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Loki Season 1 (2021) Review

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Loki Season 1

Cast:
Tom Hiddleston as Loki
Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Ravonna Renslayer
Wunmi Mosaku as Hunter B-15
Eugene Cordero as Casey
Tara Strong voices Miss Minutes
Owen Wilson as Mobius M. Mobius
Sophia Di Martino as Sylvie
Sasha Lane as Hunter C-20
Jack Veal as Kid Loki
DeObia Oparei as Boastful Loki
Richard E. Grant as Classic Loki
Jonathan Majors as He Who Remains
Director:
Kate Herron
Creator: Michael Waldron

Loki, the God of Mischief (Tom Hiddleston), steps out of his brother’s shadow to embark on an adventure that takes place after the events of “Avengers: Endgame.”

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Loki was yet another show from the MCU which would be releasing on Disney+. Out of the shows that Marvel initially announced, I was wondering about what the point of this one was, especially after Loki had his death in the opening of Avengers: Infinity War. From the trailers I reckoned that it would be just filling the gap of the Loki who disappeared with the Tesseract in Avengers: Endgame, and would generally just consist of him getting into shenanigans involving time periods. Some of that was true, but it ended up being a lot different than I thought it would be.

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There’s some aspects of the show worth experiencing for yourself, so I’ll try to be light with spoilers and details. Loki starts out with a whole lot of worldbuilding in the first episode with the TVA, an organisation that preserves the current timeline, and I thought it was quite interesting learning about all this. Like with WandaVision and Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki also explores its lead character and the show is character focused. The lead character certainly goes through a change, even when it’s picking up with the Loki from 2012’s The Avengers. The show is definitely slower paced and for some that might get a bit dull. However I appreciated the slower pace and what it was going for. There are some action scenes in the show but it never feels like it is reliant on it. It does take a while to get into what the story is really about, the first couple of episodes takes its time to develop things and while I was invested, I know that some will find that its just meandering. After the first three episodes though I think you’ll get into it. There is some humour but unlike some other MCU projects it doesn’t interrupt anything and actually works well for the tone of the show.

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Usually the finale is where the MCU shows have an issue. WandaVision changed from what it was trying to do and just devolves into a very typical Marvel climax with large special effects. The Falcon and Winter Soldier was more consistent but the way the finale played out ended up highlighting the issues that the entire show had. However, Loki actually nails the ending quite well. Without spoiling anything, it doesn’t end with a traditional climax, and once again I really appreciate that. It is staying true to itself and being more about the story and characters rather than just ticking another box in the Marvel formula. I will say this however, unlike the other two shows, it ends in a cliff-hanger. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say this since its been announced that Loki has been renewed for a second season. Some character arcs haven’t been quite completed and story plotlines weren’t quite fully resolved, as a result some aspects feel less satisfying compared to the other Marvel shows because they haven’t been finalised yet. So much critical stuff happens in the last episode that I’m surprised that it was happened in this show as opposed to one of the bigger Marvel movies. I know that not everyone watches the MCU shows, even people who watch the movies, and some will probably look over Loki because it seems like a one off show just about Loki. However for what it’s worth I think the show is worth watching if only because of the roll on effect it will have on the other movies and shows. In terms of credits scenes, surprisingly there’s only one in episode 4, and just a little tease in episode 6, which are worth watching.

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The cast were also great in their parts. As expected, Tom Hiddleston reprises his role of Loki. Not only does he get to have a lot of fun as Loki, but Loki goes through a change of his own over the course of the show. To put this in context, this is the Loki from The Avengers (2012) finding out what happens to him (including his death in Infinity War). So he goes through his own change and development, like the lead characters in the previous Marvel shows. However, there’s something even more fascinating about a character like Loki going through the change, and this show makes me like Loki more as a character. Sophia Di Martino plays a vital character named Sylvie, and she’s great in her part too. Her onscreen dynamic with Loki was great to see, especially considering the connection the two of them have (won’t get into it more than that). Another notable character is that of an agent of the TVA named Mobius played by Owen Wilson, and this might actually be one of my favourite roles and performances from Wilson. He has great chemistry with Hiddleston and I loved seeing the two of them interacting, especially in the earlier episodes. Other supporting actors with the likes of Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Wunmi Mosaku are also good in their parts. There are two guest performers in this who stand out, both of them are particularly great in their screentime. The one actor whose name I can mention is Richard E. Grant, and while I won’t go into what his role is, he pretty much stole the entire episode that he was in with his performance. The second performer is a critical role, and who makes me very excited for what’s to come next in the other movies and shows.

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This show is directed by Kate Herron, and she’s done a great job with it all. The show is visually striking and nothing like what the MCU has done before. The set designs, environments and CGI are great (the look of the TVA alone was immediately distinct), those and the cinematography came together to form a gorgeous looking show. As said previously, there is action here and to be honest they aren’t that spectacular. They usually just consist of Loki and other characters involved with hand to hand combat with maybe some weapons. They are filmed okay and are solid enough, they are good enough for the purpose of the show. There is one large set piece involving a lot of CGI in one of the later episodes but even that’s handled very well. Another standout is the score from Natalie Holt, which is incredibly distinct and really gives the show a unique tone and feel. One of my favourite scores from the MCU.

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Loki has ended up being one of my favourite instalments in the MCU. As someone who almost begrudgingly likes some of the MCU projects, I was thoroughly surprised by it. While it is still in the MCU, it remained true to itself and didn’t feel too constrained by some of the formula that some of the movies and shows have to follow. The performances were all solid, the direction was great, and I was invested with the story and characters. If you are interested in the MCU I think it is worth checking out.

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.

Beauty and the Beast (2017) Review

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Emma Watson as Belle
Dan Stevens as The Prince/Beast
Luke Evans as Gaston
Kevin Kline as Maurice
Josh Gad as LeFou
Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza
Ian McKellen as Cogsworth
Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts
Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe
Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette
Director: Bill Condon

Belle (Emma Watson), a bright, beautiful and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast (Dan Stevens) in its castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the beast’s hideous exterior, allowing her to recognize the kind heart and soul of the true prince that hides on the inside.

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Although Beauty and the Beast was on my most anticipated films of 2017 list, it was a movie I was feeling mixed about. It had a lot of potential with it having a good cast. At the same time though, it’s yet another live action adaptation of a Disney movie, which feels like just another cash grab. Overall that’s pretty much what this movie is, it’s not necessarily a bad movie though. On the contrary actually, it’s a pretty decent movie. The acting and most of the execution worked really well. However some of the directional decisions made were rather questionable and took me out of the movie.

The story was good overall, I had no real problems with it. With that said, from what I can tell, this story follows the original story quite closely. So, I don’t take much issue with the story itself, it was some of the decisions made in delivering that story that I felt a little mixed about. I personally liked the second act the most (though again that’s most likely due to the directional decisions being the best).

The acting was generally good all around. Emma Watson did a pretty good job as Belle, I still saw her as Hermoine Granger as Belle, but she did well in her role. Dan Stevens was also really good. Most of the time he is under a lot of makeup and costume but yet is able to convey emotion underneath all that. Luke Evans was great as Gaston, it was a larger than life performance, it was very over the top, which it did take me out of the movie. But from what I can tell it is still less over the top than other versions of Gaston. I will say that Evans fully embraced the role. The standouts to me were Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellan, they were voicing Lumiere and Cogsworth respectively and were quite entertaining.

I like most of the directional decisions made. The effects involving the Beast were very effective, I’m not sure how they did it, but they managed to make it so that Stevens could be able to express his emotions through it. The costume design was great overall. The CGI was effective for the most part, although some of the CGI in the last act was a little fake. I liked most of the musical number. Despite many of the directional decisions I liked, there were some very over the top elements that took me out of the movie, such as the opening Belle song and the last act. Now I haven’t seen the original film, so I can’t tell if some of the decisions were to pay homage to the original film. But either way with some I just couldn’t get into it.

Beauty and the Beast was a pretty good movie overall, with the acting and most of the directional decisions made being decent. I did however have a lot of issues with some of the directional ideas chosen, these ideas really took me out of the movie. As I said, it was not necessary for this movie to exist, it’s yet another okay enough live action Disney adaptation. But despite it being unnecessary, I still think that overall I think it’s a decent movie and if you are a fan of the original film and are interested in seeing this version, see it. You’ll most likely like it a lot.

Jupiter Ascending (2015) Review

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Jupiter Ascending

Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Mila Kunis as Jupiter Jones
Channing Tatum as Caine Wise
Sean Bean as Stinger Apini
Eddie Redmayne as Balem Abrasax
Douglas Booth as Titus Abrasax
Tuppence Middleton as Kalique Abrasax
Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Famulus
Director: The Wachowskis

Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) was born under signs that predicted future greatness, but her reality as a woman consists of cleaning other people’s houses and endless bad breaks. Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered hunter, arrives on Earth to locate her, making Jupiter finally aware of the great destiny that awaits her: Jupiter’s genetic signature marks her as the next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos.

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As directors, the Wachowskis haven’t found much success in big budget films since The Matrix and Jupiter Ascending goes down as one of their (debatably) biggest failures. Although the technical side with the special effects and soundtrack might be nice, its dialogue is bad, its story is predictable and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s times like this when I think that The Matrix was a fluke.

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The writing for this movie is all over the place and I didn’t really care about what was going on. A lot of the time it felt like the film was padding out the scenes more than it had to as there are lots of exposition scenes full of unnecessary and drawn out dialogue and it does nothing to drive the plot forward. Because of this I felt overall bored with what was going on. The film also has some weird concepts, for example Jupiter can control bees because they are genetically modified to recognise royalty. There is also a romance between Mila and Channing which was really forced, I never really bought the relationship, it comes straight out of nowhere and the film doesn’t seem to have a reason to have it. It doesn’t help that the romantic dialogue is very cheesy and terrible. There are also lots of unresolved plot holes and inconsistencies which really don’t work at all.

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Mila Kunis doesn’t seem that well suited in her role, however to be fair she doesn’t have much to work with. Jupiter isn’t given any character depth and doesn’t have an interesting personality. On top of that she doesn’t do much of anything and has to be saved so many times. She doesn’t need to shoot guns or anything but she should at least show leadership or develop by the end of the film. Channing Tatum is decent and does his best to act through his terrible make up. Sean Bean does as much as he can in this movie despite appearing for only 10 minutes. Eddie Redmayne plays the main villain and his performance is basically if you crossed an asthmatic Voldemort with Zod from Man of Steel. He whispers most of his dialogue but sometimes out of nowhere he starts screaming. He was one of the few entertaining aspects of the film for how crazy he was, however it is still a pretty bad performance from a great (and academy award winning) actor.

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Some of the designs of the aliens are fine but at times they are really distracting. It’s like the Wachowskis made these designs because they looked similar to other sci-fi designs that other better films used. The visual effects for the most part are nice to watch, even though you can tell that there’s a blue/green screens being used. The action scenes are also well filmed and they were the most entertaining parts of the film. The soundtrack is also quite good, I just wished it was used in a much better Sci-Fi movie.

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The best way to describe this film is that it’s like The Phantom Menace with better special effects. There’s a lot of exposition that they try to put in to make the film seem more epic than it really is and the action scenes are the best part of the movie. After many attempts at having a large blockbuster it’s clear that the Wachowskis should take a break from blockbusters.