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Lost - Season 1 review
(This review is for the first season only)
Lost Season 1 first aired in 2004 and was created J.J. Abrams, Jeffrey Lieber and Damon Lindelof. It is about the survivors of a plane crash as they are forced to work to survive together. It has a large ensemble cast of lots of different characters. While I cannot talk about all of these characters individually in this review, I will say and the majority of the characters work, although some do not. A big issue is that the lead character, played by Matthew Fox, fails to impress on a large level. His character is fairly bland, and lacks enough of an interesting arc to make him entertaining. Thankfully, many of the supporting cast work better. Dominic Monaghan, Jorge Garcia and Naveen Andrews all hit well with their characters. However it is Soya, played very convincingly by Josh Holloway, who works the best. His character, despite being the least popular of the group, is by far the most entertaining for the audience. He is charismatic, witty, and hugely entertaining when he gets an episode devoted to him. There are a few other characters that work less well, such as Yunjin Kim's Sun Kwon and Ian Somerhalder's terribly acted Boone Carlyle. Unfortunately there are multiple episodes that are majorly dragged down by the less interesting characters. Still, the good outweighs the bad here.
This is a series that, like many others, has some standout episodes and some poor episodes. It is not consistent in its quality, and sometimes you will get a great episode one week and a bad episode the next. The standouts include "Deus Ex Machina", "Outlaws" and "Do No Harm"; whereas the weakest episodes are "Raised by Another", "Born To Run" and "Whatever the Case May Be". The first few episodes failed to grip me, and were generally mediocre, but thankfully it picks up as it goes along. The second half of the season was definitely better than the first, and the last five episodes were especially good.
What this series does well is keep the sense of mystery and suspense prominent throughout. There are some very well shot sequences that do well to heighten the suspense that are very enjoyable to watch, and at the some the mystery caries on throughout the season. There are many unanswered questions (some of which are unfortunately not even answered by the end of the season) which keep the viewer interested.
Each episode has two parts - around two thirds of the episode is set on the island, the other third consists of flashbacks, which focus on one of the many characters on the island. In order to keep it interesting, the character who is focused on in the flashbacks changes each episode. Neither section of the episode is consistently better than the other - some episodes had much better flashbacks than island scenes, and vice versa. The flashbacks are used as a clever tool to build on the characters on the island, while simultaneously telling the viewer more about them.
In conclusion, Lost is a cleverly written series that has enough interesting characters and suspenseful story arcs to keep it interesting for the audience. Not everything works, but when it hits, it hits well.
The best movie of in the Rocky franchise since the original
Creed is the seventh instalment in the Rocky franchise but this time focuses on Adonis Creed, Apollo Creed's son. Adonis Creed is spectacularly played by the perfectly cast Michael B. Jordan in what may be his best role and performance to date. The movie once again features Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa - Stallone's performance is surprisingly effective; he embodies the character perfectly after Rocky Balboa in 2006, ten years ago. His acting in this movie is far better than you might expect from him at this stage, but you will be pleasantly surprised - he won Best Supporting Acting at the Golden Globes for a reason. Tessa Thompson plays Bianca, Adonis' love interest, who gives a deceptively complex character that adds something great to the movie.
What the movie gives for the first half is familiar fare for these movies - displaying the well earned nostalgia that these movies have earned - but at the same time director Ryan Coogler manages to revivify the series, and through his strong and clearly talented directing makes the movie stand alone as a genuinely strong dramatic piece. For long time fans of the series, this movie will be particularly emotionally potent, but even to new time fans this is will still be a strong movie. Cinematographer Maryse Alberti does a great job shooting the movie and in his own right adds something excellent to the movie (an almost five minute boxing scene which is all shot in one take is particularly mesmerising).
In conclusion, Creed is an excellent movie - the best since the 1976 original, which can, in a large part, be put down to Ryan Coogler's fantastic directing. The characters are very strong, in particular Michael B. Jordan's, and the acting also great. It does justice to the previous movies while at the same time trying something new and effective.
The Woman in Black (2012)
Enjoyable in part, but undermined by the end
I don't often watch horror movies, but this was an exception. I don't dislike the genre, I just prefer others. However I had heard good things about this movie and was able to watch it for free so I sat down with some friends and gave it a try. For the first act, I enjoyed it quite a lot. The lead character, played by Daniel Radcliffe, is by far the strongest part of the movie and as the entire first act was focusing on his characterisation I enjoyed it a lot. Daniel Radcliffe was perfectly cast in a refreshingly different role for him; he was realistic enough to believe and a well written character for the purpose of the story. My only gripe is that there were a couple of false notes in Daniel Radcliffe's acting which stood out once or twice, but nothing big. The rest of the cast is agreeable as well; the only other main cast member, Ciarán Hinds' Sam Daily was believable and did his job well, even if his character lacked an interesting enough arc.
A major issue with this movie is that it is traditional and clichéd to a fault. The characters are very traditional to such a horror movie (there is of course the frightened locals and the sceptical rich guy who won't believe a word of ghost stories), and there are also the traits and clichés that you might find in any 90's horror movie. The third act is especially weak. It becomes unbearably traditional, in that it lacks originality. However the worst part of the movie by far is the extremely poor ending that not only undermines the rest of the movie but makes everything up to that point look weak. It's over the top, very predictable and perhaps even silly. Still, at least the movie doesn't bore.
There are a few other ups and downs about this movie. There are some genuinely effective jump scares, and some good set pieces that work well to create the mood. The writing and directing is good enough, but nothing special. The soundtrack is good and sticks out in multiple scenes, and thus lifting the movie somewhat. Finally there is some poor editing (in particular in the sound department) that needs to be fixed, but nothing too big. In the end you will probably enjoy the majority of this movie, which is helpfully lifted by Daniel Radcliffe, but even he can't save some of the movie's flaws, in particular the very weak ending.
A disappointing mess that even Batman can't save
The only ample word to sum up this movie is 'disappointing'. This is an extremely overstuffed and convoluted movie with many flaws and not much to make up for them. It is probably fair to mention that the huge expectations for this movie were never realistically going to be fulfilled - however nobody really expected this to be as bad as it was.
There are firstly a few overlaying problems that are prominent throughout the movie. For one, Zack Snyder's directing. Most people seem to lay most of the blame for the failure of this movie on Zack Snyder himself. As a director, he does not find any ways to grip the audience with any of the characters or story. This became a large problem with the movie as the lack of intensity made it all quite boring. There is no fun or humour in this movie, the whole atmosphere is pretentiously dark and depressing to the point of absurdity. The whole movie takes itself far too seriously and becomes almost laughable by the end. Another prominent issue is the script. Every character, whether interesting or not, is hugely let down by the poor and sometimes laughable dialogue that infects every scene. Without any decent writing or directing, is it really a surprise this movie didn't work?
Unfortunately the issues do not stop there. Many of the characters and castings are less than mediocre. This movie is overstuffed with so many characters and subplots that it all becomes very convoluted and distorted. The villains are beyond bad: Jesse Eisenberg gives the worst performance of his career (and the year?), in a character that could be perhaps branded as the worst comic book movie villain to date. His mannerisms, idiosyncrasies and dialogue are hugely misguided and make his character very painful to watch. His plan is simple and the conclusion to his storyline laughably silly. The other villain is shoehorned into the end of the movie with the lack of necessity and poor CGI that one might expect from a Zack Snyder movie. As far as villains go, these are as bad as they get.
There is also a far too large cast of superheros in this movie. Wonder Woman serves absolutely no purpose - she is shoehorned in as a kind of Justice League tie-in but ultimately is redundant. You could remove her from every scene in the movie, and nothing would change. Gal Gadot does a mediocre job at playing her, but lacks the enthusiasm or charisma to make any lasting affect on the audience. One of the title characters, Superman, is also poorly used. Henry Cavill's acting is stiff and wooden once again, to the point where watching him try to act becomes genuinely painful. Superman is portrayed as an imprudent, egotistical and delusion fool who seems to believe the only way to settle something is by fighting. However, thankfully there is a silver linings in the cast: Ben Affleck's Batman/Bruce Wayne. By far the best character in the movie, Ben Affleck carries the character with the intensity and suave that such a character needs. His scenes were, to put it bluntly, the only interesting ones, which were also made better by Jeremy Iron's enjoyable Alfred.
Another problem with the movie is it ultimately relies on action and explosions rather than anything else. There is nothing intellectual about it - every character wants to fight his way out of everything and nothing is resolved with any intelligence. The ending and conclusion, without spoiling it, to the Batman v Superman storyline is almost offensively bad. Which just serves as proof that no actual thought or good writing went into this movie.
The Revenant (2015)
Best movie I saw all year
"Best movie I saw all year" is not something I say lightly. The Revenant is not only an unforgettable movie with top notch acting and cinematography, it is a filmmaking triumph. Going into the theatre I had seen no trailers, clips or much advertising at all. However, I was astounded by the movie I saw. Alejandro G. Iñárritu's has crafted a supremely brutal and harsh movie with outstanding realism as it portrays a vivid tale of human endurance and revenge. Iñárritu takes complete control of the movie with outstanding directing that was not matched by anyone in 2015. He rightfully won the Oscar, Bafta, Golden Globe and every other award for directing. He carries the movie with such commendable intensity and confidence that a movie like this needs. He successfully builds up the tension throughout the movie, from the brutal beginning scene to the amazing climax. It is hard to imagine anyone else doing such a good job at directing this movie - and perhaps that is because no one else could.
However Iñárritu is not the only great filmmaker here. The films cinematography is especially good. Three-time Oscar winning Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography is sensationally vivid and realistic - nothing short of masterful. The makeup, costume design and visual effects are also strong, but it is the acting that really shines. Leonardo DiCaprio (finally) snagged an Oscar for his outstanding turn as Hugh Glass; a performance that was not even closely matched this year. It is by far his most difficult role yet, and at the same time, perhaps his best. Glass' quest for revenge is edge-of-your-seat stuff - a relentless quest that leaves the audience in awe. Tom Hardy also was nominated for Best Actor here, but for some outrageous reason was beaten by Mark Rylance. Given his performance and difficult character in this movie, that seems preposterous when you begin to contemplate it. He successfully plays one of the most authentically evil villains in recent history - a character with no signs of either empathy or morals. Not an easy role to play, but perhaps that's why they chose Tom Hardy for the job.
The whole cast is at the top of their game, with the supporting cast of Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter and Forrest Goodluck all giving surprisingly good performances. All the characters are original and particularly realistic, which helps to make this an especially relentless and authentic movie. The Revenant is as thrilling and brutal and as a sheet of sharp ice held to the skin, but by gosh, it's entertaining.
An incredibly intense and unique film
Sicario was one of the most overlooked movies of 2015. It was given little recognition at the Oscars, yet was far more entertaining than many of the other nominees (I'm looking at you, Bridge of Spies). Sicario is a contemporary movie set in the drug-ridden streets of Mexico. It is a simple, relatively small-scale movie, but very entertaining. The opening of Sicario unfolds at such an intense level that it seems impossible for director Villeneuve to sustain it, let alone build on it, but somehow he manages to do just that. The edging tension building up throughout the movie is the product of some very strong directing, which is evident throughout the movie. The movie is relentless in its tension, which doesn't cease until the credits role.
The cast is also one of the movie's strongest points. Emily Blunt is a fantastic lead, with a great realism to her character. Benicio Del Toro's acting is strong also, as he plays a mysterious and almost creepy assassin with next to no empathy. But perhaps Josh Brolin plays the most memorable character. Witty, passionate and surreal, Josh Brolin truly shines here. The most annoying part is that Jon Bernthal, who is listed as the 5th top star here on IMDb, is unfortunately in less than ten minutes of the movie. It seems bizarre that they would hire such a great, upcoming actor behind roles such as The Punisher and Shane Walsh (not to mention some big, Oscar winning movies like The Wolf of Wall Street) and barely even use him. Still, his brief appearance is still noteworthy.
It's hard to find fault with Sicario. On the level of craft and performances, it's spotless. If you're looking for a great meaning or message, you'll be disappointed here. The movie would perhaps benefit from not being so small-scale, as by the end there is a feeling that it all didn't amount to much. Still, it's an edge-of-your-seat thriller that is sure to stick with you for a while.
Suicide Squad (2016)
There are many up and some downs about Suicide Squad. Due to the negative reviews, I went into the theatre with somewhat low expectations. However, I found myself pleasantly surprised. The cast is spot on, with even Jai Courtney playing a character perfectly fitted to him. Joel Kinnamon and Viola Davis are a fantastic pair, with truly riveting characters. El Diablo was surprisingly great, with a particularly unique and original character. Jared Leto is a strong Joker (if not as good as Health Ledger), whose core qualities are absolute craziness and absolute craziness. However it is Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn who really stands out here. Her incarnation of the classic character is fell acted, deep and by far the best on screen Harley Quinn we've gotten so far. The problem with the cast of characters is there are just too many. Ergo many are side-tracked for the majority of the film (in particular Katana, Slipnot and Lieutenant GQ Edwards), whereas other characters (Killer Croc are just unnecessary).
There are other ups and downs here. On one hand, this is a very fun, even funny super villain movie with a great soundtrack and likable set pieces. On the other hand, the villain is very poor (worst part of the movie) some of the editing isn't great and the dialogue is poor and clichéd are times. Still, this is a movie that would be difficult not to enjoy, and when it works, it really works.
Well acted, written and directed - but not infallible
Whiplash is a story about an extremely abusive music teacher (played by JK Simmons) who "pushes his students beyond expectations"; his student, in this case, is played by Miles Teller. Director Damien Chazelle based this film on this own life experience as a student jazz drummer in the thrall of an Alpha task-master. Understandably then, this is a very human story - yet slightly absurd at times. JK Simmons' character feels like he was ripped straight out of a comic book, and is incredibly intense to say the least. Miles Teller's character on the other hand is much more relatable, and generally a more human character. The narrative focuses on the latter character, who serves as an effective view-point for the story.
One of the best parts of this film is the acting. The performances from both Miles Teller and JK Simmons are of the highest quality (JK Simmons won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2015). Damien Chazelle effectively succeeded with both writing and directing - both of which made this one of the most intense films I have seen in a very long time.
The place in which the movie falls down slightly is the ending. It feels very unlikely and also forced, and at the same time is clearly trying very hard to tie up all the jagged drama of the movie in one final swoop.
In the end this is a very intense, well-acted movie that you are sure to remember for a long time, even if it's not quite the masterpiece it tries to be.
It's not like we expected this to be great
Another disappointing episode. Probably the best episode of the season, but still not very good. Logic was completely absent, and as always there were very poor decisions in the writing, like somehow finding 10000 zombies to unleash on the military (and then letting them all get killed for no reason) just to rescue two people. All the characters are agonisingly bad at this point, aside from Strand. But even if Strand was more intriguing than any other character on the show, the insultingly bad writing held him and everything else back.
There were some good things about this episode though. The ending and Liza's death packed some emotional weight, although I never cared for her at all (it was more the effect it had on the other characters that mattered). For once there was some actual action and scenes with actual zombies (because for some reason the show usually lacks that...), which was fairly fun to watch. There was also a quite tense atmosphere throughout the episode, as they nailed the pacing right on - it was a much faster moving, and eventful episode than usual.
In the end this was a just about enjoyable finale, and certainly better than the previous five episodes, but that's not saying much.
Jessica Jones (2015)
AKA Difficult to enjoy
This show is a complete missed opportunity. After having watch Daredevil and thoroughly enjoyed it, I was really looking forward to this. However in comparison to Daredevil this show falls flat. That's not to say there aren't good aspects - its just this show is hugely underwhelming for an avid Marvel fan like myself; and I will explain why.
Right from the first episode it was clear there were issues with some of the characters and casting. Apart from Luke, the supporting cast isn't just a missed bag - it's a giant bag of offensively poor characters. Trish didn't seem to serve any more purpose than just being Jessica's friend, and even that felt forced. Malcolm was especially cringeworthy - poorly written and poorly acted. Pam, Jeri and Wendy occupied a totally unnecessary storyline that shouldn't have been included in the show, and just felt like filler. Finally Robyn and Will were almost enough to make me stop watching this show all together; never before have I seen such a horrendous mixture of poor acting, poor writing and generally uninteresting characters. All of their scenes were very painful to watch. On the other hand you have Luke, who I personally thought was great and am certainly looking forward to his own show. Jessica was far too one-tone for me. I didn't feel they developed her character enough and all I saw was repetition in the way she was written. However the place this show really shines is with Kilgrave - one of Marvel finer, if not finest villains to date. David Tennant played him fantastically and I genuinely enjoyed every scene he was in. The only problem was the limited screen time he occupied. The writers clearly didn't have enough plot points to keep him going throughout the series, so in the end he wasn't even in the show that much. There were some episodes which he didn't appear in at all, and only two where he was prominent throughout. For the rest of the series he was in roughly five to ten minutes of the episodes, which were always the best part of the episode for me. It become increasingly frustrating when the writers continually side-lined the only very strong aspect of the show they had (Kilgrave), and subsequently the show suffered because of this.
The writers did not nail the pace at all. It was as though they had only a few plot points that they wanted to stretch out over a thirteen episode series; the end result being a very unevenly structured show. There were far to many filler episodes throughout the series (and a show like this really shouldn't have any) which were all quite painful to watch, and subtracted from the far superior Kilgrave plot line. However when the show did stick to the Kilgrave orientated plot it worked much better, and the show would have had a great cohesion if it weren't for the multiple filler episodes. The writers clearly had trouble fitting all the characters into the main plot, so instead they left many in their own sub-plots, which failed to contribute much to the show. There was some good action (albeit action was very rare) and tense moments, although ultimately many of the episodes remained very uneventful and lacked in substance. This lead to an agonisingly slow pace to the show, and some highly boring episodes. The show was predictable, and even the end felt very anti-climatic.
In the end, would I recommend this to somebody? The simple answer is no. If you are an avid fan of the Marvel universe and are hellbent on watching all of its properties, then go right ahead and give this a try, but don't expect it to be as good as Daredevil or many of the MCU movies. But if you're not a giant Marvel fan, I would say don't bother with this show - there are better out there.