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Review – Movie – John Wick (Chapter 1)

Occasionally a movie comes along that’s just so simplistically perfect in what it’s trying to present.  Recently it seems there have been two such movies, and John Wick is one of them.  Where so many movies try to make everything a deep metaphor or some sort of social commentary on the world at large, John Wick gives us a straight forward tale of revenge, with hints at a deeper world beyond.

I feel like this layered simplicity is what really makes this film work.  That and the top notch action choreography.  This movie is loaded with shoot outs and guys getting shot and beat up, but it all works extremely well and flows along very well.  Everything is intense and tight and fast, but it manages to keep some level of gritty realism as our hero gets injured and tired and remembers to reload his gun from time to time.  The centerpiece moment is the fight in the middle of the film in The Red Circle Club, as John Wick, chases his target through a crowded night club battling henchmen all along the way.

But the action isn’t the meat of this film, and neither is it’s revenge based plot, the meat is the rich criminal underworld created as the film moves along.  Specifically, the way John Wick never stops to explain anything to us, but still presents everything in a way that’s clear as to how things work.  Take the Golden Coins we see several times in the movie.  They are simple gold coins, probably valuable in their own right, but they also seem to represent more than just a coin, favors perhaps.  A way of trading trust throughout this world of mobsters and assassins where everyone knows everyone else.  John has many of them, and spends several of them in clear logical ways that give us the idea of what they are without hand holding the viewer along.

There is also John Wick himself.  John is a retired hitman for some powerful criminal organization.  We never get to see John Wick in his “glory days”.  Instead, we get the feel of just how much of a bad ass John Wick is by the way other characters react to seeing him “back in action”.  The way his old boss has nothing more to say than “oh” when learning that his son has pissed of John Wick.  The way his colleagues immediately respect him and treat him highly.  Through the vague story of what length John went through to retire and get married in the first place.    And of course through how determined and skilled John is at dispatching dozens of grunts along the way despite being “retired” for some years.

It’s this little detail that helps keep the action flowing without stopping to get bogged down in the details while simultaneously not leaving tons of “well what the hell does that mean” moments.  It’s a fine line that other similar movies often fail at because they are too vague with the details or too talky about it.

The movie itself may not be quite for everyone, mostly because it’s pretty violent, though it’s also violent in a way that’s not overly gory.  Another nice point of this film, it would have been easy to get gratuitous with the violence, with constant blood splatters and whatnot, but the film avoids these cheap gimmicks which just helps push that subtle layer of realism that I mentioned earlier.

The bottom line is, this movie is pretty fantastic, especially if you are at all into action movies with excellent fight choreography.

Legion – Chapter 2 – Finding Yourself Inside Your Lost Head

Just a side note, these episodes don’t have subtitles or names beyond “Chapter X”, I just add that for fun.  Sort of how I add little descriptor bits instead of episode names to my Agents of SHIELD recaps.

This second Episode of Legion was certainly less trippy than the first, though there was, ironically, some actual tripping at one point, briefly.  Things pick up essentially right after David was rescued at the end of the last episode, most of the episode involves David going on a mind trip through the powers of a Mutant, Ptonomy, who can work on people’s Memories to try to find the source of his Schizophrenia.  Melanie, the leader of whatever this group is called, is working to convince David that he isn’t crazy, the crazy is just a side effect of his Psychic powers.

Most of the episode is a trip down memory lane, there’s a bit involving him and his friend Lenny selling a stove for drugs, and some brief bits where David is talking to his shrink about why his girlfriend left him and some scenes involving a very young David being read a story called “The World’s Angriest Boy in the World” which seems to be about a father killing some kid’s mother.  We don’t actually get to see the father however, he is shrouded in shadow.  There is a spoiler here from the comics, but I’ll skip it for now, and it may not be in the show anyway.

The underlying plot though is that David has memories he is keeping hidden from the others, and unlocking them may be the key to figuring out his problems.  I’m also not convinced of who is real and who is not either.  Lenny shows up in a memory and “died” in the first episode, but she may still just be part of his Schizophrenia.  Syd Barret, David’s girlfriend may or may not be real either.  She is hanging around in this episode a lot, but always int he background or off to the side, it’s very… Fight Club… in it’s presentation.

There is also a bit at the end where David’s sister comes to the Asylum looking for him, but they claim he has never been there, and then Division 3 show up and take her into custody, which sets up David wanting to rescue her after seeing a vision of her in danger.

It’ll be interesting to see where things go next to be sure.

Recap – Agents of SHIELD S04E14 – Six Degrees of Agent Coulson

The Superior made a promise, Coulson… Must.. Die…

Such an ominous threat to make in the middle of a season against the lead character from an almost nobody villain.  Which is my biggest complaint with The Superior, he kind of feels like a nobody, and not particularly amazing in any regards.   I suppose that might be the point, the whole sub plot here felt very… “Civil War Lite”.  At least as far as the motivations of the villain.  Basically his only power is Vodka and “Being Russian”.

Kind of some mystery sub plots going on here but mostly this was a good episode.  Daisy was really great in this one, though she didn’t do much aside from kick ass a few times.

Onward with the spoilers…

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Review – Movie – Speed Racer (2008)

The original Speed Racer anime series from the late 60s is one of the earliest Anime shows to be brought to the US.  Originally titles Mach GoGoGo in Japan, Speed Racer follows the exploits of Speed Racer (literally first name/last name) and his friends as they participate in races and adventures using the Mach 5 Super car.  Stylistically, especially at the time, it was quite unique, with it’s unique Japanese animation style and look.  Though live action adaptations of animated features don’t always work well, Speed Racer does it’s best to replicate the intense colorful style of the anime, and anime in general.

Fortunately for the movie, it’s the one thing that it succeeds at, and succeeds at very well.  The visuals of this entire film, from start to finish, are pretty incredible.  A lot of what makes it work where a lot of cartoon to live action fails is that it completely embraces it’s origin and never looks back.  There’s no out of place realism to the way the cars move and literally glide around the track, there’s no punches pulled on the stunts or action.  Even during the downtime off the track the sets are colorful and full of detail that’s both dense and simple at the same time, keeping with the base styling you’d likely see in an anime series.

Everything just meshes together to keep everything believable within he context of the fantastical race obsessed world presented to the viewer.  There are also a lot of interesting Transitions used almost constantly throughout the film that help push this effect even farther.  Overlays of announcers, and crowd watchers and other drivers sweep across the screen giving everything loads of atmosphere.

Visuals don’t really make a movie though, even a really pretty movie isn’t worth watching without some sort of plot.  The general plot is essentially Speed Racer and his crew working their way up through the racer ranks to become the best racer in the world.  Along the way there’s a few subplots involving Speed Racer’s brother who died in a race in the past, the mysterious Racer X and an evil corporation trying to use the race for nefarious purposes.  There isn’t a lot of depth to anything going on here, but it gets a little complicated and the film itself is pretty non stop in it’s pace which makes things feel a little messy at times.  It also makes the film feel a little long, but more because it’s kind of exhausting keeping up with the constant barrage of crazy visuals.

The cast also does a great job of selling the whole experience.  In the same vein as the visuals, the cast does a pretty good job of selling the idea of being cartoonish in nature.  John Goodman and Christina Ricci are both pretty good as Pops and Trixie as do the rest of the supporting cast.  Emile Hirsch as Speed does a nice job of selling the Speed’s obsessive racing desire and need to be good as well.  What really helps to is they all look the part.

Often with adaptations such as this there are “changes” done to modernize things or make them more hip.  Or worse, the actors chosen look nothing like their original counter parts.  A lot of what makes Speed Racer’s style work is that it sticks close to it’s roots.  Sure, there’s a “new” Mach 6 race car, but the traditional Mach 5 is plenty present in this film and the new car does a good job of keeping the spirit of the Mach 5 without going overboard in it’s redesign.

Speed Racer isn’t a movie that’s going to win any awards for depth, though it’s definitely a technically impressive film.  It’s almost too visually busy at times honestly.  It’s still worth checking out if you can handle the predictably simple plot that holds it all together.

Legion – Chapter 1 – Professor Xavier’s Asylum for Insane Youngsters

Wowzers.  What a crazy show this is.  It’s kind of part of the “gimmick” here I suppose, given the main character is a paranoid schizophrenic.  Oh, and he’s also a Mutant, as in, X-men mutants.

Legion is the latest Marvel property television series, based on the comic book of the same name.  It shows on FX, on Wednesday night.  It is not, however, part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s part of Fox’s X-men universe, which includes all of the X-men and Wolverine Movies, and Deadpool.  There’s not really any direct references going on here however, nor are there likely to be any, though there may be a few little Easter eggs here and there.  It is the first television series set in this universe though last I checked there are two more coming, one called Hellfire and another unnamed X-men TV series.

I want to do little reviews on this series similar to the Agents of SHIELD recaps I’ve been doing, though I don’t intend to go into that much depth here.  Honestly, I’m not sure I could.  There’s just soooo much packed into this thing, especially within the first episode.

Legion is not your traditional super hero show, or even your traditional super hero.  Legion, at least in the comics, refers to the main character David, a schizophrenic Mutant Psychic.  The crazy part is explored, in depth, in this initial episode, and presented in a very interesting way.  Much of the episode, especially early on, is essentially a series of layers flashbacks and memories and flat out delusions.  Things jump constantly between locations and conversations and people in a frankly, confusing manner.  As things roll along though, things clear up a bit, and the plot starts to sharpen out into at least some level of presentable direction and explanation of what’s going on.

Though, it’s hard to really believe what’s going on, or what’s real and what’s not.  I’m inclined to believe most of the later bits that take place in the more modern era is real.  Most of the little bits with David as a child are also likely real, though memories of reality.  The questionable bits are what’s in between.  Everything at the Clockwork Asylum, and frankly, everyone he meets at the Asylum.

Reading up on Legion a bit from the comics on Wikipedia, he basically has multiple personalities that all manifest different powers.  There is also a bit about taking on personality and powers of others he touches, sort of a crazy, less messy version of Rogue crossed with Professor X.  There’s actually a potential spoiler regarding Professor X there as well that may or may not get addressed in the show.

Basically what I’m thinking, is the little bit at the end of the episode, with the dramatic escape involving half a dozen mutants, may just be David, at his peak, using all of his powers at once.

The episode started off kind of really strange and slow but by the end everything wrapped up in a good enough way that I’ll probably stick with it.  It’s only 8 episodes in the end anyway.

Agents of SHIELD S04E13 – The Search for May

Now that Coulson knows the truth about May and Radcliffe has the Darkhold, everyone’s on the hunt for Radcliffe.  There’s also a new Inhuman on the block this week, though probably not who anyone really expected.

Daisy gets quite a bit of spotlight this episode as well, which is a pretty nice change.  She’s been kind of feeling a bit back burner this season in general, though that’s not really a bad thing considering she has been overly focused for the previous few seasons.

Generally this was a pretty good episode with some set up for what will probably be the closing bits of the LMD arc, which is rumored to last 7-8 episode, which would put it at an end in 2-3 episodes, which probably will mean another break.

More spoiler based details below.

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Tuesday Trailer – Ghost in the Shell

So my understanding is, this version is the combination of a couple of plots from the original Anime.  I’m pretty much only familiar with the original movie, and all of those elements are really obvious but I’m not sure on the other bits.

That said, I feel like a combo movie of some kind that reduces out the slow lame psychobabble of the original film and fleshes out the plot to be a bit less “cerebral” is probably a pretty good idea.  On the other hand there still seems to be a lot of kind of weird shit going on here, that feels like it could be a pretty big turn off for a lot of people.  It also, kind of feels like Lucy, which isn’t good, because Lucy was panned horribly.

Super Bowl Trailer – Fate of the Furious

I’m starting to feel a little leery about this one.  I mean I really dig the Fast and the Furious but I’m not really feeling this while “Dom is evil” angle and this one seems like it’s veering a little TOO off into the “Outlandish crazy” area.  Also, that tank The Rock is driving on the ice, is that the same one he had in GI Joe Retaliation?