Category Archives: 4 Star

Goon 2: Last of the Enforcers – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Oh how I’ve missed this team!  The Halifax Highlanders are back on the ice, and I can’t believe it has been five years since Goon!  The whole gang was back, with a few new faces as a labour dispute in the big leagues has sent a lot of talent to the Eastern Maritime Hockey League.  Doug “The Thug” Glatt (Seann William Scott) has been made captain of the team, but the team isn’t doing that well.  When they play the first place team from Reading, Doug gets his clock cleaned by an up and coming star who delivers a beating unlike any Doug has ever suffered.  With an injured shoulder, Doug retires from the game he grew to love and the team he loved.  Though the injury is unfortunate, it may not be all bad though, as Doug and Eva (Alison Pill) are now married and expecting a baby.  Of course, even without Doug, the team must go on, and team owner Hyrum Cain (Callum Keith Rennie) makes some trades and acquires his son and star player from the Reading Wolfdogs, Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell), who also happens to be the one who made Glatt retire.  Cain is talented but reckless and dangerous, both on and off the ice.  With he hears how the Highlanders’ locker room is falling apart, Doug looks up his old friend/nemesis Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber) to teach him how to fight left handed so he can get back in the game…. of course he does all this without telling his wife, so you can guess how that will play out…  Cain is eventually traded back to his old team and a collision course with Doug and the Highlanders with the final playoff spot on the line.


Jay Baruchel co-wrote both this film and the original Goon, but he makes his directorial debut with Goon 2: Last of the Enforcers, which turned out to be another really good hockey movie. It’s clear he’s a fan, and wants to do right by the game and the fans.  My only complaint about the first film was Baruchel’s Pat Houlihan character.  I thought he was over the top and needlessly crude.  This time around he’s still crude and over the top, but he was actually funnier, also there’s far less of him on screen, likely because Baruchel had to dedicate his time to the directing.  Sadly though there was a character that seemed to fill the role in Pat Houlihan’s stead, and that was Elisha Cuthbert as Mary, a character thrust into the film for seemingly no reason except to be the crude friend (this time being a friend of Eva’s).  Her casting may have been a favour from Baruchel, they did work together on Popular Mechanics For Kids in 1997 and she is married to Dion Phaneuf (former Toronto Maple Leafs captain?  Currently playing defence for the Ottawa Senators…. a hockey player).  In fact, I’d have to say that I really didn’t enjoy the cameos that were scattered throughout the film.  T.J. Miller seemed thrust into an improv role as a sports reporter which kind of gave us some exposition into what was going on with the team, but seemed to be trying to hard to be funny.  Jason Jones felt much the same as Doug’s boss at the insurance company he works at before getting back into the game.  I did like James Duthie and Tessa Bonhomme in their roles, which they fit perfectly.  Duthie plays the lead sportscaster opposite Miller and Bonhomme plays a sports reporter.  In real life, Duthie is a sportscaster and host of a variety of hockey shows on TSN, Bonhomme is a Canadian Olympic gold medal winning hockey player and is also a sportscaster for TSN.


Once again I was very impressed by Seann William Scott, I loved the heart he brought to the character and the film overall.  Goon 2 to me was a “returning hero” story, as Doug is first broken and then has to rediscover himself, rebuild himself and come back to save the day.  I’m a sucker for those stories (as bad as Highlander 2: The Quickening is, I still love the bit at the beginning where weak old man Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) gets his powers back).  I was very happy to see Marc-André Grondin back as Xavier LaFlamme too, I hadn’t heard that he was in the film.  Kim Coates was just as phenomenal as he was in the first film as Coach Ronnie Hortense and of course Liev Schreiber is always a nice addition to any cast.


For a first time director, Baruchel did a very good job, obviously he’s intimate with the script and the characters, but I really liked some of his camera work.  He had an excellent eye for the on ice shots, and seeing how they did some of them in the bonus features of the Blu Ray was really cool.  One camera rig was setup on a base, with hockey pucks attached to each corner and pushed along the ice with a snow shovel-like handle.  I love that kind of innovation!  More than just a simple hockey movie, more than just a sequel, Goon 2 is another great comedy with light drama and a lot of heart.  It also takes a very real look at the game, and the role of the “goon” in the current day.  Is there still a place for them, or do they end up forgotten and suffering from post-concussion symptoms?  Will they become a circus act, fighting for the enjoyment of “fans” in an event like the film’s “Bruised and Battered” competition?  I don’t know, but I did enjoy how Doug Glatt approached the role and his own future in the game.  The scene where Doug sets his stick against the wall in the hallway was beautiful, and reminded me of the scene in the first film where he wipes off the team logo on the floor of the locker room.  Those are the scenes that made me love these films.


Bottom Line: After watching Goon 2, I played several games of PS3 hockey.  When does the season start again?
Also, I love that they had an “after the credits” scene.

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Colossal – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Colossal may have been billed as a sci-fi comedy, but the “comedy” part may have been a little misleading.  Yes, there were some comedic moments, and some hilarious moments too, but boy did it turn a corner and get very dark all of a sudden!  When Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is dumped by her boyfriend (Dan Stevens),  she leaves her life in New York City, and moves back to her small hometown where she meets back up with Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) an old friend from school.  Oscar never left the town and has taken over his late father’s bar.  Down on her luck, Gloria accepts Oscar’s offer of a waitressing job, which might not be the best idea for a girl whose alcoholism had already cost her her job and her boyfriend.  She soon takes to drinking in the back room after the bar closes with Oscar and two of his regulars Joel and Garth (Austin Stowell and Tim Blake Nelson).  Unable to walk the entire way home, Glora starts sleeping on a park bench in front of a small play area.  When reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul, she gradually comes to the realization that she is somehow connected to this phenomenon.  Somehow, at 8:05 am, whenever Gloria walks through the playground, the monster appears in South Korea, mimicking her steps and movements. Realizing what she is doing, Gloria struggles to stay on the wagon and away from the playground so she doesn’t hurt anyone else, but Oscar doesn’t make it easy.


So, now that turn to the dark side (SPOILERS highlight to read): It seems Oscar has been stalking Gloria for years after she left their small town, keeping tabs on her relationships and her career, seemingly waiting until she would come back and he might have a chance with her.  When the group discovers that she is manifesting the monster in Korea, it gets weird, but even weirder when Oscar steps into the playground and projects a giant robot onto Korea as well.  Was he mad with power, or was he mad all along?  Oscar now threatens the South Koreans with giddy disregard in his drunken states, and becomes particularly nasty when he learns that Gloria spent the night with Joel.  After a tense confrontation, Gloria gets Oscar to leave the park, but Oscar is jealous, and an alcoholic.  Later that night at the bar, he demands that Gloria have a drink with him, and even threatens her by saying he he will go to the playground in the morning if she doesn’t drink with him. It is clear that Oscar wants to have her and to control her.  He issues her an ultimatum basically, stay with him or he’ll smash South Korea.  To finally free herself from Oscar (and her drinking problem) Gloria flies to Seoul and enters the area where her monster appears, sparking the monster to appear in America at the playground where she (as the monster) grabs Oscar…


Colossal was incredibly original, but it was more than just a quirky little concept film there was a much deeper message and meaning to it, and that all happened once it turned that corner I spoke of earlier.  Both Hathaway and Sudeikis give strong performances, but once that corner is turned their performances get even better.  While I knew Anne Hathaway was an excellent actress, Sudeikis was a pleasant surprise when he elevated his game to match the Oscar winner.  The film was
a big metaphor for addiction and the pain that addictions like alcoholism can cause.  The film also explores how those addictions can hurt those around us, and even people who are not directly around us.  The people of Seoul are definitely innocent in all this, but still feel the effects of Gloria and Oscar’s drinking, and they’re on the other side of the world.  The consequences of all our actions are real.  Ultimately Colossal deals with overcoming our inner demons and dealing with the decisions we make in our lives.  It does so in a clever, sometimes humourous way which makes it entertaining and thought provoking at the same time.  Colossal really is a “hidden gem”, and was definitely worth watching.


Bottom Line: Even though it didn’t go into much science-fiction detail, Colossal does show us the origin of Gloria’s monster and Oscar’s robot.

Once Upon a Time In Venice – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Once Upon a Time In Venice was pulpish, noirish, and funny with an incredible array of characters.  I found it extremely entertaining.  It wasn’t the best movie, it certainly had flaws, but I enjoyed it and that is what I base my ratings off of, how much I enjoyed the film.


Bruce Willis plays Steve Ford, the only licensed private investigator in the Venice (Los Angeles not Italy) and he gets himself mixed up in a lot of odd cases.  His partner John (Thomas Middleditch) narrates us through the story as we see Steve track down a missing sister, only to sleep with her and incur the wrath of her overprotective brothers, who he escapes in a naked skateboarding scene…  He meets a friend whose car was stolen and he tracks it back to a drug dealer named Spyder (Jason Momoa), who he steals it back from by crashing out of his garage.  When he gets home he finds out that his sister’s house has been robbed, taking his niece’s X-Box, their television, and Steve’s dog Buddy who his niece takes care of after school.  They were robbed by punks who needed money for drugs, which leads Steve back to Spyder who controls the drug trade in town.  Now Steve has to apologize for wrecking Spyder’s garage, and what he feels was “his” car (even though it was stolen) in an attempt to get Buddy back.  Spyder agrees, (Steve’s gift basket of muffins helped smooth the tensions between them) and he’ll give Steve the dog back, if he’ll retrieve a case of cocaine that was stolen from him by a hooker.  Things don’t get any easier for Steve who is trying to buy back his parent’s house that he was forced to sell years ago to Lou the Jew (Adam Goldberg) and help his best friend Dave (John Goodman) who is selling his surf shot to get through a tough divorce.  Lou is in a bind too, because someone is painting pornographic graffiti on a building he owns that he’s trying to sell.  So if Steve can catch the graffiti artist, he’ll get the house back, if he can find the drugs he’ll get his dog back, easy right?


When I first heard of this film, I thought it was trying to be a John Wick rip-off, action star Bruce Willis trying to get his dog back sounds a bit like action star Keannu Reeves trying to get revenge on the guys who killed his dog.  Boy was I wrong, if this film was trying to cash in on any of the perceived similarities with John Wick, it did so totally with tongue in cheek.


I think what made Once Upon a Time In Venice work was the very clever script.  The dialogue was snappy and natural, and really plays off the comedic talents of the lead, Bruce Willis.  Bruce Willis is very funny, and has great comedic timing.  I wouldn’t have thought that “tough guy” Jason Momoa would be as funny as he was either, but perhaps it was the juxtaposition of these tough actors playing these tough roles with a lighter twist that made it work.  Having more seasoned comedic actors like Thomas Middleditch and John Goodman in the film also helps carry the story.  Quite good, and quite entertaining, if you’re looking for a few good laughs, give it a try.


Bottom Line: Every time you thought a situation was resolved it just got more and more absurd!  Every time things seemed sorted, a new character came in and twisted the plot into something more absurd than the last character did.  I loved it.

Power Rangers – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Five teenagers with attitude discover five alien artifacts that have been lost on Earth for millennia.  Together, with these power coins and their potential unlocked, they become the Power Rangers, defending the Earth against all levels of threat! 


Well, okay, it wasn’t that straightforward.  Three of the five teenagers meet at weekend detention like in The Breakfast Club, Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly (Naomi Scott) and Billy (RJ Cyler) attend Angel Grove High together.  Jason was a star athlete who rolled his car and injured his knee during a police chase after a prank gone wrong.  Kimberly leaked photos of a rival in a compromising position to the entire school.  Billy is autistic and the target of bullies…I don’t remember why he was in detention, but he was.  In detention Jason protects Billy from a bully, making them friends.  Billy overrides Jason’s house arrest ankle bracelet and the two are off on an adventure where they find Kimberly and meet Zack (Ludi Lin) and Trini (Becky G) in a local quarry, a quarry where Billy and his dad used to hunt for scrap metals and treasures before he died.  Blasting apart a quarry wall, they find five glowing coins: red, pink, blue, black and yellow.  These coins give the youths strength they couldn’t imagine, but they are not Power Rangers yet.  Meeting Alpha Five (Bill Hader) who takes them to Zordon (Bryan Cranston) they train and eventually bond, forming a team who can finally morph into the Power Rangers, set to defend the Earth from Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks).


You know what, I actually really enjoyed this.  Sure it was 90% cheese, but it was nostalgia, and it was fun.  Yes, it was an origin story so getting to the action was a little slow, but the story developed the characters fairly well, and had a lot of heart behind it.  I liked how they managed to make a fairly intelligent story out of what was effectively an after-school show for kids.  Zordon was a former Red Ranger, Rita was part of his team as the Green Ranger.  Her monster Goldar was created when she managed to steal enough gold to make him.  Sure there were some plot holes and head scratching moments (the Pink Ranger was in detention for spreading revenge porn?  SPOILER: Rita drowns the Blue Ranger and instead of anyone giving him mouth to mouth or CPR they take him miles away to Zordon’s hidden Power Ranger base?), but I enjoyed it.


I liked the effects, and I liked the costumes.  Whenever there is a movie of this type, you have to get the costumes right, and the new “armoured” look was a lot more practical for fighting space aliens than spandex ever was.  All the actors really did a great job, from the seasoned veterans like Cranston (who voiced several monsters on the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers TV 1993-1995) and Banks to the newcomers.  They each really seemed to have fun in the roles, and they all fit their updated characters.  The characters also seemed quite realistic.  Black Ranger Zack seems moody and aloof, but is really concerned about his mother’s ailing health.  Yellow Ranger Trini has problems with her parents (it’s hinted that she’s either bi-sexual or a lesbian).  Red Ranger Jason and Pink Ranger Kimberly both are dealing with the consequences of their past decisions, and Blue Ranger Billy is still dealing with the loss of his father, but really is the heart of the group, and the most enthusiastic about becoming a “super hero”.

I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel, but apparently that is in doubt.  I’ve heard that the film did not perform as well as the studio had hoped, and that the director thinks the PG-13 rating may have had some affect on it.  The reasoning is that with the slightly higher rating, families may not have been as likely to watch the film.  From what I could tell, the primary reason the film got the PG-13 instead of a PG rating was swearing.   A few times the language was a little more “colourful” than you would expect for a property mainly directed at children.  I think that something the director could have controlled and taken out of if the potential rating worried him.  They could have even fixed it in post production.  Power Rangers was a solidly entertaining popcorn flick, plain and simple.  You would be disappointed if you were looking to take more than that from it.


Bottom Line: Nice that it wasn’t just a simple rehash of the television series.  I liked the cameos (Jason David Frank and Amy Jo Johnson) but would have liked more.  Where were Bulk and Skull?  Even if they didn’t have the actual actors (Paul Schrier and Jason Narvy) from the original series, it would have been a nice nod to have the characters show up.

Phantom Boy – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Leo is a young boy who is undergoing treatments in a New York hospital (I don’t think they say it outright, but I assume the boy has cancer of some sort).  Presumably due to his treatments, he learns that he has the ability to become a “phantom” and can explore the city as a ghostly apparition. Alex (voiced by Jared Padalecki) is a New York City detective who is injured while attempting to capture the villain known as “The Face” (voiced by Vincent D’Onofrio) who has taken control of the city’s power supply, throwing the metropolis into chaos. Now, using Leo’s phantom powers, Alex’s detective work and his reporter friend Mary (voiced by Melissa Disney) as their “legs” they team up to foil the plot and save New York.


I love superhero stories, and this seemed like a nice twist on the typical cartoon or comic book hero story.  Phantom Boy is a French animation, and done by the same team that made A Cat In Paris.  The animation was hand drawn, and rather simple, but it was still remarkably well done, and had a very French feel to it.  The story keeps you engrossed in the mystery and actually can effect you emotionally.  As I said, we’re not sure what Leo’s ailment actually is, but we learn that his chances of recovery are low.  Despite that, he becomes the star of an action movie, and while some of the situations seem sad, he isn’t a sad character at all.  Leo’s powers, his adventures, all show the silver lining of life, and finding the good things in bad situations because he only discovered this ability when he got sick.


The directors (Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol who also wrote the screenplay) said something very interesting about superheroes; it’s not their powers we’re interested in, but their human side, that’s what people identify with.  It’s entertaining to watch them fly and climb walls, but that’s not what makes them captivating.


I really enjoyed Phantom Boy, it was an original story, that felt very pulp-ish, and very noir-ish and it had a lot of heart in it.  It took a slightly different spin on astral projection (  A nice thing about foreign language cartoons is that when they’re dubbed into English, you don’t notice that the mouths don’t match like in live action films.


Bottom Line: I really enjoyed the fact that even though the Face’s backstory was teased several times it was never actually revealed.  Also, I really enjoyed A Cat In Paris, which I watched the next night.

Wonder Woman – ★ ★ ★ ★ Theatrical Review

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So if you’re a Marvel fanboy (or fangirl) you’re not allowed to like DC stuff right?  And vice-versa?  This is the law that was handed down, right?  So if you can only like one comic book company’s movies, and I just enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, how is it even possible that I really enjoyed Wonder Woman?  Because, I really did enjoy Wonder Woman


Wonder Woman was my second trip to the theatre in less than a week, and this time there were more than just two of us in the theatre.  I think it was the second weekend possibly?  A good friend is a big fan of Wonder Woman, and since the release pretty much coincided with her birthday, the outing was made.


Now, I haven’t seen Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, I haven’t seen Suicide Squad, and I haven’t even seen the final film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.  I did watch the Wonder Woman TV series from the ’70s though and did enjoy them.  As well, I think I had only seen one trailer for Wonder Woman beforehand, so I was going into the movie with very little advanced knowledge, and really no expectations.  Obviously I know who Wonder Woman is, and I know what the character’s powers are, but I don’t know really anything about her introduction to the DCEU.  I do know that you don’t usually hear a lot of good things about the films of the DCEU.  Also, why are the DC movies called the DC Extended Universe and the Marvel movies called the Marvel Cinematic Universe?


Wonder Woman was the origin story for the character that fans didn’t get when she was introduced in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it wasn’t really burdened down by that.  From what I’ve heard, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was the highlight of that film, and this followup was greatly anticipated.   Raised on the island of Themyscira as an Amazon princess, Diana is the daughter of Hippolyta (Connie Nelson) and Zeus who brought the clay statue of a daughter that Queen Hippolyta made to life.  Remember, this is an island of all women, so reproduction is a bit of a tricky subject…  Their island is hidden from the outside world (i.e. the world of man), but Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American airman crashes through their protective shield as he is chased by a German squadron at the height of World War I bringing the realities of the outside world with him.  Convinced that Ares, the God of War is behind this “war to end all wars”, Diana leaves her home with Trevor to fight alongside man, and embrace her destiny by defeating Ares and ending the threat.


As I said, I really enjoyed this film.  It had a lot of fun moments in it, lots of action, some great characters and it wasn’t slow or brooding.  There was a nice mix of humour, as we did get a little bit of a “fish out of water” story when Diana encounters our modern world for the first times.  Trying on clothes suitable for a woman in 1917, trying ice cream for the first time, walking down London streets with a sword and shield, all served to lighten the mood enough to make us love the character.  When haven’t we all felt like a fish out of water?  Once Diana and Trevor make it to the front lines, the action steps up but so does the heart of the movie.  It’s funny when you get emotionally involved with a movie that portrays recorded history.  We know that the Germans lose and the Allies win WWI, but seeing Diana emerge from the trench and attack the Germans in that No Man’s Land sequence was epic.  I had goosebumps.  Incredibly scripted, incredibly acted, and incredibly shot.  That scene, and the celebration afterwards was the entire film (and character) in a nutshell.  I like to think I’m an intelligent film watcher, and sometimes that comes back to haunt me.  I have seen far too many movies where I’ve correctly predicted a cheesy line or outcome due to what I think is obvious foreshadowing.  In the movie Diana is unfamiliar with trench warfare and is shocked when it is explained to her that they’ve been fighting there for months and have possibly only advanced a few feet further into No Man’s Land.  I fully expected an “I’m no man” line to come before Diana charged into the battle, and I even mentioned this to The Girl Who Whispered.  I was very glad that I was wrong and that it didn’t happen.  Kudos to director Patty Jenkins for not having that in her film!  Also, I may be mistaken but I don’t actually remember anyone calling her “Wonder Woman” in the film, just Diana.


At the end of the film I was pleasantly entertained by everyone connected to it.  Gal Gadot seems born to play Wonder Woman, and handled all aspects of the character well, from the naive and curious princess to the intelligent and confidant military commander.  Chris Pine is proving to be quite a good actor and has not been pigeon holed into a single role after playing Captain Kirk in the three rebooted Star Trek films.  Patty Jenkins did an excellent job directing the film.  I’ve heard people say the Zack Snyder directed films have been a bit of a tonal mess at times, and that the films are poorly lit and devoid of colour.  Wonder Woman was not a mess, was not dark, and in fact I thought it used colour and lighting quite well.


Patty Jenkins was the first woman to direct a major super hero film, and I’m a little surprised that she got the opportunity because she doesn’t appear to have directed that much.  I haven’t seen Monster, but it did win Charlize Theron a Best Actress Oscar, beyond that she has only directed a handful of episodes for various TV series and a few short films.  Directing someone to a Leading Actress Oscar is always an accomplishment, but to do it in your first film is really something so no one should be surprised that Jenkins is a talented director. I’m a little surprised though that DC chose someone with so few feature films to their credit to direct a very important piece of the DCEU.  I suppose that really doesn’t matter now, because the film has become a great financial success, and a great critical success as well.  Maybe part of DC’s problem in the past was choosing directors who weren’t fresh and were stuck in their ways?  Who knows.  I’m glad this film did well and that it all worked out for everyone involved.  To touch on my opening point about only following one company’s films, shouldn’t we as the fans of these films and as the audience want all comic book movies to do well?  The better everyone’s movies are, the more comic book movies we’ll get the opportunity to enjoy.


Bottom Line: The Marvel fanboy in me would be remiss if I didn’t mention the many similarities between Wonder Woman and Captain America: The First Avenger…  Both used shields a lot, both were set in World Wars.  Both heroes have idealistic reasons for wanting to fight in their respective wars, but have superiors who want to keep them away form the combat.  Both had mentors characters, both have love interests that are already involved in the wars, and both get a team of supporting characters (Howling Commandos and Diana’s own band of multicultural comrades). And SPOILER: At the end of the film, a heroic character named Steve (portrayed by an actor named Chris), sacrifices himself by destroying a plane that was about to destroy a major Allied city. 😉

Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 2 – ★ ★ ★ ★ Theatrical Review

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the most anticipated Marvel movie of the year…until the next one was teased.  The first Guardians of the Galaxy movie was a huge and unexpected success.  Those sorts of films are hard to follow up on, and the pressure to recapture lightning in a bottle is incredible, fortunately James Gunn was up to the task.

Our band of spacefaring misfits are at it again, now they’re charged by the Nova Corps to safeguard the universe…. or to guard the galaxy.  This time though, we get some more backstory to the characters, and a few of the mysteries from “Vol. 1” are answered.  Learn! how Star Lord, a seemingly ordinary human was able to handle an infinity stone!  See! the development of a recently resurrected Floral Colossus!  Discover! the secret of Peter’s father!  Watch! as Taserface hunts down the Guardians for the Sovereign!  Shudder! as there could be a traitor in the ranks of the Guardians!  Cry! as certain key characters actually don’t survive the movie!  Laugh! at the excellent banter between the Guardians!  Be amazed! Be amused! Be entertained!  Because that’s what the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is really all about.


I managed to make it out to the theatre with my brother to see Guardians Volume 2, and we were the only two people there.  Granted, we did go rather late into the run, and we went to the late show on a Sunday night.  The nice thing about being the only two people in the entire theatre was that we could talk about the film freely without upsetting anyone.  Of course we did switch off our cell phones, we’re not animals.  We didn’t actually talk that much, but it was nice to be able to say “wow” or ask what something was, or comment or predict/guess something without getting nasty looks.


Guardians Volume 2 was a wacky, funny, action packed, fun, popcorn flick.  And I liked it just fine that way.  New characters were introduced, new ideas, and new locations in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  The banter and humour was constant and well done once again.  The special effects were excellent, and everything seemed to have been amped up to at least equal the first film.  All the main characters delivered exactly what I expected, and I even managed to enjoy Karen Gillan this time around, something that didn’t really happen last time.  Michael Rooker’s Yondu got an expanded role in the sequel, and it was quickly rewarded with an excellent, almost standout, performance.  There may have been a few too many characters, and sadly, once a movie or a franchise becomes popular, all sorts of “big name” actors come out of the woodwork and are thrust into roles they might not normally take.  I enjoyed Pom Klementieff as Mantis, and Kurt Russell was really good as Ego, Peter Quill’s father, but I thought that Sylvester Stallone was just kind of thrust in there, with little explanation.  Apparently his character is supposed to be big in future movies, but I, a rather big comic book nerd, had no idea who he was, or why I should care about him, or even agree with Stallone being cast.  All that aside, you can tell James Gunn really enjoys his job, the characters and everything about the Guardians of the Galaxy, and ultimately so did I.


Bottom Line: Even though it’s one of the better selling soundtracks in recent years, I think I like “Awesome Mix-tape Vol. 1” better than Volume 2.  Sure Mr. Blue Sky by E.L.O. was nice, The Chain by Fleetwood Mac was great, and I loved George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord and Come A Little Bit Closer by Jay and the Americans is one of my all-time favourite songs, but the rest of the arrangement didn’t wow me as much.  Ah well, still a really good soundtrack.

John Wick Chapter 2 – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Everyone seemed to love the first John Wick movie, so you knew there was a sequel coming.  I loved John Wick, but John Wick Chapter 2 came in a few hairs short of the original.  It was still super action packed, it was still super fun, but it’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle twice.  If you do manage it, you probably repeated the steps you used to catch it the first time.

As soon as the film started, so did the action.  The introduction was a spectacular car chase where John Wick gets his Mustang back from the chop shop of the first film, kills many, many people in many new and creative ways.  From there the action doesn’t let up, as John Wick, who thinks that he’s “out” is pulled back “in”.  It seems the crime lord who arranged it for John to retire is calling in the favour by having him do a hit for him.  Kill his own sister so he can take her place as head of the family and sit on the crime board of directors (or whatever they’re called).  He does of course, but John wants revenge again on the man who forced him back into the game, and who put a contract out on him to make sure there were no loose ends, blah blah blah. 

Okay, I did really enjoy it, but the plot isn’t that deep or important.  John Wick Chapter 2 was two hours long.  I found the first hour to be great and action packed, not taking its foot off the gas, the next half hour I found rather slow, and then it picked up again for the final half hour, but that last half hour felt very repetitive.  One of the great things about the first film was that Keanu didn’t talk much.  He just fought and shot.  In this one, he “acts” a bit more, which is not really his strong suit…  I also didn’t like Laurence Fishburne’s character, and didn’t think he was necessary at all, except to set up a third chapter.  Based on how the film ends, and the choice Wick makes, he’ll need the help of the Bowery King, but I found Fishburne’s performance was too over the top and I couldn’t take him seriously.  And saying that a character was too over the top in these films is really saying something.  I suppose they were trying to thrill the fans by having a Neo and Morpheus Matrix reunion, but I think the way it was played killed it.  Ruby Rose however played a great character!  I have no idea who she is, but I’ve heard her name before (from kids at work) but she was great. Rose plays Ares, a deaf assassin?  Hit-woman?  Bad guy.  I don’t really know what to call everyone in these movies.  Anyway, I really enjoyed Rose’s Ares, and hope she can somehow make an appearance in the inevitable Chapter 3.  She was wonderfully controlled, understated and powerful, yet still managed to convey a sense of humour in the role through the subtitling on the screen that translated her sign language.  Naturally Ian McShane was excellent as he is still one of my favourite actors so I feel I have to mention him.

Lots of fun still, and I will enjoy re-watching it, but I fear this chapter will get a little boring, but the first one never will.


Bottom Line: They included Dog Wick as a special feature on the Blu Ray!

Chocolat – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Chocolat is the biopic of former slave turned Parisian clown Rafael Padilla (Omar Sy).  Down on his own luck and looking for work, George Foottit (James Thiérrée) a British clown and acrobat discovers Padilla in a small circus somewhere in the France where he was playing a cannibal savage to scare the children.  Despite being an established name in the circus community, Foottit could still not sell his act to this ringmaster, but in a last ditch attempt he convinces Padilla to train with him, to rehearse with him, and to partner with him creating a new act, and the duo of “Foottit and Chocolat” are born!  As word of their act spreads, the small circus routinely sells out with everyone coming to see Foottit as the authoritarian white clown (sad clown) and Chocolat  as the “auguste” (happy clown).


News of the duo’s success travels quickly, and soon they are recruited for a famous circus in Paris where their stock and their fame continue to rise, but all good things come to an end.  Chocolat grows tired of always being the butt of the jokes, he grows tired of the racism he encounters, and he grows tired of always getting second billing.  He has greater ambitions than just being a clown, he wants to act, and takes the lead role in a production of Othello to prove that he can do it, which helps lead to the breakup of the act.  Chocolat rose to fame quickly in Paris, something he wasn’t really prepared for, and he develops addictions to women, gambling and drink which also contribute to the dissolution of the team.


I don’t know how much of the film was based on the actual history and how much of the history was adapted for the screen.  Based on a quick Wikipedia look, it seems some of the actual history was crammed together, and events in Chocolat’s career that happened with other performers were attributed to Foottit in the film, probably for brevity’s sake.


So this was a very, very interesting story!  One that I certainly didn’t know anything about, but I was searching for the trailer for a different film when I discovered this one by accident.  Omar Sy is an excellent actor and it looked like he really enjoyed this role, as Chocolat was an important character in entertainment history.  I also really enjoyed James Thiérrée and felt sorry for Foottit at times, as his career suffered when Chocolat drank too much, or gambled to excess that he caused the duo to miss shows.  Seeing Foottit trying to mentor the younger clown, to guide him, and to see his efforts fall upon deaf ears was played out very well on the screen.  The attitudes, the scenery, the costuming, everything felt very authentic for turn of the century Paris. The film doesn’t shy away from the racism that was around either, but also doesn’t glorify it.  It’s curious when you think about this film, about Chocolat and you think about racism.  Chocolat’s entire career was based around his being black and being kicked or hit or slapped by the white clown.  It’s strange to think that his success essentially came from the stereotypes, and from the ignorant cultural and racist notions of the white audiences of the time.


Bottom Line: Wow, I just found out that James Thiérrée is the grandson of Charlie Chaplin!

Get Out – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Like great science fiction, great horror stories all have something to say.  Surprise, the really good ones aren’t just out to scare you.  The greatest forms of horror unveil the social commentary that lies beneath the surface of our society.  A good horror film has something rooted in reality: racism. hypnotism, psychology, meeting new people, relationships, all these real world “scary” things are in Get Out.


As you know I’m not big on horror, but I don’t know if this really even qualified as a horror film.  IMDb lists it as a Horror, Mystery, and when the “mystery” tag gets thrown on something I’d think it would be more a thriller than a horror film, but since everyone else is calling it horror I’ll just go along with them. I didn’t think that Get Out was overly scary or gory or horrific, which is great for cowards like me who want to enjoy a good story even if it’s not in one of their favourite genres.


I was quite interested in Get Out because I’d heard good things about it, and because I also hadn’t heard anything about it.  Apart from the basic outline that a white girl brings her African American boyfriend to meet her white family and stuff happened, I really didn’t know what to expect, or what else was going on in the film.  I don’t think I really saw any trailers, but I did see commercials for the film, and they gave very brief flashes of scenes, quickly cut, with very little dialogue to go on.  This was great!  The film was very suspenseful, with the horror simmering just beneath the surface, and just enough that it kept me engrossed in the story all the way through. It balanced it all with a dash of humour, which made the horror part even better, and virtually everything was unexpected because full scenes weren’t overplayed or revealed in the ads or trailers.  I’m tired of seeing a movie and feeling that I’d seen two-thirds of it already, so big congratulations to Get Out for this achievement!


Really enjoyed this one, not just for the story and the suspense, but for the performances too.  Daniel Kaluuya was good, Allison Williams was very good as was Catherine Keener (as she is in everything she does), but Bradley Whitford was perfect!  His performance was an incredibly creepy cross between Steve Jobs and Steven Keaton (the dad from Family Ties played by Michael Gross).  I absolutely loved it!


Bottom Line: I watched this on Blu Ray and really liked the alternate ending, I thought it was a perfect end to a biting commentary.

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