Tag Archives: movies

Parvusimperator Reviews Suicide Squad

Yes, I know it’s old. But I wondered to myself, “Self, how could they screw this up? There are a ton of Dirty Dozen ripoffs out there. This one has Will Smith, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, and The Joker. This should be easy to at least get to mediocre.” Well, here at the Soapbox sometimes I watch awful movies so you don’t have to.

And it is just as bad as the critics say. Sometimes they get it right. This is trash. And it’s sad, because this should be lots of fun. Dirty Dozen with comic book villains is a great premise. I’d greenlight that for production. And it’s not like DC doesn’t have any cool villains. So what went wrong? All kinds of stuff.

This movie had a lame plot. Of course, I don’t exactly expect anything wonderful from this sort of movie. The problems run deeper though. The structure is bad. It seemed like the writers couldn’t figure out what tone they wanted, and kept changing the serious/cheesy balance. And they felt the need to put in a lot of badly-structured backstory. It just didn’t work, and it was hard to follow. And it’s unnecessary. This is a superhero movie with relatively well-known villains as protagonists. Give everyone a quick establishing bit with a touch of voiceover and call it good. Honestly, you could probably run the script through a bunch of rewrites and eventually get something good. But you’d have to redo the whole script. I’m told this movie had some reshot sections in order to fix things, but that didn’t help anything.

I want to make note of a few things regarding casting and dialogue. Will Smith seemed kinda wooden and decidedly unfunny, which usually takes some effort. Plus, Deadshot’s fight work hasn’t aged well. We still have lots of jump cuts, and John Wick is just better in every way. On the decidedly positive side is Margot Robbie, who did a great job as Harley Quinn. Really, she’s one of the few who looked like she was having fun in this awful movie.

Movie Fight TTP Breakdown: Jango Fett vs. Obi-Wan Kenobi

I’m a nerd. I love Star Wars. And I also love tactics and training in martial arts. What better way to combine them than by talking movie fights and what they do right/wrong? Let’s take a look at the fight between Jango and Obi-Wan on the Kamino platform. It’s a really exciting fight. Like most movie fights not directed by Michael Mann, it does this without being technically well executed. I’ll break it down into sections and comment on each.

I’ll be covering Jango’s (and a couple things from Boba) here, mostly because my expertise is there. I know a good bit about shooting and punching people. However, I’m not a Jedi, and I don’t know the limitations of the Force. Also, I’m a poor swordsman and a worse force user. So I won’t comment on Obi-Wan’s techniques here.

The fight opens with Boba seeing Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan draws and ignites his lightsaber, and Jango goes for his blaster pistols. Screw talking.

Jango opens fire, and uses his jetpack to get some standoff range.
1.) Jango has a reasonably quick rate of fire here. I might expect better with two guns, but then, I don’t know how well that scales. His times between shots are pretty good here. I’ll save any further snarking about the inferiority of the use of two pistols at once for another article.
2.) Using the jetpack to maintain separation (and get more) is a good idea.
3.) Jango does quite a bit of shooting on the move in the opening. Ordinarily, I’d be very strongly opposed to it. Generally, you give up more in accuracy than you gain in becoming a harder target to hit. Of course, that conventional wisdom assumes an enemy who also has a ranged weapon and that you’re moving on your feet. Given that the jetpack seems to move him in a relatively stable fashion, I’ll give this one to him. His accuracy isn’t affected in much of a negative way compared to his initial volley either.

Jango uses his jetpack to hide behind a column. Having given Obi-Wan a visual slip (and having holstered his blasters), he fires a missile from his jetpack.
4.) That’s a good move. Not sure why he didn’t do that earlier, since he doesn’t appear to need his hands free to do it. The missile is sort of effective–it gets Obi-Wan to drop his lightsaber. As usual, Hollywood has no idea what explosions do. That should have hurt a lot more judging by proximity of the blast and likely fragments. Hollywood explosions are big on pretty fireballs. Real explosions are big on fragments, pressure waves, perforated eardrums, and death. They don’t look as good as a big, gasoline-based fireball.
5.) He really should press the attack once the missile hits. Shock and awe only works if you keep with the up-tempo attacks. Jango is old enough and experienced enough to know better than to sit back and admire his handiwork.

Boba now gets in on the action by deploying Slave I’s blasters, which knocks Obi-Wan back again.
6.) Not sure why Boba stops shooting to watch. He seems to have done okay using shipboard sensors before. Don’t admire your handiwork! Press your advantage! Boba’s a kid though, so maybe Jango hasn’t gotten this lesson in his head yet. It usually takes a lot of coachly yelling in the boxing gym or wherever you learn hitting for this lesson to stick.

Jango leaves his perch to engage Obi-Wan, apparently closing the distance, blasters drawn. Obi-Wan catches Jango with a flying sidekick, sending his blasters flying.
7.) And you were doing so well. This part makes no sense. Why leave your perch? Why come down? Why close the distance? There’s the column you were hiding behind, another column, and your ship in terms of high places to be. Blasters are ranged weapons. You can shoot the lightsaber-less jedi from your perch. Or from midair. You should not be close enough for a flying sidekick, force-assist or no. Maintain distance on the melee fighter and shoot him. The jetpack should be helping you keep your distance here.
8.) If he wanted to change position, doing it while the ship attacks would have been better. Or in a direction not towards the Jedi.
9.) During his descent, Jango isn’t shooting, even though his blasters are clearly drawn. He was shooting during the ascent, so he can clearly shoot in flight reasonably well. If it made sense on the ascent (and it seemed to) it should here as well. Probably even more so since Obi’s not blocking without his lightsaber.

There’s a good bit of hand-to-hand fighting between Jango and Obi Wan, who are pretty evenly matched. Obi-Wan has some more good kicks, some blocked, some aren’t. Jango has a wild right haymaker that gets blocked and gets separation with a headbutt.
10.) Not sure why he doesn’t fire his jetpack to regain separation here. Unless he’s trying to keep Obi-Wan’s hands occupied. In which case, he’s not doing it well, and he should be going for the wrestling/grappling stuff.
11.) Jango has a very strange arsenal. He seems to carry a shitton of gear, but lacks a knife, which would help a lot in a close fight like this.
12.) Jango does have wrist blades, at least in his right gauntlet. But he does not use them here, and this is the perfect opportunity. Blades are great in a close fight. Admittedly, blades on the side of the forearm look cool but are really hard to actually use.
13.) He also doesn’t use the flamethrower in his left gauntlet. Again, this seems a good time for it. Unless his armor/clothing aren’t flame resistant.
14.) Nor does he use the mini rocket that appears to be on his left gauntlet (but he never uses this ever in the movie, so who knows what that actually is).
15.) It’s also odd to me that Jango doesn’t carry a small blaster as a back up gun, given how much other shit he’s got. If he gained separation with the jetpack (or after the headbutt) he could use a back up gun to good effect.
16.) That wild punch. That is the kind of punch you expect from an untrained dude. Probably a big dude. Jango isn’t big. He’s about medium height (Obi-Wan is a bit taller) and fit. He isn’t super heavy. As someone whose profession depends on his ability to kick ass, he should be a lot more technical with his striking. One telegraphed, wild haymaker is not what I’d expect from him. We should see a tighter combo.
17.) The headbutt was a good choice. Especially because he’s got a helmet and Obi-Wan doesn’t.

Obi-Wan tries to retrieve his lightsaber with the force. Jango activates his jetpack, uses a whipcord to tie Obi Wan’s hands, and starts dragging him.
18.) I don’t understand this either. Clearly lacking another blaster, Jango chooses to use his whipcord to wrap up Obi-Wan’s hands. And then drag him. A more effective choice here given the equipment would be to activate his jetpack and hit Obi-Wan linebacker style. You’ve got a helmet, he doesn’t. It’s gonna hurt him a lot more than it hurts you.
19.) Another good chance for flamethrower usage, depending on its range. In general, Hollywood flamethrowers are propane torches, which look cool, but don’t have the range of the real deal (which use heavier fuel).

Jango drags Obi-Wan along the platform. Obi-Wan wraps the cable around a pylon, forcing Jango to crash and his jetpack to malfunction.
20.) Yeah, still don’t see the point of this, and it lost you your damn jetpack. Fucking moron. Why he doesn’t drag Obi-Wan directly towards the water is beyond me. Or just jettison the cord.

Jango goes for his dropped blaster. Obi-Wan charges him and knocks him off the platform with another flying sidekick.
21.) Jango gets tunnel vision here for that gun. He’s not really aware of how quickly Obi-Wan is closing in.
22.) A backup blaster would be helpful here too. It’d be a lot quicker to get into action than running to retrieve your dropped pistol.
23.) Dealing with the charging opponent is more important than getting your blaster into play. This could easily be a tackle or a takedown. Avoid or stuff that first before getting your gun into action. This is running into Tueller territory, which is probably for another post. Suffice to stay, standing still is a bad idea.
24.) Full arm extension is a poor choice for that sort of shot, given how close Obi-Wan is. A chest index is a lot better for not leaving your gun out there to be grabbed, and getting more than one shot off. This is kind of hard to explain, but what Jango does here is a Bad Idea.

There’s not much tactics to the rest of the fight. Jango falls, dragging Obi-Wan with him, and manages to release the cable before Obi-Wan drags him into the sea. Cue dramatic escape, homing beacon, and another fight, now with starships.

Movie (and Firearms) Review: John Wick: Chapter 2

Do you like action movies, dear reader?

If so, then you are in for a treat. You will like John Wick: Chapter 2. You will also like John Wick, a quiet hit from 2014, but the sequel is out now so that’s what we’ll talk about. Like a good sequel, most of what I say here also applies to the original. It is pure, cask-strength, unfiltered, undiluted action movie. There is just enough plot to justify the delightful orgy of violence and action that follows. There is a bit of worldbuilding to spice up the movie world and make it a little unique. It is its own movie, not a rehash of, say, Death Wish. And then, as they say, “Lights, camera, action!” There is nothing to get in the way. Nothing to dilute what you came to see. No sadness. No angst1. No romance. No self pity.

It is refreshing, don’t you think?

I also love the fact that John Wick: Chapter 2 is made by a group of former Second Unit cameramen. They’re used to filming fights and stunts, because that’s what the Second Camera Unit is used for. Further, they eschew that stupid “jason bourne movie” style of fight cinematography:2 they don’t zoom in on little bits of the actors clothes, or the spot the stuntman missed shaving this morning, and they don’t use lots of rapid cuts to hide the fact that none of these idiots knows how to fight. The camera is stabilized, as it should be, and it’s set back like the camera at a UFC event: out of the way of the fighters and positioned so that you can enjoy the brawl. This is why you’re here. Don’t ruin it with lame camera work.

The fight action is solid for a movie. Keanu Reeves is pretty athletic, and does a good job of selling the fight sequences. He also enjoys 3-gun, and trained with Taran Butler, shootist extraordinaire. His weapon handling was first rate, except for a bit too much of the weird Center Axis Relock thing. But so much of this movie is fun that I’m not going to nitpick. It is Hollywood, after all. They got so much right, I’ll cut them a little slack. Of course, he takes an obscene amount of damage, but he’s the protagonist. He’s supposed to never say die. This isn’t a training video, so realism has been thrown out the window.

The review of John Wick: Chapter 2 is very easy to write. A review’s job is to tell you whether or not you will enjoy a film, and thus whether or not you should go see it. If you like action movies, you’ll like it. If you don’t, you won’t. It’s just that simple.

Of course, that’s a rather short article. Let’s talk about the guns that John Wick uses.

John Wick kits himself out with a full set of guns that have been worked over by Taran Butler’s gunsmithing company, Taran Tactical innovations (TTI). There’s a Glock 34 Combat Master, a Glock 26 Combat Master, a TR-1 AR-15 build, and a Benelli M4 that’s been worked over. In preparation for a massive gunfight as he escapes a hit, he stashes the TR-1 and the modified Benelli with a belt of shotgun shell caddies to aid his fighting escape.

The Glock 34 Combat Master package has a lightened, refinished slide, a steel guide rod, Taran’s sights, a reduced-power recoil spring, a trigger job, a magwell, and a stippled frame. The idea behind the heavy guide rod and the lightened slide is that you can reduce recoil by making the parts of the gun that move lighter and the parts that don’t move heavier. Competitive shooters have been doing this for years. The reduced-power recoil spring is designed to maximize reliability with the lightened slide. The TTI Combat Master package is a little more expensive than buying the individual components/services yourself from various other smithing services, but part of buying a package like this is that it’s a tested set, so you don’t have a bunch of tweaking to do. It’s a competitively priced package when compared to other packages. That said, sourcing the individual parts and services can work if you don’t mind some spring fiddling and have something particular in mind as for looks.

I don’t have time with a TTI Combat Master Glock (yet), but it is well reviewed among competition shooters. All of the theory is right, and Taran and his gunsmiths have likely taken the time to tune it right, or else he wouldn’t put his name on it.

He’s also got Glock magazines with the TTI basepads, which give capacity of 23 rounds per magazine.

I was really happy to see John Wick take a tricked out Glock 26 as a backup gun. It’s similar to the Combat Master Glock 34, but without the window cuts and magwell. Backup guns are often neglected by movie gunfighters. Big thumbs up from me there. See above; it’s a similar package of modifications. I will note that John Wick deploys his backup gun too early in the fight: in a hand-to-hand engagement, that is everybody’s gun until one achieves a dominant position. Gain position, then go for the gun.

The TR-1 is a solid looking AR-15. It’s got an 11.5″ barrel, BCM KMR handguard, compensator, Hiperfire trigger, BCM Gunfighter stock, ionbond-coated bolt carrier group, and a Trijicon Accupoint 1-6x scope. All solid choices. I love the KMR for light and lightish builds. The hiperfire trigger is a really good trigger choice. I’m thinking of getting one to try. I also really like the BCM gunfighter stock. It’s really cool that my parts list lined up with that of another serious builder. Anyway, it’s a great parts list.

The Accupoint optic is a solid choice. It wouldn’t be mine, but Taran seems to like and do well with them. Plus, the lack of holdover options isn’t a huge handicap at the ranges we’re talking about here or in most 3-gun competitions.

We might also note that John Wick goes for a gun with a compensator, not a suppressor. This is going to abuse everyone’s hearing in confined spaces. But his cover is blown if he’s going for the rifle, so stealth won’t help him much. Plus, the compensator will keep the muzzle on target better, so he’ll get faster follow up shots and transitions. As ever, a trade-off. I’m cool with this choice, especially since he knows what he’s doing as far as weapons handling goes.

Also note that John Wick used a pair of coupled magazines before transitioning to what he had on his belt. Coupled magazines add weight, but give you a really fast first reload. This one I don’t have enough experience with to comment on. They add weight, but if you train with them, there are gains to be had there in terms of reloads, and they’re more reliable individually than the big 60 round magazine options.

Finally, the shotgun. Shotgun handling and reloading is the hardest part of running one, but Keanu did a great job of keeping it fed, quad loading like a pro. He also had a pair of shell carriers near the ejection port, to quickly get one round in when you’re caught needing to reload. The TTI-customized M4 had an opened up loading port to make reloads easy. I’m sure the recoil system and trigger tuning are present here too. The bolt is lightened and refinished in ionbond.

Note also that the Glocks and the Benelli have some milling and refinishing done. These are the kind of things that are better outsourced unless you’re well equipped and know what you are doing or else it will look awful.

As far as arsenals go, this set gets a huge thumbs up from me. I might make a few minor preference changes, but it’s a set I’d be extremely happy with.

There are a few other weapons of note that I should comment on, aside from incidental combat pickups.

John Wick starts Chapter 2 using the same pistol he used as his primary in the first movie: the HK P30 with a compensator. This compensator is really more of a frame weight, and doesn’t have a ton of baffles or porting. It does work though. Not a lot of mods, because the P30 is a relatively new gun that’s not very popular in competitions, so it’s not going to be modded to hell and back by guys looking for an edge. It’s a great pistol though; BORTAC really likes theirs.

Late in the movie, Wick is given a Kimber 1911 (in .45) with a single seven-round magazine. And yes, he comments on only having seven bullets. I am unable to ascertain which Kimber 1911 model is used here, though it looks like a Kimber Warrior. Kimber has had some poor QC for awhile in the early 2000s. As far as I can tell from actual reports, this has gotten better recently. QC issue reports tend to be old, or hearsay of old issues. Not that this isn’t something to be aware of, but their current body of work is good. Price is in line with the rest of the 1911 market. Also, their service is very good.

Plus, while we’re talking hearsay examples with small sample sizes, one of the guys in pistol 2 had a Kimber 1911 in .45 and it ran great. He also shot really well with it.

  1. Thank God. 
  2. Again, thank God. I always hated that modern “ghetto documentary” style of camerawork, especially when there’s fighting to be done. I want to see it. Of course, the reason for shakycams zoomed in to the limit is to hide the fact that they have a bunch of men who can’t fight trying to sell me on a punch. 

Fishbreath Watches: Zootopia

I went into Zootopia with moderate expectations—I had heard good things, but even as a fan of animated movies, I wasn’t expecting anything to boggle the mind. Ultimately, I was still expecting a kids movie with crossover appeal.

This is not what Disney delivered. Zootopia starts out a cheerful-seeming puff piece; by the end, it has taken on an almost noirish feel, telling a pitch-perfect buddy cop story in an exquisitely-detailed world. I can’t say much more without giving away plot points, and the plot is so well-crafted I would feel guilty doing so, but really. If you’re skeptical, fear not: it is not what the previews suggest it is. It’s much better. Go see it. I have not yet heard anyone credible claim to be disappointed.

Done? Cool. I’m going to employ a piece of sorcery most arcane known as ‘the fold’ to hide possible spoilers from casual readers. (Very minor—I’m extremely allergic to spoilers. If you don’t mind non-specific remarks about the flow of the plot through the three acts, you’ll be fine.) Join me on the other side.

Continue reading