Tag Archives: Vanessa Hudgens

Tick, Tick… Boom! (2021) Review

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tick, tick... Boom

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Andrew Garfield as Jonathan Larson
Alexandra Shipp as Susan Wilson
Robin de Jesús as Michael
Joshua Henry as Roger Bart
Vanessa Hudgens as Karessa Johnson
Judith Light as Rosa Stevens
Director: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Based on the autobiographical musical by playwright Jonathan Larson. It’s the story of an aspiring composer in New York City who is worried he made the wrong career choice, whilst navigating the pressures of love and friendship.

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I wasn’t sure about how to feel about Tick, Tick… Boom! going into it because musical theatre isn’t really my thing. I’m also not familiar with the musical its based on, nor Jonathan Larson, nor Rent. However it starred Andrew Garfield in the lead role and it was receiving awards attention, so I was willing to give it a go. I’m glad to say that I’m one of the people who liked the movie despite its issues.

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Tick, Tick…Boom! Is based off Jonathan Larson’s semi autobiographical musical, which is partially based off his own life. The story from its premise is quite accessible, focussing on someone who is a struggling creator, very familiar premise and setup and one that plenty of people can identify with. It is a lively, fun and emotionally bittersweet ride throughout. Even if his direction is a little rough around the edges, director Lin-Manuel Miranda’s passion for Jonathan Larson and the story shines through clearly, and the heart, passion and admiration is felt throughout. There are issues though. There is certainly some cheesy writing, and the pacing has problems especially in the second act, with some moments that can really drag. There is also one thing that made the movie worse the more I thought about it. I like character studies about what it takes to make it big, but there’s some mixed messaging regarding Jonathan’s actions and who he was. Larson in this musical seems to alienate people around him in his pursuit for greatness, and so it became very difficult to be sympathetic with his plight, not helped by his friends going through comparatively harder struggles. Its not enough to bring down the movie but it is something that you do notice when watching.

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If you need one reason to watch the movie, its Andrew Garfield, delivering one of his best performances, and he is very much the best part of the movie. So much of the movie relies on the lead performance, and he more than delivers. Garfield’s work feels very much alive, he is full of energy, charisma, life, and sadness, and he can really sing too. For all the issues that the writing has particularly with his character, Garfield sort of makes it work. The film belongs to him, but the other actors are good too, including Alexandra Shipp, Vanessa Hudgens, and especially Robin de Jesus.

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This is director Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first film as a director, and as a film its quite rough around the edges. There wasn’t anything that special and it’s a little too safe, but as a debut, it was okay. Not all the choices work, but some of them really, such as the sound of ticking throughout. Some of the musical sequences were really well shot, there’s a number of flashy and fun musical moments. I did enjoy the songs and they are presented well for the most part, but I did find them somewhat forgettable, although that might just be me.  The editing can be a little jarring, mostly because it is very inconsistent throughout. With that said, the non-linear storytelling and narration worked quite well for me.

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Tick, Tick, Boom has its fair share of issues, mainly with the writing and directing. However I liked watching it, and the performances are great, particularly Andrew Garfield in the lead role. I do think its worth watching at the very least for Garfield here.

Sucker Punch (2011) Review

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Sucker Punch

Time:
109 Minutes (Theatrical)
138 Minutes (Extended)
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence
Cast:
Emily Browning as Babydoll
Abbie Cornish as Sweet Pea
Jena Malone as Rocket
Vanessa Hudgens as Blondie
Jamie Chung as Amber
Carla Gugino as Vera Gorski/Madame Vera Gorski
Oscar Isaac as Blue Jones
Jon Hamm as The Doctor/The High Roller
Scott Glenn as The Wise Man/The General/The Bus Driver
Director: Zack Snyder

Locked away, a young woman named Babydoll (Emily Browning) retreats to a fantasy world where she is free to go wherever her mind takes her. Determined to fight for real freedom, she finds four women – Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), Amber (Jamie Chung) and Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) — to join together to escape the terrible fate that awaits them. With a virtual arsenal at their disposal, the allies battle everything from samurais to serpents, while trying to decide what price they will pay for survival.

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Sucker Punch released 10 years ago remains a very polarising movie. Zack Snyder is a very divisive director, to this day it remains the strangest movie that he’s created. Having seen the extended cut of the movie, I can say that I am in the group of people who likes this movie, even though I can somewhat understand some of the mixed responses.

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This is the only movie (until Army of the Dead) from Zack Snyder that isn’t based off an original source material. Before I go into the different versions about the movie, I’ll talk about the movie as I saw it. Some of the part of why the movie didn’t get so well received was expectations. From the marketing, trailers and posters, Sucker Punch looked to be like a videogame influenced Charlie’s Angels with a group of young women with weapons taking on giant robots and dragons. Now these action sections are actually all imaginations taking place in the mind of the lead character. With that said, I do think that you still might be able to enjoy it as an action fantasy movie. I can’t go too deep into the movie without spoiling anything so I’ll try to be as vague as possible about the plot. The action scenes are entertaining, though you are aware the whole time that what’s happening on screen during these moments are just in the head of the main character played by Emily Browning. While these scenes are fun, there’s not much to explain the setups of those scenes, and I wasn’t able to pick them up even on a second viewing (unless I’m missing something). It could very well be that it’s just an excuse to have large action sequences and even if that’s the case, I wouldn’t want those moments removed.

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Zack Snyder has described Sucker Punch as Alice in Wonderland with machine guns, and that’s a very fitting description of the movie. It’s quite an ambitious movie, especially because the narrative is far from straightforward and doesn’t spoon feed you what’s happening. There are already plenty of deep dives into what this movie is. Essentially, Sucker Punch is intended as a female empowerment film, a commentary and examination of trauma, misogyny and abuse, and the story is essentially about escaping. Even if you don’t like the movie, I do think Snyder deserves a lot of credit for really trying something risky and trying to say something. That’s not to say that the script doesn’t have its issues. The characterisation isn’t great and most of the characters are underdeveloped and underwritten. The narrative isn’t always coherent, but I wouldn’t trade that out for one that was 100% clear cut. The version of Sucker Punch I watched was the extended cut. I will say that although I haven’t seen the theatrical version, from what I could gather from looking online, the cut down version on paper looked a bit messy. When Zack Snyder makes a movie, every single time there have been more than one version, it’s been shown that it is best releasing the version that was filmed instead of cutting it down. For Sucker Punch, the extended cut actually fully realises the message and intent by the end, and with such a bizarre story it needed to be told fully. On top of that, instead of it being PG-13, it is now R, which means you never feel any restrictions. With that all being said, it has been confirmed by Zack Snyder himself that there has been no official release of a director’s cut, hence why it’s called an extended cut instead. Nonetheless, this is the version of the movie to watch.

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The cast all play their roles very well. The main cast played by Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung were quite good, especially Emily Browning as the lead character. Other actors like Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac, Jon Hamm and Scott Glenn are also good. Even if some of the characters were underwritten, the performances made up for them.

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Zack Snyder’s direction is great, from beginning to end you can definitely tell that this is one of his movies. In fact you could say that this is the most Zack Snyder movie that Zack Snyder has ever made. Some have criticised this movie with the tired criticism of ‘it’s style over substance’, to which I’d counter with ‘style is substance’. Snyder excels at visual storytelling, and the biggest example of that in the movie is the incredible opening sequence, which tells so much within the 5 minutes without any dialogue being spoken. Larry Fong’s cinematography is fantastic, there are some very stunning visuals from beginning to end. There are many stand out action sequences, including a war sequence, a fight against giant samurai, and the like. Even if you don’t like much of the story, I think you would still be able to get a lot out of the action, even if some of them do feel video game-esque (especially with the CGI) and don’t really have any tension. The soundtrack is very well picked for this movie and works excellently for it.

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Sucker Punch is a pretty polarising movie. The performances were really good, I loved Zack Snyder’s direction, and I like what Snyder was really going for with the plot. If you do choose to check it out, I recommend checking out the extended cut. Not all of the movie works, and there’s definitely some messiness to it, but a lot of it does work.

Polar (2019) Review

Time: 118 Minutes
Cast:
Mads Mikkelsen as Duncan Vizla
Vanessa Hudgens as Camille
Katheryn Winnick as Vivian
Matt Lucas as Mr. Blut
Director: Jonas Åkerlund

The world’s top assassin, Duncan Vizla (Mads Mikkelsen), aka The Black Kaiser, is settling into retirement when his former employer marks him as a liability to the firm. Against his will, he finds himself back in the game going head-to-head with an army of younger, faster, ruthless killers who will stop at nothing to have him silenced.

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Polar was a movie that I heard about and was somewhat looking forward to watch. The idea of seeing Mads Mikkelsen as a John Wick like hitman was something that was right up my alley. Outside of that, I really wasn’t expecting much from the movie, I just wanted to have a fun time watching Mads Mikkelsen kill a bunch of people. After hearing that the movie wasn’t very good, I was hoping for it to be average or even guilty pleasure material, but unfortunately it’s not even close to either of those. It’s really been a long time since I’ve hated watching a movie, and I didn’t think it would be Polar of all movies.

Polar is actually based on a webcomic series, one that I’m not familiar with. It’s been a while where I’ve watched a movie where it was incredibly difficult to find a place to start in describing how literally everything about it was awful. The plot itself is pretty straightforward, Mads Mikkelsen is an assassin, the employer has him marked to be killed, Mads kills everyone. Yet Polar somehow manages to be so drawn out, with not much happening over the course of the movie and the plot handled so poorly. The film definitely didn’t start off well, with a overly stylised scene where some assassins kill off Johnny Knoxville. If you wanted to really get a good idea at how bad the movie is, go onto Netflix and watch that first scene. Much of the plot and dialogue was very amateur, it constantly felt like it was written by people who legitimately felt that what they wrote was very cool and edgy, it’s painful. They try to make the dialogue seem smart, funny and witty, and it comes across as being cringe. This film is 2 hours long, and while that doesn’t sound too long, it takes a really long time for this movie to pick up. Mads does kill some people in the first 30 minutes, however in terms of the main plot, it takes over an hour for him to get involved with the actual plot with him being directly up against hitmen being sent after him. After that one scene of violence, for a while he’s just spending time with Vanessa Hudgens’s character. Honestly had her plotline been the main focus of the movie it would’ve been better, instead it’s around for the first half and then just disappears until the end. In that time there’s also a subplot of the younger hitmen tracking down Mads and it was insufferable and repetitive, they violently beat up some people for information and then kill them, and for some reason they keep showing these scenes because for some reason they thought that these moments are hilarious or something. It’s impossible to care about the plot and characters. Even with all the time spent with Mads Mikkelsen doing nothing for the majority for the first hour, the only reason you’re somewhat along on the ride with him is because of the actor, not the actual character. The character is very flat honestly, with not a lot to him. It even tries to incorporate a twist at the end and you just don’t care, you just want it to end.

Mads Mikkelsen was the main reason I was even somewhat curious about this movie. Even if the movie he’s in isn’t good and he isn’t given much to work with, he always manages to make himself comes across as somewhat credible in every movie that he’s in. Polar is no exception. With that said, the character really has really nothing going for him outside of just being really being good at killing people. 10 minutes into this movie and Mads Mikkelsen accidentally kills a dog, definitely a weird decision. I have no idea how Mikkelsen agreed to this movie with this script in the first place. With the supporting cast on the other hand, they were a little hit or miss. Vanessa Hudgens and Katheryn Winnick were actually alright in their roles, they clearly weren’t given much to work with but they clearly did the best that they could, credit to them. However, I’m not kidding when I saw that literally every other character is incredibly obnoxious and terrible. Matt Lucas was so an over the top cartoon of a villain, not threatening in the slightest and it was just insufferable when it cut to scenes with him, especially when we didn’t really need to see him. As previously mentioned, the younger hitman characters were really annoying to watch, they really just come across as a bunch of jackasses and are really annoying.

The direction of Polar just reeks of trying way too hard. It’s pretty clear that the movie is based on a comic because it tries so hard to be stylish, which really just made the movie even more unbearable. It’s particularly the editing that’s really annoying. So many of the cuts make many parts of the movie feel frustratingly fast paced and much of the movie felt really choppy. The transitions between scenes are cheap and jarringly annoying, quite often it does that extremely cheap slideshow swipe transition effect for a lot of the connections between scenes. When a new character is introduced, they legit have this Suicide Squad esque character introduction page where it freezes the frame and flashes their name, except it’s done worse here. There’s a scene when Mads is actually teaching something to kids and like every line he says it would cut to a flashback of him brutally killing someone in a way that is somewhat relevant to what he said to be ‘ironic’ and ‘hilarious’. An example being him being asked if people in Turkey eat turkey, Mikkelsen responds with “chicken on a skewer”, and surely enough it cuts to him stabbing someone in a head with a chicken skewer. That brings me to the gratuitous violence, sex and nudity. Movie violence really doesn’t get to me most of the time. Even when moments from Irreversible did get to me, it felt like it was there for a reason and it didn’t feel gratuitous, it was deliberately meant to be hard to watch. What does deeply bother me however is when movie violence can feel gratuitous and on screen just for the sake of putting it on screen. From the multiple amounts of pointless assassins’ torture, interrogation and murder of people, to an especially graphic murder sequence in the second half, it feels like that the filmmakers really liked putting it on screen, and it’s not even like Tarantino violence where it could be entertaining. As for the sex… I’m not exaggerating when I saw that the level of over sexualisation and misogyny in this movie is off the charts, it really does shamelessly sexualize women a ton and has all these random sex scenes that serve no purpose to the movie at all. There is literally a character who’s job it is seems to be to take her clothes off and show off her body. All this unnecessary content just makes the whole movie feel repulsive more than anything. Gratuitous violence aside, you’re probably wondering how the action is. Outside of two sequences in the first 70 minutes, it’s really only the last 40 minutes where we get to see Mads go full John Wick mode. The action itself is very hit or miss, there’s not a ton of them. The fight scenes seemed choreographed well, even if the editing and cuts don’t showcase that very well. Even some of the action scenes with great setups are very brief, so you don’t really get to enjoy them much. In terms of parts of the direction that I thought were alright, I guess the locations were good and the overall cinematography of the movie was also pretty good when everything’s not saturated.

Although I’m not completely familiar with Netflix’s entire lineup of original films, Polar seems like it ranks amongst their worst. Polar is like a bunch of edgelords tried to mix together John Wick, Crank, Punisher: War Zone and Shoot Em Up and thought that having a bunch of violence and sex would make up for a lacklustre story (spoiler alert, it doesn’t). You know that the movie is bad when each of those aforementioned movies (even Crank) come out with far more class and credibility. What makes this so painful is the fact that I wanted this movie to be great or even just fun, I love the idea of Mads Mikkelsen as a John Wick like assassin, and the movie isn’t just sub par, it is shockingly awful, far worse than I thought it would be. Aside from Mikkelsen, Hudgens and Winnick giving some okay performances, moments of good cinematography and occasionally okay action, it really isn’t good at all. I really wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of the year, this is my least favourite movie of 2019.