Tag Archives: 2022

Memory (2022) Review

M_10611_RC

Memory (2022)

Time: 104 Minutes
Cast:
Liam Neeson as Alex Lewis
Guy Pearce as Vincent Serra
Monica Bellucci as Davana Sealman
Harold Torres as Hugo Marquez
Taj Atwal as Linda Amistead
Ray Fearon as Gerald Nussbaum
Director: Martin Campbell

When Alex, an expert assassin, refuses to complete a job for a dangerous criminal organization, he becomes a target. FBI agents and Mexican intelligence are brought in to investigate the trail of bodies, leading them closer to Alex. With the crime syndicate and FBI in hot pursuit, Alex has the skills to stay ahead, except for one thing: he is struggling with severe memory loss, affecting his every move. Alex must question his every action and whom he can ultimately trust.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

While I generally like Liam Neeson’s action movies, they are very samey and repetitive and there’s only a few I’d call really good. I heard some mixed things about his latest film Memory, but I was willing to check it out, especially with Martin Campbell directing it. Having seen it, I wouldn’t call it good but overall, I liked it.

memory1-videoSixteenByNine3000

Memory is a very generic revenge crime thriller. Essentially its two separate movies in one, following Liam Neeson’s hitman getting revenge, and Guy Pearce and his FBI team investigating a child trafficking ring and tracking down Neeson. The story is average and isn’t that interesting, but it is watchable and it is easy to understand what’s going on. The mystery wasn’t that intriguing, it pretty much tells you (almost spoonfeeds you) exactly what’s going on. It doesn’t help that it is predictable, and you can tell what’s going to happen. There are some interesting aspects which had potential. The title of the film is Memory because Liam Neeson’s character is suffering from memory loss. It does dedicate some scenes to that, and they could’ve done something with it. However, it almost just feels placed in there so he can struggle in convenient moments.

9b07f6d9f4fbd092f1ee2e4dc2a5c566

Liam Neeson has done many of these types of movies before, but he’s generally good in all of them and at least seems committed to the roles, Memory is no exception. This is darker than some of his other characters, leaning into being more an antihero. He does well at appearing convincingly intimidating but still manages to convey vulnerability in some scenes. Guy Pearce is also in a major role and is really good, giving some sincerity to his FBI agent character. Both Neeson and Pearce are probably the reason that I enjoyed the movie despite its major faults. The rest of the cast including Taj Atwal and Ray Stevenson plays their parts well too. The only exception is Monica Bellucci as the closest thing to a main villain in the movie. She’s given so little screentime, doesn’t do much, isn’t interesting, and even the performance is very bored and phoned in.

MV5BZjQ2MGM2OGMtOTNhNi00OTY4LTg2N2QtZjRlNzcxZDQyMjhiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDA4NzMyOA@@._V1_

Martin Campbell directs this, and unfortunately this is not one of his greater action films like Casino Royale or The Mask of Zorro. Nonetheless it is still competently made. The visuals aren’t that interesting, but are serviceable nonetheless. The action isn’t as frequent as you would like it to be, when it’s on screen it is pretty good, if standard and mostly consisting of typical fighting and gun battles.

_xlarge

Memory was a better movie than I was expecting given its reception, but it’s not like I don’t understand it. It’s another disappointing movie from Martin Campbell, who has delivered some great action movies in the past, but whose recent work has been fairly underwhelming. Even when you compare it to his weaker movies, this is probably one of his worst yet. Ironically, Memory is a very forgettable movie that’s mostly let down by its script. That being said, the direction is competent, the action is enjoyable, and the performances are mostly solid, particularly with Liam Neeson and Guy Pearce’s committed work. If you generally like Neeson’s other action movies, you’ll probably find stuff to enjoy here.

After Yang (2022) Review

after-yang_02_slide-bbca9891eb5916ef9fe7db3986a75fdc8181662b

After Yang

Time: 96 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Coarse language
Cast:
Colin Farrell as Jake Fleming
Jodie Turner-Smith as Kyra Fleming
Justin H. Min as Yang Fleming
Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja as Mika Fleming
Haley Lu Richardson as Ada
Director: Kogonada

When his young daughter’s beloved companion, an android named Yang malfunctions, Jake searches for a way to repair him. In the process, Jake discovers the life that has been passing in front of him, reconnecting with his wife and daughter across a distance he didn’t know was there.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

After Yang was one of my most anticipated films of this year. A couple of years ago, I watched Columbus and was very surprised, it was incredible and lingered in the mind long after watching. Naturally I was interested in what director Kogonada would make next. Finally his next film is here, this time a sci-fi movie starring Colin Farrell. His sophomore feature is released about 5 years after his debut movie, but the wait was well worth it.

Brody-After-Yang

After Yang is a very contemplative and meditative movie, and such it really takes its time, especially at the beginning. It might turn off some people who aren’t interested in a slow burn, but I was invested in everything that happened. Despite being set vaguely in the future, much of the setting is kept vague, and it is deliberately focused in telling an intimate story. It uses advancements like robots to help to serve the story, and not necessarily be the focus. Essentially, After Yang is a movie about coming to terms with a potential death in the family. There’s a lot that can be taken from this movie. Without providing the context in the plot I can say that a major part involves memory and losing time. With it involving robots, unsurprisingly it is a movie about what it means to be living the life of a human being and to be alive, but also what it means to be in a family. It even covers adoption and racial identity. After Yang is a very thought-provoking film, especially with the conversations between characters. Its very bittersweet, yet tender and heartfelt, and it sticks with you long after watching. There are some issues I had, even though I liked how it ended, it felt a little abrupt. There is also some corporate conspiracy subplot that was introduced during the movie, but it doesn’t amount to anything. It might’ve been intended as a bit of worldbuilding, but this surveillance part came up more than a couple of times that it distracted a little bit.

FNAe6dXWQAY1F7t

The cast are all great, everyone gives such convincing performances. Colin Farrell is the main focus of the movie and is the standout. This is some of his best work, very subtle yet very powerful. The rest of the cast playing the family are really good, Jodie Turner-Smith, Malea Emma Tjandreawidjaja, and Justin H. Min as Yang the robot. Haley Lu Richardson is also great in her small but notable part.

MCDAFYA_EC004

As I said earlier, the main reason I was interested in After Yang was its director Kogonada. His work on Columbus was fantastic, and once again he delivers here. Like with Columbus it has a very calming and dreamlike atmosphere, and the cinematography is outstanding and stunning, with some aesthetically pleasing visuals especially with the production design. It’s incredibly edited, especially in the way that they portray memories. Finally, the soundtrack from Aska Matsumiya is beautiful and entrancing, perfectly accompanying the relaxed and mediative vibe of the movie.

After-Yang-Film-Still-Culture-06

After Yang is another fantastic movie from Kogonada. A mediative, intimate, existential yet beautiful reflection on life, loss and humanity. Its visually stunning, directed incredibly, and made even better with the powerful performances from the cast. I highly recommend watching it if you haven’t already, it’s one of my favourites of this year thus far.

Decision to Leave (2022) Review

Decision to Leave-2000-2000-1125-1125-crop-fill

Decision to Leave

Time: 138 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language, sex scenes, suicide & content that may disturb
Cast:
Tang Wei as Seo-rae
Park Hae-il as Hae-jun
Director: Park Chan-wook

A detective investigating a man’s death in the mountains ends up meeting and developing feelings for the dead man’s mysterious wife in the course of his dogged sleuthing.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

Park Chan-wook is one of my all time favourite filmmakers and I was excited to see him direct another movie, especially since its been 6 years since his last movie (the excellent The Handmaiden). He did not disappoint with Decision to Leave.

MV5BNjc4MmMyZDktNDdiZC00ZDI0LWFkYjQtMWY4YjY0ZWM4YTMxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjk1NzU1Mjk@._V1_

On paper, Decision to Leave looks like a very standard police procedural thriller, the he plot following a detective investigating the death of a man and his mysterious wife. Surprisingly though, its more of a romance, its almost like a Wong Kar-wai film if it was made by Park Chan-wook. I loved the first half, I was engrossed and intrigued with the story. Its filled with detailed clues, deceit, and is layered with important subtleties. That mostly comes down to the central relationship that is unconventional and weird, yet incredibly compelling, and one which I was wrapped up in. The movie isn’t without its issues. Unfortunately, around halfway into the movie (without spoiling anything), there is a notable shift in the story, and I became less invested. There are points where the plot could also get a little too convoluted, more so in the latter part of the story. It’s a film that is deliberately paced across its 2 hours and 20 minutes, it was very appropriate and allowed things to naturally develop, especially with the central romance. However, I found that it could drag in parts (mainly the second half), and there are parts of the movie which could’ve been tightened a little bit. That being said, the film does end on a great and memorable note.

decision-to-leave-movie-review-2022

All the actors play their parts well, but it really comes down to the lead characters played by Tang Wei and Park Hae-il, both of whom are excellent. Their relationship is what kept me invested throughout the film; there is a lot of intimate tension between the two, and you feel that every gesture, glance and action are significant. The relationship felt believable, and the two definitely played a big part in the movie working as well as it did.

Decision-To-Leave-1

As to be expected, Park Chan-wook’s direction is phenomenal, and Decision to Leave is fantastic on a technical level. The cinematography is spectacular, and the visuals are alluring and vivid. Whether it is showing a mountain, an ocean, or anything else, it captures them beautifully. The camerawork is very creative and inventive, especially with its movement and focus. It is already one of the best shot movies of the year. The editing is energetic and fantastic too, with some particularly outstanding and smooth shot transitions. On top of all those is a hauntingly beautiful score from composer and frequent Park Chan-wook collaborator Jo Yeong-wook, which fits the film perfectly.

decision-to-leave-2

Decision to Leave is another fantastic film from Park Chan-wook. There are some issues I have with it, the second half particularly brings down the movie from being on the level of some of his very best movies. That’s a little disappointing, because everything else is amazing. It is stunning to look at, Park’s direction is outstanding, and for all the faults in the story, the central relationship is compelling and is performed beautifully by Tang Wei and Park Hae-il. Decision to Leave is not to be missed, and it is already one of the best movies of the year.

Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022) Review

idris

Three Thousand Years of Longing

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language, sex scenes & nudity
Cast:
Idris Elba as the Djinn
Tilda Swinton as Alithea Binnie
Director: George Miller

A lonely and bitter British woman discovers an ancient bottle while on a trip to Istanbul and unleashes a djinn who offers her three wishes. Filled with apathy, she is unable to come up with one until his stories spark in her a desire to be loved.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

Three Thousand Years of Longing was one of my most anticipated movies of 2022. While it already had Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba in the lead roles, the main reason I was excited is that it’s the newest film from George Miller, who last directed the incredible Mad Max: Fury Road 7 years ago. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from his upcoming movie. The premise seemed a bit vague and simple, and the trailer didn’t really convey much except for its strong visuals. Still, I was curious enough to check it out, and I’m glad I watched it.

FayKb5YWAAIzPCg

First of all, Three Thousand Years of Longing is nothing like the trailer. It showed the basic premise and there are certainly some crazy visuals, but that’s not the nature of the movie. Its not a bombastic spectacle, and its certainly not as chaotic and fast paced as it appeared in the trailers, nor is it as thrilling compared to Miller’s last movie. In fact, it is more of a subdued, endearing and existential fairy-tale love story for adults. The plot and storytelling is more straightforward than you might think it would be. For the most part, this movie surrounds a conversation between Idris Elba’s djinn genie and Tilda Swinton, as he offers her 3 wishes and recounts stories from his past. It is a sincere thought provoking character study about stories (and the importance of them), and a meditation on life, love, and desire. The movie has a lot of narration, and while it can be hit or miss in movies, it fits here given that characters are actually telling stories here. Its very dialogue heavy as you would expect, and I found the conversations between Elba and Swinton to be compelling. In the opening 10 minutes, I wasn’t really sure about what was happening with the story or what direction it is going in. However, it picks up the moment that Idris Elba comes out of the bottle. The third act is a bit out of place from the rest of the movie, it stumbles a little and the pacing is weird. While I was satisfied with the movie, I couldn’t help but feel like it could’ve been longer. Perhaps it was originally longer and was cut down for the theatrical cut, an hour and 50 minutes does feel a little short. Part of that is that it feels a little rushed towards the end, even though I enjoyed it.

THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING

As for acting, it really comes down to the lead performances from Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton, both of them are great. They are genuine in their parts, and I like the relationship that they form. I will say however that I wished we got to learn more about Swinton’s character. At some points she talks about her life, but not a great amount, and it particularly pales when compared to all the stories that Elba tells of his very long life.

three-thousand-years-of-longing-TTYOL_00010_RC_rgb-1200x675-1

George Miller directs, and once again his work is incredible, very stylish and creative. He already showed this in Mad Max: Fury Road, but he really is a master of visual storytelling. There are some spectacular sequences, and it was great to experience this in the cinema. The camerawork and cinematography are sweeping and amazing, and the visuals are stunning. There is also so much care put into the set decoration and designs. There is a lot of CGI in this, and sometimes is looks great. At other times however, it looks a bit weird, almost like it’s unfinished. The score from Tom Holkenborg is amazing, and some of his very best work.

three-thousand-years-of-longing-movie

Three Thousand Years of Longing is definitely rough in parts, some of the CGI is a bit dodgy, and parts towards the second half do feel a bit awkward, and it could’ve afforded to have been a little longer. It is also definitely not for everyone, as can be seen with the disappointing box office. It wasn’t helped by the poor marketing, but then again, its not an easy movie to sell to audiences. It’s a shame because it’s the kind of film that we don’t get a lot of nowadays; director driven, sincere, and not afraid to be creative, weird or different. With Three Thousand Years of Longing, George Miller has created a $60 million arthouse movie. The story is genuine and compelling, Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton are great, its visually beautiful, and Miller’s direction and craft are on full display here. I know its not for everyone, but I do think its worth checking out. One of the most surprising movies of 2022.

Nope (2022) Review

Danielsen_0922_1140x700

Nope

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, horror scenes & offensive language
Cast:
Daniel Kaluuya as Otis Jr. “OJ” Haywood
Keke Palmer as Emerald “Em” Haywood
Steven Yeun as Ricky “Jupe” Park
Brandon Perea as Angel Torres
Michael Wincott as Antlers Holst
Wrenn Schmidt as Amber Park
Keith David as Otis Haywood Sr.
Director: Jordan Peele

Residents in a lonely gulch of inland California bear witness to an uncanny, chilling discovery.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1]

Nope was one of my most anticipated movies of 2022, simply because it’s the newest film from Jordan Peele. I loved his past work with Get Out and Us, and while I didn’t know much about Nope except the cast and theories about what it might be about, I was very interested in it. I had to wait about an extra month before I could watch the movie, but I finally got the chance to watch Nope, and it did not disappoint.

Brody-Nope-Review

Much like Jordan Peele’s other movies, Nope is really worth going into blind, so I’ll try to keep details regarding the plot to a minimum. Nope has a considerably larger scale compared to his past movies, and I think the ambition paid off. This is definitely a genre picture and a love letter to sci-fi, there are even whimsical moments that are reminiscent of Steven Spielberg’s movies. At the same time, it is thematically dense and layered with biting social commentary. I won’t go into too much depth with what the movie is about, but I can some of the prominent themes include, exploitation (particularly of animals), and how people can turn trauma, violence and tragedy into spectacle for the masses and profit; ironically, Nope is a spectacle about a spectacle. It explores the dark truth of what it means to create or capture an extravaganza, and asks whether it is worth it at all. There’s a lot here that can be unpacked and analysed, and it had me reflecting on some moments and choices hours after watching the film. As expected with it being a Jordan Peele movie, Nope has some comedy which fits surprisingly well and is entertaining. At the same time, it equally handle the horror well too. Between the three Peele movies, this is probably his least scary film thus far. Still, there is this a looming sense of dread throughout, with eerie tension and a terrifying atmosphere. It also has probably the scariest scene I’ve seen from his movies; its halfway through the movie and lasts for probably less than a minute, but it was one of the most unnerving scenes I’ve seen from a recent horror film. Nope is a long movie at 130 minutes and the slow pacing might turn some people off, especially early on when it’s setting up the story. However, it worked for me, and it culminated in a highly satisfying third act.

NOPE-still3-e1653417332273

The small but intimate cast give great, subtle and layered performances here. Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer play the protagonists, and they are fantastic here. They are very believable and share a convincing on-screen sibling bond together. The rest of the cast including Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott, Keith David and more are really good too, each of them adding something to the movie.

nopecover.0

Jordan Peele once again delivers on his direction, this time helming his biggest movie yet. The cinematography from Hoyte van Hoytema is absolutely stunning. It excellently captures the sky at different times of the day, and particularly shines with the scenes taking place at night. The scenes of tension are also very effective, even simple shots of clouds manage to feel unnerving. It’s perfectly edited, and the production and set designs are great. The sound design was also a highlight, amazing and immersive, it was really something to experience the film in the cinema. On that note, the music from Michael Abels is dynamic and fantastic.

162384-tv-news-feature-how-to-watch-nope-2022-is-the-latest-jordan-peele-movie-streaming-yet-image1-kvqcqk9ajh

Nope was fantastic, it is already one of my favourite movies of the year: a tense, thematically dense and spectacular sci-fi horror movie. Jordan Peele’s writing and direction are incredible as usual, and the cast deliver excellent performances, especially Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer. There’s a lot to unpack with this movie with its themes and what its saying; there’s a lot there and it is definitely one I need to rewatch. But for now, I can say that it is another great movie from Peele, and possibly his best yet.

Spiderhead (2022) Review

merlin_208369812_617c5645-82a5-4e3e-9f3d-a1171fc36bac-mobileMasterAt3x

Spiderhead

Time: 106 Minutes
Cast:
Chris Hemsworth as Steve Abnesti
Miles Teller as Jeff
Jurnee Smollett as Lizzy
Director: Joseph Kosinski

Two inmates form a connection while grappling with their pasts in a state-of-the-art penitentiary run by a brilliant visionary who experiments on his subjects with mind-altering drugs.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

Spiderhead didn’t receive the best reception when it released on Netflix, but I was curious to check it out. The premise and trailer did look interesting, most of all however is the fact that Joseph Kosinski helmed it, and earlier he delivered the especially great Top Gun: Maverick this year. So I went into it open minded and came out pleasantly surprised, even if it could’ve been a lot better.

AAAAQYmdCJlz_ySWHBN4bP771oMGmlArT3CaHwstUSKOs3OsZlOL5C5B4T453PcBT_us3IwkkAOqnvZhD2X2NP7pLJTpXqRsIAgeYlTh_MRInHcvxr8Gyqwr3VVTI_MVVmPY4lLIAZ858WRniM8G-TEVMTVrJ90

First of all, I liked the idea of this dystopian sci-fi thriller premise which definitely had potential, with it focussing on a prison with convicts having mind altering drugs tested on them. Spiderhead is a slow burner and doesn’t move quickly, but it was intriguing enough to me; there was always something that had me interested in seeing how everything would play out, and it was playing. Also, I liked that it was goofier and weirder than expected, it gave the movie an off kilter personality. That being said, the writing is the weakest part of the movie. For all its ideas and potential, it could’ve been so much more. It felt like the script was undeveloped and needed a lot more fleshing out. It definitely plays around with some thought provoking ideas, but doesn’t do much with them. It feels like it could’ve been made as an hour long Black Mirror episode, or feature length if there were a few more rewrites. The characters are well acted, however they aren’t that interesting outside of maybe Chris Hemsworth’s character. At a certain point form the third act to the ending, it just really falls off with no effective thrills. It seems to give up on taking any of its themes anywhere interesting and rushes towards a very predictable and safe climax.

chris-hemsworth-as-abnesti-and-miles-teller-as-jeff-spiderhead-1655198360

The acting is one of the best parts of the movie. Miles Teller delivers some really good work in his second collaboration with Joseph Kosinski this year, here playing the protagonist. The rest of the cast are also solid including Jurnee Smollett, although her character is unfortunately underutilised despite playing a notable part in the movie. However out of all of them, Chris Hemsworth is the standout in a rare villain role; his natural charisma is utilised incredibly well, and the movie lights up whenever he appears on screen. This is one of his best performances, and between this and Bad Times at the El Royale, I would like to see Hemsworth more in these types of different roles because he’s great at it.

Spiderhead-Smollett-Teller

Joseph Kosinski’s last sci-fi movie was 9 years ago with Oblivion, so it was nice to see him to return to the genre with Spiderhead. Overall his direction is very solid. The cinematography is strong, and the production design works with the futuristic interiors, as well as the remote island that it takes place on. The sound design is effective too, its strong on a technical level. The score from Joseph Trapanese adds a lot to the movie, and the soundtrack on the whole really adds personality to the tone of the movie.

spiderhead-1

Spiderhead isn’t one of Joseph Kosinski’s best, in fact its probably his worst movie yet. That being said, there’s a lot that works here and I probably like it more than most people. The actors are really good in their parts, especially Miles Teller and Chris Hemsworth, and Kosinski’s direction is solid on the whole. There’s even some tense and enjoyable moments throughout, and I like some of the ideas here. It’s just that the story and script needed a lot more fleshing out to really work, and feels subpar when compared to the other much better sci-fi movies that it is taking from. Still, I’m glad that I watched it.

Thirteen Lives (2022) Review

3000

Thirteen Lives

Time: 147 Minutes
Cast:
Viggo Mortensen as Richard Stanton
Colin Farrell as John Volanthen
Joel Edgerton as Richard Harris
Tom Bateman as Chris Jewell
Director: Ron Howard

A rescue mission is assembled in Thailand where a group of young boys and their soccer coach are trapped in a system of underground caves that are flooding.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I remember hearing the story of the rescue of a youth soccer team in a cave in Thailand back in 2018, and its no surprise that a movie would end up being made based on it. That eventually resulted in one such film directed by Ron Howard. I haven’t seen the documentary about the same event called The Rescue which came out a year earlier, but I liked Thirteen Lives.

thirteen-lives-blogroll-1659029609708

Thirteen Lives is well scripted, the story is simple and is told in a straightforward way. I only knew the very basics of the real story, so some of the reveals and directions the story went in did genuinely surprise me, especially with the methods the divers took to rescue the people from the cave. While it is a dramatization and certain moments might’ve been added in just to raise the tension, it keeps any added melodrama to a minimum. The story didn’t need additional work and speaks for itself. Despite knowing the outcome of the story, the stakes felt high and it was compelling watching everyone come together in an effort to try to save all those lives. There isn’t a lot of character development, as a result I do think that it doesn’t quite have the emotional impact that it is aiming for. This is a long movie at 2 hours and 30 minutes long, and while I was invested in what is going on, it does admittedly overstay its welcome a bit, and is a bit too long.

29968681_web1_20220803100824-62ea857d0e4c200aa584dcbdjpeg

One of the strongest aspects was the great acting. Colin Farrell and Viggo Mortensen are great as the cave divers from the UK who try to rescue the boys. The rest of the cast are strong from (an especially great) Joel Edgerton, Tom Bateman, and everyone else, down to the actors who play the kids trapped in the cave.

MV5BMDc5Y2JjZmYtZDNiZS00Mjc1LTljOGQtYjJkNjYxYThlZWZjXkEyXkFqcGdeQWRvb2xpbmhk._V1_

Ron Howard directs this movie very well and he especially succeeds at making everything feel effectively tense. The cave diving scenes are some of the highlights of the movie, well shot, riveting and claustrophobic. There is some impressive underwater camera work and great sound design that makes you feel like you’re right there with the divers as they navigate the dark and cramped caves. I can’t speak as to how it was in real life, but it certainly felt authentic. Its also helped by the score from a solid score from an ever reliable Benjamin Wallfisch.

THIRTEEN LIVES (2022)

Thirteen Lives is a solid thriller and admirable retelling of the true events. It may be a little too long and the lack of characterisation does take away from the movie somewhat, but on the whole its really good, with the straightforward storytelling, strong performances, and Ron Howard’s direction. Worth checking out.

The Gray Man (2022) Review

the-gray-man-gosling-prague-city-hall

The Gray Man

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language & cruelty
Cast:
Ryan Gosling as “Sierra Six”
Chris Evans as Lloyd Hansen
Ana de Armas as Dani Miranda
Jessica Henwick as Suzanne Brewer
Regé-Jean Page as Denny Carmichael
Wagner Moura as Laszlo Sosa
Julia Butters as Claire Fitzroy
Dhanush as “Lone Wolf”
Alfre Woodard as Margaret Cahill
Billy Bob Thornton as Donald Fitzroy
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

When the CIA’s top asset — his identity known to no one — uncovers agency secrets, he triggers a global hunt by assassins set loose by his ex-colleague.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I knew of The Gray Man as it was coming up to its release date, one of the newest movies from the Russo Brothers post Avengers: Endgame. It’s an action spy film with a massive cast including Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans and Ana de Armas. The movie looked like standard Netflix fare, but I went into it open minded; I found it passable.

The Gray Man

The writing is a mixed bag to say the least. The Gray Man has a generic spy plot and as such it falls into many annoying cliches of the genre. I guess it is fine, but at a certain point the story stops mattering, as there’s a lot more importance placed on the set pieces. You kind of forget what the initial plot setup was by the third act. It is also hard to care about what’s going on despite the script’s best attempts. The characters aren’t that interesting, the only one who is remotely developed is Ryan Gosling’s protagonist. It makes an effort to make the character played by Julia Butters the heart and soul of the film, mainly with Gosling’s connection with her, but it feels lifeless and obligatory. The humour for the most part didn’t work, with some very dry jokes. The pacing is generally okay, but there is a section which has an extended flashback and while I get the reason for that section, it really halts the plot while it conveys the information. I get the feeling that the movie would’ve worked more if it came out in the 90s. As it is released today, its missing the charm that a movie like that might have. Not helping matters is the ending not feeling fully resolved, and its very clear that they were already intending to make sequels to this.

wallpapersden.com_ana-de-armas-in-the-gray-man-netflix-movie_2732x2048

There is a massively talented cast here and while they are generally decent, none of them are doing great work. Ryan Gosling was the standout as the titular Gray Man. It’s certainly nowhere close to being one of Gosling’s best work by any means. However, he was pretty good with what he was given, it certainly helps that he’s the only character with any form of backstory or development. He was also quite convincing during the action scenes. Chris Evans plays a psychopathic ex-spy sent after Gosling in a rare villain role; it’s the type of role that John Travolta would’ve played in the 90s like Broken Arrow or Face/Off. It seems that Evans is a little miscast, even though he has played darker more villainous characters in other movies and done well at them. I think the problem is that the character is written quite generic, despite the movie deliberately showing how crazy he is. For this character to work, it would’ve required an actor who could deliver a certain kind of crazy to elevate it, unfortunately Evans is not that. For what its worth, at least it looks like he’s having fun and hams it up. It’s just a shame that despite the movie building up the concept of the two facing off, the two actors don’t share that much screentime. The supporting cast are fairly underutilised including Ana de Armas, Jessica Henwick, Rege Jean-Page, Alfre Woodard, Billy Bob Thornton and Julia Butters, but they are okay in their roles.

THE-GRAY-MAN-_-Gosling-vs

The Russo Brothers have delivered better in their previous movies, their work here is just fine. For a 200 million dollar budget movie, it could’ve been so much more. The movie is generally shot okay, but it can also look a bit bland visually. The action set pieces are nice and chaotic, however the cuts really take away from it. There are lots of drone shots, its fine but probably not as good as in other movies. It especially doesn’t help that earlier in the year, Michael Bay’s Ambulance utilised drone footage in a more exciting way. The Gray Man uses it an attempt to be flashy but ultimately it was pointless.

ie_86710

The Gray Man is a fairly entertaining yet forgettable spy movie, which is only memorable for the actors in it. As far as Netflix action movies go, it is on the better end but considering some of their other films, that isn’t saying a lot. Its okay. but you wouldn’t be missing much if you didn’t watch it, a shame considering the talent working in the movie.

Interceptor (2022) Review

MV5BMjEzNWRiYjUtMmU5ZC00MjlmLWIwZmItMjRiN2Y5M2Y2MTZhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTEzMTI1Mjk3._V1_

Interceptor

Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Elsa Pataky as Captain J.J. Collins
Luke Bracey as Alexander Kessel
Director: Matthew Reilly

One Army captain is forced use her years of tactical training and military expertise when a simultaneous coordinated attack threatens the remote missile interceptor station of which she is in command.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I didn’t go into Interceptor expecting much. I really didn’t know anything about it beforehand, it was an action movie released on Netflix and it seemed very generic and familiar. My expectations turned out to be quite accurate because it was another straight to streaming action movie, and was pretty mediocre.

Interceptor_DSC8082r

The premise of Interceptor is simple, the lead character is stuck in a room while armed people on the outside try to get in. There are also military stakes given that said room is capable of intercepting enemy missiles before they make impact with the United States. It is a very familiar plot and has all the tired tropes that you would expect. The story is predictable and is recycled from countless other action movies. It is very cheesy and over the top, particularly with its dialogue. Now that doesn’t sound bad out of context, in fact it sounds like it could be enjoyable. Indeed, there are many action movies that have repetitive and recycled plots and have ridiculous dialogue, but it sounded like it could be a throwback of action thrillers from the 90s like Under Siege. The problem is that Interceptor takes itself seriously, so it plays the absurd plot straight faced and the goofy dialogue doesn’t have the self-awareness that a Steven Seagal movie might have. There are some themes and topics which are conveyed through dialogue, which would be fine if it wasn’t so heavy handed. They also give the lead character a backstory where without going too into it, she had gone through a lot. At first, I thought that it was just an obligatory backstory they put in for her, but it’s a present aspect throughout. The film spends time showing what happened to her and it feels really out of place in this movie. Not to mention, I just don’t think that this script is good enough to properly handle a story of sexual abuse and harassment. That aside, I just think the script is badly written. The plot isn’t riveting and there are tons of exposition dumps. Even the setup in the opening act is clumsy. The runtime is short at a tight 98 minutes, but somehow it felt a lot longer than that. Any scene that didn’t contain action did drag.

AAAAQSUeGbpUYWgqRv28_XfTYRPsj1VIusbreeBQ3WeVzGqB-Vn-ckkHlKDCRRm9VwtMSe6akU6UAfrke9JYSCwtvS1__yRDzj-qgagYf6otmkgqMkz0HpyLsHpaXOMqtLKAUjd0itZVWFTFQN0CX37uw0xpFHA

The acting performances are not that good. For what its worth, Elsa Pataky is decent and tries her best in the lead role. Her character is definitely roughly written, but Pataky does somewhat elevate the movie. The supporting performances aren’t up to par unfortunately, outside of a funny cameo from Chris Hemsworth. The villains are terrible and underwritten, with the main antagonist played by Luke Bracey being cliched and not imposing at all.

int2

The direction from Matthew Reilly is competent, yet average. The production value isn’t the best, as you would expect from a straight to streaming movie. The CGI when its there is terrible, especially when it comes to the missiles and explosions. That being said, the action scenes are some of the best parts of the movie. It’s not great but they are enjoyable to watch, you can see clearly what’s going on and there’s good stunt work. There are even some memorable and creative kills straight from an over the top 90s action flick.

MV5BOGI4MTNlNzgtZTMzZS00YmFiLWFhMWItYzZmZTY2NjU1N2MxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTEzMTI1Mjk3._V1_

Interceptor is an average straight to streaming action flick. It’s not one of the worst action movies ever but not good either. The action scenes are decently filmed, and Elsa Pataky does pretty well with what she is given. However, the script really lets the movie done quite some way, and had it been somewhat self-aware and leaned into that 90s throwback aspect, it might’ve been fun to watch in a cheesy way. As it is however, it is hard to enjoy watching.

Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) Review

a793abe421e04089bb3e38398a650164_4096x2725_ae13cf04

Thor Love and Thunder

Time: 119 minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Christian Bale as Gorr the God Butcher
Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie
Jaimie Alexander as Sif
Taika Waititi as Korg
Russell Crowe as Zeus
Natalie Portman as Jane Foster/Mighty Thor
Director: Taika Waititi

Thor embarks on a journey unlike anything he’s ever faced — a quest for inner peace. However, his retirement gets interrupted by Gorr the God Butcher, a galactic killer who seeks the extinction of the gods.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

With the MCU I find myself in a weird position. I seem to like all the movies while having some real criticisms for the MCU, both individually and on the whole. It doesn’t help that it has gotten into ‘Marvel fatigue’ as they don’t seem to have plans for where to take it outside of sustaining the machine and prolonging its existence. Still, I was going into the Marvel movies fairly open minded, including Thor: Love and Thunder. I rewatched Thor: Ragnarok leading up to its release, I still like it but I wasn’t loving it like other people, and Taika Waititi has certainly made much better movies outside of the MCU. The trailers didn’t look the best to me, but I was mildly interested. I expected Waititi to deliver another Ragnarok, and I was okay with that idea. Having seen it I have a lot of questions, starting with one: what happened?

thor-love-and-thunder-1655144857746-1656223948140

The weirdest part of the movie is that Taika Waititi doesn’t have a writing credit for Ragnarok, but he has sole writing credit for Love and Thunder. So unless there is evidence of studio interference, what happened with this new film is all on him. The film really takes no risks at all; in spite of Taika’s style, this has to be one of the safest and autopilot MCU movies I’ve seen. There’s just something about this movie that feels so manufactured and generic. Early in the movie it shows the Guardians of the Galaxy with Thor, and their inclusion felt like an obligation and just a way of dealing with the fact that they joined at the end of Endgame. Even treating the movie by itself, the storytelling and exposition really is lazy. Thor and co. find out about the new villain Gorr the God Butcher not by seeing him butcher gods, but by going online and learning from there. Then there’s the narration from Taika Waititi’s Korg in which he tells a story. It’s done with a comedic tone for sure but that can’t disguise how utterly lazy it is, and just there to fill in the gaps. The first time he did it I could tolerate it, but after that point it got annoying. The pacing is also messy, sometimes it jumps from one location to another really quickly, and at other point it lingers in some places for too long. The segment involving Zeus is an example of making it feel like its wasting your time. Taika was apparently going for a romantic comedy, and while there are some rom-com aspects in Love and Thunder, I think it did a terrible job. If they had lowered the stakes, remove the main villain, gave Jane more screentime and focussed more on her and Thor, it would’ve worked. But that’s not the case. There’s enough at play to make for a 2.5-hour long movie had things been expanded on more. However, at around 2 hours it feels rushed.

e5e56a25-6c29-484b-bd18-5a0eee423337

Some argue that people shouldn’t take Thor: Love and Thunder, or even suggest that we should “turn our brains off” going into it. The funny thing is that a lot of Love and Thunder’s own flaws can be shown by comparing it to Ragnarok. The humour is often one of my biggest issues in the MCU, its very hit or miss and often deflates a lot of the dramatic moments. Obviously, having a lot of comedy isn’t inherently bad. Taika Waititi included a lot of humor int Thor: Ragnarok, and I found it very hit or miss. At the very least, it kept the plot the focus and was serious when it needed to be. Even when it came to all the shenanigans, I was able to buy into the events that were happening. Love and Thunder was like this too, only there were many more misses than hits. The jokes are just so predictable and unfunny, even the staging and presentation of the jokes alongside what’s happening felt like out of a sketch comedy instead of a movie. So much of the movie feels like a parody of Thor; an example of this is when it shows New Asgard, and there is a Thanos Infinity Gauntlet on the front of an ice cream shop. Keep in mind that at the beginning of Infinity War, Thanos killed half of the Asgardians as they were fleeing the destruction of Asgard. It’s a brief scene, but its moments like these that make it really hard to care about what’s going on with the story and characters, or take it seriously in any way. The first half is ridiculously goofy and silly and not in a good way. The second half makes attempts at emotion and it does pick up at this point, but its too late. Even in the third act I just wasn’t invested. That’s not to say that being a parody is inherently bad, but maybe it would’ve worked if it wasn’t paired alongside actual serious drama. Jane Foster becomes Thor while having cancer and while there was certainly potential there, I found the execution to be a mixed bag. Some of the emotional moments are okay but the subplot wasn’t handled with the seriousness it needed. Also the way the resolution of it wasn’t satisfying at all. Ultimately, Jane’s inclusion felt like it was just there to serve Thor’s story. Then there’s Gorr the God Butcher, who was just too dark of a character to have in this movie this silly; he just doesn’t fit tonally alongside whatever Taika was going for.

F7JeWHUyNi3USuuSxR26jS

Chris Hemsworth plays Thor once again, he’s been going on a transformation from movie to movie. His arc has been messy, but generally I like him in these movies. However, Love and Thunder is by far my least favourite version of Thor, it felt like he devolved so much from his past appearances. Its not that he’s more comedic, Ragnarok did give Thor silly moments, but he was serious when he needed to be. Love and Thunder made Thor outright dumb, and from his first scene, I knew that there was going to be a problem. Even Thor at the beginning of his first film was smarter than this. It is just incredibly frustrating to watch him here. I know a lot of people didn’t like Thor in his first couple of appearances and found him boring; some people as a result prefer comedy Thor following Ragnarok. At this point though, I’m longing for “boring Thor” to make a return. Hemsworth is good at comedy and the film definitely leans into that more, but I didn’t really like this version of the character. One of the most prominent parts of the movie is Natalie Portman returning as Jane Foster, who has cancer and becomes Thor. There is so much potential with this storyline, so it is sad to see her underutilised.  When it comes to the serious scenes with regards to cancer, Portman handles them well. The aspects mainly with humour like when Jane is trying to come up with a catchphrase however… she wasn’t given the best material. For what its worth though, she did the best with what she had. I know that Love and Thunder is meant to be a romantic comedy, but the chemistry between Hemsworth and Portman wasn’t the strongest. It’s not bad, but just fine. Tessa Thompson returns as Valkyrie and while she has a new role as King of Asgard and accompanies Thor and Jane throughout much of the movie, she felt very sidelined and not much is actually done with her. There is dialogue about her looking for a girlfriend but as typical with this being the MCU, its very brief so it makes it easier to remove when being shown in certain other countries. Not that I was expecting some form of substantial LGBT+ representation in a Disney movie, I just wished that it didn’t feel so baity.

FWV3nY3XkAEAloY

Taika Waititi also returns as Korg, Thor’s rock friend. He made for a good side character in Ragnarok, but there is just too much of him in Love and Thunder and I liked him less here. Part of that is that he felt even more like Waititi’s self-insert which is hard to overlook. The Guardians of the Galaxy show up in the early act and while this is the worst appearance that they’ve had in the MCU, they also manage to be one of the best parts of the movie. When they part ways from Thor and the overall plot I did feel sad, because I would’ve preferred to have followed them than be stuck with himbo Thor for the next 1.5 hours. Russell Crowe plays Zeus with a highly cartoonish and questionable Greek accent. The highlight of the movie was Christian Bale as main villain Gorr the God Butcher (a grand title given that he doesn’t butcher many gods). There were some jokes leading up the release that Bale probably did this as a paycheck role, but he goes all in here, he seems to be one of the only actors not treating it like a joke. Bale plays the role up wonderfully, he’s menacing and creepy and I loved the bizarre and weird nature he brought to it. Unfortunately, like Portman, he was underutilised. While Gorr is given a tragic backstory, his transformation and change is too stark and sudden. It is also yet another case of an MCU villain being in their position because of corruption from an object, like in Shang-Chi and Doctor Strange 2. Bale’s Gorr felt out of place in this movie for sure, but I would’ve liked the movie less without him.

MSA5300_comp_cin_v009.1051

Taika Waititi returns to direct this, and his work is a considerable downgrade from Ragnarok in just about every single way. Ragnarok had some inconsistent visuals; sometimes there are moments that look absolutely stunning, other times it looked really fake and ugly. Love and Thunder was like that except this time there are only a handful of decent looking shots. Somehow the visuals got considerably worse 5 years later. Love and Thunder is visually bland, its either got terrible CGI or very grey backgrounds, and the colour grading is awful. Even the action is very generic and basic for the most part. That being said, any scene with Gorr looks visually nice. There’s some scenes set in the shadow realm and things are in black and white and those were some of my favourite parts of the movie. I liked the style, visuals and use of colour, and the action in this segment was pretty good. Michael Giacchino’s score was very generic and forgettable, I don’t remember any of the composed music. I can remember a lot of Guns N’ Roses and while I liked it the first time they were played, I’m pretty sure they were played four times in Love and Thunder and I really wished that Taika would’ve tried playing something else too.

Thor-Love-and-Thunder-1-www.culturageek.com_.ar_

Thor: Love and Thunder is the lowest point of the MCU. Whereas Ragnarok was a movie of hits and misses, Love and Thunder is a movie of mostly misses. Despite the uncooked writing that he’s working with, Christian Bale is a delight as the villain and the film picks up whenever he’s on screen. There are maybe a couple of jokes that work, and the film was mildly entertaining and held my interest. However, I found it so hard to care about so much that was going on. The movie was unfunny, the moments of drama are mishandled, and the visuals are mostly ugly. It’s also a movie that in spite of all its overt quirks, feels incredibly empty. It’s particularly disappointing because I liked Taika Waitti’s past movies and I know he is better than this. One of the end credits hints at a follow up Thor movie and honestly, I am fully content with there never being another Thor movie unless there’s a drastic change in direction. At the very least, I hope someone takes over making the next movies. Otherwise, I’m not expecting anything more than another generic product like Love and Thunder.