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Nomadland (2020) Review

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Nomadland

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Nudity
Cast:
Frances McDormand as Fern
David Strathairn as David
Linda May as Linda
Swankie as Swankie
Director: Chloé Zhao

A woman (Frances McDormand) embarks on a journey through the American West after losing everything during the recession.

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I had been hearing a lot about Nomadland, with many declaring it as of the best movies of 2020, and a frontrunner for awards season. I heard about the premise and the type of movie it would be, I went into it preparing with the right mindset. Having seen it, I can say that it definitely deserves all the hype.

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One thing to note is that Nomadland is not quite for everyone. Specifically, is fairly plotless and more character driven. We are just watching the lead character Fern (Frances McDormand) going on her journey of being a nomad. The writing is phenomenal across the board. One of the highlights of the movie is that it shows us a lifestyle that we don’t really get to see often, that of being a Nomad. While I’m not an expert on the subject, it has an authenticity to how it was portrayed. Nomadland is a story about real people and real stories. I really liked the stories we hear about from the side characters about what drove them to this life: people who lost someone and were using this life (through nature) to heal themselves, people who were treated poorly by life itself, etc. At times it felt like some scenes were taken straight from a documentary about nomads rather than a film, the way they were written and performed seemed so organic. This screenplay is full of many side memorable and heartfelt characters who leave their mark on the story and, more importantly, Fern (despite some only appearing for a scene or two). At its core however, Nomadland is a character study focusing on Fern, revealing itself as a portrait of a woman in deep loss to the point where normal life doesn’t make sense. It’s very reflective too, you can connect with everything that’s happening, even if you don’t relate to it. It’s an intimate (albeit still grand), resonant, real look into the loneliness that follows loss and grief. As I said, the movie is fairly plotless and there isn’t much driving the story, but sort of fitting. Like Nomads, we don’t know where we’ll be or what we’ll be doing in ten minutes when watching the movie. You get lost in the beautiful American landscapes and joined Fern on her literal and spiritual journey. So often you’ll be seeing Fern doing rather mundane things, but you are nonetheless invested in her journey. It might take a while for you to get into the movie, but I was invested very early on.

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Frances McDormand is the main lead of the movie as Fern, the story of the movie is about her, and from beginning to end she gives a naturalistic performance. McDormand’s acting is very understated but flawless, being able to convey every emotion that Fern is thinking with just looks, and really captures this character well. It is a fantastic performance that most actors in this role would typically overplay, but McDormand plays this with subtlety. It is a strong contender for her best acting performance, and that’s saying a lot considering the work she’s delivered in the past. The supporting cast is great, consisting mostly of people playing nomads. David Strathairn is the most known actor of the supporting cast, but many of the other nomads are actually played by authentic nomads, and they perform their parts well too, especially opposite from McDormand.

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Arguably, the true star of Nomadland is Chloe Zhao, who wrote, directed, produced, and edited this film, her fingerprints are all over this movie. I haven’t seen her previous movie The Rider but now I really want to because her work here is incredible. The movie is clearly crafted with such love and care, her direction is genuinely masterful, and she is more than capable of telling a story with just the movement of the camera. Throughout, Nomadland feels natural and personal, almost like a documentary. The direction did remind me a bit of Terrence Malick, but Zhao makes this style her own in a movie that needs this approach to make it as effective as it is. The cinematography is outstanding and beautiful from start to finish, especially with the landscapes that the movie takes many opportunities to really show off, such as the long tracking shots of Fern’s van driving long distances. However, it even makes things that should be boring and mundane to look at, say Fern in a laundromat, look outstanding especially with how everything is composed and framed. The score is sparse but does consist of tracks from Ludovico Einaudi, and they are fitting and perfect and add so much to the scenes they were used in.

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Nomadland is a beautiful, quiet, heartfelt, and naturalistic character study. Frances McDormand gives a pitch perfect (and possibly career best) performance, and Chloe Zhao’s work here is nothing short of phenomenal. It’s definitely one of the best movies of the year and is worth going to watch, especially on the big screen if possible.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) Review

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Kyle Chandler as Dr. Mark Russell
Vera Farmiga as Dr. Emma Russell
Millie Bobby Brown as Madison Russell
Bradley Whitford as Dr. Rick Stanton
Sally Hawkins as Dr. Vivienne Graham
Charles Dance as Colonel Alan Jonah
Thomas Middleditch as Dr. Sam Coleman
Aisha Hinds as Colonel Diane Foster
O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Jackson Barnes
David Strathairn as Admiral William Stenz
Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishirō Serizawa
Zhang Ziyi as Dr. Ilene Chen and Dr. Ling Chen
Director: Michael Dougherty

Members of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch face off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah. When these ancient super-species-thought to be mere myths-rise again, they all vie for supremacy, leaving humanity’s very existence hanging in the balance.

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Godzilla: King of the Monsters was one of my most anticipated movies of 2019. I liked the first Godzilla, even with some of its minor problems it wasn’t enough to take away from the overall experience, and I don’t think it’s appreciated as much as it should be. With the trailers showing off it having more monsters and some stunning visuals, I was looking forward to it. I have heard that some reviews from people have been fairly mixed, however I personally really liked it.

King of the Monsters is the sequel to the first Godzilla in 2014, however both films are completely different from each other. One of the criticisms of that first movie was the focus on the human characters, and that it spent too much time with them. I’m aware that when it comes to monster movies human beings aren’t really the highlight, and unless they are all played by Bryan Cranston, will generally feel like standard characters. However, I still think that humans should have a part in the story. The humans still have a presence in the movie, and while it’s not the strongest part of the movie, I still liked their storyline. On another note, I like how Monarch as an organisation plays a big part in the movie. They’re like SHIELD from Marvel except its involved with large monsters. The tone is not as dark as the first movie, it is more campier, contains more humour and is about what you would expect from a typical blockbuster. Some people hated that Godzilla didn’t have much screentime in the 2014 movie. With King of the Monsters however, Godzilla gets more screentime, and especially the newer monsters. I am not familiar with the Godzilla series but it seemed to have double downed with the classic monsters, so I think people who are long time fans of Godzilla will appreciate all that. Storywise the movie is alright, it falls into many of the typical blockbuster tropes but you’ve come to expect that at this point. It’s also worth staying around to watch the credits, as well as the post credits scene, as they hint in the potential next direction for the series.

As I said earlier, the human characters aren’t anything special, but the cast all do a good job in their roles. Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga and Millie Bobby Brown are the leads, and while they aren’t delivering the best performances of their careers or anything, they do more than commendable jobs here. Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins and David Strathairn are the only returning characters from the first Godzilla and all play their parts well. Watanabe has been a highlight in this series and he also has some great moments in this movie. Charles Dance’s character is a bit underdeveloped and doesn’t have a lot to him outside of being a minor human villain, still Dance plays him well.

I’m not familiar with director Michael Dougherty’s work outside of Krampus, but his work on Godzilla was good. This is a visually stunning movie, much more colourful than the 2014 film. The visual effects and CGI are phenomenal, it really is worth seeing on the big screen. Like in the previous movie, the monsters are showcased really well. You see a bunch of them, on top of Godzilla, other monsters like Mothra, Dhidorah and others are shown well, very powerful and threatening. The third act is one of the most enthralling third acts in a blockbuster in recent years that I’ve seen, everything is on an even larger scale. If you thought the destruction in the first movie was big, you aren’t prepared for what King of the Monsters does has in store for you. I’ll just say that I’m not sure how they’ll top this with Godzilla vs Kong, it’s practically impossible. The score by Bear McCreary is also great and was perfect for the movie.

It seems like people will be split on King of the Monsters. If you loved the serious and bleak take on Godzilla with the 2014 movie, you might be missing a lot of what you loved in that. However, if that movie you found didn’t have enough Godzilla and monsters content, King of the Monsters seems like it’s right up your alley. Personally, I feel like both movies exceeded well at the types of movies they were going for. Again, I’m not sure how they’ll be able to pull off Godzilla vs Kong at this point but I’m still there for it.

Godzilla (2014) Review

Time: 123 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ford Brody
Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishirō Serizawa
Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody
Elizabeth Olsen as Elle Brody
Juliette Binoche as Sandra Brody
Sally Hawkins as Dr. Vivienne Graham
David Strathairn as Admiral William Stenz
Director: Gareth Edwards

When mankind found an ancient spore, they began to preserved until nearly 15 years, it hatches. Now with malevolent terrestrial organisms threatening the existence of man kind, an ancient creature from the depts of the ocean, will rise again to fulfill natures order to restore its balance, while also making sure mankind never makes the same mistakes again.

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I remember watching Godzilla back in 2014 and really liking it, it was the first Godzilla movie I watched (and to this date is currently the only one I’ve seen). With the sequel, King of the Monsters coming very soon, I just knew that I had to go back and give it another look, and I’m glad to say that it still works really well.

One of the main criticisms was that for a movie named Godzilla, he doesn’t appear a huge amount. I don’t personally have that problem, I feel like some parts of the human aspect could’ve been a little stronger, but you don’t exactly want to be all out with Godzilla very early on, especially considering how he plays such a large part in the climax. They take time building up to him, teasing you with brief shots of him. Maybe they are a little forceful with how much they hid him, just as he appears they cut away and then there are news people talking about it or you suddenly see the aftermath, so I can’t entirely blame people for feeling slightly cheated in how they handle some of his early scenes. On the whole though, the slow build up to Godzilla never really bothered me. The human side of the movie wasn’t bad and was fine, however it felt like it could’ve been stronger. You don’t really have an emotional connection to what’s going on or the characters (except for Bryan Cranston, and even then it’s because he played the role so well). The movie is 2 hours long and that was a fitting length for it, every scene feels necessary and furthers the plot and the pacing is pretty hood. Even some of the more familiar scenes such as the exposition scenes (mainly explaining Godzilla) and military people talking about important things are handled in such a way and given such weight that you don’t really mind it, they actually legitimately work. And it all culminates in a big monster showdown of a climax and is just glorious to watch.

The human characters aren’t that good but the cast play them as good as they can. The actor who steals the show is Bryan Cranston, he adds so much to this movie. He puts so much into his performance and elevates things (including the whole movie) to a whole new level. Unfortunately, he’s not on screen as much as you think he would, despite the trailers featuring him heavily. I don’t like to be all “the movie would’ve been better if…” but honestly the movie would’ve been stronger if Cranston was at least one of the leads throughout the movie. In the end the human lead character is really Aaron Taylor Johnson, who’s unfortunately not that good here. He’s not a bad actor, he can actually be great (as evidence by his performances in films like Nocturnal Animals and Outlaw King) but for whatever reason, he’s not strong as a lead here and largely falls flat, even though he wasn’t necessarily terrible. The rest of the cast consisting of the likes of Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Elizabeth Olsen and Juliette Binoche were pretty good and played their roles as best as they possible could.

The direction by Gareth Edwards was great and was a large part of why this movie works as well as it does. Something that he proved with this and Rogue One is that he’s great at making things feel on such a large scale. The monsters were really good and were designed really well, they really felt like large titans with great power. And of course there’s Godzilla, it takes a while before you get to see him in his full glory, but it’s well worth the wait. The visual effects were also really great, same with the action, the destruction is among the best when it comes to recent blockbusters. There are some moments that are just stunning. One of the standouts was a HALO jump scene and it is great, the music, the look of everything, the POV shots, it just looked like a real jump into hell, and is by far one of the highlight moments of the film. The final action set piece is reason enough to see this movie, with Godzilla and the rest of the monsters going at it. The score by Alexandre Desplat was also quite good and really added a lot to the movie.

Godzilla 2014 doesn’t quite get the love that it deserves, it’s got some minor problems but it’s not enough to take away from how strong this movie is on the whole. Gareth Edwards has really made Godzilla into a large scale and entertaining blockbuster, and was just really handled well overall. I’m definitely on board for whatever the sequel is bringing us.

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) Review

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The Bourne Ultimatum

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and Offensive Language
Cast:
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne
Julia Stiles as Nicky Parsons
David Strathairn as Noah Vosen
Scott Glenn as Ezra Kramer
Paddy Considine as Simon Ross
Édgar Ramírez as Paz
Albert Finney as Dr. Albert Hirsch
Joan Allen as Pamela “Pam” Landy
Director: Paul Greengrass

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) continues his international quest to uncover his true identity. From Russia to Europe to northern Africa to the United States, he must stay one step ahead of those who would capture or kill him before he has a chance to discover the truth.

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The Bourne Ultimatum is quite possibly the best film of the Bourne franchise. Like with the other films of the trilogy they are quite similar, regarding the action, acting story, etc. However I personally feel like this is the strongest out of the films by a little bit, maybe it’s just my personal preference. Imagine if Bourne Supremacy if it was a full on action movie and the issues with the shaky cam in that film were dealt with. This third instalment makes the Bourne trilogy one of the best film trilogies.

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This film is quite similar to the previous Bourne movies. So chances are, if you didn’t like the previous Bourne movies, you won’t like this one. Whereas Bourne Identity is a mystery movie and Bourne Supremacy is a thriller, Bourne Ultimatum is the best action movie out of all of them. This movie’s pace is quite fast, and doesn’t slow down a lot, even the smaller character moments or moments of dialogue feel like they progress the plot, in a good way. There is no moment that feels unnecessary or wasted. There is no pointless romance thrown into the movie just because, even when Damon is paired with Julia Stiles, the film doesn’t waste time on any romance. Greengrass also did well to never drop the tension throughout the film. The conclusion was also great and satisfying, when we find out what happened with Jason Bourne and why and how he became an assassin.

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Matt Damon is once again excellent in the role of Jason Bourne. He continues to be believable as this assassin whether he’s in action scenes or the fewer smaller moments. The supporting cast also are great. In the previous film Joan Allen was trying to hunt down Bourne with Brian Cox, both with different reasons. Joan Allen returns to her same role in the movie, along with David Stratharin, who’s also trying to find Jason Bourne. Both of them are truly great in the movie. Other actors like Julia Stiles, Scott Glenn, Paddy Considine, Edgar Ramirez and Albert Finney are also great in their roles.

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In the Bourne Supremacy, while for the most part the shaky cam was handled well, there were a couple scenes which weren’t handled the best. Greengrass doesn’t have any of those moments in Ultimatum. I can’t think of any moment in this film that didn’t work. As I said, this is the best action movie out of the three Bourne films. This has a wide variety of action scenes, there’s motorbike chases, foot chases, car chases, fight scenes, you name it. Speaking of fight scenes, there is a brutal fight between Jason and a character named Desh which is the best fight in the series yet and is one of the best scenes in the franchise yet. Greengrass massively improved the way he shot his fight scenes since Supremacy.

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The Bourne Ultimatum is truly a great Bourne movie, with its fast paced yet well filmed action, excellent acting from its talented cast and well told story. Even though as I said many times this is very similar to the other movies in the series, this might actually be my favourite film in the series. We’ll just have to see if Jason Bourne this year can top what they did with The Bourne Ultimatum. It won’t be an easy task though.