Category Archives: Mystery

Malignant (2021) Review

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Malignant

Time: 111 Minutes
Cast:
Annabelle Wallis as Madison Mitchell
Maddie Hasson as Sydney Lake
George Young as Kekoa Shaw
Michole Briana White as Regina Moss
Jacqueline McKenzie as Dr. Florence Weaver
Director: James Wan

Madison (Annabelle Wallis), a young woman, is terrified by visions of the murders of strangers. Later, Madison decides to find and save the victims.

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I was quite interested in Malignant, not only was it director James Wan’s newest film, but it also his first original horror movie in a while (the last instance being The Conjuring in 2013). I also found the initial reactions to the movie to be quite intriguing, with some people having no idea what they just watched. Honestly, I wish I had the chance to watch the movie in cinemas to hear the reactions, because it was quite an experience.

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It’s unsurprising that the trailers didn’t sell the movie that well considering how weird the concept sounds on paper. This is James Wan’s craziest film to date, and that’s saying a lot. There are some over the top moments and even comedy throughout the film, yet it somehow all fits together, managing to not ruin the grounded and dramatic moments. It is definitely an absurd movie, but it is self-aware of what it is, while still taking itself somewhat seriously. You can feel a mix of other horror directors’ influences, including Dario Argento, David Cronenberg and Sam Raimi, it feels like a perfect mixture of different horror subgenres. However, it is still all James Wan, while feeling so totally different from what he has done in the past. You could probably see elements of Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring, but Malignant still has its own distinct tone and feel. The first two acts build mystery around lead character Madison, intriguing you and locking you into the central mystery as she sees a lot of murders being committed by a mysterious killer. However, it is really the big reveal and the whole third act which is the point where you’ll realise whether you’re on board with the movie or not. Even if you’ve predicted the twist beforehand, the details surrounding the twist are so nutty that they have to be seen to be believed. I for one didn’t quite expect it, the third act was surprising, fun and satisfying and I had a blast with it.

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Annabelle Wallis is really good in the lead role and puts a lot into her performance. The rest of the cast aren’t bad, but they are serviceable. A lot of them act very odd at times especially with how they deliver their dialogue. However, it does work well for the movie’s campy feel at least. Ray Chase is also superb as the voice of the main antagonist of the film.

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This is a James Wan movie and as usual his work is really fantastic. This movie is visually beautiful to watch. There is also a great atmosphere throughout, greatly helped by the slick camera work as well as the sound design. It really should be said that this is by far James Wan’s goriest movie yet. Without going into the details of the scenes, there are some set pieces that are truly a sight to behold, especially in the insane third act. Everything from the choreography, the blood, the camerawork, everything in that last 30 minutes just turns everything to 11. The design and presentation of the main killer in the story is creative and truly memorable. The soundtrack from Joseph Bishara is great too. There’s particularly a piece of music that sounds like Where is My Mind by The Pixies, and it actually works as the main theme of the movie so well.

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Malignant definitely won’t be for everyone but I found it to be quite a satisfying and surprising horror film, with plenty of thrills, bloody and fantastic set pieces, and is absolutely bonkers. I’d go so far to say that it is one of James Wan’s best films. If you like horror movies, I do highly recommend watching it. Go into it blind, and if you find yourself not feeling it within the first 20 minutes, I recommend at least getting to the third act because it is worth watching the film for that alone.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) Review

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Halloween 3 Season of the Witch

Time: 98 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Tom Atkins as Dr. Daniel Challis
Stacey Nelkin as Ellie Grimbridge
Dan O’Herlihy as Conal Cochran
Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Hospital emergency room Dr. Daniel “Dan” Challis (Tom Atkins) and Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin), the daughter of a murder victim, uncover a terrible plot by small-town mask maker Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy), a madman who’s planning a Halloween mass murder utilizing an ancient Celtic ritual. The ritual involves a boulder stolen from Stonehenge, the use of Silver Shamrock masks and a triggering device contained in a television commercial — all designed to kill millions of children.

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Halloween 3: Season of the Witch is known as the odd movie of the Halloween series, as it’s the only movie in the series to not feature the iconic fictional killer Michael Myers. After the character’s death in Halloween 3, John Carpenter wanted to take the series in a different direction away from Myers, and to be more of an anthology horror movie series, with each entry being a standalone story. The movie was poorly received, and led to the following sequels bringing back Michael Myers. However, Season of the Witch has been receiving something of a cult following more recently, and having seen the movie, I can see why. While it’s not as good as the original movie by any mean, it’s pretty good and I had fun with it.

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As said previously, Halloween 3: Season of the Witch isn’t really connected to the series. The most you get is footage of the original Halloween as a movie playing in the background at some points, that’s it. The story is campy for sure, and it does have a B movie feel to it. There’s a lot that happens in the movie, robots that look like humans, rituals and a Bond-like villain. That campiness does make the movie quite entertaining, and its quite creative, which was quite a breath of fresh air compared to many of the Halloween sequels which mainly just consisted of Michael Myers trying to kill people yet again. Season of the Witch also plays more like a mystery thriller than a horror film at times, with a sense of suspense and dread. Also, while I said there was some cheesiness to it, there is a good amount of horror, and some stand out gory and grotesque scenes that I’m impressed the filmmakers went for, especially with one particular iconic scene. The ending is really good too, and quite memorable. The movie is just under 100 minutes long and that was a pretty good runtime and keeps you on board throughout, though at times has some pacing issues.

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The cast do pretty well in their parts. Most of them weren’t anything special, but the standouts were Tom Atkins who works as the main character, and Dan O’Herlihy who works as the rather James Bond-like villain of the whole movie.

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The direction from Tommy Lee Wallace was pretty good, definitely having a pretty good handle of the movie. For one it’s a well shot movie, the cinematography is beautiful and helps convey a spooky atmosphere. It looks straight from the 80s, but it actually works to its benefit, especially considering the tone and overall story of the movie. The effects and makeup are detailed, grotesque and hold up well today. The synth score from John Carpenter is also great, a slower, darker sounding synth score.

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Halloween 3: Season of the Witch is surprisingly good, well made, and makes for quite an entertaining and creepy 80s horror flick. While there are many other Halloween movies I have yet to watch, I think Season of the Witch is one of the best movies in the series, and I feel like the anthology approach to the series might’ve been for the better, but of course we know what happened when the movie was released. If was just titled Season of the Witch and ditched the Halloween subtitle (rather than calling it Halloween 3), it probably would’ve done better with people back then. If you haven’t given this movie a chance and you like horror, I recommend checking it out.

Reminiscence (2021) Review

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Reminiscence

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, drug use & suicide
Cast:
Hugh Jackman as Nick Bannister
Rebecca Ferguson as Mae
Thandiwe Newton as Emily “Watts” Sanders
Cliff Curtis as Cyrus Boothe
Marina de Tavira as Tamara Sylvan
Daniel Wu as Saint Joe
Director: Lisa Joy

Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman), a private investigator of the mind, navigates the darkly alluring world of the past by helping his clients access lost memories. Living on the fringes of the sunken Miami coast, his life is forever changed as he uncovers a violent conspiracy while trying to solve the mystery behind a client (Rebecca Ferguson) who disappeared.

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I was quite curious about Reminiscence going into it, I liked how it looked from the trailers, I liked the cast involved including Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson, and the director is Lisa Joy, who is one of the creators of Westworld. I was a little hesitant after seeing the less than stellar critical response, but I wanted to see it for myself. I’m definitely in the minority of people who actually liked it, despite some clear issues.

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The premise about investigating the mind is great, and the concept of being able to recall memories definitely gives the film the ability to use flashbacks in a natural way that actually works within the context of the plot. It is definitely reminiscent of other sci-fi movies, borrowing from films like Inception and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but I still like what was done here. However, I think a lot of this could’ve been executed better. The pacing wasn’t the best, it takes quite a while for the plot to really progress, and some of the story is fairly predictable. I liked the story for the most part, I was on board throughout and it never really lost me. With that said, the story is definitely more interesting after a slower first half. Reminiscence is very neo noir inspired and I really liked that aspect of the film. I also really liked the world that is being built here, even if it comes with some issues in the way that Lisa Joy decided to convey it. There is a lot of exposition in this movie as it is establishing the current state of the world and the setting, especially towards the beginning. This is probably why it takes so long for the movie to get to the actual mystery at the centre of the story. While I definitely appreciate the amount of detail and context that Joy tries to give this world, it was a bit too much. A lot of the exposition comes through Hugh Jackman narrating throughout the film, something which I’ve noticed a lot of other people complaining about. I’m somewhat inclined to give this a pass simply because it is a play on hard boiled neo-noir films to a degree. However, the use of it was nonetheless overbearing and just about borders on self-parody. Not only that, but the dialogue a lot of the time is very over-melodramatic at many points. While it does feel like it doesn’t feel like it meets its potential and is a little disappointing, I wouldn’t say that the script is bad by any means.

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While much of the characters feel a little underdeveloped, the acting from the solid cast definitely elevates them. Hugh Jackman does a very good job in the lead role as expected. Everyone else does well, Rebecca Ferguson is particularly a standout, and actors like Thandiwe Newton and Cliff Curtis are also great in their parts.

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This is Lisa Joy’s directorial debut, and while there are some issues, I think it’s a good first film. First of all, this movie has some stunning cinematography, and the production design is solid. This noir inspired futuristic setting is gorgeous and fascinating to watch, at the very least on a visual level. There aren’t a ton of action scenes, but they are decent when they are there. There is a particularly creative action scene that takes place inside a collapsing building. Sometimes the CGI is a bit too noticeable but it didn’t bring me out of the movie. The score from Game of Thrones and Westworld composer Ramin Djawadi is great and really fits the tone and vibe of the film.

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Once again, I don’t think that Reminiscence really reaches the peak of its potential, and it was a little disappointing, with the script definitely being the weakest point. However, I was still invested throughout, I liked what Lisa Joy was going for, and it has some really good moments. Joy’s direction and the performances from the cast (especially Jackman and Ferguson) are also great, and elevates the overall quality of the film. At the very least I do think that it is worth checking out.

Rashomon (1950) Review

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Rashomon

Time: 88 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Takashi Shimura as Kikori
Minoru Chiaki as Tabi Hōshi
Kichijiro Ueda as the listener
Toshiro Mifune as Tajōmaru
Machiko Kyō as the Samurai’s wife
Masayuki Mori as the Samurai
Director: Akira Kurosawa

The rape of a bride (Machiko Kyo) and the murder of her samurai husband (Masayuki Mori) are recalled from the perspectives of a bandit (Toshiro Mifune), the bride, the samurai’s ghost and a woodcutter (Takashi Shimura).

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I wanted to watch more films from Akira Kurosawa after watching Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, both of which were fantastic. I set my sights on Rashomon next, it has been said that this movie has been so essential and influential to cinema, and it’s known as a real classic. Having seen it, I can say it certainly lived up to its reputation.

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On the surface, Rashomon about a crime that took place, focussing on who saw the crime and what happened, with the story being told through different perspectives of those involved. I really like the way that this movie narratively unfolds, especially how it is constantly changing with every person who tells their side of the story. I found the plot to be engaging, and it does well at making you suspicious with every version of the story that you hear. The writing is quite clever, only showing you what it wants you to know and when they want you know. The structure is worth noting too, with a lot of non-linear storytelling that makes a lot of use of flashbacks. Its use of both makes Rashomon a unique and game changing movie for its time considering that it was in the 1950s. It’s quite intelligent, well put together, and very compelling to watch. Along with being very clever in terms of a crime thriller, it also has a lot to say thematically. As you can tell, truth and narrative are definitely a big part of the movie, with how easy it is for people to falsify the truth, and how interpretations of the truth can be subjective. However, Rashomon is also about morality and human nature, as well as the human condition. With all this, it packs an emotional punch at the end that surprised me. It is quite a short movie at 90 minutes long but it’s the right length, and despite the shortness still has a lot there that can be delved into. With the different perspectives that are given in this movie, I want to watch it again because I feel like I’d get more out of it on repeat viewings.

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The acting is all great, from the people in the present storyline debating about what happened in this crime, to the people who are giving their sides of the stories. The performances especially from the lead three, The Bandit, Husband and Wife, really make you question everything about the film. Of course out of all of them, it is Toshiro Mifune who is the standout in his role as the bandit. He is very much a supporting character here but he steals every scene he’s in.

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Akira Kurosawa’s direction is incredibly impressive as always. For one, it is shot very well. The black and white cinematography is gorgeous and beautifully lit, and the use of natural lighting really makes it appealing to watch. Many of the camera techniques used here also help with the narrative, for example each of the four people who give their side of the story during the trial face the camera directly, as if we are the court in this trial. The editing also played a key role, and it’s incredibly sharp and puts everything together excellently.

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Rashomon is a fantastic film, and I can see now why it’s so famous and iconic. It is a simple yet complex crime thriller about unreliable perspectives, human nature and morality, which is incredibly written, directed and acted. I think it’s a must watch, and it is a movie that I’m interested in rewatching.

Censor (2021) Review

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Censor

Time: 84  Minutes
Cast:
Niamh Algar as Enid Baines
Nicholas Burns as Sanderson
Vincent Franklin as Fraser
Sophia La Porta as Alice Lee
Adrian Schiller as Frederick North
Michael Smiley as Doug Smart
Director: Prano Bailey-Bond

After viewing a strangely familiar video nasty, Enid (Niamh Algar), a film censor, sets out to solve the past mystery of her sister’s disappearance, embarking on a quest that dissolves the line between fiction and reality.

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I heard about Censor earlier this year, all I knew about it was that it was a British psychological horror film involving censors, it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and some people liked it. I really didn’t know what to expect beyond that and so I went into the movie mostly blind. I’m glad I did, going in with no expectations, I found myself really on board with where the movie went.

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Censor’s plot is definitely set against a retro backdrop, so it is worth noting the setting. The setting is the mid-80s during the era of the video nasties, in which low-budget exploitation movies were deemed a danger to society and the cause of murder, violence and the like. Censor applies this concept, connecting it to an intriguing character study, in which it focuses on the life and struggles of a film censor. This film censor finds uncanny similarities between the videos she watches, and her childhood experiences and trauma, and she begins going down a trippy rabbit hole. I will say that the movie didn’t have many twists and turns with its plot development, but it didn’t really need to. I was intrigued enough by the story and where it went. As you would expect with a movie having censorship as one of the key aspects, Censor touches on the question about whether watching violence on video or film would make people prone to commit violence themselves. I thought tha and the commentary on censorship was quite interesting. Despite this, the focus is more with the protagonist and her story for the most part, which was probably for the best. Even though it does take a slow pacing through the story, I was invested going along this journey with protagonist Enid. Unfortunately I do think the movie struggles to combine the two strongest parts, the setting with the video nasty era, and the character study. When it’s focusing on one at a time it really works, not so much when the film tries to combine them. In the end the censorship and video nasties aspect take a back seat later on in the movie anyway, and I felt the two elements could’ve been integrated better. Also the movie really feels like two halves, each of which almost feel like different movies. The first half is a slow but intriguing mystery, the second half picks up the pace but probably a little too much, with the change in pace being a little too quick. While I do enjoy the third act and the ending, it does go off the rails here, for better and for worse. Looking back at the story and themes, it doesn’t quite come together. It really needed a longer runtime to bring everything together. Speaking of which, the movie is only 80 minutes long. For some it will feel longer because of the pacing but I was invested in this atmospheric ride, and I think it would’ve been better if it was at least 10-15 minutes longer.

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This movie is essentially anchored by the nuanced and strong performance from lead actor Niamh Algar. As Enid she’s hypnotising and a great strong on-screen presence. She is playing a character who slowly unravels as the memories of her long missing sister resurface and intertwine with the movies she watches every day. Most of the movie is just following her, and she carries the movie incredibly well. Although Algar is definitely the highlight, the rest of the cast are all doing great in their roles as well.

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Censor is the directorial debut of Prano Bailey-Bond, and it was quite a good first film from her. Immediately you can tell from the style that its paying tribute and taking influence from a lot of great horror auteurs from the 80s, including Dario Argento, Brian De Palma, and David Cronenberg. At times it does become a little too fond of its influences, but for the most part Bailey-Bond’s direction is its own thing. It is very effective from an aesthetic standpoint, for one it has a throwback look to it, with the production design and use of 35mm film at points. If you also really like neon bathed cinematography, Censor has a lot of that. The editing is great, and the sound effects and score add a lot to the atmosphere that the movie slowly builds. There is gore in this movie, but don’t expect a lot of it.

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Censor will be divisive among many people (even those who like horror) but it was a good ode to the video nasty era and a solid psychological horror thriller. Though it doesn’t feel complete by the end with regard to the plot and themes, and I had some issues with the way the story is structured and turns out, I was intrigued all the way through, the direction was great, and Niamh Algar was fantastic in the lead role. If you like horror, I think Censor is worth a watch, especially if you like the video nasty era that the movie is paying tribute to.

Stoker (2013) Review

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Stoker

Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence & sex scenes
Cast:
Mia Wasikowska as India Stoker
Matthew Goode as Charlie Stoker
Nicole Kidman as Evelyn Stoker
Dermot Mulroney as Richard Stoker
Jacki Weaver as Aunt Gwendolyn “Gin” Stoker
Director: Park Chan-wook

After the untimely death of her father, India (Mia Wasikowska) and her mother (Nicole Kidman) are left alone in their estate. Soon, the arrival of her uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), who she never knew existed, is followed by unexpected developments.

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I know of Stoker as Park Chan-wook film starring Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman, and happened to be his English-language debut. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into it outside of the people involved. Having seen it, I wouldn’t say that this is one of his best movies, but almost all of Park’s movies I’ve seen are great, and this is too.

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As it turns out, the screenplay was written by Wentworth Miller, and overall, I thought it was good. It is a very atmospheric, unsettling and mysterious movie, having elements of classic thrillers. The eerie atmosphere is helped by the mystical and mysterious characters in the forefront. It is essentially a gothic mystery drama which dabbles in multiple elements including coming of age, mystery, thriller and unconventional family drama to create a generally compelling story. The story is definitely dark in tone but tame as far as violence is concerned, at least compared to Park Chan-wook’s other movies like his Vengeance trilogy. Instead of relying on overt graphic scenes, it is the suggestion that works for the disturbing elements. The movie does take its time but initially gives you just enough information to have you intrigued. The plot is familiar, and the story can be a little thin and implausible at points. It does require patience as it takes a while to reveal its secrets but I was intrigued throughout. It is also a cold movie with its characters rather distant, but I think that works for the movie’s favour. The movie is 98 minutes long but with the slower pacing it feels closer to like 2 hours, but that’s not necessarily a criticism.

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The performances are great and really make the story even more involving. Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman shine in the lead roles of their strange characters. Wasikowska’s performance in the lead role of India is nuanced and quiet with a lot of hidden emotion that creeps in over time. She’s very mysterious and keeps you guessing what role she plays in the whole story. She was a perfect fit for the role and so far this is the best performance I’ve seen from her. This is also probably the best performance I’ve seen from Matthew Goode as the mysterious uncle of Wasikowska’s character, effectively giving a creepy vibe and a feeling that something is off about him. Nicole Kidman works really well in the movie despite not having a huge amount of screentime, and effectively playing an archetype that has been seen many times before.

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GThe direction from Park Chan-wook is stunning as always, and much of the style is the substance of the whole movie. The movie looks visually beautiful and perfectly shot. With the stylish sets and costumes, it made it difficult to place the film in a context, place or time, making it effectively timeless. The editing is tight and really well done, an example that stands out is one where it transitions from Nicole Kidman’s hair to grass. The transitions particularly stood out. One of the key technical elements is that of the sound editing and mixing, almost like the movie is constructed around them. Much of the movie focuses on the noise of specific objects, and these plays a big part in ramping up tension, in a horror movie like way. The score from Clint Mansell is also solid and works for the movie.

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Stoker again isn’t one of Park Chan-wook’s best movies but it is nonetheless a solid gothic thriller, with an interesting enough story and definitely helped by the strong performances from Wasikowska, Kidman and Goode, and Park’s stylish direction. If you like slow-burn gothic thrillers with a dark and creepy atmosphere I think it’s worth checking out.

Oldboy (2003) Review

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Oldboy (2003)

Time:  155 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] 
Cast:
Choi Min-sik as Oh Dae-su
Yoo Ji-tae as Lee Woo-jin
Kang Hye-jung as Mi-do
Director: Park Chan-wook

A man, held captive for no apparent reason for years, is given a cell phone, money and expensive clothes and released. Unless he finds out the identity of his captor, an even worse fate awaits him.

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Oldboy was the first movie I saw from director Park Chan-wook and it was great, very unique and memorable. Since it had been some years since I last saw it, I decided to rewatch it, and it managed to be even better on second viewing. Fantastic on pretty much every level, it’s one of the best revenge movies ever made.

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The plot follows the lead character who is abducted and held captive in an apartment prison for 15 years. He’s then suddenly released and has to find out who imprisoned him, why he was imprisoned in the first place, and why he was released. I won’t say much about the plot here, if you are a first timer to this movie, go into it knowing as little as possible. It will improve your viewing experience, especially with the twists and turns the plot takes. The writing is great and the story is gripping and fast paced. It starts out as a mystery and turns into a Shakespearean tragedy by the end, layered with clever twists that slowly unravels its mysteries. Oldboy is a revenge movie, and it really is a benchmark in the genre. There is a surprising amount of dark humour which somehow manages to fit in with the rest of the movie. Something to note is that the movie is based off a manga, and so some of the more over the top and pulpy elements of this movie work when you take that into account. Despite some of the over-the-top elements, Oldboy has been called deeply disturbing and nightmarish by many, and that’s because it is. For sure one of the most shocking tales of revenge, it’s twisted and brutal but hard to look away from. The third act is where most of the disturbing stuff comes into play. It really has a perfect finale which rides the many waves of twists and turns that came before, while also being able to end perfectly on an ambiguous note. Watching it again having previously seen how the plot goes, it made for a very different experience, and I was able to appreciate how well everything was put together when I wasn’t overwhelmed with all the revelations the film throws at you.

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The acting from everyone is great, with the main trio particularly delivering some terrific performances. First of all there’s Choi Min-sik as the protagonist Oh Dae-su, who’s on his path of vengeance as he learns why he was locked up for all these years, and who’s responsible. He conveys his character excellently and goes through just about every single emotion here. There’s a moment towards the end of the movie that he absolutely sells with his incredible performance, it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without him. Yoo Ji-tae plays the person responsible for Dae-su’s imprisonment, and he’s also a great presence. He’s quite mysterious for the most part of the movie, but he himself also made for an interesting character. He particularly gets to shine at the end of the movie. There’s also Kang Haye-jung as Mi-do, the love interest who plays a vital role, especially in the third act.

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Oldboy is directed very well by Park Chan-wook. First of al the cinematography is stylish, enticing, and has an incredibly unique and memorable look. There’s a lot of surreal and often disturbing imagery, they are still beautifully shot. The action when present is also fantastic, with the camera used to really create a fluidity to the action. The main scene that a lot of people talk about is the one where Dae-su fights around 20-25 people with a hammer in a corridor, it’s shot in one take, the choreography is stunning, and is just all around phenomenal. The editing of the film is very early 2000s but if anything that adds to the style, and also steadily paces the narrative. The sound design is pretty much perfect, and the composed score by Cho Young-Wuk is thrilling and works incredibly well with the rest of the movie.

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Oldboy is an excellent and iconic neo noir revenge film, brutal and disturbing yet beautifully crafted and directed, with a gripping story that’s very well put together, and some incredible performances. It’s definitely not an easy movie to watch, especially for first time viewers, but if you can handle it, I do think it’s worth checking out if you haven’t already.

Old (2021) Review

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Old

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021) Review

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The Conjuring 3 The Devil Made Me Do It

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, horror & cruelty
Cast:
Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren
Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren
Ruairi O’Connor as Arne Cheyenne Johnson
Sarah Catherine Hook as Debbie Glatzel
Julian Hilliard as David Glatzel
John Noble as Father Kastner
Director: Michael Chaves

Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) take on one of the most sensational cases of their careers after a cop stumbles upon a dazed and bloodied young man walking down the road. Accused of murder, the suspect claims demonic possession as his defense, forcing the Warrens into a supernatural inquiry unlike anything they’ve ever seen before.

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I was a bit sceptical about The Conjuring 3 going into it, mainly because James Wan, who directed the previous 2 films, wasn’t returning to helm it. However, I am a fan of the first two movies, so I was still interested in checking it out. While it’s definitely not as strong as the Wan directed Conjuring films, it was better than I was expecting and it was quite good.

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One way that The Conjuring 3 especially works is by being different from the other movies with regards to the type of story, while fitting in nicely with the rest of the series. It’s not a haunted house yarn like the past two movies, and goes for a more mystery angle that involves a lot of investigation as the lead characters try to figure out the possession. I’m not that scared by the movies, so I don’t mind the different approach, even though it is still very much a horror movie with jump scares. The first two acts are pretty good and entertaining. The movie starts off well with a great and memorable opening scene, which gets you hooked from the beginning. After that point we have two storylines that go in different directions, one following the murder suspect, and the other following Ed and Lorraine Warren. I was quite intrigued to see where the story played out. There were some issues with the writing. I wish more things were fleshed out, for example having a Satanist being the one behind everything is an interesting idea (instead of it just being yet another demon), though their motivations aren’t explored really. While I wasn’t expecting anything super deep, I was just hoping for something more. The third acts of the Conjuring movies are the least scary sections of those movies and The Conjuring 3 is no exception. A lot of over the top in your face supernatural stuff happens, and it also cuts between two storylines which sort of takes you out of it. I didn’t mind it though, the climax was entertaining and I was satisfied with the resolution, even though it felt a little rushed.

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The characters and acting are the stronger parts of these movies, and The Conjuring 3 is no exception. One of the best aspects of these movies is Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren. Their performances are great, and they share such believable chemistry. They really are some of the most compelling protagonists in modern horror movies. Their relationship is in the forefront once again, and much of the investment in the story comes from us being invested with these characters and everything that’s happening with them. The rest of the cast are great too, including Ruairi O’Connor as the possessed murder suspect at the centre of the film, and John Noble as a haunted ex-priest.

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As mentioned previously, James Wan didn’t direct this movie, and while his absence is felt to a degree, director Michael Chaves does quite well at helming it. It is well shot (some of them felt signature to Wan), and it does well at setting itself in the time period of the early 1980s. There are some jumpscares that were predictable and not that scary, but it does well at building up an fairly strong horror atmosphere. The creatures, dead bodies and other similar entities look incredible, with some phenomenal visual and practical effects.

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As said previously, The Conjuring 3 isn’t quite as good as the previous two movies. However I was invested in the story and characters, and was interested to see how it all played out, paired with some solid directing and really good acting, especially with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as the compelling and likable lead characters. If you liked any of the previous Conjuring movies, I think the third movie is worth a watch at the very least.

Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021) Review

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Spiral From the Book of Saw

Time: 93 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Torture & sadistic violence
Cast:
Chris Rock as Det. Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks
Max Minghella as Det. William “Will” Schenk 
Marisol Nichols as Capt. Angie Garza
Samuel L. Jackson as Marcus Banks
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Working in the shadow of his father (Samuel L. Jackson), Detective Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks (Chris Rock) and his rookie partner (Max Minghella) take charge of an investigation into grisly murders that are eerily reminiscent of the city’s gruesome past. Unwittingly entrapped in a deepening mystery, Zeke finds himself at the center of the killer’s morbid game.

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Spiral: From the Book of Saw was one of my most anticipated movies of 2021. Having only seen the first three Saw movies last year when it was originally set to release, I was only mildly interested in it. However, I got even more excited for it when I watched the rest of the movies in the series. For all of their faults (and there’s a lot), the movies were quite enjoyable, even considering the lower moments of the series. With this new entry being based off an idea from Chris Rock and having a different approach, it looked like what the franchise needed. Despite some flaws, Spiral is quite a good horror movie and a well needed revival of the franchise.

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First of all, getting the obvious out of the way. Spiral may be a Saw movie, but you don’t have to have watched the Saw movies (even the first movie) to enjoy this one. I do think that it is worth knowing what Saw is about at the very least, regarding Jigsaw’s games, the traps, etc. It takes place in the same world, and there are references to John Kramer and his impact is present in much of this movie, but that’s as far as it goes. If you’re a Saw fan, don’t expect to see any past Saw characters or anything, you’ll just be disappointed. Spiral does have some differences from many of the Saw movies. First of all, the plot goes back to basics and doesn’t get convoluted like the sequels did. There’s a serial killer targeting corrupt cops, and much of the movie is Chris Rock as a detective investigating with his partner. It is the first Saw movie to not have an ongoing game running throughout the movie, even the first Saw which had a good amount of the movie being flashbacks while the main story focusing on the game in the bathroom. In some ways it takes more from Se7en than Saw (ironically the latter took a lot of inspiration from the former). There is definitely more humour in the mix especially in the first act, particularly within the dialogue. It actually does work quite well all things considered, and it does give it a distinct tone from the other movies. Another way that this movie is different in the series was the social commentary and themes. Saw VI made itself stand out with its take on health insurance, and no other Saw film had been that clear about being about something until Spiral, which this time takes on corrupt cops. It was refreshing to see, and I really liked the angle. However, don’t expect a deep dive or analysis about the subject matter, if anything I wish they went deeper into that and spent more time with it.

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Something Spiral does have in common with the first Saw was the use of traps, with traps being the most (in)famous aspect of the movies. Now there isn’t a huge number of traps in Spiral, instead focusing more on the actual investigation. With that said, the traps are definitely prominent in this movie. Unlike some of the sequels, the traps in Spiral are purposeful, and they actually have a meaning behind them. Overall, I was invested with the story and interested to see where things would go, even if I do feel like it could’ve been a little more. However, there are some story and writing faults. The dialogue can either be a bit sloppy, or very expositional and forced. It does fall on some familiar tropes, both for Saw and cop/crime thrillers, it even has the classic trope of the older cop who gets a younger partner. As said earlier, this could’ve done a little more with its take on corrupt cops, the runtime is 90 minutes, so it could’ve spent more time with that. Some parts of the plot are predictable, and you can figure some twists out, especially if you are familiar with previous Saw movies and twists. All I’ll say is that with regards to the killer, I was more interested in the why than the who, and I kind of wish more time was spent with that. As for how it serves as a soft reboot, I’m interested in where the series could go from here, especially with where the film ends on.

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The acting is pretty good generally. Chris Rock leads this movie as lead character Zeke Banks, and he’s yet another case of an comedic actor taking on more dramatic work. Despite some moments of overacting, he actually does a pretty good job and is believable enough. Yes he acts like how you’d expect Chris Rock to act as a cop, but he does make for one of the more energetic and standout Saw protagonists thus far. Max Minghella plays Zeke’s partner, and the two actors are great and have a strong dynamic on screen. Samuel L. Jackson is also in this movie as Zeke’s father, who was once a police chief. He’s not in the movie as much as you’d think he would, but he does play a vital role, and he acts his part well.

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This film is directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, who previous directed Saw II, III and IV. It is interesting that one of the main people who shaped what the Saw series would become would be the one to return to helm the entry which would revive the series with a distinctly different take. His work in this movie is quite good, it’s probably the most polished Saw movie on a technical level. The look of the movie is great. The original 7 Saw movies had this grungy 2000s look to it. Jigsaw in 2017 did give it a new and modern look, however it almost looked a bit too separated from the previous movies. Spiral has a happy medium of the two, looking modern and also looking grimy and gritty. The use of colour is also pretty great and makes it stand out from the rest of the series in a good way. The editing is also balanced well. It is fast paced especially during the trap scenes, as per usual for the Saw movies. However it doesn’t get obnoxious. I would be lying if I said that the traps in this movie would rank among the best or most memorable of the entire series. However they are good, creative, and fit the tone and overall story incredibly well. They are definitely on the more realistic side (more Saw 1 than Jigsaw or Saw 3D) and are more grounded. It’s also no slouch when it comes to the gore, with some truly gruesome moments, and the use of practical effects is great. Charlie Clouser, who composes the scores of every Saw film, returns to compose the score of Spiral. The score is good, and sets itself apart from the other movies, and yes, some familiar sounding themes from the series do make a comeback.

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Spiral: From the Book of Saw is really good. It has a fresh take on the series, it’s solid on a directing and acting level, and I was interested throughout. It’s not the best movie in the series, there’s at least a few Saw movies I would consider to be better (including the original film). However it is one of the better movies in the series for sure. As for whether you’ll like it or not, long story short, if you watched some of the Saw movies and you didn’t like them any of it, this won’t change your mind. If you are a Saw fan, I don’t know for sure how you’ll feel about it (definitely depends on what you’re expecting/hoping for), but it is definitely worth watching. If you haven’t seen the Saw movies but are familiar with the concept and want to watch Spiral right now, you can jump right into it without a problem. As a fan of the Saw series, I’m pleased with the movie and I’m looking forward to seeing where the series goes from here.