Category Archives: Action

Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021) Review

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Prisoners of the Ghostland

Time: 103 Minutes
Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Hero
Sofia Boutella as Bernice
Bill Moseley as The Governor
Director: Sion Sono

In the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town, a ruthless bank robber gets sprung from jail by a wealthy warlord whose adopted granddaughter has gone missing. He offers the prisoner his freedom in exchange for retrieving the runaway. Strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct in five days, the bandit sets off on a journey to find the young woman — and his own path to redemption.

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I was actually quite excited for Prisoners of the Ghostland. One of the biggest selling points (which was used to market the movie) is that lead actor Nicolas Cage said that it might be the wildest movie he’s ever made, which is saying a lot considering his reputation for being in wild movies and/or being wild in some of his movies. So that combined the simple yet over the top premise, I was looking forward to it. The actual film didn’t quite deliver as I hoped it would.

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The premise is straightforward, a bank robber played by Nicolas Cage has bombs attached to him and he’s given a certain amount of time to rescue a woman before the bombs go off. I liked how the film started, and it showed some promise. It is a mash up of genres, with it being a western, samurai and post apocalyptic film, and it’s certainly impressive for that. However I had a sinking feeling as it approached the end of the first act, as its many issues reared their heads. The script is poorly written, and not always in the campy B-movie way. Despite the premise and the over the top nature, Prisoners of the Ghostland is surprisingly dull. It meanders a bit too much in the first half and I had mostly tuned out at the halfway point. Not much actually happens in the movie, and in the scenes where nothing was happening, I struggled to find out what the point of them were. It seemed like it was trying to build lore in these scenes, but even from that perspective the execution was lackluster.  On that comment from Cage, its definitely not one of the wildest movies he’s made but it is on the Weider side. However, it feels somewhat low effort and more like its weird for the sake of being weird, and it comes across rather hollow. It only picks up again when it enters into the climactic final battle in the third act. If the movie was just the climax it would’ve been a highly enjoyable throwback to over the top B-movies. However it is stretched to an entire movie length, and even at 100 minutes long it is tedious to watch.

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Nicolas Cage is in this movie and as expected this movie is definitely trying to play to his skills of being over the top. However to put it bluntly, if I was to make a list of the top 10 over the top Nicolas Cage movies/performances, Prisoners of the Ghostland wouldn’t come close to making it. He’s certainly over the top and lets loose in some moments. Otherwise he seems strangely restrained, probably because there’s not much of a character for him to play here, it’s just like he’s a parody of action leads. He makes the movie easier to sit through, but he somehow feels out of place with the rest of the movie. Sofia Boutella is the only actor in the movie who isn’t over the top, she’s playing the woman who Cage is trying to rescue. She’s decent in her part but she was very underused and not given much to do here. Every other actor is over the top and ‘weird’ but there’s not much of a character for them to play.

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Part of the hype for Prisoners of the Ghostland was the director Sion Sono, I haven’t seen any of his movies but I heard that he’s quite unique and ‘crazy’ as a filmmaker. With this film there’s certainly a lot of flare to his direction. The cinematography is fantastic, the practical sets are impressive, and the action isn’t anything special but is nicely stylised and fun to watch.

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I was rather disappointed in Prisoners of the Ghostland. Despite the premise, its just rather dull to sit through, especially the middle hour of the film. It does have some strengths, Nicolas Cage was enjoyable to watch despite being underutilised, I liked the mash up of different genres, and a lot of the technical aspects are impressive. At the very least, it has me interested to check out Sion Sono’s other work, but by itself, Prisoners of the Ghostland is just fine at best.

The King’s Man (2021) Review

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The King's Man

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, sexual references & offensive language
Cast:
Ralph Fiennes as Orlando, Duke of Oxford
Gemma Arterton as Pollyanna “Polly” Wilkins
Rhys Ifans as Grigori Rasputin
Matthew Goode as Captain Morton
Tom Hollander as King George, Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas
Harris Dickinson as Conrad Oxford
Daniel Brühl as Erik Jan Hanussen
Djimon Hounsou as Shola
Charles Dance as Herbert Kitchener
Director: Matthew Vaughn

One man must race against time to stop history’s worst tyrants and criminal masterminds as they get together to plot a war that could wipe out millions of people and destroy humanity.

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The King’s Man was the upcoming prequel to the Kingsman movies which had been repeatedly pushed back. I really like Kingsman: The Secret Service, it was a lot of fun. The sequel titled The Golden Circle was not quite as good as the first movie, but I still enjoyed it. However, a prequel might’ve been what the franchise needed, with a very different setting and completely different characters. However with every delay of the movie, I felt less confident in it. It’s finally arrived and thankfully I actually ended up enjoying it, but its not without some issues and questionable decisions.

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The King’s Man takes place a century earlier prior to the first two movies, and while I do like this new film, I still don’t think it needed to exist. It didn’t really add anything to the Kingsman lore. I will say that it doesn’t heavily rely on the viewers having watched the first two movies. You might miss some of the appeal if you haven’t watched the first movie at least though. The pacing was very inconsistent. The first third of the runtime introduces everything, so it takes a while to get going. Even then, for much of the runtime, it feels like a film made up of events and sections rather than a continuous story. It isn’t clear where everything leads to, and there’s little to no flow to it. For what its worth though, the third act is consistently fun. I found myself only a little invested in the plot. From a writing and story perspective, The King’s Man seemed to lack the energy that the other two movies did, and part of that is the setting. Also, the characters weren’t that interesting. Rasputin was fun to watch, I also liked Ralph Fiennes and even his character’s son to a degree, their relationship is given enough attention that I was willing to care about it. However, I only liked some of the other characters because of the actors, nothing about the characters with how they’re written. Even the villains outside of Rasputin aren’t as entertaining, it’s a cliched conspiracy made up of select people around the world. Its certainly different to the Bond-esque villains of the last two movies but the execution here is rather average. Obviously with this being a Kingsman movie, it is not historically accurate, but there are some moments where it does attempt at a level of accuracy to WW1, which is beyond strange. It’s like Matthew Vaughn wanted a bonkers Kingsman movie set during WW1 but he felt obliged to be somewhat accurate. I can’t tell if that’s better or worse, because tying the two together make some of the darker scenes (and those based on true events) come across as tone deaf.

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One notable problem with the movie is that the tone is just all over the place and messy. The King’s Man definitely has its light-hearted, silly and fun moments, like with Rasputin and some of the action scenes. However, a lot of the situations are on the more on the serious side of the coin. That’s largely because Matthew Vaughn anchored the setting to World War 1. There’s real people involved in the plot with Rasputin and King George, and we even see Archduke Franz Ferdinand assassinated in this. There’s plenty of scenes featuring a lot serious political and military talk, which was quite misguided to me. There’s even also long sequences focusing on grimy war battlefields. By focusing on the horrors of war and being somewhat accurate to the setting, it damages the movie in some ways. The thing is that Vaughn actually does some of the handle the serious stuff quite well, the battle scenes are surprisingly well done and given the right amount of weight. The problem is that they don’t fit into this movie all that well. I am one of the people who enjoys The Golden Circle, even though I know of its faults very well. Honestly though, at least the over-the-top nature makes more sense compared to the serious take here. Making it too serious might’ve been misguided, but the worst part of all is how The King’s Man jumps between the two, the tones don’t work together. Rhys Ifans hamming it up as Rasputin really contrasts with the serious tone and the large battle scenes that feel like Matthew Vaughn is trying to make his own 1917. I will say that it is worth sticking around for the mid credits scene, because its one of, if not the most, insane credits scenes I’ve ever seen. Its honestly quite perplexing that it exists, you really just have to see it for yourself.

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There is a good cast involved, though not all of them are used to their fullest potential. Ralph Fiennes is one of the best parts of the movie and he absolutely delivers in the lead role. He more than proves himself a great action star, much like Colin Firth did in the first two movies. He adds so much to his character, probably even more than he needed to. He’s fun in the action and comedy scenes, but he also brings the emotion. Harris Dickinson plays his son, he does a good job and I like the relationship that the two have. Gemma Arteton and Djimon Hounsou are decent in their parts, even if their characters aren’t that memorable or great. Tom Hollander also plays Tsar Nicholas, Kaiser Wilhelm and King George, and is very entertaining in those parts. The most marketed villain of the movie is that of Rasputin, played by a wonderfully scene chewing Rhys Ifans. One could say that he might be doing too much, but I love how much he goes for it. It’s just a shame that we don’t get to see him as much I would’ve liked, and he is nothing more than a notable henchman. He certainly had better screen presence than the other villains, who are just surface level caricatures. The villains are a convoluted and conspiracy consisting of a group of people led by a shadowy leader called The Shephard. His goal is for the entire world to go to war. While the villain is over the top to a degree, he’s not at the level of Samuel L. Jackson or Julianne Moore from the previous movies. He is a moustache twirling madman that shouts a lot, but is still rather bland and cliched. I know that Julianne Moore’s villain in the last movie wasn’t exactly the best, but The Shephard is worse if only because of how much the film tries to hide his identity for the sake of the twist. As a result it doesn’t let you connect with the character in any way, and giving him a face and more dialogue would’ve helped the story and the character. They rely on the ultimate reveal at the end, it doesn’t even pay off and it isn’t surprising.

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Matthew Vaughn’s stylised direction is present once again, very much to the film’s benefit. His trademark brand of over-the-top hyper action is on full display here, and its where the film is at its best. It has great choreography, its very well shot, full of energy, and they are well depicted. Its not as great as some of the action from the first movie or even the second, but I did like them. The war moments are intense and well crafted, there are actually a lot of scenes that work as a serious war drama, and deliver on hard hitting emotion.

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I enjoyed The King’s Man, I liked the performance of Ralph Fiennes and Rhys Ifans, and the action was very entertaining. However it is definitely a mess, especially with the writing and tone. Honestly I can’t tell whether this or The Golden Circle is better, I certainly feel more inclined to rewatch the latter. Matthew Vaughn would be well advised to not make a sequel to this movie and just stick to making Kingsman movies set in the present day. On top of already playing with real life material from WW1 in this movie and shouldn’t be pushing it further (that credit scene is rather daunting), its just not the right setting for this franchise.

Hawkeye (2021) TV Review

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HawkeyeCast:
Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye
Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop
Tony Dalton as Jack Duquesne
Fra Fee as Kazimierz “Kazi” Kazimierczak
Brian d’Arcy James as Derek Bishop
Aleks Paunovic as Ivan
Piotr Adamczyk as Tomas
Linda Cardellini as Laura Barton
Simon Callow as Armand Duquesne III
Vera Farmiga as Eleanor Bishop
Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez
Zahn McClarnon as William Lopez
Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova
Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin
Creator: Jonathan Igla

Clint Barton and Kate Bishop shoot a few arrows and try to avoid becoming the target themselves.

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Hawkeye is the latest series of the MCU put on Disney+. It looked fun and deliberately Christmas themed as it was ending just before Christmas Day. It did have many flaws but I’m prepared to say that I liked it.

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Right out of the gate I quite liked this refreshing approach for an MCU series. It felt very small scale and grounded, and its essentially a heartfelt buddy comedy between its two lead characters. The plot is definitely predictable, but I think that’s fine for this sort of show. There are even disposable and low level threat villains called the Tracksuit Mafia which are definitely meant to be absurd and lower threat, and I think that it fitted the lower stakes of the show. The humour is mostly funny and I really liked the quieter moments between characters, which were usually the best moments oof the show. There are definitely some dramatic elements, the main part being with Clint’s PTSD, him potentially missing Christmas with his family, and especially feeling the lasting effects of being Ronin after The Snap before Endgame starts. I do like that they address all that, although I feel like it is a little out of place in this show tonally, and Clint does get off pretty lightly considering he pretty much went on a global killing spree as a vigilante. Around halfway through or two thirds through the show I was enjoying it as a light show that didn’t need to do much. However over time it just brings in too much characters and storylines that almost could’ve fitted in other shows. By the time it brings in Yelena and introduces the show’s “mystery man”, it just feels too much. Speaking of the mystery man, literally every live action MCU tv show had some reveal of a villainous character near the end, and Loki so far has been the only one which has pulled it off. Ultimately, I feel the show might’ve benefited being without him. Not to mention that the reveal is left way too late without any development, and he almost feels like a last minute and tact on addition. Somehow Loki is also the only Disney+ show that got the length of the season right. Wandavision was a bit too long while The Falcon and the Winter Soldier wasn’t not long enough, and Hawkeye is on the ‘not long enough’ side of it. 6 episodes should be long enough for a light hearted show like this. However it introduces so many notable plotlines and characters (which they don’t really need) that it doesn’t have enough time to resolve their stories in a satisfying way. It felt like at least 2 episodes were cut from this thing. As for credit scenes, there is one for the finale, but its really not worth checking out.

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Jeremy Renner reprises his role of Hawkeye/Clint Barton and for what its worth, this is his best appearance as the character, mainly because of the attention and material given to him. He’s very witty and more fun to watch, while still giving an emotional performance especially as he shows regret over the events from Avengers: Endgame. One of the notable additions from this show is the co-lead in Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop and she’s a great addition. She’s really energetic, charming, likable yet vulnerable in the role and stole all the scenes she was in. I’m looking forward to seeing her in more MCU projects. The dynamic between Kate and Clint are the heart of the show and they share believable chemistry.

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Alaqua Cox is a secondary antagonist of sorts as Maya Lopez/Echo, the deaf commander of the Tracksuit Mafia who is really good in her part. Definitely noteworthy is the fact that she’ll be getting her own show. She definitely has a good amount of build-up at the beginning but by the end of the show, her character doesn’t have much to do.  Just as well this isn’t the last time we’ll be seeing her but her ending in this show just felt rushed. It doesn’t help that there is a good amount of her arc which could’ve been handled in her own show with more attention, but it was shoved into the finale here. After her introduction in Black Widow, Florence Pugh returns as Yelena Belova as she is hunting Clint Barton. She is funny and entertaining yet ruthless and she is one of the highlights of the show. She particularly shares great chemistry with Steinfeld in their scenes together. With that being said, her whole revenge arc could’ve been done in another show or movie, in Hawkeye it felt rather stuffed and shoved in. Thankfully Pugh’s performance made up for it. Now about this show’s ‘mystery man’ villain, skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to see it. However the character is Vincent D’Onofrio reprising his role as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin after playing him in Netflix’s Daredevil, and I was happy to see him again. Now as expected he’s a bit different here compared to Daredevil, not nearly as dark or menacing. However my main issues stem from his very inclusion just feeling pointless. If the point was to establish that Kingpin is in the MCU, they could’ve had him appear as a cameo rather than the supposed person behind everything. While I’m sure we’ll see him again despite his final scene, he did feel kind of wasted here.

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On the whole the show was directed quite well. The cinematography was pretty good, its all well shot, and the visual effects and other technical aspects were on point. The action doesn’t rank among the best of the MCU by any means and it ranges between middling to actually exciting, but I had fun with it, they particularly do a lot with arrows. The song choices and score were great too. The show does very well at having a Christmas feel and atmosphere to it.

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Hawkeye is by far the worst live action MCU show but I still had fun with it. I think Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye definitely benefited from this show, Hailee Steinfeld shines as Kate Bishop and it’s a nice light hearted low stakes story. The problem is that it keeps bringing in new characters and plotlines that this short light hearted show can’t maintain them all, and leaves them quite unresolved. So by the finale it just feels disappointing. That aside, I do think that the show is decent and worth checking out.

The Matrix Resurrections (2021) Review

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The Matrix Resurrections

Time: 148 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as Thomas Anderson/Neo
Carrie-Anne Moss as Tiffany/Trinity
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Morpheus
Jessica Henwick as Bugs
Jonathan Groff as Smith
Neil Patrick Harris as The Analyst
Priyanka Chopra Jonas as Sati
Jada Pinkett Smith as Niobe
Director: Lana Wachowski

To find out if his reality is a physical or mental construct, Mr. Anderson, aka Neo, will have to choose to follow the white rabbit once more. If he’s learned anything, it’s that choice, while an illusion, is still the only way out of — or into — the Matrix. Neo already knows what he has to do, but what he doesn’t yet know is that the Matrix is stronger, more secure and far more dangerous than ever before.

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I really didn’t know what to expect from The Matrix Resurrections. I had previously watched the original trilogy some time ago, but I only just liked those movies and I wasn’t such a huge fan of them (even when it comes to the original). Then I watched the trailers for Resurrections and my interest shot up immediately, compelling me to revisit the original trilogy right before the new film. In my more recent rewatches of the trilogy I found that I was liking it a lot more, especially the sequels despite how divisive they were. So I was looking forward to the latest instalment, and I’m happy to say that Resurrections delivered in what I was hoping.

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Something you’ll see in every review for The Matrix Resurrections is the word ‘meta’, and the film is definitely very meta. I won’t go into detail as to the specifics of the plot, its worth checking out for yourself. However a noticeable part of it is very much is a commentary on IP culture and the commodification and exploitation of IP, as well as criticising blockbusters (mainly reboots). While some might consider the self-aware aspects annoying, I actually loved them, and it’s a very bold addition. In a way you could make a comparison between Resurrections and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. In a sense, some of the meta aspects are dropped once it leaves its first act and becomes more of a continuation of the Matrix story, though honestly the meta aspects could’ve felt tired when pushed longer so it was probably for the best. The second act is admittedly on the slower side and not quite as strong as the first or third acts, but I was nonetheless engaged with what was happening. Then it moves into its third act which I found incredibly gratifying and satisfying to watch.

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Something that I admire about the Wachowskis is that they are making the movies that they want to make and not really catering to the audience, which is most evident in their sequels with Reloaded, Revolutions, and now Resurrections. This is something that’s established from the meta first act, and Resurrections is essentially the creators reclaiming their franchise nearly 20 years later. While there is some nostalgia including references and returning characters, its still very much a personal movie with lots to say, and is very heartfelt and sincere. This is the most emotionally charged of the four films by far, from the emotional core of the story with Neo and Trinity, to just the feeling behind the whole film. As typical of it being a Matrix movies, there are a lot of themes at play. Along with the commentary and deconstruction of IP cinema, it still maintains the metaphors and themes of the original trilogy including systems and identity. Themes aside, Resurrections still does find a way to build upon the lore and continue the story in a way that I was satisfied with. While it certainly establishes some things which could be built upon in future films, I’m actually very comfortable with Resurrections being the conclusion of the whole series.

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I really liked the acting in the movie, everyone was really good in their part. Keanu Reeves in this movie isn’t only his best performance in a Matrix movie, but one of his best performances in general. He’s good throughout but he’s particularly great in the first act. Carrie-Anne Moss also returns as Trinity, and she was also great. She’s not in the movie as much as you’d expect, especially when it’s a movie about her and Neo, but she’s really good in her screentime. My biggest criticism of the first Matrix movie is that the central romance came out of nowhere at the end and wasn’t convincing. The sequels fixed this and made it believable, and Resurrections is no exception. While you don’t see Trinity as much as you would like, their connection is nonetheless a vital part of the movie and the essential emotional core. This movie very much builds off their established connection into something more, and for what its worth, Reeves and Moss have the best chemistry here out of the four movies, and they feel very believable.  The new additions to the cast were great too, mainly Jessica Henwick as Bugs and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Morpheus, or rather a new Morpheus. Addressing the elephant in the room, there is an explanation as to while the real Morpheus as played by Laurence Fishburne isn’t here. I like how Yahya doesn’t try to replicate Fishburne and is very much doing his own thing. Neil Patrick Harris was probably the biggest surprise in the movie. He plays Keanu’s psychologist known as The Analyst, but he has a far greater role in the movie, and proved to be a very different kind of antagonist compared to Smith. Speaking of Smith, that role this time is played by Jonathan Groff. While it definitely is disappointing not seeing Hugo Weaving reprise his role, Groff’s version is nonetheless interesting to watch, especially with how different he is. He doesn’t try to replicate Weaving and that really was for the best, and he’s wonderfully chewing up the scenery. There are also some welcome return actors and characters like Jada Pinkett Smith and Lambert Wilson in their roles.

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Lana Wachowski, one half of the Wachowski sisters, returns to direct the next Matrix movie. I thought her work here was great. It’s certainly feels very different stylistically to The Matrix which some might take issue with. But I feel like its less like she lost her Matrix touch and more like her filmmaking style has evolved since 18 years ago, and I appreciate how it feels very different rather than trying to recapture the original trilogy’s style. The cinematography is great, it certainly feels very different than the first three movies with the colour pallet and style, but I loved it, especially with the use of colour. The visual effects are fantastic too, and it’s quite something seeing a Matrix movie in the 2020s with modern technology. Watching is on the big screen was an incredible experience. The biggest complaint that some people will have is about the action, and the action is one of the most known parts of the movies. To be blunt, aside from one or two sequences, the action in Resurrections doesn’t rank amongst the best action of the franchise, there’s not much like the Freeway Chase in Reloaded or the final battle between Neo and Smith in Revolutions. There’s also not that many action scenes in the film. With that being said, I do like the action, and there are some moments in the third act which really stand out. In saying that, the action definitely isn’t a focus point compared to the previous three movies. Lana Wachowski is clearly more interested in the themes, plot and character and I respect that. The score from Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer is great, very reminiscent of Don Davis’s score from the original trilogy, with the same feel and atmosphere. It really elevates the action scenes particularly.

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The Matrix Resurrections is one of the most ambitious and creative blockbusters I’ve seen in a while. It’s meta and nostalgic while having enough changes to feel fresh for the franchise. Its entertaining, subversive, bold but also personal and heartfelt, with an enthralling story and is excellently directed. Resurrections is already proving itself to be an incredibly divisive movie. If you aren’t such a fan of the Matrix sequels you might not be into it. But for what its worth, as someone who loves the Matrix sequels, I loved this film and its one of my all-time favourite movies from 2021.

The Matrix Revolutions (2003) Review

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The Matrix Revolutions

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Medium level violence
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as Neo
Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus
Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity
Hugo Weaving as Smith
Jada Pinkett Smith as Niobe
Director: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski

Neo, humanity’s only hope of stopping the war and saving Zion, attempts to broker peace between the machines and humans. However, he must first confront his arch nemesis, the rogue agent Smith.

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I rewatched the first two Matrix movies earlier in the year in preparation for the fourth movie, The Matrix Resurrections. However I ended up just rewatching the first two movies and didn’t get around to completing the trilogy. As it was approaching the release date of the newest film, I decided to attempt to rewatch the whole trilogy again, and I’m glad I did. I’ll admit I wasn’t such a huge fan of these movies previously, even the original I thought was just decent. However in spite of my issues with it, along with it being an incredibly impactful, influential and technically impressive movie, The Matrix was a great film in itself. Even the more recent rewatch of Reloaded had me really liking it. It’s definitely messy and overstuffed but It was interesting, bold and ambitious with its ideas and I might’ve even enjoyed it more than the original. I was curious about how I would find Revolutions since I have only seen it once and I don’t remember much except that it seems to be the least liked out of the trilogy by many people. However I’m glad to say that I liked it about as much as the previous two films.

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Something noteworthy about The Matrix Revolutions is that it is very much a continuation from Reloaded, in fact you could say that the two movies combined are a singular sequel to The Matrix. So try not to watch them months apart or anything. The Matrix Reloaded had a ton of exposition for the lore and the themes, way more than the first movie. Revolutions has some of this but its not nearly as overwhelming. I do appreciate the dialogue in Reloaded from my rewatch (along with grasping what people were actually talking about), but I appreciate Revolutions easing off that a bit. It’s also not as convoluted, you don’t get a scene like the infamous Architect scene from Reloaded. It does seem to lean more into action scenes than long philosophical conversations about reason and purpose. With all that being said, Revolutions can still deliver on the ideas, and its certainly not short on ambition. Reloaded could feel a little bloated at points with both the themes and action being dialled up, and could feel a little unbalanced, Revolutions on the other hand feels more focused and consistent. Something that I know people don’t like about Revolutions is that there isn’t a whole lot of time in the actual Matrix. Most of the Matrix’s screentime take place in the first third, whereas most of the movie  takes place in Zion, the last human city. There’s even a very long battle in Zion against the machine which lasts well over 30 minutes. It can feel a little too long and no doubt they could’ve been shaved down those scenes a bit. However these scenes are nonetheless effective, with the action having a lot of tension and weight to them as the threat of the machines feel overwhelming and scary. Thankfully the Zion action isn’t the last action we get, as we get a final action scene taking place in the Matrix which I found very satisfying. I found the ending to be quite fitting and conclusive, and so I’m wondering how Resurrections will connect with it.

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Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Laurence Fishburne are back again in their roles of Neo, Trinity and Morpheus and I think they were really good once again. Like with Reloaded, is also a lot of focus on the romance between Neo and Trinity. Their relationship was one of the worst parts of the first movie because there was virtually no chemistry between the actors, and with the writing, it just sort of comes out of nowhere in the film. However this is mitigated in Reloaded and Revolutions, and the scenes between these two are particularly great. Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith continues to be a considerably scene chewing and highly enjoyable villain. Whereas in Reloaded he was a supporting villain who occasionally showed up to be a problem, here he takes on an even larger villainous role. He steals every scene he’s in and is one of the highlights of an already great film.

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The Wachowskis direct this incredibly well as expected, and it’s great on a technical level. The Matrix movies all look amazing, but this is probably the best looking of the trilogy, from the scenes in the matrix to the scenes in Zion. The action scenes and set pieces are impressive, and even the CGI holds up well (at least compared to some of the CGI in Reloaded). We only get about a third of the movie in the Matrix, but those gunfights and battle scenes are nonetheless impressive. The divisive battle between the humans of Zion and the Sentinels was actually quite impressive, if a bit too long and chaotic. It’s a real spectacle from the visual effects to the scale, and the Sentinels feel more scary and unstoppable than they have ever before. The real highlight action scene for me is the climactic fight between Neo and Smith, playing out like a big anime fight. Like all the Matrix movies, it’s unapologetically over the top, and while that might be seen as ‘too much’, it only makes the movie better for me. Don Davis’s dramatic choral score is epic like in the previous movies, and really elevates the tension and scale in many of the scenes.

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The Matrix Revolutions is a very divisive conclusion to the original trilogy, but one that I really liked. It may have some of the typical Matrix issues like some clunky and stiff dialogue, and some occasional messiness, but on the whole it succeeds. The themes and the direction the story go in was impressive, and the technical aspects and action are enthralling to watch. At risk of going off topic, I have to say that there is something quite refreshing watching the Matrix sequels, as the Wachowskis take the follow ups to their critically acclaimed movie in the directions they want to take them, regardless of what audiences want, and I will always appreciate when filmmakers do that. Even if they don’t 100% work, the sequels are ambitious if nothing else, and I’m glad to be one of the people who really like the sequels as much as the first movie. After being successfully ‘Matrix Pilled’ for all 3 movies, I’m looking forward to seeing how The Matrix Resurrections turns out.

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) Review

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Spider-Man No Way Home

Time: 148 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Zendaya as Michelle “MJ” Jones-Watson
Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange
Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds
Jon Favreau as Harold “Happy” Hogan
Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon/Electro
Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin
Alfred Molina as Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus
Benedict Wong as Wong
Tony Revolori as Eugene “Flash” Thompson
Marisa Tomei as May Parker
Director: Jon Watts

With Spider-Man’s identity now revealed, our friendly neighborhood web-slinger is unmasked and no longer able to separate his normal life as Peter Parker from the high stakes of being a superhero. When Peter asks for help from Doctor Strange, the stakes become even more dangerous, forcing him to discover what it truly means to be Spider-Man.

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I will admit that I wasn’t sure about how Spider-Man: No Way Home would turn out. I enjoyed the previous two MCU Spider-Man movies but my liking for them has decreased over time as I’ve thought about them. Also the fact that this time they would be bringing back new old Spider-Man villains from the previous versions of Spider-Man, it just left me feeling unsure going into it. With all that being said, the movie pleasantly surprised me.

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No Way Home starts with where the last movie ended with everyone learning that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. He was also framed for killing Mysterio but that aspect is forgotten very early, however the public identity is present throughout. One addition which did feel weird going in was bringing in the real multiverse (not the fake multiverse presented by Mysterio in the last movie). However the multiverse actually works for Peter’s story, it doesn’t go too overboard with the multiverse elements and stays true to the core storyline of Peter’s identity. The film never loses focus on what it is. No Way Home is definitely heavily reliant on nostalgia, unsurprising since they bring back 5 villains from the previous Spider-Man movies (with the same actors playing them). However it actually works to enhance the movie and it’s to the betterment of the characters. Something that the MCU Spider-Man movies have been lacking were serious consequences and heavy decisions (outside of the identity reveal at the end of the last movie). No Way Home however really puts Holland’s Spider-Man through the ringer and by the end, the story really does capture the essence of Spider-Man. It gives the character of Peter Parker some tragedy and I was honestly surprised at how dark it could get at points, it’s not constantly light hearted all the way through. But now we get into the issues. Despite what I just said, it’s still very much an MCU movie especially with the use of comedy, in that they have way too much of it (with only half the jokes actually working). Although I will give credit that they do dial it back in some scenes, and I will always praise those instances in MCU movies considering that ever since The Avengers (2012) they’ve really struggled to hold off from breaking dramatic or emotional tension with a quip or joke. There was a lot happening in the movie and as such it’ll require a rewatch for me to fully process it all. However I will say that there is some messiness, particularly in the first half of the movie. That’s where the movie stumbled along for a bit, it’s only when it reaches the middle where it got into its stride.

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I liked Tom Holland as Spider-Man in his previous appearances, but he hasn’t always had the best material to work with. However this is by far his best performance as the character. It certainly helped that this movie really allowed him to be Spider-Man, and he sells the most emotional moments really well. I’m now looking forward to seeing what happens next with him. Compared to the previous two love interest characters in the previous live action versions of Spider-Man, Zendaya’s MJ really doesn’t have much going on as a character. Nonetheless she is good and enjoyable in the part, and she has great chemistry with Tom Holland. Benedict Cumberbatch returns as Doctor Strange in a notable supporting role. I would say this is Cumberbatch’s worst outing as the character, mainly because of his writing and he felt rather out of character throughout much of the film. Marisa Tomei returns as Aunt May, in the previous appearances it’s a rather thankless role and doesn’t do much outside of being Peter’s aunt (especially compared to previous versions of the character). However she is given much more to do here and actually has an impact on Peter and his decisions, which I was happy to see.

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The MCU Spider-Man trilogy have consistently great villains, and No Way Home is no exception. Despite these villains being from the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield Spider-Man films and are actually fairly fleshed out, and most of them go through their own arcs. Sandman and The Lizard are fully CGI creations but those roles are still reprised by Thomas Haden Church and Rhys Ifans. They almost feel added on given that the remainder 3 villains get more focus but I still liked seeing them here. The villain most distinctly different from their last on screen appearance was Jamie Foxx’s Electro. He’s no longer blue like he was in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and his personality has changed to basically Jamie Foxx with lightning, and I can’t tell whether its better or worse. Still he’s fun to watch. It was really nice seeing Alfred Molina return as Doc Ock as well. The standout from the whole movie though is Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin, and he might’ve even topped his performance from Spider-Man 1. He doesn’t really wear the mask for much of the film and honestly it was for the better given that Dafoe is terrifying and threatening here without it. He is such a strong on screen presence and he is one of my favourite parts of the film, easily one of the MCU’s best villains. There are also some other noteworthy appearances which I won’t mention by name but needless to say, I was very satisfied with them.

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One of my least favourite parts of these recent Spider-Man movies was the direction from Jon Watts. His work isn’t necessarily inherently bad, it’s competent but that’s just it. I know that a lot of MCU movies look very similar, but even by those standards, Watt’s direction really lacks any unique style. In some way No Way Home is the same, but for what it’s worth it does show some sign for improvement. Some of the shots and editing are quite bland, but it has its moments, especially when in the scenes set during night time. There’s also some very effective action sequences, the standout without spoiling takes place in an apartment. There are some Doctor Strange dream visuals in a couple scenes, however it’s not as well done as it was in his original movie or in Infinity War. The blue and green screen can actually be terrible at times, with some dodgy CGI. However I liked the action and movie enough to look past those moments. Michael Giacchino can compose some really good scores however for the most part his work on the Spider-Man movies isn’t all that great for the most part, and No Way Home is the same here.

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Spider-Man: No Way Home was one of the most surprising movies of the year. It gives Tom Holland’s Spider-Man a personal story with stakes and weighty consequences which I greatly appreciated, along with it being very entertaining. With some effective action, great and memorable villains (with Willem Dafoe being the standout) and a surprisingly effective use of nostalgia, I really liked it. I’m really interested to see what happens next with this version of Spider-Man.

Die Another Day (2002) Review

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Die Another Day

Time: 133 minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond
Halle Berry as Jinx Johnson
Toby Stephens as Gustav Graves
Rosamund Pike as Miranda Frost
Rick Yune as Tang Ling Zao
Judi Dench as M
John Cleese as Q
Michael Madsen as Damian Falco
Director: Lee Tamahori

James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is sent to investigate the connection between a North Korean terrorist and a diamond mogul, who is funding the development of an international space weapon.

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I reached the end of my rewatches of Pierce Brosnan’s Bond movies with Die Another Day. It is widely known regarded one of the worst Bond movies, if not the worst. However I remember watching it a lot when I was younger, so I was curious whether my opinion would change sharply, or if I’d be more lenient on it. In a way, both happened. I definitely don’t hate it like a lot of people do, I do find parts of it I enjoy, even when most of it is ludicrously silly. However, it’s not a very good movie, it has a ton of issues and easily ranks as one of the worst Bond films.

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The strangest part of Die Another Day is that it starts off pretty good, at least the first 20 minutes or so. James Bond is on a mission in North Korea, and the opening set piece is entertaining (if darkly lit), and even goes to some dark places. Bond is captured, tortured and interrogated before being released. The opening was new ground for Bond and the tone seemed like it was where Brosnan wanted to take Bond for the longest time. Even with some weird inclusions such as a CGI bullet flying towards the screen in the opening Gunbarrel sequence and the Madonna opening song, it had a good start. You really notice a change from the point where Bond escapes from the hospital by faking a cardiac arrest by lowering his heart rate by will. This dark tone and opportunities from the start of the movie aren’t capitalised on at all, any potential given by the start of the movie fizzles out quickly. MI6 and M initially don’t trust Bond after he’s released, believing him to have given up vital information during the torture. However that doesn’t last for long and soon enough he’s back on a mission with them. The opening being that dark is very strange considering that on the whole it is one of the silliest Bond movies. The plot is straight out of a Roger Moore Bond movie, especially with the inclusion of a solar laser beam being shot out by a diamond encrusted satellite. There’s even a plot point where the main villain played by Toby Stephens (a British white guy) turned out to be a Korean guy who used gene therapy (ironically this isn’t even the most racist moment in Bond’s film history). Being silly isn’t going to bother me, many of the Moore movies are absurd and people mostly gave those a pass. Die Another Day would make for an enjoyable campy Bond movie if they were aiming for that. Unfortunately it is not self aware, in fact it takes itself pretty seriously, which makes things tonally strange. Also despite the very silly things that happens, on the whole it feels strangely dull with not a whole lot of energy. The attempts at humour are bad but somehow also feel low effort, and the plot is rather predictable. So while there are individual moments that are goofy, its not the kind that keeps you endlessly entertained throughout the entire runtime.

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The acting is a bit of a mixed bag. Pierce Brosnan has been gradually been improving as James Bond with every subsequent film but his work here is rather disappointing, feeling a little lazy and on autopilot. The opening with the torture in North Korea certainly provided an opportunity for a much darker journey for the character but unfortunately the film didn’t take advantage of that. However I wouldn’t call it a bad performance, Brosnan is still charming and fun to watch, and effortlessly delivers the (mostly cheesy and bad) one-liners written for him. Halle Berry plays the main Bond girl named Jinx. Berry was disappointingly underutilised and forgettable, delivering a rather boring performance and having basically no chemistry with Brosnan. Toby Stephens plays the villain, and the character is rather silly given that his name is Gustav Graves. The character is rather boring, however Stephens seems to be acting so hard to be the villain that he’s kind of entertaining. He is just sneering throughout the last half of the movie as he tries to be menacing, and as that he’s kind of fun to watch. Still, he’s a strong contender for the worst Bond villain. Rosamund Pike is in this movie in an early role for her. While there are issues with the writing of her character, she leaves a strong enough impression (more than Berry or the main villain), and is overall one of the film’s stronger performers. Rick Yune also made for a decent henchman, working better than the main villain too. John Cleese is the new Q after his introduction in The World is Not Enough. He’s decent enough but a bit underutilised, definitely not as memorable or effective as Desmond Llewyn or Ben Whishaw. Michael Madsen is very out of place in this movie as the head of the NSA, and it feels like he should be in a completely different movie, he’s not believable at all in his part.

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Lee Tamahori is the director of Die Another Day, and in the nicest possible terms, his work is a bit mixed. It’s one of the three Bond movies released in the 2000s, but DAD is the only one which really feels dated and very much in the 2000s. Specifically, the style uses a lot of slow motion and shots being sped up, especially in the action scenes. It’s like it was trying to imitate John Woo’s style from Mission Impossible 2, but even that movie seemed to have some level of energy, while Die Another Day has none. There’s also an overreliance on CGI and green screen, more so than most of the past Bond movies, and the CGI just looks clunky today. The gadgets in the Bond films have never been what you’d call realistic at the best of times, but this film takes it to a new level. The biggest example that everyone points to is an invisible car, and while that is firmly a step into the sci-fi territory, given the other stuff that also happens in the movie I would not call it the most silly part of the movie. The action scenes are ridiculous, there is a chase scene between two cars on ice, and most infamously there’s a scene where Bond windsurfs, making use of horrible green screen and an obvious stunt double. However there’s still fun to be had with some of the action. There’s a fight scene that makes use of multiple laser beams spinning all over the place and its just so absurd and hilarious for it. There’s also a fight scene between Bond and the main villain in their first encounter in a duelling club where they fight with swords, that was entertaining too. The production design is solid, the ice palace in the middle of Iceland particularly makes for a memorable setting for a Bond film, and not necessarily in a bad way. I don’t usually mention Bond songs in reviews but Madonna’s song for Die Another Day is so atrocious I don’t know how it ended up being used. The title sequence actually advances the story showing Bond’s torture, but it feels very out of place that Madonna’s song is played during this. Speaking of Madonna, she has a cameo in this, and somehow is even more out of place than Michael Madsen was, which is rather impressive. There are also some weird song choices, like how they literally needledrop “London Calling” by The Clash as James Bond is travelling to London. However I will give great praise to David Arnold’s score, which is really the only consistently good/great part of the movie.

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While I’d say that Die Another Day is definitely one of the worst Bond movies, I don’t dislike it that much, at the very least not as much as other people. It is certainly memorable, even if it’s for the wrong reasons. However it’s just as well that after DAD they rebooted the franchise, and that if anything is the film’s greatest contribution, as it would result in the Daniel Craig Bond era. The most disappointing thing about this movie is that you could swap out the Bond name and it would’ve fitted alongside other generic action flicks around that time. There are certainly some fun moments but the movie on the whole is surprisingly dull. As bad as it is, if you watched the first three Pierce Brosnan Bond films you might as well watch this one too, even just for completion.

The World is Not Enough (1999) Review

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The World is Not Enough

Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Low level violence
Cast:
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond
Sophie Marceau as Elektra King
Robert Carlyle as Victor “Renard” Zokas
Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones
Robbie Coltrane as Valentin Zukovsky
Desmond Llewelyn as Q
Judi Dench as M
Director: Michael Apted

James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the daughter of an oil tycoon. While on his mission, he learns about an even more dangerous plot.

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Continuing my rewatches of the James Bond movies, I now move onto The World is Not Enough, one of the latter Pierce Brosnan films. Despite it being one of the more recent Bond films, I only remember some aspects like the characters and certain moments. I did notice that a lot of people didn’t really like it, so I was curious as to how I’d feel about it. As it turns out, I am now one of the people who does like it, however its probably the most frustrating Brosnan Bond film. It comes so close to greatness but it really misses out on that.

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The World is Not Enough starts off pretty good with a solid (if strangely overlong) opening. It did have me in the first half despite some stumbles, with an intriguing plot and characters. I’d say its nearly great, with lots of potential and especially with the character of Elektra King (Sophie Marceau). It also looked like an emotional journey for Bond, so I was liking where it was going. However, it eventually loses momentum. By the time it gets to the second half, I started to lose track about what was happening with the plot. Even after the movie ended, I found it to be quickly forgettable. This movie is still packed with some pretty good stuff with some twists and turns of its own, and I appreciate some of the directions they went in. However it does feel like a story with wasted potential, and resolves its plotlines and characters in unsatisfying or generic ways. It even feels a little formulaic, ultimately the big MacGuffin of this film is another nuclear weapon. Despite attempts at grounding itself and attempting to go for a darker story, the film still feels over the top silly, and as a result it does feel very tonally inconsistent. This is the movie where one of the villains has a bullet lodged in his brain and as a result he is impervious to pain. It also did feel like there were an increase of jokes and innuendos over even Tomorrow Never Dies and GoldenEye, they don’t really hit at all and feel more distracting than in those movies.

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This might be Pierce Brosnan’s best performance as Bond given this is the most emotional that his version of the character has gotten. There are tons of emotional moments for Brosnan to act out. I also feel like this is the closest that Brosnan’s Bond has come to being fully realised as a character, which is a shame because his character still has issues in this film. In this movie he keeps delivering goofy one liners, and I feel like Brosnan wasn’t able to go all the way with his portrayal. Sophie Marceau as Elektra King was the most interesting character in the movie. I won’t get into her character for those who don’t know about her part in the story, but she was quite good and shared an interesting dynamic with Brosnan’s Bond. I just wished that they went further with her character and was utilised a lot better. Judi Dench gets to have a lot more screentime as M compared to the past two Brosnan Bond films, I liked that she actually plays a notable part in the plot. Robert Carlyle plays a Bond villain role quite well however I did wish there was more to him. He is said to be dangerous and while he has something of a presence, he doesn’t really feel like a threat. So he’s not that memorable overall. Denise Richards has been widely criticized for her performance in The World is Not Enough, so I didn’t want to rag on her even more since a lot of people had already been down on her acting. Unfortunately, I have to say that the criticism is understandable. She really seems out of place in this movie, and although it would be too far to say she brings the movie down (the movie has enough problems without her), she is very distracting whenever she’s on screen. Her role is to be a nuclear physicist, deliver exposition dumps, and to have something of a romance with Bond, and she isn’t convincing at any of those. On top of that, her character’s name is Christmas Jones, and of course that’s only so that Bond can deliver a really bad one-liner at the end of the film. This performance and character is one of the only unambiguously bad things in this movie, but isn’t the source of all of its problems.

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The World is Not Enough is directed by Michael Apted and his work is mostly good here. There are some fun set pieces, though they seem to oscillate between being genuinely good to absolutely ludicrous. Also they aren’t really as memorable as the other Brosnan Bond action. It doesn’t help that Bond never really feels like he’s in danger, Tomorrow Never Dies had this issue too. David Arnold returns as composer from Tomorrow Never Dies and again does a good job here.

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I find myself in the minority of people who actually quite enjoyed The World is Not Enough but there are definitely some issues holding it back. It does feel very conflicted, it tries to have the more darker and emotional aspects, but it also tries to have the one liners and jokes that are out of place. It’s probably the most disappointing of Brosnan’s run as Bond because there are some great ideas that had potential to make for one of the best Bond films ever. What we are left with however is a decent enough yet forgettable action flick with a mix of great and terrible aspects. With all that being said, if you’ve watched some of the other Bond movies, I do think it is worth a look. It still has some very good parts to it.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) Review

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Tomorrow Never Dies

Time: 138 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Low level violence
Cast:
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond
Jonathan Pryce as Elliot Carver
Michelle Yeoh as Colonel Wai Lin
Teri Hatcher as Paris Carver
Joe Don Baker as Jack Wade
Judi Dench as M
Director: Roger Spottiswoode

James Bond (Pierce Brosnan), an undercover agent, sets out to prevent a media baron, Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), from waging a war between China and the United Kingdom after he is summoned by the Secret Intelligence Service.

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Of the pre-Craig James Bond movies, I remember watching Tomorrow Never Dies the most when I was younger. So during my rewatches of the Bond films, I was interested to see if it would hold up today. I know that Pierce Brosnan’s Bond movies not titled GoldenEye get a bad wrap, but I had a good feeling about this one, and I actually enjoyed TND quite a lot despite its faults.

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A big benefit to Tomorrow Never Dies is that for me, its entertaining consistently throughout, from its thrilling opening pre-title sequence to the climax. It’s all helped by swift pacing and an overall fun story. I actually found the plot more engaging than GoldenEye’s. It amps up the cheesiness for sure, it does play like a 90s action flick, but it stayed mostly consistent. It does have a campy and ridiculous script, but I enjoyed it for that. I also liked the main concept of the film and found it interesting, with the focus being the media. Despite the silly script, some of the ideas presented about the media are still relevant today, especially with the concept of fake news. In some ways, Tomorrow Never Dies has aged pretty well despite being firmly in the 90s. I do feel like they could’ve done more with this concept however. In some ways the weakest part is the third act, I still had fun with it but it’s a little overstuffed. It’s also where Tomorrow Never Dies reaches pure 90s action, and its for better and for worse.

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I remember feeling a bit mixed on Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in GoldenEye, I thought he was very charismatic and good in the action scenes, but I never really connected with him beyond that, and he felt like he was missing something. I actually do like Brosnan more in this movie however, he does feel more comfortable in the role here. Bond unfortunately at this point in the Brosnan movies still doesn’t feel like a fully realised character. However compared to GoldenEye I think he’s getting closer to it, and it does help that he has something of an emotional drive in this film. Michelle Yeoh was also a great addition as Mai Lin, a Chinese spy and the main Bond girl of Tomorrow Never Dies. Her character isn’t given a lot of depth, but Yeoh does a lot here. She’s very capable and does a lot of action, overshadowing Brosnan many times. There’s also the media mogul Elliot Carver played by Jonathan Pryce, the main villain of the film. I know not everyone really likes him, but I really enjoyed this character. He’s certainly one of the most memorable and unique Bond villains, and one of the most realistic at least in concept. It’s like if Rupert Murdoch was a Bond villain. It certainly helps the Pryce looks like he’s having an absolute blast playing this, he’s gleefully enjoyable and over the top, and it just wouldn’t have worked this well without him.

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Roger Spottiswoode directs Tomorrow Never Dies, and on the whole I thought his work was good. It’s sleek, stylish and it has some entertaining action. The cinematography from Robert Elswitt was solid, it’s a very well shot movie. The action sequences are well crafted and shot, it’s easy to tell what’s going on and its consistently fun to watch. Most of the action is something you’d see in a typical 90s action movie but as that it works. The action in the climax could’ve been toned down a little and been less by the numbers but even that was enjoyable. I really enjoyed the gadgets, especially with an action scene involving a BMW with remote control capabilities. I don’t think the action doesn’t reach some of the heights of GoldenEye but is nonetheless impressive. Instead of the divisive synth score from GoldenEye, there is a more traditional score from David Arnold, which I think fits the film very well.

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Tomorrow Never Dies is one of the more underrated Bond movies. The action is entertaining, I liked the cast in their roles, and the story works is enjoyable. I do have issues with it but on a pure entertainment level it does the job. I can see why I watched this movie a lot when I was younger. I know it is definitely a minority opinion, but it is my favourite movie from Brosnan as Bond. GoldenEye had higher highs especially with the action, but I felt mixed on the moments between the action scenes, especially with the plot. However, I was consistently entertained by Tomorrow Never Dies, and as far as the Bond films go, it’s on the better half for me.

Licence to Kill (1989) Review

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Licence to Kill

Time: 133 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Timothy Dalton as James Bond
Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier
Robert Davi as Franz Sanchez
Talisa Soto as Lupe Lamora
Anthony Zerbe as Milton Krest
Director: John Glen

After his friend, Felix Leiter, is gravely injured by a drug lord, James Bond (Timothy Dalton) seeks revenge. With the MI6 refusing to back him, Bond takes matters into his own hands.

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Of the James Bond movies I had yet to revisit, Licence to Kill was the one I was most looking forward to the most. Timothy Dalton’s second and final entry is now seen as being ahead of its time, doubling down on the serious and gritty take on the character and series from The Living Daylights to deliver a darker movie. It was not received exactly favourably by audiences at the time. Today it’s much better appreciated and I can say that it’s for good reason.

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Licence to Kill felt like a very different Bond than its predecessors, because it really was. Essentially the premise is that James Bond goes searching for revenge after his friend Felix Leiter is gravely injured and his wife is murdered on their wedding day. As such it drops the entire spy espionage aspect and goes straight for a revenge action route, ditching the formulaic plot structure of the franchise. There isn’t even a mission, Bond in the first half has his licence to kill revoked and goes on his own without help from MI6. It is a smaller and more personal story, straying from an espionage plot typical for a Bond film, which is probably why people in the late 80s weren’t feeling it. However it does give the story and Bond an emotional core, as all of his actions are personally motivated by him alone. The film continues with the darker, more serious and grounded tone from The Living Daylights and turns it up. The movie definitely pushed the limits to what PG-13 was at the time, it’s really violent for the Bond film, and cuts down on the wisecracks. That’s not to say that the film is overly self-serious, there’s a lot of fun to be had with it. It retains some of the familiar Bond conventions, including some gadgets surprisingly. However it chooses the right conventions to retain, while remaining true to itself and not forcing in classic Bond aspects. In terms of issues, I do think the ending is the weakest aspect and resolves the plot and characters a bit too neatly for my liking, with more of a typical lighthearted Bond ending.

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Timothy Dalton is once again great as James Bond although this time we see a different side to him, and overall delivers a better performance than in The Living Daylights. Here he is driven by rage and revenge and while we still get to see his humorous side through some one-liners and interactions, he usually doesn’t have much time for the charm or wit, for the better. The Living Daylights occasionally had moments that felt out of place for Dalton to deliver as no doubt carryover from the Moore era, Licence to Kill thankfully strips all that away. Dalton’s Bond also has depth, layers, and felt like an actual person with weaknesses. Also he really benefits from having the plot driven by him. Carey Lowell is the main Bond Girl named Pam Bouvier, and she was a very likeable and prominent presence in the movie. She is established as an equal to Bond, even saving him in their first encounter. Also like in The Living Daylights, there’s legitimate romance explored as the film progresses, and the two are very believable together. Q as played by Desmond Llewyn has a more prominent role in the movie compared to some of the other Bond instalments, as he decides to assist Bond with his vendetta by providing some gadgets. It adds depth to Q and Bond’s unique friendship, and I liked their interactions together. Another way that Licence to Kill is distinct as a Bond movie is the villain. The villain this time is Franz Sanchez, a drug lord played by Robert Davi, and seems to be one of the most grounded and realistic Bond villains. Sanchez doesn’t have any world ending plans, he’s just wanting to become more powerful as a drug lord and isn’t pushing any global plan by the time Bond comes hunting for him. He’s simple yet incredibly effective. First of all he feels like a real threat and is very intimidating in both character and performance. He’s also surprisingly human and isn’t cartoonishly evil, for example it is established that loyalty is very important to him. This goes to make Sanchez an interesting and unique Bond villain, and it’s helped by a strong performance from Davi. Another performance worth highlighting is that of Benicio del Toro in an early role as a henchman, who is very memorable in his screentime.

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Director John Glen does a very good job at directing this film. First of all, I really liked the deliberate grounding of the movie. The action is strong, well shot, and has some impressive stunts. As I said earlier, the film is more violent including people being eaten by sharks, people being lit on fire, and a man literally being exploded in a pressure chamber. All of this is fitting for the much darker tone of the movie. The third act is also very satisfying with its climax.

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Licence to Kill is a fresh movie in the Bond franchise, a stripped down and more personal film for the lead character with a darker tone and grounded take, while also being very entertaining to watch. The action is entertaining, the cast of characters are all memorable and solid, and I was invested throughout. Honestly it is my favourite Bond film outside of the Daniel Craig era. It’s a shame that Timothy Dalton didn’t get to do more Bond movies because both this and The Living Daylights rank among my favourite Bond films. If you like the Bond movies but haven’t watched Dalton’s movies, I highly recommend checking them out, an underappreciated set of movies in the franchise.