The Island (2005) Review

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The Island

Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Ewan McGregor as Tom Lincoln/Lincoln Six-Echo
Scarlett Johansson as Sarah Jordan/Jordan Two-Delta
Djimon Hounsou as Albert Laurent
Sean Bean as Dr. Merrick
Michael Clarke Duncan as Jamal Starkweather/Starkweather Two-Delta
Steve Buscemi as James “Mac” McCord
Director: Michael Bay

Futuristic thriller about a contained, seemingly utopian facility in the mid-21st century. The residents hope to be chosen to go to the Island – the last uncontaminated place on Earth, but when one inhabitant discovers that there are sinister forces at work, he and a female friend make a daring escape.

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I had some recollection of The Island, having first watched it many years ago. I remember it starring Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, and being one of the better Michael Bay movies. I decided to revisit it and I enjoyed it quite a lot.

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The Island has an interesting setup and premise, and I found the story to be interesting. I won’t say what the plot is about as I think it’s best going into it not knowing the reveals beforehand. It does have some interesting ideas, and occasionally it attempts to raise some interesting ethical scientific questions about its subject matter. Some of the topics can even be thought provoking. The premise has an interesting sci-fi concept that could’ve been explored and made into something special. Unfortunately by the end, the film is an overblown action movie. The film would’ve been better if it had a stronger focus on the heavier ideas it had. The plot itself seems to be divided into two very different halves. The first half is an intriguing look into a particular facility of people, where the lead characters played by McGregor and Johannsson try to figure out the truth about where they are. There were cool concepts introduced and solid worldbuilding here, in fact the movie takes a surprising amount of time to establish its world and characters. The second half of the movie takes place after most of the major reveals have been given, and turns into a fugitive action flick, with not much story or character development. This is where the film really stumbles, it’s just the two main characters on the run with intense chase scenes and doesn’t do much with the dystopian aspect. The two halves don’t really fit together that well. Second half aside, there are still some other issues with the film. Despite the interesting ideas, The Island doesn’t bring anything new to the table in terms of the genre, and still has a formulaic plot. There are some plot conveniences and some of the dialogue is a little rough. It also lacks in character development, even with the lead characters. It does feel a little too long at around 2 hours and 15 minutes, not helped by the inconsistent pacing. However it does keep you entertained throughout the runtime.

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On the whole, the cast play their roles really well. Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson are pretty good as the lead characters despite the lack of character depth and development given to them. McGregor particularly gets to do more in the second half of the movie (without getting into spoilers here). The supporting cast are solid too, Steve Buscemi is entertaining in a supporting role, Sean Bean delivers in the main villain role, and Djimon Hounsou makes for a threatening supporting antagonist as a mercenary sent after the main characters.

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Michael Bay directs this movie, and you can recognise this almost immediately. It contains many of his tropes and trademarks, from the style of cinematography, product placement, and more. However I still think this is probably one of his most restrained movies. The cinematography is slick and it has a near future look and feel to it, where the tech is sci-fi, but doesn’t feel entirely out of the realm of possibility. The action sequences are generally fun and creative, with the chase scenes particularly shining. There is definitely an overload of action by the end, but I don’t have a huge amount of complaints about the action itself. There is definitely quite a lot of shaky cam used and it was a bit much at points, but it does add some urgency to these scenes. Unsurprisingly, the movie also features a large and rousing score from Steve Jacoblonsky and works quite well for this film.

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Despite its ideas and promising premise, The Island is nothing special as far as sci-fi movies go. However, I was still reasonably invested with the plot, the acting is good, the action is fun to watch, and I was entertained throughout. I’m aware that some people really don’t like Michael Bay’s movies, but for what it’s worth, I think it’s one of his best, and definitely worth checking out.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) Review

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Doctor Stranger in the Multiverse of Madness

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo
Benedict Wong as Wong
Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez
Michael Stuhlbarg as Nicodemus West
Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer
Director: Sam Raimi

Dr Stephen Strange casts a forbidden spell that opens a portal to the multiverse. However, a threat emerges that may be too big for his team to handle.

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Out of the upcoming MCU movies, I was looking forward to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness the most. I liked the first Doctor Strange movie and with the addition of Wanda/Scarlet Witch for the sequel and more of a horror focus, I was interested. Admittedly, I did have some hesitations going into it. With the concept of the multiverse being present, there was a chance it would just be mostly cameos, I had a feeling that the MCU would take the wrong lessons from Spider-Man: No Way Home for the movies going forward with regard to cameos. Also at the last moment, director Scott Derrickson who made the first film left the movie, thankfully his replacement was Sam Raimi, which I found exciting. While there are certainly some issues, I quite liked Multiverse of Madness.

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I will say that first of all, if you haven’t watched the WandaVision show, you might lose a lot of the context. Doctor Strange 2 is very much a continuation from WandaVision and where Wanda’s story left off; so if you can, watch it beforehand. For all the strengths of the movie, unfortunately, I think that the writing is the biggest issue; some of it works, some of it doesn’t. Despite the unique direction and style, you can definitely tell that it’s an MCU flick from the writing alone, and it doesn’t break the formula at all. The issues aren’t restricted to formula, however. Much of the movie feels underdeveloped, with some portions of the script feeling like its rushed and missing stuff. It is fast paced but not necessarily in a good way. Some of that has to do with the runtime, with it being 2 hours, surprisingly short for an MCU movie. If anything, I think it is a bit too short, there’s some plotlines, sections and characters which would’ve benefitted from more focus and attention. As it is, the runtime doesn’t allow time for some plot points to be fully explored. That’s not to say that there’s nothing going on with the characters, but the story just didn’t succeed at connecting emotionally. With that being said, the story is refreshingly straightforward and contained for the most part, and it didn’t allow itself to feel too overstuffed. Like with many of the MCU movies, it also has the same issue with the out of place and annoying humour. Not that all of the jokes are bad, but I wish there was less of it. Like some of the other movies which use the multiverse (including the MCU), MoM doesn’t quite take advantage of that aspect. Multiverse of Madness is a bit of a misleading title, the multiverse definitely play a role but doesn’t utilise it much and set it up to be bigger than it was. Once again though, I am glad that the story is kept self-contained. There is a section that contains some cameos, and it is by far the worst section of the movie, even if I liked it. With that said, I really appreciate that they kept these cameos within this segment instead of stretched throughout the whole movie. Also, I appreciated the way they ended this cameo section, that’s what ultimately made it worth it for me. The third act gets wonderfully crazy, though I will say that the actual ending is a bit abrupt.

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Benedict Cumberbatch plays his role of Doctor Strange in his sixth appearance, and once again is really good. The question of Strange’s happiness is a reoccurring theme and we see how things have taken a toll on him. I do like his storyline, but I feel like he constantly kept being pushed into the background. I especially like how he portrays the different versions of Strange. The MVP and driving force of the movie is Elizabeth Olsen in her best performance yet as Wanda/Scarlet Witch. As one of the MCU’s strongest, interesting and tragic characters, Olsen does great work here, practically a co-lead alongside Cumberbatch. Definitely one of the best performances in the MCU so far. There’s also the debut of a new character America Chavez, played by Xochitl Gomez. Gomez is quite good in the role and will no doubt play a bigger role in other movies going forward, but ended up being more of a plot device in this film. Benedict Wong is once again great as fan favourite Wong, this time as the Sorcerer Supreme. Chiwetel Ejiofor reprises his role as Mordo and is good in his part, but has limited screentime. Rachel McAdams also returns as Christine Palmer and considering her smaller role in the first movie, they surprisingly found a way to get her involved with the plot more in the sequel, and gets to do a lot more here. The writing for the main villain is unfortunately a bit one note and needed more nuance and development, but the performance helped it work. As for the cameos, they definitely felt out of place and their section was the worst but for the most part, I liked the characters and their performances. The exception is one actor, whose casting and performance left much to be desired.

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This is Sam Raimi’s first movie in 9 years, that alone made Doctor Strange in MOM exciting to watch. His direction is one of the highlights of the movie. There are a lot of talented directors who work on MCU movies where their style and vision are muffled and you can barely see it. While I wouldn’t call Multiverse of Madness a full-on Raimi film, his distinct style does shine through. There’s plenty of creativity throughout and it is definitely one of the most director influenced films in the MCU in quite some time. Many of his trademarks are on display. The camera movements are inventive and dynamic, and it allows for some crazy visuals. The editing is also fantastic, with some particularly great transitions. It is also one of the most violent movies in the MCU, if not the most. One of the most surprising parts of the movie were the horror elements, I wasn’t expecting to see moments reminiscent of the Evil Dead movies. There’s particularly a chase scene in the middle section of the movie which is straight out of a horror movie. That being said, I wouldn’t say that this is a Raimi movie first and foremost, it’s still very much within the MCU style. The worst thing I can say about his style here, aside from it not being fully Raimi, is that it is at odds with the writing. The action sequences are for the most part great and are entertaining to watch. The visual effects in the first Doctor Strange were some of the best in the MCU and that’s the case with the sequel too, with some good CGI. The score is composed by Danny Elfman, and while the prospect of him teaming up with Raimi sounded good, the score is nothing special and at about the same level as Michael Giaacchino’s score in the first movie. With that said, Elfman occasionally gets moments to shine through, including the use of electric guitars.

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Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is not without its issues, mainly with the script. With that said there’s a lot of other good aspects with the the solid performances (with Elizabeth Olsen being the MVP), and most of all the outstanding direction from Sam Raimi, giving the movie a distinct flavour and creativity not seen in most of the MCU. Additionally, the horror elements are a welcome addition. While I know that not everyone will love it, based off my first viewing, I liked it more than most movies in the MCU.

Sunshine (2007) Review

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Sunshine

Time: 107 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence & offensive language
Cast:
Cillian Murphy as Robert Capa
Chris Evans as James Mace
Rose Byrne as Cassie
Michelle Yeoh as Corazon
Cliff Curtis as Searle
Troy Garity as Harvey
Hiroyuki Sanada as Kaneda
Benedict Wong as Trey
Director: Danny Boyle

A team of astronauts is assigned the huge responsibility of saving the sun. Things, however, take an ugly turn when an accident occurs and the lives of the crew members are endangered.

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I’ve been meaning to watch Sunshine for a while. I knew it was a sci-fi thriller directed by Danny Boyle that a lot of people liked. I went in knowing about the cast, director, and that it apparently had some horror elements. It more than lived up to the praise.

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The script by Alex Garland is great. The movie at its core is about a crew and their mission to save humanity by reigniting the Sun, and doesn’t only shows the events on the large scale, but also shows the crew trying to maintain their sanities and morals during these times of isolation and ethical dilemmas. The film really does well at showing the stakes and emphasising how one small mistake could snowball into a colossal obstacle. The film starts itself off by introducing its characters, exploring their personalities, their roles, and their chemistry. It does a great job at establishing the importance of each crew member, even though some characters definitely get more screentime and attention than others. There is very atmospheric throughout, it’s bleak, emotional and suspenseful. There are also some effectively unnerving moments, with both physical and psychological horror on display. In that sense, Sunshine reminded me of Event Horizon at times, which also had a blend of interesting sci-fi concepts with traditional horror thriller beats, especially in the second half. I thought the horror elements were weaved into the story rather nicely. Where most of the criticism of this movie lies is in the last third, specifically the last act. After the first two acts of fairly serious sci-fi, the film suddenly has something of a slasher-esque climax. While this shift is a jarring mismatch in terms of the film’s tone, it does still work as a great conclusion for the film thematically, and it felt right for the movie.

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The cast is excellent and give wonderful performances. The main cast are the 8 crew members of the ship, and they act very well in their parts. With a small cast and a large amount of special effects, there was a risk that the visuals would overshadow the characters. However the cast hold their own, even though some get to do more than others. There aren’t any weak links, but some characters aren’t given much to do, and a longer running time probably would’ve benefitted the characters more. Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, Cliff Curtis, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benedict Wong, and more are great, with Cillian Murphy and Chris Evans giving the best performances of the film.

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Sunshine is definitely elevated by Danny Boyle’s stylish direction and visuals. In fact, even for a sci-fi movie, a lot of Boyle’s style can be recognised here if you’ve seen some of his other movies. While it’s not a horror movie from beginning to end, it still manages to be tense and gripping throughout, with a claustrophobic atmosphere. When it becomes a slasher movie it maintains the tension when it could potentially go off the rails quickly. This movie is also visually striking with some amazing cinematography and special effects. The production and set design is also strong too, especially for the interiors of the ships. The editing is brisk, and adds a lot to the movie. The soundtrack by John Murphy and Underworld is magnificent, epic and operatic. It perfectly fits the tone of the movie and further adds weight to some of the most dramatic moments of the film.

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Sunshine is an amazing and visually spectacular sci-fi horror thriller. It is definitely ambitious and I’m not certain if it sticks the landing with everything, but I thought it was great. It holds up well today with some fantastic visuals, it is directed excellently, and I was invested in what would happen from the very start to the very end. The story is given a lot of stakes and weight, and it is further elevated by the excellent performances. One of my favourite movies from Danny Boyle, and one well worth checking out if you haven’t already.

The Wolverine (2013) Review

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The Wolverine

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Hugh Jackman as Logan
Tao Okamoto as Mariko
Rila Fukushima as Yukio
Hiroyuki Sanada as Shingen
Svetlana Khodchenkova as Viper
Brian Tee as Noburo
Haruhiko Yamanouchi as Yashida
Will Yun Lee as Harada
Famke Janssen as Jean Grey
Director: James Mangold

Logan (Hugh Jackman) travels to Tokyo to meet Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), an old acquaintance who is dying. The situation regresses when Yashida offers to take away his healing abilities, but Logan refuses.

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The Wolverine was one of my least watched X-Men movies, and I’m not sure why considering that I liked it quite a lot. I decided to revisit it and I thought it was really good, even better than I remembered. It definitely has some unfortunate issues that hold it back from being great, but I really enjoyed it for what it was.

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First of all, it is worth noting that I watched the Unleashed Edition of the movie, which is rated R. It adds back in some of the violence, language and additional scenes that were cut from the theatrical version. I don’t think I’ve seen the theatrical cut but honestly, I think that this is the definitive version of the film. So make sure to watch this version of the movie. The Wolverine is the second of the solo Wolverine movies, but instead of being a prequel like X-Men Origins Wolverine was, it serves as a continuation from the original X-Men trilogy. One of the most surprising things is that it does something with the aftermath of X-Men: The Last Stand instead of avoiding it completely and it works to put the character in the right frame of mind he needed to be in for this story to be told. The Wolverine is a darker, lower scale and lower stakes comic book movie, especially considering the previous X-Men movies. The number of actual mutants in the movie is very minimal, but it works to its advantage. The smaller scale of the movie allows for greater characterisation, in fact it’s at its strongest when it is focusing on the more human elements. The past X-Men movies portrayed Logan as being a bit tame, but here he’s very much a broken and haunted man. This story really humanised Wolverine and goes in depth, working as a character study. We see a guilt ridden Logan struggling with his burden of immortality, and I really liked where the film went with him. The movie even finds way to make him vulnerable despite his regeneration ability. I also thought the way they worked Jean Grey into Wolverine’s story was well done, and an admirable choice considering The Last Stand was hated by many people. The Wolverine starts off very well with a great opening, focusing on a World War 2 flashback with Logan right in the middle of it. Most of the movie throws Logan into modern Japan, which serves as a very unique setting which I liked seeing. The story is consistently intriguing and keeps things moving over its 2-hour runtime. I liked seeing how everything progressed. Despite it being a dark story, it does have moments of levity while not feeling cheesy. Where the movie really suffers is when it gets into its last act. That’s when it makes the sharp turn into a generic and typical comic book movie climax with much larger action set pieces, feeling rather out of place to what came before. It becomes cartoonish and comic booky, and unfortunately not in a good way. Not only that, but some significant reveals are rushed and underdeveloped. I still found some enjoyment in this segment, but it definitely brought down the movie. There’s a mid credits scene that is worth sticking around for, as it links directly into X-Men Days of Future Past.

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For the most part, the acting is really good. This is one of Hugh Jackman’s best performances as Wolverine, second best only behind Logan. Wolverine as a character is greatly developed here, far more than what the character was in earlier X-Men movies. In The Wolverine, he’s introspective and remorseful, and Jackman is superb here. It was quite compelling watching his journey throughout the film. The other actors are quite good, Tao Okamoto and Rila Fukushima are particularly great in their parts, though I wish the latter had gotten more screentime. The villains do have issues and feel a little weak. I do admire that most of the antagonists feel very human and are mostly decently developed, but they still aren’t nearly developed enough. My favourite of them is Hiroyuki Sanada’s character, though that might’ve had something to do with the performance more than the role. The one villain I’ll say is straight up bad is that of Viper, a mutant with toxin powers played by Svetlana Khodchenkova. Her character didn’t make much sense, and she’s very out of place in this movie, like she belonged in a different X-Men movie with a very different tone.

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The movie definitely benefits strongly from James Mangold’s direction here. The cinematography is slick, I loved the Japanese setting in the movie and it provided plenty of opportunities for some stunning shots and locations. While the action is pretty sparse, there are some great action sequences with some top-notch stunt work. The highlights for me was one involving a bullet train, and another involving a surgery. As I said earlier, the Unrated version has a real punchiness and impact, along with some added blood. I feel like the action would be toned down in the theatrical version, yet another reason to go with the unrated version. The action in the third act was still entertaining, but not as good as the first two acts. I didn’t really care much for the extensive use of CGI, and it’s much more over the top. However, the action in the first two acts are some of the best action in the whole franchise. The Marco Beltrami score is also great, and really added a lot to the movie.

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I wouldn’t quite say that The Wolverine one of the best X-Men movies, but I think it’s a really good movie nonetheless. I liked the darker tone and the character driven approach, which focuses more on itself than the wider X-Men world. It really is just the third act where it falls apart. While I still found enjoyment in it, it does hold the film back from being great. Of course, James Mangold would take these elements of Wolverine and to deliver a much better movie in Logan, but I still think The Wolverine is worth another look.

Inside Man (2006) Review

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and offensive language
Cast:
Denzel Washington as Detective Keith Frazier
Clive Owen as Dalton Russell
Jodie Foster as Madeleine White
Christopher Plummer as Arthur Case
Willem Dafoe as Captain John Darius
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Detective Bill Mitchell
Director: Spike Lee

The mastermind behind a bank robbery in Manhattan (Clive Owen) has planned the heist in great detail. A detective (Denzel Washington) tries to negotiate with him, but the involvement of a broker worsens the situation further.

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I recall Inside Man being the first movie I saw from director Spike Lee, I remember from that first viewing finding it to be a really good heist movie. Revisiting it more recently, it still holds up really well today, even if I wouldn’t call it one of Spike’s all time best work.

Inside Man takes the familiar heist scenario and has a fresh take on it, with large parts of it feeling different from your average American heist thriller. The story structure is unique and keeps you guessing, with some clever plotting. The story itself was entertaining and I was gripped throughout, I was interested as to how things would play out. It effectively builds up a lot of tension over the course of the film, giving you just enough information to put you on edge throughout. There is even some humour sprinkled throughout, even though its first and foremost a crime thriller. While on the surface, Inside Man seems like one of the only Spike Lee movie that doesn’t have a political edge to it, the movie is full of little moments of social commentary that we’ve come to expect him to include. Themes of racism, corruption and greed are threaded into this story of cops and robbers seamlessly. There are definitely some issues, you can definitely tell this is a movie whose script wasn’t written by Spike Lee. Although I liked some of the more humorous moments, there were some moments that I thought were a little too silly and even annoying. There are some really cartoonish and stereotypical side characters just to be random for a scene or two, and I think they really could’ve been dialled down. There is also a bit of clunky exposition towards the end, but on the whole I thought the ending works well enough.

There is a tremendous cast involved. Denzel Washington is in the lead role as the main cop trying to deal with this heist. Washington has the on-screen presence and charisma you’d expect from him, and he delivers on his part as to be expected. Clive Owen gives one of his best performances as the main bank robber, even when his face isn’t really shown for the majority of the movie he really makes an impression. Other supporting actors like Jodie Foster, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Plummer and Chiwetel Ejiofor also play their parts well. The only acting that wasn’t working as well for me was some of the previously mentioned ‘random’ side characters, and some of the hostages. They could be annoying at times but not enough to bring down the movie that much.

Spike Lee’s directing is great and gives the movie such a contagious energy, enhancing the already solid script. The film is well shot, with some great and dynamic cinematography. At times it looks a little dated, like its very much a mid 2000s movie, however at least it works as a movie from that time period. The camera effectively spins and moves around the bank, enhancing the anxiety of the situation and creating a tense environment. Much of the film’s style feels akin to that of a Tony Scott movie. However, it is still a very much a Spike Lee movie with his trademark filming style on display, even the classic Spike Lee double dolly shot makes a memorable appearance.

Inside Man is a clever, suspenseful and well-constructed heist thriller, and very likely Spike Lee’s most accessible movie. The writing, directing and acting are all really solid and work together to make a very entertaining movie. I wouldn’t say that it’s one of the best heist movies ever made, or one of Spike’s best, but it is still really good, and it’s one well worth checking out.

Uncharted (2022) Review

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Uncharted

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Tom Holland as Nathan Drake
Mark Wahlberg as Victor Sullivan
Antonio Banderas as Santiago Moncada
Sophia Ali as Chloe Frazer
Director: Ruben Fleischer

Treasure hunter Victor “Sully” Sullivan recruits street-smart Nathan Drake to help him recover a 500-year-old lost fortune amassed by explorer Ferdinand Magellan. What starts out as a heist soon becomes a globe-trotting, white-knuckle race to reach the prize before the ruthless Santiago Moncada can get his hands on it. If Sully and Nate can decipher the clues and solve one of the world’s oldest mysteries, they stand to find $5 billion in treasure — but only if they can learn to work together.

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I am a fan of the Uncharted games, so naturally the news that it would be adapted caught my attention. While I’m not up for every video game being turned into a movie, Uncharted did seem to make sense more than others. However, there were things that put me off watching it in cinemas; mainly the casting Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg as the two major characters from the games. I did eventually get around to watching and I thought it was okay, even if it wasn’t the best when considering the source material it’s based on.

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Getting the obvious out of the way, it is an adaptation of the Uncharted games, and if you’re a fan of them like I am, there might be things you’ll have issues with. There are some aspects that are accurate to the games like some of the large action scenes. However, for whatever reason, they decided to make the characters younger here, an ill-advised decision. By the end, it really just felt like Uncharted in character names alone, and otherwise just another generic action adventure. With that said, it works better when you look at it separate from the games. I was entertained for what it was, but I wasn’t invested with the story all that much. The plot felt like it was taken from an online treasure hunting and action adventuring plot generator. It was predictable, the characters aren’t that well written, and just plays everything safe and doesn’t do much to make itself stand out from similar movies. The dialogue is cheesy, some of the humour lands, some of it really doesn’t. Still, I found it watchable enough.

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There is a fairly good cast here, but most of the actors are wasted. The first of the two questionable Uncharted casting was Tom Holland as protagonist Nathan Drake. Holland definitely acts like a variation of himself and was too naïve and innocent for this character; it really doesn’t help that this version of the character is young (as is Holland himself). That being said, he was better than what I expected. There are glimmers of Nathan Drake in his performance, and he has the charm and charisma. Mark Wahlberg as Nathan’s partner Sully was another miscasting and doesn’t fair as well as Holland here. Wahlberg wasn’t that good but without knowing his character from the games he did okay (even if it just seems like he’s playing a version of himself, if not a parody). When you do look at him playing a younger version of Sully however, there is just nothing resembling the original character, just Mark Wahlberg playing a Mark Wahlberg character. The chemistry between the two leads weren’t that believable, the banter felt very generic and forced. Sophie Ali is okay as Chloe Frazer, like with Drake and Sully however, some of the choices for her character were questionable. At the very least, she does add something when placed alongside the other two actors. Antonio Banderas is rather wasted as a very one note villain. Thankfully, Tati Gabrielle picks up the slack as the other villain of the movie and really works in her part. There’s even a fun cameo related to the Uncharted games that fans will really like.

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Ruben Fleischer is a solid director and his work for Uncharted was fine, but it really needed to be helmed by someone who can really excel at making movies with grander scopes, if not, at the very least having a distinct style. There’s just not enough here to elevate it above or stand out from every other action adventure treasure hunting movies. Even putting aside the classics like the Indiana Jones movies, compared to other treasure hunting riffs like the three Tomb Raider films, National Treasure or Jungle Cruise, Uncharted really feels generic. Frequent Park Chan-wook cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung shoots Uncharted, which is genuinely surprising considering that much of the movie looks quite flat. The CGI and green screen are uneven, bouncing between good and cartoonish. The action is one of the stronger points of the movie, they are well shot and entertaining. There’s even a notable sequence involving a plane which is taken straight from Uncharted 3. The score from Ramin Djawadi is good, even if I wished the Uncharted theme from the games was in it more.

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If you are looking for a great adaptation of the Uncharted games, you might be a bit let down by the end result. However as someone who didn’t have the highest of expectations, it was better than what I thought it would be. The plot is very generic and familiar to other films of its genre, the adaptations of the characters were disappointing, and the direction is underwhelming at times. However, some of the cast are good (Tom Holland and Tati Gabrielle), the action is quite entertaining, and I enjoyed watching it. If you’re looking for a passable if forgettable treasure hunting action flick, then Uncharted does the job.

Akira (1988) Review

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Akira

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Voice Cast:
Mitsuo Iwata as Shōtarō Kaneda
Nozomu Sasaki as Tetsuo Shima
Mami Koyama as Kei
Taro Ishida as Colonel Shikishima
Mizuho Suzuki as Doctor Ōnishi
Tetsusho Genda as Ryūsaku (Ryu)
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo

Biker Kaneda is confronted by many anti-social elements while trying to help his friend Tetsuo who is involved in a secret government project. Tetsuo’s supernatural persona adds the final twist.

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I had been hearing about Akira for a while, with it being one of the most well known anime movies. I decided to check it out, knowing only that it was an anime and that it is incredibly influential. I really didn’t know whether I would like it, partly because I didn’t know what to expect, but also because I was still getting into anime films at this point (with it being the second anime movie I watched). Akira really blew me away on so many levels.

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Akira is an incredibly ambitious film which blends so many elements together, including sci-fi, action, and body horror. Immediately something that is present from the start is the setting of the film, with some tangible and rich worldbuilding. The movie is 2 hours long but it packs so much story and worldbuilding in this runtime, and is so energetic that the runtime flies by so quickly. The story itself is engaging and entertaining, it goes in very different directions that you aren’t expecting, and the characters are likable and have charm to them. Something that is worth knowing going in that the movie might be a little hard to understand and follow at times. This is because Akira never stops with the information gives you from the story to the worldbuilding, and there’s a lot of exposition. While I’m not a big fan of heavy exposition shoved at the audience, they did it in a way where I actually didn’t mind it, even if there’s some details I missed on a first viewing. There is so much happening, especially in the third act. The ending escalates to nothing short of insane, that’s the section that the majority of people will be confused by. This movie also has a lot to say with thought provoking and mature themes, touching on religion, police brutality, corruption, military, and more. With regard to any issues I had from a first viewing, the tone could be a little inconsistent, especially with random humour in some serious moments. I didn’t mind the humour for the most part, but sometimes it was a little out of place. Also some of the characterisation could’ve been a little more thorough, there were a number of side characters I didn’t care much for.

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Akira is directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, I don’t know of anything else he’s done, but his work on this film is astounding. First of all worth talking about is the animation, and for an anime released back in 1988, it really holds up well. The animation is gorgeous and enthralling to watch. The movements are smooth, and the backgrounds are beautiful. So much care went into every frame, so much detail is provided and its so dense that it can be overwhelming at times. The setting of Neo-Tokyo is characterised so well, creating a city so rich and complex. Everything about the movie is distinctly cyberpunk. The action sequences are thrilling and filled with adrenaline, with very memorable moments. Something I wasn’t expected was for Akira to be as gruesome as it was, it is a brutal movie with some great body horror. There’s also a great use of sound and silence, in fact some significant moments are done without sound. The musical score is memorable and unique too.

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Akira is known as a masterpiece by many, and I can see why. It has had a significant impact on anime, cyberpunk, sci-fi, and just film in general. Even if you ignore the impact it’s made, it’s a beautiful animated and thrilling film that’s complex and dense in its story and themes. I wouldn’t say its an easy film to have as a gateway into anime with what it does. However, I do think that it is a must see movie, and one I definitely intend to revisit in the future.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022) Review

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The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, offensive language, drug use & sexual references
Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Nick Cage/Little Nicky
Pedro Pascal as Javi Gutierrez
Sharon Horgan as Olivia Henson
Tiffany Haddish as Vivian Etten
Ike Barinholtz as Martin Etten
Alessandra Mastronardi as Gabriela
Jacob Scipio as Carlos
Neil Patrick Harris as Richard Fink
Lily Sheen as Addy Cage
Director: Tom Gormican

Unfulfilled and facing financial ruin, actor Nick Cage accepts a $1 million offer to attend a wealthy fan’s birthday party. Things take a wildly unexpected turn when a CIA operative recruits Cage for an unusual mission. Taking on the role of a lifetime, he soon finds himself channeling his most iconic and beloved characters to save himself and his loved ones.

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I was looking forward to The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent ever since it was announced. The prospect of Nicolas Cage playing himself was always going to have my attention, no matter how it turned out. I will admit that I was a little worried, despite the exciting premise, it sounded like it could easily fall into easy meta humour and Nick Cage throwbacks and nothing else. However, I was satisfied with the movie and really enjoyed it.

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With Nicolas Cage’s reputation and following, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent could’ve easily been a mockery of him but its actually a love letter and genuinely respects him. There are plenty of references to him and his movies, even his more obscure films. It could’ve been a mess, but it was the right amount of meta.  Thankfully, it does try for more beyond its outlandish premise. While the plot is definitely very familiar and nothing special, it is surprisingly heartfelt, whether it is Cage and his family or Cage and Pedro Pascal. It does feel like a lot of love was put into it, and it has a charm to it. The character moments in the first two acts really work, and as a buddy comedy, I found it consistently entertaining and funny. With that said, it is very typical and by the end becomes a cliché filled action movie. It is self-aware and makes jokes about cliches in Hollywood movies but falls into many of those cliches at the same time. The third act is particularly conventional, even if it still entertains. You could say that the movie is slightly unhinged, but not as unhinged as you’d imagine it to be given its subject. It does play things fairly safe, beyond the meta nature of the movie and Cage imagining a younger version of himself, it’s not that wild.

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First and foremost is Nicolas Cage playing one of his hardest roles yet… Nicolas Cage (known as Nick Cage in the movie). It was quite something seeing Cage portray a fictional version of himself, yet one that still draws from his real life and persona. It is interesting watching Cage reflect on his career and the choices he made. He delivers on the comedy greatly and as you would expect has some satisfying over the top moments that you’d expect and hope from him. But he was also good at delivering on the drama at heartfelt moments, especially with his strained relationship with his daughter. There’s also Pedro Pascal playing the role of the mega fan of Nicolas Cage who offers him $1 million to appear at his party. Pascal is quite fun to watch and plays his part perfectly. Cage and Pascal have fantastic chemistry, they are delightful together and have wonderful comedic timing. Amongst all the great parts of the movie, their dynamic was the highlight for me. Additionally, other actors like Sharon Horgan, Lily Mo Sheen, Tiffany Haddish, and Ike Barinholtz are also good and play their parts well.

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The movie is directed by Tom Gormican and his work isn’t that special, but it functions for this movie. The visuals are good, and it takes advantage of its locations well. The action isn’t spectacular but is decent enough. There is some CGI de-aging with Nicolas Cage’s alter ego Little Nicky who he imagines (based off a younger Cage specifically from his infamous Terry Wogan interview appearance). While the visual effects on him look very off especially when he’s on screen right next to present day Cage, the uncanny valley nature of it actually works for the movie.

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The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent was thoroughly enjoyable. While it is unfortunately quite conventional considering that it is a movie about Nicolas Cage playing himself, it is entertaining and funny, and a good tribute to him. If you are a big fan of Cage, then I highly recommend checking it out. Even if you aren’t a mega fan, I think there’s a lot of fun that you could have with it.

Straw Dogs (1971) Review

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Straw Dogs (1971)

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] 
Cast:
Dustin Hoffman as David Sumner
Susan George as Amy Sumner
Director: Sam Peckinpah

David (Dustin Hoffman) marries Amy (Susan George) and relocates to the interiors of Cornwall, a place where Amy was raised. However, an unfortunate event changes the course of their lives.

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I hadn’t seen any of Sam Peckinpah movies before, so I’ve been meaning to get around to his work at some point. One of his movies which I’ve been hearing about for a while was Straw Dogs, I knew that it starred Dustin Hoffman and got quite a lot of controversy upon its initial release. It was originally rated X and was even banned in the UK for a number of years. So I went in knowing just the movie from its reputation and I can say that it earned it. It’s not a movie I want to watch again but overall, I think it was good.

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Although I have some issues with it, the script is generally great, with a simple premise that is executed well. It’s quite slow to set up the characters, plot and setting all at once, never rushing anything. It does take its time for very good reason, really earning its runtime and pacing. The slow build-up of the downward spiral of the movie makes the final set piece more impactful, with the inevitably violent conclusion. It pretty much explodes in its last 30 minutes, as we see David’s (Dustin Hoffman) breaking point in the climax. It is a very hard movie to watch, even before the last act. On a base level it is a classic revenge story. However watching the movie even now, it’s not hard to see why it garnered so much controversy, especially in the early 1970s. None of the violence is easy to watch, and it is relentlessly uncomfortable. It even features a sacrifice of a cat, and there are rape scenes, so it is worth knowing that before going into the film. I know that these and other parts of the movie really turned off some people who watched it, I can’t really blame them. I will say that some of the movie wallows in its own misery a bit too much. There are moments where it felt like it was trying to play a lot of these moments for shock, though not as many as I was expecting going into it. In all fairness it does seem to want the audience to be repelled, so they at least succeed in that.

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All the acting is great. Dustin Hoffman is the standout as the lead character of David, he’s phenomenal in the part. For much of the movie, Hoffman is timid, but has this violent undercurrent feeling simmering throughout. One thing that’s pretty clear is that David doesn’t come out of this movie as a hero by any means, in fact by the end he shows himself to be pretty much as bad some of the other people in the village. I thought Hoffman conveyed all of this quite well through his performance. Susan George’s performance as David’s wife is nuanced, and deserving of a lot of praise for her work as well. The antagonists are also menacing and hateable, well-acted on their parts.

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This is the first Sam Peckinpah movie I’ve seen, and he’s certainly shown himself as a great director from this one movie alone. Even before the third act, there is this uncomfortable feeling throughout the movie, like something is really off. There’s a naturalism that the movie is shot with, the muted colour pallet and the UK Countryside atmosphere really gives the film a miserable vibe. The imagery is haunting and memorable, and the editing is fantastic and impactful, especially in the last act. The violence in the film is gritty, shocking, and feels real. A lot of the sequences in the third act are particularly well done, startling brutal and outstanding on a directing, editing and overall filmmaking level. The moody, dense and haunting score from Jerry Fielding also added a lot to the movie.

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Straw Dogs is definitely a polarising psychological thriller that’s not for everyone. It’s not one that I want to revisit, even for me it’s a bit too bleak and brutal. However that was the point I guess. Still, it is a memorable film that’s greatly directed and with some solid performances. Definitely a movie that I respect and admire more than I enjoy.

The Duke of Burgundy (2015) Review

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The Duke of Burgundy

Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Sex scenes
Cast:
Sidse Babett Knudsen as Cynthia
Chiara D’Anna as Evelyn
Director: Peter Strickland

A drama about the relationship between a pair of female lovers (Sidse Babett Knudsen, Chiara D’Anna) who play games of dominance and subservience.

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I heard some people mentioning The Duke of Burgundy as an unusual, artsy yet really good indie film. I decided to check it out based on how well it was received and I’m glad I did, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

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To get the obvious out of the way, The Duke of Burgundy has S&M and BDSM as prominent parts of the movie, given that it’s a key part in the main relationship. This aspect could’ve just easily been mishandled, but for all the role playing and behaviours that sees the two lead characters playing out their fantasies, it never came across as exploitative. In fact, the movie uses this as a study on power dynamics and more, even the way that this aspect plays out is unexpected at points. However, essentially the movie is about relationships, wants and desires. The plot itself is quite simple, The Duke of Burgundy is a love story, and all the focus really is on the characters and their relationship. We are given an insight into their lives, their relationship is explored in a very tasteful way, and their dynamic is more complicated than it initially seems. There are even moments of surprising comedy, which make makes the movie more entertaining than expected. Despite its simplicity, it is quite clever and well written, and despite the subject matter and some of the moments of the film, it’s a very tender movie. It is steadily paced across its 104-minute runtime. If you aren’t into the story and characters by the first third of the movie, you might find this a tough film to watch because it really takes its time with everything. However as someone who was invested in what was happening, I liked it, and appreciated it for doing that.

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The cast are quite limited, much of the movie is just the lead actors in Chiara D’Anna and Sidse Babett Knudsen, and both of them are incredible in their respective parts. The relationship between these two characters is the most important part of the movie, and the development of this relationship is so subtle that it really asks a lot of the actors to convey these changes and emotions in a way that seems natural, and they really did that. Knudsen is particularly fantastic, especially with the way things between her and D’Anna progress and change over the course of the movie.

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This is the first movie I saw from Peter Strickland, and he’s certainly shown himself to be a great director from this one movie. Despite the simplicity of the plot, The Duke of Burgundy really is fantastic on a technical level and further elevates the movie. The cinematography is stunning with some memorable imagery (especially with nature), and it really compliments the rest of the movie. The editing is solid too, as well as important. As the movie progresses, it gets increasingly more surreal on a visual level. The sound design is superb, and so is the score from Cat’s Eye. With all of these elements combined, it makes the movie have this dreamlike feeling throughout. It really is one of the strongest examples of a movie where all the technical elements are working perfectly together in sync.

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The Duke of Burgundy is not for everyone, but I thought it was great. I was invested with what was happening with the story and characters, it was excellent on a technical level, and the performances from Chiara D’Anna and Sidse Babett Knudsen were fantastic.