Film Review – John Wick: Chapter 2

Keanu Reeves returns as Baba Yaga, the Boogeyman, John Wick in this sequel to the 2014 surprise hit John Wick. The original film came out of nowhere was quite the surprise for moviegoers as we watched a terrific action film combined with an instantly likable character whose motives were understandable. John’s personal story may have concluded, but John Wick: Chapter 2 opens things up in terms of some great world building in John’s profession.

The film’s plot involves John receiving a “marker”, or blood oath from a former associate of his. After his initial refusal, John reluctantly accepts and sets out on another assasination that involves higher ups in his organization, double crosses, revenge and a whole lot of flying bullets.

If I made a comparison between John Wick: Chapter 2 and another film in terms of what the film sets out to accomplish it would be 1981’s Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. This film uses the time to expand on the concepts of the world it presented in its predecessor. George Miller’s 1979 Mad Max tells the story of Max himself. By the end of the film, that story is told and the sequel then tells the story of the world Max now inhabits. John Wick does the same.

Both films even share shots of the main character and their pet dog.

 We were introduced to the hotel Continental and the rules that you can’t conduct business on hotel grounds. Now we find out about many more concepts and the world building is so well incorporated into the narrative that it’s never overwhelming, distracting or annoying dumps of exposition.

The fantastic action scenes that have John eliminating opponents with video game precision are back and they are even louder and a bit bloodier that the last film. These films have great action choreography that puts films like the Jason Bourne series to shame. It’s coherent and easy to follow. It’s fast paced with no fast cut edits. Oh and without spoiling, I’ll just say there’s one scene that may have you wincing the way a similar scene did in a particular superhero film. 

The film clocks in at 2 hours long. It’s about 20 minutes longer than the original. Most of that length appeared to consists of at least to me, more extension of the action scenes. I personally loved watching them go on, however this may wear on some viewers after a while.


John Wick Chapter 2 continues the surprises of the original with more amazing action and some awesome world building. This series continues to be a breath of fresh air in the action genre.

Final Rating (4/4) John Wick continues be a great action series with this second entry that opens John’s world up even more. The action still impresses and never feels stale.


Remembering a classic – Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

There is a fantastic scene in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm that elevates it so far above other Batman films in terms of its story and character development. 

The scene is a flashback to when Bruce Wayne was developing the Batman persona. He has been out fighting crime, but realizes that criminals do not fear him and decides to craft an identity that will be the next step in honoring the promise he made to his parents. During this time, he is dating Andrea Beaumont who he considers stopping his vigilante operations for to propose marriage. Later when Bruce visits his parents grave on a rainy night he pours his heart out to them. Asking if he’s doing the right thing. He mentions how he can give more money to the police to hire more cops and other ways to help the city. Breaking down, he tells them, “I know I made a promise, but I didn’t see this coming. I didn’t count on being happy.” Shortly after Andrea surprisingly leaves Bruce for reasons unknown to him at the time. Believing he has lost his one chance for normalcy, he dons the cape and cowl for the first time.

This scene is one of many that highlight the greatness of this gem of a superhero story. 

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was originally planned to be a direct-to-video release. Warner Bros. then decided to give the film a theatrical release. It was released to theaters on December 25th 1993 and while it received critical acclaim, it did not succeed at the box office despite the popularity of Batman: The Animated series, which was on air at the time. The movie basically died on the vine due to the short notice in which it was released. I was 8 years old and loved the animated series so I certainly would have wanted to see this in theaters. I dont remember seeing a commercial and didn’t see it until it arrived on VHS. It’s a shame becuase more people needed to see that movie then and perhaps we would have gotten more superb animated films in that particular DC universe.

Mask of the Phantasm takes its cue from mystery/noir films of years past. There’s the main character who is a detective as well as a woman who plays a major part in the story. That makes it work much better as a cinematic experience as opposed to it being another tale with one of Batman’s rogues as the source of conflict. Although one of his rogues does play a part in the game, it’s not in the way you usually would see it. Going back to the noir aspects, I loved getting the chance to see Batman in his detective mode on screen. We are used to seeing it on television or in video games, but on the big screen it is either in limited amounts or not at all.  Always enjoyed stories where the action circles Batman as he tries to solve it as opposed to it being strictly about Batman. That’s what makes this film great. It’s a mystery involving the Dark Knight, but not about him.

(I’ll admit, even as a child watching a world I was already familiar with, the Phantasm is an intimidating character.)

I know it’s over 20 years old at this point, but I don’t want to talk too much more as to not spoil anything (if anyone is checking this out for the first time I want them to go in fresh). Batman: Mask of he Phantasm is a great addition to the Batman mythos. It’s gripping and atmospheric. It’s character focused and well-written. It’s one of the best Batman stories on big or small screens by a team who already made a timeless adaptation of the character. It’s a shame this was never released in high definition formats. This is long overdue for an intensive special edition treatment. Yet if you do want to check this out and never have seen it, it’s dirt cheap on DVD. I highly recommend this one. It’s worth your time.


Film Review – Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Quick housekeeping note: I have made a change to the review format. It will now be out of 4 as opposed to 5 in reviews past. To see my reasoning Click Here.

Thank You!

Milla Jovovich returns as Alice in the sixth and reportedly final film in the Resident Evil film franchise. Does this film wrap up the story of this superwoman fighting zombies, monsters and evil corporations?
This film series is something that sits in the middle for me as a movie watcher. There are people who do not like that it shares the name with the beloved horror video game franchise that they are loosely based on. I don’t have that connection with the games, so that doesn’t play a role for me. I never found the movies unwatchable, but there certainly isn’t any aspiration to be found with them. Paul W.S. Anderson, who directed this installment as well as the first, fourth and fifth films in addition to penning all six never seemed to be a bad director to me. Just servicble. And that’s always how I see these films as well. I’d like to think that in 20 years these movies will be seen as fun distractions or Saturday afternoon movie marathons.

So what about the actual movie?

The story continues Alice’s battle against the Umbrella Corporation. Alive learns that the last settlements of humanity will fall within 48 hours unless she can return to The Hive, the location of the events of the first film. There she must retrieve a vial of the T-Virus’ antidote and release it to the world or see the extinction of mankind.

I’ve always found it great fun to see Milla Jovovich kick ass in these films. Regardless of what you think of the overall quality, it seems she puts her all into the role and enjoys making these movies along with her husband/director Anderson. We also have some returning cast and characters as well. Ali Larter is back as Claire Redfield, Shawn Roberts as Albert Wesker and Iain Glen as Dr. Issacs.

The film has a rough opening third. It’s basically 20 odd minutes of Alice killing creatures left and right before being captured in a pseudo Mad Max manner. In addition to the meandering going on, most of the action going on is edited in so many fast cuts you can’t focus at all. Once we move on past this we do have a sequence that is pretty cool. If you love the Lord of the Rings, this is basically Resident Evil’s Battle of Helms Deep. Once the film settles in a we follow Alice and crew to the Hive, the film then becomes your standard Resident Evil film experience. Take what you will from that. I did like that we got to see the setting of the original film again. Some nice fan service there. There also is a little bit of a character moments for Alice. It’s a shame that what you learn about her in this film wasn’t a thread in the previous five, it would have made those at the very least more interesting overall. Pretty much, if you’ve seen these films before and have enjoyed them, you probably will this one. If you’ve hated them since the first, then you’re probably gonna hate this too.

I won’t lie, as modern B-movies go I enjoy the Resident Evil films as chilling with my wife, popcorn entertainment. I don’t think they take themselves seriously at all and neither do I. However, if his is truly the final chapter for Alice, I would hope that Screen Gems takes the time to carefully reboot it and give it a much needed refresh with true horror cinema in mind.

Final Rating (2.5/4) Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is more of the same. It’s glaring issues are a slow first third as well as some tough to comprehend fight editing. It’s no surprise what you’re getting into.


A Quick Change

Good day everyone! I wanted to take this time to inform you of a minor change that will be coming to DeaconsDen. 

In the past for my film reviews, I graded them on a rating out of 5. As of today, February 6, 2017, I will be changing to a rating out of 4. The reason for the change being that I was coming across movies in my spare time that I may not cover and noticed that they fell in the range of 2-2.5 for me. Some of these films were still enjoyable but flawed. If I continued to base these out of 5, I feared it looked like I was confusing my message. I also realized that there weren’t too many films I gave that highest rating to anyway. If I did then that film has to be something really special and important to filmmaking.

The films I’ve already reviewed will remain the same. I’m not retroactively changing those. My words still stand for them. I just wanted to make a change that I think will better express how I feel about films. I will admit, I’m a bit more forgiving than most and hopefully this will better help me in determining a more accurate analysis for me.

Thank you all and keep reading! I appreciate it!


Film Review – Split

Three young women are kidnapped by a man who has severe dissascociative identity disorder. The girls focus on their escape while dealing with a man who houses 23 individual personalities and a soon to arrive 24th called The Beast.

This is the premise of the new psychological horror thriller Split from M. Night Shyamalan.  It stars James McAvoy as Kevin Wendell Crumb, the man with multiple personalities. The film also stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Jessica Sula and Haley Lu Richardson as Casey, Marcia and Claire, the kidnapped girls. Also starring is Betty Buckley  who also played a role in Shyamalan’s The Happening.

Shyamalan has had his ups and downs over the years. We’ve gotten great films like The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. We’ve also gotten some awful films suck as The Last Airbender, The Happening and After Earth. After watching Split, I feel it’s a return to form for the director that I hope continues on.

First, the best aspect of Split is the performance of James McAvoy. Each persona of the main character feels like a complete individual and not as merely derivative versions of the same. Even though we see McAvoy, as an audience you get to know many different characters with their own stories, traits and idiosyncrasies. Sadly, this is the only quality acting that I felt existed in the film. The remaining cast just felt like they were going through the motions. It wasn’t bad acting, I just didn’t feel much to them. There is a revelation about one of the characters who isn’t played by McAvoy about 2/3rds though, and while it is an important moment, I never felt sold totally on how it affected the character. However this may be attributed to my own ignorance at how one processes trauma.

Shyamalan reminds us that he is certainly a talented director. From a technical perspective Split is on par with his better films. He knows where to put the camera, when to move it, where to move it. He knows how to visually set up tension and draw the audience in while we wait to see how the scene will resolve itself. 

There were some elements I did not enjoy. In addition to the acting past McAvoy, I also had an issue with the flashback scenes. My issue was not that they were there, but more that they would come in at a moment where I was really getting into the prior scene. Considering that they really don’t come into play until the end of the film, they sort of make things come to a sudden halt. I didn’t find that they enhanced the narrative they way they were designed to. I understand the purposes, I just didn’t find them as effective as they should have been. 

Once Split finally settles in and becomes the film it wants to be, it becomes a really good thriller. Especially during its climax which Shyamalan had me on the edge of my seat. 

Oh and that final scene? Yes! That’s all I’ll say about that.

M. Night Shyamalan puts the movie world on notice with Split. The man who came into the scene like gangbusters in 1999 is still there. He is still capable of putting out quality work and Split is an example of that. Despite its flaws, this is a really good thriller that may play a role in how he develops his future work. This is a really good film.

Final Rating (3.5/5) Split is a return to form for its director. Aside from some storytelling decisions and questionable acting from its supporting cast, Split is tense and well filmed.

Rebirth Recaps – Superman Vol. 1: Son of Superman (Spoilers Discussed)

The superhero genre began with him, the DC Universe began with him as well. Therefore it’s only proper that the first Rebirth collection recapped be Superman.

Son of Superman collects the Superman: Rebirth one-shot and Superman #1-6. Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason share the writing credit, along with art by Gleason, Doug Mahnke, Jorge Jimenez, Mick Gray and Jaime Mendoza.

The book opens with the Superman Rebirth one-shot. In this issue, Clark makes a pact with Lana Lang to honor the memory of the New 52 Superman, who is recently deceased. From there this initial volume shines a light on the Kent family, Clark, Lois and their son Jon. This is not the New 52 Superman, but the pre-Flashpoint version whose family survived the destruction of their world. They have settled on this Earth and keep a low profile. However once the Eradicator shows up, the family must make a choice to finally step out of the shadows.

The big focus of this series is the family dynamics of the Kent family. Particularly the handling of Jon and his developing abilities. Unlike his father who had 2 human parents to discover, Jon has Clark. The difficulty comes in that since he is also half human, his powers don’t always function as simply as Clark’s does. Clark actually takes a stance similar to his adoptive father Jonathan Kent in taking the more protective role while Lois is more willing to take her time with him and let him discover more about himself. I really found myself engaged in watching the three of them interact. Seeing this Clark in the position his parents were really reminds me of Jor-El’s words in 1978’s Superman the movie, “the son becomes the father and the father the son.”

During the story, the family travels to the Fortress of Solitude where they come in contact with The Eradicator, an artifact of Krypton. A battle begins when the machine wants to purge Jon of his human biology. From there the story takes a weird, almost supernatural turn involving the souls of Krypton inside of the Eradicator. This element took me out of the book for a bit. I was really enjoying the family drama as well as the idea of getting rid of Jon’s human side. This plot line was working and then it took one step too far for me.

The book’s artwork is a mixed bag for me. I loved the colors and the vivid displays of action, yet I wasn’t a fan of how the faces were drawn. Yet any scene with Superman exhibiting his full strength looked beautiful and vibrant.

This book also drops a couple of hints regarding the overall Rebirth mysteries. This is what I’m liking in these stories. It really is gonna be a slow burn.

Son of Superman is good introductory chapter to the Kent family adapting to their new home. There is a good mix of family drama and action, however the drama is what is most compelling and it really is the strength of this story.

Final Rating (3.5/5) Superman Vol. 1 Son of Superman gets the Man of Steel off to a good start in the Rebirth era. Bright and vibrant art combined with some compelling family drama and dynamics make this an easy read. It’s when the drama is replaced with action does the interest seem to waver, but not in any major fashion.


Rebirth Recaps- DC Universe Rebirth: The Deluxe Edition (Spoilers Discussed)

This is the first of my new set of reviews that I call “Rebirth Recaps.” I plan to use these to read and review the books of DC Comics as they go through their current Rebirth initiative. This is my first time diving back into DC on the comics side since the early days of the New 52 era. I was not a huge fan of the New 52. Although there were some bright spots (Geoff John’s Justice League, Scott Snyder’s Batman and Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman), the New 52 felt like it shut me out as a person who loved the saga of the DC Universe and began it anew. Everything that I knew was gone. Characters I liked in the past weren’t the same and things just felt off. Rebirth was intriguing to me because it wasn’t a reboot like New 52. Those elements would remain in place, yet the feel of the classic DCU would return. The initiative would launch with an 80 page one-shot which was described by President and Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns as “re-laying the groundwork for DC’s future while celebrating the past and present. It’s not about throwing anything away. It’s quite the opposite.” Johns also wrote the one-shot and it was released May 25, 2016 with a price tag of $2.99. That was enough for me to jump back in. Now finances don’t allow me to read every book that comes out so I waited patiently for the trade paperbacks to be released. I also purchased the deluxe edition of the one-shot which will be the the first review. 

I’ve been enjoying reading Rebirth titles and I want to take time to read these stories and share my thoughts about them. That was what inspired this new initiative from me. So we’re going to start with DC Universe Rebirth which was written by Geoff Johns with art by Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis and Phil Jimenez.

The deluxe edition opens with a nice introduction by the President of DC Entertainment Diane Nelson. In this she explains how they know of the reception to the New 52 and wanted to try to bring back the magic that people say was lost. Even though I wasn’t a fan of the last relaunch, I appreciate their willingness to try something new and their self-awareness that it may not have worked the way they wanted to. Some very kind and sincere words.

The one-shot is split into 4 chapters. They are Lost, Legacy, Love and Life. There is also an epilogue that sets up the larger mystery of Rebirth that will be developing over time. I will warn right not that I will be entering SPOILER TERRITORY from this point on.

Let’s begin.

Narration in our story is provided by Wally West, the first Kid Flash and third Flash. Wally has been lost and forgotten in the Speed Force due to the events of Flashpoint caused by his friend and mentor Barry Allen. Wally is trying to make a connection with someone he knows so that he’s not lost to the Speed Force forever. After his first attempt to make a connection with Batman fails, he’s sucked back in but also he reveals that in addition to the actions of Flashpoint, something or someone else is interfering and has stolen ten years of everyone’s life.

Wally attempts to plead to as many people as he knows, including the love of his life Linda Park. It all seems for nothing as no one can remember him. All hope seems lost as he resigns himself to his fate when he makes an appeal to Barry Allen to warn him of what has happened to all he heroes. Then, in what is a heartwarming scene, Barry remembers. 

The story closes with quite a reveal. Hints were being dropped throughout but by story’s end we get confirmation that somehow the changes that have been made are the result of Doctor Manhattan from Alan Moore’s seminal comic Watchmen. 

That concludes DC Universe Rebirth #1. So what did I think about this? I certainly enjoyed the one-shot. I felt it well written and the artwork throughout was fantastic. The main story of Wally trying to find an anchor really captured my attention from start to finish. I also enjoyed picking up on some threads that will be present in future stories. I was riveted as Wally seemed to be losing on his chance to return and could feel my own heart breaking as he prepared to accept his fate. Johns’ writing has always been fantastic for me and it remains so here.

My criticisms would be that this isn’t really accessible for new readers. There’s a lot going on that they may not be familiar with. The same goes for characters as there are some with ties to the New 52 that aren’t easily recognizable. Next is the big Watchmen connection. This isn’t so much a criticism as it is me keeping my expectations in check. I know it appears DC is blaming the classic book for many of its negative aspects  over the last few years, however there is a larger mystery at play and I will wait to pass judgement. My hope is that Doctor Manhattan’s role is not that of an antagonist in the traditional sense. We shall see as more Rebirth trades are released and I catch up with those.

DC Rebirth gets off to a good start with this one-shot and I can’t wait to follow up with more reading as this initiative continues and the story unfolds.

Final Rating (4/5) DC Universe Rebirth offers a promising start to a new era for th DC Universe. The story is well written with great art. Doesn’t seem very accessible to new readers however and the big reveal and connection may turn some people off before even getting on. But I will patiently and excitedly wait and see where this goes.

Next Recap: Superman Vol. 1 – Son of Superman