Monday, May 20, 2019

[Review] John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

Yeah, I’m thinking he’s back. And he has not disappointed. The legendary Keanu Reeves suits up again as iconic hitman John Wick for John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum. This gloriously cutthroat entry is everything you could want and more out of a John Wick flick, solidifying this series as one of the best  action spectacles to ever grace the big screen. 

The plot picks right up where Chapter 2 left off — John Wick has been declared “excommunicado” by The High Table of assassins, and there’s a $14 million (and rising) bounty on his head. The guy just wants to preserve his wife’s memory and spend time with his dog, but he can’t walk five feet without someone attempting to put a bullet in his head. 

While Chapter 2 was symbolically set in a perpetual purgatory, here John Wick finds himself in the depths of a brutal hellscape, punching, stabbing, and shooting his way through a dark and fiery underworld as he grapples with critical dilemmas, juggles souls, and makes deals with devils. The film’s combat sequences are like fist-pumping rushes of adrenaline. We get to witness a rumble in a library where Wick breaks someone’s neck over the spine of a book, a frenetic knife-flinging fight at an antique museum, and an exhilarating chase scene through the city streets where Wick fires off shots while riding a fucking horse. 

The cinematography is consistently exquisite, presenting the brawls and mayhem as high art that is as elegant and classy as it is visceral and merciless. Much of the stylishly and intricately choreographed fights are set against hypnotically vibrant backdrops that make you say wow — or more frankly — holy shit. Claps and laughs frequently erupted from the audience during my screening.

Keanu Reeves once again gives another impressively physical and introspective performance as a haunted and trapped man who just so happens to be extremely good at laying people to waste. Out of all three films, he has the least dialogue here, and it works remarkably well because his actions do all the talking. There are also some great supporting performances from Ian McShane and, Lance Reddick, and Laurence Fishburne. Even a fully-game Halle Berry joins in on the madness. 

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum is an opera of havoc. A symphony of bedlam. A storm of fury. By the time the film’s last line was uttered and the picture cut to the credits, my wife and I immediately stood up and applauded.

Will John Wick be back again? I’d say the odds are about even. Actually... It’s a YEAH.

* 10/10 *

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

[Review] The Intruder

The delightfully deranged Dennis Quaid vehicle The Intruder breaks in as a campy, unabashedly clich├ęd thriller that manages to be thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end — even if you can predict every move. 

The doors open with a married couple (played by Michael Ealy and Megan Good) as they move into a beautiful and serene Napa Valley property. Sound like a dream? Not so fast. It just so happens that the home’s previous owner (played by a fully-game Dennis Quaid) won’t quite leave. The guy just keeps showing up unannounced, to the point where the couple fears for their safety. And well, it’s just a matter of time and a few bottles of wine before things hit the fan. 

To its credit, The Intruder is a film that knows exactly what it is. It’s aware that we as an audience know where this is all going, but it does its job so damn well that it’s easy to embrace. The genre blueprints are laid out here, and they’re fun as hell when they’re put to work with such immense precision. It’s engrossing. It’s jarring. And it’s actually really funny. The film practically constitutes as one big, sly smirk with a lot of acres.

Speaking of sly smirks, Dennis Quaid gives a performance for the ages. He truly goes all the way, and then some. He’s erratic and unhinged. Creepy and relentless. Secretive and sadistic. His maniacal smile would even make the Grinch crap his pants. Wait, does the Grinch have pants? Okay, that’s beside the point. Quaid rocks it here. 

What director Deon Taylor has constructed is an effective, memorable, and over-the-top home invasion flick that provokes jumps and laughs in equal amounts. The landscaping is nice and the architecture is well-crafted, but there’s something deliriously ugly beneath the surface. Changing the locks isn’t always enough. 


Monday, May 6, 2019

[Review] Avengers: Endgame

The Endgame is finally in sight, and it’s been a long and entertaining ride. The latest installment of the colossal Avengers series sees the ultimate showdown for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it’s astoundingly fantastic. 

Following the drastic events of Avengers: Infinity War (you know - the mass vanishing and destruction of the universe and all), Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and company are in a very fragile state. Stark’s power is dwindling, Captain America (Chris Evans) is feeling like a failure, and the almighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is shockingly out of shape. That’s how you know things are looking bleak! Eventually, the crew of heroes devise a plan to travel back in time, collect the Infinity Stones, save their fellow heroes from the quantum realm, and finally defeat Thanos (Josh Brolin). Sounds simple, right? 

The duration clocks in at over three hours, but this epic crescendo of stellar force is so captivating and so well-executed that it never feels too overlong or bloated (the only truly bloated thing about this movie is Thor’s belly). It’s such a stunning achievement to carry out so many different converging plots and it’s such an impressive feat to utilize so many eclectic characters to their utmost strengths. Endgame somehow manages to balance it all miraculously. There isn’t a dull moment to be found, and the film constantly feels momentous and monumental. Oh, and the climactic battle - it’s one for the ages. The script is also extremely funny and full of great comic timing. I personally cracked up more than the creases of Thanos’ chin. 

But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this film is how it delves into the humanity, heart, and vulnerability of these iconic heroes (it’s actually very touching), which allows the film to be much more than just pure spectacle and elaborate action. It lacks in a lot of heavy emotion, and the script conveys a lot about loved ones and camaraderie, along with the complicated notions of dwelling on the impact of decisions from the past and altering the course of time. There’s a sense despair. A sense of remorse. And maybe everything won’t be completely okay in the end, but the Avengers are going to their absolute best no matter what, even if it takes some crucial sacrifices to get the job done and salvage the greater good of this sprawling universe. 

“We’re the Avengers. We gotta finish this. You trust me?”

* 9.5/10 *