‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ Review

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Director: Chad Stahelski

Writer: Derek Kolstad

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarico, Common, Ruby Rose, Lance Reddick, Claudia Gerini, Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburne

Synopsis: After returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt, John Wick discovers that a large bounty has been put on his life.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Back in 2014, the first John Wick came out and everyone was surprised how great it was. It could have easily gone under the radar as a dumb fun action thriller with Keanu Reeves getting revenge of the people that killed his dog. But, the film became an instant favorite with everyone that watched it because of the crazy action/fight sequences with “gun-fu” and how the film felt like a throwback to the eighties and early nineties action films. So, when it was announced that John Wick: Chapter 2 was happened, fans eagerly waited what The Boogeyman’s next adventure would have in store. Little tease – lots and lots more of headshots.

Chapter 2 opens up with a long action sequence that follows John Wick (Keanu Reeves) getting his car back, and once he gets it back he returns home where once again put his guns and gold coins away so he can live out his retirement. Of course, nothing is that easy in this world, and gets a visit from an old acquaintance in Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) who is calling in a favor, blood markers as they call them, that Wick owes him. The catch is if Wick doesn’t do it, he will be killed or despite declining the offer John eventually does do the favor which ends up with him getting a bounty placed on his head. Watch follows is John Wick doing what he does best.

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John Wick: Chapter 2 wastes little time throwing us back into the world of the mysterious assassination guild that involves The Continental. What was just teased and mentioned in the first film is fleshed out just a bit more here. Of course, not everything is explored and answered, which adds a fun layer to the film, but not knowing everything is what makes the film so damn fun. I mean, seeing John Wick shooting people in the head is a hell of a lot of fun too, the world this film takes place in is great to explore too.

Like the first film, Chapter 2 is carried by Keanu Reeves, who let’s face it, was born to play John Wick. Reeves continues to play Wick as a calm, collective and quiet kick-ass hitman who loves headshots. While the character isn’t as conflicted here like he was in the first film, there are a couple of moments that show John Wick’s humanity. Seriously, I can watch Reeves shot people in the head for three hours and not get bored.

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The rest of the cast is hit-or-miss. Riccardo Scamarcio’s D’Antonio just gives off villain-vibes and is somehow easily unlikeable. Ruby Rose plays Ares, a mute henchwoman that tussles with John throughout the film, Common plays Cassian, a guard to Gianna D’Antonio (Claudia Gerini), who gives John a run for his money on multiple occasions. Ian McShane and Lance Reddick have just a little more to do than they did the first time around and Laurence Fishburne as The Bowery King, although he’s never referred to as that, is someone who has a history with John and doesn’t appear until the end of the second act of the film, but it was awesome to see Reeves and Fishburne together on the big screen again.

All in all, John Wick: Chapter 2 is a damn good fun time. The action is pumped to eleven and the world building continues to help elevate the world introduced in the first film. I think as long as Keanu Reeves can keep doing the intense action scenes, I’ll be down for ten more John Wick films.

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John Wick: Chapter 2

4 out of 5

My Best/Favorite Movies of the Year 2014

It’s the end of the year boys and girls, you know what that means? It’s list time!!

 

There were some good movies and films that came out this year, and then there were movies and films that I highly enjoyed that made the list too. The list really ranges all over the place, so you’ll see a wide array of titles. But, of course, this is my list and my opinion so your list might be different and obviously it is okay.

 

The list will have the movies in alphabetical order, just to be fair, and because I really don’t want to go through the trouble anymore of picking a number one because it would be really tough.

 

Movies That I Missed That I Wanted to Watch

Wild

The Theory of Everything

Inherent Vice & American Sniper (although it was only a limited release around here)

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Joe

A Fantastic Fear of Everything

Bad Words

Under the Skin

Cold in July

Life Itself

Wish I Was Here

Magic in the Moonlight

Frank

Starred Up

The Skeleton Twins

Hector and the Search for Happiness

Tusk

Kill the Messenger

The Judge

Laggies

Horns

Rosewater

The Babadook

Stretch

Unbroken

 

(To watch a video form of the list, you can go here: )

 

Just Missed The List:

A Most Wanted Man: I love movies that keep me thinking until the end. A Most Wanted Man had elements of that but it was also of the great performance of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, and Willem Dafoe. It was odd to hear all of them put on German accents but that’s just being nitpicky right?

 

Boyhood: Don’t get me wrong, Richard Linklater’s twelve-year film following a boy from childhood to adulthood was a great experiment to see unfold. The movie had some great things in it but at the end of year, against some of the other movies that I’ve seen; I had to barely leave it off the list.

 

Nightcrawler: While Jake Gyllenhaal gave one of the best performance’s I’ve ever seen him do and his character is so complex in a compelling and frightening way, Nightcrawler was a mixed bag and while there are gaps of great scenes and what seems like unnecessary filler.

 

The Drop: While the film was filled with strong performances all around (Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Matthis Schoenaerts, and the late James Gandolfini in his last finished role), the film compared to the others is just a tad bit under the others.

 

The Rover: David Michod’s not really apocalyptic story has Guy Pearce playing a loner gets his car stolen and is eventually left with one of the thieves’ brother (Robert Pattinson) and goes after them. That’s about it for the movie. After that there really isn’t a plot and you’ll mostly catch things on second watch, but performances by Pearce and surprisingly Pattinson makes the movie watchable the first time around.

 

Whiplash: Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons gave great performances in the drama where a young man tries to become a great jazz drummer and meets his match with a well known instructor that pushes him to his limits. Again, the performances make the film worthwhile and the last performance of the movie is what the film really builds up to, but Whiplash does have some moments and decisions that made me question it.

 

Honorable Mentions

300: Rise of an Empire

Birdman

Edge of Tomorrow

Foxcatcher

Her

John Wick

Lone Survivor

The Book of Life

The Guest

The Purge: Anarchy

This Is Where I Leave You

X-Men: Days of Future Past

 

Best/Favorite Movies of the Year

Begin Again

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I hardly knew anything, if at all, about Begin Again before I saw the trailer and final film. I was completely surprised and floored by how good the film was and the original soundtrack they made for it was fantastic.

 

Big Hero 6

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Disney’s first Marvel animated property came in the form of a group that no one really knew about and they turned it into their own thing. Disney followed their formula and created a movie that tons of fun and full of heart. It also doesn’t hurt that they created a loveable character of Baymax.

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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I think we all would be lying to ourselves if we thought Captain America: The Winter Soldier was going to be that great. Marvel and the Russo Brothers turned Captain America into a spy thriller with just some comic book elements and made – and dare I say this – the best Marvel film to date.

 

Chef

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2014 has been slightly dubbed the year of comedian actors trying to the public take them seriously. Chris Rock did it with Top Five but the best example for me would be Jon Favreau’s Chef. Favreau wrote, directed, and starred in this uplifting dramedy about a chef and father trying to find his passion again and trying to reconnect with his son. Favreau showed that he handle every aspect of filmmaking and you can tell that he has also found his passion for filmmaking doing an independent film.

 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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There is something to be said that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes turned out better than Rise of the Planet of the Apes since Rise was a very well done film that probably shouldn’t have been as good as it was. Dawn continued and elevated what made Rise good and expanded on them. Andy Serkis also continues to prove that he is the master of motion capture and can probably out act a real actor, but now has some competition with Toby Kebbell who played Koba and gave Serkis a run for his money. Finally, that siege scene was a work of art and fantastic to watch.

 

Godzilla

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Godzilla didn’t get a lot love, and I’ll even admit there were parts that made it uneven but the whole movie was an adventure and seeing “The King of the Monsters” back on screen was a sight to see.

 

Gone Girl

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Talk about a total mind-twisting film. Gone Girl had me guessing throughout the whole thing and if you knew what was going on, 1) I’d say you read the book or 2) you’re covering it up. Rosamund Pike was fantastic in this and I’m glad more people got to see how good of an actress she is.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy

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Much to everyone’s surprise, Marvel pulled this off. Dubbed “Marvel’s Biggest Risk to Date” Guardians of the Galaxy had it all: humor, action, heart, and a great soundtrack. The whole cast held their own and this showed us that Chris Pratt and Dave Bautista are going to be bonafide movie stars.

 

Interstellar

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I like Christopher Nolan and there are some people that don’t like for whatever reasons they have. Which is fine since that’s the way the world works, but I do know some people out there don’t like him for the hell of it. Anyway, Interstellar probably isn’t the best Nolan film but it’s still a good one and visually it’s Nolan’s best. Even if you didn’t like the premise you have to at least appreciate the acting from Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, David Gyasi and the youngest and probably best actor of the film Mackenzie Foy.

 

Locke

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If you wanted to stare at Tom Hardy for eighty-five minutes as he drives a car, then Locke was the movie for you. Seriously, the whole movie takes places in a car on one night with Hardy talking to various characters over his phone. Hardy is compelling and gives one of his best performances of his career and one of the best his year. I know it doesn’t so like much but believe me, check this out when you get the chance.

 

Snowpiercer

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Most post-apocalyptic movies (good ones anyway) are usually bleak, dark and somewhat morbid. Joon-ho Bong first American film was all of those and with a great cast behind him of Chris Evans, Kang-ho Song, Tilda Swinton, Ah-sung Ko, and Jamie Bell, the film was great from start to finish.

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Wes Anderson is one of those directors not everyone gets, and I’ll admit I was one of them early on. However, I have quickly become a fan of his and his films, and The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of those films. I don’t think I laughed as hard as I did in theaters this year when watching this. It’s a great quirky film with laughs, mystery and romance.

 

The Imitation Game

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Based on the real life and accomplishment of English mathematician Alan Turing who cracked the Enigma code during WWII, The Imitation Game is a great drama with great performances by Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, and Rory Kinnear. But all of them are lead by Benedict Cumberbatch, who gives one of the best performances of the year and completely embodies the character so well that you really want to see him succeed and feel for him at the end.

 

The LEGO Movie

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Another movie that probably shouldn’t have worked, The LEGO Movie directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller managed to pull off a great movie based a huge product that literally has no story to it. The LEGO Movie has so many layers to it that every time I watch it I find something new to love. Everything is Awesome!

 

The Raid 2

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I didn’t think it would be possible for Gareth Evans to top what he did in the first The Raid, but wow, was I wrong. The Raid 2 might be one of the best action films of the year, if not the best. I know a lot of people were irked by how slow things moved, but looking at how all the things turned out, all that build up made the ending so satisfying

 

So what is on your list? What do you think of my list?

 

Happy New Year!

and here’s to another great year of movies

‘John Wick’ Review

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Dir: David Leitch and Chad Stahelski

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick and Ian McShane

Synopsis: An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him.

 

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review*

 

 

John Wick is one of those movies you would most likely not give a second look. The premise behind it is a tad wonky: An ex-hitman goes on a killing spree because they killed his dog. However, John Wick is a ton of fun and the action is so out there that you almost can’t help but enjoy yourself and have fun.

 

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John (Reeves) is mourning the death of his wife Helen (Moynahan) when he receives a puppy. The puppy, named Daisy, was her way for making sure John could cope with her loss. John looks like he’s doing okay until he goes out and ends up at a gas station where he encounters three gangster lead by Iosef (Allen). What seemed like just a minor annoyance becomes more when they break into his house, beat him up, kill the dog and steal his car. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst, to them, John Wick is a retired hitman who managed to get out of the life, but before he did, he was considered “the person you send to kill the Boogeyman.” Wick then comes out for one last job of revenge and will stop anyone who gets in his way. He then finds out that Iosef is the son of a kingpin that he use to work for in Viggo (Nyqvist).

 

The interesting thing about the movie is that is throws you into the criminal underground world. When Iosef steals Wick’s car he takes it to a chop-shop owned by John Leguizamo’s Aureilo, who immediately knows whose car is it, punches him and demands he leaves. When Aureilo gets a call from Viggo and asks for answers, he tells him what his son did and gets a reaction which borderlines funny, ridiculous, and serious. Wick never runs into anybody that isn’t a killer. He even stays at a hotel known as The Continental, which is run by Management, and is a safe haven/hotel for killers. There are also transactions done by gold coins. They have a code pretty much. This could also be a bit of a negative because when you see all of this, you kind of want to know more about this society, but we are left following John Wick killing people, which is okay.

 

Reeves could have gave Wick a wooden performance and taken the role to serious or even not serious enough. But Reeves gives a good range of emotions throughout the movie. Someone mentions that John looks vulnerable for the first time and Reeves actually gives us that. You do believe that John Wick was this most feared assassin by the way everyone treats him and takes him coming after Iosef seriously.

 

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Isoef (Alfie Allen) and Viggo (Michael Nyqvist)

 

The villains are rounded up by Michael Nyqvist’s Viggo, Adrianne Palicki’s Perkins, Daniel Bernhardt’s Kirill and Dean Winters’ Avi. Nyqvist is a no nonsense kind of guy and even punches his own son and calls him out when he finds out what he did. Winters doesn’t have a lot to do but give a couple comedic lines and be Viggo’s personal assistant. Bernhardt becomes Iosef’s protector and has some great fight sequences with John Wick. Palicki unfortunately is kind of forgettable, which is a shame because I do like her.

 

Willem Dafoe and Ian McShane pop up as old friends to John and are the last “members of the old guard.” But are only in the movie for short amount of times, but are still welcomed additions. Even Alfie Allen, who is the major reason why the events of the movie takes place disappears often and by the time he comes back you wish Wick would just kill him.

 

Of course, you’re not going to watch this movie for the acting. You’re going to watch this movie for the balls to the wall action. Well, you’re in luck because John Wick has that and then some. It’s appropriate because the movie is directed by stunt men David Leitch and Chad Staheiski, which shows during the action sequences because they are done so well and filled with combinations of martial arts and gun-play (or ‘Gun Fu’ as some call it) which leads to some brutal and some satisfying deaths.

 

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John Wick (Reeves) vs. Kirill (Daniel Bernhardt)

 

The action is great and you’re giving time to enjoy it. Killing for John is almost second nature. He makes kill after kill with extreme precious and doesn’t hesitate to kill anyone that has the great misgiving by being in front of him. One particular action sequence stands out to me and has a great combination of action choreography, background music, and cinematography. They care about the action and none of the fight scenes have shaky cam which action/fight fans will most likely appreciate. However, I will say the last shootout is a bit underwhelming, especially after the other scenes.

 

All in all, John Wick does have some missteps but overall is a hell of a ride. The story might not be sound or all there but the action sure as hell makes up for it.

 

John Wick

4.5 out of 5

"Yeah, I'm thinking I'm back!"

“Yeah, I’m thinking I’m back!”

October Movie Preview

I did this once at the beginning of the year a couple of years ago and at the time I didn’t know it was a mistake because movie change release dates all the time and the year wasn’t even finalized yet.  I intended on doing this every month, but of course I never did. Better late than never right?

The way this list will work is I’ll give you the full schedule, some buzz and my thoughts. But instead of telling you let me show you. I’ll also mainly be talking about nationwide releases, with a few limited releases. Also some of these limited releases will most likely get wider releases as the release date approaches. (Release dates are according to Box Office Mojo and IMDB)

 

3rd

Left Behind: The movie’s buzz is mostly because of the fact that it stars Nicholas Cage as a pilot with a small band of survivors, that include Chad Michael Murray, Lea Thompson, Nicky Whelan, Martin Klebba and Jordin Sparks, during the supposed Rapture. The trailer alone got people talking so maybe this has some chance. (It also happens to be based on a book that I didn’t know about).

Gone Girl: This probably has the most buzz of any film coming out this month. Based on the very popular and best-selling book of the same name by Gillian Flynn, the movie is being directed by the great David Fincher and is headlined by Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Scoot McNairy and more. The movie has some people talking because of the supposed final act change – although those rumors had died down since then – the film looks great nonetheless, so I can’t wait.

Annabelle: The horror movies so far this year have been a bit meh, and now that October has rolled around, they might begin to pull a little more weight. What better way to start it off with the prequel/spinoff of The Conjuring. The movie will follow the events following the Annabelle doll, which has a real spooky history, but also the events before the opening of The Conjuring. The trailer promises some scares and the same aesthetic from James Wan films (he is also producing the movie).

 

10th

The Devil’s Hand (limited): At first I thought this movie was going to get a wide release but after hearing nothing for a while and then the movie going through three title changes, I guess a limited release is the way to go. The cast includes; Rufus Sewell, Adelaide Kane, Jennifer Carpenter, Thomas McDonell, and Leah Pipes.  Synopsis: When young girls start to go missing within a religious cult, older followers fear a long-told prophecy while the younger members suspect abusive elders are killing them off.

Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead (limited): Dead Snow got some attention for its horror comedy mash-up that followed a group of friends out in the mountain trying to have fun before zombie Nazi’s coming back. The sequel will see those Nazi Zombies coming back to battle the survivor of the first movie and a group of rag-tag zombie killers.

Whiplash (limited): This has been getting a lot of attention out of the Toronto International Film Festival. The movie follows a young jazz musician played by Miles Teller who gets more than he bargained by asking for help from a drumming instructor played by J.K. Simmons. I can’t for it.

Addicted: I really feel like this is just a rehash of a movie that came out last year but can’t recall what it was called. I really don’t have anything to say considering this doesn’t peak my interest. Synopsis: A wife is tested when she cheats on her husband, and it threatens to ruin her and her family.

Kill the Messenger: Talk about a loaded cast; lead by Jeremy Renner, Michael Sheen, Andy Garica, Paz Vega, Rosemarie Dewitt, Richard Schiff, Tim Blake Nelson, Michael K. Williams, Barry Pepper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ray Liotta, Robert Patrick, and Oliver Platt. The movie is based on true story of reporter Gary Webb, who reports on exposing the CIA’s role in arming rebels in Nicaragua and importing cocaine into California. The trailer makes it looks like a great tense thriller.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: Based on a child’s book of the same name, the movie has the lead cast of Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, and Ed Oxenbould playing the lead character. The movie looks like a typical Disney family film, which isn’t a bad thing and actually looks better than I thought.

Dracula Untold: The movie has a crazy production story as it’s has gone through so many delays, different directors and actors in the lead that it was kind of a surprise when it finally got made. But now it’s here and Luke Evans will be portraying Vlad Tepes aka Vlad the Impaler and the man that, in this version, turns into the famous character Dracula. The movie looks okay and I’m a huge of Evans and can’t wait to see this take of the character.

The Judge: This one wasn’t on my radar because I didn’t really know anything about it, but with a cast of Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga and Billy Bob Thornton and a great looking trailer, I’m all for it.

 

17th

Men, Women, & Children (expansion): Yet another movie that had a lot of buzz out of the Toronto International Film Festival that follows “a look at the sexual frustrations that young teenager and adults face in today’s world.” I don’t know about the movie other than that and that it had good buzz. The cast stars Ansel Elgort, Kaitlyn Dever, Jennifer Garner, Adam Sandler, and Judy Greer.

The Town that Dreaded Sundown (limited): This is acting like a reboot/spiritual sequel in where the first movie apparently existed in the movie’s world and is now happening in real life. The first trailer came out and there have been some mixed reactions. I still don’t know how I feel.

The Best of Me: It’s a Nicholas Sparks movie. What else do you want me to say.

The Book of Life: Produced by Guillermo del Toro and taking it’s style off Mexico’s Day of the Dead art, the movie looks like a great fun movie. Visually it also looks beautiful.

Birdman: Directed by the impressive Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel and Biutiful), this looks absolutely crazy, but in a good way. This follows a struggling actor played by Michael Keaton, who played an iconic superhero called Birdman, trying to stay relevant. The rest of the cast includes Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan and Zach Galifianakis.

Fury: Another one I’m really excited for is David Ayer’s (Harsh Times, Street Kings, and End of Watch) WWII tank action drama that follows a crew at the tail end of the war. The movie stars Jon Bernthal, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, and is lead by Brad Pitt playing someone named Wardaddy. Yeah.

 

24th

St. Vincent (expansion): I really knew nothing about this until recently and follows a “young boy whose parents just divorced finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic, war veteran lives next door.” The movie stars Bill Murray, Naomi Watts, Melissa McCarthy, Terrence Howard and Chris O’Dowd.

White Bird in a Blizzard: Based on a book by Laura Kasischke, it stars Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Christopher Meloni, Thomas Jane, Gabourey Sidibe, and Angela Bassett. This is another movie I didn’t know anything about until I looked at the schedule but I don’t see myself watching this. The movie will follow a young girl whose mother disappears and her life gets thrown into chaos.

Ouija: Yes, it is a horror movie based on an Ouija board. The movie is trying to pull a story together about a group of friends that want to find out to their friend that just died. The movie doesn’t really look that good and it’s being produced by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes banner, ugh.

Laggies: I didn’t know anything about this until some good reviews came out of film festivals last year. The movie has Keira Knightley who hasn’t “grown up” and lies to her fiancé about going on a retreat but ends up hanging out with a high school student played by Chloe Grace Moretz. The movie also stars Sam Rockwell as Moretz’s father. The trailer made it look like a fun, charming, pseudo-coming of age movie.

John Wick: I was completely surprised by how pretty good this looked in the trailer. The movie has Keanu Reeves playing a former hit man who gets back in the business after some people take the last good thing from him, he gets back in the business and ends up killing a lot of people. The rest of the (impressive cast) has Adrianne Palicki, Willem Dafoe, Bridget Moynahan, Jason Isaacs, Alfie Allen, Lance Reddick, Michael Nyqvist and Ian McShane.

 

31st

ABCs of Death 2 (limited): 26 short horror movies directed by different directors. I hadn’t gotten around to watching all of the first movie.

Horns (limited): Based on the very popular book by Joe Hill of the same name, Daniel Radcliffe plays Ig Perrish who wakes up after his girlfriend mysteriously dies (played by Juno Temple) and starts to grow horns on his head. The movie has some descent buzz around it and with the book being pretty good, I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Before I Go to Sleep: Yet another movie I didn’t know about until I looked at the schedule but follows Nicole Kidman as a woman who wake up every day remembering nothing after an accident and then starts to remember things that makes her question everything. The movie also stars Colin Firth and Mark Strong.

Nightcrawler: This has been getting a ton of buzz recently and some are saying that Jake Gyllenhaal might get nominated for an Oscar and that’s it’s one of his best performances in his career. The movie follows Gyllenhaal’s character as he delves into the criminal underground of L.A. The movie looks great and also stars Bill Paxton and Rene Russo.

 

So what movie or movies are you looking forward to in October?