Tag Archives: 2011

Fast Five (2011) Review

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Fast Five

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence & offensive language
Cast:
Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto
Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner
Jordana Brewster as Mia Toretto
Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce
Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as Tej Parker
Matt Schulze as Vince
Sung Kang as Han Lue
Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs
Gal Gadot as Gisele Yashar
Joaquim de Almeida as Hernan Reyes
Elsa Pataky as Elena Neves
Director: Justin Lin

Ever since ex-cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Mia Torretto (Jordana Brewster) broke her brother Dom (Vin Diesel) out of custody, they’ve traveled border to border to evade authorities. In Rio de Janeiro, they must do one final job before they can gain their freedom for good. Assembling their elite team of car racers, Brian and Dom know they must confront the corrupt businessman who wants them dead, before the federal agent (Dwayne Johnson) on their trail finds them.

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Up until Fast Five, the Fast and Furious was a rather okay but entertaining action franchise based around street racing. Some of the movies were reasonably fun but that was sort of it. Fast Five changed that with a much larger blockbuster direction very much for the better, also changing the series as a whole.

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The plot is simple enough: main characters decide to pull off heist on a drug lord while they are being chased by a DEA agent. They don’t make it needlessly complicated, they know what this movie is, with just the right amount of self awareness and witty humour throughout. With Fast Five, they increased the scale and scope of the series. They replaced the street racing formula with elements of a heist thriller, effectively resurrecting this franchise and makes it go in a new direction that actually works quite well. What also works is that they reunite the whole crew with characters from the past movies, making this a sort of soft reboot. If you haven’t seen any of the previous movies, you really don’t have to. You might miss some details with backstories and other characters that are mentioned in passing, but you can pick up on those easily easily. On top of the original Fast and Furious team with Dom, Brian and Mia, there’s characters introduced from 2 Fast 2 Furious, Tokyo Drift and Fast and Furious. While that could seem a bit overwhelming to have all these characters brought in, they actually work quite well together. Despite the over the top action, the screenplay does place more emphasis on its story and characters, to the film’s benefit. Then there’s the ever present theme about family, and as much as this has been made fun of, it is something that is throughout these movies. One of the things that I like most about these movies is that for as over the top they are, they are genuine and endearing with the characters and their journeys. So it’s just the right mix where they don’t take it too seriously and don’t let anything like physics get in the way of the action, while actually caring about the story and characters.

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The movie has a stellar ensemble with the actors playing to their advantages. Returning main cast members Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster come back, as does Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Gal Gadot, Suan Kang and more from the previous movies to reprise their roles. All of them work together well in the team and have great chemistry together. It’s no coincidence that the series really found itself after Dwayne Johnson joined it. His personality and charisma adds a lot to this movie as well as the following movies. In this movie, he’s going after Vin Diesel and his group (before teaming up with him later on) and its fun watching them face off.

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Fast Five is directed by Justin Lin, who directed The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and Fast & Furious prior to it, but he seemed to have improved over these movies. He has such a sleek direction, the action scenes are particularly great. This movie obviously is far from being realistic but it’s all shot, edited and filmed well. The third act is the standout, and there’s particularly an insane final setpiece involving a giant safe, which is particularly strong. Brian Tyler’s score packs some intense tracks that adds a lot to the action.

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Fast Five is one of the best entries in the franchise, this is really where the series took off and it’s easy to see why. Even looking back at it now 10 years later, it still holds up despite its ever present flaws. It’s entertaining while caring about its characters and story, it’s silly and over the top while being endearing, it’s just the right blend of elements. If you’ve never seen a Fast and Furious movie, you could jump right in with this movie.

Hanna (2011) Review

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Hanna

Time: 111 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence & offensive language
Cast:
Saoirse Ronan as Hanna
Eric Bana as Erik Heller
Vicky Krieps as Johanna Zadek
Cate Blanchett as Marissa Wiegler
Tom Hollander as Isaacs
Olivia Williams as Rachel
Jason Flemyng as Sebastian
Director:  Joe Wright

Hanna Heller (Saoirse Ronan), a 16-year-old raised to be the perfect assassin, is sent on a mission, which takes her across Europe. She is shadowed by an intelligence agent and her team.

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I only knew some things about Hanna going in. I knew it was an action thriller directed by Joe Wright and starred the likes of Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett. It turned out to be pretty good, and even way better than I thought it would be.

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As far as thrillers go, it works for what it is. At hour and 51 minutes long, it keeps you generally invested. The premise is very straightforward, character motivations are clear cut, and the plot is pretty simple, but at the same time makes Hanna difficult to categorize as is, because it presents us a coming of age tale in the form of revenge. A lot of the charm from Hanna and what makes it distinct as a movie drives from the fact that it feels like a fairy tale. There are a lot of fairy tale and adventure references and imagery throughout. When you take into consideration the symbol presented by a Grimm fairy tale that Hanna reads, it also shows a perfect reflection of the sort of the person that Hanna has grown up to become. It’s not just Hanna who helps to create the metaphorical fairy tale presented as a cat and mouse thriller, Cate Blanchett comes along the way to present a wicked witch sort of figure in the story. Fairy tale tributes aside, the movie is character focussed, especially with the lead character, and is less action orientated. I found that this worked for the film. Despite the familiarity of the actual plot, it isn’t unpredictable, and I was pretty riveted with the story. Hanna becomes a distinct morality tale, it’s a fairly straightforward narrative that manages to mix this, a coming of age story, and a road movie all at once while remaining an action film at heart. It has an odd mix of tones here but strangely it works without issue, while also playing out in a subversive manner. There’s a bit of an open ending, which sort of worked but it did feel abrupt.

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Saoirse Ronan is in the lead role as Hanna, and she’s once again good as to be expected. She carries much of her movie herself and is a step above the others in this cast. Having been trained to defend herself and growing up in an isolated environment, her character goes through an arc as she goes to different places. She manages to be convincingly ruthless and dangerous, while also being naïve and innocent. It really wouldn’t have worked as well without her. She also very believable in the action scenes. The rest of the supporting cast are good. Eric Bana is good in his screentime as Hanna’s father (who also trained her), and Cate Blanchett is very effective as the scene chewing main antagonist of the film, who is hunting Hanna down over the course of the movie. Tom Hollander is also solid as an eccentric assassin also hunting Hanna.

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Joe Wright has directed this quite well, he’s a more than capable filmmaker. This is his first and currently only action movie (having been known at this point for making costume and period dramas), and he did a good job on that front. The action is snappy, crisp and fast paced, with good choreography. The action isn’t glamourised either, it’s dark and brutal while being entertaining. The score from the Chemical Brothers works quite well too. The editing, chorography and pacing all work in Wright’s favour. He doesn’t particularly do anything to reinvent the genre, but it created a bizarre and distinct mix of tones that works well.

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Hanna is worth watching for sure, from Joe Wright’s great direction, to the simple yet subversive story and the performances, particularly Saoirse Ronan in the title role. As far as action movies go it’s not special, but it’s very well made, and it’s one of the more underrated action movies from the past 10 years.

Sucker Punch (2011) Review

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Sucker Punch

Time:
109 Minutes (Theatrical)
138 Minutes (Extended)
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence
Cast:
Emily Browning as Babydoll
Abbie Cornish as Sweet Pea
Jena Malone as Rocket
Vanessa Hudgens as Blondie
Jamie Chung as Amber
Carla Gugino as Vera Gorski/Madame Vera Gorski
Oscar Isaac as Blue Jones
Jon Hamm as The Doctor/The High Roller
Scott Glenn as The Wise Man/The General/The Bus Driver
Director: Zack Snyder

Locked away, a young woman named Babydoll (Emily Browning) retreats to a fantasy world where she is free to go wherever her mind takes her. Determined to fight for real freedom, she finds four women – Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), Amber (Jamie Chung) and Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) — to join together to escape the terrible fate that awaits them. With a virtual arsenal at their disposal, the allies battle everything from samurais to serpents, while trying to decide what price they will pay for survival.

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Sucker Punch released 10 years ago remains a very polarising movie. Zack Snyder is a very divisive director, to this day it remains the strangest movie that he’s created. Having seen the extended cut of the movie, I can say that I am in the group of people who likes this movie, even though I can somewhat understand some of the mixed responses.

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This is the only movie (until Army of the Dead) from Zack Snyder that isn’t based off an original source material. Before I go into the different versions about the movie, I’ll talk about the movie as I saw it. Some of the part of why the movie didn’t get so well received was expectations. From the marketing, trailers and posters, Sucker Punch looked to be like a videogame influenced Charlie’s Angels with a group of young women with weapons taking on giant robots and dragons. Now these action sections are actually all imaginations taking place in the mind of the lead character. With that said, I do think that you still might be able to enjoy it as an action fantasy movie. I can’t go too deep into the movie without spoiling anything so I’ll try to be as vague as possible about the plot. The action scenes are entertaining, though you are aware the whole time that what’s happening on screen during these moments are just in the head of the main character played by Emily Browning. While these scenes are fun, there’s not much to explain the setups of those scenes, and I wasn’t able to pick them up even on a second viewing (unless I’m missing something). It could very well be that it’s just an excuse to have large action sequences and even if that’s the case, I wouldn’t want those moments removed.

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Zack Snyder has described Sucker Punch as Alice in Wonderland with machine guns, and that’s a very fitting description of the movie. It’s quite an ambitious movie, especially because the narrative is far from straightforward and doesn’t spoon feed you what’s happening. There are already plenty of deep dives into what this movie is. Essentially, Sucker Punch is intended as a female empowerment film, a commentary and examination of trauma, misogyny and abuse, and the story is essentially about escaping. Even if you don’t like the movie, I do think Snyder deserves a lot of credit for really trying something risky and trying to say something. That’s not to say that the script doesn’t have its issues. The characterisation isn’t great and most of the characters are underdeveloped and underwritten. The narrative isn’t always coherent, but I wouldn’t trade that out for one that was 100% clear cut. The version of Sucker Punch I watched was the extended cut. I will say that although I haven’t seen the theatrical version, from what I could gather from looking online, the cut down version on paper looked a bit messy. When Zack Snyder makes a movie, every single time there have been more than one version, it’s been shown that it is best releasing the version that was filmed instead of cutting it down. For Sucker Punch, the extended cut actually fully realises the message and intent by the end, and with such a bizarre story it needed to be told fully. On top of that, instead of it being PG-13, it is now R, which means you never feel any restrictions. With that all being said, it has been confirmed by Zack Snyder himself that there has been no official release of a director’s cut, hence why it’s called an extended cut instead. Nonetheless, this is the version of the movie to watch.

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The cast all play their roles very well. The main cast played by Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung were quite good, especially Emily Browning as the lead character. Other actors like Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac, Jon Hamm and Scott Glenn are also good. Even if some of the characters were underwritten, the performances made up for them.

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Zack Snyder’s direction is great, from beginning to end you can definitely tell that this is one of his movies. In fact you could say that this is the most Zack Snyder movie that Zack Snyder has ever made. Some have criticised this movie with the tired criticism of ‘it’s style over substance’, to which I’d counter with ‘style is substance’. Snyder excels at visual storytelling, and the biggest example of that in the movie is the incredible opening sequence, which tells so much within the 5 minutes without any dialogue being spoken. Larry Fong’s cinematography is fantastic, there are some very stunning visuals from beginning to end. There are many stand out action sequences, including a war sequence, a fight against giant samurai, and the like. Even if you don’t like much of the story, I think you would still be able to get a lot out of the action, even if some of them do feel video game-esque (especially with the CGI) and don’t really have any tension. The soundtrack is very well picked for this movie and works excellently for it.

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Sucker Punch is a pretty polarising movie. The performances were really good, I loved Zack Snyder’s direction, and I like what Snyder was really going for with the plot. If you do choose to check it out, I recommend checking out the extended cut. Not all of the movie works, and there’s definitely some messiness to it, but a lot of it does work.

The Artist (2011) Review

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The Artist

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Jean Dujardin as George Valentin
Bérénice Bejo as Peppy Miller
Director: Brian Helgeland

Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) falls in love with the silent film star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin). Things change when Peppy becomes a famous actor while George’s career goes downhill with the introduction of talkies.

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The Artist is one of the odder and more forgotten movies to win Best Picture in recent years. It’s been known as the black and white silent movie that won best film, but that’s kind of it. The Artist was actually the first silent film I watched (currently the only one I’ve seen), it was some years ago, and I wanted to rewatch it to be sure about how I felt about it. I still liked the movie almost as much as when I first saw it, but I began to notice some flaws on a second viewing.

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The Artist is yet another one of those “love letter to Hollywood” movies. In this case, it is about the transition from silent films to ‘talky’ movies. While it’s not the first time that a movie has been made about this period, it’s not a bad idea, and in fact going the approach of actually being a silent film instead of only tributing them definitely made it stand out more. With this being a silent movie, much of the storytelling is visual, and have dialogue cards during speaking parts, although to their credit actually have some restraint when it comes to using the cards and don’t have them every time people talk. The movie has its slower and drawn out sections as expected, this being a silent movie and all. Now for all the praise I have for the movie, unfortunately I can’t say that it’s better than just decent. Ultimately when I think back to this movie, I remember the direction, the style and the visuals much more so than the story or characters. Now I’m not going to hold too much against the movie for not being something its not, but I was hoping for slightly more depth than what we got here. If you strip away all the silent movie aspects with the storytelling, you find that at its core, it is a conventional and familiar story about times changing in Hollywood. It definitely romanticises the era, and while that’s not inherently bad, I feel like if it was on the slightly more realistic side of things it might’ve stood out more. Now I should say that at this point that being a silent movie isn’t used as a gimmick, there was clearly a lot of love and passion put into this film. I just feel it could’ve gone further and been a little better. I will also say that some of the novelty does wear off on a repeat viewing, I still liked it quite a bit though.

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The cast are good on their parts. You don’t get to hear their voices, so like silent film stars pre 1930s, they had to convey a lot through exaggerated body language and facial expressions (while accompanied with subtitle cards), and they did that well. Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo are both great in the lead roles, and share quite a lot of great chemistry together. There’s a number of supporting actors like John Goodman, James Cromwell and Penelope Ann Miller who do well in their roles.

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This is the only film I’ve seen from Michel Hazanavicius, but he’s directed this quite well. With this being a silent movie, there was a lot of attention to detail to get the look and feel of everything just right. It’s black and white and used the 4:3 screen ratio typically used in the silent era, as expected, and it’s overall a stunning looking movie. The production design and the costumes match the 20s and 30s era effectively. Sound (and the lack of it) plays a huge part in this movie, as you would expect. It’s a silent movie about silent movies, and it tributes them rather nicely overall. There’s a standout scene where Jean Dujardin’s character has a nightmare where there are audible sounds that he and the audience can hear (in contrast to the lack of audible sound in the rest of the movie) but his voice can’t be heard at all. If anything I wish the rest of the movie had that level of creativity and level of experimental factor all the way through the movie instead of it being ultimately a silent movie about silent movies (nothing bad about that though). The musical score composed by Ludovic Bource is great, it was very key to making much of the film working as well as it did

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The Artist is an interesting experiment of a movie for sure, and there are undeniably a lot of great things, from the direction to the acting. However it unfortunately doesn’t leave that much of an impact beyond that, especially with its unfortunately shallow story, and looking at it on the whole, it feels a little empty. With that said, I still think it’s a pretty good movie. If you’ve never seen a silent movie but want a gateway to them, then The Artist may be what you are looking for. Despite its issues, I do think it’s worth checking out at some point.

 

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) Review

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Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence and offensive language
Cast:
Gary Oldman as George Smiley (“Beggarman”)
Colin Firth as Bill Haydon (“Tailor”)
Tom Hardy as Ricki Tarr
Mark Strong as Jim Prideaux
Ciarán Hinds as Roy Bland (“Soldier”)
Benedict Cumberbatch as Peter Guillam
David Dencik as Toby Esterhase (“Poorman”)
Stephen Graham as Jerry Westerby
Simon McBurney as Oliver Lacon
Toby Jones as Percy Alleline (“Tinker”)
John Hurt as Control
Director: Tomas Alfredson

A retired spy, George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is summoned by the Government to investigate a furtive case. With a secret Soviet agent assumed to be working within their system, will George be able to unveil his identity?

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I remember watching Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy many years ago, and it’s always been one of those movies I’ve been meaning to rewatch for some time. I remember finding it to be a good movie, but it was really slow and I didn’t understand completely everything that was going on, it was a really complicated movie. I finally saw it a second time, and I got all the acclaim this time round, it’s a very well made movie, even though I can understand why it might not work for some people.

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For those who don’t know much about Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, although it’s classed as a spy movie, this isn’t the James Bond or Jason Bourne kind of spy movie. It’s an investigative and truly espionage spy movie, with complex and shifty characters in a morally grey and bleak world. There aren’t many gunshots, and there isn’t anything even close to resembling action scenes. It’s also a very slowly paced movie, and this will definitely turn off a lot of people, I will admit that there were moments where it got a little too slow for my liking. It’s more than just that it’s a slow paced movie, it’s really complicated too, and maybe even hard to follow at times. You really have to pay close attention to from start to finish, otherwise you’ll probably miss some vital details. It’s not so much that it’s bad at crafting the story for the big screen, in fact I heard that it was well done considering the source material was apparently extremely hard to follow as it was. There are just a lot of moving parts, plotlines and characters that you have to pay attention to. Even having known much of the plot from the last viewing, after my second viewing I still had to look up a couple of things about the plot to clarify a few things I wasn’t certain about. As I was, I was invested in what was going on, even if it dragged in parts and I was lost in moments. The writing is quite strong, and the dialogue quite layered, with intimate character moments and subtext carefully placed throughout. Now having quite a good understanding of what happened, I think I’ll get this movie even more on a further 3rd viewing.

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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has such a great ensemble cast, and all of them worked well together. Gary Oldman plays the lead character of George Smiley, and he absolutely transforms into the role. Smiley is calm and collected, yet captivating in every scene. He’s quite effectively subtle, conveying so much without having to say much. The rest of the cast are at the top of their game, with Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Jones, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds and John Hurt all giving great performances. The highlights out of all of them for me were Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong and Tom Hardy doing so much in their screentime.

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Tomas Alfredson directed this movie quite well, he really set it well in the time period of the Cold War. The cinematography was by Hoyte Van Hotema, who shot the movie very well. It’s a very grey looking movie, yet it somehow still manages to be visually stunning and stylish. Tomas also does well at building up an effective atmosphere. The score by Alberto Iglesias is also great and fits the movie quite a bit.

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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy won’t be for everyone, especially if you’re expecting a fast paced movie, it might even test the most patient of viewers. From the second viewing however, I found it to be a complex, deeply layered story, directed very well and features outstanding performances from its ensemble cast. I liked it a lot more on a second viewing, and I think that I will like it even more the more I come back to it.

Warrior (2011) Review

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Warrior

Time: 140 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Tom Hardy as Tommy Riordan Conlon
Joel Edgerton as Brendan Conlon
Nick Nolte as Paddy Conlon
Jennifer Morrison as Tess Conlon
Frank Grillo as Frank Campana
Director: Gavin O’Connor

The youngest son (Tom Hardy) of an alcoholic former boxer returns home, where he’s trained by his father (Nick Nolte) for competition in a mixed martial arts tournament – a path that puts the fighter on a collision course with his estranged, older brother (Joel Edgerton).

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I saw Warrior for the first time a while ago, I remembered the general plot, and I remember liking it but that’s it. I’ve been meaning to it rewatch it for some time, and having watched a lot of other Tom Hardy movies recently, it was the best time for me to watch it again. I’m glad I did, I like it even more than I did the first time, an emotional drama that you can easily get invested in.

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Despite MMA playing a key part of the movie, at its core, Warrior is a drama about family. Yes, there’s a number of familiar sporting tropes, you get the montages, you get some moments that could be argued as a little cheesy, but if you’re as invested in the story and characters as I was, that won’t even matter. The only sports movie trope that it really could’ve gone without was the typical big unstoppable Russian opponent, who’s also literally called Koba. On top of his existence in the story being kind of silly and out of place, he ultimately doesn’t have that much of a significant part in the story, and could’ve been swapped out with any powerful fighter and avoided the rather dated trope. The plot isn’t exactly unpredictable, especially if you’ve seen other stories like this, and even other sports movies, but it is handled so well. Warrior from the beginning establishes itself as a sincere and honest movie with its characters clearly being the main focus. Despite the familiarity of the story, it does feel real, and the well written script played a part in that too. It’s 2 hours and 20 minutes long, but I was quite into the story and it didn’t even feel that long to be honest.

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The acting is one of the best parts of the movie. The main two leads are Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton, and both are really great in their roles. They are convincing as brothers, and they were also convincing in the fighting scenes. Hardy gives a typically great performance as this damaged character with issues, conveying his single mindedness in and out of the ring. Edgerton gives some of his best work as his character, very genuine, authentic, and easy to root for. It’s not just those two however, Nick Nolte gives an intensely emotional performance that has rightfully been receiving acclaim. This has to be the best performance I’ve seen from Nolte, here playing the father of both Hardy and Edgerton’s characters, who was a former alcoholic and had a lot of regrets. The dynamic between each of the three actors are strong and believable, and there’s a lot of tension between them. Also good in supporting roles is Jennifer Morrison as Edgerton’s wife, and Frank Grillo as Edgerton’s coach.

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Gavin O’Connor directed this movie very well, handling both the drama and fighting aspects of the film strongly. Despite them not being the main focus or even the highlights of the film, O’Connor does really well to get the audience really engaged and invested in the fight scenes, even those who aren’t really interested in MMA. The fights also feel very believable, and you really feel the impact of every blow.

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Warrior is a really good movie, emotional, entertaining, and all around great, far better than it appears to be at first. You don’t have to be a fan of MMA or other fighting sports to get into the movie, while those fight scenes are very strong, the rest of the movie works as a drama first and foremost, and is just so excellently written, directed and overall well made that there’s something for everyone in it. I thought it was great, and even if you don’t think you’ll like it, I definitely think you should give it a chance when you can.

Hugo (2011) Review

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
Asa Butterfield as Hugo Cabret
Chloë Grace Moretz as Isabelle
Ben Kingsley as Georges Méliès/Papa Georges
Sacha Baron Cohen as Inspector Gustave Dasté
Ray Winstone as Claude Cabret
Emily Mortimer as Lisette
Jude Law as Mr. Cabret
Helen McCrory as Jehanne D’Alcy/Mama Jeanne
Michael Stuhlbarg as René Tabard
Christopher Lee as Monsieur Labisse
Director: Martin Scorsese

Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan who lives in a Paris railway station, tending to the station clocks during his uncle’s (Ray Winstone) mysterious absence. He scrounges food from the vendors and steals mechanical parts from the owner of a toy shop, Georges Melies (Ben Kinglsey). In fact, Hugo’s father was a watchmaker and he has inherited his father’s (Jude Law) talents for all things mechanical. Years before, Hugo’s father found an intricate mechanical man, but they could never figure out how it worked. Hugo befriends Melies’s ward, Isabelle (Chloe Grace-Moretz), and together they have an adventure, one that centres around Méliès himself.

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I recall Hugo being the first movie of Martin Scorsese’s that I saw, and I remember liking it quite a lot when I did. With that said, it had been a while since I’ve last seen it, and I had a feeling that I would appreciate it more upon a more recent viewing, and having watched that more recently, I was right. While it looks as a kids movie and certainly looks like that, it also works as something much more, and is overall very well made.

Hugo may be by far Martin Scorsese’s most age appropriate film, and I think there’s a lot here that kids may like, but there’s more parts to it that they aren’t going to fully get or appreciate. Teenagers are more likely to enjoy it more than kids to be honest. The movie starts off pretty well, however the second half is where the movie really takes an interesting turn, as it becomes Scorsese’s love letter to cinema. At this point of the movie, you begin to get why he chose to direct this. It focuses on an era we don’t see portrayed in film much, that being the silent era, and ends up being a tribute to filmmaker Georges Melies. The only part I didn’t like of the movie was for whatever reason there was sometimes random comedy thrown in, it wasn’t particularly funny and distracted from the rest of the movie. Thankfully it didn’t happen too often, but you are taken out a bit when its present.

The cast generally do a good job in their roles, the only thing that was a little distracting was that you often forget that Hugo is set in France, given that there aren’t many French accents present over the course of the movie. Asa Butterfield was pretty solid in the lead role, and Chloe Grace Moretz was also good, with the two of them sharing some decent chemistry. The supporting cast are also really good, with Ben Kingsley (giving his best performance in a long time here as Georges Melies), Helen McCrory, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jude Law, Christopher Lee and more doing a lot of good work. Some of the actors don’t get to really do much and maybe get like one or two scenes (like Law and Lee) but they do a lot to make you remember them. Now there are some supporting characters which really didn’t serve much purpose outside of some brief comedy. Much of the comic relief surrounds the Station Inspector played by Sacha Baron Cohen, although he occasionally poses as an antagonist to the title character, a lot of the scenes with him are just for comedy. Cohen definitely plays the role as he’s meant to, and the fault isn’t him. There are scenes where they try to imply that there’s more to this character outside of being a cartoonish and typical authority figure in a kids movie, but they never follow through with it really so those moments feel pointless.

Martin Scorsese as usual directs this very well, but this is a very different movie from him, it involves a lot of visual effects which at least up to that point you wouldn’t see him using a ton. Scorsese is one of those filmmakers who uses CGI as tools to tell his story, while Hugo is indeed fantastic to look at and there are plenty of times where you can see it in all its glory, you never get the feeling that it’s just on screen to only look pretty. It’s never at the detriment of the rest of the film. Much praise should also go towards the production design, with this visually modernized France from the 20th Century, making it really appealing to watch. Robert Richardson’s cinematography really captures the whole movie very well, it’s generally a gorgeous looking film throughout.

Putting aside some distracting comic relief, Hugo is on the whole really good and deserves more praise amongst Martin Scorsese’s filmography, even though it was widely praised upon its release, it’s unfortunately been forgotten. It’s a gorgeous movie directed excellently by Scorsese per usual, the cast generally do well in their roles, and it works as both a kids movie and a tribute to cinema, as well as the power of cinema. Definitely worth a watch.

Drive Angry (2011) Review

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence, offensive language, drug use and sex scenes.
Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Milton
Amber Heard as Piper
William Fichtner as The Accountant
Billy Burke as Jonah King
David Morse as Webster
Katy Mixon as Norma Jean
Director: Patrick Lussier

Thrown into hell for his crimes, brutal felon John Milton (Nicolas Cage) escapes from the fiery pit after cultists murder his daughter and take her baby. Intent on rescuing the child, Milton joins forces with a waitress, who gives him her ex-lover’s fire-red muscle car. In it, the two pursue the cult leader, who plans to sacrifice the infant and unleash hell on Earth. However, the hunters become the hunted when Satan sends his merciless henchman (William Fichtner) to drag Milton back).

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I wasn’t really expecting much from Drive Angry, apparently it wasn’t very good but it’s an over the top action movie and it had Nicolas Cage, so naturally I had to check it out for myself. Drive Angry as to be expected wasn’t very good but also unfortunately it really wasn’t as crazy as it should be. Nonetheless I still had a fun time with it.

The plot of Drive Angry is straightforward enough. Nicolas Cage comes back from hell to get revenge on a cult who killed his daughter and kidnapped his granddaughter. The movie doesn’t try to be more than it is thankfully. The dialogue really isn’t well written, which is to be expected. Drive Angry is a sort of grindhouse/exploitation movie with an overblown plot, extreme content and trashy writing. This movie does have some over the top things, I mean it includes Nicolas Cage having sex with clothes on with sunglasses while smoking a cigar while in a gunfight in slow, so by that point you’ll have an idea what kind of movie you’re in for. At the same time, in terms of the tone it feels like it wasn’t going crazy enough. The plot itself feels a little dull and really not as exciting as it should’ve been, at times feeling like a standard R rated action flick. It does have its moments but a lot of the time it does feel like it was a wasted opportunity.

The acting on the whole isn’t that great but it’s not one of the things I was really expecting. Nicolas Cage has built up a reputation of having some incredibly over the top performances, unfortunately he isn’t all crazy like he was in movies like Ghost Rider 2, Face/Off or Deadfall. It feels like a wasted opportunity unfortunately. Despite this, he is still entertaining enough and doesn’t end up being worst Nicolas Cage (which is dull Nicolas Cage). I haven’t seen Amber Heard in much, but if she has some acting talent it’s not on display here. She’s really not given anything to work with, so I don’t put it fully on her, but she isn’t really that good here. Billy Burke is the villain as the leader of the cult, who is quite silly and over the top but he works fine enough. By far the best thing about Drive Angry is William Fichtner. He plays a character named The Accountant, who’s pretty much Satan’s assistant and he is just having a total ball playing this character, stealing every single scene that he’s on screen. Just the scene involving him, a truck and the song “That’s the way I like it” is worth the price of viewing alone.

The direction Patrick Lussier makes the movie seem like a somewhat modern grindhouse movie. The CGI wasn’t the best. Whether it be the bullets, fire, blood, a lot of it looks quite fake. However, it is fake in a good sort of way, in a trashy movie sort of way. It is absolutely bloody, violent and obscene at times. Unfortunately, as overblown as it is, it’s not very creative, it’s like basic over the top, if such a thing exists. It’s not bad but it’s not very memorable.

As an actual movie, Drive Angry clearly isn’t good at all, but as a guilty pleasure action flick, it is actually somewhat okay. It is a crazy mindless film, oddly enough though, the main issue is that it’s not as crazy as it should be. However it is entertaining enough that it might be worth watching (for those who like over the top action grindhouse movie).

Melancholia (2011) Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language & nudity
Cast:
Kirsten Dunst as Justine
Charlotte Gainsbourg as Claire
Alexander Skarsgård as Michael
Kiefer Sutherland as John
Cameron Spurr as Leo
Charlotte Rampling as Gaby
John Hurt as Dexter
Jesper Christensen as Little Father
Stellan Skarsgård as Jack
Brady Corbet as Tim
Udo Kier as The Wedding Planner
Director: Lars von Trier

On the night of her wedding, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) is struggling to be happy even though it should be the happiest day of her life. It was an extravagant wedding paid for by her sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland) who are trying to keep the bride and all the guests in line. Meanwhile, Melancholia, a blue planet, is hurtling towards the Earth. Claire, Justine’s sister, is struggling to maintain composure with fear of the impending disaster.

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I had heard about Melancholia for a while, I heard that it was Lars von Trier’s most accessible film yet, which wasn’t an easy thing to narrow down to considering his filmography. After watching and mostly liking his two part film Nymphomaniac, I decided to check this movie out. Melancholia is a great and impactful film about depression, with great performances and some really good direction. It’s not for everyone and is a bit overlong, but I thought it was really good.

Melancholia is pretty long at around 2 hours and 15 minutes. The film is split into two parts, one titled Justine (Kirsten Dunst) which is focussed on her wedding, and the other is titled Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), which is more focussed on the approaching planet of Melancholia potentially being the end of Earth. I don’t have a lot of problems with the movie but I will say that it might be a little overlong, it’s mostly with the first half. The first half is important in showing glimpses of Justine’s depression and all that, however this wedding section feels a little too drawn out and could’ve been shortened quite a bit. You do need to know going into Melancholia that it’s pretty slow paced, particularly early in the movie. Despite the plot sounding large scale on paper, it really is a character driven movie, and is more intimate than you’d think it would be. You have to really be focussed on everything that’s going on or you’re just going to lose interest in it all, I was and I had a good time with it. Melancholia is also a very artsy movie, with the way some of it is written and the way certain things are shown, and that could turn people off, for me it didn’t really. The first 8 minutes is full of just slow moving images and video, it could annoy some but personally I though it was fantastic and really haunting. Now know that I’m basing it off Nymphomaniac and what apparently is in von Trier’s other movies, but Melancholia doesn’t have this overwhelming feeling of just absolute bleakness that’s in his other movies. Nor does it force a ton of thematic elements all at the audience or anything like that. It’s much more straightforward, with the main theme being really about depression, and the parallels of Justine’s depression with the looming planet. Despite it being Lars’s most accessible movie, it’s not necessarily an easy watch, it’s a rather sad movie (as you can gather from the title, it’s not just in reference to the approaching planet) and as mentioned earlier, it’s a bit of a slow burn. There’s a reason why this movie along with Antichrist and Nymphomaniac have been called the Depression Trilogy. Without spoiling anything, despite knowing the ending, the last scene of the movie was really impactful and effective.

The acting all around is fantastic. Kirsten Dunst gives a career’s best performance in the lead role of Justine as someone with depression. A big part of the film is her character going through depression and she carries it incredibly well. It’s not a very showy performance, she just really embodies the character incredibly. Charlotte Gainsbourg is about as equally great as Dunst’s sister Claire. The relationship between the two sisters are one of the driving forces of the movie, especially how differently the two react to the looming threat of Melancholia. Justine seems to feel nothing, whereas Claire is constantly worried about it. The rest of the supporting cast are all great as well, from Kiefer Sutherland as Justine’s brother-in-low husband, Stellan Skarsgard as her boss, John Hurt as her father, Charlotte Rampling as her mother and Alexander Skarsgard as her husband. Most of them are just in the first half, we do however also get Sutherland in the second half, and his performance in Melancholia might be one of his best. The only thing about the casting that bothers me a little is that both Stellan and Alexander Skarsgard are in this movie, but they don’t play father and son or relatives or anything, so it’s a little distracting.

It seems like no one directs like Lars von Trier, his work on this movie is nothing short of fantastic. The cinematography is stunning and beautiful, and is done incredibly well. Some of the editing is a little weird where there are unnecessarily a lot of cuts done in many scenes, which is something that von Trier does sometimes. I guess it’s something that you have to get used to when it comes to his films. Throughout the film there is this sense of dread, with the whole thing about the planet Melancholia potentially going to destroy Earth, and it’s effectively haunting. While his films are usually more gritty and grounded, this film does involve some larger scale elements, with the whole film surrounding a planet potentially colliding with Earth. Now it’s not a full on sci-fi movie and most of it doesn’t have a bunch of crazy visuals, but nonetheless these big visual moments are also done really well.

Melancholia is probably the easiest of von Trier’s films to digest, by far the most accessible. I know this, because when it comes to recommending the movie, I don’t have to necessarily give a big warning about what his movies are like and all that. It is still not the most fun film to watch and it is a little overlong but it’s an incredibly well made and directed film and the performances are fantastic, especially from Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg. If you’re open to depressing slow-moving art films, I’d say definitely give Melancholia a chance, it’s really great.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011) Review

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Supernatural themes & violence.
Cast:
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
Warwick Davis as Filius Flitwick
Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy
Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort
Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore
John Hurt as Mr. Ollivander
Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy
Kelly Macdonald as Helena Ravenclaw
Gary Oldman as Sirius Black
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall
David Thewlis as Remus Lupin
Julie Walters as Molly Weasley
Director: David Yates

A clash between good and evil awaits as young Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) prepare for a final battle against Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Harry has grown into a steely lad on a mission to rid the world of evil. The friends must search for the Horcruxes that keep the dastardly wizard immortal. Harry and Voldemort meet at Hogwarts Castle for an epic showdown where the forces of darkness may finally meet their match.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 had to deliver a satisfying conclusion to the Harry Potter series. With it being the 8th film in the series and with a huge fanbase behind it (both from the book and the movie), there was a lot of hype behind it, thankfully it really delivered. Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a fantastic and emotionally satisfying ending to the series.

Deathly Hallows Part 2 had a somewhat easy task, outside of the Gringotts Bank scene, most of the movie is one big final battle. But it still had the task of bringing everything together to deliver a fantastic conclusion, and I think it was effective in how they did that. It took just about all of the main plot points and characters and concluded them in a conclusive and satisfying way. As all Harry Potter films are like, things are different from the books. Some things like the final fight between Harry and Voldemort, I didn’t mind even though I know it was criticised from being different from the book. The book didn’t have much of a fight and was mostly a long conversation, so this version works better for a movie (though I agree that it would’ve been nice if there was more dialogue between the two). However the way it ends for Voldemort was a little underwhelming and cliché, and there should’ve been more of a transition between that scene and the next scene. There are some changes that I don’t think were great, like what happened with the Elder Wand at the end of the film. However there wasn’t really anything too much that ruined the experience. Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the shortest of the Harry Potter movies at 2 hours and 10 minutes long and it was the right length. It is long enough but it also gets to the point and main points of the story.

All the cast did a great job and served their purpose well. Harry, Ron and Hermione (Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson) are all great again, and all get to do major things in the movie. Like in Part 1, a lot of the supporting characters are pushed to the back and there’s so many of them but they all do great. Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall, Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange, Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy, David Thewlis as Remus Lupin and more all do fantastic in their roles here. We also get to see the full character of Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape. He’s not in a ton of scenes but he is fantastic in them and deliver on some of the best scenes of the movie. Ralph Fiennes is once again great as Voldemort, still throwing himself into a rather pure evil role, but playing it so convincingly and with so much menace that it kind of works. He’s a little over the top at some points, particularly in one scene in the third act before the final confrontation, but I can’t see Voldemort being portrayed any better than how Fiennes did it.

The direction by David Yates is once again great. Deathly Hallows Part 2 has the most action in the series, we see a lot of wizard battles and destruction and it’s all handled really well. The visual effects are outstanding and still 7 years later look pretty good. The action scenes are entertaining and you can feel the weight behind everything that happens. Alexandre Desplat did a great score for Deathly Hallows Part 1 and I’m glad to see him do the score for Deathly Hallows Part 2 as well, elevating so much of the movie over what it already is.

Deathly Hallows Part 2 delivers on what it is supposed to. It’s entertaining, emotionally satisfying and brings the series to a close in the best way possible. It’s biggest flaws are the ending of one of the scenes in the third act and some of the differences between the book and the movie, and the latter is an issue with every single movie in the series, which only speaks to how fantastic of a movie it is.