Tag Archives: Lashana Lynch

The Woman King (2022) Review

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The Woman King

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]Violence, sexual violence & content that may disturb
Cast:
Viola Davis as General Nanisca
Thuso Mbedu as Nawi
Lashana Lynch as Izogie
Sheila Atim as Amenza
John Boyega as King Ghezo
Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood

In the 1800s, a group of all-female warriors protect the African kingdom of Dahomey with skills and fierceness unlike anything the world has ever seen. Faced with a new threat, Gen. Nanisca trains the next generation of recruits to fight against a foreign enemy that’s determined to destroy their way of life.

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I was interested in The Woman King in the lead up to its release. It was an upcoming historical epic led by Viola Davis and made by the director of The Old Guard. There was some anticipation for it, including some possible awards consideration. Either way, I think it lived up to the hype.

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The Woman King works as a warrior epic and blockbuster; it delivers on the action but also has a level of sensitivity to it, and you are emotionally invested in the story and characters. It is also a historical epic, based on a true story with a setting I found interesting. It is particularly refreshing to see Hollywood making a black led historical epic for a change. I think that by the end of the movie, I feel like I learned something interesting, even though I’m aware it likely isn’t entirely accurate. I can’t speak in certainty about the historical accuracy but there is definitely a feeling that the story was a bit Hollywoodised, though no worse than other historical epics. One of the things I heard going into the movie was how the Nigerian kingdom of Dahomey (which the film focuses on) was not only complicit in the slave trade, but also partook in it. There were some early criticisms that the movie hid this fact. For what its worth, the film definitely addresses it, but you get the feeling that if you were to look into the true life story and facts, there might be things that were changed for the movie (again, much like other historical movies). The discussion about whether to keep the slave trade is highlighted only briefly, but it doesn’t shy away from the horrors of it. The story is enjoyable and riveting to watch, if somewhat predictable. It is a long film at around 2 hours and 15 minutes and sometimes the pacing can drag, particularly meandering in the middle. Also there is a minor romance story involving one of the major characters which I just wasn’t feeling, and it took away from the movie a little.

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For me, the performances were the highlights of the film. Viola Davis plays the main character and as usual she’s great, delivering and conveying such raw emotion from her character. Its up there as one of her very best performances, and for Davis that’s saying a lot. The supporting cast are also great including Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch and Sheila Atim. John Boyega also plays the king, and he is very in his limited screentime.

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Gina Prince-Bythewood’s direction of The Old Guard was solid, but her work on The Woman King is on another level. The cinematography is great and captures the locations wonderfully, and the costume and production design are stellar. The action is also one of the standout aspects of the film, it is stylish, the fight choreography is excellent, and the sound design is good too. You really feel the intensity in each of these sequences. If there’s anything that lets the action down, it’s the fast editing and I wish it was a bit cleaner. Its unfortunate because you can tell that it is otherwise filmed and performed well. Interestingly, The Woman King is rated R13 here in New Zealand, but it is rated PG-13 in America. For as intense as the action scenes were, its not that bloody. The violence did feel a step above a typical PG-13 movie, but I think it could’ve benefitted from an R rating; I’m assuming that it was edited down to help it sell it to a wider audience.

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The Woman King is a very well crafted and riveting historical epic, fantastically directed with good action sequences, and most of all has amazing performances led by Viola Davis. There are some minor issues, like the unneeded romance, some of the pacing, and the editing during the action, but on the whole it’s a really good film, and it is well worth watching.

No Time to Die (2021) Review

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No Time to Die

Time: 163 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Rami Malek as Lyutsifer Safin
Léa Seydoux as Madeleine Swann
Lashana Lynch as Nomi
Ben Whishaw as Q
Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny
Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter
Christoph Waltz as Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory/M
Billy Magnussen as Logan Ash
Ana de Armas as Paloma
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga

James Bond (Daniel Craig) is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica after leaving active service. However, his peace is short-lived as his old CIA friend, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), shows up and asks for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond on the trail of a mysterious villain (Rami Malek) who’s armed with a dangerous new technology.

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After years of delays, No Time to Die has finally arrived. It’s not only the latest James Bond movie (25th of the official movies in fact), but it’s also Daniel Craig’s last James Bond movie. I have been really anticipating this movie, I really liked this version of Bond, and I was interested to see how it would conclude everything. It was a great experience, especially in the cinema, and overall I’m prepared to say that I’m satisfied with it.

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No Time to Die is really a movie that’s worth going into not knowing too much beforehand. The trailers and advertising avoided giving too many plot details for good reason. What’s immediately noticeable is that there’s an interesting blend of tones in this movie. It is bombastic and over the top while also being emotional. First of all, it leans into more the classic Bond aspects than the previous Craig films. The plot has massive global stakes caused by a ludicrous villain, there are gadgets throughout, there are plenty of one liners, and overall everything is more over the top. This is also the funniest Bond movie of Craig’s run, with a good amount of well-executed humour which I enjoyed. At the same time there is an emotional core to the film, and it wraps up all the storylines and character journeys for this version of James Bond. If you haven’t seen the previous Craig James Bond movies and are thinking about jumping in here, I would highly recommend watching them (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and Spectre) before No Time to Die because it references events from those films. It is very much a follow on from Spectre (the movie), from Madeleine Swann, to Blofeld and Spectre (the organisation). While I’m aware not everyone will be on board with this given that plenty of people weren’t fans of the last movie, I actually thought it worked quite well. In some ways it retroactively made me like some of those aspects from Spectre a lot more. Tonally it sounds like a mess, however it somehow all comes together in the end. Without getting into spoilers, I thought the finale was ultimately emotionally satisfying, and a great sendoff to this version of James Bond. While it does embrace some of the more classic elements of Bond, it’s also a unique entry for a Bond movie. I can’t speak to any issues immediately because there was a lot to take in with this movie. There’s a lot that happens, with plenty of characters, storylines, and parts to wrap up. Speaking of which, the runtime is at around 2 hours 45 minutes long, making this by far the longest movie in the franchise. At times I could feel the length, but I was always invested in what was happening, so that was never a problem for me.

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This movie really felt like a real ensemble piece more so than the previous Bond movies. First and foremost is Daniel Craig, who delivers his best performance as James Bond. He gets to have a lot of fun moments, from the one liners and humour, to the action. Craig’s Bond is the most human and given the most emotions compared to the past versions of the character, and it goes all in with that in this movie. While there are world ending stakes throughout the film, there is no mistake that Bond’s story is the main focus, and Craig delivers all of this so greatly. He plays the character in a way we haven’t seen from him before, and the movie really gives him the opportunity to give a finale for Bond. Lea Seydoux is one of the only Bond girls to actually return from a previous Bond movie, here she’s reprising her role of Madeleine Swann. I liked Seydoux in Spectre but there was something missing with that character in the movie, and I didn’t quite buy the Swann/Bond romance at the end. No Time to Die however makes this relationship really work, and I thought that Seydoux was great here, getting to do a lot more. We also get returning supporting Bond players with Ben Whishaw as Q, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Ralph Fiennes as M, and even Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter, all of them reliable as always. Christoph Waltz also returns as Ernst Stravo Blofeld from Spectre, and while he’s not in the movie much, I actually liked him more in this movie, he’s great in his scenes and really leaves an impression. There are some new additions who are great in their parts too. There’s Lashana Lynch who is great as the new 007 (after James Bond had retired at the end of Spectre), and there’s also Billy Magnussen who is good in his role. Ana de Armas is a scene stealer, delivering a really fun and entertaining performance but unfortunately doesn’t get a massive amount of screentime. Nonetheless, she makes a strong impression. There’s also the new Bond villain as played by Rami Malek. He doesn’t quite reach the heights of Mads Mikkelsen in Casino Royale or Javier Bardem in Skyfall, but I think he’s a solid enough villain for this movie, especially as he’s the biggest adversary to Craig’s Bond yet. Malek’s character is definitely over the top, as you would expect for someone named Lyutisfier Safin. He is a strong and creepy screen presence, and absolutely nails the scenes that he’s in. There’s nothing really wrong with him writing or acting-wise, however he’s not in the movie as much as I would’ve liked.

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The newest director to helm a Bond film is Cary Fukunaga, and while I haven’t seen all of his other work, I can say that his work on Sin Nombre and Maniac is great. As expected, his direction for No Time to Die is fantastic and feels fresh and distinct in the franchise. There is this constant energy felt throughout, making even the more slower paced sections felt energised. The cinematography by Linus Sandgren is great, really giving this movie a very vibrant look, and it helps that the film takes advantage of the memorable locations it takes place at. The action is truly stellar, starting with an early action set piece with Bond in a motorcycle and then in a car, and only continuing to be great from there. The action is often filmed with long takes, with particularly one of the standout action scenes involving a stairway later in the movie. All the action is great and rivals the best action sequences from Craig’s past 4 Bond films. Hans Zimmer composes the score and while it doesn’t rank amongst the best work from him or one of the best Bond soundtracks, it is solid and works well for the movie. I also think that Billie Eilish’s main song for the movie was great.

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No Time to Die ranks alongside Skyfall and Casino Royale as my favourite James Bond movies. It is very long and there’s a lot to take in, but I loved what I saw from my first viewing of it. Cary Fukunaga delivered a visually stunning and enthralling movie, with great action, an ensemble cast of reliable and solid performances, and a script that’s bombastic and witty yet also appropriately emotional and given enough depth. However, above all else, it served as a great finale for Daniel Craig’s James Bond, and it definitely achieved what it set out to do. I’m not really sure what they will do for the next version of James Bond, from the actor to the interpretation of the character. Nonetheless, Craig remains my all-time favourite version of the character’s nearly 50 year run, and I’m happy with the sendoff they gave him with No Time to Die.

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.