Thirteen Lives (2022) Review

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Thirteen Lives

Time: 147 Minutes
Cast:
Viggo Mortensen as Richard Stanton
Colin Farrell as John Volanthen
Joel Edgerton as Richard Harris
Tom Bateman as Chris Jewell
Director: Ron Howard

A rescue mission is assembled in Thailand where a group of young boys and their soccer coach are trapped in a system of underground caves that are flooding.

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I remember hearing the story of the rescue of a youth soccer team in a cave in Thailand back in 2018, and its no surprise that a movie would end up being made based on it. That eventually resulted in one such film directed by Ron Howard. I haven’t seen the documentary about the same event called The Rescue which came out a year earlier, but I liked Thirteen Lives.

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Thirteen Lives is well scripted, the story is simple and is told in a straightforward way. I only knew the very basics of the real story, so some of the reveals and directions the story went in did genuinely surprise me, especially with the methods the divers took to rescue the people from the cave. While it is a dramatization and certain moments might’ve been added in just to raise the tension, it keeps any added melodrama to a minimum. The story didn’t need additional work and speaks for itself. Despite knowing the outcome of the story, the stakes felt high and it was compelling watching everyone come together in an effort to try to save all those lives. There isn’t a lot of character development, as a result I do think that it doesn’t quite have the emotional impact that it is aiming for. This is a long movie at 2 hours and 30 minutes long, and while I was invested in what is going on, it does admittedly overstay its welcome a bit, and is a bit too long.

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One of the strongest aspects was the great acting. Colin Farrell and Viggo Mortensen are great as the cave divers from the UK who try to rescue the boys. The rest of the cast are strong from (an especially great) Joel Edgerton, Tom Bateman, and everyone else, down to the actors who play the kids trapped in the cave.

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Ron Howard directs this movie very well and he especially succeeds at making everything feel effectively tense. The cave diving scenes are some of the highlights of the movie, well shot, riveting and claustrophobic. There is some impressive underwater camera work and great sound design that makes you feel like you’re right there with the divers as they navigate the dark and cramped caves. I can’t speak as to how it was in real life, but it certainly felt authentic. Its also helped by the score from a solid score from an ever reliable Benjamin Wallfisch.

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Thirteen Lives is a solid thriller and admirable retelling of the true events. It may be a little too long and the lack of characterisation does take away from the movie somewhat, but on the whole its really good, with the straightforward storytelling, strong performances, and Ron Howard’s direction. Worth checking out.

Air Force One (1997) Review

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Air Force One

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] 
Cast:
Harrison Ford as President James Marshall
Gary Oldman as Egor Korshunov
Glenn Close as Vice President Kathryn Bennett
Wendy Crewson as First Lady Grace Marshall
Liesel Matthews as Alice Marshall
Paul Guilfoyle as White House Chief of Staff Lloyd Shepherd
William H. Macy as Major Norman Caldwell
Dean Stockwell as Defense Secretary Walter Dean
Director: Wolfgang Peterson

The president of the USA is returning home from Moscow when his plane, Air Force One, is hijacked and he finds himself in a do-or-die hostage situation.

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Air Force One is one of the most over the top action movies from the 90s and that’s saying a lot. It is far from the peak of 90s action but it is entertaining for what it is.

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Air Force One is very much a silly action flick from the 90s. The storytelling wasn’t the best, the motivations of the villains aren’t that well thought out. The plot is also very cliché, it boils down to Die Hard on a plane, its shameless even. Just replace a hotel with a plane and John McClane with the President of the United States. A lot of the tropes of the genre are recycled here. Its just as well that it has the right tone, it is very cheesy especially with how over the top patriotic it is. Thankfully it is very self aware, almost bordering on self parody at times. There are some really silly and wonderful moments including the one liners; ay movie where Harrison Ford as the president says “Get off my plane” was going to be at least somewhat enjoyable. I will say that it is a bit overlong at 2 hours long, it could’ve been a little shorter. Still it very rarely dragged, and it is consistently entertaining throughout.

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Harrison Ford made for a convincing action lead star and is reliably good here as the President of the USA. Gary Oldman made for a very fun villain, delivering a wonderful hammy performance. The character isn’t good, he’s quite generic, and his plan is silly. However, Oldman makes it work, or at least fun to watch. The acting from the rest of the supporting cast including Glenn Close is decent, but don’t quite come close to Ford or Oldman.

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Wolfgang Peterson did a good job directing this, it is well crafted. The visual effects are a bit outdated and overused, especially the external plane shots. The action is entertaining, well shot, and quite fun to watch. The score from Jerry Goldsmith is bombastic and over the top 90s, but it suits this movie.

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Air Force One is not one of the best action movies, not even when you limit it to just the 90s. The plot isn’t the best, the characterisation is flawed, and it is very derivative of other action movies. However, the cast are solid especially Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman, the action is entertaining, and the plot is simple and silly enough. So it’s worth a watch if you haven’t seen it already.

Bullet Train (2022) Review

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Bullet Train

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence & offensive language
Cast:
Brad Pitt as “Ladybug”
Joey King as “The Prince”
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as “Tangerine”
Brian Tyree Henry as “Lemon”
Andrew Koji as Yuichi Kimura / “The Father”
Hiroyuki Sanada as “The Elder”
Michael Shannon as “White Death”
Benito A. Martínez Ocasio “Bad Bunny” as “The Wolf”
Sandra Bullock as Maria Beetle
Zazie Beetz as “The Hornet”
Logan Lerman as “The Son”
Masi Oka as the Train Conductor
Karen Fukuhara as a Train Concession Girl
Director: David Leitch

Five assassins find themselves on a fast-moving bullet train from Tokyo to Morioka with only a few stops in between. They discover their missions are not unrelated to each other.

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Bullet Train was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. It’s David Leitch’s (Deadpool 2, Atomic Blonde, Hobbs and Shaw) next movie which is about a lot of assassins on one train, and has a cast that includes Brad Pitt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Hiroyuki Sanada and many more. I was a little unsure about the movie based on the trailers but I was hoping for the best going into it. While I do think it could’ve been better given the people involved, I still thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

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The writing of Bullet Train is a bit hit or miss. The story is somewhat intriguing with many twists and turns, even if it’s very derivative of other much better films. There are lots of characters with distinct personalities who are disconnected from each other, yet are all connected in the story in some way. There’s a lot of energy throughout and it’s helped by a mostly fast pace. There’s a lot happening with the number of characters involved and the way everything links together, and as such it can be unnecessarily complicated. Also, not all the characters are developed, though that comes with a movie having a very large cast. It is a comedy action movie, and it is very over the top with lots of jokes and quippy dialogue. Perhaps it’s a bit too silly for its own good at times. I have heard some people describe Bullet Train as a collection of skits put together, and I can kind of see what they mean. Every so often, the movie adds a completely new aspect or character into the plot, and sometimes it feels like it’s only there to be random and funny. They aren’t enough to take me out of the movie and I still thoroughly enjoyed it, but its definitely a movie I’ll need to rewatch to see if it still holds up. Despite the silliness of the movie, it can be a bit inconsistent with its tone. There’s more drama and emotion than I was expecting, however it doesn’t always gel with the comedy and goofiness that the film also has. The movie is around 2 hours long and while it doesn’t initially sound long, after watching, it I think it probably could’ve been trimmed by about 10 minutes.

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The strongest aspect of the movie is the massive ensemble cast, everyone is clearly having a lot of fun here. Brad Pitt is in the lead role playing a character that you could easily picture Ryan Reynolds playing as a particularly unlucky assassin. I think he was quite enjoyable in his part, even when there are other characters I was more interested in. The rest of the cast are great including Joey King, Michael Shannon, Sandra Bullock, Andrew Koji, and Hiroyuki Sanada. Not everyone reaches their potential, some characters receive more attention than others. The standout actors in the movie for me were Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry as twins named Tangerine and Lemon. They were a lot of fun to watch and had some memorable moments, but also had some believable chemistry and really sold their characters. Those two honestly could’ve carried an entire movie by themselves.

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David Leitch directs Bullet Train, and I liked his work here. There are some great visuals, and the action sequences are a highlight. The action isn’t quite as strong as in Leitch’s past movies like Atomic Blonde, but they are nonetheless entertaining and well done. The stunts are solid, the camerawork is kinetic, and they are very violent and bloody, especially in the third act where they up the scale and ridiculousness. That being said, the climax does have some dodgy CGI. The soundtrack was decent and had good choices for songs, especially with their scene placements.

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Bullet Train doesn’t quite live up to its potential given its premise and cast, and the writing is definitely messy. However, I can’t deny that I had a lot of fun watching this. The silliness and ridiculousness might be annoying for some people, but I enjoyed it, even if the attempts at humour don’t always work. I liked the style and visuals, the action was entertaining, and the ensemble cast carry the movie (with Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry being the standouts).

Broken Arrow (1996) Review

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Broken Arrow

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
John Travolta as U.S.A.F. Major Vic “Deak” Deakins
Christian Slater as U.S.A.F. Captain Riley Hale
Samantha Mathis as U.S. Park Service Park Ranger Terry Carmichael
Delroy Lindo as U.S.A.F. Colonel Max Wilkins
Frank Whaley as Giles Prentice
Bob Gunton as Mr. Pritchett
Howie Long as U.S.A.F Pararescueman Master Sergeant Kelly
Director: John Woo

Major Vic Deakins holds the US government to ransom by stealing a nuclear warhead and threatening to detonate it in a major city. His co-pilot and a park ranger attempt to thwart his plans.

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I remember watching Broken Arrow for the first time many years ago, it was a fun movie and one of the earlier films I saw from John Woo, if not his first. More recently I got a chance to watch it again, and it is even more entertaining than I remembered it being.

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The writing isn’t anything special, but it works well enough for this kind of over-the-top action flick. The plot is very simple, a rogue air force agent played by John Travolta steals two nuclear warheads in the desert, Christian Slater is another air force agent who has to stop him. There’s no complexity to the story, and it works as such. Broken Arrow takes place over one day and there is no downtime as the plot jumps from one action beat to another. It is helped by the lighting fast pacing, meaning that there is never a dull or slow moment throughout. It is definitely a cheesy movie, in fact there is an argument for it being one of the most over the top action movies from the 90s and that is saying a lot.

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The movie really benefits from the charismatic performances from the cast, really making the cheesiness work as well as it does. John Travolta is wonderfully fun to watch, giving one of his craziest performances of his career as the scene chewing villain of Broken Arrow. His character may be generically evil, but the performance does so much to make him memorable, and Travolta is clearly having a blast here. The way he plays this character is perfectly over the top from his line delivery to even the way he holds a cigarette is over the top. Definitely one of the highlights of the film. Christian Slater is also pretty good and likable as the protagonist, unfortunately he doesn’t get to ham it up like Travolta. That’s a shame because that would’ve made the movie even more entertaining especially in the scenes where they are facing off against each other. Still, Slater is still good enough that you’re invested in what is happening. Samantha Mathis plays the third notable character here and she’s decent, getting a lot to do here. Other supporting performances from a cast including Delroy Lindo and Bob Gunton are also enjoyable.

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John Woo directs this, and you absolutely feel his style throughout. It has plenty of his typical trademarks, including slow motion and plenty of explosions. There’s also this constant energy felt throughout which goes some way towards making it entertaining throughout. There is a lot of action, thankfully all of it is quite good. The set pieces are well crafted and the stuntwork is impressive. A lot of the action is filmed practically so it really holds up surprisingly well today. The bombastic score from Hans Zimmer also really adds to it.

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I wouldn’t say that Broken Arrow is one of John Woo’s best movies by any means. In fact, it feels like a lot of what he did here he would go on to perfect with Face/Off. That being said, it really succeeds as a cheesy 90s action flick. The plot is simple and straightforward enough and is told in a fast manner, John Woo’s direction adds a lot, the action scenes are really entertaining, and the performances are good, especially an incredibly fun to watch John Travolta. I think that it is worth checking out at the very least.

Total Recall (2012) Review

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Total Recall (2012)

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence, offensive language & nudity
Cast:
Colin Farrell as Douglas Quaid
Kate Beckinsale as Agent Lori
Jessica Biel as Melina
Bryan Cranston as Chancellor Vilos Cohaagen
Bokeem Woodbine as Agent Harry
Bill Nighy as Matthias
John Cho as McClane
Director: Len Wiseman

Douglas is frustrated with his frequent dreams where he is a secret agent. He visits Rekall to get a fake memory implanted into his brain, but the procedure goes haywire.

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When it comes to remakes of classics, 2012’s Total Recall seems to be one of the most disliked, at least from the past decade. I remember liking it when I saw it for the first time, but that was quite a while ago. After rewatching the original Total Recall after many years (and loving it even more), I decided to check out the remake again the same night. Perhaps not the best option, as I immediately noticed everything great and good about the original that the remake did not have. That being said, taking the remake aspect out of it, Total Recall (2012) is otherwise a serviceable enough standalone sci-fi film.

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I wouldn’t say the script of Total Recall (2012) is bad, it is competent and functional enough but it really isn’t strong. It does start off pretty well, with a good pace and an intriguing mystery at the centre of the movie. Throughout the movie, there’s some pretty good world building as well. I wasn’t super engaged with the plot partly because I knew what general direction it would be moving towards, and partly because it wasn’t the most interesting. Still, the plot at least had me willing to follow what was happening. After a while though, the plot becomes very generic and by the time it reaches the third act, it almost just gives up. It just concludes in a dragged out, dull and bland action climax. By that point the plot has gotten really convoluted, and I didn’t have enough enthusiasm for the movie to try to regain the thread of what was happening. For what its worth, I watched the Extended Director’s Cut and I heard the theatrical version removes the complexity from the plot. So if you were planning on watching it, I highly recommend checking out the longer version. That was me talking about the remake without comparing it to the original, that ends here. Side by side, the remake really does take away so much of what made the original film so special. Mars doesn’t play a part, there aren’t any mutants, and it takes itself incredibly seriously. Plotwise it’s not exactly similar to the Paul Verhoeven film which I honestly respect. I admire the decision to be a little different to the classic Arnold flick, even if it means having to drop some beloved and iconic aspects. That being said, the movie is still left less memorable and interesting and really lacks a personality. It is worth noting is that there are some out of place callbacks to the original throughout, which are baffling considering the remake’s intention to be somewhat different. There are lines of dialogue which are straight up taken from the 1990 film. There’s even a reference to the three breasted woman from the original film, which will only make sense to people to watched that movie and understands this moment, while the rest of the audience are left confused.

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Total Recall does at the very least have a solid cast going for it. Colin Farrell plays the role of lead role Douglas Quaid, not one of his all-time best performances, but he’s quite good. Arnold Schwarzenegger did admittedly seem out of place for the story of Total Recall (especially when he’s playing a role that is meant to be an everyman), but he fitted the energy of that film appropriately, and his presence really added to the film. With a more conventional and straight-faced Total Recall however, Farrell does a good job in the part. He’s convincing at the action scenes and at conveying his character’s need to know what is going on. Most of the other actors like Bill Nighy do a good job. Meanwhile Jessica Biel is very unconvincing as the love interest. Bryan Cranston plays Cohaagen, the main villain of Total Recall, played in the original by Ronny Cox. With a talent like Cranston as the antagonist, there’s a lot of potential. While he’s decent enough in his scenes, the movie doesn’t utilise him the best. He’s just generically evil, doesn’t leave much of an impression, and isn’t even in the movie a lot. Thankfully, Kate Beckinsale picks up the slack as Quaid’s wife Lori and the secondary villain of the movie. Essentially she plays a combination of Sharon Stone’s Lori and Michael Ironside’s Richter from the original Total Recall, as she relentlessly pursues Quaid throughout the film. Beckinsale’s turn as a villain is very fun to watch, she’s unstoppable and ruthless, and is definitely one of the strongest parts of the movie.

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Len Wiseman is a decent director and overall, his work here is okay. At the very least, the cinematography is stunning with some impressive visual effects. Wiseman has many sweeping shots of the big cities, and he is great at visualising a futuristic world. Although it looks very similar to locations in other sci-fi/futuristic movies, Wiseman clearly has an eye for detail and scale. The action is entertaining and well shot, even if it isn’t always coherent (especially towards the end). There is a ton of CGI and everything from the visuals to the action can seem very video gamey, which is a criticism that I’ve seen a lot from people. That being said, given that the point of Rekall was to give a false reality with the memory implants, it does play into that aspect well, unintentionally or otherwise.

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Total Recall (2012) is not a good remake, it definitely lacks a lot of what made the first movie great in the first place. I appreciate the efforts to be different and not just a copy of the beloved classic, but the method for doing so seemed to be copying plenty of other sci-fi movies. The end result is a bit generic and despite a promising start, ended up losing me by the end. But I wouldn’t say it’s bad, as a standard sci-fi thriller, it’s okay enough. The visuals are nice to watch, the action is entertaining, and generally the cast are good, especially Colin Farrell and Kate Beckinsale. Not a must see but it’s passable and not a bad watch, preferably if you haven’t watched the original first of course.

Total Recall (1990) Review

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Total Recall (1990)

Time: 156 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence and offensive language
Cast:
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid
Rachel Ticotin as Melina
Sharon Stone as Lori
Ronny Cox as Vilos Cohaagen
Michael Ironside as Richter
Director: Paul Verhoeven

Douglas Quaid tries to find the reason behind his recurring dream about Mars. He soon learns that a false memory has been planted into his brain and the people responsible for this want him dead.

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I remembered watching the original Total Recall for the first time ago many years ago when I was younger. I remember enjoying it with all the action, over the top violence, and one liners. More recently I decided to revisit it. Watching it again when I’m much older, it’s even better than I was remembered it to be.

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Based on a Phillip K. Dick novel called We Remember It For You Wholesale, Total Recall is well put together and fun to watch. It moves at a fast pace, there’s a decent amount of comedy and has plenty of quotable lines, in fact some of the best from an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. There’s plenty of parts that are silly and over the top, but there is a real self-awareness to the ridiculousness, so it makes it all the more better. I also was consistently entertained by a story which takes its twists and turns and does its world building in such an effective way.  There’s even a psychological aspect with lead character Quaid not knowing what’s real or not, or who he can trust. As a sci-fi action flick it’s really good, but its even more than that. Director Paul Verhoeven brings his trademark satirical approach to this story, like how he did with Robocop. The satire is loud, in your face and quite fitting. As to be expected especially given this is the 80s/90s, the movie takes jabs at capitalism and corporate greed, but also colonialism.

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The cast are also quite good all round. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the main character of Douglas Quaid in one of his best performances. As usual he is good in the action scenes and the cheesy one liners, but also does a good job at being genuine, and this is one of the few times he isn’t playing the typical hardcore action hero. Some have found him to be out of place in the movie and while I can see that especially given that he’s meant to be playing the everyman, I just can’t imagine the movie without him. He somehow just fits in with the tone and vibe that Verhoeven is going for. Other supporting actors like Sharon Stone and Rachael Ticotin are good, and Michael Ironside and Ronny Cox make for enjoyable scene chewing villains.

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Total Recall is directed by Paul Verhoeven, and he brings a lot of his style and energy to this movie. I really like the cinematography and look of the film, I loved the environments and the production design is great. The amount of practical effects on display are amazing, and most of it holds up today. There are even parts that venture into body horror. The special effects can be cheesy in a late 80s and early 90s way, but I feel like that fitted the overall tone of the movie that Verhoeven is going for. I really like the portrayal of the future, some of the technology can be clunky but even that is endearing. The action sequences are energetic, exciting and imaginative. Verhoeven’s trademark over the top and gory violence is on display and it is glorious to watch. Adding on top of all of that is the amazing score by Jerry Goldsmith.

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Total Recall is a wonderfully entertaining and over the top 90s action sci-fi thriller. The cast are good, the writing is fun, satirical and self-aware, and Paul Verhoeven’s direction and style are amazing. It’s even a strong contender for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best movie yet, up there with the first two Terminator films at the very least. If you are a fan of action and/or sci-fi, I highly recommend checking it out.

Honest Thief (2020) Review

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Honest Thief

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Liam Neeson as Tom Dolan
Kate Walsh as Annie Wilkins
Jai Courtney as Agent John Nivens
Jeffrey Donovan as Agent Sean Meyers
Anthony Ramos as Agent Ramon Hall
Robert Patrick as Agent Sam Baker
Director: Mark Williams

Hoping to cut a deal, a professional bank robber agrees to return all the money he stole in exchange for a reduced sentence. When two FBI agents set him up for murder, he is forced to go on the run to clear his name and bring them to justice.

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Going into Honest Thief, I really wasn’t expecting much beyond a typical Liam Neeson action movie. That’s pretty much what the film was, still I got some enjoyment out of it. However if you’re hoping for a special movie amongst his many flicks over the past decade, Honest Thief isn’t that.

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The script holds a lot of the movie back with how generic it is. The story is very typical and doesn’t have much to offer. Liam Neeson is a capable thief (having a particular set of skills), he falls in love, he turns himself into the FBI, but is then framed and has to go on the run to clear his name. The plot unravels exactly how you’d expect it to. It’s not all that interesting but it is competent and serviceable, and gracefully doesn’t get over complicated. It is at least aware of what kind of movie it is. The movie is not very long at 100 minutes, and I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any longer than that.

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Liam Neeson plays the lead role as the titular thief. Its not one of his better Neeson flick performances, but he is solid enough and is watchable, elevating this generic action flick a little. The rest of the cast including Kate Walsh, Jeffrey Donavon, Anthony Ramos, Robert Patrick and Jai Courtney are also decent, but aren’t given much to do,

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The direction from Mark Williams is fine, just nothing spectacular. The action is there, entertaining enough, but with typical set pieces. It’s not bad, just rather forgettable.

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Honest Thief is exactly what you’d expect it to be, a cliched Liam Neeson action movie with very few surprises. With that said, I found it entertaining enough, the cast led by Neeson are pretty good, and the action is reasonably fun to watch. It feels like a straight to streaming movie, but as that it succeeds well enough. So if you enjoy Neeson flicks and you’re not expecting anything special, Honest Thief is an okay time.

The Gray Man (2022) Review

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The Gray Man

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language & cruelty
Cast:
Ryan Gosling as “Sierra Six”
Chris Evans as Lloyd Hansen
Ana de Armas as Dani Miranda
Jessica Henwick as Suzanne Brewer
Regé-Jean Page as Denny Carmichael
Wagner Moura as Laszlo Sosa
Julia Butters as Claire Fitzroy
Dhanush as “Lone Wolf”
Alfre Woodard as Margaret Cahill
Billy Bob Thornton as Donald Fitzroy
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

When the CIA’s top asset — his identity known to no one — uncovers agency secrets, he triggers a global hunt by assassins set loose by his ex-colleague.

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I knew of The Gray Man as it was coming up to its release date, one of the newest movies from the Russo Brothers post Avengers: Endgame. It’s an action spy film with a massive cast including Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans and Ana de Armas. The movie looked like standard Netflix fare, but I went into it open minded; I found it passable.

The Gray Man

The writing is a mixed bag to say the least. The Gray Man has a generic spy plot and as such it falls into many annoying cliches of the genre. I guess it is fine, but at a certain point the story stops mattering, as there’s a lot more importance placed on the set pieces. You kind of forget what the initial plot setup was by the third act. It is also hard to care about what’s going on despite the script’s best attempts. The characters aren’t that interesting, the only one who is remotely developed is Ryan Gosling’s protagonist. It makes an effort to make the character played by Julia Butters the heart and soul of the film, mainly with Gosling’s connection with her, but it feels lifeless and obligatory. The humour for the most part didn’t work, with some very dry jokes. The pacing is generally okay, but there is a section which has an extended flashback and while I get the reason for that section, it really halts the plot while it conveys the information. I get the feeling that the movie would’ve worked more if it came out in the 90s. As it is released today, its missing the charm that a movie like that might have. Not helping matters is the ending not feeling fully resolved, and its very clear that they were already intending to make sequels to this.

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There is a massively talented cast here and while they are generally decent, none of them are doing great work. Ryan Gosling was the standout as the titular Gray Man. It’s certainly nowhere close to being one of Gosling’s best work by any means. However, he was pretty good with what he was given, it certainly helps that he’s the only character with any form of backstory or development. He was also quite convincing during the action scenes. Chris Evans plays a psychopathic ex-spy sent after Gosling in a rare villain role; it’s the type of role that John Travolta would’ve played in the 90s like Broken Arrow or Face/Off. It seems that Evans is a little miscast, even though he has played darker more villainous characters in other movies and done well at them. I think the problem is that the character is written quite generic, despite the movie deliberately showing how crazy he is. For this character to work, it would’ve required an actor who could deliver a certain kind of crazy to elevate it, unfortunately Evans is not that. For what its worth, at least it looks like he’s having fun and hams it up. It’s just a shame that despite the movie building up the concept of the two facing off, the two actors don’t share that much screentime. The supporting cast are fairly underutilised including Ana de Armas, Jessica Henwick, Rege Jean-Page, Alfre Woodard, Billy Bob Thornton and Julia Butters, but they are okay in their roles.

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The Russo Brothers have delivered better in their previous movies, their work here is just fine. For a 200 million dollar budget movie, it could’ve been so much more. The movie is generally shot okay, but it can also look a bit bland visually. The action set pieces are nice and chaotic, however the cuts really take away from it. There are lots of drone shots, its fine but probably not as good as in other movies. It especially doesn’t help that earlier in the year, Michael Bay’s Ambulance utilised drone footage in a more exciting way. The Gray Man uses it an attempt to be flashy but ultimately it was pointless.

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The Gray Man is a fairly entertaining yet forgettable spy movie, which is only memorable for the actors in it. As far as Netflix action movies go, it is on the better end but considering some of their other films, that isn’t saying a lot. Its okay. but you wouldn’t be missing much if you didn’t watch it, a shame considering the talent working in the movie.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013) Review

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Ain't Them Bodies Saints

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Rooney Mara as Ruth Guthrie
Casey Affleck as Bob Muldoon
Ben Foster as Patrick Wheeler
Keith Carradine as Skerritt
Rami Malek as Will
Charles Baker as Bear
Nate Parker as Sweetie
Director: David Lowery

A man (Casey Affleck) takes the fall for his lover’s (Rooney Mara) crime, then four years later breaks out of prison to find her and their young daughter, who was born during his incarceration.

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I was initially interested in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints for the talent involved, especially with a cast that included Rooney Mara. I went in knowing nothing aside from this and the initial premise, and I quite liked it, even if the writing wasn’t anything special.

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At its core, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a poetic and melancholic crime drama. The story is predictable, simple and a bit cliched, the characters are archetypical and nothing special. Its very loose with the plot, and for the most part it doesn’t really land as hard emotionally as it was intending to. It is a slower paced movie, often meandering and particularly dragging in the second act. Not everything is explained, and much is left up for the viewer to interpret, very much high on atmosphere and low on explanation, but I kind of respect that. There is a melancholic and sad vibe that is effectively conveyed throughout. There is very little time spent on the actual romance between the lead two characters; we get early scenes with the couple together before they are separated and then there’s a time jump. After this point, for most of the runtime, they aren’t on screen together. Instead, much of the film is them yearning for each other and I thought that was effective. While the movie on the whole doesn’t succeed entirely, there are some powerful character moments.

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Much of what made the movie work as well as it did was the cast. Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara deliver great and powerful performances as their characters, they shared convincing chemistry together, which is important since much of the movie relies on their connection, and they have limited scenes together. Ben Foster, Keith Carradine and more also worked well in supporting parts.

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David Lowery’s direction was one of the strongest elements of the movie, I liked his style and handling of the movie. This film is beautifully shot by Bradford Young, with great use of natural lighting and really captured the locations and settings. There is also a great score from Daniel Hart which fitted the melancholic tone of the movie. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints really reminded me of Terrence Malick’s earlier movies, especially with the cinematography and locations, along with the fairly plotless approach.

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Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a good romantic crime drama. I wouldn’t say that it is a must see, it is slower paced, it can drag and feels like it is missing something with the writing and story. However, David Lowery’s direction and the solid performances were just enough to make it work, and I think it is worth checking out.

Live Free Or Die Hard (2007) Review

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Live Free or Die Hard

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] containes violence & offensive language
Cast:
Bruce Willis as Detective John McClane
Justin Long as Matthew “Matt” Farrell
Timothy Olyphant as Thomas Gabriel
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Lucy Gennero-McClane
Maggie Q as Mai Linh
Director: Len Wiseman

The Director of FBI’s Cyber Crime Division assigns John McClane the task of tracking down a hacker. John ends up working with an ethical hacker who helps him deal with the cyber criminals.

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Live Free or Die Hard (or Die Hard 4) was the fourth movie in the Die Hard series, released 12 years after the last movie. I do recall people being a bit mixed on this movie, especially as it leans into more a conventional action blockbuster and feeling less like Die Hard. To a degree it is partially a let-down after Die Hard with a Vengeance but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

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The movie is definitely ridiculous even by Die Hard standards, with regard to the plot and with the action (particularly near the end). Die Hard with a Vengeance increased the scale to the entirety of New York City, so as you can expect, the fourth movie’s scale is even larger. Live Free or Die Hard pits John McClane against younger cyberterrorists and while the plot does feels very late 2000s and dated, cyberterrorism was a decent choice of antagonism to keep the series from just rehashing the past. Some of the changes do make the movie feel less like Die Hard, it’s pretty much a generic action plot that happens to have John McClane as the protagonist. With that said, McClane does play a big part in this movie working. Despite feeling less like typical Die Hard, I appreciate the changes made to the formula, especially with how the last movie was made over a decade prior, and it does its best to modernise it.

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Bruce Willis returns once again to the iconic role of John McClane. I wouldn’t say that this is Willis in top form, and the movie effectively turning him from a down to earth cop and underdog into an indestructible superhero who survives unbelievable dangers. At the same time, he is still really good here. As a more grizzled John, Willis is surprisingly engaged in this role and still delivers as his character. Live Free or Die Hard is a typical mid to late 2000s action movie with cyberterrorists but the one thing that makes it work is John McClane, it would be a much weaker movie without him. Willis is protecting a hacker character played by Justin Long, who had the potential to be annoying but actually worked okay here. The chemistry between the two certainly wasn’t at the level of Willis with Jackson in the previous movie, but their banter is enjoyable enough. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays McClane’s daughter and isn’t in it much but is good in her screentime. Timothy Olyphant as the villain is fine enough for this movie. He isn’t all that intimidating or convincing, but at least was different enough of a villain compared to McClane’s past antagonists. There is a Kevin Smith cameo in this, while I’m not going to say I disliked it, it was certainly distracting.

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Len Wiseman directs this movie, and his work is decent. This is the first PG-13 Die Hard movie, meaning that the violence is toned down and is less bloody despite the high bodycount. I have issues with it for sure but it doesn’t ruin the movie for me. Something you’ll notice immediately is that it looks so different from the rest of the franchise, fitting right into the late 2000s mold of action cinema mainly with the cinematography and lighting. The action is competently handled even if it doesn’t reach the heights of the first or third movies. The action is often cartoonishly over the top and far fetched, but at least it is creative and fun to watch. I will say though that the over-the-top action does eventually lead to a lack of tension since John seems to survive soe many ridiculous situations.

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Live Free or Die Hard definitely has its faults. The story is fairly generic, and it does lose some of its identity of a Die Hard movie. However I do think it is entertaining. The story is at least watchable, the action is fun to watch, and Bruce Willis is once again great to watch as John McClane. Considering many of its aspects, the updated modern day setting, the PG-13 rating, the fact that it’s the 4th movie in the franchise and 12 years since the last instalment, it could’ve been a lot worse. This was the more ideal place for the franchise to stop. Die Hard had to evolve, from 2 to 3 and from 3 to 4 but at this point its lost its identity as a Die Hard movie and would be best leaving it at that. Unfortunately there was a fifth movie after this.