Tag Archives: 2021

No Time to Die (2021) Review

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No Time to Die

Time: 163 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Rami Malek as Lyutsifer Safin
Léa Seydoux as Madeleine Swann
Lashana Lynch as Nomi
Ben Whishaw as Q
Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny
Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter
Christoph Waltz as Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory/M
Billy Magnussen as Logan Ash
Ana de Armas as Paloma
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga

James Bond (Daniel Craig) is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica after leaving active service. However, his peace is short-lived as his old CIA friend, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), shows up and asks for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond on the trail of a mysterious villain (Rami Malek) who’s armed with a dangerous new technology.

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After years of delays, No Time to Die has finally arrived. It’s not only the latest James Bond movie (25th of the official movies in fact), but it’s also Daniel Craig’s last James Bond movie. I have been really anticipating this movie, I really liked this version of Bond, and I was interested to see how it would conclude everything. It was a great experience, especially in the cinema, and overall I’m prepared to say that I’m satisfied with it.

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No Time to Die is really a movie that’s worth going into not knowing too much beforehand. The trailers and advertising avoided giving too many plot details for good reason. What’s immediately noticeable is that there’s an interesting blend of tones in this movie. It is bombastic and over the top while also being emotional. First of all, it leans into more the classic Bond aspects than the previous Craig films. The plot has massive global stakes caused by a ludicrous villain, there are gadgets throughout, there are plenty of one liners, and overall everything is more over the top. This is also the funniest Bond movie of Craig’s run, with a good amount of well-executed humour which I enjoyed. At the same time there is an emotional core to the film, and it wraps up all the storylines and character journeys for this version of James Bond. If you haven’t seen the previous Craig James Bond movies and are thinking about jumping in here, I would highly recommend watching them (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and Spectre) before No Time to Die because it references events from those films. It is very much a follow on from Spectre (the movie), from Madeleine Swann, to Blofeld and Spectre (the organisation). While I’m aware not everyone will be on board with this given that plenty of people weren’t fans of the last movie, I actually thought it worked quite well. In some ways it retroactively made me like some of those aspects from Spectre a lot more. Tonally it sounds like a mess, however it somehow all comes together in the end. Without getting into spoilers, I thought the finale was ultimately emotionally satisfying, and a great sendoff to this version of James Bond. While it does embrace some of the more classic elements of Bond, it’s also a unique entry for a Bond movie. I can’t speak to any issues immediately because there was a lot to take in with this movie. There’s a lot that happens, with plenty of characters, storylines, and parts to wrap up. Speaking of which, the runtime is at around 2 hours 45 minutes long, making this by far the longest movie in the franchise. At times I could feel the length, but I was always invested in what was happening, so that was never a problem for me.

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This movie really felt like a real ensemble piece more so than the previous Bond movies. First and foremost is Daniel Craig, who delivers his best performance as James Bond. He gets to have a lot of fun moments, from the one liners and humour, to the action. Craig’s Bond is the most human and given the most emotions compared to the past versions of the character, and it goes all in with that in this movie. While there are world ending stakes throughout the film, there is no mistake that Bond’s story is the main focus, and Craig delivers all of this so greatly. He plays the character in a way we haven’t seen from him before, and the movie really gives him the opportunity to give a finale for Bond. Lea Seydoux is one of the only Bond girls to actually return from a previous Bond movie, here she’s reprising her role of Madeleine Swann. I liked Seydoux in Spectre but there was something missing with that character in the movie, and I didn’t quite buy the Swann/Bond romance at the end. No Time to Die however makes this relationship really work, and I thought that Seydoux was great here, getting to do a lot more. We also get returning supporting Bond players with Ben Whishaw as Q, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Ralph Fiennes as M, and even Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter, all of them reliable as always. Christoph Waltz also returns as Ernst Stravo Blofeld from Spectre, and while he’s not in the movie much, I actually liked him more in this movie, he’s great in his scenes and really leaves an impression. There are some new additions who are great in their parts too. There’s Lashana Lynch who is great as the new 007 (after James Bond had retired at the end of Spectre), and there’s also Billy Magnussen who is good in his role. Ana de Armas is a scene stealer, delivering a really fun and entertaining performance but unfortunately doesn’t get a massive amount of screentime. Nonetheless, she makes a strong impression. There’s also the new Bond villain as played by Rami Malek. He doesn’t quite reach the heights of Mads Mikkelsen in Casino Royale or Javier Bardem in Skyfall, but I think he’s a solid enough villain for this movie, especially as he’s the biggest adversary to Craig’s Bond yet. Malek’s character is definitely over the top, as you would expect for someone named Lyutisfier Safin. He is a strong and creepy screen presence, and absolutely nails the scenes that he’s in. There’s nothing really wrong with him writing or acting-wise, however he’s not in the movie as much as I would’ve liked.

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The newest director to helm a Bond film is Cary Fukunaga, and while I haven’t seen all of his other work, I can say that his work on Sin Nombre and Maniac is great. As expected, his direction for No Time to Die is fantastic and feels fresh and distinct in the franchise. There is this constant energy felt throughout, making even the more slower paced sections felt energised. The cinematography by Linus Sandgren is great, really giving this movie a very vibrant look, and it helps that the film takes advantage of the memorable locations it takes place at. The action is truly stellar, starting with an early action set piece with Bond in a motorcycle and then in a car, and only continuing to be great from there. The action is often filmed with long takes, with particularly one of the standout action scenes involving a stairway later in the movie. All the action is great and rivals the best action sequences from Craig’s past 4 Bond films. Hans Zimmer composes the score and while it doesn’t rank amongst the best work from him or one of the best Bond soundtracks, it is solid and works well for the movie. I also think that Billie Eilish’s main song for the movie was great.

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No Time to Die ranks alongside Skyfall and Casino Royale as my favourite James Bond movies. It is very long and there’s a lot to take in, but I loved what I saw from my first viewing of it. Cary Fukunaga delivered a visually stunning and enthralling movie, with great action, an ensemble cast of reliable and solid performances, and a script that’s bombastic and witty yet also appropriately emotional and given enough depth. However, above all else, it served as a great finale for Daniel Craig’s James Bond, and it definitely achieved what it set out to do. I’m not really sure what they will do for the next version of James Bond, from the actor to the interpretation of the character. Nonetheless, Craig remains my all-time favourite version of the character’s nearly 50 year run, and I’m happy with the sendoff they gave him with No Time to Die.

Malignant (2021) Review

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Malignant

Time: 111 Minutes
Cast:
Annabelle Wallis as Madison Mitchell
Maddie Hasson as Sydney Lake
George Young as Kekoa Shaw
Michole Briana White as Regina Moss
Jacqueline McKenzie as Dr. Florence Weaver
Director: James Wan

Madison (Annabelle Wallis), a young woman, is terrified by visions of the murders of strangers. Later, Madison decides to find and save the victims.

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I was quite interested in Malignant, not only was it director James Wan’s newest film, but it also his first original horror movie in a while (the last instance being The Conjuring in 2013). I also found the initial reactions to the movie to be quite intriguing, with some people having no idea what they just watched. Honestly, I wish I had the chance to watch the movie in cinemas to hear the reactions, because it was quite an experience.

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It’s unsurprising that the trailers didn’t sell the movie that well considering how weird the concept sounds on paper. This is James Wan’s craziest film to date, and that’s saying a lot. There are some over the top moments and even comedy throughout the film, yet it somehow all fits together, managing to not ruin the grounded and dramatic moments. It is definitely an absurd movie, but it is self-aware of what it is, while still taking itself somewhat seriously. You can feel a mix of other horror directors’ influences, including Dario Argento, David Cronenberg and Sam Raimi, it feels like a perfect mixture of different horror subgenres. However, it is still all James Wan, while feeling so totally different from what he has done in the past. You could probably see elements of Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring, but Malignant still has its own distinct tone and feel. The first two acts build mystery around lead character Madison, intriguing you and locking you into the central mystery as she sees a lot of murders being committed by a mysterious killer. However, it is really the big reveal and the whole third act which is the point where you’ll realise whether you’re on board with the movie or not. Even if you’ve predicted the twist beforehand, the details surrounding the twist are so nutty that they have to be seen to be believed. I for one didn’t quite expect it, the third act was surprising, fun and satisfying and I had a blast with it.

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Annabelle Wallis is really good in the lead role and puts a lot into her performance. The rest of the cast aren’t bad, but they are serviceable. A lot of them act very odd at times especially with how they deliver their dialogue. However, it does work well for the movie’s campy feel at least. Ray Chase is also superb as the voice of the main antagonist of the film.

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This is a James Wan movie and as usual his work is really fantastic. This movie is visually beautiful to watch. There is also a great atmosphere throughout, greatly helped by the slick camera work as well as the sound design. It really should be said that this is by far James Wan’s goriest movie yet. Without going into the details of the scenes, there are some set pieces that are truly a sight to behold, especially in the insane third act. Everything from the choreography, the blood, the camerawork, everything in that last 30 minutes just turns everything to 11. The design and presentation of the main killer in the story is creative and truly memorable. The soundtrack from Joseph Bishara is great too. There’s particularly a piece of music that sounds like Where is My Mind by The Pixies, and it actually works as the main theme of the movie so well.

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Malignant definitely won’t be for everyone but I found it to be quite a satisfying and surprising horror film, with plenty of thrills, bloody and fantastic set pieces, and is absolutely bonkers. I’d go so far to say that it is one of James Wan’s best films. If you like horror movies, I do highly recommend watching it. Go into it blind, and if you find yourself not feeling it within the first 20 minutes, I recommend at least getting to the third act because it is worth watching the film for that alone.

The Protégé (2021) Review

Maggie Q stars as Anna in the new film, T Protégé.

The Protege

Time: 104 Minutes
Cast:
Maggie Q as Anna Dutton
Samuel L. Jackson as Moody Dutton
Michael Keaton as Michael Rembrandt
Director: Martin Campbell

Rescued as a child by the legendary assassin Moody (Samuel L. Jackson), Anna (Maggie Q) is the world’s most skilled contract killer. However, when Moody is brutally killed, she vows revenge for the man who taught her everything she knows. As Anna becomes entangled with an enigmatic killer (Michael Keaton), their confrontation turns deadly, and the loose ends of a life spent killing weave themselves ever tighter.

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I was interested in The Protégé. Along with it having a main cast consisting of Maggie Q, Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson, it is directed by Martin Campbell, who made Casino Royale and The Mask of Zorro. The premise on paper looked very familiar, but I was hoping for a decent action movie at the very least. For the most part, The Protégé was indeed an enjoyable action flick, but does have some flaws holding it back from being better.

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The writing is the worst part of the movie, and the script really is at odds with Martin Campbell’s strengths. The story is not very original, it’s generic and we’ve seen many of these plots in plenty of other better spy and revenge thrillers. The story and characters aren’t that interesting, there aren’t any stakes or emotional payoffs, and the few twists it has are rather predictable. Not only that but the plot could get unnecessarily complicated at times. It was incoherent, and by the end I was still wondering what it was even about. It is also very tonally inconsistent, mainly with the attempts at humour which never really landed for me. The dialogue is to blame for this, it is honestly terrible at times. By the time it reaches the last third of the film, it starts to lose steam. Not only that but it starts to try to be about something, and if anything that brought the movie down for me. Up to that point it was just a B-level schlocky action flick that I was having fun with. The ending itself was quite abrupt and it felt like something was missing. The story felt unfinished, there’s lots of loose ends and I didn’t understand why certain things happened, or why certain characters chose to make certain choices. I still enjoyed the movie, but the ending left me feeling cold, and not in a good way. The movie is just under 2 hours at 109 minutes, I think it could’ve been a little shorter than that.

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The characters aren’t that interesting and are rather one note. However, the main three actors at the centre make up for it at least. Maggie Q is solid in the lead role as the assassin seeking revenge, both in her performance and the action scenes. Michael Keaton is great too as the bodyguard and right-hand man of the main villain, very entertaining to watch. He even gets some action scenes of his own, and it looks like he actually does take part in some of the stunts. While I did like Keaton here, I do feel like his role was supposed to be played by a younger actor, making some of his scenes with Maggie Q feel very out of place. I especially wasn’t really sure what was going on with the relationship with those two characters, it kept going back and forth, and not in the way where it keeps you guessing. Its more like the writers couldn’t make up their minds about where it was going. Samuel L. Jackson isn’t in the movie a ton and it is definitely a role that he can play in his sleep, but as expected he delivers on his part.

The Protégé
Michael Keaton as Rembrandt

Martin Campbell is a good director of action, and his work here definitely elevates the movie. The action scenes are really good, its shot in a mostly clear fashion, the fights are well choreographed, and it was satisfying to watch. It is surprisingly graphic and gory at points, plenty of people get damaged and killed over the course of the movie. The action isn’t as memorable as some of Campbell’s other action work such as Casino Royale, The Mask of Zorro or Goldeneye, but nonetheless it makes the movie more entertaining to watch.

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The Protege feels like an action movie that would’ve come out decades ago, for better and for worse. The writing really is its worst aspect, the dialogue and plotting are very lacklustre, and it’s hard to really care about what’s going on with the story and characters. It’s the strong direction, action and the solid cast that elevate the movie, making it entertaining for the most part. If you are up for a decent but forgettable action thriller, then The Protégé is an entertaining enough 2-hour watch.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) Review

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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Simu Liu as Xu Shang-Chi/Shaun
Awkwafina as Katy
Meng’er Zhang as Xu Xialing
Fala Chen as Ying Li
Florian Munteanu as Razor Fist
Michelle Yeoh as Ying Nan
Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery
Tony Leung as Xu Wenwu
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Martial-arts master Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) confronts the past he thought he left behind when he’s drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization.

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I was interested in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. For the first time in a while, it would be a new movie in the MCU following a character I’m not familiar with, and I liked the trailers and the look of the movie. I was expecting to enjoy it, as I enjoy most MCU movies. However I actually ended up liking it even more than I expected to.

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One of the refreshing aspects about this movie is how self-contained it is as an origin story, it doesn’t feel like a stepping stone to set up more movies. It doesn’t even tie into the multiverse event that some of the recent MCU projects have been moving towards. It’s very much its own thing, and which already has me on board. Another refreshing part is that is feels like a very different entry into the MCU, even to the point where it doesn’t feel like a Marvel movie at times. Once it started with the incredible opening sequence, I knew that I would really like it. In a way the plot is formulaic (not just to other movies in the series, but other action, fantasy, and martial arts films), however it was way more nuanced than I thought it would be. At its core the movie is focussing on a complex family dynamic, and with that there as a lot of thought put into the character work and history of this family. As the emotional core, it exceeds. In terms of the writing for the characters, it’s definitely some of the best in the MCU. In a way this movie is flashback heavy, that doesn’t sound good on paper, but each flashback feels purposeful and is done to flesh out this family story. The humour was generally alright, a lot of it really didn’t land but this is honestly the first MCU movie in a while where it didn’t feel like the humour took away from serious moments or stop the flow of the movie. The third act does feel a bit overstuffed with too many things, and it does have a formulaic CGI filled climax, which was a bit of a shame considering it pivots away from what is essentially a fantasy martial arts movie. However, it does have some incredible moments and it works well enough, it just felt like it came out of left field. There is a mid credits scene and a post credit scene, both setting up follow ups to this movie and the MCU, and they are worth sticking around for.

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The performances from the cast were generally great. Simu Liu played the lead role of Shang-Chi quite well from his grounded family life to the actual fighting. Initially Liu was just alright in the part, but by the end I thought that he was a great fit for the character. Awkwafina is also here in one of the main roles as Shang-Chi’s friend, who goes along with him on his adventure. She does act in the way that you’d expect her to if you’ve seen her other performances (especially with the humour). It doesn’t always work, but it wasn’t as distracting as it could’ve been, and the chemistry between her and Liu was believable. Meng’er Zhang was also really good as Shang-Chi’s sister, and Michelle Yeoh was a really good addition. However, by far the highlight performer is that of Tony Leung as Wenwu (the real Mandarin in the comics), the main villain of the movie and the father of Shang-Chi. He had such a strong onscreen presence, and you end up sympathising with the character, both through the performance and the motivation. Definitely one of the best Marvel villains, and honestly its worth checking out the movie for him alone.

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Destin Daniel Cretton is the director of Shang-Chi, I know him from his work on Just Mercy, and his first action movie was quite good. The cinematography here by Bill Pope made this one of the most visually stunning MCU movies. Aside from some washed out visuals at times, mainly in the third act, it looks very good, especially with the sets and environments. The action is also a highlight, with some top notch, fantastically choreographed and energised fight sequences that rank among the best in the MCU. A lot of the action set pieces are well thought out and put together. The CGI could be a bit of a mess at times in the third act, but I still enjoyed those scenes. The music was solid too, particularly the score from Joel P. West.

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Maybe it’s just because I’ve been finding most of the recent movies in the MCU to range from okay to just good, but there was something about Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings I loved. I enjoyed the visuals and the very entertaining action scenes, the acting was really good, with Tony Leung being the standout. However, I even really liked the story and characters, and the way everything progressed. I will definitely need to see it again to see if it still holds up beyond the first viewing. However, from the initial viewing I really liked it, and it ranks amongst the best of the series. Honestly, while it does tie into the MCU for sure, it is standalone enough that you can go into it having not seen the prior movies. It is worth checking out for sure.

Infinite (2021) Review

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Infinite

Time: 106 minutes
Cast:
Mark Wahlberg as Evan McCauley (Treadway 2020)
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Bathurst 2020
Sophie Cookson as Nora Brightman
Jason Mantzoukas as the Artisan
Rupert Friend as Bathurst 1985
Toby Jones as Bryan Porter
Dylan O’Brien as Heinrich Treadway
Director: Antoine Fuqua

Haunted by memories of places he’s never visited, a man (Mark Wahlberg) joins forces with a group of reborn warriors to stop a madman from destroying the endless cycle of life and reincarnation.

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I hadn’t heard about Infinite until the day it was released on Neon (a New Zealand streaming service)). It was quite surprising really, considering it is directed by Antoine Fuqua (whose work I like) and stars Mark Wahlberg in the lead role. As it turns out, Infinite was going to have a theatrical release, but it was dumped onto Paramount+ at the last second. I usually have a different opinion on situations like this, but after seeing Infinite, I actually feel like they made the right decision. It really does feel like another average and forgettable action movie with big stars dumped onto a streaming service. Even as someone who didn’t have any expectations going (in aside from the people involved), I was still disappointed with what I saw.

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To get this out of the way, Infinite is very derivative of other similar sci-fi action movies, definitely taking a lot from The Matrix and Wanted at the very least. Being derivative isn’t inherently bad though, in fact I thought the movie had an interesting premise. It’s essentially about a war between 2 groups of people, believers and nihilists, who both reincarnate endlessly while retaining memories of their past lives. When it begins, it’s not great by any means but it seems promising. However it’s not too long before the movie manages to take its somewhat interesting premise, and execute it in the most boring and forgettable way. Despite everything, the movie is very uneventful. Much of it is Mark Wahlberg going on a mission to discover himself and realise that his dreams are memories, not dreams. He begins to remember his past lives, and this organisation of believers is trying to help him remember so that they can find a particular important item. It really does feel generic and uninspiring throughout, even shockingly boring. The script feels like a first draft at best, and the movie does a lot of telling rather than showing. There is so much exposition dumped on you, explaining characters, the world, etc. The dialogue itself is very awkward and tonally confused as well. It’s impossible to get invested in what’s going on. The worldbuilding isn’t anything to ride home about either, you’ve seen these types of stories done many times before, and done a lot better. The movie feels longer beyond its 106 minute runtime, and for much of it, it’s rather dull. Towards the end, my interest picked up slightly for the climactic action, but that was it.

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There are some talented actors involved but the characters and writing doesn’t allow any of them to give good performances. This has to be one of the most uninterested performances I’ve seen from Mark Wahlberg. In all fairness, he feels very miscast, from the voiceover narration, to the attempts at humour, to the attempts at drama. In the movie, Wahlberg’s previous life is played by Dylan O’Brien, who has 5 minutes of screentime. He doesn’t get to do a lot outside of some action, but I wish he played the role throughout the whole movie, because he already seemed more fitting. Sophie Cookson was good in the Kingsman movies, but here she’s basically reduced to some passable action sequences and delivering a ton of exposition dumps. There’s really only two performances here that I liked, both of them play their parts in an energetic and silly way that it genuinely made the movie more enjoyable to watch. Jason Mantzoukas hams it up in a supporting role, and Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a very passionate and scene chewing performance as the villain. It is commendable that Chiwetel commits to this role considering how silly the character it is. The villain’s big scheme to end the world is just dumb and not well put together, but the performance made him enjoyable to watch.

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I like Antoine Fuqua as a director, and him helming this movie is what got me interested in it. However this is by far his worst work, at least of the films I’ve seen from him. The visuals are very drab and grey, right out of a straight to DVD or streaming movie. There are some action sequences, and I will say that they aren’t bad. Some of them are well put together, however they do feel quite stale and the editing can be clunky. It is strange considering that Fuqua is pretty reliable when it comes to action. The only action scene that really stood out to me was in the third act involving a plane, which was genuinely quite fun to watch.

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Infinite is currently the worst movie from 2021 I’ve seen, and unfortunately by far the worst I’ve seen from Antoine Fuqua thus far. Even as someone who went into this movie literally the same day I knew of its existence, I was quite disappointed by the end result. It’s not memorable enough for me to really dislike it, it very much is a forgettable straight to streaming action flick. A couple of the performances are enjoyable and some the action is fun, but otherwise it doesn’t really get anything right.

Reminiscence (2021) Review

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Reminiscence

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, drug use & suicide
Cast:
Hugh Jackman as Nick Bannister
Rebecca Ferguson as Mae
Thandiwe Newton as Emily “Watts” Sanders
Cliff Curtis as Cyrus Boothe
Marina de Tavira as Tamara Sylvan
Daniel Wu as Saint Joe
Director: Lisa Joy

Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman), a private investigator of the mind, navigates the darkly alluring world of the past by helping his clients access lost memories. Living on the fringes of the sunken Miami coast, his life is forever changed as he uncovers a violent conspiracy while trying to solve the mystery behind a client (Rebecca Ferguson) who disappeared.

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I was quite curious about Reminiscence going into it, I liked how it looked from the trailers, I liked the cast involved including Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson, and the director is Lisa Joy, who is one of the creators of Westworld. I was a little hesitant after seeing the less than stellar critical response, but I wanted to see it for myself. I’m definitely in the minority of people who actually liked it, despite some clear issues.

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The premise about investigating the mind is great, and the concept of being able to recall memories definitely gives the film the ability to use flashbacks in a natural way that actually works within the context of the plot. It is definitely reminiscent of other sci-fi movies, borrowing from films like Inception and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but I still like what was done here. However, I think a lot of this could’ve been executed better. The pacing wasn’t the best, it takes quite a while for the plot to really progress, and some of the story is fairly predictable. I liked the story for the most part, I was on board throughout and it never really lost me. With that said, the story is definitely more interesting after a slower first half. Reminiscence is very neo noir inspired and I really liked that aspect of the film. I also really liked the world that is being built here, even if it comes with some issues in the way that Lisa Joy decided to convey it. There is a lot of exposition in this movie as it is establishing the current state of the world and the setting, especially towards the beginning. This is probably why it takes so long for the movie to get to the actual mystery at the centre of the story. While I definitely appreciate the amount of detail and context that Joy tries to give this world, it was a bit too much. A lot of the exposition comes through Hugh Jackman narrating throughout the film, something which I’ve noticed a lot of other people complaining about. I’m somewhat inclined to give this a pass simply because it is a play on hard boiled neo-noir films to a degree. However, the use of it was nonetheless overbearing and just about borders on self-parody. Not only that, but the dialogue a lot of the time is very over-melodramatic at many points. While it does feel like it doesn’t feel like it meets its potential and is a little disappointing, I wouldn’t say that the script is bad by any means.

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While much of the characters feel a little underdeveloped, the acting from the solid cast definitely elevates them. Hugh Jackman does a very good job in the lead role as expected. Everyone else does well, Rebecca Ferguson is particularly a standout, and actors like Thandiwe Newton and Cliff Curtis are also great in their parts.

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This is Lisa Joy’s directorial debut, and while there are some issues, I think it’s a good first film. First of all, this movie has some stunning cinematography, and the production design is solid. This noir inspired futuristic setting is gorgeous and fascinating to watch, at the very least on a visual level. There aren’t a ton of action scenes, but they are decent when they are there. There is a particularly creative action scene that takes place inside a collapsing building. Sometimes the CGI is a bit too noticeable but it didn’t bring me out of the movie. The score from Game of Thrones and Westworld composer Ramin Djawadi is great and really fits the tone and vibe of the film.

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Once again, I don’t think that Reminiscence really reaches the peak of its potential, and it was a little disappointing, with the script definitely being the weakest point. However, I was still invested throughout, I liked what Lisa Joy was going for, and it has some really good moments. Joy’s direction and the performances from the cast (especially Jackman and Ferguson) are also great, and elevates the overall quality of the film. At the very least I do think that it is worth checking out.

The Courier (2021) Review

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The Courier

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Benedict Cumberbatch as Greville Wynne
Merab Ninidze as Colonel Oleg Penkovsky
Rachel Brosnahan as Emily Donovan
Jessie Buckley as Sheila Wynne
Angus Wright as Dickie Franks
Director: Dominic Cooke

The true story of a British businessman (Benedict Cumberbatch) unwittingly recruited into one of the greatest international conflicts in history. Forming an unlikely partnership with a Soviet officer (Merab Ninidze) hoping to prevent a nuclear confrontation, the two men work together to provide the crucial intelligence used to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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I heard some good things about The Courier. It was a cold war spy thriller that had a good cast, with Benedict Cumberbatch leading the movie, and it looked goo from the trailer, so I was interested in checking it out. The Courier was a conventional but solid true story spy thriller that is well worth a watch.

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The Courier is the true story of a salesman turned spy during the Cold War in the early 1960s, and while I know that some people might not be interested in the movie by that description alone, I think the movie is quite accessible on the whole. It keeps things simple, by not getting bogged down by all the details and spy jargon, it makes the movie more streamlined and enjoyable to watch. Along with that, the pacing works quite well. It’s not fast paced by any means; it is on the slower side but done in a thoughtful way that slowly builds up the tension. However, it is also faster than expected considering movies of this specific genre, and doesn’t outstay its welcome, at a runtime of an hour and 50 minutes long. I found the story to be quite interesting, and the script itself was well written. It was clever, witty, it has the right amount of humour and seriousness throughout to make it entertaining to watch, and the dramatic beats worked for me. It does seem to repeating itself to a degree for most of the movie, until it changes into being something different in the third act, which I thought was strong. The friendship between the lead character (played by Cumberbatch) and the Russian spy, two people on the opposite side of the political divide, was particularly compelling to watch. Definitely one of the strongest aspects of the movie. The Courier is a cold war thriller, and as that doesn’t really do anything special to break the mould. It is conventional and similar to other movies about wartime unsung heroes that are intended snag Oscar nominations. However, I was still invested the entire time, so that wasn’t a problem for me.

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The acting is a shining point in the movie. First of all, there’s Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role as the salesman who becomes a spy. This is his best performance since the Imitation Game, and for the most part, he is quite understated. His performance doesn’t just fall back into his bag of snarky tricks as in Sherlock Holmes or many of his other roles. His performance is nuanced and believable, and he particularly shines in the final act. Another great and heartfelt performance is from Merab Ninidze as the Russian spy, working at the same level as Cumberbatch. Some of the acting elevated a lot of their material, both Jessie Buckley and Rachel Brosnahan are in rather thankless roles but do a lot to make up for it. Buckley particularly plays the stock role of “wife who worries about husband” in this sort of movie, however gives a lot in her scenes.

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Dominic Cooke’s direction is pretty solid. It is very well shot and has a nice sharp look to it, with some excellent lighting. The costumes and production designs work for the time period as expected, and there’s a great and suspenseful score from Abel Korzeniowski. If there are any flaws in terms of the technical level, it’s the editing, especially in the first half. Occasionally it feels like its cutting short some of the scenes.

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As far as “based on a real story” Oscar Bait movies set in the Cold War era goes, The Courier is on the more exciting end. Clearly a lot of the movie was handled with care, the story is familiar and conventional but compelling and interesting nonetheless, it’s well shot, and the performances are great, particularly from Cumberbatch, Ninidze and Buckley. I think it’s worth checking out.

Censor (2021) Review

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Censor

Time: 84  Minutes
Cast:
Niamh Algar as Enid Baines
Nicholas Burns as Sanderson
Vincent Franklin as Fraser
Sophia La Porta as Alice Lee
Adrian Schiller as Frederick North
Michael Smiley as Doug Smart
Director: Prano Bailey-Bond

After viewing a strangely familiar video nasty, Enid (Niamh Algar), a film censor, sets out to solve the past mystery of her sister’s disappearance, embarking on a quest that dissolves the line between fiction and reality.

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I heard about Censor earlier this year, all I knew about it was that it was a British psychological horror film involving censors, it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and some people liked it. I really didn’t know what to expect beyond that and so I went into the movie mostly blind. I’m glad I did, going in with no expectations, I found myself really on board with where the movie went.

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Censor’s plot is definitely set against a retro backdrop, so it is worth noting the setting. The setting is the mid-80s during the era of the video nasties, in which low-budget exploitation movies were deemed a danger to society and the cause of murder, violence and the like. Censor applies this concept, connecting it to an intriguing character study, in which it focuses on the life and struggles of a film censor. This film censor finds uncanny similarities between the videos she watches, and her childhood experiences and trauma, and she begins going down a trippy rabbit hole. I will say that the movie didn’t have many twists and turns with its plot development, but it didn’t really need to. I was intrigued enough by the story and where it went. As you would expect with a movie having censorship as one of the key aspects, Censor touches on the question about whether watching violence on video or film would make people prone to commit violence themselves. I thought tha and the commentary on censorship was quite interesting. Despite this, the focus is more with the protagonist and her story for the most part, which was probably for the best. Even though it does take a slow pacing through the story, I was invested going along this journey with protagonist Enid. Unfortunately I do think the movie struggles to combine the two strongest parts, the setting with the video nasty era, and the character study. When it’s focusing on one at a time it really works, not so much when the film tries to combine them. In the end the censorship and video nasties aspect take a back seat later on in the movie anyway, and I felt the two elements could’ve been integrated better. Also the movie really feels like two halves, each of which almost feel like different movies. The first half is a slow but intriguing mystery, the second half picks up the pace but probably a little too much, with the change in pace being a little too quick. While I do enjoy the third act and the ending, it does go off the rails here, for better and for worse. Looking back at the story and themes, it doesn’t quite come together. It really needed a longer runtime to bring everything together. Speaking of which, the movie is only 80 minutes long. For some it will feel longer because of the pacing but I was invested in this atmospheric ride, and I think it would’ve been better if it was at least 10-15 minutes longer.

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This movie is essentially anchored by the nuanced and strong performance from lead actor Niamh Algar. As Enid she’s hypnotising and a great strong on-screen presence. She is playing a character who slowly unravels as the memories of her long missing sister resurface and intertwine with the movies she watches every day. Most of the movie is just following her, and she carries the movie incredibly well. Although Algar is definitely the highlight, the rest of the cast are all doing great in their roles as well.

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Censor is the directorial debut of Prano Bailey-Bond, and it was quite a good first film from her. Immediately you can tell from the style that its paying tribute and taking influence from a lot of great horror auteurs from the 80s, including Dario Argento, Brian De Palma, and David Cronenberg. At times it does become a little too fond of its influences, but for the most part Bailey-Bond’s direction is its own thing. It is very effective from an aesthetic standpoint, for one it has a throwback look to it, with the production design and use of 35mm film at points. If you also really like neon bathed cinematography, Censor has a lot of that. The editing is great, and the sound effects and score add a lot to the atmosphere that the movie slowly builds. There is gore in this movie, but don’t expect a lot of it.

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Censor will be divisive among many people (even those who like horror) but it was a good ode to the video nasty era and a solid psychological horror thriller. Though it doesn’t feel complete by the end with regard to the plot and themes, and I had some issues with the way the story is structured and turns out, I was intrigued all the way through, the direction was great, and Niamh Algar was fantastic in the lead role. If you like horror, I think Censor is worth a watch, especially if you like the video nasty era that the movie is paying tribute to.

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021) Review

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The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, sexual references & offensive language
Cast:
Ryan Reynolds as Michael Bryce
Samuel L. Jackson as Darius Kincaid
Salma Hayek as Sonia Kincaid
Frank Grillo as Bobby O’Neill
Antonio Banderas as Aristotle Papadopoulos
Morgan Freeman as Michael Bryce Sr.
Director: Patrick Hughes

The world’s most lethal odd couple — bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) and hit man Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) — are back for another life-threatening mission. Still unlicensed and under scrutiny, Bryce is forced into action by Darius’s even more volatile wife (Salma Hayek). Soon, all three are in over their heads when a madman’s (Antonio Banderas) sinister plot threatens to leave Europe in total chaos.

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The Hitman’s Bodyguard was a relatively okay action comedy which I only checked out when its sequel, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, was coming soon. Going into the sequel I wasn’t expecting a different movie, just more of the same. Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson would be fun to watch, there would be some mixed action, and a generic plot. The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard was that, but just a little bit sillier, for better and for worse.

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I remember one of the main issues of the first movie was that it didn’t seem to know what kind of tone it was aiming for. It was either too serious and dark, or it was too silly and goofy, and it could’ve helped by leaning towards one or the other. So one thing that the sequel does well is that it sticks to one side, that being the silly side. It’s on a larger scale, with a rich Bond-esque villain with a plan for large scale destruction using some machine. That aside, for the most part it does seem to be going through the same motions as the first movie, more of the same but even messier. One disadvantage of this decision to go in this direction however is that the plot is just so over the top silly. As soon as I picked up on the what it was going for, I stopped paying attention to the plot at all. The plot of the first movie wasn’t that good, but having it be a simple “get the hitman to the court alive” plot worked well enough. With Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, it really just falls apart if you even think about it, and it is definitely less well constructed. The dumb plot is hard to ignore, packed with every dumb trope, including a weapon to blow up stuff on a large scale, flashbacks explaining characters’ backstories, you name it. Even the plot is surprisingly convoluted and barely comprehensible looking back at it, all the while still feeling like a plot is barely there. It’s clear that it’s the jokes that are the real focus. The characters are even more cartoonish too, it feels like literally every character is angry and screaming at each other at times, it really is such a loud movie. So while I’m not really the type of person to say to turn your brain off when watching a movie, I’d say try to not think too hard about what’s happening while watching. With that being said, I think the movie is deliberately parodying itself, and looking at the movie from that perspective does help. There is particularly a backstory for Ryan Reynolds which is so ridiculous that it’s actually quite funny, and I’m assuming that this was intentional. The humour is about the same level, mildly funny, however probably even more over the top and juvenile. Not all the jokes work out, but on the whole I was satisfied with the humour here. One of the best moments is actually the final moment of the movie, so if you’re two thirds into the movie and aren’t finding it funny, it’s worth sticking to the end at least.

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As usual the leading pair of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson return, and while not everyone likes their on screen chemistry, I do enjoy it and think it works. I will say that it does feel a little contrived that their characters are bickering so much in this movie, considering that in that both of them grew to like each other over the course of the first movie. However this time it’s not a leading pair, but rather a trio. Salma Hayek returns from the previous movie as Jackson’s wife, this time being upgraded to a co-leading role, and she definitely stands out among the movie. Her wackiness can get on the nerves at times but in all fairness, out of all of the cast she has the most energy and gives the most to the movie. There is a pretty strong chemistry between the three actors and once again this is the highlight of the movie. Antonio Banderas is the film’s villain, and he is committed to being intense, however a bit too serious in a movie this cartoonish. However character-wise, he does seem to work better in this movie as a D-level Bond villain compared to Gary Oldman’s dictator villain in the first movie.

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Patrick Hughes returns to direct this one, and the direction is at about the same level as the first movie. The action is mostly competent and gory, if too heavily edited and chaotic. It does go for more over the top comedy action, physics basically have no meaning in this movie. It is departing from some of the more grounded and serious action from the first movie, which even had some surprising tension. I remember that the first movie lingered on the grimness of some of the violence, which initially seemed out of place in a movie with that much comedy, however I think I still prefer the action of the first Hitman’s Bodyguard movie more. The CGI is quite bad, especially when it comes to the explosions. Still, I had some fun with the action in this movie.

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The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is another mixed bag really, better and worse than the first movie. It is more self-aware and silly, but sort of at the expense as itself. The chemistry between Reynolds, Jackson and Hayek was fun, and some of the action was enjoyable but that’s it. The ending of this indicates seems like there’s going to be a third movie, and I’m not really sure what they can really do with it. If you disliked the first movie, I don’t really see a situation where you’ll like the sequel. However, if you enjoyed the first movie and are interested in a sequel on the same level, albeit much sillier, then maybe check it out.

Free Guy (2021) Review

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Free Guy

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Ryan Reynolds as Guy
Jodie Comer as Millie Rusk/Molotov Girl
Lil Rel Howery as Buddy
Utkarsh Ambudkar as Mouser
Joe Keery as Walter “Keys” McKeys
Taika Waititi as Antwan
Director: Shawn Levy

When a bank teller (Ryan Reynolds) discovers he’s actually a background player in an open-world video game, he decides to become the hero of his own story — one that he can rewrite himself. In a world where there’s no limits, he’s determined to save the day his way before it’s too late, and maybe find a little romance with the coder who conceived him.

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After long last, Free Guy finally releases. Going into it, there were a few things that had me put me off about it. First of all, it does look like the most Ryan Reynolds movie ever, even though I like him. Second of all, it is about video games, and most portrayals of video games from big budget studios aren’t all that great, which had me more concerned than the actual movie adaptations of video games. Then there was the fact that the trailers were shown so much at the cinema, not only in the past months, but also last year when the movie was originally meant to be released before it was delayed, to an annoying degree. So by the time it got to August, I wasn’t exactly anticipating the movie, with the exception of the exit of its trailers from the cinema. However, I ended up deciding to watch Free Guy after I heard that it’s good from people who have seen it, and it surprised me. It’s not great by any means but it was better than I thought it would be.

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The marketing team for this movie didn’t give Free Guy the best of trailers, but at least did a good job at hiding most of the best moments and cameos. Even as someone who was forced to watch the trailers an endless number of times, I was surprised with where the movie goes. Going in blind if possible would be a great choice. I found myself enjoying the story, as well as where it was all going. I will say that after the various twists and turns in the first half, things become rather straightforward in the second half. It’s a little disappointing because it feels like it doesn’t fulfil the potential that we didn’t know it had going into it. There are multiple themes about creative freedom, originality and corporate greed, but it even gets existential at times. The first film that comes to mind is of course The Truman Show, not that Free Guy comes anywhere near close to it. Instead, it plays things a bit too safe by the end, instead delivering a standard message about acceptance. It isn’t bad but just a little disappointing. The movie has genuine heartfelt moments with these characters, and I was surprised at how much effort was put into them. Now for the elephant in the room: it is a movie about video games. As a gamer, a big budget movie depicting video games is already a concern. As far as depictions of games and gamer culture go however, it’s not the worst. It actually does feel like some of the people involved at least somewhat know about gaming, possibly even played one. There is some pandering to a degree but not at the level as say Ready Player One. Some Ips are thrown into the movie, however they are intended more as brief Easter Eggs and it doesn’t feel like the movie is overly relying on the audience loving them. The humour may be hit or miss, if only because it is mainly catered to gamers. However I think some non gamers can still find the movie funny, and I enjoyed it. There are some cameos in the movie, and I’m not going to read any of them out or what most of the cameos consist of because I know that it would more than likely scare off a lot of people from actually watching the movie. Most of the prominent cameos are people known for gaming, that’s as far as I’ll go. I do understand why they were included in the movie, and honestly I didn’t dislike them as much as I thought I would. Although it will feel jarring every time it would cut to them, and while I get it is supposed to be meta, it feels out of place. The worst instants are in the third act, where I really could’ve done without them showing up. With that said, there are a couple of non-gaming cameos which I really liked.

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The cast are all good in their parts. Ryan Reynolds plays his usual self as most could’ve figured from the trailer, even though this time its as a NPC (non player character) in a video game world. As someone who likes him as an actor, I did feel like he could’ve just fallen into doing the same old schtick but he works quite well. He is genuinely funny, you care about his character, and he has some great moments. Reynolds was a surprisingly great pick for the role. The standout among the entire cast though was Jodie Comer, who gives so much to this movie and probably elevates. In this movie we see her in two roles, as a character named Millie in the real world, and as Molotov Girl, Millie’s avatar within the game world. She is amazing in both parts, and there is some great chemistry between her and Reynolds. Joe Keery was quite good in his part, even though he was overshadowed by the main leads, and Lil Rel Howery is entertaining as a security guard and friend of Guy. Taika Waititi effectively plays the unhinged villain as the developer of the game that much of the movie takes place inside. Taika is certainly very energetic, but aside from doing what you would expect from him, as an antagonist he is very one dimensional. It’s just as well that Waititi goes over the top. because otherwise the character would’ve been completely forgettable.

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Shawn Levy is the director of the movie, I mostly know him as the director of the Night of the Museum movies. However I think this is the best work he’s done as a director. First of all I really like how this video game world is portrayed, as a world taking a lot from the open world from Grand Theft Auto knockoff, it is portrayed very well. Not only that but the visual effects works and fitting considering the setting for most of the movie. The action is also really entertaining and energetic.

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Free Guy was way better than it had any right to be. I know that not everyone is going to like it, but it was genuinely a nice surprise for me. I was entertained by the story and characters, the action was enjoyable, I generally found the movie funny, and the cast were good, especially Reynolds and Comer. For what it’s worth, as someone who had low expectations going in, I think it’s worth a chance at least.