Tag Archives: Amber Heard

Justice League: Theatrical Cut (2017) Retrospective Review

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Justice League

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Henry Cavill as Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman
Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/The Flash
Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman
Ray Fisher as Victor Stone/Cyborg
Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth
Diane Lane as Martha Kent
Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta
J. K. Simmons as Commissioner James Gordon
Ciarán Hinds as Steppenwolf
Amber Heard as Mera
Joe Morton as Silas Stone
Director Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon

Fuelled by his restored faith in humanity, and inspired by Superman’s (Henry Cavill) selfless act, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) enlists newfound ally Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) to face an even greater threat. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to recruit a team to stand against this newly-awakened enemy. Despite the formation of an unprecedented league of heroes in Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and the Flash (Ezra Miller), it may be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.

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Note: Most of this review is written at a time when the Snyder Cut (or director’s cut) of Justice League wasn’t announced.

Justice League was my most anticipated film of 2017, and when I first watched it I was slightly disappointed at the results but I still enjoyed it. As time went by however, it really got worse, and I really needed a rewatch to be sure what my final thoughts on it were before I never see the movie again, it just took me a while to get around to that. Now I had been intending for this review to be released much later on but as it turns out, the Snyder Cut was announced to be coming in 2021, so there was no better time for my to release this review. The theatrical cut of Justice League isn’t one of the worst movies I’ve seen by any means, but it’s among the most crushingly disappointing ones, so much potential and talent cut down and thrown away, and the end product isn’t even fun in a so-bad-it’s-good way, it was just sad to think about.

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To get this out of the way, for those who don’t know, during production director Zack Snyder was replaced by Joss Whedon, who would be filming the reshoot. While it was being said that Whedon would be directing pretty much as Snyder for some additional scenes, it really turned out to be an attempt to completely reshape the movie, with some very bad results. The story itself on paper sounds fine but it needed a lot more fleshing out, the final product at best reads like a very rough first draft. There’s a lot here that was very clearly cut out, and indeed I get the impression that they cut down the movie to its simplest form and reshot some of the scenes that remained. There are some moments where the characters just deliver so much explanatory exposition about everything, their current states, their origins, what they have to do and the like, all of that they just briefly mention and never talk about again. It’s like they’re compensating for all the scenes they cut out basically delivering the same points. From what I can tell, the movie was going to be longer and explore each of the characters a lot more, and tell their stories in a more naturalistic and less rushed way. WB seemed to want to brighten up Justice League quite a bit, and you can feel that throughout, everything feels off. It’s not just that Justice League has problems, the final product is very bland, it’s not even that entertaining or interesting. From the beginning it is already pretty rough, from that opening cell phone footage of Superman, to the Batman scene that just felt really off, it wasn’t starting off so well. Now the opening credits sequence set to “Everybody Knows” was legitimately good, but after that it reverts back to being not so good. The rest of Justice League until the climax jumps between having good moments and bad moments, but over time the movie just gets worse. The movie also doesn’t flat out doesn’t address things set up from Batman v Superman, most notably the Knightmare sequence. Even people who were confused by the significance of that scene might’ve been willing to wait for Justice League would bring it all full circle and give an explanation… but that was never addressed here.

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I guess since I talked about the scenes that were removed, I should talk about the additional scenes that Joss Whedon inserted. Whedon seemed to want to add humour to everything, and it’s just unfortunate that the humour here is terrible. Fun fact, the first Batman scene where he uses a criminal to bait a Parademon, that was directed by Joss and was a somewhat okay directed scene. However, it was originally shot to be very comedic, and even WB had to come in and reign him in. Some of the dialogue and moments are so horrendous that I couldn’t believe it actually made it into the theatrical release. There is a scene with Martha Kent and Lois Lane, where Martha says that Clark called Lois the “thirstiest young woman he’s ever met”, somehow managing to be by far the worst line in the movie, and that’s saying a lot. There’s also a scene where Flash accidentally falls onto Diana’s breasts, and you know it’s a Whedon reshoot as it resembles that scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron where Mark Ruffalo falls on Scarlett Johansson in the same way. While I’m not a massive fan of Whedon, he’s done so much better in the past that it’s a little astounding that somehow almost everything new he added was bad. So many of the reshoots were also unnecessary. One was the first scene between Barry Allen and Bruce Wayne, that scene seemed to have largely played out the same way as the original, but for whatever reason at the end Barry starts going on this tangent about brunch or something, very clearly a reshoot so as to add a joke, and an unneeded one at that. Another instance was the random focusing on a Russian Family in the area the parademons are located (also the location of the climax), and I just have no idea why we kept seeing what was happening with them. It seemed like they were placed in the movie just so they could be there for The Flash and Superman to rescue on screen, but they really didn’t need to establish them this early on even if they wanted to do that.

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This movie has such a large and talented cast, and most of them managed to be misused. There is a lot to talk about with the characters and actors, so I’ll start with the supporting cast. J.K. Simmons was a great pick for Jim Gordon, while I would’ve liked to have seen more of him, he served his purpose well enough. Shame we’ll never see him reprise his role. Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth is also once again a delight, despite all the changes that happened in the movie, I had no problem with him or the way he was utilised. Billy Crudup makes a brief appearance as Barry Allen’s father, his scene with Ezra Miller’s Barry early on is legitimately good, and I hope Crudup returns for The Flash movie. Connie Nielson also reprised her role as Hippolyta, Diana’s mother in one of the better scenes of the movie, while she’s like in only two scenes at most she did pretty well. The rest of the supporting cast had issues though. Zack Snyder in both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman (the Ultimate Edition at least) made Lois Lane, played by Amy Adams, a prominent part of the plot. With all the cutting done here though, all she’s left to do is to be there for Superman to see her, so that he could stop being crazy. Justice League is the debut of Mera, played by Amber Heard. While she wasn’t going to have a big role, it seems that they cut down scenes with her. The end result didn’t give Mera the best impression. Thankfully Aquaman gave audiences a much better impression of her, and showcased her a lot better. Ciaran Hinds plays the villain of Steppenwolf and a lot of people really thought he was terrible. I actually ended up liking Steppenwolf more than most people, I don’t think he’s one of the worst comic book movie villains like a lot of people found him. However, he’s not that good of a character or villain either. The thing is, outside of some cliché villain lines and some horrible CGI, the individual scenes with him aren’t bad. The problem is that all the development and depth with him is just missing. Hinds prior to the movie talked about how Steppenwolf was different as a villain, and he had a certain way of playing him. It’s not surprise that after the movie was released, he was unsatisfied with the end product, particularly with how pretty much all of his backstory was removed. There is something I realised while watching Justice League for the first time. Unless you are at least aware of some comic book knowledge about Steppenwolf, Darkseid, the parademons and Apokalips, you have no idea what’s happening with them. Steppenwolf at one point in one of his speeches says “for Darkseid” but the general audience doesn’t know who that it, or even necessarily that he’s referring to a person and not a planet or whatever. For all the exposition that the reshoots dump out, they never really gave them a solid explanation outside of a vague description.

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I’ll talk about the League itself, from best to worst, in terms of who comes across the best. First of all Cyborg played by Ray Fisher was actually quite a surprise. Fisher added a lot with his performance, and the CGI on him didn’t distract too much (only occasionally). There was also his connection with his father Silas Stone, but it also seems like their scenes together were changed, maybe in an attempt to lighten the movie up. Like with a lot of the movie, he’s held back from much of his arc being removed from the movie. It’s a shame that I’m not sure if we’ll ever see him again on screen. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is also good, though at a lower level compared to her previous appearances. Jason Momoa’s Aquaman really doesn’t get much to do here, having some of the same problems as the rest of the league with their arcs not being fleshed out or their origins just briefly explained. I’m just glad that Momoa at least got his own movie to show off his potential. Ezra Miller is a very talented actor, but his Flash seemed to be really negatively affected by reshoots. Since Barry Allen seemed to be quite comedic for the movie to begin with, it seemed they leaned in heavy with this and made him even more hyper, comedic and over the top. As I said he did have a really good scene with Billy Crudup, and it was a genuinely heartfelt scene, so he can definitely work in the role. However for the most part, he’s reduced to just being the comedic relief, and I really hope his solo movie (if it ever gets released) shows him off a lot better.

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Now for the two of the League that fare the worst, Batman and Superman. Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio were going to take Batman in a less dark direction compared to Batman v Superman and they even said this. It didn’t seem enough, as the reshoots seemed to redo a lot of his original scenes. Even though he wasn’t going to be as dark as he was in BvS, apparently Batman in this movie was originally supposed to be on like a suicide mission, so they had a strong intention of where to take him. WB and/or Joss Whedon however didn’t just trim off some edginess or darkness, they flat out removed almost all of it. What we are left with is a Batman that is not dark at all. He’s not quite George Clooney Batman but he’s definitely in Val Kilmer territory, but actually he’s worse because even Kilmer’s version at least acknowledged that Bruce Wayne was quite a dark individual. Going from BvS to this, he just feels very off. Affleck in the Snyder footage looks like he’s playing his part fine enough. In the Whedon footage however, he either looks like Ben Affleck playing himself saying the lines or just looked really unhappy and doesn’t want to be there (which is very likely the case). Honestly the way he sometimes acts in some of the reshoots is like he’s acting in a Late Night Talk Show skit for Justice League, rather than the actual movie itself. It was a real shame that this would be the last time we’ll be seeing him as Batman.

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Henry Cavill’s Superman is really divisive but I really liked him in the previous films. Justice League’s Superman annoyed me even when I first watched it, and that’s still the case now. Now I should get something out of the way, my primary issues have got nothing to do with the CGI on Henry Cavill’s face. Honestly, I’d rather Snyder’s Superman with a weird CGI face than the Superman we got with the face looking fine. It’s pretty clear that WB removed almost all of Snyder’s footage of Superman, I’m pretty sure there’s like 2 scenes of Snyder’s Superman, and that’s not even including the two deleted scenes. This doesn’t just feel like an attempt at being like Christopher Reeve’s Superman, this flat out feels like a mockery of that version, being overly cartoonishly cheesy and silly. I know a lot of people thought his past two movies that he was stiff, but he felt more human and grounded in those movies. However, I didn’t like him here, he seemed so unnatural and forced, he seemed like what many haters of the Superman character think he’s like. Even the Superman on the Supergirl tv shows fared better. In short, he’s pretty much the Superman that some of the detractors of Snyder’s Superman wanted him to be, happy, quippy, with no conflict and with not much personality or character beyond that whatsoever. Also on a lesser but still disappointing note, when it comes to showcasing his powers, he doesn’t seem like he’s directed by Snyder, you don’t really feel the weight of his power, he comes across as a little more cartoonish. Last point about this Superman, at the end of the movie he pretty much saves everything. The whole thing about the League is that all of them are needed to come together. It seems that originally Superman would be the last necessary addition to the team that’s enough to stop Steppenwolf and save the world. However with this Superman, he probably would’ve been able to solve everything himself. This makes the tagline of one of the posters “You can’t save the world alone” rather silly looking back at it. Maybe the saddest part about all of this is that despite all the changes made to Superman here, it’s still not enough to get people on board with Cavill’s version, I’m not even sure if we’ll see his Superman on the big screen again in any format.

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You can blatantly see the differences between Zack Snyder’s direction and Joss Whedon’s direction on screen at many points. Some of the action was pretty good, but other aspects of the direction held it back a little. In terms of the best sequences, one of them was seeing the Amazons fight against Steppenwolf. Even though the Steppenwolf CGI looked iffy, it showed off both his power and the Amazons skills. Also the flashback showing mankind, Amazonians and Atlantians fighting against Steppenwolf, even though it was brief and no doubt cut a lot of things, was good to see. I did like seeing certain things on screen, like I liked the way they showed off The Flash with his speed.

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The CGI goes from looking actually pretty good, to looking so incredibly awful, the look of the movie was inconsistent. Even at its best, there was always something off, like they deliberately tried to brighten up the look of the movie. An example was the fight between the Justice League and Superman, the way the background looked and the windows particularly really did seem like it took place at night but they just brightened everything up. I would also bring up the moustache debacle with Henry Cavill but it’s been talked to death so I won’t bother. Its far from the film’s biggest problems. Despite some of the CGI not looking so good in the first two acts, it’s the third act where it takes a massive downgrade and looks downright ugly. There are glimpses from the trailers of the third act that made it into the movie, and they didn’t have this horrible red filter over everything, it only looked dark. If it the previous acts didn’t make Justice League a disaster, the climax certainly made it. It is worth noting that this is one of the most expensive movies ever made, that money didn’t seem to have gone to good use. The third act apparently was almost entirely reshot and looking at the results, it definitely looked that way. If they really wanted to have extensive reshoots, and changing pre-existing scenes, they should’ve moved the movie back many months, that way that would give them enough time to do all the reshoots and also have enough time to get the effects all under control. But alas, instead we get an incredibly rushed film. I was one of the only people leading up to its release rooting for Danny Elfman to deliver a good score for Justice League after replacing Junkie XL but I was completely disappointed in it. Even if the movie wouldn’t necessarily be made better by it, it could’ve at least elevated the movie but it’s so generic. Elfman when it came to his score talked about how he’s using John Williams’s Superman theme and his own theme for Batman, and they do make an appearance in the movie at brief moments. Unlike some people I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, the problem is that his score literally doesn’t have anything else to offer. It probably would’ve been better if he literally just took the score from his Batman and Donner’s Superman and just played it because at least they’d be more memorable than whatever he was trying to make here. It is worth noting that Elfman also straight up ripped off the theme of The Flash from the tv series The Flash on the CW, it’s so incredibly lazy. Also what Elfman did with Wonder Woman’s theme, especially in her introduction in the Bank scene, is absolutely atrocious. It’s like someone was parodying Wonder Woman and made some incredibly basic theme to somewhat resemble it.

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Now I think some people are wondering about how good the movie could be had it all been under Snyder. I’m of the mind that Snyder’s version would’ve been a lot better, but even a complete Joss Whedon Justice League movie would’ve been better than what we got here. You can feel this real laziness when it comes to some of the reshoots by Joss, and I feel like even he wasn’t satisfied with his work here. I’m not saying that everything Zack would’ve done with the movie would’ve been gold or anything. Originally this movie was going to be in two parts, but the first part would end by having Darkseid kill Lois and setting the chain of events in the Knightmare timeline, seemingly setting the stage for Part 2 to be something like Avengers: Endgame. While that idea is bold, it’s understandable why WB weren’t so hot on it, and Snyder and Terrio compromised for a straight forward Justice League, however one that was worldbuilding, expansive and epic. From the leaks and unfinished footage that we got, it would’ve at least been a lot more interesting. That said, now we know that the much desired Snyder Cut is coming to HBO Max. Not only will it be all from the original director, he’ll be releasing it much more of it, around 4 hours as opposed to the length that he’d no doubt have to cut it down to if the final theatrical cut was his. I won’t go into too much depth about what will be in this new version here, but essentially Zack and a post production crew will finish off his cut, and will shoot some additional scenes. Snyder had said that what made it into the theatrical cut was like 25% his, and that this new cut will be a completely different experience, and I don’t doubt that.

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The theatrical cut of Justice League is one of the most disappointing movies I have ever watched. It’s by no means one of the worst comic book movies ever made, but it is so incredibly lacklustre. However the Snyder Cut turns out, I don’t know if we’ll be getting any future Justice League movies, for a while at least, and it led to a number of negative things happening with the DCEU. Actors leaving, characters probably not going to appear again on screen again, and so many changes made. If anything can come from this, hopefully WB has learnt their lesson of not cutting and interfering, but then again that’s what I thought Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad would’ve taught them. I can’t even muster up any hate for this movie, it’s just disappointing and sad to watch and think about. With that being said, I don’t see the upcoming the Snyder Cut not being supremely better and at least make Zack Snyder’s DCEU trilogy feel complete and satisfying.

Drive Angry (2011) Review

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence, offensive language, drug use and sex scenes.
Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Milton
Amber Heard as Piper
William Fichtner as The Accountant
Billy Burke as Jonah King
David Morse as Webster
Katy Mixon as Norma Jean
Director: Patrick Lussier

Thrown into hell for his crimes, brutal felon John Milton (Nicolas Cage) escapes from the fiery pit after cultists murder his daughter and take her baby. Intent on rescuing the child, Milton joins forces with a waitress, who gives him her ex-lover’s fire-red muscle car. In it, the two pursue the cult leader, who plans to sacrifice the infant and unleash hell on Earth. However, the hunters become the hunted when Satan sends his merciless henchman (William Fichtner) to drag Milton back).

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I wasn’t really expecting much from Drive Angry, apparently it wasn’t very good but it’s an over the top action movie and it had Nicolas Cage, so naturally I had to check it out for myself. Drive Angry as to be expected wasn’t very good but also unfortunately it really wasn’t as crazy as it should be. Nonetheless I still had a fun time with it.

The plot of Drive Angry is straightforward enough. Nicolas Cage comes back from hell to get revenge on a cult who killed his daughter and kidnapped his granddaughter. The movie doesn’t try to be more than it is thankfully. The dialogue really isn’t well written, which is to be expected. Drive Angry is a sort of grindhouse/exploitation movie with an overblown plot, extreme content and trashy writing. This movie does have some over the top things, I mean it includes Nicolas Cage having sex with clothes on with sunglasses while smoking a cigar while in a gunfight in slow, so by that point you’ll have an idea what kind of movie you’re in for. At the same time, in terms of the tone it feels like it wasn’t going crazy enough. The plot itself feels a little dull and really not as exciting as it should’ve been, at times feeling like a standard R rated action flick. It does have its moments but a lot of the time it does feel like it was a wasted opportunity.

The acting on the whole isn’t that great but it’s not one of the things I was really expecting. Nicolas Cage has built up a reputation of having some incredibly over the top performances, unfortunately he isn’t all crazy like he was in movies like Ghost Rider 2, Face/Off or Deadfall. It feels like a wasted opportunity unfortunately. Despite this, he is still entertaining enough and doesn’t end up being worst Nicolas Cage (which is dull Nicolas Cage). I haven’t seen Amber Heard in much, but if she has some acting talent it’s not on display here. She’s really not given anything to work with, so I don’t put it fully on her, but she isn’t really that good here. Billy Burke is the villain as the leader of the cult, who is quite silly and over the top but he works fine enough. By far the best thing about Drive Angry is William Fichtner. He plays a character named The Accountant, who’s pretty much Satan’s assistant and he is just having a total ball playing this character, stealing every single scene that he’s on screen. Just the scene involving him, a truck and the song “That’s the way I like it” is worth the price of viewing alone.

The direction Patrick Lussier makes the movie seem like a somewhat modern grindhouse movie. The CGI wasn’t the best. Whether it be the bullets, fire, blood, a lot of it looks quite fake. However, it is fake in a good sort of way, in a trashy movie sort of way. It is absolutely bloody, violent and obscene at times. Unfortunately, as overblown as it is, it’s not very creative, it’s like basic over the top, if such a thing exists. It’s not bad but it’s not very memorable.

As an actual movie, Drive Angry clearly isn’t good at all, but as a guilty pleasure action flick, it is actually somewhat okay. It is a crazy mindless film, oddly enough though, the main issue is that it’s not as crazy as it should be. However it is entertaining enough that it might be worth watching (for those who like over the top action grindhouse movie).

Her Smell (2019) Review

Time: 122 Minutes
Cast:
Elisabeth Moss as Becky Something
Amber Heard as Zelda E. Zekiel
Cara Delevingne as Cassie
Dan Stevens as Danny Something
Agyness Deyn as Marielle Hell
Gayle Rankin as Ali van der Wolff
Ashley Benson as Roxie
Eric Stoltz as Howard Goodman
Virginia Madsen as Ania Adamcyzk
Dylan Gelula as Dottie O.Z.
Director: Alex Ross Perry

Becky Something (Elisabeth Moss) is a ’90s punk rock superstar who once filled arenas with her grungy all-female trio Something She. Now she plays smaller venues while grappling with motherhood, exhausted bandmates, nervous record company executives, and a new generation of rising talent eager to usurp her stardom. When Becky’s chaos and excesses derail a recording session and national tour, she finds herself shunned, isolated and alone. Forced to get sober, temper her demons, and reckon with the past, she retreats from the spotlight and tries to recapture the creative inspiration that led her band to success.

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I heard about this movie a little while ago, mainly the cast, the premise and that it was shown at the TIFF film festival and received some good reviews. Outside of that, I didn’t know what I was really in for. Her Smell is what I’ve heard people say it is, chaotic, grimy and hard to watch at times. However, it is still really good, led by a really great performance by Elisabeth Moss.

Much of the structure of this movie is quite similar to Steve Jobs, and apparently writer/director Alex Ross Perry had said that it really was an inspiration for the structure here. Her Smell is very dialogue based, focussing on 5 particular moments with main character Becky over the course of 10 years. Getting this out of the way, it’s not an easy movie to watch, the primary reason being the main character Becky herself, who is currently on a downward spiral. With this being a dialogue driven movie, the dialogue itself would need to be well written and it definitely was. As good as the writing and acting was, for a while I didn’t really know what I would think about the movie. However, it finally worked for me when it came around to the last third of the movie, the more uncomfortable aspects seems to go away and isn’t as in your face. It really showed a different side of the lead character, which improved the overall movie. The whole movie really was emotionally genuine and very well put together. I didn’t know this going in, but Her Smell really is a reverse rise and fall story, and in that it suceeds. You could also see the last third as like a reward for being able to endure the first two third of the movie. This movie is long at around 2 hours and 15 minutes long and you really feel the length, I feel like it was a little too long and it might’ve been better if 15 minutes or so were cut out.

I haven’t seen Elizabeth Moss in much, I’ve heard of her from Mad Men and The Handmaiden’s Tale but I haven’t seen them. After seeing Her Smell however, I can tell that she is very talented, because her performance here is truly amazing. This movie is really riding on her and she’s fantastic, very offputting at yet times, yet raw, complex and all around incredible. I wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of the year this still ends up being one of the best performances of 2019. The supporting cast don’t get the focus that Moss does, but they still are quite good in their parts. Dan Stevens, Cara Delevingne, Amber Heard, Ashley Benson, Eric Stoltz and others may not be the focus of the movie, but they all do some really great work here and make themselves stand out even when Moss is the forefront of the whole movie.

This is the first film by Alex Ross Perry that I’ve seen, and he’s directed this film quite well. I’ve seen some people say that the way this movie looks is reminiscent of a Gaspar Noe film (without the extreme violence and sex of course) and I can see the comparisons, yet it’s done in a way that it feels like its own thing and not copying other films. It’s very close up and intimate with the characters, really making you feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable (at least for the first half), even when nothing extreme is going on. For a film focussing on a punk rocker, there isn’t a ton of focus on the music over the course of the movie, however when it’s there (whether it’s the soundtrack by Keegan Dewitt or the music that’s actually played), it is great and adds a lot to the movie.

Her Smell is not a movie that will work for everyone. For 2 thirds of the movie, it’s a very visceral experience and I can see how some people would find a large portion of the film to be obnoxious. However it’s a very well written and directed character study that works extremely well for what it is, and it all comes together at the end. I’d say that you should see it at the very least for Elizabeth Moss’s extraordinary performance, it really needs to be seen.

Aquaman (2018) Review

Time: 143 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Fantasy violence
Cast:
Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman
Amber Heard as Mera
Willem Dafoe as Nuidis Vulko
Patrick Wilson as Orm Marius/Ocean Master
Dolph Lundgren as Nereus
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as David Kane/Black Manta
Nicole Kidman as Atlanna
Temuera Morrison as Thomas Curry
Director: James Wan

Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) learns that he is the heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, and must step forward to lead his people and be a hero to the world.

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Aquaman was one of my most anticipated movies of 2018. I’m a fan of most of the DCEU and despite my thoughts on Justice League, Jason Momoa as Aquaman showed himself to be pretty good in it and I wanted to see him in his solo movie. Additionally, there were some talented people involved including director James Wan and a cast that included Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson and Nicole Kidman. Everything about the movie looked great as well from the trailers, on such a large scale and looking like no other comic book movie that has come beforehand. The only real caution I had was that the previous DCEU movie, Justice League, was disappointing and I was fearing the possibilities of studio interference affecting a DCEU movie once again. Outside of that, I was really looking forward to Aquaman. Aquaman is a really distinct comic book movie, that’s visually stunning, features some good performances and is just one big epic ride from start to finish. It’s got some faults for sure but they don’t take away too much from the overall experience.

The story isn’t necessarily anything we haven’t seen before, but it’s the way that it’s done that makes Aquaman stand out. While the DCEU has generally embraced it’s comic bookiness, Aquaman is the most comic book like out of all of it (mostly due to how far the characters and world is from any other comic book movie). Despite this, it doesn’t feel like a comic book movie, it feels so far removed from any other superhero movie we’ve seen before. If you edited out the credits that mention this as a DC movie, you could totally pass this off as an action adventure fantasy, mostly because that’s what this movie is. Aside from a reference to the main villain of Justice League, it doesn’t makes any clear references to the other movies that would leave people unfamiliar with the cinematic universe confused. Justice League featured a scene between Arthur and Mera but honestly, after watching Aquaman I can say that you don’t even need to have watched any of the prior DCEU films to hop right in.

This movie has a good mix of dark and light that works well for the movie. There’s a lot of debate about the tone about the DCEU as a whole, but I feel like while all of them (aside from Justice League) has reasonably strong bit of darkness to it, the tones with each film is different, and I like that. While the MCU has a consistent tone that makes every movie feel like it’s in the same universe, the DCEU can have a wide range of different tones. Yes, Aquaman (the movie) can be pretty cheesy at points but I’m pretty sure that James Wan and co. knew that so instead of being ashamed of it and trying to tone it down, they went full force with it, and so making it work on a weird level. When the film at one point features an octopus playing the drums, you know that they had to be self aware about the whole thing. Now there is quite a bit of comedy in this movie and most of it works but every so often there’s a joke that doesn’t quite work. I think something that most people will feel is that there’s so much going on. There is so much packed into this movie, James Wan basically combined 3 comic book story arcs into one large story, leaving Aquaman to be like 2 hours and 20 minutes long. I don’t think that the movie is overly long (after Justice League, I think every DCEU film should be at least 2 hours and 20 minutes long), nor do I think the pacing needed to necessarily be faster, it’s just a lot of things happen in this one movie. Despite this, it’s easy to follow and not overly complicated, if anything the more complicated bits are the exposition from Mera about Atlantis in some scenes, and even then it won’t matter if you don’t pick up all of it. Also it’s worth noting that there’s a mid credits scene which sets up the sequel (which it will definitely get). I could sort of figure out what it would be about but it’s worth sitting through 2 minutes of credits for it.

Jason Momoa reprises his role as Arthur Curry/Aquaman and once again he was great, getting a lot more to work with this time round. While Justice League introduced him to the big screen (excluding his cameo in Batman v Superman), what we were left with didn’t exactly go into much depth with him. Here it’s established he doesn’t fit in the human world or with the Atlanteans and the whole movie is him accepting his role as King of Atlantis. Momoa’s charisma and performance is perfect for the character and you can really root for him. I’ll just say that if you aren’t a fan of Aquaman as a character or can’t take him seriously, you will after this movie. Amber Heard plays Mera and she’s really good as well, they really showed off Mera as being a very powerful character and she gets some great moments. Momoa and Heard have great chemistry and play off each other really well. I think when it comes to the writing, some of the romance elements you don’t really buy too much, with regard to how their relationship changes over time. Its not that believable but the two leads make it work fine enough. Willem Dafoe and Dolph Lungren are also good in supporting roles, with Dafoe playing Vulko, who’s an advisor of Atlantis and Arthur’s mentor, and Lundgren playing Nereus, Mera’s father and a king of an Atlantean tribe who allies with Orm. Nicole Kidman and Temuera Morrison play Aquaman’s parents, and while their roles are small, they do add quite a bit to the movie. It seems like parents are a big thing for all of the DCEU lead heroes and Aquaman suitably is no exception, with them having their important parts in the story.

The villains were also great. Patrick Wilson plays Orm, Arthur’s half brother, and is one of the stand out live action film villains from DC thus far. Orm has an understandable reason for wanting to declare war against the surface world, with all the damage that humanity has caused Atlantis. Orm isn’t just evil for the sake of being evil. When the movie cuts back to him from Arthur, you aren’t pulled out of it and you are also interested in what’s going on with him. Patrick Wilson’s performance is somehow both larger than life and yet subtle and riveting, really making his villain even more convincing and overall better. As much of a dangerous antagonist that this movie has shown him to be, you get the feeling that they hadn’t gone all out with him yet because it would probably be something so large scale that the Justice League would have to come in. Still, with what he did here he made for a great villain. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays one of Aquaman’s most iconic adversaries, Black Manta, who in this movie is a bit of a supporting antagonist. Manta here is really setup for future movies, so if you love the character from the comics, don’t go in expecting a lot of him because you don’t really get that. With that said, they do use this movie as a bit of an origin story for him and a way of establishing him as a character. It might’ve made the story feel less packed by removing him and saving him for a sequel but I still liked that we got him here (it also means that in the sequel we won’t need to spend so much time introducing him). He’s also great and makes himself to be quite a threat when he’s on screen and they do make him a stand out in the movie, even if we don’t get a ton of screen time with him. I can’t wait to see more of them in future movies.

Director James Wan made the 7th Fast and Furious movie back in 2015 but otherwise he’s primarily known for his horror movies like Saw, The Conjuring and Insidious. Here he takes on a comic book movie and he did fantastic work with it. This is an absolutely stunning looking movie and a feast for the eyes. There is a lot of visual effects and CGI used to portray a lot of what’s going on and most of it is at such a high level of quality. There is the occasional fake looking effect but considering how they managed to make almost all of it look great, it’s not a big issue. It is a very CGI heavy movie but really it couldn’t be achieved any other way, you couldn’t just use practical effects for the entire movie, especially when it comes to the water sequences. They did the best they could with the effects, and most of it looks great. The action scenes are great, both the scenes that take place on the land and in the sea are great. However the scenes that take place in the sea are the highlights. The fight scenes are so unique to anything we’ve seen before, particularly between Arthur and Orm, the last fight was especially great. So much care and attention detail was put into making it all work. You can probably tell that when the characters are under water that the actors weren’t actually filming under water but they do such a good job making it look like it was. Everything also feels on such a large scale, this movie really is an epic. There are even some sequences that I’m not even sure how they managed to film, with them quite often featuring long takes. An example of this is featured in the Comic Con trailer which shows a scene in Italy with Arthur and Mera being chased by Black Manta and others and it’s one shot that zooms in and out of locations following them and you can clearly see that it’s the actual actors there. I’m not necessarily sure how you’ll feel about the overall movie but all the visuals make it worth seeing on the big screen alone. There’s even a sequence towards the latter portion of the movie which was horror esque, which was nice to see considering James Wan’s horror roots. As previously mentioned, Aquaman completely went all in on the fantasy elements and this is the case with the designs of everything, the stand outs being the design of Atlantis and really everything underwater. Not all of the film takes place near the ocean, but the sequences that don’t at least have them go from different location to different location, so there’s a variety of types of locations. The costumes are also fantastically made. Some of the costumes are straight out of the comic book, and while it’s not necessary for character designs to be ripped directly from the comics, really extra credit should be given to those who make it work, especially if it’s for something outlandish like Aquaman. Costumes particularly for Mera, Orm and Black Manta are fantastic and work on screen very well, special credit however is for making the classic Aquaman costume work on Jason Momoa, and not making it feel goofy at all. The score by Rupert Gregson-Williams was really good, very large scale and epic, just like the rest of the movie. He also composed the score for Wonder Woman and he does well at making both scores feel completely separate from each other. The other music choices were a mixed bag and were more often than not rather silly, and I don’t mean in the good goofy way, I’m meaning like it feels out of place and didn’t fit in at all with the rest of the movie. I’m not exactly sure who’s idea it was to have Pitbull to do a song but it was likely a studio mandated decision and it wasn’t a very good decision. Not a movie breaking issue but just rather distracting.

Aquaman is a visually stunning movie that embraces its comic book source material and was just an incredible experience. It’s got some messy aspects for sure but it really is worth seeing on the big screen for it all. Now it is worth noting that my opinion on Aquaman could change over time. When I first watched Wonder Woman I declared it one of the best comic book movies ever made, and then rewatching it a couple times, it didn’t hold up as well even though it’s still a solid movie. As of right now, I really loved watching Aquaman, and if we are going to continue getting these types of director driven movies that separate itself from all the other comic book movies (alongside mainly Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Wonder Woman), I think the DCEU is going to continue to have a unique appeal and an audience (an audience that includes me).

The Danish Girl (2015) Review

Eddie Redmayne stars as Lili Elbe, in Tom Hooper’s THE DANISH GIRL, released by Focus Features. Credit: Focus Features

The Danish Girl

Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Nudity and Sex Scenes
Cast:
Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe/Einar Wegener
Alicia Vikander as Gerda Wegener
Matthias Schoenaerts as Hans Axgil
Ben Whishaw as Henrik
Amber Heard as Ulla
Sebastian Koch as Dr. Warnekros
Director: Tom Hooper

After standing in as a female model for a painting by his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander), Danish artist Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) becomes enamored with his feminine identity and begins living as a woman named Lili Elbe. Although their marriage becomes strained, Gerda stands by Lili as she explores her true self and eventually undergoes one of the world’s first gender-reassignment surgeries in the 1930s.

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Ever since the first image of Eddie Redmayne in this movie came out, I was intrigued. This sounded like an interesting movie, as well with Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander’s and Tom Hooper’s involvement. While it’s not great, I do think that The Danish Girl is worth seeing for its performances from its lead actors. The production design and direction of the scenes are still pretty good as well and the overall direction of the scenes from Hooper was decent. However its writing didn’t quite hold up, and unfortunately does bring down the movie a little bit from what it could’ve been.

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As I just mentioned, I felt that the writing was the weakest aspect of the movie. I don’t think it’s bad by any means and it gets the job done in moving the plot and characters along. I did hear that it was inaccurate from the original story but I don’t know of the original story. I will say that I thought that Redmayne’s change and how that affected his and Vikander’s relationship was handled well. But the writing did fall short of what it could’ve been. The movie despite being 2 hours long did feel like 2 hours and a half, I think it was stretched out a little too much. I also thought that the film really didn’t explore who these two characters actually were. After the seeing the movie I realised that apart from their place in the plot, I didn’t really know much of who they are. There was some emotional component that was missing from this movie, I can’t exactly determine what it is.

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Eddie Redmayne is again incredible and made up for his disastrous performance in Jupiter Ascending. I thought his transition and discovery was very believable, he manages to portray both Einar and ‘Lili’, and seemed totally different from one another, this must’ve been a very difficult role to pull off. The fact that when Eddie Redmayne is dressed up as a woman, actually looked like a woman helped, in fact he looked more out of place when he wasn’t dressed up as a woman, both physically and emotionally. Alicia Vikander is also great, she gets a lot to do in this movie as a wife seeing her husband slowly disappearing and coming to terms with his transformation. Although I felt that the characters didn’t have that much depth in terms of the writing, both Redmayne and Vikander made them seem like real people and elevated themselves above the material given.

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The production designs and value was great and I thought that it reflected the 1920s time period quite well. The soundtrack by Johann Johansson was also great. The scenes and the overall film were directed well by Tom Hooper, my problem is really not with his visual direction, it was the script that had the most problems.

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The Danish Girl isn’t that great of a movie and doesn’t hold up as well on its own. The writing could’ve been better, the pacing could’ve been handled better and the characters weren’t as well written as they should’ve. But it’s the performances from Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander that make the film worth watching. Sure the movie on the whole could’ve been better, especially with the writing, but the performances are good enough for me to recommend this movie.