Tag Archives: Jude Law

The Nest (2020) Review

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The Nest

Time: 117 Minutes
Cast:
Jude Law as Rory O’Hara
Carrie Coon as Allison O’Hara
Charlie Shotwell as Benjamin “Ben” O’Hara
Oona Roche as Samantha “Sam” O’Hara
Adeel Akhtar as Steve
Director: Sean Durkin

Rory (Jude Law) is an ambitious entrepreneur who brings his American wife (Carrie Coon) and kids to his native country, England, to explore new business opportunities. After abandoning the sanctuary of their safe American suburban surroundings, the family is plunged into the despair of an archaic ’80s Britain and their unaffordable new life in an English manor house threatens to destroy the family.

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With The Nest I didn’t really know what to expect from it. I just knew it as a drama starring Jude Law and Carrie Coon, and plenty of people have said that it’s really good. It turned out to be quite a good movie, it was a bit of a slow burn and took a while to really pick up, but was well made and intriguing nonetheless.

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One thing to note is that The Nest is definitely a slow moving drama. While I was interested in the movie from beginning to end, it does take a while for you to settle into it and figure out what it is about. I’d figure that it’s just after the first act that the movie really started to connect with me. This movie at its core is a family drama, portraying a slow but catastrophic disintegration of a marriage, and a downfall of a man due to his own greed which affects his family in the process. It really is the deconstruction of the nuclear family, with themes about family, wealth, and what it means to be successful. The Nest is a slow descent to chaos and it really creeps up on you. One of the things that you don’t expect is that it feels quite uneasy, uncomfortable and stressful to watch, and not even in an overt way. It has a sinister, moody and sombre atmosphere throughout. There are times where it even has a horror movie feel to it (even though it very much isn’t in the horror genre). It had me intrigued in which direction it was going in.

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The acting is a highlight of the movie for sure, particularly with the leads in Jude Law and Carrie Coon as a married couple. They are both great and they are particularly fantastic when on screen together. However between the two, it really is Carrie Coon who steals the show in a well controlled and emotionally charged performance. Definitely deserves some awards attention. Their kids are played by Oona Roche and Charlie Shotwell, they play their parts very well and fully portray their own characters.

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This movie is directed by Sean Durkin, and his work here is great. It makes me want to check out his previous movie, Martha Macy May Marlene, which was released 9 years earlier. I do hope his next movie will come a lot sooner. The direction is procedural in some ways, quite subtle, but yet so effective. I mentioned earlier how this movie has a horror movie feel to it, and a big part of that is the direction. The cinematography from was great, and it is purposely made to look like a horror film with its zooms and shadowy corners and long takes. There are even some typical horror moments that happen here, like doors mysteriously opening that gives creepiness to the true essence of the film. The editing keeps the film moving while giving scenes and reactions plenty of time to breathe. The dissolve transitions particularly add even more to the atmosphere, which draws you deeper into it. The lack of music in scenes keeps the suspense and tension at an all time high as well. The use of music from the 80s fitted the moments well, and the few uses of the score here was effective, and really adds to the atmosphere.

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The Nest is an atmospheric and slow building family drama, incredibly well shot and directed, and the performances are great, mainly Jude Law and Carrie Coon. It’s not really for everyone because of the pacing, but I do think it’s worth checking out.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) Review

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The Grand Budapest Hotel

Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language, sexual references & nudity
Cast:
Ralph Fiennes as Monsieur Gustave H.
Tony Revolori as Zero Moustafa
F. Murray Abraham as Mr. Moustafa
Adrien Brody as Dmitri
Willem Dafoe as J. G. Jopling
Saoirse Ronan as Agatha
Tilda Swinton as Madame D.
Edward Norton as Albert Henckels
Mathieu Amalric as Serge X
Jeff Goldblum as Kovacs
Harvey Keitel as Ludwig
Tom Wilkinson as Author
Jude Law as the Young Writer
Bill Murray as M. Ivan
Jason Schwartzman as M. Jean
Léa Seydoux as Clotilde
Owen Wilson as M. Chuck
Director: Wes Anderson

Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), a concierge, is wrongly framed for murder at the Grand Budapest Hotel. In the process of proving his innocence, he befriends a lobby boy (Tony Revolori).

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I remember The Grand Budapest Hotel as being one of the earlier movies I saw from Wes Anderson, and it was the first movie from him I watched in the cinema. I had previously seen Fantastic Mr Fox and Moonrise Kingdom and while I liked them when I saw them for the first time, I wasn’t really into his work that much. I remember the experience in the cinema back in 2014 watching it because I found myself surprised at just how much I loved it. A rewatch upon watching all of Wes’s movies only confirms to me that it is his best, an unbelievably delightful and charming movie that entertains from beginning to end.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel’s screenplay is again written by Wes Anderson, and I have to say that it has to be one of his most polished and complete works, if not his most. This movie is one of the select number of films which I can say I found genuinely enthralling. Wes Anderson’s strongest movies with the likes of The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore had me interested generally throughout. However, The Grand Budapest Hotel had me invested from beginning to end and was endlessly entertaining. The movie feels completely original, and the story is heartfelt and endearing, features quirky and entertaining characters, and some unique and hilarious comedy. The dialogue was great, quick witted and memorable, and it’s perfectly paced across its 100 minute runtime. The plot itself is intricate but never confusing, and is also the largest scale movie from Wes Anderson. The Grand Budapest Hotel really gives you a sense of adventure and escapism, while also having melancholic and darker qualities and themes that you don’t expect at first.

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Wes Anderson is known for his massive and talented ensemble cast, but this may well be his biggest cast to date, and that’s saying a lot. Ralph Fiennes as Gustave H. gives not only one of his best performances of his career, but one of the best performances from a Wes Anderson movie. He’s charismatic, his line delivery is absolutely perfect, he really does handle the dry humour perfectly and fully portrays his well written and memorable character. Tony Revolori is also one of the leads and shouldn’t be overlooked, he’s really great too and shares great on screen chemistry with Fiennes. There was quite a supporting cast including Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, F. Murray Abraham, Harvey Keitel, Tom Wilkinson, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Mathieu Amalric, Lea Seydoux and Owen Wilson. Everyone is great in their parts and make themselves stand out in their respective scenes, even if they are in just 1 or 2 scenes.

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Wes Anderson’s direction is phenomenal, even when compared to all his past work. His style is instantly recognisable once the movie begins. The cinematography is beautiful and vibrant. It is said with some movies that every shot could be framed as a painting, The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of those movies. The changing of the aspect ratios was also effective, moving to 4:3 for most of the film. The production design and costume design were outstanding too. The score by Alexandre Desplat is unique and amazing, and it really fits perfectly with the rest of the movie.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel is an enthralling and delightful adventure, perfectly written and directed by Wes Anderson, and features an outstanding ensemble of great performances. It’s like he took everything great from his past movies and put it all in here with this one. Having gone through his entire filmography, I can say with confidence that this may well be his magnum opus. It is also firmly one of my favourite movies, especially from the 2010s. It’s an essential watch for sure, and also a great place to start with Wes Anderson if you haven’t seen any of his movies before.

Hugo (2011) Review

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
Asa Butterfield as Hugo Cabret
Chloë Grace Moretz as Isabelle
Ben Kingsley as Georges Méliès/Papa Georges
Sacha Baron Cohen as Inspector Gustave Dasté
Ray Winstone as Claude Cabret
Emily Mortimer as Lisette
Jude Law as Mr. Cabret
Helen McCrory as Jehanne D’Alcy/Mama Jeanne
Michael Stuhlbarg as René Tabard
Christopher Lee as Monsieur Labisse
Director: Martin Scorsese

Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan who lives in a Paris railway station, tending to the station clocks during his uncle’s (Ray Winstone) mysterious absence. He scrounges food from the vendors and steals mechanical parts from the owner of a toy shop, Georges Melies (Ben Kinglsey). In fact, Hugo’s father was a watchmaker and he has inherited his father’s (Jude Law) talents for all things mechanical. Years before, Hugo’s father found an intricate mechanical man, but they could never figure out how it worked. Hugo befriends Melies’s ward, Isabelle (Chloe Grace-Moretz), and together they have an adventure, one that centres around Méliès himself.

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I recall Hugo being the first movie of Martin Scorsese’s that I saw, and I remember liking it quite a lot when I did. With that said, it had been a while since I’ve last seen it, and I had a feeling that I would appreciate it more upon a more recent viewing, and having watched that more recently, I was right. While it looks as a kids movie and certainly looks like that, it also works as something much more, and is overall very well made.

Hugo may be by far Martin Scorsese’s most age appropriate film, and I think there’s a lot here that kids may like, but there’s more parts to it that they aren’t going to fully get or appreciate. Teenagers are more likely to enjoy it more than kids to be honest. The movie starts off pretty well, however the second half is where the movie really takes an interesting turn, as it becomes Scorsese’s love letter to cinema. At this point of the movie, you begin to get why he chose to direct this. It focuses on an era we don’t see portrayed in film much, that being the silent era, and ends up being a tribute to filmmaker Georges Melies. The only part I didn’t like of the movie was for whatever reason there was sometimes random comedy thrown in, it wasn’t particularly funny and distracted from the rest of the movie. Thankfully it didn’t happen too often, but you are taken out a bit when its present.

The cast generally do a good job in their roles, the only thing that was a little distracting was that you often forget that Hugo is set in France, given that there aren’t many French accents present over the course of the movie. Asa Butterfield was pretty solid in the lead role, and Chloe Grace Moretz was also good, with the two of them sharing some decent chemistry. The supporting cast are also really good, with Ben Kingsley (giving his best performance in a long time here as Georges Melies), Helen McCrory, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jude Law, Christopher Lee and more doing a lot of good work. Some of the actors don’t get to really do much and maybe get like one or two scenes (like Law and Lee) but they do a lot to make you remember them. Now there are some supporting characters which really didn’t serve much purpose outside of some brief comedy. Much of the comic relief surrounds the Station Inspector played by Sacha Baron Cohen, although he occasionally poses as an antagonist to the title character, a lot of the scenes with him are just for comedy. Cohen definitely plays the role as he’s meant to, and the fault isn’t him. There are scenes where they try to imply that there’s more to this character outside of being a cartoonish and typical authority figure in a kids movie, but they never follow through with it really so those moments feel pointless.

Martin Scorsese as usual directs this very well, but this is a very different movie from him, it involves a lot of visual effects which at least up to that point you wouldn’t see him using a ton. Scorsese is one of those filmmakers who uses CGI as tools to tell his story, while Hugo is indeed fantastic to look at and there are plenty of times where you can see it in all its glory, you never get the feeling that it’s just on screen to only look pretty. It’s never at the detriment of the rest of the film. Much praise should also go towards the production design, with this visually modernized France from the 20th Century, making it really appealing to watch. Robert Richardson’s cinematography really captures the whole movie very well, it’s generally a gorgeous looking film throughout.

Putting aside some distracting comic relief, Hugo is on the whole really good and deserves more praise amongst Martin Scorsese’s filmography, even though it was widely praised upon its release, it’s unfortunately been forgotten. It’s a gorgeous movie directed excellently by Scorsese per usual, the cast generally do well in their roles, and it works as both a kids movie and a tribute to cinema, as well as the power of cinema. Definitely worth a watch.

The Aviator (2004) Review

Time: 170 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains adult themes
Cast:
Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes
Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn
John C. Reilly as Noah Dietrich
Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner
Alec Baldwin as Juan Trippe
Alan Alda as Senator Owen Brewster
Ian Holm as Professor Fitz
Danny Huston as Jack Frye
Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow
Jude Law as Errol Flynn
Willem Dafoe as Roland Sweet
Adam Scott as Johnny Meyer
Director: Martin Scorsese

Billionaire and aviation tycoon Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a successful public figure: a director of big-budget Hollywood movies such as “Hell’s Angels (1930)”, a passionate lover of Hollywood’s leading ladies Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) and Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale), and an aviation pioneer who helps build TWA into a major airline. But in private, Hughes remains tormented, suffering from paralyzing phobias and depression. The higher he rises, the farther he has to fall.

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I remember when I saw The Aviator for the first time, I watched it because Martin Scorsese directed it and Leonardo DiCaprio was in it. I thought DiCaprio was great and the movie was pretty good, but didn’t remember much from the film, except that it was really long. I knew that I’d appreciate it a lot more when I got to around to watching it again and that’s certainly what happened. I was interested in it a lot more this time, and I think it’s a really great film.

The Aviator is very long at 2 hours and 50 minutes, yet it’s much faster paced than I remember it being. After while you began to notice some parts where it dragged but if you were invested in it as much as I was, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. A successful biopic makes you learn about the real life subject, both what they did and what kind of person they are, while also making you interested to learn about them through further research. The Aviator succeeds at this at flying colours, showing a large portion of Howard Hughes’s life. Part of why Scorsese did so well with this biopic was that he treated it like it was a character study, like some of his past films. Over time we get to learn more about Hughes and his life, as we see him at different stages of his life, at highs and lows.

There is a large and talented cast, and they’re all great here. Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as Howard Hughes has to be among his all time best work. DiCaprio portrays many sides of Hughes, the filmmaker, the entrepreneur, the aviator, the businessman, as well as his eccentrics and OCD. This entire movie surrounds him, and the work that he’s done here is nothing short of excellent. Cate Blanchett is another standout as real life actress Katharine Hepburn. Although I’ve never seen Hepburn in a movie, Blanchett seemed to have captured the mannerisms, voice and overall character of her perfectly. Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda and Ian Holm make up a strong supporting cast and give memorable performances as well. Even some brief performers like Jude Law, Willem Dafoe and Adam Scott play their parts well.

Martin Scorsese’s direction of The Aviator is excellent as expected. Robert Richardson’s cinematography is outstanding, and the editing by Thelma Schoonmaker here also ranks among one of her best works in a Scorsese movie. While indeed the scenes involving planes and all that are filmed and edited very well, it also works in other regards, such as when Howard Hughes has some breakdowns and issues with his OCD. There are some parts where the CGI really hasn’t held up all that well in the plane scenes (this movie is from 2004 after all), but thankfully these moments don’t last for too long, and don’t take away too much from the overall movie. There aren’t a ton of plane scenes, but the ones in this movie are very well filmed. The score by Howard Shore is also quite solid.

Although it’s recently being regarded as one of Martin Scorsese’s lesser films, The Aviator is great and is worth seeing at least once. On a technical level it’s fantastic, Scorsese directs it incredibly well, and its shot and edited to near perfection. On the whole, it’s also an interesting biopic about a fascinating man, that’s well paced despite its very long runtime. It’s worth seeing even just for Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance here.

Captain Marvel (2019) Review

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Brie Larson as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Ben Mendelsohn as Talos/Keller
Djimon Hounsou as Korath
Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser
Lashana Lynch as Maria Rambeau
Gemma Chan as Minn-Erva
Annette Bening as the Supreme Intelligence/Dr. Wendy Lawson
Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson
Jude Law as Yon-Rogg
Director: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) is an extraterrestrial Kree warrior who finds herself caught in the middle of an intergalactic battle between her people and the Skrulls. Living on Earth in 1995, she keeps having recurring memories of another life as U.S. Air Force pilot Carol Danvers. With help from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Captain Marvel tries to uncover the secrets of her past while harnessing her special superpowers to end the war with the evil Skrulls.

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There’s a lot of hype that was going into Captain Marvel, and there was a lot of potential. On top of it featuring familiar MCU characters like Nick Fury and Phil Coulson a couple decades earlier and featuring the additions of great acting talent with the likes of Brie Larson, Ben Mendelsohn and Jude Law, it is covering a key character in the upcoming Avengers: Endgame. While a lot of the MCU movies follow familiar beats (especially in the trailers), I’m usually hyped for them nonetheless. However when it came to the Captain Marvel trailers, I just felt considerably underwhelmed, which had me a little nervous because usually the marketing for these movies are decent at least, and was starting to wonder whether maybe this movie would be one of the lower tier movies in the MCU. I’m happy to say that the trailers did not do the movie justice. While not groundbreaking, Captain Marvel was quite a lot of fun and was a lot better than what I thought the movie would be.

If you are a fan of the MCU, then you don’t even need to look at my review, go out and see it right now. The first act is a little rough, it’s not bad and the pace is reasonably fast, but it didn’t really have much of my interest. It only sort of picks up as the second act starts, when Captain Marvel arrives on Earth and especially when she starts interacting with Nick Fury. At the halfway point however when certain reveals happen, that’s when the movie considerably improved and I knew that this movie was actually quite good. It’s because of this aspect that manages to separate itself from other MCU origin stories (even though there are some similarities that can be seen). To the movie’s credit, it kept the plot considerably tight. While most of the MCU movie recently have been having runtimes as long as 130 minutes in length, Captain Marvel kept it shorter at 2 hours. While it didn’t have me riveted early in the movie, it felt like every scene here had an actual purpose and moved the plot along. As the movie is in the 90s, there a lot of references to things in the 90s. Most of it was enjoyable but it does occasionally slip into relying on it too much. Another thing I’ve noticed was that this movie tries so hard to link things to the Avengers (in ways that I won’t spoil), many of them are really on the nose but I guess I’ve become used to that after watching 21 of them now. There is one connection which I already know a lot of people don’t like, and while it’s a bit funny, it probably went a little too far and was just silly, and not in a good way. Final note about the story is that it unfortunately feels like a bit of a filler movie. After Infinity War, there needed to be a movie establishing who Carol Danvers is. While they have done that, they really didn’t go further than that. Most of that is to do with the character of Captain Marvel herself, which I’ll get to in a bit. Last thing to say, there was applause at my screening for the opening Marvel credits, and for very good reason. Also be sure to stick around for the mid and post credits scenes.

One of the complaints of the Captain Marvel trailers was that Brie Larson was coming across as being a little bland, and I’ll admit that I could see what they’re talking about. Much like the movie, the trailers really didn’t do her justice because she’s really good here. However, she is a little held back by the writing. Larson performs what she is given and she definitely does well here, very likable and believable enough in the role. However she wasn’t as interesting as I hoped she would be. She was a pretty easy lead to follow and it established her character in a basic way, but it didn’t do more than that, I wasn’t as invested in the story as much as I wanted to be. This is all on the writing however. It works fine enough for her and this movie and isn’t bad by any means. I just have a feeling she’ll be like Thor and Doctor Strange, who were pretty good in their debut appearances in the first solo movies but in later film appearances grew and became much more interesting and better characters. Samuel L. Jackson plays a much younger Nick Fury and actually gets to be one of the main players of the movie, which is nice to see considering that in most of his appearances in the MCU he’s been a supporting role. He’s definitely a very different Fury to what we’ve seen in the past movies but that works for Jackson. The playoff between him and Brie Larson was really entertaining to watch and was among the strongest parts of the movie (no surprise considering how the strongest part of the director’s previous movie Mississippi Grind was the chemistry between the leads Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds, they really do well at character interactions). The scenestealer of the whole movie however was Ben Mendelsohn as the lead Skrull. Mendelsohn is no stranger to villainous characters but this is one of his most standout performances and does a lot here (see for yourself why that’s the case). On a side note I thought the handling of the Skrulls was really great (no spoilers). Other supporting members like Lashana Lynch and Anette Benning play their parts. Jude Law was also good here, however I feel like due to his reasonably important role in the movie we should’ve gotten a little more depth from his character. Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson and Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser were nice to see once again but they really feel just like connectors to the other movies instead of actually having a reason to be in the movie. I mean I guess it made sense showing Coulson given that they are already covering young Nick Fury, but Ronan in this movie could’ve been replaced by any throwaway character, or even just not included in the overall plot.

The only movie I’ve seen from directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck was Mississippi Grind, and their work here was mostly good. The action scenes were a bit of a mixed bag, it’s mostly to do for the editing. The editing for the movie in general was good but it was very hit or miss when it comes to the fight scenes. The biggest example is the advertised train battle scene, and yes the editing is as bad as it looked in that one released clip. I don’t remember the editing in the later action scenes being as bad but I don’t remember them much outside of Captain Marvel unleashing her powers (which are done quite well to be fair). The visuals effects on the whole are quite good and the highlights really were Captain Marvel’s powers shown on screen later in the movie. The most impressive visual effects however was the de-aging effects on Samuel L. Jackson, which I’m going to be quite honest, is so far the best de-aging effects I’ve seen in a movie. Sure, we had Blade Runner 2049 and the Ant Man movies, but those were for like two scenes max, and Nick Fury is present for the whole movie. Very impressive work here. While most of the movie takes place on Earth, I do like the little bit we see of the other locations. The makeup and costumes were also great, from Captain Marvel’s outfit to the makeup of the Skrulls (which do actually work a lot better in the film than how they appeared in the images).

Captain Marvel isn’t one of the best MCU movies but it’s still pretty good. It’s a little rocky to start with and it suffers from feeling like a filler movie, like it’s just there to establish the character for Endgame. Despite some of my issues however, I can’t deny that I had an absolute blast watching this, the performances (particularly from Larson, Jackson and Mendelsohn) were really good, and it does some interesting things with the story that I didn’t see coming. Definitely looking forward to seeing Captain Marvel in Endgame and beyond.

Vox Lux (2018) Review

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, offensive language, drug use & sexual material
Cast:
Natalie Portman as Celeste Montgomery
Raffey Cassidy as Young Celeste Montgomery/Albertine
Jude Law as The Manager
Stacy Martin as Eleanor “Ellie” Montgomery
Jennifer Ehle as Josie
Director: Brady Corbet

Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) is a 13-year-old music prodigy who survives a horrific school shooting in Staten Island, N.Y., in 1999. Her talent shines through during the memorial service when she sings a song that touches the hearts of the mourners. Guided by her sister (Stacy Martin) and a talent manager (Jude Law), the young phenom transforms into a rising pop star with a promising future. Eighteen years later, Celeste (Natalie Portman) now finds herself on the comeback trail when a scandal, personal struggles and the pitfalls of fame threaten her career.

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Vox Lux was the one 2018 movie that I had been meaning to watch before making my best films of 2018 list. I had been hearing about this movie for a long time, from the point that Rooney Mara was originally cast in the lead role before Natalie Portman replaced her. While I would’ve loved to have seen Mara in the role, Natalie Portman is still a fantastic actress, Jude Law was also in the movie, the music is done by Sia, and so I was at the very least curious about the movie. The very polarising reaction to the whole movie just got me interested in it more. Having watched the movie, I can confirm that it’s not a movie for everyone but is definitely worth watching.

Vox Lux is split into two halves, the Raffey Cassidy half, and the Natalie Portman half. The Raffey Cassidy half is really great, I really liked seeing the rise of Celeste. There have been plenty of movies following the rise of musicians but Vox Lux is quite original throughout, touching on topics that you wouldn’t expect it to, there’s a lot to unpack with this movie. It’s so out there, ambitious and bold, and much of it won’t work for people, I loved it though. The Natalie Portman is a dramatic shift for sure, while I’m sure most people will like the Cassidy half, the second half is what will divide some people. I will say that it’s a step down from the first half and is the main reason why I don’t love the movie more, however I still really liked it. The problem with talking about this section is that I can’t exactly express why the second half just didn’t work quite as well. The first half I really was invested for the entirety of it. With the Portman half I still was interested in it but not as much as the previous half. While I liked the concert section at the end, there was something that was missing from the conclusion. Maybe if it was a little longer (the movie is only like an hour and 50 minutes long) it might’ve worked a little better. Maybe another viewing of the movie might make things much more clear for me regarding this section.

Raffey Cassidy plays Celeste in her teenage years and also plays the daughter of Celeste in the Portman half and is equally great in both roles, giving a really subtle and effective performance. I’d argue that it’s Cassidy who steals the show in this movie. Natalie Portman’s performance is something that I’ve heard mixed things about, mostly that it’s over the top. Having watched the movie, I do think that the complaints are exaggerated just a little bit, she really is great here and puts everything into her performance. Yes, her performance is larger than life (not sure whether it was her or Corbet’s choice), and maybe a slightly more subtle performance would’ve worked. Most of the problem with that is that Portman plays Celeste completely differently from Cassidy, so it’s very jarring. I get that 15 years later she might’ve been acting differently, but it was so distractingly different. Making it even more so was the accent, it may not have bothered me as much as it did others but it is a little too over the top (not to mention I’m not really sure how Celeste just suddenly gained a completely different accent). Nonetheless her hamming up her performance here was entertaining amd she really gives a performance that I’ve never seen her give before. The rest of the cast play their parts as well, Stacy Martin was really good as Celeste’s sister and Jude Law was also good as Celeste’s manager.

This is the first film by Brady Corbet that I’ve seen and on the whole, he’s really directed this film well. From beginning to end, it’s a great looking movie. The concert scenes were particularly great. The only out of place moment was a very weirdly directed sequence with Portman and Law, is sped up and has some weird looking effect to it. It’s very brief though, it’s just that it stands out a bit from the rest of the movie. The music is also really good, (it’s written by Sia), both Raffey Cassidy and Natalie Portman also perform the music very convincingly. The film also uses some narration with Willem Dafoe, and while I’m usually mixed about the use of narration, it actually works alright here (not to mention Dafoe’s voice really fitted this movie quite well).

Vox Lux won’t work for everyone, it’s very ambitious and different. However, I do think that it’s worth watching. The first half is definitely the stronger portion of the movie, but I still really liked the whole movie. I really liked what Brady Corbet did with the writing and direction, and the performances (especially from Raffey Cassidy and Natalie Portman) are really great. Definitely see it for yourself, and it might be a movie I need to rewatch at some point.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018) Review

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander
Katherine Waterston as Tina Goldstein
Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski
Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein
Zoë Kravitz as Leta Lestrange
Callum Turner as Theseus Scamander
Claudia Kim as Nagini
William Nadylam as Yusuf Kama
Kevin Guthrie as Abernathy
Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore
Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald
Director: David Yates

In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s (Johnny Depp) plans of raising pure-blood wizards to rule over all non-magical beings, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists his former student Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided world.

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I was reasonably excited for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. I liked the first movie, despite it being reasonably decent and not being quite as great as I thought it would be, and I was interested in how the 5 Fantastic Beasts movies will go. My only concerns was Johnny Depp as the character of Gellert Grindelwald and how Newt Scamander was going to be integrated into the story (which is pretty much going to be a Dumbledore vs Grindelwald story). Having seen the movie I can say that thankfully I didn’t have the two problems that I thought I would have. However, it does present some problems of it own, including feeling a bit too overstuffed with characters and plotlines. With that said, I still really liked the movie.

There is something I wanted to get out of the way, I noticed a lot of people are complaining about how Fantastic Beasts isn’t as magical as Harry Potter. That never really bothered me, Fantastic Beasts is more adult based than the Harry Potter story, so while it does feature quite a bit of magic, I don’t really have a problem with the film not feeling as magical. Whereas the Harry Potter movies have younger characters experiencing the magical world for the first time, these films follow adults who are quite familiar with it. That is the case with The Crimes of Grindelwald, which also goes to darker places than probably the other Harry Potter movies (which is saying a lot). The first scene where Grindelwald escapes establishes the tone of the entire movie. While I was interested in what was happening in the plot from start to finish and on the whole was fine with what happened, there are some problems with the way that The Crimes of Grindelwald tells its story. The odd thing is that while the overall plot is more tied together, with it surrounding both Credence and Grindelwald (unlike Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them where it tried to be a movie focussing on Newt Scamander finding his beasts, an obscurus and Grindelwald, very different things all at once), it is way more complicated. I appreciate the movie going a more complex route, but it is a little too complicated for its own good. It does have some moments where it throws exposition at the audience and it can be really hard to follow what is going on, I think it will really require a second viewing. However, it’s not necessarily in a ‘this movie has a lot going on and there’s a lot to process’ compliment way, because some of the difficulty understanding comes from how the story is told. Part of it is because so many characters’ goals are related to similar things but they have their own subplots. That’s another thing, there are way too many characters here. With the first movie, along with the 4 main characters, there were a few supporting characters and that’s it. In The Crimes of Grindelwald however, along with the 4 main characters, it has like 12 supporting characters. Yes, I know that some of them have like 2/3 scenes at most and don’t all have subplots, but it doesn’t feel any less jarring. To give an idea about how many characters are in the movie, there is a poster for The Crimes of Grindelwald with the caption “Who Will Change The Future?” with a lot of characters on the poster. I suggest looking up that poster, because it pretty much shows how many prominent characters there are in this movie, and aside from a few of them, most of them have their own individual subplots. It’s exhausting to even think about. Overall, it’s like some of the characters they introduces here should’ve been introduced later, or have some of the characters’ subplots done later in the other movies, because having them all here makes it hard to follow.

J.K Rowling is the one writing the stories, so plotwise, all the problems fall on her. I have a feeling I know why the issues are here, Rowling probably structured the 5 movie story arc in the structure of books and so as an individual movie, it feels really jarring. I feel like it probably would’ve been better for her to have written the stories as books first before being adapted to the big screen. Another thing that will be a point of criticism are some really odd decisions that happen with regard to the direction of the plot. The first Fantastic Beasts introduces some new aspects to the Wizarding World such as the Obscurus but nothing really that conflicted with pre-existing Harry Potter history. Without saying too much, some fans are not going to like what is done here. It’s a bit of a difficult situation criticising the decisions of the creator of the series, it’s like arguing with George Lucas about the Star Wars prequels, no one knows the world quite like him (this is pre Disney Star Wars but you get what I’m meaning), and that’s the same with J.K. Rowling with Harry Potter. While initially I wasn’t sure why we needed 5 movies instead of 3 to tell this story, after the way things ended in The Crimes of Grindelwald, we are going to need as much time as possible to explain things. On the whole though, I was actually fine with the twists in the movie… with the exception with the last one. There is a twist at the end which is so insane that I’m actually wondering if I’m actually misinterpreting what it’s meaning and taking it at face value when really it’s different from what I think it is. I myself have problems even processing this decision, I can’t even dislike it because of how strange it is, I’m more confused than anything. It is difficult judging some of the decisions because so many of them are setup for the next movies, and we won’t know how well they are executed until we actually watch the later movies. As for the last twist though, Rowling is going to have to work extra hard to pull it off if it really is how it looks. In terms of things that I will blast Rowling for, there is an appearance of a well known character from the Harry Potter movies/books, this movie takes place in 1927 and this character hasn’t been born yet, yet somehow is making an appearance in 1935. I’m not sure how J.K. Rowling of all people could get one of her characters existing yet or not. Not a major plot issue but its extremely noticeable and stands out.

The performances all around were good, it’s just that some of the way the characters and their subplots were handled wasn’t the best. There were really 5 characters that worked the best compared to the others. Eddie Redmayne is still a fantastic choice for Newt Scamander, he’s awkward and likable and I like that he’s different enough compared to Harry Potter as a protagonist. While I wasn’t sure about him getting involved with the war against Grindelwald (because it just doesn’t seem like him), he is given an arc through the movie which really works for him that makes him relevant to the later movies, and I liked that. Dan Fogler returns as the muggle Jacob Kowalski and is just as likable as in the first movie, they do appropriately lessen his role as the comedic relief. He comes out better compared to the other supporting characters because he’s pretty much along with Newt for most of the movie. A surprise was Zoe Kravitz as Leta Lestrange. She has a dark and mysterious backstory which plays into the main story, it was one of the most interesting parts of the movie. Kravitz is also great in the role. Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore was also a highlight, you can definitely buy Law as a younger Dumbledore. With that said, don’t expect to see a ton of Dumbledore, he’s definitely a part of the movie but isn’t as prominent as you’d think. However, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of him in the next few movies. A lot of people had problems with the casting of Johnny Depp as Grindelwald, both with him as an actor with his most recent performances and career choices, and with him as a person. While I still wish that someone else was in the role (because of Depp as a person), acting wise he surprised me, this is his best performance since Black Mass. Unlike most of his performances where he can be rather over the top, Depp is refreshingly subtle and restrained, yet totally committed to the role. The only thing goofy about Grindelwald is his look, although its distinct, it may have been a little over the top. They really made Grindelwald distinct enough from Voldemort, being a much more public figure, and you can see why so many people would follow him. I wouldn’t say he’s great just yet, cos we haven’t really gotten to know Grindelwald yet as a character or seen his backstory, we’ll just have to see how the next 3 movies go.

The rest of the characters are played well enough but they weren’t handled the best. Katherine Waterston’s Tina Goldstein doesn’t really get much to do, she’s tracking down Credence and that’s really all there is to her, that aren’t really enough scenes with her outside of that. The most we really get is the potential romance between her and Newt, but even that doesn’t really amount to much by the end. There are particularly some things in the third act that don’t really have enough of Tina (hard to explain in a non spoiler review). Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein was the weaker link out of the main 4 characters in the first movie, not because of the acting but there wasn’t a ton of things for her to do. Here she has a bit of an interesting arc which is great on paper, but the way they execute it isn’t the best. She’s like completely separate from the other characters and has her own subplot but you see her like every once every 30 minutes. It’s like there were more scenes of her development that are missing, so her changes are jarring and out of place. Having more scenes would’ve benefited her arc and really fleshed it out. While it is an interesting place she’s been taken by the end of the second movie, I’m sure they could’ve executed it better. There is another plotline following William Nadylam as Yusuf Kama, a wizard tracking down Credence. While he does work within the movie and ties in with the story, it really adds another complicated element into the movie, and the plot is already pretty complicated. Callum Turner as Theseus Scamander, an aurora and Newt’s brother, is decent enough but don’t add a ton. As much as I bag on the way that the characters are used in this movie, I can’t complain much about him here. You do understand though why he is here and he’s used in enough scenes. That’s more than I can say then Claudia Kim as Nagini, Kim does a fine job playing her but plotwise Nagini really didn’t need to be there and doesn’t add much outside of some nice snake transformation scenes. Maybe it’s establishing her for later sequels but it better be something significant, otherwise it just feels like J.K. Rowling is trying to establish and include literally every character that existed before Harry Potter. Thankfully Nagini doesn’t have her own subplot to take up even more time, she is paired with Credence, played by Ezra Miller. Speaking of Credence, despite the movie basically surrounding him, it doesn’t exactly handle him the best. He was actually a standout in the first movie, mostly due to Miller’s performance. The Crimes of Grindelwald really needed more of him and really explore him but however that’s not what happens. Despite his whole ‘arc’ being about him trying to find out who he is, he feels more like a plot device and not a character at all, going through the motions because that’s what the plot requires. Definitely the most disappointing of the characters in this movie.

David Yates directs The Crimes of Grindelwald, and once again he does a good job. There’s nothing really wrong with his direction but it would be nice to have some new person taking over, with a more fresh direction. He’s directed all the Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts movies since Order of the Phoenix and I think Yates may have relaxed a little too much into his direction of these movies. Again though, nothing really wrong direction-wise. The only direction that was out of place was in Newt’s first scene which for some reason used a lot of POV shots for him and I don’t know why, it was a little distracting. It’s not a dealbreaker, just out of place. The production design and costumes are once again fantastic, the scenes at Hogwarts are particularly a highlight and it feels great to revisit it, even if we aren’t there for long or very often. The CGI on the whole was great, slightly improved over the first movie. The magical sequences are really great to watch, the highlights being the opening scene and the third act. Despite the movie being more Grindelwald focussed, we still get to see a lot of magical creatures through Newt and once again they are great. James Newton Howard’s score as in the first movie was fantastic, it really fits in well with this series.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is really unexpected in many ways. It has some really good performances, a plot that keeps you invested throughout (at least it did for me) and some really great sequences. At the same time, it is overstuffed with too many characters, too many subplots and has some very questionable decisions. As it stands at the moment, I think I like The Crimes of Grindelwald a little more than the first movie because of what the story is about and some of the moments of the movie, even though the first is considerably less messy. Honestly, I can’t tell what you’ll think about the movie. I’d say that if you’re not a die hard Harry Potter fan you might not enjoy it as much, but I already can tell that this movie is going to divide the fandom, it’s going to be pretty much the Alien Covenant for the Harry Potter series. If you like Harry Potter, watch it and see for yourself, because I can’t tell whether you’ll like it or not. I’m still on board for the 3 remaining movies but I really do hope that J.K. Rowling pulls it off, because The Crimes of Grindelwald does make me a little concerned about whether she’ll be able to do that.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) Review

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Contains violence and offensive language
Cast:
Charlie Hunnam as King Arthur
Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey as The Mage
Djimon Hounsou as Sir Bedivere
Aidan Gillen as Sir William “Goosefat Bill”
Jude Law as Vortigern
Eric Bana as Uther Pendragon
Director: Guy Ritchie

After the murder of his father, young Arthur’s power-hungry uncle Vortigern (Jude Law) seizes control of the crown. Robbed of his birthright, he grows up the hard way in the back alleys of the city, not knowing who he truly is. When fate leads him to pull the Excalibur sword from stone, Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) embraces his true destiny to become a legendary fighter and leader.

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I wasn’t sure if I was looking forward to King Arthur. It has a great cast, and most importantly is directed by Guy Ritchie, a filmmaker I like quite a bit due to his unique and fast paced style. But nothing much about the movie really interested me from the trailers, it looked like an okay-ish fantasy movie. I know that a lot of people really didn’t like King Arthur (it’s the first box office bomb of 2017) but I was glad I decided to see it. The acting was good, the way the story was told was effective but Ritchie’s great direction really was the standout. It won’t be known as one of the all time greatest fantasy movies but it is still a good one.

Now this story is very familiar and very much like a typical fantasy story (minus the direction and interpretation by Ritchie), but it’s not the same King Arthur story that you’re used to seeing. Don’t go into it expecting the usual representations of King Arthur. I was just going in expecting a fantasy movie by Guy Ritchie with the main character titled Arthur and I was very entertained and invested throughout. This story is full on magic and fantasy, and it was entertaining to see how this movie approached it. This film does overall move at a pretty fast pace and it didn’t ever bore me. As Guy Ritchie wrote this movie, he does have a particular style and I really liked it. The dialogue was entertained and the humour was well implemented in the movie.

Charlie Hunnam is great here as Arthur, very likable, entertaining and believable. I haven’t seen him in much (just Pacific Rim and Crimson Peak) but this is his most entertaining performance yet. Definitely the strongest character in the whole movie. Jude Law plays and a very hateable villain and did a very good job at it, fully embracing his role. This movie has a wide range of talented actors with Djimon Hounsou, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Eric Bana, Aidan Gillen and many others. All of them are used pretty effectively and share great chemistry with each other, their characters weren’t quite as 3 dimensional as they could’ve been but they were still very enjoyable to watch. The only actors who were a little out of place were Katie McGrath (as she’s on screen for a total of only 1 minute) and a random cameo of David Beckham (I have no idea why he was here), especially as he appears in such a pivotal scene for Arthur.

As great the acting and story is, the stand out part of this movie is of course Guy Ritchie’s direction. This is the most Guy Ritchie that a Guy Ritchie film has been since Snatch. I was worried about how his style would be used here but I found it did work, its so unlike a King Arthur movie to have and Ritchie fully embraced that style and so I enjoyed it a lot. The fast paced editing is used really well. At times it does move a little too fast so it is easy to miss some of the details but that goes for most Guy Ritchie movies. If you don’t like his style, you probably won’t like King Arthur. I know some people really didn’t like that his style was used in a King Arthur movie, but I liked that, not just because I like the style, but it gave something new to a King Arthur story, it’s not just a typical fantasy story that we’ve seen so many times. At times it does sort of tonally feel inconsistent, one moment might be very comedic and have one of the Guy Ritchie montages, and in the next moment might be a fantasy action sequence or a very serious dramatic scene. Most of the CGI is used really effectively and made for some really entertaining action sequences. A standout is the soundtrack by Daniel Pemberton, it could be grand and epic but it could also fit perfectly with Ritchie’s wacky style and montages.

King Arthur is not a perfect movie but I do think that it’s worth a watch, nowhere near deserves the hate its getting or being a box office bomb. With the actors, the entertaining story but most of all, Guy Ritchie’s direction, I was consistently entertained by this movie. I honestly recommend going out and seeing King Arthur, give it a chance (as long as you know what you’re going in for). If you aren’t a big fan of Guy Ritchie’s style however, you probably won’t be a fan.

Spy (2015) Review

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Spy

Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, Sexual References and Offensive Language
Cast:
Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe/Einar Wegener
Alicia Vikander as Gerda Wegener
Matthias Schoenaerts as Hans Axgil
Ben Whishaw as Henrik
Amber Heard as Ulla
Sebastian Koch as Dr. Warnekros
Director: Paul Feig

Despite having solid field training, CIA analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) has spent her entire career as a desk jockey, working hand-in-hand with dashing agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). Using high-tech equipment and a hidden earpiece, Susan is the guardian angel who helps Bradley avoid danger. However, when Bradley is assassinated by Bulgarian arms dealer Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), Susan wrangles her way into her first undercover assignment to help capture Boyanov and avenge Bradley.

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There have been a lot of spy movies this year, with Kingsman: The Secret Service, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Spectre and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Spy is another one of these movies and like U.N.C.L.E. and Kingsman, is a comedy, and a very good one at that. I haven’t watched any of Melissa McCarthy or Paul Feig’s other movies (Bridesmaids, The Heat) before but now I definitely want to. This movie is really entertaining from start to finish, with good performances, a great script and the movie never had any dull moments.

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When it comes to the plot it wasn’t anything special, someone who isn’t a field agent is forced to become one but despite that, it still worked for the film. The great thing is that they played with the usual plot set up, unlike a lot of films like Get Smart where the spy character isn’t exactly the smartest, McCarthy’s character is great at what she does, making the whole movie more enjoyable as well as fresh and new. With that said, you’re not going to be really focused on the plot, the film was mostly focussed on these characters in these situations and the comedy that insures. This movie is still a comedy and the humour is mixed in well into the movie, and all the actors have at least one great comedic moment in the film.

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This is the first Melissa McCarthy movie I’ve seen and I really liked her here. As I said earlier one thing I like about her character is that it’s not like Get Smart or Pink Panther where the main character is incompetent but yet saves the day (sometimes accidently). Her character here is actually capable and it was very entertaining to watch her be awesome, especially in the action scenes. The supporting cast which had Miranda Hart, Jude Law and Rose Byrne were also really good. The showstealer for me though was Jason Statham. His performance was sort of a parody on his previous action film roles, with him being super intense and overly serious (which he pretty much does in every movie he’s in). There is one moment where he has a monologue which I can only describe as multiple Chuck Norris jokes rolled into one and for me it was the funniest scene in the whole movie.

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The action scenes were actually really good, I haven’t seen The Heat so I don’t know if Spy is the first action movie Paul Feig directed but it was really good. What surprised me is that this movie actually works as an action movie, which really gave Spy even more credibility and separated it from other films with similar premises.

SPY - 2015 FILM STILL - Pictured: Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) clearly has eyes for her partner, superspy Bradley Fine (Jude Law) - Photo Credit: Larry Horricks © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox. All Rights Reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

Spy is a great action comedy movie and I think it’s really worth watching. I haven’t watched any of Paul Feig’s other movies but if they are anywhere near as good as Spy, I would really like to check them out at some point and from this movie alone, I think Paul Feig will deliver a great Ghostbusters movie coming later this year (even if the trailer doesn’t showcase it). From the smart writing, hilarious performances and of course the great comedy, there’s a lot to enjoy about it. Check it out if it interests you.