John Wick – Movie Review

Fate returns the world’s most feared assassin back into a game he never should have left. Keanu Reeves is John Wick, who escaped the world he once lived as an assassin, to become a loving husband in the real world.

Now mourning the death of his wife from cancer, Wick attempts to gather the pieces of his life with the help of a puppy his deceased wife gave to him. All Wick has left in his life is his house, vintage car and puppy. This is what we call a quick set-up to jump start a character’s motivation for an action movie.

During a random gas station visit, Wick encounters Iosef Tarasof (Alfie Allen), the son of the Russian mob boss, Viggo Tarasof (Michael ), who takes a fancy to Wick’s classic Mustang. This is the arbitrary event that sets the “stone” rolling. In a late night home invasion, Iosef steals Wick’s car, beats Wick to an inch of his life and kills the puppy. And now, everything we need to justify all the violence we’re about to witness in the next 70 minutes.

John Wick is light on plot and heavy on action. Action movies are a “dime-a-dozen” and it’s necessary to set your movie from the rest. A good action movie requires tent poles moments connecting the deadly action. Start with the revelation to mob boss, Viggo, hearing the news that his son “pissing off” the wrong person. The shot cuts to Viggo, then the slow zoom and finally the look of defeat in his eyes, knowing that he’s going to die at the end. The movie effectively uses this moment with only words and reaction to explain that John Wick is a badass killer even though he has yet to kill anyone in the movie.

Good stories are rarely important for an action film. Writer/Directors David Leich and Chad Stahelski effectively use ofstory to heighten the quality of coolness. For example, they created a world of assassins. A world, where its members have honor, codes of conduct and a healthy dose of backstabbing. The movie takes place in New York City and centers on the Continental Hotel. The Continental is a haven for assassins and run by the owner, Winston (Ian McShane) and the hotel manager, Charon (Lance Reddick). The Continental is where assassination business conducted and meet in safety. There are rules too, like no killing on property.

Great action is a must in a great action movie. Director Stahelski does employ the overused shaky cam, but it’s less shaky, allowing us to actually see the action. Longer continuous shots replace the nauseating quick shot showing Keanu actually trained to make this movie. Visually, filmmakers apply a good balance of graphic dismemberment and implied gore. A nice variety “arenas” breaks up the monotony often associated with common action films. Death finds its theater in a quiet home of Wick, a warehouse, a church and a crowded night club.

John Wick is a very simple story of revenge. Keanu Reeves plays the role of admirably after a long absence from the action drama. Leich and Stahelski find numerous comedic moments for us to rest from the action including a hilarious moment when the local police visit Wick’s home fresh off a killing spree. Well-staged and filmed actions sequences make this movie refreshing and unique enough to rise above the constant stream of action movies force fed to moviegoers every year.

St. Vincent – Movie Review

Why are my favorite comedians making amazing dramatic movies? I want them to make me laugh, not cry. St. Vincent is a fantastic story starring Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy and Noami Watt. It also features the screen debut of child actor, Jaeden Lieberher.

Release Date: October 10, 2014
Director/Writer: Theodore Melfi
Cast: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour 43 minutes

St. Vincent is the story of Vincent (Bill Murray). His life as a gambler and drunk is turned upside down when Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) move into the home next door. Their relationship starts off rocky, to say the least as the moving van knocks a branch off Vincent’s tree and lands on his car.

Maggie is a loving mother who works long hours, in hopes of living independent of her philandering husband, David (Scott Adsit) and Oliver becomes a latch-key kid. At his first day at school, Oliver’s clothes, keys, and cellphone are stolen during gym by the school bullies. Unable to get into his house, Oliver asked Vincent if he can use his phone. Vincent takes him in and agrees to babysit on a regular basis for Oliver.

At his new school, Oliver’s teacher Brother Geraghty (Chris O’Dawd) encourages the students to consider what makes a saint and who are modern day saints. You know where this is going.

The movie centers on the relationship between the rough, abrasive Vincent and the bullied, new kid, Oliver. As we see Vincent softening and becoming a friend to Oliver, we also see the rest of his life becoming more complicated. These complications include his pregnant call-girlfriend (Naomi Watts), the love/hate relationship with this local bartender and the loan shark he’s indebted to. Oliver is also forced to tag along in Vincent’s day-to-day life including frequent trips to the race track, trips to his local watering hole and the senior center where his visits a particular patient every week.

Maggie, on the other hand, struggles to raise her son as a single parent, working long her and her life is complicated when her ex-husband wants full custody of her son.

The movie moves toward the inevitable as Vincent, Maggie and Oliver’s lives ultimately collapses under the weight of everything wrong in their lives. That’s what needs to happen in a well-told story.

St. Vincent is the classic tale of old guy and kid, who manage to form a friendship. Uncle Buck is the best one that comes to mind. The boy teaches the old man to confront the pain of his past as the boy learns to grow and confront the problems of his present tribulations. Writer/Director Theodore Melfi manages to take a tried-and-true plot and make a masterful movie that will leave you sobbing in the end.

Melfi does an admirable job taking borderline over-the-top characters and grounds them in reality. For example, Melissa McCarthy plays an overworked mother to perfection. She has no jokes per se, but shows us that she can act and be believable. Chris O’Dawd plays the priest/teacher with grounded humor and likability, you almost feel his comedic talents are wasted if, not for the fact that he can act.

Newcomer, Jaeden Lieberher does what I want to see in all child actors. I wish all child actors would play their age. Lieberher plays his age well. At no point, do you think he’s just reading lines from a script and he is acting as any 12-year-old should act. He’s not smarter than twelve, he is twelve.

Let’s face it, we all came to see Bill Murray. The guy you see on screen is Bill Murray. The very Bill Murray and we love and admire. Sure, he is sporting a very non-West Coast accent. He plays rough and gruff very well. The story though throws a few curveballs to the character that forces very radical changes. This is where Murray shines and you see the character change over the course of the film.

St. Vincent has been described as a chick-flick. There are certainly elements of that: Vincent’s defense of his friends, Oliver’s quest to argue Vincent’s sainthood and Maggie being pushed to her emotional and physical extreme to save her son. See this film for what it is…Bill Murray continuing quest to prove to everyone he can touch our hearts and our funny bones.