Tag Archives: Thomas Brodie-Sangster

The Queen’s Gambit (2020) Review

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The Queen's GambitTime: 393 Minutes
Cast:

Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon
Isla Johnston as young Beth
Bill Camp as Mr. Shaibel
Moses Ingram as Jolene
Christiane Seidel as Helen Deardorff
Rebecca Root as Miss Lonsdale
Chloe Pirrie as Alice Harmon
Akemnji Ndifornyen as Mr. Fergusson
Marielle Heller as Mrs. Alma Wheatley
Harry Melling as Harry Beltik
Patrick Kennedy as Allston Wheatley
Jacob Fortune-Lloyd as Townes
Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Benny Watts
Marcin Dorociński as Vasily Borgov
Director: Scott Frank

Set during the Cold War era, orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) struggles with addiction in a quest to become the greatest chess player in the world.

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I was quite interested in The Queen’s Gambit. The main reason was Anya Taylor-Joy being cast in the lead role, she’s one of the best up and coming actors working today, and I’m always interested in whatever projects she takes on. Additionally, a mini series about chess sounded quite interesting. I had high hopes for The Queen’s Gambit and it turned out way better than I thought it would. It is an excellent miniseries, well made on every level, and with another great lead performance from Anya Taylor-Joy.

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The Queen’s Gambit consists of 7 Episodes ranging from 45 minutes to just over an hour in length. That’s pretty short as far as shows go, but it was the perfect length for this story. None of the episodes or moments in those episodes felt like they were filler. A lot happens in each episode too, even the episodes that aren’t an hour long. The first episode doesn’t feature Anya Taylor-Joy as lead character Beth Harmon outside of the opening scene, as it’s mainly Beth at age 9 when she’s at an orphanage and learns about chess. While that episode is pretty much just her at the orphanage, it is nonetheless a very important episode with plenty of things that it sets up for the rest of the show to continue on with. I’ll say that if you watched the first episode and weren’t as engaged as you would’ve liked to have been, the second episode is definitely where things advance a lot more, as it moves beyond the orphanage. I won’t give too much story details beyond that, but I’ll say that it’s very engrossing watching the lead character, the places she goes and everything she goes through. You’re really engrossed into what’s happening over the course of the story, the characters are well realised, and Beth’s story is quite compelling. The Queen’s Gambit is actually based off a fictional novel, but if I didn’t know that going in, I would’ve thought that it was a biopic, that’s how well made the show was. When it comes to chess, you don’t need to be an expert on chess in order to love the show. The Queen’s Gambit doesn’t even try to really explain the whole game to the audience, and that works. You can still follow along with what’s happening with no problems. Additionally, I’ve heard that a lot of chess experts has said that the portrayal of chess in the show is very accurate, so take that how you will.

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The acting is great by everyone. Anya Taylor-Joy gives one of, if not her best performance yet as Beth Harmon. She really portrays this complex character very well, it’s such a nuanced performance that conveys so much with very little. She definitely makes it convincing that she’s a genius level chess player, who is going through lots of issues throughout the show. Also, Isla Johnston deserves some praise as the younger version of Beth (mainly in the first episode). The supporting cast are all great too. Marielle Heller plays Beth’s step-mother, and that relationship between the two was one of the biggest surprises, as it went in a different direction from what I expected from it. I know of Heller as the director of The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Can You Ever Forgive Me and It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, but she’s shown here that she’s great at acting too and shares great chemistry with Taylor-Joy. Other performances such as Bill Camp as the janitor who teaches Beth chess, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Harry Melling and Jacob Fortune-Lloyd as other chess players also add a lot to the show.

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Scott Frank directed all the episodes of the show, and he did a fantastic job with them. It’s an incredibly well shot show, the cinematography is great, and so is the production and costume designs. The costumes that Anya wears in the second half of the show particularly stand out. It really does well at placing the show in the time periods of the 50s and 60s. Chess is a big part of the show as you can tell, and that aspect is portrayed very well. Even the visuals of chess on the ceiling that Beth occasionally imagines in her head could’ve come across as a bit cheesy but actually ends up working. The editing is excellent too, not only working to make the chess matches thrilling and suspenseful, but also keeping the flow of an episode going. Everything that’s in each of the episodes actually has a reason to be there, while not feeling way too trimmed down. One of the aspects that really stood out to me early from even the first episode was the score from Carlos Rafael Rivera, which was really great and fitted the show perfectly.

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The Queen’s Gambit is an enthralling show with a great and entertaining story, and is incredibly well made. Acting across the board was also all solid but it’s Anya Taylor-Joy who stands out, giving another fantastic and compelling lead performance. This show was one of the biggest surprises from 2020, definitely worth checking out as soon as you can.

The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials (2015) Review

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Maze Runner; The Scorch Trials

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Dylan O’Brien as Thomas
Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt
Ki Hong Lee as Minho
Kaya Scodelario as Teresa Agnes
Rosa Salazar as Brenda
Jacob Lofland as Aris Jones
Giancarlo Esposito as Jorge
Aidan Gillen as Janson
Dexter Darden as Frypan
Alexander Flores as Winston
Barry Pepper as Vince
Lili Taylor as Mary Cooper
Patricia Clarkson as Ava Paige
Director: Wes Ball

In this next chapter of the epic “Maze Runner” saga, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his fellow Gladers face their greatest challenge yet: searching for clues about the mysterious and powerful organization known as WCKD. Their journey takes them to the Scorch, a desolate landscape filled with unimaginable obstacles. Teaming up with resistance fighters, the Gladers take on WCKD’s vastly superior forces and uncover its shocking plans for them all.

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I wasn’t very impressed with 2014’s Maze Runner, I thought it was quite predictable and I didn’t really care about what was going on, although it did have some good elements, such as the action and some of the performances were good. With Scorch Trials however, the Maze Runner franchise looks to be on the improvement. It still has its problems with its characterisation and character development, as well as having a lot of plot holes but I have to give credit to the people involved for creating an improved sequel.

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Like with the first Maze Runner I didn’t really follow the story that well but I could just go with it. There are still plenty of plot holes, most of them come from the previous film’s ending, that being I’m pretty sure that WCKD (not a very subtle villainous corporation name by the way) could test children more easily by testing them in smaller rooms and not build giant mazes that would be more time and money consuming. The characterization like in the first film wasn’t that strong, I didn’t feel like I knew any of the main characters, except for Thomas but even then you don’t really learn much about him. The movie also did feel a little long at 2 hours 15 minutes, there were a few moments in the final act that they could’ve ended the film and I think that would’ve worked better. And yes, this film does have the type of ‘there’s going to be another one’ ending, like the first film’s ending, however it’s not as bad here.

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Dylan O’Brien and the rest of the cast do a good job. I felt that I didn’t emphasise enough in my review of the first film that the cast did a good job, it’s just that the characters they played weren’t that interesting. I actually started to slightly care about the characters, which was a huge improvement over the original where I didn’t care at all what happened to them. I thought that Aidan Gillen and Giancarlo Esposito were great additions to the franchise (though that’s partially because Gillen is in Game of Thrones and Esposito is in Breaking Bad). I do genuinely think they did great jobs with what they had to work with and I’m looking forward to see them in the sequel.

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The film looked quite good and had some great cinematography, especially with its action scenes. The action scenes, like in the previous film was great and again are the best part of the movie. The zombies (I don’t remember what they are called in the movie) in the first half looked practical and real, and I thought they were quite effective. However in the second half, they swapped them for CGI, and I didn’t really understand why, it did sort of take me out of the movie.

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Although I wouldn’t call this film great, I will say that it was surprising and better than I thought it would be. This movie was definitely better than the first film, probably because it already had ‘established’ characters and the plot seemed to be moving forward faster. Maybe the next and final sequel might actually be great and even if it isn’t, it’s at the very least the first young adult franchise to not have a last instalment that’s broken into 2 parts, I’ll give Maze Runner credit for that.

The Maze Runner (2014) Review

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The Maze Runner

Time: 113 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] ViolenceCast:
Dylan O’Brien as Thomas
Kaya Scodelario as Teresa
Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt
Ki Hong Lee as Minho
Will Poulter as Gally
Patricia Clarkson as Ava Paige
Director: Wes Ball

Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) wakes up in an elevator, remembering nothing but his own name. He emerges into a world of about 60 teen boys who have learned to survive in a completely enclosed environment, subsisting on their own agriculture and supplies. A new boy arrives every 30 days. The original group has been in “The Glade” for three years, trying to find a way to escape through the Maze that surrounds their living space. Then a comatose girl arrives with a strange note (Kaya Scodelario), and their world begins to change.

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Young adult book adaptations seem to be all the rage now, with franchises like Harry Potter and Hunger Games. However as more of these franchises came out, I’ve been less and less interested like with Divergent and now Maze Runner. However, even Divergent, which is a series that I consider to be just okay, still manages to be better than The Maze Runner. The upcoming movie titled the Scorched Trials has potential to be better than this film but we’ll just have to see. The Maze Runner despite having great action scenes and an interesting premise has one dimensional characters, a surprisingly uninteresting and predictable story, and I didn’t really feel for any of the characters. It’s around this point that I’m starting to feel sceptical about any young adult adaptations.

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For a movie about teenagers stuck in an isolated location, I wasn’t really invested in the story. It didn’t help that this movie was so predictable, and a mystery movie shouldn’t be predictable. A big part of it is that it has so many clichés, many of them are in young adult book adaptations, I could probably list the entire review with them if I wanted. The only young adult cliché that isn’t repeated here is the love triangle. What really fails the movie is the ending as not only is the ending pretty much “There’s gonna be another movie” but it just makes no sense when you find out what happened and why the characters are where they are.

In this image released by 20th Century Fox, Dylan O'Brien appears in a scene from "The Maze Runner." (AP Photo/20th Century Fox, Ben Rothstein)

One of the biggest failures of this movie are the characters. The actors hold up pretty well but they play some of the most one dimensional characters I’ve seen in a movie. Dylan O’Brien plays a generic hero whose only characteristic is that he’s heroic and we also have Will Poulter, whose job is to be the generic bully (but actually has more to work with than the other actors). Also the girl played by Kaya Scodelario is supposedly an important character but once she comes into play, her importance disappears in the next scene. Eventually we do find out her significance but that’s really done as backstory, she doesn’t do anything of significance. I don’t really remember any of the characters other than those three previously mentioned. I didn’t really feel like I knew the characters, so when some of them are being killed off, I didn’t feel anything for them.

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The effects and action scenes are the best part of this movie. Everything looks on a grand scale and the film is (fortunately) well shot and made the scenes really intense. Also the actors do actually sell the action scenes quite well, that’s sadly the best they did in this movie.

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The Maze Runner was one of the weakest young adult adaptations I’ve seen but it’s not bad. I’m still hoping that the series can improve because I wasn’t very impressed by its first film. Even Divergent for all its faults had good acting and some three dimensional characters. Even if the story wasn’t riveting, it was still more interesting than Maze Runner’s. I’ve heard the books are great but judging the film as a film, it’s not that great. I just hope that the sequels finally get it right.