Author Archives: thecinemacritic

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (2021) Review

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins

Snake Eyes G.I Joe Origins

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Henry Golding as Snake Eyes
Andrew Koji as Thomas “Tommy” Arashikage/Storm Shadow
Úrsula Corberó as Baroness
Samara Weaving as Scarlett
Iko Uwais as Hard Master
Director: Robert Schwentke

An ancient Japanese clan called the Arashikage welcomes tenacious loner Snake Eyes (Henry Golding) after he saves the life of their heir apparent (Andrew Koji). Upon arrival in Japan, the Arashikage teach him the ways of the ninja warrior while also providing him something he’s been longing for: a home. However, when secrets from Snake Eyes’ past are revealed, his honour and allegiance get tested — even if that means losing the trust of those closest to him.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I was somewhat interested in Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (not to be confused with Snake Eyes starring Nicolas Cage and directed by Brian De Palma). I’m not that invested with G.I. Joe, I only watched the first live action G.I. Joe movie in the late 2000s and I don’t remember much from it. So hearing that Paramount would be making another attempt at a franchise based off the popular action figure line didn’t really get any reaction from me. However, the casting of Henry Golding in the role of the character of Snake Eyes interested me, as Golding has been great in the films I’ve seen him in. Here he would get the spotlight in his own action movie. Also from the trailers, the action looked pretty entertaining, and eventually I was interested enough to check the movie enough. I know that critically it’s not been receiving the warmest of receptions, but I enjoyed the movie for what it was despite its many issues.

Snake-Eyes-NUOVO-SLIDER-min

I should preface this once again with the fact that I am not that familiar with the lore of G.I. Joe, so I’m coming in as an outsider. First of all, the story is not all great, in fact it’s pretty formulaic and generic. The plot has a MacGuffin as a big part of it, there are 3 trials or challenges that the lead character needs to pass, and there are plenty of cliches with honour, loyalty and the like. On the whole it plays things kind of safe and slow with not much standing out about it, but it is serviceable and kept my interest well enough. The film moves at a decent enough pace, though the first act is a little too slow. Despite my issues with the story, it actually does have some good parts to it, and gave the story more humanity than I was expecting. Even though the film does contain some somewhat large action set pieces, the scale of the story is fairly small and personal. This film serves as an origin story for not only Snake Eyes, but also his soon to be rival Shadow Storm, their character work was interesting and I was invested with what was happening with them. Snake Eyes is a flawed and conflicted character. Without getting into plot points as the trailer doesn’t show them, he is not the most likeable of people, especially with his main goal throughout much of the movie and what he does to get closer to it. Usually some blockbuster movies try the whole ‘flawed hero’ approach to the protagonist that feels by the numbers and weak, but this film actually stays way more committed to that idea than I thought it would. The character is not likeable for the most part, but that was a choice, a risky one that I at least admire. Also this movie made Storm Shadow a very sympathetic and interesting character, it was interesting seeing the origins of the feud between him and Snake Eyes. If there are more movies developed in this universe it would be interesting to see them again. I know that die hard G.I. Joe fans won’t be happy with some of the decisions made, as this movie changes up some of the backstories, especially for Snake Eyes. Again though, I am not a G.I. Joe fan, and I thought it made for an interesting enough origin story. As you might’ve noticed from the tag at the end of the title, this is essentially setting up a G.I. Joe cinematic universe. There are a couple of known characters from the series who play small but notable parts in the story of this movie. The setting up of the larger universe doesn’t quite gel with a fairly contained morally ambiguous tale of revenge that the movie is going for. With that being said, it mostly focuses on the Snake Eyes origin story despite its sequel baiting moments.

MOVIE 'SNAKE EYES: G.I. JOE ORIGINS'

The cast on the whole do well. Henry Golding plays Snake Eyes and he’s one of the highlights of the movie. He had a lot of charisma as expected considering his past performances, it’s also just as well that he is playing the role considering this new take on the character. Andrew Koji also stands out as Storm Shadow and is really good in his part. The two characters as mentioned earlier are the strongest parts of the movie, and the actors delivered on their roles. Other notable actors are Samara Weaving and Ursula Corbero respectively as Scarlett (from G.I. Joe) and Baroness (from Cobra). They are in this to play small roes to tie this story into the G.I. Joe universe they are setting up. They are good but are only in it for a little bit. Outside of them however, the cast are wasted, even those who have martial arts talents like Iko Uwais. All the characters outside of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow are dull and underdeveloped, more or less a tool for action sequences and exposition dumpers. The main villain is particularly very boring and doesn’t have any screentime to have a character or personality.

1149787

Snake Eyes is directed by Robert Schwentke, whose past work included Red and the last two Divergent movies. I thought the direction was mixed overall. I will say that there are some technical elements that are quite good. First of all it has a sleek look to it with some nice scenery. I appreciated the use of real locations and sets, Tokyo particularly gives some visually striking production designs. Where the problems start is when you look at the action. From the early responses when the movie came out, I heard that the action was quite bad. I personally don’t think it’s that bad but it definitely has a ton of issues. There were legitimately good shots, set ups and pieces of stunt chorography, so it’s not lazy by any means. However, some of the camerawork is unnecessarily shaky, and the rapid editing really makes these scenes worse. Thankfully some of the action actually works quite well and is entertaining. It’s just disappointing that the action wasn’t better considering the amount of work put into them.

f8cef47419e2b0c69fdb663d05681f73

I know that Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is being negatively received, and while it has many issues I don’t think it’s bad. The somewhat generic story, most of the supporting characters, as well as some handling of the action really brought down the film, but some of the cast (particularly Henry Golding and Andrew Koji) really delivered on their parts, the main origin story made some decisions that I surprisingly liked, and even some of the action was fun. I would actually like to see this universe continue especially with these actors, hopefully in something less formulaic and better directed.

Old (2021) Review

Old

Old

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, horror scenes & content may disturb
Cast:
Gael García Bernal as Guy Cappa
Vicky Krieps as Prisca Cappa
Rufus Sewell as Charles
Alex Wolff and Emun Elliott as Trent Cappa
Thomasin McKenzie and Embeth Davidtz as Maddox Cappa
Abbey Lee as Chrystal
Nikki Amuka-Bird as Patricia Carmichael
Ken Leung as Jarin Carmichael
Eliza Scanlen as Kara
Aaron Pierre as Mid-Sized Sedan/Brendan
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

A thriller about a family on a tropical holiday who discover that the secluded beach where they are relaxing for a few hours is somehow causing them to age rapidly reducing their entire lives into a single day.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

Old was one of my most anticipated films of the year. I am a fan of M. Night Shyamalan, I know that his movies aren’t for everyone and there are a few of his films which don’t really work for me personally. On the whole though, I like his movies. There was a lot of mystery surrounding Old but I knew it was a thriller about aging set on a beach starring Thomasin McKenzie and Vicky Krieps, and it was directed by Shyamalan, so I was interested in how it turned out. I actually really liked it a lot.

old

Some have described Old as being Twilight Zone esque and while I’ve never watched the show, I can kind of get what they mean. The plot is fairly straightforward and fairly predicable at times, but has a high concept that they take advantage of, the horror of inescapable aging. The movie is about time as to be expected, with plenty of themes about growing old, experiencing major moments in life in a short time, and effectively is a meditation on time despite being a thriller first and foremost. In most Shyamalan films there is a level of sincerity to how seriously they take the story, and that goes a long way here. The movie is a family drama, and while this dynamic and concept has been in many movies (including horror thrillers), it was handled quite well here. This is one of Shyamalan’s darkest movies, but it also has a lot of heart in it, and it nails the emotional aspect of the story. I face found the story gripping on the whole. In terms of issues with the writing, it does have Shyamalan’s trademark awkward and artificial sounding dialogue as expected. However at this point I accepted it as a Shyamalan thing, if you’re used to it from his other movies, then Old won’t be too hard to get through. The movie has this general level of weirdness to it but I find that it helps the movie have an off kilter feel to it. There are some moments which are funny but some of those feel intentional. I know that a lot of people will compare Old to The Happening, but the former definitely does things a lot better. The invisible horror certainly works a lot better in Old, perhaps because of the existential nature of the rapid aging in the movie. I will say that the tone is a little messy and all over the place. There is indeed a twist as to be expected from Shyamalan, and I think the twist is just okay within the context of the story, but it is one that I’ll need to think about. It does have a big exposition dump and an odd tonal shift that makes it feel out of place, otherwise I was fine with it.

Old

This movie has quite the talented cast, and I thought that everyone performed their parts greatly. The main family is greatly played by Gael Garcia Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Alex Wolff and Thomasin McKenzie. They had strong chemistry between them and they really felt like a family. The rest of the cast including Rufus Sewell, Abbey Lee, Ken Leung and Eliza Scanlen were also really good in their parts. The performances of the actors playing children who age up quickly (Wolff, McKenzie and Scanlen) particularly do very well at portraying older versions of the children while believably capturing the mentality of the younger people they were hours before. Vicky Krieps, Thomasin McKenzie and Rufus Sewell were the standout performances to me.

MCDOLDD_UV008-e1626968215616

M. Night Shyamalan’s direction is really solid, I think this is some of the best work he’s one on a technical level at the very least. He definitely excels at his smaller scale movies, and this is certainly one of his smallest movies, with it mostly taking place on a beach. Speaking of which, the setting of the beach was great and there were some stunning shots, and certainly a notable amount of use of blocking to hide certain things and capture characters’ perspectives. Shyamalan does a lot with the claustrophobia of the setting and being trapped there, much like how the characters feel. Most of the movie doesn’t have anything overtly violent but when it does, it is effective. There’s even a surprising amount of body horror and in those moments, Shyamalan lets it loose and gets more gnarly than I was expecting it too. Finally, the score works very well for the movie.

old-2021-film-still-01

I have heard some people say that Old is M. Night Shyamalan at his absolute ‘most’, and I can sort of see why. If you aren’t a fan of many of Shyamalan’s movies, there might be some aspects about it that might not work with you, from some clunky dialogue, weird tonal changes, and odd story and technical choices. However, I actually quite liked the movie and found it entertaining, the actors were great, I was invested in the story, and it was very well made. It is definitely a divisive movie, but I think it’s worth checking out. It is possibly among Shyamalan’s best films.

Thirst (2009) Review

102a5ef48df1d8d0538f5ac29751afc3

Thirst

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Horror, violence, sex scenes & offensive language
Cast:
Song Kang-ho as Sang-hyun
Kim Ok-bin as Tae-ju
Kim Hae-sook as Mrs. Ra
Shin Ha-kyun as Kang-woo
Park In-hwan as Priest Roh
Song Young-chang as Seung-dae
Oh Dal-su as Young-du
Director: Park Chan-wook

Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho), a priest working for a hospital, selflessly volunteers for a secret vaccine development project intended to eradicate a deadly virus. However, the virus eventually takes over the priest. He nearly dies, but makes a miraculous recovery by an accidental transfusion of vampire blood. He realizes his sole reason for living: the pleasures of the flesh.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I was interested in Thirst by the mere fact that Park Chan-wook directed it. I was interested to see how a vampire movie by Park would be. Additionally, I really like Song Kang-ho as an actor, and so him playing the lead here interested me greatly. Thirst is one of the most unique vampire movies I’ve seen, it might be a little overloaded with what it tries to do, but overall, I thought it was quite good.

unnamed (1)

As I said earlier, Thirst is a unique take on the vampire genre. The film takes many familiar gothic tropes and utilises them and plays around with them in a interesting way. Despite these tropes being quite traditional and the story structure having been used many times before, the film still manages to feel distinct. As a vampire story it stands out, and the transition from human to vampire was told in a compelling way. With that said, calling Thirst merely a vampire movie would be doing it a disservice. It really is a blend of different genres and elements including horror, drama and comedy, with the end result being a gory psychological horror romantic thriller (and even that doesn’t quite do it justice). The story puts the main character in an interesting dilemma as he goes on a very dark journey when he becomes a vampire. The characters are very well developed, especially the two lead characters, and the story is suspenseful. The writing is strong, with sharp and witty dialogue. Thirst is also weirdly funny like some of Park’s other movies, or really a lot of other dark South Korean thrillers in general. There’s a certain level of quirkiness throughout. This movie is filled to the brim with thought provoking themes and complex topics that Park takes on. The movie deals with love, passion, belief, sin and desire, and portrays the darker side of humanity. Also Thirst places at a close second for most passionate and erotic films from Park Chan-wook right behind The Handmaiden (the film’s title of Thirst really does have a double meaning). I will say that it really does feel like Thirst is trying to cover a lot, most of it works but at times it feels like it is trying to handle too much. Thirst is also definitely a slow burn, it’s very deliberately paced and seems to meander early in the movie. It also does feel quite long, and potentially it could’ve been a little shorter.

thirst-ceci-est-mon-sang-bakjwi-thirst-30-09-2009-30-04-2009-2-g

Another strong aspect of the movie is the performances, which are fantastic. Song Kang-ho gives a stellar performance as the lead character of a priest in crisis who becomes a vampire who struggles to hold onto his urges. Song Kang-ho embraces all the emotions his character is going through, and convincingly conveys all the conflicts that he has over the course of the movie. It’s not just him however, Kim Ok-bin also excels in the role of a housewife who goes through her own transformation into someone very different from where she started. It was thrilling to watch and was convincingly done, she really shines in the second half especially. The chemistry between the two were good, their dynamic was one of the shining points of the movie. These characters are complex and feel human, helped both by the writing and acting.

1014ea3dd9850051fe609262e8882b65

Park Chan-wook directs this, and it’s no surprise that it’s so great on a technical level. There are some gorgeous visuals, with great cinematography and camerawork, and the set and costume designs are top notch. Also worth noting is that despite this being a vampire movie, Thirst has the recurrent colour of blue across the movie instead of red. There are some hallucinations at certain points in the movie and they are filmed quite creatively. There are lots of blood as to be expected given it’s a vampire movie and one directed by Park, and the effects are really good. The editing and the score round out the rest of the technical elements and are great in their own rights.

88945b56ce741d5490934138c114ca5151c67622

Thirst may be a bit long and try to tackle a little too much thematically, but on the whole it’s a great and unique take on vampires, and a great psychological romantic horror thriller. Park Chan-wook directs it excellently, the story is engaging and has a lot going on, and the lead performances from Song Kang-ho and Kim Ok-bin are fantastic. If you like vampire movies, horror movies and/or Park Chan-wook movies, I highly recommend checking it out.

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2006) Review

cyborg-park-chan-wook

I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK

Time: 107 Minutes
Cast:
Rain as Park Il-soon
Im Soo-jung as Cha Young-goon
Director: Park Chan-wook

After his bloody `revenge’ trilogy, Korean director Park Chan-Wook directs this deliriously daft rom-com. Young-goon (Im Soo-jung) works in a maddening dead-end job making transistor radios. Flipping, she insists she is a cyborg and that she only needs to lick batteries for sustenance. She is sent to a psychiatric ward where she is befriended by schizophrenic kleptomaniac Il-Sun (Rain). The two damaged souls fall in love.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I first heard of this movie from it’s very distinct and weird title, which definitely made it stand out. Then I heard that Park Chan-wook directed it which interests me, the movies I had seen from him are great, and I never heard of I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK before. I decided to check it out for Park’s involvement alone. It definitely wasn’t what I expected, and while I don’t love it, I do think it’s quite good.

im-a-cyborg-but-thats-ok

This movie is basically a romantic comedy that takes place in a mental hospital and about a girl who thinks she’s a cyborg, and much of the movie spends time with her going out with another patient. The story is not unfamiliar, focusing on humans who are longing to connect in a world of malnourished relationships. It’s definitely the lightest of Park’s movies if only because of how dark all his other movies are. With that said still, it does have some Park elements, a little bit of revenge and some darker moments. It is a very quirky and bizarre movie, absurd, creative and with a lot of humour, yet heartfelt and sensitive. It does have quite a bit of charm to it, and it’s like if you mixed Amelie with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and it was directed by Wes Anderson. Most the characters in the movie are confirmed to be insane and are largely impossible to identify with, but they are still fully realised and complex characters. Something interesting is that compared to other similar movies, it’s less focused on these people escaping or trying to find sanity, instead focusing more on them accepting themselves, trying to find happiness and carry on. Whether you like this film depends on if you like atmospheric films and if you like the atmosphere of this particular film. Quite frankly, not a lot happens plot wise even when stuff does happen. The story was the characters, so your enjoyment also depends on how engaged you are with the characters. To be honest, the movie doesn’t connect with me that much. It does try to be whimsical very hard, and the quirks weren’t enough to keep me engaged. The humour wasn’t quite my thing either and didn’t always work for me. The movie is just following two idiosyncratic characters in a mental institution doing their own things for 90 minutes and that wasn’t enough for me. The characters don’t do a lot other than being weird and I wasn’t particularly interested in them. It is also a little too cartoony and light to actually get into it (surprising really). I will however give credit to the portrayal of mental health patients in this movie, they aren’t victimised or villainised. Despite being an absurd and quirky comedy, they display them in a somewhat serious way.

MV5BMTU2OTk2ODI0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODI2ODc1MjE@._V1_

Generally I thought the acting was good. The highlights were the leads in Im Soon-jung and Rain playing the roles of Cha Young-goon and Park Il-soon respectively, the former being a woman who believes to be a cyborg, and the latter a patient who is a thief. They both do great jobs in the lead roles and have a comfortable and believable chemistry in the forefront.

I_m_a_Cyborg_But_That_s_OK-351711184-large

Park Chan-wook is a great director and once again his work is great here. The technical aspects definitely help the movie work as well as it does. There was a lot of energetic and creative work behind the camera, with some stellar cinematography. The use of colour was fantastic, and the production design was stellar. The fantasy sequences definitely go all out and are very fantastical and over the top, which is fitting considering that most of the movie takes place from Young-goon’s perspective and mindset. Finally, the score is great and really fits the movie well.

1e8136b7add90cda816dfd858ee5363a

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK is currently my least favourite film from Park Chan-wook but it’s by no means a bad movie. It’s acted well, its charming and I’m glad I watched it. I guess it just wasn’t for me, I wasn’t as invested with the story and characters as I would’ve liked, maybe I just prefer Park when he’s doing darker movies. The movie isn’t quite for everyone, if you’re not a big fan of movies with any degree of quirkiness, I’m not sure you’ll get into this one. However if you like any of Park’s other movies I do think it is at least worth checking out.

The Handmaiden (2016) Review

handmaiden-crop

The Handmaiden

Time:  145 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language and sex scenes
Cast:
Kim Min-hee as Lady/Izumi Hideko
Kim Tae-ri as Maid/Nam Sook-hee
Ha Jung-woo as Count Fujiwara
Cho Jin-woong as Uncle Kouzuki
Director: Park Chan-wook

With help from an orphaned pickpocket (Kim Tae-ri), a Korean con man (Ha Jung-woo) devises an elaborate plot to seduce and bilk a Japanese woman (Kim Min-hee) out of her inheritance.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1]

I had heard so many people highly praising The Handmaiden. I decided to check it out based on that alone, not really knowing much about the movie outside of the fact that Park Chan-wook directed it. Overwhelming fantastic is how I would describe the movie. Virtually every element of this is phenomenal, and it was amazing to watch.

Die-Taschendiebin-Szene-7

The writing is admirable and impressive, with a twisty, clever and unpredictable script. It is intricate, methodical and quite complex, but also enthralling and by the end satisfying. The plot starts off simple enough with the plot following a pick pocketer posing as a handmaiden for a wealthy heiress as part of a con. Over time however, this plot develops into something bold and quite different from how it starts, it subverts expectations throughout and it wasn’t what I expected at all. This character driven plot is engaging, constantly turning and heightening. I went into this movie blind and that was the best way to approach this. I won’t talk too much about the story so you can experience it for yourself. To just classify it as a con artist film would be really selling it short, there’s so much that happens in this movie. This film has a lot of elements to it, it’s tonally all over the place but finds cohesion and balance among everything that’s here. There’s strong drama, with dark thriller (almost horror) elements throughout. However, there’s a lot of dark humour mixed in, and The Handmaiden also really is a love story. Something noteworthy about the movie is the non-linear structure, which keeps you guessing about how it would progress, and changes your perception of the events of the movie. By the time you reach the end of the first third, you’ll know that you’re watching something special. The movie is slower paced and long, but the way the plot reveals its secrets is what makes the almost 2 hours and 30 minute runtime fly by. The Handmaiden is also an erotic thriller, with a large amount of sensuality and sexuality which can be a bit overbearing at times, yet that aspect is also really handled well surprisingly. The film doesn’t start off being that crazy like some of Park’s other movies but make no mistake, it is a wild movie from beginning to end.

6-handmaiden

On top of the writing, the performances are terrific as well and make this already fantastic movie even better. The highlights are the leads in Min-hee Kim and Kim Tae-ri, who share some great chemistry, and with their relationship being in the forefront of the movie. The characters are quite complex and interesting, especially in Kim Tae-ri’s wealthy heiress character.

14_the-handmaiden_amazon

Park Chan-wook directs this film, and I think that this might be his best work. I think that this movie is pretty much perfect on a technical level. Every moment feels deliberate, patient and fully realised. The cinematography is gorgeous and mesmerising, every shot is masterfully framed and set up. The costumes and production designs are well detailed and exquisite and feel accurate to the time period the film is set in. The editing is also strong, with particularly some really good transitions. Finally the score from Jo Yeong-wook is relaxing, tender and fantastic as well. All around, it is a technically masterful film.

jlQAhIxBaEe3qIoyuCgqGWjhKeh

The Handmaiden is excellent and arguably Park Chan-wook’s best film. Near perfect from start to finish, the story and writing is complex and subversive, the acting is wonderful, and the direction is absolutely stellar. It is genuinely one of the most finely crafted movies I’ve seen, and one that I want to revisit.

Wide Awake (1998) Review

iljlm6scctbgmgnbvyzz

Wide Awake

Time: 88 minutes
Cast:
Denis Leary as Mr. Beal
Dana Delany as Mrs. Beal
Joseph Cross as Joshua A. Beal
Rosie O’Donnell as Sister Terry
Timothy Reifsnyder as Dave O’Hara
Robert Loggia as Grandpa Beal
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

A fifth grader (Joseph Cross) goes on a search for God after his grandfather (Robert Loggia) dies. Along the way he gets into tons of trouble at Waldron Academy an all-boys school.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

Most people first learned about M. Night Shyamalan upon the release of The Sixth Sense, which became an instant hit and the point where his career took off. What most people don’t know is that The Sixth Sense wasn’t his directorial debut but rather his third movie, having made two prior movies that not many people heard of with Praying with Anger and Wide Awake. Both are pretty hard to gain access to, but I managed to watch the latter. Being overshadowed by later films aside, there’s also a good reason why Wide Awake is not really heard of. Despite being made in 1995 (and written in 1991), Harvey Weinstein basically buried the film’s release with the distribution, and was not released until 1998 (1 year before The Sixth Sense was released). Honestly I wasn’t expecting much based off the premise, although I was interested to see how Shyamalan started before his first hit. The movie wasn’t actually that bad, although I wouldn’t call the movie good either.

006761

The premise of Wide Awake does sound like a premise of a lifetime movie about religion, and much of the actual movie feels like that. With that said, the premise did have potential, it could’ve been about exploring grief from perspective of a child. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really do anything interesting. The movie consists of the main kid trying to speak with God, having doubts and then something makes him believe again. Most of the time the movie is spent at the catholic school and at his home with occasional flashbacks of him hanging out with his grandfather. The themes were heavy handed with no subtlety at all. Not that every movie needs to feature their themes in a subtle way but for this topic it needed to be handled with a degree of nuance. However this is a movie where the main character literally Googles “Who’s God?”. The subject matter is presented clumsily and overly sentimental, with a whole lot of cheese. It never reaches a level of profoundness. The journey of the lead character’s search for God and answers isn’t particularly interesting. Spoiler alert, it pretty much ends up with “God works in mysterious ways”. It’s a very bland movie with very little surprises, and the characters and writing feel rather fake. The writing for the children especially doesn’t actually feel like what children that age would do or say. Despite aiming to be touching and moving, ultimately it feels rather hollow and doesn’t really leave any impact. Even the attempts at humour fall flat. Despite how bland the story was, in some ways I found the movie weirdly interesting in some of the odd choices it made. It especially felt odd that this 10 year old kid is having this desire to find God, so it was somewhat intriguing at first to see what they would do next. However by the time it reached the third act, I wasn’t into it any more. One way it does feel like a Shyamalan film is a twist at the end, which was certainly a weird choice to make that really didn’t add anything to the movie.

MV5BNWQ0MmVjNTUtNzE3ZC00NTQ2LWIxMDktMTdmMDEzYTI5YWZlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjI0Mjg2NzE@._V1_

The acting is nothing special, it’s functional and not bad, but nothing really worth mentioning. Generally, the acting of the children was surprisingly okay for the most part, the writing for them however is weird because some of these 10 year olds speak with so much self-awareness that it’s unbelievable. Joseph Cross does relatively well in his part of the lead character. Nothing much to say about the adult actors, I will say that despite Rosie O’Donnell being on the cover art of the film, her character of a baseball loving nun basically doesn’t have much involvement with the plot.

large-screenshot3

As I said earlier, M. Night Shyamalan directs Wide Awake, and there is basically no hint of Shyamalan from this one movie. He’s definitely still learning as a filmmaker and it does have some technical missteps. There is so much voiceover throughout, with the main character constantly giving internal exposition about the past and his feelings. It can get overbearing and annoying really quickly. The cutesy and quirky score can get a little annoying too. On the whole though it is competently made, some shots are nicely composed, and I wouldn’t say it’s a badly directed movie.

tWdWyAFhStzWSzXzscTg4HLjf7G-1200-1200-675-675-crop-000000

Honestly the most interesting part of the movie is the fact that M. Night Shyamalan made it at all. That is probably what kept me somewhat patiently staying with this movie, without his name attached I probably would’ve given up on it earlier on. That aside, it’s a very mediocre yet harmless Hallmark movie that’s quite forgettable. I would actually put this as one of Shyamalan’s worst movies, though keep in mind I only dislike a few of his movies. Wide Awake is honestly not worth checking out unless you’re interested in seeing how he started as a filmmaker.

Loki Season 1 (2021) Review

Columna-del-Comic-2

Loki Season 1

Cast:
Tom Hiddleston as Loki
Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Ravonna Renslayer
Wunmi Mosaku as Hunter B-15
Eugene Cordero as Casey
Tara Strong voices Miss Minutes
Owen Wilson as Mobius M. Mobius
Sophia Di Martino as Sylvie
Sasha Lane as Hunter C-20
Jack Veal as Kid Loki
DeObia Oparei as Boastful Loki
Richard E. Grant as Classic Loki
Jonathan Majors as He Who Remains
Director:
Kate Herron
Creator: Michael Waldron

Loki, the God of Mischief (Tom Hiddleston), steps out of his brother’s shadow to embark on an adventure that takes place after the events of “Avengers: Endgame.”

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

Loki was yet another show from the MCU which would be releasing on Disney+. Out of the shows that Marvel initially announced, I was wondering about what the point of this one was, especially after Loki had his death in the opening of Avengers: Infinity War. From the trailers I reckoned that it would be just filling the gap of the Loki who disappeared with the Tesseract in Avengers: Endgame, and would generally just consist of him getting into shenanigans involving time periods. Some of that was true, but it ended up being a lot different than I thought it would be.

LOKI

There’s some aspects of the show worth experiencing for yourself, so I’ll try to be light with spoilers and details. Loki starts out with a whole lot of worldbuilding in the first episode with the TVA, an organisation that preserves the current timeline, and I thought it was quite interesting learning about all this. Like with WandaVision and Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki also explores its lead character and the show is character focused. The lead character certainly goes through a change, even when it’s picking up with the Loki from 2012’s The Avengers. The show is definitely slower paced and for some that might get a bit dull. However I appreciated the slower pace and what it was going for. There are some action scenes in the show but it never feels like it is reliant on it. It does take a while to get into what the story is really about, the first couple of episodes takes its time to develop things and while I was invested, I know that some will find that its just meandering. After the first three episodes though I think you’ll get into it. There is some humour but unlike some other MCU projects it doesn’t interrupt anything and actually works well for the tone of the show.

35bb068e908f18732de145f5eda5c982_4096x2730_71bcb976-scaled

Usually the finale is where the MCU shows have an issue. WandaVision changed from what it was trying to do and just devolves into a very typical Marvel climax with large special effects. The Falcon and Winter Soldier was more consistent but the way the finale played out ended up highlighting the issues that the entire show had. However, Loki actually nails the ending quite well. Without spoiling anything, it doesn’t end with a traditional climax, and once again I really appreciate that. It is staying true to itself and being more about the story and characters rather than just ticking another box in the Marvel formula. I will say this however, unlike the other two shows, it ends in a cliff-hanger. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say this since its been announced that Loki has been renewed for a second season. Some character arcs haven’t been quite completed and story plotlines weren’t quite fully resolved, as a result some aspects feel less satisfying compared to the other Marvel shows because they haven’t been finalised yet. So much critical stuff happens in the last episode that I’m surprised that it was happened in this show as opposed to one of the bigger Marvel movies. I know that not everyone watches the MCU shows, even people who watch the movies, and some will probably look over Loki because it seems like a one off show just about Loki. However for what it’s worth I think the show is worth watching if only because of the roll on effect it will have on the other movies and shows. In terms of credits scenes, surprisingly there’s only one in episode 4, and just a little tease in episode 6, which are worth watching.

loki-episode-3-photo-Tom-Hiddleston-Sophia-Di-Martino-scaled

The cast were also great in their parts. As expected, Tom Hiddleston reprises his role of Loki. Not only does he get to have a lot of fun as Loki, but Loki goes through a change of his own over the course of the show. To put this in context, this is the Loki from The Avengers (2012) finding out what happens to him (including his death in Infinity War). So he goes through his own change and development, like the lead characters in the previous Marvel shows. However, there’s something even more fascinating about a character like Loki going through the change, and this show makes me like Loki more as a character. Sophia Di Martino plays a vital character named Sylvie, and she’s great in her part too. Her onscreen dynamic with Loki was great to see, especially considering the connection the two of them have (won’t get into it more than that). Another notable character is that of an agent of the TVA named Mobius played by Owen Wilson, and this might actually be one of my favourite roles and performances from Wilson. He has great chemistry with Hiddleston and I loved seeing the two of them interacting, especially in the earlier episodes. Other supporting actors with the likes of Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Wunmi Mosaku are also good in their parts. There are two guest performers in this who stand out, both of them are particularly great in their screentime. The one actor whose name I can mention is Richard E. Grant, and while I won’t go into what his role is, he pretty much stole the entire episode that he was in with his performance. The second performer is a critical role, and who makes me very excited for what’s to come next in the other movies and shows.

loki_hiddleston

This show is directed by Kate Herron, and she’s done a great job with it all. The show is visually striking and nothing like what the MCU has done before. The set designs, environments and CGI are great (the look of the TVA alone was immediately distinct), those and the cinematography came together to form a gorgeous looking show. As said previously, there is action here and to be honest they aren’t that spectacular. They usually just consist of Loki and other characters involved with hand to hand combat with maybe some weapons. They are filmed okay and are solid enough, they are good enough for the purpose of the show. There is one large set piece involving a lot of CGI in one of the later episodes but even that’s handled very well. Another standout is the score from Natalie Holt, which is incredibly distinct and really gives the show a unique tone and feel. One of my favourite scores from the MCU.

lamentis-loki-season-1-episode-3

Loki has ended up being one of my favourite instalments in the MCU. As someone who almost begrudgingly likes some of the MCU projects, I was thoroughly surprised by it. While it is still in the MCU, it remained true to itself and didn’t feel too constrained by some of the formula that some of the movies and shows have to follow. The performances were all solid, the direction was great, and I was invested with the story and characters. If you are interested in the MCU I think it is worth checking out.

All the President’s Men (1976) Review

Orlando-Goldman

All the President's Men

Time:  119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Robert Redford as Bob Woodward
Dustin Hoffman as Carl Bernstein
Jack Warden as Harry M. Rosenfeld
Martin Balsam as Howard Simons
Hal Holbrook as “Deep Throat”
Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee
Director: Alan J. Pakula

During the 1972 elections, two reporters’ investigation sheds light on the controversial Watergate scandal that compels President Richard Nixon to resign from his post..

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1]

I’ve always known All the President’s Men as being “the one movie about Watergate”, and I remembered holding off on watching it because it was long, it was from the 70s and I didn’t know if I would be as into it despite the acclaim. However I did watch it, and was surprised at how good it was on pretty much every front.

2P970yRzlnxRgjrpLC8OAgiaIZ37jei7

All the President’s Men is about the journalistic approach to the story, with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in pursuit of the news story. The layers of the story are peeled back as the film goes on, revealing the truths about the Watergate Scandal. The writing is great and it really was key to the movie working. It is definitely a slow burn, so you do need to know that going in, but thankfully I found the story very compelling to follow. The scope of this story is large, and the script deserves a lot of credit for making this complex and dry tale accessible and easy to follow for audiences. At the same time, it approaches the subject matter without needlessly adding subplots or other aspects to spice up the movie. It almost plays like a detective story at times more so than a journalism story, and manages to mix dry fact with intrigue perfectly, making sure that we are engaged and never lose the plot. It really lets the audience feel like they’re putting together the pieces along with Woodward and Bernstein. The constant stream of information can occasionally be a little much, but the fact that it is quite accurate to true events and you can understand most of it is impressive. It is a procedural for sure, but probably one of the best procedural films ever. It does feel authentic in both the discoveries made as well as the journalistic process, and I like the amount of detail in what is said and what is shown on screen. For example, you get to see the way that Woodward and Bernstein play out how they try to get certain pieces of information, and how they interact with the people they are questioning; very well done and fascinating to watch. Every scene truly means something and has a reason for being there, despite the long runtime. A lot of the movie is dialogue and its great, especially with the deliveries from the cast. It keeps your attention for the entire runtime and each conversation is right to the point. The film is also surprisingly thrilling to watch at times, despite it being a movie about journalism. If there’s a criticism I have with the movie, it’s that the ending is a little too abrupt, that’s it though.

image

The acting from everyone is also great, but it’s the two leads who drive the story and stand out the most. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman are incredible and invested in their roles of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and share great chemistry together. You get completely wrapped up in their motivations and they feel very natural in their parts, never overselling it. The supporting cast including Jack Warden, Jason Robards and Hal Holbrook also do work well in their parts.

Film-All-the-Presidents-Men-Photo-Courtesy-of-Warner-Bros.

The movie is directed by Alan J. Pakula, and his work here is great, covering this story as effectively as possible with lots of visual and audio details in every scene. The cinematography conveys the scope and size of the story, with everything from landscape shots to shots of a simple phone call looking really good. The editing is quite efficient and gets you wrapped up in the story even with all the details being thrown at you. Pakula’s direction also does well as helping you feel the paranoia that the main characters feel as the story continues.

image (1)

All the President’s Men is an astonishingly well made film, efficiently directed, greatly performed by its cast, and with a fantastic script which makes what could’ve been a boring and dull movie, into an engaging and intriguing experience. Even though most of us already know what happens at the end, it was still compelling to watch this whole story play out. For sure one of the best movies about journalism.

Castle in the Sky (1986) Review

f2WdKmhECh9eutR5757p8hrnhdE

Castle in the Sky

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Mayumi Tanaka as Pazu
Keiko Yokozawa as Sheeta
Kotoe Hatsui as Captain Dola
Minori Terada as Colonel Muska
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Young orphan Sheeta and her kidnapper, Col. Muska, are flying to a military prison when their plane is attacked by a gang of air pirates led by the matronly Dola. Escaping from a mid-air collision via a magic crystal around her neck, Sheeta meets fellow orphan Pazu and the pair join forces to discover the mystical floating city of Laputa while pursued by both Muska and the pirates, who lust for the city’s myriad treasures.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I wanted to watch more films from Studio Ghibli after loving the four I had already seen from them. The next one of their movies I decided to check out was Castle in the Sky, which seemed to be one of their earlier movies, and as it turns out it was the first film they produced. This probably isn’t one of Ghibli’s best, but it was quite entertaining and I enjoyed watching it.

1_hzrp15mGCkzv_MyasU0C3g

The plot of Castle in the Sky is a rather straightforward good vs evil adventure tale, but that doesn’t take away from how exciting and fun it is from beginning to end. The story is entertaining, fast paced, and filled with many different types of adventures and obstacles for the main characters to overcome. It has quite a bit humour, action, warmth, drama and imagination on display, and the story itself holds up to modern animation standards. The worldbuilding is also masterful and well done. Helping that is the fact that a lot of this world is left unexplained and leaves viewers to engage their imagination with it. There are also a number of memorable, likable and nuanced characters that are given quite a bit of depth, with the story essentially being held together by the bond and strong chemistry between its lead characters Paku and Sheeta. As with other Miyazaki/Ghibli movies there are some themes on display. The movie makes some strong statements against war and weaponry, and there’s a lot of environmentalist subtext too. Now in contrast with the previous Miyazaki/Ghibli movies I had seen, I didn’t find myself emotionally connecting with the story of Castle in the Sky, despite it being quite heartfelt and the characters being likable. My Neighbor Totoro, which didn’t connect with me as it did with other people, even seemed to resonate a lot more with me. It’s also not particularly complex or thought provoking. With that being said, as a thrilling adventure movie it delivers, and that’s really what I was expecting from it going into it, so I wasn’t let down or anything.

PZjPW47

Hayao Miyazaki directs this movie (this is actually his third film), and so I expected it to be wonderfully animated and well made, and I certainly got that from Castle in the Sky. The animation is pretty remarkable from beginning to end. The environments are fantastical and gorgeous, the colour scheme is stunning, the designs especially for the robots and transportations are fantastic, and there are some thrilling action scenes throughout. Now it’s not quite as fluid with the animation compared with some of the later Ghibli movies but that’s to be expected, and it’s already really good here (especially for a movie from the late 80s). The musical score from Joe Hiaishi is great too and really fits the movie really well.

ep5rIHafeGtx3mV3OyEVbtlQuC1

Castle in the Sky is a fun and fantastical adventure that I enjoyed from beginning to end, with memorable characters, a solid plot, and some thrilling sequences. I can already tell that it isn’t among Ghibli’s best work but it’s nonetheless a pretty good adventure. At the very least it hints towards the bright future of the studio, as well as Miyazaki’s later work as a filmmaker.

Black Widow (2021) Review

BLACK WIDOW

Black Widow

Time: 133 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova
David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian
O-T Fagbenle as Rick Mason
William Hurt as Thaddeus Ross
Ray Winstone as General Dreykov
Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff/Black Widow
Director: Cate Shortland

Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy, and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

After playing a large role in many entries in the MCU, the character of Black Widow is finally getting her solo film… and it only took 11 years after her first appearance back in 2010 with Iron Man 2. I will admit that I wasn’t the most excited for the film, of course for the fact that it feels a little late given how long she’s been around and hasn’t received a movie of her own. Then of course there’s the fact that the character died during Avengers Endgame, and so having a film take place earlier on in the timeline feels almost a bit in vain and pointless. In the lead up to Black Widow however, I was sort of looking forward to it. This is partly because of being back to see more movies in the cinema but also probably because it was originally meant to come out a while ago, so I’m just glad for it to be finally here. Black Widow was about as good as I expected it to be, with some of the unfortunate problems that I expected it to have, but also surprising in other areas. Overall I enjoyed it.

black-widow-marvel-cinematic-universe-future

Plotwise, the movie isn’t anything special, but I was interested to see how it played out. For what it is worth, Black Widow does feel a bit different in terms of the MCU movies. It is something of a spy and espionage movie, and does have some Captain America: The Winter Soldier vibes, which is good as it was one of my favourite movies in the MCU. Of course with this being Black Widow’s solo film, this allows us to learn about her past. The movie introduces us to Natasha Romanoff’s “family” in the characters played by Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz and David Harbour. This adds a backstory to Natasha’s life before SHIELD showing a side of her we hadn’t seen before. With that comes themes about dysfunctional and unconventional families as expected and I really liked that aspect. There’s a surprising amount of quiet moments that I did not expect, and moments of people just talking. I don’t see this a downside. The first half was probably the strongest part of the movie, without getting into it too much, the opening was especially good. However around the halfway point it starts to decline a little, when it gets into the third act where it has a pretty standard and generic MCU climax. I know that this is typical for most MCU movies but it stands out more in Black Widow because it feels at odds with the rest of the movie. It really pulls you out of it and it’s rather disappointing.

Melina-Natasha-and-Yelena-Black-Widow-2021-black-widow-43656552-2048-1536

In terms of other writing issues, Black Widow is yet another victim of MCU movies having way too many (and poorly timed) quips and jokes, which end up being at odds with the rest of the movie. There are scenes that are serious and quite dark and then some other scenes which are really comedic and played for laughs, and they don’t gel together. The humour occasionally worked but some of them ruined some sentimental moments or felt forced. It makes the tone feel all over the place. I do have some other issues, part of it was the intent of it being made and the context of the film. This movie takes place right after Captain America: Civil War where Black Widow is on the run, Civil War was released 5 years ago and that’s when the movie should’ve been released. If you showed this movie to someone who are just catching up in the MCU right after they saw Civil War and told them that it was also released in 2016, they would probably believe you. So it almost feels pointless watching it now, especially as you know that Black Widow is going to survive the whole movie. Then to a degree it doesn’t feel we’ve learned a whole lot about Natasha. We’ve learnt some of her backstory but not much necessarily about her as a character. Then there’s the feeling that it was made mainly to introduce another character in the MCU more than actually being for her, like it’s not really her movie. A lot of the film was a setup for Yelena Belova which I’m not necessarily hating as her character is one of the highlights. However it didn’t quite feel right with Natasha/Scarlett Johansson being sidelined in her own movie. It needed to work as a proper sendoff for the character and for me it didn’t do that. There is a mid credits scene, which I think is worth sticking around for.

G0pRpQd

The cast were one of the highlights of the film. Before this movie, the closest that Scarlett Johansson has gotten to be a lead in a MCU film as her character of Black Widow was in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a co-lead. So here she finally gets to be in the forefront. I will say that this is definitely her best performance as the character if only because she’s the lead this time (sort of), and generally she’s pretty good here. Florence Pugh is the standout of the movie as Yelena Belova, she’s great, she’s hilarious, and steals every scene she’s in. I’m looking forward to seeing more of her in other MCU projects. David Harbour and Rachel Weisz are also really good, rounding out the rest of the “family”. The interactions between the main family were pretty strong and believable, especially between Johansson and Pugh. The film really suffers from the weak villains, it’s an MCU film so not really a big surprise. Ray Winstone effectively plays the main villain as the head of The Red Room, the main antagonists of the movie. I will say it is refreshing to see a more straightforward evil villain as opposed to yet another attempt at making a sympathetic villain. However despite how much the movie builds him up as a big threat, we don’t really see enough of him for him to make an impact. Usually people in these scenarios would to fix this by compensating by giving the lead villain a strong henchman to have the main antagonistic focus. Which brings me to Taskmaster, who in this movie effectively serves as a Winter Soldier stand in, hunting Black Widow. In the comics Taskmaster is an assassin who mimics people’s fighting styles and that aspect is certainly here. I’m not going to pretend that I particularly care about comic book accuracy. However Taskmaster did feel underwhelming here, somewhat adequate in the action scenes but that’s it, certainly not as impactful as the Winter Soldier was in the second Captain America movie. There is a reason provided behind why the character exists so it isn’t just a random assassin or a robot, but we are not given nearly enough time with them. Even the reveal doesn’t go down well enough to create a memorable impact. Ultimately Taskmaster was more of a sidekick to the main villain, and a rather forgettable one at that. As for the identity of Taskmaster, I figured it out surprisingly early on.

BBU-10078_R-1625601543

Black Widow is directed by Cate Shortland, and on the whole I think she did a good job, it’s very well shot and put together. The action is generally quite good. A lot of the hand to hand combat is great with some stellar fight choreography, and the sound design really helping with that. It may well be the most brutal MCU movie with regards to the action, you do feel the impact of some of these fight scenes. Where the action suffers is in the third act, with explosions everywhere, over the top scenes, and a whole lot of CGI thrown in. While other MCU climaxes have certainly been more overblown than here, the fact that it’s in this particular movie with very different first two acts makes it feel really out of place. The visual effects are mostly fine and when it gets to the third act they look messy. I’m not going to pretend that it does anything particularly egregious by MCU standards, but it is quite unfortunate to see them fall back on that yet again. The score by Lorne Balfe is pretty good, mostly standing out in the action scenes. Another thing worth mentioning is that this movie actually has opening credits, as in there’s a montage towards the beginning of the movie that’s a credits sequence featuring the names of the main cast and other people who worked on it. Honestly that was rather nice to see in a franchise that hasn’t used them, and this sequence at least tonally gives a hint of it possibly being quite different as a Marvel movie.

black-widow-film-2021-01

Black Widow does have a lot of issues. It is 5 years late, it doesn’t feel like Black Widow’s movie and isn’t quite the sendoff that she deserves. The humour is at odds with the darker story and tone the movie is going for, as is the overblown third act. With that being said, I did still enjoy watching it. I generally enjoyed the action scenes, I was interested in seeing where the story would go, and the cast were quite good in their roles, especially Florence Pugh. It’s at around the midpoint of the MCU for me, if you like the movies I’d say that it is worth checking out.