Category Archives: Crime

Bleeder (1999) Review

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Bleeder

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Kim Bodnia as Leo
Mads Mikkelsen as Lenny
Rikke Louise Andersson as Louise
Levino Jensen as Louis
Liv Corfixen as Lea
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Hard-drinking Leo (Kim Bodnia) likes to hit the bars and watch gory films with his introverted pal, Lenny (Mads Mikkelsen). His girlfriend, Louise (Rikke Louise Andersson), tends to stay in at the couple’s Copenhagen apartment. Despite their differences, Leo and Louise have maintained a relationship for a long time; however, when Louise tells Leo that she’s pregnant, he senses that his lifestyle will have to change, and his long-hidden hatred of his girlfriend violently erupts.

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Bleeder was the last film by Nicolas Winding Refn I had left to catch up on, it was particularly hard to find but I got access to a copy eventually. I didn’t know anything about the movie except its one of the directors earliest films and had the main trio of actors from his first film Pusher. While I wouldn’t call it one of Refn’s best by any means, I thought it was a solid early film from him.

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Bleeder is a dark and raw drama, that really focuses more on the drama than crime compared to Refn’s last film Pusher. The plot consist of two storylines, each of them following two people who are friends. One of them is of Leo, a soon to be father. The other is Lenny, an awkward film nerd who works at a video store and struggles with women. Leo’s story is the dramatic aspect of the film. It’s dark, filled with tension, and uncomfortable to watch. Essentially this storyline is a domestic drama between Leo, his wife Louise, and her brother Louis. It’s basically a character study of a man afraid of his impending fatherhood. Strangely I wanted to see more of Lenny’s story. Even though it didn’t seem to be moving towards anything, it is fun to watch his story play out, and at the very least it’s a nice break from the intensity of the Leo story. The stories are connected by the two lead characters being friends but tonally they’re very different. It’s a weird mix that I still enjoyed. The are some great comedic moments (mainly with Lenny), and the atmosphere is still bleak, ugly and there’s a feeling of hopelessness which only increases as the film progresses. The last 30 minutes are particularly sad, violent and intense. The movie is definitely slowly paced and doesn’t seem to have a drive to it, but it didn’t bother me too much.

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The acting is one of the best parts of the movies, it’s great. As I said it has the main cast of the Pusher trilogy (and the main actors of each of the Pusher movies) with Kim Bodnia, Mads Mikkelsen and Zlatko Buric, all of them are really good in their parts. The best performance in the movie is probably from Kim Bodnia. He was great in Pusher, but he is even stronger here. His character starts off relatively calm but goes down a dark path over the course of the film as we see and learn more about him. The other main character is Lenny played by Mads Mikkelsen, a relatively quiet man who talks about movies and directors a lot, who’s clearly a representation of Nicolas Winding Refn himself. There’s even a joke in his first scene where he lists of a long list of directors which establishes his character very well. Mikkelsen is effortlessly watchable and likable in his part.

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Nicolas Winding Refn directs Bleeder very well, and it is stylistically comparable to the Pusher trilogy. The use of handheld camerawork is effective, the visuals are dark and gritty but more polished than the first Pusher. The sound design was great too, when gunshots happen you really hear it, and the ambient soundtrack is hypnotic.

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Bleeder is a bit of an odd movie with some of the writing decisions made, especially with how it mixes the two storylines together. However it is good on the whole, I was invested in the stories, the performances were good, and I liked Nicolas Winding Refn’s work as a director here. I’m very much aware that it’s very difficult to access the movie, but if you like Refn’s other movies, I do think it is worth checking out at the very least.

Pusher III: I’m the Angel of Death (2005) Review

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Pusher 3

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Zlatko Burić as Milo
Marinela Dekić as Milena
Ilyas Agac as Muhammed
Slavko Labović as Radovan
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Milo (Zlatko Buric) is a drug dealer and recovering addict who’s slowly coming unraveled. While trying to prepare for his daughter Milena’s (Marinela Dekic) birthday party, he discovers the shipment of heroin he was expecting is actually Ecstasy. Milo gives the pills to small-fry dealer Mohammed (Ilyas Agac) and, as the party begins, starts using narcotics again. Things go from bad to worse when Mohammad doesn’t return, and Milo’s Albanian connection demands payment for the Ecstasy.

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I have been gradually getting through Nicolas Winding Refn’s Pusher trilogy. The first movie was a solid standalone crime thriller, with the other two films being unintended sequels which only came as a result of Refn’s Fear X flopping. It’s strange then that both sequels manage to be overall stronger films than the first movie. Pusher III is another distinct entry for the trilogy, dark, compelling and visually stunning, it’s truly great.

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Pusher III acts as a finale to the trilogy with the protagonist role this time being filled by Milo, who was in a major supporting role as a known drug lord, appearing in Pusher I in a major supporting role, and appearing in Pusher II in a cameo part. The film is set over one day and focuses on Milo as he tries to juggle his business with his daughter’s birthday party. He is constantly busy trying to keep his business alive while also having to be there for his family. First of all, I really like how the film explores this character and made him compelling. At the start we see him trying to better himself considering his circumstances and work, but over time we see his surroundings pull himself back to his old self again. Also we see how tough the criminal underworld really is, in the previous two movies we see Milo the drug lord being so calm and in control, but in the third movie it really shows that he’s constantly struggling to stay alive. The film does retain the style of the previous two Pusher movies but also moves at a slower pace, with more of a focus on the lead character over the general sleaze. The youthful angst and energy of the first two movies are gone, and its just about one night of chaos, stress, anxiety, and an undercurrent of sadness. Despite how the movie is for the first half, Pusher III overall is the most depressing and bleakest movie in the trilogy. It gets to some particularly grim parts, mostly towards the end.

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The acting is good from everyone, but the main player here is Zlatko Buric as lead character Milo. Much is riding on Buric, as his character is key to the whole movie working and he more than delivers. His performance is complex, and he adds more depth to the character, who was already the most intriguing character from the first film. Refn and Buric do well to make Milo a somewhat likable character all things considering. In contrast to the previous two Pusher protagonists, he’s older, wiser, more rational, and has a more stable life. Zlatko was very compelling to watch as he was portraying everything that Milo goes through over the course of this one night. It is mostly the Zlakto Buric show in terms of acting, but if there was a supporting actor that is a highlight, it is Slavko Labovic, who appears in the last act and is great in his screentime.

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Nicolas Winding Refn’s direction was as fantastic as I expected it to be. It might not reach the stylistic heights of Pusher II, but the more realistic and subdued look works better for the character of Milo. There’s some great cinematography with some fantastic use of colour, and the sound design and score really fitted the film. Despite it being less of an overt thriller compared to the first two Pusher movies, Refn still does a good job at building up tension in an effective way. For the most part Pusher III isn’t as violent as Refn’s other movies including the previous two movies… until it gets to the climax, which has by far the most gruesome and graphic scenes that he’s directed. There is a lot of blood and gore at the end, however it works for the tone of the movie.

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It is interesting to see the second and third Pusher movies end up being better than the first one, despite it being an unintended trilogy. While I still think that Pusher II is the best of the trilogy, I think Pusher III is still truly great. A dark and bleak character focused crime drama, that’s fantastically directed and led by an excellent performance from Zlatko Buric. If you watched the previous Pusher movies or even just other Refn movies, I highly recommend checking it out.

House of Gucci (2021) Review

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House of Gucci

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, offensive language & sex scenes
Cast:
Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani
Adam Driver as Maurizio Gucci
Jared Leto as Paolo Gucci
Jeremy Irons as Rodolfo Gucci
Salma Hayek as Giuseppina “Pina” Auriemma
Al Pacino as Aldo Gucci
Jack Huston as Domenico De Sole
Director: Ridley Scott

When Patrizia Reggiani, an outsider from humble beginnings, marries into the Gucci family, her unbridled ambition begins to unravel the family legacy and triggers a reckless spiral of betrayal, decadence, revenge — and ultimately murder.

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House of Gucci was one of my most anticipated films of 2021. It would be one of two Ridley Scott films coming that year (this and The Last Duel), it would have a large and talented cast with the likes of Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, and Al Pacino, and it would be about the Gucci family, which was something I didn’t know much about. It certainly had the potential to be one of Scott’s best, and while I wouldn’t go so far to call it that, I do think it’s quite good.

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The story was intriguing, I didn’t know where it would go outside of some key moments. Essentially its about a rich family at war with itself, and it was interesting seeing the scale and progression of everything. Something you will have to know early on is that the movie is definitely campy and silly, its over the top and occasionally leans into soap opera and melodrama. This joyful campiness might not work for everyone, but I thought that it made the movie more fun to watch. I do feel like it couldn’t seem to fully decide whether it was going to be a serious drama or a campy comedy, and it mostly jumps between the two throughout. I think that the movie would’ve been better served by leaning more into the camp elements (like many of the performances do, mainly Gaga’s and Leto’s). It is a very long movie at 2 hours and 40 minutes and honestly I think it would’ve been better if it was longer, I am hoping for an extended/director’s cut from Ridley Scott in the future (since he’s known for them). The pacing is definitely steady and slow, there is a lot to cover (literal decades) and it builds up gradually over time. Sometimes the focus on particular elements was a little messy. It feels like it skips over some very important moments that would’ve helped to make the story make more sense. I did need to look up online about the real story so that I could get some context and understand some things. It also felt surprisingly very abrupt at the end, especially with how slow the film takes its time. It definitely would’ve benefitted by the third act being at least 20 minutes longer.

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One of the things most known about House of Gucci are the big names involved, and they are all good in their parts. Lady Gaga is great in the lead part of Patrizia Reggiani, she really gets into her role and shows a wide range of emotions throughout the whole film. She gets plenty of opportunities to chew the scenery and shines in all her scenes. Adam Driver is reliably good and relatively restrained, Al Pacino is great, Jeremy Irons is in less scenes than many of the other actors, but he’s really good in his scenes. The most divisive performance is probably going to be that of Jared Leto. He is sporting a lot of prosthetics to make himself unrecognisable, and has a very over the top Italian accent. He is very much the comic relief of the film, and in a way his ridiculous performance really works for the campy nature of film. The scenes between him and Pacino were particularly great. Other actors like Jack Huston and Salma Hayek also bring it to their respective parts.

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The direction by Ridley Scott is reliably great, and he provides the style that this film needs. It’s fantastically shot, and the production design and costumes are incredible as to be expected. The score from Harry Gregson-Williams and the soundtrack choices were great.

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The reaction to House of Gucci has certainly shown the movie as being divisive amongst a lot of people. It does have its issues, it could’ve been longer to flesh out some elements, and the movie would’ve benefitted from leaning further into the campier elements. On the whole though, I was engaged with the story, Ridley’s direction was solid, and the performances were great. So I think it is at least worth checking out.

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.

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.

Funny Games (1997) Review

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Funny Games 1997

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] 
Cast:
Susanne Lothar as Anna
Ulrich Mühe as Georg
Stefan Clapczynski as Georg Jr. (Georgie)
Arno Frisch as Paul
Frank Giering as Peter
Director: Michael Haneke

An idyllic lakeside vacation home is terrorized by Paul (Arno Frisch) and Peter (Frank Giering), a pair of deeply disturbed young men. When the fearful Anna (Susanne Lothar) is home alone, the two men drop by for a visit that quickly turns violent and terrifying. Husband Georg (Ulrich Mühe) comes to her rescue, but Paul and Peter take the family hostage and subject them to nightmarish abuse and humiliation.

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I heard about both Funny Games movies (original and remake), and had been meaning to watch them for some time. All I knew was the main plot of both movies, and that they were both home invasion movies. I checked out the original and while I can’t say that I loved it, it’s certainly an impactful and well-made movie.

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The plot is simple enough, family of three is held hostage by two young men and tormented. Funny Games is a pretty dark home invasion horror thriller that is certainly more on the psychological side and doesn’t rely on a lot of graphic violence. While the movie can contain some realistic and hard hitting violence, those moments are deliberately shown offscreen. It’s more awkward than violent if anything. The movie is meant to be a commentary on violence, especially violence in the media. There’s some notable fourth wall breaking scenes, especially involving Arno Frisch’s character, which I guess are done to really involve the viewer in what’s happening. It asks about whether the viewers play a role in the violence that occurs. The atmosphere is quite tense and there’s a real sense of dread throughout. It’s a very cold movie, which is intentional and meant to be that way, however that did end up affecting the movie in a negative way somewhat. The movie is 109 minutes long and admittedly it did lose me 2 thirds of the way through. It became a bit tiring to watch, and while I think that might’ve been the intention, it’s not in the “super disturbed and wanting the movie to end” way. That coldness mentioned earlier played a part too, I just wondered what the point of watching was, no doubt the intention. Not to mention the movie did feel dragged out. And also to just put it bluntly, it’s not a movie that you enjoy watching, even before the movie sort of lost me. I can’t exactly say that this is a criticism since it was no doubt its goal, but I thought I should mention that.

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One of the strongest parts of the movie was the acting, which was great from everyone involved. The family are played by Susanne Lothar, Ulric Muhe and Stefan Clapczynski, and the two young men who are invading them are played by Arno Frisch and Frank Giering. They do feel very natural and so that made the performances feel all the more real. We really don’t get any character development or learn about these characters, though I’m assuming that was another deliberate choice from Haneke.

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Funny Games is directed well by Michael Haneke, a lot of the decisions made were definitely very deliberate and purposeful, the previously mentioned decision of not showing the violence on screen being an example. The technical aspects are great, giving an uneasy atmosphere throughout. There are a lot of long single-take shots to bring in an unsettling vibe, and there are some images which really stick with you. The isolated location also helps to make it more unnerving and also feel more real.

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Funny Games is not for everyone, it’s a bit cold and tough to sit through. I’ll say that it’s worth a watch for those interested in it though, with the great direction and acting, and it was somewhat fascinating to watch if nothing else. I heard the American remake by Haneke is pretty much a shot by shot remake of this film, so it’ll be interesting to see if there are any differences at all between the two versions outside of one being in English.

Malignant (2021) Review

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Malignant

Time: 111 Minutes
Cast:
Annabelle Wallis as Madison Mitchell
Maddie Hasson as Sydney Lake
George Young as Kekoa Shaw
Michole Briana White as Regina Moss
Jacqueline McKenzie as Dr. Florence Weaver
Director: James Wan

Madison (Annabelle Wallis), a young woman, is terrified by visions of the murders of strangers. Later, Madison decides to find and save the victims.

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I was quite interested in Malignant, not only was it director James Wan’s newest film, but it also his first original horror movie in a while (the last instance being The Conjuring in 2013). I also found the initial reactions to the movie to be quite intriguing, with some people having no idea what they just watched. Honestly, I wish I had the chance to watch the movie in cinemas to hear the reactions, because it was quite an experience.

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It’s unsurprising that the trailers didn’t sell the movie that well considering how weird the concept sounds on paper. This is James Wan’s craziest film to date, and that’s saying a lot. There are some over the top moments and even comedy throughout the film, yet it somehow all fits together, managing to not ruin the grounded and dramatic moments. It is definitely an absurd movie, but it is self-aware of what it is, while still taking itself somewhat seriously. You can feel a mix of other horror directors’ influences, including Dario Argento, David Cronenberg and Sam Raimi, it feels like a perfect mixture of different horror subgenres. However, it is still all James Wan, while feeling so totally different from what he has done in the past. You could probably see elements of Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring, but Malignant still has its own distinct tone and feel. The first two acts build mystery around lead character Madison, intriguing you and locking you into the central mystery as she sees a lot of murders being committed by a mysterious killer. However, it is really the big reveal and the whole third act which is the point where you’ll realise whether you’re on board with the movie or not. Even if you’ve predicted the twist beforehand, the details surrounding the twist are so nutty that they have to be seen to be believed. I for one didn’t quite expect it, the third act was surprising, fun and satisfying and I had a blast with it.

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Annabelle Wallis is really good in the lead role and puts a lot into her performance. The rest of the cast aren’t bad, but they are serviceable. A lot of them act very odd at times especially with how they deliver their dialogue. However, it does work well for the movie’s campy feel at least. Ray Chase is also superb as the voice of the main antagonist of the film.

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This is a James Wan movie and as usual his work is really fantastic. This movie is visually beautiful to watch. There is also a great atmosphere throughout, greatly helped by the slick camera work as well as the sound design. It really should be said that this is by far James Wan’s goriest movie yet. Without going into the details of the scenes, there are some set pieces that are truly a sight to behold, especially in the insane third act. Everything from the choreography, the blood, the camerawork, everything in that last 30 minutes just turns everything to 11. The design and presentation of the main killer in the story is creative and truly memorable. The soundtrack from Joseph Bishara is great too. There’s particularly a piece of music that sounds like Where is My Mind by The Pixies, and it actually works as the main theme of the movie so well.

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Malignant definitely won’t be for everyone but I found it to be quite a satisfying and surprising horror film, with plenty of thrills, bloody and fantastic set pieces, and is absolutely bonkers. I’d go so far to say that it is one of James Wan’s best films. If you like horror movies, I do highly recommend watching it. Go into it blind, and if you find yourself not feeling it within the first 20 minutes, I recommend at least getting to the third act because it is worth watching the film for that alone.

Kate (2021) Review

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Kate

Time: 106 Minutes
Cast:
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Kate
Miku Martineau as Ani
Woody Harrelson as Varrick
Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Slipped a fatal poison on her final job, a ruthless Tokyo assassin (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has less than 24 hours to find out who ordered the hit and exact revenge.

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I heard about Kate leading up to its release. I knew that it was going to be an action thriller starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead which was going to be released on Netflix. Despite being sceptical of action movies with known actors put on streaming services, I was somewhat interested in this one, I thought it looked pretty good from the trailers. Kate is yet another serviceable assassin centred action thriller which has its issues, but was better than expected.

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As expected, the writing is the worst part of the movie. The story is by the numbers, and it is very familiar and formulaic. It has its fair share of tropes and plot devices you’ve seen countless times. It’s also quite predictable, even some of the main reveals are easy to see coming. With that being said, it is thankfully paced fast enough and with enough urgency, especially given that the premise is about the main character only having a day left to live. The dialogue isn’t the best and it can be awkward, especially whenever the movie tries to throw in the odd moment of humour. The story to a degree had some depth, the main characters have backstories to them, and it feels like some effort was put into them. Unfortunately, the drama and emotion aren’t quite as well executed as they could’ve been. Some plot beats that should resonate feel undercooked. A big part of the movie is a relationship between Kate and a girl she’s trying to protect named Ani. This is meant to be the heart of the film, but their relationship isn’t given enough time or development. The third act gets even more formulaic and feels a little rushed as it races towards a climax, despite being entertaining for what it was. I enjoyed Kate for its 1 hour and 46-minute runtime, but I think it could’ve been a bit better if it was around 90 minutes long.

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If you need only one reason to check out Kate, it is Mary Elizabeth Winstead. In the lead role, she pretty much carries the whole movie. The writing for the character is pretty thin, but MEW makes the part great, delivering a commanding central performance and being such an on screen presence. She even gave more than the character needed, conveying a certain vulnerability, urgency and sadness I didn’t expect. And of course, there’s the action scenes where she is particularly impressive, she uses pretty much anything as a weapon and the stunts are very convincing. At the same time, she is also shown to be vulnerable, she doesn’t come out of these fight scenes and gun battles unscathed. The rest of the supporting cast are a bit of a mixed bag. One notable character is that of Ani, the child that Kate has to protect throughout much of the movie, played by Miku Martineau. I mentioned that the relationship between the two doesn’t work well enough, but there’s issues even on her as a character alone. Ani is grating and annoying to watch, and while I get that she’s intentionally annoying, her character doesn’t seem to learn or change at all. It’s a shame considering that her character is what ultimately gives Kate a significant purpose, so it’s unfortunate that this key character wasn’t exactly handled the best. There are also some solid supporting turns from Woody Harrelson and Jun Kunimura. Speaking of Harrelson, he is good here, but his character feels very much like a copy of others seen before. He gets very little screentime and the role could’ve been played by any character actor.

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Cedric Nicolas-Troyan is the director, and for the most part I liked his work here. Much of the visuals and action are taken from the likes of John Wick and Atomic Blonde, but I still liked what was here. I really enjoyed the style and the visuals, especially the use of colour and neon. The cinematography and lighting also added a lot to the fight scenes. Speaking of which, the action scenes are part of the reason why the movie works. The action is striking and intense, it’s brutal and gory and doesn’t hold back at all. The choreography is solid, and some scenes are genuinely impressive. The only action scene that wasn’t that good was a bad looking CGI car sequence early on, aside from that I was quite entertained by the action set pieces.

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Kate isn’t anything special and it has its issues. The story and writing are very familiar and derivative, and some of its drama and emotional aspects are a bit undercooked and needed more work for it to resonate. With that said, it was visually stunning, the action is intense and great to watch, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is fantastic in the lead role, making this movie worth checking out. I really enjoyed it.

The Protégé (2021) Review

Maggie Q stars as Anna in the new film, T Protégé.

The Protege

Time: 104 Minutes
Cast:
Maggie Q as Anna Dutton
Samuel L. Jackson as Moody Dutton
Michael Keaton as Michael Rembrandt
Director: Martin Campbell

Rescued as a child by the legendary assassin Moody (Samuel L. Jackson), Anna (Maggie Q) is the world’s most skilled contract killer. However, when Moody is brutally killed, she vows revenge for the man who taught her everything she knows. As Anna becomes entangled with an enigmatic killer (Michael Keaton), their confrontation turns deadly, and the loose ends of a life spent killing weave themselves ever tighter.

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I was interested in The Protégé. Along with it having a main cast consisting of Maggie Q, Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson, it is directed by Martin Campbell, who made Casino Royale and The Mask of Zorro. The premise on paper looked very familiar, but I was hoping for a decent action movie at the very least. For the most part, The Protégé was indeed an enjoyable action flick, but does have some flaws holding it back from being better.

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The writing is the worst part of the movie, and the script really is at odds with Martin Campbell’s strengths. The story is not very original, it’s generic and we’ve seen many of these plots in plenty of other better spy and revenge thrillers. The story and characters aren’t that interesting, there aren’t any stakes or emotional payoffs, and the few twists it has are rather predictable. Not only that but the plot could get unnecessarily complicated at times. It was incoherent, and by the end I was still wondering what it was even about. It is also very tonally inconsistent, mainly with the attempts at humour which never really landed for me. The dialogue is to blame for this, it is honestly terrible at times. By the time it reaches the last third of the film, it starts to lose steam. Not only that but it starts to try to be about something, and if anything that brought the movie down for me. Up to that point it was just a B-level schlocky action flick that I was having fun with. The ending itself was quite abrupt and it felt like something was missing. The story felt unfinished, there’s lots of loose ends and I didn’t understand why certain things happened, or why certain characters chose to make certain choices. I still enjoyed the movie, but the ending left me feeling cold, and not in a good way. The movie is just under 2 hours at 109 minutes, I think it could’ve been a little shorter than that.

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The characters aren’t that interesting and are rather one note. However, the main three actors at the centre make up for it at least. Maggie Q is solid in the lead role as the assassin seeking revenge, both in her performance and the action scenes. Michael Keaton is great too as the bodyguard and right-hand man of the main villain, very entertaining to watch. He even gets some action scenes of his own, and it looks like he actually does take part in some of the stunts. While I did like Keaton here, I do feel like his role was supposed to be played by a younger actor, making some of his scenes with Maggie Q feel very out of place. I especially wasn’t really sure what was going on with the relationship with those two characters, it kept going back and forth, and not in the way where it keeps you guessing. Its more like the writers couldn’t make up their minds about where it was going. Samuel L. Jackson isn’t in the movie a ton and it is definitely a role that he can play in his sleep, but as expected he delivers on his part.

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Michael Keaton as Rembrandt

Martin Campbell is a good director of action, and his work here definitely elevates the movie. The action scenes are really good, its shot in a mostly clear fashion, the fights are well choreographed, and it was satisfying to watch. It is surprisingly graphic and gory at points, plenty of people get damaged and killed over the course of the movie. The action isn’t as memorable as some of Campbell’s other action work such as Casino Royale, The Mask of Zorro or Goldeneye, but nonetheless it makes the movie more entertaining to watch.

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The Protege feels like an action movie that would’ve come out decades ago, for better and for worse. The writing really is its worst aspect, the dialogue and plotting are very lacklustre, and it’s hard to really care about what’s going on with the story and characters. It’s the strong direction, action and the solid cast that elevate the movie, making it entertaining for the most part. If you are up for a decent but forgettable action thriller, then The Protégé is an entertaining enough 2-hour watch.

Bound (1996) Review

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Bound

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] 
Cast:
Gina Gershon as Corky
Jennifer Tilly as Violet
Joe Pantoliano as Caesar
John Ryan as Mickey Malnato
Director: Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski

Violet (Jennifer Tilly), the mistress of the gangster Caesar (Joe Pantoliano), is in a torrid love affair with Corky (Gina Gershon). For Violet to dump Caesar, they formulate a plan to rob millions of dollars of stashed mob cash, blaming him for it.

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I had watched all of the films from directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski except for their first film, Bound, which I heard was really good. I really didn’t know much about this movie going in. However it was great, and I think it might actually be their best film yet.

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Bound’s plot is relatively simple, yet quite effective and handled very well. It is essentially a modern noir, but with aspects that make it stand out. Its script is meticulously refined, the characters are more than just mere caricatures, and the relationship between the lead characters is well realised. Bound does seem to have a selling point with the lead character being lesbians, but it’s not the only thing that the film is about, while making that storyline feel very human and believable. The movie actually has a creative take on a whole lot of stale genre tropes, playing with gender and femme fatal cliches and subverting them. At the same time there are a lot of enjoyable noir elements on display, there’s a good balance of satisfying and subverting tropes. The pacing is electric, and the plot and characters are always in motion. The film has a lot of energy, and between the snappy dialogue, the scenes of tensions and suspense, there is so much going on. The first act’s slow build of tension is done to really sell Corky and Violet’s relationship and motivation into doing what they do for the rest of the movie. Then the second and third acts deliver a lot of suspenseful moments that are unpredictable, which are made even more tense given that most of them take place in a claustrophobic setting. The film does have some very cheesy dialogue, especially in the first act, but so does a lot of classic noirs. That’s also not to mention that there is a general self awareness throughout, so the cheesiness doesn’t seem out of place. The humour actually plays nicely together with the building of tension, and they have a satisfying payoff. Something that is impressive, especially given that its their first movie, is that the Wachowskis don’t compromise with any of its aspects, whether it’s the illustration of a lesbian affair, or the surprisingly brutal violence which the movie shows unflinchingly. It’s bold for a debut, and they definitely showed themselves as bold filmmakers with this one movie.

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This movie is also perfectly cast and well-acted. Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly are perfect in the lead roles of Corky and Violet respectively, they give amazing performances and have great chemistry as we watch their romance grow throughout the movie. They are believable as two lovers trying to make their ways out, especially with Violet trying to escape from her gangster boyfriend played by Joe Pantoliano. Speaking of which, Pantoliano could almost be seen as a third lead in this movie and this might be the best I’ve seen him in a movie. He kind of steals the show as a paranoid mob thug who’s at times entertaining and hilarious and other times threatening.

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As said earlier, Bound is the debut film from the Wachowskis, and this has to be one of the most confident debut movies I’ve seen from first time directors. It’s directed incredibly well and in such a stylish way, you can pick up on some iconic stylistic choices and see how it would influence their later movies. It is great seeing the Wachowskis work with a smaller scope instead of the big and grandiose action and sci-fi genres and stories that they are known for. It is small in scope but is so polished at the same time. It has a low budget of $6 million but every technical aspect is perfect. Bill Pope shoots this movie incredibly well, and the camera work with the high angle shots and close up shots felt very professional for a debut film. The editing is great and adds tension when needed, especially in the last two third of the movie. It is very well scored by Don Davis (who would also compose the scores for the Matrix movies), and the sound design fits well for this simplistic story.

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Bound is a bold and confident debut from Lana and Lilly Wachowski, and a great movie in itself. The acting particularly from Tilly, Gershon and Pantoliano is great, the story is tight and captivating, and it’s directed very well. As much as the Wachowskis are known for their big budget movies, I would love to see them work with smaller scale material again. At this point, I’m pretty sure Bound is my favourite movie from them so far.