John Wick Chapter 2 Comedy of Year

DATELINE:  Androgynous Villains Ruby Rose & Riccardo Scamarcio

Ruby Rose & Riccardo Scamarcio

Keanu Reeves is hilarious as the hitman in John Wick 2.  If you don’t believe this movie is a comedy, you have no sense of the ridiculous.

We lost track of how many people Wick kills at the Caracalla Baths, among other notable settings. It becomes utterly preposterous amid the stunning scenery. We also enjoyed a shootout in the subway with silencers so that the bustling crowds have no idea the hitmen are trying to do each other in.

Of course, one of the great set pieces is the homage, or parody, of Orson Welles’s mirror shootout in Lady from Shanghai, done here in super-exaggeration.

We are also bemused by the various androgynous killers after Keanu, especially the so-called woman (Ruby Rose) posing as a boyish killer. We laughed at Reeves buying guns at a secret shoppe like he was ordering bottles of wine for a big party.

The film is a flamboyant hoot, populated by a bunch of cameo star roles, from John Leguizamo to Laurence Fishburne and Ian McShane.

When Keanu walks down those streets of New York City, he discovers nearly every other person on the street is a professional hitman. It defies anything but laughter.

Wick is a sentimental guy who goes bananas when his dog is killed, or his car is stolen with a birthday card in the glovebox from his deceased girlfriend.

This is a big, glossy picture, filled with set pieces set around the globe with Keanu as some kind of mobster version of Jason Bourne.

We generally don’t like killings, car chases, and explosions. Yes, the film does seem to go too far with a nightclub massacre, reminiscent of the Pulse club down in Florida last year.

Other than that, the violence becomes so mindless that you figure it is like watching the latest news reports about mass shootings in (you name the location). No one blames these kind of movies nowadays for glorifying violence, or inspiring a view that life is cheap and easy to throw away.

John Wick Chapter 2 is merely a symptom of the world we live in today. Laugh it off.

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Night Must Fall, or at Least Trip Lightly

wacky mcavoy

DATELINE:  Shyamalan’s Latest

Producers continue to give M. Night Shyamalan money to make movies of his choice, despite commercial and critical disparaging words.

The latest is called Split, about a man (if you can call him that in a supernatural thriller) with 24 personalities.  That’s a personality disorder with capital letters. It is about as overwrought as hyperbole can make it.

Shyamalan wrote this as well as directed. In terms of his writing, this film obviously came together after he saw William Wyler’s The Collector from 1965. That film is about a disturbed young man who kidnaps a beautiful girl and keeps her prisoner in hopes of making her fall in love with him.

This time, the man with the identity disorder kidnaps three women and keeps them prisoner in an elaborate underground prison. At least the John Fowler story of The Collector explained how he won the lottery which financed his mad caprices.

That’s not enough here. Shyamalan adds a touch of Hannibal Lecter and Psycho to the mix. That should pile-on adequately.

Don’t misjudge: this film has a rather wild performance by James McAvoy who limns about six personalities. He is highly watchable. Betty Buckley plays his therapist who is a classic enabler.

Shyamalan has all his usual Hitchcockian pretenses at hand: he makes a cameo again, sets all his films in Philadelphia, and loves to hear echoes of other movies. If you think this is his best since Sixth Sense, he will agree with you—as the sequel is already on the books, Mr. Glass.

Indeed, Bruce Willis makes a cameo at the end to promote the sequel. Nothing like trying to microwave your stew to guarantee an audience smells the aroma.

The film reaches the outer limits by the end credits, trying to sell us that psychosis is actually a means to reach the supernatural. Our grandmother used to say, “Balderdash,” and it still fits.

Twin Peaks, Trump Plains, & Celtics Lows

DATELINE:  LeBron James as Laura Palmer, Trump as D.B. Cooper

glowing orb

Chicken or egg? We can’t figure out if the Trump Administration has prepared us for the new series Twin Peaks, or whether Twin Peaks has prepared us for the continuing weirdness of the Trump presidency.

When we see President Trump putting his hands on a glowing orb, we know there is a conspiracy of billionaires to control the world. Of course, it is merely a futuristic ribbon-cutting scene from the most recent Star Wars movie. Either that, or it is opening a gateway to an alternate universe, like the plots of Twin Peaks.

By the same token, we feel as if watching the Cleveland Cavaliers with the Boston Celtics is like knitting by Madame Defarge while royalty is having their heads chopped off.

On Twin Peaks, agent DB Cooper has returned to the northwest after disappearing for 25 years. That David Lynch has such a sense of humor.  So far, McLachlan has not rubbed any glowing orbs, but has kissed dead Laura Palmer (Cheryl Lee).

On the Celtics, little Cousin IT (Isaiah Thomas) and AB (Avery Bradley) are from the same neck of the woods in Washington state which happens to be the setting for Twin Peaks. It could explain a lot about how the Celtics are playing like Laura Palmer’s body wrapped in plastic.

Even stranger, we were amazed to see Kyle McLachlan and Sheryl Lee looking just like they stepped out of a 1990s TV show.  It becomes even more amazing when David Lynch has to inject a phrase at the end of every episode of the show that the episode is dedicated to the memory of one of the cast members who is now dead. We mean really really dead dead, like the log lady Catherine Coulson and the FBI agent played by Miguel Ferrer.

As for the dead Celtics, they are merely playing in an alternate universe, sort of like Twin Peaks 25 years later. If there is a glowing orb in the NBA, they better start rubbing it now. Lebron is no Laura Palmer.

Twin Peaks Returns from the Dead

 DATELINE:  Will the Real Harry Truman Ever Show Up?

twin peaks

In the immortal words of James Cagney, “what have we got he-yah?”

Yes, Twin Peaks has returned after 25 years. For a story that hinged on a murder of a lead character who is dead from the first moment, we find the new show starting with long-dead Laura Palmer in flashback telling Agent D.B. Cooper that she will see him again in 25 years.

That marvelous opening music is back.

Well, he-yah we are.

It doesn’t take long for the Lunacy to set in.  Director David Lynch clearly is ready for his old series to begin afresh. Dead actors are as apparent has dead characters. All you can do is hold on for as long as possible, until vertigo sets in or a bad case of dyspepsia forces you to give up.

Lynch has made very few films over the past 10 years but now in one season, he’s going to do the equivalent of nine feature films. However, he clearly is enjoying himself.

You will see A glass box under observation by three cameras controlled by a mysterious billionaire not named Trump. You will find two dead bodies mismatched in a bed. You will find the magnificent Douglas firs of Twin Peaks echoing like the towers of New York City with wind between them. Lynch can do things like that.

The series Twin Peaks has now reached cult status in mythical terms. It was always a cult show from its opening moments 25 years ago. Now it is off the charts. For 18 hours.

If you’ve never seen the show, you will be as confused as anyone who has seen all of the early episodes from the original two-year run 25 years ago by the end of the first hour.

The best we can do is monitor the situation and present you with updates. You can’t spoil anything that’s based on rot setting in. Fear not.

Who Wears a Blackhat in Cyberspace?

DATELINE:  Guess Who?

Hemsworth or Pratt or Pine  Pratt, Pine, or Hemsworth?

When a friend called to tell us he’d seen a rather poor copy of a Michael Mann movie, we had the sorry news to inform him that Blackhat, a cyber crime thriller, recently filmed, was indeed a Michael Mann film by the venerable director of Last of the Mohicans and Collateral.

The star was reportedly Chris Pratt, Chris Hemsworth, or Chris Pine. We figured it didn’t matter which one played the stalwart hacker, or disheveled hero. We were not prepared for the star to be a matinee idol in federal prison who somehow had learned the skills of James Bond and Jason Bourne by reading in his cell.

We have reached a critical mass in society when the only people who can save the country from computer crimes are already in jail. The government must come to a deal with the hacker to win his patriotic assistance. You know this is not a winning plot-line.

What’s worse is that the U.S. must team up with an American-educated Chinese communist military computer whiz to catch the cyber blackhat before he destroys the free enterprise market. Good grief.

As you might expect in this kind of movie, the story quickly changes from a thriller catching cyber crooks into a revenge tale going after deplorable sociopaths.

We won’t bore you with the details, lest we be accused of spoiling the plot. Suffice it to say, the FBI leader on the case is played by Viola Davis who is always worth watching and is the best part of the movie.

The stars of the film seem to be targets of the bad guys and are systematically picked off. We leave it to your imagination who ends up seeking revenge against the government and the cyber hacks.

We hate to pan a movie when so many good ones deserve our attention, but Blackhat has left us with little choice. Surely your time is more valuable than to be spent on this trifle.

Actor/Icon James Dean’s Sex Life in Speculative Terms

dead deanDATELINE:  Don’t Hold the Hot Sauce

 

The latest salacious book from Darwin Porter and his partner in crime Danforth Prince is a kiss and tell sexography on James Dean.

Tomorrow Never Comes is 750 pages—a big one, a war and piece on James Dean. It seems epical to depict every sexual encounter of the long-ago star of Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden. The authors turned over every rock, and every Rock Hudson, to find the sex life of a 1950s movie star.

We are sure they missed a few trysts.

We can’t recommend the book to anyone with moral values. Dean, in this tome, is a switch-hitting, all-purpose, never turn them down, kind of guy. No detail is off limits. If you want to know every sniff, leer, and last drop, this is your kind of book.

We tend to doubt many of the anecdotes. After all, everyone involved is dead—and many probably wish they could come back to refute the dirty deeds. With occasional anachronisms, the writers make odd errors—suggesting “gay” was a common word in  sex culture of the 1950s. It wasn’t.

Our admiration for the few people who seemed to turn down a chance to bed, or not bed Dean grew in the miasma of endless assignations. If he did all they attribute, he never had time for much else.

Names are dropped faster than trousers. The book does reveal some interesting tidbits of a nonsexual nature—but you will be covered in slime by the time you find them.

We presume this is the end-all of James Dean books—until someone discovers he was a monk who never had sex with anyone.

 

Secret Storm for Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman

DATELINE: Who Done What?

Despite a terrible title, Secrets in Their Eyes can hold the attention of any mystery fan with its top-drawer star performances.

Aging gracefully for female movie stars is never easy—and to play yourself today and 13 years earlier requires a particular strength of acting. Both Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts are impressive here as a rising district attorney and an anti-terrorist cop.

Kidman remains more glamorous in her public job—and Roberts can go more to seed in her less public job as servants to society. At one point, a character looks at Roberts and notes she looks “a million years old.”  It’s a good estimate.

If you don’t pay close attention to the details of their aging process, you may not know when the flashback scene has begun.

We also liked this movie because it kept violence and sex to the barest minimum and put emphasis on character. In this well-constructed mystery, character is fate—as you might expect.

The unpronounceable Chitwel Ejiofor plays the male lead—an FBI man who returns to the scene of the crime over a decade before –around the frightening times after 9/11. His relationship to the two women becomes intriguing and underplayed.

As an ensemble, the cast provides the chemistry you’d expect from a tightknit group of workers ripped asunder by a hideous crime.

In some ways the solution seems simple, but the forest is always blocking your trees. We almost decided, based on the book cover, that this film was a women’s weeper, but how wrong and sexist we were.

 

Going for It on Fourth Down: Brady Won’t Take A Knee

DATELINE:  Whatever Happened to Baby Goodell?

Featured image

Mark your calendars, news junkies. The next clash of the Titans is scheduled for August 31 at 10am in Manhattan

You may wonder who will take Manhattan, or whether the wampum is worth the worry. The judge, apparently not totally out of patience, has ordered the two principal drama queens to bring their act to his court for another performance.

Not since Becket and Henry II went at it have we felt such tension. It’s like Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn deciding to switch roles night after night when they performed the historical drama back in the 1950s when they did Becket on Broadway. It made Burton and O’Toole’s movie seem like pabulum

Brady and Goodell are playing switchies. One day Goodell is the bad guy, and the next day Brady takes on the role

For sheer theatrical fireworks, you have to go back to All About Eve and Bette Davis playing Margo Channing. As bad as Margo might seem, there was little Eve, little Miss Evil, who was waiting in the wings for her big moment, hoping the star would break a leg, or at least tear an MCL

Alas, it is another Bette Davis film that most scares us as a parallel to the Goodell/Brady story. Yes, we mean Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Baby Jane Goodell is an aging faux athlete insanely jealous of his glamorous counterpart, Blanche Brady. So, they begin to torment each other with sadistic dirty tricks.