I remember in 2014, I went into this Keanu Reeves movie that seemed to pop up out of nowhere. There was very little advertising and not even an announcement or trailer until just a month or two before it was released. It was called John Wick.
No one expected John Wick is tear it up at the box office, earning nearly US$90m worldwide on a US$20 million budget, and transforming Keanu into the best middle-aged action superstar since Liam Neeson in Taken. And for once, John Wick did not feel like just yet another movie trying to mimic Taken — it had its own story hook and visual style, inventive action sequences, and created its own mythology with the “Continental”, essentially an assassin hotel.
In all honesty, while I liked John Wick, I wasn’t quite as enamored with it as most others who thought it was one of the best action movies ever. I believe one of the reasons is because the film was already so hyped up by the time I got around to it. So this time, though I knew the reviews were great, I avoided trailers and reading about the movie, and went into John Wick 2 with tempered expectations.
And wow, I absolutely loved it!
Continuing on almost immediately from the end of the first film, the titular John Wick begins the story by trying to get his car back from a Russian mobster played by the awesome Peter Stromare. So it’s crazy action from the get-go and things only get more insane when Wick’s past comes back to haunt him. It’s a one-man-against-the-rest premise like Die Hard, except for John Wick, the dangers lurk wherever he is in the world.
John Wick 2 is still ultra-violent and super stylish, with loads of action that utilises minimal cuts and immersive camera work. At times it feels like you are watching the best adaptation of a first-person shooter (or over-the-shoulder) video game ever, and at others it’s as though you are watching a comic book come to life on the big screen. It is no wonder that director John Stahelski was hired to help out on the brilliant action sequences in Captain America: Civil War.
I used video games and comic books to describe the sensibilities of John Wick 2 because it’s the type of film you need to suspend a lot of disbelief. Apart from cranking the action and the stakes up to 11, the film also builds on the assassin mythology from its predecessor, extending beyond just the Continental to a whole world of assassin services. It’s fascinating and loads of fun, but only if you buy into. I compare it to the latest entries in the Fast & Furious franchise, in that if you don’t accept it for what it is, you’ll be rolling your eyes throughout the entire film, but if you do, you’ll have a whale of a time.
I was surprised just how much of the original cast returned, including the super assassin played by Common, the car repair dude played by John Leguizamo, and the friendly neighbourhood cop played by Thomas Sadoski, as well as the Continental’s Ian Mcshane and Lance Reddick. Notable newcomers are Riccardo Scamarcio and Aussie DJ Ruby Rose (who is just about everywhere these days), while those looking forward to a Matrix reunion between Keanu and Lawrence Fishburne will finally have their wish granted.
As for Keanu, he’s still Keanu. John Wick doesn’t have a lot of lines, but the lines he does have are delivered in the classic Keanu style — ie, pretty badly. Nonetheless, the physical stuff Keanu pulls off is absolutely astounding, and apparently the film went out of its way to ensure that the physics of the action is as close to reality as possible. It’s a strange form of surrealistic realism that works and makes John Wick the kind of unique universe I’d love to return to.
On the whole, even though it’s only February, I’ll be surprised if I end up watching a better pure action film than John Wick 2 this year. So if you’re old enough and can stomach the violence, do yourself a favour and check out a John Wick 2 with a big bag of popcorn.
Happy New Year! 2017 is shaping up to be one of the most epic years in film history with loads of blockbuster releases.
First up, these are the ones I’m not particularly interested in:
Fifty Shades Darker (Feb 10)
The first one was horrible, and this one — if the books are any measure — will be even worse.
Cars 3 (June 16)
Cars has to be one of the worst Disney animated franchises. I still haven’t been able to watch one without falling asleep. I’m pretty sure I’ll skip this.
XXX: Return of Xander Cage (Jan 20)
XXX 2 with Ice Cube was a movie experience that will probably scar me for life. This looks better because Vin Diesel is back, but I’m not expecting much.
Transformers: The Last Knight (June 23)
I have officially given up on this franchise. I’m sure it will make loads of money, but as long as Michael Bay is at the helm, there’s not much to get excited about. Even the trailer is a little meh this time.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (May 26)
I’ve never been much of a fan of this franchise either. The first one was decent, but since then Johnny Depp’s shtick has been annoying.
Baywatch (May 26)
Gosh. This looks like a disaster waiting to happen.
Saw: Legacy (Oct 27)No trailer yet, but no trailer needed. This is an absolute cash grab that does not need to be made. It will simply soil the franchise further.
Pitch Perfect 3 (Dec 22)
Not even a poster yet. I liked the first one but the second one felt like it already wore out its welcome. I doubt a third one will be any good.
Despicable Me 3 (June 30)
Another animated franchise I could never get into properly. This trailer has not changed my mind.
The Shack (March 3)
I remember being really intrigued by the book when I first saw the cover a few years ago. But then I found out it was a cleverly disguised Christian novel and saw this trailer. Sigh.
Jumanji (Dec 22)
Yet another remake that does not need to be made. Nice cast, but I will be very shocked if this does not turn out to be a shocker.
Snatched (May 12)
After the success of Trainwreck, Amy Schumer is back with Snatched, co-starringGoldie Hawn. The trailer gives away I suppose what can be called a twist? Can’t say this interests me very much.
These are the ones I’m intrigued by but missed the list:
The Fate of the Furious (April 12)
I honestly think they should have stopped after the last one given the way they gave Paul Walker the perfect send-off. But money talks and there are more ridiculous stunts waiting to happen. Must say this trailer does not particularly excite me.
A Cure for Wellness (Feb 17)
Gore Verbinski directs a psychological horror starring Dane DeHaan. Looks fascinating. Count me in.
Insidious: Chapter 4 (Oct 20)
This is a cute little meta teaser trailer. Insidious is definitely one of the better horror franchises, so I’m at least intrigued by what the fourth installment has to offer.
Flatliners (Sep 29)
The original about life-after-death experimentation was not exactly a classic, but it had a super cast (Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, Billy Baldwin, Oliver Platt). This remake features Ellen Page, Diego Luna and Nina Dobrev, and might have some new special effects and ideas to make it worthwhile.
Annabelle 2 (Aug 11)
The first one was a disappointment, but the sequel promises to be better. The trailer suggests this to be the case.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle (Sep 29)
The first one was a pleasant surprise. Not sure if the sequel can replicate the magic, but I’m eager to find out.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (July 21)
This is supposedly based on a legendary text that many other movies have borrowed from over the years. The trailer looks okay, I suppose. Hope it’s not another Jupiter Ascending.
Power Rangers (March 24)
I shouldn’t be interested in this, but I am. The trailer does not instill confidence but I’m willing to give it a shot.
The Dark Tower (July 28)
Never read the Stephen King novels upon which this is based, but it certainly looks promising with Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba in the lead roles.
The Lego Batman Movie (Feb 10)
I laughed like a lunatic throughout The Lego Movie, and Batman was one of the major reasons. Hope this one can live up to the hype with Will Arnett once again reprising the voice of the caped crusader.
Get Out (Feb 24)
Not sure what to think of this strange, racially tinged horror flick, but it does seem interesting. Check out the trailer.
It (Sep 8)
The TV mini-series based on the Stephen King novel was the No. 1 thing that scared the crap out of me as a kid, so I am really looking forward to how they do a film version with Bill Skarsgard as the titular monster.
T2 Trainspotting (Jan 27)
I don’t have strong impressions of the original, so this isn’t as high on my list. And sequels that have taken more than 20 years to get made usually don’t perform well.
Beauty and the Beast (March 17)
This was in my top 15 until I realised there was another movie I had completely forgotten. I liked the animated version and I think this has the potential to be very good. Not quite sure about Emma Watson as Belle though.
And here’s my top 15!
15. The Mummy (June 9)
This could be good or bad. Still not sure what to think from the trailer. But I trust Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe and I know this needs to be great in order for the rest of the Universal monsters franchise to have a shot.
14. Thor: Ragnarok (Nov 3)
This would be higher in any other year, and especially after this hilarious “vacation trailer”. I wasn’t thrilled with Thor 2, though this has a chance to be a monster hit given that it also features the Hulk.
13. Blade Runner 2049 (Oct 6)
Oh man, I’m so excited about this long-awaited sequel to the sci-fi classic, particularly as it is directed by Denis Villeneuve. However, my fears of a sequel/reboot that has taken this long to come to fruition are also at play here. It’s the only reason why this isn’t in the top 10, possibly top 5.
12. John Wick: Chapter 2 (Feb 10)
The first one was an exhilarating surprise hit. The second one looks very promising by the looks of this trailer. Could well be the best action flick of the year.
11. World War Z 2 (June 9)
The first one went through production hell but came out gloriously on the other side. I know a lot of people didn’t like it, but I absolutely loved the World War Z. Still no news or teaser trailer or even poster with the scheduled release date just 6 months away, so we’ll have to wait and see if they push it back.
10. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5)
I didn’t love the first one as much as everyone else, but upon a second viewing it’s grown on me more. Guardians is different, fun and funny, and I think this second one could be even better.
9. Wonder Woman (June 2)
DC has not hit it out of the park yet with any of their new DC Extended Universe movies, and I’m hoping Wonder Woman can be the first. I’m sure it will be good, but I’m not sure if will live up to expectations.
8. Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7)
The new Tom Holland version of Spider-Man was one of the best things about Captain America: Civil War, so naturally everyone is excited about his first solo movie . With Michael Keaton as the villain Vulture, there’s every reason to be optimistic that Marvel will get it done once again.
7. Alien: Covenant (May 19)
I was one of the few people on the planet who really enjoyed Prometheus, flaws and all, so of course I’m looking forward to its sequel. This time, Ridley Scott has ditched any pretensions about there not being a direct link to Alien, but I just hope they don’t try to force a connection too much. The first trailer looks like we’re in for a pure horror in the vein of the original.
6. Logan (March 3)
Hugh Jackman’s last time as Wolverine, and it looks like he’s going to go out with a bang. I don’t know when or if they’re ever going to make a movie based on The Last of Us, so this could be as close as we’re going to get for a while. Best trailer of the lot?
5. Kong: Skull Island (March 10)
I’m partial to the big fella, and this movie could be setting up an epic duel soon with Godzilla. Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston. What’s there not to like?
4. Justice League (Nov 17)
I’m almost as excited about this film as I was about The Avengers. I know the odds are stacked against it given DC’s track record, but one can only hope that Ben Affleck’s influence will push it in the right direction. It looks like a lot of fun.
3. Dunkirk (July 21)
I worship at the altar of Christopher Nolan, so it’s no surprise his new war film is up this high. The trailer looks absolutely incredible too. I know it will be fantastic.
2. Star Wars: Episode VIII (Dec 15)
The Force Awakens more or less lived up to expectations and Rogue One was great in its own right. I can’t wait to find out what Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo have been up to, and it will be fantastic to finally see Luke Skywalker for more than a few seconds. Above all, it’s directed by Rian Johnson, so I feel like nothing can possibly go wrong. It’s almost blasphemous that I’m not putting this as No. 1.
1. War for the Planet of the Apes
What. You were expecting something else? Don’t be silly.