BARE BONES: JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2

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JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 (2017)

John Wick: Chapter 2 is a well-made sequel that returns Keanu Reeves’ “retired” assassin back to action. Here he must honor the marker from Italian crime boss Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) and go to Italy to assassinate D’Antonio’s own rival crime boss of a sister, Gianna (Claudia Gerini). Wick completes the mission, but is betrayed by D’Antonio with a contract put on his head for seven million dollars. Now every assassin in the NYC area wants the bounty, including Gianna’s vengeful bodyguard (Common).

Written and directed again by Derek Kolstad and Chad Stahelski, respectively, the duo deliver an action packed and fun sequel to the surprise hit John Wick. The action is slick and rapid fire with a larger body count as now Wick must battle his own kind. The locations are used well between Rome and New York City and Reeves is again solid as the stone faced assassin, who just wants to retire. It’s an entertaining action flick and a sequel that knows to stick close enough to the formula to not alienate it’s core audience and yet change’s things just a bit to keep it from being stale. Ian McShane returns as Winston as does John Leguizamo as Aurelio with Lawrence Fishburn appearing as the leader of a guild of homeless street people assassins in NYC.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: PASSENGERS (2016)

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PASSENGERS (2016)

Painfully generic Sci-fi/romance has the starship Avalon making a 100+ year journey to a new home world with it’s crew and passengers in hyper sleep for the trip. The ship sustains some damage during a trip through an asteroid field…guess, there is no safety contingency for that…and one of the results is the early awakening of engineer Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) about 90 years too early, with no way (conveniently for the story) of getting back to hibernation…I guess no safety contingency for that either. After a year of loneliness, Jim reviews the ship’s passenger logs…a bit creepy…and finds and falls for pretty Aurora Lane and decides to awaken her, too…even creepier. Faster than you can say The Love Boat, the two fall head over heels, till the damage to the ship becomes critical and now they are the only hope of saving the lives of everyone sleeping on board…and did I mention that Jim is conveniently an engineer?

As directed by Morten Tyldum from Jon Saithts’ hopelessly cliché script, this is a dull and predictable flick despite Lawrence and Pratt having some real chemistry. Everything happens for convenience, whether to help or hinder our couple, like Lawrence Fishburn’s Captain waking up just long enough to point our couple in the right direction before leaving the scenario, or just the right miscommunication at the wrong time allowing Aurora to find out her awakening wasn’t an accident. And that is another mistake, having Jim cruelly and selfishly awakening Aurora to suffer his own fate, just for company, is something we can never forgive the character for, even if Aurora does…and it’s no surprise in this dreck that she unrealistically will. The FX are top notch and the cast give it their all, but a weak script and by-the-numbers direction sink the Avalon far quicker than any asteroids. Would love to see Lawrence and Pratt in a far better flick; they were good together.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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REVIEW: BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016)

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BATMAN v. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

The much anticipated match-up between the two greatest comic book characters of all-time is a mess, no doubt about it, but there is a lot to like here, too. The story picks up 18 months after the battle in Metropolis between Superman and Zod and the world is starting to sour over the notion of a man with god-like powers running around of his own volition. Two men particularly being unhappy about it are billionaire Lex Luthor (a completely miscast Jesse Eisenberg) and billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). I guess rich people hate Superman. The Dark Knight saw many Wayne Enterprises employees die in Metropolis and starts to wonder if Superman (Henry Cavill) can be trusted and Lex Luthor is more than happy to give both men a push in the confrontational direction. Will The Bat of Gotham and The Man Of Steel go head to head…and will the world survive it?

The script by Chris Terrio and David Goyer is simply all over the place and a lot of it doesn’t gel. The reasons for Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent to suddenly become so concerned with the activities of The Batman in Gotham is never really clear, as it also doesn’t really completely work that Wayne would develop such an intense hatred for Superman, since he has done a lot of good. The first hour of the film bounces back and forth between a bunch of story-lines, including one about a possible conspiracy to frame Superman for death’s he’s not responsible for and a mysterious woman (Gal Gadot) that keeps popping up in Bruce Wayne’s life. It’s very fractured and takes over an hour to settle into a grove. Zack Snyder is a brilliant visual director, but I never felt he was a strong storyteller and with a very weak and fractured story, it is all the more obvious. The film wanders back and forth without much purpose in the first act when Snyder has little going on that he can turn into spectacle. There is some solid action within the film, though and some nice personal moments, too, but it all comes crashing down when Snyder delivers an even more overblown finale than with Man Of Steel. At that point the overlong film is already getting tiresome, we get an apocalyptic battle with Doomsday and then the film goes on for another 15 minutes, or so, for a very morose conclusion. The battle between Bats and Supes was starting to turn the film around somewhat, then Snyder throws in Doomsday and the film collapses under the weight of more bombastic destruction with a generic CGI monster that generates no menace, whatsoever. Throw in a somber and mopey Superman, some pointless dream sequences and the totally miscalculated portrayal of a creepy Lex Luthor by Eisenberg and it basically is a mess with a few shining moments.

So, what was there to like about it…and surprisingly there is a lot to like. First off, Ben Affleck makes an awesome Bruce Wayne and Batman. While story-wise I wasn’t really sold on his intense hatred for Superman, the character itself was different than we have seen previously, yet really nailed the darkness and the whole Bat persona. His action scenes also really rock and capture the ferocity of a man working out his own inner turmoil. Another very pleasant surprise is Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot isn’t the strongest actress, but when she wades into battle during the climax, she steals the show. Another character the film nails and she was a lot of fun to watch and really lays into Doomsday like a badass. As for the battle between Superman and Batman, it was the highlight of the film and here Snyder showed some surprising restraint. Also we get to really see Batman’s ingenuity and preparedness come to bare as he battles someone who could squash him easily. It’s a shame they had to sully the moment by going into extra innings with Doomsday…though they did need a reason for the World’s Finest to unite. It’s just too bad it’s back to over-the-top and out of control. Obviously the FX are top notch, the film looks great and there is another solid score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL.

The cast are a solid except for you-know-who. Cavill is good as Superman, but the script has him pouting and grimacing in anger most of the time and it’s disappointing that we see so little of the hope Superman is supposed to bring. Affleck is great as both Bruce Wayne and Batman. He portrays a man starting to show the effects of aging, who has his own demons and bitterness to deal with and which also motivates him. As Batman, he is truly intimidating and his fight scenes are really nasty and intense like they should be. As his loyal butler Alfred, Jeremy Irons is impeccable and gives us a man who we believe can actually take care of and assist both Bruce Wayne and The Dark Knight. He has a subtle smart-ass quality that really worked. Gal Gadot is a little wooden in her dialog sequences as Diana Prince, but when Wonder Woman joins the fun, she gives her the fire and spirit of a true amazon warrior. She really does steal the scenes she’s in, once she is in battle. Now the big question…Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, what were they thinking? Not everything he does is bad and his part is badly written, but he was more Renfield or Gollum than super villain and his Luthor seems too unhinged to be in control of a multi-billion dollar empire. He comes across as that weird uncle that makes everyone uncomfortable, not a formidable opponent for our heroes. Amy Adams is good again as Lois Lane, but isn’t given much to do but be a damsel in distress. The same goes for Diane Lane. A waste of both their talents as is the same for the barely seen Lawrence Fishburn as Perry White.

So, the eagerly awaited meeting and mash-up of the World’s Finest is a bit of a mess and a mixed bag. On one hand, it delivers a great new Batman, a scene stealing Wonder Woman and a well-done battle between The Dark Knight and The Last Son Of Krypton. On the other hand it’s way too long, gives us a creepy and far too eccentric Lex Luthor, has a really muddled first act and follows up the Bats/Supes battle royal with a ridiculously overblown orgy of destruction featuring a generic CGI monster. There is a lot to like here, but, overall, this dream match is more of a dream mess.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 World’s Finest.

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