Tag Archives: Octavia Spencer

Snowpiercer (2014) Review

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Snowpiercer

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Evans as Curtis Everett
Song Kang-ho as Namgoong Minsoo
Ed Harris as Wilford
John Hurt as Gilliam
Tilda Swinton as Minister Mason
Jamie Bell as Edgar
Octavia Spencer as Tanya
Ewen Bremner as Andrew
Go Ah-sung as Yona
Director: Bong Joon-ho

Set in 2031, the entire world is frozen except for those abroad the Snowpiercer. For seventeen years, the world’s survivors are on a train hurtling around the globe creating their own economy and class system. Led by Curtis (Chris Evans), a group of lower-class citizens living in squalor at the back of the train are determined to get to the front of the train and spread the wealth around. Each section of the train holds new surprises for the group who have to battle their way through. A revolution is underway.

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Snowpiercer was the first movie from Bong Joon-ho that I saw, which was quite a while ago. Having watched all his other movies, it made me want to go back to this one, and it’s even better on a second viewing. The release of Snowpiercer wasn’t as large as it should’ve been, which is a shame, because had it been given a proper release it would’ve been a massive hit among everyone sooner. It’s a fantastic film that is worth seeing.

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Snowpiercer is a very thematic movie about class, and there are a lot of parallels throughout. A lot of it isn’t particularly subtle but this doesn’t bother me at all however, movies being blatant with its themes aren’t inherently bad, and Snowpiercer does go deeper than just leaving it at “rich people bad, poor people good”. At around 2 hours long, the movie held my attention quite well. It’s much more focussed on the story, ideas, characters and themes over the spectacle and visuals (even those are impressive too). At first it’s a straightforward story, a group of people at the back end of the train want to get to the front of the train, and it doesn’t get much more complicated than that. However, there’s more going on, and the latter half of the movie sort of abandons the action movie energy from the first half for something much more intellectual and ambiguous, and I liked that too. Snowpiercer also feels very fresh, creative and original, and you can’t really compare it to any other sci-fi film, even though it’s not an entirely original film as it was based off a graphic novel (which I don’t think was that well known). The ending, as in the very last scene of the movie, was fine enough but I felt like it was missing something.

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This had a large cast, and all of them perform greatly, but there were three performances that stood out most. Chris Evans gives probably the best performance of his career in the lead role, as a much darker and conflicted character compared to most of the others that he plays, I’d like to see him more in roles like this. Song Kang-ho is here in his 3rd collaboration with Bong Joon-ho, and as usual delivers a solid performance. Tilda Swinton is the other standout as another transformative and unrecognisable character, and shined in her screentime in a over the top and gloriously hammy performance. The rest of the supporting cast with Go Ah-sung, Jamie Bell, Ewen Bremner, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer and Ed Harris also delivered some solid performances on their parts.

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We all know that Bong Joon-ho is a great director but he’s particularly great here, and his transition to movies in English was impressive. Taking away the fact that this movie is mostly in English, this doesn’t feel like an American blockbuster, especially when it comes to the action. It’s brutal, stylised, and was all around great and satisfying. It’s also visually stunning, the visual effects and cinematography were outstanding, and the attention to detail with the production and costume designs were top notch.

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Snowpiercer is one of my favourite movies from Bong Joon-ho, and he’s made some fantastic films. His direction was reliably exceptional and was key to making it work as well as it did. Add on top of that the work of the cast and a story and world I was engaged with throughout, and you have an outstanding sci-fi movie. Definitely watch it if you haven’t already.

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.

Hidden Figures (2016) Review

Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Goble Johnson
Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan
Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson
Kevin Costner as Al Harrison
Kirsten Dunst as Vivian Mitchell
Jim Parsons as Paul Stafford
Glen Powell as John Glenn
Mahershala Ali as Jim Johnson
Aldis Hodge as Levi Jackson
Director: Theodore Melfi

The incredible untold story of Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) – brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation’s confidence, turned around the Space Race, and galvanized the world. The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big.

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Hidden Figures seemed interesting when I first heard of it. It had a large and very talented cast, an interesting premise and story, and yes, it got many nominations for awards. So, I was curious enough to check it out. However, I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. Hidden Figures is full of great performances, solid direction and also a very compelling story. Hidden Figures is really worth seeing, a pleasantly surprising movie.

The story in Hidden Figures was quite good. It’s easy to follow what’s going on throughout the movie, there was no confusion and I never felt bored throughout the movie. The leads were likeable (which was also helped by the lead actresses, which I’ll get into later), and so I was interested to watch what was going on. The stories were interesting for me, it was interesting seeing how big of a role these women had in historical events. Each of their stories was very interesting and it’s easy to be invested in their stories. As for how the bigotry is handled, it’s subtle, at no point does it seem over the top or forced for dramatic effect. This movie wasn’t put in black and white, the way people acted and the decisions made were more complex than most movies which portray this time period. It feels genuine and so its easy to believe what the characters are feeling when they encounter obstacles, almost experiencing what they are feeling. It was an easy movie to watch overall, not complicated but at the same time very enjoyable and interesting enough.

Hidden Figures has a very talented cast all around and they were all great here. The three main leads, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae were all fantastic, they were all very likable and believable in their roles. As I said, all of their stories are interesting to watch and these talented actresses really did carry their storylines well. If there is a main character between the three of them, I’d say that it’s Henson, she was personally a stand out to me. Other very talented actors like Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Glen Powell, Mahershala Ali and others were great in supporting roles.

The direction by Theodore Melfi was pretty good overall, this is the first film of his I’ve seen. The costume design, music, production design, soundtrack, everything fitted the time period well. So on top of the writing, story and acting, the direction made it a lot easier to be invested in this story. However it wasn’t really the highlight of the film, the story and acting were more the focus. Still solid direction nonetheless.

Hidden Figures is quite a good movie, the acting was great, direction was solid and the overall story was investing and riveting. It was interesting learning about all these events and how significant these people are. It definitely deserves the praise its been getting. Check out this movie when you get a chance. It’s not one that you need to immediately see, but I do think it’s worth a viewing.

Zootopia (2016) Review

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Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Some scenes may scare very young children
Cast:
Ginnifer Goodwin as Officer Judy Hopps (voice)
Jason Bateman as Nicholas P. “Nick” Wilde (voice)
Idris Elba as Chief Bogo (voice)
Jenny Slate as Dawn Bellwether (voice)
Nate Torrence as Officer Benjamin Clawhauser (voice)
Bonnie Hunt as Bonnie Hopps (voice)
Don Lake as Stu Hopps (voice)
Tommy Chong as Yax (voice)
J.K. Simmons as Leodore Lionheart (voice)
Octavia Spencer as Mrs. Otterton (voice)
Alan Tudyk as Duke Weaselton (voice)
Shakira as Gazelle (voice)
Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore

From the largest elephant to the smallest shrew, the city of Zootopia is a mammal metropolis where various animals live and thrive. When Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) becomes the first rabbit to join the police force, she quickly learns how tough it is to enforce the law. Determined to prove herself, Judy jumps at the opportunity to solve a mysterious case. Unfortunately, that means working with Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a wily fox who makes her job even harder.

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Before seeing the movie, Zootopia didn’t interest me at all. It looked like a passable, ‘fun’ animated kids film, which could be poorly written or maybe even a little annoying. I don’t know, it never really looked that appealing to me. To my utter surprise, Zootopia was actually a really great movie. This film is quite smartly written and layered story, has memorable and likable characters, is very entertaining and has quite a lot of depth. Zootopia ended up being one of the most surprising movies of the entire year.

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This movie is very entertaining and hilarious, it’s fun to watch this movie and see this world which was created. Zootopia itself is very creative and unique, I’m impressed with how original it was, this is a super original movie, I’m surprised we haven’t gotten a movie like this sooner. But also, despite the trailers not showing it, Zootopia is actually quite a mature, deep and emotional movie. It almost feels like it was a film made for adults but with cute animals inserted into it. This film actually goes into some relevant issues such as racism, stereotypes and many others, and it’s all done in such a smart way. But it’s not ham fisted or forced, it’s subtle and it actually does have a purpose and benefited the movie immensely. This movie is so well written overall. If there’s any flaws with the movie, I guess the opening of the film has a whole lot of exposition just thrown at you all at once explaining the world, but that didn’t bother me a whole lot. Maybe it could’ve been done better but it was fine.

ZOOTOPIA – Pictured: Judy Hopps. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

The characters were great and memorable and the voice actors were perfectly cast. The pair of the main two characters, Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman) were so great and fun to watch, they had excellent chemistry together. There were other memorable characters as well such as Idris Elba’s Chief of Police Buffalo character, which were relentlessly entertaining. I won’t say too much about other memorable characters, you’ll just have to see them for yourself.

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It isn’t really surprising at all that the animation and design of the characters and the world was really great and overall done well. As I said earlier, Zootopia is very creative and the looks and designs of the world and characters really reflect that as well. It’s very easy to get sucked into this unique world that has been created. The soundtrack by Michael Giacchino was also really good and fitted the movie well.

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Zootopia surprisingly turned out to be one of the best movies of the year. It’s entertaining and fun but is also smartly written and was a much deeper movie than I was ever expecting it to be. You should definitely check out Zootopia out when you can, even if it doesn’t look that good to you, at least give it a try. Trust me, the movie is a lot better than the trailers and the marketing made it out to be.

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.

'The Divergent Series: Allegiant'

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)