Category Archives: Drama

Old (2021) Review

Old

Old

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, horror scenes & content may disturb
Cast:
Gael García Bernal as Guy Cappa
Vicky Krieps as Prisca Cappa
Rufus Sewell as Charles
Alex Wolff and Emun Elliott as Trent Cappa
Thomasin McKenzie and Embeth Davidtz as Maddox Cappa
Abbey Lee as Chrystal
Nikki Amuka-Bird as Patricia Carmichael
Ken Leung as Jarin Carmichael
Eliza Scanlen as Kara
Aaron Pierre as Mid-Sized Sedan/Brendan
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

A thriller about a family on a tropical holiday who discover that the secluded beach where they are relaxing for a few hours is somehow causing them to age rapidly reducing their entire lives into a single day.

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Old was one of my most anticipated films of the year. I am a fan of M. Night Shyamalan, I know that his movies aren’t for everyone and there are a few of his films which don’t really work for me personally. On the whole though, I like his movies. There was a lot of mystery surrounding Old but I knew it was a thriller about aging set on a beach starring Thomasin McKenzie and Vicky Krieps, and it was directed by Shyamalan, so I was interested in how it turned out. I actually really liked it a lot.

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Some have described Old as being Twilight Zone esque and while I’ve never watched the show, I can kind of get what they mean. The plot is fairly straightforward and fairly predicable at times, but has a high concept that they take advantage of, the horror of inescapable aging. The movie is about time as to be expected, with plenty of themes about growing old, experiencing major moments in life in a short time, and effectively is a meditation on time despite being a thriller first and foremost. In most Shyamalan films there is a level of sincerity to how seriously they take the story, and that goes a long way here. The movie is a family drama, and while this dynamic and concept has been in many movies (including horror thrillers), it was handled quite well here. This is one of Shyamalan’s darkest movies, but it also has a lot of heart in it, and it nails the emotional aspect of the story. I face found the story gripping on the whole. In terms of issues with the writing, it does have Shyamalan’s trademark awkward and artificial sounding dialogue as expected. However at this point I accepted it as a Shyamalan thing, if you’re used to it from his other movies, then Old won’t be too hard to get through. The movie has this general level of weirdness to it but I find that it helps the movie have an off kilter feel to it. There are some moments which are funny but some of those feel intentional. I know that a lot of people will compare Old to The Happening, but the former definitely does things a lot better. The invisible horror certainly works a lot better in Old, perhaps because of the existential nature of the rapid aging in the movie. I will say that the tone is a little messy and all over the place. There is indeed a twist as to be expected from Shyamalan, and I think the twist is just okay within the context of the story, but it is one that I’ll need to think about. It does have a big exposition dump and an odd tonal shift that makes it feel out of place, otherwise I was fine with it.

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This movie has quite the talented cast, and I thought that everyone performed their parts greatly. The main family is greatly played by Gael Garcia Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Alex Wolff and Thomasin McKenzie. They had strong chemistry between them and they really felt like a family. The rest of the cast including Rufus Sewell, Abbey Lee, Ken Leung and Eliza Scanlen were also really good in their parts. The performances of the actors playing children who age up quickly (Wolff, McKenzie and Scanlen) particularly do very well at portraying older versions of the children while believably capturing the mentality of the younger people they were hours before. Vicky Krieps, Thomasin McKenzie and Rufus Sewell were the standout performances to me.

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M. Night Shyamalan’s direction is really solid, I think this is some of the best work he’s one on a technical level at the very least. He definitely excels at his smaller scale movies, and this is certainly one of his smallest movies, with it mostly taking place on a beach. Speaking of which, the setting of the beach was great and there were some stunning shots, and certainly a notable amount of use of blocking to hide certain things and capture characters’ perspectives. Shyamalan does a lot with the claustrophobia of the setting and being trapped there, much like how the characters feel. Most of the movie doesn’t have anything overtly violent but when it does, it is effective. There’s even a surprising amount of body horror and in those moments, Shyamalan lets it loose and gets more gnarly than I was expecting it too. Finally, the score works very well for the movie.

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I have heard some people say that Old is M. Night Shyamalan at his absolute ‘most’, and I can sort of see why. If you aren’t a fan of many of Shyamalan’s movies, there might be some aspects about it that might not work with you, from some clunky dialogue, weird tonal changes, and odd story and technical choices. However, I actually quite liked the movie and found it entertaining, the actors were great, I was invested in the story, and it was very well made. It is definitely a divisive movie, but I think it’s worth checking out. It is possibly among Shyamalan’s best films.

Thirst (2009) Review

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Thirst

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Horror, violence, sex scenes & offensive language
Cast:
Song Kang-ho as Sang-hyun
Kim Ok-bin as Tae-ju
Kim Hae-sook as Mrs. Ra
Shin Ha-kyun as Kang-woo
Park In-hwan as Priest Roh
Song Young-chang as Seung-dae
Oh Dal-su as Young-du
Director: Park Chan-wook

Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho), a priest working for a hospital, selflessly volunteers for a secret vaccine development project intended to eradicate a deadly virus. However, the virus eventually takes over the priest. He nearly dies, but makes a miraculous recovery by an accidental transfusion of vampire blood. He realizes his sole reason for living: the pleasures of the flesh.

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I was interested in Thirst by the mere fact that Park Chan-wook directed it. I was interested to see how a vampire movie by Park would be. Additionally, I really like Song Kang-ho as an actor, and so him playing the lead here interested me greatly. Thirst is one of the most unique vampire movies I’ve seen, it might be a little overloaded with what it tries to do, but overall, I thought it was quite good.

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As I said earlier, Thirst is a unique take on the vampire genre. The film takes many familiar gothic tropes and utilises them and plays around with them in a interesting way. Despite these tropes being quite traditional and the story structure having been used many times before, the film still manages to feel distinct. As a vampire story it stands out, and the transition from human to vampire was told in a compelling way. With that said, calling Thirst merely a vampire movie would be doing it a disservice. It really is a blend of different genres and elements including horror, drama and comedy, with the end result being a gory psychological horror romantic thriller (and even that doesn’t quite do it justice). The story puts the main character in an interesting dilemma as he goes on a very dark journey when he becomes a vampire. The characters are very well developed, especially the two lead characters, and the story is suspenseful. The writing is strong, with sharp and witty dialogue. Thirst is also weirdly funny like some of Park’s other movies, or really a lot of other dark South Korean thrillers in general. There’s a certain level of quirkiness throughout. This movie is filled to the brim with thought provoking themes and complex topics that Park takes on. The movie deals with love, passion, belief, sin and desire, and portrays the darker side of humanity. Also Thirst places at a close second for most passionate and erotic films from Park Chan-wook right behind The Handmaiden (the film’s title of Thirst really does have a double meaning). I will say that it really does feel like Thirst is trying to cover a lot, most of it works but at times it feels like it is trying to handle too much. Thirst is also definitely a slow burn, it’s very deliberately paced and seems to meander early in the movie. It also does feel quite long, and potentially it could’ve been a little shorter.

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Another strong aspect of the movie is the performances, which are fantastic. Song Kang-ho gives a stellar performance as the lead character of a priest in crisis who becomes a vampire who struggles to hold onto his urges. Song Kang-ho embraces all the emotions his character is going through, and convincingly conveys all the conflicts that he has over the course of the movie. It’s not just him however, Kim Ok-bin also excels in the role of a housewife who goes through her own transformation into someone very different from where she started. It was thrilling to watch and was convincingly done, she really shines in the second half especially. The chemistry between the two were good, their dynamic was one of the shining points of the movie. These characters are complex and feel human, helped both by the writing and acting.

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Park Chan-wook directs this, and it’s no surprise that it’s so great on a technical level. There are some gorgeous visuals, with great cinematography and camerawork, and the set and costume designs are top notch. Also worth noting is that despite this being a vampire movie, Thirst has the recurrent colour of blue across the movie instead of red. There are some hallucinations at certain points in the movie and they are filmed quite creatively. There are lots of blood as to be expected given it’s a vampire movie and one directed by Park, and the effects are really good. The editing and the score round out the rest of the technical elements and are great in their own rights.

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Thirst may be a bit long and try to tackle a little too much thematically, but on the whole it’s a great and unique take on vampires, and a great psychological romantic horror thriller. Park Chan-wook directs it excellently, the story is engaging and has a lot going on, and the lead performances from Song Kang-ho and Kim Ok-bin are fantastic. If you like vampire movies, horror movies and/or Park Chan-wook movies, I highly recommend checking it out.

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2006) Review

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I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK

Time: 107 Minutes
Cast:
Rain as Park Il-soon
Im Soo-jung as Cha Young-goon
Director: Park Chan-wook

After his bloody `revenge’ trilogy, Korean director Park Chan-Wook directs this deliriously daft rom-com. Young-goon (Im Soo-jung) works in a maddening dead-end job making transistor radios. Flipping, she insists she is a cyborg and that she only needs to lick batteries for sustenance. She is sent to a psychiatric ward where she is befriended by schizophrenic kleptomaniac Il-Sun (Rain). The two damaged souls fall in love.

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I first heard of this movie from it’s very distinct and weird title, which definitely made it stand out. Then I heard that Park Chan-wook directed it which interests me, the movies I had seen from him are great, and I never heard of I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK before. I decided to check it out for Park’s involvement alone. It definitely wasn’t what I expected, and while I don’t love it, I do think it’s quite good.

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This movie is basically a romantic comedy that takes place in a mental hospital and about a girl who thinks she’s a cyborg, and much of the movie spends time with her going out with another patient. The story is not unfamiliar, focusing on humans who are longing to connect in a world of malnourished relationships. It’s definitely the lightest of Park’s movies if only because of how dark all his other movies are. With that said still, it does have some Park elements, a little bit of revenge and some darker moments. It is a very quirky and bizarre movie, absurd, creative and with a lot of humour, yet heartfelt and sensitive. It does have quite a bit of charm to it, and it’s like if you mixed Amelie with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and it was directed by Wes Anderson. Most the characters in the movie are confirmed to be insane and are largely impossible to identify with, but they are still fully realised and complex characters. Something interesting is that compared to other similar movies, it’s less focused on these people escaping or trying to find sanity, instead focusing more on them accepting themselves, trying to find happiness and carry on. Whether you like this film depends on if you like atmospheric films and if you like the atmosphere of this particular film. Quite frankly, not a lot happens plot wise even when stuff does happen. The story was the characters, so your enjoyment also depends on how engaged you are with the characters. To be honest, the movie doesn’t connect with me that much. It does try to be whimsical very hard, and the quirks weren’t enough to keep me engaged. The humour wasn’t quite my thing either and didn’t always work for me. The movie is just following two idiosyncratic characters in a mental institution doing their own things for 90 minutes and that wasn’t enough for me. The characters don’t do a lot other than being weird and I wasn’t particularly interested in them. It is also a little too cartoony and light to actually get into it (surprising really). I will however give credit to the portrayal of mental health patients in this movie, they aren’t victimised or villainised. Despite being an absurd and quirky comedy, they display them in a somewhat serious way.

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Generally I thought the acting was good. The highlights were the leads in Im Soon-jung and Rain playing the roles of Cha Young-goon and Park Il-soon respectively, the former being a woman who believes to be a cyborg, and the latter a patient who is a thief. They both do great jobs in the lead roles and have a comfortable and believable chemistry in the forefront.

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Park Chan-wook is a great director and once again his work is great here. The technical aspects definitely help the movie work as well as it does. There was a lot of energetic and creative work behind the camera, with some stellar cinematography. The use of colour was fantastic, and the production design was stellar. The fantasy sequences definitely go all out and are very fantastical and over the top, which is fitting considering that most of the movie takes place from Young-goon’s perspective and mindset. Finally, the score is great and really fits the movie well.

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I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK is currently my least favourite film from Park Chan-wook but it’s by no means a bad movie. It’s acted well, its charming and I’m glad I watched it. I guess it just wasn’t for me, I wasn’t as invested with the story and characters as I would’ve liked, maybe I just prefer Park when he’s doing darker movies. The movie isn’t quite for everyone, if you’re not a big fan of movies with any degree of quirkiness, I’m not sure you’ll get into this one. However if you like any of Park’s other movies I do think it is at least worth checking out.

The Handmaiden (2016) Review

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The Handmaiden

Time:  145 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language and sex scenes
Cast:
Kim Min-hee as Lady/Izumi Hideko
Kim Tae-ri as Maid/Nam Sook-hee
Ha Jung-woo as Count Fujiwara
Cho Jin-woong as Uncle Kouzuki
Director: Park Chan-wook

With help from an orphaned pickpocket (Kim Tae-ri), a Korean con man (Ha Jung-woo) devises an elaborate plot to seduce and bilk a Japanese woman (Kim Min-hee) out of her inheritance.

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I had heard so many people highly praising The Handmaiden. I decided to check it out based on that alone, not really knowing much about the movie outside of the fact that Park Chan-wook directed it. Overwhelming fantastic is how I would describe the movie. Virtually every element of this is phenomenal, and it was amazing to watch.

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The writing is admirable and impressive, with a twisty, clever and unpredictable script. It is intricate, methodical and quite complex, but also enthralling and by the end satisfying. The plot starts off simple enough with the plot following a pick pocketer posing as a handmaiden for a wealthy heiress as part of a con. Over time however, this plot develops into something bold and quite different from how it starts, it subverts expectations throughout and it wasn’t what I expected at all. This character driven plot is engaging, constantly turning and heightening. I went into this movie blind and that was the best way to approach this. I won’t talk too much about the story so you can experience it for yourself. To just classify it as a con artist film would be really selling it short, there’s so much that happens in this movie. This film has a lot of elements to it, it’s tonally all over the place but finds cohesion and balance among everything that’s here. There’s strong drama, with dark thriller (almost horror) elements throughout. However, there’s a lot of dark humour mixed in, and The Handmaiden also really is a love story. Something noteworthy about the movie is the non-linear structure, which keeps you guessing about how it would progress, and changes your perception of the events of the movie. By the time you reach the end of the first third, you’ll know that you’re watching something special. The movie is slower paced and long, but the way the plot reveals its secrets is what makes the almost 2 hours and 30 minute runtime fly by. The Handmaiden is also an erotic thriller, with a large amount of sensuality and sexuality which can be a bit overbearing at times, yet that aspect is also really handled well surprisingly. The film doesn’t start off being that crazy like some of Park’s other movies but make no mistake, it is a wild movie from beginning to end.

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On top of the writing, the performances are terrific as well and make this already fantastic movie even better. The highlights are the leads in Min-hee Kim and Kim Tae-ri, who share some great chemistry, and with their relationship being in the forefront of the movie. The characters are quite complex and interesting, especially in Kim Tae-ri’s wealthy heiress character.

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Park Chan-wook directs this film, and I think that this might be his best work. I think that this movie is pretty much perfect on a technical level. Every moment feels deliberate, patient and fully realised. The cinematography is gorgeous and mesmerising, every shot is masterfully framed and set up. The costumes and production designs are well detailed and exquisite and feel accurate to the time period the film is set in. The editing is also strong, with particularly some really good transitions. Finally the score from Jo Yeong-wook is relaxing, tender and fantastic as well. All around, it is a technically masterful film.

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The Handmaiden is excellent and arguably Park Chan-wook’s best film. Near perfect from start to finish, the story and writing is complex and subversive, the acting is wonderful, and the direction is absolutely stellar. It is genuinely one of the most finely crafted movies I’ve seen, and one that I want to revisit.

Wide Awake (1998) Review

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Wide Awake

Time: 88 minutes
Cast:
Denis Leary as Mr. Beal
Dana Delany as Mrs. Beal
Joseph Cross as Joshua A. Beal
Rosie O’Donnell as Sister Terry
Timothy Reifsnyder as Dave O’Hara
Robert Loggia as Grandpa Beal
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

A fifth grader (Joseph Cross) goes on a search for God after his grandfather (Robert Loggia) dies. Along the way he gets into tons of trouble at Waldron Academy an all-boys school.

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Most people first learned about M. Night Shyamalan upon the release of The Sixth Sense, which became an instant hit and the point where his career took off. What most people don’t know is that The Sixth Sense wasn’t his directorial debut but rather his third movie, having made two prior movies that not many people heard of with Praying with Anger and Wide Awake. Both are pretty hard to gain access to, but I managed to watch the latter. Being overshadowed by later films aside, there’s also a good reason why Wide Awake is not really heard of. Despite being made in 1995 (and written in 1991), Harvey Weinstein basically buried the film’s release with the distribution, and was not released until 1998 (1 year before The Sixth Sense was released). Honestly I wasn’t expecting much based off the premise, although I was interested to see how Shyamalan started before his first hit. The movie wasn’t actually that bad, although I wouldn’t call the movie good either.

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The premise of Wide Awake does sound like a premise of a lifetime movie about religion, and much of the actual movie feels like that. With that said, the premise did have potential, it could’ve been about exploring grief from perspective of a child. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really do anything interesting. The movie consists of the main kid trying to speak with God, having doubts and then something makes him believe again. Most of the time the movie is spent at the catholic school and at his home with occasional flashbacks of him hanging out with his grandfather. The themes were heavy handed with no subtlety at all. Not that every movie needs to feature their themes in a subtle way but for this topic it needed to be handled with a degree of nuance. However this is a movie where the main character literally Googles “Who’s God?”. The subject matter is presented clumsily and overly sentimental, with a whole lot of cheese. It never reaches a level of profoundness. The journey of the lead character’s search for God and answers isn’t particularly interesting. Spoiler alert, it pretty much ends up with “God works in mysterious ways”. It’s a very bland movie with very little surprises, and the characters and writing feel rather fake. The writing for the children especially doesn’t actually feel like what children that age would do or say. Despite aiming to be touching and moving, ultimately it feels rather hollow and doesn’t really leave any impact. Even the attempts at humour fall flat. Despite how bland the story was, in some ways I found the movie weirdly interesting in some of the odd choices it made. It especially felt odd that this 10 year old kid is having this desire to find God, so it was somewhat intriguing at first to see what they would do next. However by the time it reached the third act, I wasn’t into it any more. One way it does feel like a Shyamalan film is a twist at the end, which was certainly a weird choice to make that really didn’t add anything to the movie.

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The acting is nothing special, it’s functional and not bad, but nothing really worth mentioning. Generally, the acting of the children was surprisingly okay for the most part, the writing for them however is weird because some of these 10 year olds speak with so much self-awareness that it’s unbelievable. Joseph Cross does relatively well in his part of the lead character. Nothing much to say about the adult actors, I will say that despite Rosie O’Donnell being on the cover art of the film, her character of a baseball loving nun basically doesn’t have much involvement with the plot.

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As I said earlier, M. Night Shyamalan directs Wide Awake, and there is basically no hint of Shyamalan from this one movie. He’s definitely still learning as a filmmaker and it does have some technical missteps. There is so much voiceover throughout, with the main character constantly giving internal exposition about the past and his feelings. It can get overbearing and annoying really quickly. The cutesy and quirky score can get a little annoying too. On the whole though it is competently made, some shots are nicely composed, and I wouldn’t say it’s a badly directed movie.

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Honestly the most interesting part of the movie is the fact that M. Night Shyamalan made it at all. That is probably what kept me somewhat patiently staying with this movie, without his name attached I probably would’ve given up on it earlier on. That aside, it’s a very mediocre yet harmless Hallmark movie that’s quite forgettable. I would actually put this as one of Shyamalan’s worst movies, though keep in mind I only dislike a few of his movies. Wide Awake is honestly not worth checking out unless you’re interested in seeing how he started as a filmmaker.

All the President’s Men (1976) Review

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All the President's Men

Time:  119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Robert Redford as Bob Woodward
Dustin Hoffman as Carl Bernstein
Jack Warden as Harry M. Rosenfeld
Martin Balsam as Howard Simons
Hal Holbrook as “Deep Throat”
Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee
Director: Alan J. Pakula

During the 1972 elections, two reporters’ investigation sheds light on the controversial Watergate scandal that compels President Richard Nixon to resign from his post..

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I’ve always known All the President’s Men as being “the one movie about Watergate”, and I remembered holding off on watching it because it was long, it was from the 70s and I didn’t know if I would be as into it despite the acclaim. However I did watch it, and was surprised at how good it was on pretty much every front.

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All the President’s Men is about the journalistic approach to the story, with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in pursuit of the news story. The layers of the story are peeled back as the film goes on, revealing the truths about the Watergate Scandal. The writing is great and it really was key to the movie working. It is definitely a slow burn, so you do need to know that going in, but thankfully I found the story very compelling to follow. The scope of this story is large, and the script deserves a lot of credit for making this complex and dry tale accessible and easy to follow for audiences. At the same time, it approaches the subject matter without needlessly adding subplots or other aspects to spice up the movie. It almost plays like a detective story at times more so than a journalism story, and manages to mix dry fact with intrigue perfectly, making sure that we are engaged and never lose the plot. It really lets the audience feel like they’re putting together the pieces along with Woodward and Bernstein. The constant stream of information can occasionally be a little much, but the fact that it is quite accurate to true events and you can understand most of it is impressive. It is a procedural for sure, but probably one of the best procedural films ever. It does feel authentic in both the discoveries made as well as the journalistic process, and I like the amount of detail in what is said and what is shown on screen. For example, you get to see the way that Woodward and Bernstein play out how they try to get certain pieces of information, and how they interact with the people they are questioning; very well done and fascinating to watch. Every scene truly means something and has a reason for being there, despite the long runtime. A lot of the movie is dialogue and its great, especially with the deliveries from the cast. It keeps your attention for the entire runtime and each conversation is right to the point. The film is also surprisingly thrilling to watch at times, despite it being a movie about journalism. If there’s a criticism I have with the movie, it’s that the ending is a little too abrupt, that’s it though.

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The acting from everyone is also great, but it’s the two leads who drive the story and stand out the most. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman are incredible and invested in their roles of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and share great chemistry together. You get completely wrapped up in their motivations and they feel very natural in their parts, never overselling it. The supporting cast including Jack Warden, Jason Robards and Hal Holbrook also do work well in their parts.

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The movie is directed by Alan J. Pakula, and his work here is great, covering this story as effectively as possible with lots of visual and audio details in every scene. The cinematography conveys the scope and size of the story, with everything from landscape shots to shots of a simple phone call looking really good. The editing is quite efficient and gets you wrapped up in the story even with all the details being thrown at you. Pakula’s direction also does well as helping you feel the paranoia that the main characters feel as the story continues.

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All the President’s Men is an astonishingly well made film, efficiently directed, greatly performed by its cast, and with a fantastic script which makes what could’ve been a boring and dull movie, into an engaging and intriguing experience. Even though most of us already know what happens at the end, it was still compelling to watch this whole story play out. For sure one of the best movies about journalism.

Castle in the Sky (1986) Review

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Castle in the Sky

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Mayumi Tanaka as Pazu
Keiko Yokozawa as Sheeta
Kotoe Hatsui as Captain Dola
Minori Terada as Colonel Muska
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Young orphan Sheeta and her kidnapper, Col. Muska, are flying to a military prison when their plane is attacked by a gang of air pirates led by the matronly Dola. Escaping from a mid-air collision via a magic crystal around her neck, Sheeta meets fellow orphan Pazu and the pair join forces to discover the mystical floating city of Laputa while pursued by both Muska and the pirates, who lust for the city’s myriad treasures.

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I wanted to watch more films from Studio Ghibli after loving the four I had already seen from them. The next one of their movies I decided to check out was Castle in the Sky, which seemed to be one of their earlier movies, and as it turns out it was the first film they produced. This probably isn’t one of Ghibli’s best, but it was quite entertaining and I enjoyed watching it.

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The plot of Castle in the Sky is a rather straightforward good vs evil adventure tale, but that doesn’t take away from how exciting and fun it is from beginning to end. The story is entertaining, fast paced, and filled with many different types of adventures and obstacles for the main characters to overcome. It has quite a bit humour, action, warmth, drama and imagination on display, and the story itself holds up to modern animation standards. The worldbuilding is also masterful and well done. Helping that is the fact that a lot of this world is left unexplained and leaves viewers to engage their imagination with it. There are also a number of memorable, likable and nuanced characters that are given quite a bit of depth, with the story essentially being held together by the bond and strong chemistry between its lead characters Paku and Sheeta. As with other Miyazaki/Ghibli movies there are some themes on display. The movie makes some strong statements against war and weaponry, and there’s a lot of environmentalist subtext too. Now in contrast with the previous Miyazaki/Ghibli movies I had seen, I didn’t find myself emotionally connecting with the story of Castle in the Sky, despite it being quite heartfelt and the characters being likable. My Neighbor Totoro, which didn’t connect with me as it did with other people, even seemed to resonate a lot more with me. It’s also not particularly complex or thought provoking. With that being said, as a thrilling adventure movie it delivers, and that’s really what I was expecting from it going into it, so I wasn’t let down or anything.

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Hayao Miyazaki directs this movie (this is actually his third film), and so I expected it to be wonderfully animated and well made, and I certainly got that from Castle in the Sky. The animation is pretty remarkable from beginning to end. The environments are fantastical and gorgeous, the colour scheme is stunning, the designs especially for the robots and transportations are fantastic, and there are some thrilling action scenes throughout. Now it’s not quite as fluid with the animation compared with some of the later Ghibli movies but that’s to be expected, and it’s already really good here (especially for a movie from the late 80s). The musical score from Joe Hiaishi is great too and really fits the movie really well.

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Castle in the Sky is a fun and fantastical adventure that I enjoyed from beginning to end, with memorable characters, a solid plot, and some thrilling sequences. I can already tell that it isn’t among Ghibli’s best work but it’s nonetheless a pretty good adventure. At the very least it hints towards the bright future of the studio, as well as Miyazaki’s later work as a filmmaker.

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) Review

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Kiki's Delivery Service

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating:  
Cast:
Minami Takayama as Kiki
Rei Sakuma as Jiji
Kappei Yamaguchi as Tombo
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

In this anime feature, 13-year-old Kiki moves to a seaside town with her talking cat, Jiji, to spend a year alone, in accordance with her village’s tradition for witches in training. After learning to control her broomstick, Kiki sets up a flying courier service and soon becomes a fixture in the community. But when the insecure young witch begins questioning herself and loses her magic abilities, she must overcome her self-doubt to get her powers back.

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Kiki’s Delivery Service was the second movie from Studio Ghibli that I watched, this was after watching Spirited Away, which I loved. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this movie, I just knew that it was about a young witch on her own and she has a black cat, I had also heard that’s recommended as one of the first movies to check out from Ghibli. I unexpectedly ended up loving it quite a lot, more than I thought I would.

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Something to note early is that everything about Kiki’s Delivery Service is just incredibly nice all around. Almost all of its characters are nice people, the narrative is comprised almost entirely of those nice people doing nice things, and the overall tone of the film is incredibly friendly and nice in the best way possible. This film is extremely relaxing to watch, it’s charming throughout and I loved every minute of it. It’s fairly plotless, and while I’m not always on board with plotless movies, I got invested in this one. It definitely concentrates more on characters over plot, and the characters are incredibly easy to like and are entertaining. It’s such a good natured and wholesome film as we just follow Kiki and Jiji the cat on a series of adventures. The stakes are incredibly low in this movie, there’s little to no conflict, yet somehow keeps your attention the entire runtime. There is no contrived villain or antagonist, or some forced plot-driven third act, it’s all just small-scale and intimate. When an external conflict does arrive later in the film (with actual life or death stakes), it doesn’t feel contrived and doesn’t overshadow the main internal conflict, instead working naturally with the rest of the story. Another strength of the movie is that Kiki is a fully rounded and believable character. The mixture of enthusiasm, boredom, excitement, and self-pity makes her unapologetically human. Additionally, it’s easy to relate to her. Many of us transitioning into adulthood and all the fears that come with it, handling independence, finding a job, trying to make friends, etc. Kiki has with similar experiences as other people growing up as she’s discovering her place in the world, it just so happens that she’s a witch as well. It’s a perfect coming of age story that everyone can relate to. It should be noted that most coming of age stories just don’t work that well for me, but this has to be one of my favourite coming of age movies. As a story about how hard it is to make your own way in the world, this movie is truthful and sincere. It manages to do all this while remaining consistently funny, optimistic and exciting.

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Kiki’s Delivery Service is excellently directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It wasn’t quite as creative as say Spirited Away, but is still visually and narratively beautiful, with a stunning colour palette. The environments are fairly familiar and not fantastical, but the movie really captures every location wonderfully.

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Kiki’s Delivery Service was such a wholesome experience, a delightful and optimistic yet sincere coming of age tale that I was invested in from beginning to end. I love this movie, and I can see this upon rewatches becoming firmly one of my favourite movies. Definitely watch it if you haven’t already, if you haven’t watched an anime film before, this is a great place to start.

Nobody (2021) Review

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Nobody

Time: 92 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Strong violence & offensive language
Cast:
Bob Odenkirk as Hutch “Nobody” Mansell
Connie Nielsen as Rebecca “Becca” Mansell
Aleksei Serebryakov as Yulian Kuznetsov
RZA as Harry Mansell
Christopher Lloyd as David Mansell
Michael Ironside as Eddie Williams
Colin Salmon as The Barber
Director: Ilya Naishuller

Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) fails to defend himself or his family when two thieves break into his suburban home one night. The aftermath of the incident soon strikes a match to his long-simmering rage. In a barrage of fists, gunfire and squealing tires, Hutch must now save his wife and son from a dangerous adversary — and ensure that he will never be underestimated again.

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I heard about of Nobody for a little while. It was an action movie from the people behind John Wick (written by Derek Kolstad and produced by John Wick director David Leitch), it also had Bob Odenkirk in the lead role and I liked the look from it from the trailers. It ended up being pretty good, honestly better than I expected it to be.

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At first, Nobody actually does play things surprisingly serious, at least more than I thought it would compared to the trailer. However that’s just the case in the first third or half of the movie. While it isn’t as comedic as the trailers would suggest, it definitely is self-aware. Overall I’d say that there is quite a good balance between the melancholy and fun elements. It has some over the top moments and it is implausible, but the movie doesn’t care too much about that, and those moments don’t really bother you either. There’s a decent amount of well executed comedy as to be expected. The action only increases as the film progresses, it particularly ramps up in the third act, and it’s very satisfying. The plot is somewhat contrived, and the plot points are unrealistic but again that’s not necessarily a bad thing and it doesn’t bother you. We have seen this type of story before especially in action thrillers, Russian gangster villains and all. The story is formulaic but is decent and executed well, which is helped by the good pacing. One of the immediate similarities that people will make is between this movie and the John Wick films, a comparison I deliberately held off making in this review. You definitely feel the John Wick similarities, but Nobody still makes itself distinct. For one it isn’t as interested in worldbuilding an elaborate setting like the John Wick films are, and keeps things a bit tighter in terms of scope. Also, John Wick’s revenge is one that generates sympathy from the audience and his return to the crime world comes after being forced back. In contrast to that, the reason for “Nobody” to return seems to be more that he’s bored, he’s wanted to return for a while, and the incident with the burglars breaking into his house just sparked his return (as well as the plot). You don’t connect as emotionally to the story or characters as the Wick films, but Nobody again is a different kind of movies. It’s a very tight movie and is 90 minutes long, and that actually was the right length for it.

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One of the strongest parts of the movie is Bob Odenkirk as the lead character of Hutch Mansell (who you can also call “Nobody”). He puts a lot of heart and soul into his performance and really brought this character to life. He’s convincing as someone who doesn’t seem capable of doing action, as well as convincing as someone who most certainly is. It definitely helps that Odenkirk did a lot of his own stunts. Although he is skilled like John Wick, Hutch feels like an everyman, he is imperfect and more human by being shown often to take a lot of damage (a particular fight scene on a bus is an example of this). On top of the drama and action aspects, Odenkirk also is great with the comedy, and some of the cheesier parts of the script become satirical with his delivery and works a lot better. He’s definitely up there in the category of ‘known middle aged actors who suddenly become action stars’ alongside the likes of Liam Neeson and Colin Firth, and I would actually like to see Odenkirk in more action films. The supporting cast are generally good. Connie Nielsen doesn’t really get much to do outside of being the ‘wife character’ in this sort of story unfortunately. Aleksei Serebryaskov plays the rather stock Russian gangster villain, however the performance is good enough and the character works well enough as an antagonist. RZA and Christopher Lloyd aren’t in the film a ton but definitely shine when they are on screen, and without giving away, Lloyd particularly is an absolute blast to watch.

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Nobody is directed by Ilya Naishuller, and his work here is good. His last movie was Hardcore Henry, an action movie that took place entirely from the POV of the main character even as he’s jumping around doing insane action choreography and stunts. This time, Nobody is a more conventionally directed film (in the sense that they don’t use GoPro cameras here), and I think this is a better movie overall. The action is great, brutal and bloody, definitely one of the strong aspects of the movie. It’s very well shot with a great use of camerawork and lighting. The choreography of the fight scenes are excellent, and the editing and pacing are on point. Much of the action is like the action from John Wick but it’s a bit different here, much less tactical and with more emphasis on hand to hand fights over gunfights (though there are differently plenty of action scenes involving guns in the film). There are also some gratifying needle drop moments with the soundtrack, and the score from David Buckley fits with the movie.

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Nobody is a fun action thriller, with a simple and familiar yet self-aware plot, some excellently filmed and directed action sequences, and a strong lead performance from Bob Odenkirk. It’s not terribly original but it really didn’t need to be, and works greatly as what it set out to do. There are potential for sequels even hinted in throughout movie, and I’d like to see them happen.

Seven Samurai (1954) Review

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Seven Samurai

Time: 125 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Toshiro Mifune as Kikuchiyo
Takashi Shimura as Kambei Shimada
Daisuke Katō as Shichirōji
Isao Kimura as Katsushirō Okamoto
Minoru Chiaki as Heihachi Hayashida
Seiji Miyaguchi as Kyūzō
Yoshio Inaba as Gorōbei Katayama
Yoshio Tsuchiya as Rikichi
Bokuzen Hidari as Yohei
Yukiko Shimazaki as Rikichi’s wife
Kamatari Fujiwara as Manzō
Keiko Tsushima as Shino
Kokuten Kōdō as Gisaku
Yoshio Kosugi as Mosuke
Eijirō Tōno as a thief
Jun Tatara as a coolie
Atsushi Watanabe as a bun seller
Director: Akira Kurosawa

A veteran samurai, gathers six samurais to protect a village from the cruel bandits. As the samurais teach the natives how to defend themselves, the village is attacked by a pack of 40 bandits.

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There were plenty of well-known famous movies that I knew of that I had yet to check out for myself, many of them were classics. Seven Samurai was one of them, and it was a bit intimidating and daunting going into it. It was a black and white movie, with aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it’s in Japanese and was 3.5 hours long. However I came out of the movie really loving it.

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The astonishing thing about Seven Samurai is that it seems far too modern for a film made in the 50s, it really can still compete with action films today. The length and the amount of time spent on characterisation and story might put off some of the audience, but I’d say that the film does enough to grip audiences even today. The story is told in two parts, separated by an intermission. The first part is about the initial plight of the villagers, the title characters being assembled to help the village, their arrival into the village, and the several tactics they come up with in preparation. The next part brings the bandits into play which ultimately culminates in a giant battle that tests both the samurais and the villagers. As said earlier, it is a little over 3 hours long which can be intimidating, but it makes great use of that runtime. The script is pretty much flawless, director Akira Kurosawa is incredibly patient in his approach to the story here, and his storytelling is strong. He’s never in a hurry as he builds up the premise slowly, taking his time on focusing on defining the village’s desperate situations before introducing the samurais. He also lets each scene play out gradually, and even infuses humour wherever he can. It really focuses well on all the characters and the situations, really fleshing them out. It’s an epic tale held together firmly by all seven major characters, each of them are given tremendous depth and arcs in the script. A lot of the character development is conveyed through events and dialogue that reveal truths about each of them. With so much attention invested into each of them, the entire story would deviate greatly if even one of them were removed. Despite the looming battle that’s anticipated, Seven Samurai isn’t simply about the battle at the end. It’s about two distinct groups of people that mistrust each other, but who work together. It’s easy to see how many films Seven Samurai has influenced: countless westerns and action films, or really any film in which a team is assembled to carry out a challenging task.

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Seven Samurai features a highly devoted cast, and every single one of them leave their imprint as their respective well developed and engaging characters. Many of the characters are very well fleshed out, but none of them stand out as much as two of the samurai. The first is the leader of the seven samurai, played excellently by Takashi Shimura as a veteran samurai, who commands quite a strong on-screen presence. The second is that of the character of Kikuchiyo played by Toshiro Mifune. The character is fascinating, funny and dominates just about every scene he’s in, and you want to learn more about him (and over time you do). From beginning to end, Mifune delivers a fierce and energetic performance that really stands out even among the other great actors. The rest of the supporting cast is no slouch and play their part very well too.

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This is the first movie I have seen from Akira Kurosawa, and from this alone I already know that he’s an absolutely masterful filmmaker. First of all, it’s shot very well. The cinematography does a great job in creating a very rich atmosphere, and the use of close ups, slow-motion and smooth manoeuvres with the camera are composed excellently. The location and settings also evoke an era reminiscent of its timeline. The editing is perfect too, for the mere fact that it keeps the audience’s runtime despite the demanding runtime. There are some spectacular action sequences, Kurosawa really gives the battle scenes a grand sense of scale. Watching it now, you can clearly see the influence that it has had on so many films since then. Lastly it boasts a memorable and effective background score that suits the story very well.

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Seven Samurai is definitely an influential movie that fully lives up to its enormous reputation, and it’s easy to see why it is considered to be a great achievement in film. The script is dense yet keeps your attention throughout, the characters are well developed and performed excellently by the cast, and Akira Kurosawa’s direction is masterful and ahead of its time. I understand that it is an intimidating movie to watch for the first time, but I do highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t already, it is absolutely worth it.