Tag Archives: Taika Waititi

Free Guy (2021) Review

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Free Guy

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Ryan Reynolds as Guy
Jodie Comer as Millie Rusk/Molotov Girl
Lil Rel Howery as Buddy
Utkarsh Ambudkar as Mouser
Joe Keery as Walter “Keys” McKeys
Taika Waititi as Antwan
Director: Shawn Levy

When a bank teller (Ryan Reynolds) discovers he’s actually a background player in an open-world video game, he decides to become the hero of his own story — one that he can rewrite himself. In a world where there’s no limits, he’s determined to save the day his way before it’s too late, and maybe find a little romance with the coder who conceived him.

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After long last, Free Guy finally releases. Going into it, there were a few things that had me put me off about it. First of all, it does look like the most Ryan Reynolds movie ever, even though I like him. Second of all, it is about video games, and most portrayals of video games from big budget studios aren’t all that great, which had me more concerned than the actual movie adaptations of video games. Then there was the fact that the trailers were shown so much at the cinema, not only in the past months, but also last year when the movie was originally meant to be released before it was delayed, to an annoying degree. So by the time it got to August, I wasn’t exactly anticipating the movie, with the exception of the exit of its trailers from the cinema. However, I ended up deciding to watch Free Guy after I heard that it’s good from people who have seen it, and it surprised me. It’s not great by any means but it was better than I thought it would be.

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The marketing team for this movie didn’t give Free Guy the best of trailers, but at least did a good job at hiding most of the best moments and cameos. Even as someone who was forced to watch the trailers an endless number of times, I was surprised with where the movie goes. Going in blind if possible would be a great choice. I found myself enjoying the story, as well as where it was all going. I will say that after the various twists and turns in the first half, things become rather straightforward in the second half. It’s a little disappointing because it feels like it doesn’t fulfil the potential that we didn’t know it had going into it. There are multiple themes about creative freedom, originality and corporate greed, but it even gets existential at times. The first film that comes to mind is of course The Truman Show, not that Free Guy comes anywhere near close to it. Instead, it plays things a bit too safe by the end, instead delivering a standard message about acceptance. It isn’t bad but just a little disappointing. The movie has genuine heartfelt moments with these characters, and I was surprised at how much effort was put into them. Now for the elephant in the room: it is a movie about video games. As a gamer, a big budget movie depicting video games is already a concern. As far as depictions of games and gamer culture go however, it’s not the worst. It actually does feel like some of the people involved at least somewhat know about gaming, possibly even played one. There is some pandering to a degree but not at the level as say Ready Player One. Some Ips are thrown into the movie, however they are intended more as brief Easter Eggs and it doesn’t feel like the movie is overly relying on the audience loving them. The humour may be hit or miss, if only because it is mainly catered to gamers. However I think some non gamers can still find the movie funny, and I enjoyed it. There are some cameos in the movie, and I’m not going to read any of them out or what most of the cameos consist of because I know that it would more than likely scare off a lot of people from actually watching the movie. Most of the prominent cameos are people known for gaming, that’s as far as I’ll go. I do understand why they were included in the movie, and honestly I didn’t dislike them as much as I thought I would. Although it will feel jarring every time it would cut to them, and while I get it is supposed to be meta, it feels out of place. The worst instants are in the third act, where I really could’ve done without them showing up. With that said, there are a couple of non-gaming cameos which I really liked.

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The cast are all good in their parts. Ryan Reynolds plays his usual self as most could’ve figured from the trailer, even though this time its as a NPC (non player character) in a video game world. As someone who likes him as an actor, I did feel like he could’ve just fallen into doing the same old schtick but he works quite well. He is genuinely funny, you care about his character, and he has some great moments. Reynolds was a surprisingly great pick for the role. The standout among the entire cast though was Jodie Comer, who gives so much to this movie and probably elevates. In this movie we see her in two roles, as a character named Millie in the real world, and as Molotov Girl, Millie’s avatar within the game world. She is amazing in both parts, and there is some great chemistry between her and Reynolds. Joe Keery was quite good in his part, even though he was overshadowed by the main leads, and Lil Rel Howery is entertaining as a security guard and friend of Guy. Taika Waititi effectively plays the unhinged villain as the developer of the game that much of the movie takes place inside. Taika is certainly very energetic, but aside from doing what you would expect from him, as an antagonist he is very one dimensional. It’s just as well that Waititi goes over the top. because otherwise the character would’ve been completely forgettable.

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Shawn Levy is the director of the movie, I mostly know him as the director of the Night of the Museum movies. However I think this is the best work he’s done as a director. First of all I really like how this video game world is portrayed, as a world taking a lot from the open world from Grand Theft Auto knockoff, it is portrayed very well. Not only that but the visual effects works and fitting considering the setting for most of the movie. The action is also really entertaining and energetic.

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Free Guy was way better than it had any right to be. I know that not everyone is going to like it, but it was genuinely a nice surprise for me. I was entertained by the story and characters, the action was enjoyable, I generally found the movie funny, and the cast were good, especially Reynolds and Comer. For what it’s worth, as someone who had low expectations going in, I think it’s worth a chance at least.

Jojo Rabbit (2019) Review

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & content that may disturb
Cast:
Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo “Rabbit” Betzler
Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa Korr
Taika Waititi as Adolf Hitler
Rebel Wilson as Fräulein Rahm
Stephen Merchant as Captain Deertz
Alfie Allen as Finkel
Sam Rockwell as Captain Klenzendorf
Scarlett Johansson as Rosie Betzler
Archie Yates as Yorki
Director: Taika Waititi

Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) is a lonely German boy who discovers that his single mother is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. Aided only by his imaginary friend — Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi) — Jojo must confront his blind nationalism as World War II continues to rage on.

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Jojo Rabbit was one of my most anticipated movies of 2019. I like Taika Waititi’s movies and so I’m always interested in what he’d do next, even with a premise as strange as this one (of course it definitely seemed like something he’d be able to pull off). The cast is also great with the likes of Waititi, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell and more involved, so naturally I was looking forward to it. I really liked Jojo Rabbit, and so far I’d say that it’s my favourite of Waititi’s movies.

Jojo Rabbit is a mix of comedy and drama, mostly the former. It’s also a coming of age movie, albeit a very unconventional one. Taika wrote the script, and you can definitely tell that this is one of his movies, so it’s his type of unique comedy throughout. If you’ve watched his other movies (and I mean Boy, What we Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, not just Thor Ragnarok) and you really like them, I’m pretty sure you’ll vibe with Jojo Rabbit as well. If you just can’t get into them however, you’re probably not going to be able to get into his latest movie either. Personally, it worked for me, and basically all the jokes hit for me. On top of that, a lot of the movie is absurd and it’s meant to be that, with this movie being a satire after all. With that said, when the does movie gets serious and emotional, it does deliver. It doesn’t shy away from the seriousness of it at points, especially towards the last third of the movie. With it being a movie about Nazis and Hitler, there’s no way it’s going to stay funny all the way through. Despite being hilarious and over the top, Jojo Rabbit doesn’t forget what it is, a anti-war and anti-hate satire, and there’s a lot of heart behind the movie. Honestly for a movie that could be incredibly absurd, it really is an achievement that Taika managed to pull this off because it’s no easy task balancing it all out. I know that some people might be complaining that for whatever reason it’s not a scathing enough condemnation of fascism, I can assure you that the movie makes it clear that Nazis are bad.

The cast all bring their A game to their performances. I believe this is Roman Griffin Davis’s first performance, and for a big screen debut, he’s great in the lead role. He’s very convincing as this 10 year old boy who also just really wants to be a Nazi, who of course goes through some changes over the course of the movie. So much of this movie is riding on the actor working, and he’s in almost all of the scenes of the movie. He brings the emotion, comedy, self seriousness and innocence that this character needed to have, and Griffin Davis definitely delivered that perfectly. Honestly one of the best child performances I’ve seen. Equally as great was Thomasin McKenzie, the Jewish girl hiding in the attic, she really was outstanding and a highlight from the cast. She and Davis share great chemistry together. Of course when it comes to performances of the movie (and the movie in general), a lot of people will be talking about Taika Waititi as Jojo’s imaginary friend version of Adolf Hitler, played here as a complete buffoon and is hilarious. He’s not really the focus of the movie but he definitely steals the scenes whenever he’s present. Scarlett Johansson gives one of her best performances in a while as Jojo’s mother, Sam Rockwell as usual is great whenever he’s on screen. Other actors like Alfie Allen, Rebel Wilson and Stephen Merchant play their roles well. Archie Yates also deserves a mention as Jojo’s friend who’s hilarious whenever he’s on screen.

Taika Waititi’s direction is great as usual. The cinematography is stunning, and at a lot of points feels very much like a Moonrise Kingdom/Wes Anderson movie. Like with the script, the direction for the dramatic and comedic scenes are both played out very well. It has stylistically some larger than life moments straight from a child’s perspective, as well as a couple moments appropriately planted in realism.

With a fantastic cast, and Taika Waititi’s great writing and direction, Jojo Rabbit is one of my favourite movies of the year. It’s a hilarious and entertaining yet emotional and heartfelt movie that successfully balances its tone out well, managing to pull off its absurd premise. Definitely worth a watch.

Green Lantern (2011) Review

Time: 114 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan/Green Lantern
Blake Lively as Carol Ferris
Peter Sarsgaard as Dr. Hector Hammond
Mark Strong as Thaal Sinestro
Angela Bassett as Dr. Amanda Waller
Tim Robbins as Robert Hammond
Temuera Morrison as Abin Sur/Green Lantern
Taika Waititi as Thomas Kalmaku
Director: Martin Campbell

Sworn to preserve intergalactic order, the Green Lantern Corps has existed for centuries. Its newest recruit, Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), is the first human to join the ranks. The Green Lanterns have little regard for humans, who have thus far been unable to harness the powers of the ring each member wears. But Jordan, a gifted and cocky test pilot, may be the corps’ only hope when a new enemy called Parallax threatens the universal balance of power.

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2 years before the DCEU was started with Man of Steel, WB tried to create a DC cinematic universe with 2011’s Green Lantern. It had all the makings of a good comic book movie, you have a great cast including Ryan Reynolds and Mark Strong and on top of that, its directed by Goldeneye and Casino Royale director Martin Campbell. Green Lantern however ended up being way worse than it should be, it fails to entertain or interest on any level, and just feels like wasted potential in the end.

First thing to note is that Green Lantern has a very silly tone. It feels like WB was trying to replicate the Marvel films with DC, and with the MCU running a good few year at the time of GL’s release, that could very well be what happened. It’s quite comedic and ridiculous at some points oddly. Unfortunately despite the light and almost cartoonish tone, it’s not very entertaining, not even on a so bad it’s good level. On top of it being too silly, it’s also not very interesting. Despite it being an hour and 45 minutes long, Green Lantern drags a lot. I’m not sure what happened with the script. It just feels empty, they throw a lot of lore at you but none of it really sticks, there’s nothing about the way that the film told the backstory of the Green Lanterns that made me interested in them. Honestly they sound more interesting on paper than how it’s presented in the actual movie. There is no emotional connection to what’s going on, things just happen, and you watch them happen but you don’t care about any of it. By the end it didn’t feel like much has happened. There is a lot of wasted opportunities as well, for example a big part of the film is these Green Lantern rings which allow the people who use them to create anything they can imagine, however nothing that creative even comes of that. It’s such a shame that Green Lantern really doesn’t get much right, it’s not entertaining, it’s not interesting, it’s rather empty and feels much longer than it actually is.

There is a lot of talented actors here and many of the casting decisions are great. Unfortunately they aren’t enough to elevate the film in an immense way. Ryan Reynolds to be fair is actually a great pick for Hal Jordan/Green Lantern and Reynolds does his best with what he was given. He is however let down by the material given to him. The supporting actors with Blake Lively, Angela Bassett, Temuera Morrison, Taika Waititi and others are fine enough but really don’t give that great performances, it’s not on them though and they are fine enough. Mark Strong is a perfect casting choice for Sinestro but he’s not even the main villain, and he doesn’t get as much screentime as he should. I guess he was being set up to be a villain in later movies but as sequels didn’t happen he just feels wasted. He was really good in his scenes though. The actual villains were really bad. Peter Sarsgaard I’ve heard is a good actor and I don’t blame him for his performance here. In short he’s some random guy who gets a big head and powers and is over the top and goofy, terrible performance, again not putting this on Sarsgaard. He’s not even the main villain, it’s this CGI creature thing called Parallax. I’ve seen many bad comic book movie villains, from Nuclear Man, to Poison Ivy to Incubus. But I think Parallax is the worst comic book movie villain I’ve ever seen. The CGI on him was awful but also there’s absolutely nothing to the character and we don’t see too much of him anyway.

This film is directed by Martin Campbell but you wouldn’t be able to tell by watching the movie. The filming of the action sequences is fine enough but it’s not that great. It doesn’t help that the CGI is so awful it’s actually unbelievable, everything from the CGI suits, to the backgrounds, Parallax and beyond, everything looks bad. The decision to have the suits be CGI was particularly poor, they even gave Ryan Reynolds a goofy CGI eye mask. Nothing feels real and I know that most of what happens can’t be created in reality but they could’ve at least made it better so that the special effects don’t constantly feel artificial and fake.

I personally think that Green Lantern is the worst comic book movie of the 2010s thus far, though there are worse comic book movies that have been released overall. Some aspects are fine like most of the actors are well cast and do the best they can in their roles but they are ultimately let down by the writing and material given. The vast majority of the story aspects falls flat and all the potential with all these characters and the world is wasted. Not only that but it’s not even entertaining, even the technical aspects such as the CGI are astoundingly poor. Green Lantern was an unfortunate misfire and really didn’t work at all. Let’s just hope that the DCEU’s version of Green Lantern is solid (though it will likely be much better by default).

Thor: Ragnarok (2017) Review

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast
Chris Hemsworth as Thor Odinson
Tom Hiddleston as Loki
Cate Blanchett as Hela
Idris Elba as Heimdall
Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster
Tessa Thompson as Scrapper 142/Valkyrie
Karl Urban as Skurge
Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk
Anthony Hopkins as Odin
Taika Waititi as Korg
Director: Taika Waititi

Imprisoned on the other side of the universe, the mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself in a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), his former ally and fellow Avenger. Thor’s quest for survival leads him in a race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela (Cate Blanchett) from destroying his home world and the Asgardian civilization.

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Thor Ragnarok was one of my most anticipated films of 2017, it seemed to be a very unique entry into the MCU. The addition of actors like Cate Blanchett, Karl Urban, Jeff Goldblum had me interested. But the aspect that intrigued me most of all was that Taika Waititi of Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What We do in the Shadows fame was directing, it was certainly an odd choice for presumably the final Thor movie. Ragnarok from everything that we’ve been seeing looked like a weird 80s action sci-fi comedy, it looked so bizarre and off from whatever we were expecting that I just had to know what it was like. Overall, Thor Ragnarok is a fun time, Taika’s direction and writing definitely made this a very unique film that is undoubtedly entertaining.

The first act has some pacing issues, it moves quite slow until Hela shows up for the first time, then the pacing starts sorting itself out. Most of the film is focussing on Thor on Sakaar, then occasionally it will cut back to Asgard with Hela (the main villain), almost out of obligation to show that she is still in this movie. The second half however was more consistently solid. Yes there is a lot of comedy but don’t just mistake it as being just Guardians of the Galaxy with Thor in it. If you’ve seen Taika’s other movies, you can tell that is definitely a Taika Watiti film. The comedy here is not the same as the comedy in the other Marvel movies, its self deprecating, it’s not afraid to make fun of itself, it goes full bonkers at times, so its not just something you usually see. This is actually the most funny of the MCU film, some of the jokes were quite simply hysterical. The question is, does Taika’s tone and direction work for the movie? For the most part.

First thing I want to get out of the way is that this is not a Thor movie, even Thor: The Dark World, arguably the worst Thor movie (as well as the worst MCU film) felt more like a Thor movie than Ragnarok. It feels like Taika Waititi doing this bizarre sci-fi action comedy, that just so happens to be starring Thor and featuring the potential threat of Asgard. To be honest, I’m not really sure those two aspects work well together, especially as the cutting back to Hela in Asgard felt out of place seemed (like I said) out of obligation to briefly show what was going on there. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the tone was misplaced. One thing I can praise Ragnarok for doing is that it separates the dramatic scenes from the comedic scenes, it doesn’t ruin an emotional scene with some misplaced joke (which has become a problem with many of the MCU films as of late). So its not that the comedy ruined the emotional scenes, its that I just didn’t feel that personally connected to the story. I just feel like I should really be caring much more about what’s going on than I actually end up doing, even most scenes that were meant to be emotional didn’t really hit. Aside from that, there’s nothing really here storywise that I have a major issue with. For what Taika was going for, he did a great job with it.

Chris Hemsworth looks like he’s having a blast playing Thor and Tom Hiddleston is once again great as Loki, they work off each other great. Mark Ruffalo was also good, we see the Hulk more than we see Bruce Banner, we actually have The Hulk speaking and interacting and it was an interesting angle to take on him. The supporting cast was also good with actors like Karl Urban and Anthony Hopkins. Idris Elba gets the most to do as Heimdall in any of the Thor movies. Jeff Goldblum is in this movie and this is the most Jeff Goldblum that Jeff Goldblum has ever been. It felt like Taika just wanted Jeff Goldblum to be all Jeff Goldblumy, he doesn’t play a very significant or threatening character. I didn’t mind that, he was undoubtedly fun to watch. Taika Waititi himself plays (motion captures/voices) a character named Korg, who was definitely one of the stand out characters. He was so hilarious and Taika’s voice performance played a big part in that. But the stand out character to me was Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, such a welcome addition to the MCU. I can’t wait to see more of her in future MCU films. Cate Blanchett is Hela, the main villain here. Is she great? Yes and no. She is undoubtedly one of the better MCU villains, and Blanchett’s performance is fantastic, making the character even better. However, to put it simply, we didn’t get enough of her. As I said, the first half of the movie mostly takes place where Thor is and every so often we get a brief scene with Hela. By the second half we start getting the appropriate number of scenes with her but we really didn’t get to see Hela doing a lot. She is great in the scenes that she’s in however, she feels like a threat, was acted very well and wasn’t as one dimensional as I thought she may end up being. She was also better than most MCU villains, so that’s always nice to see. There are also some hilarious cameos.

The action was generally well filmed. Most of the CGI looks fantastic and some of the shots are absolutely beautiful. Other times it looks really fake looking. When the film is set in practical locations it is great, a loft of the time the production design, costumes, makeup all work to give a unique look. It really does embrace the world of Sakaar and make it something truly different. However Asgard just looks okay, really Kenneth Branagh is the only director who has managed to make Asgard look like something special. The score by Mark Mothersbaugh is pretty good, slightly more memorable than most of the other MCU scores.

I had a fun time with Thor Ragnarok and it’s probably the best MCU film this year. With entertaining characters and most of all Taika’s writing, Thor Ragnarok was a very unique comic book movie. I’m not really sure if Thor was the best character or series for Taika to use for his crazy ideas, and some of the emotional scenes don’t hit as hard as they should’ve but for the most part Ragnarok gets it right. So I do recommend watching it, its at the very least entertaining.

The Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) Review

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Time: 101 minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence, coarse language, some scenes may disturb young children
Cast:
Sam Neill as Uncle Hec
Julian Dennison as Ricky
Director: Taika Waititi

A boy (Julian Dennison) and his foster father (Sam Neill) become the subjects of a manhunt after they get stranded in the New Zealand wilderness.

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The Hunt for the Wilderpeople was a movie I wanted to check out for a long time. Being a New Zealander, it’s impossible not to hear about this movie, but I only saw the movie recently. And I ended up loving it, this is one of the most entertaining movies of 2016 and one of the best of the year. The cast, writing, direction, editing, everything added together to make such an entertaining and overall great movie.

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The Hunt for the Wilderpeople is such a different film, it’s impossible to compare this film to anything else. It’s very easy to connect to and love the main characters, all the characters are very memorable. Also, this movie is hilarious. Like, I didn’t expect to find the movie this funny. The humour is a little different from most films (I can’t describe it, you’ll just have to see it for yourself), which does separate it from other comedies. Most of the jokes in the film, I found hilarious. At the same time though, this movie handled the dramatic aspects very well, you actually do care what’s going on, it’s not just a complete comedy from start to finish. One thing I will say is that there were a few times where the transition from comedy to drama or vice versa didn’t really work as well, and felt a little jarring (unless that was intentional). Aside from that, I don’t have really a lot of problems with this movie.

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Julian Dennison was great in this movie, I hope he gets more work after this because he showed here that he’s got a lot of talent. He had excellent comedic timing and was really entertaining. Sam Neil also gives one of his best performances in a while. Both Julian Dennison and Sam Neill play off each other so well, they play completely different characters and the contrast really works. They were both hilarious but at the same time they could connect to each other very well, so it was easy to buy them as their characters. The supporting cast were also so effective and memorable. There are a whole lot of cameos in the film, which I won’t spoil for those who don’t know about them yet, I’ll just say that they really worked. The movie is full of memorable characters, and the actors played them very well.

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Taika Waititi wasn’t just great at writing this movie, he was fantastic at the direction as well. The style of this movie is great, much of that is due to the editing, which was also perfect, and helped the movie to be more effective, especially when it came to the comedy. Also, there is a thrilling car chase scene at the end of the film which was incredible. The cinematography was fantastic, the locations used were also great and beautiful, you could really buy that they were there in the bushes. The soundtrack also, fantastic.

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I wasn’t sure about how I would feel about The Hunt for the Wilderpeople after hearing so much about it for so long, but I ended up loving it. The acting was great (particularly from main leads Julian Dennison and Sam Neill), the direction from Taika Waititi was fantastic, his writing was on point, hilarious and entertaining from start to finish, just everything fell nicely into place. Check the film out when you can, it’s a very different movie from most, and it’s really one of the best films of the year.