Tag Archives: Samuel L. Jackson

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021) Review

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The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, sexual references & offensive language
Cast:
Ryan Reynolds as Michael Bryce
Samuel L. Jackson as Darius Kincaid
Salma Hayek as Sonia Kincaid
Frank Grillo as Bobby O’Neill
Antonio Banderas as Aristotle Papadopoulos
Morgan Freeman as Michael Bryce Sr.
Director: Patrick Hughes

The world’s most lethal odd couple — bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) and hit man Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) — are back for another life-threatening mission. Still unlicensed and under scrutiny, Bryce is forced into action by Darius’s even more volatile wife (Salma Hayek). Soon, all three are in over their heads when a madman’s (Antonio Banderas) sinister plot threatens to leave Europe in total chaos.

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The Hitman’s Bodyguard was a relatively okay action comedy which I only checked out when its sequel, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, was coming soon. Going into the sequel I wasn’t expecting a different movie, just more of the same. Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson would be fun to watch, there would be some mixed action, and a generic plot. The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard was that, but just a little bit sillier, for better and for worse.

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I remember one of the main issues of the first movie was that it didn’t seem to know what kind of tone it was aiming for. It was either too serious and dark, or it was too silly and goofy, and it could’ve helped by leaning towards one or the other. So one thing that the sequel does well is that it sticks to one side, that being the silly side. It’s on a larger scale, with a rich Bond-esque villain with a plan for large scale destruction using some machine. That aside, for the most part it does seem to be going through the same motions as the first movie, more of the same but even messier. One disadvantage of this decision to go in this direction however is that the plot is just so over the top silly. As soon as I picked up on the what it was going for, I stopped paying attention to the plot at all. The plot of the first movie wasn’t that good, but having it be a simple “get the hitman to the court alive” plot worked well enough. With Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, it really just falls apart if you even think about it, and it is definitely less well constructed. The dumb plot is hard to ignore, packed with every dumb trope, including a weapon to blow up stuff on a large scale, flashbacks explaining characters’ backstories, you name it. Even the plot is surprisingly convoluted and barely comprehensible looking back at it, all the while still feeling like a plot is barely there. It’s clear that it’s the jokes that are the real focus. The characters are even more cartoonish too, it feels like literally every character is angry and screaming at each other at times, it really is such a loud movie. So while I’m not really the type of person to say to turn your brain off when watching a movie, I’d say try to not think too hard about what’s happening while watching. With that being said, I think the movie is deliberately parodying itself, and looking at the movie from that perspective does help. There is particularly a backstory for Ryan Reynolds which is so ridiculous that it’s actually quite funny, and I’m assuming that this was intentional. The humour is about the same level, mildly funny, however probably even more over the top and juvenile. Not all the jokes work out, but on the whole I was satisfied with the humour here. One of the best moments is actually the final moment of the movie, so if you’re two thirds into the movie and aren’t finding it funny, it’s worth sticking to the end at least.

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As usual the leading pair of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson return, and while not everyone likes their on screen chemistry, I do enjoy it and think it works. I will say that it does feel a little contrived that their characters are bickering so much in this movie, considering that in that both of them grew to like each other over the course of the first movie. However this time it’s not a leading pair, but rather a trio. Salma Hayek returns from the previous movie as Jackson’s wife, this time being upgraded to a co-leading role, and she definitely stands out among the movie. Her wackiness can get on the nerves at times but in all fairness, out of all of the cast she has the most energy and gives the most to the movie. There is a pretty strong chemistry between the three actors and once again this is the highlight of the movie. Antonio Banderas is the film’s villain, and he is committed to being intense, however a bit too serious in a movie this cartoonish. However character-wise, he does seem to work better in this movie as a D-level Bond villain compared to Gary Oldman’s dictator villain in the first movie.

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Patrick Hughes returns to direct this one, and the direction is at about the same level as the first movie. The action is mostly competent and gory, if too heavily edited and chaotic. It does go for more over the top comedy action, physics basically have no meaning in this movie. It is departing from some of the more grounded and serious action from the first movie, which even had some surprising tension. I remember that the first movie lingered on the grimness of some of the violence, which initially seemed out of place in a movie with that much comedy, however I think I still prefer the action of the first Hitman’s Bodyguard movie more. The CGI is quite bad, especially when it comes to the explosions. Still, I had some fun with the action in this movie.

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The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is another mixed bag really, better and worse than the first movie. It is more self-aware and silly, but sort of at the expense as itself. The chemistry between Reynolds, Jackson and Hayek was fun, and some of the action was enjoyable but that’s it. The ending of this indicates seems like there’s going to be a third movie, and I’m not really sure what they can really do with it. If you disliked the first movie, I don’t really see a situation where you’ll like the sequel. However, if you enjoyed the first movie and are interested in a sequel on the same level, albeit much sillier, then maybe check it out.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017) Review

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The Hitman's Bodyguard

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Ryan Reynolds as Michael Bryce
Samuel L. Jackson as Darius Kincaid
Gary Oldman as Vladislav Dukhovich
Salma Hayek as Sonia Kincaid
Élodie Yung as Amelia Roussel
Joaquim de Almeida as Jean Foucher
Kirsty Mitchell as Rebecca Harr
Richard E. Grant as Mr. Seifert
Director: Patrick Hughes

Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), a protection agent, is tasked with protecting Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), one of the world’s most famous assassins. The two must then set aside their differences to tackle several dangerous events.

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I heard about The Hitman’s Bodyguard when it came out, an action comedy with the pairing of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson in the lead roles. I didn’t watch it when it came out, it looked fun enough despite the mixed reviews, but it wasn’t something I was actively pursuing to watch. However with it getting a sequel this year, I decided I should probably get around to it. The Hitman’s Bodyguard was about what I expected it to be, it’s not that good and it’s a little generic but I had fun with it.

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The plot doesn’t really have much to it. I didn’t care much about what was happening, but it was simple enough and not overly convoluted. It’s also not particularly original, two people who have a lot of differences between them are stuck with each other but put their differences aside by the end. It’s very similar to the plots of other buddy action comedies. It’s very familiar, by the numbers and predictable but it’s still quite enjoyable. The movie does exceed when it’s the two characters getting in shenanigans, more so than its actual generic plot. The writing can be funny. Not all of it worked and for the most part I didn’t find it to be laugh out hilarious or anything, but the comedy was alright. One unexpected issue was that tonally, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a bit inconsistent. It has the goofiness as expected but also has its fair share of tonal shifts into dark moments and plays some scenes a hair too seriously. I’m not saying the mix of the two can’t work, but they certainly don’t pull it off in this movie. It probably would’ve been better leaning into the silliness. Finally, the movie does run on for too long. It’s around 2 hours long and you do feel that length, and the inconsistent pacing doesn’t help matters.

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The main draw of the film is Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson in the lead roles, it’s what most people who watch the movie are here for, and thankfully they deliver. The movie plays into the personalities that each lead has cultivated over their careers, and it certainly felt like each of them were playing themselves. The two of them are funny, have good chemistry and play off each other well. However I do feel like the writing wasn’t quite all there to utilise them the best and it could’ve been a bit better. The rest of the supporting cast are fine but they all feel wasted in a way. In fact, when it’s not focusing on the two leads, the majority of the characters are just sitting down and waiting for stuff to happen. Gary Oldman plays a generic dictator villain, and all he does is just sit down looking menacing and giving out orders to kill Samuel L. Jackson’s character. Salma Hayek is a standout in her scenes as Samuel L. Jackson’s character’s wife, but generally she spends much of the movie just in a prison cell and doesn’t do anything really. Elodie Yung is a disgruntled former lover of Reynolds’s character and doesn’t do a massive amount in the plot outside of waiting for Ryan Reynolds to show up at the final location with Samuel L. Jackson.

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Patrick Hughes is the director of The Hitman’s Bodyguard, and initially I was sceptical going in since his last movie was The Expendables 3, which I found to be quite lacklustre. I will say however that the action here is definitely better than the action in Expendables 3, if only because it doesn’t feel forcibly toned down to get a PG-13 rating. The fight scenes are pretty decent and overall, the action is fun and entertainingly dumb, if nothing unique or special. However, some aspects take away from them. It has a little too many cuts and edits, the visual effects aren’t that great, and the scenes weren’t shot the best. I previously mentioned about the tonal inconsistencies and that especially is the case when it comes to the action scenes, specifically the violence. The violence at times can be surprisingly graphic and bloody and even lingers on gruesome images, but there’s also some very silly and comedic action scenes. Again, gore aside, I think the issue is that some of those scenes are played a little too seriously that they feel out of place even if they are going for dark comedy.

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The Hitman’s Bodyguard was pretty much what I expected, a very flawed action comedy with some mildly entertaining action and the highlights being Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson. Much of the plot is very generic and underwhelming, and even for a standard buddy action movie could’ve had more to it (or at least been a little more fun). However, the chemistry of the leads completely carry the movie. I’m just hoping that The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is better than the first movie.

Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021) Review

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Spiral From the Book of Saw

Time: 93 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Torture & sadistic violence
Cast:
Chris Rock as Det. Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks
Max Minghella as Det. William “Will” Schenk 
Marisol Nichols as Capt. Angie Garza
Samuel L. Jackson as Marcus Banks
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Working in the shadow of his father (Samuel L. Jackson), Detective Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks (Chris Rock) and his rookie partner (Max Minghella) take charge of an investigation into grisly murders that are eerily reminiscent of the city’s gruesome past. Unwittingly entrapped in a deepening mystery, Zeke finds himself at the center of the killer’s morbid game.

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Spiral: From the Book of Saw was one of my most anticipated movies of 2021. Having only seen the first three Saw movies last year when it was originally set to release, I was only mildly interested in it. However, I got even more excited for it when I watched the rest of the movies in the series. For all of their faults (and there’s a lot), the movies were quite enjoyable, even considering the lower moments of the series. With this new entry being based off an idea from Chris Rock and having a different approach, it looked like what the franchise needed. Despite some flaws, Spiral is quite a good horror movie and a well needed revival of the franchise.

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First of all, getting the obvious out of the way. Spiral may be a Saw movie, but you don’t have to have watched the Saw movies (even the first movie) to enjoy this one. I do think that it is worth knowing what Saw is about at the very least, regarding Jigsaw’s games, the traps, etc. It takes place in the same world, and there are references to John Kramer and his impact is present in much of this movie, but that’s as far as it goes. If you’re a Saw fan, don’t expect to see any past Saw characters or anything, you’ll just be disappointed. Spiral does have some differences from many of the Saw movies. First of all, the plot goes back to basics and doesn’t get convoluted like the sequels did. There’s a serial killer targeting corrupt cops, and much of the movie is Chris Rock as a detective investigating with his partner. It is the first Saw movie to not have an ongoing game running throughout the movie, even the first Saw which had a good amount of the movie being flashbacks while the main story focusing on the game in the bathroom. In some ways it takes more from Se7en than Saw (ironically the latter took a lot of inspiration from the former). There is definitely more humour in the mix especially in the first act, particularly within the dialogue. It actually does work quite well all things considered, and it does give it a distinct tone from the other movies. Another way that this movie is different in the series was the social commentary and themes. Saw VI made itself stand out with its take on health insurance, and no other Saw film had been that clear about being about something until Spiral, which this time takes on corrupt cops. It was refreshing to see, and I really liked the angle. However, don’t expect a deep dive or analysis about the subject matter, if anything I wish they went deeper into that and spent more time with it.

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Something Spiral does have in common with the first Saw was the use of traps, with traps being the most (in)famous aspect of the movies. Now there isn’t a huge number of traps in Spiral, instead focusing more on the actual investigation. With that said, the traps are definitely prominent in this movie. Unlike some of the sequels, the traps in Spiral are purposeful, and they actually have a meaning behind them. Overall, I was invested with the story and interested to see where things would go, even if I do feel like it could’ve been a little more. However, there are some story and writing faults. The dialogue can either be a bit sloppy, or very expositional and forced. It does fall on some familiar tropes, both for Saw and cop/crime thrillers, it even has the classic trope of the older cop who gets a younger partner. As said earlier, this could’ve done a little more with its take on corrupt cops, the runtime is 90 minutes, so it could’ve spent more time with that. Some parts of the plot are predictable, and you can figure some twists out, especially if you are familiar with previous Saw movies and twists. All I’ll say is that with regards to the killer, I was more interested in the why than the who, and I kind of wish more time was spent with that. As for how it serves as a soft reboot, I’m interested in where the series could go from here, especially with where the film ends on.

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The acting is pretty good generally. Chris Rock leads this movie as lead character Zeke Banks, and he’s yet another case of an comedic actor taking on more dramatic work. Despite some moments of overacting, he actually does a pretty good job and is believable enough. Yes he acts like how you’d expect Chris Rock to act as a cop, but he does make for one of the more energetic and standout Saw protagonists thus far. Max Minghella plays Zeke’s partner, and the two actors are great and have a strong dynamic on screen. Samuel L. Jackson is also in this movie as Zeke’s father, who was once a police chief. He’s not in the movie as much as you’d think he would, but he does play a vital role, and he acts his part well.

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This film is directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, who previous directed Saw II, III and IV. It is interesting that one of the main people who shaped what the Saw series would become would be the one to return to helm the entry which would revive the series with a distinctly different take. His work in this movie is quite good, it’s probably the most polished Saw movie on a technical level. The look of the movie is great. The original 7 Saw movies had this grungy 2000s look to it. Jigsaw in 2017 did give it a new and modern look, however it almost looked a bit too separated from the previous movies. Spiral has a happy medium of the two, looking modern and also looking grimy and gritty. The use of colour is also pretty great and makes it stand out from the rest of the series in a good way. The editing is also balanced well. It is fast paced especially during the trap scenes, as per usual for the Saw movies. However it doesn’t get obnoxious. I would be lying if I said that the traps in this movie would rank among the best or most memorable of the entire series. However they are good, creative, and fit the tone and overall story incredibly well. They are definitely on the more realistic side (more Saw 1 than Jigsaw or Saw 3D) and are more grounded. It’s also no slouch when it comes to the gore, with some truly gruesome moments, and the use of practical effects is great. Charlie Clouser, who composes the scores of every Saw film, returns to compose the score of Spiral. The score is good, and sets itself apart from the other movies, and yes, some familiar sounding themes from the series do make a comeback.

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Spiral: From the Book of Saw is really good. It has a fresh take on the series, it’s solid on a directing and acting level, and I was interested throughout. It’s not the best movie in the series, there’s at least a few Saw movies I would consider to be better (including the original film). However it is one of the better movies in the series for sure. As for whether you’ll like it or not, long story short, if you watched some of the Saw movies and you didn’t like them any of it, this won’t change your mind. If you are a Saw fan, I don’t know for sure how you’ll feel about it (definitely depends on what you’re expecting/hoping for), but it is definitely worth watching. If you haven’t seen the Saw movies but are familiar with the concept and want to watch Spiral right now, you can jump right into it without a problem. As a fan of the Saw series, I’m pleased with the movie and I’m looking forward to seeing where the series goes from here.

Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith (2005) Retrospective Review

Time: 140 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi
Natalie Portman as Padmé Amidala
Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader
Ian McDiarmid as Supreme Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious
Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu
Jimmy Smits as Senator Bail Organa
Christopher Lee as Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Kenny Baker as R2-D2
Frank Oz as the voice of Yoda
Director: George Lucas

Three years into the Clone Wars, the Jedi rescues Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) from Count Dooku (Christopher Lee). As Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor). As Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) pursues a new threat, Anakin (Hayden Christensen) acts as a double agent between the Jedi Council and Palpatine, and is lured into a sinister plan to rule the galaxy.

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Revenge of the Sith was already the best of the prequel trilogy, so when I was going through my rewatches of the Star Wars series, I knew I’d still like it. However I ended up loving it even more, to the point where it’s one of my favourite movies in the series, flaws and all. After the past two disappointing prequels, George Lucas handled the final film in the trilogy greatly, delivering on a satisfying conclusion and one of the highlights of the series.

Revenge of the Sith at 2 hours and 20 minutes had my attention all the way through. The dialogue is better, with some occasionally bad lines that go through, however they don’t detract too much from the movie. It’s a much darker story, and it really needed to be that, with it being the chapter of Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader. This movie was the first Star Wars movie to be given a PG-13/M rating, and it uses it to great effect. Revenge of the Sith starts out on a high note, with an entertaining action sequence as Anakin and Obi Wan are in fighters as they try to rescue a ‘captured’ Chancellor Palpatine. The CGI and action are good, and it gets you really into what’s going on. The rest of the rescue was great, as they encounter droids, Count Dooku, and General Grievous, and manage to land half a ship. It’s pretty much classic Star Wars.

If there was a weakest section of the movie, it would be the one where Obi Wan is hunting Grievous, not that it’s bad or anything. It’s entertaining and all, but that’s all it really is. It doesn’t really help that Grievous wasn’t that great as an antagonist. While they really only got to shine in the third acts of their respective movies, Darth Maul and Count Dooku still got to show off. As unique as an antagonist as Grievous is physically, he ends up being a mostly normal physical threat. His lightsabre fight with Obi Wan was the most disappointing part of it, with it only lasting 30 seconds and with Kenobi seemingly easily cutting off two of his hands. Nothing bad about this section necessarily, just pales in comparison to the rest of the movie.

Surprisingly I was more interested in Anakin’s story, but that needed to be the case, with this whole trilogy being about him becoming Darth Vader after all. There had been much criticisms about the portrayal of The Jedi Council, and how unheroic and sometimes unlikable they are seen in the prequels. The portrayal is deliberate, and that’s even more so the case with Revenge of the Sith. The part where Palpatine tells Anakin about how the Jedi and the Sith are quite similar in the opera house scene, he really didn’t have to lie all that much. Much of the Jedi don’t exactly stick by their code, a chief example being Mace Windu trying to kill Palpatine even when he pretty much had him already beaten. Also remember back to after Anakin and Obi Wan’s conversation after the mission, where Kenobi lists the killing of Dooku among some of the successful things he did on that mission, whereas Skywalker didn’t feel like it was right and wasn’t the Jedi way, and only did it because Palpatine pushed him to do it. Anakin’s questionings of some of their dealings aren’t unfounded. The Jedi were also very paranoid and distrustful, especially when it came to Anakin. Mace making the point directly by himself that although Anakin was on the Jedi Council, he wouldn’t be a master (which turns out has never been done before), just solidified their distrust for him, aside from Obi Wan of course. A mix of these, along with fearing about Padme dying, would all lead to him on the path to the dark side.

This would all build up until Palpatine is revealed as the Sith lord behind everything, and there’s a direct confrontation. The scene where Palpatine and Windu fight is rather disappointing considering the skill and power of both, but the way Palpatine just kills the other 3 Jedi within like 5 seconds is so silly. It’s not that he’s shown to be quite powerful (that’s what we’d expect) but 2 of them practically let themselves get killed. I noticed that some people really had issues with how quickly Anakin makes the decision to join Palpatine, especially as it’s done right after he says “What have I done?”. Personally I saw this as Anakin reluctantly joining since there was no turning back after being involved with killing Mace Windu and helping Palpatine, mixed with his genuine disillusion with the Jedi Council, and of course still his desire to save Padme. I do remember when George Lucas once said that in this movie you’ll get to learn why he was given the name of Darth Vader. He must’ve forgotten to do that because it’s not explained anywhere here (unless you know that Vader in German means father), not that it really matters though, it’s a small detail.

The third act showing the fall of the Jedi order was really great. The Order 66 is indeed a fantastically handled sequence and one of the highlights of the entire series, as it cuts around to the Jedi being killed by the clones that they were fighting alongside minutes ago. You really feel the weight of everything going on in this last act. The final fights are also really good, with Obi Wan against Anakin and Yoda against the Emperor. With the former you get a bunch of large scale fight scenes in the volcanic planet of Mustafar, and the latter you get both parties using the force plenty as well as using the lightsabres. I do think they went a little overboard with the Anakin and Obi Wan fight, where the fight is so long and they two of them seem to be keep being placed in every ridiculous scenario possible, but the movie seemed to be leaning into the whole space opera thing, and on that end it mostly worked. Outside of that, the only slight problem I had with the Anakin and Obi Wan fight was that I was hoping to see was at least some attempt from the latter to bring Anakin back from the dark side at the beginning of it, given that just before he told Yoda that he can’t do it. I would’ve liked that instead of Kenobi just pretty much going in knowing that he’s already gone at this point. The moment of Padme giving birth being paralleled with Anakin’s turn into Darth Vader was pretty much perfect, and I was even fine with Vader’s freakout over hearing that Padme is dead, it would make sense. But I’m with everyone as not being such a fan of his giant “NOOOOOOOO” at the end of the scene, it was a little too much and rather silly. The rest of the ending is great and set things up well for the next movie. Side note but I never picked up till my most recent rewatch that C-3PO and R2-D2 had their memories wiped at the end of the movie, that made so much sense as to why they don’t recognise some of the other characters in the original trilogy.

Ewan McGregor is once again pitch perfect as Obi-Wan Kenobi, and he gets better with every subsequent Star Wars movie he appears in. He resembles Alec Guinness even more and is completely believable in the role, he’s particularly great towards the third act. Hayden Christensen gets a bad rap for his performances as Anakin Skywalker in these prequels. Indeed, I had some problems with him in Attack of the Clones. In Revenge of the Sith there are a few lines of dialogue that aren’t all that great. However most of the writing for him works, and I don’t actually have any problems with his performance here. The dynamic between him and Obi-Wan for instance was what I wanted more of from the two of them in Attack of the Clones. You just get the first act of them during the rescue, as well as some other scenes involving the council before Kenobi leaves to go after Grievous, but they work so well. It feels so natural, none of these forced “You’re like a father to me” lines from Attack of the Clones which you don’t believe. You can also really see the conflict in Anakin, and that’s something that Christensen nailed as well. Sure, Anakin is moody again, but unlike Attack of the Clones, it doesn’t come across like some whiny teenager. Christensen’s visual acting is fantastic, while I struggled to see him as Anakin in the previous movie, here I buy it. And of course when it came to him as Vader, I really bought it. Of course he does have some pretty lame lines at times that most actors would struggle with (“If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy”, “From my point of view the Jedi are evil”), but he also delivers them as best as possible.

Natalie Portman gets to do more acting-wise here in this movie, it’s a shame though that her character of Padme is just relegated to being pregnant, being worried, crying, giving birth and then dying, especially considering that she actually did some things in the plot of the other two prequels. It’s really annoying hearing that originally in the script, Padme was involved with forming the rebellion, and that would’ve been perfect for her. Given some of the things she says in the movie, it would’ve made sense, like in one scene where she seems to be doubting the war. Surprisingly the romance between Padme and Anakin actually works here. Sure you get a few bad lines between the two (“You’re so beautiful”, “Only because I’m so in love”), but you are able to stomach it, not to mention the soap opera lines seem a little deliberate, with Star Wars being a space opera after all. You can actually buy their relationship, even with the scenes with less lines. The rest of the supporting cast also do well. Ian McDiarmid is always fantastic as Emperor Palpatine, The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones gradually showed Palpatine’s rise to power, but in Revenge of the Sith he’s at the centre of the story. His scenes with Anakin are great as he’s slowly bringing him towards the dark side, the highlight being the opera house scene, where he tells him the story about Darth Plagueis the wise. Now McDiarmid does go incredibly over the top at points (even more than in Return of the Jedi) and maybe he’s a little silly, but even those moments are just glorious to watch too. McDiarmid and McGregor are the MVPs of these Star Wars prequels, they’re fantastic in their roles. General Grievous was a character that was introduced in the animated Clone Wars series. He was quite a unique villain, a cyborg who had 4 arms, each wielding lightsabres more often than not. So he was known even before Revenge of the Sith came out. It’s unfortunate then that he’s rather underwhelming in the movie. Sure he can pose a bit of a threat, but his fight with Obi Wan was rather disappointing, and there’s not much to him as a character.

I think George Lucas did a great job at directing this movie. While the movie has its fair share of exposition, Lucas seemed to allow the movie to breathe and told the story visually at points. One of the biggest examples is when Anakin and Padme are seemingly looking at each other across buildings, which takes place right after Mace Windu and a few other Jedi go out to arrest Palpatine. Along with the great facial acting from both Christensen and Portman, it’s such an eerie and powerful moment, and manages to convey so much about both characters at that moment without needing a single line of dialogue. There definitely is a lot of reliance on CGI, but the visuals themselves are definitely better than Attack of the Clones. There are so many spectacular sequences that work really well, from the lightsabre fights, to the space battles, and so on. There are plenty of moments that are really over the top, especially some fight scenes, but again, this is a full on space opera, and seeing the movie as that certainly made it make sense. The worlds are also greatly designed and thought out, same with the robots, costumes, etc. John Williams has always been good at scoring Star Wars, but I’m pretty confident in saying that Revenge of the Sith is his best score for a Star Wars movie. It’s large, epic, emotional, tragic, and just fit perfectly with the whole movie.

I always liked Revenge of the Sith, but the more recent viewing of it made me love it even more, and solidified it as one of my favourite Star Wars movies. Its issues are noticeable and hurt the movie a lot, but it’s only because the rest of the movie works so well. It generally accomplished what the movie needed to do, and although the prequels were mostly disappointing, it’s a relief that the final film at least managed to stick the landing.

Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones (2002) Retrospective Review

Time: 142 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] contains low level violence
Cast:
Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi
Natalie Portman as Senator Padmé Amidala
Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker
Ian McDiarmid as Chancellor Sheev Palpatine/Darth Sidious
Christopher Lee as Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus
Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu
Temuera Morrison as Jango Fett
Frank Oz as the voice of Yoda
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Kenny Baker as R2-D2
Creator: George Lucas

Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) discover there is more than meets the eye behind an assassination attempt on Naboo Senator Padme Amidala’s (Natalie Portman) life. Meanwhile a Sith Lord orchestrates events between the forces of good and evil, all the while waiting to play the final move that will ensure him control of the galaxy.

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Despite much of the dislike for The Phantom Menace, many consider Attack of the Clones to be the worst Star Wars movie. I’ve always considered it to be the second worst, but decided to give it another go to see if that changed. After rewatching it… I came to the exact same conclusion, although like with my most recent viewing of The Phantom Menace, I liked it slightly more than the last time I saw it. It’s got some good things in there and could’ve been great, it’s just there there’s equally as many bad decisions that prevent it from reaching that level of greatness.

The writing is a mixed bag. I liked pretty much most of the plot and character decisions made, the execution however had much to be desired. The dialogue had the same problem as in The Phantom Menace, still sounding rather unnatural. However, most of the characters does feel slightly less stiff, even if it still comes across as forced at times. While it would take till Revenge of the Sith for the Star Wars series to start receiving M ratings and start being truly dark, The Phantom Menace is the only movie in the series that feels like it was actually made for kids, and not to say that it’s a bad thing inherently, but it seemed to be at the detriment of the movie on the whole. Attack of the Clones does take the plot a little more seriously, and outside of some cheesy moments (that the original trilogy had too), I liked the tone of the movie generally. The political angle definitely improved since The Phantom Menace, it’s very present but shown in small bursts and wasn’t as heavy handed. And again, it’s also interesting seeing the rise of Palpatine. The Phantom Menace in the beginning took a little while before you began to notice the awkwardness creep in, but Attack of the Clones immediately starts feeling quite off. It has a bit of a clunky start and doesn’t really pick up until the chase scene between Obi Wan and Anakin with the assassin, which in itself was a pretty thrilling and entertaining sequence.

From this point until the third act, the first two acts mainly consist of two main storylines, one for Obi Wan, and the other for Anakin and Padme. I’ll start with Obi Wan’s storyline, which is mostly good. After the assassination attempt on Padme, Kenobi investigates the assassin and discovers Kamino, Clones, and more. Not to say that there weren’t some odd moments, like when Kenobi couldn’t find anything about Kamino in the Jedi databases, he had to go to a class being run by Yoda to ask for help, and then a student had to point out the incredibly obvious that maybe someone erased that information. However, for this movie it’s pretty typical to have random and pointless moments like these, and I’m probably just nitpicking. Once Obi Wan actually gets to Kamino, it really picked up and I was generally interested in what was happening. I’m pretty sure that a lot of people didn’t like it, but I actually liked the introduction and formation of clones, who would eventually become Stormtroopers. Maybe linking them to being clones of Jango Fett was a weird and unneeded choice, but it’s one I just went along with. From there it takes him all the way to Geonosis, where his and Anakin and Padme’s storylines would join up in the third act.

The other main storyline is with Anakin and Padme, and the first half of that which takes place on Naboo was easily the weakest portion of the movie. I get that it’s supposed to be building up their relationship, and I’m more than fine with that. The problem is that the writing for them is absolutely terrible. It can range from being cheesy (like that scene in the field), or just ridiculously cringe worthy (when they confess their love to each other and talk about whether or not it should happen). Had the writing here been even just as average as much of the rest of the movie, I probably would’ve liked the movie slightly more, but that portion sticks out as being really bad. Once Anakin has a nightmare about his mother and the two of them head to Tatooine, their storyline noticeable improves, even if it still has some issues. It seemed like the natural way of progressing his story, especially with Anakin’s mother being particularly quite important to him in the previous movie. I will say that I always found it weird how easy it was for Padme to overlook Anakin’s outburst about him killing the sand people. Indeed the actual outburst doesn’t come across as impactful, as a result of a mix of Christensen’s performance and the writing makes him come across as whiny and throwing a tantrum more than anything. Anakin and Padme would then make their way to Geonosis to try to rescue Obi Wan, with a pretty good action scene at the factory, however Padme doesn’t really get to do anything except to get saved by R2-D2, and I have no idea why C-3PO was in there at all.

The third act is even more of a CGI fest than The Phantom Menace was, but I can’t deny I had fun with it. It starts off with a fight at an arena with Obi Wan, Anakin and Padme, and it already was a good setup. Then it introduces the Jedi, the droid army and the clones into the mix. So much of the movie doesn’t feel real and it really doesn’t allow you to get immersed in these scenes, but after a while you do get used to it, and I started to enjoy it. One thing that does irk me particularly however was that they really made way too many CGI clones, especially when it came to actual human actors having to interact with them, it was just way too distracting and just felt rather lazy. The fight with Obi Wan and Anakin against Count Dooku was pretty decent, as well as the one between Yoda and Dooku. I know some people didn’t like the idea of Yoda having a lightsabre and fighting and all that, but I personally liked it. I also liked how the movie led the way for the Clone Wars, I really wished that there was an episode that took place during the Clone Wars as the next episode would take place at the very end of it, but I guess that’s what a lot of the expansion novels and animated shows are for.

Ewan McGregor reprises his role as the younger Obi Wan Kenobi. He showed potential in The Phantom Menace but he resembled Alec Guinness even more here and has improved even more since then. Even with some of the odd lines he’s given, he absolutely sells each of them perfectly. Pretty much no complaints with him here. Hayden Christensen’s performance as Anakin Skywalker in this movie is… a very mixed bag. There is so much here that doesn’t work. To be fair, he’s not got much to work with, from some of the terrible dialogue he’s given, to the writing in general, and to how he’s directed. People have said this many times before, but he really does come across as whiny, even when he’s supposed to be angry, and it’s hard to take these moments seriously. Not to mention the rest of the time the performance and line deliveries are rather bland. Some of the romantic moments between him and Padme come across as creepy more than anything else, and most of that comes from Christensen, from the line deliveries to some of the unnerving looks he gives her. It’s a shame that both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith keep separating him and Obi Wan, since that’s quite important. However, Revenge of the Sith would at least have shown a solid dynamic between the two, in Attack of the Clones however it wasn’t really all that convincing, outside of Kenobi being frustrated that he padawan wouldn’t do what he says and Skywalker whining about how he keeps holding him back. Then there’s that throwaway line that Anakin says about how Obi Wan is the closest thing to a father that he has, although you don’t really believe it. Christensen does get a few good acting moments, such as when he finds her mother before she dies, and then when he starts killing the Tuskin Raiders. Still, you get the idea that he could be better. Thankfully, both the writing for him and his acting certainly improved in Revenge of the Sith. Natalie Portman returns as Padme, for the most part I liked where they took her character, though I wish she got to do a little more. Much of her character is overshadowed by the romance between her and Christensen, which was handled rather badly. On paper, the idea of the romance sounds great and fitting, especially for Anakin (though this might just be from knowing what happens with them in Revenge of the Sith). The problem is that the writing for them and the dialogue between them is disastrously bad. I get that it’s been like 10 years since the two have seen each other and they’d be a little awkward, but you really don’t believe their romance at any point in the movie. It’s at best fine and at worst creepy and cringe-worthy. With that said, like their storyline, their dialogue and writing slightly improves after they leave Naboo, and becomes much more bearable.

On the antagonist side it’s about the same level as The Phantom Menace, but maybe slightly better. Ian McDiarmid of course delivers as Palpatine/The Emperor, and the movie shows his rise in power even more. This movie has Jango Fett (played by Temeura Morrison), related to Boba Fett, the fan favourite bounty hunter. To get it out of the way, Jango Fett is much better than Boba Fett, though to be honest it was never much of a competition. I never found Boba Fett to be that good in the original series, the only credible thing he did in those movies is track down Han Solo in Empire Strikes Back, otherwise he just looks cool, and ends up dead in the most embarrassing way. Here you get to actually see Jango do things, holding his own against Obi Wan, killing at least one Jedi in the final act, and being killed in battle by Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson). I’m not really sure why they decided to have Boba being a clone of Jango instead of just his son but whatever. The prospect of Christopher Lee as a Star Wars villain in Count Dooku sounds extremely exciting to say the least. Lee really does own the scenes he’s in but unfortunately you really only get to see him in the last third of the movie. It’s also a shame knowing that he doesn’t last very long in the next movie. Like with Darth Maul and General Grievous, Dooku is a Star Wars villain who seemed to shine more in a lot of the spin offs and shows than in the live action movies, and at least had a lot more to do.

The direction by George Lucas like with The Phantom Menace is a little mixed. The movie generally relies more on CGI than The Phantom Menace did, and it was really distracting a lot of the time, from Dexter’s Diner all the way through to the third act. After a while you just sort of accept it for what it is. There’s even some really good action, from the chase of the assassin by Obi Wan and Anakin, to Obi Wan fighting Jango Fett, to much of the third act. Even with some distractingly fake and empty CGI at times, Lucas generally creates some creative scenarios and makes the sequences at least somewhat entertaining. With all the prequels, the new worlds were always great to see, and Attack of the Clones continued this the likes of Kamino and Geonosis, and it was even nice going back to familiar places like Coruscant, Naboo and Tatooine. The designs of everything, from the costumes, to the production design, the worlds, creatures, etc, were also handled quite well. The score by John Williams is great once again, introducing even more iconic Star Wars themes. Across the Stars in particular is fantastic, and deserved to be used for a much better on screen romance than Anakin and Padme’s.

Attack of the Clones is a very flawed movie. There are plenty of problems, with the overreliance of CGI, the writing, some of the directing decisions, there are so many things that were handled disappointingly and at times badly. At the same time it has some potential, I liked most of the ideas, generally the plot was pretty good, I was invested in some parts of the story, and some of the cast and characters work (mainly Ewan McGregor as Kenobi). So while it’s disappointing and I’m not likely to revisit it often, I don’t think it’s without some merit.

Shaft (2019) Review

Time: 111 Minutes
Cast:
Samuel L. Jackson as John Shaft
Jessie T. Usher as John “JJ” Shaft Jr.
Richard Roundtree as John Shaft, Sr.
Alexandra Shipp as Sasha Arias
Regina Hall as Maya Babanikos
Director: Tim Story

John Shaft Jr. (Jessie T. Usher) may be an FBI cyber security expert, but to uncover the truth behind his best friend’s untimely death, he needs an education that only his dad can provide. Absent throughout his childhood, the legendary John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson) agrees to help his son navigate the heroin-infested underbelly of Harlem, N.Y. Besides, the locked and loaded Shaft has his own score to settle — both professional and personal.

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I haven’t seen the 70s Shaft with Richard Roundtree, but I saw the 2000 Shaft titled Shaft with Samuel L. Jackson in the lead role, and I liked it quite a bit and had fun with it. I’ve heard some not so good things about the sequel also titled Shaft (not confusing at all), but I wanted to check it out for myself. Having 3 generations of Shaft in one movie could be something entertaining at the very least. I was expecting something somewhat entertaining, but it really was a chore to get through. It’s not surprise that it was picked up by Netflix.

The biggest problem with the movie is the screenplay, which is embarrassingly bad. Much of my problems comes from Samuel L. Jackson’s Shaft, but I’ll get to that soon. Even without that aspect, this movie is trying way too hard to be edgy, and it just comes across as being cringe more than anything. It’s trying so hard to be anti-politically correct, so I guess if you wanted that in a movie, it might be up your alley. It honestly feels like this movie would be more suited being released a couple decades ago. And if you’re wondering if the movie is some kind of commentary or satire poking fun at both millennials and out of touch older people, I highly doubt that’s the case. It’s actually rather mean spirited and hard to watch at points, and it seems like it was trying to be funny during those moments. The 2000 Shaft was a semi-serious thriller with some comedy. For whatever reason 2019 Shaft is a full on comedy, which wouldn’t be too bad if the movie was actually funny (though Richard Roundtree has some good moments). If we’re just talking about the actual plot, it’s a generic and dull crime thriller, with boring villains and very little actual thrills. You’re not really following what’s going on, not because it’s necessarily complicated, but because you just don’t care. By the time I was half an hour into the movie, I just wanted to give up on it. When it gets to the third act it picks up, as it becomes a standard action climax, still better than what came before.

There are two leads, Jessie T. Usher as JJ Shaft, the son of John Shaft, and Samuel L. Jackson, who reprises his role of John Shaft from the 2000 movie. Usher wasn’t good but I can’t blame him too much considering how little he had to work with. There was a dance/fight scene that happens in a club, and at that point I’m not really sure anyone would’ve been able to play that role with some form of credibility. His character is also quite bland and uninteresting. With all that being sad, I’m glad that he’s one of the leads, because at least it means that we have one protagonist who isn’t absolutely unlikable. When I talk about this movie being very mean spirited and all that, most of it involves Jackson’s Shaft. I really liked him in the 2000 Shaft, but here he’s just really hard to watch. It’s honestly an achievement when a movie can actually make it unbearable to watch Samuel L. Jackson in a movie. I really don’t get whose idea it was to make his Shaft a bigot who spews off sexist, homophobic and in general offensive lines, but it really made the movie all the more worse and feel out of touch. The chemistry between the two characters is so familiar and typical, it’s the whole generational boomer vs millennial dynamic. You know that it’s going to end with them finding that they have more in common than they thought. Richard Roundtree appears for the last 20 minutes and he’s easily the best amongst the cast, really wished that he appeared more in the movie, he’s a lot more bearable than Jackson’s Shaft in this movie. Also something to note, the 2000 film had Richard Roundtree has Samuel L. Jackson’s uncle, however they’ve retconned it so now he’s his father for whatever reason. The villains in the movie aren’t good at all, there’s literally nothing to say about them. The two prominent female actors of Alexandra Shipp as JJ’s girlfriend and Regina Hall as JJ’s mother and John Shaft’s ex-wife basically have nothing to do in the movie and considering the rest of the movie it’s not really surprising.

I only know Tim Story as the director of the 2000s Fantastic Four movies, and I was less than impressed with his work there. His direction of this movie is really stylistic here, but it tries way too hard. No matter how many times the movie plays that classic Shaft theme, it doesn’t improve the movie at all. The action is actually not terrible, just rather generic and underwhelming, at least it was comprehensible and wasn’t full of cuts.

Shaft is one of my least favourite movies of the year, it was way worse than it had any right to be. As a thriller it’s very weak, as a comedy its embarrassing, and as a Shaft movie it’s not a Shaft movie. Really Richard Roundtree was the only part of the movie that I fully liked. I’m honestly not sure who this movie was made for, I don’t think it’d be fans of the previous movies, and I don’t think it’s newer audiences either. If you haven’t seen any of the other Shaft movies but are reading this review, just watch Shaft from 2000. Or even watch the Shaft with Richard Roundtree, it’s no doubt way better than whatever this movie was supposed to be.

The Hateful Eight (2015) Review

Time: 168 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence, sexual violence & offensive language
Cast:
Samuel L. Jackson as Major Marquis Warren
Kurt Russell as John Ruth
Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue
Walton Goggins as Chris Mannix
Demián Bichir as Señor Bob
Tim Roth as Oswaldo Mobray
Michael Madsen as Joe Gage
Bruce Dern as General Sandford “Sandy” Smithers
James Parks as O.B. Jackson
Director: Quentin Tarantino

While racing toward the town of Red Rock in post-Civil War Wyoming, bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) encounter another bounty hunter (Samuel L. Jackson) and a man who claims to be a sheriff. Hoping to find shelter from a blizzard, the group travels to a stagecoach stopover located on a mountain pass. Greeted there by four strangers, the eight travelers soon learn that they may not make it to their destination after all.

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I had been meaning to rewatch The Hateful Eight for a while. I remember looking forward to The Hateful Eight ever since its announcement, mostly because of Quentin Tarantino’s involvement. We nearly didn’t get this movie when the script leaked and Tarantino initially wanted to not do it, but I’m glad he changed his mind because The Hateful Eight ended up being really great. Having rewatched it (the recently released extended version), I now consider it to be one of his all time best movies. The acting from its large and talented cast is fantastic and Tarantino’s script is great, it had me riveted from start to finish.

Quentin Tarantino is generally great when it comes to writing, and his script here is among his best work. This movie like his many of his others are dialogue driven, and unsurprisingly the dialogue is fantastic, no one writes dialogue like him. The theatrical cut is very long at 168 minutes and people need to know that going in. Also it’s not like an explosive action movie, it’s a suspenseful mystery film and moves at quite a slower pace. Once all the main characters are in the same place in the same house, it builds up the suspense as we spend time with the characters and have to try to figure out if they are trustworthy or not. It definitely improves on a repeat viewing, because you know exactly what is going on. People only really start dying around the halfway point, from then on it becomes very tense. So if you are a little bored during it, the second half should pick up for you. None of these characters are particularly good people, in fact in terms of lineups of Tarantino characters in each of his movies they are easily the most despicable group, but they are entertaining and interesting enough that you’re still willing to watch them for just under 3 hours. This movie was surprisingly darkly hilarious as well, it really had me entertained throughout. As for people who have seen the movie already and are wondering about the extended cut, Netflix broke it up into 4 50 minute segments, making the movie about 3 and a half hours long. I looked up at some parts of it, and the parts that did add in were written pretty good. Otherwise for the most part I didn’t notice too many differences, and you’re not necessarily missing out anything major. So if you’re watching the movie for the first time, it might be better to go with the theatrical cut.

This cast is large and talented with Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern and James Parks and they were all fantastic, there were a few highlights though. This is one of Samuel L. Jackson’s all time best performances, he just absolutely nails this role. This was actually the first movie I have seen Walton Goggins in, and if I was forced to pick a highlight performance among plenty of other great performances in this movie, it would be his. Another showstealer was Jennifer Jason Leigh, who is amazing here as the prisoner being taken by Kurt Russell’s bounty hunter. I do feel like the writing didn’t give the character quite as much to do in the movie as she could’ve, but JJL really brought it to the performance. Channing Tatum also makes an appearance that’s a little more than a cameo, and I will say that he is great in his screentime, very different role for him.

Tarantino once again directs this film really well. One of the first things you’ll notice about this movie is Robert Richardson’s cinematography, it’s a stunning looking movie. It really felt like we were back in the 19th Century and it really places you in this snowy environment, we don’t really get that with Westerns. The Hateful Eight is a much smaller movie compared to Django Unchained, there are very little action or scenes with violence. It’s very much a suspense and mystery film, almost like a longer and Western version of Reservoir Dogs. There aren’t a whole lot of people being killed like in Kill Bill or Django Unchained but when people die, it is unsurprisingly violent in pure Tarantino style. However this time it’s much more brutal than you’d expect it to be, which fits the tone of the movie. The soundtrack from Ennio Morricone was masterful, he actually used some unused music from The Thing as part of it. It fits absolutely perfectly for this movie.

The Hateful Eight is yet another fantastic film from Quentin Tarantino that has gotten a bit of a mixed response from some people, but it really worked for me. From the fantastic writing, the great performances and direction, everything about this movie I really loced. This Hateful Eight definitely does hold up on repeat viewings, in fact it gets better upon rewatches. Both this and Inglourious Basterds are now my favourite movies from Tarantino, and I’m looking forward to seeing if Once Upon a Time in Hollywood manages to be at that level.

Jackie Brown (1997) Review

Time: 154 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence, offensive language and sex scenes
Cast:
Pam Grier as Jackie Brown
Samuel L. Jackson as Ordell Robbie
Robert Forster as Max Cherry
Bridget Fonda as Melanie Ralston
Michael Keaton as Ray Nicolette
Robert De Niro as Louis Gara
Director: Quentin Tarantino

When flight attendant Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is busted smuggling money for her arms dealer boss, Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), agent Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) and detective Mark Dargus (Michael Bowen) want her help to bring down Robbie. Facing jail time for her silence or death for her cooperation, Brown decides instead to double-cross both parties and make off with the smuggled money. Meanwhile, she enlists the help of bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster), a man who loves her.

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Jackie Brown is typically known by most as one of the weaker Quentin Tarantino movies. It’s such an odd movie for him to make, but after the unbelievable success of Pulp Fiction, he wanted to try something very different. When I saw it for the first time, I didn’t know what to think, it was fine and I didn’t dislike it by any means, it’s just that compared to his other movies, it just wasn’t on that same level. I wanted to watch it again to be sure of how I felt about it, and thankfully I liked it a lot more than I did before.

Jackie Brown is the only script by Tarantino that’s not completely original, as he’s adapting an Elmore Leonard’s book titled Rum Punch. I’ve never read the book myself or looked up the similarities and differences between the two, but Quentin no doubt made the movie its own thing. Jackie Brown is a much more lowkey and subtle movie compared to his others. While his movies are generally better experienced when you are actually fully focussed on it, you actually really need to pay attention to everything that’s going on with this movie, it’s very much story driven. It’s surprisingly a noir movie, with the characters, the slow pacing, and the way a lot of the plot points are set up. The dialogue is pure Tarantino, making most of the main characters as 3 dimensional as possible. As far as writing for characters go, this is one of his best. There are a lot of details and subtleties that make the movie one that you have to be fully paying attention to. The movie is 2 hours and a half long and it can drag a little bit towards the middle, but not enough to make the experience tedious (unless you’re expecting a much more flashy and fast paced movie).

There’s a pretty talented cast in Jackie Brown, and they all do a good job with it. Pam Grier is in the lead role of the titular character and she was really great at really brining this character to life, seemed to be a perfect casting choice considering how Jackie Brown is definitely paying homage to a lot of Blaxploitation movies. Robert Forster was one of the standouts, with him and Grier sharing some great chemistry, among the highlights of the film. This is probably one of Samuel L. Jackson’s most overlooked roles as an arms dealer, looking at the dialogue it really seemed like a role that Tarantino specifically wrote for Jackson (in fact at certain points I think he went overboard). While you get the feeling that Tarantino didn’t really take advantage of Robert de Niro as much as he could’ve, he acts here like he hasn’t before, it’s such a lowkey and different performance from him. Other supporting players like Michael Keaton and Bridget Fonda also work well in their roles.

Quentin Tarantino’s direction is also quite lowkey, yet from his style and cinematography you can still tell that it’s his movie, it’s just not as flashy as you’d expect it to be. Some people might accuse him of often having ‘style over substance’ (a very flawed criticism in general I find), but I’m not quite sure how you’d be able to say that about Jackie Brown. Unlike most of his movies, there really isn’t much violence, and when it is present it’s about as graphic as those typically seen in a PG-13/M rated movie. The music is also great, Tarantino typically finds a solid line-up of songs for the movie, Jackie Brown’s is among his best soundtracks for his films, and that’s saying a lot.

Jackie Brown may not rank among Quentin Tarantino’s all time best movies, but is still very solid. The performances from the large cast are good, and Tarantino’s direction and more story-driven script make it all work. Even if you generally don’t like Tarantino’s movies, I’d recommend checking it out, for some it’s even considered to be his best film.

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) Review

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Zendaya as Michelle “MJ”
Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill
Jon Favreau as Harold “Happy” Hogan
J. B. Smoove as Julius Dell
Jacob Batalon as Edward “Ned” Leeds
Martin Starr as Roger Harrington
Marisa Tomei as May Parker
Jake Gyllenhaal as Quentin Beck/Mysterio
Director: Jon Watts

Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man (Tom Holland) must step up to take on new threats in a world that has changed forever.

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I wasn’t sure what to think of Spider-Man: Far From Home leading up to its release. I liked Homecoming, more than I thought it would, but for some reason I wasn’t as excited as I wanted to be, even with the addition of Jake Gyllenhaal. Not to mention that it being the last film of Phase 3 following Endgame, it feels out of place (like how Ant Man was the last film of Phase 2 even after following after Avenges: Age of Ultron). Nonetheless, I was interested enough to watch it, and it turned out to be far better than I thought it would be. I’d say that it’s probably the best Spider-Man movie in a while.

First thing to note is that I know that some people are going to hate something in the first 5 minutes, and find it to not take the consequences of Endgame seriously and playing things for laughs. I know it’s such a minor part of the movie, but I know that it’s going to be a massive flaw for some people, personally I found it funny. For the first half it is just a normal coming of age Spider-Man movie with the things that you’d expect. With that said it’s pretty solid, and surprisingly works better as a coming of age movie than Homecoming, with all the things that a high schooler would go through. It is one of the funniest movies in the MCU and most of the jokes really land. However in that first half the movie feels pretty standard MCU Spider-Man, and like it is building up to something. When a certain thing happens in the halfway point, and that’s when the movie escalates to being really good and that’s when I really liked it a lot more. One of the big criticisms about this incarnation of Spider-Man is that he’s way too reliant on Iron Man (even becoming a substitute Ben Parker figure), and I will admit I would really prefer that he wasn’t, in fact I’d prefer his solo movies to not be so tied in with the MCU and to be much more standalone. With that said, considering that Stark is dead, it seemed only natural that Parker would feel this giant pressure of living up to him in his next film appearance. I only hope that his stories going forward won’t involve Tony so much. As for Ben Parker, at this point it’s too late to randomly bring him up again, so as long as they don’t keep bringing up Stark, I think I’ll be fine with it. Both of the credits scenes are absolutely must see (and yes there are two). The first credits scene is particularly so vital that I honestly can’t believe it wasn’t placed at the end of the movie, it affects something major in the Spider-Man sequel and I can’t wait for the next movie. So even if you’re one of the rare people who watches all the MCU movies but don’t stay around for the credits, definitely make an exception here.

Tom Holland gets better as Peter Parker/Spider-Man with every film appearance, it’s been really great watching him develop over time. I’m not really into ranking film adaptations of comic book characters but Holland at this point is a borderline perfect Spider-Man. Zendaya gets a lot more to do than in the first movie, in Homecoming (when she was called Michelle) she occasionally appeared in some scenes and at the end said that her name is MJ (why they couldn’t just say that she was MJ from the beginning I don’t know). Some people really didn’t like that she was MJ, but she was really good in Far From Home, and Holland and Zendaya have great chemistry. As far as big screen MJs go, I’m really liking her. Parker’s classmates played by Jacob Batalan, Tony Revolori, Angourie Rice and more also played their roles well. Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders return as Nick Fury and Maria Hill and they play their parts as good as you expect them to, though don’t expect to see a lot of them. Jon Favreau also provides some nice support as Happy Hogan, as always nice to see whenever he’s on screen. I was mixed here with the use of Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May. While I know that between Homecoming and Infinity War, May has no doubt gotten used to Peter being Spider-Man, it just feels really weird to go from her very shocked reaction of the revelation in the last Spider-Man movie to her being completely on board with it. We really don’t get enough time with them, so hopefully in the next movie she gets a lot more to actually do in the plot beyond an occasional cut to her just to remind the audience that she exists. One of my most anticipated parts of the movie was Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio, a well known Spider-Man character. Gyllenhaal is one of the best actors working today, so I was looking forward to how he would be in a big budget comic book movie. For a while he does come across as a bit bland, even though I knew there was a reason for it, it was a little too much. However, in the second half Gyllenhaal turns in a really great performance. I don’t really know much about Mysterio from the comics, but from what I can tell he is a really ridiculous character, so I really wondered how they would actually handle him in the movie. Somehow, they managed to adapt him to the big screen in such an comic-accurate way, yet he still works perfectly well in the movie. Vulture in Homecoming felt like a reasonably decent villain made into one of the best MCU villains by Michael Keaton’s performance. Mysterio on the other hand gets a little more focus and screentime, and Gyllenhaal elevates the character even further. So far the MCU has managed to adapt two of Spider-Man’s most ridiculous villains to the big screen in such an effective and credible way, I can’t wait to see how they handle all of his other antagonists.

Jon Watts’s direction has improved immensely since Homecoming. When it came to Holland’s Spider-Man, the action scenes outside of his action in the Avengers movies have been pretty lacklustre. Watts however made the action work very well in Far From Home, from the web slinging to all the danger and destruction that Spider-Man has to face. Every action scene is much larger than in Homecoming’s and much more memorable. Far From Home also contains the trippiest sequence in a Spider-Man movie yet, and I’d go so far as to say that it’s one of my favourite scenes in the entire MCU. The visual effects seem to be improved over Homecoming too, though it does have some occasionally fake looking moments, particularly in the third act. Michael Giacchino’s score was okay in Homecoming, but I think it’s also better here in Far From Home.

Spider-Man: Far From Home is really good, and I’d say is the best live action Spider-Man movie since Spider-Man 2. If you’re interested in the MCU, definitely don’t pass this movie up. The cast is great (particularly Holland, Zendaya and Gyllenhaal), Jon Watts’s direction is great overall, and the movie especially in the second half takes some exciting turns. The MCU incarnation of Spider-Man has been growing on me over time, but with Far From Home, I’m now completely sold on it. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of this Spider-Man’s movies.

Captain Marvel (2019) Review

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Brie Larson as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Ben Mendelsohn as Talos/Keller
Djimon Hounsou as Korath
Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser
Lashana Lynch as Maria Rambeau
Gemma Chan as Minn-Erva
Annette Bening as the Supreme Intelligence/Dr. Wendy Lawson
Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson
Jude Law as Yon-Rogg
Director: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) is an extraterrestrial Kree warrior who finds herself caught in the middle of an intergalactic battle between her people and the Skrulls. Living on Earth in 1995, she keeps having recurring memories of another life as U.S. Air Force pilot Carol Danvers. With help from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Captain Marvel tries to uncover the secrets of her past while harnessing her special superpowers to end the war with the evil Skrulls.

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There’s a lot of hype that was going into Captain Marvel, and there was a lot of potential. On top of it featuring familiar MCU characters like Nick Fury and Phil Coulson a couple decades earlier and featuring the additions of great acting talent with the likes of Brie Larson, Ben Mendelsohn and Jude Law, it is covering a key character in the upcoming Avengers: Endgame. While a lot of the MCU movies follow familiar beats (especially in the trailers), I’m usually hyped for them nonetheless. However when it came to the Captain Marvel trailers, I just felt considerably underwhelmed, which had me a little nervous because usually the marketing for these movies are decent at least, and was starting to wonder whether maybe this movie would be one of the lower tier movies in the MCU. I’m happy to say that the trailers did not do the movie justice. While not groundbreaking, Captain Marvel was quite a lot of fun and was a lot better than what I thought the movie would be.

If you are a fan of the MCU, then you don’t even need to look at my review, go out and see it right now. The first act is a little rough, it’s not bad and the pace is reasonably fast, but it didn’t really have much of my interest. It only sort of picks up as the second act starts, when Captain Marvel arrives on Earth and especially when she starts interacting with Nick Fury. At the halfway point however when certain reveals happen, that’s when the movie considerably improved and I knew that this movie was actually quite good. It’s because of this aspect that manages to separate itself from other MCU origin stories (even though there are some similarities that can be seen). To the movie’s credit, it kept the plot considerably tight. While most of the MCU movie recently have been having runtimes as long as 130 minutes in length, Captain Marvel kept it shorter at 2 hours. While it didn’t have me riveted early in the movie, it felt like every scene here had an actual purpose and moved the plot along. As the movie is in the 90s, there a lot of references to things in the 90s. Most of it was enjoyable but it does occasionally slip into relying on it too much. Another thing I’ve noticed was that this movie tries so hard to link things to the Avengers (in ways that I won’t spoil), many of them are really on the nose but I guess I’ve become used to that after watching 21 of them now. There is one connection which I already know a lot of people don’t like, and while it’s a bit funny, it probably went a little too far and was just silly, and not in a good way. Final note about the story is that it unfortunately feels like a bit of a filler movie. After Infinity War, there needed to be a movie establishing who Carol Danvers is. While they have done that, they really didn’t go further than that. Most of that is to do with the character of Captain Marvel herself, which I’ll get to in a bit. Last thing to say, there was applause at my screening for the opening Marvel credits, and for very good reason. Also be sure to stick around for the mid and post credits scenes.

One of the complaints of the Captain Marvel trailers was that Brie Larson was coming across as being a little bland, and I’ll admit that I could see what they’re talking about. Much like the movie, the trailers really didn’t do her justice because she’s really good here. However, she is a little held back by the writing. Larson performs what she is given and she definitely does well here, very likable and believable enough in the role. However she wasn’t as interesting as I hoped she would be. She was a pretty easy lead to follow and it established her character in a basic way, but it didn’t do more than that, I wasn’t as invested in the story as much as I wanted to be. This is all on the writing however. It works fine enough for her and this movie and isn’t bad by any means. I just have a feeling she’ll be like Thor and Doctor Strange, who were pretty good in their debut appearances in the first solo movies but in later film appearances grew and became much more interesting and better characters. Samuel L. Jackson plays a much younger Nick Fury and actually gets to be one of the main players of the movie, which is nice to see considering that in most of his appearances in the MCU he’s been a supporting role. He’s definitely a very different Fury to what we’ve seen in the past movies but that works for Jackson. The playoff between him and Brie Larson was really entertaining to watch and was among the strongest parts of the movie (no surprise considering how the strongest part of the director’s previous movie Mississippi Grind was the chemistry between the leads Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds, they really do well at character interactions). The scenestealer of the whole movie however was Ben Mendelsohn as the lead Skrull. Mendelsohn is no stranger to villainous characters but this is one of his most standout performances and does a lot here (see for yourself why that’s the case). On a side note I thought the handling of the Skrulls was really great (no spoilers). Other supporting members like Lashana Lynch and Anette Benning play their parts. Jude Law was also good here, however I feel like due to his reasonably important role in the movie we should’ve gotten a little more depth from his character. Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson and Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser were nice to see once again but they really feel just like connectors to the other movies instead of actually having a reason to be in the movie. I mean I guess it made sense showing Coulson given that they are already covering young Nick Fury, but Ronan in this movie could’ve been replaced by any throwaway character, or even just not included in the overall plot.

The only movie I’ve seen from directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck was Mississippi Grind, and their work here was mostly good. The action scenes were a bit of a mixed bag, it’s mostly to do for the editing. The editing for the movie in general was good but it was very hit or miss when it comes to the fight scenes. The biggest example is the advertised train battle scene, and yes the editing is as bad as it looked in that one released clip. I don’t remember the editing in the later action scenes being as bad but I don’t remember them much outside of Captain Marvel unleashing her powers (which are done quite well to be fair). The visuals effects on the whole are quite good and the highlights really were Captain Marvel’s powers shown on screen later in the movie. The most impressive visual effects however was the de-aging effects on Samuel L. Jackson, which I’m going to be quite honest, is so far the best de-aging effects I’ve seen in a movie. Sure, we had Blade Runner 2049 and the Ant Man movies, but those were for like two scenes max, and Nick Fury is present for the whole movie. Very impressive work here. While most of the movie takes place on Earth, I do like the little bit we see of the other locations. The makeup and costumes were also great, from Captain Marvel’s outfit to the makeup of the Skrulls (which do actually work a lot better in the film than how they appeared in the images).

Captain Marvel isn’t one of the best MCU movies but it’s still pretty good. It’s a little rocky to start with and it suffers from feeling like a filler movie, like it’s just there to establish the character for Endgame. Despite some of my issues however, I can’t deny that I had an absolute blast watching this, the performances (particularly from Larson, Jackson and Mendelsohn) were really good, and it does some interesting things with the story that I didn’t see coming. Definitely looking forward to seeing Captain Marvel in Endgame and beyond.