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Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Overall an epic conclusion but inferior to Infinity War's pace and energy (SPOILER FREE)
This is probably the highest 8/10 I could give for an 8/10 movie.
There are some very good moments in Endgame and that's coming from a long standing MCU fan growing up with these movies. In creating an extensive and emotional journey for a lot of the MCU characters, it absolutely succeeds.
Endgame ultimately is an excellent conclusion to over 10 years of film but I feel the plot's pacing and direction is really lacking to Infinity War, which 'trimmed the fat' and was much more focused and energetic. Granted, Endgame takes risks but this might be a disappointment to some fans with its slower pace that focuses on character development over action and intense sequences. The run time probably should be shorter or streamlined. Less cuts and motion blur during fight scenes would've made it easier to track fights as well.
Respect for the Russo Brothers for taking the direction they did with Endgame and it really does satisfy but Infinity War is overall a more entertaining movie. It's not the best MCU movie but I can't dispute its great conclusion.
Serviceable but a complete disappointment
Glass has moments of greatness with its lofty ambitions but falls completely flat as a finale to a trilogy. The execution of the plot doesn't give justice to any of the film's main protagonists and that's the first issue with the film.
Since Glass has no clear central protagonist to focus on and develop, it's hard for the plot to keep focus and develop each character consistently; motivations felt all over the place. On top of this, the introduction of new characters felt completely unnecessary by the finale and you wish the 3 main characters were the main focus of the plot. Minutes of screen time is given to characters babbling when it really could be actually developing characters
Secondly, Glass is mainly set in one location, like Split, but fails to deliver the same tension and anticipation as Split. This was likely an attempt to save money in the budget but it didn't work! Shyamalan should have took advantage of lighting and close quarters tension rather than opting for the scenarios he did.
The score is decent - you get a mix of Split's excellent disturbing sound design and beats from Unbreakable and some scenes are great fan service (especially some deleted scenes from Unbreakable). James McAvoy is busting his nuts off in this role once again and nails his performance - it's just a shame his character isn't put to good use.
Overall, it's okay to be disappointed by this finale and the conclusion feels rushed and completely unsatisfactory as an end of the trilogy. A massive shame.
Pet Sematary (2019)
A really enjoyable horror with genuine chills - ideal for newcomers unfamiliar with the source material
While the original Pet Sementary adaptation gathered a cult following and a recognisable status within horror, younger viewers (such as myself at 24) may have not seen the original nor be familiar with the source material. Sadly I have personally not seen the original but I'd be more than willing to after watching this!
I felt as if this was a great jumping in point for newcomers because the concept and lore of Pet Sementary is really intriguing with its supernatural execution and this fresh adaptation delivers. I would have love to seen some of the lore and supernatural elements explored even more in a visual form.
The music / sound FX is great, with creative panning that works alongside decent cinematography that definitely gives out a fair share of chills and jump scares (though I would have preferred some scenes to have much dark lighting). Granted, I felt that I would have loved to have seen Pet Sementary push harder to deliver more disturbing imagery, gore, and plot elements in later scenes. I found myself drawing comparisons to 2018's Hereditary and felt that Pet Sementary could have pushed the envelope.
Nevertheless, it's a great horror movie that gave me plenty of chills and has some really great ideas recycled.
An expertly crafted throwback to 80s horror - but not everyone will appreciate its focus
Straight away, the movie builds itself off grainy nostalgia through the use of old studio/distribution logos and its opening credits against an establishing helicopter shot. Set in 1982, Mandy really works as a modern production's take on films of its era and The Evil Dead especially shines through.
Mandy first and foremost intentionally priorities cinematography, shot composition, score and atmosphere over plot and character development - but that's kind of the point.
The film is drenched in neon visuals which look absolutely fantastic and the score is really well produced as well with a mixture of euphoric pads, harrowing growls and occasional metal influence.
Nicolas Cage revells in his role in this film as he pushes his emotions to a level that only he can achieve. And it completely works for this movie (even if some scenes did make me chuckle - I blame the memes).
The use of practical effects and occasional animation is nicely done as well!
It might come across a weird horror movie for casual audiences with its intense visual palette (lots of strobes and neon visuals) and excessive nature but it definitely has its charm as a nostalgic piece built on an iconic era of cult horror and action movies.
Go rent a copy from Blockbusters or your local VHS Rental store.
Sex Education (2019)
Funny, relatable and grounded with a diverse cast
Upon watching Sex Education, I felt as if it was going to fall in to the trap of being a cliché 'Americanised' high school story with every trope under the sun.
I was therefore surprised that the show gets the tone just right - some of the characters here will go through a number of issues that felt grounded and it's not only from one perspective, which definitely feels right in the current generation.
Our main characters have depth and goals that break away from conventions but the show is able to still keep the odds and stakes interesting enough to keep you watching like a more dramatic high school drama would.
The decent cast represents characters that have personalities that feel genuine and very likable. Cinematography, music and locations are spot on as well, feeling fresh and vibrant (using lots of British countryside rather than cities).
At times, the show can really indulge in the cringy characters / moments and it will seem cliché as first but as you persist through, the characters and plot really open up.
I'm looking forward to what comes in season 2.
It has decent technical merits, even if it is a tad under cooked
I think Jordan Peele was going to struggle with his follow up to Get Out - it was a strong horror movie with a fresh concept and twisted sense of humour.
Us carries over the dark humour and is a fresh take on the home invasion sub genre even if it does feel a lot more grand, abstract and interpretative than his debut.
I think viewers should take this movie at face value and then slowly peel back what the movie is trying to say - I was trying to jump the gun and figure out the interpretative meaning before actually digesting what actually happened.
The score was really good in places and definitely got better as the film progressed, the cinematography was also excellent and there are some great scenes here but the plot does get a tad confusing because some of exposition is rushed and it therefore doesn't have the overall finesse that made Get Out so appealing. You'll be surprised by Us but don't expect it to be as enjoyable as Get Out.
Captain Marvel (2019)
A solid origin story - even at the heels of Endgame (7.5 / 10)
I feel Captain Marvel had a lot of pressure being an origin movie at the heels of Avengers Endgame, which is less than a month away!
However I'm glad to say Captain Marvel is a decent origin story but don't expect anything on the level of Guardians / Thor Ragnarok / Infinity War.
The film has a rocky start - a fear of lack of personality and a plot structure that throws you off at first. The film's development definitely got better as the film progressed which definitely stops it falling short.
For MCU fans - we got a lot of Nick Fury in this movie which is awesome because it definitely adds a lot of fun to this movie and the de-ageing CGI is impressive.
The feminist stance isn't too heavy-handed within the film, though absolutely commendable in a relatable way. On the other hand, I'd probably say Wonder Woman is a better female led superhero movie.
I watched this movie in 3D and the 3D visuals in this movie are not particularly good - scenes were too dark on top of the 3D tint (this maybe theater dependent but I do work at a cinema).
Plot wise, it's not an essential watch but definitely a solid standalone entry and had a nice lead in to Endgame. I look forward to seeing other directors working with her character!
7.5 / light 8 out of 10
Ghost in the Shell (2017)
A streamlined but solid live action adaptation
Personally I haven't read the manga but I did however watch the original 1995 anime adaptation, which I really enjoy for its music, visuals and overall deep themes on humanity and cybernetics. However, the original anime suffered from a short run time (only 80 minutes) which means the plot didn't have to time to expand its plot / characters and rushes the film with lots of political jargon and exposition.
This live action adaptation has been made for a mainstream audience because a lot of the political espionage is traded in favour of a more personal story. This includes more backstories for the characters, which is engaging BUT it does lose the depth and philosophical traits of the original anime.
The visuals and music are absolutely stunning, which definetly amplifies the film and boosts its rating. The cinematography and action makes for a really entertaining watch at times as well.
Both versions have their flaws but the original is arguably more commendable for being a very influential product of its time but this version is solid in its own right with its modern production values.
The original is more driven by science fiction and political espionage while this adaptation is more focused on action and a personal story. It's really not as bad as a reviewers make out. The plots do differ but do feature similar characters / structure / set pieces.
Epic in scale, Legacy elevates the original every way possible
The original Tron didn't win everyone over when it released but it definitely got itself a bit of a cult following for its neon aesthetic, impressive (for its time) CGI and well composed soundtrack.
Tron Legacy's release could have been a questionable one - 28 years after the original - but I'm pleased to say it furfils it's potential.
Removing the technical jargon, questionnable costume design and somewhat clumsy charm of the original, Tron Legacy presents in a slick, cyberpunk aesthetic with a superb soundtrack from Daft Punk. We still have those classic designs and characters here, only modernised and contextualised.
The story takes a much more personal route and feels more engaging as well as being more streamlined and relatable. The new characters introduced have their own unique charm, depth and motive and the action set pieces that are presented are fantastic.
Some may question the CGI in places and the personalities of new characters when compared to Kevin Flynn but I loved it. Expertly crafted and underrated.
Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
A thoroughly entertaining cyberborg action movie
Simply put, Alita gets a lot of things right! The world and its history behind it, the characters and their decisions/backstories, the action sequences and overall a decent plot once it finds its footing. I saw Alita in 3D and thought the visuals looked great with the battle scenes not becoming too blurry and a 3D mess.
I think the great material at hand here likely stops the film from becoming too generic and cliché as it will surprise you! The tone is consistent and the cyberpunk aesthetic is great as well. Some of the script can be a bit cheesy/cringe at times but honestly, I really enjoyed it despite this and the action sequences are well constructed.
Hardcore Henry (2015)
An intense and well crafted thrill ride
Straight off the bat, I'd say this film is completely nuts and wears its videogame DNA proudly. Shot completely from a first person perspective, I give the director, photography and choreography team full props for their efforts in this film.
The main times the shaky cam disorientation happens is during hand to hand combat, which was less enjoyable for me when compared to the shoot out scenes which are awesome and a lot more clear (though there is some really great hand to hand scenes). It also wears its R/18 rating with pride as it over indulges just about everything (which some viewers probably won't appreciate, especially with its machismo leanings)
Sharlto Copley is the main actor throughout and this movie really allows him to shine with his wacky style and funny voice acting, which is great.
The plot has a cool concept but nothing that special; really you should watch this film for the action and comedic sequences as they great, bar some dodgy CGI at times.
Solid 7.5 / 10
Batman Ninja (2018)
Stunning visuals and a great concept but a very disconnected Batman animation
I was torn watching Batman Ninja; I think the concept is great considering Batman's fighting style is built around martial arts but it feels very disconnected to Batman and takes a very over the top anime approach.
It's amusing and the over the top style is so bombastic that you do find entertainment in it. However, when you consider what could have been done with the ninja/samurai genre, you will feel disappointed.
This could have been a much darker story in the period and actually used Batman's detective skills, which this film doesn't understand. It's an anime first and foremost and the Batman license is used as a tool here. Granted some of the action sequences are great but the script can be quite cringe worthy and detached from Batman.
If you love anime, you'll find enjoyment in this for sure but it was too much of a direction change for Batman to recommend it.
The Florida Project (2017)
A sweet but grounded coming of age drama with deep characters
The Florida Project won't be for everyone with its plot that is driven by the progression of a summer rather than a more traditional structure. While the plot may seem thin on the ground to some viewers, there is no denying that the characters are very grounded and deep, giving you an insight in to these people's lives, which drives the film forward.
The colourful cinematography and setting looks fantastic and is the real highlight of the film; it really compliments the coming of age aspect of the movie. The acting is effective with plenty of improvisational moments that feel natural. It's unconventional but strong with its realistic theme and tone , which can't go ignored.
A surprisingly effective rush with grand themes
M Night Shyamalan can be hit or miss but I can honestly say I wasn't expecting to enjoy Split as much as I did. Starting with a simple enough premise, the intensity and pacing is really effective - it hooks you in straight away.
Simply put, the cinematography, soundtrack and acting is really well crafted (James McAvoy acts his character VERY well) and it makes Split a really entertaining watch - it executes everything really well and keeps you interested with its intriguing plot.
It won't be for everyone and it isn't very straightforward with its plot but I believe it alludes to grand themes that elevates what could have been a simple thriller concept and story.
Children of Men (2006)
Ahead of it's time and more relevant than ever
It has taken me 13 years to get round to watching Children of Men and I have to say, it's an absolute masterclass in film making - the execution is astonishing (cinematography, sound design/soundtrack, set design, etc) and it's arguably quite scary in the way it paints a somewhat feasible vision of our future.
The acting and characters in this film are very grounded which reels you in and makes me feel invested. The social and political commentary of this film is still very relevant and quite powerful. It's not an easy watch at times, it's quite shocking but it's a very effective piece of film even if you didn't see it when it released.
Bird Box (2018)
Intriguing but ultimately nothing special
For a Netflix movie, Bird Box has caused quite a stir and it's execution is quite well done.
Despite the 2 hour run time which some what drags at times, the moments of tension and emotional resonance are quite engaging alongside the great score by Trent Reznor and solid cinematography. Acting from the main cast was good - though characters should have shown more raw emotion at times.
It does tip in to clichés within the apocalypse/survival genre and somewhat lacks depth in it's plot at times. Granted, the characters are fleshed out a bit but parts of the plot is purposely kept vague, which is intriguing but not as exciting as some might come to expect.
Worth a watch but if you want something similar that released this year, go ahead and watch A Quiet Place as it's a much more effective film.
A light 7 / 6.5
James Wan does the DCEU 'Justice' with Aqua Man
After Arthur Curry aka Aqua Man was properly introduced in Justice League, I felt the character was lacking and wasn't given enough material to work with. Justice League left a bland taste in my mouth but I'm very happy to say Aqua Man is excellent!
Essential it's the DC equivalent of Thor Ragnarok; the visuals are amazing with an explosion of colours on screen which were actually goosebump inducing at times and the action is the best seen in the DCEU yet! The choreography and wide camera shots mean you can track every fight scene and really see the impact of the fight. The battles are just epic in scale and destruction
The story has definitely cemented Arthur Curry's place in the DCEU, much like what was done with Diana in Wonder Woman. At times it is silly, a bit cheesy but honestly, it works in favour of the character. I couldn't see a gritty Aqua Man film working because look at the character material!
8.5 / 9
Less focused on the beasts but a complex plot with plenty of fan service
I thought I was going to dislike this film from the start because I heard that the beasts were less of a focus and this was easily the strongest part of the first film, while the Credence plot meandered and wasn't particularly that compelling.
However, I was pleasantly surprised that the film had quite a complex plot that develops the characters further along and builds upon character motivations.
This is a darker sequel in that it doesn't shy away from the darker parts of Harry Potter lore with some particular scenes that might be a bit shocking. However, Newt, Jacob and the beasts do lighten up the tone when it calls for it which I actually found pretty amusing, much like the first one.
There are still enough moments with the beasts to satisfy fans of the first film with some interesting new beasts introduced (which I won't spoil here) though they could have been integrated much more. Grindelwald is a somewhat compelling villain but as I fan I want to see the plot call for Newt to use his beast taming abilities against Grindelwald a lot more. This plot very much sets the franchise up for the next film but leaves a firm mark to invest in the next movie.
Visuals are excellent with magic looking really impressive (especially with its destructive nature) and the score is of course excellent as to be expected with the Harry Potter series,.
Some audience members might dislike some of the more complex scenes as it can be confusing at times and kids will especially find it hard to keep up with conversations.
7.5 / generous 8 out of 10
Open Water 3: Cage Dive (2017)
Netflix and Chill approved - though don't expect too much
Cage Dive was an enjoyable watch: it's short (80 minutes), it's an independent sequel (meaning no catch up) and it has good use of the found footage format. It has multiple effective jump scares and paces itself fairly well when the ball starts rolling.
However, the introduction felt quite long as it introduced the characters and story - nothing new to see here but it's adds to the scenario - you ultimately don't care too much about characters in a shark movie, you just want the horror aspect. Some of the story is very basic but you have 'go with it' for the sake of the situation.
The use of real life stock footage and minimal CGI means the sharks look realistic for most of the extended scenes throughout, though a bit more grisly shark footage would have been nice and the cage should have been used much more; there would have been a lot more tension in the cage and I would have loved to have seen it utilised more. The music that's teased is decent enough alongside some punchy sound FX but it could have been more bleak. Same with the acting at times, the lines could have been delivered with a lot more conviction and aggression.
You'll enjoy it if you like the mockumentary format but if you don't, you'll feel disappointed.
Justice League (2017)
Enjoyable but painfully bland
After watching Justice League after it released at cinemas, I felt disappointed - Zack Snyder was sadly un-able to finish production on the film so Joss Whedon of Avenger fame filling in to finish the movie - no brainer, right?
Wrong, the lighter tone shift and lack of direction in Justice League made the film painfully bland and this led to some baffling scenes that I shook my head in disbelief. Say what you will about Zack's dark interpretation of Batman/Superman but at least Man Vs Steel and Batman Vs Superman had an edge of taking a darker approach to this cinematic universe rather than trying to appeal to everybody (like a Marvel movie) but falling short of doing so.
A particular disappointment is how the promotion material hinted at large scale battle scenes and introduction of more DC characters when this was quite misleading.
Characters like Flash, Cyborg and Aqua Man are rushed in with short moments of development but nothing too deep. Batman is also underplayed which is a shame considering Ben Affleck's performance in the DCEU so far.
As for the good stuff - the visuals are good (especially during Flash sequences), some of the action scenes are entertaining and it slots together to create a fun enough superhero movie but the lack of depth, gravitas and direction makes it particularly bland when it could have been so much more than just 'good'.
Do yourself a favour and watch Wonder Woman instead
Alien: Covenant (2017)
A solid entry in the Alien franchise - undeserving of the hate it received
Personally I've seen all of entries in to the Alien franchise - Alien is the best film, Aliens is most entertaining, Alien 3 is most disappointing, Alien Resurection was most awful, Prometheus was interesting but felt too much of a set up for the franchise and that brings us to Covenant.
Many die hard fans may not like this film because of the direction Ridley Scott takes with certain characters and how it builds upon the Alien franchise, rather than focusing on the direction he took in Prometheus.
The expansion of xenomorphs and androids in this movie is what makes it interesting as an Alien prequel - many will scoff at this comment but Scott's direction was unexpected and it gives the franchise more depth and lore - it's a somewhat disappointing Prometheus sequel but a very enjoyable Alien movie.
While characters continue to make poor decisions in this franchise (arguably a staple of these films), it definitely leads to some of the goriest sequences seen in the franchise which was very entertaining and visually impressive - we also haven't seen Xenomorphs impressively move like they do in this movie.
The score, cinematography, acting and focus arguably makes it the best Alien movie since Aliens for me personally.
It's great to still see Ridley Scott behind the franchise but I think everyone would like to see Neil Bloomkamp take the reins next, especially if he plans to ignore Alien3 and Resurection.
Sharp Objects (2018)
Harrowing, compelling, hard to watch at times and arguably, flawless
Sharp Objects is a very dark show, to the point where it was quite hard to watch certain scenes. However, for those that can work past its mature nature, it's one of the most compelling TV shows I have seen in a while!
The content and delivery of the show is flawless. Most characters are 3 dimensional and serve their purpose well; accompany this with stellar acting (Amy Adams does a superb job as our lead) and the show remains grounded as it explores a gritty path.
The score and choice of licensed tracks flows very well (LCD Soundsystem is a personally highlight) with the seamless editing and fantastic cinematography.
Some scenes might be a bit slow for some viewers while others maybe too distressing for a casual viewer.
Gone Girl's adaptation from Gillian Flynn shone brightly (and rightly so) but I'd argue the delivery and punch of Sharp Objects hits harder than the former.
Sharp Objects might be familiar territory for some but it's a compelling Gillian Flynn adaptation that shouldn't go ignored.
Kôkaku Kidôtai (1995)
An intelligent cyperpunk anime that is let down by a short runtime and political jargo
There is no doubt Ghost in The Shell is a very influential, mature and intelligent anime that stands up today, but I can't help feel that Ghost in The Shell is let down by a short run time (just over 80 minutes) which forces the plot to move double time in order to cover as much ground as it can.
In particular, the dialogue suffers from overusing political terms and moves very quickly with little pauses that you can just about grasp what is happening in some scenes. Granted, the original Japanese audio may work better for some viewers because the English dubs are a bit of struggle to keep up with.
The structure also jumps around quickly, making the plot feel somewhat disjointed.
As for its technical flair, the visuals are amazing with animations that are slick - especially during destruction heavy shoot outs. The music is also fantastic and creates a euphoric and heavenly use of atmospheric pads/drones which really stands out in sombre moments. The overarching plot themes are thought provoking and intelligent with likeable characters and it manages to keep you entertained for its run time but you can't help but feel cut short.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Homecoming absolutely nails Spiderman and his coming-of-age teenage struggles as a young Peter Parker
Straight of the bat, Spider Man Homecoming is the strongest cinematic live action Spider Man in many years. Granted, Sam Raimi's movies were great action movies that arguably propelled the boost of live action comic book adaptations in the early 2000s and The Amazing Spider Man entries were entertaining enough but Marvel studios have really nailed the character of Peter Parker in this ironically fresh entry, even at the sacrifice of a more action heavy structure.
Spider Man Homecoming skips over Spider Man's well known origin story (if you're un-familiar, just watch Sam Raimi's Spider Man (2002) with Tobey Maguire) which was a great decision, considering this is the 3rd live action incarnation of the character in 15 years. However, Peter Parker is still only 15 years old in Homecoming so we get to see his character develop as our favourite neighbourhood Spidey, which it 100% nails ; this includes showing some of the more mundane and humorous distractions Spidey would get on a daily basis as well as his awkward, relatable teenage struggles.
Homecoming shakes up conventions by introducing new side characters for Peter Parker to interact with alongside fresh interpretations of older and more well known side characters with an eye for diversity too, which makes the film more believable in 2017. The comedy within this MCU entry feels quite progressive too, inducing cringe humour which may evoke questions from younger viewers.
The pacing of the plot is excellent, with smaller odds that suit his solo entry in to the MCU; this includes a believable, complex villain who's well performed by Michael Keaton. Tom Holland also smashes the main role, showing a very likeable, energetic and enthusiastic Peter, who stills manages to be honest, awkward and grounded which are the core components of the character.
My only complaints is that the action scenes are somewhat sacrificed for its character focus, which is a shame because there was a potential for larger on-screen battles with concepts the plot introduces. One particular action scene was also difficult to track and somewhat frustrating to watch as a viewer; despite this, the cinematography is excellent especially with its first person prospective camera work. The trailers for this movie also gave away a large majority of the structure so if you didn't see them initially, don't bother now and just jump straight in.
Homecoming is a fresh and easy entry for newcomers to a modern take on Spiderman, though it will leave you hungry for more fight scenes and action sequences which is one of the main reasons people come to watch to watch superhero movies.
Den of Thieves (2018)
A bloated heist movie that overstays its welcome with its somewhat generic characters and plot beats
From the promotional material, I expected decent well choreographed shoot outs and thrilling heist sequences. Instead, this movie drags with its 2 hours and 20 minute run time which is full of unlikable characters that you don't particularly connect with.
Granted, this film doesn't want you to 'like' many of its characters but the suedo machismo of the script felt generic and generally not that interesting in the current era of movies. It felt as if it wanted to be something like Sicario with its commentary but falls short of telling a suspenseful and dark story like the former. The shootouts/heist sequencers are entertaining enough alongside to give it an average rating but I couldn't give it anything more. It doesn't help that parts of the plot also didn't make a great deal of sense as well.
With the featured cast, I expected a bit more balls to the wall action and high octane chase sequences/shoot outs rather than the bloated and somewhat po faced story it tells here. If the movie had more guns and less sleaze, it would probably be a lot more entertaining.
Try something like The Town with Ben Affleck if you're looking for a more character driven heist movie.