Tag Archives: 2009 movies

Thirst (2009) Review

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Thirst

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Horror, violence, sex scenes & offensive language
Cast:
Song Kang-ho as Sang-hyun
Kim Ok-bin as Tae-ju
Kim Hae-sook as Mrs. Ra
Shin Ha-kyun as Kang-woo
Park In-hwan as Priest Roh
Song Young-chang as Seung-dae
Oh Dal-su as Young-du
Director: Park Chan-wook

Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho), a priest working for a hospital, selflessly volunteers for a secret vaccine development project intended to eradicate a deadly virus. However, the virus eventually takes over the priest. He nearly dies, but makes a miraculous recovery by an accidental transfusion of vampire blood. He realizes his sole reason for living: the pleasures of the flesh.

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I was interested in Thirst by the mere fact that Park Chan-wook directed it. I was interested to see how a vampire movie by Park would be. Additionally, I really like Song Kang-ho as an actor, and so him playing the lead here interested me greatly. Thirst is one of the most unique vampire movies I’ve seen, it might be a little overloaded with what it tries to do, but overall, I thought it was quite good.

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As I said earlier, Thirst is a unique take on the vampire genre. The film takes many familiar gothic tropes and utilises them and plays around with them in a interesting way. Despite these tropes being quite traditional and the story structure having been used many times before, the film still manages to feel distinct. As a vampire story it stands out, and the transition from human to vampire was told in a compelling way. With that said, calling Thirst merely a vampire movie would be doing it a disservice. It really is a blend of different genres and elements including horror, drama and comedy, with the end result being a gory psychological horror romantic thriller (and even that doesn’t quite do it justice). The story puts the main character in an interesting dilemma as he goes on a very dark journey when he becomes a vampire. The characters are very well developed, especially the two lead characters, and the story is suspenseful. The writing is strong, with sharp and witty dialogue. Thirst is also weirdly funny like some of Park’s other movies, or really a lot of other dark South Korean thrillers in general. There’s a certain level of quirkiness throughout. This movie is filled to the brim with thought provoking themes and complex topics that Park takes on. The movie deals with love, passion, belief, sin and desire, and portrays the darker side of humanity. Also Thirst places at a close second for most passionate and erotic films from Park Chan-wook right behind The Handmaiden (the film’s title of Thirst really does have a double meaning). I will say that it really does feel like Thirst is trying to cover a lot, most of it works but at times it feels like it is trying to handle too much. Thirst is also definitely a slow burn, it’s very deliberately paced and seems to meander early in the movie. It also does feel quite long, and potentially it could’ve been a little shorter.

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Another strong aspect of the movie is the performances, which are fantastic. Song Kang-ho gives a stellar performance as the lead character of a priest in crisis who becomes a vampire who struggles to hold onto his urges. Song Kang-ho embraces all the emotions his character is going through, and convincingly conveys all the conflicts that he has over the course of the movie. It’s not just him however, Kim Ok-bin also excels in the role of a housewife who goes through her own transformation into someone very different from where she started. It was thrilling to watch and was convincingly done, she really shines in the second half especially. The chemistry between the two were good, their dynamic was one of the shining points of the movie. These characters are complex and feel human, helped both by the writing and acting.

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Park Chan-wook directs this, and it’s no surprise that it’s so great on a technical level. There are some gorgeous visuals, with great cinematography and camerawork, and the set and costume designs are top notch. Also worth noting is that despite this being a vampire movie, Thirst has the recurrent colour of blue across the movie instead of red. There are some hallucinations at certain points in the movie and they are filmed quite creatively. There are lots of blood as to be expected given it’s a vampire movie and one directed by Park, and the effects are really good. The editing and the score round out the rest of the technical elements and are great in their own rights.

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Thirst may be a bit long and try to tackle a little too much thematically, but on the whole it’s a great and unique take on vampires, and a great psychological romantic horror thriller. Park Chan-wook directs it excellently, the story is engaging and has a lot going on, and the lead performances from Song Kang-ho and Kim Ok-bin are fantastic. If you like vampire movies, horror movies and/or Park Chan-wook movies, I highly recommend checking it out.

Saw VI (2009) Review

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Saw 6

Time: 93 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] contains sadistic violence
Cast:
Tobin Bell as John Kramer/Jigsaw
Costas Mandylor as Detective Mark Hoffman
Mark Rolston as Agent Dan Erickson
Betsy Russell as Jill Tuck
Shawnee Smith as Amanda Young
Peter Outerbridge as William Easton
Director: Kevin Greutert

The legacy of the Jigsaw Killer continues as his successor Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) follows his instructions while his wife (Betsy Russell) carries out his final request.

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Even though I had enjoyed the Saw movies up to this point, they’ve been getting a little dull. The previous movie, Saw V, particular,y left me rather underwhelmed. Despite the series being in decline, I had some hopes for Saw VI just based off the things I had heard a bit about it. Having watched it, I can say that I actually ended up liking this a lot more than I thought I would. After the past couple of entries, it’s a return to form for the series.

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The past couple of movies have been spending a lot of time taking place in the past. Thankfully with the exception of some flashbacks, Saw VI is mostly spent in the present. The main storylines in this movie consists of a new game that people are trapped in, and Hoffman dealing with John Kramer’s wife Jill Tuck, along with an FBI investigation into the identity of Jigsaw. The game focuses on the insurance industry and the US healthcare system, with the main victim of Jigsaw’s game this time being the executive of an insurance company. This is a hot topic especially considering it was 2009, but it’s still socially relevant to this day. I found the approach to be very interesting and unexpected, as I didn’t really expect the Saw series to tackle social issues. It’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer and it’s pretty blatant with the way it’s written, but this hasn’t been a subtle series on any level so that’s not really a problem. I admire them actually going in this different direction. Not to mention, it actually fits perfectly and makes sense that this would be something that John Kramer would focus on. It’s pretty clear that unlike some of the other games, this one is actually personal for him. There are some flashbacks with John Kramer and the main victim William Easton (the insurance executive), which really links things together. Not only that, but you can see how some of what happened in the past would inspire Jigsaw to take the approaches that he takes as a serial killer, especially with the whole choosing life or death aspect. The one thing I will say though is that I’m not sure why this game hadn’t happened sooner as opposed to being one of Kramer’s final requests considering how important this was for him. You’d think that this would’ve been one of the first games he would’ve tried after becoming Jigsaw. As for the game itself, there are moral dilemmas that Easton faces throughout. In some of the past Saw movies, they try to present difficult situations to the main character, and usually it doesn’t leave an impact on you. Here it’s genuinely nerve wrecking as the main character often has to decide who lives and who dies.

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Detective Mark Hoffman’s (Costas Mandylor) storyline is the other major part of the story. He was the clear cut successor to Jigsaw, and as that he was a little underwhelming in Saw V despite some of his background being revealed. However, he does a lot more here, and ultimately is a notable improvement in this movie. He has some great moments in this movie, one of the highlights involving a voice recording. Like in Saw V, there are flashbacks of Hoffman working with Jigsaw, and also Amanda, and I found those scenes to be interesting. There is even a reveal that retroactively improves an aspect from Saw III (even if it does raise a question by itself). Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell), the husband to John Kramer, was introduced in Saw IV and got some screentime in V. She gets to do stuff in Saw VI too and I like how she was utilised. Here she is going to fulfil her husband’s final mysterious request which is built up over the course of the movie. In the last movie, she was left a box by John Kramer, and we finally see what’s in that box. There’s also an investigation about the identity of Jigsaw over the course of the movie, which is typical of Saw. At least with the FBI investigation this time though, it doesn’t pull a Saw V and give exposition to the audience and have them reveal things that we already know. This storyline is more about whether Hoffman will get away with it. I mostly liked it, though I do kind of wish some of it went differently. For example, some of the decisions from the agents towards the end of the plotline were a little silly and not that well thought out. The ending is great, with both storylines being ended well. Without getting into it, the sequence that occurs right before the credits is one of my favourite scenes in the series. For what it’s worth, there’s also a post credits scene, though whether it pays of in the next Saw movie remains to be seen at this point. On the whole, Saw VI starts out strong from the beginning and stays strong all the way to the end. You can tell from the beginning that the pacing is much better and not sluggish. There’s a strong balance between horror and drama, which the past few movies had struggled with. It’s also a lot more focused with the plot, not as messy as Saw IV and not as (for lack of a better word) pointless as Saw V. While there are some lore and backstory revealed in flashbacks, they don’t feel forced and they work naturally for the characters and the story. The emotional stakes are raised in both storylines too, which I wasn’t really expecting. Now it is still over the top and unbelievably ridiculous, but it’s gloriously and entertainingly so. Some moments and character decisions are far-fetched and don’t make sense. However, if you’ve reached the sixth movie in this gory soap opera at this point, you’ve come to expect all that.

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The acting in all the Saw movies is a mixed bag, but Saw VI has probably the strongest acting on a general level. First there’s the returning characters. Tobin Bell as John Kramer/Jigsaw is once again great, he’s still very much here through flashbacks, but it’s done to enhance the story. I guess you could say that he’s used similarly to how he was utilised in Saw V, but it’s done better here. He feels like a presence throughout in every storyline, from the main Jigsaw game which was personal to him, to other people that he knew like Hoffman and Jill. Costas Mandylor returns as Hoffman, and as I said earlier he’s much better in this movie than he was in Saw V. He’s very different than Jigsaw as a character, but I liked that, and he has some fantastic moments here especially in the last section of the film. I will say though that once again, he sticks out as being such an obvious villain. There’s a scene with him and a Jigsaw survivor in a hospital, and he’s just cartoonishly suspicious it was actually unintentionally funny. Betsy Russell as Jill Tuck gets to do some things in the plot, and Shawnee Smith even returns as Amanda Young in some scenes for some flashbacks. The acting of the people in the game are still a mixed bag, but generally the acting from them here is surprisingly decent for a Saw movie. The lead in this storyline is Peter Outerbridge as William Easton, the insurance executive that Jigsaw forces to play the game. There’s plenty of reasons to not like Easton, but Outerbridge manages to make you sympathise for him with everything that he’s going through.

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Kevin Greutert directs this movie, and this is his debut feature film. The previous director of a Saw movie was the production designer of the sequels, and Greutert also has a link to the series from being the editor of the past 5 movies. On the whole, I think the direction was solid. The editing is probably better than the first four movies at the very least. It’s still frantic during the more intense moments, but it has been toned down so it’s not quite as distracting or obnoxious. With that said, some of the editing can still be unnecessarily fast paced, even in normal scenes. There’s a scene between John Kramer and William Easton where they are talking, and every so often the camera speeds between their faces for no reason. The traps of the past movies have been mostly underwhelming, especially Saw V. Saw VI however sets the tone for the rest of the movie by opening with an incredibly brutal trap that I wasn’t expecting, establishing it as one of the more brutal entries in the series (or at least more so than the past couple of movies). The traps can be quite creative, there’s one based on oxygen, and while it’s not as brutal as some of the other traps, it was certainly unique for the series. There’s some larger scale traps for the series, including a steam maze and most infamous of all, the shotgun carousel. The latter of which is among the best traps from the whole series, and while featuring some gore, seemed to focus a lot more on tension. That’s the other thing, I genuinely felt tense during many of the moments in this movie, whereas in a lot of traps in the other movies I don’t usually feel anything. Charlie Clouser’s score as to be expected is fantastic, I actually can’t imagine a Saw movie without his music work, it’s so iconic to and synonymous with the series.

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For what it’s worth, Saw VI is the best Saw movie since Saw II. The storyline was more focused and engaging, the traps were memorable and crazy, and it features some of the best moments from the whole series. I wouldn’t call it great, it definitely has its faults and in a lot of ways unbelievably silly and ridiculous (especially considering where the series had started). But by Saw movies standards, VI mostly certainly is great. Even if you didn’t like the past few Saw movies, I recommend giving this one a chance.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) Review

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Fantastic Mr. Fox

Time: 87 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] contains coarse language language
Voice Cast:
George Clooney as Mr. Fox
Meryl Streep as Felicity Fox
Jason Schwartzman as Ash Fox
Bill Murray as Clive Badger
Willem Dafoe as Rat
Michael Gambon as Franklin Bean
Owen Wilson as Coach Skip
Director: Wes Anderson

Mr Fox (George Clooney), a family man, goes back to his ways of stealing, unable to resist his animal instincts. However, he finds himself trapped when three farmers decide to kill him and his kind.

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I remember watching Fantastic Mr. Fox around the same time that it was released back in 2009, I remember liking it, but it was very long ago. I wanted to watch it again for some time, especially after having caught up on the rest of Wes Anderson’s movies now. The movie actually turned out much better than I thought it would be coming back to it. It’s funny, entertaining to watch, and well made, especially when it came to the animation.

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Fantastic Mr. Fox is based off the novel of the same name by Roald Dahl (which I don’t think I’ve read myself). From what I heard though, it captures the spirit of the source material. At the same time, the writing is most certainly from Wes Anderson. The script is witty, charming, entertaining and hilarious, with some dry humour too. The dialogue is snappy and quick, again typical Wes Anderson, and the quirky characters are memorable from their writing alone. There are also some strong emotional themes and about family which are fit very well to the movie, even if that’s come to be expected from most animated kids films. Even though it’s a children’s animated movie, both kids and adults can watch and enjoy it, and in fact adults would probably get more out of the experience. Fantastic Mr. Fox is just under 90 minutes long and holds your attention from beginning to end. It really helps that the movie across its runtime is unique and fully of energy, never allowing for a dull moment.

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The voice cast like the casts in most of Wes Anderson’s other movies is large, talented, and very much an ensemble. Just some of the actors enlisted were George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Michael Gambon, and Owen Wilson. Each actor gave their respective character distinct personalities and traits through their perfect voice performances, and particularly had flawless comedic timing.

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Wes Anderson is the director of Fantastic Mr. Fox, and like his other movies, he has a distinct style that he added to this film. All the stylistic aspects including the shot compositions, the title cards, the montages, and the bright and striking colour pallets that he typically used in his live action movies are perfectly translated to the stop motion animation from live action. Speaking of which, over a decade later, the stop motion animation still really holds up surprisingly. It’s fast paced, the characters and locations are well designed, and the movements look great. Visually, there is so much attention to detail, including visual gags which you could end up missing if you aren’t paying attention. The soundtrack was perfect too, and the songs are utilised perfectly in their respective scenes. All of these elements were also utilised just as well (from what I remember) from Wes Anderson’s 2018 film Isle of Dogs

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Fantastic Mr. Fox is thoroughly entertaining stop motion animation movie that works well for both children and adults, with some witty and hilarious writing, a great voice cast for the memorable characters, and outstanding direction. It’s great for sure and probably among my favourite animated movies, and if you haven’t checked it out already, then it’s definitely worth watching. You’ll probably like it even more if you’re familiar with Wes Anderson’s other movies.

Halloween II (2009) Review

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Halloween 2 2009

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Malcolm McDowell as Samuel Loomis
Tyler Mane as Michael Myers
Scout Taylor-Compton as Laurie Strode
Sheri Moon Zombie as Deborah Myers
Brad Dourif as Sheriff Lee Brackett
Danielle Harris as Annie Brackett
Director: Rob Zombie

Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) is still at large and no less dangerous than ever. After failed reunion to reach his baby sister at their old home, Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) is immediately taken to a hospital to be treated by the wounds that had been afflicted by her brother a few hours ago. However, Michael isn’t too far off and will continue his murdering Halloween rampage until he gets his sister all to himself.

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Rob Zombie’s remake Halloween back in 2007 was pretty divisive and it remains the case to this day, some love it, some hate it, but most are mixed on it. I myself am in the latter crowd, it no doubt has some issues, but I did like some of the things that Zombie at least tried to do. One of my problems with it is that although Rob Zombie was sort of making his remake of Halloween his own, in the second half of his movie he seemed rather constrained to largely recreating a lot of the original horror classic. As messy as the first half of that remake was, it would’ve been more interesting if Zombie just stayed consistent in doing his own thing. Well it seemed I got my wish with his sequel to that movie with Halloween 2 (not in any way related to Halloween 2 from 1981). Of all the entries in long running and iconic franchises, Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2 is among the most interesting. A departure from the Halloween movies, it goes into some different places I wasn’t expecting, and despite its issues, I liked being along for the ride.

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I watched the director’s cut because I heard that it was better than the theatrical version, and I liked what I got, so if you’re going to watch this movie then the director’s cut is probably the version you should seek out. This is the most un-Halloween-like movie in the series, and I can say this with complete confidence despite at this point only having seen Halloween 1978, Halloween 2018, and the first Rob Zombie Halloween. If you didn’t like the idea of Rob Zombie’s take on Michael Myers, you’re probably going to have a lot of issues with this movie. You might enjoy the movie up to the time jump, which takes place in a hospital, but after that it goes in a completely different direction than a standard Halloween (2007) sequel. It really is the aftermath of the first Rob Zombie Halloween, with Laurie Strode dealing with the impact of the last film, Dr Loomis who is capitalizing on those events with a book, and Michael Myers continuing his long search for Laurie while having visions of his dead mother and a white horse. This is definitely Zombie’s own movie, and even if it doesn’t fully succeed, I can’t help but admire the dedication for going in this direction. I did mention earlier about Michael Myers having visions of a white horse, which is an indication that Halloween 2 is a rather strange movie with some very weird choices, and within the first third of the movie you can figure out whether its your thing or not. People have also called the symbolism and the white horse parts a little pretentious and while I can’t disagree, at least Zombie is trying to go for something different. My issue was more that the white horse and visions tonally doesn’t mix with how grounded they present Laurie’s trauma, especially considering that the first movie seemed to have Michael Myers more as a serial killer than a supernatural presence. Also with regards to the story, I was more invested than I thought I would be, but like the Michael Myers origin story in the first half of Halloween 2007, some of the dialogue written kind of deflates the significance of some dramatic scenes. For example, when Laurie makes a discovery about herself and has a big reaction to it, she just screams “FUCK” like 10 times while in a car, and it’s just rather hard to take seriously. To be fair though, Zombie’s handling of Laurie’s storyline was a little more nuanced than I thought it would be. It’s not really much of a slasher movie until the third act, you must know that going in. Slight spoiler but while Michael Myers is trying to find Laurie throughout, it’s a while before he even gets to her, for the most part he’s a hobo who occasionally kills people. It’s just following these characters doing their own thing until the climax. For whatever reason it worked for me.

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Tyler Mane returns to play adult Michael Myers, and he is great, of course in the scenes where he kills people he really is a force of nature, but his mere presence in a scene is intimidating and haunting. Brad Dourif as the sheriff gets more scenes than in the first movie, and he’s quite good, particularly great in the last act. Malcolm McDowell was in good in the first movie as Dr Loomis, and this time Loomis is more like what you’d expect from a character played by McDowell. His character has grown rather selfish and egotistical ever since he started profiting off Michael Myers’s murders, and while I’m not entirely on board with what they did with him, McDowell absolutely sells it and gives another solid performance.

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Once again you feel Rob Zombie’s presence all over this, and like the story, it’s even more his movie. It’s even more grim, more so than Halloween 2007. Visually it’s great, that grainy 16mm really added a lot and fit the tone and rest of the direction perfectly. The violence in Zombie’s first Halloween was pretty graphic but here it’s ramped up to being even more over the top, to the point of hilarity and absurdity at points. In the aforementioned hospital scene, the moment where Michael Myers gratuitously stabs a nurse played by future Oscar winner Octavia Spencer is just so overblown, that it had to be intentionally darkly comedic. Brian Tyler’s score is pretty good (albeit rather standard horror music), but it is weird how the first movie had issues of placing the main Halloween theme in inappropriate scenes, whereas here you don’t hear the main theme until the end. It’s mostly its own thing, and that certainly fits in with the rest of the movie.

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Halloween 2 is very much not for everyone, even more the case than the previous movie. It’s imperfect for sure, but much of Zombie’s direction, the different choice for the story, as well as some of the acting was enough to keep me on board throughout. The thing is that it’s not really a slasher movie, it’s an arthouse movie (or at least an attempt at one) using the characters from a Halloween movie, and so its stuck trying to be a slasher movie at certain points. I get the feeling that it would have been better if Zombie just made the film its own thing with his own characters and not being constrained at that, it’s not like you can make an argument that he’s elevating the source material or something. I will say that if you thought Rob Zombie didn’t go full out and was stuck with the recreation of the original movie, give this one a try (try to watch the director’s cut). However I can completely see why plenty of people strongly dislike this movie.

Mother (2009) Review

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Mother

Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language & sexual theme
Cast:
Kim Hye-ja as Mother
Won Bin as Yoon Do-joon
Director: Bong Joon-ho

A widow (Kim Hye-ja) resides with her mentally challenged son (Won Bin) in a small South Korean town, where she scrapes out a living selling medicinal herbs. Mother and son are plunged into a nightmare when the body of a murdered young girl is discovered. Circumstantial evidence indicates the son’s involvement, and he becomes the prime suspect during the sloppy police investigation. Betrayed by the legal system, the mother takes the law into her own hands to clear her son’s name.

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Mother is another movie from Bong Joon ho, so naturally it was on my list of movies to watch. I didn’t really know what to expect going into it, except of the initial plot description being about someone being accused of murder and his mother trying to prove his innocence. It turned out to be a lot more than I thought it would be, a great and engaging social mystery thriller that really sticks with you long after watching it.

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I won’t talk too much about the plot to avoid spoilers. At its core, Mother is a straightforward story, a murder mystery story where one character tries to prove that another is innocent. It’s quite a low key thriller, yet it packs a suspenseful plot, with some clever and impactful twists throughout that’s effectively unpredictable. It’s a riveting murder mystery film, with quite a good central mystery and a real neo noir feel. Bong balances the thrilling mystery and the hard-hitting drama, while adding a bit of his signature humour along the way. Like with Bong’s latest film Parasite, Mother is very Hitchcockian, but also off kilter in the way that you can expect from the filmmaker from his other movies. There’s a lot of social commentary, as to be expected from Bong, such as when it comes to the police, portrayed here as being incompetent, clueless or corrupt. The movie is also really about how much someone is willing to go to save their child, and that theme is present throughout. The ending was great, without getting into too much depth here. It is a very haunting movie, it really sticks with you long after you’ve seen it. It is effectively bleak and unsettling too, and by the end a little depressing. But it is told very well, so you’re still invested throughout. There aren’t many criticisms that I have, I guess it is a bit long at around 2 hours and 10 minutes long, and some of that time could’ve probably been trimmed down a little. The pacing was also a bit slow and could drag at some points, it being a slow burn thriller, but it wasn’t too slow that it bothered me however.

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The acting is all great but the performance that stands out of course is the lead Kim Hye-ja, playing the unnamed mother only credited as Mother, and she is fantastic in this film. Despite some of the questionable things that she does over the course of the movie, you can still identify and sympathise with her and her situation. It’s a powerhouse performance, filled with such emotion and nuance, and she’s excellent here. Definitely one of the film’s greatest strengths. Won Bin, who plays her son is also quite good, as someone who has an intellectual disability. Even though the mother is adamant that he is innocent, you’re not quite certain that he is, and can never tell really. The rest of the cast are also good, but it really is Kim Hye-ja’s movie through and through, she owns every scene that she’s in.

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Bong Joon-ho’s direction is typically great, and he’s put everything together greatly, it’s edited very well. The cinematography is pretty much perfect, it was shot excellently and is absolutely stunning to look at, and the imagery really sticks with you. The score by Lee Byung-woo is great too, and really fitted the rest of the movie well.

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I will say that Mother isn’t one of my favourite movies from Bong Joon-ho like Memories of Murder or Parasite were, but it’s nonetheless a great film that’s extremely well made. With an intriguing and unsettling mystery, a great script, excellent direction and a great lead performance from Kim Hye-ja, it is definitely worth the watch.

The Lovely Bones (2009) Review

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Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence
Cast:
Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon
Stanley Tucci as George Harvey
Mark Wahlberg as Jack Salmon
Rachel Weisz as Abigail Salmon
Susan Sarandon as Grandma Lynn
Michael Imperioli as Detective Len Fenerman
Director: Peter Jackson

After being brutally murdered, 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) watches from heaven over her grief-stricken family (Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz) — and her killer (Stanley Tucci). As she observes their daily lives, she must balance her thirst for revenge with her desire for her family to heal.

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The Lovely Bones looked like it had all the elements for a great film. It had a great cast including Saoirse Ronan and Stanley Tucci, was based off a murder mystery book with fantastical elements, and was directed by Peter Jackson of all people. So it just was a shame that the movie didn’t turn out to be all that good really that good.

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I’ve never read the book of the same name, so I’m just judging the movie as it is. The setup is reasonably straightforward, lead character is killed by killer, and the lead character is in purgatory watching events happen. After that though, it all just sort of falls apart. First of all, the tone is pretty weird and all over the place. As I just said, murder plays a big part of the movie. At the same time there’s a lot of random comedy, for example there’s a particularly comedic scene with Susan Sarandon and it doesn’t work with the rest of the movie. Maybe it was aiming to be a dark comedy of sorts, but I was trying to even look at this it from that angle and that still didn’t work as that. The approach to the afterlife was even weirder, especially with how Jackson decided to portray it on a visual level. Aside from occasionally watching over her family and friends and trying to communicate with them, it’s just Susie watching from her place and not doing much. Not only that but the story too, it is approached with a family friendly sort of way, and that just doesn’t work. Even though it’s not shown on screen, the setup of the movie is that the main character gets raped and murdered by a killer, at this point one probably shouldn’t be trying to make that story a movie with a PG-13 approach. I just wasn’t all that invested with what was going on, not with the thriller and murder level, and not on the supernatural afterlife level either. It’s a shame because there was some potential. After the murder, it felt like they didn’t know what to do with the concept. The writing itself isn’t particularly good, the dialogue can be particularly bad. The ending was particularly weak, and without spoiling anything, the message at the end of all is more than a little questionable, whether it’s intentional or not.

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The cast is pretty talented, but the acting is a bit mixed, there are really two highlights that stand out among the rest. Saoirse Ronan’s acting as the lead character of Susie isn’t one of the best performances of her career, but she plays the role as best as she possibly can, and adds quite a lot to the movie. The highlight performance of the movie however is Stanley Tucci as the killer. This is one of those performances where a familiar and likable actor plays such a dark and different role from what they are used to, and they pulling it off seamlessly. Tucci’s character already shows early signs of being a killer and at times it gets a little silly, but at the same time there are many parts to him that feel creepily naturally. Mark Wahlberg’s performance here is a big of a mixed bag. Generally he’s at least okay enough at acting but his acting here reminded me a lot of his performance from The Happening, and it was just rather hard to take him seriously. Even in the more dramatic scenes he seemed really out of place. Rachel Weisz is a great actress but she does just okay here, honestly she doesn’t get a lot to do in the movie. The rest of the cast is mostly just fine, not bad by any means, but nothing above just decent.

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We all know that Peter Jackson is a really good director, but his direction of The Lovely Bones is a bit all over the place. Most of the work in the real world sections are filmed fine, if nothing spectacular. The visuals are quite large during the afterlife sequences, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily good, they were quite over the top. At times it could be cartoonish and really silly. I will say that as glossy and weird looking as the effects are, it is a good looking movie generally.

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The Lovely Bones unfortunately isn’t that good and is among Peter Jackson’s worst movies. I can’t comment on whether the book delivered these concepts better but whatever the case, the movie didn’t reach its potential with the ideas. Saoirse Ronan and particularly Stanley Tucci were great, and that might make the movie worth watching. Outside of that there’s really not that much. Watch it if you’re curious about it, but you wouldn’t be missing much if you chose to skip it.

Polytechnique (2009) Review

Time: 77 Minutes
Cast:
Maxim Gaudette as The Killer
Sébastien Huberdeau as Jean-François
Karine Vanasse as Valérie
Évelyne Brochu as Stéphanie
Johanne-Marie Tremblay as Jean-François’ mother
Pierre-Yves Cardinal as Éric
Director: Denis Villeneuve

A dramatization of the Montreal Massacre of 1989 where several female engineering students were murdered by an unstable misogynist.

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Polytechnique was one of the remaining Denis Villeneuve movies that I’ve been meaning to catch up on. Villeneuve in recent years has shown himself as one of the best directors working today, so I’ve been making sure that I would catch up on all of his movies (with this film, Incendies, Maelstrom and August 32nd on Earth being the remaining movies that I hadn’t watched yet) and now I’ve finally got around to Polytechnique. All I knew about this film going in outside of the director was that it was a dramatization of a real life shooting. It definitely lived up to all the hype, and was a really great (albeit difficult to watch) movie that worked very well for what it was supposed to be.

It’s really impressive what Denis Villeneuve was able to put into this movie with the runtime being less than an hour and 20 minutes. The first act quickly establishes the prevalent characters and the location before the shooting start. This movie is seen through the eyes of two students before, during and after the shooting, and it does really well to keep your attention throughout the entirety. It really does its best to respect the story, and it doesn’t try to give too much context about the events or try to comment on it, they just let is speak for itself. Even the killer himself is established briefly at the beginning, with a monologue from him about what’s driving him to commit these actions and that’s it. From there it’s one very impactful and effectively devastating experience of a film as it unflinchingly forces you to watch this tragic event, without it ever feeling gratuitous.

There’s not a lot of actors to talk about but really everyone played their parts well. The main characters of the film however are the killer played by Maxim Gaudette, as well as Sébastien Huberdeau and Karine Vanasse as the two students that the film focusses on over the course of the events. The three of them were really great and feel really authentic and real in their roles, doing so much with very little.

This is Denis Villeneuve’s third movie and at least at this point he’s really honed his skills and from this movie is a very talented filmmaker. Having watched Villeneuve’s prior movies, I’d say that it’s Polytechnique where he has really found himself with his direction and style. The film throughout is shot in black and white, it felt very appropriate and was much more effective. The cinematography itself was really great. Polytechnique has a very eerie feel throughout, probably because of how painfully realistic it all feels. Even before the shooting starts, the movie effectively places you right there and you really feel a lot of tension as it all builds up to the shooting. And when the shooting actually happens, it hits really hard.

Polytechnique is not an easy movie to watch, given how disturbing and upsetting the subject matter was). However, it is a really great and important movie, especially considering the political climate today. It was directed and acted incredibly well, and considering the seriousness of the subject matter (as well as the fact that it was based on real events), Denis Villeneuve and crew really handled this movie the best it could possibly be. It may not rank among Villeneuve’s best films considering the high calibre of his recent work and it’s not one I want to watch again, but it’s nonetheless a great film and really worth seeing.

Bronson (2009) Review

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Bronson

Time: 92 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Tom Hardy as Michael Gordon Peterson/Charles Bronson
Matt King as Paul Daniels
James Lance as Phil Danielson
Amanda Burton as Charlie’s mother
Kelly Adams as Irene Peterson
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

In this drama based on a true story, there’s no one tougher or more brutal in the English penal system than prisoner Michael Peterson, aka Charles Bronson (Tom Hardy). First incarcerated after robbing a jewellery store, the married Bronson is sentenced to seven years. But his incorrigible, savage behaviour quickly gets him in trouble with guards, fellow inmates and even a dog. The only place where Bronson can’t do any harm is in solitary confinement, where he spends most of his time.

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I remember when I was going to watch Bronson for the first time. I liked director Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, and I really liked Tom Hardy as an actor, and it runs out I liked Bronson too. It is for sure one of Refn’s more ‘accessible’ movies (at least when compared to the likes of some of his other movies like Only God Forgives). Having seen it for a second time, I probably like it even more now, a truly bizarre movie in the best possible way, directed greatly and with one of the most impressive performances I’ve seen at the front and centre of this film.

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Bronson is quite the unconventional biopic, its subject is Michael Peterson, also known as Charles Bronson, who is often called the most violent prisoner in Britain. However, Refn’s take on the story isn’t straightforward or what you’d initially expect. First of all, it doesn’t even remotely attempt to paint a sympathetic picture of the character/person, and much of the storytelling is from Bronson’s perspective. In the first 5-10 minutes you pretty early on get a sense as to what kind of movie it is. There are some moments where we get to see Bronson’s more vulnerable side, mainly in the second act. At the same time however, it doesn’t try to explain Charles Bronson, rather letting the audience make up their own answers for him. Bronson is greatly written too, quite entertaining, and even has a fair share of dark comedy in there too. Much of the movie reminds me of A Clockwork Orange, from the style to some of the way certain scenes were handled. As far as issues go, there are some pacing issues towards the second act. Without giving too much away, it’s not quite as outrageous or filled with violence as the first act, but in general you really feel it slow down suddenly, and even some of the energy died down noticeably. Now I still liked the second act and there’s a good reason why the pacing was that slow considering that part of the story, but it’s worth pointing out nonetheless. Bronson is about an hour and 30 minutes long, and that was about the right length for this movie.

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This movie surrounds the character/real life person of Charles Bronson (the criminal, not the actor of course), and so much of the film heavily relies on the actor playing the titular role. Tom Hardy (who wasn’t such a big name just yet back in 2008) did such a fantastic job in the role. This could very well be Hardy’s career best performance, and knowing much of the work he’s done, that’s saying a lot. He’s full of energy, he has the physicality, he’s charismatic, he’s scary, and has such a powerful screen presence that carries much of the movie. He’s incredibly electric and a force of nature in this, you definitely don’t see Hardy at all in this role, moustache aside. Surprisingly, he also portrays Bronson’s emotional side very convincingly too, painting a picture of a man that’s a little more than just violent and insane (even if it’s not neatly laid out what kind of person he is). He really does capture this real life person incredibly well. The rest of the actors in the supporting cast do play their part well, but it is the Tom Hardy show.

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Nicolas Winding Refn’s direction is nothing short of exceptional, much of how he told the story is why this movie works so well. It’s an absolutely stunning looking movie from beginning to end, and unsurprising considering this is Refn, especially when it came to the use of colour. It’s not just the cinematography aspect of the direction that’s great, a conventional biopic it is not. The mix of narration and fourth wall breaks from Hardy’s Bronson works perfectly. In much of the movie he’s talking and performing to a stage audience (mostly shown in the first act). That sort of dies down a bit after the first act, but it nonetheless makes quite the impression. The music choices worked very well for the movie too.

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Bronson is an entertaining and unconventional ‘biopic’, wonderfully directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, but its backbone is Tom Hardy as the titular character, who is absolutely tremendous in the role. I’m not sure that it is for everyone, but I thought it was great. Hardy’s performance alone makes it a must see.

Zombieland (2009) Review

Time: 86 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence and offensive language.
Cast:
Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee
Jesse Eisenberg as Columbus
Emma Stone as Wichita
Abigail Breslin as Little Rock
Director: Ruben Fleischer

After a virus turns most people into zombies, the world’s surviving humans remain locked in an ongoing battle against the hungry undead. Four survivors — Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and his cohorts Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) — abide by a list of survival rules and zombie-killing strategies as they make their way toward a rumored safe haven in Los Angeles.

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With Zombieland 2 coming later in 2019, I decided to re-watch the first movie. I watched Zombieland years ago and seeing it again more recently reminded me of how entertaining and well made it is for what it is. Director Ruben Fleischer and the cast all do a really good job at making Zombieland a really fun road trip zombie comedy.

Zombieland really is a straight up roadtrip comedy with zombies and for what it is, it’s really good. It gives you likable characters that you can follow and the plot is straightforward and simple enough. The plot is not particularly structured and is just the characters going from place to place and all of that works well. The movie doesn’t really take things too seriously, this is a comedy after all, and all the humour hits really hard. The movie is less than an hour and 30 minutes long and from start to finish its consistently entertaining.

The cast is mainly consisting of the main 4 leads, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin. Jesse Eisenberg is sort of the main character out of the 4, his character as you can expect is a nerdy and socially awkward, which is not usually one of the main characters that you’d expect leading a zombie movie, which makes it stand out more (especially as how he’s genuinally good at surviving with all his rules that he has in place and it actually works well). He does a lot of voiceovers and he does it in his typical Jesse Eisenberg fashion and it really worked. Woody Harrelson in this movie is… Woody Harrelson, and it really works. There’s a self awareness to his performance and character that I think makes his role here rank among some of his best. He’s really entertaining and hilarious, and he definitely steals the scene when he’s on screen. Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin play sisters who later come across Jesse and Woody and they are good as well. The 4 all share great chemistry together and are one among the main parts of why the movie works so well, given that we are with them for the whole movie. Zombieland also contains one of the best cameos in a movie. If you somehow don’t know about it yet, I won’t spoil it.

This still is by far director Ruben Fleischer’s best movie, with Zombieland you can tell that he really has a good understanding of comedy and the zombie genre. Like with Shaun of the Dead (another zombie comedy), despite it being a big budget zombie comedy, they don’t hold back on the gore, it’s as gory as most zombie movies. The effects 10 years later are still top notch and still look pretty good, which was probably achieved through a mix of digital and practical effects along with some makeup, the zombies look like zombies. All the zombie killing is made really fun to watch, there are some really gratifying zombie death scenes. You aren’t really scared throughout any of the movie, even during the zombie attack scenes (unless you aren’t used to seeing any zombie movies), it’s bloody and gory more than anything (not that this was a failure by Fleischer). Zombieland is also really stylised and Fleischer from all this is shown to be great at visual comedy, it’s all edited and put together really well.

Zombieland still today works as a really fun and entertaining zombie comedy and from start to finish. If you haven’t seen Zombieland you really should get around to it, especially before the next movie. I still feel like you might be able to enjoy the movie if you’re not a big zombie fan, it’s not particularly scary, you just have to be okay with seeing a lot of zombies and gore (since its not really scary and is really comedic throughout). I just hope that 10 years later after the first movie, Zombieland 2 can be at the same level as the original.

Inglourious Basterds (2009) Review

Time: 153 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence and offensive language
Cast:
Brad Pitt as Aldo “The Apache” Raine
Mélanie Laurent as Shosanna Dreyfus/Emmanuelle Mimieux
Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa
Eli Roth as Donny “The Bear Jew” Donowitz
Michael Fassbender as Archie Hicox
Diane Kruger as Bridget von Hammersmark
Daniel Brühl as Private First Class Fredrick Zoller
Til Schweiger as Hugo Stiglitz
Director: Quentin Tarantino

In World War 2, a group of American soldiers led by LT. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) is sent into Nazi occupied France to kill as many Nazis as possible. A plan is made to kill high ranking German officers at a movie theatre. That movie theatre belongs to Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), a Jewish refugee who witnessed the deaths of her family by Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). When she finds that every major Nazi officer is attending for a premiere, she hatches a plan of her own.

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Inglourious Basterds is widely considered one of the best films from Quentin Tarantino, and for good reason. The acting, direction but most of all the writing makes this such a unique, different and entertaining movie, which has gotten better every time I’ve watched it. One of his most complete movies and definitely one of his top tier movies, if not his all time best.

It’s no surprise that Quentin Tarantino’s writing is fantastic, in its 2 hour and 20 minute runtime it doesn’t miss a beat. From start to finish the film is riveting, a good example of one of these scenes, happens to be one of the best scenes, which is at the very beginning; it was a very tense and it’s a credit to the actors and Tarantino. One thing that is different from his other movies is the way it is structured; the film is broken up into chapters, focussing on particular characters. It’s only in the final chapter where both the Basterds, Hans Landa and Shosanna are in the same chapter. As usual the dialogue is fantastic, and while Tarantino could be considered self-indulgent with some of the dialogue in this movies, here all of it feels just right. Another difference is the use of 4 multiple languages throughout the movie, which was definitely a different turn from Tarantino and made things interesting. The final act of this movie is exhilarating and very entertaining in one bloodbath of a finale.

Tarantino gets the best out of everyone who stars in his movies and Inglourious Basterds is no exception. Brad Pitt is hilarious in this movie, especially with his very overplayed accent. Other actors like Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Michael Fassbender and Daniel Bruhl, all have great moments in this movie and contribute to the movie immensely. There are however two standouts among the cast. The performance that steals the show of course is by Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa. Waltz is magnetic when he’s on screen, that aforementioned opening scene establishes him as an absolute screen presence. Melanie Laurent is often overlooked in this movie but she’s really fantastic here, definitely deserving of much more praise.

Quentin Tarantino effortlessly directs this movie with his style and infuses it with a lot of energy. Tarantino really helps to set the film in the 1940s, from the production design to the costumes, all of it was done well with great detail and it really paid off. Helping this is the music picked for it, even when some of the songs that are used in a much later time period (including Cat People by David Bowie), they fit perfectly in the scenes they are placed in.

Inglourious Basterds has gotten better every single time that I’ve seen it. The performances from its large and talented cast (especially from Melanie Laurent and Christoph Waltz) were great, and of course the writing and direction is at the core of what made it work so well. Though we are still a little while away from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, at this point in time I’d say that Inglourious Basterds may well be Tarantino’s best film yet. Definitely watch it if you haven’t seen it already.