Tag Archives: Jennifer Lawrence

Dark Phoenix (2019) Review

Time: 113 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
James McAvoy as Charles Xavier/Professor X
Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto
Jennifer Lawrence as Raven Darkhölme/Mystique
Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy/Beast
Sophie Turner as Jean Grey/Phoenix
Tye Sheridan as Scott Summers/Cyclops
Alexandra Shipp as Ororo Munroe/Storm
Kodi Smit-McPhee as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler
Evan Peters as Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver
Jessica Chastain as Vuk
Director: Simon Kinberg

This is the story of one of the X-Men’s most beloved characters, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), as she evolves into the iconic DARK PHOENIX. During a life-threatening rescue mission in space, Jean is hit by a cosmic force that transforms her into one of the most powerful mutants of all. Wrestling with this increasingly unstable power as well as her own personal demons, Jean spirals out of control, tearing the X-Men family apart and threatening to destroy the very fabric of our planet. The film is the most intense and emotional X-Men movie ever made. It is the culmination of 20 years of X-Men movies, as the family of mutants that we’ve come to know and love must face their most devastating enemy yet — one of their own.

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Dark Phoenix has received an immense amount of scrutiny leading up to its release. It’s the last movie in the X-Men universe (done by Fox) before they move to Disney, the X-Men series for a lot of people was at an end already and at this point wasn’t particularly loved (especially after Apocalypse), and they’d be making yet another take on the Dark Phoenix comic storyline (after the previously hated take in The Last Stand), so I think a lot of people just wanted the movie done with. Not helping was the reshoots that were being done, which just generally doesn’t inspire confidence (even if it happens a lot of the time with movies). It felt like a lot of people were really going into it expecting to not like it (and unsurprisingly ended up hating it). There are definitely a lot of problems with the movie, however I get the feeling that I’m going to be one of the people who likes the movie more than most. It’s messy for sure but there are enough things in the movie that I really liked that I’m fine enough with what we got.

I would talk about the treatment of adaptation of the Dark Phoenix storyline, however I never read the storyline (I generally don’t read comics), nor am I very familiar with it, so I’m going to treat the movie as its own thing. It is like another attempt at redoing The Last Stand, which also had its attempt at the storyline (it’s worth noting that Simon Kinberg wrote both). Personally, I felt that it worked a little better than how The Last Stand did it, even though there are some similarities with certain aspects of the plot. It’s a much more personal storyline than you’d initially expect it to be. Despite some of the large scale things that happen, it seemed to have taken some notes from Logan in trying to be a quiet goodbye, and personally I liked that idea much more than a full on large scale finale. It’s also one of the bleakest movies in the series, for some it could make the movie rather dull and depressing but it wasn’t for me. I think I just have a thing for dark, bleak and more grounded comic book movies, so I guess that part worked for me. In a way, yes, much of the movie feels inconsequential, for the stakes being high it doesn’t matter too much, though maybe it’s because we know that this is the last movie in the series and that we are getting a reboot soon. Anyways, I personally liked the more personal take on the story.

Generally I was fine with the writing, however there are some lines of dialogue that really stand out as being cliched, out of place, or even flat out bad, however not enough to take away from the overall experience of the movie. The movie is 2 hours and after watching it, it occurred to me that they really condensed things down. Everything in this movie is centred around Jean Grey, there’s no subplots or anything. On one hand it definitely would’ve benefited from at least being 20 minutes longer, and the short runtime really does mean that only a few characters get some development or have their arcs (some of them unfortunately feel a little rushed), while the others are regulated to just showing off their powers at best. Then again, considering how The Last Stand had the Dark Phoenix storyline running as almost a subplot alongside the whole Mutant ‘cure’ plotline, it’s nice to actually see it being the focus of the entire movie. There are some inconsistencies regarding the plot and storyline, and I’m not talking like how many cast members should timeline-wise appear a lot older than they do (by this movie you should come to expect this from the series, this isn’t anything new). Without spoiling what I’m talking about, I’ll just say that by the end of the movie I’m a little confused as to what timeline this movie is in (at this point there must be like 4 timelines now). Now much has been said about the reshoots for the movie. Personally, if I didn’t hear beforehand about them, I wouldn’t have noticed it while watching. It’s apparently mainly the third act, changing the climax from space to a more grounded location. The change was done to avoid similarities to a recent comic book movie (probably Captain Marvel) and I’m actually fine with the change. As I said I liked the more grounded take for the movie, so it only felt appropriate that it’s set at a more grounded location instead of going completely left field and going to space. I should mention that there is no end credits scene, so no need to stay for it.

The cast for the most part do very well in their roles. The main cast members who get to shine the most are Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Nicholas Hoult. Turner is really the lead of the movie, with the whole movie surrounding her. She plays both Jean Grey and the Dark Phoenix side of her very well, threatening, vulnerable, and all around was a real screen presence. McAvoy and Fassbender always kill it in their respective roles as Professor X and Magneto and get to have a lot of great moments in this movie. And Nicholas Hoult also manages to deliver a really good performance here, even though he’s already generally good as Beast. Even if not all of the characters were handled well, they at least got to really show off in their action scenes, Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) were decent enough in Apocalypse action wise, but here they really go full force in the last act particularly. Evan Peters’ Quicksilver and Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique really got shafted the most, they acted okay enough with what they had. The villains of the movie were pretty standard alien characters, and we really don’t get enough of them or learn about them. You can just tell that originally they were going to be Skrulls but then no doubt some script changes and reshoots altered their identities. Jessica Chastain is the central villain of the bunch, she acted fine enough in her role but was incredibly forgettable, it felt like you could’ve swapped her out for any other actress and she would’ve been exactly the same.

I know a lot of people were worried about Simon Kinberg making his directorial debut here, he’s produced and been a writer on a number of the X-Men movies but never actually directed a film until now. Despite some problems with the script, I don’t have many problems with his direction, actually it was much better than expected. The visual effects are great, way better than those in Apocalypse. While Apocalypse had these big sequences of massive things happening, oddly a lot of it looked really fake, especially considering the movies that came before it. Dark Phoenix’s visuals look really good though, especially with the phoenix effects. While the action scenes throughout are good (and are honestly amongst the best action scenes of the series), the last act particularly shines with the action. Hans Zimmer composes the score and it’s no surprise that it’s amazing, he really does something special with the score and elevates the movie immensely.

Dark Phoenix is really not going to work for a lot of people, and there are many problems with it. If you just generally don’t like the X-Men movies, I highly doubt Dark Phoenix will be any different for you, and if you are going in expecting it to suck, you’re probably not going to like it. It isn’t quite the sendoff that the X-Men deserved, but there are also some strong parts to it, particularly the cast, visuals, music, and the dark and grounded take on the story. Thinking about it more, I’m not entirely opposed to what we got. And no, it’s not even close to being the worst X-Men movie, it’s better than The Last Stand, it’s better than Apocalypse, and it’s definitely way better than Origins Wolverine. If you’re a fan of most of the X-Men movies, you might at least get something out of Dark Phoenix.

Red Sparrow (2018) Review

Time: 140 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, sexual violence, rape, cruelty and offensive language
Cast:
Jennifer Lawrence as Dominika Egorova
Joel Edgerton as Nate Nash
Matthias Schoenaerts as Ivan Vladimirovich Egorov
Charlotte Rampling as “Matron”
Mary-Louise Parker as Stephanie Boucher
Jeremy Irons as General Vladimir Andreievich Korchnoi
Ciarán Hinds as Colonel Zakharov
Joely Richardson as Nina Egorova
Bill Camp as Marty Gable
Director: Francis Lawrence

Prima ballerina Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) faces a bleak and uncertain future after she suffers an injury that ends her career. She soon turns to Sparrow School, a secret intelligence service that trains exceptional young people to use their minds and bodies as weapons. Egorova emerges as the most dangerous Sparrow after completing the sadistic training process. As she comes to terms with her new abilities, Dominika meets a CIA agent (Joel Edgerton) who tries to convince her that he is the only person she can trust.

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Red Sparrow is a movie I was aware of. It went through a lot of development, from Darren Aronofsky in talks to direct it, then David Fincher was in talks to direct with Rooney Mara to star in the lead role, before finally ending with Francis Lawrence set to direct and Jennifer Lawrence set to star in the lead role. Not going to lie, hearing the prospect of David Fincher directing a spy movie, only for Francis Lawrence to get the job let me down a little (no disrespect to Lawrence, he’s made some good movies). I still had interest in the film but I really didn’t know what to expect. Red Sparrow was actually better than I thought it would be. It had a riveting plot, was well directed and had some good performances, especially from Jennifer Lawrence.

Red Sparrow is based on the book of the same name by a retired CIA operative named Jason Matthews. However I haven’t read the book so I can’t comment on any potential differences from the book. Red Sparrow is 2 hours and 20 minutes long and while it did really feel it’s length, the story really did have my interest. You have to know that this is a slower paced spy thriller, not a straight up action spy movie. There are plenty of twists and turns from start to finish and involved with every character. Whether or not said twists will hold up on a rewatch remains to be seen. The second half of Red Sparrow oddly seemed slower paced than the first half. Part of why this movie was so divisive is the hard R content, with the violence and sexual violence. While I can see why this turned a lot of people off, I felt that it was handled well, it was brutal enough and didn’t shy away from it, yet it wasn’t too over reliant or self indulgent on it. I think Francis Lawrence has shown himself to be at his best when he’s allowed to go into R rated territory, films like The Hunger Games, I am Legend and maybe even Constantine might be even better had he been allowed to go into those levels. The film ends with a possible set up for a sequel, I do hope that this ends up happening.

The cast all do well here. Jennifer Lawrence is the lead of Red Sparrow and this is one of her best performances yet. She really throws herself into this character who goes through a lot over the course of the movie and she gives it her all. Her Russian accent at time doesn’t always work and can slip out from time to time but it’s passable enough, and her performance aside from that is fantastic. Joel Edgerton was also really good in his role as a CIA operative who comes across Jennifer Lawrence’s character. Although Lawrence and Edgerton are great in Red Sparrow, I really didn’t buy their relationship, I could buy them working together but I never bought them actually falling in love with each other, and I know that’s what the movie was trying to show. It may well be that the writing for them wasn’t strong enough. Supporting actors like Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker and Jeremy Irons all play their roles well.

I was really impressed with Francis Lawrence’s direction here, on top of this movie being his best film, it’s the best direction of a movie I’ve seen from him. Red Sparrow looks visually great and is well put together. Also as I said earlier, the more intense scenes are handled quite well, with the right amount of brutality that’s needed. The score by James Newton Howard is also really good and adds to the movie.

Red Sparrow deserved more praise than it received. It’s really not for everyone, it is brutal and it is a long watch. But for me, the film is well directed, had my attention and had some really good performances, particularly from Jennifer Lawrence who is great here. I do hope we get a sequel and eventually a trilogy, adapting the 2 other books in the series. I’m not sure how different the first movie is from the first book but I’m sure that there’s a way to continue the series. Francis Lawrence, Jennifer Lawrence and the rest of the cast and crew did a great job here and I’d love to see them return again to this series and these characters.

Mother! (2017) Review

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Contains violence, horror, cruelty, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast
Jennifer Lawrence as Mother
Javier Bardem as Him
Ed Harris as Man
Michelle Pfeiffer as Woman
Domhnall Gleeson as Oldest Son
Brian Gleeson as Younger Brother
Director: Darren Aronofsky

A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.

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Mother was gaining my attention with every passing day. It is directed by Darren Aronofsky and stars talented people like Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, so it definitely had a lot of potential. My interest levels only increased when I heard the response to this movie, that being incredibly divisive and polarising. People either loved it or hated it. As for me when I finally saw it… I kinda loved it. With that said, I can perfectly understand the people who really dislike it. Calling Mother ‘not for everyone’ would be an understatement.

First thing I want to get this out of the way, don’t watch the trailer. The trailer makes Mother look like a straight up horror movie, but the actual movie is nothing like the trailer. It’s a little difficult to describe what kind of movie it is. I can’t even pin it down to one genre, I guess perhaps horror but even then it doesn’t go to that level until the third act. I can’t really go into detail about my interpretation about the story because that would be spoiling things, so I’ll just have to be vague when describing it. All I can say is that there is some religious/biblical allergories that Aronofsky put into the movie, and if you don’t pick up any of them, you will be completely lost. The pacing was slow but I never felt bored, I was always intrigued as to what was going on and trying to figure out what this movie is actually all about. However if you aren’t invested in what is going on (or aren’t able to pick up anything that Aronofsky might be going for), this is going to be a very long drag for you. As I previously said, this movie is very allegorical and metaphorical, it’s not a good idea to go in expecting a conventional story. The third act is where it goes into absolute insanity, by this point, you’d probably realise that this isn’t a conventional story. I’m not going to act like I understood everything, a lot of it I did and I thought it was notably done by Aronofksy. There are some hidden meanings and unresolved aspects that I’m still not certain about, especially the ending. I have a feeling that more rewatches will clarify what this movie is about (though to be honest its going to be one of those sparingly done rewatches). Fun fact, Darren Aronofsky wrote this screenplay in 5 days and it kinda shows. This movie does seem more Aronofksy wanting to deliver a message than an normal movie and while its not necessarily a bad thing, but I can see how this can annoy some viewers.

There’s not really much to say in terms of characters as they seem to be more representative of ideas, and I can’t go into my thoughts on that because that would of course be in spoiler territory. But I can say that the acting across the board is great. This is one of Jennifer Lawrence’s best performances, we really see the movie from her perspective and we relate to her because they are having the same reaction as the audience, completely and utterly confused at what’s going on. She has to deal with a lot of things and Lawrence delivered that greatly. Javier Bardem is also great, as usual he’s a significant screen presence and for what I think he represents, we was perfect for it. The supporting cast we don’t see a whole lot of, but they do great to make themselves memorable. Ed Harris is good, showing a vulnerable side to him that we don’t usually see from his performances. Michelle Pfeiffer is also fantastic, stealing the scenes that she’s in. The Gleeson brothers (Domhnall and Brian) also show up briefly and despite their short appearances managed to do so much with their performances.

Darren Aronofsky’s direction was a bit interesting. The camera most of the time follows and focuses on Jennifer Lawrence, whether that be up close on her face or over her shoulder. While I get why this was done as it helps highlight how she feels as the movie progresses, at times it can be a little annoying and overused. It does help convey a feeling of claustrophobia however, which helps with the uncomfortableness factor that Darren Aronofsky was going for. Apparently the soundtrack is done by Jóhann Jóhannsson but it honestly doesn’t sound like there was a soundtrack. The sound design however was done very well. Aronofsky also does well to convey a sense of uneasiness, even in just the first two acts, you know that something is not right but you don’t know what it is. As for the disturbing levels of this movie, most of it actually happens in the last act and while most of it is appropriate for the story, there is one moment, really one shot that felt completely unnecessary. They really didn’t need to show that and it felt like it was used for shock value rather than having any form of meaning, which the film for the most part seemed to do. It doesn’t ruin the movie but it does stand out in a very bad way.

I can’t guarantee that you’ll like Mother, it is an unusual and bizarre movie, unconventional in both story and direction, I can’t recommend it to everyone. I don’t blame you if you downright hate it. If you don’t like unconventional movies, stories which are allegorical, I actually think you shouldn’t watch it, because its unlikely that you’ll like it to be honest. Even if you’re fine with those movies I can’t guarantee that you’ll like it. You’ll just have to see for yourself, if you are willing to take the risk. It seems like you’ll either love it or hate it. For me though, it only gets better the more I think about it. Everything from the performances to the unique story is so great and special. This is to me is one of the best films of the year. This is one thing I can say, this is a movie that people will be talking about for a long, long time.

X-Men Apocalypse (2016) Review

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X-Men Apocalypse

Time: 144 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, Offensive Language and Content that May Disturb
Cast:
James McAvoy as Professor Charles Xavier/Professor X
Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto
Jennifer Lawrence as Raven Darkhölme/Mystique
Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy/Beast
Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggert
Tye Sheridan as Scott Summers/Cyclops
Sophie Turner as Jean Grey/Phoenix
Olivia Munn as Elizabeth Braddock/Psylocke
Lucas Till as Alex Summers/Havok
Director: Bryan Singer

Worshiped as a god since the dawn of civilization, the immortal Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) becomes the first and most powerful mutant. Awakening after thousands of years, he recruits the disheartened Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and other mutants to create a new world order. As the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance, Professor X (James McAvoy) and Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) lead a team of young X-Men to stop their seemingly invincible nemesis from destroying mankind.

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X-Men Apocalypse has been one of my most anticipated films of the year, with director Bryan Singer returning from Days of Future Past along with his very talented cast. So does it deliver on its promises? Absolutely. This is so far one of my favourite films of the year and it’s in at least my top 3 in the X-Men series. There are some minor flaws in regards to the treatment of some of the characters, but for the most part, X-Men Apocalypse gets almost everything right.

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This is definitely the darkest X-Men movie yet with what happens to Magneto in the beginning, some of the deaths and not to mention that it’s the end of the world (obviously), there are some moments which were surprisingly dark and violent and I like the guts that the film had to go there. To offset the seriousness and grimness was the humour, which is also integrated very well, at no point does it feel forced in at all like it sometimes does with other comic book movies. One problem I have is some of the characters don’t get to be developed fully, a key example is Apocalypse’s ‘horsemen’ aside from Magneto. Storm, Archangel and Psylocke join him on his quest to take over Earth… just because. What’s worse is that the decisions that Storm makes doesn’t make much sense, especially when you factor in the fact that she’d eventually join the X-Men. However it’s easy to see why some characters are better developed than others, seeing as Singer had to handle so many characters at once.

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The cast from the previous two movies return and are usual great. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are unsurprisingly incredible in their roles. Evan Peters returns in the role of Quicksilver and like last time, he stole the show, he is just so enjoyable to watch. He gets a much bigger role than in DOFP and is again great, I can’t wait to see more of him as the films progress. Before going into this movie I was a little concerned about Jennifer Lawrence, because it looked like they were taking her character in a different direction, part of the cases made I agree with. She’s fine in the movie, though I don’t think that this was the best direction for the character and I wouldn’t lose any sleep if she left the franchise. There are also some recasting of previous X-Men movies, as well as some new characters. Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan as Cyclops and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler were perfectly cast, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them. Oscar Isaac was so incredibly great as Apocalypse. The trailers did him a disservice and made him look like a generic ‘end the world’ villain but there is so much more to him. This character is so larger than life but Isaac manages to balance out the ‘bigger’ moments with the more subtle moments, he was definitely one of the highlights of the movie. While I felt that they didn’t get their chance to show off more due to not much being written for them, Alexander Shipp and Olivia Munn did great work with what they were given, and acted well enough for me to say that I’m looking forward to seeing them in the sequels.

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Bryan Singer directs X-Men movies excellently and he does it once again with Apocalypse. All of the action is so entertaining and many are amongst the best scenes in the series. I think a special scene that should get a shout out is the opening scene, which is a flashback which takes place at Egypt, everything in that sequence was done incredibly. I have to say, before seeing this movie I didn’t think it was possible for there to be a Quicksilver scene that tops the one in Days of Future Past. With Apocalypse, I’ve been proven wrong, all I’ll say is that it is excellently done and was one of the most memorable parts of the film. This film has the most destruction out of any of the X-Men movies, sometimes that’s shown off well, but there are times where the CGI and greenscreen looked a little fake, most of the time it really works though.

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I am so glad to say that X-Men Apocalypse is one of the best films in the series. With the entertaining action scenes and excellent portrayals of these characters (for the most part), X-Men Apocalypse is a movie that you absolutely must see. Don’t let the critics’ mixed reviews sway you, go out and see it for yourself. If you love the X-Men films, I have a feeling that you’ll enjoy this film as well.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) Review

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X-Men Days of Future Past

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine
James McAvoy as Charles Xavier/Professor X (Past)
Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Past)
Jennifer Lawrence as Raven Darkhölme / Mystique
Halle Berry as Ororo Munroe/Storm
Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy/Beast
Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat
Shawn Ashmore as Bobby Drake/Iceman
Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask
Ian McKellen as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto
Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier/Professor X
Director: Bryan Singer

Convinced that mutants pose a threat to humanity, Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) develops the Sentinels, enormous robotic weapons that can detect a mutant gene and zero in on that person. In the 21st century, the Sentinels have evolved into highly efficient killing machines. With mutants now facing extinction, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) volunteers to go back in time and rally the X-Men of the past to help change a pivotal moment in history and thereby save their future.

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Dabbling into time travel is a huge risk but Days of Future Past is one of those rare movies which actually managed to apply it quite well. In fact for me, this is the best X Men movie made yet. Everything from the acting, the story and action is so greatly done by Bryan Singer. This movie showed that First Class wasn’t just a fluke, the X Men series is great again, and it looks like it will be great for a long time.

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The problem with time travelling movies is that it can be confusing and contradictive but the film offers up logical explanations that helped explain everything well. This film also blended the old and the new characters quite well, all of them are portrayed quite well. There is a good balance between action and story, and it’s quite easy to care about what was going on, which was something that I felt was sometimes lacking in the previous movies. There definitely is more past than future, but it’s quite balanced out, the time jumps never feel jarring. I will also say without spoilers that the result of the time travelling actually fixes a lot of the mistakes in the previous movies.

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The movie combines the cast of the old and new films and all of them as usual was great. So actors of the old trilogy like Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan and others as well as actors from the new series like Nicholas Hoult were great. A particular standout for me was James McAvoy as Charles Xavier. Whereas X Men First Class was Magneto’s journey, Days of Future Past was Xavier’s journey. Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique is also pretty good and also gets a good balance of action and character in this film. A scene stealer was Evan Peters as Quicksilver, he’s not in the movie a whole lot but he’s great in every scene he’s in. His scene where he demonstrates his power is one of the best scenes in a superhero movie I’ve ever seen. I also thought that Peter Dinklage did a pretty good job as the villain.

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Bryan Singer always directs X Men movies well. The action as to be expected was great and it showcased the powers of the mutants well. But it was not just the action that impressed me. The visuals in the future time looked beautifully dark and bleak, the past time looked straight out of the 70s. Days of Future Past is easily the most visually beautiful of the X Men movies. The special effects again are excellent, everything is on such a big scale, whether it be the Sentinels in the future or a scene involving Magneto and a stadium. I also love the score by John Ottoman, who returned from X Men 2.

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X Men Days of Future Past succeeded on pretty much every level, it had fantastic acting and portrayals of these characters, it had great action and it has a pretty engaging story. X Men Days of Future Past is for me the best X Men movie at the moment. We’ll have to see what happens with X Men Apocalypse and whether it can gain that title, but even if it’s close to the level of greatness of this movie, I’ll be happy.

X-Men: First Class (2011) Review

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X-Men First Class

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
James McAvoy as Charles Xavier/Professor X
Michael Fassbender as Erik Lensherr/Magneto
Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggert
Jennifer Lawrence as Raven Darkhölme/Mystique
January Jones as Emma Frost
Nicholas Hoult as Dr. Hank McCoy/Beast
Oliver Platt as Man In Black Suit
Kevin Bacon as Dr. Klaus Schmidt/Sebastian Shaw
Director: Matthew Vaughn

In the early 1960s, during the height of the Cold War, a mutant named Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) meets a fellow mutant named Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender). Despite their vastly different backgrounds — Charles grew up with a wealthy family, while Erik lost his parents at Auschwitz — the two become close friends. As the world teeters on the brink of a nuclear war, Charles and Erik with other mutants join forces to save humanity. However, a situation soon tears the friends apart.

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Superhero prequels are often doomed to fail, which is why some people were a little sceptical of this movie actually being good. The fact that it had an entirely new cast and look (not to mention that it came after X Men 3 and X Men Origins Wolverine which were the lowest points of the series), didn’t help. However with Matthew Vaughn as director, he actually ended up creating one of the best X Men movies. The talented cast (many of which played already established characters) did a fantastic job and the story ties into the X Men franchise very well.

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One problem I had with the original X Men trilogy is the lack of proper characterisation, aside from a few characters like Wolverine and Rogue, there were many characters that weren’t that developed. First Class was the first X Men film that fixed that issue, sure there are characters that don’t get fully explored but most of the main characters are established well, and that’s a huge step forward when compared to the previous movies. There definitely are some inconsistencies with the plot when compared to some of the other movies (such as with the flashback in X Men 3) but I was able to overlook that.

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The casting was excellent. James McAvoy as Xavier and Michael Fassbender as Magneto are really in the forefront of the movie and they are terrific. You can really buy their friendship and you can tell how this would carry over into the original trilogy. Jennifer Lawrence was also great as Mystique, I know a lot of people prefer Rebecca Romjin’s Mystique but while she looked the part she wasn’t given any depth whatsoever. Lawrence gets to actually explore the character, and she did a great job. Kevin Bacon actually was good as the main villain, the way his character tied into Magneto’s past was so great. The only casting I had a little bit of a problem with was January Jones as Emma Frost, she didn’t feel very believable and felt a little fake. That was the only miscast of the movie, everyone else was great.

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The action scenes are great (no surprise there) but something felt different, Vaughn’s directed action scenes added something special. This film had some very memorable moments, the last act features many mutant battles and it is glorious to watch. The soundtrack by Henry Jackman was also really good, it feels big, grand and epic.

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X Men First Class was a lot better than what we initially thought it would be. With a very talented cast, a pretty good story and Matthew Vaughn’s direction, this movie was a solid entry in the X Men franchise. I honestly think that it’s better than any of the original trilogy, though not quite better than X-Men Days of Future Past, which I’ll review soon. I’ll just say this though, people claim that it’s X-Men Days of Future Past which brought the X-Men franchise back for good but for me it was First Class that achieved that.

2016 Oscar Predictions

When you look at it in the grand scheme of things, movie awards really don’t matter. There are plenty of movies that should win but don’t, some of them don’t even get nominated, and there are some movies that don’t really deserve to win, but win anyway. So no matter what happens during the awards ceremony, it doesn’t really matter. But still, it’s fun to predict what movies will win and at the same time state what you think should win. Since everyone else is doing it, I decided to give my predictions for the 2016 Academy Awards. I have watched most of the films in the major categories but occasionally there’s a movie like The Hateful Eight which I can’t or just haven’t seen, so just keep that in mind.

* – Haven’t seen yet

BEST PICTURE

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The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room*
Spotlight

Will Win – The Revenant
Should Win – The Revenant
Should’ve Been Nominated – Carol

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Best Director

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Adam McKay – The Big Short
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro G. Iñárritu – The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson – Room*
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

Will Win – Alejandro G. Iñárritu – The Revenant
Should Win – George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should’ve Been Nominated – Todd Haynes – Carol

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BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

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Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Will Win – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Should Win – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

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BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

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Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room*
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years*
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Will Win – Brie Larson, Room
Should Win – Cate Blanchett, Carol
Should’ve Been Nominated – Rooney Mara, Carol (instead of being nominated for supporting)

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BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

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Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Will Win – Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Should Win – Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Should’ve Been Nominated – Benicio Del Toro, Sicario

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ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

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Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight*
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Will Win – Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Should Win – Rooney Mara, Carol

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BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Left to right: Steve Carell plays Mark Baum and Ryan Gosling plays Jared Vennett in The Big Short from Paramount Pictures and Regency Enterprises

The Big Short
Brooklyn
Carol
The Martian
Room*

Will Win – The Big Short
Should Win – The Big Short
Should’ve Been Nominated – Steve Jobs

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BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

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Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina*
Inside Out
Spotlight
Straight Outta Compton*

Will Win – Spotlight
Should Win – Spotlight
Should’ve Been Nominated – The Hateful Eight*

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ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

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Anomalisa*
Boy and the World*
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie*
When Marnie Was There*

Will Win – Inside Out
Should Win – Inside Out

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BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Bridge of Spies – Thomas Newman
Carol – Carter Burwell
The Hateful Eight – Ennio Morricone
Sicario – Johann Johannsson
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – John Williams

Will Win – The Hateful Eight
Should Win – The Hateful Eight
Should’ve Been Nominated – Mad Max: Fury Road – Junkie XL

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BEST SOUND EDITING

Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win – Mad Max: Fury Road

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BEST SOUND MIXING

Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win – Mad Max: Fury Road

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BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

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Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Will Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should’ve Been Nominated – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

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Carol
The Hateful Eight*
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Sicario

Will Win – The Revenant
Should Win – The Revenant
Should’ve Been Nominated – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

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Mad Max: Fury Road
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared*
The Revenant

Will Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win – Mad Max: Fury Road

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BEST COSTUME DESIGN

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Carol
Cinderella
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

Will Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win – Mad Max: Fury Road

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BEST FILM EDITING

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The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Spotlight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should’ve Been Nominated – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

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Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win – Mad Max: Fury Road

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So what are your thoughts, what do you think will win, what do you think should win and what do you think should’ve been nominated? Comment below and let me know your predictions for 2016.

Joy (2015) Review

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Joy

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive Language
Cast:
Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano
Robert De Niro as Rudy Mangano
Edgar Ramirez as Tony Miranne
Diane Ladd as Mimi
Virginia Madsen as Terri Mangano
Isabella Rossellini as Trudy
Bradley Cooper as Neil Walker
Director: David O. Russell

A story of a family across four generations, centred on the girl who becomes the woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who founds a business dynasty and becomes a matriarch in her own right. Facing betrayal, treachery, the loss of innocence and the scars of love, Joy becomes a true boss of family and enterprise. Allies become adversaries and adversaries become allies, both inside and outside the family, as Joy’s inner life and fierce imagination carry her through the storm she faces.

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Joy was a movie which didn’t initially interest me because its premise wasn’t very interesting but its cast and its director made me curious about it. Before watching it, I noticed it hadn’t gotten quite the praise that David O. Russell’s previous films have received and had mixed reviews. After seeing it I can say that while it’s not a bad movie, Joy was a little disappointing. The performances, particularly from Jennifer Lawrence was good, the direction was decent and the writing for the character of Joy is good. But the writing for the overall story wasn’t always strong and the supporting characters were too two dimensional, which really brought the movie down.

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The plot for this movie was fine, it wasn’t bad, I just wasn’t invested in what was going on as much as I should’ve. The movie is also a little shaky at the start, it didn’t really know how to start off the movie. Eventually the movie did fix itself over time and it knew what sort of movie it was going for. The writing for the character of Joy is great (which elevated Jennifer Lawrence’s performance), the same can’t be said for the other characters. These supporting characters felt too much like movie characters and never did feel like real people, which is a real shame since David O. Russell is usually great at having interesting characters. A lot of the time, many of the scenes with these supporting characters got annoying as they really were just generic movie characters with no real rhyme or reason for their actions.

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Jennifer Lawrence as Joy is definitely the best part of the whole movie and she had the benefit of having the best interesting writing. Joy is the most complex, interesting, entertaining and likable character in the movie, in fact she’s probably the only likable character in this movie. Even though I had issues with the writing of the characters, the supporting actors like Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper gave good performances with what they have. It’s just a shame that their characters aren’t as well written as they should be.

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Even with all its flaws, one thing I can say is that this film is well directed and the technical side of the movie is pretty good. The look was great and the style was also pretty good and worked for the film, which I think is something that David O. Russell is great at, it’s strange that he couldn’t do that with everything else.

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Joy isn’t by any means a bad movie. It does have some good performances, most notably from Jennifer Lawrence but the writing was quite flawed, not as interesting as it should be and had very underdeveloped and surprisingly one dimensional supporting characters. It is a little disappointing considering that I loved Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, both of them previous David O. Russell, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro collaborations. I will say that if you’re going to see this movie watch it for Jennifer Lawrence’s performance, because the movie on the whole is quite flawed.

The Hunger Games (2012) Review

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The Hunger Games

Time: 142 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen
Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark
Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne
Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy
Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket
Lenny Kravitz as Cinna
Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow
Director: Gary Ross

Set in a future North America known as “Panem”, the Capitol selects a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each of the twelve outlying districts to compete in the annual “Hunger Games”, a televised fight-to-the-death. The film is centred on Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) – a 16-year-old girl from District 12, who volunteers for her 12-year-old sister, Prim, when Prim’s name is chosen – and Katniss’s fellow District 12 tribute, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), with whom she has some rather dramatic history. Katniss is then rushed to the Capitol, where she undergoes intense training before being thrust into the arena to fight to become the victor of the seventy-fourth annual Hunger Games.

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The Hunger Games is a decent movie and is much better than some of the other young adult book adaptations. However I do think that it is a little overrated. Although the acting is good and the writing is decent, the story wasn’t always engrossing and the action scenes are filmed shakily. Catching Fire greatly improved over the first film but The Hunger Games is still by no means a bad movie. It’s still worth watching if you haven’t seen it already but I don’t think it’s as great as others had said it was.

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I wasn’t completely sucked into the story but it was easy to follow and I was interested in what was going on. The movie was well balanced, with its character developing moments and the action. I also should probably give The Hunger Games credit for having a much darker tone than most young adult book movies. One problem I had with the movie that I wasn’t entirely attached to these characters (except for Katniss), so when certain things happened to them, (for example when certain people died) I didn’t really feel anything for them. I also didn’t really buy the forced love subplot between Katniss and Peeta, it comes out of nowhere, but that’s just a minor flaw of the movie.

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Jennifer Lawrence is great as Katniss, and is by far the most interesting character in the whole movie, which is funny when you consider the fact that Katniss really isn’t an interesting character. All of this comes from Lawrence’s performance, she makes her character interesting and believable. The rest of the cast like Josh Hutcherson and Woody Harrelson do quite well in their roles but I didn’t really remember them as much as Jennifer Lawrence. A problem I had was that some of the other children in the Hunger Games were just one dimensional and generically evil, but I think that’s more of a fault in the writing.

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The action of the film is the worst element of the film and it’s not because it’s poorly set up or anything because I like a lot of the ideas that they had. It’s all to do with the cinematography. It is so shaky and can get very annoying and incomprehensible. The cinematography of the rest of the scenes does look quite good. While I do take issue with the cinematography during the action scenes, the areas do look quite nice and authentic.

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The Hunger Games is a decent film which spawned a lot of other young adult adaptations, some of them better than others. This film doesn’t always succeed, its story wasn’t always interesting and the action scenes are at times incomprehensible. Despite its flaws, I still say it’s still worth watching if you haven’t seen it before. However Catching Fire improved upon this movie and fixed a lot of the issues that this film had, resulting in a great and much better movie.

American Hustle (2013)

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American Hustle

Time: 138 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld
Amy Adams as Sydney Prosser
Bradley Cooper as Richie Dimaso
Jeremy Renner as Carmine Polito
Jennifer Lawrence as Rosalyn Rosenfeld
Director: David O. Russell

In 1978, a brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who along with his equally cunning and seductive British partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to work for a FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Richie makes a deal for them to help him nab four additional white collar criminals for their ultimate release without charges. Their initial target is Camden, New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), who is trying to revitalize Atlantic City as a gambling mecca, which requires an influx of investments in the millions. DiMaso pushes Irving and Sydney into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia. Irving’s unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down.

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David O. Russell has made another great movie. With a masterful script, great performances and the ability to transport the audience into the 1970s, American Hustle is a great movie. It is a movie that will entertain you, surprise you and overall, it’s a movie that is really enjoyable to watch.

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The script by David O. Russell is absolutely fantastic. The story goes from a range of tones, from being hilarious to being quite tense. There was never a moment where I could predict where the movie would go next. Not making a comparison here, but there were moments in the movie that were reminiscent of Goodfellas, especially with the narrations. The narrations are actually done by multiple people here, which is a risky move but David O. Russell managed to pull it off. There are some flashbacks for some characters and they are tied in and edited very well. Every scene seemed to be interesting and entertaining. All of the characters had layers and go to many places with many emotions, which is made even better with the fact that their actors really understand them.

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Christian Bale is the best he has been in years, physically transformed himself by gaining a ton of weight. It’s not just the weight though; Bale gives really embodies the character that David O. Russell wrote completely. Amy Adams here is the best that I’ve seen her. Bradley Cooper is also really good here, and this just might be his best performance; it’s a tossup between this and Silver Linings Playbook. Jeremy Renner is also really good here giving one of his best performances. Jennifer Lawrence stole every scene she was in, despite her not being in the movie as much as the previously mentioned cast. There is also a surprise cameo that I won’t spoil, which is when the main characters are dealing with the mafia. The actors really played off each other really well and completely embody their characters, giving some of the best performances of their careers.

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The film really manages to make the setting feel like the 70s as well as L.A. Confidential managed to make its setting feel like it’s in the 50s. The hairstyles and costumes are really distinctive and fit the time period. The cinematography was in the style of Goodfellas, sometimes the film has longer takes, especially through narrations and it fitted the style they were going for. The soundtrack also really suits the time period and are perfect for every moment that the songs were put in.

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American Hustle is an entertaining and unpredictable movie that is at least worth a watch. There are many people who walked out of this movie, not understanding the hype that most people gave it, so I won’t guarantee that everyone will love it. However at least for me, this is an enjoyable movie, filled to the brim with great performances, excellent writing and overall ends up being a great movie.