Review – John Wick

john_wickI haven’t heard about Keanu Reeve’s new movie, “John Wick,” until a friend mentioned it.  I knew the basic premise for this revenge flick from watching the trailer: something bad happens, retired assassin comes out of retirement, and everyone dies a cinematic death. The little details, like gold coins buying access to a secret society of professional assassins in New York City, made all the difference.

John Wick (Reeves) bails out of a SUV with a bloody wound to his stomach, staggering away and collapsing to the ground. A cellphone in his hands plays the video of a woman (Bridget Moynahan) at the beach, calls him John and they share a selfie kiss. Forty-eight hours earlier, he’s a distraught husband who lost his wife to breast cancer, buried her in cemetery, and cleaning up an empty house after everyone leaves the wake. A special delivery arrives with one last present from his wife to ease his grieving pain: Daisy, an adorable Beagle puppy.

John takes the dog out for a drive in his souped up 1969 Mustang the next morning, racing up and down the local airstrip to relieve his anguish. Stopping off at the gas station to fill up, he encounters a group of young Russians men. One of them, Iosef (Alfie Allen), takes an interest in the Mustang, insists on buying it and makes a snide remark in Russian after John told him that it wasn’t for sale. John surprises him with his own remark in Russian before driving off. Later that night, Iosef and his friends break into his house to kill the dog and steal the car.

If they have only stolen the car, things would have ended with less bloodshed. But they killed his dog, making the payback very personal. After burying the dog and cleaning up the floor, John takes a sledgehammer into his basement and pounds the concrete floor into pieces. A large case with guns and gold coins reveals the secret past he left behind for marriage to a loving woman.

Who the hell is John Wick?

As the Russian crime boss, Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), explains to his wayward son, John Wick wasn’t just a highly talented assassin but one with the nickname buka (Russian for boogeyman). Iosef, of course, doesn’t believe in the boogeyman. While the father sits before the fireplace and sings the nursery rhyme about misbehaving children being taken by the boogeyman, a squad of his best men takes on the boogeyman. With a disabling body shot and two head shots in a well-executed (pun intended), choreographed sequence, John systematically takes apart his former employer to extract revenge.

Reeves claim to fame was “The Matrix” movies, where slo-mo bullet time got invented for those movies, and too often overused in other movies. I was hoping that this movie would have absolutely no slow-mo bullet time, but one scene used it for hilarious effect just before Iosef meets his inevitable fate. Like “47 Ronin” earlier this year, Reeves gives another fine performance as the reluctant soldier who fights for justice.

The Black-and-White of The 2014 Mac Mini

2014 Mac Mini ExplodedApple’s announcement of the new Mac mini last week was an immediate disappointment for those of us waiting two years for updated hardware. With the level-entry Mac mini corresponding to the lower hardware specs of the level-entry MacBook Air, and, being like the MacBook Air, unable to upgrade the hard drive and memory after purchase, was a deal killer for most folks. Since the CPU fan for my vintage Black MacBook (2006) died this past summer, I need an affordable replacement system. Apple failed to deliver this year, but Other World Computing (OWC) has better options that fit the bill.

OWC sells refurbished Macs and various upgrades to extend the usefulness of each Mac. The cheapest option would be a 17″ iMac (2006) for $149 USD. This is the same generation as my Black MacBook, compatible with my existing hardware (i.e., memory modules, OWC 120GB SSD and external 250GB FireWire drive), and should boot up the SSD in an external closure as if it was yesterday. However, I’ll still be stuck with an unsupported 32-bit CPU that won’t run the newest Mac OS X, Yosemite, which was also announced last week.

The best option is a White MacBook (2010) for $449 USD. The unibody design has a back cover that comes off after removing ten screws, exposing the battery, DVD drive, hard drive, and memory for easy replacement. I’ll be able to pimp out this White MacBook more than I had with the Black MacBook.

  • Battery — The first battery for the Black MacBook lasted six years, and the second battery (manufactured in 2007) lasted two years. The battery for a 2010 laptop will need replacement sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, this item can only be obtained from the Apple Store for $129 USD.
  • DVD Player — OWC sells a data doubler adapter for $35 USD to replace the DVD player with a SATA hard drive or SSD. I’ll install the SSD from the Black MacBook to serve as the primary boot drive. OWC also sells an external optical drive enclosure to continue using the DVD player.
  • Hard Drive — My FireWire drive has two 120GB partitions for backing up the SSD with SuperDuper!, and a 10GB partition as a programming scratch pad. Since the White MacBook doesn’t have a FireWire connector, the internal 250GB hard drive will replace it. As prices for the larger capacity SSDs drop over time, I’ll replace the hard drive.
  • Memory — The White MacBook has 4GB RAM installed, which is fine for another year or two. The 2010 model maxes out at 16GB RAM, twice as much as the 2009 model. OWC sells a pair of 8GB memory modules for $200 USD.

All this expandability in a compact system for slightly more than the 2014 Mac mini with AppleCare and sale taxes included (~$650 USD). I got eight years of useful life out of the Black MacBook. I expect the White MacBook to provide at least four years, perhaps longer with a 64-bit CPU. More bang for the buck.