Tag Archives: 2014 movies

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) Review

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The Grand Budapest Hotel

Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language, sexual references & nudity
Cast:
Ralph Fiennes as Monsieur Gustave H.
Tony Revolori as Zero Moustafa
F. Murray Abraham as Mr. Moustafa
Adrien Brody as Dmitri
Willem Dafoe as J. G. Jopling
Saoirse Ronan as Agatha
Tilda Swinton as Madame D.
Edward Norton as Albert Henckels
Mathieu Amalric as Serge X
Jeff Goldblum as Kovacs
Harvey Keitel as Ludwig
Tom Wilkinson as Author
Jude Law as the Young Writer
Bill Murray as M. Ivan
Jason Schwartzman as M. Jean
Léa Seydoux as Clotilde
Owen Wilson as M. Chuck
Director: Wes Anderson

Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), a concierge, is wrongly framed for murder at the Grand Budapest Hotel. In the process of proving his innocence, he befriends a lobby boy (Tony Revolori).

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I remember The Grand Budapest Hotel as being one of the earlier movies I saw from Wes Anderson, and it was the first movie from him I watched in the cinema. I had previously seen Fantastic Mr Fox and Moonrise Kingdom and while I liked them when I saw them for the first time, I wasn’t really into his work that much. I remember the experience in the cinema back in 2014 watching it because I found myself surprised at just how much I loved it. A rewatch upon watching all of Wes’s movies only confirms to me that it is his best, an unbelievably delightful and charming movie that entertains from beginning to end.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel’s screenplay is again written by Wes Anderson, and I have to say that it has to be one of his most polished and complete works, if not his most. This movie is one of the select number of films which I can say I found genuinely enthralling. Wes Anderson’s strongest movies with the likes of The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore had me interested generally throughout. However, The Grand Budapest Hotel had me invested from beginning to end and was endlessly entertaining. The movie feels completely original, and the story is heartfelt and endearing, features quirky and entertaining characters, and some unique and hilarious comedy. The dialogue was great, quick witted and memorable, and it’s perfectly paced across its 100 minute runtime. The plot itself is intricate but never confusing, and is also the largest scale movie from Wes Anderson. The Grand Budapest Hotel really gives you a sense of adventure and escapism, while also having melancholic and darker qualities and themes that you don’t expect at first.

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Wes Anderson is known for his massive and talented ensemble cast, but this may well be his biggest cast to date, and that’s saying a lot. Ralph Fiennes as Gustave H. gives not only one of his best performances of his career, but one of the best performances from a Wes Anderson movie. He’s charismatic, his line delivery is absolutely perfect, he really does handle the dry humour perfectly and fully portrays his well written and memorable character. Tony Revolori is also one of the leads and shouldn’t be overlooked, he’s really great too and shares great on screen chemistry with Fiennes. There was quite a supporting cast including Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, F. Murray Abraham, Harvey Keitel, Tom Wilkinson, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Mathieu Amalric, Lea Seydoux and Owen Wilson. Everyone is great in their parts and make themselves stand out in their respective scenes, even if they are in just 1 or 2 scenes.

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Wes Anderson’s direction is phenomenal, even when compared to all his past work. His style is instantly recognisable once the movie begins. The cinematography is beautiful and vibrant. It is said with some movies that every shot could be framed as a painting, The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of those movies. The changing of the aspect ratios was also effective, moving to 4:3 for most of the film. The production design and costume design were outstanding too. The score by Alexandre Desplat is unique and amazing, and it really fits perfectly with the rest of the movie.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel is an enthralling and delightful adventure, perfectly written and directed by Wes Anderson, and features an outstanding ensemble of great performances. It’s like he took everything great from his past movies and put it all in here with this one. Having gone through his entire filmography, I can say with confidence that this may well be his magnum opus. It is also firmly one of my favourite movies, especially from the 2010s. It’s an essential watch for sure, and also a great place to start with Wes Anderson if you haven’t seen any of his movies before.

The Expendables 3 (2014) Review

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and offensive language
Cast:
Sylvester Stallone as Barney Ross
Mel Gibson as Conrad Stonebanks
Jason Statham as Lee Christmas
Harrison Ford as Max Drummer
Antonio Banderas as Galgo
Wesley Snipes as Doctor Death
Dolph Lundgren as Gunner Jensen
Randy Couture as Toll Road
Terry Crews as Hale Caesar
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Trent “Trench” Mauser
Jet Li as Yin Yang
Kelsey Grammer as Bonaparte
Ronda Rousey as Luna
Kellan Lutz as John Smilee
Glen Powell as Thorn
Victor Ortiz as Mars
Robert Davi as Goran Vata
Director: Patrick Hughes

Years ago, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) co-founded the Expendables with Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson). After Stonebanks became an arms dealer, Ross was forced to kill him — or so he thought. Now, Stonebanks is back and he’s on a mission to end the Expendables. Ross decides that the way to fight old blood is with new blood, so he assembles a team of younger, faster, more tech-savvy recruits. The battle to topple Stonebanks becomes a clash of old-school methods vs. high-tech expertise.

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It’s been so long since I’ve watched the 3 Expendables movies. I seem to remember that the first was an okay but rather forgettable action movie, and the second was noticeably better and rather fun throwback flick. However, the 3rd movie really doesn’t work, and its surprisingly because the filmmakers somehow forgot the purpose of these movies to begin with. It’s not even entertainingly bad, it’s just middle of the road flat and average.

The movie starts off well with an entertaining opening action scene (it involves Wesley Snipes breaking out of prison). After that though it’s rather weak, even as a standard action flick, and on the whole still manages to be quite boring. Expendables 3 doesn’t seem self aware like in the 2nd movie and its worse than in the first movie. The Expendables was meant to be this throwback to 80s action movies but instead this movie is about getting a new team, in fact this movie spends too much time with recruiting the new Expendables. I’m also not expecting some kind of compelling story, but even on the level of trashy action movies, this falls pretty flat. Even some of the sillier aspects aren’t entertaining this time, its just incredibly hard to get into the movie. It does improve in the third act as it gets into the climax but it’s not worth sitting through the entire 2 hour runtime to get to that point.

The whole thing about Expendables is that part of its appeal is that it had 80s action stars all together (except Jason Statham for some reason). Expendables 3 forgot that, Stallone is very much the lead but much of the original cast of the first two movies is sidelined for the younger cast. The younger cast includes Ronda Rousey and Kellan Lutz, and the younger cast really don’t add anything to the movie at all and just end up being annoying more than anything else. The older cast fare a little better, the returning Expendables cast with the likes of Jason Statham and Arnold Schwarzenegger do well enough but again, sidelined. Harrison Ford in this movie pretty much replaces Bruce Willis’s role (since Willis didn’t return due to some disagreements between him and Stallone), having a few scenes and all. It’s nice seeing him here but unfortunately doesn’t elevate the movie enough. Wesley Snipes is also a nice addition. Antonio Bandareas is a good actor and on paper him being in the Expendables movies sounds really great, but his character is really annoying, so it was a bit of a missed opportunity. Mel Gibson was a good villain for the movie, the best villain in the trilogy by far, in fact he’s probably the best part of the whole movie. There’s particularly a standout scene with him in a truck like halfway through the movie.

The first Expendables was directed okay by Sylvester Stallone and the second was much better directed by Simon West. The third movie is directed by Patrick Hughes and unfortunately wasn’t all that done well. There is a lot of cuts and shaky cam during the action scenes, its like it was directed like an average modern action movie. Unlike the previous movies in the series, The Expendables 3 isn’t given an R rating. My problem isn’t necessarily that it’s not rated R (since you could just remove the blood from the other movies and they’d work almost as well, if not better), the problem is that it feels like it was shot to be R but then they changed to PG-13, resulting in some things looking different. For example, instead of blood spurting out when people are shot, it’s just lots of dust bouncing off them. There is some really poor CGI here, I know we shouldn’t be expecting much from it, but it even feels poor compared to the previous movie. The climax is entertaining enough, however the Stallone vs Gibson fight should’ve been more than what we got, doesn’t even touch the Stallone vs Jean-Claude Van Damme fight at the end of the second film.

The Expendables 3 is not awful but it’s rather average and somehow pales in comparison to the previous 2 movies, which weren’t even that great. It feels watered down, the new cast mostly don’t add much to it, and it’s just rather boring. Pretty much the only part about The Expendables 3 that is good enough that might be worth watching is Mel Gibson, who makes for an effective villain and the best out of the trilogy. Really the only movie in this trilogy that I’d say is worth watching is the second movie. Even if you’re a fan of the first two movies, I’m not sure that you’ll like this one.

Snowpiercer (2014) Review

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Snowpiercer

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Evans as Curtis Everett
Song Kang-ho as Namgoong Minsoo
Ed Harris as Wilford
John Hurt as Gilliam
Tilda Swinton as Minister Mason
Jamie Bell as Edgar
Octavia Spencer as Tanya
Ewen Bremner as Andrew
Go Ah-sung as Yona
Director: Bong Joon-ho

Set in 2031, the entire world is frozen except for those abroad the Snowpiercer. For seventeen years, the world’s survivors are on a train hurtling around the globe creating their own economy and class system. Led by Curtis (Chris Evans), a group of lower-class citizens living in squalor at the back of the train are determined to get to the front of the train and spread the wealth around. Each section of the train holds new surprises for the group who have to battle their way through. A revolution is underway.

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Snowpiercer was the first movie from Bong Joon-ho that I saw, which was quite a while ago. Having watched all his other movies, it made me want to go back to this one, and it’s even better on a second viewing. The release of Snowpiercer wasn’t as large as it should’ve been, which is a shame, because had it been given a proper release it would’ve been a massive hit among everyone sooner. It’s a fantastic film that is worth seeing.

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Snowpiercer is a very thematic movie about class, and there are a lot of parallels throughout. A lot of it isn’t particularly subtle but this doesn’t bother me at all however, movies being blatant with its themes aren’t inherently bad, and Snowpiercer does go deeper than just leaving it at “rich people bad, poor people good”. At around 2 hours long, the movie held my attention quite well. It’s much more focussed on the story, ideas, characters and themes over the spectacle and visuals (even those are impressive too). At first it’s a straightforward story, a group of people at the back end of the train want to get to the front of the train, and it doesn’t get much more complicated than that. However, there’s more going on, and the latter half of the movie sort of abandons the action movie energy from the first half for something much more intellectual and ambiguous, and I liked that too. Snowpiercer also feels very fresh, creative and original, and you can’t really compare it to any other sci-fi film, even though it’s not an entirely original film as it was based off a graphic novel (which I don’t think was that well known). The ending, as in the very last scene of the movie, was fine enough but I felt like it was missing something.

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This had a large cast, and all of them perform greatly, but there were three performances that stood out most. Chris Evans gives probably the best performance of his career in the lead role, as a much darker and conflicted character compared to most of the others that he plays, I’d like to see him more in roles like this. Song Kang-ho is here in his 3rd collaboration with Bong Joon-ho, and as usual delivers a solid performance. Tilda Swinton is the other standout as another transformative and unrecognisable character, and shined in her screentime in a over the top and gloriously hammy performance. The rest of the supporting cast with Go Ah-sung, Jamie Bell, Ewen Bremner, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer and Ed Harris also delivered some solid performances on their parts.

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We all know that Bong Joon-ho is a great director but he’s particularly great here, and his transition to movies in English was impressive. Taking away the fact that this movie is mostly in English, this doesn’t feel like an American blockbuster, especially when it comes to the action. It’s brutal, stylised, and was all around great and satisfying. It’s also visually stunning, the visual effects and cinematography were outstanding, and the attention to detail with the production and costume designs were top notch.

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Snowpiercer is one of my favourite movies from Bong Joon-ho, and he’s made some fantastic films. His direction was reliably exceptional and was key to making it work as well as it did. Add on top of that the work of the cast and a story and world I was engaged with throughout, and you have an outstanding sci-fi movie. Definitely watch it if you haven’t already.

Birdman (2014) Review

Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, sexual references, offensive language & drug use
Cast:
Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson
Edward Norton as Mike Shiner
Zach Galifianakis as Jake
Andrea Riseborough as Laura Aulburn
Amy Ryan as Sylvia Thomson
Emma Stone as Sam Thomson
Naomi Watts as Lesley Truman
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Former cinema superhero Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is mounting an ambitious Broadway production that he hopes will breathe new life into his stagnant career. It’s risky, but he hopes that his creative gamble will prove that he’s a real artist and not just a washed-up movie star. As opening night approaches, a castmate is injured, forcing Riggan to hire an actor (Edward Norton) who is guaranteed to shake things up. Meanwhile, Riggan must deal with his girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough), daughter (Emma Stone) and ex-wife (Amy Ryan).

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Best Picture winner Birdman was a movie that I really liked when I saw it, even though I didn’t regard it as a masterpiece like most people. Given that I was rewatching plenty of movies recently to see what I thought about them on a second viewing, I decided to rewatch Birdman, and I definitely got a lot more out of it on a second viewing. Masterfully directed, written well and acted well, Birdman is for sure a fantastic film experience.

Watching it a second time, I really noticed that Birdman was written incredibly well. There are plenty of references of Hollywood and has a lot to say about art, movies, the film industry and the like. Most movies about Hollywood that reference other movies and actors existing could easily fail at this but with Birdman they somehow they managed to do it in a way that doesn’t feel obnoxious. It’s an original and weird movie for sure, I mean this is a movie where the lead character can move objects with his mind and fly (or at least thinks he can). It’s a bit of a strange and dark comedy. It’s astounding how they managed to pack so much emotion and depth into 2 hours, and it had me entertained for that entire runtime. Talking about some of the best parts about this movie or explaining why they’re so great would involve spoiling a whole lot of what happened, and honestly it’s best if you go into it not knowing much already. The ending certainly is different, very ambiguous and it’s not going to work for everyone. You really have to interpret a lot of the movie (especially the ending) for yourself.

There is quite the large cast involved here, and they all gave some great performances. While everyone does very well here, it’s Michael Keaton who is the star of the show, really giving a career best performance. The casting choice is definitely meta, since the character is a washed up actor who once played a comic book character decades ago, and is played by Keaton who once played Batman of course. However it’s not just an inside joke, Keaton gives such a layered performance and really brought this character to life incredibly well. Edward Norton is great as a character that seems somewhat based off of his persona, a very talented but volatile method actor, among Norton’s best work for sure. Emma Stone is also great as Keaton’s daughter, giving one of her best performances. There is particularly one monologue with her which was one of the stand out scenes of the movie, and that’s saying a lot. The rest of the cast are all outstanding as well, some of which include Zach Galifianakis as Keaton’s lawyer and producer (in a more dramatic role that he hasn’t really done before), Andrea Riseborough as Keaton’s girlfriend and an actress, Naomi Watts as an actress, and Amy Ryan as Keaton’s ex-wife.

Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s direction of the whole movie is present throughout, and really added a ton to Birdman. Something that is really known was that this movie is made up of a bunch of long takes, making the movie look like it was done in one entire shot, it’s truly fantastic and creative the way they navigated the camera throughout all the spaces. There are parts where the camera goes black, and you can probably tell that one shot ended there and then another shot began, nonetheless the shots go on for so long that it’s nonetheless very impressive. Emmanuelle Lubezki’s cinematography as always is truly fantastic. The music is just a bunch of drums playing, occasionally at a seemingly random beat, and it kind of oddly works for this movie.

Birdman is arguably Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s best film yet, and I loved The Revenant. With his fantastic direction, the weird and original writing, and the great performances (especially from Michael Keaton), it really deserved all the awards recognition that it received. However, I can partially see why it wouldn’t necessarily work for everyone. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I can’t really set you up for it, but I personally recommend that you watch the movie, just going into it movie with an open mind.

Interstellar (2014) Review

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Interstellar

Time: 169 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Matthew McConaughey as Joseph Cooper
Anne Hathaway as Amelia Brand
Jessica Chastain as Murphy Cooper
John Lithgow as Donald
Michael Caine as Professor Brand
Director: Christopher Nolan

In Earth’s future, a global crop blight and second Dust Bowl are slowly rendering the planet uninhabitable. Professor Brand (Michael Caine), a brilliant NASA physicist, is working on plans to save mankind by transporting Earth’s population to a new home via a wormhole. But first, Brand must send former NASA pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and a team of researchers through the wormhole and across the galaxy to find out which of three planets could be mankind’s new home.

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I can clearly remember watching Interstellar in the cinemas for the first time back in late 2014, it really was one of the best cinema experiences I’ve ever had. It was truly an incredible visual experience, Christopher Nolan had a great handle on it, and it also had a great story. It has only gotten better and better the more I’ve watched it, Christopher Nolan and his talented cast and crew created something truly incredible here.

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For some, the early portions of the film might be a little slow, it’s about half an hour before Matthew McConaughey even goes into space. Having watched it a number of times though, at this point I liked that section. When I was watching the movie for the first time, there was a lot to take in and I didn’t understand a lot of what was going on, and I had to think about a lot about what it all meant. With that said, having seen it a few times now, I’ve grasped a pretty good amount of what this movie is. This is a long watch, just under 2 hours and 50 minutes in length, making Interstellar Christopher Nolan’s longest movie to date, so you have to be ready going into it (at the same time it’s also best going in not knowing too much about the plot). Of course having seen it at least 4 times now, I’m pretty familiar with the plot and what happened. Now it is a science fiction movie and has a lot of great effects, but at its core it’s an emotional story, and I was invested in that on top of loving all the sci-fi stuff. In fact this is Nolan’s most emotionally charged film to date. I guess some of the dialogue can be more than a little heavy handed when it comes to the themes and the philosophical portions, and those parts admittedly come across as a little clunky. There’s even a moment when Anne Hathaway flat out says the main theme of the movie like halfway through, and while I get it’s important to make that main idea clear, maybe Nolan could’ve pulled back from some of that a little. However if you’re invested in this story, that won’t matter at all. The only other aspect I have issues with is one part of the ending, I’m not necessarily sure about the handling of this one part. Outside of that, I don’t have too many problems with the movie.

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Christopher Nolan once again assembles a great cast, and they all perform very well. Matthew McConaughey is great in the lead role, in one of his best performances. Ultimately his performance is what anchors the film and is central to the movie through and through. There are a couple of moments in this movie that got to me emotionally, and 95% of it is because of McConaughey’s performance. The major supporting actors with Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine are great in their parts, and brought their A game. There’s also Mackenzie Foy, John Lithgow, Casey Affleck, Timothee Chalamet and Wes Bentley who are good. Foy especially stands out as McConaughey’s daughter, and their scenes together earlier in the movie are great, especially as their relationship is one of the main driving forces of the movie. There’s also a robot called TARS voiced by Bill Irwin, who was a good addition to the movie. An appearance from a certain actor later on in the movie was also quite surprising and good (not saying who this actor is just for those few people who haven’t seen Interstellar in the years it has been released). I know some people have mixed feelings about his subplot, but I mostly liked it.

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This is Christopher Nolan, of course he’s going to direct this movie extremely well, even knowing that however, the level of filmmaking here is outstanding. This is Nolan’s largest scaled film to date, and you really feel it. The cinematography from Hoyte Van Hoytema is outstanding, and the visual effects are nothing short of fantastic, from the planets that the main characters go to, to space, all of it just looks stunning. The locations shown in the movie are great, and Nolan really makes the places feel believable and plausible. Hans Zimmer’s score is euphoric and really takes this movie to a completely higher level. One of Zimmer’s best scores to date, and that’s saying a lot.

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Interstellar is firmly on the list of the best science fiction films, especially in recent years. Whether or not this is his best film, this may well be Christopher Nolan’s most ambitious film to date, from the scale, the cast, the direction, to the overall story. If you somehow haven’t seen it yet, definitely watch it when you can.

The Drop (2014) Review

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The Drop

Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Tom Hardy as Bob Saginowski
Noomi Rapace as Nadia Dunn
James Gandolfini as Marvin “Cousin Marv” Stipler
Matthias Schoenaerts as Eric Deeds
Director: Michaël R. Roskam

Follows lonely bartender Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) through a covert scheme of funnelling cash to local gangsters – “money drops” – in the underworld of Brooklyn bars. Under the heavy hand of his employer and cousin Marv (James Gandolfini), Bob finds himself at the center of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighborhood’s past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living – no matter the cost.

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I remember I once saw The Drop many years ago, and I remembered liking it back then. I didn’t remember much of it however, so I had been meaning to see it again. Watching it again I liked it even more, a gritty crime drama, well paced, written and directed, with a solid cast, that is rather underrated.

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The Drop is based off a Dennis Lehane short story called Animal Rescue, and he actually adapted his own novel for the big screen, to some great results. It’s a good story and script, with some very naturalistic and well written dialogue. Make no mistake, this is a character driven story. Despite it being a crime movie, it’s not really a thriller, it’s actually a bit of a slow burn but I don’t mean that in a bad way by any means. I was personally invested from beginning to end, but just so you know it’s not a very active movie, moving at a calm pace. There happens to be some storylines and aspects related to crime but it’s about characters first and foremost. There aren’t many moments of violence but when they are present, they’re quite sudden and shocking, and pack the punches that the movie intends them to be. The Drop is an hour and 45 minutes or so long, and that was about the right length of the movie. With it being a slow paced drama you’d think that it would be rushed or something, but ultimately it’s a tightly written movie with a well handled story overall.

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The cast are among the best part of The Drop, each of them were great in their respective roles. Tom Hardy gives quite possibly his most subtle performance of his career as a soft spoken bartender named Bob. I won’t reveal too much of the movie but for at least most of the movie, he’s very unassuming, simple and naïve, and he absolutely works wonders in this role. Hardy manages to convey so much with just his facial expressions and eyes it’s incredible. Also, if you just want to see a movie where Tom Hardy is taking care of a dog for under a couple of hours then The Drop is right up your alley. The supporting cast are all good too. Noomi Rapace was good in her part too, and she and Hardy shared convincing chemistry (although she was slightly underused). Notably, The Drop is the last performance from James Gandolfini before his untimely death, and he was really great in his final role. A naturalistic performance with a lot of presence, he too works especially well in the scenes with Hardy. Matthias Schoenaerts is also in a supporting role as someone who threatens Tom Hardy’s character, Schoenaerts’s character is really meant to be a minor antagonist towards Bob and as that works as an easy person to dislike.

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This is the only film I’ve seen from Michael R. Roskam, and he actually directed this movie quite well. The Drop has got quite a great look to it throughout, especially the use of colour. The score by Marco Beltrami is also really good.

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I’ve noticed that The Drop has been overlooked quite a bit, and really deserves a lot more attention than it has been receiving. It’s not a particularly fast paced movie, but instead it’s a slow burn and investing drama, with a well written story, topped off with great performances from Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and James Gandolfini. It’s really worth a watch whenever you get a chance.

Whiplash (2014) Review

Time: 168 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Offensive language and content that may disturb

Cast:
Miles Teller as Andrew Neiman
J. K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher
Paul Reiser as Jim Neiman
Melissa Benoist as Nicole
Director: Damien Chazelle

Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is an ambitious young jazz drummer, in pursuit of rising to the top of his elite music conservatory. Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), an instructor known for his terrifying teaching methods, discovers Andrew and transfers the aspiring drummer into the top jazz ensemble, forever changing the young man’s life. But Andrew’s passion to achieve perfection quickly spirals into obsession, as his ruthless teacher pushes him to the brink of his ability and his sanity.

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I remember when I first saw Whiplash in early 2015, I had been hearing all of the hype and acclaim that it has been receiving and I figured I should watch it since it was being nominated for some awards. All I really knew going in was it was pretty much about a jazz drummer, with a somehow even grumpier J. Jonah Jameson being really mean as the jazz teacher. That’s what the mindset I had going into the movie, and I really didn’t know what to expect outside of that. I was not prepared for how phenomenally great this movie would be. Whiplash remains one of the most affecting movies I have ever seen and one of my most memorable movie experiences.

At an hour and 46 minutes in length, Whiplash is riveting from start to finish. I literally could not do anything else but watch until the movie had ended, and I can’t say that about too many movies. The idea about people being pushed (and pushing themselves) to perfection is definitely one of the most present ideas throughout the movie, and it’s really explored by both its main characters. It can be anxiety inducing and uncomfortable at points, however you just can’t look away, I just had to know how the everything would end. It also has one of the best third acts I have seen a film to date, so incredibly exhilarating, thrilling and satisfying. By the end I just felt very exhausted in the best way possible.

Miles Teller doesn’t get enough praise for his performance here, he’s often overshadowed by his co-star J.K. Simmons, who I’ll get to in a minute. Teller’s Andrew Neiman is not meant to necessarily be likable. However, you can still somewhat understand why he does the things that he does and you are right alongside him throughout his journey and change over the course of the movie. This is the best performance that Miles Teller has given in his career thus far and I do wish that more attention went towards his work here. When people usually think of Whiplash, even if they haven’t seen it themselves yet, they usually think of J.K. Simmons. His performance is outstanding and commands such an intimidating presence whenever he’s on screen. He can be extremely intense and scary when he flips out on people but he could be even funny at points. It’s for sure one of the most memorable supporting performances I’ve ever seen in a movie. Other supporting actors like Paul Reiser as Andrew’s father and Melissa Benoist as Andrew’s girlfriend also play their roles very well in their scenes.

Damian Chazelle directed this movie extremely well, it is so incredibly well edited and put together. The music naturally was fantastic, so well applied to the movie. While yes, the story itself is riveting, Whiplash wouldn’t work without Chazelle’s handle of the whole movie. It is a movie about Jazz and drumming, but Chazelle made all these scenes so incredibly entertaining and thrilling.

While 2014 was a year full of fantastic films with the likes of Interstellar, Birdman and Gone Girl, Whiplash is my favourite film of that year. It was completely riveting, and with Damien Chazelle’s phenomenal direction and writing, and fantastic performances from both Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, I absolutely loved it. It’s been 4 years since I first saw the movie and the effect it had on me still hasn’t worn off. Chazelle would continue to make more films, with La La Land and First Man also being excellent films, and I can’t wait to see even more from him. However, Whiplash is still for me his best film to date.

Godzilla (2014) Review

Time: 123 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ford Brody
Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishirō Serizawa
Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody
Elizabeth Olsen as Elle Brody
Juliette Binoche as Sandra Brody
Sally Hawkins as Dr. Vivienne Graham
David Strathairn as Admiral William Stenz
Director: Gareth Edwards

When mankind found an ancient spore, they began to preserved until nearly 15 years, it hatches. Now with malevolent terrestrial organisms threatening the existence of man kind, an ancient creature from the depts of the ocean, will rise again to fulfill natures order to restore its balance, while also making sure mankind never makes the same mistakes again.

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I remember watching Godzilla back in 2014 and really liking it, it was the first Godzilla movie I watched (and to this date is currently the only one I’ve seen). With the sequel, King of the Monsters coming very soon, I just knew that I had to go back and give it another look, and I’m glad to say that it still works really well.

One of the main criticisms was that for a movie named Godzilla, he doesn’t appear a huge amount. I don’t personally have that problem, I feel like some parts of the human aspect could’ve been a little stronger, but you don’t exactly want to be all out with Godzilla very early on, especially considering how he plays such a large part in the climax. They take time building up to him, teasing you with brief shots of him. Maybe they are a little forceful with how much they hid him, just as he appears they cut away and then there are news people talking about it or you suddenly see the aftermath, so I can’t entirely blame people for feeling slightly cheated in how they handle some of his early scenes. On the whole though, the slow build up to Godzilla never really bothered me. The human side of the movie wasn’t bad and was fine, however it felt like it could’ve been stronger. You don’t really have an emotional connection to what’s going on or the characters (except for Bryan Cranston, and even then it’s because he played the role so well). The movie is 2 hours long and that was a fitting length for it, every scene feels necessary and furthers the plot and the pacing is pretty hood. Even some of the more familiar scenes such as the exposition scenes (mainly explaining Godzilla) and military people talking about important things are handled in such a way and given such weight that you don’t really mind it, they actually legitimately work. And it all culminates in a big monster showdown of a climax and is just glorious to watch.

The human characters aren’t that good but the cast play them as good as they can. The actor who steals the show is Bryan Cranston, he adds so much to this movie. He puts so much into his performance and elevates things (including the whole movie) to a whole new level. Unfortunately, he’s not on screen as much as you think he would, despite the trailers featuring him heavily. I don’t like to be all “the movie would’ve been better if…” but honestly the movie would’ve been stronger if Cranston was at least one of the leads throughout the movie. In the end the human lead character is really Aaron Taylor Johnson, who’s unfortunately not that good here. He’s not a bad actor, he can actually be great (as evidence by his performances in films like Nocturnal Animals and Outlaw King) but for whatever reason, he’s not strong as a lead here and largely falls flat, even though he wasn’t necessarily terrible. The rest of the cast consisting of the likes of Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Elizabeth Olsen and Juliette Binoche were pretty good and played their roles as best as they possible could.

The direction by Gareth Edwards was great and was a large part of why this movie works as well as it does. Something that he proved with this and Rogue One is that he’s great at making things feel on such a large scale. The monsters were really good and were designed really well, they really felt like large titans with great power. And of course there’s Godzilla, it takes a while before you get to see him in his full glory, but it’s well worth the wait. The visual effects were also really great, same with the action, the destruction is among the best when it comes to recent blockbusters. There are some moments that are just stunning. One of the standouts was a HALO jump scene and it is great, the music, the look of everything, the POV shots, it just looked like a real jump into hell, and is by far one of the highlight moments of the film. The final action set piece is reason enough to see this movie, with Godzilla and the rest of the monsters going at it. The score by Alexandre Desplat was also quite good and really added a lot to the movie.

Godzilla 2014 doesn’t quite get the love that it deserves, it’s got some minor problems but it’s not enough to take away from how strong this movie is on the whole. Gareth Edwards has really made Godzilla into a large scale and entertaining blockbuster, and was just really handled well overall. I’m definitely on board for whatever the sequel is bringing us.

Ouija (2014) Review

Time: 89 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1]
Cast:
Olivia Cooke as Laine Morris
Ana Coto as Sarah Morris
Daren Kagasoff as Trevor
Bianca Santos as Isabelle
Director: Stiles White

Following the sudden death of her best friend, Debbie (Shelley Hennig), Laine (Olivia Cooke) finds an antique Ouija board in Debbie’s room and tries to use it to say goodbye. Instead, she makes contact with a spirit that calls itself DZ. As strange events begin to occur, Laine enlists others to help her determine DZ’s identity and what it wants. As the friends delve deeper, they find that Debbie’s mysterious death was not unique, and that they will suffer the same fate unless they learn how to close the portal they’ve opened.

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It’s been years since I’ve seen it but I remember Ouija to be one of the worst horror movies I’ve seen. Looking back at it, while it’s not absolutely painful to watch or anything, it’s really doesn’t have anything to offer, nothing scary or creepy, nothing intriguing, not even entertaining, intentional or not. It’s one of the most dull studio horror movies I’ve ever seen.

For a film about a Ouija board, the plot is so incredibly unimaginative and predictable, so much so that the prequel of the movie was actually much more interesting and better than the main plot that was written beforehand. Ouija is less than 90 minutes long and yet it actually feels pretty boring and drawn out. There is not much tension throughout the whole movie. Something weird that I’ve noticed it do than other horror movies is that in between these tense moments, the movie focuses on our main characters when they are in high school and during this, all the suspense is completely non-existent. Even in other mainstream generic horror movies, if they did this they would at least make an attempt at suspense, maybe even throw in a cheap scare. However, the characters go on with their lives acting like they aren’t in danger… because they really weren’t in danger. There isn’t particularly anything awful about the plot from what I recall but so much of it is forgettable and shockingly dull.

I’m not familiar with most of the cast, however I do know Olivia Cooke, who has proven herself to be a very great actress in films like Thoroughbreds, Ready Player One and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and to her credit she is good here. Definitely the best part of the movie. The rest of the cast aren’t really good but from my position, I can’t really put it as them being bad actors, none of the characters are particularly well written or given much to do really. They are just standard horror movie characters.

Director Stiles White has worked as a screenwriter and special effects person on other films, but Ouija is his directorial debut, and his work here was sub par. As expected, the scares are primarily are jumpscares with no good tension, even the jumpscares are somehow boring. While CGI isn’t used a ton, when it’s present, it looks quite bad. I can say that the cinematography was okay looking, but that’s usually to be expected when it comes to studio horror movies.

Dull, generic and unimaginative, Ouija is one of the worst studio horror movies I’ve seen yet. Aside from the fact that the movie can look good sometimes, Olivia Cooke’s performance is the only thing holding back this movie from being worse than it already is. The best think I can say about Ouija outside of those positives is that it would lead to the prequel, Ouija: Origin of Evil directed by Mike Flanagan, which actually was a pretty good horror movie. I guess if you want to see the movie that Origin of Evil would be based on, you might want to watch Ouija in preparation. Outside of that, there’s really nothing you could get from this movie.

Rage (2014) Review

Time: 98 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Paul Maguire
Rachel Nichols as Vanessa
Peter Stormare as Frances “Frank” O’Connell
Danny Glover as Detective Peter St. John
Director: Paco Cabezas

Following the kidnapping and murder of his daughter (Aubrey Peeples), a reformed criminal (Nicolas Cage) returns to his old ways to exact vengeance.

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I saw Rage (also titled Tokarev) a long time ago, mostly out of curiosity because Nicolas Cage was in it, even though I heard that the movie wasn’t really that good. However, it definitely fits into the category of straight to DVD Nicolas Cage movies and doesn’t really have much to offer, whether it be the story, direction or performances. And no, not even Cage can make this movie entertaining in the slightest.

Out of Nicolas Cage’s bad movies, this fits into the ‘boring bad’ category along with other movies like Left Behind (though Rage still isn’t quite as terrible in comparison). The movie is about 90 minutes long but it takes a while for things to actually happen. The story is boring and convoluted, it’s the typical revenge plot but just done really blandly and poorly. The characters and the plot aren’t interesting enough to care about, there’s just no energy and there’s nothing intriguing going on. The ending is also really abrupt and unsatisfying, there’s not satisfying payoff in the third act. I wasn’t picking out issues with the actual plot throughout the runtime, I just was generally bored watching it.

The acting isn’t all that great. Nicolas Cage is fine enough as the lead character, but this is definitely one of his paycheck roles. Cage does get like one freak out moment however and it is truly glorious, easily the best (or at least most entertaining) moment of the movie. Outside of that, his acting ranges from being okay to sleepwalking through a lot of the movie, which seemed to be his acting style recently (hopefully after Mandy and Mom and Dad that has now changed). In terms of other noteworthy actors, Danny Glover is pretty good in the little screentime that he has, however his detective character is terrible at his job and that bit was a little distracting (one of the only parts about the characters/plot that I really had some issues with). The rest of the cast (featuring the likes of Peter Stomare) are sort of fine, not particularly bad but they don’t really leave any impact, or at least weren’t memorable enough to mention.

Rage was not directed all that well by Paco Cabezas, and he’s apparently done other movies in the past. Maybe Cabezas made better movies before but you wouldn’t know that just based on this movie. A lot of the action contains shaky cam, made worse by the editing which cuts a lot, there is particularly a car chase scene which is absolutely incomprehensible with so many cuts and you can’t follow anything that’s going on. Outside of the action scenes, the direction is just sort of average, not awful but nothing good either.

It’s really sad that a movie titled Rage and starring Nicolas Cage is incredibly dull. It is yet another bad Nic Cage movie, but really the worst part is that there isn’t anything entertaining about it, intentional or not. We get a couple stand out but brief Cage freak outs but that’s it. Even if you’re a big Nicolas Cage fan, you’re not really missing much by not watching Rage outside of those scenes, and even those can be seen online. You’ve probably not even heard of the movie but if you have even the slightest interest in watching it (even for an ironic viewing experience), it’s not really worth it. It’s not one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen by any means, but it’s really dull and generic, and really doesn’t have much to offer.