Tag Archives: 2003

The Matrix Reloaded (2003) Review

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The Matrix Reloaded

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oldboy (2003) Review

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Oldboy (2003)

Time:  155 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] 
Cast:
Choi Min-sik as Oh Dae-su
Yoo Ji-tae as Lee Woo-jin
Kang Hye-jung as Mi-do
Director: Park Chan-wook

A man, held captive for no apparent reason for years, is given a cell phone, money and expensive clothes and released. Unless he finds out the identity of his captor, an even worse fate awaits him.

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Oldboy was the first movie I saw from director Park Chan-wook and it was great, very unique and memorable. Since it had been some years since I last saw it, I decided to rewatch it, and it managed to be even better on second viewing. Fantastic on pretty much every level, it’s one of the best revenge movies ever made.

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The plot follows the lead character who is abducted and held captive in an apartment prison for 15 years. He’s then suddenly released and has to find out who imprisoned him, why he was imprisoned in the first place, and why he was released. I won’t say much about the plot here, if you are a first timer to this movie, go into it knowing as little as possible. It will improve your viewing experience, especially with the twists and turns the plot takes. The writing is great and the story is gripping and fast paced. It starts out as a mystery and turns into a Shakespearean tragedy by the end, layered with clever twists that slowly unravels its mysteries. Oldboy is a revenge movie, and it really is a benchmark in the genre. There is a surprising amount of dark humour which somehow manages to fit in with the rest of the movie. Something to note is that the movie is based off a manga, and so some of the more over the top and pulpy elements of this movie work when you take that into account. Despite some of the over-the-top elements, Oldboy has been called deeply disturbing and nightmarish by many, and that’s because it is. For sure one of the most shocking tales of revenge, it’s twisted and brutal but hard to look away from. The third act is where most of the disturbing stuff comes into play. It really has a perfect finale which rides the many waves of twists and turns that came before, while also being able to end perfectly on an ambiguous note. Watching it again having previously seen how the plot goes, it made for a very different experience, and I was able to appreciate how well everything was put together when I wasn’t overwhelmed with all the revelations the film throws at you.

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The acting from everyone is great, with the main trio particularly delivering some terrific performances. First of all there’s Choi Min-sik as the protagonist Oh Dae-su, who’s on his path of vengeance as he learns why he was locked up for all these years, and who’s responsible. He conveys his character excellently and goes through just about every single emotion here. There’s a moment towards the end of the movie that he absolutely sells with his incredible performance, it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without him. Yoo Ji-tae plays the person responsible for Dae-su’s imprisonment, and he’s also a great presence. He’s quite mysterious for the most part of the movie, but he himself also made for an interesting character. He particularly gets to shine at the end of the movie. There’s also Kang Haye-jung as Mi-do, the love interest who plays a vital role, especially in the third act.

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Oldboy is directed very well by Park Chan-wook. First of al the cinematography is stylish, enticing, and has an incredibly unique and memorable look. There’s a lot of surreal and often disturbing imagery, they are still beautifully shot. The action when present is also fantastic, with the camera used to really create a fluidity to the action. The main scene that a lot of people talk about is the one where Dae-su fights around 20-25 people with a hammer in a corridor, it’s shot in one take, the choreography is stunning, and is just all around phenomenal. The editing of the film is very early 2000s but if anything that adds to the style, and also steadily paces the narrative. The sound design is pretty much perfect, and the composed score by Cho Young-Wuk is thrilling and works incredibly well with the rest of the movie.

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Oldboy is an excellent and iconic neo noir revenge film, brutal and disturbing yet beautifully crafted and directed, with a gripping story that’s very well put together, and some incredible performances. It’s definitely not an easy movie to watch, especially for first time viewers, but if you can handle it, I do think it’s worth checking out if you haven’t already.

Phone Booth (2003) Review

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Phone Booth

Time: 81 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Colin Farrell as Stuart “Stu” Shepard
Kiefer Sutherland as The Caller
Forest Whitaker as Capt. Ed Ramey
Katie Holmes as Pamela McFadden
Radha Mitchell as Kelly Shepard
Director: Joel Schumacher

Stuart Shepard (Colin Farrell), a publicist, finds his life under threat when he answers a ringing phone a phone booth. The caller (Kiefer Sutherland) tells him that he will be shot the minute he cuts the call.

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I heard about Phone Booth for a while, I knew that it was a thriller directed by Joel Schumacher and was about Colin Farrell stuck in a phone booth and terrorised by a shooter on the other end of the call. I had already heard that it was pretty good, but it actually turned out to be much better than I thought it would be, and was engaging all the way to the very end.

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Phone Booth is a pretty short movie at an hour and 20 minutes long, and that was the right length for this plot. It makes the most of that runtime, quickly setting up the main character, as well as the situation that he finds himself in for the rest of the movie. From the point that he gets the call from Kiefer Sutherland’s character, you are locked into the plot and the tensions only raise as it progresses. It’s all paced rather well too, never allowing for a dull moment. While I wouldn’t say that it’s nothing that any other movie has done before, it’s nonetheless a very good movie and absolutely succeeded at what it set out to do. Looking at it on the whole, it’s a very good script from Larry Cohen, and the dialogue is great, especially between Colin Farrell and Kiefer Sutherland. I wouldn’t say that Phone Booth is a great movie, but the only significant criticism I have of it is something that happens at the end. While I’m fine with the ending, there was something implausible that happens towards its conclusion I couldn’t really buy, and up to that point I was on board with the rest of what happened. It’s a small gripe but it really does stick out.

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The performances are also very strong. Colin Farrell is the protagonist stuck in the phone booth, and he does very well on his part. His character goes through a lot emotionally during the film and Farrell really sells it incredibly well, especially in the last act. He’s front and center for the whole movie and carries much of it, however he’s not the only one who gives a great performance. Kiefer Sutherland is the voice of the caller, and while this movie is pretty good, in all honesty I’m not sure that this movie would work quite as well without him. Sutherland is truly menacing and deliciously evil in his part, his voicework really made this movie work even better. Other supporting actors work well enough, including Forest Whitaker who is decent as the police captain who is trying to handle the tense situation.

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Joel Schumacher directed this movie very well, raising the tensions effectively, especially with the editing and cuts to windows and vantage points. He also helps make it feel claustrophobic, with it primarily taking place at one closed off location at the phone booth. You can tell that it’s a movie with a lower budget but it was put to some good use here. The only part of the direction I didn’t really like was the editing which feels very early 2000s to say the least, at some points there are some split screens and really I think they could’ve done without those.

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Phone Booth is an engaging, claustrophobic and tense thriller, directed very well and featuring two great performances in Colin Farrell and Kiefer Sutherland. I’d say that it’s among Joel Schumacher’s best movies for sure. If you want a brief yet very effective thriller, I highly recommend this movie, it’s rather overlooked.

Memories of Murder (2003) Review

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Memories of Murder

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Song Kang-ho as Park Doo-man
Kim Sang-kyung as Seo Tae-yoon
Kim Roi-ha as Cho Yong-koo
Song Jae-ho as Sergeant Shin Dong-chul
Byun Hee-bong as Sergeant Koo Hee-bong
Director: Bong Joon-ho

In a small Korean province in 1986, two detectives struggle with the case of multiple young women being found raped and murdered by an unknown culprit.

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While watching Bong Joon ho’s filmography, there was one movie I was particularly looking forward to seeing, that being Memories of Murder. It had often been compared to Zodiac (even though Memories of Murder came out 4 years earlier), and seeing as I loved that movie, I had a feeling that it would be right up my alley, given that I generally like crime thrillers That turned out to be that case. All of the acclaim was very well deserved, Memories of Murder is a truly excellent film that everyone really should see.

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We’ve seen many detective stories about hunting serial killers, but not many are as well put together as Memories of Murder. At around 2 hours and 10 minutes long, it keeps you engaged from beginning to end. You really feel as locked in as much as the main characters as they desperately try to find the killer, discovering leads, reaching dead ends, and the like. The movie more character driven than you might think, as it shows the stress, disappointment, and overall impact that this seemingly endless hunt has on the detectives. This movie also has some surprisingly effective dark comedy throughout, making it somewhat entertaining to watch and not just a grimy gruel to sit through. At the same time, the murders are fittingly disturbing (while not being overly exploitive), and you constantly feel this growing sense of seemingly hopelessness, especially as it builds towards the latter portion of the movie. The climax of the movie takes quite the turn, culminating in quite the haunting ending, especially the final shot of the film. I won’t say too much for those who know nothing about the movie or the events it’s based on, but like Zodiac, Memories of Murder based on a true story, giving much of the movie even more weight.

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The cast are all great in their roles, with the trio of Song Kang-ho, Kim Sang-kyung and Kim Roi-ha as the detectives particularly working very effective. Their characters are all shown to be quite different from each other (both in personalities and the way they perform their investigations), flawed and really believable. As usual, it’s Song Kang-ho who stands out the most, who delivers another great performance. Both him and Kim Sang-kyung particularly shine in some of the latter scenes of the film.

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Bong Joon-ho’s direction was fantastic, this is his second movie and he’s done some absolutely fantastic work here, certainly a huge step up from his debut movie Barking Dogs Never Bite released 3 years earlier. The cinematography was also great, really placing you in the setting effectively. Some of the most stand out shots come in the last 10 minutes, and on the whole that last section is so wonderfully directed and put together. The score by Taro Iwashiro is also really effective, beautiful but melancholic and sad.

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Memories of Murder is an absolute masterclass in filmmaking, an engaging and haunting crime thriller, incredibly written and directed by Bong Joon ho, and greatly performed by its cast. While I consider Parasite (another Bong film) to be slightly better, they are very close in terms of quality, and both deserve all the attention. Definitely see it as soon as possible, especially if you’re a fan of investigative crime thriller films like Zodiac.

Daredevil Director’s Cut (2003) Review

Time: 133 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Ben Affleck as Matt Murdock/Daredevil
Jennifer Garner as Elektra Natchios
Michael Clarke Duncan as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin
Colin Farrell as Bullseye
Jon Favreau as Franklin “Foggy” Nelson
Joe Pantoliano as Ben Urich
David Keith as Jack Murdock
Scott Terra as Young Matt Murdock
Director: Mark Steven Johnson

Attorney Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) is blind, but his other four senses function with superhuman sharpness. By day, Murdock represents the downtrodden. At night, he is Daredevil, a masked vigilante, a relentless avenger of justice. When Wilson Fisk (Michael Clarke Duncan) hires Bullseye (Colin Farrell) to kill Daredevil, Murdock must rely on his own senses and search out the conspirators against justice — which may include his own girlfriend, Elektra (Jennifer Garner).

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I had heard many times before that the Daredevil movie wasn’t good, it’s been known as one of the worst comic book movies of all time. However, I had been meaning to check it out, even just out of curiosity. I watched the director’s cut and it’s by no means a particularly good movie, but I can’t deny that it was really entertaining, even if it’s not in the way it was intended. It’s really silly, and the movie playing it seriously only made it even more funny and enjoyable.

I’m not entirely certain with what the director’s cut added but from scanning over the list of reported changes, the director’s cut seems to be a vast improvement over the theatrical cut. A lot of the comedy was actually funny, though I have a feeling a lot of it wasn’t intentional. It does get a little too over the top at times though, mainly the now infamous playground scene where Matt Murdock (Affleck) and Elektra (Garner) fight. That scene particularly is astounding in how goofy and ridiculous it was, easily the worst scene of the movie, and that’s saying a lot. The plot is really nothing special and is actually rather drawn out. Really it takes half the movie for the plot to really start happening. You don’t really become emotionally invested in the story or characters at all, you’re basically just here to be entertained. It uses a lot of clichés and tropes present from plenty of comic book movies from the 2000s, this is by far the most 2000s of them all. The movie may be too dumb for some people and I can get that, but for me I had a blast watching what would happen next.

Ben Affleck is Matt Murdock/Daredevil and I think he was actually a good pick for the role, playing both sides of the character well. The material wasn’t great, but he did what he could with what he had. He’s also a little consistent as a character, in one scene early on Daredevil lets someone get killed, which wouldn’t be as much of a problem if they didn’t act like he is a vigilante who doesn’t cross the line to kill for the remainder of the movie. Wouldn’t necessarily mind a more brutal Daredevil so long as they stuck with it all the way through. Side note but Affleck is also really convincing as a blind man, though it probably helped that he had contact lenses at certain points. Jennifer Garner as Elektra Natchios wasn’t really used to her fullest potential but she was fine. She really only gets a couple scenes near the end to actually do things but that’s it. Thankfully she got her own movie after this but apparently it’s significantly worse than Daredevil. They share some good chemistry despite some incredibly bad writing for their scenes together. Jon Favreau is also good as Foggy Nelsen, Murdock’s lawyer partner and friend. The villains are endlessly entertaining. Michael Clarke Duncan as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin is perfect casting and chews up scenery whenever he’s on screen, unfortunately he’s not really given much to do and really wasn’t utilised as much as he could’ve been. Still he was fun to watch. The scene stealer however is Colin Farrell as Bullseye, completely and utterly silly and over the top. He’s not given any sort of backstory and was really just a silly comic book movie villain. Pretty much the reason that he’s particularly after Daredevil is that during an assassination, he made him miss one of his shots, and that’s a classic comic book villain motivation (even though I’m pretty sure that’s not Bullseye). Pretty much the only comic book accurate thing about this version of Bullseye is that he can catch and throw things pretty well. I probably wouldn’t call him good but he’s certainly entertaining, which at this point is the only thing that Daredevil unintentionally succeeds at.

The direction by Mark Steven Johnson wasn’t the best. The transitions between scenes are over the top with the camera zooming through the city and the like. The music choices are also so 2000s, it’s over the top and stuck with that, that it only made things so much more entertaining. The highlight was the use of Evanescence (there are two uses of them) when Elektra is practicing on some sandbags to ‘Bring me to Life’, peak 2000s comic book movie moment right there. With that said, I recall that there were some directing decisions that I liked. Some things are ripped from other comic book movies at the time, like when Matt gets hit by radioactive waste it shows what happens internally to him with effects similar to when Peter Parker gets bitten by a spider and gets powers in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. I think the action was decent enough, again really over the top, but you can generally see what’s going on during them. The costumes are a mixed bag. The Daredevil suit is actually pretty decent, it’s actually on par with the red Daredevil suit for the Netflix show (way too much leather though). On the other hand I’m not sure what they were even thinking for the Bullseye costume, but it fitted the performance well, so I guess that’s a win.

Daredevil definitely isn’t a good movie, however it’s the cheese and over the top factor that makes it so fun to watch. Along with that there are some genuinely good things, like the actors despite the bad material do try, and some of them are decent here. I view this the way I view Suicide Squad, a really silly comic book movie that’s not particularly good, but has some entertaining parts to it. If you’re going to watch the movie, I do recommend the Director’s Cut, it seemed to have significantly improved the movie. However, if you want a legitimately good representation of Daredevil, it goes without saying but the Netflix series is definitely what you’re really looking for.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) Review

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Lord of the Rings The Return of the King

Time: 201 minutes (theatrical), 252 minutes (extended)
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & fantasy horror
Cast:
Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins
Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee
Andy Serkis as Sméagol Trahald/Gollum
Ian McKellen as Gandalf the White
Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn Elessar
Cate Blanchett as Galadriel
John Rhys-Davies as Gimli
Bernard Hill as Théoden
Billy Boyd as Peregrin Took
Dominic Monaghan as Meriadoc Brandybuck
Orlando Bloom as Legolas Greenleaf
Hugo Weaving as Elrond
Liv Tyler as Arwen
Miranda Otto as Éowyn
David Wenham as Faramir
Karl Urban as Éomer
John Noble as Denethor
Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins
Sean Bean as Boromir
Director: Peter Jackson

The Fellowship divides to conquer as Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin), with the help and hindrance of Gollum (Andy Serkis), continue their way to Mount Doom. The members of the fellowship in Rohan are warned of the impending attack when Pippin (Billy Boyd) cannot resist looking into Saruman’s palantir and is briefly contacted by the dark lord. Gandalf (Ian McKellan) and Pippin ride to Minas Tirith to help defend Gondor when the dark lord Sauron sets his sights on Minas Tirith, the capital of Gondor, while Merry (Dominic Monaghan) remains with Eowyn (Miranda Otto) and the other Rohan fighters. The fate of every living creature in Middle Earth will be decided once and for all as the Quest of the Ringbearer reaches its climax.

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The first two entries of Lord of the Rings trilogy were really great, but it’s the conclusion with The Return of the King that’s truly outstanding, grandiose, epic and emotionally satisfying. With the performances, the writing, the direction, and some awe inspiring action, it’s a remarkable cinematic achievement and an excellent film over 17 years later.

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Like with the other Lord of the Rings movies, it’s very hard to review, they’re so ingrained in pop culture, it’s like trying to review the original Star Wars trilogy. This film successfully continues the story from the first two movies, and this one is the most engaging of the series. The first half is pretty good, but it’s the second half where it really shines, particularly the final act. I don’t have many problems with the movie, I guess it occasionally has its silly moments like the other movies, and there are some minor plot points that aren’t so clear and don’t work so well. However it doesn’t even come close to bringing down the experience. One thing that is made fun of a lot is the fact that the film has a lot of endings – the screen fades to black and continues on before fading to black again, etc. While I don’t like the fake outs, the actual endings themselves I do like, it ties up pretty much all the storylines and loose ends. The film is quite strong as its theatrical cut. However the extended cut is quite simply the definitive version of the movie, and provides so many great scenes that add a lot to the movie. An example is a certain scene with Christopher Lee’s Saruman, removing it leaves a pretty big loose end especially considering he was one of the main antagonists of the last film. While I’m not sure the movie feels butchered with the theatrical cut (I haven’t watched that version for a long time), once you see the added scenes from the extended cut, it’s hard to think of the film without it. I understand that it can be quite intimidating, instead of watching the 3 hour and 20 minute long version, watching a version that’s over 4 hours long. However, I do implore you to see the extended cuts of all 3 of the trilogies if you haven’t already, especially for Return of the King.

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The acting from its very large good cast is great as always. They’ve only improved further as the movies have progressed. The only character who got worse as the films progressed was John Rhys Davis’s Gimli. He started off alright in The Fellowship of the Rings, but unfortunately across the movies he just became goofier and goofier, and he’s worst of all in this movie. The rest of the cast on the whole with the likes of Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Andy Serkis, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellan, Bernard Hill, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Karl Urban, Hugo Weaving, and Cate Blanchett and others also brought it to their respective roles, giving some really great performances.

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Peter Jackson’s direction was excellent as usual, but The Return of the King really is his magnum opus. Everything from the production design, makeup, sound effects, cinematography, all outstanding on a technical level. There are a number of great action sequences in this trilogy, but The Return of the King has some of the most spectacular action in the series. They are all filmed greatly but it’s of course the big battle scenes which stand out, and they work really well. The visual effects are really good, some parts aren’t so great and are a little dated, but for a movie released in 2003, they mostly hold up well. The score by Howard Shore also works excellently, and is very memorable.

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While all 3 films are top notch, I’m pretty sure that The Return of the King is my favourite movie of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Peter Jackson and the cast and crew have improved over the course of the series, culminating in a fantastic final film. The Lord of the Rings trilogy are some of my favourite movies, particularly the third film, and they’ll continue to stand the test of time for sure.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) Review

Time: 111 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Uma Thurman as the Bride
Lucy Liu as O-Ren Ishii
David Carradine as Bill
Vivica A. Fox as Vernita Green
Michael Madsen as Budd
Daryl Hannah as Elle Driver
Julie Dreyfus as Sofie Fatale
Sonny Chiba as Hattori Hanzo
Chiaki Kuriyama as Gogo Yubari
Gordon Liu as Johnny Mo
Michael Parks as Earl McGraw
Director: Quentin Tarantino

A former assassin, known simply as The Bride (Uma Thurman), wakes from a coma four years after her jealous ex-lover Bill (David Carradine) attempts to murder her on her wedding day. Fueled by an insatiable desire for revenge, she vows to get even with every person who contributed to the loss of her unborn child, her entire wedding party, and four years of her life. After devising a hit list, The Bride sets off on her quest, enduring unspeakable injury and unscrupulous enemies.

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I’ve been meaning to rewatch the Quentin Tarantino movies I haven’t seen more than once, and I started that with Kill Bill. I remember liking Kill Bill when I first saw it, although I liked the first part a lot more than the second. I don’t remember it being among my favourites of Tarantino’s movies, it was entertaining but that’s all it was for me. I’ve watched it again, and while I still don’t consider it among his best work, I do appreciate it much more now.

Kill Bill is split into two parts and you can feel that for sure, however Volume 1 still works as its own movie. This is a very different film from Tarantino, while the plot of Kill Bill involves revenge (which seems to be in line with some of his other movies), many of the things that happen here is nothing like he’s done before. Volume 1 seemed to be a mashup of anime, martial arts movies and western genres, and the combinations work really well. It’s split up into chapters and not necessarily told in chronological order, yet somehow it works. The pacing is pretty good and fast paced, keeping you engaged throughout the entire hour and 50 minutes runtime. He uses a lot of visual storytelling, and saved much of the big heavy exposition scenes for Volume 2. Now with that being said, with the lack of a lot of dialogue comes with some of the issues of parts of the story being empty, which is something that Volume 2 makes up for thankfully. Some of the chapters also are better than others, the one where The Bride is getting a sword wasn’t as engaging as the other sections of the movie, even though it was necessary for the plot. On the whole it’s really entertaining.

The cast do well in their roles and Tarantino wrote them as being very memorable and fleshing a lot of them out, even with only brief moments for characterisation. It’s really Uma Thurman who’s the standout of the entire movie, she was great as the lead character of The Bride, giving the best performance of her career. She was very convincing as her character, as well as the action. As great as this movie was, it wouldn’t have been nearly as effective without Thurman. Lucy Liu also works really well as one of the people that The Bride is after, who plays a large part in the second half of the movie. Vivica A. Fox also does well in the one chapter that she appears in. There are also some brief appearances by David Carradine, Daryl Hannah and Michael Madsen as characters who would play a much larger part in Volume 2 and they are also good in their screentime here.

As to be expected, Quentin Tarantino’s direction is great. As I said earlier, this is a very different film from him, and that’s especially the case with his directing style. Kill Bill Volume 1 is probably his most stylish film, and considering the films that he’s made with the likes of Pulp Fiction and such, that really is saying a lot. It attempts many different styles, there’s even a bit where one of the chapter was a straight up anime and it somehow worked with the whole film. People don’t really think of Tarantino as the action movie kind of director (aside from this movie, the closest thing to an action movie he’s made was Django Unchained almost a decade later) but he handled the action scenes really well. The most standout of the fight sequences was with The Bride against multiple enemies at once, it’s truly something to watch. As it’s a Tarantino movie, you can expect it to get really bloody, and Kill Bill Volume 1 is definitely among his most violent movies. I’m talking about decapitations, limbs being severed and geysers of blood. The aforementioned Crazy 88 fight was so bloody and gory that a black and white filter was put on and I’m pretty sure that it was so that the movie could get a rating less than a NC-17 (yet the black and white stylistically worked incredibly well). So if you have a pretty weak stomach, the Kill Bill movies are definitely not for you. Tarantino is one of the strongest examples of directors who’s use of music is generally iconic and works perfectly, Kill Bill showcases that very well.

Kill Bill Volume 1 was better than I remembered. Quentin Tarantino blended the genres really well, the film was really entertaining overall, and the cast (especially Uma Thurman) were great. It’s still not as great to me as say Django Unchained, Pulp Fiction or Inglourious Basterds but it remains a standout of his movies.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) Review

Time: 142 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Scary scenes and mild language.
Cast:
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore
Richard Griffiths as Vernon Dursley
Gary Oldman as Sirius Black
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Fiona Shaw as Petunia Dursley
Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall
Timothy Spall as Peter Pettigrew
David Thewlis as Remus Lupin
Emma Thompson as Sybill Trelawney
Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Harry Potter’s (Daniel Radcliffe) third year at Hogwarts starts off badly when he learns deranged killer Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped from Azkaban prison and is bent on murdering the teenage wizard. While Hermione’s (Emma Watson) cat torments Ron’s (Rupert Grint) sickly rat, causing a rift among the trio, a swarm of nasty Dementors is sent to protect the school from Black. A mysterious new teacher helps Harry learn to defend himself, but what is his secret tie to Sirius Black?

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Interestingly, Prisoner of Azkaban for most of the general audience is the best Harry Potter movie. I knew though that a lot of die hard Harry Potter fans had some mixed feelings about the movie. As I hadn’t watched the movie recently and in a while, I was curious to see what my opinion of the movie would be. I’m glad to say that I lean on the side that considers Prisoner of Azkaban to be one of the best Harry Potter movies, with Alfonso Cuarón’s direction playing a big part in this.

If I had to guess one of the main reasons why this movie stuck particularly with the general audience more than the other Harry Potter movies, it might have to do with the fact that the story is much more personal for Harry and didn’t clearly feel like it was setting up for later movies. It’s like the only Harry Potter film to not have Voldemort to deal directly with the plot (outside of maybe Half Blood Prince). There are some differences from the books, most of them didn’t bother me too much and worked okay enough for a movie (such as Harry learning the spell Expecto Patronium really quickly) as opposed to the book where it took a long time. Some of the differences, particularly with how the spells work, are a little distracting. For example, Expecto Patronium here is not quite like it was in the book, and Expelliarmus here seemed to be used as both a disarming spell and a stunning spell. There are also some bits from the book that would’ve been nice to see in the movie. The humour in this movie worked really well, while the previous movies had some hit or miss humour, all of it works here. Prisoner of Azkaban is shorter than the previous two Harry Potter movies at 2 hours and 20 minutes long and is really paced well, even better paced than Philosopher’s Stone. You never feel bored, and you can’t pick out really a scene that could’ve or should’ve been removed for time or for the benefit of the story. Almost everything in here is needed.

There isn’t really any problems with the younger cast acting from this point forward with the films. Once again the friendship between Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) is even stronger. Radcliffe particularly gets a lot to do, especially in the second half. I mentioned in my Chamber of Secrets review that Ron Weasley comes across as being a little useless and underused at times, and the same goes for Prisoner of Azkaban, particularly in the third act (then again it was in the novel as well). The rest of the returning is once again good as well, particularly Alan Rickman as Severus Snape and Maggie Smith and Minerva McGonagall. Most of the new additions really worked. David Thewlis as Remus Lupin, the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher (the best in Harry’s period at Hogwarts), was a perfect casting decision, I can’t see anyone else in the role (I’m so glad Thewlis got this role instead of Professor Quirrell in Philosopher’s Stone). Gary Oldman works really well as Sirius Black, once again he transforms completely into his role. Conveying a lot of craziness, yet also completely convincing as the true character that’s revealed later on, Oldman is absolutely fantastic as usual. Timothy Spall was also perfect for his role that’s revealed later in the movie. One new cast addition was for the role of Albus Dumbledore, as Richard Harris died between the second and third films. Michael Gambon takes on the role now and while I’m aware there are mixed feelings about him, I think he’s fine here. He’s not quite fitted into the role of Dumbledore yet but he works fine, even if he does feel like he’s trying to act like Richard Harris. At least he fares better here than he does in Goblet of Fire. Other additions like Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawny were good as well.

Alfonso Cuarón’s direction is jarringly different from Chris Columbus’s, however considering the massive tonal differences that the later stories would have and seeing how they have changed, I can say that the changes was worth it and I’m glad that it happened in this movie before it was too late in the series. His direction of the movie is probably why so many people love this movie so much over the others, and for good reason. The way everything looks, his storytelling, pretty much everything works excellently. His attention to detail was great, particularly with Hermione and her use of the time turner. The cinematography by Michael Seresin was fantastic, it really looks great. When it comes to visuals, this is probably the first of the Harry Potter’s to have effects that actually still do hold up really well. Certain magical things like the Marauder’s Map particularly looked really nice on screen. Of course there are some moments where you can tell would need a green screen or something to be completely created in CGI and then you can really identify the green screen and tell that the CGI/magical object isn’t actually there, but nothing more than that. The look of the Dementors are great, shadowy, dark and really effective, I’m not sure why their design changed in Order of the Phoenix. This film has some truly magical and wonderful sequences, such as the flight(s) of the hippogriff Buckbeak and Harry facing off against the dementors. There are some weird looking sequences though, like the Knight Bus moment, where they seemed to up the insanity for a little bit, I guess that’s what they were going for but it did feel out of place. The production design was once again really great. I will say however that with this movie following the previous two, I can’t tell what year this takes place in. In fact one of the biggest problems with the Harry Potter movies is the time period is never locked down. It’s a slight distraction but doesn’t negatively affect the movies too much. Also whereas the first two movies had the main character wearing robes pretty much all the time, here they start wearing more casual clothes and this would become more prevalent over time as the movies would continue, I think it works for the movie but again it can be a jarring difference. Every director also keeps changing what Hogwarts looks like and again, jarring but you get over it. The score by John Williams is also great, in fact some of the best themes in the Harry Potter movies were introduced/featured in Prisoner of Azkaban.

Before re-watching Prisoner of Azkaban recently, I wasn’t sure where I would rank it among the Harry Potter movies, but now I think it’s at the very least among the best in the movies. The great pacing, the storytelling, the acting but most of all Alfonso Cuarón’s excellent direction, makes this a really great film. I can definitely see now why so many people consider it to be the best film in the entire series.

The Room (2003) Review

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Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Tommy Wiseau as Johnny
Greg Sestero as Mark
Juliette Danielle as Lisa
Philip Haldiman as Denny
Carolyn Minnott as Claudette
Director:

Johnny (Tommy Wiseau) is a San Franciscan man who seems to have it all: a high-paying job as a banker, a bunch of friends–one of them being Mark (Greg Sestero), to whom he’s the closest–and a beautiful fiancee named Lisa (Juliette Danielle), whom he’s been engaged to for seven years. From the outset, Johnny’s got everything going for him…that is, until he faces the worst form of betrayal ever, and from then on everything begins to crumble.

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The Room has gained a cult following for being one of the best worst movies of all time (in that it’s so bad, that it’s ‘good’). I’ve seen many clips and reviews of the film online but I’ve never actually sat down and watched this movie from start to finish until now. After seeing this movie for the first time, I have to say that all that attention was justified. Pretty much everything is wrong with this movie. Everything from the poorly written story, the awkward and unintentionally hilarious dialogue, and the incompetent direction makes this film absolutely terrible on every single level. However, if you love watching hilariously bad movies, this is a movie that you definitely need to check out. It’s entertaining for all the wrong reasons.

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Plotwise, not much honestly happens in this movie. It could be summed up in 3 or 4 easy sentences. It’s the execution of these scenes and the odd decisions made by Wiseau (the director) that made these scenes so hilarious. Something noticeable is that many of the scenes are on repeat. For example, there’s at least 4 scenes where Lisa talks to her mother about Johnny and how he doesn’t love him anymore, with not much new information given, so they are completely pointless. There’s also plenty of scenes introducing subplots which lead absolutely nowhere. Like there’s a scene where a character named Denny is attacked by a drug dealer because he owes him some money. That scene is never brought up ever again in the film, it could be cut and nothing would feel out of place. There’s also a moment when Lisa’s mother during a conversation with Lisa, says that she has breast cancer. And guess what? That never comes up again.

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The dialogue in this film is also so awkward that in many cases it’s absolutely hilarious. Such as when Mark asks Johnny about a client at his work at the bank, he says that he can’t tell him, because ‘it’s confidential’, before asking him “Anyway, how’s your sex life?” Characters also act so randomly or stupidly it’s bizarre. Lisa tries to get Johnny drunk so that he can hit her but when he doesn’t, she lies about it anyway, even though there’s absolutely no reason to. And nothing comes of that, it’s never brought up again, it’s an entirely pointless plot point that goes absolutely nowhere. Also it’s just little things, like when Johnny and his friends just throw around a football (because that’s something that all guys in this movie do), in tuxedos. Why are they doing that? There’s also so much stuff in the film that honestly could be cut. There’s a scene where two characters just are making out in Johnny and Lisa’s apartment (for whatever reason) which has no effect on the plot or any subplots (and these characters have no proper introduction I might add, they just come out of nowwhere). And then there’s the countless sex scenes, both between Johnny and Lisa and Lisa and Mark. Even though many of the scenes throughout The Room are pointless and just not executed in a competent way, all of them are still enjoyable in the wrong way (except for the sex scenes, I’ll get into that later). From how I described these scenes, this movie probably sounds extremely cringey and painful to watch. But trust me, look at a couple of these scenes online and you’ll see what I mean. It’s the perfect kind of bad.

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Before I even attempt to describe the main star of the film, I think I should mention the supporting actors. Honestly at times it feels like these actors have the capability and talent to act well but with Wiseau’s awkwardly written dialogue and direction, they aren’t really able to do this. For the most part the acting is mediocre at best, but some of the characters are acted so oddly, that they are still funny. There is one actor that actually is good in this movie, someone who played a drug dealer named Chris R but he is only in one scene, and is on screen for like 1 and minute. No one else is good in the movie. Now onto the main star himself, Tommy Wiseau. I’ll just say this, I’ve seen a lot of movies, and this is the worst performance I’ve ever seen. Just look up any clips of him, it’s astounding. It often feels like he is unfamiliar with the dialogue, even though he wrote the screenplay (and directed and produced the movie as well, I might add). Honestly he is the reason to watch this movie. The scenes without him are a little funny on their own but it’s his acting that makes this film so unintentionally hilarious and iconic. It’s honestly extremely difficult to describe why the performance was so bad, you just have to look at it for yourself. It’s such a bizarre performance, I can’t really say whether he’s overacting or underacting, it’s impossible to compare it to anything else because there is nothing like it.

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This movie had a 6-million-dollar budget but the film just looks like a 600-dollar budget, nothing about this film looks like it’s even worth a thousand dollars. The production design looks so basic, so basic in fact that there are literally stock pictures of spoons in the background. The rooftop (which is a prominent location for this film) has an obvious green screen behind it (instead of just using a real rooftop to shoot on). Even the costume design looked so basic and lazy. Overall the direction of the film is just as muddled as the writing, and at times it’s incompetence can be hilarious. I will say the only unironic gripe is the countless sex scenes, which go on for far too long. Not only that, everything about how they were directed, the locations, the cinematography, the editing, the music, every element in those scenes made them quite possibly the worst sex scenes ever directed in every film ever, which is probably saying a lot. It almost seemed like Tommy Wiseau was trying to imitate 70s style porn, and these scenes ended up being so cheesy and ridiculous. These are really the only moments in the film I didn’t like in an ironic way (aside from one camera angle which makes it look like Johnny was having sex with Lisa’s naval, which was pretty funny). The only technical aspect of the film that is halfway decent is the soundtrack, which is fine, but it’s probably because it seems much better in comparison to everything else in the movie.

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The Room is undoubtedly a terrible movie on every single level. When it comes to the writing, direction, acting, editing, characters, absolutely everything completely fails. However, it’s definitely a bad movie that I almost recommend you seeing. Aside from the long drawn out awkward and boring sex scenes, this film is from start to finish a beautiful trainwreck that is impossible to turn away from. On a side note, if you want to learn more about the behind the scenes, I’d recommend reading The Disaster Artist written by Greg Sestero (Mark in The Room). It really does enhance the viewing experience as you know why things are how they were. However even on its own, The Room is a truly hilarious ‘experience’ and if you are willing to laugh at some weirdness and incompetent filmmaking, this film is definitely for you. I’d almost call it the perfect bad movie, a movie which is so incompetent, that it hardly lets up in surprising you how bad it can get, and is so entertaining for all the wrong reasons.

 

X2: X Men United (2003) Review

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier/Professor X
Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine
Ian McKellen as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto
Halle Berry as Ororo Munroe/Storm
Famke Janssen as Dr. Jean Grey
James Marsden as Scott Summers/Cyclops
Rebecca Romijn as Raven Darkholme/Mystique
Brian Cox as Col. William Stryker
Alan Cumming as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler
Bruce Davison as Sen. Robert Kelly
Shawn Ashmore as Bobby Drake/Iceman
Aaron Stanford as John Allerdyce/Pyro
Kelly Hu as Yuriko Oyama/Lady Deathstrike
Anna Paquin as Marie/Rogue
Director: Bryan Singer

After the events on Liberty Island, everyone at Xavier’s (Patrick Stewart) School for Gifted Youngsters is settling in. Magneto (Ian McKellen) is locked up in a plastic cell, Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Bobby Drake (Shawn Ashmore) have finally gotten together, and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) has set off to find his origins. But it won’t stay quiet for long. After a mutant attack on the President, everyone starts to fear any type of mutant. William Stryker (Brian Cox), who plans to stop all mutants, takes over the school, causing Wolverine and his team of mutants to go into hiding. Stryker has managed to capture Xavier and will use him to create another version of Cerebro. Wolverine and the team must now team up with their enemy, Magneto, to stop Stryker before it’s too late.

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X Men was a pretty good movie and was one of the movies that brought back the superhero genre. Director Bryan Singer returns to deliver an even better X Men movie. With more characters, more development of the characters and a plot which isn’t just a rehash of the original, X Men 2 proves to be even better than the original. It’s still not the best X Men movie but it is the best of the original trilogy.

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I really liked the aspect of the X Men teaming up with Magneto, it would be so easy just to have them as enemies for the sequel but this time around it gives us something different. I also liked the pacing better here, while I did like the previous X Men, after watching it again I noticed that the pacing was a little slower, now that the characters are (mostly) established I think Singer could afford to have a faster pace. This also meant that more of the characters could be developed (at least a little bit). Once of the main criticisms of the first film was that aside from some characters (such as Wolverine, Rogue and Magneto) most of the characters were underdeveloped. Although I can’t call all of them fully developed (Especially Cyclops and Mystique) the film at least showed more aspects of them.

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All the actors from the previous movie return and once again are good in their roles, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, and the rest of the cast are really good but Hugh Jackman as usual steals the show as Wolverine, it’s hard imagining anyone else in his role. Brian Cox I thought did a pretty good job as the main villain, who has a lot of history with Wolverine. Alan Cumming Nightcrawler was a nice addition to the X Men, I’m actually surprised that he didn’t return for the sequel. As I said before, more of the characters are given more depth and I started to like them more, with the exception of Cyclops who doesn’t show up a lot in the movie.

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The action scenes once again are well filmed and there are much more of them as there is much more going on in the story. Highlights of the film for me were the opening scenes with Nightcrawler and the fight scenes between Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike at the end of the movie. The soundtrack again was really good and added to the movie.

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X Men 2 is for me a better movie than the original X Men. That film was a good set up to the X Men, while X Men 2 was a great X Men movie. It’s still not the best X Men movie but it’s the best X Men film of the original trilogy. It has the best action scenes, it has the best story and it used the characters the best. It’s not a perfect movie, looking back at it not all of the characters are fully developed but it is an improvement over the first film.