Review: 'John Wick 4' a poetic, imperfect final chapter that goes down swinging for the fences
"John Wick" was the unlikeliest of box office successes when it hit theaters nearly a decade ago (2014). Since then, the franchise has become a beloved IP for Lionsgate, grossing nearly 600 million at the box office. "John Wick: Chapter 2" (2017) expanded the world of John Wick, with secret societies of assassins and some mythology to go along with its non-stop action. "John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parrabellum" (2019) wasn't quite as interesting, but it delved into this universe even further.
Each chapter has nearly doubled the gross of the previous installment, and that brings us to the highly-anticipated "John Wick: Chapter 4," a movie that would feel like a fitting end to the saga, if we didn't already know that they're planning a "John Wick: Chapter 5" as well as a spin-off film, "Ballerina," and a live-action series based on the hitman hotel and safe-haven, "The Continental."
Amazingly, "John Wick: Chapter 4" in absolute ground-breaking achievement in action cinema, the most confident and gloriously-rendered installment yet. It has many, many problems, but the good outweighs the bad - perhaps just barely - and if you've followed John Wick this far, there's no way that you'll feel disappointed by his latest adventure.
Review: 'Scream VI' proves that this slasher franchise is losing its sharp edge
Here's what I liked about the new "Scream VI" movie: There were some very cool kills, some great set-pieces (the opening sequence, a scene set in a mini-mart and a scene spanning across two high-rise apartment windows were super-cool). I really like the main cast - the "Core Four" as they're referred to - of Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Mason Gooding and Jasmin Savoy Brown. And there was something that felt "freeing" with this franchise deciding to head out of the confines of Woodsboro, California for the dark, murky, dangerous streets of New York City.
But the "Scream" films have always felt "risen above" the rest of the horror genre...mainly by how it mixes in sharp satire of the horror genre itself. The characters in these films have watched all the horror movies. They know all of the tropes of the genre. Like the savvy viewers sitting in the theater, these people are not going to fall for the usual tricks. This has always made "Scream" feel smart. They have acted as an ongoing subversion of the genre.
As a massive fan of the first four "Scream" chapters, I was not at all a fan of the last chapter, essentially called "Scream 5" (in fact, it was simply called "Scream" as it tried to relaunch itself as a franchise, but that's besides the point). "Scream VI" is a giant improvement over the previous installment, and for its first two-thirds, it felt like an inspired chapter in the ongoing "Scream" saga. But the last half-hour made it IMPOSSIBLE to be on board with, succumbing not only to the terrible tropes that the series often makes fun of, but leaning into them unknowingly.
Director Guy Ritchie has made a career on style. His latest film, the full-titled version of which is "Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre," has plenty of it...the problem is that the script is a complete dud. This renders its talented ensemble useless, each desperate to breathe life into this dead-on-arrival crime-comedy-thriller, but each - save Hugh Grant - being held back without ever getting a chance to shine.
The result is a movie that feels like it should be cool but isn't...a movie so high on its own supply that it becomes grating, not charismatic, the longer it slogs on.
"If you're going to steal, steal a lot."
That's the under-riding premise of "Sharper," a slow-burning thriller about con artists conning other con artists, where nothing - and no one - is ever quite is it seems.
Despite the movie leaving me with a feeling that it should have been more effective given the talented cast, "Sharper" still was an enjoyable if not infallible mystery.
Knock knock. Who's there? It's "Knock at the Cabin," a shallow, shoddy and condescending thriller that I can already tell you will stand as one of the worst offerings of 2023.
Don't answer the door...you've been warned!
Review: 'Don't Worry Darling' a bit of a mess, but organized chaos is the point
Perhaps you've heard of "Don't Worry Darling"? It's hard to have not heard about it, as it's been dominating headlines for all the wrong reasons over the past month. From "spit-gate" between Harry Styles and Chris Pine, to Florence Pugh not doing press for the film, to friction between director Olivia Wilde and allegedly "fired" actor Shia LaBeouf. It then debuted at the Venice Film Festival to mixed reviews, with many critics applauding the performance of Florence Pugh, but attacking the performance of Harry Styles, and the film as a whole.
Having now seen it, I can accept all sides of the argument. Yes, Florence Pugh is great. Yes, the film itself is a cluttered, unfocused mess at times. Yes, Olivia Wilde's direction seems a bit too artsy for her own good. I will push back though, on the performance of Styles, who I found to be better than just fine, heck, he was effective. Sure, he may not be on the same level as Pugh, but his role didn't demand that he needed to be.
At any rate, "Don't Worry Darling" is a movie that will polarize audiences. But that's also usually a good sign, that a movie was able to ignite some level of passion from its audience, for good or for bad.
But despite its many, many flaws, I found there to be a LOT going on under the hood. Themes of feminism, masculinity and control. Systemic issues that churn out desperate individuals, who will buy into almost anything that promises a better way. The idea of individualism, gender roles and boundaries. Even some deeply buried political messages.
"Don't Worry Darling" isn't a throw-away thriller. It has meaning and purpose, even if its execution is way off, sometimes jarringly so. And it's definitely a movie that should spark conversation on the car ride home, whether you loved it or loathed it.
Review: The clever horror film 'Barbarian' subverts audience and genre expectations
I rarely will start off a review by telling readers to watch the movie first, but in the instance of "Barbarian," I would hate to even spoil a morsel of the fun. So for real, if you haven't yet seen it, it's OK. You don't have to read on if you don't want to. Go see the movie and then come back here.
This isn't a spoiler-heavy review by any means, but "Barbarian" is best experienced by not knowing where the hell it's going. The headline is that I enjoyed it, despite it all falling apart by the end. It's a fantastic date movie or one to experience with friends, and it excels as a film that plays off of audience expectations...and trust me, no one will see where this one twists and turns to.
Review: 'Bodies Bodies Bodies' flips the script on the clichéd young-adult thriller
For the vast majority of "Bodies Bodies Bodies," it feels like just another average horror/thriller. But hang in there, because this one sticks the landing with a surprising pay-off that is well worth the investment.
Writer/Director Riley Stearns really made a real splash with the criminally underrated and underseen 2019 black-comedy, "The Art of Self-Defense" (read my review of that film here). He follows it up with "Dual," another film that exists in the same darkly comedic vein that his previous work did, but this one doesn't quite resonate nearly as much.
"Dual" is a film that introduces a very compelling concept, but veers well off course. By the time it tries to right the ship, it's too far gone for us to care.
The pandemic had much more of an impact on the movie industry than just at the box office. You can sort of tell the kind of film that was made during lockdown: Small, character-driven dramas or thrillers that utilize very few locations and minimal casts.
This weekend there is an example of how to accomplish this effectively (see "The Outfit"), and how difficult it can be. With "Windfall" (on Netflix Friday 3/18), we're happy that the cast and crew got out there and made a movie, but the result is a banal so-called "thriller" that's so minimal you'll nearly forget it's even there.
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