Lego’s second has less charm, Paterson enthralls and John Wick just goes on shooting

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JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2: Ready for more gun porn, as I called it about the first film three years ago? Be assured, you’ll get it. The deaths in this one tally up to 141. That’s 57 more than back them. Mind you it’s not hard to achieve that if the bad guys couldn’t hit the side of a barn if they were inside but insist on running at you in hallways and alleys like willing targets. The film’s attempt to insert some ethical thinking, a code of conduct among assassins if you will, doesn’t overcome the real lure of this spectacle, the incessant gunplay.

The story picks up minutes after the first film. Killers are still coming after the  former assassin John Wick (a crusty Keanu Reeves). An Italian hood (Riccardo Scamarcio) pressures him into getting back into the trade, shown here like a well-run business, and do a job in Rome. He can’t refuse; apparently that’s the ethos of the profession. There’s also of course a message implied when his house is burned down and so he goes. There are gun battles in ancient ruins, thrilling car chases and a continuing dispute and a monumental battle with a rival (played by the rapper Common). That’s all expertly staged by stuntman-turned-director Chad Stahelski. I just wonder though if these guys ever consider how this kind of playful violence spreads and legitimizes the gun culture in real life. Probably not. Another sequel looks likely.  (5th Avenue, Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 3 out of 5

THE OSCAR SHORTS: Thanks you, whoever. Once again we can watch the Academy Award nominees in the short categories. There are, as always some gems in here.

ANIMATED SHORTS: The Pixar film Piper, directed by a Canadian, is amazingly cute about a young bird’s wary play in the ocean waves. It’s probably the front runner among the nominees that also include a National Film Board entry, Blind Vaysha, all done with a linocut look, and two from the US, Pearl about a musical road trip and Borrowed Time about a sheriff recalling a cliffside accident.

My favorite though is Pear Brandy and Cigarettes an unusually long and quite complex film by Robert Valley who is originally from here.

He tells a true story, and sets it right here in Vancouver (and China), about a friend who over-indulges in drugs and sex after a car accident. It’s the only one not suitable for children and will play last after a short break and advisory. Three also-ran films, including another from the NFB, have been added to fill out the program.   (VanCity Theatre, playing now until the end of the month)  

LIVE ACTION SHORTS: As usual these are a testament to how much you can say in just 30 minutes or less. Refugees, terror fears and racism figure in several. For sure in Ennemis Interieurs in which a French immigration agent grills a man applying for citizenship and demands he give names from a Muslim discussion group. Most prominently in Silent Nights in which a woman volunteering at a shelter defends and falls for a man from Ghana but gets some uncomfortable surprises including her mother's reaction.. It may win.


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