Tag Archives: Helen Mirren

F9 (2021) Review

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F9

Time: 145 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence
Cast:
Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto
Michelle Rodriguez as Letty Ortiz
Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce
Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as Tej Parker
John Cena as Jakob Toretto
Jordana Brewster as Mia Toretto
Nathalie Emmanuel as Ramsey
Sung Kang as Han Lue
Michael Rooker as Buddy
Helen Mirren as Magdalene “Queenie” Shaw
Kurt Russell as Mr. Nobody
Charlize Theron as Cipher
Director: Justin Lin

Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) is living the quiet life off the grid with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and his son, but they know that danger always lurks just over the peaceful horizon. This time, that threat forces Dom to confront the sins of his past to save those he loves most. His crew soon comes together to stop a world-shattering plot by the most skilled assassin and high-performance driver they’ve ever encountered — Dom’s forsaken brother (John Cena).

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The long running Fast & Furious series just had its latest instalment (technically the 10th if you include Hobbs and Shaw) with F9. They keep getting more over the top with every movie while remaining kind of endearing, and I’m quite entertained by them. So while I wasn’t expecting anything special from F9, I knew that I would have fun, and certainly had that despite some issues.

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The overarching plot with the main goal does feel very familiar, even by the standards of the recent movies. The team have to get this particular world-ending weapon which that the antagonists are after, and the plot just so happens to be more larger scale than the last movie. It already turned into a spy series in Furious 7, becoming a more over the top Mission Impossible with further emphasis on the cars, and so they now have to raise the stakes with every future instalment. With that being the case, I do actually wonder how much they can really do for the last two movies of the series before the plot becomes literally about saving the world from being destroyed. Something that was very apparent when I was watching F9 is that it is absolutely packed with side quests, and that stood out even after having recently re-watched the movies in the series from 5 onwards. Sometimes the characters split off in groups to do different things and somehow it ends up being hard to follow everything that’s happening. At the same time there are some things that don’t make sense even by Fast & Furious standards, and is somehow complicated. That aside, the more recent Fast and Furious continues its interesting mix of not taking itself seriously while being genuine with the way it takes its characters and story somewhat seriously. There is a further emphasis on the story and characters in this movie to a degree, with the soap opera reveal that Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) has a brother that he never mentioned before in the prior films, and whom they are up against in this movie. Not only that, but there are a number of flashbacks which show Dom and his brother Jakob when they were much younger, and what caused their rift and put Jakob where he’s at presently. Not that I don’t appreciate that the filmmakers went through the effort to actually show what happened, but by the end it doesn’t really resonate as much as it was intended to. Overall, the story is very flawed, is sillier than before and even feels formulaic, however I was still interested in it throughout. For those interested, F9 does have a mid-credits scene, and if you’re a fan of these movies I think it’s worth sticking around for.

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F9 has the returning cast of Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel, they don’t really have a huge amount to do by Fast and Furious standards but are still enjoyable as usual. It really is lacking Dwayne Johnson from the past few movies but it is nice to see Jordana Brewster back as one of the team in her role as Mia Toretto. After Fast Five she was only making brief appearances and now she’s back as one of the main players. Also as hinted in the trailers, there’s the return of Han played by Sung Kang, who was shown to be killed off in Tokyo Drift, the mid credits scene of Fast & Furious 6, and Furious 7. It’s nice to see him back in the team again, though he doesn’t do quite as much in this movie as you would think. As for the explanation for how he’s back from the dead, it’s a little unbelievable, convoluted and very far fetched, yet still rather underwhelming. However I think I’m fine with it, as long as the series doesn’t pull another one of these retcons again. Kurt Russell and Helen Mirren provide some good supporting work as they reprise their respective roles. John Cena was one of the most advertised actors in this movie, as he’s playing Dom’s long-lost brother. Cena can actually act well, although despite the critical role he has to play in the film, he doesn’t really have much to work with. He has a past with Vin Diesel and that’s it, he doesn’t have much personality really, which is strange considering that Cena is definitely a charismatic actor. Charlize Theron as the character of Cipher seems to be intended to be the overarching villain for the Fast and Furious series from Fate of the Furious onwards. However she doesn’t have as much involvement with the plot of F9 as you would initially think, unlike how the trailers showed it, she’s not teaming up with Jakob against Dom. For much of the movie she just spends her screen time in a plastic prison cell, Hannibal Lecter style. I get that they are trying to connect her to every movie in the series from this point but really, she could’ve been written out of this film, and not changed the plot that much. It’s hard to say Cena’s Jakob is the full on main villain of the film, and Theron’s Cipher certainly isn’t. So if there is a clear cut villain in this movie, then the only one left would be the character of Otto played by Thue Ersted Rasmussen, who’s usually in the background and is incredibly forgettable. If he really was intended to be the main antagonist of the film, than he would have to be the worst main villain in the entire series.

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Director Justin Lin makes a welcome return to the Fast and Furious series, after directing Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6. As expected he brings such an energy to the movie that gives it a lot of life, it’s shot and edited well, and there’s a lot of attention to detail. The action goes into further levels of absurdity, even more so than the past movies. To a degree, it does feel like its running out of steam in terms of what action can be done with cars. However they still manage to be fun, there’s particularly some fun action involving magnets. Then there’s a particular moment hinted in the trailers that may involve outer space, and while I won’t elaborate on that, it is quite the highlight.

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I do actually wonder how much there’s really left in this series, with the absurd twists and retcons, the physics breaking action and the like. There’s a fine line that the series has walking, and while they haven’t crossed it yet, with F9 it’s pretty clear that they are pretty close to doing that. Speaking of the movie by itself though, I did enjoy it. I think at the very least, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6 and Furious 7 are better than F9. However I can’t deny that I had a lot of fun watching it, and I’m looking forward to watching the next movies.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010) Review

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Legend of the Guardians - The Owls of Ga'Hoole

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Some Scenes May Scare Very Young Children
Cast:
Jim Sturgess as Soren
Emily Barclay as Gylfie
Ryan Kwanten as Kludd
David Wenham as Digger
Anthony LaPaglia as Twilight
Helen Mirren as Nyra
Geoffrey Rush as Ezylryb/the Lyze of Kiel
Joel Edgerton as Metal Beak
Hugo Weaving as Noctus and Grimble
Adrienne DeFaria as Eglantine
Miriam Margolyes as Mrs. Plithiver
Sam Neill as Allomere
Sacha Horler as Strix Struma
Abbie Cornish as Otulissa
Richard Roxburgh as Boron
Director: Zack Snyder

A father owl’s tales of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole enthrals his son Soren, but an older son scoffs at the stories of winged warriors who fought an epic battle to save all of owlkind from the evil Pure Ones. Later the brothers become captives of the Pure Ones, but Soren makes a daring escape and, with the help of other young owls, seeks out the Guardians and brings them back to defend their people once again.

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This was actually the first film from Zack Snyder that I watched. It seems like an odd choice for him to direct looking back at his filmography. He’s more known for adapting comic books and graphic novels, not young adult books about animals. While it doesn’t rank among the best movies of his filmography, I thought it was pretty good.

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I actually had read the books this movie is based on some time ago, that being the Guardians of Ga’Hoole by Kathryn Lasky. I don’t have a strong memory of the plot in the books, but I recall movie’s plot being roughly similar to that from the novels, however there were some major changes in story and characters. The plot of this movie is quite a simple good and evil story. With that said, it’s darker than most children’s animated movies, and that is one of its biggest strengths. It was a while since I’ve read the books, but parts of the plot and the visuals are darker than you’d usually see. The only problem I have with this is that the tone is a little all over the place, as the humour is a bit unbalanced it has one too many jokes mixed in with this epic story. This movie covers the first 6 books in the Guardians of Ga’Hoole book series, and although the books aren’t that large, there’d be quite a lot of the story to be told in one movie. If it was going to be just one movie, it would probably need to be over 2 hours long to develop the characters and story enough, as well as not feeling a little rushed. As it is, the movie is under an hour and 40 minutes long, and the pacing is a little all over the place. It does feel like the movie doesn’t quite live up to its potential story-wise Also, maybe it’s because much of the movie is more mature than I expected, but I kind of wished for slightly more complexity from the story and characters, even though I know it’s essentially a children’s animated movie. The dialogue is also a little clunky at some points. The movie did leave at a point where it could go further with sequels, but unfortunately we didn’t get any.

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The characters aren’t particularly deep and are generally fine, the heroic characters are heroic, the quirky characters are quirky, and the evil characters are evil. I wish the was more to them but they are elevated by the voice cast, with the likes of Jim Sturgess, Emily Barclay, David Wenham, Hugo Weaving, Helen Mirren, Geoffrey Rush and Joel Edgerton, making each of the characters stand out more and more memorable. The villain voiced by Edgerton particularly stood out and was quite effective in his scenes.

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This is the first and only animated film from Zack Snyder, and he’s done very well with his direction here. All of his movies are visually stunning, and Legend of the Guardians is no exception. It’s greatly animated, the environments, lighting and colours are outstanding, and when it particularly comes to the effects for the feathers and particularly elements like fire and water, it’s a wonder to watch. Although some had made fun of Snyder’s use of slow motion in some of his movies, it’s used absolutely perfectly here. While it definitely would’ve looked much better if it was made today, it still looks pretty good a decade later. The action involving the owls is also effective, especially some battle scenes towards the end. It’s hard to pull off making owls fighting look epic, but Snyder does it. This may be an animated movie, but you can still tell that this is one of his movies through and through. The music is generally good, except for a moment when a song played by Owl City is played, and aside from the pun with the band name, it’s really out of place and doesn’t fit in with the rest of the movie.

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Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole is quite good, visually stunning, well made and enjoyable to watch. While there are some things holding back from being even better and reaching its full potential, I liked it overall, and I wished that we got to see more of these movies in this series. I’d like to see Snyder make another animated movie sometime, he certainly showed that here that he’s more than capable of it.

Collateral Beauty (2016) Review

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Collateral Beauty

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Will Smith as Howard Inlet
Edward Norton as Whit Yardsham
Keira Knightley as Amy/”Love”
Michael Peña as Simon Scott
Naomie Harris as Madeleine Inlet
Jacob Latimore as Raffi/”Time”
Kate Winslet as Claire Wilson
Helen Mirren as Brigitte/”Death”
Director: David Frankel

When a successful New York advertising executive (Will Smith) suffers a great tragedy, he retreats from life. While his concerned friends try desperately to reconnect with him, he seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. When his notes bring unexpected personal responses, he begins to understand how these constants interlock in a life fully lived and how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.

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I remember first hearing about Collateral Beauty when both Hugh Jackman and Rooney Mara were initially attached to it, although they later both dropped out. Still, it had a cast with the likes of Will Smith, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren and the like, so even though I wasn’t quite sure what the movie was about, I was definitely open to it. Having seen it though, I can say that Jackman and Mara dodged a bullet by dropping out. In the lead up to watching it, I heard so many surprisingly negative things about it, but watching it, it truly blew me away how bad it was.

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There’s no sugar-coating this, the trailers of Collateral Beauty straight up lied about the movie. According to the marketing, it’s about Will Smith writing to Love, Time and Death after a particular tragedy, and them actually coming in person to speak with him. That’s not quite what the movie is however. I would say spoiler alert, but this is pretty much shown within the first 20 minutes. What the movie really is about is that Smith’s friend/colleagues are worried about losing their jobs, so they decide to hire actors to portray Love, Time and Death, get them to talk to Will, record the conversations and then edit the actors out so that Smith can look crazy. I couldn’t make that up if I tried. I should also emphasise that the employees’ plan was literally recording Will Smith and the actors on an iPhone and somehow editing the actors out. What I said was just the premise, the rest of the movie is weak, melodramatic, or unintentionally silly. Some of the things in the movie including the ending is just truly absurd. It’s not so outrageous that you can have a blast watching it, but it had its unintentionally funny moments. It doesn’t even succeed on an emotional or touching level, you don’t like many (if any) of the characters, and it’s hard to get invested with what’s going on.

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This movie has an absurdly talented cast, with Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Michael Pena, Naomie Harris and Helen Mirren all involved. The cast is by far the best part of the movie, giving decent performances, but they are by no means some of the best performances of their careers, and it’s such a shame that their talents aren’t utilised the best here. Smith is in drama mode here, you can tell that he’s trying, but the material doesn’t leave him anything to work with outside of just moping around and acting sad. While he’s at the centre of the movie, you really get to know the side characters more than him.

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There’s really nothing that special about the direction by David Frankel. It’s competently directed I guess but there’s not much to say about it. At times with the way its shot and especially the music, it’s like Collateral Beauty trying to get an emotional reaction out of the audience (and failing greatly).

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Collateral Beauty is truly astounding. While the cast are alright and it is directed okay, the script is a complete mess, with plenty of questionable choices throughout. By the end you’re not even sure what the point of it all was. I can’t recommend seeing it even as a movie to make fun of, but it’s generally harmless, if terrible.

 

Hobbs & Shaw (2019) Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs
Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw
Idris Elba as Brixton Lore
Vanessa Kirby as Hattie Shaw
Eiza González as Madam M
Eddie Marsan as Professor Andreiko
Helen Mirren as Magdalene “Queenie” Shaw
Director: David Leitch

Ever since hulking lawman Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), a loyal agent of America’s Diplomatic Security Service, and lawless outcast Shaw (Jason Statham), a former British military elite operative, first faced off in 2015’s Furious 7, the duo have swapped smack talk and body blows as they’ve tried to take each other down. But when cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton (Idris Elba) gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever — and bests a brilliant and fearless rogue MI6 agent (Vanessa Kirby), who just happens to be Shaw’s sister — these two sworn enemies will have to partner up to bring down the only guy who might be badder than themselves.

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I like the Fast and Furious movies, ever since the 5th movie they’ve really found a formula that works well, with each entry being rather entertaining blockbusters, if very similar (almost exact). It’s pretty much a given that I’ll be watching each of the following movies in the series in the cinema, but I was particularly looking forward to Hobbs and Shaw. One of the biggest highlights of The Fate of the Furious were the scenes between Dwayne Johnson (Hobbs) and Jason Statham (Shaw), who played off each other very well. That dynamic was so popular that the studio was more than willing to have a team up movie with just the two and not featuring any of the other Fast and Furious series characters. So I was somewhat interested in the movie already. However you add on top of that the casting of Idris Elba and Vanessa Kirby, and it being directed by David Leitch (who co-directed John Wick and directed Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2), I was definitely looking forward to it more than I initially thought I would. Hobbs and Shaw pretty much delivered exactly what I was expecting it to, a really dumb yet entertaining romp held together by the leads and the action.

If you’ve watched a Fast and Furious movie, you basically know what you’re in for. There aren’t really any twists that surprise at all, but they make it simple and not needlessly convoluted, so it works well for what it is. If you really wanted to pick apart the plot you could, but there wouldn’t be much point doing that considering the movie it’s attached to. However they’ve taken an even bigger turn for the ridiculous, yes that’s somehow possible. The movie is about some shadowy organisation who gives their soldiers cyber enhancements and have super futuristic technology. People joke about the Fast and Furious series ending up in space but at this point it’s a certainty that they’ll end up there. It’s pretty close to becoming a full on superhero movie franchise. As per usual with this series, there’s a theme about family (for both Hobbs and Shaw), just this time you don’t see Vin Diesel give a big speech about it, and it still fitted reasonably well within the movie, even with his absence. The Fast and Furious movies (at least since the 5th movie) had a pretty good idea of what they are, while having some level of seriousness to how they approach the characters and plot. However Hobbs and Shaw absolutely knows what it is and isn’t really that serious at all. It’s by far the funniest movie in the series, mostly due to the banter between the two leads. One legitimate problem I guess I have with the movie is that it’s too long. Granted these movies have been growing in length but 2 hours and 10 minutes is at least 5-10 minutes too long. It’s more to really do with some of the action scenes being a little too long, as entertaining as they are.

Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham reprise their roles as the titular characters, and the pairing is one of the main reasons why the movie works so well. Hobbs and Shaw are basically just the actors playing themselves, or at least very similar to the characters have played before, and I get the feeling that the movie knew that. They really do get to shine when the two get to verbally spar with each other, they share great chemistry and are hilarious together. Vanessa Kirby, fresh off her scene stealing role in Mission Impossible: Fallout, is one of the highlights of Hobbs and Shaw. Even among the duo, she shows herself as being very capable and gets to do a lot, especially in the action scenes. I’m glad to see that Kirby is getting to star in more prominent roles in these bigger movies. It is more than a little distracting that she and Statham are supposed to be siblings around the same age considering that there’s at least a couple decades age gap between them, still she’s a more than welcome addition to the series. Idris Elba plays the villain, Elba is always good in everything he’s in, so I was looking forward to seeing him in the role. Unfortunately, he’s not really that great of a villain, really just a generic super soldier who occasionally spouts out monologues about humans evolving that we’ve heard plenty of other villains deliver. However Elba definitely knows what kind of movie he’s in and plays up the role well, and his character of Brixton is threatening enough to actually pose a threat against both of the lead characters combined. There are also some really hilarious cameos which I will not spoil, but needless to say they were hilarious to watch.

One of the things that got my hyped for the movie was director David Leitch involved, I really like the movies that he worked on, the fight scenes in those movies were particularly great. Unfortunately, the fight scenes in Hobbs and Shaw don’t really feel like those featured in John Wick, Atomic Blonde or even Deadpool 2, likely because of the PG-13 rating that he has to keep to. Nonetheless they are still quite entertaining, and possibly amongst the best in the series. As I said earlier, some of the action sequences, notably the prominent action scenes in the second and third acts. However they are still really entertaining and overblown as they should be.

If you don’t like any of the Fast and Furious movies, Hobbs and Shaw definitely won’t change your mind. It’s dumb, it makes no sense, and is absolutely ludicrous. However if you like any of the recent movies in the series, I think you’ll have some fun with it. The people who willing pay to see this movie generally know exactly what they’re going in for, and more than likely they’re going to get it. The ridiculous action scenes, as well Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham and Vanessa Kirby all make it entertaining from start to finish. I don’t have an official ranking of the Fast and Furious series but it’s more than likely one of the best entries.

Eye in the Sky (2016) Review

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Time: 102 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and Offensive Language.
Cast:
Helen Mirren as Katherine Powell
Aaron Paul as Steve Watts
Alan Rickman as Frank Benson
Barkhad Abdi as Jama Farah
Jeremy Northam as Brian Woodale
Iain Glen as James Willett
Director: Gavin Hood

EYE IN THE SKY stars Helen Mirren as Colonel Katherine Powell, a UK-based military officer in command of a top secret drone operation to capture terrorists in Kenya. Through remote surveillance and on-the-ground intel, Powell discovers the targets are planning a suicide bombing and the mission escalates from “capture” to “kill.” But as American pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) is about to engage, a nine-year old girl enters the kill zone triggering an international dispute, reaching the highest levels of US and British government, over the moral, political, and personal implications of modern warfare.

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Eye in the Sky is a movie that I was interested in ever since I heard about it, because of the talented cast and the premise, which sounded quite interesting to me. Unfortunately not enough people went to see this movie in the cinemas, I myself only saw it when it was released on DVD. After seeing it, I wished I saw it earlier. Eye in the Sky is a very solid tense and thrilling movie. The acting was great from its talented cast and the film jut overall was directed well. It’s not very special, but it is well worth a watch.

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This film is very effective at making things tense. Something that I really liked about this movie is that there are also a lot of moral dilemmas that these characters are experiencing. Also this movie doesn’t really take a side as to what the right decision is, it lets the audience think about it themselves, which is so much more effective. Even the ending doesn’t give a definitive answer as to what the right decision was. You should probably know before watching Eye in the Sky that this is not really an action movie, there’s like only one scene of action, but that’s it. Go into this movie expecting a tense thriller with moral and ethical dilemmas instead of an explosive action blockbuster film.

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The cast for Eye in the Sky is really talented with Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Barkhad Abdi, Alan Rickman (in his final film appearance, he was particularly great in this movie) and other actors part of the cast. All of these actors are truly great in their roles and they get to have great moments in the film. All these actors really embodied the viewpoints and stances that their characters have on their situation. The characters felt like real people and the actors helped convey that and a key part in that happening.

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Eye in the Sky is shot and directed pretty well overall. As I mentioned earlier, there aren’t many action scenes in this movie but the few action scenes that are actually there are directed very well. The film is quite tense and thrilling and part of the contributing factor was how this film was directed. Even the conversations between people were made to feel quite intense, the tension never stops.

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Eye in the Sky is a very tense and overall effective thriller that really works well at keeping the audience’s attention. The solid direction, and the great acting from the very talented cast was great and all combined to make an overall good movie. The film isn’t anything hugely monumental or special but it’s still quite a good and riveting thriller, that I personally enjoyed watching. Definitely check out Eye in the Sky when you get a chance. It’s an underappreciated and overlooked movie that needs more attention.