Tag Archives: Bill Camp

The Queen’s Gambit (2020) Review

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The Queen's GambitTime: 393 Minutes
Cast:

Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon
Isla Johnston as young Beth
Bill Camp as Mr. Shaibel
Moses Ingram as Jolene
Christiane Seidel as Helen Deardorff
Rebecca Root as Miss Lonsdale
Chloe Pirrie as Alice Harmon
Akemnji Ndifornyen as Mr. Fergusson
Marielle Heller as Mrs. Alma Wheatley
Harry Melling as Harry Beltik
Patrick Kennedy as Allston Wheatley
Jacob Fortune-Lloyd as Townes
Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Benny Watts
Marcin Dorociński as Vasily Borgov
Director: Scott Frank

Set during the Cold War era, orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) struggles with addiction in a quest to become the greatest chess player in the world.

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I was quite interested in The Queen’s Gambit. The main reason was Anya Taylor-Joy being cast in the lead role, she’s one of the best up and coming actors working today, and I’m always interested in whatever projects she takes on. Additionally, a mini series about chess sounded quite interesting. I had high hopes for The Queen’s Gambit and it turned out way better than I thought it would. It is an excellent miniseries, well made on every level, and with another great lead performance from Anya Taylor-Joy.

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The Queen’s Gambit consists of 7 Episodes ranging from 45 minutes to just over an hour in length. That’s pretty short as far as shows go, but it was the perfect length for this story. None of the episodes or moments in those episodes felt like they were filler. A lot happens in each episode too, even the episodes that aren’t an hour long. The first episode doesn’t feature Anya Taylor-Joy as lead character Beth Harmon outside of the opening scene, as it’s mainly Beth at age 9 when she’s at an orphanage and learns about chess. While that episode is pretty much just her at the orphanage, it is nonetheless a very important episode with plenty of things that it sets up for the rest of the show to continue on with. I’ll say that if you watched the first episode and weren’t as engaged as you would’ve liked to have been, the second episode is definitely where things advance a lot more, as it moves beyond the orphanage. I won’t give too much story details beyond that, but I’ll say that it’s very engrossing watching the lead character, the places she goes and everything she goes through. You’re really engrossed into what’s happening over the course of the story, the characters are well realised, and Beth’s story is quite compelling. The Queen’s Gambit is actually based off a fictional novel, but if I didn’t know that going in, I would’ve thought that it was a biopic, that’s how well made the show was. When it comes to chess, you don’t need to be an expert on chess in order to love the show. The Queen’s Gambit doesn’t even try to really explain the whole game to the audience, and that works. You can still follow along with what’s happening with no problems. Additionally, I’ve heard that a lot of chess experts has said that the portrayal of chess in the show is very accurate, so take that how you will.

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The acting is great by everyone. Anya Taylor-Joy gives one of, if not her best performance yet as Beth Harmon. She really portrays this complex character very well, it’s such a nuanced performance that conveys so much with very little. She definitely makes it convincing that she’s a genius level chess player, who is going through lots of issues throughout the show. Also, Isla Johnston deserves some praise as the younger version of Beth (mainly in the first episode). The supporting cast are all great too. Marielle Heller plays Beth’s step-mother, and that relationship between the two was one of the biggest surprises, as it went in a different direction from what I expected from it. I know of Heller as the director of The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Can You Ever Forgive Me and It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, but she’s shown here that she’s great at acting too and shares great chemistry with Taylor-Joy. Other performances such as Bill Camp as the janitor who teaches Beth chess, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Harry Melling and Jacob Fortune-Lloyd as other chess players also add a lot to the show.

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Scott Frank directed all the episodes of the show, and he did a fantastic job with them. It’s an incredibly well shot show, the cinematography is great, and so is the production and costume designs. The costumes that Anya wears in the second half of the show particularly stand out. It really does well at placing the show in the time periods of the 50s and 60s. Chess is a big part of the show as you can tell, and that aspect is portrayed very well. Even the visuals of chess on the ceiling that Beth occasionally imagines in her head could’ve come across as a bit cheesy but actually ends up working. The editing is excellent too, not only working to make the chess matches thrilling and suspenseful, but also keeping the flow of an episode going. Everything that’s in each of the episodes actually has a reason to be there, while not feeling way too trimmed down. One of the aspects that really stood out to me early from even the first episode was the score from Carlos Rafael Rivera, which was really great and fitted the show perfectly.

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The Queen’s Gambit is an enthralling show with a great and entertaining story, and is incredibly well made. Acting across the board was also all solid but it’s Anya Taylor-Joy who stands out, giving another fantastic and compelling lead performance. This show was one of the biggest surprises from 2020, definitely worth checking out as soon as you can.

Dark Waters (2019) Review

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Dark Waters

Time: 126 Minutes
Cast:
Mark Ruffalo as Robert Bilott
Anne Hathaway as Sarah Bilott
Tim Robbins as Tom Terp
Bill Camp as Wilbur Tennant
Victor Garber as Phil Donnelly
Mare Winningham as Darlene Kiger
Bill Pullman as Harry Deitzler
Director: Todd Haynes

A tenacious attorney (Mark Ruffalo) uncovers a dark secret that connects a growing number of unexplained deaths to one of the world’s largest corporations. While trying to expose the truth, he soon finds himself risking his future, his family and his own life.

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I remember hearing about Dark Waters a while ago, I recognised director Todd Haynes from his work on the excellent Carol, so I was keeping an eye on his next movie. Despite the involvement of the likes of Mark Ruffalo, I didn’t really think much of it based off the marketing. It didn’t look very interesting and so after a while I stopped paying attention to it. But when I got the opportunity to watch it I did, and I’m glad I saw it.

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Dark Waters definitely feels familiar to some other legal dramas/investigative movies about cover ups, it’s no doubt compared to Spotlight quite a lot. It might take some time for you to be completely on board with the movie, but once Ruffalo is locked in to the case, you’re locked in too. You’re learning a lot of information along with him, and it’s rather engaging throughout. The story being told is quite important and relevant to today, it starts in the late 90s, but you can see that it this case takes place over a number of years. Now I personally never heard anything about what happened here beforehand, so this was quite a new thing to learn for me. I won’t reveal too much, but learning the results can be infuriating and unsettling, especially knowing that all of this really happened. Now one could argue that Dark Waters is another one of those movies where it seems like it’s essentially cliff notes of something you could read yourself on a Wikipedia article, but it does enough to actually keep you engaged with the story told by the movie. Now I guess you could call Dark Waters a ‘slow burn’ movie, but I was really interested in what was going on, so that never proved to be a problem.

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Dark Waters has a great cast who perform well in their roles. Mark Ruffalo gives one of his best performances in the lead role of Robert Bilott, the lawyer who took on DuPont. At a certain point he’s locked in and obsessed with this case, and you really see the toll it takes on him and his family. Ruffalo’s performance is subdued but quite believable and effective. Anne Hathaway plays Bilott’s wife, and while it seemed like a pretty thankless role for her, she does get to shine in a couple moments. The rest of the supporting cast is good with the likes of Tim Robbins, Victor Garber, Mare Winningham and Bill Pullman. The standout from the supporting cast however is that of Bill Camp, who plays the farmer who initially contacts Bilott about how multiple deaths in West Virginia are due to DuPont. Camp is one of those character actors who shows up in a bunch of movies in supporting roles and he’s always good in them, but he particularly gets to shine here.

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Todd Haynes directed this pretty well. At first I was a little turned off by the look of the movie, it’s very dark and grey, and not appealing, and I wasn’t really sure if that was intentional or not (especially with his previous movie being as visually stunning as Carol). After a while though I settled into it, and it looked a lot better as it went along.

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Dark Waters wasn’t exactly given the best distribution or marketing, however when you get the chance to watch it, definitely do. It’s an important story that more people should be aware of it, I didn’t know about any of it before this movie. On top of that, it’s engaging, written and directed well, and has a great cast, led by an excellent Mark Ruffalo. Dark Waters is one of the most surprising movies to come out of 2019.

Wildlife (2018) Review

Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Carey Mulligan as Jeanette Brinson
Jake Gyllenhaal as Jerry Brinson
Ed Oxenbould as Joe Brinson
Zoe Margaret Colletti as Ruth-Ann
Bill Camp as Warren Miller
Director: Paul Dano

Fourteen-year-old Joe (Ed Oxenbould) is the only child of Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) and Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) — a housewife and a golf pro — in a small town in 1960s Montana. Nearby, an uncontrolled forest fire rages close to the Canadian border, and when Jerry loses his job — and his sense of purpose — he decides to join the cause of fighting the fire, leaving his wife and son to fend for themselves. Suddenly forced into the role of an adult, Joe witnesses his mother’s struggle as she tries to keep her head above water.

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I heard about Wildlife for a little while and I’ve been meaning to check it out. On top of it starring Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal, two of the best actors working today, it’s the directorial debut of Paul Dano (a really good and underrated actor). I didn’t really know what to expect outside of that. Personally I found Wildlife to be a really good and engaging family drama with typically great performances from its lead actors.

Wildlife basically follows a dysfunctional family through the eyes of the parents’ child as the marriage falls apart. The script written by both Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan was really good. This movie isn’t given a particular structure of sorts, it feels more like it was showing periods of time. While as a result it could’ve felt like it could meander and feel unfocussed, something about it kept me on board from start to finish. It can be increasingly uncomfortable at times watching some of the family drama that unfolds but it did its job well, it really does feel like you’re watching this all happen from the child’s perspective. After everything that happens, the ending was a little abrupt and I could see people finding it to be underwhelming, there’s not really a complete conclusion to all of the characters and the story. However, for some reason it just really worked for me and I liked what they did with the ending.

Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal are some of the best actors working today and they unsurprisingly delivered here. Between the both of them though, it’s Mulligan who shines the most as the mother of the family. While I definitely need to see more from her, this is at the very least among her best work. She demonstrates an incredible amount of range as the marriage between her and Gyllenhaal slowly falls apart. Jake Gyllenhaal is also really good as the father, you don’t really see him as much as you’d think but he was good when he was on screen. Ed Oxenbould plays the child of Mulligan and Gyllenhaal and he was good as well. Wildlife more or less follows the story from his perspective, and I think that is probably the reason why there’s not that much to him as a character. All I can remember about him as a character was that he was in the role of the child, I felt like I didn’t really know him by the end of the movie. Other actors like Bill Camp also play their parts well.

Paul Dano had a pretty good directing debut with Wildlife. It fully embraces the 1960s time period, from the production design, the costumes and the music. I know that given that the plot is set in the 60s it should feel like it, but they especially heavily leaned into it with this movie. Really everything including the cinematography was done well, and the movie feels smaller and intimate, which worked for the story.

Wildlife is an intimate and simple yet effective family drama, and has some great performances, particularly from Carey Mulligan. Paul Dano has demonstrated a lot of directing talent with this movie and I definitely would like to see more of his work behind the camera. Wildlife is definitely worth a watch whenever you can see it.

Red Sparrow (2018) Review

Time: 140 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, sexual violence, rape, cruelty and offensive language
Cast:
Jennifer Lawrence as Dominika Egorova
Joel Edgerton as Nate Nash
Matthias Schoenaerts as Ivan Vladimirovich Egorov
Charlotte Rampling as “Matron”
Mary-Louise Parker as Stephanie Boucher
Jeremy Irons as General Vladimir Andreievich Korchnoi
Ciarán Hinds as Colonel Zakharov
Joely Richardson as Nina Egorova
Bill Camp as Marty Gable
Director: Francis Lawrence

Prima ballerina Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) faces a bleak and uncertain future after she suffers an injury that ends her career. She soon turns to Sparrow School, a secret intelligence service that trains exceptional young people to use their minds and bodies as weapons. Egorova emerges as the most dangerous Sparrow after completing the sadistic training process. As she comes to terms with her new abilities, Dominika meets a CIA agent (Joel Edgerton) who tries to convince her that he is the only person she can trust.

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Red Sparrow is a movie I was aware of. It went through a lot of development, from Darren Aronofsky in talks to direct it, then David Fincher was in talks to direct with Rooney Mara to star in the lead role, before finally ending with Francis Lawrence set to direct and Jennifer Lawrence set to star in the lead role. Not going to lie, hearing the prospect of David Fincher directing a spy movie, only for Francis Lawrence to get the job let me down a little (no disrespect to Lawrence, he’s made some good movies). I still had interest in the film but I really didn’t know what to expect. Red Sparrow was actually better than I thought it would be. It had a riveting plot, was well directed and had some good performances, especially from Jennifer Lawrence.

Red Sparrow is based on the book of the same name by a retired CIA operative named Jason Matthews. However I haven’t read the book so I can’t comment on any potential differences from the book. Red Sparrow is 2 hours and 20 minutes long and while it did really feel it’s length, the story really did have my interest. You have to know that this is a slower paced spy thriller, not a straight up action spy movie. There are plenty of twists and turns from start to finish and involved with every character. Whether or not said twists will hold up on a rewatch remains to be seen. The second half of Red Sparrow oddly seemed slower paced than the first half. Part of why this movie was so divisive is the hard R content, with the violence and sexual violence. While I can see why this turned a lot of people off, I felt that it was handled well, it was brutal enough and didn’t shy away from it, yet it wasn’t too over reliant or self indulgent on it. I think Francis Lawrence has shown himself to be at his best when he’s allowed to go into R rated territory, films like The Hunger Games, I am Legend and maybe even Constantine might be even better had he been allowed to go into those levels. The film ends with a possible set up for a sequel, I do hope that this ends up happening.

The cast all do well here. Jennifer Lawrence is the lead of Red Sparrow and this is one of her best performances yet. She really throws herself into this character who goes through a lot over the course of the movie and she gives it her all. Her Russian accent at time doesn’t always work and can slip out from time to time but it’s passable enough, and her performance aside from that is fantastic. Joel Edgerton was also really good in his role as a CIA operative who comes across Jennifer Lawrence’s character. Although Lawrence and Edgerton are great in Red Sparrow, I really didn’t buy their relationship, I could buy them working together but I never bought them actually falling in love with each other, and I know that’s what the movie was trying to show. It may well be that the writing for them wasn’t strong enough. Supporting actors like Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker and Jeremy Irons all play their roles well.

I was really impressed with Francis Lawrence’s direction here, on top of this movie being his best film, it’s the best direction of a movie I’ve seen from him. Red Sparrow looks visually great and is well put together. Also as I said earlier, the more intense scenes are handled quite well, with the right amount of brutality that’s needed. The score by James Newton Howard is also really good and adds to the movie.

Red Sparrow deserved more praise than it received. It’s really not for everyone, it is brutal and it is a long watch. But for me, the film is well directed, had my attention and had some really good performances, particularly from Jennifer Lawrence who is great here. I do hope we get a sequel and eventually a trilogy, adapting the 2 other books in the series. I’m not sure how different the first movie is from the first book but I’m sure that there’s a way to continue the series. Francis Lawrence, Jennifer Lawrence and the rest of the cast and crew did a great job here and I’d love to see them return again to this series and these characters.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) Review

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, cruelty & sex scenes
Cast
Colin Farrell as Steven Murphy
Nicole Kidman as Anna Murphy
Barry Keoghan as Martin
Raffey Cassidy as Kim Murphy
Sunny Suljic as Bob Murphy
Alicia Silverstone as Martin’s mother
Bill Camp as Matthew
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Dr. Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) is a renowned cardiovascular surgeon who presides over a spotless household with his wife (Nicole Kidman) and two children (Raffey Cassidy and Sunny Suljic). Lurking at the margins of his idyllic suburban existence is Martin (Barry Keoghan), a fatherless teen who insinuates himself into the doctor’s life in gradually unsettling ways. Soon, the full scope of Martin’s intent becomes menacingly clear when he confronts Steven with a long-forgotten transgression that will shatter his domestic bliss forever.

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I didn’t know what to expect from The Killing of a Sacred Deer. I saw director Yorgos Lanthimos’s previous film The Lobster, which I thought was pretty good. I also could tell based on the trailer and reactions knew that it was going to be odd and I heard that it was a pretty bizarre and disturbing film which has divided some audience. I have to say that I personally really liked it, it’s such an original and bizarre movie with excellent direction and great performances, though I can see why it has divided people.

I didn’t know too much about Killing of a Sacred Deer aside from the brief premise and the trailer before watching it. Having finally seen the movie, I’m glad I didn’t know anything more about it, I recommend not knowing too much about this movie before watching it. Because of this, I don’t want to go into too much depth regarding the plot. The dialogue is off from what normal people say but something about it just works. It does have a slow pace but it had my attention and interested. By the time it reached the halfway point, after a lot of bizarre things have happened, I was completely riveted. The film is not extremely bloody but it gets under your skin. Personally I wasn’t uncomfortable for a large portion of the movie, I’m not easily disturbed. However I felt really unnerved throughout most of the film, there were some moments that really surprised me and had me on edge. There is particularly a couple of scenes which were shocking to say the least. I have a feeling I will need to rewatch this movie to fully get everything because its very metaphorical (if you don’t understand a lot of the metaphors you might be a little lost when watching this). However I will say that on my first viewing I got a lot out of it, and understood most of it. So I was satisfied with the story overall.

The acting is all around great. An interesting thing should be noted about the acting, Colin Farrell has said that Lanthimos doesn’t give his actors any direction and just allows them to act and play it how they want, so it’s a real credit to the cast for pulling off great performances with little to no direction. Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman play husband and wife and they were great. Everyone in the movie does act and speaks a little unnaturally (that’s the directional style I suppose) but they get their chances to shine. Barry Keoghan is the highlight here though, as a teenager who has an interesting relationship with Colin Farrell (which I won’t reveal of course). Without going into too much depth, I will say that Keoghan is a real screen presence, being absolutely unnerving and magnetic when he’s on screen. I can tell that he has a long career ahead of him. The children of Farrell and Kidman played by Raffey Cassidy and Sunny Suljic were really good as well, as was Alicia Silverstone and Bill Camp in other supporting roles.

The direction by Yorgos Lanthimos was fantastic. It really felt creepy and unnerving throughout the whole movie. What particularly really stood out to me was the cinematography and production design, everything was well shot and really felt uneasy. There is a real emptiness that can be seen, it feels like something is off. There were even times where it felt Stanley Kubrick-esque. The music was also used incredibly well, really amping up the intensity. The loud pianos keys and the screeching violins makes everything all the more uncomfortable.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is definitely not for everyone, it can be very unnerving, disturbing and a little drawn out, also it might require deeper thought in order to understand. I also feel like this will be a movie that will require multiple viewings to fully interpret. However if this is something you might want to watch, give it a go with an open mind and try not to know too much about it beforehand. If you like Yorgos Lanthimos’s other films like The Lobster, you will probably like this. I personally had a great time with it and my experience will only improve with future viewings. However all in all I can’t say for certain whether you’ll like this movie or not.

Molly’s Game (2017) Review

Time: 140 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Contains violence, drug use & offensive language
Cast
Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom
Idris Elba as Charlie Jaffey
Kevin Costner as Larry Bloom
Michael Cera as Player X
Brian d’Arcy James as Brad
Chris O’Dowd as Douglas Downey
J. C. MacKenzie as Harrison Wellstone
Bill Camp as Harlan Eustice
Graham Greene as Judge Foxman
Jeremy Strong as Dean Keith
Director: Aaron Sorkin

The true story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a beautiful, young, Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade before being arrested in the middle of the night by 17 FBI agents wielding automatic weapons. Her players included Hollywood royalty, sports stars, business titans and finally, unbeknown to her, the Russian mob. Her only ally was her criminal defense lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), who learned there was much more to Molly than the tabloids led people to believe.

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I was pretty interested in Molly’s Game. Not only does it have a cast with Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Michael Cera and Kevin Costner and based on a true story, but also Aaron Sorkin along with writing the script would be making his directional debut with this film. Aaron Sorkin has written The Social Network, Steve Jobs, A Few Good Men, Moneyball and much more, so naturally I was excited to see how he would do. For a directional debut, Aaron Sorkin did a pretty great job. Molly’s Game is a very good movie with the script and the performances being the highlights.

Aaron Sorkin is a fantastic writer, so the fact that Molly’s Game is very well written shouldn’t come as such a big surprise. The dialogue is fantastic as to be expected. This really is a movie that requires you to fully focus on it because of how much information is shown, mostly through narration. There are some bits where it can be a bit complicated and I wasn’t fully grasping absolutely everything. However, even if you get lost at points, you can usually have a general understanding of what’s going on because the movie does pretty well at explaining most things. I was interested and riveted in this story from start to finish. In terms of flaws, the movie jumps between different time periods and while you can tell within the first 10 seconds which time period it is, it nonetheless feels very jarring when it does change. Also tis movie is long, its 2 hours and 20 minutes long and you can really feel the length. It doesn’t necessarily drag but you really do feel its length. With that said, off the top of my head I can’t think of any particular scene that I would remove but there would probably be some scenes that aren’t as relevant or important as others.

Jessica Chastain is typically great, she’s one of the best actresses working today and always brings her A game to ever movie she’s in. She’s playing a real life person who you are really rooting for. Very interesting character (real life person), which is compliment by an excellent performance by Chastain. Idris Elba is also really good as Molly’s lawyer. There are especially a couple scenes in the third act where he really gets to shine. Michael Cera is surprisingly really good, playing the character of Player X, who may or may not be based on Tobey Maguire (it definitely is). It’s a small role and he’s not in the movie too much but Cera does well to make an impression. On another note, when you are watching Molly’s Game, just picture Tobey Maguire in Michael Cera’s role, it makes things a lot more interesting and revealing. Kevin Costner also is good as Molly’s father, the two have a difficult and complicated relationship and Costner did very well in his role.

Aaron Sorkin did very well at directing Molly’s Game for a directional debut. The movie stylised and fast paced at times and it all fitted well together. There is a lot of narration, which often can feel like an easy way of dumping exposition but on top of the writing being excellent, Sorkin integrated it into the film very well. You can kind of tell that Sorkin’s writing in Molly’s Game is better than his direction, but that’s to be expected given that this is the first movie that he directed. Besides, for a first movie he did very well.

Molly’s Game is a really good movie, quite interesting and entertaining for the majority of the runtime. The performances were great (with Chastain, Elba and Cera being the highlights) and Aaron Sorkin was fantastic at both writing and directing here. I’m looking forward to seeing Aaron Sorkin direct more films because he showed that he can direct a solid movie, and I can only see him getting better and better at directing the more movies he makes.