Tag Archives: Brad Pitt

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) Review

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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Time: 166 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains offensive language & sexual references
Cast:
Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button (adult)
Cate Blanchett as Daisy Fuller (adult)
Taraji P. Henson as Queenie
Julia Ormond as Caroline Fuller (adult)
Jason Flemyng as Thomas Button
Elias Koteas as Monsieur Gateau
Tilda Swinton as Elizabeth Abbott
Mahershala Ali as Tizzy Weathers
Jared Harris as Captain Mike Clark
Director: David Fincher

Born under unusual circumstances, Benjamin Button springs into being as an elderly man in a New Orleans nursing home and ages in reverse. Twelve years after his birth, he meets Daisy, a child who flickers in and out of his life as she grows up to be a dancer. Though he has all sorts of unusual adventures over the course of his life, it is his relationship, and the hope that they will come together at the right time, that drives Benjamin forward.

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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was the last of David Fincher’s films I had yet to see. People usually don’t talk so positively about it when it compares to the rest of his filmography, it’s known as one of his ‘weaker’ movies, and it did seem like the only one of his movies that seemed just a little awards baity. I put off my viewing of this partially because I heard some mixed things from other people about it. I was actually surprised by how much I liked the movie, I actually think it’s rather great.

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Most of David Fincher’s films are regarded as being rather ‘cold’ (and I can kind of see why), but The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is definitely his most emotional film. It’s pretty much just following this man in his extraordinary (and fictional) life. Some have called it an awards bait movie, and some moments felt like that at certain points. However with the memorably and lively characters, warmth and genuine emotion, I got quite invested in the movie. It’s a long movie at around 2 hours and 45 minutes long. While I did still like the movie throughout, it probably didn’t need to be that long. It does start off a little rocky, quite slow. But as it progresses, it really picks up, and by the time the first act was finished I was into it.

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The cast all work together. The titular character of Benjamin Button is played by Brad Pitt, and he’s great here, he believably portrays him in every stage of his life and his development is played very well. He’s the centre of the movie through and through, and Pitt plays him wonderfully. Cate Blanchett is also great as the adult version of Benjamin’s childhood friend, the two of them share some believable on-screen chemistry. The supporting cast with the likes of Tarji P. Henson, Tilda Swinton, and others are also great in their respective roles, and do their parts to stand out quite a bit.

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David Fincher’s direction is fantastic as usual. Once again it’s a movie that you don’t expect him to really take on, but he goes all in on with this movie, and on a technical level it’s great. It’s a great looking movie, the cinematography from Claudio Miranda is really good. Fincher usually applies CGI to enhance the look of scenes, mainly in the background (and done in such a way that you don’t even notice it). While that’s probably the case here, here he also uses it for the aging effects on Brad Pitt’s Benjamin Button, and over a decade later it still generally holds up. The score by Alexandre Desplat is also quite beautiful and fit the tone of the movie.

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David Fincher has made better movies for sure, but The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is not to be overlooked, I’d actually consider it to be great. The cast are top notch, Fincher’s direction is outstanding as to be expected from him, and the story itself is quite emotional and beautiful. It may be one of his ‘weaker’ movies (it’s definitely not among his best), but it’s still worth watching for sure, and nowadays I don’t think people give it enough credit.

Snatch (2000) Review

Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] contains violence & offensive language
Cast:
Jason Statham as Turkish
Stephen Graham as Tommy
Brad Pitt as Mickey O’Neil
Alan Ford as Brick Top
Robbie Gee as Vinny
Lennie James as Sol
Ade as Tyrone
Dennis Farina as Cousin Avi
Rade Šerbedžija as Boris the Blade
Vinnie Jones as Bullet Tooth Tony
Adam Fogerty as Gorgeous George
Mike Reid as Doug The Head
Benicio del Toro as Franky Four-Fingers
Director: Guy Ritchie

Illegal boxing promoter Turkish (Jason Statham) convinces gangster Brick Top (Alan Ford) to offer bets on bare-knuckle boxer Mickey (Brad Pitt) at his bookie business. When Mickey does not throw his first fight as agreed, an infuriated Brick Top demands another match. Meanwhile, gangster Frankie Four Fingers (Benicio Del Toro) comes to place a bet for a friend with Brick Top’s bookies, as multiple criminals converge on a stolen diamond that Frankie has come to London to sell.

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Guy Ritchie is a director that I’ve noticed some people are a little mixed on, however most people can agree that his gangster movies are great (or at least his best work). His first movie Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels definitely established him as a director to pay attention to. However, Snatch showcased the best of Guy Ritchie’s talents more than any of his other films. His writing and direction are just on point here to deliver on creating a great movie, made even better by the performances.

Guy Ritchie’s writing has never been better than with here. Snatch has a ton of characters with multiple intersecting storylines, and while I remember not being able to follow everything when I first saw it, on a second viewing I can say that they are all weaved together really well and the whole thing doesn’t feel messy or convoluted at all. The comedy here is really great, it’s a hilarious movie, and on the second viewing there was a ton of things I picked up that time. Snatch has some really witty and clever dialogue, so much of it is quotable as well. At an hour and 45 minutes long, it’s really entertaining throughout.

With the large amount of characters, there is a long cast list, but there’s some standouts. If there’s a lead character in this movie, it would be Jason Statham, giving one of his best performances. Statham is known for his action roles but he really excels here in a different role. Brad Pitt steals every scene he’s in as an Irish boxer. You’re definitely going to need to watch this movie with subtitles, because he does this very hard to tell accent (according to people who use this accent though, Pitt nailed it). The other memorable characters include Alan Ford as a ruthless gangster, Rade Šerbedžija as a Russian arms dealer, Vinnie Jones as a bounty hunter, Benicio Del Toro as a professional thief and gambling addict and Dennis Farina as a gangster-jewler. Really everyone does a great job in their roles.

Guy Ritchie’s direction was really good for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but he perfected it with Snatch. The whole movie is very stylised, however it’s done in a way that genuinely works and it’s edited perfectly. There are plenty of quirky crime comedies that try so hard to be stylish and fail, chances are they tried to replicate what Ritchie did with Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

Snatch is definitely Guy Ritchie’s best movie. The style and direction that he brought to this film, as well as his exceptional writing just made the whole movie entertaining and hilarious from start to finish. On top of that, the talented cast play their unique and memorable characters perfectly. If you love entertaining, hilarious and stylised crime movies with dark comedy, Snatch is definitely a must see for you.

12 Years a Slave (2013) Review

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12 Years a Slave

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence & sexual violence
Cast:
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup/Platt
Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps
Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey
Sarah Paulson as Mary Epps
Paul Dano as John Tibeats
Benedict Cumberbatch as William Ford
Alfre Woodard as Mistress Harriet Shaw
Brad Pitt as Samuel Bass
Director: Steve McQueen

In 1841, African American Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free man, is kidnapped and forced into slavert, under the name ‘Platt’ for 12 years. He faces the hardships of being a slave under the hands of a few different slave owners. Through faith, will power, and courage, Northup must survive and endure those 12 years a slave.

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I had seen 12 Years a Slave many years ago for the first time, and it was quite impactful experience. Having rewatched some other Best Picture winning movies recently, I decided I should give this one a watch again, even though I knew it wouldn’t exactly be a pleasant viewing. 12 Years a Slave still holds up 7 years kater and is just as devastating as when I first watched it, a fantastic and harrowing movie that deserves all the acclaim it’s been receiving.

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Considering the subject matter, one could be forgiven for thinking that the movie might take a manipulative approach, especially considering most of the other movies about slavery, and all the awards that this movie won. However, that aspect was handled right, and I’ll get into some of those aspects a little later. This is first and foremost Solomon Northup’s real life story, and follows him throughout his years of being a slave. The story is handled as honest as possible, and never sensationalises any of it. Now from the title, you know that lead character doesn’t remain a slave for more than 12 years, but the experience isn’t any less harrowing. There are some incredibly impactful and emotional moments that are earned and never feel forced, but genuine.

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This cast is large and talented, and all of them perform excellently in their parts. Chiwetel Ejiofor is incredible in the lead role of Solomon Northup, conveying so much emotion and pain without having to say much, or even anything. This film is continuously following him from beginning to end, this is his movie, and he carries it all powerfully. The rest of the cast are supporting players in Solomon’s story, but they all play their parts well. There are two standouts among that supporting cast, the first is Michael Fassbender, giving one of his best performances as a slave owner. Fassbender really performs excellently, with his character representing pretty much the worst of humanity, he has such a captivating screen presence. The other standout is Lupita Nyong’o, who gives an incredibly emotional performance in her part. The rest of the cast are great and make the most of their scenes, with the likes of Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfre Woodard, Brad Pitt. Michael Kenenth Williams, and Paul Giamatti.

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Good writing and acting aside, what 12 Years a Slave would live or die on is the direction. This film needed to be handled by the right person, or it could easily fail. Director Steve McQueen was very much the right person for this movie, and knew how to handle this very sensitive subject. The cinematography from Sean Bobbitt was stunning. Not only that, but McQueen’s use of the camera is effective, forcing the audience watch everything that happens on screen, and not allowing them a chance to look away. When it came to the violence and the aspects of slavery, it was handled in probably best way possible. It’s undeniably brutal and doesn’t shy away from that, and you feel every blow. At the same time, it doesn’t sensationalise or fetishize it, if anything it is uncomfortably casual, and was fitting for the movie. A perfect example of this is a standout moment that takes place a third of the way through, without revealing the context or what the scene is, it’s a few minutes long, full of unbroken shots, and it’s incredibly painful and quiet. Hans Zimmer’s score is great as to be expected, and fitted perfectly with the film.

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12 Years a Slave remains an outstanding and moving film, powerfully acted, excellently directed, and is all around masterful. It is incredibly hard to watch (and indeed the rewatch was just as painful as the first watch was) but is a monumental film and quite frankly essential viewing.

Ad Astra (2019) Review

Time: 123 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Brad Pitt as Roy McBride
Tommy Lee Jones as H. Clifford McBride
Ruth Negga as Helen Lantos
Liv Tyler as Eve
Donald Sutherland as Colonel Pruitt
Director: James Gray

Thirty years ago, Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) led a voyage into deep space, but the ship and crew were never heard from again. Now his son (Brad Pitt) — a fearless astronaut — must embark on a daring mission to Neptune to uncover the truth about his missing father and a mysterious power surge that threatens the stability of the universe.

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Ad Astra was a movie I was looking forward to for a little bit. It sounded interesting from the small amounts of details I heard, I liked the cast involved, and the premise sounded like something I could get on board for. I also heard a lot about writer and director James Gray, although The Lost City of Z was the only movie I had seen from him. Nonetheless I wasn’t exactly sure what to really expect going in. Ad Astra is fantastic and amongst the best science fiction films released in recent years.

Despite being misleading, much of the trailers and marketing are vague about the plot, and I also think it’s for your benefit that you don’t know too much going in, so I’ll avoid some plot details. After hearing about how slow Ad Astra was, it surprised me in how it moved much faster than I thought it was. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely a slow moving film, and if you’re not invested with the plot it’s going to be a chore for you. The movie was only 2 hours long and it did feel like it was that long, in a good way. As it was, I was personally wrapped up in the story and what was going on. There was always something happening as lead character Roy goes from place to place towards his goal. What the trailers didn’t indicate that was that it’s a very personal intimate movie. Now with it being about a man trying to find his long lost father it can be assumed that it would involve some personal element, but despite how large scale the movie is, it really is an intimate. When people compared Ad Astra to Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now, they weren’t entirely off, in regards to the journeys that the lead characters go on. It’s a very haunting movie, whether it be the obstacles and other things that Roy encounters or his own personal journey. I also thought the movie ended perfectly.

Brad Pitt plays the lead character of Roy McBride and he’s fantastic in the role. His character is very cold and quiet, and as the events of the movie progress and he begins to learn certain things, that facade begins to deteriorate. He’s very much affected by his father, and things that happened before affected the way that he acts now. There are times where you hear voiceovers from Pitt about his feelings. It’s a very subtle yet powerful and believable performance, one of Pitt’s best work. The supporting cast is good, with Tommy Lee Jones (as Pitt’s father), Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler and Donald Sutherland providing some good work. However don’t expect to see a ton of them throughout. It’s really Pitt who’s at the center of everything, the story is heavily relying on him, thankfully he delivers.

James Gray has directed this movie immensely well. It is absolutely stunning with some outstanding visual effects, Hoyte Van Hoytema has done some great work here and it’s unsurprising that the visuals here rivals Interstellar’s. I won’t go into too much detail about the locations and scenarios that the movie presents and I’m fully aware that this is science fiction and set in the future, but there were times where it seemed like one of the more realistic portrayals of space on the big screen that I’ve seen in a while. You really felt the weight of everything that was happening. The movie is also very contemplative and allows some space for the movie to breathe, usually having Pitt narrate during these moments. Max Richter always produces some very powerful music, and Ad Astra is no exception, it really added a lot to the movie.

No, Ad Astra isn’t going to work for everyone. It’s slower paced, and the trailers seemed to indicate a slightly more action paced and larger scaled movie than it actually was. However I personally loved the movie. It’s a very character driven and personal storyline that I was invested in, directed wonderfully, and the cast were great (particularly Brad Pitt). It’s one of my favourites of the year thus far.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) Review

Time: 161 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, drug use, offensive language & sexual material
Cast:
Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton
Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth
Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate
Emile Hirsch as Jay Sebring
Margaret Qualley as “Pussycat”
Timothy Olyphant as James Stacy
Julia Butters as Trudi Fraser
Austin Butler as Charles “Tex” Watson
Dakota Fanning as Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme
Bruce Dern as George Spahn
Mike Moh as Bruce Lee
Luke Perry as Wayne Maunder
Damian Lewis as Steve McQueen
Al Pacino as Marvin Schwarz
Director: David Leitch

Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood visits 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing, as TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore. The ninth film from the writer-director features a large ensemble cast and multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is one of the most anticipated movies of 2019. First of all, it is the next movie from writer and director Quentin Tarantino, and also features one of the best casts of the year, with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino and more involved. I was curious about much of this movie, from the cast, to it being Tarantino’s first movie about Hollywood, considering his absolute love for film. Then there was the whole aspect of it apparently surrounding Sharon Tate’s murder (with this movie initially being branded as a Manson murder movie, which it very much isn’t). Tarantino delivers on yet another fantastic movie, and one of the best of the year.

If you plan to see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, you should probably know first that is a long movie at around 2 hours and 40 minutes, and there is an even longer cut coming later. This is definitely Tarantino’s most laid back movie, and this kind of approach to the story won’t work for a lot of people. Some movies that meander don’t really work for me, it would have to have me on board or invested in order for it to even like. However, for whatever reason, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood does work for me. Admittedly, it took me some time to get used to the pacing in the first act, it was rather slow to begin with. The movie is really is just jumping around to the perspectives of the 3 main characters and what they’re doing, with each of the 3 acts focussing on a day in their lives. The movie isn’t plot driven on the whole, not with revenge or anything like that. This is also among the most genuinely heartfelt of Tarantino’s movies, the only other movie of his you could really compare it to is Jackie Brown. It’s ironic that after his bleakest and darkest movie with The Hateful Eight, he then makes his most lighthearted. It’s also very much a comedy for the most part, and that comedy is generally effective throughout. At the same time, it’s darkly effective when it needs to be, such as a tense scene taking place at a ranch with Brad Pitt. I won’t mention much about the third act (it’s really the only part of the movie that you could really spoil), but that’s the point when it really escalates, and if you find yourself a little bored from the rest of the time, you’re going to probably like that act more (provided you don’t take issue with the direction it takes), as it seems to be a lot more focussed in terms of plot. However, I know that some people won’t accept this particular direction, I was more than fine with what they did. I do think that it’s worth mentioning that I think some of the significance of certain scenes won’t hit people who aren’t familiar with the Manson family murders, or Sharon Tate and what happened to her. Now I’m not an expert, but I do generally know the main idea of what happened in real life for a while before going into the movie, and so I got the intended effect. But I just know that people who don’t really know about it at all will be confused at the very least. For those who already know about it and are wondering if her murder was exploited (like many have speculated), the simplest answer I can give is no.

The cast was pretty large and talented, and among the most exciting aspects of the movie. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt give some of their best performances here, and their respective characters of Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth are among Tarantino’s best characters. They share some great chemistry together and genuinely feel like best friends. Despite being mainly known as a ‘serious’ actor, DiCaprio with this and The Wolf of Wall Street has really shown that he has a knack for comedy. There’s a certain scene where he just has a complete breakdown after not getting some of his lines right, and it’s among the funniest scenes in the movie. His storyline is really about him being struggling as an actor, as his transition from tv actor to film actor has failed. Brad Pitt also shines as Cliff Booth, which rivalling his best performances (and that’s saying a lot). He has so many hilarious lines and moments, and is really one of the highlights of the movie. Margot Robbie plays Sharon Tate, and there was much speculation surrounding her role in the movie. The main story really follows Dalton and Booth as they have their own storylines, but once in a while it’ll cut to Tate doing things during her day. One could wonder why the movie focusses on her, as none of her scenes seems to be in a storyline like the other two main characters, or does it seem to be amounting to anything. What I can tell is that her inclusion is meant to show audiences who Sharon Tate is through brief scenes, from her picking up a hitchhiker to her entering a screening of a movie that she starred in to hear audiences’ reactions to her performance. Robbie and Tarantino did a good job at making audiences of today remember Tate as someone much more than a tragic murder victim. I would’ve liked to have seen more of her, hopefully that inevitable extended cut will have more scenes with her. I will say though, despite the cast being one of the most anticipated parts of the movie, outside of those 3 previously mentioned actors, most of the others don’t get a ton of screentime. The likes of Margaret Qualley, Al Pacino, Timothy Oliphant, Dakota Fanning and others play their parts well, but don’t expect to see them more than a few scenes. Some appearances of actors like Michael Madsen and Scoot McNairy, as well as portrayals of iconic real life people like Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) and Steve McQueen (Damien Lewis) are basically just cameos. I guess they’re good in their necessary scenes, and maybe didn’t need to have more, but it’s worth knowing going in that they don’t get a massive amount to do like you might think they do.

Quentin Tarantino definitely has a great handle of this movie, as he usually does with his films. He really takes you back to the 60s Hollywood time period, with the costumes, to the production design and sets, and yes, the very well picked music. Longtime Tarantino cinematographer Robert Richardson also contributes heavily to the movie, giving it a stunning look and even successfully conveying a fantasy and relaxed feel to some of the scenes. Sometimes the movie would just follow Booth or Tate just driving, for a minute or so, it may stop the plot for a bit but for some reason it just worked for the overall vibe of the movie. I feel like if you are really into film, there’s going to be a lot of things in the movie that you’re going to enjoy, especially the scenes of filming with Dalton’s segment in the second act.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Quentin Tarantino’s heartfelt love letter to Hollywood, and one of the best movies of the year. The cast is great (DiCaprio, Pitt and Robbie particularly), and Tarantino’s writing and direction are on point. It’s not quite in my top 3 favourites from him, but it’s close, and I’d still say that it’s among his best movies. I know that apparently he wants to make one more movie before he wants to retire as a director, but if he just finished with this movie, it would be very fitting for him.

Inglourious Basterds (2009) Review

Time: 153 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence and offensive language
Cast:
Brad Pitt as Aldo “The Apache” Raine
Mélanie Laurent as Shosanna Dreyfus/Emmanuelle Mimieux
Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa
Eli Roth as Donny “The Bear Jew” Donowitz
Michael Fassbender as Archie Hicox
Diane Kruger as Bridget von Hammersmark
Daniel Brühl as Private First Class Fredrick Zoller
Til Schweiger as Hugo Stiglitz
Director: Quentin Tarantino

In World War 2, a group of American soldiers led by LT. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) is sent into Nazi occupied France to kill as many Nazis as possible. A plan is made to kill high ranking German officers at a movie theatre. That movie theatre belongs to Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), a Jewish refugee who witnessed the deaths of her family by Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). When she finds that every major Nazi officer is attending for a premiere, she hatches a plan of her own.

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Inglourious Basterds is widely considered one of the best films from Quentin Tarantino, and for good reason. The acting, direction but most of all the writing makes this such a unique, different and entertaining movie, which has gotten better every time I’ve watched it. One of his most complete movies and definitely one of his top tier movies, if not his all time best.

It’s no surprise that Quentin Tarantino’s writing is fantastic, in its 2 hour and 20 minute runtime it doesn’t miss a beat. From start to finish the film is riveting, a good example of one of these scenes, happens to be one of the best scenes, which is at the very beginning; it was a very tense and it’s a credit to the actors and Tarantino. One thing that is different from his other movies is the way it is structured; the film is broken up into chapters, focussing on particular characters. It’s only in the final chapter where both the Basterds, Hans Landa and Shosanna are in the same chapter. As usual the dialogue is fantastic, and while Tarantino could be considered self-indulgent with some of the dialogue in this movies, here all of it feels just right. Another difference is the use of 4 multiple languages throughout the movie, which was definitely a different turn from Tarantino and made things interesting. The final act of this movie is exhilarating and very entertaining in one bloodbath of a finale.

Tarantino gets the best out of everyone who stars in his movies and Inglourious Basterds is no exception. Brad Pitt is hilarious in this movie, especially with his very overplayed accent. Other actors like Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Michael Fassbender and Daniel Bruhl, all have great moments in this movie and contribute to the movie immensely. There are however two standouts among the cast. The performance that steals the show of course is by Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa. Waltz is magnetic when he’s on screen, that aforementioned opening scene establishes him as an absolute screen presence. Melanie Laurent is often overlooked in this movie but she’s really fantastic here, definitely deserving of much more praise.

Quentin Tarantino effortlessly directs this movie with his style and infuses it with a lot of energy. Tarantino really helps to set the film in the 1940s, from the production design to the costumes, all of it was done well with great detail and it really paid off. Helping this is the music picked for it, even when some of the songs that are used in a much later time period (including Cat People by David Bowie), they fit perfectly in the scenes they are placed in.

Inglourious Basterds has gotten better every single time that I’ve seen it. The performances from its large and talented cast (especially from Melanie Laurent and Christoph Waltz) were great, and of course the writing and direction is at the core of what made it work so well. Though we are still a little while away from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, at this point in time I’d say that Inglourious Basterds may well be Tarantino’s best film yet. Definitely watch it if you haven’t seen it already.

The Tree of Life (2011) Review

Time: 139 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Brad Pitt as Mr. O’Brien
Sean Penn as Jack O’Brien
Hunter McCracken as young Jack
Jessica Chastain as Mrs. O’Brien
Tye Sheridan as Steve
Kari Matchett as Jack’s ex
Joanna Going as Jack’s wife
Director: Terrence Malick

In this highly philosophical film by acclaimed director Terrence Malick, young Jack (Hunter McCracken) is one of three brothers growing up as part of the O’Brien family in small-town Texas. Jack has a contentious relationship with his father (Brad Pitt), but gets along well with his beautiful mother (Jessica Chastain). As an adult, Jack (Sean Penn) struggles with his past and tries to make sense of his childhood, while also grappling with bigger existential issues.

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Tree of Life was a movie I was curious about. I wanted to see a couple of Terrence Malick movies before seeing his latest film (Song to Song), so that I could get used to his style beforehand, so I decided to start with one of his most well known movies, Tree of Life. I expected to see an unconventional, arty film which is visually beautiful, and I really wouldn’t know how to feel about it afterwards and indeed that’s the movie I ended up with. I was left polarised and confused by the end of the movie but yet I think I like the movie. It’s very difficult to describe my experience with the movie.

Tree of Life is not an easy movie to describe, I think the best way to describe all this is to tell how I felt during the movie. This movie is unconventional to say the least. The first 10 minutes focusses on Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Sean Penn, during this I didn’t know what to think. I couldn’t really tell what was going on. 20 minutes in, there is a 10 minute segment which pretty much featured the universe being created (there’s no better way of describing it). It focusses on random aspects, stars, meteors, nature, animals, plants, even dinosaurs at one point. I was intrigued by what I saw but didn’t know what to really think. The rest of the movie for the most part focussed on the family (Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken, Tye Sheridan) as time goes by. At that point, I started to oddly enough like this movie and I was interested in seeing everything progress. After the family segment, I’m not really sure what to think of the movie, I don’t even know what the ending was supposed to mean and represent. I don’t really know what this movie is about (apart from life). The movie does have a lot of monologues throughout the movie, though I didn’t find myself picking up on what they were meaning. I can see how other people would be bored of the movie, it is very slow paced. I only really started being fully engaged after 30 minutes into the movie. But yet there is something about it that I liked, I haven’t yet figured out what it is.

This movie has a lot of talented actors with Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn and Tye Sheridan. They are all pretty good, with Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain being the stand outs as the parents of the family. Even when they aren’t saying anything, it’s easy to see how they feel in certain situations just through their expressions and reactions. Sean Penn doesn’t really get to do much, most of his limited screentime is him just walking around while Terrence Malick follows him around with a camera. With that said, this happens with every actor, a lot of the movie at times just follows the actors/characters around with them having no dialogue and not doing anything that important. I’m guessing that this is what happens with every actor in Terrence Malick movies.

One thing that all people who see this movie will say is that Tree of Life looks absolutely beautiful. Every shot is framed well and looks magnificent. Even the 10 minute ‘creation segment’ was beautiful. I couldn’t tell always what the shots of certain aspects were supposed to represent, but they looked beautiful at the very least. And plus, a lot of the time Malick manages to make the audience feel emotions through his imagery. The only thing directionwise that’s off was a scene with dinosaurs, the CGI looked incredibly fake, embarrassingly bad, and it kinda takes you out of the movie. The soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat was great and really added to the movie.

Tree of Life is not an easily accessible movie. There are a lot of people who really don’t like this movie and find it to be pretentious and boring and I don’t really blame them for thinking this. Tree of Life is different, it’s slow, it’s unconventional. But if you are willing to give it a shot, I recommend watching it. Just know what you are going in for. I myself am not sure about what I had watched but I liked it at a point, it’s difficult to describe why. I get the feeling that Malick’s films are meant to make people feel emotions rather than it be technically good like most movies, not conventionally anyway. I know this review hasn’t been very descriptive of the movie, but honestly that goes to show how unusual of a movie this is.

The Big Short (2015) Review

Left to right: Steve Carell plays Mark Baum and Ryan Gosling plays Jared Vennett in The Big Short from Paramount Pictures and Regency Enterprises

The Big Short

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive Language and Nudity
Cast:
Christian Bale as Dr. Michael Burry
Steve Carell as Mark Baum
Ryan Gosling as Jared Vennett
Brad Pitt as Ben Rickert
Director: Adam McKay

When four outsiders saw what the big banks, media and government refused to, the global collapse of the economy, they had an idea: The Big Short. Their bold investment leads them into the dark underbelly of modern banking where they must question everyone and everything.

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The Big Short is a movie that interested me because of the great cast and director, and also because of all the awards it was being nominated for. After seeing it I can say that The Big Short is a really good movie that manages to portray a pretty complicated and significant event in history. It has excellent acting, smart writing and does well in explaining what happened with the collapse of the economy. The movie doesn’t always get everything right in the latter aspect but what they get right, they really get right.

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Director Adam McKay has been mostly known for comedies like Anchorman and Step Brothers but with The Big Short he made his start in drama and I think he did a good job. One of my main concerns going in was the fact that the film needed to explain complicated concepts to the audience, and it could leave the audience lost if not done right. Fortunately the film make it easier through various means such as breaking the fourth wall (a lot of the time with Ryan Gosling’s character), and by doing things like having celebrity cameos explain complicated concepts. I didn’t understand everything that was going on but I got the general idea, so just know going in that you likely won’t get everything that they explain. There are so many characters in the movie that at times it is pretty easy to lose track, however like the concepts, I could get the general idea of who they were and what they were doing.

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This cast is huge and A-list. Christian Bale is really good as the guy who basically discovers that the collapse of the economy will happen. You don’t see him as much as some of the other actors but he is great when he’s on screen. Steve Carell gives one of his best performances yet, proving that his dramatic turn in Foxcatcher wasn’t just a one off. Ryan Gosling was also great in this movie, we don’t really get much insight into his character but he was entertaining, even if I would’ve liked if the film explored his character more. Brad Pitt has a small role and doesn’t have a lot of screen time but he is good when he’s on screen. All the other supporting actors do a good job in their roles as well.

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The camerawork at times could be a little shaky and handheld, sometimes it worked and other times it was a little distracting. Apart from that I really like the style that McKay used, it’s fast, entertaining and energetic but it’s not stealing the style from The Wolf of Wall Street. The transitions in time periods I thought also was a nice addition, by intercutting lots of clips of key events that happened in history between the previous event and the event it was jumping to.

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Although The Big Short at times does misstep with some aspects like the camerawork isn’t always the best and not all the concepts were completely understandable, for the most part The Big Short gets it right, with great writing, excellent performances, a good style and its overall a really good movie. Even if I couldn’t understand everything that was going on, the fact that it managed to get me to understand at least some of the concepts in a movie is worth praising alone. Definitely check this movie out when you get a chance, but know going in that it will be a little more technical and complicated than you would initially imagine.

The Counsellor (2013)

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The Counsellor

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, sex scenes and offensive language
Cast:
Michael Fassbender as The Counsellor
Penelope Cruz as Laura
Cameron Diaz as Malkina
Javier Bardem as Reiner
Brad Pitt as Westray
Director: Ridley Scott

A rich and successful lawyer, the Counsellor (Michael Fassbender), is about to get married to his fiancée Laura (Penelope Cruz) but soon becomes entangled in a complex drug plot with a middle-man known as Westray (Brad Pitt). The plan ends up taking a twist and he must protect himself and his soon to be bride as the truth of the drug business is uncovered and targets are eliminated.

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There are often films that have a great cast that turn out to be huge success, the film has the directing talent of Ridley Scott, the acting talent of actors like Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt and Javier Bardem and its screenplay is written by famous author Cormac McCarthy. Unfortunately this film is a disappointment; however isn’t in my opinion a total failure (like some people think it is) with some decent performances, great look and music as well as the second half actually being quite good. However this is one of the most disappointing movies I’ve seen.

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The script of this movie was written by Cormac McCarthy, who wrote books which got turned into some movies such as No Country for Old Men and The Road. After watching this movie I figured that he should stick to writing books because this screenplay isn’t that good, from what I’ve seen, this story would be better as a book and then possibly later adapted to a movie. The characters’ backstories aren’t exactly given so you can’t really understand much of why they do that they are doing, The first half of the movie isn’t very interesting and a lot of the dialogue is filled with metaphors; there may have been some sort of theme that this film is supposed to follow but it just wasn’t that well executed here, it just feels like padding. Nothing much seems to happen and it’s quite hard to follow the story as the film doesn’t seem to explain things, like how the Counsellor got involved in drug trafficking. The worst scene in the whole movie is when Cameron Diaz has sex with a Ferrari; even in any form of context, one has to ask why that scene was ever written. The second half of the movie is much better and seems to throw away the metaphors in the dialogue and more things actually start to happen; I’d even say that the second half is 8/10. The only problem I have with the second half is that the ending is a bit abrupt.

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The actors do well with what they’ve got; as I previously mentioned some problems with the movie are that the characters’ backstories aren’t really given and the dialogue consists of a lot of metaphors. Michael Fassbender plays the main character and although his character doesn’t have much backstory given (not even his name is given) he gives a great performance. Brad Pitt is also a standout in this movie, personally I found his character more interesting but he was also pretty good as well. Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Cameron Diaz also do pretty good with what they’ve got.

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I quite liked the look of the movie, the locations are quite beautiful. The cinematography is pretty good with the exception of a car chase scene where there was a little shaky cam used. The music was also pretty good and seemed to be used quite well. The violence in this movie isn’t frequent but is bloody, it’s quite like No Country for Old Men and I personally thought it was well handled.

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The Counsellor unfortunately is not a movie I’d recommend for everyone to see. The acting is great, the cinematography and music is pretty good, the thing holding the movie back is its writing. Ridley Scott has another movie coming out this year, Exodus but I don’t know how it will end up, hopefully much better than this movie.

Se7en (1995) Review

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Se7en

Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence, sexual themes and content that may disturb
Cast:
Brad Pitt as David Mills
Morgan Freeman as William Somerset
Gwyneth Paltrow as Tracy Mills
Director: David Fincher

Two homicide detectives are tracking down a sadistic serial killer who chooses his victims according to the seven deadly sins. Detective David Mills (Brad Pitt) is a hopeful but naive rookie who finds himself partnered with veteran Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman). Together they trace the killers every step, witnessing the aftermath of his horrific crimes one by one as the victims pile up in rapid succession, all the while moving closer to a gruesome fate neither of them could have predicted.

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David Fincher is an outstanding filmmaker and really establishes it here after the Alien 3 debacle. He isn’t a stranger to dark movies and none of his others are as dark as this one. Its dark feel captivates and holds the attention of the audience. From start to finish, Se7en is a brilliant, thrilling, horrifying, fascinating and well made movie that contains of the best aspects that Fincher has as a filmmaker.

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The tone of this movie seems to always be dark and that tone is established with its opening credit sequence. The film is captivating from start to finish as we see these two detectives try to solve the murders. The murders that they investigate happen before they appear at the crime scene, so you don’t see the murder in process. Fincher also doesn’t show the murder scenes gratuitously, just as much necessary for the audience to see; we also learn more about how the victims died through discussions afterwards and the rest of it is left to the audience’s imagination. Nonetheless, some of the deaths are particularly gruesome, meaning that this movie is probably not for everyone, particularly the faint of heart. Se7en also has one of the best endings however without spoiling it; it’s not pleasant at all. It is haunting, depressing and a bit disturbing however I think that the ending was perfect for this movie.

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The acting by Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt were very good. The idea of a retiring detective being paired with a rookie cop at first sounds like some buddy cop movies, but it is handled very well as both Freeman and Pitt play their roles with realism. Most of the best scenes in the movie is when it’s just them talking; investigating all those murders gets them talking about things that are just very interesting to watch. The rest of the cast are also really good like Gwyneth Paltrow who makes quite an impact, despite not having as much screen time. I won’t reveal who the killer is played by, but the actor did such a good job playing him and was on the level of Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt as the best performances in the whole movie. Simply put, the killer embodies evil in all its forms, and it is rare to find many performances that does this successfully.

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The film has a bleak dark feeling, which would be later used in a lot of other David Fincher movies. I’ve also noticed that the sun never shines during the movie, it rains a lot and it was often gloomy, which really added to the dark tone. Everything from the lighting, editing and cinematography is so well used to its fullest potential. The soundtrack by Howard Shore is also quite good, adding to the atmosphere.

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David Fincher has successfully created a dark, disturbing film with a lot of atmosphere. Although the deaths didn’t really disturb me, I will say that this film is not for the faint of heart. It is one of Fincher’s best and as long as you know what you are going into before you watch it, it is a brilliant movie.