Best Hollywood Movies In 2023

Best Hollywood Movies In 2023

1. JOHN WICK : CHAPTER 4

 Best Hollywood Movies In 2023

 

Welcome back, Mr. Wick. Four years after “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum,” director Chad Stahelski and Keanu Reeves have returned to theaters with “John Wick: Chapter 4,” a film that was supposed to hit theaters almost two full years ago Trust me. Best Hollywood Movies In 2023. It was worth the wait. Stahelski and writers Shay Hatten and Michael Finch have distiled the mythology-heavy approach of the last couple chapters with the streamlined action of the first film, resulting in a final hour here that stands among the best of the genre. 

“John Wick: Chapter 4” opens with its title character (Reeves) on the run again as the villainous Powers That Be known as the High Table get in his way. The main villain of the series is the Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), a leader of the High Table who keeps raising the bounty on Wick’s head while he also cleans up the messes left behind, including potentially eliminating Winston Scott (Ian McShane) and his part of this nefarious organization. Best Hollywood Movies In 2023. The opening scenes take Wick to Japan, where he seeks help from the head of the Osaka Continental, Shimazu (Hiroyuki Sanada), and runs afoul of a blind High Table assassin named Caine (the badass Donnie Yen). Laurence Fishburne pops up now and then as Wick’s Q when the killer needs a new bulletproof suit, and Shamier Anderson plays an assassin who seems to be waiting for the price on Wick’s head to hit the right level for him to get his payday. More than the last couple of films, the plot here, despite the movie’s epic runtime (169 minutes), feels refreshingly focused again. Here’s John Wick. Here are the bad guys. Go!

And go they do. Stahelski and his team construct action sequences in a manner that somehow feels both urgent and artistically choreographed at the same time. Filmmakers who over-think their shoot-outs often land on a tone that feels distant, lacking in stakes, and feeling more stylish than substantial. Best Hollywood Movies In 2023. The great action directors figure out how to film combat in a way that doesn’t sacrifice tension for showmanship. The action sequences in “John Wick: Chapter 4” are long battles, gun-fu shoot-outs between John and dozens of people who underestimate him, but they have so much momentum that they don’t overstay their welcome. 

They also have wonderfully defined stakes. At one point in the film, John and an enemy decide on the parameters of a battle, including time, weapons, and variables. But this is really true of all the major action scenes, in which we very clearly understand what John needs to do and who he needs to go through to “finish the level.” The simplicity of objectives allows for complex choreography. We know what needs to happen for John to keep pushing forward as he has since the beginning of the first film. So much modern action is cluttered with characters or muddled objectives, but the “Wick” films have such brilliant clarity of intention that they can then have fun within those simple constructs.

So much fun. The choreography of the action here can be simply breathtaking. I loved how often the world goes on around Wick and his unfortunate combatants. In a sequence that would be the best in almost any other recent action movie (but is like 3rd or 4th here), Wick has to battle a makeup-covered Scott Adkins and his army of unlucky idiots in a crowded nightclub. The dancers barely notice. They sometimes part a little bit to let them through, but they don’t stop and stare. With water pouring into the club, the writhing, and dancing bodies make for such a visually inventive backdrop. Later, in one of my favorite action sequences of all time, Wick and his predators battle in the traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe. The cars don’t stop. In fact, it feels like they speed up. As shots ring out in the streets in this film, no one opens the window to see what the hell is going on. The world outside of Wick and the mythology of this world almost feels like they can’t even see the legendary assassin and the hundred or so people he ends up killing. It’s a fascinating, visually striking choice.

And then there’s what I would call Action Geography. So many people have tried to mimic the frenetic approach of the “Bourne” movies, and the results have often been more incoherent than not. The amazing cinematographer Dan Laustsen (a regular Guillermo del Toro collaborator on “The Shape of Water,” “Nightmare Alley,” and more) works with Stahelski to make sure the action here is clean and brutal, never confusing. The stunt work is phenomenal, and, again, the shoot-outs have the feel of dance choreography more than the bland plot-pushing of so many studio films. There’s just so much grace and ingenuity whenever Wick goes to work. 

Of course, a great cast helps too. Reeves might have fewer lines in this movie than any so far in the franchise, but he completely sells Wick’s commitment while also imbuing him with emotional exhaustion that adds more gravity to this chapter. The vengeful Wick of the first film is a different one than the survivor three movies later, and Reeves knows exactly what this character needs. So many performers would add unnecessary touches to a character that’s already this popular, but Reeves is smart about streamlining this performance to fit the film around him. It also allows for a few supporters to shine in different performance registers, especially Yen and Anderson. The legendary Yen is fantastic here, not just in combat but the moments in between. Most people who know who Donnie Yen is won’t be surprised to hear that he fits in here perfectly, but he’s even better than you expect. Anderson also gives a fun performance as a man who just seems to be a mercenary waiting for the right price, but fans of the series will note from the beginning that this badass has a dog, and this universe values puppies and people who love them.

The only minor flaw in Wick’s armor here is a bit of narrative self-indulgence. There are a few scenes, especially early, when it feels like a beat is going on a bit too long, and I do think there’s a slightly tighter (if you can say 150 minutes would be tight) version of this film that’s simply perfect.

Fans won’t care. Much has been made of what brings people out to theaters in the post-pandemic, streaming-heavy world, and this is a movie that should be seen with a cheering, excited crowd. It has that contagious energy we love in action films—a whole room of people marveling at the ingenuity and intensity of what’s unfolding in front of them. It’s a movie that’s meant to be watched loud and big. John Wick has fought hard for it.

This review was filed from the North American premiere at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival. “John Wick: Chapter 4” opens on March 24th.

2. CREED III (Best Hollywood Movies In 2023)

 

The ambition alone is impressive.

For his directorial debut, Michael B. Jordan chose to take on “Creed III,” the latest film in the “Rocky” spinoff franchise and the ninth picture overall in the beloved boxing saga. He’s also directing himself in the process, as he returns once again to the titular role of champion fighter Adonis Creed, son of Apollo. And he’s electrifying on both sides of the camera, finding new swagger and emotional depth as the film’s star as well as real confidence and style as its director.

In doing so, Jordan is following in the footsteps of Sylvester Stallone, who directed himself in four of the “Rocky” movies, including 2006’s heartfelt “Rocky Balboa.” But he also has to follow the work of his longtime friend and close collaborator Ryan Coogler, who helmed the original “Creed.” Jordan has taken all that pressure and expectation and turned it into a film that both honors the series’ legacy while spinning the lore forward. Best Hollywood Movies In 2023. And totally unsurprisingly, he draws powerhouse performances from his co-stars, including a fearsome Jonathan Majors as Adonis’ childhood friend-turned-adversary.

“Creed III” takes a little while to get going, though, as it flashes back to 2002 Los Angeles to establish the shared history between the film’s eventual competitors. We see Adonis “Donnie” Creed sneaking out of his bedroom as a young teenager to watch his big brother figure, Damian “Dame” Anderson, dominate in underground fights. A violent confrontation on the way home one night seals both of their fates, with Adonis going onto greatness and Damian heading for an 18-year prison term. A precisely timed, beautifully placed match cut moves the story ahead 15 years to show us that Donnie now has the boxing career Dame always dreamed of; another jump to the present day reveals that Adonis has retired from the ring and is living a luxurious life in a modern mansion in the Hollywood Hills.

Jordan’s eye for detail is on display as he efficiently reflects the kind of wealth Adonis enjoys with his wife, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), and their deaf daughter, Amara (Mila Davis-Kent). The minimalist elegance and creamy neutrals—the work of production designer Jahmin Assa and costume designer Lizz Wolf—instantly indicate the tasteful, peaceful persona Adonis now seeks to exude to the world.

Just as Adonis is shaping the next generation of fighters as a behind-the-scenes force at his own Delphi Boxing Academy, singer-songwriter Bianca is penning tunes and working with new talent as a producer. They tell themselves they’re content, but there’s an intriguing tension in the mix as it’s clear they both still long for the spotlight that once defined them, nourished them. Best Hollywood Movies In 2023. Thompson brings an earthiness and sensitivity to this heavily masculine movie, and young Davis-Kent—who is a deaf actress—shines brightly in her first major role, more than holding her own opposite veteran performers with her sparky presence and timing. Phylicia Rashad also returns with a crucial, graceful performance as Adonis’ mother, Mary-Anne. And the frequent use of sign language as a means of communicating within the family is a meaningful, authentic touch.

But their reverie is shattered with the arrival of Dame, who has toughened himself in prison in every way and now seeks the boxing glory he believes is his due. There’s a certain geeky glee in witnessing the spectacle of Kang vs. Killmonger, given the significant villainous presence both actors have had within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Majors, as always, is tremendous. He brings a deeply unsettling energy to the role—there’s something volatile about Dame beneath his seemingly placid exterior. The fact that he isn’t obviously raging all the time is what makes him scarier: He’s watching, plotting, seething, but his imposing physicality ultimately makes him ferocious.

Working with cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau and editors Jessica Baclesse and Tyler Nelson, Jordan the director takes a seemingly simple scene in which Adonis and Damian share an awkward reunion dinner and tells a full, rich story with it. The close-ups, the pacing, the decision to hold on an actor’s face for a beat or two longer than expected—they all convey so much meaning and subtext. The exchange is powerful for what it doesn’t show—for what these characters don’t tell us, for what they hold back strategically but we can sense, nonetheless.

But “Creed III” also gives the people what they want, and that is: multiple training montages. As they sing in “Team America: World Police,” “Even `Rocky’ had a montage.” Once it becomes clear that Donnie must get back into shape to fight Dame for the championship—at Dodger Stadium, of all places, a truly inspired location that’s so extremely L.A.—the screenplay from Keenan Coogler (Ryan’s brother) and Zach Baylin (“King Richard”) hits all the uplifting beats you’d expect, but tosses in some clever new ones, too. So yes, there’s running through the streets, on the beach, up a hill. There’s punching and sparring. But also: the sight of Adonis pulling an actual airplane through the sheer power of his pectorals. It’s kind of hilarious, but also wildly entertaining.

And when it comes time for the climactic showdown between these two warriors, Jordan makes some dazzling stylistic choices in terms of sound design, camera movements and visual effects. Best Hollywood Movies In 2023. There’s a section where everything just … changes, providing an unexpected emotional resonance and a fresh perspective.

On the surface, “Creed III” may seem to be about hulking, muscular men beating the crap out of each other, and it exists within a genre where it’s often easy to discern between right and wrong, black and white. Adonis is all precision and control in the ring; Best Hollywood Movies In 2023. Dame is rough and raw, fighting as if his life depends on it. But similar to Killmonger’s motivations in “Black Panther,” Dame’s quest for vengeance and even dominance is understandable. Watching these titans confront each other within that moral gray area—making themselves vulnerable in the process—is riveting.

Jordan has long since proven himself as an actor of terrific charisma, versatility and humanity; with “Creed III,” he shows he’s just as captivating on the other side of the lens.

3. TEEN WOLF : THE MOVIE (Best Hollywood Movies In 2023)

 

It’s an ending quip made by Dr. Conrad Fenris (John Posey), an expert on lycanthropy and the on-again, off-again director of Eichen House, a supernatural prison/insane asylum set in the mysterious Southern California town of Beacon Hills — secret home to a multitude of supernatural creatures, villains, heroes, and at one point at least one teen wolf. Best Hollywood Movies In 2023.But in trying to set up a new story about a teenage werewolfTeen Wolf: The Movie fails the characters it already has, and makes a bigger mess in the process. 

Based on the critically maligned but culturally allowed 2011 MTV series, and premiering Jan. 26 on Paramount+, Teen Wolf: The Movie finds its titular alpha wolf Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) a teenager no more, but still struggling with the same hangdog loneliness. Best Hollywood Movies In 2023. When a big bad with a familiar face rears its head, Scott has to call in some reinforcements and hopes that the concentrated power of his pack is enough to save Beacon Hills.  Starring Posey, Crystal Reed, Tyler Hoechlin, Holland Roden, Colton Haynes and more, Teen Wolf: The Movie is a reunion in the most literal sense, as its characters are literally forced to traverse their old high school haunts.

While creator Jeff Davis drags viewers along with the constant rhythm of familiar faces, the callbacks alone can’t justify the film’s existence — especially when it comes at the expense of its biggest fans. As a TV show, Teen Wolf was never great. When it debuted, its tenuous connection to the original 1985 classic (the two only share a title and initial premise) and genuinely unhinged plotlines failed to impress critics. But the show filled a very specific hole in the needs of teenagers who still watched MTV: unmitigated horniness. Best Hollywood Movies In 2023. The cast was full of young adults, dropped in a school that looked like it was populated by models, who then kissed each other, or took their shirts off, or kissed each other while taking each other’s shirts off, with such frequency it seemed contractually obligated. Best Hollywood Movies In 2023.And it helped that the nation was practically swept away with supernatural fever, with huge hits like Twilight and The Vampire Diaries dominating charts and breaking records. Add to all that the heyday of blogging site Tumblr, which became enamored with the potential of a relationship between werewolf Derek Hale (Hoechlin) and sidekick Stiles Stilinski (Dylan O’Brien), and the show gained a diehard fan base whose viewership kept it on air for almost six full seasons and 100 episodes.

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