Tag Archives: Dustin Hoffman

Straw Dogs (1971) Review

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Straw Dogs (1971)

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] 
Cast:
Dustin Hoffman as David Sumner
Susan George as Amy Sumner
Director: Sam Peckinpah

David (Dustin Hoffman) marries Amy (Susan George) and relocates to the interiors of Cornwall, a place where Amy was raised. However, an unfortunate event changes the course of their lives.

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I hadn’t seen any of Sam Peckinpah movies before, so I’ve been meaning to get around to his work at some point. One of his movies which I’ve been hearing about for a while was Straw Dogs, I knew that it starred Dustin Hoffman and got quite a lot of controversy upon its initial release. It was originally rated X and was even banned in the UK for a number of years. So I went in knowing just the movie from its reputation and I can say that it earned it. It’s not a movie I want to watch again but overall, I think it was good.

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Although I have some issues with it, the script is generally great, with a simple premise that is executed well. It’s quite slow to set up the characters, plot and setting all at once, never rushing anything. It does take its time for very good reason, really earning its runtime and pacing. The slow build-up of the downward spiral of the movie makes the final set piece more impactful, with the inevitably violent conclusion. It pretty much explodes in its last 30 minutes, as we see David’s (Dustin Hoffman) breaking point in the climax. It is a very hard movie to watch, even before the last act. On a base level it is a classic revenge story. However watching the movie even now, it’s not hard to see why it garnered so much controversy, especially in the early 1970s. None of the violence is easy to watch, and it is relentlessly uncomfortable. It even features a sacrifice of a cat, and there are rape scenes, so it is worth knowing that before going into the film. I know that these and other parts of the movie really turned off some people who watched it, I can’t really blame them. I will say that some of the movie wallows in its own misery a bit too much. There are moments where it felt like it was trying to play a lot of these moments for shock, though not as many as I was expecting going into it. In all fairness it does seem to want the audience to be repelled, so they at least succeed in that.

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All the acting is great. Dustin Hoffman is the standout as the lead character of David, he’s phenomenal in the part. For much of the movie, Hoffman is timid, but has this violent undercurrent feeling simmering throughout. One thing that’s pretty clear is that David doesn’t come out of this movie as a hero by any means, in fact by the end he shows himself to be pretty much as bad some of the other people in the village. I thought Hoffman conveyed all of this quite well through his performance. Susan George’s performance as David’s wife is nuanced, and deserving of a lot of praise for her work as well. The antagonists are also menacing and hateable, well-acted on their parts.

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This is the first Sam Peckinpah movie I’ve seen, and he’s certainly shown himself as a great director from this one movie alone. Even before the third act, there is this uncomfortable feeling throughout the movie, like something is really off. There’s a naturalism that the movie is shot with, the muted colour pallet and the UK Countryside atmosphere really gives the film a miserable vibe. The imagery is haunting and memorable, and the editing is fantastic and impactful, especially in the last act. The violence in the film is gritty, shocking, and feels real. A lot of the sequences in the third act are particularly well done, startling brutal and outstanding on a directing, editing and overall filmmaking level. The moody, dense and haunting score from Jerry Fielding also added a lot to the movie.

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Straw Dogs is definitely a polarising psychological thriller that’s not for everyone. It’s not one that I want to revisit, even for me it’s a bit too bleak and brutal. However that was the point I guess. Still, it is a memorable film that’s greatly directed and with some solid performances. Definitely a movie that I respect and admire more than I enjoy.

All the President’s Men (1976) Review

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All the President's Men

Time:  119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Robert Redford as Bob Woodward
Dustin Hoffman as Carl Bernstein
Jack Warden as Harry M. Rosenfeld
Martin Balsam as Howard Simons
Hal Holbrook as “Deep Throat”
Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee
Director: Alan J. Pakula

During the 1972 elections, two reporters’ investigation sheds light on the controversial Watergate scandal that compels President Richard Nixon to resign from his post..

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I’ve always known All the President’s Men as being “the one movie about Watergate”, and I remembered holding off on watching it because it was long, it was from the 70s and I didn’t know if I would be as into it despite the acclaim. However I did watch it, and was surprised at how good it was on pretty much every front.

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All the President’s Men is about the journalistic approach to the story, with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in pursuit of the news story. The layers of the story are peeled back as the film goes on, revealing the truths about the Watergate Scandal. The writing is great and it really was key to the movie working. It is definitely a slow burn, so you do need to know that going in, but thankfully I found the story very compelling to follow. The scope of this story is large, and the script deserves a lot of credit for making this complex and dry tale accessible and easy to follow for audiences. At the same time, it approaches the subject matter without needlessly adding subplots or other aspects to spice up the movie. It almost plays like a detective story at times more so than a journalism story, and manages to mix dry fact with intrigue perfectly, making sure that we are engaged and never lose the plot. It really lets the audience feel like they’re putting together the pieces along with Woodward and Bernstein. The constant stream of information can occasionally be a little much, but the fact that it is quite accurate to true events and you can understand most of it is impressive. It is a procedural for sure, but probably one of the best procedural films ever. It does feel authentic in both the discoveries made as well as the journalistic process, and I like the amount of detail in what is said and what is shown on screen. For example, you get to see the way that Woodward and Bernstein play out how they try to get certain pieces of information, and how they interact with the people they are questioning; very well done and fascinating to watch. Every scene truly means something and has a reason for being there, despite the long runtime. A lot of the movie is dialogue and its great, especially with the deliveries from the cast. It keeps your attention for the entire runtime and each conversation is right to the point. The film is also surprisingly thrilling to watch at times, despite it being a movie about journalism. If there’s a criticism I have with the movie, it’s that the ending is a little too abrupt, that’s it though.

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The acting from everyone is also great, but it’s the two leads who drive the story and stand out the most. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman are incredible and invested in their roles of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and share great chemistry together. You get completely wrapped up in their motivations and they feel very natural in their parts, never overselling it. The supporting cast including Jack Warden, Jason Robards and Hal Holbrook also do work well in their parts.

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The movie is directed by Alan J. Pakula, and his work here is great, covering this story as effectively as possible with lots of visual and audio details in every scene. The cinematography conveys the scope and size of the story, with everything from landscape shots to shots of a simple phone call looking really good. The editing is quite efficient and gets you wrapped up in the story even with all the details being thrown at you. Pakula’s direction also does well as helping you feel the paranoia that the main characters feel as the story continues.

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All the President’s Men is an astonishingly well made film, efficiently directed, greatly performed by its cast, and with a fantastic script which makes what could’ve been a boring and dull movie, into an engaging and intriguing experience. Even though most of us already know what happens at the end, it was still compelling to watch this whole story play out. For sure one of the best movies about journalism.

Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016) Review

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Kung Fu Panda 3

Time: 95 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Low level violence
Cast:
Jack Black as Po
Bryan Cranston as Li Shan
Dustin Hoffman as Master Shifu
Angelina Jolie as Master Tigress
J.K. Simmons as Kai
Seth Rogen as Master Mantis
David Cross as Master Crane
Lucy Liu as Master Viper
Jackie Chan as Master Monkey
Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Alessandro Carloni

Living large and loving life, Po (Jack Black) realizes that he has a lot to learn if he’s going to fulfill the next challenge from his beloved instructor (Dustin Hoffman). After reuniting with his long-lost father (Bryan Cranston), Po must transition from student to teacher and train a group of fun-loving, clumsy pandas to become martial-arts fighters. Together, the kung-fu brethren unite to take on the evil Kai (J.K. Simmons), a supernatural warrior who becomes stronger with each battle.

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I do like the Kung Fu Panda films. Even though they aren’t as great as certain other animated films such as Toy Story, they are fun children’s entertainment and I was a little excited to see the third instalment of the franchise. I quite liked Kung Fu Panda 3, I had a good time with it. Although I don’t think it was as good as the previous film (in my opinion), it’s still a very solid film with great voice acting, a decent story and fantastic animation. If you liked the previous movies, you’ll like Kung Fu Panda 3.

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Though I’m not entirely sure why, I wasn’t as invested in this story as I was in the second, maybe it’s just personal preference. Make no mistake though, the story is still quite good and kept me interested and entertained from start to finish. The humour for the most part worked well, it worked about as well as the previous films. The connection between Po, his father and his adopted father was really a focus of the story and was handled well. One thing I also like about these films is that despite each film being quite similar in terms of structure and character arcs, Po is constantly changing. He doesn’t just forget the knowledge that he picked up in the previous movies, so despite the similar formula, the films still feels fresh and new. And 3 is no exception, he’s evolved since the previous film but yet has much to discover about himself. There really is no dull moment in the movie.

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The voice work for the characters as usual was great. The new voice additions to the new character were also great, one of them was Bryan Cranston as Po’s father, it’s always nice to see (or in this case hear) Cranston in more movies and he does very well here. The main villain Kai was also great here voiced this time by J.K. Simmons. The villains in the Kung Fu Panda movies are pretty good and Kai was no exception.

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The animation is slick and smooth, all of it is top notch, which is to be expected as it’s a Dreamworks film. The action and Kung Fu in particular is animated so greatly, you can clearly see everything unfolding on screen. The designs for the world and characters are also fantastic and creative. I also really like the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, it really fitted in and added to the movie. On a technical level at least, Kung Fu Panda 3 works very well, there aren’t really any immediate flaws in that aspect that I can think of.

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If you liked the previous films in the Kung Fu Panda series, you will definitely like Kung Fu Panda 3. The animation is very well done, the story is quite good and the movie overall is just fun to watch. Again, like with the other films I don’t think they are amazing, they aren’t going to be remembered as classic animated movies but they are still undeniably very enjoyable movies, and are definitely entertaining to watch. So if you liked the previous movies, check this movie out when you get a chance.