Category Archives: Crime

Death on the Nile (2022) Review

1199746

Death on the Nile (2022)

Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Tom Bateman as Bouc
Annette Bening as Euphemia
Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot
Russell Brand as Linus Windlesham
Ali Fazal as Andrew Katchadourian
Dawn French as Mrs. Bowers
Gal Gadot as Linnet Ridgeway-Doyle
Armie Hammer as Simon Doyle
Rose Leslie as Louise Bourget
Emma Mackey as Jacqueline “Jackie” de Bellefort
Sophie Okonedo as Salome Otterbourne
Jennifer Saunders as Marie Van Schuyler
Letitia Wright as Rosalie Otterbourne
Director: Kenneth Branagh

Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot’s Egyptian vacation aboard a glamorous river steamer turns into a terrifying search for a murderer when a picture-perfect couple’s idyllic honeymoon is tragically cut short.

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

I will admit myself as someone who liked Kenneth Branagh’s take on Murder on the Orient Express, even if it had its issues. So I was on board for Branagh’s next adaptation of a Hercule Poirot story with Death on the Nile. I didn’t really know what to expect going in, I just knew of the cast and premise. However it just kept being delayed for a number of years, and I began to lose interest. It finally released and again it opened to mixed reactions and again I enjoyed it, even with its issues.

Death-on-the-Nile-cast-fd09643

Death on the Nile isn’t a great detective mystery film, but its pretty good for what it was. For me, the clearest issue was that the death at the centre of the mystery doesn’t happen till the halfway point, whereas in Murder on the Orient Express it happened by the end of the first act. While Death on the Nile gives us a considerable amount of time with the characters before the murder happens especially in contrast to the last movie, it’s a bit too much. There’s a long boat ride before it reaches that one death, and I couldn’t help but feel rather bored. When that death does finally happen, that’s where Death on the Nile really picks up as our lead detective tries to unravel the mystery. I was locked in and interested to see the twists and turns. However, I will say that the climax did feel a bit rushed. Also as someone who hadn’t read the book, with the way its presented in the movie, the twist was very easy to predict. One thing you’ll probably notice when watching the movie is that it might be taking itself a little too seriously. The previous movie also took itself seriously but there was lot more fun to be had with it. Here, it’s pretty dark from beginning to end and I’m not sure it always works, even if there’s little bits of humour. Even the ending was a bit of a downer. There are certainly some strange choices but I kind of admire them in a way. For example, there is an actual origin story for Poirot’s moustache in the prologue that’s played deadly seriously and honestly that could be a litmus test for whether the movie works for you or not. Also, like Orient Express (2017), there’s definitely a lot of cheesy, campy and over the top elements but I enjoyed those, if anything I wished it leaned into those elements more here.

Film Review - Death on the Nile

On the whole the cast is pretty good, even if they aren’t as strong as the cast from Murder on the Orient Express. Kenneth Branagh reprises his role as detective Hercule Poirot to perfection, and has great chemistry with the whole cast. Again, he plays the character in a humorous and entertaining way but we also get to see more of his dramatic side here, and Branagh plays it well. The cast of murder suspects are fairly generic here, but the acting was pretty good for the most part. Tom Bateman’s Bouc is the only cast member from the last movie to return outside of Branagh, and he gets even more to do more here. A lot of the cast members were good, with the highlights being Annette Bening, Emma Mackey and Sophie Okonedo. Gal Gadot and Armie Hammer were the worst performers, but they weren’t enough to take me out of the movie entirely.

DEATH ON THE NILE

I liked Kenneth Branagh’s direction of the previous Poirot movie and the same is true with Nile. The cinematography is dazzling and impressive, every shot is colourful and pristine, especially with the scenes on the Nile and on real location. However the CGI is very noticeable and distracting at times, and there is a lot of CGI. Patrick Doyle also returns to do the score and it is good, matching the vibe and setting of the movie quite well.

death-on-the-nile-3

As someone who liked Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express, I enjoyed his Death on the Nile almost as much. It has a decent cast with an intriguing murder mystery, and a very flashy style that I enjoyed, even if you wouldn’t put it among the best films in its genre. Overall it’s a solid if slightly unremarkable bit of detective fiction. However, I will say that the hour long build up to the central murder really let the movie down quite a bit, but I still enjoyed it for what it was. If you liked Branagh’s last Poirot movie, then I recommend giving his adaptation of Death on the Nile a look.

No Sudden Move (2021) Review

Brody-NoSuddenMove

No Sudden Move

Time: 115 Minutes
Cast:
Don Cheadle as Curt Goynes
Benicio del Toro as Ronald Russo
David Harbour as Matt Wertz
Jon Hamm as Detective Joe Finney
Amy Seimetz as Mary Wertz
Brendan Fraser as Doug Jones
Kieran Culkin as Charley
Noah Jupe as Matthew Wertz Jr.
Craig Grant as Jimmy
Julia Fox as Vanessa Capelli
Frankie Shaw as Paula Cole
Ray Liotta as Frank Capelli
Bill Duke as Aldrick Watkins
Director: Steven Soderbergh

In 1954 Detroit, small-time criminals are hired to steal a document. When their heist goes horribly wrong, their search for who hired them — and for what purpose – sends them wending through all echelons of the race-torn, rapidly changing city.

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

I was interested in No Sudden Move for the talent involved alone. This is Steven Sodebergh’s latest movie, I like the movies from him that I’ve seen, and this would be another crime movie from him.  Not only that but it has a fully stacked cast including Don Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro, so I definitely wanted to check out. I was expecting an entertaining watch, and it turned out even better than I was expecting.

download

No Sudden Move has a tightly written and solid script, making for a really good crime thriller. It is tense, smart, intriguing and filled with twists and turns, which you would expect from a Steven Soderbergh movie. Not only that but it also manages to balance the humour and playfulness with the engaging intensity and grittiness of the story and setting, and I was enthralled the entire way through. The dialogue is particularly strong, it is witty which you would expect from a Soderbergh movie, but its also very reminiscent of a classic noir film in the way everything is written. There’s even some social commentary on display, mainly towards corporate greed, classism and particularly with a lot of cynicism towards automobile industry corruption. That really only comes out strongly towards the end of the movie, but even without it, No Sudden Move works as a twisty crime thriller. It’s not exactly tightly paced but it moves well over its 2 hour runtime.

David-Harbour-in-No-Sudden-Move

There is a large ensemble cast and everyone brought their A-game to their performances. Don Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro are in the lead roles, and they are great in their parts. David Harbour gives one of his best performances in his supporting role, and Brendan Fraser makes a strong impression in his screentime. Other supporting actors like Kieran Culkin, Jon Hamm, Ray Liotta and more all work in their parts. There’s even a surprise major actor who appears in a key role near the end, who actually works very well for his part.

nsm_cb_102920_selects_1427_0

There is some very solid filmmaking from Steven Soderbergh here. This is easily one of his best shot films with its eye catching cinematography, and the lenses give it the 50s noir aesthetic with the right amount of grain, setting the period correctly. It is a very stylish movie that’s really nice to look at. The score from David Holmes is nice too, adding a lot to the mood and feeling of the movie, especially with the era it is set in.

scale_1200

No Sudden Move is a consistently entertaining, smart and stylish crime thriller, well written and directed, and with some great performances from the amazing cast. One of Steven Soderbergh’s best films, especially in recent years.

Nightmare Alley (2021) Review

_xlarge

Nightmare Alley

Time: 150 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Graphic violence, cruelty, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Bradley Cooper as Stanton “Stan” Carlisle
Cate Blanchett as Lilith Ritter
Rooney Mara as Mary Elizabeth “Molly” Cahill
Toni Collette as Zeena Krumbein
Willem Dafoe as Clement “Clem” Hoately
Richard Jenkins as Ezra Grindle
Ron Perlman as Bruno
David Strathairn as Peter “Pete” Krumbein
Mary Steenburgen as Felicia Kimball
Director: Guillermo del Toro

In 1940s New York, down-on-his-luck Stanton Carlisle endears himself to a clairvoyant and her mentalist husband at a traveling carnival. Using newly acquired knowledge, Carlisle crafts a golden ticket to success by swindling the elite and wealthy. Hoping for a big score, he soon hatches a scheme to con a dangerous tycoon with help from a mysterious psychiatrist who might be his most formidable opponent yet.

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

Nightmare Alley was one of my most anticipated movies of 2021. It is Guillermo del Toro’s latest film, one which is comparatively less horror based compared to the rest of his filmography, and is instead more of a noir. Add on top of that a fantastic cast including Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, and you have a movie with a lot of potential. It seemed to have been receiving mixed reviews and hadn’t been doing well at the box office, which is a real shame because I actually thought this movie was great.

NA_02045.ARW

I didn’t watch the original Nightmare Alley film, nor did I read the book it was based on, I went into this having only seen the trailers. Nightmare Alley is by far Guillermo del Toro’s most grounded film with no fantasy elements whatsoever. “Man is the real monster” seems to be the recurring theme in most of del Toro’s films and that certainly is the case with Alley now that there are no monsters of the fantastical variety to be seen here. With that said, it is a strong contender for del Toro’s darkest movie yet. It is very much a grim and slow burn noir mystery. The premise isn’t completely new, its another “hustler gets in over his head” kind of story, but I was really interested. I found the seedy and sinister story compelling and engaging, and I really liked the psychological aspect to it. The characters were well written and quite interesting, so I was invested throughout. It also has a very memorable and haunting ending, and one of the best scenes from the past year. Darkness aside, the other things that might turn off some people are the pacing and length. The plot is more drawn out than you would think given the premise. For example, if you’ve seen the trailers then you know that Cate Blanchett’s psychiatrist character plays a notable part in the plot, and she does. However, she appears for the first time about over an hour into the movie, so that should give you an idea how slowly the story moves. I don’t have a problem with it being a slow burn, even if there are some pacing issues, especially in the first half. The pacing does help to immerse the audience into the dark atmosphere that it’s building. The first act is definitely slower as it mostly takes place in a carnival setting, however when you’re watching it for the first, time you don’t really know where it is going. However, there is a reason why the movie lingers on these particular scenes earlier on. I think a rewatch would help you notice a lot more and understand why it focused on certain things, especially as there’s a lot of foreshadowing.

Brody-NightmareAlley

There is an excellent cast in this movie, and everyone makes strong impressions in their parts. Bradley Cooper plays the lead character of Stanton Carlisle and he’s great. He does a very good job at embodying all the shady qualities necessary for his carnie character. This is definitely one of Cooper’s best performances, and his final scene could actually make it his best. There is a strong supporting cast, Rooney Mara, Willem Dafoe (wonderfully scene chewing as always), Toni Collette, Richard Jenkins, Ron Perlman, David Strathairn, Holt McCallany, all of them are great in their parts, not a weak link even if some characters get more chances to shine than others. If there’s a standout among them however, it would be Cate Blanchett as a psychiatrist in a femme fatale sort of role. She does a great job, has an incredible screen presence, and almost steals the entire movie. Her scenes with Cooper are some of the highlights from the movie. I actually wished that we got more scenes with her.

FGBwsNlXMBE4G4r

Guillermo Del Toro directs and as usual he does a great job, with a lot of visual imagination on display. Even if you’re not into the story, you’ll surely like the visuals. There is some striking cinematography from Dan Lausten, with great use of colour, lighting and shadows, with some incredibly memorable imagery. The production design is magnificent, and the costume design is on point. The sound design works excellently, and the score from Nathan Johnson is one of the best from the past year. All of these come together to create a fantastic gothic atmosphere and look.

16428121671610

Nightmare Alley will probably end up like Guillermo del Toro’s own Crimson Peak, a very different movie from his filmography which has mixed reactions upon release, but will receive a lot more appreciation over time. As it is, I thought that Nightmare Alley is possibly one of his best movies. The cast of performances are excellent, the story is slower paced but engaging and wonderfully twisted, and its all crafted and directed well. If you can, I highly recommend you seek out Nightmare Alley, it is definitely one of my favourite films from 2021.

The Card Counter (2021) Review

Brody-CardCounter

The Card Counter

Time: 111 Minutes
Cast:
Oscar Isaac as William Tell
Tiffany Haddish as La Linda
Tye Sheridan as Cirk
Willem Dafoe as Major John Gordo
Director: Paul Schrader

William Tell (Oscar Isaac) is a gambler and former serviceman who sets out to reform a young man seeking revenge on a mutual enemy from their past. Tell just wants to play cards. His spartan existence on the casino trail is shattered when he is approached by Cirk (Tye Sheridan), a vulnerable and angry young man seeking help to execute his plan for revenge on a military colonel (Willem Dafoe). Tell sees a chance at redemption through his relationship with Cirk.

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

I had been hearing about The Card Counter for a while, it would be Paul Schrader’s next movie starring Oscar Isaac in the lead role. I liked Schrader’s writing work on Martin Scorsese’s movies like Bringing Out the Dead, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, and I really liked his last directed movie First Reformed. So I was looking forward to what he would do with The Card Counter and he didn’t disappoint.

The-Card-Counter-–-first-look-review

As you can probably predict already, The Card Counter is yet another character study from Paul Schrader about a lonely protagonist with degrees of self-destructive behaviours (like Taxi Driver and First Reformed) and is suffering with guilt and suicidal tendencies. You might say that the story is treading familiar ground and there are certainly similar themes especially when it comes to morality, but I found it compelling nonetheless. The film does a good job at getting into the mindset of his character, and we learn more about him and how he’s trying to leave behind a past he can’t escape. The plot might seem to meander a bit as it is about Oscar Isaac’s character going from place to place with Tye Sheridan playing cards and gambling while interacting with people, and we learn more about him during this. However I was invested in what was happening all the way through. Don’t watch the incredibly misleading trailer, the film is nothing like how it represents the movie and you’d be only doing yourself a disservice. Despite the title and about the main character being a gambler, it’s very much not that kind of movie. Essentially, The Card Counter is about consequences and guilt, with focus on the acts of torture during the War on Terror. It’s particularly about the problems that veterans face and the responsibility in systematic torture at Abu Ghraib prison, especially when it comes to Isaac’s character and how he was involved. The Card Counter is firmly a slow burner and is very meditative, so don’t expect that hour and 50 minute runtime to fly by. However I thought that pacing really worked for the film.

AQAC37BFBmiHe433snUvlw7L6_VE5J4l56A7jyBAcjKDr2HAaJ_mh6lszxse6K8aUsQI2XgAX_SxAJLXBaoHHsmcnT4

There’s a great cast in this movie, and everyone plays their parts well. Schrader’s next troubled protagonist William Tell is played by Oscar Isaac and this might be the best performance I’ve seen from him. He’s very believable and convincing, coming across as calm, mysterious and slick on the outside, but there’s clearly some stuff simmering beneath the surface. He’s superb in the part and carries the movie excellently. There’s also a really good supporting cast in Tye Sheridan, Tiffany Haddish and Willem Dafoe. Sheridan gives one of his best performances as a younger man who Tell tries to steer onto a better path. Haddish was a great counter to Isaac, she’s very different to him which makes their relationship so much more interesting. Dafoe is only in a few scenes but plays a critical role and as usual plays his part fantastically.

2400

Paul Schrader directs, and his work here is great. He certainly uses familiar techniques, such as the voice over from the protagonist. It even has scenes of the protagonist lying in his bed or writing in a journal at a desk paired with a liquor of their choice (just like First Reformed). Nonetheless it fitted very well with this story. It’s a very well shot movie, I particularly liked the long takes, and some of the visuals could even be hypnotic and dreamlike. The two highlights for me were a long take passing through a prison with a fish eyes lens, and the other has Oscar Isaac and Tiffany Haddish at a light show which was visually stunning to watch.

merlin_194009259_c99df4d3-2a38-4e7c-b128-b444fe7c34c8-superJumbo

The Card Counter is a stylish, layered and thematically rich character study. It’s excellently written and directed by Paul Schrader, and has great performances from the cast, especially from Oscar Isaac in the lead role. It’s definitely not for everyone, as I said it’s a slow burn character drama, not a fast paced ‘gambling movie’. However, if you’ve like some of Schrader’s other work like First Reformed, I think you’ll enjoy The Card Counter.

Bleeder (1999) Review

bleeder-1999-02

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.

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

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.

Bleeder-1999

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.

tumblr_ny4brydqi91tdeug4o2_1280

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.

MV5BNGE0Mjk5NmYtNjg4Ni00ODY5LWEyYzAtZWE2OTE4YmE4NjViXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjUyNDk2ODc@._V1_

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.

backdrop-1920

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

pusher-iii-im-the-angel-of-death[2]

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.

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

I 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.

tumblr_p0ek084Z4Z1wk1wdpo2_1280[1]

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.

pusher-3-2[1]

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.

MV5BOTRjZTc3YmYtZTE5Mi00MGFkLWIwNjEtY2I4NTRmNmRhZDM2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjI3Mjc5NzQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1497,1000_AL_[1]

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.

vlcsnap-2015-04-11-15h37m39s964[1]

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

2GH0AHM

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.

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

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.

HOUSE of GUCCI

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.

Brody-House-of-Gucci-Review

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.

Lane-HouseofGucci

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.

wTxUNxAjzG4ic3kzPlVNbuotoF7

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

HAWKEYE

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.

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

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.

APT-106-13920_R

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.

MV5BMjM3YmYwNWItMzhmNC00ZjQzLWJiZTEtZDA3MzZlODNiOTFiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyODc0OTEyNDU@._V1_

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.

3a4057834a5a44179c43e3babe31b7d0

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.

yelena-hawkeye-1-1638978814

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.

HAWKEYE

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

RED NOTICE

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.

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

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.

download

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.

RED NOTICE

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.

RED NOTICE

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.

rednotice1-videoSixteenByNineJumbo1600

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

funny-games-1997

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.

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

I 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.

2-9

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.

Funny-Games-1997-01-03-08

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.

oje15WpRhIxgtLNLQheLtvBYpECdW6

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.

XPLx5TlfBQY9NQychSbYWTGVPUqwKk_original

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.