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Brick (2005) Review

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains medium level violence
Cast:
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Brendan Frye
Nora Zehetner as Laura Dannon
Lukas Haas as the Pin
Noah Fleiss as Tugger
Matt O’Leary as The Brain
Emilie de Ravin as Emily Kostich
Noah Segan as Dode
Richard Roundtree as Assistant V.P. Trueman
Director: Rian Johnson

After receiving a frantic phone call from his ex-girlfriend, teenage loner Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) learns that her dead body has been found. Vowing to solve her murder himself, he must infiltrate high-school cliques that he previously avoided. His search for the truth places him before some of the school’s roughest characters, leading to a confrontation with a drug dealer known as “the Pin (Lukas Haas).”

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Brick is a movie I’ve heard about for a while and have been meaning to watch. Having seen Rian Johnson’s Looper and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I’ve wanted to check out his first movie even more. All I basically knew about is that it was some kind of noire movie set at a high school and starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead role. Brick was a really great neo-noire mystery, and I’m really glad that I finally got around to seeing it.

There are so many parts of the movie that shouldn’t work at all, it certainly doesn’t seem to on paper. You wouldn’t think that placing a detective and noire plot set inside the setting of a high school would work at all, however it did. Oddly enough, for the most part, Brick seems to be playing everything completely straight instead of making it a comedy. The detective, the femme fatale, the kingpin/boss, a mystery, the way the characters talk and the dialogue they deliver, a bittersweet ending, all the typical tropes that are in a classic noire movie are mixed in with this plot and you can actually take it seriously at the same time. Occasionally there are scenes which are much more humorous in nature, which at least shows that Johnson and the film are self aware, while not going so far as to detract from the seriousness of the rest of the plot. I guess Brick is a satire of the genre, but instead of making it a comedy like you’d think they would, they instead take it for a darker turn. It’s also a genuinely well written movie, despite many of the familiar tropes, the twists are good and you can’t necessarily predict where the plot is going to go or what is going to happen. It’s not just using the satire aspect as a gimmick. Johnson’s writing really makes this work, there are a lot of elements at play that don’t seem like they would quite fit together easily. The ending as well was great, and fitted rather well considering the rest of the movie.

Most of the actors here you don’t really recognise, however they are mostly good in their roles (with the occasional performance not as great as some others). There are two highlights among them though. The first of them is Joseph Gordon Levitt, the most famous and recognisable of the cast. Levitt plays the role like the classic detective seen in classic noire movies, and he manages to make it work and you can actually take it seriously. He gives one of his best performances, and that’s really saying a lot. The other standout is Nora Zehetner, whose character seems more in the femme fatale sort of role.

You can tell that it’s a lower budgeted movie, and in fact it’s just at $450,000. However, Rian Johnson did a lot with very little, and his style works exceptionally well for a debut. He clearly knows what he’s doing behind the camera, it is a very well shot movie. Again, the detective and noire tropes are conveyed very well here, as the familiar types of shots seen in said movies are present here too. Even the music played here are reminiscent of classic noires.

Brick showed off Rian Johnson’s talents pretty early on and was a great neo-noire and a good movie on its own. The cast was good (particularly Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and it’s written and directed very well by Johnson. Although I do think a couple of his other movies are a little better, it’s worth a watch for sure.

Skyscraper (2018) Review

Time: 102 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Dwayne Johnson as Will Sawyer
Neve Campbell as Sarah Sawyer
Chin Han as Zhao Long Ji
Roland Møller as Kores Botha
Pablo Schreiber as Ben
Noah Taylor as Mr. Pierce
Hannah Quinlivan as Xia
Matt O’Leary as Skinny Hacker
Byron Mann as Inspector Wu
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Former FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader and U.S. war veteran Will Ford (Dwayne Johnson) now assesses security for skyscrapers. He’s on assignment in China when he finds the tallest, safest building in the world suddenly ablaze, and he’s been framed for it. A wanted man on the run, Will must find those responsible, clear his name and somehow rescue his family, which is trapped inside the building, above the fire line.

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I wasn’t expecting much from Skyscraper. I like Dwayne Johnson and I enjoy some of his action movies but they aren’t that great and Dwayne Johnson just feels like he’s playing the same character over and over again. I was expecting another simple and dumb action flick like San Andreas. However, Skyscraper was actually pretty decent, it was entertaining, it was good for what it was, and Dwayne Johnson was once again effortlessly solid in his role.

With Skyscraper being quite similar with Dwayne Johnson’s other action movies, I didn’t pay attention to the physics at all. So I wasn’t really taken out of the movie at all when some stupid and implausible things happened, like some other Dwayne Johnson movies like San Andreas (even though I knew what kind of movie it was). It’s silly but not too silly that it’s distracting. There are some exposition dumps about the setup and it felt a little lazy at times, but its very early on and it’s not that much of a problem really. Speaking of the setup, I really liked the idea about a tall building in Hong Kong and how the DJ is stuck there, it’s got a somewhat similar setup to Die Hard. However I feel like the movie doesn’t utilise enough things as it should’ve with the setup of the tallest building in the world. To be fair though, there are a couple of sequences which do take advantage of the setup. The movie is an hour and 40 minutes long and it’s pretty well paced. After the first 15 minutes, this movie moves at a fast and constant rate. I was rather entertained throughout and I had a good time with it.

Many people say that Dwayne Johnson keeps playing the same character, and I’m one of those people. However I think he’s a good actor and he is good at what he does, he just needs to branch out and try different roles to show that he has range. Johnson plays another similar character here again but once again he’s good at it, he’s likable, effortlessly entertaining and is good in the action scenes. His wife played by Neve Campbell is also pretty good, one thing that I like is that she actually does some things, she’s not just a damsel in distress who needs constant rescuing. Other actors like Chin Han who plays the owner of the building are pretty good in their roles. The terrorists characters are very underwhelming, one dimensional and just aren’t good. They work well enough for the plot but they are distracting and a lesser aspect of the movie.

Director Rawson Marshall Thurber is surprisingly more of a comedic director, with DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, We’re the Millers and Central Intellegience. I have to say he did a pretty good job with directing an action movie (and a less comedic movie) for the first time. The fights scenes are good and aren’t edited choppily, you can see what’s going on. Even the CGI is pretty good, not amazing but not bad like you might expect it to be.

Skyscraper won’t be ranked among the best action movies in recent years, or even this year, but for what it is, it’s good. It’s fast paced, you’re never bored, it’s very entertaining and Dwayne Johnson is as usual good. The flaws that it has weren’t enough to bring down the enjoyment I had with this movie. So if you are willing to watch a fun but implausible flick, Skyscraper is for you.