Megan Leavey (2017)

Megan Leavey Movie Review

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Megan Leavey Movie Review

Megan Leavey is a 2017 war biopic starring Kate Mara. It is a pretty solid film that is typical in execution, but very sweet and inspirational.

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They’re not even dogs anymore.

They’re warriors, and they come back

with all the same issues we do

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Megan Leavey Movie Review

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It is based on the true story of Megan Leavey, a girl who went to Iraq where he went on missions with her dog Rex. Eventually, the two become war heroes, but she has to petition in order to adopt him and spend his final years together with him. Now this is a true story, but it was obviously made for a tearjerker movie and it shows.

The film is so straightforward and safe in its execution that it never could escape it. That was most certainly a problem. Every plot point was expected and the film never took any chances with the story and Hollywoodized it beyond repair.

Another big problem is the relationship between Megan and Rex. Eventually, the two bond and both are great characters and the ending was truly moving. I liked both of them and their relationship, but and this is a big but, I thought the emotion was not fully earned because the first half did not rely as much on Rex as it should have and the beginning of their relationship was immensely rushed.

I am criticizing Megan Leavey a lot, but I honestly liked it for what it is. It is a great movie for dog fans as it truly is inspirational and what I loved about it is how respectful and truthful it portrays the relationships between humans and dogs and how special those relationships can be.

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Megan Leavey Movie Review

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It was also very interesting to see dog workers, this time around in combat. It is a fascinating thing that dogs suffer from the same post-traumatic disorders as humans do which was emphasized here in their life after war. Very touching stuff and the film surely is emotional and sometimes very hard-hitting especially in the scenes with her terrible mother.

I liked Megan’s boyfriend, but I am glad he did not take too much of the movie. The war took a bit too much out of it and Rex should have been more present, but Megan herself is truly excellent which mostly stems from Kate Mara’s powerful, stupendous performance as she is the star of this movie for sure. It is a well made, engaging film, but definitely flawed in the end.

Megan Leavey is your typically straightforward biopic in terms of storytelling and some of the things felt rushed in execution, but it is a solid, engaging movie that is especially touching in its ending, hard-hitting in its drama and respectful in the portrayal of dogs and war veterans. It is a pleasant movie that is mostly worth seeing for Kate Mara’s stupendous performance.

My Rating – 3.5

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The Dirty Dozen (1967)

The Dirty Dozen Movie Review

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The Dirty Dozen Movie Review

The Dirty Dozen is a 1967 war film directed by Robert Aldrich and starring Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine and Charles Bronson. It is a mediocre, annoying film.

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You’ve seen a general inspecting troops before haven’t you?

Just walk slow, act dumb and look stupid!

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The Dirty Dozen Movie Review

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When it comes to war movies, I am always in the camp of drama and not action. This is a war action flick and thus I am not a fan of it. Everything here is style over substance, action spectacle over story and it just bored me.

It also bored me with its running time which is two and half hours. Of course it did not need that at all and thus it felt overly prolonged and it quickly bored me into submission. The story is nowhere in sight ant this is just such a basic premise that serves to give more and more action and nothing more than that.
The Dirty Dozen has, well, a dozen characters and they are all so underdeveloped and ultimately forgettable. But even worse, most of them are annoying, thoroughly unlikable and just plain bad people whom you cannot root for at all.

This movie is overly macho and only stereotypical straight men can really enjoy this in my opinion and nobody else. It has that masculine quality to it that is very off-putting and there is not a woman in sight here.

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The Dirty Dozen Movie Review

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Ernest Borgnine is annoying, Charles Bronson is okay but not a remarkable character and Lee Marvin is the best of the bunch, but he plays a regular character for him and he doesn’t stretch his acting muscles at all here.

The direction from Robert Aldrich is weak and mediocre, the film is too long and weakly paced and only the cinematography is solid, and the acting as well. The film looks and also sounds good thanks to a pretty solid score, but everything else is uninspired and dull.

The Dirty Dozen looks and sounds good, but the characters are either annoying or plain unlikable, the film favors style over substance with not enough drama and story and way too much action. It is overlong and tedious.

My Rating – 2.5

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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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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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Platoon (1986)

Platoon Movie Review

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Platoon Movie Review

Platoon is a 1986 Vietnam war film directed by Oliver Stone. The movie is one of the most famous of the type and it got Best Picture.

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Excuses are like assholes, Taylor, everybody got one

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Platoon Movie Review

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It follows one platoon in the Vietnam war and as the story, it is very weak. The film is obsessed with action, there is action sequence after action sequence and it quickly gets annoying. It should have gone into some war themes instead of that.

Also the realism of the film in terms of violence is excellent because it shows the truth, but is nonetheless very appalling and impossible to watch at times. And as for the characters, they are so-so and pretty underdeveloped and it definitely is a flaw. The film should have had good characterization and some themes and dialogue in order to be successful.

The scenes with all the characters just relaxing and having fun, while too long and even serving as a detour, are the highlight here bringing some necessary character development and heart which the rest of the film fails to bring. And one thing I noticed is how both whites and blacks get along well and the scenes with them hugging not only show the friendship but also serve as a powerful message against racism which is subtle and that is great. Hollywood should take notes from this film and they should make more films like this, just showing the races interacting together in a positive manner instead of making biographical and historical films about racism. This is way more powerful, subtle and professional. That is the biggest praise I can give to this movie.

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Platoon Movie Review

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As for the acting, it is solid, but nothing quite remarkable as is the direction. The editing is okay as is the cinematography, but nothing from the technical aspects screams excellent and nothing stands out which is problematic.

It got Best Picture but it did not deserve it because as this type of film goes, ‘The Deer Hunter’ and ‘Full Metal Jacket’ are a lot better films that are superior in almost everything.

Platoon has some nice character interactions and it is realistic and grounded in its approach, but it lacks character development, it lacks any plot and themes and message whatsoever, it is not that well made and it is all around a very disappointing, overrated and lackluster films that is also immensely inferior to some other great Vietnam war movies.

My Rating – 3

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American Sniper (2014)

American Sniper Movie Review

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American Sniper Movie Review

American Sniper is a 2014 biographical war film directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper in the title role. The film was nominated for Best Picture and it is another one of those political, propaganda American films that are so overrated and unwatchable even.

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I need you… to be human again. I need you here

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American Sniper Movie Review

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The story follows Chris Kyle played by Cooper who is a sniper in the Iraq war and everything about the plot feels overly familiar and rehashed thousands and thousands of times. The story is also incredibly boring and not only overly patriotic and of course a propaganda piece, but it can literally make you fall asleep how boring and incredibly uninspired it is.

The characters are, along with the plot, forgettable. All of them are underdeveloped and pretty bland and typical. As for the acting, it is nothing to write home about and Cooper’s performance, while good, is very overrated to say the least. I do not see a point in nominating him three years in a row which is exactly what the Academy did in the period from 2012 to 2014 where in reality, all those three performances from this film, ‘American Hustle’ and ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ are not that worthy of any nominations and especially awards. He is definitely a good actor, but not one of the greatest, that’s for sure.

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American Sniper Movie Review

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The direction here is also pretty uninspired as are the technical aspects. The editing is of course problematic because the movie lasts for too long and the movie never showcases any excitement, entertainment factor or originality and professionalism to it which is why I do not understand the praise it got. Well, I guess I do understand because Eastwood made it and Cooper is in it and it is patriotic so of course Americans were going to see it in droves regardless of its quality which just goes to show what an incredibly and even to the point of a sickness that nation’s patriotism level is. It really is disturbing.

American Sniper has a boring story that is uninspired and typical, forgettable characters and bland technical aspects, but it is also incredibly patriotic, way too tedious and clichéd and of course overrated in the worst way possible leading to a film that did not deserve any of its nominations and that is one of the most overrated films of the entire year.

My Rating – 2

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Wonder Woman (2017)

Wonder Woman Movie Review

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Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman is a 2017 superhero film directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. It is such a good, unexpectedly competent movie.

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I will fight for those who cannot fight for themselves

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Wonder Woman Movie Review

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This movie is so good because it succeeds in various areas. It has a good backstory and fun action and thus succeeding as a pretty remarkable superhero flick which is wonderfully old-fashioned and traditional which I adored. It also surprisingly enough succeeds as an exceptionally strong romance film as the relationship between these two is simply fantastic. And in my opinion it is a pretty competent World War I picture in its own right. So you have three movies in here and all are very good.

Diana Prince is simply great. I finally realized why so many people love this character as this movie showcases that brilliantly. She succeeds in large part thanks to Gal Gadot whose performance, although far from great, is actually pretty solid for an amateur actress. But her charm and evident charisma carries this entire movie through and she is so wonderful and with such an infectious smile. I loved her here, but the character development is superb for her. She learns throughout the movie the true nature of humans and how complex they are and thus becomes much more mature instead of idealistic and naive which she was before.

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Wonder Woman Movie Review

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Chris Pine is excellent, though obviously typecast, as Steve Trevor and is very funny and energetic in the role. Their romance develops naturally, it is sweet and playful and his eventual death is impactful and proves to be essential for her winning the battle against Ares. The power of love is here repeated in a similar fashion from Harry Potter, but it still works.

Robin Wright’s Antiope is tough and memorable, Doctor Poison is also pretty interesting and of the comic reliefs, all of them are typical, but solid nonetheless. I honestly thought that Ares was a solid villain in that old-fashioned sense and he was pretty competent and tough to beat which was great. But I do think that her realization that there was no Ares and that humans are responsible for the war was so fantastic that the movie would have been better had it stayed in that more realistic and character-driven territory. But that realization sequence still remains the best of the entire movie.

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Wonder Woman Movie Review

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So Wonder Woman is very well acted and superbly directed by Patty Jenkins who deserves everything she gets after this movie. Her direction is the reason why it is so good as she took the cues from previous superhero movies of the last century such as ‘Superman’ and made the movie feel old-fashioned, yet modern at its core.

Another problem besides the last bombastic act is the action. It would have been terrific had it not been for the extensive use of slow-motion which really got on my nerves. I guess some of it was cool, but it became overly abundant and annoying quickly and the action is otherwise so well executed that the choice to slow it down and make it “cool” hurt it in the long run.

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Wonder Woman Movie Review

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The score is absolutely amazing and her theme is brilliant. I thought the humor was excellent and the film made me laugh quite a number of times. I loved some of its hilarious lines and the playful, more innocent tone made it a winner in my book as most superhero films today are way too dark and serious. Its anti-war message is very strong, it makes use of a less popular war superbly and I just loved how emotional, human and ultimately powerful it was. It truly is the only worthy DCEU flick thus far that can for sure rival the best of the MCU.

Wonder Woman has more than a typical bombastic ending and the extensive use of annoying slow-motion really hurt the action in the long run, but other than that, this is such a great, stupendous superhero flick which I adored and which was hugely entertaining. Its playful, comedic tone is refreshing, it has a wonderfully old-fashioned approach to the genre, it is emotional and with a very strong anti-war statement, the music is simply fantastic with her theme being instantly recognizable, Gal Gadot is so charismatic and wonderful in the role and the movie succeeds as a superhero, World War I and even a strong romance film.

My Rating – 4

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Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Grave of the Fireflies Movie Review………………………………………

Grave of the Fireflies Movie Review

Grave of the Fireflies is a 1988 anime war drama film directed by Isao Takahata. It is Studio Ghibli’s second film and one of the most heartbreaking animated films ever.

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Why must fireflies die so young?

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Grave of the Fireflies Movie Review………………………………………

It follows two siblings as they try to survive during the final months of World War II. It is a very serious film and is actually one of the most mature animated films of all time as even live-action war films rarely are this tragic. To me the film does not have a high rewatchability factor and surely I do not plan on seeing it again soon as three times is quite enough for now. Watching it for the third time, I was again overwhelmed and even disturbed and the film is definitely better to be taken in small doses which is not a problem as some films are too tragic to be watched many times and this is such a film.

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Grave of the Fireflies Movie Review………………………………………

The film is so deep and heartbreaking in its ending and that wouldn’t be achieved had it not been for the previous two awesome acts. Grave of the Fireflies acquaints you with its two protagonists so well and it gives you many touching, sweet and even beautiful moments before overwhelming you with tragedy later on. And that was essential as it made the tragedy all the more powerful and everyone should feel it.

I am one of the rare people who did not cry during this film, but it came pretty close to making me cry. I loved its structure with the same beginning and ending. The highlight was definitely the burning of the body sequence as it is so terrible and fueled by that haunting score, it manages to totally crush you. The same goes for the scene where she wants to eat rocks out of despair and of course the part where we see Setsuko run around their place and disappear like a ghost. Those three scenes are so horrible, but they are not cheap and manipulative because, again, they were earned through some extensive character work and built emotion before.

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Grave of the Fireflies Movie Review………………………………………

I am talking about the firefly scenes, especially the one where they find a bunch of them. Visually arresting and simply beautiful in every way, that was the only truly happy scene in the entire film and it made the rest of it feel like an even bigger nightmare. The quote about fireflies dying so quickly is also deep and truly phenomenal as the film’s theme. Fireflies area  a great metaphor here, but the visual detail of that box of candies was an even better and smart touch as it came at just the right parts in the story and it always felt important. To me it just might be the most memorable thing about the entire film and that says a lot.

Seita is excellent and Setsuko is so sweet. I just loved their relationship and it goes to show how terrible it is for parents to have children with big age gaps as the responsibility of parenthood befalls to the older child and he becomes a third parent in a way. But it also shows us how beautiful that can be and truly Seita’s love for Setsuko and her dependence on him is truly moving to witness. They share a great, evident bond and the huge power of this movie mostly stems from that bond.

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Grave of the Fireflies Movie Review………………………………………

There aren’t a lot of supporting characters in Grave of the Fireflies as we only see their aunt get a significant role and she is good at first, but becomes horrible later on. She seemed realistic, but my only gripe with the movie is the fact that that farmer did not want to give Seita food even after he told him his sister is gravely sick. That felt unrealistic in my opinion as even the biggest piece of shit person would help two children, not to mention during wartime. But maybe I am mistaken. However, that part still felt not real to me personally.

Their father dying in a battle and of course their mother dying in front of our eyes was a terrible thing to witness. That scene with her entirely bandaged was just horrible and one of the most disturbing and maybe a bit too realistic scenes in all of anime, not to mention animation. But it was still needed as Seita needed to get used to the horrors of war quickly. It shows us how the effects of war can be horrible to children and pitying the innocence of children against the horrors of war has been done before, especially in the world cinema of the fifties and sixties (‘Ivan’s Childhood‘ and ‘Forbidden Games‘ immediately spring to mind), but it was never done in this great a manner and this just might be the best war drama ever made as it is that strong.

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Grave of the Fireflies Movie Review………………………………………

Grave of the Fireflies is technically superb as the voice acting is excellent and Isao Takahata’s direction is amazing and he certainly is one of my favorite anime directors. The score is so powerful and haunting in quality that it propelled those tragic scenes to even more difficult to watch and exhausting parts. Its theme is truly gorgeous and unforgettable as it sticks with you long after you’ve heard it. The editing is also great as the film is slow, but never boring. As for its animation, it is awesome as the beauty of fireflies is definitely brought home in that arresting scene, but the war horrors are also conveyed well through the use of realistic details. I loved the look of the characters and in particular its attention to detail and color palette were great.

With many simply horrible to witness sequences that stick with you long after you’ve seen it, Grave of the Fireflies truly is a deeply tragic, devastating film that is all the more powerful as the emotion in the last third is earned thanks to its great character work, build up and many beautiful bonding scenes between the two siblings portrayed before. The animation is excellent and the direction from Isao Takahata is superb and he is one of my favorite anime directors, but it is its score imbued with a haunting quality to it that makes those tragic scenes even more unbearable to watch. It truly is one of the best animated films of all time and it might be the finest war drama ever made.

My Rating – 5

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Ivan’s Childhood (1962)

Ivan's Childhood Movie Review

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Ivan’s Childhood Movie Review

Ivan’s Childhood is a 1962 Russian war drama film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. It is a very good directorial debut for Tarkovsky.

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If a well is really deep,

you can see a star down there

even in the middle of a sunny day

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Ivan's Childhood Movie Review

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The story isn’t particularly original as contrasting the innocence of childhood with the horrors of war has been done before. ‘Forbidden Games’ has already done that exactly a decade ago from this film. But why this film is better than the aforementioned French film lies in its approach and execution which is as good as it could have been.

The story is well told, the film is dramatic and also quite atmospheric at times. The ending is striking and quite tragic and the use of flashbacks is put to some pretty good use here and isn’t as annoying as usual as I dislike that approach for the most part. But here that structure is solidly organized and the film flows really well apart from a couple of more boring sequences.

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Ivan's Childhood Movie Review

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Where the film fails is in the titular protagonist. Ivan is an unlikable brat, at least that’s how I saw him. If he was more likable, his eventual death would have been much more tragic to me. And all of the other characters aren’t all that well developed expect for Galtsev who is solid. But Masha’s role isn’t clear here. Maybe he wanted to portray how difficult it must have been for women in the army back then, but that entire sequence with her in the woods was well realized and interesting, but not that important in the context of the overall story.

But the acting is very good and everyone did a really nice job in their roles. Nikolai Burlyaev did such a good job at such a young age, he delivered a very strong performance in a pretty demanding role. As for Tarkovsky himself, this is one competent debut, there is no denying that. What I liked about Ivan’s Childhood is that it is less pretentious and artistic than his later films and that was good. It is much more straightforward and engaging than usual for the director.

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Ivan's Childhood Movie Review

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Ivan’s Childhood’s biggest strength has to be the cinematography which is amazing. The film is so beautifully shot that it is one of the finest looking black and white films of the sixties for sure. The sets are intriguing and well utilized and the black and white photography is stark and artistic. Some of the imagery such as the woods and especially the boat sequence near the end were striking and unforgettable. The camera movements and shots here are so polished. So the film is mostly style over substance, but it has a well told story and some great dramatic sequences so it succeeds as a pretty good debut for Tarkovsky.

Ivan’s Childhood has a couple of unnecessary sequences and the titular protagonist isn’t as likable as he should have been, but this is a very good debut for Tarkovsky as Nikolai Burlyaev delivered a very strong performance, the story is well told and pleasantly straightforward and the film is so beautifully shot with some striking imagery and its exquisite visual quality is surely its standout aspect.

My Rating – 4

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War and Peace (1966)

War and Peace Movie Review………………………………………………………..

War and Peace Movie Review

War and Peace is a 1966 Soviet war drama film directed by Sergei Bondarchuk. It truly is an epic, but also wildly uneven work.

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Uncertainty, that’s what one fears most

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War and Peace Movie Review………………………………………………………..

It is based on one of the most famous and acclaimed novels ever written and it succeeds as a pretty admirable adaptation of it. It is famous for being the Soviet movie with the biggest budget and that money definitely paid off as the movie is gorgeous to behold. The cinematography in particular is phenomenal and every shot is great and some are even stunning. The camera movements are polished and the imagery, of the battles in particular, is frequently impressive.

I also loved that it was both a war picture and a costume drama. The costumes are exquisite and I found the interiors to be terrific. The dance sequences were some of my favourites here. I also really liked the score and the film is all around technically impressive and ambitious in scope and certainly epic in its tone.

But where War and Peace struggles is in its storytelling and characterization which is why it is definitely a respectable, but still somewhat forgettable and uneven work. Because it is divided in four parts and because of its staggering running time of seven hours, it is naturally uneven, weakly paced and edited. Some segments are better than the others.

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War and Peace Movie Review………………………………………………………..

Andrei Bolkonsky is the first and best part for sure and all of the others failed in comparison to it. Natasha Rostova was just overly melodramatic in my opinion. The entire movie suffered from many typical plot points and plot progressions and an overall feeling that it is at its core a style over substance. The characters are also unimpressive. Some are very well developed, but none of them left a bigger impression on me and I have to say that all of them are immensely forgettable, at least to me personally. It received the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and although not particularly deserved, it is still one of the better films to win that award during the sixties.

War and Peace is a pretty good film that is style over substance and naturally wildly uneven both in pacing and in storytelling, but it is epic in tone and scope, visually arresting and filled with great imagery, well scored and mostly such an admirable war and period piece that it managed to transcend its many obvious flaws.

My Rating – 4

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