She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Season 4 – TV Review

She-Ra is back and better than ever. This season was the most explosive one yet and the results were game changing to say the least.

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I must admit, I was surprised that we got another season so soon. We got season 3 back in August this year, and this one came out only three months later. That being said, this season certainly isn’t lacking in quality as a result of the fast release time. In fact, I’d go as far to say that this one is my favourite season yet.

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The season seems to take place right after the events of season 3. Queen Angela is gone and Glimmer is now the new Queen of Etheria. We’re presented with a coronation and the tension couldn’t be higher. Everyone wants to make Glimmer happy whilst also not mentioning her mother’s death and ruining her day. Glimmer herself is much changed from the childlike character that we saw in the first three seasons. She appears taller and much more adult. Her hair has started to grow out and she even looks a little like her late mother.

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Meanwhile, Catra has to deal with the consequences of setting off the portal in season 3. The Horde has lost resources thanks to Catra’s reckless actions and Entrapta is gone, banished to Beast Island. Hordak is beside himself with the preparations for Horde Prime’s arrival and the lower Horde soldiers are being overworked to the point where they aren’t getting any sleep.

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Catra’s relationship with Scorpia also takes a huge blow as a result of the stress and the upcoming war. Scorpia is nothing but warm and friendly to Catra, but all she does is push her away over and over again. Watching this is extremely emotional, and I think Scorpia may be slowly becoming my favourite character as a result.

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As far as LGBTQ+ content goes, we actually had the introduction of the show’s first canonically non-binary character in this season, with consistent they/them pronouns and androgynous presentation. Their name is Double Trouble and they’re a shapeshifter. They’re incredibly important to the plot of this season, but as an added bonus, they’re also very sassy and funny, and overall just a joy to watch.

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Double Trouble isn’t the first canonically non-binary character in modern animated TV shows, though. That award goes to Stevonnie from Steven Universe (to the best of my knowledge, at least).

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We also get more Spinerella/Netossa content, which is just as wholesome as it sounds.

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All I can say about the ending (without giving away major spoilers, that is) is that it’s exactly what the previous season promised us, so it’s not too much of a surprise, but it’s just as well-written and emotional as the rest of the series. We get to see more of Mara, which is both amazing and heartbreaking at the same time. Tensions also start flying between characters who were the best of friends in the first three seasons, and the entire world pays the price for it.

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9/10

The King – Movie Review

The King is Netflix’s most recent original movie, starring Timothee Chalamet as Henry V and Robert Pattinson as The Dauphin. Netflix has predicted that this film will be nominated for an Oscar in January; but I must admit, this movie left me feeling a little disappointed.

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The movie follows the story of Henry V (or “Hal” to his friends) becoming King of England and the mistakes he makes as a newly-coronated monarch and a young man. It would appear that Henry V actually became the King by accident, as it was his younger brother Thomas who was chosen to be the next King by their late father. However, through unfortunate circumstances, Hal is hurriedly coronated as the new King so England is not left without a monarch.

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The King comes across more as a family drama as opposed to a political war movie. The hatred shared between Henry V and his father is evident from the start of the film, making the rest of Hal’s actions later on seem more like the decisions of a rebellious teenage boy as opposed to a politically-savvy monarch.

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From a political viewpoint, this succession story is a disaster. Hal is still coronated, despite the fact that his father’s dying wishes were to have anyone but him in power; and the first thing he does after his coronation is declare war on France. The Dauphin comes across as much more mature and aware of Hal’s actions than Hal himself, and even pokes fun at Hal’s attitude, once again emphasising Hal’s immaturity.

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However, this film does drag on a fair bit. It obviously took inspiration from Game of Thrones with its political themes and violent war scenes. What this movie got wrong was the fact that it focused way too much on the politics and not enough on the action. Forty minutes of this film could have been cut and it probably would have received better ratings from the public. Perhaps the extra political scenes were added in to make up the runtime – for now, though, it’s pretty unclear.

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6/10

Halloween Rewind – Sleepy Hollow Review

When you think of Tim Burton, what do you think of? The Nightmare Before Christmas?

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Batman Returns?

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Or maybe even (god forbid) the live action Alice in Wonderland?

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Because what I think of is Sleepy Hollow.

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Sleepy Hollow is one of my favourite Tim Burton movies to this day.  It was made at the peak of his career, and although it’s certainly not his most famous movie, I think it really manages to capture the full extent of his abilities as a filmmaker.

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Like many other millennials, I first saw this when I was around 14 years old. To this day, I believe this was the movie that made me really interested in horror. It’s a great starter for any horror fans – it has just enough gore to make it interesting, but what really makes it stand out is its Gothic plot.

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I mean, this movie has it all. Victorian-era London, overbearing religious leaders, witches…

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And the cast is just amazing. Young Johnny Depp (a.k.a. back when he could actually act, I said what I said), Christina Ricci, Christopher Walken; hell, even Christopher Lee and Michael Gambon are in this hidden gem.

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And if you can look past the murkiness of the colour grading, this movie actually has moments when it looks genuinely beautiful.

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This movie really is a product of its time, but in this case it actually works to the film’s advantage. How many movies made in the 2010s would get away with crazy CGI and slightly inappropriate sexual innuendos? This silliness combined with a serious Gothic plot and a very real Headless Hessian Horseman could only work in a late 90s Burton film, because that’s kind of his trademark. Burton’s films are dark and scary, but also family-friendly enough that they could be watched by younger teenagers.

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And that’s the true draw of Burton’s earlier films. As I mentioned earlier, they’re what got quite a lot of younger people interested in horror. There’s a specific aesthetic that you can only really find in Burton’s movies as well, which is what I can only describe as “diet steampunk horror”. Although this certainly has been done in other films (one particular movie that comes to mind is Imaginaerum, which is based on a Nightwish album – seriously, go check that film out), but very few manage to capture it in the same way that Burton does.

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But it’s the acting that really makes this movie so enjoyable. The star-studded cast works perfectly with the story, and you can really tell that none of it is half-assed. While sometimes the script does leave a few people scratching their heads in confusion (e.g. Miranda Richardson saying “watch your head” when the Horseman is chasing after Depp and Ricci… what…?), overall it does its job pretty damn well. You really believe that Ichabod is in love with Katrina, and you really believe that the residents of Sleepy Hollow are truly terrified of the Headless Horseman.

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That being said, I think my favourite performance in this whole movie is one that’s mostly silent – Christopher Walken as the Hessian Horseman. He doesn’t utter a single word throughout the entire movie, but you can already tell exactly what he’s feeling just by looking at him. Walken is very good at acting through his emotions and facial expressions, and boy, oh boy, does he use that to his advantage here.

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That’s why this is my favourite Burton film, and also one of my favourite Halloween films. It certainly is a shame that Burton has started to move away from his more Gothic filmography, but that’s what makes this movie that much more special. It offers a vision of Burton’s movies through rose-tinted glasses and brings back a feeling of wonder and curiosity that can only be felt when watching his older movies. I would definitely recommend considering this for a Halloween movie night, or even just a regular movie night if you want to feel like you’re watching one of Burton’s movies for the first time again.

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8/10

Brightburn – Movie Review

Brightburn explores a retelling of America’s favourite superhero. What if Superman was sent to Earth with less than wholesome intentions? What if Lex Luthor’s theories about Superman being an evil alien were actually true?

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The film opens with not-Martha-Kent and not-Jonathan-Kent just about to try for a baby (yet again) in a house swarmed with fertility books. Just before things get less than PG, not-Martha hears a noise and then there’s a massive tremor. The screen cuts to black and we don’t see any more of that scene, but we all know perfectly well what’s just happened. An alien baby has just landed on Earth.

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In this retelling, the Kents are called Tori and Kyle Breyer. The baby they pulled out of the spaceship is called Brandon – hence the double B symbol that keeps appearing throughout the movie. Brandon Breyer. Brightburn.

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Brandon’s superpowers make an appearance after a strange “sleepwalking” incident one night. He finds himself drawn to low, ominous words spoken in an alien language coming from the floorboards of his parents’ barn. Tori Beyer finds Brandon pulling at the chains to the trapdoor relentlessly, and soon she and her husband start to worry about how they’re going to keep Brandon’s true origins a secret from him and everyone else.

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For any of you who have heard about this movie, what happens next should be pretty obvious. For those of you who haven’t, think Superman, but if it was directed by Ari Aster.

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The premise of this movie sounds intriguing, and theoretically should make for a riveting cinematic experience. However, something about this film just doesn’t quite sit right with me. We’ve seen so many versions of this story – from Justice League‘s Parallel Earth Superman, Ultraman, to Superman’s fall from grace in Injustice: Gods Among Us – and all of those are just so much more enjoyable than this.

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That being said, the acting and directing in this movie are actually pretty good. Even the special effects are decent, especially considering the fact that this film had a much lower budget than other current DC movies. (That being said, having a big budget doesn’t necessarily mean good special effects, huh?)

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Maybe it’s the fact that this movie only focuses on Brandon Beyer as a child, whilst these other adaptations look at adult evil-Supermen. Something about watching a child kill all of these people like it’s nothing is just so chilling. So much to the point that it makes you feel numb.

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There’s also a lot of comparisons between Brandon’s superpowers and puberty. This isn’t too much of a surprise – that was a comparison made in the source material, after all. There are also multiple nods at the imagery of Brandon as a ruthless predator – him as the hungry carnivore and human beings as his prey. This is seen in a rather forced line about why wasps are predators and why bees aren’t. Ok, we get it – bees collect honey and wasps don’t – chill, kid.

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In this case, less is more probably would have been the best approach. The constant mentions of puberty and predators does make the script come across as a bit preachy and in-your-face. Some characters are also all but abandoned after the movie leads you to believe that they’ll be important to the plot. The script seems to follow the formula of “focus on one character – character does something that annoys Brandon – Brandon kills someone related to them – rinse, lather, repeat”. We never see these characters’ reactions to the murders, which makes the movie feel much less human. While I notice that this may have been the point, I don’t think it was necessarily the right choice in this case. It would have been interesting to see if we got the same feeling after a few rewrites.

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Also, Brandon’s mask looks like Cthulhu and I can’t really take him seriously because of that, I’m sorry.

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Brightburn isn’t by any means a terrible movie, but there are definitely other adaptations that tell the same story that did it better. It’s also worth noting that this is a completely independent movie – it’s not part of the DC universe at all, and it’s not based on any source materials other than the Superman origin story. This definitely doesn’t help with the whole “Superman but he’s evil” idea that’s shoved in the audience’s faces in almost every scene.

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I would recommend watching this movie if you’re a fan of the DC universe. I actually watched this movie with my dad, who’s been a fan of DC comics since he was a kid in the 60s, and it definitely brought up quite a few interesting conversations and theories while we were watching this. If you’re just a casual DC fan, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this film, unless you’re already a movie buff and you want to see James Gunn’s latest project.

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6/10

 

Joker – Movie Review

Send in the clowns…

Joker is the first live-action origin story of the infamous Batman villain of the same name. With Joaquin Phoenix (known for his roles in You Were Never Really Here and Her) as the titular character, this movie gives the audience a deeper insight into the Clown Prince of Crime’s psyche and presents DC fans with a slower burn than most of the company’s other movies.

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Some obvious changes have been made, implying that the director (Todd Phillips) intended to make this movie more independent from the current DC cinematic universe. First of all, the Joker now has a canonical name – it’s Arthur. Also, The Joker’s snow-white face and acid-green hair have not been obtained through the vat of chemicals that he famously falls into – instead, Phoenix’s Joker opts to use normal face paint and hair dye.

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However, it is worth noting that this film is clearly still set within the DC cinematic universe. There are many mentions of Gotham City and Thomas Wayne (as well as other important plot points that will be considered as spoilers here). In this case, Joker is much more enigmatic than the other movies that DC comics have released since they took to the big screen.

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As far as structure goes, the real gory stuff doesn’t happen until the last third of the movie. At first, this was quite a surprise, as I for one expected to be hit with ultraviolence and insanity from the get go. And I suppose I was, at least, as far as the insanity part of that statement goes – just not quite in the way that I thought I would be.

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It’s quite easy to assume that the director would have opted to jump right into A Clockwork Orange levels of guts and gore with this movie. And who could blame you for thinking that? The opportunity is practically waiting on a silver platter. However, in this situation, a more in-depth character study was clearly the right decision. We see Arthur starting out as a failed comedian and an underpaid actor working for – who would have guessed it – a clown company. As his mental health gets worse and as people and the government slowly manipulate him into becoming a much darker version of himself, he dons the iconic burgundy suit and green hair and starts referring to himself as “Joker”.

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The portrayal of The Joker in this movie could possibly be considered as rather dangerous, though. As mentioned above, this movie provides a deeper insight into The Joker’s sick, twisted mind. However, some people could potentially walk away from this film thinking that The Joker is a monster because of his mental illnesses. Which, in a way, is true – psychopathy and sociopathy are recognised personality disorders, and those diagnosed with psychopathic or sociopathic tendencies may do horrible, violent things to the people around them. But, in the context of this movie, The Joker is demonised to some extent because of these illnesses and disorders; which, in turn, could read as “everyone with mental illnesses/personality disorders should be demonised because they could turn out like that”.

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Joker is much more sympathetic towards Arthur’s character than I thought it would be. It would appear that society is to blame for The Joker’s actions as opposed to The Joker himself. Much like the mental illness commentary, this could also be seen as quite dangerous. One of the reasons why the movie has received backlash and concern is because there really are people who feel oppressed and cheated by their bosses, their therapists, the government, etc. It’s not completely ridiculous to think that this movie could trigger something similar in real life. Not to say that everyone will come out of this movie a psychopath, though. But it can’t be denied that the content and viewpoint of this film could potentially be dangerous for some individuals.

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Watching Joker certainly was one hell of an experience. It’s a different way of looking at the DC universe; it definitely has been explored before with movies like The Dark Knight, but never to the same extent as this. Joker captures the pure insanity of the crime-ridden streets of Gotham that many DC comics have explored before but never really made it to the big screen until now. What makes Joker so scary is that something like this could happen in real life. The reason why so many people can’t imagine it being part of the same universe as Justice League and Suicide Squad is because it isn’t dressed up with amazing stunts and capes and costumes. The realism is what scares people, because DC movies aren’t supposed to be realistic. They’re meant to be a form of escapism, which Joker forcefully pulls away from under our feet.

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7/10

 

 

It Chapter Two – Movie Review

This movie is kind of special to me. If you scroll down all the way to the first review I posted on this blog, you’ll see that it was a review of It (2017). Two years later, this blog is still up and I’m reviewing the ending. I was at the cinema last night, at the UK premiere of the movie.

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However, I’m afraid I have to be the bearer of bad news. It Chapter Two isn’t as good as the first movie. This seems to ring true for most sequels, and most adaptations of Stephen King’s It. There’s even a running joke that none of Bill’s books have good endings in this movie, which is ironic, seeing as the ending of this film is kind of bad too.

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As everyone probably already knows by this point, this film is set 27 years after the events of the first movie and the losers are all grown up now. Mike finds out that Pennywise is back, and calls everyone back to Derry to stop It.

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It turns out that nobody really remembers what happened in the events of the first film. Apparently, when you leave Derry, you forget everything that happened there. This is probably a result of Pennywise’s powers. Because of this, all of the losers have to go through their own individual trials to remember what happened with Pennywise.

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But this is also where it gets weird. Most people already know that there’s a lot of lore behind the story of It. Apparently some of this is hinted at in King’s The Dark Tower; but, as somebody who hasn’t read The Dark Tower books or all of It, I can’t really comment too much on that.

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Mike tells the rest of the losers that they have to complete a Native American ritual to capture It. That’s why they have to get their memories back. I would say this seems strange and out of place compared to the first film, but apparently this is actually part of the book. I’d also like to remind any readers of this review that Stephen King was on all the drugs when he was writing It. All of them.

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That’s basically the whole plot. At least, everything I can talk about without spoiling the film. And this film is definitely too long for a plot that simple.

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Also, the trailers completely catfished us with those scenes of Pennywise as a human. That only adds up to one scene in the movie and doesn’t really go anywhere.

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As always, Bill Skarsgard is amazing as Pennywise, and was definitely the best choice for the role. There’s one particular scene at the start of the film where Pennywise lures in a young girl by acting like a stereotypical circus clown. It definitely shows how terrifying he really is and why the children fall for his clown act.

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However, Bill Haden definitely steals the show as Richie. He really does look like an adult version of Finn Wolfhard and his acting is amazing. He’s completely aware that he’s in a horror movie that’s kind of funny, and he uses that to his advantage throughout the entire film.

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The casting for this film was great overall. Although some of the acting was better in the first movie, you can definitely tell that these are the exact same characters.

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The ending of this film is rather disappointing though. I can’t give much away without spoiling the movie, but it comes across as very underwhelming and almost childish (although I suppose the childish part was intentional).

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It Chapter Two also takes itself a bit too seriously for a story that’s this ridiculous. Stephen King fans have acknowledged that the ending of the book and the 1990 mini-series has been a bit ridiculous for years now, and so it’s a bit strange that the director decided to go down the serious route. Admittedly, it is difficult to make the ending funny whilst also keeping the horror themes alive, but there is a certain balance that has to be found in order to make the ending successful.

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So, my final verdict for It Chapter Two is… it’s ok. I actually rewatched the frst movie a few weeks before this one came out, so perhaps I’m just disappointed that it isn’t as good. It’s not the worst horror movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s also not the best. The run time is also way too long for a story as simple as “the losers need to find some things and then defeat Pennywise”. If I ever feel like rewatching an adaption of It, I’ll probably go to the 2017 movie instead of this one (unless I decide to marathon the whole story). The acting from the children is better and more authentic than the acting from some of the adults in It Chapter Two, and the overall feeling of the film is much closer to what I would expect from a Stephen King movie. Although this film definitely isn’t bad per se, it’s a bit disappointing as a conclusion and misses the mark when it comes to its target audience. I would still suggest watching it just to see the ending, or if you’re a Stephen King fan in general. Just go into the cinema with the knowledge that it’s kind of a dumb movie, and you’ll probably enjoy it a lot more than I did.

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6/10

 

 

 

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood – Movie Review

Quentin Tarantino’s latest (and apparently final) movie focuses on some lesser-known names in 1969 Hollywood. Ironically, these characters are played by some extremely well-known actors, which was undoubtedly intentional.

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The main characters are Rick Dalton – a Western actor who’s only famous for doing one older Cowboy show;

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Cliff Booth, Dalton’s stunt double;

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And Sharon Tate, an actress who’s only famous because she was murdered by the Manson Family.

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It’s probably safe to say that these celebrities are D-listers, or maybe C-listers at best. People vaguely know who they are, but can’t name anything that they’ve been in. This movie is about the brutality of Hollywood and how lesser-known celebrities are treated when trying to find a new gig.

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All of these actors are down on their luck in this movie. Everyone is constantly telling them that they won’t make it in the film industry unless they do that one movie, or unless they talk to that one director. It’s brutal, and you can definitely see it getting to all of the characters involved.

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As far as most Tarantino films go, this one is pretty tame. Until the final scene, that is. But I can’t talk about that, for obvious reasons. It’s safe to say that although this is a great movie and extremely entertaining to watch, it is missing some classic Tarantino trademarks, from the action scenes right down to the editing. There were some post-production choices that came across as a bit unusual – there was a scene where a few jump-cuts were used, but it wasn’t entirely clear whether it was intentional or not because they weren’t used again at all in the rest of the movie.

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The style of this film is closer to Pulp Fiction as opposed to the Kill Bill movies. There isn’t as much stylised editing and fantasy fight scenes in this film. That’s probably been used to add to the realism of the story.

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I would recommend this movie if you’re a fan of film, filmmaking and old Hollywood. This definitely isn’t Tarantino’s best movie, but it’s still a solid film and definitely worth the watch.

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8/10