Category Archives: Fantasy

Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022) Review

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Three Thousand Years of Longing

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language, sex scenes & nudity
Cast:
Idris Elba as the Djinn
Tilda Swinton as Alithea Binnie
Director: George Miller

A lonely and bitter British woman discovers an ancient bottle while on a trip to Istanbul and unleashes a djinn who offers her three wishes. Filled with apathy, she is unable to come up with one until his stories spark in her a desire to be loved.

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Three Thousand Years of Longing was one of my most anticipated movies of 2022. While it already had Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba in the lead roles, the main reason I was excited is that it’s the newest film from George Miller, who last directed the incredible Mad Max: Fury Road 7 years ago. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from his upcoming movie. The premise seemed a bit vague and simple, and the trailer didn’t really convey much except for its strong visuals. Still, I was curious enough to check it out, and I’m glad I watched it.

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First of all, Three Thousand Years of Longing is nothing like the trailer. It showed the basic premise and there are certainly some crazy visuals, but that’s not the nature of the movie. Its not a bombastic spectacle, and its certainly not as chaotic and fast paced as it appeared in the trailers, nor is it as thrilling compared to Miller’s last movie. In fact, it is more of a subdued, endearing and existential fairy-tale love story for adults. The plot and storytelling is more straightforward than you might think it would be. For the most part, this movie surrounds a conversation between Idris Elba’s djinn genie and Tilda Swinton, as he offers her 3 wishes and recounts stories from his past. It is a sincere thought provoking character study about stories (and the importance of them), and a meditation on life, love, and desire. The movie has a lot of narration, and while it can be hit or miss in movies, it fits here given that characters are actually telling stories here. Its very dialogue heavy as you would expect, and I found the conversations between Elba and Swinton to be compelling. In the opening 10 minutes, I wasn’t really sure about what was happening with the story or what direction it is going in. However, it picks up the moment that Idris Elba comes out of the bottle. The third act is a bit out of place from the rest of the movie, it stumbles a little and the pacing is weird. While I was satisfied with the movie, I couldn’t help but feel like it could’ve been longer. Perhaps it was originally longer and was cut down for the theatrical cut, an hour and 50 minutes does feel a little short. Part of that is that it feels a little rushed towards the end, even though I enjoyed it.

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As for acting, it really comes down to the lead performances from Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton, both of them are great. They are genuine in their parts, and I like the relationship that they form. I will say however that I wished we got to learn more about Swinton’s character. At some points she talks about her life, but not a great amount, and it particularly pales when compared to all the stories that Elba tells of his very long life.

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George Miller directs, and once again his work is incredible, very stylish and creative. He already showed this in Mad Max: Fury Road, but he really is a master of visual storytelling. There are some spectacular sequences, and it was great to experience this in the cinema. The camerawork and cinematography are sweeping and amazing, and the visuals are stunning. There is also so much care put into the set decoration and designs. There is a lot of CGI in this, and sometimes is looks great. At other times however, it looks a bit weird, almost like it’s unfinished. The score from Tom Holkenborg is amazing, and some of his very best work.

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Three Thousand Years of Longing is definitely rough in parts, some of the CGI is a bit dodgy, and parts towards the second half do feel a bit awkward, and it could’ve afforded to have been a little longer. It is also definitely not for everyone, as can be seen with the disappointing box office. It wasn’t helped by the poor marketing, but then again, its not an easy movie to sell to audiences. It’s a shame because it’s the kind of film that we don’t get a lot of nowadays; director driven, sincere, and not afraid to be creative, weird or different. With Three Thousand Years of Longing, George Miller has created a $60 million arthouse movie. The story is genuine and compelling, Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton are great, its visually beautiful, and Miller’s direction and craft are on full display here. I know its not for everyone, but I do think its worth checking out. One of the most surprising movies of 2022.

Moon Knight (2022) TV Review

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Moon Knight Season 1Cast:
Oscar Isaac as Marc Spector/Moon Knight, Steven Grant/Mr. Knight
May Calamawy as Layla El-Faouly
Karim El Hakim and F. Murray Abraham as Khonshu
Ethan Hawke as Arthur Harrow
Ann Akinjirin as Bobbi Kennedy
David Ganly as Billy Fitzgerald
Khalid Abdalla as Selim
Gaspard Ulliel as Anton Mogart
Antonia Salib as Taweret
Fernanda Andrade as Wendy Spector
Rey Lucas as Elias Spector
Sofia Danu and Saba Mubarak as Ammit
Creator: Jeremy Slater

Steven Grant and mercenary Marc Spector investigate the mysteries of the Egyptian gods from inside the same body.

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I was interested in the upcoming Moon Knight show. I had no knowledge of Moon Knight except that he’s a major character in the Marvel comics. Oscar Isaac would play the titular role, and Ethan Hawke was cast as the villain. Also from the trailer, Moon Knight looked very different from the rest of the MCU, even just stylistically. So I was going into it open minded despite the mixed reactions. I have to say that I was disappointed, even thought I liked the show overall.

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The previous MCU shows were heavily linked in with the wider MCU simply by being led by a notable MCU character, Hawkeye, Loki, etc. This is however Moon Knight’s introduction into the MCU and doesn’t feature any side characters that return from the established cinematic universe. I don’t recall many references to the wider MCU either. So I for one at least appreciated that it was different and felt unrelated, it was very much its own thing. Even the tone is quite dark and different from the entries that came before. It has a portrayal of dissociative identity disorder (which the show’s subject has) and while I’m not an expert on the topic, it does have a sensitive take on it at the very least. As for the writing itself, it has to be the most unevenly written MCU show thus far. It has some strong moments and well done sections, and then it has some very messy parts with some sluggish or rushed pacing. The highlight of the show for me was episode 5 in which it goes into Marc Spector’s (Moon Knight) painful past and we learn how the split personality came to be. It was much like the penultimate episode of WandaVision in which Wanda is shown her past. There are some incredibly effective stuff in this episode, with the right amount of emotional impact. By far the best episode of the show, and it didn’t even have Moon Knight doing any Moon Knighting. A typical failing of the MCU shows (aside from Loki) is that it fails in the finale, especially with a rushed and a typical climax. That’s very much the case with Moon Knight; it was mostly just action with no room to breathe and felt rushed despite the 6 episodes. The ending itself is very abrupt, even when taking the credits scene into account. Its particularly sad because right after the amazing stuff in episode 5, it snaps back into formula for the final stretch. Much like most of the other MCU shows, Moon Knight feels like a show that really could’ve been a movie, and probably would’ve been much better as such. At the same time, it doesn’t feel like enough time was given to it. There aren’t many moments where I’ve outright disliked it, but I wish I liked it more. By the time it reached the end, I felt let down.

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One of the biggest selling points of the show is Oscar Isaac in the lead role. His character has DID and plays two separate personalities, Steven Grant and Marc Spector. Isaac has had better performances, but he’s really good here and carries much of the show. The show starts out following Steven and despite the very rough start, he makes the show watchable. He’s likable to watch and easy to root for, even Oscar Isaac’s over the top British accent made him endearing in a way. I especially liked the contrast between the two roles, the Isaac does well at making them clearly different beyond the accents. If nothing else, he’s is clearly committed to the roles, and that goes a long way. Ethan Hawke is also in this show as the main villain, a cult leader named Arthur Harrow. I wouldn’t say that it’s one of his best performances and the show could’ve been given him more to work with, but its more than a lot of other MCU villain actors are given. It helps that Hawke is pretty good here too. The rest of the performances are pretty good too, including one of the major characters Layla, played by May Calamawy.

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The direction is a bit of a mixed bag from beginning to end. The action scenes are fun to watch, and makes use of Moon Knight’s abilities quite well. The suiting up scenes for Moon Knight are very satisfying and fun to watch. I like the design of the suits (Moon Knight/Marc Specter and Mr Knight/Steven Grant). I also quite like the musical score from Hesham Nazih, especially the main theme. On the other hand, the CGI can vary, occasionally looking pretty good, other times bad and distracting like it is from a 90s comic book movie. Even on a visual level, it can look disappointingly bland at points.

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Moon Knight is down there with Hawkeye as one of the worst MCU shows. The writing is messy and uneven, with a story that isn’t that compelling, as well as some flawed CGI and visuals. It’s unfortunate because there’s some good stuff here, and things that make me want to like it more. I liked the performances, especially Oscar Isaac as the lead, and it has some genuinely great moments. I guess if you like the MCU, you’ll probably want to watch it regardless. I do like the show, but I wish I liked it more than I did.

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.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) Review

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Doctor Stranger in the Multiverse of Madness

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo
Benedict Wong as Wong
Xochitl Gomez as America Chavez
Michael Stuhlbarg as Nicodemus West
Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer
Director: Sam Raimi

Dr Stephen Strange casts a forbidden spell that opens a portal to the multiverse. However, a threat emerges that may be too big for his team to handle.

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Out of the upcoming MCU movies, I was looking forward to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness the most. I liked the first Doctor Strange movie and with the addition of Wanda/Scarlet Witch for the sequel and more of a horror focus, I was interested. Admittedly, I did have some hesitations going into it. With the concept of the multiverse being present, there was a chance it would just be mostly cameos, I had a feeling that the MCU would take the wrong lessons from Spider-Man: No Way Home for the movies going forward with regard to cameos. Also at the last moment, director Scott Derrickson who made the first film left the movie, thankfully his replacement was Sam Raimi, which I found exciting. While there are certainly some issues, I quite liked Multiverse of Madness.

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I will say that first of all, if you haven’t watched the WandaVision show, you might lose a lot of the context. Doctor Strange 2 is very much a continuation from WandaVision and where Wanda’s story left off; so if you can, watch it beforehand. For all the strengths of the movie, unfortunately, I think that the writing is the biggest issue; some of it works, some of it doesn’t. Despite the unique direction and style, you can definitely tell that it’s an MCU flick from the writing alone, and it doesn’t break the formula at all. The issues aren’t restricted to formula, however. Much of the movie feels underdeveloped, with some portions of the script feeling like its rushed and missing stuff. It is fast paced but not necessarily in a good way. Some of that has to do with the runtime, with it being 2 hours, surprisingly short for an MCU movie. If anything, I think it is a bit too short, there’s some plotlines, sections and characters which would’ve benefitted from more focus and attention. As it is, the runtime doesn’t allow time for some plot points to be fully explored. That’s not to say that there’s nothing going on with the characters, but the story just didn’t succeed at connecting emotionally. With that being said, the story is refreshingly straightforward and contained for the most part, and it didn’t allow itself to feel too overstuffed. Like with many of the MCU movies, it also has the same issue with the out of place and annoying humour. Not that all of the jokes are bad, but I wish there was less of it. Like some of the other movies which use the multiverse (including the MCU), MoM doesn’t quite take advantage of that aspect. Multiverse of Madness is a bit of a misleading title, the multiverse definitely play a role but doesn’t utilise it much and set it up to be bigger than it was. Once again though, I am glad that the story is kept self-contained. There is a section that contains some cameos, and it is by far the worst section of the movie, even if I liked it. With that said, I really appreciate that they kept these cameos within this segment instead of stretched throughout the whole movie. Also, I appreciated the way they ended this cameo section, that’s what ultimately made it worth it for me. The third act gets wonderfully crazy, though I will say that the actual ending is a bit abrupt.

DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS

Benedict Cumberbatch plays his role of Doctor Strange in his sixth appearance, and once again is really good. The question of Strange’s happiness is a reoccurring theme and we see how things have taken a toll on him. I do like his storyline, but I feel like he constantly kept being pushed into the background. I especially like how he portrays the different versions of Strange. The MVP and driving force of the movie is Elizabeth Olsen in her best performance yet as Wanda/Scarlet Witch. As one of the MCU’s strongest, interesting and tragic characters, Olsen does great work here, practically a co-lead alongside Cumberbatch. Definitely one of the best performances in the MCU so far. There’s also the debut of a new character America Chavez, played by Xochitl Gomez. Gomez is quite good in the role and will no doubt play a bigger role in other movies going forward, but ended up being more of a plot device in this film. Benedict Wong is once again great as fan favourite Wong, this time as the Sorcerer Supreme. Chiwetel Ejiofor reprises his role as Mordo and is good in his part, but has limited screentime. Rachel McAdams also returns as Christine Palmer and considering her smaller role in the first movie, they surprisingly found a way to get her involved with the plot more in the sequel, and gets to do a lot more here. The writing for the main villain is unfortunately a bit one note and needed more nuance and development, but the performance helped it work. As for the cameos, they definitely felt out of place and their section was the worst but for the most part, I liked the characters and their performances. The exception is one actor, whose casting and performance left much to be desired.

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This is Sam Raimi’s first movie in 9 years, that alone made Doctor Strange in MOM exciting to watch. His direction is one of the highlights of the movie. There are a lot of talented directors who work on MCU movies where their style and vision are muffled and you can barely see it. While I wouldn’t call Multiverse of Madness a full-on Raimi film, his distinct style does shine through. There’s plenty of creativity throughout and it is definitely one of the most director influenced films in the MCU in quite some time. Many of his trademarks are on display. The camera movements are inventive and dynamic, and it allows for some crazy visuals. The editing is also fantastic, with some particularly great transitions. It is also one of the most violent movies in the MCU, if not the most. One of the most surprising parts of the movie were the horror elements, I wasn’t expecting to see moments reminiscent of the Evil Dead movies. There’s particularly a chase scene in the middle section of the movie which is straight out of a horror movie. That being said, I wouldn’t say that this is a Raimi movie first and foremost, it’s still very much within the MCU style. The worst thing I can say about his style here, aside from it not being fully Raimi, is that it is at odds with the writing. The action sequences are for the most part great and are entertaining to watch. The visual effects in the first Doctor Strange were some of the best in the MCU and that’s the case with the sequel too, with some good CGI. The score is composed by Danny Elfman, and while the prospect of him teaming up with Raimi sounded good, the score is nothing special and at about the same level as Michael Giaacchino’s score in the first movie. With that said, Elfman occasionally gets moments to shine through, including the use of electric guitars.

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Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is not without its issues, mainly with the script. With that said there’s a lot of other good aspects with the the solid performances (with Elizabeth Olsen being the MVP), and most of all the outstanding direction from Sam Raimi, giving the movie a distinct flavour and creativity not seen in most of the MCU. Additionally, the horror elements are a welcome addition. While I know that not everyone will love it, based off my first viewing, I liked it more than most movies in the MCU.

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).

FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE

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.

Your Name (2016) Review

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Time: 107 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Coarse language and sexual references
Voice Cast:
Ryunosuke Kamiki as Taki Tachibana
Mone Kamishiraishi as Mitsuha Miyamizu
Director: Makoto Shinkai

Two teenagers share a profound, magical connection upon discovering they are swapping bodies. Things manage to become even more complicated when the boy and girl decide to meet in person.

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I had heard about Your Name, plenty of people has recommended this film especially in terms of anime movies. From the looks I had from some images of the movie, the visuals looked stunning but I didn’t know much about the film itself. I didn’t even know going in that it had body swapping as part of its main plot (which was quite a surprise for me when I eventually got around to it). Surprisingly, I actually loved the movie from beginning to end.

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It’s been said many times before about countless movies that it’s best going in not knowing much beforehand, but that is especially the case here. I went in knowing basically nothing and the experience I had was truly incredible. The premise of the movie isn’t new, it’s essentially a body swap story where two people keep swapping bodies. However, this has to be one of the best body swap stories, and it does a lot with its initial premise. The concept of the body swapping starts out simple but turns into much more as time progresses and as the two people try to keep notes, log moments in journals and write on their bodies, sometimes to keep the other person informed. It was compelling watching these two different characters living the other’s life, but experience it entirely different. We live through lead characters Mitsuha and Taki as they live through one another, a powerful bond is formed between the pair even though they aren’t on screen together a lot. The plot sounds basic at first but as the story unfolds it becomes so much more. The film balances very separate characters and storylines, and manages to connect them well. You are emotionally invested with what is happening, you care about the fully realised characters, the emotional moments felt earned, and the plot twists make sense. It is vast in proportion with its scale, yet the story is so intimate. Despite the fantastical elements (with the body swapping and all that), there’s a very human story at its core. It is enthralling throughout, with a pace that keeps the energy where it needs to be. It’s difficult to not be engrossed by its upbeat spirit. Your Name is many things, it’s romance, comedy and adventure, and it is sweet, sensitive, heartwarming and exciting. The story also gets dark and it handles the tonal shifts greatly. I was liking the movie already a lot leading up to that point, but I loved it even more after that point. Also without getting into it, the ending is beautiful and perfect for this movie.

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Makoto Shinkai’s direction is spectacular. I have seen a number of excellent looking animated (anime and not anime) films, but Your Name is quite possibly the most stunning animated movie I’ve ever seen. That visual style immediately got me hooked into the movie even before the story really started, with vivid colours with a style that’s well crafted to compliment the themes of the story. Honestly the visuals alone make it worth watching. That’s not all, the soundtrack by RADWIMPS is also amazing and memorable, really enhancing an already dynamic film and making it even more energetic.

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Your Name was truly spectacular. Not only was it visually amazing and gorgeous to watch, but the story is also energetic, heart-warming and compelling to watch play out, and I got very invested with it. One of my favourite anime films, and one of my favourite animated movies in general. Check it out as soon as you can, even if you haven’t watched an anime movie before.

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) Review

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Spider-Man No Way Home

Time: 148 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Zendaya as Michelle “MJ” Jones-Watson
Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange
Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds
Jon Favreau as Harold “Happy” Hogan
Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon/Electro
Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin
Alfred Molina as Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus
Benedict Wong as Wong
Tony Revolori as Eugene “Flash” Thompson
Marisa Tomei as May Parker
Director: Jon Watts

With Spider-Man’s identity now revealed, our friendly neighborhood web-slinger is unmasked and no longer able to separate his normal life as Peter Parker from the high stakes of being a superhero. When Peter asks for help from Doctor Strange, the stakes become even more dangerous, forcing him to discover what it truly means to be Spider-Man.

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I will admit that I wasn’t sure about how Spider-Man: No Way Home would turn out. I enjoyed the previous two MCU Spider-Man movies but my liking for them has decreased over time as I’ve thought about them. Also the fact that this time they would be bringing back new old Spider-Man villains from the previous versions of Spider-Man, it just left me feeling unsure going into it. With all that being said, the movie pleasantly surprised me.

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No Way Home starts with where the last movie ended with everyone learning that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. He was also framed for killing Mysterio but that aspect is forgotten very early, however the public identity is present throughout. One addition which did feel weird going in was bringing in the real multiverse (not the fake multiverse presented by Mysterio in the last movie). However the multiverse actually works for Peter’s story, it doesn’t go too overboard with the multiverse elements and stays true to the core storyline of Peter’s identity. The film never loses focus on what it is. No Way Home is definitely heavily reliant on nostalgia, unsurprising since they bring back 5 villains from the previous Spider-Man movies (with the same actors playing them). However it actually works to enhance the movie and it’s to the betterment of the characters. Something that the MCU Spider-Man movies have been lacking were serious consequences and heavy decisions (outside of the identity reveal at the end of the last movie). No Way Home however really puts Holland’s Spider-Man through the ringer and by the end, the story really does capture the essence of Spider-Man. It gives the character of Peter Parker some tragedy and I was honestly surprised at how dark it could get at points, it’s not constantly light hearted all the way through. But now we get into the issues. Despite what I just said, it’s still very much an MCU movie especially with the use of comedy, in that they have way too much of it (with only half the jokes actually working). Although I will give credit that they do dial it back in some scenes, and I will always praise those instances in MCU movies considering that ever since The Avengers (2012) they’ve really struggled to hold off from breaking dramatic or emotional tension with a quip or joke. There was a lot happening in the movie and as such it’ll require a rewatch for me to fully process it all. However I will say that there is some messiness, particularly in the first half of the movie. That’s where the movie stumbled along for a bit, it’s only when it reaches the middle where it got into its stride.

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I liked Tom Holland as Spider-Man in his previous appearances, but he hasn’t always had the best material to work with. However this is by far his best performance as the character. It certainly helped that this movie really allowed him to be Spider-Man, and he sells the most emotional moments really well. I’m now looking forward to seeing what happens next with him. Compared to the previous two love interest characters in the previous live action versions of Spider-Man, Zendaya’s MJ really doesn’t have much going on as a character. Nonetheless she is good and enjoyable in the part, and she has great chemistry with Tom Holland. Benedict Cumberbatch returns as Doctor Strange in a notable supporting role. I would say this is Cumberbatch’s worst outing as the character, mainly because of his writing and he felt rather out of character throughout much of the film. Marisa Tomei returns as Aunt May, in the previous appearances it’s a rather thankless role and doesn’t do much outside of being Peter’s aunt (especially compared to previous versions of the character). However she is given much more to do here and actually has an impact on Peter and his decisions, which I was happy to see.

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The MCU Spider-Man trilogy have consistently great villains, and No Way Home is no exception. Despite these villains being from the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield Spider-Man films and are actually fairly fleshed out, and most of them go through their own arcs. Sandman and The Lizard are fully CGI creations but those roles are still reprised by Thomas Haden Church and Rhys Ifans. They almost feel added on given that the remainder 3 villains get more focus but I still liked seeing them here. The villain most distinctly different from their last on screen appearance was Jamie Foxx’s Electro. He’s no longer blue like he was in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and his personality has changed to basically Jamie Foxx with lightning, and I can’t tell whether its better or worse. Still he’s fun to watch. It was really nice seeing Alfred Molina return as Doc Ock as well. The standout from the whole movie though is Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn/Green Goblin, and he might’ve even topped his performance from Spider-Man 1. He doesn’t really wear the mask for much of the film and honestly it was for the better given that Dafoe is terrifying and threatening here without it. He is such a strong on screen presence and he is one of my favourite parts of the film, easily one of the MCU’s best villains. There are also some other noteworthy appearances which I won’t mention by name but needless to say, I was very satisfied with them.

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One of my least favourite parts of these recent Spider-Man movies was the direction from Jon Watts. His work isn’t necessarily inherently bad, it’s competent but that’s just it. I know that a lot of MCU movies look very similar, but even by those standards, Watt’s direction really lacks any unique style. In some way No Way Home is the same, but for what it’s worth it does show some sign for improvement. Some of the shots and editing are quite bland, but it has its moments, especially when in the scenes set during night time. There’s also some very effective action sequences, the standout without spoiling takes place in an apartment. There are some Doctor Strange dream visuals in a couple scenes, however it’s not as well done as it was in his original movie or in Infinity War. The blue and green screen can actually be terrible at times, with some dodgy CGI. However I liked the action and movie enough to look past those moments. Michael Giacchino can compose some really good scores however for the most part his work on the Spider-Man movies isn’t all that great for the most part, and No Way Home is the same here.

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Spider-Man: No Way Home was one of the most surprising movies of the year. It gives Tom Holland’s Spider-Man a personal story with stakes and weighty consequences which I greatly appreciated, along with it being very entertaining. With some effective action, great and memorable villains (with Willem Dafoe being the standout) and a surprisingly effective use of nostalgia, I really liked it. I’m really interested to see what happens next with this version of Spider-Man.

The Green Knight (2021) Review

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The Green Knight

Time: 130 Minutes
Cast:
Dev Patel as Sir Gawain
Alicia Vikander as Essel and the Lady
Joel Edgerton as the Lord
Sarita Choudhury as Morgan le Fay
Sean Harris as King Arthur
Ralph Ineson as the Green Knight
Barry Keoghan as the Scavenger
Erin Kellyman as Winifred
Kate Dickie as Queen Guinevere
Director: David Lowery

King Arthur’s headstrong nephew (Dev Patel) embarks on a daring quest to confront the Green Knight (Ralph Ineson), a mysterious giant who appears at Camelot. Risking his head, he sets off on an epic adventure to prove himself before his family and court.

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I was greatly anticipating The Green Knight. I was a fan of David Lowery, director of A Ghost Story, Pete’s Dragon, and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and it had a good cast that included Dev Patel and Alicia Vikander. From the descriptions it was a medieval fantasy based off an Arthurian legend and I was interested to see how Lowery would do with that. The Green Knight isn’t for everyone by any means, but I found watching it to be a phenomenal experience.

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Try to go into the movie blind, the less you know about the movie, the better. The Green Knight is based on a 14th Century poem (called Sir Gawain and the Green Knight) which I’m unfamiliar with. Essentially (and without spoiling anything) the movie is about the protagonist Sir Gawain going on an epic journey to seek honour and fulfil his destiny. It sounds simple and familiar, but its not a conventional (or easily accessible) movie by any means. It certainly wasn’t the type of movie I was expecting. This is definitely not like most fantasy films or tv like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. The story has such a grand scope, but its also blended with this deeply intimate emotional journey, a journey which I found thoroughly compelling. Much of the movie is Gawain wandering different lands and encountering other individuals on his spiritual journey. This movie very much subverts the familiar ‘hero’s journey’ trope, and deconstructs it, and thematically there is so much here to unpack. It is a very contemplative and meditative film, and as such is very much a slow burn. It takes its time to establish its themes, tone, and the development of the main character. However I was personally never bored, I was drawn into this dreamlike world especially with its surrealistic atmosphere. I was surprised at how effectively unsettling it was considering what the movie is based on, there is this constant sense of impending doom which kept me riveted all the way to the end. The last 20 minutes was truly spectacular, with the movie ending with one of the most visually stunning sequences I’ve seen.

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There are a lot of great actors in this movie, and they are all really good in their parts. First of all, you have Dev Patel as the lead character of Gawain and this has to be the best performance I’ve seen from him. He’s perfectly cast in this role, the whole film follows him, and he does well carrying it. It’s a very subtle performance, you feel the weight and gravity of what’s happening and you see his state of mind just from his expressions alone. The supporting cast were all fantastic too. Alicia Vikander is really good and memorable in dual roles, definitely a standout in the cast. Sean Harris and Joel Edgerton are great. Barry Keoghan is only in one scene but makes a strong impression, and Ralph Ineson is great as the Green Knight in his few appearances.

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David Lowery has directed some great movies, but The Green Knight is on a whole other level compared to what he’s done before, his work here is practically flawless. It is lower budget at around $15 million, but everything on a technical level from the sound design, camera work, visuals and set designs are stellar. I imagine that it would’ve been amazing to watch this on the big screen. The cinematography is truly phenomenal and dreamlike, it just felt so epic and magical. It really is one of the most visually mesmerising films I’ve seen in recent years. The film does use CGI, but it is minimal and subtle, and the fact that they shot on location goes a long way. The sets and costumes are very well detailed too. The score from Daniel Hart is great, a mix of epic and folk music, really helping to set the tone of the film.

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The Green Knight lingers in the mind long after I watched it, and it is a movie I want to revisit in the future. It definitely isn’t for everyone, but I loved it. The performances are outstanding led by a career best Dev Patel, the story is compelling with a unique take on the hero’s journey, and the visuals and David Lowery’s direction was amazing to watch. One of my favourite movies of 2021 thus far.

1408 (2007) Review

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Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains supernatural themes & violence
Cast:
John Cusack as Michael “Mike” Enslin
Samuel L. Jackson as Gerald Olin
Mary McCormack as Lily Enslin
Tony Shalhoub as Sam Farrell
Director: Mikael Håfström

A man who specializes in debunking paranormal occurrences (John Cusack) checks into the fabled room 1408 in the Dolphin Hotel. As he settles in, he confronts genuine terror.

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I heard about 1408 for some time, I knew it as a horror movie based on a Stephen King book that starred John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson and involved a specific hotel room. Other than that, I had no idea what to expect from it, though I did notice some reactions to the movie to be a little mixed. I actually ended up enjoying it, even if I wouldn’t exactly call it a great movie.

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The setup of the movie is pretty simple, and the plot moves at a reasonable pace, really picking up from the moment that lead character Mike Enslin (played by John Cusack) first enters Room 1408. The story is pretty fun and kept my interest, especially with the mystery of the room even if by the end it doesn’t live up to its potential and build up. The movie does fall into some typical clichés of the genre and doesn’t surprise too much. With that said, I can say it very much feels like a Stephen King story, for better and for worse. It’s not scary but it is suspenseful and creative as everything is thrown at Enslin and he tries to figure out what to do next. I can’t tell whether some of the scenes are intentionally funny or just unintentionally funny, but some scenes were so over the top that I had fun with them, and not necessarily in a bad way. A particular scene involving a very agitated John Cusack and a mini fridge does make me feel like there was some self-awareness while making the movie. At the same time, there are some genuinely effective scenes, especially in the second half of the movie. I should point out that there are two versions (and apparently somehow three endings) of the movie. Strangely enough, the director’s cut is now the version of 1408 mostly on display for people to watch on Blu-ray and streaming services. Also strangely enough, the theatrical cut ending ended up being superior to the director’s cut. While I liked the initial idea and different direction of the director’s cut ending, ultimately the execution just ends up being really nothing and was unsatisfying. The ending in the theatrical cut, while seemingly less dark, was actually a lot more effective; sadly, you’ll probably only get to see that version if you have the DVD copy of 1408. So in saying that, directly after watching 1408 (it’ll no doubt be the director’s cut), I would recommend looking online at the theatrical cut ending.

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Much of the movie belongs to John Cusack, it’s basically a one man show for him and he does very well. His character is a strong sceptic about ghosts and hauntings as a writer, who is confronted with so much while inside this room and it’s very entertaining to watch him. He’s super into his scenes and embraces his character and all the emotions he’s tasked with delivering. Much of his acting can be hilarious at points, but I think that accompanies the tone of the movie very fittingly. On a side note though, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would’ve been like if Nicolas Cage was in the role instead simply for the over the top insanity scenes (that aforementioned mini-fridge scene certainly felt like a moment right out of a Cage film). Samuel L. Jackson is second billed in the cast but wasn’t in the movie much. However, he’s very memorable and good as the manager of the hotel who warns Cusack’s character about the dangers of staying in Room 1408.

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One of 1408’s strongest aspects was the direction from Mikael Hafstrom. The look of the movie outside of the hotel (and especially during the day) looks a bit off, but otherwise the film looks really great and is shot and composed well. Some strong atmosphere and tension are created early on, and again it shines particularly in the scenes in Room 1408. I don’t think the scares were particularly good, some the jump scares are honestly rather lame and ineffective, but the atmosphere and mystery portions of the film were good. The editing at points can be a little uneven but nothing movie breaking.

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1408 does have its issues and I wouldn’t place it as the top tier of Stephen King film adaptations, but I think it’s pretty good. The intriguing and entertaining story, the solid direction and the committed lead performance from John Cusack come together to make a decent horror movie. Don’t expect something at the level of like The Shining, but I do think it’s a movie you might have a lot of fun watching, worth a look.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) Review

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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Simu Liu as Xu Shang-Chi/Shaun
Awkwafina as Katy
Meng’er Zhang as Xu Xialing
Fala Chen as Ying Li
Florian Munteanu as Razor Fist
Michelle Yeoh as Ying Nan
Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery
Tony Leung as Xu Wenwu
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Martial-arts master Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) confronts the past he thought he left behind when he’s drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization.

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I was interested in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. For the first time in a while, it would be a new movie in the MCU following a character I’m not familiar with, and I liked the trailers and the look of the movie. I was expecting to enjoy it, as I enjoy most MCU movies. However I actually ended up liking it even more than I expected to.

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One of the refreshing aspects about this movie is how self-contained it is as an origin story, it doesn’t feel like a stepping stone to set up more movies. It doesn’t even tie into the multiverse event that some of the recent MCU projects have been moving towards. It’s very much its own thing, and which already has me on board. Another refreshing part is that is feels like a very different entry into the MCU, even to the point where it doesn’t feel like a Marvel movie at times. Once it started with the incredible opening sequence, I knew that I would really like it. In a way the plot is formulaic (not just to other movies in the series, but other action, fantasy, and martial arts films), however it was way more nuanced than I thought it would be. At its core the movie is focussing on a complex family dynamic, and with that there as a lot of thought put into the character work and history of this family. As the emotional core, it exceeds. In terms of the writing for the characters, it’s definitely some of the best in the MCU. In a way this movie is flashback heavy, that doesn’t sound good on paper, but each flashback feels purposeful and is done to flesh out this family story. The humour was generally alright, a lot of it really didn’t land but this is honestly the first MCU movie in a while where it didn’t feel like the humour took away from serious moments or stop the flow of the movie. The third act does feel a bit overstuffed with too many things, and it does have a formulaic CGI filled climax, which was a bit of a shame considering it pivots away from what is essentially a fantasy martial arts movie. However, it does have some incredible moments and it works well enough, it just felt like it came out of left field. There is a mid credits scene and a post credit scene, both setting up follow ups to this movie and the MCU, and they are worth sticking around for.

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The performances from the cast were generally great. Simu Liu played the lead role of Shang-Chi quite well from his grounded family life to the actual fighting. Initially Liu was just alright in the part, but by the end I thought that he was a great fit for the character. Awkwafina is also here in one of the main roles as Shang-Chi’s friend, who goes along with him on his adventure. She does act in the way that you’d expect her to if you’ve seen her other performances (especially with the humour). It doesn’t always work, but it wasn’t as distracting as it could’ve been, and the chemistry between her and Liu was believable. Meng’er Zhang was also really good as Shang-Chi’s sister, and Michelle Yeoh was a really good addition. However, by far the highlight performer is that of Tony Leung as Wenwu (the real Mandarin in the comics), the main villain of the movie and the father of Shang-Chi. He had such a strong onscreen presence, and you end up sympathising with the character, both through the performance and the motivation. Definitely one of the best Marvel villains, and honestly its worth checking out the movie for him alone.

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Destin Daniel Cretton is the director of Shang-Chi, I know him from his work on Just Mercy, and his first action movie was quite good. The cinematography here by Bill Pope made this one of the most visually stunning MCU movies. Aside from some washed out visuals at times, mainly in the third act, it looks very good, especially with the sets and environments. The action is also a highlight, with some top notch, fantastically choreographed and energised fight sequences that rank among the best in the MCU. A lot of the action set pieces are well thought out and put together. The CGI could be a bit of a mess at times in the third act, but I still enjoyed those scenes. The music was solid too, particularly the score from Joel P. West.

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Maybe it’s just because I’ve been finding most of the recent movies in the MCU to range from okay to just good, but there was something about Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings I loved. I enjoyed the visuals and the very entertaining action scenes, the acting was really good, with Tony Leung being the standout. However, I even really liked the story and characters, and the way everything progressed. I will definitely need to see it again to see if it still holds up beyond the first viewing. However, from the initial viewing I really liked it, and it ranks amongst the best of the series. Honestly, while it does tie into the MCU for sure, it is standalone enough that you can go into it having not seen the prior movies. It is worth checking out for sure.