Category Archives: Comedy

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.

Don’t Look Up (2021) Review

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Don't Look Up

Time: 138 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes, offensive language, nudity & drug use
Cast:
Leonardo DiCaprio as Dr. Randall Mindy
Jennifer Lawrence as Kate Dibiasky
Rob Morgan as Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe
Cate Blanchett as Brie Evantee
Meryl Streep as Janie Orlean
Jonah Hill as Jason Orlean
Mark Rylance as Peter Isherwell
Tyler Perry as Jack Bremmer
Ron Perlman as Colonel Benedict Drask
Ariana Grande as Riley Bina
Scott Mescudi as DJ Chello
Himesh Patel as Phillip Kaj
Melanie Lynskey as June Mindy
Director: Adam McKay

Two low-level astronomers must go on a giant media tour to warn mankind of an approaching comet that will destroy planet Earth.

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I remember Don’t Look Up at one point being one of my most anticipated films of 2021. It has a massive cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill, Meryl Streep, Timothee Chalamet and more. I also liked Adam McKay’s more recent dramatic work with The Big Short and Vice, and I was interested in him doing a full on satire with his latest film. However as it approached its release date, I had my doubts. The trailers weren’t the best and the reactions coming out of it weren’t exactly confidence inspiring. Still I gave it a chance and overall I’m prepared to say that I like it, though I completely understand why some people dislike it.

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I do like the premise of the movie, with the lead characters trying to warn the world about a coming disaster while the world doesn’t listen, definitely works for a satire. It is a comedy, and while I wouldn’t say it failed, most of the humour didn’t work. There are funny jokes throughout but not as many as you’d hope for. I was generally entertained throughout, even if it was never that great in the first two acts, just a mildly funny comedy with very mixed satire (more on that later). The movie is around 2 hours and 20 minutes long, and it really didn’t need to be that long. I wouldn’t say that I was bored during the movie, but it all felt very drawn out and not a lot happens or is said to really justify that length, and the comedy and satire isn’t good enough to fully sustain things all the way through. I feel like on rewatch I’d find it harder to get through. Strangely enough, it gets into much more dramatic territory in the third act, and its surprisingly quite effective, and its far better than what came earlier. Looking back at the rest of the movie, it actually works much better as a terrifying and depressing end of the world downer (with darkly comedic elements) than a smart political and social satire. Another issue is that the tone is all over the place. McKay’s last two movies jumped between drama and comedy as well, but it feels messier in Don’t Look Up. Until the third act, it just can’t seem to decide whether it’s trying to be an apocalyptic drama and a mostly straight-faced satire, or a full on spoof. I think it needed to either be more straight faced about it or lean much further into absurdity.

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While I enjoy the movie, the actual satire is one of the weaker elements unfortunately. One of the biggest criticisms I’ve seen of Don’t Look Up is that its very obvious and not subtle at all, much like McKay’s last two movies. And I’ll always stay true to my belief that its not inherently bad if a film is more obvious than subtle. Sometimes it is refreshing for a movie to be more direct about things. The problem is that a lot of the satire just feels a bit too obvious, in the sense that its too easy. For example, many of the characters are caricatures meant to represent types or groups of people, but they feel very overdone and a little lazy, the upbeat news anchors, the president and politicians who doesn’t know what they’re doing, dumb celebrities, etc., and McKay doesn’t do anything with them beyond the obvious. There’s nothing particularly daring or insightful said in this film, and the caricatures and not-subtle messaging makes the film hard to be engaging. I will say that some of the ways that people respond in the movie is like how people would respond in real life. However for every one of those moments, there’s moments where the satirising of aspects of today’s society isn’t quite right. An example is when Jennifer Lawrence’s character becomes a meme of sorts, but the memes that are very displayed are outdated top-text and bottom-text meme formats from the 2000s. It doesn’t break the movie or anything but moments like these go towards the film not fully succeeding at being a satire of today. While I wouldn’t say that the movie talks down to people and is condescending (although I can see why people would see it that way), there is a general sense of self-importance, and the feeling that they are more insightful and smarter than they really are. Part of that is the fact that the comet in the film is intended as a metaphor for climate change, and the movie is apparently meant to urge people to take it seriously. If we look at the movie from this perspective, Don’t Look Up really only spreads awareness that climate change exists and does and says nothing beyond that, at most its only preaching to the choir. Also when you really think about it, the comet doesn’t really make for a particularly good metaphor for climate change, especially in the context of the film (without spoiling anything). I wouldn’t normally look this deep into a movie like this, but McKay and his co-writer really seem to believe that they are saying something important about climate change, so I thought it was worth mentioning.

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One of Don’t Look Up’s biggest selling points is its absurdly large cast, which is no doubt why so many people wanted to check it out in the first place. While I wouldn’t say that any of these actors are even close to giving career best performances in this movie, most of them are pretty good in their parts. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence play astronomers who discover the comet heading for Earth and try to warn people about it. This is the third of DiCaprio’s more comedic performances after The Wolf of Wall Street and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, he has shown himself to be surprisingly great at comedy. He’s also really good here at portraying his stressed and panic stricken character, and he especially has a great and notable rage sequence in the second half of the movie. Lawrence is also great and entertaining, she’s especially good in the scenes of comedy. DiCaprio, Lawrence and Rob Morgan (who is also great) are the best performances in the movie because they were the only performances and characters that actually felt somewhat grounded and felt like actual characters, in contrast to every other actor. When Meryl Streep showed up as the president, at first I thought she was phoning her performance, but I actually think she’s pretty good. I soon came to realise that most major actors in the cast play an over the top and obvious caricature, and so they all feel underutilised to a degree. With that said I think most of them actually work in their parts. The highlights for me were Jonah Hill, Timothee Chalamet, and Cate Blanchett, Ron Perlman is also a scene stealer in his 5 minutes. So while it is disappointing that this stacked cast weren’t really utilised to their fullest potential, at least most of them gave decent performances. Notice that I said ‘most’ instead of ‘all’, the sole exception is Mark Rylance, I have no idea what he was doing in this movie. Rylance plays a tech billionaire, and I definitely get the point of his character. He’s a riff on Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and every other rich tech CEO right now, and it makes sense for that kind of character to be in this movie. However, his performance is so weird and strange from his line deliveries and the way he decides to play the role, and not in a good way. I think the best way I can describe it as he’s trying to play Joe Biden playing Elon Musk. I know that everyone is an over-the-top caricature in this movie, but Rylance is on a completely different wavelength from the others that he feels completely out of place.

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Adam McKay’s directing style in this movie won’t work for everyone. Most notable is the editing, which is very fast, messy, and often cuts to a lot of brief clips and images, similar to what McKay did with The Big Short and Vice. If you hated the editing in Vice, you’ll probably hate the editing in Don’t Look Up too. I will admit that I liked the editing in McKay’s unofficial political trilogy, but while I mostly liked the editing in Don’t Look Up, some of it got on my nerves a little bit at points. However, I will say that it actually does work very well in some moments in the third act and worked to give some parts some emotional punch to them. Editing aside, a lot of the other technical elements are strong. Linus Sandgren’s cinematography is great, for the most part its not really a movie that needs to be particularly well shot, but he does make the most of it when he can. Nicholas Britell is reliably great as the composer, and his score is one of the strongest parts of the film. Its definitely not on the level as his some of his other work like Succession or Vice, but its still great. The budget is absolutely insane at $75 million, and watching the movie, most of the film really didn’t need to have that large of a budget. With that said, the scenes involving large visual effects from comets to rockets were quite good.

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Don’t Look Up is already proving to be incredibly divisive amongst people. If you really aren’t a fan of McKay’s style from his past two movies, I think that you’ll find his latest film to be a struggle. I can completely understand why some people are really disliking the movie. I don’t think it really succeeds, particularly as a satire, and even from a comedy standpoint it could’ve been better. Still, it has its moments (both comedic and dramatic), some of the technical elements are strong, and most of the performances from the cast are decent. I recommend checking it out at the very least.

Red Notice (2021) Review

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Red Notice

Time: 118 minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Dwayne Johnson as John Hartley
Ryan Reynolds as Nolan Booth
Gal Gadot as The Bishop
Chris Diamantopoulos as Sotto Voce
Ritu Arya as Urvashi Das
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

When an Interpol-issued Red Notice the highest level warrant to hunt and capture the world’s most wanted goes out, the FBI’s top profiler John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) is on the case. His global pursuit finds him smack dab in the middle of a daring heist where he’s forced to partner with the world’s greatest art thief Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds) in order to catch the world’s most wanted art thief, “The Bishop” (Gal Gadot). The high-flying adventure that ensues takes the trio around the world, across the dance floor, trapped in a secluded prison, into the jungle and, worst of all for them, constantly into each other’s company.

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I heard of Red Notice leading up to its release, a Netflix action comedy starring Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot. I wasn’t expecting much from it, the trailers certainly made it look generic but I was hoping that it would be somewhat entertaining. While I wouldn’t say it’s outright bad it’s not good either.

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Red Notice has a very weak script. It has a very thin plot about artefact chasing that the movie or characters don’t seem to care about. It’s a heist and adventure film, a very generic one at that, which takes a lot from far better movies but does nothing with them. The film definitely tries to have a lot of comedy but fails most of the time. The quippy banter got repetitive, probably because it’s really the only thing going for the movie. It’s fully of cliches and has very few actual surprises. With that said there are some twists especially one near the end, but it’s the kind of twist where it would likely fall apart in logic if you thought about it in depth. Red Notice isn’t even memorably bad, its lacking in creativity and feels rather low effort. Honestly I think if it was closer to 90 minutes in length I might’ve enjoyed it a little more, but it is 2 hours long and so it drags in parts.

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The first thing you’ll probably know about this movie is that Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot are in it. Unfortunately, they aren’t quite enough to carry the movie. Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds are the main leads of this movie, and both of them are basically on autopilot, playing variations of themselves yet again. While Johnson has been basically playing himself for the past years, there’s something about him that’s especially lazy here. As for Reynolds, you get the feeling that his character was written with Ryan Reynolds as the sole personality trait. Not that his snark never works but it works better in a movie like Deadpool than here. One aspect that’s strange is that his character is shown as being capable, can fight and does parkour in some scenes but in other scenes he’s conveniently a klutz who gets beat up a lot whenever the movie wants Reynolds to be funny. I wouldn’t say that Johnson and Reynolds have no chemistry, but the writing really underserved them. Strangely Gal Gadot fared a lot better, probably partly because she seemed to be enjoying playing the part, especially as it’s more of an antagonist sort of role. Still, all three feel more like celebrities appearing for late night comedy skits than actually playing characters in a movie. In terms of other actors, there is an Interpol agent who hunts the main characters played by Ritu Arya, and there’s an arms dealer played by Chris Diamantopoulos who has a ridiculous voice which reminded me of Eddie Redmayne in Jupiter Ascending.

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Rawson Marshall Thurber is the director for Red Notice, and he has done some decent work. He had previously collaborated with Dwayne Johnson, Central Intelligence was a fun comedy, and Skyscraper is an entertaining if derivative Die Hard knock off. Red Notice is easily their worst collaboration however. It has a $200 million budget and the movie looks certainly expensive, however I’m sure that most of it went towards the main three actors. After sitting through it all, the movie really could’ve been made a decade ago with less than half the budget. The action scenes are a bit lifeless and forgettable but for what it’s worth they are one of the more entertaining parts of the film. The visual effects could be rather poor at times, there are so many noticeable CGI backdrops and green screen, the prime example being a scene involving a bull.

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If we are just looking at Red Notice by itself, it’s functional. It’s a generic action comedy that had some entertaining moments, and the main actors aren’t good but at least go through the motions. Still, there was something disappointing about watching the movie despite not expecting much, so much with the acting, writing and directing just felt so autopilot and low effort. I wouldn’t recommend Red Notice but if you really wanted to see its main three actors in a movie together, then you’ll certainly get that here.

Riders of Justice (2021) Review

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Riders of Justice

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language and sexual material
Cast:
Mads Mikkelsen as Markus
Nikolaj Lie Kaas as Otto
Andrea Heick Gadeberg as Mathilde
Lars Brygmann as Lennart
Nicolas Bro as Emmenthaler
Director: Anders Thomas Jensen

Markus (Mads Mikkelsen) returns home to care for his daughter when his wife dies in a tragic train accident. However, when a survivor of the wreck surfaces and claims foul play, Markus suspects his wife was murdered and embarks on a mission to find those responsible.

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Riders of Justice was the second of the three NZIFF movies I got tickets to watch in cinemas. I didn’t really know much about it going in, just that it was a Danish thriller starring Mads Mikkelsen, and I heard that the film was really good. Riders of Justice was one of the most surprising movies I’ve seen from 2021, entertaining and funny while also being poignant and sensitive.

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Looking at the premise for Riders of Justice, it seems like a standard revenge movie starring Mads Mikkelsen. The posters certainly give off that vibe, only just missing the tagline “Mads is Mad”. Yes, Mads Mikkelsen plays a soldier who is out for revenge and shoots and kills a lot of people. However, you eventually realise that the film is much more than just that. There were two surprises I found when watching the movie. First of all is the amount of humour here, Riders of Justice is a dark comedy and it’s hilarious and entertaining to watch. The second surprise is that Riders of Justice is also heartfelt and sad. The surprisingly sensitive script addresses grief, trauma and loss with an emotional honesty and depth I was not expecting. There’s even a concept presented front and centre about coincidences, small chances and what ifs, particularly with why bad things and tragedies happen. Although it sets itself up as a revenge movie, it is really an anti-revenge movie, with the path of vengeance being motivated by feelings of guilt and regret. The script is smartly written, with great dialogue and juggling multiple different tones and genres with ease. While it sounds like a mess, it actually works quite well. In terms of flaws, I think there are some character arcs which don’t get fully resolved by the end in retrospect. Sometimes the pacing could be inconsistent, but I was entertained and invested from beginning to end.

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The cast are one of the main reasons the film works as well as it does. The most recognisable actor in this cast is Mads Mikkelsen as Markus, the protagonist. He does play the typical anti-hero who seeks justice after a tragedy (specifically his wife dying), but there’s layers and depth to this complex character which here which we don’t see in most films that follow this archetype. There is believable chemistry between Mikkelsen and his daughter played by Andrea Heick Gadeberg, effectively conveying the strained relationship they have, especially when it comes to responding to the tragedy affecting them both. This is one of Mikkelsen’s best performances, and that’s saying a lot. Despite Mads Mikkelsen playing the main character however, the supporting cast really make the movie. It is truly an ensemble piece. The other three men that Markus teams up with are played by Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Lars Brygmann and Nicolas Bro, and they are also great. All these characters here are fleshed out and feels important in the group, with each person dealing with something different that comes to light, but all sharing a common tragedy that brought them together. Their back and forth and awkward chemistry is one of the best parts of the movie and was really enjoyable to watch. While much of their quirks are on full display, it actually feels like each scene focusing on their traits have a purpose that goes beyond just delivering a funny joke.

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I haven’t seen Anders Thomas Jensen’s other films but his direction here is really good. While I would not really call this an action movie, there are some action scenes (mainly involving Mads Mikkelsen) which are very well filmed and brutal as you would expect them to be.

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Riders of Justice was one of the most unexpected films I’ve seen this year. A smartly written revenge thriller which balances dark comedy and entertainment with its heartfelt and sensitive moments, which is helped by an ensemble of great performances led by Mads Mikkelsen. I highly recommend checking it out when you get a chance, very likely one of my favourite films of the year.

The French Dispatch (2021) Review

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The French Dispatch

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language, nudity, drug use & sexual references
Cast:
Bill Murray as Arthur Howitzer Jr.
Owen Wilson as Herbsaint Sazerac
Tilda Swinton as J.K.L. Berensen
Benicio del Toro as Moses Rosenthaler
Adrien Brody as Julien Cadazio
Léa Seydoux as Simone
Frances McDormand as Lucinda Krementz
Timothée Chalamet as Zeffirelli
Lyna Khoudri as Juliette
Jeffrey Wright as Roebuck Wright
Mathieu Amalric as The Commissaire
Stephen Park as Lt. Nescaffier
Director: Wes Anderson

A love letter to journalists set in an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional 20th-century French city that brings to life a collection of stories published in “The French Dispatch.”

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At the New Zealand International Film Festival, I managed to secure tickets for three movies I wanted to see. The first was Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch which I’ve been looking forward to. I had been interested in it from the cast, the trailer and of course Anderson directing, who has made a lot of movies I really liked. But I was especially looking forward to it after going through his whole filmography from beginning to end, and by the end I liked him even more as a director. So I was excited for The French Dispatch, and I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end.

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The French Dispatch’s plot is about a magazine with the same name, with the movie beginning with the death of the editor (played by Bill Murray). The story we follow is about the magazine, and the articles in it. As such, the film is essentially an anthology movie, made up of some short stories. With it being an anthology movie, it comes with the typical trappings. The tone changes with every section, and some sections are better than others. However, I liked them all. In a way it is his most messy and disjointed film, but it compliments his style. I do think that it’s a strong contender for his least accessible movie, I wouldn’t recommend this being your first Wes Anderson movie. As someone who has seen all his other movies, I really enjoyed it. It was very entertaining and delightful with some great humour. Each of his story very clearly has Anderson’s wit that we’ve come to expect from him, especially with the memorable dialogue. However it’s not only a very fun movie to watch, you really feel the passion behind it. Essentially, The French Dispatch is a love letter to journalists. I’ve seen some people say that this movie feels emotionally distant even by Wes Anderson’s standards, but I thoroughly disagree. There are some genuinely tender and heartfelt moments across the three stories. The anthology approach to the overall story made it feel like you are reading a book or magazine at times, which was for its benefit. All the stories are at the very least enjoyable to watch. There is an introduction segment following Owen Wilson, which is light hearted and fun to watch, definitely a good way to start the stories. The first of the main three stories follows Benicio Del Toro as an artist in a prison, and this is probably my favourite of three stories. The second of the stories is about a student protest, and stars Timothee Chalamet. I do like this story but its distinctly my least favourite of the three. I really didn’t know where it was going, and I don’t mean in a good way. The pacing is inconsistent across the film but this was the only case where it really started to weigh on the movie. The third of the stories follows Jeffrey Wright and its about a kidnapping. It was nearly my favourite of the three and it was a great story to end on.

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The French Dispatch has an absurdly large cast, by far the largest cast that Wes Anderson has worked with. In terms of the main actors in the stories, the first story stars Benicio Del Toro, Lea Seydoux, Adrien Brody and Tilda Swinton, the second segment has Timothee Chalamet and Frances McDormand, and the third segment has Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, and Stephen Chow. There’s also the head of the newspaper played by Bill Murray. The cast are all welcome to see and are fantastic in their parts, even though most of them are only here for brief appearances.

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Wes Anderson is the director and you can clearly feel that throughout. In fact this film is so Wes Anderson you could almost call it a self parody. It’s his most unique movie and that’s really saying a lot, with some shots in this that aren’t anything like he’s done before. It is aesthetically pleasing with fantastic visuals. We’ve come to expect this from Wes but every time he somehow surprises. It flips certain shots from black and white to colour, it even shifts aspect ratio, and even changes between live action to animation. The Alexandre Desplat perfectly fits the movie and the overall tone.

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This is the most Wes Anderson movie possible, and I’m not sure if everyone will like it. I think it’s definitely a contender for being one of the more divisive Anderson movies. However I really liked it. I loved the anthology approach with three distinct stories, with each having something to love about them. I loved the performances from the stacked cast (with Jeffrey Wright and Benicio Del Toro being among the highlights), and I loved the direction from Anderson. Definitely among my favourite films from 2021 thus far.

Amelie (2001) Review

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Amelie

Time:  119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains sexual references
Cast:
Audrey Tautou as Amélie Poulain
Mathieu Kassovitz as Nino Quincampoix
Rufus as Raphaël Poulain
Serge Merlin as Raymond Dufayel
Lorella Cravotta as Amandine Poulain
Clotilde Mollet as Gina
Claire Maurier as Suzanne
Isabelle Nanty as Georgette
Dominique Pinon as Joseph
Artus de Penguern as Hipolito
Yolande Moreau as Madeleine Wallace
Urbain Cancelier as Collignon
Jamel Debbouze as Lucien
Maurice Bénichou as Dominique Bretodeau
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Despite being caught in her imaginative world, Amelie (Audrey Tautou), a young waitress, decides to help people find happiness. Her quest to spread joy leads her on a journey where she finds true love.

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I had seen Amelie appear on many “Best movies ever” lists, and for whatever reason I just hadn’t gotten around to watching it beforehand. All I really knew about it was that it was French and quirky, but that’s about it. Having finally seen it I don’t know why it took me so long to watch it, and I now know why it is considered a classic.

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Something to note about this movie is that the plot is pretty slight. The story of Amelie follows its lead character who makes a surprising discovery in her apartment one day, and she uses that to complete a good deed. It pays off well and so she dedicates herself to helping others find joy and happiness in their own lives in the most unexpected ways, while struggling with the isolation of her own life. That’s it when it comes to the plot though. The screenplay is marvellous, and everything is well put together, from how it opens the story, introduces all its characters (especially Amelie), paces the narrative, and keeps everything glued together. It is a very peculiar story especially in relation to Amelie’s life, and it is all presented with an irresistible charm, and with such wonder. The film with all of its eccentricities was simply delightful, lovely and surprisingly humorous, and all of it really adds a lot to the film’s personality. At its core, Amelie is a celebration of life and a story about embracing the little things in life, and it’s done in a sweet and endearing, yet very intelligent way. Throughout its runtime, it takes some time to ponder on little moments that might initially seem irrelevant to the narrative at hand, yet without these little moments, the film just wouldn’t be the same. They add to the movie in their own ways. The movie is around 2 hours and 10 minutes long, but I was into everything from beginning to end despite the less plot driven approach.

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Coming to the characters, there are many memorable characters in this movie, even the minor characters are memorable, and they are all performed well by the cast. With that said, the biggest stand out of course is Audrey Tautou in the lead role of Amelie Poulain. Amelie is such a wonderful and easily likable character, and Audrey beautifully captures her innocent, naïve and shy nature. It’s actually impossible to imagine anyone else playing this role. As great as the rest of the movie already is, it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well if Amelie wasn’t as perfectly performed and portrayed as she was here.

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The film is directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and his work here is fantastic. What’s immediately noticeable when starting the movie is that the film’s visuals are notably gorgeous in pretty much every single shot, with every frame is bursting with unique life. The cinematography really is stunning, especially when it comes to the use of the magnificent colour palette used. The colours often correlating between the characters and the themes, and the colour gradients are so spectacular that they could rival even the most vivid Wes Anderson movies. There is always at least a hint of stunning shade of green, red or orange in just about every shot, and the colours pop like crazy. The colours, lighting and production design all contributed to create this fantasy and dream like feeling and aesthetic. The cinematography and editing are unorthodox in a smart way, it makes the film more eccentric, and the film becomes even more vibrant because of it. Some of the editing and CGI can be a little dated in an early 2000s way, but even that adds some level of charm to it. Also worth high praise is Yann Tiersen’s mesmerising score which works and elevates the whole ambience of the narrative seamlessly.

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Amelie is a quirky, heartfelt and entertaining coming of age movie. It is delightful from beginning to end, directed and shot vibrantly and with such energy, and has a perfect lead performance from Audrey Tautou. It’s really no surprise how it became widely loved amongst mainstream audiences. Definitely check it out if you haven’t already.

Chungking Express (1994) Review

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Chungking Express

Time: 98 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Brigitte Lin as woman in blonde wig
Tony Leung Chiu-Wai as Cop 663
Faye Wong as Faye
Takeshi Kaneshiro as He Qiwu
Director: Wong Kar-wai

Every day, Cop 223 (Takeshi Kaneshiro) buys a can of pineapple with an expiration date of May 1, symbolizing the day he’ll get over his lost love. He’s also got his eye on a mysterious woman in a blond wig (Brigitte Lin), oblivious of the fact she’s a drug dealer. Cop 663 (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) is distraught with heartbreak over a breakup. But when his ex drops a spare set of his keys at a local cafe, a waitress (Faye Wong) lets herself into his apartment and spruces up his life.

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I watched Fallen Angels after hearing so much about it and I loved it, so I was interested in watching more movies from director Wong Kar-wai. Like with Fallen Angels, I also heard a lot about Chungking Express, there have been particularly a lot of comparisons between the two movies. I went in fairly blind aside from knowing that it was another WKW romance film set in Hong Kong, and it was also great.

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From everything from the story, to the characters, the settings, and the themes, Chungking Express is a beautiful film. Like with Fallen Angels, it is an unconventional romance story, and is what some would call a ‘vibe movie’. It’s fairly plotless and mostly just follows the lead characters of the movie. The movie works best when you allow yourself to go with the flow, and while there’s a number of vibe movies I just can’t get into as much as other people, I was really into this movie. The script is incredibly written, with some particularly great dialogue.  Also like with Fallen Angels, Chungking Express is made up of two stories each of which are different and disconnected, yet parallel stories of people who want to connect with others. The first of these stories is about a man trying to forget his ex-girlfriend, the second is about a cop after going through a breakup. Both of these are interesting, and these characters felt like real people that you can relate to. One way it does differ from Fallen Angels is that Chungking Express is a considerably lighter movie, in fact it was more light-hearted than I imagined it would be. Something clear from both movies alone though is that Wong Kar-wai really knows how to capture love. It’s delightful and charming without falling into cliches and conventions, and is just really honest in depicting the ups and downs of love. It’s equal parts melancholic and happy, and I loved the dreamy atmosphere throughout the film.

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The movie is made even better with the poignant and memorable characters, and the wonderful performances for them. Brigitte Line, Tony Leung, Faye Wong and Takeshi Kaneshiro are the main actors in the movies, and each of them are excellent in their respective roles.

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Wong Kar-wai is a fantastic filmmaker just looking at Chungking Express and Fallen Angels alone. His directing style is so messy, yet so inventive and creative. The cinematography is beautiful and the whole movie is a visual feast. Much of the movie is shot in a handheld way and it really fitted the movie. WKW also really portrays the setting of the movie greatly, it’s incredibly well lit and vibrant, every frame dripping with warmth. The use of music was also great, from the score to the memorable soundtrack. California Dreamin is particularly a song that is used so many times in this one movie, it should get annoying but it actually works for the story (although it will be stuck in your head for a while afterwards).

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Chungking Express is another heartfelt romance movie from Wong Kar-wai. The cast are amazing in their parts, both main stories were engaging, and the direction and handling made it a visual delight and a dream-like experience that you can get caught up in. I can’t tell for sure if I like this or Fallen Angels more, but whatever the case, if you haven’t seen them, check them out.

Fallen Angels (1995) Review

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Fallen Angels

Time:  96 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Leon Lai as Wong Chi-ming/Killer
Michelle Reis as Killer’s agent
Takeshi Kaneshiro as Ho Chi-mo/He Zhiwu
Charlie Yeung as Charlie/Cherry
Karen Mok as Punkie/Blondie/Baby
Director: Wong Kar-wai

An assassin, his boss, an entrepreneur and two women cross paths in Hong Kong as their professional and love lives collide and influence each other, mostly without their knowledge.

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I had heard of Fallen Angels, I was seeing images from the movie floating around online, and kept hearing that it’s a really good movie. I really didn’t know much about it going in, I just knew that it was a crime romance movie, it was set in Hong Kong, and the director also made plenty of other movies that focus on relationships. So I went in fairly blind and I was quite surprised by what I saw, it really did live up to all the love.

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Fallen Angels has a unique narrative structure, with the two stories in the forefront being loosely connected in some way. The plot is also bit loose, it is definitely more character centric, but that works strongly and thankfully the characters themselves are interesting and fleshed out. They have their own struggles, ambitions and ways to live. They are lonely, relatable and you get invested in their stories. Along with the movie following these characters, the movie really contemplates and meditates on loneliness, relationships, love and the search for partnership through these stories. The setting these stories exist in have this seedy and dark vibe, and the stories are fully of despair, hopeless romanticism and emotion. From beginning to end, the movie has this constant feeling of melancholy. At the same time, the movie can be also eccentric and surprisingly funny. I found myself being quite engaged with the characters and their stories, and seeing where they would go next.

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The acting is another strong point in the movie, the cast are all great, especially Leon Lai, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Michelle Reis. Each actor gives such a strong and powerful performance, and each character is so quirky and memorable, the way they each interact and the world they live in is just so human yet so surreal. They really portray their characters perfectly.

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The direction from Wong Kar-wai is great, this is the first of his movies I’ve seen but I love his style even from this one movie alone. What’s immediately noticeable is the visual style, which is unique and nothing like any other movie I’ve seen. The movie is really atmospheric, being dream-like and detached, while having moments of tension and brutal violence. The cinematography from Christopher Doyle is unique; this movie is bursting with colour, and the use of neon and artificial lights and the setting of scenes at night gives the movie a gritty, harsh, dirty, and noir-esque feeling. Additionally, there’s a lot of kinetic and energetic large sweeping motions through, corridors, stairways, tunnels and more to deliver a dizzying experience (in a good way). The handheld shakiness brings a really exciting element to the film, especially during the scenes involving action. There isn’t a whole lot of action, but those scenes are filmed excellently. The stylish editing with seamless cuts really suits the overall vibe of the rest of the movie. I also loved the soundtrack, and the music choices were great, often having this soft jazzy vibe to it and it only added to the atmosphere.

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Fallen Angels is a visually gorgeous and energetic experience of a movie. The stylised direction is outstanding, and the storylines are engaging, with some interesting and memorable characters. It’s definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already. I do want to come back to this movie sometime, even just to experience the atmosphere and general vibe of the movie again.

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021) Review

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The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, sexual references & offensive language
Cast:
Ryan Reynolds as Michael Bryce
Samuel L. Jackson as Darius Kincaid
Salma Hayek as Sonia Kincaid
Frank Grillo as Bobby O’Neill
Antonio Banderas as Aristotle Papadopoulos
Morgan Freeman as Michael Bryce Sr.
Director: Patrick Hughes

The world’s most lethal odd couple — bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) and hit man Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) — are back for another life-threatening mission. Still unlicensed and under scrutiny, Bryce is forced into action by Darius’s even more volatile wife (Salma Hayek). Soon, all three are in over their heads when a madman’s (Antonio Banderas) sinister plot threatens to leave Europe in total chaos.

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The Hitman’s Bodyguard was a relatively okay action comedy which I only checked out when its sequel, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, was coming soon. Going into the sequel I wasn’t expecting a different movie, just more of the same. Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson would be fun to watch, there would be some mixed action, and a generic plot. The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard was that, but just a little bit sillier, for better and for worse.

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I remember one of the main issues of the first movie was that it didn’t seem to know what kind of tone it was aiming for. It was either too serious and dark, or it was too silly and goofy, and it could’ve helped by leaning towards one or the other. So one thing that the sequel does well is that it sticks to one side, that being the silly side. It’s on a larger scale, with a rich Bond-esque villain with a plan for large scale destruction using some machine. That aside, for the most part it does seem to be going through the same motions as the first movie, more of the same but even messier. One disadvantage of this decision to go in this direction however is that the plot is just so over the top silly. As soon as I picked up on the what it was going for, I stopped paying attention to the plot at all. The plot of the first movie wasn’t that good, but having it be a simple “get the hitman to the court alive” plot worked well enough. With Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, it really just falls apart if you even think about it, and it is definitely less well constructed. The dumb plot is hard to ignore, packed with every dumb trope, including a weapon to blow up stuff on a large scale, flashbacks explaining characters’ backstories, you name it. Even the plot is surprisingly convoluted and barely comprehensible looking back at it, all the while still feeling like a plot is barely there. It’s clear that it’s the jokes that are the real focus. The characters are even more cartoonish too, it feels like literally every character is angry and screaming at each other at times, it really is such a loud movie. So while I’m not really the type of person to say to turn your brain off when watching a movie, I’d say try to not think too hard about what’s happening while watching. With that being said, I think the movie is deliberately parodying itself, and looking at the movie from that perspective does help. There is particularly a backstory for Ryan Reynolds which is so ridiculous that it’s actually quite funny, and I’m assuming that this was intentional. The humour is about the same level, mildly funny, however probably even more over the top and juvenile. Not all the jokes work out, but on the whole I was satisfied with the humour here. One of the best moments is actually the final moment of the movie, so if you’re two thirds into the movie and aren’t finding it funny, it’s worth sticking to the end at least.

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As usual the leading pair of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson return, and while not everyone likes their on screen chemistry, I do enjoy it and think it works. I will say that it does feel a little contrived that their characters are bickering so much in this movie, considering that in that both of them grew to like each other over the course of the first movie. However this time it’s not a leading pair, but rather a trio. Salma Hayek returns from the previous movie as Jackson’s wife, this time being upgraded to a co-leading role, and she definitely stands out among the movie. Her wackiness can get on the nerves at times but in all fairness, out of all of the cast she has the most energy and gives the most to the movie. There is a pretty strong chemistry between the three actors and once again this is the highlight of the movie. Antonio Banderas is the film’s villain, and he is committed to being intense, however a bit too serious in a movie this cartoonish. However character-wise, he does seem to work better in this movie as a D-level Bond villain compared to Gary Oldman’s dictator villain in the first movie.

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Patrick Hughes returns to direct this one, and the direction is at about the same level as the first movie. The action is mostly competent and gory, if too heavily edited and chaotic. It does go for more over the top comedy action, physics basically have no meaning in this movie. It is departing from some of the more grounded and serious action from the first movie, which even had some surprising tension. I remember that the first movie lingered on the grimness of some of the violence, which initially seemed out of place in a movie with that much comedy, however I think I still prefer the action of the first Hitman’s Bodyguard movie more. The CGI is quite bad, especially when it comes to the explosions. Still, I had some fun with the action in this movie.

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The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is another mixed bag really, better and worse than the first movie. It is more self-aware and silly, but sort of at the expense as itself. The chemistry between Reynolds, Jackson and Hayek was fun, and some of the action was enjoyable but that’s it. The ending of this indicates seems like there’s going to be a third movie, and I’m not really sure what they can really do with it. If you disliked the first movie, I don’t really see a situation where you’ll like the sequel. However, if you enjoyed the first movie and are interested in a sequel on the same level, albeit much sillier, then maybe check it out.

Free Guy (2021) Review

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Free Guy

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Ryan Reynolds as Guy
Jodie Comer as Millie Rusk/Molotov Girl
Lil Rel Howery as Buddy
Utkarsh Ambudkar as Mouser
Joe Keery as Walter “Keys” McKeys
Taika Waititi as Antwan
Director: Shawn Levy

When a bank teller (Ryan Reynolds) discovers he’s actually a background player in an open-world video game, he decides to become the hero of his own story — one that he can rewrite himself. In a world where there’s no limits, he’s determined to save the day his way before it’s too late, and maybe find a little romance with the coder who conceived him.

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After long last, Free Guy finally releases. Going into it, there were a few things that had me put me off about it. First of all, it does look like the most Ryan Reynolds movie ever, even though I like him. Second of all, it is about video games, and most portrayals of video games from big budget studios aren’t all that great, which had me more concerned than the actual movie adaptations of video games. Then there was the fact that the trailers were shown so much at the cinema, not only in the past months, but also last year when the movie was originally meant to be released before it was delayed, to an annoying degree. So by the time it got to August, I wasn’t exactly anticipating the movie, with the exception of the exit of its trailers from the cinema. However, I ended up deciding to watch Free Guy after I heard that it’s good from people who have seen it, and it surprised me. It’s not great by any means but it was better than I thought it would be.

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The marketing team for this movie didn’t give Free Guy the best of trailers, but at least did a good job at hiding most of the best moments and cameos. Even as someone who was forced to watch the trailers an endless number of times, I was surprised with where the movie goes. Going in blind if possible would be a great choice. I found myself enjoying the story, as well as where it was all going. I will say that after the various twists and turns in the first half, things become rather straightforward in the second half. It’s a little disappointing because it feels like it doesn’t fulfil the potential that we didn’t know it had going into it. There are multiple themes about creative freedom, originality and corporate greed, but it even gets existential at times. The first film that comes to mind is of course The Truman Show, not that Free Guy comes anywhere near close to it. Instead, it plays things a bit too safe by the end, instead delivering a standard message about acceptance. It isn’t bad but just a little disappointing. The movie has genuine heartfelt moments with these characters, and I was surprised at how much effort was put into them. Now for the elephant in the room: it is a movie about video games. As a gamer, a big budget movie depicting video games is already a concern. As far as depictions of games and gamer culture go however, it’s not the worst. It actually does feel like some of the people involved at least somewhat know about gaming, possibly even played one. There is some pandering to a degree but not at the level as say Ready Player One. Some Ips are thrown into the movie, however they are intended more as brief Easter Eggs and it doesn’t feel like the movie is overly relying on the audience loving them. The humour may be hit or miss, if only because it is mainly catered to gamers. However I think some non gamers can still find the movie funny, and I enjoyed it. There are some cameos in the movie, and I’m not going to read any of them out or what most of the cameos consist of because I know that it would more than likely scare off a lot of people from actually watching the movie. Most of the prominent cameos are people known for gaming, that’s as far as I’ll go. I do understand why they were included in the movie, and honestly I didn’t dislike them as much as I thought I would. Although it will feel jarring every time it would cut to them, and while I get it is supposed to be meta, it feels out of place. The worst instants are in the third act, where I really could’ve done without them showing up. With that said, there are a couple of non-gaming cameos which I really liked.

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The cast are all good in their parts. Ryan Reynolds plays his usual self as most could’ve figured from the trailer, even though this time its as a NPC (non player character) in a video game world. As someone who likes him as an actor, I did feel like he could’ve just fallen into doing the same old schtick but he works quite well. He is genuinely funny, you care about his character, and he has some great moments. Reynolds was a surprisingly great pick for the role. The standout among the entire cast though was Jodie Comer, who gives so much to this movie and probably elevates. In this movie we see her in two roles, as a character named Millie in the real world, and as Molotov Girl, Millie’s avatar within the game world. She is amazing in both parts, and there is some great chemistry between her and Reynolds. Joe Keery was quite good in his part, even though he was overshadowed by the main leads, and Lil Rel Howery is entertaining as a security guard and friend of Guy. Taika Waititi effectively plays the unhinged villain as the developer of the game that much of the movie takes place inside. Taika is certainly very energetic, but aside from doing what you would expect from him, as an antagonist he is very one dimensional. It’s just as well that Waititi goes over the top. because otherwise the character would’ve been completely forgettable.

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Shawn Levy is the director of the movie, I mostly know him as the director of the Night of the Museum movies. However I think this is the best work he’s done as a director. First of all I really like how this video game world is portrayed, as a world taking a lot from the open world from Grand Theft Auto knockoff, it is portrayed very well. Not only that but the visual effects works and fitting considering the setting for most of the movie. The action is also really entertaining and energetic.

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Free Guy was way better than it had any right to be. I know that not everyone is going to like it, but it was genuinely a nice surprise for me. I was entertained by the story and characters, the action was enjoyable, I generally found the movie funny, and the cast were good, especially Reynolds and Comer. For what it’s worth, as someone who had low expectations going in, I think it’s worth a chance at least.