Tag Archives: Monica Bellucci

Spectre (2015) Retrospective Review

Time: 148 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser/Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Léa Seydoux as Dr. Madeleine Swann
Ben Whishaw as Q
Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny
Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx
Andrew Scott as Max Denbigh/C
Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra
Ralph Fiennes as M
Rory Kinnear as Bill Tanner
Jesper Christensen as Mr. White
Director: Sam Mendes

A cryptic message from the past leads James Bond (Daniel Craig) to Mexico City and Rome, where he meets the beautiful widow (Monica Bellucci) of an infamous criminal. After infiltrating a secret meeting, 007 uncovers the existence of the sinister organization SPECTRE. Needing the help of the daughter of an old nemesis, he embarks on a mission to find her. As Bond ventures toward the heart of SPECTRE, he discovers a chilling connection between himself and the enemy (Christoph Waltz) he seeks.

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In my initial Spectre review, I called it a solid James Bond film with some problems holding it back quite a bit. I still like the movie but having seeing it a couple of times since then, even more problems are apparent to me, with regard to the balance of the usual Craig Bond stuff and the classic Bond elements, the painfully underwhelming third act and way too many issues to fit into one sentence.

Since I already did a spoiler free review of Spectre, I’m going to delve into some spoilers here. With Skyfall, director Sam Mendes managed to balance a lot of the modernised Bond elements with some classic Bond elements, to deliver one of the best films in the series. With Spectre he goes further with the latter aspect, with a clear cut Bond Girl, more gadgets, a fast car filled with gadgets and a lot of the classic Bond tropes. It’s even the first of the Daniel Craig James Bond films to open with the conventional gunbarrel opening scene that almost all of the Bond films have at the beginning of the movie. Unfortunately, the blend of the old and new didn’t quite work this time around. I actually like how Spectre tries to be a continuation of the Craig Era tone and rebooting the classic Bond villain organisation SPECTRE for this rendition of James Bond. The problem is that it also tries to homage some of the much earlier Bond films, with cartoonish humour and having action scenes that don’t challenge Bond (some Roger Moore era things unfortunately), and it really doesn’t fit together. In all the prior Daniel Craig Bond films, Bond is challenged to some degree. Despite all the personal connections that James Bond have to this story however, it feels like a typical run of the mill job for him. Nothing challenges him physically (aside from Dave Bautista), nor as a character mentally, psychologically or whatever. Spectre ties together all the previous Craig movies and while on paper I liked that idea, the way it was done really just didn’t work (I’ll go into that when I talk about Christoph Waltz and his character).

A lot of the things also don’t fit with the established tone of the newer movies, such as the humour. For example, early in the movie, Bond falls from a crumbling building onto a couch, which would work well in a Roger Moore Bond film but it comes across as too silly for Daniel Craig’s Bond. On another note there is also a subplot featuring Andrew Scott’s character trying to take over MI6 because he feels like it’s outdated and trying to replace agents with technology and surveillance. This plotline really falls flat, we’ve seen this happen in other movies, and we’ve seen it done better. It feels like it was pushed into Spectre just to appear somewhat relevant to today but it only just ends up slowing down the plot even more and makes things feel even more dull. I think it might’ve worked and be made more interesting if Andrew Scott’s character didn’t turn out to be a villain and this was only a red herring, however this is not the case. It feels like the movie kept cutting to this subplot because it would later be integral to the plot and it feels forced and distracts more than anything. The third act is both ridiculous yet really underwhelming and filled with a ton of problems, and considering the issues that Spectre has, that’s saying a lot. The film cuts between two things going on at the same time, James Bond with his ‘confrontation’ (in the loosest sense of the word) as well as M, Q and Moneypenny working to stop Andrew Scott, and it’s not that great. There are some implausible things like all the effort that Blofeld no doubt put into setting up things in the old destroyed MI6 building, placing pictures of Bond, Vesper, Silva, Le Chiffre, Greene, M and others throughout the place, writing on the walls and much more, which comes across as just unbelievable and funny considering the gritty tone that these movies have been having. Probably the most unrealistic and preposterous yet extremely underwhelming moment however is when James Bond shoots down a helicopter with a pistol while on a high speed boat in the complete dark, I don’t even think the previous Bond movies would attempt to do something like that and I don’t mean that as a compliment. The only thing going for the third act is that it looks good and the actors are trying, outside of that it’s borderline bad. It really brings down the movie a tremendous amount, some of the rushed things that happen come across as being really lazy, and leaves a bad taste in your mouth. The movie is long, about 2 hours and a half, and you really feel the length. There are some moments of drawn out nothingness happening, and a lot of the movie can feel rather uninteresting at times. It’s a shame really, because many of the scenes are actually well handled, and the movie has some ideas that had potential, but it doesn’t come togther well.

Despite a lot of faults with the characters, the cast do the best they can with what they have. Daniel Craig is once again the best James Bond yet and does try his best here. In terms of performance however, I’d have to say this is Craig’s worst performance as Bond. I don’t fully blame this on him though, as I said despite some of the personal elements in play in the story, James Bond doesn’t feel conflicted or challenged throughout the entirety of the movie. There are plenty of moments when he should be really invested in what’s going on, but Craig doesn’t really react that much to them. While this might pass for a Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan James Bond performance, it doesn’t work for Daniel Craig who spent 3 movies being a rougher and grittier Bond set in some form of reality and an actual character instead of an archetype. It certainly doesn’t help that he has no clear arc through the movie like the other Craig Bond movies, save for some vague things from his past thrown in and a meaningless therapy session, even Quantum of Solace had a solid character arc. Lea Seydoux is good as another ‘Bond Girl’, unfortunately there’s not a ton of interesting things to her character, she basically only ends up doing two things over the course of the movie (despite being established at one point as being somewhat capable), and feels like she could’ve been played by basically anyone. The romance between her and Bond does come out of nowhere and it’s not really believable, however this could go for almost all of the Bond Girls in the Bond series. It’s only made worse by the ending, which seems to imply that she’s someone special now to Bond even though nothing in the entirety of the movie indicated that to be the case (hopefully No Time to Die fleshes that aspect out a lot more). Seydoux does her best though. Monica Bellucci is another Bond girl who shows up in the first act of the movie and essentially does nothing after like 5 minutes of being on screen. She does provide some exposition but that’s it, almost like you could’ve cast anyone in the role and not try to make them a Bond girl. Maybe that should’ve been done, because it would’ve at least removed the really bad love scene between her and Craig, which came across as being really awkward and creepy. The returning Bond supporting cast do a great job. Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw as Q and Ralph Fiennes as the new M are all great in their roles. It is nice seeing them get to do stuff and get involved with the plot (especially Whishaw’s Q) though they did feel a little out of place in the climax.

One of Spectre’s most notable problems (and that’s saying a lot) is that the movie doesn’t do great with the antagonists. First of all getting the minor antagonists out of the way, we have Andrew Scott and Dave Bautsista. The moment that Andrew Scott appears on screen, you can tell that he’s going to end up being a villain. Sure, it doesn’t help that he was already known for Moriarty in Sherlock, but the worst part is that he feels really unnecessary to the plot. As I said earlier, the whole plotline was really not needed and Andrew Scott was tied to it, so he really didn’t have much to work with. Scott definitely has talent but he doesn’t get much to do except to be a generic ‘surprise’ villain. Dave Bautista is a Spectre assassin who at times tries to kill James Bond. While he won’t rank among the best James Bond henchman, out of all the Bond villains in this movie he does his job the best, he served his purpose adequately. Of course the main villain however is Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser. Everyone speculated that with the movie being called Spectre, that Waltz would be playing the head of Spectre, Ernst Stravo Blofeld, who appeared in some of the older Bond movies. There was so much denial that this was the case but it was even more predictable than the villain name reveals for Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness and Talia al Ghul in The Dark Knight Rises. Having that name was so forced that they really shouldn’t have tried it, and if they really wanted to stick with that, they shouldn’t have tried to make a surprise twist. One of the many issues that Waltz has is that we don’t get enough of him, we see him once at the end of the first act, the end of the second act and then again in the third act. However, that’s not the only issue. Blofeld isn’t just the head of the Spectre organisation here, it’s revealed that he was also the adopted brother of Bond, who was involved with his father’s death and faked his own death after being jealous that his father liked James Bond. On top of that, everything that happened to Bond, Le Chiffre, Vesper’s death, Dominic Greene, Silva, M’s death, all that was planned by Blofeld… because of childish jealousy or whatever. Hearing all this, and hearing him talk about all this doesn’t make him sound crazy or psychopathic, it makes him sound petty and a little difficult to take seriously, it just sounds so ridiculous. There’s nothing more to his character, he’s not particularly interesting or entertaining and worst of all he’s forgettable. The thing is that he was supposed to be like a big deal, the ultimate villain to Daniel Craig’s James Bond, I mean they gave him the name of Blofeld, a classic Bond villain when they could’ve just kept the name of Franz Oberhauser. And so with all that hype, it really makes him work even less and fall even flatter. To his credit, Christoph Waltz does try his very best and he does add some menace to the character although he does play it like a lot of his other villain roles, really only Quentin Tarantino has manged to utilize Waltz as a villain excellently, in other villain roles he ends up playing rather cliched antagonists. On top of that, Waltz feels trapped in the role, like he’s just on autopilot through the whole thing. They keep his character alive at the end, and thankfully he gets another chance in the upcoming last Craig Bond movie.

Sam Mendes does a pretty good job at directing Spectre, though there are some elements in the technical aspects which hold the movie back (along with the story). The cinematography this time is by Hoyte van Hoyte, who has done the cinematography for such films as Dunkirk, Interstellar and Her, films that were shot truly fantastically. Spectre’s cinematography is still very good but some elements don’t work as well. For example most of the colour pallet is fine except whenever the film does to places like Mexico and Tangier, because it’s suddenly like they put a brown filter over everything. A lot of the action sequences are entertaining and fun, some of them are rather underwhelming. Yes, sometimes we have Bond in a plane chasing a bunch of cars in the snow, crashing through some houses, but as I said before, you don’t ever feel like he’s in a position where he could fail, he always seems on top of things. Fortunately with the editing, unlike Quantum of Solace, you can see what’s going on, but at least Quantum of Solace had some intensity and energy in all of their action scenes. There are a number of examples of the lack of intensity on Spectre’s action scenes, one is Bond’s escape from the Spectre base by simply shooting 3 people, shooting some pipes and the base just blowing up (escaping in less than a minute, really making the Spectre organisation look incompetent), as well as the aforementioned ridiculed shooting down of a helicopter with a peashooter scene. Despite a lot of the problems, it does have some genuinely greatly directed sequences. One for example is the opening sequence, which features a long tracking shot following James Bond through Mexico during the Day of the Dead parade and a fight inside a spinning helicopter, great way to open the movie. Also the fight scene on the train between Bond and Bautistia is good and probably has the most intensity of the action scenes in the movie. The music by Thomas Newman (returning to compose the score after Skyfall) is good but it is a little too similar to Skyfall’s, it actually makes things feel really jarring. Speaking of music, Sam Smith’s song “The Writing on the Wall” played in the opening credits have proved itself polarising to some. It’s not like a normal Bond song but I didn’t mind it personally. I also didn’t mind the opening credits scene.

I still like Spectre to a degree but it is filled with so many problems that brings it down a large amount. Whereas you can see why Quantum of Solace had its issues with the writer’s strike and an incomplete script, I just don’t know what happened with Spectre. Aside from some scenes that were actually really good, much of Spectre is just a slog and is consistently underwhelming, seemingly ranging from being quite good to flat average. Spectre can’t balance the older and newer aspects of Bond, it lacks a lot of the intensity from the prior movies, the story is generally a mixed bag and ends with a very disappointing third act. We can only hope that Daniel Craig’s last Bond film takes the lessons learned from the best and worst of his films to create a great movie.

Irreversible (2002) Review

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] contains brutal sexual violence, graphic violence and sex scenes
Cast:
Monica Bellucci as Alex
Vincent Cassel as Marcus
Albert Dupontel as Pierre
Director: Gaspar Noé

A woman’s (Monica Bellucci) lover (Vincent Cassel) and her former boyfriend (Albert Dupontel) take justice into their own hands after she becomes the victim of a rapist.

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Gaspar Noé is a director whose films I’ve never watched before. After hearing about his new film Climax coming out this year, I decided to check out some of his previous work before watching it, much like how I watched Lars von Trier’s Depression Trilogy before watching his latest film The House that Jack Built. I had been hearing so much controversy surrounding this movie, I heard about that there was some extreme violence and a disturbing rape scene. Naturally I wasn’t exactly looking forward to watching it but I pushed through it anyway to check it out. While it’s not a movie that I want to see again, at the same time I admire a lot of the things that it does and what Noé is trying to say with it.

I should probably say that the plot points and scenes that I mention aren’t exactly spoiling the movie, it’s nothing more than what is already said in the summary for the movie. As you might’ve guess from the title, is done in reverse order, so we get the revenge early on, then we see the rape that sets the revenge in motion, then we see what happened before all of that. While it takes this reverse order of storytelling from Christopher Nolan’s Memento (so it’s not completely original), Irreversible still manages to make this unconventional way of storytelling not just a cool but cheap gimmick. It’s also not that difficult to follow, it’s a very straightforward movie in fact. We’ve seen plenty of movies which are pretty much revenge fantasies that are very self indulgent. By seeing the payoff first, then seeing the act that sparked it, and then the rest of the movie however, it’s making the audience reflect about the revenge throughout the rest of the movie. On top of it, it doesn’t glamourize it or make it easy to watch by any means, far from it in fact, it is so incredibly brutally realistic that for some it’ll be absolutely unwatchable, and I don’t blame those who hate watching it. It is a very ugly movie, but it’s ugly to make a point. What I can say is that after the rape scene, the rest of the movie is way more tame in comparison, it’s just sadder watching them knowing what’s going to happen to these characters.

The main 3 characters are really just Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel and Albert Dupontel and all 3 are great in their roles. Bellucci plays the woman who ends up the victim of the rape and Cassel and Dupontel play the two men (boyfriend and ex boyfriend of Bellucci) who look for the man responsible. All 3 give painfully real performances and were just all around fantastic.

This is the first film I’ve seen from Gaspar Noé, and his direction here is great, he has a strong understanding of what he is doing here. One of the most unique things about Irreversible is the camerawork. Every scene is filmed in one long tracking shot and quite often the camera spins around. As time goes on, especially in the second half, it stops the spinning quite a bit and calms things a lot more, but it’s still pretty dizzying for the first half. Anyone who easily has motion sickness is probably not going to be able to get past 10 minutes of this movie. The most extreme case of this spinning filmmaking technique was in a scene in a sex club early on, where the camera is just rotating and spinning all over the place as it follows a character looking throughout the club. We can see some of what’s going on with the place and the people and it only really settles down properly when the brutal violence starts. That brings me to the violence. I have a pretty high movie violence threshold, I was actually able to stomach most of Antichrist. So know that when I say that the violence in Irreversible was incredibly hard to watch and got a reaction out of me, that means a lot coming from me. Not to spoil anything, but a particular scene involving a fire extinguisher scene really just set the mood for the rest of the movie. It’s not gloriously violent like in a Tarantino movie, it is painfully realistic, and it forces you to watch every second of it, not because it wanted to be edgy or because they thought that it was gratifying to watch, but because it really wants you to feel the level of brutality the acts are (of course I am thinking deeply about this). As for the aforementioned rape scene, it’s one long 10 minute tracking shot and doesn’t budge from the heinous act. There’s a fine line between having a point and being needlessly cruel, and thankfully Noé manages to balance it well. It is undeniably hard to watch and I had to skip through it after a couple of minutes but it does it’s job well. Much of the movie is made even more unnerving by the use of an extremely low-frequency sound to create a state of nausea in the audience that occurs for the first hour of the movie, I have to say it was very effective at making the whole experience even more unsettling than it already is.

Irreversible is tragic, well directed, greatly acted and is a ferocious attack on the senses in a great way. Saying it’s not for everyone is an understatement. Along with the trippy storytelling and camerawork which could induce motion sickness for some people, it is of course very dark and disturbing, with extreme violence that made even me cringe. Much like Antichrist, I can’t in good conscious recommend Irreversible. It’s a good movie for sure, it’s just that if you’re going to watch it you’ll have to be prepared for it, and even then there’s a 95% chance that you won’t be, I certainly wasn’t.

Spectre (2015) Review

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Spectre

Time: 148 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser
Léa Seydoux as Madeleine Swann
Ben Whishaw as Q
Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny
Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx
Andrew Scott as Max Denbigh
Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra
Ralph Fiennes as M
Director: Sam Mendes

A cryptic message from James Bond’s (Daniel Craig) past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M (Ralph Fiennes) battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

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Spectre has been one of my most anticipated movies of the year, with Skyfall director Sam Mendes returning to deliver another Bond film. However, Spectre has been getting some pretty mixed reviews. I’ve watched the film and I can say that it is good and is worth seeing but it has some problems. The action and production value is great, as well as the performances, however there are quite a lot of problems in the script, it’s not as investing as the previous films and it doesn’t feel complete. With that said, it’s still a good movie and it’s still worth watching.

Daniel Craig stars as James Bond in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions’ action adventure SPECTRE.

Story wise this movie works but it does have some problems. Without diving too deep into spoilers, Spectre has ties to the previous Bond films, a lot of it is quite personal to Bond but I felt that it didn’t impact him as much as it should have. One of the notable things about this movie is the fact that tonally, it moved away from more of the character driven Bond films like Skyfall and moved onto the more classic Bond films. I felt that it worked for the movie and it’s nice to see a change of tone but I do think it would’ve been better to have a mix between the two tones. I felt that this movie was a little too predictable, there are two twists involving the villains that I saw coming from a mile away. The biggest issue that this film has was actually the way it dealt with its villains, which I’ll get to later. Also the climax felt a little underwhelming and rushed, it didn’t feel complete and it needed something extra to make it stand out. The plot had me interested but I wasn’t as invested as I should have been. Overall the story is decent enough but it could’ve been done better.

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Daniel Craig as always is a great James Bond. I also liked Lea Seydoux as the Bond girl, she shared good chemistry with Craig. It was nice to see some of the classic Bond team do stuff like Ralph Fiennes as M, Naomi Harris as Moneypenny, Ben Wishaw as Q. Christoph Waltz is good in the movie as the villain but I don’t think the film handled him as well as they should have. First of all we only see him in like 5 scenes and he didn’t feel as big of a threat as he should, especially when you find out how significant he is. One villain that I felt was handled better was Dave Bautista, who acted like the Jaws character, appearing every so often to cause problems for Bond.

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On a technical level, I think that this film is the same level as Skyfall. The cinematography is gorgeous as expected, the opening shot of the movie is incredible, it’s a 2 minute long tracking shot and it’s actually worth watching the movie, even just for that scene. Skyfall composer Thomas Newman’s score also was quite good and added to this film quite a bit. Although I was initially unsure about how I felt about Sam Smith’s bond song “Writing on the Wall” I’m starting to like it.

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Spectre is not one of the best Bond films but it is still a good one. I feel like there’s room for Daniel Craig to do one more film before he passes the role onto someone else, it definitely felt like it, when considering how the film ends (not spoiling anything). Casino Royale and Skyfall set the standard of Bond films so high so when this film doesn’t match that level, it’s going to be looked down upon. It’s still better than Quantum of Solace but it still feels a little disappointing, although it’s still a good movie, just not great.

Shoot ‘Em Up (2007) Review

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Shoot Em Up

Time: 86 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence, Offensive Language and Sex Scenes
Cast:
Clive Owen as Mr. Smith
Paul Giamatti as Karl Hertz
Monica Bellucci as Donna “D.Q.” Quintano
Stephen McHattie as Hammerson
Director: Michael Davis

In the middle of the night, while waiting for a bus in a bus station, a lonely stranger called Mr. Smith (Clive Owen) sees a pregnant woman being chased by a man with a gun. He follows the couple, kills the man and helps the delivery of the baby in the middle of a shootout while a gang of hit-man tries to shoot them up. The woman is killed but Smith saves the baby, escaping from Hertz (Paul Giamatti), the leader of the killers. Then he meets the prostitute Donna Quintano (Monica Bellucci), who has just lost her baby, and asks her to breastfeed the newborn. They are chased by Hertz and Smith discovers the reason why the bad guy wants to kill the baby.

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Shoot Em Up gets everything right in what it sets out to do – to be an over the top, silly and highly entertaining movie. If you are looking for strong, realistic stories, this isn’t going to be your thing. However, if you are willing to suspend your disbelief and able to accept that you are watching an unbelievably ridiculous movie, there’s a chance that you may end up loving it, I know I did.

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The pacing is right for the movie it’s going for – it starts with a bang and doesn’t stop. Even during scenes which are slower, they aren’t so slow that they lose our attention. These scenes also allow us time to breathe after the exhilarating action scenes, without taking us out of the experience. I’m also glad that the filmmakers also know what sort of movie it is and embraces it, without adding some needless drama which could really take us out of the experience. The plot isn’t really worth focussing on, it’s quite simple anyway: Clive Owen protects a baby from bad guys. The film is also set at the right length, 86 minutes – it doesn’t overstay its welcome and gets all its entertaining parts in the right amount of time. There’s one flaw that I noticed, until near the end, Clive Owen is never outmatched and is always on top of things, which is something that a lot of bad action movies nowadays have. I’m however willing to let this slide, as it isn’t supposed to be taken seriously, whereas a movie like Lucy (which is meant to be taken more seriously), isn’t excused.

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Clive Owen is well suited to the part to play this brooding character but he’s played in an entertaining way, and he doesn’t take it too seriously. He is quite funny actually, especially with his often cheesy one liners (like putting a carrot through someone’s head and saying “Eat your vegetables”). Paul Giamatti is very entertaining as the villain, it just looks like that he’s having a ball playing this over the top character. Monica Bellucci was also pretty good in her role, and fitted in well with what was going on.

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The action scenes are fast paced and don’t hold back in its violence or how over the top it is. The majority of the action scenes are unrealistic, the first death scene involves Clive Owen punching a carrot into someone’s head through their mouth and it just escalates from there. The action scenes are well done for the type of action that they’re going for. The only scene that didn’t feel good was when Clive Owen and other characters are falling out of an airplane, some it looked good but the CGI at time didn’t feel right.

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Shoot Em Up is probably not for everyone, especially if you can’t handle how unrealistic the movie can take its direction sometimes. This movie at least for me, is one of the best over the top action movies I’ve ever seen and I was thoroughly entertained throughout the entire runtime. If you are an action flick fanatic, you should definitely check this one out, you won’t regret it.