Keanu Reeves has always been a bit of a whipping boy because people associated him with the spaced out-role he played in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, but what everyone seems to forget is how awesome that flick was, in part because Reeves was able to re-invent that Jeff Spicoli archetype.
Then when you consider films like Point Break, Parenthood, My Own Private Idaho and The Matrix suddenly Keanu Reeves is some kind of cultural icon.
Admittedly Keanu has made some shit films (here's looking at you Feeling Minnesota) and has five nominations (but no wins) for "worst actor" at the notorious Golden Raspberry Awards. But the "duuude" we love to hate is back in fine form this week in John Wick, a thrilling, stunt-ridden actioner opening at the Whistler Village 8.
Keanu stars as the titular Wick, a just-don't-light-the-fuse retired assassin goaded back into the waters of unrelenting vengeance after someone kills his dog. And that's about as much story as you need, the half dozen epic action set pieces do the rest of the work. And Keanu is perfect for the role. He still has those Neo moves, and that cold detachment many people criticize him for actually works perfect for a killing machine unleashed in a world of corruption and evil. This time it's personal and John Wick knows it, that's part of the fun.
John Wick is directed and produced by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, journeyman stunt experts who have worked on some of the biggest action films of the last two decades (including The Matrix, 300 and Fight Club). Apparently they've been soaking in all that a-list expertise because John Wick has terrific pacing and the filmmakers manage to put fresh spins on old action conventions (the car chase shootout is bonkers). Plus, the fight choreography here is easily the best of the year — John Wick is an explosion of badassery and well worth checking out.
Also opening, Ouija — a horror so B-Grade its official website is a Facebook page (albeit one with over 1.1 million "likes"). There were no pre-screenings of this one but it looks to be about exactly what you think it is — a girl starts dicking around with a Ouija board and dies, so her friends wisely decide to start dicking around with the same board. It's dumb but it works because who didn't do that when they were kids!?? It could have been us!
Or at least that is what the filmmakers are hoping you'll think. The Ouija board (a.k.a. talking board or spirit board) concept has been around since about 1100 AD and the official Ouija children's game was patented in 1890. Long decried by scientists as a hoax, one has to wonder if after over all those decades (centuries) of acting as a conduit to the spirit world, real or imagined, the Ouija might just have manifested itself some actual power. Shit, I heard Mark Twain's spirit even dictated a novel through the Ouija board in 1917.
In the movies, however, proof of the Ouija's unholiness is proven time and time again. Even The Exorcist had an Ouija board — young Regan uses it to talk to "Captain Howdy" and the board is the means with which the devil enters her soul.
And 1983's Amityville 3-D utilizes the poor-man's Ouija (an upside down glass on a handmade board) and in 1986 an entire trilogy dedicated to channeling evil through a children's toy began with Witchboard. The first (and best) of that franchise even stars Tawny Kitaen!
If you know who that is it means you're old but Witchboard is on Youtube and it's the Download of the week. Sorority House Massacre 2: Nighty Nightmare also features an Ouija so you better find that too, because it's horror season in Whistler and all the usual suspects will be out en masse for Heavy Hitting HorrorFest on October 30 at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.
See you there, if you live that long.