Monday, June 29, 2015

Review - John Wick (2014), Nightcrawler (2014)

There are some actors that can act, and some actors that can get away with playing themselves on TV for money.  Strangely, it seems like the guys that just play themselves, seem to get more money.  Hmmmm.  There's probably some weird Hollywood foible in there somewhere, just waiting to be plucked out, but I'm a little too tired to finesse it free.  Let's just get to the reviews.

John Wick (2014) stars Keanu Reeves in the title role, as a guy who just lost his wife.  A final gift from his dead wife, a puppy, seems to bring him some comfort in his time of mourning.  Sadly, a russian speaking gentleman makes an offer on Wick's rather pretty little muscle car, and John refuses to sell.  The man, apparently in the Russian mafia, comes back later to make John an offer he can't refuse.  John loses his car, and his puppy, and a bit of blood, but not his life.  Unfortunately for the russian mafia who killed his dog, John isn't just your random, run-of-the-mill carjacking victim.  He's John Wick, and John Wick just happens to be a retired assassin.

I just love these kinds of stories, to be quite honest.  The tale of your standard, run-of-the-mill Joe who happens to get picked on by a group of thugs, who happen to underestimate their quarry.  I love it when the hunter becomes the hunted, when you don't know who's the one doing the luring and who's the one doing the trapping.  To be honest, this wasn't one of the better ones, but it was an enjoyable action movie, all the same.

Obviously, Keanu Reeves plays the title role, and those of you who have seen keanu before know he's not going to be getting any Oscars anytime soon.  Still, I'm sure he's very well paid, which is probably more than enough to console his lack of awards.  John Lequizamo, Willem Dafoe and Ian McShane play  various supporting roles along the way, but don't get much screen time.  Most of the movie is John Wick doing what John Wick does best, killing everyone he sees and working his way through the russian mafia to find his prey.  He stumbles a few times along the way, mind you.  As John says, he must be "a little rusty."

Drawbacks of this film include the combat scenes seeming a little contrived.  I guess this was done for dramatic effect, because it doesn't seem quite realistic, at least part of the time.  For instance, thugs who you'd think he would just breeze through, seem to take forever to eliminate, so that the plot thickens.  Others that should probably take longer, seem to go down without much of a struggle.  It's not in all cases, mind you, just a few, and it doesn't terribly drag the film down.

No nudity that I recall, just a lot of violence, mostly melee and gun battles.  Enjoyable to watch, but a bit of a slow starter.  John Wick is on HBO this month if you want to watch it.  I'd say give it a watch for the melees, shootings, executions, and probably the best moment of the entire movie, when John Wick steps up behind a bouncer and puts a gun to his head.  "Hello, Francis." John says.  "Hello, John.  Here on business?" Francis asks.  "Yes.  Why don't you take the night off?"  John suggests.  To which, Francis replies in the affirmative.  I loved that part.  Just loved it.  Why don't more bad guys just admit they're fucked when faced with that kind of situation, and just go away?  Of course, if everyone in the movie did that, there wouldn't be a movie, I suppose.

Our second movie tonight is Nightcrawler (2014).  Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Louis Bloom, who is stealing copper to make ends meet.  Louis Bloom is out of work, and so willing to do just about anything for money that he beats a security guard up just to escape with his hard-earned copper.  Sounds like he could easily get work in politics, the legal profession, or even collections work, but instead, Louis happens upon a car accident, and a freelance cameraman who goes around filming various newsworthy events to sell to the local news.  Louis sees a quick way to make a few bucks, and his morally ambiguous work ethic comes into play.

Sadly, Nightcrawler isn't about a giant nocturnal earthworm that eats chicago, or I might have enjoyed it a bit more.  I don't recall Mr. Gyllenhaal ever doing a monster movie, so he's not one of my favorite actors, but he seems to display some skill in portraying a warped individual with an overriding desire to succeed.  I believe we call them sociopaths, in psychiatric parlance.  Apparently, Nightcrawler is the slang term for the freelance news reporters who go around filming these kinds of things, or at least, that's what I understand from the name of the film.

Nightcrawler isn't a found-footage film, but from all the camera work being done, it certainly could have been.  Most of the action is captured on Louis' cameras, which he sells to the news director at a local TV station, played by Rene Russo.  Bill Paxton plays a minor role as the helpful Nightcrawler who explains his business to Louis, and Louis repays the man's kindness by screwing around with the brakes and/or steering on his vehicle.

To be completely honest, I wasn't going to view this film, let alone review it.  Sociopaths aren't my particular cup of tea, mainly because they always seem to get away with what they do.  Think Kevin Costner as Mr. Brooks, and you have some idea what I mean.  I mean, let's face it, if you're to make a film about a sociopath rising to power by being a cut-throat, merciless killer, well, doesn't that become a documentary, rather than fiction?  I don't do documentaries, unless they're wildlife films.  Still, I saw that Rene Russo was in it, and I've been a fan of hers since Lethal Weapon 2.  And it's always nice to see Bill Paxton collect a paycheck.  Somehow, Bill seems to make the movies that he's in seem better, just because he showed up to work that day.  So, I mostly watched this for the supporting cast.

Nightcrawler is on Netflix if you want to give it a watch.  No nudity, and not much violence, except of the car-crash variety.  I can't really recommend watching it, because it's a movie with a moral message, and frankly, I hate those kinds of movies.  Sure, technically, friday the 13th movies have a moral message, but they're more about blood, guts and boobies than suggesting you walk the straight and narrow path of moral righteousness.  Nightcrawler seems to be telling you that by becoming a cold-hearted sociopath, you can get ahead in life, or maybe I just missed the whole message, there.  Hey, I'm not a film critic.  I just watch the thing and tell you if I enjoyed it or not, eh?

Let's see, what else is going on, in other news.  Oh, right, well, the supreme court decided that same-sex marriages are legal in all 50 states, even where it was otherwise forbidden by state law, and I think that's awesome.  I'm heterosexual myself, but I've never believed that tripe about how gays (or queers or lesbians or transsexuals or however you identify yourself) are ruining the institute of marriage, or how they are corrupting the morals of our children.  Well, except for transvestites.  Those people are nucking futs, and you can be damn sure they are an affront to god, christianity, and they're making the pope go blind!  I'm kidding, of course.  They're not really making the pope go blind.  Seriously, I don't see why anyone shouldn't have the same legal rights to marry as heterosexuals or straights, and I can't understand why the "moral majority" thought it was okay for so long to try and enforce their ideas of what's right and wrong so as to impede the happiness of others.  But that would just make sense, and when has the world ever made sense?  Well, I guess it makes a little more sense now, but you get the idea.  I think.  I may not be entirely coherent.

There was a 3-week manhunt for some escaped convicts in my state, that pretty much ended over the last 3 days.  Sure, it was on all the news, and I followed it with a fair amount of disinterest because, well, I don't typically watch the news.  What struck me during this manhunt wasn't that there's 18,000 other felons out there with active warrants on them that the authorities have no idea where they are, but that the news crews kept asking the police and state representatives how much the search was costing.  Look, this is one of the few times that the police are in the news for doing something RIGHT.  They're not shooting old ladies sitting on their couches with knitting needles, they're not gunning down unarmed black men, and they're not tasering some sugared-up kids at a pool party, they're hunting for escaped murderers.  How is it okay to badger the police about where the money is coming from?  Aren't they doing something right?  I don't get it.  To sum up, the manhunt ended rather abruptly for both suspects, one friday, and one sunday (earlier today).  Both suspects were shot by police, and only one survived to be taken into custody.

That's it for tonight!  Catch you guys next week, assuming I can find something to watch, and I hope everyone has a great Fourth of July!  Those of us that celebrate it as Independence Day, anyway.  And why is it that whenever I think of the holiday, I think of that speech from Bill Pullman from the movie with Will Smith?  Meh.  Too much Sci-fi, I guess.

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