Destination Wedding 2018 ****

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In some alternative universe, instead of costumed figures punching each other in pursuit of the financial reward some wordless lowest common denomenator, we’d be looking at a cinema bursting with thrillers, dramas and rom-coms; perhaps in that world, Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder would be the Hepburn and Tracy of our day. Alas, Destination Wedding, a smart two hander from writer/director Victor Levin, barely saw the inside of cinemas when it finally trickled out, but streaming may offer some salvation; with big stars giving fun performances, it’s exactly the kind of quality indie that used to pack them in. Reeves play Frank and Ryder plays Lindsay, two malcontents who sit at the back of a Paso Robles wedding exchanging snide comments and gradually striking up an attraction in their misanthropy. Sex follows, and buyers remorse hangs heavy, and it’s clear this isn’t going to run Before Sunrise smooth. But Reeves and Ryder are terrific performers, and they do a great job in bringing two difficult people to life. Rom-coms are rare like like hen’s teeth; this one is sharp and acerbic, and should be treasured.

Always Be My Maybe 2019 ****

It’s not a matter for debate; Netflix have brought back the rom-com, even if it’s a slightly different beast on streaming. Always Be My Maybe is pretty much everything that’s required from the genre; two personable leads in Ali Wong and Randall Park, who co-wrote the screenplay with Michael Golamco, plus a well-caught San Francisco vibe, plus a scene-hogging cameo from Keanu Reeves that rocks the film for a couple of extended scenes. Always Be My Maybe is the story of two kids who grow into adults without ever properly evaluating their bond; even when they’re going out with other people, Sasha and Marcus are more able to be themselves when they’re together, and Nahnatchka Khan’s film makes the most of the unrequited confusion. There’s plenty of funny lines including ‘Famous people are different; I once saw Glenn Close eat a pineapple sandwich…’ and an ingenious scene making fun of the fancy food that hipsters eat. Seeing normal people doing relatable things in increasingly rare in cinema; Netflix’s streaming service is well served by appealingly light fare such as Always Be My Maybe.

https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/80202874?source=35

John Wick 3: Chapter 3- Parabellum 2019 ****

Keanu Reeves is to the action film what Gene Kelly was to dance; a normal looking guy who can embody the audience’s wish fulfilment while executing the kind of moves that a pro would dream of. The third outing of the John Wick franchise was never going to top the first entry, but there’s no drop off in quality as in the Taken films. Chad Stahelski’s thriller picks up with Wick set against the High Table, the assassins’ guild he previously worked for. A few new friends and foes flesh out the world, notably Anjelica Huston as a Russian ballet-school operative and Halle Berry as a trained-dog assassin. Chapter 3 fairly flies by, with amuse bouche in the form of a few dog-fu, book- fu, knife-fu and horse-fu diversions before a massive knock-down drag-out slugfest in the Hotel Continental for the climax.  The sub-title means ‘prepare for war’ and the John Wick series feels as if it’s still ramping up; as long as the star keeps in shape, there’s no reason this franchise can’t go on for years, and for once, that’s no bad thing. As Reeves crashes his motorcycle onto the hotel steps and announces “I’d like to see the manager…’ it’s clear that the dead-pan grace of the John Wick films is alive and well.

John Wick: Chapter 2 2017 ****

As with the Terminator films, the sequel to John Wick faced a specific challenge; how to expand the universe of the first film while staying true to the stripped down ethos; John Wick barely lasts eighty minutes, and that brevity and focus is part of the appeal. Taking place a mere four days after the first film, John Wick 2 takes the franchise in a different direction, taking Wick (Keanu Reeves) over to Italy and then back to NYC with a price on his head. Wick’s gradual distancing from Winston (Ian McShane) and the establishment at the Continental Hotel provides a wider frame than the revenge theme of the original, and it’s fun to see Franco Nero as Julius, the manager of the Hotel Continental in Rome. Chad Stahelski’s film also takes time to investigate elements of the Wick mystique, including a graphic illustration of Wick’s ability to wield a pencil. The action, including a terrific car-wrecking sequence as an opener and a delirious art-gallery shoot-em-up, delivers in spades, and if the element of surprise has gone, there’s plenty for genre fans to soak up here, not least Reeves’ impeccable, graceful presence as the world’s best assassin.

Keanu 2016 ****

keanu_redbandtrailer1Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have been such a boon to comedy through their Comedy Central work, it’s easy to see why a feature film would be a no brainer. And while it doesn’t have the punch of some of their sketches, Keanu is one of 2016’s best comedies, pitting two mild-mannered, middle class dorks into a gangster world which they unexpectedly take to. Their mission is to track down the missing moggy of the title, running into Method Man as a gangster and Anna Faris as herself along the way. A few sequences jump out, like the one in which Rell and Clarence attempt to teach a crew of aspiring gangsters how to act on the street, and there’s some commendable verve in the tension generated as the friends get over their depth. Ultimately, the two-guys-who-look-like-tow gangsters motifs is an ancient one which Key and Peele manage to blow some life into, and bodes well for future cinematic escapades.

John Wick 2014 *****

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Always a good mover, Keanu Reeves’s combination of Zen-blankness and physical mobility made him a perfect action lead in Speed, The Matrix; Chad Stahelski and David Leitch‘s thriller gives him plenty of opportunity to show his skills. Taking a lead from the writings of Alistair MacLean, we’re talking about tough ex-agents rather than genetically modified soldiers. John Wick is a man on a mission, to revenge the death of his dog, which was given to him by his dying wife. Wick rips through hotels, nightclubs, and a kill-a-minute as he rages through a rigorous, glorious HR cull of various crime organisations, with nice work in support from Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Ian McShane and Michael Nyquist.

Dangerous Liaisons 1988 ****

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Adapting a epistolary novel is no easy task; the Choderlos de Laclos novel taken on by writer Christopher Hampton for his stage success explores a complex narrative from a number of different points of view, with no narrator and a series of deceptive letters instead. Although Milos Forman’s Valmont was underrated, Stephen Frears does a pin-sharp job with this period film, with Glenn Close a scheming Madame de Merteuil, Michelle Pfeiffer an innocent caught in the crossfire, and John Malkovich sporting several wigs at once as the playboy the Vicomte de Valmont. Uma Thurman, Keanu Reeves and Peter Capaldi all contribute neat work, and the labyrinthine ways in which the characters snare each other, and eventually themselves, makes for a classy, engrossing romp through sexual misadventure.