Tag Archives: 2002

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) Review

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Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] 
Cast:
Song Kang-ho as Park Dong-jin
Shin Ha-kyun as Ryu
Bae Doona as Cha Yeong-mia
Director: Park Chan-wook

This is the story of Ryu (Shin Hagyun), a deaf man, and his sister (Lim Ji-Eun), who requires a kidney transplant. Ryu’s boss, Park (Song Kang-ho), has just laid him off, and in order to afford the transplant, Ryu and his girlfriend (Bae Doo-na) develop a plan to kidnap Park’s daughter. Things go horribly wrong, and the situation spirals rapidly into a cycle of violence and revenge.

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I knew of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance as being a film from Chan-wook Park, but also the first movie of his unofficial ‘Vengeance trilogy’, which also includes Oldboy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. I really didn’t know what to expect going in, I just knew that Song Kang-ho was in it, and I heard that it was quite depressing. That certainly turned out to be the case. While it’s not one of my favourite films from Chan-wook Park, it’s incredibly well made and gripping from beginning to end.

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I do think that the plot of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is one worth knowing as little as possible about before watching. All you need to know is that it is a revenge movie and concerns someone (with the help of his girlfriend) who was fired from his job, who then decides to kidnap the daughter of his former boss in order to pay for his sister’s kidney transplant. You really should not look into the plot beyond that especially with the turns that the story makes. Something that some people will notice immediately is the rather slow pacing. Everything is built up rather calmly over the course of the movie especially in the first act, but none of that time is wasted at all. That time is used to set up the world and characters of this movie with incredible care and attention. It is quite absorbing and helps create a strong atmosphere as the situation in the plot gets more intense. What you’ll also notice is that the tone is dreary, gritty and overall sad, with almost no moment of happiness. The movie really is a classic Greek tragedy, and a real gut punch of a thriller, flipping the idea of a revenge film on its head. There’s just a large chain of tragic consequences and brutal reactions throughout the entire story, you don’t really know which of the two main characters to really root for. It deals with many subjects and themes that are incredibly heavy and dark that are present throughout the movie. It is certainly less pulpy and energetic than Oldboy, Park’s next movie after Mr. Vengeance, and there isn’t even a clear-cut villain here like there was in that movie. With that said, it still manages to draw you into its characters, story and world, and keeps you intrigued enough to see how everything ends. I really liked the ending and how everything was concluded, and it was as unflinchingly grim as I expected. The only problem I had was a flashback and narration which was used to explain something, when I didn’t think that it was needed. It’s a small thing but it took me out of it because up until that moment, the story did well at letting you understand what was happening with the story without having to spell it out for the audience.

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The acting is truly spectacular from everyone. The two lead roles of Park Dong-jin and Ryu are performed by Song Kang-ho and Shin Ha-kyun respectively, and their work here is truly phenomenal. Both incapsulated their characters so well and made them truly believable and compelling.

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Park Chan-wook is a great director and his work in this movie doesn’t disappoint. While I wouldn’t put this up there with some of his other movies like Oldboy or The Handmaiden, it’s spectacular. The cinematography is stunning, whether it be capturing a brightly coloured room, or a grungy or dirty location. It really fits the tone of the story. The movie can be very gruesome too, don’t expect any exciting action scenes, it’s unflinchingly brutal and hard to watch at times (as intended).

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Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is not a fun movie in the conventional sense. However it is a great movie for sure, the story is grim and hard to watch but compelling, and the performances are extraordinary, especially from the leads. You do need to go into the movie with the right mindset, but I think it’s worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of Park Chan-wook’s other movies.

Blade 2 (2002) Review

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Blade 2

Time: 117 minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Wesley Snipes as Eric Brooks/Blade
Kris Kristofferson as Abraham Whistler
Ron Perlman as Dieter Reinhardt
Leonor Varela as Nyssa Damaskinos
Norman Reedus as Scud
Thomas Kretschmann as Eli Damaskino
Luke Goss as Jared Nomak
Director: Guillermo del Toro

Blade (Wesley Snipes), who is part-vampire and part-mortal, becomes a vampire hunter to protect human beings. He prevents vampires from taking control over the human race.

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Blade was a hit back in 1998 but it’s been somewhat forgotten in recent years among all the numerous amounts of comic book movies released the past decade. It was the first R rated comic book movie, the first comic book movie to have an African American lead, and also led the way for some of the other comic book movies to follow like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. It also helped make audiences to take comic book movies more seriously after some other comic book movies like Batman and Robin did make them out to be a bit of a joke. Rewatching Blade now, it surprisingly mostly holds up and is a lot of fun.

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Blade is 2 hours long and from beginning to end I was entertained immensely. The opening in an underground vampire nightclub was the perfect beginning for this movie as it really set the tone for the rest of the movie. Blade does somewhat take things seriously, and there is a dark atmosphere, and at the same time it’s also got a very cheesy tone, with silly dialogue and multiple dumb moments which were also fun in their own rights. It blends the two elements effectively. It is also an action horror hybrid and delivers on both sides of that. The worldbuilding was very strong, establishing many concepts, groups and characters without giving annoying info dumps. The story is decent enough but does get a little convoluted with a number of subplots happening at the same time. Blade’s story also doesn’t have many surprises, and in the second half it does have a typical world ending plot. There are some cliches for sure, especially when it comes to both fantasy and comic book stories. As it approaches the third act it’s particularly a very typical climax, but I was still entertained watching it.

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Most of the cast are good in their parts. Wesley Snipes is pitch perfect in the role of Blade. He’s got a great screen presence and vibe around him, really selling the lines (including the really cheesy one liners), and even the way he moves and poses is great. He definitely knows what kind of movie he’s in, and he owns it from start to finish. Kris Kristofferson and N’Bushe Wright both work playing allies to Blade. The weakest link is Stephen Doriff, who is rather weak as the villain Deacon Frost. He’s not bad by any means and he definitely plays up the role, but it’s just hard to take him seriously as a threat.

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Blade is directed by Stephen Norrington, who did quite a good job. The movie is full of style, which really helped the movie work as well as it did. The visuals are slick for a late 90s flick. A big standout part of the movie are the martial arts fight scenes which still hold up today. The choreography is great, and almost Hong Kong inspired. Much of the action are captured in wide shots, so we can see all the fighting on screen, without any annoying zoom ins or close ups. We get to see how great the stunts are. As previously mentioned, this movie is R rated, and there’s a lot of blood (as there should be in a Blade movie). The movie really benefited from this rating, and it allowed the filmmakers a lot more freedom without any restrictions. There may be a Blade movie in development by the MCU, but I don’t see how it’s possible to do a non R rated version of it as a movie. A lot of the effects are a little dated to say the least (especially in the climax), but you can look past it. The music accompanying the movie is well fitting, with a lot of breakbeats and techno riffs that goes well with the face paced vibe of the action scenes. It is definitely a very 90s movie, with the lead character in all black leather and sunglasses, the exaggerated fighting sound effects, the visual effects and soundtrack, but I guess that’s part of its charm.

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Blade is a really fun action and horror hybrid comic book movie that mostly holds up. Stephen Norrington’s direction makes the movie really entertaining, the script is gloriously cheesy and entertaining, and Wesley Snipes is outstanding as Blade. About that new Blade movie in the MCU, I love the idea of Mahershala Ali as Blade. However I’m not sure if a Blade movie in the MCU would reach its fullest potential. Nonetheless, I’m still excited for it. If you haven’t seen the 1998 Blade yet, I highly recommend checking it out, it really was ahead of its time.

Minority Report (2002) Review

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Minority Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Panic Room (2002) Review

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Panic Room

Time: 112 minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence and offensive language
Cast:
Jodie Foster as Meg Altman
Kristen Stewart as Sarah Altman
Forest Whitaker as Burnham
Dwight Yoakam as Raoul
Jared Leto as Junior
Patrick Bauchau as Stephen Altman
Director: David Fincher

Trapped in their New York brownstone’s panic room, a hidden chamber built as a sanctuary in the event of break-ins, newly divorced Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and her young daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart) play a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with three intruders – Burnham (Forest Whitaker), Raoul (Dwight Yoakam) and Junior (Jared Leto) – during a brutal home invasion. But the room itself is the focal point because what the intruders really want is inside it.

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Panic Room is generally regarded as one of David Fincher’s weakest movies, but that doesn’t mean it should be disregarded entirely. A tense and well made thriller, it’s likely his most accessible movie, and it’s well worth the watch for sure.

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Panic Room as its core is a pretty standard home invasion thriller, with the usual tropes and clichés that you’d expect from it. There’s not much to the story beyond the premise, there’s not really any depth to the characters or plot, and I wouldn’t exactly say its unpredictable or does anything special. Also, some of the characters also make some dumb decisions, although at times they do address some of this, and are a little ahead of the audience when it comes to that. What makes the movie work is that the material is elevated by the acting and the directing. With that said, despite the familiarity and the clichés, the written material with the script from David Koepp is surprisingly stronger than expected. Once the robbers get into the house, it’s tense and has you engaged all the way through to the end. I do have a bit of a complaint with the ending, as in the last scene. I generally liked where the story went, but the final moments of Panic Room feel tact on and don’t really work with the rest of the movie, the probably should’ve cut that last scene or replaced it or something else.

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The talented cast involved are pretty great in their roles. Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart do a great job at playing the mother and daughter duo, they are definitely vulnerable yet smart at the same time, and find ways to stay alive through the whole movie. The three thieves played by Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam and Jared Leto all work really well, with each character being quite different from each other. They do fit some familiar villain archetypes that we’ve seen before, but their performances manage to overcome that, making them quite effective antagonists. Whitaker particularly is great, giving this collection of thieves a little more depth.

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David Fincher’s direction is great as usual, and it was perfect for this thriller, it really encloses you in this house that the movie primarily takes place in for the whole movie. The cinematography is great, typically Fincher-esque, with the dark shadows and the like, all of it worked for this movie. One of the highlight moments of the movie is when it pans around the whole house in seemingly one shot. However it’s not just restricted to that one scenes, there are a number of the camera pans and transitions that really showcase the house and rooms effectively that work seamlessly. Additionally, the score by Howard Shore is quite fitting and raises the tension and keeps it going when it needs to.

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Panic Room is one of David Fincher’s weakest movies, but it is still quite good for what it is. While it’s pretty familiar, the script (despite some faults) is reasonably strong and entertaining throughout, if simple. Additionally, it is elevated by the acting from the great cast, and especially by David Fincher’s fantastic direction, making this an effectively tense thriller. Definitely worth seeing.

Insomnia (2002) Review

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Insomnia

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and offensive language
Cast:
Al Pacino as Detective Will Dormer
Robin Williams as Walter Finch
Hilary Swank as Detective Ellie Burr
Maura Tierney as Rachel Clement
Martin Donovan as Detective Hap Eckhart
Nicky Katt as Fred Duggar
Paul Dooley as Chief Charlie Nyback
Director: Christopher Nolan

From acclaimed director Chris Nolan (“Memento”) comes the story of a veteran police detective (Al Pacino) who is sent to a small Alaskan town to investigate the murder of a teenage girl. Forced into a psychological game of cat-and-mouse by the primary suspect (Robin Williams), events escalate and the detective finds his own stability dangerously threatened.

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Insomnia is Christopher Nolan’s follow up to Memento, which was the movie that put him on the map as a director to watch. I first saw the 2002 movie some years ago, and I made a more recent rewatch of it to double check what I still thought of it. Although it may pale in comparison to Nolan’s other movies, Insomnia is still quite a good movie, and it’s worth seeing at least once.

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Insomnia is a remake of the Norwegian movie of the same name from 1997, I haven’t watched the original, but I heard both movies have a similar plot. Knowing Christopher Nolan’s movies now, Insomnia is much less ambitious and twisty in comparison. It’s a pretty standard crime thriller, that has your interest but doesn’t necessarily do something special or unexpected… to a degree. As the film goes on, you find that Insomnia is really a character study that just appears like a standard thriller. It focuses on the lead character played by Pacino and the conflicts within him during this case (no spoilers here), and at a certain point at the end of the first act or so, it really adds another layer that makes things more interesting. It especially leads to some interesting interactions between him and the killer. Despite being a Hollywood remake of a foreign movie, Nolan thankfully keeps the movie subdued, and doesn’t allow it to become too explosive or loud.

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Al Pacino plays the lead role of the detective who is sent to investigate the murder case, and I thought he was really convincing. Around this period of time (it was the point after 1995’s Heat), Pacino had been known to be all Shouty Pacino and would be very over the top with his acting. With Insomnia however, outside of some key moments, he gives quite an effectively subtle performance. He plays the flaws, tiredness, moral conflicts and grey area of his character quite well. Robin Williams is in a much darker role than people are used to seeing him in, and it’s one of his finest performances. Both him and Al Pacino really felt equally matched on screen, and their interactions are some of the best scenes of the movie. Hillary Swank also does well in a supporting role as another detective who’s also on the case.

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Christopher Nolan’s direction of Indomnia is pretty solid, it isn’t quite as stylish or special as in some of his other movies, but he still does a good job here. When it comes to the atmospheric elements as well as the psychological aspects, the movie really stands out. Wally Pfister’s cinematography is stunning, and really captures the environment and location excellently. The only fault I have on the technical side is that I think there was some not so great editing towards the last 5-10 minutes of the movie.

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I guess you could say that Insomnia is one of Christopher Nolan’s weakest movies, but it’s nonetheless a decent film that’s very wel made. The plot is generally familiar, but even then, it’s an engaging thriller that keeps your attention throughout. Additionally, it’s directed well by Christopher Nolan, and the cast is good, especially the duo for Al Pacino and Robin Williams. For sure worth a watch.

Narc (2002) Review

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Contains Graphic Violence, Drug Use & Offensive Language
Cast:
Jason Patric as Nick Tellis
Ray Liotta as Henry Oak
Chi McBride as Captain Cheevers
Stacey Farber as Young Kathryn
Alan van Sprang as Michael Calvess
John Ortiz as Octavio Ruiz
Busta Rhymes as Darnell ‘Big D Love’ Beery
Director: Joe Carnahan

Tells the dark story of suspended undercover narcotics officer, Nick Tellis (Jason Patric), who is reluctantly drawn back onto the force to find the truth behind the murder of a young police officer killed in the line of duty. He is teamed with Henry Oak (Ray Liotta), the slain officer’s partner, a rogue cop who will stop at nothing to avenge his friend’s death. As Tellis and Oak unravel the case, the dark underbelly of the narcotics world reveals itself in surprising ways.

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I heard a little bit about Narc before going in. All I really knew about it was that it was a crime movie starring Jason Patric and Ray Liotta and directed by Joe Carnahan, who also directed Smokin’ Aces and The Grey, both of them being movies that I liked. Narc is also a pretty underrated movie that not a lot of people have seen or know about. It’s not great but if you really like crime dramas and thrillers, I’d say that it is well worth a watch.

Narc is not that long, at around an hour and 40 minutes long but it makes the most of that runtime. This is a familiar cop drama and doesn’t really do anything really new, especially with the pair up with two completely different cops. Nonetheless for what it is, it’s pretty good, and the story is pretty intriguing, and it ties together nicely towards the end. It’s a very bleak and gritty crime thriller and goes all in on that, and I liked it for that. The twists were well handled, you can’t necessarily predict which way the story is going in. Even when I had some vague idea where it might go, certain parts were different from what I expected it to be, especially the ending. I guess if I had some problems outside of the familiarity of the story, the subplots don’t work quite as well, which is mainly Jason Patric’s family life with his wife and baby. It’s a pretty typical thing for a cop drama to focus on, but it feels rather underdeveloped and we only have a few scenes of it to see, so we don’t really care about that aspect as much as I think the movie wanted us to. Though it wasn’t bad, and most of the story was handled well.

There isn’t a huge cast involved, but the acting all around was great. Jason Patric is basically the lead character in the story, an undercover cop returning from suspension after a fatal mistake that he made during a previous case. I haven’t seen Patric in a lot, but he played his role very well. It’s Ray Liotta here who particularly stands out, giving one of his best performances as a really hardened and rough cop. Liotta gives him a lot of depth and elevates the character even further. The two actors are the driving force of the movie, and while the whole younger and more straight laced cop paired with the rough and aggressive veteran cop is something that has been done many times before, Patric and Liotta’s dynamic make it really work. The supporting actors were good as well, from Patric’s wife played by Krista Bridges and even Busta Rhymes was really good.

Joe Carnahan’s direction was quite good, even though I’d say that this isn’t his best movie. At times it feels like Carnahan went a little too much regarding the editing, really stylistic at random points with split screens, montages and the like. But the really rough and messy portrayal of everything fitted the tone of the movie rather well.

Narc is a movie that hasn’t really been noticed by most people and is worth a watch, an overlooked little gem. The story isn’t really anything that special and the movie on the whole is rather familiar, but the performances from Patric and Liotta, as well as Joe Carnahan’s direction, do make it well worth watching.

Gangs of New York (2002) Review

Time: 167 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Leonardo DiCaprio as Amsterdam Vallon
Daniel Day-Lewis as William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting
Cameron Diaz as Jenny Everdeane
Jim Broadbent as William “Boss” Tweed
John C. Reilly as Happy Jack Mulraney
Henry Thomas as Johnny Sirocco
Liam Neeson as “Priest” Vallon
Brendan Gleeson as Walter “Monk” McGinn
Director: Martin Scorsese

When his father is killed in New York City, Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) returns in 1863 to hunt down his father’s killer, the ruthless Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis). It’s not easy for Amsterdam as gangs roam a corrupt New York City, with Bill Cutting ruling over everyone.

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Gangs of New York was a movie I was curious about re-watching. I remember seeing it many years ago for the first time and liking it, but I didn’t remember a lot about the movie. Whenever I hear about this movie, people seem to either regard it as one of Martin Scorsese’s best movies, or one of his worst. In a lot of my recent reviews where I revisit Scorsese’s filmography, I often talk about how I like the movie more on a second viewing. Gangs of New York is sadly the exception. It’s not a bad movie by any means, I’d even say that it’s rather decent and has a lot going for it, but there are just so many problems that hold it back from being as good as it should’ve and could’ve been.

Gangs of New York is quite ambitious, the idea of the plot and the setting are interesting. The script is written by Jay Cocks, Kenneth Lonergan and Steven Zaillian, and while they are great writers, the writing present in the movie weren’t all that great. There’s a lot of thought put into the gangs and how things are organised in the city, if the movie was focussed a lot more on that it could’ve been even better. However the movie is bogged down with some subplots, mostly focussed on characters that aren’t made to be particularly interesting for the most part. The thing is that you really see potential at points. There are some legitimacy great scenes here, and you can really see what Gangs of New York could’ve been all the way through. The second half still has problems, but it felt a little less messy than the first half, and it focuses up a little more. I think I should probably address the elephant in the room, that being Harvey Weinstein, and all of his interference of the film. Now its not known specifically what changes he made but what we do know is that at an hour was cut out because of him. Some of the weird decisions however I can sort of see him mandating, perhaps in an attempt to be more award friendly (and perhaps that worked, with the movie receiving 10 Oscar nominations, but it still led to a worse movie). If I didn’t know an entire hour was cut out, I’d say that this movie is too long at 2 hours 40 minutes. Most of Scorsese’s longer movies are well paced but this is not one of those cases. With that said, it might’ve actually been better with a longer runtime if it meant a much more complete movie. It really feels like it’s lacking something, it’s a movie that tries so hard to tackle so many themes and to be so many things, but ultimately ends up not being much. On top of that, much of Gangs of New York feels a little too Hollywood, and is a little too grand and operatic for its own good.

If you’re going to watch Gangs of New York for one reason only, it should be for Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill “The Butcher” Cutting, who is outstanding here. This is among his best performances, and knowing Day-Lewis, that’s saying a lot. Any time he was on screen, he made the scenes instantly better. Some people have talked about how Day-Lewis’s performance made everyone else look like they are bad at acting. While I wouldn’t entirely agree, he is working on a totally different level compared to everywhere else in this movie. Gangs of New York marks the first collaboration between Leonardo DiCaprio, and as we all know it’s not their last. Though it’s nowhere near his best work, he still gives a solid performance with what is given. However he, like a lot of actors in this movie, have accents that are all over the place, in fact Daniel Day-Lewis and the actual Irish actors are the only people in the cast who don’t have accents that slip up. Still, DiCaprio plays the role reasonably well. Cameron Diaz on the other hand… she doesn’t fair so well. She didn’t fit into the movie well, and I hate to say it but she was rather miscast. In all fairness she wasn’t necessarily terrible, but she did not work in her role. It doesn’t help that the movie focusses so much on a romance between DiCaprio and Diaz, and that just didn’t work at all. Maybe it could’ve worked, but the two actors don’t share any chemistry, and you don’t even see why the two characters would be together. It’s a distraction more than anything. Some of the supporting cast are good, some roles like that played by John C. Reilly could’ve been played by anyone. Jim Broadbent, Brendan Gleeson are among the supporting actors who fare better.

Martin Scorsese’s direction is on showcase in many parts of Gangs of New York. The production design and costumes were handled really well, and the cinematography was really good. This is Scorsese’s most ambitious and large scale movie and you can feel it throughout. I talked much about Weinstein’s interference, and I’m pretty sure that extended to the direction. There are some aspects that don’t work, and I’m just going to assume that he had a part to play in these issues. The editing goes from working really well to being rather choppy, and since this is Thelma Schoonmaker working on the movie, I’m just going to assume that some mandated decisions were made. What comes to mind immediately is the opening battle scene, no idea why it was edited like that. Then there’s the forced narration from Leonardo DiCaprio, definitely one of those instances where the narration doesn’t work at all and is generally used for exposition, though there are some moments that worked fine enough. However there is one aspect that makes me convinced some decisions were mandated by Weinstein. The opening scene features a few notable characters played by the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis, John C. Reilly and Brendan Gleeson. After the time jump when it shows the return of these characters from the opening sequence, it briefly cuts a flashback to them in that opening scene to remind the audience, even though anyone paying attention to the early portion would be able to recognise them. It really felt out of place, even though its just a small part of a very long movie, it doesn’t seem like a very Scorsese thing to do, and indicates that not all the decisions were made by him.

Gangs of New York for all its potential doesn’t completely work. There’s still a few movies of Martin Scorsese that I consider worse than this one, but this is definitely his most disappointing. Even putting aside some of the studio interference that no doubt affected quite a lot of the movie, the script has a ton of problems, and the movie operates on such a grandiose level that it doesn’t work as well as it could’ve. However it’s not a movie that I’d dismiss outright. Despite some mandated choices that don’t feel like Scorsese, it’s directed well, there are some scenes that are good, it picks up in the second half, and Daniel Day-Lewis gives an extraordinary performance. So I’d still say that it’s worth watching.

Irreversible (2002) Review

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] contains brutal sexual violence, graphic violence and sex scenes
Cast:
Monica Bellucci as Alex
Vincent Cassel as Marcus
Albert Dupontel as Pierre
Director: Gaspar Noé

A woman’s (Monica Bellucci) lover (Vincent Cassel) and her former boyfriend (Albert Dupontel) take justice into their own hands after she becomes the victim of a rapist.

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Gaspar Noé is a director whose films I’ve never watched before. After hearing about his new film Climax coming out this year, I decided to check out some of his previous work before watching it, much like how I watched Lars von Trier’s Depression Trilogy before watching his latest film The House that Jack Built. I had been hearing so much controversy surrounding this movie, I heard about that there was some extreme violence and a disturbing rape scene. Naturally I wasn’t exactly looking forward to watching it but I pushed through it anyway to check it out. While it’s not a movie that I want to see again, at the same time I admire a lot of the things that it does and what Noé is trying to say with it.

I should probably say that the plot points and scenes that I mention aren’t exactly spoiling the movie, it’s nothing more than what is already said in the summary for the movie. As you might’ve guess from the title, is done in reverse order, so we get the revenge early on, then we see the rape that sets the revenge in motion, then we see what happened before all of that. While it takes this reverse order of storytelling from Christopher Nolan’s Memento (so it’s not completely original), Irreversible still manages to make this unconventional way of storytelling not just a cool but cheap gimmick. It’s also not that difficult to follow, it’s a very straightforward movie in fact. We’ve seen plenty of movies which are pretty much revenge fantasies that are very self indulgent. By seeing the payoff first, then seeing the act that sparked it, and then the rest of the movie however, it’s making the audience reflect about the revenge throughout the rest of the movie. On top of it, it doesn’t glamourize it or make it easy to watch by any means, far from it in fact, it is so incredibly brutally realistic that for some it’ll be absolutely unwatchable, and I don’t blame those who hate watching it. It is a very ugly movie, but it’s ugly to make a point. What I can say is that after the rape scene, the rest of the movie is way more tame in comparison, it’s just sadder watching them knowing what’s going to happen to these characters.

The main 3 characters are really just Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel and Albert Dupontel and all 3 are great in their roles. Bellucci plays the woman who ends up the victim of the rape and Cassel and Dupontel play the two men (boyfriend and ex boyfriend of Bellucci) who look for the man responsible. All 3 give painfully real performances and were just all around fantastic.

This is the first film I’ve seen from Gaspar Noé, and his direction here is great, he has a strong understanding of what he is doing here. One of the most unique things about Irreversible is the camerawork. Every scene is filmed in one long tracking shot and quite often the camera spins around. As time goes on, especially in the second half, it stops the spinning quite a bit and calms things a lot more, but it’s still pretty dizzying for the first half. Anyone who easily has motion sickness is probably not going to be able to get past 10 minutes of this movie. The most extreme case of this spinning filmmaking technique was in a scene in a sex club early on, where the camera is just rotating and spinning all over the place as it follows a character looking throughout the club. We can see some of what’s going on with the place and the people and it only really settles down properly when the brutal violence starts. That brings me to the violence. I have a pretty high movie violence threshold, I was actually able to stomach most of Antichrist. So know that when I say that the violence in Irreversible was incredibly hard to watch and got a reaction out of me, that means a lot coming from me. Not to spoil anything, but a particular scene involving a fire extinguisher scene really just set the mood for the rest of the movie. It’s not gloriously violent like in a Tarantino movie, it is painfully realistic, and it forces you to watch every second of it, not because it wanted to be edgy or because they thought that it was gratifying to watch, but because it really wants you to feel the level of brutality the acts are (of course I am thinking deeply about this). As for the aforementioned rape scene, it’s one long 10 minute tracking shot and doesn’t budge from the heinous act. There’s a fine line between having a point and being needlessly cruel, and thankfully Noé manages to balance it well. It is undeniably hard to watch and I had to skip through it after a couple of minutes but it does it’s job well. Much of the movie is made even more unnerving by the use of an extremely low-frequency sound to create a state of nausea in the audience that occurs for the first hour of the movie, I have to say it was very effective at making the whole experience even more unsettling than it already is.

Irreversible is tragic, well directed, greatly acted and is a ferocious attack on the senses in a great way. Saying it’s not for everyone is an understatement. Along with the trippy storytelling and camerawork which could induce motion sickness for some people, it is of course very dark and disturbing, with extreme violence that made even me cringe. Much like Antichrist, I can’t in good conscious recommend Irreversible. It’s a good movie for sure, it’s just that if you’re going to watch it you’ll have to be prepared for it, and even then there’s a 95% chance that you won’t be, I certainly wasn’t.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) Review

Time: 161 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Frightening fantasy scenes and violence.
Cast:
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart
John Cleese as Nearly Headless Nick
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
Richard Griffiths as Vernon Dursley
Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore
Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Fiona Shaw as Petunia Dursley
Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall
Julie Walters as Molly Weasley
Director: Chris Columbus

It’s Year 2 at Hogwarts, and Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) are back learning, but their year doesn’t go past quietly. Members of the school are turning up petrified and bloody writing are appearing on the walls, revealing to everyone, that someone has opened the chamber of secrets. The attacks continue, bringing the possibility of the closure of Hogwarts. Harry and his friends are now forced to secretly uncover the truth about the chamber before the school closes or any lives are taken.

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was a huge hit for audiences, for both Harry Potter readers and those who weren’t. The next year, Chris Columbus would release the next film in the series, Chamber of Secrets, which is also pretty good, a film which I would consider to be slightly better than the Philosopher’s Stone, despite it feeling a little too long and drawn out at many points in the film.

In my last Harry Potter review, I mentioned how surprised I was at the length of the Philosopher’s Stone, at 2 hours and a half long. I’m even more shocked at the runtime for Chamber of Secrets, at 2 hours and 40 minutes long. I will say though, you can definitely feel the running time this time, some scenes can drag and some scenes can be rushed, and it definitely feels like a long movie this time round. Chamber of Secrets is not complicated but it’s not as simple as Philosopher’s Stone, with much more going on at the same time, and as nice as it was to see a lot of these scenes in the movie, maybe some of them should’ve been cut. The third act however was paced and handled suitably well for the most part. A good thing about this movie is that you can tell that Chamber of Secrets was done by the same director but there is a suitably darker tone that is necessary for the story. This is about a giant creature that petrifies (and sometimes) kills children after all. This also means a lot less of the camp and cheesiness that was present in the first movie (however the ending of the movie can be very cheesy). The movie also sets up and establishes things (unknowingly to audience members) that would come into play for future movies, and that’s something that the Harry Potter series does very well. There are some bits which, as a Harry Potter fan, slightly irked me, and I don’t usually have issues with differences to the books. For example, the disarming spell Expelliarmus is used as a stunning spell, while they aren’t anything really major, that can be very distracting.

The acting from the child actors is still not great but it has noticeably improved over the child acting in Philosopher’s Stone (and also despite the fact it’s just been a year, they all look much older). Also, the chemistry and friend dynamic between the 3 main leads (Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley and Emma Watson as Hermione Granger) is a lot better and more convincing. One issue I might bring up though is not an uncommon criticism, Ron is kind of a whiner and useless a lot of the time, particularly in this movie, Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire. I know that some characters when adapted have to be simplified, but surely Ron could’ve come across as a little better than how he did here. Other returning actors, especially Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid and Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore). We also have some new additions to the series. Kenneth Branagh was a perfect casting choice for Gilderoy Lockhart, he is really cartoonish, useless, over the top and annoying but it’s pretty much a perfect representation of the character (fun fact, Hugh Grant nearly played the role and he would’ve been great as well). Another great new casting choice was Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy, Draco Malfoy’s (Tom Felton) father. He plays the role with such menace and is pretty memorable despite only being in a few scenes in Chamber of Secrets (that voice is pretty great and suits his character well. Also good was another new character Dobby, voiced by Toby Jones, perfect casting.

As I said before, you can tell that Chris Columbus directed Chamber of Secrets but it also has a darker tone to it, and this also extends to the direction. While there are lots of moments with brightness, the colour pallet also uses a lot of darker colours, the entire third act is dark and dark green. The production design is really great once again, the attention to detail was fantastic, especially the Chamber of Secrets. The visual effects are slightly better, it does have some weaker spots but there are a lot of things that still look pretty solid today. John William’s score is once again excellent, and his new additions to the Harry Potter soundtrack really pay off (the Fawkes theme being a standout).

I don’t know what the general reception that Chamber of Secrets has but I think I like it slightly more than Philosopher’s Stone (probably because of the darker story and tone). With that said, it does have some issues, with it feeling overlong and dragging at times. One of the weaker movies in the series but it’s still rather solid.

Resident Evil (2002) Review

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains horror and violence
Cast:
Milla Jovovich as Alice
Michelle Rodriguez as Rain Ocampo
Eric Mabius as Matthew “Matt” Addison
James Purefoy as Spence Parks
Martin Crewes as Chad Kaplan
Colin Salmon as James “One” Shade
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

Based on the popular video game, Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez star as the leaders of a commando team who must break into “the hive,” a vast underground genetics laboratory operated by the powerful Umbrella Corporation. There, a deadly virus has been unleashed, killing the lab’s personnel and resurrecting them as the evil Un-dead. The team has just three hours to shut down the lab’s supercomputer and close the facility before the virus threatens to overrun the Earth

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I heard for a while that the original Resident Evil was one of the better video game movies. I also heard that the original was the best in this video game movie series and gotten worse as the sequels progressed. If that’s the case, I’m a little worried about what the rest of the series will be like because I don’t even think I can call this first movie enjoyable as a guilty pleasure movie. Even if it might be one of the better video game movies, Resident Evil isn’t very good on its own. There’s no doubt some enjoyment to be had with it with some of the action scenes but unfortunately it wasn’t entertaining enough.

I will just first of all state that I’ve never played a Resident Evil game, so I’m not the best person to talk about accuracy to the games. There is so much exposition dumps by the characters that you just lose track of what’s going on. At a point you just stop caring about what’s going on. Honestly there’s not much to say about the plot of Resident Evil, people go inside a building with zombies in it, and the killing ensues. If you turn your brain off you might find it a lot more enjoyable, I certainly enjoyed it more. There’s nothing really intriguing, entertaining or interesting about the plot at all. Maybe the sequels have better plots but I’m not really counting on it.

The acting isn’t good at all, no one in the cast whether it’s Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, James Purefoy, Martin Crewes or anyone else give good performances. The best thing I can say about the acting is that it certainly sounds like a Resident Evil game with how emotionless and flat the line deliveries were. Looking at the material they were given, I can’t really blame the cast for their at best mediocre performances.

Paul WS Anderson’s direction of Resident Evil feels very much like its from the early 2000s. It’s definitely more action than survival horror but the action is not so overblown to the level of the later films either. None of the scares work, there’s a bunch of fake jump scares and a bunch of real jump scares that all fail to leave any form of impact. There is also a complete lack of effective tension. The action sequences are fine and entertaining enough, probably the best part of the whole movie. When there are digital effects used, they look very fake, embarrassingly so and really stick out in a bad way.

While it’s no Bloodrayne, Resident Evil is not a good video game movie and not a good movie in itself. It just feels really mediocre and dated, the acting wasn’t good, the effects were bad, you just don’t care about what’s going on, the best part was the action, and even then the action wasn’t all that great. I suppose if you are the least bit curious, give Resident Evil a watch, but don’t expect anything more than a potentially ‘okay’ video game movie. I might check out the sequels but I’m not expecting much from them, if this is the best in the series, I can only imagine what the future movies are like.