Tag Archives: Kenneth Branagh

Tenet (2020) Review

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Tenet

Time: 150 minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
John David Washington as the Protagonist
Robert Pattinson as Neil
Elizabeth Debicki as Kat
Dimple Kapadia as Priya
Clémence Poésy as Laura
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ives
Michael Caine as Sir Michael Crosby
Kenneth Branagh as Andrei Sator
Director: Christopher Nolan

A secret agent (John David Washington) embarks on a dangerous, time-bending mission to prevent the start of World War III.

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Tenet was one of my most anticipated films of 2020. It had a cast with the likes of John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh, the trailers looked incredible, but most of all, it was Christopher Nolan’s next film. Nolan is one of my favourite directors, an incredibly creative and visionary filmmaker, all of his movies are good, and almost all of them are at least great. However there was another layer of anticipation, with this being the first movie to be released in cinemas since March ever since the pandemic started, this was actually the first time I’ve watch a movie in theatres since February. Tenet was the movie meant to bring people back to the theatre. It lived up to all the hype and was quite an incredible experience, it’s for sure one of my favourite films from Christopher Nolan, and that’s saying a lot.

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For those worrying about spoilers, don’t worry, I won’t give anything critical away. At most I’ll refer to what was only in the trailers, which already do a good job at keeping a lot of the plot hidden. Tenet is probably Christopher Nolan’s most complex movie, and that is saying a lot. There’s a line from Clemence Poesy’s character to John David Washington’s character, “Don’t try to understand it, feel it”, and that idea is pretty much key to watching this movie. If you get too caught up with what you don’t understand, you won’t enjoy much of the rest of the movie, and will probably have a harder time getting what’s going on. The script by Christopher Nolan is fantastic, there’s a lot happening and really keeps you engaged from beginning to end, never letting go of your attention.

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At its core, Tenet is a spy and espionage movie that happens to have a science fiction element, kind of like how Inception is a heist movie. Time has played a big part in many of Nolan’s movies, with the events in Memento being played backwards, Dunkirk taking place at different time settings and over different frames of time, and even Inception and Interstellar had time playing a big role in their plots. However time is the central theme and focus of Tenet. It’s not a spoiler to say that this movie is not about time travel but rather time inversion, and for the most part I actually got on board with that concept. At first it’s a bit hard to understand it, especially earlier on where you only get a little bit of time inversion in the plot. However as the plot progresses and more is shown and revealed, you begin to understand it more, and I thought it was well handled, especially when it came to the use of exposition. There’s a specific moment layer on where there’s a lot of time inversion and I have to say I was confused as to what was going on, but again I just went with it. It’s definitely a movie that’ll probably improve on repeat viewings. I will admit that I did need to look up some ‘Tenet explained’ articles to get a grasp of some of the things that I missed as I understand more of what’s happening. However I actually understood much more of the movie than I thought I would. One criticism I have for the movie from this first viewing is that it was hard to even hear what was happening, which I’ll get into later on, but those if anything were the things that made it occasionally hard to follow what was going on. Tenet is definitely not one of Nolan’s character driven movie, despite a big cast you only learn about a few of the characters. That wasn’t a dealbreaker for me though, I was still along with the ride. Looking back at it on a whole, the more I think about the movie, the more I love it.

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There’s a great cast all around, and all of them perform really well. John David Washington plays the protagonist of the movie, who’s only referred to as ‘The Protagonist’, and he’s really great. Despite not much being known about his character, he brings such an on screen presence on his part and he carries much of the movie. Robert Pattinson was also good as an agent who works with The Protagonist, and Pattinson was particularly great alongside Washington, their on screen dynamic was very entertaining to watch. Elizabeth Debicki also gives a great performance as probably the most layered character of the movie, she’s the emotional core of the story. Kenneth Branagh plays the villain of the movie, it’s a scene chewing yet menacing performance, that really works for the movie. The rest of the supporting cast with the likes of Dimple Kapadia, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Himesh Patel, Michael Caine, and Clemence Poesy all play their parts well too.

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Christopher Nolan directs this magnificently as to be expected. Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography is nothing short of fantastic, it’s such a large scale movie. Nolan’s filming of action has been generally criticised (especially in the Dark Knight trilogy). I still liked them, but I can kind of see why, especially when it comes to the stunts. However, I’d say that this is by far the best action that he’s filmed (possibly even more so than Inception). The most impressive aspect of the film on a purely technical and visual level was the time inversion, with everything going in reverse, and it is much more than just reversing the film. Like every other movie he has made, his movies are filmed practically, which made so many of the sequences even more impressive. One of such moments as teased in the trailers was when a real plane was crashed, and while that certainly is a big moment, there’s far more to come which I won’t reveal. There’s so many moments that I just wondered how Nolan pulled off. The time inversion was especially impressive, and the cinematography mixed with the practical effects and stunts come together to form some unforgettable moments. This is the first time since The Dark Knight that Hans Zimmer doesn’t score a Christopher Nolan movie, instead it is Ludwig Goransson composing, and he does a fantastic job. It’s extraordinary and fits perfectly with the movie. This brings me to the sound mixing, it is a very loud movie and it can be a bit overwhelming, but it only bothers me in one particular way. As previously mentioned, I don’t have an issue with the amount of exposition in the film, it’s just that the music and a lot of the other sounds can drown out a lot of the dialogue during these moments and because of that you are sometimes left in the dark about what’s going on (and sometimes it’s simple plot points). Let’s just say that if you watched it with subtitles, you would probably understand a lot more about what is going on.

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With Tenet, Christopher Nolan has made another fresh, engaging, complex and spectacle of a film. The cast are great, I loved the plot and ideas presented, and the filmmaking is just on a whole other level. I can only see this improving upon further viewings. It’s an overwhelming and fantastic experience that is best seen in the cinema. At the same time, it’s only worth seeing this in cinemas if you feel safe and comfortable doing so right now in this moment, so if that is the case and the movie is in your area, I highly recommend seeing it.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) Review

Time: 161 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Frightening fantasy scenes and violence.
Cast:
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart
John Cleese as Nearly Headless Nick
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
Richard Griffiths as Vernon Dursley
Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore
Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Fiona Shaw as Petunia Dursley
Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall
Julie Walters as Molly Weasley
Director: Chris Columbus

It’s Year 2 at Hogwarts, and Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) are back learning, but their year doesn’t go past quietly. Members of the school are turning up petrified and bloody writing are appearing on the walls, revealing to everyone, that someone has opened the chamber of secrets. The attacks continue, bringing the possibility of the closure of Hogwarts. Harry and his friends are now forced to secretly uncover the truth about the chamber before the school closes or any lives are taken.

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was a huge hit for audiences, for both Harry Potter readers and those who weren’t. The next year, Chris Columbus would release the next film in the series, Chamber of Secrets, which is also pretty good, a film which I would consider to be slightly better than the Philosopher’s Stone, despite it feeling a little too long and drawn out at many points in the film.

In my last Harry Potter review, I mentioned how surprised I was at the length of the Philosopher’s Stone, at 2 hours and a half long. I’m even more shocked at the runtime for Chamber of Secrets, at 2 hours and 40 minutes long. I will say though, you can definitely feel the running time this time, some scenes can drag and some scenes can be rushed, and it definitely feels like a long movie this time round. Chamber of Secrets is not complicated but it’s not as simple as Philosopher’s Stone, with much more going on at the same time, and as nice as it was to see a lot of these scenes in the movie, maybe some of them should’ve been cut. The third act however was paced and handled suitably well for the most part. A good thing about this movie is that you can tell that Chamber of Secrets was done by the same director but there is a suitably darker tone that is necessary for the story. This is about a giant creature that petrifies (and sometimes) kills children after all. This also means a lot less of the camp and cheesiness that was present in the first movie (however the ending of the movie can be very cheesy). The movie also sets up and establishes things (unknowingly to audience members) that would come into play for future movies, and that’s something that the Harry Potter series does very well. There are some bits which, as a Harry Potter fan, slightly irked me, and I don’t usually have issues with differences to the books. For example, the disarming spell Expelliarmus is used as a stunning spell, while they aren’t anything really major, that can be very distracting.

The acting from the child actors is still not great but it has noticeably improved over the child acting in Philosopher’s Stone (and also despite the fact it’s just been a year, they all look much older). Also, the chemistry and friend dynamic between the 3 main leads (Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley and Emma Watson as Hermione Granger) is a lot better and more convincing. One issue I might bring up though is not an uncommon criticism, Ron is kind of a whiner and useless a lot of the time, particularly in this movie, Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire. I know that some characters when adapted have to be simplified, but surely Ron could’ve come across as a little better than how he did here. Other returning actors, especially Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid and Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore). We also have some new additions to the series. Kenneth Branagh was a perfect casting choice for Gilderoy Lockhart, he is really cartoonish, useless, over the top and annoying but it’s pretty much a perfect representation of the character (fun fact, Hugh Grant nearly played the role and he would’ve been great as well). Another great new casting choice was Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy, Draco Malfoy’s (Tom Felton) father. He plays the role with such menace and is pretty memorable despite only being in a few scenes in Chamber of Secrets (that voice is pretty great and suits his character well. Also good was another new character Dobby, voiced by Toby Jones, perfect casting.

As I said before, you can tell that Chris Columbus directed Chamber of Secrets but it also has a darker tone to it, and this also extends to the direction. While there are lots of moments with brightness, the colour pallet also uses a lot of darker colours, the entire third act is dark and dark green. The production design is really great once again, the attention to detail was fantastic, especially the Chamber of Secrets. The visual effects are slightly better, it does have some weaker spots but there are a lot of things that still look pretty solid today. John William’s score is once again excellent, and his new additions to the Harry Potter soundtrack really pay off (the Fawkes theme being a standout).

I don’t know what the general reception that Chamber of Secrets has but I think I like it slightly more than Philosopher’s Stone (probably because of the darker story and tone). With that said, it does have some issues, with it feeling overlong and dragging at times. One of the weaker movies in the series but it’s still rather solid.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) Review

Time: 114 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Adult Themes
Cast
Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot
Tom Bateman as Bouc
Penélope Cruz as Pilar Estravados
Willem Dafoe as Gerhard
Judi Dench as Princess Dragomiroff
Johnny Depp as Samuel Ratchett
Josh Gad as Hector MacQueen
Derek Jacobi as Edward Henry Masterman
Leslie Odom Jr. as Dr. Arbuthnot
Michelle Pfeiffer as Caroline Hubbard
Daisy Ridley as Mary Debenham
Marwan Kenzari as Pierre Michel
Olivia Colman as Hildegarde Schmidt
Director: Kenneth Branagh

A lavish trip through Europe quickly unfolds into a race against time to solve a murder aboard a train. Everyone’s a suspect when Detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) arrives to interrogate all passengers and search for clues before the killer can strike again.

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I was curious about Murder on the Orient Express, I had never read the original book or watched any adaptations. It was the cast and crew involved that had me interested, especially with Kenneth Branagh directing and starring. As someone who hasn’t seen any version of the story beforehand, I ended up thoroughly enjoyed Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express. The performances (particularly from Kenneth Branagh) and the direction really make this movie. It does have some issues (particularly with its characters) but its good elements far outweigh the weaker elements overall.

I can’t comment on any similarities and differences between this and the original book or other adaptations, so I’ll just treat it as its own thing. It’s not a flashy typical Hollywood whodunit, it is slower paced and feels restrained. I can see a lot of people getting bored of this movie so if you’re going to see it just know that it is very slow paced. The pacing didn’t bother me personally, it felt just right. I was quite intrigued throughout the whole movie, my attention didn’t waver once. This movie has a surprisingly amount of effective humour, especially from Branagh’s Poirot. One issue that I had is that there is so much going on that at times it is hard to follow. At the end, even though I understood most of what happened, I had to look up the plot to clarify certain things. You have to be paying close attention or you could miss details, I know because I was paying attention and I didn’t pick up all of it. The second problem and probably the biggest problem is the handling of the supporting characters. The supporting characters aren’t developed or fleshed out that well. You might be able to remember some aspect about them (like in terms of the actor or the character’s job) but that’s about it. So when names are being thrown all about by Poirot as he theorises what happened, it’s a little jarring and at times hard to follow what’s going on. Its hard to remember these supporting characters, I can barely remember any of the supporting characters’ names, save for a couple.

This movie has a lot of A list actors but the true star of this movie is Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot. He is a little over the top but it works, Hercule is a quirky and likable character and its basically worth watching the movie for this performance alone. Also he manages to sell that over the top handlebar moustache. We have a large and talented supporting cast with Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Colman, Penelope Cruz, Leslie Odom Jr., Johnny Depp and others. For many of those who have had long careers like Judi Dench and Willem Dafoe, their performances here aren’t going to rank up as one of their best but they play their part well, in fact everyone plays their parts rather well. A stand out to me was Josh Gad, who surprised me, he’s usually known for comedic roles in movies like Frozen and Beauty and the Beast. But here he proves that he is really good in a dramatic role. Even Johnny Depp was good, granted his performance was one of the weaker performances and he doesn’t have a massive amount of screentime. As I said, the actors played their roles well, it’s just that the characters really weren’t that fleshed out that well aside from Hercule. I have no issues about the acting however.

Kenneth Branagh directs the film very well. The cinematography is truly great, it’s beautiful looking. The long takes also help show just how big of scale everything is. It makes use of its locations very well. The editing also was top notch and worked well, especially in the scenes where Poirot is piecing together what happened.

I’m not sure how much you’ll like 2017 Murder on the Orient Express. I think you will at the very least appreciate and enjoy Kenneth Branagh’s performance and his direction. Personally, I really liked it, with the acting (especially from Kenneth Branagh) and the direction and the plot which is mostly done well. There are some aspects that didn’t quite work in terms of some of the characters but for the most part this movie does everything right. Branagh has mentioned that he was interested in doing more films with the character of Poirot and I am completely on board for that. I’d love to see him make a return.

Dunkirk (2017) Review

Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Fionn Whitehead as Tommy
Tom Glynn-Carney as Peter
Jack Lowden as Collins
Harry Styles as Alex
Aneurin Barnard as Gibson
James D’Arcy as Colonel Winnant
Barry Keoghan as George
Kenneth Branagh as Commander Bolton
Cillian Murphy as Shivering Soldier
Mark Rylance as Mr Dawson
Tom Hardy as Farrier
Director: Christopher Nolan

In May 1940, Germany advanced into France, trapping Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. Under air and ground cover from British and French forces, troops were slowly and methodically evacuated from the beach using every serviceable naval and civilian vessel that could be found. At the end of this heroic mission, 330,000 French, British, Belgian and Dutch soldiers were safely evacuated.

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Dunkirk is directed by Christopher Nolan, that was enough to get me on board for this movie. I’ve loved nearly every film from him, he always brings his A game to the table to deliver great movies. The concept of him take on a war movie was intriguing, and on top of that he had a great cast with actors like Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy involved. So I was definitely excited to see Dunkirk and unsurprisingly, Nolan did not disappoint. Dunkirk is a very different war movie from most, very intense and captivating and is also one of the best examples of excellent visual storytelling. One of the best films of the year for sure.

This movie is unique compared to other war movies, it is really something special. Dunkirk feels incredibly realistic, more so than most ‘realistic war movies’. Whereas most war movies focus on both the characters and the war, Dunkirk solely focusses on the war. The movie doesn’t ever have a moment when someone gives their life story like most war movies (because in war, that wouldn’t happen). One of the best parts of the movie was the visual storytelling. Nolan uses exposition sparingly, only when necessary. The rest is just pure visual storytelling at its best. If there is one criticism I might have is that there isn’t really a whole lot of character depth or development, it really wasn’t that big of a problem for me. However, I do think it could’ve been possible to give the characters a little more depth then they ended up displaying in the movie. It’s just a minor flaw though. Dunkirk has three perspectives, one on land with Fionn Whitehead over a week, one on boat with Mark Rylance over a day, and one in the air with Tom Hardy over an hour. The transitions are a little jarring sometimes like, when its night-time in the land segment and then it suddenly cuts to daytime in the plane section. This movie is short for a Nolan movie at 1 hour 46 minutes and I think it was a good running time, its not too short and it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

This movie has a large and talented cast with Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh and others and they were great in their roles. As I said earlier, this movie doesn’t have a lot of character development or exposition, the actors just needed to act well in their roles and they really did that. An example is Tom Hardy, most of the time his face is covered by a mask and he’s just acting with his eyes and he is one of the stand out performances in the film. And yes, even Harry Styles is pretty good in his role.

Christopher Nolan directed this movie, and as usual he brings his A-game, it is what makes this movie work so incredibly well. The cinematography by Hoyte van Hotyema is top notch, you completely feel like you’re with these people during these events. This film feels very realistic, the war sequences never feels overblown or over the top, there’s no self indulgent bloody violence for the sake of violence. Hans Zimmer’s score raises the tension, definitely plays a big part in making the film work. Honestly all things considered, this one of Christopher Nolan’s best directed films yet.

Dunkirk is yet another excellent film from Christopher Nolan. Along with the acting and story, the direction and visual storytelling is absolutely fantastic. It’s also an important movie, and watching these events of Dunkirk occur is really compelling. I can’t say how this movie would rank against Nolan’s other movies, but it is probably one of his best, which is saying a lot. Dunkirk is truly one of the best films of the year.

Thor (2011) Review

Photo credit: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures / Marvel Studios
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in THOR, from Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment. 

© 2011 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2011 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

Thor

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Natalie Portman as Jane Foster
Tom Hiddleston as Loki
Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig
Colm Feore as Laufey:
Ray Stevenson as Volstagg
Idris Elba as Heimdall:
Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis
Rene Russo as Frigga
Anthony Hopkins as Odin:
Director: Kenneth Branagh

As the son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), king of the Norse gods, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) will soon inherit the throne of Asgard from his aging father. However, on the day that he is to be crowned, Thor reacts with brutality when the gods’ enemies, the Frost Giants, enter the palace in violation of their treaty. As punishment, Odin banishes Thor to Earth. While Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s brother, plots mischief in Asgard, Thor, now stripped of his powers, faces his greatest threat.

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Some people might be able to see Iron Man and Captain America on the big screen but they couldn’t have seen how they would’ve done Thor. He is so larger than life and he’s a superhero character based in a different type of universe. However this movie introduced Thor in a pretty good way and by the time The Avengers came around, we were all onboard for seeing Thor play a part. It’s not one of the best movies in the Marvel Universe but considering that director Kenneth Branagh had to introduce Thor, it’s impressive how well he did it.

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As I said before, this film does well at introducing Thor to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I don’t think that having a fish out of water tale was the best way to introduce him but the movie still worked well and was lots better than you would initially think. One thing that I noticed is that the film succeeded most when it was taking place on Asgard. When it took place on Earth it was fine but it didn’t feel as strong. I will say at least all the Earth scenes served a purpose, it wasn’t just for bad comic relief (that would be saved for Thor: The Dark World). Speaking of comic relief, there’s quite a little bit of it, particularly with Kat Dennings and although it wasn’t great it wasn’t really bad either and didn’t distract much.

Photo credit: Zade Rosenthal / Marvel Studiosâ€(R)Left to right: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) in THOR, from Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment.â€(R)â€(R)© 2011 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2011 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

Chris Hemsworth nails the role of Thor, I personally think that out of all of the Avengers this is the toughest role to pull off. He needed to be larger than life but yet be three dimensional at the same time. Natalie Portman is quite good and does share good chemistry with Hemsworth. Tom Hiddleston does quite well as Loki, even though he’s not as strong as in later movies he is pretty effective as a villain here. Anthony Hopkins is also great as Odin, even though you don’t see much of him in the movie, he is really believable as this character.

Odin banishes Thor

As I said previously, the best scenes of the movie are once again when in Asgard but it’s not just because it’s more interesting, everything there looks grand and exciting. This is probably why I really liked the action in this movie, everything feels on a grand scale and although there isn’t a lot of it, when it was happening it looked great. This grand style would be sadly missing from Thor: The Dark World. That style really elevated the movie and made everything much more epic. This is a little bit of a nitpick but I should mention that there were a little too many dutch angles for my taste and sometimes it got distracting but it was fine for the most part.

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Thor expanded the Marvel Universe and showed that they could go into many areas of the comic book universe. It’s not one of the best movies in the MCU but it is good and it is definitely worth watching. Even if there were some parts that could’ve been improved, I think that Kenneth Branagh did pretty well at putting Thor on the big screen and I do think that he was a good pick for this movie. Thor: The Dark World would be a decent sequel but commit as many mistakes as the previous movie.