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John Wick

John Wick

This is a complicated film about a man who can't afford a razor, who
has to get revenge on people for making fun of him. They deserve
everything they get

dirs: Chad Stahelski and David Leitch

2014

Did you miss seeing the lump of pale wood known as Keanu Reeves punching and shooting hundreds of people to death? I mean, it’s been a while since the Matrix movies. Yeah, so they left a bad taste in everyone’s mouths with that last one, but remember when a black clad Keanu kicked all sorts of ass?

Well, other people remember too. Maybe Keanu hasn’t done much of note in the last 12 years, maybe he has. He was gifted by the gods of cinema with good lucks and a wooden aura that he projects into virtually every role in every movie whose title doesn’t start with either the words Point or Bill and Ted’s.

But so what? Who really wants Keanu to be a decent actor? He just needs to turn up and let stuff happen around him. That’s a skill in and of itself. Sometimes that’s more than enough. Half decent directors can work with that. Sure, it reduces him to little more than a complicated prop, but so what? Women have suffered that indignity in almost every other movie made over the last hundred years, why not render Keanu the object in the movies he’s in.

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Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman

Now that's not something you see every day, at least, not on
a day you get to survive

dir: Matthew Vaughn

2015

Damn, I’m getting old.

There was a time when something like this would have been like sweet, sweet crack to me. I would have embraced its charms and indulged its weaknesses in the pursuit of an action high otherwise rarely approached.

But for some reason, many reasons, while I enjoyed parts of this James Bond update, I couldn’t help but feel that it was, to use the technical film school term, pretty fucking dreadful.

The Bond template is not a rarely used one, in fact, there are probably thousands of films bouncing around in your memory that used the formula. In its purest form, though, it’s still fairly generic. The difference here is that it’s paired with the adolescent wish fulfilment only Mark Millar can come up with. It also produces a vision of Britishness so arch and so unbelievable that it amazes me that the director is a Brit and that Millar, who originally wrote the shitty comic this is based on, is a Scot.

They conjure a vision of Britain less grounded in reality and less believable than the Harry Potter films.

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Into the Storm

Into the Storm

Tornadoes: God's way of telling you to move to the coast

dir: Steven Quale

2014

Does anyone really miss Twister? Is there a cult following for that tornado movie which had Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton chasing tornadoes, something which contravenes entirely common sense and basic human nature?

I would say no. No-one misses Helen Hunt. Twister was, however, bafflingly successful, and was one of the first times special effects became realistic enough to look more real than the nincompoop humans on screen.

Those tornados looked real, devastatingly real. And catastrophe on the big and small screens is dangerously compelling to us.

When Jan De Bont’s Twister succeeded, it created an entire genre of action movies derisively labelled as ‘weather porn’. When you think about the combination of the two words, it does make for a very complicated mental image. Basically, it just points to the idea that many of us ‘like’ (however that liking manifests itself) watching weather slap around a bunch of people and property for our entertainment.

Tornadoes are a great way of making it look like weather can take a personal and distinct form with which to kill people.

This isn’t the place to start moralising about it, about what it says about audiences. We’ve ALWAYS enjoyed watching disasters and catastrophes on screen. It dates back to when this crazy cinema thing started off. It’s just that collectively, as a species, we’re better at it now.

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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Sin City A Dame to Kill For

This is the dame, apparently, who people want to kill for,
and honestly, who can blame them?

dirs: Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller

2014

I’m not always glad when I hear something is going to have a sequel. I was kind of glad this time, because Robert Rodriguez returning to the well for Sin City sounded like a good idea. He got the idea right the first time, why wouldn’t it work again?

There were more stories with many of these characters to tell from the Sin City comics, and, as they were already a distillation, a potent cordial of noir clichés and tropes, surely there would have been rich rewards with another hyper-violent and lurid adaptation?

This is an instance where the first few minutes of a flick dashed whatever hopes I may have had that something good would happen, only to be gradually won back over the course of the movie, and then convinced it wasn’t worth it by movie’s end.

It’s never a good idea to have high hopes when it comes to something from Robert Rodriguez. It’s important (for me) to remember that he is a cheesy hack and always has been, from his first movies to his latest. Sometimes his cheesy hackiness serves the material perfectly. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve enjoyed several of his flicks. I have also hated several of his flicks, because they’re cheap, nasty, and sometimes amateurish out of hastiness/laziness rather than anything else.

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The Expendables III

Expendables 3

The cast keeps getting bigger, but the film's don't get any better

dir: Patrick Hughes

2014

Old old old, I’m feeling old today. I’m feeling so old that I think I’ll just talk about how old I feel and how old everyone around me looks instead of doing anything else that’s interesting or anything really worth reading. Did I mention that I’m old?

The first Expendables was a tribute to itself, in that Sylvester Stallone and a bunch of other has-beens from the 1980s thought they’d remind the world that they were still around, and they could still star in movies where they look like they’re total badasses. Let’s pretend for a moment that it wasn’t then and isn’t now special effects and stunt people stand-ins. No, these guys, because they looked like badasses, must have been badasses, surely?

‘We’re not past it!’ they’d bellow like nervous cattle, loudly through the screen at us while joking about being past it. Everyone else would tell them they’re ‘past it’, especially the villains, they themselves would mock each other about being ‘past it’, but they’d still win in the end. So, thus, the Expendables were anything but expendable.

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of Electro

Amazing Spider-Man 2

Someone's been doing their yoga poses, haven't they?

dir: Marc Webb

2014

What's most amazing about this movie is that it's not really that amazing at all. Also, it's amazing that the makers will never learn from their past mistakes.

If there was one almost universal criticism from the 3rd Spidey flick, it was that having so many villains in it didn't improve a goddamn thing. Three villains is two too many for most people. Two is still too many. Well, maybe the third even had five villains, if you count domestic abuser Spidey himself and Aunt May with her guilt inducing speeches.

This sequel to the reboot continues with Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, which is another mistake continued on and replicated. He was aggravating in the first one, and, forgive my language, there are multiple scenes where he is an absolute spastic in this one, for no reason other than he thinks it's amusing or compelling.

The evidence I submit to the court is a scene where Peter is meant to be having a deep and meaningful conversation with his oldest alleged friend Harry Osborn (Dale DeHaan), whose father has just passed away. They're having a chat along what's either the East River or the Hudson, I think. Not content with just actually talking, Garfield starts jumping about, climbing over the barrier and basically doing a whole bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with what they're talking about or what the scene needs.

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X-Men: Days of Future Past

Days of Future Past

So many people. Next time give them all something to do

dir: Bryan Singer

2014

Time travel is tricky. I guess it comes down to what your intentions are. I'm not talking about the intentions, good in nature, that the road to hell is paved with. I mean the story-telling purpose, or the creative purpose, or the "let's-make-shitloads-of-money" impulse.

After watching Days of Future Past, it occurs to me that the purpose of this movie, and the desire it represents to change the past in order to alter the present (or future), is really about one thing: Bryan Singer's desire to rewrite history so that X-Men III: The Last Stand never happened.

For some people, including me, it's a perplexing but still appreciable impulse. That third X-Men film, not directed by Singer, was pretty shithouse. It wasn't shithouse because Bryan Singer didn't direct it. It was shithouse because Brett Rattner, who's a barely mediocre director, directed it. Even though it was, as I said, pretty shithouse, it's perversely the most successful of all the X-Men related flicks. So it would seem strange that the studio would give the keys to the franchise to Singer again in order to undo what they themselves allowed to happen in the past.

Let's talk about that for a moment: every time another superhero flick comes out it's an opportunity to express how utterly sick of superhero flicks "we" all are. But we keep watching them, I keep watching them, so why would the gods/clods of the movie studios stop?

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

America. As American as apple pie cooling on a window sill,
skinned knees and spelling bees, entrenched racism and
unaffordable health care.

dirs: Anthony and Joe Russo

Finally. A decent action movie based on a comic book. Wonders will never cease.

Sorry. Forgot to use the sarcasm html tags around the intro. Yes, we’re all sick of superhero movies. We still look forward to the entertaining ones, the ones that will make it easier to grit our teeth through the shittier ones.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is not completely terrible. It’s definitely better than that last Thor flick, and it’s probably better than the first Captain America flick. It works as an action flick, and it works, for Marvel’s purposes, as an extension of their franchise, pushing the overall story in some kind of direction, which is good.

It’s also the only one of this recent crop of the Marvel renaissance that has anything to say about the actual contemporary world we live in, with its all pervasive surveillance and drone/targeted killings and such. Okay, so it doesn’t say anything useful about these issues, like the fact that you can’t send a text or have a conversation on the phone without Google, various governments and Obama knowing about it, and what should be done about it, but at least it reminds us of stuff we are perfectly well aware of.

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Thor: The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World

I know it looks like another Star Wars films, but it isn't, not by much

dir: Alan Taylor

Yeah, you think you’re Thor: I can hardly walk, because I just watched The Dark World.

And here I thought it would be a screening of childhood favourite The Dark Crystal. Thor fights a giant Crystal and loses!

No I didn’t, I’m being a jerk. My beloved partner and I went to the flicks to celebrate the anniversary of the day of her birth. What better way to celebrate such a golden day than let her watch many scenes of Australia’s Own Chris Hemsworth showing off that incredibly chiselled physique? Those granite abs, that geography of musculature and those planes and angles of flesh she’s hopefully not going to be able to touch in real life with anything other than her eyeballs?

It was a golden day for all concerned. Maybe not Hemsworth, since he was probably busy all day long oiling up those quivering muscles, but I’m sure he’s doing all right.

This is his flick, yeah? The next instalment out of the Marvel Machine that is no longer content with just taking the hardly-earned money out of teenage losers’ pockets and middle-aged shut-ins’ bank accounts with comics has Thor! taking centre stage again after that grand occasion of The Avengers getting together last year.

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The Wolverine

The Wolverine

Why so surly all the time, Wolvie? Aren't you
happy with all the cute Japanese girls fawning
all over you?

dir: James Mangold

2013

Yes, yes, another superhero flick. Your eyes just glazed over thinking about it the way mine did as I was typing it.

The Wolverine, at least, is a more modestly ambitious superhero flick than the four thousand or so we've watched in the last year. In fact, you could argue it’s not even a superhero flick, in that it’s just about a guy with weird hair and the magical ability to heal instantly who kills a bunch of Japanese people. So it's an action flick, more than anything, with nary a mention of the X-Men or most of anything that happened in all of the other films, with the pointed exception being the fate of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) at the end of X-Men 3.

Now, when ranking X-Men flicks, it would seem to make sense to order them from best to worst, but, to my mind, worst to least mediocre is probably a better methodology. The cumbersomely-named X-Men Origins: Wolverine might seem to be the worst, but I have a special hatred for that third turd of a flick, being The Last Stand, which was anything but the last stand, since the tedium rolls on and on.

Let's just agree that both movies are pretty terrible in special, unique ways, and leave it at that. Fortunately, nothing about Origins plays a role here, and I'm assuming in the timeframe this plays out some years after Last Stand.

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