Tag Archives: Woody Harrelson

No Country for Old Men (2007) Review

Time: 122 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence
Cast:
Tommy Lee Jones as Ed Tom Bell
Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh
Josh Brolin as Llewelyn Moss
Woody Harrelson as Carson Wells
Kelly Macdonald as Carla Jean Moss
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

In rural Texas, welder and hunter Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) discovers the remains of several drug runners who have all killed each other in an exchange gone violently wrong. Rather than report the discovery to the police, Moss decides to simply take the two million dollars present for himself. This puts the psychopathic killer, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), on his trail to retrieve the money. As Moss desperately attempts to keep one step ahead, the blood from this hunt begins to flow behind him with relentlessly growing intensity as Chigurh closes in. Meanwhile, the laconic Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) blithely oversees the investigation even as he struggles to face the sheer enormity of the crimes he is attempting to thwart.

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The Coen Brothers are a little hit or miss for me, some of their movies I love, others I don’t like as much as everyone. Out of all of their films however, No Country for Old Men seems to stand out as one of their best, it actually may well be their best. Everything is so well crafted, from its atmosphere and tone, the fantastic performances and of course the Coen Brothers’ excellent writing and direction, all of it come together to deliver a masterpiece.

No Country for Old Men is based off the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name, I haven’t read it so I don’t know how the two versions of the story compare. No Country for Old Men isn’t like some of the other Coen Brothers movies, it doesn’t have quirky characters or quite a lot of dark comedy, this is by far the darkest movie they have made. There are very small bits of comedy (mostly in some bits of dialogue) but for the most part, it is a very dark and grim plot. The film has a realistic dark tone and isn’t filled with a lot of thrills or action. You really need to understand what you’re getting into before watching this movie, it is not by any means a fast paced crime thriller. The pacing is a little slower than you’d think, making the 2 hour runtime feel a little longer than it actually is. This didn’t bother me at all, I loved how the movie took its time, and the pacing only made some of the seemingly standard scenes with not much going on more tense. Actually re-watching it recently, the pacing wasn’t that slow, but it could be for people who think that the movie is a fast paced thriller. Nonetheless, I was actually quite entertained by the movie and from start to finish I was completely invested in what was going on. It helped that the plot as a whole is actually pretty simple and straightforward but at the same time there’s a lot to dissect thematically. Without spoiling anything, some people do have issues with the way certain things end in the third act, even if they like the rest of the movie. This is mostly to do with the way that one character’s storyline is ended and what is shown (or rather, what’s not shown), as well as the somewhat abrupt last scene. The ending is divisive, even to people who like the movie overall. I can understand people finding it to end way too abruptly and being a little disappointed, underwhelmed and most of all unsatisfied with the scene it ends on, but personally it worked for me. The last scene involves a monologue that you have to sort of interpret its meaning for yourself, given all the themes in the movie, and I’ll just say that it made sense plot-wise and thematically. The whole third act goes in a different direction than most movies with this kind of genre has, and that could turn some people off. Thankfully, I’m not one of those people.

There are some really great performances here, and it helps that the characters are simple, yet well realised. Josh Brolin is also really good as Llewyn Moss, the man who finds some money and is pursed by dangerous people. It may well be one of his best performances. Tommy Lee Jones is used sparingly in this movie as Tom Bell, a sheriff hunting down Anton Chigurh but is used well, very subtle and great performance. Bell is coming to terms with overwhelming forces and changes in his life, and that story arc and development by the end of the movie is one of the most essential parts of the film (and that’s where the title of the movie is relevant). However, the performance which gets the most attention is of course from Javier Bardem, who is absolutely fantastic as Anton Chigurh, the hitman hired to go after Moss and retrieve the money. He is just so subtle and such an dangerous force to be reckoned with, he just doesn’t seem human at all. When he’s on screen, you’re not exactly sure what he’s going to do next. There is such a mystery and ambiguity to him and we don’t really know too much about him as a person, however he doesn’t feel one dimensionally evil or flat either. There is much speculation on whether he’s just a sociopathic hitman, an angel of death, Death himself, there are tons of theories on him. Whatever the case, in this movie Chigurh completely embodies evil that can’t be understood, which is why we don’t know much about him, if he’s a human being with an explanation for why he is the way he is, the characters certainly aren’t going to know about it.

The Coen Brothers’ usually direct their films really well, and No Country for Old Men is no exception. Roger Deakins does the cinematography to this movie, so its no surprise that the film looks great, it is shot with a very gritty and darkly realistic look to it and all around looks beautiful. The violence can come out of nowhere and is portrayed in a shocking way, being rather explosive and graphic. Also adding to the realistic feel is the lack of music, there’s no music played throughout the entirety of the movie (except for one sound effect used in the coin toss scene), in fact the only song you hear is over the end credits. This makes the sound effects even more present, making the atmosphere even more absorbing. Characters could be doing standard, mundane things, but you’re even more drawn to what they are doing. Speaking of which, the sound design is absolutely fantastic, it helps draw us further into the movie.

No Country for Old Men is by far my favourite movie from the Coen Brothers. With their riveting writing and fantastic direction, excellent performances from everyone and the grim and realistic tone throughout, it just really gets everything right. Its slower pacing and the direction of where they took the story made it even better, even though it may turn some people off. I really do think it’s worth checking out for yourself, it’s well deserving of all the acclaim.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Retrospective Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo
Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett
Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra
Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian
Thandie Newton as Val
Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3-37
Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca
Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos
Director: Ron Howard

Before he crossed paths with The Rebellion, Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) was a former Imperial Militant who became a space pirate cruising around the Outer Rim alongside his fellow outlaw: the mighty Wookiee, Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). This is the story of how he came to be known as the galaxy’s most notorious smuggler, and how the man became a legend.

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Solo: A Star Wars Story remains a movie that was just mildly received by fans and critics alike. While some people would chalk that up to disinterest in Star Wars after the backlash to The Last Jedi from the year before, not many people really wanted a young Han Solo movie, and from the trailers it looked generally okay at best. It surprisingly bombed at the box office despite being a Star Wars movie (though they probably should’ve put it in cinemas in December instead of the middle of the year). I liked Solo when I first saw it, and I still like Solo now. However it’s probably the worst movie in the Star Wars series, aside from the first two prequels of course. I wouldn’t say that it does a lot of bad, it’s that it’s mostly just fine, competently made but doesn’t have a lot of great aspects to make it very memorable.

Much of the plot is straightforward and I went along with much of the plot decisions, even some of the weird ones like how Han received his last name of Solo. There are some callbacks which are a little cringeworthy and forced, but I tolerated them. The part that interested me the most about the plot was the part about the criminal underworld, we hadn’t seen that explored in a live action Star Wars movie. I wish there was a little more of that however, you get some but really not enough of that. Ultimately my biggest gripe with the movie was how safe it played everything. The movie is what you’d expect a Han Solo movie to be, but just that. It shows how Han met Chewbacca and Lando, how he got the Millennium Falcon, how he made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs, etc. Now as some people know already, this movie originally had Chris Lord and Phil Miller directing, and part of the reason they were fired was because they were improvising a lot and deviating from the screenplay often. While I can’t say which version would’ve been better, it would’ve at least made things a little more unique at least. The ending with Darth Maul might’ve been fanservice (especially with him randomly igniting his lightsabre during his hologram meeting with Qi’ra for no reason at all), but I genuinely would’ve liked to have seen where it progressed next in future movies.

Alden Ehrenreich ultimately does a good job as young Han Solo, he may not be doing a Harrison Ford impression, but what’s most important is that he nails the essence of a younger version of the beloved character. It’s not an easy task, but I think that Ehrenreich really pulled it off. I feel like this version of Han really suffered from not having follow up movies to progress him. For those who know, Han changed quite a bit in A New Hope, and so his story arc from smuggler to hero was in that movie already. By the end of Solo however, Han is a hero, so it feels like follow up movies would have to make him go backwards so that he’s at the state that he’s in before A New Hope. It’s irksome but you get past that. Woody Harrelson plays Beckett, Han’s mentor, you wouldn’t think it at first but he actually fits the role quite well. Emilia Clarke was quite good here, with her role of Qi’ra being one of the more interesting characters of the movie. With the point that they left off the movie at the end of Solo, I really would’ve like to have seen where the next movie would take her character, with her as the new leader of the Crimson Dawn. Paul Bettany plays Michael K. Williams’s replacement as Dryden Vos. Bettany is clearly having fun with the role, and he’s pretty good, even if it’s just a couple scenes. Still, I would’ve liked to have seen what Michael K. Williams would’ve done in the role. There was much hype with Donald Glover playing Lando Calrissian in the lead up to Solo’s release. Personally I thought he did a very fine impression of Billy Dee Williams. Outside of that there’s not really much to say about the performance, you don’t really get to learn anything about Lando and he doesn’t really leave much of an impression. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s L3-37 character had received criticism from some people, I found her to be just fine. Thandie Newton and Jon Favreau (as a voice) are very brief performers as members of Harrelson’s crew, I guess they play their parts well but they don’t last very long, so they really could’ve cast anyone in these roles and it would’ve worked just as well.

Solo isn’t among his best films, but Ron Howard did direct this well. The visual effects are quite good as to be expected, and the action was entertaining and fast paced. The cinematography by Bradford Young is among the best of the Star Wars movies, there are many parts that looked great. There’s just one problem, at times the lighting was a little too dark for its own good, so there are some parts especially earlier on where it was hard to see what was happening. The score by John Powell worked well enough for the movie.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is relatively decent. It’s mostly directed well, and most of the cast do well in their roles. It’s entertaining for what it is, but it really doesn’t do enough to justify its existence and at the end of the day, was just sort of conventional. If I was to recommend someone watching the whole series, even if it isn’t the worst in the series, I would say that they wouldn’t necessarily be missing out on a lot if they didn’t see Solo. However it’s not a bad watch if you have 2 hours and 15 minutes to spare.

Zombieland: Double Tap (2019) Review

Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Graphic violence, drug use, offensive language & sexual material
Cast:
Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee
Jesse Eisenberg as Columbus
Abigail Breslin as Little Rock
Emma Stone as Wichita
Rosario Dawson as Nevada
Zoey Deutch as Madison
Avan Jogia as Berkeley
Luke Wilson as Albuquerque
Thomas Middleditch as Flagstaff
Director: Ruben Fleischer

Zombie slayers Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) leave the confines of the White House to travel to Graceland in Memphis, Tenn. Along the way, they encounter other post-apocalyptic warriors and a group of survivors who find refuge in a commune. The scrappy fighters must now rely on their wits and weapons more than ever as they soon find themselves in a relentless battle against smarter, faster and seemingly indestructible zombies.

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Zombieland was such a surprise hit upon its release back in 2009, gaining quite the following. A follow up to the original Zombieland has been in development for some time, including a potential tv series, it just seemed like a sequel just wouldn’t happen. 10 years later however, the cast and crew finally return, including director Ruben Fleischer and the 4 main leads. The question was whether Double Tap could capture what the original was, given how long its been since the first movie. It’s more or less the same as the original, a fun zombie road trip comedy with a great cast that play off each other well.

Substance, Zombieland: Double Tap I guess is more of the same. The plot is really nothing special, Tallahassee, Columbus and Wichita just try to find Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), that’s pretty much the story of the movie. Then again what made the original movie work wasn’t the plot, it was the writing and how much fun it was. There’s certainly quite a lot of familiar aspects here, but they actually did a lot more than I thought they would in trying to keep things fresh. They do try to introduce some things, for example there are new zombie types instead of the regular zombies in the first movie. Double Tap is quite funny and entertaining across its hour and 40 minute runtime, all the things you love from the first movie are here. I guess there was one part of the movie where they tried to mislead the audience into thinking something happened, but the joke and twist was kind of obvious. Outside of that I don’t really have any major issues. Definitely stick around for the mid credits, it’s worth the wait for sure.

The main 4 leads return with Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin, and are as usual good and share great chemistry together. It can be very jarring watching them and realising that it’s been 10 years since the first movie in the plot, as it appears that really only Abigail Breslin has aged at all. Woody Harrelson shined in the first movie and he’s also hilarious in the sequel. The weakest of the 4 is definitely Breslin, not that she’s bad but she’s really not given much to do. Despite the plot surrounding the other 3 finding her, she really doesn’t appear a lot in the movie. The supporting cast are also good in their roles. Zoey Deutch from the trailers looked like she’d get annoying really quickly, but she was the standout of the newer cast, providing the first time I’ve seen a ditzy Valley Girl stereotype actually work in a movie. She was genuinely funny and stole all of her scenes. In fact the only annoying part about her was this forced ‘love trianglish’ subplot between her, Eisenberg and Stone which really was not wanted at all. Other supporting actors like Rosario Dawson and Luke Wilson also worked well.

Ruben Fleischer returns to direct and he does well at making the sequel feel bigger. It’s certainly retains the same style from the first movie. The action scenes are well filmed and they’re on a much larger scale. The violence and gore is quite satisfying, and the makeup and effects on the zombies are good, but that’s to be expected.

Although I still feel that it would’ve been much better if it was made 5 years ago (it certainly would’ve had more hype and impact), I still had quite a lot of fun with Zombieland: Double Tap, mostly for the same reasons that I liked the original so much. If you are a fan of the original Zombieland, I’d find it hard to see why you wouldn’t get any sort of enjoyment out of the sequel. If you aren’t such a fan on the other hand, you won’t like the sequel any more.

Zombieland (2009) Review

Time: 86 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence and offensive language.
Cast:
Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee
Jesse Eisenberg as Columbus
Emma Stone as Wichita
Abigail Breslin as Little Rock
Director: Ruben Fleischer

After a virus turns most people into zombies, the world’s surviving humans remain locked in an ongoing battle against the hungry undead. Four survivors — Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and his cohorts Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) — abide by a list of survival rules and zombie-killing strategies as they make their way toward a rumored safe haven in Los Angeles.

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With Zombieland 2 coming later in 2019, I decided to re-watch the first movie. I watched Zombieland years ago and seeing it again more recently reminded me of how entertaining and well made it is for what it is. Director Ruben Fleischer and the cast all do a really good job at making Zombieland a really fun road trip zombie comedy.

Zombieland really is a straight up roadtrip comedy with zombies and for what it is, it’s really good. It gives you likable characters that you can follow and the plot is straightforward and simple enough. The plot is not particularly structured and is just the characters going from place to place and all of that works well. The movie doesn’t really take things too seriously, this is a comedy after all, and all the humour hits really hard. The movie is less than an hour and 30 minutes long and from start to finish its consistently entertaining.

The cast is mainly consisting of the main 4 leads, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin. Jesse Eisenberg is sort of the main character out of the 4, his character as you can expect is a nerdy and socially awkward, which is not usually one of the main characters that you’d expect leading a zombie movie, which makes it stand out more (especially as how he’s genuinally good at surviving with all his rules that he has in place and it actually works well). He does a lot of voiceovers and he does it in his typical Jesse Eisenberg fashion and it really worked. Woody Harrelson in this movie is… Woody Harrelson, and it really works. There’s a self awareness to his performance and character that I think makes his role here rank among some of his best. He’s really entertaining and hilarious, and he definitely steals the scene when he’s on screen. Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin play sisters who later come across Jesse and Woody and they are good as well. The 4 all share great chemistry together and are one among the main parts of why the movie works so well, given that we are with them for the whole movie. Zombieland also contains one of the best cameos in a movie. If you somehow don’t know about it yet, I won’t spoil it.

This still is by far director Ruben Fleischer’s best movie, with Zombieland you can tell that he really has a good understanding of comedy and the zombie genre. Like with Shaun of the Dead (another zombie comedy), despite it being a big budget zombie comedy, they don’t hold back on the gore, it’s as gory as most zombie movies. The effects 10 years later are still top notch and still look pretty good, which was probably achieved through a mix of digital and practical effects along with some makeup, the zombies look like zombies. All the zombie killing is made really fun to watch, there are some really gratifying zombie death scenes. You aren’t really scared throughout any of the movie, even during the zombie attack scenes (unless you aren’t used to seeing any zombie movies), it’s bloody and gory more than anything (not that this was a failure by Fleischer). Zombieland is also really stylised and Fleischer from all this is shown to be great at visual comedy, it’s all edited and put together really well.

Zombieland still today works as a really fun and entertaining zombie comedy and from start to finish. If you haven’t seen Zombieland you really should get around to it, especially before the next movie. I still feel like you might be able to enjoy the movie if you’re not a big zombie fan, it’s not particularly scary, you just have to be okay with seeing a lot of zombies and gore (since its not really scary and is really comedic throughout). I just hope that 10 years later after the first movie, Zombieland 2 can be at the same level as the original.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo
Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett
Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra
Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian
Thandie Newton as Val Beckett
Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3-37
Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca
Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos
Erin Kellyman appears as Enfys Nest
Jon Favreau as Rio Durant
Director: Ron Howard

Young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) finds adventure when he joins a gang of galactic smugglers, including a 196-year-old Wookie named Chewbacca. Indebted to the gangster Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), the crew devises a daring plan to travel to the mining planet Kessel to steal a batch of valuable coaxium. In need of a fast ship, Solo meets Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), the suave owner of the perfect vessel for the dangerous mission — the Millennium Falcon.

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I was cautiously optimistic about Solo: A Star Wars Story. I’m a fan of Star Wars, I like all but 2 in the entire series and I’m open to some new ideas. However, a Han Solo movie felt very unnecessary. Not helping was the fact that the original directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, were fired and were replaced by Ron Howard due to ‘creative differences’. Howard then reshot around 70% of the movie. I went into the movie expecting it to be decent at least, and Solo actually surprised me quite a bit, it was very entertaining. It has a great cast that does well in their roles, a story that worked and was unique, separating itself from the other films in the series despite some faults and Ron Howard’s great direction.

A lot of people have been saying that we don’t really need a Han Solo movie, and even after watching the movie I don’t have the feeling that we really needed a Han Solo movie. But I was nonetheless entertained by what we got. Something that separates Solo from the rest of the Star Wars movies is that it expands the borders of the universe beyond that of the Skywalker Saga(s). It focusses more on the underworld side to Star Wars which is something that we don’t really get to see in live action until now. So in that sense it is expanding the Star Wars universe, so whether or not you like the movie, I do think that this is something worth praising. Another thing that separates Solo from the rest of the Star Wars movies is that it doesn’t feel like a lot is at stake, and I mean that in a good way. The stakes in other Star Wars movies are on such a large scale, with planets being destroyed, rebellions struggling to survive against empires, etc., so it felt refreshing to have a more personal story for a Star Wars movie. On the whole the movie is quite fun and has quite a lot of heart to it. No it’s not as risky as The Last Jedi and so it won’t irritate fans for doing something different (it’ll just irritate fans in other was like every Star Wars film after the 1977 original). Some of the things that establish what we know about Han are here. Things which include Han meeting Chewbacca and Lando, getting the Millennium Falcon and more are here. Some of them worked, others… felt kind of forced and didn’t quite work, in particularly how Han gets the name of Solo. There are rumours about there being sequels and I can confirm that Solo: A Star Wars Story does seem to set up for sequels in the way some things are left at the end of the movie. I wouldn’t mind there are sequels honestly, as long as it can bring something fresh and new to the table. I want to see where certain plotlines are going in, Han’s story as he becomes the character we all know and love and explore different areas of the Star Wars universe. There is one moment of fanservice near the end which I liked but it is rather out of place, and unless they follow up on it in another movie it’s going to be completely pointless. Also, for anyone who only knows Star Wars from the movies, they are probably going to find this moment extremely confusing. You will all know what it is when you watch the movie. Solo is about 2 hours and 15 minutes long and at times you can really feel the runtime. The first act I liked but it is a bit of a rocky start, with it being rather slow to begin with. I still really enjoyed the movie from start to finish but really the pacing is only perfect from the point that the film introduces Lando.

I guess one of the first questions that people have is whether the lead actor exceptionally portrayed the titular character, and the answer is yes. Alden Ehrenreich really works as a young Han Solo, he’s not trying to do a Harrison Ford impression but you can see little bits of Ford in his performance. This really is Han Solo as he is starting out, here he is naïve, and he has a good heart (or at least that aspect is shown more prominently here than in his prior appearances by Harrison Ford). By the end he has changed a little but isn’t quite the Han Solo we first saw in A New Hope, in that sense I feel like there’s more story to be told with this young Han (and I’m completely open to it now). The rest of the talented actors are great as well. Donald Glover was a perfect choice for a younger Lando Calrissian. We don’t actually get to see him as much as you’d think but he is great in his scenes. Emilia Clarke and Woody Harrelson were really good in their roles and are welcome additions to the Star Wars universe. Another stand out performance is that of Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca, Chewbacca in Solo gets to do much more than any of the 6 other Star Wars movies he’s been in. The film shows how him and Han meet and becomes essentiely partners, and you can believe the friendship, despite one of them not speaking a comprehensible language. Other standouts include Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Lando’s droid named L3-37 and a character named Enfys Nest. Some of the other actors like Thandie Newton and Paul Bettany don’t really get to do as much in their roles but they are good in their scenes.

Solo is a fast and exciting movie and Ron Howard’s direction really added something to it. It’s a great looking movie as well, the cinematography by Bradford Young truly blew me away. I was surprised at how beautiful many of the shots were. The CGI was also great, at least on the first viewing there weren’t any out of place/really fake looking CGI. The action scenes are all well directed and are very memorable. The way the camera moves and the smooth direction overall were really effective, whether it be a gun battle, a ship chase or a car chase. An example is a train sequence early in the film which is fast paced, thrilling and exciting. It’s already known that most of the film is Howard’s but as for how much of the film is Lord and Miller’s, I couldn’t really tell, it’s not blatantly obvious as some with other movies with multiple directors. There are probably some moments of humour and dialogue that could possibly be their’s but otherwise nothing stood out on a first viewing. Honestly as bad as the situation was and as much as I hate this happening over creative differences, I am glad that Ron Howard directed it in the end as he did a fantastic job with Solo, and I hope that there he returns to direct the sequels, should they be a thing.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is by no means one of the best Star Wars movies but it is a good one. It’s an exciting sci-fi adventure with Ron Howard’s great direction and the talented actors, and it managed to be a pretty good movie surrounding Han Solo. I would say to give it a chance at least, you may very well end up being surprised by what you see. At the same time I will say to keep your expectations in check, the movie does have some issues, mostly with certain aspects of the story but on the whole, Solo is actually quite good and one of the best surprises of 2018.

Now You See Me 2 (2016) Review

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast: 860940[1] Violence
Mark Ruffalo as Agent Dylan Rhodes
Jesse Eisenberg as J. Daniel Atlas
Woody Harrelson as Merritt McKinney and Chase McKinney
Dave Franco as Jack Wilder
Lizzy Caplan as Lula May
Daniel Radcliffe as Walter Mabry
Morgan Freeman as Thaddeus Bradley
Jay Chou as Li
Sanaa Lathan as Agent Natalie Austin
Michael Caine as Arthur Tressler
Director: Jon M. Chu

After fleeing from a stage show, the illusionists (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson) known as the Four Horsemen find themselves in more trouble in Macau, China. Devious tech wizard Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) forces the infamous magicians to steal a powerful chip that can control all of the world’s computers. Meanwhile, vengeful FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) hatches his own plot against Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), the man he blames for the death of his father.

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I liked the first Now You See Me, its not great by any means but I had a fun time with it. So I had mild expectations when it comes to a sequel, it would probably be entertaining but at the same time it wasn’t really necessary, no one was begging for it to exist. Now You See Me 2 was pretty much what I expected it to be, it is around the same level of quality as the first. It’s pretty entertaining and decent but nothing much more than that.

The first movie didn’t really focus too much on The Four Horsemen, with Mark Ruffalo and Melaine Laurent being the main perspective. This time with the 2nd movie, it is from The Four Horsemen’s and Mark Ruffalo’s perspective. Like with the first movie, the plot isn’t great but it does keep your attention and for the most part it keeps you entertained from start to finish. I wasn’t really ever bored but it’s not a completely riveting plot, I was partially curious as to which direction the story was going in. It does feel like it’s just throwing twists at you, and I’m not sure how well those twists would actually hold up upon repeat viewings but I didn’t have too much issues on my first viewing. Though I have a feeling that I’d probably be able to pick some holes on a second viewing.

The previous cast returns with Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Dave Franco and others and they are still pretty entertaining. Isla Fisher wasn’t able to return for the sequel, so Lizzy Caplan ultimately took her place as the fourth horseman and she did a good job. On a slight note, it was a little rushed how they explained why Fisher wasn’t here, it’s a small aspect but its not movie breaking. One slightly annoying aspect was that in this movie, Woody Harrelson has a twin brother, which is an annoying cliché seen in many movies. He’s not as annoying as he you’d think he would end up being but he is still very distracting and pointless. It was great to see Daniel Radcliffe in a more villainous role and he actually does pull it off quite well, I’d like to see him more in this kind of role. Other actors like Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are nice to see return.

The direction was decent enough. Whereas the original was directed by Louis Leterrier, the sequel was directed by Jon M. Chu and it was about at the same level. Honestly had I not known this prior to watching the movie I probably wouldn’t be able to tell that the two movies were directed by different people, I wouldn’t have noticed it myself. It is quite entertaining to watch the characters perform magic, and that’s an area that the movie really shines in.

As someone who thoroughly enjoyed the first Now You See Me for what it was, I really enjoyed the sequel. I liked seeing these actors here, I was entertained by what was going on, I overall had a good time. This is an entertaining movie but I don’t think I would call it a good movie. If you don’t like the original Now You See Me, you won’t like the sequel, there’s nothing really here that’s going to change your mind. I heard there is going to be a third movie in the franchise, again, its unnecessary but I wouldn’t mind watching it if it actually ends up happening.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) Review

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence, rape themes, suicide & offensive language
Cast:
Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes
Woody Harrelson as Sheriff Bill Willoughby
Sam Rockwell as Officer Jason Dixon
John Hawkes as Charlie Hayes
Peter Dinklage as James
Lucas Hedges as Robbie Hayes
Abbie Cornish as Anne Willoughby
Samara Weaving as Penelope
Caleb Landry Jones as Red Welby
Sandy Martin as Mrs. Dixon
Director: Martin McDonagh

After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case, Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), the town’s revered chief of police. When his second-in-command, Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell) — an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence — gets involved, the battle is only exacerbated.

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was one of my most anticipated films of 2017. On top of having a great cast with Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell, it was Martin McDonagh’s next film, and so that had my undivided attention. His previous movies, In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths were amazing and some of my favourite movies. So understand that it means a lot when I say that Three Billboards is a career best from Martin McDonagh.

Martin McDonagh’s writing is absolutely fantastic, no surprise there. A lot of elements of his style of his writing in his previous films here too. The dialogue is once again pheromonal, ranging from comedic, to shocking and sometimes even heartfelt. Three Billboards is hilarious at times, with comedy often appearing in surprising moments but at the same time the film is quite dark, bleak, and very emotional. Not many people can switch tones on a dime and make it work effectively but McDonagh is one of the few people who can do it. One of the best parts about Three Billboards is that you can’t predict what’s going to happen, which is why I recommend not looking into this movie too much before watching it, I only watched the trailers going in and I was surprised by a lot of things that happened, and I’m not easily surprised. This is a very original screenplay and nothing is in black and white, there are really no heroes or villains here. The characters are well realised and given more depth than you might initially think they have. One thing I know that will definitely divide people is the ending, it was quite abrupt and not quite what I expected, if I was going to compare it to another movie ending, it would be to No Country for Old Men. However, I think that there was a real reason for this decision and something about it made me okay with it, but I will need to think about it more.

Frances McDormand is fantastic here, she’s had many great performances but this is her best performance since Fargo, and it’s possibly better which is saying a lot. She’s likable, tough as nails and really is a force of nature on screen, while maintaining some vulnerability, Mildred Hayes one of the best characters that Martin McDonagh has written. She really was the perfect actress for the role, I can’t seen anyone else playing her. Woody Harrelson’s performance as the chief of police who McDormand’s Mildred is calling out shouldn’t be overlooked either. His performance here is very nuanced and emotional, this is some of the most emotional work that Harrelson has done and he really is great. Sam Rockwell is quite an underrated and great actor, so its no surprise that he gives an excellent performance here, but this might also be one of the best performances he’s ever given. He plays a racist, dim-witted, violent and unstable cop. On top of having to be both hilarious and vile, he’s also got to have this unexpected arc (which I won’t go too deep into) and all I’ll have to say is that Rockwell was remarkable and pulls it off. Other actors like John Hawkes, Sandy Martin, Peter Dinklage, Lucas Hedges and Caleb Landry Jones all do great jobs and each have their moments to shine.

Martin McDonagh’s direction of Three Billboards overall is good. The direction isn’t really the highlight or focus of the movie but McDonagh does the best he can to make it the best it can be. The cinematography was good, complimenting the performances and writing while never overshadowing them. Carter Burwell’s score also fits perfectly with the movie, it’s there when it needs to be there to and at the right moments. The only out of place thing in terms of the direction was at one point there was an obviously looking CGI deer, that took me out of the movie a bit but that’s just in one scene.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is absolutely fantastic. The performances were amazing, especially from Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell and it’s Martin McDonagh’s phenomonal writing and direction that makes it all fit together to make a remarkable movie. Hilarious, shocking, dark and emotional, Three Billboards is one of my all times favourite movies of 2017.

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) Review

Time: 140 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and content that may disturb
Cast:
Andy Serkis as Caesar
Steve Zahn as Bad Ape
Karin Konoval as Maurice
Terry Notary as Rocket
Ty Olsson as Red
Woody Harrelson as The Colonel
Amiah Miller as Nova
Director: Matt Reeves

Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless colonel (Woody Harrelson). After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both of their species and the future of the planet.

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War for the Planet of the Apes was one of my most anticipated films of 2017. Director Matt Reeves did an excellent job with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the sequel to the surprising Rise of the Planet of the Apes. So naturally, I was excited for what was to come. I am happy to say that War for the Planet of the Apes was even better than I thought it would be. Matt Reeves again delivers on making a compelling film in this series and has truly crafted something special.

This movie probably shouldn’t have been called War for the Planet of the Apes, despite the trailer and the title its not really a war movie, its not an action movie either. There is only a couple of major action sequences, the rest of the film is a drama and I have to give Reeves credit for being willing enough to go much deeper with the story, instead of making the film bigger and more actiony just because its the conclusion of the trilogy. This film is also even darker than Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, its very bleak with only a few bright spots. The stakes are more personal and it focusses heavily on Caesar, it’s the most character driven story out of all the Apes movies. Rise and Dawn partially focussed on the humans along with the apes and because they weren’t as interesting as the apes, their segments felt weaker in comparison. War doesn’t have this problem, it’s almost always focussed on the apes (particularly Caesar) and you care about every moment. This film is slower paced and it is long, at 2 hours and 20 minutes. But it really does work in the film’s favour and helps to tell the story. The story of War for the Planet of the Apes may not be what you’d expect it to be (without spoiling anything) but I can’t imagine it being any better. Absolutely everything in this movie is perfect, Reeves again has made me emotionally attached to a movie about apes, not an easy task.

Andy Serkis is absolutely phenomenal as Caesar, honestly this is the best I’ve seen him in a movie. It’s been great seeing him evolve as a character from Rise, to Dawn and now War. This movie is Caesar’s story. Most of the main characters are apes and all of them are great, a standout (like in the previous movies) being Karin Konoval’s character Maurice. There is a new character, with Bad Ape played by Steve Zahn, who I guess you could call the comic relief of the film. This movie is very bleak, with only some instances of humour, and Bad Ape takes up the majority of the humour. This character could’ve gone so wrong, becoming annoying or distracting but that’s not the case. He’s an genuinely entertaining and likable character and Zahn did a great job. There are only a couple of noteworthy human characters. One of them is Amiah Miller as a mute girl, she did a really great job in her role, especially when she interacted with the apes. The other is Woody Harrelson as The Colonel. He works well as a threatening antagonist but at the same time is given some depth and has some motivations for what he does.

Rise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes had great special effects and War for the Planet of the Apes has effects that are even better. The special effects are incredible, at no point does the CGI feel fake. I’m especially talking about the motion capture work for the apes, most of the characters are apes and all of them are look incredibly convincing. War for the Planet of the Apes has some of the best motion capture in a film ever. There isn’t a massive amount of action (really just two major sequences) but whenever it happens it is done excellently. Michael Giaachino has a bit of a reputation of making passable but forgettable scores, however his score here is actually pretty good, and really adds to the movie. Matt Reeves’s direction of this movie is overall perfect, there’s nothing I have an issue with really.

War for the Planet of the Apes is not just one of the best films of the year, it is also one of the best blockbusters in recent years. The fantastic direction by Matt Reeves, the excellent performances (particularly from Andy Serkis), and the deep and complex story truly make this an incredible movie. I will say for those going in, keep in mind is that it’s a full on drama, don’t go in expecting an action film. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has a mix of drama and action, War for the Planet of the Apes is a drama. Matt Reeves did a great job with this film, I don’t know how it could be any better. I don’t know whether there will be any more sequels but if this the final instalment to the franchise, then it’s a fantastic conclusion to one of the best film trilogies ever.

The Hunger Games (2012) Review

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The Hunger Games

Time: 142 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen
Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark
Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne
Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy
Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket
Lenny Kravitz as Cinna
Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow
Director: Gary Ross

Set in a future North America known as “Panem”, the Capitol selects a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each of the twelve outlying districts to compete in the annual “Hunger Games”, a televised fight-to-the-death. The film is centred on Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) – a 16-year-old girl from District 12, who volunteers for her 12-year-old sister, Prim, when Prim’s name is chosen – and Katniss’s fellow District 12 tribute, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), with whom she has some rather dramatic history. Katniss is then rushed to the Capitol, where she undergoes intense training before being thrust into the arena to fight to become the victor of the seventy-fourth annual Hunger Games.

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The Hunger Games is a decent movie and is much better than some of the other young adult book adaptations. However I do think that it is a little overrated. Although the acting is good and the writing is decent, the story wasn’t always engrossing and the action scenes are filmed shakily. Catching Fire greatly improved over the first film but The Hunger Games is still by no means a bad movie. It’s still worth watching if you haven’t seen it already but I don’t think it’s as great as others had said it was.

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I wasn’t completely sucked into the story but it was easy to follow and I was interested in what was going on. The movie was well balanced, with its character developing moments and the action. I also should probably give The Hunger Games credit for having a much darker tone than most young adult book movies. One problem I had with the movie that I wasn’t entirely attached to these characters (except for Katniss), so when certain things happened to them, (for example when certain people died) I didn’t really feel anything for them. I also didn’t really buy the forced love subplot between Katniss and Peeta, it comes out of nowhere, but that’s just a minor flaw of the movie.

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Jennifer Lawrence is great as Katniss, and is by far the most interesting character in the whole movie, which is funny when you consider the fact that Katniss really isn’t an interesting character. All of this comes from Lawrence’s performance, she makes her character interesting and believable. The rest of the cast like Josh Hutcherson and Woody Harrelson do quite well in their roles but I didn’t really remember them as much as Jennifer Lawrence. A problem I had was that some of the other children in the Hunger Games were just one dimensional and generically evil, but I think that’s more of a fault in the writing.

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The action of the film is the worst element of the film and it’s not because it’s poorly set up or anything because I like a lot of the ideas that they had. It’s all to do with the cinematography. It is so shaky and can get very annoying and incomprehensible. The cinematography of the rest of the scenes does look quite good. While I do take issue with the cinematography during the action scenes, the areas do look quite nice and authentic.

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The Hunger Games is a decent film which spawned a lot of other young adult adaptations, some of them better than others. This film doesn’t always succeed, its story wasn’t always interesting and the action scenes are at times incomprehensible. Despite its flaws, I still say it’s still worth watching if you haven’t seen it before. However Catching Fire improved upon this movie and fixed a lot of the issues that this film had, resulting in a great and much better movie.

Natural Born Killers (1994)

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Natural Born Killers

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence
Cast:
Woody Harrelson as Mickey Knox
Juliette Lewis as Mallory Knox
Tom Sizemore as Jack Scagnetti
Robert Downey Jr. as Wayne Gale
Tommy Lee Jones as Dwight McClusky
Director: Oliver Stone

Delivery boy Mickey Knox (Woody Harrelson) falls in love with customer Mallory Wilson (Juliette Lewis). He helps her kill her parents and began their journey down Route 666. Every few miles, they attack everyone within their sight, sparing one person to tell the tale. They are made famous by reporter Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr.), while being pursued by the equally sadistic Jack Scagnetti.

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Oliver Stone is known for controversy in his films and Natural Born Killers is no exception. This film is quite polarizing; I don’t think everyone who watches this movie will like it. For me, it is a great showcase of acting, writing from Oliver Stone and satire. The style may be distracting but Natural Born Killers does have some elements that are great that are worth noting.

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This film is a satire of the media, public opinion, and the modern attitude toward violence (you really need to know that before watching it) and I think Oliver Stone did a pretty good job at delivering in that aspect. One of the elements of the satire is the fact that these serial killers are killing a lot of people and are being made famous by the media, so famous in fact, that they seem to be celebrities among some people. These two main characters are Bonnie and Clyde of the 90s if they were serial killers. This film also has an unconventional plot, along with it being about two serial killers; the plot mostly just follows them, whether that is the past or present. The first act of this movie was pretty good; it established these two characters and their relationship well. In the second act though my interest started decreasing, that point was when I started to find the style quite distracting as well, the film also slowed down quite a bit. The third act however picks up greatly, I won’t spoil what happens but it’s quite exciting and is even better than the first act. Another thing to mention is the fact that a lot of the characters aren’t that likable. Along with Mickey and Mallory (obviously) a lot of other characters are often quite despicable. Sometimes even some of the people that Mickey and Mallory aren’t that likable, with an exception to a few people. This isn’t a flaw with the movie; it’s just worth mentioning it.

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The acting is superb from everyone. Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis are really believable as these two serial killers who are in love and they really shine in their scenes. Robert Downey Jr. isn’t in the movie a lot but when he’s on screen is absolutely fantastic in his role. Tommy Lee Jones is also seen for a small part near the end of the movie and like Downey Jr., he really makes use of every second of screen time that he has.

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The style is very interesting to say the least. Sometimes the camera filters are a different colour, sometimes it is shot on an angle, and sometimes it cuts to some surreal images; it feels like you are on an acid trip. For the first half of the movie I accepted it and I was okay with it as it seemed to fit with the movie. But at the half way point, this style started to be quite distracting to me. I know that a lot of people loved the style: I thought it was good but for me, it got a little tiring after a while, you really need to prepare yourself for this type of movie.

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Natural Born Killers isn’t a movie that everyone will enjoy. Its style may be distracting, the fact that it’s following characters that aren’t likable (even some of the side characters aren’t that good either) or it might be the violence might repel some people. If you feel like you may like this movie, check it out but be ready for what you are going to see. You’ll either love it or hate it.