Category Archives: Sci-Fi

Black Widow (2021) Review

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Black Widow

Time: 133 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova
David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian
O-T Fagbenle as Rick Mason
William Hurt as Thaddeus Ross
Ray Winstone as General Dreykov
Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff/Black Widow
Director: Cate Shortland

Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy, and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.

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After playing a large role in many entries in the MCU, the character of Black Widow is finally getting her solo film… and it only took 11 years after her first appearance back in 2010 with Iron Man 2. I will admit that I wasn’t the most excited for the film, of course for the fact that it feels a little late given how long she’s been around and hasn’t received a movie of her own. Then of course there’s the fact that the character died during Avengers Endgame, and so having a film take place earlier on in the timeline feels almost a bit in vain and pointless. In the lead up to Black Widow however, I was sort of looking forward to it. This is partly because of being back to see more movies in the cinema but also probably because it was originally meant to come out a while ago, so I’m just glad for it to be finally here. Black Widow was about as good as I expected it to be, with some of the unfortunate problems that I expected it to have, but also surprising in other areas. Overall I enjoyed it.

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Plotwise, the movie isn’t anything special, but I was interested to see how it played out. For what it is worth, Black Widow does feel a bit different in terms of the MCU movies. It is something of a spy and espionage movie, and does have some Captain America: The Winter Soldier vibes, which is good as it was one of my favourite movies in the MCU. Of course with this being Black Widow’s solo film, this allows us to learn about her past. The movie introduces us to Natasha Romanoff’s “family” in the characters played by Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz and David Harbour. This adds a backstory to Natasha’s life before SHIELD showing a side of her we hadn’t seen before. With that comes themes about dysfunctional and unconventional families as expected and I really liked that aspect. There’s a surprising amount of quiet moments that I did not expect, and moments of people just talking. I don’t see this a downside. The first half was probably the strongest part of the movie, without getting into it too much, the opening was especially good. However around the halfway point it starts to decline a little, when it gets into the third act where it has a pretty standard and generic MCU climax. I know that this is typical for most MCU movies but it stands out more in Black Widow because it feels at odds with the rest of the movie. It really pulls you out of it and it’s rather disappointing.

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In terms of other writing issues, Black Widow is yet another victim of MCU movies having way too many (and poorly timed) quips and jokes, which end up being at odds with the rest of the movie. There are scenes that are serious and quite dark and then some other scenes which are really comedic and played for laughs, and they don’t gel together. The humour occasionally worked but some of them ruined some sentimental moments or felt forced. It makes the tone feel all over the place. I do have some other issues, part of it was the intent of it being made and the context of the film. This movie takes place right after Captain America: Civil War where Black Widow is on the run, Civil War was released 5 years ago and that’s when the movie should’ve been released. If you showed this movie to someone who are just catching up in the MCU right after they saw Civil War and told them that it was also released in 2016, they would probably believe you. So it almost feels pointless watching it now, especially as you know that Black Widow is going to survive the whole movie. Then to a degree it doesn’t feel we’ve learned a whole lot about Natasha. We’ve learnt some of her backstory but not much necessarily about her as a character. Then there’s the feeling that it was made mainly to introduce another character in the MCU more than actually being for her, like it’s not really her movie. A lot of the film was a setup for Yelena Belova which I’m not necessarily hating as her character is one of the highlights. However it didn’t quite feel right with Natasha/Scarlett Johansson being sidelined in her own movie. It needed to work as a proper sendoff for the character and for me it didn’t do that. There is a mid credits scene, which I think is worth sticking around for.

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The cast were one of the highlights of the film. Before this movie, the closest that Scarlett Johansson has gotten to be a lead in a MCU film as her character of Black Widow was in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a co-lead. So here she finally gets to be in the forefront. I will say that this is definitely her best performance as the character if only because she’s the lead this time (sort of), and generally she’s pretty good here. Florence Pugh is the standout of the movie as Yelena Belova, she’s great, she’s hilarious, and steals every scene she’s in. I’m looking forward to seeing more of her in other MCU projects. David Harbour and Rachel Weisz are also really good, rounding out the rest of the “family”. The interactions between the main family were pretty strong and believable, especially between Johansson and Pugh. The film really suffers from the weak villains, it’s an MCU film so not really a big surprise. Ray Winstone effectively plays the main villain as the head of The Red Room, the main antagonists of the movie. I will say it is refreshing to see a more straightforward evil villain as opposed to yet another attempt at making a sympathetic villain. However despite how much the movie builds him up as a big threat, we don’t really see enough of him for him to make an impact. Usually people in these scenarios would to fix this by compensating by giving the lead villain a strong henchman to have the main antagonistic focus. Which brings me to Taskmaster, who in this movie effectively serves as a Winter Soldier stand in, hunting Black Widow. In the comics Taskmaster is an assassin who mimics people’s fighting styles and that aspect is certainly here. I’m not going to pretend that I particularly care about comic book accuracy. However Taskmaster did feel underwhelming here, somewhat adequate in the action scenes but that’s it, certainly not as impactful as the Winter Soldier was in the second Captain America movie. There is a reason provided behind why the character exists so it isn’t just a random assassin or a robot, but we are not given nearly enough time with them. Even the reveal doesn’t go down well enough to create a memorable impact. Ultimately Taskmaster was more of a sidekick to the main villain, and a rather forgettable one at that. As for the identity of Taskmaster, I figured it out surprisingly early on.

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Black Widow is directed by Cate Shortland, and on the whole I think she did a good job, it’s very well shot and put together. The action is generally quite good. A lot of the hand to hand combat is great with some stellar fight choreography, and the sound design really helping with that. It may well be the most brutal MCU movie with regards to the action, you do feel the impact of some of these fight scenes. Where the action suffers is in the third act, with explosions everywhere, over the top scenes, and a whole lot of CGI thrown in. While other MCU climaxes have certainly been more overblown than here, the fact that it’s in this particular movie with very different first two acts makes it feel really out of place. The visual effects are mostly fine and when it gets to the third act they look messy. I’m not going to pretend that it does anything particularly egregious by MCU standards, but it is quite unfortunate to see them fall back on that yet again. The score by Lorne Balfe is pretty good, mostly standing out in the action scenes. Another thing worth mentioning is that this movie actually has opening credits, as in there’s a montage towards the beginning of the movie that’s a credits sequence featuring the names of the main cast and other people who worked on it. Honestly that was rather nice to see in a franchise that hasn’t used them, and this sequence at least tonally gives a hint of it possibly being quite different as a Marvel movie.

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Black Widow does have a lot of issues. It is 5 years late, it doesn’t feel like Black Widow’s movie and isn’t quite the sendoff that she deserves. The humour is at odds with the darker story and tone the movie is going for, as is the overblown third act. With that being said, I did still enjoy watching it. I generally enjoyed the action scenes, I was interested in seeing where the story would go, and the cast were quite good in their roles, especially Florence Pugh. It’s at around the midpoint of the MCU for me, if you like the movies I’d say that it is worth checking out.

I, Robot (2004) Review

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I, Robot

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Will Smith as Det. Del Spooner
Bridget Moynahan as Dr. Susan Calvin
Alan Tudyk as Sonny
Bruce Greenwood as Lawrence Robertson
James Cromwell as Dr. Alfred Lanning
Chi McBride as Lt. John Bergin
Director: Alex Proyas

Del Spooner (Will Smith) investigates the murder of Dr Alfred (James Cromwell), who works at US Robotics, with the help of a robopsychologist. He tries to deduce if a robot has violated the laws of robotics and killed him.

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I saw I, Robot a long time ago and I remembered liking it, but I didn’t remember it strongly. Having seen director Alex Proyas’s The Crow and Dark City (and unfortunately Gods of Egypt) since, I was interested in watching it again. While there are issues for sure and it could’ve been better, I enjoyed the movie for what it was.

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I, Robot is seemingly based off a sci-fi novel, I’m not familiar with it however so I’m treating it as its own movie. Whilst there are moments of interesting scientific musings about the nature of AI and consciousness, it doesn’t really go below the surface level. It could’ve been more, especially considering that it’s from the director of Dark City. It opens strongly with an interesting murder mystery which questions the evolution of technology but by the end is a rather familiar sci-fi action blockbuster. With all that being said, it’s pretty enjoyable taken solely as an action oriented Sci-Fi adventure. Overall, it was a semi-predictable but still moderately intriguing work of sci-fi that still kept my interest. It does take heavy influences from sci-fi films in the past, the robots desiring to become human aspect alone has been popular since Blade Runner. However, it at least has its own creative voice to the table in its worldbuilding on artificial intelligence. It questions the nature of free will, and the plot is a well thought out mystery. It’s not one of the most intelligently defined feature film on robotics (it’s no Ex Machina) but it works enough. There are some issues for sure. There’s a general amount of generic action tropes present, and some dumb dialogue scattered about. The story also does have its cliches and also have some pretty obvious twists. At the same time, it holds a certain charm to it, whether it be the sci-fi aspects, or the over the top 2000s action stuff. Additionally its paced pretty well and I was reasonably engaged throughout.

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The acting is mostly good from the cast. Will Smith is charismatic, energetic and layered in the lead role of a cop who’s prejudiced against robots. He’s close to playing the same hero character he usually plays, but he’s not just mugging to camera, he’s actually playing a fully defined character. Overall he made for an enjoyable protagonist. Alan Tudyk gives a very thoughtful performance as a robot named Sonny, who’s a key character in the story. Even though it’s a voice performance, Tudyk was the highlight performer. The rest of the supporting characters and actors are capable, if not exceptional. Bruce Greenwood is convincing in a villainous sort of role, and James Cromwell works as the murder victim at the centre of the mystery. If there’s a weak leak amongst the cast, it’s Bridget Moynahan in one of the main roles. Her performance is rather bland and forgettable, and robotic (no, there’s no twist where she’s a robot or anything), and the character wasn’t that interesting. Otherwise the rest of the acting was overall decent.

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Alex Proyas directs this, and while it’s not one of his best works, he does some good stuff here. The movie is high on his trademark visual flair and action. The production design was well done, much of the world that we see is just ‘typical futuristic sci-fi stuff’ but the style is good and well put together. The film is littered with dated early 2000s CGI that hasn’t aged gracefully, the CGI visuals for the multiple robots particularly don’t hold up as well now. Overall, I liked the visual atmosphere of the film though. Proyas knows his way around an action scene, and there are some entertaining action here. It does have some excessive early 2000s slow motion action and the hollow and dated effects do hold these scenes back from being as great as they could be. With that said, it didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of those moments hugely, I still had fun with them.

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I, Robot isn’t a particularly original film in the sci-fi genre, and it has plenty of problems from the CGI to the predictable and standard plot (especially in the last act). However there are some entertaining action, good performances from Will Smith and Alan Tudyk, and at the very least is a good enough action sci-fi movie which entertains. Don’t expect anything like Ex Machina, but if you’re looking for a fun sci-fi action flick, it’s worth a watch.

RoboCop (1987) Review

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Robocop

Time: 102 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence
Cast:
Peter Weller as Alex Murphy/RoboCop
Nancy Allen as Anne Lewis
Daniel O’Herlihy as The Old Man
Ronny Cox as Dick Jones
Kurtwood Smith as Clarence Boddicker
Miguel Ferrer as Bob Morton
Director: Paul Verhoeven

In a dystopic and crime-infested Detroit, a terminally injured policeman (Peter Weller) returns to the force as a potent cyborg haunted by submerged memories.

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RoboCop was a classic action sci-fi movie from the 1980s. 34 years later, it remains not only a staple for iconic 1980s action films, but also one of the most intelligent and satirical, and it surprisingly holds up all these years later.

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RoboCop could’ve been dismissed as enjoyable action fare from the 80s, but categorising this film as just a B-level action movie doesn’t do it justice. In fact, oncoming years have only allowed the value of the film to become clearer than ever. It is one of the most intelligent B-movies, flawlessly blending sharp satire and grand sci-fi action. RoboCop is a smart and sharply written satire of America’s warped, violent culture of vanity and the state of said culture. It lashes out at the division between the rich and the poor alongside the growing industrialism running rampant across the screen. It also covers Reagan era economics, corporate privatization of public services, corrupt politics, consumerism, capitalism, and of course militarisation of police. What used to feel like a cautionary tale about the near future’s rise of corporate fascism now just feels like a documentary of today, and much of the movie remains relevant as ever. Paul Verhoeven’s satire isn’t subtle but in RoboCop it is only fitting that everything is so distinctly in your face, it suits the nature and style of the film so perfectly. At the same time, RoboCop also works as a B-movie sci-fi flick. It is very cheesy from the over-the-top action moments to the dialogue, but it was also witty, well made and well paced across its roughly hour and 40 minute runtime, with not one wasted scene. It seems like it should feel dated but as said earlier, it was ahead of its time. As goofy as the movie is, it’s also violent, vulgar and schlocky. The main character is technically killed within 20 minutes in such a brutal way, establishing the tone for the rest of the movie. There’s also all the little touches of worldbuilding throughout for this futuristic setting, such as the automated greeting unit for prospective house hunters, and the ads poking fun at consumer culture.

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The cast all perform well in their parts. Peter Weller convincingly portrays RoboCop even under the bulky suit and helmet. He really immerses himself as the character, giving him a real, profound depth. The supporting cast are good in their parts too. However among them, it’s the cast of villains who shine the most, especially Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith and Miguel Ferrer.

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Paul Verhoeven’s direction is great. Although it takes place sometime in the future, the film makes little attempt to look that much futuristic beyond its cyborg lead. The design, costumes and locations are steeped in the look and feel of the 1980s, giving the film both a recognisability and a lived-in aesthetic. The effects are sometimes rough but mostly well-rendered, and the practical effects are fantastic. There’s even some stop motion, while that does look dated, it does add something to the style and feel of the movie. The violence of RoboCop is especially unrestrained, and there are many uses of authentic looking effects for the gore.

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RoboCop works as both an 80s action B movie, and a social satire, goofy and entertaining, yet very intelligent and relevant. It’s been said many times but it’s surprising how well it holds up over a few decades later. I’d go so far as to say that RoboCop is essential viewing, especially if you’re a fan of action movies.

A Quiet Place Part II (2021) Review

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A Quiet Place Part II

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Contains violence and horror
Cast:
Emily Blunt as Evelyn Abbott
Cillian Murphy as Emmett
Millicent Simmonds as Regan Abbott
Noah Jupe as Marcus Abbott
Djimon Hounsou as Man On Island
John Krasinski as Lee Abbott
Director: John Krasinski

Following the deadly events at home, the Abbott family must now face the terrors of the outside world as they continue their fight for survival in silence. Forced to venture into the unknown, they quickly realize that the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats that lurk beyond the sand path.

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A Quiet Place Part II was one of the many 2020 movies that was pushed back another year because of COVID and now it’s finally here. The first movie was quite a surprising movie, a horror movie with quite a simple concept that was executed incredibly well, and it was quite a hit when it came out. A sequel was greenlit after its success, and it really didn’t seem like the type of movie that need a sequel and it seemed great enough on its own. So I was just expecting a decent but nothing special sequel, and it turned out to be a lot better than I thought it would be.

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A Quiet Place Part II picks up immediately after the first movie, so don’t read the rest of the review or really even bother to look into the movie unless you have seen the first movie. In short, many of the strengths from the first movie could pretty much just repeated here. At its core it is about a family trying to survive, you are invested with the characters and what they are up against, and the tension is there throughout but doesn’t overly rely on a huge amount of. The main question is what it actually does as a sequel to that first movie, what it adds and what is different. For one it expands the world wider beyond the main setting of the last movie, as the Abbott family goes into unexpected territory, and we get to learn more about the rest of the world and what happened. The film even opens on the day that the apocalypse started, and it really added some context and more to these movies. Part II does go for more of a patient survival drama more than the rather contained horror movie that Part I was, but it works very well. While generally the first movie was about the whole family with a focus on the parents, this one is really about the kids, and that approach was quite refreshing. At a point much of the movie splits into two storylines and while I liked both, without getting too into it here, the one focusing in Millicient Simmonds’s character of Regan was the one I was most interested in the most. The movie ends in a very satisfying way, and the sequel leaves open the potential for a Part III.

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The cast like in the last movie is rather small, but strong in their parts. Emily Blunt, Millicient Simmonds and Noah Jupe reprise their roles as the surviving Abbott family and once again they are great. They are able to convey so much without saying much or anything, especially when they have to communicate non-verbally so to not attract any of the monsters. Much of these movies rely on the performances being great and they absolutely deliver. Out of the three, Millicient Simmonds particularly shines here, in fact I’d say that she carries much of the movie. There’s also the addition of Cillian Murphy in a major role, and he’s also a fantastic addition to these movies, he also gives a great performance here. Djimon Hounsou also appears in the movie in a couple of scenes and he’s good in his screentime.

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John Krasinski once again directs this movie, and his work here is just as good as Part I if not better. Part II definitely feels like an even more confident film on a directing level overall. First of all, it is shot incredibly well, the environments and settings help this world feel believable. The attention to detail is immaculate especially during moments of tension, often times focusing on things that could potentially go wrong. Then there’s of course the effective use of silence and the sound editing, mixing and design with sound being such an important part of the movie. The booming score from Marco Beltrami works well too, especially during moments of tension. There are scares but it feels earned when they are present and they never feel cheap. The creatures as usual are creepy and intimidating from their presence, design and sounds, although don’t feel quite as dangerous compared to in the first movie (mostly to do with the story however). It really is quite an experience to watch it in the theatre, especially with the sound.

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A Quiet Place Part II is a worthy follow up to the first movie and is just as good. Great performances from the cast, story and characters that you’re invested in, and some effective tension and directed incredibly well. If you liked Part I, definitely check Part II out as soon as you can because you’ll probably like it as well. If you didn’t like Part I at all, Part II is unlikely to win you over any better. While I was sceptical of a sequel to the first A Quiet Place, it actually worked quite well and I’m now on board with the possibility of a Part III.

Pacific Rim (2013) Review

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Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket
Idris Elba as Marshal Stacker Pentecost
Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori
Charlie Day as Dr. Newton ‘Newt’ Geiszler
Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chau
Robert Kazinsky as Chuck Hansen
Max Martini as Hercules “Herc” Hansen
Clifton Collins Jr. as Tendo Choi
Burn Gorman as Dr. Hermann Gottlieb
Director: Guillermo del Toro

The government assumes the Jaegers, robotic war machines battling the Kaijus, to be ineffective. However, Stacker Pentecost’s (Idris Elba) team believes that only the Jaegers can save the world from destruction.

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It had been a while since I watched Pacific Rim, I remembered liking it when I watched it previously. Having re-watched many of del Toro’s movies more recently however, I decided to revisit it. It is quite a different movie from Del Toro, a large scale blockbuster, even larger than the Hellboy movies. Pacific Rim isn’t great, but it is far better than it had any right to be, with it being quite entertaining and well made generally.

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The story itself is pretty predictable and by the numbers for this genre, and a lot of the characters are typical and I wasn’t really invested with them. I will say that to the movie’s credit, there was character development and depth and at least they made an effort with them (although not enough to make the characters great). Also while the story isn’t anything special, the story is not overly complicated and is straight forward enough, while also having subplots which fit into the rest of the story quite well. When watching Pacific Rim, live-action anime was what really came to mind, and from what I can tell they really pulled it off. It really is a solid harmony between sci-fi and monster movies. The movie is undoubtedly silly, but it fully embraces its silliness. The movie is self aware, and some of the dialogue is cheesy yet awesome at times (Idris Elba’s “We are cancelling the apocalypse” comes to mind). Del Toro knew exactly what movie he was making and that really works to its benefit. At the same time, it doesn’t feel like a cash-grab or lazy blockbuster, it’s clear that a lot of love and effort was put into making this movie.

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The cast I’d say are probably decent at best but most of the problems goes to the characters, for the most part there isn’t quite enough material for the actors to be great. Charles Hunnam is a decent actor and he’s okay in the leading role here, albeit quite bland. However his character doesn’t have much to him, the only thing I remembered about him is that he was played by Charlie Hunnam and his brother dies early in the movie. The two performances that stood out the most in the movie for me were Rinko Kikuchi and Idris Elba. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman play over the top eccentric scientists, and Ron Perlman is also entertaining in his few scenes. The rest of the cast I don’t really remember, they don’t really leave much of an impression.

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Guillermo del Toro is the reason why Pacific Rim was as good as it was, it would’ve been a lot weaker without his direction. It is visually stunning, with some beautiful cinematography, great use of colour, as well as detailed production design. The spectacular visual effects have held up quite well even over 7 years later, with the CGI being near perfect. The action sequences are among the parts that stand out the most, and those scenes are really great. The action is very large and does well at showing off the scale and designs of the two opposing forces. It would’ve been so easy for these moments to look like a mess, but with Pacific Rim, you can really get a good look at everything that’s happening on screen. The battles during the night-time are particularly look great. There’s a battle that takes place at night time around halfway through and that’s where it really where the movie took a step up for me. The monsters were greatly designed and detailed (as you can expect from del Toro).

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Pacific Rim is definitely a silly action movie, however it is nonetheless an entertaining blockbuster that knows what it is. Even with the dumb moments and less than stellar characters, it’s directed quite well and generally keeps you watching for the visuals alone. It’s definitely in the lower section of Guillermo del Toro’s filmography but his work here is still impressive. I think it’s worth a watch at the very least, if you haven’t seen it already.

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) Review

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Godzilla vs Kong

Time: 113 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Alexander Skarsgård as Dr. Nathan Lind
Millie Bobby Brown as Madison Russell
Rebecca Hall as Dr. Ilene Andrews
Brian Tyree Henry as Bernie Hayes
Shun Oguri as Ren Serizawa
Eiza González as Maia Simmons
Julian Dennison as Josh Valentine
Kyle Chandler as Dr. Mark Russell
Demián Bichir as Walter Simmons
Kaylee Hottle as Jia
Director: Adam Wingard

Fearsome monsters Godzilla and King Kong square off in an epic battle for the ages, while humanity looks to wipe out both of the creatures and take back the planet once and for all.

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I was looking forward to Godzilla vs. Kong quite a bit. I liked the previous movies in this recent MonsterVerse with Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Even though this isn’t the first time these two iconic titans fought against each other on screen, it would be quite something to see these more recent incarnations of them fight. Godzilla vs. Kong definitely has a lot of issues on display but is nonetheless pretty entertaining and delivers on its promise.

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I won’t spoil much of the plot, it doesn’t do a lot of surprising things and the plot is pretty predictable, but I think there’s some moments best experienced for yourself. The tone of Godzilla (2014) was pretty dark, Godzilla: King of the Monsters was lighter and had more jokes, but still took itself somewhat seriously. Godzilla vs. Kong borders on self awareness, and doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s a very silly storyline, even more than previous movies. One storyline is even about a conspiracy theorist podcaster teaming with a pair of teenagers to look into a conspiracy. This isn’t the kind of movie that stops to reflect on the collateral damage either. Another thing to note is that there is less focus on the humans compared to past Godzilla movies. There is a connection between an orphan girl and Kong, and I thought that part was genuinely well done. On the whole though, you don’t have any emotional connection to the rest of the characters or plot. Depending on you, that can either find all of this a good thing or a bad thing. On one hand it does feel like there’s not a whole lot of substance and that it’s just only focusing on the fight scenes. On the other hand, it’s very easy to follow, the movie flies by with a quick pace and a small runtime of an hour and 50 minutes, and it gives the audience what they want. Not to mention that the human stuff isn’t generally well received from the past movies, so there’s no half baked family drama here. The first act is pretty rough, it felt pretty disjointed and a bit all over the place, with a lot of brief exposition dumps. After the first fight between Godzilla and Kong though, that’s when the movie really picked up for me. Also without getting to into it, the third act is very satisfying. The trailers have actually done a great job at showing you glimpses big moments, but keeping much of the true highlights away from the audience until they actually watch the movie. Past MonsterVerse movies aimed to empathise with both creatures, so naturally in this movie we would have to have one of them as the hero of the narrative, this movie chose Kong. I guess it’s a bit easier to emphasize with him over Godzilla. Last little note, some of the MonsterVerse movies had end credits scenes, but this one doesn’t, in fact there doesn’t seem to be any hint or indication of a follow up movie.

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The humans are always the weakest parts of these movies, and Godzilla vs Kong is no exception. However I do think that overall the characters are better than some of the past movies (though not by much), and the cast do well enough on their parts. Alexander Skarsgard, Rebecca Hall and Kaylee Hottle are the main characters in one storyline involving Kong, and Brian Tyree Henry, Millie Bobby Brown and Julian Dennison are the main characters looking into why Godzilla is suddenly attacking cities.

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Adam Wingard is the director, and overall I think he did a really good job with the movie. It’s solid on a technical level and the visual effects are astounding. The first fight between Godzilla and Kong is really good, but all the fights in the second half of the movie are on a whole other level. It’s all shot and choreographed incredibly well too, with some really solid action and its very creative. You really get the feeling that this movie knows that these moments are what people are really looking for, and they deliver on them. The score from Junkie XL (Tom Holkenborg) is also really good and fits with the movie well, especially during the large action scenes.

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Godzilla vs. Kong is absurd, over the top, has a predictable story, and has some thinly written characters. But it’s also incredibly entertaining, visually stunning, and has some very satisfying action. If you liked any of the MonsterVerse movies, I think you can enjoy this one. If you can, try to watch it on the big screen because it’s quite an experience. As a movie it’s not all that great, I think at least most of the other MonsterVerse movies are better than it, but Godzilla vs. Kong is still very entertaining for what it is.

Minority Report (2002) Review

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Minority Report

Time: 145 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language and sex scenes
Cast:
Tom Cruise as Chief John Anderton
Max von Sydow as Director Lamar Burgess
Colin Farrell as Danny Witwer
Samantha Morton as Agatha Lively
Director: Steven Spielberg

It is the near future, a future where murders have become so common, that a system had to be established. This system is called “Precrime”, where 3 physics can predict murders before they happen, allowing police to stop the murders. This system is in production in Washington D.C. where police officer John Anderton (Tom Cruise) has stopped numerous murders in his career. One day, he found out that he is the next person to commit a murder. Now, he is running away from a system he helped become successful, and trying to find out why he was set up to commit murder.

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I watched Minority Report for the first time a long time ago and I remembered liking it, but I only remembered a few things about the plot. So I rewatched it and it’s much better than I remember it being, a very smartly made sci-fi movie that is gripping from beginning to end.

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Minority Report is a unique sci-fi film that’s very complex, creative and thought-provoking. The story is captivating and the characters are well developed and fleshed out, with a smartly written script that’s so well put together. I loved the world-building and the concept of being able to see and prevent crimes before they occur. In fact, the whole futuristic setting I thought was established and set up very well. It was clearly in the future, yet actually felt like a believable setting. At the same time, the film doesn’t wallow in explaining how everything works in the future. Despite the long runtime, it does get onto the main plot reasonably quick. There are plenty of twists throughout and the story is engaging for every minute. It also does have some interesting themes and moral questions, as you would expect from a movie about seeing possible futures and changing the way things play out. Those elevate the movie from just being a pretty thrilling sci-fi movie. It is also pretty fun and has some entertaining moments, even if the story is quite bleak throughout, Spielberg really does balance the tones quite well. The ending does feel a little too neat and optimistic especially considering the rest of the story. Though it does feel like an ending that you could expect from Spielberg at this point, and I thought it was a decent enough conclusion.

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The cast are all great and give everything to their performances. Tom Cruise was great in the lead role of John Anderton, the police officer who goes on the run after finding out that he’s the next person predicted to commit a murder. He does very well with the stunts (yes he runs a lot) but he’s also he’s far more emotional in this role than you would expect. It’s a great performance and possibly one of his best. The supporting cast also do their parts well, including Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Peter Stormare and Max von Sydow.

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Steven Spielberg directed Minority Report and he’s reliable as always. Spielberg is no stranger to the sci-fi genre and uses some of the skills from those past movies to great effect here. I really loved the portrayal of the future. It’s high tech and futuristic as to be expected, yet very grimy and gritty at the same time. The technology was also futuristic yet believable, the portrayal of precrime was also really great and well thought out. Even the personalised advertisements in the background really added a unique aspect to it, yet remaining believable to this world. The cinematography really gives the movie a unique look and neo-norish ambience to it with the use of desaturated colours, high contrasts and lighting, and the production design is great too. The visual effects are generally top notch as to be expected. While there’s a good amount of it here, they’re used to enhance the experience by a great deal while never overshadowing the actual story. The action is great and full of energy, very well choreographed and intense. The editing relentlessly paces the whole narrative and John Williams’ score fits the movie well. In terms of technical flaws, there are some outdated visual effects, though this is the early 2000s so that’s to be expected. Also the glossy cinematography can get a little grating at times, and the movie looks a lot better whenever that look isn’t used.

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Minority Report is a great movie that’s directed excellently, with some commendable performances, and is well written, going way deeper than most sci-fi films at the time. Even looking past its deeper layers, it’s still a gripping, wildly entertaining and thoroughly satisfying experience, and likely one of my favourite films from Steven Spielberg. If you haven’t seen it already, I do think that it is worth watching.

Light of My Life (2019) Review

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Light of My Life

Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Medium Level Violence
Cast:
Casey Affleck as Dad
Anna Pniowsky as Rag
Elisabeth Moss as Mom
Tom Bower as Tom
Director: Casey Affleck

Parent (Casey Affleck) and child (Anna Pnlowsky) journey through the outskirts of society a decade after a pandemic has wiped out half the world’s population. As a father struggles to protect his child, their bond, and the character of humanity, is tested.

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I heard about Light of My Life for a little while, all that I knew going in was that Casey Affleck was directing and starring in a post apocalyptic movie, and I heard some pretty positive things about it. I wanted to see what it would be like, and I’m glad I checked it out. While it be rather slow paced at times, generally I was invested in the central story, it’s directed well, and features a couple of outstanding lead performances.

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People have often referred to this movie as being like Leave No Trace meets Children of Men and The Road, and while I haven’t seen The Road yet, those comparison are fairly accurate. Light of My Life movie moves at a pretty slow pace and that will turn some people off. It’s character driven and isn’t particularly thrilling outside of a few scenes. The opening is one long scene of dialogue with Affleck telling a story to his daughter, it really set the tone for the rest of the movie. At that point it should establish whether the rest of this movie will work for you or not, for me it did. I was invested with these two characters as they are trying to survive and live their lives in this situation. It has a beautiful written script, with some believable dialogue (while also refraining from exposition), and the story is very well put together. The setting is bleak and chilling but there’s a real emotional core and humanity to the story. In terms of flaws, it is a little overlong I will say, at about 2 hours, and some of the few flashback scenes don’t really work all that well. While there are some periods during the movie where it slowed down quite a bit, it wasn’t to a point where it took me out of the movie or anything.

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Casey Affleck and Anna Pnlowsky both lead this movie essentially, they are so believable as father and daughter, and their relationship is touching, human and feels authentic. Pnlowsky here (who hasn’t really acted much) is a revelation in this movie, truly fantastic here. Those two drive the movie, and they (both the performances and their characters) are the strongest parts of the movie. You also have small supporting appearances from the likes of Elisabeth Moss and others, who do their parts and add quite a bit to the movie.

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Casey Affleck also directed this movie exceptionally well, working well behind the camera as well as in front. It’s a stunning looking movie, the cinematography from Adam Arkapaw is beautiful (the use of long takes was particularly effective), the environments are showcased very well, and it really created a believable post-apocalyptic setting. With the intimate way he approaches this story, you get the feeling he picked up some notes after starring in David Lowery’s A Ghost Story, especially on a visual level. Speaking of A Ghost Story, Daniel Hart also composes a great score for Light of My Life, and it fitted the movie very well.

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Light of My Life isn’t for everyone, but I think it’s a good movie overall. If a slow paced, subdued post apocalyptic family drama with an intimate story appeals to you, then I say that it’s well worth checking out. As for me, I found it to be a touching, beautiful and emotionally nuanced film, well directed and featuring some great performances.

The Vast of Night (2020) Review

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The Vast of Night

Time: 89 Minutes
Cast:
Sierra McCormick as Fay Crocker
Jake Horowitz as Everett Sloan
Director: Andrew Patterson

In the 1950s, two children (Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz) search for the source of a mysterious frequency that has descended on their town.

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I heard a little bit about The Vast of Night from some film people, it’s a smaller indie sci-fi movie that was getting some attention. I checked it out myself and I am glad I saw it, it definitely deserves more attention.

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The Vast of Night is a sci-fi movie for sure, but it’s not large scale, instead it is viewing something paranormal through the eyes of high schoolers in an emptied out town. The story was rather predictable (i.e. I knew generally which direction it was going in) and it’s a simple story that we’ve all seen before. However it is aware of its own overall simplicity, and instead of going large and focusing on large special effects, it aims at being smarter instead. It is for sure a slow burn throughout, but I was intrigued throughout. The movie has a snappy script, which has an engrossing story with clever ideas. It’s almost entirely told through dialogue, and it makes sense considering the budget, but also works narratively. There are some long monologues, but I found them quite intriguing. The movie is firmly set in the 50s, and is drenched in genre nostalgia. Although I haven’t watched the Twilight Zone, it is clearly paying homage to that, and you can tell that the filmmaker really has a love and passion for the genre. The Vast of Night is roughly 90 minutes long and that was a reasonably good length for the movie, it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

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There’s not a huge cast, but the actors involved in the movie did well. The two leads in Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz are quite good in their parts, and they carry this story effectively. Their confident, quickly paced performances are convincing and sell the entire premise of the film. Extra credit for the actors for being to deliver large amounts of dialogue, sometimes in very long takes.

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The direction is from Andrew Patterson, and it really was key to the movie’s success. It’s worth noting that the budget for this movie is $700,000, quite small. It’s pretty hard to fully realise your vision – especially with an ambitious sci-fi plot, but Patterson pulls it off. The Vast of Night is a confident debut and suggests that there are greater things to come from him. He really does capture things on a small budget and it really did work to the movie’s advantage. Instead of trying to be grand, the film builds its narrative upon itself impressively. The visual effects that are on screen are pretty good for what they were. The cinematography is great and really stands out quite a lot. I really like the look of the movie, there is added film grain, and a moody colour palette that both sets the mysterious tone as well as invoking the era of the 50s. The use of long takes are particularly impressive, especially when the camera moves from one place to another far away place. Large portions of the story are told through long, static takes where the camera sits and there’s very few cuts while the subject talks. There’s even one scene with Sierra McCormick’s character where she’s operating on a switchboard and transferring calls, and it sticks with that one ongoing shot for a very long time, and it’s riveting. There are aspects with the colour grading and lighting which could be improved, though I have a feeling that it comes as a result of the budget. The nostalgia is on full display here, the movie itself starts with a slow push into a television set, with a theme song reminiscent of the Twilight Zone theme, and pays homage to many of the great paranormal sci-fi films and TV.

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The Vast of Night is a really good movie and quite a pleasant surprise. It is simple and doesn’t break new ground but its nonetheless impressive. The acting is good, it’s intriguing throughout and the direction is solid and benefitted from its indie and low budget approach. I’m interested to see what Andrew Patterson does next. Definitely watch it when you get a chance to, it’s worth a look.

Underwater (2020) Review

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Underwater

Time: 95 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, horror scenes & offensive language
Cast:
Kristen Stewart as Norah Price
Vincent Cassel as W. Lucien
Mamoudou Athie as Rodrigo Nagenda
T.J. Miller as Paul Abel
John Gallagher Jr. as Liam Smith
Jessica Henwick as Emily Haversham
Director: William Eubank

Disaster strikes more than six miles below the ocean surface when water crashes through the walls of a drilling station. Led by their captain, the survivors realize that their only hope is to walk across the sea floor to reach the main part of the facility. But they soon find themselves in a fight for their lives when they come under attack from mysterious and deadly creatures that no one has ever seen.

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I knew about Underwater for some time, it was a horror sci-fi thriller taking place in the ocean and starred Kristen Stewart in the lead role. I didn’t expect much from it really, especially for a January released thriller, but I had a feeling it would be entertaining at least. Thankfully it was quite a fun movie and I liked it for what it was, even with its faults.

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Right after an establishing shot inside and outside the station, and after the first scene of Kristen Stewart establishing her as the protagonist, the crash that sets the plot into motion happens. I do like how quickly it gets into the action, as well as the straightforwardness of the plot. The plot itself is rather predictable and doesn’t really do anything new, with plenty of tropes from other horror movies. In fact much of the story and setting for sure takes cues from Alien, just taking place underwater instead of outer space; Underwater is basically Alien in the ocean. With that said, I didn’t expect it to be something unique or subversive, so it wasn’t that huge of a negative for me. There are some parts of the plot I’m uncertain about, but I just went along with it. It is quite fast paced, and for the most part I think they fitted the movie well. There are brief attempts at humour especially with the dialogue, and I found that those moments only felt out of place and didn’t help to do anything but distract from the rest of the movie. Something I really didn’t like was all the exposition through voice over from Kristen Stewart in the first and last scenes of the movie, it just feels very unnecessary and lazy. It’s a minor issue since it’s only present in those scenes, but they stick out as being very unwelcome.

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The cast do a good job in their parts. Kristen Stewart is really good in the lead role, her performance actually does carry the movie well. The rest of the cast including Vincent Cassel and Jessica Henwick play their parts well. The characters are likable enough, if rather underdeveloped despite the attempts at development. Out of them, T.J. Miller feels the most out of place, he does have some dramatic parts, but out of the cast he delivers the most comedy, and as previously said the comedy doesn’t work.

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Underwater is directed pretty well by William Eubank. Again, you can clearly tell that the movie is inspired by Alien with regards to the direction, but its nonetheless good. I really like the look of the movie. It is well shot, the interiors look great, especially with the colour and lighting. Additionally, the setting at the facility was quite effective for this type of movie and its plot. The horror and scares were also handled quite well, with a tense atmosphere throughout, and it did a good job at making you really feeling confined. The quick cut editing sometimes worked well, at other times it made things a bit hard to follow. It does feel creepy throughout, especially the underwater scenes. I really liked how they portrayed the underwater from the visuals to the sounds. It’s a little while before we get to see the Lovecraftian-like creatures, but they are creepy and effective as horror monsters. As for issues with the direction, the outside CGI heavy shots really look fake and rough to say the least. A nit-pick but nonetheless something that stood out was the unnecessary text that appears on screen to show the location names.

Kristen Stewart stars in Twentieth Century Fox’s “Underwater”.

Underwater was quite good and entertaining for what it was, with some solid direction, and a good cast that performs well, especially a solid Kristen Stewart. The script has some faults for sure and it’s nothing special, but I reckon that if you like the look of the movie, it’s worth a watch for sure. It’s a fun 90 minute long horror thriller flick.