Columbus (2017)

Cover image for ColumbusMovieColumbus film centers around Jin (John Cho) who is stranded in Columbus, Indiana after his father, an scholar of architecture has fallen into a coma. Jin’s relationship with his father means that he knows a lot about architecture, but is at best ambivalent about the unique structures that populate Columbus. Casey (Halley Lu Richardson) is a young woman who works at the local library, who on the other hand, is fascinated by her hometown’s architecture and its place in history. Though their world experiences differ, the two meet by chance, and what develops is a relationship built on mutual dissatisfaction.

Director Kogonada utilizes the town’s architecture in each frame, letting the various buildings and structures inform his shots. The screenplay has a lot to say about architecture, and the way he balances these more informative aspects of the script with the emotionally resonant moments is masterful. Columbus is a character study of the town, as much as it is of Jin and Casey.

I was moved not only by what I saw on screen, but also by what was withheld from me as a viewer by the script and the editing. This is a film about two fragile people that never becomes maudlin or melodramatic and maintains its balance from beginning to end.

John Wick Series (2014-2019)

Movies – If you are looking for an action-packed movie with a dose of dark humor, look no further than the John Wick series starring Keanu Reeves. Reeve’s delightfully deadpan delivery coupled with the superb fighting sequence choreography sets this movie franchise apart from others.

The first film simply titled John Wick, gives us a glimpse into John Wick’s character, a “retired” shadow assassin grieving the death of his wife. Wick is soon pulled back into the shadowy fray when an envious young thug and his lackeys break into Wick’s residence to abscond with his ride, a pristine 1969 Boss 429. In the process of this ill-advised trespass, the thug callously kills Wick’s pet puppy, a parting gift from his beloved wife. The attack is the impetus behind the resurrection of Wick’s former persona “The Babayaga” and his relentless road to vengeance. Soon it becomes clear why the criminal underground is alight with fearful whispers at his return.

John Wick: Chapter 2 continues the tumultuous arc of our intrepid assassin. His trail of corpses leads the shadowy cabal of assassins and their rules-obsessed governors, the High Table, right to his doorstep. The High Table’s grip on John Wick is not easy to shake leaving him no choice but to take one last job. To complete the job Wick must break a number of important rules a big no-no in the eyes of the High Table. Naturally, when all the dust settles, Wick is designated excommunicado by the High Table. Wick is now persona non grata, stripped of all the rights and privileges offered to the rest of the cabal and with a hefty open contract on his head. Cue the storm of assassins trying to cash in on his demise.

John Wick 3: Parabellum directly follows the end of Chapter 2 and opens with a tense race against the clock as Wick struggles to reclaim his status from underneath the High Table. This third installment continues the world building from the first two films and it’s safe to say that the series’ overarching theme is actions always have consequences. As the film progresses, viewers are introduced to members of Wick’s past including his ruthlessly austere mentor–wonderfully portrayed by Anjelica Huston. The film’s final scene leaves us at the edge of our seats and wanting more. Worry not my fellow Wick fans, John Wick 4 will premiere in 2021!

Fans of Luc Besson will have a blast with this series. I know I did!

Escape Plan: The Extractors (2019)

DVD –  When security expert Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) is hired to retrieve a Chinese business tycoon’s daughter, unbeknownst to Breslin, his previous partner’s son is hell bent on revenge. To assure Breslin’s involvement, the villain also abducts his girlfriend. Will he make it in time to rescue both women and still come out alive?

The Escape Plan: The Extractors is the third installment of the franchise and I must admit, it was bad. The plot line is overly simplified and the music score, seemed off. The first movie, Escape Plan, however, was awesome! In The Extractors, Breslin is not even escaping OUT of a prison, using any fancy tools, or high tech gadgets. I’m not sure what the producers were thinking when deciding on Round 3 for this series, but it was a fail for me. Nevertheless, the fight scenes are outstanding, and you get to see Curtis “50 cent” Jackson for all of 5 minutes. If you are looking for a movie for background noise while doing something else and does not require much time, energy, or focus, this works. If you want a serious action adventure – keep looking.

The Game Plan (2007)

DVD –  The Game Plan is fun and family friendly. Joe Kingman, played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the top scoring quarterback for his professional football team. He is living the high life of a single playboy- sporting a penthouse, owning fancy cars, and enjoying fame. The morning after the biggest play of his game, 8-year-old Peyton arrives on his doorstep claiming to be his daughter, and never knew existed. Many silly things happen as their relationship evolves, from Leaving Peyton behind at a restaurant, to wearing bedazzled clothes to her ballet performance, to rushing to a medical emergency. This movie runs through the gamut of emotions, but relies heavily on the ability to garner laughter.

I found The Game Plan funny and charming. Although categorized as a comedy, the film includes serious scenes that explore family dynamics, trust, friendship, and love. If you are looking for a simple giggle for movie night, I definitely recommend this older gem.

Death Wish (2018)

DVD – Death Wish is a remake of the 1974 version, which I admit I have not seen. I saw this movie on the shelf and thought, “Hey, I love Bruce Willis and the Die Hard movie collection, so why not try this one?” This is a great action thriller movie about an emergency room doctor (Bruce Willis) who is unwittingly tasked with fixing up the bad guys of Chicago. A grave situation befalls his family, at which time he has a moment of awakening and plots his revenge. The police- overwhelmed with cases and coming up empty- starting with lowly purse snatchers, and moving up to carjackers, and eventually murderers – he doles out justice as he sees fit.

This was a great action movie for Bruce Willis. Not too much CGI and a plausible storyline. It felt honest and true to the types of mistakes one might make while learning to be an everyday superhero incognito. I am somewhat confused about the role his brother plays in the film, but not enough to discourage me from watching it a second time. I think this one hits home for the action lover of the family as well as the romance/story lover of the family.  An all-around A+ in my book!

Bad Boys (1995)

DVD – Will Smith and Martin Lawrence make a comedic-winning duo in Bad Boys. Officers Mike Lowry (Smith) and Marcus Bennett (Lawrence) lead an investigation into a break-in at the police station’s evidence locker room, where a load of heroin is unassumingly stolen. They have 72 hours to reclaim the drugs before the FBI and CIA are called in. To complicate matters, they have to protect Julie, a witness who saw the thieves murder her best friend amid a heroin exchange. Told by her friend that if anything ever happened to her and needed help, Julie should contact Mike, because he is THE ONLY person she trusts. Off pursuing lead, his partner Marcus intercepts a call from Julie, saying that he is Mike. The two characters lead very different lives, so it is highly entertaining to see how each portray the other. Will they retrieve the heroin? At what cost to the city? Will they keep Julie alive?

Bad Boys is an older movie, but a goodie. There is a significant amount of adult language, use of racial slurs, intense action and recommend this for adults only. The film’s success was later followed up by Bad Boys II released in 2003.  Snuggle up for a fun adult night with this pair of movies!

 

The Commuter (2018)

DVD- Ex-Cop Michael takes the commuter train into the city Monday – Friday, to his ho-hum job selling life insurance. On what should be a regular day on the train, he is approached by another passenger Joanna, who makes him an offer.  In need of cash to continue his lifestyle and support his family, Michael must solve the ‘puzzle’ correctly and quickly in order to claim the reward.  He has to locate the commuter carrying a specific package and obtain it before arriving to stop “x.”  He has only a few stops to figure things out. Of course, Joanna tracks his movements at all times and in various ways throughout the trip. Will he solve the mystery, survive, and get the money?

Liam Neeson plays the lead, and is typecast for this role. The Commuter is quite similar to his other action movies. The preview looked amazing and set up the film to be exciting. Who doesn’t love Liam Neeson in action? This one, however, was more over the top than usual. There were plot holes aplenty and far too many action sequences. If you are looking for an action packed, just-for-the-heck-of-it movie, The Commuter fits the bill. Just don’t expect that “Wow, that was amazing!” feeling afterward.  I walked away saying to myself, “Okay…huh…I saw it. Now what?”

Black Panther (2018)

DVD- After his father’s recent passing T’Challa returns to his birth place in Wakanda, Africa to take his place as king.  Being king, comes with it – the power of the Black Panther, an ancestral super power passed down through the generations. As far as the world knows, Wakanda is a poor, barely-surviving country. Looking under the invisible cloaking net that has protected the country for centuries, however, one finds a wealthy, technologically advanced society sitting on a mountain of Vibranium. This precious metal, thought to no longer exist, was used to make Captain America’s shield.  Once others learn of Vibranium’s presence, they will stop at nothing to acquire the rare alloy.

This movie was well done. The Black Panther is a person of pride, strength, and honor. Wakanda’s setting is stunning, and although the people have an excess of what is needed to survive, they are scrupulous in how the country’s resources are used. The colors, music, special effects, and the director’s ability to immerse audience members in the film – all made me feel that “WOW!” factor, after it was over. Even if you do not follow the Marvel superhero franchise, you will still be amazed by this movie. I highly recommend Black Panther to everyone!

Colossal (2017)

Movie – After coming home so-late-it’s-early and hungover one too many times, Gloria’s boyfriend kicks her out of their New York apartment, and since she’s also out of work, she has no choice but to move back to her parents’ empty house in the town where she grew up. She gets a job tending bar for a guy she knew when they were kids, and shortly after, everyone is glued to the news, watching footage of the giant monster that mysteriously appeared in Seoul, South Korea, tromped through downtown, and disappeared again. When it happens again, Gloria recognizes something in its gestures — and realizes that she is in control of the monster. Sharing her revelation with her new-old friends, however, has unexpected and momentous consequences.

I saw a trailer for this movie that made it look like “rom-com plus Godzilla,” which meant that of course I had to see it, but it turns out it’s even better than that – Gloria’s growth and development does not revolve around her finding the right guy to date. She’s dealing with alcohol problems, an unhealthy relationship with her boss, and mysteriously wielding an unusual amount of supernatural power. It’s an unusual genre mash-up, but if you like stories about women taking control of their lives and also giant monsters, you’ll love it as much as I did.

What We Do In the Shadows (2014)

Movie – Ever wondered if vampires ever get into petty fights with other vampires? If they sometimes forget how old they are? If they establish moral guidelines for who they’ll eat and who they won’t? If they ever hold things up in front of a mirror to giggle at their own lack of reflection? All these questions (and more!) are answered in What We Do In the Shadows, a hilarious mockumentary about a group of vampires (and a few werewolves) living in modern-day New Zealand. It feels very much like a BBC documentary-of-the-week – not especially polished, without much of a plot or narrative angle, but deeply, deeply hilarious, and you kind of wish it were narrated by Richard Atenborough.

Now that director (and star) Taika Waititi is the man behind the best-reviewed Marvel movie since the original Iron Man, you owe it to yourself to see this utterly delightful movie. (Which just had a sequel announced!) Next on my list is The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, his 2016 rural-Australia adventure starring Sam Neill.