John Wick (2014) Review

For some reason whenever I hear the name Keanu Reeves I don’t immediately think “action hero”. After pondering this I’ve realised that’s my own problem, perhaps I watched the Bill & Ted movies too much as a child because all I think of whenever he’s mentioned is this…

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Woah

However, after watching John Wick I am totally a believer in Keanu as an action star and if they do ever make a third Bill & Ted movie I’ll probably be a bit on edge expecting Mr. Logan to snap and go on a killing spree at any moment.

This review will contain some early plot spoilers for John Wick

One Man and His Dog

In the opening of the movie you’re treated to a montage of Mr Wick enjoying his life with what you assume is his wife. Unfortunately it’s not long before this goes sour, she ends up in hospital with an unknown illness and before we know it we’re at her rainy funeral. Upon getting home John receives an unexpected delivery at his house. The cutest puppy in all of existence!!!

keanureevespup
Daawwwwwwwwww

Turns out she was expecting her untimely death and set up this surprise pupper to be delivered after her funeral. It’s cool for plot purposes but this is not a thing normal people do.

Woof Woof Bang Bang

After some cute bonding scenes between him and the pup he realises he needs to get some doggy chow. While he’s out his cool car gets the attention of some unsavoury Russian mob types (led by Reek from Game of Thrones) who want to buy it but he not so politely declines. This leads to them following him and invading his home late at night so they can beat him up and steal his car keys. During this ruckus the bad guys commit one of the greatest atrocities in film history and kill the dog! Now with this being a revenge story they had to kill someone to get the film going. Usually it’s the main characters partner, mentor or good friend. They really ratcheted it up a notch with this puppy though, after seeing this any person with an ounce of humanity will want to go after these bad guys with the fury of a thousand suns.

Reek then goes back to his mob boss father to brag about his successful night of horror but once daddy realises who they’ve stolen from he gives him a very satisfying (for the audience) gut punch. Turns out John Wick is one of the greatest hitman in the entire world, a one man army that gained the nickname Baba Yaga (The Boogeyman). Reek’s disappointed father isn’t very confident in his son’s chances but does agree to at least try to protect him. While these scenes are going on we’re treated to a furious John Wick smashing up his garage floor to reveal his secret stash of high-powered weaponry and gold coins that he presumably thought he’d never need again.

the-first-trailer-for-the-john-wick-sequel-is-here-and-it-looks-more-action-packed-than-the-original

Killing is his business…

After this point the movie never really slows down. John goes on a monumental killing spree at all of the Russian mob’s places of business trying to flush out Reek and his idiot friends. The action has a really good flow to it. Wick moves smoothly from one henchman to the next either filling them with bullets or doling out a fatal beating. He doesn’t pause to say one liners or anything stupid like that, he just keeps on killing.

Unfortunately I did feel like this action style got a bit stale after the first few scenes. I guess I prefer when there’s a bit more variety in my action movies. I would have liked it if they’d taken some inspiration from movies like The Raid where there’s seemingly endless variety in the ways the bad guys are dealt with.

One thing that really impressed my about the action scenes is that they always synced up with the movie’s musical score. It really helped give the action a rhythm and it just feels good to watch. They also filmed the action in a way that you can always tell what’s happening. There are so many modern action films where the camera is zoomed in too far and you can’t tell what’s going on (I’m looking at you Dark Knight trilogy). Whether this is to hide sloppy fight choreography or intentional I’m not sure but there’s none of that in John Wick, it’s a pleasure to watch.

 

Show, Don’t Tell

One surprising thing for me was that they actually set up a pretty interesting universe in between the brutal action. There are times when you’re given glimpses of John’s hitman world. he stays at a hotel that serves as his base of operations in the city but it’s also a place where no hitman-y business is to be conducted. There’s even a fancy jazz bar on the premises where everyone knows John’s name. Everything is paid for with these big pirate style gold doubloon coins and you get a sense that all the characters have a crazy history together but they leave most of that an intriguing mystery.

I was really impressed with this movie overall, it’s definitely not the best pure action film I’ve ever seen (That’s still The Raid) but John Wick is very well-rounded. All of its pieces come together well and there are no wasted scenes or dull parts. I’m really excited to see where they go in the future and their newly announced sequel John Wick: Chapter 2 is high on my list of 2017 movies already.

★★★★☆

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Absolutely Fabulous Review

Hi sweetie darling sweetie! Grab a bottle of bolly and settle into yourself into your favourite designer arm chair, the most fabulous comedy of the year is here.

I’m going to start this review by saying that I love the Ab Fab TV series, growing up it was one of the few shows my mum and I could agree on. The antics of Eddie, Patsy, Saffy and Gran had us in stitches. I even called my guinea pigs Eddie and Patsy I love it that much.

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Eddie (left) and Patsy (right) Pig

You can bet your bottom dollar that I was there, excitedly lining up to get tickets to see the glitzy spectacular with my mum. We grabbed our cocktails, our bolly and a copious amount of chocolate and settled ourselves in for a glittering spectacle.

So bearing all that in mind, I’m saddened to report I was a little disappointed.

The movie starts off with Eddie learning that Kate Moss is looking for a new PR person, with her career in decline Eddie decides she needs to get Kate on her books to give herself the well needed professional boost. Thankfully Patsy is throwing a big glamorous celebrity party, and you’ll never guess who’s RSVP’d! That’s right, the face of modern modelling herself, Kate Moss.

kate moss

So far so good, and the film opens with a great sequence where Eddie and Patsy accidentally end up on a runway as they enter a fashion show a little late and they try and find their seats. These are two inherently funny ladies, who can make you laugh from a single awkward movement or withering look. So it’s sad to see this potential not fully lived up to in other parts of the movie.  

In her haste to beat a rival PR agent for a chance to speak with Kate at the party Eddie knocks Kate from her perch on a wall, throwing her in the Thames.

A shame faced Eddie and Patsy have to go on the run in order to avoid the hounding press, and the murder allegations. So off they fly to the only place they can hide in the comfort and luxury they’ve become accustomed to, the South of France.


edna mole cropThe film is funny, there are plenty of laughs to be had here. However I felt that they just weren’t often or consistent enough for me. It starts of quite strong, and once they hit Cannes in the South of France things start to fall apart a little and become a little too silly in places. Over all, it felt a little like a regular episode stretched into ninety minutes. The side plot involving Patsy sticking on a fake moustache and marrying the richest woman in the world (a little old lady who looks a little like a real life Edna Mole from The Incredibles. I kept expecting her to shout NO CAPES! At any moment) was a little too out there for my tastes, and didn’t really add anything to the plot or the laugh count.  

As I mentioned before Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley are very funny women, it’s in their bones. They have an amazing on screen chemistry fostered by years of working together, and you can tell they were having an absolute blast making the film. Joanna Lumley really shines as Patsy, she really took the opportunity to make the most of being as horrible as possible and is great fun to watch.

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Lots of frowning for Saffy

Almost all of the other characters from the show make an appearance at some point, there’s Saffy (Julia Sawalha) and Gran (June Whitfield), of course. Bubble (Jane Horrocks) pops up with some of her most outlandish outfits yet. I did feel that Saffy (who was always my favourite) got a little sidelined and was left with nothing but shouting insults at Patsy and frowning a lot. Gran is as dotty as ever, though she is good fun.

The slew of celebrity cameos did little for me, they just weren’t funny enough really, and gave the feel that this was a big luvvie love in where all the rich and fabulous all got together to congratulate each other on their own fabulousness. Though I must admit the ones they managed to get were very impressive and it just goes to show how well thought of the show is amongst the celebrity elite.

If you’re a fan of the show you will enjoy it. It is fun watching the characters having a big screen romp, everything is bigger and better and more extravagant than ever.  However, if you’ve never seen or didn’t like the TV show then I think there will be little for you to grasp onto. It does rely on it’s audience already having a knowledge of the characters, their background and relationships with one another. There is a scene where Eddie and Patsy draught in two of their silly friends to swap places with them, though there is no intro for them or any real explanation as to who they are. If I hadn’t seen the show,  I think I would be a little lost.

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If you’re looking for a bit of fun on a Friday night with the girls, then this will be a good bet. It’s silly and fun and is best enjoyed with cocktails. If you’re looking for something as good or insightful as the TV show then I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed, just like I was.

★★★☆☆

Why I love Working Girl

Working Girl was a pretty big hit when it was first released, and even garnered itself six Oscar Nominations, including one win for Best Original Song. More recently though it seems to have been forgotten about a little. It rarely turns up in people’s top ten of all time ever favourite movies, and most younger people have never heard of it let alone seen it.

tess beforeWorking Girl is one of my very favourite films. It makes me sad that it seems to get little love these days. Maybe it’s because it’s a little cheesy in parts. Maybe the giant hair is a little too much and the shoulder pads too broad and pointy. Maybe it’s because it can be a little sentimental in places. Or maybe it’s because the title makes it sound like the dodgy bargain bin version of Pretty Woman.

For me these are all positive points, I love the 80sness of it all. I love the hokey ending, and the questionable fashion choices. It has some of the best lessons in feminism and women in the workplace whilst all being wrapped in a candy coated rom-com coating.

The film follows the story of Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith), a go getting 30 year old woman. She worked hard a night school to get her degree, and probably knows more about the markets then the men she works for. She is desperate to make her way in the world of Wall Street, and will take any opportunity given to her, though these are few and far between and often a ‘business meeting’ organised by her boss turns out to be a hook up for his friend. After one such run in with Bob (Kevin Spacey) she humiliates her boss showing them she is not a forced to be reckoned with. She wants to get ahead, but she wants to do it on her own terms, not just because she slept with someone.

tess and kathAfter returning back to the office and humiliating the boss who set her up with Bob she gets re-assigned to work for Katherine Parker, who is delightfully over played by Sigourney Weaver. Weaver is able to play the supportive, yet underhanded boss very well, even if she occasionally veers off into Disney Villain territory.

Katherine appears to be the perfect boss, she listens to Tess and encourages her to come to her with ideas for their clients,with the promise of reward for hard work.

One day Tess comes to Katherine with an idea for a client to buy a radio station. Katherine appears to listen and take and interest. Though just before her departure to Europe on a skiing trip she informs Tess the idea was a no goer. The inevitable happens and Katherine breaks her leg whilst away, leaving Tess to look after her apartment until she can return.

Katherine represents everything Tess wants to be, elegant, poised, sophisticated, and, above all in power. So of course in an attempt to mimic her Tess goes through all of Katherine’s things, including her Dictaphone, which just so happens to contain a memo about Tess’ idea that Katherine has kept for herself.

fancy dress

So it turns out Katherine was a massive lying dirt bag all along. Tess decides not to take this lying down, ‘cause she actually kicks ass. She sets up a meeting with Jack Trainer (the ever sexy Harrison Ford). The night before the big meeting Tess gets dolled up in Katherine’s finest clothes to attend a party where the famous Mr Trainer will also be in attendance.

He espies her across the room and tells her Jack Trainer just left before she got there, but she should totally have a tequila with him to make up for it. She ends up getting hammered, thanks in part to the Valium she had taken earlier to calm her nerves.

 

I love this scene, it’s all about how you can be an empowered woman who can handle business without having to give up your femininity and dress, as Jack Trainer himself puts it ‘ how a woman would think a man would dress if he was a woman’

jack trainer

Together Tess and Jack pull together the deal with the client, and on the big meeting between the client and the radio station they are buying Katherine returns from Europe, and discovered Tess’ double-cross when she finds her diary that was left behind in her haste to leave and get to the meeting.

sigourney weaverKatherine manages to get dressed and down to the office where the negotiations are taking place and burst through the door like the wonderfully campy villain she is and kicks Tess out for lying and stealing her idea, all whilst flailing her crutches about. Though at the final meeting the truth prevails. Katherine gets her comeuppance and Tess gets her reward in a new job in a junior position with a new firm, as well as falling in love with Jack. 

On Tess’ first day in her new job she automatically places her things on the secretary’s desk, only to be told by the woman appearing from the fancy office that she is in fact the secretary and the office now belongs to Tess. As she does her introductions to her new employee she decides not to be like Katherine, and be a better boss and a better support.

alec baldwinThere are so many lessons to be learnt from Working Girl, you don’t need to pretend to be a man in order to fit in in places of business. You don’t need to sleep with someone to get ahead. It’s OK to get rid of unsupportive people in your life (At one point Tess finds her unsupportive boyfriend (Alec Baldwin) in bed with another woman, so she kicks him to the curb). It’s OK to be supportive to your friends with aspirations, Tess’ best friend, Cynthia (Joan Cusack, who also has the best ever New York accent and some of the highest hair I’ve ever seen) is always there for her, no matter what. Even joan cusackwhen she might not agree with Tess’s actions, she supports them and doesn’t judge her for wanting a career over her cheating boyfriend. Above all, it’s about how everyone should come together and supportive of each other in the workplace in order to achieve equality. We are a little closer to this goal nearly thirty years on, but with men still in the vast majority of positions of power we still have a way to go.

Yes, the production values are little dated. Yes, the fashion choices are questionable. Yes, it’s a little fluffy and things happen at the convenience of the plot. But this is a wonderful film, it’s hard not to get swept up with Tess’ ambitions and fight to be taken seriously in a world dominated by men. She refuses to give up her morals for the sake of getting ahead. She is truly a feminist hero and a great inspiration for any young woman wanting to enter big business.

 

Captain America: Civil War Review

Not content with cracking the superhero team-up movie formula way before DC and just over a month removed from the critical flop Batman v Superman, Marvel have also shown everyone just how a hero vs hero movie should be done.

Civil War is the latest instalment in Marvel’s cinematic universe which sees the Avengers fractured due to consequences from their previous adventures. The film takes inspiration from the 2006 comic storyline of the same name but it changes a lot of stuff so it fits better into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

*This review will contain spoilers about the plot and character moments but I’ll try to keep it vague*

Despite being a named Captain America movie, Civil War is totally the next Avengers movie. Cap is technically the main character but there’s a lot of Iron Man and the gang too. We open with big chase scene where the Avengers team as we saw them at the end of Age of Ultron is trying to stop Crossbones (the douchey Hydra agent from Winter Soldier in cool skull themed body armor) from stealing a bio weapon. We get Cap, Black Widow and Falcon running through a crowded market place where there are plenty of masked goons for them to throw around.

I really love how they handle the fight choreography in this movie. Obviously Cap can’t throw guys through buildings like Superman or Hulk but if he hits a running dropkick on a guy you better believe he’s going to fly back 30 feet into a wall. Sparing use of CG also helps everything have a real impact. They’re also not afraid to do more complicated fight scenes with huge groups of people. There’s a really impressive scene like this where Cap and Bucky are escaping from an apartment and fight their way through about 100 guys down the stairwell.


Whatever a Spider Can

The rift in the team partially comes from an accident in this first scene where Crossbones set’s off a bomb blowing up part of a government building. This combined with the Avenger’s other incidents of collateral damage spur the UN to create document which would stop the Avengers deploying unless the UN deems it necessary. A side effect of this is that any heroes operating without the government say so would become criminals. Cap doesn’t want to sign and thinks they can do more good un-regulated whereas Iron Man thinks they need to play by the rules to stop more needless deaths. I love when Marvel delves into the real world consequences of superheroes. Granted, it runs the risk of getting too serious but Civil War still keeps that trademark Whedon-esque charm that they’ve had since the first Avengers movie.

So now that Cap and Iron Man are lacking some team mates they both recruit a little extra help. Cap collect some members who aren’t too bothered by being on the wrong side of the law which turns out to be Hawkeye and Ant-Man. Paul Rudd is great in this movie, his irreverent humour in the face of being totally out of his league is hilarious. Iron Man decides to one up this by recruiting the newest member to the MCU, Spider-Man! 

Going in, I was thinking he would just have a small cameo but it was much more than that. This is the debut of their much younger Spider-Man played by Tom Holland who’s most famous for playing Billy Elliot in the stage production until now. We also get to see a strangely young Aunt May which just seems wrong to me. Aunt May is supposed to be a nice old lady, not a milf!

So once the two side are evened out they’ve got to have a big fight, naturally. This is definitely one of the best fight scenes they’ve had in any Marvel movie to date. Everyone gets a moment to shine and it’s the first time we properly see Spider-Man in action. Obviously we’ve seen his web slinging and acrobatics in other movies before but they really make a point of showing off his lesser known skills like his super strength and his wisecracking. Seeing all of these Iconic heroes battle on the big screen is truly amazing and I’m so glad we finally got to see it. 

We need you Cap

When it all comes down to it though this is really a story about Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. We’ve spent the last 2 Avengers films watching them become friends but that all comes crashing down over the course of this movie. Stark does come off looking worse overall due to some questionable choices but you can definitely see both sides of the argument. There are some surprisingly emotional scenes considering this is a movie about costumed lunatics running around punching each other. It also leaves us with plenty of questions about the future Avengers movies and how they will function after all this. 

I really enjoyed this movie from start to finish, it brought back some of the perfectly timed comedy moments that I thought Age of Ultron was missing and the action scenes are easily their best to date. The only bad point I noticed was the pacing was a bit rushed at times, they had a lot to get through in their 2hr 26 min so it moves at more of a quick comic book pace. This meant they had to put in a few convenient plot moments like Bucky miraculously getting his memories back after being knocked out for a few minutes of screen time. Other than that I really can’t fault this movie, after the disappointment of Batman v Superman I was so glad Captain America: Civil War was everything I wanted it to be and more.

★★★★★

Pee Wee’s Big Holiday Review

In the 80s and early 90s and you wanted to have a wacky fun filled time there was one man you could always rely on. Pee Wee Herman.

pee wee

He provided kids with a haven of silly crazy, nonsense, where anything could happen and it often did. One moment that always sticks in the mind is when Pee Wee married his bowl of fruit salad.  Here’s the theme song, you can get it stuck in your head too. 

 

It’s been 28 years since the last cinematic outing of everyone’s favourite man child. In the last installment he went to work in a circus in Big Top Pee Wee, which was somewhat of a let down after the triumphant Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and the subsequent TV series Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

As a big fan of zany nonsense, I loved Pee Wee as a child, and I still believe Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (which shall henceforth be called PWBA) to be one of the greatest kids films and one of the best of the director, Tim Burton’s.

pee wee big adventuer

So, as you might imagine when I heard there was going to be a new Pee Wee movie that was going to involve Judd Apatow I was pretty excited. So, once the morning of 18th March finally rolled around, I stayed in my pyjamas, poured myself some cereal, and pretended I was 7 years old again as I turned on Netflix for something I have been waiting for for a long time.

The plot starts off with Pee Wee (according to the credits, Pee Wee plays himself, but really it’s Paul Rubens) loves his home town of Fairville, CA. so much that he has never left, and has no intention of ever leaving to explore the big wide world. However, one day a handsome cool stranger walks into the diner where Pee Wee works as a chef  (Joe Manganiello, who plays himself with great humour) and they immediately hit if off and become BFFs. So much so that Joe invites Pee Wee to his birthday party. In New York. In 5 days time!

pee wee joe 2

After some advice not to just get a plane and go cross country, Pee Wee takes the plunge and sets off on an adventure of a lifetime.

Along the way he conveniently meets a ragtag collection of characters who both help and hinder our plucky hero along the way, including a travelling salesman, a farmer and his nine daughters, an Amish community, and a gang of female thieves on the run.

pee wee maebe

If you’ve ever seen PWBA then this might sound a little familiar, just replace birthday party for stolen bike and you pretty much have the same story with new characters. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, out of the slew of remakes and reboots of famous franchises over the last few years the best ones have essentially followed the format of the original movie (Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I’m looking at you!).

The jokes are hilariously bad, if you love a good dad joke, then you’ll happily chuckle away throughout the film. There’s a great use of slapstick humour as well, an art form I feel is sadly lacking these days. The movie starts off with a beautifully orchestrated Rube Goldberg machine that involves the entire community helping Pee Wee on his way to work.

The plot bounces along with a good pace, and none of the supporting characters feel like they overstay their welcome, despite the long list of cameos there is only one true star of this picture. Pee Wee himself.

Paul Reubens, Pee wee Herman

 

Rubens manages to bring his famed Character back to life with a great energy for a man of over 60. Pee Wee feels like his good old self, though I suspect Rubens may have farmed out some of the more strenuous stunts to a team of stunt Pee Wees. He carries the film through to the finale with all the adorable naive aplomb you’ve come to expect.

Even though I was thrilled with the silly, slapstick humour I think my main problem with the film was the feeling that it couldn’t quite escape the shadow of PWBA, although many reboots have made use of old formats, they’ve been able to update them enough that they become fresh, unfortunately there just wasn’t enough changes from PWBA for me to fully get it out of my mind, and all I could do was compare it throughout my viewing. Along with the lack of originality it sometimes the wacky, zaniness that comes with Pee Wee felt a little forced, like they had to do it because it worked before. PWBA, although similar, always made sense within the world that was created around and by Pee Wee. I never quite got that same feeling in Big Holiday. 

pee wee amish

I did enjoy the movie on the whole, and this will definitely help to keep the kids quiet on a Saturday morning. For those of slightly older fans, however, I would make sure to put any other Pee Wee incarnations out of your head before watching and just take the movie for what it is; a daft romp about a man child exploring and discovering a big wide world in the best way that he can. By making friend with everyone he meets.

 

★★★☆☆