Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Toy Story 4 (2019)

Image is property of Disney and Pixar

Toy Story 4 – Film Review

Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Joan Cusack, Blake Clark, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Jordan Peele, Keegan Michael Key, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks

Director: Josh Cooley

Synopsis: When Bonnie brings a new toy named Forky home, the new toy is unsure of himself and when he gets lost in an amusement park, Woody and the gang set out to save their friend.

Review: “So long, partner” as those words were uttered by everyone’s favourite rootin’ tootin’ cowboy Woody at the end of Toy Story 3, it was the perfect ending to a near perfect trilogy, or so we thought. Amid the waterworks that many audiences likely experienced at the time, we were led to believe it was the final bow for Woody and the gang. Yet those folks at Pixar clearly had other ideas, and while the news of a fourth film was greeted with initial scepticism, Pixar once again proved that they still have that magic touch.

In the years since Toy Story 3, Woody has very much fallen down the pecking order among the gang, with new owner Bonnie preferring to fill her playtime with the other toys. This is until Bonnie makes a new toy out of a fork, and appropriately dubs him “Forky.” It doesn’t take long for this little utensil becomes Bonnie’s most valued possession and so Woody takes it upon himself to look after him and teach Forky what it means to be a toy. Though matters are complicated when Forky gets lost in an amusement park, and Woody decides to go after him in an attempt to bring him back to Bonnie.

With each of the previous three films, they all developed the narrative in a significant manner. New, and memorable toys were introduced, and the toys themselves were put in emotionally investing predicaments, situations where the audience could relate to the dilemmas these toys were going through. This time around, though it is a it’s a story that does merit being told, it’s doesn’t quite feel as well developed as its predecessors, nor as emotionally charged as the three films that came before it. Though once again, Woody is very much at the centre of this new adventure, as is a very different Bo Peep, who makes a welcome return to the franchise.

Though Bo’s return is a welcome one, Woody’s old gang of toys such as Buzz, Jessie, Ham, Slinky and the Potato Heads are given very little to do and so they are frustratingly sidelined. However, this gives Woody and Bo a chance to rekindle an old friendship, whilst letting a new crop of toys to take centre stage. Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele, bring the hilarity you would expect from them as a fluffy duck and bunny respectively. Meanwhile, Keanu Reeves lends his charm and talents to the super cool Duke Caboom, a toy who’s clearly not shy of charisma or confidence, and who loves to strike a pose. It’s these three new additions that give the film bulk of the laughs, with Key and Peele’s comedy background definitely coming to the fore.

To follow in the wake of what Pixar achieved all those years ago, was always going to be a tall order. Though the themes that have been at the heart of this franchise from the very first time we met Woody and the gang all those years ago remain very much present in this new adventure. There are elements of this story that feel a little underdeveloped, and consequently they don’t quite recapture those glorious highs of the first trilogy. Going back to this franchise could have backfired, but as they so often do, Pixar reached for the sky to give those who grew up with these toys another worthwhile, immaculately animated film that earns its place in the Toy Story toy-box.

It doesn’t pack the emotional punch of its predecessors, but with a story worth telling and a delightful mix of old and new characters alike, you’ll be glad to go to Infinity and Beyond with these guys all over again.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)

Image is property of Lionsgate and Thunder Road Pictures

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum – Film Review

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Anjelica Huston

Director: Chad Stahelski

Synopsis: With a $14million bounty now on his head after breaking Continental rules, John Wick is on the run with nowhere to go, and in the crosshairs of every hit-man and woman in the world….

Review: There’s a moment early on in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum where a character seethes at John Wick for the hell his actions have wrought, “all of this for what?! Because of a puppy?!” “It wasn’t just a puppy,” Wick retorts back. The aforementioned “this” refers to the carnage that has followed since a bunch of ill-judged thugs killed the dog bequeathed to John Wick upon the death of his wife. An event that sent the legendary hitman on a furious rampage of revenge. After said rampage ended, a commitment to a contract once again landed Wick in another spot of bother, and now all hell is about to break loose.

Set immediately in the wake of the previous film, John has been declared “ex-communicado” from the Continental after he violated one of the unbreakable rules of the Continental, by murdering someone on company grounds. Consequently, the High Table has placed a 14 million dollar open contract on John’s head, that soon has every deadly assassin in the world on his trail. The hunter has become the hunted, but God help anyone that does decide to try their hand at taking down Baba Yaga himself.

Neigh chance that the bad guys are living through this one…

Keanu Reeves has made his name as an action star, and once again, he excels in this role. It is undoubtedly one of the key appeals of these films is to see an action star like him, commit to doing some jaw dropping stunts, whilst also getting to see him kill folks, via any means necessary. In this instance, given that he has quite a few people who are out for his blood in a bid to land that 14million dollar jackpot, it gives returning director Chad Stahelski scope to once again gleefully find ways for Wick to creatively finish off his pursuers. The direction is once again imperious and in a series that has already produced mesmerising action scenes, fights involving dogs, horses and other methods ensure that the bonkers factor has been turned up to eleven.

Alongside Reeves, the familiar presence of Ian McShane’s Winston, is suave as ever. The real scene stealers in this new instalment are the women. Halle Berry, who leapt at the opportunity to be a part of the franchise, plays Sofia, a femme fatale with a connection to Wick’s past. Though she frustratingly doesn’t have a great deal of screen-time, when she is on screen, she damn well makes her presence known. Likewise for Asia Kate Dillion, a cold and ruthless representative of the High Table, who’s there to ensure that John Wick pays the penalty for his actions.  Unfortunately, as the film is so top heavy with action, that the surrounding story lacks the deeply personal element that the first two films had in abundance. As such, the moments in between the enthralling actions scenes where the bullets/knives aren’t raining down on the bad guys, do feel a little tedious.

The lack of real emotional drama gives the other two films the edge over Parabellum. However, in spite of this being not as strong as the other two films, you have got to give the plaudits to Stahelski and the stunt teams of these films. The action scenes have been its big selling point from the very first film, and in this respect, they have consistently delivered. Furthermore, for an actor who is now well into his fifties, you’ve also got to hand it to Reeves for committing himself to the role that has reaffirmed him as one of the best action stars working today. If you want peace, prepare for war, or at least some bloody good action scenes, because that’s what Mr Wick, suited, booted, significantly bloodied and bruised, will give to you.

Packed to the brim with thrilling action scenes, but a significantly weaker story bereft of the emotional drama of the previous films prevents this sequel from firing on all cylinders. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

John Wick (2015)

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Image is property of Summit Entertainment, Thunder Road Pictures, 87Eleven Productions, MJW Films and DefyNite Films

John Wick – Film Review

Cast:  Keanu Reeves, Alfie Allen, Michael Nvqist, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Willem Dafoe

Directors: Chad Stahelski and David Leitch

Synopsis: John Wick is a former hitman who after falling in love seeks to leave the profession behind. After a brutal attack by some gangsters that takes those closest to him, he decides to suit up and take revenge.

Review: Cinema is not exactly short of complete badasses who can and will come after you, and kill you without mercy should you mess with them. The likes of James Bond, Ethan Hunt and Jason Bourne, or the Bride from the Kill Bill movies are a few names that might come to mind. Yet back in 2015, another name was added to that list of characters, who you dare not cross, this man’s name, is John Wick. Cross him at your peril, especially if you harm his pets, as he will rain a few hundred bullets in your direction.

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Keanu Reeves is no stranger to the action genre, what with The Matrix being arguably the most notable thing on his CV to date, and he’s a fitting choice to play this awesome badass hitman. He handles the stunts superbly well and as a protagonist, you just want to root for him and see him waste the bad guys. And, for first time directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, themselves former stunt men, they know and fully understand that you came here to see Wick waste some bad guys, and they certainly deliver the goods. The action is directed superbly well, and the stunt work is faultless. What’s more, there’s no shaky camera work of any kind. It’s all in the frame and all there for you to watch in all of its bloody glory as the bodies pile up.

Visually, the film is super stylish and everything is very well made, the lighting in some scenes is exquisite and it is edited together seamlessly. It is gripping stuff to watch, even if certain aspects of the plot are so paper thin. This is not an in depth character study, this is just a good old fashioned action flick, in which you throw popcorn in your face and enjoy the action. That being said, besides Wick, there’s not a great deal of character development, and there definitely could have been some more meat on the bones of these characters, their motivations, and why they do what they do.

The acting is functional from everyone involved except for Keanu of course, who stands out as a cut above the rest, as he should. But again, this is no Oscar bait movie driven by its screenplay, this is not what you came for. You come to see one man fight bad guys, and that is what you get. What’s more, with this fantastic introduction to this sort of hitmen underworld of hitmen hotels, bars and doctors etc might all sound ridiculous and dumb, but it most certainly is not! With Stahelski returning for the movie’s sequel and Leitch going off to direct the sequel to Deadpool, there’s plenty more to come from these two, and plenty more from Mr Wick too!

You walk into this film knowing what you’re about to see, and it’s nothing but damn glorious fun, with a terrific central performance from Keanu Reeves.

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