Three Billboards (2017)

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Three Billboards Movie Review

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a 2017 crime drama black-comedy film directed by Martin McDonagh and starring Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell. It’s fantastic.

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Well, who the hell else would it be?

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Three Billboards Movie Review

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I expected great things from this film judging by the premise and those terrific trailers and for once I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, the film exceeded my expectations and is in my opinion the best film of the year! It is that great and that important so let’s talk about it in length.

The plot is fantastic. This screenplay is very original and very well thought out with no flaws to the story whatsoever. The film is famous for having a lot of twists and turns and although none caught me by surprise too much as I know my movies, they were still phenomenally executed and made the film very exciting and entertaining. I rarely like crime films, but this one is so amazing that I ended up loving it. It is also a strong, moving drama and a terrific black comedy.

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Three Billboards Movie Review

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The character development is superb across the board as is the acting. Mildred is such a great character and one example why this film is so brilliant – I rooted for her at first and actually got her as I think I would react the same, but as the film went by, I started to question her actions and thought that she was going too far. That goes for the whole movie – you never know whether or not the actions are justified and that grey area presented here is like real life so the film is as real as they come.

Red Welby serves his purpose and Willoughby of course is the most likable person here and I really liked his character. Robbie is also quite realistic and likable. And of course Dixon is phenomenal as this racist, redneck, abusive policeman and one of the film’s highlights. Many accused the film for being racist when it comes to his character as he did not get his proper due, but that is a stupid argument and the film is just very realistic. It portrayed policemen as they are and most get away with their hatred. But I really liked his character growth or the beginning thereof.

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Three Billboards Movie Review

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Three Billboards is undoubtedly the best acted film of the entire year. There is just no question about it. It’s the ‘Fences’ of 2017. Everyone did a terrific job with Woody Harrelson stealing the show when it comes to supporting roles. He got a couple of moving moments and he sold them so well with a powerful, nuanced and believable performance.

But its two leads are the big reason why the film is amazing in the first place. Frances McDormand is simply superb. Always believable and nuanced and consistently enthralling, her character is fascinating because she acted the hell out of her. Whether scary and dangerous or heartbroken and confused, she sold all of it and gave what is arguably the best female performance of the year.

Sam Rockwell is just as strong and I did not expect that at all. At first I thought he was miscast and he definitely was miscast as he rarely plays this type of pig character, but his performance is so real and powerful that I ended up believing him in the end. And that is a testament of a great performance. He particularly sold those emotional scenes as well as the humorous one-liners.

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Three Billboards Movie Review

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Three Billboards is brilliantly edited and paced with never a single rushed or prolonged moment. The film is honestly incredibly engaging to watch and for me it just flew by. That’s how involved and invested in this story I was. And I have to congratulate Martin McDonagh who shamefully did not get his Oscar nomination. His direction is amazing. He not only directed all these phenomenal actors to give spectacular performances, but he also directed the whole movie to flow really well and to send its open questions and confusion to the audience successfully.

Speaking of the Oscars, the film received seven nominations but it honestly deserved more. The acting nods are all very much deserved as are the screenplay, editing and picture nods. Just the director nod is lacking unfortunately. As for its score nomination, it is earned of course but I have mixed feelings about the score. On the one hand, it doesn’t quite fit this film and the genre, but on the other hand, it is undeniably memorable and wonderfully old-fashioned in its feel. I also really liked the songs they used in the film.

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Three Billboards Movie Review

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One of the scene highlights is the ending which is one of the best film scenes of the entire year: it is moving, ambiguous and also very funny and emotionally rewarding. It’s a perfect conclusion to a great film. But I also loved the letters scenes as well as the hospital scene which is very emotional and simply beautiful.

Three Billboards is a very funny film which most people have also pointed out. It is mostly a crime drama, but sometimes the humor is pretty evident and the film uses its humorous tone to counteract the more serious scenes so well. It is tonally a very diverse film and thus is like real life – it can be tragic, sad, heartwarming, brutal, hilarious and serious. Its black comedy worked for me stupendously as it made me laugh more than a couple of times with the highlight being that Dixon’s line in the final scene. It’s a very smart, observational humor which I love.

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Three Billboards Movie Review

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The dialogue is stupendous as well. It is very much grounded in reality as is the whole film and it’s believable and sophisticated. The film is not only moving, but also thematically rich and it doesn’t give easy answers to its difficult questions. Life is messy and unforgiving and so is this film which has its many twists and crazy turns which to some may be off-putting but to me felt fresh and they gave edge to the film. I can see how some may dislike the film as it isn’t for everyone but for me it’s the year’s finest achievement.

Dark and violent yet also heartbreaking and sweet, dramatic and serious yet also very funny at times, Three Billboards is such a tonally diverse film which fires on all cylinders and succeeds both as a terrific crime drama as well as an effective black comedy. It is undoubtedly the best acted film of the year with the performances from Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell being the powerhouse standouts. It has a number of memorable scenes, it deals with complicated issues in a sophisticated manner and it’s superbly directed by Martin McDonagh while also being very well scored and brilliantly paced. Consequently, Three Billboards is the very best film of 2017.

My Rating – 5

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A Separation (2011)

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A Separation Movie Review

A Separation is a 2011 Iranian drama film directed by Asghar Farhadi and starring Peyman Moaadi and Leila Hatami. It is one of the best films of the decade.

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What is wrong is wrong,

no matter who said it or where it’s written

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A Separation Movie Review

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It follows a divorce of a middle-class couple with a child. The husband also has a father with Alzheimer’s decease and when he hires a woman to take care of him, trouble ensues and the next thing you see is the two families suing each other. That is a lot of plot for one singular movie, but the film is so incredibly well written that it managed to convey its themes and execute all of its storylines perfectly.

The conflict that arises with this other family may seem implausible at first, but it actually could happen and the film is so clever and sophisticated that it showcases the problems from each and every side. It doesn’t give us easy answers and to whom we should point our fingers as there are no easy answers in life as each situation is unique and complex and everybody has their own issues and point of view.

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A Separation Movie Review

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That storyline is immensely complex and perfectly written, but the separation story line is also fantastic and it ends with that perfect, unforgettable sequence where the two get divorced and Therme has to choose with whom she is going to live. It just shows how great sensibilities Farhadi has as a director as the ending is ambiguous and it doesn’t show you who is the one she chose. That isn’t important as both scenarios are tragic and thus the film ended on a perfectly ambiguous, tragic note that stays with you long after you’ve seen it.

A Separation explores a variety of themes. It showcases how stubborn men can be in a very truthful manner, but it also touches upon the relationships between the two sexes as well as different classes. The highlight for me is their take on religion as evidenced by the character of Razieh. Her confession is triggered by religion and it was great seeing how positive religion could be for once. And of course the daughter being disappointed in her father is very well shown. It showcases how kids view life in a much more honest, but simplistic manner and how their view of their parents is so great that when it shatters, it can be very painful. Loved it.

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A Separation Movie Review

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Everyone here did a terrific job; each and every one of its actors and actresses delivered. Peyman Moaadi is fantastic in the main role. Nader is a difficult man and he portrayed him so well. Leila Hatami is also terrific as Simin even though she doesn’t appear as much. Shahab Hosseini is terrific as very unstable, unhappy Hodjat and of course Sareh Bayat did a phenomenal job in her very tragic and complex role as Razieh truly is one of the character highlights here. Sarina Farhadi as Termeh is also superb and for such a young age, she truly delivered an outstanding, powerful performance. This ensemble cast surely is top-notch.

A Separation features terrific cinematography and especially editing as it is so tightly edited and so deftly paced that it really makes a difference. The film is very touching to watch and such a serious, hard-hitting, realistic and complex human drama which is still constantly riveting and intense to watch not only owing to its strengths in terms of characterization, emotion and plot, but also because it is so perfectly paced and edited with not a single wasted or rushed scene.

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A Separation Movie Review

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It honestly flies by how interesting it is. The dialogue is also stellar in each and every scene – grounded in reality and terrific. And of course the direction from Asghar Farhadi is brilliant. He is one of the best directors working today as his films are just so powerful and undeniably impressive and I am so glad that his film won an Oscar, but it should have received nominations in bigger categories too. It is the pinnacle of Iranian cinema.

With complex themes beautifully explored, amazing performances across the board and many hard-hitting, powerful scenes, A Separation is also very tightly edited and superbly directed by Asghar Farhadi who is one of the best directors working today. This drama is difficult but also essential to watch fueled by a brilliant script and fantastic dialogue. It is a very complex film which doesn’t give us easy answers, but portrays life as it is – messy and complicated. A Separation truly is one of the best films of the entire decade.

My Rating – 5

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Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

Sleeping Beauty is a 1959 animated musical fantasy film which is Disney’s 16th feature film and certainly one of their very best. It’s such a classic.

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Now,  father, you’re living in the past.

This is the 14th century!

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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This fairy tale is actually incredibly dark and thus the movie is also pretty dark, but much milder than the original tale and thankfully so. It is an updated, modernized and frankly much better version of the story. Again Disney made the ultimate film from this story and thus made it their own.

It was a risky, somewhat odd fairy tale to film and thus I hugely appreciate the filmmakers for managing to craft it so well and make a coherent feature film out of it. For a film where most of the characters spend sleeping, it is rather involving and intriguing to watch and that sleeping, dreamlike state is beautifully conveyed thanks to an awesome atmosphere, wonderful score and stellar animation but more on those later.

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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The film is definitely childlike in its first half, especially with the fairies, but is very dark, atmospheric and mature in its second half and I loved that shift in tone and it was very well handled. Both halves are excellent and both achieved what they set out to do.

As for the characters, many argue that Aurora is a weak character, but as a princess who is only in a movie for just about 18 minutes, I honestly can’t blame her and I think that she is actually pretty well developed for little screen time that she received. She is beautiful, wonderfully animated and, for such a short time she is in the film, you manage to see why everybody would love her so much. I do realize why nowadays feminists criticize her and yes, she did fall in love with a man she did not know. However, she clearly objected to being betrothed and that progressive side of her should not be forgotten.

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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Aurora is more of a plot device than an actual character and there is nothing wrong with that and that choice paid off and worked really well for the film. But when you really think about it, the fairies are the protagonists of this film. They are the ultimate Disney fairies and some of the best sidekicks of all time.

They transcend the role of the sidekick stupendously as they not only help Aurora, but also Phillip and basically save the whole kingdom. Plus all three are strong, so well developed, unique characters and I loved the emphasis on them as they are so charming. Fauna is so sweet and of course the fight between Merryweather and Flora about the color of Aurora’s dress (pink or blue) is so much fun and I loved it. They share such wonderful dynamic together and all of their scenes are either very endearing and moving or just a lot of goofy, cartoony entertainment. They provide the necessary humor and childlike nature to an otherwise more serious, dark film.

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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But the kings are also quite goofy and funny in their own right as well as their drunk, wine-obsessed servant. That scene almost comes off as a detour, but it is so pleasantly cartoony, amusing while also being grounded in reality in its portrayal of 14th century kings that it worked for me. And I loved the father’s argument with his son with that line about the 14th century being hilarious. It’s again a rather progressive, unfairly forgotten element to this film.

Prince Phillip is without a doubt the best of the early princes. Not only is he given most to do, but he also has a distinct, present personality and is much, much better than all the previous princes. He is a strong character in his own right, a true hero and I loved that, but I also loved his look as he is very handsome and well dressed. He’s very likable and his horse Samson is also quite endearing.

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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And as for Maleficent, what is there to say that hasn’t yet been said about her. She is menacing, genuinely creepy, so well developed, beautifully animated and wonderfully cast – Eleanor Audley once again gave a standout performance after her terrific performance in ‘Cinderella’ as horrible Lady Tremaine. She is one of the rare villains who never made a mistake, is always menacing and pose definite threat to the protagonists. She is such a memorable and authentic character with unforgettable looks and voice, a standout in this film and easily one of the very best Disney villains of all time. Plus Diablo is an excellent, very helpful henchman.

Sleeping Beauty has beautiful animation. It is absolutely gorgeous to behold with a painting like, artistic quality to it and a style that is truly original and distinguishes itself from their other animations. The character design, the style, the movements – everything is polished, fits the time period and feels like a work of art. I do think that more Disney films should have utilized on this painting style as it worked like a wonder here and helped create its ominous and dreamlike atmosphere so well. It isn’t as stupendously detailed as Disney’s earliest films, but still I liked its style a lot and it is in my opinion one of the studio’s most artistic endeavors. The highlights include the forest, Maleficent’s look, her very creepy and unforgettable castle and the wonderful cottage in the woods which looks so cozy and charming. I do think that the film was obviously cheaper in terms of budget (the still backgrounds are noticeable), but still I loved that painting quality to it and it fits the storyline extremely well.

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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Sleeping Beauty is definitely a musical. It only has two true songs with a couple of minor ones as well, but it relies so much on the score to tell its story that it definitely is a musical, but a different one than all the previous Disney films. The score from Tchaikovsky is of course beautiful and again complementing the film’s dreamlike feel perfectly. It was a terrific choice to include his compositions and I adored this score to pieces. It is also quite diverse in style – ranging from thrilling and eerie to dreamlike to playful and comedic.

The Skumps Song, One Gift and Hail the Princess Aurora are all very short pieces which could not be called songs, but they all serve their purpose and accompany their scenes very well. I Wonder is of course the weaker of the film’s two musical numbers. Now I like this song and it is quite sweet, very well sung and with solid lyrics, but it is just too short in length and overall a standard princess fare.

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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Once Upon a Dream is a masterpiece. This song is just beautiful. The score is brilliant of course, but the added lyrics are so well incorporated and I loved each and every word here. That scene is the standout of the entire film and easily the most romantic scene in all Disney films. I loved the singing of both the prince and the princess and thus it succeeds as an incredible duet, but it is its ethereal, dreamy and timeless chorus that transcends it to the ranks of all-time greatest film songs. It is a perfect ballad, an impeccable waltz and the second best Disney song of all time just after Part of That World from ‘The Little Mermaid’.

The pacing here is sometimes a bit problematic, but mostly better than the troublesome pacing in ‘Snow White’. The voice acting is simply terrific and the direction is superb. Some of the imagery is iconic and visually this is truly a moving work of art. The action near the end is also excellent and thrilling to behold. The tone is diverse and well handled and the humor is not all too great and far from hilarious, but definitely charming and very endearing. I liked the dialogue as well plus the film is emotionally resonant, most especially in its wonderful finale.

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Sleeping Beauty Movie Review

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The finale is awesome, but every scene with Maleficent and her castle stole the show. Of course the forest scene is the highlight for me, but the dragon fight is amazing too. All of the action set pieces are certainly magnificent but the highlight is that very last battle between Phillip and Maleficent. And of course the spinning wheel sequence is so incredible – eerie, otherworldly and impeccable. The film truly is close to perfection even though it is very short in length. It truly belongs among the five best Disney films of all time.

With beautiful, truly artistic painting-influenced animation, brilliant score and an outstanding, simply iconic song in Once Upon a Dream, Sleeping Beauty is one of the best Disney films of all time and a moving work of art. The characters are excellent – the fairies are charming and of course Maleficent is one of Disney’s ultimate villains not only in her looks but also her voice and actions. It is an atmospheric fairy tale with a dreamlike, eerie and almost ethereal quality to it. A lot of the scenes here are unforgettable and the film achieves so much in so little time that it truly is a masterpiece in the world of animation.

My Rating – 5

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Rear Window (1954)

Rear Window Movie Review

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Rear Window Movie Review

Rear Window is a 1954 mystery thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly. It is one of the best films ever made.

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We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms.

What people ought to do is get outside

their own house and look in for a change

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Rear Window Movie Review

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It follows a professional photographer who injured his leg and is bound to a chair until it heals. He spends the majority of his type spying on various neighbors from his apartment until he comes to suspect that one of them is a murderer.

So the film is very much a mystery but also a strong suspense thriller in its third act. As a mystery, it fully works because I was intrigued from the beginning and I wanted to know what happened and is this man truly a murderer. It features an abundant amount of detail and I loved how we got to solve the mystery along with Jeff. Very well realized.

But it is maybe even stronger as a suspense flick because that third act is downright thrilling to behold. Of course the ending is great, but to me the highlight was following Lisa go into the murderer’s apartment. That was inventively shot, unforgettable and simply riveting to watch. The tension there was so palpable that I even got goosebumps.

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Rear Window Movie Review

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But where Rear Window truly succeeds and is remembered the most is in its themes. It is the ultimate picture about voyeurism as it explores it to the fullest degree. It never goes too far, but just right. It portrayed the loneliness and boredom of people so truthfully while giving us a wonderful glimpse at a 1950s neighborhood.

And as many have pointed out, the film is very feminist which was not expected from Hitchcock who honestly did not portray women all that well usually. But here the women are actually active in solving the case, even going so far as to go into the murderer’s apartment to look for clues. So the man stays bound to his chair, while the women investigate and go into action. That was fantastic to witness in a 50s movie.

So let’s talk about these women. The film really has only four characters and thus all four are superbly developed and highly memorable. It is a wonderful indoors, confined chamber flick and probably the best example of such a film.

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Rear Window Movie Review

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Stella is very funny and is the comic relief in the film which is usually very serious and dark, but she provides the much needed humor and some of her morbid lines were so funny. Thelma Ritter did a phenomenal job in this role and she ought to have gotten a seventh nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Lisa is simply fantastic. She at first seemed like a typical younger love interest, but eventually proved to be anything but. She is very strong, capable and brave while still remaining elegant and ladylike. Grace Kelly probably gave her finest performance here and she simply shines in all of her scenes.

Raymond Burr is memorable and creepy as Lars Thorwald who is not too much in the film, but is always a very intense presence. And Jeff is awesome and a very complex main character who is never portrayed as too heroic which was a nice change in pace. James Stewart here gave one of his best performances and that really says a lot for a man of his caliber. His performance is brilliant and extremely powerful and nuanced.

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Rear Window Movie Review

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Rear Window is a glorious achievement technically speaking as well. The dialogue is playful, smart and outstanding with a couple of funny as well as observant lines. Hitchcock’s direction is amazing and this is his very best film in my opinion which says a lot as he’s the best director who ever lived. Here he not only showed that he is the master of suspense, but he also showed his deft hand at structure and inventive storytelling. The scene where we follow each neighbor and we witness a woman preparing dinner for an imaginary guest is one of the best sequences of all time and an incredibly moving, powerful piece of filmmaking.

The film is the most inventive thriller of all time. The cinematography here is of the best in film history as each shot is beautiful, elaborate and immaculately conceived. The camera moves elegantly to capture every single moment that matters and the camera can be said to be the character in itself here. We become Jeff as we follow the action through his binoculars and thus this is the ultimate ‘put in the protagonist’s shoes’ movie.

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Rear Window Movie Review

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The score is nice as well and the film looks and sounds great throughout its whole runtime. It lasts for just about the right time and is consistently riveting from the very first to the very last moment. Nothing is wasted or rushed here and every single scene matters. It truly is a masterpiece and an almost flawless film which currently sits at number seven on my all-time list.

With not a single wasted or rushed scene, immaculate camera work, highly inventive storytelling and many brilliantly conceived, highly suspenseful sequences, Rear Window is also thematically observant and very sophisticated with phenomenal dialogue and a couple of highly memorable lines. Grace Kelly probably gave her finest performance here and this is also one of James Stewart’s best works which says a lot for the actor of his caliber. The film is also admirably feminist, especially for its time. Palpably intense, brilliantly authentic and almost flawless, Rear Window is in my opinion one of the ten greatest films of all time.

My Rating – 5

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Spirited Away (2001)

Spirited Away Movie Review

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Spirited Away Movie Review

Spirited Away is a 2001 anime fantasy film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is the best Studio Ghibli film and one of the best films ever made.

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Once you do something, you never forget.

Even if you can’t remember

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Spirited Away Movie Review

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I have seen Spirited Away at least three times by now and upon this fourth viewing I again confirmed its greatness. Rare are films that get better and better upon each subsequent viewing and this is one of those films. It has an amazing replay factor. I have always watched it in a dubbed version as that is how I first saw it so I cannot comment upon the Japanese sub acting, but the dub is actually one of the better anime dubs.

Let’s first talk about the story and the highlight scenes. This film is obviously influenced by ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and it is a much darker, much better crafted version of it. It managed to eclipse that story due to a sheer epicness of it. It feature an amazing use of Japanese mythology and spirits and every creature here looks great and is highly memorable.

The beginning is excellent and very eerie in its atmosphere. Highly mysterious and otherworldly. All of Chihiro’s first sequences in this world are great and a wonderful build-up for the rest of the story. As for the stink spirit scenes, they are slightly extended, but still very memorable and the character is fascinating. So the film sometimes feels like a series of vignettes, but those vignettes are all fascinating and the editing is great so it still ended up being tight and well structured.

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Spirited Away Movie Review

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Then the story gets much more intriguing with the introduction of Yubaba’s sister. The second act and mostly the latter half of it features a terrific use of build-up to the action and it rises the tension and stakes superbly.

Of course my favorite act is the third one as it is the culmination of everything we had learned previously about this world. That train is just breathtaking, those travelling scenes are transcendent in quality and the imagery is unforgettable.

Then we have the greatest scene from this film which is of course the goodbye scene between Zeniba and Chihiro and then the marvelous dragon flight which includes a great realization and an excellent, fascinating answer to the mystery of how she and Haku met. The final test was great and of course everything about that ending rings awesome. Beautifully filmed and immensely resonant in terms of emotion. The film reward you for taking this long trip with such a moving, deep final scene.

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Spirited Away Movie Review

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Let’s talk about the film’s characters. Chihiro is a one of a kind protagonist and quite possibly the studio’s best creation. She is spoiled, clumsy and childish at first, but upon taking this amazing, fantastical journey, she becomes much more independent, stronger and more responsible and brave. It is an archetypal hero’s journey, but the one done infinitely better than most as it takes its necessary time to develop and thus feels all the more special.

Haku is also excellent despite appearing in not so many scenes. His mystery backstory is intriguing and very well resolved and his dragon form is striking and his job is very well utilized. The relationship between him and Chihiro is never overly emotional and just right.

Yubaba is such a hilarious character. At first menacing and all-powerful, but later deconstructed to a mean old lady. I loved her interactions with each of the characters. Her giant baby is so funny and her story with Zeniba is realistic and a lot of fun. Her sister is the polar opposite of her and a good witch. Loved her and her heartwarming relationship with Chihiro.

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Spirited Away Movie Review

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No-Face is fascinating. He is a famous Japanese spirit, but he can be interpreted as being the metaphor for loneliness which many of us deal with and people are struggling much more these days and thus he is very relatable and endearing. I loved his many forms and how his backstory remained a mystery. I also loved that he stayed with Zeniba in the end as both need some company. Certainly the film resolved each of the characters’ stories successfully.

Boiler Man is very sweet and caring and I just loved everything about his working steampunk environment and those employees of his are so incredibly cute and feisty. Chihiro’s parents serve their purpose and to me Lin is wonderful as this on surface calculated, yet ultimately very caring and good friend to Chihiro. Every character here is great and every spirit and creature is memorable even if they are not too present.

Spirited Away features absolutely breathtaking animation. What is there yet to say that hasn’t already been said? This film utilizes on the power and pure imagination and art of hand-drawn animation superbly and rare are animated films with better animation than this one. Only Walt Disney’s earliest films can compare honestly.

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Spirited Away Movie Review

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The film is colorful in just the right amount, it is both dark and light in equal amount both in terms of animation and atmosphere and it has absolutely terrific character designs with each spirit being fascinating, different and unique. The humans also look great. The various sets are amazing, each one of its locations is beautifully explored and mesmerizing and the action is so well executed.

It has some of the best world building that I have ever witnessed. I felt as if I really went into this spirit world and I felt as if I also learned something and became more adult just like Chihiro. The movie gives the child in all of us the opportunity to dream again and because it is so dark and serious at times while being funny and lightweight at other times, it manages to be perfect for both children and adults. A perfect mix of everything that the best of animation can offer.

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Spirited Away Movie Review

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In terms of the humor, it succeeds. It is rarely used, but quite enjoyable and endearing when it happens. I loved the cutesy factor here, but I also admired the inherent darkness of this world as well as it reach themes which span from growing up to greed (best exhibited in those bathhouses) to environmentalism (refreshingly subdued here for Ghibli) to Japanese folklore. The film truly is very smart and consistently deep and transcendent.

The action is never overwhelming and is excellent and sparingly used. The runtime of two hours is perfect for this film and it never feels long despite for animation long runtime. That is because this world and this story are so rich that they needed more time. And the pacing is excellent.

The tone is diverse and the score is phenomenal! I loved this score and in my opinion the dragon flight scene is the best scene in the movie not in small amount thank to that gorgeous, moving and highly transcendent score which is honestly magical in its quality.

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Spirited Away Movie Review

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The attention to detail is magnificent, the dialogue is terrific and the film is unforgettable in its every aspect. Hayao Miyazaki directed Spirited Away marvelously and it clearly is a work of art and magnum opus from this famous director who was clearly making a masterpiece here. It thankfully got its Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and it is critically acclaimed for all the obvious reasons I stated above. It is the best that both Studio Ghibli and anime have to offer and one of the best overall film of all time.

With breathtaking, absolutely wondrous animation, stellar direction, meticulous world-building with an overwhelming attention to detail, terrific character development and extremely powerful score which is honestly one of the best in film history, Spirited Away is an undisputed masterpiece and one of the rare films that can easily be called art. The story is well crafted with great influences, a diverse tone which ranges from cute and endearing to dark and atmospheric, high emotional resonance and a great character journey for the protagonist. The film manages to be magical, sometimes serious, at times funny, but always engaging and simply fascinating. The entire, wonderful new world is created here with an impeccable attention to detail which is a reason why it has such a lasting appeal and endless replay factor. Consequently, it is a pure masterpiece and undoubtedly one of the best films ever produced.

My Rating – 5

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Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Pan's Labyrinth Movie Review

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Pan’s Labyrinth Movie Review

Pan’s Labyrinth is a 2006 fantasy film directed by Guillermo del Toro. It is one of the best films of all time and one of my personal favorites.

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But captain, to obey – just like that –

for obedience’s sake… without questioning…

That’s something only people like you do

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Pan's Labyrinth Movie Review

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The story is brilliantly crafted and the shift from war/historical drama to dark fantasy is always conveyed smoothly and in a slick fashion. That’s why the film is great as both a war drama and a fantasy and it really wouldn’t be as phenomenal had it relied on just one of those genres. It is the ultimate Spanish Civil War movie as it captures the brutality of its soldiers and all of the shootouts so well while giving us an unforgettable villain in the process, but more on him later.

Pan’s Labyrinth is a dark fantasy, a very dark one indeed which means that it isn’t really suited for kids and only adults should watch it. It is the finest adult fairy tale ever conceived and one of the all-time best in the fantasy department. What I loved about it is its attention to detail in the modern recreation of a fairy tale.

The tasks obviously come from all those classic fairy tales, but the brutality and the grotesqueness of its creatures is particularly great as it also is faithful to the mature tone of all those fairy tales and is in line with del Toro’s vision. The look of the creatures and the use of insects here are his trademarks. So the film is phenomenal for the fact that it feels like an adaptation of an ancient fairy tale, but is in fact an entirely original work which just goes to show how talented and creative this man really is as he also wrote the script for the movie.

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Pan's Labyrinth Movie Review

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Ofelia is such a great protagonist. She is your archetypal fairy tale hero, but always competent and brave. Her sacrifice in the end was touching and her plight in the entire film is hard to watch. I loved Mercedes. She is a kick-ass female character and the only one who genuinely managed to stop and hurt Vidal and thus she is the bravest person here. All of her scenes were filled with intensity and simply brilliant.

The Faun is very well imagined and I loved his uniquely grotesque and different design. The Pale Man is even more memorable as this child-eating monster with eyes on his hands. His design is absolutely fantastic and so authentic. I also loved those fairies and the scene where the two were eaten was devastating. And of course that giant toad was a short, yet memorable presence.

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Pan's Labyrinth Movie Review

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And now we come to Captain Vidal. What is there yet to say besides that he is one of the greats. He is a calculated and brutal villain, but never quite becoming a cartoon villain as he was realistic to me and I could see that he could have been a real figure. There were people like him, dictators, and thus the movie is all the more hard-hitting. His presence is felt in every scene, he is creepy and powerful and he never made a mistake which I also loved. He is one of my favorite villains ever and one of the biggest reasons why this film is such a classic.

The acting is of course magnificent. Ivana Baquero did such a terrific job in the main role and for a child, she was absolutely superb and she sold her every scene. Maribel Verdu is also competent and she did a great job in such an admirable female role. The voices of the creatures and monsters were all terrific as was the narration. And of course Sergi Lopez was amazing in the villain’s role and he brought him to life in such a grand style with excellent facial and voice work.

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Pan's Labyrinth Movie Review

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Pan’s Labyrinth is visually dazzling. It is a dark film, but here that approach was warranted given the tone and still it could be well seen. The cinematography is absolutely terrific with some of the camera movements bringing a lot of intensity to the scenes. Of course the shaving scene is so well filmed with that clock approach, but I liked every one of its brutal scenes as they were so well filmed and they knew when to show us the whole thing and when not to show us.

The film is brutal and sometimes too painful to watch, but only in a couple of its scenes and even though I dislike violence, here it was crucial for the plot and especially its villain and thus I didn’t mind it. Some of the imagery here concerning the fantasy elements was fantastic and I loved that bright ending. I also loved the use of the forest and the house, both looked great.

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Pan's Labyrinth Movie Review

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Of course the effects are excellent. As I said above, the creatures look very original in their grim and somewhat creepy designs and all are brought to life so well and they meshed superbly with the screen actress. The film’s editing is just brilliant and so tight that every scene here lasted for just the right time and nothing at all was either rushed or prolonged. That is why the movie is consistently involving from beginning to end.

Pan’s Labyrinth features an unforgettable score which I never forgot from the moment I heard it. The whole film has great sound effects and great score, but Pan’s Labyrinth Lullaby is just such a gorgeous theme which really stuck with me long after seeing the film for the first time. It gives power to all of the scenes that use it, especially the emotionally rewarding ending and its melancholic and beautiful tone just gets me every time.

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Pan's Labyrinth Movie Review

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My favorite scenes are the ending, the labyrinth chase, the demise of the villain, the Pale Monster and Mercedes hurting Vidal. The film’s tone is dark and mature, but there is light in its ending which was necessary to break all that brutality and darkness. The direction from Guillermo del Toro is just brilliant and this is his magnum opus and better than any other movie he’s made by a mile. The film is memorable and original with such a great dialogue and story and it’s also so emotional and simply powerful in every way. It is my favorite movie from the 2000s and an undisputed classic.

With superb visuals and authentic creature designs, such a great score with an unforgettable melancholic theme, excellent performances across the board and many instantly memorable sequences, Pan’s Labyrinth is Guillermo del Toro’s magnum opus which features a fantastic and very dark original story and one of the best film villains ever in Captain Vidal. Whether as a drama or as a fantasy, the film is consistently engaging and superbly crafted in every way. It is simply an immaculate achievement and one of the greatest films of all time.

My Rating – 5

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Alien (1979)

Alien Movie Review

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Alien Movie Review

Alien is a 1979 science fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Sigourney Weaver. It is one of the best blockbusters of all time.

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It’s a robot! Ash is a goddamn robot!

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Alien Movie Review

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This is the movie that started it all, not just this franchise, but also the entire sub-genre of horror with aliens and set in space. To me the movie is great because it is such a phenomenal mix of science fiction and slasher horror. The slasher subgenre is usually not great, but here it was executed in the best way possible and there is not a single big flaw I could find in this movie so that is why it gets the perfect rating from me.

The pacing is where this movie shines among other things. It basically has a sci-fi first half and an all-out horror second half and it works wonderfully. I loved how slow paced it was at first as it led to such a perfect build up to exciting, scary action later on. The mystery of the derelict had remained a mystery until it was answered in ‘Prometheus’ and ‘Alien: Covenant’ and I have to say that I loved this movie for being more mysterious and ambiguous in quality. I also loved the more simplistic and elegant approach that led to its timeless appeal.

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Alien Movie Review

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Ripley is one of the best ever female action heroes, there is no denying that. She might even be the very best. She is tough, but believably so as she has her panicky and more human moments here as well. I love her character and she is one of the main reasons why the original series was so great. Sigourney Weaver is naturally awesome in her most famous role and she plays Ripley so well on all levels.

Dallas is the most forgettable member of the crew, but Lambert is pretty solid. I liked how she was more emotional than Ripley and the portrayal of these two very different women was very realistic and a great choice. Brett is just there to die as is Kane, but they aren’t fully disposable and their deaths are felt.

Parker is a memorable character and not just a token black man. He was more realistic than most of these crew members and I liked that. Of course Mother as this computer on the ship is quite memorable, but Ash is one of the best characters here as this android who was ordered to bring the alien specimen back to Earth. The twist reveal was great and unexpected when you watch it for the first time and he is such a phenomenal secondary villain here, so well played by Ian Holm. So Alien definitely has better than average character development for a horror flick.

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Alien Movie Review

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The alien himself is pretty outstanding. Now I could see in one scene that it was a human in a suit playing it, a dancer more specifically, but other times it was much more convincing and for this time those effects were brilliant and almost seamless. It was definitely the best choice for that time and it paid off significantly. It looks great and sounds great and that is why the movie aged like fine wine.

I loved that it was just one Xenomorph here and again that is why this movie is so brilliant and timeless in its simplicity. It posed real threat and only Ripley stopped him and the way she did that was so well executed and perfectly believable. Despite that typical “let’s split” behavior which is so annoying, this horror film is otherwise pretty clever and the characters almost never made mistakes.

The scares are definitely there and are definitely felt. The first half is mysterious and atmospheric in quality and the second one if quite creepy at times with just the right mix of jump scares, atmospheric thrills and monster action. The highlights are the scene where the creature jumps from Kane’s chest and the whole twist ending was definitely unforgettable. I also loved the scenes on the planet with the mysterious alien as well as Xenomorph eggs. And of course Ash’s reveal is pretty awesome too.

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Alien Movie Review

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Alien is beautifully made. The direction from Ridley Scott is outstanding and this is his magnum opus without any doubt. It is magnificently edited and visually arresting with great effects and I loved how the ship looked as well as the alien and the android. It looks awesome for a 1979 film. And of course it sounds great thanks to such a good score and brilliant sound effects that only further heighten the tension. It truly is an undisputed genre classic.

Alien is a timeless masterpiece, the best sci-fi horror film and one of the finest blockbusters of all time. Ash the android is such a great character as is Ripley of course who is so well played by Sigourney Weaver in her most famous role. The film is mysterious and atmospheric in its first half and so intense and creepy in the second half. The direction, acting, story and thrills, brilliant editing and amazing special effects all add to such an unforgettable experience.

My Rating – 5

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War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

War for the Planet of the Apes is a 2017 science fiction war film directed by Matt Reeves and starring Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson. It is a wonderful end to this spectacular trilogy.

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All of human history has lead to this moment.

The irony is we created you.

And nature has been punishing us ever since.

This is our last stand. And if we lose…

it will be a Planet of Apes

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War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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I expected great things from this movie and I did get great things. And I am so glad to say that all of these three entries got a five star rating from me even though this one wasn’t as firm of a five as the previous two. I do think that ‘Rise’ and ‘Dawn’ are better and ‘Dawn’ still remains my favorite entry, but still the fact that this is another great movie is the most important and admirable one as the last entries are hardest to do and here they blew it out of the park.

I loved this movie so much because it wasn’t as action-oriented as I feared it would be. For a movie that is called War for the Planet of the Apes, it is surprisingly restrained in war/action scenes. They are still here and they are amazingly well executed ad exhilarating, but you also get a lot of emotional ad sophisticated drama and a damn good story in this package.

I loved the beginning, but the second and third act were the best and most memorable. Certainly the cage scenes weren’t all that original as they are basically influenced by ‘The Great Escape’, but still the execution is so great and almost flawless that it doesn’t really matter. I loved the regressive virus that led to some humans going primitive and losing their speech. The Nova nod to the original film just made me smile. I adored that moment.

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War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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That is why this film is so amazing. It perfectly ends this trilogy but it also beautifully sets up the original 1968 film without sacrificing this trilogy. The detailed approach to this movie is meticulous and the careful and thoughtful approach that went into this production is what counts the most and what made it the classic that it’s going to become in the future.

The film explored so well how important speech and intelligence is to humans and I thought the villain killing all “primitive” humans was a realistic thing that could happen in real life. I loved how that led to the splitting and two different human fractions fighting together. It is hilarious and ironic that the apes beat humans accidentally and although that final avalanche was a bit too convenient, I also thought that it could happen and sometimes luck is all that you need. It made the movie so original ad unexpected as I thought apes would kill humans and this twist was in the end pretty satisfactory. Caesar’s death in the end was tragic and really heartfelt. A beautiful ending.

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War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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So let’s talk about Caesar. It is odd and somewhat disappointing that they did not bring Koba back after the hint that he is alive in the after-credits scene of ‘Dawn’, but him being haunted by Koba was an interesting aspect to this story and I loved the inner conflict inside him as he was becoming vengeful like him but eventually did hold back. Really strong drama and he remains one of the strongest, if not the very best, blockbuster protagonists ever. His journey has been absolutely fantastic ad Andy Serkis once again killed it in this role.

Bad Ape is a fun, a bit too funny and goofy, but still solid addition and he could be really funny at times. He brought some necessary humor to an otherwise incredibly bleak movie. Maurice is wonderful and his paternal side emerging with the arrival of Nova was wonderful to witness. She is also such a cute kid who was very important in this war and I liked that development quite a bit. The scenes with her were all so heartwarming without ever becoming too sentimental.

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War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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I liked the concept of the Donkey. All of Koba’s followers went to the human side which was quite realistic and it brought another complex layer to this story. The moment when Red redeems and sacrifices himself in order to save Caesar was probably the most unforgettable scene in the entire film. And even though Woody Harrelson wasn’t best suited for this role, it was interesting seeing him in such a villainous, creepy role. I really liked his character as he was very demanding and memorable and his goal was well established.

War for the Planet of the Apes is technically arresting. The CGI is once again breathtaking. The apes look real and you can almost believe they are real because the VFX work here is some of the best thus far and quite underrated. The action is phenomenal and so exciting and the film is so well directed by Matt Reeves and superbly paced with never a prolonged or rushed scene.

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War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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The cinematography is stunning and there are a lot of memorable set pieces here from the underground fighters to the avalanche to the final scene at the lake. But what takes this movie to classic status is its score. Michael Giacchino’s score is just stunning, old-fashioned in approach and always moving or exciting. It brought another level of poeticism to an already stunning film.

With absolutely stunning special effects, many memorable set pieces, great direction, superb performances and such a beautiful Michael Giacchino score, War for the Planet of the Apes is another masterful film that concludes the greatest trilogy ever on a majestic note. Highly moving in emotion, sophisticated and well thought out in its storytelling and exhilarating in its action, the film ends the trilogy so well while wonderfully connecting it to the original 1968 film in the process. It has been such a wonderful journey and I am so glad I witnessed it on the big screen.

My Rating – 5

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a 2014 science fiction film directed by Matt Reeves and starring Jason Clarke, Andy Serkis and Gary Oldman. It is a fantastic sequel.

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I always think… ape better than human.

I see now… how much like them we are

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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This movie is so great and actually kind of incredible because it manages to be better than ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ which was already a fantastic film. But this one is even better and sequels are rarely better. It is great because it prolongs the story and we see the beginnings of the conflict between the apes and humans and it serves as a perfect middle chapter in what I hope is going to be an amazing trilogy.

So the biggest reason why this movie is so incredible lies in its nature. Whereas its predecessor was a science fiction film that started the whole story, this one not only continues the plot, but it also changes its tone and setting. It is much more action oriented, much darker and much more ambitious but still being moving in its tone. It is very much a sequel to ‘Rise’, but it is also kind of its own thing and that is what every sequel should strive for.

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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Caesar is a phenomenal character and here he becomes absolutely fantastic and one of the all time greatest blockbuster protagonists. Yes, he is that good. We see his struggles with his fellow apes as the leader, but we also see his relationship with humans which is wonderful and he is such a wise, but incredibly strong ape too.

Malcolm is very good and the relationship between these two is beautiful. Dreyfus is somewhat of a typical villain, but still very well realized mostly. Alexander and Ellie should have been better developed, but Koba is of course excellent as the one responsible for the entire war that is now brewing between the two species.

Jason Clarke is likable in the role, Gary Oldman is as good as he usually is and of course Andy Serkis steals the show entirely. His performance is breathtaking and he honestly should have been Oscar nominated for this role as it is that good.

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has a bunch of memorable sequences and I am going to list some of my favorites now. Loved the opening and that bear fight scene was amazing. The chimp baby scene was adorable, of course the scene where Caesar reminisces his time with Will is emotionally resonant, his fight with Koba is exhilarating and of course the entire ending is majestic and the emotional moment Malcolm and Caesar share is just beautiful to witness.

The movie is very well directed by Matt Reeves, very well edited and paced and once again featuring splendid special effects. It looks amazing and sounds great, but the apes themselves look real that it really is one shining example of what CGI could accomplish nowadays. I usually don’t love CGI, but here I did as it was put to brilliant use.

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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I thought the action was excellent and never felt overwhelming as it was so well done. The emotion is evident from beginning to end and it is the biggest reason why this newly restored franchise is great as you feel for its characters and fear for their lives. But because the script is so good and the dialogue is excellent, you’ve got one whole beautiful package in here. It also seemed realistic and I loved that the apes used sign language and the use of subtitles is great. The film shows us the roots of evil so well and how connected to intelligence it really is.

Evil is born along with evolution and it is a necessary negative aspect that comes from intelligence and leads all wars; the society needs to have cooperation and trust in order to progress – those are the statements that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes makes: a movie which is very intelligent and incredibly emotional (the final scene is beautiful) while still containing a bunch of great action scenes and absolutely superb special effects. It also has one of the best ever protagonists in Caesar. It is one of the best films of 2014 and one of the best sequels as well as blockbusters ever made, the one which trumps even the absolutely amazing predecessor and which raises the bar for the finale leading to what definitely could be one of the best, if not the very best, trilogies of all time.

My Rating – 5

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Rise of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a 2011 science fiction film directed by Rupert Wyatt and starring James Franco and Andy Serkis. It’s such a fantastic Apes reboot.

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Caesar is home

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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I love this movie so much and it is definitely one of my favorite blockbusters ever. The film is somewhat of a remake of ‘Conquest of the Planet of the Apes’, but it’s mostly its own thing and the definition of a successful reboot as it breathes new life to the long gone and dead franchise. It follows Dr. Rodman and his relationship with Caesar who by accident becomes very smart and eventually leads an ape rebellion where they escape to the streets.

The structure of the film is phenomenal. The first half of the film is a great, slower build-up with a more scientific, not to mention emotional approach whereas the final part is an all-action, bombastic spectacle. But it works as the spectacle is great and of course the entire storyline is excellent and told in the best way possible and with a superb direction from Rupert Wyatt who really did a masterful job here.

I liked the main character and he is a wonderful man, but Caesar is fantastic and such a phenomenally well depicted ape who feels real and with genuine emotion. That is mostly achieved through the work of Andy Serkis who is always great, but is here especially phenomenal in a performance that was worthy and should have been nominated for an Oscar.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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James Franco is also quite good in one of his best roles, but Freida Pinto is not the greatest, but her role is at least small. John Litgow is excellent per usual in such a moving role and it is nice seeing David Oyelowo here. He was very good in an interesting role. All of the other apes are memorable and great and of course I loved seeing Tom Felton as he basically played Draco Malfoy again here which was hilarious, but fitting for this character and story. You just love to hate his guts.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes features a bunch of memorable sequences such as the bridge fight which was exhilarating in its action as well as the scene where Caesar first visits the forest. I loved the rebellion sequence and the final scene in the movie is so emotional and simply wonderful. The character interactions and relationship between Caesar and Rodman drive this movie and is the heart and soul of not only this film, but the rest of the franchise as well.

The direction and acting are excellent, but the score is also quite solid and at times even memorable when accompanying the action scenes which are all very good and superbly executed. The film is entertaining throughout its runtime, but never too action-packed or rushed owing to great pacing as well.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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The script is great and the film is thankfully devoid of any camp which plagued the previous Apes films. The special effects are marvelous and the motion-capture performance from Andy Serkis is absolutely brilliant. The film sounds and looks good, it’s realistic and fueled by very good dialogue and script for blockbuster standards. It truly is a beautiful film which even trumps the original which says quite a lot, but it is slightly inferior to its successor.

Filled with many truly moving scenes, excellent character interactions and a huge heart at its core, Rise of the Planet of the Apes also has a stellar script, excellent direction, superb acting with Andy Serkis killing it in such a great role, such good characters and marvelous special effects and action scenes. It is a textbook example of how to properly do a reboot and it’s one of the best blockbusters of all time.

My Rating – 5

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