We are sitting smack dab in the golden days of the Summer of Keanu – John Wick 3, Always Be My Maybe, Toy Story 4 – a real career renaissance for Hollywood’s nicest leading man, a Keanussance if you will, though it doesn’t roll of the tongue quite as convincingly as McConaissance did.
Henry Torne (Keanu Reeves) is a toll booth operator and chronically nice guy in that passive way that drives his wife (Judy Greer) kind of crazy. He’s so nice, in fact, that he goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Accused of bank robbery, he protects a friend (Fisher Stevens) and takes the sentence, losing his wife in the process. His cellie is a crazy man named Max (James Caan), away for life. Henry does his time and eventually leaves prison with one important lesson imparted by criminals more hardened than he: you did the time, you may as well have done the crime.
And that thought just niggles at him. So much so that he springs Max out of prison and they befriend a Buffalo actress (Vera Farmiga) who just happens to be doing a play in an old theatre that has a prohibition-era tunnel running from its basement straight to the bank’s vault. Convenient! Love and money, all in one fell swoop.
Of course, Henry is not exactly a professional thief. He got caught – and remember, he got caught for a crime he DIDN’T commit. How much of a disaster is he going to be with the real thing?
Safe to say this film (released in 2011) is NOT part of the Keanussance. Reeves suffers from the coolest of detachments while the rest ham things up. Farmiga in particular is several degrees north of TOO DAMN MUCH. Henry’s Crime is entertaining at times, merely watchable at others, and sometimes it’s just slow and not building to much. Sometimes I’m startled to come across titles featuring several prominent actors that I’ve simply never heard of before, but the reason why usually becomes quite clear, quite quickly. While there are worse crimes than Henry’s, a misdemeanor rather than a felony, it’s still not worth doing time for.
Toy Story movies have always been darker than people give them credit for. In the first film, Buzz believes himself to be a hero stranded in a hostile environment. Turns out, he’s just a toy – everything he thought was real is a lie. He exists to be someone’s plaything, and Woody and the gang convince him that there’s dignity and even nobility in this fate, even if it strikes you and I as a kind of slavery, to exist merely at someone else’s whim, until you’re all used up, and then you’re disposed of. What a dizzying and disorienting concept; it’s no wonder Buzz literally gets depressed when he learns his true nature. In the second film, Woody literally contemplates his own mortality. His benevolent master Andy will one day tire of him, and worthless, he’ll be discarded. His friend Jessie really hammers this home with a heart-wrenching flashback of being abandoned at the side of a road by someone who once claimed to love her. Ultimately, Woody chooses to live as a toy rather than achieving a sort of immortality as a collector’s item; he’ll have a short but meaningful life rather than a long but insignificant one. What a choice. In the third film, Woody and the gang face the consequence of this choice: Andy goes off to college, and eventual abandonment becomes actual abandonment. Not only that, but the best friends are being separated, with Woody being doomed to spend his twilight years alone on Andy’s shelf, no longer a useful, loved plaything, but a mere relic of his past. Meanwhile, his friends are going to molder up in the dark oblivion of an attic. What cold comfort. Luckily, the toys are instead given to a little girl named Bonnie to live out a happy afterlife. Cue the fourth film.
Woody (Tom Hanks) and pals are having a grand old time being played with by Bonnie. Sure, the little girl prefers cowgirl Jessie (Joan Cusack) over cowboy Woody just a tad, but still, it’s a good life, no complaints. Bonnie is starting kindergarten soon, and at an orientation session, she shows some initiative (fancy term for not following instructions) and makes herself a toy out of trash rather than a pencil cup out of art supplies. She brings her cherished new friend home and gives him a place of honour among toys. “Forky” is no more than a spork, some googly eyes, a pipe cleaner, and a broken popsicle stick, but he’s Bonnie’s new best friend, so Woody vows to keep them together at all costs. That’s going to be a problematic promise because a) Bonnie’s family is embarking on an RV roadtrip and b) Forky has some suicidal tendencies. Forky was never supposed to be a toy, you see. He’s trash. He knows he’s trash. Rather simple-minded and fairly spooked, all he wants more than anything in the world is to be trash once again, which is where he keeps launching himself. Woody keeps dutifully fishing him out, but one of these times he’s bound to get thrown out for good. It’s on one such rescue mission that Woody encounters an antique store where he thinks he may find an old friend/lost toy/love interest, Bo Peep (Annie Potts). We haven’t seen Bo Peep since the second movie, which was 20 years ago. Where has she been this whole time?
Bo’s been living free and wild as a toy with no owner. That’s essentially Woody’s worst nightmare but she makes it sound rather grand. Besides, Woody has a new worst nightmare: another antique store occupant, vintage doll Gabby Gabby wants his voicebox and she’s prepared to rip the stuffing out of his chest to get it. Yikes!
Structurallly, this fourth installment plays out a lot like those that came before it. There’s always some kind of separation, and then some kind of secondary rescue mission when the first one fails. These toys sure do get themselves into some high-stakes situations on an alarming basis!
It’s wonderful to see the cast of old friends: Bo looks shinier than ever, and Jessie’s hair has never looked yarnier. The animation on these films started out innovative and has only improved. And new friends are a hoot and a half: Forky (Tony Hale) is a walking, talking existential crisis, but the rendering of his pipe cleaner is photo realistic. Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) was a dollie defective right out of the box, and her resulting failure to bond has really warped her. Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves) is a Canadian daredevil who never lived up to his promise; he is haunted by his past, and by the kid who resoundingly rejected him. Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key) and Bunny (Jordan Peele) are two brightly-coloured stuffed animals attached at the hands. They’ve been unredeemed carnival prizes for far too long, and are a little unhinged. Officer Giggle McDimples, Giggs for short (Ally Maki), may look precious and pocket-sized, but she’s a force to be reckoned with, and fiercely protective of her road warrior partner, Bo Peep. All these new toys will come together in surprising ways to give our pal Woody one last big adventure.
Coming full circle with the original film in the franchise which was released 24 years ago, Toy Story 4 has Woody once again paired with a toy who does not believe himself to be a toy. Woody’s experiences with Andy, and now with Bonnie, position him to a real advocate for finding and fulfilling one’s purpose and embracing one’s destiny. Heartwarming and heartbreaking in almost equal measure (I cried twice before the opening credits were over, and then alllllll the way home), Toy Story 4 more than justifies its existence. But after the perfect send-off in #3, is #4 a necessary or worthy addition? As much as I looked forward to connecting with these characters again, I surprise myself by saying no. Toy Story 4 is a good movie, an entertaining one, a very sweet one, but I can’t help but wish they’d left it at a trilogy so that we could have one perfect, shiny thing in our lives.
Lindsay and Frank hate each other on sight so of course they find out they’re on the way to the same destination wedding. Lindsay dated Keith, the groom, 6 years ago and is still looking for closure. Looking for it at his wedding is the worst idea ever. Frank is the groom’s brother, yet he and Lindsay have never met (nor has he met the bride-to-be) because he detests his family and normally avoids them faithfully.
Lindsay and Frank are of course the odds and ends at this small destination wedding, so they inevitably end up paired together at event after event. Oh the horror! They’re enemies! They’ll never learn to tolerate each other let alone fall in love!
Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves, together again. If you’ve been pining for their coupling since the late 90s, oh boy have I got the movie for you. It’s Sunset-style, you know the talky Ethan Hawke-Julie Delpy trilogy where they just walk and talk and talk and talk? Well, Destination Wedding has Sunset ambitions, only its fitbit registers far less walking. Loads of talking though, in fact, Ryder and Reeves are the only two talking roles, which means the writing really matters. But writer-director Victor Levin is no Richard Linklater. And while Ryder and Reeves have their own quirky chemistry, their characters are kinda dicks.
And I get it, the unlikable protagonist, the anti-hero if you must, is a legit thing, and it’s maybe even kind of fun under the right circumstances. And maybe this anti-romantic comedy featuring two screaming misanthropes had some appeal at first – a twist on the genre that could have gone either way. But the way it chose was down the bottomless quarry where Ryder and Reeves drown in their characters’ cynicism. Watching Destination Wedding (subtitled: A Narcissist Can’t Die Because Then the Entire World Would End) is like going to a wedding where you don’t like the couple, and they seat you at the single-and-bitter table where no amount of champagne and wedding cake can make you not want to hang yourself as your table-mates make convincing but unintentional arguments for Darwinism.
The first half of SPF-18 is about virginity, or the loss thereof. Penny (Carson Meyer) needs a prom do-over, and when her boyfriend Johnny (Noah Centineo) house sits for Keanu, she brings her cousin Camilla (Bianca Santos) and a pack of condoms and and the deflowering is on.
The second half of SPF-18 is about surfing, and using it to somehow honour one’s dead father.
There’s a very thin line between these two halves where SPF-18 could have crossed over with The Meg, and had these vapid teenagers been devoured by a megalodon, I might have hated this a little less. As it was, just thinking of them as shark poop helped get me through.
In reality, a Christian country artist wannabe named Ash (Jackson White) baptizes himself in the nude in front of the girls, thus cementing himself in their hearts. And even though her virginity is still freshly smeared all over Keanu’s sheets, Penny’s heart goes the way of her hymen – torn.
And then Johnny’s dead dad’s surfing protegee resurfaces, guilt-ridden about his drug usage which may or may not have contributed to his mentor’s untimely death. This story really doesn’t need to be here, but the film is already a scant 75 minutes, so I guess it added some flesh to the bare bones. The rest is just redistributing the lovers. Ash has a soulful voice but Johnny has abs worth praying about.
You should be able to deduce that the script is bad but that really doesn’t do it justice. IT’S HORRENDOUS. The dialogue is embarrassing and cringe-worthy, but it’s not the worst part. The worst part are the disparate ideas strung together to make a movie. They’re so random I don’t even know how they decided which order to put them in (Evil studio executives! The benefits of pilates! Illegal doping scandals! Greek mythology! Animated meditation! High school superlatives! Unnecessary narrators! Intellectual property law! Unexplained lip lesions!). Can you hodge podge these together to make a film? No you can’t, you definitely can’t, but that’s not stopping anyone.
I don’t know anything about director Alex Israel, but I can guess that he’s an 80s kid. He certainly reveres the decade. Why else would you give a millennial rom-com a power ballad-filled soundtrack? And how else to explain small roles for Pamela Anderson, Goldie Hawn, and Molly Ringwald? This movie was painful for me, and not just because SPF-18 may as well be bacon grease (I like a nice hard 50 myself) for all the good it does. It feels like this may have been made and edited in the drunk tank by people with double vision and shaky hands and very, very poor judgment. I literally cannot believe this is a movie and I definitely cannot warn you away vehemently enough.
The first image from the film is a trigger warning and believe me, take heed. To The Bone is a serious, unflinching look at eating disorders that will absolutely be upsetting to each and every one of us, but particularly to those suffering from or recovering from eating disorders themselves.
Lily Collins, herself a survivor of eating disorders, plays Ellen, a young woman still very much in the throes of anorexia. The film shows her getting treatment in a centre run by Keanu Reeves, which should tell you all you need to know about how inauthentically the healing is portrayed. In reality, treatment is heavily regimented, usually in a medical setting. Eating disorders are the most deadly of mental illnesses, no one’s going to let an emaciated Lily Collins push a fish stick around her plate for dinner. And they’re also very difficult to treat because unlike drinking, you can’t simply give up food. You have to learn to eat in moderation. Eating disorders are often (but not always) about control. Often there is some type of childhood abuse that accounts for someone wanting very much to exert control over their bodies now.
This both is and isn’t the case with To The Bone, but the family dynamics are a strong point of the film. Ellen’s family situation is sad and disjointed. Family therapy does not go well. Her father is absent, her mother can’t deal anymore, so support is provided by a step-mother who maybe doesn’t have the closest of relationships with her husband’s tiring and trying daughter. Some of you may find this movie enlightening. Certainly I believe that Ellen and her disorder have been portrayed empathetically. But it’s a tough watch that could definitely be a hardship for some, and may glamourize a terrible disease for others. This is a film to be watched only with care, and preferably in the company of others.
Based on writer-director Marti Noxon’s own experiences with anorexia as a teen, the film forced Collins, in recovery for eating disorders, to lose 20lbs. She did so with the “help” of a nutritionist, but there’s nothing healthy about a young woman already on the brink of being too thin being asked to lose up to a fifth of her body weight. I hate that movies do that and I can’t imagine that graphic shots of protruding bones and skeletal characters is putting anything but negativity into the world. And it doesn’t help that none of the other characters are put into any kind of context. They help show that eating disorders are not just the stuff or rich white girls, but by keeping those characters one-dimensional, we do them a disservice. The thing is, even with good intentions, sharing stuff like this can be dangerous. Details about how to purge or count calories can come across as tips; Collins’ skin-and-bones frame can be seen as aspirational. And I suppose this is where we ask ourselves: is this film doing more harm than good? What is responsible film making? Without knowing the answers, I do know that I am not comfortable recommending this film without some heavy caveats.
It’s possible that if Keanu doesn’t play a lawyer at least once per decade he’ll die. That’s the only reason I can think of to explain his casting as a lawyer ever, because he’s barely credible as the sandwich guy who delivers lunch to law firms.
In The Whole Truth, Keanu does indeed play a lawyer who is defending the son of a former colleague and longtime friend. The son is accused of killing his father, that very same former colleague and longtime friend. I’m sure Keanu would like to believe that his client is innocent, but his client isn’t talking. And his client’s mother (Renee Zellweger) is mostly weeping, and begging Keanu to save her son’s life.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who is above this material, plays a lawyer assigned to help Keanu, and be less of a dick in the courtroom than he is, which is a role that could have been fulfilled by Andy Dick or Jeremy Piven or goddamned Jim Belushi, who was actually busy playing the murder victim, but you catch my drift. It wasn’t a high bar.
Anyway. It’s derivative. It’s one of those “unravel the plot” movies probably based on a mystery novel only sold in drug stores. When “the whole truth” is finally revealed, you probably won’t be around to hear it, having already changed the channel, and you certainly won’t give a shit. The ending isn’t earned, it doesn’t pack a punch, it’s just a fart in the wind (is that a saying?).
I lagged way behind and only saw the first John Wick a few weeks ago when it popped up on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, and like action movies, it’s a good one (definitely good enough to warrant a sequel). And that sequel is now upon us.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is faithful to the first chapter’s formula, almost to a fault. That fault is repetitiveness, in a somewhat strange way. You see, one of the things I liked about John Wick (both the first movie and the character) is that he bleeds. He makes mistakes and the bad guys capitalize. He wins in the end through sheer force of will.
The same basic formula plays out in John Wick: Chapter 2 but since it’s a sequel, everything has to be tougher for our protagonist Jonathan (note to Ian McShane: emphasizing that this hit man’s full name is “Jonathan” is weird; please stop). The problem is the way the difficulty is ratched up. Wick is not given tougher bad guys to face. He’s just given more of them, which makes the extended fight scenes a tedious series of guys running at Wick and Wick then shooting them twice in the body and one in the head.
Or, if two guys (or more) run at him at once (a SERIOUS violation of movie bad guy etiquette) he puts one in an MMA- style hold, shoots the other(s) in the body then head, then gives a head shot to the guy he wrestled down and has probably been using as a human shield while dealing with the other(s). Keanu Reeves obviously practiced this move particularly hard and good on him for still being credible as an action hero, but a little variety would have been nice in order to continue the first movie’s realistic feel.
(Don’t even get me started on the part where Wick is specifically given a gun with limited ammo and then immediately gets a magic movie gun from the first bad guy he kills that shoots about 30 times before he has to cock it again. Or the fact that in this film every second person in Central Park is an assassin.)
There’s more good and bad, and more good than bad in John Wick: Chapter 2. But when this movie’s ending set us up for the third instalment, I immediately thought of Jason Bourne, which I seriously considered turning off on a plane. That is a bad road for John Wick to be headed down.
John Wick: Chapter 2 gets a score of six smashed-up classic Mustangs out of ten. Essentially, the opening car-smashing sequence was a metaphor, in which Wick was this movie and my goodwill toward the first movie was the car. That it was such a nice car to begin with is the most disappointing part.