Tag Archives: Naomi Watts

Birdman (2014) Review

Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, sexual references, offensive language & drug use
Cast:
Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson
Edward Norton as Mike Shiner
Zach Galifianakis as Jake
Andrea Riseborough as Laura Aulburn
Amy Ryan as Sylvia Thomson
Emma Stone as Sam Thomson
Naomi Watts as Lesley Truman
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Former cinema superhero Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is mounting an ambitious Broadway production that he hopes will breathe new life into his stagnant career. It’s risky, but he hopes that his creative gamble will prove that he’s a real artist and not just a washed-up movie star. As opening night approaches, a castmate is injured, forcing Riggan to hire an actor (Edward Norton) who is guaranteed to shake things up. Meanwhile, Riggan must deal with his girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough), daughter (Emma Stone) and ex-wife (Amy Ryan).

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Best Picture winner Birdman was a movie that I really liked when I saw it, even though I didn’t regard it as a masterpiece like most people. Given that I was rewatching plenty of movies recently to see what I thought about them on a second viewing, I decided to rewatch Birdman, and I definitely got a lot more out of it on a second viewing. Masterfully directed, written well and acted well, Birdman is for sure a fantastic film experience.

Watching it a second time, I really noticed that Birdman was written incredibly well. There are plenty of references of Hollywood and has a lot to say about art, movies, the film industry and the like. Most movies about Hollywood that reference other movies and actors existing could easily fail at this but with Birdman they somehow they managed to do it in a way that doesn’t feel obnoxious. It’s an original and weird movie for sure, I mean this is a movie where the lead character can move objects with his mind and fly (or at least thinks he can). It’s a bit of a strange and dark comedy. It’s astounding how they managed to pack so much emotion and depth into 2 hours, and it had me entertained for that entire runtime. Talking about some of the best parts about this movie or explaining why they’re so great would involve spoiling a whole lot of what happened, and honestly it’s best if you go into it not knowing much already. The ending certainly is different, very ambiguous and it’s not going to work for everyone. You really have to interpret a lot of the movie (especially the ending) for yourself.

There is quite the large cast involved here, and they all gave some great performances. While everyone does very well here, it’s Michael Keaton who is the star of the show, really giving a career best performance. The casting choice is definitely meta, since the character is a washed up actor who once played a comic book character decades ago, and is played by Keaton who once played Batman of course. However it’s not just an inside joke, Keaton gives such a layered performance and really brought this character to life incredibly well. Edward Norton is great as a character that seems somewhat based off of his persona, a very talented but volatile method actor, among Norton’s best work for sure. Emma Stone is also great as Keaton’s daughter, giving one of her best performances. There is particularly one monologue with her which was one of the stand out scenes of the movie, and that’s saying a lot. The rest of the cast are all outstanding as well, some of which include Zach Galifianakis as Keaton’s lawyer and producer (in a more dramatic role that he hasn’t really done before), Andrea Riseborough as Keaton’s girlfriend and an actress, Naomi Watts as an actress, and Amy Ryan as Keaton’s ex-wife.

Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s direction of the whole movie is present throughout, and really added a ton to Birdman. Something that is really known was that this movie is made up of a bunch of long takes, making the movie look like it was done in one entire shot, it’s truly fantastic and creative the way they navigated the camera throughout all the spaces. There are parts where the camera goes black, and you can probably tell that one shot ended there and then another shot began, nonetheless the shots go on for so long that it’s nonetheless very impressive. Emmanuelle Lubezki’s cinematography as always is truly fantastic. The music is just a bunch of drums playing, occasionally at a seemingly random beat, and it kind of oddly works for this movie.

Birdman is arguably Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s best film yet, and I loved The Revenant. With his fantastic direction, the weird and original writing, and the great performances (especially from Michael Keaton), it really deserved all the awards recognition that it received. However, I can partially see why it wouldn’t necessarily work for everyone. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I can’t really set you up for it, but I personally recommend that you watch the movie, just going into it movie with an open mind.

Luce (2019) Review

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Luce

Time: 109 Minutes
Cast:
Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Luce Edgar
Octavia Spencer as Harriet Wilson
Naomi Watts as Amy Edgar
Tim Roth as Peter Edgar
Brian Bradley as DeShaun Meeks
Andrea Bang as Stephanie Kim
Norbert Leo Butz as Dan Towson
Director: Julius Onah

A liberal-minded couple, Amy (Naomi Watts) and Peter Edgar (Tim Roth), are forced to reconsider their image of their adopted son (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) after they discover he has written an extremely disturbing essay for his class at school.

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I heard about Luce more recently, I knew of Octavia Spencer, Naomi Watts and Tim Roth’s involvement, and I also heard it was pretty good, so I wanted to check it out for sure. Having seen it, I can say that it’s really one of the most overlooked movies of 2019, and it really deserves a lot more attention than it has been receiving.

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I think it’s better to be surprised by the plot and not know too much going in, so I’ll try to keep my review as vague as possible when it comes to the plot. Luce relies quite a lot upon its script, and thankfully it’s written quite well, and has your interest from beginning to end. Much of the movie feels like a play at times in the way it’s written, especially with the dialogue. As it turns out, it is based on a play by J.C Lee. It’s also a movie that talks about plenty of difficult subject matters, like adoption, social injustice, tokenism, mental illness, stereotyping, and race. With that said, it doesn’t explore every single theme to its fullest extent or done equally as well. It’s a very ambiguous movie with a lot of complexity, it’s not as black and white as it would seem at first, there’s a whole lot of grey. You have to assume that you won’t get the answers that you want about certain characters, and you’ll have to draw your own conclusions based off what the movie actually gives you. The ending particularly will have people confused a little as to the interpretations of the final moments of the film.

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Part of what makes this movie work particularly well are the 4 central outstanding performances. Each character has their own thing going on with them and have more complexity to them than they initially appear. Naomi Watts and Tim Roth play the parents of Luce, and both are great (this is the best I’ve seen Roth in years). Octavia Spencer gives one of her best performances as Luce’s teacher, really believable. I had previously only seen Kelvin Harrison Jr. in It Comes at Night but he’s shown himself to be an outstanding actor with his performance here as Luce. He’s so charming and convincing, and there are points where even though you can’t tell whether he’s manipulating and lying or telling the truth. Definitely an up and coming actor that you want to be paying attention to. These 4 performances essentially anchor the movie, and even elevate it a bit.

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I just know Julius Onah as the director of The Cloverfield Paradox, and while for many that doesn’t bode well, with Luce he really gets to show off his talents. The cinematography was stunning, and it was edited very well. The music by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury was also good, adding a level of unsettledness throughout. While it’s not a conventional thriller and you’re not expecting anyone to be killed or anything of the like, you do feel somewhat tense throughout, like something isn’t quite right.

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Luce is a complex and well written movie, with some excellent performances leading it. There are some aspects that don’t work quite as well, some parts of the writing are a little too ambitious for its own good, it doesn’t quite follow through on what they set up during it, and they don’t all come together to form a clear message at the end, but I still think it’s generally well done. Definitely check out Luce when you can, at the very least for the acting.

The Ring Two (2005) Review

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Horror scenes
Cast:
Naomi Watts as Rachel Keller
David Dorfman as Aidan Keller
Kelly Stables as Samara Morgan
Daveigh Chase as Samara Morgan (archive footage)
Simon Baker as Max Rourke
Elizabeth Perkins as Dr. Emma Temple
Gary Cole as Martin Savide
Sissy Spacek as Evelyn Borden
Director: Hideo Nakata

A journalist Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) must prevent evil Samara (Daveigh Chase) from taking possession of her son’s (David Dorfman) soul.

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I watched The Ring movies in a bit of a weird order. I watched the original, the third film and now I’ve finally watched the second film. I had heard a lot of bad things about this movie but out of morbid curiosity I decided to check it out anyway. Even though it’s not anywhere on the level of the original, it’s not horrendous. It is however a rather pointless and bizarre film that really isn’t that good. At least its not as bad as Rings, I can say that much.

There really wasn’t a logical reason for a sequel to The Ring existing aside from the first film being successful. The story to The Ring Two wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t really that interesting. Some of the story is fine and even had potential, but a lot of the same time there is some questionable ideas thrown in that don’t exactly add up or work. For example, there is a concept with Rachel (Naomi Watts) and her son communicating with each other in their dreams as it’s the only way that Samara won’t hear them, that just was odd and there was really no explanation for it. Also there are some random scenes thrown in, such as one involving a car and deers, by the time it got to that scene, I knew that there was something wrong about the movie (even more so than before). The whole film wasn’t captivating at all, it’s borderline uninteresting. I was interested to a degree, I never really checked out of the movie completely but the story was really just okay at best. It never gets more or less interesting, it’s just one consistent line of mediocrity.

Naomi Watts returns to reprise her role in the sequel, but her character from the previous film is practically missing. Watts to her credit tries her hardest but it feels like she’s playing a completely different character, one which doesn’t particularly have much depth. David Dorfman on the other hand… was not very good. And the thing is that he was in the previous film and while not great, he was okay. I can’t tell whether the problem with The Ring Two is his acting or the direction he was given but either way he wasn’t good at all. Unfortunately, the film focussed on him quite a lot, which really brings down the movie a lot. There really wasn’t anything worth mentioning about the supporting cast.

You can definitely notice the lack of Gore Verbinski’s direction from the original Ring. This time you have Hideo Nakata directing, who directed the original Japanese film (Ringu) and while I can’t comment on his direction on that film, his direction on The Ring Two is a noticeable step down from Verbinski’s. It’s shot competently enough but it lacks the tension and atmosphere of the original. It also doesn’t handle the scares well. Whereas The Ring would’ve had like 2 jump scares in the whole movie, The Ring Two had many more jumpscares, and none of them worked. Some of the scares and moments are downright cheesy at points.

The Ring Two wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be but it is still noticeably a step down from the original. The great direction by Gore Verbinski is not here and instead just feels rather basic, the creepy atmosphere is non existent and the story wasn’t that captivating. The Ring Two is unnecessary and mediocre, and it doesn’t do enough special things to really warrant its existence. It’s still better than Rings but that’s not saying much.

The Ring (2002) Review

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Horror scenes
Cast
Naomi Watts as Rachel Keller
Martin Henderson as Noah Clay
David Dorfman as Aidan Keller
Brian Cox as Richard Morgan
Daveigh Chase as Samara Morgan
Director: Gore Verbinski

It sounds like just another urban legend — a videotape filled with nightmarish images leads to a phone call foretelling the viewer’s death in exactly seven days. Newspaper reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) is skeptical of the story until four teenagers all die mysteriously exactly one week after watching just such a tape. Allowing her investigative curiosity to get the better of her, Rachel tracks down the video and watches it. Now she has just seven days to unravel the mystery.

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I have been meaning to watch The Ring for a while, I’ve heard so much about it. When it comes to modern day horror, The Ring is one of the most noteworthy films, and so I was excited to finally see it. While not one of the most scary horror movies ever made, it was a very well done horror mystery film. Gore Verbinski did such a great job at making this movie more than just a typical scary flick, and made it much better than I thought it would be.

The Ring is a remake of the Japanese film Ringu from 1998, I can’t comment on how it works as a remake as I’ve never seen the original. Now I didn’t find The Ring to be a very scary movie, but to be fair that’s the case with most horror movies. Also, I didn’t get the feeling that this was meant to be a full on scare-fest. This was a mystery film, with Naomi Watts investigating to find out what is happening. It never feels like the movie is just trying to scare people, it feels like its trying to tell a compelling story. The story is very interesting, the mythology of the tape was intriguing. Also the way that the movie gave the information felt just right, it didn’t just information dump constantly like some lesser mystery stories often do. The Ring it does have some horror elements which were implemented very well. It has this dark uncomfortable feeling throughout the whole movie, nothing feels out of place tonally. It doesn’t go for a cheap scare, the pacing is constant and works well. If there was an issue with the story, I’d say is that the ending does feel quite abrupt. However that’s it, everything else is great.

One issue that this movie has is that there isn’t much in the way of characterisation, but the acting generally makes up for it. Naomi Watts is really good as the lead character investigating what happened with this mysterious tape. Other actors like Martin Henderson and Brian Cox were pretty good as well. Naomi’s kid played by David Dorfman was fine but not exactly great, he worked well enough for the film.

Gore Verbinksi directs this movie very well. Some of the more ‘scary’ moments are well known to audiences familiar with the horror genre, so you might find them more scary if you haven’t seen them before. For the most part though, the film doesn’t rely on jump scares or really scares in general. It has a pretty cold, unnerving feeling throughout. While very slick and polished to perfection, the direction doesn’t feel hollywised and glossy, it feels pretty gloomy. The blue colour pallet, the use of water and wide camera pans and more were so great. Verbinski’s direction played a huge part in the movie working well. Hans Zimmer’s score also added so much to the movie, it is so beautifully done and can inject a little dose of uneasiness into some of the scenes.

The Ring is a solid horror mystery film, greatly directed by Gore Verbinski. Its just so well put together, it surprised me how much effort was put into making this a genuinely intriguing mystery, not just a horror movie. If you like horror movies you should definitely give it a watch. It has some issues like the characterisation was pretty weak and I didn’t personally find it scary (though that may differ depending on the viewer) but everything else is done well.

Allegiant (2016) Review

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Allegiant

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Shailene Woodley as Beatrice “Tris” Prior
Theo James as Tobias “Four” Eaton
Ansel Elgort as Caleb Prior
Zoë Kravitz as Christina
Miles Teller as Peter Hayes
Jeff Daniels as David
Naomi Watts as Evelyn Johnson-Eaton
Octavia Spencer as Johanna Reyes
Maggie Q as Tori Wu
Bill Skarsgård as Matthew
Ray Stevenson as Marcus Eaton
Director: Robert Schwentke

Tris (Shailene Woodley) escapes with Four (Theo James) to journey beyond the wall that encloses Chicago. For the first time, they leave the only city and family they have ever known to find a peaceful solution. Once outside, they learn shocking new truths that render old discoveries meaningless. As the ruthless battle threatens humanity, Tris and Four quickly decide who to trust to survive. Tris must ultimately make difficult choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice and love.

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I’m not a huge fan of the Divergent series. It’s not bad, it’s harmless but I’m not excited to see every instalment that’s coming. So naturally, I wasn’t looking forward to Allegiant, it didn’t help that this is another young adult third book series split into two parts (they obviously tried to cover that up with the title), and I expected Mockingjay Part 1 all over again. After seeing it, I can say that Allegiant isn’t bad, it’s above average but I can’t in good conscience call it a good movie. The acting is fine, the action is fine and the story is full of plot holes and problems, it’s a Divergent movie, it’s exactly what you expect.

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Although I read the two previous books, I haven’t read the final book, so I can’t comment on the accuracy and/or what was left in, I can only comment on Allegiant as a movie. I have to say, this movie does have some pretty boring moments at times. Like with the previous movies there are still plenty of plot holes, inconsistencies and some of the characters aren’t very well written, which would make it hard for the actors do perform well (which I’ll get into later). The way the movie ends feels like it’s the end of a series, but of course that’s not the case, this is only part 1.

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Acting effort is stronger here than in Insurgent. However a lot of the characters are badly written so they don’t really have much to work with. Tris not well written and isn’t as smart as in the previous movies, Shailene Woodley really doesn’t have much to work with. The film constantly tries putting her and Four (Theo James) together for romantic scenes and it seems completely forced. The other supporting actors are fine. Jeff Daniels is a great actor, but his character is so uninteresting and as a result, the movie just doesn’t give him a chance to shine. The one actor who I think did quite well was Miles Teller, his character was written finely enough and Teller did put quite a bit of effort into it.

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The action like in the previous movies is fine and mildly entertaining. Some of the CGI is fine, other times it is so obvious and quite fake. Also a lot of the designs are so generically futuristic and uninteresting, so it doesn’t really help matters. There are many times when it’s quite clear when characters are in front of a green screen, it was almost like I was watching the Star Wars prequels in that aspect.

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If you are a Divergent fan, you might like this movie. However if you don’t really like the previous movies and are hoping for an improved movie in the series, you won’t get that. It’s quite similar to the previous two movies in terms of the level of quality, when it came to the story, acting and direction. However due to the fact that I felt bored during certain sections of the movie, I’d say it’s slightly more flawed than the others. Now with the final instalment titled Ascendant coming out next year, I’m not looking forward to it. But if all the previous instalments have proven anything, it’s that these movies will always end up as being ‘okay’, so I don’t expect this last movie to be bad.

Insurgent (2015) Review

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Insurgent

Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Shailene Woodley as Beatrice “Tris” Prior
Theo James as Tobias “Four” Eaton
Octavia Spencer as Johanna Reyes
Jai Courtney as Eric Coulter
Ray Stevenson as Marcus Eaton
Zoë Kravitz as Christina
Miles Teller as Peter Hayes
Ansel Elgort as Caleb Prior
Maggie Q as Tori Wu
Naomi Watts as Evelyn Johnson-Eaton
Kate Winslet as Jeanine Matthews
Director: Robert Schwentke

Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), and her remaining allies are on the run from ruthless Jean Matthews (Kate Winslet), and her Erudite faction, where they take refuge at the Amity stronghold. While there, Tris learns that the Erudite are gaining power and decides that she must fight with her inner fears and decide what to do to protect her home.

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Divergent for me was a decent enough movie, it wasn’t great and I haven’t watched it again since the first time I watched it in cinemas, however I found it better than most young adult book adaptations. Overall I found its sequel, like the first film, to be good but not great. Although the action scenes are good and Shailene Woodley continues to be great in this series, the acting by most people isn’t up to par with even the previous movie and the plot can at time be needlessly convoluted. Nonetheless it is still an enjoyable movie and will probably be liked by fans of the book.

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Whereas the first movie was much easier to follow, the story here is quite convoluted. I was able to just go along with it and I had a general idea of what direction it was going in but a lot of times while watching it I was wondering about what was going on. Now I myself have read this book and I do have to say that the film has made some changes from the book. I’m personally fine with the changes but if you have read the books you should know before going in that this movie does change some things from the original source material. I do wonder however how they are going to make the next movies because they do change some significant plot points.

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The acting is good by its main lead, Shailene Woodley and her character is the most complex and developed character in the entire series. Despite this, a lot of the other cast honestly didn’t seem that bothered or interested in this movie or their performances. It’s been a year since I watched Divergent but I remember these actors giving more emotions in that film. It honestly feels like some of these people are just phoning it in and don’t really care much. For example, Kate Winslet was okay in the previous film (however she was quite a weak villain), however this film really highlights how non-threatening her character is. She really doesn’t do anything in this film, she just runs some tests on people and Winslet gives a less interested performance. The only other actors who seem to give some emotions is Naomi Watts and Jai Courtney, even though Courtney’s character isn’t developed he still manages to emote more than most of the actors in this movie.

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The action scenes are well filmed like in the previous film and are entertaining, which is the most consistently good aspect in Insurgent. The special effects are also quite effective whenever they are used and are on a bigger scale than Divergent. The soundtrack was also really well done and added much more to the scenes.

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Honestly if you like the books and liked the way they did Divergent, go see Insurgent, you probably won’t be disappointed. Just know going in that there are some pretty big changes from the book that have been made. As for the rest of us, it all depends whether you liked the first film to begin with. Its lead performance and the action scenes are great and entertaining but the uninteresting performances from most of the cast and the complicated plot does hold it back from being greater. Hopefully the sequels will be better (and also hopefully the next film won’t be as drawn out as Mockingjay Part 1)