Tag Archives: Martin Sheen

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021) Review

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

Judas and the Black Messiah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spawn (1997) Review

Time: 96 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Michael Jai White as Albert Simmons/Spawn
John Leguizamo as The Violator
Martin Sheen as Jason Wynn
Theresa Randle as Wanda Blake Simmons-Fitzgerald
Nicol Williamson as Cogliostro
D. B. Sweeney as Terry Fitzgerald
Director: Mark A.Z. Dippé

Covert government assassin Al Simmons (Michael Jai White) is killed after being double-crossed by his boss, Jason Wynn (Martin Sheen). Upon arriving in Hell, Simmons is offered an opportunity to return to Earth if he’s willing to lead an evil army. He accepts, and is reincarnated as a “Hellspawn” — a twisted, horribly disfigured version of his former self. However, Spawn serves as a force of good, much to the dismay of the Devil’s henchman, a wicked clown (John Leguizamo).

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I haven’t read any of the comic books of Spawn but from what I’ve seen of it looked very unique and has potential, definitely a character that could make for a bold and surprising movie. I remember going into the 1997 Spawn with an open mind, it wasn’t well received and probably wasn’t good but I was curious about it nonetheless. Literally all my hope for the movie went out the window the moment the opening credits scene started. While I haven’t seen Catwoman and Elektra, this is honestly so far the worst superhero movie I’ve ever seen, which is really saying a lot.

This movie has a lot going for it. An assassin who dies and returns from hell with superpowers with a badass suit, it seemed like it had all the potential for a weird and entertaining superhero movie. Despite everything going on though, this movie is just so dull and boring. Looking at the plot, there’s nothing particularly stupid conceptually, and there are far worse stories in other bad comic book movies. But there’s nothing particularly exciting or entertaining about it either. Spawn is a 96 minute long movie but fails so terribly at keeping your attention it feels like it is much longer. Despite the dark tone at times, it could get really stupid and cheesy, with some dumb one liners often from Spawn himself (not to mention they don’t really know how to use John Leguizamo’s The Violator in any effective way, whom just ends up being annoying). It really doesn’t suit the tone at all. Making Spawn a M/PG-13 movie would’ve made the movie more unique and ultimately better as it would’ve been able to go deeper and darker. But instead what we have is an incredibly dull and basic at best execution of a pretty interesting concept.

I haven’t seen Michael Jai White in much but he wasn’t really good in this movie as the lead character. Granted he isn’t given much to work with despite playing the titular character. Al Simmons/Spawn really isn’t that compelling as a character in this movie, which feels like a wasted opportunity. He just comes across as feeling like a rather generic wronged protagonist back for revenge. What deflated that aspect also is all the one liners that he has, and none of them work at all. John Leguizamo is the main villain, playing a character called The Violator who is a clown (and based off a character). Honestly, I’m having a hard time deciding whether his performance was good or bad. He was quite annoying but he is having fun and is absolutely embracing his character and is entertaining at times. What happens with the character at the end was not so great, as the film tries to use a lot of CGI with him, which as you’ll find out later is one of the worst aspects of the film. I don’t know why Martin Sheen, of all the actors out there, ended up in this movie, he gets nothing to do other than play some generic boring one dimensional secondary villain, he doesn’t really get any chance to shine whatsoever. There’s not much to say about the rest of the cast.

This film was directed by Mark A.Z. Dippé, who would later go on to direct some Garfield animated movies, his direction here is pretty bad. Outside his work as a director, he is known as a visual effects supervisor on films like Jurassic Park and The Hunt for Red October, which is ironic considering that Spawn has some of the worst special effects of a movie I’ve seen, let alone a superhero movie. Somehow Spawn had a budget of $40 million and I don’t see how that is possible at all. The opening credits sequence was the biggest of all red flags. It looks so 90s and amateurish, and I felt honestly embarrassed for the movie. And the effects on the rest of the film were just unbelievably awful, it was Mortal Kombat Annihilation levels of CGI. One of the stand out worst CGI moments was a sequence when Spawn was in hell, and everything looked bad with fake CG people, fake CG fire, fake CG room but particularly the fakest looking CGI devil figure in a movie, when he speaks the lip syncing is completely off. It’s incredibly embarrassing. The monster effects were often the worst CGI moments. Quite simply, this movie wasn’t made in the right time. I liked the actual design of Spawn, and if he had better CGI he could’ve looked quite badass. Unfortunately, the CGI on him isn’t good either, but it’s better than most of the effects in the movie. Some of the standard action scenes with him just shooting people or something along those lines were okay. It feels like this movie should’ve been more violent and darker but for whatever reason they didn’t make it that way so a lot of the general tone is all over the place.

So far, this is the worst superhero movie I’ve seen yet. With less than stellar acting, a boring story with potential, and some absolutely atrocious effects, it really blew me away with how awful it was. I think the biggest reason that this didn’t work is because it was released too early. Spawn has an insane world with some insane things, its about hell, is about someone returning from the dead with superpowers and it features a weird short fat clown as a villain and it would only really work if it could go full out with the craziness. Spawn however released during the worst period for comic book movies, with other bad comic book movies like Batman and Robin. Also the quality of CGI wasn’t quite at the level that was needed for this world, also making an R rated comic book movie at the time was risky. Despite this, there is now a Spawn movie finally coming out next year with Jamie Foxx and directed and written by Spawn creator Todd Macfarlane and I’m kind of curious about it. This character and his world has the potential to make for a unique movie in the genre. We are now in a time where superhero movies can be R rated and can push the boundaries (Logan, Deadpool) and also feature some insane ideas. Let’s hope that Macfarlane’s Spawn movie matches its potential, but it won’t need to try too hard to be supremely better than whatever the 1997 movie is supposed to be.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) Review

Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Contains violence
Cast:
Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard
Emma Stone as Gwendolyn “Gwen” Stacy
Denis Leary as Captain George Stacy
Martin Sheen as Benjamin Parker
Sally Field as “Aunt” May Parker
Irrfan Khan as Dr. Rajit Ratha
Director: Marc Webb

Abandoned by his parents and raised by an aunt and uncle, teenager Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), AKA Spider-Man, is trying to sort out who he is and exactly what his feelings are for his first crush, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). When Peter finds a mysterious briefcase that was his father’s, he pursues a quest to solve his parents’ disappearance. His search takes him to Oscorp and the lab of Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), setting him on a collision course with Connors’ alter ego, the Lizard.

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5 years after Rami’s Spider-Man trilogy concluded with Spider-Man 3, Sony decided to reboot the franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man. This series (if you call 2 movies a series) has been receiving a lot of mixed reactions. I personally find The Amazing Spider-Man to be an underrated film. It has a great story, really good acting and really solid direction from Marc Webb. The only thing holding this movie back is the villain but aside from that, that’s it. I honestly don’t get why this movie is criticised so much.

This movie does tell the origin of Spider-Man and it is similar but different from the first movie. This film does have some usual moments with Peter being bitten by a spider, getting his powers, his uncle being shot and Peter becoming Spider-Man. The original Spider-Man seemed to present the story like a comic book whereas The Amazing Spider-Man does it more like a movie. Personally I liked how it told its story here. I also like how it showed Peter discovering his powers, there’s quite a lot of time dedicated to this. The pacing is pretty steady, never too fast, never too slow. On top of that, it does have more going on than in the original Spider-Man but it’s still quite easy to follow. From start to finish I was riveted and entertained by the film. Although it doesn’t feel like it, there are some scenes missing, which really hold the film back from being the best it possibly can in one aspect (I’ll get into it later). But asides from that aspect, I don’t have that many complaints about The Amazing Spider-Man.

Andrew Garfield is the 2nd actor to play Peter Parker/Spider-Man and this is a very different interpretation from Tobey Maguire’s. While a lot of people didn’t like that this version of Spider-Man was a lot more edgy, I liked that. Maguire’s version, as much as I love it, doesn’t exactly work for our time nowadays. Andrew’s however fits perfectly in the 2010s. He’s a genius with a bit of a quirky, eccentric and fast paced demeanour. And the thing is that I can perfectly see a character like that dressing up like a spider and fighting crime. While I personally Andrew’s Spider-Man more, obviously there are plenty of others who prefer Tobey’s, I guess it depends on what you prefer to see in Spider-Man. Honestly the only negative thing that I’ll say about Garfield’s Spider-Man here is that he is clearly too old for the role, he does not look like a teenager in high school at all and that can be very distracting at times. But that’s really it. Emma Stone is Gwen Stacy, who’s the love interest of the movie, but honestly just saying the love interest would be a disservice to her character. She is a well done character on her own, she’s not just a superhero’s girlfriend who’s only existence is to be saved. But on top of that, Garfield and Stone have excellent chemistry, it is very believable (though a big part of that is probably that they were both dating at the time, so the chemistry would be easy for them). Honestly its one of the best relationships in a comic book movie(s) (with this and Amazing Spider-Man 2). The supporting cast was also quite good with Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Irrfan Khan and many others, most of them get a good chance to shine.

The villain is Curt Connors/The Lizard, played by Rhys Ifans. I have mixed feelings on him. Ifans is well cast in the role and he is good when he’s on screen, he does the best he possibly can. Connors is given a lot of good setup, with him knowing Peter’s father, and his desire to get a cure which would fix his physical impairment (a missing arm), I’d even say that the setup is perfect. However the payoff with him becoming The Lizard is just slightly above average. After the first transformation, The Lizard becomes a rather generic villain who becomes motivated to do his plan…. Because he feels like it. He’s not bad and he does have some good moments, but he definitely felt very weak. However its worth noting that he had many of his scenes removed, and these scenes at the very least made him stronger as a character. And these scenes could’ve easily been put into the film. But Sony does what Sony often does, and cut these scenes out. Watch the movie and directly afterwards watch the deleted scenes, you’ll be shocked at what they cut out.

The Amazing Spider-Man series does make use of the advanced technology. The action scenes are fast and intense, everything that I think most of us would want to see in a modern day Spider-Man movie. The CGI doesn’t look fake at any point (except for maybe the Lizard, and even then it’s more an issue with the design). It is a nice looking movie, especially when Spider-Man is in action, seeing him swing around really is something great. While it’s an unpopular opinion to have, I really dig the Spider-Man suit in this movie. It seems like the type of costume that this version of Peter Parker would wear and use as Spider-Man. It’s a very unique look and I would’ve loved to have seen that suit return for the sequel. The music by James Horner was really great.

The Amazing Spider-Man is honestly quite an underrated superhero movie. It has most of the elements of a great superhero movie, with a well written and acted superhero lead, a riveting and entertaining story and great action. The only problem I can find with it is the villain, and even then he’s not horrible, he’s just okay and feels weak in comparison to a lot of the other elements. Come to think of it, The Amazing Spider-Man is probably the second best Spider-Man, only behind Spider-Man 2 (very unpopular opinion, I know). But it’s honestly not that far off. Marc Webb has done a great job with Spider-Man.

The Departed (2006)

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The Departed

Time: 151 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence and offensive language
Cast:
Leonardo DiCaprio as Billy Costigan
Matt Damon as Colin Sullivan
Jack Nicholson as Frank Costello
Mark Wahlberg as Dignam
Martin Sheen as Queenan
Ray Winstone as Mr French
Vera Farmiga as Madolyn
Alec Baldwin as Ellerby
Director: Martin Scorsese

In South Boston, the state police force is waging war on Irish American organized crime. Young undercover cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo Dicaprio) is assigned to infiltrate the mob syndicate run by gangland chief Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). While Billy quickly gains Costello’s confidence, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), a hardened young criminal who has infiltrated the state police as an informer for the syndicate is rising to a position of power in the Special Investigation Unit. Each man becomes deeply consumed by his double life, gathering information about the plans and counter-plans of the operations he has penetrated. But when it becomes clear to both the mob and the police that there’s a mole in their midst, Billy and Colin are suddenly in danger of being caught and exposed to the enemy-and each must race to uncover the identity of the other man in time to save himself. Each police officer gives his best effort trying to disclose the identity of the other “rat.”

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Martin Scorsese is no stranger to crime movies as well as not being a stranger to making great engaging movies. The Departed is wonderfully made, excellently edited, has great performances and has an interesting story. All of these things are what I ask for in a movie, which The Departed successfully delivers here.

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Despite the fact that this movie is actually a remake of a Hong Kong film, Infernal Affairs, I won’t compare it because I haven’t watched it. The movie takes many twists and turns and does a good job at showing the events unfold. The plot can be quite complicated so it does require your full attention when watching. The film is filled with that same energy that Scorsese had in films like Goodfellas and Casino. There is always something going on to interest the viewer. The film is long at about 2 hours and a half, so it needs to have an engaging story in order to interest the viewers. Fortunately, it does that and so much more, providing many plot twists that keeps the audience guessing what will happen next.

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The acting was really good from everyone they fill their roles perfectly. Both DiCaprio and Damon were really good here as they played characters that were the opposite sides of the spectrum of the other. Their performances were emotionally complex, which made the story more complex than the usual good guy and bad guy type. Jack Nicholson is incredible as Frank Costello who is the mob boss, who is a very sinister and dangerous character. Costello is an unpredictable character and Nicholson channels James Cagney’s performance in White Heat to create a personification of evil. Mark Wahlberg is also fantastic in this movie as Sergeant Dignam; despite him not having many scenes as some of the rest of the cast he delivers some of the best lines and steals the scenes he was in. The characters are well defined and we really feel like we know them, which are done well by the actors.

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The setting of Boston and the atmosphere were captured so well. During the film we often we get shots of many locations of Boston. The music was also good and comes from both from the score by Howard Shore and from existing songs, both which fit the moments they are put it, especially the use of The Dropkick Murphy’s’ “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” during the opening credits.

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Smartly written with many complex plots and with great acting, Martin Scorsese’s The Departed delivers as great crime drama. It is one of his best movies and is one of the best crime drama movies I have ever seen. It’s gripping, it’s entertaining, it’s overall a great movie. Check it out when you can.