John Wick: Chapter 2 is an Absurd Catch 22

Image: supplied by Ster Kinekor

When I looked up John Wick: Chapter 2 on IMDb (Internet Movie Database) the rating for this film was 8.2. ‘Ooh,’ I thought, ‘it must be good.’

After seeing this ‘action, crime, thriller’ I was less enthusiastic and thought I’d investigate how the IMDb rating system works. This is a statement on their website:

Weighted Average Ratings

IMDb publishes weighted vote averages rather than raw data averages. Various filters are applied to the raw data in order to eliminate and reduce attempts at vote stuffing by people more interested in changing the current rating of a movie than giving their true opinion of it.

The exact methods we use will not be disclosed. This should ensure that the policy remains effective. The result is a more accurate vote average.

 Votes are posted to IMDb by viewers and quite detailed viewer demographics are listed on the site. And when I looked it up the critic reviews’ metascore was listed as 75 for John Wick: Chapter 2 (compared at the same time to, for instance, Trainspotting T2’s rating at 7.8 and metascore at 62).

I was pleased to see that the critic reviews ranged from as low as 40 (Trainspotting’s lowest was 50). Pleased because I loathed this movie. Knowing now how the IMDb system works I feel free to state with a clear conscience that I am not trying to ‘stuff’ up the votes. I am simply adding my own (very low) vote to the others’.

In this film John Wick (played by a toneless Keanu Reeves) has exited a criminal organisation (something like the Italian mob) but is handed a ‘marker’ that forces him to re-enter it. He is tasked with killing one person, and slays a whole lot of others in his getaway attempt. He does this using stashed arms and fighting off baddies who conveniently attack him one at a time. Wick’s killing of the target enacts a ‘marker’ on his head in return and so this catch 22 cycle (unfortunately) continues. I was very sad to see that Chapter 2 may easily give way to Chapter 3.

JW2_D43_3034.cr2

Image: supplied by Ster Kinekor

The phrase ‘Catch 22’, incidentally, was created by Joseph Heller who published a book by the same name in 1961. Catch 22 means ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’, something Heller’s American army characters experience over and over again in his story. Shortly before watching John Wick: Chapter 2 I listened to Catch 22 on Audible. The narration was brilliant and the story was cleverly written in a style that resembled catch 22 itself. It was ridiculously funny in parts and this humour belied the atrocities – and pointlessness – of war. So, entertainment and food for thought there. I found the style so frustrating, however, that it was hard to keep going (I don’t know how the author did). But then again, that may be what Heller was trying to achieve.

I think viewers are supposed to see John Wick: Chapter 2 as entertaining (and clearly from the IMDb votes many people did) and to admire this clever assassin. I just found the whole thing ridiculous and pointless. No food for thought there.

 

The final Hobbit resounds with a fitting and exciting finish

A review by Brenda Daniels

Image supplied by Ster Kinekor

                                                              Image supplied by Ster-Kinekor

The Hobbit, a book by J R R Tolkien, was written for children. But this fantasy adventure moves beyond a simple child’s tale into a grand adventure incorporating elements of war, greed, loyalty, bravery and friendship.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is the final instalment in the film trilogy, based on the book, and directed by Peter Jackson. And it includes everything the book does and more.

In this movie, the audience sees the surprising result of the death of the dragon Smaug: a converging of several armies, all wanting a part of the massive treasure contained in the Dwarves’ old home of Erebor. Elf, man, dwarf and wargs meet on a huge scale at the foot of the imposing stronghold and fiercely battle for supremacy.

Meanwhile, Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the little band of dwarves becomes obsessed with his reclaimed treasure and subsequently neglects his duties and relationships. To avert the catastrophic consequences of war Bilbo the Hobbit uses his magic ring, a precious stone, and a good dose of bravery to broker a peace between man, elf and dwarf. And in the process deepens an important friendship.

The film version incorporates a number of elements of the The Lord of the Rings, tying the two stories together nicely and forming a well-rounded prequel to the brilliant, hugely successful Ring trilogy.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a resounding and fitting end to the The Hobbit films and is Peter Jackson’s best. Enjoy.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies releases at Ster-Kinekor cinemas and IMAX nationwide on Friday, 12 December. The running time is two hours, 24 minutes.

Brosnan thrills in The November Man

A review by Brenda Daniels

The November Man is a fast-paced thriller starring Pierce Brosnan in excellent form as abrasive CIA Agent, Peter Devereaux. The film opens in the midst of a tense operation that sees Devereaux on mission while training young CIA sniper, Mason (Luke Bracey).

Although highly accurate, Mason fails to follow Devereaux’s orders and the mission is botched: an innocent bystander, a child, is killed. The elements in this opening scene hint at what is to come in the rest of the film, introducing important strands that run throughout: an intricate plot, high-intensity action, and a surprising underlying theme of relationship. The latter gives The November Man depth and richness.

The main story sees Devereaux called in to perform a difficult mission in Chechnya. When things go awry it becomes apparent that the Russians, Chechneans and two strands of the CIA are all after one woman: Alice (Olga Kurylenko). Devereax’s and Alice’s pasts, and Mason’s former dealings with Devereaux all gradually come to light as the story progresses.

Tension is maintained throughout The November Man and the intricate plot meant I had to concentrate. The relationship element is an important one – one to which Brosnan did eminent justice.

The November Man is a thrilling, engrossing watch. It opens at NuMetro theatres in South Africa on 3 October.

Pierce Brosnan at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. Photo: Creative Commons

Pierce Brosnan at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. Photo: Creative Commons

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier reminicent and too violent

A review by Brenda Daniels

Captain America faces many foes in this Marvel production of the superhero which is due for release in South Africa this week. The enemies come in several guises and our hero has a hard time telling friend from foe.

Played by handsome Chris Evans, Steve Rogers is, however, able to trust Natasha (a slim, red-headed Scarlett Johansson) and an out-of-shape Falcon (Anthony Mackie). Together they fight the mysterious Winter Soldier, the brains behind this super soldier, and ultimately the threat to freedom itself.

An exciting car chase featuring a battle-scarred Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury is good to watch. Some giant machines designed for world-domination, lots of fight scenes and a good versus evil plot make for entertaining viewing – particularly in IMAX 3D.

But the fighting seemed over the top to me and too violent, even for a superhero. And the Captain’s bemoaning of the good old days at the beginning of the film got a bit tiresome. For our hero the “good old days” meant the freedom that America espoused. It was this that he felt ultimately called to defend; a good bit of “democracy” propaganda I liked least of all.

The film concludes satisfyingly open ended so fans can look forward to a sequel.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens at Ster Kinekor Theatres in 2D, 3D and 3D IMAX on Friday 28 March. It carries an age restriction of PG13.

Chris Evans on set of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Chris Evans on set of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

 

 

Scarlett Johansson at a press release for Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Scarlett Johansson at a press release for Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Lead up to the award ceremony: Cinema Nouveau Announces Pre-Release Screenings of Three Multi-Nominated Oscar Contenders

Each of the three pre-release titles, August: Osage County, Nebraska and Philomena, will have one screening each at 8pm on 24, 26 and 27 February respectively, at the four Cinema Nouveau theatres at Rosebank Mall in Johannesburg, Brooklyn Mall in Pretoria, Gateway in Durban and the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. Bookings are now open for these three special pre-Oscar screenings.

The talented Meryl Streep, who is no stranger to the Best Actress category, is once again nominated in this category for her role in August: Osage County, which will be pre-released at the four Cinema Nouveau theatres on Monday, 24 February at 8pm. Another big Hollywood name, Julia Roberts, shares the screen with her in this film and is up for Best Supporting Actress.

On Wednesday, 26 February at 8pm, Cinema Nouveau audiences are transported to another American state with the pre-release of Nebraska. With an impressive six Oscar nominations, for Best Picture, Best Actor – Bruce Dern, Best Supporting Actress – June Squibb, Cinematography, Best Director – Alexander Payne, and Original Screenplay, this black-and-white masterpiece explores another complex family relationship.

With four Oscar nominations – Best Picture, Best Actress – Judi Dench, Best Original Score and Best Adapted Screenplay – Philomena plays on the Cinema Nouveau circuit at 8pm on Thursday, 27 February. It releases nationally on 28 March.

When former journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) is dismissed from the Labour Party in disgrace, he is at a loss as to what to do. All that changes when a young Irish woman approaches him about a story of her mother, Philomena (Judi Dench), who had her son taken away when she was a teenage inmate of a Catholic convent. Martin arranges a magazine assignment about Philomena’s search for her son that eventually leads to America. Along the way, Martin and Philomena discover as much about each other as about her son’s fate, as their basic beliefs are challenged.

Cinema Nouveau audiences can watch these films and make their predictions before the winner of “Best Picture is announced during the early hours of 3 March.

The full list of nominees vying for this prestigious award are: Gravity; Captain Phillips; American Hustle; Dallas Buyers Club; Her; Nebraska; Philomena; 12 Years a Slave; and The Wolf of Wall Street.

For more information and to make a booking, visit www.sterkinekor.com or www.cinemanouveau.co.za. Call Ticketline on 082 16789.

The 2009 Academy Awards (Source: Creative Commons)

The 2009 Academy Awards (Source: Creative Commons)

The 31st Academy Awards (Source: Creative Commons)

The 31st Academy Awards (Source: Creative Commons)

Message in The Monuments Men meanders vaguely

A review by Brenda Daniels

The Monuments Men is a World War II drama based on a true story. It recounts how artworks in the form of paintings and sculptures, stolen by the Nazis during the war, were recovered. The film features a cast of big names including George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville and Bill Murray.

Seven men, previously unconscripted because of age, are handpicked by Frank Stokes (Clooney) for their art expertise. They don uniforms right near the end of the war and set out on their mission to find the artworks and return them to their rightful owners.

There are no flashy heroics in this film. The characters are old and ordinary. And their mission of saving artworks seems silly when compared to saving human lives. But, argues their leader Stokes, preserving art is preserving culture. And culture reflects the importance of a people and their achievements.

What the group did recover is indeed staggering. What they helped prevent is monumental. Hitler had plans to build his own Führer Museum. He needed art, books and other treasures to fill it so stole what he needed, storing it up in hiding places. This ragtag bunch of chaps was instrumental in putting an end to his dreams.

Unfortunately The Monuments Men meanders through a vague plot, throwing in some sentimentality and personal suffering just for good measure. This makes what promised to be a fine film slow and unnecessarily long.

The actors do a good job, particularly Cate Blanchett as a sour but helpful source of intelligence. As a group they don’t leave a lasting impression nor do they capitalise on some potential for humour. Although The Monuments Men fails to make more of its noble message, the message does get through and is worth watching just for this.

The Monuments Men opens at NuMetro Theatres in South Africa on 14 February.

MFAA soldiers recovering looted paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle               (Source: Creative Commons)

MFAA soldiers recovering looted paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle (Source: Creative Commons)