John Wick 4 (2023)

The franchise that brought about the Keanussance reaches its fourth instalment. I watched the 3rd movie (Parabellum) just the day before, by happenstance, i was able to catch this massive, epic chapter in John Wick’s quest for revenge.

Upping the stakes again, it is made out that John is out to kill the entire… bloody hell what do you call them? The consortium? No. The Union? The Mafia? The…the…the… Triad? Come on what are they called again? Oh high, the High Table. So John Wicks out to destroy the high castle / table / fidelity even though he was shot out of a window and fell three floors onto a metal roof then onto a concrete road.

But he’s fine. And Lawrence Fishburne is gearing him for war.

Enter frenchy wenchy aristo-scum Bill Saarsgard, as creepy as a french clown wearing a Steve Buscemi mask. He wants to make his mark on the Table by taking down rogue scallywag Wick. And he shuts down Winston’s hotel “The Continental” and…sit down this is a biggy… shoots Lance Reddick dead. This is the dog moment for this film, as Wick then pretty much bee-lines for the Marquis de Gramont with blood in his eyes.

Frenchyman hires Donnie Yen – a highlight of the movie – as a blind assassin – to kill Wick and that pretty much sums up the plot.

Expect the usual Wicky-wicky-wham-bang as Keanu literally throws himself into a multitude of increasingly incredulous acts of violence, gunfights and perfectly choreographed action scenes that will have you wince, flinch, laugh, gasp and slap your forehead. Not always in that order, and in increasing order of magnitude.

Going into this film- or indeed the franchise – with any sense of realism and you’ll be disappointed. This is not a film for those that say “marv would have died with a brick to the head” or, “he literally broke his back and is now back in the Cape again”. John Wick would survive a nuclear holocaust if it served the plot. I mean, if Indy can then so can he.

The performances are all brilliant. Keanu is in fine form as the battered hero, and obviously Ian McShane shines with the surprising emotional core of the movie.

There’s a dog of course, and he’s brilliant too. One of my fave moments in the film happens late on, with the dog at the centre of it, and wow. You’ll love it too!

If somebody says to you, “gosh isn’t John Wick rubbish”

“No. Not really.” (BANG)

Willy’s Wonderland (2021)

A man is driving a fast car. Its wheels blow out after driving over a police spike strip. The man gets a lift from a local mechanic, who then charges a couple of hundred. Yet, he has already done all the work, THEN states he won’t take card and that (conveniently) all the cash machines are dysfunctional. (they didn’t even bother getting the internet – but the cash machines are all there anyway for some reason). So he demands that this poor newcomer has to ‘work for the fix’; he’s put in touch with the owner of a disgraced theme park called Willy’s Wonderland. Spend one night as the cleaner, and the car will be waiting in the morning.

Little does the man know that inside the wonderland lives a terrible secret, and the souls of psychopathic child molesters are living inside a troop of grotesque animatronic creatures.

Thus plays the plot of Willy’s Wonderland.

Its utterly utterly stupid. Who the hell are we going to get to play the loner with literally no lines in the entire film. It would need to be someone of zero calibre, zero care and zero fucks. The film is a guaranteed shitfest with the Oscar quality of a mouldy watermelon.

Nicolas Cage? Aye. Sounds right.

Quite why Cage’s character doesn’t speak is one thing; it actually makes for some of the best non-dialogue acting we’ve seen in a man. But what surprises me even more is the man’s tendency to GO ABSOLUTELY BAT SHIT CRAZY during fights with the aforementioned animatronic bad guys. It’s a completely unexplained phenomenon. He just starts screaming and hitting the things with two batons made from a mop as if…and maybe this is a thing… he’s playing a character with an established image, previously unknown to the audience. Kind of like in a film about…say, Half-Life, there would be a secret proportion of the viewers that would grin like idiots when the man dispatched a monster with a wrench. Know what I’m saying? Is Nicolas Cage’s “janitor” from a comic book origin story who used wooden batons in a previous medium? Well, the real answers No, but who knows what crazy back story Cage created for the role – and then forgot to inform the filmmakers.

Unfortunately, the opening salvo of film-time is actually quite good. We’re given some good leering comedy moments of non-dialogue, then when Cage enters the wonderland we get some truly creepy horror film moments of tension. Then the first fight – the Ostrich – starts and it all goes to shit, because the direction falls into a pit of gore / oil and doesn’t get out. The editing is erratic and unchoreographed nonsense, the music is poorly chosen and Cage’s stoic action hero becomes his stereotype loony.

And then the story gets explained in the awful subplots with the ‘supporting characters’ – demonic possession of child molesters into the animatronics and such.

45 minutes later, you just want it to end – but then it does end after a further 45 minutes of awfulness, and you wished it had done something different.

The big problem is that with a bit of time and a bit of effort, this could have been good. It could have been a cult classic-in-the-making (like…The Guest, maybe?) But it really isn’t. And we have to live with that. Please, Nicolas. More Pig. More Joe. Even more Mandy.  Batshit crazy is brilliant, but batshit rubbish is just disappointing.


It is arguably one of the best franchises of video games in modern times; praised everywhere by gamers not only because it practically re-invented a genre but it delivered that crucial, jade-encrusted triumverate of script, plot and gameplay. In fact make that a quadumverate, because they are bloody beautiful games too. There are five, i believe, of which i’ve played the three PS3 originals.

However, lets imagine you don’t know what Uncharted is and you’re going to see this film because its got a fair cast, and the trailer promises action, puns, one-liners and explosions. And Tom Holland, who is big in cinema at the moment for reasons Stan Lee.

Nathan Drake is a thief, and his thievery is spotted by older theif Sully, who is on the trail of Magellan’s Gold – it turns out the explorer didn’t make it round the world, and wherever his quest ended there is a massive pile of loot. A pile he wants his hands on. (Drake also wants it, but his quest is more of a family thing).

So Sully enlists the help of young Drake (and co-thief / love interest Chloe) and they go off to find the sparkly gold treasure, hopefully before nasty man Moncada (apparent heir to the riches) gets his dubiously legal claws into it.

That was a fair synopsis, i guess. With a mixture of action stolen from Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones and with CGI stunts and nonsence, this promises a silly passing of the time. And it delivers on this. BUT. Its nothing special. And it feels like it should be.

Mark Wahlberg brings nothing to the role. He is bland and without charm – one might think he is pissed that the lead went to a younger actor and he is relegated now to second fiddle. Antonio Banderas is even worse, giving nothing to his villain – not even super camp nastiness – thats all it would have taken.

Thankfully, Tom Holland delivers a solid, watchable performance, proving he is worth keeping an eye on outside of his Spidery-alter ego. We are sure now that Chaos Walking was just a blip.

The use of CGI just reminds us that action films are 100 fold better when stunts look and feel real. I mean, yeah, it wouldn’t have been EASY to do the action scene with all the crates hanging out the back of the plane but…its not impossible. Bond film “The Living Daylights” managed something similar in the late 80s, for example.

My second major gripe is the “laddy bantz”; the constant need to be swapping puns and take-downs and one-liners when…well they’d only known each other for a few hours. The fluency in the script would be perfect if they’d known each other for a few years maybe – but this old guy just recruited this young guy a few hours ago.

Anyway. Thats where my ‘unbiased’ review has to end; this is a standard adventure film with some watchability, but ultimately nothing special. I have forgiven it a lot of faults since my first watch as i just learned it was always intended as a soft-prequel to the games. Its still lacking that core heart of loyalty and pride that similar daft-action-hero films like National Treasures 1 + 2, and Sahara have in droves, and thats what makes them infinitely superior.

That said, i absolutely goosebumped when the Uncharted theme kicked in. The film may not have blown my mind, but i’m off to play through the games again.

REACHER (2022)

I knew of the character before the Tom Cruise films (Jack Reacher and its ‘sequel’ Jack Reacher: Never Go Back) but having not read the books i didn’t really understand nor care about the fan reaction to the casting of the wiry little superstar. Then i randomly read one of Lee Child’s library of (mis)adventures and i could see, easily, that Reacher’s allure as a character was that he was massive, built like a brick gorilla and more likely to break through a wall than to climb over it. We’re talking less Jason Bourne, more Daniel Craig. On muscle-enhancing steroids, wearing a stay-puft marshmallow man costume and able to benchpress a brontosaurus.

So when i saw the casting of Alan Ritchson, i knew they’d nailed it.

Season 1 of this show (a second season has been confirmed), we are told, is based on the book “The Killing Floor”, and i can only assume that this is the first in the Reacher series, as it gives us some origin story and some touching character moments (and a chance for Ritchson to toe the line with his acting skills, injecting Reacher with some deep emotional gravitas as well as his stone cold terminator expression and outlook on life). This is a man that wouldn’t just have shot first, but probably shot Greedo the moment he stepped into the bar simply because he had shifty eyes.

Theres a touch of Sherlock / Patrick Jane about the man himself, able to determine your life story from a fleck of pussywillow on your shoe or what you had for breakfast last wednesday from a crumb on your dashboard; but this is largely sidestepped by brute strength, disregard for the rules and the ability to eat six tonnes of McDonald’s quality-food and not end up looking like me: – a pie.

The supporting cast are all EXCELLENT. In particular Willa Fitzgerald’s Rossco is about as far from the perfunctory female love interest / sidekick as its possible to go, becoming much more of a partner and independent powerhouse sheriff than you might expect. Malcolm Goodwin’s detective Finlay is equally brilliant, a perfect mirror; if Reacher is a garden shed then Finlay is a glass gazebo. Oh and we get to see Lana Lang / Kristen Kreuk (can’t remember which is the actress or character) turn up, having not aged at all since Smallville, and providing the stereotype screaming and hysteria for the major action scenes.

The whole show is wonderfully tongue and cheek as well as dramatic though; in particular the action scenes are over the top, the fight scenes are punch-thump-get-thrown-through-windows nonsence, and the slew of one liners all extracted perfectly from the outline of an 80’s schwarzenegger-a-thon.

“You know, Finlay, under all that tweed, you’re actually pretty jacked'”



Classic. Top notch television and looking forwards to season 2.

Cobra Kai is made up of Omega Particles

If i need to explain the subject title then you’ll just have to wing it and learn via context and observational extrapolation.

I was a Karate Kid child; i remember re-enacting Daniel-san’s kick in front of an entire classroom after i saw the film on TV over a holiday period (which makes me think it must have been the UK television premiere – maybe over a Christmas? (i’ll do a quick internet search, hang on)…so it came out in 1984, then probably 4/5 years later a TV release? So we’re talking maybe 88 or 89. Anyway. I remember loving the second one more, and being fascinated by the location filming, and then i remember hating the bit when Miyagi cries, myself affected by the film. And i remember the music.

The finale of the first film is a piece of 80s moviemaking that will last forever.

However, when i first heard about Cobra Kai i just didn’t really lap it up, despite it somehow managing to grab the original actors. Maybe i thought it would be a piss-take, a parody, and not worthy of my attention.

How wrong i was.

Cobra Kai is that gem in a trashpile, that diamond in the rough, that gadwall in the mallards. Its a sequel that is very, very much aware of its history, but with skilled filmmakers behind the camera, clever writers and performances that are so human it restores your faith in Hollywood.

Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) is living on hard times. His defeat to Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) left him living a spiralling, tentative life of failures and mistakes and booze. LaRusso has created himself a good life, thriving and with a wonderful loving family.

Johnny finds himself rejuvenating the infamous Karate dojo Cobra Kai, and through his efforts we see the glorious rise of self-esteem in his students… but coincidences and unfortunate circumstances seem to entangle themselves that no ones lives are going to be normal again.

Its an incredibly human show. Things don’t go as planned, and the wonderful Bromeo and Juliet friendship betwix Lawrence and LaRusso is so well-constructed you find your own hands clenching to karate punch fists after every conversation.

The acting is so good it hurts. Zabka’s human performance is tingling, and Macchio’s warm fatherly attitude mixes sublimely with his tempered moods.

The kids are perfect; each one their own, carefully created performances, each one showing such well written and portrayed arcs of character development.

And the music. 80’s nostalgic synth tones and chinese pipe music, with Twisted Sister, Metallica and Rock and Roll classics playing perfect backdrop to numerous montages, Rocky style.

But its also so modern. Game of Thrones references in the script – even a doctor who reference (jodie whitaker is apparently bad-ass) – oh its just so good. And i’m only midway through season 3.

Humour; its tremendously funny. Facepalms, clever scripts, hilarious timing and one-liners… “hash brown team cobra kai! and send it to the internet!”

  • sincerity
  • music
  • plot
  • script
  • nostalgia
  • originality
  • humour
  • drama
  • brilliant teenage / YA actors
  • brilliant original actors from the franchise
  • knowing, loving passion for the originals but not relying on them for its brilliance

The above are my omega particles.

The best TV show this decade, i think. It actually pains me to watch it, because i feel that i’ll never be able to re-inact the way i felt the first time round.

RESIDENT EVIL: Welcome to Raccoon City

The Resident Evil films (that huge franchise that followed Milla Jovovich re-killing things and looking awesome all the time and where lots of things blew up and nothing really made sense) were hardly failures – yes they were as ropey as a Go Ape Vacation and had as much oscar-creed as a pile of bananas but did anyone care? Well, sure, unfortunately, it being based on a massively popular video game series with enough geeky fans to populate a moon, it meant a similarly massive proportion of its fan size are going to be pissed off that its a) not canon / not canon enough and b) was taking liberties with a perfectly good video game series story.

I agree, of course. I may not be the biggest fan of the Resident Evil games, but i’ve played a ton of them… and i sort of understand the basic plots because one of my pals has explained it to me once. Heck, i even think i owned a few of them. The remake of the original, the umbrella chronicles on rails-first-person-er, the one with the dude with his head in a bag with a chainsaw… oh, and i watched a grown man lose his shit during a VR session with one of the newer ones…but was i a fan? Hmmm i wouldn’t go that far.

But i understand why some peeps get pissed when films change things from the source material. I’ve ranted about this very thing elsewhere.

So when Paul WS Anderson’s string of rubbish masterpieces came to an end with “The Final Chapter” it seemed inevitable that somewhere down the line a reboot would occur.

But this was not what they wanted. They, being the fans.

This was a ham fisted attempt to tell the already established story of Resident Evil using enough tiny references to keep the fans happy and still tell a cohesive horror story… except somewhere down the line it went from 70% film to 30% Resi love letter to 30% film, 70% obscure reference to something else. Pretty much all the main characters appear, in much more PC skins, and we get to see shot-for-shot recreations of famous scenes (the first zombie turning his head towards the camera from way back when, remember the shot??), writing on the wall, a video of characters unnecessary to the immediate plot… meh. I got lost.

Maybe it is good. Maybe to truly enjoy this you have to be knee deep in the franchise, but if you’re that deep you’re not going to appreciate the unnecessaries – its not as if the characters needed actors anyway – they all look real enough.

And then in that case… why make this in the first place? Why not make another entry into the franchise altogether? A new chapter / spin off set in the franchise’s beloved and expansive world, with a standalone ploy AND some cheeky nods at the series.

Instead, a boring, flat mess, wasting the talents of Firestorm and Damian Dahrk, and the gorilla man from the (laugh laugh) Umbrella Academy. Poor.