We Want Action: John Wick (2014)

I don’t see a lot of movies in the theater. As a result, I try to use my Netflix queue — yup, still have the disc subscription in addition to the streaming one — to remind myself of what newer movies I want to see. But, as anyone with a queue knows, these things wind up acquiring hundreds of possible films, many of which get sent and then sit around for weeks.

I’d sat on a movie like that for an embarrassing amount of time and vowed to watch the next film with a quickness. That turned out to be the 2014 Keanu Reeves movie John Wick directed by Chad Stahelski. A lot of people told me how good this film was, so I was interested in what I came to know as “the dog revenge movie.” I actually followed through, popped the movie in and got about 25 minutes in before the disc got all skitchy and I had to send it back. Continue reading We Want Action: John Wick (2014)

Keanu Computer Double Feature: Johnny Mnemonic (1995) & The Matrix (1999)

johnny mnemonic Johnny Mnemonic‘s one of those 90s sci-fi action movies I saw once in high school and didn’t really think of much between then and when it popped up on Netflix Instant fairly recently. The movie finds Keanu Reeves’ title character working as an information courier. Instead of carrying the data in a briefcase, though, he gets it uploaded into his head. When mobsters attack as he’s getting the upload, things start going south for the guy who wants nothing more from life than to live the typical 80s yuppie lifestyle. Too bad for him, though, it turns out that what’s in his head is not only killing him, but could also save the lives of millions of people in this dystopian technofuture created by William Gibson, the godfather of cyberpunk.

I thought this was a pretty fun little action movie. In addition to Reeves you’ve got Ice-T playing a kind of resistance leader named J-Bone, Henry Rollins as a tech expert going by Spider and Dolph Lundgren as a crazy street preacher named Street Preacher. Oh and 90s That Lady Dina Meyer is Jane, Johnny’s bodyguard. She was in a few episodes of Friends and also Starship Troopers around this same time. The cast is pretty far from perfect, but the biggest bonus of this film is that you get to see Dolph Lundgren fighting Henry Rollins (or at least their stunt doubles going at it).

After giving this movie another watch, I get why I hadn’t thought much about it since the late 90s. While it is fun and Reeves gives a solid performance, it just doesn’t feel all that groundbreaking. Sure, it seemed to have a better budget than most of the other 90s dystopian action movies I’ve seen, but then you’ve got Rollins’ not-so-great acting and then there’s a cyber dolphin and, while I love Dolph, his character’s about as one note as you can get. Plus, when you think of Keanu Reeves sci-fi movies from the 90s, it’s really hard to think of anything past…

the matrix

I mean, come on. This movie wasn’t just big, is was revolutionary. From the way it handled computer based worlds to those mind-bending action scenes, The Matrix very simply changed the game of big budget sci-fi action films. And all of that is thanks to Andy and Lana — then Larry — Wachowski and their insanely big vision for this film and it’s pair of sequels.

I often wonder about the impact of 90s cinema on pop culture outside of my generation. There were so many movies that were huge when I was growing up that don’t seem to get talked about anymore. Backdraft and Forest Gump are two that come to mind and I hope The Matrix isn’t like that. But, watching it again for the first time in maybe 10 years, I can see how it might seem dated to younger viewers and I’m not talking about the special effects. All that leather and those glasses and just about everything everyone wears just seems so 90s/early 00s, but maybe that’s because this movie was just so damn influential. In other words, is it a “what came first” scenario?

On the other hand, I wonder how much teenagers know about what was going down 20 years ago in general. When I was growing up in the 90s, the 70s were huge again and seemed very well documented all over the place. The nostalgia loop I mentioned when reviewing 54 had a lot to do with that, but I also don’t know how culturally impactful the 90s are to kids today, so maybe they wouldn’t think of those outfits as dated and could just get lost in the movie’s crazy world.

If you don’t remember — or you happen to be younger and aren’t familiar — The Matrix takes place on an Earth overrun by intelligent machines who now use humans incubating in egg-like pods for food. To keep the human brains occupied they built a computer simulation that allows them to live out their daily lives never knowing what’s really going on around them. Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, gets selected by a man named Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) to learn about the true reality and help fight the machines. Morpheus believes Neo to be the chosen one, an idea that gets backed up when he takes to manipulating the Matrix incredibly well as the film progresses.

While there is a certain amount of affectation to the proceedings, I still really enjoyed this movie. And, since it had been long enough since I watched it, I was surprised by some of the smaller moments, though most of the larger ones are etched in my brain. This movie came out when I was 16. I remember seeing something else while my buddy Chad went to see this at the huge theater out in Maumee that’s actually closed now (it was one of the first stadium seating megaplexes in our area). It was a much longer movie, so we waited a while for him to come out and when he did it looked like he’d seen the face of the creator. He was blown away. As we did at that time, we promptly made fun of him and then saw the movie ourselves and loved it. I had a poster on my wall and the VHS tape when it came out. And I remember seeing at least one if not both of the sequels in IMAX. This was a huge franchise for my generation and came along at the perfect time for me personally because it was the beginning of my more grown up movie going career.

I know the sequels got a lot of flack for being difficult to understand, which I can’t speak to because I don’t remember much about them, but this movie stands as its own wonderful thing that got me excited about movies when I was a kid and had much the same effect for me as an adult. Hopefully I’ll get around to the sequels in the relative future and see if I can make sense of them. No promises though considering it took me several tries to watch both of these movies as I am a very tired old man these days.

Trailer Time: I, Frankenstein, 47 Ronin & Out Of The Furnace

After showing off that new image of Aaron Eckhart as Adam, the I, Frankenstein gang unveiled the first trailer which comes packed with winged monsters, fire, Bill Nighy and Yvonne Strahovski, all of which are very good things. The film opens on January 24, 2014.

The latest 47 Ronin trailer features a good deal of footage we’ve already seen, but a bit more of Keanu taking on the dragon. Still looks like a lot of rad stuff in this film which debuts on December 25th.

Out Of The Furnace finds Christian Bale delving into the world of underground fight clubs run by Woody Harrelson in Out Of The Furnace. The December 6th debuting dramatic thriller looks pretty intense if we do say so ourselves.

Trailer Time: Man Of Tai Chi, Arrow Season 2 & Serangoon Road

Man Of Tai Chi not only marks Keanu Reeves’ return to the world of martial arts movies, but also his first outing as a director. In the film, he plays an evil puppetmaster type figure trying to see if he can corrupt a supposed man of peace played by Tiger Hu Chen.  The film hits VOD and iTunes on September 27th and select theaters on October 1st.

The second season of Arrow looks to get pretty epic with the Hood trying to fix the destruction seen at the end of the CW show’s first season while also dealing with all kinds of comic book based characters like Black Canary, Bronze Tiger and Amanda Waller. The new season premieres on October 9th. 

According to Asian Movie Pulse, HBO’s working on a series called Serangoon Road set in 60s Singapore dealing with gangs, spies and other shady groups. They’re shooting the series in Singapore and Indonesia right now. Looks pretty intriguing.

New Russian 47 Ronin Trailer Showcases Mystical Foes

The more new material we see from Carl Rinsch’s 47 Ronin starring Keanu Reeves, the more excited we get. The first trailer and batch of posters were pretty epic looking and while the international trailer didn’t offer much in the way of new, this latest Russian trailer certainly shows off a few new looks at some of Reeves’ opponents in all their monster-y glory. 

Here’s the film’s summary:

From ancient Japan’s most enduring tale, the epic 3D fantasy-adventure 47 Ronin is born. Keanu Reeves leads the cast as Kai, an outcast who joins Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), the leader of the 47 Ronin. Together they seek vengeance upon the treacherous overlord who killed their master and banished their kind. To restore honor to their homeland, the warriors embark upon a quest that challenges them with a series of trials that would destroy ordinary warriors.

47 Ronin also stars Rinko Kikuchi and Rick Genest and hits theaters on December 25th.

Trailer Time: 47 Ronin, The Harder They Come & The Seventh Son

47 Ronin looks pretty rad as you can see in this new international trailer. But we’ll have to wait until December 25th to see if that’s the case.

One of the most beloved music flicks of all time, The Harder They Come starring Jimmy Cliff, is returning to select theaters this September. The film features a wannabe musician who must turn to crime to make it in the world.

This one’s from last month, but check out the first trailer from Jeff Bridges’ The Seventh Son which will now be distributed through Universal instead of Legendary’s previous partner Warner Bros. Looks sufficiently epic and fantastical. We can’t wait to see Jeff Bridges in the “wise old teacher” role. The film does not yet have a U.S. release date.

47 Ronin Gets Four Posters & A Trailer

I wrote about the first trailer and 4-pack of 47 Ronin posters over on Spinoff Online today, but figured it couldn’t hurt to show them off here too. Scope out the trailer for Carl Rinsch’s first feature above and the posters featuring stars Keanu Reeves, Rinko Kikuchi and Rick Genest (those tatts are real, you guys) below.

I didn’t know a whole lot about this movie going into this trailer, but I’ve got to say, this flick looks pretty amazing. It reminds me of how I felt when we started seeing Sucker Punch trailers. It looks like this gigantic, big budget action flick with tons of special effects money and skill involved. Hopefully the finished project will be less confusing and video game-y than Punch turned out to be, though.

47 Ronin comes out swinging on December 25th.

80s Odyssey: Brotherhood Of Justice (1986) & Millennium (1989)

I think you can take a look at the poster to the left here and understand why I wanted to watch this 1986 TV movie. Young Keanu Reeves and Kiefer Sutherland in a movie where Reeves and his high school pals decide to start defending their school from some of the bad kids, fitting in with the late 80s/early 90s tradition of such films as Class of 1999 and Band of the Hand.

This time around, Reeves and his boys decide to start defending their school after the principal basically gives an impassioned speech asking for kids to stand up for themselves and their school. They come up with a few rules and decide that they will attack people but only if 1) they all agree and 2) their intel guy can dig up enough stuff to convince them of actual wrong doing.

As these things tend to, though, some of the guys let the newfound power and quasi-fame get to their heads and want to start breaking their own rules. But, being the good guy he is, Reeves doesn’t agree. If you’re wondering how Sutherland fits in, he’s the guy that Reeves’ girlfriend is hanging out with. He’s not in the Brotherhood, but winds up on the other end of their gaze because of his relationship with the girl. Oh, by the way, the girlfriend is played by none other than Lori Loughlin of Full House fame. I had a huge crush on her as a kid.

I should probably note that this is not a good movie. It looks kinda bad even for TV standards, though probably not back in 1986. It’s also not very well acted or cast. I mean, Reeves is supposed to be this super white, all American dude, but he doesn’t really look the part. He does to a pretty good job of playing the role earnestly though. Sutherland’s solid too, actually better than the rest of the cast, but he doesn’t have nearly as much screentime. There’s a few fun little bits in there like how they attack their targets and go about their business, but it’s not a must see. I will say that I think Brotherhood of Justice could be ripe for a remake though. Let’s see how Red Dawn does and get to work on that next.

Much like BOJ, I completely stumbled upon Millennium, a film I had never heard of. After seeing it starred Kris Kristofferson and Cheryl Ladd, I was sold. You add in the fact that it’s a movie about time travel and time cops and weird futures and I’m triple sold. Or is the quadruple sold? Forget it, math sucks.

The fairly complicated plot finds Kristofferson investigating a freak plane crash that looks super weird. He winds up hanging out with Ladd who tries to get him to run away with her. We then discover that she’s a time cop from the future who’s investigating…something. I both don’t want to give away details and also missed a few things in the watching, but it turns out that Kristofferson is important and had some involvement in a previous time cop mission.

I was really impressed with how the stories weaved together. Kristofferson and Ladd are on different time lines and in different places in the story when they meet in various scenes and yet everything’s presented in an understandable manner, something that’s not always easy to do in a time travel picture.

I also really liked Kristofferson and Ladd in their roles. They both came off as interesting and complex without bogging things down too much in emotionalism. I also dug Ladd’s boss in the future and her robot assistant or whatever he was supposed to be. I’m not sure what either of their names were, but one of them had a very recognizable voice to me that I couldn’t place.

Anyway, if you’re into time travel movies or like strange futures, Cheryl Ladd or Kris Kristofferson than you can do a lot worse than checking out Millennium.

‘Point’ Taken: A Point Break Review

2008-05-23
4:42:50 am

Woah. I think I fell in love with Point Break tonight. I’d heard about it over the years, am a big Swayze fan and have even seen the Mythbusters episode that talks about the parachuting scenes (I mean, a movie’s gotta be pretty rad if the Mythbusters take it on…or completely ridiculous). If nothing else, I now want to jump out of an airplane, rob a bank, surf and hang out with Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze and Lori Petty. Anyway, let’s jump into:

Point Break (1991)

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

Written by Rick King & W. Peter Iliff

Starring Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, Gary Busey, Lori Petty, John C. McGinley, Anthony Kiedis & Tom Sizemore (for a second)

Okay, so I’ve gotten a few complaints (really, just from Em, but she’s the only one that I’ve heard from next to Ben and Rickey) that the reviews zoom in on the plot a bit too much, so I’m going to try and keep the summarizing up and the in-depth plot reviews down (we’ll see how that works out).

Here’s the basic plot, Keanu plays Johnny Utah, an FBI agent who recently transfered to the robbery unit in LA. His partner is Gary Busey who actually plays one of the less crazy dudes in the movie. They’re trying to bring down a group of bank robbers calling themselves the Ex Presidents (they put on president masks while pulling their jobs). Busey’s got this crazy idea that the robbers are actually surfers (apparently the other agents consider this a crackpot theory, it sounds like good detective work to me, but what do I know?). So, to try and figure out which gang of surfers knocks off banks only during the summer months, Utah goes undercover, gets Lori Petty to teach him to surf and ingratiates himself to a group of surfers including Swayze who plays Bodhi, the lead bank robber. They become friendly, which, of course leads to conflict, much of which takes place while skydiving.

I love this cast. I used to wonder whether Keanu got a bad wrap or if he was just really good at playing the roles he was given. Honestly, I’m still not sure what the deal with him is, but he has some of the most awesomely bad lines in action movie history in this flick (“You’re sayin’ the FBI’s gonna pay me to learn to surf?” “You’re cold because all of the blood is running out of your body Roach. You’re gonna be dead soon. I hope it was worth it.”). Any way you look at it he’s an incredibly entertaining actor, especially as a surfing FBI agent.

And who can deny Swayze’s awesomeness? Have you seen Road House? They even reference it here with a throwaway line mentioning a place called Patrick’s Road House. Nice touch, writers. Whether he’s talking about “feeling waves” or doing crazy ballet and dance moves after jumping out of a plane, this dude is just so freakin’ charismatic that you can’t help but buy into his “sticking it to the man” BS, even though, by the end of the movie, you realize he’s really just a stone-cold psycho with one thing in mind: getting to the 50 year storm.

Also, why isn’t Lori Petty in more stuff? She’s great in everything she does (League of their Own, Tank Girl, Livewire on Superman the Animated Series and even Free Willy). As usual, she has an innocence that really grabs me, even though she’s playing tough broad. Speaking of tough, Gary Busey kills it, as usual, but this time he’s a good guy. Not sure if I’ve ever seen him play a good guy in a movie (or real life), but it was a nice change that he pulled off with his usual crazy bravado.

Okay, so I clearly liked the cast, but I also dug the flick itself. Yeah, it’s about 2 hours, but I feel like there’s always something on screen that kept me interested. You’ve got car chases, foot chases, beach football, surfing, sky diving, sky diving without a parachute, Dakota shooting at the sky (thanks to Hot Fuzz for so eloquently showing me this scene already), bank robberies, masks, sex, a crazy surfer party and even a fight with a group of dudes that looked like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and turned out to actually feature Anthony Kiedis of RHCP (go figure).

And, even though Mythbusters told me that, not only couldn’t Johnny Utah jump out of a plane, grab onto Swayze, pull his shoot, hold on REAL tight and not die, but wouldn’t even be able to hold the mid-air conversations, I still loved the climactic scene. Dang that was just cool (I don’t think I can swear on here, so you’ll just have to deal with my lame swear fill-ins). I even thought Swayze was gonna get away in the end and would have been happy with the film ending in Mexico (like I said, he’s freakin’ charismatic), but the last few minutes in Australia give us a cathartic fight between our good guy and oh-so-likable bad guy resulting in his (maybe) death while surfing the biggest wave in 50 years.

If there’s one movie that I’d like to see continued in a comic, it’s this one. If IDW could do a serviceable job with Scarface (and I think they did, assuming you can get past the fact that Tony’s not dead), why not Point Break? What happens to Johnny after he tosses his badge in the ocean? Does Bodhi die? What happens to Lori Petty and Keanu’s relationship? How does jail treat Anthony Kiedis? Does John C. McGinley (Keanu and Busey’s superior) ever relax? What does Tom Sizemore’s DEA agent (IRONY!) do after Johnny accidentally ruins his bust? There’s so MANY questions. I’ll make this public offer, if writers Rick King & W. Peter Iliff don’t want to take a crack at it, I’m game. I’ve got this thing half-way plotted already and I only finished the movie 30 minutes ago. Your move, other guys!