I, Robot (2004) Review

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I, Robot

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Will Smith as Det. Del Spooner
Bridget Moynahan as Dr. Susan Calvin
Alan Tudyk as Sonny
Bruce Greenwood as Lawrence Robertson
James Cromwell as Dr. Alfred Lanning
Chi McBride as Lt. John Bergin
Director: Alex Proyas

Del Spooner (Will Smith) investigates the murder of Dr Alfred (James Cromwell), who works at US Robotics, with the help of a robopsychologist. He tries to deduce if a robot has violated the laws of robotics and killed him.

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I saw I, Robot a long time ago and I remembered liking it, but I didn’t remember it strongly. Having seen director Alex Proyas’s The Crow and Dark City (and unfortunately Gods of Egypt) since, I was interested in watching it again. While there are issues for sure and it could’ve been better, I enjoyed the movie for what it was.

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I, Robot is seemingly based off a sci-fi novel, I’m not familiar with it however so I’m treating it as its own movie. Whilst there are moments of interesting scientific musings about the nature of AI and consciousness, it doesn’t really go below the surface level. It could’ve been more, especially considering that it’s from the director of Dark City. It opens strongly with an interesting murder mystery which questions the evolution of technology but by the end is a rather familiar sci-fi action blockbuster. With all that being said, it’s pretty enjoyable taken solely as an action oriented Sci-Fi adventure. Overall, it was a semi-predictable but still moderately intriguing work of sci-fi that still kept my interest. It does take heavy influences from sci-fi films in the past, the robots desiring to become human aspect alone has been popular since Blade Runner. However, it at least has its own creative voice to the table in its worldbuilding on artificial intelligence. It questions the nature of free will, and the plot is a well thought out mystery. It’s not one of the most intelligently defined feature film on robotics (it’s no Ex Machina) but it works enough. There are some issues for sure. There’s a general amount of generic action tropes present, and some dumb dialogue scattered about. The story also does have its cliches and also have some pretty obvious twists. At the same time, it holds a certain charm to it, whether it be the sci-fi aspects, or the over the top 2000s action stuff. Additionally its paced pretty well and I was reasonably engaged throughout.

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The acting is mostly good from the cast. Will Smith is charismatic, energetic and layered in the lead role of a cop who’s prejudiced against robots. He’s close to playing the same hero character he usually plays, but he’s not just mugging to camera, he’s actually playing a fully defined character. Overall he made for an enjoyable protagonist. Alan Tudyk gives a very thoughtful performance as a robot named Sonny, who’s a key character in the story. Even though it’s a voice performance, Tudyk was the highlight performer. The rest of the supporting characters and actors are capable, if not exceptional. Bruce Greenwood is convincing in a villainous sort of role, and James Cromwell works as the murder victim at the centre of the mystery. If there’s a weak leak amongst the cast, it’s Bridget Moynahan in one of the main roles. Her performance is rather bland and forgettable, and robotic (no, there’s no twist where she’s a robot or anything), and the character wasn’t that interesting. Otherwise the rest of the acting was overall decent.

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Alex Proyas directs this, and while it’s not one of his best works, he does some good stuff here. The movie is high on his trademark visual flair and action. The production design was well done, much of the world that we see is just ‘typical futuristic sci-fi stuff’ but the style is good and well put together. The film is littered with dated early 2000s CGI that hasn’t aged gracefully, the CGI visuals for the multiple robots particularly don’t hold up as well now. Overall, I liked the visual atmosphere of the film though. Proyas knows his way around an action scene, and there are some entertaining action here. It does have some excessive early 2000s slow motion action and the hollow and dated effects do hold these scenes back from being as great as they could be. With that said, it didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of those moments hugely, I still had fun with them.

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I, Robot isn’t a particularly original film in the sci-fi genre, and it has plenty of problems from the CGI to the predictable and standard plot (especially in the last act). However there are some entertaining action, good performances from Will Smith and Alan Tudyk, and at the very least is a good enough action sci-fi movie which entertains. Don’t expect anything like Ex Machina, but if you’re looking for a fun sci-fi action flick, it’s worth a watch.

Cruella (2021) Review

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Cruella

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Emma Stone as Estella Miller/Cruella de Vil
Emma Thompson as Baroness von Hellman
Joel Fry as Jasper Badun
Paul Walter Hauser as Horace Badun
Emily Beecham as Catherine Miller
Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Anita “Tattletale” Darling
Mark Strong as John
Director: Craig Gillespie

Estella (Emma Stone) is a young and clever grifter who’s determined to make a name for herself in the fashion world. She soon meets a pair of thieves (Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser) who appreciate her appetite for mischief, and together they build a life for themselves on the streets of London. However, when Estella befriends fashion legend Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson), she embraces her wicked side to become the raucous and revenge-bent Cruella.

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Cruella was a movie I wasn’t entirely excited for in the lead up to its release. While I haven’t seen all the live action Disney remakes, generally they’ve felt rather average and not that impressive. However there were a few reasons I was slightly interested for Cruella. One was the cast, which included Emma Stone and Emma Thompson. There is also the fact that it’s an origin story for Cruella de Vil, which although potentially unnecessary, does mean that it’s probably going to do more than just be a repeat of the animated movie’s story beats. Also the trailers looked decent, and hinted at being more than just a replication of the animated movie. Cruella actually surprised me quite a bit and I liked it.

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Cruella was 2 hours and 14 minutes long, despite the fact that the movie is very fast paced, and I was entertained throughout. The plot is rather predictable and familiar (not necessarily in terms of it being a Disney movie), but nonetheless I was interested to see where it would go. Throughout when you’re watching the movie, you might be wondering how this version of Cruella de Vil is supposed to link up with the versions of Cruella de Vil that we are more familiar with. I get the feeling however that this is actually a reimagining of the character, and if that’s the case then I’m entirely on board with that. Even by the end, she’s more of an anti-hero than a full on villain. One way where the two versions of Cruella differ is with regard to the dogs, you don’t need to worry about seeing any puppy/dog killing because there’s none here. There’s even two dogs who are with Estalla/Cruella and the thieves she’s teamed up with, so it is definitely taking a different approach to the character. It is an origin story for Cruella de Vil, and while it does seem a bit unnecessary to bolt a tragic backstory and try to force it in, I was surprisingly rather engaged. One of the things that emerged online about the movie as soon as it came out was a particular moment involving dalmatians in the first 20 minutes, and yes it is rather ridiculous and forced. However it actually works alright in the movie itself, partly because of the tone. Throughout. it does have a rather campy tone, so some of the sillier aspects and issues seem to work alright here, including a flawed story and cheesy dialogue. I’m not certain that I’ve watched the original 101 Dalmatians movie but there were some moments that referred to that film, and they were quite on the nose. It was almost like the filmmakers were contractually obliged to include them. However there weren’t as many of those moments as I thought they would be, nor did they take away from the rest of the story. I feel like by it being an origin story, it actually had freedom to be its own movie (a crime comedy) rather than being restricted to just repeating story beats from a pre-existing film. For those interested, there’s a mid credits scene which hints towards a sequel.

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The cast were among the strongest parts of the movie. First of all is Emma Stone as Estella/Cruella de Vil, who turned out to be a surprisingly great casting choice. Stone humanises her and adds so much to the character, while giving a larger than life performance and is clearly having a great time in the role. Even if you don’t like the rest of the movie, I do think Cruella is worth watching for her alone. There’s also Emma Thompson as The Baroness, and her character does seem very similar to Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada. However it actually sort of works for this movie, and Thompson is great as the film’s scene chewing and hateable villain. The back and forth between her and Stone is very enjoyable to watch. Also really good are Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser as the thieves that are teamed up with Estella/Cruella, and the three play off each other very well. Hauser particularly stands out, especially with his perfect line delivery and comedic timing.

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Cruella also benefits a lot from the energised direction of Craig Gillespie. Performances aside, the stylistic direction elevates the script immensely. The setting of 70s London is beautifully filmed with gorgeous cinematography and has well detailed set designs, it lends itself well to the fashion, music and grimy aesthetic. The wardrobe is fantastic as to be expected, the costumes are absolutely extravagant, and the visual style really showed them off well. The score from Nicholas Britell (who also composed Succession, Vice, Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk, The King and more) is amazing as to be expected from him, and really adds a lot to the film. The soundtrack has a great lineup of songs, even if many of them feel very on the nose and there are too many needle drop moments. On a technical level, really the only aspect that isn’t so great is the CGI, especially the effects used for the dogs.

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One could argue that Cruella is an unnecessary movie, and in a way it is. However I can’t deny that I was enjoying it throughout. The plot is not the best but did enough to have me actually interested to see how things would progress, it’s directed with a very distinct style, and the performances were all great, especially Emma Stone as the titular character. There’s a sequel in talks, and while I’m not sure how it would be possible, I’m not against it. Even if you aren’t such a big fan of the recent live action Disney remakes, I think Cruella is worth checking out.

The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021) Review

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The Conjuring 3 The Devil Made Me Do It

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, horror & cruelty
Cast:
Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren
Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren
Ruairi O’Connor as Arne Cheyenne Johnson
Sarah Catherine Hook as Debbie Glatzel
Julian Hilliard as David Glatzel
John Noble as Father Kastner
Director: Michael Chaves

Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) take on one of the most sensational cases of their careers after a cop stumbles upon a dazed and bloodied young man walking down the road. Accused of murder, the suspect claims demonic possession as his defense, forcing the Warrens into a supernatural inquiry unlike anything they’ve ever seen before.

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I was a bit sceptical about The Conjuring 3 going into it, mainly because James Wan, who directed the previous 2 films, wasn’t returning to helm it. However, I am a fan of the first two movies, so I was still interested in checking it out. While it’s definitely not as strong as the Wan directed Conjuring films, it was better than I was expecting and it was quite good.

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One way that The Conjuring 3 especially works is by being different from the other movies with regards to the type of story, while fitting in nicely with the rest of the series. It’s not a haunted house yarn like the past two movies, and goes for a more mystery angle that involves a lot of investigation as the lead characters try to figure out the possession. I’m not that scared by the movies, so I don’t mind the different approach, even though it is still very much a horror movie with jump scares. The first two acts are pretty good and entertaining. The movie starts off well with a great and memorable opening scene, which gets you hooked from the beginning. After that point we have two storylines that go in different directions, one following the murder suspect, and the other following Ed and Lorraine Warren. I was quite intrigued to see where the story played out. There were some issues with the writing. I wish more things were fleshed out, for example having a Satanist being the one behind everything is an interesting idea (instead of it just being yet another demon), though their motivations aren’t explored really. While I wasn’t expecting anything super deep, I was just hoping for something more. The third acts of the Conjuring movies are the least scary sections of those movies and The Conjuring 3 is no exception. A lot of over the top in your face supernatural stuff happens, and it also cuts between two storylines which sort of takes you out of it. I didn’t mind it though, the climax was entertaining and I was satisfied with the resolution, even though it felt a little rushed.

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The characters and acting are the stronger parts of these movies, and The Conjuring 3 is no exception. One of the best aspects of these movies is Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren. Their performances are great, and they share such believable chemistry. They really are some of the most compelling protagonists in modern horror movies. Their relationship is in the forefront once again, and much of the investment in the story comes from us being invested with these characters and everything that’s happening with them. The rest of the cast are great too, including Ruairi O’Connor as the possessed murder suspect at the centre of the film, and John Noble as a haunted ex-priest.

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As mentioned previously, James Wan didn’t direct this movie, and while his absence is felt to a degree, director Michael Chaves does quite well at helming it. It is well shot (some of them felt signature to Wan), and it does well at setting itself in the time period of the early 1980s. There are some jumpscares that were predictable and not that scary, but it does well at building up an fairly strong horror atmosphere. The creatures, dead bodies and other similar entities look incredible, with some phenomenal visual and practical effects.

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As said previously, The Conjuring 3 isn’t quite as good as the previous two movies. However I was invested in the story and characters, and was interested to see how it all played out, paired with some solid directing and really good acting, especially with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as the compelling and likable lead characters. If you liked any of the previous Conjuring movies, I think the third movie is worth a watch at the very least.

Speed (1994) Review

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Speed

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & Offensive Language
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as Officer Jack Traven
Dennis Hopper as Howard Payne
Sandra Bullock as Annie Porter
Joe Morton as Lieutenant Herb ‘Mac’ McMahon
Jeff Daniels as Detective Harry Temple
Director: Jan de Bont

A young police officer (Keanu Reeves) must prevent a bomb exploding aboard a city bus by keeping its speed above 50 mph.

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Speed is one of the most iconic and influential action movies from the 90s, with a memorable premise, great action sequences, and it was overall really good. I decided to rewatch it recently, it’s still really entertaining and it surprisingly holds up pretty well for the most part.

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The concept of the movie is fairly simple: if a bus drops its speed below 50 mph, it will explode. It works greatly in its simplicity and it’s brilliantly executed. The plot has plenty of creative ideas and situations that prevent the film from being repetitive. It might be a pretty standard plot nowadays in terms of action movies, but the high concept within Speed is sort of action movie genius, especially for the 90s. It’s engaging from its opening moments taking place in an elevator shaft, and remains tense throughout its runtime. The pacing is fierce, aside from its final 15 minutes, it’s perfectly paced. It is breathlessly energetic and intense, and there’s a lot of escalating suspense throughout, never letting you stop for a moment to catch your breath. It drags the audience from one disaster to the next, engaged in such a confined environment. The last act isn’t quite as strong as the first two acts, but it was entertaining enough. It’s definitely a 90s action flick, and with that comes all the typical cheese that similar movies have. This isn’t exactly an intellectually challenging feature, but it was never expected to be that. It fully commits to its ridiculous premise and that’s what makes it both charming and exciting. The dialogue is goofy but quotable nonetheless, and the characters are very cliché but still work well for this movie. Sometimes things happen that don’t make sense as to be expected. Physics and realism aside, the motivations of the villain are kind of shoddy and aren’t really that fleshed out for example. However it’s entertaining enough that it makes up for any problems you might have with the plot. It’s also a very rewatchable movie.

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Everyone gives the exact kind of performance you expect from them. The characters are all stereotypes but it doesn’t matter that much, and the actors are all good in their parts. The role of lead character Jack is right for Keanu Reeves, cocky and impulsive, but smart and engaging. Sandra Bullock also does very well here in her part, she and Reeves have some great on screen chemistry in this movie. Dennis Hopper plays the villain, while the character himself isn’t that great, Hopper is effectively chewing every scene he’s in. He makes the character feel crazy yet threatening and in control with all these bombs scenarios he set up.

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Jan de Bont directs this movie incredibly well. There are so many memorable action sequences, de Bont knows how to keep the tension at a high level throughout. It’s impressive how many different set pieces he’s able to pack into just one location. The opening on its own, the elevator sequence, was a great way of introducing the audience to the kind of tension they’ll be feeling for the rest of the movie. But of course it’s the majority of the movie taking place on the bus that’s so impressive, with some insane practical stunts. The editing is effectively tight, and the intense score from Mark Mancina is memorable and fits the movie well.

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Speed is pure high energy action cinema at its finest, and a near pitch perfect 90s summer blockbuster. It’s not only influential and iconic for its time, even today it still entertains and thrills with a simple and over the top yet effective script and plot, likable and memorable characters and acting, and impressive direction. I recommend checking it out if you haven’t already.

Those Who Wish Me Dead (2021) Review

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Those Who Wish Me Dead

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, cruelty, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Angelina Jolie as Hannah
Finn Little as Connor
Nicholas Hoult as Patrick
Aidan Gillen as Jack
Jon Bernthal as Ethan
Medina Senghore as Allison
Jake Weber as Owen
Tyler Perry as Arthur
Director: Taylor Sheridan

Still reeling from the loss of three lives, Hannah (Angelina Jolie) is a smoke jumper who’s perched in a watchtower high above the Montana wilderness. She soon encounters Connor (Finn Little), a skittish boy who’s bloodied, traumatized and on the run in the remote forest. As Hannah tries to bring him to safety, she’s unaware of the real dangers to follow: two relentless killers hunting Connor, and a fiery blaze consuming everything in its path.

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Those Who Wish Me Dead was one of my most anticipated movies of 2021. Not only did it have a great cast with Angelina Jolie, Nicholas Hoult, Aidan Gillen and Jon Bernthal, but it was coming from Taylor Sheridan, who’s last directing work was a great crime thriller called Wind River. So I was excited based off the premise and the talent involved. I will say it wasn’t quite like I hoped it would be but I still liked it.

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I went into the movie as someone who liked Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River, so to those who like me were expecting something like that, Those Who Wish Me Dead is nothing like that. Not only did I find that it definitely doesn’t live up to his stronger works, but as I discovered within the first 10 minutes, it is more of a 90s throwback thriller. The plot itself is rather predictable but I was interested enough to watch throughout. However I will note that for whatever reason, I was more interested in the supporting characters than the stories of the two leads, and I don’t think that was supposed to be the case. There is some characterisation, especially with the two main leads, however for the most part it doesn’t really delve into the characters much. I also do like how it is unflinching with the relentlessness and brutality of the violence, quite familiar to some of Sheridan’s other works like Sicario and Wind River. By the end of the movie, you do notice that there are a lot of questions that are unanswered, and some aspects that aren’t explained the best. For example, the motivations of the hitmen chasing the main characters are murky at best, Tyler Perry appears in one scene as the person who hire the killers and that’s it. It would’ve benefited from being a bit longer, using that time to develop more of the characters and story, especially when you consider that the runtime is only 100 minutes long. The pacing is a bit iffy, not the strongest especially in the first act where it seems to be taking a while to get to the main event at the center of the plot. Not to mention that the first two acts spend time building to the 10 minute climax.

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The cast are great, and they deliver good performances on their parts. Angelina Jolie is headlining the movie as the lead, as she indeed plays the lead character. Despite this, she doesn’t really get the screentime necessary to give her the depth that is needed. She does have a tragic backstory as a smokejumper with a trauma and we do see how this affects her, which makes her the only major character in this movie with an actual backstory. Even then, it still feels like her character needed more development. Nonetheless Jolie does play the role very well. Finn Little plays the child that Angelina Jolie is protecting over the course of the movie, and he actually does quite a good job in the role despite feeling like a plot device. The chemistry and dynamic between Little and Jolie is believable and works well enough. With that said, these two seemed to be sidelined, and aren’t given the proper development that they need. As I said earlier, the supporting players actually end up being more impressive than the leads. First of all are the two hitmen played by Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult. Their relentless nature to carry out this goal makes them unpredictable, and that unpredictability is definitely needed in this rather generic and familiar plot. Despite being stone cold killers and straightforward villains, they are pretty human as shown through the dialogue and solid performances, and I kind of wanted more screentime with them. There’s also Jon Bernthal and Medina Senghore as the local sheriff and his pregnant wife, who are meant to be background characters but actually stand out. Bernthal does get a good amount of screentime compared to some of his other supporting roles (i.e. less than 10 minutes), and Senghore is something of a scenestealer. Tyler Perry is good in his one scene however his appearance is so brief that you could almost miss him.

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Taylor Sheridan’s direction wasn’t quite as impressive as his work on Wind River, but on a technical level it is still solid. The cinematography is gorgeous, with much of the film being shot against a stunning landscape. When a particular forest fire becomes present in the movie and affects the characters, it almost becomes a presence in itself, elevating the tension as the sight of fire just spreading through the trees being quite intimidating. The action is well put together and flows well, and as said earlier is brutal and unflinching. Brian Tyler’s score does a lot to elevate the intensity too, and fits perfectly with the rest of the movie.

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Those Who Wish Me Dead was a bit of a disappointment to me, as someone who liked a lot of Taylor Sheridan’s past work (especially Wind River) and the cast involved. However I still enjoyed it. As a 90s action thriller throwback (albeit without the cheesy tone), it was entertaining enough, the cast were good in their parts, and it was directed reasonably well. If you’re interested in an okay thriller with great actors, then give it a watch but it’s not one that you’ll need to catch as soon as possible.

Without Remorse (2021) Review

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Without Remorse

Time: 109 Minutes
Cast:
Michael B. Jordan as John Kelly
Jamie Bell as Robert Ritter
Jodie Turner-Smith as Lieutenant Commander Karen Greer
Luke Mitchell as Rowdy King
Jack Kesy as Thunder
Brett Gelman as Victor Rykov
Lauren London as Pam Kelly
Colman Domingo as Pastor West
Guy Pearce as Secretary of Defense Thomas Clay
Director: Stefano Sollima

Seeking justice for the murder of his pregnant wife, an elite Navy SEAL (Michael B. Jordan) uncovers a covert plot that threatens to engulf the United States and Russia in an all-out war.

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I heard about Without Remorse somewhat recently, the main thing I knew was that it was based off a Tom Clancy book. I wasn’t expecting a huge amount from it, especially with the reactions to it. With that said, I like Michael B. Jordan (who’s in the lead role), and the director and writer of Sicario: Day of the Soldado, Stefano Sollima and Taylor Sheridan, were involved. I expected an okay action flick and that’s pretty much what I got.

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The writing is the key issues with the movie really, despite Taylor Sheridan being one of the writers, it’s pretty underwhelming. If you’ve seen a movie based off the works of Tom Clancy, Without Remorse should feel very familiar. I never read the book so I can’t comment on the similarities or differences between the book and the movie. However I can say that the movie felt like straightforward 80s and 90s CIA espionage thrillers (especially those based off Tom Clancy’s books). The plot all in all is pretty generic, the story is fine but underdeveloped. The script itself has a lot of cliches, illogical situations and forced one liners that don’t really fit in here. There aren’t any interesting backstories, and the motives of the characters aren’t that compelling. It’s like a 90s action thriller with the notable fact that the mood throughout much of the plot of Without Remorse is sombre, so it’s not quite as entertaining as it could’ve been. Without Remorse is a revenge story for the main character, beyond that though, there isn’t much to the story as a whole. It has its twists, but nothing was compelling or surprising. The reveals are predictable especially one obvious reveal in the third act. It really is just a simple, predictable espionage thriller, but that might be enough for you. It is tightly paced enough, and while the runtime doesn’t give enough development to the plot (though even with its hour and 50 minutes it could’ve done more), it does make it a fairly easy if forgettable watch. Something to note is that in the mid credits there’s a scene which sets up a follow up for a sequel, with it continuing to follow the books of Tom Clancy presumably.

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There’s a pretty good cast involved overall. Michael B. Jordan is in the lead role and while I wouldn’t argue that it’s one of his best performances, he’s good as a soldier seeking revenge. He elevates much of the writing with his performance and is particularly great with the physicality in the action scenes. Without him I feel like the movie would’ve been much worse. A supporting cast which includes Jodie Turner Smith, Jamie Bell and Guy Pearce also work pretty well overall.

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Stefano Sollima is the director, and I was impressed with his work on Sicario 2. Here his work on Without Remorse is relatively decent and does the job. On a technical level it is solid, but it really shined most in the action sequences. There are some good action set pieces that are well shot and paced, and the chorography felt brutal. I wouldn’t say that they really make the movie, as entertaining as they are, they could’ve been a little more creative. But for what its worth, the action is among the better parts of the film.

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Without Remorse was pretty much what I expected it to be. It’s a pretty simple espionage action movie with a generic and familiar plot. However, what does make up for it are a pretty good cast including a strong lead performance in Michael B. Jordan, and some entertaining action scenes. It really does seem like they are working towards a sequel, and if it happens, I just hope that it is better than this movie was.

RoboCop (1987) Review

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Robocop

Time: 102 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence
Cast:
Peter Weller as Alex Murphy/RoboCop
Nancy Allen as Anne Lewis
Daniel O’Herlihy as The Old Man
Ronny Cox as Dick Jones
Kurtwood Smith as Clarence Boddicker
Miguel Ferrer as Bob Morton
Director: Paul Verhoeven

In a dystopic and crime-infested Detroit, a terminally injured policeman (Peter Weller) returns to the force as a potent cyborg haunted by submerged memories.

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RoboCop was a classic action sci-fi movie from the 1980s. 34 years later, it remains not only a staple for iconic 1980s action films, but also one of the most intelligent and satirical, and it surprisingly holds up all these years later.

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RoboCop could’ve been dismissed as enjoyable action fare from the 80s, but categorising this film as just a B-level action movie doesn’t do it justice. In fact, oncoming years have only allowed the value of the film to become clearer than ever. It is one of the most intelligent B-movies, flawlessly blending sharp satire and grand sci-fi action. RoboCop is a smart and sharply written satire of America’s warped, violent culture of vanity and the state of said culture. It lashes out at the division between the rich and the poor alongside the growing industrialism running rampant across the screen. It also covers Reagan era economics, corporate privatization of public services, corrupt politics, consumerism, capitalism, and of course militarisation of police. What used to feel like a cautionary tale about the near future’s rise of corporate fascism now just feels like a documentary of today, and much of the movie remains relevant as ever. Paul Verhoeven’s satire isn’t subtle but in RoboCop it is only fitting that everything is so distinctly in your face, it suits the nature and style of the film so perfectly. At the same time, RoboCop also works as a B-movie sci-fi flick. It is very cheesy from the over-the-top action moments to the dialogue, but it was also witty, well made and well paced across its roughly hour and 40 minute runtime, with not one wasted scene. It seems like it should feel dated but as said earlier, it was ahead of its time. As goofy as the movie is, it’s also violent, vulgar and schlocky. The main character is technically killed within 20 minutes in such a brutal way, establishing the tone for the rest of the movie. There’s also all the little touches of worldbuilding throughout for this futuristic setting, such as the automated greeting unit for prospective house hunters, and the ads poking fun at consumer culture.

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The cast all perform well in their parts. Peter Weller convincingly portrays RoboCop even under the bulky suit and helmet. He really immerses himself as the character, giving him a real, profound depth. The supporting cast are good in their parts too. However among them, it’s the cast of villains who shine the most, especially Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith and Miguel Ferrer.

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Paul Verhoeven’s direction is great. Although it takes place sometime in the future, the film makes little attempt to look that much futuristic beyond its cyborg lead. The design, costumes and locations are steeped in the look and feel of the 1980s, giving the film both a recognisability and a lived-in aesthetic. The effects are sometimes rough but mostly well-rendered, and the practical effects are fantastic. There’s even some stop motion, while that does look dated, it does add something to the style and feel of the movie. The violence of RoboCop is especially unrestrained, and there are many uses of authentic looking effects for the gore.

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RoboCop works as both an 80s action B movie, and a social satire, goofy and entertaining, yet very intelligent and relevant. It’s been said many times but it’s surprising how well it holds up over a few decades later. I’d go so far as to say that RoboCop is essential viewing, especially if you’re a fan of action movies.

Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) Retrospective Review

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Time: 141 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Adam Driver as Ben Solo/Kylo Ren
Daisy Ridley as Rey
John Boyega as Finn
Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Naomi Ackie as Jannah
Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux
Richard E. Grant as Allegiant General Pryde
Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata
Keri Russell as Zorii Bliss
Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca
Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico
Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine/Darth Sidious
Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian
Director: J.J. Abrams

When it’s discovered that the evil Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) did not die at the hands of Darth Vader, the rebels must race against the clock to find out his whereabouts. Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) lead the Resistance to put a stop to the First Order’s plans to form a new Empire, while Rey (Daisy Ridley) anticipates her inevitable confrontation with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

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Star Wars Episode 9 The Rise of Skywalker had quite the mixed reaction upon its release. I watched the movie twice in the cinemas and still loved it despite all its faults. However as time passed I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and so the worse it really gets. Whereas The Last Jedi had a range of reactions from people who love it and people who hate it, The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t seem to have many fans, most of the reactions are middling to negative. Even now as one of the people who liked it, I think saying that this movie is a bit of a mess is an understatement.

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There’s a lot that has been said about what could’ve been and what has been changed in this movie. Here’s what we know: Colin Trevorrow was hired to write and direct the movie but after a while on the project, he left following creative differences. So, JJ Abrams was brought in to direct as well as co-write along with Chris Terrio, which included a lot of rewriting and reshaping of the story and direction. Whether or not Trevorrow’s version would’ve been better or worse, it’s pretty clear that Abrams and Terrio were brought in and rushed into making a movie replacing someone else, and this movie certainly feels very rushed. This movie goes by so fast, on one hand it’s got quite a speedy pace that doesn’t allow for you to get bored at all. On the other hand, the story feels rushed, like it wants to sweep things aside to get to the meaty parts. It goes from one plot point to another too fast, and never allows itself to settle. There’s rarely a moment for the story or characters to breathe or develop. A lot of things happen, and the emotional moments are rushed. As a result, the emotional weight is not there for even the major moments of the film. The only scene that really worked like this was when Ben Solo imagines seeing Han, probably the best scene in the movie. The movie is 2 hours and 20 minutes long, and you’d think that with this wrapping up a decades long running saga that Disney would in fact encourage a much longer runtime, given that they were willing for Avengers: Endgame to be 3 hours long. Even pacing aside, the story itself plays everything way too safe, and that’s what hinders it. The plot feels so by the numbers that I never really felt any real stakes, and it was so predictable beat for beat. The film feels kind of dull too, especially when compared to the previous two movies. There’s a lot of things happening but you aren’t actually interested in the story. The film is essentially a fetch quest with multiple locations, characters and cutscenes to highlight the main story arc. It felt rather lazy and generic. There was no sense of threat despite this film claiming that this is the ultimate battle, probably because it never slows down enough to allow the level of threat to set in. The Rise of Skywalker really does try to lean into nostalgia, and indeed there is so much fanservice. It wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t so reliant on it, and also didn’t feel so meaningless and tacky. One of those that is more than a mere cameo is Palpatine being brought up as the main villain. Him being alive and pulling the strings all this time was never interesting to me, but worst of all his usage was rather boring. There’s also plenty of other wasted potential, from some of the newer characters, to the Knights of Ren who are basically just there to stand around and look cool, to Finn’s force sensitive abilities which aren’t explored enough. Storywise, much of the movie does feel like it was trying to appease those who disliked The Last Jedi, retconning a lot of decisions made in that film and reducing the character of Rose Tico to nothing more than a background character.

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This movie does give some reveals to some mysteries that have been floating around since The Force Awakens, they either ranged to being okay, to reveals I wasn’t on board with. One of the main things to talk about is the reveal that Rey is a Palpatine, which you learn about in the halfway point of the movie. Ever since The Force Awakens, there had been a mystery as to who Rey’s parents are. In The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren said that Rey’s parents were nobodies, and while not everyone liked that idea, I thought that was a much better concept. This time they decided to go with this, and I have mixed feelings. I will say that it’s at least better than her being a Skywalker or even a Kenobi, a little more interesting perhaps. However it’s a little disappointing to see this retcon. The worst part of that reveal however was the actual reveal in the movie. Kylo Ren just says “You’re his granddaughter, you’re a Palpatine” and that’s it. Like it was pretty obvious at that point that she was a Palpatine given the scene of Rey and the force lightning when Chewbacca is taken, but I would’ve thought that they would’ve at least tried to treat that scene with some weight. Rey didn’t even have much of a reaction to this really, pretty mild considering that she just found out that she’s the descendant of The Emperor. It was just lazily handled. There are some bits of information that aren’t given to us in the plot. One of the most prominent was an explanation on how Palpatine even survived. The novel apparently states that at the end of Return of the Jedi, he cloned himself somewhere else, which doesn’t even make sense. I was expecting even a throwaway piece of dialogue at least but that didn’t even happen. Even the reveal that new character Jannah is the daughter of Lando wasn’t explicitly made clear in the movie. The ending is rather exciting with the big battles but when it comes to an end, it really does feel like something is missing. The battle finishes, the main trio reunite, Rey goes to Tatooine and it just ends there. I did like Rey adopting the name Skywalker at the end, but it just didn’t feel conclusive or satisfying like the end of the previous two trilogies.

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Although some of the work on the characters is a bit mixed, the cast generally do well in their roles. It’s great we finally see Rey, Finn and Poe (played by Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac) working as a trio together. Adam Driver still puts a lot into Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, though something about him in this movie felt off, probably the writing. As many know, Carrie Fisher died after the filming of The Last Jedi, and so for episode 9 they had to use unused footage from The Force Awakens in this movie for Leia. They did well finding a way to use that footage to give her something to do and for all my complaints with what they do with Leia, I’m not as harsh given the circumstances. A surprise standout was Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, who actually got to do some stuff in his storyline with the main trio. It was also great to see Billy Dee Williams return as Lando Calrissian. The lack of Kelly Marie Tran’s character of Rose was noticed amongst many people. In The Last Jedi she was one of the main characters, but here she’s relegated to a background character. I’m not asking for her to be a primary focus, but it would’ve been so easy to place her among the rebels going on the mission. As said previously, it’s possible that her change in roles was because some people didn’t like her in the last movie. There were also a few additions to the cast in this movie. Naomi Ackie plays Jannah, who is a rebel who used to be a stormtrooper. Unfortunately that potential with this aspect is not expanded on beyond one scene with Finn. With Richard E. Grant, there’s not really much to his character as a First Order general, but he was effective in this kind of role. As said previously, Ian McDiarmid returns as Palpatine, and the use of the character was a mixed bag. There’s so much problems with the character, he plays like a greatest hits of Palpatine from Revenge of the Sith and Return of the Jedi and feels forced into the movie. McDiarmid however at least looks like he’s committing to the part and he’s fun.

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JJ Abrams returns to direct after The Force Awakens, and I generally liked the direction. The visuals were great, I loved the blending of practical effects with CGI, and I liked the designs of the new planets, with each of them having a distinct atmosphere and feel. I also liked a lot of the creature designs. The action is quite good too, the lightsaber fight between Rey and Kylo Ren with the water was a standout. The score from John Williams is much like the previous Star Wars movies, had some great and memorable themes for Rey and Kylo Ren, but on the whole is rather familiar.

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Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker is a very mixed bag. Generally, it’s entertaining to watch but it gets worse the more you think about the plot. As a conclusion it’s sort of how I feel about the Game of Thrones finale, there are parts of it I’m fine with, parts of it I’m against, but ultimately I feel nothing about it, just a resounding “well I guess that’s it”. I ultimately just accepted how they choose to end it, but I don’t really feel satisfied with it. The worst thing I can say is that it is “just another Star Wars movie”, not exactly the feeling you want for the end of your trilogy. It’s not my least favourite Star Wars movie, I at least like it more than The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, but I think just about every other movie in the series is better. No doubt in another decade or so there will be another Star Wars trilogy to continue the story, but as for now, as the latest movie and the current conclusion of the saga, it is rather disappointing.

Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi (2017) Retrospective Review

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Time: 152 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa
Adam Driver as Kylo Ren
Daisy Ridley as Rey
John Boyega as Finn
Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron
Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke
Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata
Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma
Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico
Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo
Benicio del Toro as DJ
Director: Rian Johnson

Jedi Master-in-hiding Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) unwillingly attempts to guide young hopefully Rey (Daisy Ridley) in the ways of the force, while Leia (Carrie Fisher), former princess turned general, attempts to lead what is left of the Resistance away from the ruthless tyrannical grip of the First Order.

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In my original review of Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi, I indicated that some people were probably going to take issues with certain moments in the movie. But I had no idea that this movie would be as divisive as it turned out to be. As it is, I still consider The Last Jedi to be one of the best movies in the series, even if there’s a few parts I don’t love.

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The Last Jedi is very likely the most thematically rich film of the entire series, it touches on themes of failure and how great of a teacher it is (which is even said by Yoda during his scene). Every character fails in some way, but they learn and grow from that failure. It shows how inspirational hope can be, and that there are really no good sides in a war. Also its a Star Wars movie which actually has the most amount of shades of grey as opposed to just black and white, it’s a study of both the light and dark sides of the force, really taking a deep dive into the mythos. Sure it could’ve gone deeper and done more, but it’s more than the past Star Wars movies. With all that being said, as far as blockbusters that subvert expectations and causes a divide go, The Last Jedi isn’t all that special. With The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams gave a starting point for the next director to continue. So with The Last Jedi, director Rian Johnson really didn’t ‘destroy’ anything from Abrams with the decisions he went with. As it was, I liked it quite a lot. There are certainly some aspects that were better than others, I was more invested in Kylo Ren, Luke and Rey then say Finn and Rose’s storyline. However, Johnson generally takes some directions that are interesting for the Star Wars series.

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I liked the storyline focusing on Rey and Luke and their interactions. Much has been said about the portrayal of Luke in this movie (such as how he almost killed Ben Solo), I’m in the “this is a natural continuation for the character” camp. It really does seem like a lot of the divisiveness around this movie came from this one plotline and portrayal oddly enough, but I’m glad that Johnson was willing to go in this direction. This is also where it does go into some of the shades of grey I mentioned earlier, and it was interesting seeing how it played out. I also liked Kylo Ren in his storyline. Even though he doesn’t do a whole lot throughout in the plot until the end, it’s clear he is very conflicted throughout, and it was interesting to watch what he did next. The Resistance storyline was also solid. It was mostly just them having to run away from The First Order and it was rather simplistic, but it worked and you felt the stakes. Although it wasn’t one of my favourite parts of the movie, I also liked Finn and Rose’s plotline fine enough. When people talk negatives of the movie, usually the first thing they bring up is the Canto Bight segment involving them. It is fine, it’s not like this section had no purpose at all, and I can sort of see why Rian put it in. Though it’s definitely the weakest section of the movie, at least when compared to the rest of the movie. The third act I thought was put together well, especially with how everything was resolved. It tied up the plotlines and characters well, and it was also probably the most heroic way for Luke Skywalker to go out while avoiding just playing as fanservice.

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Actingwise, the standout of the movie for me was Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. His portrayal of an initially weary and broken down Luke is impressive and probably one of the best performances in the Star Wars series as a whole. Daisy Ridley was also once again good in the role of Rey, although I feel like of the major characters, she goes through the least development. One idea I liked that they introduced was how she’s a nobody. While I and many people beforehand were previously thinking about her being a Kenobi or even a Palpatine, when Kylo said that her parents are nobodies, I liked that idea so much more. Adam Driver once again was great as Kylo Ren, continuing to show himself as one of the best characters in the series. As I said earlier, throughout this movie he’s conflicted and he greatly conveyed his struggles. John Boyega does well as Finn, going through a character arc, starting off wanting to run from the Empire, and by the end was willing enough to sacrifice himself to try to save the rebellion. Oscar Isaac gets to do more as Poe Dameron this time compared to back in The Force Awakens, in which he appeared in just the first and the third acts, and he’s natural solid. He’s got quite a good character arc here too, and it definitely plays much better on a second viewing once you know what’s going on in that particular storyline.

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Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico received quite a lot of hate in this movie, but I thought she was pretty good here. There are some problems I had with her and Finn’s storyline, but that’s it. If we are talking about the weakest major character in this movie, it would be Benicio del Toro as DJ, a codebreaker that Finn and Rose find, even though I do like Del Toro as an actor. He seems really out of place, and not in a good way. With all that being said, I do get the point of his character, showing some of the morally grey aspects between The First Order and the Resistance. Laura Dern is also great as Holdo, and she even gets one of the best scenes of the movie where she light speeds through the First Order fleet. Andy Serkis got a little more screentime and things to do as Supreme Leader Snoke compared to The Force Awakens, and while the character doesn’t have much to him, Serkis played him excellently (not to mention the visual effects and motion capture is fantastic). Hux played by Domhnall Gleeson was pretty much used as a joke character to be tossed around by Kylo Ren and Snoke, but he did work well as that. Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma was pretty pointless, she shows up, looks cool, and then gets axed quickly like in The Force Awakens. I sort of wished that she somehow appeared in The Rise of Skywalker, because then there’d be a running joke of her somehow surviving from the previous movie to appear in the sequel to only then get bumped off again. At least she got to have a fight scene here.

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Rian Johnson directed this movie very well, and he added something fresh to the series with the way everything is shot, the action itself, and more. He really gives the film a sense of urgency and dread, filling it with heavy emotion but at the same time a spark of optimism. It’s one of the best looking movies of the series too, from the throne room fight, to the final ice planet, it all looks beautiful and the worlds are presented greatly. John Williams’s score does the job, once again with the themes for Rey and Kylo Ren really being the standouts.

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Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi remains the most divisive movie of the series, which is saying a lot, but I’m glad to be one of the people who loved it. It’s entertaining, very well made and makes some bold choices. The Empire Strikes Back is still my favourite Star Wars movie, but The Last Jedi comes pretty close afterwards. If it still ends up happening, I’m very much looking forward to what Rian Johnson has in store with his new Star Wars trilogy.

A Quiet Place Part II (2021) Review

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A Quiet Place Part II

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Contains violence and horror
Cast:
Emily Blunt as Evelyn Abbott
Cillian Murphy as Emmett
Millicent Simmonds as Regan Abbott
Noah Jupe as Marcus Abbott
Djimon Hounsou as Man On Island
John Krasinski as Lee Abbott
Director: John Krasinski

Following the deadly events at home, the Abbott family must now face the terrors of the outside world as they continue their fight for survival in silence. Forced to venture into the unknown, they quickly realize that the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats that lurk beyond the sand path.

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A Quiet Place Part II was one of the many 2020 movies that was pushed back another year because of COVID and now it’s finally here. The first movie was quite a surprising movie, a horror movie with quite a simple concept that was executed incredibly well, and it was quite a hit when it came out. A sequel was greenlit after its success, and it really didn’t seem like the type of movie that need a sequel and it seemed great enough on its own. So I was just expecting a decent but nothing special sequel, and it turned out to be a lot better than I thought it would be.

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A Quiet Place Part II picks up immediately after the first movie, so don’t read the rest of the review or really even bother to look into the movie unless you have seen the first movie. In short, many of the strengths from the first movie could pretty much just repeated here. At its core it is about a family trying to survive, you are invested with the characters and what they are up against, and the tension is there throughout but doesn’t overly rely on a huge amount of. The main question is what it actually does as a sequel to that first movie, what it adds and what is different. For one it expands the world wider beyond the main setting of the last movie, as the Abbott family goes into unexpected territory, and we get to learn more about the rest of the world and what happened. The film even opens on the day that the apocalypse started, and it really added some context and more to these movies. Part II does go for more of a patient survival drama more than the rather contained horror movie that Part I was, but it works very well. While generally the first movie was about the whole family with a focus on the parents, this one is really about the kids, and that approach was quite refreshing. At a point much of the movie splits into two storylines and while I liked both, without getting too into it here, the one focusing in Millicient Simmonds’s character of Regan was the one I was most interested in the most. The movie ends in a very satisfying way, and the sequel leaves open the potential for a Part III.

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The cast like in the last movie is rather small, but strong in their parts. Emily Blunt, Millicient Simmonds and Noah Jupe reprise their roles as the surviving Abbott family and once again they are great. They are able to convey so much without saying much or anything, especially when they have to communicate non-verbally so to not attract any of the monsters. Much of these movies rely on the performances being great and they absolutely deliver. Out of the three, Millicient Simmonds particularly shines here, in fact I’d say that she carries much of the movie. There’s also the addition of Cillian Murphy in a major role, and he’s also a fantastic addition to these movies, he also gives a great performance here. Djimon Hounsou also appears in the movie in a couple of scenes and he’s good in his screentime.

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John Krasinski once again directs this movie, and his work here is just as good as Part I if not better. Part II definitely feels like an even more confident film on a directing level overall. First of all, it is shot incredibly well, the environments and settings help this world feel believable. The attention to detail is immaculate especially during moments of tension, often times focusing on things that could potentially go wrong. Then there’s of course the effective use of silence and the sound editing, mixing and design with sound being such an important part of the movie. The booming score from Marco Beltrami works well too, especially during moments of tension. There are scares but it feels earned when they are present and they never feel cheap. The creatures as usual are creepy and intimidating from their presence, design and sounds, although don’t feel quite as dangerous compared to in the first movie (mostly to do with the story however). It really is quite an experience to watch it in the theatre, especially with the sound.

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A Quiet Place Part II is a worthy follow up to the first movie and is just as good. Great performances from the cast, story and characters that you’re invested in, and some effective tension and directed incredibly well. If you liked Part I, definitely check Part II out as soon as you can because you’ll probably like it as well. If you didn’t like Part I at all, Part II is unlikely to win you over any better. While I was sceptical of a sequel to the first A Quiet Place, it actually worked quite well and I’m now on board with the possibility of a Part III.