Episode 46! Stu and Billy are back at the flicks this week as they watch the highly anticipated John Wick: Chapter 2!

Directed by Chad Stahelski (John Wick), John Wick: Chapter 2 is the sequel John Wick and is set a few days after the first film.


After tracking down his stolen 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 retired super-assassin John Wick is asked to repay a past favour by Italian Gangster Santino D'Antonio.

Having no choice but to accept the assignment, Wick reluctantly travel to Rome to take out D'Antonio's sister, the ruthless capo atop the Italian Camorra crime syndicate. 

The film stars Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Common, Ruby Rose, Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Claudia Gerini and many others.


We do provide a spoiler warning when we start to go into a more in depth analysis of the film.

As well as the films, Stu and I discuss what else we've been watching this week, and look over the latest in movie news.

As always it would make our day if you could take a couple of minutes to rate and reviews us on iTunes or drop us some feedback below! Really keen to have your input in the show.

Enjoy!





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Alright, everyone settle down, John Wick: Chapter 2 is worth the wait. My non spoiler reaction is 🔫🔪💥💀💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💀💀💀💀💀💀💥💀💥💀💥💀💥💥💀💀💥💥💥💀💀💀💀💥💀💥💀💥💥💥💥💥💀💥💥💀💥💀💥💀💥💀💥💀💥🔫💀💀🔫🔫🔫🔫🔫🔫🔫💀💀💀💀💀💥💀💥💀💥💥💥💥💀💀💥💥💀🔪🔪💥💀💀🔪😔😍  7/10. Wanna know more? Feel free to read on, but it will contain spoilers.

John Wick: Chapter 2 expands upon the established world of the original film and nicely hints at bigger & badder things to come. As sequels go, it ticks plenty of boxes but falls into a few sophomore pitfalls. In many ways I liken the John Wick franchise to Gareth Evan’s The Raid series; both employ tonnes and tonnes and I dare say tonnes of gratuitous gun-fu/hand-to hand combat, which hey I happen to love, but does tire after a while. With a few niggling gripes that I'll expand upon later, I can happily recommend you get out to catch John Wick: Chapter 2 on the biggest screen available and with the rowdiest of crowds.

Following the revenge-laced antics of the first film, John Wick is in hot pursuit of the item which
started this whole damn mess: his car. After dispatching countless goons, a rather battered and bruised John finally goes home to restart his retirement. But not so fast Mr Wick. Evil comes a knocking in the form of Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio). John is given an ‘offer he can't refuse’ but since the plot dictates John needs to be in constant peril, he refuses. D’Antonino rather irrationally blows up John’s house and voila! John is back, again.

Whereas the action in John Wick felt spontaneous and intense, Chapter 2 tended to drag on a wee bit too long, as if the filmmakers were simply feeding us what they thought we craved. The problem being, the baddies have all the menacing presence of paper shooting-range targets. This ultimately impacts the action, since it feels like John Wick is merely walking along, popping a string of stunt men as they get their cue to engage him. 

One of the highlights of the first film was how it portrayed the assassins’ underground community. I loved the rules and regulations which governed their society. Chapter 2 cleverly delves deeper into this world. We get to see the services which are at John’s disposal, everything from tactical-wear tailors to weaponry-themed sommeliers. We also get to see a vast network of international Assassins at work; yes at times it bordered on the ridiculous, but it worked for me.

Performance wise, Keanu easily slips back into the ‘hitman with a heart of gold’ suit he wears so well. Honestly though it's hard to see where Keanu finishes and John Wick begins. Ian McShane and Lance Reddick reprise their roles and yet again are criminally underused. These films would benefit greatly from these guys being let off the chain more often. Australia's Ruby Rose is an interesting addition to the cast as the mute assassin, Ares. Again since this film is mostly concerned with seeing John Wick fight people, I would've liked to see Rose in more action. More time was frustratingly spent showing off her sign language skills rather than her proficiency with a gun. Laurence Fishburne entertainingly heads an assassins guild made up of homeless persons. It's kind of fun to see Neo being reunited with Morpheus, even though their interactions are all too brief.

I would trade half the gun fights in here for a few more emotionally resonant scenes and/or a few scenes which actually went about developing anyone's character, John Wick in particular. It's been two films now and I still don't know much about this bloke, but I feel as though we're meant to know and love him. 

So should you see it? Yes, but I enjoyed the first one more. The film ends on promise of some gonzo things on the horizon for Mr Wick, which here's hoping we won't have to wait too long for.

As always if you've seen the film an agree or disagree with my thoughts feel free to sound off in the comments below.

7 out of 10

- Stu




Episode 45! Stu and Billy are out in the far reaches of space this week as they watch Alien: Covenant!

Directed by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien, Kingdom of Heaven), Alien: Covenant is a sequel to to the 2012 film Prometheus and the second instalment in the Alien prequel series. It is also the sixth film in the overall Alien film franchise.


Set in 2104, the crew of the colony ship Covenant is bound for a remote planet Origae-6 with two thousand colonists and a thousand embryos aboard. 

The crew of the ship are awakened by an energy surge in space and discover via a mysterious signal what they think to be an uncharted paradise planet. The mysterious world soon turns dark when a hostile alien life-form forces the crew into a fight for survival.

The film stars Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, Billy Crudup, Demian Bichir, Jussie, Smollett, Carmen Ejogo, and many others.

We do provide a spoiler warning when we start to go into a more in depth analysis of the film.

As well as the films, Stu and I discuss what else we've been watching this week, and look over the latest in movie news.

As always it would make our day if you could take a couple of minutes to rate and reviews us on iTunes or drop us some feedback below! Really keen to have your input in the show.

Enjoy!





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To celebrate the fact John Wick: Chapter 2 is hitting cinemas on May 18, we're giving you the chance to win 1 of 5 double passes. How do you win one? Good question and thank you for asking, simply head over to our Facebook Page RIGHT HERE and find the John Wick: Chapter 2 giveaway post. So simple!

In this high-octane sequel to the 2014 hit, legendary super-assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is forced back out of retirement by a former associate plotting to seize control of a shadowy Italian assassins’ guild. Bound by a blood oath to help him, John travels to Rome where he squares off against some of the world’s deadliest killers in an adrenaline-fueled thrill ride that takes the non-stop action of the original to a whole new level.

Also starring Ruby Rose, Common, Laurence Fishburne and Ian McShane, JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 hits cinemas May 18.





The Dark Tower - dir Nikolaj Arcel 



Marvel's The Defenders



The Big Sick - dir Michael Showalter



It Comes at Night - dir Trey Edward Shults



47 Meters Down - dir Johannes Roberts



Masters of None Season 2

If I ever needed a game that was wholesome, friendly and cute, Tarsier Studios would be one of my first ports of call. The Swedish developer has since moved from their colourful days as the custodians of the family-friendly festivals of Little Big Planet and Tearaway Unfolded, and is now intent on giving us arresting anxiety in Little Nightmares, a wordless story about a little girl in a yellow raincoat who moves through the bowels of a seaborne den of horror and gluttony, drawing on some of the most primal and deep-rooted fears dredged direct from my childhood.

Needless to say, this is something of a gear change.


I actually don't want to give much away of the story beyond that little snippet above, since part of the game's engrossing quality is figuring out the story for yourself. You play as a raincoat-clad girl named Six, who wakes up in a suitcase aboard a mammoth waterborne boat/submersible thing called The Maw. Making her way through the bowels of a bad dream birthed from the combined efforts of Hieronymous Bosch and a Shaun Tan picture book, Six begins to understand the purpose of The Maw and its grisly, comically hideous inhabitants. Escape will only come if she can invade said inhabitants, and discover the true nature behind a mysterious, tall woman called The Lady.


Granted, most of the above - particularly the names of things, like Six and The Maw - comes from the paratext of Little Nightmares, since the game itself is a wordless odyssey. You glean enough of the story from the visual details and the richly-designed soundscape, although there's plenty more information to be found outside the game itself. That would seem to sate both those who are after a somewhat more detailed picture of the world they're in, and those who just want to be a little raincoat girl running from nightmarishly obese chefs in a real Hell's Kitchen.


The gameplay is remarkably simple, even if it at times strays into irritating in its reliance on physics. Technically Little Nightmares is a side-scrolling platform/stealth hybrid, but the game allows you to move on a 3D-plane. This means all kinds of fun can happen when finding places to evade an enemy who's charging at you, but it makes for double the amount of frustration when you fiddle with the controls to keep Six squarely on the path of a ceiling beam or other narrow path above a steep drop into death. The game may be generous with exactly how far you need to fall for it to be an instant kill - it's rare that a drop from the beam will kill you outright, just stun you for a moment - but it's still an annoyance to have to get back up to those narrow spots each time you fall through. The brevity of certain checkpoints adds a factor of repetition to that goal, so if you die in the kitchen by falling from the beam above the chef's cookpot, you'll become intimately familiar with the path back up via a conveniently placed set of shelves.


But aside from that, Little Nightmares controls solidly. You can run, you can sneak, and you can grab things. It puts the game in a somewhat survival horror area for some of its content - compounded by the harrowing escapes from multiple giant enemies, against whom your only defence is to beat feet,  peppered throughout the game - and really emphasises the best part of the narrative: atmosphere. When it comes to the creation of an eldritch-yet-familiar landscape and a host of horrific inhabitants, coupled with some dark ambient music stings and superlative environmental sound design, Little Nightmares is a vacuum which will suck you in and refuse to let go. Play this one with some big headphones and turn the lights off.


That reliance on atmosphere as its key strength also means the game is quite brief, lest it overstay its welcome and become stale. Thankfully it didn't, though I'd be lying if I said I wasn't surprised by where and how the game chose to end since it was after a particularly harrowing encounter. It also leaves the ultimate message of the game - laced throughout in themes of greed and childhood terror and represented masterfully by the exaggerated design of the enemies - somewhat ambiguous, less a clear picture and more a Rorschach test for players to divine their own conclusion. In that regard, Little Nightmares at least deserves kudos for having the gumption to end the way it does, and leave things almost entirely up to you.


When it comes to me, I loved the hell out of Little Nightmares. The game makes me think of Limbo hybridised with Coraline, a remarkably engaging and audiovisually delicious sojourn through childlike horror and the unspeakable depths of monstrous greed. A playthrough will be worth the bad dreams that follow.

- Chris

Little Nightmares is out now for Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC.

Review copy kindly supplied to Geek of Oz by Bandai Namco Entertainment.

While Get Out doesn't get its official Australian release until May 4; it managed to remain at number one for the second month in a row. Surprisingly John Wick: Chapter 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 both failed to crack my top 10. Trust me, I'm more shocked than you are. Rachel Weisz's Denial has crept into tenth place at the expense of The Lego Batman Movie.

As always I'd love to hear your thoughts on my list. Feel free to check out my lists for January, February and March.

If you agree or disagree sound off in the comments below.

- Stu

Top 10 for April:

1. Get Out
2. Moonlight
3. Land of Mine
4. Loving
5. The Salesman
6. Jackie
7. A Man Called Ove
8. Colossal
9. Edge of Seventeen
10. Denial 


Films watched:

Zach's Ceremony
Chips
The Lego Batman Movie
The Country Doctor
The Boss Baby 
John Wick: Chapter 2 
The Fate of the Furious 
Denial 
Going In Style
Raw
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
The Osiris Child Science Fiction Vol 1
Free Fire




As this review is a First Impressions of a game that is still in development, there will be no */10 Geeks score at the end. Any aspects of the game discussed here are subject to change in the final version.

---

When I recently interviewed Katsuhiro Harada*, executive producer and franchise custodian of the Tekken series and co-director of Tekken 7, I asked him what he thought about the impact Tekken's legacy has had, and will continue to have, on the fighting game genre. Both he and his interpreter, game designer Michael Murray, were a bit thrown; apparently, nobody had ever asked them such a thoughtful question.

If no-one was asking that then, they'd have to be asking it now. With the impending release of Tekken 7 and the end of a saga that has spanned more than two decades of gaming history, "legacy" is the word of the day.


The plot, which is surprisingly accessible for those who may not have gone through the previous games, concerns consternation between three scions of the Mishima clan: Heihachi, patriarch and owner of the world's best hairdo; Kazuya, son of Heihachi and owner of the world's best eyebrows; and Jun, son of Kazuya and owner of the world's best shoulder tattoo (his hair is still kind of impressive, though). The three men battle it out for control of the Mishima Zaibatsu, one of the two global megacorps vying for world domination. Along the way, characters from previous games - and a bunch of new faces, too - assemble following the announcement of another King of Iron Fist tournament, an event which is sure to not ruffle any feathers, cause any problems or bring back any long-held grudges between competitors whatsoever.


Tekken 7 is to be commended, first of all, for its much greater focus on story this time around. The Saga of the Mishima clan has been around since the first game back in 1994, but it now feels like a much more fundamental element of the game. This may be to the detriment of some supporting players who, while still having compelling backstories and narrative strands of their own, are largely subsumed as cogs in the greater machine of the Mishima story, but the effort the game has gone to in order to make its narrative so prominent and engaging is laudable. Granted, some aspects of that narrative are overwhelmingly goofy almost to the point of camp, but it's still the most centered Tekken has felt in quite a long time.


Going along with the refreshingly accessible plot is the equally accessible fighting gameplay. Tekken wouldn't be Tekken without a cast of colourful characters knocking each other around like each insulted the other's mother, utilsing a host of complicated combos and drawing on demonic/magic/technological energy, where applicable, to kill each other. In both the Story and Arcade modes - as well as some other gameplay modes that haven't yet been announced - Tekken 7 delivers some of the smoothest gameplay I've ever had in a fighting game, button presses feeling much more smooth and requiring fewer finger gymnastics to reliably pull off. The game does present the danger of repetitive gameplay through allowing the player to become confident with one or two go-to button combos - for example, my playthrough with Heihachi usually relied on two-button prompts which resulted in either a lightning fist uppercut or what can only be described as the most skull-crushing noogie ever inflicted - but those desiring a challenge have a host of other moves they can choose to master.


Since its release in Japan back in 2015, Tekken 7 has also obviously had time to refine and polish all its bells and whistles. Visuals are electric and gorgeous, and moves are pulled off with somewhat believable physics, when magic powers or teleporting alien cyborg ninjas aren't involved. Sound and voice acting are pretty great, with the former making every bone-crunching kick, punch and skull-crush noogie feel impactful, and the latter...well, actually, the voice acting isn't that great. The English vocals sound particularly unenthusiastic, but it is interesting to see all characters communicating to each other in their respective languages without the need for translation between them (and on that note, Heihachi's Japanese voice actor sounds like he's having the best time devouring the scenery of every scene he's in).


I'm certainly keen to see the final product of Tekken 7; this is the first time since probably Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 that I've been stoked for a fighting game. As both an ending to a grand saga, and the culmination of a story which started back when I first started out with my PS1 as a youngling, there's a definite sense of full circle all around. Mind you, that full circle might just as well be the roundhouse kick I delivered to Yoshimitsu's face.

- Chris


Tekken 7 is set to release for Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC on June 2.

Geek of Oz would like to thank Bandai Namco for allowing us to have a hands-on look at the demo.

* Look for my full video interview with Harada and Murray next Friday, May 5.


Episode 44! Stu and Billy are back this week with a double feature discussing both Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 and Free Fire!

Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the adventures of the ragtag space faring heroes as they try to unravel the mystery surrounding Peter Quill's true parentage in the outer reaches of the galaxy.


James Gunn (Guardians of The Galaxy, Super, Slither) returns, as does Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, and Karen Gillan.

New to the series are Elizabeth Debicki as Ayesha, Sylvester Stallone as Starhawk, and Kurt Russell as Ego.

Free Fire is an action-comedy film directed by Ben Wheatley, set around a Gun Deal gone wrong in an abandoned warehouse.

The film stars Sharlto Copley, Armi Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor, Babou Ceesay, Enzo Cilenti, Sam Riley, Michael Smiley, Noah Taylor, Patrick Bergin, Rom Davis, and Mark Monero.

As well as the films, Stu and I discuss what else we've been watching this week, and look over the latest in movie news.

As always it would make our day if you could take a couple of minutes to rate and reviews us on iTunes or drop us some feedback below! Really keen to have your input in the show.

Enjoy!





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"But it was so artistically done."

Thrawn starts with a rewrite of Mist Encounter, the short story Timothy Zahn wrote in the 90s. The original story served as the chronological introduction of the titular Grand Admiral that he first wrote about in Heir to the Empire, a few years prior. After being exiled from the Chiss Ascendancy and ending up on a backwater jungle world, Thrawn stows away on an Imperial ship after the crew investigate the planet. Impressed by Thrawn's survival skills and silver tongue - the latter feat made more impressive by his inability to fluently speak their language - the Imperials bring him to the Emperor, who immediately sets both him and another nascent Imperial officer, Eli Vanto, on the path to military success. Unwillingly saddled with Thrawn as his translator, Vanto supports the blue-skinned, red-eyed tactical genius as he swiftly climbs the ladder of the Empire's military.

At the same time, on the planet Lothal, a young woman named Arihnda Pryce is forced to watch her family's mining company be subsumed by the Empire's control. Getting herself a job with an Imperial Senator directly involved in taking the company away, Pryce quietly swears revenge as she advances across Coruscant's political landscape. Along the way, she makes it clear that those who seek to turn her into a pawn will meet a swift end. To get what she wants, she'll need the help of a certain prodigious, blue-skinned Imperial officer.

Sound like interesting premises for our three main characters? Sure. But, like a set of prisoners who fall victim to a blunt guillotine, they're not executed very well.

Let me make it clear right now: although it's one of my favourite pieces of the old Star Wars Expanded Universe, the Thrawn trilogy is not a sacred cow. Its imperfections pale when compared to its triumphs, and the character of Mitth'raw'nuruodo - better known as Grand Admiral Thrawn - still remains one of the best things to come out of those initial post-Return of the Jedi days. But the trilogy  has its problems, up to and including the fact that Thrawn was so masterful and skilled a bad guy that the only way he could be defeated was through a near-literal deus ex machina on the part of author Timothy Zahn.

So, in theory, I've got nothing against the idea of Disney having a do-over to reintroduce the novels' most legendary antagonist, and getting Zahn back onboard to do the deed is icing on the cake. The new Thrawn novel had all the pieces on the board to be an instant classic, a full-strength, double-barrel blast. Unfortunately, despite a few moments of colour and sound, what it became was largely something of a quiet misfire.

One of Thrawn's biggest issues is how detached one feels from its protagonists. Thrawn is a genius on the same level as Sherlock Holmes or the Doctor, intentionally unknowable and unrelatable because of his brilliance. Part of the enjoyment in past books of Thrawn the character comes from witnessing other characters we can relate to be dazzled by his tactical mastery and lateral thinking, analysing enemies through their body language or sizing up cultures based on their art and history. By contrast, Thrawn the novel gives us glimpses inside his head for the first time, which usually come in the form of present-tense analyses of the body language of whomever he's speaking to as he searches for weaknesses. It's interesting in the same way that the analytical scenes in Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes films are - you know, where time slows and Holmes calculates his options in the space of a second, like the opening scene where he's fighting a guy - but after the first few chapters that are dominated by this storytelling device, it gets old. The literal description of scenes or a character's physical movements, intended to show Thrawn analysing his opponent, works well in a visual medium, but comes across as dryly recitative (and, eventually, repetitive) in text.

Pryce and Vanto are even less interesting as point of view characters. For the former, I admit that I didn't realise she was a major character on Star Wars: Rebels who works closely with Thrawn, but honestly, that knowledge didn't make her any less of a dull protagonist. For the longest time, until she grows a spine and starts actively manipulating those who seek the manipulate her, Pryce is a cipher with very little in the way of characterisation beyond "pissed-off, vengeance-seeking woman in politics". I'm not engaging with her struggle against the jerks who took her family's company, not even in the somewhat cathartic "pay evil unto evil" way that other Star Wars villain-centred stories - such as the Darth Vader comic book series - do well. Vanto isn't much better, though at least his plot about being denied advancement within the Imperial ranks because of his association with Thrawn adds a nice dollop of tension between the mastermind and his aide.

As much as I understand why Zahn might not have wanted to entirely replicate verbatim everything that made his original Thrawn stories so successful, lest it be seen merely as a carbon copy, one thing he initially got right, and which Thrawn got wrong, was the inclusion of Gilad Pellaeon. Introduced in Heir to the Empire as Thrawn's second-in-command and one of the more reasonable officers of the Empire, Pellaeon was the Watson to Thrawn's Holmes, our view into the inner workings of Thrawn's mind and a more grounded, relatable and three-dimensional aide to the Grand Admiral; a sounding board for Thrawn's complex thinking and a more rationally-minded moral compass for Thrawn's coldly pragmatic mindset. Though the character was used in other areas of the Star Wars Expanded Universe after Zahn's work, Pellaeon was at his best when paired with Thrawn, and vice versa. To not have him in the Thrawn novel is a rather large missed opportunity.

The issues with the characters are compounded further by the underlying plot and ostensible villain not being very interesting. The book pits Thrawn, Pryce and Vanto against a criminal organisation run by the elusive Nightswan. The seemingly disparate crises which Thrawn has to resolve in the lead-up to his promotion to Grand Admiral turn out to all be connected to this Nightswan and their operation; the payoff to this plot was as anticlimactic as the similar battle of wits between Thrawn and Nuso Esva in Choices of One. Nightswan is depicted as a foe matching Thrawn's intellect, but - as with Nuso Esva - I never got the impression they were Thrawn's equal in anything (although it did lead to a very quiet, effective scene in a meadow, a sentence I never thought I'd write in association with a story about a blue-skinned alien commanding gigantic space battles).

For all my griping, though, I have to admit that Thrawn is a markedly different book to the ones we've gotten so far in the Disney canon. The intense focus on Thrawn as an antagonist and the alternative writing style that Zahn employs are draw cards for those who are tired by some of the recent samey, uninspired Star Wars tales, like Catalyst or Heir to the Jedi. It's also to Zahn's credit that he's written a backstory for Thrawn which could, with a bit of wiggling, slot in neatly within the old canon; despite the rewrite of Mist Encounter and both the lack and addition of a few notable characters, Thrawn could easily serve as a prelude to Heir to the Empire. At the very least, I certainly expect any new fans who aren't already familiar with Thrawn as a character will get a kick out of reading about the deadly, intelligent Grand Admiral who can stand alongside the likes of Darth Vader as an iconic Star Wars antagonist.

For me, Thrawn just didn't meet the expectations I had, failing to be anything more than a competent, occasionally engaging novel. Maybe I'm somewhat coloured by my high opinion of Zahn's pre-Disney work with the character, and perhaps the bar is set insurmountably high as a result. Or maybe it just wasn't so artistically done this time around.

- Chris




Star Wars: Thrawn is available in bookstores now.