Tag Archives: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Ambulance (2022) Review

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Ambulance

Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Jake Gyllenhaal as Danny Sharp
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Will Sharp
Eiza González as EMT Cam Thompson
Director: Michael Bay

Needing money to cover his wife’s medical bills, a decorated veteran teams up with his adoptive brother to steal $32 million from a Los Angeles bank. However, when their getaway goes spectacularly wrong, the desperate thieves hijack an ambulance that’s carrying a severely wounded cop and an EMT worker. Caught in a high-speed chase, the two siblings must figure out a way to outrun the law while keeping their hostages alive.

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I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest Michael Bay fan, but I liked the movies that I saw from him. Ambulance is his latest movie, starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jake Gyllenhaal. From the trailers, it looked like it could be a lot of fun, so I went into it open minded. While I do have my issues with the movie, I really enjoyed it, even more than I expected to.

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This is definitely Michael Bay’s take on a heist movie, you feel it through and through and that’s what made it stand out for me. The story and script are fairly simple and nothing original, it isn’t one of the best of the genre. The plot can be predictable, and the writing can be cheesy, especially with the dialogue. As you can expect with this being a Bay movie, it’s over the top and implausible, even outside of the action and destruction. There are particularly some moments involving surgery which are laughably farfetched. However, it’s approached in a certain way that these silly moments make it fun to watch, it clearly isn’t aiming for realism. In some ways its comparable to some of the action movies from the 80s and 90s. There is also a sense of self-awareness to it, even having a scene where it references two of Michael Bay’s own movies. There is a good amount of humour and quirky characters (some of them are hit or miss), but it’s also Michael Bay’s most emotional movie, especially with the stories of the main three characters. It is a bit overlong at 2 hours and 15 minutes, it would’ve be better if it was cut down a little. While everything involving the main trio of characters are captivating, the unnecessary flashbacks and the amount of time focused on the random supporting characters definitely pads out the runtime. From the moment that the characters get on the ambulance, the movie doesn’t stop. I will say though that before the actual heist, the pacing is a bit too slow.

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I thought that the performances are quite good. Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II play 2 bank robbers and brothers and are very good in their parts. Gyllenhaal is wonderfully unhinged and insane in his part, giving it a lot of energy. Yahya is great as a guy who gets stuck in the situation and conveys his desperation greatly. Eiza Gonzalez completes this trio of main characters as an EMT caught up in the heist as a hostage while trying to keep someone alive in the ambulance. She really is the heart and soul of the movie, she gets a lot to do here. She goes through her own arc, and she pulls it off convincingly; it’s the best acting work and role I’ve seen for her. There’s also a fair amount of decent supporting performances in their memorable roles. While there is a bit too much screentime given to them, they are fun.

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You can definitely tell that this is a Michael Bay movie with his direction. I have to say, it is nice to see a blockbuster released these days where you can actually feel the filmmaker’s style throughout.  While Bay’s trademarks and habits do make expected appearances, Ambulance is comparatively restrained, and it works. The budget is fairly modest compared to most modern blockbusters at $40 million, yet it is better directed and unique than most modern blockbusters. The cinematography might not work for some people, there is an overuse of handheld cameras, but I liked it. Something that’s definitely present throughout is the use of drones for filming action. It’s not just a substitute for helicopter shots of the city. Along with floating and dropping the camera around the city, the camera zooms in and around the action as the carnage unfolds. The drone work is spectacular, you even see the drone fly under a car as its going over a ramp at one point. It’s a Michael Bay movie, so as you would expect the action is over the top and no one does destruction like him. The action is intense, and there’s a lot of violence end destruction. There’s plenty of high speed chases (90% of the movie is a chase) with car rolls, shootouts and explosions. At times the chaos can be a bit too much but I’m glad for it. Another thing that helps is Lorne Balfe’s composed score which elevates the tension. All these technical elements came together to make for a satisfying cinema experience for me.

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Ambulance certainly won’t work for everyone, especially for those who strongly dislike Michael Bay’s style. But I for one thoroughly enjoyed it. It does have its issues, mostly with the writing. It could’ve been shorter, some of it is a bit messy and at times it is too implausible for its own good (even if I enjoy it for that). However, the performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul Mateen II and Eiza Gonzalez as well as Michael Bay’s unique direction, style and action made this for an enjoyable movie. For what it’s worth, it’s one of Bay’s best movies.

The Matrix Resurrections (2021) Review

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The Matrix Resurrections

Time: 148 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as Thomas Anderson/Neo
Carrie-Anne Moss as Tiffany/Trinity
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Morpheus
Jessica Henwick as Bugs
Jonathan Groff as Smith
Neil Patrick Harris as The Analyst
Priyanka Chopra Jonas as Sati
Jada Pinkett Smith as Niobe
Director: Lana Wachowski

To find out if his reality is a physical or mental construct, Mr. Anderson, aka Neo, will have to choose to follow the white rabbit once more. If he’s learned anything, it’s that choice, while an illusion, is still the only way out of — or into — the Matrix. Neo already knows what he has to do, but what he doesn’t yet know is that the Matrix is stronger, more secure and far more dangerous than ever before.

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I really didn’t know what to expect from The Matrix Resurrections. I had previously watched the original trilogy some time ago, but I only just liked those movies and I wasn’t such a huge fan of them (even when it comes to the original). Then I watched the trailers for Resurrections and my interest shot up immediately, compelling me to revisit the original trilogy right before the new film. In my more recent rewatches of the trilogy I found that I was liking it a lot more, especially the sequels despite how divisive they were. So I was looking forward to the latest instalment, and I’m happy to say that Resurrections delivered in what I was hoping.

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Something you’ll see in every review for The Matrix Resurrections is the word ‘meta’, and the film is definitely very meta. I won’t go into detail as to the specifics of the plot, its worth checking out for yourself. However a noticeable part of it is very much is a commentary on IP culture and the commodification and exploitation of IP, as well as criticising blockbusters (mainly reboots). While some might consider the self-aware aspects annoying, I actually loved them, and it’s a very bold addition. In a way you could make a comparison between Resurrections and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. In a sense, some of the meta aspects are dropped once it leaves its first act and becomes more of a continuation of the Matrix story, though honestly the meta aspects could’ve felt tired when pushed longer so it was probably for the best. The second act is admittedly on the slower side and not quite as strong as the first or third acts, but I was nonetheless engaged with what was happening. Then it moves into its third act which I found incredibly gratifying and satisfying to watch.

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Something that I admire about the Wachowskis is that they are making the movies that they want to make and not really catering to the audience, which is most evident in their sequels with Reloaded, Revolutions, and now Resurrections. This is something that’s established from the meta first act, and Resurrections is essentially the creators reclaiming their franchise nearly 20 years later. While there is some nostalgia including references and returning characters, its still very much a personal movie with lots to say, and is very heartfelt and sincere. This is the most emotionally charged of the four films by far, from the emotional core of the story with Neo and Trinity, to just the feeling behind the whole film. As typical of it being a Matrix movies, there are a lot of themes at play. Along with the commentary and deconstruction of IP cinema, it still maintains the metaphors and themes of the original trilogy including systems and identity. Themes aside, Resurrections still does find a way to build upon the lore and continue the story in a way that I was satisfied with. While it certainly establishes some things which could be built upon in future films, I’m actually very comfortable with Resurrections being the conclusion of the whole series.

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I really liked the acting in the movie, everyone was really good in their part. Keanu Reeves in this movie isn’t only his best performance in a Matrix movie, but one of his best performances in general. He’s good throughout but he’s particularly great in the first act. Carrie-Anne Moss also returns as Trinity, and she was also great. She’s not in the movie as much as you’d expect, especially when it’s a movie about her and Neo, but she’s really good in her screentime. My biggest criticism of the first Matrix movie is that the central romance came out of nowhere at the end and wasn’t convincing. The sequels fixed this and made it believable, and Resurrections is no exception. While you don’t see Trinity as much as you would like, their connection is nonetheless a vital part of the movie and the essential emotional core. This movie very much builds off their established connection into something more, and for what its worth, Reeves and Moss have the best chemistry here out of the four movies, and they feel very believable.  The new additions to the cast were great too, mainly Jessica Henwick as Bugs and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Morpheus, or rather a new Morpheus. Addressing the elephant in the room, there is an explanation as to while the real Morpheus as played by Laurence Fishburne isn’t here. I like how Yahya doesn’t try to replicate Fishburne and is very much doing his own thing. Neil Patrick Harris was probably the biggest surprise in the movie. He plays Keanu’s psychologist known as The Analyst, but he has a far greater role in the movie, and proved to be a very different kind of antagonist compared to Smith. Speaking of Smith, that role this time is played by Jonathan Groff. While it definitely is disappointing not seeing Hugo Weaving reprise his role, Groff’s version is nonetheless interesting to watch, especially with how different he is. He doesn’t try to replicate Weaving and that really was for the best, and he’s wonderfully chewing up the scenery. There are also some welcome return actors and characters like Jada Pinkett Smith and Lambert Wilson in their roles.

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Lana Wachowski, one half of the Wachowski sisters, returns to direct the next Matrix movie. I thought her work here was great. It’s certainly feels very different stylistically to The Matrix which some might take issue with. But I feel like its less like she lost her Matrix touch and more like her filmmaking style has evolved since 18 years ago, and I appreciate how it feels very different rather than trying to recapture the original trilogy’s style. The cinematography is great, it certainly feels very different than the first three movies with the colour pallet and style, but I loved it, especially with the use of colour. The visual effects are fantastic too, and it’s quite something seeing a Matrix movie in the 2020s with modern technology. Watching is on the big screen was an incredible experience. The biggest complaint that some people will have is about the action, and the action is one of the most known parts of the movies. To be blunt, aside from one or two sequences, the action in Resurrections doesn’t rank amongst the best action of the franchise, there’s not much like the Freeway Chase in Reloaded or the final battle between Neo and Smith in Revolutions. There’s also not that many action scenes in the film. With that being said, I do like the action, and there are some moments in the third act which really stand out. In saying that, the action definitely isn’t a focus point compared to the previous three movies. Lana Wachowski is clearly more interested in the themes, plot and character and I respect that. The score from Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer is great, very reminiscent of Don Davis’s score from the original trilogy, with the same feel and atmosphere. It really elevates the action scenes particularly.

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The Matrix Resurrections is one of the most ambitious and creative blockbusters I’ve seen in a while. It’s meta and nostalgic while having enough changes to feel fresh for the franchise. Its entertaining, subversive, bold but also personal and heartfelt, with an enthralling story and is excellently directed. Resurrections is already proving itself to be an incredibly divisive movie. If you aren’t such a fan of the Matrix sequels you might not be into it. But for what its worth, as someone who loves the Matrix sequels, I loved this film and its one of my all-time favourite movies from 2021.

Candyman (2021) Review

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Candyman (2021)

Time: 91 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, horror, suicide & content that may disturb
Cast:
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy
Teyonah Parris as Brianna “Bri” Cartwrigh
Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as Troy Cartwright
Colman Domingo as William “Billy” Burke
Vanessa Williams as Anne-Marie McCoy
Director: Nia DaCosta

For decades, the housing projects of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green were terrorized by a ghost story about a supernatural, hook-handed killer. In present day, an artist (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) begins to explore the macabre history of Candyman, not knowing it would unravel his sanity and unleash a terrifying wave of violence that puts him on a collision course with destiny.

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I was looking forward to the new Candyman movie, the original film was a horror classic and for very good reason. The 2021 film had some very talented people involved from Jordan Peele as one of the writers, to Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as the lead actor, and I really liked the looks from the trailers. I went into it not really knowing what to expect, and while I definitely have issues, I do like it on the whole.

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Before watching Candyman (2021) I highly recommend watching the original Candyman released in 1992, because there’s callbacks and references which won’t hit the same way if you haven’t seen it. This latest Candyman is very much a sequel set decades later, and you’ll get more out of it if you’ve seen the first film (on top of it being a really good film that’s well worth seeing). Plotwise the premise is initially similar as the protagonist is trying to uncover the local legend of the Candyman. It starts off well with a good setup, so I had a good feeling about it initially. I liked the horror elements, and I particularly liked how it made an effort to build upon the mythology of the Candyman as established in the original. However I have to say that overall the script has a lot of issues and is easily the thing that holds the film back from being great. First of all, the actual writing is mixed with some wonky dialogue, out of place humour and generally dull characters. Storywise it is a bit of a mess too, I wouldn’t say I was bored but there were some dull moments. The film introduces a lot of subplots but they don’t go anywhere and most of them aren’t concluded properly. The same goes for the character arcs, its almost like the film is a bit rushed or cut down. By the end much of the story felt underdeveloped and the conclusion was rushed, and so I felt unsatisfied. Candyman 2021 is way too short at 90 minutes long, it should’ve been much longer to flesh things out.

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Another aspect of the writing worth talking about is the themes. Like the original film there’s a lot of social and political commentary, and I was interested how the movie would handle them. The 2021 film has  some particularly timely and relevant themes its working with, including gentrification and police brutality. Unfortunately the way they handled the themes was a bit messy to say the least. It’s very blunt and on the nose, and it’s not inherently bad to be less subtle about it. However it’s to the degree where the film tells the audience about the themes. Candyman (2021) is definitely more into telling over showing. Instead of allowing the audience to interpret the themes of the film, it has characters literally talk about them. Not only that but they try to cram so many ideas into this one movie (a particularly short movie at that) and while that is certainly bold and ambitious, it doesn’t really succeed. By the end it touches on a lot of topics but doesn’t really explore them or end up saying much by the end, which was disappointing.

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There’s some good acting in this film. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is in the lead role here, and he’s great as to be expected. Teyonah Parris was good in her part, Colman Domingo was also good, although his character’s arc felt cut short. Outside of those three however, there’s some bad supporting roles and weak side performances.

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This is the first movie I’ve seen from Nia DaCosta, but she’s definitely shown herself to be a great filmmaker here. The film is visually striking and stunning with beautiful cinematography and camerawork. Some of the best scenes of the movie were sequences that made use of cutout puppetry animation, often used for exposition, I loved the presentation of them. It does a fairly decent job at building up its atmosphere and tension. The horror is great with some well staged death scenes, although the use of CGI is a little distracting. Finally the score is eerie and haunting, really setting an effective mood throughout.

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Candyman (2021) is in some ways rather disappointing. It had some good ideas but with its script it felt both overstuffed and undercooked, and it is holding back much of the film. With that said I still think it’s good, from the main performances to Nia DaCosta’s impressive direction. If you watched the original Candyman and liked it, I do think this new film is worth checking out.

Watchmen (2019) TV Review

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Watchmen

Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Regina King as Angela Abar/Sister Night
Don Johnson as Judd Crawford
Tim Blake Nelson as Wade Tillman/Looking Glass
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Calvin “Cal” Abar
Andrew Howard as Red Scare
Jacob Ming-Trent as Panda
Tom Mison as Mr. Phillips
Sara Vickers as Ms. Crookshanks
Dylan Schombing as Christopher “Topher” Abar
Louis Gossett Jr. as Will Reeves
Jeremy Irons as Adrian Veidt
Jean Smart as Laurie Blake
Hong Chau as Lady Trieu
Creator: Damon Lindelof

When masked vigilantes are treated as criminals by government agencies, some band together to start a mutiny while others aim to stop it before it yields chaos.

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I had heard about HBO’s Watchmen for some time, and I’ve been meaning to watch it. I read the graphic novel, and I’m a big fan of the Zack Snyder movie. It was hard to imagine what a follow up to the graphic novel would look like. The end result was not what I expected at all, and yet was more than welcome. HBO’s Watchmen is incredibly bold and ambitious, incredible on just about all fronts, and is one of my favourite TV shows in recent years.

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I’ll do my best to talk about the show without spoiling anything. First of all, something to address is the source material itself. HBO’s Watchmen is a sequel to Alan Moore’s acclaimed graphic novel Watchmen. If you read the original graphic novel, then you’re all set for this show. If you haven’t, I’d recommend reading it. However if you really aren’t into reading comic books or graphic novels, the simplest alternate way to get up to speed thoroughly would be to check out the 2009 movie (director’s cut preferably), and afterwards looking up the differences between that and the novel, especially with the ending. The reason why I say this is that despite much of HBO’s Watchmen’s story being standalone, the world it exists in is very specific and strange. So it really pays to have some level of familiarity with it, not to mention many major aspects of the plot from the original story are significant parts here. Now you could go into it completely blind and still enjoy it, but having that background definitely adds something to the show. With all that being said, HBO’s Watchmen still manages to be a standalone story. It’s in tune with the nature of the original comic, it’s very much in that world and there are a couple of characters from the original Watchmen story who make appearances. However, it is its own thing and doesn’t just ride off the success of the source material.

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The writing throughout the show was great, I was riveted throughout all 9 episodes. There are fully realised characters with depth and motivations, the dialogue is great, and the plotlines were fascinating. Before going into the show, I did hear about how Watchmen started slow and how some people had to persist through it before it hooked them. I wouldn’t say that its that slow, the early episodes are establishing the characters and with setting up the overarching mysteries and questions of the show. I was intrigued with the characters and plotlines, and I was satisfied with the answers that were given at the end of the story. With that said, some parts of the show might be confusing for the most part, but by the end everything becomes clear. Some of the structures of the episodes can be disjointed with regards to the narrative, but I found that the risks actually worked quite well. It clearly has no interest in pleasing a mainstream audience, and really commits to the strangeness, which I’m glad they did. The sociopolitical commentary, thought provoking themes and the connections to real life events were quite effective and notable aspects of the show. The original Watchmen story was a take on American exceptionalism, the show carries almost a similar take, this time on white nationalism. It spends time investigating America’s racist heritage and handles relevant real-life issues like racism, white nationalism and generational trauma, and I thought it handled it well. It’s not subtle at all, but I loved it for that. This show even opens with the Tulsa Massacre of the early 1920s, an event that some Americans today didn’t learn about until they watched the show. If there’s any problems I have, it’s just that there are some characters that I liked that I would’ve liked to have seen more of, specifically Tim Blake Nelson’s Looking Glass, and Jean Smart’s Laurie Blake. Each of them have an episode more focusing on them and they really shine, especially Looking Glass, who I found one of the best characters of the show. However it’s not really their stories, so it’s not too much of a flaw. So far, another season hasn’t been announced for Watchmen, but honestly I though it ended quite well and I’m not sure where they’d go from here if they were to continue the season. I’m satisfied with the point they ended the show on.

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The cast are all great, every character is memorable and the casting for each was perfect. Regina King plays the lead character, and she’s incredible in her part from beginning to end. She conveys an incredible amount of emotion and energy into her performance. It’s not just her though, the likes of Tim Blake Nelson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jean Smart, Jeremy Irons Louis Gossett Jr., Don Johnson and Hong Chau are all exceptional in their roles.

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Each of the episodes are directed very well. The cinematography is great and visually stunning, and this show is full of impressive and memorable shots. The use of colour is particularly great, some of the shots are definitely inspired by the framing of some panels in the original graphic novel. All of the show is well made but one of the stand out episodes was episode 6, which is a flashback episode. Not going to give too much away but there are so many stylistic choices made which was outstanding and added a lot . It’s not really an action show, but the moments of action are directed quite well. One of the most standout elements of the show on a technical level is the electronic score from Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, which is extraordinary and heightens many of the show’s best moments. The pair have composed plenty of outstanding scores for movies and tv, but this has to be one of their best works to date.

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HBO’s Watchmen is fantastic, audacious and gripping from beginning to end. The cast are perfect on their parts, the writing is fantastic, and it’s an incredible continuation of the Watchmen source material. I’d recommend doing whatever you need to do to get up to speed with the original story and jump right into this show as soon as you can. It’s one of the best pieces of live action comic book media I’ve ever seen.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) Review

The Trial of the Chicago 7

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Strong coarse language
Cast:
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Deale
Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman
Daniel Flaherty as John Froines
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Richard Schultz
Michael Keaton as Ramsey Clark
Frank Langella as Judge Julius Hoffman
John Carroll Lynch as David Dellinger
Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden
Noah Robbins as Lee Weiner
Mark Rylance as William Kunstler
Alex Sharp as Rennie Davis
Jeremy Strong as Jerry Rubin
Director: Aaron Sorkin

The story of 7 people on trial stemming from various charges surrounding the uprising at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.

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The Trial of the Chicago 7 was one of my most anticipated movies of 2020. The cast alone had my interest, with the likes of Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Eddie Redmayne and more involved. Then there’s the writer and director Aaron Sorkin, who’s the writer behind fantastic scripts for The Social Network and Steve Jobs. Not only that, but the event it’s based on has a lot of potential for a great movie, with it being quite significant and infamous. This film had been in development for quite some time, Sorkin wrote the script in 2007 and it had been passed around to other directors before finally he decided to direct it himself. The Trial of the Chicago 7 ended up being a really great movie and I loved watching it from beginning to end.

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One of the strongest parts of the film no surprise is Aaron Sorkin’s script. It has all the things you’d expect from his writing, snappy and captivating dialogue, a fast pace, and memorable moments. I was actively captivated throughout, Sorkin does very well at locking you in with what’s happening from beginning to end. Much of the movie is a courtroom drama, and this certainly ranks among the best courtroom dramas from recent years. There are some very strong parallels to current events with regard to protests, police brutality and the like (even when the story takes place in the late 60s), and there are many impactful moments. You can get quite frustrated with some of what happens during the trial, and this really showed the movie’s effectiveness. Some people have complained about Sorkin’s ‘Sorkinisms’ in this movie, with some of the dialogue choices and especially with how he chose to represent certain events on screen, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t get some of the criticisms. There are definitely moments that didn’t happen like that in real life. The ending especially is such a feel good ending that might actually be too much for some people, it’s one of those scenes from biopics where you don’t even need to read up on the real life events to tell that it never happened. I would’ve liked to have seen a darker and more accurate representation of events for sure. Then again this is Sorkin, and we’ve come to expect this from him.

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There’s a massive ensemble cast for this movie, and everyone is great on their parts. I’ll start with my favourites from the film. Sacha Baron Cohen and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II were the scene-stealers for me. Yahya particularly had such a screen presence and does so much in his screentime, I just wish we got more scenes of him because he was truly fantastic. Another standout performance was from Mark Rylance, who is also great as the lawyer defending the Chicago 7. Eddie Redmayne plays really the lead of the movie, he’s the character who goes through the most development over the course of the movie. It’s certainly a different performance from him, but it’s a surprisingly effective performance, and particularly plays off Cohen very well. The rest of the Chicago 7 were acted well by actors like John Caroll Lynch and Jeremy Strong. Other performances were also great, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the federal prosecutor, Michael Keaton as an attorney general in an important role later in the story, as well as Frank Langella as the judge.

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As many people will say, Aaron Sorkin the writer is way better than Aaron Sorkin the director. I did like his first film Molly’s Game, but it showed that he still had a way to go as a filmmaker. His work on Trial of the Chicago 7 is definitely a step above his first movie. The strongest part of the movie on a technical level is the editing, which really works in favour of the script. This is particularly the case in the opening 10 minutes which efficiently sets up and explains so many things that happened prior to the event that sparked the trial. Additionally in the script there are many flashforward and flashback scenes, and while it could’ve been disorientating, Sorkin really pulled it off and made it effective. With all that being said, whenever Sorkin’s scripts are made into movies by top tier directors like David Fincher and Danny Boyle, they brought the scripts to another level to create fantastic films. If Trial of the Chicago 7 was given to someone of that caliber, it probably would’ve been even better. Still, I would say the direction was good. The score by Daniel Pemberton is also good, not amongst his all time best work, but it worked really well for this movie.

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The Trial of the Chicago 7 is currently one of my favourite movies of the year. It felt like an inspiring courtroom thriller made in the 90s, and I mean that in the best way possible. The timely, entertaining and engaging story, the fantastic script and outstanding acting alone makes it really worth watching.

Aquaman (2018) Review

Time: 143 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Fantasy violence
Cast:
Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman
Amber Heard as Mera
Willem Dafoe as Nuidis Vulko
Patrick Wilson as Orm Marius/Ocean Master
Dolph Lundgren as Nereus
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as David Kane/Black Manta
Nicole Kidman as Atlanna
Temuera Morrison as Thomas Curry
Director: James Wan

Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) learns that he is the heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, and must step forward to lead his people and be a hero to the world.

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Aquaman was one of my most anticipated movies of 2018. I’m a fan of most of the DCEU and despite my thoughts on Justice League, Jason Momoa as Aquaman showed himself to be pretty good in it and I wanted to see him in his solo movie. Additionally, there were some talented people involved including director James Wan and a cast that included Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson and Nicole Kidman. Everything about the movie looked great as well from the trailers, on such a large scale and looking like no other comic book movie that has come beforehand. The only real caution I had was that the previous DCEU movie, Justice League, was disappointing and I was fearing the possibilities of studio interference affecting a DCEU movie once again. Outside of that, I was really looking forward to Aquaman. Aquaman is a really distinct comic book movie, that’s visually stunning, features some good performances and is just one big epic ride from start to finish. It’s got some faults for sure but they don’t take away too much from the overall experience.

The story isn’t necessarily anything we haven’t seen before, but it’s the way that it’s done that makes Aquaman stand out. While the DCEU has generally embraced it’s comic bookiness, Aquaman is the most comic book like out of all of it (mostly due to how far the characters and world is from any other comic book movie). Despite this, it doesn’t feel like a comic book movie, it feels so far removed from any other superhero movie we’ve seen before. If you edited out the credits that mention this as a DC movie, you could totally pass this off as an action adventure fantasy, mostly because that’s what this movie is. Aside from a reference to the main villain of Justice League, it doesn’t makes any clear references to the other movies that would leave people unfamiliar with the cinematic universe confused. Justice League featured a scene between Arthur and Mera but honestly, after watching Aquaman I can say that you don’t even need to have watched any of the prior DCEU films to hop right in.

This movie has a good mix of dark and light that works well for the movie. There’s a lot of debate about the tone about the DCEU as a whole, but I feel like while all of them (aside from Justice League) has reasonably strong bit of darkness to it, the tones with each film is different, and I like that. While the MCU has a consistent tone that makes every movie feel like it’s in the same universe, the DCEU can have a wide range of different tones. Yes, Aquaman (the movie) can be pretty cheesy at points but I’m pretty sure that James Wan and co. knew that so instead of being ashamed of it and trying to tone it down, they went full force with it, and so making it work on a weird level. When the film at one point features an octopus playing the drums, you know that they had to be self aware about the whole thing. Now there is quite a bit of comedy in this movie and most of it works but every so often there’s a joke that doesn’t quite work. I think something that most people will feel is that there’s so much going on. There is so much packed into this movie, James Wan basically combined 3 comic book story arcs into one large story, leaving Aquaman to be like 2 hours and 20 minutes long. I don’t think that the movie is overly long (after Justice League, I think every DCEU film should be at least 2 hours and 20 minutes long), nor do I think the pacing needed to necessarily be faster, it’s just a lot of things happen in this one movie. Despite this, it’s easy to follow and not overly complicated, if anything the more complicated bits are the exposition from Mera about Atlantis in some scenes, and even then it won’t matter if you don’t pick up all of it. Also it’s worth noting that there’s a mid credits scene which sets up the sequel (which it will definitely get). I could sort of figure out what it would be about but it’s worth sitting through 2 minutes of credits for it.

Jason Momoa reprises his role as Arthur Curry/Aquaman and once again he was great, getting a lot more to work with this time round. While Justice League introduced him to the big screen (excluding his cameo in Batman v Superman), what we were left with didn’t exactly go into much depth with him. Here it’s established he doesn’t fit in the human world or with the Atlanteans and the whole movie is him accepting his role as King of Atlantis. Momoa’s charisma and performance is perfect for the character and you can really root for him. I’ll just say that if you aren’t a fan of Aquaman as a character or can’t take him seriously, you will after this movie. Amber Heard plays Mera and she’s really good as well, they really showed off Mera as being a very powerful character and she gets some great moments. Momoa and Heard have great chemistry and play off each other really well. I think when it comes to the writing, some of the romance elements you don’t really buy too much, with regard to how their relationship changes over time. Its not that believable but the two leads make it work fine enough. Willem Dafoe and Dolph Lungren are also good in supporting roles, with Dafoe playing Vulko, who’s an advisor of Atlantis and Arthur’s mentor, and Lundgren playing Nereus, Mera’s father and a king of an Atlantean tribe who allies with Orm. Nicole Kidman and Temuera Morrison play Aquaman’s parents, and while their roles are small, they do add quite a bit to the movie. It seems like parents are a big thing for all of the DCEU lead heroes and Aquaman suitably is no exception, with them having their important parts in the story.

The villains were also great. Patrick Wilson plays Orm, Arthur’s half brother, and is one of the stand out live action film villains from DC thus far. Orm has an understandable reason for wanting to declare war against the surface world, with all the damage that humanity has caused Atlantis. Orm isn’t just evil for the sake of being evil. When the movie cuts back to him from Arthur, you aren’t pulled out of it and you are also interested in what’s going on with him. Patrick Wilson’s performance is somehow both larger than life and yet subtle and riveting, really making his villain even more convincing and overall better. As much of a dangerous antagonist that this movie has shown him to be, you get the feeling that they hadn’t gone all out with him yet because it would probably be something so large scale that the Justice League would have to come in. Still, with what he did here he made for a great villain. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays one of Aquaman’s most iconic adversaries, Black Manta, who in this movie is a bit of a supporting antagonist. Manta here is really setup for future movies, so if you love the character from the comics, don’t go in expecting a lot of him because you don’t really get that. With that said, they do use this movie as a bit of an origin story for him and a way of establishing him as a character. It might’ve made the story feel less packed by removing him and saving him for a sequel but I still liked that we got him here (it also means that in the sequel we won’t need to spend so much time introducing him). He’s also great and makes himself to be quite a threat when he’s on screen and they do make him a stand out in the movie, even if we don’t get a ton of screen time with him. I can’t wait to see more of them in future movies.

Director James Wan made the 7th Fast and Furious movie back in 2015 but otherwise he’s primarily known for his horror movies like Saw, The Conjuring and Insidious. Here he takes on a comic book movie and he did fantastic work with it. This is an absolutely stunning looking movie and a feast for the eyes. There is a lot of visual effects and CGI used to portray a lot of what’s going on and most of it is at such a high level of quality. There is the occasional fake looking effect but considering how they managed to make almost all of it look great, it’s not a big issue. It is a very CGI heavy movie but really it couldn’t be achieved any other way, you couldn’t just use practical effects for the entire movie, especially when it comes to the water sequences. They did the best they could with the effects, and most of it looks great. The action scenes are great, both the scenes that take place on the land and in the sea are great. However the scenes that take place in the sea are the highlights. The fight scenes are so unique to anything we’ve seen before, particularly between Arthur and Orm, the last fight was especially great. So much care and attention detail was put into making it all work. You can probably tell that when the characters are under water that the actors weren’t actually filming under water but they do such a good job making it look like it was. Everything also feels on such a large scale, this movie really is an epic. There are even some sequences that I’m not even sure how they managed to film, with them quite often featuring long takes. An example of this is featured in the Comic Con trailer which shows a scene in Italy with Arthur and Mera being chased by Black Manta and others and it’s one shot that zooms in and out of locations following them and you can clearly see that it’s the actual actors there. I’m not necessarily sure how you’ll feel about the overall movie but all the visuals make it worth seeing on the big screen alone. There’s even a sequence towards the latter portion of the movie which was horror esque, which was nice to see considering James Wan’s horror roots. As previously mentioned, Aquaman completely went all in on the fantasy elements and this is the case with the designs of everything, the stand outs being the design of Atlantis and really everything underwater. Not all of the film takes place near the ocean, but the sequences that don’t at least have them go from different location to different location, so there’s a variety of types of locations. The costumes are also fantastically made. Some of the costumes are straight out of the comic book, and while it’s not necessary for character designs to be ripped directly from the comics, really extra credit should be given to those who make it work, especially if it’s for something outlandish like Aquaman. Costumes particularly for Mera, Orm and Black Manta are fantastic and work on screen very well, special credit however is for making the classic Aquaman costume work on Jason Momoa, and not making it feel goofy at all. The score by Rupert Gregson-Williams was really good, very large scale and epic, just like the rest of the movie. He also composed the score for Wonder Woman and he does well at making both scores feel completely separate from each other. The other music choices were a mixed bag and were more often than not rather silly, and I don’t mean in the good goofy way, I’m meaning like it feels out of place and didn’t fit in at all with the rest of the movie. I’m not exactly sure who’s idea it was to have Pitbull to do a song but it was likely a studio mandated decision and it wasn’t a very good decision. Not a movie breaking issue but just rather distracting.

Aquaman is a visually stunning movie that embraces its comic book source material and was just an incredible experience. It’s got some messy aspects for sure but it really is worth seeing on the big screen for it all. Now it is worth noting that my opinion on Aquaman could change over time. When I first watched Wonder Woman I declared it one of the best comic book movies ever made, and then rewatching it a couple times, it didn’t hold up as well even though it’s still a solid movie. As of right now, I really loved watching Aquaman, and if we are going to continue getting these types of director driven movies that separate itself from all the other comic book movies (alongside mainly Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Wonder Woman), I think the DCEU is going to continue to have a unique appeal and an audience (an audience that includes me).