Tag Archives: Jake Gyllenhaal

Enemy (2013) Review

Time: 90 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes and offensive language
Cast:
Jake Gyllenhaal as Adam Bell/Anthony Claire
Mélanie Laurent as Mary
Sarah Gadon as Helen Claire
Isabella Rossellini as Mother
Director: Denis Villeneuve

A mild-mannered college professor (Jake Gyllenhaal) discovers a look-alike actor and delves into the other man’s private affairs.

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I’ve been catching up on the films from Denis Villeneuve that I hadn’t seen yet. Out of the movies I had already seen from him however, Enemy was the one film that I hadn’t reviewed yet. Since it was a movie that required a rewatch anyway, I decided to give it another viewing, and I can confirm that it’s even better the second time. Villeneuve’s mystery doppleganger thriller is very effective and really is worth seeing when you get the chance to.

Talking about why Enemy works so well is difficult, considering that it would involve getting into heavy spoilers. If you watched the movie and are confused by it, I recommend looking up theories online that explain it, and better yet, think a lot about what you just watched. I say this because it doesn’t spell things out for you as to what’s going on, even though it was made with a certain intent from Villeneuve. I’m not spoiling anything when I say this, but there is no real twist or reveal for the movie, so you’re going to need to look deep into the movie to understand what’s going on. I’ll do my best to keep things spoiler-free. First of all, if you’re afraid of the sight of spiders, you’re probably going to find this a little difficult to watch as they make their unpleasant appearances in the movie (the spiders do actually have a symbolic reason for being in the movie instead of just freaking people out). The tone throughout is kept very eerie and unnerving, and you are pulled into this doppelganger story, which really has you intrigued from start to finish. It really does feel reminiscent of a David Lynch movie. Also, the movie is much better on a second watch, having known what a lot of the scenes now mean you really get more out of it. At an hour and 30 minutes, Enemy is kept at a good pace and has your undivided attention, even if you don’t necessarily understand what many of the scenes mean. The ending is quite abrupt and might feel cheap for some people but having known the context of the themes and all that, it’s great. It does have a meaning beyond being a jumpscare (specifically the last couple shots of the movie).

Jake Gyllenhaal was the main star of the movie in dual roles and as usual was fantastic. He really did feel like two different people and was especially great when he was playing off himself. Gyllenhaal is also great at portraying the obsessions of his characters as they’re trying to figure everything out. The rest of the limited cast were good but the supporting players who stood out was Mélanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon, who were great here.

Denis Villeneuve’s direction was fantastic as to be expected. As all of his movies nowadays are, it’s an absolutely stunning looking movie. Enemy also has got this yellowish tint to it throughout, which really gives off this strange vibe, and it’s very effective. There are also moments of brief scary imagery, which really are effective and get under your skin. It’s made even more uneasy by the soundtrack from Daniel Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, giving this really unnerving feeling.

Enemy is incredibly complex and layered, the performances from dual Jake Gyllenhaal and Mélanie Laurent were great and Denis Villenueve has once again fantastically crafted a deep and unnerving psychological thriller. It may be confusing at first, especially for first time viewers, however it becomes much more satisfying as you think about it more, and especially when you watch it again. Go into it knowing as little about the movie as possible. Though just prepare yourself if you have a phobia of spiders.

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) Review

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Zendaya as Michelle “MJ”
Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill
Jon Favreau as Harold “Happy” Hogan
J. B. Smoove as Julius Dell
Jacob Batalon as Edward “Ned” Leeds
Martin Starr as Roger Harrington
Marisa Tomei as May Parker
Jake Gyllenhaal as Quentin Beck/Mysterio
Director: Jon Watts

Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man (Tom Holland) must step up to take on new threats in a world that has changed forever.

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I wasn’t sure what to think of Spider-Man: Far From Home leading up to its release. I liked Homecoming, more than I thought it would, but for some reason I wasn’t as excited as I wanted to be, even with the addition of Jake Gyllenhaal. Not to mention that it being the last film of Phase 3 following Endgame, it feels out of place (like how Ant Man was the last film of Phase 2 even after following after Avenges: Age of Ultron). Nonetheless, I was interested enough to watch it, and it turned out to be far better than I thought it would be. I’d say that it’s probably the best Spider-Man movie in a while.

First thing to note is that I know that some people are going to hate something in the first 5 minutes, and find it to not take the consequences of Endgame seriously and playing things for laughs. I know it’s such a minor part of the movie, but I know that it’s going to be a massive flaw for some people, personally I found it funny. For the first half it is just a normal coming of age Spider-Man movie with the things that you’d expect. With that said it’s pretty solid, and surprisingly works better as a coming of age movie than Homecoming, with all the things that a high schooler would go through. It is one of the funniest movies in the MCU and most of the jokes really land. However in that first half the movie feels pretty standard MCU Spider-Man, and like it is building up to something. When a certain thing happens in the halfway point, and that’s when the movie escalates to being really good and that’s when I really liked it a lot more. One of the big criticisms about this incarnation of Spider-Man is that he’s way too reliant on Iron Man (even becoming a substitute Ben Parker figure), and I will admit I would really prefer that he wasn’t, in fact I’d prefer his solo movies to not be so tied in with the MCU and to be much more standalone. With that said, considering that Stark is dead, it seemed only natural that Parker would feel this giant pressure of living up to him in his next film appearance. I only hope that his stories going forward won’t involve Tony so much. As for Ben Parker, at this point it’s too late to randomly bring him up again, so as long as they don’t keep bringing up Stark, I think I’ll be fine with it. Both of the credits scenes are absolutely must see (and yes there are two). The first credits scene is particularly so vital that I honestly can’t believe it wasn’t placed at the end of the movie, it affects something major in the Spider-Man sequel and I can’t wait for the next movie. So even if you’re one of the rare people who watches all the MCU movies but don’t stay around for the credits, definitely make an exception here.

Tom Holland gets better as Peter Parker/Spider-Man with every film appearance, it’s been really great watching him develop over time. I’m not really into ranking film adaptations of comic book characters but Holland at this point is a borderline perfect Spider-Man. Zendaya gets a lot more to do than in the first movie, in Homecoming (when she was called Michelle) she occasionally appeared in some scenes and at the end said that her name is MJ (why they couldn’t just say that she was MJ from the beginning I don’t know). Some people really didn’t like that she was MJ, but she was really good in Far From Home, and Holland and Zendaya have great chemistry. As far as big screen MJs go, I’m really liking her. Parker’s classmates played by Jacob Batalan, Tony Revolori, Angourie Rice and more also played their roles well. Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders return as Nick Fury and Maria Hill and they play their parts as good as you expect them to, though don’t expect to see a lot of them. Jon Favreau also provides some nice support as Happy Hogan, as always nice to see whenever he’s on screen. I was mixed here with the use of Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May. While I know that between Homecoming and Infinity War, May has no doubt gotten used to Peter being Spider-Man, it just feels really weird to go from her very shocked reaction of the revelation in the last Spider-Man movie to her being completely on board with it. We really don’t get enough time with them, so hopefully in the next movie she gets a lot more to actually do in the plot beyond an occasional cut to her just to remind the audience that she exists. One of my most anticipated parts of the movie was Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio, a well known Spider-Man character. Gyllenhaal is one of the best actors working today, so I was looking forward to how he would be in a big budget comic book movie. For a while he does come across as a bit bland, even though I knew there was a reason for it, it was a little too much. However, in the second half Gyllenhaal turns in a really great performance. I don’t really know much about Mysterio from the comics, but from what I can tell he is a really ridiculous character, so I really wondered how they would actually handle him in the movie. Somehow, they managed to adapt him to the big screen in such an comic-accurate way, yet he still works perfectly well in the movie. Vulture in Homecoming felt like a reasonably decent villain made into one of the best MCU villains by Michael Keaton’s performance. Mysterio on the other hand gets a little more focus and screentime, and Gyllenhaal elevates the character even further. So far the MCU has managed to adapt two of Spider-Man’s most ridiculous villains to the big screen in such an effective and credible way, I can’t wait to see how they handle all of his other antagonists.

Jon Watts’s direction has improved immensely since Homecoming. When it came to Holland’s Spider-Man, the action scenes outside of his action in the Avengers movies have been pretty lacklustre. Watts however made the action work very well in Far From Home, from the web slinging to all the danger and destruction that Spider-Man has to face. Every action scene is much larger than in Homecoming’s and much more memorable. Far From Home also contains the trippiest sequence in a Spider-Man movie yet, and I’d go so far as to say that it’s one of my favourite scenes in the entire MCU. The visual effects seem to be improved over Homecoming too, though it does have some occasionally fake looking moments, particularly in the third act. Michael Giacchino’s score was okay in Homecoming, but I think it’s also better here in Far From Home.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is really good, and I’d say is the best live action Spider-Man movie since Spider-Man 2. If you’re interested in the MCU, definitely don’t pass this movie up. The cast is great (particularly Holland, Zendaya and Gyllenhaal), Jon Watts’s direction is great overall, and the movie especially in the second half takes some exciting turns. The MCU incarnation of Spider-Man has been growing on me over time, but with Far From Home, I’m now completely sold on it. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of this Spider-Man’s movies.

Velvet Buzzsaw (2019) Review

Time: 112 Minutes
Cast:
Jake Gyllenhaal as Morf Vandewalt
Rene Russo as Rhodora Haze
Toni Collette as Gretchen
Zawe Ashton as Josephina
Tom Sturridge as Jon Dondon
Natalia Dyer as Coco
Daveed Diggs as Damrish
Billy Magnussen as Bryson
John Malkovich as Piers
Director: Dan Gilroy

After a series of paintings by an unknown artist are discovered, a supernatural force enacts revenge on those who have allowed their greed to get in the way of art.

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Velvet Buzzsaw was one of my most anticipated movies of 2019. Nightcrawler was one of the best films of 2014, and writer/director Dan Gilroy and actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo are returning from that for Gilroy’s third film, which would be a horror movie in the art world. I was wondering how this movie was going to be. It has a great setup and premise and a good cast involved, however I heard that Gilroy’s second film (Roman J. Israel) wasn’t all that great, so I didn’t know what to expect. Velvet Buzzsaw wasn’t quite the homerun that Nightcrawler was, yet I still liked it, more than other people at least.

I should start by saying not to watch the trailer to Velvet Buzzsaw if you haven’t already. First of all, it shows too much, particularly some key scenes including some deaths. Second of all, it’s being marketed as a full on horror movie, and that’s not really what it is. The movie really is a mix between a satire on the world of art and a campy horror b-movie. Its strongest parts is whenever are satirises the world of art. The first half is pretty much the whole satire bit, even the dialogue that sounds off and flatly written seems oddly deliberate and is genuinely hilarious at points. However, even with some interesting ideas and potential, it barely scratches the surface of what it could’ve been, it doesn’t go much further than the setup. There are also some subplots and some characters that seem to lengthen the runtime and don’t fit into the movie entirely and don’t even get fully resolved. Like I don’t even remember why John Malkovich was in the movie. Despite being an hour and 50 minutes long, it can drag and feel dull at some points. I think a rewrite or two might’ve smoothed out parts of the script. Over time it leans more into the horror aspects and it’s really not effective at the horror parts. I don’t mean that as it didn’t scare me because most horror movies don’t scare me. I’m meaning that I never felt tense throughout the whole movie. By the end it felt like something was missing from the story, like there was a payoff that was supposed to happen but it doesn’t actually come.

There is a great cast involved in this movie, while all of them are good, only some of them stand out. Jake Gyllenhaal is basically the lead of the movie, playing the role of an art critic so pretentious that his name is literally Morf Vandelwalt. It’s not one of his all time best performances but it’s still a great performance very unlike any performance he’s given before and ranks among his strangest roles alongside his parts in Okja and Nightcrawler. Other standouts are Rene Russo, Toni Collette and Zawe Ashton, who are also great in their roles. The rest of the cast including Natalie Dyer, Daveed Diggs, Billy Magnussen and John Malkovich are good in their roles and play their parts, however are very much supporting roles and don’t get to shine like Gyllenhaal or Collette.

While I’m not sure yet whether Nightcrawler was just a fluke when it comes to writing for Dan Gilroy, Velvet Buzzsaw shows that he is a good director at the very least. With the movie being about the art world it’s got such a great look throughout and unsurprisingly the cinematography was done by Robert Elswitt, who shot Nightcrawler (which Dan Gilroy also directed). It is such a stunning looking movie, and really all the technical elements were handled greatly. It has some Final Destination like death scenes (some of which were unfortunately shown in the trailer). While they aren’t scary in the slightest, they are visually creative at the very least.

Velvet Buzzsaw isn’t going to work for everyone. It doesn’t really achieve what it sets out to do, it’s a little clunky and it falls flat at some of the aspects, especially the horror elements. However, I still think there are some good things here. The acting is good, it’s well directed, and some parts of the story worked and I really like the premise. If you’re the least bit interested in it and you have a Netflix account, I’d say give it a chance.

Wildlife (2018) Review

Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Carey Mulligan as Jeanette Brinson
Jake Gyllenhaal as Jerry Brinson
Ed Oxenbould as Joe Brinson
Zoe Margaret Colletti as Ruth-Ann
Bill Camp as Warren Miller
Director: Paul Dano

Fourteen-year-old Joe (Ed Oxenbould) is the only child of Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) and Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) — a housewife and a golf pro — in a small town in 1960s Montana. Nearby, an uncontrolled forest fire rages close to the Canadian border, and when Jerry loses his job — and his sense of purpose — he decides to join the cause of fighting the fire, leaving his wife and son to fend for themselves. Suddenly forced into the role of an adult, Joe witnesses his mother’s struggle as she tries to keep her head above water.

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I heard about Wildlife for a little while and I’ve been meaning to check it out. On top of it starring Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal, two of the best actors working today, it’s the directorial debut of Paul Dano (a really good and underrated actor). I didn’t really know what to expect outside of that. Personally I found Wildlife to be a really good and engaging family drama with typically great performances from its lead actors.

Wildlife basically follows a dysfunctional family through the eyes of the parents’ child as the marriage falls apart. The script written by both Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan was really good. This movie isn’t given a particular structure of sorts, it feels more like it was showing periods of time. While as a result it could’ve felt like it could meander and feel unfocussed, something about it kept me on board from start to finish. It can be increasingly uncomfortable at times watching some of the family drama that unfolds but it did its job well, it really does feel like you’re watching this all happen from the child’s perspective. After everything that happens, the ending was a little abrupt and I could see people finding it to be underwhelming, there’s not really a complete conclusion to all of the characters and the story. However, for some reason it just really worked for me and I liked what they did with the ending.

Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal are some of the best actors working today and they unsurprisingly delivered here. Between the both of them though, it’s Mulligan who shines the most as the mother of the family. While I definitely need to see more from her, this is at the very least among her best work. She demonstrates an incredible amount of range as the marriage between her and Gyllenhaal slowly falls apart. Jake Gyllenhaal is also really good as the father, you don’t really see him as much as you’d think but he was good when he was on screen. Ed Oxenbould plays the child of Mulligan and Gyllenhaal and he was good as well. Wildlife more or less follows the story from his perspective, and I think that is probably the reason why there’s not that much to him as a character. All I can remember about him as a character was that he was in the role of the child, I felt like I didn’t really know him by the end of the movie. Other actors like Bill Camp also play their parts well.

Paul Dano had a pretty good directing debut with Wildlife. It fully embraces the 1960s time period, from the production design, the costumes and the music. I know that given that the plot is set in the 60s it should feel like it, but they especially heavily leaned into it with this movie. Really everything including the cinematography was done well, and the movie feels smaller and intimate, which worked for the story.

Wildlife is an intimate and simple yet effective family drama, and has some great performances, particularly from Carey Mulligan. Paul Dano has demonstrated a lot of directing talent with this movie and I definitely would like to see more of his work behind the camera. Wildlife is definitely worth a watch whenever you can see it.

Zodiac (2007) Review

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Time: 158 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence
Cast:
Jake Gyllenhaal as Robert Graysmith
Mark Ruffalo as David Toschi
Robert Downey, Jr. as Paul Avery
Anthony Edwards as SFPD Inspector William Armstrong
Brian Cox as Melvin Belli
Elias Koteas as Sgt. Jack Mulanax
Donal Logue as Captain Ken Narlow
John Carroll Lynch as Arthur Leigh Allen
Dermot Mulroney as Captain Marty Lee
Director: David Fincher

Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a cartoonist who works for the San Francisco Chronicle. His quirky ways irritate Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.), a reporter whose drinking gets in the way of doing his job. The two become friends thanks to a shared interest: the Zodiac killer. Graysmith steadily becomes obsessed with the case, as Avery’s life spirals into drunken oblivion. Graysmith’s amateur sleuthing puts him onto the path of David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo), a police inspector who has thus far failed to catch his man; Sherwood Morrill, a handwriting expert; Linda del Buono, a convict who knew one of the Zodiac’s victims; and others. Graysmith’s job, his wife and his children all become unimportant next to the one thing that really matters: catching the Zodiac.

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By 2007, David Fincher was already a well received director with film like Se7en and Fight Club. When it comes to his films, Zodiac is one of his most underrated and it also might just be his best. Fantastically well-paced, greatly and efficiently written and brilliantly acted by its cast, Zodiac is a captivating and fantastic movie that is finally receiving the love and acclaim that it deserves over a decade after its release.

Zodiac also takes place throughout the 60s and 70s and many moments jump to different moments (like weeks, months and years later), it really spans over quite a large amount of time. The mystery itself is fascinating. It’s not just the mystery that’s interesting though, it’s also the people investigating and obsessing over it, particularly Gyllenhaal, Downey and Ruffalo’s characters. Fincher really does a great job at making you as obsessed with finding the identity of the Zodiac Killer as our protagonists here. The movie really gets better and better the more it progresses. The part where two characters near the end seem to piece together what may have happened is really satisfying. The movie isn’t quite like Fincher’s other serial killer movie, Se7en, it’s certainly not as dark and grotesque. However, all the events that you see really happened, which you could argue could make this film more disturbing. Also, unlike Se7en or Fincher’s other serial killer movie, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it’s never clear who the actual killer is. There is a theory and a strong implication by the end of the movie but that’s it. This movie is Fincher’s longest to date, around 2 hours and 40 minutes, this is possibly why Zodiac isn’t as popular as some of his other films like Se7en. There is a lot to take in and you have to really be into a mood to sit down for over 150 minutes to watch an investigation of a serial killer, for me it really did it for me.

The whole cast of Zodiac do well in their roles. Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo are particularly great in the movie with Gyllenhaal as a cartoonist, Downey as a reporter and Ruffalo as a cop. All of them are obsessed with finding the Zodiac killer, and they convey their real life characters convincingly. Gyllenhaal’s performance here is particularly overlooked, he really carries with him this silent obsession that he shows with such subtlety that was effective. We are really seeing the movie from his eyes and we becomes as obsessed with the case of the Zodiac Killer as Jake’s character Robert Graysmith. Downey was also great here, with his character going through some more blatant changes as the case of the Zodiac progresses. Ruffalo also proves himself once again as being yet another one of the best underappreciated talents working today. They all give some of the best performances of their career. All the supporting cast were quite good but if there’s one who stands out, it’s John Caroll Lynch as a primary suspect in the Zodiac case. He is so unnerving in all his scenes and is very memorable, even within his small screentime.

David Fincher’s movies always look great and Zodiac in no exception, his direction of this film is immaculate and full of detail. Most of this film is focussed on the investigation of the murders and the mystery by our 3 main characters and Fincher really did a great job at showcasing it. The cinematography by Harris Savides was also great. The intense scenes (most of them consisting of the Zodiac killings being shown) are handled very well. A certain basement scene also stands out at being very creepy, Fincher handled the tension and the unsettledness perfectly. David Fincher also uses CGI effectively to enhance the scenes to make it look better. I wouldn’t know that he was using it just from watching the movie, it’s been released for over a decade long and nothing indicated that CGI was being used. The music from David Shire was also quite effective.

Zodiac in an underrated and fantastic film that I think everyone should see at least once. It is a long movie, full of detail and it’s a lot to take in, so it’s not an easy movie to just watch, you have to really be in the mood to watch it. However, having seen it a few times now, I can’t help but love it every time. Fincher’s attention to detail is absolutely incredible. On top of that, the performances (particularly from Gyllenhaal, Downey and Ruffalo) were great. It’s probably Fincher’s best put together movie in all honesty and having seen almost all of his films, it might just be his best movie yet, which is really saying a lot. Zodiac is one of my favourite films and it gets better the more I watch it.

Southpaw (2015) Review

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive langauge & content that may disturb.
Cast:
Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy “The Great” Hope
Forest Whitaker as Titus “Tick” Wills
Rachel McAdams as Maureen Hope
Oona Laurence as Leila Hope
Naomie Harris as Angela Rivera
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson as Jordan Mains
Director: Antoine Fuqua

As tragedy strikes him in his prime, famed boxer, Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal), begins to fall into a great depression. Once the decision regarding the custody of his daughter (Oona Laurence) is under question, Billy decides to get his life back on track by getting back into the ring.

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I remember getting reasonably interested in Southpaw, with my main point of interest being Jake Gyllenhaal, he really commits to every role and continues to physically change himself and gives great performances. Also, Antoine Fuqua directed this movie and I liked a lot of his work with films like Training Day, King Arthur, Shooter, Olympus has Fallen and The Equalizer, so I was interested in seeing what this film would be like. Although this movie is pretty predictable and cliché, the execution of the story worked quite well, especially with the performances (Gyllenhaal particularly) and the direction.

I will say that before going in, it would be a good idea not to look at the trailers because it spoils an earlier aspect of the film. The story is fairly predictable, if you’ve read the summary or watched the trailer (which you shouldn’t) you know what type of movie it is and you probably can predict the most basic plot points. One thing I liked was how Gyllenhaal’s character does actually have some issues. In many of these types of movies with similar plots you would usually want the main character to be with their child despite all the odds but here, you can tell that maybe in this case that shouldn’t happen (no spoilers). Aside from that, most of the movie is how you would expect it to be. You do root for the main character and all that but it doesn’t quite have you quite as emotionally invested as much as other similar movies do. For me, it’s the execution of everything that makes Southpaw work so well.

Southpaw may have some familiar characters, but the talented cast gives it their all and are great here. Jake Gyllenhaal is once again incredible in this movie, he transforms physically and mentally into his character Billy Hope and he does some more great work here. Gyllenhaal once again shows himself to be one of the best actors working today. Another performance I was impressed with was of Billy’s daughter by newcomer Oona Laurence, the chemistry between her and Gyllenhaal was really good and believable, you can buy them being father and daughter. Forrest Whitaker also gave a pretty good performance and so did other supporting actors like Rachel McAdams and Naomie Harris, really everyone does quite well in their roles.

Southpaw was overall a well directed movie and one of the reasons why the movie works pretty well. I really liked how the boxing scenes were filmed, as this is Antoine Fuqua, he doesn’t hold anything back and he did quite well showing the impact that the fighting had on Billy Hope, both physically and mentally.

Southpaw isn’t the most original movie and you can predict a lot of its plot/ You’ve all seen this story before and there aren’t too many surprises and it doesn’t really do anything new with this kind of story. What makes this movie work despite the lack of any surprises is how Antoine Fuqua and the cast delivered this movie. I do think that it’s worth seeing for at least for the performances, especially from Jake Gyllenhaal as he is fantastic here. Southpaw is a solid enough, if familiar movie that is worth giving a chance when you can.

Life (2017) Review

Time: 123 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Contains violence, horror scenes & offensive language
Cast:
Jake Gyllenhaal as David Jordan
Rebecca Ferguson as Miranda North
Ryan Reynolds as Rory “Roy” Adams
Hiroyuki Sanada as Sho Murakami
Ariyon Bakare as Hugh Derry
Olga Dihovichnaya as Katerina Golovkina
Director: Daniel Espinosa

Astronauts (Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds) aboard the International Space Station are on the cutting edge of one of the most important discoveries in human history: the first evidence of extra-terrestrial life on Mars. As members of the crew conduct their research, the rapidly evolving life-form proves far more intelligent and terrifying than anyone could have imagined.

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Life was a movie I was curious about. This movie did seem very familiar and similar to other sci-fi horror movies, but because of the very talented cast involved, I was willing to check it out. I have to say, Life actually surprised me quite a bit. It’s nothing really that special and it is quite predictable. However, the film did carry out its story quite well, with its pretty good direction, great acting and actually some scary scenes.

The first act of the movie was rather slow and really didn’t interest me. As soon as the alien starts to attack, that’s when the movie started to really get my attention, that’s when the film really picked up. Most of the movie is fairly predictable, with the exception with something that happens at the end of the first act and the ending of the film, you can just tell what’s going to happen, though a lot of that has to do with the fact that we’ve seen so many of these types of movies, so we can usually tell what direction it’s going in. The film is quite effective with its scares (I’ll go into more detail later on). Overall the execution of this story is what makes this movie work so well.

This movie has a small but talented cast with Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare and Olga Dihovichnaya. The characters they play aren’t really that interesting and due to the writing, there’s not much reason to care about them, aside from the fact that they are characters who are stuck in this situation. But the actors do a great job in their roles despite the lack of development in their characters.

This film is directed by Daniel Espinosa who has directed some movies which I haven’t seen but I’ve heard are ‘okay’ (Safe House, Child 44). I will say that with Life he did a really good job. This film is shot well, the CGI is used quite effectively. Direction-wise, the only issue I had was early in the movie, there is an unnecessary long take shot. These can be quite impressive but it wasn’t really needed at that moment, and it’s not even like the film featured these types of shots throughout, it was a one-off, and wasn’t needed. That’s really it though. This film handles its tension quite well, while the film does have it’s jumpscares, it wasn’t the majority of the scares, and the jumpscares never really felt forced or obnoxious. I found the most effective scares came from the alien itself. The alien itself is quite effective, the way it moved, the way it looked, the movie made it seem like an unstoppable and terrifying force. Plus, we don’t exactly know exactly what it is, the unknown element really helped with the horror.

Life is not one of the greatest sci-fi horror movies out there, it does take a lot from superior sci-fi horror movies like Alien and it is rather predictable throughout. However, if you do like these type of movies, I would recommend that you check out Life. The acting from its talented cast is good, the direction is solid but most of all, this movie is also actually scary, with a very dangerous and threatening antagonist.

Nocturnal Animals (2016) Review

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Time: 116 minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, sexual violence, offensive language & nudity
Cast:
Amy Adams as Susan Morrow
Jake Gyllenhaal as Edward Sheffield/Tony Hastings
Michael Shannon as Detective Bobby Andes
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ray Marcus
Isla Fisher as Laura Hastings
Armie Hammer as Hutton Morrow
Laura Linney as Anne Sutton
Andrea Riseborough as Alessia Holt
Michael Sheen as Carlos Holt
Director: Tom Ford

The life of a successful Los Angeles art-gallery owner’s idyllic, named Susan (Amy Adams), is marred by the constant traveling of her handsome second husband (Armie Hammer). While he is away, she is shaken by the arrival of a manuscript written by her first husband (Jake Gyllenhaal), who she has not seen in years. The manuscript tells the story of a teacher who finds a trip with his family turning into a nightmare. As Susan reads the book, it forces her to examine her past and confront some dark truths.

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Nocturnal Animals was a movie that I was curious about, mostly because of its great cast. I didn’t know a lot about the movie aside from that, but the cast and the premise was enough to intrigue me. I have to say, Nocturnal Animals is not only a great movie, it’s also one of the best movies of the year. The acting, the direction and the story was done excellently. Even if you don’t like the movie, there’s no denying how unique Nocturnal Animals is.

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This movie has a very unique structure. This movie cuts between storylines, with the present day storyline, the novel storyline and the flashbacks with Amy Adams’s character. It seems like it had the potential to become a mess but not once do any of the scenes feel out of place. There is something intriguing about this movie that had me invested from start to finish, it’s been many days since I’ve watched this movie, I’m still processing what I watched. I will say, without spoiling anything, the ending is one that might annoy some people, I myself was confused when I saw it. It is one of those endings that you need to think about for a while to understand the intent of it. I honestly want to watch this movie again, it’s one of those movies that gets better and better the more you watch it.

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The acting by everyone is absolutely superb. Amy Adams gives such a great performance, both this and Arrival shows that she really is an excellent actress. I’ll just say that her performance here is truly one of her best, and that’s saying a lot. Jake Gyllenhaal unsurprisingly is excellent, showing that he is one of the best actors working today. There are two showstealing supporting performances in thismovie. One of them is from Michael Shannon, who not only has an entertaining character to work with, but also gives one of his best performances in a while. He was so enjoyable to watch but at the same time was very compelling. The other showstealing supporting performance is surprisingly from Aaron Taylor Johnson is also great as one of the villainous characters in the novel. Aaron Taylor Johnson is for me a decent actor, but this is hands down his best performance yet, Taylor-Johnson fully embodies the character. The cast all do a fantastic job, and all deserve high praise for their work here.

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The style and overall direction by director Tom Ford is done excellently. This film is shot absolutely beautifully, it’s one of the best shot films of the year. Every scene was directed perfectly. A great example was the first scene in the novel storyline, without spoiling anything, I’ll say that it was truly unsettling and intense, and Ford’s direction executed this scene excellently. If I had to mention one problem I had with the film, it’s with the opening credit sequence, which I’ll just say, was really out of place. If you watch the movie, don’t be deterred by this though, the rest of the movie is great. The soundtrack by Abel Korzeniowski was also truly great, and added a lot to the movie.

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Nocturnal Animals surprised me, I was expecting great acting at the very least (which I did get) I didn’t expect this movie to be this investing and to be directed so greatly. While I do think you need to know what sort of film you’re getting into before watching it, I do recommend going into this movie without knowing a whole lot about it. That’s how I watched it and I really got a lot out of it, and the surprises were more impactful. I personally loved Nocturnal Animals, it is a very ambitious film that manages to succeed on mostly every angle. It’s one of the best of the year.

Prisoners (2013)

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Prisoners

Time: 153 Mins
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language and content that may disturb
Cast:
Hugh Jackman as Keller Dover
Jake Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki
Viola Davis as Nancy Birch
Maria Bello as Grace Dover
Terrance Howard as Franklin Birch
Melissa Leo as Holly Jones
Paul Dano as Alex Jones
Director: Denis Villeneuve

Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), his wife Grace (Maria Bello), their teenage son Ralph and little daughter Anna celebrate Thanksgiving with their friends, Franklin Birch (Terrance Howard), his wife Nancy (Viola Davis), their teenage daughter Eliza and their little daughter Joy. After a while, the parents noticed that their youngest daughters disappeared. Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is assigned to the case. The only lead is an RV parked on the street the day the girls disappeared. Its driver Alex Jones (Paul Dano) is arrested but is released due to a lack of evidence. As the police pursue many leads, Keller decides to take matters into his own hands, knowing his child’s life is at stake.

 

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Prisoners is a very surprising movie, first hearing about it I expected good performances. Instead what I got were great performances, high tension and well written dialogue. There was never a moment when I predicted something would happen. The dialogue between people is already fascinating and interesting; on top of that it’s delivered by actors who can make the lines very authentic and real. A lot of the movie spends time just on the family, when they aren’t looking for their daughters. That’s something that I don’t see with most kidnapping movies, most kidnapping movies follow the police trying to find the captives or focus on family trying to find them. Prisoners has probably the best representation of a family reacting to a kidnapping. There is still quite a bit of looking for the daughters and that is done very well too but the fact that the film takes time to focus on the characters instead on the plot, makes it stand out from other kidnapping movies. The final act was very intense for me as the stakes continually rise.

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A lot of this came from the excellent performances from this movie. This is hands down the best performance I’ve seen from Hugh Jackman, even better than in X-Men and Les Miserables. He plays Keller as a desperate father who will do anything to get her daugbhter back and holds nothing back. Another great performance is from Jake Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki. Terrance Howard, Viola Davis and Melissa Leo are also very good. Paul Dano is also worth mentioning as the role of Alex, the very disturbed driver of the RV. If there is a common thing all these performances had, they have a grounded sense of reality. The film is so well acted that I felt the emotions that these characters experienced. That is something that I don’t find very often in most movies, at least for me.

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The cinematography by Roger Deakins gives the film a dark look which adds to the dark atmosphere. It is never sunny in this movie which really suits this movie’s tone. As a result, the movie felt very dark and damp which was good for this movie. There were moments that reminded of David Fincher’s Se7en with all the grittiness and darkness. It had a sense of dread throughout the entire film and the look really sells it.

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Some people will call this movie depressing but there is no denying the skill of this movie. It’s probably not for everyone, especially for parents with young children. The film unfortunately isn’t as known as it should. The dark look of this movie, combined with the excellent acting results in a thriller that truly feels real. This is one of the most surprising movies that I have watched. I knew that this would be a good movie but it didn’t expect the expert craft of this film. This is one of the best films and surprises of 2013.