Tag Archives: 2019

Light of My Life (2019) Review

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Light of My Life

Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Medium Level Violence
Cast:
Casey Affleck as Dad
Anna Pniowsky as Rag
Elisabeth Moss as Mom
Tom Bower as Tom
Director: Casey Affleck

Parent (Casey Affleck) and child (Anna Pnlowsky) journey through the outskirts of society a decade after a pandemic has wiped out half the world’s population. As a father struggles to protect his child, their bond, and the character of humanity, is tested.

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I heard about Light of My Life for a little while, all that I knew going in was that Casey Affleck was directing and starring in a post apocalyptic movie, and I heard some pretty positive things about it. I wanted to see what it would be like, and I’m glad I checked it out. While it be rather slow paced at times, generally I was invested in the central story, it’s directed well, and features a couple of outstanding lead performances.

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People have often referred to this movie as being like Leave No Trace meets Children of Men and The Road, and while I haven’t seen The Road yet, those comparison are fairly accurate. Light of My Life movie moves at a pretty slow pace and that will turn some people off. It’s character driven and isn’t particularly thrilling outside of a few scenes. The opening is one long scene of dialogue with Affleck telling a story to his daughter, it really set the tone for the rest of the movie. At that point it should establish whether the rest of this movie will work for you or not, for me it did. I was invested with these two characters as they are trying to survive and live their lives in this situation. It has a beautiful written script, with some believable dialogue (while also refraining from exposition), and the story is very well put together. The setting is bleak and chilling but there’s a real emotional core and humanity to the story. In terms of flaws, it is a little overlong I will say, at about 2 hours, and some of the few flashback scenes don’t really work all that well. While there are some periods during the movie where it slowed down quite a bit, it wasn’t to a point where it took me out of the movie or anything.

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Casey Affleck and Anna Pnlowsky both lead this movie essentially, they are so believable as father and daughter, and their relationship is touching, human and feels authentic. Pnlowsky here (who hasn’t really acted much) is a revelation in this movie, truly fantastic here. Those two drive the movie, and they (both the performances and their characters) are the strongest parts of the movie. You also have small supporting appearances from the likes of Elisabeth Moss and others, who do their parts and add quite a bit to the movie.

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Casey Affleck also directed this movie exceptionally well, working well behind the camera as well as in front. It’s a stunning looking movie, the cinematography from Adam Arkapaw is beautiful (the use of long takes was particularly effective), the environments are showcased very well, and it really created a believable post-apocalyptic setting. With the intimate way he approaches this story, you get the feeling he picked up some notes after starring in David Lowery’s A Ghost Story, especially on a visual level. Speaking of A Ghost Story, Daniel Hart also composes a great score for Light of My Life, and it fitted the movie very well.

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Light of My Life isn’t for everyone, but I think it’s a good movie overall. If a slow paced, subdued post apocalyptic family drama with an intimate story appeals to you, then I say that it’s well worth checking out. As for me, I found it to be a touching, beautiful and emotionally nuanced film, well directed and featuring some great performances.

Watchmen (2019) TV Review

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Watchmen

Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Regina King as Angela Abar/Sister Night
Don Johnson as Judd Crawford
Tim Blake Nelson as Wade Tillman/Looking Glass
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Calvin “Cal” Abar
Andrew Howard as Red Scare
Jacob Ming-Trent as Panda
Tom Mison as Mr. Phillips
Sara Vickers as Ms. Crookshanks
Dylan Schombing as Christopher “Topher” Abar
Louis Gossett Jr. as Will Reeves
Jeremy Irons as Adrian Veidt
Jean Smart as Laurie Blake
Hong Chau as Lady Trieu
Creator: Damon Lindelof

When masked vigilantes are treated as criminals by government agencies, some band together to start a mutiny while others aim to stop it before it yields chaos.

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I had heard about HBO’s Watchmen for some time, and I’ve been meaning to watch it. I read the graphic novel, and I’m a big fan of the Zack Snyder movie. It was hard to imagine what a follow up to the graphic novel would look like. The end result was not what I expected at all, and yet was more than welcome. HBO’s Watchmen is incredibly bold and ambitious, incredible on just about all fronts, and is one of my favourite TV shows in recent years.

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I’ll do my best to talk about the show without spoiling anything. First of all, something to address is the source material itself. HBO’s Watchmen is a sequel to Alan Moore’s acclaimed graphic novel Watchmen. If you read the original graphic novel, then you’re all set for this show. If you haven’t, I’d recommend reading it. However if you really aren’t into reading comic books or graphic novels, the simplest alternate way to get up to speed thoroughly would be to check out the 2009 movie (director’s cut preferably), and afterwards looking up the differences between that and the novel, especially with the ending. The reason why I say this is that despite much of HBO’s Watchmen’s story being standalone, the world it exists in is very specific and strange. So it really pays to have some level of familiarity with it, not to mention many major aspects of the plot from the original story are significant parts here. Now you could go into it completely blind and still enjoy it, but having that background definitely adds something to the show. With all that being said, HBO’s Watchmen still manages to be a standalone story. It’s in tune with the nature of the original comic, it’s very much in that world and there are a couple of characters from the original Watchmen story who make appearances. However, it is its own thing and doesn’t just ride off the success of the source material.

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The writing throughout the show was great, I was riveted throughout all 9 episodes. There are fully realised characters with depth and motivations, the dialogue is great, and the plotlines were fascinating. Before going into the show, I did hear about how Watchmen started slow and how some people had to persist through it before it hooked them. I wouldn’t say that its that slow, the early episodes are establishing the characters and with setting up the overarching mysteries and questions of the show. I was intrigued with the characters and plotlines, and I was satisfied with the answers that were given at the end of the story. With that said, some parts of the show might be confusing for the most part, but by the end everything becomes clear. Some of the structures of the episodes can be disjointed with regards to the narrative, but I found that the risks actually worked quite well. It clearly has no interest in pleasing a mainstream audience, and really commits to the strangeness, which I’m glad they did. The sociopolitical commentary, thought provoking themes and the connections to real life events were quite effective and notable aspects of the show. The original Watchmen story was a take on American exceptionalism, the show carries almost a similar take, this time on white nationalism. It spends time investigating America’s racist heritage and handles relevant real-life issues like racism, white nationalism and generational trauma, and I thought it handled it well. It’s not subtle at all, but I loved it for that. This show even opens with the Tulsa Massacre of the early 1920s, an event that some Americans today didn’t learn about until they watched the show. If there’s any problems I have, it’s just that there are some characters that I liked that I would’ve liked to have seen more of, specifically Tim Blake Nelson’s Looking Glass, and Jean Smart’s Laurie Blake. Each of them have an episode more focusing on them and they really shine, especially Looking Glass, who I found one of the best characters of the show. However it’s not really their stories, so it’s not too much of a flaw. So far, another season hasn’t been announced for Watchmen, but honestly I though it ended quite well and I’m not sure where they’d go from here if they were to continue the season. I’m satisfied with the point they ended the show on.

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The cast are all great, every character is memorable and the casting for each was perfect. Regina King plays the lead character, and she’s incredible in her part from beginning to end. She conveys an incredible amount of emotion and energy into her performance. It’s not just her though, the likes of Tim Blake Nelson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jean Smart, Jeremy Irons Louis Gossett Jr., Don Johnson and Hong Chau are all exceptional in their roles.

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Each of the episodes are directed very well. The cinematography is great and visually stunning, and this show is full of impressive and memorable shots. The use of colour is particularly great, some of the shots are definitely inspired by the framing of some panels in the original graphic novel. All of the show is well made but one of the stand out episodes was episode 6, which is a flashback episode. Not going to give too much away but there are so many stylistic choices made which was outstanding and added a lot . It’s not really an action show, but the moments of action are directed quite well. One of the most standout elements of the show on a technical level is the electronic score from Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, which is extraordinary and heightens many of the show’s best moments. The pair have composed plenty of outstanding scores for movies and tv, but this has to be one of their best works to date.

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HBO’s Watchmen is fantastic, audacious and gripping from beginning to end. The cast are perfect on their parts, the writing is fantastic, and it’s an incredible continuation of the Watchmen source material. I’d recommend doing whatever you need to do to get up to speed with the original story and jump right into this show as soon as you can. It’s one of the best pieces of live action comic book media I’ve ever seen.

Blinded by the Light (2019) Review

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Blinded by the Light

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Viveik Kalra as Javed
Kulvinder Ghir as Malik
Meera Ganatra as Noor
Nell Williams as Eliza
Aaron Phagura as Roops
Dean-Charles Chapman as Matt
Director: Gurinder Chadha

Javed (Viveik Kalra) is a Pakistani teenager who experiences racial and economic turmoil while living in Luton, England, in 1987. He writes poetry as a way to escape the intolerance of his hometown and the stubborn views of his traditional father. When a classmate introduces him to the music of Bruce Springsteen, Javed sees parallels between the singer’s powerful lyrics and his own working-class environment. Springsteen’s melodies soon inspire Javed to find his own voice and follow his dreams.

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I remember seeing a trailer for Blinded By the Light when I was watching Yesterday in the cinema, and like that movie, it looked like a quirky dramedy with a popular band/artist playing a big part of the plot (in this case it being Bruce Springsteen instead of The Beatles). I really wasn’t sure what to expect, it looked fun but also seemed a little too cheesy for its own good, nonetheless I was curious enough to want to check it out. Having seen it, I’d say that it was pretty good, there are parts that aren’t so great and it is absolutely cliché for sure, but the acting is good and I generally enjoyed it on my one viewing of the movie.

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Blinded by the Light is a pretty upbeat and lighthearted movie, and while I wasn’t really invested in the story and characters, and it was rather predictable, I was entertained enough with what I watched that it wasn’t too much of a problem. It can be rather cheesy to say the least, it’s not to the point where I was cringing or anything, but it can get a little much at some moments, and I know that some people just wouldn’t be able to handle them. I do think the movie loses focus at times with what it was trying to be, getting caught up with its love of Bruce Springsteen, especially in the first half. The second half is where the movie really picks up, the story focuses up and it all comes together by the end.

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Viveik Kalra is the lead of Blinded by the Light and he does very well on his part, he has to lead much of the movie by himself and generally he does well. The supporting cast also work on their parts. I had no idea that Hayley Atwell was in this movie going in, she’s actually not in many scenes but she is quite good as a teacher of the main character. There’s also a romance between Kalra’s character and Nell Williams’s character, both actors do well enough with their acting, but the whole relationship just feels sort of sudden and a bit unbelievable. You can just follow along and tolerate it however.

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This is the first film I saw from Gurinder Chadha, but she did a good job directing this movie. With the amount of times that music (specifically that of Bruce Springsteen) plays a part in the movie, you’d expect the transitions and montages featuring said music and all that to fit with the film well, and thankfully that’s the case here. They are pretty fun to watch, even if they are over the top and silly.

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Blinded by the Light was a fun, upbeat yet cheesy and cliché movie, which I thought was decent enough for one viewing. It’s nothing great but it was directed well, and the acting was quite good. If you’re wondering whether if you’d like the movie, I recommend just watching the trailer as it is pretty representative of the movie. If it seemed like it’s something you’d be interested in, I’d say to check it out. As for me, I’m glad that I decided to see it, but it’s probably not something I would watch again.

Harriet (2019) Review

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Harriet

Time: 125 Minutes
Cast:
Cynthia Erivo as Araminta “Minty” Ross/Harriet Tubman
Leslie Odom Jr. as William Still
Joe Alwyn as Gideon Brodess
Janelle Monáe as Marie Buchanon
Creator: Kasi Lemmons

From her escape from slavery through the dangerous missions she led to liberate hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad, the story of heroic abolitionist Harriet Tubman (Cynthia Erivo) is told.

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I heard about Harriet because of the awards attention it was receiving, mainly for Cynthia Erivo’s performance. Although I didn’t know that much about her, I heard about how Harriet Tubman was a truly significant historical figure, so I was at least interested in the movie for that, even if it looked like awards bait. While the movie unfortunately isn’t as great as it should’ve been, it was alright and better than I thought it would be.

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Now I can’t speak as to the accuracy of the movie to real life events. I did a brief Google search and clicked on a few articles, and according to what I found, much of what’s in the movie is accurate, however there’s a lot more that the film didn’t cover. Parts of the movie feel very formulaic and a little cliched. Even if these events played in real life like they did here, they didn’t really make it feel fresh or genuine. It also feels a little rushed, while also feeling like there’s a number of things that the movie didn’t cover. From the looks of things, maybe a mini series would’ve been better for the story, but just judging it as being done as one movie, some of the plot and storytelling choices were a little odd. With that said, as someone who knew nothing about Harriet Tubman, I was somewhat interested in the movie from beginning to end in its roughly 2 hour long runtime, just not as much as I hoped I would.

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Cynthia Erivo is the star of the show as Harriet Tubman, and she is really good. I liked her work in 2018 with both Bad Times at the El Royale and Widows, and once again she has shown herself to be a great actress. If there’s a reason to watch this movie, it’s for her performance. The rest of the cast are fine, there wasn’t quite a weak link, but most of them weren’t anything special and stood out either. Out of the supporting cast, Janelle Monae stood out the most in a minor role, playing a character who was created for the movie and didn’t exist in real life.

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The direction of Harriet by Kasi Lemmons was decent. While the movie can look really good at some points (especially with some of the locations), some of the way it was shot looks like a tv movie. The costumes and productions design are good enough and fit the time period and setting. Something that occurs often in the movie is that there are some visions that Harriet has. Now to be fair to this movie, these apparently happened in real life, but the way it’s shot and edited made it come across a little silly in the film (again, like a tv movie).

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Harriet is an okay movie but unfortunately it doesn’t rise above that level, especially disappointing for a movie about such a significant figure in history. The direction is fine, the writing is mostly okay, the supporting cast is good enough, but there’s not a lot in the movie that’s better than that. The exception is Cynthia Erivo’s lead performance which was good, and really was the only reason to see the movie. Even then though, I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s a an absolute must see just for her work alone, as good as it was. I guess if you’re committed to watching every Oscar nominated performance, or if you’ve got 2 hours to spend, then it might be worth checking out if you’re curious about it.

A Vigilante (2019) Review

Time: 91 Minutes
Cast:
Olivia Wilde as Sadie
Morgan Spector as Sadie’s Husband
Tonye Patano as Beverly
Judy Marte as Straight Up Shelter Woman
Betsy Aidem as Andrea Shaund
C.J. Wilson as Michael Shaund
Chuck Cooper as Lawyer
Kyle Catlett as Zach
Director: Sarah Dagger-Nickson

A vigilante (Olivia Wilde) helps victims of domestic violence by acting with merciless severity against the perpetrators. The battle-hardened woman never loses sight of her own mission.

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I can’t remember how I first heard of A Vigilante, but I remember mainly hearing about how great Olivia Wilde was, and that the movie was pretty good. Outside of that, I really didn’t know anything about the movie going in. Outside of a lacking third act and some roughness, A Vigilante pretty good, well directed and greatly acted by Wilde.

Plenty of people have compared this movie to Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here, both follow vigilantes for hire, who experienced some form of trauma in their past, and the movies are low paced character studies of said vigilantes. There are further similarities between the two, but for A Vigilante’s sake, I’ll talk about it as how it works by itself. On paper this could’ve easily been just another revenge fantasy, however it’s very grounded and gritty. It doesn’t really have much of a structure, it just follows Olivia Wilde’s lead character of Sadie throughout. There’s also the treatment of abuse, which this movie could’ve easily failed at, and if it did it would’ve sunk it hugely. However I thought it was done as respectful as possible, making sure to focus on the victims and never turning the attention to the abuse itself. With all that the good that it’s in the first two acts, it’s just unfortunate that the third act isn’t great. I would’ve been fine with the climax still just following Sadie on her encounters, but I could potentially still be on board with the direction they went with for the story. However in this section, it becomes the revenge thriller movie that for the past hour it was trying not to be. I guess it isn’t bad, but it’s a little disappointing and underwhelming, and not like it was intended to.

The movie is worth watching for Olivia Wilde alone, this is a career best performance from her. I’ve seen her in plenty of movies, some of them major movies, but she hadn’t been given a ton of things to work with on her end. A Vigilante is really her movie however, she’s in almost every scene and it’s following her for the entirety of the plot. This relied so much on her bringing something incredible to it, and she absolutely does. The rest of the cast are fine enough but don’t come even close to Wilde’s level, on top of the fact that with every other character you don’t see them in more than a couple scenes. The ‘antagonists’ in the movie are very one note, for much of the movie that’s fine, they’re more often than not abusers that Sadie is hired to deal with. We don’t get to know much about them and we didn’t need to. However there is a singular antagonist in the last act, and either he’s given too much screentime and things to say, or not given enough personality or depth for us to care much about this character in the context of the story. He was more of an annoyance than anything else.

This is writer and director Sarah Daggar-Nickson’s debut film, and she definitely showed her talents well with this movie. The film can feel pretty cold throughout, however it felt appropriate given the character and the tone of the story. As mentioned earlier, A Vigilante is trying to be as realistic as possible. There aren’t any overly stylistic scenes or montages, and although there are portions of composed music played at some points, much of the movie is set to silence. While the violence can be brutal, it’s restrained and yet at the right enough to make you uncomfortable without being exploitive. Even the violence that Wilde delivers onto abusers aren’t shown, so there is no glorification about any of it. As for the thriller aspects in the third act, I guess it was fine but felt somewhat underwhelming, and I can’t tell whether it was purposeful or not.

A Vigilante is not an easy watch, and it has its fair share of issues, most of them to do with the final act. However it mostly handles the subject matter with care, and it’s directed very well. With all that being said, it may very well be worth watching even just for Olivia Wilde’s performance.

Luce (2019) Review

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Luce

Time: 109 Minutes
Cast:
Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Luce Edgar
Octavia Spencer as Harriet Wilson
Naomi Watts as Amy Edgar
Tim Roth as Peter Edgar
Brian Bradley as DeShaun Meeks
Andrea Bang as Stephanie Kim
Norbert Leo Butz as Dan Towson
Director: Julius Onah

A liberal-minded couple, Amy (Naomi Watts) and Peter Edgar (Tim Roth), are forced to reconsider their image of their adopted son (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) after they discover he has written an extremely disturbing essay for his class at school.

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I heard about Luce more recently, I knew of Octavia Spencer, Naomi Watts and Tim Roth’s involvement, and I also heard it was pretty good, so I wanted to check it out for sure. Having seen it, I can say that it’s really one of the most overlooked movies of 2019, and it really deserves a lot more attention than it has been receiving.

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I think it’s better to be surprised by the plot and not know too much going in, so I’ll try to keep my review as vague as possible when it comes to the plot. Luce relies quite a lot upon its script, and thankfully it’s written quite well, and has your interest from beginning to end. Much of the movie feels like a play at times in the way it’s written, especially with the dialogue. As it turns out, it is based on a play by J.C Lee. It’s also a movie that talks about plenty of difficult subject matters, like adoption, social injustice, tokenism, mental illness, stereotyping, and race. With that said, it doesn’t explore every single theme to its fullest extent or done equally as well. It’s a very ambiguous movie with a lot of complexity, it’s not as black and white as it would seem at first, there’s a whole lot of grey. You have to assume that you won’t get the answers that you want about certain characters, and you’ll have to draw your own conclusions based off what the movie actually gives you. The ending particularly will have people confused a little as to the interpretations of the final moments of the film.

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Part of what makes this movie work particularly well are the 4 central outstanding performances. Each character has their own thing going on with them and have more complexity to them than they initially appear. Naomi Watts and Tim Roth play the parents of Luce, and both are great (this is the best I’ve seen Roth in years). Octavia Spencer gives one of her best performances as Luce’s teacher, really believable. I had previously only seen Kelvin Harrison Jr. in It Comes at Night but he’s shown himself to be an outstanding actor with his performance here as Luce. He’s so charming and convincing, and there are points where even though you can’t tell whether he’s manipulating and lying or telling the truth. Definitely an up and coming actor that you want to be paying attention to. These 4 performances essentially anchor the movie, and even elevate it a bit.

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I just know Julius Onah as the director of The Cloverfield Paradox, and while for many that doesn’t bode well, with Luce he really gets to show off his talents. The cinematography was stunning, and it was edited very well. The music by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury was also good, adding a level of unsettledness throughout. While it’s not a conventional thriller and you’re not expecting anyone to be killed or anything of the like, you do feel somewhat tense throughout, like something isn’t quite right.

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Luce is a complex and well written movie, with some excellent performances leading it. There are some aspects that don’t work quite as well, some parts of the writing are a little too ambitious for its own good, it doesn’t quite follow through on what they set up during it, and they don’t all come together to form a clear message at the end, but I still think it’s generally well done. Definitely check out Luce when you can, at the very least for the acting.

Happy Death Day 2U (2019) Review

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Happy Death Day 2U

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Jessica Rothe as Tree Gelbman
Israel Broussard as Carter Davis
Suraj Sharma as Samar Ghosh
Steve Zissis as Dean Bronson
Director: Christopher Landon

Collegian Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) wakes up in horror to learn that she’s stuck in a parallel universe. Her boyfriend Carter (Israel Broussard) is now with someone else, and her friends and fellow students seem to be completely different versions of themselves. When Tree discovers that Carter’s roommate (Phi Vu) has been altering time, she finds herself once again the target of a masked killer. When the psychopath starts to go after her inner circle, Tree soon realizes that she must die over and over again to save everyone.

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I was surprised at how much I liked the first Happy Death Day, it didn’t seem like it would be anything special, but it was entertaining, creative, and had a great lead in Jessica Rothe. With that being said, I wasn’t really sure that we needed a sequel, it seemed to work well enough on its own. Nonetheless, I heard some pretty good things about it, so I checked it out. This movie is again rather surprising how well it works, and it’s at the very least on the level of the first movie.

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One reason I wasn’t so hyped for a Happy Death Day sequel is because I knew that there would have to be some sort of explanation for the time loops that Tree (Jessica Rothe) had gone through, and with Happy Death Day 2U, that turned out to be the case. The first Happy Death Day was a slasher movie with some unexplained sci-fi element. This leans in more with the science fiction and lessens the slasher aspect quite a bit, I’m pretty sure the latter only consisted of at most 5 scenes or so. Without getting too into it, the whole plot of this movie isn’t trying to find out who keeps killing her, it’s her trying to get back to her own universe. As for the explanation about the time loops, given how this is now a completely different type of movie, I was fine with how it was handled in the story. It is similar in some ways to the previous movie, thankfully it does a lot of things to be different, with a lot of the setup being rather different, for example like I said earlier, it’s not a slasher film anymore. With that said, some areas it covers are very much the same. The self awareness however does at least benefit it greatly. For those who are interested, there is a surprising mid credits scene that you might want to stick around for.

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Jessica Rothe once again kills it in the role of Tree Gelbman, she’s definitely up there among the modern scream queens of recent horror movies. She delivers excellently on the comedic side and there’s even some drama here that she effectively conveys. She’s a big part of why both movies really work, she carries them effectively. The returning supporting cast with the likes of Israel Broussard, Phi Vu and others do well enough, and I think they fare even better, especially with the fact that this is the second time we are seeing them, even if they act similarly to how they were in the first movie.

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Christopher Landon returns to direct the sequel, and 2U was even better directed than the first movie, you really feel that there’s a lot more confidence in the type of movie it is. It’s even less focused on horror than the previous movie, it’s leaning more towards being a comedic movie, and it does that very well. Yes, there’s another death montage, that somehow tops the deaths from the last movie.

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If you liked the first Happy Death Day, then you should check it out Happy Death Day 2U at the very least. I can see why some people wouldn’t like it but there’s still a lot to like with it. It’s entertaining, well directed, creative, and the acting is generally good, with Jessica Rothe once again delivering as expected. If you disliked the first movie however, I’m not sure you’d get a lot out of this one. As for a Happy Death Day 3, I’m again a little sceptical with the idea, but not necessarily opposed to it.

Monos (2019) Review

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Monos

Time: 103 minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Julianne Nicholson as “Doctora” Sara Watson
Moisés Arias as Bigfoot
Sofía Buenaventura as Rambo
Julian Giraldo as Wolf
Karen Quintero as Lady
Laura Castrillón as Swede
Deiby Rueda as Smurf
Esneider Castro as Boom Boom
Paul Cubides as Dog
Wilson Salazar as The Messenger
Director: Alejandro Landes

On a faraway mountaintop, eight teenaged guerillas with guns watch over a hostage (Julianne Nicholson) and a conscripted milk cow. Playing games and initiating cult-like rituals, the children run amok in the jungle and disaster strikes when the hostage tries to escape.

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Although I didn’t know a whole lot about Monos outside of the premise, I knew that some people really liked it, so I put it on my list of 2019 movies to check out. While I’m not sure that I’d call it a great film and I have a number of issues with it, there’s definitely a lot of praiseworthy parts to it, from the directing to the acting.

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Monos isn’t an easy movie to watch by any means. It’s fittingly disturbing and grim given the subject matter, and you feel rather uncomfortable throughout. The movie doesn’t provide any context to the events, for the war, the child soldiers and why they are doing what they are doing. That wasn’t such a problem for me, the ambiguity if anything worked well for the movie, you know as little about the background of everything as the teenager soldiers. That’s not to say I don’t have some issues with the movie itself. Even though the movie is an hour and 40 minutes long, it feels very drawn out. It is an incredibly slow movie with not a lot happening, sometimes it was for its benefit, but a lot of time it just dragged out the runtime. While I still wasn’t in love with it or anything, it does pick up towards the second half. There was also something bugging me for a while and I couldn’t figure out what it is, but I’m pretty sure it’s how distant it all felt. Now I get that the cold take on the story somewhat works, but without any real emotional attachment, I just felt like there was something missing. We don’t really have a single character that we could anchor ourselves to, not the main hostage character, and not to really any of the child characters. I guess there’s Rambo (Sofia Buenaventura), who you can latch onto most by far, but even then there isn’t really much to her, and she’s not even focused on a whole lot. It doesn’t help that there’s a real lack of characterisation, you get that each of them are different and you get small bits of differences between them, but it wasn’t quite enough. Thinking back on it, there’s only a few characters with distinct things I remembered about them, the rest I barely remembered at all. I wasn’t expecting all of them to be fully fleshed out characters, but I hoped for more. As for the potential similarities from this story to Lord of the Flies, I’m not familiar with the story so I can’t comment on them.

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The acting all around was pretty great, from the hostage played by Julianne Nicholson, to the cast who play the kids. They all felt very believable in their respective roles. Moises Arias was a standout amongst the kids characters though.

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Monos is worth seeing for the direction from Alejandro Landes alone. It’s visually stunning, with such a beautiful look to it. While it looks great throughout, the film really gets to shine in the second half, when it generally takes place at a rainforest. Another stand out is the music by Mica Levi, giving it an otherworldly and haunting feel to it. Levi also made the score for Under the Skin, so you can imagine what it’s like if you’ve seen that movie. The atmosphere was also handled quite well, and all of it felt grimly real.

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Monos isn’t for everyone, however it is well made, despite some narrative issues that I had. I think there are some issues that hold me back from liking it more. I’d say that maybe I’d like it more on a rewatch, but I don’t particularly have any desire to watch it again. Still, if you saw the premise and wanted to try it out for yourself, give it a watch if you think you’ll like it.

The Report (2019) Review

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The Report

Time: 119 minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, cruelty & offensive language
Cast:
Adam Driver as Daniel Jones
Annette Bening as Dianne Feinstein
Jon Hamm as Denis McDonough
Jennifer Morrison as Caroline Krass
Tim Blake Nelson as Raymond Nathan
Ted Levine as John Brennan
Michael C. Hall as Thomas Eastman
Maura Tierney as Bernadette
Director: Scott Z. Burns

FBI agent Daniel Jones (Adam Driver) performs an exhaustive investigation into the CIA’s use of torture on suspected terrorists. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the CIA adopted new interrogation techniques.

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I heard about The Report for a little while, it was about an important topic about the report of the CIA’s use of torture, and had a lot of talented people involved with the likes of Adam Driver, Annette Bening and Jon Hamm. It’s turned out to be quite good and overall well made, if a slightly too procedural.

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The Report is a straight forward movie. When it comes to movies based on true events like this, there’s a certain kind of genre where it just seems to give cliff notes of information that could’ve been taken from Wikipedia. The Report is sort of that but out of those types of movies, it does this the best. It keeps you engaged to learn everything that’s happening, at least that’s what it did for me. There’s a lot of information being tossed at you, but even if you don’t remember everything perfectly, there’s enough there that you can grasp what’s going on. As you can probably tell already, it’s not an easy watch by any means, given the subject matter. Even outside the flashback scenes which features some torture, it can be maddening and frustrating hearing about all of what happened, and it’s meant to have you feeling that way. I’m not quite sure that The Report will hold up outside of the first viewing, still well made and all that, but after knowing everything it has to say, there’s not much point watching it again. I guess one problem with this movie is that while you’d expect the movie to not go into too much depth with many of the supporting players, you’d expect something with the lead character, that being Daniel Jones played by Adam Driver. It’s verbally expressed early on that Jones isn’t close with anyone, and you can really tell that he’s really committed to this case, but that’s all we learn from him. Not necessarily a bad thing mind you, they can sort of get away with that given the nature of the protagonist, and it’s not necessarily something that’s bothering you if you’re engaged with the rest of the movie.

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The Report has got a great cast who perform very well in their respective roles. Adam Driver continues to prove himself one of the best actors working today. As I said, the movie doesn’t really go into him as a person, but Driver’s acting overcomes that, and once again gives a very strong lead performance. The supporting cast with the likes of Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Tim Blake Nelson, Ted Levine, Michael C. Hall, Corey Stoll and more all provide good performances too.

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I haven’t seen a film from director Scott Z. Burns (he made his last movie over a decade ago, which I haven’t seen), he’s mainly a writer for movies like Side Effects and The Bourne Ultimatum. He’s pretty good as a director, even if he doesn’t really have much of a distinct style. The cinematography is rather basic and not necessarily attractive or stylish, but I guess that fitted the tone and subject matter of the movie quite well.

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I wouldn’t say that The Report is a great movie, but it is an important movie for sure. It’s tightly written and directed and features some really good performances from its talented cast. Yes, it’s a ‘cliff notes’ movie, but it’s a very well made cliff notes movie. It gives you a generally good idea of what happened in an interesting and engaging 2 hour long movie. Definitely check it out when you can.

The Aeronauts (2019) Review

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The Aeronauts

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Felicity Jones as Amelia
Eddie Redmayne as James Glaisher
Phoebe Fox as Antonia
Himesh Patel as John Trew
Vincent Perez as Pierre Rennes
Director: Tom Harper

In 1862 headstrong scientist James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne) and wealthy young widow Amelia Wren (Felicity Jones) mount a balloon expedition to fly higher than anyone in history. As their perilous ascent reduces their chances of survival, the unlikely duo soon discover things about themselves — and each other — that help both of them find their place in the world.

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I heard about The Aeronauts for a little while, before going into it I knew it was Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones returning as an on screen duo 5 years after The Theory of Everything, and that it had something to do with floating in a balloon. There’s a lot here to like, but it’s held back by certain elements, and it could’ve been a lot better.

Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne star in The Aeronauts

Easily the weakest part of the movie is the script. It starts off very rough as it rushes towards the scene main characters leaving on the balloon, with no context or setup whatsoever as to what’s happening. Now the context is then provided through flashbacks, however that’s one of the biggest problems of the movie (if not the biggest), it’s so reliant on flashbacks. When we are on the balloon, The Aeronauts excels, but it comes to a halt every time it does a flashback for both of them back on land, and there’s a lot of them. There doesn’t even seem to be much point in having a narrative structure this way, the flashbacks don’t add anything to the movie. There’s even some scenes showing Felicity’s character being conflicted about whether she’ll even go on the trip, but there’s not even much point given we already know what she decides, not to mention she’s not even a real person, so you can’t put these scenes’ inclusions up to historical accuracy. That’s the other thing too, despite this being advertised as based on true events, don’t look too much into it for historical accuracy. While some parts are accurate like the fact that Eddie Redmayne’s character of James Glaisher did go up in a balloon with someone, that someone wasn’t Felicity Jones’s character of Amelia Wren, in fact she never existed in real life. Come to think of it, embracing it as an inspired but deviating take on the real life story would’ve helped the movie immensely. The movie is an hour and 40 minutes long, which is a good enough length for this story, although the flashbacks did seem to make it feel longer. Outside of the flashbacks, the script and characters did feel fairly weak on their own, merely passable enough.

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The duo performances of Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are good and work rather well for the movie. Felicity Jones is really the star of the show, one of the highlights of the whole movie. I like Eddie Redmayne, and I liked him here, but if you’re not a fan of his acting, you’re still not going to like him here because he does the similar acting style.

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The Aeronauts directed quite well by Tom Harper. I also saw Wild Rose, and while his work on that was decent, he gets to show off a lot more here. The period of 1860s England is really captured well here, the production design, costumes, etc, all of it really fitted the story and setting. The visuals are great too, and of course it’s mainly to do with the scenes up in the balloon. There are some tense and thrilling scenes during those segments too, and they were filmed very effectively. I can only imagine they were something to really watch on the big screen. The score by Steven Price is also quite good and fits with the movie quite well.

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The Aeronauts had potential and indeed they deliver on some of that, however the script unfortunately drags down the movie considerably, especially with the use of flashbacks that only hinder the film. With that said it has some good elements to it that might make it worth checking out, from the duo of Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne, to the visuals and the direction. The movie is only 100 minutes long, so if you’ve got that much time to spare, The Aeronauts is a decent enough watch.