The last time Keanu Reeves made a sequel to an action movie with a huge cult following and two directors, it didn't really go well twice over. Nonetheless, John Wick wasn't exactly The Matrix, and John Wick: Chapter Two fortunately isn't The Matrix Reloaded or The Matrix Revolutions. Even so, this sequel does expose a few new cracks in the foundation of the latest Reeves franchise, whether or not it will really make any difference for its own inevitable threequel.
After tying up the last loose end of his last revenge mission, John Wick puts himself back into retirement. Yet he only has about five minutes in his old home with his new dog before a ghost from the past comes calling, as the Italian assassin who helped him get out of the life the first time demands that he honor his blood oath to him. When John's refusal results in his house getting blown up, and when the rules of his old assassin's guild prevent him from seeking retribution, he has no choice but to go to Rome and fulfill his obligation. But when even that isn't enough to get him out scot free, John has to go through a whole legion of killers to try and get it done.
While the original John Wick waited about 25 minutes to turn Wick loose, sequels usually play by different rules, so Chapter Two pretty much has him on the rampage in mere moments. It quickly proves that director Chad Stahelski and the Wick franchise in general still has the brutal, bloody action chops, even without original co-director and new Deadpool 2 director David Leitch's help. Still, John's opening quest to get his car back is the first of many opportunities to question how he can really keep getting up after so many hits, let alone how his car can keep working after them.
Things do slow down afterwards, however, as they set up John's latest reasons for revenge and for postponing retirement. Dog lovers should be reassured that John's much bigger new canine is out of the crossfire, and is safely sent away before the action really starts. Although that is surely a good thing, it does make Chapter Two less compelling than the original in giving John and the movie a pretext for mass destruction.
Triggering John's return to killing through dog murder last time may have been horrifying, but it did provide a real emotional hook, and helped prove how different the original was from its action peers. Yet this time around, merely burning down John's house and keeping him from retiring again just makes Chapter Two look like any other revenge/coming out of retirement story.
Dogs shouldn't keep dying to set these adventures up, but there should be other more original thoughts and motivations to get the ball rolling. It also works against Reeves, who doesn’t get to show as much of a drive behind his killing spree this time, or get anything like his “I’m thinking I’m back!” speech to speak when not shooting heads off. Even with that in mind, the commitment he still shows in his fighting and his rage remains a welcome difference from the ultra-robotic Reeves of past action movies.
The other big element that made John Wick more original, and more quirky than the average action film, was the assassin's society/hotel that John went back into during his mission. It was a unique brand of universe building that didn't seem forced in merely to set up more sequels, at least not much more than in the average blockbuster universe. Fortunately, Chapter Two keeps expanding that world with more quirky little touches, bits and details, especially as it and John goes international in Rome.
From having a special kind of suit fitting and 'tasting' in Rome, to having Franco Nero guest star as the head of Rome's Continental Hotel, bringing back Ian McShane as the head of New York's branch, showing the guild's 'accounts payable' branch and pairing Reeves up with old Matrix mentor Laurence Fishburne to start the third act, Chapter Two is at its best when branching out the wider world John just can't leave behind. But as the movie goes on, however, there is a bit of a downside to it all and perhaps to the newly expanded franchise in general.
John Wick was its own animal in going back to the old school ways of action movies, through a lack of hyperactive quick cuts, a lack of holding back in its action, and through telling a simple stand alone story. Chapter Two is a somewhat different matter, as it gives in to the usual sequel impulse in thinking bigger and longer automatically means better, and in turning into just another prequel for the next sequel to come by the end.
As welcome as Stahelski's bang-bang, bloody and CGI free brand of action still is, at least compared to the MTV-style editing and non-stop explosions of other action franchises, Chapter Two obviously can't be as fresh and new with such a style as the original was. In fact, when John goes underground in Rome's catacombs for the film's second big set piece, it is often too dark to really see anything and to savor how his enemies go down, which goes against the franchise's biggest action hook.
Of course, given that John and most everyone else has indestructible suits now, head shots are an even greater cause of death than last time, if that is actually possible. Yet there really are only so many head shots to take before they nearly become as repetitive as explosions are in other action movies.
There are still some joys to be had that don’t threaten to wear out their welcome, such as Claudia Gerini as John’s initial mandated target, a few big hand-to-hand fight scenes between John and Common, and Ruby Rose as the sign language speaking right-hand assassin of John’s nemesis. But it takes until the middle of Chapter Two before its most deliriously action-packed and outrageous set piece occurs, as seemingly everyone in New York is activated to take John out to no avail.
Stahelski still tries to top it with a big finale in a museum and a house of mirrors, although it is technically far from a finale. In fact, the last 10 minutes are pretty much devoted to setting up Chapter Three, in a way that should leave everyone wanting more until they stop to think about it.
By turning into another sequel that spends more time setting up the next movie with unanswered questions and cliffhangers, it threatens to turn John Wick into just another franchise, which really isn’t how the original worked at all. Regardless, “Sequelitis” is on the doorstep of the Wick series, which may well be inevitable for all franchises but is a bit disappointing for one that started like this.
This is hardly the worst case of it that Reeves has been a part of, as Chapter Two is nowhere near the letdown of either Matrix sequel, although that really isn’t hard to accomplish. There’s still good reason for many Wick fans to be excited for more and for what is set up to come, yet there is also reason to wonder about how much more innovative they can really get from here, which wasn’t something to question after the original.
Saying that Chapter Two is really more of the same isn’t an entirely damning statement, as almost everything that fans loved about the first chapter is still around in some form. Yet by definition and by its own repeated style, it can’t be as much of a breath of fresh air as the original was, which is even clearer in the other glaring ways that it doesn’t entirely match up.
There is still a share of imagination to be had in the Wick mythology, even if it pops up more infrequently this time around. However, spurts of the old John Wick originality, invention, brutal action style and universe building may not be enough on their own to keep up a passing grade when Chapter Three turns its first bloody pages.
John Wick: Chapter Two will start earning its grade with general audiences on Feb. 10.
In the issue, the Gilmore Girls star opens up on playing the role of unconventional single mom, her relationship with former Parenthood co-star Peter Krause, her inspiration to writing her now best-selling novel, and more.
In the accompanying photo spread, the 49-year-old struck fashionable poses for photographer Brian Bowen Smith while decked out in dresses by Kate Spade and Milly, heels from SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker, and jewelry from Henri Bendel, Effy and Shashi.
Check out the highlights from Miss Graham's interview below, then be sure to grab a copy of Good Housekeeping when the issue hits newsstands on December 13th!
On playing two similarly unconventional single moms of teens in Gilmore Girls and Parenthood:
“There are things that I’m good at and there are things that are just not for me. I’m not gonna play a cop, I’m not gonna play a doctor…and that’s OK. I’d rather be in [roles] that are really verbal and smart and funny. As Diane Keaton said to me, ‘Funny doesn’t age.’”
On which character she relates to more – Gilmore Girls’ Lorelai Gilmore or Parenthood’s Sarah Braverman:
“I relate more to Lorelai Gilmore, probably. I mean, I speak quickly more in attitude and just in athleticism of what that work is and was for me, as an actor, that’s a place I feel really comfortable and exhilarated, so, in that way I guess I relate a little more to that world and that language.”
On her relationship with long-time love, former Parenthood co-star Peter Krause:
“We couldn’t stop talking. Not about ourselves, but about the world and books and family. Once we got together, there was no game play. It was like, You like me, and I like you. It gave me an understanding of life: This is how things happen, and it’s completely random.”
On her surprising hidden talent:
“I really like to entertain. None of my characters ever cook, so I would think it’s surprising that I actually really like to.”
On her inspiration to become an author:
“One day in my trailer in Parenthood I looked up and I had the afternoon, and it just kind of occurred as a way to be creative and but not have to be part of any other structure. It was kind of a revelation that I could just do something on my own and the fact that it has now given me other work is like icing. I just did it for fun.”
Selena Gomez stole the show at the American Music Awards on Sunday night (November 20) by delivering a passionate speech to her fans as she accepted the Female Pop/Rock Artist trophy.
The pop star was not expected to attend the ceremony in Los Angeles and so her arrival on the red carpet was a shock to many, marking her first public appearance since she abandoned her world tour this summer and reportedly checked into rehab to focus on her struggle with autoimmune disorder lupus.
Wearing a stunning red gown and looking tanned, happy and healthy, the Come & Get It singer hit the stage during the prize-giving to collect the award and held back tears as she addressed her fans.
As the Microsoft Theater audience fell silent, Selena said, "In 2014 this stage was actually the first time that I was authentically, 100 per cent honest with all of you. I think it's safe to say that most of you know a lot of my life, whether I like it or not."
Gomez cut short a 2014 tour of Australia and checked in to the Dawn at The Meadows facility in Arizona to receive professional care and undergo chemotherapy. In August 2016, she announced she was taking an indefinite break from her world tour in order to focus on getting well again.
"I had to stop because I had everything and I was absolutely broken inside," she added during her speech. "I kept it all together enough to where I'd never let you (fans) down, but I kept it too much together, to where I let myself down.
"All I can say from the bottom of my heart is I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to be able to share what I love every single day with people that I love... If you are broken, you do not have to stay broken."
The rapper, who came into the 2016 AMAs with a record-breaking 13 nominations, picked up three honours and shared a fourth with rumoured ex-girlfriend Rihanna, who also claimed a triple win, including an unexpected Soul/R&B Album of Year trophy for Anti, beating out Beyonce's Lemonade.
Meanwhile, Bieber picked up the most awards of the night landing four of his five nominations, and Grande was crowned Artist of the Year.
She and Bieber were also among the night's performance highlights alongside sets from Merit Award recipient Sting, Green Day, double winners Twenty One Pilots, The Weeknd, Fifth Harmony, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Niall Horan, and Maroon 5 and Kendrick Lamar, who closed the show with Don't Wanna Know.
The full list of winners is:
Artist of the Year: Ariana Grande
New Artist of the Year: Zayn Malik
Collaboration of the Year: Work From Home - Fifth Harmony featuring Ty Dolla $ign
Pop/Rock Male Artist: Justin Bieber
Pop/Rock Female Artist: Selena Gomez
Duo or Group - Pop/Rock: Twenty One Pilots
Pop/Rock Album: Purpose - Justin Bieber
Pop/Rock Song: Love Yourself - Justin Bieber
Soul/R&B Male Artist: Chris Brown
Soul/R&B Female Artist: Rihanna
Soul/R&B Song: Work - Rihanna and Drake
Soul/R&B Album: Anti - Rihanna
Rap/Hip-Hop Artist: Drake
Rap/Hip-Hop Song: Hotline Bling - Drake
Rap/Hip-Hop Album: Views - Drake
Electronic Dance Music Artist: The Chainsmokers
Alternative Rock Artist: Twenty One Pilots
Country Male Artist: Blake Shelton
Country Female Artist: Carrie Underwood
Country Duo or Group: Florida Georgia Line
Country Album: Storyteller - Carrie Underwood
Country Song: Humble & Kind - Tim McGraw
Adult Contemporary Artist: Adele
Latin Artist: Enrique Iglesias
Contemporary Inspirational Artist: Hillsong UNITED
Top Soundtrack: Purple Rain
Video of the Year: Sorry - Justin Bieber
Tour of the Year: Beyonce
American Music Award of Merit: Sting
British royal Prince Harry has reportedly struck up a romance with actress Meghan Markle.
The rumored couple is said to have met in Toronto, Canada in May 2016, when Harry was visiting the city, where Meghan's TV drama Suits is filmed, to promote the 2017 Invictus Games.
According to Britain's The Sunday Express, the pair has been taking things slowly, but Harry is "besotted" with his new lady.
"He's happier than he's been for many years," a source says. "They are taking each week as it comes and just enjoying each other's company but it's fair to say that they love seeing each other and there's a definite chemistry between them.
"Harry has been desperate to keep the relationship quiet because he doesn't want to scare Meghan off. He knows things will change when their romance is public knowledge but he also knows he can't keep it a secret for long."
The insider adds, "It's too early to say if the relationship will lead to anything long-term but who knows? At the moment, they are just taking it a step at a time and seeing how things develop."
A spokesperson for royal residence Kensington Palace has declined to address the reports, stating they "would not comment on private matters", while a representative for Meghan has yet to respond to requests for comment.
The actress, who also runs her own lifestyle blog, visited Harry's native London over the summer, sharing snaps of her travels on Instagram. While there was no mention of the Prince in her posts, eagle-eyed fans noticed the 35-year-old has been wearing a beaded bracelet similar to one Harry has been spotted wearing in recent months, suggesting it was a gift from her new man.
The news of the reported romance emerges months after the Prince, 32, was linked to singer Ellie Goulding and actress Jenna Coleman, who both dismissed claims of a relationship, while Los Angeles native Meghan, 35, was previously married to talent manager Trevor Engelson, until their separation in 2013.
The longtime couple hit headlines on Wednesday when it was reported the pair had tied the knot in mid-June (2016), a month-and-a-half before Phelps extended his record-breaking medals streak at the Rio Olympics in Brazil, where Nicole was frequently referred to as his fiancee.
On Thursday, the decorated athlete came clean to his fans in a Facebook Live video and confirmed he had been "married for a while", claiming he wanted to keep it a secret "just because".
Phelps made no mention of their plans to host an official wedding, which took place over the weekend in Cabo San Lucas, reports Us Weekly.
The happy couple was surrounded by around 50 friends and family members, including five-month-old son Boomer, at the lavish nuptials at El Dorado Golf and Beach Club, and the bride shared the first snap from their big day on Instagram in the early hours of Sunday (October 30).
"Truly the happiest day of my life," she captioned a shot of the newlyweds walking up the aisle following the ceremony.
The new Mrs. Phelps wore a white Julie Vino lace gown with a thigh-high slit, while her groom opted for a grey suit with white shirt and light blue tie.
Alongside another snap on Instagram, the athlete wrote, "My best friend.... I love yo!!"
Former GLEE star Mark Salling is reportedly at the center of a new police investigation amid allegations of rape.
A 22-year-old woman filed a police report in April 2016, claiming Salling forced himself upon her four years ago, shortly after they started dating.
According to legal documents obtained by TMZ, she and Salling were getting intimate, but she had a change of heart and urged him to stop, saying, "I can't do this."
He reportedly ignored her and they had sex against her wishes.
Police have been investigating the matter, and the Los Angeles County District Attorney is now reviewing the case to determine whether he should be charged with rape.
Salling's representative has yet to comment on the news, which emerges 10 months after the actor was arrested for possession of "thousands" of indecent images of children. Police raided his Sunland, California home after receiving a tip-off, and he was subsequently charged with two counts of child porn.
The 34-year-old, who played Noah 'Puck' Puckerman on hit TV series Glee, has pleaded not guilty to the charges. The case is due to go to trial at a later date, and if convicted, he faces a sentence of up to 40 years in prison.
Salling is currently free on $150,000 bail, on the condition that he stays at least 100 yards away from anywhere children congregate, such as parks or schools. He was also ordered to wear a GPS monitoring device at all times, inform federal officials whenever he uses the Internet, hand his passport over to the court, and use no drugs of any kind.
Pop star Kevin Jonas has become a father to a second baby girl.
"AHH! I'm an uncle again!" he wrote. "Congrats to my brother and sister in law on the birth of their new beautiful baby girl. @kevinjonas @daniellejonas".
The singer/actor, who is currently shooting the new Jumanji movie, also shared a video of himself on Snapchat and Instagram, revealing he is excited to head back to New Jersey to meet his new family member.
"I am on set here in Hawaii, but I just got the best news ever - my brother and his wife had their baby! I'm overjoyed," he smiled.
He captioned the Instagram post, "Congrats Kevin and Dani! We have another Jonas!! Can't wait to meet that beautiful baby girl very soon."
Kevin and Danielle have yet to comment on the news.
The couple wed in 2009 and welcomed its first child, daughter Alena, in February, 2014.
Kevin and his wife announced they were to become a family of four in April 2016, when they each took to Instagram and shared a photo of themselves in bed.
"Prepping for baby number two! #babyjonas2", they captioned the sweet image, which featured the mum-to-be snacking on Cheerios cereal, Girl Scout cookies and various other goodies, while Kevin sits beside her with his mouth agape, reading the popular pregnancy guide book What to Expect When You're Expecting.
Ciara has confirmed she's expecting a baby with new husband Russell Wilson.
The singer announced the happy news on her Instagram on Tuesday (October 25), which also marked her 31st birthday.
Alongside a black and white picture of her and Russell cuddling, Ciara wrote: "On this special Birthday I received an abundance of love from friends and family.. and I'm excited to Finally share one of the Greatest Gifts of All that God could give..."
She concluded the message with several baby related emojis.
The Goodies star had sparked rumors she might be expecting by sporting baggy clothes over the past few weeks - a sharp contrast to her usual figure-hugging ensembles.
Ciara employed similar fashion tactics three years ago, when she fell pregnant with her son Future Zahir with her ex-fiance, rapper Future. She only confirmed her baby news three months later, in January, 2014.
At the time, she admitted, "I kind of want to take the theme that 'baggy is the new sexy'. I don't know, I just want to be comfortable. When I can't wear heels anymore, I won't wear heels. I'll be putting on my Jordans (sneakers). My Jordans and my Uggs (sheepskin boots) will be my best friends, but it's all about being comfortable."
Ciara and Russell made no secret of their desire to extend their family together, but Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell insisted in July (2016) that they were in no rush to get started.
"Down the road, I would obviously (want kids)," he told E! News. "She does too and hopefully, God willing, as long as they're healthy, that's what we pray for and whether it's a boy or girl, who knows but we've got some time for that... She's making her music right now and I'm playing my sports and hosting shows so we're pretty busy."
Actress Amber Tamblyn and her comedian husband David Cross are expecting their first child together.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants star revealed she is expecting a baby girl in a candid essay for Glamour, in which she addresses the challenges women face in today's society.
In the article, which was published on Wednesday (October 26), Amber wrote, "Motherhood has been heavily on my mind because I am going to be a mother soon. I'm pregnant, with a daughter on the way. I think constantly about the world I am bringing her into."
As a mother-to-be, the 33-year-old admits she worries about how she will be able to "protect" her daughter from the way "women are seen", unless serious changes are made in attitudes.
"I've been thinking about motherhood a lot lately," she added. "What it means to be one, what it means to have one, what it means to know one, what it means to make decisions as one and have conversations as one. I am very lucky to be surrounded by strong mothers, from my own mom to some of my best friends - those who are raising young women to accept themselves and those who are raising young men to accept women."
Amber goes on to explain why Hillary Clinton's bid to become the first female U.S. president is so important as she mails in her ballot ahead of the November 8th election.
She continued, "After I'm done writing this, I'll go back to my desk and fill out my absentee ballot. I'll be voting for more than just a woman; I'll be voting for a revolutionary idea."
Taking a jab at Clinton's Republican rival Donald Trump, she concluded, "I'll be voting for a future for my daughter where conversations about our bodies and our lives are broader than what value they have for men. A future where being a mother is less about warning our daughters about our sons and is instead lifting them up to their greatest potential. A future where my girl will someday say, 'Donald who?' and think nothing is revolutionary about a woman becoming President. A future where she can't even believe that was ever even a thing."
Amber made her feelings about Trump clear in a blunt Facebook message earlier this month, when she went public with her own experience of sexual assault in response to the lewd comments scandal surrounding the real estate mogul and reality star.
Tamblyn, who wed Arrested Development star Cross in 2012, won't be the only new mum in her group of friends - her The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants co-star and best pal Blake Lively recently welcomed her second child with husband Ryan Reynolds, while their castmate Alexis Bledel secretly became a mom last year.
Kate Beckinsale and Len Wiseman's marriage is officially over - the director has filed for divorce.
The filmmaker, who directed his wife in the Underworld movies, has cited irreconcilable differences in documents obtained by TMZ.
The former couple has waived any right to spousal support, suggesting they have a prenuptial agreement in place.
Beckinsale and Wiseman wed in 2004 and have no kids together. She has a daughter, Lily, from her past romance with Welsh actor Michael Sheen.
The couple's marriage started to crumble last year when Len was spotted out with model CJ Franco and Kate was spotted on the red carpet without her wedding ring.
Multiple sources revealed the Hollywood couple separated over the summer last year, but insisted there was "no drama" in the break up.
"They are still friendly and spend time together in L.A. when Kate is there...," a source said. "They have both had complicated schedules and have grown apart."
Another insider told Us magazine, "They tried to make it work, but they end up falling back into old habits and fighting."
Neither Kate nor Len or their representatives have commented on the split.