Category Archives: Thriller

Old (2021) Review

Old

Old

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Handmaiden (2016) Review

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The Handmaiden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nobody (2021) Review

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Nobody

Time: 92 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Strong violence & offensive language
Cast:
Bob Odenkirk as Hutch “Nobody” Mansell
Connie Nielsen as Rebecca “Becca” Mansell
Aleksei Serebryakov as Yulian Kuznetsov
RZA as Harry Mansell
Christopher Lloyd as David Mansell
Michael Ironside as Eddie Williams
Colin Salmon as The Barber
Director: Ilya Naishuller

Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) fails to defend himself or his family when two thieves break into his suburban home one night. The aftermath of the incident soon strikes a match to his long-simmering rage. In a barrage of fists, gunfire and squealing tires, Hutch must now save his wife and son from a dangerous adversary — and ensure that he will never be underestimated again.

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I heard about of Nobody for a little while. It was an action movie from the people behind John Wick (written by Derek Kolstad and produced by John Wick director David Leitch), it also had Bob Odenkirk in the lead role and I liked the look from it from the trailers. It ended up being pretty good, honestly better than I expected it to be.

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At first, Nobody actually does play things surprisingly serious, at least more than I thought it would compared to the trailer. However that’s just the case in the first third or half of the movie. While it isn’t as comedic as the trailers would suggest, it definitely is self-aware. Overall I’d say that there is quite a good balance between the melancholy and fun elements. It has some over the top moments and it is implausible, but the movie doesn’t care too much about that, and those moments don’t really bother you either. There’s a decent amount of well executed comedy as to be expected. The action only increases as the film progresses, it particularly ramps up in the third act, and it’s very satisfying. The plot is somewhat contrived, and the plot points are unrealistic but again that’s not necessarily a bad thing and it doesn’t bother you. We have seen this type of story before especially in action thrillers, Russian gangster villains and all. The story is formulaic but is decent and executed well, which is helped by the good pacing. One of the immediate similarities that people will make is between this movie and the John Wick films, a comparison I deliberately held off making in this review. You definitely feel the John Wick similarities, but Nobody still makes itself distinct. For one it isn’t as interested in worldbuilding an elaborate setting like the John Wick films are, and keeps things a bit tighter in terms of scope. Also, John Wick’s revenge is one that generates sympathy from the audience and his return to the crime world comes after being forced back. In contrast to that, the reason for “Nobody” to return seems to be more that he’s bored, he’s wanted to return for a while, and the incident with the burglars breaking into his house just sparked his return (as well as the plot). You don’t connect as emotionally to the story or characters as the Wick films, but Nobody again is a different kind of movies. It’s a very tight movie and is 90 minutes long, and that actually was the right length for it.

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One of the strongest parts of the movie is Bob Odenkirk as the lead character of Hutch Mansell (who you can also call “Nobody”). He puts a lot of heart and soul into his performance and really brought this character to life. He’s convincing as someone who doesn’t seem capable of doing action, as well as convincing as someone who most certainly is. It definitely helps that Odenkirk did a lot of his own stunts. Although he is skilled like John Wick, Hutch feels like an everyman, he is imperfect and more human by being shown often to take a lot of damage (a particular fight scene on a bus is an example of this). On top of the drama and action aspects, Odenkirk also is great with the comedy, and some of the cheesier parts of the script become satirical with his delivery and works a lot better. He’s definitely up there in the category of ‘known middle aged actors who suddenly become action stars’ alongside the likes of Liam Neeson and Colin Firth, and I would actually like to see Odenkirk in more action films. The supporting cast are generally good. Connie Nielsen doesn’t really get much to do outside of being the ‘wife character’ in this sort of story unfortunately. Aleksei Serebryaskov plays the rather stock Russian gangster villain, however the performance is good enough and the character works well enough as an antagonist. RZA and Christopher Lloyd aren’t in the film a ton but definitely shine when they are on screen, and without giving away, Lloyd particularly is an absolute blast to watch.

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Nobody is directed by Ilya Naishuller, and his work here is good. His last movie was Hardcore Henry, an action movie that took place entirely from the POV of the main character even as he’s jumping around doing insane action choreography and stunts. This time, Nobody is a more conventionally directed film (in the sense that they don’t use GoPro cameras here), and I think this is a better movie overall. The action is great, brutal and bloody, definitely one of the strong aspects of the movie. It’s very well shot with a great use of camerawork and lighting. The choreography of the fight scenes are excellent, and the editing and pacing are on point. Much of the action is like the action from John Wick but it’s a bit different here, much less tactical and with more emphasis on hand to hand fights over gunfights (though there are differently plenty of action scenes involving guns in the film). There are also some gratifying needle drop moments with the soundtrack, and the score from David Buckley fits with the movie.

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Nobody is a fun action thriller, with a simple and familiar yet self-aware plot, some excellently filmed and directed action sequences, and a strong lead performance from Bob Odenkirk. It’s not terribly original but it really didn’t need to be, and works greatly as what it set out to do. There are potential for sequels even hinted in throughout movie, and I’d like to see them happen.

Fast & Furious 6 (2013) Review

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Fast & Furious 6

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto
Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner
Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs
Michelle Rodriguez as Letty Ortiz
Jordana Brewster as Mia Toretto
Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce
Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as Tej Parker
Sung Kang as Han Lue
Gal Gadot as Gisele Yashar
Luke Evans as Owen Shaw
Gina Carano as Riley Hicks
Elsa Pataky as Elena Neves
John Ortiz as Arturo Braga
Director: Justin Lin

Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is tasked with catching a team of mercenary drivers who manage to evade him every time. However, he enlists the help of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his team in exchange for full pardons for their past crimes.

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Fast Five injected some much needed life and energy into the Fast & Furious franchise. It was a street racing action series, but its fifth movie made the switch to being a heist action movie and that worked really well. Not only was it the best film in the series at that point, but critics and audiences alike really enjoyed it. Director Justin Lin, who made Fast Five (as well as Tokyo Drift and Fast & Furious) directs the follow up with Fast & Furious 6. Whether or not its better or worse than the previous instalment, I think it’s around the same level, and I really enjoyed it.

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While I’m not sure on the whole it’s a better movie, I do think that the story of Fast and Furious 6 is more engaging than Fast Five. Rather than it just being another heist, it does take a slightly different story direction. It is definitely still in the heist/crime tone established with Fast Five, which is definitely to its benefit. However what makes it interesting is the way it changes it up. They team up with Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs this time instead of being chased by him. They are also up against another team of criminals led by Luke Evans, and as its pointed out in the movie, his team is like an evil mirror to Dom’s team. While you really only remember a couple of them, they do make for memorably formidable antagonists. Unlike the villain of 5 who’s just a guy they need to rob, you really feel that they are on the level of Dom’s team. And of course family is a notable part of the movie, this time the big family draw is the fact that the character of Letty (played by Michelle Rodriguez) is not only back from the dead after being assumed dead in the 4th movie, but is also in Luke Evans’s team and doesn’t appear to remember anything. This is a key reason why Dom decides to work with Hobbs and so it is a key part in the plot. I will say though that some of the reasons behind her return are very convoluted and farfetched to say the least. That aside, both aspects come together to make a story that I was interested in. Once again it is the strange but nonetheless effective mix of an approach that doesn’t take things too seriously, while being endearing in how it handles the story and characters and of course family. It also has a good mid credits scene that leads into Furious 7, well worth sticking around to watch.

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The main cast of Fast Five return, with Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang and Gal Gadot. They come into their own here, with great chemistry between them. I’d actually say that they are better here than they were in the last movie. The newcomer of the main cast in the last movie was Dwayne Johnson has Luke Hobbs, and as mentioned earlier is working with Dom and his team instead of pursuing them, he makes a great addition with them and they play off each other really well, as can be expected considering it’s The Rock. One of the main aspects of the movie is Michelle Rodriguez returning as Letty, and she’s a welcome returning player. The villain of Owen Shaw played by Luke Evans works quite well. He’s not great and isn’t that interesting of a character, however he’s definitely a step above the villains in the previous Fast and Furious movies. He isn’t intimidating and imposing especially when he’s put up against Vin Diesel or Swayne Johnson, but he is nonetheless shown to be ruthless and a different kind of threat that wasn’t in the past movies.

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Director Justin Lin returns from Fast Five for this, at this point he’s pretty familiar with the franchise. It mainly comes down to the action, and there’s not much to complain about there. There are some great set pieces and clearly a lot of thought went into them. They really benefited from energetic camerawork, solid editing and good practical effects. The action is even crazier and sillier than Fast Five, not at all worrying about the laws of physics, yet you are constantly focusing on what’s happening and entertained throughout.

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Fast & Furious 6 is around the same level of Fast Five for me. The action might not be quite as memorable as the action scenes in Fast Five, but here the story is a little more interesting, and the cast actually worked better. It’s a solid follow up to Fast Five and was quite enjoyable, among the better entries in this franchise.

Fast Five (2011) Review

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Fast Five

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence & offensive language
Cast:
Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto
Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner
Jordana Brewster as Mia Toretto
Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce
Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as Tej Parker
Matt Schulze as Vince
Sung Kang as Han Lue
Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs
Gal Gadot as Gisele Yashar
Joaquim de Almeida as Hernan Reyes
Elsa Pataky as Elena Neves
Director: Justin Lin

Ever since ex-cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Mia Torretto (Jordana Brewster) broke her brother Dom (Vin Diesel) out of custody, they’ve traveled border to border to evade authorities. In Rio de Janeiro, they must do one final job before they can gain their freedom for good. Assembling their elite team of car racers, Brian and Dom know they must confront the corrupt businessman who wants them dead, before the federal agent (Dwayne Johnson) on their trail finds them.

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Up until Fast Five, the Fast and Furious was a rather okay but entertaining action franchise based around street racing. Some of the movies were reasonably fun but that was sort of it. Fast Five changed that with a much larger blockbuster direction very much for the better, also changing the series as a whole.

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The plot is simple enough: main characters decide to pull off heist on a drug lord while they are being chased by a DEA agent. They don’t make it needlessly complicated, they know what this movie is, with just the right amount of self awareness and witty humour throughout. With Fast Five, they increased the scale and scope of the series. They replaced the street racing formula with elements of a heist thriller, effectively resurrecting this franchise and makes it go in a new direction that actually works quite well. What also works is that they reunite the whole crew with characters from the past movies, making this a sort of soft reboot. If you haven’t seen any of the previous movies, you really don’t have to. You might miss some details with backstories and other characters that are mentioned in passing, but you can pick up on those easily easily. On top of the original Fast and Furious team with Dom, Brian and Mia, there’s characters introduced from 2 Fast 2 Furious, Tokyo Drift and Fast and Furious. While that could seem a bit overwhelming to have all these characters brought in, they actually work quite well together. Despite the over the top action, the screenplay does place more emphasis on its story and characters, to the film’s benefit. Then there’s the ever present theme about family, and as much as this has been made fun of, it is something that is throughout these movies. One of the things that I like most about these movies is that for as over the top they are, they are genuine and endearing with the characters and their journeys. So it’s just the right mix where they don’t take it too seriously and don’t let anything like physics get in the way of the action, while actually caring about the story and characters.

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The movie has a stellar ensemble with the actors playing to their advantages. Returning main cast members Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster come back, as does Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Gal Gadot, Suan Kang and more from the previous movies to reprise their roles. All of them work together well in the team and have great chemistry together. It’s no coincidence that the series really found itself after Dwayne Johnson joined it. His personality and charisma adds a lot to this movie as well as the following movies. In this movie, he’s going after Vin Diesel and his group (before teaming up with him later on) and its fun watching them face off.

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Fast Five is directed by Justin Lin, who directed The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and Fast & Furious prior to it, but he seemed to have improved over these movies. He has such a sleek direction, the action scenes are particularly great. This movie obviously is far from being realistic but it’s all shot, edited and filmed well. The third act is the standout, and there’s particularly an insane final setpiece involving a giant safe, which is particularly strong. Brian Tyler’s score packs some intense tracks that adds a lot to the action.

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Fast Five is one of the best entries in the franchise, this is really where the series took off and it’s easy to see why. Even looking back at it now 10 years later, it still holds up despite its ever present flaws. It’s entertaining while caring about its characters and story, it’s silly and over the top while being endearing, it’s just the right blend of elements. If you’ve never seen a Fast and Furious movie, you could jump right in with this movie.

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

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The Conjuring 3 The Devil Made Me Do It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speed (1994) Review

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Speed

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & Offensive Language
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as Officer Jack Traven
Dennis Hopper as Howard Payne
Sandra Bullock as Annie Porter
Joe Morton as Lieutenant Herb ‘Mac’ McMahon
Jeff Daniels as Detective Harry Temple
Director: Jan de Bont

A young police officer (Keanu Reeves) must prevent a bomb exploding aboard a city bus by keeping its speed above 50 mph.

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Speed is one of the most iconic and influential action movies from the 90s, with a memorable premise, great action sequences, and it was overall really good. I decided to rewatch it recently, it’s still really entertaining and it surprisingly holds up pretty well for the most part.

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The concept of the movie is fairly simple: if a bus drops its speed below 50 mph, it will explode. It works greatly in its simplicity and it’s brilliantly executed. The plot has plenty of creative ideas and situations that prevent the film from being repetitive. It might be a pretty standard plot nowadays in terms of action movies, but the high concept within Speed is sort of action movie genius, especially for the 90s. It’s engaging from its opening moments taking place in an elevator shaft, and remains tense throughout its runtime. The pacing is fierce, aside from its final 15 minutes, it’s perfectly paced. It is breathlessly energetic and intense, and there’s a lot of escalating suspense throughout, never letting you stop for a moment to catch your breath. It drags the audience from one disaster to the next, engaged in such a confined environment. The last act isn’t quite as strong as the first two acts, but it was entertaining enough. It’s definitely a 90s action flick, and with that comes all the typical cheese that similar movies have. This isn’t exactly an intellectually challenging feature, but it was never expected to be that. It fully commits to its ridiculous premise and that’s what makes it both charming and exciting. The dialogue is goofy but quotable nonetheless, and the characters are very cliché but still work well for this movie. Sometimes things happen that don’t make sense as to be expected. Physics and realism aside, the motivations of the villain are kind of shoddy and aren’t really that fleshed out for example. However it’s entertaining enough that it makes up for any problems you might have with the plot. It’s also a very rewatchable movie.

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Everyone gives the exact kind of performance you expect from them. The characters are all stereotypes but it doesn’t matter that much, and the actors are all good in their parts. The role of lead character Jack is right for Keanu Reeves, cocky and impulsive, but smart and engaging. Sandra Bullock also does very well here in her part, she and Reeves have some great on screen chemistry in this movie. Dennis Hopper plays the villain, while the character himself isn’t that great, Hopper is effectively chewing every scene he’s in. He makes the character feel crazy yet threatening and in control with all these bombs scenarios he set up.

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Jan de Bont directs this movie incredibly well. There are so many memorable action sequences, de Bont knows how to keep the tension at a high level throughout. It’s impressive how many different set pieces he’s able to pack into just one location. The opening on its own, the elevator sequence, was a great way of introducing the audience to the kind of tension they’ll be feeling for the rest of the movie. But of course it’s the majority of the movie taking place on the bus that’s so impressive, with some insane practical stunts. The editing is effectively tight, and the intense score from Mark Mancina is memorable and fits the movie well.

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Speed is pure high energy action cinema at its finest, and a near pitch perfect 90s summer blockbuster. It’s not only influential and iconic for its time, even today it still entertains and thrills with a simple and over the top yet effective script and plot, likable and memorable characters and acting, and impressive direction. I recommend checking it out if you haven’t already.

Those Who Wish Me Dead (2021) Review

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Those Who Wish Me Dead

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, cruelty, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Angelina Jolie as Hannah
Finn Little as Connor
Nicholas Hoult as Patrick
Aidan Gillen as Jack
Jon Bernthal as Ethan
Medina Senghore as Allison
Jake Weber as Owen
Tyler Perry as Arthur
Director: Taylor Sheridan

Still reeling from the loss of three lives, Hannah (Angelina Jolie) is a smoke jumper who’s perched in a watchtower high above the Montana wilderness. She soon encounters Connor (Finn Little), a skittish boy who’s bloodied, traumatized and on the run in the remote forest. As Hannah tries to bring him to safety, she’s unaware of the real dangers to follow: two relentless killers hunting Connor, and a fiery blaze consuming everything in its path.

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Those Who Wish Me Dead was one of my most anticipated movies of 2021. Not only did it have a great cast with Angelina Jolie, Nicholas Hoult, Aidan Gillen and Jon Bernthal, but it was coming from Taylor Sheridan, who’s last directing work was a great crime thriller called Wind River. So I was excited based off the premise and the talent involved. I will say it wasn’t quite like I hoped it would be but I still liked it.

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I went into the movie as someone who liked Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River, so to those who like me were expecting something like that, Those Who Wish Me Dead is nothing like that. Not only did I find that it definitely doesn’t live up to his stronger works, but as I discovered within the first 10 minutes, it is more of a 90s throwback thriller. The plot itself is rather predictable but I was interested enough to watch throughout. However I will note that for whatever reason, I was more interested in the supporting characters than the stories of the two leads, and I don’t think that was supposed to be the case. There is some characterisation, especially with the two main leads, however for the most part it doesn’t really delve into the characters much. I also do like how it is unflinching with the relentlessness and brutality of the violence, quite familiar to some of Sheridan’s other works like Sicario and Wind River. By the end of the movie, you do notice that there are a lot of questions that are unanswered, and some aspects that aren’t explained the best. For example, the motivations of the hitmen chasing the main characters are murky at best, Tyler Perry appears in one scene as the person who hire the killers and that’s it. It would’ve benefited from being a bit longer, using that time to develop more of the characters and story, especially when you consider that the runtime is only 100 minutes long. The pacing is a bit iffy, not the strongest especially in the first act where it seems to be taking a while to get to the main event at the center of the plot. Not to mention that the first two acts spend time building to the 10 minute climax.

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The cast are great, and they deliver good performances on their parts. Angelina Jolie is headlining the movie as the lead, as she indeed plays the lead character. Despite this, she doesn’t really get the screentime necessary to give her the depth that is needed. She does have a tragic backstory as a smokejumper with a trauma and we do see how this affects her, which makes her the only major character in this movie with an actual backstory. Even then, it still feels like her character needed more development. Nonetheless Jolie does play the role very well. Finn Little plays the child that Angelina Jolie is protecting over the course of the movie, and he actually does quite a good job in the role despite feeling like a plot device. The chemistry and dynamic between Little and Jolie is believable and works well enough. With that said, these two seemed to be sidelined, and aren’t given the proper development that they need. As I said earlier, the supporting players actually end up being more impressive than the leads. First of all are the two hitmen played by Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult. Their relentless nature to carry out this goal makes them unpredictable, and that unpredictability is definitely needed in this rather generic and familiar plot. Despite being stone cold killers and straightforward villains, they are pretty human as shown through the dialogue and solid performances, and I kind of wanted more screentime with them. There’s also Jon Bernthal and Medina Senghore as the local sheriff and his pregnant wife, who are meant to be background characters but actually stand out. Bernthal does get a good amount of screentime compared to some of his other supporting roles (i.e. less than 10 minutes), and Senghore is something of a scenestealer. Tyler Perry is good in his one scene however his appearance is so brief that you could almost miss him.

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Taylor Sheridan’s direction wasn’t quite as impressive as his work on Wind River, but on a technical level it is still solid. The cinematography is gorgeous, with much of the film being shot against a stunning landscape. When a particular forest fire becomes present in the movie and affects the characters, it almost becomes a presence in itself, elevating the tension as the sight of fire just spreading through the trees being quite intimidating. The action is well put together and flows well, and as said earlier is brutal and unflinching. Brian Tyler’s score does a lot to elevate the intensity too, and fits perfectly with the rest of the movie.

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Those Who Wish Me Dead was a bit of a disappointment to me, as someone who liked a lot of Taylor Sheridan’s past work (especially Wind River) and the cast involved. However I still enjoyed it. As a 90s action thriller throwback (albeit without the cheesy tone), it was entertaining enough, the cast were good in their parts, and it was directed reasonably well. If you’re interested in an okay thriller with great actors, then give it a watch but it’s not one that you’ll need to catch as soon as possible.

Without Remorse (2021) Review

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Without Remorse

Time: 109 Minutes
Cast:
Michael B. Jordan as John Kelly
Jamie Bell as Robert Ritter
Jodie Turner-Smith as Lieutenant Commander Karen Greer
Luke Mitchell as Rowdy King
Jack Kesy as Thunder
Brett Gelman as Victor Rykov
Lauren London as Pam Kelly
Colman Domingo as Pastor West
Guy Pearce as Secretary of Defense Thomas Clay
Director: Stefano Sollima

Seeking justice for the murder of his pregnant wife, an elite Navy SEAL (Michael B. Jordan) uncovers a covert plot that threatens to engulf the United States and Russia in an all-out war.

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I heard about Without Remorse somewhat recently, the main thing I knew was that it was based off a Tom Clancy book. I wasn’t expecting a huge amount from it, especially with the reactions to it. With that said, I like Michael B. Jordan (who’s in the lead role), and the director and writer of Sicario: Day of the Soldado, Stefano Sollima and Taylor Sheridan, were involved. I expected an okay action flick and that’s pretty much what I got.

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The writing is the key issues with the movie really, despite Taylor Sheridan being one of the writers, it’s pretty underwhelming. If you’ve seen a movie based off the works of Tom Clancy, Without Remorse should feel very familiar. I never read the book so I can’t comment on the similarities or differences between the book and the movie. However I can say that the movie felt like straightforward 80s and 90s CIA espionage thrillers (especially those based off Tom Clancy’s books). The plot all in all is pretty generic, the story is fine but underdeveloped. The script itself has a lot of cliches, illogical situations and forced one liners that don’t really fit in here. There aren’t any interesting backstories, and the motives of the characters aren’t that compelling. It’s like a 90s action thriller with the notable fact that the mood throughout much of the plot of Without Remorse is sombre, so it’s not quite as entertaining as it could’ve been. Without Remorse is a revenge story for the main character, beyond that though, there isn’t much to the story as a whole. It has its twists, but nothing was compelling or surprising. The reveals are predictable especially one obvious reveal in the third act. It really is just a simple, predictable espionage thriller, but that might be enough for you. It is tightly paced enough, and while the runtime doesn’t give enough development to the plot (though even with its hour and 50 minutes it could’ve done more), it does make it a fairly easy if forgettable watch. Something to note is that in the mid credits there’s a scene which sets up a follow up for a sequel, with it continuing to follow the books of Tom Clancy presumably.

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There’s a pretty good cast involved overall. Michael B. Jordan is in the lead role and while I wouldn’t argue that it’s one of his best performances, he’s good as a soldier seeking revenge. He elevates much of the writing with his performance and is particularly great with the physicality in the action scenes. Without him I feel like the movie would’ve been much worse. A supporting cast which includes Jodie Turner Smith, Jamie Bell and Guy Pearce also work pretty well overall.

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Stefano Sollima is the director, and I was impressed with his work on Sicario 2. Here his work on Without Remorse is relatively decent and does the job. On a technical level it is solid, but it really shined most in the action sequences. There are some good action set pieces that are well shot and paced, and the chorography felt brutal. I wouldn’t say that they really make the movie, as entertaining as they are, they could’ve been a little more creative. But for what its worth, the action is among the better parts of the film.

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Without Remorse was pretty much what I expected it to be. It’s a pretty simple espionage action movie with a generic and familiar plot. However, what does make up for it are a pretty good cast including a strong lead performance in Michael B. Jordan, and some entertaining action scenes. It really does seem like they are working towards a sequel, and if it happens, I just hope that it is better than this movie was.

Mr. Robot Season 4 (2019) Review

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Mr. Robot Season 4

Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson
Carly Chaikin as Darlene Alderson
Portia Doubleday as Angela Moss
Martin Wallström as Tyrell Wellick
Christian Slater as Mr. Robot
Michael Cristofer as Phillip Price
Grace Gummer as Dominique “Dom” DiPierro
BD Wong as Whiterose
Elliot Villar as Fernando Vera
Ashlie Atkinson as Janice
Creator: Sam Esmail

Set during the 2015 Christmas holiday, the fast-paced season will be one filled with answers, hacking and blood. Elliot (Rami Malek) and Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) are getting back to work and down a path that could prove endless. But have they crossed a line?

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Mr. Robot was already a fantastic show, Season 1 was a great start, Season 2 was solid while having its issues, and Season 3 took the show to new heights. However, much of how a show is eventually perceived depends on how well it finalises its story and characters at the end. With that being said, Season 4 is not only possibly the best season of the whole show, it’s one of the most memorable and satisfying conclusions I’ve seen to a TV show.

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It goes without saying, but there is a spoiler warning for the previous seasons leading up to this one in this review. An interesting aspect to note is that the whole show is stuck in 2015, this season picks up with having only advanced to just before Christmas 2015. As America recovers from the Five/Nine Hack, the focus of the narrative shifts to a somewhat heroic Elliot as he sets his sights on taking down Whiterose and her Dark Army. The show ups its game to deliver one very eventful season, one that raises the stakes for every character whilst delivering some of the best television in recent years. Season 4 really does feels like a true send-up of the first season everyone fell in love with, and everything that first season promised the show could be is what the final season is. Mr. Robot’s final season can be best described as incredibly emotional and heartbreaking; the opening moments of its first episode really does establish how much of a gut punch the whole season is. Season 4 runs for 13 episodes, making it the longest in the show’s history, and unlike say season 2, its time is not put to waste. I blasted through the episodes back-to-back, it was incredibly riveting and intense, even the slower paced episodes worked appropriately for the story and characters. As said previously, the main drive of this season is Mr. Robot taking down Whiterose, however there’s also plenty of other things happening at the same time. For example, there are episodes that focus heavily on the relationship between Elliot and Mr. Robot, which shows them more closely aligned in their goals compared to the past couple of seasons. This new dynamic is interesting and the writing definitely takes advantage of that, for instance, the narration to the audience that was done by Elliot is mostly done by Mr. Robot in this season. Additionally, as the season progresses, a lot of the sub-plots from the past and present interweave with Elliot’s journey. I won’t give too much away for fear of spoilers but suffice to say the final few episodes turn everything we’ve learnt up until this point completely on its head, delivering a shocking couple of plot twists to round out a thrilling and intense final season. Even on its last season, there are plenty of surprises that a lot of audiences won’t have expected. These plot twists are so good that it actually paints the entirety of Mr Robot’s early seasons in a completely different shade and I’m sure this will be a show that will be completely different to watch a second time through.

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The acting from everyone as usual is fantastic. Rami Malek and Christian Slater remain as brilliant as ever, and the change in their dynamic will be a treat for many. Rami Malek has always owned his role as Elliot Alderson but in this season in particular, he really shows his diversity and range with an absolutely stunning performance. There is particularly one episode (if you watch the episode you already know which one) in which Elliot learns something significant, and Malek’s performance is nothing short of spectacular and heartbreaking. This season also gives Christian Slater a lot more material than he has had since the first season. Slater is excellent in the role of Mr Robot, and his shift in character this season makes him much more intriguing than ever before. Many of the other actors playing the major roles of Price, Whiterose, Darlene and Dom all bring their A-game here and are given enough screen time to really flesh out their characters. Some characters get more attention than others, for example I would’ve liked to have seen more of Tyrell Wellick, but on the whole everyone’s stories were handled well, and as usual they were performed greatly. Outside of the main cast, one of the standout performers was Elliot Villar as the character of Vera. Vera had a small supporting role in the first season before he disappears from much of the show, only to return for this season. While he has a smaller role in this season, he’s great in his scenes, and especially shines in one particularly significant episode.

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All 13 episodes of this season are excellently directed by Sam Esmail, Mr Robot is on a technical level is in a league of its own when it comes to tv shows. The cinematography and visuals remain outstanding, and the sound design and score are top notch as ever, with composer Mac Quayle as usual somehow managing to top his work with every season. In its third and fourth seasons, the show has taken its stylistic ambitions to new heights. In season 3 it has a whole episode that was filmed and edited to seem as if it was taking place in a long, continuous single shot that darted and weaved in and around a massive skyscraper. I won’t go into season four’s own stylistic achievement of filmmaking, but just know that it only features two lines in the entire episode, and considering the stuff that happens in that particular episode, it’s incredibly impressive that that pulled it off.

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Mr. Robot’s fourth and final season is nothing short of outstanding, not only managing to produce its best season yet, but also able to wrap up the storylines and characters in such an impactful and satisfying way, while providing so many unexpected surprises throughout. Everything from the writing, directing and acting is at the show’s best. If you loved Mr. Robot from the past few seasons, I think you’ll really love how the final season turned out.