*NEW* JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 REVIEW *NEW*

He’s back! But bigger and better?

After returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) discovers that a large bounty has been put on his life.

They certainly cranked the gun-fu up to 11 BUT “The Raid 2 of action movies”. I don’t think so.

The opening threw us right into the mix following straight on from the first film with our main man chasing after a motorcyclist to retrieve some medallion or something.

It didn’t really matter what he chasing after because it was all for a car. Remember the car? He didn’t actually get it back.

Does Peter Stormare (Prison Break) even realise he’s becoming a cliche of his own cliched character? Another hilarious generic Eastern European mob boss.

His comical rendition of his last encounter with the Matrix machismo was too much; “He killed a guy with a pencil. A f*cking pencil!”

The scrap yard sequence was ridiculous, OTT but it set up one thing. Old Keanu can still kick ass. It was like something out of a video game. Entrapped in a mosh pit of taxi cabs, waiting for a bigger and nastier villain to deliver the next punch.

The action set pieces were intense enough. BUT the only problem was that the first John Wick came out of the blue and revamped some of the old action cliches and made it into something different.

With the expectations a little higher, Chapter 2 didn’t quite meet up to them this time around. Don’t get me wrong, it still did the job and it is what it is.

A high octane punch em shoot em up but it still toyed aspects of Wick’s past that I wanted exploring. What was this impossible task?! Who decided these rules on territories and why isn’t Ian McShane (Deadwood) in this more?

Riccardo Scamarcio (Burnt) played the smug Santino well. Another unwanted blast from the past. Calling on an old debt to demand one last job from the Boogeyman.

Unfortunately, this was where the pace lagged for me. We had to watch Wick’s inevitable refusal and the predictable outcome that followed. Before reluctantly accepting the task at hand.

The Rome reconnaissance was watchable enough BUT the director stretched out the build up to the point that I was screaming for a shootout.

Less of the flat cryptic dialogue, more of the bang for your buck please!

For the animal lovers, the Boogeyman has a new companion in a loveable blue staffie. Does he suffer the same fate as his furry predecessor?

Well, there’s only one way to find out BUT I’m not saying.

The gun kung fu or gung-fu was brilliantly choreographed. Just when I thought certain scenes were getting a little repetitive, there would suddenly be a new creative and ultra-violent kill that had me wincing.

Stormare wasn’t kidding about that pencil!

Common (Smokin’ Aces) played a worthy adversary. I loved the camaraderie between him and Wick; “Consider this a professional courtesy”.

However, their initial (and incredibly brutal) fist fights soon went on too long and felt more like something out of the Peter Griffin vs Giant Chicken saga. Especially when they were rolling down the stairs. My God!

Ruby Rose (Orange is the New Black) had potential as a mute assassin BUT never really got going. Shame.

Laurence Fishburne was not in this enough. He stole the show in his minute cameo. I was disappointed that we couldn’t get one little Matrix quote from ol’ Morpheus.

A shady friend in Wick’s desperate time of need with an alarmingly impressive army of militant homeless men.

The fiery and frenetic closing act certainly made up for the lumbering middle act. It was everything I hoped from the get go.

Relentless, violent and bloody fun. Especially when the bounty was put on Wick’s head. Everybody in New York given the green light to take out Neo.

Mental. I don’t think it would be a spoiler to say that things have been left open for another.

And despite my grumbles, I will be looking forward to the next installment.

BUT is pace and a little more exploration into Wick’s past too much to ask? Don’t make just another generic shooter.

3/5

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*NEW* PASSENGERS REVIEW *NEW*

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One ride I didn’t expect to enjoy.

Two passengers are awakened 90 years early after a spaceship malfunction en route to a distant colony.

From all the negative press, I was bracing myself for something horrific. A loved up but incredibly naff Gravity rip-off.

Oh no! The opening act was completely different to what I had expected.

For the first 30 to 40 minutes, we had just Chris Pratt. Lost in space. 

After his stellar performance in Guardians of the Galaxy, I was worried that Pratt was becoming a one trick pony. Delivering his usual comedy shtick. BUT he delivered a much more serious turn.

A little slow burning BUT riveting as Jim wandered the vast and empty vessel. His confusion rapidly turning into hysteria as he realised he was the only one awake.

His only companion, a slick and highly entertaining robot bartender. And who better to play the role than Michael bloody Sheen?!

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Even if his attire reminded me of Lloyd from The Shining.

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Don’t worry, it’s not that type of movie. No murderous androids here. 

Sheen was sublime. His rapport with Pratt was brilliant. Desperately searching his bartending database to strike up conversation and offer advice.

As much as you felt for Jim’s frustration and isolation as he came to his wit’s end after a year (A year?!) of playing around with robots, virtual dancing, getting smashed and wondering around the endless hallways naked (Yeah, the ladies will love that), the pace was testing by the hour marker.

And that was the only real issue for me. Don’t worry, lads. We have J-Law in a space bikini (Whaaat?!)

Doomed to travel in space alone. Unable to break into the captain’s quarters after months of trying. Contemplating the end. Jim was truly a man on the verge.

That was until Katniss Aberdeen made her introduction.

Pratt and Lawrence were brilliant. They had fantastic chemistry and were a great duo. Crucial when the film revolves primarily on just two people.

The special effects were pretty impressive as the pair orbited the ship in anti-gravitational body suits, admiring the interstellar landscape. The inevitable sparks flying as the couple inevitably fell for each other.

However, all was not as it seemed. The reasons behind Aurora’s (The lovely Jennifer Lawrence) pod failure made things a little more intriguing and certainly changed the dynamic of the film.

Without spoiling too much, it pondered a surprisingly moral argument. Especially when Aurora discovered the truth. BUT it was never going to be that type of movie either.

Thankfully, the ship’s increasing power surges soon created more noticeable issues than just some robots going haywire and broke the schmaltzy hokum as the pair had only a matter of time to save the ship and its comatose inhabitants from impending doom in the form of a dying star. Yikes.

Pratt and Lawrence’s chemistry smoothed over some of the rougher edges of the film. Most notably, the giant plot holes; if an asteroid belt did that much damage to the ship, why was only one pod disturbed?

Some of you might even laugh at the convenient arrival of Laurence Fishburne’s character (The Matrix) as the sh*t finally hit the fan; “We can’t get through these doors without clearance!” Guess who has and knows exactly what to do? Come on .  . . 

I actually didn’t mind Passengers. The explosions and set pieces did overindulge with the CGI too much by the end with everything getting a little too cartoony for my liking.

The frantic (Though highly watchable) finale tragically ended on such a flat and corny note that it spoiled things a bit. BUT it was better than I expected.

A slow burning romantic sci-fi drama. Just take it with a pinch of salt.

If you’re expecting a hard-hitting thought-provoking sci-fi flick, go watch Arrival. If you want a big, dumb Hollywood sci-fi love story, then give it a go. It ain’t that bad.

3/5 (Just)

*NEW* BATMAN VS SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE REVIEW *NEW*

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Yawwwnnnnn of Justice. Oh dear. Oh dear. Was it a DC disaster? Or a misunderstood masterpiece?

There’s only one way to find out . . .

Fearing that the actions of Superman (Henry Cavill) are left unchecked, Batman (Ben Affleck) takes on the Man of Steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs.

All that hype. All that anticipation. My brother fell asleep in the cinema. People argued with me on how terrible it was. The feeling of disappointment hit me in the gut like a punch from Supes himself.

Yet somehow on second viewing, it wasn’t quite as bad as I remembered.

The strong opening delivered everything I hoped. A brooding, dark, tense action packed sequence with stunning visuals and a menacing score from the Mad Max maestro Junkie XL and Hans “Gladiator” Zimmer.

While the credits rolled, we had the quickest recap through Batman’s origins. No matter how many sequels, reboots and remakes; it’s always the same story. I wondered why Snyder grabbed The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo as Bruce’s parents. A real waste. They didn’t have any more screen time in the Extended Edition!

However, I liked how the writers answered one question straight off the bat that bugged the hell out of me during the Man of Steel finale; “How have Superman and Zod not killed any people with all that destruction?!”

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The answer was simple. They did. The eerily 9/11 vibe to the Man of Steel’s destruction was unsettling as Zod (Michael Shannon – Midnight Special) and Superman ploughed through tower after tower. One of the buildings being none other than Wayne Enterprises.

A haunting image of a bitter Bruce Wayne cradling a child covered in rubble and carnage. Cue the movie title.

A shame that momentum couldn’t be carried on. I wasn’t overly impressed with Man of Steel BUT thought Cavill was brilliant as the man in the red cape. It was long at the tooth and far too serious for its own good. Only lightening up in the closing act.

Bit like this one, really . . .

BvS: Dawn of Justice should have been called Man of Steel 2 ft. Sulky Batman.

I liked the idea. It was just the execution that spoiled things. The whole debate about Superman being a false God and the security risks were all too realistic and the surprisingly bleak and cynical undertone offered a completely different direction to the Avengers.

This should have been a shot out of the ball park with the Watchmen (Very underrated film) director at the helm.

The main issue was the disjointed and incredibly convoluted plot. Amy Adams was completely wasted as Lois Lane. She was sent off on some uninteresting goose chase around the States bugging senators about experimental warfare and some ruse involving African terrorists and Russian gangsters that . . . basically was a shoddy excuse to force our two “heroes” to meet. Either that or fishing around for a spear of Kryptonite. Yup.

And the end result was so tragically predictable.

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Jesse Eisenberg’s (The Social Network) take on Lex Luthor was a mixed bag. I was always #TeamBatman BUT I did enjoy Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey’s take on Supe’s renowned foe.

BUT Eisenberg just flailed about and waffled insufferable verbal diarrhea. Applying his usual schtick. Instead of taking the opportunity to play a different character. There were moments where he showed potential. An interesting anecdote about Granny’s Peach Tea delivered an unexpected punch line.

Now onto the Dark Knight. Batfleck was superb. He was an excellent Batman and an even better Bruce Wayne. It was going to be tough to follow on from Bale BUT he nailed it. His Batman counterpart followed on from the Bale Bat quite well.

If anything his character had become embittered and disillusioned. Branding his victims with a mark of justice that was pretty much a death sentence. Brutal. Angry with the world. The good men are gone.

“Even you’ve got too old to die young. Not for the lack of trying”. There wasn’t enough Jeremy Irons as Alfred. Desperate for the billionaire to seek something other than vengeance.

“Crime spree in Gotham. Water is wet.” Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) was on fine form as the Daily Planet Editor Perry White. I wanted more of Gal Gadot’s character. The mystery surrounding Diana Prince as she stumbled into Wayne’s dangerous game of chess was much more interesting than anything Luthor could conjure up.

It was at the half way marker where my patience was tested. It didn’t help having one of the most disjointed flash forwards (teasers) thrown into the mix. It didn’t fit in with the film at all. A bold statement by the producers (hoping that more movies will come to explain it) BUT it was completely out of sync with what was going on.

It certainly wouldn’t have made any sense to the DC newbies. I know it was played off as a strange dream sequence that introduced another Justice League member BUT it didn’t work.

“Black and blue. Fight night. The greatest gladiator match in the history of the world: God versus man; day versus night; Son of Krypton versus Bat of Gotham!”

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The build up, the anticipation, two flippin’ hours of mindless exposition! All for an intense 15 minutes.

The brooding, the stare-offs, the tension. A training montage that could have parodied Rocky IV with ol’ Bruce dragging massive tyres and lifting weights while Kent traipsed around a snowy mountain.

The special effects were fantastic. The minute fight sequence was set up quite well as the Caped Crusader set up an obstacle course for the nearly indestructible son of Krypton.

Cavill and Affleck worked well off each other and made the fractious exchanges much more watchable and entertaining. I just wish they hadn’t spent so much of the film apart!

And the final 30 minutes offered more of what I expected from the get go. It took itself much less seriously and threw in some needed humour and once Wonder Woman got involved, it was a riot. That score every time she came on though. Talk about overkill with the horns. Jeez.

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Despite my initial disappointment and nitpicking, this wasn’t a complete write-off. It showed promise and offered a completely different direction to the Marvel movies. One that may be darker, broodier and bloodier.

By all means NOT a bad thing. BUT can they work on crafting the characters, a better story and the flipping pace first?!

3/5

RIDE ALONG REVIEW

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Chug along? Cube and Hart make a cracking good duo. Fun enough BUT will it compare to the relentless list of cop comedies?

Security guard Ben (Kevin Hart) must prove himself to his girlfriend’s brother, top cop James (Ice Cube). He rides along with James on a 24-hour patrol of Atlanta.

A mixed bag. It all starts off very predictable, formulaic and unfunny with a deal gone wrong, an inevitable car chase and Cube tearing the place up. He played the straight faced Payton perfectly. BUT beneath the bravado there wasn’t much to his character.

A groggy start (with a feeble story line about infiltrating a crime ring and a rat in the office) is given a fresh boost when Hart is thrown into the mix. His military style precision on a Call of Duty style video game under the alias Black Hammer had me in stitches alone. I’ve been a fan of Hart for some time ever since the Scary Movie films. It’s great to see how far the little man’s gone.

He pretty much steals the show. His verbal diarrhea and high pitched screeching can get a little irritating. Inevitably, it took a little while for Ben and Payton to warm up to one another and the gags were few and far between. I could feel my excitement dropping quicker than Cube busting out a fresh freestyle.

Once the pair got going (Luckily) so did the film. There was a fantastic scene at the shooting range in which Hart is trying to show off. His feeble attempt blowing up in his face . . . literally. They did their best and it’s not a complete write-off. Hart upsetting a biker gang and picking a fight with a child. Brilliant.

Being held up in a warehouse in a battle of wits. Done to death. They had a nice angle with the Training Day parody but never really took full advantage of it. Maybe the 12A rating softened it all up but more could have been made. Hart being thrown about was only funny up to a point. He’s little. We get it. It got a chuckle. BUT doing it several more times? Come on now.

I liked the chemistry between Hart and Tika Sumpter (Salt). I would have been happy to see a little more of that than Cube’s stone cold expressions. Pardon the expression. BUT it was great seeing Cube keeping it dead pan with Hart coming out with all sorts of crazy stuff. Brilliant.

I was surprised to see the likes of John Leguizamo and Laurence Fishburne in this BUT they struggled to make a real impression with their dull and unmemorable characters. And that’s part of the problem. The terrible plot about a generic arms deal with the “surprise” twist being some predictable double crossing stretched the film out. It left little opportunities for gags and wasted a good cast.

When it was funny, it was on fire but when it’s wasn’t, it was slow and repetitive. Less Ride Along and more chug along. Hart was the man. I just wish he’d had better material. It did just enough. But if you’re looking for a consistently laugh out cop comedy, check out The Heat.

Cube and Hart did their best. And it did enough to get me excited for the upcoming sequel. Let’s hope they make amends with more gags or a better plot. If you’re up for a laugh, give it a go. Just don’t expect too much.

3/5 (Just)