Category Archives: Crime

Serpico (1973) Review

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Serpico

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains offensive language
Cast:
Al Pacino as Frank Serpico
Director: Sidney Lumet

Frank Serpico (Al Pacino) is an idealistic New York City cop who refuses to take bribes, unlike the rest of the force. His actions get Frank shunned by the other officers, and often placed in dangerous situations by his partners. When his superiors ignore Frank’s accusations of corruption, he decides to go public with the allegations. Although this causes the Knapp Commission to investigate his claims, Frank has also placed a target on himself. The film is based on a true story.

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I heard a lot about Serpico going into it, it’s a highly praised movie about the real-life story of a police officer who is going up against police corruption. The film is directed by Sidney Lumet and stars Al Pacino in the lead role of Frank Serpico. The movie certainly lived up to the acclaim that its being receiving.

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This biopic covers the years of 1960 to 1972 and retraces Frank Serpico’s undercover career as he tries to clear corruption from the police force, while coming up against roadblocks and people who want him out of the way. The script is tight and absorbing, the story is told in a very real way, and it had me engaged throughout. Its actually incredible that its an biopic it doesn’t get bogged down by melodrama, its essentially a character study of a man trying his best to change a system that has no inclination to change. There is a real sense of doom and danger throughout its runtime, even when you know that Serpico is still alive by the end of the movie. His stance against police corruption made him a target for his fellow officers, and you really feel his paranoia and stress along with him. The script remained largely focussed on the real life issues at hand, and a lot of these topics are still relevant all these decades later. Serpico can be a frustrating movie to watch, but definitely in a good way, you get really invested in Serpico’s efforts. The movie can be a little slow at times, but it handles the 130 minute runtime well considering that there are multiple events, storylines and characters it has to cover and follow.

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Al Pacino is brilliant in the lead role of Frank Serpico, a good cop caught in a bad system. Despite it being a biopic about him, Serpico not portrayed as a saint or a martyr. He’s shown to be quite flawed, conflicted, and is very compelling to watch. Pacino gives a charismatic and empathetic performance here, and he really conveyed the stress and strain the character is under. His performance also doesn’t feel overplayed for dramatic effect, it feels very real and authentic. The supporting cast all do a good job in assisting Pacino, but make no mistake, he is the star of the show here.

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The direction from Sidney Lumet is fantastic as expected. It’s very well shot and edited, and it all feels very real and grounded, doing particularly well at setting itself in 1970s New York. The score also adds to the atmosphere, its quiet and mellow and really fits the movie quite well. I even like how the passage of time is conveyed through Serpico’s hair length.

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Serpico is a very well crafted biopic and crime drama. The story of its title character was compelling to watch, Sidney Lumet’s direction is great, and of course Al Pacino gives a phenomenal performance here, some of his very best work. I wouldn’t say it quite measures up to some of Lumet’s other movies like Dog Day Afternoon or 12 Angry Men, but it is still a great movie and one that is worth checking out.

Inside Man (2006) Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022) Review

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The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Straw Dogs (1971) Review

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Straw Dogs (1971)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ambulance (2022) Review

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Ambulance

Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Jake Gyllenhaal as Danny Sharp
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Will Sharp
Eiza González as EMT Cam Thompson
Director: Michael Bay

Needing money to cover his wife’s medical bills, a decorated veteran teams up with his adoptive brother to steal $32 million from a Los Angeles bank. However, when their getaway goes spectacularly wrong, the desperate thieves hijack an ambulance that’s carrying a severely wounded cop and an EMT worker. Caught in a high-speed chase, the two siblings must figure out a way to outrun the law while keeping their hostages alive.

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I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest Michael Bay fan, but I liked the movies that I saw from him. Ambulance is his latest movie, starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jake Gyllenhaal. From the trailers, it looked like it could be a lot of fun, so I went into it open minded. While I do have my issues with the movie, I really enjoyed it, even more than I expected to.

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This is definitely Michael Bay’s take on a heist movie, you feel it through and through and that’s what made it stand out for me. The story and script are fairly simple and nothing original, it isn’t one of the best of the genre. The plot can be predictable, and the writing can be cheesy, especially with the dialogue. As you can expect with this being a Bay movie, it’s over the top and implausible, even outside of the action and destruction. There are particularly some moments involving surgery which are laughably farfetched. However, it’s approached in a certain way that these silly moments make it fun to watch, it clearly isn’t aiming for realism. In some ways its comparable to some of the action movies from the 80s and 90s. There is also a sense of self-awareness to it, even having a scene where it references two of Michael Bay’s own movies. There is a good amount of humour and quirky characters (some of them are hit or miss), but it’s also Michael Bay’s most emotional movie, especially with the stories of the main three characters. It is a bit overlong at 2 hours and 15 minutes, it would’ve be better if it was cut down a little. While everything involving the main trio of characters are captivating, the unnecessary flashbacks and the amount of time focused on the random supporting characters definitely pads out the runtime. From the moment that the characters get on the ambulance, the movie doesn’t stop. I will say though that before the actual heist, the pacing is a bit too slow.

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I thought that the performances are quite good. Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II play 2 bank robbers and brothers and are very good in their parts. Gyllenhaal is wonderfully unhinged and insane in his part, giving it a lot of energy. Yahya is great as a guy who gets stuck in the situation and conveys his desperation greatly. Eiza Gonzalez completes this trio of main characters as an EMT caught up in the heist as a hostage while trying to keep someone alive in the ambulance. She really is the heart and soul of the movie, she gets a lot to do here. She goes through her own arc, and she pulls it off convincingly; it’s the best acting work and role I’ve seen for her. There’s also a fair amount of decent supporting performances in their memorable roles. While there is a bit too much screentime given to them, they are fun.

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You can definitely tell that this is a Michael Bay movie with his direction. I have to say, it is nice to see a blockbuster released these days where you can actually feel the filmmaker’s style throughout.  While Bay’s trademarks and habits do make expected appearances, Ambulance is comparatively restrained, and it works. The budget is fairly modest compared to most modern blockbusters at $40 million, yet it is better directed and unique than most modern blockbusters. The cinematography might not work for some people, there is an overuse of handheld cameras, but I liked it. Something that’s definitely present throughout is the use of drones for filming action. It’s not just a substitute for helicopter shots of the city. Along with floating and dropping the camera around the city, the camera zooms in and around the action as the carnage unfolds. The drone work is spectacular, you even see the drone fly under a car as its going over a ramp at one point. It’s a Michael Bay movie, so as you would expect the action is over the top and no one does destruction like him. The action is intense, and there’s a lot of violence end destruction. There’s plenty of high speed chases (90% of the movie is a chase) with car rolls, shootouts and explosions. At times the chaos can be a bit too much but I’m glad for it. Another thing that helps is Lorne Balfe’s composed score which elevates the tension. All these technical elements came together to make for a satisfying cinema experience for me.

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Ambulance certainly won’t work for everyone, especially for those who strongly dislike Michael Bay’s style. But I for one thoroughly enjoyed it. It does have its issues, mostly with the writing. It could’ve been shorter, some of it is a bit messy and at times it is too implausible for its own good (even if I enjoy it for that). However, the performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul Mateen II and Eiza Gonzalez as well as Michael Bay’s unique direction, style and action made this for an enjoyable movie. For what it’s worth, it’s one of Bay’s best movies.

Blood Simple (1984) Review

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Blood Simple

Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language & sex scenes
Cast:
John Getz as Ray
Frances McDormand as Abby
Dan Hedaya as Julian Marty
M. Emmet Walsh as Lorren Visser
Samm-Art Williams as Meurice
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

A man (Dan Hedaya) hires detectives to find out whether or not his wife (Frances McDormand) has been cheating on him. He orders the detective (M. Emmet Walsh) to kill her off if his suspicions turn out to be true.

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I knew of Blood Simple as being the first film from Joel and Ethan Coen, I liked a lot of their movies so I wanted to check it out. In all honesty I wasn’t really expecting much from it, despite hearing some positive things about it. However Blood Simple was a good film along with being a great debut movie from the pair.

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Blood Simple is a moody and seedy crime thriller, and an effective neo-noir. You can actually see glimpses of what the Coen Brothers would do later on in their careers, especially with the writing style. Tonally it does lean more into their serious crime work like No Country for Old Men, despite featuring some dark humour. While this movie doesn’t have the memorable characters or amazing dialogue you’d find in the Coen Brothers’ later movies, the writing is still great, so was the dialogue. The plot is simple enough and isn’t too expository, while playing around with characters perspectives. It is one of their most suspenseful movies, with the feelings of anxiety and paranoia gradually increasing over the course of the movie, and the plot wasn’t predictable. The final act is particularly tense. There are also little bits of dark humour blended in earlier in the movie. I will say that the characters in this movie aren’t exactly great, especially when compared to the characters in the Coen’s other films. All the characters are simple with like one trait each. So although the performances are good, I didn’t really care for the characters. It does take its time getting into the movie because the pacing is quite slow despite the fact that it is 90 minutes long, but I settled into it eventually.

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As I just said, the characters aren’t as memorable or impressive, at least when compared to the other characters that the Coen Brothers have written in other movies. Nonetheless, the performances are great. Frances McDormand gives an excellent performance in one of her early roles. M. Emmet Walsh is also impressive as the private investigator, who initially comes across as an unlikable goofball, but also turns menacing, and he balances both aspects of his character very well. The acting definitely makes up for the actual writing of the characters.

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The direction perfectly compliments the writing, and Blood Simple was a stylish and technically impressive debut that feels assured. The budget is definitely on the lower side at around $1.5 million, and it’s not as polished as their later work but you sort of expect it. It is gorgeously shot and has some great cinematography from Barry Sonnenfeld, from the camerawork and movements to the lighting and the use of neon. The scenes of tension and violence are also excellently crafted, with the final sequence being one of the most thrilling sequences that the Coen Brothers have ever filmed. Carter Burwell’s score is also memorable and really captures the film’s essence.

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The Coen Brothers have definitely made better movies than Blood Simple, but it is a very assured and solid directorial debut, and one that contains all the ingredients that made their later films so great. If you are a fan of them as writers and directors then it’s definitely worth watching, but it’s also worth watching if you are a fan of crime and noir thrillers in general.

Kimi (2022) Review

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Kimi

Time: 89 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] 
Cast:
Zoë Kravitz as Angela Childs
Director: Steven Soderbergh

A tech worker with agoraphobia discovers recorded evidence of a violent crime, but is met with resistance when she tries to report it. Seeking justice, she must do the thing she fears the most: she must leave her apartment.

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I heard about Kimi, Steven Soderbergh’s next movie starring Zoe Kravitz in the lead role. I heard some very positive things about it, and I was interested. I was surprised at how great it was, an effective thriller with tense sequences. It’s short and sweet and good for what it is.

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Kimi is tightly and sharply written, very well constructed and put together. It really is the paranoid surveillance thriller updated for the modern age. The movie puts you right in the position of the protagonist played by Zoe Kravitz, you really feel her anxiety and everything she goes through. One thing very notable aspect about the movie is it takes place during the COVID-19 pandemic and incorporates that into the plot. While that might give some people pause considering the numerous unwanted movies based around the pandemic that have been releasing over the past couple of years, I thought Kimi handled it well and it didn’t feel heavy handed. It felt appropriate enough for the movie, and while it could’ve worked without the pandemic aspect, it does somewhat add to the character’s fear of going outside. The pacing is pretty smooth, there is a steady build up in the first act as it establishes the setting and the main character, some might be bored with that first section, but I thought that it achieved what it needed to. However, it really picks up after the first act when the protagonist is forced to leave her apartment. The final act is satisfying but a bit out of place and was very different in tone, like it is from a different movie. The ending was fine but also did feel a bit too neat and tidy. At 89 minutes Kimi is short and sweet. It could’ve been longer and explored the themes and topics it briefly touches upon over the course of the movie, but I do really like how straightforward and simple it was.

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Zoe Kravitz is in the lead role, and this is very likely her best performance yet. Playing a tech worker with agoraphobia, Kravitz keeps you hooked from beginning to end. She conveys her anxiety effectively and her physicality is particularly effective, especially when she’s walking and running around outside. So much of this movie is riding on her performance, and she more than delivers. I will say that the rest of the cast aren’t anything special and are serviceable at best. However, this is really Kravitz’s movie.

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Steven Soderbergh’s direction is strong, very stylish and unique. Soderbergh is excellent at building up tension, particularly with the use of visuals and sound. The camerawork is fantastic with effective camera angles, particularly with amazing uses of low angle shots (mainly during the chase scenes). It has impressive and immersive sound design, little things like sound changes when Kravitz puts on or removes headphones just really add to the experience. Also helping is the solid score from the ever-reliable Cliff Martinez, whose score really add something to the tone and feeling of the movie.

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Kimi is a tense and tight thriller, very well constructed on a writing and directing front, made better by an incredible lead performance from Zoe Kravitz. There are some issues like the third act feeling out of place and most of the supporting cast being fine at best. Outside of that, it is really good and worth checking out.

The Seventh Seal (1957) Review

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The Seventh Seal

Time: 96 Minutes
Cast:
Gunnar Björnstrand as Jöns
Bengt Ekerot as Death
Nils Poppe as Jof
Max von Sydow as Antonius Block
Bibi Andersson as Mia
Inga Landgré as Karin
Åke Fridell as Blacksmith Plog
Director: Ingmar Bergman

Max Von Sydow stars as a 14th century knight named Antonius Block, wearily heading home after ten years’ worth of combat. Disillusioned by unending war, plague, and misery Block has concluded that God does not exist. As he trudges across the wilderness, Block is visited by Death (Bengt Ekerot), garbed in the traditional black robe. Unwilling to give up the ghost, Block challenges Death to a game of chess. If he wins, he lives — if not, he’ll allow Death to claim him.

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The Seventh Seal was known one of those “greatest movies of all time” that I just hadn’t gotten around to watching just yet. I had seen some of the images from the film with the knight playing chess with Death, and that was literally it. I also hadn’t seen a movie from director Ingmar Bergman before, so really going into the movie, I really didn’t know what to expect. The Seventh Seal was actually an excellent film, and I was invested in it more than I thought I would be.

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The Seventh Seal is essentially about a knight who contemplates an endless number of questions about the existence of God, death and life in the midst of the black plague that hit his hometown. We follow him and other different characters that he comes across while continuously playing a literally game of life and death through chess with Death personified. The movie really delivers on being a fantastical philosophical drama that’s complex and intriguing. The film touches on a lot of topics including, faith, religion, death and existence of God. The movie is filled with intelligent, contemplative and memorable dialogue, raising questions in regard to what life means, the uncertainty of what happens after death, and approaches the concepts of mortality and death. The themes are certainly depressing yet riveting, and also puts life into perspective in a unique philosophical way. The movie surprisingly didn’t feel that depressing since it had a relatively light tone most of the time. The movie has some fun moments, and even silly moments that you wouldn’t initially expect in this movie. There’s quite a lot of humour (mostly dark humour) injected into what could’ve been a purely solemn film about death. I would not class this movie as a comedy by any means, but the humour brings a lightness to its subject manner and certainly makes it easier to watch. It is very satirical and entertaining all things considering. The Seventh Seal might be known an art house movie, but it’s more accessible than you would think. The dialogue, conversations and themes alone are intriguing enough, and is entertaining and filled with enough lightness that you can access it. The short runtime of 97 minutes also helps the movie along, while the plot isn’t particularly driven by anything for the most part and is plotless, it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

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The acting is also wonderful too. Max von Sydow’s performance as Antonius Block, the knight and main character in this movie, and he’s amazing in this role. Gunnar Bjornstrand plays Block’s squire, and stands out with his charisma and wittiness, definitely a large source of the comedy in the movie. Ingmar Bergman makes Death a walking, talking character in this movie, which provides for some very interesting conversations. Bengt Ekerot plays him, and he’s truly great and memorable, a real presence on and off screen.

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This is the first movie I’ve seen from Ingmar Bergman, and from this movie alone I can tell he’s an excellent filmmaker. This movie contains some beautiful cinematography with its spectacular lighting (the use of natural light is particularly fantastic) and monochrome look, as well as stunning and instantly iconic imagery. The locations and set designs are utilised exceptionally well too. The score was memorable and appropriately used throughout. Something that Bergman does well is make Death as a concept feel present throughout, even when Bengt Ekerot isn’t on screen.

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I liked The Seventh Seal much more than I expected to. It covers darker topics and themes like life and death, while also being quite intriguing and even entertaining to watch. It’s helped even further with the strong performances and the excellent direction from Ingmar Bergman. Even if you think that you might not get into it, I do recommend at the very least giving it a look.

Heat (1995) Review

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Heat

Time:  170 minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Al Pacino as Lieutenant Vincent Hanna
Robert De Niro as Neil McCauley
Val Kilmer as Chris Shiherlis
Jon Voight as Nate
Tom Sizemore as Michael Cheritto
Diane Venora as Justine Hanna
Amy Brenneman as Eady
Ashley Judd as Charlene Shiherlis
Mykelti Williamson as Sergeant Bobby Drucker
Wes Studi as Lieutenant Sammy Casals
Ted Levine as Detective Mike Bosko
Director: Michael Mann

Lieutenant Hanna (Al Pacino), a detective, decides to catch a highly intelligent seasonal criminal (Robert de Niro) who has vowed to pull off one last robbery before he retires for good.

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Michael Mann’s Heat is one of the most significant films of the 90s. I remember watching the movie for the first time many years ago, I remembered liking it quite a bit, but not much more beyond that. Having rewatched Heat now, it was actually way better than I remember. It’s a long yet fantastic crime thriller from beginning to end, directed excellently, and with an engrossing story and great performances.

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The screenplay for Heat is fantastic, the story is nothing short of intense, suspenseful and engrossing from its opening scene all the way to the end credits. The 2 hour and 50 minutes runtime is admittedly a bit daunting especially going into the movie for the first time, but the time flew by so fast and it never dragged because of its fast paced story. It’s really impressive how many small details about characters and the plot are really conveyed here. The movie also has a lot of subplots, but surprisingly they don’t feel overdone, instead they added quite a lot to the film. The dialogue is also amazing, there are so many stand out scenes of characters just talking. Looking at the premise, Heat could’ve easily fallen into the same category that other cops and robbers movies fall into. Despite the genre it is in, Heat makes an effort to stay clear of cliches. Michael Mann adds a great amount of humility and realism to the story and characters. Each character is fleshed out fantastically, even the smaller side characters. It may be a crime film, but it deals with a lot more than just the crime and robberies, it is very much a character driven movie. The story is especially great with how it treats its lead two characters. Heat is essentially the fascinating story of two men who are consumed with what they do and share striking similarities despite being on opposite sides of the law, playing a game of cat and mouse and utilising their talents to stay one step ahead. The movie itself is already very thrilling to watch as a crime thriller, but its also compelling watching their relationships to their occupations and personal lives. It really is a tale of lonely people within their own fields slowly touch with the world around them, it is more melancholy than you’d initially expect it to be. The final act is pretty much perfection, as the chase comes to an end in a satisfying climax.

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Heat is known for being the first movie where Al Pacino and Robert de Niro are in the same movie and share screentime together. The acting from the two is excellent, both fitting their characters very well. Al Pacino is explosive and magnetic as Hanna the cop, and Pacino really gives him such a depth that makes him one of the actor’s most fleshed out characters. Robert de Niro as McCauley the thief is thorough and collected, and he has such a great on-screen presence. These two legendary actors don’t share much screen time in the film, but the movie does a good job at making you really wait and anticipate it. The iconic café scene where the two finally meet face to face for the first time is spectacular, I won’t say much more beyond that as everything that can be said about that moment has been said already. From the basic setup of characters, it could be easy for any filmmaker to turn Hanna into a hero figure and McCauley into an antagonistic force, but Mann and the two actors never lets the film succumb to this, and they did a good job at not making it purely black and white all the way through with regard to their characters. The rest of the cast are great, in fact this movie is stacked to the roof with stars. The cast includes Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Ted Levine and more, all of them playing their parts very well.

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Michael Mann’s direction is simply fantastic through and through. First of all, Dante Spinotti’s cinematography is mesmerising and gorgeous. Every scene is beautiful to watch, especially the scenes that take place at night. Heat is especially known for its heist sequences and for very good reason. They are spectacularly directed, tense, and full of adrenaline, and they also feel so realistic. The sound design is excellent, with the sounds of loud bullets and the clicks of the guns and more being almost deafening, in a good way. Additionally, Heat has a fantastic score from Elliot Goldenthal, which can be very tense but it also knows when to be calm and serene based off the moments its used in.

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Michael Mann has directed many outstanding films but Heat really is his magnum opus, and it’s easy to see why its so iconic and had a massive influence on other movies made since then. It really is fantastic on all fronts with writing, directing and acting, all of it is pretty much perfection. Absolutely essential viewing.

The Batman (2022) Review

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The Batman

Time: 175 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, cruelty & offensive language
Cast:
Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle/Catwoman
Paul Dano as Riddler
Jeffrey Wright as James Gordon
John Turturro as Carmine Falcone
Peter Sarsgaard as Gil Colson
Andy Serkis as Alfred Pennyworth
Colin Farrell as Oswald “Oz” Cobblepot/Penguin
Director: Matt Reeves

Batman ventures into Gotham City’s underworld when a sadistic killer leaves behind a trail of cryptic clues. As the evidence begins to lead closer to home and the scale of the perpetrator’s plans become clear, he must forge new relationships, unmask the culprit and bring justice to the abuse of power and corruption that has long plagued the metropolis.

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The Batman has been one of my most anticipated movies ever since it was announced. I’m always interested in Batman movies, and I was particularly invested in this latest film’s development. It already had my attention with Matt Reeves directing, his work on the Planet of the Apes films showed him to be an amazing director, and that had me greatly confident in him taking on the Batman character. Then it had a fantastic cast including Jeffrey Wright and Paul Dano, but most of all it had Robert Pattinson, who’s next to helm the role of the iconic Batman character. The Batman was amazing and did not disappoint.

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The Batman is first and foremost a detective movie, taking inspiration from noirs and murder mysteries like Se7en. We’ve seen Batman doing detective work such as in The Dark Knight, but nothing quite like this. It is so committed to being a noir detective story, Batman looks through diaries, and files, searches evidence and decrypts riddles, and not just in a one off montage scene where he figures everything out instantly. There’s even narration from Batman throughout, it throws you into the noir ambience and makes it feel like a graphic novel brought to the big screen. On top of that, the detective work keeps you genuinely engaged. It is definitely a dark story, it constantly feels bleak and grungy, with scenes reminiscent of Zodiac, Se7en, and even Saw. At the same time, it is hopefully and inspirational by the end, and I love the journey that Batman goes on. Also, despite the darkness and grimness, there’s an element of embracing the goofiness that you just don’t see in most comic book movies (at least without the self-awareness and snark). There’s also a decent amount of comedy, whether that be Batman and Gordon’s interplay, some of Penguin’s lines, or the dark comedy of the Riddler. The script does an excellent job at balancing all these characters and plays its story at a steady pace, taking its time. It also helps that it feels self-contained and more concerned about being a movie over being an entry in a franchise. The first two acts are very much a detective story, but the third act does feel different as it gets larger scale and with much more action, but I still really enjoyed it, on top of being a satisfying conclusion to the story of Batman in the film. It is a very long movie at 3 hours, it potentially could’ve been trimmed, but if I had the choice to do so, I wouldn’t cut anything out. In terms of issues, there is a moment towards the end of the movie which did feel a little out of place compared to the rest of the movie, however I didn’t dislike it.

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The cast are great all round and fit their parts well. First and foremost is Robert Pattinson who plays Bruce Wayne/Batman. There was a split reaction to the casting, but as someone who’s seen some of his post Twilight movies like Good Time and The Lighthouse, I was greatly looking forward to his portrayal of the iconic character, and he did not disappoint. Pattinson here portrays a younger Batman, 2 years into his vigilante career. This is a Bruce Wayne who can’t balance Batman and Bruce, instead living as Batman most of the time and is otherwise is a recluse as Bruce. Many Batman live action stories have the whole “Batman is his true face” aspect but Pattinson’s leans into that the most. As a result, this is the most amount of time you’ll see Batman (not Bruce Wayne) on screen in a Batman movie. You could say that it is a minimalistic performance, but it is fitting for this version of the character, and Pattinson still conveys a lot, whether he’s playing Batman or Bruce. Pattinson accurately portrayed so much of the character, the torment and trauma of Wayne, as well as the physical presence and detective skills of Batman. I particularly loved Batman’s journey here and the arc he goes on, and Pattinson’s performance conveys that wonderfully.

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The rest of the cast are great too. Zoe Kravitz plays Selina Kyle/Catwoman and so far, she might be my favourite version of the character. It helps that this is the best written Selina Kyle yet and given layers and depth, and Kravitz also shares really good chemistry with Pattinson. Jeffrey Wright plays James Gordon, and is a very strong contender for the definitive version of the character. We’ve seen Gordon and Batman team up in the movies, but they have a full on buddy cop team up here, and I loved the dynamic that he and Batman have. Andy Serkis plays Alfred Pennyworth, he’s only in select scenes but makes memorable impressions in each of his scenes with Pattinson. I will say though that he doesn’t quite get enough screentime, and I would’ve liked to have seen more of him. I thought that the villains overall were effective. John Turturro was great as crime boss Carmine Falcone, quietly menacing in a rare villain role for him. Colin Farrell is an absolute scene stealer as The Penguin. He is unrecognisable both with the physical prosthetics put on him and his performance. He is entertaining and funny, and very reminiscent of a Italian gangster cartoon, while not becoming too silly. However, the main villain of the movie is Paul Dano as The Riddler. This is definitely one of the darker and more unsettling adaptations of the character, less the goofy Jim Carrey Riddler and is more of a serial killer here, even his costume is reminiscent of the Zodiac killer’s appearance. Dano gives one of the best comic book movie villain performances. He is genuinely scary, unstable and captivating, even when we don’t really get to see his face all that often. While the Riddler has often been considered a bit of a joke, I think this version will bring more respect to the character.

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I had confidence in director Matt Reeves and once again he has handled a blockbuster like this amazingly. Outside of occasional moments of using blur a bit too much, the cinematography from Greig Frasier is stunning, even giving it a comic booky look at times. The movie leans into the noir aspect, especially with the rain and darkness and I love that vibe. I really liked the representation of Gotham, especially with the production design and sets, helping to make the setting feel incredibly lived in. The Batman isn’t as focused on the action scenes compared to the other Batman movies but the action scenes are entertaining and well filmed, from the fight scenes to the car chases. There’s even some good horror elements with chilling imagery, especially with the Riddler, even some of his elaborate traps were very Saw-like. Another strong aspect is the phenomenal score by Michael Giacchino which is possibly his best work yet. It has a presence throughout and ranges from being dark and moody to uplifting and hopeful. It could very much be the definitive Batman theme, which is saying a lot.

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The Batman was phenomenal and incredibly satisfying. There’s a lot to take in from the 3 hours that I watched, but I loved it all. The whole cast were perfect in their roles, the direction from Matt Reeves is strong with a clear vision, and the overall it was an intriguing detective noire and a compelling Batman story. As someone who just about likes every version of Batman in film that I’ve seen, from Tim Burton’s films from the 80s to Zack Snyder’s from the past decade, I think this just be my overall favourite. It is a strong contender for the definitive Batman movie and the definitive Batman portrayal in Robert Pattinson.