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Bound (1996) Review

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Bound

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] 
Cast:
Gina Gershon as Corky
Jennifer Tilly as Violet
Joe Pantoliano as Caesar
John Ryan as Mickey Malnato
Director: Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski

Violet (Jennifer Tilly), the mistress of the gangster Caesar (Joe Pantoliano), is in a torrid love affair with Corky (Gina Gershon). For Violet to dump Caesar, they formulate a plan to rob millions of dollars of stashed mob cash, blaming him for it.

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I had watched all of the films from directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski except for their first film, Bound, which I heard was really good. I really didn’t know much about this movie going in. However it was great, and I think it might actually be their best film yet.

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Bound’s plot is relatively simple, yet quite effective and handled very well. It is essentially a modern noir, but with aspects that make it stand out. Its script is meticulously refined, the characters are more than just mere caricatures, and the relationship between the lead characters is well realised. Bound does seem to have a selling point with the lead character being lesbians, but it’s not the only thing that the film is about, while making that storyline feel very human and believable. The movie actually has a creative take on a whole lot of stale genre tropes, playing with gender and femme fatal cliches and subverting them. At the same time there are a lot of enjoyable noir elements on display, there’s a good balance of satisfying and subverting tropes. The pacing is electric, and the plot and characters are always in motion. The film has a lot of energy, and between the snappy dialogue, the scenes of tensions and suspense, there is so much going on. The first act’s slow build of tension is done to really sell Corky and Violet’s relationship and motivation into doing what they do for the rest of the movie. Then the second and third acts deliver a lot of suspenseful moments that are unpredictable, which are made even more tense given that most of them take place in a claustrophobic setting. The film does have some very cheesy dialogue, especially in the first act, but so does a lot of classic noirs. That’s also not to mention that there is a general self awareness throughout, so the cheesiness doesn’t seem out of place. The humour actually plays nicely together with the building of tension, and they have a satisfying payoff. Something that is impressive, especially given that its their first movie, is that the Wachowskis don’t compromise with any of its aspects, whether it’s the illustration of a lesbian affair, or the surprisingly brutal violence which the movie shows unflinchingly. It’s bold for a debut, and they definitely showed themselves as bold filmmakers with this one movie.

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This movie is also perfectly cast and well-acted. Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly are perfect in the lead roles of Corky and Violet respectively, they give amazing performances and have great chemistry as we watch their romance grow throughout the movie. They are believable as two lovers trying to make their ways out, especially with Violet trying to escape from her gangster boyfriend played by Joe Pantoliano. Speaking of which, Pantoliano could almost be seen as a third lead in this movie and this might be the best I’ve seen him in a movie. He kind of steals the show as a paranoid mob thug who’s at times entertaining and hilarious and other times threatening.

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As said earlier, Bound is the debut film from the Wachowskis, and this has to be one of the most confident debut movies I’ve seen from first time directors. It’s directed incredibly well and in such a stylish way, you can pick up on some iconic stylistic choices and see how it would influence their later movies. It is great seeing the Wachowskis work with a smaller scope instead of the big and grandiose action and sci-fi genres and stories that they are known for. It is small in scope but is so polished at the same time. It has a low budget of $6 million but every technical aspect is perfect. Bill Pope shoots this movie incredibly well, and the camera work with the high angle shots and close up shots felt very professional for a debut film. The editing is great and adds tension when needed, especially in the last two third of the movie. It is very well scored by Don Davis (who would also compose the scores for the Matrix movies), and the sound design fits well for this simplistic story.

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Bound is a bold and confident debut from Lana and Lilly Wachowski, and a great movie in itself. The acting particularly from Tilly, Gershon and Pantoliano is great, the story is tight and captivating, and it’s directed very well. As much as the Wachowskis are known for their big budget movies, I would love to see them work with smaller scale material again. At this point, I’m pretty sure Bound is my favourite movie from them so far.

The Matrix (1999) Retrospective Review

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The Matrix

Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as Neo
Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus
Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity
Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith
Joe Pantoliano as Cypher
Director: Lilly Wachowski and Lana Wachowski

Thomas A. Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is a man living two lives. By day he is an average computer programmer and by night a hacker known as Neo. Neo has always questioned his reality, but the truth is far beyond his imagination. Nero finds himself targeted by the police when he is contacted by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), a legendary computer hacker branded a terrorist by the government. As a rebel against the machines, Neo must confront the agents: super powerful computer programs devoted to stopping Neo and the entire human rebellion.

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The Matrix is one of the most iconic movies of all time. Its impact is absolutely massive to say the least, influencing so many other films, it just came out of nowhere at the time. I remember that I liked it when I first watched it, however with every viewing I liked it less. I know that the fourth Matrix is in the process of made, so I knew I had to come back to re-watching the original trilogy. Having rewatched The Matrix more recently, I can say that it’s still pretty good, even if I’m not exactly a big fan of it.

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I’m writing this review with the assumption that you’ve actually seen The Matrix. If you haven’t seen it, basically just go and watch it as soon as possible. It’s not just influential on a filmmaking level, but also on a story level. 1999 was especially a big year for films about identity, with the likes of Fight Club, American Beauty and Being John Malkovich, and that certainly extended to The Matrix. There are many philosophical ideas and themes and it has been analysed to death, so I won’t get into it here. There are some parts of it which I find a bit silly (like some of the overt religious metaphors which are just a little too obvious) but they don’t take me out of the experience too much. The first half is introducing to the real world, with lead character Thomas Anderson AKA Neo being our eyes as he learns about everything. I can’t say this with certainty, but I’m pretty sure that it did the best job possible at introducing these things to the audience, however there’s no doubt that not everyone will understand the concepts of the movie. I will say that watching it again, it does sort of drag, especially knowing where the story is leading (on top of Neo just not being a particularly interesting character and we are stuck with him for the entirety of the movie). The second half and particularly the third act is where it ramps up the action and it becomes entertaining. There are some really dumb moments in that second half, but I was fine with most of it.

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Keanu Reeves before 1999 been known as an actor for roles in movies like Speed, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Point Break. However, it was his role of Neo that launched his career even further. I’m a big fan of Keanu Reeves, but to put it bluntly, his here performance is bland, and even people who like the movie usually agree on that. Now some have made the argument that it was done so that the audience can picture themselves in his role. I can get that idea, but it doesn’t change him being a particularly uninteresting character to watch. Carrie Anne Moss as her character of Trinity was also sort of bland, mainly with her line deliveries. I know that she can act better from other things that she’s been in, but here she’s almost as bland as Keanu was, and I’m not exactly sure why. Even the other characters in the movie came across as more human than those two. The romance between the two is absolutely laughable. I don’t recall it being much better in the sequels, but at least they interacted with each other more. There are hints throughout the first movie that Trinity likes Neo and he sort of likes her back (I think at least, I didn’t pick that up from Keanu’s performance), but aside from the scene where they first meet up, they don’t interact all that much until the third act. At the end, basically after Neo dies after being shot multiple times by Agent Smith, Trinity in a way saves him basically with “the power of love”. It’s a silly scene in itself, but the lack of an actual believable romance makes it all the more worse. Laurence Fishburne is great as Morpheus, he does have a lot of moments where it gives a lot of philosophical word dumps, but he delivers them quite well. Hugo Weaving is iconic as Agent Smith, and it’s all to do with his performance. There’s nothing really much to say about the rest of the cast. Joe Pantaliano is the obvious betrayer, and the other members of the crew on the ship aren’t memorable and disposable, and you don’t really get to know them at all.

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The Wachowski Sisters did a really good job directing this. There are some truly revolutionary sequences that inspired so many other films and imitators, its immense level of influence cannot be overstated. People have made fun of the green tint when it comes to the scenes that take place The Matrix, but it does add some uniqueness to them. Not all the effects hold up, but it doesn’t affect the viewing experience too much, most of it is fine, and no doubt was fantastic for its time. You can tell often that it was the 90s with the use of the slow mo, and some of the music choices. The action is fantastic, endlessly entertaining, and the stuntwork is great.

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The Matrix has its issues, not all of the story and characters worked for me, and I had some problems throughout. However, it is entertaining at many points, well made and directed despite some dated elements, and I appreciate it quite a bit, especially the impact it had made. It’s not a movie that I’m exactly wanting to return back to often, but it is absolutely essential viewing.

Daredevil Director’s Cut (2003) Review

Time: 133 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Ben Affleck as Matt Murdock/Daredevil
Jennifer Garner as Elektra Natchios
Michael Clarke Duncan as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin
Colin Farrell as Bullseye
Jon Favreau as Franklin “Foggy” Nelson
Joe Pantoliano as Ben Urich
David Keith as Jack Murdock
Scott Terra as Young Matt Murdock
Director: Mark Steven Johnson

Attorney Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) is blind, but his other four senses function with superhuman sharpness. By day, Murdock represents the downtrodden. At night, he is Daredevil, a masked vigilante, a relentless avenger of justice. When Wilson Fisk (Michael Clarke Duncan) hires Bullseye (Colin Farrell) to kill Daredevil, Murdock must rely on his own senses and search out the conspirators against justice — which may include his own girlfriend, Elektra (Jennifer Garner).

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I had heard many times before that the Daredevil movie wasn’t good, it’s been known as one of the worst comic book movies of all time. However, I had been meaning to check it out, even just out of curiosity. I watched the director’s cut and it’s by no means a particularly good movie, but I can’t deny that it was really entertaining, even if it’s not in the way it was intended. It’s really silly, and the movie playing it seriously only made it even more funny and enjoyable.

I’m not entirely certain with what the director’s cut added but from scanning over the list of reported changes, the director’s cut seems to be a vast improvement over the theatrical cut. A lot of the comedy was actually funny, though I have a feeling a lot of it wasn’t intentional. It does get a little too over the top at times though, mainly the now infamous playground scene where Matt Murdock (Affleck) and Elektra (Garner) fight. That scene particularly is astounding in how goofy and ridiculous it was, easily the worst scene of the movie, and that’s saying a lot. The plot is really nothing special and is actually rather drawn out. Really it takes half the movie for the plot to really start happening. You don’t really become emotionally invested in the story or characters at all, you’re basically just here to be entertained. It uses a lot of clichés and tropes present from plenty of comic book movies from the 2000s, this is by far the most 2000s of them all. The movie may be too dumb for some people and I can get that, but for me I had a blast watching what would happen next.

Ben Affleck is Matt Murdock/Daredevil and I think he was actually a good pick for the role, playing both sides of the character well. The material wasn’t great, but he did what he could with what he had. He’s also a little consistent as a character, in one scene early on Daredevil lets someone get killed, which wouldn’t be as much of a problem if they didn’t act like he is a vigilante who doesn’t cross the line to kill for the remainder of the movie. Wouldn’t necessarily mind a more brutal Daredevil so long as they stuck with it all the way through. Side note but Affleck is also really convincing as a blind man, though it probably helped that he had contact lenses at certain points. Jennifer Garner as Elektra Natchios wasn’t really used to her fullest potential but she was fine. She really only gets a couple scenes near the end to actually do things but that’s it. Thankfully she got her own movie after this but apparently it’s significantly worse than Daredevil. They share some good chemistry despite some incredibly bad writing for their scenes together. Jon Favreau is also good as Foggy Nelsen, Murdock’s lawyer partner and friend. The villains are endlessly entertaining. Michael Clarke Duncan as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin is perfect casting and chews up scenery whenever he’s on screen, unfortunately he’s not really given much to do and really wasn’t utilised as much as he could’ve been. Still he was fun to watch. The scene stealer however is Colin Farrell as Bullseye, completely and utterly silly and over the top. He’s not given any sort of backstory and was really just a silly comic book movie villain. Pretty much the reason that he’s particularly after Daredevil is that during an assassination, he made him miss one of his shots, and that’s a classic comic book villain motivation (even though I’m pretty sure that’s not Bullseye). Pretty much the only comic book accurate thing about this version of Bullseye is that he can catch and throw things pretty well. I probably wouldn’t call him good but he’s certainly entertaining, which at this point is the only thing that Daredevil unintentionally succeeds at.

The direction by Mark Steven Johnson wasn’t the best. The transitions between scenes are over the top with the camera zooming through the city and the like. The music choices are also so 2000s, it’s over the top and stuck with that, that it only made things so much more entertaining. The highlight was the use of Evanescence (there are two uses of them) when Elektra is practicing on some sandbags to ‘Bring me to Life’, peak 2000s comic book movie moment right there. With that said, I recall that there were some directing decisions that I liked. Some things are ripped from other comic book movies at the time, like when Matt gets hit by radioactive waste it shows what happens internally to him with effects similar to when Peter Parker gets bitten by a spider and gets powers in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. I think the action was decent enough, again really over the top, but you can generally see what’s going on during them. The costumes are a mixed bag. The Daredevil suit is actually pretty decent, it’s actually on par with the red Daredevil suit for the Netflix show (way too much leather though). On the other hand I’m not sure what they were even thinking for the Bullseye costume, but it fitted the performance well, so I guess that’s a win.

Daredevil definitely isn’t a good movie, however it’s the cheese and over the top factor that makes it so fun to watch. Along with that there are some genuinely good things, like the actors despite the bad material do try, and some of them are decent here. I view this the way I view Suicide Squad, a really silly comic book movie that’s not particularly good, but has some entertaining parts to it. If you’re going to watch the movie, I do recommend the Director’s Cut, it seemed to have significantly improved the movie. However, if you want a legitimately good representation of Daredevil, it goes without saying but the Netflix series is definitely what you’re really looking for.

Memento (2000) Review

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Memento

Time: 113 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby
Carrie-Anne Moss as Natalie
Joe Pantoliano as John Edward “Teddy” Gammell
Director: Christopher Nolan

Leonard (Guy Pearce) is tracking down the man who raped and murdered his wife. The difficulty, however, of locating his wife’s killer is compounded by the fact that he suffers from a rare, untreatable form of memory loss. Although he can recall details of life before his accident, Leonard cannot remember what happened fifteen minutes ago, where he’s going, or why.

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Memento is the movie that launched Christopher Nolan into the spotlight as a talent to pay attention to, even 5 years before his Batman reboot with Batman Begins. I already really liked it when I first saw it some years ago, it’s a psychological mystery thriller so effectively made on pretty much every level, truly something incredible to watch. On a more recent viewing though, I loved it even more. 20 years later, Memento remains an extraordinary piece of filmmaking.

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Much of Memento is very difficult to talk about, if I talked in too much depth about the plot it would be so easy to spoil, and for this movie particularly I want to keep spoilers to a minimum. I can talk about some things though, first of all with the structure. This movie is told over two timelines, one taking place at the end of the story working backwards and the other at the beginning moving forwards. On a first viewing, it’s very likely that this’ll be a confusing watch for some, for me though I was very intrigued throughout, even if I wasn’t entirely sure what was happening until it all came together at the end. It’s actually incredible that they made this structure actually work for the story, and not make it feel like a gimmick, it really fits in with the lead character’s condition. I also get the feeling that it doesn’t hold up as well when watching the movie with the scenes in chronological order, and this storytelling method actually works excellently. When you watch the movie on a second viewing however, it’s a whole difference experience as you know generally what it’s leading to. It’s been a while since I first saw it, but I had a vague idea about the story, and that made me see every scene completely differently. I can imagine that my opinion of this film will only improve the more I rewatch it.

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Guy Pearce gives probably one of his best performances of his career in the lead role of Leonard, who has this memory condition. It’s a very complex and layered character that Pearce plays excellently. Carrie Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano are the main supporting actors and they do well, playing prominent characters in the plot that you’re not sure whether you or Leonardo should trust or not.

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Memento is Christopher Nolan’s second film, and the difference on a technical level between this film and his directorial debut with Following is vast. Even from this one movie you can clearly tell that he’s a master at his craft. It’s not one of the expansive blockbusters that he’s been making since the late 2000s, but that’s not the type of story Memento is going for, and his work here is outstanding. It’s very well shot by Wall Pfister, the black and white for the older storyline worked effectively too, especially for distinguishing itself from the other storyline.

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Memento is a fantastic neo-noir mystery thriller, well acted, and excellently written and directed by Christopher Nolan. It only improves from repeat viewings, and still holds up as an incredibly impressive film. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a film to see as soon as possible without knowing too much going in, and if you’ve only seen it once, definitely see it again at some point. As it is, it might be one of Nolan’s best movies, and that’s saying a lot considering how great most of his films are.

The Matrix (1999) Review

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The Matrix

Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as Neo
Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus
Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity
Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith
Joe Pantoliano as Cypher
Director: Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski

In the year of 1999, Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is living two lives; by day a computer programmer and by night a computer hacker under the alias of Neo. He is contacted by Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne), a legendary computer hacker who gives Neo the truth of the real world. The real world is a wasteland where most of humanity is imprisoned within an artificial reality known as the Matrix. Neo joins Morpheus in the struggle to overthrow the Matrix.

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The Matrix is a film that was absolutely revolutionary when it came out. The world created by the Wachowskis is nothing like anyone has seen before and of course the action scenes are some of the best ever created. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I won’t spoil too much of it but you really need to check it out as soon as possible. The Matrix is a classic that hasn’t grown old in 15 years, and it looks like it never will.

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First of all the world and philosophy of the Matrix is well crafted. Learning about the Matrix can get a bit complicated and may take more than one viewing to get it all because of how complex it is and how many concepts it has. The idea of the world not being quite what it seems has been made many times before but not in this way. The first time I watched it, I didn’t pick up on the metaphors the movie had because I didn’t think it would have any, I just thought it was an action science fiction movie. I watched an video analysis of Fight Club and it had comparisons to the Matrix, particularly the society aspect. With a new perspective I re-watched The Matrix it and I noticed the hidden metaphors that I didn’t see before. This film has many different types of moments, those explaining the world and its philosophy and those being action scenes and both are done really well. One problem I have with this movie is the ending; it was a bit abrupt and could’ve been a bit longer. It wasn’t bad, but I felt that after all the events prior to the ending, the film could’ve afforded to slow down a bit its in concluding.

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The roles were played well by Keanu Reeves, Carrie Anne Moss, Lawrence Fishburne and the rest of the cast. Hugo Weaving is a stand out performance as Agent Smith, a programme who guards the Matrix. Weaving really plays him as a force to be reckoned with and he is a joy to watch. One of the only flaws I have with this movie is that despite the fact that I can remember them in many scenes, by the end I still don’t feel like I really got to know them that well, however that can be forgiven as the universe of this movie isn’t like most other sci-fi movies.

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One thing that is in all of the Matrix movies is the green tint look. There are a lot of times where the movie has quite a green filter in it, mostly when characters are in the Matrix. The film also uses slow-mo very well and it really adds to the action scenes. It wouldn’t be right to talk about the Matrix without talking about the special effects. It is really cool seeing people doing things that they wouldn’t do normally like jump long distances and perhaps most famously – bullet dodging. The camera tricks used for shooting the bullet dodging scenes is also one of the revolutionary things about this movie. The soundtrack composed by Don Davis really adds something to the scenes.

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One of the most original and well executed science fiction films of all time, The Matrix deserves to be seen at least once in your lifetime. A complex and interesting world, combined with well filmed action scenes makes it an all time classic that will be remembered for all the years to come.