Tag Archives: Ben Whishaw

Spectre (2015) Retrospective Review

Time: 148 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser/Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Léa Seydoux as Dr. Madeleine Swann
Ben Whishaw as Q
Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny
Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx
Andrew Scott as Max Denbigh/C
Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra
Ralph Fiennes as M
Rory Kinnear as Bill Tanner
Jesper Christensen as Mr. White
Director: Sam Mendes

A cryptic message from the past leads James Bond (Daniel Craig) to Mexico City and Rome, where he meets the beautiful widow (Monica Bellucci) of an infamous criminal. After infiltrating a secret meeting, 007 uncovers the existence of the sinister organization SPECTRE. Needing the help of the daughter of an old nemesis, he embarks on a mission to find her. As Bond ventures toward the heart of SPECTRE, he discovers a chilling connection between himself and the enemy (Christoph Waltz) he seeks.

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In my initial Spectre review, I called it a solid James Bond film with some problems holding it back quite a bit. I still like the movie but having seeing it a couple of times since then, even more problems are apparent to me, with regard to the balance of the usual Craig Bond stuff and the classic Bond elements, the painfully underwhelming third act and way too many issues to fit into one sentence.

Since I already did a spoiler free review of Spectre, I’m going to delve into some spoilers here. With Skyfall, director Sam Mendes managed to balance a lot of the modernised Bond elements with some classic Bond elements, to deliver one of the best films in the series. With Spectre he goes further with the latter aspect, with a clear cut Bond Girl, more gadgets, a fast car filled with gadgets and a lot of the classic Bond tropes. It’s even the first of the Daniel Craig James Bond films to open with the conventional gunbarrel opening scene that almost all of the Bond films have at the beginning of the movie. Unfortunately, the blend of the old and new didn’t quite work this time around. I actually like how Spectre tries to be a continuation of the Craig Era tone and rebooting the classic Bond villain organisation SPECTRE for this rendition of James Bond. The problem is that it also tries to homage some of the much earlier Bond films, with cartoonish humour and having action scenes that don’t challenge Bond (some Roger Moore era things unfortunately), and it really doesn’t fit together. In all the prior Daniel Craig Bond films, Bond is challenged to some degree. Despite all the personal connections that James Bond have to this story however, it feels like a typical run of the mill job for him. Nothing challenges him physically (aside from Dave Bautista), nor as a character mentally, psychologically or whatever. Spectre ties together all the previous Craig movies and while on paper I liked that idea, the way it was done really just didn’t work (I’ll go into that when I talk about Christoph Waltz and his character).

A lot of the things also don’t fit with the established tone of the newer movies, such as the humour. For example, early in the movie, Bond falls from a crumbling building onto a couch, which would work well in a Roger Moore Bond film but it comes across as too silly for Daniel Craig’s Bond. On another note there is also a subplot featuring Andrew Scott’s character trying to take over MI6 because he feels like it’s outdated and trying to replace agents with technology and surveillance. This plotline really falls flat, we’ve seen this happen in other movies, and we’ve seen it done better. It feels like it was pushed into Spectre just to appear somewhat relevant to today but it only just ends up slowing down the plot even more and makes things feel even more dull. I think it might’ve worked and be made more interesting if Andrew Scott’s character didn’t turn out to be a villain and this was only a red herring, however this is not the case. It feels like the movie kept cutting to this subplot because it would later be integral to the plot and it feels forced and distracts more than anything. The third act is both ridiculous yet really underwhelming and filled with a ton of problems, and considering the issues that Spectre has, that’s saying a lot. The film cuts between two things going on at the same time, James Bond with his ‘confrontation’ (in the loosest sense of the word) as well as M, Q and Moneypenny working to stop Andrew Scott, and it’s not that great. There are some implausible things like all the effort that Blofeld no doubt put into setting up things in the old destroyed MI6 building, placing pictures of Bond, Vesper, Silva, Le Chiffre, Greene, M and others throughout the place, writing on the walls and much more, which comes across as just unbelievable and funny considering the gritty tone that these movies have been having. Probably the most unrealistic and preposterous yet extremely underwhelming moment however is when James Bond shoots down a helicopter with a pistol while on a high speed boat in the complete dark, I don’t even think the previous Bond movies would attempt to do something like that and I don’t mean that as a compliment. The only thing going for the third act is that it looks good and the actors are trying, outside of that it’s borderline bad. It really brings down the movie a tremendous amount, some of the rushed things that happen come across as being really lazy, and leaves a bad taste in your mouth. The movie is long, about 2 hours and a half, and you really feel the length. There are some moments of drawn out nothingness happening, and a lot of the movie can feel rather uninteresting at times. It’s a shame really, because many of the scenes are actually well handled, and the movie has some ideas that had potential, but it doesn’t come togther well.

Despite a lot of faults with the characters, the cast do the best they can with what they have. Daniel Craig is once again the best James Bond yet and does try his best here. In terms of performance however, I’d have to say this is Craig’s worst performance as Bond. I don’t fully blame this on him though, as I said despite some of the personal elements in play in the story, James Bond doesn’t feel conflicted or challenged throughout the entirety of the movie. There are plenty of moments when he should be really invested in what’s going on, but Craig doesn’t really react that much to them. While this might pass for a Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan James Bond performance, it doesn’t work for Daniel Craig who spent 3 movies being a rougher and grittier Bond set in some form of reality and an actual character instead of an archetype. It certainly doesn’t help that he has no clear arc through the movie like the other Craig Bond movies, save for some vague things from his past thrown in and a meaningless therapy session, even Quantum of Solace had a solid character arc. Lea Seydoux is good as another ‘Bond Girl’, unfortunately there’s not a ton of interesting things to her character, she basically only ends up doing two things over the course of the movie (despite being established at one point as being somewhat capable), and feels like she could’ve been played by basically anyone. The romance between her and Bond does come out of nowhere and it’s not really believable, however this could go for almost all of the Bond Girls in the Bond series. It’s only made worse by the ending, which seems to imply that she’s someone special now to Bond even though nothing in the entirety of the movie indicated that to be the case (hopefully No Time to Die fleshes that aspect out a lot more). Seydoux does her best though. Monica Bellucci is another Bond girl who shows up in the first act of the movie and essentially does nothing after like 5 minutes of being on screen. She does provide some exposition but that’s it, almost like you could’ve cast anyone in the role and not try to make them a Bond girl. Maybe that should’ve been done, because it would’ve at least removed the really bad love scene between her and Craig, which came across as being really awkward and creepy. The returning Bond supporting cast do a great job. Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw as Q and Ralph Fiennes as the new M are all great in their roles. It is nice seeing them get to do stuff and get involved with the plot (especially Whishaw’s Q) though they did feel a little out of place in the climax.

One of Spectre’s most notable problems (and that’s saying a lot) is that the movie doesn’t do great with the antagonists. First of all getting the minor antagonists out of the way, we have Andrew Scott and Dave Bautsista. The moment that Andrew Scott appears on screen, you can tell that he’s going to end up being a villain. Sure, it doesn’t help that he was already known for Moriarty in Sherlock, but the worst part is that he feels really unnecessary to the plot. As I said earlier, the whole plotline was really not needed and Andrew Scott was tied to it, so he really didn’t have much to work with. Scott definitely has talent but he doesn’t get much to do except to be a generic ‘surprise’ villain. Dave Bautista is a Spectre assassin who at times tries to kill James Bond. While he won’t rank among the best James Bond henchman, out of all the Bond villains in this movie he does his job the best, he served his purpose adequately. Of course the main villain however is Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser. Everyone speculated that with the movie being called Spectre, that Waltz would be playing the head of Spectre, Ernst Stravo Blofeld, who appeared in some of the older Bond movies. There was so much denial that this was the case but it was even more predictable than the villain name reveals for Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness and Talia al Ghul in The Dark Knight Rises. Having that name was so forced that they really shouldn’t have tried it, and if they really wanted to stick with that, they shouldn’t have tried to make a surprise twist. One of the many issues that Waltz has is that we don’t get enough of him, we see him once at the end of the first act, the end of the second act and then again in the third act. However, that’s not the only issue. Blofeld isn’t just the head of the Spectre organisation here, it’s revealed that he was also the adopted brother of Bond, who was involved with his father’s death and faked his own death after being jealous that his father liked James Bond. On top of that, everything that happened to Bond, Le Chiffre, Vesper’s death, Dominic Greene, Silva, M’s death, all that was planned by Blofeld… because of childish jealousy or whatever. Hearing all this, and hearing him talk about all this doesn’t make him sound crazy or psychopathic, it makes him sound petty and a little difficult to take seriously, it just sounds so ridiculous. There’s nothing more to his character, he’s not particularly interesting or entertaining and worst of all he’s forgettable. The thing is that he was supposed to be like a big deal, the ultimate villain to Daniel Craig’s James Bond, I mean they gave him the name of Blofeld, a classic Bond villain when they could’ve just kept the name of Franz Oberhauser. And so with all that hype, it really makes him work even less and fall even flatter. To his credit, Christoph Waltz does try his very best and he does add some menace to the character although he does play it like a lot of his other villain roles, really only Quentin Tarantino has manged to utilize Waltz as a villain excellently, in other villain roles he ends up playing rather cliched antagonists. On top of that, Waltz feels trapped in the role, like he’s just on autopilot through the whole thing. They keep his character alive at the end, and thankfully he gets another chance in the upcoming last Craig Bond movie.

Sam Mendes does a pretty good job at directing Spectre, though there are some elements in the technical aspects which hold the movie back (along with the story). The cinematography this time is by Hoyte van Hoyte, who has done the cinematography for such films as Dunkirk, Interstellar and Her, films that were shot truly fantastically. Spectre’s cinematography is still very good but some elements don’t work as well. For example most of the colour pallet is fine except whenever the film does to places like Mexico and Tangier, because it’s suddenly like they put a brown filter over everything. A lot of the action sequences are entertaining and fun, some of them are rather underwhelming. Yes, sometimes we have Bond in a plane chasing a bunch of cars in the snow, crashing through some houses, but as I said before, you don’t ever feel like he’s in a position where he could fail, he always seems on top of things. Fortunately with the editing, unlike Quantum of Solace, you can see what’s going on, but at least Quantum of Solace had some intensity and energy in all of their action scenes. There are a number of examples of the lack of intensity on Spectre’s action scenes, one is Bond’s escape from the Spectre base by simply shooting 3 people, shooting some pipes and the base just blowing up (escaping in less than a minute, really making the Spectre organisation look incompetent), as well as the aforementioned ridiculed shooting down of a helicopter with a peashooter scene. Despite a lot of the problems, it does have some genuinely greatly directed sequences. One for example is the opening sequence, which features a long tracking shot following James Bond through Mexico during the Day of the Dead parade and a fight inside a spinning helicopter, great way to open the movie. Also the fight scene on the train between Bond and Bautistia is good and probably has the most intensity of the action scenes in the movie. The music by Thomas Newman (returning to compose the score after Skyfall) is good but it is a little too similar to Skyfall’s, it actually makes things feel really jarring. Speaking of music, Sam Smith’s song “The Writing on the Wall” played in the opening credits have proved itself polarising to some. It’s not like a normal Bond song but I didn’t mind it personally. I also didn’t mind the opening credits scene.

I still like Spectre to a degree but it is filled with so many problems that brings it down a large amount. Whereas you can see why Quantum of Solace had its issues with the writer’s strike and an incomplete script, I just don’t know what happened with Spectre. Aside from some scenes that were actually really good, much of Spectre is just a slog and is consistently underwhelming, seemingly ranging from being quite good to flat average. Spectre can’t balance the older and newer aspects of Bond, it lacks a lot of the intensity from the prior movies, the story is generally a mixed bag and ends with a very disappointing third act. We can only hope that Daniel Craig’s last Bond film takes the lessons learned from the best and worst of his films to create a great movie.

Skyfall (2012) Review

Time: 143 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Judi Dench as M
Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva
Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory
Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny
Bérénice Lim Marlohe as Sévérine
Albert Finney as Kincade
Ben Whishaw as Q
Rory Kinnear as Bill Tanner
Director: Sam Mendes

When James Bond’s (Daniel Craig) latest assignment goes terribly wrong, it leads to a calamitous turn of events: Undercover agents around the world are exposed, and MI6 is attacked, forcing M (Judi Dench) to relocate the agency. With MI6 now compromised inside and out, M turns to the one man she can trust: Bond. Aided only by a field agent (Naomie Harris), Bond takes to the shadows and follows a trail to Silva (Javier Bardem), a man from M’s past who wants to settle an old score.

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After the disappointing Quantum of Solace, the next instalment of the James Bond series, Skyfall would be released in 2012, marking the 50th anniversary of the start of the James Bond series, which started with Dr No. I know that in recent years there have been some backlash against it, but I loved Skyfall when I first saw it in cinemas and I still really love it now. Watching it recently I was reminded about how fantastic it is. It is without a doubt in the top 2 best James Bond films.

Skyfall takes things back to some of the classic James Bond while being a very different kind of Bond film at the same time. It is a film which takes the story very seriously but it doesn’t mean that it’s devoid of any fun at the same time. It is very much set in reality with the tone and the story and yet we do get some of the things that we would expect in a typical Bond film, we get the gadgets (even if it’s just a gun that can read Bond’s handprint and a tracking device), we get Q and Moneypenny, we get a lot of little moments like that and it fits in well with the whole story. Like with the previous two Bond films, Skyfall is another personal story but not in the way that you’d initially expect. Yes we do get some of Craig’s version of Bond’s backstory (which by the way only elevates Daniel Craig’s Bond above others even more as he’s given more of a character than other James Bonds) but that’s not the focus, it’s actually on M and her connection with Silva, the main villain. It’s actually balanced out all very well, the emotion, the nostalgia, the entertainment, everything fits in together really well.

Daniel Craig is again great as James Bond, both in the action scenes and the drama scenes. Bond in this film is shown to be not at the top of his game as he once was. This is especially shown in the first act and it makes for an interesting new take for Bond, who usually always at least seems like he’s on top of everything. There’s a moment in the third act where he’s particularly great and it’s one of the only times that James Bond has truly shown emotion. With Skyfall, Judi Dench as M is more focussed on than any other James Bond movie with M in it and it was actually done really well, and Dench as usual absolutely delivers. While some of Bond’s backstory is shown in Skyfall, the story is more personally tied to M and the villain. Judi Dench’s M here is given much more to do than just being James Bond’s boss. The film did a great job sending off Judi Dench as M. Javier Bardem as Silva ranks among the best of the Bond villains. He really works as not just a Bond villain but as a movie villain in itself. He shows up halfway through the movie and yet makes a memorable first impression, is a force of nature and a real presence right up until the very end. He’s damaged, deranged and yet also has an understandable motive, one that’s not looking for money or for control. Silva is one of, if not the best Bond villain. Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny (it’s been 6 years so I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that her character all that time is secretly Moneypenny) is great and she kills it in her role. I almost want a spin off movie with her character, Harris has shown herself to be great and convincing in the role. Along with Moneypenny being brought to the Craig Era Bondverse we have the introduction of Q played by Ben Whishaw, a much younger Q especially compared to all the previous versions but it really works well, and Whishaw is really good. Ralph Fiennes is also a good addition to the movie (he would eventually take over as M in the next films). Bérénice Lim Marlohe is good in her scenes but isn’t really used enough in the movie, she’s really the only cast member who isn’t used to her fullest potential in their role in the movie.

Sam Mendes was a great pick for a James Bond film, this movie is directed absolutely wonderfully. The cinematography by Roger Deakins is absolutely masterful as always, there are many shots and sequences that look absolutely beautiful. Skyfall is by far the best looking James Bond film and it might even be the best directed. The action scenes are all pretty great, they aren’t as outrageous and over the top as some other Bond films but they are really great. From the opening scene in Istanbul that has (a car chase, to a motorbike chase to a fight on top of a train), to the fiery climax, all of it is executed very well. For example, there is a fight scene taking place in a building in Shanghi and it looks absolutely wonderful with the silhouettes, the lighting and everything, one of the best directed James Bond scenes ever. I have to say, after watching Quantum of Solace not too long ago its very satisfying to watch a James Bond movie where the editing is at a level of quality where you can actually see what’s happening during action sequences. The titular song used during the opening credits by Adele was also great and really suited the movie. Speaking of music, Thomas Newman’s score for Skyfall is great, unlike some scores where it just accompanies the scenes well, it also elevated many of the scenes in Skyfall.

Skyfall is by far one of the best James Bond films, if not the best. It has a great personal story that is grounded in reality yet is fun to watch, it has one of the best Bond villains in Javier Bardem and is probably the best directed film in the series’s 50+ year run. Sam Mendes and the cast and crew did an excellent job in delivering an entertaining and emotionally satisfying experience. We can only hope that Daniel Craig’s last Bond film with No Time to Die will at least be at the level of either this or Casino Royale.

Layer Cake (2004) Review

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language, drug use and sex scenes
Cast:
Daniel Craig as XXXX
Colm Meaney as Gene
Kenneth Cranham as Jimmy Price
George Harris as Morty
Jamie Foreman as the Duke
Michael Gambon as Eddie Temple
Marcel Iureş as Slavo
Tom Hardy as Clarkie
Tamer Hassan as Terry
Ben Whishaw as Sidney
Burn Gorman as Gazza
Sally Hawkins as Slasher
Sienna Miller as Tammy
Director: Matthew Vaughn

An unnamed mid-level cocaine dealer (Daniel Craig) in London makes plans to step away from the criminal life. Before he can cut ties, the dealer’s supplier Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham) draws him into a complicated pair of jobs involving kidnapping the teenage daughter of a rival gangster (Michael Gambon) and brokering the purchase of a large shipment of ecstasy pills from a dealer known as “the Duke” (Jamie Foreman), leading to a series of elaborate double-crosses from all corners.

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Layer Cake was Matthew Vaughn’s first movie, before then he produced some of Guy Ritchie’s movies. It was very well received and put him on the map as a director to watch, with him very nearly directing the third X-Men movie afterwards. Although I saw it already years ago, I wanted to check it out again, since I was already rewatching some of Matthew Vaughn’s movies recently. It’s even better than what I remembered it being from my first viewing.

Layer Cake is written by J.J. Connelly, adapting his book of the same name for the big screen. It’s a pretty standard British crime thriller, albeit a very good one with some twists and turns. One could compare this to Guy Ritchie’s crime movies (especially seeing as how Vaughn was involved with Ritchie’s early movies), although there are some similarities, there are plenty of distinct differences between them, especially when it comes to the tone. Vaughn’s other R rated movies generally has a lot of dark comedy to it, Layer Cake on the other hand is more serious, more like a crime thriller and doesn’t have as much comedy. It for sure has some brief dark comedy at points however. It’s actually pretty riveting over the hour and 45 minutes runtime. I think the main reason that this all works really well together though is because of the lead character, which I’ll get into in a bit.

As good as a bunch of all this is, Layer Cake wouldn’t have been as great without Daniel Craig, who honestly makes this movie. Craig is outstanding as the unnamed lead character (not exactly sure why his name is never revealed), who in this movie is more of a businessman than a gangster, in fact he hates gangsters and violence. He also shows a very wide range of emotions as he’s thrown into so many situations that he’s struggling to keep alive in, and through his performance you can really root for the lead character. You can definitely tell why Daniel Craig was picked for James Bond, there’s a lot of Bond that you can see in his performance here. One of Craig’s best, if not his best performance. The rest of the cast also played their parts really well. The rest of the cast including Colm Meaney, George Harris, Michael Gambon, Tom Hardy, Ben Whishaw and Sienna Miller all play their roles very well. Gambon in particular was great as a ruthless and villainous sort of character, quite different from other roles that he’s had.

For a debut, Matthew Vaughn did a great job, it doesn’t look like his first movie at all. It’s all filmed and edited very well, the music choices were also perfect, he’s got a real great handle over the whole movie.

Layer Cake is an outstanding directorial debut from Matthew Vaughn, a well written and directed crime thriller, with Daniel Craig’s great lead performance really making the movie. It’s an underrated little flick that definitely deserves a lot more praise and really worth a watch if you haven’t seen it already.

Mary Poppins Returns (2018) Review

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins
Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack
Ben Whishaw as Michael Banks
Emily Mortimer as Jane Banks
Pixie Davies as Annabel Banks
Nathanael Saleh as John Banks
Joel Dawson as Georgie Banks
Julie Walters as Ellen
Dick Van Dyke as Mr. Dawes Jr.
Angela Lansbury as The Balloon Lady
Colin Firth as William “Weatherall” Wilkins
Meryl Streep as Topsy
Director: Rob Marshall

Now an adult with three children, bank teller Michael Banks (Ben Wishaw) learns that his house will be repossessed in five days unless he can pay back a loan. His only hope is to find a missing certificate that shows proof of valuable shares that his father left him years earlier. Just as all seems lost, Michael and his sister (Emily Mortimer) receive the surprise of a lifetime when Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) — the beloved nanny from their childhood — arrives to save the day and take the Banks family on a magical, fun-filled adventure.

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Although I didn’t really grow up with it and really only first saw it when I was 13/14 years old, I really do like Mary Poppins, it’s a classic for a reason. When I heard about there being another Mary Poppins movie, I didn’t really think much of it. The director was Rob Marshall, who made Chicago (which is apparently good, I haven’t seen it yet) but also Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Into the Woods, both movies I wasn’t huge fans of. Not to mention I just didn’t feel the need for another Mary Poppins movie, thankfully it’s a sequel instead of yet another Disney remake. The only thing that somewhat interested me was Emily Blunt playing Mary Poppins, with Blunt being one of the best actresses working today. Mary Poppins Returns didn’t all completely work and was a bit of a mixed bag, with some elements working alright and others not working at all. Despite this, I do maintain that it is more than worth watching for Emily Blunt’s wonderful performance as Mary Poppins alone.

I’m going to get this out of the way: if you don’t like the original Mary Poppins, there’s pretty much no reason to watch this movie, because its very unlikely that you’ll like this one either. The movie is very derivative of the original, following somewhat similar story beats extremely closely, way too closely. I’ll just say that if you had problems with The Force Awakens being similar to A New Hope, you are probably going to have a field day with Mary Poppins Returns. At times it does similar things to the original but doesn’t do it as well oddly enough. For example, the original movie did have moments where Mary Poppins and the kids would go into different worlds or be part of a song and it would work seamlessly with the story and with what is going on. While Mary Poppins Returns have some moments like that, other moments feel really out of place and don’t work seamlessly with the story, some of them even feel like they could’ve been cut from the movie entirely. The biggest example is the Meryl Streep section which was basically a song routine that really didn’t need to be in the movie. To be fair to the movie, they do make nods to the first Mary Poppins movie but none of them were cringe worthy like they could’ve easily been. It’s rather odd that despite the movie being too similar to the original, every time it tried to do something different (which is something that I wished they did more), they really didn’t work. For example there’s a long sequence in a different world that was pretty good but it ends with this darkly lit carriage chase scene. While I get what that last bit is supposed to represent, I’m sure they could’ve found a way to illustrate that without this really intense chase scene which didn’t belong in the rest of the movie. That’s just one scene though, one of the long term problems was the fact that this movie has a villain played by Colin Firth. While I get given the story there’s a need for an antagonistic presence, instead of giving him like one or two scenes and not focussing much on him, they made him a full on character that’s in like 5 scenes. Honestly its like they couldn’t decide whether to be a minor part or a full on present antagonist and just settled for somewhere in between, which was honestly the worst decision to go with. There really was no reason for a villain, but even if it could’ve worked, they didn’t exactly give him much reason to be there. Although I was following the movie fine enough, I wasn’t really drawn into the magic or the world, or even much cared about the characters or the story. I just really wasn’t that all invested in what was going on.

As much as I bag on this movie for some of the things it does, Emily Blunt’s performance is ‘practically perfect in every way’. Everything from the voice, accent, acting, dancing and singing were absolutely on point every single scene she’s in. Blunt’s performance and the way that she’s portrayed is in line with the character but it doesn’t feel like its trying to be like Julie Andrews’s version. It’s a bit of an updated version of the character that works extremely well. Every time she was on screen, everything lit up and you forget the problems that are present. When she’s not present in the scene, you really start to notice the quality of the movie dipping and then pick right back up when she re-appears. The rest of the cast are actually alright but aren’t able to hold the movie up without Blunt. To be fair to Lin-Manuel Miranda, he does add quite a bit of energy to this movie. His character of Jack basically plays the stand in for Dick van Dyke’s Bert from the original, except instead of being a chimney sweep he’s a lamp lighter with a slightly better Cockney accent. He doesn’t quite equal the same amount of boundless energy that van Dyke brought but he was good. Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer are reasonably good as Michael and Jane Banks but don’t really leave that much of a lasting impression. Jane is present throughout the movie but its weird how they use her. There’s some mentions of her as a labour organiser quite frequently but it doesn’t really have any payoff by the end. There’s also some hints at a romance between her and Jack but that’s only shown in a few scenes and doesn’t really amount to anything. Her inclusion in the movie almost just felt obligatory since she was in the first movie. The kids played by Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh and Joel Dawson were good, they were at about the level of actors who played Michael and Jane in the original movie. Meryl Streep has one scene here and is basically the star of the aforementioned unnecessary song routine. Despite my problems with the scene being there, Streep gives a lot of energy in her one scene, so I guess credits should go to her for that. The problem wasn’t her, it was more the fact that the scene even exists. Colin Firth as I said plays the villain and you know how I feel about the use of a villain in the movie. It is nice seeing him in a more villainous role and does partially ham it up but unfortunately wasn’t even memorable. If his character was featured more, went more hammy or even had his own song routine (yes I know, Colin Firth doing a song routine doesn’t sound that appealing), he might’ve given a lasting impression given that the movie wants the antagonistic presence to be a character and have the audience to somewhat remember him given that they cast an A list actor in the part.

As I said earlier, wasn’t a huge fan of Rob Marshall or his Into the Woods, but his direction of the movie was actually pretty good. His direction of Mary Poppins Returns was also quite good. Mary Poppins Returns has a mix of modern day visual effects along with some classic looking animation ripped straight from the Julie Andrews original movie, giving it that nostalgic feeling that actually worked quite well. Now a big part of Mary Poppins is the music. I don’t envy anyone having to create the music for a sequel to a movie with some incredibly iconic songs. So I don’t exactly blame them for creating songs that weren’t all that memorable. All that said, while I don’t remember all the songs, I at least remember the set up, location and the visuals of the scene. The choreography and some of the creativity done were really strong. The most memorable song was ‘The Cover is Not the Book’, and there are some other songs which I could remember parts of. The ‘Trip a Little Light Fantastic’ section was really too long though and dragged on.

Mary Poppins Returns really doesn’t all work and I feel like it might’ve worked a little more if it was released maybe 2 decades or 3 after the original movie. While the cast is generally alright and there are aspects of the direction which work well, there’s a lot which don’t work and just wasn’t all that memorable. With all that said, there are some alright bits to it and you pretty much need to watch it for Emily Blunt, who is the saving grace of the movie and holds everything together. Again though if you don’t like Mary Poppins, you aren’t going to like this one either.

Paddington 2 (2017) Review

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast
Hugh Bonneville as Henry Brown
Sally Hawkins as Mary Brown
Brendan Gleeson as Nuckles McGinty
Julie Walters as Mrs. Bird
Jim Broadbent as Samuel Gruber
Peter Capaldi as Mr. Curry
Hugh Grant as Phoenix Buchanan
Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington Brown
Madeleine Harris as Judy Brown
Samuel Joslin as Jonathan Brown
Director: Paul King

Settled in with the Brown family, Paddington the bear is a popular member of the community who spreads joy and marmalade wherever he goes. One fine day, he spots a pop-up book in an antique shop — the perfect present for his beloved aunt’s 100th birthday. When a thief steals the prized book, Paddington embarks on an epic quest to unmask the culprit before Aunt Lucy’s big celebration.

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The first Paddington was surprisingly good, it was funny it was enjoyable, it was a really solid family movie. So I was naturally interested in a sequel and with the returning cast and crew involved with the sequel it seemed it would be good. I haven’t seen the original film in a few years but I can say that Paddington 2 is about as good as the original, with much of what make the first film work so well making a return here.

Like with the original, Paul King wrote the sequel and I’m glad that he has. Once again it balances everything incredibly well and from start to finish is very entertaining to watch. It pretty much has everything that a good family movie should have. Kids will love it and adults can enjoy this as well, it’s not just for kids. The humour is effective and will hit with everyone. It is also very sweet and whimsical but never feels cheesy or forced, it feels genuine. Paddington 2 is an hour and 43 minutes long and it’s a good length, it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and is long enough that its satisfying. Also without spoiling anything, it has the perfect ending. Also, it’s worth staying around in the early credits, there is a fun little sequence that follows.

The returning cast were great. Ben Wishaw is still a perfect voice choice for Paddington, so likable and innocent. The Browns played by Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin were once again good here. The newer cast were also quite good. Hugh Grant was the villain here, here he plays a self obsessed and over the top actor and Grant was very into his role and was very entertaining. He’s not as threatening as Nicole Kidman’s villain from the previous Paddington, though he wasn’t meant to be, and for what Grant is doing he did a great job. Other supporting actors like Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi and Brendan Gleeson were also good, Gleeson in particular was a great addition.

Paul King, director of the original Paddington returns and once again did a great job. Visually this film is quite colourful and the direction is just right for the film. There are especially some great visual moments that are creative, one of them involves the camera moving into the pop up book with Paddington appearing inside the book. I really do think the direction deserves more credit because the way they execute certain sequences is actually quite genius. The animation on Paddington is still seamless, you know that he is not actually there and that the actors on screen are probably just interacting with a tennis ball but it never looks or seems fake.

Once again, its been a few years since I’ve seen the original Paddington so I can’t comment too much on how they compare but Paddington 2 is probably around the same level of quality. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, it’s heartwarming, and it’s great for the whole family. If you liked the first film, I can’t see why you wouldn’t like the sequel. I’m actually on board with a Paddington 3, the first 2 were so good that I can’t see why a third movie wouldn’t be at the same level of quality.

Spectre (2015) Review

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Spectre

Time: 148 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser
Léa Seydoux as Madeleine Swann
Ben Whishaw as Q
Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny
Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx
Andrew Scott as Max Denbigh
Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra
Ralph Fiennes as M
Director: Sam Mendes

A cryptic message from James Bond’s (Daniel Craig) past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M (Ralph Fiennes) battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

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Spectre has been one of my most anticipated movies of the year, with Skyfall director Sam Mendes returning to deliver another Bond film. However, Spectre has been getting some pretty mixed reviews. I’ve watched the film and I can say that it is good and is worth seeing but it has some problems. The action and production value is great, as well as the performances, however there are quite a lot of problems in the script, it’s not as investing as the previous films and it doesn’t feel complete. With that said, it’s still a good movie and it’s still worth watching.

Daniel Craig stars as James Bond in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions’ action adventure SPECTRE.

Story wise this movie works but it does have some problems. Without diving too deep into spoilers, Spectre has ties to the previous Bond films, a lot of it is quite personal to Bond but I felt that it didn’t impact him as much as it should have. One of the notable things about this movie is the fact that tonally, it moved away from more of the character driven Bond films like Skyfall and moved onto the more classic Bond films. I felt that it worked for the movie and it’s nice to see a change of tone but I do think it would’ve been better to have a mix between the two tones. I felt that this movie was a little too predictable, there are two twists involving the villains that I saw coming from a mile away. The biggest issue that this film has was actually the way it dealt with its villains, which I’ll get to later. Also the climax felt a little underwhelming and rushed, it didn’t feel complete and it needed something extra to make it stand out. The plot had me interested but I wasn’t as invested as I should have been. Overall the story is decent enough but it could’ve been done better.

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Daniel Craig as always is a great James Bond. I also liked Lea Seydoux as the Bond girl, she shared good chemistry with Craig. It was nice to see some of the classic Bond team do stuff like Ralph Fiennes as M, Naomi Harris as Moneypenny, Ben Wishaw as Q. Christoph Waltz is good in the movie as the villain but I don’t think the film handled him as well as they should have. First of all we only see him in like 5 scenes and he didn’t feel as big of a threat as he should, especially when you find out how significant he is. One villain that I felt was handled better was Dave Bautista, who acted like the Jaws character, appearing every so often to cause problems for Bond.

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On a technical level, I think that this film is the same level as Skyfall. The cinematography is gorgeous as expected, the opening shot of the movie is incredible, it’s a 2 minute long tracking shot and it’s actually worth watching the movie, even just for that scene. Skyfall composer Thomas Newman’s score also was quite good and added to this film quite a bit. Although I was initially unsure about how I felt about Sam Smith’s bond song “Writing on the Wall” I’m starting to like it.

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Spectre is not one of the best Bond films but it is still a good one. I feel like there’s room for Daniel Craig to do one more film before he passes the role onto someone else, it definitely felt like it, when considering how the film ends (not spoiling anything). Casino Royale and Skyfall set the standard of Bond films so high so when this film doesn’t match that level, it’s going to be looked down upon. It’s still better than Quantum of Solace but it still feels a little disappointing, although it’s still a good movie, just not great.