Category Archives: Sci-Fi

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) Review

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Halloween 3 Season of the Witch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Infinite (2021) Review

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Infinite

Time: 106 minutes
Cast:
Mark Wahlberg as Evan McCauley (Treadway 2020)
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Bathurst 2020
Sophie Cookson as Nora Brightman
Jason Mantzoukas as the Artisan
Rupert Friend as Bathurst 1985
Toby Jones as Bryan Porter
Dylan O’Brien as Heinrich Treadway
Director: Antoine Fuqua

Haunted by memories of places he’s never visited, a man (Mark Wahlberg) joins forces with a group of reborn warriors to stop a madman from destroying the endless cycle of life and reincarnation.

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I hadn’t heard about Infinite until the day it was released on Neon (a New Zealand streaming service)). It was quite surprising really, considering it is directed by Antoine Fuqua (whose work I like) and stars Mark Wahlberg in the lead role. As it turns out, Infinite was going to have a theatrical release, but it was dumped onto Paramount+ at the last second. I usually have a different opinion on situations like this, but after seeing Infinite, I actually feel like they made the right decision. It really does feel like another average and forgettable action movie with big stars dumped onto a streaming service. Even as someone who didn’t have any expectations going (in aside from the people involved), I was still disappointed with what I saw.

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To get this out of the way, Infinite is very derivative of other similar sci-fi action movies, definitely taking a lot from The Matrix and Wanted at the very least. Being derivative isn’t inherently bad though, in fact I thought the movie had an interesting premise. It’s essentially about a war between 2 groups of people, believers and nihilists, who both reincarnate endlessly while retaining memories of their past lives. When it begins, it’s not great by any means but it seems promising. However it’s not too long before the movie manages to take its somewhat interesting premise, and execute it in the most boring and forgettable way. Despite everything, the movie is very uneventful. Much of it is Mark Wahlberg going on a mission to discover himself and realise that his dreams are memories, not dreams. He begins to remember his past lives, and this organisation of believers is trying to help him remember so that they can find a particular important item. It really does feel generic and uninspiring throughout, even shockingly boring. The script feels like a first draft at best, and the movie does a lot of telling rather than showing. There is so much exposition dumped on you, explaining characters, the world, etc. The dialogue itself is very awkward and tonally confused as well. It’s impossible to get invested in what’s going on. The worldbuilding isn’t anything to ride home about either, you’ve seen these types of stories done many times before, and done a lot better. The movie feels longer beyond its 106 minute runtime, and for much of it, it’s rather dull. Towards the end, my interest picked up slightly for the climactic action, but that was it.

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There are some talented actors involved but the characters and writing doesn’t allow any of them to give good performances. This has to be one of the most uninterested performances I’ve seen from Mark Wahlberg. In all fairness, he feels very miscast, from the voiceover narration, to the attempts at humour, to the attempts at drama. In the movie, Wahlberg’s previous life is played by Dylan O’Brien, who has 5 minutes of screentime. He doesn’t get to do a lot outside of some action, but I wish he played the role throughout the whole movie, because he already seemed more fitting. Sophie Cookson was good in the Kingsman movies, but here she’s basically reduced to some passable action sequences and delivering a ton of exposition dumps. There’s really only two performances here that I liked, both of them play their parts in an energetic and silly way that it genuinely made the movie more enjoyable to watch. Jason Mantzoukas hams it up in a supporting role, and Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a very passionate and scene chewing performance as the villain. It is commendable that Chiwetel commits to this role considering how silly the character it is. The villain’s big scheme to end the world is just dumb and not well put together, but the performance made him enjoyable to watch.

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I like Antoine Fuqua as a director, and him helming this movie is what got me interested in it. However this is by far his worst work, at least of the films I’ve seen from him. The visuals are very drab and grey, right out of a straight to DVD or streaming movie. There are some action sequences, and I will say that they aren’t bad. Some of them are well put together, however they do feel quite stale and the editing can be clunky. It is strange considering that Fuqua is pretty reliable when it comes to action. The only action scene that really stood out to me was in the third act involving a plane, which was genuinely quite fun to watch.

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Infinite is currently the worst movie from 2021 I’ve seen, and unfortunately by far the worst I’ve seen from Antoine Fuqua thus far. Even as someone who went into this movie literally the same day I knew of its existence, I was quite disappointed by the end result. It’s not memorable enough for me to really dislike it, it very much is a forgettable straight to streaming action flick. A couple of the performances are enjoyable and some the action is fun, but otherwise it doesn’t really get anything right.

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.

The Matrix Reloaded (2003) Review

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The Matrix Reloaded

Time: 138 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence & sex scenes
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as Neo
Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus
Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity
Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith
Jada Pinkett Smith as Niobe
Harold Perrineau as Link
Randall Duk Kim as Keymaker
Gloria Foster as The Oracle
Director: Lilly Wachowski and Lana Wachowski

At the Oracle’s (Gloria Foster) behest, Neo (Keanu Reeves) attempts to rescue the Keymaker (Randall Duk Kim) and realises that to save Zion within 72 hours, he must confront the Architect (Helmut Bakaitis). Meanwhile, Zion prepares for war against the machines.

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The Matrix sequels aren’t the most beloved of movies, but I remember being one of the people who enjoyed them. I was familiar enough with the first Matrix movie, however I hadn’t watched the sequels more than once each. So I thought I should check them out again, especially as the fourth film would be coming in 2021. Overall, I do like The Matrix Reloaded even though it definitely has a lot of very visible issues.

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The Matrix Reloaded really does feel like The Wachowskis letting loose and in some ways it was nice to see them go all out on everything. However, it also resulted in the movie being quite overindulgent and bloated, and in some ways it made the movie work against itself. The script at many points was a bit unfocused, not helped by the weird pacing. While there were some interesting parts, I found much of the movie to be boring and bland at points. Reloaded couldn’t find the balance between exposition and action like the first one did, doing away with the careful structure, and replacing it with a fairly complex but messy and convoluted plot with nonsensical philosophical overtones. The film throws so much information at you, and a lot of the time, I was not able to follow what was going on. Even thinking back on it after a more recent viewing, it’s hard to remember the key plot points. The first Matrix movie had a lot of people talking and having very serious conversations about high concepts. In Reloaded, it takes things to a ridiculous extent with even more preachy philosophical stuff, and it comes across as rather forced. The dialogue driven elements of the film felt overly complex and bloated, and it really bogged down the movie when it got to these moments. The heavy handed dialogue does mostly tone down in the second half of the movie, with the exception of the infamous ‘Architect scene’. Without getting into that too much, while I understand the context of the scene and why the dialogue is written like that, it just borders on self-parody. It’s really no surprise why this scene has been parodied so much. Reloaded also has a rather unsatisfying cliffhanger ending, and although it’s the second part of a trilogy, it really feels like part 1 of 2 of a Matrix sequel (with part 2 being Matrix Revolutions). Despite everything, there were some interesting aspects. Some story aspects and interactions were interesting and I liked some of the ideas presented. I wouldn’t even say that I disliked the story. However, even as someone who doesn’t exactly love the first Matrix, that movie handles things a lot better than Reloaded.

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The acting generally remains the same as in the previous movie, pretty generic and not all that great. Some actors are better than others, for example I enjoyed Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus (like in the first movie). However I still don’t think Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne Moss are that good in their roles of Neo and Trinity. Their performances are rather bland and stiff and while I feel like that was part of their given direction, it hinders the performance greatly. It only feels worse given that it’s the sequels and they are still acting the same. Something I didn’t buy in the first movie at all was the sudden mention of Neo and Trinity being in love with each other despite nothing prior in the movie indicating that at all. Well it’s certainly not sudden in Reloaded as the film constantly pushes this relationship and it feels really forced. There’s still no chemistry between the two leads and it’s not made any more believable here. Even the new additions to the cast don’t really bring much new to talk about. I will say that Hugo Weaving made such a big impression in the first movie as Agent Smith, that despite his fate at the end of the last movie, they found a way to bring him back and he’s entertaining whenever he’s on screen as always.

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Once again, the Wachowski Sisters direct this, and props to them for pushing the boundaries even though the technology wasn’t quite there yet. The first Matrix seemed to embrace looking cool over functionality, I kind of respect that and it adds something to their aesthetic. The second movie is no exception. This movie has so many goofy moments which somehow adds to the movie’s entertainment. Neo flying for Superman for example is silly but fun. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the action scenes are generally quite good. In fact, Reloaded has some of the most memorable action scenes of the whole trilogy. It goes for more over the top action, more so than the first movie, and that is actually quite welcome. The choreography ranges from ridiculous to kind of awesome. There is a fight scene between Neo and many Agent Smiths, it was absolutely insane and only gets sillier as it progresses along, but it’s quite entertaining. There’s also a long extensive action sequence taking place on a freeway, and it’s one of my favourite scenes in the whole film, being both thrilling and entertaining. One flaw in the action scenes of the Matrix sequels however is that now that Neo is basically a superhero, it removes any tension from any action scene he’s in. Not to say that his action scenes aren’t good though, they are still fun. The CGI is impressive at times but overall, it is a bit dated for today. The 3D models can be good in one moment, and then extremely fake in another (the Neo vs Smiths fight being a strong example of this). Finally, there’s the amazing score from Don Davis, and the score is even better than the score in the first movie.

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The Matrix Reloaded is a very frustrating movie. To a degree I respect the ambition and scope of it, as well as the refusal to just repeat the first movie again. This does also lead to some of its worse aspects though, with the overindulgence (especially with the writing), heavy exposition, an overly complicated plot and script and more. By the end I didn’t have a clear idea of what I watched, and not in a good way. With that said, I do enjoy the movie. Some moments and ideas were well done, and the movie is worth watching for the action alone, even if some of the effects haven’t held up well. I’ll need to rewatch The Matrix Revolutions to see if it’s that much better than Reloaded, but I’m not expecting much.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) Review

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Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] contains violence
Cast:
Richard Dreyfuss as Roy Neary
François Truffaut as Claude Lacombe
Teri Garr as Ronnie Neary
Melinda Dillon as Jillian Guiler
Director: Steven Spielberg

Although aliens begin to make their presence felt to humans, the government denies their existence. However, when Roy (Richard Dreyfuss), an electrical lineman, encounters a UFO, he is drawn to the Wyoming wilderness.

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I have heard of Close Encounters of the Third Kind for a while. I knew that it was one of Steven Spielberg’s first movies, it’s about aliens coming to Earth, and it is known as a sci-fi classic. So, I’ve been wanting to check it out for some time. Eventually I did, and unfortunately it just didn’t work for me like it did for many other people. There were some things I liked but I couldn’t get into it overall.

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Close Encounters of the Third Kind actually started off quite well, I do like how Spielberg decided to focus on how people would realistically react to first contact from alien life forms rather than the aliens and the visual spectacle of it. However, after the first 20 minutes the movie really fell off for me. Although the movie is sort of about aliens coming to Earth, most of the movie focuses on main character Roy, played by Richard Dreyfuss, and what happens as a result of his close encounter with aliens. That sounds interesting on paper, but it basically just boils down to him going crazy and having a breakdown, begins throwing garbage into his house, stealing from his neighbours, and all around just driving his wife and kids away from him. The movie went from fun, creepy, eerie alien scenes to Richard Dreyfuss heaving dirt through a window and losing his mind. The story didn’t suck me in at all, if you remove Richard Dreyfuss’s storyline, the movie is mostly just constant scenes of people just discussing UFOs and aren’t particularly engaging. None of the characters are interesting or likable so it’s pretty hard to follow along with them, and unfortunately we are stuck mainly focusing on the worst character of them all. Close Encounters of the Third Kind is also known for its special effects and the majority of these big moments are in the third act, which is when stuff actually starts happening. While it was nice seeing these effects, it didn’t feel satisfying. What happens in the climax didn’t really make sense, and it leaves many questions unresolved. I’m all for ambiguity for the end of a movie, but after sitting through 2 hours’ worth of vague science fiction stuff and the protagonist going crazy, I was hoping for more of a payoff beyond a pretty light show. The movie is very slowly paced, and it came across as rather drab and uneventful, probably because not much actually happens in the movie. It’s not helped by the movie being way too long, well over 2 hours. There are a few engaging scenes, but it feels like much of the movie has a lot of filler.

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There’s not a lot to say about with the acting, it’s generally fine albeit forgettable and one note. Richard Dreyfuss is alright in the lead role, again the character he plays is rather annoying and unlikable, but that’s more to do with the writing than him.

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As I said previously, Steven Spielberg directed this movie, and in all fairness, the technical aspects are definitely the most impressive part of the movie. The visual effects are impressive, especially for the late 70s. It certainly would’ve been a spectacle to watch in 1977 and considering the time it was probably the best that cinema had to offer visually. The effects throughout the whole climax were particularly standout. There are also a few eerie and thrilling scenes that were actually directed quite well. The score from John Williams is good as to be expected from him.

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Unfortunately, I’m just couldn’t get into Close Encounters of the Third Kind at all. Despite some great visuals especially for the time, the story was rather dull and the characters were bland or annoying, both of which were trying my patience throughout. It was one of my least favourite movies from Spielberg. With that being said, with it being considered a classic I do think it is probably worth watching at some point, and I’m aware I’m in the minority of people who didn’t really like the movie.

Free Guy (2021) Review

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Free Guy

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Ryan Reynolds as Guy
Jodie Comer as Millie Rusk/Molotov Girl
Lil Rel Howery as Buddy
Utkarsh Ambudkar as Mouser
Joe Keery as Walter “Keys” McKeys
Taika Waititi as Antwan
Director: Shawn Levy

When a bank teller (Ryan Reynolds) discovers he’s actually a background player in an open-world video game, he decides to become the hero of his own story — one that he can rewrite himself. In a world where there’s no limits, he’s determined to save the day his way before it’s too late, and maybe find a little romance with the coder who conceived him.

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After long last, Free Guy finally releases. Going into it, there were a few things that had me put me off about it. First of all, it does look like the most Ryan Reynolds movie ever, even though I like him. Second of all, it is about video games, and most portrayals of video games from big budget studios aren’t all that great, which had me more concerned than the actual movie adaptations of video games. Then there was the fact that the trailers were shown so much at the cinema, not only in the past months, but also last year when the movie was originally meant to be released before it was delayed, to an annoying degree. So by the time it got to August, I wasn’t exactly anticipating the movie, with the exception of the exit of its trailers from the cinema. However, I ended up deciding to watch Free Guy after I heard that it’s good from people who have seen it, and it surprised me. It’s not great by any means but it was better than I thought it would be.

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The marketing team for this movie didn’t give Free Guy the best of trailers, but at least did a good job at hiding most of the best moments and cameos. Even as someone who was forced to watch the trailers an endless number of times, I was surprised with where the movie goes. Going in blind if possible would be a great choice. I found myself enjoying the story, as well as where it was all going. I will say that after the various twists and turns in the first half, things become rather straightforward in the second half. It’s a little disappointing because it feels like it doesn’t fulfil the potential that we didn’t know it had going into it. There are multiple themes about creative freedom, originality and corporate greed, but it even gets existential at times. The first film that comes to mind is of course The Truman Show, not that Free Guy comes anywhere near close to it. Instead, it plays things a bit too safe by the end, instead delivering a standard message about acceptance. It isn’t bad but just a little disappointing. The movie has genuine heartfelt moments with these characters, and I was surprised at how much effort was put into them. Now for the elephant in the room: it is a movie about video games. As a gamer, a big budget movie depicting video games is already a concern. As far as depictions of games and gamer culture go however, it’s not the worst. It actually does feel like some of the people involved at least somewhat know about gaming, possibly even played one. There is some pandering to a degree but not at the level as say Ready Player One. Some Ips are thrown into the movie, however they are intended more as brief Easter Eggs and it doesn’t feel like the movie is overly relying on the audience loving them. The humour may be hit or miss, if only because it is mainly catered to gamers. However I think some non gamers can still find the movie funny, and I enjoyed it. There are some cameos in the movie, and I’m not going to read any of them out or what most of the cameos consist of because I know that it would more than likely scare off a lot of people from actually watching the movie. Most of the prominent cameos are people known for gaming, that’s as far as I’ll go. I do understand why they were included in the movie, and honestly I didn’t dislike them as much as I thought I would. Although it will feel jarring every time it would cut to them, and while I get it is supposed to be meta, it feels out of place. The worst instants are in the third act, where I really could’ve done without them showing up. With that said, there are a couple of non-gaming cameos which I really liked.

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The cast are all good in their parts. Ryan Reynolds plays his usual self as most could’ve figured from the trailer, even though this time its as a NPC (non player character) in a video game world. As someone who likes him as an actor, I did feel like he could’ve just fallen into doing the same old schtick but he works quite well. He is genuinely funny, you care about his character, and he has some great moments. Reynolds was a surprisingly great pick for the role. The standout among the entire cast though was Jodie Comer, who gives so much to this movie and probably elevates. In this movie we see her in two roles, as a character named Millie in the real world, and as Molotov Girl, Millie’s avatar within the game world. She is amazing in both parts, and there is some great chemistry between her and Reynolds. Joe Keery was quite good in his part, even though he was overshadowed by the main leads, and Lil Rel Howery is entertaining as a security guard and friend of Guy. Taika Waititi effectively plays the unhinged villain as the developer of the game that much of the movie takes place inside. Taika is certainly very energetic, but aside from doing what you would expect from him, as an antagonist he is very one dimensional. It’s just as well that Waititi goes over the top. because otherwise the character would’ve been completely forgettable.

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Shawn Levy is the director of the movie, I mostly know him as the director of the Night of the Museum movies. However I think this is the best work he’s done as a director. First of all I really like how this video game world is portrayed, as a world taking a lot from the open world from Grand Theft Auto knockoff, it is portrayed very well. Not only that but the visual effects works and fitting considering the setting for most of the movie. The action is also really entertaining and energetic.

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Free Guy was way better than it had any right to be. I know that not everyone is going to like it, but it was genuinely a nice surprise for me. I was entertained by the story and characters, the action was enjoyable, I generally found the movie funny, and the cast were good, especially Reynolds and Comer. For what it’s worth, as someone who had low expectations going in, I think it’s worth a chance at least.

The Tomorrow War (2021) Review

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The Tomorrow War

Time: 138 Minutes
Cast:
Chris Pratt as James Daniel “Dan” Forester Jr.
Yvonne Strahovski as Colonel Muri Forester
J.K. Simmons as James Daniel Forester Sr.
Betty Gilpin as Emmy Forester
Sam Richardson as Charlie
Edwin Hodge as Dorian
Director: Chris McKay

The world is stunned when a group of time travellers arrive from the year 2051 to deliver an urgent message: thirty years in the future, mankind is losing a global war against a deadly alien species.

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I had seen The Tomorrow War advertised a lot, an Amazon Prime sci-fi movie starring Chris Pratt. I wasn’t that interested in it initially, it looked a fairly generic sci-fi action movie about an alien invasion. Still, I heard that some people liked it, so I decided to check it out. It has its issues, but it was better than I expected it to be.

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A lot of the writing for The Tomorrow War is quite generic, but it was better than I thought it would be. The story is reasonably easy to follow, and it had more heart than I expected, with good character drama which doesn’t feel forced and elevates the movie a bit. The dramatic and tragic moments don’t quite have the desired impact that they could have, but again it was more than I was expecting. Really this aspect with the drama without spoiling anything is really the most surprising aspect of the movie. The rest of it isn’t anything special, which is disappointing because it actually had a lot of potential to be more. The premise is quite interesting, but they don’t really do much with it, and by the end of it is only just Chris Pratt vs Aliens. The writing involving time travel is rather lazy, and there are certain points where you don’t want to think too hard about the story because you’ll notice how convenient many of the events and plot points are. A lot of the characters aren’t that special, the protagonist is the only person here that gets fleshed out enough. Some of the side characters move in and out of the plot like they’re passing back and forth through a revolving door, a few of them are interesting but we don’t get much time to learn about them. There are some long action sequences, and it seems like that was the main focus, thankfully the film delivers on those. Despite the drama in the film, it doesn’t take itself too seriously and you can have fun with it. There’s a number of jokes in the movie, most of them don’t work but are fine enough. It can have some bad dialogue but you can get past them. The movie is quite long at 2 hours and 20 minutes long, and it’s at least 20 minutes too long. The pacing works at some points and doesn’t work at others. Some scenes drag on a bit but the pacing isn’t terrible.

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Chris Pratt in this movie is just playing Chris Pratt, much like many of his other film appearances. To be fair, he was better than I thought he would be. He’s not great, but he delivered the role just well enough for me to follow along with him as the protagonist. Yvonne Strahovski was really good, Sam Richardson is funny and entertaining whenever he’s on screen, and J.K. Simmons makes his presence felt despite his limited screentime. Betty Gilpin is in this movie as Chris Pratt’s wife, she is rather underutilised but does a lot in her scenes. I know that I’m not the only one to think this, but I think that the movie would be a lot better if the two of them switched roles.

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The director of the movie is Chris McKay, who previously made The Lego Batman movie. This makes The Tomorrow War his live action debut, and it was pretty good. Amazon put a lot of money into this movie and you can definitely tell, it certainly looks very expensive. The visuals are stunning and on the whole, the movie is very well shot. The special effects generally work, though the climax goes particularly CGI heavy, and some of the effects look a little odd in places. There is a lot of action, with some fun and satisfying set pieces, I think there’s enough good action to make it worth watching for that alone. The action definitely has some issues, there are some periods where characters would continuously fire endless amounts of bullets without reloading, an example being in the first half of the movie where characters descend stairs and keep shooting at aliens without reloading. Speaking of which, the aliens are one of the highlights of the film. There are plenty of sci-fi alien invasion movies and with the movie seeming quite typical of the sub-genre, I wrote off the aliens pretty early on. That is until they actually appeared on screen. Not only was the alien reveal done very well along with the effective build up, but their designs and movements were well done, and they managed to be threatening and dangerous. The score from Lorne Balfe does feel a bit derivative of other sci-fi scores but was a nice addition, and it does add a lot to the action scenes.

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The Tomorrow War is another typical sci-fi alien invasion movie and unfortunately doesn’t become more than that. However some of the performances, the action, and even some of the drama makes the movie a decent and enjoyable viewing. So if you enjoy sci-fi action movies, it might be worth a watch.

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.