John Wick: Chapter 2

 

If you like muscle cars, chase scenes, incredible fight sequences and beautiful sets and locations, this movie is going to sizzle your cerebral cortex.  It has everything I mentioned and has them in spades.  All that you liked about the first film is here so you won’t be disappointed.  As you most assuredly know, John Wick was as high octane as they come… what will be your delight is, Chapter 2 is just as powerful and as potent as the first.  John Wick (Reeves), the ghostly and stealthy killer you met in Chapter 1, is the same bad ass, with the same reputation of reigning terror without breaking a sweat but unlike before, he wants out  He wants to retire and live out his life in peace.  Well, he may want out but someone comes knocking to remind him that he’s duty bound to do something first and that is to fulfill a blood marker.  A marker is a blood oath.  Once it’s given to a member of the criminal conclave Wick belongs to, one with strict rules for the professional help and perks they receive, it must be honored.   

He’s forced to be true to his pledge which is to assassinate Santino D’Antonio’s (Scamarcio) sister so that he could have her seat at the high table, a highly coveted place within the criminal federation.  An ingenious scene of him shopping for accessories is priceless.  He gears up and gets to work.  When he completes his task or she does for him, rather, not only are members of her security team after for him, (especially Cassian, played by Common, whose role adds a special element of regalement to the film), but so is Santino.  He decides to close loose ends.  The choreographed action sequences such as rolling down steps mid fight, running on stage and through a concert’s audience while shooting at one another and all death and destruction delivered by clever cinematography more than makes up for the few times that Reeves, unfortunately, has speaking lines.  I know that’s hard to swallow but it’s more than accurate.     

Centrally, this is an astonishingly action packed film and with a good narrative.  It’s the story of a character you can’t help root for, even though he’s a ruthless, emotionless and heartless killer.  You want him to win, despite his willingness to murder, because, after all, they’re the bad guys, right?  Again, luckily for us, it’s more action driven with focus on the deadly encounters rather than on dialogue.  Every performance outside of Reeves was adequate, McShane and Common’s especially, but the only delivery Reeves is capable of giving is dry and detached and that’s a shame.  Yes, it isn’t terrible with this sort of role but had he been able to give some passion to the lines that he did have, it would have been that much better. 
I have to suggest you go see it if you’re an action fan.  I’ll go on record now and say you’re going to absolutely love it.  It starts with a punch and never stops going; it’s solid all around.  Also, it ends with a clear set up for Chapter 3.  After all hes been through and has done, he decides to break a rule anyway, for which you cannot do as long as you’re in the league.  Now that he has, he is banished and… well, I’ll let you discover that on your own. 

Trespass Against Us

Set in the countryside of Britain, we are introduced to the Cutler crime family which is run by Colby played by a coarse Brendan Gleeson; who, interestingly enough just played Fassbender’s son in “Assassin’s Creed.”  Colby’s reputation precedes him for a reason as he’s not a very charming fellow and not many challenge him.  The Cutler’s look like a band of misfits or perhaps something you would have spotted in a scene from the movie “Deliverance.”  Even though they have been somewhat successful criminals up to this point, they live in trailers and practically in poverty which finally hits Colby’s son Chad, (Fassbender).  Not that Colby minds what he does for a living.  He has fun when cops chase him through the streets but he’s starting to realize the impact his actions are having on his children and his wife and is struggling with a decision.  He has to break away.  His son Tyson (Smith) is starting to rebel and verbally spar with his dad, spouting exactly what Chad usually hears coming from his father Colby and this doesn’t sit well with him.  Being uneducated, Chad has allowed his father to lead him through his life.  He has always done as ordered but he sees the writing on the wall and waking up to what his and Colby’s limitations truly are, he decides he doesn’t want that for Tyson.  The police are onto his every move but when he wants to try and leave his father’s shadow, he is, too. 

Director Adam Smith, who’s more known for his work on “Doctor Who”, has had mixed reviews on the film festival circuit but having assembled an excellent cast and creating a unique blend of chaos and calm in a crazy world, I think he has a hit on his hands not matter the venue.  There’s something fascinating about Chad and his family that, as the film goes on, you almost catch… like a cold.  At first you’re not sure you have it but when you do, it really ensnares you.  Perhaps it’s the fact that Smith didn’t try to play to the American audience.  It’s authentic in that he doesn’t drop the local, incredibly thick accent, nor does he remove the British jargon that’s in use.  We are in their world.  Luckily for us, we view this world from the extremely gifted lens of Eduard Grau, (“Suffragette”, “The Awakening”, “Buried” and “A Single Man.”  He takes you incredibly deep into the story, bringing you into it by using intimate shots that make you feel like you’re peeking around a corner… hiding where you shouldn’t be; surveying where you have no business.  The scenery is beautiful so there’s no chance you’re looking away.

Shining are the performances.  Lyndsey Marshal is magnificent as Kelly, Chad’s wife, who, through it all, pulls a Tammy Wynette and stands by her man.  Fassbender, though his Chad is raging with testosterone and as tough as nails, is almost sweet at times.  The moments where he’s not fulfilling an illegal act or behaving like a hoodlum, he shows how at peace his character is with the final decision he has made.  A quite difficult one but, as Christ did, he must sacrifice himself for the sake of all of his children.  If you can get through the accents, I’d have to suggest you see this in the theatre if it’s near you but if not, see it as soon as possible, in whatever form possible.

Live By Night

I love a lot of Affleck’s work.  In fact, it’s safe to say I like most of his work.  This one… not so much.  This confounds me because it’s Affleck!  He’s responsible in one way or another for “Good Will Hunting”, “Gone Baby Gone”, “Argo” and “The Town”.  Great films.  He usually has a firm grasp of story but that’s not the case here.  “Live By Night” is more or less all over the place.  To be completely honest, it doesn’t feel like his voice at all.  It can’t sit still so neither can you.  So I wonder… just went wrong?  I can indicate to you a few culprits.  It’s too slow and there are too many plot lines and both are working in concert to single handedly ruin this film.  It feels as if you’re watching a series of different films in one yet starring the same characters.  It’s a mobster/gangster picture but not.  There are moments when it is but, well, not to confuse you, these moments are few and far between.  It’s hard to even categorize this film.

I’ll try and explain the premise.  To start, in voice over, Affleck introduces his character, Joe Coughlin.  He’s a soldier.  He was miserable as a soldier.  The spoiled boy, yes it feels that way, was being told to do terrible things on the battle field and decides that being told what to do wasn’t for him.  He will forever be his own boss so he gathers two friends and they become bank robbers.  We learn that when it comes to Boston, there are two gangs it’s run by; the Irish and the Italians.  Not wanting to become involved with either, for some reason he doesn’t consider himself gangster material but is a criminal… okay, Coughlin, thinks it a good idea to become involved with the girlfriend of the head of the Irish gang, Albert White.  They even appear in public together.  Immediately, you can see that Affleck didn’t think this through. 
You know what’s going to happen and it does.  Along with a butt kicking, he gets set up and spends a few years in prison.  Now hating White, we have a revenge film where he’ll do anything to work against Albert White.  The man who said he’d never work for anyone again is working for the Italians to take over White’s rum distribution… in Florida.  We change again.  Coughlin enlists the help of the Cubans who were once stealing and instead turns them into assets, who now are happy working with him instead of against.      

There are several people trying to take him down but obstacles are easily overcome and Coughlin becomes the king of Tampa.  He also has a new woman, Graciela (Saldana), for whom he has absolutely no chemistry.  God I wanted to buy into this working for him.  It may actually be the worst part of the film.

So moving beyond that, it does, eventually, become a gangster picture again when a double-cross or two are shed and the movie gets exciting.  This is what the film had promised to be and it’s nice that it gets back to its roots but it’s not enough and it’s too little too late. 
However, what’s also good about “Live By Night”, and I’d say what makes it a worthwhile watch for anyone who wants to study good character actors are some of the performances.  Matthew Maher as a member of the KKK is outstanding.  Elle Fanning is memorable as a victim of circumstance.  Also worth mentioning is Robert Glenister as Albert White and Remo Girone as Italian leader Maso Pescatore.  When they’re on screen, you are lost in their performances.  They evoke “The Godfather” when they’re present and are quite impressive.  More of them would have improved the movie but for some reason we’re spread thinly over a few storylines and you become disinterested in everyone entirely.  So, check this out on DVD or wait for VOD, however you get your entertainment these days, but going to the theatre, my preferred outlet, is not my recommendation. 

Live By Night Advance Screening

Oscar winner Ben Affleck (“Argo”) directed and stars in the dramatic crime thriller “Live by Night.” Affleck also wrote the screenplay, based on the award-winning best-seller by Dennis Lehane; it marks the second collaboration for the fellow Boston natives, following the acclaimed drama “Gone Baby Gone.”

What you put out into this world will always come back to you, but it never comes back how you predict. Taking fatherly advice is not in Joe Coughlin’s nature. Instead, the WWI vet is a self-proclaimed anti-establishment outlaw, despite being the son of the Boston Police Deputy Superintendent. Joe’s not all bad, though; in fact, he’s not really bad enough for the life he’s chosen. Unlike the gangsters he refuses to work for, he has a sense of justice and an open heart, and both work against him, leaving him vulnerable time and again—in business and in love. Driven by a need to right the wrongs committed against him and those close to him, Joe heads down a risky path that goes against his upbringing and his own moral code. Leaving the cold Boston winter behind, he and his reckless crew turn up the heat in Tampa. And while revenge may taste sweeter than the molasses that infuses every drop of illegal rum he runs, Joe will learn that it comes at a price.

“Live by Night” is produced by Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Out of the Furnace”) and Jennifer Davisson (“The Ides of March,” “Orphan”), under the Appian Way banner; and Ben Affleck and Jennifer Todd (“Alice in Wonderland,” “Across the Universe”) for Pearl Street Films. Chris Brigham, Dennis Lehane and Chay Carter are serving as executive producers.

Starring with Affleck are Elle Fanning (“Maleficent”), Brendan Gleeson (“In the Heart of the Sea,” the “Harry Potter” films), Chris Messina (“Argo,” “The Mindy Project”), Sienna Miller (“American Sniper,” “Foxcatcher”), Zoe Saldana (“Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Avatar”), and Oscar winner Chris Cooper (“Adaptation,” “The Town”).

Find your chance to receive special advance movie screening passes below. 

Phoenix, Arizona

Date: Monday, January 9
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Time: 7:00pm
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Date: Monday, January 9
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John Wick: Chapter 2 Official Trailer – Wick Goes Off

Starring Keanu Reeves, Common, Riccardo Scamarcio, Laurence Fishburne, Ruby Rose, Bridget Moynahan, Lance Reddick, Franco Nero, with John Leguizamo, and Ian McShane

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In this next chapter following the 2014 hit, legendary hitman John Wick [Keanu Reeves] is forced back out of retirement by a former associate plotting to seize control of a shadowy international assassins’ guild. Bound by a blood oath to help him, John travels to Rome where he squares off against some of the world’s deadliest killers.

In Theaters February 10, 2017

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Going In Style

“GOING IN STYLE”

Oscar winners Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”), Michael Caine (“The Cider House Rules,” “Hannah and Her Sisters”) and Alan Arkin (“Little Miss Sunshine”) team up as lifelong buddies Willie, Joe and Al, who decide to buck retirement and step off the straight-and-narrow for the first time in their lives when their pension fund becomes a corporate casualty, in director Zach Braff’s comedy “Going in Style.”  

Desperate to pay the bills and come through for their loved ones, the three risk it all by embarking on a daring bid to knock off the very bank that absconded with their money.

 The film also stars two-time Oscar nominee Ann-Margret (“Tommy,” “Carnal Knowledge”) as Annie, a grocery cashier who’s been checking Al out in more ways than one. Joey King (“Wish I Was Here”) stars as Joe’s whip-smart granddaughter, Brooklyn; with Oscar nominee Matt Dillon (“Crash”) as FBI Agent Hamer; and Christopher Lloyd (“Back to the Future” trilogy) as the guys’ lodge buddy, Milton.  John Ortiz (“Silver Linings Playbook”) also stars as Jesus, a man of unspecified credentials who agrees to show the guys the ropes, and Peter Serafinowicz (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) as Joe’s former son-in-law, Murphy, whose pot clinic connections may finally prove useful.

Zach Braff (“Garden State”) directs from a screenplay by Theodore Melfi (“St. Vincent”). 

“Going in Style” is produced by Donald De Line (“The Italian Job”).  The executive producers are Toby Emmerich, Samuel J. Brown, Michael Disco, Andrew Haas, Jonathan McCoy, Tony Bill, who was a producer on the 1979 film “Going in Style,” and Bruce Berman.

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In Theaters April 7, 2017

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american-pastoral

American Pastoral

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Phillip Roth novel of the same name, “American Pastoral” follows an American family through a personal tragedy; the ultimate reason for it and result of it being very much the focus of that generation of American youth and the young generation of today.  In the 1960’s there were protests over war and protests for the rights of African Americans that got incredibly violent but there was something else going on with many of the protestors that went deeper than the known movements.  “American Pastoral” is a very powerful film about a father, Seymour ‘Swede’ Levov (McGregor) attempting to save his daughter amidst this chaos and ultimately save her from herself.

At a very young age, Merry (Fanning) felt she was in competition with her mother Dawn (Connelly) for her father’s attention.  This assertion needed a defense and she developed a stutter that her perfect mother didn’t have but which Merry always garnered pity and sympathy.  Though very young, she was aware of self.  Merry knew what she wanted; believing that, ‘life is just a short space of time in which you are alive.’  She lived her life with this frame of mind and still quite early in her mental development she witnesses, on television, the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk who burned himself to death in Saigon.  The reason the man did this was because to protest the South Vietnamese Diem regime’s pro-Catholic policies and its banning of the Buddhist flag.  This leaves a heavy impression on Merry and she grows into an angry young woman filled with guilt for her parents’ wealth, self-condemnation for living the good life when so many others have nothing and a general hatred for all things, making it difficult for her parents to know who she truly is.  She suddenly disappears after a post office bombing that leaves one man dead.  Her parents start to fall apart as the accusations and evidence against Merry begins to grow.  They begin to change during this process and the story goes from a sweet loving family to one divided as Seymour never gives up on finding his daughter, ultimately clearing her name and helping her.  When he finds his darling child and she admits her guilt, he still refuses to give up on her, loving her through the wrong she’s done and the shame she feels toward herself for being born.

Ewan McGregor gives a stirring performance and captivates the audience in his directorial debut.
Shari K. Green

Sr. Film Writer and Community Manager, tmc.io

Ewan McGregor gives a stirring performance and captivates the audience in his directorial debut.  What little you see of Fanning is compelling and she, as well as her characters chilling beliefs, leaves an impression on you that is hard to shake.  Outside of the unnecessary narration and how the story begins, which is a conversation at a reunion, the movie is powerful and haunting.  This will be considered for nominations this year as it speaks to past civil unrest and what we’re still going through in present day.    

Sleepless Official Trailer

SLEEPLESS stars Jamie Foxx as undercover Las Vegas police officer Vincent Downs, who is caught in a high stakes web of corrupt cops and the mob-controlled casino underground. When a heist goes wrong, a crew of homicidal gangsters kidnaps Downs’ teenage son. In one sleepless night he will have to rescue his son, evade an internal affairs investigation and bring the kidnappers to justice.