker space.

There are a few films that I think are great and should be shortlisted as well, but due to the fact that I plan to do only Top 5, the rest ultimately had to be cut from the initial list.

Here's the honourable mention: Deadpool, Marvel's Doctor Strange, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Sully, The Jungle Book.

That's all for my Top 5 films of 2016. Let's hope 2017 is gonna be good.