Tag Archives: Naomie Harris

No Time to Die (2021) Review

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No Time to Die

Time: 163 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Rami Malek as Lyutsifer Safin
Léa Seydoux as Madeleine Swann
Lashana Lynch as Nomi
Ben Whishaw as Q
Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny
Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter
Christoph Waltz as Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory/M
Billy Magnussen as Logan Ash
Ana de Armas as Paloma
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga

James Bond (Daniel Craig) is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica after leaving active service. However, his peace is short-lived as his old CIA friend, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), shows up and asks for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond on the trail of a mysterious villain (Rami Malek) who’s armed with a dangerous new technology.

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After years of delays, No Time to Die has finally arrived. It’s not only the latest James Bond movie (25th of the official movies in fact), but it’s also Daniel Craig’s last James Bond movie. I have been really anticipating this movie, I really liked this version of Bond, and I was interested to see how it would conclude everything. It was a great experience, especially in the cinema, and overall I’m prepared to say that I’m satisfied with it.

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No Time to Die is really a movie that’s worth going into not knowing too much beforehand. The trailers and advertising avoided giving too many plot details for good reason. What’s immediately noticeable is that there’s an interesting blend of tones in this movie. It is bombastic and over the top while also being emotional. First of all, it leans into more the classic Bond aspects than the previous Craig films. The plot has massive global stakes caused by a ludicrous villain, there are gadgets throughout, there are plenty of one liners, and overall everything is more over the top. This is also the funniest Bond movie of Craig’s run, with a good amount of well-executed humour which I enjoyed. At the same time there is an emotional core to the film, and it wraps up all the storylines and character journeys for this version of James Bond. If you haven’t seen the previous Craig James Bond movies and are thinking about jumping in here, I would highly recommend watching them (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and Spectre) before No Time to Die because it references events from those films. It is very much a follow on from Spectre (the movie), from Madeleine Swann, to Blofeld and Spectre (the organisation). While I’m aware not everyone will be on board with this given that plenty of people weren’t fans of the last movie, I actually thought it worked quite well. In some ways it retroactively made me like some of those aspects from Spectre a lot more. Tonally it sounds like a mess, however it somehow all comes together in the end. Without getting into spoilers, I thought the finale was ultimately emotionally satisfying, and a great sendoff to this version of James Bond. While it does embrace some of the more classic elements of Bond, it’s also a unique entry for a Bond movie. I can’t speak to any issues immediately because there was a lot to take in with this movie. There’s a lot that happens, with plenty of characters, storylines, and parts to wrap up. Speaking of which, the runtime is at around 2 hours 45 minutes long, making this by far the longest movie in the franchise. At times I could feel the length, but I was always invested in what was happening, so that was never a problem for me.

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This movie really felt like a real ensemble piece more so than the previous Bond movies. First and foremost is Daniel Craig, who delivers his best performance as James Bond. He gets to have a lot of fun moments, from the one liners and humour, to the action. Craig’s Bond is the most human and given the most emotions compared to the past versions of the character, and it goes all in with that in this movie. While there are world ending stakes throughout the film, there is no mistake that Bond’s story is the main focus, and Craig delivers all of this so greatly. He plays the character in a way we haven’t seen from him before, and the movie really gives him the opportunity to give a finale for Bond. Lea Seydoux is one of the only Bond girls to actually return from a previous Bond movie, here she’s reprising her role of Madeleine Swann. I liked Seydoux in Spectre but there was something missing with that character in the movie, and I didn’t quite buy the Swann/Bond romance at the end. No Time to Die however makes this relationship really work, and I thought that Seydoux was great here, getting to do a lot more. We also get returning supporting Bond players with Ben Whishaw as Q, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Ralph Fiennes as M, and even Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter, all of them reliable as always. Christoph Waltz also returns as Ernst Stravo Blofeld from Spectre, and while he’s not in the movie much, I actually liked him more in this movie, he’s great in his scenes and really leaves an impression. There are some new additions who are great in their parts too. There’s Lashana Lynch who is great as the new 007 (after James Bond had retired at the end of Spectre), and there’s also Billy Magnussen who is good in his role. Ana de Armas is a scene stealer, delivering a really fun and entertaining performance but unfortunately doesn’t get a massive amount of screentime. Nonetheless, she makes a strong impression. There’s also the new Bond villain as played by Rami Malek. He doesn’t quite reach the heights of Mads Mikkelsen in Casino Royale or Javier Bardem in Skyfall, but I think he’s a solid enough villain for this movie, especially as he’s the biggest adversary to Craig’s Bond yet. Malek’s character is definitely over the top, as you would expect for someone named Lyutisfier Safin. He is a strong and creepy screen presence, and absolutely nails the scenes that he’s in. There’s nothing really wrong with him writing or acting-wise, however he’s not in the movie as much as I would’ve liked.

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The newest director to helm a Bond film is Cary Fukunaga, and while I haven’t seen all of his other work, I can say that his work on Sin Nombre and Maniac is great. As expected, his direction for No Time to Die is fantastic and feels fresh and distinct in the franchise. There is this constant energy felt throughout, making even the more slower paced sections felt energised. The cinematography by Linus Sandgren is great, really giving this movie a very vibrant look, and it helps that the film takes advantage of the memorable locations it takes place at. The action is truly stellar, starting with an early action set piece with Bond in a motorcycle and then in a car, and only continuing to be great from there. The action is often filmed with long takes, with particularly one of the standout action scenes involving a stairway later in the movie. All the action is great and rivals the best action sequences from Craig’s past 4 Bond films. Hans Zimmer composes the score and while it doesn’t rank amongst the best work from him or one of the best Bond soundtracks, it is solid and works well for the movie. I also think that Billie Eilish’s main song for the movie was great.

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No Time to Die ranks alongside Skyfall and Casino Royale as my favourite James Bond movies. It is very long and there’s a lot to take in, but I loved what I saw from my first viewing of it. Cary Fukunaga delivered a visually stunning and enthralling movie, with great action, an ensemble cast of reliable and solid performances, and a script that’s bombastic and witty yet also appropriately emotional and given enough depth. However, above all else, it served as a great finale for Daniel Craig’s James Bond, and it definitely achieved what it set out to do. I’m not really sure what they will do for the next version of James Bond, from the actor to the interpretation of the character. Nonetheless, Craig remains my all-time favourite version of the character’s nearly 50 year run, and I’m happy with the sendoff they gave him with No Time to Die.

Street Kings (2008) Review

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Street Kings

Time: 95 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence & Offensive Language
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as Detective 2nd Grade Tom Ludlow
Hugh Laurie as Captain James Biggs
Chris Evans as Detective Paul “Disco” Diskant
Forest Whitaker as Captain Jack Wander
Naomie Harris as Linda Washington
John Corbett as Detective Dante Demille
Cedric the Entertainer as Winston AKA “Scribble”
Jay Mohr as Sergeant Michael “Mike” Clady
Terry Crews as Detective 2nd Grade Terrence Washington
Common as “Coates”
The Game as Grill
Director: David Ayer

Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves), a veteran member of the LAPD, is still mourning the loss of his wife and trying to navigate through a world that does not make much sense anymore. When evidence implicates him in the death of a fellow officer, Ludlow begins to question the loyalties of everyone around him.

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I went into Street Kings not really knowing what to expect, despite the cast and the director. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that David Ayer is a hit or miss filmmaker given there’s only one movie of his I don’t really like, but only a couple of his movies I would consider great. Street Kings is by no means a great movie and it’s not really that great, but I had fun with it, and it was better than I expected it to be.

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Street Kings is a standard crime thriller movie featuring dirty cops and police corruption, you’ve seen many of these types of movies, and many that have been done much better for sure (like L.A. Confidential or the David Ayer written Training Day). The writing is not the best, some of the characters are rather 2 dimensional, the first act was messy, some of the dialogue is just rather silly, and while I wouldn’t call the plot predictable, it was quite familiar. To be fair on Ayer’s part however, he didn’t actually write the script to this movie. With all that being said, Street Kings is reasonably entertaining for what it is, and doesn’t really have a dull moment (aside from the aforementioned first act). The plot wasn’t entirely riveting, but it was engaging enough for me to pay attention to everything that was happening right to the very end. It was around an hour and 50 minutes, and that was just about the right length for the movie.

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This movie actually has a pretty good cast all around. Keanu Reeves is in one of his more grittier and darker roles as the protagonist, and he performs pretty well. His character is yet another antihero alcoholic police detective who is a loose cannon who does his job his own way, and he doesn’t play by the rules, so nothing really new especially when it comes to crime thrillers. But Reeves does his part, and as to be expected, he excels in the action scenes. The supporting cast that includes Forest Whitaker, Chris Evans (who especially shares some good on screen chemistry with Keanu), and Naomie Harris all play their parts well. Hugh Laurie is also good in his scenes as the Captain of Internal Affairs but he’s barely in the movie, he doesn’t really do much by the end of the story, so his inclusion felt rather pointless.

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You can definitely tell that it’s a David Ayer movie from beginning to end, and overall it was directed pretty well. When it comes to gritty crime stories, Ayer is pretty good at representing that side in movies, and Street Kings is no exception. This is an action movie, and the action is filmed really well and stylish, with some entertaining set pieces. So at the very least, it’s worth watching just as an action movie.

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Street Kings is nothing special or memorable and it does have a number of issues for sure, but it was rather entertaining and much better than I thought it would be (at least compared to some of the reactions to it that I saw). It is elevated by David Ayer’s direction, some solid performances from the talented cast and featured some really good action. So it might be worth a watch if you’re interested in it.

 

Collateral Beauty (2016) Review

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Collateral Beauty

Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Will Smith as Howard Inlet
Edward Norton as Whit Yardsham
Keira Knightley as Amy/”Love”
Michael Peña as Simon Scott
Naomie Harris as Madeleine Inlet
Jacob Latimore as Raffi/”Time”
Kate Winslet as Claire Wilson
Helen Mirren as Brigitte/”Death”
Director: David Frankel

When a successful New York advertising executive (Will Smith) suffers a great tragedy, he retreats from life. While his concerned friends try desperately to reconnect with him, he seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. When his notes bring unexpected personal responses, he begins to understand how these constants interlock in a life fully lived and how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.

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I remember first hearing about Collateral Beauty when both Hugh Jackman and Rooney Mara were initially attached to it, although they later both dropped out. Still, it had a cast with the likes of Will Smith, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren and the like, so even though I wasn’t quite sure what the movie was about, I was definitely open to it. Having seen it though, I can say that Jackman and Mara dodged a bullet by dropping out. In the lead up to watching it, I heard so many surprisingly negative things about it, but watching it, it truly blew me away how bad it was.

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There’s no sugar-coating this, the trailers of Collateral Beauty straight up lied about the movie. According to the marketing, it’s about Will Smith writing to Love, Time and Death after a particular tragedy, and them actually coming in person to speak with him. That’s not quite what the movie is however. I would say spoiler alert, but this is pretty much shown within the first 20 minutes. What the movie really is about is that Smith’s friend/colleagues are worried about losing their jobs, so they decide to hire actors to portray Love, Time and Death, get them to talk to Will, record the conversations and then edit the actors out so that Smith can look crazy. I couldn’t make that up if I tried. I should also emphasise that the employees’ plan was literally recording Will Smith and the actors on an iPhone and somehow editing the actors out. What I said was just the premise, the rest of the movie is weak, melodramatic, or unintentionally silly. Some of the things in the movie including the ending is just truly absurd. It’s not so outrageous that you can have a blast watching it, but it had its unintentionally funny moments. It doesn’t even succeed on an emotional or touching level, you don’t like many (if any) of the characters, and it’s hard to get invested with what’s going on.

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This movie has an absurdly talented cast, with Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Michael Pena, Naomie Harris and Helen Mirren all involved. The cast is by far the best part of the movie, giving decent performances, but they are by no means some of the best performances of their careers, and it’s such a shame that their talents aren’t utilised the best here. Smith is in drama mode here, you can tell that he’s trying, but the material doesn’t leave him anything to work with outside of just moping around and acting sad. While he’s at the centre of the movie, you really get to know the side characters more than him.

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There’s really nothing that special about the direction by David Frankel. It’s competently directed I guess but there’s not much to say about it. At times with the way its shot and especially the music, it’s like Collateral Beauty trying to get an emotional reaction out of the audience (and failing greatly).

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Collateral Beauty is truly astounding. While the cast are alright and it is directed okay, the script is a complete mess, with plenty of questionable choices throughout. By the end you’re not even sure what the point of it all was. I can’t recommend seeing it even as a movie to make fun of, but it’s generally harmless, if terrible.

 

Moonlight (2016) Review

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Moonlight

Time: 111 minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language, drug use and sex scenes
Cast:
Trevante Rhodes as Adult Chiron/”Black”
Ashton Sanders as Teen Chiron
Alex Hibbert as Child Chiron/”Little”
André Holland as Adult Kevin
Jharrel Jerome as Teen Kevin
Jaden Piner as Child Kevin
Naomie Harris as Paula
Mahershala Ali as Juan
Janelle Monáe as Teresa
Director: Barry Jenkins

A look at three defining chapters in the life of Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes), a young black man growing up in Miami. His epic journey to manhood is guided by the kindness, support and love of the community that helps raise him.

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I remember watching Moonlight in the lead up to the Oscars, I thought it was great, and it had the biggest surprise of all that night when it ended up winning Best Picture, it was quite a big deal. With that said, I didn’t remember a lot of it from my first viewing, and I definitely needed to watch it again. It definitely improved a lot on a repeat viewing, and I can now confidentially call this a fantastic film that deserved all the acclaim that it had received.

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This movie is broken up into 3 parts, showing 3 stages of lead character Chiron’s life. The first part is him as a child, the second is him as a teenager, and the third is him as an adult. All three of these parts were quite different from each other, yet consistently great, there wasn’t one part that felt particularly weaker than the other (although the third part was a little slower). It is so engaging seeing Chiron make all these discoveries about himself and grow as a person. It’s very well written by Barry Jenkins, the dialogue is fantastic, it felt absolutely real. That’s really the biggest takeaway of this movie that I got, it all felt real and genuine. Now I’m not particularly big on coming of age stories, I have enough trouble emotionally connecting with most movies, and coming of age movies particularly don’t really work for me (probably mainly because most of the apparent appeal is being relatable and I just can’t relate to most of their stories). However this easily ranks amongst this subgenre, especially and recent years. I think most people can connect with Chiron and his story, and that is really a testament to the writing.

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The three actors who played Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes) were fantastic. They all captured this character perfectly at the different stages of his life. Something I heard about is that they didn’t base their performances on each other, giving their own interpretation to the material they gave, and I think that added a lot. The supporting cast was also great. Naomie Harris was really good as Chiron’s mother, and the rest of the cast that includes Janelle Monae and Andre Holland also do their parts. The standout though was Mahershala Ali, who is easily one of the best actors working right now. He wasn’t in the movie a whole lot, but he left a real impression in his scenes, especially in the scenes with Alex Hibbert as the younger. Even when he’s not in the movie, you felt his presence throughout the rest of the film.

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Director Barry Jenkins absolutely delivers here, this is his sophomore film, and his work here is excellent. This movie is smaller and independent, and you can feel that through and through, and it was to its benefit. The cinematography by James Laxton was beautiful, not one shot or camera move felt out of place, and the lighting and the use of colour is just stunning to watch. There are so many memorable scenes and images that really stay with you long after seeing the movie. A lot of the time, there weren’t any soundtrack or music, and that helped to invest you even more into the story and the movie. It made it all feel even more real, and much easier to be invested in it all, whether that be with ambient sounds or silence. The score by Nicholas Britell when present though, is excellent and impactful, and really added to the film a lot. The editing also deserves a lot of credit, making many of the moments even more impactful.

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Moonlight is such a fantastic movie and deserved all the praise. The performances, beautifully written story and incredible direction all comes together to a profoundly moving coming of age tale that definitely ranks among the highlights of films from that decade. If you haven’t already, definitely check out Moonlight when you can.

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.

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018) Review

Time: 104 Minutes
Cast:
Rohan Chand as Mowgli
Matthew Rhys as John Lockwood
Freida Pinto as Messua
Christian Bale as Bagheera
Benedict Cumberbatch as Shere Khan
Cate Blanchett as Kaa
Tom Hollander as Tabaqui
Andy Serkis as Baloo
Peter Mullan as Akela
Naomie Harris as Nisha
Eddie Marsan as Vihaan
Jack Reynor as Brother Wolf
Louis Ashbourne Serkis as Bhoot
Director: Andy Serkis

Human child Mowgli (Rohan Chand) is raised by a wolf pack in the jungles of India. As he learns the often harsh rules of the jungle, under the tutelage of a bear named Baloo (Andy Serkis) and a panther named Bagheera (Christian Bale), Mowgli becomes accepted by the animals of the jungle as one of their own, but the fearsome tiger Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) doesn’t take a liking to him. But there may be greater dangers lurking in the jungle, as Mowgli comes face to face with his human origins.

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Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (originally titled Jungle Book: Origins) was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. With the direction of Andy Serkis, the involvement of actors like Christian Bale, Benedict Cumberbatch and Cate Blanchett, but most of all a darker and more accurate to the source material adaption of Jungle Book, I was curious about the movie. While not quite great, Mowgli is a solid movie that’s well worth the watch.

It’s difficult to talk about this movie without mentioning Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book, which was pretty much a direct live action adaptation of the animated movie. I will be making some comparisons between the two but I will refrain from talking about which version I prefer. Ultimately both versions are great for what they are. Although I never read the original Jungle Book stories, from what I can tell Mowgli is a much more accurate adaptation of it. The movie is much more darker and while it doesn’t necessarily creep into R territory, there are definitely some scenes that a lot of children will be scared by. That’s not to say that there aren’t some light moments, its just that you won’t see Baloo signing “Bear Necessities” or anything like that. The characters are also rather different from what you remember in the previous Jungle Book movies. For example, Baloo is a grumpy bear who lived closely with the wolves with Mowgli grows up being mentored by him instead of encountering him for the first time during the story, and Kaa isn’t really a threat to Mowgli. The events and focus of the story are a bit different as well, while Mowgli meeting other humans played a small part in the other versions, here it plays a more larger part. So for those who wonder whether it’s just the same movie with a dark filter, it’s not. The movie is an hour and 45 minutes long and from start to finish I was actually liking it quite a bit. This doesn’t necessarily make it better than Favreau’s version but I really liked the dark tone that they went with, and the darker and scarier moments feel earned and not forced at all. The one thing with the story that I didn’t like so much is that it has a very abrupt ending, just a scene or two more and it would’ve improved it much more.

First of all worth talking about when it comes to acting is the titular Mowgli, played by Rohan Chand. Much of this movie relies on him being great and he really was. He was great at the very physical scenes and he was also great at the more emotional parts of the role. There is a reasonably large talented cast involved in the motion capture as well. The cast includes Eddie Marsan, Naomie Harris, Peter Mullan, Tom Hollander and Jack Reynor who are all great. However some stood out more than others. There is Christian Bale as Bagheera, with a bit of different take on him, who’s great. Appearing in front of the camera as well as behind was Andy Serkis who plays Baloo. Again, different take on Baloo and Serkis is an expert when it comes to motion capture, so it’s no surprise that he’s great here, a real scene stealer. Benedict Cumberbatch already played a motion capture role with Smaug in the Hobbit movies and here also plays Shere Khan. Whereas Idris Elba in Favreau’s Jungle Book was an intimidating and menacing force to be reckoned with, Cumberbatch’s feels like a monster or a demon, who is made all the more threatening by his voice. I do wish that we got a little more of him though but he owns every scene that he’s in. Cate Blanchett as Kaa was great. They seemed to have taken inspiration from Favreau’s Jungle Book by having Scarlett Johansson voice Kaa instead of a male actor, and both versions actually worked well with this. However Mowgli’s version works much better for the sheer fact that we get Kaa for more than one scene. We don’t get a ton of her but she steals the scene when she appears, and Blanchett’s voice adds so much to her, giving Kaa a sort of mysterious presence.

Andy Serkis handles this movie well as director and it really looks visually stunning. Unlike the 2016 Jungle Book movie, Mowgli uses motion capture. This makes the characters appear more expressive and really enhances the performances of the actors, and as I said before the performances are great. Most of the time it is great, however there are some character designs which look bizarre and don’t work at all with some of the animals. The lighting compared to The Jungle Book from 2016 is darker but it works for the tone of the movie.

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is solid but I can understand why it was put on Netflix. It was only released a couple of years after the last Jungle Book adaptation, and also it was quite dark, which would no doubt mean that it wouldn’t have that much interest from the general audience. I personally found it to be a well made and different take on the familiar story, and is worth seeing at the very least for the visuals. No matter your thoughts on other The Jungle Book movies, I do recommend at least checking out Mowgli.

Southpaw (2015) Review

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive langauge & content that may disturb.
Cast:
Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy “The Great” Hope
Forest Whitaker as Titus “Tick” Wills
Rachel McAdams as Maureen Hope
Oona Laurence as Leila Hope
Naomie Harris as Angela Rivera
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson as Jordan Mains
Director: Antoine Fuqua

As tragedy strikes him in his prime, famed boxer, Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal), begins to fall into a great depression. Once the decision regarding the custody of his daughter (Oona Laurence) is under question, Billy decides to get his life back on track by getting back into the ring.

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I remember getting reasonably interested in Southpaw, with my main point of interest being Jake Gyllenhaal, he really commits to every role and continues to physically change himself and gives great performances. Also, Antoine Fuqua directed this movie and I liked a lot of his work with films like Training Day, King Arthur, Shooter, Olympus has Fallen and The Equalizer, so I was interested in seeing what this film would be like. Although this movie is pretty predictable and cliché, the execution of the story worked quite well, especially with the performances (Gyllenhaal particularly) and the direction.

I will say that before going in, it would be a good idea not to look at the trailers because it spoils an earlier aspect of the film. The story is fairly predictable, if you’ve read the summary or watched the trailer (which you shouldn’t) you know what type of movie it is and you probably can predict the most basic plot points. One thing I liked was how Gyllenhaal’s character does actually have some issues. In many of these types of movies with similar plots you would usually want the main character to be with their child despite all the odds but here, you can tell that maybe in this case that shouldn’t happen (no spoilers). Aside from that, most of the movie is how you would expect it to be. You do root for the main character and all that but it doesn’t quite have you quite as emotionally invested as much as other similar movies do. For me, it’s the execution of everything that makes Southpaw work so well.

Southpaw may have some familiar characters, but the talented cast gives it their all and are great here. Jake Gyllenhaal is once again incredible in this movie, he transforms physically and mentally into his character Billy Hope and he does some more great work here. Gyllenhaal once again shows himself to be one of the best actors working today. Another performance I was impressed with was of Billy’s daughter by newcomer Oona Laurence, the chemistry between her and Gyllenhaal was really good and believable, you can buy them being father and daughter. Forrest Whitaker also gave a pretty good performance and so did other supporting actors like Rachel McAdams and Naomie Harris, really everyone does quite well in their roles.

Southpaw was overall a well directed movie and one of the reasons why the movie works pretty well. I really liked how the boxing scenes were filmed, as this is Antoine Fuqua, he doesn’t hold anything back and he did quite well showing the impact that the fighting had on Billy Hope, both physically and mentally.

Southpaw isn’t the most original movie and you can predict a lot of its plot/ You’ve all seen this story before and there aren’t too many surprises and it doesn’t really do anything new with this kind of story. What makes this movie work despite the lack of any surprises is how Antoine Fuqua and the cast delivered this movie. I do think that it’s worth seeing for at least for the performances, especially from Jake Gyllenhaal as he is fantastic here. Southpaw is a solid enough, if familiar movie that is worth giving a chance when you can.

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.