John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Every time he thinks he’s out, they pull him back in! Keanu Reeves’ action starring vehicle “John Wick” ended up being one of the best films of 2014, and three years later, we’re granted what is essentially “The Empire Strikes Back” of the John Wick saga. When John Wick went in to retirement, violence found him once and he wrought unholy vengeance one last time. Now that he’s been a few years in exile, living alone with his trusty pit bull, his past has returned once again. Italian gangster Santino D’Antonio shows up at John’s door aware of his mission of vengeance and now plans to take advantage of a decades old blood oath he made to him when he was working as an assassin. Handing him a very sacred reminder called a “marker” with John’s own blood in it, he plans to hold him to his oath, despite John’s protests.

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South of 8 (2016) [San Diego Film Week 2017]

In the near future, during the second great depression, an ex-con joins a duo of burgeoning bank thieves as there are no jobs and he needs to survive.  At the same time, a resistance movement grows fast and a group of female criminals is causing mayhem.  As things take a more serious and more violent turn for all involved, the authorities are closing in on them. In writer/director Tony Olmos’ first feature film a few years ago, the story may be a bit exaggerated but it will feel close to what may become reality to some.  The story is set in the San Diego area amid racial and class issues, political problems, and an upswing in crime during the second great depression.

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Havenhurst (2017)

It’s “Rosemary’s Baby” meets “The Toolbox Murders” in what I can easily describe as one of the glossier movies I’ve ever seen that look an awful lot like a cable TV movie of week. That’s neither a compliment nor an insult, as “Havenhurst” is comfortably in the middle ground of horror mysteries. It’s too shallow to be a morality tale, and too stern to be considered exploitation. A lot of the concept doesn’t entirely make much sense, especially when you consider how much work it would be to dispose of so many corpses and pull off the operation the owners of the apartment complex do without a lot of police interference and whatnot. Havenhurst is a Gothic apartment complex in the middle of New York that is painted a lot in the same shades Roman Polanski painted his domain in “Rosemary’s Baby.” Its smack dab in the middle of the city and sticks out like a sore thumb, but its underbelly is immense and incomprehensible.

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The Adventure Club (2017)

I would love nothing more to tell you that “The Adventure Club” is a real gem that deserves discovering. But sadly this is a kidsmovie that even kids might eventually fall asleep during. It’s not that the movie is fundamentally bad it’s just so bland and listless, no matter how many talented character actors that director Geoff Anderson stuffs on screen. And it’s sad because the movie tries its best to utilize greats like Kim Coates, and Billy Zane to account for the fact that the rest of the cast aren’t too good in their roles. I’m all for a film of this ilk, which encourages curiosity, learning, imagination, and wonder. I love movies that carry the aesthetic of a classic serial, but “The Adventure Club” feels like one of the many clones of “The Goonies” we saw throughout the nineties that would often pop up on cable inexplicably.

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Frankenstein The Real Story/The Real Wolfman (DVD)

Halloween has come early this year! Lionsgate has graced horror fans with a ton of really interesting documentaries from the History Channel and A&E Network in America. For folks that always wanted to know the “Real” story behind “Frankenstein” and “The Wolfman,” well this is where you can turn. Truth be told, the entire double disc DVD set garners an array of forty five minute documentaries, with the Frankenstein topic taking center stage. With all three documentaries clocking in at 178 minutes in length, it’s a treasure trove for individuals that love Frankenstein and Mary Shelly. Featured in the first disc is “In Search of the Real Frankenstein,” “Frankenstein,” and “It’s Alive! The True Story of Frankenstein.” Oddly enough while all three documentaries can sometimes become repetitive, they offer up a unique look at Frankenstein with different angles and approaches.

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Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Mamoru Oshii’s “Ghost in the Shell” is the natural successor to “Blade Runner,” it’s an anime masterpiece that works both as an action film and a very evocative and thought provoking science fiction thriller. Through very engaging characters and still incredibly stunning visuals, “Ghost in the Shell” approaches themes like the idea of consciousness and existence, and what living is, and how it’s fairly impossible to prove what sentience is or isn’t. In 2029, law enforcement has been enhanced to the point where human beings can transport their consciousness and memories in to cybernetic shells that grant them amazing abilities used to keep law and order.

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Douglas Fairbanks presents Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers (1921): 95th Anniversary Edition (DVD)

Courtesy of Undercrank Productions, “Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers” starring Douglas Fairbanks garners a brand new DVD restoration. With a new score by Ben Model (along with new color tinting digital restoration, and stabilization), and with restoration by Karl Malkames, “The Three Musketeers” can be appreciated in a new edition and new vision. One of the many iterations of the classic action tale, “The Three Musketeers” stars film icon Douglas Fairbanks as the noble swordsman D’ Artagnan a young man who goes to Paris to become an ally to three of the best swordsmen alive. They are, of course, Athos as played by Leon Bary, Porthos as played by George Siegmann, and Aramis as played by Eugene Pallette.

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Parasites (2017)

Let’s cut to the chase: Chad Ferrin’s “Parasitesis easily one of the best movies of 2017. It’s culturally relevant, very creepy, compelling, gritty, and packs a punch of a climax that is both incredibly evocative and promises to keep audiences debating for days. Set in Los Angeles, three college friends are on the way home accidentally find themselves stranded in skid row. While there, they become victims to the predatory Wilco, a vicious and violent homeless man who leads a massive army of wayward individuals. After terrorizing the trio of youths, events spiral out of control prompting Wilco to scramble to conceal his crimes. When character Marshal survives out of pure chance, he flees for his life, prompting Wilco and his army to track him down and hunt him in the middle of the city. Now Marshal has to fight for survival, and look for help.

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