Well, I don’t know about you guys and gals but I’m glad to be back after the winter holidays. Yeah, it was nice to spend time with the family and lounge around eating snacks but I missed you! It can be a little too quiet when you’re home alone watching movies with just some popcorn and your couch. To me, movies are a social thing that should be shared and discussed and it is this shared experience that helps to make a movie “good” or “bad.” Why not start off the year with movies I saw with friends that sparked a great deal of discussion?
John Wick (2014) [R]
This is an action movie staring Keanu Reeves and directed by his own stunt double. No, really. Director Chad Stahelski was Reeves’s stunt double for Point Break and The Matrix. Oh, and this is his directorial debut.
John Wick is about an ex-hitman (Reeves) who is looking for revenge after losing his car and the dog that his recently deceased wife gave him to help him through the grieving process. That’s it. That’s the whole movie.
So when my buddy suggested seeing it, I was . . . . hesitant.
Then we got to the theater. The lights went down. The trailers ended and the movie began. And all of a sudden, something magic happened. I was actually enjoying it.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. The plot is paper thin. Reeves can’t act his way out of a paper bag. There are plenty of completely failed attempts at foreign accents. And it is almost impossible to ignore the ridiculousness of Reeves slaughtering people left and right and somehow managing to only sully his suit with his own blood.
And yet, I found myself not caring. Yeah, it’s nothing more than an empty-headed action movie but that’s kind of what makes it so good. John Wick isn’t trying to make some political statement, or redefine a genre, or tell some wonderfully crafted tale. It’s just fun.
But what did my friend think, you ask? Hated it. “Totally unbelievable. Waste of my money.” Surely he knew it was going to be ridiculous going in. How could you not? We fought about John Wick for a good hour after watching it. I hesitate to bring it up now because it is still a bit of a sore subject (though it was HIS idea).
If you ask me, the beauty of John Wick is that it is a wonderfully choreographed, mindless movie. It’s about non-stop action. And it actually does that pretty well. Color me surprised.
7 paws out of 10
Frank (2014) [R]
Now this was one I really wanted to see. Frank is a story about an aspiring musician who joins a band fronted by a man who wears a giant fake head. What makes it particularly interesting to me is that it is partially based on a true story.
The story follows Jon, who dreams of being a musician but just can’t find a way to get there until he volunteers to fill in for the keyboard player of Frank’s band. Jon decides that this is his chance so he quits his job and heads off to record and album with the band. As the recording process moves along, Jon makes the mistake of thinking that his interests are the same as the rest of the band. Lines are crossed. Friendships are formed and broken. Thanks to Jon, the band winds up with a slot playing at the South by Southwest Festival. But is that what they all want?
Sounds like some interesting, drama-filled stuff going on there, I know. But it wasn’t, at least to me, despite the fantastic performance by Michael Fassbender. It’s not that Frank is bad, it’s just not particularly good. Maybe I’ve become cynical, but I just feel that the premise is overdone.
My friends, however, loved it. “Stop being a grumpy cat,” (which coincidentally almost got my buddy bit). “The movie is about a group of off-beat characters that have created a family where they feel accepted and loved. It’s also a fantastic critique of big business and a condemnation of mediocrity while celebrating the true and original. What’s wrong with that?” they asked.
“Well, there was nothing wrong with it the first 50 times I saw that movie,” I responded.
Look, I could argue that Revenge of the Nerds trod on this same ground in 1984 or even that last year’s Chef was, in some ways, the same movie. It’s not that I have a problem with the message and I certainly can’t fault the performance of Fassbender. I just thought that this movie had a chance to be something special if it just stayed away from the same tried-and-true formula which is ironically the very thing the movie is ostensibly about.
5.5 paws out of 10