Hannibal Rising (2007) Review

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Sadistic Violence
Cast:
Gaspard Ulliel as Hannibal Lecter
Gong Li as Lady Murasaki
Dominic West as Inspector Pascal Popil
Rhys Ifans as Vladis Grutas
Director: Peter Webber

After witnessing the violent deaths of his parents at the end of World War II, young Hannibal Lecter (Gaspard Ulliel) flees to his uncle’s home in Paris. He learns his uncle is dead, but the man’s mysterious Japanese widow, Lady Murasaki (Gong Li) welcomes him nonetheless. An aptitude for science helps Hannibal gain acceptance to medical school, where he hones the skills he needs to exact revenge for the atrocities he witnessed.

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Hannibal Lecter is an iconic character that has seen many film and tv appearances (his TV version being my favourite). I’ve liked all of the adaptations, even with some the flaws that some of them have (2001’s Hannibal). There is however an exception for Hannibal Rising, which is by far the worst Hannibal adaptation ever. Aside from a couple of aspects of the film (such as the direction, cinematography and Gaspard Ulliel as Young Hannibal Lector), there isn’t much to like about Hannibal Rising. Then again this movie was pretty much dead on arrival, it being based on Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Rising.

You’d think that an origin story about one of fiction’s most iconic serial killers would be at least somewhat interesting. Unfortunately, this movie somehow ends up being tremendously boring. It’s really hard to care about anything that’s going on, not even Hannibal himself (his characterisations was very lacklustre). In fact, this movie fails as an origin story for Hannibal, it doesn’t even show the gradual change into Hannibal the Cannibal, after a flashback with child Hannibal (a significant event for him), it jumps to when he’s an adult. Although throughout the film he goes through some changes (like killing, and liking cannibalism) from the first time you see adult Hannibal, he is already unhinged. You want to know the worst part about the writing? It was written by Hannibal writer Thomas Harris. He adapted his own book and it still was written horribly. Then again, Thomas Harris was forced to write that novel in the first place, so it sort of makes sense why it’s in that state.

Gaspard Ulliel is playing the young Hannibal Lecter, he well with what he has. Performance wise, I can buy him as the younger version of Anthony Hopkins’s Hannibal. However he’s not given a lot of good material to work with. There isn’t any depth given to this Hannibal Lector, he seems more like a movie teen serial killer as opposed to actually Hannibal Lector. The villainous characters are all one dimensionally evil. There’s one of actor who manages to inject some form of humanity into his character but others are less so, most notably Rhys Ifans, who plays an absolute cartoon villain of a character. Some of the other supporting cast are fine but don’t leave a massive impact.

The one thing consistent throughout the Hannibal movies is that they all look great. The production design and cinematography really reflected it’s time period. The violence (as expected) is very bloody and graphic but it is better handled than in Hannibal (the 2001 movie of course), it didn’t feel as gratuitous. The score also, really good.

Hannibal Rising is hands down the worst Hannibal Lecter movie ever. The bad writing, boring story and hit or miss performances make Hannibal Rising a chore to sit through. The best parts of the movie was Gaspard Ulliel as Hannibal and the cinematography of the film. That’s really the only good things about this movie unfortunately. To be fair this movie was dead on arrival, they had to adapt Hannibal Rising, it’s difficult to imagine that book being adapted into a good movie.

Lion (2016) Review

 

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Adult themes
Cast:
Sunny Pawar as younger Saroo Brierley
Dev Patel as older Saroo Brierley
Rooney Mara as Lucy
Nicole Kidman as Sue Brierley
David Wenham as John Brierley
Director: Garth Davis

Five year old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) gets lost on a train which takes him thousands of miles across India, away from home and family. Saroo must learn to survive alone in Kolkata, before ultimately being adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty five years later, armed with only a handful of memories, his unwavering determination, and a revolutionary technology known as Google Earth, Saroo (Dev Patel) sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home.

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Lion was a film that I was curious about. I actually saw the 60 minutes article about the real life story this movie was based on and I just knew it would be turned into a movie. Surely enough, that happened with Lion and I knew I had to check it out as soon as possible. And it did not disappoint. Lion is a good movie, the acting was great by everyone, the direction was also good but most of all the story is compelling, Lion is definitely worth checking out.

This movie’s first half is of Young Saroo (Sunny Pawar) in India and the second half is of Adult Saroo (Dev Patel) in Australia. While most movies would cut between the past and the present, it decides to tell it’s story chronologically, while the second half has some additional flashbacks. This makes it easier to get a better idea of what Saroo’s feeling in the second half when he’s trying to find his family. It’s very easy to get caught up in the story, I never felt bored watching this movie. The first half of the movie was great. It heavily relies on actor Sunny Pawar and while I’ll get into more detail about him later, I’ll just say that he’s the reason that the first half works so well. It does feel a little jarring when the story witches to the second half. The tone, pace and feel did seem to noticeably change. The second half is still good, it just didn’t feel quite as strong as the first half, though honestly I’m not quite sure what it is. With that said, and the ending is really satisfying, and paid off well.

Newcomer actor Sunny Pawar did amazing work as Young Saroo. This is a kid actor, and Lion is also the first movie he’s been involved in. And we all know that kid actors nowadays are hit or miss. Very impressive performance, he was the stand out in the movie. He’s basically the main star, as the entire first half focusses on him. Most of the time he’s not saying anything, so his reactions and the way he acts has to carry the movie. Dev Patel was also great as adult Saroo. It was a little jarring with the shift to Dev after the first half, but nonetheless he did a good job and it was very easy to buy him in this role. Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman also did great work in supporting roles, they definitely added a lot to this movie as well.

Lion was overall a well directed movie by director Garth Davis. This is the first film I’ve seen from him and I can tell from Lion that he’s a solid director. The cinematography is beautiful and the locations also showcased well, whether that be in India or Australia. The music by Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka was also good. Generally though, Lion’s highlight wasn’t it’s direction, it’s the story that’s really the highlight.

Lion lived up to expectations with its great acting, solid direction and also a compelling and powerful story. While the switch between the first two halves is a bit of a jarring and the second half of the story isn’t quite as strong as the first half, I still really liked this movie. Lion was a great movie and it’s really worth checking out when you can.

Kong: Skull Island (2017) Review

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and offensive language

Cast:
Tom Hiddleston as James Conrad
Samuel L. Jackson as Preston Packard
John Goodman as William “Bill” Randa
Brie Larson as Mason Weaver
Toby Kebbell as Jack Chapman
John Ortiz as Victor Nieves
Corey Hawkins as Houston Brooks
Jason Mitchell as Glenn Mills
Shea Whigham as Earl Cole
Thomas Mann as Reg Slivko
Terry Notary as King Kong (motion capture performance)
John C. Reilly as Hank Marlow
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

A diverse team of scientists, soldiers and adventurers unites to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific, as dangerous as it is beautiful. Cut off from everything they know, the team ventures into the domain of the mighty Kong, igniting the ultimate battle between man and nature. As their mission of discovery becomes one of survival, they must fight to escape a primal Eden in which humanity does not belong.

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Kong: Skull Island was one of my most anticipated films of 2017. This film is also set in the same universe as Godzilla (a film that I liked) as the MonsterVerse is being created. Plus the cast and the trailers looked good, so I was definitely interested in checking it out. Although there are plenty of problems with this movie, Kong Skull Island is still a fun and solid movie, mostly due to the fantastic direction.

The story isn’t particularly special, above average, it’s serviceable for a Kong movie. The dialogue at times was hit or miss, some of it worked, some of it was cheesy and occasionally bad. Most of the comedy didn’t work, it only worked when it was delivered by John C. Reilly. One thing I will say though is that this movie definitely knows what it is. It knows its an over the top action movie and it delivers in that regard. Kong doesn’t show up a huge amount (like with Godzilla in his most recent film) but it doesn’t cut away from Kong just as he is about to do something awesome. He is in the movie in small enjoyable doses and was used very effectively, he was awesome when he was on screen. As for the last act… so fantastic.

Now this film has a lot of talented actors, including Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, and Toby Kebbell. Unfortunately the film kind of wastes them and they don’t get to do as much as you think they would. However, these actors do try as best as they can, they still were good enough, they just should’ve been given more to work with. The actor who steals the show is John C. Reilly. He is entertaining, and also the only source of comedy which actually works.

What makes this film work effectively despite its flaws is the direction. This film is directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts. This is his first ‘big’ film and I can say that he is a talented filmmaker, and I can’t wait to see more movies from him. The direction of this film is so great, on a technical level, everything is excellent. Something that was perfect was the cinematography, done by Larry Fong (Batman v Superman, Watchmen, 300). The film looks absolutely beautiful, not one shot felt out of place. The action is intense, the special effects looked great, there wasn’t a fake looking creature or effect. The film also does a good job at making it feel like its set in the 70s. The soundtrack by Henry Jackman also made things a lot more epic. The only criticism I have direction wise is some of the music choices and style felt out of place but that is it.

Kong: Skull Island definitely has some flaws with regards to its plot, characters and dialogue, but the overall direction boosts the film immensely, and almost makes me completely forget about all the problems. Overall I liked this movie about the same level as Godzilla, this film does some things better and some things worse. While the movie wasn’t as great as I hoped it would be, it was still quite a fun time. Also, make sure you stay after the credits, because there’s a post credits scene, and it’s well worth waiting to see it.

John Wick (2014) Review

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Time: 101 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence & offensive language
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as John Wick
Michael Nyqvist as Viggo Tarasov
Alfie Allen as Iosef Tarasov
Adrianne Palicki as Ms. Perkins
Bridget Moynahan as Helen Wick
Dean Winters as Avi
Ian McShane as Winston
John Leguizamo as Aurelio
Willem Dafoe as Marcus
Director: Chad Stahelski, David Leitch

After the sudden death of his beloved wife, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) receives one last gift from her, a beagle puppy named Daisy, and a note imploring him not to forget how to love. But John’s mourning is interrupted when his 1969 Boss Mustang catches the eye of sadistic thug Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen) who breaks into his house and steals it, beating John unconscious and leaving Daisy dead. Unwittingly, they have just reawakened one of the most brutal assassins the underworld has ever seen.

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With the sequel coming sometime soon, I thought I should give my thoughts on the original John Wick. John Wick was one of the most surprising movies of 2014. It wasn’t just a standard Keanu Reeves action flick, it was actually something special, garnering a strong reception and following. It is an entertaining and thrilling action movie.

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The story really isn’t anything special. It’s a revenge story, just with the main character being a former hitman. It’s the execution of the story that makes this movie work so well. The story is set out well, the pace never feeling too fast or too long. The world of John Wick is one of the stand out parts of the movie (which is saying a lot). The world is absolutely incredible and interesting, laid out well. I can’t wait to see how the sequel explores this world. This movie is engaging and riveting, it really never lost my attention once.

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This is the best Keanu Reeves has ever been in a movie (it’s also probably the best movie that Keanu Reeves has ever been in). He is really is believable in this role, and not just in the action scenes, he does actually act well in this movie, he’s not just playing Keanu Reeves like he has in certain other movies. It really does help that Keanu Reeves does his own stunts, it is much easier to buy him as this character. The supporting performances were also great. Michael Nyqvust was quite effective as the main villain as Iosef’s father (and a mob boss), completely owning every scene he’s in. Also, Willem Dafoe, Alfie Allen, Ian McShane and even John Leguizamo were good in their roles (however I would’ve liked if we saw more of Willem Dafoe).

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The action is absolutely fantastic. It doesn’t have a lot of shaky cam or unnecessary quick cuts like most action movies nowadays have. The stunt work was also fantastic (it helps with both directors being stunt men), the fights are intense and don’t feel fake at all. Another thing I liked was that although John Wick is incredibly good at what he does, he’s still human, he doesn’t always win perfectly against people just because he’s John Wick. That makes the action a lot more riveting, he’s not just Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando or something. In terms of the standout action scene, there’s a sequence that takes place in a nightclub (which reminded me of the nightclub scene in Collateral). In terms of flaws, I guess maybe the last action sequence was slightly underwhelming but that’s probably because everything else in the film was so great that it just paled in comparison.

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John Wick has a fantastic world, solid performances, entertaining action, everything you want from an action movie. As I said, the concept of the story itself is nothing special, it’s the execution that makes this film so excellent. If you haven’t already, definitely see John Wick when you can, especially before seeing the sequel which comes out (or already came out depending where you are in the world).

Logan (2017) Review

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logan

Time: 137 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, offensive language & cruelty
Cast
Hugh Jackman as James “Logan” Howlett/Wolverine
Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier/Professor X
Richard E. Grant as Zander Rice
Boyd Holbrook as Donald Pierce
Stephen Merchant as Caliban
Dafne Keen as Laura/X-23
Director: James Mangold

In the near future, a weary Logan (Hugh Jackman) cares for an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart) in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant (Dafne Keen) arrives, being pursued by dark forces.

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Logan was one of my most anticipated films of 2017. At the same time though, I was incredibly nervous. This film was going to send off Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart as Wolverine and Professor X respectively. This film needed to be perfect, or at least perfect in the way that it ended their stories. I am not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the best comic book movies I’ve seen. I know that I say this with many comic book movies, but this is like top 5 level. Logan truly blew me away.

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Make no mistake, although Logan is set in the X-Men universe, tonally it doesn’t feel like the previous X-Men films, or really any other superhero movie you’ve ever seen. It’s quite bleak, dark and much more smaller and personal, it’s not an end of the world type of story. It actually does have many themes of a Western. Now this movie is R rated, and it’s not just for the violence (which I’ll get into later), it’s also so that it can allow the filmmakers to tell a darker story, and I’m glad they did that. Don’t also go into this movie expecting a comic accurate movie. I won’t spoil anything but there are some differences from the comics, I was completely fine with it but I just know that some people won’t be. Comic accuracy is not the most important thing everything however. I can’t really find a fault in the story. I guess the second act is slower (at least compared to the first and third act) but I still liked it, and it allowed for some more character developing moments. As for whether Logan and Professor X and sent off well, I’ll just say yes, they pulled it off. The ending of the movie was perfect.

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Both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart give magnificent final performances as their iconic characters. Both characters have clearly been through a lot and aren’t as optimistic as they were in previous movies. Their arcs were done incredibly well, especially Logan’s, it was the perfect arc to end his story. There’s a great new addition to the X-Men series with X-23/Laura, played by Dafne Keen. She’s definitely a showstealer, just in the way she acts, looks at people (she doesn’t even need to say any lines and we can tell what she’s thinking), and of course the action scenes. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of her in future movies. This is a character driven movie, and these three characters are done so incredibly well. Boyd Holbrook plays one of the Reavers hunting Laura down. He is really effective and quite entertaining but as the film progresses he sort of gets pushed more into the background. Other supporting actors like Stephen Merchant and Richard E. Grant are also good in their roles.

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The action is brutal and unrelenting and it is excellent. While the violence is bloody, it never felt excessive, it felt appropriate for the story that was being told. Unlike most comic book movies, Logan tries to make it’s action as realistic and smaller as possible and it pays off, don’t expect big explosions or planes falling from the sky. In terms of the stand out action sequence, I’ll just say that it’s in the third act. The cinematography I also should mention was also beautiful.

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Logan is truly a magnificent movie. Along with the brutal action and the great performances, the story works so perfectly. I haven’t seen a comic book movie like this, one that is willing to risk everything and deciding to create this story. I’m being vague because I want you to experience this movie for yourself without knowing too much about it. So yes, definitely check it out. Even though I’m praising this highly (like everyone else), I must emplore you to lower your expectations (high expectations usually result in disappointment). I will say though that no matter what you think of the overall movie, there would be no denying that Wolverine was given a perfect sendoff.

Silence (2016) Review

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silence

Time: 161 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence and Cruelty
Cast
Andrew Garfield as Sebastião Rodrigues
Adam Driver as Francisco Garupe
Liam Neeson as Father Cristóvão Ferreira
Tadanobu Asano as The Interpreter
Ciarán Hinds as Father Alessandro Valignano
Issey Ogata as Inoue Masashige
Shinya Tsukamoto as Mokichi
Yoshi Oida as Ichizo
Yōsuke Kubozuka as Kichijiro
Director: Martin Scorsese

Silence tells the story of two Christian missionaries (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who face the ultimate test of faith when they travel to Japan in search of their missing mentor (Liam Neeson) at a time when Christianity was outlawed and their presence forbidden.

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Silence was one of my most anticipated films of 2016. Every time Martin Scorsese makes a film, I’m in, no matter what the premise. This film was actually a passion project of Scorsese’s, he wanted to make this movie for over 20 years. So I was definitely interested in what he had in store for us. Scorsese didn’t disappoint with Silence. This is a brutal, harsh and real movie about faith and the conflict that can be caused from it. With the complex story, flawless direction as well as the brutal performances, this is a fantastic movie.

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What I love about this movie is how complex it is. It doesn’t try to pick sides (Christianity or Budhism) or paint everything in black and white, it just allows the story to play out and its fascinating to see these people. The theme of faith is throughout the movie and it is fascinating, with the different ways characters see faith, to the way that their views change. This is particularly shown in the conversations. The screenplay is near perfect This movie is long, at around 2 hours 40 minutes. Now even though I felt the long length throughout the movie, I was completely invested in the story, my attention never wavering. The last 5-10 minutes however, I do think could’ve been better, the film could’ve been wrapped up a little faster. That’s probably my only problem with the movie however.

(L-R) Adam Driver as Father Garupe and Andrew Garfield as Father Sebastião Rodrigues the film SILENCE by Paramount Pictures, SharpSword Films, and AI Films

The performances in this film are amazing. Both Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver are great as these missionaries. Garfield particularly stands out, this is the best performance I’ve seen from him (though I haven’t seen Hacksaw Ridge yet). His character changes a lot in the movie, as seen in both the way he acts as well as the things he says and believes. His views on faith are one of the most interesting aspects to watch as it changes after he witnesses and experiences certain events. Liam Neeson is not in this movie a huge amount but he is great, very complex and interesting. The other supporting cast shouldn’t be overlooked. Yosuke Kubozuka is great as a bit of an ambigious character who pops up frequently throughout the movie (that’s all I’ll say). Also great is Issey Ogata as one of the Inquisitors that’s trying to remove Christianity from Japan. Like many of the characters, he is ambigious, he’s not portrayed as a one dimensional bad guy, he’s a lot more interesting.

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Martin Scorsese’s direction for Silence unsurprisingly is flawless. The cinematography was immaculate, every shot is framed perfectly, the way the camera moves always fits the moment. The locations also are beautiful and perfect, it feels like it’s right out of that time period and locations. This film in the technical department is perfect.

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Silence is hands down one of the best films of 2016. Unfortunately, this movie has been overlooked by many people. I will say that this movie is one that’s really only worth watching once, not because of the length, but because of the emotionally draining story. As long as you know what you’re getting into, I suggest watching this movie, it is well worth your time. The fantastic story, performances and direction are so well crafted that I guarantee that this movie will be looked back upon as possibly one of Scorsese’s best films, which is saying a lot.

Manchester by the Sea (2016) Review

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Time: 137 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, offensive language and content that may disturb
Cast:
Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler
Michelle Williams as Randi
Kyle Chandler as Joseph “Joe” Chandler
Lucas Hedges as Patrick Chandler
Director: Kenneth Lonergan

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a brooding, irritable loner who works as a handyman for a Boston apartment block. One damp winter day he gets a call summoning him to his hometown, north of the city. His brother’s (Kyle Chandler) heart has given out suddenly, and he’s been named guardian to his 16 year old nephew (Lucas Hedges). As if losing his only sibling and doubts about raising a teenager weren’t enough, his return to the past re-opens an unspeakable tragedy.

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Manchester by the Sea was a movie that got a lot of attention, particularly from it being an awards movie. Much of the attention was on the acting. I was curious about this movie but not sure how I’d feel about it. I have to say that Manchester by the Sea deserves all the praise and attention. The story, the direction and particularly the acting was so great, all of it combining to make such an emotionally affecting movie.

Manchester by the sea 2016 Real Kenneth Lonergan Casey Affleck. Collection Christophel © The Affleck / Middleton Project / B STorie / Big Indie Pictures

At first it may be hard getting into the movie. Early on, Lee is a character hard to like. But over time as you find out what happened to him in the past, you begin to empathise and understand why he is how he is. The film is a bit unconventional, it doesn’t really have a 3 act structure like most movies do. The flashbacks used were effective, sometimes it takes a while to figure out that the scenes are even flashbacks. The dialogue between the characters seems so natural, it almost feels like we are listening in on real life conversations between real life people. That’s one of the main takeaways from this movie, it felt so real. There is also surprising amount of humour in this movie, to offset some of the darker moments of the film. Something to address is that this movie isn’t for everyone. It is a very depressing movie, with characters going through some issues (especially with Lee). But I feel like this was done very well, it didn’t feel overdone and it felt so real. I will say that I didn’t really like the way this movie ends. It’s not bad, I just don’t really know what to think of it. It just sort of ends unexpectedly. Also at times this movie does feel a little too long. Those are really the only problems with the movie.

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There is no doubt that the acting is the highlight of the movie. Everyone was excellent in this movie, they felt like real people. Casey Affleck played his role incredibly well. He’s so subtle in his performance, it’s never showy. He might not be saying anything but you can tell whatever he’s feeling based on his expressions and through his eyes. Michelle Williams is not in the movie a whole lot but she really is great when she’s on screen. There’s a scene she shares with Affleck later in the movie, and both of them were absolutely excellent in it. Lucas Hedges is also great as the teenager that Lee may end up looking after, definitely looking forward to seeing more of this newer talent in future movies. Other supporting actors such as Kyle Chandler were also great in their roles.

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The direction wasn’t flashy and wasn’t the highlight of the movie but it was good. The cinematography is beautiful and the colour pallet fitted the tone of the movie. The soundtrack was also very effective.

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I think Manchester by the Sea is definitely worth checking out. It’s an incredibly emotional experience, powered by its compelling story and its pitch perfect acting. You just need to know what you’re getting into though. It is depressing to sit through. However I do think that despite that fact, you really should see it.