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John Wick: Chapter 2

Later this month, John Wick Chapter 2 will be available for digital download, followed in mid-June by its release on Blu-Ray. So it's time to acknowledge that Chapter 2 is a master class in how to make a sequel. While building on the events of 2014's John Wick, it expands in logical fashion and generally avoids the pitfalls of just trying to repeat itself. The result is that I love both films, but for very different reasons.

John Wick's (Keanu Reeves) rampage over the murder of his dog has signaled the dark world he left behind that maybe he's back and not really retired. As a result, Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) calls in a marker, compelling Wick to once more become a gun-for-hire. Massive running gun battles, legendary feats of gun fu, betrayal, lots of betrayal, and general, all-around great mayhem ensue.

JW was a delight for anyone in love with physical acting and action. Not only was it praise-worthy that Reeves did most of his own stunt work, the exte…
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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

With its release on home video, we come to the unsurprising and yet still bitter disappointment that is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Unsurprising, because of a lousy director. Disappointing, because it should have been great. To explain further will involve light spoilers; I will avoid larger giveaways. In a galaxy far, far away, the Empire continues to consolidate its power after the fall of the Republic (see Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith). Toward that end, they are assembling a giant battle station, the Death Star. The Rebel Alliance plots a way of finding out what’s going on and perhaps, in the process, save their collective butts. Rebellious galivanting ensues. All of the elements necessary to craft a good story are here, yet none of them work. The blame lies almost exclusively at the feet of director Gareth Edwards. This is his third film (after Monsters and Godzilla) and his failings as a director stand out in each. The major problems with each film involve the peopl…

Bridge of Spies

Did you ever read something and then, some time later, wished you could remember when and where so you could give proper attribution? That's happened to me, as I recall reading the opinion that, in the years to come, just as with 1994's Shawshank Redemption, Bridge of Spies would come to be recognized as the best film of 2015. Despite my love for Mad Max: Fury Road, I'm beginning to agree with that prediction.

In the late 1950s, as the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union begins to become more and more frigid, Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) is arrested by the FBI. American attorney James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is assigned to represent Abel in court. Abel is found guilty of espionage and sentenced to federal prison. Shortly thereafter, an American U-2 spy plane is shot down as it attempts a long-range overflight of the Soviet Union. Its pilot, Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) is captured, tried, and found guilty of espionage. Donovan is recruited …

Deadpool

I'm still trying to process why I like this film as much as I do. Part of me is screaming that it's my favorite of the Marvel films, handily displacing my previous champion, Guardians of the Galaxy. Meanwhile, another part is screaming that it's a fairly standard yarn, superhero or otherwise. I know, right? Confusing. Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is a gun for hire who, seemingly the day after he falls hopelessly in love, discovers he hasn't very long to live. The creepiest salesman on Earth (Jed Rees) convinces him to undergo a covert operation that will cure him while bringing out his innermost mutant. Naturally, creepy salesman has ulterior motives. NSFW language and violence ensues. On the big screen, Deadpool first showed up in one of those standalone Wolverine films. The film was terrible, Deadpool was terrible, with Reynolds doing the best he could with a horrible part. The fans howled and Reynolds, a serious fan of Deadpool, vowed revenge. Thus, Deadpool, this m…

John Williams

My favorite film composer of all time is Jerry Goldsmith. His music was always inventive, often challenging, and thoroughly engaging. It's a shame the Academy so seldom recognized his work, so let's discuss someone who the Academy has recognized and delivered a bevy of Oscars to, John Williams.

Williams' career is somewhat contemporaneous to Goldsmith's. Both started in television. That's where I first heard Williams' music, for Irwin Allen's Lost in Space. This relationship with Allen would lead to Williams composing the music for Allen's two greatest disaster films, The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. Williams became the master of the disaster suite.

His music always struck me as almost startlingly different from other composers. Goldsmith could shock you with an inventive use of one instrument or another, but Williams would seduce you with lush melodies and rich harmonies. Listen to the track "Planting the Charges" from The Tow…

Ant-Man

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) keeps churning along and now presents it's second most bizarre addition. The first was Guardians of the Galaxy, my favorite Marvel film by a long shot. Now, Ant-Man, which I love despite myself. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) just wants to leave behind his life of petty crime and make things right with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder), who lives with his former wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her new police officer husband, Paxton (Bobby Cannavale). His life takes a turn for the strange when he's recruited by brilliant scientist Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to stop his former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) from doing something stupid. Hank's daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) objects. Superhero hijinks involving tiny superheroes and villains ensues. Originally this was going to be Edgar Wright's contribution to the MCU, but apparently producer Kevin Feige expected the writer/producer/director of, among other things, Scott Pilgrim Versus th…

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Force is Meh with this one...

In 1977, Star Wars was a revelation. I never thought of it as science fiction, because it isn't, but it was fantasy that I could love. Give me blasters and spaceships over broadswords and horses any day of the week. And then The Empire Strikes Back came along and it was even better. It's been downhill ever since. The Force Awakens does very little to reverse that.

Some 30 years after the fall of the Empire, a galaxy far, far away is in a state of upheaval. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the last Jedi Knight, has vanished. In his absence, the First Order has risen up from the ashes of the Empire, and seeks to crush the nascent New Republic. A Resistance stands in opposition, led (at least in part) by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) who sends one of her finest pilots, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) on a mission to recover information that may lead to Skywalker's whereabouts because he is, apparently, her only hope. Everything hits the fan.

I&#…