John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is back! With this being the second film of this action-packed series, I would recommend watching the first film to begin with as this could hold some spoilers as to what happens. Find my review on the introduction of John Wick from 2014 here.

Looking sleek in his smart suit, John Wick is returning with a vengeance and he wants his car back. With the chaos that destroyed his grieving state in the first film, John is still fuelled on revenge. With a speedy, crazy beginning, we soon discover that John Wick would rather return to retirement and live a peaceful life with his new dog. But that is not what is waiting for him back at home. Instead, John is left with no choice but to make an explosive decision – he must pay his debt.

Following on from the first film, we’ve learnt that there is one important rule in this hitman life John Wick is so desperate to escape from: There is no blood shed in the Continental Hotel. This rule is still very much present in this second film. But furthering this, we are told a second rule of these deadly assassins: if you give away your marker, you must honour the debt when they come asking. This is what happens to John Wick when Santino (Riccardo Scamarcio) comes knocking with John’s marker safely in his jacket pocket.

‘Chapter 2’ is as crazy as the original film. It’s jam packed action non-stop from beginning to end. When there is little action, there is an interesting development to John Wick’s livelihood and I did appreciate this element. We learn about the mighty ability of the coin from the Continental Hotel, that can achieve almost anything; we hit the underbelly of the city; we explore the influence and power of just the whisper of the name ‘John Wick’. We even get to witness the story that everyone gossips about – how John Wick can kill someone with only a pencil.

Again, this is an action movie. So obviously, it is full of violence and a bit of gore (mostly a lot of blood splatter after shots to the head…). The action is done immensely well and the storyline is extremely simple yet still goes a long way. There is a clear development into the third film and I can’t wait to see what will happen next. So far I’ve appreciated the two first films exploring the world of John Wick; learning about his determination, his obvious skills and this underbelly life. It’s a great escapism film full of action that’s easy to follow and simple to understand. One thing after the other and John Wick really can’t catch a break…

Criminal Minds (2005 – 2020)

‘Criminal Minds’ might just be my favourite detective show. Having just recently finished, much to my disappointment, it did come to a perfect end so I thought it was an overdue review. Following the Behavioural Analysis Unit (BAU), FBI Special Agents travel in their private jet across America to wherever they are needed to solve the most horrendous crimes when Police ask for them to come in to assist. The FBI’s speciality revolves around being able to understand the unsub (the unknown suspect); they look at victimology, crime scenes and behaviour to create a profile and hopefully uncover the suspect behind the crime.

The crimes of the show are different across the episodes. There is a huge range of crimes and because this is an FBI show they tend to be the worst of the worst crimes. The unit solve crimes of murder, kidnapping, serial killers, cyber crimes, voyeurism, child abduction and so on. They are crimes that feel unbelievably real, the agents even mention real-life crimes to relate to the fictional ones on screen. Therefore, the programme is for older ages, as some can become quite scary being too realistic and heinous.

‘Criminal Minds’ considers every aspect of every episode. Many times the unsubs have complex backgrounds, making the plots complicated and very well thought out. Anything could happen in a world where common sense is lost and many unstable minds control the reason why the FBI have left Quantico.

Another reason for this show being fantastic is the cast. Because this show has run for fifteen seasons, there have understandably been some cast changes throughout the years. Reasons why some leave vary, and I will not ruin who does leave. Instead, I’ll just recap some favourites who appear. All time favourite has to be Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) – the Special Agent who has an eidetic memory and an IQ that defines him as a genius; he is a doctor full of facts and information. Then there’s Gideon (Mandy Patinkin) and Hotch (Thomas Gibson) who both hold a leadership role. Not forgetting Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster) and JJ (AJ Cook), two brilliant female empowering characters. Finally, technical analyst Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) and her flirting with Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore) which is hilarious to watch. I could name every single character, there’s only a few I never warm to – all the others have complicated storylines which only add to the audience’s love of them. They are all flawed and realistic, they are all so different from each other, but complement each other to create a wholesome team to watch on screen.

I believe ‘Criminal Minds’ to be a detective show that hasn’t received the applause it should do. The agents are lovable and always great to watch. The crimes that drive the plot, even if terrifying, are all so different and become addictive to watch as the audience love the uncovering and solving of the thrilling dramas. I do have to admit that in one of the later seasons the brilliance of the show is lost a little, nevertheless, they bring it back and return to original basis that makes the show great. Season four might be the best season – the plots and cases are top notch. If you like the thrilling crime dramas this one should be at the top of the list – it is amazing!

Escape Room (2019)

Six strangers are invited to an escape room through the allure of winning $10,000 if they win. What they didn’t know was that these escape rooms were instead based upon their own fears and were in fact extremely real, not just a game. The film has a quick introduction of the strangers invited to the game, but the sole reason for this film is the escape rooms, so happily there’s not too much time wasted on the character developments. You could argue there is too much of an introduction, but a quick flash forward to bring the film in adds intrigue.

Happily, you’re not introduced to all of the characters in the show. Instead, you’re given a quick understanding of our main protagonist, Zoey. A brief show of a few others and let’s get the movie beginning. After all are given a box with a secret message, the six strangers have finally been bought together. Throughout the escape rooms, we understand the characters more, in particular what they have in common and their fears that are being brought to life. The first room evokes some excitement to win the money, but soon they discover that the room isn’t for entertainment when it turns into an oven. They move onto different escape rooms all perfectly designed for those playing.

‘Escape Room’ is a horror, however not one with jump scares or constant frightening scenes. Instead, there is an eeriness throughout the film. The lingering of a camera, the six strangers are always being watched. The idea of a haunted background for all the characters adds intrigue for the audience. The mystery of who is behind all this manipulation and why these six have been forced into this psychopathic game. I wouldn’t say there is a strong frightening element, I wasn’t sat scared. But these sorts of horror elements do work well in this type of film and I couldn’t predict what was going to come next.

‘Escape Room’ is such an interesting concept – strangers trapped and desperate to get out of rooms before their times runs out. While watching, you do become intrigued to what the next room will unfold into and what traps will be lying around. You also become invested in discovering what the haunted pasts of these characters are and how they will react into a survival of the fittest situation forced upon them. It’s not the most amazing horror-mystery I’ve ever seen, but I did love the concept and enjoy the film. It is a shame that the whole reasoning of the games by the end is a bit weak, but as I sad before, it’s the escape rooms you watch the film for. You have to watch until the end and uncover each room as you go.

Happy Feet Two (2011)

With the second animation of penguins and climate change, Mumble returns with his dancing feet and screeching voice. With music along the way and a variety of voices, ‘Happy Feet Two’ brings a combination of other characters both on the ice and in the water across different parts of the ice continent.

There are many changes of voices from the original ‘Happy Feet’ movie. Mumble stays the same as Elijah Wood and happily Robin Williams still remains as a key voice actor. Gloria changes to a much stronger voice of the one and only P!nk, and I do believe this is a huge improvement. Her musical performances become a whole new world better and much more enjoyable when P!nk is at the forefront. There are also the involvement of other characters, such as Brad Pitt and Matt Damon voicing Will and Bill the Krill – yes it can get more bizarre. Although, their characters were funny along with Robin Williams usual comical gimmicks. Finally, I enjoyed the addition of Bryan the Beachmaster with his booming voice and loud personality.

I can’t say that once again, another ‘Happy Feet’ has a strong plot, because it really doesn’t. This time it follows the young child of Mumble and Gloria who wonders off in pursuit of a different life to an Emperor penguin. Instead, he follows the life of the Adelie Penguins and finds a penguin who can fly – yes really. Meanwhile, Mumble is following behind tapping his feet trying to prove that there is a lot to the life of an Emperor Penguin. Tragedy strikes back at home while the father is on an adventure of following the little one to wherever he desires.

I cannot say that this has been the most successful film, instead it’s rather been the opposite. However, I would argue it’s not the worst film I’ve ever seen. Possibly it being better than the original. I did enjoy the added characters and there were some comical giggles to be appreciated along the way. It is what it is, but I do believe ‘Happy Feet’ and its sequel could be films lost in cinematic history. On the other hand, once again, the cuteness of the baby penguins cannot be ignored!

The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

The second film in the Jason Bourne series. After the chaos and escapism by the end of ‘The Bourne Identity’ (the first film), Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is living in hiding in Goa, India. Tragedy strikes fast and he is bought out from hiding, once again forced to face his own truths about himself despite amnesia blocking his knowledge.

I truly believe that Matt Damon is a phenomenal action actor and these series are full of action, well executed and are just a great set of movies. Bourne’s mind is fun to watch as you never really know what he will do next, but somehow it’s going to be something watchable to get him out of the sticky situation he’s in – and trust me there’s a lot of these moments in the film. His high speed chases, jumping down buildings, running through the street, or even the survival fights – the whole film is exciting and jam-packed with action plots. The only part of the action which is a let-down, is the extremely blurry camera at times.

As the second film in a series, ‘The Bourne Supremacy’ isn’t the best out of the collection. It has many highs and is still a great action film, but where it falls is that it isn’t really about anything. The plot is extremely loose and very character driven depending of what Bourne will do next. The film follows Bourne, obviously, but also flashes to and from the CIA and a mission that went wrong in Berlin. The whole film retreats to past events where Bourne tries to discover more about his past and a CIA agent Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) tries to uncover the truth about Treadstone. In a mass cover up, each character is just trying to understand the truth amongst lies and other secrets.

‘The Bourne Supremacy’ has some great qualities with lots of action. The mystery of what happened is interesting and keeps you watching until the very end. It’s just a shame there isn’t a stronger plot, nevertheless it’s still great with Matt Damon action.

Happy Feet (2006)

Mumble is a penguin different from his whole family. Once born, all the other penguins quickly notice that Mumble doesn’t have the voice that he should. These penguins need to grow up singing, they need to use this talent to find their true love and create an egg – their life’s purpose. Mumble screeches his way through childhood but has a talent for dancing and tapping his little happy feet instead. The adorable little penguin is booed and called weird for not fitting in, which did hit me hard as he continues to tap tap away.

There are a few negatives with this film… OK, there’s quite a lot of negatives with this film, other than the moral, the story really isn’t great. The animation isn’t as top notch as it thought it would be. Although, I can’t argue with the cuteness of the baby penguins! My main issue is that I don’t think the voices fit the characters, they seemed random and some were annoying in the choice of voice. Particularly, the parents of Mumble. However, I can never fault Robin Williams, he executed light comedy and different voices perfectly. It was more the other voices of the Emperor penguins who were weak and unappealing; the Adelie penguins were comical in enthusiasm and confidence.

I actually found this film quite distressing at times. Stay with me… With flashback realities from David Attenborough running through my head, ‘Happy Feat’ covers familiar issues the world is faced with now even more severely. The penguins are suffering from a sea lacking fish, they turn to blame the penguin different from all the others: Mumble. Therefore, he becomes persistent in finding the real cause which takes him on a journey to find out who the “aliens” are. I found it quite hard-hitting to how this animation covered quite a large issue that’s still around today. As I say, the story is weak, but the moral feels very real.

‘Happy Feet’ is not the best animation I’ve ever seen, it is a bit weak. It’s not a ground breaking film and a bit pants in areas. The songs are a good variety, although some felt forced in the singing. It wasn’t a hilarious film, although few moments of chuckles (mostly with Robin Williams). I did like the moral of the story which still should be shown on screen now.

Rock of Ages (2012)

A musical set in 1987 Hollywood, Los Angeles. With four plotlines carrying the film, it’s easy to follow as they intertwine with each other only enhancing the characters. A duo of musicians are determined to make a name of themselves, a group desperately try to save the rock ‘n’ roll venue of The Bourbon Room, the new mayor and his wife set their sights on cleaning up the city, finally Stacee Jaxx struggles through as the “rock god”.

All of the characters are very enjoyable to watch on screen. Most of the advertisement seems to revolve around Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx as the highlight of the movie. I would agree that he plays the role extremely well, he leaves the audience hanging onto every word he says as he holds so much stage/screen presence. Alike to how all the people on screen act, the audience are similarly captivated into his persona. Although, I wouldn’t say he is the best character on screen. I find it’s difficult to pick just one. Personally, I become invested into the story of Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and Drew (Diego Boneta). These two personalities influence the storylines and add more characters onto the screen. They are the characters that sing the most in the film, but also hold the romance element of the film. Yet it’s not soppy. Their character developments are probably the ones that enhance the most.

I have to also mention the characters played by Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand, Dennis and Lonny. These two characters add a lot of the humour into the film and are a delight to watch. Furthermore, Catherine Zeta-Jones plays the “good wife”, the woman who wants to clean the Hollywood strip. She’s the leader of the protests against rock ‘n’ roll. Lastly, Mary J. Blige who is another character who seems to hold the stage/screen presence, particularly in her songs.

‘Rock of Ages’ is a musical that is such a feel-good movie. There are some brilliant 80s rock songs that are brought back to light. Songs such as I love Rock ‘n’ Roll, Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Wanted Dead or Alive, Any Way You Want It, We Built this City, Don’t Stop Believin’ and many many more. All the songs become performances in the dance, the singing and the atmosphere. They are all so much fun to watch and sing along to. The musical element of this film is not a let down in the slightest, it’s fantastic, enjoyable and full of energy.

‘Rock of Ages’ is a mix of comedy, romance and full of music. I think this is a great movie, enjoyable throughout the whole thing. The film highlights the desperation of becoming a rock star, the underbelly of a city which agonises the suffering for money, the manipulation and control of the music industry, and the difficulties in keeping a business alive against societal pressures. Overall, the most exciting thing is the energy that persists from beginning to end and you can’t help but feel great by the end of the movie.