Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) Review

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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones
Kate Capshaw as Willie Scott
Amrish Puri as Mola Ram
Roshan Seth as Chattar Lal
Philip Stone as Captain Philip Blumburtt
Jonathan Ke Quan as Short Round
Director: Steven Spielberg

In 1935, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) arrives in India, still part of the British Empire, and is asked to find a mystical stone. He then stumbles upon a secret cult committing enslavement and human sacrifices in the catacombs of an ancient palace.

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Raiders of the Lost Ark released back in 1981 had made a big impact on pop culture and cinema as a whole, and it made Indiana Jones a household name. The first and third movies are my favourites of the series by far, while Temple of Doom has always been a little weird to me. Even when I was younger,, there were some parts I really wasn’t sure about despite me liking this movie. Re-watching it again, I feel pretty much feel the same and have a ton of issues, but at the same time there’s a lot of good parts to it.

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From the very beginning you can tell that this is a very different movie to Raiders of the Lost Ark, and indeed it is different from the other movies. First of all, it is noticeably darker on many levels. People who know me know that I really like darker movies, however the way things are handled here wasn’t exactly the best. I’m not one to get overreactive over dark this movie should or shouldn’t be, nor would I complain about it probably not suitable for children or anything. At the very least though, the way it seems like the movie is trying to be more reactive and edgy than actually organic for the story when it comes to these darker aspects. Child slavery, pulling hearts out of chests, and even the attempts at gross out elements at certain points with bugs feels like it’s trying way too hard to get a reaction. However the problem is not just that, Temple of Doom is also quite an annoying movie, and it takes quite a lot for me to be annoyed with a movie, especially with an Indiana Jones film. Whether it be Kate Capshaw’s character, some certain silliness with the plot, and the humour, which to be blunt was mostly dumb and annoying. Because of this, this just makes it hard for me to get invested in the movie. However even if you just look at it on a plot level, it just wasn’t very interesting, and honestly it was rather weak. Jones happening to come across this poor village and needing to retrieve a sacred stone to restore things for them, and that’s it. And now the topic I’ve been avoiding for a bit, the racism. I’m not going to go too much into it given that so much has already been said about it, except that there’s quite a lot of it in this movie, and it’s pretty hard to look past it. I will say this about the movie, as it approaches the climax in the third act it does get better and much more entertaining, even with its more annoying and silly aspects.

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Harrison Ford has still very much got it when it comes to the role of Indiana Jones, and plays his role very well as to be expected. However it’s worth noting that given all of the movie’s issues (and there are many), Ford manages to carry the movie throughout. Kate Capshaw plays the love interest in Willie Scott. I haven’t really seen Capshaw in anything and I don’t blame her for her performance here, because the character is beyond terrible and annoying on so many levels. Willie screams a lot, has to be rescued a lot, and basically does nothing throughout the movie save for like two times. I get that she’s meant to be in contrast to Marion in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but they really overdid it, and she’s absolutely insufferable from beginning to end. It doesn’t help that she’s basically a tag along, she has absolutely no reason to be there (compared to Marion in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Irina in The Last Crusade), and Indy could’ve even ditched her way earlier in the movie (no idea why he kept her around to begin with). Even Capshaw said found the character to be nothing more than a “dumb screaming blonde and a damsel in distress”. Honestly when I think of the movie she is one of the first things I think of, and that’s not a good thing. There’s also the character of Short Round played by Jonathan Ke Quan, who can honestly be quite annoying at points, but compared to Willie wasn’t so bad (and he actually did some things at points). The villain of the movie is Amrish Puri as Mola Ram, a cult leader basically. He’s alright enough as an antagonist but outside of him being different from the other Indiana Jones villains and him pulling hearts out of peoples’ chests, I don’t think is very memorable.

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Despite some very questionable stylistic and directing choices that don’t work all that well, generally the direction by Steven Spielberg is good. On a technical level it is great, from the production design, the costumes, the effects, the way it is shot all of it is done rather well. As I said the 3rd act is where the movie really picks up, and a big part of that is the action. There are some quite effective action sequences, the stunt work is impressive, and there are some effective and tense moments. Indiana Jones has never been known as a realistic series, and when it comes to plausibility it’s as silly as you’d expect it to be. The only bit that really stuck out as being particularly dumb was one of which was a scene early on that involves falling out of a plane. John Williams’s score is great as usual, and has some very memorable themes.

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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a bit of an odd movie. It has its strong moments for sure, much of the direction from Spielberg is still good, and of course Harrison Ford is great as Indiana Jones. However it had some issues, so many parts of it were really annoying when it came to the plot, characters and humour, the story just didn’t interest me all that much, and of course it had the racism and sexism. With all that said, all of the Indiana Jones movies are certainly worth watching and that extends to Temple of Doom.

Snatch (2000) Review

Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] contains violence & offensive language
Cast:
Jason Statham as Turkish
Stephen Graham as Tommy
Brad Pitt as Mickey O’Neil
Alan Ford as Brick Top
Robbie Gee as Vinny
Lennie James as Sol
Ade as Tyrone
Dennis Farina as Cousin Avi
Rade Šerbedžija as Boris the Blade
Vinnie Jones as Bullet Tooth Tony
Adam Fogerty as Gorgeous George
Mike Reid as Doug The Head
Benicio del Toro as Franky Four-Fingers
Director: Guy Ritchie

Illegal boxing promoter Turkish (Jason Statham) convinces gangster Brick Top (Alan Ford) to offer bets on bare-knuckle boxer Mickey (Brad Pitt) at his bookie business. When Mickey does not throw his first fight as agreed, an infuriated Brick Top demands another match. Meanwhile, gangster Frankie Four Fingers (Benicio Del Toro) comes to place a bet for a friend with Brick Top’s bookies, as multiple criminals converge on a stolen diamond that Frankie has come to London to sell.

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Guy Ritchie is a director that I’ve noticed some people are a little mixed on, however most people can agree that his gangster movies are great (or at least his best work). His first movie Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels definitely established him as a director to pay attention to. However, Snatch showcased the best of Guy Ritchie’s talents more than any of his other films. His writing and direction are just on point here to deliver on creating a great movie, made even better by the performances.

Guy Ritchie’s writing has never been better than with here. Snatch has a ton of characters with multiple intersecting storylines, and while I remember not being able to follow everything when I first saw it, on a second viewing I can say that they are all weaved together really well and the whole thing doesn’t feel messy or convoluted at all. The comedy here is really great, it’s a hilarious movie, and on the second viewing there was a ton of things I picked up that time. Snatch has some really witty and clever dialogue, so much of it is quotable as well. At an hour and 45 minutes long, it’s really entertaining throughout.

With the large amount of characters, there is a long cast list, but there’s some standouts. If there’s a lead character in this movie, it would be Jason Statham, giving one of his best performances. Statham is known for his action roles but he really excels here in a different role. Brad Pitt steals every scene he’s in as an Irish boxer. You’re definitely going to need to watch this movie with subtitles, because he does this very hard to tell accent (according to people who use this accent though, Pitt nailed it). The other memorable characters include Alan Ford as a ruthless gangster, Rade Šerbedžija as a Russian arms dealer, Vinnie Jones as a bounty hunter, Benicio Del Toro as a professional thief and gambling addict and Dennis Farina as a gangster-jewler. Really everyone does a great job in their roles.

Guy Ritchie’s direction was really good for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but he perfected it with Snatch. The whole movie is very stylised, however it’s done in a way that genuinely works and it’s edited perfectly. There are plenty of quirky crime comedies that try so hard to be stylish and fail, chances are they tried to replicate what Ritchie did with Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

Snatch is definitely Guy Ritchie’s best movie. The style and direction that he brought to this film, as well as his exceptional writing just made the whole movie entertaining and hilarious from start to finish. On top of that, the talented cast play their unique and memorable characters perfectly. If you love entertaining, hilarious and stylised crime movies with dark comedy, Snatch is definitely a must see for you.

Collateral Beauty (2016) Review

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Collateral Beauty

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Will Smith as Howard Inlet
Edward Norton as Whit Yardsham
Keira Knightley as Amy/”Love”
Michael Peña as Simon Scott
Naomie Harris as Madeleine Inlet
Jacob Latimore as Raffi/”Time”
Kate Winslet as Claire Wilson
Helen Mirren as Brigitte/”Death”
Director: David Frankel

When a successful New York advertising executive (Will Smith) suffers a great tragedy, he retreats from life. While his concerned friends try desperately to reconnect with him, he seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. When his notes bring unexpected personal responses, he begins to understand how these constants interlock in a life fully lived and how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.

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I remember first hearing about Collateral Beauty when both Hugh Jackman and Rooney Mara were initially attached to it, although they later both dropped out. Still, it had a cast with the likes of Will Smith, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren and the like, so even though I wasn’t quite sure what the movie was about, I was definitely open to it. Having seen it though, I can say that Jackman and Mara dodged a bullet by dropping out. In the lead up to watching it, I heard so many surprisingly negative things about it, but watching it, it truly blew me away how bad it was.

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There’s no sugar-coating this, the trailers of Collateral Beauty straight up lied about the movie. According to the marketing, it’s about Will Smith writing to Love, Time and Death after a particular tragedy, and them actually coming in person to speak with him. That’s not quite what the movie is however. I would say spoiler alert, but this is pretty much shown within the first 20 minutes. What the movie really is about is that Smith’s friend/colleagues are worried about losing their jobs, so they decide to hire actors to portray Love, Time and Death, get them to talk to Will, record the conversations and then edit the actors out so that Smith can look crazy. I couldn’t make that up if I tried. I should also emphasise that the employees’ plan was literally recording Will Smith and the actors on an iPhone and somehow editing the actors out. What I said was just the premise, the rest of the movie is weak, melodramatic, or unintentionally silly. Some of the things in the movie including the ending is just truly absurd. It’s not so outrageous that you can have a blast watching it, but it had its unintentionally funny moments. It doesn’t even succeed on an emotional or touching level, you don’t like many (if any) of the characters, and it’s hard to get invested with what’s going on.

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This movie has an absurdly talented cast, with Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Michael Pena, Naomie Harris and Helen Mirren all involved. The cast is by far the best part of the movie, giving decent performances, but they are by no means some of the best performances of their careers, and it’s such a shame that their talents aren’t utilised the best here. Smith is in drama mode here, you can tell that he’s trying, but the material doesn’t leave him anything to work with outside of just moping around and acting sad. While he’s at the centre of the movie, you really get to know the side characters more than him.

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There’s really nothing that special about the direction by David Frankel. It’s competently directed I guess but there’s not much to say about it. At times with the way its shot and especially the music, it’s like Collateral Beauty trying to get an emotional reaction out of the audience (and failing greatly).

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Collateral Beauty is truly astounding. While the cast are alright and it is directed okay, the script is a complete mess, with plenty of questionable choices throughout. By the end you’re not even sure what the point of it all was. I can’t recommend seeing it even as a movie to make fun of, but it’s generally harmless, if terrible.

 

Daredevil Director’s Cut (2003) Review

Time: 133 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Ben Affleck as Matt Murdock/Daredevil
Jennifer Garner as Elektra Natchios
Michael Clarke Duncan as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin
Colin Farrell as Bullseye
Jon Favreau as Franklin “Foggy” Nelson
Joe Pantoliano as Ben Urich
David Keith as Jack Murdock
Scott Terra as Young Matt Murdock
Director: Mark Steven Johnson

Attorney Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) is blind, but his other four senses function with superhuman sharpness. By day, Murdock represents the downtrodden. At night, he is Daredevil, a masked vigilante, a relentless avenger of justice. When Wilson Fisk (Michael Clarke Duncan) hires Bullseye (Colin Farrell) to kill Daredevil, Murdock must rely on his own senses and search out the conspirators against justice — which may include his own girlfriend, Elektra (Jennifer Garner).

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I had heard many times before that the Daredevil movie wasn’t good, it’s been known as one of the worst comic book movies of all time. However, I had been meaning to check it out, even just out of curiosity. I watched the director’s cut and it’s by no means a particularly good movie, but I can’t deny that it was really entertaining, even if it’s not in the way it was intended. It’s really silly, and the movie playing it seriously only made it even more funny and enjoyable.

I’m not entirely certain with what the director’s cut added but from scanning over the list of reported changes, the director’s cut seems to be a vast improvement over the theatrical cut. A lot of the comedy was actually funny, though I have a feeling a lot of it wasn’t intentional. It does get a little too over the top at times though, mainly the now infamous playground scene where Matt Murdock (Affleck) and Elektra (Garner) fight. That scene particularly is astounding in how goofy and ridiculous it was, easily the worst scene of the movie, and that’s saying a lot. The plot is really nothing special and is actually rather drawn out. Really it takes half the movie for the plot to really start happening. You don’t really become emotionally invested in the story or characters at all, you’re basically just here to be entertained. It uses a lot of clichés and tropes present from plenty of comic book movies from the 2000s, this is by far the most 2000s of them all. The movie may be too dumb for some people and I can get that, but for me I had a blast watching what would happen next.

Ben Affleck is Matt Murdock/Daredevil and I think he was actually a good pick for the role, playing both sides of the character well. The material wasn’t great, but he did what he could with what he had. He’s also a little consistent as a character, in one scene early on Daredevil lets someone get killed, which wouldn’t be as much of a problem if they didn’t act like he is a vigilante who doesn’t cross the line to kill for the remainder of the movie. Wouldn’t necessarily mind a more brutal Daredevil so long as they stuck with it all the way through. Side note but Affleck is also really convincing as a blind man, though it probably helped that he had contact lenses at certain points. Jennifer Garner as Elektra Natchios wasn’t really used to her fullest potential but she was fine. She really only gets a couple scenes near the end to actually do things but that’s it. Thankfully she got her own movie after this but apparently it’s significantly worse than Daredevil. They share some good chemistry despite some incredibly bad writing for their scenes together. Jon Favreau is also good as Foggy Nelsen, Murdock’s lawyer partner and friend. The villains are endlessly entertaining. Michael Clarke Duncan as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin is perfect casting and chews up scenery whenever he’s on screen, unfortunately he’s not really given much to do and really wasn’t utilised as much as he could’ve been. Still he was fun to watch. The scene stealer however is Colin Farrell as Bullseye, completely and utterly silly and over the top. He’s not given any sort of backstory and was really just a silly comic book movie villain. Pretty much the reason that he’s particularly after Daredevil is that during an assassination, he made him miss one of his shots, and that’s a classic comic book villain motivation (even though I’m pretty sure that’s not Bullseye). Pretty much the only comic book accurate thing about this version of Bullseye is that he can catch and throw things pretty well. I probably wouldn’t call him good but he’s certainly entertaining, which at this point is the only thing that Daredevil unintentionally succeeds at.

The direction by Mark Steven Johnson wasn’t the best. The transitions between scenes are over the top with the camera zooming through the city and the like. The music choices are also so 2000s, it’s over the top and stuck with that, that it only made things so much more entertaining. The highlight was the use of Evanescence (there are two uses of them) when Elektra is practicing on some sandbags to ‘Bring me to Life’, peak 2000s comic book movie moment right there. With that said, I recall that there were some directing decisions that I liked. Some things are ripped from other comic book movies at the time, like when Matt gets hit by radioactive waste it shows what happens internally to him with effects similar to when Peter Parker gets bitten by a spider and gets powers in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. I think the action was decent enough, again really over the top, but you can generally see what’s going on during them. The costumes are a mixed bag. The Daredevil suit is actually pretty decent, it’s actually on par with the red Daredevil suit for the Netflix show (way too much leather though). On the other hand I’m not sure what they were even thinking for the Bullseye costume, but it fitted the performance well, so I guess that’s a win.

Daredevil definitely isn’t a good movie, however it’s the cheese and over the top factor that makes it so fun to watch. Along with that there are some genuinely good things, like the actors despite the bad material do try, and some of them are decent here. I view this the way I view Suicide Squad, a really silly comic book movie that’s not particularly good, but has some entertaining parts to it. If you’re going to watch the movie, I do recommend the Director’s Cut, it seemed to have significantly improved the movie. However, if you want a legitimately good representation of Daredevil, it goes without saying but the Netflix series is definitely what you’re really looking for.

Black Swan (2010) Review

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Black Swan

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains violence, sex scenes & content that may disturb
Cast:
Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers/The Swan Queen
Mila Kunis as Lily/The Black Swan
Vincent Cassel as Thomas Leroy/The Gentleman
Barbara Hershey as Erica Sayers/The Queen
Winona Ryder as Elizabeth “Beth” MacIntyre/The Dying Swan
Director: Darren Aronofsky

Nina (Natalie Portman) is a ballerina whose passion for the dance rules every facet of her life. When the company’s artistic director decides to replace his prima ballerina for their opening production of “Swan Lake,” Nina is his first choice. She has competition in newcomer Lily (Mila Kunis) however. While Nina is perfect for the role of the White Swan, Lily personifies the Black Swan. As rivalry between the two dancers transforms into a twisted friendship, Nina’s dark side begins to emerge.

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I liked Black Swan when I first saw it, and it definitely got all the acclaim that it deserved. I’ve already watched most of director Darren Aronofsky’s work (with the exception of The Fountain), but I wanted to have another look at some of his movies, and so I started my rewatches with Black Swan and got even more out of it this time. Aronofsky’s direction was really great and as usual Natalie Portman is fantastic.

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I won’t go into too much depth about the plot in case you still haven’t gotten around to seeing the movie yet. Darren Aronofksy really keeps this movie tight at an hour and 50 minutes long, it keeps the pace up pretty quickly and on a second viewing I really noticed it. It starts out as a movie about what an artist would do for art, and it is that throughout, but it also turns into a psychological thriller. It really goes crazy in the third act to say the least, and when the film needs to go horror, it really goes there. Looking at the plot from beginning to end, it’s so perfectly crafted and well put together.

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Everyone in the cast was outstanding, however this is really Natalie Portman’s show, giving a career best performance here. Her character’s whole thing is that as how she is now, she’s perfect for the role of the White Swan but in order to perfectly perform The Swan Queen, needs to delve deeper into darker territory to portray the Black Swan as well. Her descent and change were very convincing, and Portman works well. Her performance is essentially what drives the whole movie, as great as Aronofsky’s direction is here, Black Swan wouldn’t have worked without Portman’s excellently performance. Mila Kunis gives probably her best performance yet as a seemingly rival to Natalie Portman who seems to work as the Black Swan, which would compel Portman towards a different side. Vincent Cassel is also really great as the director of the ballet, who also pushes Portman further towards becoming more of the Black Swan. Definitely one of Cassel’s most standout performances. Barbara Hershey was also good as Portman’s obsessive mother, adding even more strangeness and uneasiness to the whole movie. Winona Ryder is in here in a smaller role as the previous Swan Queen before Portman, but she still really worked in her few scenes.

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Darren Aronofsky’s direction of Black Swan is excellent. I know it should go without saying but the actual ballet portions of the movie are showcased, choregraphed and displayed on screen very well. When it comes to the psychological horror side (especially towards the latter section of the movie), it’s effectively creeping and unnerving. The limited sections of crazy visual effects still hold up really well 9 years later. The score by Clint Mansell really works (which is to be expected of him at this point), very haunting yet beautiful, much like the whole movie.

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Black Swan is Darren Aronofsky’s best film yet, and considering some of the movies that he’s made, that’s saying a lot. His direction was great, really portraying a descent into madness well, with great acting, especially from Natalie Portman who gives an extraordinary performance here. Definitely one of the best films of 2010 and the 2010s, and worth a watch if you haven’t seen it already.

Transformers (2007) Review

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Transformers

Time: 143 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains medium level violence
Cast:
Shia LaBeouf as Sam Witwicky
Tyrese Gibson as Sgt. Robert Epps
Josh Duhamel as Capt. William Lennox
Anthony Anderson as Glen Whitmann
Megan Fox as Mikaela Banes
Rachael Taylor as Maggie Madsen
John Turturro as Agt. Seymour Simmons
Jon Voight as John Keller
Director: Michael Bay

The fate of humanity is at stake when two races of robots, the good Autobots and the villainous Decepticons, bring their war to Earth. The robots have the ability to change into different mechanical objects as they seek the key to ultimate power. Only a human youth, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) can save the world from total destruction.

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It’s been ages since I’ve seen the Transformers movies, I’ve only watched up to the third movie in addition to watching Bumblebee back in 2018. I remember enjoying Bay’s Transformers movies when I was younger, but I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about them now. They have a reputation of being mindless large scale action flicks, however the first movie is still somewhat well received, and so I decided to check it out again. It was pretty much what I expected it to be, overlong and full of flaws, but nonetheless pretty entertaining.

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The writing of the first Transformers movies is a very mixed bag. The plot itself is passable, but the actual script has its issues. It takes a while for the movie to really pick up with the Transformers, it starts with Shia LaBeouf and him eventually realising that he has a car that’s not just a car. It doesn’t really do much to keep you genuinely interested. Even when Shia meets up with Optimus Prime it doesn’t really grab your interest. It certainly doesn’t help that Transformers is a very long movie at 2 hours and 20 minutes long. It’s really the third act where it excels, as Bay does what Bay does best with all the action. However the movie shouldn’t need to be just an action filled one to be good. For such a straight forward plot, there is just too much going on in the movie. The comedy is also very hit or miss but it at least works better than in the later movies (from what I remember). At least the racial stereotypes are kept to a minimum of 1 in this movie. I’ll say this much, if some of the plot elements in this movie bothers you, definitely don’t check out the other Bay Transformers movies.

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The human characters are widely regarded as the worst aspect of these movies. While there are bits about the actual Transformers that don’t work well, the movies would’ve benefited with them being the focus instead. I know that Shia LaBeouf gets a bad rap in these 3 movies but he’s actually alright in this movie at least. Despite how you many feel about his performances in his 3 film appearances, he’s definitely putting everything he can into his role. Megan Fox is also given a bad rap in her Transformers appearances but she isn’t that bad, she’s really not given much to work with, so it’s not really on her either. The romance that LaBeouf and Fox feels really forced and no matter how hard the two of them try, you just don’t buy it. Some of the random comedic side characters don’t really have much point, most of them are meant for comedy. The parents of Shia’s character for one are among the more annoying. John Turturro is also in this movie and is alright. He’s perfectly fine in the movie but I really have no idea why Jon Voight is in this movie, they probably could’ve cast anyone in the role.

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You can really feel that Michael Bay directed this movie, for better or for worse. The cinematography has a saturated look to it, there are many dramatic scenes of military giving some really important dialogue, slow motion shots of the American flag and helicopters flying, it’s all here. The action of this movie is generally good, the CGI effects do look a little iffy now, but given the movie is over a decade old, you can cut it some slack. Back in 2007, we hadn’t really seen anything like this before, with a bunch of action involving giant robots. Yes, a lot of the action is over the top, but it’s not necessarily overwhelming.

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Yes, Transformers is a silly action movie, but there’s a lot of fun to be had with it. Even though I’m not a fan of the Transformers, I feel like they could be better than just an explosion filled action movie. Still, I had some enjoyment with it. Even if many of Bay’s more annoying clichés and style aspects make their appearance here, it is not as bad as it is in his other movies. If you haven’t seen any of the Transformers movies, it’s at least worth checking out the first one.

Children of Men (2006) Review

Time: 109 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence, offensive language and drug use
Cast:
Clive Owen as Theo Faron
Julianne Moore as Julian Taylor
Clare-Hope Ashitey as Kee
Michael Caine as Jasper Palmer
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Luke
Charlie Hunnam as Patric
Pam Ferris as Miriam
Director: Alfonso Cuarón

When infertility threatens mankind with extinction and the last child born has perished, a disillusioned bureaucrat (Clive Owen) becomes the unlikely champion in the fight for the survival of Earth’s population; He must face down his own demons and protect the planet’s last remaining hope from danger.

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I’ve been meaning to rewatch Children of Men for a while. I watched it years ago and I remember myself finding it to be good. As I was watching Alfonso Cuarón’s films recently however (Roma and Y Tu Mama Tambien), I had an urge to see this movie again, just to refresh it in my mind. I’m not quite sure why I wasn’t in love with this movie when I first saw it, but Children of Men is truly spectacular. As acclaimed as the movie is, I still feel like it isn’t as appreciated as much as it should be, it needs to be talked about a lot more.

I actually didn’t know of this until recently but Children of Men is based on a book of the same name. The writing here is excellent. They really created a unique dystopian concept and made it feel and seem so real. Unlike some other sci-fi movies, much of what happens here feels very plausible, making it a very timeless and relevant film today over a decade later. At the same time, they also deliver on creating a deep and emotional story, with very real, greatly written and fully realised characters. It takes less than 10 minutes to already invest you in this world. You feel a sense of dread throughout and the stakes are high, however it’s in a way that feels genuine and human. This film is under 2 hours long and from start to finish (at least on my rewatch) I was hanging onto every single moment. I’ll even admit that the last 20 minutes of the movie had me quite emotional, Children of Men is very powerful throughout but it is particularly in this portion.

As previously mentioned, all of the characters are very well written and memorable, and the cast are all great playing their respective roles. Clive Owen gives one of his all time best performances here, if not his best. Here he’s playing a reluctant hero character of sorts, forced into getting involved with a cause bigger than himself. We’ve seen this with lead characters many times before but with the writing and Owen’s fantastic performance, it just feels so real here. Julianne Moore is really good in the screentime that she gets. Clare-Hope Ashitey is also really great as the only woman in the world who isn’t infertile and is currently pregnant, holding possibly humanity’s last remaining hope for survival. It’s also fun watching Michael Caine as a hippie character of sorts, and he too does add to the movie quite a bit. The rest of the supporting cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor and Charlie Hunnam also are great in their roles.

Alfonso Cuarón as usual directs incredibly well, and this is probably his best film to date. The story and setting already feels very plausible but add upon the fantastic production design and it really feels timeless. His work with cinematographer Emmanuelle Lubezki was spectacular, there are so many phenomenal cinematic moments, most of them featuring long tracking shots, that you just wonder how exactly they managed to shoot it. A famous example being in the first quarter of the film, featuring a very long tracking shot that takes place in a car. Another example is a very long shot following Clive Owen for a very long time towards the end of the movie, really all of it is amazing filmmaking, it’s overwhelming at times.

Children of Men isn’t just one of the best science fiction films released, it’s one of the greatest films of the 21st Century. I’m not sure why it didn’t receive more awards attention, because it really deserves it. Everything here is perfect, the characters and cast, the fully realised story and world, and the fantastic direction by Alfonso Cuarón. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure that you see it as soon as possible, it’s a masterpiece.

Dune (1984) Review

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Dune (1984)

Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Francesca Annis as Lady Jessica
Leonardo Cimino as the Baron’s Doctor
Brad Dourif as Piter De Vries
José Ferrer as Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV
Linda Hunt as the Shadout Mapes
Freddie Jones as Thufir Hawat
Richard Jordan as Duncan Idaho
Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides
Virginia Madsen as Princess Irulan
Silvana Mangano as Reverend Mother Ramallo
Everett McGill as Stilgar
Kenneth McMillan as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
Jack Nance as Nefud
Siân Phillips as Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam
Jürgen Prochnow as Duke Leto Atreides
Paul Smith as The Beast Rabban
Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck
Sting as Feyd Rautha
Dean Stockwell as Doctor Wellington Yueh
Max von Sydow as Doctor Kynes
Alicia Roanne Witt as Alia
Sean Young as Chani
Director: David Lynch

In the year 10191, a spice called melange is the most valuable substance known in the universe, and its only source is the desert planet Arrakis. A royal decree awards Arrakis to Duke Leto Atreides (Jürgen Prochnow) and ousts his bitter enemies, the Harkonnens. However, when the Harkonnens violently seize back their fiefdom, it is up to Paul (Kyle MacLachlan), Leto’s son, to lead the Fremen, the natives of Arrakis, in a battle for control of the planet and its spice. Based on Frank Herbert’s epic novel.

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I’ve heard about Dune for some time, especially that it was David Lynch directing a movie based on the influential novel, and had been meaning to watch it at some point. With Denis Villeneuve’s version coming however, I was felt that the time was right to watch Lynch’s version. Dune certainly was an ambitious book to adapt for the big screen. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to work out all that well, even Lynch himself didn’t have a good time making the movie, mostly due to the studio interference that went on during the movie. Still, I liked what I saw.

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I haven’t read Frank Herbert’s Dune, so I can’t comment on how well it was adapted to the big screen. A lot of adaptations of books can suffer from not being able to cover everything in its story and having to condense it down quite a bit, but that especially feels the case with this movie. It certainly feels like there’s a lot missing from the movie, even at 2 hours and 15 minutes. The last half of the story particularly feels quite rushed. One of the biggest mistakes was the use of narration, it’s used not only to explain a lot of the background and worldbuilding but it’s mainly used to reveal their inner thoughts. It was already quite a bit much with Kyle MacLachlan, but there’s narration from multiple characters about their feelings and it quickly becomes annoying. The exposition dumps were also pretty bad, the film literally opens with a floating head narrator shoving so much information onto you, and it is just a mess. Additionally, I wasn’t particularly interested in the characters or the story, I was just following what was going on.

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Dune has got a large cast, including Kyle MacLachlan, Patrick Stewart, Brad Dourif, Max von Sydow. Sean Young and Sting. Generally I remember the cast being alright, but they are constrained by the characters being not particularly well written or interesting. However, they do what they can.

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David Lynch is a great director and we know this from many of his other movies like Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet and The Elephant Man. With that said, while I haven’t seen all of his movies, when most people say that Dune is easily his weakest movie, I believe that. At the same time, I think it has got a lot of things going for it, and I even liked some of the choices that Lynch made. The production designs and costumes definitely go all out on the craziness. I haven’t read the book so I’m not sure if the designs are supposed to resemble how they look in Lynch’s movie, but looking at it all as its own thing, I liked it in a campy and over the top sci-fi way. The visual effects however don’t hold up well. Some are a little dated, other parts look so absurdly dated that I can’t imagine that it looked particularly good even for the 80s.

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David Lynch’s Dune is a bit of a mixed bag to say the least. Some of the direction didn’t work so well, and while the ideas are there, they weren’t executed the best. I think mainly that Dune just wasn’t ready to be made into a movie that early on, and at 2 hour and 15 minutes long it wasn’t quite enough. However, I don’t regret watching it, and I even enjoyed it for what it was. I will say that what benefited my experience of this movie was knowing that Villeneuve’s version would be coming and imagining how many of these concepts would be delivered by him (I even started imagining some of the characters in Lynch’s Dune played by the actors cast in Denis’s version). 1984 Dune doesn’t succeed all that well, but I think it’s worth a watch at the very least.

Moonlight (2016) Review

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Moonlight

Time: 111 minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language, drug use and sex scenes
Cast:
Trevante Rhodes as Adult Chiron/”Black”
Ashton Sanders as Teen Chiron
Alex Hibbert as Child Chiron/”Little”
André Holland as Adult Kevin
Jharrel Jerome as Teen Kevin
Jaden Piner as Child Kevin
Naomie Harris as Paula
Mahershala Ali as Juan
Janelle Monáe as Teresa
Director: Barry Jenkins

A look at three defining chapters in the life of Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes), a young black man growing up in Miami. His epic journey to manhood is guided by the kindness, support and love of the community that helps raise him.

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I remember watching Moonlight in the lead up to the Oscars, I thought it was great, and it had the biggest surprise of all that night when it ended up winning Best Picture, it was quite a big deal. With that said, I didn’t remember a lot of it from my first viewing, and I definitely needed to watch it again. It definitely improved a lot on a repeat viewing, and I can now confidentially call this a fantastic film that deserved all the acclaim that it had received.

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This movie is broken up into 3 parts, showing 3 stages of lead character Chiron’s life. The first part is him as a child, the second is him as a teenager, and the third is him as an adult. All three of these parts were quite different from each other, yet consistently great, there wasn’t one part that felt particularly weaker than the other (although the third part was a little slower). It is so engaging seeing Chiron make all these discoveries about himself and grow as a person. It’s very well written by Barry Jenkins, the dialogue is fantastic, it felt absolutely real. That’s really the biggest takeaway of this movie that I got, it all felt real and genuine. Now I’m not particularly big on coming of age stories, I have enough trouble emotionally connecting with most movies, and coming of age movies particularly don’t really work for me (probably mainly because most of the apparent appeal is being relatable and I just can’t relate to most of their stories). However this easily ranks amongst this subgenre, especially and recent years. I think most people can connect with Chiron and his story, and that is really a testament to the writing.

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The three actors who played Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes) were fantastic. They all captured this character perfectly at the different stages of his life. Something I heard about is that they didn’t base their performances on each other, giving their own interpretation to the material they gave, and I think that added a lot. The supporting cast was also great. Naomie Harris was really good as Chiron’s mother, and the rest of the cast that includes Janelle Monae and Andre Holland also do their parts. The standout though was Mahershala Ali, who is easily one of the best actors working right now. He wasn’t in the movie a whole lot, but he left a real impression in his scenes, especially in the scenes with Alex Hibbert as the younger. Even when he’s not in the movie, you felt his presence throughout the rest of the film.

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Director Barry Jenkins absolutely delivers here, this is his sophomore film, and his work here is excellent. This movie is smaller and independent, and you can feel that through and through, and it was to its benefit. The cinematography by James Laxton was beautiful, not one shot or camera move felt out of place, and the lighting and the use of colour is just stunning to watch. There are so many memorable scenes and images that really stay with you long after seeing the movie. A lot of the time, there weren’t any soundtrack or music, and that helped to invest you even more into the story and the movie. It made it all feel even more real, and much easier to be invested in it all, whether that be with ambient sounds or silence. The score by Nicholas Britell when present though, is excellent and impactful, and really added to the film a lot. The editing also deserves a lot of credit, making many of the moments even more impactful.

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Moonlight is such a fantastic movie and deserved all the praise. The performances, beautifully written story and incredible direction all comes together to a profoundly moving coming of age tale that definitely ranks among the highlights of films from that decade. If you haven’t already, definitely check out Moonlight when you can.

Birdman (2014) Review

Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, sexual references, offensive language & drug use
Cast:
Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson
Edward Norton as Mike Shiner
Zach Galifianakis as Jake
Andrea Riseborough as Laura Aulburn
Amy Ryan as Sylvia Thomson
Emma Stone as Sam Thomson
Naomi Watts as Lesley Truman
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Former cinema superhero Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is mounting an ambitious Broadway production that he hopes will breathe new life into his stagnant career. It’s risky, but he hopes that his creative gamble will prove that he’s a real artist and not just a washed-up movie star. As opening night approaches, a castmate is injured, forcing Riggan to hire an actor (Edward Norton) who is guaranteed to shake things up. Meanwhile, Riggan must deal with his girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough), daughter (Emma Stone) and ex-wife (Amy Ryan).

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Best Picture winner Birdman was a movie that I really liked when I saw it, even though I didn’t regard it as a masterpiece like most people. Given that I was rewatching plenty of movies recently to see what I thought about them on a second viewing, I decided to rewatch Birdman, and I definitely got a lot more out of it on a second viewing. Masterfully directed, written well and acted well, Birdman is for sure a fantastic film experience.

Watching it a second time, I really noticed that Birdman was written incredibly well. There are plenty of references of Hollywood and has a lot to say about art, movies, the film industry and the like. Most movies about Hollywood that reference other movies and actors existing could easily fail at this but with Birdman they somehow they managed to do it in a way that doesn’t feel obnoxious. It’s an original and weird movie for sure, I mean this is a movie where the lead character can move objects with his mind and fly (or at least thinks he can). It’s a bit of a strange and dark comedy. It’s astounding how they managed to pack so much emotion and depth into 2 hours, and it had me entertained for that entire runtime. Talking about some of the best parts about this movie or explaining why they’re so great would involve spoiling a whole lot of what happened, and honestly it’s best if you go into it not knowing much already. The ending certainly is different, very ambiguous and it’s not going to work for everyone. You really have to interpret a lot of the movie (especially the ending) for yourself.

There is quite the large cast involved here, and they all gave some great performances. While everyone does very well here, it’s Michael Keaton who is the star of the show, really giving a career best performance. The casting choice is definitely meta, since the character is a washed up actor who once played a comic book character decades ago, and is played by Keaton who once played Batman of course. However it’s not just an inside joke, Keaton gives such a layered performance and really brought this character to life incredibly well. Edward Norton is great as a character that seems somewhat based off of his persona, a very talented but volatile method actor, among Norton’s best work for sure. Emma Stone is also great as Keaton’s daughter, giving one of her best performances. There is particularly one monologue with her which was one of the stand out scenes of the movie, and that’s saying a lot. The rest of the cast are all outstanding as well, some of which include Zach Galifianakis as Keaton’s lawyer and producer (in a more dramatic role that he hasn’t really done before), Andrea Riseborough as Keaton’s girlfriend and an actress, Naomi Watts as an actress, and Amy Ryan as Keaton’s ex-wife.

Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s direction of the whole movie is present throughout, and really added a ton to Birdman. Something that is really known was that this movie is made up of a bunch of long takes, making the movie look like it was done in one entire shot, it’s truly fantastic and creative the way they navigated the camera throughout all the spaces. There are parts where the camera goes black, and you can probably tell that one shot ended there and then another shot began, nonetheless the shots go on for so long that it’s nonetheless very impressive. Emmanuelle Lubezki’s cinematography as always is truly fantastic. The music is just a bunch of drums playing, occasionally at a seemingly random beat, and it kind of oddly works for this movie.

Birdman is arguably Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s best film yet, and I loved The Revenant. With his fantastic direction, the weird and original writing, and the great performances (especially from Michael Keaton), it really deserved all the awards recognition that it received. However, I can partially see why it wouldn’t necessarily work for everyone. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I can’t really set you up for it, but I personally recommend that you watch the movie, just going into it movie with an open mind.