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Posts Tagged ‘John Wick’

At a time when action movies have become CGI laden and often dull, there are occasionally films that break the mould.  Shortly before his short live retirement,  Steven Soderbergh made Haywire (2011).  The story goes that while channel surfing late at night Soderbergh spotted Gina Carano fighting in an MMA fight on TV.  He quickly developed the idea of Mallory Kane, a highly trained operative working for an independent contractor.  One of the notable things about the film is the way the fight scenes are staged.  Shot at mid range with long takes, much the way MMA and Boxing is shot.  This is a world away from the ultra close-up highly edited style that can make anyone look like an action hero.  Then came John Wick (2014); former stunt men and stunt coordinators Chad Stahelski and David Leitch made their feature debut.  Making the most of Keanu Reeves martial arts skills the fight scenes and gun fu are highly choreographed making the whole spectacle like a ballet. The photography and editing combines styles with a mixture of long takes and quick cuts.John Wick Haywire

While Chad Stahelski made John Wick Chapter 2, his former directing partner, David Leitch went his own way and made Atomic Blonde.  An action spy thriller the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart’s.  Charlize Theron stars MI6 field agent sent to Berlin in the last few days before the fall of the wall to retrieve a McGuffin that anyone who has seen Mission: Impossible or Skyfall will be familiar with.  The film is so stylish it makes a Luc Besson look passively plain, the action is fantastic and Charlize Theron is a  charismatic and likeable lead.  The film is a little too plot heavy to be as fun as John Wick; there are a series of twists and turns that you will see coming a mile of, but none of this matters, it is still an enjoyable movie.attomic blonde

In the near thirty years since the film was set films have changed a lot so I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the spy and or action movies of 1989:

Starting with the spy thrillers: Licence to Kill was Timothy Dalton’s second and final James Bond movie.  A more violent and action based movie than earlier Bond movies, it recived mixed reviews on release.  I loved it and am happy to report it has aged well and in the era of Daniel Craig’s Bond people are beginning to re-evaluate Timothy Dalton’s time as 007.Licence to Kill

The same is not true of The Experts; a  John Travolta vehicle in the pre Pulp Fiction wilderness years.  I seem to remember enjoying it at the time but re-watched it about ten years ago and was surprised just how bad it was.  It was also considered a box office bomb at the time.the experts

Technically a 1988 move: Red Scorpion was released in the USA and UK in ’89.  Significant as it portrays Dolph Lundgren as a soviet soldier who ends up fighting African freedom fighters against Soviet oppression.  I remember liking the film at the time, it did however receive poor reviews, I must re watch it to see.Red Scorpion

We think of Marvel and DC comic book movies as a modern thing, with about three each a year as well as TV spinoffs, but both comic book giants had movies out in 1989.  The more significant of the two: Batman; Tim Burtons vision of the dark knight was revolutionary.  A dark brooding gothic fairytale Batman a world away from the camp of the60’s TV show.  The Batmobile looked amazing and the black sculpted latex batsuit was revolutionary.  I’m not sure if Michael Keaton is the best Batman, he is certainly the best Bruce Wayne.  Over at Marvel, Dolph Lundgren was staring as Frank Castle, aka: The Punisher.  Taking the idea of the Marvel character but changing many details of his origin.  The film isn’t great, and is a world away from current Marvel movies, but it isn’t terrible either and has a certain charm.Batman The Punisher

Cop movies, particularly buddy cop movies were all the rage at the time, the best of the bunch was Lethal Weapon 2. Almost as good as the original, this first sequel had all the action and excitement of the first in the franchise but with a lot more comedy.   Other entries to the subgenre worth watching are: Black Rain and Tango & Cash.Lethal Weapon 2 Black Rain Tango & Cash

One of the best movies of the year and possibly my favourite of the franchise: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  Taking a big risk with a very self indulgent origin or the character prologue that not only works, it enhances the film.Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Two years after Dirty Dancing and two before Point Break, Patrick Swayze’s star was on the rise, he had two movies out in ’89 the better of the two was: Roadhouse. Dumb action fun, it isn’t a great film but its impossible not to like it. Roadhouse

One of the biggest action stars of the time, Jean-Claude Van Damme had two movies out in ’89: the sci-fi action adventure Cyborg, and the fight movie Kickboxer.  I saw Kickboxer around the same time as the previous year’s Bloodsport and can’t differentiate between them in my mind. cyborg and kickboxer

Finally: Blind Fury is a Zatôichi inspired action movie starring Rutger Hauer.  Robot Jox is a low budged B movie masterpiece from Empire Studios about people fighting giant robots similar to the Jaegers from Pacific Rim. Blind Fury Robot Jox

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I have enjoyed all ten movies I have seen this month, but one stands out as a joyous and timeless classic of its genre, which will be movie of the month?

Fast & Furious 7: The franchise has morphed beyond all recognition since its first incarnation fourteen years ago.  Made under the shadow of the untimely death of star Paul Walker the film is totally stupid and but is tremendous fun. In the month since I saw it, it has clocked up over a billion dollars.fast and furious 7

While We’re Young: Noah Baumbach’s comedy drama combines the themes of a midlife crisis with intergenerational jealousy.  It has more than a whiff of Woody Allen and is as good as Allens best of recent years.  Ben Stiller has again proved to be a good actor with the right material.While We're Young

John Wick: Bonkers over stylised ultraviolent revenge thriller.  Breaking from the current trend of fast cutting the film has some of the best fight scenes in recent memory.  Keanu Reeves is perfect taking on elements of many of his previous characters.John Wick Keanu Reeves

Cinderella: Kenneth Branagh’s live action take on a story we have seem many times before.  On the surface it is very vanilla and by the numbers, this is what will probably make it timeless.  Cate Blanchett and  Helena Bonham Carter are great and have fun in the more showy roles, Lily James and Derek Jacobi give great performances.CINDERELLA

Good Kill: Back in 1986, Tom Cruise’s character Vincent in The Color of Money spoke about gamers being the future of warfare.  More recently he has suggested that a Top Gun sequel would involve drones.  Gattaca director Andrew Niccol has beat them to it, reteaming with Ethan Hawke.  A gripping story that could possibly be the first truly modern war films.  It is however a little to low key for its own good.Good Kill

The Woman in Gold: Despite the well known story and the terrible trailer, it is actually a decent film.  Helen Mirren is good but her Austrian accent distracting.  The wartime scenes with Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany are better than the modern day scenes.The Woman in Gold

The Salvation: Surprisingly for a film shot in South Africa and directed by Danish Dogme95 director Kristian Levring The Salvation is one of the best westerns of recent years.  Mads Mikkelsen and Eva Green are both excellent.the unforgiven mads mikkelsen

Avengers: Age of Ultron: There is so much going on with ever expanding cast and a plot that not only has to tell a coherent story but also has to open threads for several future films.  It is a miracle that Joss Whedon keeps so many plates spinning.  As with previous films, Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow is still the most interesting character.Avengers Age of Ultron

Child 44: Based on Tom Rob Smith’s acclaimed debut novel of the same name, that in turn was based on real events.  Well acted particularly by leads Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace but let down by an unfocused story and a lack of direction.Child 44

The Falling: British coming of age drama set in a girls school.  To many viewers Maisie Williams will be the most recognisable thatnks to her part in Game of Thrones, Maxine Peake is as brilliant as you would expect, but newcomer Florence Pugh is the most memorable.  I have heard criticism of the final act, for me this is one of the strongest things about the film that helps it linger in the mind.The Falling

It wasn’t a difficult choice, movie of the month is:John Wick

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