Film Review: TOY STORY 4 (USA 2019) ***1/2

Toy Story 4 Poster
Trailer

When a new toy called “Forky” joins Woody and the gang, a road trip alongside old and new friends reveals how big the world can be for a toy.

Director:

Josh Cooley

Writers:

John Lasseter (original story by), Andrew Stanton (original story by) |8 more credits »

As in all Disney film, reviewers were cautioned not to reveal any spoilers like key plot points or plot twists.  Disney has nothing to worry about here as there aren’t that many in TOY STORY 4 though the story gets a bit darker that the other films in the franchise.  Eve the film’s poster is a tad darker.  The appearance of multiple “Chucky” looking dolls, the ventriloquist dummies create a scarier animated feature though no less entertaining.

Number 4 already and the TOY STORY franchise is still going strong.  John Lasseter still works in TOY STORY 4 (he directed the fist two) here serving as executive producer and one of the writers.

TOY STORY 4 starts where number 3 left off.  Andy has given his toys including Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) to Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw).  When Bonnie attends kindergarten orientation, she creates a new toy from a plastic fork which she names Forky.  This is when the trouble begins.  Forky (Tony Hale) suffers from an existential crisis about being a toy, which the others try to help him understand how to be one. As Bonnie and her family go on a road trip, Forky escapes and Woody goes to save him, becoming separated from the group near a small town.  As Buzz and the others try to help find Woody, Woody finds Bo Peep (Annie Potts) among other toys in the town’s antique shop, and she gives him a new outlook on what being a toy is really about.

The story cleverly avoids any pitfalls like a boring and unnecessary romance.  The bond between Woody and Bo Beep is played  delivering the message and in offering a different outlook on their arguments, but expect no kisses from the couple.

TOY STORY 4 bungles at the start, with the setting upon the story running in a slow moving rather boring part.  It picks up after the first third and confidentially accomplishes what all the other 3 TOY STORIES do best – all the toys rallying together to work for their owner child human masters, serving their purpose as a toy, which even in animation terms is a thankless and  tiring job.  The film slides in a few messages as well, such as the importance of loyalty. 

The film contains an impressive list of voice characterizations including the old school Carol Burnett, Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner with Keanu Reeves stealing the show with his “I Canada” as Canadian motorcycle stunt man Duke Caboom.                 

The introduction of the ventriloquist dummies that obey the huge villainous doll Gabby Gabby’s (Christina Hendricks) every bidding is the film’s prize. No wonder they are called dummies.  Gabby Gabby looks like Chucky with very sad eyes. 

The film’s look, at caravan/trailer park and the the dodgy amusement parked does not paint a wealthy and healthy look of America, but a glum one, full or conmen and suckers.  Still the film has a happy ending with a message for all.  Who can complain?

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmiIUN-7qhE

Film Review: JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM (USA 2019)

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum Poster
Trailer

Super-assassin John Wick is on the run after killing a member of the international assassin’s guild, and with a $14 million price tag on his head – he is the target of hit men and women everywhere.

Director:

Chad Stahelski

Writers:

Derek Kolstad (screenplay by), Shay Hatten (screenplay by) | 4 more credits »

Keanu Reeves as John Wick is back – uglier and unshaven as ever.  In trouble as ever.  And the film is bloodier and violent as ever – it obeying the rules (not like Wick in the Continental hotel) of being bigger and louder a sequel than the original.  But not necessarily for the better.  The film proves that there can be too much of a good thing – arguably if one wants to count action set pieces as a good thing.

The word Parabellum in the film title mens ‘prepare for war’ though it is arguable that all the assassins in the world vs. John Wick can be defined as one .

Chad Stahelski who also directed the original returns to the director’s chair in the third instalment of the franchise offering more action and violence as the first two John Wick films.  The film is all action based on a loose story line that surprisingly took four screenwriters, Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins, and Marc Abram to pen.

The most interesting aspect of the first JOHN WICK1984 film is the Continental Hotel.  As every John Wick fan knows, no one can do away with anyone there – as it a place of solace and amnesty that every criminal or cop has to adhere to.  John Wick broke the rule.  As a result he finds himself on the run for a host of assassins all out to kill Wick to earn the huge bounty of $14 million put on his head.  Being declared as excommunicado after killing D’Antonio on Continental grounds, the chances of survival have never been thinner for Wick. With the aid of old allies, John seeks to turn the tide.

A subplot involves the head and owner of the Continental, Winston (Ian McShane) forced to step down but refuses who also helps Wick by giving him blood markers, whatever that means.

The film was shot in exotic locations like Morocco, Montreal and New York City.  The soundtrack by Tyler Bates who is good for putting lots o signs together in a soundtrack is a winner.

Besides Reeves, other actors in the franchise like Halle Berry as Sofia another assassin but close friend, Laurence Fishburne and Lance Reddick as Charron the continental concierge reprise their roles.

The film is excessively violent.  There nastiest of these is a blade stabbed right into a victim’s eye during fight.  Other stabbings to the head and other body parts happen frequently.

The action flick runs two hours.  After a quarter through the film, one realizes that the film is nothing more than actions set pieces that eventually get really boring and repetitive.  Wick fights his assassins using Martial Arts, knives, motorbikes, guns, hand-to-hand and cars.  All the fight options are too exhausted.  So is the audience’s attention span.  Chapter 3 is clearly the worst of the John Wick franchise.

JOHN WICK 3, as the film is alternatively called hopes to derail AVENGERS ENDGAME  from the number 1 box-office this weekend.

Trailer: ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBB1whi46QE

1997 Movie Review: THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE, 1997

THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE, 1997
Movie Reviews

Directed by Taylor Hackford

Cast: Al Pacino, Keanu Reeves, Charlize Theron, Connie Nielson, Jeffrey Jones, Craig T. Nelson,
Review by Surinder Singh

SYNOPSIS:

Hotshot lawyer Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) accepts an invitation to join a prestigious New York law firm notorious for it’s track record of getting its guilty clients cleared of all charges. Lomax is drawn in by the money and power that comes with the job; a seduction cleverly orchestrated by the firm’s boss John Milton (Al Pacino). But as Lomax delves deeper into the firm’s legal dealings he discovers there’s more to Mr. Milton’s success than meets the eye…

REVIEW:

It’s fair to say that Pacino did his share of mentoring during the nineties. As well as winning his Oscar and churning out some great central performances, he also played a number of supporting roles aside the new generation of leading men. In Donnie Brasco (1997) he supported Johnny Depp and with Any Given Sunday (1999) he did the same for Jamie Foxx. It’s always important for a screen-acting veteran to take stock in the new generation because it gives them the chance to see how good they really are! Perhaps one of the greatest tests for any upcoming actor is: “can I hold my own against Al Pacino on screen?”

As Kevin Lomax, Keanu Reeves was offered the challenge! Reeves arrives on screen looking suitably sharp and suave, he oozes confidence as soon as he enters the courtroom. We are shown someone so ambitious that he’ll happily tear up a poor young girl on the witness stand to win his case. It’s not long until he attracts interest from like-minded people in his field. As the film’s title suggests we’re witnessing someone on a moral journey in a job that continuously puts morality up for question. Reeves plays Lomax brilliantly as a man who is quite comfortable with drawing a line of professionalism between himself and the case. At this point in his journey it’s not important whether his client is guilty or not, only that he wins!

The film really gets going once Lomax is in New York and poised to begin his case with the new law firm. Enter Al Pacino: in a wonderful scene on top of the huge sky-rise looking down at the world below, Milton acquaints himself with his new employee Lomax. Director Taylor Hackford does a great job of balancing a realistic drama set against a modern day New York with the supernatural and mythic elements at play. The scene is totally plausible but at the same time positions Pacino’s Milton as the Master of the Universe. He’s more than just a successful man; his power clearly reaches further than Lomax is presently aware of.

Many actors in the past have played the Prince of Darkness: Jack Nicholson in The Witches of Eastwick (1987), Robert De Niro in Angel Heart (1987) and of course Tim Curry in Legend (1985). By default, any actor who takes on such a notorious character will be compared to the previous incarnations. Pacino is charismatic and carries his character with a sense of cool that draws you in from the moment you meet him. Pacino may be a small guy but in The Devil’s Advocate he owns every space he walks into and everyone in it! Pacino’s Milton is by far the most contemporary and convincing incarnation of Satan for many years.

Like he did in Donnie Brasco, Pacino plays a mentor and takes Keanu Reeves’ Lomax under his wing. Milton explains his philosophy leaving his new apprentice in awe: “Look at me! Underestimated from day one. You’d never think I was a master of the universe, now would ya?” Rather than exert superhuman physical powers, Milton is the puppet master who prefers discretion: “I’m the hand up Mona Lisa’s skirt. I’m a surprise, Kevin. They don’t see me coming!” Lomax sees this simply as advice to help him progress as a lawyer. All the while his new mentor who is ten steps ahead is manipulating him!

The movie is full of devilishly splendid set pieces. Lomax is advised to seek out a man named Moyez (Delroy Lindo) a witchdoctor who’s on trial for the ritualistic butchering of animals. Moyez offers Lomax a helping hand (via a strange ritual with a decapitated tongue) and sure enough the prosecution cannot get a word out in the following trial. The scene gives supernatural depth to the power of Milton and his associates, showing the unsettled Lomax the extent to which his “unfaltering success” is being secured. Perhaps the greatest set piece is the killing of Eddie Barzoon (Jeffery Jones). As he jogs through Central Park we hear Pacino’s piercing voice off-screen, the feeling of an impending doom takes over until we see the poor Barzoon fall to his bloody fate.

Like most films about the Spirit of Evil (walking amongst us in modern times) The Devil’s Advocate is essentially a story about someone saving their soul from Evil. The idea that through all Evil’s temptations we eventually choose the path to light and salvation. On reflection this movie is unlike the others in the way it delivers the age-old story to you in a fresh, contemporary and engaging manner. The performances are strong and Pacino’s performance completely convinces you he’s the modern incarnation of the Prince of Darkness. Plus, on purely popcorn terms this movie is a solid thriller that doesn’t rest too heavily on religious fact and while the symbols of Christianity are ripe throughout they do not alienate the audience.

The Devil’s Advocate is a great movie to watch over and over. Not exactly ‘light-entertainment’ but a strong contemporary thriller that will satisfy. It also contains arguably the best portrayal of Satan on film…yet another testament to the awesome acting talent of Al Pacino!

 the devils advocate

Film Review: TO THE BONE ( USA 2017)

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

to the boneA young woman is dealing with anorexia. She meets an unconventional doctor who challenges her to face her condition and embrace life.

Director: Marti Noxon
Writer: Marti Noxon
Stars: Lily Collins, Keanu Reeves, Leslie Bibb

Review by Gilbert Seah
 
The credits both opening and closing proudly announces TO THE BONE a film about anorexia, the eating disorder a Netflix original movie. It has been proclaimed that Netflix gets to make films studios are scared to make. This definitely holds true for this depressing, unglamorous project on a subject suffering from anorexia and shunned by her family. But TO THE BONE is so bad that one wonders if the studios could foresee the fact.

One would expect more from director Noxon and lead star Lili Collins who both suffer from the disorder. But the film glamourizes the illness in the way Collins looks so beautiful in every scene and everything she does appears ok and everyone else especially her stepmother is wrong. But unforgivable is the fact that the film is a really boring exercise from start to end. It does not help with the weird ending in which her real mother, Susan (Lili Taylor) feeds her milk from a baby bottle and a fantasy scene in which Ellen she’s herself nude on the ground, presumably dead.

It is hard to judge Collin’s performance when the film is this awful. Taylor does the best she can and Keanu Reeves has the odd role as Ellen’s charismatic doctor who is supposed to a do wonders with his unconventional methods. “I’m not going to treat you if you do not want to live!” He tells Ellen the first time he interviews her.

The story follows teenager Ellen who has dropped out of college. Her stepmother, Judy who lives with her real dad wants her to be cured from her anorexia. But Judy is shown as a very intolerant and bad mother, always criticizing poor Ellen and downright silly, making silly assumptions that Ellen and her stepsister always laugh about. So, Ellen is convinced to go to this medical facility led by Dr. William Beckam (Reeves). There is nothing in the film that shows him to be revolutionary in his treatment. His insistence of telling Ellen’s inner voice to ‘ f*** soft is laughable if not downright unbelievable. The facility consists of an assortment of skinny patients that are there to make Ellen look good. The subplot of Ellen having a romantic fling with the one boy, Luke (Alex Sharp), who wants to be a singer/dancer leads nowhere.

The film at least looks crisp and clear, especially with the desert landscape at the end, courtesy of cinematographer Richard Wong. Music is decent with an original song near the end.

But the film teaches nothing about anorexia nor does it offer any real insight on the people suffering from it. The least the script could have done is provide some medical information on the subject. The film also inserts unnecessary new age material. Ellen’s mother is a lesbian. In one scene, she praises her own breakdown saying people should have them to learn from them. Susan also puts a Ellen in a tent with no electricity with kerosene lamps for light and a bedpan if one need to go do their stuff. Ellen (or Eli, since she changes her name half way through the film for no proper reason) has not come out of life any smarter and neither has the audience.

Trailer: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=705yRfs6Dbs

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Film Review:JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

john_wick_chapter_2Director: Chad Stahelski
Writers: Derek Kolstad, Derek Kolstad (based on characters created by)
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane

Review by Gilbert Seah

The second in the series of John Wick films is in fact a continuation of the first JOHN WICK film, with the same director and star Keanu Reeves as the hit-man John Wick.

When the first film was left, Wick’s prized Mustang got stolen and his dog killed by the son of a Russian mobster. In an extended car chase and fight sequence when CHAPTER 2 begins, the audience sees the mobster grunt in disbelief to see his shop and all his men, one after another, demolished by Wick as he comes hunting for his car. The comedy is black and funny enough with sufficient violent action fight choreography to satisfy the action fans. Director Chad Stahelski knows how to stage fights, him being Reeves’ stunt double in THE MATRIX films.

CHAPTER TWO runs at full-throttle for over two hours with a minimum plot The premise involves legendary hit-man John Wick forced back out of retirement by a former associate plotting to seize control of a shadowy international assassins’ guild. Bound by a blood oath to help him, John travels to Rome, where he squares off against some of the world’s deadliest killers. Though the story obviously is inconsequential, one would have expected the filmmakers to put in a bit more effort into the story.

Keanu Reeves makes the perfect anti-hero John Wick, shown with face bruises more than half the time. It is worthy of his character in BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE that brought him to fame. CHAPTER TWO sees more well-known actors lending a hand to make the film more exciting. COMMON plays Cassian, the head of security of a female crime boss who gives Wick a good fight for his money. Laurence Fishburne plays The Bowery King, a ruthless crime boss and Italian star Riccardo Scamarcio plays Santino, an assassin while Ian McShane reposes his role as the head of hotel, where no killings re tolerated.

The first JOHN WICK film had lots of fresh ideas whereas CHAPTER TWO rides on the first success, adding no new inventive surprises. In the first the hotel where truce must be obeyed is again reprised with Wick and the security played by Common forced to have a drink there. In the first film, there is a very sexy fight between a lady assassin in black and Wick. In CHAPTER TWO, there is a fight between Wick and a girl, this time in white, Ares (Ruby Ros) but the fight scene can nowhere be even described as sexy. Rose looks incredibly unsexy, when she dies with her huge eyes bulging. CHAPTER TWO also contains lots of repetitions. The joke of Wick and the security head fighting and rolling down the steps is repeated not once, but twice in the same sequence. Wick’s affinity to his dog, a black pitbull is also repeatedly drummed into the audience’s heads.

JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2 has lost its spark. Running at a length of over 2 hours does not help matters either. The case of more and louder in this sequel leads to boredom and a headache.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/user/eOnefilms

 

_________

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Happy Birthday: Keanu Reeves

keanureeves.jpgKeanu Reeves

Born: September 2, 1964 in Beirut, Lebanon

[on River Phoenix] You can’t blame Hollywood for what happened to River. Kids are doing drugs everywhere in the world. He had his own very personal problems I will never discuss with the press. They’re just way too personal. River had a self-destructive side to his personality. He was angry and hurt that he couldn’t have a private life once he became famous. He just couldn’t deal with having his private life on the front page all the time.

Youngblood
1986
dir Peter Markle
Starring
Rob Lowe
Patrick Swayze
Dangerous Liaisons
1988
dir. Stephen Frears
Starring
Glenn Close
John Malkovich
DRACULADracula
1992
dir. Coppola
Starring
Winona Ryder
Gary Oldman
Anthony Hopkins
Speed MovieSpeed
1994
dir. by Jan de Bont
starring
Reeves
Dennis Hopper
Sandra Bullock
The Devil’s Advocate
1997
dir. Taylor Hackford
Cast
Al Pacino
Keanu Reeves
The MatrixThe Matrix
1999
dir. by The Wachowski Brothers
starring
Reeves
Carrie-Anne Moss
THE REPLACEMENTSThe Replacements
2000
dir. Howard Deutch
Starring
Keanu Reeves
Gene Hackman,
THE WATCHERThe Watcher
2000
dir. Joe Charbanic
starring
Spader
Reeves
MOVIE POSTERA SCANNER DARKLY
2006
dir. Richard Linklater
Stars:
Keanu Reeves
Winona Ryder
MOVIE POSTER47 RONIN
2013
dir. Carl Rinsch
Stars:
Keanu Reeves
Hiroyuki Sanada
The Matrix Reloaded
2003
dir. Larry and Andy Wachowski
Starring
Keanu Reeves
Hugo Weaving
THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONThe Matrix Revolution
2003
dir. Larry and Andy Wachowski
Starring
Keanu Reeves
Hugo Weaving
BILL AND TED'S BOGUS JOURNEYBILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE
1989
dir. Stephen Herek
Stars:
Keanu Reeves
Alex Winter
BILL AND TED'S BOGUS JOURNEYBILL AND TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY
1991
dir. Peter Hewitt
Stars:
Keanu Reeves
Alex Winter
THUMBSUCKERThumbsucker
2005
dir. Mike Mills
Starring
Keanu Reeves
Tilda Swinton
ConstantineConstantine
2005
dir. by Francis Lawrence
starring
Reeves
Rachel Weisz
Street KingsStreet Kings
Directed by David Ayer
Starring
Reeves
Forest Whitaker
The Day the Earth Stood StillThe Day the Earth Stood Still
dir. Scott Derrickson
Starring
Reeves
Jennifer Connelly
MOVIE POSTER47 RONIN
dir. Carl Rinsch
Stars:
Keanu Reeves
Hiroyuki Sanada
MOVIE POSTERHARD BALL
2001
dir. Brian Robbins
Stars:
Keanu Reeves
Diane Lane

 

Movie Review: THE NEON DEMON (Denmark/France/USA 2016) ***

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

the_neon_demon.jpgTHE NEON DEMON (Denmark/France/USA 2016) ***
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

Starring: Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves

Review by Gilbert Seah

The much anticipated film at Cannes that caused quite the sensation, Nicolas Winding Refn’s THE NEON DEMON will not disappoint in terms of gore and surrealism. Refn has already proven himself a director to watch, with remarkable features like his PUSHER trilogy, DRIVE and ONLY GOD FORGIVES.

While his earlier 5 films displayed speed and ultra-violence, THE NEON DEMON reveals a different side of Refn. THE NEON DEMON is an extremely slower paced film, full of pauses that allow the audience to sit back and figure what is actually going on. And most of the time, it is still hard to figure out what is going on.

But one must hand it to Refn that as slow paced as this film is – it is far from boring. The film for one, is meticulously shot with glittery lighting that mesmerizes as much as confuses. His images of the characters often blend one into another, like the corpse that looks like the heroine in the film, for the purpose of the lady making love to it imagining the corpse to be the girl she did not succeed in sleeping with.
The film shows Refn’s interpretation of the pretentious L.A. fashion industry. A young and aspiring model called Jesse (Elle Fanning) has just moved to Los Angeles. She is an orphan, very beautiful and impresses everyone she meets with her beauty. She meets make up artist Ruby and two of her rather nasty model friends Sarah and Gigi at a surrealistic dimly lit party. The rest of the plot is immaterial except to show that models will do everything to stay ahead.

Refn’s films seldom contain pleasant characters. There are none in THE NEON DEMON. Who initially appears a kindly soul, Ruby turns out to be another mean person with the ulterior motive of using Jesse for sexual satisfaction. And when Ruby cannot get what she wants, she turns incredibly vicious. Refn does to shy away from gore and violence. Where there is insufficient of these in the story, he more than makes it up in the dream sequences. Jesse has a nightmare of her motel manager (Keanu Reeves in nasty mode) inserting a knife down her throat only to be awakened by him banging at her door wanting to rape her. This unpleasant character is not crucial to the story of Jesse, but is there just for added unpleasantness. But the prized unpleasant segment is the one with necrophilia on full display.

Ref does not seem to care what audiences think of his work. With that attitude, Refn can come up with a few mighty fine films – the best of these being his PUSHER trilogy, which are all cutting edge, exciting and relevant. THE NEON DEMON is his most surreal film, reality turning into a nightmare with models morphing into flesh eating vampires in a world lit by neon and fluorescent lights where the sun seldom shines. Needless to say, THE NEON DEMON is not a film for everyone, but it is not without its merits, strange as they may come.

 

 

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