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Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) Review

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Wonder Woman 1984

Time: 151 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman
Chris Pine as Steve Trevor
Kristen Wiig as Barbara Minerva/Cheetah
Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lorenzano/Maxwell Lord
Robin Wright as Antiope
Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta
Director: Patty Jenkins

Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) lives quietly among mortals in the vibrant, sleek 1980s — an era of excess driven by the pursuit of having it all. Though she’s come into her full powers, she maintains a low profile by curating ancient artifacts, and only performing heroic acts incognito. But soon, Diana will have to muster all of her strength, wisdom and courage as she finds herself squaring off against Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) and the Cheetah (Kristen Wiig), a villainess who possesses superhuman strength and agility.

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Wonder Woman 1984 was one of my most anticipated movies of 2020. I liked the Wonder Woman movie released back in 2017 and I was interested in the follow up movie, set in the 80s, and once again directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot in the lead role. After some delays, it actually ended up being released right at the end of 2020, and I got to see it in the cinemas. Despite some mixed to positive reactions, I really liked it.

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Wonder Woman 1984 is a very different movie from its predecessor. Whereas that was a gritty war movie, 1984 is a very bright, occasionally goofy but nonetheless heartfelt movie. Some might call it cheesy but I find it earnest and endearing and joyful. As someone who does prefer darker tones, I liked the approach for this movie. It is very reminiscent of the blockbusters of the era it is set in. The story has a surprising amount of depth and is entirely based on characters and the decisions they made. I particularly liked the character journey that Diana went on. There are plenty of plot devices and MacGuffins, and can definitely feel a bit silly and clichéd at times. The writing itself can be a little messy. It is long at 2 hours and 30 minutes in length, very long, but I appreciate it being this long rather than 10-20 minutes shorter. The first half and definitely the first act is quite slow. Not that I wasn’t interested during those parts, but you do feel the slow pacing. By the time it reaches the halfway point however, it really picks up. I’m one of the people who actually quite liked the final act of the first Wonder Woman, even though I do see issues with it. The final act of 1984 does work a lot better however, and by the end is emotionally satisfying. Make sure to stay in cinemas for like a couple minutes after the movie ends for a mid credits scene, it’s worth it.

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The acting is generally good, but it really comes down to the 4 major actors and characters. Gal Gadot once again is Wonder Woman/Diana Prince, and playing a Diana who has spent many decades on Earth since the first movie ended. I know some people are mixed about her acting, but I think Gadot improves with every appearance as Wonder Woman, making this her best performance as the character yet. She embodies the character really well and definitely sells her emotional moments really well, especially in the second half. Chris Pine returns as Steve Trevor after his character’s death in the first Wonder Woman. In 1984, Trevor really is more of a supporting role compared to his part in the first movie. There are some complaints that some aspects about his return especially with regards to his relationship to Diana is rather ethically questionable (to say the least) and I can’t really argue with any of them. That aside, his line delivery and humour is great, and Gadot and Pine once again share great chemistry together. I particularly like how Diana was the fish out of water when she first comes across mankind and Steve was the one guiding her through, and now the roles have sort of reversed as Steve finds himself in the 80s. The villains in Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord and Kristen Wiig as Barbara Minerva/Cheetah are definitely a step above the villains in the first Wonder Woman. Pedro Pascal performs his role incredibly well. His performance is hammy and over the top for sure, but he’s very entertaining and stands out among the main 4 actors. There’s also a lot more to his character that’s not shown in the trailer, in fact I was surprised at the amount of screentime he got. There are some parts of his character which do feel familiar and a bit undercooked, but Pascal’s performance made him great and firmly one of the best villains in the DCEU. Kristen Wiig also plays her role very well, even though her character goes on a very familiar arc. Nonetheless it was handled a bit better than I thought it would. I am uncertain about some parts of her role in this movie, and without getting into it, it’s strange seeing her essentially work as a secondary antagonist considering that Cheetah is known as being one of Wonder Woman’s most known villains. Hoping to see more of her in a sequel or something.

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Patty Jenkins returns to direct the sequel, and once again she does a good job. Losing the dark and grittiness from the first movie, 1984 embraces the 80s to great effect, with bright and vibrant colours. There’s actually not a huge amount of action, at least when compared to the previous movie, it’s definitely more story focused. When there is action, I did like those scenes generally. From what I remember, my biggest issue with the action in the first Wonder Woman was the use of slow motion, which got quite distracting. I didn’t notice a huge amount of slow motion in 1984, but I will say that the wirework sometimes made characters feel very floaty. The CGI at times is a little iffy but on the whole I think it was good. Hans Zimmer composes the score, and as you’d expect it’s really good and fits the movie quite well, even if it’s not one of his best work. There are actually two moments that work quite effectively. One is “Beautiful Lie” which was taken from Batman v Superman’s score, and the other wasn’t composed by Zimmer and is instantly recognisable. Both are used in key moments, and their respective tracks elevated those scenes to whole other levels.

MAGIC HOUR

Wonder Woman 1984 is entertaining, joyful, heartfelt and I had a great time with it. It’s certainly a bit messy, more so than the previous movie, but it’s also more ambitious and I got more out of it. The directing, acting and story just all generally worked well for me. It’s among my favourite movies in the DCEU, I’m definitely up for the third Wonder Woman movie whenever that does come out.

Triple Frontier (2019) Review

Time: 125 Minutes
Cast:
Ben Affleck as Tom “Redfly” Davis
Oscar Isaac as Santiago “Pope” Garcia
Charlie Hunnam as William “Ironhead” Miller
Garrett Hedlund as Ben Miller
Pedro Pascal as Francisco “Catfish” Morales
Adria Arjona as Yovanna
Director: J. C. Chandor

Former Special Forces operatives reunite to plan a heist in a sparsely populated multi-border zone of South America. For the first time in their prestigious careers, these unsung heroes undertake this dangerous mission for themselves instead of the country. But when events take an unexpected turn and threaten to spiral out of control, their skills, their loyalties, and their morals are pushed to a breaking point in an epic battle for survival.

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Triple Frontier was one of my anticipated movies of 2019. While there are plenty of heist movies, what made it stand apart from the others was a very talented main cast, with the likes of Oscar Isaac and Ben Affleck among them. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from it outside of that, but I was more than satisfied and entertained with the end result.

Triple Frontier is a straightforward heist movie, and at around 2 hours it had me interested for the entire runtime. The whole movie isn’t just about the heist, it’s the heist and then everything following the heist. As that, I was engaged in the plot and characters, especially as they kept being thrown into dire situations. Some people said that the movie kind of dropped off towards the second half, especially in terms of pacing. I didn’t feel that personally, I was pretty riveted throughout the entirety of the movie. Honestly my issue with the pacing was in the early parts of the movie, as it felt a little rushed as it was trying to establish all the characters. I guess the last action sections of the movie felt a tad underwhelming in comparison to those before it but that’s it, I was also fine with the direction the story was going in. The movie at the end leaves room open for a sequel, even though I wouldn’t mind seeing a follow up to Triple Frontier, I’m pretty sure we don’t really need one.

The cast was one of the biggest selling points, with the 5 leads Oscar Isaac, Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal, and they certainly delivered. You can tell throughout that this film is heavily relying on the characters and their actors to elevate the movie above just being another heist movie, thankfully they did. Their chemistry together is really believable, the film doesn’t even have to delve into too much detail about their backstories together because they just work so well off each other. Oscar Isaac (who is pretty much the main lead of the movie) leads the other characters very well, Ben Affleck surprises quite a bit with his performance here, and the rest of the cast as usual play their parts greatly.

J.C. Chandor has done some good work with his direction with All Is Lost and A Most Violent Year. His work on Triple Frontier was good as well, with it being a really great looking movie, it’s really shot well by Roman Vasyanov. It really places you with these characters and the places they go. The action scenes are also solid, they aren’t particularly stand out and aren’t anything that we haven’t seen before, but nonetheless were good enough for what they needed to be. The score by Disasterpiece is also very effective.

Triple Frontier is entertaining, thrilling and well directed, with the great work from the talented main cast being the highlight. While it has some issues, Triple Frontier is one of the better movies that Netflix has put out and is one of the more stand out heist movies in recent years, definitely worth a watch when you get a chance.

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) Review

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
KiKi Layne as Clementine “Tish” Rivers
Stephan James as Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt
Regina King as Sharon Rivers
Teyonah Parris as Ernestine Rivers
Colman Domingo as Joseph Rivers
Brian Tyree Henry as Daniel Carty
Ed Skrein as Officer Bell
Emily Rios as Victoria Rogers
Michael Beach as Frank Hunt
Aunjanue Ellis as Mrs. Hunt
Ebony Obsidian as Adrienne Hunt
Dominique Thorne as Sheila Hunt
Finn Wittrock as Hayward
Diego Luna as Pedrocito
Pedro Pascal as Pietro Alvarez
Dave Franco as Levy
Director: Barry Jenkins

In early 1970s Harlem, daughter and wife-to-be Tish (KiKi Layne) vividly recalls the passion, respect and trust that have connected her and her artist fiancé Alonzo Hunt, who goes by the nickname Fonny (Stephan James). Friends since childhood, the devoted couple dream of a future together, but their plans are derailed when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit.

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If Beale Street Could Talk has been a movie I’ve been meaning to see for a while and it’s partly the reason why I have been holding off on making my favourite films of 2018 list. The main standout part was that it comes from Barry Jenkins, the writer/director behind Moonlight, an excellent film that rightfully won Best Picture of that year. I had been hearing so many great things about his latest film and I am so glad I waited to see it. I had a great amount of anticipation for If Beale Street Could Talk, and yet it blew me away, it was absolutely phenomenal.

Like with Moonlight, the film was written by Barry Jenkins, this time it’s based on a book of the same name by James Baldwin, however you can really feel that this is a Jenkins movie. It’s actually pretty difficult to explain why If Beale Street Can Talk works as well as it does, however I’ll do my best. Everything about the writing, from the story, to the dialogue and the characters feels so incredibly real and genuine, you really feel like you’re watching a real story with real people. You just get so emotionally invested with the characters. Yes, given the premise you’d be right to say that it’s quite melancholic at some points, because it is, given that it’s surrounding a black man being put in prison for a crime that he didn’t commit. However it’s not just one big long depressing watch, it feels very natural and human, with happy moments, humorous moments, sad moments and the like. Honestly the only thing about the movie that I might take issue with might be that there’s a scene where we get to see the families of both Tish and Fonny, and while we get a brief look at the family dynamics, we don’t get a dive enough into the conflicts beyond that one scene, it’s a very minor nitpick however and isn’t that big of a problem. The movie ends on a bit of an open note, but it was the perfect ending for the film.

There are a lot of actors involved with the movie and they all do a great job, no matter how big or little their roles are. KiKi Layne and Stephan James play the leads of Tish and Fonny, and they are really great. We only get some glimpses into their romance in the time before Fonny is arrested, however in the moments we get, they are very believable together and their chemistry is truly great. Often times when it comes to a romance movie, even if it gets most aspects well, I would feel very underwhelmed if I’m not truly invested in the lead relationship. Thankfully, Beale Street’s central romance works excellently. Layne is particularly wonderful in her role as the central lead, definitely deserving of a lot of praise. Regina King is really great as Tish’s mother, I can see why she’s the frontrunner to win Best Supporting Actress at this upcoming Oscars. Brian Tyree Henry is also briefly in the movie as a friend of Stephen James and while he’s not in a lot of scenes, he is a standout in his screentime. The rest of the cast were all really good. Even those who show up for a scene or two, whether that be Dave Franco, Diego Luna, Pedro Pascal or Ed Skrein, they do great jobs at making themselves memorable for their screentime, and not necessarily just because you recognise them.

Barry Jenkins once again directs absolutely wonderfully here, like with his writing you can definitely tell this is a Jenkins film from his direction. Everything is so perfectly put together. I also noticed that there were plenty of visual storytelling moments, they are very sublte and small, and not a lot happens, but they tell so much. It’s a beautiful looking movie, with James Laxton’s great cinematography really adding a tremendous amount to the movie and at times really giving it a dreamlike vibe. That vibe is also helped by the score composed by Nicolas Britell, which was great.

If Beale Street Could Talk is fantastic and one of the all time best films of 2018. It’s a heartfelt and emotional movie, it’s perfectly written, the performances are great and Barry Jenkins’s direction was fantastic. I am absolutely astounded that despite floating around multiple film awards, it was shut out for Best Picture, had it been nominated this year it would’ve been my pick for it. I’m not sure how it ranks against Moonlight, I’ll need to rewatch it to be sure, but If Beale Street Could Talk is still a fantastic film on its own and is an absolute essential watch.

The Equalizer 2 (2018) Review

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains graphic violence, drug use & offensive language
Cast:
Denzel Washington as Robert McCall
Pedro Pascal as Dave York
Ashton Sanders as Miles Whittaker
Bill Pullman as Brian Plummer
Melissa Leo as Susan Plummer
Director: Antoine Fuqua

Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) returns to deliver his special brand of vigilante justice when thugs kill his friend and former colleague.

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I liked the first Equalizer by Antoine Fuqua, it was almost like a throwback to violent vigilante action movies from the 70s and 80s and was entertaining, with Denzel Washington as the titular “Equalizer” playing a large part of that. It’s not going to rank among even the best action movies of recent years but it was still enjoyable for what it was. 4 years late, Fuqua and Washington return for a sequel and while The Equalizer didn’t really need one, I was nonetheless interested in seeing what they would have next in store for us. Getting this out of the way, The Equalizer 2 is not as good as the first movie. It has some plot issues, mostly with the unfocussed plot and the fact that the pacing can be just a little too slow. However it is still decent enough, and Denzel Washington once again is great.

The plot and writing of The Equalizer 2 is a mixed bag. On one hand, The Equalizer 2 does have some more emotional depth than the first, it’s not hugely emotional but it is there. It’s also got a lot more going on, which ended up being more of a problem. Despite the length of the movie, the first Equalizer was a pretty straightforward movie that was quite focussed on its plot. The Equalizer 2 has some subplots, and most of them would only fit in well with the movie if it was a mini series instead. There is a subplot with Denzel and a teenager (played by Ashton Sanders) which really does work, the others don’t work as well unfortunately and deviate and distract from the main plot. Even the main plot has some problems. While it seems straightforward (Denzel’s friend is killed, he goes after whoever is responsible), it takes a long time to go through it. The second half of the movie however, it does pick up and becomes more focussed on the plotline but before that we’re just waiting for things to move along. The Equalizer 2 is a little shorter than the first movie, at 2 hours. Despite this, the second movie feels rather slow. Now it’s probably because it was meant to be a much slower and smaller movie, you don’t even get many characters here. However, I think it was a little too slow for its own good, and most of it is to do with the unfocussed plot.

There aren’t too many actors who stand out here outside of Denzel but they do their part well. Denzel Washington remains effortlessly capable in his role. He can switch from likable guy, to becoming very threatening and dangerous within a second. The first movie was him reaching his breaking point and taking action, this movie has him actively going out and taking action quite often. The villain here is just as strong as the villain in the first movie, he’s not as memorable but he does seem to have more to the character than just “generic Russian villain”. However with his character being a twist reveal (which you can see coming), we don’t really get enough screentime with him as the villain and once again, not as memorable. However the character and the actor did their part. Also, all the villains here in general were not cartoonishly one dimensional and over the top like with the first movie.

Antoine Fuqua’s direction once again was great for the most part. The action scenes are fast and brutal, maybe a little too violent. As mentioned previously, there wasn’t as many fight/action scenes as in the first movie. Something I did notice with the action scenes, particularly with the fight scenes with Denzel is that there were more cuts compared to the previous movie. The only thing I can think of is that Denzel being 4 years older couldn’t really perform all the stunts and so they tried to hide that.

The Equalizer 2 isn’t as good as the first movie but it is still entertaining, with Denzel Washington once again being the main highlight. If you liked the first movie, the second is worth a watch, otherwise this new movie won’t change your mind. While I have a feeling that we won’t get an Equalizer 3 (especially releasing it alongside Mamma Mia 2), I wouldn’t be opposed to it if it happened, hopefully it just takes the best elements of both movies and doesn’t make the same mistakes.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017) Review

Time: 141 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence, offensive language, drug use & sex scenes
Cast
Colin Firth as Harry Hart/Galahad
Julianne Moore as Poppy Adams
Taron Egerton as Gary “Eggsy” Unwin/Galahad
Mark Strong as Merlin
Halle Berry as Ginger
Elton John as himself
Channing Tatum as Tequila
Jeff Bridges as Champagne “Champ”
Pedro Pascal as Whiskey
Edward Holcroft as Charles “Charlie” Hesketh
Director: Matthew Vaughn

With their headquarters destroyed and the world held hostage, members of Kingsman find new allies when they discover a spy organization in the United States known as Statesman. In an adventure that tests their strength and wits, the elite secret agents from both sides of the pond band together to battle a ruthless enemy and save the day, something that’s becoming a bit of a habit for Eggsy (Taron Egerton).

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Kingsman: The Golden Circle was one of my most anticipated films of 2017. I’m a huge fan of the original Kingsman, it was fun, violent, different, and was well executed by director Matthew Vaughn. With the sequel introducing the American equivalent of the Kingsman (Statesman) and including some top notch actors, of course I was excited to see it. Having finally seen it I can say that I liked The Golden Circle… but I was slightly disappointed. On its own, it is a fun movie with actors having a lot of fun in their roles and some entertaining action sequences. However, there were some odd choices made with story and character, and at times is a little too over the top for its own good.

I was consistently entertained throughout the 2 hours and 20 minute runningtime of The Golden Circle, I was interested in the plot or entertained in what was going on. This movie does have one of my concerns in the lead up to its release, which was that it would feel a little too much like the original Kingsman. Not that its bad, if it aint broke don’t fix it, its just that I would’ve liked some more differences. There were some differences that were for the worst. The original Kingsman was both good at poking fun at the spy genre, while still being its own thing. The sequel however falls into self parody at times, going so over the top that its borderline Austin Powers territory, and not necessarily in a good way. There is also a sequence with Poppy Delevingne’s character which was just completely random and pointless, and it is definitely the worst part of the whole movie. Think of Kingsman 2 as being Kingsman, just not done as great. However, I almost have to give credit to Matthew Vaughn ‘s willingness just go out there and make whatever he wanted to do, despite how bonkers it can get. Silliness aside I didn’t have too many problems with the plot, there were some decisions with some of the characters that were rather questionable however (and I can’t go into that too much because that’s spoiler territory).

Taron Egerton returns once again as Eggsy, who’s now a Kingsman agent. Taron is flawlessly charismatic and likable as ever. Usually I wouldn’t mention this up because it may be a spoiler but since the marketing seemed to show it, so I guess we can talk about Colin Firth returning. As usual, Firth is effortless as Harry Hart in both his action and non action scenes. I’m not a fan of characters in big franchises being brought back from the dead, but I have to admit it’s nice seeing Colin again. Also, the explanation for Harry returning is fairly good. Mark Strong also returns as Merlin, getting even more to work with than in the original.

One of the reasons I was so hyped for Kingsman 2 was the talented actors involved with Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry and Pedro Pascal. I wouldn’t say that they are used to their fullest potential in this movie but they do very well to leave an impression in their scenes. Don’t let their talent fool you, in the film they are very much supporting characters, some only appearing in a few scenes. With that said, apparently the original running time of The Golden Circle was 3 hours and 40 minutes, so who knows, maybe they originally had bigger parts to play. The standout of the newer cast to me was Pedro Pascal, there is something that they do with his character at a point though which still kind of irks me. I also think Sophie Cookson’s Roxy (who was in the original Kingsman) should’ve been used a lot more. Julianne Moore is the villain as Poppy Adams, a drug lord. Moore is a fantastic actress but for whatever reason, her character really didn’t do anything for me. Samuel L. Jackson’s villain in the original film was silly and not threatening but he actually seemed to work for the movie. Moore’s character… not so much. She was crazy while acting all sweet and I get that’s what they were going for, but she didn’t really leave an impression on me at all. I didn’t find her entertaining or interesting, not to mention Poppy has some very weak motivations. Moore definitely did as well as she could with the role and she looked like she was having some fun, but overall her villain felt quite underwhelming, though I wouldn’t call her bad. Also Elton John is in this movie, I am feeling quite mixed about him. At times he was fine and even funny, but at times he was given way too much screentime and became just rather distracting.

Matthew Vaughn’s direction and style really worked in the original Kingsman and he thankfully returns here, in fact its his first attempt at a sequel. The action like in the previous Kingsman was pretty good and entertaining. The action with Pedro Pascal’s Agent Whiskey character is particularly great, including a scene in a bar. If you remember from the original Kingsman, there was this sort of hypercam that was used in the church scene. Well it appears here many times, and it really wasn’t always utilized the best. A good example is the opening action sequence, the action is good but the way it was filmed was rather distracting. It wasn’t terrible but it did take me out of the movie a bit. The CGI like in the original Kingsman is a little fake at times. The score from Henry Jackman like in the original Kingsman was great.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is not as good as the original. It’s decent, has some good performances, its enjoyable if silly but it has some issues with regards to the plot and some of the characters. However it is so much fun to watch that I’m willing to overlook some of the issues. If you don’t like the original Kingsman, I don’t see this one being any different for you. For everyone else, give it a go and see it for yourself whether it does it for you, I know it did it for me. I’m perfectly willing to give Kingsman 3 a shot, despite some issues in this instalment of the surprise franchise.