Category Archives: Drama

Crimes of the Future (2022) Review

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Crimes of the Future (2022)

Time: 107 Minutes
Cast:
Viggo Mortensen as Saul Tenser
Léa Seydoux as Caprice
Kristen Stewart as Timlin
Director: David Cronenberg

As the human species adapts to a synthetic environment, the body undergoes new transformations and mutations. Accompanied by his partner, celebrity performance artist Saul Tenser showcases the metamorphosis of his organs. Meanwhile, a mysterious group tries to use Saul’s notoriety to shed light on the next phase of human evolution.

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I was interested in Crimes of the Future. It looked quite intriguing, had a good cast which included Viggo Mortensen, Lea Seydoux and Kristen Stewart, but most of all, it would be David Cronenberg’s first movie in many years. Not only that but it would be a body horror movie, and the last one he made was in the late 90s. I’m glad to say that I quite liked this movie.

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Something worth noting is that David Cronenberg had previously made a movie called Crimes of the Future back in the 70s, although it seems that this new film has nothing to do with that. This newer film tells an intriguing and bizarre story that I was pulled into. It is certainly a weird movie with a strange potential future. Viggo Mortensen is essentially a man who can generate new internal organs and collaborates with Lea Seydoux as performance artists, with Seydoux removing said regenerated organs in front of live audiences. In Crimes of the Future, humans have adapted to live in a synthetic environment, with their bodies undergoing numerous transformations and mutations; most humans don’t even feel pain anymore. In this futuristic society, surgery has become performance art (which Mortensen and Seydoux takes part in). Cronenberg does some great worldbuilding, and it is an interesting setting to watch. It was a very unique vision of the future of human evolution, and I was interested in learning about this new world. Admittedly it can be full on, in the first hour alone it thrusts you into this world with so much jargon, and requiring you to keep up with the information provided so you can grasp what is happening.

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One of the most advertised aspects of Crimes of the Future was the body horror, not unexpected of course (especially with Cronenberg returning to this subgenre). So the trailers and images focussing on the gore and grotesque (including to by not limited to a man with ears all on his body) is somewhat understandable. That being said, its not quite the disturbing and graphic body horror that it was advertised as. It felt more like a dystopian sci-fi futuristic thriller with some body horror aspects and a good amount of neo-noir mystery elements. As for the body horror itself, it works to serve its concept and story and never feels like its there to provoke a reaction in the audience. That being said, if you don’t like body horror at all or can’t deal with gore, then you still won’t be on board with this movie. As you can expect, there is a lot happening thematically. There’s a clear fascination with the human body and how it evolves over time, and poses interesting and thought provoking questions. There are even little moments of humour throughout which accompany the bizarre nature of the movie wonderfully. The pacing is definitely slow, but I thought it worked; I wouldn’t want it to be rushed at all. Crimes of the Future was an hour and 50 minutes long, and honestly I wished that it was a little longer. It felt a little abrupt, to a degree I was hoping for more. I liked the note it ended on, but the story did feel incomplete. It left me wanting a sequel to see what would happen next, and I can’t tell whether that is a good thing or a bad thing.

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There is a good cast involved. Viggo Mortensen and Lea Seydoux are great as the lead characters, while Kristen Stewart is a scene stealer in a very meek yet creepy and twitchy performance as a voyeuristic bureaucrat. She left an impression, but I just wish she was in the movie more. Other actors like Scott Speedman also play their parts wonderfully too.

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David Cronenberg’s direction is on point as ever. The cinematography is outstanding and beautiful. That and the production design helped to convey the vision of the future excellently, and it feels very lived in. The practical effects, especially those involving the body, are fantastic. There are definitely moments of gore, but they are used sparingly and when appropriate. If you’ve seen some of Cronenberg’s other movies, Crimes of the Future doesn’t push boundaries on that front, in fact it feels comparatively tame. Howard Shore composes the score and its one of my favourites of this year as well as one of his best yet, and that’s saying a lot.

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Crimes of the Future is a welcome return to form for David Cronenberg. It’s a bizarre, fascinating, intriguing and thought provoking film, which is directed excellently and has some great performances from the cast. There are parts where I wanted more and it was a little incomplete, but I liked what we got. If you really don’t like body horror, then this won’t be one for you. With that said, don’t go in expecting a gore fest, it’s a lot more than just that. So far, Crimes of the Future is one of my favourite movies of 2022.

Elvis (2022) Review

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Elvis

Time: 159 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Drug use
Cast:
Austin Butler as Elvis Presley
Tom Hanks as Col. Tom Parker
Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla Presley
Helen Thomson as Gladys Presley
Richard Roxburgh as Vernon Presley
Director: Baz Luhrmann

Elvis Presley rises to fame in the 1950s while maintaining a complex relationship with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker.

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Elvis was a movie that intrigued me leading up to its release. I’ve only seen three of Baz Luhrmann’s movies, I enjoyed his divisive adaptation of The Great Gatsby, but straight up disliked Moulin Rogue and Romeo + Juliet (which are generally liked by people). I just couldn’t get into his style and while I liked some aspects, Baz seemed to be just a filmmaker whose style just wasn’t for me. Then after a very long time since his last released movie, it was announced that he would be making a new movie, that being a biopic of Elvis Presley. I’m not big on music biopics and I’m not big on Baz’s movies but somehow them being combined intrigued me greatly. I was curious to see how Luhrmann would approach it and at the very least, he would provide the movie with a distinct style within a subgenre that’s generally repetitive and dull. So I’m happy to say that I ended up liking Elvis far more than I thought I would.

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I wasn’t familiar with Elvis Presley beyond a few of his songs, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the movie, overall I was satisfied with what we got. During its first act I wasn’t sure about how I would feel about the film, it was just leaving us to come to grips with Baz’s style. That being said, I feel like the movie hit its stride after 30 minutes. At this point we really see Elvis, his upbringing, and his rise to fame. The movie does contain music biopic tropes in the sense that it has familiar rise and fall aspects, but that is just about impossible to avoid when the movie is based on the subject’s true life. Elvis isn’t the most complex of music biopics, there is certainly more emphasis on the spectacle and getting the spirit of Elvis. But for what it is, it works. I much prefer the movie capturing the spirit of Elvis over feeling like a Wikipedia page converted into a movie. The film really doesn’t have much of a structure; it more feels like a bunch of events and sections of Elvis’s life strung together and relying on the audience to be riding the high of the vibe. If I watched it again, I’m not sure I would enjoy it as much, but on my first viewing I liked it. It helps that there is a contagious and consistent energy throughout. I also found myself engaged with what was happening with the story, I even found myself emotionally invested. There are some questionable choices with the way that Baz Luhrmann decided to tell the story. These help to make the movie interesting at least (and distinct compared to the other music biopics out there), but there are still parts which I wasn’t entirely on board with. Probably the weirdest choice is the way the story is presented. From the beginning, it is narrated by Elvis’s manager Colonel Tom Parker as he presents his side of the story, and it’s like this throughout. It is an intriguing narrative decision, but I’m not really sure what the point of it was by the end. If Luhrmann were that insistent on having a narrator, I would’ve preferred it to be a random unknown person instead of making it Hanks. It is a very long movie at 2 hours and 40 minutes long, and in some ways, it pays off as it is trying to tell 42 years of Elvis’s life. But with Baz’s style, it can be an admittedly overwhelming and exhausting experience.

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One of the best parts of the movie, if not the best part is Austin Butler as Elvis Presley, who is absolutely fantastic. He fully embodies the Elvis persona from beginning to end, with the movements, mannerisms and lines. Not only does he talk and sing like Elvis, but he also captures his essence well. He also shows such range; even though the movie could be very theatrical and flashy, the movie slows down at times to provide Butler moments to really shine with dramatic scenes. It was also interesting seeing Austin Butler evolve and grow older as Elvis did. Other actors are good including Olivia DeJonge, Helen Thomson and Richard Roxburgh who provide good supporting work. There is one other key actor alongside Austin Butler which I haven’t talked about yet, and that is Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker. Elvis may have had raving reactions when it was first shown at the Cannes Film Festival, but the one aspect that not everyone was on board with was Hanks’s performance. Having seen the movie, I can see why. I’m not sure I’d say that it’s a bad performance because Hanks certainly sells the sleaze aspect and its one of the rare times where he plays a villain. That being said, it is a strong contender for Tom Hanks’s most questionable acting work ever. He’s very cartoonish and evil, it’s like he was playing the role like a typical Baz Luhrmann villain (see Richard Roxburgh in Moulin Rouge for reference) than a real-life person. I guess that might work in some respects, but it has its issues. It’s a bit jarring when most of the other characters are fairly grounded especially Butler’s Elvis, the latter is giving a very realistic and believable performance, whereas Hanks is very close to morphing into a cartoon villain at many points. Its worth noting that if you dislike his performance, you might have a hard time with the film considering that he serves at the narrator.

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This is a Baz Luhrmann movie, and his style is very much not for everyone, you love it or you hate it. The frantic camera movements and editing can be a bit in your face. As for me, its hit or miss, but for whatever reason, it worked this time for me. I have heard some people say that it is Baz at his fullest Baz, and I’m not disputing that. It was a real experience watching it in the cinema, from the over the top and dazzling visuals to the loud sounds and music, it actually felt like you were in a concert. The musical  sequences were very entertaining to watch, Baz particularly excels here. Occasionally there will be the odd modern song which feels out of place here, but that’s to be expected given the director. Admittedly the movie can be overwhelming at times, especially toward the end I felt quite worn down and tired from the whole thing. For what its worth though, this might be the director’s most accessible film.

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Elvis was pleasantly surprising. It is another music biopic with some of the typical failings, and it can also be a bit overlong, messy and exhausting at times. However, it is made energetic, chaotic and entertaining with Baz Luhrmann’s stylish and fast paced direction. Not to mention, I was actually engaged with the story. Even if you’re like me and don’t generally vibe with Baz’s style I do think it’s worth checking out, at the very least for Austin Butler’s excellent performance as Elvis Presley. As far as music biopics go, this is likely among the best.

Men (2022) Review

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Men

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language, suicide themes, nudity & content that may disturb
Cast:
Jessie Buckley as Harper Marlowe
Rory Kinnear as Geoffrey
Director: Alex Garland

In the aftermath of a personal tragedy, Harper retreats alone to the beautiful English countryside, hoping to find a place to heal. However, someone or something from the surrounding woods appears to be stalking her. What begins as simmering dread soon becomes a fully formed nightmare, inhabited by her darkest memories and fears.

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Men was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. I like Alex Garland as a writer and a director, and I particularly liked his directing work with Annihilation and Ex Machina. His next film would be a full-on horror movie and would have the excellent talent of Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear. Unfortunately, I had to wait an extra month before I got the chance to see it here, but in that time, I heard the very mixed reception from people who watched it. Men finally released here and I’m glad to say that I liked the movie, even if I didn’t like it as much as I hoped I would.

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Men starts off well at the very least. The first hour is very intriguing as we follow main character Harper (Jessie Buckley) as things about her traumas are revealed to us, and tensions rise as she encounters unsettling things in her new environment. There’s an uneasy atmosphere and seemed to start out as a mystical folk horror, which I thought was effective. Much of the movie can be a bit vague and leans more into atmosphere and vibes over the story, and while not everyone will like that, I thought it worked. I was intrigued to see what would happen next. The tone was interesting; some moments were a bit funny, but I couldn’t tell whether they were intentional or not. This is especially with the ‘horror’ moments. Intentional or not, they result in an off-kilter tone which I actually enjoyed. The third act of is one of the aspects of Men that will linger in the minds of most people who watch it. Some may call it “craziest movie ever”, its really not that crazy or insane for the most part, but the ending certainly is. I can certainly see the metaphor that this gory and grotesque climax is going for, so I won’t reveal too much about what happened, nor the message it was trying to convey. But it just can’t shake the feeling that its only here to be disturbing and memorable. The worst part may be that despite its efforts to be shocking, it generated more laughs than scares with how over the top and goofy it is. This combined with Jessie Buckley’s underwhelmed reactions made me wonder whether it was another intentionally funny moment from Garland. Shock and gore aside, it just doesn’t work as a satisfying conclusion in any way. The ending is so abrupt with no sense of closure, and doesn’t even work as a horror movie ending. Men is a tight film at just over an hour and a half long but it felt like it needed more, the narrative was a little underdeveloped by the end. I think it would’ve been better if it was made as a short film, or if it was longer and fleshed out more of its ideas.

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Third act and tonal issues aside, the problems stack up most of all when you look at the film on a thematic level. Unfortunately, you can’t really watch the movie and understand it without looking at it metaphorically in some way. It doesn’t work when you watch as a simple horror movie, it won’t make sense on any level. Some viewers have labelled Men as pretentious. I try to refrain from calling movies pretentious, not only because it’s a rather blanket statement, but its also very easy and there’s usually a better way at highlighting the specific problem. It is certainly a movie that wants to say something, from some of the conversations and all the symbolism and imagery especially with religion. Despite that, it doesn’t end up having much to say. The themes in Men are blatant which isn’t inherently bad; my problem is that they are a bit too easy and simple, yet the film lingers on them for so long. Men is yet another horror movie about trauma. There seems to be a lot of those especially nowadays, and if you are getting tired of these kinds of horror movies (especially with it being another one from A24), the film might irk you because it practically ticks all the boxes. I will say that it is a decent portrayal of trauma, but it is not an exploration of it by any means. It’s definitely a present aspect throughout the film, but it doesn’t go into depth any depth, and is overall a very basic take on grief. This is probably because even though we spend time with Harper in pretty much every scene, we don’t learn much about her as a character. The other main theme which you can probably guess from the title is about men, masculinity, patriarchy, toxic masculinity, etc. As far as I understood, the theme of Men boils down to “men are all the same, and men are all bad”. Perhaps Alex Garland has a lot more to say, but whatever that is, it doesn’t come across here. Now that theme isn’t necessarily bad, but it doesn’t really lend itself to much interpretation or analysis. It really doesn’t help that its not as propound as the movie seems to think it is. Looking at the plotting and the themes, Men’s script feels like it is very close to being really good, but could’ve done with more drafts in order to nail it. As it is, it felt like it just missed the mark.

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The performances are some of the best parts of the film. Jessie Buckley as usual delivers another outstanding and powerful performance here. You follow along with her as Harper, and while the film really doesn’t give the character much, Buckley sells it so well. She feels like a believable person and makes it all work whether it be conveying the trauma and grief, or the reaction to the present horror events at her new location. I would say that Buckley’s performance alone makes the movie worth watching. The overall cast of the film is quite small, Rory Kinnear makes up most of the supporting cast. He plays almost all the men in the film, separate characters with their own personalities but with the same face. It is an interesting and intriguing gimmick. However outside of a metaphor about men being all the same, the movie really doesn’t do much with that concept. There isn’t even a moment where Harper reacts to this, even when she’s in a room with 4 Rory Kinnears. Nonetheless, he is great here, and his performances are ambitious to say the least. He effectively jumps between different levels of sinister and conveys the differences between of the characters. Kinnear is generally a supporting actor who is in the background in most movies he’s in, but he really gets to shine in Men.

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I think that Alex Garland’s work is once again great here, for all its faults, it is strong on a technical level at least. Rob Hardy’s cinematography is amazing, the visuals are stunning and really take advantage of the beautiful locations, with nice shots of the English countryside and the great production design is put on display well. Without spoiling what happens, the effects for the third act are strong and effectively gory. One of the first things I noticed in the movie was the sound design and sound mixing, which are excellent and were integral to some intense scenes working as well as they did. The soundtrack by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow is really good at setting the right tone for the film and helps to make you feel uneasy. There are a couple of hiccups on a technical level, there is a boy who has the face of Rory Kinnear CGI’d onto him. It looks very weird and uncanny, but I guess it works to make him look unsettling. As previously mentioned, the film didn’t succeed at scares despite its attempts, and came across as being funny than anything.

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Men is a very flawed movie and I think it is definitely the worst of Alex Garland’s directing work so far. I do understand why some people really don’t like the movie. It could’ve used a lot more fleshing out for many of its ideas. While there are clear themes on display, the movie doesn’t seem to have much interest in exploring them despite fixating on them so much. Even outside the themes it does suffer from other issues, including some failed attempts at horror and a third act which might be trying just a little too hard to provoke a reaction. With that said, I still like the movie. I enjoyed the atmosphere and off kilter tone, Alex Garland’s direction is pretty strong with some outstanding visuals (which were amazing to see on the big screen), and the performances from Rory Kinnear and especially Jessie Buckley were fantastic. Men is a divisive movie and its hard to tell who the movie would be for, but I do think it has some great aspects that make it worth checking out if you’re into horror.

Serpico (1973) Review

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Serpico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Gun: Maverick (2022) Review

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Top Gun Maverick

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Tom Cruise as Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell
Miles Teller as Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw
Jennifer Connelly as Penelope “Penny” Benjamin
Jon Hamm as Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson
Glen Powell as Lieutenant Jake “Hangman” Seresin
Lewis Pullman as Lieutenant Robert “Bob” Floyd
Ed Harris as Rear Admiral Chester “Hammer” Cain
Val Kilmer as four-star Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky
Monica Barbaro as Lieutenant Natasha “Phoenix” Trace
Director: Joseph Kosinski

After more than 30 years of service as one of the Navy’s top aviators, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him. Training a detachment of graduates for a special assignment, Maverick must confront the ghosts of his past and his deepest fears, culminating in a mission that demands the ultimate sacrifice from those who choose to fly it.

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Top Gun: Maverick was a movie I was a little curious about; a sequel to the original over 3 decades in the making. There certainly was a talented crew involved, Tom Cruise of course returns, Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, Tron: Legacy) is directing, and it has a cast that includes Miles Teller, Jon Hamm and more. However, I wasn’t admittedly super hyped for it. I liked the original Top Gun but to me it was just pretty good, a lot of 80s cheese and some good action sequences, not much beyond that. Yet the new film seemed to be receiving overwhelmingly positive praise, akin to the level of praise that Mission Impossible: Fallout had. So I checked it out, and I can confirm that Maverick is more than deserving of all the acclaim.

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While I expected great things from the cast and the direction, the most surprising aspect is that of the story, which was actually really good. It improves in every single way over the first movie. Even when certain story beats are similar to the first movie, it’s executed much better here. It loses the 80s cheese of the original and instead instils the movie with a real sense of gravitas. It also helps that it actually feels like the story has a structure rather instead of feeling like a compilation of highlight scenes strung together. There are real drama here with a lot more emotion and heart, and the characters are given more depth and are fleshed out. The emotional core of the movie involves Maverick and Rooster (Tom Cruise and Miles Teller), and it pays off wonderfully by the end. It’s also a fun movie to watch, with a lot of entertaining scenes and comedy throughout.  You also feel the stakes a lot more here. In contrast to the first movie where the pilots are just training before suddenly needing to complete a mission in the last act, the training in Maverick is for a near impossible task, giving the aerial training sequences a lot more weight. So, by the time it reaches the third act, we really feel the stakes and tension. Some could say that the movie drags in the second act, and I can see that even though there was never a dull moment for me. However all the build up towards the final act is completely worth it, as it ends with one of the most exciting climaxes in recent memory. As for how it works as a sequel, Maverick does the original justice. It really is a mix of old and new, honouring the original while moving forward to do its own thing. It actually felt like there was a genuine reason for this sequel to be made, especially considering that the first movie was made all the way back in 1986. Most of the fan service moments are handled well and don’t get too distracting, and makes sure it doesn’t spend too much time dwelling on the past. Top Gun: Maverick is very much a legacy sequel, not only by being a sequel to an original classic from decades back, but also being itself an examination of legacy, specifically for Maverick/Tom Cruise. It is a surprisingly introspective movie. As for whether you need to know the original film in order to watch the sequel, it does certainly help know about the characters and story from the first, Even then, Maverick does touch upon the main points well enough that you’ll be able to pick up what happened in the past even if you hadn’t watched the first movie.

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The cast are all great in their parts. Tom Cruise reprises his role of Maverick. Cruise is really sells his role incredibly well, while he was fun enough in the first movie, here he delivers potentially one of his best performances. He brings such an emotional weight to his scenes. Jennifer Connelly plays Maverick’s love interest in a romantic subplot and while it its perhaps unneeded and shoved not the movie, I thought it was believable and well-handled enough with enough subtlety, especially when compared to the romantic subplot in the original movie. Val Kilmer is the only other returning cast member from the original film aside from Cruise, reprising his role as Iceman. Without giving too much away, his role in this sequel is a small, yet memorable part of the film, and is effectively emotional and hard hitting. The rest of the cast including Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Monica Barbaro, Jon Hamm and more all play their parts well. However the standout in the cast aside from Cruise is Miles Teller who plays Rooster, Goose’s son. This is probably Teller’s best performance since Whiplash, he is great here. The relationship between Maverick and Rooster are the emotional centre of this movie and that is handled fantastically, helped by the believable chemistry between the two actors.

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Joseph Kosinski directed this, his work here is phenomenal and probably his best yet. I highly recommend watching it on the big screen, it truly is an experience and it just wouldn’t be the same if you watched it on a smaller screen. Kosinski gives the movie so much energy throughout. The visuals are truly amazing, and the cinematography is stunning, particularly when it comes to the scenes filmed in the air. The movie is worth watching for the intense aerial sequences alone, they’re all fantastic. You actually feel right there with the actors in the air. What makes these scenes work so well is that these flight sequences are all practical, with the actors even having to do actual training to learn how to fly. None of it looks fake at all and the cinematography, editing, sound and everything else all come together to make for scenes that are absolutely exhilarating to watch. The soundtrack is also great, of course the original movie utilised plenty of iconic 80s songs, and some of those songs make appearances here (including Danger Zone). However, it doesn’t overuse or over-rely on them and also allowed for more uses of the composed score from Harold Faltermeyer, Lady Gaga, and Hans Zimmer. The score itself was great, taking tunes from the score of the previous movie and revamping it. They particularly complement the action sequences and make them feel even more thrilling.

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Top Gun: Maverick is so many things. It surpasses the first movie in every aspect, its one of the best legacy sequels, and its up there with Mad Max: Fury Road and Mission Impossible: Fallout as some of the best action films of recent years. The story and characters are given enough depth and heart, the cast are great in their parts (especially Cruise and Teller), and the excellent direction and phenomenal action sequences are incredible to watch. Even if you’re not a fan of the original movie or haven’t even watched it, I highly recommend watching it on the big screen, it is truly an exhilarating experience. One of the best films of 2022 thus far.

Top Gun (1986) Review

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Top Gun

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] contains coarse language
Cast:
Tom Cruise as LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell
Kelly McGillis as Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood
Val Kilmer as LT Tom “Iceman” Kazansky
Anthony Edwards as LTJG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw
Tom Skerritt as CDR Mike “Viper” Metcalf
Director: Tony Scott

As students at the United States Navy’s elite fighter weapons school compete to be best in the class, one daring young pilot learns a few things from a civilian instructor that are not taught in the classroom.

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Classic 80s movie Top Gun is getting a sequel titled Top Gun: Maverick, released over a few decades after the original’s release. It has been a while since I had watched the first movie, so I was interested in revisiting it before the newest film’s release. I wouldn’t say that it is great but there’s a lot to like about it

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Despite this movie being about dogfighting and fighter pilots, Top Gun is less of an action movie and more of a coming-of-age film. Most of the actual flying is just done in training, real combat only happens in the third act. The writing isn’t anything special, the script is definitely formulaic, and I didn’t find the story to be all that thrilling or compelling. While I wouldn’t say that I was bored watching it, the story is a bit dull. I think the biggest criticism I have for Top Gun is that it feels more like a collection of memorable scenes more than a greatly cohesive movie; the plot didn’t have much direction or drive. The characters didn’t stand out for me but they were likable enough. When the drama appears, it really comes out of nowhere and is melodramatic but it works for the 80s vibe. Speaking of which, the 80s cheese factor helped a lot of the movie, it made some of the weaker and over the top elements work better for me.

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There are some solid performances. Tom Cruise plays the lead character of Maverick in one of his early iconic roles. I wouldn’t say its one of his all-time best performances by any means, but it is definitely one of his most recognisable characters. Cruise is charming and fun to watch, while also giving some depth and development to his character. The chemistry and bromance between Maverick and his friend Goose (Anthony Edwards) was very convincing. That’s more than I can say between the romance between him and Kelly McGillis’s character, which could be more than a little cheesy at times, but again the 80s vibe made it sort of work for me. Generally, the rest of the cast are decent enough.

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Tony Scott’s stylish direction is one of the best parts of the film, it’s not one of Scott’s best but it is well made. The cinematography is great, and the dogfighting action sequences are beautifully shot. There aren’t as many of these action scenes as you’d initially think, but they are staggered out so they have us wanting more. The soundtrack is pure 80s and wonderfully enjoyable (even if it’s a little repetitive at points).

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If you were to make a list of the top 5 most iconic 80s movies, Top Gun would be right up there. There are definitely some issues with the writing and characters, and I wouldn’t call it great. However, there’s a real charm to it, and I can see why it became something of a cult classic. The cast led by Tom Cruise are solid, it’s well directed by Tony Scott, and the action sequences are entertaining. I do think it is worth checking out at least once.

The Northman (2022) Review

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The Northman

Time: 137 minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, cruelty, animal cruelty & sexual material
Cast:
Alexander Skarsgård as Amleth
Nicole Kidman as Queen Gudrún
Claes Bang as Fjölnir the Brotherless
Anya Taylor-Joy as Olga of the Birch Forest
Ethan Hawke as King Aurvandill War-Raven
Willem Dafoe as Heimir the Fool
Björk as the Seeress
Director: Robert Eggers

Prince Amleth is on the verge of becoming a man when his father is brutally murdered by his uncle, who kidnaps the boy’s mother. Two decades later, Amleth is now a Viking who raids Slavic villages. He soon meets a seeress who reminds him of his vow — save his mother, kill his uncle, avenge his father.

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The Northman was one of my most anticipated movies of 2022. Robert Eggers has started becoming one of my favourite directors with his two movies, The Witch and The Lighthouse. His third film would be on a larger scale, with it being a Norse revenge story as opposed to a contained horror film. Add on top of that a cast which includes Alexander Skarsgard, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Nicole Kidman and Willem Dafoe, and it looked quite exciting. The Northman more than lived up to all the hyp

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Compared to his previous two movies, The Northman is definitely Robert Eggers’s most accessible movie by far. With that said, I wouldn’t say its for everyone, it’s still dark, brutal and strange like I hoped it would be. At its core, the story is fairly simplistic as a revenge story. An interesting fact however it is a retelling of the Scandinavian legend Amleth, which is the story that William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is based on. I really liked its depiction of vengeance and the portrayal the endless cycle of violence, making it more than just another typical revenge movie. As expected, when it comes to Robert Eggers, the writing is quite authentic to the time period, especially with the dialogue. This also extends to the Norse mythology, while I’m not expert in it, it seems like Eggers has a deep understanding of it. The Northman is fairly slowly paced across its 2 hours and 30 minutes runtime, but I think the pacing was just right for this movie.

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The performances from everyone are great, no matter how little screen time they have, they make strong impressions in their roles. As the protagonist Amleth, Alexander Skarsgard gives one of his best performances, if not his best. It’s a very physical performance and he’s brooding and stoic as a beast of a man looking for revenge, but also shows genuine emotion. Anya Taylor-Joy as usual was amazing and although they don’t have as many scenes together as I would’ve liked, she and Skarsgard have great chemistry together. Nicole Kidman is one of the standouts of the film as Amleth’s mother. She makes the most of her screentime, with a monologue in the second half particularly standing out. Claes Bang is also effective as the main villain and the target of Amleth’s vengeance. Other actors like Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Bjork aren’t in the movie a huge amount, but nonetheless are memorable and play their parts well.

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The direction by Robert Eggers was exceptional, he really gets better at his craft with every subsequent movie. While it is his most conventional movie, The Northman definitely is an Eggers movie and is just as weird and dark as you’d expect from him. In contrast to The Witch and The Lighthouse, The Northman has a larger budget and he really makes the most out of it. The film truly is a spectacle and I’m so glad that I got to watch it on the big screen. The cinematography and visuals are amazing and make use of the locations. It really immerses you into this world, especially with the long takes. The battle sequences are great and uncompromising, fittingly gnarly, gritty and over the top at times. Without getting too into depth, the final fight really is satisfying. Eggers’s attention to detail (mainly with historical accuracy) also extends to his direction, with costume and production designs being exceptional and on point. Finally, the score by Robin Carolan and Sebastian Gainsborough perfectly fits the mood and feel of the movie.

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Allegedly, Robert Eggers had to make some compromises to get this movie made and I have to say, the end result is still very impressive. The Northman is one of those big budget hard R epic that we sadly don’t get much of nowadays. It’s a creative, ambitious, uncompromising and brutal Norse revenge epic, that’s visually stunning and an incredible experience. The cast impresses, especially Skarsgard, Taylor-Joy and Kidman, and the direction from Eggers is fantastic. It’s already one of the best movies of 2022.

Small Axe: Red, White and Blue (2020) Review

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Red, White and Blue

Time: 80 Minutes
Cast:
John Boyega as Leroy Logan
Steve Toussaint as Ken Logan
Joy Richardson as Mrs. Logan
Corey Peterson as Philford
Neil Maskell as Inspector Willis
Stephen Boxer as Chief Inspector
Director: Steve McQueen

Spotlights the true story of Leroy Logan (John Boyega), who at a young age saw his father (Steve Toussaint) assaulted by two policemen, motivating him to join the Metropolitan Police and change their racist attitudes from within. Part of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series of films.

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I have been watching the Small Axe movies, all directed by Steve McQueen. I really liked Mangrove but was a little mixed on Lover’s Rock. I was interested to continue on with the third movie: Red, White and Blue. I knew that it was about John Boyega in a biopic in the role of a real life police officer and that’s it. It was really good and so far one of the stronger movies in the Small Axe anthology.

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Red, White and Blue is more straightforward and lowkey compared to the previous two Small Axe movies. It also takes a distinctly different approach compared to those other stories, this time following the perspective of a police officer. Red, White and Blue is not only an examination of police culture and institutional racism, it’s also an uncomfortably timely look at how trying to reform a broken system that’s uninterested in change is futile. When the lead character of Leroy chooses to be a police officer, the community turns against him, and even his fellow police officers don’t afford him the same respect and treatment because of his race. It is frustrating to watch at times, but in the way that it is meaning to. Of the first three movies it does have the best character work. It does very well at conveying this internal conflict following the lead character, while setting it against a larger systemic backdrop. In terms of issues, it does feel like it’s glossing over some important information. There’s a lot of potential in the story of a black man trying to change a racist police force from the inside, but the outcome is a little too straightforward. It has a short runtime at just 80 minutes long. It does end a little abruptly and I wanted it to be longer. I think it would’ve benefited from at least another 20-30 minutes to flesh out some relationships and arcs better. With all that being said, I feel like the moment where it ends the story was a deliberate choice, leaving it at a low point with the hopelessness of the situation, and I do appreciate that. A standard biopic would probably continue onwards to show how Leroy would go on and make a lot of change and now everything is alright (which it isn’t). We don’t get closure because there is no closure given, there is no reformation whatsoever.

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The acting is great all round. John Boyega is in the lead role as police officer Leroy Logan, and this is the best work I’ve seen him deliver. Compared to the previous two Small Axe movies where they are ensemble pieces, all the weight is put on the lead to carry this story and Boyega more than delivers. Another noteworthy performer is that of Steve Toussaint as Leroy’s father, a victim of police brutality who is opposed to his son’s decision to become a police officer. The strained relationship between the father and son is given a lot of layers and depth as the film progresses.

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Like with the other two Small Axe films, Red White and Blue is on a TV budget but is nonetheless elevated by the direction from Steve McQueen. There is less emphasis on style, it’s about on the script and as such the film definitely has the same tone and feel as the other Small Axe movies. With all that said, it does make itself somewhat different from the past two movies, straying from the striking colour pallets of Lovers Rock and instead having a more restrained atmosphere. It may not be one of McQueen’s best efforts on a technical level, but it still results on a greater focus on the character driven narrative.

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Red, White and Blue is a great movie that’s well worth checking out. It’s a well crafted and timely biopic with an incredibly meaningful story, led by a strong (and career best) lead performance from John Boyega.

Inside Man (2006) Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Akira (1988) Review

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Akira

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Voice Cast:
Mitsuo Iwata as Shōtarō Kaneda
Nozomu Sasaki as Tetsuo Shima
Mami Koyama as Kei
Taro Ishida as Colonel Shikishima
Mizuho Suzuki as Doctor Ōnishi
Tetsusho Genda as Ryūsaku (Ryu)
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo

Biker Kaneda is confronted by many anti-social elements while trying to help his friend Tetsuo who is involved in a secret government project. Tetsuo’s supernatural persona adds the final twist.

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I had been hearing about Akira for a while, with it being one of the most well known anime movies. I decided to check it out, knowing only that it was an anime and that it is incredibly influential. I really didn’t know whether I would like it, partly because I didn’t know what to expect, but also because I was still getting into anime films at this point (with it being the second anime movie I watched). Akira really blew me away on so many levels.

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Akira is an incredibly ambitious film which blends so many elements together, including sci-fi, action, and body horror. Immediately something that is present from the start is the setting of the film, with some tangible and rich worldbuilding. The movie is 2 hours long but it packs so much story and worldbuilding in this runtime, and is so energetic that the runtime flies by so quickly. The story itself is engaging and entertaining, it goes in very different directions that you aren’t expecting, and the characters are likable and have charm to them. Something that is worth knowing going in that the movie might be a little hard to understand and follow at times. This is because Akira never stops with the information gives you from the story to the worldbuilding, and there’s a lot of exposition. While I’m not a big fan of heavy exposition shoved at the audience, they did it in a way where I actually didn’t mind it, even if there’s some details I missed on a first viewing. There is so much happening, especially in the third act. The ending escalates to nothing short of insane, that’s the section that the majority of people will be confused by. This movie also has a lot to say with thought provoking and mature themes, touching on religion, police brutality, corruption, military, and more. With regard to any issues I had from a first viewing, the tone could be a little inconsistent, especially with random humour in some serious moments. I didn’t mind the humour for the most part, but sometimes it was a little out of place. Also some of the characterisation could’ve been a little more thorough, there were a number of side characters I didn’t care much for.

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Akira is directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, I don’t know of anything else he’s done, but his work on this film is astounding. First of all worth talking about is the animation, and for an anime released back in 1988, it really holds up well. The animation is gorgeous and enthralling to watch. The movements are smooth, and the backgrounds are beautiful. So much care went into every frame, so much detail is provided and its so dense that it can be overwhelming at times. The setting of Neo-Tokyo is characterised so well, creating a city so rich and complex. Everything about the movie is distinctly cyberpunk. The action sequences are thrilling and filled with adrenaline, with very memorable moments. Something I wasn’t expected was for Akira to be as gruesome as it was, it is a brutal movie with some great body horror. There’s also a great use of sound and silence, in fact some significant moments are done without sound. The musical score is memorable and unique too.

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Akira is known as a masterpiece by many, and I can see why. It has had a significant impact on anime, cyberpunk, sci-fi, and just film in general. Even if you ignore the impact it’s made, it’s a beautiful animated and thrilling film that’s complex and dense in its story and themes. I wouldn’t say its an easy film to have as a gateway into anime with what it does. However, I do think that it is a must see movie, and one I definitely intend to revisit in the future.