Saturday, February 25, 2017

JW2, C4W, and IATPTTLITH.... (Three movie reviews, identified by acronyms)

John Wick: Chapter 2

Keanu Reeves returns as the dark killer-for-hire, John Wick in this sequel to the surprise hit from a few years back. Picking up after the events of the first film, Reeves finishes his tornado of vengeance and declares a peace when he finds his missing car. Upon returning home, an old acquaintance arrives and requests a service from Wick. Having once performed a favor for Wick, John owes this man a blood debt and is pressed into service as an initial refusal brings disaster to our title character. 

Reeves in intense in this film and the action is brutal. But the world-building atmosphere of John Wick 2 is the main selling point with some terrific supporting performances from Ian McShane, Common, and Ruby Rose. The World of John Wick is one of intrigue, espionage, and a far reaching criminal empire with tendrils that reach throughout the world. I was kind of thrilled to see an appearance from Italian action star, Franco Nero... but most audiences will be most thrilled with the appearance of Lawrence Fishburne is a surprising turn. 

Having never seen the first film in the series, I was going in a little cold and a little hesitant. Nothing about the first film’s advertising gave me a reason to believe there may be something in it for me… but JW2 is everything I love from an action film! The shots are well choreographed, stunts framed well, and a total lack of shaky cam made for one of the best action movies I’ve seen in a while. The frenetic pacing was dependent on the actors and the story rather than the film techniques or cheap tricks to hide the fantastic stunt work on display.

8.5 out of 10. 

“A Cure For Wellness”

Gore Verbinsky returns to the horror genre with this mind-bending tale. The film centers around a treatment center in Sweden where the rich and ailing travel for long term treatments. Dane Dehaan stars as Lockhart, a young executive sent to retrieve the company’s CEO from the center. Once there, he finds that the patients seem entirely satisfied to remain and convincing the CEO to leave may be a difficult proposition. Things become further complicated when a car crash forces Lockhart to remain in the center where he experiences the Center’s treatment plan as prescribed by the mysterious Dr. Volmer.

Of course we know nothing is quite what it seems. Lockhart meets a number of patients at the center who raise the young executives suspicion. An elderly woman obsessed with mysteries, a successful pair of venture capitalists who seem far too happy to remain far from their business, the suspicious townspeople, and a young girl who seems to be a “special case” for Dr.Volmer. When the treatment begins to result in strange delusions, Lockhart races to piece together the mystery of the Center.

Well, “races” is a subjective term here… Verbinsky is entirely too indulgent with his direction for the film and the story seems to stretch far beyond it’s capacity. At nearly two and a half hours, the film could easily shed around thirty minutes or more and maintain a much smoother narrative structure. As it is, the films momentum often sputters to a stop just when things are getting good. Dehaan is a fantastic actor, but he is often saddled with too many scenes that establish a lack of sympathy we should have for him.

With allusions to Lovecraft and the gothic style of classic Hammer Films, “A Cure For Wellness” can be an enjoyable ride for fans of the genre.

6 out of 10. Moderate recommendation.

“I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House”

A Netflix Original premiere, “I Am…” is a quiet film with a small premise. A young nurse(Lilly, played by Ruth Wilson) is hired to care for an aging writer (Paula Prentiss) suffering from dementia.  As she spends time in the lonely house, she is struck with a sense of something being present at various points in time. We are warned that Lilly is 28 years old and she will not see 29. We are told that a house with death in it can never be bought or sold, only “borrowed” from it’s ghosts. As strange occurrences keep happening, Lily is led toward a deeper mystery when she is mistakenly referred to as “Polly” by her patient.

“I Am” is a haunting film with plenty of atmosphere and a perfect use of sound and lighting effects to tell what is a very simple story. It’s minimalism works for it and it’s classical writing is both familiar and mesmerizing. A slow burn drama that sizzles to a brief and satisfying explosion that echoes into an uncomfortable finale.

7 out of 10 and a recommend.

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