Tag Archives: Rian Johnson

Knives Out (2019) Review

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Daniel Craig as Detective Benoit Blanc
Chris Evans as Hugh “Ransom” Drysdale
Ana de Armas as Marta Cabrera
Jamie Lee Curtis as Linda Drysdale
Michael Shannon as Walter “Walt” Thrombey
Don Johnson as Richard Drysdale
Toni Collette as Joni Thrombey
Lakeith Stanfield as Detective Lieutenant Elliot
Katherine Langford as Megan “Meg” Thrombey
Jaeden Martell as Jacob Thrombey
Christopher Plummer as Harlan Thrombey
Noah Segan as Trooper Wagner
Director: Rian Johnson

When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. From Harlan’s dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Harlan’s untimely death.

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Knives Out was one of my most anticipated films of 2019. I’m always interested in seeing what writer/director Rian Johnson does next, and with him going from Star Wars to a much smaller movie and especially a whodunit, I was already on board. However, you add on top of that an insane cast that includes Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon and more, and I’m absolutely going to be excited for it. Knives Out is not only one of the biggest crowd-pleasers of the year, it’s one of the best films from the year too.

Rian Johnson’s script is nothing short of fantastic. Talking about how and why much of it works so well is quite difficult without revealing important things, so don’t go in knowing too much. Even the non spoilerish aspects are best experienced for yourself. Thankfully the trailers do a good job at not revealing too much about the movie beyond the premise and setup. What I can say is that Knives Out is quite different from what you’d initially expect it to be at first. What Johnson did with the noire genre in Brick, he does with the whodunit here, modernising it, and adding some twists on it. I will need to watch it again to see if much of the reveals still hold up, but on first viewing I’m more than satisfied with where he took the story and characters. I genuinely was surprised at some of the twists that happened. It’s also a hilarious movie, with some great and memorable dialogue. At 2 hours and 10 minutes long, it has your attention from start to finish. Early on I can see people wondering where this movie is going. However, at a certain point, I think most audiences are going to be locked into the plot.

As previously mentioned, the cast is massive and they played their roles really well. Daniel Craig is instantly iconic as Detective Benoit Blanc, a private detective investigating the murder. His performance is definitely over the top, especially with the southern accent, he’s playing on detectives like Hercule Poriot. With this and Logan Lucky, Craig has been really showing that he has a solid comedic side to him that we don’t get to see often. There have been talks about having more movies featuring the character of Blanc, and I’d definitely like to see that. However one of the biggest surprises is that Craig isn’t even the main character. When I say that Knives Out is Ana de Armas’s movie, I’m not just saying that because she steals much of the movie, even though she does that. Her character of Marta is at the centre of the film, and without revealing too much of the movie, she’s ultimately Knives Out’s secret weapon, she’s going to take a lot of people by surprise. The cast making up the rich family at the centre of the mystery with Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell and Christopher Plummer are all great, and have plenty of moments to show off. They work well at both the dramatic and comedic parts. Some of them get to do more than others, like Martell out of them is really only noticed in a few scenes, but the rest of them do well to make themselves known. Out of them however, I’d say that Evans is the standout. Plummer as the murder victim at the centre doesn’t get a massive amount of screentime but he’s nonetheless a major part and is a presence felt throughout. Additionally Lakeith Stanfield and Noah Segan also work well in supporting roles as a detective and a police officer investing the murder along with Blanc, though I did want to see a little more from Stanfield.

Rian Johnson’s direction is still on point, and he’s got a fantastic handle on the whole film. When the first trailers came out from Knives Out, I noticed some people commenting that it looks like a tv show rather than an actual film. I can say that sitting in a theatre and watching the movie begin, that couldn’t be further from the truth, it was stunning to look at. It’s very much stylised, and like with Johnson’s debut with Brick, it throws back to the movies of the same genre that its clearly inspired by (in Knives Out’s case that of course being the whodunit).

With Knives Out, Rian Johnson shows once again that he’s one of the most unique and exciting filmmakers working together. It’s very well directed, and the script is outstanding, with some effective twists, fleshed out characters, and is much more than what you’d expect it to be at first. Add on top of that a fantastic cast who perform excellently (highlights being Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas and Chris Evans), and you have one of the best (and most entertaining) movies of the year. Definitely don’t miss it at the cinema.

Looper (2012) Review

Time: 113 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence and offensive language.
Cast:
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe
Bruce Willis as Old Joe
Emily Blunt as Sara
Paul Dano as Seth
Noah Segan as Kid Blue
Piper Perabo as Suzie
Jeff Daniels as Abe
Pierce Gagnon as Cid
Director: Rian Johnson

In a future society, time-travel exists, but it’s only available to those with the means to pay for it on the black market. When the mob wants to eliminate someone, it sends the target into the past, where a hit man known as a looper lies in wait to finish the job. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one such hired gun, and he does his job well — until the day his bosses decide to “close the loop” and send Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) back in time to be killed.

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I remember seeing Looper years ago around about the time when it came out. It was the first movie from Rian Johnson that I saw, so I was naturally excited when he was announced as directing a Star Wars movie because of his work here (and yes, I’m still very much love how The Last Jedi turned out). Because Johnson’s latest film Knives Out is coming out soon, I thought it was a perfect time to revisit this movie. Looper still holds up pretty well. There might be a couple things that don’t work perfectly, but on the whole it’s still great.

First of all with Looper, I liked how the movie portrays the futuristic world. It’s definitely a science fiction reality, with some advanced technology, new drugs and the like. However it doesn’t have flying cars or anything like that. There’s even some people in this movie who have the ability of telekinesis, but it’s pretty small and can only really be used for levitating small objects, not a significant superpower by any means. The movie also isn’t just science-fiction, it’s also a crime movie, and through Joe’s (Joseph Gordon Levitt) narration, we hear about how this criminal group operates. Rian Johnson is great at blending different ideas together and Looper is no exception, it’s quite an original movie and if you haven’t seen it and don’t know much going in, I’m pretty sure the experience will be better when you do. With any movie involving time travel, there’s going to be some holes and things that don’t quite make sense, and Looper isn’t immune to that (especially towards the end). The characters who even know vaguely about the time travel do at least acknowledge that the time travel is confusing, and I still really liked how the movie portrayed and utilised it, so I was able to look past some of the more confusing elements. While I liked the ending (even though I’m not exactly sure if it’s right), I feel like it could’ve been like a minute longer at least, it somehow felt a little abrupt.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives probably his best performance yet in the role of the main character of Joe, a hitman of sorts. Bruce Willis here really gave one of his best performances in years, he really seemed dedicated to his performance here, significant given most of his recent work has just been straight to DVD action flicks. Something they did with Gordon-Levitt is that they put makeup on him to make him seem like a younger Willis. While its effective and definitely looks a lot better than it sounds on paper, I do find it a little hard to buy that they are the same person. JGL looks like himself but slightly Bruce Willis-ish, but the with the way they act you don’t really buy that they are the same person. However you can look past that and roll with it. Emily Blunt shows up in the latter half in the movie and is very good in her role. The same is said for Pierce Gagnon who plays Cid, Blunt’s child who seemingly a lot more than he initially appears to be. Other supporting actors like Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels also add quite a lot in their screentime.

Rian Johnson has really progressed as a filmmaker, going from a smaller gritty noire set at a high school, to a bright Wes Anderson-esque conmen comedy, to Looper, a science-fiction crime movie. Visually it looked great. I mentioned earlier how I liked the portrayal of the future, and that extends to the direction. The locations for the most part look very similar to places to today and was rather gritty in parts, but with some futuristic touches. The soundtrack by Nathan Johnson was also very effective.

Looper is an original science-fiction crime movie, very well written and directed by Rian Johnson, and the cast were good, particularly Gordon-Levitt, Willis and Blunt. Despite some of the issues I had with some aspects of the plot which didn’t quite work, I think it’s really great. Definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it already.

The Brothers Bloom (2008) Review

Time: 114 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Mark Ruffalo as Stephen Bloom
Rachel Weisz as Penelope Stamp
Adrien Brody as Bloom Bloom
Rinko Kikuchi as Bang Bang
Maximilian Schell as Diamond Dog
Robbie Coltrane as Maximillen “The Curator” Melvile
Director: Rian Johnson

Twenty-five years of swindling people are too much for Bloom (Adrien Brody) and he wants out of the business. His brother, Stephen (Mark Ruffalo), convinces him to work on one final hustle, targeting an eccentric East Coast heiress named Penelope (Rachel Weisz). The con game fails to play out as planned when Bloom falls in love with the irresistible woman.

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The thing that got me most interested in The Brothers Bloom was the fact that it’s directed by Rian Johnson. Then I heard the likes of Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel Weisz were in the cast, and that interested me even more. I actually knew very little about what the movie was even about before going in, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Even though it’s not at the level of Johnson’s other movies, I still enjoyed The Brothers Bloom considerably.

Movies about conmen have been done before, but The Brothers Bloom is a lighthearted and quirky comedy for the most part, and it’s rather original and entertaining. The movie does have a lot of twists, and I think most of them worked well. Looking back at the plot itself, it seems to be going all over the place at times, there were some periods where I wasn’t quite following along with the story. There were also a few scenes where nothing much seemed to be happening. At times it stopped feeling that fresh and reverted back to scenes typically seen in most conman/heist movies. However, even then I still had a good time watching these characters, they’re generally what makes this movie work so well. The Brothers Bloom mostly has a whimsical tone throughout, and at times some of the more emotional side of the characters and story isn’t shown quite as much as I think it should’ve, even though they do display that in the first two acts. The movie only really starts to get serious towards the end and it’s a rather sudden and dramatic turn in tone. I feel like if the movie had a tone that was a blend of the lighter and serious tones throughout, I think it would’ve been worked a little better. With that said, Rian does deliver on the emotional side in the third act, and the endings for each character were very fitting, without spoiling anything.

Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo are great as two brothers who are conmen who are distinctly different from each other, they share some great chemistry. The two of them are in a con group with Rinko Kikuchi, who also gets some hilarious moments of her own despite not really having any lines of dialogue in the movie. However, it’s Rachel Weisz who’s really the standout of the cast, really lighting up the movie whenever she’s on screen. Even Robbie Coltrane gets to shine in his brief scenes.

Rian Johnson directs this movie very well, it’s a distinctly different movie from Brick, and that definitely extends to the direction and look of everything. You can really tell that he gained a considerably higher budget and has progressed a lot since his debut movie. The Brothers Bloom is very stylistic and visually (especially with the colour pallet) at times resembled a Wes Anderson movie, and I do mean that in a good way.

The Brothers Bloom is probably the weakest movie from Rian Johnson but it’s still quite good for what it is, and it’s not bad having this as your worst movie. It’s quite colourful and entertaining, mostly smartly written, and the cast and memorable characters are great, with Rachel Weisz being a particular stand out. Definitely worth a watch.

Brick (2005) Review

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains medium level violence
Cast:
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Brendan Frye
Nora Zehetner as Laura Dannon
Lukas Haas as the Pin
Noah Fleiss as Tugger
Matt O’Leary as The Brain
Emilie de Ravin as Emily Kostich
Noah Segan as Dode
Richard Roundtree as Assistant V.P. Trueman
Director: Rian Johnson

After receiving a frantic phone call from his ex-girlfriend, teenage loner Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) learns that her dead body has been found. Vowing to solve her murder himself, he must infiltrate high-school cliques that he previously avoided. His search for the truth places him before some of the school’s roughest characters, leading to a confrontation with a drug dealer known as “the Pin (Lukas Haas).”

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Brick is a movie I’ve heard about for a while and have been meaning to watch. Having seen Rian Johnson’s Looper and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I’ve wanted to check out his first movie even more. All I basically knew about is that it was some kind of noire movie set at a high school and starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead role. Brick was a really great neo-noire mystery, and I’m really glad that I finally got around to seeing it.

There are so many parts of the movie that shouldn’t work at all, it certainly doesn’t seem to on paper. You wouldn’t think that placing a detective and noire plot set inside the setting of a high school would work at all, however it did. Oddly enough, for the most part, Brick seems to be playing everything completely straight instead of making it a comedy. The detective, the femme fatale, the kingpin/boss, a mystery, the way the characters talk and the dialogue they deliver, a bittersweet ending, all the typical tropes that are in a classic noire movie are mixed in with this plot and you can actually take it seriously at the same time. Occasionally there are scenes which are much more humorous in nature, which at least shows that Johnson and the film are self aware, while not going so far as to detract from the seriousness of the rest of the plot. I guess Brick is a satire of the genre, but instead of making it a comedy like you’d think they would, they instead take it for a darker turn. It’s also a genuinely well written movie, despite many of the familiar tropes, the twists are good and you can’t necessarily predict where the plot is going to go or what is going to happen. It’s not just using the satire aspect as a gimmick. Johnson’s writing really makes this work, there are a lot of elements at play that don’t seem like they would quite fit together easily. The ending as well was great, and fitted rather well considering the rest of the movie.

Most of the actors here you don’t really recognise, however they are mostly good in their roles (with the occasional performance not as great as some others). There are two highlights among them though. The first of them is Joseph Gordon Levitt, the most famous and recognisable of the cast. Levitt plays the role like the classic detective seen in classic noire movies, and he manages to make it work and you can actually take it seriously. He gives one of his best performances, and that’s really saying a lot. The other standout is Nora Zehetner, whose character seems more in the femme fatale sort of role.

You can tell that it’s a lower budgeted movie, and in fact it’s just at $450,000. However, Rian Johnson did a lot with very little, and his style works exceptionally well for a debut. He clearly knows what he’s doing behind the camera, it is a very well shot movie. Again, the detective and noire tropes are conveyed very well here, as the familiar types of shots seen in said movies are present here too. Even the music played here are reminiscent of classic noires.

Brick showed off Rian Johnson’s talents pretty early on and was a great neo-noire and a good movie on its own. The cast was good (particularly Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and it’s written and directed very well by Johnson. Although I do think a couple of his other movies are a little better, it’s worth a watch for sure.

Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi (2017) Review

Time: 152 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa
Adam Driver as Kylo Ren
Daisy Ridley as Rey
John Boyega as Finn
Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron
Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke
Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata
Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma
Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico
Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo
Benicio del Toro as DJ
Director: Rian Johnson

Rey (Daisy Ridley) develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order.

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Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi was one of my most anticipated films of 2018. I loved The Force Awakens and with Rian Johnson attached to direct the sequel I was looking forward to where the story would progress. The Last Jedi has what you would typically expect in a good Star Wars movie, great characters and top notch visual effects and action sequences. But it managed to do something that recent Star Wars movies haven’t been able to do: surprise me. It went in directions I didn’t expect. After thinking upon it for a while, The Last Jedi just might be one of the all time best Star Wars movies.

First thing I want to say is to make sure you don’t see any spoilers, I saw none of them before going in and I was surprised by many of the things that happened. For that reason, I can’t go into too much depth about why this movie is great. The story is darker and bleaker than The Force Awakens, yes it is still quite fun, it has very effective humour and it does have its good dose of adorable creatures in the form of Porgs, which are these little penguin hamster creatures (and surprisingly they are actually cute and not annoying). It’s very much still Star Wars. But at the same time it feels like its something different, most people in charge of this film wouldn’t go in this direction with its story and characters. If you felt that The Force Awakens plays it way too safe, I can see you liking The Last Jedi more. I can see this film dividing some audience members with regard to some of the decisions that the story takes but for me, I loved these decisions. I know I’m being very vague when talking about the plot but that’s because in order to do that I would have to go in depth and I just can’t, not in a non-spoiler review at least. As for whether some of these risky decisions should have been made at all, I think that a lot of it will depend on how the story is resolved in episode 9. This movie is 150 minutes long, making it the longest Star Wars movie to date. For the most part it earns its long runtime, and I say for the most part because there is a section which takes place on a planet with Boyega’s Finn and Marie Tran’s Rose that feels rather unnecessary. Outside of that I think most of the plot is great.

The returning cast is great, Daisy Ridley continues to impress as Rey, John Boyega is great as Finn and Oscar Isaac’s Poe gets a lot more to do here. Regardless of what you think about the character of Snoke, there’s no denying that Andy Serkis acted so well, this time we see Snoke in his non-holographic form and Serkis is so fantastic in his scenes. Carrie Fisher is as usual great as Leia and yes, she does have her chance to shine in certain moments. Carrie Fisher will be sorely missed. We also get some newcomers. Kelly Marie Tran is really good and likable in her role, if I can understand correctly this is the first real film that she’s been in and she does such a great job here. Laura Dern is also quite good in her role. If there’s a weak link, it’s Benicio del Toro’s character, Benicio is quite good in the role but the character feels like he could be played by anyone and wasn’t that memorable and didn’t feel that necessary. If I was to pinpoint the two stand outs of the whole film, I’d say that it’s Mark Hamill and Adam Driver. Mark Hamill is fantastic as Luke Skywalker, Luke has clearly been through a lot and has changed as a result from Kylo’s turn to the darkside and the guilt that he feels for it. He’s less hopeful and he’s not quite what you’d expect him to be but you can tell it’s still Luke, not just a grumpy old Mark Hamill. Not only is this the best Hamill has been as Luke Skywalker, it is also the best he’s ever been in a live action film. With regard to some of the polarising decisions of the film, many of them surround him, that’s all I’ll say. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren was one of the highlights of The Force Awakens and he was a highlight once again here. He’s even more conflicted and unstable now due him killing his father in episode 7 (if you haven’t watched The Force Awakens you really shouldn’t be reading this review by the way) and watching his journey was intriguing. Kylo Ren is almost at Darth Vader’s level in terms of Star Wars villains. Really everyone is great here, and they all get to have at least one moment to shine.

Rian Johnson directed this film excellently. The visual effects are incredible, there wasn’t a moment that stood out to me as being out of place in terms of CGI. The cinematography… I’m just going to say it, out of all the Star Wars films, The Last Jedi has the best cinematography. There are countless beautifully shot sequences, all of them fantastic. All the action sequences are great and I’d consider most of them to be amongst the best in the Star Wars series. It succeeded so well at making these sequences feel incredibly tense. The only sequence that felt out of place was the one I mentioned earlier with Finn and Rose, and even then that’s more to do with tone and how unnecessary it felt. The score by John Williams was also great, while his score for The Force Awakens was fine, it was below the quality of most of the other Star Wars scores. Here with the Last Jedi it’s absolutely great and it adds so much to the scenes.

Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi wasn’t what I was expecting, along with being fun and entertaining, it is much more, it makes decisions that will divide its audience and for it to be this risky, I have to give Rian Johnson a lot of props. The story was so different from what I was expecting and without giving anything away, I loved it. I personally loved almost everything in this movie, all but one or two aspects. I’m going to say this now, The Last Jedi is in my top 2 favourite Star Wars movies. This movie is already dividing some audiences, even those who liked it have some aspect that they aren’t entirely sure about. So I say this, avoid all spoilers and just go into the movie with no expectations, even if some of the decisions are different, just be willing enough to go with it. And don’t try to predict where the story is going, because you won’t. I couldn’t be happier with this film and I’m now waiting with anticipation and nervousness to see whether Episode 9 will deliver a solid conclusion to the new Star Wars trilogy.