Tag Archives: 2006

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2006) Review

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I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK

Time: 107 Minutes
Cast:
Rain as Park Il-soon
Im Soo-jung as Cha Young-goon
Director: Park Chan-wook

After his bloody `revenge’ trilogy, Korean director Park Chan-Wook directs this deliriously daft rom-com. Young-goon (Im Soo-jung) works in a maddening dead-end job making transistor radios. Flipping, she insists she is a cyborg and that she only needs to lick batteries for sustenance. She is sent to a psychiatric ward where she is befriended by schizophrenic kleptomaniac Il-Sun (Rain). The two damaged souls fall in love.

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I first heard of this movie from it’s very distinct and weird title, which definitely made it stand out. Then I heard that Park Chan-wook directed it which interests me, the movies I had seen from him are great, and I never heard of I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK before. I decided to check it out for Park’s involvement alone. It definitely wasn’t what I expected, and while I don’t love it, I do think it’s quite good.

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This movie is basically a romantic comedy that takes place in a mental hospital and about a girl who thinks she’s a cyborg, and much of the movie spends time with her going out with another patient. The story is not unfamiliar, focusing on humans who are longing to connect in a world of malnourished relationships. It’s definitely the lightest of Park’s movies if only because of how dark all his other movies are. With that said still, it does have some Park elements, a little bit of revenge and some darker moments. It is a very quirky and bizarre movie, absurd, creative and with a lot of humour, yet heartfelt and sensitive. It does have quite a bit of charm to it, and it’s like if you mixed Amelie with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and it was directed by Wes Anderson. Most the characters in the movie are confirmed to be insane and are largely impossible to identify with, but they are still fully realised and complex characters. Something interesting is that compared to other similar movies, it’s less focused on these people escaping or trying to find sanity, instead focusing more on them accepting themselves, trying to find happiness and carry on. Whether you like this film depends on if you like atmospheric films and if you like the atmosphere of this particular film. Quite frankly, not a lot happens plot wise even when stuff does happen. The story was the characters, so your enjoyment also depends on how engaged you are with the characters. To be honest, the movie doesn’t connect with me that much. It does try to be whimsical very hard, and the quirks weren’t enough to keep me engaged. The humour wasn’t quite my thing either and didn’t always work for me. The movie is just following two idiosyncratic characters in a mental institution doing their own things for 90 minutes and that wasn’t enough for me. The characters don’t do a lot other than being weird and I wasn’t particularly interested in them. It is also a little too cartoony and light to actually get into it (surprising really). I will however give credit to the portrayal of mental health patients in this movie, they aren’t victimised or villainised. Despite being an absurd and quirky comedy, they display them in a somewhat serious way.

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Generally I thought the acting was good. The highlights were the leads in Im Soon-jung and Rain playing the roles of Cha Young-goon and Park Il-soon respectively, the former being a woman who believes to be a cyborg, and the latter a patient who is a thief. They both do great jobs in the lead roles and have a comfortable and believable chemistry in the forefront.

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Park Chan-wook is a great director and once again his work is great here. The technical aspects definitely help the movie work as well as it does. There was a lot of energetic and creative work behind the camera, with some stellar cinematography. The use of colour was fantastic, and the production design was stellar. The fantasy sequences definitely go all out and are very fantastical and over the top, which is fitting considering that most of the movie takes place from Young-goon’s perspective and mindset. Finally, the score is great and really fits the movie well.

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I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK is currently my least favourite film from Park Chan-wook but it’s by no means a bad movie. It’s acted well, its charming and I’m glad I watched it. I guess it just wasn’t for me, I wasn’t as invested with the story and characters as I would’ve liked, maybe I just prefer Park when he’s doing darker movies. The movie isn’t quite for everyone, if you’re not a big fan of movies with any degree of quirkiness, I’m not sure you’ll get into this one. However if you like any of Park’s other movies I do think it is at least worth checking out.

Saw III (2006) Review

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Saw 3

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Tobin Bell as John Kramer
Shawnee Smith as Amanda Young
Angus Macfadyen as Jeff Denlon
Bahar Soomekh as Lynn Denlon
Dina Meyer as Detective Allison Kerry
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) abducts a doctor (Bahar Soomekh) in order to keep himself alive while he watches his new apprentice (Shawnee Smith) put an unlucky citizen named Jeff (Angus Macfadyen) through a brutal test.

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Saw III is the last of the Saw movies I’m rewatching before I watch the rest of the series for the first time. From my last viewing, I remember this being just okay, though definitely steps below the previous two movies. However, that was a couple of years ago, so I thought I’d give it another go. My thoughts remain pretty much the same, it’s just okay at best.

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The writing is a very mixed bag. The first half does feel dragged quite a bit, but the movie does pick up as it goes along. Saw III doesn’t quite have the originality of the first two movies, and essentially is the same old story as before. It has two ongoing storylines, one is following a character named Jeff, who is put through a series of Jigsaw’s tests. The other is Jigsaw having his apprentice Amanda kidnap a doctor, and getting her to keep him alive for one more test. The Jeff storyline involves him wanting revenge on the people responsible for something that killed his son, and then finding those people caught in traps to test him. It certainly had potential and was more than just Jeff trying to survive traps. However, the execution of that storyline had much to be desired. I guess a large part is that the character of Jeff was quite annoying and hard to like, but everything else in that storyline still felt rather familiar. The doctor storyline with Jigsaw and Amanda was a little more interesting, I liked the dynamic between those three characters. Granted the other storyline not being that good certainly helped, but it really says something that the storyline that doesn’t involve traps is way better than the storyline that does (and in a Saw movie of all things). It’s also not trying really hard to shock you with the gore, and the one scene that is a bit gory is genuinely effective and one of the best scenes of the film.

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The theme of this movie is letting go and knowing what a life costs to you, and it really beats you over the head with that throughout. The thing is that this time, you aren’t really tense about the main characters actually potentially dying. It also doesn’t help that you don’t really like a lot of the characters, at the very least Jeff. As a result, it’s hard to be emotionally connected to the story, which is unfortunate considering that it is actually trying to actually add an emotional dimension to it. There are conversations of morality and it can feel a little self important and soap opera-esque at times, but I even enjoyed that. Saw III is a lot more crazy than the previous two movies, and it’s also a lot more far fetched and ridiculous with its plot. The plot is also more disjointed and unfocused, and the inconsistencies become more frequent and noticeable as the film progresses. The Saw series has been widely labelled torture porn, and I firmly say that the first two movies aren’t that. While I wouldn’t quite call Saw III torture porn, it is definitely leaning towards it with this instalment. This movie attempts to be more grisly and darker, however it still ends up being sillier. Saw III links its story to the first movie and the second movie, and while I liked seeing the connections, the timeline is a mess. I’m guessing that with the remaining movies in the series, they are only going to continue linking the entries together and make an even more confused timeline. There is a twist ending (unsurprising, it’s a Saw movie), I do like it, and there was more to it than I was expected. However I will note that it is such a downer ending, that it somehow ends up being cartoonish. The movie is an hour and 50 minutes long and that actually seemed a bit too long for the movie, especially with some of the dragging pace.

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Tobin Bell is great as Jigsaw as usual, even if for this movie he’s stuck on a bed for the entirety of it. Shawnee Smith also returns as Amanda, the former victim of Jigsaw turned apprentice. The mentor-mentee dynamic between the two characters keeps this movie interesting for the most part, even if Amanda seemed a little different compared to at the end of the last movie. The two main characters are Jeff and Lynn (the doctor). Jeff played by Angus Macfadyen is the protagonist and as stated earlier, he was rather annoying and hard to like, even with the basis of his character being him having a son who was killed and him wanting revenge. The performance is also a bit of a mixed bag. He’s my least favourite major character in the Saw movies so far. Lynn played by Bahar Soomekh wasn’t a particularly interesting character but she was alright, and was at least better than Jeff. The majority of the rest of the cast outside were rather bad.

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Saw III is directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, who directed Saw II, and it’s generally directed the same way and is more of the same, albeit with some differences. For one, it definitely has an even larger budget compared to the past 2 movies, going from $1.2 million and $4 million to $10 million. Another difference is the level of gore. Saw II upped the gore over the first movie, however Saw III takes things to a whole new level with its reliance on it for shock effect. From the first scene of the movie, it’s pretty clear that it’s going for heightened brutality. Despite how over the top they are, the practical effects for the gore are actually very well done. There’s a lot of traps as to be expected, but they are even more elaborate and ridiculous than before. By this point you are probably wondering how they even come up with traps like these. They’re creative if nothing else. I do like the look of the movie, as well as the sets. The editing style carries over from the previous Saw movies, and it’s still bad. The thing is that you can probably tell that the first Saw was edited like that because of restrictions, including strict filming times, and the lower budget. The second Saw copied it unnecessarily, and now because of that, it’s seemingly become a staple of the Saw series since it re-appears in this movie. If you don’t know what I mean, during some more intense moments it gets really fast paced and flashy. There are fast montage cuts when a person is stuck in a trap, and there are dramatic cuts and white flashes when it goes into one of its many flashback sequences or reveals. It’s usually done in an attempt to make the scenes more tense but more often than not it’s kind of annoying. With that said, there are some moments which work, such as one scene involving brain surgery. One reoccurring Saw aspect is Charlie Clouser’s score, which is iconic and well fitting as usual.

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Saw III is worse than the previous two movies in the series, but I wouldn’t call it bad. There are some aspects of the story I liked, Tobin Bell as usual shines as Jigsaw, and some of the over the top moments including the gore and soap opera story are enjoyable. At the same time, the story is a mixed bag, and doesn’t feel particularly fresh compared to the other movies. I am aware that generally speaking, most people agree that the first Saw is regarded as the best of the series, the second and third are the next best, and the others are worse than those. Given how Saw III is, I don’t have a lot of faith in the remainder of the sequels.

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) Review

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Pan's Labyrinth

Time:  119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains violence, offensive language & horror
Cast:
Ivana Baquero as Ofelia/Princess Moanna
Sergi López as Captain Vidal
Maribel Verdú as Mercedes
Doug Jones as the Faun and the Pale Man
Ariadna Gil as Carmen
Álex Angulo as Doctor Ferreiro
Director: Guillermo del Toro

Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) moves with her mother to her stepfather’s house. At night, a fairy leads her to a faun who informs her that she is a princess and she needs to participate in three tasks to prove her royalty.

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Pan’s Labyrinth has often been hailed as director Guillermo del Toro’s best film and for good reason. It’s an incredibly directed and intelligently written dark fantasy film, with outstanding visual effects and some great performances. Even over a decade later it holds up very well, and remains a classic for sure.

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Pan’s Labyrinth is essentially a fairy tale for adults. The premise about a child entering a fantasy world in order to make sense and escape from their troubled and difficult reality is pretty much textbook fantasy. And yet, del Toro handles this so well and still makes this movie feel completely original. First of all, this is no family friendly or sanitised fairy tale. It’s not just some of the creatures that the main character encounters on her journey, but also the grimness and bleakness of the reality she’s living in. Pan’s Labyrinth is very much a spiritual successor to del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone. The script is very nuanced, and the fantasy is juxtaposed against the Spanish Civil War and the realities of fascism, with effective parallels between the two. The true villains of the story are actual fascists, not the fantasy monsters in the fantasy world. The movie also doesn’t feel overly fantasised or overly realistic, a decent balance is struck between the two. A clear theme of the movie is growing up and losing innocence, which isn’t particularly special especially with films with similar premises, but nonetheless that was handled very well in this movie. Del Toro creates a world where both the real and fiction can coexist. It’s very well paced across its 2 hour runtime. The plot isn’t exactly unpredictable, but it still keeps you invested in everything that is happening, and the ending hits very hard.

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The cast were all great across the board. Ivana Baquero plays the main character of Ofelia and she was fantastic. Baquero is a child actress who was tasked to carry a lot by herself. Even with how great the rest of the movie was, Pan’s Labyrinth wouldn’t have quite as well if she wasn’t up to the task. However she doesn’t falter and delivers a nuanced and believable performance which makes her journey over the course of the movie much more affecting. Sergi Lopez plays the ruthless Captain Vidal, who also happens to be Ofelia’s stepfather. He’s quite a threatening presence throughout the film. The Pale Man in his scene may be terrifying, but Vidal is the true bogeyman of this story. Maribel Verdu was also very good as a conflicted housekeeper. Doug Jones plays both The Faun and The Pale Man, and even through all the prosthetics gave such great and memorable performances. The rest of the cast also deliver on their parts.

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Guillermo del Toro’s direction is nothing short of outstanding. The cinematography by Guillermo Navarro is great, with cool blues and warm golds. It balances out both the grittiness and gloominess of its bleak setting in reality, as well as the fantastical setting. There is some gorgeous set design throughout, and there was clearly a lot of care and precision into the creation of this world. Much of the film feels very real. Even 14 years later, most of the visual effects still hold up quite well. What helps is that most of the effects were prosthetics and animatronics, and the CGI was used sparingly. The makeup and effects particularly on the Faun and The Pale Man are beautiful and mystical. The few moments of CGI don’t quite hold up, there’s particularly a scene involving a toad, which did look quite fake. On the whole though, the effects are great. The score by Javier Navarrete is really good too, mesmerising and very haunting.

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There’s not much more I can say about Pan’s Labyrinth that hasn’t been said before. This dark fantasy movie intended for adults is beautifully made, haunting, and incredibly well made. Definitely Guillermo del Toro’s best film to date. Watch it if you haven’t seen it before, the acclaim is 100% deserved.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) Review

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BORAT

Time: 84 minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Offensive Language, Sexual Material & Other Content that May Offend
Cast:
Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat Sagdiyev
Ken Davitian as Azamat Bagatov
Luenell as Luenell
Pamela Anderson as herself
Director: Larry Charles

Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen), a Kazakh resident, travels to the USA to make a documentary on the country. While on his mission, he learns that the USA is the same as his own country in many ways.

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I had watched Borat for the first time some years ago, I remember only bits and pieces of it, but I recall enjoying it somewhat. With the sequel out in 2020, made just under a decade and a half later, I wanted to refresh my memory of the original movie. I had a feeling that I’d just find it okay but nothing special outside of some scenes. However, it’s actually held up better than I thought it would’ve.

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Borat is funny and equally scary as a portrait of a post-9/11 America and the Bush era. I found most of the jokes hit, a few didn’t work as well as the others, but most of the time the humour worked really well for me. The actual story isn’t anything to ride home about, and isn’t anything special. It’s mostly just Borat wreaking havoc in America, and the movie works as that. The movie does satire very well, and was shock humour at its finest. You can tell within the first 20 to 30 minutes whether the movie will work for you or not. Despite some of the things that happen during the movie, it doesn’t actually edge towards being offensive because it’s always blatant that Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat is mocking people who actually believe the offensive things he says, along with the real life people who actually do say and believe those things. Despite Borat on surface level seemingly like a caricature, he’s a mirror of the people who buy into this image and believe him as a person, despite how over the top he is. It is often uncomfortable to watch because you know that Cohen is just pushing some people to their breaking points, but in other cases, it’s pretty clear that some of the people that Borat interacts with actually believe things similar to him. The movie surprisingly has aged well and does hold up, at least for me it did. Looking at it now, it’s hard to believe it was released and made back in 2006. You can tell that some of the scenes that are actually related to the plot were more than likely scripted with the intent of furthering the story, but it doesn’t take away from the experience too much. It is around an hour and 20 minutes long and definitely works with that length, it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

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One of the greatest strengths of the movie is of course Sacha Baron Cohen as the title character, which has to be one of the greatest central comedic performances of all time. He excels as Borat, and is incredibly talented to not only be convincing for so long to fool people into thinking that he’s a real person, but also to get people to expose and reveal things about themselves, even in front of a recording camera (something he would do a lot even outside of this character). Sacha has this endless quirky energy which carries much of the movie, and while it’s a pretty obvious statement, this  movie would not have worked nearly as well without him.

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The movie is directed by Larry Charles, and it is well made enough. It is shot in a fairly simple documentary/mockumentary style. Not much stands out about it really, but it’s pretty effective for the movie’s purposes, especially with the editing.

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I’m not really sure that there’s much more to really say about Borat that hasn’t been said already. It’s a funny and outrageous American satire that works very well for what it was, and made quite an impact on popular culture. Sacha Baron Cohen is fantastic, and I think it holds up well enough one and a half decades later. I wouldn’t call it one of my favourite comedies, but I do think that it is worth checking out if you haven’t seen it already.

The Host (2006) Review

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The Host (2006)

Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] contains violence, horror scenes & offensive language
Cast:
Song Kang-ho as Park Gang-du
Byun Hee-bong as Park Hee-bong
Park Hae-il as Park Nam-il
Bae Doo-na as Park Nam-joo
Go Ah-sung as Park Hyun-seo
Director: Bong Joon-ho

An unidentified monster appears from the Han River in Seoul, kills hundreds and also carries off Hyun-seo (Go Ah-sung). When her family learns that she is being held captive, they resolve to save her.

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After watching Parasite, I wanted to watch more of Bong Joon ho’s movies. The Host (not to be confused with the 2013 movie based on Stephanie Meyer’s book of the same name) had been on my long list of movies to watch for a while, I just knew of it as a monster movie, and it certainly was that, but having seen it I can say that it turned out to be a little more than just that. A greatly well made and original movie, The Host was quite an enjoyable monster flick, and had quite a lot of surprises in store that I wasn’t expecting.

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There’s plenty of monster movies, and if you’ve watched many of them, they can feel rather samey, and ultimately follow the same beats as other movies in the genre. However, Bong’s take on this worn out genre manages to be fresh and original. There’s also some deeper subtext and thematic elements at play, it’s actually more politically charged than you’d think it would be. The opening scene indicates that there’s much more to the movie, with scientists pushing chemicals into the pipe, which would eventually cause the monster to be created. While the plot beats aren’t exactly unpredictable, the story felt fresh enough that it didn’t matter too much. On top of that, the plot is quite captivating, and you’re invested from beginning to end. It’s tense and surprisingly emotionally involving, especially with the characters. At the same time, The Host is surprisingly darkly comedic and entertaining throughout, having some funny moments while not sacrificing the overall tone, it’s all balanced quite well.

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The cast are all good with Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doona, and Go Ah-sung playing the family at the centre of the story. The dynamic between all of them is great, which is good because it’s sort of a family drama on top of being a monster movie. The standout was long time Bong collaborator Song Kang-Ho, he’s great in everything and his performance as the father of the girl who was taken by the monster is no exception. Most monster movies have characters that are just there to be the main characters because every movie in that genre needs to have then, while the destruction and/or the monster is really the focus. The Host however is actually driven by these characters, and they are all acted and handled in the movie quite well.

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Bong Joon ho’s direction is great as expected, it’s so incredibly well shot and filmed. If you’ve seen any of his movies Memories of Murder onwards, you know how great he is, and that extends to the monster movie genre too. There are many thrilling sequences that ranks among the best of the genre. Now the only overt flaw is some of the dated visual effects on the monster and… it definitely hasn’t held up well. But it’s a testament to its design and the direction of the whole movie that this monster manages to be so effective, memorable and threatening whenever it’s on screen.

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The Host is a great monster movie, and it’s a great movie in itself. The acting is really good, Bong Joon-ho’s direction was top notch, and I liked everything that Bong brought to the movie with his writing. All of these elements come together to form a mixture of styles that work effectively. Even if you might think the monster movies are a little samey, The Host is definitely one to seek out.

The Wicker Man (2006) Review

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The Wicker Man (2006)

Time: 102 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Edward Malus
Ellen Burstyn as Sister Summersisle
Kate Beahan as Sister Willow Woodward
Leelee Sobieski as Sister Honey
Frances Conroy as Dr. T.H. Moss
Molly Parker as Sister Rose/Sister Thorn
Diane Delano as Sister Beech
Director: Neil LaBute

Police officer Edward Malus (Nicolas Cage) reaches a private island to help his ex-fiancee (Kate Beahan) find her missing girl. The community she lives in follows an odd cult and he must locate the girl before she is killed in the name of sacrifice.

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I’ve been meaning to watch The Wicker Man remake for some time. The original starring Christopher Lee was actually quite good, and worth watching for those who like horror movies. The remake however is generally regarded as hilariously bad, even by horror remake standards, and is particularly known for Nicolas Cage going crazy (and that’s saying a lot). For the record I went in expecting the worst, and the remake certainly lived up to all the talk. It is astoundingly bad, yet as that made for an entertaining movie to watch, at least for me.

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From the very beginning you can tell that something is off about this movie. It starts with a brief scene with Nicolas Cage as a cop seeing a truck crash into a car and failing to get the people inside out before it explodes. That opening moment of the truck crash is referenced quite a bit however in both dreams and even random jumpscares. I get that Cage’s character is supposed to be haunted by that moment but there is no resolution for it, and doesn’t connect to the main story in any way outside of both that and his current investigation somewhat involving fire. There is no reason for it to be here. It doesn’t get any better from there. The writing is quite bad. The most significant change over the original is that instead of it being about Paganism vs Catholicism, it’s men vs women here, which isn’t particularly scary or disturbing. If director Neil LaBute really wanted to stick with this concept, then it would have to be a satire or actually say something about gender politics (mishandled or not). However nothing is really said, it’s just an island of all women who perform rituals, men only exist on the island as workers and are used for reproduction, and that’s the extent of it all. I have no idea what Neil LaBute was trying to do with this, because once again this concept isn’t scary in the slightest. It becomes more funny more than anything, which would be fine if it was intentional. Speaking of horror, the attempts at being scary are laughable. Scare scenes aside, it fails to build a creepy or tense atmosphere. The dialogue is quite unnatural, and none of the characters feel normal or real here, and this is even before we get onto the island of the pagan people.

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There are plenty of inconsistencies in the plot that you can pick at endlessly. For one, this movie primarily takes place on a secluded island with no technology or phone reception whatsoever, yet somehow they have a website that Cage looks up early on, that’s just one thing that’s out of place. However most important of all, once you know what’s going on and everything is revealed, it’s just doesn’t make sense. Without spoiling anything, if certain characters were smart enough, this plot would’ve been only 30 minutes long. There’s an endless amount of funny moments throughout the movie, all involving Nicolas Cage. Cage forcing someone off a bike at gunpoint, he dresses up as a bear and punching someone in the face, him screaming wanting to know how a doll got burnt, Cage getting angry in general, the list goes on. Then of course comes a certain infamous moment involving Cage and bees towards the end of the movie, which is actually a deleted scene only seen on the special edition. While I expected those moments, I was also entertained by how weird and questionable many of the writing and directing choices were.

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Nicolas Cage really is the star of the show, and as weird as much of the movie is, it wouldn’t have been even nearly as entertaining without him. His character isn’t really strange or crazy, it’s a rather typical and generic horror movie protagonist if anything, but the writing and dialogue mixed with Cage’s acting style just made it come across as bizarrely hilarious to watch. His highlight moments is when his character is just frustrated in the third act of the movie, he goes absolutely nuts and it is absolutely glorious. The rest of the cast are there but aren’t all that good. Somehow they managed to get Ellen Burstyn to play the pagan leader, and really they could’ve cast anyone in that role.

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Neil LaBute is the director of this movie, and his work in this movie isn’t that good. Apparently LaBute has made some decent movies, but you wouldn’t know this from watching his take on the Wicker Man. It’s not scary in the slightest, from the attempts at being unsettling, to the jumpscares. There are three jumpscares through the use of trucks alone. I know that bees are meant to be like a big thing for this island of cultists and is meant to be creepy, but it’s not scary in the slightest. In terms of positive things, I guess the production design is alright.

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2006’s The Wicker Man is really bad on pretty much all fronts, although if you’ve even heard of this movie you already know that from its reputation alone. If you are looking for a legitimately good horror movie about a cult and was hoping for that in this movie, skip it and go with the 70s original. If you like so-bad-it’s-good movies and/or you like seeing Nicolas Cage act over the top, this is definitely for you and you should definitely check it out.

300 (2006) Review

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains graphic violence
Cast:
Gerard Butler as Leonidas
David Wenham as Dilios
Lena Headey as Queen Gorgo
Giovanni Cimmino as Pleistarchus
Dominic West as Theron
Director: Zack Snyder

In 480 B.C. a state of war exists between Persia, led by King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), and Greece. At the Battle of Thermopylae, Leonidas (Gerard Butler), king of the Greek city state of Sparta, leads his badly outnumbered warriors against the massive Persian army. Though certain death awaits the Spartans, their sacrifice inspires all of Greece to unite against their common enemy.

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While Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead was really well received, the movie that really got him particularly noticed and put him on the map as a director to watch was 300. His visual style and direction was fantastic, and all around 300 is a very enjoyable movie. Although some of its aspects don’t hold up well over a decade later, there’s enough here to keep you really engaged and entertained.

300 is based off the graphic novel of the same name by Frank Miller (which I haven’t read myself). This movie is quite straightforward and simple: lead character Leonidas leads 300 Spartans against the Persian Army. Not to say that this movie is any lesser because of this, really it’s all done rather well. Despite the amount of scenes filled with screaming and exposed muscular men stabbing each other repeatedly, it’s not just a shallow and violent movie, it does have some emotion and drama behind it, so that you care about what’s going on, instead of just watching a bloodfest.

The acting generally is quite good. Gerard Butler was well suited for his role of King Leonidas. His performance of course does have some ham to it (I don’t even need to get into the “This is Sparta” bit) but it really works for the movie, and just makes it more entertaining. It’s undoubtedly a very memorable performance and it was perfect for what it needed to be. Lena Headey was also great in her screentime as Queen Gorgo. Apparently in the comic book, Gorgo only appeared in the beginning and in the movie they expanded her role much more. While she’s not in large battle scenes like Leonidas and the Spartans, she still gets to play a part in the story, and Headey of course plays it all really well. Rodrigo Santoro was a good villain, he’s quite larger than life but something about his performance works for his character (given that he believes he’s a god), and he’s really effective as a hateable character. Other supporting actors like David Wenham and Michael Fassbender also good, and get to shine in some particular moments.

Zack Snyder is known for his visual style and storytelling and watching 300 it’s no wonder that this is what really put him on the map as a director to pay attention to. It makes sense knowing that this is based off of a graphic novel, but there are many shots and sequences that look straight out of a comic book (which is something that Snyder does quite a lot). The cinematography by Larry Fong is beautiful and just stunning to look at. The action is so gratifying and really entertaining, definitely one of the most stand out and iconic aspects of the movie. I think Snyder does use slow-mo a little too much but I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. It was the first movie to really utilise it as a very present component of the action (outside of The Matrix), before way too many movies tried to replicate that and not doing it as well. This movie is very violent and bloody, and it’s stylised and once again made to look like it was from a comic book. I will say that parts of the movie don’t hold up, that being the green and blue screen in some scenes, which occasionally can look really fake and does take you out of the movie briefly. This movie admittedly does have some messy parts to it but the other aspects (especially on the technical side) make up for it. The soundtrack by Tyler Bates only increased the epicness and scale of the whole movie.

300 is visually stunning, entertaining and quite good all round. I wouldn’t consider it one of Zack Snyder’s best but it’s still a pretty good movie. There’s not denying that it was defining for it’s time and really inspired the way that future action movies would be directed (for better and for worse). If you haven’t seen it yet, I’d personally recommend watching it for the visuals at the very least.

V for Vendetta (2006) Review

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V For Vendetta

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] contains violence, offensive language and sexual references
Cast:
Natalie Portman as Evey
Hugo Weaving as V
Stephen Rea as Finch
Stephen Fry as Deitrich
John Hurt as Adam Sutler
Director: James McTeigue

In a futuristic, totalitarian Britain, a freedom fighter known simply as V (Hugo Weaving), uses terrorist tactics to fight the oppressive society. Evey (Natalie Portman) aids him in his mission to bring down the government.

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V for Vendetta has always been in my very long list of favourite movies. Its influence and impact is quite significant, even just looking at the rise in popularity with the Guy Fawkes mask very since the film’s release, even though it had been around for a while. It’s now been 15 years since V for Vendetta’s initial release, and this movie still holds up really well, and unfortunately still feels rather relevant.

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V for Vendetta is based off the graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore. A criticism of the movie is that a lot of the complexity from the original novel has been reduced, and from the time that I read it a long time ago I can’t necessarily disagree. The movie is a lot less morally grey and ambiguous, and more black and white, an example being that the character of V being less questionable as a character, and more like a classic anti-hero who is a freedom fighter against fascism. While at first that sounds negative, watching it on its own, it’s still a very great movie and I really liked the movie. As it is, V for Vendetta is still a politically charged and politically relevant movie and the setting is pretty realistic, and not really that fantastical despite it being a dystopia dictatorship. It is a political thriller first and foremost, and a very entertaining and engaging one at that.

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The cast all work very well in their roles. Although V is the face of the movie, it’s really Natalie Portman’s movie, and she is great in her part as Evey. She gets to really shine in the second act, especially during a certain pivotal segment of the film. Hugo Weaving plays V and is memorable and iconic in every scene that he’s in. You don’t see his face and is very mysterious and was interesting to learn about as the movie progressed. Weaving’s voice is so memorable and really added a lot of charisma and personality to the character. John Hurt is pretty much the dictator figure of the movie. He really plays the role very large and he does very well in his limited screentime. The rest of the supporting cast are also good, with the likes of Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, and others playing their parts well.

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V for Vendetta is directed well by James McTeigue. Now the Wachowskis didn’t direct it (rather they were the writers and producers of the movie) but you could feel their influence all over it when it comes to the style, and especially when it comes to the action. Visually, it is quite striking and unforgettable, it’s a great looking movie, and the setting that the movie takes place in is fully realised. Despite it being a dystopian world technically, it is grounded and feels quite real. The action is great when it’s there, all of them involving V, with them being choreographed well and utilised the slow-motion to great effect. However, don’t expect to see a lot of action scenes in this movie, they aren’t the focus and it’s not that sort of movie.

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V for Vendetta is a great movie altogether, and one of my favourites of all time, definitely gets better with every viewing I have of it. It’s directed excellently, the performances are great (particularly from Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman), and I really liked the story. It may be well one of the best ‘comic book movies’ ever. Definitely watch this movie if you haven’t already.

The Prestige (2006) Review

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The Prestige

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Contains medium level violence
Cast:
Hugh Jackman as Robert Angier (The Great Danton)
Christian Bale as Alfred Borden (The Professor)
Michael Caine as John Cutter
Piper Perabo as Julia McCullough
Rebecca Hall as Sarah Borden
Scarlett Johansson as Olivia Wenscombe
David Bowie as Nikola Tesla
Andy Serkis as Mr. Alley
Director: Christopher Nolan

Period thriller set in Edwardian London where two rival magicians (Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman), partners until the tragic death of an assistant during a show, feud bitterly after one of them performs the ultimate magic trick – teleportation. His rival tries desperately to uncover the secret of his routine, experimenting with dangerous new science as his quest takes him to the brink of insanity and jeopardises the lives of everyone around the pair.

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I really liked The Prestige when I first saw it, I liked the acting, it was directed well by Christopher Nolan, and it was an interesting an twisty story. However it wasn’t like one of my favourite movies from Nolan, and I sort of just liked it. Watching it again made me love it however, and now it’s now one of my favourites films from him.

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This generally goes for every movie but especially for The Prestige, it really is worth going in not knowing too much, and in this movie it’s better not knowing anything at all. There are many twists and turns, better left to experience for yourself. The movie is driven by the rivalry between the two lead characters played by Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, and it’s really compelling and interesting to watch. It’s also such an original movie, I’ve seen movies of people rivalling each other, and I’ve seen a couple of movies about ‘magic’, but I’ve never seen a combination between the two before. It actually may be among Nolan’s most creative movies. On a first watch it’s really good, pretty intriguing throughout. Watching the movie on a second time is better however, you know the context of what really happened and notice certain hints that you didn’t pick up the first time. Also, you’re not spending time a lot of time trying to figure out what was going on and you really appreciate some of the foreshadowing and the like.

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Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman play the lead characters Alfred Borden and Robert Angier respectively, and they are both fantastic in their parts. The two are constantly up against each other, and both effectively play complex and morally grey characters, with their conflict driving the story. Michael Caine is also great, giving one of his best performances from a Christopher Nolan movie, with this being his most active role in one of Nolan’s movies to date. Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall also do work well enough in supporting roles. David Bowie also appears in a few scenes as Nikola Tesla, and he’s great in his part. Additionally, Andy Serkis plays Tesla’s assistant, Serkis always brings something to every role that he’s in and his part in The Prestige is no exception.

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Christopher Nolan directed this movie excellently as expected, clearly having a more than adequate handling of the story. Wally Pfister’s cinematography is great, and the movie perfectly sets you in the time period. The scenes of ‘magic’ were noticeably presented very well. Many people have compared to Nolan’s work (mainly here) to the magicians like in The Prestige, and that’s definitely fitting, with his use of misdirection, focus and the like to trick the audience, at least on the first watch. The music by David Julyan is also pretty good and worked for the movie, but wasn’t particularly memorable on its own.

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The Prestige is a fantastically put together movie, intelligent, original and engaging from start to finish. Written and directed excellently by Christopher Nolan, and performed greatly by its great cast, it’s definitely worth seeing. If you’ve just watched it once, definitely find some time to watch it again.

Silent Hill (2006) Review

Time: 125 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains horror scenes, violence
Cast:
Radha Mitchell as Rose Da Silva
Sean Bean as Christopher Da Silva
Laurie Holden as Cybil Bennett
Jodelle Ferland as Alessa Gillespie
Deborah Kara Unger as Dahlia Gillespie
Alice Krige as Christabella
Kim Coates as Officer Thomas Gucci
Tanya Allen as Anna
Director: Christophe Gans

Unable to accept the fact that her daughter is dying, Rose (Radha Mitchell) decides to take the girl to a faith healer. On the way, the pair drive through a portal in reality, leading to an eerie town called Silent Hill. The town is surrounded by a potent darkness, and the human survivors fight a losing battle against it.

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It’s pretty well known that video game movies most of the time just don’t work. However, I did for a while hear about how Silent Hill movie is actually one of the better video game movies. I haven’t played any of the Silent Hill games but I know that some of the games are known for being some of the best horror video games ever. Silent Hill is definitely better than most video game movies and has a lot of good elements to it, mostly with the direction and how the town of Silent Hill is portrayed. However, it also has some elements that bring it down from being as good as it could’ve been.

Full disclosure, it’s been years since I’ve seen this Silent Hill movie and I’ll do my best to remember what’s in the movie. This movie doesn’t take characters or stories from one of the games thankfully, this means that they won’t be tied down with a particular story or characters to adapt and so they have much more freedom to do whatever they want. This movie just uses the most important part of the game series, the town of Silent Hill itself. The story itself isn’t bad but it’s not that great either. Some characters, as per usual with generic horror movies, just really makes some really bad decisions. With that said, the movie started off quite well and had my attention. However, it starts to fall away in the second act when it gets needlessly convoluted. This might be a bit of a spoiler but I’m pretty sure that the movie would’ve been better if the film didn’t connect the daughter character to Silent Hill in some convoluted way. From what I can tell from the Silent Hill series (or at least from the best games of the series), the problems that the main characters encounter while in Silent Hill are mainly influenced by their own issues, the town just brings out their own fears. By having this needless connection, it just feels very Hollywood and is just not as impactful, it’s much less psychological. All the while I’m trying to follow what’s going on and as a result, any atmosphere or tension that is being built up just disappears over time. By the time it gets to the end, it just feels underwhelming. The movie does feel a little too long, even at just over 2 hours. Granted it’s been years since I’ve seen the movie and it could be better or worse than I remember, but that’s how I recall it being.

The acting by the main cast is okay enough, not really anything special. Radha Mitchell is quite good as the lead character of Rose as she’s going to Silent Hill. Sean Bean is perfectly fine as Rose’s husband but he feels out of place, he ultimately feels pointless to the movie, it’s really focussed on Mitchell’s character when she’s in Silent Hill and at random points cuts to Sean Bean trying to figure out what happened to her and their daughter. It’s like he was only in the movie so that he could appear in the sequel like 6 years later. We also have Laurie Holden and other actors who are fine enough in their roles.

Christopher Gans’s direction works well and a big part of the reason why this makes the movie somewhat work. For the most part, the visuals of Silent Hill were truly great. The designs of the monsters were really great and horrific, and the best part is that practical effects are in use, far more than I expected there to be. I haven’t played the Silent Hill games myself, but from the brief glimpses I had of some of the games, it looks like the movie was staying true to them. The movie has a good atmosphere of isolation that is really needed in a Silent Hill story. There’s a lot of walking and long moments to build up atmosphere but it doesn’t succeed as well as I think it could’ve but it was still alright. There are some predictable jumpscares but not as many as most bad horror movies.

The Silent Hill movie was better than I thought it would be, given that most video game movies aren’t all that good. It started off well, the direction and the visuals are really good, and at times it seems to capture the spirit of the games. Unfortunately, there are things holding it back from being even decent as a movie on its own. I think that a Silent Hill movie released nowadays with the recent comeback of horror movies could be something really good, and I’d be open to seeing that. Till then, this is the best we got in terms of video game horror movies (and no, although I haven’t seen it yet, apparently the sequel is really terrible).