Tag Archives: 2005

Kingdom of Heaven: Director’s Cut (2005) Review

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Kingdom of Heaven

Time:
144 Minutes (Theatrical Cut)
194 Minutes (Director’s Cut)
Age Rating: 860949[1] 
Cast:
Orlando Bloom as Balian of Ibelin
Eva Green as Sibylla of Jerusalem
Jeremy Irons as Raymond III of Tripoli (“Tiberias”)
David Thewlis as The Hospitaller
Brendan Gleeson as Raynald of Châtillon (“Reynald”)
Marton Csokas as Guy de Lusignan
Edward Norton as King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem
Michael Sheen as Priest
Liam Neeson as Barisan of Ibelin (“Godfrey”)
Director: Ridley Scott

In the twelfth century, blacksmith Balian (Orlando Bloom) travels to Jerusalem, a city seething with religious wars. He transforms into a defending warrior who saves the city and its people.

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I have heard about Kingdom of Heaven for a while, mainly about it being another historical epic from director Ridley Scott. I also heard that it’s one of the most infamous instances where the director’s cut is far better than the theatrical cut, with the latter reportedly removing so many important parts from the film. So I sought out the Director’s Cut of Kingdom of Heaven and I’m prepared to say that it’s one of my all time favourite films from Ridley Scott, which is quite something considering his filmography.

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Kingdom of Heaven was a very well-crafted historical epic, it does have fictionalised events but that’s to be expected from most big budget Hollywood historical epics (especially those directed by Ridley Scott). The large scale of this movie is impressive, and the story is grippingly told with high stakes very apparent throughout. It has a complex plot with many well thought out characters and plotlines and with the director’s cut at least, I think it was put together well. On one hand the film is a classic tale about an individual who rises to become something great, but it’s also a movie about the Crusades. I don’t know much about the subject matter but the Crusades sound like a fascinating historical period, so that was interesting to watch. One of the most surprising parts of the movie is that it does a great job at depicting both sides of the fight equally, with Islam and Christianity being represented fairly. It would have been easy to pick one side over the other, but it’s a well balanced telling of both religious sides. It is particularly powerful when you consider this holy war conflict is framed against a post 9/11 backdrop with the film being released 2 years into the Iraq War. And thinking about it, this is probably one of the many reasons why Kingdom of Heaven wasn’t liked by some when it came out. There’s a lot to this movie thematically, especially about hope and redemption, and it has a very humanist view on religion and life in general. The director’s cut includes 45 minutes of extra footage compared to the theatrical cut. I can’t speak for myself about how much the differences matter since I never watched the theatrical cut, but I heard the extended scenes flesh out many of the supporting characters and storylines. As I said before it is a complex and long movie, making it 3 hours long. However I think the runtime was worth it to tell a story of this magnitude. The movie takes its time, it has many subplots it juggles but takes time to develop them and the characters and it really pays off.

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Kingdom of Heaven has one of the best casts I’ve seen in a movie and overall there are some strong performances playing well realised characters. The cast includes Michael Sheen, Brendan Gleeson, Eva Green, Marton Csokas and many more. For me the standouts were Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson, David Thewlis, Edward Norton (as a character whose face is never seen yet gives a scene stealing performance), and Ghassan Massoud. The one cast member I hadn’t mentioned yet is the actor who plays the lead character, Orlando Bloom. His performance has been criticised by many, potentially partly due to his cut scenes. He definitely pales when put alongside the other actors in the movie and better actors could’ve been cast in his part. However I do think Bloom gives a really good performance, definitely the best I’ve seen from him.

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Ridley Scott’s movies are generally impressive on a technical level and Kingdom of Heaven is no exception. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, it’s possibly one of the best looking movies that Scott has made. You really feel the sense of scale with this movie, the production design and costumes are top notch, and get you completely immersed within this time period. As a spectacle it doesn’t disappoint, with some intense battle and action sequences which hold up well today, including the CGI. Finally there’s the great score from Harry Gregson-Williams, which could very well be the best I’ve heard from him.

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The Director’s Cut of Kingdom of Heaven is a fantastic historical epic that’s worthy of being placed among the best. The stellar cast are fantastic in their parts, Ridley Scott’s direction is top notch, and the story is complex and with compelling characters. Of course if you are going to watch it, make sure to watch the director’s cut, it’s pretty much universally accepted by everyone who’s watched it as the definitive version of the film.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005) Review

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Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

Time:  115 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] 
Cast:
Lee Young-ae as Lee Geum-ja
Choi Min-sik as Mr. Baek
Director: Park Chan-wook

Lee Geum-ja (Lee Young-ae) has spent the last 13 years in prison for a murder she didn’t commit. She’s fantasized about getting revenge on the various people who wronged her, including the police officer (Nam Il-u) who forced her to confess and a shady teacher (Choi Min-sik) with whom she has a checkered past. After her release, she teams up with a group of eccentric friends she made while behind bars and sets out to clear her name and find the daughter she was forced to leave behind.

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I heard of Sympathy for Lady Vengeance for a while, mainly that it’s the third part of the Vengeance trilogy from Park Chan-wook. I didn’t know what to expect from the movie, outside it being another movie about revenge I didn’t know anything about the story. I checked it out and it’s actually quite an incredible movie, one of my favourite movies from Park.

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As said earlier, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is another movie about revenge and like the other movies in Park’s Vengeance trilogy, shows the consequences and weight of revenge. The characters here are tired, bleak and just want it done so they can move on. The movie shows the many sides to a human’s moral compass, and what vengeance means to different people. The approach to the subject matter is more thoughtful and nuanced than some other films in the genre, and on the whole I’d have to say that this is one of the most mature movies about revenge I’ve seen. The script is expertly crafted and written. It is surprisingly quite complex, mostly to do with the unconventional structure for the first half. This structure is a little choppy despite the story being relatively straightforward looking back at it, it meant I was a little confused at first but on another viewing I probably would understand it more. The story is haunting and chilling, it’s an incredibly gripping psychological thriller. It isn’t as kinetic and frenzied as many other South Korean revenge film, but it still packs an emotional punch when it needs to. There are some harrowing scenes, and the movie can go from gritty and grounded and into something brutally cold and draining. The movie can be violent, dark and bleak but it’s all done with a purpose. Beneath all the violence lies genuine emotions from everyone affected by these acts, and the movie never falls into a display of cheap thrills. The last third was really well done and a great conclusion to the story. I will say that the movie is quite long, especially at the end. There are so many characters in this movie that are hard to keep track of, some scenes felt dragged out and there’s a lot of exposition that is overdone. Outside of those, I don’t have a huge amount of issues with the movie.

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There are some wonderful performances in this movie, but it ultimately comes down to Lee Young-ae as Lee Geum-ja, the “Lady Vengeance” in this movie. It’s a fantastic performance of a compelling lead character. She’s developed and explored in both flashbacks and the present storyline to give her the backstory and depth needed. She shows such a range throughout the movie, threatening and out for revenge but we also see her more emotional side too. This performance and character definitely plays a big part in the movie working as well as it does. Choi Min-sik (Oh Dae-su in Oldboy) plays the real killer behind the murder that Geum-ja was sentenced for. He is great in his role here, and has a commanding presence on screen.

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Unsurprisingly, Park Chan-wook’s directing is incredible. Although each film in the Vengeance trilogy is similar in some way, each of them has its own distinct style, and Lady Vengeance is no exception. The cinematography is gorgeous, every scene is shot well and is mesmerising. The colour schemes were memorable, especially with how the colour tones slowly shift to black and white in the last half. There is a lot of creativity on display in this movie, with some inventive shots and bold transitions. Although the movie can be violent and gory, it does well at knowing when to not show violence completely. You still feel the impact of these scenes all the same. The score is melancholic and fantastic, and really fits the story really well.

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Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is a fantastic movie on pretty much every front. It’s directed excellently, the story is complex and compelling, and Lee Young-ae is incredible in the interesting lead role. This would be my second favourite of the Vengeance trilogy, and one of my favourite films from Park Chan-wook.

Saw II (2005) Review

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Saw 2

Time: 93 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] sadistic violence
Cast:
Tobin Bell as John Kramer
Shawnee Smith as Amanda Young
Donnie Wahlberg as Detective Eric Matthews
Erik Knudsen as Daniel Matthews
Franky G as Xavier
Glenn Plummer as Jonas
Emmanuelle Vaugier as Addison
Beverley Mitchell as Laura
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Officer Eric (Donnie Wahlberg) realizes that Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is back to playing his evil tricks of locking down people and gruesomely torturing them. Eric has to find a way to set his son and others free from Jigsaw’s dungeon.

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James Wan’s horror film Saw was quite the unexpected hit when it was released back in 2004. After the immensely successful opening weekend, a sequel was immediately green-lit, one without original Saw director Wan or writer Leigh Whannell. Saw II was certainly a larger movie, with a bigger budget, and with a lot more gore. While not as good or effective as the first movie, I still thought it was pretty good all things considering.

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Saw II is quite different from the first movie, it’s clear that the first movie wasn’t meant to have a sequel at all. Instead of exactly repeating the same scenario as in the first movie, in the sequel there are two storylines occurring at the same time, one is with characters who are trapped by Jigsaw, and the other is with the police with Jigsaw as they try to figure out where it is happening. Despite the series being heavily critical in the torture porn genre, like with the original movie, I wouldn’t quite file Saw II under that genre. It is still a mystery thriller, both with the police storyline and the trapped people as they are trying to find their way out. With that said, there are definitely a lot more traps. It is a bigger plot for sure, with the trapped people being stuck in a house instead of one room. I thought the plot is interesting, albeit a bit far fetched at times. The central tension with the main cop  played by Donnie Wahlberg, and Jigsaw, and the way it plays out is fantastic. The story is also focussed on being more fast paced, which sometimes works to its benefit, sometimes it doesn’t. There’s also a lot more Jigsaw. In this, Jigsaw seems to have an established philosophy for choosing life or dying, and we even get his backstory. There’s some problems with the writing itself. The trap segment has some flat characters and it’s hard to get invested in any of them. Some of the lines are pretty dumb and silly, and also some of the decisions made by characters are really dumb, one involving a glass box comes to mind. Nonetheless I was on board with the movie throughout. The ending definitely helps the movie quite a bit, it ends on a good note. The ending for the first Saw is pretty good but ultimately boiled down to “The dead guy in the room isn’t really dead and was the guy behind everything”. The ending to Saw II is genuinely clever and it worked quite well.

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Much of the cast are a mixed bag. The two lead characters in the first Saw movie are definitely flawed, but you liked them enough to somewhat hope that they wouldn’t die. Most of the characters here you don’t really like. It may be a weird thing but I can’t tell whether Donnie Wahlberg in the lead role of the central cop is a good performance or not. The characters stuck in the trap were rather annoying, most of the acting is average and you don’t really care about them. Of that group, Shawnee Smith does pretty well as Amanda, who’s one of the only characters from this movie who returned from the first Saw. The stand out performer in all of this movie is Tobin Bell as John Kramer, AKA Jigsaw. Bell was shown mainly in the ending of the first Saw, as he was revealed to be Jigsaw. In Saw II he gets to be seen throughout and has a larger presence and role. He’s an old man in a seat for most of the movie yet is incredibly menacing. He’s incredible particularly in his scenes with Donnie Wahlberg. The movie definitely wouldn’t work as well if he wasn’t in it.

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Instead of being directed by James Wan, it’s Darren Lynn Bousman who is directing. It certainly does try to adopt the visual design of the original movie. There’s a larger budget given at around $4 million, it is also a lot larger scale. As I said earlier, the first movie was set in a dirty bathroom with two people handcuffed, and in Saw II, the people trapped are stuck in a house. It doesn’t quite have the claustrophobia and griminess from the first movie, but works for what it is. The traps are quite creative, even some of the simplistic traps are effective, one involving syringes comes to mind. There’s a lot more gore here compared to the first Saw, it’s gruesome for sure. The original movie did not need gore to work, and it goes even more for high shock value, but I’m alright with it. Some of the editing can get annoying. While some of the editing in the first movie can be excused especially considering how the filmmakers needed to cut corners, I don’t know why it’s like this in this movie. The score from Charlie Clouser is once again effective and adds a lot to the movie.

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Saw II is a solid, albeit flawed follow up to the first movie. There are some issues with the writing and editing, and the story isn’t as captivating, and the movie not as memorable. However the increase in gore, some good traps and tension, and a lot of Tobin Bell as Jigsaw kept me interested. If you liked the first Saw movie, I’d saw the follow up is worth a watch. As of this time I’m willing to bet that of the main series, it’s the best sequel.

Harsh Times (2005) Review

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Harsh Times

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Contains violence,offensive language and drug use
Cast:
Christian Bale as Jim Davis
Freddy Rodriguez as Mike Alonzo
Eva Longoria as Sylvia
Tammy Trull as Marta
Director: David Ayer

Jim (Christian Bale) is a Gulf War veteran and he believes it is his sworn duty to protect Americans by policing the streets of Los Angeles. His dreams are shattered when he is rejected by the Los Angeles Police Department leaving him and his Mexican paramour in the lurch. Jim is soon offered a position in the Department of Homeland Security leading him to recruit his unemployed best friend Mike (Freddy Rodriguez) to carve a path of devastation across the city.

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Harsh Times was the only film from David Ayer I had yet to see. Although I know that much of the reception to much of his films has been mixed, I like most of Ayer’s other movies (with a couple of exceptions) and I’m a fan of Christian Bale, so I was looking forward to seeing what it would turn out to be, I wasn’t sure what to expect really. Harsh Times was reasonably okay, and I liked watching it, even with some of its glaring issues.

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The script is really the biggest issue of Harsh Times, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. You notice pretty early on that the dialogue is not exactly the strongest. I’ve noticed that in a lot of his written movies (with the exception of Fury, End of Watch and Training Day), the dialogue wasn’t all that great. That aside, it’s also not a movie where it’s easy to get invested in the characters. That’s mainly because there aren’t many (if any) morally good or likable characters in the movie, especially not Christian Bale’s character of Jim. They didn’t stop me from following it while watching it, but I never felt that close to the characters. I can definitely tell that it might turn some people off from it, but it didn’t affect my experience too much. At under 2 hours, it kept me reasonably interested from beginning to end.

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Christian Bale is an incredible actor, and while I wouldn’t rank his work here among his best performances (maybe just outside of the top 10), he’s still great here. While he could easily be an annoying character to have to follow (and with some not so good dialogue), Bale makes him work. He’s driving so much of the movie and holding things together. It may be well worth seeing Harsh Times just for his performance. Freddy Rodriguez was also good as the co-lead, who has almost as much screentime as Bale. The two of them are very convincing as friends, they share some great chemistry. They particularly gets to have some emotional moments towards the end. There isn’t much to say about the rest of the cast, but brief appearances from the likes of Terry Crews and J.K. Simmons were nice to see.

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David Ayer directed Harsh Times well, for a debut movie effort, he did a pretty good job. It’s not amazing, but it works well enough right for this story. It’s not a great looking movie by any means, but that sort of works for the gritty tone and story of the film. There is some slightly annoying editing when it comes to Bale’s character having some breakdowns. I get the point of them, and you don’t really see too much of it, but the way those moments were handled just felt a little over the top.

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Harsh Times is another David Ayer movie which works just fine. I thought it was pretty decent, Ayer directed it well enough, and the story was enough to keep me watching from beginning to end, even if I wasn’t invested in the characters all that much. It does have its very notable flaws however, mostly with regards to the script, and it isn’t one that you must go out and see immediately. However, I think it still might be worth checking out for Christian Bale’s performance at the very least.

Pride & Prejudice (2005) Review

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Pride & Prejudice

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet
Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy
Brenda Blethyn as Mrs. Bennet
Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet
Tom Hollander as Mr. Collins
Rosamund Pike as Jane Bennet
Carey Mulligan as Catherine “Kitty” Bennet
Jena Malone as Lydia Bennet
Talulah Riley as Mary Bennet
Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Director: Joe Wright

The story is based on Jane Austen’s novel about five sisters – Jane (Rosamund Pike), Elizabeth (Keira Knightley), Mary (Talulah Riley), Kitty (Carey Mulligan), and Lydia Bennet (Jena Malone) – in Georgian England. Their lives are turned upside down when wealthy young Mr Bingley (Simon Woods) and his best friend, Mr Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) arrive in their neighbourhood.

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2005’s Pride & Prejudice was a movie I had heard about and have been meaning to watch for a while. Actually right before I watched the movie, I saw the mini series starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, which I thought was quite good. It came with some of the dated aspects and some very tv moments as expected, but I liked it as it was. The movie is similar but different, and treating it on its own, it’s quite good.

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Now there’s something I have to note first of all, I’m not familiar with the Jane Austen story, but from what I can tell, the mini series is pretty much an exact translation of the book. So I’m going on the assumption that I know what the book is generally like. The movie comes with the expected adaptation flaws, and it does simplify and change some aspects, though it’s usually not too much of a problem for me. It’s even set at an earlier time period which was an interesting choice. The only part that bothered me was that some aspects feel rather rushed, mainly in the first act. Going from a 6 episode long mini series to a 2 hour long movie is definitely going to feel jarring especially when comparing the two, but they rushed through so many of the early parts for like no reason at all. They could’ve easily added 10 minutes more to that portion for some moments to breathe. After that first act however it gets better, and I was quite invested in the movie even though I knew of the story and indeed it largely played out the same way as in the mini series. It’s been called one of the most romantic romance movies but some and I can certainly see why. The take on the story feels quite fresh that even people who aren’t as into period piece dramas/romances will likely find something to enjoy here. Side note but if possible, try to watch the American version of the movie. It includes an extended ending and I’m not sure why both versions don’t have that.

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The cast is stacked, and all the actors performed very well. Keira Knightley plays the lead character of Elizabeth Bennett and she was really great. This version of her is quite different to the mini series (and from what I can tell the book), but I thought it worked quite well for the film. Matthew Macfadyen plays Mr Darcy and he was really good, although it is quite hard seeing anyone else other than Colin Firth in the role. The chemistry between Knightley and Macfadyen is top notch and they really sell that romance over the course of the film. The actresses who played the Bennett sisters with Rosamund Pike, Jena Malone, Talulah Riley, and Carey Mulligan, as well as the rest of the cast which includes the likes of Brenda Blethyn, Donald Sutherland, Tom Hollander and Judi Dench also do well in their roles.

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This is Joe Wright’s directorial debut and he did pretty well with his first film. It’s a great looking movie, with the costume design and sets being at the level of quality that you’d expect them to be. The cinematography also is what makes this version so special, and the aforementioned romanticism owes a lot to it, particularly with what the camera focusses on in certain moments. The score by Dario Marianelli is also really great and perfect for the film.

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Whether you’re familiar with the source material or not, Pride & Prejudice is definitely worth watching. It’s a very well made movie, greatly directed and acted. As to whether I think this or the mini series is better, they both have their advantages and disadvantages, but they ultimately both work for what they are.

Crash (2005) Review

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence and offensive language
Cast:
Sandra Bullock as Jean Cabot
Don Cheadle as Det. Graham Waters
Matt Dillon as Sgt. John Ryan
Jennifer Esposito as Ria
Brendan Fraser as D.A. Rick Cabot
Terrence Howard as Cameron Thayer
Ludacris as Anthony
Thandie Newton as Christine Thayer
Michael Peña as Daniel Ruiz
Ryan Phillippe as Officer Tom Hansen
Larenz Tate as Peter Waters
Director: Paul Haggis

Writer-director Paul Haggis interweaves several connected stories about race, class, family and gender in Los Angeles in the aftermath of 9/11. Characters include a district attorney (Brendan Fraser) and his casually prejudiced wife (Sandra Bullock), dating police detectives Graham (Don Cheadle) and Ria (Jennifer Esposito), a victimized Middle Eastern store owner and a wealthy African-American couple (Terrence Dashon Howard, Thandie Newton) humiliated by a racist traffic cop (Matt Dillon).

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I had been meaning to do a review for Crash for a while. I remember hearing about the movie for the longest time, mainly with it being widely considered the worst pick for Best Picture at the Academy Awards and I had always wondered what about it sparked such a negative reaction outside of it beating out Brokeback Mountain. Having seen it, I can understand why it’s been receiving so much hate, and I have to say that it’s pretty well deserving of it. It’s more than that it’s just a somewhat okay movie that got more praise that it deserved, at best it’s well intended but clunky, at worst it’s horribly misguided and borderline offensive.

Crash is one of those award movies where a bunch of characters’ plotlines are all mixed together and crossover at different points. While there are some coincidences that I bought, other moments felt so ludicrous that it was hard to take things seriously (and the rest of the movie didn’t help that much). Most of the plotlines weren’t that particularly interesting, and the ones that were tended to be because the acting was great or something along those lines. Crash is very questionable in how it takes on racism, it’s very blatant and has no subtlety at all. Now it isn’t required to be subtle, but when it handles the topic poorly, the ham fisted feel to it make it feel worse. People don’t act like normal people, if they’re not stereotypes, they’re random characters meant to deliver a message through random character changes. I’ll use Sandra Bullock’s ‘arc’ as an example, she nearly gets robbed, which leads to her being racist against her caretakers, then she falls down some stairs, then the caretakers help her, leading to her not being racist (not even kidding, that’s her role in this movie). There are some admittedly pretty good individual scenes. For example, there’s a payoff scene between Matt Dillon and Thandie Newton which when seen out of context is great. However, in the context of the film, it just feels gross (more on that later). Some of the plotlines have very mixed messages. I guess they are at least tried to be fair with their treatment of people by ethnicities, so they’re showing good and bad people in each ethnicities, except for Asian people for whatever reason, they aren’t particularly portrayed very well here to say the least. Crash is also very questionable in some of its plotlines and decisions. There are way too many plotlines and characters to recall, but one of which is about the racist traffic cop played by Matt Dillon, and I can’t convey how poor some of these messages are without revealing things, if you don’t want to know about it before watching the movie, then skip ahead to the next paragraph. Long story short, Dillon pulls over a couple (Thandie Newton and Terrence Howard, and molests Newton’s character. A few scenes later he responds to a car crash, and it happens to be Newton’s character, and he saves her from the car before it explodes, which I guess is supposed to be him redeeming himself by actually doing his job. Make of that how you will.

Crash has an unbelievably large and talented cast, with the likes of Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Ludacris, Thandie Newton, Michael Pena, William Ficthner and many others all involved. The cast is by far the best part of the movie, most of whom deliver decent performances. The problem is that many of the characters don’t feel like real people, some of them being cartoonish, others being rather unlikable. Matt Dillon for example is pretty good in his role but it’s hard to think highly of his performance considering how the movie treats him, going from one end of the spectrum to the other, with very little time to actually show his ‘change’.

The direction by Paul Haggis is fine, nothing special. It’s shot well, edited well, the music was fine enough, there’s not much to really say about that honestly.

I found this movie personally really bad on its own, but even if you don’t compare it to Brokeback Mountain, I’m not sure how it got nominated for anything. There are a few scenes that are pretty good and some of the actors are able to give some good performances but that’s it. None of the characters feel like real people, the attempts of taking on racism is misguided at best, offensive at worst, and the end result is just. I won’t say not to watch it, I know that some people still like Crash, and you might end up liking it. Check it out for yourself and make up your own mind on it.

 

Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith (2005) Retrospective Review

Time: 140 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi
Natalie Portman as Padmé Amidala
Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader
Ian McDiarmid as Supreme Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious
Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu
Jimmy Smits as Senator Bail Organa
Christopher Lee as Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Kenny Baker as R2-D2
Frank Oz as the voice of Yoda
Director: George Lucas

Three years into the Clone Wars, the Jedi rescues Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) from Count Dooku (Christopher Lee). As Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor). As Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) pursues a new threat, Anakin (Hayden Christensen) acts as a double agent between the Jedi Council and Palpatine, and is lured into a sinister plan to rule the galaxy.

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Revenge of the Sith was already the best of the prequel trilogy, so when I was going through my rewatches of the Star Wars series, I knew I’d still like it. However I ended up loving it even more, to the point where it’s one of my favourite movies in the series, flaws and all. After the past two disappointing prequels, George Lucas handled the final film in the trilogy greatly, delivering on a satisfying conclusion and one of the highlights of the series.

Revenge of the Sith at 2 hours and 20 minutes had my attention all the way through. The dialogue is better, with some occasionally bad lines that go through, however they don’t detract too much from the movie. It’s a much darker story, and it really needed to be that, with it being the chapter of Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader. This movie was the first Star Wars movie to be given a PG-13/M rating, and it uses it to great effect. Revenge of the Sith starts out on a high note, with an entertaining action sequence as Anakin and Obi Wan are in fighters as they try to rescue a ‘captured’ Chancellor Palpatine. The CGI and action are good, and it gets you really into what’s going on. The rest of the rescue was great, as they encounter droids, Count Dooku, and General Grievous, and manage to land half a ship. It’s pretty much classic Star Wars.

If there was a weakest section of the movie, it would be the one where Obi Wan is hunting Grievous, not that it’s bad or anything. It’s entertaining and all, but that’s all it really is. It doesn’t really help that Grievous wasn’t that great as an antagonist. While they really only got to shine in the third acts of their respective movies, Darth Maul and Count Dooku still got to show off. As unique as an antagonist as Grievous is physically, he ends up being a mostly normal physical threat. His lightsabre fight with Obi Wan was the most disappointing part of it, with it only lasting 30 seconds and with Kenobi seemingly easily cutting off two of his hands. Nothing bad about this section necessarily, just pales in comparison to the rest of the movie.

Surprisingly I was more interested in Anakin’s story, but that needed to be the case, with this whole trilogy being about him becoming Darth Vader after all. There had been much criticisms about the portrayal of The Jedi Council, and how unheroic and sometimes unlikable they are seen in the prequels. The portrayal is deliberate, and that’s even more so the case with Revenge of the Sith. The part where Palpatine tells Anakin about how the Jedi and the Sith are quite similar in the opera house scene, he really didn’t have to lie all that much. Much of the Jedi don’t exactly stick by their code, a chief example being Mace Windu trying to kill Palpatine even when he pretty much had him already beaten. Also remember back to after Anakin and Obi Wan’s conversation after the mission, where Kenobi lists the killing of Dooku among some of the successful things he did on that mission, whereas Skywalker didn’t feel like it was right and wasn’t the Jedi way, and only did it because Palpatine pushed him to do it. Anakin’s questionings of some of their dealings aren’t unfounded. The Jedi were also very paranoid and distrustful, especially when it came to Anakin. Mace making the point directly by himself that although Anakin was on the Jedi Council, he wouldn’t be a master (which turns out has never been done before), just solidified their distrust for him, aside from Obi Wan of course. A mix of these, along with fearing about Padme dying, would all lead to him on the path to the dark side.

This would all build up until Palpatine is revealed as the Sith lord behind everything, and there’s a direct confrontation. The scene where Palpatine and Windu fight is rather disappointing considering the skill and power of both, but the way Palpatine just kills the other 3 Jedi within like 5 seconds is so silly. It’s not that he’s shown to be quite powerful (that’s what we’d expect) but 2 of them practically let themselves get killed. I noticed that some people really had issues with how quickly Anakin makes the decision to join Palpatine, especially as it’s done right after he says “What have I done?”. Personally I saw this as Anakin reluctantly joining since there was no turning back after being involved with killing Mace Windu and helping Palpatine, mixed with his genuine disillusion with the Jedi Council, and of course still his desire to save Padme. I do remember when George Lucas once said that in this movie you’ll get to learn why he was given the name of Darth Vader. He must’ve forgotten to do that because it’s not explained anywhere here (unless you know that Vader in German means father), not that it really matters though, it’s a small detail.

The third act showing the fall of the Jedi order was really great. The Order 66 is indeed a fantastically handled sequence and one of the highlights of the entire series, as it cuts around to the Jedi being killed by the clones that they were fighting alongside minutes ago. You really feel the weight of everything going on in this last act. The final fights are also really good, with Obi Wan against Anakin and Yoda against the Emperor. With the former you get a bunch of large scale fight scenes in the volcanic planet of Mustafar, and the latter you get both parties using the force plenty as well as using the lightsabres. I do think they went a little overboard with the Anakin and Obi Wan fight, where the fight is so long and they two of them seem to be keep being placed in every ridiculous scenario possible, but the movie seemed to be leaning into the whole space opera thing, and on that end it mostly worked. Outside of that, the only slight problem I had with the Anakin and Obi Wan fight was that I was hoping to see was at least some attempt from the latter to bring Anakin back from the dark side at the beginning of it, given that just before he told Yoda that he can’t do it. I would’ve liked that instead of Kenobi just pretty much going in knowing that he’s already gone at this point. The moment of Padme giving birth being paralleled with Anakin’s turn into Darth Vader was pretty much perfect, and I was even fine with Vader’s freakout over hearing that Padme is dead, it would make sense. But I’m with everyone as not being such a fan of his giant “NOOOOOOOO” at the end of the scene, it was a little too much and rather silly. The rest of the ending is great and set things up well for the next movie. Side note but I never picked up till my most recent rewatch that C-3PO and R2-D2 had their memories wiped at the end of the movie, that made so much sense as to why they don’t recognise some of the other characters in the original trilogy.

Ewan McGregor is once again pitch perfect as Obi-Wan Kenobi, and he gets better with every subsequent Star Wars movie he appears in. He resembles Alec Guinness even more and is completely believable in the role, he’s particularly great towards the third act. Hayden Christensen gets a bad rap for his performances as Anakin Skywalker in these prequels. Indeed, I had some problems with him in Attack of the Clones. In Revenge of the Sith there are a few lines of dialogue that aren’t all that great. However most of the writing for him works, and I don’t actually have any problems with his performance here. The dynamic between him and Obi-Wan for instance was what I wanted more of from the two of them in Attack of the Clones. You just get the first act of them during the rescue, as well as some other scenes involving the council before Kenobi leaves to go after Grievous, but they work so well. It feels so natural, none of these forced “You’re like a father to me” lines from Attack of the Clones which you don’t believe. You can also really see the conflict in Anakin, and that’s something that Christensen nailed as well. Sure, Anakin is moody again, but unlike Attack of the Clones, it doesn’t come across like some whiny teenager. Christensen’s visual acting is fantastic, while I struggled to see him as Anakin in the previous movie, here I buy it. And of course when it came to him as Vader, I really bought it. Of course he does have some pretty lame lines at times that most actors would struggle with (“If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy”, “From my point of view the Jedi are evil”), but he also delivers them as best as possible.

Natalie Portman gets to do more acting-wise here in this movie, it’s a shame though that her character of Padme is just relegated to being pregnant, being worried, crying, giving birth and then dying, especially considering that she actually did some things in the plot of the other two prequels. It’s really annoying hearing that originally in the script, Padme was involved with forming the rebellion, and that would’ve been perfect for her. Given some of the things she says in the movie, it would’ve made sense, like in one scene where she seems to be doubting the war. Surprisingly the romance between Padme and Anakin actually works here. Sure you get a few bad lines between the two (“You’re so beautiful”, “Only because I’m so in love”), but you are able to stomach it, not to mention the soap opera lines seem a little deliberate, with Star Wars being a space opera after all. You can actually buy their relationship, even with the scenes with less lines. The rest of the supporting cast also do well. Ian McDiarmid is always fantastic as Emperor Palpatine, The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones gradually showed Palpatine’s rise to power, but in Revenge of the Sith he’s at the centre of the story. His scenes with Anakin are great as he’s slowly bringing him towards the dark side, the highlight being the opera house scene, where he tells him the story about Darth Plagueis the wise. Now McDiarmid does go incredibly over the top at points (even more than in Return of the Jedi) and maybe he’s a little silly, but even those moments are just glorious to watch too. McDiarmid and McGregor are the MVPs of these Star Wars prequels, they’re fantastic in their roles. General Grievous was a character that was introduced in the animated Clone Wars series. He was quite a unique villain, a cyborg who had 4 arms, each wielding lightsabres more often than not. So he was known even before Revenge of the Sith came out. It’s unfortunate then that he’s rather underwhelming in the movie. Sure he can pose a bit of a threat, but his fight with Obi Wan was rather disappointing, and there’s not much to him as a character.

I think George Lucas did a great job at directing this movie. While the movie has its fair share of exposition, Lucas seemed to allow the movie to breathe and told the story visually at points. One of the biggest examples is when Anakin and Padme are seemingly looking at each other across buildings, which takes place right after Mace Windu and a few other Jedi go out to arrest Palpatine. Along with the great facial acting from both Christensen and Portman, it’s such an eerie and powerful moment, and manages to convey so much about both characters at that moment without needing a single line of dialogue. There definitely is a lot of reliance on CGI, but the visuals themselves are definitely better than Attack of the Clones. There are so many spectacular sequences that work really well, from the lightsabre fights, to the space battles, and so on. There are plenty of moments that are really over the top, especially some fight scenes, but again, this is a full on space opera, and seeing the movie as that certainly made it make sense. The worlds are also greatly designed and thought out, same with the robots, costumes, etc. John Williams has always been good at scoring Star Wars, but I’m pretty confident in saying that Revenge of the Sith is his best score for a Star Wars movie. It’s large, epic, emotional, tragic, and just fit perfectly with the whole movie.

I always liked Revenge of the Sith, but the more recent viewing of it made me love it even more, and solidified it as one of my favourite Star Wars movies. Its issues are noticeable and hurt the movie a lot, but it’s only because the rest of the movie works so well. It generally accomplished what the movie needed to do, and although the prequels were mostly disappointing, it’s a relief that the final film at least managed to stick the landing.

Brick (2005) Review

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains medium level violence
Cast:
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Brendan Frye
Nora Zehetner as Laura Dannon
Lukas Haas as the Pin
Noah Fleiss as Tugger
Matt O’Leary as The Brain
Emilie de Ravin as Emily Kostich
Noah Segan as Dode
Richard Roundtree as Assistant V.P. Trueman
Director: Rian Johnson

After receiving a frantic phone call from his ex-girlfriend, teenage loner Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) learns that her dead body has been found. Vowing to solve her murder himself, he must infiltrate high-school cliques that he previously avoided. His search for the truth places him before some of the school’s roughest characters, leading to a confrontation with a drug dealer known as “the Pin (Lukas Haas).”

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Brick is a movie I’ve heard about for a while and have been meaning to watch. Having seen Rian Johnson’s Looper and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I’ve wanted to check out his first movie even more. All I basically knew about is that it was some kind of noire movie set at a high school and starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead role. Brick was a really great neo-noire mystery, and I’m really glad that I finally got around to seeing it.

There are so many parts of the movie that shouldn’t work at all, it certainly doesn’t seem to on paper. You wouldn’t think that placing a detective and noire plot set inside the setting of a high school would work at all, however it did. Oddly enough, for the most part, Brick seems to be playing everything completely straight instead of making it a comedy. The detective, the femme fatale, the kingpin/boss, a mystery, the way the characters talk and the dialogue they deliver, a bittersweet ending, all the typical tropes that are in a classic noire movie are mixed in with this plot and you can actually take it seriously at the same time. Occasionally there are scenes which are much more humorous in nature, which at least shows that Johnson and the film are self aware, while not going so far as to detract from the seriousness of the rest of the plot. I guess Brick is a satire of the genre, but instead of making it a comedy like you’d think they would, they instead take it for a darker turn. It’s also a genuinely well written movie, despite many of the familiar tropes, the twists are good and you can’t necessarily predict where the plot is going to go or what is going to happen. It’s not just using the satire aspect as a gimmick. Johnson’s writing really makes this work, there are a lot of elements at play that don’t seem like they would quite fit together easily. The ending as well was great, and fitted rather well considering the rest of the movie.

Most of the actors here you don’t really recognise, however they are mostly good in their roles (with the occasional performance not as great as some others). There are two highlights among them though. The first of them is Joseph Gordon Levitt, the most famous and recognisable of the cast. Levitt plays the role like the classic detective seen in classic noire movies, and he manages to make it work and you can actually take it seriously. He gives one of his best performances, and that’s really saying a lot. The other standout is Nora Zehetner, whose character seems more in the femme fatale sort of role.

You can tell that it’s a lower budgeted movie, and in fact it’s just at $450,000. However, Rian Johnson did a lot with very little, and his style works exceptionally well for a debut. He clearly knows what he’s doing behind the camera, it is a very well shot movie. Again, the detective and noire tropes are conveyed very well here, as the familiar types of shots seen in said movies are present here too. Even the music played here are reminiscent of classic noires.

Brick showed off Rian Johnson’s talents pretty early on and was a great neo-noire and a good movie on its own. The cast was good (particularly Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and it’s written and directed very well by Johnson. Although I do think a couple of his other movies are a little better, it’s worth a watch for sure.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) Review

Time: 157 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Medium fantasy violence.
Cast:
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort
Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore
Brendan Gleeson as Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody
Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy
Gary Oldman as Sirius Black
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall
Timothy Spall as Peter Pettigrew
Director: Mike Newell

The fourth movie in the Harry Potter franchise sees Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) returning for his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, along with his friends, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson). There is an upcoming tournament between the three major schools of magic, with one participant selected from each school by the Goblet of Fire. When Harry’s name is drawn, even though he is not eligible and is a fourth player, he must compete in the dangerous contest.

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After Prisoner of Azkaban, the Harry Potter series would continue with Goblet of Fire, this time directed by Mike Newell. I think this movie is generally liked but I’m not sure what the general consensus by the general audience is on it. To me, Goblet of Fire is very solid and has some truly great moments but it also has some moments which don’t work that well, like some of the cheesiness, the at times slower pace and longer length. Overall though, the pros more than outweigh the cons.

Goblet of Fire adopts a significantly darker tone and it was appropriate for the story, the film really does nail its darker moments. The humour a lot of the time works but at other times it’s a little too silly and cheesy for my taste. Something that was very evident to me at least was that the movie is quite over the top at times, with how certain things are portrayed, the way the actors play their roles, everything was over the top. At times it works, at other times it doesn’t work as well and comes across as a little too silly. While it’s been a while since I’ve read the book, I feel like there’s a bunch of things missing from the movie. It feels like the movie has added in unnecessary things and removed some necessary story points. It’s not a problem if you are familiar with the books but if you aren’t, there are some things that are unresolved or unexplained that I think would really stand out to you. The rest of the movies do a good enough job familiarising the audience with new ideas and things relating to the world, but Goblet of Fire does have some problems with this. Also, some of the side characters that were featured a little more in the book don’t get as much screentime in the movie. This movie is long again, at about 2 hours and 40 minutes long and you really do feel the length. Despite it being as long as Chamber of Secrets, that film had significantly better pacing. While Goblet of Fire has some exciting and captivating moments, and can really drag at times, especially the yule ball segment (the preparation of the ball and also the ball itself in particular). The Yule Ball segment does make the story and everything come to a huge halt, especially among Harry having to complete all these trials. While I guess it does a good job at showing teenagers acting like teenagers and what it’s like, there are times where it does linger on it too much. The third act is pretty much perfect in my eyes and is really effective and impactful… well it’s almost perfect, the ending concludes the story way too quickly and on such a jarringly light note, especially considering the dark things that were happening 10 minutes beforehand.

Most of the cast do well but something that I noticed was that a lot of the acting can be over the top. As I said previously also, some of the side characters that were featured a little more in the book don’t get as much screentime and so some actors aren’t utilised to quite their fullest potential. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson are once again good in their roles. You can definitely tell that these characters (and the other characters their age) are maturing more than in the previous movies. These characters are acting more angsty and more like teenagers and while they did a good job at it, they succeeded a little too well. And I know the justification about teenagers acting like teenagers can be used for Ron Weasley in this movie but he really comes across as unlikable and annoying in this movie, particularly when he and Harry stop being friends for a period of time. Granted this was in the book but it doesn’t make him any less annoying. Robert Pattinson (yes, pre-Twilight) is also quite good as Cedric Diggory. Some of the over the top performances work for the roles and the movie. Brendan Gleeson’s Mad Eye Moody (as the new Defence Against the Dark Arts Teacher) is over the top and scene stealing (and there’s a reasonable enough explanation at the end of the movie for how crazy he acts). Miranda Richardson as Rita Skeeter isn’t in a ton of scenes but she is solid in the role and suitably over the top. David Tennant is also really over the top but it works well enough for the role. Some other over the top performances however are a little too much and are just distracting, like Roger Lloyd Pack as Barty Crouch Sr. However the most criticised performance was Michael Gambon’s Albus Dumbledore. There are many times when he’s quite loud and over the top here. Particularly the infamous moment when he goes beserk and delivers the line “Harry did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire?” when in the book he is meant to be doing it ‘calmly’. It’s not just his really loud moments however, a lot of his line deliveries and the way he acted didn’t fit Dumbledore at all. Thankfully his performance as Dumbledore improved significantly after this movie, and he does have some okay moments during Goblet of Fire. A lot of the returning cast members like Alan Rickman as Severus Snape and Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy are great once again. Ralph Fiennes plays Voldemort and he does a great job in his small screentime in the third act. It is a larger than life and is an over the top villain performance, but like Fiennes once said, there’s no way else you could play this role. He put everything into this performance and played it excellently.

Director Mike Newell as expected of in the other movies with different directors, he added his own style and direction to the next Harry Potter movie. The visual effects improved a little over the last movie and the magic looks quite different from the previous movies, with very distinct colours (like red and green) being used. Some sequences are fantastic, such as the challenges which involves Harry on a broomstick being chased by a dragon, Harry swimming underwater and Harry in a magical maze. Also the third act with the confrontation with Voldemort, all of that was directed well. This is the first Harry Potter to not have their score done by John Williams, this time it’s done by Patrick Doyle, who does a pretty good job, it fitted for a Harry Potter movie, especially for this story and the tone they were going for. I know it’s a weird thing to focus on, but it’s really jarring when all the main characters suddenly have long hair, particularly Harry and Ron. Not really a problem, just sort of distracting. That’s the least of the movie’s problems anyway.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has some really good things and some very apparent flaws all at once. The darker tone was done very effectively and there are some truly great segments (particularly the challenges segments and the third act). At the same time the movie feels overlong and drawn out, with the pacing not being particularly good. Also, some of the over the top scenes work but some of the other over the top aspects end up backfiring significantly. Still I think Goblet of Fire is a solid movie, just not one of the better movies in the series.

The Ring Two (2005) Review

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Horror scenes
Cast:
Naomi Watts as Rachel Keller
David Dorfman as Aidan Keller
Kelly Stables as Samara Morgan
Daveigh Chase as Samara Morgan (archive footage)
Simon Baker as Max Rourke
Elizabeth Perkins as Dr. Emma Temple
Gary Cole as Martin Savide
Sissy Spacek as Evelyn Borden
Director: Hideo Nakata

A journalist Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) must prevent evil Samara (Daveigh Chase) from taking possession of her son’s (David Dorfman) soul.

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I watched The Ring movies in a bit of a weird order. I watched the original, the third film and now I’ve finally watched the second film. I had heard a lot of bad things about this movie but out of morbid curiosity I decided to check it out anyway. Even though it’s not anywhere on the level of the original, it’s not horrendous. It is however a rather pointless and bizarre film that really isn’t that good. At least its not as bad as Rings, I can say that much.

There really wasn’t a logical reason for a sequel to The Ring existing aside from the first film being successful. The story to The Ring Two wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t really that interesting. Some of the story is fine and even had potential, but a lot of the same time there is some questionable ideas thrown in that don’t exactly add up or work. For example, there is a concept with Rachel (Naomi Watts) and her son communicating with each other in their dreams as it’s the only way that Samara won’t hear them, that just was odd and there was really no explanation for it. Also there are some random scenes thrown in, such as one involving a car and deers, by the time it got to that scene, I knew that there was something wrong about the movie (even more so than before). The whole film wasn’t captivating at all, it’s borderline uninteresting. I was interested to a degree, I never really checked out of the movie completely but the story was really just okay at best. It never gets more or less interesting, it’s just one consistent line of mediocrity.

Naomi Watts returns to reprise her role in the sequel, but her character from the previous film is practically missing. Watts to her credit tries her hardest but it feels like she’s playing a completely different character, one which doesn’t particularly have much depth. David Dorfman on the other hand… was not very good. And the thing is that he was in the previous film and while not great, he was okay. I can’t tell whether the problem with The Ring Two is his acting or the direction he was given but either way he wasn’t good at all. Unfortunately, the film focussed on him quite a lot, which really brings down the movie a lot. There really wasn’t anything worth mentioning about the supporting cast.

You can definitely notice the lack of Gore Verbinski’s direction from the original Ring. This time you have Hideo Nakata directing, who directed the original Japanese film (Ringu) and while I can’t comment on his direction on that film, his direction on The Ring Two is a noticeable step down from Verbinski’s. It’s shot competently enough but it lacks the tension and atmosphere of the original. It also doesn’t handle the scares well. Whereas The Ring would’ve had like 2 jump scares in the whole movie, The Ring Two had many more jumpscares, and none of them worked. Some of the scares and moments are downright cheesy at points.

The Ring Two wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be but it is still noticeably a step down from the original. The great direction by Gore Verbinski is not here and instead just feels rather basic, the creepy atmosphere is non existent and the story wasn’t that captivating. The Ring Two is unnecessary and mediocre, and it doesn’t do enough special things to really warrant its existence. It’s still better than Rings but that’s not saying much.