John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
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Charming and violent love letter to 1980s genre filmmaking. A group of teen boys (Eats, the fat kid, Woody, the nerdy kid, Farrady, the bad boy, and Davey, the relatable main character good kid) suspect their police officer neighbor is really a serial killer. This leads to lots of spying and talking over walkie talkies, BMX bike riding, and hanging out at arcades & tree forts. "Summer of 84" could easily be written off as a "Stranger Things" knockoff, and it is admittedly very similar, but it also feels unique in some aspects, particularly in that it's a non-supernatural horror film that's more similar to Hitchcock and De Palma than Stephen King or John Carpenter in it's 80s horror cinema love fest (both still owe a lot to Steven Spielberg). Directed by FranÃ§ois Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell (billed as RKSS), who previously made the innocent yet wildly violent "Turbo Kid," another 80s love letter that paid homage to low budget Mad Max post apocalyptic ripoff films (i.e. "Endgame" "1990: The Bronx Warriors," "Exterminators of the Year 3000," etc.). As with that film, the band Le Matos provides an excellent retro style synthesizer heavy score, although this score is much moodier than their peppy Turbo Kid score ("No Tomorrow" is a classic movie song as far as I'm concerned). Overall, your affection for the 80s will determine your enjoyment of this film. Minus that nostalgia value, the film is not scary or suspenseful enough to be memorable on its own. Also, the characters are not as funny or as endearing in a Spielbergian sense to be all that memorable, which is something "Stranger Things" does exceptionally well. FUN FACT! Look fast for the fictional Polybius video game in the arcade scene. Also look fast for a Turbo Kid action figure in the main character's closet when he's digging for his G.I. Joe walkie talkies.
Smart small-scale post-apocalyptic horror film is really about the horrors of parenting. John Krasinski co-wrote, directed, and stars as the father of a family living in a world where monstrous blind creatures roam the countryside hunting by sound, forcing the family to live in near complete silence. The film begins 89 days after the monsters first appeared and Krasinski and family seem to be the only ones left alive, introduced without explanation, walking barefoot into town to get supplies and medicine. The family has an advantage in this new silent world in that their oldest daughter is deaf and they all know sign language. The film is endlessly fascinating, seeing how the family has adapted to survive in this silent world, creating sand paths to quietly get from place-to-place, leaving all door open to avoid noise, and an elaborate system of colored lights to silently communicate danger. Different ways the family has adapted to live in silence are shown throughout the film and are a great hook to hold audience interest (Don't even ask about Krasinski's wife, Emily Blunt (who are a real-life married couple), being pregnant and their plan for how to keep the infant quiet!). From a filmmaking perspective, "A Quiet Place" is unique in it's use of silence and reliance on visuals to tell its story. Most horror movies rely on jarring sounds and pounding music to build suspense, while Krasinski has crafted a film where the smallest sound becomes terrifying. Even more impressive, from a storytelling perspective, Krasinski has created what is essentially a modern day silent film. There is almost no spoken dialogue and most of the film has the characters communicating through ASL. The original plan was to not include subtitles for the ASL, but at the last minute the filmmakers decided to include them. I chose to watch the film without subtitles and it worked perfect without, which is a testament to Krasinski's talent as a writer/director, as well as credit to the talents of the actors involved. Original ideas for horror films are rare these days, and this was a pretty clever twist on the tired end-of-the-world scenario, but what makes "A Quiet Place" a cut above most of its ilk is the film's emotional depth. Most post apocalyptic and horror films are simply exciting survival tales, and this film is certain that, but at its core it's about the terrifying responsibility of parenting. The most resonant parts of the film are the parents' constant vigilance to keep their children safe, teaching them how to survive in this new world, and their guilt over mistakes that have made (even when it was not their fault). This identifiable human emotional level is often missing from horror films, but when it is present, it makes the suspense and horror elements all the more terrifying, which is what makes "A Quiet Place" one of the most effective horror films of recent memory. Well worth watching, even for non-horror fans!
From Sergio Corbucci, director of the classic spaghetti westerns "The Great Silence" and "Django," comes a routine, but serviceable Italian sword-and-sandal epic staring Steve Reeves, best know for his many Hercules films. This was Reeves final on-screen appearance in this particular genre, later moving onto pirate and western films. "The Slave" has Reeves cast a Roman soldier who discovers he's actually the son of Spartacus, a slave turned gladiator turned rebel leader against the Roman Empire. Like his father, Reeves ends up leading a slave revolt. Unlike the Stanley Kubrick version of Spartacus, this film is minus interesting characters, dialogue, and narrative. However, Corbucci does bring strong visuals to the film and the production values of "The Slave" is better than most Italian sword-and-sandal pictures, which makes this film worth checking out for fans of these admittedly silly films.
Steve McQueen plays real-life bounty hunter Ralph "Papa" Thorson in this disappointedly routine action film, which would sadly be his final film. "The Hunter" is a mostly episodic story, with McQueen tasked with hunting down different cons who've jumped bail, which leads to fist fights, car chases, and one particularly enjoyable chase atop a commuter train. There's also a quaint scene where he uses an early incarnation of a taser. Journeyman director Buzz Kulik ("Villa Rides," "Sergeant Ryker," "Brian's Song") delivers adequate action sequences, but lacks the style of Sam Peckinpah's "The Getaway" or Peter Yates' "Bullitt." A stronger director could have elevated this material, but there's no denying that McQueen is one of the coolest actors of all-time and does turn this completely average material into something much more compelling than it deserved. With a lesser actor playing Papa Thorson, "The Hunter" would have long been forgotten, but McQueen makes this film something worth watching. Eli Wallach, Kathryn Harrold, LeVar Burton, Ben Johnson, and Tracey Walter also appear in the film. RELATED RECOMMENDATION: If you want a higher quality movie about modern day bounty hunters, watch Robert DeNiro in "Midnight Run" instead.
Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn play screenwriting partners, and longtime romantic partners, who decide to get married and then find that marriage is not the same as being "best friends." Written by Barry Levinson ("Diner" "The Natural" "Avalon") and Valerie Curtin (who co-wrote "...and justice for all" "Inside Moves" and "Unfaithfully Yours" with Levinson), based the story on their own lives as writing partners. The film was directed by Norman Jewison ("In the Heat of the Night" "Moonstruck" "Rollerball") and was shot by Jordan Cronenweth ("Blade Runner" "Stop Making Sense" "Peggy Sue Got Married"), along with music by Michel Legrand ("Summer of '42" "The Thomas Crown Affair"), so considering all of the talent behind the camera and in front of the camera, which also included Jessica Tandy, Keenan Wynn, Ron Silver, and Richard LIbertini, the film is somewhat of a disappointment. However, although the film is not as good as I would have hoped, the stars have a likable chemistry and have a fun Tracy/Hepburn type of relationship, where the male and female leads are presented as equals, which is rarely the case with romantic comedies. Watchable if you're a fan of the two leads.