Gun Kata (John Wick: Chapter 2 review)

I love the TV Tropes brand. It’s all about the collection of and education on popular culture, specifically as it relates to common figures of speech. The ones that best convey concepts that exist in various forms of media, like movies, or say, television.

Now for example, in action movies, it’s fairly common for guys to smash and girls to shoot things. But does this action movie fall prey to tropes? Or transcend them?

 

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose, Common, Claudia Gerini, Lance Reddick, Laurence Fishburne
Director: Chad Stahelski
re-released on blu-ray June 13, 2017
********** 10/10

IMDB: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, Audience Score 87%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Chad Stahelski is an American stuntman and director. It wasn’t until fairly recently that he took up the reins and decided to direct a movie, starting with  the first John Wick, and now it’s sequel John Wick: Chapter 2. More importantly, Stahelski is famous for his relationship with Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, who died from a gunshot wound during the final days of filming for The Crow. Stahelski was a good friend, and agreed to replace Lee as a stunt double, even wearing prosthetics to look like Lee, so that the movie could be completed.

He is also currently working on Triple Threat, a movie which stars Tony Jaa, Tiger Chen and Iko Uwais. That said, I think with his well established history in film that Stahelski was more then prepared to take on the action genre, and so far, it’s been to his benefit.

In case you haven’t seen 2014’s John Wick, I recommend you go and do so, because there are massive spoilers ahead.

Taken from Wikipedia and edited down –

Mere days later for, former assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is at Abram Tarasov’s (Peter Stormare) chop shop looking for his car. He demolishes Tarasov’s men, but his car is damaged in the fight. He chooses to spare Tarasov as a peace offering, and heads home.

Aurelio (John Leguizamo) fixes the car, but John is visited by Italian crime lord Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio). We learn that John was able to retire with the help of D’Antonio, and that they have a blood oath which John is required to fulfill upon request. D’Antonio presents the medallion to demand services from John, but John refuses. In a fit of rage, D’Antonio decides to take a grenade launcher to John’s house.

Winston (Ian McShane) reminds John of the two rules of the underworld, and that by breaking the oath he would be marked for death. The other rule being that every assassin has amnesty in Winston’s hotel. John reluctantly agrees and accepts the proposal, which is to assassinate  D’Antonio’s sister (Claudia Gerini), the head of the criminal group called the  “High Table”, a council of high-level crime lords. D’Antonio sends Ares (Ruby Rose), his personal bodyguard, to surveil John.

John easily infiltrates Gianna’s compound and confronts her – Gianna instead chooses to commit suicide. While retreating, D’Antonio’s men flip on John, hoping to consolidate his newfound power. Gianna’s bodyguard Cassian (Common) learns what has happened and begins a relentless pursuit.  They land at Winston’s hotel, and stop their battle at per the rules. Cassian vows revenge.

D’Antonio then opens a $7 million  contract on John and he fights his way through the city, dispatching numerous hidden assassins. He even runs into Cassian again, and wins the fight, so he can make his way to underground crime lord The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), whose subordinates treat his injuries and guide him to D’Antonio’s location. After navigating a hall of mirrors, John forces D’Antonio back to the the Continental. But despite Winston’s warnings, John kills D’Antonio in the Continental dining room.

Winston unfortunately has to excommunicate John from the order, but gives him another marker and some time to plan his next move before doubling the contract and sending it out globally. This doesn’t phase John, who collects his dog and starts running across the city.

Oddly enough this movie manages to accomplish more then enough in the way to trope fulfillment and furnishing a thin plot to move the action ahead.

But where most action flick fall apart because of their ridiculous premise, John Wick embraces the odd and each element is considered within the framework of the already established world. We can suspend our disbelief because we don’t “really” know how the world of assassins works, but the action and dialogue are slick, allowing the most important motivation of John Wick’s revenge to shine throughout.

Pros: The rules of this world continue to be defined with great consideration and the lack of CGI create better entertainment then anything out there right now. The choreography, the cinematography, even Reeves in the role of John is deliberate.

Cons: Of course, the motivations of the first film are stronger and the action a little more frantic. This movie serves up a lot more of the same, and is a little long as a result. And then we introduce the problem of John as someone who is invincible, and with that Superman complex, a little less compelling.

Runtime: 2 hours 2 minutes

Points of Interest: Keanu Reeves is a talented martial artist, and performed almost all of the stunts himself, with the exceptions of the car crash and falling down stairs. Second time director Chad Stahelski was a stuntman in the Matrix Trilogy. Laurence Fishburne elude to their connections as co-stars of The Matrix Trilogy.

The first John Wick movie was artfully created and a sleeper hit of 2014. This movie is an excellent addition to the catalogue and another example that over-the-top budgets don’t always equal action success. The Fishburne cameo is a welcome addition and perfect demonstration of the skillful layering going in in this movie.

theories Summarized

I really enjoyed this film and I suspect that if you are an action movie fan, Keanu Reeves supporter and even interested in experiments in storytellling, then you won’t blink twice at picking this up. That said, I have to wonder where we can go from here, and hope that Stahelski can put a nice bow on these films after the third is completed. John Wick: Chapter 2 appears to be mindless fun, but it has more then enough world-building to make stand out as one of the top five movies of 2017.

Also, in case you’re looking for another movie recommendation, the latest and greatest Watch Culture vid is now up!

No more theories from me friends, I’m tapped out for the now. But come back tomorrow for some wisdom.

Tim!

In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream (Planetarium review)

Time to pull out the sports equipment, latex paint, and fishing line, we got ourselves a planetarium to construct!

 

Sufjan Stevens – Planetarium

released Jun 9, 2017
******** 8/10

Planetarium is a collaboration between multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens, composer Nico Muhly, drummer James McAlister, and guitarist Bryce Dessner. A supernova, modern art, super group, if you will. This album was inspired by our solar system and features tracks about black holes, tides, Halley’s Comet, black energy, the Sun, the Moon, the Kuiper Belt, creation, and each of the planets, including Pluto!

Now let’s get to the burning question on my mind – is it off for me to say that this was a weird album to review?

Running at just over seventy five minutes, and including seventeen different tracks, Planetarium takes us all over the place, both metaphorically and literally. An album chock full of ideas, it has tons of instrumentals to take advantage of, and produces epic soundscapes, while including vocals as necessary. It weaves in both the epic (Uranus, Mars, Jupiter, Black Energy) and the intimate (Venus, Mercury, Pluto, and Neptune) to good effect, but the most interesting thing to note of all of these tracks is not how they function individually, but what happens to you as you listen and experience this light show. Err, sound show.

Mythology, science and astronomy dominate this soundscape. Granted it may take a few listens to really immerse yourself in it all, but each time I sat down with it, I focused on different elements. Sometimes I focused on the melody, others were about the lyrics, and still other times I just sat with my own thoughts and contemplated life. That an album about the solar system could make me reflect on my own existence is compelling. Odd that.

And then we have sonic interludes like Halley’s Comet, Tides, the slightly longer Kuiper Belt, Black Hole and In The Beginning. These serve to dial down or ramp up as appropriate. Remember this is a dense album and not something to be taken lightly, but when you consider the scope and scale of it all, well then it just starts to make sense that it was organized this way.

Some of my favourite moments happen on Moon, with it’s many “R2-D2” like sounds, Mars and it’s to the point thoughts on love and war, and the unfettered sexuality/lust of Jupiter. By the time we get to Earth it’s already felt like everything has happened, but not worry.

Coming in at fifteen minutes, we get to experience the passage of millennia through carefully curated sequences representing formation, habitation, natural disasters, the arrival of man, and what seems like the end of civilization. This is all played tongue and cheek of course, delivered with lines like “… run Mission run, before we arrive” and ending with the more intimate Mercury.

Pros: Heady and thoughtful, the talent of its members is well demonstrated on Planetarium. It gets better and better with repeated viewings, each time with a new thing to uncover. Album closer Mercury is just brilliant.

Cons: Interestingly enough, the scale can be somewhat daunting to witness, but hopefully we get more harmony from the group in live performances or if they ever make another studio album. Sometimes Sufjan sounds like an auto-tuned parrot when he doesn’t need to be.

Runtime: 76 minutes

Points of InterestThe group was formed way back in 2012 and Planetarium actually existed as an idea way way back then, with further get togethers solidifying the songs and setting up for a full-length studio album. This is the result of those sessions. Cosmic themes make sense as globalization has flattened the Earth, but space still remains unexplored.

This is an album of abstractions, considerations, and comparative to a space opera. Maybe it won’t ever be repeated again in the history of humanity, but this record is quite a beautiful thing to behold – I just hope that it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of 2017 releases.

theories Summarized

What else can I say about Planetarium but to listen to it for yourself creative cuties? This is a concept album through and through, and one that isn’t afraid to switch from the grandeur of the stars right down to the people on this organic jet pack hurtling through space and time. Theory or no, that’s what I think.

Tim!

Drawn Together (Colin MacIntyre cartoonist interview)

After quite a bit of thought, and just a touch of procrastination thrown in the mix to spark heightened awareness under duress (read:one of the camera angles came out yellow), I think I found another classic pairing that future generations can use, one that just seems to click and is, of course, obvious upon reflection. That said, we already know that certain things in life just pair together well – Peanut butter and jelly, bees and honey, salt and pepper, black and white, dogs and cats, king and queen, socks and shoes, and Laurel and Hardy. All of those choices are great examples of individual items which end up being even better together.

In fact, every romantic couple is supposed to function this way, when it’s healthy. In fact, when you talk with someone after a break up, they will often cite compatibility as a major factor in it not working out. Chemistry in love is a very real thing.

That’s why this month’s interviewee is so special.

He is a creative person who dabbles in a great many different arenas, with his most important asset being his love of drawing. For example, he cites instagram as a major inspiration in getting back on the creative horse, and following through each day. Producing at least one drawing on a lunch hour is quite the feat, but Colin MacIntyre does it with a smile on his face and a song in his heart. The act of making itself is a major reward for him, and given that he has at least three other regular projects on the go at any given time, it’s an impressive thing all it’s own. Colin and drawing.

Now by chance, are you wondering what those other projects he does could possibly be? Heck, you haven’t even seen his art yet, but I have a direct line to everything. Which is why I recommend you get right into the video below or hit the jump for the Youtube express train.

What a great topic dear readers! I’m still smiling and all fired up after all of that talk of Beeverine, Winter activities, and the many shades of Batman. And those were just tangential points to be made in this down-to-earth interview about the life of a salesman.

But what did you think folks?

Did  you like it? Did you hate it? What part of the interview inspired you to get back to making art – when you heard those answers on how Colin deals with the challenges of life? If you want to see more of those kinds interviews, then please, please, please subscribe to the mailing list. We need your comments and shares in order to grow. And to know. If the interviews flow.

And special thanks to Colin for being cooperative, capable, and charged up during this entire process! His enthusiasm knows no bounds; at least, that’s my theory.

Tim!

The Fast and the Furious (Watch Culture EP. 1)

So, you’re sitting at home on a Friday night and you want to watch something cool, but you just realized you don’t even know what’s cool anymore. Ya feel me?

Well, this is it, the latest and greatest venture on timotheories.

Ever so timely, and thanks one more time to Andre Lindo for inspiring me to come up with a new series of shows talking about Culture, from my perspective.

We’re doing something to challenge those top 10 lists and review videos that are ever so popular, creative cuties. These are going to be shorter videos with a more intimate feel and will feature myself at the helm (most of the time), guests, and and lots of unbridled passion about the topics at hand.

These ain’t your momma’s review shows, because we’re not going to focus only on the new and novel – Nope, we are going to inject into your consciousness the culture you need to navigate this crazy world of ours.

But enough of that, I think this show should be able to speak for itself, Watch Culture episode one is going to dive right into the thick of it, and it features my all-time favourite movie to watch when I’m sick, when I’m excited, when I’m ringing in the new year, and sometimes just to have on in the background when I’m painting or drawing. That’s right, we’re opening this can of worms with an episode on The Fast and the Furious,

Hit the jump to watch this video or stick around to stay on the site. Either way, This is going to be a fast paced 6 and half minutes of passion, fun, and entertainment on an amazing film that spawned an even better franchise.

theories Summarized

Look how happy I am just to talk about this movie, dear readers! And we haven’t even dug in just yet. I have so many more things to say about this movie, other movies and tv shows, and heck, who knows, I may dip my toes into some other creative channels. But you’re just gonna have to stick around to see what shows up next on timeotheories. Campfire theories continue to unfold and I’m stoked for it.

But you know what’s even more important here? Your feedback. Tell us what you think in the comment section, subscribe to the reading list for more great content, and please share this with your fellow lovers of creativity. We do this for you! Yet another theory to unravel folks.

Tim!

A Tale On Repeat (Beauty and the Beast review)

Rehashing a story that rehashes another story doesn’t create more hash? Sheesh, y’all. What a wonderful thing is this reimagining that it can invigorate previous fans, and draw in troves of new ones too.

 

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellan, Emma Thompson
Director: Bill Condon
re-released on blu-ray June 6, 2017
******** 8/10

IMDB: 7.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 71%, Audience Score 83%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Bill Condon is an American screenwriter and director, best known for his dual roles in Gods and Monsters as well as with Dreamgirls. He also had success directing Kinsey, Mr. Holmes, and very recently the 2017 version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

And that is the topic I shall choose to write about. Mostly because I bought a copy and watched it last week.

Taken from Wikipedia and edited –

In pre Revolution era-France, an enchantress disguised as a beggar (Hattie Morahan) arrives at a ball and offers the prince (Dan Stevens), a rose for shelter. When he refuses, she transforms him into a monstrous beast and his servants into household objects, and erases the castle from the memories of their loved ones. She casts a spell on the rose and warns the prince that, unless he learns to love another and earn their love in return before the last petal falls, he and his servants will lose their humanity forever.

Years later, in the village of Villeneuve, Belle (Emma Watson) dreams of adventure and brushes off advances from Gaston (Luke Evans), an arrogant former soldier. Lost in the forest, Belle’s father Maurice (Kevin Kline) seeks refuge in the Beast’s castle, but the Beast imprisons him for stealing a rose. Belle ventures out in search for him and finds him locked in the castle dungeon. The Beast agrees to let her take Maurice’s place, despite her father’s objections.

Belle befriends the castle’s servants, who treat her to a spectacular dinner. When she wanders into the forbidden west wing and finds the rose, the Beast, enraged, scares her into the woods. She is cornered by a pack of wolves, but the Beast rescues her and is injured in the process. A friendship develops as Belle nurses his wounds. The Beast shows Belle a gift from the enchantress, a book that transports readers wherever they want. Belle uses it to visit her childhood home in Paris, where she discovers a plague doctor mask. Belle realizes that she and her father were forced to leave her mother’s deathbed as her mother succumbed to the plague.

In Villeneuve, Gaston sees rescuing Belle as an opportunity to win her hand in marriage and agrees to help Maurice. When Maurice learns of his ulterior motive and rejects him, Gaston abandons him to the wolves. Maurice is rescued by a hermit, Agathe, but when he tells the townsfolk of Gaston’s crime, Gaston convinces them to send him to an insane asylum.

After sharing a romantic dance with the Beast, Belle discovers her father’s predicament using a magic mirror. The Beast releases her to save Maurice, giving her the mirror to remember him with. At Villeneuve, Belle proves Maurice’s sanity by revealing the Beast in the mirror to the townsfolk. Realizing that Belle loves the Beast, Gaston has her thrown into the asylum carriage with her father and rallies the villagers to follow him to the castle to kill the Beast. Maurice and Belle escape and Belle rushes back to the castle.

During the battle, Gaston abandons his companion LeFou (Josh Gad), who sides with the servants to fend off the villagers. Gaston attacks the Beast in his tower, who is too depressed to fight back, but regains his will upon seeing Belle return. He spares Gaston’s life before reuniting with Belle. However, Gaston fatally shoots the Beast from a bridge, but it collapses when the castle crumbles and he falls to his death. The Beast dies as the last petal falls and the servants become inanimate. When Belle tearfully professes her love to him, Agathe reveals herself as the enchantress and undoes the curse, repairing the crumbling castle and restoring the Beast’s and servants’ human forms and the villagers’ memories. The Prince and Belle host a ball for the kingdom, where they dance happily.

This version of the film does well to increase the mythos of this fairy tale, all while adding in additional songs, but never losing the main story nor the music which made it so memorable in the first place, but it does fairy fail in other ways. Learning more of the princes backstory, why the servants became objects, and the reason Belle has no mother are interesting, but add a lot of time to the story.

In some ways it makes it a far more beautiful telling of the story, though it doesn’t significantly improve the stock of it’s Disney characters. Except for Gaston and Lefou… Their performances are noteworthy and feel very fresh throughout.

Pros: Luke Evans and Josh Gad provide a far more nuanced and complex relationship for their characters, and Lefou is a scene stealer to be clear. Emma Watson does well in revitalizing and addressing the persona of Belle. Heck, even the new song the Beast sings is pretty swell.

Cons: Kevin Kline just doesn’t quite cut the mustard as Maurice nor does Emma Thompson as  Mrs. Potts. Their performances seem a little phoned in and do a lot to slow the story down in addition to 45 minutes worth of new songs and the aforementioned backstory updates.

Runtime: 2 hours 9 minutes

Points of Interest: During the Be Our Guest sequence, a model of Aladdin’s Agrabah castle appears. Belle takes on the role of inventor in this film over Maurice because Emma Watson wanted Belle to have more of a back story, and a better reason for being treated differently by the villagers. And in case you didn’t already know, Le Fou is Disney’s first official gay character.

A story rehashed from a story already rehashed, 2017’s Beauty and the Beast works to window dress a film which is already well love by many, but guilty of the falling into the same philosophical challenges of its predecessor – love is the answer. The realist in me knows that love is hard work and to expect that love alone will cure sickness (read: mental health) and prejudice (read: sexism, violence and hate) is a silly aspiration, but the underpinning message of Beauty and the Beast can’t seem to shake it.

theories Summarized

I’m happy that movies are being made like Goat, Moonlight and Nocturnal Animals. They address issues of toxic masculinity and other not-so-fun global problems, so I’ll say good on Emma Watson for injecting a stronger voice and presence in to Belle, and good on Bill Condon for keeping this movie a musical, and good on Disney for updating this story, but please can we stop making the same tales as old as time?

Tim!