Tag Archives: 2007 movies

Saw IV (2007) Review

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Saw 4

Time: 92 minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Contains Sadistic Violence
Cast:
Tobin Bell as John Kramer
Costas Mandylor as Detective Mark Hoffman
Scott Patterson as Agent Peter Strahm
Betsy Russell as Jill Tuck
Lyriq Bent as Officer Daniel Rigg
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

While FBI agents Strahm (Scott Patterson) and Perez (Athena Karkanis) are still engulfed in the grisly Jigsaw case, SWAT Commander Rigg (Lyriq Bent) is roped in as the last pawn for yet another lethal game of the manic Jigsaw (Tobin Bell).

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While I was somewhat curious about the Saw sequels, I also had the feeling that they wouldn’t be all that good. The first two movies in the series were good, but Saw III was a step down for me. So going into Saw IV, I didn’t have high expectations and I guess that at least helped me prepare for it. The easiest description I can give for IV is that it’s just another Saw movie. Some of the entertaining elements are back, but its familiar faults are also back, and additionally it doesn’t really do much differently.

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Saw IV falls back on familiar tropes in the series, with flashbacks, traps, random new characters, twists, tape recordings, fast cuts, and a needlessly intricate plot. The movie starts off pretty well. Spoiler warning for Saw III if you haven’t seen it already, but it opens with the autopsy of John Kramer AKA Jigsaw to confirm that he is in fact dead and didn’t survive through some twist. There’s a lot happening in this movie, there’s like four plots happening all at once. Unfortunately it doesn’t really spend enough time with any of them so they feel all generally feel underdeveloped. Additionally. Saw IV tries to serve as a sort of prequel to some of the previous Saw movies, while setting up sequels for a post John Kramer Jigsaw world. While I wouldn’t say that I was bored during the movie, most of the plot is uninteresting and leaps from scene to scene quickly. On one hand, it being fast paced means that doesn’t really drag, but it also makes it messy, especially as a lot of the time there is an overload of information thrown at the audience. The narrative on the whole is very messy. The story was unnecessarily intertwined and it is very convoluted, which is to be expected from the Saw movies at this point. However it is getting to the point where it’s becoming confusing.

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The main plotline in Saw IV is about a police officer moving from trap to trap as he tries to save some people, similar to Saw III except the character isn’t locked in a basement and is free to give up at any time. This feels like familiar territory, and it is, and it doesn’t do really anything new with it. Pair that with an unengaging main character, and that plotline isn’t that good. Another plotline is a procedural crime drama with two FBI agents investigating the killings from Jigsaw. This was fine but not particularly tense or interesting either. As said earlier, John Kramer is now dead, so we have him appear in multiple flashbacks in this movie. These various extensive flashbacks detail more of Jigsaw’s backstory, largely through a character named Jill who’s being interrogated by the FBI. Now the Saw series is no stranger to flashbacks, but Saw IV takes it to another level and becomes very reliant on them, to the point where there is no balance between the past and the present events. To be fair I actually did like these scenes, and there’s so many of them that you almost wish the movie was just a full on prequel for Jigsaw. On top of that, the rest of the movie is Saw is on autopilot, so it was really the only interesting part. The characters on the whole were dull and not that interesting, and this movie introduces so many new random characters. With Saw III they also really started connecting all the movies’ plots tightly together. While some of the connections were interesting, this Saw timeline is so confused and bizarre at this point that you’re quite lost by the end. Twists are a staple in the Saw movies, but the twists aren’t that convincing this time around and don’t really work. At the end there’s one of those signature Saw plot twists and reveals but it doesn’t feel satisfying or deserved, not to mention it wasn’t exactly unpredictable. It just sort of sets up Saw V. The runtime is 90 minutes long, which I guess is at least better than making it 2 hours long like Saw III was. However as a result it means that in this time they have to cover over 3 plotlines, and as you can probably tell the outcome isn’t so great.

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As usual Tobin Bell’s performance as John Kramer/Jigsaw does keep things together somewhat. As usual he’s a captivating screen presence and manages to sell even the most ludicrous of writing, and steals every scene he’s in. Unfortunately, much of the other characters and acting aren’t so good. The main character Rigg is played by Liriq Bent, he was a supporting cop character from Saw II. He’s a rather boring character, given little to do here except go from trap to trap. While he was a little more likable than Jeff from Saw III, at least he had a character or personality, I barely remember who Rigg was by the end of IV. On another note, you can see why some of the main characters in the other Saw movies are being tested, not really for this character. The reason why he seems to be tested is that Rigg busts down doors and tries to rescue people and they end up dying anyway (or something along those lines). It just seems like a rather contrived reason to have someone who was in one of the past Saw movies be the protagonist. Not to mention that Jigsaw’s ‘philosophy’ and ‘moral code’ already seemed shaky at the best of times and this case doesn’t help matters much. The movie also introduces some new characters with potential, including Scott Patterson as an FBI agent and Betsy Russell as someone who knew John Kramer personally, unfortunately they are very underdeveloped and not much happens with them, so again Jigsaw remains the only good character in this movie.

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Saw II and Saw III director Darren Lynn Bousman returns to make this movie, and while I liked his work on those past movies, I’m not sure he was the best choice to helm a movie that’s trying to transition away from the John Kramer Jigsaw movies. There’s an effort made to keep the feel and look of the previous movies, and a lot of what you’d expect to be here makes a return. The cinematography oddly looks a little smoother and cleaner than Saw III, though as a result it makes the movie look a bit flat. Saw IV has many trap set pieces, no surprises there. However they are devoid of tension or horror compared to what came before in the past movies. I guess part of it is that instead of the traps mainly being there to teach someone a lesson, they are there to serve up another gory demise to someone who has no chance of surviving. In a lot of those cases, these people clearly won’t escape, and for the most part you won’t care if they do or not. That’s not even to mention that even the traps themselves are rather lacklasture and devoid of imagination. By Saw III it got to the point where the movies were starting to have gore for the sake of gore, but at least there was some level of impact that came from watching them. Saw IV’s traps aren’t as disgusting and horrible to watch, even if there’s still quite a bit of gore. I don’t think it’s just me being desensitised because I remember finding some of Saw III’s traps hard to watch. As for the whole ‘is Saw torture porn’ question, IV is closer to being that than the third movie, because much of the movie feels like a conveyor belt taking you from one trap to the next and just throwing obligatory gore on screen without having any sort of impact on you. Disappointing traps aside, the practical effects on the gore are still great. The highlight for me was the opening scene when an autopsy is performed on John Kramer and while I’m not expert on it, it really did look like an autopsy. As usual there’s some fast paced editing, and most of it can be quite annoying and bad, mostly very fast during tense scenes, especially during traps. With that said, there’s one moment when an interrogation scene is happening and it’s getting more tense, the editing just acts crazy for some reason. Additionally, the use of slow motion especially for big reveals were a bit silly. An odd editing choice this time around are the transitions between some scenes, either involving time periods or locations. A character might walk into a room or camera might pan a certain way, and then it smoothly cuts to a different scene. While practical and well done, these are very jarring. Charlie Clouser’s score is one of the only consistently good things across all these movies alongside from Tobin Bell, it still adds a lot and is satisfying especially during the tense moments and the ending.

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Saw IV is yet another mixed bag of a Saw movie that gets worse the more I actually think about it. I liked Tobin Bell, the score, and the plotline with John Kramer’s past, but everything else felt flat. I actually do consider it to be worse than Saw III because it recycles stuff that has been done before, and more often than not was done better back then. If you liked Saw III and you’re up for more movies, then it might be worth checking out IV at least. Overall though, it just felt like more Saw for people who like Saw. While I didn’t dislike the movie, I hope it’s not just a series where each sequel is just a worse version of the last movie.

Hot Fuzz (2007) Review

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Hot Fuzz

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] contains violence, horror scenes & offensive language
Cast:
Simon Pegg as Nicholas Angel
Nick Frost as Police Constable Danny Butterman
Jim Broadbent as Inspector Frank Butterman
Director: Edgar Wright

Police officer Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is known to be the best across London. His seniors, who are jealous of his achievements, transfer him to a remote village where he encounters various challenges.

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I always remembered really liking Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz, it was funny, smart, and really fun to watch. After rewatching it after a long time though, it actually holds up far better than I thought it did.

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Hot Fuzz is written by Edgar Wright, the great script is an improvement over Wright’s previous movie Shaun of the Dead, definitely feeling much tighter, and had me entertained from beginning to end. Once again, like the rest of Wright’s Cornetto trilogy (also consisting of Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End), it really works much better on repeat viewings. You really notice things that you missed the first time around including little details, plot points and even jokes. It really shows how smartly written this movie is, that it is packed with so much. Hot Fuzz is very much a satire on action and buddy cop films, in the same way that Shaun of the Dead was a satire on zombie movies. Like with Shaun of the Dead though, Wright clearly has a love for those genres and is very knowledgeable about them. It would be one thing to just feature a cliché from the action genre and then point and laugh at it, it is actually put together very well and done with love for the genre. Along with that, Wright adds in elements of horror and suspense that spice the movie up a little more. The humour is endless hilarious, it was very effective and just about every joke hit well for me. There are so many quotable lines and running jokes that are so well written and implemented into the movie. The third act is a full on take on the over the top action in an action movie, and it was very fun to watch. As much as I liked that third act, I will say that the previous two acts worked a little better for me.

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The cast were all great in their parts. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are once again in the lead roles here, and they share some perfect chemistry. It’s not just them though, supporting cast members like Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton and plenty more do add quite a bit with their performances and make themselves stand out.

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Edgar Wright directs Hot Fuzz, and he has done a fantastic job. Like with the script, the direction here feels a lot tighter compared to Shaun of the Dead. Something about all of Wright’s films is that you can really feel the energy throughout and that goes a long way towards making the movies work as well as they do. A big part of that has to be the editing, which has really escalated from Shaun of the Dead. It feels like a constant presence throughout, the transitions are sharp, it works perfectly for comedic effect, and is just fantastic overall. Even the mundane things like filling out paperwork are made very flashy. The visual gags too are so well handled, plenty of things you can miss if you’re not paying attention for a split second. As previously said, there’s a lot of action in the third act, with every over the top trope in an action film imaginable making an appearance. It’s also genuinely entertaining.

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Hot Fuzz is a hilarious and entertaining action comedy satire, with Edgar Wright’s strong and sharp writing and direction making this a must see. It is a strong contender for Edgar Wright’s best film to date, it’s either this or The World’s End, and this is definitely one of my favourite comedies of all time.

The Darjeeling Limited (2007) Review

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The Darjeeling Limited

Time: 91 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive Language & Sexual References
Cast:
Owen Wilson as Francis
Adrien Brody as Peter
Jason Schwartzman as Jack
Director: Wes Anderson

After the death of their father, three brothers (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman) set out on a train journey across India, in an attempt to rediscover their lost bond. The experiences that they have force them to introspect.

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Of the movies from Wes Anderson that I hadn’t watched, this is the one I knew the least about. Apparently it was something like a trip movie and I recognised the main actors but that was it. Having seen it, I can say that it is one of his oddest movies, not in the sense that it’s weird and does odd things like The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou, but in the sense that I don’t really know what to feel about it. I do like the movie, it is well made and I think it is pretty good. However it didn’t really stick with me as I was hoping it would.

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The Darjeeling Limited is by far Wes Anderson’s simplest movie, and it is very short at 90 minutes long. However I can’t help but admit that I found it to be a bit bland in large portions. I wouldn’t say that it ever got to the point where I was outright bored, I was paying attention throughout, but my interest wasn’t exactly consistent and I got quite close to being bored. The movie is a lot more smaller scale (especially considering Anderson’s last film with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) despite how far these characters travel, and it is his most grounded movie since Bottle Rocket, his debut back in the 90s. It was heartwarming in parts, and there are for sure some particularly strong parts. The film at its core is an introspective exploration of grief, it is just this trio of brothers going from place to place across India with a lot of baggage (both literal and figurative). There’s quirky dialogue, as to be expected from his movies, there was some comedy though there wasn’t a lot of it in this movie, or at least it never got hilarious or anything. The story and some parts of the writing I found to be lacking and was probably the weakest part unfortunately, I can’t entirely pin down what didn’t work for me. I can say however that it can feel a bit tonally unbalanced. There is a certain scene involving a river, which was very effective, however the abruptness of the tonal shift was jarring to say the least. I can’t tell if the tonal shift is the reason why, but a while after that moment, that’s when the film started to fizzle out for me, even though I was still on board with it.

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This is probably the first Wes Anderson movie since Rushmore where it doesn’t have a huge ensemble cast, even with the inclusion of Bill Murray in a brief cameo. The main trio are Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman, and they do very well on their parts, they are the strongest parts of the movie. The film quickly establishes these characters at the beginning of the movie, and the actors have very believable chemistry, and they are really convincing as brothers. I didn’t really connect with the characters but the performances were really good, Wilson particularly gives one of his best work here.

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Wes Anderson directs the movie very well, and the stylistic aspects that you would except from him are definitely here. Everything with the visuals is great, the cinematography by Robert Yeoman is a stunning, the use of colour was really good, and the production design is very well detailed. Additionally, the music choices were good too, and fitted the moments well.

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The Darjeeling Limited didn’t completely work for me, I wasn’t invested with the story as much as I wanted to be, and I just don’t see myself getting more out of it through rewatches. I don’t dislike it by any means, I actually still think it’s pretty good. The direction by Wes Anderson is top notch as to be expected, it has some strong moments, and the lead actors in Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman are very good. It is still worth checking out for yourself, though if you’re not a fan of Wes Anderson, you’ll probably not like this one.

Halloween (2007) Review

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Halloween 2007

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Malcolm McDowell as Samuel Loomis
Sheri Moon Zombie as Deborah Myers
Tyler Mane as Michael Myers
Daeg Faerch as Michael Myers (age 10)
Scout Taylor-Compton as Laurie Strode
Brad Dourif as Sheriff Lee Brackett
Danielle Harris as Annie Brackett
William Forsythe as Ronnie
Director: Rob Zombie

After spending 17 years in a mental institution, Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) escapes and sets out to find his younger sister (Scout Taylor-Compton). He doesn’t spare anyone who tries to interfere with his mission.

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John Carpenter’s Halloween has been cemented as an absolute horror classic, and remaking such an influential movie is a big task for any director. However Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies have a notably divided reaction to them, and they’re not really for everyone. His first movie is a bit of a mixed bag but at the same time, there’s parts of it I like that’s worth praising.

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For the record, I haven’t watched the director’s cut, but from what I can tell it’s a little more violent and adding an unnecessary rape scene, so I don’t think I’m really missing much by skipping out on that version. Halloween 2007 is essentially made up of two different halves. The first half is about Michael Myers when he was younger and basically serves as an origin story. One of the major criticisms of the movie from a lot of people is that Michael Myers shouldn’t be explored as a character, and that he works much better as a mystery and almost supernatural presence. I’d counter that even if that’s true, this would at least be something different from the original instead of just recreating the movie and going through the same beats. Honestly my issue with it was personally more of the handling. Long story short, Michael Myers grew up in a broken home, and I’ll skip past the fact that this origin story is way overused for villains, since I’ve already got a lot of things to say. It is heavy handed how horrible his childhood is, and while blatancy isn’t inherently bad, some of the writing is just so over the top, especially with the dialogue. With that said, there are some nuanced scenes and some parts that were handled quite well, and it was interesting to see Zombie’s take.

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The second half is pretty much the events of the original film, which is both better and worse. On one hand it is more steady and less messy than the first half, and is just pretty much Rob Zombie doing his own take on the events of the original Halloween. The downside is that it is just that. While for sure there are some little plot changes made so that it’s not exactly the same, it’s just pretty much “Rob Zombie does Halloween”. Zombie is definitely paying homage to the original, so he’s not shamelessly copying the original, nor does he just recreate the whole movie, but even just paying homage has the potential to limit your movie, and that is the case here. It is quite jarring going from essentially Michael: Portrait of a Serial Killer, to what you’d expect from a Halloween remake. The early parts of that second half can be a little boring and uninteresting as you’re just waiting for Michael Myers to start stabbing people, specifically the people who you know are going to be killed from watching the movie. Once it picks up later on though it does work well. If I was someone who was scared of the original movie (which I’m not), I’d be less scared watching the remake, because while it is more graphic, we spent almost half the movie with the killer and less time with the victims and survivors, so the kill scenes aren’t nearly as impactful.

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The cast are also a bit of a mixed bag. Tyler Mane plays the grown up Michael Myers and while you don’t see his face, he does so well in the role. His mere presence is intimidating and he’s probably the most physically imposing version of the character that you could imagine. Donald Pleasance is hard to replace as Dr Loomis, but Malcolm McDowell was perfectly cast, and is quite good on his part. For the most part he pretty much just acts like Pleasance from the original but there are some moments where he stands out, especially in some of the earlier scenes before Michael Myers escapes. A lot of the rest of the cast is hit or miss, Brad Dourif does pretty well in his scenes as the sheriff character. As for Laurie, Scout Taylor-Compton I guess is alright but certainly suffers by not really feeling much of a main character like Jamie Lee Curtis’s version did in the original.

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Even though I’ve only seen the Halloween movies from Rob Zombie, I can tell that this is definitely a Rob Zombie movie. He lent his style to this take on the Halloween movies, and while I think that it’s more suited to something like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I’m not complaining that we got something distinct here. Perhaps the biggest contribution Rob Zombie has given to the Halloween movies is making Michael Myers an absolute force to be reckoned with, with his attacks being very aggressive and loud. It can be very over the top and even unintentionally funny at points, but I liked it all the same. As for horror, as I said before I wasn’t scared by the original Halloween, and the remake certainly is much less scary than that. Tyler Bates’s score is mostly its own thing, outside of when it uses certain themes from John Carpenter’s score. It’s not quite as effective as the original’s music, but very few movies could achieve that, so I’m alright with that. My issues with the score is whenever it inappropriately uses the main theme in the movie, for example when kid Michael Myers is just running, it just plays randomly and it doesn’t really fit. The Michael Myers mask and overall look is pretty much perfect, really grimy, creepy and scary.

Halloween (2007)
Directed by Rob Zombie
Shown: Tyler Mane, Scout Taylor-Compton

Halloween 2007 as I said before is a mixed bag. The new take is interesting, but Zombie doesn’t quite pull off the execution, and while he does an alright job at redoing Halloween 1978 with Michael Myers on the loose, it is the same stuff and not anything beyond decent. All that being said, Zombie did make these movies his own, when he’s not paying homage to Carpenter’s classic at least. If you want to see Rob Zombie go full… well… Rob Zombie with the Halloween movies, then his Halloween 2 would be the one to check out after this one. If you liked the original, I’d say the 2007 remake is at least worth watching, even just out of curiosity.

Hitman (2007) Review

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Hitman

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, Offensive Language & Nudity
Cast:
Timothy Olyphant as Agent 47
Dougray Scott as Mike Whittier
Robert Knepper as Yuri Marklov
Olga Kurylenko as Nika Boronina
Director: Xavier Gens

Raised from childhood by the mysterious Diana organisation, Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) is the perfect killer, but when he is dispatched to kill the Russian president, 47 discovers that his employers have betrayed him. Taking prostitute, and possible witness to his last hit, Nika with him, the enigmatic assassin flees from both Interpol and the Russian secret service as he fights to uncover the root of the conspiracy.

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I’m not too familiar with the Hitman games and hadn’t played much of them before watching both movies, but I knew about it, and more recently I had played the 2016 game titled Hitman. The Hitman video game series made quite an impact even just when it came out. So it’s not really surprising that it eventually received a film adaptation in 2004. The movie itself not really a good representation of the character and games for the big screen, but there have been way worse video game movies.

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This script is written by Skip Woods of all people, and needless to say the writing is about as good as you’d expect from the man who wrote X-Men Origins Wolverine, Die Hard 5 and for whatever reason Hitman: Agent 47 (the other Hitman movie less than a decade later). I’ve only played one game but I’m pretty familiar with what the Hitman series is about, and I can definitely say that this movie isn’t accurate to the games. Agent 47 in this movie doesn’t act like one of those silent assassins like he was supposed to be in the game, he acts a lot more like the other types of assassins, the ones who are flashy, shoot a lot of people and look very ‘cool’. Plotwise, I barely remember what this movie is about. The plot is generic, convoluted and very difficult to follow, the dialogue is rather terrible too. There’s really nothing to connect with or to be excited by in the story. It’s just a rather bland action movie that so happens to have the Hitman and Agent 47 names attached do it.

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With Timothy Olyphant as Agent 47, I can’t tell whether it’s a good performance from him or whether it’s a phoned in one (even though he has confirmed he just took this role for a paycheck), I guess he fitted the silent assassin role, but he also seemed a little boring. The characterisation of 47 wasn’t really the best. Despite being established as a cold blooded assassin, he makes certain decisions that aren’t in line with the character, and don’t really make much sense. The thing is it’s not just that they had a completely different portrayal, they get somewhat close to the character but yet miss in major ways. I guess a few of the supporting cast are fine enough. Olga Kurylenko also works a little bit in her role, especially considering she was placed in the role of ‘forced love interest’. The whole relationship between the two just didn’t work, it was very difficult to buy, even if the two actors share enough good chemistry. Dougary Scott is a police officer hunting 47 down, and Robert Knepper is a villain. They’re not great but I guess they do the job fine enough.

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The direction by Xavier Gens wasn’t all that good, but I guess it wasn’t terrible either. None of the action scenes really fit Agent 47 as a character, a lot of him shooting multiple people with guns. Disregarding the video games however, the setups of them all are fine enough for an action movie. However a lot of the action scenes, especially one that took place in a train station, has too many cuts and so you couldn’t quite enjoy it as much. Not to mention they’re kind of just standard at best, not particularly exciting at all.

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As far as video game movies go, Hitman isn’t amongst the worst of them. However there’s not really enough to the movie to make it worth watching, for both non fans and fans alike. It really missed the point of the games and the character, but putting that aside it’s a pretty mediocre action movie, and the action scenes aren’t even entertaining enough to make it necessarily worth checking out. I guess it’s a harmless enough movie though, so if you wanted to kill 90 minutes on a movie, Hitman I guess is okay.

Transformers (2007) Review

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Transformers

Time: 143 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains medium level violence
Cast:
Shia LaBeouf as Sam Witwicky
Tyrese Gibson as Sgt. Robert Epps
Josh Duhamel as Capt. William Lennox
Anthony Anderson as Glen Whitmann
Megan Fox as Mikaela Banes
Rachael Taylor as Maggie Madsen
John Turturro as Agt. Seymour Simmons
Jon Voight as John Keller
Director: Michael Bay

The fate of humanity is at stake when two races of robots, the good Autobots and the villainous Decepticons, bring their war to Earth. The robots have the ability to change into different mechanical objects as they seek the key to ultimate power. Only a human youth, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) can save the world from total destruction.

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It’s been ages since I’ve seen the Transformers movies, I’ve only watched up to the third movie in addition to watching Bumblebee back in 2018. I remember enjoying Bay’s Transformers movies when I was younger, but I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about them now. They have a reputation of being mindless large scale action flicks, however the first movie is still somewhat well received, and so I decided to check it out again. It was pretty much what I expected it to be, overlong and full of flaws, but nonetheless pretty entertaining.

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The writing of the first Transformers movies is a very mixed bag. The plot itself is passable, but the actual script has its issues. It takes a while for the movie to really pick up with the Transformers, it starts with Shia LaBeouf and him eventually realising that he has a car that’s not just a car. It doesn’t really do much to keep you genuinely interested. Even when Shia meets up with Optimus Prime it doesn’t really grab your interest. It certainly doesn’t help that Transformers is a very long movie at 2 hours and 20 minutes long. It’s really the third act where it excels, as Bay does what Bay does best with all the action. However the movie shouldn’t need to be just an action filled one to be good. For such a straight forward plot, there is just too much going on in the movie. The comedy is also very hit or miss but it at least works better than in the later movies (from what I remember). At least the racial stereotypes are kept to a minimum of 1 in this movie. I’ll say this much, if some of the plot elements in this movie bothers you, definitely don’t check out the other Bay Transformers movies.

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The human characters are widely regarded as the worst aspect of these movies. While there are bits about the actual Transformers that don’t work well, the movies would’ve benefited with them being the focus instead. I know that Shia LaBeouf gets a bad rap in these 3 movies but he’s actually alright in this movie at least. Despite how you many feel about his performances in his 3 film appearances, he’s definitely putting everything he can into his role. Megan Fox is also given a bad rap in her Transformers appearances but she isn’t that bad, she’s really not given much to work with, so it’s not really on her either. The romance that LaBeouf and Fox feels really forced and no matter how hard the two of them try, you just don’t buy it. Some of the random comedic side characters don’t really have much point, most of them are meant for comedy. The parents of Shia’s character for one are among the more annoying. John Turturro is also in this movie and is alright. He’s perfectly fine in the movie but I really have no idea why Jon Voight is in this movie, they probably could’ve cast anyone in the role.

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You can really feel that Michael Bay directed this movie, for better or for worse. The cinematography has a saturated look to it, there are many dramatic scenes of military giving some really important dialogue, slow motion shots of the American flag and helicopters flying, it’s all here. The action of this movie is generally good, the CGI effects do look a little iffy now, but given the movie is over a decade old, you can cut it some slack. Back in 2007, we hadn’t really seen anything like this before, with a bunch of action involving giant robots. Yes, a lot of the action is over the top, but it’s not necessarily overwhelming.

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Yes, Transformers is a silly action movie, but there’s a lot of fun to be had with it. Even though I’m not a fan of the Transformers, I feel like they could be better than just an explosion filled action movie. Still, I had some enjoyment with it. Even if many of Bay’s more annoying clichés and style aspects make their appearance here, it is not as bad as it is in his other movies. If you haven’t seen any of the Transformers movies, it’s at least worth checking out the first one.

Stardust (2007) Review

Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] contains frightening fanstasy scenes & violence
Cast:
Claire Danes as Yvaine
Charlie Cox as Tristan Thorn
Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia
Mark Strong as Prince Septimus
Robert De Niro as Captain Shakespeare of the Caspartine
Jason Flemyng as Prince Primus
Rupert Everett as Prince Secundus
Kate Magowan as Princess Una
Ricky Gervais as Ferdiland “Ferdy” the Fence
Sienna Miller as Victoria Forester
Peter O’Toole as the dying King of Stormhold
Director: Matthew Vaughn

To win the heart of his beloved (Sienna Miller), a young man named Tristan (Charlie Cox) ventures into the realm of fairies to retrieve a fallen star. What Tristan finds, however, is not a chunk of space rock, but a woman (Claire Danes) named Yvaine. Yvaine is in great danger, for the king’s sons need her powers to secure the throne, and an evil witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) wants to use her to achieve eternal youth and beauty.

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Stardust was the only Matthew Vaughn movie I hadn’t watched in it’s entirety yet, I’m pretty sure that I saw parts of this movie a while ago since moments of it look familiar. Going into it, I really didn’t know what to expect. A fantasy based movie is not something that I could see Vaughn of all directors do. However, this movie was quite surprising and much better than I thought it would be, I had a good time with it.

Stardust is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman, throughout it’s a purely fantasy movie and really leans into that. Much of the movie is cheesy but in a good way, you can really have fun with the movie. You really can’t take this movie too seriously, and thankfully it doesn’t take itself seriously either. It has a bunch of fantasy adventure clichés and does very little to subvert them, so this isn’t necessarily something that you’ve never seen before. It’s also fairly predictable, you can generally see which direction the movie is moving towards. As a light, silly adventure fantasy movie however, I had a blast with it.

This movie has such a surprisingly large cast, young Henry Cavill and Ben Barnes appear in minor roles and even the legendary Peter O’Toole shows up for a brief appearance. On the whole the cast did very well. Claire Danes and Charlie Cox are the leads and they really worked. The interactions between the two characters were pretty typical of fantasy romances but Danes and Cox still had some good chemistry together. Michelle Pfeiffer is I guess the primary villain of the movie as one of a trio of witches looking to get Claire Danes. Pfeiffer really hams up her role at just the right level, and it really works for this movie. Mark Strong has played multiple villains and he also plays a villainous sort of character here, however there’s something about him here that’s just so entertaining to watch, he’s definitely having fun here. The MVP however was Robert De Niro who shows up in a supporting but memorable part here, definitely the standout from the whole cast. Other supporting players like Sienna Miller also play their roles well. Honestly the only one that didn’t really work was Ricky Gervais who appears briefly and even in that short time was really out of place.

This doesn’t actually feel like a Matthew Vaughn film and I don’t mean that in a bad way. He’s actually handled this movie very well. As I said with the writing and story, this movie really leans into the fantasy aspect and it’s done very well, the production design and costumes are on point. At times the visuals can look a little dated but you can look past it, because most of them are really nice to look at, even a decade later.

Matthew Vaughn’s take on a fantasy movie with Stardust was way better than I thought it would be. Even the cheese and the over the top elements were entertaining, it knew what it was, and the cast were really good here. There are for sure better fantasy movies and it’s by no means a classic, however I just really had a lot of fun with this movie. It’s worth a watch at least.

Resident Evil: Extinction (2007) Review

Time: 94 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Horror Scenes & Violence
Cast:
Milla Jovovich as Alice
Ali Larter as Claire Redfield
Oded Fehr as Carlos Oliveira
Iain Glen as Dr. Alexander Isaacs
Ashanti as Nurse Betty
Mike Epps as Lloyd Jefferson “L.J.” Wade
Spencer Locke as K-Mart
Christopher Egan as Mikey
Jason O’Mara as Albert Wesker
Director: Russell Mulcahy

Captured by the Umbrella Corp., Alice (Milla Jovovich) receives genetic alterations that leave her with superhuman abilities. Hiding out in the Nevada desert, she joins forces with former cohorts Carlos (Oded Fehr) and L.J. (Mike Epps) as well as new survivors Claire (Ali Larter), K-Mart (Spencer Locke) and Nurse Betty (Ashanti) to eradicate the virus that threatens to turn every human on Earth into a zombie.

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Despite mixed to negative reactions to the previous two movies, the Resident Evil movie series continued with its third movie, Extinction. Extinction is quite the considerable improvement over its previous movie Apocalypse. It is one of the better Resident Evil movies, it has some good ideas and setups, and is quite enjoyable, albeit being yet another over the top and silly zombie action flick.

Resident Evil Extinction takes the setting from the city in Apocalypse to a desert environment, and that was rather refreshing and a lot more fun. Compared to the previous movies, it really does feel more like the end of the world. I haven’t seen many zombie movies set in a desert environment, and so while plotwise it’s very familiar, it nonetheless feels fresh. At this point in the series you should completely separate the movies from the games. In my review for Resident Evil Apocalypse, I mentioned how there was a part in the third act that I didn’t really like particularly. That aspect was the revelation that lead character Alice now has somehow supernatural powers, including telekinesis. Unfortunately, they didn’t retcon that in Extinction, her powers stay here too. There is really no explanation for them, nor are there any rules set in place as to what she can or can’t do, they are very vague on that aspect. It’s a part you just have to go with, but I really wish that this wasn’t in the movie and series in the first place. Otherwise it’s a dumb and silly zombie action movie that’s quite fun. It’s reasonably paced across its hour and a half runtime and from what I could recall it didn’t drag too often. It does end with one of those sequel bait endings, but I guess all of the Resident Evil movies do that.

Milla Jovovich has quite a handle on the role of Alice by this point. I think the character really needed a lot more characterisation and better writing than what has been provided to her, but Jovovich did well. Ali Larter is introduced as Claire Redfield, another character from the games, and she was pretty good here. The characters in general aren’t particularly deep and you don’t really care for them, but I guess they’re handled a little better than the previous movies. Iain Glen is one of the main antagonists of the movie, the character is rather generic, and he thankfully hams up the role. One character that I recognise from the games that made an appearance here was Albert Wesker, I haven’t played a game with him in it, but Wesker is the main human antagonist of the series from what I can tell. The problem with him here isn’t that he’s only in a couple scenes, no doubt they were just setting him up for the next movie. The problem was that Jason O’Mara is just so miscast in the role, coming across as a really boring businessman, who I guess is Albert Wesker because that’s what people call him and he’s blonde and always wears sunglasses. It hardly drags the movie down at all but it takes you out of it a bit. Thankfully he was recast in the next movie, and was… slightly better.

Russell Mulcahy is the director, and is considerably better than the last movie. Instead of the dark blue colour of the dark cities in Apocalypse, Extinction takes place in the deserts of Las Vegas, giving off a vibe of Mad Max but with zombies. Everything feels abandoned and wrecked, and it’s quite effective. Action scenes are considerably better too, they are at least more creative with the setups and you can see a lot more of what’s going on (especially compared to Apocalypse), however does have a little too many cuts at points. Some of the CGI is kind of messy, but it’s at least improved on from the previous two movies. I also quite liked Charlie Clouser’s score.

Resident Evil Extinction isn’t great by any means, nor would I call it good, but I enjoyed it for what it is. Along with the underdevelopment of characters, some leaps in logic and dumb moments, I think one of the biggest problems in both the movie and really the series was having Alice be a superpowered character. Even as a dumb action series, the omission of that aspect would’ve made these movies considerably better. Nonetheless, at this point I’d say that it’s my favourite in the series thus far, though it’s not saying a lot. If you were entertained by any of the previous two Resident Evil movies, I definitely think you’ll have some fun with this.

Stuart: A Life Backwards (2007) Review

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Stuart A Life Backwards

Time: 92 Minutes
Cast:
Benedict Cumberbatch as Alexander Masters
Tom Hardy as Stuart Shorter
Director: David Attwood

Stuart (Tom Hardy) is a homeless alcoholic who leads a complicated life because of the disturbing memories of his troubled childhood. His writer friend (Benedict Cumberbatch) chronicles his life and tries to recount every aspect of it.

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I only found out about this movie more recently, the main thing I heard was that Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy were in it, with the latter giving a particularly fantastic performance. I also knew it was a tv movie, and I really didn’t expect much from it (didn’t really know what to expect honestly). Stuart: A Life Backwards was actually better than what I expected, an emotionally honest film, with an outstanding lead performance.

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Stuart: A Life Backwards is based off the biography of the same name. While the story takes place in chronological order, we learn about Stuart’s past in reverse order, like the title of the story implies (and how it was told in the book). This makes for a rather interesting watch as we learn about this man’s life, and what put him in the position that he was in present day. Without getting too deep into it here, A Life Backwards doesn’t shy away from everything that happened with Stuart and the things he does and went through, but the best compliment I can give is that it’s remarkably honest. There is a fair amount of humour thrown in (especially with some interactions between the main two leads), but it is emotionally impactful at the same time. The movie is around 90 minutes long, and the pacing is a little uneven. It drags at points and sometimes feels rushed in others, however I was still rather invested.

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This movie is mainly focussed on its two lead actors, Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch, and both really work in their respective roles. I’ll start with Cumberbatch, who is more the audience surrogate, as he’s playing the author of the biography that the movie is based on. The movie focuses on his interactions with Stuart. We don’t really get to learn about his role of real life person Alexander Masters, and he’s definitely not the main focus of the story, but Cumberbatch still manages to act very well (in a comparatively more subtle way than his co-lead) and also deserves some praise for his own. However, it’s of course Tom Hardy who stands out among everything in this film, giving such an emotionally raw performance and steals every scene he’s in. This might well be his most difficult performance, but it pulled it off excellently. This is some of his best acting, and knowing his long list of great performances, that’s saying a lot. The chemistry between Hardy and Cumberbatch is great and believable, with the friendship between the two driving the movie essentially. It is also nice on another level watching them, especially knowing how known they are as actors now.

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Now Stuart: A Life Backwards is very much a tv movie, it doesn’t have a very big budget, and you feel that throughout. However, it still does some effective things with the direction by David Attwood, not to mention it just feels right for this specific movie. There are some brief moments of animation that may seem out of place, but I think worked well enough for the unconventional style and subject of the story.

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Stuart: A Life Backwards won’t be known by most people, but I really do think it’s worth watching. It’s a pretty good movie by itself, the story is handled with care and told as it should. However, it’s Hardy’s performance which brings it to a whole other level, making it pretty much essential viewing. It might be hard to gain access to a copy of A Life Backwards, but definitely watch it when you get a chance, it’s well worth it.

Death Proof (2007) Retrospective Review

Death Proof

Time: 113 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Offensive language, violence and content that may offend
Cast:
Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike
Rosario Dawson as Abernathy
Vanessa Ferlito as Arlene
Jordan Ladd as Shanna
Rose McGowan as Pam
Sydney Tamiia Poitier as Jungle Julia
Tracie Thoms as Kim
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Lee
Zoë Bell as Herself
Director: Quentin Tarantino

Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) is a professional body double who likes to take unsuspecting women for deadly drives in his free time. He has doctored his car for maximum impact; when Mike purposely causes wrecks, the bodies pile up while he walks away with barely a scratch. The insane Mike may be in over his head, though, when he targets a tough group of female friends, including real-life stuntwoman Zoe Bell (who served as Uma Thurman’s double in “Kill Bill”), who plays herself.

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I remember when I first saw Death Proof many years ago, I heard it was his worst movie, but I was expecting that going in, and I was just expecting a reasonably okay movie. I was still immensely disappointed in the end result, it was overlong and dull, and for a tribute to exploitation movies in general, it partially misses the mark. Having rewatched a lot of Quentin Tarantino’s movies in the lead up to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, I decided to watch Death Proof again, to see if I still felt that way about the movie. While I didn’t dislike it as much when I first saw it, most of my feelings on the movie haven’t really changed all that much.

As it’s a second review of the movie, I might delve into spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the movie yourself that just know this. Personally though I don’t think much of the experience could be ruined by spoilers. The biggest problem of the movie is that it tries to do two things at once, and they doesn’t work together. On one hand it’s meant to be an exploitation tribute movie, it was even paired with Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror in a collection called Grindhouse. It certainly gets the sleaze aspect correct, and it does have some moments of the graphic violence that you’d expect. There are no doubt some grindhouse elements, and the concept alone sounds like a exploitation movie. However, Death Proof movie also tries to be dialogue driven, and it just doesn’t fit the movie at all. All of Quentin Tarantino’s movies, save for Kill Bill Vol. 1 (and maybe Django Unchained and Inglourious Basterds) are dialogue driven, and Death Proof is no exception. For those who don’t know, exploitation movies are rather trashy, and usually filled with a bunch of explicit content, whether it be violence or sex. Not that I necessarily need that to enjoy the movie, but considering what it’s supposedly aiming to be, the focus on a lot of dialogue is just rather confusing. Even if you were going to try to make it work, the dialogue in the movie isn’t necessarily bad but it’s nowhere near as captivating as his other movies, it’s really weak. I didn’t dislike it as much as the last time I saw the movie but its pretty underwhelming. Usually Tarantino writes some very memorable characters. Taking Kurt Russell’s Stuntman Mike out of it however you don’t really remember the characters outside of the actors playing them.

The movie is split into two halves. The first half is mostly at a bar, it’s not that good but at least you feel like it’s really building up to something, with Stuntman Mike around the group of characters. The second half is much different. It starts with Stuntman Mike but then he disappears and doesn’t really come back till like the last 20 minutes of the movie, so there’s like no tension whatsoever and you’re just watching these uninteresting characters just talk about random things, except (as I mentioned the earlier) the dialogue isn’t all that good. Sure, there really wasn’t a lot happening in the first half but at least you felt like he was around to pose a threat. The second half also contains a questionable at best scene where the girls leave Mary Elizabeth Winstead with a guy who just so happened to play a trucker rapist in Kill Bill, and they ended the scene with some very unnerving implications to say the least. I’m not even sure what the point of that scene even was, because if anything that just makes us not care about these characters. While I do like the idea of making having a switch around with Stuntman Mike then being chased by the lead women, the fact that he just went after them in broad daylight was a little far fetched and kind of out of character for him considering how slowly he took his time planning his murders in the first half. Still, the last act was entertaining and a fitting way to end the movie. The movie is under an hour and 50 minutes long and it definitely feels far too long, probably shouldn’t have been more than 80/90 minutes. Honestly if you cut out (or at least shortened) quite a lot of the dialogue, you might’ve been able to make the movie shorter and overall a lot better.

Kurt Russell is one of the most recognisable actors in the movie as Stuntman Mike, although being listed as the lead, he just sort of appears on screen every so often. With that said, he kills it in all of his scenes as a serial killer who uses a car instead of a knife or a chainsaw. And when he gets shot in the third act and finds himself on the run, his sudden change in acting was effectively hilarious. The first group of women included Vanessa Ferlito, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Jordan Ladd and Rose McGowan, with the second group consisting of Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Zoe Bell (as herself). All in all they are at about the same level, they are alright but can only do so much. I really just didn’t care about these characters, which really was the main problem.

Quentin Tarantino directed this, and I think he mostly did a good job with it. He manages to make Death Proof look like an exploitation movie, some of it works, other parts don’t. The effects and filter on the screen is done to make it look like an exploitation movie, there’s even parts where the screen blacks out a second, meant to look like it’s changing to the next film reel. In the first part of the second half, the screen turned black and white (I guess it’s meant to be like meta with projectors losing colours) and when it returns, the scratchy effects are completely absent all the way to the end of the movie, never really understood why that happened. The car scenes themselves are good, it really consists of just 3 though, the crash with the first group of women, the bit where Russell is chasing the second group of women with Zoe Bell on the roof on the car, and him getting chased himself. The crash scene is straight out of a grindhouse movie, with the impact happening and rewinding to see the absolute damage it happened on everything and everyone. The chase with Zoe Bell on a car (who’s a real stuntwoman and she certainly performed that scene well that well) was very thrilling. And of course the final chase was gratifying as Russell found the tables turned against him. I don’t remember the soundtrack of Death Proof that much but I remember the songs fitting the movie reasonably well, which Tarantino does well in all of his movies.

Quentin Tarantino has a near perfect lineup of movies on his filmography, but Death Proof stands out in a bad way, by far his worst movie. If you like a lot of his other movies and haven’t seen this one yet, it’s worth giving it a chance at least. Just make sure not to take the movie seriously at all. Having seen this movie twice, I still don’t think it works. As for making effective tributes to exploitation movies, Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror seemed to be way more aware of the movie it should be trying to be.