Review: The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

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“Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
– Andy Dufresne

SYNOPSIS: Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency. – via IMDB

Seriously. Truly. Wow. I definitely know there are more eloquent reviews on this movie, and it has been discussed endlessly, and it is that great and all, but I am going to try and share my two cents about this movie. I decided to rewatch The Shawshank Redemption recently after watching Gone With The Wind. Not because they are remotely the same or anything like that, but because I was in the mood for serious(ly) fantastic movies.

Well, this certainly ticked those boxes.

The Shawshank Redemption has a great story to tell, sure, but it is the characters and the performances from the actors that played them that are really the stars here. Everyone lives their role, gets right into it, and because of that you are swept up into the narrative as delivered by Red. Red tells you Andy’s story, we see Andy’s story, and it is told with such spirit that you can laugh like crazy in some places and just love all that is going on, and then be driven to sadness and heavy contemplative silence within five minutes of one another. It’s an amazing thing when a film can so successfully balance the opposites like that.

Andy suffered some extreme situations while in Shawshank, but there were also some amazing things that he achieved, even while imprisoned. Naturally there are the men who went on to become Andy’s friends, headed up by Red. The band of men have great camaraderie between one another, and they really all respect each other and get along. They are quite tight-knit, and it is sweet. The Shawshank Redemption is a story told from within a prison, but there are large sections of time where you forget this fact when watching the men together, and then the point is run home when you realise that they have to barter to have a few beers while working, or that they have to report to someone the whole time.

The movie doesn’t really dwell on the crimes these men committed to land them in Shawshank. It focuses a lot more on Andy’s story, sure, but also how these men have adjusted to life, and how they have worked through the acts that landed them there. Some for the better, some not so much. It’s also something to say about the storytelling that the free, law-abiding men are all twisted and crooked, and the men on the inside, the convicted criminals, are often portrayed as the more trusty, honest lot. Interesting times.

The score for this is absolutely fantastic, and truly lends itself to the experience. The performances are all great, and the pacing for the story drags you in and makes you forget all about the clock, and I love it when a movie is able to do that. You feel genuine hope, happiness, anger and sadness when watching The Shawshank Redemption, and it is great when a movie can make you feel all these emotions, not just some of them. I would highly recommend The Shawshank Redemption, and if you have seen it, I think it is high time for a rewatch.

Sporadic Scene: Se7en (1995) – Sloth

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So, let’s not even pretend that Se7en didn’t have an awful lot going for it, because it did. It had a great cast hunting a whacko serial killer on the run, exercising his right to recreate the Seven Deadly Sins. However, after finding corpse after corpse, there it the one discovery that gets the audience – and I think that Fincher executed this flawlessly: Mills and Somerset go into an apartment and investigate a terrifying, gross and mutilated corpse, and when they are right up there with it the corpse coughs. Yes, that’s right, cue plenty jumps and squeals.

If you have a scene that you would like featured, drop me a mail at sporadiczoe@hotmail.com with a link to the scene and an explanation as to why.

Rapid Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

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The Dark Knight Rises poster

Oh, you think darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark; I was born in it, moulded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was already a man; by then it was nothing to me but blinding!”
– Bane

dark knight rises bane plane

GRADE 8.5This was a brilliant way to conclude a brilliant trilogy! I know that Luke and I don’t necessarily see completely eye to eye on this one, but I still think it is really good. At least we can agree that this trilogy is a stroke of utter genius. Plus, Tom Hardy as Bane. I mean come on, like that wasn’t going to go down phenomenally. Tom Hardy was just an amazing Bane, and his role was simply flawless. Nolan again nailed that perfect mix in the villain, where you wanted to know more about him and see what he was going to do, but still held out that Batman would save the day. Christian Bale is, again, just the most perfect Bruce Wayne/Batman. Seriously. The way he embodies both the billionaire playboy and the Dark Knight? It’s awesome. However, as much as this movie got right, I am not going to pretend there weren’t flaws. The pacing was a little uneven, and there was some incredibly flawed logic thrown in here. For instance, I get that John Blake is intuitive and all, but just guessing Batman’s identity right off the bat was just too much for me, and there is also the issue with Bane knowing exactly where Applied Sciences was, though it is apparently “not on the books” anywhere, and not public knowledge. Also, I am not a fan of Anne Hathaway, and her Catwoman/Selina Kyle is someone that grows on you after multiple viewings, but is still not a character I enjoy a lot at all. Yeah, there were a few niggles, but so what? This movie is ridiculously quotable. My fiancé just doesn’t even know what to do with me… walking up staircases and he doesn’t turn on lights? “Ah, you think darkness is your ally.” Threatening someone? No sweat! “It would be extremely painful… for you.” My one colleague and I communicate a lot in Bane quotes (well, any movie quotes). It’s a problem, we know, yet we have absolutely no plans to change that. But truly now, Bane is awesome on so many levels (and so hot here – the ladies will understand this, though it was unexpected)! And there are so many quotes in this movie that beg to be used. One of my favourite things in this movie was the return of the Scarecrow. I adore Cillian Murphy and I am a big fan of his Dr Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow. I was thrilled to see him given more screentime this time around as opposed to The Dark Knight. Anyway, The Dark Knight Rises is another solid outing from Nolan, is really fun even though it is flawed, and closes one of the greatest trilogies of all time off properly. Go watch these all again immediately. Go on.

PS: I just remembered now – this movie was totally worth every second of my two week self-enforced internet ban prior to its release (I hate getting things late in SA)! It still remains a running joke, and Natasha still can’t believe I underwent something like that for a movie.

Rapid Review: The Dark Knight (2008)

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The Dark Knight movie Poster

“Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it!”
– The Joker

SYNOPSIS: Batman raises the stakes in his war on crime. With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman sets out to dismantle the remaining criminal organizations that plague the city streets. The partnership proves to be effective, but they soon find themselves prey to a reign of chaos unleashed by a rising criminal mastermind known to the terrified citizens of Gotham as The Joker. – via IMDB

the joker hidark knight truck flip

GRADE 10I get the same thrill every single time I watch it, without fail. Yes, let me rave about it some more. This is truly another masterpiece from Christopher Nolan, and everything was just as it was supposed to be. The cast was fantastic (again), and Heath Ledger brought so much to the table with his performance, though it was heartrendingly his last. The day he died we really did lose one of the greats and I will always maintain this. Hans Zimmer composes us a beautiful and perfect score for this, and it only makes everything you see that much more amazing. He truly is a phenomenal composer, and adds so much to all the projects that he works on. I love that this was also not a simple plot, and it was constantly being changed up. This is the Joker, after all. Nolan gets the villain thing. Again, we know Batman must triumph, but the Joker is so mesmerizing you want to give him free reign of Gotham and just see him tear to it to the ground. The Joker thrives on chaos, no more, no less, and I think The Dark Knight captured that perfectly. The effects were also incredibly well done, and the cast all came together to give us something to chew on. Aaron Eckhart was so good as Harvey Dent, he was the White Knight of Gotham, he was someone you could back, a man of integrity and honour and nerves of steel, and his descent into the underbelly of Gotham and being thrown from his pedestal was intense and painful to watch, and you can get why he would lose his mind. The movie is infinitely quotable, and there are so many cool little things strewn throughout this (the small tidbits) that make it so great (think the Joker’s vegetable peeler between all his knives). I am still a fan of Christian Bale as Batman, he is fantastic, and he really handled the material well for the film, being torn between fighting for Gotham as well as turning himself in to stop the Joker. Bruce’s relationship with Fox is still one of those fantastic ones. I was also a fan of the brief sighting of the Scarecrow, because you all know how much I loved Cillian Murphy in that one. There is so much to rave about in this movie… the action, the script, the performances, the score, the effects, truly. It is a phenomenal watch, and remains my favourite of the bunch just because it is so chaotic, crazy and out there.

Rapid Review: Batman Begins (2005)

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Batman Begins Poster

“There is nothing to fear, but fear itself!”
– Scarecrow

SYNOPSIS: After training with his mentor, Batman begins his war on crime to free the crime-ridden Gotham City from corruption that the Scarecrow and the League of Shadows have cast upon it. – via IMDB

batmanbatman begins lighter

GRADE 9The movie was simply amazing, with great cinematography as well as a brilliant score. This is one of my favourite origin stories, if not my most favourite. I know they have been done to death, but let’s face it, not quite the way that Nolan has done it. The man is a master, and he revolutionized the way we perceived the Batman films after they were butchered by Joel Schumacher. Nolan’s casting choices were dead on. Michael Caine is a perfect Alfred and Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon is a solid, trusty character. Christian Bale is my favourite Batman because he manages to pull of both Bruce Wayne and the caped crusader, which is something a lot of actors fail to do. ore often than not in superhero movies the actor can either pull off his identity or the alter ego, but so few times are they a success at both. He is pitted against the awesome Scarecrow, and Cillian Murphy was freaking perfect here, he plays the role so well. You cannot forget about Liam Neeson’s Ra’s al Ghul because he was truly a formidable enemy to have. Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox is a character that I thoroughly enjoy. The confused love story between Bruce and Rachel is very sad, too. Never overplayed, never not there. I think that the humour that is put forth in this movie is exactly what it has to be: not enough to make it a comedy, but not so greatly lacking that there is nothing but insurmountable drama. The humour that is laced throughout this is hilarious and gets me giggling good and proper, which is fun. The plot is put together well, and manages to stand on its own, and is definitely more than your average hollow action flick. If you have not watched it, where have you been?! For those who have watched it, watch it again and again! A Christopher Nolan Batman marathon is worth it each and every time. The length of the movie was just right, with plenty time to tell us Bruce’s story as well as take us through the motions of becoming the Batman. It did not feel long or dragged out anywhere, so well done! There is so much great stuff going on for this movie, from the awesome score from Hans Zimmer, to the great performances from the cast, a fantastic story and plenty action that looked fantastic… you can’t help but love this movie!

Rapid Review: Gone Baby Gone (2007)

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GoneBabyGoneposter

“Kids forgive, they don’t judge, they turn the other cheek, and what do they get for it?”
 – Detective Remy Bressant

SYNOPSIS: Two Boston area detectives investigate a little girl’s kidnapping, which ultimately turns into a crisis both professionally and personally. – via IMDB

gone baby gone working

GRADE 7I recall enjoying this movie quite a bit when it came out a few years ago, and then I read the book by Dennis Lehane and I freaking loved that, though it certainly wasn’t an easy read at all. Naturally I stumbled across this movie and thought now would be a good time to watch it again, and let me tell you, it lost a lot of the magic for me. Not because it wasn’t done well or anything, it just missed a lot of the things that made the book so great. Ben Affleck did a damn fine job directing this, and I think he has some real talent as a director. Casey Aflleck was very good here, though not quite what I pictured Patrick Kenzie to be. While I find that Michelle Monaghan is one of the most beautiful women ever, I honestly think she was a terrible Angie. Why? Angie is this sexy, loud, in-your-face, smart-as-a-whip cussing part-Italian with ties to the Boston mob… and Monaghan was just a little too timid, quiet and mousy for me, which really sucked. Also, Bressant and Poole were underplayed, and I felt the story was far too rushed, skipping out completely on the things that actually gave you chills, and didn’t spend time building on anything. For instance, there is the scene in the bar where it was implied that Angie and Patrick were going to get attacked and Angie raped, and that scene carried no power and no weight. I blame the writers for this, because the movie also had a ridiculously short runtime for what it needed to tell, and so a lot was cut out and discarded along the way, which is a pity. Don’t get me wrong, I know this sounds like I hated it, this is just a typical case of the book is better, infinitely so. The film is entertaining, though it certainly falls short, but it is worth a watch, if for nothing else other than seeing Ben Affleck’s impressive skills as a director.

Rapid Review: Now You See Me (2013)

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now you see me poster

“What is magic? Focused deception. But deception meant to entertain.”
– Daniel Atlas

SYNOPSIS: Four magicians each answer a mysterious summons to an obscure address with secrets inside. A year later, they are the Four Horsemen, big time stage illusionists who climax their sold out Las Vegas show with a bank apparently robbed for real. This puts agents Dylan Rhodes of the FBI and Alma Dray of Interpol on the case to find out how they did it. However, this mystery proves difficult to solve even with the insights of the professional illusion exposer, Thaddeus Bradley. What follows is a bizarre investigation where nothing is what it seems with illusions, dark secrets and hidden agendas galore as all involved are reminded of a great truth in this puzzle: the closer you look, the less you see. – via IMDB

now you see me

This is pretty much how the movie went…

GRADE 4You know, reviews for this movie were really mixed. I know my other half asked me a few months ago if we had this to watch, and I put on The Prestige instead, because he had never seen it and I personally feel it’s the best movie of the sort. Naturally, he was head over heels for it. So then recently we decided to finally get to this, which came in highly recommended from people around us. I was pretty neutral on seeing it. Let me tell you, that changed soon enough after starting it. What the hell?! I cannot express to you how disappointed I was. What a ridiculously talented cast, wasted. Completely. I felt that Dave Franco was insanely underused, too, not to mention that Michael Caine was such an important character who suddenly disappeared. You would have thought that Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg coming together again would be a good thing. The holes all over this movie were terrible, it was all just not working for me. The final act is truly what killed this movie for me, in my opinion. The first bit of it is fun, nothing too serious, just alright. Albeit that there is no character development or anything like that and the prerequisite that we don’t ask questions as to how these four magicians suddenly got huge and what they have been doing for the past year. It felt too much like it was trying to be a cross between the Ocean’s movies and something from The Prestige. I love all those movies, I just didn’t like the implementation here too much. I don’t know, there was just too much wrong with this movie for me to like it a lot. I don’t hate it, the first bit was fun, the debunking of the magic, watching the tricks, all that. I liked that aspect of it, because who doesn’t love to wonder a little when all magic is said and done? But then later it just dives. There’s this plot twist that just feels clunky and silly, and illusion gives way to real magic at the end (I don’t know – the cards????). The conclusion of the movie was absolutely freaking ridiculous for me, too. In what world is that how this was going to play out?! Also, something I had a major issue with is the sudden and abrupt cuts between scenes at the best of time, leaving you feeling flustered and confused. I know that my write up is a bit harsher than the score would reflect, but I cannot say that this was good, I cannot say that this was bad. I suppose halfway is about the right place to place this.  Meh, this had the potential to be so much more, but it just fell flat.

Rapid Review: Transcendence (2014)

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transcendence poster

“Once online, a sentient machine will quickly overcome the limits of biology. And in a short time, its analytic power will become greater than the collective intelligence of every person born in the history of the world.”
– Will Caster

SYNOPSIS: Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. His highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him. However, in their attempt to destroy Will, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed-to be a participant in his own transcendence. For his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany), both fellow researchers, the question is not if they can…but if they should. Their worst fears are realized as Will’s thirst for knowledge evolves into a seemingly omnipresent quest for power, to what end is unknown. The only thing that is becoming terrifyingly clear is there may be no way to stop him. – via IMDB

johnny-depp-transcendence-good question

GRADE 3.5What the hell man? Johnny Depp’s redeeming role… that’s what this was supposed to be. Instead I saw a drunk Jack Sparrow scientist in the beginning. However, he was massively improved by the end of the film. I was not a fan of the plot whatsoever, and it was incredibly sad to see such a great cast go to waste. I mean Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany, and Cillian Murphy? Johnny Depp and Rebecca Hall? It was just such a disappointment overall, and I want to make mention of how stupid it all was. Meh. I feel like I wasted so much time here, and I will never get it back. I mean the reviews came back pretty negatively, but even though I was not necessarily excited to see it, I still wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I was hoping for something worthy or Depp’s talent. It started just fine, and then it just lost the plot. And not gradually, either. It’s like the ground opened up and it went into freefall. The script left a lot to be desired, although the plot progression was the one thing that was more sturdy than most other aspects of this. Plus there was Kate Mara, and I really don’t like her very much, so she just irritated me endlessly every time she came on screen. Depp only impressed me more towards the end – those of you who have seen this, I am sure you will agree that it was more of a call back to the older Depp style. Overall, the movie was ludicrous. I just could not slot in with what was going on at all, which is a pity. I really wish it had been something more.

Review: Wanted (2008)

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wanted poster

“Six weeks ago I was ordinary and pathetic. Just like you. Who am I now?”
– Wesley

Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is a depressed guy who is on some serious medication for the panic attacks he is always suffering and working in a dead end job. His girlfriend Cathy (Kristen Hager) is sleeping with his best friend Barry (Chris Pratt), and both of them think he does not know this. He stays in a crappy apartment and his life is just an incessant loop of the same stuff, over and over again. One day, though, Wesley’s life takes a massive change. While collecting his anxiety medication, he meets a beautiful woman named Fox (Angeline Jolie), who tells him that his father was killed on a rooftop by the assassin Cross (Thomas Kretschmann), and that he has pitched to finish the job with Wesley. Naturally, he rejects this story seeing as he never knew his father, but is involved in a heavy shootout. Escaping Cross, Fox takes Wesley to her boss, Sloan (Morgan Freeman), who explains to him that they are a secret society of assassins known as the Fraternity. Wesley is told to shoot the wings off a fly, and he scoffs at the idea. He is told his panic attacks are not anxiety, but instead it is his heart rate speeding up and adrenaline kicking in, giving him superhuman abilities when it kicks in.

wanted gif

“Your father was one of the greatest assassins who ever lived.” – Fox

Wesley leaves the Fraternity, convinced they have lost the plot, but the next morning his bank account reflects that it is not a dream, as well as the gun he finds in his apartment that belonged to his father. At work, he disses his boss to her face and ends his “friendship” with Barry, walking out and meeting Fox, who seems to have known that today he would feel differently about the Fraternity’s proposition. They return to the textile mill that serves as headquarters, and Wesley makes it clear that he would like to begin training to officially follow in his deceased father’s footsteps and  join the Fraternity. Sloan shows Wesley the Loom of Fate, the place where the Fraternity gets its kill orders. Wesley is unhappy that their “orders” come from some unknown place from some crazy loom. He fails his first mission, unable to kill his target, and Fox explains to him why they do what they do.

wanted loom of fate

“Our purpose is to maintain stability in an unstable world – kill one, save a thousand. Within the fabric of this world, every life hangs by a thread. We are that thread – a fraternity of assassins with the weapons of fate.” – Sloan

Soon Wesley is a functioning part of the Fraternity, always waiting for his kill order on Cross, which never seems to come, which is frustrating him more and more. After recovering his father’s gun from his apartment that his ex-girlfriend is staying in with Barry now, it seems that Fox and Wesley are a little more romantically connected than was previously shown too much. Leaving the apartment, Wesley comes across Cross, whom he chases down. The hunt is brutal, and carnage is left in their wake. Losing members of the Fraternity is difficult, and Wesley feels responsible. When he comes across Cross, things change when he shares something with Wesley that completely changes the way he perceives everything.

wanted training

“Insanity is wasting your life as a nothing when you have the blood of a killer flowing in your veins.” – Sloan

What is the truth? Is Cross lying, or is Sloan lying? Cross seems to have more corroborating evidence, but it goes against everything Wesley has learned. How is Fox involved? Does she know the truth? What is Sloan playing at, or is Cross just that successful at manipulating other people? Will Wesley kill Cross? Will Wesley return to the Fraternity with his newfound knowledge? Will Wesley continue on with his new life?

wanted fox and sloan

“What did he do to deserve to die? You don’t know. I didn’t know if he was bad. I didn’t know if he was evil. I didn’t know anything about him. We get orders from a loom; fate.” – Wesley

GRADE 7Definitely not the flick to watch if you are looking for something serious and dramatic, but totally up your alley if you want something fun and action packed, relatively well put together and entertaining. Wanted was something I saw years ago and have been meaning to revisit, if not for McAvoy alone then surely for the curving bullets, and finally got around to it after throwing my hands up in exasperation in the midst of studying when I got the the place of what I didn’t know then I was never going to know. This movie proved to be exactly what I needed. It possessed humour, though not overkill, it didn’t take itself awfully seriously (which could potentially have killed the whole vibe this worked for), and it isn’t long. The effects are pretty damn good, and the transformation we witness in Wesley after he discovers more about his past is awesome. He actually grows a spine, and that rocks! Angelina Jolie was very good in her role as Fox, I liked her a lot. McAvoy was pretty good, nothing to really fault there, though I must say I prefer his more in depth and intense roles (think Filth), but he delivered here nonetheless. Ever entertaining, Mr McAvoy – he can play just about anything across the board. The training that Wesley underwent was the only time that things teetered on the edge of getting boring though, there were a few scenes that just repeated themselves, but that was luckily saved due to everything moving along very quickly, and the movie being short. The plot twist also worked for what was coming, changing the dynamic of the movie. It is fast paced and filled with plenty of pretty damn cool things going on onscreen from the get go. Just the film to watch when you just want something entertaining, not too heavy, not too serious, not too stupid, and that looks good (cast and camera) and has some really good, thrilling action moments.