‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ offers more cool cars, gun-fu and Keanu

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It was three years ago that I saw an ad for a Keanu Reeves movie called John Wick pop up on my Spotify account. It had been awhile since I had seen something of his that I liked (i.e., 2005’s Constantine), but I said to myself, “This looks cool. I’m there opening weekend.”

Fast-forward t0 2017. We now have John Wick 2, thanks to good word-of-mouth that made the original hit. The first film pulled in $89 million globally on a $20 million budget, and John Wick: Chapter 2 has already amassed $90 million in two weeks. That’s because  Reeves, director Chad Stahelski, and writer Derek Kolstad have offered fans a little bit more of everything the liked the first time around — cool cars, cool guns, and cool fights — while still managing to expand the universe in fun ways.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so all I will say is that this film mainly serves as a bridge to what I’m assuming will be a finale of epic proportions. The last film sent a message that we cannot escape the repercussions of our past sins while JW: Chapter 2 emphasizes that attempting to solve violence through violence usually exacerbates the problem. The main character desperately wants to leave the lifestyle of evil behind, but that is next to impossible since he spent years building up a reputation as “Death’s emissary.”

Long story short, if you enjoyed the first movie then you probably should do yourself a favor and check out this one. Laurence Fishburne reunites with Reeves in grand fashion, Common does an excellent job as “Cassian,” and the ending has a well-done homage to Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon.

If you’re an action-movie fan who still needs more convincing, then head on over to Conservative Book Club for a more extensive review that I wrote up last week.

 

Related: 

‘John Wick’: Keanu Reeves delivers solid action, shows us that the price of sin is pain and death

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Whedon Watch: Political radiation turns Joss into ‘rage’ monster

Question: What happens when a man plays with political gamma radiation for far too long?

Answer: Just like Hollywood director Joss Whedon, he turns into a rage monster who will destroy anyone in his path to achieve ideological ends.

I covered Mr. Whedon’s slow-motion descent into partisan madness on this blog for years, but a new segment on my YouTube channel has officially launched with the name Whedon Watch.

If you’re interested in seeing how talented men often go from artistically inspired to hulking partisan hacks, then check out my latest YouTube video. Given that Mr. Whedon shows no signs of pulling back from a poisonous void, I fully expect there to be many episodes of Whedon Watch in the years to come.

Martin Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ a masterpiece, must-see for Catholics

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One would think that a Martin Scorsese film with a ready-made audience of 1.1 billion Catholics would be a no-brainer in terms of marketing. Strangely, the money men behind the director’s latest masterpiece, Silence, decided to go with an “art house” angle instead of any serious outreach to those who could make it a smash hit. The decision will cost the film millions during its theatrical run, but that still does not change the fact that it is a must-see effort by the man who brought the world Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), and a slew of other great projects.

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For those who are unfamiliar with the plot of the movie, which is based on a Shûsaku Endô’s 1966 novel, it involves two 17th century Jesuit missionaries who must look for their mentor in Japan. As an “army of two” they must find out if there is truth to the claim that their mentor rejected the faith after years of torment by officials.

Mr. Scorsese recently said that “three or four great actors” turned down roles for Father Cristóvão Ferreira (Liam Neeson), Father Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver). After watching the film (How much do you want to bet that one of those actors was Leonardo DiCaprio?), it is safe to say that it was probably a blessing in disguise. Everyone involved delivers, particularly Mr. Garfield.

In short, see the movie if you are a fan of cinema — real cinema. Those with an attention span shaped by years of time on Twitter will be nowhere to be found, and you will exit the theater better for the experience.

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“Doug, Doug, Doug, you need to give me more than that,” you say? Yes, I understand. That is a reasonable request, and since I do not want to spoil too much of the film I will just say that the central question is one that I have covered before on this blog: Why does God seem absent at times?

When we go through trials and tribulations and pray, silence can be incredibly frustrating. People want God to be the cartoonish figure with a big white beard — they want Him to be a material being — and the absence of an on-call Divine Psychiatrist causes many men to believe they are alone in the world.

As Hubert Van Zeller has said, “We always imagine that if we felt strong, we would not mind having to carry the Cross. But the whole point is that we should not feel strong.”

Silence, perhaps to the chagrin of many priests, will cause people to question their own faith — but that is a good thing because the Truth can and should be able to stand up to any scrutiny. The faith that has gone through an intellectual blast furnace and survived comes out on the other side a spiritual steel, which is exactly what is needed in the modern world. Catholics need to intimately understand the value of pain and why such ordeals allowed by our Creator are always a blessing (as tough as that may be to comprehend).

As C.S. Lewis says in The Problem of Pain:

“Kindness consents very readily to the removal of its object — we have all met people whose kindness to animals is constantly leading them to kill animals lest they should suffer. Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering.

As Scripture points out, it is bastards who are spoiled: the legitimate sons, who are to carry on the family tradition, are punished. It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms: with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes.

If God is Love, He is, by definition, something more than mere kindness. And it appears from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.” — C.S. Lewis.

Silence is not for the faint of heart, but at the end of the day it forces religious viewers to objectively examine the strength of their own faith.

Would you drown before renouncing God? Would you burn? Would you die any number of gruesome deaths? If not, then why?

Very few men or women ever die a saint, but that reality does not free us from the obligation to try. Mr. Scorsese may have a complicated history with his Catholic upbringing (he is certainly not alone), but there should be no doubt about the quality of Silence. Hollywood producers discouraged him from making the film for decades, but he persevered. For that, moviegoers owe him a debt of gratitude.

Joss Whedon unravels as political cancer eats his soul

Hollywood director Joss Whedon has been on a slow-motion political implosion for about six years, but last week it became much more obvious when he wished one of his fellow Americans were raped — by a rhino. Yes, as bizarre as it is for your friendly neighborhood blogger to chronicle this sad turn of events, on some level it is not the surprising. After all, Mr. Whedon also began using coup-like rhetoric after Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

If you want more details on Mr. Whedon’s embrace of Ultron-level hate, then check out my latest YouTube video and let me know what you think in the comments section below. And, if you like the format, then be sure to subscribe for regular updates.

‘Passengers’ review: Chris Pratt saves director from lackluster script

chris-pratt-passengers

Imagine a science fiction film starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. It’s directed by Morten Tyldum (Intimidation Game) and written by Jon Spaihts (Doctor Strange). That sounds like a winner, right? Not necessarily, because that’s exactly what moviegoers got with “Passengers” with uninspiring results.

If you’re thinking about seeing Passengers, then here is what you need to know:

  • Chris Pratt plays Jim Preston, a mechanical engineer who is on a spaceship called Avalon. Its destination: a colony planet called Homestead II.
  • A meteor shows damages the Avalon, which causes Jim to wake from a state of suspended animation roughly 90 years too early.
  • Jim desperately tries to figure out a way to reenter a sleeping state while also dealing with extreme isolation. He has an AI robot named Arthur (Michael Sheen) to keep him company.
  • Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Aurora Lane, also is awakened midway through the film.
  • The Avalon begins to malfunction, which forces the two passengers (along with Laurence Fishburne — very briefly — as Captain Gus Mancuso) to work together to avoid a catastrophe.

This is a spoiler-free review, so I won’t go into many more details other than to say that Passengers is most intriguing for the number of missed opportunities racked up by Jon Spaihts. With a few tweaks of the script, Passengers could have turned into an instant classic. Over and over again the stage is set for a stunning reveal, only to inform theatergoers, “Nope. This is just a by-the-numbers sci-fi flick that will hit embarrassingly predictable beats by the time the end credits roll.”

If you decide to see Passengers, then ask yourself the following questions before the curtains open:

  • Will A.I. ever reach the point where it can become lonely and yearn for human interaction?
  • Would a company accused of treating customers like cattle ever engineer a disaster to see how the “animals” respond — perhaps as a way of garnering larger profits down the road?
  • If a character puts the proverbial “smoking gun” in a place where an individual would obviously find it over the course of a relationship, then that needs to happen — right?

Again, I note that this is a spoiler-free review, which means that asking the above questions only draws attention to the fact that Passengers explored … none of them. There are more, but for the purposes of this blog post we’ll stick to three.

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In short, if you’re a science fiction junkie who needs a fix, then see on Sunday matinee of Passengers. It’s passable, but in many ways that is only attributable to Mr. Pratt’s likability and professionalism. He did the most with what he was given, but he wasn’t given much.

 

Magnificent Seven: Fuqua brings in Washington, Pratt and crew for awesome Western

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Westerns have been box office poison for quite some time, but for whatever reason the powers that be allowed director Antoine Fuqua to have a go at a “Magnificent Seven” remake. The film, which stars Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, came in first place its opening weekend for good reason — it’s awesome.

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Anyone who is familiar with the Western genre doesn’t need to work too hard to guess how the story goes:

  • Bad dude controls a town and kills good people.
  • Stranger is enlisted to take out bad dude.
  • Showdown eventually happens and bad dude is removed from the equation.

Where is the fun in the movie if we already know how it goes, you ask? In this case, everywhere.

Denzel Washington plays post-Cvil War bounty hunter Chisolm, Chris Pratt plays a troubled gambler with a heart of gold, and the two of them eventually put together a motley crew that will oust the evil Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) from a mining town. Their success will also avenge the death of a frontierswoman Emma Cullen’s (Haley Bennett) husband.

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There are elements of the movie that could be spoiled in an extensive review, so in this case I’ll stick to saying that everyone in this movie looks like they’re having a great time. The scenery is beautiful. Every single actor has his or her moment to shine. The gunfights are top-notch, and there are even a few surprises towards the end that had the audience gasping during my showing.

In short, this is the movie that Sony’s team on Ghostbusters should have seen before making this summer’s box office bomb. Mr. Fuqua pays homage to Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954), John Sturges Magnificent Seven (1960), and other Westerns while also creating something distinctly his own.

This is not a Western for Baby Boomers, nor it does it try to be. It tips its hat to the past, but it cinematically moves forward. In a year of lackluster movies, this is a fun film that is worth seeing before it leaves theaters. See it in IMAX if you get a chance. This blogger did not, and I’ve been kicking myself for the decision for the past week.

Robert Downey Jr. and friends tell U.S. to vote for woman who called black kids ‘super predators,’ was excoriated by FBI

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There was once a time when Robert Downey Jr. understood that telling people how to vote was not something pretend superheroes should be doing. Marvel’s “Iron Man” inherently knew that intelligent swathes of the public will gladly make guys like him a millionaire for doing a good job standing in front of green screens, but they have no desire to hear his thoughts on domestic and foreign policy. That has changed.

RDJ’s millionaire buddy Joss Whedon — the guy who said Mitt Romney was the type of guy who would bring forth the zombie apocalypse — now wants us to believe that Donald Trump will presumably usher in the super-duper zombie apocalypse.

Mr. Whedon created a pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC called “Save the Day” to push the message and enlisted Hollywood actors to star in the group’s ads.

Weirdly enough, Mr. Downey Jr. and the other actors acknowledge how pathetic and condescending projects like “Save the Day” are while essentially saying, “Yeah, we’re still going to shamelessly influence dumb people, anyway.”

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Here is what director Joss Whedon told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday:

“Whedon acknowledges that ‘no one really cares what an actor’s opinion is,’ but he says that’s not the strategy. ‘Seeing somebody famous makes people stop. Seeing something funny makes people stop. Seeing something with emotion makes people stop,’ he adds. ‘Those are the ways you can get to people.'”

The problem for Mr. Whedon and Don Cheadle, who said Donald Trump is a “racist, abusive coward who could permanently damage the fabric of our society,” is that a.) it was Hillary Clinton who called black males “super predators,” and b.) it was FBI Director James Comey who raked her over the coals for nearly 15 minutes for her “extremely careless” handling of America’s most guarded secrets.

CBS reported on April 14th of this year:

Bernie Sanders slammed his rival’s 1996 use of the term “super predators” Thursday evening, calling it “racist” on stage at the Democratic debate in Brooklyn.

Asked why Sanders had criticized Bill Clinton’s defense of his wife use of the phrase “super predators,” Sanders responded: “Because it was a racist term and everybody knew it was a racist term.”

In the 1990s, while President Bill Clinton was promoting a tough-on-crime agenda, his wife — then-First Lady Hillary Clinton — was gathering support for the 1994 Violent Crime Control Act. In one speech, given in 1996, the first lady warned against the rise of “super predators,” touting the ’94 bill as one line of defense against such at-risk youth.

“They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super predators,'” she said at the time, going on to describe them thus: “No conscience, no empathy, we can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”

It’s pretty hard to tell people to vote for the allegedly awesome Democrat when Bernie Sanders called Mrs. Clinton’s “super-predators” remark racist. Again, in years past Robert Downey Jr. seemed to understand what a fool he would look like by appearing in these campaigns, but somewhere along the line he decided to join the parade of politically correct narcissists for election-year virtue signaling.

Question for Mr. Downey Jr.: How does it feel to spend all the good will you’ve built up over the years by staying out of politics on a woman who should be wearing an orange jumpsuit in a federal penitentiary? I suppose that doesn’t matter, now that your “Save the Day” appearances guarantee years of swanky parties thrown by millionaire hypocrites like Joss Whedon. Sad.

Related:

Joss Whedon, hypocritical millionaire, attacks Romney

Zendaya plays race card while looking as white as Joseph Gordon-Levitt; better luck next time, ‘Homecoming’ diva

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It was only a few weeks ago that your friendly neighborhood blogger said he was looking forward to Zendaya’s performance in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but now the actor had to complicate matters by playing one of the worst race cards of all time.

CNN reported Thursday:

Zendaya has alleged a grocery clerk of racism after refusing to sell her $400 in gift cards.

The “K.C. Undercover” actress posted a Snapchat video Tuesday about a shopping experience in which she said a clerk told her she couldn’t afford the gift cards, and tossed her wallet.

“The lady that was helping, I don’t think she was a huge fan of our skin tone,” Zendaya said.

“This is what we deal with…” — before a male friend in the video added, “Because we’re black.”

A store manager came over and eventually helped Zendaya, 20, complete the gift card purchase.

The store eventually clarified (for those who have lived under a rock for several years) that there are limits to how many gift cards can be purchased on a single credit card. The wealthy entertainer — who should know by now that criminals who steal credit card information prompted such rules — was initially denied a $400 purchase.

So here is the situation: A Hollywood star who looks as white as Joseph Gordon Levitt walks into a Vons grocery store. She looks like some random teenager, plops down a credit card, wants to charge $400 on gift cards, and then gets upset when the store clerk looks at her like she’s crazy.

Is it more likely that the clerk — who must deal with black people in California every single day  — is racist, or is it more likely that a spoiled Hollywood star wasn’t recognized and then treated (ironically) just like everyone else?

I will go with the latter option, but I’m open to convincing in the comments section below.

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Note to Zendaya: People are sick and tired of the race card. It doesn’t work.

Sometimes, what you perceive as racism is just people behaving rationally to your immaturity or moronic behavior.

Sometimes, what you perceive as racism is just someone having a bad day.

Sometimes, what you perceive as racism is nothing of the sort because the person on the other end of the conversation thinks you look like a small white child.

Note to Sony and Marvel Studios: Tell your future “MJ” that it may be okay to be a diva on the big screen, but that doing so in public just makes Spider-Man fans less inclined to see her work.

Related: Dan Slott plays ‘Captain White Privilege’ after Zendaya-MJ casting reported

Spider-Man movies called ‘white-boy fantasy’: The Root writer says Zendaya casting not ‘progress’

Jason Johnson

The Root bills itself as an “opinion and culture site for African-American influencers,” which works out nicely because I was recently looking to see what such self-proclaimed individuals were saying about Zendaya’s role as MJ in Spider-Man: Homecoming. It turns out that Spider-Man is a “white-boy fantasy” and nothing you ever do is good enough for “influencers” like Jason Johnson.

Mr. Johnson wrote on Aug. 23 for The Root’s “No, Zendaya in Spider-Man: Homecoming Is Not the Progress We’re Looking For”:

Consequently, the announcement that she’s been cast as Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s long-term love interest, Mary Jane, in Spider-Man: Homecoming next year has given many people all sorts of excitement and feels. I am not one of them. Casting Zendaya as Mary Jane is another example of Hollywood expecting black dollars at the box office, but disrespecting black consumers and fans on the big screen. …

Zendaya’s casting is yet another sign that makers of Hollywood sci-fi fantasy action films will “racebend” a character (change a character’s race from what it was in a book, film or cartoon), slap themselves on the back for being progressive and expect black fans to be satisfied, while pretty much maintaining the status quo. Racebending is fine so long as it’s for girlfriends and sidekicks, but the movies are still white-boy fantasy adventures in which the lead remains a straight white male no matter what. And that unfortunate fact can’t be separated from the choice to cast Zendaya as Mary Jane.

There was never a doubt or even a conversation about casting anyone other than a white man as Iron Man, Thor, Captain America or the Incredible Hulk. Even though Iron Man was black in the early 1980s, the first Captain America was a black man, and Thor as a Norse God could be anybody.

Are you a young comic book fan who is on the ideological fence? If so, then consider the psychology on display with Zendaya’s casting:

  • If you think movie producers should try to adhere as closely as possible to the source material, then liberal guys like Dan Slott will imply that you are a racist.
  • If you think movie producers should try to adhere as closely as possible to the source material, then liberal guys like director James Gunn will say that you have “too good of a life.”
  • If you think movie producers should try to adhere as closely as possible to the source material, then liberal guys like Devin Faraci of the website Birth. Movies. Death. will call you a “racist fanboy.”
  • Conservative guys like me will shrug their shoulders and say, “Yeah, but Zendaya may still be pretty good. As long as she tints her hair red then we should just give the girl a chance.”
  • Meanwhile, liberals like Jason Johnson will mock you for your “white-boy fantasy” even if you do give Zendaya’s casting three cheers for diversity. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Welcome to a life of Kobayashi Maru-type scenarios if you board the USS Social Justice.

As your friendly neighborhood blogger has said on numerous occasions, social-justice obsessives are never satisfied. Any attempt to placate them will only result in additional admonitions that require an apology, new demands to meet without question, and more rules that undoubtedly conflict with a sub-group of professional victims someplace else.

Between now and the July release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, I implore anyone who is still trying to define their ideological identity to conduct a test: Come to this blog and disagree with me just to see how I react. Then, do the same with liberal writers like Dan Slott or Nick Spencer. By the time your favorite wall-crawler returns to theaters, I am confident that you will no longer be on the fence.

Zendaya as Mary Jane? Ask about red hair for the next year and you’ll be called a ‘racist’

Zendaya

And so it begins — the great new excuse to call people “racist” for the next year.

News broke on Thursday afternoon that Zendaya will be playing the iconic role of Mary Jane in next summer’s latest Spider-Man movie, Homecoming.

The Wrap reported:

Zendaya will be playing long-time Spider-Man love interest Mary Jane Watson in next summer’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” two individuals with knowledge of the project told TheWrap.

Diehard Spidey fans have long speculated about whom the 19-year-old Disney Channel star would portray in Sony’s high-profile reboot of the superhero franchise, starring British actor Tom Holland as a teenage Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man.

Also Read: All 43 Marvel Movies Ranked From Worst to Best, Including ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ (Photos)

At least one recent draft of the script has Zendaya’s character dropping several clues to her identity as Mary Jane, one of the most familiar love interests in the Marvel superhero’s universe — and played by Kirsten Dunst in Sam Raimi‘s 2002-07 movie trilogy starring Tobey Maguire as the webslinger.

Zendaya, the star of the Disney Channel series “Shake It Up!” and “K.C. Undercover,” was cast back in March to play a “key role” as a character named Michelle.

Your friendly neighborhood blogger has plenty of thoughts on Sony’s movie, but what concerns me most is the knee-jerk reaction by race-obsessed goons to label anyone who wants to see a beautiful redhead on the big screen as “raaaaaaacist.”

Peter MJ

One of the first race-runners out of the gate was Devin Faraci of the website Birth. Movies. Death. He worries about the “next racist fanboy outrage,” (because honoring source material is apparently ‘racist’ nowadays).

Devin Farac

The comments section of websites like The Wrap (You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy) was just as bad.

Wrap comments Homecoming MJ

Ah, yes, all those “racist white nerds” who like their Blades and Rhodeys black and their Mary Janes white with red hair…they’re so weirdly racist!

The good thing about Sony’s habitual screw-ups when it comes to…pretty much everything…is that at this point fans only want to see a good movie. My prediction is that Zendaya — who is certainly beautiful  — will do just fine.

It’s hard to do a worse job than Kirsten Dunst, so as long as Zendaya captures the essence of MJ’s character then most long-time fans will forgive the studio’s deviation from the comics.

It is much harder to turn the other cheek, however, with writers who salivate at the chance to spit out charges of racism over the slightest disagreement.

What do you think of Zendaya’s casting? Do you agree? Disagree? Do you think it was strange of Sony to keep it a secret for so long if the casting is not supposed to be a big deal? Let me know in the comments section below.

Update: Dan Slott decided to weigh in on the issue, and he was in rare form with his Straw Man arguments and specious claims. I cover it in the comments section, but decided to take a screenshot of the embedded tweets since he has a habit of deleting them when things get out of hand.

Dan Slott Homecoming Zendaya