Tag Archives: 2015 movies

Jurassic World (2015) Retrospective Review

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Jurassic World

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Pratt as Owen Grady
Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing
Vincent D’Onofrio as Vic Hoskins
Ty Simpkins as Gray Mitchell
Nick Robinson as Zach Mitchell
Omar Sy as Barry
B.D. Wong as Dr. Henry Wu
Irrfan Khan as Simon Masrani
Director: Colin Trevorrow

Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by John Hammond. After 10 years of operation and visitor rates declining, in order to fulfil a corporate mandate, a new attraction is created to re-spark visitors’ interest, which backfires horribly.

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Following my rewatch of the Jurassic Park trilogy movies, I also decided to revisit the Jurassic World movies in the lead up to the upcoming new film. Much like the other Jurassic Park sequels, there were some very split reactions to the first Jurassic World, released 14 years after the last film, Jurassic Park III. I liked the movie when I saw it, but also had some issues with it. Having revisited it, my opinion is much of the same but I found much more to appreciate and enjoy.

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One of the things I noticed when going back to Jurassic World is that it wasn’t off to a good start with its first act. It begins following two brothers going to Jurassic World and introduces the setting through their eyes, fine so far. Unfortunately its just missing the impact, probably because its missing the dinosaurs. As they enter Jurassic World and see the massive park, it blasts the Jurassic Park theme over establishing shots over the park, but not showing any of the dinosaurs. When we do finally see them, they’re presented without ceremony. Things do pick up however once the genetically engineered dinosaur breaks out. Ever since Jurassic Park III, the series has been determined to have a special dinosaur as the main villain. Nonetheless, the Indominus Rex works well enough for this part, especially if thematically you view it as the outcome of corporate greed and science going to far. There’s plenty of running, destruction, thrills and dinosaurs and I was enjoying the film. Then in the third act, there is a satisfying fight between dinosaurs (T-Rex and Blue against the Indominus Rex), which ends everything on a high note.

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While there are plenty of issues with Jurassic World, the biggest for me were the human storylines, I just found them hard to care about. The previously mentioned brothers going to Jurassic World while their parents are being divorced, didn’t care for it. Its almost like they are here since every Jurassic Park movie seems to need to have at least one child in peril of being killed by dinosaurs. I didn’t care for the romantic subplot between Owen and Claire (Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard), in fact I actively disliked many of their scenes together. And then there’s the Vincent D’Onofrio plotline in which he tries to weaponize dinosaurs. It is absolutely ridiculous even by Jurassic Park standards, but for what its worth it is very enjoyable in an over-the-top cheesy way. The humour in this movie is also not very good, bordering on grating. It’s worse when its coming from delegated ‘funny’ side characters. I think the one thing about Jurassic World that works for me is that it leans into the absurdity of the concept and it is very self-aware. The movie even takes time to poke fun that at the name they gave the Indominus Rex. The self-awareness does at least make a lot of the story easier to digest. Also, the ideas that they’re working with like corporate greed are very much on display, showing that they are willing to genetically modifying and creating dinosaurs just for new entertainment. There are even one or two scenes that are actually really good, like when Owen and Claire come across a field of dead Apatosauruses.

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For me, the performances were okay, but I really didn’t care about the characters. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard played their parts well enough, but their characters weren’t the best. Pratt is having fun in his part, but doesn’t go anywhere beyond another variation of Chris Pratt. I particularly disliked the scenes between Pratt and Howard. The brothers I didn’t care for as played by Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins. Robinson’s character is particularly hard to like, even if I feel like that was intentional. Vincent D’Onofrio plays the over-the-top villain who tries to weaponize dinosaurs and fair is fair, he does embrace the role, and at least seems to match the movie’s energy. Other actors like Irrfan Khan and Judy Greer really are wasted in their parts, and there are plenty of annoying side characters. However, it was nice seeing BD Wong reprise his role as Henry Wu from the first movie, and he actually has a notable part of the plot.

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The direction from Colin Trevorrow was good in parts, it definitely increases the scale over the original trilogy. The action is quite entertaining and well filmed, the highlight again being the final dinosaur battle. With the scale comes the amount of destruction and deaths and Trevorrow definitely goes all in with that. Although there is an infamous death of one character played by Katie McGrath which is very out of place. The death is so over the top and contrived, it actually feels like a finishing move from Mortal Kombat or Injustice. The three Jurassic Park movies had a blend of CGI and animatronics, with the effects in each subsequent movie being worse than the last but otherwise they were still solid, even Jurassic Park III. However, it was 2015, and as you can expect, nearly all of the dinosaurs are CGI. The CGI on the dinosaurs isn’t necessarily bad, but you do feel that it is CGI, if that makes sense. The visual effects could be inconsistent, ranging from pretty good to rather fake, and I’m not just talking about the dinosaurs.

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As a dumb blockbuster, I think that Jurassic World works. I think after it passes its rather dull first act, and goes into the outbreak and mayhem, it picks up and is quite entertaining. While its not the highest of praises a movie could get, I do think it could’ve been worse. At the very least, I think its better than Jurassic Park III, and it has its moments.

The Duke of Burgundy (2015) Review

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The Duke of Burgundy

Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Sex scenes
Cast:
Sidse Babett Knudsen as Cynthia
Chiara D’Anna as Evelyn
Director: Peter Strickland

A drama about the relationship between a pair of female lovers (Sidse Babett Knudsen, Chiara D’Anna) who play games of dominance and subservience.

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I heard some people mentioning The Duke of Burgundy as an unusual, artsy yet really good indie film. I decided to check it out based on how well it was received and I’m glad I did, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

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To get the obvious out of the way, The Duke of Burgundy has S&M and BDSM as prominent parts of the movie, given that it’s a key part in the main relationship. This aspect could’ve just easily been mishandled, but for all the role playing and behaviours that sees the two lead characters playing out their fantasies, it never came across as exploitative. In fact, the movie uses this as a study on power dynamics and more, even the way that this aspect plays out is unexpected at points. However, essentially the movie is about relationships, wants and desires. The plot itself is quite simple, The Duke of Burgundy is a love story, and all the focus really is on the characters and their relationship. We are given an insight into their lives, their relationship is explored in a very tasteful way, and their dynamic is more complicated than it initially seems. There are even moments of surprising comedy, which make makes the movie more entertaining than expected. Despite its simplicity, it is quite clever and well written, and despite the subject matter and some of the moments of the film, it’s a very tender movie. It is steadily paced across its 104-minute runtime. If you aren’t into the story and characters by the first third of the movie, you might find this a tough film to watch because it really takes its time with everything. However as someone who was invested in what was happening, I liked it, and appreciated it for doing that.

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The cast are quite limited, much of the movie is just the lead actors in Chiara D’Anna and Sidse Babett Knudsen, and both of them are incredible in their respective parts. The relationship between these two characters is the most important part of the movie, and the development of this relationship is so subtle that it really asks a lot of the actors to convey these changes and emotions in a way that seems natural, and they really did that. Knudsen is particularly fantastic, especially with the way things between her and D’Anna progress and change over the course of the movie.

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This is the first movie I saw from Peter Strickland, and he’s certainly shown himself to be a great director from this one movie. Despite the simplicity of the plot, The Duke of Burgundy really is fantastic on a technical level and further elevates the movie. The cinematography is stunning with some memorable imagery (especially with nature), and it really compliments the rest of the movie. The editing is solid too, as well as important. As the movie progresses, it gets increasingly more surreal on a visual level. The sound design is superb, and so is the score from Cat’s Eye. With all of these elements combined, it makes the movie have this dreamlike feeling throughout. It really is one of the strongest examples of a movie where all the technical elements are working perfectly together in sync.

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The Duke of Burgundy is not for everyone, but I thought it was great. I was invested with what was happening with the story and characters, it was excellent on a technical level, and the performances from Chiara D’Anna and Sidse Babett Knudsen were fantastic.

Crimson Peak (2015) Review

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Crimson Peak

Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, horror, sex scenes and offensive language
Cast:
Mia Wasikowska as Edith Cushing
Jessica Chastain as Lucille Sharpe
Tom Hiddleston as Thomas Sharpe
Charlie Hunnam as Dr. Alan McMichael
Jim Beaver as Carter Cushing
Director: Guillermo del Toro

Edith (Mia Wasikowska) ignores her father’s warning and marries Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). When she arrives at the Sharpe mansion, she learns about her husband’s secrets and realises that the place is teeming with ghosts.

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Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak got quite a mixed reception upon its release, mostly because of expectations. I was one of group of people who really liked it, and I liked it even more when I watched it again. On a writing, acting and especially directing level, I thought it was great and I was invested throughout.

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First of all, Crimson Peak is not really a horror movie, horror is really the secondary genre for this movie. Don’t look at the trailers because they are misleading, and don’t really accurately represent the movie. It’s also not a straight up ghost story, there are plenty of grotesque ghosts but they serve more as a backdrop to the real plot, in a similar way as another ghost story from Guillermo del Toro named The Devil’s Backbone. Whereas that movie was a drama mystery containing horror elements, Crimson Peak is a gothic and period piece romance film that has horror elements. The story is a gothic fairy tale, and a masterfully crafted Victorian era murder story. The atmosphere is great, and there are some well placed twists. The movie is somewhat over the top and cheesy at times, but it’s intended to be that way. It is unapologetically soap opera and embraces that at points. At the same time, it is very dark and haunting, with a good amount of tension and suspense throughout. It’s not for everyone, you get the feeling that it was really made for a niche audience. I’d say that within the first 30 minutes, you’ll be able to figure out if this movie is your thing or not.

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The acting is all great, but there are mainly 3 performances who stand out the most. Mia Wasikowska plays her lead character with such humanity. Tom Hiddleston is effectively charming yet conflicted, and fits his role well. However, Jessica Chastain was the actor that stood out the most for me in the cast. As her character she’s unnerving, campy, evil and unhinged, and she played her role fantastically. Other actors in the supporting cast including Charlie Hunnam also play their parts well in their screentime.

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Guillermo del Toro’s direction is great as to be expected, especially on a visual level. The cinematography adds another layer to the whole picture, with its well staged shots and gorgeous aesthetics (especially the use of red). The lighting is perfect while the use of colours is fabulous, while the camera movements, angles and transitions are smoothly carried out. It really makes you feel like you’re in a different world. The set and costume designs are also incredibly detailed, the main haunted house is particularly fantastic. There’s also some creepy imagery that’s quite memorable when its present. The ghosts provide the most scares, particularly wit the jump scares. While people don’t really like jump scares, it did add some horror atmosphere and does spice up things for the audience from the slow and deliberate story. The moments of violence also stand out and punctuates the otherwise gothic fantasy feeling of the movie. The poetic score from Fernando Velazquez also fits the movie perfectly.

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Crimson Peak is great, it’s dark, visually gorgeous, and well put together and acted. Again, it’s not for everyone. But if you are interested in watching it, go in expecting a gothic romance with horror elements, not a full on horror movie. I might be in the minority of this, but I think it’s in the stronger half of Guillermo del Toro’s filmography, and by far his most underrated film.

Spectre (2015) Retrospective Review

Time: 148 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser/Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Léa Seydoux as Dr. Madeleine Swann
Ben Whishaw as Q
Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny
Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx
Andrew Scott as Max Denbigh/C
Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra
Ralph Fiennes as M
Rory Kinnear as Bill Tanner
Jesper Christensen as Mr. White
Director: Sam Mendes

A cryptic message from the past leads James Bond (Daniel Craig) to Mexico City and Rome, where he meets the beautiful widow (Monica Bellucci) of an infamous criminal. After infiltrating a secret meeting, 007 uncovers the existence of the sinister organization SPECTRE. Needing the help of the daughter of an old nemesis, he embarks on a mission to find her. As Bond ventures toward the heart of SPECTRE, he discovers a chilling connection between himself and the enemy (Christoph Waltz) he seeks.

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In my initial Spectre review, I called it a solid James Bond film with some problems holding it back quite a bit. I still like the movie but having seeing it a couple of times since then, even more problems are apparent to me, with regard to the balance of the usual Craig Bond stuff and the classic Bond elements, the painfully underwhelming third act and way too many issues to fit into one sentence.

Since I already did a spoiler free review of Spectre, I’m going to delve into some spoilers here. With Skyfall, director Sam Mendes managed to balance a lot of the modernised Bond elements with some classic Bond elements, to deliver one of the best films in the series. With Spectre he goes further with the latter aspect, with a clear cut Bond Girl, more gadgets, a fast car filled with gadgets and a lot of the classic Bond tropes. It’s even the first of the Daniel Craig James Bond films to open with the conventional gunbarrel opening scene that almost all of the Bond films have at the beginning of the movie. Unfortunately, the blend of the old and new didn’t quite work this time around. I actually like how Spectre tries to be a continuation of the Craig Era tone and rebooting the classic Bond villain organisation SPECTRE for this rendition of James Bond. The problem is that it also tries to homage some of the much earlier Bond films, with cartoonish humour and having action scenes that don’t challenge Bond (some Roger Moore era things unfortunately), and it really doesn’t fit together. In all the prior Daniel Craig Bond films, Bond is challenged to some degree. Despite all the personal connections that James Bond have to this story however, it feels like a typical run of the mill job for him. Nothing challenges him physically (aside from Dave Bautista), nor as a character mentally, psychologically or whatever. Spectre ties together all the previous Craig movies and while on paper I liked that idea, the way it was done really just didn’t work (I’ll go into that when I talk about Christoph Waltz and his character).

A lot of the things also don’t fit with the established tone of the newer movies, such as the humour. For example, early in the movie, Bond falls from a crumbling building onto a couch, which would work well in a Roger Moore Bond film but it comes across as too silly for Daniel Craig’s Bond. On another note there is also a subplot featuring Andrew Scott’s character trying to take over MI6 because he feels like it’s outdated and trying to replace agents with technology and surveillance. This plotline really falls flat, we’ve seen this happen in other movies, and we’ve seen it done better. It feels like it was pushed into Spectre just to appear somewhat relevant to today but it only just ends up slowing down the plot even more and makes things feel even more dull. I think it might’ve worked and be made more interesting if Andrew Scott’s character didn’t turn out to be a villain and this was only a red herring, however this is not the case. It feels like the movie kept cutting to this subplot because it would later be integral to the plot and it feels forced and distracts more than anything. The third act is both ridiculous yet really underwhelming and filled with a ton of problems, and considering the issues that Spectre has, that’s saying a lot. The film cuts between two things going on at the same time, James Bond with his ‘confrontation’ (in the loosest sense of the word) as well as M, Q and Moneypenny working to stop Andrew Scott, and it’s not that great. There are some implausible things like all the effort that Blofeld no doubt put into setting up things in the old destroyed MI6 building, placing pictures of Bond, Vesper, Silva, Le Chiffre, Greene, M and others throughout the place, writing on the walls and much more, which comes across as just unbelievable and funny considering the gritty tone that these movies have been having. Probably the most unrealistic and preposterous yet extremely underwhelming moment however is when James Bond shoots down a helicopter with a pistol while on a high speed boat in the complete dark, I don’t even think the previous Bond movies would attempt to do something like that and I don’t mean that as a compliment. The only thing going for the third act is that it looks good and the actors are trying, outside of that it’s borderline bad. It really brings down the movie a tremendous amount, some of the rushed things that happen come across as being really lazy, and leaves a bad taste in your mouth. The movie is long, about 2 hours and a half, and you really feel the length. There are some moments of drawn out nothingness happening, and a lot of the movie can feel rather uninteresting at times. It’s a shame really, because many of the scenes are actually well handled, and the movie has some ideas that had potential, but it doesn’t come togther well.

Despite a lot of faults with the characters, the cast do the best they can with what they have. Daniel Craig is once again the best James Bond yet and does try his best here. In terms of performance however, I’d have to say this is Craig’s worst performance as Bond. I don’t fully blame this on him though, as I said despite some of the personal elements in play in the story, James Bond doesn’t feel conflicted or challenged throughout the entirety of the movie. There are plenty of moments when he should be really invested in what’s going on, but Craig doesn’t really react that much to them. While this might pass for a Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan James Bond performance, it doesn’t work for Daniel Craig who spent 3 movies being a rougher and grittier Bond set in some form of reality and an actual character instead of an archetype. It certainly doesn’t help that he has no clear arc through the movie like the other Craig Bond movies, save for some vague things from his past thrown in and a meaningless therapy session, even Quantum of Solace had a solid character arc. Lea Seydoux is good as another ‘Bond Girl’, unfortunately there’s not a ton of interesting things to her character, she basically only ends up doing two things over the course of the movie (despite being established at one point as being somewhat capable), and feels like she could’ve been played by basically anyone. The romance between her and Bond does come out of nowhere and it’s not really believable, however this could go for almost all of the Bond Girls in the Bond series. It’s only made worse by the ending, which seems to imply that she’s someone special now to Bond even though nothing in the entirety of the movie indicated that to be the case (hopefully No Time to Die fleshes that aspect out a lot more). Seydoux does her best though. Monica Bellucci is another Bond girl who shows up in the first act of the movie and essentially does nothing after like 5 minutes of being on screen. She does provide some exposition but that’s it, almost like you could’ve cast anyone in the role and not try to make them a Bond girl. Maybe that should’ve been done, because it would’ve at least removed the really bad love scene between her and Craig, which came across as being really awkward and creepy. The returning Bond supporting cast do a great job. Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw as Q and Ralph Fiennes as the new M are all great in their roles. It is nice seeing them get to do stuff and get involved with the plot (especially Whishaw’s Q) though they did feel a little out of place in the climax.

One of Spectre’s most notable problems (and that’s saying a lot) is that the movie doesn’t do great with the antagonists. First of all getting the minor antagonists out of the way, we have Andrew Scott and Dave Bautsista. The moment that Andrew Scott appears on screen, you can tell that he’s going to end up being a villain. Sure, it doesn’t help that he was already known for Moriarty in Sherlock, but the worst part is that he feels really unnecessary to the plot. As I said earlier, the whole plotline was really not needed and Andrew Scott was tied to it, so he really didn’t have much to work with. Scott definitely has talent but he doesn’t get much to do except to be a generic ‘surprise’ villain. Dave Bautista is a Spectre assassin who at times tries to kill James Bond. While he won’t rank among the best James Bond henchman, out of all the Bond villains in this movie he does his job the best, he served his purpose adequately. Of course the main villain however is Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser. Everyone speculated that with the movie being called Spectre, that Waltz would be playing the head of Spectre, Ernst Stravo Blofeld, who appeared in some of the older Bond movies. There was so much denial that this was the case but it was even more predictable than the villain name reveals for Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness and Talia al Ghul in The Dark Knight Rises. Having that name was so forced that they really shouldn’t have tried it, and if they really wanted to stick with that, they shouldn’t have tried to make a surprise twist. One of the many issues that Waltz has is that we don’t get enough of him, we see him once at the end of the first act, the end of the second act and then again in the third act. However, that’s not the only issue. Blofeld isn’t just the head of the Spectre organisation here, it’s revealed that he was also the adopted brother of Bond, who was involved with his father’s death and faked his own death after being jealous that his father liked James Bond. On top of that, everything that happened to Bond, Le Chiffre, Vesper’s death, Dominic Greene, Silva, M’s death, all that was planned by Blofeld… because of childish jealousy or whatever. Hearing all this, and hearing him talk about all this doesn’t make him sound crazy or psychopathic, it makes him sound petty and a little difficult to take seriously, it just sounds so ridiculous. There’s nothing more to his character, he’s not particularly interesting or entertaining and worst of all he’s forgettable. The thing is that he was supposed to be like a big deal, the ultimate villain to Daniel Craig’s James Bond, I mean they gave him the name of Blofeld, a classic Bond villain when they could’ve just kept the name of Franz Oberhauser. And so with all that hype, it really makes him work even less and fall even flatter. To his credit, Christoph Waltz does try his very best and he does add some menace to the character although he does play it like a lot of his other villain roles, really only Quentin Tarantino has manged to utilize Waltz as a villain excellently, in other villain roles he ends up playing rather cliched antagonists. On top of that, Waltz feels trapped in the role, like he’s just on autopilot through the whole thing. They keep his character alive at the end, and thankfully he gets another chance in the upcoming last Craig Bond movie.

Sam Mendes does a pretty good job at directing Spectre, though there are some elements in the technical aspects which hold the movie back (along with the story). The cinematography this time is by Hoyte van Hoyte, who has done the cinematography for such films as Dunkirk, Interstellar and Her, films that were shot truly fantastically. Spectre’s cinematography is still very good but some elements don’t work as well. For example most of the colour pallet is fine except whenever the film does to places like Mexico and Tangier, because it’s suddenly like they put a brown filter over everything. A lot of the action sequences are entertaining and fun, some of them are rather underwhelming. Yes, sometimes we have Bond in a plane chasing a bunch of cars in the snow, crashing through some houses, but as I said before, you don’t ever feel like he’s in a position where he could fail, he always seems on top of things. Fortunately with the editing, unlike Quantum of Solace, you can see what’s going on, but at least Quantum of Solace had some intensity and energy in all of their action scenes. There are a number of examples of the lack of intensity on Spectre’s action scenes, one is Bond’s escape from the Spectre base by simply shooting 3 people, shooting some pipes and the base just blowing up (escaping in less than a minute, really making the Spectre organisation look incompetent), as well as the aforementioned ridiculed shooting down of a helicopter with a peashooter scene. Despite a lot of the problems, it does have some genuinely greatly directed sequences. One for example is the opening sequence, which features a long tracking shot following James Bond through Mexico during the Day of the Dead parade and a fight inside a spinning helicopter, great way to open the movie. Also the fight scene on the train between Bond and Bautistia is good and probably has the most intensity of the action scenes in the movie. The music by Thomas Newman (returning to compose the score after Skyfall) is good but it is a little too similar to Skyfall’s, it actually makes things feel really jarring. Speaking of music, Sam Smith’s song “The Writing on the Wall” played in the opening credits have proved itself polarising to some. It’s not like a normal Bond song but I didn’t mind it personally. I also didn’t mind the opening credits scene.

I still like Spectre to a degree but it is filled with so many problems that brings it down a large amount. Whereas you can see why Quantum of Solace had its issues with the writer’s strike and an incomplete script, I just don’t know what happened with Spectre. Aside from some scenes that were actually really good, much of Spectre is just a slog and is consistently underwhelming, seemingly ranging from being quite good to flat average. Spectre can’t balance the older and newer aspects of Bond, it lacks a lot of the intensity from the prior movies, the story is generally a mixed bag and ends with a very disappointing third act. We can only hope that Daniel Craig’s last Bond film takes the lessons learned from the best and worst of his films to create a great movie.

Legend (2015) Review

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Legend (2015)

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence and offensive language
Cast:
Tom Hardy as Ronald “Ronnie” Kray and Reginald “Reggie” Kray
Emily Browning as Frances Shea
Colin Morgan as Frankie Shea
Christopher Eccleston as Leonard “Nipper” Read
David Thewlis as Leslie Payne
Taron Egerton as Edward “Mad Teddy” Smith
Chazz Palminteri as Angelo Bruno
Paul Bettany as Charlie Richardson
Tara Fitzgerald as Mrs Shea
Aneurin Barnard as David Bailey
Paul Anderson as Albert Donoghue
Director: Brian Helgeland

In the 1960s, Reggie Kray (Tom Hardy) is a former boxer who has become an important part of the criminal underground in London. At the start of the film, his twin brother Ron (Tom Hardy) is locked up in a psychiatric hospital for insanity and paranoid schizophrenia. Reggie uses threats to obtain the premature release of his brother, who is rapidly discharged from hospital. The two brothers unite their efforts to control a large part of London’s criminal underworld. One of their first efforts is to muscle-in on the control of a local night club, using extortion and brutal violence.

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I was always aware of Legend being the movie where Tom Hardy plays two real life gangster twins known as the Krays. From the trailer it certainly looked like it had a lot of potential, and I generally like gangster movies. While it’s not as great as it could’ve been, it’s decent enough, and led by another great performance(s) from Tom Hardy.

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I’m not familiar with the stories about the Krays, but it sounds like there’s a lot of source material that could be used for a great movie. Unfortunately, the plot doesn’t really keep you engaged consistently. Some plotlines are interesting, others not so much. It’s actually a pretty standard gangster movie, with some issues with the script. The most annoying part for me was the narration, it was pretty much explaining everything but that’s not the worst part. The weirdest decision was having the narration by Reggie Kray’s wife played by Emily Browning, she wasn’t present for all the events that happen in the movie, so it was confusing why she was chosen. If they really wanted a narrator, they should’ve given it to Hardy or some other actor who wasn’t a character in the movie. The tone changes all the time, and not in a smart and balanced way, it’s all over the place, additionally you don’t really feel like you get to learn the main characters all that much. While the runtime of over 2 hours and 10 minutes seems like it would be the right length to cover the Krays’ stories, the film just moves a little too slowly to keep you constantly interested. Despite this, it feels like there’s some events the movie didn’t really cover, and instead chose to focus on some less interesting aspects. The script isn’t bad, it’s mostly passable, just not as interesting as it should’ve been.

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Tom Hardy is the main reason to watch this movie, as usual he’s fantastic and really elevated the film. Both the characters of Reggie and Ronnie Kray are very distinct, and Hardy embodies each of them effectively. Although not quite at the level of Hardy, the supporting cast is pretty good, with the likes of Emily Browning, Colin Morgan, Christopher Eccleston, David Thewlis, Taron Egerton and Chazz Palminteri giving some commendable performances.

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Legend is directed by Brian Helgeland, who did reasonably well with his filmmaking work on A Knight’s Tale and 42, but I knew him most for writing L.A. Confidential. His direction on Legend isn’t amazing, but was pretty good and worked for the movie. Now having one actor play dual performances on the screen at the same time isn’t a recent occurrence, but nonetheless they handled that aspect quite well, and made it look convincing.

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Legend had a lot of potential and unfortunately didn’t quite live up to it. For the most part it’s well made, and the cast are good, but although the script isn’t terrible, it’s definitely the weakest part of the movie unfortunately, and wasn’t quite the home run of a film that it looked like it would be at first. However, I’d say that it’s at least worth watching for Tom Hardy’s great performances.

The Hateful Eight (2015) Review

Time: 168 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence, sexual violence & offensive language
Cast:
Samuel L. Jackson as Major Marquis Warren
Kurt Russell as John Ruth
Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue
Walton Goggins as Chris Mannix
Demián Bichir as Señor Bob
Tim Roth as Oswaldo Mobray
Michael Madsen as Joe Gage
Bruce Dern as General Sandford “Sandy” Smithers
James Parks as O.B. Jackson
Director: Quentin Tarantino

While racing toward the town of Red Rock in post-Civil War Wyoming, bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) encounter another bounty hunter (Samuel L. Jackson) and a man who claims to be a sheriff. Hoping to find shelter from a blizzard, the group travels to a stagecoach stopover located on a mountain pass. Greeted there by four strangers, the eight travelers soon learn that they may not make it to their destination after all.

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I had been meaning to rewatch The Hateful Eight for a while. I remember looking forward to The Hateful Eight ever since its announcement, mostly because of Quentin Tarantino’s involvement. We nearly didn’t get this movie when the script leaked and Tarantino initially wanted to not do it, but I’m glad he changed his mind because The Hateful Eight ended up being really great. Having rewatched it (the recently released extended version), I now consider it to be one of his all time best movies. The acting from its large and talented cast is fantastic and Tarantino’s script is great, it had me riveted from start to finish.

Quentin Tarantino is generally great when it comes to writing, and his script here is among his best work. This movie like his many of his others are dialogue driven, and unsurprisingly the dialogue is fantastic, no one writes dialogue like him. The theatrical cut is very long at 168 minutes and people need to know that going in. Also it’s not like an explosive action movie, it’s a suspenseful mystery film and moves at quite a slower pace. Once all the main characters are in the same place in the same house, it builds up the suspense as we spend time with the characters and have to try to figure out if they are trustworthy or not. It definitely improves on a repeat viewing, because you know exactly what is going on. People only really start dying around the halfway point, from then on it becomes very tense. So if you are a little bored during it, the second half should pick up for you. None of these characters are particularly good people, in fact in terms of lineups of Tarantino characters in each of his movies they are easily the most despicable group, but they are entertaining and interesting enough that you’re still willing to watch them for just under 3 hours. This movie was surprisingly darkly hilarious as well, it really had me entertained throughout. As for people who have seen the movie already and are wondering about the extended cut, Netflix broke it up into 4 50 minute segments, making the movie about 3 and a half hours long. I looked up at some parts of it, and the parts that did add in were written pretty good. Otherwise for the most part I didn’t notice too many differences, and you’re not necessarily missing out anything major. So if you’re watching the movie for the first time, it might be better to go with the theatrical cut.

This cast is large and talented with Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern and James Parks and they were all fantastic, there were a few highlights though. This is one of Samuel L. Jackson’s all time best performances, he just absolutely nails this role. This was actually the first movie I have seen Walton Goggins in, and if I was forced to pick a highlight performance among plenty of other great performances in this movie, it would be his. Another showstealer was Jennifer Jason Leigh, who is amazing here as the prisoner being taken by Kurt Russell’s bounty hunter. I do feel like the writing didn’t give the character quite as much to do in the movie as she could’ve, but JJL really brought it to the performance. Channing Tatum also makes an appearance that’s a little more than a cameo, and I will say that he is great in his screentime, very different role for him.

Tarantino once again directs this film really well. One of the first things you’ll notice about this movie is Robert Richardson’s cinematography, it’s a stunning looking movie. It really felt like we were back in the 19th Century and it really places you in this snowy environment, we don’t really get that with Westerns. The Hateful Eight is a much smaller movie compared to Django Unchained, there are very little action or scenes with violence. It’s very much a suspense and mystery film, almost like a longer and Western version of Reservoir Dogs. There aren’t a whole lot of people being killed like in Kill Bill or Django Unchained but when people die, it is unsurprisingly violent in pure Tarantino style. However this time it’s much more brutal than you’d expect it to be, which fits the tone of the movie. The soundtrack from Ennio Morricone was masterful, he actually used some unused music from The Thing as part of it. It fits absolutely perfectly for this movie.

The Hateful Eight is yet another fantastic film from Quentin Tarantino that has gotten a bit of a mixed response from some people, but it really worked for me. From the fantastic writing, the great performances and direction, everything about this movie I really loced. This Hateful Eight definitely does hold up on repeat viewings, in fact it gets better upon rewatches. Both this and Inglourious Basterds are now my favourite movies from Tarantino, and I’m looking forward to seeing if Once Upon a Time in Hollywood manages to be at that level.

The Last Witch Hunter (2015) Review

Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and offensive language
Cast:
Vin Diesel as Kaulder
Rose Leslie as Chloe
Elijah Wood as Dolan 37
Michael Caine as Dolan 36
Ólafur Darri Ólafsson as Baltasar Ketola/Belial
Julie Engelbrecht as Witch Queen
Director: Breck Eisner

The modern world holds many secrets, the most astounding being that witches still live among us. Centuries ago, Kaulder (Vin Diesel) managed to slay the all-powerful Witch Queen, decimating her followers in the process. Before her death, she cursed the valiant warrior with her own immortality, separating him from his beloved wife and daughter in the afterlife. Her resurrection now threatens the survival of the human race as Kaulder, the only one of his kind remaining, faces her vengeful wrath.

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I didn’t expect anything special from The Last Witch Hunter, just a silly action fantasy starring Vin Diesel. And… that’s pretty much what I got. Aside from a pretty good performance from Rose Leslie, the most enjoyment that you’d get from The Last Witch Hunter is Vin Diesel and some of the mildly entertaining action scenes.

This film is quite predictable, the plot really isn’t anything special. A lot of the witch and other fantasy elements that you see here, you have seen many times before. The Last Witch Hunter ultimately doesn’t bring anything new to the table to the supernatural/fantasy genre, nor is it done in a unique or interesting way. It’s fairly generic to be honest and it’s not very interesting. The film doesn’t have any real surprises, the only surprise was for the worse because it didn’t really lead to anything and was completely pointless. So no, you shouldn’t go into The Last Witch Hunter for the plot.

Vin Diesel play Vin Diesel… again. He’s not a very good actor and here he acts like how he is in the other movies. If you enjoy watching Vin Diesel play himself, you’ll be fine with him here. A stand out of the movie was honestly Rose Leslie, who between this and Morgan seems to be an actress who can elevate any movie she’s in even slightly even if said movie is not that good. Elijah Wood was pretty good in his role. However the film does something with his character near the end of the movie, which ultimately ends up being pointless and really was questionable. Michael Caine has a very small role, practically a cameo. It’s a wonder why he was even cast (maybe he was paid a lot or something for his less than 5 minutes of screen time) but he seemed to enjoy being in this movie nonetheless. The villains are very boring and uninteresting, particularly the central villain. It’s just another one dimensional take over the world villain, not interesting (visually or as a character), not entertaining (not even unintentionally so), there’s really nothing to say about the villains. The acting from them wasn’t particularly good but I put that up to the writing and characters.

This movie doesn’t have the best special effects and a lot of the time it looks very fake but the action scenes are still entertaining enough. Generally the whole movie feels like a run of the mill fantasy movie, a mediocre one at that. However it is done in a way where you can turn off your brain and just enjoy watching over the top and silly action sequences.

The Last Witch Hunter isn’t a good movie but it entertained me enough. Vin Diesel was Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie was a high point of the movie (and probably the best part of the whole movie) and the action scenes while overblown and not that good were entertaining enough. The Last Witch Hunter can be an enjoyable movie, just don’t expect it to be anything more than just another Vin Diesel action flick.

Run All Night (2015) Review

Time: 114 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence, offensive language & drug use
Cast:
Liam Neeson as Jimmy Conlon
Joel Kinnaman as Mike Conlon
Ed Harris as Shawn Maguire
Common as Mr. Price
Vincent D’Onofrio as Detective Harding
Boyd Holbrook as Danny Maguire
Bruce McGill as Pat Mullen
Genesis Rodriguez as Gabriela Conlon
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Professional Brooklyn hitman Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) is more commonly known as THE GRAVEDIGGER. Jimmy was a mob hit-man, who was best friends with his boss Sean Maguire (Ed Harris). But when Jimmy’s son, Michael (Joel Kinnaman), is marked for death by the mob, Jimmy must go up against Sean to protect Michael at all costs. Together, he and Michael must avoid corrupt cops, contract killers and the mob to survive the night.

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Run All Night was a movie that interested me because of Liam Neeson’s involvement, but having actors like Ed Harris and Jaume Collet-Serra (the director of Unknown and Non Stop both pretty good Liam Neeson movies) did help as well. Out of the three movies that the director and Neeson had worked on (that I’ve seen, I haven’t seen The Commuter yet), this film is probably my favourite. It felt more placed in the real world (in comparison to the director’s previous movies), the action was great, the cast were quite solid in their roles and it really kept my attention all the way through. It’s not a fantastic action movie but it is an entertaining movie that is worth watching if you have the time.

The mostly story takes place all night (as you can probably tell from the title) and it does well in making it really feel like it. The plot is straightforward enough, not complicated but not mindless either. It’s got some little surprises which are some good surprises. It also felt relatively grounded compared to previous collaborations between Neeson and Collet-Serra (especially Non Stop). The pacing was done well, though it really picks up after Neeson’s character kills Harris’s son’s character. The movie does get better as it moves along more. There’s not much to really say about the plot to be honest.

Liam Neeson is really good, granted he could play this role in his sleep. I like the fact that he’s not playing a very moral character like in some of his other action movie roles. He’s a drunk, he’s a criminal and that was very refreshing to see, with it not just being a rehash of Liam Neeson – Action Hero. Ed Harris proved to be a great antagonist, he like a lot of his other villains has real motives and he makes everything believable and not cartoonishly evil. Both Neeson and Harris seem like they have a history, which was important to capture as that comes into play a lot in the movie. Joel Kinnaman was also really good in his role. He shared great chemistry with Neeson, and really seemed to have an estranged relationship. I also really liked Common here, he plays an assassin that Ed Harris hires at a point in the movie. I do feel like he was underused, he was only in a few scenes of the movie but he was good when he was on screen.

I liked that Run All Night decided to go with an R rating, considering the last 2 Neeson and Jaume Collet-Serra collabs have been M/PG-13. The overall direction of Run All Night overall was quite good, the movie has a good look to it. The action scenes are great and quite violent at times, which really worked with the dark and realistic tone that the film was going for, but at the same time isn’t trying too hard to make the movie completely realistic, it still knows what type of movie it is.

Although the film isn’t a must see and isn’t one of the all time best crime thrillers in recent years, I do recommend checking it out. The action is solid, the cast are good in their roles and it does keep your attention and is entertaining from start to finish, it’s not a simple action flick with no substance but it also knows what type of movie it is. If you like a lot of the Neeson flicks, I have a strong feeling that you’ll like it as well.

Sicario (2015) Review

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Emily Blunt as Kate Macer
Benicio del Toro as Alejandro Gillick
Josh Brolin as Matt Graver
Victor Garber as Dave Jennings
Jon Bernthal as Ted
Daniel Kaluuya as Reggie Wayne
Director: Denis Villeneuve

After rising through the ranks of her male-dominated profession, idealistic FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) receives a top assignment. Recruited by mysterious government official Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), Kate joins a task force for the escalating war against drugs. Led by the intense and shadowy Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), the team travels back-and-forth across the U.S.-Mexican border, using one cartel boss (Bernardo Saracino) to flush out a bigger one (Julio Cesar Cedillo).

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Denis Villeuneve already started becoming one of my favourite directors ever since I saw Prisoners for the first time, and when I saw Sicario for the first time, he solidified himself as one of the best directors working today. Once again, he showcased his incredible talents behind the camera. Sicario is a dark and gripping thriller, made even better by the excellent direction and acting. Watching it again only made me appreciate this film even more.

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This is Taylor Sheridan’s first script and for a writing debut, he did a great job here. He would go on to write for great films like Hell or High Water, Wind River and soon the hopefully good Sicario sequel. This movie did very well in establishing a very dark tone and feels really based in reality. It feels appropriately unpleasant and uneasy throughout, really making Juarez feel like a threatening and dangerous place that our characters are inside and in danger. From beginning to end, you never feel that these characters are completely safe. Understand that while this movie does have some thrilling sequences and is about the cartel, it’s not an action filled movie. It takes its time with its pacing and plot. And with that I can see some people feeling that the scenes are a little too long, but I didn’t experience any of these problems, at least on my second viewing. The movie does end up shifting in perspective from Emily Blunt to Benicio del Toro in the last act. It wasn’t necessarily a bad decision, it’s just that it was a little jarring all of a sudden a change in protagonists after we got used to Emily Blunt following for about an hour and a half. This movie is 2 hours long, having seen it twice I would’ve liked it to be slightly longer, but it’s not like a major problem or anything. Otherwise it’s a rather suiting runtime.

The acting was all around great. Emily Blunt is great in here as the lead, this is probably her best performance to date (at least from what I’ve seen from her). She was really the audience surrogate (maybe a little too much), but she still works well enough as a character. You can see her character change over time as she witnesses more things over the course of the movies. She’s very much wanting to do things by the book and that is conflicted by certain aspects. While the character potentially could’ve been improved, Emily Blunt does elevate the character with her performance. Josh Brolin was really good here, exerting a lot of charm while hiding a lot of his true intentions, very memorable performance. However we don’t really get to find out too much about him as a character. A standout however was Benicio del Toro, he plays an intriguing character due to his backstory being shrouded in secrecy until it’s revealed later on. Del Toro also gives quite an effective performance as his character of Alejandro. Daniel Kaluuya was also really good in his role, getting to stand out amongst the rest of the cast. Other actors like Victor Garber and Jon Bernthal added to the movie as well.

Denis Villeneuve’s direction is once again fantastic, he handled the whole film very well. Elevating the film even more is the cinematography by Roger Deakins, which unsurprisingly is phenomenal once again. He portrays Juarez as being a very dangerous place and displays it well. The action sequences are also fantastically shot and feel grounded in reality. There are lots of tense scenes that are effective, Villeneuve places you right in the middle of these situations. One of the examples of said scenes was a border crossing scene in the first half of the movie. The soundtrack from Johann Johannsson was also excellent, ominous and haunting. The whole movie really does a great job at making you feel uncomfortable and unsettled.

Sicario was another great film by Denis Villeneuve, delivering one of the best films of 2015. Sicario upon its release only solidified Villeneuve as a director to really pay attention to. I’m not sure how the sequel, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, will end up being but with Taylor Sheridan, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin returning, I’m confident that it’ll be something good.

Southpaw (2015) Review

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive langauge & content that may disturb.
Cast:
Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy “The Great” Hope
Forest Whitaker as Titus “Tick” Wills
Rachel McAdams as Maureen Hope
Oona Laurence as Leila Hope
Naomie Harris as Angela Rivera
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson as Jordan Mains
Director: Antoine Fuqua

As tragedy strikes him in his prime, famed boxer, Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal), begins to fall into a great depression. Once the decision regarding the custody of his daughter (Oona Laurence) is under question, Billy decides to get his life back on track by getting back into the ring.

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I remember getting reasonably interested in Southpaw, with my main point of interest being Jake Gyllenhaal, he really commits to every role and continues to physically change himself and gives great performances. Also, Antoine Fuqua directed this movie and I liked a lot of his work with films like Training Day, King Arthur, Shooter, Olympus has Fallen and The Equalizer, so I was interested in seeing what this film would be like. Although this movie is pretty predictable and cliché, the execution of the story worked quite well, especially with the performances (Gyllenhaal particularly) and the direction.

I will say that before going in, it would be a good idea not to look at the trailers because it spoils an earlier aspect of the film. The story is fairly predictable, if you’ve read the summary or watched the trailer (which you shouldn’t) you know what type of movie it is and you probably can predict the most basic plot points. One thing I liked was how Gyllenhaal’s character does actually have some issues. In many of these types of movies with similar plots you would usually want the main character to be with their child despite all the odds but here, you can tell that maybe in this case that shouldn’t happen (no spoilers). Aside from that, most of the movie is how you would expect it to be. You do root for the main character and all that but it doesn’t quite have you quite as emotionally invested as much as other similar movies do. For me, it’s the execution of everything that makes Southpaw work so well.

Southpaw may have some familiar characters, but the talented cast gives it their all and are great here. Jake Gyllenhaal is once again incredible in this movie, he transforms physically and mentally into his character Billy Hope and he does some more great work here. Gyllenhaal once again shows himself to be one of the best actors working today. Another performance I was impressed with was of Billy’s daughter by newcomer Oona Laurence, the chemistry between her and Gyllenhaal was really good and believable, you can buy them being father and daughter. Forrest Whitaker also gave a pretty good performance and so did other supporting actors like Rachel McAdams and Naomie Harris, really everyone does quite well in their roles.

Southpaw was overall a well directed movie and one of the reasons why the movie works pretty well. I really liked how the boxing scenes were filmed, as this is Antoine Fuqua, he doesn’t hold anything back and he did quite well showing the impact that the fighting had on Billy Hope, both physically and mentally.

Southpaw isn’t the most original movie and you can predict a lot of its plot/ You’ve all seen this story before and there aren’t too many surprises and it doesn’t really do anything new with this kind of story. What makes this movie work despite the lack of any surprises is how Antoine Fuqua and the cast delivered this movie. I do think that it’s worth seeing for at least for the performances, especially from Jake Gyllenhaal as he is fantastic here. Southpaw is a solid enough, if familiar movie that is worth giving a chance when you can.