Tag Archives: 2016 movies

The Handmaiden (2016) Review

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The Handmaiden

Time:  145 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language and sex scenes
Cast:
Kim Min-hee as Lady/Izumi Hideko
Kim Tae-ri as Maid/Nam Sook-hee
Ha Jung-woo as Count Fujiwara
Cho Jin-woong as Uncle Kouzuki
Director: Park Chan-wook

With help from an orphaned pickpocket (Kim Tae-ri), a Korean con man (Ha Jung-woo) devises an elaborate plot to seduce and bilk a Japanese woman (Kim Min-hee) out of her inheritance.

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I had heard so many people highly praising The Handmaiden. I decided to check it out based on that alone, not really knowing much about the movie outside of the fact that Park Chan-wook directed it. Overwhelming fantastic is how I would describe the movie. Virtually every element of this is phenomenal, and it was amazing to watch.

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The writing is admirable and impressive, with a twisty, clever and unpredictable script. It is intricate, methodical and quite complex, but also enthralling and by the end satisfying. The plot starts off simple enough with the plot following a pick pocketer posing as a handmaiden for a wealthy heiress as part of a con. Over time however, this plot develops into something bold and quite different from how it starts, it subverts expectations throughout and it wasn’t what I expected at all. This character driven plot is engaging, constantly turning and heightening. I went into this movie blind and that was the best way to approach this. I won’t talk too much about the story so you can experience it for yourself. To just classify it as a con artist film would be really selling it short, there’s so much that happens in this movie. This film has a lot of elements to it, it’s tonally all over the place but finds cohesion and balance among everything that’s here. There’s strong drama, with dark thriller (almost horror) elements throughout. However, there’s a lot of dark humour mixed in, and The Handmaiden also really is a love story. Something noteworthy about the movie is the non-linear structure, which keeps you guessing about how it would progress, and changes your perception of the events of the movie. By the time you reach the end of the first third, you’ll know that you’re watching something special. The movie is slower paced and long, but the way the plot reveals its secrets is what makes the almost 2 hours and 30 minute runtime fly by. The Handmaiden is also an erotic thriller, with a large amount of sensuality and sexuality which can be a bit overbearing at times, yet that aspect is also really handled well surprisingly. The film doesn’t start off being that crazy like some of Park’s other movies but make no mistake, it is a wild movie from beginning to end.

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On top of the writing, the performances are terrific as well and make this already fantastic movie even better. The highlights are the leads in Min-hee Kim and Kim Tae-ri, who share some great chemistry, and with their relationship being in the forefront of the movie. The characters are quite complex and interesting, especially in Kim Tae-ri’s wealthy heiress character.

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Park Chan-wook directs this film, and I think that this might be his best work. I think that this movie is pretty much perfect on a technical level. Every moment feels deliberate, patient and fully realised. The cinematography is gorgeous and mesmerising, every shot is masterfully framed and set up. The costumes and production designs are well detailed and exquisite and feel accurate to the time period the film is set in. The editing is also strong, with particularly some really good transitions. Finally the score from Jo Yeong-wook is relaxing, tender and fantastic as well. All around, it is a technically masterful film.

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The Handmaiden is excellent and arguably Park Chan-wook’s best film. Near perfect from start to finish, the story and writing is complex and subversive, the acting is wonderful, and the direction is absolutely stellar. It is genuinely one of the most finely crafted movies I’ve seen, and one that I want to revisit.

Train to Busan (2016) Review

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Train to Busan

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language, horror & content that may disturb
Cast:
Gong Yoo as Seok-woo
Kim Su-an as Su-an
Jung Yu-mi as Seong-kyeong
Ma Dong-seok as Sang-hwa
Choi Woo-shik as Yong-guk
Ahn So-hee as Jin-hee
Director: Yeon Sang-ho

Seok-woo (Gong Yoo), a father with not much time for his daughter, Soo-an (Kim Su-an), are boarding the KTX, a fast train that shall bring them from Seoul to Busan. But during their journey, the apocalypse begins, and most of the earth’s population become flesh craving zombies. While the KTX is shooting towards Busan, the passenger’s fight for their families and lives against the zombies – an each other.

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When it comes to the best horror movies in recent years, Train to Busan was one of the movies I heard about for a while. I wasn’t really sure what to expect going in, it’s a South Korean zombie flick that takes place on trains. As far as zombie movies go, it’s not even one of my favourite horror sub-genres. I’ve liked most of the movies in there that I’ve seen but most of them don’t stand out and in fact blur together a bit. There are some exceptions like 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead, as well as with comedies with Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, generally though I’m not a big fan of the genre. However Train to Busan turned out to be quite the surprise, entertaining, emotionally involving, and greatly made on all fronts.

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Looking at Train to Busan plotwise, it’s about as typical of a zombie movie as you’d expect it to be. However it is all in the execution. From beginning to end, you are locked into everything that’s going on. The opening act is handled so well, paced to perfection. It introduces the main character and his daughter, who are the emotional centre of the film, and builds up to the zombies in a great way. Once the zombies come into play, it really ramps up and doesn’t let up till the very end. Train to Busan actually has quite a lot of impact when watching you. It’s not about how graphic or bloody it is, it’s the effect it has on you, and this movie absolutely does that. It’s beyond intensity too, you’re emotionally involved too. Also without getting into it too much, the last act is great. There’s also some layers provided to this movie that I wasn’t expecting, including some social commentary. Not only that, but the characters are written very well too. Although you can fit them into certain archetypes, they are actually written in quite a way where they actually feel human and real. Train to Busan also allows time for these characters to talk and develop over the course of the movie. On another note, the characters are actually smart, and when there are some ‘dumb’ moments on display from some character, they actually feel like genuine reactions from human beings.

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The acting is quite strong. As previously said, while a lot of the characters are pretty typical as far as zombie movie characters go, they usually have something to them that’s a step above what’s expected, along with being acted quite well. The two main performances that stick out are Gong Yoo and Kim Su-an as father and daughter, they are very believable on their parts. Now you’ve seen this type of relationship before, a parent (usually the father) is generally busy, and has a strained relationship with their child. But the writing combined with the performances just makes it work. Their acting in the last act in particular is excellent.

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While I did say that a big part of Train to Busan that succeeds is the fact that it’s emotionally involving. However, I’d be doing a disservice by not talking about the direction from Yeon Sang-ho, which is outstanding. There is a considerable amount of energy in this film from beginning to end, and there are some very effective sequences which I won’t even list examples of, because I think it’s best experiencing them for yourself completely blind like I did. Of course in zombie movies there are zombies to talk about, and I’ll just say right now that from just this one movie, South Korean zombies are far more effective than the zombies I’ve seen in American and British movies. Not only do the zombies in Train to Busan run very fast and often come in overwhelming numbers, they are also twitchy contorting and freakish, and unbelievably unnerving. That combined with the exceptional direction make them feel like horrifying force of nature. While you get the feeling that most of the main characters will survive for a while, you never feel like they are ever even close to being safe. I think a big part of that is there aren’t a lot of weapons, in fact you don’t ever see a gun for the duration of a movie, a rarity for most zombie movies. The makeup, effects and gore are also incredible and are at the level that you’d hope for in a zombie movie.

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I don’t see how Train to Busan can be topped as far as zombie movies go. It does have its clichés but at this point it’s hard to imagine most zombie movies breaking out of the mold entirely, and the choices made manages to make those familiar tropes somehow work. Everything from the great acting, to the excellent direction comes together to make a surprising zombie movie that surpassed my expectations. Whether you’re a fan of horror/zombie movies or you’re a fan of Korean cinema in general, definitely watch Train to Busan as soon as possible, you won’t regret it.

Collateral Beauty (2016) Review

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Collateral Beauty

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Will Smith as Howard Inlet
Edward Norton as Whit Yardsham
Keira Knightley as Amy/”Love”
Michael Peña as Simon Scott
Naomie Harris as Madeleine Inlet
Jacob Latimore as Raffi/”Time”
Kate Winslet as Claire Wilson
Helen Mirren as Brigitte/”Death”
Director: David Frankel

When a successful New York advertising executive (Will Smith) suffers a great tragedy, he retreats from life. While his concerned friends try desperately to reconnect with him, he seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. When his notes bring unexpected personal responses, he begins to understand how these constants interlock in a life fully lived and how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.

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I remember first hearing about Collateral Beauty when both Hugh Jackman and Rooney Mara were initially attached to it, although they later both dropped out. Still, it had a cast with the likes of Will Smith, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren and the like, so even though I wasn’t quite sure what the movie was about, I was definitely open to it. Having seen it though, I can say that Jackman and Mara dodged a bullet by dropping out. In the lead up to watching it, I heard so many surprisingly negative things about it, but watching it, it truly blew me away how bad it was.

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There’s no sugar-coating this, the trailers of Collateral Beauty straight up lied about the movie. According to the marketing, it’s about Will Smith writing to Love, Time and Death after a particular tragedy, and them actually coming in person to speak with him. That’s not quite what the movie is however. I would say spoiler alert, but this is pretty much shown within the first 20 minutes. What the movie really is about is that Smith’s friend/colleagues are worried about losing their jobs, so they decide to hire actors to portray Love, Time and Death, get them to talk to Will, record the conversations and then edit the actors out so that Smith can look crazy. I couldn’t make that up if I tried. I should also emphasise that the employees’ plan was literally recording Will Smith and the actors on an iPhone and somehow editing the actors out. What I said was just the premise, the rest of the movie is weak, melodramatic, or unintentionally silly. Some of the things in the movie including the ending is just truly absurd. It’s not so outrageous that you can have a blast watching it, but it had its unintentionally funny moments. It doesn’t even succeed on an emotional or touching level, you don’t like many (if any) of the characters, and it’s hard to get invested with what’s going on.

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This movie has an absurdly talented cast, with Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Michael Pena, Naomie Harris and Helen Mirren all involved. The cast is by far the best part of the movie, giving decent performances, but they are by no means some of the best performances of their careers, and it’s such a shame that their talents aren’t utilised the best here. Smith is in drama mode here, you can tell that he’s trying, but the material doesn’t leave him anything to work with outside of just moping around and acting sad. While he’s at the centre of the movie, you really get to know the side characters more than him.

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There’s really nothing that special about the direction by David Frankel. It’s competently directed I guess but there’s not much to say about it. At times with the way its shot and especially the music, it’s like Collateral Beauty trying to get an emotional reaction out of the audience (and failing greatly).

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Collateral Beauty is truly astounding. While the cast are alright and it is directed okay, the script is a complete mess, with plenty of questionable choices throughout. By the end you’re not even sure what the point of it all was. I can’t recommend seeing it even as a movie to make fun of, but it’s generally harmless, if terrible.

 

Moonlight (2016) Review

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Moonlight

Time: 111 minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language, drug use and sex scenes
Cast:
Trevante Rhodes as Adult Chiron/”Black”
Ashton Sanders as Teen Chiron
Alex Hibbert as Child Chiron/”Little”
André Holland as Adult Kevin
Jharrel Jerome as Teen Kevin
Jaden Piner as Child Kevin
Naomie Harris as Paula
Mahershala Ali as Juan
Janelle Monáe as Teresa
Director: Barry Jenkins

A look at three defining chapters in the life of Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes), a young black man growing up in Miami. His epic journey to manhood is guided by the kindness, support and love of the community that helps raise him.

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I remember watching Moonlight in the lead up to the Oscars, I thought it was great, and it had the biggest surprise of all that night when it ended up winning Best Picture, it was quite a big deal. With that said, I didn’t remember a lot of it from my first viewing, and I definitely needed to watch it again. It definitely improved a lot on a repeat viewing, and I can now confidentially call this a fantastic film that deserved all the acclaim that it had received.

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This movie is broken up into 3 parts, showing 3 stages of lead character Chiron’s life. The first part is him as a child, the second is him as a teenager, and the third is him as an adult. All three of these parts were quite different from each other, yet consistently great, there wasn’t one part that felt particularly weaker than the other (although the third part was a little slower). It is so engaging seeing Chiron make all these discoveries about himself and grow as a person. It’s very well written by Barry Jenkins, the dialogue is fantastic, it felt absolutely real. That’s really the biggest takeaway of this movie that I got, it all felt real and genuine. Now I’m not particularly big on coming of age stories, I have enough trouble emotionally connecting with most movies, and coming of age movies particularly don’t really work for me (probably mainly because most of the apparent appeal is being relatable and I just can’t relate to most of their stories). However this easily ranks amongst this subgenre, especially and recent years. I think most people can connect with Chiron and his story, and that is really a testament to the writing.

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The three actors who played Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes) were fantastic. They all captured this character perfectly at the different stages of his life. Something I heard about is that they didn’t base their performances on each other, giving their own interpretation to the material they gave, and I think that added a lot. The supporting cast was also great. Naomie Harris was really good as Chiron’s mother, and the rest of the cast that includes Janelle Monae and Andre Holland also do their parts. The standout though was Mahershala Ali, who is easily one of the best actors working right now. He wasn’t in the movie a whole lot, but he left a real impression in his scenes, especially in the scenes with Alex Hibbert as the younger. Even when he’s not in the movie, you felt his presence throughout the rest of the film.

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Director Barry Jenkins absolutely delivers here, this is his sophomore film, and his work here is excellent. This movie is smaller and independent, and you can feel that through and through, and it was to its benefit. The cinematography by James Laxton was beautiful, not one shot or camera move felt out of place, and the lighting and the use of colour is just stunning to watch. There are so many memorable scenes and images that really stay with you long after seeing the movie. A lot of the time, there weren’t any soundtrack or music, and that helped to invest you even more into the story and the movie. It made it all feel even more real, and much easier to be invested in it all, whether that be with ambient sounds or silence. The score by Nicholas Britell when present though, is excellent and impactful, and really added to the film a lot. The editing also deserves a lot of credit, making many of the moments even more impactful.

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Moonlight is such a fantastic movie and deserved all the praise. The performances, beautifully written story and incredible direction all comes together to a profoundly moving coming of age tale that definitely ranks among the highlights of films from that decade. If you haven’t already, definitely check out Moonlight when you can.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016) Review

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Resident Evil The Final Chapter

Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence & horror
Cast:
Milla Jovovich as Alice
Iain Glen as Dr. Alexander Isaacs
Ali Larter as Claire Redfield
Shawn Roberts as Albert Wesker
Eoin Macken as Doc
Fraser James as Razor
Ruby Rose as Abigail
William Levy as Christian
Rola as Cobalt
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

Picking up immediately after the events in Resident Evil: Retribution, Alice (Milla Jovovich) is the only survivor of what was meant to be humanity’s final stand against the undead. Now, she must return to where the nightmare began – The Hive in Raccoon City, where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering its forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors of the apocalypse.

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Aside from Apocalypse, I’ve generally been enjoying the Resident Evil movies, as silly as they were. At the same time though, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the last movie, I was hearing some particularly mixed things about the final instalment. Given that it was once again Paul W.S. Anderson directing, I was hoping to like it as much as Retribution, or even the original or Afterlife. Unfortunately, The Final Chapter doesn’t quite nail the landing, and although it has some enjoyable parts to it, there are just too many problems that are hard to overlook.

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There were some very questionable decisions for the plot from the get go. If you remember the end of Retribution, there was a cliffhanger of Alice, her new allies and Wesker at the White House about to take on hordes of zombies. Since it’s announced quickly in the movie I feel comfortable in saying this, but basically Wesker once against screwed Alice over unsurprisingly, but the worst part is that we don’t get to see any of that happen on screen. Retribution at least showed briefly what happened after the end of Afterlife. However in The Final Chapter it’s just briefly explained away in the film in the opening recap, almost like they didn’t have the budget to show everything that happened, either that or just couldn’t get the other Retribution actors to return. You’d think that this was a decision made by a different director who wanted to take the movie in a different direction as quickly as possible, but Anderson did both films, making the choice even more confusing. The tone unlike that in Retribution took itself very seriously, probably because it’s the last film in the series. Not that I’m not necessarily opposed to that, but doing that does expose some issues and makes it even worse to watch. For example, there’s a moment where a newer character who we don’t get to really learn anything about dies, and the scene is so dramatic and tries to be emotional. It’s mind boggling, made worse by the fact that no other character death in The Final Chapter really got that treatment. The Final Chapter goes all in with the plot twists and attempts to tie things up as it’s the grand conclusion, to some rather mixed results. Some of the reveals I’m not sure about, they seem a little too convenient. They might seem initially quite punchy and effective as twists, however I know for certain that a few of them are blatant retcons and contradictions of what was established in the previous movies. I’m sure that if I was to watch these movies all over again, I’d find plenty of things that doesn’t add up. As for the actual conclusion, I guess it was fine but it wasn’t really satisfying on any level really. It doesn’t quite end on a cliffhanger, but does end on a note where one could technically make another movie if they wanted to.

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Milla Jovovich is more than comfortable in the role of Alice, having played it for nearly a decade and a half, and her performance is generally reliable despite there not being much to the character. Ali Larter also returns as Claire Redfield, the only other non villain character from the movie series to return for the final film. Most of the other members of the main cast don’t really stand out, Eoin Macken, Fraser James, Ruby Rose and William Levy are other survivors that Alice meets up with and they are just sort of there, you don’t remember any of them. We have Iain Glen returning as Alexander Isaacs as the main villain for this movie (and yes this is another retcon, he wasn’t really dead three movies ago), and if you enjoyed seeing him ham it up in Extinction, you’ll want to check out The Final Chapter to see him. He’s definitely one of the best parts of The Final Chapter, and every time he was on screen made the movie even more enjoyable. Shawn Roberts also returns as Albert Wesker as a minor villain, unfortunately he doesn’t really do all that much in his screentime instead of just standing there, at the same time I wouldn’t trade more Wesker for less of hammy Iain Glen.

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Paul W.S. Anderson returns to direct the final instalment, unfortunately his work here is a bit of a mixed bag. It seems Anderson did away with the 3D from the past two movies, so don’t expect anything flying at the camera. They’ve gone back to the very post apocalyptic look from Extinction, and everything looks in ruins, and I’m more than fine with that look. However, a lot of the movie is set in a lot of darkness and so it could be hard to see what was going on, especially during the action scenes. That brings me to probably the most disappointing aspect of the movie, the action. Some of the setups and sequences look about as entertaining as some of the previous movies’ but the editing is absolutely horrible and flat out ruins them. Now it isn’t quite some of the worst editing I’ve seen for an action movie, but after seeing the previous movies it’s such an incredible drop in quality watching The Final Chapter. Thankfully, the second half was at least somewhat better with the editing in the action scenes.

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As someone who enjoyed most of the movies in the series, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is rather disappointing. Although it’s not as bad as Apocalypse and I had fun in certain moments (mainly in the second half), the mix of horrendous editing and very questionable plot decisions make it a very mixed bag indeed. If you watched through the series to Retribution, you may as well watch the last movie as well. There have been talks of a Resident Evil movie reboot, and I while I enjoyed most of the movies in this series, I’d be open to an interpretation that has actual horror and is much more faithful to the games.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Retrospective Review

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso
Diego Luna as Cassian Andor
Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic
Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe
Mads Mikkelsen as Galen Erso
Alan Tudyk as K-2SO
Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook
Jiang Wen as Baze Malbus
Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera
Director: Gareth Edwards

All looks lost for the Rebellion against the Empire as they learn of the existence of a new super weapon, the Death Star. Once a possible weakness in its construction is uncovered, the Rebel Alliance must set out on a desperate mission to steal the plans for the Death Star. The future of the entire galaxy now rests upon its success.

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I always liked Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ever since its release, it was the first spin off in the Star Wars series and it had me interested in what other spin off movies they could make in the future. I don’t love it as much as I did when I first saw it, and I don’t consider it to be among the best Star Wars movies by any means. I still think it’s quite good though, and has a lot of great parts to it.

Rogue One does very well to establish itself as being very different kind of Star Wars movie, with more of a war movie feel to it. However you still feel like you’re in the Star Wars universe. I’m aware that some people found the movie a little boring. I was interested in the movie all the way through, but I will say it’s not as riveting as it could’ve been for at least the first half or so. This war movie take on a Star Wars movie certainly provided some things that we aren’t used to seeing in the series, with grey areas and darker places that weren’t explored previously (like how the methods by the Rebels weren’t always ethical). There are some callbacks to the original Star Wars, and that makes sense given that it’s a direct prequel, and for the most part it’s actually done quite well. One of the best parts was how they used the plot point from the original Star Wars with the Death Star having a conveniently large enough hole for a single blast from a fighter to explode the entire station. Now there’s an official canon reason for that being the case, with Galen Erso specifically placing that deliberate flaw in the design.

What shines most of all in the movie is the third act. From what I can tell a lot of it was changed with some reshoots, I can’t say which version would’ve been better. However I did like the third act that we got. It’s large scale, entertaining and was really well handled. It was also fitting that all the main characters died on that suicide mission, we haven’t seen the protagonists actually get killed off for good in this series and it worked for the movie. Then there’s the stand out scene of the movie, with Darth Vader mastering a bunch of Rebels at the end as they desperately try to get the Death Star plans out. I’ve seen a lot of positive responses to it, and I’ve also seen some people who don’t really like it. I can see both sides, on one hand this is Vader at his most vicious and powerful, and this is one of his stand out scenes from the entire series. At the same time, I can see how this makes it feel like another main Star Wars movie instead of the ‘grounded’ war movie it was for the rest of the movie, even with the inclusion of a lightsabre alone. I liked it but I can see why people don’t.

The use of Darth Vader was fitting enough, and so was Tarkin. The Princess Leia cameo I guess was alright, and worked as it was directly leading into the events of the original Star Wars. However there are also some weird callback decisions that are just annoying more than anything else. If you remember back to a New Hope, there were two people who attack Luke, who was then saved by Obi Wan Kenobi. Well those two people happen to bump into Jyn Erso while she and Cassian and K-2SO happen to be on Jedha, it was such a bizarre cameo to have and I have no idea why they decided to include that. Also C-3PO and R2-D2 randomly appear at the Rebel base just before the climax, for no reason at all. I guess just to remind audiences that they’re around at the time.

There is a large cast of characters. While the actors generally do well, the characters are hit or miss, and they are generally underdeveloped unfortunately. Felicity Jones is quite good as Jyn Erso, the lead character in the story, and other actors with the likes of Diego Luna, Donnie Yen and Alan Tudyk also do well. Riz Ahmed and Jiang Wen don’t really get to do as much out of the main Rogue One cast. Mads Mikkelsen played a small but critical role as Jyn’s father, who created the Death Star. He did very well in his screentime. There’s also the addition of Grand Moff Tarkin, who was critical in the original Star Wars, so you can see why they wanted to place him in this movie. I liked his addition, you felt his presence yet he wasn’t overbearing or overused. The recreation of original actor’s Peter Cushing’s appearance however was rather mixed. Although the Cushing voice impression is great, the CGI goes from looking good to looking like a decent video game character, not terrible but in a live action movie with real actors definitely seeming off. Of the cast, the actor I liked the most was Ben Mendelsohn as the main antagonist of the film, Orson Krennic, the director of the Death Star. Although he was quite a different type of Star Wars villain, a big part of why he worked was Mendelsohn’s performance, he’s been playing a lot of antagonists recently but Krennic is definitely one of his best.

I thought that Gareth Edwards’ direction worked very well for the film. The war-movie feel worked so well and it all feels gritty and dirty throughout, as it should’ve. It’s also such a great looking movie, with some really great visuals and very well directed action sequences, the highlights of course being in the final act. I like the music by Michael Giaachino as well, it fit the movie very well, and even gets to shine at certain points. That new Imperial theme in particular is great, creating an alternate theme to one of the most iconic tracks of all time is intimidating for sure, but he managed to create a newer and separate theme which really worked for this film.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story still holds up pretty well a few years later. The direction by Gareth Edwards was great, the cast do quite well in their roles, and it was overall a unique and different entry that we hadn’t seen in the series before this point. It has its annoyances for sure, mostly some lack of characterisation, and parts of the plot could’ve been a little more interesting, but it’s still good on the whole.

The Witch (2016) Review

Time: 93 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, horror & content that may disturb
Cast:
Anya Taylor-Joy as Thomasin
Ralph Ineson as William
Kate Dickie as Katherine
Harvey Scrimshaw as Caleb
Ellie Grainger as Mercy
Lucas Dawson as Jonas
Director: Robert Eggers

In 1630 New England, panic and despair envelops a farmer (Ralph Ineson), his wife (Kate Dickie) and four of their children when youngest son Samuel suddenly vanishes. The family blames Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), the oldest daughter who was watching the boy at the time of his disappearance. With suspicion and paranoia mounting, twin siblings Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) suspect Thomasin of witchcraft, testing the clan’s faith, loyalty and love to one another.

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I remember watching The Witch for the first time a few years ago. It’s really not a movie for everyone, and while I didn’t love this movie (at least yet), it had a lot of admirable elements to it that were really worthy of praise, particularly its direction, performances and how it differs from most horror movies today. With writer/director Robert Eggers having another movie coming out later this year (The Lighthouse), I decided to rewatch The Witch. On a second viewing, I appreciated the movie much more, and it’s probably one of my all time favourite horror movies of all time now.

For those expecting a traditional horror movie, The Witch is very slow paced. Maybe it’s because I saw the movie again knowing what was coming, but it wasn’t as drawn out as I thought it was when I rewatched it. It makes sense given that it’s around 90 minutes long, and it makes great use of that valuable time. It may take a while for the especially grisly things to occur, but it already has an eerie and suspenseful vibe early on. Like with other horror movies, I wasn’t particularly scared (at this point a horror movie not scaring me doesn’t necessarily make a horror movie bad), but the scares are legitimately great. The Witch goes for the more creepy and unsettling route instead of just going full out with gore and jump scares, even though those appear here at some point. Actually watching it the second time I could appreciate how effective it was. While it’s a horror movie, The Witch is also a family drama, touching upon topics like religion (and more which I won’t get into in this spoiler free review). Eggers clearly has done his research on the 17th Century time period and religion, and it really paid off. The dialogue for one is authentically ‘old fashioned’ and very well written, there’s not many movies I can think of released recently that can pull it off. The Witch also has one of the best horror movie endings I’ve ever seen, I can’t exactly explain why it’s so fantastic, but it’s something to do with lead character Thomasin’s story over the course of the movie, and how it ends up with her.

Anya Taylor-Joy is fantastic here as the main character of Thomasin, the daughter of the family. This was actually one of her first roles in a movie and she was great, and of course her work here would deservedly propel her onto more high profile movies. The rest of the movie’s limited cast were great as well. Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson play the rest of the family and they all do a great job (Ineson especially). The performances all feel authentic, increasing the horror even more and they also make the old language dialogue work.

Robert Eggers has done such a great job directing this for a first film, I can’t wait to see what he does for The Lighthouse. This film is shot very well and the production design was truly great, the whole movie is really based in and around the woods in 1630s New England, and it places you right there with the characters. It’s such a bleak and dark looking movie, really making you feel unsettled even in the moments when nothing is really happening (yet). Making the film feel even more creepy is the subtle but great score by Mark Korven.

The Witch is definitely not for everyone. It doesn’t have many (if any) jump scares so its not a typical horror flick, it’s slow paced and it’s very unique. However, I do regard it as one of the best horror movies released in recent years, and it’s a strong contender for the best. It’s directed incredibly well, the cast give some really great performances (particularly Anya Taylor-Joy), and it’s effectively creepy and horrifying throughout. If you like horror movies I highly recommend that you check it out as soon as you can.

Captain America: Civil War (2016) Retrospective Review

Time: 147 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon
Don Cheadle as James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine
Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye
Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther
Paul Bettany as Vision
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man
Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter
Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow/Crossbones
William Hurt as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross
Daniel Brühl as Helmut Zemo
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability when the actions of the Avengers lead to collateral damage. The new status quo deeply divides members of the team. Captain America (Chris Evans) believes superheroes should remain free to defend humanity without government interference. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) sharply disagrees and supports oversight. As the debate escalates into an all-out feud, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) must pick a side.

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Captain America: Civil War was a movie I was meaning to re-watch for some time now. Every time I thought about Civil War, I just got this incredibly underwhelmed feeling. I didn’t dislike it but after greatly anticipating it, I was relatively disappointed by it. Now that it’s been years and I decided to give it a rewatch in the lead up to Endgame, I was hoping for a turnaround on it like what happened with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. While I definitely do like the movie more than when I last watched it, I still have some issues with it, and it’s a real shame because there are a lot of parts about the movie which are legitimately great.

As this is a retrospective review, this will be spoiler filled, it’s the only way I can talk in depth about what I think about the movie. Generally, at around 2 hours and a half the movie is paced pretty well all things considering, and I was surprised that most of the humour didn’t detract from the more dramatic moments. The highest praise that I can give in terms of plot is the third act, which is largely done well. None of the ‘twists’ really hit hard at all for me but I really liked certain reveals, such as the subversion of the randomly introduced extra Winter Soldiers as just red herrings. You really feel the emotion with every character, Rogers, Stark, Barnes, T’Challa and even Zemo, and it was all handled very well. There are a lot of great parts to Civil War as well, however they also don’t handle it in the best way and so it detracts from the movie. For example, while I liked the idea of the Sokovia Accords, the introduction of them in the movie was pretty messy. One explosion during a mission by the Avengers is what sets off the creation of the Accords, which is something I really don’t get. There’s even a bit where during a meeting, General Ross showed a montage to the Avengers of the amount of destruction that the past films have caused, considerably higher casualties and damage, however this one relatively smaller even is what got the world thinking “these guys need some oversight”. It wouldn’t be so bad if almost all of the MCU movies didn’t have some large destruction during it and most people just brushing it aside easily. Age of Ultron was the most destructive, so it was the perfect Segway into Civil War. I’m not quite sure why they didn’t directly link it with the Sokovia events (you’d think they would given the title of the Accords), after all it’s what led Tony Stark and Zemo to make their decisions over the course of the movie. With all that being said, I do like the debates about the Accords with all the characters, and they do make some interesting points. I do like how they managed to make the change from ‘superhero registration’ to ‘Avengers Oversight’, the superhero registration thing definitely wouldn’t work in the MCU, even the large amount of characters that exist in it would be too small for an event of that size.

The problem is that despite all this, this still ends up being a movie about Bucky. Both of the major ‘versus’ battles, the Airport scene and the Cap, Iron Man and Bucky fight at the end, are all surrounding Bucky. While people are split into ‘teams’ because of the Sovokia Accords, they aren’t battling because of their positions on it, that’s just a background event that coincidentally splits them on the sides fighting during the airport scene. It feels like there was no point in having it in the story, even without the Sokovia Accords, the idea of Bucky Barnes being framed and on the run with Cap trying to protect him would’ve worked well (on a side note though, wasn’t that invested in the Bucky Barnes story in this movie either). I’m not making this a MCU vs DCEU thing, but it’s worth pointing out that once WB announced that they would be making Batman v Superman, Marvel gave the Russo Brothers the go to do Civil War. I don’t know for certain what their plans for the third Captain America movie were beforehand but I’m guessing it would’ve been more consistent than what we got at least. As for the impact of the Sokovia Accords on the other movies, I guess it’s mentioned briefly like in Ant Man and the Wasp and maybe some of the other movies, but all in all really didn’t have too much impact on the other characters and movies that much. The reason I’m mentioning this is because I’m wondering how much impact Civil War really had on the MCU, and it doesn’t seem to have much, there really weren’t many consequences, any problem that was raised, many of the characters seemed to bounce back from pretty easily. Even when Rhodes crash landed at the end of the airport battle and needed exo-sketal leg braces to walk again, in Infinity War he’s back flying and fighting in the suit like nothing ever happened. The only thing that was really impacted was the relationship between Steve and Tony, which was fractured during the last act of the movie. The thing is that at the end it almost feels like they resolved it and that they regret fighting each other at the end, and they aren’t at odds with each other anymore, as evidence by that message from Cap at the end and Tony’s lllleaction to it, so even then it doesn’t feel significantly damaged. Not to mention by the time the events from Endgame come around, what happened between them in Civil War will be relatively unimportant in Endgame considering The Snap and the aftermath. That last bit however is just speculation, maybe Endgame addresses those events (I hope so at least).

The cast generally do a good job in their roles. Chris Evans once again does a commendable job playing Captain America, though I can’t help but feel like he was robbed of a proper conclusion to his trilogy. While The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier were definitely Captain America movies, Civil War doesn’t feel like that, even if he definitely is the main character of it. His story arc was relatively weaker as well and he didn’t seem to go through as much in comparison. Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Don Cheadle as War Machine and the rest of the Avengers cast that appear here do well once again. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye and Paul Rudd Ant Man feel shoe horned into the movie just for the airport scene (even if both actors played their roles as best as they could), but at least Hawkeye has a reason for being there, with him repaying a favour to Scarlet Witch after the events of Age of Ultron. Ant Man was just sort of put there in the scene with really no motivation behind his actions. When I first watched Civil War, I was very mixed about Tom Holland as Spider-Man, he just felt so out of place. Now after watching Homecoming I’m much more into his version of Spider-Man and so he came across better here, however like Ant Man, still feels a little forced into this movie just for an action scene. I think the part that annoys me so much about his appearance in the airport scene is because he’s only there because Tony Stark wanted another person to help him stop Cap, if he at least knew what was going on and why everything was happening, it would’ve been a lot more tolerable. Let’s just say that I liked him a lot better in his Peter Parker scenes, based off those scenes along he’s a perfect Peter Parker. Robert Downey Jr. gives one of his best performances as Iron Man, even if his sudden change in character was a little shaky. For whatever reason I guess he never realised that people died in Sokovia and it took Alfre Woodward’s character to confront him about her dead son to actually realise it. With that being said, Downey is fantastic in the role as usual and was one of the highlights from the movie. Chadwick Boseman made his strong debut as Black Panther here, and it was actually a great storyline for him, with him starting out wanting revenge for the death of his father and when he does find the man responsible, he chooses to stop him from killing himself. It’s by far the best character arc/story in the movie, as well as the best character in the whole movie. Daniel Bruhl is the main villain Zemo and a lot of people have questioned whether we even needed a villain for the movie, given that it’s mainly Cap vs Iron Man, while I get that perspective, he set the events of the movie into motion and I was fine with him. It’s a very different kind of antagonist compared to the other villains, with almost all of them being super powered beings, and if not that they’d have powerful suits or something. He’s much more of a human based villain, very intelligent and making well laid plans and successfully breaking The Avengers apart (sort of). Also he’s driven by revenge, and it’s a revenge story you can really buy. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot to him outside of that, however Bruhl did such a good job at playing him that I’d be open to seeing him again in another movie (even if I don’t think there’s much more you could really do with him).

Most of the Russo Brothers’ direction is pretty good here. The action scenes are mostly good and I appreciated it a lot more than the last time I saw them. The opening action scene in Lagos was better than I remember it being, it is a little too shaky but still good. There’s the Bucky chase scene with him, Captain America and Black Panther, also very good. Most of the other action scenes were also well done. The final fight is one of the highlight action scenes from the MCU, you really feel the weight of every blow and it was all handled very well. The cinematography is not as grey as a lot of people have said it was, it’s actually pretty good for the most part. The score by Henry Jackman is also much better than I remembered it being, with most of the themes being quite memorable, even if some of his other scores are a little better.

The one scene you’ve probably noticed I left off mentioning was the Airport Scene, it’s so far removed from the rest of the movie and I have so much to say about that I had to dedicate an entire paragraph talking about it. Generally, it is widely known as one of the best scenes in Civil War and one of the best scenes of the MCU. Many people have described the scene as the cinematic version of smashing action figures together, and I can’t think of a more apt description, though you can probably tell where I’m going with this that I mean it in a bad way. It honestly brought down the movie for me, it doesn’t feel like it belongs in the movie at all. The tone is completely different, even if the some of the other action scenes have some humour, it still managed to maintain a sense of tension and weight throughout, just like what the Russo Brothers did with The Winter Soldier. This scene on the other hand was like cheesy ‘fun’ comic book mayhem that doesn’t particularly progress the story like the other action scenes did. Really everyone is pulling their punches too (except for Black Panther of course, who’s trying to kill Bucky), so you feel no tension whatsoever. Even on a technical level it’s a bit of a downgrade from the rest of the movies. As I said earlier, most of the movie isn’t that grey but this particular scene definitely is, it’s not visually appealing to look at, even with all the battles that are going on. Most of the CGI in the movie is actually pretty good but in that scene, it is hit or miss, whether it be the green screen backgrounds, Giant Man or even the effects on Iron Man and War Machine. The best part about the scene I guess is that it does show off everyone’s abilities well, particularly Scarlet Witch and even War Machine gets to show off more than in previous film appearances. Despite its issues, on its own the scene isn’t terrible, and it would’ve fitted in a much more lighthearted movie, like the first Avengers. In Civil War however, it doesn’t belong there at all and the movie would’ve been better if it didn’t have it.

What gets me about Captain America Civil War is that there are some legitimately great parts to it. Even if you remove the frustrating Airport scene, it’s got some issues in its story which keeps the movie back from how it could’ve been. It’s not bad by any means, it’s decent, just unfortunately with a lot of problems. With talk about how Endgame makes the previous MCU movies even better in hindsight, I really hope that it’ll retroactively improve Civil War too.

Hush (2016) Review

Time: 81 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Sadistic violence
Cast:
Kate Siegel as Maddie Young
John Gallagher Jr. as The Man
Michael Trucco as John Stanley
Samantha Sloyan as Sarah Greene
Emilia Graves as Max
Director: Mike Flanagan

A deaf writer (Kate Siegel) who retreated into the woods to live a solitary life must fight for her life in silence when a masked killer (John Gallagher Jr.) appears at her window.

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Mike Flanagan is one of the best horror directors working at the moment with Oculus, Ouija: Origin of Evil and would go on to direct Gerald’s Game (and is going to direct Doctor Sleep, the adaptation of the sequel to Steven King’s The Shining). Hush is no exception, its another solid and gripping horror flick from the director. Home invasion horror movies aren’t very uncommon but Hush still manages to be executed in a good way, being rather effective and tense, and it definitely deserves a lot more attention.

Hush is a straightforward horror movie, a masked killer is trying to kill the vulnerable but capable protagonist, conflict ensues. They don’t dwell too much on setting up the characters than it has to, but it’s not like things feel underdeveloped, its developed as much as it needs to be. The movie doesn’t do innovative things for the home invasion subgenre, but it still has its creative moments. It does have a unique aspect to it, with the protagonist being deaf, it could’ve just been a cheap gimmick to make it somewhat stand apart from all the other thrillers but the execution of the movie is done in a way that it doesn’t feel like that. There isn’t much dialogue in the movie, after the first scenes of the movie, it’s pretty much almost all visual from then on, and with that its done rather effectively. Hush is only 82 minutes long which was really the perfect length, it doesn’t drag on for an unnecessarily long time and the characters and story are simple enough that it doesn’t require a longer runtime.

Kate Siegel was great, likable and engaging as the lead, she has to do all the character work with pretty much just her body movements and you could really buy her as a deaf person. She was believably vulnerable and yet believably capable of surviving everything the antagonist throws at her. The unnamed masked killer, played by John Gallagher Jr. was good as well. He gives off an unnerving and creeping vibe, even when he has a mask on and is quite effective, despite not really having any reason or motivation behind his actions and goals in the movie. Those two are really the only notable actors, the other actors are fine enough in their roles but really their characters are just throwaways.

Mike Flanagan is no stranger to making horror movies, so it’s no surprise that he directed Hush well. As previously said, a lot of the movie relies just on visuals, and Flanagan was great at visual storytelling here. The tension is also done really well, you’re not quite certain which way things are going to go, there’s a real sense that our main character might not make it out. It also does not hold back at all with how brutal and violent the killer can be, really emphasising how dangerous he is.

Hush is quite an overlooked solid horror flick ever since it came out in 2016. It’s not like one of the greatest horror movies or anything (and I probably wouldn’t even say it’s one of Mike Flanagan’s best) but it is quite good and worth the watch if you like horror movies. It’s a decent and creative little thriller that deserves a little more attention than it’s being receiving.

Rampage: President Down (2016) Review

Time: 112 Minutes
Cast:
Brendan Fletcher as Bill Williamson
Steve Baran as FBI Agent James Molokai
Ryan McDonell as FBI Agent Vincent Jones
Scott Patey as FBI Agent Murray
Crystal Lowe as Crystal
Director: Uwe Boll

Bill Williamson (Brendan Fletcher) is back, alive and well and doing a recon mission around D.C. This time he wants to cause a major population disruption within the USA which result in devastating consequences reverberating throughout the world. His new mission this time to bring down The President of the United States and his Secret Service detail. Bill brings with him all the freak-in havoc and acidity of the previous 2 movies.

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I wasn’t particularly looking forward to Rampage 3 recently, however I knew I had to get it over and done with. While I praised the first movie, the second movie lacked any subtlety and seemed more like a self indulgent political exercise by director Uwe Boll. Uwe Boll’s concerningly blatant and ham fisted political commentary series continues into the 3rd movie, to deliver probably my least favourite movie in the trilogy. Outside of Brendan Fletcher’s performance, I really didn’t like any of this movie.

Despite summaries of the movie stating that Bill Williamson is trying to kill the president of the United States (note that the name of the president is omitted, despite other president names not being omitted in the this or the other movies), the president gets killed off very early in the movie. Among the movie focussing on Bill, it also focusses on some FBI agents who are trying to find who killed the president for some reason, and I don’t know why there is so much focus on them. Questionable moral aspects aside (which I’ll get into soon), this movie just feels lazy and boring despite being such a passion project for Uwe Boll. At least there were a lot more going on in the previous Rampage movies. In the first, Bill goes on a shooting rampage and in the second, he takes some people hostage, both had some form of intensity throughout. In this movie, Bill just waits and hides until the third act, there are some pretentious monologues that he does but that’s it. The messages and themes by Uwe Boll once again are incredibly ham fisted. It is just so obnoxiously pretentious and self indulgent, and even at times contradictive. It’s pretty much like the second movie so if you want to know what I mean, read my review of that movie. The one further thing about the message in this movie that’s worth mentioning is the ending. The way it ends the story is quite dark and this is going into spoilers (if you really care about spoilers, skip to the next paragraph) but ultimately, Bill’s long term goal is achieved, and I have to say that it’s a little troubling that I couldn’t tell at the end if Uwe Boll is showing this to be shocking and a cautionary tale or he’s actually all for it. By the end of the movie, I actually felt a little dirty, and that rarely happens with me in movies. I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

Brendan Fletcher is again the best part of the movie, really conveying the intensity and emotion that Uwe Boll is trying to get the character to have. This time around, Uwe Boll tries to make him sympathetic by giving him a wife and child and having scenes with him, and while Fletcher once again does a good job at selling it, it’s not enough to make us the audience care about him. Bill Williamson, for all his monologues is a pretty 2 dimensionally written character, and any attempt to develop him is rather sloppy and unconvincing. It’s really Fletcher who makes him somewhat work. Once again I really hope that Brendan Fletcher gets his big break, he deserves it. The aforementioned FBI agents are really bad, really obnoxious, annoying and unlikable. So there’s absolutely no one to root for, at least the second movie had some innocent hostages to try to root for even though they would be killed off inevitably.

The direction by Uwe Boll once again is actually so amateurish. It’s definitely a lot better than the way most of his other movies are directed but it still is incredibly faulty. Especially with some of the use of the cameras, the production design, the editing, everything. Really there aren’t much action scenes until the end, and they are full of slow motion and a rather self indulgent.

Rampage: President Down thankfully is the end of Uwe Boll’s bizarre Rampage trilogy. If you liked the previous Rampage movies, you are likely to get something out of the third movie. Outside of that though, Brendan Fletcher’s performance is really the only redeeming thing. Rampage 3 is self indulgent, boring, lazy and it makes really you feel terrible at the end for watching it. This is the last Rampage movie, and also the last Uwe Boll film and I couldn’t be more relieved.