John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
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"Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster" isn't a bad chapter in the Godzilla saga, but it's sandwiched between two superior films and if it wasn't for the fact that it marks the arrival of Godzilla's arch nemesis, it wouldn't be anything special to the fans and certainly not to general audiences. Police Detective Shindo (Yosuke Natsuki) is investigating the reappearance of Princess Selina Salno (Akiko Wakabayashi). Her plane exploded on its way to Japan in what is widely believed to be an assassination attempt that's been covered up but oddly, the Princess doesn't appear to be who she is. She is claiming to be a prophet from Venus, warning Earth that a great disaster awaits them: not only will Rodan (from "Rodan") reappear, but Godzilla will return to Japan and an even deadlier threat awaits Earth: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster! Shindo and his sister Naoko (Yuriko Hoshi), once convinced that the Princess' prophecies are true must convince Mothra (returning from her appearance in "Godzilla vs. Mothra") to help them against this threat.
This movie is a mixed bag of monster fun, not as silly as the next chapter ("Godzilla vs. Monster Zero") or as serious as the previous one, "Mothra vs. Godzilla"). On the plus side, we've got more monsters than ever before: Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah and Godzilla, all together and ready to fight! On the downside, the special effects aren't very good in this movie. Assuming you're watching the films in the order they were made, you will notice that the Rodan looks very silly this time around, not particularly cool at all and that the awesome Godzilla suit from the previous film has been replaced with a friendlier-looking, but not nearly as good costume. Having really loved the previous movie, I was also severely disappointed that only one of the Mothra larvae comes back (one is said to have died off-screen, inbetween films). We've got Godzilla moving towards a much more heroic role in this story, which is alright but unfortunately that means that we get much less destruction this time around. You get more boulders being thrown than actual skyscrapers toppled. That said, there are a lot of fun things about this movie, as the franchise moves more towards the campy, ridiculous sci-fi plots that became a staple of the next ten or so chapters. We've got princesses being possessed by Venutian spirits, a three-headed space dragon that shoots lightning coming to attack Earth, meteor showers and an assassination plot. Even more exciting, we get some fun monster battles between the characters. Rodan and Godzilla duke it out in what is a very silly but actually pretty funny battle (which involves much pecking and stuff being thrown around), we've got Mothra fighting King Ghidorah by herself, Mothra trying to convince Godzilla and Rodan to join her in order to save the humans (which they are reluctant to do by the way, because the humans "bully them") and finally King Ghidorah, squaring off against three monsters at once (one for each head!) If you think that last point means that we get a sequence where Mothra rides on top of Rodan so she can get some air with her silly string cocoon powers, then you would be right and you should be excited to see it. Yeah, it's a bit of a disappointment to see the monster action turn into a goofy wrestling match but I like to think of Godzilla a lot like Batman. Some people see him as a serious character and therefore, write him seriously. Some people see him as a symbol of humanity's depths and write him in intricate stories filled with all kinds of symbolism. Some people just see him as a silly science fiction hero for the kids and that's what we get here. Even for the people who like Godzilla as a more serious character, you do get the first-ever appearance of King Ghidorah, so that's something to cheer about.
When it comes to the human plot, it's not too bad, but nothing special. There is a really funny moment right at the beginning where we are introduced to the Shobijin (the emissaries of Mothra) through a game show and there is some nice banter between Shindo and his sister. We get a decent plot about some scientists investigating the mysterious meteors that have fallen to Earth, but that one doesn't hold a candle to the princess assassination plot, which is a lot of fun. This is where the movie gets to its nuttiest because we've got a police officer trying to track down a woman who's claiming to be a Venutian while some bumbling assassins (well, they're not comedic, but they're not very good at their job) are trying to track her down too and meanwhile, she's prophesising that monsters are going show up at any minute. It's also nice to see continuity between the films (even if Rodan's appearance is a drastic change from the last time we saw him, and not only in the looks department).
There are a lot of ideas and plot points going on here, but they're not that well balanced. I would have loved to have seen this film drop Rodan entirely and have the two rivals, Godzilla and Mothra forced to team up with a new opponent, but oh well. It's not one of the silliest Godzilla movies, which actually works against it in a way but it's fun enough, mostly because of the revelation of King Ghidorah. If you're a fan of Godzilla movies, or just giant monster movies you can give this one a shot and you'll have a fun time, but this is not one of the "great" Godzilla films. (Original Japanese with English subtitles on Dvd, March 30, 2014)
Alright so under any other terms, "Death Race 3: Inferno" wouldn't be a good movie.... BUT if you're a fan of the franchise, or even if you liked them a little bit this is actually a pretty fun experience. This instalment is actually a direct sequel to the previous film and it keeps on going with the same characters. That means we actually get something we've never seen before in any of the "Death Race" movies, character development! We get to see how the relationships between the characters have evolved since the last time and they keep changing during this movie as the team have to work together to confront a new villain and hopefully get out of "Death Race" permanently by winning a fifth race. The film also improves on the vehicles used in the races, by making them all pretty distinct from each other. They're all still just browns and greys but they use really distinct models as the base and the massive weapons used on top of the frames help make them visually different. It's actually a pretty big improvement on the second film, which was very badly edited and only got to the racing about an hour into the movie. This time, we get to the racing pretty much right away and we also get a decent plot to keep us interested when we're on the sidelines.
The other racers that are introduced in the film aren't super interesting (even if they're given more interesting things to do than simply drive around because they have to interact with each other more and this time around we get to see them confront crowds of civilians too). What's worse is that the other racers aren't even really "introduced" to us. We get a screen where the narrator presents them, but all we get is a name. No reason for why they're in prison, how many kills they've got or anything and that's a big disappointment. There are other problems in the film, like some plot holes and elements that don't quite work but it's still a lot of fun and it's a pretty coherent story overall. If you're tempted by "Death Race 3: Inferno" you should check it out because even though it isn't high-grade cinema it's fun shlock and you'll have a great time. (Unrated cut on Blu-ray, March 8, 2013)
"Room" is by all accounts a great movie. The acting is some of the best I've seen all year, the story is compelling, the characters interesting and as you follow their plight it's impossible not to get emotionally invested. I urge you to go see it. With that said, I feel like something was lost in translation. Between this film and the novel by Emma Donoghue (who wrote the screenplay, making me ask once again "What do I know?") something doesn't sit right with me. Curious? Let's dig in!
Joy (Brie Larson) and her five-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) live in "Room", a space no bigger than a tool shed outfitted with a bed, a television and some living essentials. Its all Jack has ever known. Soon after his fifth birthday Joy informs her son of the truth: there's more to the world than just "Room". The man who supplies them with food and clothing (Sean Bridgers) kidnapped Joy when she was 17 and there's a whole world waiting for them, if they can escape.
If you have seen trailers for this film, you know well ahead what happens in the second half. If you don't I wouldn't say that knowing this gives away so much away that you won't be able to "Room", but go in as cold as possible. If you're already in the know rest assured. The extra information did not diminish my enjoyment of "Room". It's pretty much impossible not to get involved with what's developing on-screen. Your heart breaks at the very thought of a human being held captive and of another never seeing the outside world. When there is a possibility of escape, no matter how small the odds are you scoot to the edge of your seat because if these two innocents can't be freed, then there's no hope in the world.
This story follows two people being forced against their will to live out a life they have not chosen and making the best of it and about seeing this nightmare through a lens of innocence. If you put two and two together you will quickly realize that there are some pretty unsettling things happening here (we don't actually see Joy get raped, but happening regularly without a doubt). You're getting worried, but hold on. This is not what I would call a depressing movie. Seeing the characters move through this story and getting to know them is a rewarding experience. It's like volunteering at a homeless shelter. You might not be around beauty and the situation is sad, but there's something about being there, holding the hand of someone who is at rock bottom that enriches you. This is particularly true with this Lenny Abrahamson picture because the characters are drawn in such a realistic fashion. Jack is not just a precautious innocent who always behaves and sits idly by while the world moves around. 5 year olds can be sweet. They can also be frustrating and impatient. The key is that when they're being funny or asking an innocuous question they melt your heart and you fall head over heels in love. Joy is no a saint either, despite the fact that she's undeniably a victim and a strong person for holding onto shreds of hope.
There is still hope within Jack and when I saw the bond between him and his mother it more than made up for the discomfort that I felt thinking about everything that this scenario entailed. I could never quite get over it completely, and I don't think you`re supposed to, but by the end of the film I think you'll manage to emerge unscathed. Witnessing the character of Jack really begin to evolve and grow despite everything he's missed out on ignites your own healing process. If anything, it'll inspire you to think of children and of the resiliency of the human spirit in a whole new way.
I do have a criticism which I feel needs to be addressed. Ultimately this movie is about self-discovery and exploration. I don't think it pulls it off 100%. I compare the film to a book that I have not read, but I get the feeling that when you find yourself in Jack's for world the first time, you're not supposed to fully grasp what's happening. Is it a science fiction/fantasy story where the whole world really IS just this tiny? In live action, the illusion is never there. As a person living in the real world, you can immediately tell that there is something wrong. The film is essentially told from Jack's point of view but I never felt like I could truly immerse myself and understand how he thought. Similarly, I think there are missed opportunities with the unique aspects that film can bring to a story. It's not a great example, but I think of Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz", where the use of actors, music and color made it clear that she is in a new world with new rules. It sucked you into this new place to help you understand how different a life it would be. A life lived in a single room could have been conveyed better.
I do not think that most people will feel the same way I did about the "film" aspect of "Room". Even if you do, there's no denying that it is an emotionally successful and touching account that sucks you in right from the beginning, contains real tension without resorting to any cheap tricks and works as a profound examination of two human beings. Then you've got the performances. Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay alone should be enough to compel you to get off your butt and see "Room" the performances are on a higher echelon than in most films. For those reasons and more, I'm certain that this is not the last time you will hear of "Room". (Theatrical version on the big screen, November 10, 2015)
"V for Vendetta" is a story about revenge. Simple enough, but it also contains some thoughts I'd dare call profound, along with solid performances and several iconic moments that will stick with you. Is it a faithful adaptation of the graphic novel by Alan Moore? Not really, but like any interpretation or adaptation, it's ok to deviate from the source material as long as the end result is good and the spirit remains. It's not like this movie is going to barge into your house and burn every copy of the comic after all.
Set in an Orwellian-like England, Evey (Natalie Portman) happens upon an extraordinary man, a masked vigilante simply known as V (voiced by Hugo Weaving). Think of V as a cross between Edmund Dantes (from "The Count of Monte Cristo", you uncultured swine!) and Batman. Is he a terrorist, or the savior the country has been silently praying for? Either way he's out for blood and seeking to take down the totalitarian government, partially because it ties into his own mysterious past.
Based on the graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd, this 2006 release but varies wildly from the pages that originally brought the characters to life. I'm torn to which I like better. Here, V is seen as a heroic vigilante and less like a wildfire spawned from the discontent of the masses. Other changes set the story in more contemporary times and there is less emphasis on the tyrannical government. The amount of characters is significantly reduced and most of the sub-plots are gone, replaced with more backstory on the world. It makes for a product that's significantly less intellectual and more action-oriented, but there is still a pretty solid brain rattling in that Guy Fawkes mask.
What works best is that viewing the picture feels empowering, even while never leaving the real of complete fantasy. V is a charismatic hero that makes the whole rebellion thing look easy. He's such a larger-than-life character that he transcends the limitations of the media and goes on to inspire rebellion and power to the audience with his eloquent speeches, incredibly intricate plots and moments of kick-ass kung-Fu. The 17th-century conical hat, the black outfit (cape, gloves, tunic, trousers and boots) and the "face" with the shoulder-length wig of straight hair and the Guy Fawkes mask are incredibly iconic. It's that right mix of theatrics and realism. With the film's big climax, set a on the 5th of November no one is ever likely to forget... it's no wonder that visage has become a symbol for disgruntled youths looking to rebel.
There are numerous bits of dialogue that will stick with you and shake you out of your sluggish existence, lines like "Ideas are bulletproof" and "There are no coincidences, only the illusion of coincidences" and probably most iconic of all "People should not be afraid of their government, government should be afraid of their people". Those are my personal favorites. There is a long speech where V introduces himself so eloquently phrased it makes you want to pause the scene and rewind it over and over until you've memorized it.
V is a character you are instantly drawn to and want to learn more about, but he's not the only compelling player. We've got an avatar for the audience, a sidekick to our superhero in the form of Evey. She's got plenty going in both in the way she interacts with V and how she transforms over the course of the plot. The two characters have an interesting relationship that switches between hero & damsel in distress, aggressor & victim, mentor & pupil, lost soul & savior and there's a hint of romance thrown in. These characters begin on not necessarily opposite sides, but on very different planes of thinking. As their interactions are shown on screen, you will flip between whom you associate with more closely. While some of the in-depth sub plots from the novel are gone, I feel like the ones that remain keep the film afloat.
The action is memorable and well shot, particularly during the sequences when V gets to really show off him karate gimmicks against a slew of opponents. There are several big explosions throughout the movie, nerve-wracking turns, tense decisions made, and all balanced with some moments of deep reflection/contemplation. A particular highlight in the set design is V's lair, which is reminiscent of a museum and an antique store in desperate need of a serious clearance sale, but quite striking. You'll find a ton of theatrics and moments that will have you pumped, excited to see more.
When it's all over, you might even have learned a thing about how you ultimately feel about revenge. If not, hey at least you saw a blood-pumping action movie about not taking no guff from nobody. There's a lot of re-watch value contained in the 132 minute running time and you're going to praise the Home Video Gods when you realize turning on the subtitles makes it a whole lot easier to memorize the epic speeches delivered throughout. I find myself itching to watch "V For Vendetta" every 5th of November, if only so I can pretend like I can recite every line and sound as majestic as Hugo Weaving, or capture a sliver of the work that inspired the film. (On Dvd, November 5,