Double Feature: John Wick (2014) & Kumiko the Treasure Hunter (2014)

And we’re ramping up on some of these double features. I’m trying to boost up some of the movie reviews especially since I’m trying to catch up on a lot of movies available on Shudder before I take a little break from subscribing to their streaming service. I do love their selection and they constantly are coming up with movies from Fantasia in the past few years that I had to miss due to scheduling conflict. Regardless, I’m going to try my absolute best to get through as many as possible.

I promise you that I never plan these things out so well but hey, apparently, I landed on a 2014 double feature. Why not, right? So, first one is catching up on John Wick, which everyone has been telling me to especially since its been a bumpy road for my Keanu Reeves love that has definitely faded quite a bit in the recent years, especially with the horrible Knock Knock that I wanted to roll under my car a few times if I had an actual physical copy of it. I heard John Wick is fantastic and it feels like its more in the Keanu Reeves element so I’m looking forward to it. Then its time to start the Shudder trek and go for a treasure hunt adventure in Kumiko The Treasure Hunter. It seems from what I’ve seen, its not exactly horror so I’m not sure why its in Shudder but hey, its been on my to-watch list for quite some time so I’m expecting some incredibly slow-paced indie film style. To be honest, I have no idea what to expect but it has this odd yet intriguing thing about it.

Without further ado, lets just jump right in!

John Wick (2014)

John Wick

Director: Chad Stahelski

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

An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that killed his dog and took everything from him. – IMDB

John Wick is one of those movies that I sit down and right away its obvious that its going to be a fun little ride to the end. Keanu Reeves has had a few down moments but this is definitely one of those great moments that I loved him for. Him as John Wick is truly in his own element. Its a simple story about revenge and it was about John Wick’s loss and while it felt like it wasn’t a big deal to others, he lost everything that was worthwhile.

Its one of those films that build on its character gradually. When the movie started, it was just about this tired man who lost his wife and then gets broken into and steals his car and killed his dog. But as we pan into these other characters, we learn more and more about John Wick. First that he is a person to be feared and then how he got that title and finally, it gradually through the many scenes showed up his true focus and competency. Its builds and paces itself well. It didn’t need a lot of dialogue and fit the story perfectly because sometimes being about to see what is unsaid is a truly great performance in itself.

john wick

The characters whether it was the longer staying ones or the cameos all were memorable characters. Michael Nyqvist was great as the bad guy here taking his role to a fantastic new level that made him very fun to watch as well. Unfortunately, I did miss that he had passed away last year but learned about while researching the film a little further. He had done some great roles and this one included. John Leguizamo had a cameo role and I like that guy a lot ever since I saw him in Moulin Rouge. He has such a stand-out presence.

john wick

Overall, John Wick was a fun and thrilling ride from start to finish full of action and one liners and great performances through and through. The story was never too complicated and that fitted in exactly the focused character that John Wick was portrayed as while showing off how incredibly fantastic he was as a hitman. The soundtrack also was so awesome, accentuating every action scene.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2014)

Kumiko the Treasure Hunter

Director (and co-writer): David Zellner

Cast: Rinko Kikuchi, David Zellner, Shirley Venard

A jaded Japanese woman discovers a hidden copy of Fargo (1996) on VHS, believing it to be a treasure map indicating the location of a large case of money. – IMDB

Right off the bat, lets just say that Kumiko the Treasure Hunter is definitely an indie film experience. Its fairly slow paced and honestly not a whole lot happens. We follow around this oddly introvert Japanese woman who believes in the based on a true story Fargo’s hidden treasure to fill her life goal to find it. Is it a journey to find meaning in her life? Theres something deeper in this story that pulls me in but yet, it feels like theres not a whole lot going for it because it feels empty and then maybe that is what Kumiko feels as her emotions are more connected to her pet bunny Bunzo than even her own mother. However, the story itself is quite unique and surprisingly, the more I think about it, I feel like there may be more to discover. Writing it up now, the intriguing elements of this story is in Rinko Kikuchi’s performance no matter how little she says, her actions and her expressions define her character and keeps us wondering what she will do next as he focuses on getting to her treasure.

Kumiko the Treasure Hunter

I can’t say I am a huge fan of the movie or that I get whats going on completely and maybe it merits a second viewing. While I acknowledge the great performance of Rinko Kikuchi and the uniqueness of centering a story on someone actually believing the based on true story movies that general movie viewers (myself included) may have become skeptical to, Kumiko the Treasure Hunter has some good moments and some well shot scenes but its definitely not for everyone. It requires a lot of patience to get through, but if you enjoyed A Ghost Story, this one might be right up your alley in terms of pacing at least. A bit of mixed feelings towards this one for myself.

Thats it for this 2014 double feature. A contrast in so many ways.
The first is action packed and the second is slow paced execution.
Have you seen these two yet?

Europa Report (2013)

To some longer movie bloggers, you will probably remember Chris @ Film Hipster.  Sadly, he isn’t in our blogosphere anymore but before he left, I remember him being one of the first and few to review this movie, Europa Report and giving it a decent rating.  Now, I have a bad memory but that was why when I saw this on sale in Plattsburgh, I snatched it off the shelf.  A few weeks later, here I am, having watched this and pondered a little on what to write.

Lets check, shall we?

europa report posterDirector: Sebastian Cordero

Cast: Daniel Wu, Sharlton Copley, Christian Camargo, Karolina Wydra, Michael Nyqvist, Anamaria Marinca, Embeth  Davidtz

William Xu (Daniel Wu), James Corrigan (Sharlton Copley), Dr. Daniel Luxembourg (Christian Camargo), Dr. Katya Petronova (Karolina Wydra), Andrei Blok (Michael Nyqvist) and Rosa Dasque (Anamaria Marinca) are some of the best astronauts from around the world and they are all commissioned to complete a privately funded mission to explore Europa, one of the Jupiter’s moon.  Their assignment is to extract sample and document whether there is life form there as they documented the existence of a vast amount of water under the icy surface.

Europa Report

I’m just going to keep the synopsis brief because in the end, this is a sci-fi thriller in its rawest form.  Its shot to be something like a documentary on the space crews ventures there: what happened and what they found. If I told you more, it’d just be pure spoilers and that would ruin the fun.

With that said, Europa Report is my kind of thriller (maybe its yours also).  The slow-burning type.  In the nothing happening, I felt something happening or just something that could happen in the unknown causing the feeling of uneasiness. Europa is unknown territory and as much as I loved space when I was very young some time in elementary school, I’m not very knowledgeable about these things anymore.  The scientists use big words and the visuals look authentic to those you would see in space magazines.  Fact is, I watched a bit of the special features afterwards and they did extract pictures from actual satellite shots of that area.  In general, space is a captivating topic.  We can see that with the success of Gravity.  This is obviously not as visually stunning as that but it has its only type of beauty to watch.

europa report 4

A lot of how the movie is featured is with its various cameras set on the spaceship.  All these cameras give us a perspective of their down times in their living quarters to up to the cockpit.  Thats the admirable part of this because we can capture a good idea of the set up of every angle of the spaceship and how everything works within the beginning part.  Thats important when the issues (which you know they will have) occurs eventually and they have to move about.  They also use close-up shots when the crew is sitting near the camera working to capture their reactions.  I feel that gives it a kind of familiarity and bond with the crew as they try to not only get through this mission but maybe prove something amazing in the process. The cameras emphasize on the limited space they have and the unknown outside as they approach Europa and this adds on the tension.

Cam E

Most of the actors aren’t very known to me but there are two familiar faces I’d like to point out.  One is Michael Nyqvist who played in MI:Ghost Protocol as the bad guy or you may know him from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as the journalist in the original Swedish one. As Andrei, he is a bit weird and is in his own territory where he just engineers and plays with this and that. The other actor is one of my faves in Hong Kong film industry is Daniel Wu.  To see him totally exercising that perfect English of his in an international movie makes me very proud, plus I have total faith in his acting.  Everyone has their part in the movie, even the supervisor (I think) of the mission sitting back on Earth played by Embeth Davidtz as she hears the updates from headquarters and recounts the events of this mission just like you would in a documentary.

europa report 2

There really isn’t much else to say.  Overall, Europa Report is a pretty awesome sci-fi thriller. It uses confined spaces in an spaceship and a mission into the unknown to search for possibility of lifeforms. Its six brave people who chose to face some problems and survive.  It may be slow but it builds up the tension very well.  The use of cameras observing the crew’s movement we experience the mission as if it actually happened. This one has just got a lot of style and I totally love it. And it has one of the best endings that I’ve ever seen. I don’t say that very often for a movie because most movies just mess up with a lazy ending but man, this one was a *GASP* moment.  If you are into this sort of movie, sci-fi/thriller/slow-burning, this might be a very good choice for you 🙂

Have you seen Europa Report? What did you think of it? Are you a fan of sci-fi/thriller?