WILD CARD

Available On Demand contemporaneous with its theatrical release.  A middling Jason Statham action film — nowhere near as frenetic as “Crank” or his “Transporter” films. Turns out it’s a remake of the 1986 Burt Reynolds vehicle, “Heat.” Some non-touristy locations in Las Vegas and a couple of very busy fight scenes — I watched the last one twice — but I was hoping for more from the William Goldman script — a nifty plot twist, some neato dialogue — but this could have been written by anyone of a hundred scripters.

FF=2

JOHN WICK

Excellent action flick with well choreographed fights that don’t drag on. Nice understated, show-don’t-tell moment near start with a rear shot of Viggo, the big-shot Russian crime boss, calling John Leguizamo. He asks JL why he punched Viggo’s son. JL replies: “He stole John Wick’s car and killed his dog.” Viggo mutters a faint “Oh,” as he turns with a slack expression and ends the call. No speeches about waking a sleeping tiger, etc. needed.

The script goes an extra mile in (under)world building by creating a clandestine criminal society operating like a nation state in the interstices with its own rules enforcement plus its own currency.  Someone could do a lot more with the concept.

Then we come to a couple of pure BS moments. Viggo’s men get the better of Wick; does Viggo kill him on the spot? Hell no. He’s gotta tie him to a chair and yammer at him. (In the back of my head I hear Dr. Evil’s son shouting, “Here’s a gun, Dad! Shoot him! Shoot him NOW!”) Of course Wick gets away. And later, when he has the drop on Viggo, does he kill him? Nooooo! Which costs a friend his life a little later. Why, why why does this happen in film after film? Whatever. Except for those two lapses, a very well-done revenge flick.

BONUS: This cool montage shows you every kill from the film. (obviously a spoilerfest) http://tinyurl.com/mh89phk

FF=0

TUSK

One freakin weird movie. I saw it because Kevin Smith is a Jersey Shore guy and because the premise sounded so over the top. Well, it’s waaaay over the top. A crazy, gabby (hey, it’s a Kevin Smith film, so you expect lots of chatter), rather slow horror-comedy that’s totally ruined by the final scene. I kept thinking, “No, tear, no tear, please don’t show a tear.” And then came the tear. Bah!

FF=3

GONE GIRL

I picked up the novel years and years ago (after Gillian sang “I Wanna Be Sedated” with our band) and enjoyed it a lot. Upon watching the film, I kinda wish I hadn’t. The film works better on a naive viewer. Knowing the twist in advance robs you of that delicious shock. But even so, it’s an engaging film and Gillian did a great job on the screenplay.

FF=0

GET ON UP

This sanitized biopic of James Brown’s tumultuous life has enough high points to make it worth watching. Especially the recording session of “Please, Please, Please,” where the Jewish old-school record company exec is trying to figure what the hell’s going on in his recording studio. (“What is this? That’s not a song! All he’s saying is ‘Please’ over and over!”) Another is the TAMI show where Brown is told that these English guys called the Rolling Stones are going to close the show instead of him. So what does he do? He goes out and SLAYS the audience (the clip I’ve attached is from that show) and leaves the Stones wishing they were following anybody — *anybody* — but that guy who just left the stage.

FF=1

THE GUEST

I have to say I had no idea where this was going. It had me hooked from the get-go. Could have done without the “Prom Night” finale, but getting there was an interesting ride. Don’t want to say much more.  On the whole, if you’re looking for a thriller that’s going to keep you off balance and take totally unexpected turns, check this out.

FF=0

THE EQUALIZER

I enjoyed this film. It’s more leisurely paced than most of its genre but I didn’t mind. Probably because Denzel Washington possesses such a powerful screen presence that watching him simply walk around and check out the scenery is captivating. The character McCall is based on the hoary cliche of the deadly ex-member of the clandestine services who’s gone native (so to speak) and just wants to live a quiet normal life… until something pushes him too far. If I have a criticism it’s that he’s too cool (that stopwatch thing) and too skilled. Yeah, he takes some damage, but it doesn’t slow him down. Nobody has a chance against him. The lead bad guy is very bad and is dispatched with appropriate agony. The violence is sharp and to the point and the fight scenes don’t drag on. Recommended.

FF=0

The Equalizer vs Repairman Jack: lots of readers have commented that McCall rips off Jack. Could be. I can’t say. The Tomb was a bestseller in the fall of 1984; “The Equalizer” TV show debuted in the fall of 1985. But the TV McCall is all the cliches I wanted to avoid with Jack, everything I didn’t want Jack to be. The 2014 McCall even more so: he has no subtlety, no trickery, no sense of humor. He’s all brute force, while Jack is “Let’s you and him fight.” Denzel’s McCall is a sledgehammer; Jack is a trip wire. Many readers made mention of the similarities between Jack’s improvisations in “Interlude at Duane’s” and Act 3 of the film. I can only shrug. McCall is not Jack, and The Equalizer is an entertaining film.