Movies and video games

SeanSmall

John Wick: Chapter 2 Review – Sinner is Served

5/5 Stars

It is truly a sin to wrong John Wick in this explosive sequel.

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is an infamous hitman who hopes to retire from his work, but unfortunate circumstances and the actions of fools keep him in the game. The anxiety he creates in his fellow hitmen, and in his victims, does not mix well with his longing to kill time over people. Fortunately for us, this dynamic gives us a fantastic film in John Wick: Chapter 2. It isn’t just a fun time at the theatre, but a time to reflect on what makes a good action film… great.

The first film threw its main villain into John Wick’s crosshairs when his son killed John Wick’s dog, the final gift Wick received from his late wife. This is a movie where the wrong guy wrongs the wrong guy: a devious crime lord who believes his life is protected by scores of bodyguards and an unbreakable code. No matter – Santino D’Antonio (Ricardo Scamarcio) is only as safe as John Wick wants him to be. There is a fair bit more substance to John Wick: Chapter 2’s plot than simple contract killing and revenge, as it shows us more of the gritty underworld of the all-powerful Continental, but the action carries the plot, and the style of the action is brilliant.

John Wick blends martial arts and firearms fluidly in combat (known to some as ‘gun-fu’), but with a variety of new armament and more creative ways to kill. In one scene, Wick kills a character with a pencil. In another scene, it’s a suspenseful crawl on a subway. It’s an admirable addition to a formula that already works. Action fans should be sprinting to theatres to see John Wick: Chapter 2, but the average moviegoer may be skeptical of the film’s extreme violence – especially if they haven’t seen the first John Wick film, which is essential viewing in its own right. Still, there is enough supporting the violence that this is no reason for the film to take a hit. Visually rich, expertly choreographed and well-structured, this is a near-perfect film for anyone who can appreciate its style and substance.

-Sean Daniel

 

The LEGO Batman Movie Review – Thrilling Darkness at the Matinee

5/5 stars

There have been countless Batman films spanning decades, most of them incredibly dark. Who would have guessed that Warner Bros. would bring us a self-absorbed Batman, who has every good idea that was ever made, and loves to beatbox? The LEGO Batman Movie flips the classic Batman formula upside down by expanding upon the hilarious character we first met in animated hit The LEGO Movie.

Our plastic hero is Batman (Will Arnett), whose vigilante justice once again saves the day and earns him the admiration of every citizen in Gotham City. Upon returning to the Batcave under Wayne Island, however, he is almost entirely alone. As Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) puts it, Bruce Wayne is on an island figuratively and literally – which is all about to change when he accidentally adopts wide-eyed orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera), and police commissioner Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) suddenly jumps into his life. Batman must put aside his solitude and team up to save the city from an unimaginable new threat.

The animation style, carried over from and improved upon The LEGO Movie, is superb. This is especially evident in one of the opening scenes: a visually spectacular battle ending with an explosive confrontation with The Joker (an endearing Zack Galifianakis), which is filled with LEGO-brick destruction and villains galore. In the later stages of the film, Gotham is changed dramatically, pushing the limits of how great animated plastic bricks can look on the big screen. The attention to detail and use of sight gags (like the jab at Fifty Shades of Grey on a theatre marquee) is remarkable, especially when there’s so much going on at once.

Like the aforementioned sight gag, what really makes this new LEGO franchise (and this film in particular) special is the wacky sense of humour. There is a fine line between rapid-fire comedy and comedy in excess, but The LEGO Batman Movie never crosses it – it balances on it and never falls to cheap jokes or heavy innuendo. Though somewhat less creative than its 2014 predecessor, this is a family-friendly film that offers genuine laughs every minute – and coming from a film starring Batman, that is an achievement in itself.

-Sean Daniel