Tag Archives: Liam Neeson

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.

THE ICE ROAD

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.

Kingdom of Heaven: Director’s Cut (2005) Review

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Kingdom of Heaven

Time:
144 Minutes (Theatrical Cut)
194 Minutes (Director’s Cut)
Age Rating: 860949[1] 
Cast:
Orlando Bloom as Balian of Ibelin
Eva Green as Sibylla of Jerusalem
Jeremy Irons as Raymond III of Tripoli (“Tiberias”)
David Thewlis as The Hospitaller
Brendan Gleeson as Raynald of Châtillon (“Reynald”)
Marton Csokas as Guy de Lusignan
Edward Norton as King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem
Michael Sheen as Priest
Liam Neeson as Barisan of Ibelin (“Godfrey”)
Director: Ridley Scott

In the twelfth century, blacksmith Balian (Orlando Bloom) travels to Jerusalem, a city seething with religious wars. He transforms into a defending warrior who saves the city and its people.

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I have heard about Kingdom of Heaven for a while, mainly about it being another historical epic from director Ridley Scott. I also heard that it’s one of the most infamous instances where the director’s cut is far better than the theatrical cut, with the latter reportedly removing so many important parts from the film. So I sought out the Director’s Cut of Kingdom of Heaven and I’m prepared to say that it’s one of my all time favourite films from Ridley Scott, which is quite something considering his filmography.

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Kingdom of Heaven was a very well-crafted historical epic, it does have fictionalised events but that’s to be expected from most big budget Hollywood historical epics (especially those directed by Ridley Scott). The large scale of this movie is impressive, and the story is grippingly told with high stakes very apparent throughout. It has a complex plot with many well thought out characters and plotlines and with the director’s cut at least, I think it was put together well. On one hand the film is a classic tale about an individual who rises to become something great, but it’s also a movie about the Crusades. I don’t know much about the subject matter but the Crusades sound like a fascinating historical period, so that was interesting to watch. One of the most surprising parts of the movie is that it does a great job at depicting both sides of the fight equally, with Islam and Christianity being represented fairly. It would have been easy to pick one side over the other, but it’s a well balanced telling of both religious sides. It is particularly powerful when you consider this holy war conflict is framed against a post 9/11 backdrop with the film being released 2 years into the Iraq War. And thinking about it, this is probably one of the many reasons why Kingdom of Heaven wasn’t liked by some when it came out. There’s a lot to this movie thematically, especially about hope and redemption, and it has a very humanist view on religion and life in general. The director’s cut includes 45 minutes of extra footage compared to the theatrical cut. I can’t speak for myself about how much the differences matter since I never watched the theatrical cut, but I heard the extended scenes flesh out many of the supporting characters and storylines. As I said before it is a complex and long movie, making it 3 hours long. However I think the runtime was worth it to tell a story of this magnitude. The movie takes its time, it has many subplots it juggles but takes time to develop them and the characters and it really pays off.

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Kingdom of Heaven has one of the best casts I’ve seen in a movie and overall there are some strong performances playing well realised characters. The cast includes Michael Sheen, Brendan Gleeson, Eva Green, Marton Csokas and many more. For me the standouts were Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson, David Thewlis, Edward Norton (as a character whose face is never seen yet gives a scene stealing performance), and Ghassan Massoud. The one cast member I hadn’t mentioned yet is the actor who plays the lead character, Orlando Bloom. His performance has been criticised by many, potentially partly due to his cut scenes. He definitely pales when put alongside the other actors in the movie and better actors could’ve been cast in his part. However I do think Bloom gives a really good performance, definitely the best I’ve seen from him.

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Ridley Scott’s movies are generally impressive on a technical level and Kingdom of Heaven is no exception. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, it’s possibly one of the best looking movies that Scott has made. You really feel the sense of scale with this movie, the production design and costumes are top notch, and get you completely immersed within this time period. As a spectacle it doesn’t disappoint, with some intense battle and action sequences which hold up well today, including the CGI. Finally there’s the great score from Harry Gregson-Williams, which could very well be the best I’ve heard from him.

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The Director’s Cut of Kingdom of Heaven is a fantastic historical epic that’s worthy of being placed among the best. The stellar cast are fantastic in their parts, Ridley Scott’s direction is top notch, and the story is complex and with compelling characters. Of course if you are going to watch it, make sure to watch the director’s cut, it’s pretty much universally accepted by everyone who’s watched it as the definitive version of the film.

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1999) Retrospective Review

Time: 133 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] contains low level violence
Cast:
Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn
Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi
Natalie Portman as Queen Padmé Amidala
Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker
Ian McDiarmid as Senator Palpatine/Darth Sidious
Ahmed Best as Jar Jar Binks
Anthony Daniels as the voice of C-3PO
Kenny Baker as R2-D2
Pernilla August as Shmi Skywalker
Frank Oz as the voice of Yoda
Director: George Lucas

Two Jedi Knights (Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor) set out to search for someone who can bring peace to the Force. Their search ends when they come across a young, gifted boy. But the Sith returns to stake claim to the Force.

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With The Rise of Skywalker coming in December, I decided to revisit the Star Wars movies in timeline order. When I was younger I used to watch The Phantom Menace over and over again and I liked it a lot back then. Upon revisiting the movies in the lead up to The Force Awakens however, I found it to be the worst in the series. I had a feeling that with people talking about it, as well as really noticing the fandom’s constant hatred, I decided to take a different look at it. After my rewatch I can confirm that I definitely don’t dislike it, but I don’t think it’s particularly good either. However it’s not without some decent parts (or at least it had potential).

As this is a retrospective review it’s only fitting that this movie is talking about spoilers. So obviously don’t read this or the other Star Wars retrospective reviews if you haven’t watched the movies already. The writing of The Phantom Menace is a very mixed bag, while some of the ideas are fine enough, most of the executions weren’t handled well. The story goes in and out of being interesting, more often than not however I wasn’t very engaged. A lot of the dialogue is very formal, stiff and unnatural for most of the characters. In the case of the Jedi, it works, but I’m not so sure why every other character acts like that too. Not to mention so much of the dialogue is really bland and even cheesy. Not to say that the original Star Wars trilogy was like that (a little more than a lot of Star Wars fans would like to admit), but the prequel trilogy is even more so. One thing I consistently liked about this movie and the prequels was the introduction of new worlds, as well as it expanding upon the lore and the universe. The first act starts off fine enough, but it has its issues. The Gungan parts were handled a little weirdly. Though to be fair most of it comes from the fact that Jar Jar Binks is meant to be our insight to the Gungans, and we don’t really learn a whole lot from him about them (more on that later).

There’s quite a large portion of the movie dedicated to the main characters on Tatooine, which takes up much of the second act. I’ve always found it unnecessary to re-introduce this planet, for all the new worlds that were introduced (and those were greatly appreciated), we didn’t need to come back to Tatooine. It seems like it was done to connect Anakin to Luke from the original Star Wars, but they really didn’t need to do that. It’s a bit of a nitpick but I also really didn’t see much of a point introducing C-3PO in this way as one of Anakin’s creations. He doesn’t really do anything, it’s random more than anything and feels thrown in. On the whole, this whole segment on this planet is surrounding Anakin, but he doesn’t really become the main focus point of the plot. The podracing scene is praised quite a lot from some people. While it certainly establishes Anakin’s skills as a pilot, I personally just think it’s okay, I guess it’s directed fine enough. It just never did anything for me. The Coruscant section was something I didn’t really like before watching this movie more recently. While I still have some issues with it, it does expand the Star Wars universe with something that the original trilogy didn’t have, politics and a political system. Sure it’s not particularly exciting but at least they actually tried something different, so I can’t complain too much (just a little bit). It doesn’t vibe well with the rest of the movie and it really slows to a snail’s pace, and they really could’ve handled the political talk to make it a little more engaging and less bland. The highlight of this segment was how it showed Palpatine’s rise in political power, that’s something the prequel trilogy did well over the entire prequel trilogy. In this segment we also get to see the Jedi Council, and much of how the Jedi act feels purposeful, they’re meant to be a little monotone and all that, and so I was fine with that in the grand scheme of things. I would’ve liked to have seen Jedi more involved in this movie but given the number of issues The Phantom Menace has, that’s hardly a problem even having. A much despised aspect about this movie was the introduction of midichlorians for the force. I do agree that it’s not needed, even if it was made with good intentions to expand the lore. Personally I just ignore this aspect of the plot, it doesn’t matter to me or the movie really. I don’t even recall the other prequels mentioning them.

The third act is quite good and my favourite section of the whole movie. There are multiple battles and I liked most of it, but the whole Gungan vs battle droids was not so great, though to be fair it’s mainly because a large portion of it was just showing Jar Jar’s comedy unfortunately. The rest of that battle would’ve been fine otherwise. Then there’s the ships trying to destroy the Trade Federation station and involving Anakin in the third act, but I’ll get to that later. The parts where Padme is leading an attack was pretty decent. The best part of this segment is of course the fight with Qui Gon and Obi Wan against Darth Maul. For as much as some Star Wars fans complain about some of the dance like choreography in the prequels (and there’s a truth in that), the choreography in this scene is pretty much perfect. It’s entertaining and it really works, I can’t really think of many complaints about this fight. Although this third act is the best part of the movie, it still has its own share of problems. There are 4 battles going on at once, and it can be a little much, not to mention you don’t really care much about any of them, so you’re basically just watching them because they’re entertaining.

The movie doesn’t particularly do a good job at establishing a singular main character or a focus. Not that they can’t focus on multiple main characters or anything, but it definitely would’ve helped to have at least one major character that you could latch onto, but there’s none to be found here. It’s not Qui Gon, we don’t get to learn about him much, nor is it Obi Wan, we spend even less time with him. Padme’s not really the focus of the story, and it’s a whole third of the way into the movie before you even see Anakin. There’s really no emotional connection to be had with any of the characters, at least in this movie. Thankfully despite some problems, the next two movies focussed on the main characters a little more. Most of the characters feels very stiff, but some of the actors break out of their shell at points. Liam Neeson is believable enough as a Jedi, and Ewan McGregor even from just this movie has vibes of a much younger Obi Wan Kenobi. McGregor also worked a lot better due to the fact that he had two additional movies to develop and showcase his character. In that respect, I do feel like Liam Neeson should’ve been the main character, because we didn’t really learn much about him outside of some brief snippets, and then he just dies at the end. Natalie Portman is also victim to the bland monotone acting that much of the cast has fallen to, the direction really doesn’t take advantage of her great talent sadly. However she is trying, and I do actually like the character quite a bit and she does actually get to do things in this movie. I do find it a little weird that the Jedi couldn’t somehow figure out that she had a decoy, given that they have the force and all that, but that might just be a nitpick.

Jake Lloyd plays the young Anakin Skywalker in this movie. In a previous review I might’ve been a little too critical of him. Honestly the problems I have are not to do with the performance. Ignoring the fact that he’s meant to be a younger Anakin/Darth Vader, Lloyd plays the rest of the role as well as possible given the material. His last scenes with Anakin’s mother I actually thought were well acted. However there are some problems with the character. He’s brought in as a side character a third of the way through, he’s shown to be significant as potentially the one destined to bring balance to the force, there’s parts about him being very powerful with the force and him being a great pilot but that’s it. He almost feels tacked on like a subplot then rather a significant driving part of the movie. Considering that the reason the prequels exist was to show the transition from Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader, it was a little weird that in the first movie they didn’t even put him in one of the leading roles. It doesn’t help that towards the end he ends up blowing up the Trade Federation station at the end by accident instead of purposefully. They already established him as a great pilot with podracing back on Tatooine. Even if they were to have him get stuck in the ship flying towards the station, everything he does after the autopilot is switched off is one Jar Jar moment after the other, where he accidentally manages to save the day, and it would’ve been the perfect moment to prove how capable he is. As for the idea of him being just created by the force, I don’t mind that. Jar Jar Binks is… not really all that bad. George Lucas seemed to find him to be hilarious since he’s placed in so many of the scenes, but unfortunately there’s really nothing that he does that’s genuinely funny. I lost how many times Jar Jar would say “How wude!”, to absolutely no laughs whatsoever. I don’t like him and he’s still slightly annoying but not insufferable, I’ve seen countless worse comic relief characters in other movies. If anything the most disappointing part of him is that they don’t really do anything with him as a character. He’s essentially meant to be our insight into the Gungans, but they do basically nothing with that, nor do they give him any form of character outside of being clumsy. Even if you wanted to make him a slapstick character for 80% of the time, a little bit of character would be nice. He’s distracting more than anything, but hardly among the worst parts of the movie.

The Trade Federation villains like Nute Gunray I’ve always found to be rather uninspired and underwhelming. I’m not expecting every Star Wars movie villain to be at the level of Darth Vader or anything, but I’d like to feel more about them than just “what was the point of them?”. They are after all aside from Darth Maul at the end the ultimate antagonists of the entire movie. I’ve always found the battle droids to be rather unimpressive as physical enemies to the main characters. As much as the Stormtroopers are made fun of because of their terrible aim, they had their moments. Aside from having some large droids, I don’t remember them being particularly threatening at any point in these movies outside of the very large scale battle scenes later on. Ian McDiarmid always delivers as Palpatine/The Emperor, The Phantom Menace establishes him very well in this time period and he absolutely nails all of his scenes. Pretty much everything involving The Emperor in the prequel trilogy was great. We also have Ray Park as Darth Maul who everyone likes, even people who hate The Phantom Menace still highly praised him. He became so popular in fact that he was resurrected in spin off Star Wars stories and media, and even cameoed in Solo. I do wish he was in the movie more and we don’t get any sort of idea of his personality or character and he doesn’t get many lines, but what we get from him is great. He’s got a great and dangerous presence about him, and he’s shown to be quite the adversary in the third act.

George Lucas’s direction is a bit of a mixed bag. With the prequel trilogy, Lucas put an even higher emphasis on CGI, unfortunately the CGI hasn’t really held up all that well. Some moments are okay, some aren’t so much. Most of the practical effects and sets are good, there was actually a lot more practical effects used in this movie than I remember there being. The only parts which distract are the Trade Federation aliens, they just look so lifeless from their blinking to the lip movement. And since we are talking about CGI and aliens, we should probably address Yoda, even if he’s a very small part of the movie. Initially The Phantom Menace had Yoda done through puppeteering, and that sounds good on paper, but something must’ve gone wrong because he looked freakish and creepy. In the updated versions of this movie they replaced him with a CGI Yoda like with what they’ve now done with episodes 2 and 3, and honestly I think it’s better than what it was before. With that said, something seems really off about it, the animation really doesn’t fit the voice at all and it can look quite out of place. CGI not always being great aside, generally the action in The Phantom Menace is filmed well. John Williams’s score across the first 6 movies have remained iconic, no matter how much the prequels are hated. Tracks like Duel of the Fates stick out at as some of the most standout songs from the franchise.

The Phantom Menace is still a mixed bag, but I guess at least I like it more than the last time I saw it. I think there’s a lot here to like, I like some of the expansions of the Star Wars lore and worlds, even if not all of it works I appreciate the efforts. There are also some parts like the third act that I legitimately think are good. However, there are just so many missteps and mistakes made here that really hold the movie back from being as good as it could’ve been. I’m not mad at the movie at all, just disappointed, and I’m unlikely to revisit it that much. Still the worst Star Wars movie, but more average than actually bad.

Gangs of New York (2002) Review

Time: 167 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Leonardo DiCaprio as Amsterdam Vallon
Daniel Day-Lewis as William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting
Cameron Diaz as Jenny Everdeane
Jim Broadbent as William “Boss” Tweed
John C. Reilly as Happy Jack Mulraney
Henry Thomas as Johnny Sirocco
Liam Neeson as “Priest” Vallon
Brendan Gleeson as Walter “Monk” McGinn
Director: Martin Scorsese

When his father is killed in New York City, Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) returns in 1863 to hunt down his father’s killer, the ruthless Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis). It’s not easy for Amsterdam as gangs roam a corrupt New York City, with Bill Cutting ruling over everyone.

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Gangs of New York was a movie I was curious about re-watching. I remember seeing it many years ago for the first time and liking it, but I didn’t remember a lot about the movie. Whenever I hear about this movie, people seem to either regard it as one of Martin Scorsese’s best movies, or one of his worst. In a lot of my recent reviews where I revisit Scorsese’s filmography, I often talk about how I like the movie more on a second viewing. Gangs of New York is sadly the exception. It’s not a bad movie by any means, I’d even say that it’s rather decent and has a lot going for it, but there are just so many problems that hold it back from being as good as it should’ve and could’ve been.

Gangs of New York is quite ambitious, the idea of the plot and the setting are interesting. The script is written by Jay Cocks, Kenneth Lonergan and Steven Zaillian, and while they are great writers, the writing present in the movie weren’t all that great. There’s a lot of thought put into the gangs and how things are organised in the city, if the movie was focussed a lot more on that it could’ve been even better. However the movie is bogged down with some subplots, mostly focussed on characters that aren’t made to be particularly interesting for the most part. The thing is that you really see potential at points. There are some legitimacy great scenes here, and you can really see what Gangs of New York could’ve been all the way through. The second half still has problems, but it felt a little less messy than the first half, and it focuses up a little more. I think I should probably address the elephant in the room, that being Harvey Weinstein, and all of his interference of the film. Now its not known specifically what changes he made but what we do know is that at an hour was cut out because of him. Some of the weird decisions however I can sort of see him mandating, perhaps in an attempt to be more award friendly (and perhaps that worked, with the movie receiving 10 Oscar nominations, but it still led to a worse movie). If I didn’t know an entire hour was cut out, I’d say that this movie is too long at 2 hours 40 minutes. Most of Scorsese’s longer movies are well paced but this is not one of those cases. With that said, it might’ve actually been better with a longer runtime if it meant a much more complete movie. It really feels like it’s lacking something, it’s a movie that tries so hard to tackle so many themes and to be so many things, but ultimately ends up not being much. On top of that, much of Gangs of New York feels a little too Hollywood, and is a little too grand and operatic for its own good.

If you’re going to watch Gangs of New York for one reason only, it should be for Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill “The Butcher” Cutting, who is outstanding here. This is among his best performances, and knowing Day-Lewis, that’s saying a lot. Any time he was on screen, he made the scenes instantly better. Some people have talked about how Day-Lewis’s performance made everyone else look like they are bad at acting. While I wouldn’t entirely agree, he is working on a totally different level compared to everywhere else in this movie. Gangs of New York marks the first collaboration between Leonardo DiCaprio, and as we all know it’s not their last. Though it’s nowhere near his best work, he still gives a solid performance with what is given. However he, like a lot of actors in this movie, have accents that are all over the place, in fact Daniel Day-Lewis and the actual Irish actors are the only people in the cast who don’t have accents that slip up. Still, DiCaprio plays the role reasonably well. Cameron Diaz on the other hand… she doesn’t fair so well. She didn’t fit into the movie well, and I hate to say it but she was rather miscast. In all fairness she wasn’t necessarily terrible, but she did not work in her role. It doesn’t help that the movie focusses so much on a romance between DiCaprio and Diaz, and that just didn’t work at all. Maybe it could’ve worked, but the two actors don’t share any chemistry, and you don’t even see why the two characters would be together. It’s a distraction more than anything. Some of the supporting cast are good, some roles like that played by John C. Reilly could’ve been played by anyone. Jim Broadbent, Brendan Gleeson are among the supporting actors who fare better.

Martin Scorsese’s direction is on showcase in many parts of Gangs of New York. The production design and costumes were handled really well, and the cinematography was really good. This is Scorsese’s most ambitious and large scale movie and you can feel it throughout. I talked much about Weinstein’s interference, and I’m pretty sure that extended to the direction. There are some aspects that don’t work, and I’m just going to assume that he had a part to play in these issues. The editing goes from working really well to being rather choppy, and since this is Thelma Schoonmaker working on the movie, I’m just going to assume that some mandated decisions were made. What comes to mind immediately is the opening battle scene, no idea why it was edited like that. Then there’s the forced narration from Leonardo DiCaprio, definitely one of those instances where the narration doesn’t work at all and is generally used for exposition, though there are some moments that worked fine enough. However there is one aspect that makes me convinced some decisions were mandated by Weinstein. The opening scene features a few notable characters played by the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis, John C. Reilly and Brendan Gleeson. After the time jump when it shows the return of these characters from the opening sequence, it briefly cuts a flashback to them in that opening scene to remind the audience, even though anyone paying attention to the early portion would be able to recognise them. It really felt out of place, even though its just a small part of a very long movie, it doesn’t seem like a very Scorsese thing to do, and indicates that not all the decisions were made by him.

Gangs of New York for all its potential doesn’t completely work. There’s still a few movies of Martin Scorsese that I consider worse than this one, but this is definitely his most disappointing. Even putting aside some of the studio interference that no doubt affected quite a lot of the movie, the script has a ton of problems, and the movie operates on such a grandiose level that it doesn’t work as well as it could’ve. However it’s not a movie that I’d dismiss outright. Despite some mandated choices that don’t feel like Scorsese, it’s directed well, there are some scenes that are good, it picks up in the second half, and Daniel Day-Lewis gives an extraordinary performance. So I’d still say that it’s worth watching.

Cold Pursuit (2019) Review

Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, suicide themes, sexual references & offensive language
Cast:
Liam Neeson as Nels Coxman
Tom Bateman as Trevor “Viking” Calcote
Tom Jackson as White Bull Legrew
Emmy Rossum as Kim Dash
Domenick Lombardozzi as Mustang
Julia Jones as Aya
John Doman as John “Gip” Gipsky
Laura Dern as Grace
Director: Hans Petter Moland

Nels Coxman’s (Liam Neeson) quiet life as a snowplow driver comes crashing down when his beloved son dies under mysterious circumstances. His search for the truth soon becomes a quest for revenge against a psychotic drug lord named Viking (Tom Bateman) and his sleazy henchmen. Transformed from upstanding citizen to coldblooded vigilante, Coxman unwittingly sets off a chain of events that includes a kidnapping, a series of deadly misunderstandings and a turf war between Viking and a rival boss (Tom Jackson).

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Liam Neeson ever since 2008’s Taken has starred in a bunch of revenge thrillers, so one could be forgiven for completely blanking on this year’s Cold Pursuit as just being more of the same, albeit set in the snow. That or it is just remembered as that one movie where Neeson said some things on a press tour that got him into some hot water to say the least. I was meaning to check it out earlier but missed it at the cinemas, so checked it out more recently. Cold Pursuit has its issues but its pretty entertaining overall.

It’s around 90 minutes long and for the most part it’s paced reasonably well. It starts off like you’d expect it to, it shows Liam Neeson in his normal life, tragedy strikes with his son being killed, and then he goes on his path of revenge. The second act is when you really notice something strange about the tone of the movie. As previously mentioned, this is a dark comedy and is very offbeat throughout, and you should probably know that going in or the experience is going to be a little surprising to say the least. You think that it would mainly focus on Liam Neeson, and while he is very prominent, it also focuses on two other groups of characters, one led by the main antagonist Viking, and the other being another crime group who would come into conflict with Viking. Personally I liked how they handled it, mostly because in the third act everything comes together to really work to hilarious effect (no spoilers). However the second act is a little stretched out, even if the runtime of the movie is shorter, and I would’ve liked to have seen more of Neeson, he needed to be in the movie a little more (particularly in the second act).

It really feels like Liam Neeson was cast in the lead role for a reason given his typical lead revenge roles, and he’s effortlessly good as expected. This time however, this isn’t a Liam Neeson with a particular set of skills, just a normal guy who is out for revenge. Tom Bateman plays the drug lord and the main antagonist of the movie. He’s crazy and unhinged but he’s mostly used for comedy, as he doesn’t really do anything till like the third act. He’s just so over the top but in the right kind of way, he’s deliberately not meant to be taken seriously. Most of the rest of the cast is fine as well. There is a subplot following a couple cops played by Emmy Rossum and John Doman, and while the two are okay in their roles, their parts didn’t really amount to anything. It’s almost like they’re in the movie to show that police exist in this town but they basically contribute nothing to the plot. The worst treatment of a character/actor is definitely with Laura Dern as Neeson’s wife. It’s actually kind of ridiculous, she appears for scenes before and after her son’s death, and then they just disappear and aren’t mentioned or seen ever again. I heard that apparently it was like that with the original movie, but then I wish the director then would’ve improved the role instead of keeping it the same.

Turns out that this movie is actually an English language remake of In Order of Disappearance, a film also made by the same director, Hans Petter Moland. He really does place you in the snowy location very well. His direction is especially great when it comes to the comedy. For example, every time someone dies, a title card comes up with the name of the person who was just killed. A lot of the time this is used for some really great comedy. The action itself when it actually happenss is quite good, however don’t expect the amount of action in some of Neeson’s other flicks like Taken.

Cold Pursuit isn’t anything special but it’s a fun movie. Liam Neeson and the cast worked well (although Laura Dern and Emmy Rossum weren’t given the best things to work with), and the writing and overall direction made it work as a dark comedy. It’s definitely not a conventional Neeson thriller and despite its issues, I’d say that it’s worth a watch.

Men in Black International (2019) Review

Time: 114 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Science fiction themes & violence
Cast:
Chris Hemsworth as Henry/Agent H
Tessa Thompson as Molly Wright/Agent M
Kumail Nanjiani as Pawny (voice)
Liam Neeson as High T
Rafe Spall as Agent C
Rebecca Ferguson as Riza Stavros
Laurent and Larry Bourgeois as The Twins
Emma Thompson as Agent O
Director: F. Gary Gray

The Men in Black have expanded to cover the globe but so have the villains of the universe. To keep everyone safe, decorated Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and determined rookie M (Tessa Thompson) join forces — an unlikely pairing that just might work. When aliens that can take the form of any human arrive on Earth, H and M embark on a globe-trotting adventure to save the agency — and ultimately the world — from their mischievous plans.

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Men in Black International was a movie I was cautiously optimistic about. The idea of making a Men in Black movie and not having the iconic duo of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith seemed like a disaster. With that said, Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth were the leads, and they seemed to be a good pairing, especially as the two have worked together before. Additionally, the movie has Liam Neeson, Rebecca Ferguson and more. On top of that, at least it was expanding on the Men in Black universe instead of flat out being a remake/reboot of the original movie. Even though the trailers looked a little generic and familiar, I was willing to give it a chance. Men in Black International is one of those movies that’s incredibly just above average in just about every aspect. There’s not a lot here that’s actually bad, but there’s not a lot here that’s good either.

The plot is reasonably easy to follow but you’re not really invested in it, or its characters despite their performances. It doesn’t even necessarily feel like a Men in Black movie, more like a modern blockbuster with a Men in Black skin. Much of the writing and especially the humour certainly feels like it’s from a passable sci-fi flick released today. As for the humour, it isn’t embarrassingly bad, but more often than not it misses than actually hits. It starts off a little rough too, jumping back a couple years for a scene with Chris Hemsworth and Liam Neeson, jumping back even further with Tessa Thompson’s character as a child, before then jumping back to the present. Then there’s the whole bit about Thompson finding the MIB and somehow convincing them to make her an agent which I didn’t completely buy. After that point the movie picks up a little. There’s also a twist that happened, and somehow I managed to figure it out months ago before learning that the movie actually had a twist at all. By the time the first act is over, it’s incredibly obvious what it is, it’s honestly kind of embarrassing how easy it is to figure it out. It’s not necessarily a major issue, but it goes to show how familiar the plot is. In terms of what it actually adds to the Men in Black universe, it’s in a new setting, and I guess you get some new gadgets/weapons in a couple scenes. However, it honestly feels like they did the bare minimum with the plot, kind of a wasted opportunity.

Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth are the leads, and while they don’t rival Smith and Jones they are charismatic and likable, and among the better aspects of the movie. They really end up carrying much of the movie. Other cast members like Kumail Nanjiani (voicing an alien), Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson (reprising her role from the last movie), Rafe Spall and Rebecca Ferguson do alright in their roles. The villains aren’t really bad but nothing memorable either. Also I should probably mention that there’s no cameo from Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, so don’t wait through the credits expecting a scene with them, because that doesn’t happen.

After the opening credits and the movie starts, you can definitely tell this movie was not made by original Men in Black director Barry Sonnefeld. International is directed more as a much more modern and conventional action movie. F. Gary Gray directed The Italian Job remake, Law Abiding Citizen, Straight Outta Compton and The Fate of the Furious, and now it’s him who’s directing this movie. He’s a pretty good director and to be fair his work on Men in Black International isn’t necessarily bad, but it lacks style and personality. The visual effects are pretty good, again typical blockbuster effects but better than those in the previous movies. The alien designs are fine but at the same time they’re a little basic. There’s very little that’s impressive, just reasonably competent.

Men in Black International is just okay. Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth and the rest of the cast are pretty good, and the visual effects and action is decent, but outside of that there’s not much to really say about the movie. The plot is fine, the direction is fine, it’s competently made, it’s rather forgettable, and there are very little surprises. It’s a reasonably entertaining 2 hours of your time but nothing more than that. If you’re a fan of the movies, then maybe it’s worth a watch, but don’t expect a lot going in.

The Commuter (2018) Review

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Liam Neeson as Michael MacCauley
Vera Farmiga as Joanna
Patrick Wilson as Det. Lt. Alex Murphy
Jonathan Banks as Walt
Sam Neill as Captain David Hawthorne
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Insurance salesman Michael (Liam Neeson) is on his daily commute home, which quickly becomes anything but routine. After being contacted by a mysterious stranger, Michael is forced to uncover the identity of a hidden passenger on the train before the last stop. As he works against the clock to solve the puzzle, he realizes a deadly plan is unfolding, and he is unwittingly caught up in a criminal conspiracy that carries life and death stakes for everyone on the train.

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I’d been meaning to watch The Commuter for a while. It’s a Liam Neeson action movie which would be his 4th collaboration with director Jaume Collet-Serra, who directed him previously in action flicks Unknown, Non Stop and Run All Night. The Commuter was pretty much Liam Neeson on a train so naturally I was wanting to check it out, and it was pretty much what I was expecting it to be. It’s nothing revolutionary but it’s nonetheless rather entertaining and Liam Neeson is good as always.

Much of this movie is a thriller, more than an action movie really, and it keeps the tension raised throughout. It keeps the entire story contained within the train, and throughout almost all of the movie is just set inside that train. While you can sort of figure out how certain things are going to play out and the story overall is not a complete surprise, it’s not entirely predictable what’s going to happen. Throughout the 105 minute runtime, you’re entertained quite a bit. There’s not a ton to the story or to the characterisation but there didn’t need to be.

Liam Neeson is typically good in yet another action role. Neeson is no stranger to these kind of roles however his character in The Commuter is a bit different to those. His character was once a cop but now is an insurance agent. So while he as ‘a particular set of skills’, he’s not at the top of his game with them. Also he actually does seem quite vulnerable and desperate in his situation, despite all of his skills, he doesn’t ever really feel that he’s on top of everything that’s going on. Something that took me off guard was the number of other actors I recognised in the movie, mostly because we don’t actually get a lot of screentime with most of them. I mean at least Vera Farmiga had a presence throughout the movie (even if she isn’t seen a lot) and Patrick Wilson was involved in some major scenes. However some of the castings were odd, like Jonathan Banks gets a really small role that could’ve been played by anyone, and Sam Neill plays a Police Captain who’s in like 2 scenes. That’s not to say that the performances were bad or that they phoned them in, because they weren’t, they all played their roles to the best of their abilities and were pretty good. It’s just personally it was a little distracting seeing so many recognisable faces pop up only briefly in the movie.

The direction as to be expected by Jaume Collet-Serra is good. He navigates the film inside this one train very well and it really does place the movie there for like 95% of the time. There aren’t many fight scenes or really action scenes but they are generally done quite well. There is particularly one fight scene that was done all in one shot, and you can tell that it was Liam Neeson and the other actor doing their own stunts, no stunt doubles were involved, and it was just really great to watch. The movie might actually be worth watching for that scene alone. While The Commuter mostly keeps itself as a contained thriller, it does go off the rails in the third act, mainly in one incredibly over the top action scene. While the movie doesn’t use CGI for most of the movie, when it is used it’s noticeably dreadful. It’s mostly in the aforementioned sequence ‘off the rails’ segment where everything looked so incredibly fake. Thankfully it’s just that one scene which was over the top, everything else has the direction being pretty good.

The Commuter is a fun little thriller, that is directed reasonably well, is entertaining and Liam Neeson is effortlessly good here. It’s not really anything that you’ll remember weeks or even days after watching it but if you are a fun of Liam Neeson action flicks like the director’s Unknown, Non Stop and Run All Night, or even Taken (the film that made Neeson an action star), this is definitely something you need to watch as soon as you can because you’ll have a blast with it.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) Review

Time: 133 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Tim Blake Nelson as Buster Scruggs
Willie Watson as The Kid
David Krumholtz as Frenchman in Saloon
E. E. Bell as Saloon Piano Player
Tom Proctor as Cantina Bad Man
Clancy Brown as Çurly Joe

Near Algodones
James Franco as Cowboy
Stephen Root as Teller
Ralph Ineson as The Man in Black
Jesse Luken as Drover

Meal Ticket
Liam Neeson as Impresario
Harry Melling as Artist (Harrison)

All Gold Canyon
Tom Waits as Prospector
Sam Dillon as Young Man

The Gal Who Got Rattled
Zoe Kazan as Alice Longabaugh
Bill Heck as Billy Knapp
Grainger Hines as Mr. Arthur
Jackamoe Buzzell as Boarder #3
Jefferson Mays as Gilbert Longabaugh
Ethan Dubin as Matt

The Mortal Remains
Tyne Daly as Lady (Mrs. Betjeman)
Brendan Gleeson as Irishman (Clarence)
Jonjo O’Neill as Englishman (Thigpen)
Saul Rubinek as Frenchman (René)
Chelcie Ross as Trapper
Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

An anthology film comprised of six stories, each dealing with a different aspect of life in the Old West.

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The Coen Brothers have done some good movies in the past but I can never tell how much I’ll like their movies. Hail Caesar wasn’t particularly liked loved a lot of people but I really liked it, whereas their beloved movies Fargo and Inside Llewyn Davis I liked but didn’t love, not to mention I didn’t like their comedy ‘classic’ Raising Arizona at all. This isn’t the first Western movie that they have done, with No Country for Old Men and True Grit showing that they are great with the genre, but it is the first anthology movie that they’ve done. It’s such a weird idea for them and I really didn’t know what to expect. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a odd mix of western stories written and directed by The Coen Brothers that range from okay to actually pretty good. I’m glad I watched it but it’s far from the filmmaking duo’s best.

Now the movie is split into 6 different chapters and it’s just impossible for me to talk about the movie on a whole without talking about them individually. Therefore, I’ll separate my review by the individual chapters. The first chapter is The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. It’s about Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson), a cheerful outlaw and singer who comes across other outlaws and hilarity and chaos insures. So much of this chapter is cartoonish and over the top, I was entertained by it but I was expecting much more. Really the highlight of this chapter was the titular character of Buster Scruggs played by Tim Blake Nelson. He’s so over the top and full of energy that it’s fun to watch him, he’s almost like a cartoon character put into live action. While all of the chapters were directed well, this was particularly well directed and put together. Though it was fun, by the end it just comes across as a fun skit written and directed by The Coen Brothers rather than them actually making part of a movie. I’m not exactly sure why they decided to name the whole movie after this chapter, it’s way shorter than I thought it would be and was just sort of funny and that’s it. While I had fun with this chapter, it did make me nervous about the rest of the movie, and whether it would be just fun western skits for the entirety of the movie. Know that despite what I said, I actually had a lot of fun with it and it’s really good. I just wish that it was longer and had more of a purpose.

The second chapter is titled Near Algodones and stars James Franco as a cowboy who tries to perform a robbery. The best thing I can say about it indicates at least that each chapter of this movie will have a different tone and story, it’s not cartoonishly goofy as Buster Scruggs and is a little more serious, yet it has some effective dark comedy and James Franco is also good in a role that we don’t usually see him in. Again though, it feels so incredibly short, around the length of Buster Scruggs and probably even shorter. The whole movie is 2 hours and 10 minutes long yet they couldn’t seem to make each of them at least 20 minutes long. The found footage anthology movie V/H/S seemed to have longer segments. However, it’s not just that it’s short, while Buster Scruggs can get by with it being a goofy comedic skit, Near Algodones is a more serious story, and so doesn’t have that to fall back on. While it wasn’t bad by any means, there wasn’t really anything particularly interesting or even that entertaining about this chapter, outside of some slightly humorous moments. Having watched this segment, I had even more worries about how the overall movie would be.

The third chapter is titled Meal Ticket, starring Liam Neeson as an travelling impresario with an armless and legless artist played by Harry Melling. Again, significantly different tone and type of story and it was such a weird choice of story to make in the western setting, especially in contrast to the previous two stories. However, it’s from this point that things started to look up for the overall movie. It didn’t really have any comedy whatsoever, thankfully though it is done much better than Near Algodones. It’s about as long as the Buster Scruggs segment yet we actually get to learn more about the characters and their situations. Both Neeson and Melling are also great in their roles and their subtle performances made the chapter even better. This story isn’t what you’d typically think of when it comes to western stories but it really works for this movie. It’s a lot more atmospheric and darker from the others, also with a rather bleak ending which fits right along with The Coen Brothers’ other dark endings, all around Meal Ticket was pretty decent.

The fourth chapter is titled All Gold Canyon and is about Tom Waits as a prospector who arrives in a mountain valley and decides to dig for gold, again, very different kind of story compared to the others. Something that’s immediately different is the setting. The first two segments were very desert-western based, and the third mostly took place at towns in night. The fourth chapter however takes place in a beautiful and green field, making it by far the most visually stunning of all the segments. It’s longer than the previous segments and is the easiest to watch of all the segments. It’s really just Tom Waits in the story in terms of characters, and he carries it very well. Overall one of the better chapters of the movie.

The fifth chapter is titled The Gal Who Got Rattled, which is about a woman (Zoe Kazan) and her brother (Jefferson Mays), who are traveling in a wagon train towards Oregon. Now I heard from some people how the movie falls apart from this segment as well as the 6th chapter. It doesn’t feel like a typical Coen Brothers’ movie, both in concept and in terms of writing and dialogue. It is also the longest of the 6 segments, and is more drawn out with a slower pace, which feels really jarring compared to the prior segments which moved rather fast. I will say that it does feel like the most well rounded of the stories. Most of the other chapters feel like either brief snapshots of what the stories as full complete movies could be, or random skits. The Gal Who Got Rattled on the other hand actually works as a short film on its own, with characters effectively fleshed out. You could probably even see the segment turned into a full length movie. The actors all did a great job with their performances particularly Zoe Kazan, Bill Heck and Grainger Hines. Although it’s very out of place compared to the other chapters, The Gal Who Got Rattled is at the very least one of the better segments.

The sixth chapter is titled The Mortal Remains, and is about five people who ride in a stagecoach together to Fort Morgan. It feels like such a weird story to end the movie. Admittedly while I was on board with every chapter leading up to this, when it got to this one I sort of switched off. After the 30+ minute long segment of The Gal Who Got Rattled which was on such a large scale, it felt like an alright place for the movie to stop. However it was immediately followed by 5 people just talking, and through a lot of it, I just didn’t care what was going on, at least before the halfway point. That’s not to say that there aren’t some good moments to it though, after the halfway point it does pick up quite a bit, also Jonjo O’Neil, Brendan Gleeson, Saul Rubinek, Tyne Daly and Chelcie Ross were quite good in their roles. However it still is one of the weaker of the stories.

To summarise: whether you like The Ballad of Buster Scruggs or not, there’s no arguing that it really feels like a Coen Brothers movie… well there are at least plenty of glimpses of it. A lot of the direction and writing, especially the dialogue and dark comedy feels quite a bit like The Coen Brothers’ work. I can see some of these segments working as entire full length stories. Since they titled the movie after the first chapter, I couldn’t see why they didn’t just make the whole movie about that. And if The Coen Brothers’ were committed to doing a bunch of short stories, it might’ve been better if they just made it a mini series, 6 episodes with each episode ranging from 40 minutes to an hour. They don’t really have any connections to each other whatsoever, and each of the stories don’t really seem to serve any point except to every time come to the conclusion that it was rough living in the Wild West. That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of good things to this movie. It is visually stunning throughout all the segments and are directed well, and the actors do great jobs, particularly Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan and Bill Heck.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a bit of a mixed bag, while all the chapters are well directed and acted, much of the segments are way too short and aren’t interesting enough and as mentioned above aren’t as great as you’d hope given who worked on them. If you’re a fan of The Coen Brothers, I’d say definitely check it out, it’s on Netflix and will just be 2 hours and 10 minutes of your time. As for the rest of you, I’m not entirely sure I can recommend it. Despite my thoughts on some of the segments and the overall movie, I will praise the Coen Brothers for at least trying something different. It is one of their weakest movies though.

Widows (2018) Review

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language & sex scenes
Cast:
Viola Davis as Veronica Rawlings
Michelle Rodriguez as Linda Perelli
Elizabeth Debicki as Alice Gunner
Cynthia Erivo as Belle
Colin Farrell as Jack Mulligan
Brian Tyree Henry as Jamal Manning
Daniel Kaluuya as Jatemme Manning
Jacki Weaver as Agnieska
Carrie Coon as Amanda Nunn
Robert Duvall as Tom Mulligan
Liam Neeson as Harry Rawlings
Director: Steve McQueen

A police shootout leaves four thieves dead during an explosive armed robbery attempt in Chicago. Their widows – Veronica (Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) and Belle (Cynthia Erivo) — have nothing in common except a debt left behind by their spouses’ criminal activities. Hoping to forge a future on their own terms, Veronica joins forces with the other three women to pull off a heist that her husband was planning.

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I have been waiting for Widows for a long time, it’s my most anticipated film of 2018. So many things were going for it, not only is Steve McQueen (Shame and 12 Years a Shame) directing, not only is Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl and Sharp Objects) writing the script, but it also has the biggest cast of the year: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Robert Duvall, Liam Neeson and more make up the talented cast. I was looking forward to seeing McQueen, Flynn and the cast tackling essentially a heist movie, there is so much potential that the combination of talent had. Thankfully it absolutely delivered and unsurprisingly ended up being one of the best films of the year.

Gillian Flynn and Steve McQueen together wrote Widows and it’s a really great script overall. First thing that should be noted is that although it is a ‘heist movie’, it’s not like Heat where you get see a number of heists. The actual heist doesn’t occur until the third act and when it happens it’s actually not that long. Much of Widows consists of the 4 main characters trying to figure out how they are going to pull off the heist, while also following their personal lives following the aftermath of their dead husbands’ failed heist. Widows could’ve easily just been that, and with Flynn and McQueen working on it, and it could’ve been really good. However they go above and beyond that, making it more than just a genre movie. Knowing McQueen especially, I knew that it would be more than just a simple heist movie, and I was right (though it still is his most accessible film by far). There is a lot more going on, for example during the course of the movie, there’s an election going on and the events of the heist could very well affect things that are happening with regard to that. Widows also really takes its time following its characters and their individual plotlines, it really isn’t a fast paced thriller like the trailers have made it out to be. On top of that there’s a lot of thematic elements to the movie that I think most people won’t be expecting going in. As this is Gillian Flynn, there are going to be some twists and they all worked really well. I think there might’ve been some I could figure out but none of them were like glaringly obvious or anything. I think something that some people may take issue with is that there are some things towards the end of the movie that aren’t resolved completely. It’s not like a cliffhanger ending or anything but it doesn’t go into detail with how some plotlines are resolved, some plotlines’ endings are a little ambiguous. That can go for some of the characters as well, for example with Colin Farrell, there is sort of an end to his story but there isn’t quite as much as you’d like. Maybe with some of the characters if we got a little more than what we had it would’ve been better but it was enough. In terms of other problems, the only scene that was out of place was one with Michelle Rodriguez when she goes to try to get information out of someone, and every single person who has seen the movie knows exactly which scene I’m referring to. I’m not really sure what the point of that scene was but it’s a little random. Doesn’t break the movie or anything but it stands out as being a little odd. The movie takes place over 1 month but it feels like it takes place over 2 weeks at most, not really a big issue it’s just something I noticed. On the whole the movie runs for 2 hours and 10 minutes long and aside from that one scene, I was completely on board with everything.

One of the highlights of the movie was the immensely talented cast and no matter how small of a role their had, every single actor was at the top of their game delivering great performances, not a single performance felt miscast or weak. Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo are the main leads who are trying to pull off the heist. Viola Davis is really the lead of this movie and as usual she crushes it in her role, though it’s come to be expected of the powerhouse Davis. She commands a lot of presence and is really the leader of the group but at the same time she still feels very vulnerable, both the film and Viola balance it out well. I’ve really known Michelle Rodriguez just from the Fast and Furious movies but in her role in Widows (a very different kind of heist film) she really shows off a lot of talent, she was really great here. I’d actually like to see Rodriguez in more dramatic work now. Elizabeth Debicki has proved herself as a great actress in things like The Night Manager and The Great Gatsby, but she really gives an impressive performance here. Her character has a lot to deal with, having received abuse from both her husband and her mother, and she played the role very well. Cynthia Erivo made a strong impact in this year’s Bad Times at the El Royale and she’s also great here as not a widow, but someone who comes in to join the group. Something that I liked is how all 4 of them don’t feel like they are at all capable of pulling it off. They’ve never done any heists themselves and so they have to learn to get things done. They also don’t necessarily get along, they are coming together to pull a heist because they have no choice, so it’s interesting watching them work together despite all this.

The rest of the cast are all great as well, no matter how large or small of a role they are in. Colin Farrell and Brian Tyree Henry are great as opposing politicians who are both campaigning for alderman of a prescient (the latter of whom is applying pressure to the widows to get 2 million dollars). Robert Duvall also plays his small role as Farrell’s father quite well. Liam Neeson is also great in a small but significant role as Davis’s husband who was among the criminals who died during the heist and while he’s not in a ton of the movie, he gave his best performance in a while, probably since 2012’s The Grey, he does so much with very little. Out of the supporting cast however, it’s Daniel Kaluuya who’s the standout, playing Brian Tyree Henry’s brother and enforcer. He doesn’t have a ton of scenes but he really makes an impact whenever he’s on screen. He just exudes this uncomfortable vibe in every scene he’s in, and you’re not sure of what he’ll do next, very intimidating. With his Black Mirror appearance, Sicario, Get Out, Black Panther and now Widows, Kaluuya has shown himself to be one of the most exciting actors working today, displaying a very large range. Well deserving of a lot of praise, especially for his performance here. Some actors are pretty much cameos here, like Jon Bernthal, Jacki Weaver and Carrie Coon but they were good in their roles nonetheless.

Steve McQueen’s direction is nothing short of fantastic. This film feels incredibly real, the heist scenes aren’t blown out of proportion and feel very gritty. Some of the directing choices made by McQueen particularly stood out as being fantastic, 2 immediately come to mind. The first one was circling around Kaluuya’s character in one of his intimidating scenes. The second one is in a scene where Colin Farrell and his campaign manager get into a car following a rally and instead of cutting inside, the camera stays on the exterior of the limo as it travels from a derelict urban neighbourhood to a gentrified suburb (where Farrell lives) while the two of them are having a conversation. It was just incredibly visual storytelling. Hans Zimmer’s score is of course great and while you don’t hear a ton of it in the movie, often it really amps up the tension when it’s present.

Widows is fantastic and one of the best films of the year. Everyone in this star studded cast plays their role excellently (with Davis, Debicki and Kaluuya being standouts) and Steve McQueen and Gillian Flynn made what could’ve been a simple heist movie into something much more and is just all around great from start to finish. Not enough people are seeing it and I implore you to go out and see Widows in the cinema, it deserves it and you deserve it.

Run All Night (2015) Review

Time: 114 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence, offensive language & drug use
Cast:
Liam Neeson as Jimmy Conlon
Joel Kinnaman as Mike Conlon
Ed Harris as Shawn Maguire
Common as Mr. Price
Vincent D’Onofrio as Detective Harding
Boyd Holbrook as Danny Maguire
Bruce McGill as Pat Mullen
Genesis Rodriguez as Gabriela Conlon
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Professional Brooklyn hitman Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) is more commonly known as THE GRAVEDIGGER. Jimmy was a mob hit-man, who was best friends with his boss Sean Maguire (Ed Harris). But when Jimmy’s son, Michael (Joel Kinnaman), is marked for death by the mob, Jimmy must go up against Sean to protect Michael at all costs. Together, he and Michael must avoid corrupt cops, contract killers and the mob to survive the night.

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Run All Night was a movie that interested me because of Liam Neeson’s involvement, but having actors like Ed Harris and Jaume Collet-Serra (the director of Unknown and Non Stop both pretty good Liam Neeson movies) did help as well. Out of the three movies that the director and Neeson had worked on (that I’ve seen, I haven’t seen The Commuter yet), this film is probably my favourite. It felt more placed in the real world (in comparison to the director’s previous movies), the action was great, the cast were quite solid in their roles and it really kept my attention all the way through. It’s not a fantastic action movie but it is an entertaining movie that is worth watching if you have the time.

The mostly story takes place all night (as you can probably tell from the title) and it does well in making it really feel like it. The plot is straightforward enough, not complicated but not mindless either. It’s got some little surprises which are some good surprises. It also felt relatively grounded compared to previous collaborations between Neeson and Collet-Serra (especially Non Stop). The pacing was done well, though it really picks up after Neeson’s character kills Harris’s son’s character. The movie does get better as it moves along more. There’s not much to really say about the plot to be honest.

Liam Neeson is really good, granted he could play this role in his sleep. I like the fact that he’s not playing a very moral character like in some of his other action movie roles. He’s a drunk, he’s a criminal and that was very refreshing to see, with it not just being a rehash of Liam Neeson – Action Hero. Ed Harris proved to be a great antagonist, he like a lot of his other villains has real motives and he makes everything believable and not cartoonishly evil. Both Neeson and Harris seem like they have a history, which was important to capture as that comes into play a lot in the movie. Joel Kinnaman was also really good in his role. He shared great chemistry with Neeson, and really seemed to have an estranged relationship. I also really liked Common here, he plays an assassin that Ed Harris hires at a point in the movie. I do feel like he was underused, he was only in a few scenes of the movie but he was good when he was on screen.

I liked that Run All Night decided to go with an R rating, considering the last 2 Neeson and Jaume Collet-Serra collabs have been M/PG-13. The overall direction of Run All Night overall was quite good, the movie has a good look to it. The action scenes are great and quite violent at times, which really worked with the dark and realistic tone that the film was going for, but at the same time isn’t trying too hard to make the movie completely realistic, it still knows what type of movie it is.

Although the film isn’t a must see and isn’t one of the all time best crime thrillers in recent years, I do recommend checking it out. The action is solid, the cast are good in their roles and it does keep your attention and is entertaining from start to finish, it’s not a simple action flick with no substance but it also knows what type of movie it is. If you like a lot of the Neeson flicks, I have a strong feeling that you’ll like it as well.