Tag Archives: 2010

I Saw the Devil (2010) Review

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I Saw the Devil

Time:  141 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Lee Byung-hun as Kim Soo-hyun
Choi Min-sik as Jang Kyung-chul
Director: Kim Jee-woon

On a dark road, taxi driver Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi) comes across a scared female motorist stranded in a broken-down vehicle. He pulls over — but not to help her. When the woman’s head is discovered in a local river, her devastated fiancé, Kim Soo-hyeon (Byung-hun Lee), a trained secret agent, becomes obsessed with hunting down her killer. Once he finds Kyung-chul, things get twisted. After brutally beating the murderer, Kim lets him go free, and a demented game of cat and mouse begins.

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I remember hearing about I Saw the Devil for a while, I didn’t know much about it except that it involved serial killers, and the title alone gave the impression of being a horror movie. I heard some great things about it going into it but it actually turned out to be better than I thought it would be. A gruesome yet engaging horror thriller, it was amazing on so many levels.

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I Saw the Devil is a revenge movie at its core, and there are plenty of revenge movies out there. There’s a lot more to it though, and so I do recommend going into it blind. It really is a blunt and graphic portrait of pure vengeance, intense, edgy, and unforgiving, yet thematically potent. From beginning to end, I was invested in which direction the story and characters would take. This movie really takes the typical cat and mouse and serial killer plots to a unique place. This time it’s the main character who is toying with the villain (and serial killer). Despite the killer being about as horrible as he could possibly be, it really shows that the main character really is losing it on his pursuit of vengeance, so it’s not just another gory revenge movie. I Saw the Devil is uncompromising in its darkness and brutality, yet never sadistic. It’s very graphically violent but never borders into torture porn, as the violence serves the characters and themes above everything. Despite it being sort of a thriller, I Saw the Devil arguably gives off horror vibes more than anything else, and you could argue it occasionally crosses into that territory many times. The movie was 2 hours and 22 minutes long, it’s pretty long but that runtime really flew by for me.

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The acting is great all around, with the two leads really being the standouts. Lee Byng-hun plays the agent hunting the serial killer as revenge after his fiancée is brutally murdered. While you know his actions are rooted in a sense of justice, it ends up being out of control. Lee effortlessly brings his immensely flawed protagonist to life, despite the dark actions that he commits, he’s far too wrathful and headstrong to see his crusades as anything other than completely justified. At the same time, it’s impossible not to sympathise with him because you know that his actions are rooted in some sense of justice. Lee’s performance is a calm and determined one, with subtle nuances and facial expressions to convey both his desire for revenge, as well as his grief. The serial killer is played by Choi Min-sik, I knew him from playing the lead character in Oldboy, and here he’s in a very different kind of role. Choi’s character is downright loathsome and monstrous in this, absolutely the worst of the worst. But he owns the part perfectly and convincingly, he’s such an immense presence whenever he’s on screen. Both Lee and Choi bounce off each other greatly in their scenes together.

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This film is directed by Kim Jee-woon, and his work is nothing short of excellent. First of all, it’s a fantastically shot film. The cinematography with its constant tracking shots is amazing and makes the dirty and grim sets and locations look more beautiful than they have any right to be. The scenes of action are great. There is a moment with Choi Min-sik in a taxi, and it’s a particularly impressive scene, and I still don’t know how they managed to pull it off. The violence on display can be so shockingly vicious that it verges on the absurd. Despite this, you feel the impact of these moments every single time.

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I Saw the Devil is a grisly and grim yet excellent revenge horror thriller. It’s directed amazingly, performed greatly, and the story is engaging and visceral. It’s definitely not for everyone, if only for the extreme gore and violence. However if you like horrors and thrillers, I do think that it is definitely worth checking out, ideally knowing as little as possible beforehand.

The Expendables (2010) Review

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The Expendables

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains Graphic Violence
Cast:
Sylvester Stallone as Barney Ross
Jason Statham as Lee Christmas
Jet Li as Yin Yang
Dolph Lundgren as Gunner Jensen
Eric Roberts as James Munroe
Randy Couture as Toll Road
Steve Austin as Paine
David Zayas as General Garza
Giselle Itié as Sandra
Charisma Carpenter as Lacy
Gary Daniels as The Brit
Terry Crews as Hale Caesar
Mickey Rourke as Tool
Director: Sylvester Stallone

Barney Ross leads a band of highly skilled mercenaries including knife enthusiast Lee Christmas, a martial arts expert, heavy weapons specialist, demolitionist, and a loose-cannon sniper. When the group is commissioned by the mysterious Mr. Church to assassinate the dictator of a small South American island, Barney and Lee visit the remote locale to scout out their opposition and discover the true nature of the conflict engulfing the city.

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While I certainly like the central idea of those films, The Expendables aren’t the best action movies out there. The second movie is actually very enjoyable, but the third was very underwhelming. That being said I don’t remember much about the first Expendables. I watched it nearly a decade ago and I remember the actors involved but that’s it. So I decided to give it another look and can confirm that its not a very good movie, even looking at what it sets out to do. But I still had some fun with it.

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First and foremost, The Expendables is a homage to the blockbusters of the 80s and 90s, paying tribute to the action stars of the past and present. I can certainly say that you feel the passion for that. There are plenty of one liners and testosterone filled dialogue that feels like a parody, over the top plot and action, it has got it all. It also has a lot of the familiar tropes, usually for the worse. The plot is pretty thin, and the story isn’t all that interesting. It feels like it is going through the motions, almost in a lazy way. On one hand you could just say that the plot doesn’t matter, but its not exactly plotless either. So really the problem is that the movie doesn’t really know what to do with its story. On one hand it is a very run of the mill action plot about a group of mercenaries being assigned to assassinate a dictator, and has some really implausible and over the top moments. On the other, there is actually a point to the story as Stallone’s character Barney Ross comes to realisation that he is desensitised by the violence in his job, and his faith in humanity is restored. So it has some depth to a degree, but honestly it feels misplaced in this movie if anything. It is definitely a tonally inconsistent movie. The scene that exemplifies this is a surprising scene where Mickey Rourke delivers a monologue that is played completely serious. It is great, wonderfully performed by Rourke, and even Stallone’s reactions worked, but that scene just felt out of place especially compared to the scenes right beforehand.

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One of the biggest selling points of The Expendables was the ensemble of recognisable action actors. The performances aren’t special, but at the very least have a charm to them, and the cast have a lot of fun. There’s an interesting mix of people with Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and more. Mickey Rourke is in a small role and has a few scenes but delivers the best performance for the aforementioned out of place powerful monologue scene. The villains are quite generic and paint by numbers, thankfully the next two Expendables movies delivered better on that with Jean-Claude Van Damme and Mel Gibson.

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Sylvester Stallone’s direction is fine but not great. Some of the action sequences are entertaining, plenty of gun fighting, and there’s also a good amount of absurdity that makes it fun. That being said, there’s some shaky cam and quick cuts in the fight scenes that take away from it. The CGI can also look really bad, however it isn’t the explosions that are the worst of it. The gore and blood effects look absolutely terrible, in fact its probably the worst CGI blood I’ve seen in a movie. It looks straight out of a fan film despite being a big blockbuster.

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The Expendables doesn’t fully succeed in it sets out to do. Tonally it’s a bit inconsistent, some of the action can be hit or miss and it doesn’t reach the fullest potential of having all these action stars together in one movie. That being said, I do like it. It’s fun seeing the cast together, there are some enjoyable moments especially with the absurdity and the action, and there is a charm to it. So if you’re a fan of these 80s and 90s action movies, the first Expendables movie might be worth checking out. That being said, The Expendables 2 did this better and you could probably jump straight to that without needing to see the first film.

The Man from Nowhere (2010) Review

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The Man from Nowhere

Time: 119 Minutes
Cast:
Won Bin as Cha Tae-sik
Kim Sae-ron as So-mi
Director: Lee Jeong-beom

An ex-special agent is involved in a convoluted drug ring drama. He has to save a drug smuggler’s innocent daughter from being the victim of her parents’ fight.

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I had heard of The Man from Nowhere, an action thriller revenge film from South Korea that is meant to be good and quite underrated. Having finally checked it out, I think it’s solid. Some aspects of the story do hold it back from being better (mostly due to the familiarity) but on the whole it is really good.

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The first hour establishes its world, the protagonist’s mystery and the emotional bond between him and a girl before the plot point of having to save her. After that, it turns into a fast-paced action and steps into overdrive in the last 30 minutes with a lot of fights and gunshots. There are some pacing issues, the first act can be a bit slow. There is a large number of different characters in the movie, to the point where it can feel a little chaotic at times. Thankfully, the plot narrows down its focus by the end, particularly with the climax. On the surface it looks like a typical revenge action thriller and the story is quite predictable. The plot has some twists and turns, but it’s mostly a standard rescue/revenge movie and follows a familiar path. It definitely plays similar to those type of movies, but the execution is solid. The filmmakers do a great job at getting you to care about the characters and what’s going on. It helps that the story and characters come first before the action. The protagonist being a mysterious stranger with a melodramatic backstory is very typical and doesn’t do anything particular special, but with the way he’s portrayed and the deep connection he has with the girl character is portrayed well and feels real. Predictability and pacing aside, the only other main issue I have is that it does end a bit prematurely, it could’ve been a bit longer in its final moments.

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The acting is pretty good all round. Bin Won is great in the lead role. His character is definitely cliched, but he’s given enough depth and most importantly the performance made him believable. He’s quiet, brooding, calm and composed but dangerous and hiding emotional layers which eventually bubble to the surface. Also noteworthy is Sae-ron Kim as the girl that the protagonist bonds with. The relationship between the two is compelling and believable, helped by the performances, writing and the direction.

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Lee Jeong-beom’s direction of the movie is great. It’s very stylish with a slick aesthetic. The cinematography is stunning, its shot with a dark and rainy atmosphere and is superbly lit, with an appropriately downbeat colour pallet. The action sequences aren’t quite as frequent as you would expect for a film of this genre but the action sequences in here are great. It doesn’t go straight for the easy gratuitous gore and violence in the first two acts, instead saving its more intensely violent scenes for the final act. The choreography is fantastic and makes the fight scenes feel very real and impactful, there’s a weight to them and they feel grounded in reality. Occasionally the camera can shake a bit, but it’s never too much. You can still always tell what’s going on and there aren’t too many quick cuts.

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For what it lacks in originality, The Man from Nowhere more than compensates for with assured direction, great central performances, and action sequences. If you like action revenge thrillers, then you’ll probably like this one too.

Saw 3D: The Final Chapter (2010) Review

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Saw 3D

Time: 91 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Contains Torture & Sadistic Violence
Cast:
Tobin Bell as John Kramer/Jigsaw
Costas Mandylor as Mark Hoffman
Betsy Russell as Jill Tuck
Cary Elwes as Dr. Lawrence Gordon
Sean Patrick Flanery as Bobby Dagen
Director: Kevin Greutert

As a deadly battle rages over Jigsaw’s (Tobin Bell) brutal legacy, a group of Jigsaw survivors gathers to seek the support of self-help guru and fellow survivor Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery), a man whose own dark secrets unleash a new wave of terror.

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After a number of sequels whose quality was gradually descending from the heights of being good towards being mediocre, Saw VI was a refreshing entry in the Saw series and was a return to form. I was actually surprised how much I liked it as opposed to being sort of yet another Saw movie to get through. With that said, I heard nothing but bad things about Saw 3D: The Final Chapter. Even the people who are fans of the series usually say it’s by far the worst entry. I lowered my expectations as much as possible, and I think that’s partially why I kind of enjoyed this to a degree. Nonetheless, I’m not exactly sure how this movie ended up the way it did, even for the lows the series have gone in the past, it’s a little surprising that Saw 3D is this awful.

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The embarrassingly named Saw 3D: The Final Chapter tries to be so many things at once, and pretty much fails in all of them. The writing is abysmal, it is such a mess and lacks the elements that made even the weaker Saw movies somewhat work. For as goofy as the movies got, the tone was pretty dark across all of them. With the opening trap though, it establishes it as a different type of movie, feeling very goofy and campy throughout and I’m not 100% sure that it was intentional. This trap takes place in broad daylight in public and involves two guys having to fight over a girl and it’s actually worse than how I’m describing it. Not that there isn’t entertainment to be had from it, but you just can’t take it seriously. None of the story is genuinely interesting, none of the attempted twists really work, and the characters are dull. Even with Saw V, there were some aspects that were interesting. With this movie however I was just watching this as a purely camp horror film. Some of the dialogue in the movies can be bad, but this movie reaches new lows in hilariously bad lines, I sure hope that some of them  were partially intentional. This time the Jigsaw game is focusing on a character named Bobby, who lied being part of a Jigsaw game and is profiting off it for money and success, and he’s now finding himself in a real Jigsaw game. That’s fine enough and different for a Saw movie, even if it’s not as interesting compared to the last movie. It certainly had potential, but it was very mishandled in many ways. For one, the lead character is boring, but it doesn’t stop there. A massive flaw is that the movie had quite a big focus on the traps, specifically the gore, and I mean more than usual. There’s really no meaning behind the traps at this point, it just revels in extremity and the gore. With the previous movie, they tied the lead character with having to make decisions over peoples lives, like how he decided whether people got health insurance or not. You’d think that there’d be something like that for Bobby, but nothing like that happened. It’s just “here’s another gruesome trap” for you to see. With the movies it feels like there is a chance that people will get out of the traps, without that however there is no tension, and we are basically just watching gore happen. Besides, it’s already so silly that it’s hard to take any of this seriously. Additionally, by the end of the movie, the whole game doesn’t feel like it really matters to the rest of the plot.

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There’s also a police subplot, which isn’t unusual for the series, as they try to investigate and hunt down Jigsaw (in this instance Hoffman). However, it’s the worst attempt at a police or investigation subplot in the series. It’s incredibly weak and boring here, and you don’t really care for it, not helped by the very bland lead detective. Hoffman is also here after Jill Tuck tried to kill him in the last movie, and he’s hunting her down. Every so often it cuts to that storyline in between Bobby and the traps, it’s not very interesting or well handled either. Then there’s the whole Final Chapter aspect, it tries to tie up so many storylines, it really fails and feels rushed. This was meant to be 2 movies and was rushed into 1, and that’s completely unsurprising looking at the results. There are plenty of callbacks to the other Saw movies which you notice but they don’t really feel earned. As can be seen with the cast list, with Cary Elwes included, Dr Gordon is back. His return was much anticipated ever since the first movie and no mention of him in the sequels. The very first scene of the movie is a flashback cutting back to him after he escapes the room at the end of the first Saw. After that he also gets a scene in the first act and for the longest time doesn’t appear in the movie again. Eventually you learn why he’s in the movie, but even then it raises a lot of questions. The most identifiably enjoyable section of the movie has to be the last third of the movie, which is so over the top I can’t help but enjoy it. I won’t go into it too much if you want to see for yourself but the movie sort of turns into a slasher movie. When I say slasher movie I don’t mean the scary kind, I mean the incredibly silly kind where a lot of people get killed but it’s just entertaining. There’s even a scene where someone is running away, and it looks straight out of one of the movies from the Scary Movie series. There is a twist and reveal at the end of the movie (since all Saw movies have these), but it ends up creating more questions than answers. Without spoiling anything, I like the last scene plotwise and in concept, it makes a lot of sense with how they end it. However the context surrounding that reveal and scene has its own issues, requiring some explanations that we aren’t getting. Saw 3D is really lucky that it’s not the last movie in the series because this was quite a bad note to end it on.  

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Right after Saw VI having some of the better acting of the series, Saw 3D has some of the worst acting of the series. With Saw V and Saw VI, there’s been a reduced amount of Tobin Bell as John Kramer/Jigsaw, which wasn’t particular exciting considering that Bell is one of the only consistently good things about these movies. However in those movies, he appears in some significant flashbacks in the storylines, and does enough that it makes up for his lack of screentime. With that said, in Saw 3D he has way less scenes, you don’t get much of him, and in fact this has to be the least amount of screentime an actor has had while having top billing as in the movie. With that said, Bell brings his A game as usual. Not to mention, in one of his scenes involving a flashback with Bobby, his choice of disguise is just so… unbelievable that I almost recommend watching the movie just for that scene. Sean Patrick Flanery plays Bobby, the main victim in the Jigsaw game of this movie. I wouldn’t say he’s terrible considering some of the other acting in this movie, but he’s just passable. As for Bobby as a character, he’s not annoying or frustrating like Jeff from Saw III but he’s not interesting, he’s underdeveloped and the audience don’t have much reason to care about him. Just a very forgettable character and performance, and one of the weaker Saw protagonists. The main detective this time is Matt Gibson, a new character. If they kept any of the FBI agents from Saw VI alive, any of them easily could’ve fitted this role very well. Unfortunately, Hoffman killed both of them, so another cop character had to be created, who just so happens to be the worst of the main detectives. Gibson is such a boring and forgettable character, given particularly bad dialogue, and Chad Donella’s performance is honestly laughable. Costas Mandylor returns as ex detective and Jigsaw apprentice Mark Hoffman. I’m not sure that the film really knew what to do with him really for the majority of the movie. Then at a certain point towards the latter portion of the film, he becomes something of a slasher villain, and that’s where he shines. He basically just becomes the Hoffmanator, taking that voice recording scene from Saw VI where he killed 3 people in quick succession, and goes to a whole other level here. As said earlier, Cary Elwes returns as Doctor Gordon. He appears in the very first scene, he appears in a meeting of Jigsaw survivors, and without spoiling anything he does appear again. All I’ll say about his purpose in this movie is that the use of him wasn’t great. This Gordon isn’t developed enough in this movie, nor does he really have enough screentime to make him work as well as he could’ve. That’s not even to mention that the actual performance was… off. I know that a lot of people aren’t the biggest fan of his acting in the first Saw, but in the survivor meeting scene, he is just so creepy and sinister that is just so random. I’ve never heard anyone utter the term “promotional DVD” with such evilness. The acting from the people stuck in traps can be hilariously over the top that it really takes away even further from the gory traps. Really the only actor in the traps who I thought was good was the late Chester Bennington, who’s great in his 1-2 minutes of screentime.  

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Probably the biggest surprise of this movie is that Saw 3D is helmed by Kevin Greutert, the director of the very solid Saw VI. It seems so strange that someone who did some really good work on the last instalment would then produce such a below subpar movie. As it turns out however, this movie was supposed to be made in two parts with David Hackl (director of Saw V) directing. However Twisted Pictures fired Hackl at the last minute and forced Greutert to come back to direct it as 1 movie roughly 1-2 weeks before shooting began. Keep in mind that he was about to direct Paranormal Activity 2, but was made to create the last Saw movie because of a clause in his contract. So for all the many faults, I don’t blame him at all. He wasn’t able to incorporate or bring new ideas to the movie, and had to work with what he was given. That aside, this film is terrible on a technical level. First of all, the look of the movie. All the previous Saw movies had this very grimy look to it, but it has become part of the aesthetic of the franchise, and fits perfectly for the tone and vibe of the series. Saw 3D on the other hand is so brightly lit even in the trap scenes, it looks awful especially compared to the past movies. If there’s a Saw movie that could be called torture porn, it’s this one. It really tries to pack as many traps as possible, they even use a dream sequence as an excuse to add yet another trap. Not only that but they really amp up the gore, which leads me to the effects in that they were embarrassingly bad. You can tell that for all the lows of the past movies, most of the gore scenes were made with practical effects and looked somewhat realistic. Here though the gore looks really fake, both the practical and CGI effects. As for the traps themselves, they reach new heights in being over the top, even by Saw standards. At the same time, many of them were rather uninspired, unmemorable, and don’t stand out.  

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Time to address the elephant in the room, the 3D in Saw 3D. It was 2010 and unfortunately the notion of adding 3D to big movies hadn’t started to die down yet, so for the last instalment, for whatever reason some people decided that the film should be shot in 3D. It being hard to take the movie seriously with the use of 3D (and even adding it in the title), the fact that they shot the movie in this way really made it worse. First of all, there are things flying at the camera all the time, mainly the gore and body parts, and without actually watching it in 3D it just looks stupid every time it has one of those moments. Second of all, all the blood in this movie is pink, no doubt it appears red for people seeing it in 3D, but here it’s just makes it even harder to take the scenes of violence seriously. There’s a moment where they use the footage from the end of Saw VI when Hoffman escapes the reverse bear trap and his cheek is ripped open, with realistic blood and gore effects. Then it follows right after that and with the new footage in Saw 3D, when he’s sewing his face back up there’s just pink blood all over his face. In terms of standout sequences, it’s just the skinhead trap and a certain sequence involving Hoffman towards the end of the movie. The only genuinely good thing on a technical level is Charlie Clouser’s score, he’s pretty reliable but unfortunately not even he can elevate many of the scenes in this movie.

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I could go on and on about Saw 3D: The Final Chapter but the short of it is that it basically fails on every level. It fails as a Saw movie because there’s no tension or really any horror (just gore), and the twists aren’t particularly good. It also fails on being a conclusion to the main 7 movie arc. Saw 3D has become unfortunately a parody of itself, and I find it particularly hard to take it seriously. The only way it doesn’t fail is that it does provide some entertainment although a lot of it is unintentional, with some of the acting, directing and writing choices being so absurd that it is quite enjoyable. As for whether or not you should watch this, if you made it through the previous 6 Saw movies, you might as well watch the final one (of the main storyline at least). Though to have the most enjoyment with this, you really have to go in with the right mindset. Lower your expectations and once you figure out what this movie is going to be early on, you might then be able to enjoy it.  

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) Review

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Scott Pilgrim vs the World

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Contains violence, sexual references and offensive language
Cast:
Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers
Kieran Culkin as Wallace Wells
Chris Evans as Lucas Lee
Anna Kendrick as Stacey Pilgrim
Brie Larson as Natalie V. “Envy” Adams
Alison Pill as Kim Pine
Aubrey Plaza as Julie Powers
Brandon Routh as Todd Ingram
Jason Schwartzman as Gideon Graves
Director: Edgar Wright

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) meets Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and instantly falls in love with her. But when he meets one of her exes at a band competition, he realises that he has to deal with all seven of her exes to woo her.

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I had watched Scott Pilgrim vs the World a long time ago, and I remember liking it at the time. Looking at back it though, I had this slight feeling that probably didn’t like it as much as a lot of people nowadays do. Rewatching it recently, that feeling was confirmed for me, but I still enjoyed it reasonably well. It’s not one of my favourites from Wright but his work on this movie was nonetheless great and I was entertained.

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I’m not familiar with the source material (the graphic novels) but I heard that the movie is pretty accurate to them. At under 2 hours long, Scott Pilgrim vs the World kept me reasonably entertained throughout. There are some simple but memorable enough characters, as well as witty and quotable dialogue. The plot isn’t overly dramatic or sappy, you aren’t really emotionally invested in the story or characters but I don’t think you’re meant to. The movie is funny, though the comedy doesn’t work quite as much as Edgar Wright’s other movies. There’s also definitely a lot of creativity throughout the film. I will say that the movie doesn’t fully work for me. The plot does what it has to and ultimately it works in its execution, however I’m not really invested in the plot and characters a great deal. Even though I said the movie probably doesn’t intend to be one whose plot you get emotionally invested in, I just wasn’t invested on any level. I was only watching because I was sort of entertained with what I was actually watching. I’m not inclined to rewatch Scott Pilgrim as much as Wright’s other movies. It’s not that memorable but it is still enjoyable.

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The cast generally do well in their parts. Michael Cera plays the quirky and awkward Scott Pilgrim, and it’s likely his best performance. With that said, Pilgrim is quite an unlikable protagonist, so I can really get the people who are put off by him throughout. I certainly didn’t really care for him but I generally tolerated him for this movie. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is quite good in her role of Ramona Flowers. Kieran Culkin, Anna Kendrick, Alison Pill, Brie Larson and Aubrey Plaza are decent in their parts. The over the top evil exes of Ramona that Scott Pilgrim has to fight are pretty entertaining, especially Chris Evans, Brandon Routh and Jason Schwartzman, though they don’t have a lot of screentime.

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Edgar Wright’s direction is the reason why the movie works as well as it is. The style can be described as being like a mashup of comic books and video games. I guess if the style doesn’t win you over in the first 30 minutes, then the rest of the movie probably won’t work for you. Looking at it, it’s so easy for it to become obnoxious or insufferable, but Wright makes it quite an entertaining and visually stunning movie. There is a lot of energy throughout which goes a long way. There’s also a lot of visual comedy which Wright is known for, and they’re quite well implemented into the movie. The editing is quite slick and adds a lot to the movie, especially with regards to the action. There are some beautifully shot action sequences that are very entertaining and creative. There’s also a great soundtrack to go along with it all.

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I think that Scott Pilgrim vs the World is good overall, if very flawed. Most of the cast are great, it’s very stylishly and incredibly directed by Edgar Wright, and it’s pretty entertaining throughout. It’s on the lower end of Wright’s filmography for me and I don’t really love it, but it still has a lot of his recognisable and great elements from his other movies.

The Social Network (2010) Review

Time: 109 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg
Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin
Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker
Armie Hammer as Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss
Max Minghella as Divya Narendra
Brenda Song as Christy Lee
Rashida Jones as Marylin Delpy
Rooney Mara as Erica Albright
Director: David Fincher

In 2003, Harvard undergrad and computer genius Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) begins work on a new concept that eventually turns into the global social network known as Facebook. Six years later, he is one of the youngest billionaires ever, but Zuckerberg finds that his unprecedented success leads to both personal and legal complications when he ends up on the receiving end of two lawsuits, one involving his former friend (Andrew Garfield). Based on the book “The Accidental Billionaires.”

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A story about Facebook could easily be done poorly. It doesn’t sound very interesting on paper and even if it could be pulled off decently enough, it doesn’t seem like it could be anything better than just good. And yet The Social Network is more than just a decent movie, it is truly great and better than anyone would expect it to be. David Fincher, Aaron Sorkin and the talented cast and crew made the story of Facebook riveting and fantastic, it’s even better upon a second viewing and I suspect it will only get better with further watches.

Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay is excellent and one of the stand out best parts of the film, and that’s saying a lot. The dialogue is so well written, very sharp, memorable, riveting and fits perfectly for the moments, Sorkin is known for his exceptional dialogue and his work on Social Network is no exception. It is fantastic from the beginning, the opening scene between Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) is brilliant and helps establish so many things about Mark and it sets him off on his path for the rest of the movie. It’s interesting watching all the events progress, and how things in Mark Zuckerberg’s life would lead him to make actions to take Facebook further. You wouldn’t think that a movie about Facebook would be so interesting and entertaining to watch but it really is, you are genuinely on board with everything that’s happening. It’s like we are right there watching history happen right alongside these characters. What Mark started was something small and grew into something that not even Mark was expecting. Really fantastic writing by Sorkin.

The cast all around were great in their roles. I’m fully aware that some people don’t really like Jesse Eisenberg’s acting style but he was perfect in the role of Mark Zuckerberg. The portrayal of Zuckerberg is great, it doesn’t try to make you like him, just to show what he is like. Andrew Garfield is also really great as Mark’s friend and business partner Eduardo Saverin and his performance was really overlooked, especially by the awards. A big part of the movie is their friendship and they have great chemistry together. Armie Hammer plays two people as the Winklevosses (Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss) and really does give one of his best performances here, being really convincing as two twins. Even Justin Timberlake was really good as Sean Parker, really fitting the role well. Rooney Mara is only in a couple scenes but she does well to leave an impression as Mark’s ex-girlfriend, especially in the first scene of the film. Really everyone was great.

Saying that David Fincher’s direction is great would be redundant, it’s just so stylish and well put together. You wouldn’t think that a movie about Facebook would even need to look that great. On paper, The Social Network just sounded like it needed a good script and an okay direction but Fincher’s handle really adds a lot to the movie. I don’t know where Fincher used all the visual effects in this movie, but he generally uses these in his movies to make things look better like the environment or background. One effect that you can tell was used was the effects for making two Armie Hammers, and I say this because Armie Hammer doesn’t have a twin or a clone (that we know of yet at least). Even though it’s a film from 2010, these effects still really hold up well today and look effortless. The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross was excellent, and with it’s dark ambience really elevated this movie even further.

The Social Network is truly fantastic and yet another one of David Fincher’s all time best films, and that means quite a lot when it comes to him. The talented cast all give tremendous performances, Aaron Sorkin’s writing is top notch, and Fincher with his work here has made one of his best crafted films. It gets better every single time I watch it. As for all these talks about a possible Social Network sequel, as long as Fincher and Sorkin are returning for it, I’d be more than on board for it.

Let Me In (2010) Review

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Let Me In

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence, offensive language and horror
Cast:
Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen
Chloë Grace Moretz as Abby
Richard Jenkins as Thomas
Cara Buono as Owen’s mother
Elias Koteas as a detective
Director: Matt Reeves

Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) leads a lonely life and is bullied by his peers at school. He happily befriends Abby (Chloe Grace-Moretz), his new helpful neighbour, without being aware that she is hiding a secret from him.

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Let Me In was a movie I was interested in watching for quite a while. I deliberately held off watching it till after I watched the original, Let the Right One In, which turned out to be quite a great movie. The remake sounds like a bad idea at first, even with it being led by Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace-Moretz and being directed by Matt Reeves. Not all American remakes are bad, but most of the time they don’t turn out the best, especially when it comes to remakes of foreign horror movies. Surprisingly, Let Me In is a pretty decent remake, and I liked it quite a bit, however it definitely could’ve afforded to take more risks.

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Usually American remakes of foreign movies simplify the plot, and water things down. The good news is that for the most part, Let Me In doesn’t do that. It’s pretty much the same plot just done again. That’s also the bad news however, it really doesn’t do a whole lot new outside of adjusting it to an American setting. The small changes that were added to the plot really didn’t serve the story much, including an opening which flashforwards to the middle of the film. There’s also a forced police investigation throughout the movie, and it just didn’t find it to add that much to the movie all that well. The main problem from the original with the bullies being over the top evil is also a problem here too. With all that being said, the rest of the movie is good, removing the original from it all. The pacing is good across its roughly 2 hour runtime, the story is engaging, and I enjoyed watching it quite a bit.

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The acting is great, and one of the highlights of the film. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace-Moretz are in the main roles, and I’d go so far as to say that it’s on the level of the two leads from Let the Right One In at the very least. Their relationship and connection just felt genuine and real, and they shared great chemistry. Moretz is particularly fantastic in the role of the vampire girl, conveying so much emotion, it ranks among her best performances. The supporting performances are also good, mainly from Richard Jenkins and Elias Koteas.

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Matt Reeves’s direction is really great as to be expected, he was definitely the right person to handle this remake. It’s an absolutely gorgeous looking film, and I might actually slightly prefer the cinematography in this just a bit more over the original. Reeves gave Let Me In very atmospheric, on a technical level for the most part, it’s great. There are some faults especially when it comes to the use of CGI. Minor spoilers here, but without going into too much depth, there’s an attack in both versions that happens under a bridge by Eli/Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz), and it was done effectively in the original and wasn’t too silly. However, in Let Me In they added some CGI to her during scenes like this, and it just made it really goofy and over the top. There were some sequences that were done in a more over the top way in general, some of it is fine, but other times it doesn’t work so well. Let Me In is noticeably more bloody and violent than the original, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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Let Me In could’ve been a lot worse, but there was definitely room for improvement. At the very least it could’ve benefited from trying something different. With that said it is still a pretty good movie, directed greatly by Matt Reeves, and acted wonderfully by Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace-Moretz. It is worth watching for sure, just make sure not to watch it right after watching the original or anything.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010) Review

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Legend of the Guardians - The Owls of Ga'Hoole

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Some Scenes May Scare Very Young Children
Cast:
Jim Sturgess as Soren
Emily Barclay as Gylfie
Ryan Kwanten as Kludd
David Wenham as Digger
Anthony LaPaglia as Twilight
Helen Mirren as Nyra
Geoffrey Rush as Ezylryb/the Lyze of Kiel
Joel Edgerton as Metal Beak
Hugo Weaving as Noctus and Grimble
Adrienne DeFaria as Eglantine
Miriam Margolyes as Mrs. Plithiver
Sam Neill as Allomere
Sacha Horler as Strix Struma
Abbie Cornish as Otulissa
Richard Roxburgh as Boron
Director: Zack Snyder

A father owl’s tales of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole enthrals his son Soren, but an older son scoffs at the stories of winged warriors who fought an epic battle to save all of owlkind from the evil Pure Ones. Later the brothers become captives of the Pure Ones, but Soren makes a daring escape and, with the help of other young owls, seeks out the Guardians and brings them back to defend their people once again.

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This was actually the first film from Zack Snyder that I watched. It seems like an odd choice for him to direct looking back at his filmography. He’s more known for adapting comic books and graphic novels, not young adult books about animals. While it doesn’t rank among the best movies of his filmography, I thought it was pretty good.

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I actually had read the books this movie is based on some time ago, that being the Guardians of Ga’Hoole by Kathryn Lasky. I don’t have a strong memory of the plot in the books, but I recall movie’s plot being roughly similar to that from the novels, however there were some major changes in story and characters. The plot of this movie is quite a simple good and evil story. With that said, it’s darker than most children’s animated movies, and that is one of its biggest strengths. It was a while since I’ve read the books, but parts of the plot and the visuals are darker than you’d usually see. The only problem I have with this is that the tone is a little all over the place, as the humour is a bit unbalanced it has one too many jokes mixed in with this epic story. This movie covers the first 6 books in the Guardians of Ga’Hoole book series, and although the books aren’t that large, there’d be quite a lot of the story to be told in one movie. If it was going to be just one movie, it would probably need to be over 2 hours long to develop the characters and story enough, as well as not feeling a little rushed. As it is, the movie is under an hour and 40 minutes long, and the pacing is a little all over the place. It does feel like the movie doesn’t quite live up to its potential story-wise Also, maybe it’s because much of the movie is more mature than I expected, but I kind of wished for slightly more complexity from the story and characters, even though I know it’s essentially a children’s animated movie. The dialogue is also a little clunky at some points. The movie did leave at a point where it could go further with sequels, but unfortunately we didn’t get any.

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The characters aren’t particularly deep and are generally fine, the heroic characters are heroic, the quirky characters are quirky, and the evil characters are evil. I wish the was more to them but they are elevated by the voice cast, with the likes of Jim Sturgess, Emily Barclay, David Wenham, Hugo Weaving, Helen Mirren, Geoffrey Rush and Joel Edgerton, making each of the characters stand out more and more memorable. The villain voiced by Edgerton particularly stood out and was quite effective in his scenes.

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This is the first and only animated film from Zack Snyder, and he’s done very well with his direction here. All of his movies are visually stunning, and Legend of the Guardians is no exception. It’s greatly animated, the environments, lighting and colours are outstanding, and when it particularly comes to the effects for the feathers and particularly elements like fire and water, it’s a wonder to watch. Although some had made fun of Snyder’s use of slow motion in some of his movies, it’s used absolutely perfectly here. While it definitely would’ve looked much better if it was made today, it still looks pretty good a decade later. The action involving the owls is also effective, especially some battle scenes towards the end. It’s hard to pull off making owls fighting look epic, but Snyder does it. This may be an animated movie, but you can still tell that this is one of his movies through and through. The music is generally good, except for a moment when a song played by Owl City is played, and aside from the pun with the band name, it’s really out of place and doesn’t fit in with the rest of the movie.

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Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole is quite good, visually stunning, well made and enjoyable to watch. While there are some things holding back from being even better and reaching its full potential, I liked it overall, and I wished that we got to see more of these movies in this series. I’d like to see Snyder make another animated movie sometime, he certainly showed that here that he’s more than capable of it.

Black Swan (2010) Review

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Black Swan

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains violence, sex scenes & content that may disturb
Cast:
Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers/The Swan Queen
Mila Kunis as Lily/The Black Swan
Vincent Cassel as Thomas Leroy/The Gentleman
Barbara Hershey as Erica Sayers/The Queen
Winona Ryder as Elizabeth “Beth” MacIntyre/The Dying Swan
Director: Darren Aronofsky

Nina (Natalie Portman) is a ballerina whose passion for the dance rules every facet of her life. When the company’s artistic director decides to replace his prima ballerina for their opening production of “Swan Lake,” Nina is his first choice. She has competition in newcomer Lily (Mila Kunis) however. While Nina is perfect for the role of the White Swan, Lily personifies the Black Swan. As rivalry between the two dancers transforms into a twisted friendship, Nina’s dark side begins to emerge.

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I liked Black Swan when I first saw it, and it definitely got all the acclaim that it deserved. I’ve already watched most of director Darren Aronofsky’s work (with the exception of The Fountain), but I wanted to have another look at some of his movies, and so I started my rewatches with Black Swan and got even more out of it this time. Aronofsky’s direction was really great and as usual Natalie Portman is fantastic.

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I won’t go into too much depth about the plot in case you still haven’t gotten around to seeing the movie yet. Darren Aronofksy really keeps this movie tight at an hour and 50 minutes long, it keeps the pace up pretty quickly and on a second viewing I really noticed it. It starts out as a movie about what an artist would do for art, and it is that throughout, but it also turns into a psychological thriller. It really goes crazy in the third act to say the least, and when the film needs to go horror, it really goes there. Looking at the plot from beginning to end, it’s so perfectly crafted and well put together.

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Everyone in the cast was outstanding, however this is really Natalie Portman’s show, giving a career best performance here. Her character’s whole thing is that as how she is now, she’s perfect for the role of the White Swan but in order to perfectly perform The Swan Queen, needs to delve deeper into darker territory to portray the Black Swan as well. Her descent and change were very convincing, and Portman works well. Her performance is essentially what drives the whole movie, as great as Aronofsky’s direction is here, Black Swan wouldn’t have worked without Portman’s excellently performance. Mila Kunis gives probably her best performance yet as a seemingly rival to Natalie Portman who seems to work as the Black Swan, which would compel Portman towards a different side. Vincent Cassel is also really great as the director of the ballet, who also pushes Portman further towards becoming more of the Black Swan. Definitely one of Cassel’s most standout performances. Barbara Hershey was also good as Portman’s obsessive mother, adding even more strangeness and uneasiness to the whole movie. Winona Ryder is in here in a smaller role as the previous Swan Queen before Portman, but she still really worked in her few scenes.

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Darren Aronofsky’s direction of Black Swan is excellent. I know it should go without saying but the actual ballet portions of the movie are showcased, choregraphed and displayed on screen very well. When it comes to the psychological horror side (especially towards the latter section of the movie), it’s effectively creeping and unnerving. The limited sections of crazy visual effects still hold up really well 9 years later. The score by Clint Mansell really works (which is to be expected of him at this point), very haunting yet beautiful, much like the whole movie.

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Black Swan is Darren Aronofsky’s best film yet, and considering some of the movies that he’s made, that’s saying a lot. His direction was great, really portraying a descent into madness well, with great acting, especially from Natalie Portman who gives an extraordinary performance here. Definitely one of the best films of 2010 and the 2010s, and worth a watch if you haven’t seen it already.

Incendies (2010) Review

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Incendies

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains violence and content that may disturb
Cast:
Lubna Azabal as Nawal Marwan
Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin as Jeanne Marwan
Maxim Gaudette as Simon Marwan
Rémy Girard as Jean Lebel
Director: Denis Villeneuve

Nawal (Lubna Azabal), a dying Middle Eastern woman living in Montreal, leaves separate letters to her twin children to be read once she passes away. Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) is to deliver hers to the father the twins never knew, and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) is to give his to the brother they never knew they had. The siblings travel to the Middle East separately, where they each experience acts of brutality, uncover a startling family history, and have revelations about themselves.

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Incendies was the last of Denis Villeneuve’s films that I had got around to watching. I had caught up on his other movies, all the way to his first with August 32nd on Earth. This is his last non-English language movie before he started making movies that most people know of now with Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario and beyond. I’ve heard some great things about Incendies, mostly that it’s a really impactful film. I can confirm that it is indeed fantastic, and that it’s among Villeneuve’s best.

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Incendies is a mystery movie, with a plot containing a number of twists and turns, and so I’d say that that it is really best going into it knowing not much beyond that, so I’ll keep my description of it reasonably vague. The plot of Incendies is essentially about twins about looking for their father that’s still alive and looking for the brother they never knew they had, at the request of their dying mother. It’s split in two storylines, with the twins going to certain places that the mother had once been, as well as the flashbacks of the mother. It’s a very closed in and intimate movie and you are absolutely locked in from start to finish. Although it is generally great, as the movie progresses further on and comes together at the end, it’s something quite excellent. This movie can get very bleak, even by Denis Villeneuve’s standards, and certain revelations later on are quite ‘impactful’ (an understatement really). I guess if you wanted nit-picked a little, you could say that the movie does really rely on a lot of coincidences, but I guess that’s kind of the point, it didn’t bother me too much.

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While the cast isn’t particularly known and isn’t particularly large, the acting is great from everyone. The twins played by Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin and Maxim Gaudette do well in their roles. These characters don’t have a lot to them and you don’t really get to learn much about them (outside of one initially being more willing than the other to do deliver on their mother’s final request), however that works fine enough, because Incendies is essentially the story of the mother, not the children. Really, it’s Lubna Azabal’s movie as Nawal, and she carries the movie excellently. The story goes to some very emotional levels, and Azabal more than delivered on her part.

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Denis Villeneuve’s direction is fantastic as usual. It’s a stunning looking movie, Andre Turpin’s cinematography is outstanding, and there are so many memorable and emotionally impactful images that are burned into your memory. Much of the movie is actually rather quiet and subtle, but it all just made everything feel all the more real and raw.

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Incendies is a devastating and unforgettable film, it’s truly remarkable. It’s constantly engaging, greatly acted, and an effective emotional punch when it needs to be. Denis Villeneuve has done such fantastic work here, and this ranks among his best movies, which is saying a lot considering some of the other films he’s made. Although it’s not an easy watch by any means, I’d say to definitely check this movie out, especially if you like Villeneuve’s other movies.