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Belfast (2021) Review

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Belfast

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Jude Hill as Buddy
Caitríona Balfe as “Ma”
Jamie Dornan as “Pa”
Judi Dench as “Granny”
Ciarán Hinds as “Pop”
Colin Morgan as Billy Clanton
Director: Kenneth Branagh

A semi-autobiographical film which chronicles the life of a working class family and their young son’s childhood during the tumult of the late 1960s in the Northern Ireland capital.

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I heard of Belfast over the past months, with it being Kenneth Branagh’s latest film and a major Oscar contender. I heard some very positive things about it, but also some backlash with regard to its high awards chances. I put aside the awards attention and watched the movie by its own merits, and I actually quite liked it for what it was.

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The script is pretty straightforward and very rarely surprises, but it is solid nonetheless. The intense political situation of Belfast in the 1960s is present throughout the film, but the movie is not solely about that specific aspect. Essentially it is a coming of age story of the lead child named Buddy, and its very much a story told through the eyes of the child. It is fairly plotless, although an aspect present throughout is the possibility of Buddy’s family leaving Belfast, and we see how that develops over the course of the film. It is a slice of life film about family and childhood, and this approach to the story won’t work for everyone, it worked well enough for me though. With that said, it is one of those movies which feel like snapshots from a period of time rather than actually telling a strong narrative, and as a result the narrative can meander and feel disjointed. Also, while I appreciate the commitment to having most of the film told through the main child’s perspective, it can occasionally work against itself. When the movie focuses on other elements, some situations and scenes can be pretty contrived, such as when Buddy happens to hear very important conversations from his family. It didn’t bother me too much, but it is nonetheless something I noticed when watching. Nonetheless I was invested with what was happening, and I particularly liked how things were ended in the third act. Finally, the film is semi autobiographical, it is very much a passion project, and that really does help the movie quite a lot. Even with the flaws of the screenplay, it does actually feel like a story Branagh wanted to tell, and that helped the movie feel genuine and heartfelt.

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One of the strongest elements are the cast, and each of them are top notch, with Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Ciaran Hinds and Judi Dench all giving great performances. They all worked very well together, and the chemistry between them felt real, they actually felt like a family. Credit should also go to the lead actor for Buddy, Jude Hill. This is his first film but he did very well especially considering that he’s in almost every scene in the film.

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Kenneth Branagh directs this movie very well. Immediately noticeable is the black and white cinematography, its gorgeous, well shot and nice to look at. I don’t really think there was much point of having the black and white outside of the few moments where colour is included, but it was nonetheless nice to watch.

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Belfast seems to be one of the main frontrunners for Best Picture, and I don’t necessarily think that it’s a great pick for the award. Putting aside Oscar chances however, I think the movie is actually quite good and was better than I was expecting. As a movie focusing on a child’s coming of age, it’s solid and I was invested enough, even if it wasn’t anything special. It is also decently directed by Branagh, and the great performances really helped the film work as well as it does. I do think it is worth checking out at the very least.

Fifty Shades Darker (2017) Review

Time: 113 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Sex scenes & offensive language.
Cast:
Dakota Johnson as Anastasia ‘Ana’ Steele
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
Eric Johnson as Jack Hyde
Eloise Mumford as Katherine “Kate” Kavanagh
Bella Heathcote as Leila Williams
Rita Ora as Mia Grey
Luke Grimes as Elliot Grey
Victor Rasuk as José Rodriguez
Kim Basinger as Elena Lincoln
Marcia Gay Harden as Grace Trevelyan-Grey
Director: James Foley

When a wounded Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) tries to entice a cautious Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) back into his life, she demands a new arrangement before she will give him another chance. As the two begin to build trust and find stability, shadowy figures from Christian’s past start to circle them, determined to destroy their hopes for a future together.

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Full disclosure, I knew this movie was going to be horrendous before going in. 2 years ago I watched and reviewed Fifty Shades of Grey which was one of the worst movies of 2015 (second only to Hot Pursuit). And its sequel is one of the worst movies of 2017, no surprise here. Everything from the first movie is here, bland acting, an uninteresting story, random “erotic” sex scenes, you name it. There might be some hilariously bad moments here but its not really enough to warrant watching the whole movie.

I’ll just get the obvious out of the way: like the first movie, it’s based off erotica which was basically Twilight fan fiction, the plot is uninteresting and non-existent, the romance is terrible, there are random sex scenes that are somehow boring, basically most of what made the first Fifty Shades movie so terrible is here. In the first movie, the first half was kind of funny, whereas the second half was unbearingly boring. Here with Darker, it’s a mix of the two. I will say it’s not quite as boring as Fifty Shades of Grey but it’s not really that interesting or entertaining either. I will say that there is more going on, but it doesn’t count for much when it’s impossible to care about it all. The main thing happening is the romance, which was poorly done, nothing different from the previous movie. There is a bunch of subplots, one involves a former submissive of Christian who is stalking him and Anastasia (that comes and goes and disappears), there’s this subplot about Anastasia’s stalker boss (Eric Johnson) that’s pointless and completely random and there’s a subplot of Christian and Kim Basinger’s character which only is present a few points in the story, there’s a whole lot of parts that don’t matter. There is particularly a scene involving a helicopter which is so hilariously pointless and serves no purpose to the plot and lasts for 5 minutes. In fact it is worth noting that there is also some unintentionally hilarious moments, with the random things that happen. I didn’t hate this movie as much as the previous movie, probably because I knew what to expect. Aside from that, this movie is pretty much the same, that being utterly horrendous on pretty much every level.

The two leads, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan like in the previous movie were bland and lack any kind of chemistry. I can’t even blame them for their performances, they don’t have good material to work with. There are no notable supporting performances, I do wonder why Kim Basinger was in this movie, she does play I guess a significant part but she’s only in a few scenes.

Fifty Shades Darker this time is directed by James Foley who directed Glengarry Glen Ross, and know his direction doesn’t elevate the movie particularly. It is around the same level as the first movie, fine enough but some aspects are quite bad. The sex scenes are like the first movie’s, for the most part it’s just cliché Hollywood sex scenes that try to be seem kinky and it feels more boring than actually erotic. The music in here honestly makes many of the scenes hilarious, it has countless amount of cheesy pop songs, it almost feels like a parody, especially when its being played during the sex scenes.

Fifty Shades Darker is pretty much the same as the first movie with some slight differences, with it having unintentional hilarious moments and its not quite as boring but it is still as bad. But I can say that on its own, its awful. Fortunately this trilogy ends next year, so we don’t have to wait too long for this to all be over.

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) Review

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Time: 125 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Sex Scenes and Offensive Language
Cast:
Dakota Johnson as Anastasia “Ana” Steele
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
Eloise Mumford as Katherine “Kate” Kavanagh
Jennifer Ehle as Carla Wilks
Marcia Gay Harden as Grace Trevelyan Grey
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson

When college senior Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) steps in for her sick roommate to interview prominent businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) for their campus paper, little does she realize the path her life will take. Christian, as enigmatic as he is rich and powerful, finds himself strangely drawn to Ana, and she to him. Though sexually inexperienced, Ana plunges headlong into an affair — and learns that Christian’s true sexual proclivities push the boundaries of pain and pleasure.

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I want to make it clear that the only reason I watched this movie is because I wanted to catch on the best and (in the case of this movie) worst of 2015. I knew that this movie was going to be terrible and of course I knew the book was based on Twilight fanfiction. However even with that, after watching this movie, I can say that this is one of the only movies that I’ve regretted seeing for a review, even Bloodrayne 2 didn’t get to that level. This ‘movie’ was boring and frustrating with a bad ‘story’, bad ‘romance’, everything pretty much failed in this movie.

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In the first act of the movie, I actually found the film kind of entertaining in how terrible it was. The dialogue is horrendous and the sudden interest between these two characters was unbelievable. At the halfway point though, I started to over time hate this movie. The problem is not that this film is basically a 2 hour porno, the problem is that the whole movie is basically about these two ‘characters’ and whether they would end up together (even though they shouldn’t as they aren’t compatible in the slightest), and that is literally the only thing going on. While bad movie romances have happened in the past, there’s bigger picture stuff happening in the stories, even Twilight did that. And because of that, this movie is tremendously boring, and many scenes felt like alternate versions of the previous scenes on repeat. Ana wants to have a relationship with Christian, he says he doesn’t do love, they have sex, rinse and repeat.

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I can tell that Dakota Johnson is a good actress and can be good if she is actually given good stuff to work with. However her character is one of the weakest characters I’ve ever seen in a movie, and that is saying a lot. These main leads have no chemistry at all, they have worse chemistry than Bella and Edward from Twilight. And there was nothing else going on as I said before, so imagine 2 hours of Twilight minus the plotlines, with the exception of the love story. That’s this movie.

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One of the only good things about this movie is that it looks nice, however lots of horrible movies are well shot; it doesn’t count for much. As I said earlier this movie is a soft core porno, and the sex scenes are there (and vaguely BDSM I should mention) but it’s hard to get into because you can tell that these two characters are completely incompatible with each other, and they are so boring and lifeless so we don’t care about what’s going on. If the filmmakers really wanted us to get into the sex scenes, they would either make the characters likable or interesting, or they would just have the film with sex scenes with no attempt to have developed characters, as that was pretty much the entire book to begin with.

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage Mandatory Credit: Photo by REX (4106372a) Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' Film - 2014

In the previous bad movies of 2015 that I’ve watched, I haven’t really hated them to this level, not even Taken 3. This movie however made me question watching and reviewing bad movies. The only reason to watch this movie is if you want to see a lot of sex scenes, but even then it’s hard to get into them and it’s somehow boring. Unfortunately this movie did well enough and will probably end up with two more sequels (or maybe even three, since splitting the last book in 2 parts is becoming a thing). Fifty Shades of Grey is truly an atrocious ‘movie’ and I can’t think a single reason to watch it.