Tag Archives: 2004 movies

The Punisher (2004) Review

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The Punisher (2004)

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Thomas Jane as Frank Castle/Punisher
John Travolta as Howard Saint
Will Patton as Quentin Glass
Rebecca Romijn as Joan
Ben Foster as Spacker Dave
Roy Scheider as Frank Castle Sr.
Director: Jonathan Hensleigh

After his wife and family are murdered by a gang of ruthless criminals, special agent Frank Castle takes it upon himself to hunt down and punish the criminals responsible for his loss.

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The Punisher has had many on-screen adaptations, I was only familiar with the Netflix version starring Jon Bernthal, as well as 2008’s Punisher: War Zone starring Ray Stevenson. There are also two other known adaptations of The Punisher, one in 1989 with Dolph Lundgren, and another in 2004 starring Thomas Jane. I heard mixed things about both, but nonetheless I decided to check out the latter, and I enjoyed it in spite of its flaws.

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The first thing to note about The Punisher is that it was made in the earlier years of comic book movies, and was a Marvel movie before the MCU was a thing. It feels like a movie first, and a comic book movie second. That in itself is something to appreciate especially with the MCU today. If you went into this movie without knowing its comic book source, it would work perfectly fine as an action movie. That being said, one of the big issues is that the tone is all over the place with what its aiming to be, and it is a weird mix overall. A big aspect about The Punisher character is that he’s meant to show the dark side and consequences of being a vigilante, this movie skips that in favour for a revenge fantasy. Not to say that there aren’t attempts at showing depth, the initial tragedy that the protagonist experiences is treated very seriously. However it just doesn’t go deep enough it is clear that it is more focused on the revenge. It is indeed very dark (as were most comic book movies released in the 2000s), but some o the nihilism is played so straight that it become unintentionally funny. At the same time, a lot of the movie feels like its aiming to be throwback to the B-level revenge thrillers of the 70s, the source material seemed to be pulpy, and there’s plenty of moments throughout the film where it goes for that. It also has goofy dialogue and one liners alongside the brutal violence. However, it even suffers as a revenge thriller, especially with how cliched and routine it feels. Another thing holding this movie back is that whatever way you’re reading the movie, the story is a bit dull. The overall length is over 2 hours and it’s a bit too long for this movie. The story and characters aren’t that interesting or given enough depth, so there are moments where you are just waiting for the action to appear again.

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Thomas Jane is the thing most remembered about this movie, as he plays Frank Castle/The Punisher. I still prefer Jon Bernthal’s version of the character, but Jane is good here and one of the highlights of the movie. We see Castle start off fairly light hearted towards the beginning, and then becoming cold and calculating when he becomes the Punisher. That being said, I feel like he doesn’t get much chance to show his Punisher off. The character isn’t that interesting here, and he doesn’t have much personality outside of brooding and seeking revenge. Still, Jane plays his part well. Something that would keep the movie exciting is by having the Punisher go up against an over the top and memorable villain. The main antagonist in this movie is Howard Saint, a mobster who is responsible for the death of Frank Castle’s family, and he is played by John Travolta. However, this character and performance are the most disappointing parts of the whole movie. You’ve seen this type of mobster villain in plenty of other action movies and nothing about this version is remarkable. The idea of Travolta playing him had potential, and had he brought some of his manic energy from his previous on screen villains like in Face/Off or Broken Arrow, it would’ve really made the movie more fun to watch. Weirdly though, Travolta plays things so straight to the point of it being emotionless and dull, and he doesn’t even succeed in being convincingly menacing. There are some other actors who are generally good, including Laura Harring, Ben Foster, Rebecca Romijn and Roy Scheider, with Will Patton as Travolta’s henchman being the standout.

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This is Jonathan Hensleigh’s first movie, and while his directing can be a bit of a mixed bag, it is a decent debut. On a technical level it is solid, if unremarkable. While the editing can be a bit shaky, on the whole there are some good action scenes. This is definitely an R rated movie, and that works to its advantage. This is a very violent Punisher movie, and they definitely deliver on the brutality. In some ways it feels like the R rated action movies of the 90s, and if that’s what they were going for, they succeeded.

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2004’s The Punisher is far from being one of the best comic book movies or one of the best adaptations of the character. The writing is unremarkable, the story is dull, and the tone is confused. However, I still enjoyed it; I appreciated the different tone compared to the comic book movies of today, the action is entertaining, and Thomas Jane is pretty good as The Punisher. It’s an above average action thriller which is mostly forgettable, but I’m glad I saw it.

National Treasure (2004) Review

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National Treasure

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] contains low level violence
Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Benjamin Franklin Gates
Sean Bean as Ian Howe
Diane Kruger as Dr. Abigail Chase
Justin Bartha as Riley Poole
Jon Voight as Patrick Henry Gates
Harvey Keitel as Agent Peter Sadusky
Christopher Plummer as John Adams Gates
Director: Jon Turteltaub

Modern treasure hunters, led by archaeologist Ben Gates, search for a chest of riches rumored to have been stashed away by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin during the Revolutionary War. The chest’s whereabouts may lie in secret clues embedded in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and Gates is in a race to find the gold before his enemies do.

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I remember watching National Treasure for the first time, I was quite young at the time, and it was the first film I saw that had Nicolas Cage in it. I enjoyed it but wondered how it would be on rewatch, and whether it would still hold up over a decade and a half later. Thankfully, I think I can say that it does. While its not great, National Treasure is still a lot of fun to watch.

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The story is a fairly interesting and fun adventure with a lot of excitement throughout, helped by the fast pace. You’re right there with the main characters as they make discoveries and solve puzzles in order to unravel the central mystery. As far as adventure movies go, it occasionally meets its aspirations, but could’ve been better. As it is, it’s a solid riff on much better action adventure movies. Its not just limited to the main characters exploring tombs, there’s also a conspiracy aspect, as well as a heist aspect. The history and science are definitely messy and aren’t realistic, but it is an absurd movie overall. One of the things most known about this movie is that a key part involves Nicolas Cage having to steal the Declaration of Independence, and that is gloriously silly as that sounds. Even some of the logic of the plot can be hilarious. Nicolas Cage and Sean Bean start off hunting treasure together, but they separate when Bean wants to steal the Declaration of Independence and Cage doesn’t want to. So when Bean decides to go get it himself, Cage decides to go and steal it first. Thankfully, National Treasure has the right tone, not taking itself too seriously, but not going too overboard and risking becoming a self parody.

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The cast are quite enjoyable. Nicolas Cage made for a charismatic, likable and entertaining lead as Ben Gates. Its definitely not one of his craziest performances in some of his other movies like Face/Off, but he gave his character a lot of energy, and is fun to watch. Diane Kruger is also good, and Justin Bartha is solid as the comic relief with some great comedic timing. There are also other great actors who have parts to play in this, including Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel and Christopher Plummer. Sean Bean is the villain and while the writing for him is nothing special, he does deliver on his part as an antagonist.

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If there’s an aspect of National Treasure that I wished was better, it was the direction. Jon Turteltaub’s work is decent, but it needed something more. The action is relatively fun, there are some good environments sets and designs, and the score from Trevor Rabin is good (especially the catchy main theme). Its just that there’s nothing distinct about this movie on a directing or style level that separates it from other similar movies.

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National Treasure is comparable to The Mummy movies starring Brendan Fraser, not the best action-adventure movies (i.e. not on the level of Indiana Jones), but nonetheless very entertaining for what it is. It’s a fun ride that doesn’t take itself too seriously, helped by the solid cast led by Nicolas Cage. If you haven’t seen it already, I think its worth checking out.

I, Robot (2004) Review

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I, Robot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saw (2004) Review

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Saw

Time: 102 minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Sadistic violence
Cast:
Leigh Whannell as Adam Stanheight
Cary Elwes as Lawrence Gordon
Danny Glover as David Tapp
Ken Leung as Detective Steven Sing
Monica Potter as Alison Gordon
Tobin Bell as John Kramer
Director: James Wan

Photographer Adam Stanheight (Leigh Whannell) and oncologist Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) regain consciousness while chained to pipes at either end of a filthy bathroom. As the two men realize they’ve been trapped by a sadistic serial killer nicknamed “Jigsaw” and must complete his perverse puzzle to live, flashbacks relate the fates of his previous victims. Meanwhile, Dr. Gordon’s wife (Monica Potter) and young daughter (Makenzie Vega) are forced to watch his torture via closed-circuit video.

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Saw was where horror director James Wan started as a filmmaker. The film was a surprise hit back in 2004, with it gaining back over 86 times its own budget, and went on to create a long running series that were huge hits at the box office. I wanted to watch all the Saw movies before the latest film, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, comes out. The first movie isn’t great by any means and has its very visible flaws, however it is still quite good.

Saw (2004)
Directed by James Wan
Shown: Cary Elwes (as Dr. Lawrence Gordon)

The movie is just over 100 minutes long, and it keeps you pretty invested from beginning to end. It’s very different from what you’d expect from a Saw movie based off its reputation, especially from the sequels. The movie doesn’t open with one of the infamous and grotesque Saw traps, instead the first 15 minutes was of the two main characters stuck in a bathroom not sure what’s happening. Indeed that’s the location where most of the movie took place, along with a lot of flashbacks. There’s not really any torture scenes in this movie, Saw is a psychological thriller, focused on mystery and tension and doesn’t focus on jump scares. Despite some of the traps that are in this movie, they are definitely more believable than what’s in the sequels. There are some traps that are pretty gruesome, but most of those moments are shown relatively briefly. The pacing of the movie and the use of the plotlines are actually well planned out, in terms of plotting it succeeds very well. It is a fairly contained movie too, with its fair share of twists and turns including the ending, which is one of the most famous horror movie endings. Having only seen a couple of the Saw sequels, it’s interesting to see how Jigsaw had been changed as a killer. While the character is definitely crazy to set up all these traps and all that, the sequels made it so that he was some kind of vigilante going after mostly bad people. However, Jigsaw’s victims in this movie don’t quite fit that same criteria. Now there are clearly some issues with the movie. There are some moments that are slightly implausible and far-fetched for sure, though I think that’s the case for each of the movies in the series. Saw also very much aims to be Se7en-esque, with the gruesome crime scenes, the serial killer, the detectives in the flashbacks, and occasionally the colour palette. It is pretty far from reaching the level of that movie but does enough to make itself its own thing.

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Some of the acting was generally decent but nothing special really. Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell do well in the lead roles, and other actors like Danny Glover, Ken Leung and Michael Emerson provide good support work.

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Saw is James Wan’s first film, and this was a really solid debut for him, even if it’s pretty clear that he’s made better movies since then. The movie had pretty low budget at $1.2 million, and considering all the issues and rushes that Wan and Whannell went through making the movie, it’s impressive that the end product was as good as it turned out. It is very rough around the edges because of the lack of time and money that they had for the movie, that ended up enhancing the movie. Again, Saw does borrow a little too much from Se7en’s aesthetics, but it still establishes its own distinct style and feel that is iconic to the series. It’s great on a visual level, really gritty and sickly looking, which fits the tone of the film perfectly. Saw is known as one of the movies known for popularising the torture porn genre but the first movie in the series certainly doesn’t fit into that genre. Yes, it is violent, bloody and gruesome sometime, however it actually used those moments effectively, and don’t feel gratuitous. Even some of the most gruesome traps in this movie was shown relatively quickly. The room that the main characters are stuck in (which was also the only set in the film that had to be built) was simple but ery gritty and effective as it was. The score from Charlie Clouser fits the Saw movies really well and are excellent, from the eerie vibes throughout, to the more intense moments. With that said you do notice some issues, if not on a budget level then a directing level. Some of the frantic editing is pretty familiar and even iconic for the series but it can be very over the top and goofy most of time, especially in the instances when it spins around the room. In fact, some of the editing feels like it is from a music video. There are some moments that do feel a bit amateurish especially with regard to the camerawork, again though that’s to be expected considering the tight schedule Wan and writer Leigh Whannell were under (there were times where Wan wasn’t even able to film the shots that he wanted).

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If you like horror movies, definitely check the first Saw movie out. I would never call it one of the best horror movies ever, even from the 2000s, but it is undeniably iconic and influential. Even if you’re worried about it being ‘torture porn’, don’t let that stop you, because it’s definitely not that kind of movie. It does have some problems, again the budgetary issues, some of the amateurish filmmaking and some parts of the writing. Overall though, it’s an effective and well made horror thriller that deserves to be judged on its own merits rather than be lumped in with what at least most of the sequels are.

Hellboy (2004) Review

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Time: 122 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains medium level violence
Cast:
Ron Perlman as Hellboy
John Hurt as Trevor Bruttenholm
Selma Blair as Liz Sherman
Rupert Evans as John “Johnny” Myers
Karel Roden as Grigori Rasputin
Jeffrey Tambor as Tom Manning
Doug Jones as Abe Sapien
Director: Guillermo del Toro

Towards the end of WWII, the Nazis resort to black magic and conjure a demonic-looking being called Hellboy (Ron Perlman). But the Allies capture him and he grows up to fight against evil rather than for it.

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I’ve been meaning to go back and watch the Hellboy movies from Guillermo del Toro again, especially after the more recent and underwhelming reboot. I remembered liking them quite a bit, and as it turns out they actually hold up quite well today. Despite some of its script faults, 2004’s Hellboy is a very fun fantasy comic book movie.

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Hellboy opens quite well and for the most works consistently well across its 2 hour runtime. It’s very entertaining, and creative, and the source material is perfect for del Toro to take on. The script is witty with some good lines and humour, the story is well paced, and it has a lot of fantasy and even noir aspects to it. It’s also heartfelt and genuine and establishes itself as a unique and larger than life comic book movie with a great atmosphere. Also keep in mind that this is back in 2004, so you can imagine how much of an impact and hit it would’ve been back then. Hellboy also does well as establishing its universe, though I feel like they could’ve done that without a human stand in character. It’s not all great though. The story isn’t really anything special, it’s a typical fantasy world ending plot that’s a bit predictable. It really doesn’t reach its fullest potential. Not all the characters are greatly handled. Hellboy of course is fantastic, but the human characters are particularly thinly developed and are quite bland, more on that later. Also maybe a slight nitpick, but it did feel like it ended a little abruptly, like there needed to be an extra scene right before it ended, but that’s a small gripe.

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The cast do a good job in their parts, even though some of them were restricted by the writing of their respective characters. Of course the big standout is Ron Perlman as Hellboy and he absolutely owns this role. His performance is larger than life, funny, likable, and well realised, and you can tell that Perlman is enjoying every second of it. It’s just hard seeing anyone else in the role. Selma Blair’s performance is good too, though her character does suffer from some confusion with the writing and characterisation, and not enough time spent with her. The love story between her character and Hellboy does actually work quite well though, and the actors share convincing chemistry. Doug Jones (along with the voice of David Hyde Pierce) plays Abe Sapien, an amphibious humanoid (and unsurprisingly plays him with a lot of makeup and visual effects). His character is the most memorable in the movie after Hellboy by far, and he really stands out in the scenes. Unfortunately his character doesn’t show up much in the movie, at least compared to the sequel. As I said earlier, the human characters were rather unremarkable. The biggest example is Rupert Evans as Myers, the lead human character. This character was bland, uninteresting, and very much felt like he was only there to be the audience’s insight into this world. However it’s easy to connect with Hellboy that we didn’t need that. It’s no surprise that when it came to the sequel, there was no stand in human character like that. John Hurt is in here as Hellboy’s father figure. The character himself doesn’t have a lot to him, but John Hurt as you’d expect does a lot with very little and elevates it. The villain side of the characters was rather forgettable. Karel Roden is okay as Rasputin (the main villain) but the character never really felt much of a threat, some of the side villains and monsters posed much more of a threat and were memorable than him. There’s a henchman who’s a Nazi and has a gas mask with blades, and he had far more presence as a threat than Rasputin.

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Guillermo del Toro directs this, and he was a great pick to helm a live action adaptation of the Hellboy comics. He directed this with such style and there was such attention to details, nothing here felt lazy. There are some solid cinematography and production design, with HP Lovecraft meets steampunk aesthetics. There are some excellent visual and practical effects here, and the best part is how del Toro blend the two. The creatures were particularly well handled, as if the movie was a full on creature feature. There are parts that don’t look so great, but considering that it was made back in 2004, it has held up quite well. The action scenes are riveting too, and are very entertaining to watch. The makeup is great, particularly with Hellboy and Abe Sapien. The score from Marco Beltrami was quite good, and added a lot to the movie.

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Hellboy is an entertaining and creative fantasy action movie, greatly directed by Guillermo del Toro, and features a perfect performance from Ron Perlman as Hellboy. I wouldn’t rank it as one of the best comic book movies, but it’s pretty good when looking at most of the comic books released in the 2000s, in fact it was ahead of its time. If you haven’t watched Hellboy yet, I strongly recommend doing so.

Pusher II: With Blood on My Hands (2004) Review

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Pusher 2

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Mads Mikkelsen as Tonny
Leif Sylvester as Smeden
Zlatko Burić as Milo
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Trouble follows an ex-convict (Mads Mikkelsen) as he tries to gain his father’s favor.

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Pusher was the debut film of director Nicolas Winding Refn, released back in 1996. While it’s a bit rough for sure, it was a solid movie, and hinted at the potential he would deliver on with his later movies. 8 years later, he returned to the world he created in his first movie, and directed two follows up movies, being each of them being lead by supporting characters from the first movie. The second Pusher film titled With Blood on His Hands, is a noticeable improvement over the first movie in every way, and is quite great.

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Like with the first movie, Pusher 2 feels grounded, from the dialogue, to the world itself. The classic gangster genre cliches seen in most fiction are made realistic and unglamourised in these movies. Refn makes the characters feel genuine and real, and doesn’t shy away from portraying the darker and ugly sides of them. While it carries over many of the great elements from the first Pusher, With Blood on My Hands is also a very different movie. For one, I found the story to be more interesting and compelling. The first Pusher was largely about the protagonist having to try to obtain money in a brief amount of time, pretty standard crime setup and was relatively focused on that. The plot in Pusher 2 is a little more loose and open, at its core it is a character study following our new protagonist Tonny. It does take its time, but overall is a better human drama with a much more sympathetic protagonist. It doesn’t have the intensity of the first movie, where even though you don’t care at all about the main character, you feel really anxious when he keeps getting caught in some dangerous situations. However, Pusher 2 does have this heavy atmosphere of impending doom. Additionally, it is a pretty mesmerising character study of someone who continues to make bad decisions. A large part of why it so works is because of the lead actor, which I’ll get into in a bit. As for the connections to the first movie, it just features two characters from that movie, and there are some brief references. Otherwise it is very standalone. Pusher 2 also has an ambiguous ending, and it was a perfect note to end on.

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The acting from everyone in this movie is good, but it all comes down to one actor really, Mads Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen was good in his supporting role as Tonny from the first Pusher, however in that movie he was just a sidekick to the main character and was only in the first act of that movie. With Pusher 2, Mikkelsen gets a lot more to do, and he’s actually fantastic here. Mikkelsen’s performance is very dynamic and nuanced, and he portrays Tonny as being very human, and even sympathetic at times. He carries an implied menace and physicality, but also an intense vulnerability below the surface. You can clearly tell the character not a good person by any means, and he constantly makes bad decisions and mistakes for himself. Despite this, you are constantly wanting him to succeed, and Mikkelsen’s acting is a large reason for that.

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Looking between the first Pusher and this movie, Nicolas Winding Refn had definitely developed as a filmmaker during that period. The direction in Pusher 2 doesn’t lose its gritty and real feeling from the first movie, but the directing is undeniably more confident and clear, and much more stylish. The camerawork and cinematography are the most prominent aspect, with very strong colours and lighting, and even the overly shaky handheld shots are gone. The amount of violence in this movie is less than the violence in the first movie, but yet again Refn makes sure that its gritty and unpleasant, and isn’t stylised or glamourised, very much in line with the tone of the story. Another solid aspect that was brought over from the first movie was the good use of music (both the score and the song choices), as well as the lack of music in some scenes.

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Pusher 2: With Blood on My Hands improves on every level over the first movie, it’s a well written and compelling character study, directed greatly by Nicolas Winding Refn, and is carried by a fantastic leading performance from Mads Mikkelsen. If you liked the first Pusher then check this out, but again, it’s separate enough from the first movie that you don’t need to have seen it beforehand, you can jump right into it.

Shaun of the Dead (2004) Review

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Shaun of the Dead

Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1]
Cast:
Simon Pegg as Shaun
Nick Frost as Ed
Kate Ashfield as Liz
Lucy Davis as Dianne
Dylan Moran as David
Penelope Wilton as Barbara
Bill Nighy as Philip
Director: Edgar Wright

Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a salesman whose life has no direction. However, his uneventful life takes a sudden turn when he has to singlehandedly deal with an entire community of zombies.

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The zombie genre isn’t one of my favourite sub-genres, even among the horror genre. However within that subgenre, Shaun of the Dead remains one of my favourite movies from it. I rewatched it recently and I think it’s quite good. It’s funny, it’s entertaining, and it’s very well written and directed by Edgar Wright.

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The script by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg was really good and smart, blending horror and comedy effectively. They clearly have a lot of love for the genre, with a lot of the subversions and references that they have added. The comedy is pretty strong, with a lot of recurring jokes and certain details that you pick up on with repeat viewings. I wouldn’t say that movie is constantly hilarious or anything, maybe it’s just that it hasn’t held up that well for me the more I watched it. However, there are definitely moments that still work and remain to this day really great. The dialogue is great too, with some really memorable and quotable lines. One of the biggest surprises was the drama that was in place in the movie, especially in the third act. Shaun of the Dead is still mostly a comedy, but those dramatic and character moments actually work quite well. The movie really not scary at all, so if you’re not a big fan of horror you can still like the movie (as long as you can deal with the gore). Like I said with the jokes, you really notice more things upon further rewatches, and on my third viewing, I still noticed things that I hadn’t discovered before. The movie is an hour and 40 minutes long and overall I’d say that this was the right length for the movie.

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Simon Pegg is in one of his best roles as the titular character. Nick Frost plays Shaun’s best friend, he was also great. Pegg and Frost share some great on-screen chemistry together and they really feel like friends. The rest of the cast are good too.

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Edgar Wright directs Shaun of the Dead and his direction was one of the key aspects of making the movie work as well as it did. It is his first film and it really does feel like a debut film, but I don’t mean that in necessarily a bad way. You can really feel a lot of energy from this movie and that carries a lot of it. The editing and style are very fast paced so that helps too, though it hasn’t reached its fullest potential just yet (at least compared much as Wright’s later movies). There is a lot of attention to detail too, with visual gags that can be missed and reoccurring jokes. For a comedy horror movie, the makeup effects on the zombies and the gore are genuinely great. The movie really isn’t scary at all (unless you have a massive fear of zombies), it’s more gory than anything. The actual action is not all that great, not that I was expecting much of that from this movie. However let’s just say that you definitely notice a big difference in the quality of action from this movie compared to say The World’s End released 9 years later. The soundtrack was also great and was utilised in the movie well, perfect song choices for scenes is something that Wright does very well. It has quite possibly the best use of Queen in a movie.

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Shaun of the Dead is a fun zombie comedy, Edgar Wright’s script and direction carried it, and the cast also did well, especially Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. I will say that I didn’t like the movies as much as the other movies in the Cornetto trilogy (Hot Fuzz and The World’s End), but it’s still really good and worth watching for sure if you haven’t seen it already.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) Review

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Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] low-level offensive language
Cast:
Bill Murray as Steve Zissou
Owen Wilson as Edward “Ned” Plimpton/Kingsley Zissou
Cate Blanchett as Jane Winslett-Richardson
Anjelica Huston as Eleanor Zissou
Willem Dafoe as Klaus Daimler
Jeff Goldblum as Alistair Hennessey
Michael Gambon as Oseary Drakoulias
Bud Cort as Bill Ubell
Director: Wes Anderson

With a plan to exact revenge on a mythical shark that killed his partner, oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) rallies a crew that includes his estranged wife (Anjelica Huston), a journalist (Cate Blanchett), and a man who may or may not be his son (Owen Wilson).

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I heard of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou was a Wes Anderson movie, and so I was interested to watch it. I also heard that although most of Anderson’s movies are greatly received, this was a movie that some people were mixed or divided on. I really had no idea what to expect going it, and unfortunately I can definitely say that this is one of my least favourite movies of his. It’s got some problems for sure, and I’m not sure how to feel about parts of it. However, looking at it on a whole, I still say it’s pretty good.

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When the movie started, it felt a bit off to me. It was eccentric, quirky and visually pleasing, which I was expecting from Wes Anderson. However, something just felt empty when it came to the characters and story. Compared to his other movies I just didn’t find myself that invested in what was happening. The pacing is quite slow too, and the runtime is just under 2 hours long. I wouldn’t say I was bored or anything, I was still somewhat paying attention to what was happening, it’s just that maybe the script maybe could’ve been a bit tighter. It picked up for me in the second half however for whatever reason, I probably settled into whatever this movie was going for. Credit where it’s due, when it’s good, it’s really great, the dialogue is sharp and quirky, and the movie does have some very funny and entertaining moments.

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This cast is just massive. Bill Murray plays lead character Steve Zissou and he’s great. The rest of the cast including Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Anjelica Huston, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon are also pretty good. I do feel like the supporting cast aren’t as utilised as well as they could’ve (compared to say The Royal Tenenbaums), most of them didn’t really add too much to the film. With that said, Owen Wilson and Cate Blanchett are really good, Willem Dafoe was great and hilarious on his part and I would’ve liked to have seen more from Jeff Goldblum.

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This movie is directed by Wes Anderson, and you can definitely tell that from beginning to end. The visuals were really great to watch, Anderson definitely went wild with his $50 million budget. The production design is excellent and serves the style really well. I liked the practical set design, especially when the camera was following characters walking into different rooms of the submarine in the same shot. Even some of the CGI touch ups and animation I thought added to the style and made the movie a little more endearing. Soundtrack is great too and was utilised greatly in the scenes.

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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is one of Wes Anderson’s stranger movies, and I have somewhat mixed feelings about it. The script has quirks, the dialogue is well written and some of the characters are memorable but it also feels a bit empty. I don’t think it fully works but has enough good things for me to call it a solid movie. The movie does have its moments, it’s entertaining at some points, and the cast are good on their parts. Not one of Wes Anderson’s best movies, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend watching it as his first movie if you’ve never seen any of his other work before, but I do recommend at least checking it out at some point. I don’t feel inclined to watch it again, but I get the feeling that I’ll probably ease into the movie more upon repeat viewings.

Dawn of the Dead (2004) Review

Time: 101 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, horror and sex scenes
Cast:
Sarah Polley as Ana Clark
Ving Rhames as Kenneth Hall
Jake Weber as Michael
Mekhi Phifer as Andre
Lindy Booth as Nicole
Kevin Zegers as Terry
Michael Kelly as C.J.
Ty Burrell as Steve Marcus
Director: Zack Snyder

When her husband is attacked by a zombified neighbor, Ana (Sarah Polley) manages to escape, only to realize her entire Milwaukee neighborhood has been overrun by the walking dead. After being questioned by cautious policeman Kenneth (Ving Rhames), Ana joins him and a small group that gravitates to the local shopping mall as a bastion of safety. Once they convince suspicious security guards that they are not contaminated, the group bands together to fight the undead hordes.

I had already seen the Dawn of the Dead remake and then the original a while ago, but with the announcement that Zack Snyder’s next movie would be returning to the zombie genre with Army of the Dead, I decided to watch his film again. I’ll admit that while I can appreciate the original film, I don’t exactly love it, it was quite slow and it didn’t leave much of an impact on me. I personally found the remake to be better, it’s fast paced, violent and really entertaining, very effective even in its simplicity.

Remaking one of the most iconic horror movies of all tie was really an ambitious task but screenwriter James Gunn actually did a really good job at updating it over 3 decades later. One of the best parts of the movie is that it keeps the plot moving constantly, never allowing you a chance to be bored, while not feeling overly rushed at any point. Despite being quite short at around an hour and 40 minutes, they managed to add emotion, humour and more in that time. The characters are pretty standard and aren’t special, however they are given some moments to give you an idea of who they are, which is a little better than most zombie movies which have the characters with little to no development or characterisation. The one thing that is missing from the original is the social commentary that George Romero had, the remake is a much more conventional and straightforward zombie movie. As a straight up zombie movie, I liked the remake more. Side note, the real ending of the movie plays during the credits, so be sure to stick around for it before switching it off because I didn’t know about it the first time I watched it.

The characters are written pretty simple but as I previously said, they are given enough moments of development and the cast do a good job in their roles. The stand outs were Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames (unsurprising given that he is always great in everything that he’s in) and Michael Kelly. The rest of the cast featuring the likes of Jake Weber and Mekhi Phifer were also really good for what they were given.

For a directorial debut, Zack Snyder did a really great job with this movie. Snyder’s movies are known for looking stunning and beautiful, from his next film 300 all the way to his latest Batman v Superman (no, I don’t really count Justice League to be one of his movies). Dawn of the Dead on the other hand has a more grimy look to it, fitting in with the tone quite well, and it still is a good looking movie. The action is fast paced and brutal, the zombies in this movie are the running and kill crazy type of zombies and are very nightmarish and dangerous, really feeling like a real threat. The violence and gore are really gruesome and gratifying, there are some very memorable and creative moments and the makeup effects were particularly great.

Dawn of the Dead is one of the few remakes that are better than the original. I guess it depends what you’re looking for, a slower paced zombie movie with social commentary, or a straight forward, albeit very well made and faster paced zombie movie, I happened to like the latter more. This movie is just full of exhilarating energy and is one of the most entertaining zombie movies I’ve seen. I’m very excited to see Zack Snyder make another zombie movie, after directing more movies since Dawn of the Dead, I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with Army of the Dead.

Layer Cake (2004) Review

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language, drug use and sex scenes
Cast:
Daniel Craig as XXXX
Colm Meaney as Gene
Kenneth Cranham as Jimmy Price
George Harris as Morty
Jamie Foreman as the Duke
Michael Gambon as Eddie Temple
Marcel Iureş as Slavo
Tom Hardy as Clarkie
Tamer Hassan as Terry
Ben Whishaw as Sidney
Burn Gorman as Gazza
Sally Hawkins as Slasher
Sienna Miller as Tammy
Director: Matthew Vaughn

An unnamed mid-level cocaine dealer (Daniel Craig) in London makes plans to step away from the criminal life. Before he can cut ties, the dealer’s supplier Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham) draws him into a complicated pair of jobs involving kidnapping the teenage daughter of a rival gangster (Michael Gambon) and brokering the purchase of a large shipment of ecstasy pills from a dealer known as “the Duke” (Jamie Foreman), leading to a series of elaborate double-crosses from all corners.

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Layer Cake was Matthew Vaughn’s first movie, before then he produced some of Guy Ritchie’s movies. It was very well received and put him on the map as a director to watch, with him very nearly directing the third X-Men movie afterwards. Although I saw it already years ago, I wanted to check it out again, since I was already rewatching some of Matthew Vaughn’s movies recently. It’s even better than what I remembered it being from my first viewing.

Layer Cake is written by J.J. Connelly, adapting his book of the same name for the big screen. It’s a pretty standard British crime thriller, albeit a very good one with some twists and turns. One could compare this to Guy Ritchie’s crime movies (especially seeing as how Vaughn was involved with Ritchie’s early movies), although there are some similarities, there are plenty of distinct differences between them, especially when it comes to the tone. Vaughn’s other R rated movies generally has a lot of dark comedy to it, Layer Cake on the other hand is more serious, more like a crime thriller and doesn’t have as much comedy. It for sure has some brief dark comedy at points however. It’s actually pretty riveting over the hour and 45 minutes runtime. I think the main reason that this all works really well together though is because of the lead character, which I’ll get into in a bit.

As good as a bunch of all this is, Layer Cake wouldn’t have been as great without Daniel Craig, who honestly makes this movie. Craig is outstanding as the unnamed lead character (not exactly sure why his name is never revealed), who in this movie is more of a businessman than a gangster, in fact he hates gangsters and violence. He also shows a very wide range of emotions as he’s thrown into so many situations that he’s struggling to keep alive in, and through his performance you can really root for the lead character. You can definitely tell why Daniel Craig was picked for James Bond, there’s a lot of Bond that you can see in his performance here. One of Craig’s best, if not his best performance. The rest of the cast also played their parts really well. The rest of the cast including Colm Meaney, George Harris, Michael Gambon, Tom Hardy, Ben Whishaw and Sienna Miller all play their roles very well. Gambon in particular was great as a ruthless and villainous sort of character, quite different from other roles that he’s had.

For a debut, Matthew Vaughn did a great job, it doesn’t look like his first movie at all. It’s all filmed and edited very well, the music choices were also perfect, he’s got a real great handle over the whole movie.

Layer Cake is an outstanding directorial debut from Matthew Vaughn, a well written and directed crime thriller, with Daniel Craig’s great lead performance really making the movie. It’s an underrated little flick that definitely deserves a lot more praise and really worth a watch if you haven’t seen it already.