Category Archives: Family

The Dark Crystal (1982) Review

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The Dark Crystal

Time: 93 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Stephen Garlick as Jen
Lisa Maxwell as Kira
Billie Whitelaw as Aughra
Percy Edwards as Fizzgig
Director: Jim Henson, Frank Oz

On a fictional planet, the damaged Dark Crystal marks the onset of the age of chaos. If the crystal is not healed during the great conjunction of the three suns, the evil Skekses will rule forever.

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I had heard of The Dark Crystal for some time, I just knew that it was something of an 80s classic from Jim Henson and Frank Oz. When it got its own prequel show on Netflix named The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, I decided to check out the original movie. I can’t say that I think that it is great, but I am impressed by it at the very least.

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The Dark Crystal is a classic fantasy movie that has a hero’s journey plot, and pulls from other fantasy stories like Star Wars, Dune and the Lord of the Rings books. Unfortunately, that kind of works against the film, it would’ve worked much better without a traditional narrative. Not that the plot is bad perse, it’s mostly just Hero’s Journey 101 with nothing surprising or subversive, and the story is quite paint by numbers. It also very slow sometimes, especially with its meandering and sluggish first act. After a while though, it does pick up. It is very much an 80s movie with all the cheese, and while that might turn people off, it does add to its charm. However, the most surprising part is that The Dark Crystal is quite dark for a kids movie. For the story’s shortcomings, the worldbuilding makes up for a lot of it. It introduces a complex world to discover, I liked the mythology, clearly a lot of thought went into fleshing it out, and I wanted to learn more about it. With that said, it is a little too reliant on narration and exposition dumps. It drops a lot of lore onto you, especially the narration at the start explaining its world. Also, I don’t think it quite reaches its fullest potential with the world it takes place in and the worldbuilding.

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The characters were generally quite forgettable, and it pretty much just have archetypes instead of characters. The worst of them is the protagonist of Jen, who isn’t a compelling hero and is outshone by pretty much all the other major characters. He’s bland, boring and uninteresting, unfortunate since he’s the protagonist.

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The Dark Crystal is directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz, and it’s an impressive technical achievement. It’s visually impressive, the production design is fantastic and I really like the use of colour. There is a gloomy atmosphere throughout with a dark tone, and the sets reflects this. It really does feel like an epic. And of course, there was some excellent puppetry and animatronics. It’s amazing how great the large variety of puppets move and look. This is still some of the best puppetry you’ll see in a movie. The characters are very well designed and detailed, especially the villainous creatures, sometimes very grotesque and freaky. I can imagine that kids in the 80s would’ve been a little scared about the designs of some of these characters. The only fault on a technical level is that it does show its age whenever it goes into green screen territory. Overall though, it’s a great visual experience.

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The Dark Crystal is a movie that I probably appreciate more than I actually like. I think that the very generic and familiar story and mostly bland characters take away a lot from it. However, I enjoy how different and weird it is, and I can see why it has a cult following. I do think that it is at least worth checking out for its achievements on a technical level. It does at least make me interested to check out the Netflix prequel series if nothing out.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022) Review

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Fantastic Beasts The Secrets of Dumbledore

Time: 142 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander
Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore
Ezra Miller as Credence Barebone
Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski
Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein
Callum Turner as Theseus Scamander
Jessica Williams as Professor Eulalie “Lally” Hicks
Katherine Waterston as Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein
Mads Mikkelsen as Gellert Grindelwald
Director: David Yates

Professor Albus Dumbledore knows the powerful, dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald is moving to seize control of the wizarding world. Unable to stop him alone, he entrusts magizoologist Newt Scamander to lead an intrepid team of wizards and witches. They soon encounter an array of old and new beasts as they clash with Grindelwald’s growing legion of followers.

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I admit I wasn’t the most looking forward to the new Fantastic Beasts movie. The spinoff Harry Potter series has been very divisive to say the least. I thought that the first Fantastic Beasts movie (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) was decent but definitely flawed and could’ve been more. I even liked the follow up The Crimes of Grindelwald when I saw it, but it soured upon further thought. It was way too messy, and I pretty much lost confident in whatever JK Rowling was planning to do with this series. And without getting too deep into it, Rowling herself has been making it difficult to look forward to anything she creates and releases outside of the Fantastic Beasts movies. So outside of the addition of Mads Mikkelsen, I really wasn’t that looking forward to the third movie in the series. The Secrets of Dumbledore definitely has its problems, but for what its worth, I liked it.

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The first two movies were solely written by JK Rowling and while the script of the first movie was okay, the second was a mess. One thing that elevated my hopes for the third movie was the addition of Steve Kloves as a co-writer alongside Rowling. He was involved with adapting most of the Harry Potter books into movies and while I can’t say for certain how big of a role he had in the writing process, it must’ve done something because it’s at least an improvement over Crimes of Grindelwald. An issue that CoG had was that the story felt incredibly scattered, with so many plotlines and characters that by the end, they all felt half baked and underdeveloped. To a degree, Secrets of Dumbledore also has that same issue, but it is definitely an improvement here. It helps that many of these characters are together in groups a lot of the time and comparatively less scattered. It was a lot easier to comprehend what was happening and I was interested enough to follow the characters, even if there were some storylines I wasn’t invested in. With that said, there are still too many characters. Some storylines felt downright unnecessary, like with the character of Yousuf Kama. If they incorporated characters or storylines together (or cut them out entirely), it might’ve worked better. Cutting down the storylines would’ve removed the unnecessary and dull scenes too. It also doesn’t help that there’s a lack of stakes; the Grindelwald vs Dumbledore storyline doesn’t have many stakes since we know the outcome already. However, they could’ve added some personal stakes with the rest of the characters, and there’s just not a lot of those here.

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Unfortunately, The Secrets of Dumbledore just can’t get away from feeling drawn out. The storyline of this whole series is the very opposite of tight, you just don’t know what it is all leading towards beyond the inevitable final duel between Grindelwald and Dumbledore. There might be some plot and character reveals, but like with Crimes of Grindelwald, I really didn’t get a sense that anything had progressed. Even Harry Potter with its 8 films, it felt like something had happened in each instalment. Each Fantastic Beasts movie feels like build up for the next one. With the storylines in SoD and the way they are resolved (or not resolved) by the end, it feels like the overarching story is being padded out. There are supposedly two more movies coming, and once again I really don’t expect much progress in the next entry. Some of the choices that JK Rowling made with this series are weird, but I’ll focus on probably the most critical one. It’s clear that Rowling wants to have this series focussing on the Grindelwald vs Dumbledore war, but because the first movie was a Fantastic Beasts film, I guess she felt that she had to keep Newt Scamander as the protagonist. However, with every movie he feels less relevant to this storyline and as a result he feels very out of place, and not in a good way. For what its worth though, they do manage to find a way to incorporate magical beasts into the storyline of this movie in a way that makes sense. Secrets of Dumbledore is a long movie at nearly 2.5 hours in length, and you definitely feel it. There were definitely scenes that could’ve been shorter, even full-on sequences which feel like padding. An example is a sequence involving Newt Scamander and crabs, while it is amusing, it is drawn out and really didn’t anything for the movie outside of having an action scene and being longer.

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There are some great actors involved in this movie, though only some are utilised well. There are two highlights in the cast for me. The first is Jude Law as younger Albus Dumbledore, returning from Crimes of Grindelwald. In the last movie he was in a supporting role, but here is in a much bigger part. Law is fantastic as Dumbledore and adds so much to his scenes. It’s actually a wonder why Rowling didn’t have this prequel series just follow Dumbledore as the protagonist. The other highlight is that of Gellert Grindelwald, now played by Mads Mikkelsen. The casting of Grindelwald in these movies has certainly been a roller coaster. In the first movie it was Colin Farrell portraying the disguised Grindelwald, then Johnny Depp played the true Grindelwald, and now they’ve recast him with Mikkelsen in this third movie. The recasting was a definite upgrade. Depp’s Grindelwald was really out of place and didn’t fit the character. Mads on the other hand felt more like a character than a caricature, less overtly evil and more alluring and convincingly sinister (which is what Grindelwald should be). It really felt like he should’ve been cast for the part in the first place. He and Law share some very convincing chemistry, it’s fantastic whenever the two of them are on screen interacting with each other.

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Eddie Redmayne once again returns to the role of Newt Scamander, and he is very well suited for this role, he plays it well. Unfortunately, as I just said earlier, Newt’s inclusion makes less and less sense with every entry. At this point, there’s no reason for him to be the protagonist, and he makes more sense as a supporting player instead. Dan Fogler also returns as Jacob Kowalski and remains likable and enjoyable to watch as before. Jessica Williams is a new addition to the cast, and I really liked her, she brought a lot of energy and humour to her scenes and made her scenes enjoyable to watch.  However, some of the other cast members and characters weren’t handled the best. One notable mishandling was Alison Sudol’s character of Queenie. In a very underdeveloped storyline in the last movie, she joined Grindelwald at the end. All I’ll say is that Queenie’s story in the third movie is half baked and disappointing, especially with how it is resolved. Ezra Miller’s character of Credence is notable throughout the series, now he’s joined up with Grindelwald and going after Albus Dumbledore. This character is definitely meant to be a major part of the movie, however there’s something about the handling of the storyline that it makes it difficult to care about. However the more egregious handling is that of Katherine Waterston’s character Tina Goldstein, who is barely in the film despite being one of the main Fantastic Beasts characters alongside Newt, Jacob and Queenie. There’s definitely an explanation given for her not playing a part in the plot ( “she’s busy”). While it’s one thing to reduce a character’s role down a little (like she was in the last movie), it felt like Waterston had said or done something that caused her role to be minimised to a couple scenes (and I’m 95% sure that’s what happened).

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David Yates once again returns to direct another Fantastic Beasts movie. As expected, his work is competent, but you really wish that someone else stepped in to give their own take on a Wizarding World movie, because Yate’s direction and style feels a little stale at this point. For the most part, the visuals are good with some solid cinematography. Most of the VFX are good, especially with the beasts and the magic, and there’s some entertaining action scenes, especially with the wizard duels. The score from James Newton Howard is also quite good and accompanies the movie nicely, even if it occasionally overuses familiar Harry Potter themes at points.

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Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore was better than what I was expecting. I was more invested in the story compared to CoG, there are some entertaining sequences, and the cast are solid, if mostly underutilised, with Jude Law and Mads Mikkelsen really shining in their respective roles. It also avoided some of the issues that the first two movies had. Unfortunately, there is still a fair amount of Fantastic Beasts problems that it can’t escape, like the feeling of being yet another entry building up for the next film in a prolonged series. There are two more movies to come and while I’ll probably end up watching them, I can’t say I’m super excited to see the next one, especially if it’ll just be another set-up film. For what its worth though, if you liked the other two Fantastic Beasts movies then you’ll probably like Secrets of Dumbledore too.

The Seventh Seal (1957) Review

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The Seventh Seal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Spirited Away (2001) Review

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Spirited Away

Time: 125 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Rumi Hiiragi as Chihiro Ogino/Sen
Miyu Irino as Haku/Spirit of the Kohaku River
Mari Natsuki as Yubaba/Zeniba
Takeshi Naito as Akio Ogino
Yasuko Sawaguchi as Yūko Ogino
Tsunehiko Kamijō as Chichiyaku
Takehiko Ono as Aniyaku 
Bunta Sugawara as Kamaji
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

10-year-old Chihiro (Rumi Hiiragi) and her parents (Takashi Naitô, Yasuko Sawaguchi) stumble upon a seemingly abandoned amusement park. After her mother and father are turned into giant pigs, Chihiro meets the mysterious Haku (Miyu Irino), who explains that the park is a resort for supernatural beings who need a break from their time spent in the earthly realm, and that she must work there to free herself and her parents.

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Spirited Away was the first film from Studio Ghibli that I watched, and also among the first anime movies I’ve seen. It had been on many ‘best films of all time’ list, so I had been meaning to get around to it for a while. I went in knowing nothing, and it turned out to be really great and somehow lived up to all the hype and more.

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I didn’t know much about the movie going in and it turned out to be quite a surprise. So if you haven’t seen it before, I think it’s worth not knowing too much before watching. I can say that it’s very creative and endearing, and while it’s a cliché to say it, it’s quite magical. There’s a lot of imagination on display, it’s really like nothing I’ve seen before. It is a coming of age story about childhood innocence, that combines drama, adventure, comedy, and fantasy all into one film. There’s also so much in this movie to unpack it’s actually astounding.  It’s whimsical but is also surprisingly dark and frightening when telling it’s very mature story about greed and identity, in fact the whole movie is more mature than I thought it would be. There are plenty of themes of environmental pollution, labour relations greed and the passage to adulthood. It’s also a movie full of hope throughout. The plot itself is nicely structured and finely paced while the memorable and well thoughts out characters make the drama more compelling and are cleverly fleshed out in the script. The film does slow down to allow time for main character Chihiro and the audience to the see the beauty of the world. The movie does take time in its roughly 2 hour long runtime for her to take part in seemingly mundane things which does add a lot to the movie, I was invested throughout. One of the ways that the film handles worldbuilding well with a level of richness is the lack of exposition, showing the world, story and characters with the visuals and character actions instead of telling it to us straight up. It’s just all well crafted and put together overall.

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Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Spirited Away is animated and made absolutely beautifully. It was made in the early 2000s, and it still really holds up well today. It’s not just the movements but also the designs and imagination, as well as the environments. It really lets the visuals speak a whole other language to you as the viewer, the visual storytelling does a lot of the work for the movie without needing characters to speak it. It’s absolutely creative especially on a visual level. I can only imagine how kids felt watching this for the first time, mainly the designs of some of the creatures and people as they were far scarier than most animated movies. The score from Joe Hisaishi also adds a lot to the movie.

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Spirited Away is a much watch for sure. It’s a beautiful and endearing come of age film, that’s animated excellently. If you wanted a place to start watching anime, Spirited Away would be a great place to begin. It’s an extraordinary film that was a complete pleasure to watch, and a movie that I do want to come back to someday.

Let Me In (2010) Review

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Let Me In

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence, offensive language and horror
Cast:
Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen
Chloë Grace Moretz as Abby
Richard Jenkins as Thomas
Cara Buono as Owen’s mother
Elias Koteas as a detective
Director: Matt Reeves

Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) leads a lonely life and is bullied by his peers at school. He happily befriends Abby (Chloe Grace-Moretz), his new helpful neighbour, without being aware that she is hiding a secret from him.

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Let Me In was a movie I was interested in watching for quite a while. I deliberately held off watching it till after I watched the original, Let the Right One In, which turned out to be quite a great movie. The remake sounds like a bad idea at first, even with it being led by Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace-Moretz and being directed by Matt Reeves. Not all American remakes are bad, but most of the time they don’t turn out the best, especially when it comes to remakes of foreign horror movies. Surprisingly, Let Me In is a pretty decent remake, and I liked it quite a bit, however it definitely could’ve afforded to take more risks.

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Usually American remakes of foreign movies simplify the plot, and water things down. The good news is that for the most part, Let Me In doesn’t do that. It’s pretty much the same plot just done again. That’s also the bad news however, it really doesn’t do a whole lot new outside of adjusting it to an American setting. The small changes that were added to the plot really didn’t serve the story much, including an opening which flashforwards to the middle of the film. There’s also a forced police investigation throughout the movie, and it just didn’t find it to add that much to the movie all that well. The main problem from the original with the bullies being over the top evil is also a problem here too. With all that being said, the rest of the movie is good, removing the original from it all. The pacing is good across its roughly 2 hour runtime, the story is engaging, and I enjoyed watching it quite a bit.

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The acting is great, and one of the highlights of the film. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace-Moretz are in the main roles, and I’d go so far as to say that it’s on the level of the two leads from Let the Right One In at the very least. Their relationship and connection just felt genuine and real, and they shared great chemistry. Moretz is particularly fantastic in the role of the vampire girl, conveying so much emotion, it ranks among her best performances. The supporting performances are also good, mainly from Richard Jenkins and Elias Koteas.

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Matt Reeves’s direction is really great as to be expected, he was definitely the right person to handle this remake. It’s an absolutely gorgeous looking film, and I might actually slightly prefer the cinematography in this just a bit more over the original. Reeves gave Let Me In very atmospheric, on a technical level for the most part, it’s great. There are some faults especially when it comes to the use of CGI. Minor spoilers here, but without going into too much depth, there’s an attack in both versions that happens under a bridge by Eli/Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz), and it was done effectively in the original and wasn’t too silly. However, in Let Me In they added some CGI to her during scenes like this, and it just made it really goofy and over the top. There were some sequences that were done in a more over the top way in general, some of it is fine, but other times it doesn’t work so well. Let Me In is noticeably more bloody and violent than the original, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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Let Me In could’ve been a lot worse, but there was definitely room for improvement. At the very least it could’ve benefited from trying something different. With that said it is still a pretty good movie, directed greatly by Matt Reeves, and acted wonderfully by Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace-Moretz. It is worth watching for sure, just make sure not to watch it right after watching the original or anything.

Stardust (2007) Review

Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] contains frightening fanstasy scenes & violence
Cast:
Claire Danes as Yvaine
Charlie Cox as Tristan Thorn
Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia
Mark Strong as Prince Septimus
Robert De Niro as Captain Shakespeare of the Caspartine
Jason Flemyng as Prince Primus
Rupert Everett as Prince Secundus
Kate Magowan as Princess Una
Ricky Gervais as Ferdiland “Ferdy” the Fence
Sienna Miller as Victoria Forester
Peter O’Toole as the dying King of Stormhold
Director: Matthew Vaughn

To win the heart of his beloved (Sienna Miller), a young man named Tristan (Charlie Cox) ventures into the realm of fairies to retrieve a fallen star. What Tristan finds, however, is not a chunk of space rock, but a woman (Claire Danes) named Yvaine. Yvaine is in great danger, for the king’s sons need her powers to secure the throne, and an evil witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) wants to use her to achieve eternal youth and beauty.

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Stardust was the only Matthew Vaughn movie I hadn’t watched in it’s entirety yet, I’m pretty sure that I saw parts of this movie a while ago since moments of it look familiar. Going into it, I really didn’t know what to expect. A fantasy based movie is not something that I could see Vaughn of all directors do. However, this movie was quite surprising and much better than I thought it would be, I had a good time with it.

Stardust is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman, throughout it’s a purely fantasy movie and really leans into that. Much of the movie is cheesy but in a good way, you can really have fun with the movie. You really can’t take this movie too seriously, and thankfully it doesn’t take itself seriously either. It has a bunch of fantasy adventure clichés and does very little to subvert them, so this isn’t necessarily something that you’ve never seen before. It’s also fairly predictable, you can generally see which direction the movie is moving towards. As a light, silly adventure fantasy movie however, I had a blast with it.

This movie has such a surprisingly large cast, young Henry Cavill and Ben Barnes appear in minor roles and even the legendary Peter O’Toole shows up for a brief appearance. On the whole the cast did very well. Claire Danes and Charlie Cox are the leads and they really worked. The interactions between the two characters were pretty typical of fantasy romances but Danes and Cox still had some good chemistry together. Michelle Pfeiffer is I guess the primary villain of the movie as one of a trio of witches looking to get Claire Danes. Pfeiffer really hams up her role at just the right level, and it really works for this movie. Mark Strong has played multiple villains and he also plays a villainous sort of character here, however there’s something about him here that’s just so entertaining to watch, he’s definitely having fun here. The MVP however was Robert De Niro who shows up in a supporting but memorable part here, definitely the standout from the whole cast. Other supporting players like Sienna Miller also play their roles well. Honestly the only one that didn’t really work was Ricky Gervais who appears briefly and even in that short time was really out of place.

This doesn’t actually feel like a Matthew Vaughn film and I don’t mean that in a bad way. He’s actually handled this movie very well. As I said with the writing and story, this movie really leans into the fantasy aspect and it’s done very well, the production design and costumes are on point. At times the visuals can look a little dated but you can look past it, because most of them are really nice to look at, even a decade later.

Matthew Vaughn’s take on a fantasy movie with Stardust was way better than I thought it would be. Even the cheese and the over the top elements were entertaining, it knew what it was, and the cast were really good here. There are for sure better fantasy movies and it’s by no means a classic, however I just really had a lot of fun with this movie. It’s worth a watch at least.

Dumbo (2019) Review

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Colin Farrell as Holt Farrier
Nico Parker as Milly Farrier
Finley Hobbins as Joe Farrier
Michael Keaton as V. A. Vandevere
Danny DeVito as Max Medici
Eva Green as Colette Marchant
Edd Osmond as the motion capture of Jumbo Jr.
Alan Arkin as J. Griffin Remington
Creator: Tim Burton

Struggling circus owner Max Medici (Danny Devito) enlists a former star (Colin Farrell) and his two children (Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins) to care for Dumbo, a baby elephant born with oversized ears. When the family discovers that the animal can fly, it soon becomes the main attraction — bringing in huge audiences and revitalizing the run-down circus. The elephant’s magical ability also draws the attention of V.A. Vandevere, an entrepreneur who wants to showcase Dumbo in his latest, larger-than-life entertainment venture.

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I heard some not so good things about the remake of Dumbo, and I was already pretty doubtful. While I haven’t watched the original Dumbo animated movie, I’m not a fan of the recent live action Disney remakes of their classic animated movies. So despite the talent involved, I was quite sceptical but nonetheless wanted to check it out. The remake of Dumbo turned out to be okay really, despite a lot of flaws.

The script is definitely the weakest part of the movie. It starts off very weak and takes a while to pick up. Although this movie has Dumbo as a big part of the story, the ‘heart’ of the movie is a father and two children, and their problems. Unfortunately, it feels rather hollow and tact on, what’s worse is that this plotline is essentially driving the first act, with Dumbo playing a small part in it. It does get better as it goes along, mainly from the moment where everyone sees Dumbo really flying for the first time. From that point to the end, it’s relatively decent. I wasn’t invested in the story or characters, but I was reasonably entertained for the rest of the runtime.

The main characters of the movie are played by Colin Farrell, Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins, as a family. Farrell is a great actor for sure, but here he’s reduced to just moping around, and he was just fine at best. More focus is drawn to the kid characters, and unfortunately they aren’t that good. Hobbins doesn’t do all that much and just stands there, and Parker is written and directed so poorly, she delivers a bunch of bland exposition, even when she talks about she feels (she literally just says how she feels in a very monotone way). I can’t really blame either of the actors, because none of them are given good material to work with at all. Michael Keaton plays the villain of this movie, and he’s an over the top and one dimensional cartoon, he doesn’t bring down the movie though. The two actors that really stand out are Danny Devito and Eva Green. Devito does the same things as he does in most movies, but Green actually does very well in her scenes, definitely a highlight of the movie.

Knowing Tim Burton and his movies, it’s actually surprising how restrained he was with his direction here. It wasn’t as crazy and bizarre as any of his other movies (especially thankfully not like his Alice in Wonderland). It was at the right level for a Dumbo movie. On a technical level it was pretty good, from the cinematography, the production design, the visuals, the costumes, and the likes. The only bit here that feels like over the top Burton was Michael Keaton’s performance, and as I said before, that wasn’t necessarily bad. The visuals for the elephants, mainly Dumbo, were also quite good, even though he’s not a main character, he was handled quite well.

Dumbo 2019 isn’t bad but it’s not as good as it could’ve been, especially considering the talent involved. Tim Burton directed it rather well, Danny Devito and Eva Green shine, and it gets better as it progressed, but that’s it. It’s heavily worn down by bad writing, and it’s hard to get emotionally connected to the story and characters. Still, if you’re curious to check it out, I’d say that it’s worth a watch.

Hugo (2011) Review

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
Asa Butterfield as Hugo Cabret
Chloë Grace Moretz as Isabelle
Ben Kingsley as Georges Méliès/Papa Georges
Sacha Baron Cohen as Inspector Gustave Dasté
Ray Winstone as Claude Cabret
Emily Mortimer as Lisette
Jude Law as Mr. Cabret
Helen McCrory as Jehanne D’Alcy/Mama Jeanne
Michael Stuhlbarg as René Tabard
Christopher Lee as Monsieur Labisse
Director: Martin Scorsese

Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan who lives in a Paris railway station, tending to the station clocks during his uncle’s (Ray Winstone) mysterious absence. He scrounges food from the vendors and steals mechanical parts from the owner of a toy shop, Georges Melies (Ben Kinglsey). In fact, Hugo’s father was a watchmaker and he has inherited his father’s (Jude Law) talents for all things mechanical. Years before, Hugo’s father found an intricate mechanical man, but they could never figure out how it worked. Hugo befriends Melies’s ward, Isabelle (Chloe Grace-Moretz), and together they have an adventure, one that centres around Méliès himself.

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I recall Hugo being the first movie of Martin Scorsese’s that I saw, and I remember liking it quite a lot when I did. With that said, it had been a while since I’ve last seen it, and I had a feeling that I would appreciate it more upon a more recent viewing, and having watched that more recently, I was right. While it looks as a kids movie and certainly looks like that, it also works as something much more, and is overall very well made.

Hugo may be by far Martin Scorsese’s most age appropriate film, and I think there’s a lot here that kids may like, but there’s more parts to it that they aren’t going to fully get or appreciate. Teenagers are more likely to enjoy it more than kids to be honest. The movie starts off pretty well, however the second half is where the movie really takes an interesting turn, as it becomes Scorsese’s love letter to cinema. At this point of the movie, you begin to get why he chose to direct this. It focuses on an era we don’t see portrayed in film much, that being the silent era, and ends up being a tribute to filmmaker Georges Melies. The only part I didn’t like of the movie was for whatever reason there was sometimes random comedy thrown in, it wasn’t particularly funny and distracted from the rest of the movie. Thankfully it didn’t happen too often, but you are taken out a bit when its present.

The cast generally do a good job in their roles, the only thing that was a little distracting was that you often forget that Hugo is set in France, given that there aren’t many French accents present over the course of the movie. Asa Butterfield was pretty solid in the lead role, and Chloe Grace Moretz was also good, with the two of them sharing some decent chemistry. The supporting cast are also really good, with Ben Kingsley (giving his best performance in a long time here as Georges Melies), Helen McCrory, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jude Law, Christopher Lee and more doing a lot of good work. Some of the actors don’t get to really do much and maybe get like one or two scenes (like Law and Lee) but they do a lot to make you remember them. Now there are some supporting characters which really didn’t serve much purpose outside of some brief comedy. Much of the comic relief surrounds the Station Inspector played by Sacha Baron Cohen, although he occasionally poses as an antagonist to the title character, a lot of the scenes with him are just for comedy. Cohen definitely plays the role as he’s meant to, and the fault isn’t him. There are scenes where they try to imply that there’s more to this character outside of being a cartoonish and typical authority figure in a kids movie, but they never follow through with it really so those moments feel pointless.

Martin Scorsese as usual directs this very well, but this is a very different movie from him, it involves a lot of visual effects which at least up to that point you wouldn’t see him using a ton. Scorsese is one of those filmmakers who uses CGI as tools to tell his story, while Hugo is indeed fantastic to look at and there are plenty of times where you can see it in all its glory, you never get the feeling that it’s just on screen to only look pretty. It’s never at the detriment of the rest of the film. Much praise should also go towards the production design, with this visually modernized France from the 20th Century, making it really appealing to watch. Robert Richardson’s cinematography really captures the whole movie very well, it’s generally a gorgeous looking film throughout.

Putting aside some distracting comic relief, Hugo is on the whole really good and deserves more praise amongst Martin Scorsese’s filmography, even though it was widely praised upon its release, it’s unfortunately been forgotten. It’s a gorgeous movie directed excellently by Scorsese per usual, the cast generally do well in their roles, and it works as both a kids movie and a tribute to cinema, as well as the power of cinema. Definitely worth a watch.

Aladdin (2019) Review

Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Will Smith as Genie
Mena Massoud as Aladdin
Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine
Marwan Kenzari as Jafar
Navid Negahban as The Sultan
Nasim Pedrad as Dalia
Billy Magnussen as Prince Anders
Director: Guy Ritchie

Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is a lovable street urchin who meets Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), the beautiful daughter of the sultan of Agrabah (Navid Negahban). While visiting her exotic palace, Aladdin stumbles upon a magic oil lamp that unleashes a powerful, wisecracking, larger-than-life genie (Will Smith). As Aladdin and the genie start to become friends, they must soon embark on a dangerous mission to stop the evil sorcerer Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) from overthrowing young Jasmine’s kingdom.

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I missed 2019’s version of Aladdin in cinemas, and I’ve only recently caught up on. I really didn’t know how I would feel about it leading up to its release. I like Naomi Scott and Will Smith, and I’ve liked most of director Guy Ritchie’s movies I’ve seen. However certain parts of the trailers I weren’t really feeling, not to mention I’m not that hyped for live action Disney remakes in general, even if a couple are decent. It looked like it could be a real mess, but nonetheless I gave it a shot, and hoped that I would somewhat like. I was actually surprised at Aladdin 2019, it’s not anything great but it was quite entertaining.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve watched the original Aladdin, so I can’t remember exactly how similar in plot the new movie is to the animated version. From what I can tell, largely plotwise it’s the same, however certain plot points and moments were handled differently. Having forgotten how the original movie did certain things, I don’t think I have a problem with how they handled the plot in this version of the story (except for maybe Jafar, which I’ll get to in a bit). It is a little long at 2 hours and 10 minutes. Not that it dragged or anything, just feels like it is a little stretched out. I think it’s like 50 minutes into the movie when Aladdin encounters the Genie for the first time. Maybe 5-10 minutes could’ve been shaved off the first act but it’s not a big deal. While it does some different things with the plot, it’s basically just the same plot, so there aren’t any surprises. So as the movie is progressing you’re just waiting for certain plot beats to occur. I’m not quite sure I’d call the movie ‘soulless’ (like most of the other Disney remakes have been called), but that let’s just say I was mostly just watching the movie go through the motions and wasn’t actually invested in the story.

Mena Massoud plays Aladdin and he did a pretty good job in his role. Same goes for Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine, her singing was particularly good (they even give her a new original song for her to sing, that wasn’t in the original movie). Following Robin Williams’s work in the original Aladdin as The Genie is not easy by any means, he’s solidified that as one of the best animated voice performances. Will Smith however managed to have his own take on the iconic character, which was really the only thing that he could’ve done. He’s by far the standout in the whole movie and he improves every scene that he’s in. Even though I like other aspects of the movie as well, I really don’t think I would’ve liked this movie as much without Smith’s Genie. Probably the weakest link of the main cast however is Marwan Kenzari as Jafar. I don’t think it’s necessarily his acting ability that’s the problem. He’s much less over the top in this version, and instead they try to have a much more serious take, which is fair enough, they actually went all in instead of having a half measure of both the original and the new take. With that said it didn’t really work out, he’s not threatening, he’s not interesting, he’s not memorable, he doesn’t even convey any kind of presence at all. Whenever he came on screen, he just seemed like some random guy who I guess was the villain, rather than the powerful and dangerous Jafar. Supposedly there’s going to be an Aladdin sequel based on the sequel to the original animated movie titled Jafar’s Return. If that’s the case, then they are going to need to change a lot with this version of Jafar in order for him to make it work, because after seeing him in this movie, it doesn’t sound appealing at all.

I generally like Guy Ritchie and most of his work here is pretty good, definitely not one of his best movies though. The visuals are bright and overblown, which could be too much for some people, but I’m at least glad that they went all out instead of just replicating exactly what the animated movie did. The CGI mostly worked, but occasionally it had some really fake looking moments. Whenever it came to the Genie however, the CGI actually worked really well, and complemented Smith’s performance nicely. The editing could be a little off at certain points, especially near the beginning. There’s a chase scene that also had some singing and it was really rough. Thankfully the direction of the singing scenes improved later on. The singing itself was mostly fine, though most of it really sounded like it was autotuned and that really took me out of it.

Aladdin 2019 was pretty decent, although it’s got its issues, it’s entertaining, and Smith, Massoud and Scott worked well in their roles. I’m still not on board with these Disney Animated remakes, and just the very idea of them still feels like soulless cash grabs to me. I will say though, at least with Aladdin, they attempted at changing some aspects to have an ‘updated’ take on the story, even if it doesn’t completely work. If you’re the least bit curious, check it out, but if you’ve hated all of Disney’s live action remakes, then Aladdin isn’t going to change your mind.