Category Archives: Romance

Amelie (2001) Review

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Amelie

Time:  119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains sexual references
Cast:
Audrey Tautou as Amélie Poulain
Mathieu Kassovitz as Nino Quincampoix
Rufus as Raphaël Poulain
Serge Merlin as Raymond Dufayel
Lorella Cravotta as Amandine Poulain
Clotilde Mollet as Gina
Claire Maurier as Suzanne
Isabelle Nanty as Georgette
Dominique Pinon as Joseph
Artus de Penguern as Hipolito
Yolande Moreau as Madeleine Wallace
Urbain Cancelier as Collignon
Jamel Debbouze as Lucien
Maurice Bénichou as Dominique Bretodeau
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Despite being caught in her imaginative world, Amelie (Audrey Tautou), a young waitress, decides to help people find happiness. Her quest to spread joy leads her on a journey where she finds true love.

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I had seen Amelie appear on many “Best movies ever” lists, and for whatever reason I just hadn’t gotten around to watching it beforehand. All I really knew about it was that it was French and quirky, but that’s about it. Having finally seen it I don’t know why it took me so long to watch it, and I now know why it is considered a classic.

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Something to note about this movie is that the plot is pretty slight. The story of Amelie follows its lead character who makes a surprising discovery in her apartment one day, and she uses that to complete a good deed. It pays off well and so she dedicates herself to helping others find joy and happiness in their own lives in the most unexpected ways, while struggling with the isolation of her own life. That’s it when it comes to the plot though. The screenplay is marvellous, and everything is well put together, from how it opens the story, introduces all its characters (especially Amelie), paces the narrative, and keeps everything glued together. It is a very peculiar story especially in relation to Amelie’s life, and it is all presented with an irresistible charm, and with such wonder. The film with all of its eccentricities was simply delightful, lovely and surprisingly humorous, and all of it really adds a lot to the film’s personality. At its core, Amelie is a celebration of life and a story about embracing the little things in life, and it’s done in a sweet and endearing, yet very intelligent way. Throughout its runtime, it takes some time to ponder on little moments that might initially seem irrelevant to the narrative at hand, yet without these little moments, the film just wouldn’t be the same. They add to the movie in their own ways. The movie is around 2 hours and 10 minutes long, but I was into everything from beginning to end despite the less plot driven approach.

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Coming to the characters, there are many memorable characters in this movie, even the minor characters are memorable, and they are all performed well by the cast. With that said, the biggest stand out of course is Audrey Tautou in the lead role of Amelie Poulain. Amelie is such a wonderful and easily likable character, and Audrey beautifully captures her innocent, naïve and shy nature. It’s actually impossible to imagine anyone else playing this role. As great as the rest of the movie already is, it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well if Amelie wasn’t as perfectly performed and portrayed as she was here.

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The film is directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and his work here is fantastic. What’s immediately noticeable when starting the movie is that the film’s visuals are notably gorgeous in pretty much every single shot, with every frame is bursting with unique life. The cinematography really is stunning, especially when it comes to the use of the magnificent colour palette used. The colours often correlating between the characters and the themes, and the colour gradients are so spectacular that they could rival even the most vivid Wes Anderson movies. There is always at least a hint of stunning shade of green, red or orange in just about every shot, and the colours pop like crazy. The colours, lighting and production design all contributed to create this fantasy and dream like feeling and aesthetic. The cinematography and editing are unorthodox in a smart way, it makes the film more eccentric, and the film becomes even more vibrant because of it. Some of the editing and CGI can be a little dated in an early 2000s way, but even that adds some level of charm to it. Also worth high praise is Yann Tiersen’s mesmerising score which works and elevates the whole ambience of the narrative seamlessly.

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Amelie is a quirky, heartfelt and entertaining coming of age movie. It is delightful from beginning to end, directed and shot vibrantly and with such energy, and has a perfect lead performance from Audrey Tautou. It’s really no surprise how it became widely loved amongst mainstream audiences. Definitely check it out if you haven’t already.

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.

Thirst (2009) Review

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Thirst

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Handmaiden (2016) Review

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The Handmaiden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Nest (2020) Review

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The Nest

Time: 117 Minutes
Cast:
Jude Law as Rory O’Hara
Carrie Coon as Allison O’Hara
Charlie Shotwell as Benjamin “Ben” O’Hara
Oona Roche as Samantha “Sam” O’Hara
Adeel Akhtar as Steve
Director: Sean Durkin

Rory (Jude Law) is an ambitious entrepreneur who brings his American wife (Carrie Coon) and kids to his native country, England, to explore new business opportunities. After abandoning the sanctuary of their safe American suburban surroundings, the family is plunged into the despair of an archaic ’80s Britain and their unaffordable new life in an English manor house threatens to destroy the family.

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With The Nest I didn’t really know what to expect from it. I just knew it as a drama starring Jude Law and Carrie Coon, and plenty of people have said that it’s really good. It turned out to be quite a good movie, it was a bit of a slow burn and took a while to really pick up, but was well made and intriguing nonetheless.

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One thing to note is that The Nest is definitely a slow moving drama. While I was interested in the movie from beginning to end, it does take a while for you to settle into it and figure out what it is about. I’d figure that it’s just after the first act that the movie really started to connect with me. This movie at its core is a family drama, portraying a slow but catastrophic disintegration of a marriage, and a downfall of a man due to his own greed which affects his family in the process. It really is the deconstruction of the nuclear family, with themes about family, wealth, and what it means to be successful. The Nest is a slow descent to chaos and it really creeps up on you. One of the things that you don’t expect is that it feels quite uneasy, uncomfortable and stressful to watch, and not even in an overt way. It has a sinister, moody and sombre atmosphere throughout. There are times where it even has a horror movie feel to it (even though it very much isn’t in the horror genre). It had me intrigued in which direction it was going in.

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The acting is a highlight of the movie for sure, particularly with the leads in Jude Law and Carrie Coon as a married couple. They are both great and they are particularly fantastic when on screen together. However between the two, it really is Carrie Coon who steals the show in a well controlled and emotionally charged performance. Definitely deserves some awards attention. Their kids are played by Oona Roche and Charlie Shotwell, they play their parts very well and fully portray their own characters.

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This movie is directed by Sean Durkin, and his work here is great. It makes me want to check out his previous movie, Martha Macy May Marlene, which was released 9 years earlier. I do hope his next movie will come a lot sooner. The direction is procedural in some ways, quite subtle, but yet so effective. I mentioned earlier how this movie has a horror movie feel to it, and a big part of that is the direction. The cinematography from was great, and it is purposely made to look like a horror film with its zooms and shadowy corners and long takes. There are even some typical horror moments that happen here, like doors mysteriously opening that gives creepiness to the true essence of the film. The editing keeps the film moving while giving scenes and reactions plenty of time to breathe. The dissolve transitions particularly add even more to the atmosphere, which draws you deeper into it. The lack of music in scenes keeps the suspense and tension at an all time high as well. The use of music from the 80s fitted the moments well, and the few uses of the score here was effective, and really adds to the atmosphere.

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The Nest is an atmospheric and slow building family drama, incredibly well shot and directed, and the performances are great, mainly Jude Law and Carrie Coon. It’s not really for everyone because of the pacing, but I do think it’s worth checking out.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012) Review

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Moonrise Kingdom

Time: 94 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains sexual references
Cast:
Bruce Willis as Captain Sharp
Edward Norton as Scout Master Randy Ward
Bill Murray as Mr. Bishop
Frances McDormand as Mrs. Bishop
Tilda Swinton as Social Services
Jared Gilman as Sam
Kara Hayward as Suzy
Jason Schwartzman as Cousin Ben
Harvey Keitel as Commander Pierce
Bob Balaban as Narrator
Director: Wes Anderson

Sam (Jared Gilman), a 12-year-old orphan, falls in love with Suzy (Kara Hayward) and the two run away to a secluded cove on an island, prompting the entire town to begin a search.

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I remember Moonrise Kingdom as being one of the first movies I saw from Wes Anderson. The first two times I watched it I just thought it was just alright. It was definitely well made and I admired its unique style, it just really wasn’t my thing and that was some years ago. This is the third time I watched the movie, and it’s a lot better than I remember it being, especially having seen all of his movies now.

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Moonrise Kingdom is very much a Wes Anderson movie with a Wes Anderson script, it’s quirky, it’s funny, the dialogue is unique and deadpan, and the characters and story are memorable, heartwarming and genuine. With this movie, the story is quite simple, one of Wes Anderson’s most straightforward. Two kids in love run away and the town tries to find them. Moonrise Kingdom is a coming of age movie and is about young love at its core. I was generally entertained over its roughly 90 minute long runtime, though I wasn’t the most invested in the plot, but there’s a lot of passion and hope put into it that I was willing to follow it to the end of the movie. In terms of flaws, the movie can be a bit tonally inconsistent at times. The third act is particularly over the top and a bit overdramatic considering the rest of the movie is pretty lowkey. The pacing is also a little all over the place in the first half, even if it opens pretty well.

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The ensemble cast all worked greatly in playing their quirky and memorable characters, including Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman and Harvey Keitel. The two standouts of the cast for me were Bruce Willis and Edward Norton, both of whom are first time collaborators with Wes Anderson. They were both hilarious and fantastic in their roles. The child actors acted pretty well in their parts too (including a young Lucas Hedges), which is good because much of this movie has child characters as a big part of the plot. The two lead characters of the movie are Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, who share great chemistry together. They aren’t amazing but they play well on their parts.

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Wes Anderson directs Moonrise Kingdom, and pretty much everything you’d expect from his trademark filmmaking style is here. It’s shot very well and is visually stunning, with bright colours and the familiar shot compositions. If you’ve seen any of Anderson’s other movies, you’ll immediately recognise his style, but he goes for a more simplistic filmmaking style. The visual gags were also very effective. The production and costume designs are great with a lot of attention to detail, and the editing is quintessential Wes Anderson. The soundtrack was well composed by Alexandre Desplat. Additionally, Moonrise Kingdom has Wes Anderson’s lowest budget since his first film Bottle Rocket. Yet with a budget with $16 million, he does quite a lot.

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Moonrise Kingdom is very well made and is another quirky and solid movie from Wes Anderson. It’s greatly directed, entertaining to watch, and the cast are all great. It’s not one of his best movies and I would not recommend it as an introduction to Wes Anderson as a filmmaker (The Grand Budapest Hotel and Rushmore would be better first films to watch from him), but I do recommend watching it at some point for sure.

Rushmore (1998) Review

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Rushmore

Time: 93 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains low level offensive language
Cast:
Jason Schwartzman as Max Fischer
Bill Murray as Herman Blume
Olivia Williams as Rosemary Cross
Seymour Cassel as Bert Fischer
Brian Cox as Dr. Nelson Guggenheim
Mason Gamble as Dirk Calloway
Director: Wes Anderson

Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), a student at Rushmore Academy, excels at everything except academics. He meets and falls in love with a teacher, Ms Cross (Olivia Williams), but later discovers that his mentor (Bill Murray) is also in love with her.

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I’ve heard about Rushmore for a while, all I knew about it was that Wes Anderson directed it (one of his earlier movies), Bill Murray was in it, and it was meant to be great. Having watched Bottle Rocket a day earlier, I found that movie to be a pretty good start for Anderson as a director, even though it performed poorly at the box office. However, his second film with Rushmore is definitely a step above his previous movie, which was really great all round.

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Rushmore is a coming of age movie, sometimes they can be hit or miss for me, but this film really worked for me, and this probably ranks among my favourites of the subgenre. The writing is truly great, and the script has been finely tuned to near perfection, with some exceptional dialogue. The movie is very funny and entertaining, yet it’s more deeper than it initially appears, even emotionally resonant. It’s also got a good range when it comes to its tone, with it bouncing between being comedic, pessimistic, hopeful, sad, and more, and it is all balanced quite well, never feeling like a mess at all. Like with Bottle Rocket, Anderson focuses his attention more onto his eccentric characters instead of the visual style, and it does work to some great effect here. The characters are particularly a shining point in the movie, quirky but quite endearing and memorable. At an hour and half long, Rushmore is paced extremely well, with never a dull moment.

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The cast are all great on their parts. Jason Schwartzmann shines incredibly well in the lead role of Max Fischer, and he portrayed this character pretty much perfectly, couldn’t have imagined anyone else in the role. Bill Murray was also a highlight, giving probably one of his best performances, and that’s saying a lot. Having seen him in some of his other major roles, by comparison he was rather quiet and understated here, he was fantastic. The pairing of Schwartzman and Murray was particularly great, and they contrast each other perfectly. This movie would start a long running collaboration between Murray and Wes Anderson, where he would be appearing in every single one of his movies from that point forward. Olivia Williams was also great in her part. Other cast members including Brian Cox play their parts well.

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After Bottle Rocket, Wes Anderson has definitely advanced as a filmmaker since that point. He’s definitely more confident in his direction here and starting really forming his own style. From the unique aesthetic, the transitions, the use of colours, the montages, and the soundtrack, all of it works greatly. At this point of his career he hasn’t reached the style that’s present in most of his later movies, he’s still evolving and honing it, and as I said earlier, there’s still more focus on the characters than the style. Another thing I can say is that it is unique while never feeling overbearing, and so if you want to get into some of Wes Anderson’s movies but worried that his more recent movies just won’t work for you because of his style being so different than what you’re used to, Rushmore would be a perfect place to start with his filmography. Back to that soundtrack, all of it was great, and each song choice was perfect.

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Rushmore is funny, sentimental, and very well written and directed by Wes Anderson. It’s quite entertaining and is greatly acted, particularly by Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray. It is definitely worth watching for sure if you haven’t checked it out already, and I get the feeling I’m going to revisit this movie a number of times.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) Review

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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Time: 166 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains offensive language & sexual references
Cast:
Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button (adult)
Cate Blanchett as Daisy Fuller (adult)
Taraji P. Henson as Queenie
Julia Ormond as Caroline Fuller (adult)
Jason Flemyng as Thomas Button
Elias Koteas as Monsieur Gateau
Tilda Swinton as Elizabeth Abbott
Mahershala Ali as Tizzy Weathers
Jared Harris as Captain Mike Clark
Director: David Fincher

Born under unusual circumstances, Benjamin Button springs into being as an elderly man in a New Orleans nursing home and ages in reverse. Twelve years after his birth, he meets Daisy, a child who flickers in and out of his life as she grows up to be a dancer. Though he has all sorts of unusual adventures over the course of his life, it is his relationship, and the hope that they will come together at the right time, that drives Benjamin forward.

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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was the last of David Fincher’s films I had yet to see. People usually don’t talk so positively about it when it compares to the rest of his filmography, it’s known as one of his ‘weaker’ movies, and it did seem like the only one of his movies that seemed just a little awards baity. I put off my viewing of this partially because I heard some mixed things from other people about it. I was actually surprised by how much I liked the movie, I actually think it’s rather great.

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Most of David Fincher’s films are regarded as being rather ‘cold’ (and I can kind of see why), but The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is definitely his most emotional film. It’s pretty much just following this man in his extraordinary (and fictional) life. Some have called it an awards bait movie, and some moments felt like that at certain points. However with the memorably and lively characters, warmth and genuine emotion, I got quite invested in the movie. It’s a long movie at around 2 hours and 45 minutes long. While I did still like the movie throughout, it probably didn’t need to be that long. It does start off a little rocky, quite slow. But as it progresses, it really picks up, and by the time the first act was finished I was into it.

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The cast all work together. The titular character of Benjamin Button is played by Brad Pitt, and he’s great here, he believably portrays him in every stage of his life and his development is played very well. He’s the centre of the movie through and through, and Pitt plays him wonderfully. Cate Blanchett is also great as the adult version of Benjamin’s childhood friend, the two of them share some believable on-screen chemistry. The supporting cast with the likes of Tarji P. Henson, Tilda Swinton, and others are also great in their respective roles, and do their parts to stand out quite a bit.

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David Fincher’s direction is fantastic as usual. Once again it’s a movie that you don’t expect him to really take on, but he goes all in on with this movie, and on a technical level it’s great. It’s a great looking movie, the cinematography from Claudio Miranda is really good. Fincher usually applies CGI to enhance the look of scenes, mainly in the background (and done in such a way that you don’t even notice it). While that’s probably the case here, here he also uses it for the aging effects on Brad Pitt’s Benjamin Button, and over a decade later it still generally holds up. The score by Alexandre Desplat is also quite beautiful and fit the tone of the movie.

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David Fincher has made better movies for sure, but The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is not to be overlooked, I’d actually consider it to be great. The cast are top notch, Fincher’s direction is outstanding as to be expected from him, and the story itself is quite emotional and beautiful. It may be one of his ‘weaker’ movies (it’s definitely not among his best), but it’s still worth watching for sure, and nowadays I don’t think people give it enough credit.

Romeo + Juliet (1996) Review

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Leonardo DiCaprio as Romeo Montague
Claire Danes as Juliet Capulet/Juliet Capulet-Montague
Brian Dennehy as Ted Montague
John Leguizamo as Tybalt Capulet
Pete Postlethwaite as Father Laurence
Paul Sorvino as Fulgencio Capulet
Diane Venora as Gloria Capulet
Director: Baz Luhrmann

Baz Luhrmann helped adapt this classic Shakespearean romantic tragedy for the screen, updating the setting to a post-modern city named Verona Beach. In this version, the Capulets and the Montagues are two rival gangs. Juliet (Claire Danes) is attending a costume ball thrown by her parents. Her father Fulgencio Capulet (Paul Sorvino) has arranged her marriage to the boorish Paris (Paul Rudd) as part of a strategic investment plan. Romeo attends the masked ball and he and Juliet fall in love.

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I am not a fan of Romeo and Juliet (the play). I myself have studied it in English and while I can appreciate the impact that it’s made, I’m just not really into it. I am even less of a fan of the 90’s Romeo and Juliet movie by director Baz Luhrmann. The whole movie just irritated me from start to finish, and while it’s not one of the worst movies I’ve seen by any means, I really hated watching it.

One of the significant changes that Luhrmann has made was that this movie is pretty much set in the 90s. It did feel really weird with everyone speaking Shakespearian dialogue in modern day. With that said, Shakespeare’s plays can generally be translated into any time period, at least in terms of story. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Romeo and Juliet though, despite Luhrmann’s best attempts to making the movie make sense in the modern time period. For example, when technology like phones exist, it really makes you question why things didn’t happen differently, particularly towards the end (AKA, Juliet could’ve texted Romeo what was happening and so the whole tragedy could’ve been avoided). Otherwise the story is pretty much the same as in the source material, just presented differently.

The acting is quite the mixed bag. Something I’ve noticed is that the line delivery (particularly from the younger cast) is quite quick, and by that I mean they often deliver their lines quickly and it seems like they don’t know what the lines even mean. Claire Danes gives probably the best performance out of the younger cast as Juliet. As a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio… he just wasn’t that great here to me. There are some scenes where he is incredibly over the top, and while that might work for a play, it doesn’t work for a movie, and you just can’t take it that seriously. Towards the end (and I mean like the last scene) he is genuinely good though, and he does have a few legitimately good scenes. Most of the rest of the younger cast are fine enough but are generally okay at best. John Leguizamo was out of place here, he can give good performances but he feels a little miscast here. Paul Rudd is also in this movie. I don’t remember if he was good or not but I remember that he was in the movie. The older cast is quite impressive, much more so than the younger cast, with the likes of Paul Sorvino, Pete Postlethwaite and others giving some really solid performances.

The part that annoys me most about this movie is the direction by Baz Luhrmann. The style is so fast paced and in your face, and it got extremely obnoxious really quickly. I swear, this is the fastest I’ve disliked a movie, it took under 2 minutes. Luhrmann doesn’t always use this style, he’s done The Great Gatsby without having all of that, even during the party sequences. Even Moulin Rouge (another one of his movies I dislike) seemed to have more of a reason to have this crazy style than Romeo and Juliet. Now that’s not to say that there aren’t some good moments. The well known fish tank scene is one of the better additions to the movie, it doesn’t require any over the top and in your face elements, it’s rather subtle. Ironically that’s when the movie is at its best, but it feels like the movie is constantly trying to not be that. Something I realised watching this movie, Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby, is that Luhrmann is way better when he’s not directing over the top and crazy moments. His quieter moments are genuinely effective and great.

Romeo + Juliet really irks me, it just flat out has everything that usually annoys me in a movie from it’s over the top and hyperactive direction, editing and sometimes acting, however I know that this will appeal to some people. Honestly, I can’t even guess as to what audience will like Romeo and Juliet. It seems to have a mixed reaction, some people love it, others hate it and I fit in with the latter crowd. I guess to figure it out, watch a trailer or some clips and if you’re into what you’ve seen, then give it a watch, you may end up loving it.