Saturday, February 28, 2015

Movie Review: ‘Focus’


**** 1/2
104 minutes
Rated R for language, some sexual content and brief violence
Warner Bros. Pictures

Article first published at The Reel Place.

If anyone has a more schizophrenic list of films under their belts, it’s the writing/directing team Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. Getting their foot in the door with the screenplay to the first Cats & Dogs film, they then went on to write the raunchy Bad Santa and Bad News Bears remake. But the duo really came into their own when they took over directing duties and brought us the underrated I Love You Phillip Morris, Crazy, Stupid, Love., and now the Will Smith vehicle Focus. Showing a behind the scenes look at the world of grifters, Ficarra and Requa pit Smith in the dangerous world of easy money.

Nicky (Smith) is enjoying a night out alone when Jess (Margot Robbie) plops down at his table asking him to be her boyfriend to get away from a handsy guy at the bar. The two hit it off and go up to her room where Jess and a partner try to rob him. Calling them out on their con, Jess wants Nicky to show her how she can be better, so he agrees to show her a few tricks of the trade. Eventually, he takes her under his wing and plunges her into his grifting underground full of pickpocketing entrepreneurs.

After they make a big play at a football game, taking over $2 million in cash from gambling addict Liyuan (BD Wong), Nicky leaves Jess on her own, because he doesn’t want their affection to complicate things. Now, three years later, they run into each other in Buenos Aires, where all their feelings come roaring back as Nicky plans on making out with a long con on her new boyfriend, billionaire race car owner Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro). Nicky has to find a way to try to steal not just Garriga’s money, but Jess’s heart again, with Garriga’s bodyguard Owens (Gerald McRaney) being Nicky’s biggest obstacle yet.

For anyone wishing Fifty Shades of Grey had any shred of romance prepare yourself for Focus. This film has sexual tension to spare. To say it bends Fifty Shades over a spanking bench and shows it who’s boss is an understatement. Some may be put off by the age difference between Smith and Robbie, but Robbie holds her own and manages to come off years older than her real age of 24. The two have the on-screen chemistry a film like this deserves as a couple we want to see beat the odds. It helps that Smith is finally back in the kind of role he can play in his sleep: shameless, charming, and even sexy. He’s definitely been finding time to hit the gym for all his lady fans out there.

Ficarra and Requa’s screenplay keeps chugging along, even if the big football scene starts to drag, but thankfully has a hilarious payoff. The same can be said about the whole movie. With as many twists and turns as they throw at us — featuring some amazingly choreographed sleight-of-hand sequences conceived by Apollo Robbins — they never go one twist too far instead of aiming for a huge “gotcha” moment. Something they also managed to pull off in a completely different way in Crazy, Stupid, Love. With February known as one of Hollywood’s dump months, I was a little worried that the directors had lost their touch. But fear not, Focus gets Will Smith’s career back on track — even if temporarily — and it’s nice to see February go out on a high note.

Movie Review: ‘The Lazarus Effect’

The Lazarus Effect

*** out of 5
83 minutes
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of horror violence, terror and some sexual references
Relativity Media

Article first published at The Reel Place.

At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, there was a disturbing trend amongst the horror film selections: they all suffered from lackluster endings. It seems as if all the directors and writers had some really fun ideas and then painted themselves into a corner. The same problem comes calling once again in The Lazarus Effect, the new thriller from Blumhouse Productions — the company responsible for the Purge, Paranormal Activity, and Insidious films. Not even this group of really good actors can save the film from its ridiculous finale.

Scientists Frank (Mark Duplass) and Zoe (Olivia Wilde) have created a serum in the basement of an unnamed university, hoping to bring the dead back to life. The couple have put off a married life together to complete their research, along with the help of Clay (Evan Peters), Niko (Donald Glover), and college student documentarian Eva (Sarah Bolger).

The group finally sees their testing pay off after they bring back a dog named Rocky (Cato) who was seemingly put down due to cataracts. Somehow, the serum has also managed to cure its ailments, but they notice the dog’s brain activity is a little on the overactive side. After Big Business swoops in and steals all their documents from violating the school’s ethics code, the team sneaks back into the lab to duplicate the experiment, resulting in Zoe’s electrocution. Grief-stricken, Frank talks everyone into using the serum to bring Zoe back to life, causing all hell to break loose.

If The Lazarus Effect has one thing going for it, it’s the scant runtime. Clocking in at only 83 minutes, at least director David Gelb moves things along at a mostly breakneck pace. Unfortunately, Luke Dawson and Jeremy Slater’s screenplay is a huge mess. While it starts off promising enough, it trades in any kind of creepy atmospherics for slasher tropes. Wilde and Duplass make for a nice enough couple, but eventually, Frank’s motives take a too-quick, unexplained turn. Wilde does what she can as the possibly-possessed Zoe, but what they aren’t advertising is that the film is a bigger ripoff of Luc Besson’s Lucy than the ’80s cult classic Flatliners. Turns out, Zoe isn’t possessed, her brain is evolving at an exponential rate: what should take millions of years is happening in minutes, we’re told.

The dopiest aspect of The Lazarus Effect is when it dissolves into the old science vs. religion talk. Dawson and Slater have absolutely nothing to say on the subject, which is probably why they seemed to throw their hands up in the air and turn Zoe into another killer-on-the-loose à la Michael Myers or Jason Vorhees. And then there’s the ending. I would never give anything away, and let’s face it, all horror films have their audience, but this one takes a serious turn for the unintentionally hilarious. The last scene is so confounding, it oddly leaves me hoping for a sequel for a true battle between good and evil. As it stands, The Lazarus Effect is only deserving of being another Blumhouse Production bound to make a huge profit opening weekend before it’s quickly forgotten and rushed to video.

Blu-ray Review: ‘Dracula Untold’

Movie: ***
Video: ****
Audio: **** 1/2
Extras: ** 1/2

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: ‘Dracula Untold’ starring Luke Evans on Blogcritics.

If there’s one place Universal could truly make some big money at the box office it’s their classic monster franchises. With horror all the rage these days, they could all use an overhaul — even if the original films are still awesome — Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolfman, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and even The Invisible Man. Are audiences up for accepting modern takes on such treasured icons? If the executives at Universal have their say, the answer is “Yes” whether they like it or not. Let’s just hope the rest of the films aren’t as passable as this weekend’s Dracula Untold, but at least it doesn’t, well, suck. And is now available in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack.

Dracula Untold, Universal Classic Monsters, Dracula, Luke Evans, Charles Dance, Dominic Cooper, Gary ShoreIn this take on Bram Stoker’s classic tale, a voiceover informs us that in 1442, the Turkish army has taken control of all the young boys in Transylvania, including Vlad III Tepes. Fast forward to find a grownup Vlad (Luke Evans), now the prince, with a 10-year reign of peace about to come to an end. Sultan Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper) has ordered 1,000 boys to join his army, including Vlad’s only son Ingeras (Art Parkinson). In order to save the kingdom, Vlad heads to Broken Tooth Mountain to seek the power he needs from a demon/vampire (Charles Dance). Forced to drink the demon/vampire’s blood, Vlad now has the superhuman strength and ability to control bats and the weather to take down the approaching army. Something Vlad hopes to accomplish in the three days given him to either break the curse or feed on human blood and become the immortal mythical legend.

Dracula Untold doesn’t quite soar in its Blu-ray presentation, but it’s far from a slouch. Placed on a 50GB disc, it has plenty of room to stretch its wings, and the 2.35:1 aspect ratio is definitely an improvement on the theatrical presentation. When it was released back in October, the picture was muddy and dull, with no life to be found. On Blu-ray, detail is new and improved, both for better and worse. Better in that the blacks are deep and inky, with a few instances of intended crush, but worse in that it hinders a few of the CGI-filled sequences. However, it also makes some of those sequences look better. Colors are muted for the most part, but any action in the daytime is plenty lifelike, and some scenes, particularly the final battle between Vlad and Mehmed is oversaturated and too bright. However, there’s no banding, noise, aliasing, or ringing to be found either.

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is just as impressive. Filled with plenty of ambiance pitting the viewer in the middle of the action, it also shows even more immersion whenever Vlad bursts into his flying bats incarnation. Every speaker gets put to full use, with plenty of deep bass for random jump scares and battle action. Dialogue is never drowned out and delivered clearly with a little bit of directionality added in. Additional audio tracks include: Spanish and French 5.1 DTS, and subtitles are available in English SDH, French, and Spanish.

Dracula Untold, Universal Classic Monsters, Dracula, Luke Evans, Charles Dance, Dominic Cooper, Gary ShoreThe special features are mainly of the EPK (Electronic Press Kit) variety and become rather repetitious. Included are “Luke Evans: Creating a Legend” (19:46) which looks like it was meant as a scrapped picture-in-picture special feature with Evans speaking as literal as possible to what’s happening onscreen; “Alternate Opening” (2:11) features an optional commentary track with director Shore and Production Designer Francois Audouy who dismiss the scene as “too Errol Flynn” and delayed the story — wisely excised; six “Deleted Scenes” include “Vlad Finds Scattered Turkish Armor,” “Village – Babayaga,” “Vlad Mesmerizes Ismail,” “Vlad Kills Ismail,” “Vlad & Mirena: Blood Thirst,” and “Vlad & Cazani: Dead Boys.”

“Day in the Life: Luke Evans” (10:05) follows Evans on a day of shooting from getting picked up outside his own home to the end of the day; “Dracula Retold” (6:55) tries to make the viewer believe that some kind of actual history was woven through the story, but let’s face it, most of this is either myth or legend. “Slaying 1000” (5:03) gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the visual FX. And finally, “The Land of Dracula” is an interactive map taking you through “Cozia Monastery,” “Borge Pass,” “Castle Dracula,” and “Broken Tooth Mtn.” which is filled with short featurettes and FX breakdowns.

As much as I love my horror movies, my first sign of concern was when a TV spot finally informed me that Dracula Untold was given a PG-13 rating. Considering it looked like they were going for a dark, brooding atmosphere, I was hoping to see something along the lines of Braveheart or 300, and unfortunately, this was not the hoped for unrated Blu-ray. There are a couple of “ew” moments toward the end, but there’s something really lacking in the first hour. If you’re going to turn the character into an action hero, director Gary Shore and screenwriters Matt Sazama and Burksharpless should have at least given him something to do. Instead, Vlad spends most of the runtime trying to find ways to stay out of the sunlight, and finally flies into action come sundown.

Dracula Untold, Universal Classic Monsters, Dracula, Luke Evans, Charles Dance, Dominic Cooper, Gary ShoreThe cast is better than average considering most of them look unfamiliar. Evans is usually pretty boring, but it appears he’s picked up a few tips from working with Peter Jackson in The Hobbit films. Cooper gets to camp things up and is really fun to watch in the few scenes he’s given. He is also the only one who uses the stereotypical Dracula accent; everyone else just sounds British. Things take a fun turn in the final half hour — don’t worry, it’s only 91 minutes! — when Vlad is forced to embrace his fate as the titular character. According to rumor there’s supposedly an Easter egg scene used to set up the Universal Monster Universe. If it’s the end scene right before the credits, people are going to walk away scratching their heads. If Legendary Pictures and Universal really want this new monster universe to work, they’re gonna have to step up their game, but at least you won’t walk out of Dracula Untold calling it: “Dracublah.” Featuring an above average video/audio presentation, with plenty of skippable extras, Dracula Untold ultimately feels like a lackluster episode of Game of Thrones with a vampiric subplot thrown in. This is for Dracula completists only.

Blu-ray Review: ‘Birdman’

Movie: *****
Video: *****
Audio: *****
Extras: *** 1/2

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Oscar-Winning ‘Birdman’ starring Michael Keaton Wins Best Picture and Director for Alejandro González Iñárritu on Blogcritics.

A funny thing happened during my second viewing of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman — this time as a Blu-ray review — I finally recognized the brilliance everyone has been talking about. And now that it’s won the Academy Award for Best Picture, I’m happy to report that Birdman can safely perch in my Blu-ray collection, now available from 20th Century Fox.

Birdman, Michael Keaton, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Oscars, Academy Awards, Best PictureI originally dismissed the film, to quote myself: “The word masterpiece gets thrown around a lot but do most of them really deserve that high of regard? Even if a film is an outstanding filmmaking accomplishment, it doesn’t necessarily mean it deserves the title ‘masterpiece.’ Time is the one thing that can really decipher the difference between say, a masterpiece versus a genre classic. In the case of Birdman, I don’t want to step on the artsy fartsy crowd’s toes, or rain on the director’s parade, but while it is a technical marvel, it is far from a masterpiece. Make no mistake, this is a film you need to see, but I will probably never watch it again.” I take back every word.

Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is a washed-up, former superhero actor, staging what he hopes will be the comeback of his career by directing, producing and starring in  a Broadway play. As if being surrounded by egotistical, self-absorbed actors isn’t enough, Riggan is also dealing with an alter-ego in a physical incantation of his Birdman character.

When an actor is injured during rehearsal by a stage light, Riggan forces his lawyer/best friend Jake (Zach Galifianakis) to recruit Mike (Edward Norton), a brilliant method actor who already knows Riggan’s play inside and out — possibly better than Riggan does himself. In addition to prepping the play, Riggan is starting to come unnerved over New York Times critic Tabitha (Lindsay Duncan) aiming to get his production shut down, and his girlfriend/actress Laura (Riseborough) informing him she might be  pregnant. Riggan is left trying to keep all his balls in the air and make it through opening night, but his id may have other plans in store.

As for the video presentation, 20th Century Fox lets Birdman soar with a near flawless presentation in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a 50GB disc. In fact, if it weren’t for one shot of banding at the 88 minute mark, and a slight amount of judder in the opening pan of Riggan’s dressing room, I’d have nothing else to mark it down. This is a demo disc through and through. Blacks are inky without resulting in crush. Colors are bold and dynamic while never bleeding. Detail is breathtaking, thanks to Emmanuel Lubezki’s Oscar-nominated cinematography.

The 5.1 DTS-HD audio track is almost even better than the video. With Antonio Sanchez’s wrongfully disqualified score thumping across the soundscape, we’re also treated to plenty of deep and rumbling bass, with a mesmerizing soundfield, planting the viewer right in the middle of every scene. Directionality is absurdly spot-on with no line of dialogue getting swallowed up by the panning camera movements. You will believe you’re on set of every scene. Additional audio tracks include French DTS 5.1, and 5.1 Dolby Digital in Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, and Turkish. Subtitles are offered in English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Korean, Mandarin, Polish, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, and Turkish.

While the special features may not be overflowing — which let’s face it, would have only hindered the video/audio — but they definitely give you an amazing behind-the-scenes look at the production.

Birdman, Michael Keaton, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Oscars, Academy Awards, Best PictureBirdman: All-Access (A View from the Wings)” (33:28) kicks things off with the cast and crew taking a moment to listen to a speech from Iñárritu on what was probably the first day of shooting. He explains to everyone that he will “kill himself to make this the best,” and thankfully he didn’t have to in order to achieve such an accomplishment. The amount of rehearsal involved is astonishing and only goes to show how much hard work was put in from everyone.

“A Conversation with Michael Keaton and Alejandro González Iñárritu” (14:03) sits down the star and director who show what a great dynamic the two have and the enthusiasm and how they hope the audience finds themselves having individual personal experiences rather than spelling things out. “Gallery: Chivo’s On Set Photography” is a collection of pictures taken throughout the production with both a Manual and Auto Advance option.

Looking back at my final paragraph from my original review, I couldn’t be more wrong. Birdman really is the masterpiece everyone proclaimed it to be. While I originally really liked the film, I felt it was a little overrated. I now see the error of my ways. Iñárritu has delivered a marvel of a film, and I’m glad I took the time to go back and revisit it before it was declared Best Picture. While light on features, there’s no doubt we’ll eventually see a fully loaded Blu-ray release, but with stellar video/audio, Birdman is a film worth flocking to grab on Blu-ray.

Movie Review: ‘Hot Tub Time Machine 2’

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 
** 1/2 out of 5
93 minutes
Rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, graphic nudity, drug use and some violence
Paramount Pictures

Article first published at The Reel Place.

I can only imagine the difficulty in trying to come up with an idea to make a sequel to Hot Tub Time Machine. Considering the only cast member to not return was John Cusack definitely gives one pause, especially after he publicly stated that he was never even approached for Hot Tub Time Machine 2, when his character was the lead. As with Dumb and Dumber To, mixed results are the name of the game, and while that one came 20 years too late, even five years was too long for this one.

Most of the boys are back: Lou Dorchen (Rob Corddry), is a millionaire thanks to his band Motley Lou and the invention of Lougle (aka Google); Nick Webber (Craig Robinson) is a successful “songwriter” meaning he’s continuing to rip off songs he already knows are hits in the future/present; Jacob (Clark Duke) is living in the shadow of Lou as his butler, whether he admits it or not. And we get told Adam (played by Cusack in the first film) is MIA on an existential journey after publishing a hit book based on their time-traveling antics. What little plot we get this time revolves around our hapless heroes using their titular time machine to save Lou from death after he’s shot in the crotch at a party. Does hilarity ensue? Ehh… mostly.

If there’s one thing missing the most in Hot Tub Time Machine 2, it’s the presence of Cusack. The first film was a spectacular throwback to the films he helped popularize and worked as a dandy spoof to bat. For the sequel, well, I hope you enjoy the rest of the cast as much as they hoped because they’re all we get. Director Pink has none of the nostalgic charm he did with the first film, and screenwriter Josh Heald is never too low to stoop beyond the grossest joke. Case in point, while probably thinking they’re making a callback to the first film, Lou and Nick wind up getting a faceful of bodily fluids. But where the initial film pulled off a hilarious punchline, the literalness of the joke here just makes it disgusting.

Fear not, there are a lot of funny jokes at work here, but they are fewer and far between. Walking out of the screening I seemed to be the only person around with anything even slightly positive to say. First impressions were better than when I started writing this review. The film may not be a complete disaster, but it won’t go down as one of the worst of the year. It’s never as charming as the original, and let’s just say that Corddry still has a long way to go before being able to carry a film on his own.

Thankfully, the returning cast, and a few new faces — especially Adam Scott as Adam’s estranged son, and Community’s Gillian Jacobs as his fiancée — try to keep the pace moving. Except that even at what should be a quick 93 minutes, it does start to drag in some parts. The worst being a particularly homophobic stretch involving the boys on a game show. For anyone looking for kind-of-more-of-the-same, you might get enough laughs to justify the ticket. For anyone hoping a sequel that at least feels like the first film, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 will never live up to expectations.

Movie Review: ‘The DUFF’


*** 1/2 out of 5
101 minutes
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual material throughout, some language and teen partying
CBS Films

Article first published at The Reel Place.

Sometimes the bar is set low for watching a movie. And other times you wind up pleasantly surprised — as is the case of The DUFF — which is even better. Especially when said film falls in the realm of the worn-out teen-comedy genre. We all know what’s going to happen before the credits roll, but it has a smart enough script and enjoyable cast to make the destination worthwhile.

With Mae Whitman and Robbie Amell in the leads, The DUFF winds up way better than it looks. Director Ari Sandel wrings more laughs than expected from screenwriter Josh A. Cagan’s adaptation of Kody Keplinger’s novel. It’s on the  same level as Mean Girls or Easy A, while never getting as mean spirited as Jawbreaker. While still a far cry from the John Hughes classics, The DUFF isn’t the waste of time — like the trailer indicates.

Our “D.U.F.F.” in question is high schooler Bianca Piper (Whitman) who is trying to survive the awkward high school years in the shadow of her two hotter, more popular friends, Casey (Bianca A. Santos) and Jessica (Skyler Samuels). Bianca is clueless to her DUFF predicament until her childhood friend/next door neighbor Wesley Rush (Amell) tells her that she’s their “Designated Ugly Fat Friend.”

While Wesley tries to assure her it’s just a term and she’s neither fat nor ugly, Bianca has no choice but to take measures of her own against her best friends, and eventually, the whole school. After the most popular girl in school and Wesley’s on-again/off-again girlfriend Madison (Bella Thorne) unleashes a viral video threatening Bianca’s any chance of being taken for who she really is, it’s up to Wesley to navigate her through the ruthless halls of high school and the awkward dating world as well.

We all know films released in February are bound for disaster, yet somehow, The DUFF manages to be way better than it should be. Whether it’s director Sandel’s pacing, or if there was more on-set improv than screenplay, it all comes together hilariously. While definitely not perfect, and nowhere near a classic, there’s plenty to keep you laughing along to the semi-hypocritical final scene. Note: You shouldn’t have your main characters doing the exact opposite of the point you’re trying to make in the narration.

The biggest saving grace is the cast. Whitman and Amell are super cute together, and even have some actual comedic chemistry, which goes a long way to helping through the more cliched moments. And it doesn’t hurt when Bianca proves her smarts by correcting Wesley over his improper use of “irregardless.” In supporting roles, Ken Jeong continues to be a big screen irritant, but Allison Janney does get to have fun as Bianca’s mom. The DUFF definitely won’t go down as one of the year’s best comedies, but it’s at least a fun comedy, filled with likable and believable characters — in spite of the actors’ ages — you can finally root for.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Blu-ray Review: ‘John Wick’

Movie: **** 1/2 out of 5
Video: **** 1/2
Audio: *****
Extras: ***

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: ‘John Wick’ starring Keanu Reeves on Blogcritics.

Some movies you wish you hadn’t missed in theaters — they start to build up a certain level of hype. I may have missed the John Wick press screening, but couldn’t be more excited to have it in my video library now. Even waiting in line for Press and Industry screenings at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, people kept talking about the excellence of John Wick; even if it was probably because Keanu Reeves was starring in Eli Roth’s festival film Knock Knock. A colleague of mine even told me John Wick was over-the-top, but badass. This only raised expectations. Does it live it up to the hype? Is John Wick the action movie we’ve been longing for? Absolutely. And it’s available on Blu-ray now from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

John Wick, Keanu Reeves, Willem DafoeJohn Wick (Reeves) is having the night from hell. After crashing his car, he falls out onto the street bleeding, watching a video of him and his wife, Helen (Bridget Moynahan). We then flashback to the beginning of our story where we learn that Helen just died from an unnamed illness and John has quit the hitman lifestyle. One night, John receives a Beagle puppy with a note from his wife saying that she’s leaving him with this gift because he needs something to love. It isn’t long before his grieving is interrupted by a home invasion involving Iosef Tarasov (Game of Throne’s Alfie Allen), son of crime lord Viggo (Michael Nyqvist of the original Dragon Tattoo film series), with Iosef stealing his car and killing his puppy. Now, John unleashes a roaring rampage of revenge. Because who wouldn’t?!

Lionsgate continues to deliver some of the best transfers on Blu-ray with John Wick being no exception. Detail is always razor sharp, with bright and bold colors that never bleed. With a film revolving around the seedy underworld of New York City, thankfully crush never becomes an issue. Unless you’re the directors recording the commentary. They commented that there was on whatever monitor they were watching, but on a properly calibrated HDTV there’s not. Aliasing and banding are also kept at bay, along with no sign of noise. Needless to say, there are zero compression issues.

On the audio front, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my first Dolby Atmos experience, I do know that it downcoverts to 7.1 Dolby TrueHD without the proper equipment, but man, this track sure packs a wallop! Be prepared for a whole new level of surround sound right from the Atmos logo. Bullets whiz by from every angle; directionality is spot on; bass keeps the action booming. You want an enveloping surround field, you got it. This is definitely my new audio demo disc. Also available are Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 and English 2.0 tracks. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, and Spanish.

John Wick, Keanu Reeves, Willem DafoeJohn Wick comes locked and loaded with some really fun special features. An audio commentary from co-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch offers up lots of fun, behind-the-scenes anecdotes. As informative as they are, it’s hilarious to listen to them try to keep up with the pace of their own film. They mention there was a two and a half hour cut which may have made for a lesser film, but it’s funny to hear them caught off guard as each scene progresses. “Don’t F*#% with John Wick” (15:17) gives an inside look at Reeves training with the choreographers, along with the producers, cast, and directors talk about how professional he is and how much writing changed for the action scenes based on whether something worked on camera or not.

“Calling in the Calvary” (11:58) brings to light the supporting characters brought to life by the likes of Willem Dafoe, John Leguizamo, and how the Perkins character (Adrianne Palicki) was originally intended to be male. “Destiny of a Collective” (6:19) covers the stunt work of Studio 8711, praising the directors for making such a leap from stunt work to directing and how it’s such a blessing to be continuing their work with Reeves, something they’ve been blessed with since the first Matrix. “The Assassin’s Code” (5:18) gives an inside look into the seedy underworld Wick works in and “N.Y.C. Noir” (6:00) shows off the locations including the Navy docks. “The Red Circle” (6:26) spotlights the big shootout in the club and bathhouse scene. Do not watch this before the film or it ruins all of the fun.

The final word on John Wick is that it’s the best action film of 2014 you probably didn’t see. Featuring a killer performance from Keanu Reeves who’s in total-kick ass and not-taking-names mode, this is the most fun he’s been since the original Matrix. Never taking the time to get convoluted, John Wick may be simple, but that’s what most action films should be. There’s been a growing trend of epic spectacle in the genre, and here, everything is stripped to bare bones necessity. With a near perfect video presentation, and one of the flat out best audio releases yet, John Wick is a definite must-own and warrants a blind buy for any action fan.