We SAID: Oscar Gorgeous

Staff Writer

Winners, losers and major upsets aside (poor Faye Dunaway may never recover from the Best Picture snafu), the stars hit the red carpet last night with a clear mission to put their best … everything… forward. There was a noticeable effort to stand out in the best possible way with clean lines and polished makeup. And even those who went for a … bit… of embellishment (Janelle Monae, we see you) balanced the look with subtle shimmer and gorgeous flesh toned makeup.

Red rules! Viola Davis looked every bit a winner in a svelte red number that flattered her athletic figure. Did we mention that she also made history as the first African American Woman to win an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony for acting? The woman is a powerhouse, and she was not here to play on the red carpet. Ruth Negga softened up the powerful rouge hue with lace and a full skirt, and sweetened the look even further with soft curls and a girlish head band.

Metallics were a big deal on the carpet this year. Emma Stone continued her gold trend with another number that on anyone else would have been doing the most. But even with brocade and fringe, the Givenchy dress lent an elegant ease that matched her famous smile. Amy Adams might not have been a contender, but that didn’t stop her from investing in lots of double-stick tape for a structured shimmering number. And Jessica Biel will definitely split the vote for best/worst dressed. Her golden high collar *doingwaytoomuch.com* ensemble at least deserved honorable mention. Her husband was opening the show, and we imagine she figured she had to make a statement by any means necessary.

Speaking of honorable mentions, we could not go without mentioning Charlize Theron. She was presenting this year, so the pressure was off. And her ease showed in a dark oscar-4metallic dress that was more practical than not. A little weight gain softened her normally sharp edges, and it’s not a stretch to say that it looks really good on her. She’s a stunning woman at any size, but it was nice to see her moving comfortably in her skin with a genuine smile and sans outrageous fake tan.

On the other end of the spectrum, Janelle Monae was doing more than her little frame could probably carry. oscar-8Her dress featured all manner of designs and embellishments. It looked like the designer simply couldn’t commit to a single idea, and decided to do everything and hope for the best. Her stylist even had the nerve to slap an embellished tiara/headband thing on her head. Fortunately, Monet is just quirky enough to pull it off, and managed to even look calm and collected in the frenetic ensemble.

At least Monae’s makeup artist got the memo about balance, and calmed things down with gorgeous flesh toned shimmers and a soft smoky eye. Her makeup was definitely among some of the best that the night had to offer. Other big hits of the night included Hailee Steinfeld (when did that child grow up? She looked STUNNING), Emma Stone and Naomie Harris.

Overall, it was a good night for fashion. We even forgive Halle Berry for showing up looking like she hopped out of the chair while her hair dresser was desperately trying to style those curls, and for wearing the millionth dress that looks just like all the other ones she wore on red carpets’ past.

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He SAID: John Wick Gun-Fu (Chapter Two)

Scott F. Evans

In 2014, Keanu Reeves’ flagging career was given new life with the unexpected hit, John Wick. While the film was weak on story and character, it compensated for those shortcomings by offering some remarkably inventive action sequences and has made a place for itself as a modern action classic. With the same creative team in tow, Reeves is back with John Wick Chapter 2.  And while the sequel not only delivers even more thrills and spills than the original, it also mostly addresses the story and character issues of the original. Unfortunately, it creates some new problems as well.

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JW2 was made on a budget of forty million dollars, and while that’s double the cost of the original, it’s fairly low considering how good this film looks.  The budget’s on the screen as JW2 looks as good as movies with three times that budget. Credit that to cinematographer Dan Laustsen. He has only lensed a handful of features, but shoots some truly impressive pictures for this sequel elevating it far above most action fare nowadays.

Director Chad Stahelski is back and once again shows a keen eye for capturing action. His camera work is smooth and never intrusive. More importantly, unlike most modern genre directors, he’s not afraid to hold his shots. Stahelski wants us to see all of the work the performers put into executing the intricate fighting techniques and stunts. The actors and stunt people put in long, grueling hours perfecting these sequences.  It’s insulting to them and shortchanges the audience to obscure it with unsteady camerawork and rapid fire editing.

Derek Kolstad also returns as screenwriter.  His script is fun and greatly expands on Wick’s world, but some of it’s flourishes almost causes the film to slip into parody.  Some of Kolstad’s overwritten dialogue makes the film feel like it’s taking itself too seriously.  He gives his characters dialogue that strives for elegance, but ends up sounding pretentious.  John Wick is essentially a comic book movie with guns standing in for superpowers, not Masterpiece Theater.

Of course Keanu Reeves is also back as the titular character.  And like the first one, Reeves is both this film’s main strength and weakness.  On the upside, Reeves physically gives John Wick his all, doing the majority of his own stunts.  He reportedly spent months learning how to shoot, fight, and drive for his new franchise. It shows.  Reeves moves like a trained professional, showing remarkable efficiency with guns and jiu-jitsu techniques.  Unfortunately, where he is the least impressive is in practically any of the scenes where he needs to deliver Kolstad’s overcooked dialogue. Reeves has this unnatural stiffness that sometimes stops the film cold. Rapper turned actor Common plays Cassian, one of the film’s main villains. He and Reeves engage in a pair of incredible extended action sequences.  But between these two astonishing scenes, the two have a moment where they exchange dialogue over a drink. To call this scene cringe-worthy would be a disservice.  There’s a famous scene in Michael Mann’s Heat where Robert De Niro and Al Pacino meet for a cup of coffee. You can see Kolstad and Stahelski  trying to emulate this scene, but the actors just aren’t up to par.   Jamie Foxx was just featured in Sleepless a few weeks ago.  While that film isn’t very good, Foxx has a natural ease and you wonder if an actor of that caliber could turn a John Wick into a true action masterpiece.

The first John Wick set a new standard for action cinema with its hybrid take on the conventional movie shootout and fistfight.  And while those sequences were without a doubt both innovative and exciting, they also got repetitive fairly quickly.  JW2 has the same problem. Stahelski and his stunt team went with ‘more’ instead of ‘different’.  Yeah,  it’s a soft criticism, but with a runtime of two hours, this film really could’ve used some variety in the type of action presented.

All that said, John Wick 2 still definitely warrants a watch in cinemas.  Laustsen’s cinematography, Stahleski’s direction, Reeves’ physical commitment, and the film’s breezy two hour runtime make JW2 a pulpy fun night at the movies.