Posted in movies, top 5

Amateur Movie Critic’s Top 5 Favourite Films of 2017 (so far)

Hey guys! So today is something very special, because not only is it Canada Day, and to all my fellow Canadians, happy Canada Day, but today also marks the halfway point of 2017! Since we are halfway through the year now, I figured that I would share my top five favourites of the first half of the year. For a full ranking on the films I’ve seen so far this year, I’ll leave a link at the end of this post. Now, let’s get to it.

#5: Wonder Woman

After the disappointments that were Batman v Superman (which I actually didn’t mind) and Suicide Squad (which was a mess), I was just about ready to give up my hope in DC. But I was willing to give them one more shot with Wonder Woman, and I’m glad I did, because this is easily their best film in five years. Considering the last film that Patty Jenkins directed was Monster with Charlize Theron, she does a really great job directing the action, and Gal Gadot really owns the role, embodying this sense of curiosity about the outside world, excitement and naivety, while also kicking a ton of ass. I’m so glad DC has turned themselves around with this film, because I genuinely did not want to cut them off. Hopefully Justice League and future DC Comics films are as good.

#4: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

The first Guardians of the Galaxy was both a huge critical and financial success, so naturally, this was my most anticipated comic book film of 2016, and it did not disappoint. While the film does feel a lot longer than the first (and it is), the film as a whole is so much damn fun. The action scenes are insanely well done, the visual effects are some of the best in the entire MCU (and by far the most vibrant), the characters are amazing, especially Yondu, who is given a lot more depth in this film, and the sense of camraderie amongst the characters is rivalled only by the Avengers movies.

#3: Baby Driver

Being such a huge fan of Edgar Wright’s previous work, was there really any doubt that Baby Driver was gonna be awesome? As per usual, Wright directs the shit out of this movie and showcases some of the best car chases ever put to film. It’s also extremely funny, well acted all around and has easily the best soundtrack of 2017. Sorry GotG Vol 2, I love you, but the way they utilize the soundtrack in Baby Driver is so unique and stylish and it really plays its own character in the film. Trust me, go and support this and ensure it does not bomb like Scott Pilgrim vs the World.

#2: Your Name

I know what some of you are thinking; didn’t this come out in 2016? Technically yes, but since it didn’t get a wide release in North America until April of this year, I can count Your Name as a 2017 release. Director Makoto Shinkai has previously proved himself to be one of the most directors in anime, and I think he’s made his masterpiece with Your Name. The concept alone is great, and it’s not every day you see a film tell a romance through body-swapping. The characters are also very likeable, there’s a great deal of humour throughout the film, and the tonal shifts that occur in the second act feel incredibly seemless. If you still haven’t seen Your Name yet, I highly recommend you seek it out if it’s playing near you, or seek out the Blu-ray when it comes out. Seriously, don’t stream/torrent it.

#1: Logan

Now, I originally gave this film a 9/10 when I saw it back in March, but I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, and I think this might be not just my favourite movie of 2017 so far, it’s also possibly my favourite X-Men movie. The thing about Logan the most isn’t just the brutality of the action scenes (which is awesome by the way), but the fact that this movie really doesn’t feel like a superhero movie. It feels much more like a dark, somber, character focused drama with some very exciting bursts of action. It decides not to go all out with CGI and focus more on the story and the characters. And I must say, it kind of sucks having to let go of this character that so many people (including myself to an extent) have grown up loving. And if I’m being brutally honest, I don’t even want Wolverine to be recast. Hugh Jackman will forever be linked to that character and no one can ever live up to him. Plus, there’s the ending. No spoilers, but can we just… let him be? If anything, make an X-23 solo film. That’d be pretty badass. So yeah, since my review of this film was published, this movie got a boost from a 9/10 to 10/10. Also, I highly recommend watching the black and white version, Logan Noir. Really adds a lot to the film.

So there it is, my favourite films of the first half of 2017. Now for all those wondering why there aren’t any photos to go along with each film, that’s because I’m currently in the middle of nowhere with a shoddy internet connection and I can’t seem to get a decent resolution picture. As soon as I get home, I’ll remedy this though. I hope you guys enjoyed this list, and as I promised, here is my Letterboxd list of all 21 films I’ve seen so far in 2017 ranked: https://boxd.it/W5f8 As always, thank you for reading, and I’ll see you guys later.

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Posted in 1001 Movies, Movie Reviews, 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 movies

    What the hell happened to my Alien: Covenant review?

    Hey guys, so you may have seen my Alien: Covenant review, and if you’ve been following my blog, you’d know that yesterday, I took that review down. So why did I take it down? Well, something went wrong with the publishing. I could have sworn that when I published it, I had completed it, but when I looked at it yesterday, it was only half done. I don’t have any idea how that happened, because I know that I had finished the whole thing. So, instead of going through the hassle of completing the entire review over again, I decided to not do the review. I swear to god, this has never happened to me before, so I don’t know how or why this happened. Sorry for all of this guys. Just know that I really enjoyed the film and I’m excited to see more of the Alien universe.

    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