Tag Archives: 2013

Stoker (2013) Review

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Stoker

Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence & sex scenes
Cast:
Mia Wasikowska as India Stoker
Matthew Goode as Charlie Stoker
Nicole Kidman as Evelyn Stoker
Dermot Mulroney as Richard Stoker
Jacki Weaver as Aunt Gwendolyn “Gin” Stoker
Director: Park Chan-wook

After the untimely death of her father, India (Mia Wasikowska) and her mother (Nicole Kidman) are left alone in their estate. Soon, the arrival of her uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), who she never knew existed, is followed by unexpected developments.

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I know of Stoker as Park Chan-wook film starring Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman, and happened to be his English-language debut. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into it outside of the people involved. Having seen it, I wouldn’t say that this is one of his best movies, but almost all of Park’s movies I’ve seen are great, and this is too.

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As it turns out, the screenplay was written by Wentworth Miller, and overall, I thought it was good. It is a very atmospheric, unsettling and mysterious movie, having elements of classic thrillers. The eerie atmosphere is helped by the mystical and mysterious characters in the forefront. It is essentially a gothic mystery drama which dabbles in multiple elements including coming of age, mystery, thriller and unconventional family drama to create a generally compelling story. The story is definitely dark in tone but tame as far as violence is concerned, at least compared to Park Chan-wook’s other movies like his Vengeance trilogy. Instead of relying on overt graphic scenes, it is the suggestion that works for the disturbing elements. The movie does take its time but initially gives you just enough information to have you intrigued. The plot is familiar, and the story can be a little thin and implausible at points. It does require patience as it takes a while to reveal its secrets but I was intrigued throughout. It is also a cold movie with its characters rather distant, but I think that works for the movie’s favour. The movie is 98 minutes long but with the slower pacing it feels closer to like 2 hours, but that’s not necessarily a criticism.

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The performances are great and really make the story even more involving. Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman shine in the lead roles of their strange characters. Wasikowska’s performance in the lead role of India is nuanced and quiet with a lot of hidden emotion that creeps in over time. She’s very mysterious and keeps you guessing what role she plays in the whole story. She was a perfect fit for the role and so far this is the best performance I’ve seen from her. This is also probably the best performance I’ve seen from Matthew Goode as the mysterious uncle of Wasikowska’s character, effectively giving a creepy vibe and a feeling that something is off about him. Nicole Kidman works really well in the movie despite not having a huge amount of screentime, and effectively playing an archetype that has been seen many times before.

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GThe direction from Park Chan-wook is stunning as always, and much of the style is the substance of the whole movie. The movie looks visually beautiful and perfectly shot. With the stylish sets and costumes, it made it difficult to place the film in a context, place or time, making it effectively timeless. The editing is tight and really well done, an example that stands out is one where it transitions from Nicole Kidman’s hair to grass. The transitions particularly stood out. One of the key technical elements is that of the sound editing and mixing, almost like the movie is constructed around them. Much of the movie focuses on the noise of specific objects, and these plays a big part in ramping up tension, in a horror movie like way. The score from Clint Mansell is also solid and works for the movie.

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Stoker again isn’t one of Park Chan-wook’s best movies but it is nonetheless a solid gothic thriller, with an interesting enough story and definitely helped by the strong performances from Wasikowska, Kidman and Goode, and Park’s stylish direction. If you like slow-burn gothic thrillers with a dark and creepy atmosphere I think it’s worth checking out.

Fast & Furious 6 (2013) Review

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Fast & Furious 6

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto
Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner
Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs
Michelle Rodriguez as Letty Ortiz
Jordana Brewster as Mia Toretto
Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce
Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as Tej Parker
Sung Kang as Han Lue
Gal Gadot as Gisele Yashar
Luke Evans as Owen Shaw
Gina Carano as Riley Hicks
Elsa Pataky as Elena Neves
John Ortiz as Arturo Braga
Director: Justin Lin

Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is tasked with catching a team of mercenary drivers who manage to evade him every time. However, he enlists the help of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his team in exchange for full pardons for their past crimes.

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Fast Five injected some much needed life and energy into the Fast & Furious franchise. It was a street racing action series, but its fifth movie made the switch to being a heist action movie and that worked really well. Not only was it the best film in the series at that point, but critics and audiences alike really enjoyed it. Director Justin Lin, who made Fast Five (as well as Tokyo Drift and Fast & Furious) directs the follow up with Fast & Furious 6. Whether or not its better or worse than the previous instalment, I think it’s around the same level, and I really enjoyed it.

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While I’m not sure on the whole it’s a better movie, I do think that the story of Fast and Furious 6 is more engaging than Fast Five. Rather than it just being another heist, it does take a slightly different story direction. It is definitely still in the heist/crime tone established with Fast Five, which is definitely to its benefit. However what makes it interesting is the way it changes it up. They team up with Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs this time instead of being chased by him. They are also up against another team of criminals led by Luke Evans, and as its pointed out in the movie, his team is like an evil mirror to Dom’s team. While you really only remember a couple of them, they do make for memorably formidable antagonists. Unlike the villain of 5 who’s just a guy they need to rob, you really feel that they are on the level of Dom’s team. And of course family is a notable part of the movie, this time the big family draw is the fact that the character of Letty (played by Michelle Rodriguez) is not only back from the dead after being assumed dead in the 4th movie, but is also in Luke Evans’s team and doesn’t appear to remember anything. This is a key reason why Dom decides to work with Hobbs and so it is a key part in the plot. I will say though that some of the reasons behind her return are very convoluted and farfetched to say the least. That aside, both aspects come together to make a story that I was interested in. Once again it is the strange but nonetheless effective mix of an approach that doesn’t take things too seriously, while being endearing in how it handles the story and characters and of course family. It also has a good mid credits scene that leads into Furious 7, well worth sticking around to watch.

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The main cast of Fast Five return, with Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang and Gal Gadot. They come into their own here, with great chemistry between them. I’d actually say that they are better here than they were in the last movie. The newcomer of the main cast in the last movie was Dwayne Johnson has Luke Hobbs, and as mentioned earlier is working with Dom and his team instead of pursuing them, he makes a great addition with them and they play off each other really well, as can be expected considering it’s The Rock. One of the main aspects of the movie is Michelle Rodriguez returning as Letty, and she’s a welcome returning player. The villain of Owen Shaw played by Luke Evans works quite well. He’s not great and isn’t that interesting of a character, however he’s definitely a step above the villains in the previous Fast and Furious movies. He isn’t intimidating and imposing especially when he’s put up against Vin Diesel or Swayne Johnson, but he is nonetheless shown to be ruthless and a different kind of threat that wasn’t in the past movies.

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Director Justin Lin returns from Fast Five for this, at this point he’s pretty familiar with the franchise. It mainly comes down to the action, and there’s not much to complain about there. There are some great set pieces and clearly a lot of thought went into them. They really benefited from energetic camerawork, solid editing and good practical effects. The action is even crazier and sillier than Fast Five, not at all worrying about the laws of physics, yet you are constantly focusing on what’s happening and entertained throughout.

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Fast & Furious 6 is around the same level of Fast Five for me. The action might not be quite as memorable as the action scenes in Fast Five, but here the story is a little more interesting, and the cast actually worked better. It’s a solid follow up to Fast Five and was quite enjoyable, among the better entries in this franchise.

Sharknado (2013) Review

Time: 86 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language and content that may disturb
Cast:
Ian Ziering as Fin ‘Finley’ Shepard
Tara Reid as April Wexler
John Heard as George
Cassie Scerbo as Nova Clarke
Director: Anthony C. Ferrante

Nature’s deadliest killer takes to the skies in the ultimate gill-ty pleasure as a group of friends try to save the Santa Monica coast from shark-infested tornadoes.

Sharknado made a bit of an impact when it came out. Monster movies (and poorly made ones at that) from the Asylum aren’t uncommon, but this one really got a hit, even gaining 3 sequels. Now I know that these movies are entertaining for many people, but Sharknado (at least the first one) really did absolutely nothing for me. I went in knowing that pretty much the whole movie would be terrible but yet it somehow wasn’t the so bad it’s good movie that everyone had been making it out to be.

For a movie about a tornado full of sharks, it somehow manages to be really boring and not entertaining for much of the film. Sharknado at times seems like it wants you to take it somewhat seriously. It might be a weird thing to say but there was so much pointless character development (and its not even like they’re parodying disaster movie characters or anything like that), it really drags at points. Much of the movie is just following these characters around and then the Sharknado comes around to cause problems… and it just doesn’t leave any kind of impact. Obviously you don’t care for the characters or the story but you also aren’t entertained by the silliness of the movie. Yes, there are some implausible things, like towards the end the solution to the Sharknado was dropping bombs inside it. Also, people shoot sharks and chainsaw them like they’re nothing, really a bunch of outrageous and silly things. But if anything, I wanted more of these moments because on the whole, even the crazy aspects just don’t stick with me. It’s really the third act where the film finally realises what type of movie it should’ve been trying to be in the first place and goes absolutely crazy, bombing and chainsawing sharks and the like. Honestly if you really want to watch this movie, you’ll get the best experience by just watching the last half hour, it’s the only redeeming section of the movie, and is genuinely entertaining.

The acting isn’t good at all, as to be expected. None of the cast featuring Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, John Heard, Cassie Scerbo and others did anything well. Oddly enough it seems like some of the actors are actually trying to be serious, but even then they seemed to fail. It doesn’t seem like they entirely know what kind of movie they are in.

Sharknado is terribly directed throughout, from start to finish the effects are absolutely awful, and its not just the sharks that look incredibly fake, the movie opens with the cheapest looking ship. Now all of this is predictable, no matter how silly it got, I was never astounded or surprised by it. You get used to it after the first 10 minutes.

Sharknado doesn’t work as an entertainingly cheesy bad movie, and is way more boring and underwhelming than it had to be. The thing that surprised me the most is that the movie, is that it felt like some people working on this movie wanted it to be semi-serious. I’m not in on the joke but it seems like many people were, because it somehow manages to get 3 sequels. I guess if you really want to check it out you can, but really only the third act I liked. I might get around to trying out at least one of the sequels, apparently its much more comedic, and might be more what I was expecting from this movie.

The Conjuring (2013) Review

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The Conjuring

Time: 102 minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Horror & content that may disturb
Cast:
Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren
Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren
Lili Taylor as Carolyn Perron
Ron Livingston as Roger Perron
Director: James Wan

The Perron family moves into a farmhouse where they experience paranormal phenomena. They consult demonologists, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), to help them get rid of the evil entity haunting them.

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The creation of The Conjuring universe was unexpected, with three movies from the main Conjuring series, and three spin offs and one of those spinoffs (Annabelle) getting a prequel and sequel of its own. Looking back on the first movie released in 2013 however, it is still a really good horror movie that works really well. It doesn’t revolutionise the genre or anything, but it succeeds effectively at what it seeks out to do.

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The Conjuring is a traditional haunted house horror movie, and a well-crafted one at that. One of the reasons it works so well is that it invests quite a lot of time into the characters, both the main family and the Warrens. It does take the story and characters seriously and doesn’t treat them as throwaway typical horror movie characters. I will say I wasn’t as invested in the actual story as much I would’ve liked to have been and the movie isn’t exactly unpredictable, but I was still interested to see how it would play out. Additionally, the story has a tense buildup, and its pacing is measured and deliberate, instead of just rushing into the horror and the scares. This helps to build a strong atmosphere, which is at its peak in the final act. The film being set in the 70s gives it sort of a unique feeling that would’ve been missing had it just been set in modern day. There’s also the aspect that this movie is supposedly based on true events, whether or not you believe it to be true it does give it a unique feel to the story.

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The acting is all great from everyone. The leads are Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as the Warrens and they do very well on their parts. They were very believable and sold their performances. The family at the centre of it all played their parts too, especially the mother played by Lily Taylor. Even the child actors do very well as their respective characters.

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James Wan has already established himself as a great director of horror, with Saw and the first two Insidious movies, and The Conjuring and its sequel are no exception. The camerawork is greatly carried out and played a key role in creating the haunted and unsettling feeling throughout the movie. As previously mentioned, the movie also benefited quite a lot from being set in the 70s, the production design really does well at portraying this time period, especially in this particular haunted house. While there are some jumpscares (as to be expected from this movie), it’s not the main source of scares in the movie. Also whenever the jumpscares do happen, they actually feel earned and not cheap, and it helps that the movie had been building up a lot of tension beforehand. Additionally, the movie actually lacks any gore or digital effects, which was refreshing to see from a horror movie, its just all scares. The use of sound also played a part in the scares working as well as they did, and the score from Joseph Bishara also worked to its favour.

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The Conjuring is a well made horror movie that works on pretty much all fronts. The characters are well written and portrayed by the actors greatly, the story is genuinely suspenseful, and James Wan directs it very well. If you like horror and you haven’t watched it yet, it’s definitely a movie to check out.

Enemy (2013) Review

Time: 90 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes and offensive language
Cast:
Jake Gyllenhaal as Adam Bell/Anthony Claire
Mélanie Laurent as Mary
Sarah Gadon as Helen Claire
Isabella Rossellini as Mother
Director: Denis Villeneuve

A mild-mannered college professor (Jake Gyllenhaal) discovers a look-alike actor and delves into the other man’s private affairs.

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I’ve been catching up on the films from Denis Villeneuve that I hadn’t seen yet. Out of the movies I had already seen from him however, Enemy was the one film that I hadn’t reviewed yet. Since it was a movie that required a rewatch anyway, I decided to give it another viewing, and I can confirm that it’s even better the second time. Villeneuve’s mystery doppleganger thriller is very effective and really is worth seeing when you get the chance to.

Talking about why Enemy works so well is difficult, considering that it would involve getting into heavy spoilers. If you watched the movie and are confused by it, I recommend looking up theories online that explain it, and better yet, think a lot about what you just watched. I say this because it doesn’t spell things out for you as to what’s going on, even though it was made with a certain intent from Villeneuve. I’m not spoiling anything when I say this, but there is no real twist or reveal for the movie, so you’re going to need to look deep into the movie to understand what’s going on. I’ll do my best to keep things spoiler-free. First of all, if you’re afraid of the sight of spiders, you’re probably going to find this a little difficult to watch as they make their unpleasant appearances in the movie (the spiders do actually have a symbolic reason for being in the movie instead of just freaking people out). The tone throughout is kept very eerie and unnerving, and you are pulled into this doppelganger story, which really has you intrigued from start to finish. It really does feel reminiscent of a David Lynch movie. Also, the movie is much better on a second watch, having known what a lot of the scenes now mean you really get more out of it. At an hour and 30 minutes, Enemy is kept at a good pace and has your undivided attention, even if you don’t necessarily understand what many of the scenes mean. The ending is quite abrupt and might feel cheap for some people but having known the context of the themes and all that, it’s great. It does have a meaning beyond being a jumpscare (specifically the last couple shots of the movie).

Jake Gyllenhaal was the main star of the movie in dual roles and as usual was fantastic. He really did feel like two different people and was especially great when he was playing off himself. Gyllenhaal is also great at portraying the obsessions of his characters as they’re trying to figure everything out. The rest of the limited cast were good but the supporting players who stood out was Mélanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon, who were great here.

Denis Villeneuve’s direction was fantastic as to be expected. As all of his movies nowadays are, it’s an absolutely stunning looking movie. Enemy also has got this yellowish tint to it throughout, which really gives off this strange vibe, and it’s very effective. There are also moments of brief scary imagery, which really are effective and get under your skin. It’s made even more uneasy by the soundtrack from Daniel Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, giving this really unnerving feeling.

Enemy is incredibly complex and layered, the performances from dual Jake Gyllenhaal and Mélanie Laurent were great and Denis Villenueve has once again fantastically crafted a deep and unnerving psychological thriller. It may be confusing at first, especially for first time viewers, however it becomes much more satisfying as you think about it more, and especially when you watch it again. Go into it knowing as little about the movie as possible. Though just prepare yourself if you have a phobia of spiders.

12 Years a Slave (2013) Review

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12 Years a Slave

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence & sexual violence
Cast:
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup/Platt
Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps
Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey
Sarah Paulson as Mary Epps
Paul Dano as John Tibeats
Benedict Cumberbatch as William Ford
Alfre Woodard as Mistress Harriet Shaw
Brad Pitt as Samuel Bass
Director: Steve McQueen

In 1841, African American Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free man, is kidnapped and forced into slavert, under the name ‘Platt’ for 12 years. He faces the hardships of being a slave under the hands of a few different slave owners. Through faith, will power, and courage, Northup must survive and endure those 12 years a slave.

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I had seen 12 Years a Slave many years ago for the first time, and it was quite impactful experience. Having rewatched some other Best Picture winning movies recently, I decided I should give this one a watch again, even though I knew it wouldn’t exactly be a pleasant viewing. 12 Years a Slave still holds up 7 years kater and is just as devastating as when I first watched it, a fantastic and harrowing movie that deserves all the acclaim it’s been receiving.

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Considering the subject matter, one could be forgiven for thinking that the movie might take a manipulative approach, especially considering most of the other movies about slavery, and all the awards that this movie won. However, that aspect was handled right, and I’ll get into some of those aspects a little later. This is first and foremost Solomon Northup’s real life story, and follows him throughout his years of being a slave. The story is handled as honest as possible, and never sensationalises any of it. Now from the title, you know that lead character doesn’t remain a slave for more than 12 years, but the experience isn’t any less harrowing. There are some incredibly impactful and emotional moments that are earned and never feel forced, but genuine.

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This cast is large and talented, and all of them perform excellently in their parts. Chiwetel Ejiofor is incredible in the lead role of Solomon Northup, conveying so much emotion and pain without having to say much, or even anything. This film is continuously following him from beginning to end, this is his movie, and he carries it all powerfully. The rest of the cast are supporting players in Solomon’s story, but they all play their parts well. There are two standouts among that supporting cast, the first is Michael Fassbender, giving one of his best performances as a slave owner. Fassbender really performs excellently, with his character representing pretty much the worst of humanity, he has such a captivating screen presence. The other standout is Lupita Nyong’o, who gives an incredibly emotional performance in her part. The rest of the cast are great and make the most of their scenes, with the likes of Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfre Woodard, Brad Pitt. Michael Kenenth Williams, and Paul Giamatti.

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Good writing and acting aside, what 12 Years a Slave would live or die on is the direction. This film needed to be handled by the right person, or it could easily fail. Director Steve McQueen was very much the right person for this movie, and knew how to handle this very sensitive subject. The cinematography from Sean Bobbitt was stunning. Not only that, but McQueen’s use of the camera is effective, forcing the audience watch everything that happens on screen, and not allowing them a chance to look away. When it came to the violence and the aspects of slavery, it was handled in probably best way possible. It’s undeniably brutal and doesn’t shy away from that, and you feel every blow. At the same time, it doesn’t sensationalise or fetishize it, if anything it is uncomfortably casual, and was fitting for the movie. A perfect example of this is a standout moment that takes place a third of the way through, without revealing the context or what the scene is, it’s a few minutes long, full of unbroken shots, and it’s incredibly painful and quiet. Hans Zimmer’s score is great as to be expected, and fitted perfectly with the film.

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12 Years a Slave remains an outstanding and moving film, powerfully acted, excellently directed, and is all around masterful. It is incredibly hard to watch (and indeed the rewatch was just as painful as the first watch was) but is a monumental film and quite frankly essential viewing.

Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) Review

Time: 92 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Alexandra Daddario as Heather Miller
Dan Yeager as Leatherface
Trey Songz as Ryan
Tania Raymonde as Nikki
Scott Eastwood as Deputy Carl Hartman
Shaun Sipos as Darryl
Keram Malicki-Sánchez as Kenny
Thom Barry as Sheriff Hooper
Paul Rae as Mayor Burt Hartman
Richard Riehle as Farnsworth
Bill Moseley as Drayton Sawyer
Marilyn Burns as Verna Carson
John Dugan as Grandfather Sawyer
Gunnar Hansen as Boss Sawyer
Director: John Luessenhop

Decades ago, residents of Newt, Texas, long suspected that the Sawyer family was responsible for the disappearances of many people. When their suspicions finally were confirmed, vigilantes torched the Sawyer compound and killed every member of the family — or so they thought. Much later, a young woman named Heather (Alexandra Daddario) learns that she has inherited Texas property from an unknown relative, and she is unaware of horrors that await in the mansion’s dank cellar.

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a really effective horror movie, it’s one of the only horror movies that got close to actually making me feel unsettled, and was the scariest slasher movie that I’ve seen. As for the sequels and reboots, I haven’t seen them but I heard that they are pretty bad. Still, years ago I still decided to see Texas Chainsaw 3D and was less than impressed to say the least.

Even though it initially seems like a reboot or remake, Texas Chainsaw 3D is actually a sequel to the original. It even opens right after the events of the first movie. If there’s something I can give credit to this movie for at least trying, it’s that it attempts to be a continuation of the original story instead of just rebooting… though that would still prove to be a problem for the movie. One of the biggest mysteries and confusions surrounding Texas Chainsaw 3D is the time period. It certainly feels like a modern movie, but certain things revealed just don’t add up. The first movie was made in 1973 and that’s where the movie was set, Texas Chainsaw 3D is like 20 years later so really it should be in the 90s. But it doesn’t seem that way, it’s in the 90s yet characters have smart phones. I almost feel like the people making this movie didn’t know entirely themselves, there’s a bit when the main character reads a newspaper and it shows the date but deliberately hides the year. Its not just the time period that’s wrong with the movie unfortunately, for the most part Texas Chainsaw 3D is a rather generic slasher movie, with boring characters who make stupid decisions, the type that a lot of bad horror movies have. Early in the movie, the main character is given a letter and is told that its absolutely important for her to open it before going into this faraway house that she apparently inherited from some mysterious relative. Yet she doesn’t until much later, revealing so much incredibly major things that would’ve made the events play out much differently. They basically made her conveniently not think about checking out that letter even when some weird stuff starts happening. Weird decisions at the end aside, for the most part the movie is very predictable. It’s also got some moments which come across as silly, like at a point there are two people chainsaw fighting, and I’m pretty sure the filmmakers wanted us to take this movie seriously. The strangest parts however come towards the last act as the plot takes a weird turn, and not necessarily for the better (potential spoilers for the rest of the paragraph). The film actually tries to make Leatherface likable and sort of an anti-hero of sorts, and it’s just bizarre, it’s so sudden and jarring. I guess credit for them for trying but they weren’t anywhere close to succeeding. By the time it got to the point where it was clear what direction the story was going in, I just gave up on the movie at that point, I couldn’t take it seriously.

I don’t know if most of the cast have talent, but the characters are so underdeveloped that they really didn’t have a chance. There’s only two actors in here that I recognise. Alexandra Daddario I guess was the best of the cast as the lead character. She’s passable enough and I’m not really sure if I’d go so far as to call her performance bad, but she really didn’t have anything to work with in this movie, more so to the rest of the cast.

The direction of the movie is competent at best. For the horror, the movie relies heavily on jumpscares, with none of them effective at all. I always found the scariest part of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre to be not the chainsaw wielding murderer, but just the absolute insane people in the family. Texas Chainsaw 3D mainly relies on Leatherface however, and in this movie he really isn’t intimidating, just another silent killer who happens to have a chainsaw. Again, there isn’t a consistent time period, if it’s really the 90s, the modern music has no place here. Yes, there’s a lot of gore here but it looks incredibly fake. There’s one bit where someone is being sliced at the waist with a chainsaw, but only the top half is moving, the bottom half of the body isn’t moving at all. Now this movie is called Texas Chainsaw 3D, and indeed you can tell that this movie was filmed to be 3D at points with the way that its filmed, with Leatherface thrusting his giant chainsaw in front of the camera just for audiences to see in its 3D glory (even though pretty much no one is watching this in 3D). There was even a moment later on where Leatherface throws his chainsaw at the camera, which was straight out of a bad 3D movie from the 90s where they tries to have random things popping out at the camera (and no, I’m pretty sure they aren’t attempting to tribute those movies at all).

Texas Chainsaw 3D is really not good at all. The acting isn’t good, the direction is lacklustre, it’s not scary in the slightest, it’s a rather standard and average slasher movie that you’ve seen done so much better, and although it does try to connect to the original movie, its ties just end up making the story stumble even more. Even if you liked the original movie, I don’t think you’ll get anything out of Texas Chainsaw 3D.

Men in Black 3 (2013) Review

Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Will Smith as James Darrell Edwards III/Agent J
Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin as Kevin Brown/Agent K
Jemaine Clement as Boris the Animal
Michael Stuhlbarg as Griffin
Emma Thompson and Alice Eve as Agent O
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

Even though agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) have been protecting the Earth from alien scum for many years, J still does not know much about his gruff partner. However, J soon gets an unexpected chance to find out what makes K tick when an alien criminal called Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) escapes, goes back to 1969, and kills K. With the fate of the planet at stake, J goes back in time and teams up with K’s younger self (Josh Brolin) to put things right.

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The idea of Men in Black 3 leading up to its release didn’t look that good. It’s a movie released 11 years after to a sequel that didn’t hold a candle to the original classic, and the plot involves time travel. It’s really the sequel that no one wanted, and on paper sounded like a complete dud. However, Men in Black 3 somehow was actually pretty good, definitely much better than 2 and was quite a bit of fun for what it was.

Men in Black (or at least the 3 movies) heavily relies on the two leads being J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones). The second Men in Black even brought back K (despite being mind-wiped at the end of the first movie). The third movie is about J being paired up with a younger version of K. It’s at least trying something different, with the whole time travel aspect, and so doesn’t fall into falling into familiar territory like the second movie did. With this being a time travel movie, there might be some plot aspects that don’t always work perfectly, but there’s nothing too major that breaks the movie or anything. Generally the movie or plot is nothing special, but is still entertaining, and still feels like a Men in Black movie. They even managed to add a little bit of emotion towards the end, and tied the whole trilogy together quite well.

Whereas the lead roles of the Men in Black movies are split over two characters, Will Smith is the clear cut lead here and is just as good he was in the previous movies. Tommy Lee Jones only gets a little bit of screentime, it feels like he’s mainly here to contrast with his present day version, but the use of him was fitting. More screentime is given to the younger version of K, played by Josh Brolin, who is perfect at a younger, less grumpy and generally happier version of him. It definitely makes the dynamic between the two very fresh, especially as J is constantly surprised how different and similar the younger K is to the older version. Its really uncanny how well Brolin does his impression, and was definitely one of the highlights of the movie. Jermaine Clement is the villain of the movie, and works well enough for the movie, has a pretty good opening scene. Nothing too memorable but he hams it up appropriately without going way too goofy like the villain in Men in Black 2.

Barry Sonnenfeld returns to direct, and once again it still feels like a Men in Black movie. It’s 11 years later and the effects don’t look that much better than those in the original Men in Black movie (however a lot better than the second movie). With that said the action scenes are a lot better than those in the previous movies.

Men in Black 3 was quite the surprise, not yet on the level of the first movie but still an entertaining watch nonetheless. Even if you don’t like the second movie, if you liked the first movie, MIB 3 is definitely worth giving a chance. While it didn’t seem to announce itself as such, it does work as the end of the trilogy. Now we’ll just have to see if the Men in Black spinoffs actually work without the pairing of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

Nymphomaniac: Vol. 2 (2013) Review

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Explicit material & content that may disturb.
Cast:
Charlotte Gainsbourg as Joe (ages 35–50)
Stacy Martin as young Joe (ages 15–31)
Stellan Skarsgård as Seligman
Shia LaBeouf as Jerôme Morris
Christian Slater as Joe’s father
Jamie Bell as K
Willem Dafoe as L
Mia Goth as P
Michaël Pas as Older Jerôme
Jean-Marc Barr as the Debtor Gentleman
Udo Kier as The Waiter
Director: Lars von Trier

The continuation of Joe’s (Charlotte Gainsbourg) sexually dictated life delves into the darker aspects of her adulthood, obsessions and what led to her being in Seligman’s (Stellan Skarsgard) care.

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I’m assuming that if you’re reading this review, you’ve already read my review of Lars von Trier’s divisive Nymphomaniac Volume 1. While I didn’t love the movie, it was very interesting, with some great performances and von Trier had a very unique style and vision (it was the first film of his that I saw). That was only the first half of the story however, and I heard very different reactions to the second volume. Some said that it was better than the first volume, others says that it was a significant drop in quality. I actually quite liked Nymphomaniac Volume 2, though it is (understandably) less enjoyable than the first volume, and the rather obnoxiously forcibly bleak ending really took away from both movies.

Long story short, if you didn’t like Volume 1 at all (as in was disturbed by it or found it to be absolutely horrible as a movie), Volume 2 isn’t going to be that big of a difference for you, whether you like or dislike it more. Otherwise, if there was something that you liked or were interested in with Volume 1, you’re pretty much going to need to watch the second volume. I do recommend reading my review of Volume 1 as there are some similar things between the two volumes and I don’t want to repeat myself too much. I’ll do my best to mostly talk about the new parts and differences between the two. Volume 2 is as long as Volume 1 at around 2 hours, despite this, instead of being split up into 5 chapters, it is split up into 3 chapters. It really does feel like the second part of the story, there’s not opening credits or anything like that, it goes straight into the rest of the story. There are clear differences between the two volumes and you can tell why Nymphomaniac is split at this particular point. Volume 2 is much darker, while the first volume had spots of dark comedy, the second volume has just specks of dark comedy. While the main character of Joe had many sexual experiences seemingly without any consequences in the first part of the story, without spoiling anything, let’s just say that things just go extremely bad for her in the second part. For example, at the end of Volume 1, Joe is numb from sex, which is particularly significant to her given that she’s a sex addict (or nymphomaniac as she self proclaims to be). So she has to find extreme methods of reigniting her sexuality. While Volume 1 at many points could be hard to watch, this second volume is much more so. In that it’s a less enjoyable experience, but I can’t exactly fault the movie for that. Once again it doesn’t feel like it’s necessarily done for shock value (though knowing Lars von Trier, that probably did play a part in some of the things that happen), it feels honest for the story that’s being told. There are parts that do feel more riveting than the first volume, but it is quite possible that this is because it has less chapters than the first volume or that it is darker. Despite this, enjoyment wise I preferred Volume 1 much more. The conversations between Joe and Seligman are once again interesting and one of the best parts of the Nymphomaniac movies, though once again they could be a little self indulgent (for lack of a better term to use while avoiding the term ‘pretentious’), though they don’t go to absurd levels like the first volume could be at times. Then there’s the ending which has divided a lot of people. Now I knew the ending a long time before going in and I hated the ending already. I did hear about people’s defence of the ending and I kept that in mind while watching both movies, and it still didn’t work for me after watching it. I won’t spoil what it is, but basically it involves one of the two main characters in present day (played by Gainsbourg and Skarsgard) doing something incredibly out of character. While it may have been meant to be a twist, it feels really forced. There’s nothing even small during the movie leading up to the end that hints towards it happening at all, just because people won’t expect a twist to happen doesn’t make it good. This also affects one of the best parts of the movie(s), the conversations between the two characters, instead of making you see them in a different light, it just makes them feel confused and it doesn’t really work or make sense. As a result it all just feels like a cheap way for Lars von Trier to make one of his typically depressing endings. While apparently he has many of these types of endings, I’m sure that they aren’t this lazily bleak. The ending is more than just underwhelming and disappointing, it’s infuriating and does notably detract from the overall film. I’ll just say that if the film ended with some random character we’ve never seen before appearing out of nowhere and killed both characters, it would feel less frustrating. Then again you might actually like the ending, some actually do.

The acting all around is great once again. Charlotte Gainsbourg was fantastic, this time she’s much more front and centre to what was going on. In Volume 1 she was very present throughout, but only in her scenes when she’s telling her stories. Here’s she’s actually present in the flashbacks and being present throughout most of them. She has to go through a lot, both physically and emotionally. Joe’s story in the first volume wasn’t particularly light but the second volume is especially dark. I’ve not seen much from Gainsbourg in terms of acting but from Nymphomaniac she has really shown herself to be an excellent actress. The scenes with Gainsbourg and Stellan Skarsgard in the present day are great as well and their conversations are really one of the more interesting parts of the Nymphomaniac story, especially how they played off each other with how different they are with regards to their outlook on life and all that. Stacy Martin is once again great as the younger Joe, despite her pretty much being the lead in Volume 1 though, in Volume 2 she’s not in the movie as much, given that in this point in Joe’s telling of the story she’s like in her mid 30s. Shia LaBeouf and some of the other actors return to their roles, once again they are really good and served their purposes well but really they are supporting players. There are mainly 3 newer actors added into the second part of Nymphomaniac. Willem Dafoe at one point is in the movie playing Joe’s boss, he doesn’t really get a lot of screentime but Dafoe brings a lot to whatever role he’s in and here it’s no exception. Jamie Bell plays a sadist who Joe comes in contact with in order to somewhat rehabilitate her sexuality. This is a role that Bell hasn’t really taken on before or since and he is suitably unnerving and violent, really great performance. Mia Goth is the other addition to the story later on, as Joe’s accomplice. This was really one of her first performances and she was really great in her role whenever she was on screen. It seemed like plenty of people were also impressed with her performance, seeing that she would go on to deliver more great performances in A Cure for Wellness, Suspiria and other movies.

Lars von Trier’s direction once again is impressive, with the cinematography being really stunning and direction-wise, a lot of impressive things being done. Regardless of how you feel about the story and all the things that happen, it’s clear watching this that he knows his way behind the camera. The sexual parts to everything is once again graphic and uncomfortable. This time there aren’t as many sex scenes, the sexual aspect of it is border more on fetishism, but again it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to titillate the audience, the sexual acts aren’t pornographic at all, they are actually more disturbing and even darker this time around. Despite some of my issues with Nymphomaniac, it didn’t feel exploitive. Volume 2 is arguably more uncomfortable in general, but that’s mainly because of the story. A weird thing I noticed that differed from the first volume is the lack of drawings, numbers and words that would sometimes appear on screen. Not that it was the glue holding everything together (the diagram of Joe parking a car certainly wasn’t the peak moment of Volume 1), it’s just something I noticed. Also to the second volume’s credit, it doesn’t make random directing decisions, like how it had one chapter with a smaller frame, and another chapter in completely black and white, it actually feels consistent throughout the movie.

Nymphomaniac Volume 2 mostly succeeds in telling the rest of the story. It is harder to watch, darker and more uncomfortable, however that seemed to work for the story. As I said and detailed earlier though, the ending really didn’t just disappoint, it really worked against and detracted a lot from the movie. So even aside from the fact that Volume 1 is more enjoyable to watch, Volume 2 ends with a horrible taste in the mouth, and not the good kind, thus making it not as good as the first part of the story. All in all, I understand why it was split into two parts, the first volume of the story was rather overwhelming and there was a lot of story to cover from what I’ve seen (haven’t seen the director’s cut). However, I think it still would’ve been possible to cut down some things from both volumes and release Nymphomaniac as one 3 hour long movie (or even 3 hours and a half). Nymphomaniac isn’t a movie I want to rewatch ever again and I don’t know if I can ever recommend it, but I guess the best thing I can say is that if my reviews of it made you the least bit interested in it, go check it out and hopefully you’ll get something out of it.

Man of Steel (2013) Retrospective Review

Time: 143 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Kal-El:
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
Michael Shannon as General Zod
Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent
Diane Lane as Martha Kent
Laurence Fishburne as Perry White
Antje Traue as Faora-Ul
Christopher Meloni as Colonel Nathan Hardy
Ayelet Zurer as Lara Lor-Van
Russell Crowe as Jor-El
Director: Zack Snyder

With the imminent destruction of Krypton, their home planet, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his wife seek to preserve their race by sending their infant son to Earth. The child’s spacecraft lands at the farm of Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane) Kent, who name him Clark and raise him as their own son. Though his extraordinary abilities have led to the adult Clark (Henry Cavill) living on the fringe of society, he finds he must become a hero to save those he loves from a dire threat.

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This is a SPOILER review. My original thoughts on Man of Steel are here.

I made a Man of Steel review many years ago, but after seeing the later DCEU films and upon further thought, I decided to do another review, because I wanted to give some updated thoughts on the movie, as well as going in depth with spoilers. I originally planned to release this review sometime in the foreseeable future, but after it recently being the 5 year anniversary of the film (13th of June 2013 to be exact, as you can tell my review is a little late), I decided to release it now. When I initially saw Man of Steel, I liked it but didn’t really love or think much about it. I thought it was a solid and different take on Superman, even if it wasn’t excellent. Having rewatched it over many times since its release, I’ve come to appreciate this movie a lot more. It’s has some minor issues but I still really love it.

Generally the first half of the story is more Clark’s origin story. Whereas the original Superman film told the story chronologically, Snyder decided to jump between Clark’s past and present, which was ultimately a good decision. While for some this was jarring (and very Batman Beginish), I thought it worked quite well. If it was just told through chronological order, it wouldn’t be as interesting. We already have a generally idea about Clark’s backstory, so having that play while telling the present story helps keep our interest. There might’ve been maybe a little too many flashbacks but I honestly wouldn’t know which one to cut out, each of them seemed necessary to show Clark’s arc and character in this movie. There are some truly great Superman scenes, some of them including Clark learning to fly for the first time and Superman surrendering to mankind. I’ll get to the controversial decisions regarding Superman later. The second half is Zod coming to earth. The third act is big and destructive. Some would said that it was senselessly destructive, I don’t think its necessarily the case, but I can get that there are aspects that they could’ve tweaked a little to improve it. I think the only time it was a little too over the top was the Smallville fight, and even then I liked the overall sequence.

The pacing was generally good, Man of Steel is around 2 hours and a half long and having seen the film multiple times I can’t pick out really any scene which drags or felt over long. The dialogue is mostly good, and a little mixed sometimes, at times it is very well written and there are some great lines for a Superman movie but at other times it is rather odd and silly. Most of the time it is perfectly fine, but the odd lines really do stand out, whether it feel too silly or too generic/familiar (e.g. “You’re a monster Zod, and I’m gonna stop you”). The humour, when it’s there is a little mixed as well, they are brief but some of them don’t really land well (the “I think he’s kinda hot” line near the end of the film being an example). In terms of any other story issues, there is a scene after the scene about Zod’s snapped neck, which is for the most part good but feels completely and tonally different from the previous scene, almost as if the previous scene never happened before. It would’ve been a little more effective to have an additional scene showing the continual impact of that scene.

Henry Cavill portrays a very different Superman than what we’ve seen before (at least in live action). This is a Superman who’s very conflicted, a Superman who’s not perfect, but most of all a Superman who’s learning. He also felt much more relatable as a character, yes the Christopher Reeve Superman to this day remains very effortlessly beloved but creating the cheesy Superman in today’s times just doesn’t work at all (just watch what Joss Whedon tried to do with him in Justice League). For some reason a lot of people found Cavill to be quite stiff here, I didn’t get that from his performance. I mean sure he’s not as quippy as some other versions of Superman but he still had his fair share of lighter moments and charisma, he’s not as charismatic as the real life Henry Cavill but very few people are. Henry Cavill’s Superman is one that I actually cared for. He’s not making constant quips but he’s not a constant brooder, they aren’t trying to make him the superhuman version of Batman. I find much of the ‘not muh Superman’ crowd’s criticisms to be strange to me. There are some people that have issues with this version of Superman. There are way too many complaints to go through, even in an in depth review, so I will just go through a couple of them. One of the major criticisms was the amount of people who died at the end. The truth is that you can’t save everyone in that situation, and with the exception of possibly the Smallville scene, in the climax, it is Zod and the Kryptonians who end up causing the vast majority of the destruction. In fact, Superman in the final fight with Zod really tries to take the fight away from the city but isn’t able to. Since we are going in depth with spoilers, we might as well talk about the controversial neck snapping scene. When Zod tries to kill some innocent civilians in the end of the final fight, Superman is forced to snap his neck to save them. To this day, I never understood why people hate that he did this. I can get if that they hate that Superman was put in this position, but between letting them die and killing Zod to save them, I think doing the latter was the better option. And on top of that, the film doesn’t just act like it was an easy, it was clearly really painful for him. At the very least, it was a lot more justified than Superman killing a depowered Zod in Superman 2 (I’ve noticed a lot of the “not muh Superman” crowd hold up Christopher Reeve’s Superman movies as the definitive Superman). Not to mention that plenty of comic book movie heroes nowadays kill people easily. I don’t mean this in judgemental of people who don’t like this version of Superman (it’s really not a big deal if you don’t), but I’ve noticed that people get extra specific when it comes to how the most popular comic book characters are portrayed in movies (speicifcally Superman, Batman and probably Spider-Man for instance) and there is a lot of backlash when they are different from previous adaptations or from the more common perception of the characters. I’m completely open to people trying new ways of approaching iconic characters. All in all, I don’t really have many problems with Cavill’s version of Superman, at least not with his first two movies.

Amy Adams as Lois Lane was great casting. While it’s not one of her best performances and some aspects about Lois here don’t work perfectly here, it gives her more to do than some other versions of Lois. I mean, Lois figures out by herself who Superman is, which by the way is a change that I really like. I know that it’s a classic comic book thing for Lois to never figure out that Clark Kent is Superman, but I find that less believable than no one recognising him as Superman because he wears glasses. So it was a refreshing change. The chemistry between Adams and Cavill isn’t perfect but it works okay enough for this movie. Michael Shannon is great as General Zod, the main antagonist of the film, and I have to say that he’s much better than Terrence Stamp’s Zod. Whereas Zod in Superman 2 just wanted to take over Earth… just because, Shannon’s Zod has reasons for what he’s doing, he wants to save his race. Zod here was also bred purely to advance his race unlike Clark, so it makes sense that he is single minded and bent upon this. When Superman destroys all chance of Krypton being rebuilt, he loses his people and his purpose. I think he might be one of the best comic book movie villains. Shannon does have his fair share of hammy and over the top moments (his “I will find him!” will forever remain a classic), but that makes him all the more entertaining. Besides, all things considering he might not be as over the top as Stamp’s Zod. All in all, Michael Shannon did a great job with a well written General Zod. Also, shout out to Antje Traue, as Faora, who despite being a supporting antagonist as Zod’s lieutenant, manages to leave a really strong impression, at least at the same as Zod. She particularly shines in her action scenes (Smallville battle being a stand out), and Traue and Zack Snyder made her a force to be reckoned with. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane play Clark’s adopted parents, they felt much more grounded than previous versions of the characters. This take on Kent’s adopted family has caused some controversy, particularly with Costner. For example, in a flashback after Clark saves a bus full of kids, Costner seems to hint that maybe Clark shouldn’t have saved them, because he wanted to keep his secret at least for now. While I can see why some people were polarised, I feel this makes the character more human. He thinks he’s doing the right thing but he’s not absolutely sure. It felt like a more appropriate take on the characters for nowadays and both Lane and Costner acted very well in the roles. Russell Crowe is also worth mentioning, as he is great as Superman’s real father Jor-El, getting much more to do than Brando in the Reeve films, especially in the opening scene. Other supporting actors like Laurence Fishburne do their part well.

Zack Snyder always has spectacularly looking movies, and Man of Steel is no exception. This movie looks incredible, the special effects are great, the designs of the ships, outfits and more are unique. Just a moment to focus on Superman’s costume, it is so incredibly well put together, beautifully designed and actually works in a modern setting. In fact on pretty much all levels, Snyder really made Superman work in a modern setting. All in all, Man of Steel just might be the best looking DCEU film, with it having slightly better CGI than Batman v Superman, off the top of my head there weren’t any moments that stood out to me as having bad CGI. It’s even more impressive after seeing some of what they did behind the scenes. For example, the suits of Zod and the Kryptonians were CGI, but they look completely practical in the actual movie. This film also successfully portrayed Superman’s power (including his strength, flight and laser vision) in the modern day. Other live action versions that have Superman nowadays (Supergirl and Justice League) do show off how powerful he and similar characters are, but it really lacks something, and makes him seem outdated, but Snyder’s version works well. Yes, it is very destructive but it feels somewhat grounded at the same time, it’s kind of hard to describe. It feels like how Superman would be if he existed in real life. The action was also great, fast, intense and impactful. Everything from the opening Krypton sequence, the oil rig fire scene, the Smallville fight and the final Superman vs Zod fight, everything works incredibly well. One aspect that was a slight annoyance was the occasionally handheld camerawork and the zoom ins and out. Its not bad and was actually quite effective at times but it wasn’t really necessary and was a little distracting at times. It does less bothersome the more I watch the movie however. Hans Zimmer’s score here is god-tier, amongst some of the best work he’s ever done, which is saying a lot. Also I know it might be a bit of a controversial opinion but I think it’s the best score for a Superman film yet.

Man of Steel is to me the best live action Superman film (solo at least) and one of the best superhero movies (top 10 at least). With its grounded and more modern take on Superman, the mostly good writing and Zack Snyder’s great direction, it actually worked. It does have some issues with its writing and plot, but what it gets right, it really gets right. It only gets better and better the more I watch it. Also it did something I didn’t think possible, it managed to get me to like Superman in the modern era and make him take him somewhat seriously (well, at least for two movies).