Tag Archives: Bruce Willis

The Expendables 2 (2012) Review

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The Expendables 2

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains Violence
Cast:
Sylvester Stallone as Barney Ross
Jason Statham as Lee Christmas
Jet Li as Yin Yang
Dolph Lundgren as Gunner Jensen
Chuck Norris as Booker
Terry Crews as Hale Caesar
Randy Couture as Toll Road
Liam Hemsworth as Billy the Kid
Scott Adkins as Hector
Yu Nan as Maggie
Jean-Claude Van Damme as Vilain
Bruce Willis as Church
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Trench
Director: Simon West

All hell breaks loose when Barney, along with his band of old-school mercenaries, sets out on a path of carnage after one of their comrades gets killed during a simple task assigned by Mr Church.

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I rewatched the first Expendables and while I enjoyed it, it was worse than I remembered it being. Afterwards, I wanted to watch the sequel again because I remember it being much better. That proved to be very much the case, The Expendables 2 is a noticeable and immense improvement over the previous movie, and was fun in itself.

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The plot isn’t the best, its very standard for an action movie and doesn’t really matter that much. However, the straightforward nature of the plot was for the best, and it helps that it’s at least coherent and paced well, with never a dull moment. Like its predecessor, The Expendables 2 continues to be a homage to the action movies of the past, and embraces much of its tropes. That being said, the sequel seems to serve better as that. Part of that has to do with the tone, which is way more consistent throughout. Despite many of the ridiculous moments, the first Expendables movie took itself too seriously. It would go from a goofy airplane action scene to a well written and performed but nonetheless out of place emotional monologue from Mickey Rourke. In contrast, The Expendables 2 leans more toward being an over the top blockbuster, and not taking itself too seriously. That’s not to say that there aren’t any dramatic moments, but it works with the rest of the movie much better. Much of the dialogue and humour came across as being very forced in the first movie, this again is improved in the sequel. There are some good one liners and enjoyable references. It does unfortunately has the odd situation where it can overdo it with the meta jokes. There’s particularly an exchange between Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Chuck Norris which make 3 meta jokes in the span of 20 seconds, and in those cases they could’ve dialled it done. Otherwise, it was just on the right level for me.

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Much of the cast from the first movie return and are even better here, including Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham. Everyone here delivers as you’d expect, though the standout might be Dolph Lundgren. One disappointing aspect of the last movie was that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis were in just one scene (though it was one of the highlights of that movie). However, they actually play more notable parts in the movie, we even get to see them involved in the action in the third act and it was great to see. The new additions are good too; Liam Hemsworth plays a new member of the Expendables and while he feels out of place, he serves his purpose well. Nan Yu is also a good addition to the cast, playing a notable part and is alongside the Expendables for much of the film. Chuck Norris appears in a few times for a fun cameo, and it really is credit to this movie that they somehow make the tired Chuck Norris jokes actually funny here. Another aspect that was improved here was the villain. Eric Roberts was quite forgettable in the first movie, this time they got Jean-Claude Van Damme to play the villain, who’s name is literally Vilain. He feels like a worthy antagonist to the main team, and fits perfectly here.

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Sylvester Stallone’s direction of the first movie was fine, but was ultimately lacking. The second movie is a noticeable improvement it with Con Air director Simon West, who does a much better job. From the opening action sequence, you can already tell the difference in the handling. The action is much better, its well shot, better edited (especially for the fight scenes), and it reduces the shaky cam. It still has the problem with the bad looking CGI blood that messily splatters everywhere, but it does look a little better than in the first movie.

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I’ve been constantly stating this point throughout this whole review, but The Expendables 2 really does improve on the first movie in just about every way, and is everything that its predecessor should’ve been. The action, characters, plot, humour and more are just more finely tuned to deliver on its promise of being a throwback to the action movies of the 80s and 90s, I was consistently entertaining from beginning to end. If you are fan of those movies, The Expendables 2 is well worth checking out. You don’t even need to watch the first Expendables, just jump straight into this one.

Live Free Or Die Hard (2007) Review

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Live Free or Die Hard

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] containes violence & offensive language
Cast:
Bruce Willis as Detective John McClane
Justin Long as Matthew “Matt” Farrell
Timothy Olyphant as Thomas Gabriel
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Lucy Gennero-McClane
Maggie Q as Mai Linh
Director: Len Wiseman

The Director of FBI’s Cyber Crime Division assigns John McClane the task of tracking down a hacker. John ends up working with an ethical hacker who helps him deal with the cyber criminals.

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Live Free or Die Hard (or Die Hard 4) was the fourth movie in the Die Hard series, released 12 years after the last movie. I do recall people being a bit mixed on this movie, especially as it leans into more a conventional action blockbuster and feeling less like Die Hard. To a degree it is partially a let-down after Die Hard with a Vengeance but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

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The movie is definitely ridiculous even by Die Hard standards, with regard to the plot and with the action (particularly near the end). Die Hard with a Vengeance increased the scale to the entirety of New York City, so as you can expect, the fourth movie’s scale is even larger. Live Free or Die Hard pits John McClane against younger cyberterrorists and while the plot does feels very late 2000s and dated, cyberterrorism was a decent choice of antagonism to keep the series from just rehashing the past. Some of the changes do make the movie feel less like Die Hard, it’s pretty much a generic action plot that happens to have John McClane as the protagonist. With that said, McClane does play a big part in this movie working. Despite feeling less like typical Die Hard, I appreciate the changes made to the formula, especially with how the last movie was made over a decade prior, and it does its best to modernise it.

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Bruce Willis returns once again to the iconic role of John McClane. I wouldn’t say that this is Willis in top form, and the movie effectively turning him from a down to earth cop and underdog into an indestructible superhero who survives unbelievable dangers. At the same time, he is still really good here. As a more grizzled John, Willis is surprisingly engaged in this role and still delivers as his character. Live Free or Die Hard is a typical mid to late 2000s action movie with cyberterrorists but the one thing that makes it work is John McClane, it would be a much weaker movie without him. Willis is protecting a hacker character played by Justin Long, who had the potential to be annoying but actually worked okay here. The chemistry between the two certainly wasn’t at the level of Willis with Jackson in the previous movie, but their banter is enjoyable enough. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays McClane’s daughter and isn’t in it much but is good in her screentime. Timothy Olyphant as the villain is fine enough for this movie. He isn’t all that intimidating or convincing, but at least was different enough of a villain compared to McClane’s past antagonists. There is a Kevin Smith cameo in this, while I’m not going to say I disliked it, it was certainly distracting.

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Len Wiseman directs this movie, and his work is decent. This is the first PG-13 Die Hard movie, meaning that the violence is toned down and is less bloody despite the high bodycount. I have issues with it for sure but it doesn’t ruin the movie for me. Something you’ll notice immediately is that it looks so different from the rest of the franchise, fitting right into the late 2000s mold of action cinema mainly with the cinematography and lighting. The action is competently handled even if it doesn’t reach the heights of the first or third movies. The action is often cartoonishly over the top and far fetched, but at least it is creative and fun to watch. I will say though that the over-the-top action does eventually lead to a lack of tension since John seems to survive soe many ridiculous situations.

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Live Free or Die Hard definitely has its faults. The story is fairly generic, and it does lose some of its identity of a Die Hard movie. However I do think it is entertaining. The story is at least watchable, the action is fun to watch, and Bruce Willis is once again great to watch as John McClane. Considering many of its aspects, the updated modern day setting, the PG-13 rating, the fact that it’s the 4th movie in the franchise and 12 years since the last instalment, it could’ve been a lot worse. This was the more ideal place for the franchise to stop. Die Hard had to evolve, from 2 to 3 and from 3 to 4 but at this point its lost its identity as a Die Hard movie and would be best leaving it at that. Unfortunately there was a fifth movie after this.

Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) Review

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Die Hard With a Vengeance

Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Bruce Willis as John McClane
Jeremy Irons as Simon Peter Gruber
Samuel L. Jackson as Zeus Carver
Graham Greene as Joe Lambert
Colleen Camp as Connie Kowalski
Larry Bryggman as Walter Cobb
Anthony Peck as Ricky Walsh
Nick Wyman as Mathias Targo
Sam Phillips as Katya
Director: John McTiernan

John McClane (Bruce Willis) must enlist the help of Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson), a local shop owner, to stop Simon (Jeremy Irons), a former colonel from East Germany, from detonating bombs across New York.

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I remember Die Hard with a Vengeance being one of the best Die Hard movies, my favourite just after the original. I recalled that it was on a much larger scale from the previous two movies, and it had Samuel L. Jackson as well as Jeremy Irons as the villain. On rewatching it I can say that it is the best Die Hard sequel despite a couple of issues.

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The story is suspenseful with a brisk and relentless pace, and it never lets up. It’s not the most original of stories for action movies, but it is well executed. The narrative is consistently engaging and really benefits from the central buddy dynamic with the main two characters. The initial plot having the lead characters racing around New York City trying to stop bombs going off was a great way to add tension. It is also quite funny, it’s probably the funniest of the Die Hard movies, mostly because of the dynamic between the two leads. Something about Die Hard with a Vengeance is that it isn’t a carbon copy to the first or second Die Hard movies. It scraps the idea of John McClane stuck in one location with terrorists or robbers running about and expands it to the entirety of New York City. It also abandons the Christmas setting of the first two Die Hard movies for Summer in the city. As a result, it definitely does more than just recycle the first film’s plot. The movie marked the biggest change of the series, for better and for worse. Even within this movie itself, the change does lose some things from the first movie, like it doesn’t feel as claustrophobic. Additionally, the third movie’s more expansive setting and complex plot does rob it of some of the simplicity of the predecessors. However, this change was necessary given that Die Hard 2 was already very similar to the first movie. There are a couple of changes that I wasn’t a fan of, some things were left off from the last two movies, mainly to do with John McClane. They explain what happened with him since Die Hard 2, but its all done in a rush. However, the biggest problem with Die Hard with a Vengeance is that the third act just doesn’t work as well as the previous two acts. It starts to lose steam when the mysterious villain is revealed even before his personal motivation becomes apparent. The ending feels especially rushed and tact on in a “here’s everything resolved now” way. It’s worth knowing that there was an alternative original ending which was much darker. While I usually would gravitate to it, that ending doesn’t work well either and would’ve needed a lot more work on it for it to be satisfying. Despite its issues, the disappointing theatrical ending is still fine and definitely an improvement over the alternate and more sombre ending that they abandoned.

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There are some solid performances from the cast. Bruce Willis is once again ever reliable as John McClane. McClane in this movie is at a low point in his life, his wife left him again, he’s suspended and he’s an alcoholic. These additions are a double edged sword, it does make him more vulnerable and as a result more relatable, and again he’s really put through the wringer. However, there is also a sullenness to McClane here that can be off-putting, especially compared to his appearance in Die Hard 2. Samuel L. Jackson’s character of Zeus Carver is one of Die Hard’s best characters behind McClane, providing some great comic relief with his line deliveries. This movie wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without the chemistry between Willis and Jackson, they are a perfect on-screen duo, bouncing off each other so well. This movie also has the Die Hard movies’ second best villain in Jeremy Irons, who is thoroughly chewing the scenery, even when we don’t see him for most of the movie and only hear his voice. Unfortunately, the writing for Irons just wasn’t that great and the character in retrospect is a little lacklustre, especially when it reveals the character later in the movie. The rest of the villains are forgettable even by Die Hard standards.

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Original Die Hard director John McTiernan’s return to the director chair was more than welcome. As written earlier, Die Hard 3 takes a very different approach and is no longer the claustrophobic thriller the first one was, and I thought that change was handled well partially because of the direction. The action sequences are great as expected. I don’t think they come close to the first Die Hard’s action, but With a Vengeance comes closest to achieving this.

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Die Hard with a Vengeance is a worthy third instalment in the franchise, and the best of the sequels by far. Despite some issues including the third act and some changes from the previous two movies, the fresh new direction in terms of scale and story really helped it. It is energetic, thrilling and entertaining to watch, and strongly benefits from the main duo of Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson.

Die Hard 2 (1990) Review

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Die Hard 2

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Bruce Willis as John McClane
Bonnie Bedelia as Holly Gennero McClane
William Atherton as Dick Thornburg
Reginald VelJohnson as Sergeant Al Powell
Franco Nero as General Ramon Esperanza
William Sadler as Colonel William Stuart
John Amos as Major Grant
Director: Renny Harlin

When a team of terrorists threaten to destroy an airport and demand the release of the drug lord Ramon Esperanza (Franco Nero), detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) tries to stop them.

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Die Hard was such a big hit upon its release in 1988, and for very good reason. It’s a great action movie that manages to get pretty much everything right, and over 3 decades later it still holds up. A sequel was inevitable and released 2 years after its release as Die Hard 2 (also known as Die Harder). It isn’t anywhere near the quality of the first movie by any means, it is more of the same of the original but just not executed as well. With that said, it was still very enjoyable for what it was.

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The writing is really the key problem with the movie, its not terrible but generally lukewarm at best. It does copy a lot from its predecessor, even the part where it takes place at Christmas. However it skimps on the character moments, themes, and iconic villain. Also while I wouldn’t say that Die Hard is one of the more realistic action movies out there, Die Hard 2 requires a lot more suspension of disbelief. The premise is farfetched, and the movie can get over the top. Not that it’s a bad thing mind you, it’s just that it feels very much like an 90s action movie, whereas the first movie was an 80s action film while still feeling timeless. There is also a lot of convenience when it comes to scenarios that occur, and especially with how John McClane manages to do certain things. Some situations felt totally implausible, even for an action movie. Those are generally its weaker points but on the whole its not bad. In all fairness it does some things quite well. The movie is also well paced and intense, wasting no time to get to the action. Also, there’s the setting at an airport. It certainly is not as claustrophobic as the first movie’s contained setting in the hotel. However it still allows for opportunities for good action.

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The acting all around is good. First of all is of course Bruce Willis reprising his action star making role of John McClane. He definitely helps the movie, his sense of humour, charisma and relatability makes him fun to watch. To a degree he does have plot armour and feels less vulnerable despite often being put through the wringer. However there’s nothing movie breaking, and you still feel it’s the same character who ended the first movie. Unfortunately, the characters other than McClane fall a little flat. The rest of the cast with the likes of Bonnie Bedelia, William Atherton, Dennis Franz and more do play their parts well enough but stand out less than the supporting cast in the first movie. The villains in particular are quite forgettable. The first movie had a strong dynamic between Willis and Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber, an this movie doesn’t really have that. However the main villains here aren’t terrible, they just pale in comparison to what came before.

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Taking on the Die Hard sequel is director Renny Harlin. There isn’t anything inherently bad about the direction, it’s mostly good. However it isn’t as well tuned as John McTiernan’s work on the first movie, despite them having similar directing styles. On a technical level, it certainly has aged worse than the first movie. There are more special effects used this time and it ends up dating the movie further. That aside, it is technically well made. The snowy atmosphere is perfect, and it really gives the movie a nice Christmas aesthetic that the first movie lacked despite it being known as a Christmas movie. There’s a lot of entertaining action sequences, from chases, to gunfights and fight scenes. The action is certainly larger scale, and give the way for much more carnage and mayhem.

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Die Hard 2 is probably the least talked about movie in the series. It definitely doesn’t work as well as the previous movie, however it is still pretty good, and worth watching if you liked the first movie. The action is fun to watch, its well-paced, and Bruce Willis carries much of the film. As an over-the-top 90s action movie, it succeeds.

Die Hard (1988) Review

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Die Hard

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and offensive language
Cast:
Bruce Willis as John McClane
Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber
Alexander Godunov as Karl
Bonnie Bedelia as Holly Gennero-McClane
Director: John McTiernan

Hoping to spend Christmas with his estranged wife, detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) arrives in LA. However, he learns about a hostage situation in an office building and his wife is one of the hostages.

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Die Hard is considered one of the greatest action films of all time for very good reason. It is a simple yet effective, and works as well as it does because each of its elements have been so perfectly handled.

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First of all, I won’t weigh into the argument or debate about whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie, but I will say that it works as either. Something that was so impressive about the movie was the script. Like a lot of other classic 80s action movies, it does have some very memorable dialogue and one liners, but it is also just structurally very well put together. There’s nothing much complex about the movie, it’s very simple. However it is very well written and has a tight and well paced story, that gradually escalates over time. It draws you in with the simple premise and keeps the momentum throughout the entire run of the movie. There’s a lot of time for build up, character development, and gradual increasing of tension and action. Every plot point in the film is set up in a natural way, and every one of these setups does have their satisfying payoffs. It is also a very contained and relatively small scale movie despite being an iconic action movie. There are large action scenes, some of which contain some explosions, but most of the film is claustrophobic and suspenseful.

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The acting is also really good. One of the key aspects that makes Die Hard work as well as it does is the character of John McClane. McClane is very much a regular person caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s very much not invincible here, each of his fights and encounters aren’t easy, most of the time he barely survives. He completely wings it every time and is just improvising as he’s going along. He’s also not a perfect person, he is flawed and combining this with his personality makes him relatable and likable as a protagonist. McClane however wouldn’t have worked without Bruce Willis. His casting at the time was no doubt unusual given that he was mainly known for comedy at the time, but he fits perfectly well in here. He was far from the Schwarzeneggers and Stallones in the 80s and was a different kind of action hero. Willis even nails talking to himself during challenging moments in a way that actually feels natural. It’s easy to see how this character made such an impact on future protagonists in movies, especially with how action heroes leads would be written and portrayed. Alan Rickman is equally as iconic as Hans Gruber, the main villain of the movie as the leader of a group of bank robbers. Despite the group of villains on the whole being rather average, Rickman overcomes this and more than holds his own against Bruce Willis, becoming a perfect counterpart to McClane despite not sharing many scenes with him. As Gruber, he’s menacing, charming and very intelligent, proving to be a difficult obstacle over the course of the movie. Definitely one of the most iconic movie villains, especially in the action genre. There are also other entertaining secondary characters who are also played well, including Bonnie Bedelia and Reginald VelJohnson.

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Another key element of Die Hard working as well as it does is John McTiernan’s impeccable direction. First of all, the setting of a large hotel is grand and claustrophobic all at once, providing a great background for the movie and action to take place inside. It is beautifully shot, and the lighting and camera movements are amazing. The action is fantastic too, tense and gripping, and well edited. McTiernan really knows how to build a lot of tension and suspense. Even the special effects are ageless, and for an 80s action movie that’s saying a lot.

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Die Hard is an incredibly important movie of the action genre, as well as movies in general, it’s actually hard to talk about it. Every time I come back to this movie it somehow ends up being better than the last time I watched it. If you’ve never seen the first Die Hard, it is definitely well worth a watch.

Motherless Brooklyn (2019) Review

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Motherless Brooklyn

Time: 144 Minutes
Cast:
Edward Norton as Lionel Essrog
Bruce Willis as Frank Minna
Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Laura Rose
Alec Baldwin as Moses Randolph
Willem Dafoe as Paul
Bobby Cannavale as Tony Vermonte
Cherry Jones as Gabby Horowitz
Director: Edward Norton

Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton) is a lonely private detective who doesn’t let Tourette’s syndrome stand in the way of his job. Gifted with a few clues and an obsessive mind, Lionel sets out to solve the murder of Frank Minna (Bruce Willis) — his mentor and only friend. Scouring the jazz clubs and slums of Brooklyn and Harlem, Essrog soon uncovers a web of secrets while contending with thugs, corruption and the most dangerous man in the city.

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I had heard about Motherless Brooklyn for a while, I knew that Edward Norton was directing it, I saw that it had a good cast, and it also was a detective story, which I generally like. I heard it received some mixed reactions, but I was still interested in seeing it whenever I could. Motherless Brooklyn was one of the biggest surprises of the year for me, even if aspects of the script could’ve been slightly improved.

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This film is based off a novel of the same name, with the plot in that being based in the 90s but Norton decided to make the shift towards the 50s for the film. Watching the movie, I couldn’t imagine this story being set in any other time period, it seemed like it was tailor made for that decade. As a mystery detective movie, I really liked it, with twists and revelations sprinkled throughout the plot. I was interested in what was going on, even when it was generally moving at a slower pace. This is a long movie at 2 hours and 25 minutes, and it feels a little too long, even if I was invested throughout. The central detective mystery story is interesting, but occasionally it gets a little side-tracked with other aspects. There are some background elements in here that needed to be fleshed out a little more, and some of the supporting characters needed to be developed a little more. I can see how some would find the ending to be anti-climatic, but for a conclusion to the story, I liked it.

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This movie has a pretty great main cast, with Edward Norton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin, and Willem Dafoe making up the main cast. Norton gives one of his best performances as protagonist Lionel Essrog. It’s a very believable and emotional performance, on the whole he’s great. There’s just one aspect with him that not everyone is going to be on board with, and it is his portrayal of Tourette’s syndrome. It definitely feels overplayed at times, but you settle into it after a while, and for the most part it isn’t overused throughout the movie. Mbatha-Raw is also great, definitely a supporting player, but there is so much nuance and compassion in her performance that she doesn’t let herself get forgotten, she played her role really well. Willis is good but he’s basically a cameo, despite the whole movie surrounding his character’s death. Dafoe is also typically great, and probably even elevated his character with his performance. Baldwin has played many villainous characters, but this role is probably one of his most believable and intimidating, and he really gives a strong performance here and got many chances to shine.

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This is the first film I’ve seen directed by Edward Norton and he’s done a great job with it. Motherless Brooklyn really embraces all the noire elements, from the typical shots seen in the genre, the production design, to the music, and to the protagonist speaking their thoughts over a voiceover. It might seem a little overbearing or blatant at first, but you get used to it after a while, especially if you get wrapped up in the world that the story and the characters exist in. It has some truly stunning cinematography by Dick Pope, and the score by Daniel Pemberton is also one of the standouts of the year, a jazz based score that you really could imagine being in a classic noire. All of these elements work together to get you into the atmosphere and overall story.

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Motherless Brooklyn is clearly a movie that hasn’t really worked for everyone, and it isn’t going to join the ranks of other classic noires like Chinatown or L.A. Confidential, but I actually thoroughly liked it. There are a couple aspects of the script that’s not so great, it can feel slightly bloated and a little messy. On the whole though I thought it was great, with some effective performances, an interesting story, and was directed well by Norton. Definitely worth seeing whenever you can.

Looper (2012) Review

Time: 113 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence and offensive language.
Cast:
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe
Bruce Willis as Old Joe
Emily Blunt as Sara
Paul Dano as Seth
Noah Segan as Kid Blue
Piper Perabo as Suzie
Jeff Daniels as Abe
Pierce Gagnon as Cid
Director: Rian Johnson

In a future society, time-travel exists, but it’s only available to those with the means to pay for it on the black market. When the mob wants to eliminate someone, it sends the target into the past, where a hit man known as a looper lies in wait to finish the job. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one such hired gun, and he does his job well — until the day his bosses decide to “close the loop” and send Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) back in time to be killed.

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I remember seeing Looper years ago around about the time when it came out. It was the first movie from Rian Johnson that I saw, so I was naturally excited when he was announced as directing a Star Wars movie because of his work here (and yes, I’m still very much love how The Last Jedi turned out). Because Johnson’s latest film Knives Out is coming out soon, I thought it was a perfect time to revisit this movie. Looper still holds up pretty well. There might be a couple things that don’t work perfectly, but on the whole it’s still great.

First of all with Looper, I liked how the movie portrays the futuristic world. It’s definitely a science fiction reality, with some advanced technology, new drugs and the like. However it doesn’t have flying cars or anything like that. There’s even some people in this movie who have the ability of telekinesis, but it’s pretty small and can only really be used for levitating small objects, not a significant superpower by any means. The movie also isn’t just science-fiction, it’s also a crime movie, and through Joe’s (Joseph Gordon Levitt) narration, we hear about how this criminal group operates. Rian Johnson is great at blending different ideas together and Looper is no exception, it’s quite an original movie and if you haven’t seen it and don’t know much going in, I’m pretty sure the experience will be better when you do. With any movie involving time travel, there’s going to be some holes and things that don’t quite make sense, and Looper isn’t immune to that (especially towards the end). The characters who even know vaguely about the time travel do at least acknowledge that the time travel is confusing, and I still really liked how the movie portrayed and utilised it, so I was able to look past some of the more confusing elements. While I liked the ending (even though I’m not exactly sure if it’s right), I feel like it could’ve been like a minute longer at least, it somehow felt a little abrupt.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives probably his best performance yet in the role of the main character of Joe, a hitman of sorts. Bruce Willis here really gave one of his best performances in years, he really seemed dedicated to his performance here, significant given most of his recent work has just been straight to DVD action flicks. Something they did with Gordon-Levitt is that they put makeup on him to make him seem like a younger Willis. While its effective and definitely looks a lot better than it sounds on paper, I do find it a little hard to buy that they are the same person. JGL looks like himself but slightly Bruce Willis-ish, but the with the way they act you don’t really buy that they are the same person. However you can look past that and roll with it. Emily Blunt shows up in the latter half in the movie and is very good in her role. The same is said for Pierce Gagnon who plays Cid, Blunt’s child who seemingly a lot more than he initially appears to be. Other supporting actors like Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels also add quite a lot in their screentime.

Rian Johnson has really progressed as a filmmaker, going from a smaller gritty noire set at a high school, to a bright Wes Anderson-esque conmen comedy, to Looper, a science-fiction crime movie. Visually it looked great. I mentioned earlier how I liked the portrayal of the future, and that extends to the direction. The locations for the most part look very similar to places to today and was rather gritty in parts, but with some futuristic touches. The soundtrack by Nathan Johnson was also very effective.

Looper is an original science-fiction crime movie, very well written and directed by Rian Johnson, and the cast were good, particularly Gordon-Levitt, Willis and Blunt. Despite some of the issues I had with some aspects of the plot which didn’t quite work, I think it’s really great. Definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it already.

Glass (2019) Review

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & content that may disturb
Cast:
James McAvoy as Kevin Wendell Crumb/The Horde
Bruce Willis as David Dunn/The Overseer
Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price/Mr. Glass
Sarah Paulson as Dr. Ellie Staple
Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke
Spencer Treat Clark as Joseph Dunn
Charlayne Woodard as Mrs. Price
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

From Unbreakable, Bruce Willis returns as David Dunn as does Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price, known also by his pseudonym Mr. Glass. Joining from Split are James McAvoy, reprising his role as Kevin Wendell Crumb and the multiple identities who reside within, and Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke, the only captive to survive an encounter with The Beast. Following the conclusion of Split, Glass finds Dunn pursuing Crumb’s superhuman figure of The Beast in a series of escalating encounters, while the shadowy presence of Price emerges as an orchestrator who holds secrets critical to both men.

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Glass was one of my most anticipated films of 2019. While M. Night Shyamalan has the reputation of being a polarising and hit or miss director, his work on Split was great and one of the most stand out aspects about it was the twist at the very end which indicated that the movie was set in the same universe as Unbreakable. Unbreakable is often hailed as one of Shyamalan’s best films, and seeing him expand on that universe was exciting. Naturally the third and final film of this trilogy had a lot of anticipation behind it, and upon its release, it has been receiving very divided reactions. Having seen it myself though, I’m on the side that loves it, and it just gets better the more I think about it.

While I guess you could watch Glass without watching the other movies, you’ll really only get the full experience if you watch both Unbreakable and Split. If you’re not that interested in these movies, I don’t think you’ll be as invested in Glass as others. Something that should be noted is that this is not a superhero movie. While Unbreakable is sort of a superhero origin story and Split is sort of a supervillain origin story, this trilogy is meant to be a take on superheroes, not necessarily meant to be superhero movies. Because of that, it tends to subvert and play around with a lot of superhero movie tropes, and I really liked that. Glass’s genre and tone is a mix of Unbreakable and Split, but it leans more towards the Unbreakable side. There are a few thrilling scenes but most of the movie is slow paced and smaller scale like Unbreakable, and I loved Unbreakable. There is a lot of dialogue in the movie and going into it knowing that, I really thought it was good and I was invested in the conversations. The movie also doesn’t get as big as some may think. The trailers do oversell the scale of the movie, it really is a small scale and enclosed movie, and I’m glad that it doesn’t get absurdly over the top. There will be some things in the third act that are going to divide some people, I personally really liked where he took it, even if I really wasn’t expecting that at all. It is clear whatever the case however that the direction that Shyamalan took the plot was his plan, it’s not a studio mandated decision or anything, this is what he wanted to do with the story. As for the writing itself I really liked it. It does have the typical writing of Shyamalan, both the good and bad. By the bad I mean that there’s some occasional lines of dialogue which don’t sound human at all, but I’ve become used to seeing that from Shyamalan. In terms of problems I had, the first thing that came to mind was that the second act at times could drag. I wasn’t necessarily bored and I was invested throughout, but I did feel it slow down a little too much. With that said, Unbreakable had more pacing problems than Glass. I feel like I’ll need to watch Glass again to be sure how I feel about it, however my instant reaction after watching it was loving it.

Much of the returning cast from Unbreakable and Split are back and they all do great jobs. Bruce Willis reprises his role as David Dunn from Unbreakable but he wasn’t as prominent as I thought he would be. He was sort of in the forefront earlier on and then gets less screen time over time. With that said it worked for the movie, he was still present in the plot and it was nice to see him again. It’s also the best performance that Willis has given since Looper, he really does seem committed to the role. Also returning is Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price/Mr Glass. It was surprising that despite his name being the title of the movie, for a while he doesn’t do much. Even when he showed up in the first half, he was just there, not even saying a single word. It’s really the second half where he is more in the forefront and Jackson absolutely kills it. It’s been 19 years since we’ve seen him in this role and he is back with the same level of dedication and still feels very much like the same character, albeit more certain in his beliefs about superheroes. James McAvoy as Kevin Wendall Crumb/The Horde however was the standout of the entire movie, no surprise really. While David Dunn is in the forefront in the first half while Elijah Price is in the background, as well as vice versa for the second half, Crumb and his other personalities were consistently present throughout. McAvoy was fantastic in Split but he’s even better here. While his character’s split personality wasn’t necessarily a gimmick in that movie, it was quite reliant on it. In Glass it feels like his characters are even more fleshed out and McAvoy just transforms into each of them with ease (sometimes jumping between them in the same shot), convincingly making them feel like distinctly different people. While the personalities we see most are Hedwig, Patricia, Dennis and The Beast, we do see appearances from the personalities in Split, as well as a bunch more new personalities. I’m not sure how you’ll feel about the overall movie but I’m pretty sure that everyone will be able to say that James McAvoy did a phenomenal job, because he really did. An addition to the movie is Sarah Paulson in the role of a psychiatrist trying to convince the main 3 characters that they aren’t superheroes. Paulson is a very talented actress but was often underutilised in some movies, often in minor supporting roles. In Glass she is in a supporting role but she really shines in her role and has a lot to work with. Anya Taylor-Joy, Spencer Treat Clark and Charlayne Woodard return as their characters, with Anya as Casey Cooke (the surviving kidnapped girl from Split), Spencer as David’s son, and Charlayne as Elijah’s mother. They aren’t in the forefront and maybe weren’t super essential to be in the movie but they fit well in the story and played their parts well.

I’d go so far as to say that this might be the best directed film by M. Night Shyamalan, he does some great things here. The cinematography is immaculate and the visuals are great, particularly the use of colour. This is not an action movie but there are a few action scenes. It’s nothing great but it was more than I was expecting from the movie, and worked quite well. The music by West Dylan Thordson (who made the score for Split) was great. There are also callbacks to themes from Unbreakable and Split and they are very effective.

Glass isn’t going to work for everyone, as evidence from the very polarising reaction from both critics and audiences. If you’re not invested in the Unbreakable/Split stories in the slightest, there’s probably not going to be much point watching Glass. However I personally loved what M. Night Shyamalan did with this film. His direction of the movie is his best work yet, the performances are great (particularly James McAvoy) and as unexpected as it was, I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to what Shyamalan started with Unbreakable. I think I will need to rewatch it at some point as there was a lot to take in, and my opinion on it could change. However the more I think about it, the more I loved it.

Unbreakable (2000) Review

Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Contains medium level violence.
Cast:
Bruce Willis as David Dunn
Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price/Mr. Glass
Robin Wright as Audrey Dunn
Spencer Treat Clark as Joseph Dunn
Charlayne Woodard as Mrs. Price
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

A security guard (Bruce Willis), having been the sole survivor of a high-fatality train crash, finds himself at the centre of a mysterious theory that explains his consistent physical good fortune. When news of his survival is made public, a man whose own body is excessively weak (Samuel L. Jackson) tracks him down in an attempt to explain his unique unbreakable nature.

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I only watched Unbreakable once but with director M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film Glass coming out soon, a movie tying together this movie and his other movie Split in the same universe, I decided to check out Unbreakable again. At the time of its release, Unbreakable was considered to be a disappointment compared to director Shyamalan’s previous film, The Sixth Sense (which got him noticed as a director). Nowadays its considered one of his all time best movies and maybe even his best, and for very good reason.

Unbreakable was really ahead of its time, especially when you consider the state of superhero movies in the lead up to its release. While the Christopher Reeve Superman movies and the Michael Keaton Batman movies existed, the rest of the comic book movies leading up to 2000 were films like Batman and Robin and Spawn. This is a more realistic take about comic book superheroes. Had this been released around 2005-2008, this would’ve been acclaimed as a masterpiece and a different take on superheroes. However, it was released at a time when comic book movies were still finding its way, so people really didn’t understand or catch onto this movie as fast. M. Night Shyamalan plays with comic books, it’s clear even from this that he has a deep knowledge about comic books and applies some of the tropes and aspects into the lore in this movie. Despite some of the larger than life concepts, it understands that it’s a smaller movie, based in reality. It’s essentially a story about Superman realising that he’s a superhero but they make it as grounded as possible. There is also a twist at the end, as typical of Shyamalan, and it really works (won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen Unbreakable yet). In terms of problems with the movie, I guess there are moments that are a little drawn out and lost my interest a little bit, mainly some conversations, but there’s only a few of those moments.

Bruce Willis’s performance here as the lead character of David Dunn is one of his best, if not his best. It’s a very subdued performance, it’s not showy at all but you can clearly see his emotions come across and he’s very convincing in his arc. Samuel L. Jackson also gives one of his best performances as Elijah Price, someone who is determined to prove that David is a superhero of sorts. Jackson is very subdued here compared to his other characters and he’s actually quite convincing in the role. Despite some of the outlandish things that his character claims, the way Jackson delivers them actually seems believable. The supporting actors were also good, with Robin Wright and Spencer Treat Clark as David Dunn’s mother and son serving the story quite well.

M. Night Shyamalan knows what he’s doing behind the camera here. The cinematography was great, on a rewatch I really noticed that he used a lot of long takes with small movements or zooms, especially during conversations. I’m not sure why he did that but it just felt right. Shyamalan once again seems very familiar with comic books and it’s very apparent in his direction. Whether that be the clear use of colour like green for David Dunn and purple with Elijah Price, the way some things are framed to seem like something straight out of a comic book, or other things along that line. James Newton Howard’s iconic score here is absolutely incredible and added so much to the movie. As fantastic as Unbreakable is, I’m not even sure that it would’ve reached this level of greatness without it, that’s how much it elevated the movie.

Unbreakable for me is without a doubt Shyamalan’s best movie yet, his writing and direction on top of the great performances (especially form Willis and Jackson) were outstanding and really works. With the boom of comic book movies nowadays ever since really 2008, Unbreakable has aged incredibly well. Early buzz surrounding Glass has been divisive but I’m on board with whatever Shyamalan has in mind for the conclusion of this story.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014) Review

Time: 102 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence & sex scenes.
Cast
Mickey Rourke as Marv
Jessica Alba as Nancy Callahan
Josh Brolin as Dwight McCarthy
Eva Green as Ava Lord
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Johnny
Rosario Dawson as Gail
Bruce Willis as John Hartigan
Powers Boothe as Senator Roark
Dennis Haysbert as Manute
Ray Liotta as Joey
Stacy Keach as Alarich Wallenquist
Jaime King as Goldie and Wendy
Christopher Lloyd as Kroenig
Jamie Chung as Miho
Jeremy Piven as Bob
Christopher Meloni as Mort
Juno Temple as Sally
Director: Robert Rodriguez

The damaged denizens of Sin City return for another round of stories from the mind of Frank Miller. In “Just Another Saturday Night,” Marv (Mickey Rourke) struggles to recall a nasty run-in with some frat boys. In “A Dame to Kill For,” Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) forsakes his battle with his inner demons to help Ava Lord (Eva Green), the woman of his dreams and nightmares. In “Nancy’s Last Dance,” Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba), mad with grief and rage over Hartigan’s death, vows revenge.

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I am a big fan of the original Sin City, with its comic booky style and direction. For a while there was talks of a Sin City sequel and it was a little worrying as it took 9 years for it to actually get made, which didn’t look good at all. A Dame to Kill For finally dropped in 2014, to some mixed reception, seemingly disappointing even some of the fans of the original. Despite the mixed reception surrounding the sequel I really liked it. A lot of what made the original to be great is here, from its direction, talented actors and more. It’s not as great as the original, most of it being due to the stories not being quite as great or interesting, but it is still a very solid movie overall.

Like in the first Sin City, the sequel has multiple stories and also like with the original, the stories aren’t necessarily presented in chronological order, if you’ve watched the original Sin City you will be used to it. The stories follow Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Dwight (Josh Brolin) and Nancy (Jessica Chastain), along with a brief storyline for Marv (Mickey Rourke). I overall liked all of the stories but they aren’t as interesting as the original. Out of all the main stories, only Dwight’s story is from a prewritten novel (that being A Dame to Kill For). The Nancy storyline is a continuation from her story from the original, the Johnny storyline is completely new and Marv is here because he’s a fan favourite (although he does make enjoyable appearances in the other stories as well). It’s unfortunate that the weakest storyline is the titular Dame to Kill For storyline, which does receive the most attention. It has its moments and is good enough but I’m not quite sure if I’d call it great enough. Overall though, this movie is quite similar to the original, and I had a great time with it.

Many of the original cast returns, with Mickey Rourke as Marv, Jessica Alba as Nancy, Rosario Dawson as Gail and others. They are all great, with Mickey Rourke’s Marv effortlessly being a standout. A surprising part of the movie is Jessica Alba, she was fine in the first movie as Nancy but here she actually is really good here, as Nancy since the first film has been going through a lot, and it was great seeing the change that she goes through. Powers Boothe was also a stand out here, he was in the original film for like one scene, but here he is a lot more prominent and has such a villous screen presence. Along with returning actors, there are also some talented new actors who are involved. Clive Owen was Dwight in the first Sin City but in this movie Josh Brolin is in his role and he does a very great job. Joseph Gordon Levvitt plays a brand new character named Johnny and he definitely owned his role, perfect casting. Eva Green plays Ava, the ‘Dame to Kill For’. Eva really was the perfect actress for the role. There’s not much complexity in terms of the actual character and is pretty much just a Femme Fatale, but then again the character in the original graphic novel is like that, so I can’t really blame her. All the actors do a good job, even the one scene actors like Ray Liotta and Christopher Lloyd make a solid impression.

A Dame to Kill For, like for the first Sin City has a unique style and it returns here, Robert Rodriguez directs this film well. The action is beautiful, violent, brutal and entertaining. The colour pallet is similar to the first movie’s, mostly black and white with some objects coloured (like red blood and a blue dress). As I said in my review of the first movie, it is the most accurate adaptation of a graphic novel, it’s whether you’re a fan of that style or not. And yes, like the first film it is gratuitously violent, and the action overall is just as entertaining. I will say that there is occasionally some really fake looking CGI (which didn’t really happen much in the original) but that doesn’t happen too often and doesn’t distract too much from the overall movie.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a solid follow up to the original Sin City, if not being quite on the same level. It’s pretty much what you would expect from a Sin City movie with its characters, style and structure. Aside from it feeling maybe a little too much like the original and a couple technical aspects, the main thing holding it back from being as good as the original is that the stories aren’t as strong. If you liked the first Sin City I recommend at least giving the sequel a go. If you didn’t like the first Sin City don’t even bother, nothing here is going to change your mind.