JOHN WICK

Don’t Set Him Off

Director
Chad Stahelski

Starring
Keanu Reeves
Michael Nyqvist
Alfie Allen



There are arguably two types of hitman flicks, ones depicting the killer as a skittish disconnected individual living in reclusive paranoia (Get Carter, The American) and those that portray a slick world of attractive people with infinite resources mercilessly executing their way across a disinterested city (Wanted, Hitman). Truthfully, both have their merits and when executed well can provide decent entertainment. John Wick sits largely in the latter but likes to think it’s the former and with a stronger script, could have easily been the best of both (Leon, In Bruges).

The narrative doesn’t waste a great deal of time with backstory, favouring short, sharp and succinct flashbacks to establish that the lead is a man named John Wick [Reeves], he was married and now his wife is dead. Her last act was to bequeath John a young beagle puppy for him to connect with and learn to love again. It’s stupid but it’s a fucking puppy so it works really well. Then a group of young Russian gangsters see John at a petrol station and envying his car, find his home, break in, beat him up, kill his dog and steal his car. From here we learn that John Wick isn’t just some average citizen but an ex-mob hitman and a murder prodigy. The Russian responsible, Iosef [Allen] is the son of Wick’s former employer, Viggo Tarasov [Nyqvist], and aware of the hell Wick will rain down without hope of being assuaged, Viggo puts out a contract on Wick’s life. Then John Wick murders.. like.. everyone.

The first thing audiences take away with them is the sheer wealth of visual expertise utilised from start to finish. With Chad Stahleski chalking up sixty plus roles as a stuntman and stunt co-ordinator, treating his directorial debut as an opportunity to showcase what he knows best is hardly a surprise. The cinematography and direction are exceptional and move the film along at a steady pace. Furthermore, this movie also feels like an excuse to showcase the physical and skilled strengths of Keanu Reeves. Every fight sequence is choreographed wonderfully, Reeves’ movements are robotic and direct (in a good way) and the focus on physical/in-camera effects lends a real weight to the performance. Equally complimentary is the fitting overlying score of guitar riffs and bass pulses throughout, offered up by Tyler Bates and Joel J Richard. Aesthetically, John Wick hits a high benchmark; a very specific benchmark, granted, but one that the film wears as a badge of pride, treading that fine line between realism and outright absurdity. It’s here that the film’s Eastern influences (anime, gun fu, Hong Kong action) stand out and drive the finished article in a way that negates the necessity for bleached sunsets, CGI heavy slow motion, extreme rapid cut editing and excessive shaky cam – which are the backbone of other action franchises such as The Fast & The Furious and The Expendables.

And that’s really the limit of the positivity. The visuals make up a huge bulk of the film and their expert delivery postpones the comedown longer than most action films but rather than crashing through the wall, making audiences mutter, “Hang on, this is bullshit” Wick earns enough good faith that the disbelief is a slow burn reveal. All of which stems from the fact that the script is appalling – not just bad but step-by-step formulaic predictable crap. From the dialogue to the developments, everything is clichéd as hell constructed from every trope in the book. One could argue that inspiration has clearly been taken from revisionist Westerns but even then, these can be shot with a keen sense of evolutionary awareness, rather than simply regurgitating highlights from superior releases. Characters are wheeled in and out without any particular grace or finesse, the absurdity of the cataclysmic event which sparks this little revenge tale is nonsensical then justified then full circles back to ridiculou. Brow furrowing conveniences and cringe-worthy exchanges are littered throughout and dished out mercilessly. Thanks to the immersive nature of the visuals, some of these lines stick rather well and Reeves himself presents more emotional resonance than possibly anything he’s appeared in thus far. But most of the time, it’s just a bit flat. Curiously, another trick used to distract us from this fact is the wall-to-wall cameos. If audiences were subjected to dodgy dialogue from the same three actors over-and-over, you’d just end up with a Transformers sequel but by constantly introducing familiar faces from film and television, we’re strangely a little more forgiving.

As stated before, this film is very simply an aesthetically pleasing action film. The story is very tired and the interactions are often laughable but in its honest attempt to create something for a specific demographic, it succeeds rather well (much like a well-acted romantic comedy or a cheesy sports bio with half-decent source material). Is it strong enough to support an entire franchise or even a small series of sequels? Doubtful; not with this writing anyway, not even with the rinse-and-repeat method favoured by the Taken sequels. But as a vehicle for Keanu Reeves, it reminds us that for all his faults, he has a very specific set of skills that, when used properly, really benefit a release.


Release Date:
10th April 2015

The Scene To Look Out For:
A point I mention fairly often is the notion of a writer forcing an audience to believe something about a character, just because everyone keeps talking about it. In the wrong hands this is clumsy and stupid and anticlimactic but in Western’s especially, it can be utilised with great effect. Everyone banging on about how John Wick is this focused unstoppable killing machine gets pretty old pretty quickly but when you finally see him defend his house with lightning fast speed and systematic precision, it becomes apparent that he really is that good. And to ice the scene perfectly, a known policeman calls by and John answers, gun in hand, blood on his face, corpse visible, the cop simply smiles and leaves him to it.

Notable Characters:
Of the many (many) supporting appearances I was rather amused with Lance Reddick as the safe-house concierge, if only because his silliness was played straight and worked out rather well – that and Charon’s namesake is the ferryman of the dead in Greek mythology.

Highlighted Quote:
“This life follows you, it clings to you. Infecting everyone that comes close to you. We are cursed, you and I”

In A Few Words:
“Disposable entertainment with a surprisingly well-helmed camera crew”

Total Score:

3/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #140

[29 March 2015]


Winning Team:
Disco Encounters Of The Groovy Kind

Genre – We give the aliens large collared shirts and flares and teach them to strut their funky stuff

Runners Up:
The Italian (Hand) Job
Genre – A bawdy sex comedy in which Michael Caine was only supposed to blow the doors off.. with sexy results
The French Erection
Genre – Popeye Doyle infiltrates a Viagra smuggling ring in New York
Wood-fellas
Genre – Drama about lumberjacks starring Elijah Wood, Leslie Ash, Thora Birch, Glenn Close, Chris Pine and Colin Firth
A Chocolate Orange
Genre – Easter, banned by the BBFC
Boobarella
Genre – In space, no one can hear you unzip
Vericolour Films
Genre – A lost production


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the name of the beauty pageant in Little Miss Sunshine?
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
2. Oliver Stone’s JFK focuses on the assassination of which US President?
JOHN F KENNEDY
3. How many blades can be found on Freddy Krueger’s glove in Nightmare On Elm Street?
FOUR
4. What was the name of the villain in You Only Live Twice?
ERNST STAVRO BLOFELD
5. John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing and Jeff Conaway all featured in which film?
GREASE
6. Which animal is The Sheriff Of Nottingham in Disney’s Robin Hood?
WOLF
7. How many angels adorn the top of the ark of the covenant, in Raiders Of The Lost Ark?
TWO
8. Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson is a wrestler in which film?
THE WRESTLER
9. How many dice are used in Jumanji?
TWO
10. What does Anton Chigurh use to decide the fate of the petrol station proprietor in No Country For Old Men?
A COIN

ROUND II: Filming [Films set in 1970s]
1. What is the title of Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film, which is set in 1970? There Will Be Blood? Inherent Vice? The Master?
INHERENT VICE
2. Which sport is the main focus of 1976’s Bad News Bears? Basketball? Baseball? American football?
BASEBALL
3. Which British film is based on the allegedly true story of MI5 contracting criminals to recover risqué photos? The Bank Job? Sleeping Dogs? The Getaway?
THE BANK JOB
4. In All The President’s Men, Woodward and Bernstein (played by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman) work for which newspaper? The Washington Times? The Washington Herald? The Washington Post?
THE WASHINGTON POST
5. Before her character is murdered in The Lovely Bones, Susie Salmon (played by Saoirse Ronan), wants to become what when she is older? Show jumper? Photographer? Ballet dancer?
PHOTOGRAPHER
6. What is the nickname given to the British intelligence agency in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy? The Circus? The Station? The Crossroads?
THE CIRCUS
7. Of the 50 US embassy staff members in Argo, how many manage to escape and take refuge at the Canadian ambassador’s house? Six? Eight? Ten?
SIX
8. The following quote is from which film, “When you are offered a favour or money, take the favour, not the money. Jesus said that, didn’t he”? Donnie Brasco? The People Vs Larry Flynt? American Hustle?
AMERICAN HUSTLE
9. What is the name of the film-within-a-film that the kids are making in Super 8? The Case? The Device? The Invader?
THE CASE
10. All of the evil character’s names in Rob Zombie’s House Of 1000 Corpses were taken from Groucho Marx characters. True or False?
TRUE

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Which Arnold Schwarzenegger film featured the following quote, “Please don’t wake my friend, he’s dead tired”?
COMMANDO
2. What was the name of the organ player in Kill Bill, played by Samuel L. Jackson?
RUFUS
3. What did Tim Burton direct before Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and after Planet Of The Apes?
BIG FISH
4. Which film featured the following quote: “How should I know where we are? I feel like a pig shat in my head!”?
WITHNAIL & I
5. The Taken trilogy is mostly set in which respective cities? (one point per correct answer)
PARIS / ISTANBUL / LOS ANGELES
6. In what film do Christian Slater and Winona Ryder play a teenage couple?
HEATHERS
7. In what year was the Hong Kong film Police Story released?
1985
8. Which two actors played Norman Bates in the 1960 and 1998 versions of Psycho? (one point per correct answer)
ANTHONY PERKINS / VINCE VAUGHN
9. The stoning scene in Life Of Brian takes place over the use of what word?
JEHOVAH
10. Who played the lead role of Brian Flanagan, a man who leaves the US army, moves to New York and becomes a bartender, in 1988?
TOM CRUISE (in Cocktail)

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Which number combination is assigned to the aspect ratio known as Anamorphic Format? 2.39:1? 1.33:1? 1.77:1?
2.39:1
2. Of Captain Miller’s six-man-squad, excluding Upham, in Saving Private Ryan, how many men survive until the end of the film? One? Two? Three?
ONE (Reiben / Horvath, Mellish, Jackson, Wade, Caparzo)
3. Who plays the leading lady in Dial M For Murder? Vera Miles? Grace Kelly? Tippi Hedren?
GRACE KELLY
4. Which Werner Herzog film is about a Jewish strongman and a cabaret mystic in Weimar Germany? Invincible? Lessons Of Darkness? My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?
INVINCIBLE
5. What was the name of Marlon Brando’s debut film? Sayonara? The Men? Guys And Dolls?
THE MEN
6. Who plays the role of landowner Frank Harlan, opposite Clint Eastwood, in Joe Kidd? Dennis Hopper? James Caan? Robert Duvall?
ROBERT DUVALL
7. Which type of gemstone features in 1984’s Romancing The Stone? Ruby? Diamond? Emerald?
EMERALD
8. Which of the following did not feature Elizabeth Taylor? National Velvet? Tonight And Every Night? Suddenly, Last Summer?
TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT
9. In filmmaking, what name is given to the final shot of the day? Mezzanine Shot? Martini Shot? Money Shot?
MARTINI SHOT
10. In 1931 the US State of Kansas banned Frankenstein for its portrayal of cruelty. True or False?
TRUE

BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: The Right Stuff / Jurassic Park / Invasion Of The Body Snatchers
Poster: Annie Hall
Actor: Jeff Goldblum

Cinema City Film Quiz #139

[15 March 2015]


Winning Team:
Do Androids Dream Of Sexy Sheep?

Genre – Sequel to Blade Runner in which Deckard discovers Rachael’s fetish

Runners Up:
Robot & Frankenstein
Genre – Geriatric comedy
Wall-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
Genre – Sorr-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
My Big Fat Happy Chappie
Genre – Binary binge


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. King Arthur is the supposedly more accurate story of which legendary British figure?
KING ARTHUR
2. Braveheart is predominantly set in which two countries?
ENGLAND / SCOTLAND
3. How many Toy Story films have been made to date?
THREE
4. Complete the following film title: My Big Fat Greek.
WEDDING
5. Who directed Memento?
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN
6. What is the full title of the second Bourne film?
THE BOURNE SUPREMACY
7. Which film tells the story of Beca, a Barden University student who joins the all-girls singing group, The Bellas?
PITCH PERFECT
8. Enemy At The Gates is set during which military conflict?
WORLD WAR II
9. Who starred in Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep?
HUMPHREY BOGART
10. Disney’s Cinderella was released in which year?
1950

ROUND II: Filming [Films featuring AI: Artificial Intelligence]
1. What is the name of the autopilot aboard the Axiom, in Wall-E? Auto? Pilot? A113?
AUTO
2. Short Circuit was released in which year? 1980? 1983? 1986?
1986
3. To identify Sonny’s uniqueness in I, Robot, what colour are his eyes? Green? Blue? Yellow?
BLUE
4. The Terminator is set in which US city? Los Angeles? San Francisco? Chicago?
LOS ANGELES
5. The following quote is from which film, “Not impossible, inevitable”? The Matrix? The Matrix Reloaded? The Matrix Revolutions?
THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS
6. Who was the cinematographer on Blade Runner? Robert Yeoman? Jordan Cronenweth? Thierry Arbogast?
JORDAN CRONENWETH
7. Where does Dr Floyd find the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey? The Moon? Mars? Africa?
THE MOON
8. What is the name of the company that fired Flynn, just before the start of Tron? SYTECH? CPM? ENCOM?
ENCOM
9. What is the serial number of the worker that Freder trades places with in Metropolis? 42? 11811? 654321?
11811
10. The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008) was heavily colour graded in blue/green tones to represent Earth’s natural colours. True or False?
TRUE

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Marlon Brando, Rod Steiger, Dennis Hopper and Ian Holm (twice) all portrayed which historical figure?
NAPOLEON BONAPARTE
2. The following quote is from which film, “So the only thing connecting us to the case is in the back of your car, which is parked outside”?
LOCK, STOCK & TWO SMOKING BARRELS
3. Beyond The Walls, Beaufort and Waltz With Bashir were all produced by which country?
ISRAEL
4. Who played the lead role in 1931’s City Lights?
CHARLIE CHAPLIN
5. Which of the following segments from Pulp Fiction came first: The Bonnie Situation, Vincent Vega And Marsellus Wallace’s Wife, The Gold Watch?
VINCENT VEGA AND MARSELLUS WALLACE’S WIFE
6. Danish film, The Hunt, starring Mads Mikkelsen is set in which month?
DECEMBER
7. On the poster for Trainspotting, what number is attributed to Renton, played by Ewan McGreggor?
FIVE
8. Which film starred Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte?
WARRIOR
9. Forrest Gump won how many of the 13 Oscars it was nominated for?
SIX
10. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “The rare film story of a father who must expose his children to a small town’s out-raged passions.. and can only protect them with his love”?
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Before Sunrise is mostly set in Vienna but when Jesse meets Celine on the train, where are they coming from? Budapest? Prague? Zurich?
BUDAPEST
2. Who starred alongside Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday? William Holden? George Peppard? Gregory Peck?
GREGORY PECK
3. What is the running time of Apocalypse Now (theatrical)? 112mins? 153mins? 196mins?
153 MINS
4. Frank, Cheyenne and Jill are characters in which Sergio Leone film? Once Upon A Time In The West? A Fistful Of Dynamite? The Good, The Bad & The Ugly?
ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST
5. In Dr Strangelove, General Ripper believes the Soviets have corrupted United States officials by tampering with what? Livestock? Cigarettes? Water supplies?
WATER SUPPLIES
6. Who wrote the score for Se7en? Hans Zimmer? Howard Shore? Thomas Newman?
HOWARD SHORE
7. In Lawrence Of Arabia, during the first flashback to Lawrence’s life, where is he stationed? Cairo? Jerusalem? Aqaba?
CAIRO
8. What is the name of the character in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest played by Christopher Lloyd? Martini? Bruce Frederickson? Max Taber?
MAX TABER
9. What is James Conway’s (played by Robert De Niro) nickname in Goodfellas? Jimmy Stacks? Jimmy The Gent? Jimmy The Con Man?
JIMMY THE GENT
10. The only film to star husband and wife Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell was 1987’s Overboard. True or False?
FALSE (they also starred together in Swing Shift and The One And Only, Genuine, Original Family Band but weren’t married at the time)

BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: The Count Of Monte Cristo / The Thin Red Line / The Passion Of The Christ
Poster: Pay It Forward
Actor: Jim Caviezel

Cinema City Film Quiz #138

[01 March 2015]


Winning Team:
The Colour Gradation Of Jesse James By The Coward Roger Deakins

Genre – Western

Runners Up:
The Secret Lady Garden
Genre – A trek where men have been before
No Country For Old Hens
Genre – Cutting docu-drama remake of Chicken Run – everyone dies
Beauty And The Beastie Boys
Genre – Fightin’ for their right to party.. all night long with Belle de Jour (Rated PG-13)
Bird-Is-The-Word-Man
Genre – Comedy


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. Ridley Scott’s A Good Year was an adaptation of which novel?
A GOOD YEAR
2. Which actor plays Greg’s father-to-be in Meet The Parents?
ROBERT DE NIRO
3. What was the subtitle of Star Wars: Episode II?
ATTACK OF THE CLONES
4. What colour is The Mask’s skin in the film of the same name?
GREEN (arguably Caucasian but his face/head is green)
5. Shaun Of The Dead is set in which city?
LONDON
6. In Bridesmaids, Annie Walker falls for Nathan Rhodes. What is Nathan’s job?
POLICE OFFICER
7. Which 80’s film starred Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall and Michael Schoeffling?
SIXTEEN CANDLES
7. Under The Skin was released in which year?
2014
9. The following quote is from which film, “Locksley, I’m gonna cut your heart out with a spoon”?
ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES
10. White Heat, Yankee Doodle Dandy and The Public Enemy all starred which actor?
JAMES CAGNEY

ROUND II: Filming [Roger Deakins]
1. Nineteen Eighty-Four was released in which year? 1984? 1985? 1986?
1984
2. Which actor played the title role of Rubin Carter in The Hurricane? Jamie Foxx? Denzel Washington? Terence Howard?
DENZEL WASHINGTON
3. Which real-life bank robber do Ulysses, Pete and Delmar encounter in O, Brother Where Art Thou? John Dillinger? Charles Floyd? George Nelson?
GEORGE NELSON
4. What type of animal is Jake, the gunslinger in Rango? Rattlesnake? Hawk? Gila Monster?
RATTLESNAKE
5. What is the name of the eponymous settlement in The Village? Clearfield? Covington? Sunbury?
COVINGTON
6. Who directed The Reader? Stephen Frears? Michael Winterbottom? Stephen Daldry?
STEPHEN DALDRY
7. What is the name of the gamekeeper in Skyfall, played by Albert Finney? Kincade? Kirkwell? Kilbride?
KINCADE
8. Doubt is set in which year? 1957? 1964? 1971?
1964
9. Complete the following quote from Barton Fink, “Look upon me, I’ll show you..” The curse of glory? What we truly fail to understand? The life of the mind?
THE LIFE OF THE MIND
10. Kundun’s director, writer and the writer’s husband were banned from entering Tibet because of the film. True or False?
TRUE (Martin Scorsese, Melissa Mathison and Harrison Ford were added to a list of 50 names)

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. How many Disney animated films start with a ‘storybook opening’?
TWELVE (Snow White, Pinocchio, The Adventures Of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jungle Book, Sword In The Stone, Robin Hood, Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh, Piglet’s Big Movie, Winnie The Pooh, The Tigger Movie – Beauty And The Beast is stained glass.. doesn’t count)
2. Name a film directed by Rian Johnson.
BRICK / BROTHERS BLOOM / LOOPER (Star Wars 8 and 9 don’t count)
3. Last Man Standing, starring Bruce Willis was a remake of which film?
YOJIMBO / A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS
4. Audrey Hepburn was born in which country?
BELGIUM
5. The following films featured which actor, Pretty In Pink, Sex, Lies And Videotape and Lincoln?
JAMES SPADER
6. What payment does Andy request in return for completing Captain Hadley’s tax returns, in The Shawshank Redemption?
BEER
7. In The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, Robert’s deal with the Governor to catch or kill Jesse James has a deadline of how many days?
TEN
8. How many Hannibal Lecter movies have been made?
FIVE (Manhunter, Silence Of The Lambs, Hannibal, Red Dragon, Hannibal Rising)
9. Who played the lead role in the poorly received 2000 remake of Get Carter?
SYLVESTER STALLONE
10. At the end of After Hours, Paul is trapped in a plaster mould resembling the central character of which famous painting?
EDVARD MUNCH’S THE SCREAM

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. What is the name of the wolf in Dances With Wolves? Two Socks? Fang? Lonestar?
TWO SOCKS
2. What was the title of the 1988 film featuring Michelle Pfeifer, Alec Baldwin, Joan Cusack and Matthew Modine? Oliver & Company? Married To The Mob? Caddyshack II?
MARRIED TO THE MOB
3. Who directed Strange Days, starring Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett and Juliette Lewis? Robert Redford? Neil Jordan? Kathryn Bigelow?
KATHRYN BIGELOW
4. The Madness Of King George is about which monarch? George III? George IV? George V?
GEORGE III
5. Which of the following films did not feature Roberto Benigni? Asterix And Obelix Vs Caesar? Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian? To Rome With Love?
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN
6. To date, how many feature films has Kar Wai Wong directed? 6? 8? 10?
TEN
7. Bollywood is a sobriquet for Indian films produced in Mumbai. What is the formally correct name? Hindi cinema? Gujarati cinema? Bengali cinema?
HINDI CINEMA
8. How many years passed between the release of The Odd Couple and The Odd Couple II? 20 years? 30 years? 40 years?
THIRTY YEARS
9. Which of the following directors has made the most films? Uwe Boll? Clint Eastwood? Woody Allen?
WOODY ALLEN (46) [Eastwood = 34 / Boll = 29]
10. The only single film to win three Academy awards for acting are A Streetcar Named Desire and Zorba The Greek. True or False?
FALSE (A Streetcar Named Desire and Network)

BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Mr. Smith Goes To Washington / Vertigo / The Flight Of The Phoenix
Poster: Harvey
Actor: James Stewart