Posted in Movie Reviews, movies, 1001 Movies

The Dark Knight – Movie Review

Director:  Christopher Nolan

Cast:  Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman

Plot:  Following the events of Batman Begins, Batman and police Lieutanant James Gordon are continuing to bring down organized crime in Gotham, along with newly appointed district attorney Harvey Dent. But when a mysterious and crazed criminal known only as The Joker arrives in Gotham, everything Batman and Harvey Dent have worked for is thrown into chaos. Now, with everything he loves on the line, Bruce must confront his inner demons to bring down his most disturbed adversary yet.

(Warning! This review contains some spoilers. Consider yourselves warned)

First Thoughts:  Following the huge success of Batman Begins, it was time for Christopher Nolan to step up his game. Despite thinking it couldn’t be topped, somehow he pulled it off. I watched this movie again in preparation for this review, and I am still blown away by how much this movie improves upon Batman Begins. And not just because of Heath Ledger’s Joker (I’ll get to that later), but the film as a whole just feels like such an improvement, and it really broke the mold for superhero movies to come.

Story:  Right off the bat, what makes The Dark Knight such a great film is the fact that it really does feel at times like an intense, gritty crime thriller, even more so than Batman Begins, because even though that film had some crime thriller-esque moments, it still did feel very much like a superhero origin movie. This film definitely feels like a straight-up crime thriller and the Batman stuff is kind of pushed to the side. But is that really so much of an issue when the rest of the film is so good? Nope. Because even though the film doesn’t feel like a Batman movie, that actually works in the film’s favor. The film also has some great foreshadowing with the character of Harvey Dent when he says the line “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain”, which perfectly sets up his eventual downfall and transformation into Two-Face.

Technical:  I’ve already said this numerous times in my other Nolan reviews, but pretty much every single one of his films are absolutely beautiful, and The Dark Knight might be one of his best looking films. Not only is Wally Phister’s cinematography extremely gorgeous, and very much improved when viewing the IMAX enhanced scenes, but all of the makeup work and the CGI that is used in the film, because even though Nolan doesn’t really like CGI that much, he does use it on occasion, and whenever he does use it, it’s always used very well, especially for Two-Face. It actually still looks very realistic looking, even after almost ten years. And the action scenes in the movie are also very much an improvement over Batman Begins, because even though the action in Batman Begins were good, I feel like Nolan wasn’t quite as skilled back in 2005 as he was when he was making this film. All of the fight scenes in this movie are beautifully fluid with excellent fight choreography and terrific editing. I also love the new design for the Batsuit, because early in the film, Bruce is attacked by these dogs and he tells Lucius that he wants to be able to turn his head, since with other movie and TV iterations of the character, the cowl was connected to the rest of the suit, so whenever they wanted to turn their head, they’d have to turn their body as well, so making a new Batsuit where he can actually turn his head is a really great idea.

Performances:  Heath Ledger’s Joker. What more needs to be said? Okay, I’ll say more. Okay, we all know that Christian Bale’s Batman is really good, as is the entire main cast, but we all know who the real star of the show here is. Heath Ledger as the Joker. This was his last completed role before his death in January 2008, and what a damn shame, because he gives his all in this movie. He is clearly having a ton of fun with the role. He perfectly balances the menacing aspects of the character as well as his dark sense of humor. And it’s so sad that he wasn’t able to see the final product, because his performance is truly legendary. Something else I feel was improved over Batman Begins is the character of Rachel, and if you saw my review of Batman Begins, you’d know that I really did not think that Katie Holmes was very good in that film, and I think they heard those complaints and recast the role for Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is most definitely better at delivering Rachel’s lines, even though her character is still a little underdeveloped and isn’t helped by her abrupt death, but Gyllenhaal is so much better than Katie Holmes. Aaron Eckhart is also really great as Harvey Dent, and what really works about his character is that during the first half, he is such a likable character and you connect with him and his crusade to rid Gotham’s streets of crime, but in the second half where he becomes Two-Face and reluctantly teams up with the Joker, he seeks revenge against the dirty cops in Jim Gordon’s unit for what they did to Rachel, and his transition to the dark side was actually one of the film’s biggest hooks. And of course, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman are all fantastic.

Final Thoughts:  If it weren’t already apparent enough, I think The Dark Knight is one of the best movies ever made, and possibly the best superhero movie of all time as well. It’s everything I want out of a good superhero movie, or any type of movie for that matter. And when I say that everything about this movie was improved over Batman Begins, I really do mean everything. It’s not just with the villains, but Christopher Nolan’s direction, the performances, the action sequences, the story, the cinematoraphy, EVERYTHING was improved. As this is probably the most famous superhero movie ever made, I’d be surprised if anyone hasn’t seen this film yet.

Pros:

  • Heath Ledger’s Joker
  • Better direction
  • Better action sequences
  • Better performances (especially Maggie Gyllenhaal)
  • Better cinematography
  • Feels like a crime drama in the best ways

Cons:

  • None

Overall Grade:  10/10

So… I think I may have to call off the rest of my Christopher Nolan reviews. I hate to say this, but doing all of these reviews have put a lot of stress on me. I hardly have enough time to watch the movies and sometimes it can be hard for me to write them. The same is gonna have to go for finishing my Edgar Wright review series. I will still review Baby Driver and Dunkirk when they come out, but due to all the stress I’m going through, I’ll have to hold back on my reviews. Holy crap, this has been harder than I thought it’d be.

Posted in 1001 Movies, Movie Reviews, movies

The Prestige – Movie Review

Director:  Christopher Nolan

Cast:  Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Andy Serkis, Piper Perabo, David Bowie

Plot:  At the turn of the 20th century, Robert Angier, his wife, Julia McCullough and Alfred Borden are friends and assistants of a magician. When Julia is accidentally drowned, Robert blames Alfred for tying too tight of a knot and the two become enemies. Now the two magicians are constantly trying to 1-up and sabotage each other. When Alfred pulls off a successful magic trick, Robert becomes obsessed with discovering his secret.

(Wanring! This review may contain spoilers! Consider yourselves warned)

First Thoughts:  After Batman Begins was so successful, Christopher Nolan was beginning to become a household name, but he wasn’t quite there yet. A year after the release of Batman Begins, Nolan was brought on to direct this film. The odd thing is, despite Nolan’s name and the cast list being one of the best in his entire filmography, the film wasn’t really all that successful, despite making back it’s $40 million budget. But over ten years since it’s theatrical release, The Prestige has become one of Nolan’s most beloved films, and certainly one of my favourites.

Story:  It’s hard to talk about the story of this film without ruining everything, so if you weren’t already turned away by that spoiler warning, now’s your chance to leave. Okay, here we go. First off, I love the way that this story is told. It’s a very Nolan-esque way of telling a story, starting off near the end of the film where Borden is being accused of Angier’s death when he drowns in a water tank. The film then proceeds to unfold through journal entries from both Angier and Borden. And the film just gets more and more fascinating from there. You see how at first, the two are friends, but when Angier’s wife accidentally drowns and he blames Borden, the two magicians strive to one-up each other, with both of them attempting to pull off the perfect magic trick. And if you’ve seen the movie, you know exactly where this ends up. You find out that Angier’s trick, The Real Transported Man, could actually clone him and he uses this to his advantage and this leads him to frame Borden and assume a new identity. You also find out that Borden’s original take on the Transported man utilized his twin/body double, Fallon. So, what exactly is happening? Well, Fallon (disguised as Borden) sneaks below stage to find out how Angier is really pulling off his trick. When he’s framed for Angier’s death, he is sentenced to death and is hanged at the end of the movie. Now, Borden (disguised as Fallon) sneaks into the basement of the theatre where Angier performed his trick and shoots Angier. Borden then explains his methods as Angier dies, and as Borden is leaving, he notices the water tanks around him are filled with Angier’s clones that resulted from the use of the machine that Tesla made for Angier. If all of this is confusing, maybe it’s time for you to rewatch the movie. In all seriousness though, I think this is one of Nolan’s most cerebral movies and it really forces you to think and analyse it, and I love that about this movie.

Technical:  Like I said with the other Nolan films I’ve reviewed, no matter what, his movies are going to look beautiful, and The Prestige is absolutely no exception, as Wally Phister’s cinematography is once again fantastic, and it actually remains one of Nolan’s best looking films in regards to how it’s shot. The film’s production design is also fantastic and really captures the time period extremely well. It’s really no wonder that both the cinematography and production design got Oscar nominations. Sorry that I don’t really have much to say about the film’s technical qualities, but I feel like there isn’t really that much to say.

Performances:  In my opinion, The Prestige has probably the best cast Nolan has assembled to date. I mean, you’ve got Wolverine, Batman, Black Widow, Alfred Pennyworth, Maya Hansen, Gollum and Ziggy Stardust all in the same movie. How could you possibly go wrong? In all seriousness though, every actor in this movie shines and it’s really hard to point out one specific actor as the standout of the movie. Hugh Jackman is pretty much always great in everything he’s in, and that’s no exception as his character is very tormented by the death of his wife and becomes increasingly more jealous of Christian Bale’s character, who seems to have the happiness that he was robbed of. Christian Bale is also phenomenal and you can tell that his obsession is taking a hold of him just as much as it is for Hugh Jackman’s character. The entire supporting cast is great as well, but there are definitely two performances that standout among the supporting players, that of Andy Serkis and the late David Bowie. First of all, how many mainstream roles can you think of where Andy Serkis isn’t doing motion capture? Thought so. Second, David Bowie is surprisingly great as real life electrical engineer Nikola Tesla, and seeing him on screen as one of history’s most revered scientists is something so unexpected that it’s actually brilliant.

Final Thoughts:  If it wasn’t apparent already, I think The Prestige is a masterpiece among an already impressive filmography. There’s just something so magical about this film that I just absolutely love. If it looks like I’m running out of things to say… well, I am. All I’ll say is that if it’s been a while since you’ve seen The Prestige, I’d highly recommend watching it again.

Pros:

  • Top-notch performances across the board
  • Nearly perfect direction
  • Gorgeous cinematography
  • Perfectly realized setting
  • A story that keeps you guessing throughout
  • One hell of a chilling final shot

Cons:

    • None

    Overall Grade: 10/10

    Posted in Movie Reviews, movies

    Scott Pilgrim vs the World – Movie Review

    Director:  Edgar Wright

    Cast:  Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Alison Pill, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman

    Plot:  Scott Pilgrim is just your average slacker. He’s in a band, he’s got a seventeen-year-old girlfriend, struggling to let go of his ex-girlfriend, and he lives with his gay roommate, Wallace. Aspiring for more in life, Scott ends up falling for Ramona Flowers, a sullen delivery woman for Amazon. When Scott decides to dump his jailbait girlfriend and go out with Ramona, Scott his challenged by Ramona’s seven Evil Exes. And in order to win the girl, Scott must defeat these Evil Exes in battle.

    (Warning! This review contains spoilers. Consider yourselves warned)

    First Thoughts:  Ah, Scott Pilgrim. The film that introduced me to Edgar Wright’s signature directing style and made me fall in love with it. Bit of a backstory on this film first. It was back in 2012 when I came across the Blu-ray of this at Best Buy. Having seen the trailer two years previously and thinking that it looked awesome, I picked it up. And honestly, if I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t be doing these reviews of Edgar Wright’s films leading up to Baby Driver. I mean, this movie is a nerd’s wet dream. Everything about this movie screams nerdiness, and that is one of the primary reasons I love this film so much. And now, it’s time for me to gush about this film.

    Story:  While the awesome action seen in the trailers is prevalent throughout the film, it’s not really the focus here. The main focus is really the love story between Scott and Ramona, as well as relationships in general, and while that sounds really boring, it’s done in a very Edgar Wright fashion in which everything is bursting with energy, and not just with his direction, but in the writing as well. From Scott and Ramona’s relationship to Scott’s backstory with a girl named Envy who dumped him to Ramona’s very checkered past, everything about the story in this film is brimming with energy and humor. And oh yeah, this movie is absolutely hilarious. There’s a lot of nerd humor in the film, which you may need the trivia track to fully understand, but the action scenes in the film can also be fairly hilarious. And I also really loved what they did with the end of the film where Gideon (Ramona’s 7th evil ex) kills Scott and he ends up in this desert purgatory that is also seen in an early scene in the film, and then he realizes he picked up that 1-up during the battle with the Katianagi twins and is then brought back to the moment when he’s about to go fight Gideon and he has a lot more confidence and self-respect than the first time. And in regards to the ending, I actually do prefer it when Scott and Ramona stay with each other, rather than Scott and Knives getting back together (the alternate ending), because that ending just felt like a betrayal of what Scott was doing throughout the entire film. But that’s just me. I know there are some people who prefer the original ending.

    Technical:  Of course, since this is an Edgar Wright movie, his signature directing and editing style is all over this movie. From the Universal logo at the beginning being pixellated to look like an SNES game to the opening credits to all of the fights, everything about this movie looks beautiful. This marked the first collaboration between Edgar Wright and cinematographer Bill Pope, who previously worked on The Martix and Spider-Man 2 and would later collaborate with Wright on The Worlds End and Baby Driver, and they both really know how to film a fight scene. Although the action in the film is very stylized, it all looks incredible. The film also knows how to time the action with music, which is shown extremely well during the fight with the Katianagi twins. I could probably go on about the action forever, but all I’ll say is that if you hate shakycam and choppy editing, the action scenes in this movie will be a breath of fresh air to you. The stunts are also incredible, and it’s actually kind of mindblowing that an actor like Michael Cera was cast as the lead character, because I went back and watched it and realized just then that he’s a super unlikely action star.

    Performances:  Speaking of which, Michael Cera is actually really fantastic in this film. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of him as an actor, he really embodies Scott’s awkwardness and he’s surprisingly really terrific in the action scenes and from what I could tell, that actually is him doing all of those insane stunts. This is also the film that really introduced me to Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who has since become a personal favourite of mine thanks to this film and 10 Cloverfield Lane. She’s also really great and her and Michael Cera have such good chemistry. All of the villains are also really good, from Chris Evans as a really over-the-top, full of himself actor, Brandon Routh (who you pretty much never see anymore) as a vegan rock star with psychic powers and especially Jason Schwartzman as Gideon, who is just the biggest douche in the whole universe, all of them are spectacular in this film! This was also somewhat my introduction to Brie Larson, who is really impressive in this movie because not only does she actually sing in a scene in this movie, but she’s also a stone-cold bitch in this movie as Scott’s ex-girlfriend, who’s also in a band, although her’s is much more successful than Scott’s. It’s kind of weird going back and watching this film after seeing her most recent works like Kong: Skull Island and Free Fire, because it’s almost like she was a completely different person in this film, and that is praise for how much range she has as an actress.

    Final Thoughts:  If it wasn’t apparent already, Scott Pilgrim vs the World is one of my favourite movies of all time. And even though I am a fan of Edgar Wright’s other films, this might be my favourite of his. Everything about this movie is a nerd’s dream come true, from all the nerdy references to the kick ass action sequences to all of the performances, everything in Scott Pilgrim comes together so perfectly that I cannot help but say that it is one of the best action comedies ever made. If you haven’t seen it already… what the hell are you doing reading this review when I explicitly wrote that there would be spoilers? In any case, if you haven’t seen it in a while, maybe it’s time to give it another whirl.

    Pros:

    • Edgar Wright’s direction
    • The performances
    • The action sequences
    • The chemistry between Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead
    • Nerd humor

    Cons:

    • None

    Overall Grade:  10/10

    So guys, look forward to my review of The Worlds End coming out in a couple of weeks, as well as my review of Baby Driver when that comes out. Quick thing though, the same day that Baby Driver comes out is also the day of my graduation rehearsal and the next day is my actual graduation, and the day after that I’m going on a vacation, so that review might come out a week or two late. In any case, please look forward to those reviews, as well as my Christopher Nolan reviews.

    Posted in Movie Reviews, movies

    Batman Begins – Movie Review

    Director:  Christopher Nolan

    Cast:  Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphey, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Ken Watanabe, Morgan Freeman

    Plot:  As a young boy, Bruce Wayne witnessed his parents gunned down by a crazed criminal. As an adult, he relocates to Asia to dive into the psyche of criminals. While in prison, he is approached by Henri Ducard to train with the League of Shadows. But before his training is fully complete, he betrays them when he is forced to execute someone. When he returns to Gotham, he decides to adopt the image of his childhood fear, bats, to strike fear into criminals.

    (Warning: This review contains SPOILERS! Read at your own risk)

    First Thoughts:  After the disaster that was Batman & Robin, people started to doubt if a good Batman movie could be made ever again. Then, something incredible happened. Warner Bros decided they wanted to give fans of the Dark Knight the gritty, realistic origin story that they’ve been wanting for. Because even though Tim Burton’s 1989 film was the first in that franchise, it didn’t really tell Batman’s origin story. It gets even better from there. Following the success of Memento and Insomnia, Christopher Nolan was hired to direct and co-write the film. And what we got was what many people consider one of the best superhero origin story movies ever made. And I hardly disagree with that.

    Story:  Like I said, this film is much more realistic in its depiction of Batman’s origin story, and actually changes quite a few things from the story that’s well known in the comics. But if you haven’t really read any Batman comics before seeing this film (like me), those changes might not bother you. For me, one of the most compelling things about the way the story is told is actually the first hour of the movie. It’s used to set up Bruce Wayne as a character as he trains with the League of Shadows, and it sets up a fairly interesting red herring with you thinking that Ken Watanabe is actually Ra’s Al Ghul, but you eventually find out at the end of the movie that it’s actually Liam Neeson, which is actually a really great idea. After the first hour is when the film really becomes a Batman movie though, when Batman takes down Gotham crime boss Carmine Falcone. And of course, you eventually find out that Dr Johnathan Crane has been working with the League of Shadows and using the same toxins found in the blue flower that Bruce brings to them at the beginning of the movie to poison Gotham’s water supply so the League of Shadows can destroy Gotham, and that this isn’t the first time they’ve tried. They actually were responsible for the depression that occurred in Gotham when Bruce was a child. And there’s something else about this film that grounded it in realism. How Batman gets all his gadgets. When he’s talking to Lucius Fox, he says that none of the prototypes he’s made are in production, so that makes it perfect for Bruce to use as Batman. While the film does fall into the typical superhero origin story cliches that we’re so used to now, this is one example of one being done so right.

    Technical:  I’ve already said this about Memento and Insomnia, but damn can Christopher Nolan direct a good movie! I really love what he brought to the direction in this film, as the grittiness of the story is only elevated by Nolan’s intense direction. It’s also gorgeously shot. Nolan and cinematographer Wally Phister completely brought Gotham to life with this film, and it looks absolutely stunning. The action in the film is also really well handled, even though there is quite a bit of quick cut editing in some of the fight scenes, it actually works in the film’s favor, because for Bruce’s first fight scene as Batman when he busts Carmine Falcone and his goons, you really get it from the point of view of the goons, rather than Batman. Whereas that kind of editing would kind of annoy me, with this film, I can forgive it, especially since Nolan wasn’t nearly as skilled as he is now. And I must say, I love the entire finale of this movie when Batman is going up against Ra’s Al Ghul when he uses the microwave emitter to vaporize all of Gotham’s water supply to turn the entire city insane. The fight between Batman and Ra’s Al Ghul on the train is absolutely thrilling, really well filmed and edited, and has one of the best supervillain deaths ever with Ra’s just accepting the fact that he’s gonna die. He doesn’t scream, he doesn’t hang on for dear life, he just closes his eyes and decides to go out like a true ninja.

    Performances:  Almost all the performances in Batman Begins are top-notch. Despite people’s reactions to the casting of Christian Bale as Batman was similar to the casting of Ben Affleck in Batman v Superman, Bale proved all haters wrong and knocked it out of the park as Batman. He really brings a lot to the role, and say what you will about his Batman voice, but I really don’t mind it. Michael Caine also completely nails it as Alfred. As much as I enjoyed Jeremy Irons’ portrayal of the character in BvS, Michael Caine is Alfred. He genuinely cares about Bruce, and he supports him every step of the way. Gary Oldman is also fantastic as Lieutenant James Gordon. He’s one of the few cops in Gotham who isn’t bought out by the mob, and his ideals make him a really great character, and Gary Oldman just makes him all the more likeable. Morgan Freeman is well, Morgan Freeman. He’s awesome! I really don’t need to say anything about him because we all know Morgan Freeman is awesome. Cillian Murphy is also really good as Scarecrow, and he is also written very realistically as a psychiatrist at Arkham who purposefully sends Carmine Falcone’s goons there to use as test subjects for his fear gas. If there’s one performance in the film that is not up to par with everyone else, it’s Katie Holmes. Now look, I’m sure she’s a fine actress, but I personally don’t think she’s all that great as Rachel. Her performance is unfortunately bland and she barely has any chemistry with Christian Bale. I’m legitimately glad that she was replaced with Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Dark Knight. Also, little known fact, Jack Gleason of Game of Thrones fame is in this film. Bet you didn’t know that, did you?

    Final Thoughts:  All in all, Batman Begins is one of the best superhero origin story movies ever made. It is exactly what I want out of these kinds of movies. Everything comes together to make a fantastic film. While it may not be as good as the next two films in the trilogy, Batman Begins is just a damn great film, and considering the last Batman movie was full of ice puns and this one was so grounded in reality, I think this was a breath of fresh air for fans of the Caped Crusader.

    Pros:

    • Grounded, realistic story
    • Top notch performances across the board (mostly)
    • Great action set-pieces
    • Gorgeous cinematography
    • Introduced the best live-action portrayal of Batman to date

    Cons:

    • Katie Holmes’ performance

    Overall Grade:  9/10

    Posted in Movie Reviews, movies

    Insomnia – Movie Review

    Director:  Christopher Nolan

    Cast:  Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Maura Tierney, Martin Donocan, Nicky Katt, Paul Dooley

    Plot:  Los Angeles homicide detectives Will Dormer and Hap Eckhart are sent to the small perpetually sunlit town of Nightmute, Alaska to investigate the murder of local teen Kay Connell. Although Dormer and Eckhart are well renowned among the police world, back in LA, they’re facing some serious professional issues. While in Nightmute, Dormer begins to suffer from insomnia, and he accidental shoots his partner, thinking he was the killer. As the investigation continues, Dormer’s insomnia begins to worsen, and is taunted by Kay’s killer.

    First Thoughts:  Following the financial and critical success of Memento, which I just reviewed last week, Christopher Nolan was given the opportunity to direct a more straight forward crime thriller, as well as a remake of a well regarded but not very well known Scandinavian crime thriller. And here’s the thing, this is widely regarded as Christopher Nolan’s weakest movie. Is it? Well yeah, but here’s how I think about it; Christopher Nolan at his worst is still some directors at their best, similar to Quentin Tarantino. And you know what? I actually think this movie is criminally underrated!

    Story:  Like I said, this film is a remake of the 1997 Swedish/Norwegian film starring Stellan Skarsgard, and if you’ve seen that film, you can pretty much predict where it’s going, but there are enough different aspects of this remake that keep it from being different from the original. A lot of the film’s best suspense can be attributed to not just the hunt for this killer, but also Dormer accidentally shooting his partner and attempting to cover it up, which makes for some really good moments of tension where you’re thinking if he’s gonna get caught, and that is awesome. If there’s one thing that this movie changed drastically, it’s the ending. I won’t spoil it, but if you’ve seen the 1997 original, don’t expect the ending of this film to be the same as the ending of the original film, but to be honest, I actually like the ending of this movie just a bit more for reasons that I can’t spoil here. I think as far as actual issues with the story, it does take until the halfway point for out protagonist and antagonist to finally meet, but that’s the only real thing I have a problem with.

    Technical:  Christopher Nolan’s movies generally all look amazing, and Insomnia is no different. The way Nolan and cinematographer Wally Phister capture the Alaskan landscape in this film is beautiful (despite the fact that most of the film was shot in British Columbia), and it’s also very well edited. There’s a couple of moments when some images flash on screen for a split-second because of Dormer’s insomnia, and it’s all done very well. I will say though, there’s a scene at the end that is very shaky and somewhat choppily edited, but I guess that can be attributed to Dormer’s insomnia so everything is very choppy for him as well.

    Performances:  All of the performances in Insomnia are top-notch, which I guess should be expected in a Christopher Nolan movie as well. Al Pacino gives one of the most underrated performances of his career, and a lot of what makes his character so compelling is how conflicted he is. Not only can he not sleep, due to the perpetual sunlight, and he also accidentally shoots his partner, but he’s also haunted by something that happened before the events of the movie, which I will not spoil, since I completely forgot about it before I re-watched it recently. Robin Williams though steals the show in almost every scene he has. And it’s truly saddening that he passed away because his performance in this is also one of his most underrated, especially because he is so damn creepy and methodical in this movie, and you learn a lot about his connection with the girl he kills. Hillary Swank is also great in the film as a cop who is helping Pacino with his investigation, and you get the sense that she really admires him, but when she begins to peel back the layers, she begins to wonder if he’s really the righteous cop she thought he was.

    Final Thoughts:  So yeah, like I said, I think Insomnia is a really underappreciated movie. Sure, it’s the weakest link of Nolan’s filmography, but that’s a pretty strong filmography that doesn’t have any bad movies. All and all, the film has very strong direction, fantastic performances, an intriguing murder mystery and actually does improve upon the Scandinavian original, which even though I like, I find Nolan’s version of the film much better made. Also, if you go into this movie expecting anything to the quality of Inception or The Dark Knight, just don’t. This movie’s nothing like those ones and if you can accept it for what it is, a really great crime thriller with great performances, you’re gonna enjoy it.

    Pros:

    • Strong direction
    • Excellent performances, especially Robin Williams
    • Improves upon certain things in the original
    • Intriguing mystery

    Cons:

    • One scene with shakycam/choppy editing
    • Takes a while for protagonist and antagonist to meet in person

    Overall Grade:  9/10

    Posted in Movie Reviews, movies

    Hot Fuzz – Movie Review

    Director:  Edgar Wright

    Cast:  Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Paddy Considine, Rafe Spall, Timothy Dalton, Edward Woodward

    Plot:  Nicholas Angel is the best police officer in London, in fact he’s so good that he was promoted to sergeant… of the countryside village of Sandford. This is because he steals the spotlight away from his fellow officers. Angel is reluctant to relocate to Sandford, but it seems he has no choice. Angel is partnered with Danny Butterman, the son of the police chief, who seems to not take his job seriously and watches one too amny action films. While adjusting to the rural lifestyle, bodies start to pile around the village and Angel begins to suspect that this perfect little village isn’t as idyllic as it appears on the surface.

    First Thoughts:  Bloody hell, I love this movie. Even though I had seen Scott Pilgrim vs the World before seeing this, this was really the film that truly introduced me to Edgar Wright’s special brand of humor. And I say special because of how unique it is from every other comedy that’s released today. It’s just that type of movie that if an American director had gotten his hands on it, it would be nowhere near as good as how Edgar Wright directed it.

    Story:  While on the surface, Hot Fuzz appears to be a buddy cop action comedy, it’s also a biting satire of those types of films, which is extremely evident with the character of Danny, who has a rather unrealistic idea of what the police do. What’s also so great about the story is how many twists and turns it takes. As the bodies begin to pile up around this village, you begin to suspect the obvious and even though the obvious person is part of this, it turns out that it’s way bigger than Sgt. Angel and the audience expect. I also love how this movie runs action movie cliches into the ground, in particular how paperwork is done after every single bust in the film, something that real life police officers have praised.

    Technical:  I know what you’re probably thinking, “this is a comedy, why do you need to talk about the technical side of it?” Well, there’s a very specific reason why I bring up the technical side of Hot Fuzz, and that’s the way the film is edited. While yes, there are also amazing action sequences, it’s really the way the other scenes are edited that makes Edgar Wright’s style of directing so unique. Take for example the scene where Nicholas is going from London to Sandford. It’s not all just a series of rapid-fire cuts, but it’s also a great scene of visual comedy. Scene transitions are also done in a very interesting, rapid-fire way. And of course the action sequences are spectacular! The big climactic shootout is one of my favourites in film history and it’s all handled in Edgar Wright’s signature style that no other director today utilizes, which is a real shame.

    Performances:  Another reason people love the Cornetto trilogy for is the performances, and Hot Fuzz is no exception. Simon Pegg is truly comedic gold in this movie, not just because he is really funny, but because he truly learns to fit into this small town where nothing really happens, albeit after some serious shit goes down in the last act of the film. His chemistry with Nick Frost is also spectacular, and of course since this is a buddy-cop film as well, the contrast between each other is certainly there. What I loved about Frosts’s character in this movie was his uber-unrealistic viewpoint of what it’s like to be a cop, and how he learns to accept that it’s not all about gunfights and car chases, it’s also a considerable amount of paperwork. All the supporting characters are also great, from Timothy Dalton as a supermarket manager to Jim Broadbent as the police chief.

    Final Thoughts:  In the end, Hot Fuzz is one of my favourite movies of all time and is tied for being my favourite comedy of all time, with the only real competition being Deadpool and another Edgar Wright film I’ll get to soon. Everything about Hot Fuzz is comedic gold! The performances, the action, the editing style, the visual comedy that’s thrown throughout it, EVERYTHING about Hot Fuzz is comedic perfection and I cannot praise it enough. I wish to the bottom of my heart that more movies like this were made in North America, I truly do. Nobody makes movies like this quite like Edgar Wright does, and I hope at some point other directors take inspiration from his style of directing, especially with Hot Fuzz.

    Pros:

    • Pegg and Frost’s chemistry is perfect
    • Intriguing mystery
    • Wright’s directing and editing style is unlike any others
    • Sharp, witty banter
    • Amazing action scenes
    • The visual comedy

    Cons:

    • None.

    Overall Grade:  10/10

    Posted in 1001 Movies, Movie Reviews, movies

    Memento – Movie Review

    Director: Christopher Nolan

    Cast:  Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano

    Plot:  Told in reverse chronological order, the film follows Leonard Shelby, an insurance investigator whose wife is murdered and he is hit in the back of the head, resulting in his short-term memory loss. Now determined to avenge his wife, Leonard tries to piece together the clues about his wife’s murderer, going so far as to tattoo the clues he does know about him to his body in order to remember certain details. Along the way, he is helped by an undercover cop named Teddy and a woman named Natalie, who just might have different motives for Leonard.

    Before I start the actual review, welcome to my Christopher Nolan series of reviews! What’s the occasion, you may ask? Well, Dunkirk is coming out in July, so I figured since Christopher Nolan is my favourite filmmaker of all time, what better excuse do I have to talk about his filmography? I decided to skip his 1998 debut Following, since I tried to write a review for it and honestly couldn’t come up with much. And just because I know some people have not seen Memento, I am gonna keep this review spoiler free, so anyone who hasn’t seen it, you’re in the clear.

    First Thoughts:  Where the hell am I supposed to start with this one? Well, Christopher Nolan was a name that a lot of people didn’t know back in 2000/2001, and even between the release of this film and Batman Begins in 2005, it was still a name that a lot of people didn’t know. But over time, this film has become a phenomenon, with over 800,000 ratings on IMDb and worldwide recognition. Now the first time I saw it, I really liked it, but having seen it a second time knowing how certain things connect, the film got even better.

    Story:  Memento did something with storytelling that even to this day is incredibly unique, Nolan made the decision to tell the story in reverse, even going so far as to have the first scene in the film play out in reverse. This is actually quite interesting since Leonard has short term memory loss and can’t make new memories, so making the decision to tell the story in these fragments, it’s mind-boggling. Some people maybe aren’t fans of the way the story in this movie’s told, but I think it’s fantastic, and it really forces you to go back and rewatch it multiple times just so you can understand it. The other thing I love about the film is how it manipulates you into thinking certain things are one way, but then it turns the tables on you. And without spoiling anything, I will say that this film has a really good way of connecting things that happen at the beginning of the film and the end of the film.

    Technical:  Even this early in his filmmaking career, Christopher Nolan’s directorial vision is meticulous. There’s just something in the way he directs Memento that is a thing of beauty. He directs the moments of tension with such passion, and the more dramatic moments with just as much passion. Also, this film marked the first collaboration between Nolan and cinematographer Wally Phister, who is one of my favourite cinematographers, being right up there with Emmanuel Lubezki, and the cinematography in Memento is gorgeous. It truly gives the film this intense aura that wouldn’t have been there if Phister hadn’t been behind the camera.

    Performances:  In my opinion, Guy Pearce is one of the most underrated actors alive, and with this movie being so critically acclaimed, it’s kind of a wonder why people don’t notice him more, because he is so good in this movie. He’s a very broken character, which causes him to be very much an unreliable narrator, and that’s what I love about his character and the writing. Carrie-Anne Moss has also rarely been better than she is in this movie. You can talk about The Matrix forever, but I do believe that she’s at her best in this movie. She gives a lot of emotion to her character and you really do get the sense that she just wants to use Leonard for her own selfish purposes, which I really don’t want to get into here. Joe Pantoliano is also great as a cop who wants to help Leonard seek justice against his wife’s killer, and you can tell that he also has his own motives.

    Final Thoughts:  So having seen Memento a second time, I can safely say that it gets better upon repeat viewings. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it when I first saw it, but watching it again and knowing where the story is going, I can appreciate it so much more. In my opinion, Memento is as close to a perfect first impression as you can possibly get. Everything about Memento is spot on, from the direction to the dialogue to the cinematography, the way it’s edited, everything about Memento is so damn good. Now originally, I gave this movie 9/10 because of how it took a while for me to really grasp what was going on upon first viewing, but now that I know what’s going on, that rating has been boosted.

    Pros:

    • Guy Pearce is amazing
    • Spot-on direction and writing
    • Excellent cinematography
    • Keeps you guessing until the end
    • Nearly perfectly edited

    Cons:

    • None

    Overall Grade:  10/10

    So guys, I hope you enjoyed my review of Memento, I will be back very shortly with my review of Insomnia. So stay tuned for that next week!

    Posted in Movie Reviews, movies

    Shaun of the Dead – Movie Review

    Director:  Edgar Wright

    Cast:  Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Morgan, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton

    Plot:  Shaun has a very unspectacular life. He lives with his best friend Ed, neglects his girlfriend Liz and despises his stepfather. After Liz dumps him, life seems to be going really downhill for him. The next day, he wakes up only to find that England is infested with zombies. In a plan to take refuge from the undead hoard, Shaun and Ed devise a plan to head for the Winchester pub with Shaun’s mother, Liz, and her flatmates.

    Before I start with the actual review, I just wanted to say welcome to my Edgar Wright series of reviews leading up to Baby Driver in June. After this review is posted, I’ll have reviews for Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs the World and The World’s End up, and man do I have some things to say about Edgar Wright. Okay, let’s talk about Shaun of the Dead.

    First Thoughts:  In the year 2004, the name Edgar Wright wasn’t too well known to anyone outside of England, that was until Shaun of the Dead. While the film wasn’t too much of a success in terms of box office, but the reviews were so positive that the film has gone on to gain a cult following over the last decade, and has made Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and I suppose Nick Frost well known names.

    Story:  As you could probably tell, Shaun of the Dead is not your typical zombie flick. It’s not so much a zombie film as it is a romantic comedy with zombies. For the first act, the film really focuses more on the failing relationship between Shaun and Liz, but if you’re really paying attention, you will notice that things are going to shit. However, I do feel like the romantic aspect of the film is kind of… I don’t know, I just didn’t really care that much about it. I get that it’s there to make you care about Shaun as a character, but i didn’t really care for it that much. Also, some of the supporting characters will do really stupid things for the sake of suspense, and I actually didn’t really care about most of the supporting characters.

    Technical:  Nowadays, Edgar Wright is known for his fast paced and unconventional directing and editing style, and Shaun of the Dead pioneered this style. The way Wright directs this movie, and really all of his films, is totally against the mainstream, which I think most modern filmmakers should really take notes from. There’s a standout moment in this film that I absolutely love where Shaun is walking to a convenience store one day when it’s completely normal, and the next day when the actual zombie apocalypse hits, it’s the same basic scene structure with the same camera movements, but just ever so slightly different. It’s actually fairly brilliant. There’s also a lot of really fun action in the film, one scene in particular so brilliantly timed to the Queen song Don’t Stop Me Now, which is probably the most famous scene in the film. Even if this isn’t my favourite film that Wright has directed, his directorial style is easily the best part of it… well, aside from my next thing.

    Performances:  Not only did Shaun of the Dead introduce North American audiences to Edgar Wright, but also to its lead actor, Simon Pegg, who is so freaking brilliant in this movie. He embodies Shaun’s somewhat slacker persona to a T. He also has some seriously good dramatic chops during the more serious moments, which I feel is something that goes unnoticed when people talk about him as an actor. Sure, he’s very funny, but in other films like the Star Trek reboot films or Mission: Impossible 4 & 5, he’s proved he’s a fantastic actor, and his chemistry with Nick Frost is one of the highlights of the film, and his character is even more of a slacker than Shaun is. One of the best things about their characters is that they don’t even know what the hell is going on until a zombie walks into their backyard and accidentally impale her on a flag post. And even though some of the other supporting characters were kind of idiotic, with the only exception being Liz, I think the performances are really good all around.

    Final Thoughts:  This might be an unpopular opinion, but Shaun of the Dead is actually my least favourite of both the Cornetto trilogy and Edgar Wright’s filmography so far. But like I said, I do like this movie a lot. It has fantastic directing and editing, amazing chemistry between Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, great action sequences and it does wisely poke fun at the tropes of the zombie genre. All that said though, the romantic aspect of the film I felt was unnecessary and sometimes, the supporting characters will do really dumb things for the purpose of suspense, but anyone who is a fan of zombie movies hasn’t checked this movie out yet, do yourself a favor and pick it up now.

    Pros:

    • Fantastic chemistry between Simon Pegg and Nick Frost
    • Great use of visual comedy
    • Terrific action
    • Fast paced directing and editing

    Cons:

    • Romance between Shaun and Liz didn’t feel necessary
    • Most of the supporting characters are idiots

    Overall Grade:  8/10

    Posted in Movie Reviews, movies

    Prometheus – Movie Review

    Director:  Ridley Scott

    Cast:  Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshal-Green, Charlize Theron

    Plot:  Set in the Alien universe, archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway discover a star map in a cave on the Isle of Skye that shows the same pictogram that they’ve seen in other archaeological dig sites. This leads them to a moon in a galaxy trillions of miles from Earth. Four years later, the exploration vessel Prometheus has reached its destination. When the team lands on the planet, they begin to discover signs of life, but as they soon find out, not everything is as it seems.

    First Thoughts:  Well, this was certainly an interesting experience. As I was only thirteen when Prometheus came out in theatres, I haven’t gotten the chance to see it until now. So after five long years of hearing complaints from hardcore Alien fans that it wasn’t the movie they were expecting, I’m starting to wonder if we all saw the same film here. Sure, it’s not perfect, but as a stand-alone film, I actually think there’s a lot to appreciate in Prometheus that fans of Alien didn’t really catch.

    Story:  So yes, Prometheus is set in the Alien universe and takes place a number of years before the events of Alien, so naturally there’s a lot of comparisons to be made there. Personally though, I don’t really see it as an Alien movie, which to hardcore fans of Ridley Scott’s original Alien might be a problem, but for me it isn’t, because as a whole, Prometheus has a lot of things to discover and actually gets very existential and philosophical at times, namely with the question of where our place is in the universe and who really created life on Earth? These are things that are explored fairly well in Prometheus. Some people have actually considered the movie to be boring, but I honestly don’t think that because I was so invested in the story and all the deeper philosophical stuff thrown throughout the movie.

    Technical:  Ridley Scott has proven that even if his films aren’t necessarily the greatest of his filmography, they are going to look beautiful. And I think Prometheus is one of Scott’s best looking films. From the opening scene, we get a lot of really beautiful shots of a desolate Earth, and from there, the cinematography is consistently great, and is melded really well with some magnificent CGI, which sometimes is barely even noticeable, as Scott does such a great job at blending them. There’s also some great practical makeup effects on display, save for one specific character, and if you’ve seen Prometheus, you know exactly who I’m referring to. I can’t really get into it since it is a spoiler, but all I will say is that it’s a character who’s supposed to be an old man but is played by a somewhat younger actor. I’m not sure if that was entirely convincing, but the makeup for the Engineers as they call them as well as some of the other makeup effects I thought were really good. And some of the more suspenseful scenes I thought were really well directed, especially that one scene that occurs around two thirds of the way through the film that if you’ve seen the film, you pretty much know how awesome that scene is.

    Performances:  The performances are another one of the strong suits of Prometheus, in particular Noomi Rapace, who I think is one of the more underrated actresses working today, and I think this is really the film that I think boosted her popularity. Her character in this film is by far one of the most interesting in the film, she’s had a very religious upbringing, but she’s also very determined to find out humanity’s origins, and she believes that these Engineers are the ones who may have created humanity. Another strong performance, and maybe the best in the film, is Michael Fassbender as David, the android that is on this expedition, and his character is very interesting because he does a lot of things just out of curiosity (he is an android after all), and Fassbender is so good at acting very stoic throughout the entire film. Charlize Theron is also great as the person who’s in charge of the expedition, and you can tell that she’s there just for her own purposes. These three performances I thought were the strongest in the entire film, but really everyone’s great, especially Idris Elba as the captain of the Prometheus.

    Final Thoughts:  Look, this is a film that is polarizing to say the least. Some people hail it as one of the best sci-fi movies of the 2010’s and others criticize it for not giving us the answers right away, citing “poor writing”. Look, go back to Ridley Scott’s 1979 original Alien and you will see that there are just as many unanswered questions in that film as there are in Prometheus. It’s just now in this internet age where we just expect to get all the answers right away, and I think people are really missing something about this movie. Sure, the fact that there are so many unanswered questions is maddening, but to me, it’s the good kind of maddening, and I really do hope that Alien: Covenant will answer some of those questions. All in all, I think I love Prometheus, and if you don’t share the same opinion, that’s cool, but if you’re going to hate on this movie just because it doesn’t immediately give us answers, you have to realize that they’ve been planning on making a sequel even before this film came out. Scott would have been insane to have just give us all the answers right away or leave all of them unanswered. Like I said, I love this movie. I think it’s just as good as Alien, even if other people will disagree with me, and I think years down the line, when we finally do get answers (hopefully), this film will get a lot more love and appreciate it as a more mature, thought-provoking and existential sci-fi movie. I don’t think it does the best job of connecting it to the Alien franchise, but as a stand-alone movie, I can appreciate this movie for a lot of the things it does really right.

    Pros:

    • Beautiful cinematography and visual effects
    • Great performances
    • More existential and thought-provoking than the rest of the Alien films
    • Very good moments of tension
    • The fact that there are so many unanswered questions makes me excited for Alien: Covenant

    Cons:

    • The amount of unanswered questions will anger some people
    • Some of the makeup looks pretty bad

    Overall Grade:  9/10

    So guys, I wanted to talk about this movie since Alien: Covenant is coming out next week, and I am so excited to see it. I wonder if anyone else has had the same experience that I had with this film and if there’s anyone else out there who’s as big of a fan of it as I am. Thank you so much as always, and stay tuned for my review of Alien: Covenant soon (I hope).

    Posted in Movie Reviews, movies

    Ghost in the Shell (2017) – Movie Review

    Director:  Rupert Sanders

    Cast:  Scarlett Johansson, “Beat” Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbæk, Chin Han, Juliette Binoche

    Plot:  Set in the near future, the line between man and machine is becoming increasingly blurred. Major Mira Killian is the first of her kind, a human woman saved from a deadly terrorist attack whose body has been cyber-enhanced by Hanka Robotics. One year later she is created, she is now part of Section 9, a police unit that hunts down cyber criminals. After an attack on a Hanka representative by a nefarious hacker who can hack into people’s minds to control them, Major and her team discover a plan to take down Hanka by a man known as Kuze. As Major gets closer to stopping Kuze though, she discovers that some things aren’t really as they seem.

    First Thoughts:  Look, I’m gonna be honest, I didn’t really have any intention on seeing this film. Live action movie adaptations of anime have a reputation of being terrible *cough*Dragonball: Evolution*cough*. There actually was promise with this one though, with the casting of Scarlett Johansson being a nearly perfect choice to play the Major (despite the dumbass controversy), with even director Mamoru Oshii aproving. But I have Chris Stuckmann to thank for this, because he gave it a surprisingly positive review that I genuinely wasn’t expecting. And you know what? This movie was actually kind of awesome. And that’s coming from someone who’s not exactly the biggest GitS fan.

    Story:  In regards to the story of this film, it’s very similar to the original in the sense that there’s a cyber-terrorist causing havoc in (what I assume to be) futuristic Tokyo, but not only do they change the main villain from the Puppet Master (original anime) to Kuze (this film and Stand Alone Complex), but they also add quite a bit to it, as this film is around 25 minutes longer than the original. For one, they added the aforementioned sub-plot about Major uncovering things about her past, and that gave the film, and Major, a lot more depth than Motoko Kusanagi in the 1995 film. The film also touches on the line between humanity and A.I. and how it can be blurred, especially in the second and third acts. There’s also a great scene that explores gender identity, which is something that the original focuses on quite a bit as well.

    Technical:  Rupert Sanders proved with his feature debut Snow White and the Huntsman that he could make a very visually transfixing film, and with this, he recreates the world of Shiro Masamune’s original manga and Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 film down-pat. The CGI is quite spectacular, despite the fact that there is a lot of it, but it blends so well with great production design and beautiful cinematography. Now I heard on my local new station’s movie review segment that the film was trying to be a Matrix ripoff a decade too late, and yeah, there’s quite a bit of slow motion, but clearly the reviewer in question doesn’t realize how influential the original Ghost in the Shell was on The Matrix. And in all honesty, the action in the film is absolutely fantastic, the slow motion I mention earlier is utilized very well, the camerawork is very fluid, there’s some really good stunts and gunplay on display, and it’s all done really well. And I must talk about the score. Clint Mansel and Lorne Balfe may have actually composed a better score than Kenji Kawai’s score from the original. It so incredibly epic and beautiful and it really fits the film.

    Performances:  I know what people are going to say about Scarlett Johansson in this movie, but quite frankly, anyone who says that a Japanese actress should have played Major, but I’m not the kind of person who would criticize a casting choice for those kinds of reasons. In reality, Scarlett Johansson is great as the Major. Sure, it would have been more faithful to the source material if they had cast a Japanese actress in the role, but even real people in Japan, including Mamoru Oshii, the director of the 1995 film, have actually defended the casting decision, and I can see why. She actually looks quite a bit like the character in the manga and anime, or at least as close as you can get, she kicks ass in the action scenes and gives a surprising amount of emotion to the role for a mostly cyborg character. The rest of the cast also shines, namely “Beat” Takeshi Kitano. Who’s to say they didn’t cast any Japanese actors, much less one who got second billing. I also really liked Pilou Asbæk as Batou, they really got his character right, especially his love of basset hounds (which is also Mamoru Oshii’s trademark). Now Michael Pitt as Kuze… hmm, you know what, it took me a bit to really get into him. His performance is fairly robotic, even down to his voice glitching out on occasion, and the first time we see him on screen, I was unsure about how I felt, but I got used to it, and he’s not actually even in the movie that much. Is his character as compelling as the Puppet Master from the original? Probably not, but even still, he’s a pretty interesting villain and you understand where his motivations are coming from.

    Final Thoughts:  You know, with all that could’ve gone wrong, and considering some of the other live action big budget adaptations of anime that have sucked, Ghost in the Shell stands out among all the rest as the best of its kind. Sure, it’s not a perfect movie, it is dumbed down quite a bit and Michael Pitt’s performance was on and off for me, but visually, this is one of the most accurate adaptations of anything that I’ve ever seen. The action is very well helmed, the performances are great and it’s similar enough to the original to make fans happy, but different enough to keep it interesting, and the stuff they did change from the original, I liked. I really hope this is a good omen for future anime adaptations like Akria and Death Note.

    Pros:

    • Gorgeous visual effects
    • Extremely accurate depiction of the GitS universe
    • Great action sequences
    • Good performances all around (mostly)

    Cons:

    • Dumbed down a little from the original source material
    • Michael Pitt’s performance was hit or miss at times

    Overall Grade:  8/10