Tag Archives: LaKeith Stanfield

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021) Review

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

Judas and the Black Messiah

Time: 126 Minutes
Cast:
Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton
Lakeith Stanfield as William “Bill” O’Neal
Jesse Plemons as Roy Mitchell
Dominique Fishback as Deborah Johnson
Ashton Sanders as Jimmy Palmer
Martin Sheen as J. Edgar Hoover
Darrell Britt-Gibson as Bobby Rush
Lil Rel Howery as Wayne
Algee Smith as Jake Winters
Director: Shaka King

Offered a plea deal by the FBI, William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) infiltrates the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party to gather intelligence on Chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya).

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I heard about Judas and the Black Messiah for a while, I already liked the actors involved, but it was the trailer that made it stand out for me. It then quickly became one of my most anticipated movies and it especially came up in awards conversations, particularly with the performances. It was pushed back to the next year but was released early enough so that it could make it to the current upcoming awards season. Judas and the Black Messiah definitely lived up to the acclaim and expectations.

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Judas and the Black Messiah is written incredibly well and is captivating from beginning to end. It’s tightly scripted and compelling, with a strong energy and an intense atmosphere throughout. One of the standout aspects that makes the movie work so well is that it doesn’t feel like a typical biopic, probably because it isn’t. In some ways it feels more like a historical drama/thriller about one person infiltrating a group, and that helps it work even better if anything. The film at its core is about Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton, as well as FBI informant William O’Neal who infiltrates the Black Panther Party. Both storylines get roughly the same amount of screentime and are presented with equal weight, representing an important perspective of a significant time period. The movie is tough to watch at times, it’s a hauntingly tragic powerhouse of a drama that is riveting, even if (and especially if) you know how it ends. One of the biggest surprises of the movie is that it doesn’t shy away from painting the police and the FBI as the bad guys, and it also unapologetic with showing Hampton’s leftist views, both of which you wouldn’t think that a big budget awards movie would do. As you can probably tell from the subject matter, the movie is timely, meaningful and impactful to today’s society. It’s a smart and uncompromising tragedy about fear and power that’s likely to keep you on edge and hooked throughout.

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The acting from everyone in this movie is great. Daniel Kaluuya stars as Fred Hampton, and he didn’t just play him, he truly becomes him. His performance is magnetic and commands a lot of attention every time he’s on screen. He’s not portraying Hampton as a martyr or a hero, but a real person who is fighting for his rights. He inhabits the role perfectly, exuding the same emotions one would expect from him. He’s sensational here, every single line delivery has passion, and those big speeches are where he particularly shines. It’s likely because of Kaluuya’s standout performance that some might forget Lakeith Stanfield’s layered performance as informant William O’Neal, which might be his best work to date. We see much of the film through his eyes, showing us what he went through. Surprisingly, the film never truly demonises his character, bringing sympathy to the role of someone who sold out his own people. You can feel the turmoil within him as he questions whether he’s doing the right thing, as well as the paranoia and shame that eats away at him throughout. It does feel like his role is a bit underwritten, but the performance does a lot to make up for that. The supporting cast in Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, and Ashton Sanders also deliver some great work too.

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Shaka King’s direction is great, he has a very sleek and unique style of filmmaking. From the cinematography, to the production design, the costumes and the score, everything was perfectly constructed. It’s particularly shot beautifully, and the way the ‘action’ scenes were filmed were interesting. King’s makes the film feel very grounded and really helped add to the intense atmosphere in the film.

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Judas and the Black Messiah is a bold and fantastic film that deserves all the praise and accolades. It’s directed incredibly well, it’s written masterfully, and the performances are extraordinary, especially from Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield. Watch it as soon as you get the chance to.

Uncut Gems (2019) Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Cast:
Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner
Julia Fox as Julia
Idina Menzel as Dinah Ratner
Lakeith Stanfield as Demany
Kevin Garnett as himself
Eric Bogosian as Arno
Director: Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie

From acclaimed filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie comes an electrifying crime thriller about Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler), a charismatic New York City jeweler always on the lookout for the next big score. When he makes a series of high-stakes bets that could lead to the windfall of a lifetime, Howard must perform a precarious high-wire act, balancing business, family, and encroaching adversaries on all sides, in his relentless pursuit of the ultimate win.

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Uncut Gems was one of my most anticipated movies of 2019. The Safdie Brothers impressed me quite a bit with Good Time back in 2017, and so I was interested in seeing what they would do next. Also the fact that Adam Sandler was cast in the lead role interested me, because I just knew that he was going to return to being dramatic Sandler even for just one movie, and basing off of Punch Drunk Love, I knew that he would be great. Uncut Gems on the whole was great, and one of the highlights of the year.

Uncut Gems is another thriller from the Safdies, this time it’s a different kind of thriller. There’s a bunch of things going on at once, with lead character Howard Ratner constantly placing bets while being heavily in debt. Although there are moments to breathe (with a movie a 2 hours and 15 minutes long you’d expect that to be the case), you are constantly aware of the danger that is present, and the stakes are high for our main character. Every time things go right for Howard, he does something to put himself into dangerous situations again, usually by placing another bet. The tension just keeps being raised and raised even further. It’s full of energy constantly from start to finish, and the characters are very well realised. The second act does slow down the pace quite a bit for some reason, and while it was fine, it was rather out of place. The third act was particularly great, very suspenseful and effective, concluded by a fitting ending.

Much of the talk is about how great Adam Sandler is, and the talk is well deserved. I’d go so far as to say that this is his best performance, and having seen Punch Drunk Love, that’s saying a lot. While you can definitely tell it’s Sandler all the way through, he performs his character of Howard Ratner perfectly, I can’t see anyone else in this role. Howard is not a good person, he’s not very likable, and he could’ve easily been obnoxious to watch on screen. Sandler however manages to get you to tolerate him and even root for him, even when he often keeps digging himself into a deeper grave. He has this immense energy in him that works perfectly for the character. The movie is already great, but even if it wasn’t, it would be worth watching for his performance alone. That’s not all though, the supporting cast does well too, including Idina Menzel as Howard’s wife, and Lakeith Stanfield who is good as always. Former professional basketball plater Kevin Garnett actually plays himself as part of the plot, and he’s actually a really good actor, he’s great here. Eric Bogosian does some effective work as a loanshark that Howard is in debt to. A standout among the supporting cast (and that’s saying a lot) however is Julia Fox as Howard’s girlfriend. I think this is Fox’s first movie, and he leaves quite a strong impression in this movie, and I hope she gets a lot more roles from her work here.

The Safdie Brothers has once again directed this incredibly. I’m not sure how it’s possible for them to top Good Time on a directing level at least, but they’ve done it here. It’s well shot and edited from start to finish, one of the highlight scenes took place at a nightclub. The tense scenes are made even more tense by how it is directed. If possible, see this in a cinema, though I’m aware that due to some weak distribution that’s not always possible (certainly wasn’t the case for me). The music by Daniel Lopatin worked quite well, fitting the fast paced nature of the rest of the movie.

Uncut Gems is great, and one of the highlights of the year. It’s written and directed incredibly well by the Safdie Brothers, and the cast is great, especially with a career best performance from Adam Sandler. It’s a movie I’d like to revisit for sure.

Knives Out (2019) Review

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Daniel Craig as Detective Benoit Blanc
Chris Evans as Hugh “Ransom” Drysdale
Ana de Armas as Marta Cabrera
Jamie Lee Curtis as Linda Drysdale
Michael Shannon as Walter “Walt” Thrombey
Don Johnson as Richard Drysdale
Toni Collette as Joni Thrombey
Lakeith Stanfield as Detective Lieutenant Elliot
Katherine Langford as Megan “Meg” Thrombey
Jaeden Martell as Jacob Thrombey
Christopher Plummer as Harlan Thrombey
Noah Segan as Trooper Wagner
Director: Rian Johnson

When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. From Harlan’s dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Harlan’s untimely death.

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Knives Out was one of my most anticipated films of 2019. I’m always interested in seeing what writer/director Rian Johnson does next, and with him going from Star Wars to a much smaller movie and especially a whodunit, I was already on board. However, you add on top of that an insane cast that includes Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon and more, and I’m absolutely going to be excited for it. Knives Out is not only one of the biggest crowd-pleasers of the year, it’s one of the best films from the year too.

Rian Johnson’s script is nothing short of fantastic. Talking about how and why much of it works so well is quite difficult without revealing important things, so don’t go in knowing too much. Even the non spoilerish aspects are best experienced for yourself. Thankfully the trailers do a good job at not revealing too much about the movie beyond the premise and setup. What I can say is that Knives Out is quite different from what you’d initially expect it to be at first. What Johnson did with the noire genre in Brick, he does with the whodunit here, modernising it, and adding some twists on it. I will need to watch it again to see if much of the reveals still hold up, but on first viewing I’m more than satisfied with where he took the story and characters. I genuinely was surprised at some of the twists that happened. It’s also a hilarious movie, with some great and memorable dialogue. At 2 hours and 10 minutes long, it has your attention from start to finish. Early on I can see people wondering where this movie is going. However, at a certain point, I think most audiences are going to be locked into the plot.

As previously mentioned, the cast is massive and they played their roles really well. Daniel Craig is instantly iconic as Detective Benoit Blanc, a private detective investigating the murder. His performance is definitely over the top, especially with the southern accent, he’s playing on detectives like Hercule Poriot. With this and Logan Lucky, Craig has been really showing that he has a solid comedic side to him that we don’t get to see often. There have been talks about having more movies featuring the character of Blanc, and I’d definitely like to see that. However one of the biggest surprises is that Craig isn’t even the main character. When I say that Knives Out is Ana de Armas’s movie, I’m not just saying that because she steals much of the movie, even though she does that. Her character of Marta is at the centre of the film, and without revealing too much of the movie, she’s ultimately Knives Out’s secret weapon, she’s going to take a lot of people by surprise. The cast making up the rich family at the centre of the mystery with Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell and Christopher Plummer are all great, and have plenty of moments to show off. They work well at both the dramatic and comedic parts. Some of them get to do more than others, like Martell out of them is really only noticed in a few scenes, but the rest of them do well to make themselves known. Out of them however, I’d say that Evans is the standout. Plummer as the murder victim at the centre doesn’t get a massive amount of screentime but he’s nonetheless a major part and is a presence felt throughout. Additionally Lakeith Stanfield and Noah Segan also work well in supporting roles as a detective and a police officer investing the murder along with Blanc, though I did want to see a little more from Stanfield.

Rian Johnson’s direction is still on point, and he’s got a fantastic handle on the whole film. When the first trailers came out from Knives Out, I noticed some people commenting that it looks like a tv show rather than an actual film. I can say that sitting in a theatre and watching the movie begin, that couldn’t be further from the truth, it was stunning to look at. It’s very much stylised, and like with Johnson’s debut with Brick, it throws back to the movies of the same genre that its clearly inspired by (in Knives Out’s case that of course being the whodunit).

With Knives Out, Rian Johnson shows once again that he’s one of the most unique and exciting filmmakers working together. It’s very well directed, and the script is outstanding, with some effective twists, fleshed out characters, and is much more than what you’d expect it to be at first. Add on top of that a fantastic cast who perform excellently (highlights being Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas and Chris Evans), and you have one of the best (and most entertaining) movies of the year. Definitely don’t miss it at the cinema.

Sorry to Bother You (2018) Review

Time: 111 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, drug use, sexual material, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Lakeith Stanfield as Cassius “Cash” Green
David Cross as Cash’s “white voice”
Tessa Thompson as Detroit
Jermaine Fowler as Salvador
Omari Hardwick as Mr. _______
Patton Oswalt as Mr. _______’s white voice
Terry Crews as Sergio Green
Danny Glover as Langston
Steven Yeun as Squeeze
Armie Hammer as Steve Lift
Director: Boots Reilly

In an alternate reality of present-day Oakland, Calif., telemarketer Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) finds himself in a macabre universe after he discovers a magical key that leads to material glory. As Green’s career begins to take off, his friends and co-workers organize a protest against corporate oppression. Cassius soon falls under the spell of Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), a cocaine-snorting CEO who offers him a salary beyond his wildest dreams.

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I had been hearing some buzz for Sorry to Bother You for a while. A lot of people have been proclaiming it one of the best of the year, while it polarised a lot of other people. I didn’t watch any of the trailers, I just knew that basic plot and some of the cast involved and that was it, so going in I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Sorry to Bother You is one of the most original films of the year that will work for some and won’t work for others. Its full of ideas, entertaining, and is mostly well put together.

You have to watch Sorry to Bother You as an absurdist dark comedy, you can’t take lots of the movie as literal. So much of the movie is satirical, and a lot of the satire is blatant rather than subtle but it still somehow works. Thematically there’s a lot going on (which you’ll see for yourself), maybe a little too much, like writer/director Boots Reilly wanted to cover a lot and maybe he chose to do too much. Though I think it works well enough. I think it would be a disservice to reveal some of the things that happen in the movie (and plus it benefits not knowing much going in), so I’ll keep it as vague as possible. The whole thing about the lead character becoming successful as a telemarketer by putting on a ‘white voice’ is pretty much just covering the first act. Even when odd things were happening in the first and second acts, it wasn’t full out crazy yet. Where that changed was in the third act, from a suddenly dark moment/reveal that changes a lot from that point going forward. You just sort of have to go along with it, as absurd as it is. I was able to go along with it but I can easily see why it doesn’t work for others and was too much, because it is admittedly ridiculous both on paper and in practice. Sorry to Bother You is an hour and 50 minutes long and I found it entertaining from start to finish. Both the comedy and drama was balanced out well I thought, even though there’s generally more comedy here. There is a sort of ‘argument’ of sorts between Lakeith Stanfield and Jermaine Fowler that’s one of the funniest scenes of 2018. Aside from potentially tackling way too many themes, I guess the only other flaw I could think of was that the female characters are a little underwritten. Honestly there’s a lot to take in with the movie, so my opinion on the plot and the overall movie may change on a second viewing.

Lakeith Stanfield is great in the lead role as Cassius Green, balancing both drama and comedy really well, particularly shining in the later scenes of the movie. Tessa Thompson is really good as Cassius’s girlfriend, I mentioned how the female roles are underwritten a little bit, but Thompson does a lot with aherrole and is a real standout. Jermaine Fowler, Steven Yeun, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews and Danny Glover are also good as the supporting cast. The white voices, done by David Cross, Patton Oswalt and Lily James were also pretty good. Although he’s not in the movie a lot, Armie Hammer gives by far his best performance yet here as a cocaine fuelled CEO. It’s a very different role for him, a much darker and hateable role but he actually seems at home playing it, more so than his other roles. He steals every scene that he’s in and I kinda wished that we got to see more of him. Aside from an interview clip in the first act, we really see him in a few scenes from the end of the second act.

For a directorial debut, Boots Reilly did a great job with the film overall. What particularly stood out is that he gets really creative with the way that he films a lot of the scenes. For example, earlier when Lakeith calls someone (because he’s a telemarketer), it actually shows him and his desk dropping right in front of the person before he talks to him. Other sequences like the transitions are also filmed fantastically, really unique from any other directors. The dubbing of the white voices can be pretty messy most of the time. You do eventually get used to it and it’s not a big flaw, but it does stand out.

Sorry to Bother You is definitely not for everyone, it’s weird, it’s not subtle, and maybe it covers a little too much thematically. However, it worked well for me, with the cast all doing a wonderful job, and Boots Reilly’s writing and direction being really something else. You just can’t compare Sorry to Bother You to any other film, and it’s one of my favourites of the year. Reilly has clearly proven his talent as a writer and behind the camera, and I’m really looking forward to seeing more of his film work.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018) Review

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, cruelty & content that may disturb
Cast:
Claire Foy as Lisbeth Salander
Sverrir Gudnason as Mikael Blomkvist
LaKeith Stanfield as Edwin Needham
Sylvia Hoeks as Camilla Salander
Stephen Merchant as Frans Balder
Vicky Krieps as Erika Berger
Claes Bang as Jan Holtser
Director: Fede Álvarez

Fired from the National Security Agency, Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant) recruits hacker Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) to steal FireFall, a computer program that can access codes for nuclear weapons worldwide. The download soon draws attention from an NSA agent who traces the activity to Stockholm. Further problems arise when Russian thugs take Lisbeth’s laptop and kidnap a math whiz who can make FireFall work. Now, Lisbeth and an unlikely ally must race against time to save the boy and recover the codes to avert disaster.

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Let’s just say that I had some very mixed feelings going into The Girl in the Spider’s Web. I loved David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it was so well put together and Rooney Mara was a perfect Lisbeth Salander. I haven’t watched the Swedish trilogy but I’m sure it’s great as well. Let’s just say that I was a little ticked off that not only was Sony skipping the adaptations of the second and third books, none of the cast or Fincher would be returning to be a part of it, really a wasted opportunity. But despite this, I decided to give this newer movie a chance, I decided to treat it like it’s the own thing. It still had some talented people involved, with Claire Foy and Sylvia Hoeks starring and Evil Dead remake and Don’t Breathe director Fede Alvarez helming the movie. Even when I put Fincher’s version out of my mind, things still weren’t looking all that great from the trailers, seeming more like a generic action thriller and looked like it was turning Lisbeth Salander into a superhero or a spy. I just had a really bad feeling about it but I still decided to check it out for myself. Long story short it ended up being better and worse than I thought it would be, with much of my fears of the movie coming true. The Girl in the Spider’s web definitely has some good parts to it and is entertaining but it is held back by a script and story which is trying too hard to be an action spy movie. Ultimately it doesn’t work as a Lisbeth Salander movie and it doesn’t work that much better as its own movie either.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web is better when seen on its own, in that when it comes to the plot/writing, I’m going to talk separately about it as a sequel/reboot, and then as a movie. First of all, it is based off of The Girl in the Spider’s Web book, I know that they changed some things but I haven’t read the book so I can’t exactly comment on how much was changed and whether it was for the better or worse. Sony was really trying to push the movie as a sequel to the Fincher film, to the point where the title is really ‘The Girl in the Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story’ (no way anyone is calling it that), which is a terrible idea because it’s a reboot with a completely different tone and takes on characters. Let’s just say for this movie, I’m glad that none of the original cast returned for it, because they would be completely out of place with this story and what’s being done with the characters. Whereas the Fincher film, presumably the Swedish movies and the previous 3 books were more dark mystery thrillers, this is a straight up action spy thriller. This movie all surrounds FireFall, a computer program that can access all nuclear weapons ever (and I mean like worldwide). This is far removed from the gritty and grim stories from the books, and is an attempt at being an espionage spy movie. Though to be fair, part of that falls on the writer of The Girl in the Spider’s Web book, David Lagercrantz (not written by the original trilogy of novels Stieg Larsson). Where Stieg Larsson explored trauma and the emotional pain that Lisbeth Salander suffered from, Lagercrantz pretty much tried to make a spy story with Lisbeth Salander, so it’s not all the screenwriters’ fault, it’s just they leaned in heavy with the spy aspect, maybe a little too much. Thankfully there isn’t a sequence where Lisbeth has a limited amount of time to press a button to stop all nuclear weapons from launching or anything like that, but it nonetheless feels a little silly. The silliness doesn’t just stop at the plot though, the movie itself has some pretty silly moments. I mean like at the end of the first act, you see Lisbeth drive a motorcycle off a bridge onto a frozen pond and drive to the other side on ice (which has no friction by the way) without the ice completely breaking under the weight of the motorcycle. The other stories are usually set in some form of reality but Lisbeth here is pretty much flawless with everything, especially hacking anything, doing impossible things. As for Lisbeth herself… I’ll address that when I talk about Claire Foy’s performance, because there’s a lot to talk about. The story is really sanitised as well. I don’t need to have like 5 graphic rape scenes or anything, but the general vibe of the story and scenes doesn’t feel right. It feels like they were trying to make it as accessible as possible for the general audience, while it certainly is more accessible, I don’t think it was really worth it. Honestly if you tone down some of the blood, violence and language, The Girl in the Spider’s Web could easily pass as a PG-13/M rating movie. Again, graphic content doesn’t guarantee that it will be good, but sanitising it to make it more into a conventional blockbuster removes a lot of the series’ identity.

Treating the movie on its own, I’ll say that you’ll enjoy the movie much more if you haven’t watched the other movies or read the books. There aren’t any references to the previous movies or stories, so its not like you’re missing a lot. With that being said, since this movie doesn’t really explore or develop Lisbeth and Mikael, you’ll feel like you are missing some bits of story with them. I will admit that the first act started off okay, it had some silly moments and issues but I was enjoying it and I was on board with what was going on. After Lisbeth manages to survive an explosion however, from that point onwards the movie started sinking in quality, with occasional brief sparks of potential and solid moments. I was personally entertained throughout but it’s not because of the story by any means, the story itself is not really interesting, the writing is very messy and given Fede Alvarez and Steven Knight’s prior work, I’m not sure what happened here. The movie feels very repetitive, Lisbeth achieves something, there’s a convenient set back, rinse and repeat. There’s also nothing particularly compelling in the movie, the characters aren’t interesting and don’t progress or change at all(not even Lisbeth), the story is really predictable (there really weren’t any surprises at all) and you just don’t care about what’s going on with the characters or the story. Every time they start to add some emotional weight to the story, they cut it off too quickly by either moving on with the plot or jumping to an action scene. This is a movie that is all plot and no characters, the movie merely uses the characters to progress the story forward and that’s it. It’s almost like what we have here is an adaptation of a pretty decent first draft of the actual script that needed more revisions with depth before filming. By the end of the movie, you don’t care who ends up with FireFall, you’re just watching what’s happening with no investment in the story or the characters. There are a lot of conveniences as well, whether that being everything somehow working in favour for Lisbeth (or she’s superhuman, that seems equally likely) or things that could’ve been easily stopped holding her back from sorting out all her problems quickly. It’s worth noting that every character outside of Lisbeth is not smart at all, and there are many moments showing all of this. One of the most unintentional funny moments was when Mikael makes a breakthrough in his investigation… because he’s told by someone that a word that he found out is Russian. In fact there are many moments which are unintentionally funny. One of them was in the third act that involves a car crash, which is so absurd and anti-climatic that I couldn’t believe that the writers actually did that (you’ll know what I mean when you see it). Then there’s a bag scene that takes place in a hospital that’s so… bizarrely convoluted and randomly hilarious. I will say to the movie’s credit, some of its absurd moments did at least make the experience more entertaining. Thankfully this movie moves at a fast enough pace that it doesn’t give you a chance to be bored. Even when seen as its own movie, The Girl in the Spider’s Web still has a bunch of issues but it’s slightly less frustrating than when you consider it a part of the Lisbeth Salander series.

Claire Foy is one of the two main reasons this movie still manages to be somewhat okay. She does give a good performance as Lisbeth Salander, and she really does elevate her character. Now I say this, but it really is a bad sign when an actress playing Lisbeth Salander has to elevate the character, because it means that she wasn’t well written, which is the case here. There is problems with her character and it has nothing to do with Foy, again she elevated the writing of her character, giving it more than it deserved. This version of Lisbeth Salander is like people saw a brief summary of her, reading about how she rides a motorcycle, she’s a hacker, wears black and has a bit of a dark past and most of all that she’s ‘cool’ and they just ran with that. It’s such a shallow interpretation of this very unique character. I knew there was cause for concern when Fede Alvarez compared Lisbeth Salander to Batman, aside from the fact that one doesn’t compare Lisbeth to other characters (you compare other characters to Lisbeth Salander rather), but she is her own character and thing, and they shouldn’t be trying to make her like a superhero. Despite it delving into her past (for like the second half of the movie) we don’t really get to learn much more about Salander, and we don’t see her develop over the course of the story. Like with the story, they really did hold back with the disturbing aspects about her. By lessening the darker aspects and making her easier to like, you remove much of her uniqueness and you make her into a 2 dimensional ‘strong female character’ (and by that I mean the almost most generic version of a ‘strong female character’ that you could come up with). All the complex and disturbing aspects of Salander have been trimmed down so that she would appear as a rigid, selfless and more heroic character, and a result this made her a more boring character. Like I mentioned earlier, she fares better when not seen as Lisbeth Salander and rather as another character entirely, but she still feels lacking in some interesting aspects for other audiences to really latch onto her completely. She doesn’t really become one with the character of Salander, seeming to more imitate the persona more than anything. This is the only time I’m going to compare the other Lisbeths to Foy’s but the other versions seemed really intimidating and you don’t see the actress but rather the character they are being. Claire Foy’s version looks punk and ‘badass’ and all that but there’s not really a big presence with her it, not really intimidating, and you just see Foy playing the character more than actually being her. Claire Foy deserved a lot better than this, in a better written role, she could’ve been even better. I will say that Claire Foy is believable in the physical and action sections, she handled these scenes greatly. Foy’s performance thankfully elevates the character and movie quite a bit, on the whole though, this new interpretation of Lisbeth doesn’t add anything new or interesting, aside from doing more action and being more funny I guess…? (if you classify making a program flip the bird after hacking something or filling a bag full of dildos funny, no really, that happens in the movie as well).

The rest of the cast just didn’t work as well as Foy, it’s not their fault however, its more so the writing of their characters and how they were utilised in the story. Mikael Blomkvist is an important character in the books and the prior movies, with him pretty much being the secondary lead along with Lisbeth. In The Girl in the Spider’s Web however, he’s more of a supporting player. He actually did more in the plot than other reviews of this movie have implied, but it still feels weird for him not to do much. Him ‘doing stuff’ in the movie is him basically doing research and investigating certain things, though it’s so small and easy for him to do that you could’ve almost given the scenes to Lisbeth and just cut him out of the movie entirely. It’s like he’s only here because he’s an important character in the books and they had to come up with some things for him to do. I guess there wasn’t a huge problem with him being in a supporting role (outside of it being jarring), but outside of his first scene, it’s like he’s not nothing going on in his life at all, like Lisbeth and what she’s doing is the only thing he’s really focussed on throughout the movie (as I said ago with this movie, all plot, no characters). What is a bit of a problem is that the whole Lisbeth/Mikael dynamic doesn’t feel real or genuine at all. It’s mentioned a few times in the story that they had history together but the way they act it’s like they only just met, there’s no chemistry between them whatsoever, so the scenes when they interact with each other just fall flat. With that said, actor Sverrir Gudnason still does his best with this role, he’s definitely not the problem here. LaKeith Stanfield plays an NSA agent tracking Lisbeth after she steals FireFall. Stanfield does a good job with his performance but his character for like half the movie feels rather pointless, he’s trying to get to Lisbeth but not even getting anywhere close, constantly failing and so you’re left to wonder why he’s even in the movie if he adds nothing to it. The only reason he’s even in the first half is to set him up for being somewhat involved with the plot in the second half, which is when he actually does things. Stephen Merchant doesn’t get to do a lot of anything here but he’s good with the scenes he’s in. Fresh off her excellent performance in Phantom Thread (one of the best performances of 2017 in fact), Vicky Krieps is in this movie… playing a supporting character’s (Mikael) love interest for like 4-5 scenes, with 3 of them actually having her talking, ultimately not really serving anything to the plot at all. One thing that I was looking forward to was the villain played by Sylvia Hoeks. I would refrain from spoilers but since the trailers have already spoiled it plenty of times (and it’s easy to figure out anyway in the movie) I won’t hide it either, she plays Camilla Salander, Lisbeth’s sister. Though I didn’t read the book, Hoeks sounded like a great pick for her character, especially after her scene stealing villainous performance in Blade Runner 2049. However, she is so incredibly underutilised in the movie. She shows up halfway into the movie, and for a character who shares such a history with Lisbeth, they needed more scenes together. Even flashbacks with the character in childhood would’ve added something. Camilla is not interesting, and is really just a ‘burn the world’ villain, all dressed up in bright red and all around she feels like a mid tier Bond villain, specifically like Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld from Spectre. The two have a lot of similarities, and just know that when I say that I mean that in a bad way (if you’ve seen Spectre, you know what I’m talking about). With some of the confrontation scenes between her and Lisbeth, you can tell that the movie wants you to care about what’s going on but there aren’t enough scenes with them together that you just don’t, so it falls flat. Particularly the most annoying scene is the final scene with them together, because had we cared about the two of them up to that point, it really could’ve been a very impactful scene but it wasn’t at all, I felt nothing. Sylvia Hoeks does play up the role and is good with what little she has, she may be a little over the top at times but at least she’s trying her best. I’m not sure how it’s possible for one film to mishandle absolutely every character they had (not to mention the very talented cast they had), but The Girl in the Spider’s Web somehow manages to achieve that.

Fede Alvarez was the other reason this movie manages to be okay. He was an interesting pick for the movies, known for his horrors with Don’t Breathe and the Evil Dead remake. I was a tad worried cos from the trailers the movie seemed to look like it Fincher-lite direction. However, he actually did a good job, though it does feel like he was held back a little. Earlier I was saying about how I was always entertained and that was because of Alvarez’s direction, he injects every scene with energy that has you paying enough attention to what’s going on. The cinematography by Pedro Luque looks beautiful as well. I will say thought that I’m a little disappointed that despite Alvarez’s previous films, we don’t really get much horror elements, except for maybe a couple moments in the third act. With that said, there are still some well directed moments, one of which is of Lisbeth directly after a fight in the second act. As much as I dislike that there is action in the movie (and a considerable amount of these scenes), the action scenes are generally filmed pretty well. With that said, there are some fight scenes which are a little hard to follow what’s going on sometimes, with some shaky cam and a bunch of cuts, and it can be frustrating.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web is such a mixed bag. On one hand, Claire Foy gives a good performance (despite being held back quite a bit by the writing) and Fede Alvarez does add a lot to the movie with his directing. On the other hand, without them the movie would’ve just been rather average and forgettable (or at least more forgettable than it is already). And all my problems don’t come from this the fact that it doesn’t have Rooney Mara, or David Fincher, or any of the 2011 film’s cast and crew, these are all issues that I have with it as a Lisbeth Salander movie and as a movie on its own. I know I’ve gone on about a lot of problems that I had (this review is definitely way longer than I initially intended it to be), mainly with it as a Lisbeth Salander movie, though I am aware that if you aren’t such a fan of the character or stories, this probably won’t bother you that much. With all that said, despite its many issues I wouldn’t say that it’s a bad movie per se, I was entertained more than I thought I would be and there are some legitimately good parts to is. If you haven’t read the books or watched the other movies but like how The Girl in the Spider’s Web looks, I’d say give it a watch, though it’s still got a lot of issues. I’m not quite sure what to say if you liked the other movies, except that if you are die hard fans of the books, you are probably going to have a ton of issues with the movie. I’ll just say that it’s not bad but not good either, and not the Lisbeth Salander or story that you know and love. If Sony tries to make another live action Lisbeth Salander story adaptation, I can say with certainty that it won’t be a film sequel to The Girl in the Spider’s Web.

Death Note (2017) Review

Time: 101 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Nat Wolff as Light Turner/”Kira”
Lakeith Stanfield as L
Margaret Qualley as Mia Sutton
Shea Whigham as James Turner
Paul Nakauchi as Watari
Willem Dafoe and Jason Liles as Ryuk
Director: Adam Wingard

Light Turner (Nat Wolff), a bright student, stumbles across a mystical notebook that has the power to kill any person whose name he writes in it. Light decides to launch a secret crusade to rid the streets of criminals. Soon, the student-turned-vigilante finds himself pursued by a famous detective known only by the alias L (Keith Stanfield).

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Adam Wingard’s Death Note was something I was curious about. I hadn’t watched the original anime but I knew of its concept and I loved Wingard’s direction of The Guest, so it had a lot of potential. Upon its release, his adaptation had received a lot of hate, mostly from people who saw the original anime. I decided to check it out for myself and honestly, Death Note wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be but it is a waste of potential. Some of the performances were good and the direction was mostly great, but this script has so many problems that it really lets the overall movie down.

I’ll just get this out of the way, the writing has a lot of issues. Again, I haven’t seen the original anime so I can’t comment on the changes they’ve made, but from what I can tell they’ve made a lot. The movie feels a little rushed, Light (the protagonist) gets the Death Note and makes his first kill within 10 minutes, there is barely enough time for his character or really anything to be established. This idea about the Death Note had a lot of potential and at first its okay, with Light killing off people under a different identity but after a while this plotline just stops. Honestly looking back at this movie, not a whole lot of things happen, Light gets the Death Note, he starts killing people off, a detective named L comes along posing a problem, there’s some conflict there and then it’s the third act. This movie is an hour 40 minutes, and while this movie isn’t always interesting, I’d be fine with it being longer if they actually had more going on. The dialogue was terrible at points, I found it difficult to care about what was going on and I really wasn’t consistently invested throughout Death Note. There were also some unintentionally hilarious moments, an example being Light’s reaction to seeing Ryuk (Willem Dafoe) for the first time. I will say that I enjoyed watching parts of Death Note, there were writing issues aside and some cringe worthy moments but for the most part I was somewhat intrigued or entertained. The third act however does feel like they just wanted to shove so many twists into it, like its ridiculous how many times they just kept putting twists, which makes the movie feel jarring instead of actually making it better. The writing is really a mixed bag.

Nat Wolff is the lead actor of Death Note, I don’t know if he is a good actor or not but he didn’t really give a good performance. Granted the character wasn’t written that well, his character motives and changes aren’t really established well enough. I guess from what I can tell, the character is different from the anime and while I can understand why it was done in this way, it’s less interesting. However Wolff does have some moments where he’s somewhat okay for what the character is written here. That’s more than I can say for the love interest played by Margaret Qualley, who is really annoying and unlikable. I get that she might be intended to be that way but there’s nothing likable about her. The romance between the two is unfortunately a prominent part of the film. The chemistry isn’t strong, and it just starts randomly after a few scenes of them together. Those two aside, there are some pretty good performances at the same time. Willem Dafoe does the voice or Ryuk, a demon of the Death Note book and he definitely stole the show whenever his character was around. Ryuk isn’t around a lot unfortunately. There was also the character of L, played by Keith Stanfield. He was a standout of the film, I can’t tell whether there was any major changes to him from the original anime but on his own I thought he was pretty good. The one issues I’ll say is that the film did seem to build up to his character’s backstory being explored but it never gets resolved. So acting/characters overall was rather mixed.

One of the things I was looking forward to with Death Note was Adam Wingard’s direction, the look of You’re Next and especially The Guest was incredible. Wingard once again directed this movie so well, the colour aesthetics looking beautiful, the cinematography was great, the direction was mostly great… I say mostly because for whatever reason there were constant turning dutch angles that just randomly appear, they were very out of place and obnoxious. One thing to note is that the death scenes that occur often feel like Final Destination deaths, as in they are very over the top, graphic and at times goofy. This may be a good thing or a bad thing for you, depending on whether it entertains you. For me I just found it laughably over the top at time, I couldn’t take it seriously. The score by Atticus and Leopold Ross was solid and worked very well.

Adam Wingard’s Death Note is a mixed bag. I loved most of his direction, some of the performances were good, and there were some aspects about the plot that I liked. But some of the performances were weak and the writing has a ton of issues, which really let down the movie. I guess if you’re curious enough check it out, its on Netflix right now, so at worse you’d only be wasting around 100 minutes of your time. I heard that Wingard may be doing a sequel to this movie, if this happens I hope he does a much better job than what he did here.

Get Out (2017) Review

Time: Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language and horror
Cast:
Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington
Allison Williams as Rose Armitage
Bradley Whitford as Dean Armitage
Catherine Keener as Missy Armitage
Caleb Landry Jones as Jeremy Armitage
Lil Rel Howery as Rod Williams
Betty Gabriel as Georgina
Marcus Henderson as Walter
LaKeith Stanfield as Logan King
Stephen Root as Jim Hudson
Director: Jordan Peele

Now that Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy and Dean. At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he never could have imagined.

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Get Out is a movie that has been getting a lot of attention recently, and has already been called one of the best films of 2017. While it looked interesting, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from it. After finally seeing it, I have to say that Get Out really deserves all the hype, it really surprised me. It is both a great horror movie, as well as a great comedy. Jordan Peele has directed a great social commentary on modern racism, while at the same time creating a great horror movie.

I was riveted from start to finish in this movie. Get Out has the perfect mix of horror and comedy. Horror comedies are extremely difficult to get right but this film nailed it, it knew when to have scares and when to have comedy, and none of these moments felt tonally out of place. This movie wasn’t that scary to me personally (granted most horror movies don’t really scare me) but it is very well crafted. Until the last act, most of the ‘scares’ aren’t that significant, but there is a constant feeling of uneasiness, as you know that something is off, you don’t know what it is. At the same time this movie is hilarious, sometimes some of the scares and ‘weird’ moments are for comedy, the dialogue at times can be really funny, especially between Chris and his friend Rod, and the comedy (when present) never detracts from the scares or tension. Of course the mix of horror and comedy isn’t just what makes the movie work so well, this film is smartly written by Jordan Peele. This movie is honestly one of the best written horror movies in recent years. The social commentary of Get Out is absolutely genius, which Peele explores in very subtle bits of dialogue, symbolism and writing. The racism aspect of the film is actually more in depth and complex than you may think, its not just that the girlfriend’s family is racist and doesn’t like Chris, there’s a lot more to it. So many things in this movie really does reflect today’s society, from the dialogue, to the way people act. In fact I’d say the most unrealistic thing in the movie is that someone uses Bing as a search engine. I won’t reveal too much about the movie as I don’t want to ruin any surprises, I’ll let you experience all this for yourself.

The acting from everyone was really good. Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams are very convincing as this couple who are basically surrounded by uncomfortable people. Kaluuya particularly was great, no matter your race it is very easy to relate to his character Chris, and Daniel’s acting played a big part in that working effectively. The girlfriend’s family members with Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener and Caleb Landry Jones were also great, very unsettling but at the same time not too over the top. If there’s a showstealer performance it is of Lil Rel Howery as Chris’s friend, there are many moments when they talk on the phone. He was so hilarious, and the interactions with him and Chris were incredible entertaining.

The film is very well directed overall. It’s clear that Jordan Peele knows and loves horror, and he directs it excellently here. The scares were very well implemented throughout the movie, there aren’t many jump scares and when they are there, they are effective and well placed. The film looks absolutely stunning, and the visuals are amazing. This movie does have a lot of subtle visual symbolism, which Peele inserted into the movie in such a great way. The soundtrack by Michael Abels was really effective, and added a lot to the horror and suspense.

Get Out is one of the best horror movies in recent years. Smart, creepy and hilarious all at the same time, it’s no surprise why this film has been met with such critical acclaim. It seems that Peele has created a new type of horror/thriller, the ‘social thriller’. Apparently he’s planning on making more of these types of movies, and I’m very intrigued. He’s shown his talents as a director and writer with Get Out, so I can’t wait to see more of his work. If you are a fan of horror, I definitely recommend checking this out. Even if you aren’t the biggest fan of horror I suggest watching it. It’s one of the best movies of the year.