Tag Archives: Laurence Fishburne

The Matrix Reloaded (2003) Review

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The Matrix Reloaded

Time: 138 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence & sex scenes
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as Neo
Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus
Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity
Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith
Jada Pinkett Smith as Niobe
Harold Perrineau as Link
Randall Duk Kim as Keymaker
Gloria Foster as The Oracle
Director: Lilly Wachowski and Lana Wachowski

At the Oracle’s (Gloria Foster) behest, Neo (Keanu Reeves) attempts to rescue the Keymaker (Randall Duk Kim) and realises that to save Zion within 72 hours, he must confront the Architect (Helmut Bakaitis). Meanwhile, Zion prepares for war against the machines.

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The Matrix sequels aren’t the most beloved of movies, but I remember being one of the people who enjoyed them. I was familiar enough with the first Matrix movie, however I hadn’t watched the sequels more than once each. So I thought I should check them out again, especially as the fourth film would be coming in 2021. Overall, I do like The Matrix Reloaded even though it definitely has a lot of very visible issues.

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The Matrix Reloaded really does feel like The Wachowskis letting loose and in some ways it was nice to see them go all out on everything. However, it also resulted in the movie being quite overindulgent and bloated, and in some ways it made the movie work against itself. The script at many points was a bit unfocused, not helped by the weird pacing. While there were some interesting parts, I found much of the movie to be boring and bland at points. Reloaded couldn’t find the balance between exposition and action like the first one did, doing away with the careful structure, and replacing it with a fairly complex but messy and convoluted plot with nonsensical philosophical overtones. The film throws so much information at you, and a lot of the time, I was not able to follow what was going on. Even thinking back on it after a more recent viewing, it’s hard to remember the key plot points. The first Matrix movie had a lot of people talking and having very serious conversations about high concepts. In Reloaded, it takes things to a ridiculous extent with even more preachy philosophical stuff, and it comes across as rather forced. The dialogue driven elements of the film felt overly complex and bloated, and it really bogged down the movie when it got to these moments. The heavy handed dialogue does mostly tone down in the second half of the movie, with the exception of the infamous ‘Architect scene’. Without getting into that too much, while I understand the context of the scene and why the dialogue is written like that, it just borders on self-parody. It’s really no surprise why this scene has been parodied so much. Reloaded also has a rather unsatisfying cliffhanger ending, and although it’s the second part of a trilogy, it really feels like part 1 of 2 of a Matrix sequel (with part 2 being Matrix Revolutions). Despite everything, there were some interesting aspects. Some story aspects and interactions were interesting and I liked some of the ideas presented. I wouldn’t even say that I disliked the story. However, even as someone who doesn’t exactly love the first Matrix, that movie handles things a lot better than Reloaded.

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The acting generally remains the same as in the previous movie, pretty generic and not all that great. Some actors are better than others, for example I enjoyed Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus (like in the first movie). However I still don’t think Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne Moss are that good in their roles of Neo and Trinity. Their performances are rather bland and stiff and while I feel like that was part of their given direction, it hinders the performance greatly. It only feels worse given that it’s the sequels and they are still acting the same. Something I didn’t buy in the first movie at all was the sudden mention of Neo and Trinity being in love with each other despite nothing prior in the movie indicating that at all. Well it’s certainly not sudden in Reloaded as the film constantly pushes this relationship and it feels really forced. There’s still no chemistry between the two leads and it’s not made any more believable here. Even the new additions to the cast don’t really bring much new to talk about. I will say that Hugo Weaving made such a big impression in the first movie as Agent Smith, that despite his fate at the end of the last movie, they found a way to bring him back and he’s entertaining whenever he’s on screen as always.

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Once again, the Wachowski Sisters direct this, and props to them for pushing the boundaries even though the technology wasn’t quite there yet. The first Matrix seemed to embrace looking cool over functionality, I kind of respect that and it adds something to their aesthetic. The second movie is no exception. This movie has so many goofy moments which somehow adds to the movie’s entertainment. Neo flying for Superman for example is silly but fun. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the action scenes are generally quite good. In fact, Reloaded has some of the most memorable action scenes of the whole trilogy. It goes for more over the top action, more so than the first movie, and that is actually quite welcome. The choreography ranges from ridiculous to kind of awesome. There is a fight scene between Neo and many Agent Smiths, it was absolutely insane and only gets sillier as it progresses along, but it’s quite entertaining. There’s also a long extensive action sequence taking place on a freeway, and it’s one of my favourite scenes in the whole film, being both thrilling and entertaining. One flaw in the action scenes of the Matrix sequels however is that now that Neo is basically a superhero, it removes any tension from any action scene he’s in. Not to say that his action scenes aren’t good though, they are still fun. The CGI is impressive at times but overall, it is a bit dated for today. The 3D models can be good in one moment, and then extremely fake in another (the Neo vs Smiths fight being a strong example of this). Finally, there’s the amazing score from Don Davis, and the score is even better than the score in the first movie.

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The Matrix Reloaded is a very frustrating movie. To a degree I respect the ambition and scope of it, as well as the refusal to just repeat the first movie again. This does also lead to some of its worse aspects though, with the overindulgence (especially with the writing), heavy exposition, an overly complicated plot and script and more. By the end I didn’t have a clear idea of what I watched, and not in a good way. With that said, I do enjoy the movie. Some moments and ideas were well done, and the movie is worth watching for the action alone, even if some of the effects haven’t held up well. I’ll need to rewatch The Matrix Revolutions to see if it’s that much better than Reloaded, but I’m not expecting much.

The Ice Road (2021) Review

THE ICE ROAD

The Ice Road

Time: 109 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Liam Neeson as Mike McCann
Laurence Fishburne as Jim Goldenrod
Benjamin Walker as Tom Varnay
Amber Midthunder as Tantoo
Marcus Thomas as Gurty
Holt McCallany as René Lampard
Martin Sensmeier as Miner Cody
Matt McCoy as General Manager Sickle
Matt Salinger as CEO Thomason
Director: Jonathan Hensleigh

After a remote diamond mine collapses in the far northern regions of Canada, an ice driver (Liam Neeson) leads an implausible rescue mission over a frozen ocean to save the lives of trapped miners despite thawing waters and a threat they never see coming.

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I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from The Ice Road, from the looks of the trailer, it was going to be yet another Liam Neeson action flick, this time being set on the ice. That’s pretty much what we got with this movie, and I thought that it was entertaining enough for what it was.

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The premise seemed somewhat original, the plot started off interesting enough with it being about ice truckers travelling over a giant ice road to deliver equipment to save a bunch of miners. Unfortunately, it eventually adds this corporate conspiracy and espionage aspect which really cheapens the whole thing and makes the movie worse. It makes the plot more complicated and makes everything more cliched and by the numbers. It really would’ve worked much better if it was just about the truckers trying to save the people stuck in the mine incident and ditched the corporate aspect. The writing itself is very formulaic and offers very few surprises, even if you haven’t seen it in this exact form before, you have seen this type of story many times before. It’s very forgettable, bland and cliched. The dialogue itself is very expositional, and mostly just ends up stating the obvious. The Ice Road to a degree feels like it harkens back to cheesy 90s action movies, unfortunately it doesn’t really have the self awareness that those movies have, so it makes the dud reveals and plot points harder to look past. The movie is also overlong and overstays its welcome a bit, it doesn’t help that much of the second half gets quite repetitive. However I can’t deny that I still had fun with the movie. If you ignore the conspiracy aspect (which is a big part), the plot is otherwise straightforward enough that you can still be entertained by.

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The acting for the most part is okay. Liam Neeson plays the same sort of character as expected, but he’s good in this kind of role. There are two interesting things about this variation of this archetype though. For one, instead of being an ex-cop, CIA agent or hitman, his special skills relate to him being really good as an ice trucker, so that’s a new spin on it. The second thing is that he does get more opportunities to showcase emotion compared to the other Neeson action roles, with him trying to balance a relationship with his brother who has PTSD throughout this whole mission. I do admire the attempts at character development between them, and some of it works. However this relationship isn’t explored all that much, and even the PTSD aspect doesn’t really add a whole lot. In fact, not much is explored outside of the lead character, especially when it comes to every other character. The human villains are all completely forgettable and boring except for one henchman character, and the rest of the supporting cast is underutilised, even Laurence Fishburne doesn’t get to do as much as you might hope he would.

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This is the first movie I’ve seen from director Jonathan Hensleigh, and I thought his work here is rather mixed. On one hand I really liked the icy setting the movie takes place in throughout, there are some good truck chase scenes, and some action scenes have some tension to them. It was also quite good when it came to the tension of the main characters driving very heavy trucks over ice which could easily crack. On the other hand, there isn’t any particular set piece that I can point to as a standout (they all blur together), the fight scenes are very by the numbers, and despite some good stunts, the film somehow feels quite cheap. The CGI is some of the worst I’ve seen from a recent action movie, at best looking like it is coming from the 90s. Despite the issues, the action is good enough that it makes for an enjoyable experience when watching it for the first time.

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The Ice Road is another forgettable but passable action flick starring Liam Neeson. While there’s issues with the writing, characters and directing, the action and mostly straightforward plot makes it entertaining enough. If you like some of Neeson’s other action movies, you’ll probably enjoy watching this one too.

The Matrix (1999) Retrospective Review

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The Matrix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019) Review

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence and offensive language
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as John Wick
Ian McShane as Winston
Mark Dacascos as Zero
Laurence Fishburne as the Bowery King
Asia Kate Dillon as the Adjudicator of the High Table.
Halle Berry as Sofia
Lance Reddick as Charon
Anjelica Huston as the Director
Director: Chad Stahelski

After gunning down a member of the High Table — the shadowy international assassin’s guild — legendary hit man John Wick finds himself stripped of the organization’s protective services. Now stuck with a $14 million bounty on his head, Wick must fight his way through the streets of New York as he becomes the target of the world’s most ruthless killers.

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John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum was one of my most anticipated films of 2019. John Wick was a surprise hit upon its release back in 2014, no one expected it to be as great as it was, but with the action scenes, along with Keanu Reeves’s great turn as the titular character, it all really worked. Chapter 2 showed that the first movie wasn’t just a fluke, and continued the story and expanded the lore even further. And now, John Wick Chapter 3 has cemented this trilogy as one of the all time best action trilogies.

Chapter 3 picks up right after the previous film, with John on the run. It is more of a straightforward action movie, but at the same time leave some room to expand the lore and Wick’s story, and these scenes aren’t just used as breathing room between the scenes. The lore is one of the highlights of these movies and the expanding of it didn’t disappoint. Story-wise I feel like nothing could top the first movie because of how personal it is for the main character, whereas in Chapters 2 and 3 he’s forced into situations, in the first movie it’s a decision that he returns to his old life. That’s not to say however that every John Wick post the first movie has a weak story, Chapter 3’s story is actually handled quite well, at over 2 hours long it had my attention from start to finish. By the end I was on board with however long they want to make this series, I’ll be there watching every single one of them.

At this point I don’t think it’s controversial in the slightest to say that John Wick is Keanu Reeves’s role. Of course, everyone knows that he can do the action well, but on a performance level he’s also really good. There is this inner darkness and drive that you can see within him, it’s subtle but he conveys so well. Some cast members from the previous movies also make their appearance and all really add to the movie, particularly Laurence Fishburne as the Bowery King, Ian McShane as Winston and Lance Reddick as Charon, they all work well. I also liked the additions, with the shining example being Halle Berry. She’s not in the movie as much as you’d think but she makes the most of the screentime that she does have, demonstrating that her character is at least on par with John Wick. I hope we get to see more of her in a sequel or something similar. Asia Kate Dillon plays the Adjudicator sent by the High Table, who meant to represent them. Unlike the rest of the supporting cast, she comes across as feeling a little weaker but I guess with how she’s written there’s not a whole lot that she could really do in the role. Faring much better as an antagonist is Mark Dacascos as Zero, the main assassin sent after Wick (and is probably the main villain of the movie). He was threatening, entertaining and all around worked perfectly for the movie, especially as a threat to John.

Chad Stahelski like with the past two movie directs this well. The action scenes as to be expected are great, no close up, shaky cam or quick cut editing that plagues some modern action movies, you can clearly see what’s going on and it’s all choreographed really well. The body count is tripled from the previous movies. If you thought that Wick killing people with a pencil was impressive, just wait till you see what he does in the opening scenes. With there being even more action than the past two movies, this could’ve resulted in some action fatigue but Stahelski and co. manage to bypass this by keeping each action scene fresh, with different environments and situations (yes, John Wick even rides a horse at one point). If there’s one small gripe I had with what I watched, its that certain action scenes felt like they went for a little too long, as much as I liked them. The movie like the previous two manage to show off John Wick as clearly being a lot more capable than most of the people he’s up against while making it seem like he could die and isn’t invincible. There are some moments in Chapter 3 where it does feel like he’s invincible but for the most part it’s handled well. Chapter 2 was stunning looking and that continues into Chapter 3, it’s not surprising that both films have the same cinematographer. Tyler Bates’s score works perfectly with the John Wick series, so glad he returned for the third movie, it just elevates everything to a new level.

John Wick Chapter 3 lives up to all the hype and surpassed it, I loved the story and the expansion of the world and lore, and of course Keanu Reeves delivers as always as the now iconic titular character. This, as well as Mad Max Fury Road and Mission Impossible Fallout are some of the most overwhelming cinema experiences I’ve had with regard to action movies. I’m completely on board for this series, I can’t wait to see more of John Wick, the rest of the characters and more of this world.

Event Horizon (1997) Review

Time: 96 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] contains violence.
Cast:
Laurence Fishburne as Captain Miller
Sam Neill as Dr. William ‘Billy’ Weir
Kathleen Quinlan as Peters
Joely Richardson as Lieutenant Starck
Richard T. Jones as Cooper
Jason Isaacs as D.J.
Sean Pertwee as Smith ‘Smitty’
Jack Noseworthy as Ensign Justin
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

When the Event Horizon, a spacecraft that vanished years earlier, suddenly reappears, a team is dispatched to investigate the ship. Accompanied by the Event Horizon’s creator, William Weir (Sam Neill), the crew of the Lewis and Clark, led by Capt. Miller (Laurence Fishburne), begins to explore the seemingly abandoned vessel. However, it soon becomes evident that something sinister resides in its corridors, and that the horrors that befell the Event Horizon’s previous journey are still present.

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Event Horizon was a movie that I had been hearing about for a while, particularly for how it inspired the Dead Space video game series. It’s been referred to as Hellraiser in space and it’s also known as director Paul W.S. Anderson’s best movie. Also a lot of the idea of a haunted house in space with like a portal to hell sounds like something interesting, so I was somewhat looking forward to getting around to watch it. While it doesn’t live up to its potential, I think it does work decently enough as a horror flick, and does have some genuinely good stuff to it as well. However, production problems and heavy cuts by the studio really held back the movie from being as good as it could’ve been.

There is a ton of production story explaining what happened with Event Horizon but I’ll try to limit it to the relevant things I’m talking about. Event Horizon has a lot of interesting ideas, the idea of hell being involved is chief among the best, and it wasn’t originally in the script. Phillip Eisner’s original script had alien beings as the cause of the hauntings of the ship but Anderson felt it was too much like Alien, so had a revision of the script done (by Andrew Kevin Walker uncredited) so that it was like a classic haunting movie (like The Haunting and The Shining, there’s even one scene that’s paying homage to the latter), more like a classic haunting movie instead of a monster movie, while also incorporating elements of hell in the movie. I’m thankful that this happened because it’s one of the most stand out parts of the movie. As I said, some of the ideas are pretty good, other aspects can take a little too much from other movies. There’s also some occasionally goofy dialogue and writing that doesn’t ruin the movie but definitely takes you out of it. Now I don’t know if this is the cause of it, but when Paul W.S. Anderson signed on to direct, development had to move quickly cos there was already a release date scheduled (meaning that pre production was likely rushed), so a lot of the script and other elements wasn’t worked on or revised as much as they should’ve been before filming. One thing that really needs to be mentioned is the length, Event Horizon is an hour and 30 minutes long, really quite short. It’s ironic considering that apparently the cut was way too long (even Anderson said that it was too long) and yet it ended up being the shortest length that a typical movie would be. As it is, the movie is fine enough with its length but all the cuts really meant that the story and characters wasn’t really fully realised. Maybe cutting some of the extreme gore (which I’ll get into later) might’ve been understandable and wouldn’t have affected the plot much, but a lot of the plotlines and character development was also cut. 30 minutes were cut from the movie, and I don’t believe that almost all of that was full of extreme gore. There are also attempts at building tension, but the film is cut a lot to speed up the pacing and featuring cheap jumpscares or gore and that can deflate a lot of the tension, no doubt a victim of the tight filming schedule. The ending seems to have 2 endings, and it’s like they couldn’t figure out which one to use so they just used both of them and so it’s just confusing.

The cast is limited but talented, with Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, Joely Richardson, Richard T. Jones. Jason Isaacs, Sean Pertwee and Jack Noseworthy as the crew. They all do rather well, with Sam Neill and Laurence Fishburne being the standouts. However, a lot of the aforementioned cuts to the movie really affected their characters and performances because a lot of their scenes (including scenes featuring their development and depth) were cut. Something that the Event Horizon (the haunted ship) does is that preys on the crew members’ fears, but we only get to see that with a few of the characters and it just feels like a wasted opportunity. Seeing all of the characters’ fears and having them up against them really would’ve been something great. Even the Event Horizon fear stuff aside, we don’t get to learn about these characters well enough, sometimes making some characters feel out of place and not memorable at all. The biggest example is Richard T. Jones whose character’s development and a lot of his depth was no doubt cut from the movie, and so he just comes across as really goofy and super comedic, like he should be in Jason X (aka Jason Vorhees goes to space) or something. His comedic relief does work fine enough but that’s all there is to his character. Even the characters that work better have been likely affected by the cuts, Sam Neill’s character really isn’t consistent, and even knowing the full plot its difficult to really pin down his whole deal.

This is definitely Paul W.S. Anderson’s best movie and while some of the directional aspects doesn’t quite work, most of it works well. So much of the CGI is dated, particularly when it came to objects floating around in space like in the opening scene, I’m sure that the CGI back in 1997 was more impressive than what was on display here. With that, when it comes to the practical effects and sets, the movie is much better in those areas. So much of the design is very Alien and H.R. Giger inspired, maybe a little too much. Still, the practical sets are great and you really feel like you are in this haunted ship. This movie can also be extremely brutal and graphic but its mostly in brief moments, notably two. Both of these scenes actually went on for a very long time originally and were way more graphic and violent. If you look up what happened, when the movie was shown at test screenings, audiences didn’t take too kindly to the massive amount of gore (to put it mildly) so there were numerous cuts to earn an R rating so it could actually be shown in cinemas and avoid the dreaded NC-17 rating. The makeup and animatronics are also very impressive, Anderson got a lot right with Event Horizon. There are times where you can definitely tell that some things were rushed, particularly the editing. Anderson apparently was only able to do one draft edit for the movie and you can kind of tell that this is the case. For example, Event Horizon at times uses some really stock sound effects, which at times actually deflates a lot of the tension that they were going for. By that I mean that an example is a fight near the end had some goofy 80s action punching sound effects, making it feel really cheesy instead of intense.

Much of Event Horizon’s faults isn’t actually because of Paul W.S. Anderson or his crew but really mostly because of Paramount Pictures, it suffers by some occasionally messy writing and most of all from the numerous edits and cuts made by the studio. It does however have some really good elements, the production design and practical effects are great, the acting is solid, and this haunted ship from hell idea is really something I dig. It was a really good decision on Paul W.S. Anderson’s part to skip directing Mortal Kombat Annihilation for this. I feel like this would be one of those few movies that would be nice to see a remake of, if not at least another movie with a similar idea explored, because we haven’t seen many other sci-fi horror movies go to that place. As for Event Horizon itself, if you like horror movies and you can stomach some occasionally extreme gore, give it a watch, it’s only 90 minutes long anyway. Even if you don’t end up watching it, I highly recommend looking into the production of this movie because it’s rather interesting.

Mission Impossible 3 (2006) Review

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Medium level violence
Cast:
Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Owen Davian
Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell
Billy Crudup as John Musgrave
Michelle Monaghan as Julia Meade
Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Declan Gormley
Keri Russell as Lindsey Farris
Maggie Q as Zhen Lei
Simon Pegg as Benjamin “Benji” Dunn
Eddie Marsan as Brownway
Laurence Fishburne as Theodore Brassel
Director: J.J. Abrams

Retired from active duty, and training recruits for the Impossible Mission Force, agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) faces the toughest foe of his career: Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an international broker of arms and information, who is as cunning as he is ruthless. Davian emerges to threaten Hunt and all that he holds dear — including the woman Hunt loves.

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JJ Abrams brought back the Mission Impossible series after the… rather questionable Mission Impossible 2. Mission Impossible 3 is a really good movie, and benefits from the direction by JJ Abrams. It’s a stand out in the Mission Impossible series. There are parts that don’t work as well but none of it is enough to significantly bring down the quality or enjoyment over the movie.

This movie never lets up, its like a never ending chase. It’s very difficult to be bored as the movie barely gives you a moment to breathe, and the moments that serve as breaks are the right length and don’t take away from the tension and thrills. It is apparent pretty early on that Mission Impossible 3 has an emphasis on action over espionage, but unlike Mission Impossible 2 it is actually executed well. One thing that stands out about this movie is that there are some personal stakes, which is mostly due to Ethan Hunt’s connection to his wife and how she becomes involved with the plot. That is immediately established by a very tense and effective opening scene. It also feels a lot darker compared to all the other Mission Impossible movies. The movie is about 2 hours long and it feels like the right length, the pacing is solid and allows you to stay engaged throughout the entire runtime.

Tom Cruise is as usual good in his role here. This is his best performance as Ethan Hunt to date, along with performing the action scenes and stunts excellently, he gets to show an emotional range and gets a lot of moments to shine. From this point, Ethan Hunt improved dramatically as a character in the series. Michelle Monaghan plays Ethan’s wife, and the two share some solid enough chemistry. We have Ving Rhames returning from the prior films as Luther Stickell, and is one of the stand out characters. We also get Simon Pegg’s introduction into the series as Benji, who would go on to feature more prominently in the next Mission Impossible movies. Other additions like Billy Crudup, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell, Maggie Q and Laurence Fishburne were also good, they played their parts well. Phillip Seymour Hoffman here plays one of the stand out villains in the Mission Impossible series. He is truly menacing and threatening in his scenes, making himself one of the highlights of the film. If there’s an issue with him, it’s that his character Owen Davian doesn’t really have any backstory, he really is just an evil arms dealer. The simplicity of his character and how matter of fact he is was part of why he’s so effective but it would’ve been nice to have learned some of the character. Also we really don’t get enough screentime with him, they way they conclude his character was also underwhelming. It’s Hoffman’s performance that makes this character really work.

This is the first live action film that JJ Abrams has directed, and it’s very solid for a film debut. There is a more of a handheld direction apparent here which works most of the time in MI3. Dan Mindel’s cinematography is actually rather beautiful here, the colour tones are quite different for a Mission Impossible movie and somehow something about it works. If there’s an issue with the direction, is that there are too many close ups used. Part of the reason why it’s so prominent in this movie is because Abrams likely used a lot of them in tv shows like Lost, which would typically use a lot of close ups. As seen in the Star Trek movies and The Force Awakens, he’s sort of moved away from that and improved his style so now everything is more balanced. The movie is heavily focussed on action and the action scenes themselves are really good and entertaining. A stand out is a bridge sequence about halfway into the movie.

Mission Impossible 3 is a very solid dark, gritty and intensely personal action thriller. The highlights were the personal stakes, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the darker story and JJ Abrams’s direction. From start to finish you are on board with what’s going on and it never lets up, it’s one thrilling ride. There aren’t really a huge amount of flaws to bring the movie down, and is actually rather underrated as a movie.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) Retrospective Review

Time: 183 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor
Diane Lane as Martha Kent
Laurence Fishburne as Perry White
Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth
Holly Hunter as June Finch
Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman
Scoot McNairy as Wallace Keefe
Callan Mulvey as Anatoli Knyazev
Tao Okamoto as Mercy Graves
Robin Atkin Downes as Doomsday
Director: Zack Snyder

It’s been nearly two years since Superman’s (Henry Cavill) colossal battle with Zod devastated the city of Metropolis. The loss of life and collateral damage left many feeling angry and helpless, including crime-fighting billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). Convinced that Superman is now a threat to humanity, Batman embarks on a personal vendetta to end his reign on Earth, while the conniving Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) launches his own crusade against the Man of Steel.

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This is a spoiler filled review, here is my original Batman v Superman review, and here is my review of the Ultimate Edition.

I had already done a couple of reviews on Batman v Superman, one on the Theatrical Edition, and another on the Ultimate Edition. It’s been over a couple years since Batman v Superman has been released and I’ve seen it over 7 times (3 of them being of the Theatrical Cut and the rest being of the Ultimate Edition. I had felt compelled to yet again write about this movie, especially after my more recent Man of Steel retrospective review. Batman v Superman did have a large impact and impression on audience members, some loved it, others hated it and others felt very mixed and didn’t know what to think of it. Everyone had a strong opinion on this movie and it was very divisive, probably one of the most polarising comic book movies (if not the most polarising comic book movie of all time, even more than Man of Steel). It was such a surprising movie for me personally, I mean it was in the top of my fave movies of 2016. This review will go in a little more depth than my Man of Steel review with certain aspects. There were so many aspects about this movie that I was worried about, Ben Affleck was going to be Batman, Gal Gadot of Fast and Furious fame was going to play Wonder Woman, and Mark Zuckerberg himself Jesse Eisenberg was going to play the villainous Lex Luthor. Also, I didn’t know how this film would handle the introduction of the Justice League. I was very worried at what this movie was going to be like, even when I liked the trailers and footage I had many doubts. However, this movie blew me away, this movie as a whole was a lot more than I expected it to be. I expected a simple Batman versus Superman movie. Instead I got one of the few films that I would call a ‘superhero drama’ (other films in this category I would also place Watchmen, The Dark Knight and Logan), and it just gets better and better the more I watch it.

This film took massive risks, not only when it came to what Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio did with the characters but also the way it tells its story (with it being a movie about Superman and Batman, arguably in the top 3 comic book superheroes of all time). This story is a lot more dense than expected, you really have to pay attention to what was going on, it’s no Memento but there are lots of plotlines going on for a comic book movie. I and many other people just expected a straight up Batman vs Superman movie but it was a lot more than that. Oscar winning writer Chris Terrio did a great job with the script, he rewrote David S. Goyer’s script and you can feel the occasional odd Goyer line of dialogue that feels out of place, but otherwise most of it all really works. Batman v Superman also gets better and better the more I watch it, and certain aspects work better upon repeat viewings. Some scenes that didn’t seem necessary on of the first viewing, actually worked upon repeat viewings. The Clark and Jonathan Kent dream/vision mountain scene seemed unnecessary when I watched it for the first time. Upon many viewings though, I would consider it one of Clark’s most important scenes in the whole movie, especially for his arc. Despite the long runtime of the Ultimate Edition, for some reason I can always watch this movie and be fully invested from start to finish. There is some atmosphere in it which draws me to it but I can’t tell what it is, it’s something about this world that Terrio and Snyder had set these characters in.

Now the characters’ treatment in this film was one of the most criticised aspects of the film, especially with Bruce Wayne/Batman and Clark Kent/Superman. However, I personally think that their interpretations were not only great, they were very compelling and some of the best versions of the characters on the big screen. Let’s start with Batman. Batman is not just darker here than in any previous live action incarnation of Batman (which he is), he’s damaged, he doesn’t care anymore, he’s completely off the rails and is unstable. Many people complained that Batman here wasn’t really Batman, he wasn’t really a hero, between the Metropolis flashback and the third act, the one time when he actually saves people (aside from Martha Kent), he really wasn’t looking to save them. In his introduction scene as Batman, he was looking for the human trafficker criminal for information, not necessarily to save the people. To that criticism I say… that’s kinda the point. He’s not what he once was, like how Alfred brings up how everything’s changed “That’s how it starts, the fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men cruel” That Metropolis event changed Bruce significantly for the worse, which built upon his feeling of helplessness even when he was Batman (especially the implication that he failed to save Robin from The Joker). “20 years in Gotham Alfred, we’ve seen what promises are worth. How many good guys are left? How many stayed that way?” To take a character as beloved and iconic as Batman and to take the risk of making him incredibly flawed, I have to give Snyder huge props for that. I noticed that Batman is one of these iconic characters that are so beloved that a lot of audiences don’t like when they are shown to be flawed, whether it be Superman, Luke Skywalker or whoever else. As for the complaints of him killing…. Batman has always killed in his past live action movies (with Batman and Robin being an exception). The difference here is that it is more blatant. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily into having Batman kill everyone he comes across (because then they would have to make up some contrived reason why he doesn’t end up killing particularly people like The Joker). The reason that the killing works here for me is that there is actually a character arc around the killing. At the end of the film, Batman visits Lex at the prison but chooses not to brand him (like he did with many other criminals), basically meaning that he’s done with killing (or no doubt just done with killing in this blatant way, he’s going to somehow end up killing again in his next appearance like with the other versions of Batman). It was because of Superman’s sacrifice that he decided to make a change. Now for the controversial ‘Martha’ scene. I was not expecting the conflict between Batman and Superman being resolved through the revelation that their mothers had the same name (and on paper it doesn’t really sound good). At first I really didn’t know what to think of it. But after thinking about it for a while I think it is great, after all the reason that Batman doesn’t kill Superman isn’t because their mothers share have the same name, it’s because he realises that Superman is not just an all powerful dangerous single minded being. Throughout the majority of the movie, Batman believes that Superman is a complete threat to the world and not ‘human’ at all. In the moment where Lois tells Bruce that Martha is the name of Clark’s mother, he realises that he has a mother, he is a person. I do think it could’ve been handled slightly better but most of it works.

Snyder really made Batman a force to be reckoned with, his action scenes are nothing like we’ve seen in other Batman live action movies before. The widely praised warehouse sequence, praised by even people who heavily disliked the film, is a good example of this, with Batman taking on multiple criminals at the same time, mostly relying on his own fighting style which is a lot more brutal. It’s not just action scenes that conveys his strong presence, his first appearance was straight out of a horror film. Other decisions like with the voice modulator and his worn down simplistic costume really added to this portrayal. Also, Ben Affleck was excellent in the role of Batman, he blew me away with how great he was here. I’ve always liked Ben Affleck as an actor, but I had no idea what to expect from his Batman and he really surprised me here. He pulled off the charismatic side of Bruce Wayne, the broken and damaged side of Bruce, as well as Batman himself. In fact I think his best acting is during the Batman and Superman fight, when his metal helmet is damaged and his face is exposed, seeing Batman’s expressions while he was Batman was something we don’t usually get to see. Definitely an unexpectedly great casting decision, and an interesting take on the character. As for Ben Affleck, I think he’s the best Batman in a single live action film (however Christian Bale’s 3 Batman appearances combined is better than all of Ben’s Batman appearances, I personally blame Justice League). Hopefully Ben will get to reach BvS greatness once again in the Matt Reeves Batman movie (should he choose to return to the role).

Clark Kent’s story in Man of Steel’s was about him being ready for people to see him for what he is. In Batman v Superman, Superman is out there in the public eye, and his story is about him living in a world where people know about him and are reacting to him. Some of the reaction is positive, others are negative (Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne being examples of people who don’t take too kindly to him). In retrospect I can partially understand why his character did get some criticism, because a lot of his arc in this movie is cut in the Theatrical Cut. The Ultimate Edition fleshes out his story more, giving him a lot more screentime. It also included important scenes like Clark talking to his mother, Clark talking to the deceased branded criminal’s wife, Superman saving some people in the Capitol and the aftermath, all these are very important for his story arc and more clearly lays it out. However, I also think that part of the criticism is how Superman sort isn’t a huge hero, a criticism that was brought up in Man of Steel. Well he does save many people in Batman v Superman, he saves Lois a few times in the movie, he stops Doomsday, and there’s even a montage of him saving people like in the first act. I suspect it’s more the criticism that Superman isn’t constantly doing a lot of heroic things. For me that personal didn’t bother me, this movie was taking Clark on a particular arc and I liked it. In the real world, a powerful being like Superman would not be universally loved, there would be lots of concerns as to what he can do, should do and will do. BvS really tries to capture how we would react to someone like Superman, there are those who love him, and there are those who hate him and fear him. And before some people comment, no, DCEU’s Superman isn’t dark. He lives in a world which is dark but despite everything, he still rises up to be the hero. All things considered, Superman is the true hero in Batman v Superman, not Batman. Despite all that humanity does to him (especially Lex), Superman is willing enough to sacrifice himself for them. Henry Cavill is even better here than he was in Man of Steel. Cavill expertly brings out Clark’s inner emotions without requiring a lot of dialogue, you can just see what he feels. With two deep and conflicting stories that Superman has gone through in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, I have to say that Henry Cavill’s Superman, as directed by Zack Snyder, is my favourite interpretation of the character. Now I’m just wondering how he’s going to be handled in future Superman movies.

All the other characters I thought was great as well. Amy Adams was great as Lois (she gets a lot more to do in the Ultimate Edition with her investigating the desert incident and more, on top of saving Superman twice). Gal Gadot was solid as Wonder Woman, Holly Hunter as Senator Finch made an impression despite not playing a comic book character and Jeremy Irons stood out as Alfred Pennyworth (I hope we get to see a lot more of him in the solo Batman movies). Even Callan Mulvey made an impression as Lex Luthor’s henchman, overall everyone was great. But I really want to focus on Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. Definitely a very divisive aspect of the film, with some finding him to be annoying and just a copy of Heath Ledger’s Joker (I guess any comic book villain who’s crazy is just trying too hard to be The Joker). Now I’m just going to avoid all the comic book accuracies arguments for a bit, and am going to focus on him in the movie itself. I for one loved his Lex, and I was one of the people who hated Jesse’s casting from day 1. He was somehow even more quirky and over the top than I expected but he still manages to come across as menacing and dangerous, especially on the rooftop with Superman. His plan is darker than most interpretations of Lex, and his motivations were more complex. Also on a side note, Jesse Eisenberg completely threw himself into this role and didn’t hold back, you can clearly see that he is having the time of his life as Lex, and I think it’s worth at least respecting how committed Eisenberg was to the role. Not that I care about comic accuracy but despite all the claims about this Lex not being comic accurate, he’s pretty much young Lex Luthor from a comic book called Superman Birthright. Snyder and Eisenberg have made a modernised Lex Luthor that works in today’s world. Now we will just have to see what is done with Lex in the Man of Steel sequels.

The direction by Snyder unsurprisingly is great. The cinematography by Larry Fong was so great, this is a beautiful and sleek looking movie. In contrast to Man of Steel, there isn’t a lot of shaky cam or zoom ins/outs, which was almost in a documentary style. The action, as expected from Zack Snyder is great. The CGI for the most part looks really great, with the exception of certain small bits which didn’t look fully polished. One thing I’d like to mention is how Snyder held back with the action for the most part. Before the third act with the BvS fight, warehouse sequence and the Doomsday fight, the only action scenes in the movie prior was the Metropolis flashback (if it counts as an action scene), the Knightmare sequence and the Batmobile sequence. Those sequences are big when they happen but for the first two acts this movie relies mostly on story, especially in the Ultimate Edition. The film is much more than just an action movie, it is also drama set in a superhero world. So, Snyder did hold back… until the last act which I’ll get to later. The music by Hans Zimmer was absolutely masterful and ranks among some of the best music work he’s done. From the opening “A Beautiful Lie”, to Lex Luthor’s theme ‘Red Capes are Coming” and Wonder Woman’s theme “Is She with You?”, all of it works so excellently. I guess maybe I would’ve liked to have had a slightly more distinct theme for Batman like Zimmer had done for Superman and Wonder Woman, but it’s still pretty good and has the right tone.

I need to touch on the Ultimate Edition for a bit. Now I have done a full review of the Ultimate Edition so I won’t linger on it too much. But I feel like I need to mention how much it improved the movie. It fixes plot holes (there is now an explanation for Superman not being able to stop the Capital Bombing), fleshes out Clark/Superman’s story, gives Lois a lot more to do and shows more of how large Lex’s plan was. Not to mention the scenes didn’t feel jarring especially in the first act, like it did in the Theatrical Cut. Even if the extended scenes have the same outcome from the theatrical version of the scenes, there’s much more time given, so it flows a lot smoother instead of just jumping from scene to scene every 2 minutes. The scenes are even ordered in a much better way. For example in the Ultimate Edition Bruce has his nightmare (with a Man-Bat-like creature), wakes up at the penthouse and then meets with Alfred before preparing to go to Lex’s party to steal some information. However in the Theatrical Edition, they put in Lois’s meeting with General Swanwick in the middle of that segment, which just feels jarring. I’m not exactly sure why they made some of the ordering decisions that they did. There are only a couple of reasons I can think of why WB cut 30 whole minutes form the film and that’s the runtime and the age rating. Blockbusters are rarely 3 hours long, but then again it’s worth considering that The Dark Knight Rises was 2 hours and 45 minutes long and that was still a hit. As for the age rating, the Ultimate Edition in America shouldn’t have been rated R (both version of the film have the same rating in New Zealand), it’s once again a case of bizarre MPAA ratings. For whatever reason that they did it, cutting out 30 whole significant minutes of footage was a major mistake, you should never try to change a Zack Snyder film, otherwise it will not work. I want to say that WB might’ve now learned not to repeat this mistake in future DCEU films like they did with BvS and Suicide Squad (the latter movie having even worse editing issues) but Justice League clearly proved me wrong.

Now that’s not to say that there’s no problems with this film. There are some plot points which weren’t handled as well as they could’ve. For example, in the Batman vs Superman sequence, I get that Bruce wouldn’t listen to what Clark had to say, but it could’ve been presented more clearly, because otherwise it seems like Clark could easily explain what was going on at the beginning of the scene. As for noting one of the lesser scenes of the movie, I’d have to say that it’s the scene when Bruce sends Diana videos of the other Justice League members. I did like that scene but there is not that much to gather from that scene, Cyborg’s cameo did hint at his role and his actual origin in Justice League, but the rest doesn’t have much. They could’ve implemented the scene better, or they shouldn’t have had that scene. However it didn’t bother me too much. A complaint that does get thrown around a lot was around the third act and how it changed tone and became a big action fest, which was different from the slower paced almost political thriller in the first two acts. While I still love the third act, I do partially agree with this. We’ve seen end fights with monsters plenty of times, but even though it surprisingly worked fine enough for BvS, it did feel slightly out of place here. And yes, Snyder does go big with his action here, the action (as expected) is incredible and entertaining to watch. It would’ve been nice to have the final act something a little more compelling than just another monster fight at the end but this final battle sequence was good enough for me (even though Batman really couldn’t do anything throughout it). Speaking of the third act, Doomsday is a heavily criticised part of the movie, and while I don’t think he was great, he did his part well enough. Maybe if it was a character deliberately created for the movie I would take more issue, but as he’s a comic book character and as Doomsday is pretty much just a mindless dangerous monster, I could look past that. The only part of it that I wished was better was the design, I think the CGI on him is for the most part good but he just looks so generic (hence all the comparisons to the cave troll in Lord of the Rings or Abomination from The Incredible Hulk). Outside of his basic design, I didn’t have too many problems with Doomsday. One aspect which is a little sad to look at now is all the aspects that set up for Justice League, because the Justice League movie completely ignored them, whether that be the Knightmare sequence or The Flash’s warning (but that’s for another awaited retrospective review).

No matter your thoughts on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, there’s no denying that it had made a huge impact and impression when it was released. Batman v Superman was a breath of fresh air in the comic book genre for me, a film which decided to slow down with its story and take risks with its characters (not that no comic book movies do this, but it was a standout nonetheless). For most of the movie it’s like that, and on top of that there are some great action scenes, impressive performances and portrayals of iconic characters and a very unique story for these characters. Watchmen is still Zack Snyder’s masterpiece to me (as well as my favourite Comic Book Movie), but Batman v Superman is up there. As I said it still has some issues and if I looked at the Theatrical Cut I’d have a lot more unfavourable opinion of that version than the 3 times I saw them in cinemas (especially after seeing the Ultimate Edition and how these extra scenes added to the movie). But BvS nonetheless is an great comic book film in my eyes, and I do believe that this film (like Watchmen) will become loved much more as the years go on.

Ant Man and the Wasp (2018) Review

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Contains violence & coarse language
Cast:
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man
Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne/Wasp
Michael Peña as Luis
Walton Goggins as Sonny Burch
Bobby Cannavale as Jim Paxton
Judy Greer as Maggie
Tip “T.I.” Harris as Dave
David Dastmalchian as Kurt
Hannah John-Kamen as Ava Starr/Ghost
Abby Ryder Fortson as Cassie
Randall Park as Jimmy Woo
Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet van Dyne
Laurence Fishburne as Bill Foster
Michael Douglas as Hank Pym
Director: Peyton Reed

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is grappling with the consequences of his choices as both a superhero and a father. Approached by Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), Lang must once again don the Ant-Man suit and fight alongside the Wasp. The urgent mission soon leads to secret revelations from the past as the dynamic duo finds itself in an epic battle against a powerful new enemy.

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I was somewhat interested in Ant Man and the Wasp. I have to admit I wasn’t super hyped for the movie. Don’t get me wrong, I actually liked the first Ant Man, it was a simple but effective enough comic book movie that was quite entertaining. However with it being released after the juggernaut and emotional chapter that was Infinity War, Ant Man and the Wasp just felt a little off to release months after. Also I had a feeling that the sequel would just be more of the same, fun but nothing really that new. Nonetheless I was interested. Ant Man and the Wasp surprisingly worked very well for what it is, which is a fun and entertaining comedy.

Something that is quite apparent is that this movie is very focussed on being funny and entertaining. It’s like Marvel wanted a lighter movie following Infinity War, that could possibly affect your thoughts on Ant Man and the Wasp, for better or for worse. A problem which could happen with some MCU films is that while the comedy works, often times it would interrupt some more dramatic or emotional scenes. However with Ant Man and the Wasp, there aren’t a ton of emotional scenes, the most is related to Scott Lang and his daughter and Hope van Dyne and Hank Pym with Pym’s wife (played by Michelle Pfeiffer). So there really weren’t many emotional scenes to ruin with comedy. This movie might as well be called a straight up comedy and while I would’ve preferred some more emotional depth to the movie, it does well at what it sets out to do. A criticism of the movie is that it doesn’t have great consequences or stakes, like with the first movie the stake here are very small and personal and I’m completely fine with that. Even so, you don’t ever feel a sense of urgency, you felt it slightly more in the first movie but here you always just know that everything is going to be alright. It’s also rather predictable, with very rare surprises. Really the biggest spoiler of the movie is the credit scenes, you can’t really spoil most of the movie. It’s a rather straightforward superhero movie that doesn’t really do anything particularly surprising, it’s goal was for it to be fun and hilarious and it achieved that. The movie is about 2 hours long and from start to finish I was quite entertained. There are a couple credits scenes, the first is about something that everyone will want to watch following Infinity War, the second is okay but not necessary to watch.

Paul Rudd is once again great as Scott Lang/Ant Man, he’s just so likable and funny, and a real underdog character. It’s very easy to root for him, Rudd’s casting was perfect. It’s been a few years since I’ve watched the first Ant Man for the first time, but I remember him being a little less goofy in the original movie. While he’s not completely stupid or anything, they do put him in more goofy scenarios or make him do some somewhat goofy things, it’s like they were doing that to try to make Evangeline Lilly’s character of The Wasp stand out more in comparison, which wasn’t necessary as she would’ve done that perfectly fine on her own. Lilly as the Wasp is one of the standouts of the movie, she gets to do a lot here and the movie definitely utilises her well. I didn’t buy the sorta romance between her and Scott in the first movie and the same is here. It’s not constantly done again and again to the point of annoyance but it can be distracting at times and doesn’t really work. Michael Douglas is once again great as Hank Pym, perfect casting, here he gets to do even more than in the original movie. Michael Pena like in the first movie is very funny and has some great scenes. Other actors like Laurence Fishburne do their part. The villains often have a chance of being one of the weaker parts in MCU movies (or comic book movies in general), however with Black Panther and Infinity War earlier this year providing great comic book villains in Killmonger and Thanos, the MCU seemed to be making some progress in regards to them. The main villain in Ant Man and the Wasp is Hannah John-Kamen as the character of Ghost, who has unique phasing abilities which can lead to some entertaining action scenes. Also she does have a different backstory and credit from other MCU villains, you can really understand why she does the things she does here. For once the whole “this comic book movie villain isn’t really a villain” description actually applies, it could be argued that Ghost is more just an antagonist than a villain. It seems that all the main MCU villains this year have in common is that they all have strong and defined motivations. Ghost unfortunately isn’t a top tier level villain in the MCU but she’s a reasonably strong second tier villain. The biggest problem is that aside from her powers, the backstory, motivation and the performance, there isn’t enough of her as a character. She has just about enough screentime but it would’ve been a little better if they showed a little more to the character. With that said, the character was actually done well, with her arc being treated well, consistent throughout and not just being a throwaway villain. Also Hannah does do a great job in her role. She fared much better than Walton Goggins, who served to be as a leader of generic disposable henchmen. Goggins really is wasted here as a generic villain. He and his henchmen seem to only be in this movie because the movie needed a large amount of villainous characters that the main characters can fight because the main villain herself didn’t have any. Honestly if they were somehow connected to Ghost, maybe they could’ve worked in some way.

Peyton Reed turns from the first movie to direct Ant Man and the Wasp. The thing that really stood out about the first Ant Man was the unique action scenes that included resizing (mostly shrinking). The sequel really leaned into that more and they got very creative with the action scenes. Other visual aspects such as Ghost’s phasing ability are done pretty well. The visuals can look pretty stunning at times, especially when it comes to the Quantum Realm, which plays a part in this movie. On a side note, like in the first movie there is a flashback scene which utilises de-aging technology and once again it works effectively.

Ant Man and the Wasp is not anywhere near the top tier of Marvel but it is quite entertaining. The cast do well in their roles, it’s visually stunning with some entertaining action scenes and the movie is so fun. It does have its fair share of issues but it achieves what it sets out to do for the most part. If you really liked the first Ant Man, I’m pretty sure that you’ll have a good time with Ant Man and the Wasp.

Man of Steel (2013) Retrospective Review

Time: 143 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Kal-El:
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
Michael Shannon as General Zod
Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent
Diane Lane as Martha Kent
Laurence Fishburne as Perry White
Antje Traue as Faora-Ul
Christopher Meloni as Colonel Nathan Hardy
Ayelet Zurer as Lara Lor-Van
Russell Crowe as Jor-El
Director: Zack Snyder

With the imminent destruction of Krypton, their home planet, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his wife seek to preserve their race by sending their infant son to Earth. The child’s spacecraft lands at the farm of Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha (Diane Lane) Kent, who name him Clark and raise him as their own son. Though his extraordinary abilities have led to the adult Clark (Henry Cavill) living on the fringe of society, he finds he must become a hero to save those he loves from a dire threat.

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This is a SPOILER review. My original thoughts on Man of Steel are here.

I made a Man of Steel review many years ago, but after seeing the later DCEU films and upon further thought, I decided to do another review, because I wanted to give some updated thoughts on the movie, as well as going in depth with spoilers. I originally planned to release this review sometime in the foreseeable future, but after it recently being the 5 year anniversary of the film (13th of June 2013 to be exact, as you can tell my review is a little late), I decided to release it now. When I initially saw Man of Steel, I liked it but didn’t really love or think much about it. I thought it was a solid and different take on Superman, even if it wasn’t excellent. Having rewatched it over many times since its release, I’ve come to appreciate this movie a lot more. It’s has some minor issues but I still really love it.

Generally the first half of the story is more Clark’s origin story. Whereas the original Superman film told the story chronologically, Snyder decided to jump between Clark’s past and present, which was ultimately a good decision. While for some this was jarring (and very Batman Beginish), I thought it worked quite well. If it was just told through chronological order, it wouldn’t be as interesting. We already have a generally idea about Clark’s backstory, so having that play while telling the present story helps keep our interest. There might’ve been maybe a little too many flashbacks but I honestly wouldn’t know which one to cut out, each of them seemed necessary to show Clark’s arc and character in this movie. There are some truly great Superman scenes, some of them including Clark learning to fly for the first time and Superman surrendering to mankind. I’ll get to the controversial decisions regarding Superman later. The second half is Zod coming to earth. The third act is big and destructive. Some would said that it was senselessly destructive, I don’t think its necessarily the case, but I can get that there are aspects that they could’ve tweaked a little to improve it. I think the only time it was a little too over the top was the Smallville fight, and even then I liked the overall sequence.

The pacing was generally good, Man of Steel is around 2 hours and a half long and having seen the film multiple times I can’t pick out really any scene which drags or felt over long. The dialogue is mostly good, and a little mixed sometimes, at times it is very well written and there are some great lines for a Superman movie but at other times it is rather odd and silly. Most of the time it is perfectly fine, but the odd lines really do stand out, whether it feel too silly or too generic/familiar (e.g. “You’re a monster Zod, and I’m gonna stop you”). The humour, when it’s there is a little mixed as well, they are brief but some of them don’t really land well (the “I think he’s kinda hot” line near the end of the film being an example). In terms of any other story issues, there is a scene after the scene about Zod’s snapped neck, which is for the most part good but feels completely and tonally different from the previous scene, almost as if the previous scene never happened before. It would’ve been a little more effective to have an additional scene showing the continual impact of that scene.

Henry Cavill portrays a very different Superman than what we’ve seen before (at least in live action). This is a Superman who’s very conflicted, a Superman who’s not perfect, but most of all a Superman who’s learning. He also felt much more relatable as a character, yes the Christopher Reeve Superman to this day remains very effortlessly beloved but creating the cheesy Superman in today’s times just doesn’t work at all (just watch what Joss Whedon tried to do with him in Justice League). For some reason a lot of people found Cavill to be quite stiff here, I didn’t get that from his performance. I mean sure he’s not as quippy as some other versions of Superman but he still had his fair share of lighter moments and charisma, he’s not as charismatic as the real life Henry Cavill but very few people are. Henry Cavill’s Superman is one that I actually cared for. He’s not making constant quips but he’s not a constant brooder, they aren’t trying to make him the superhuman version of Batman. I find much of the ‘not muh Superman’ crowd’s criticisms to be strange to me. There are some people that have issues with this version of Superman. There are way too many complaints to go through, even in an in depth review, so I will just go through a couple of them. One of the major criticisms was the amount of people who died at the end. The truth is that you can’t save everyone in that situation, and with the exception of possibly the Smallville scene, in the climax, it is Zod and the Kryptonians who end up causing the vast majority of the destruction. In fact, Superman in the final fight with Zod really tries to take the fight away from the city but isn’t able to. Since we are going in depth with spoilers, we might as well talk about the controversial neck snapping scene. When Zod tries to kill some innocent civilians in the end of the final fight, Superman is forced to snap his neck to save them. To this day, I never understood why people hate that he did this. I can get if that they hate that Superman was put in this position, but between letting them die and killing Zod to save them, I think doing the latter was the better option. And on top of that, the film doesn’t just act like it was an easy, it was clearly really painful for him. At the very least, it was a lot more justified than Superman killing a depowered Zod in Superman 2 (I’ve noticed a lot of the “not muh Superman” crowd hold up Christopher Reeve’s Superman movies as the definitive Superman). Not to mention that plenty of comic book movie heroes nowadays kill people easily. I don’t mean this in judgemental of people who don’t like this version of Superman (it’s really not a big deal if you don’t), but I’ve noticed that people get extra specific when it comes to how the most popular comic book characters are portrayed in movies (speicifcally Superman, Batman and probably Spider-Man for instance) and there is a lot of backlash when they are different from previous adaptations or from the more common perception of the characters. I’m completely open to people trying new ways of approaching iconic characters. All in all, I don’t really have many problems with Cavill’s version of Superman, at least not with his first two movies.

Amy Adams as Lois Lane was great casting. While it’s not one of her best performances and some aspects about Lois here don’t work perfectly here, it gives her more to do than some other versions of Lois. I mean, Lois figures out by herself who Superman is, which by the way is a change that I really like. I know that it’s a classic comic book thing for Lois to never figure out that Clark Kent is Superman, but I find that less believable than no one recognising him as Superman because he wears glasses. So it was a refreshing change. The chemistry between Adams and Cavill isn’t perfect but it works okay enough for this movie. Michael Shannon is great as General Zod, the main antagonist of the film, and I have to say that he’s much better than Terrence Stamp’s Zod. Whereas Zod in Superman 2 just wanted to take over Earth… just because, Shannon’s Zod has reasons for what he’s doing, he wants to save his race. Zod here was also bred purely to advance his race unlike Clark, so it makes sense that he is single minded and bent upon this. When Superman destroys all chance of Krypton being rebuilt, he loses his people and his purpose. I think he might be one of the best comic book movie villains. Shannon does have his fair share of hammy and over the top moments (his “I will find him!” will forever remain a classic), but that makes him all the more entertaining. Besides, all things considering he might not be as over the top as Stamp’s Zod. All in all, Michael Shannon did a great job with a well written General Zod. Also, shout out to Antje Traue, as Faora, who despite being a supporting antagonist as Zod’s lieutenant, manages to leave a really strong impression, at least at the same as Zod. She particularly shines in her action scenes (Smallville battle being a stand out), and Traue and Zack Snyder made her a force to be reckoned with. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane play Clark’s adopted parents, they felt much more grounded than previous versions of the characters. This take on Kent’s adopted family has caused some controversy, particularly with Costner. For example, in a flashback after Clark saves a bus full of kids, Costner seems to hint that maybe Clark shouldn’t have saved them, because he wanted to keep his secret at least for now. While I can see why some people were polarised, I feel this makes the character more human. He thinks he’s doing the right thing but he’s not absolutely sure. It felt like a more appropriate take on the characters for nowadays and both Lane and Costner acted very well in the roles. Russell Crowe is also worth mentioning, as he is great as Superman’s real father Jor-El, getting much more to do than Brando in the Reeve films, especially in the opening scene. Other supporting actors like Laurence Fishburne do their part well.

Zack Snyder always has spectacularly looking movies, and Man of Steel is no exception. This movie looks incredible, the special effects are great, the designs of the ships, outfits and more are unique. Just a moment to focus on Superman’s costume, it is so incredibly well put together, beautifully designed and actually works in a modern setting. In fact on pretty much all levels, Snyder really made Superman work in a modern setting. All in all, Man of Steel just might be the best looking DCEU film, with it having slightly better CGI than Batman v Superman, off the top of my head there weren’t any moments that stood out to me as having bad CGI. It’s even more impressive after seeing some of what they did behind the scenes. For example, the suits of Zod and the Kryptonians were CGI, but they look completely practical in the actual movie. This film also successfully portrayed Superman’s power (including his strength, flight and laser vision) in the modern day. Other live action versions that have Superman nowadays (Supergirl and Justice League) do show off how powerful he and similar characters are, but it really lacks something, and makes him seem outdated, but Snyder’s version works well. Yes, it is very destructive but it feels somewhat grounded at the same time, it’s kind of hard to describe. It feels like how Superman would be if he existed in real life. The action was also great, fast, intense and impactful. Everything from the opening Krypton sequence, the oil rig fire scene, the Smallville fight and the final Superman vs Zod fight, everything works incredibly well. One aspect that was a slight annoyance was the occasionally handheld camerawork and the zoom ins and out. Its not bad and was actually quite effective at times but it wasn’t really necessary and was a little distracting at times. It does less bothersome the more I watch the movie however. Hans Zimmer’s score here is god-tier, amongst some of the best work he’s ever done, which is saying a lot. Also I know it might be a bit of a controversial opinion but I think it’s the best score for a Superman film yet.

Man of Steel is to me the best live action Superman film (solo at least) and one of the best superhero movies (top 10 at least). With its grounded and more modern take on Superman, the mostly good writing and Zack Snyder’s great direction, it actually worked. It does have some issues with its writing and plot, but what it gets right, it really gets right. It only gets better and better the more I watch it. Also it did something I didn’t think possible, it managed to get me to like Superman in the modern era and make him take him somewhat seriously (well, at least for two movies).

John Wick Chapter 2 (2017) Review

Time: 122 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence and suicide
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as John Wick
Riccardo Scamarcio as Santino D’Antonio
Common as Cassian
Laurence Fishburne as The Bowery King
Ruby Rose as Ares
John Leguizamo as Aurelio
Ian McShane as Winston
Director: Chad Stahelski

Retired super-assassin John Wick’s (Keanu Reeves) plans to resume a quiet civilian life are cut short when Italian gangster Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) shows up on his doorstep with a gold marker, compelling him to repay past favors. Ordered by Winston (Ian McShane), kingpin of secret assassin society The Continental, to respect the organization’s ancient code, Wick reluctantly accepts the assignment to travel to Rome to take out D’Antonio’s sister (Claudia Gerini), the ruthless capo atop the Italian Camorra crime syndicate.

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John Wick Chapter 2 was one of my most anticipated movies of 2017. The original John Wick was great, with its fantastic direction, interesting world and likable main character. So naturally, with one of the directors of the original returning for the sequel, I was looking forward to it. Chapter 2 met all my expectations and even surpassed them. It explored its world even further, its action sequences are even greater than in the original, John Wick Chapter 2 is one of the best action sequels in recent memory.

John Wick Chapter 2 is longer than the original, 2 hours compared to the original’s 1 hour 40 minute runtime. A lot of that is due to Chapter 2 delving deeper into the criminal underworld, which was one of the highlights in the previous movie. There’s a way that these criminals operate and seeing more of the fantastic world created was very intriguing. If there’s any potential flaws story wise, I guess maybe Wick’s motivation isn’t quite as strong as in the first movie, in the original it was for revenge, in the second he’s more forced into a situation. With that said, it’s a bit of a minor issue. Chapter 2 is paced quite well, although pretty fast, it’s slow enough that it allows time for the movie to explore the story and the world. I won’t spoil what happens at the end, but I’ll say that I’m very intrigued in what direction Chapter 3 will go in.

Keanu Reeves is effortlessly great as John Wick, as I said in my John Wick review, this role is perfect for him. He can show off his skill as an action star while being convincing and show a lot of emotion in the role. And this movie is no exception. There are a lot of great supporting characters and actors, some of them returning like Ian McShane, Lance Reddick and John Leguizamo, McShane particularly stealing the spotlight effortlessly. There are also some newer characters that are added which were great to see. I would’ve liked to have seen more of Laurence Fishburne (it did feel like he was put in the movie for fanservice, since him and Reeves were in The Matrix), but maybe we’ll see more of him in the sequel. The same goes for Peter Stormare’s character. The main villain played by Riccardo Scamarcio was okay. He didn’t leave as much of a presence compared to Michael Nyqvist’s Viggo from the first movie, but he wasn’t bad, he worked quite well for the story and I do understand some of the ideas that were put into place with his character. The secondary villains with Common and Ruby Rose were really good and served their parts really well.

The direction of Chapter 2 is once again fantastic. There are so many great action set pieces, not one of them have any flaws and they are all consistently entertaining. They are fast, brutal and thrilling. The third act was especially great (including a sequence involving mirrors). The stunts themselves were also incredible. Another thing that makes these action sequences work so well is that everything is edited to perfection, every cut made is necessary and you can tell what’s going on, the camera doesn’t unnecessarily shake. The colour scheme of the movie is perfect, this movie is beautiful, the cinematography was excellent throughout. Honestly for the movie that they were going for, the direction is perfect. The soundtrack by Tyler Bates was also very effective.

John Wick Chapter 2 is truly a great movie. All the aspects from the previous movie have returned, with the great main character, excellent direction and its fascinating world. Chapter 2 expands on most of these aspects, culminating in a film which is quite possibly superior to the original. I can’t wait to see Chapter 3 in about 2/3 years. The John Wick series is one of the best action film series’ in recent years.