Category Archives: Biography

The Dig (2021) Review

mibKr3c

The Dig

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Sex scenes & nudity
Cast:
Carey Mulligan as Edith Pretty
Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown
Lily James as Peggy Piggott
Johnny Flynn as Rory Lomax
Ben Chaplin as Stuart Piggott
Ken Stott as Charles Phillips
Archie Barnes as Robert Pretty
Monica Dolan as May Brown
Director: Simon Stone

In the late 1930s, wealthy landowner Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan) hires amateur archaeologist Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) to investigate the mounds on her property in England. He and his team discover a ship from the Dark Ages while digging up a burial ground.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I first heard about The Dig on Netflix as it was one of their movies, it was a movie about digging up something important around World War II, but I wanted to watch because of the cast which includes Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes. Having finally seen it, I can say that it’s nothing that memorable and it’s mostly just okay, but for what it is, a British period drama based on a true story, it’s made fairly well.

200759_1348636.jpg.2000x1333_q95_crop-smart_upscale

The script for The Dig is rather simple and it was a typical historical film based on a true story. There’s very little surprising or astonishing, and the character beats are predictable. It’s not that nothing of significance happens in this film considering the prospect of finding something important, as well as everything that the characters go through in their own lives. However the stakes feel pretty mild, The Dig is more of an easy, contemplative and laid back experience. It doesn’t try to be anything more than a simple story from the past, and to a degree I respect that. It does cover a real-life story that is interesting mainly for history and archelogy buffs. Even though I’m not an archelogy buff and it didn’t feel like much happened in the story, I thought it was compelling enough, and it had its emotional moments. During the whole first half, I was interested with the characters, and their storylines and how they developed. Where some problems start appearing is in the second half where it loses its focus once it expands beyond the main cast of Mulligan and Fiennes, Fiennes particularly becomes a secondary character. The second half overstays its welcome and introduces some unwelcome subplots, more on that later. Something that most viewers will feel is that the movie moves a little bit slower than it needed to. It certainly felt a little too slow for me to be completely gripped with the story. Some scenes feel unnecessarily long and drag on for quite some time, and despite an hour and 52 minutes not being an extremely long runtime, it does feel a little tedious at times. It certainly isn’t helped by the occasionally dragging pacing. The subplots introduced in the second half were a bit too much, one that comes to mind instantly was a love triangle subplot involving Lily James and Johnny Flynn. It didn’t really add anything to the story, just forced melodrama. After watching the movie I looked up what happened in real life and it turns out the film does take some creative liberties and particularly changes up some key details about the characters. Without getting too into it here, these decisions actually made the movie worse despite the intentions to make things more dramatic and interesting. Unsurprisingly, that aforementioned love triangle was one of the creative liberties taken, in fact much of what happened with Lily James’s character’s story in the movie didn’t happen in real life.

1620227453-Veliko-iskopavanje

The cast will be the main draw for most people who watch The Dig, and in fairness there are some really talented actors involved. The main cast are great with Ralph Fiennes as the weathered and capable excavator, and Carey Mulligan as the main landowner whose land is being dug up. Supporting cast was good including Lily James and Johnny Flynn, even the young actor who plays Carey Mulligan’s son.

The Dig

The direction from Simon Stone is also pretty good. First of all, it has some fantastic cinematography, really capturing the English countryside’s sights with its glorious wide shots and sweeping camera movements. It even felt like a Terrence Malick movie at times. The production values are strong with the set design and costume design capturing the time period well. Finally the piano score is great, dreamy and relaxing, it really matches the tone of the movie well.

thedig-lede

It does feel like some potential of the Dig was wasted considering the premise and story, and it’s a pretty forgettable movie unfortunately. However for what it’s worth, I think it’s a decent movie. The cast and the directing certainly elevate it quite a lot, and I’m glad I watched it. It is a movie that I would have playing in the background more than actively watching, but it’s an okay movie, and one worth checking out if you like the cast involved or if you’re interested in historical movies.

All the President’s Men (1976) Review

Orlando-Goldman

All the President's Men

Time:  119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Robert Redford as Bob Woodward
Dustin Hoffman as Carl Bernstein
Jack Warden as Harry M. Rosenfeld
Martin Balsam as Howard Simons
Hal Holbrook as “Deep Throat”
Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee
Director: Alan J. Pakula

During the 1972 elections, two reporters’ investigation sheds light on the controversial Watergate scandal that compels President Richard Nixon to resign from his post..

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1]

I’ve always known All the President’s Men as being “the one movie about Watergate”, and I remembered holding off on watching it because it was long, it was from the 70s and I didn’t know if I would be as into it despite the acclaim. However I did watch it, and was surprised at how good it was on pretty much every front.

2P970yRzlnxRgjrpLC8OAgiaIZ37jei7

All the President’s Men is about the journalistic approach to the story, with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in pursuit of the news story. The layers of the story are peeled back as the film goes on, revealing the truths about the Watergate Scandal. The writing is great and it really was key to the movie working. It is definitely a slow burn, so you do need to know that going in, but thankfully I found the story very compelling to follow. The scope of this story is large, and the script deserves a lot of credit for making this complex and dry tale accessible and easy to follow for audiences. At the same time, it approaches the subject matter without needlessly adding subplots or other aspects to spice up the movie. It almost plays like a detective story at times more so than a journalism story, and manages to mix dry fact with intrigue perfectly, making sure that we are engaged and never lose the plot. It really lets the audience feel like they’re putting together the pieces along with Woodward and Bernstein. The constant stream of information can occasionally be a little much, but the fact that it is quite accurate to true events and you can understand most of it is impressive. It is a procedural for sure, but probably one of the best procedural films ever. It does feel authentic in both the discoveries made as well as the journalistic process, and I like the amount of detail in what is said and what is shown on screen. For example, you get to see the way that Woodward and Bernstein play out how they try to get certain pieces of information, and how they interact with the people they are questioning; very well done and fascinating to watch. Every scene truly means something and has a reason for being there, despite the long runtime. A lot of the movie is dialogue and its great, especially with the deliveries from the cast. It keeps your attention for the entire runtime and each conversation is right to the point. The film is also surprisingly thrilling to watch at times, despite it being a movie about journalism. If there’s a criticism I have with the movie, it’s that the ending is a little too abrupt, that’s it though.

image

The acting from everyone is also great, but it’s the two leads who drive the story and stand out the most. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman are incredible and invested in their roles of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and share great chemistry together. You get completely wrapped up in their motivations and they feel very natural in their parts, never overselling it. The supporting cast including Jack Warden, Jason Robards and Hal Holbrook also do work well in their parts.

Film-All-the-Presidents-Men-Photo-Courtesy-of-Warner-Bros.

The movie is directed by Alan J. Pakula, and his work here is great, covering this story as effectively as possible with lots of visual and audio details in every scene. The cinematography conveys the scope and size of the story, with everything from landscape shots to shots of a simple phone call looking really good. The editing is quite efficient and gets you wrapped up in the story even with all the details being thrown at you. Pakula’s direction also does well as helping you feel the paranoia that the main characters feel as the story continues.

image (1)

All the President’s Men is an astonishingly well made film, efficiently directed, greatly performed by its cast, and with a fantastic script which makes what could’ve been a boring and dull movie, into an engaging and intriguing experience. Even though most of us already know what happens at the end, it was still compelling to watch this whole story play out. For sure one of the best movies about journalism.

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021) Review

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

Judas and the Black Messiah

Time: 126 Minutes
Cast:
Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton
Lakeith Stanfield as William “Bill” O’Neal
Jesse Plemons as Roy Mitchell
Dominique Fishback as Deborah Johnson
Ashton Sanders as Jimmy Palmer
Martin Sheen as J. Edgar Hoover
Darrell Britt-Gibson as Bobby Rush
Lil Rel Howery as Wayne
Algee Smith as Jake Winters
Director: Shaka King

Offered a plea deal by the FBI, William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) infiltrates the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party to gather intelligence on Chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya).

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I heard about Judas and the Black Messiah for a while, I already liked the actors involved, but it was the trailer that made it stand out for me. It then quickly became one of my most anticipated movies and it especially came up in awards conversations, particularly with the performances. It was pushed back to the next year but was released early enough so that it could make it to the current upcoming awards season. Judas and the Black Messiah definitely lived up to the acclaim and expectations.

6c5f9a7b-5dd9-4752-8ad8-cdea1a94dba6-Black_Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah is written incredibly well and is captivating from beginning to end. It’s tightly scripted and compelling, with a strong energy and an intense atmosphere throughout. One of the standout aspects that makes the movie work so well is that it doesn’t feel like a typical biopic, probably because it isn’t. In some ways it feels more like a historical drama/thriller about one person infiltrating a group, and that helps it work even better if anything. The film at its core is about Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton, as well as FBI informant William O’Neal who infiltrates the Black Panther Party. Both storylines get roughly the same amount of screentime and are presented with equal weight, representing an important perspective of a significant time period. The movie is tough to watch at times, it’s a hauntingly tragic powerhouse of a drama that is riveting, even if (and especially if) you know how it ends. One of the biggest surprises of the movie is that it doesn’t shy away from painting the police and the FBI as the bad guys, and it also unapologetic with showing Hampton’s leftist views, both of which you wouldn’t think that a big budget awards movie would do. As you can probably tell from the subject matter, the movie is timely, meaningful and impactful to today’s society. It’s a smart and uncompromising tragedy about fear and power that’s likely to keep you on edge and hooked throughout.

Jesse-Plemons-and-LaKeith-Stanfield-Shake-Hands-in-Judas-and-the-Black-Messiah

The acting from everyone in this movie is great. Daniel Kaluuya stars as Fred Hampton, and he didn’t just play him, he truly becomes him. His performance is magnetic and commands a lot of attention every time he’s on screen. He’s not portraying Hampton as a martyr or a hero, but a real person who is fighting for his rights. He inhabits the role perfectly, exuding the same emotions one would expect from him. He’s sensational here, every single line delivery has passion, and those big speeches are where he particularly shines. It’s likely because of Kaluuya’s standout performance that some might forget Lakeith Stanfield’s layered performance as informant William O’Neal, which might be his best work to date. We see much of the film through his eyes, showing us what he went through. Surprisingly, the film never truly demonises his character, bringing sympathy to the role of someone who sold out his own people. You can feel the turmoil within him as he questions whether he’s doing the right thing, as well as the paranoia and shame that eats away at him throughout. It does feel like his role is a bit underwritten, but the performance does a lot to make up for that. The supporting cast in Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, and Ashton Sanders also deliver some great work too.

Judas-and-the-Black-Messiah (1)

Shaka King’s direction is great, he has a very sleek and unique style of filmmaking. From the cinematography, to the production design, the costumes and the score, everything was perfectly constructed. It’s particularly shot beautifully, and the way the ‘action’ scenes were filmed were interesting. King’s makes the film feel very grounded and really helped add to the intense atmosphere in the film.

00judas-1-superJumbo-v3

Judas and the Black Messiah is a bold and fantastic film that deserves all the praise and accolades. It’s directed incredibly well, it’s written masterfully, and the performances are extraordinary, especially from Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield. Watch it as soon as you get the chance to.

Mank (2020) Review

ghows-TX-201209915-b357e706

Mank

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language & suicide references
Cast:
Gary Oldman as Herman J. Mankiewicz
Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies
Lily Collins as Rita Alexander
Arliss Howard as Louis B. Mayer
Tom Pelphrey as Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Sam Troughton as John Houseman
Ferdinand Kingsley as Irving Thalberg
Tuppence Middleton as Sara Mankiewicz
Tom Burke as Orson Welles
Joseph Cross as Charles Lederer
Jamie McShane as Shelly Metcalf
Toby Leonard Moore as David O. Selznick
Monika Gossmann as Fräulein Frieda
Charles Dance as William Randolph Hearst
Director: David Fincher

1930s Hollywood is re-evaluated through the eyes of scathing wit and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) as he races to finish “Citizen Kane.”

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1]

Mank was one of my most anticipated movies of 2020. I really didn’t quite know what to expect from it; the summary didn’t really sound interesting as it was a movie about the writing of Citizen Kane (which I only got around to watching for the first times this year). The reason I was really interested in Mank was because it was David Fincher’s latest movie, and his first movie in 6 years since his previous movie with Gone Girl. Even then I’m not sure why he chose to do this out of everything, nonetheless I was interested. Having seen it, I can say that it’s quite different from anything he’s done before. It’s an incredibly well made and technically perfect film, and I was quite invested throughout.

Mank1

The script from Fincher’s father Jack Fincher is fantastic, and really works well. If you haven’t seen Citizen Kane, it might be worth checking it out now before watching Mank, honestly I think it’s a good movie that’s worth watching anyways. I will say at the very least, it would help to watch or read some brief summary about what Citizen Kane is about, just to give some level of context and to somewhat understand the references and connections. However, it’s not essential for enjoying Mank. Before I move onto what the movie is really about, I should mention the concerns from many that this script was written following a widely disputed article called Raising Kane claiming that Citizen Kane director Orson Welles didn’t deserve screenwriting credit. For those who really care deeply about these things, there’s a scene or two of Orson Welles towards the end of Mank at the end which might annoy you but that’s it. From what I can tell, the script was polished so that the anti-Welles aspect was toned down significantly. At its core, the movie is more about the protagonist’s life. Instead of showing the actual struggle of writing Citizen Kane, Mank chose to show the personal circumstances and political landscape that Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz was living in, and how those elements greatly influenced the film. The movie really started out mainly about the screenwriting, so when stuff like a governor election was constantly being mentioned, you didn’t know to begin with that it was a big part at first. This movie is really about Hollywood in the 30s and 40s, and while some might slap it with the label of being yet another love letter to Hollywood (i.e. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Mank is not quite that. The movie really takes on the flaws of Hollywood and the old studio system, and evaluates their relevance in today’s society just as they were just under a century ago. It’s also refreshingly cynical, and what’s shown in this movie does really remain relevant to this day. Politics actually plays quite a large part in this movie. 30s Hollywood was heavily conservative, and while Mankiewicz was very much a staunch leftist socialist, he’s forced to support political ideologies that he’s fundamentally against to remain in the good graces of the heads of the studios that he’s working at. I thought that was very interesting to watch.

A-scene-from-Mank

Again, Fincher doesn’t show the impact of Citizen Kane, rather the political climate surrounding the time of its creation and release, and how huge an impact film has on people’s attitudes and even beliefs. I’m not going to say there’s an angle of viewing a movie that will guarantee you to love it, but it’s worth going in expecting a movie about 30s and 40s Hollywood and politics at the time more than a movie about the writing  Citizen Kane (or if you haven’t watched CK, the writing of a really old movie that’s apparently one of the greatest movies ever made). While among Fincher’s filmography I might not rewatch it all that much, I get the feeling that I would like and appreciate it a lot more if I rewatched it, now that I know what the movie is really about. As for the script itself, this is one of the best scripts that Fincher has worked with. I was constantly invested throughout the runtime. The scenes are written with a good flow (helped by the editing of course). It’s also surprisingly comedic, this is probably Fincher’s funniest movie next to Fight Club. Mank has a lot of dialogue and exposition, and fortunately the dialogue itself is greatly written and witty, the whole script in fact was quite witty. The actual structure of the whole movie mimics Citizen Kane’s, jumping all over the place between present day and numerous flashbacks. While some would find it to be rather messy, I was on board with this unconventional storytelling. If there’s a clear cut issue I had with the movie, I do have a minor issue with the ending. It’s not bad perse but it’s rather anti-climactic, especially with what came just beforehand. Another issue other was again with the portrayal of Orson Welles, who felt more like an abstraction and less of a person. Though I know certain people will take greater issue with it than I. As it was. he worked for the movie, even though it’s clear to even me that some parts didn’t happen like it was portrayed in the movie. I can see people calling the movie boring, and I don’t really blame them. I was never not invested in what was happening, but with the first act I was not really sure where this story was going. Once I knew what the movie was really about, that’s when I got fully on board with it.

4aaebc78-d59c-48da-a476-b6f9a7655eed-Mank

The performances were all great, and everyone played their parts very well. Gary Oldman gives quite possibly his career best performance as Herman J. Mankiewicz. As “Mank” he really does embody the protagonist well, as an alcoholic screenwriter, who can be frustrating at times but at the same time entertaining to watch and likable. Oldman really brings a lot of life to Mank and really makes him work. Amanda Seyfried is another standout, also giving possibly her best performance yet, she’s such an onscreen presence and stands out in every scene she’s in. Oldman and Seyfried particularly share excellent chemistry with each other. Lily Collins is also good, also playing off Oldman very well in her scenes. Charles Dance and Arliss Howard are other highlights in the supporting cast, and other actors like Tuppence Middleton, Tom Pelphrey and Tom Burke (the latter of whom does an excellent Orson Welles impression) also play their respective parts well.

mank_reel5_01

This is a David Fincher film, so you know it’s going to be fantastically directed, with a lot of attention to detail. Black and white aside, you wouldn’t know that Fincher directed this aside from the fact that it is perfect on a technical level. The cinematography is beautiful, with striking lighting, and seemed to imitate the lighting of Citizen Kane. There’s a moment where an empty bottle falls from an intoxicated Mank’s hand, filmed similarly to the opening of Citizen Kane with the dropping the snow globe. It really does fit the time period perfectly. The production and costume designs are great and accurate to the era. The sound design is worth mentioning too, as it’s imitating the sound of early theatres. There’s even cue marks or changeover cue (also known as cigarette burns) in the top right hand corner of the screen at points, which indicate that a reel needed to be changed back in the old days of film. Really everything is done to try to recreate the time period. The only thing missing is that it’s filmed on digital and the aspect ratio is different from back then, and making digital feel like film is quite impressive in itself. The editing is top notch too, as you’d expect from Fincher. Every time there’s a scene and time period change, words will be typed across the screen typed like a typewriter typing on a page, and it’s a simple yet effective technique. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have been scoring David Fincher’s movies from The Social Network onwards, and they also did the score for Mank. This is quite a different type of score for them, apparently they were using instruments only available from the 30s and the music is very much jazz inspired. It fits the movie perfectly and really adds to the atmosphere.

download

Mank is not going to appeal to a lot of people, and I can’t tell for sure whether you’ll like it or not. However I found it to be an incredible movie. The script was great and surprisingly dense, David Fincher’s direction is again outstanding, and the performances are all stellar, with Oldman and Seyfried being the highlights. I’m not sure I’d say that it’s one of Fincher’s best films as of yet, but that’s only because there are many other outstanding movies from him which I’d place before it. I still feel comfortable calling it one of the best films of 2020 for sure.

The Social Network (2010) Review

Time: 109 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg
Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin
Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker
Armie Hammer as Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss
Max Minghella as Divya Narendra
Brenda Song as Christy Lee
Rashida Jones as Marylin Delpy
Rooney Mara as Erica Albright
Director: David Fincher

In 2003, Harvard undergrad and computer genius Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) begins work on a new concept that eventually turns into the global social network known as Facebook. Six years later, he is one of the youngest billionaires ever, but Zuckerberg finds that his unprecedented success leads to both personal and legal complications when he ends up on the receiving end of two lawsuits, one involving his former friend (Andrew Garfield). Based on the book “The Accidental Billionaires.”

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1]

A story about Facebook could easily be done poorly. It doesn’t sound very interesting on paper and even if it could be pulled off decently enough, it doesn’t seem like it could be anything better than just good. And yet The Social Network is more than just a decent movie, it is truly great and better than anyone would expect it to be. David Fincher, Aaron Sorkin and the talented cast and crew made the story of Facebook riveting and fantastic, it’s even better upon a second viewing and I suspect it will only get better with further watches.

Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay is excellent and one of the stand out best parts of the film, and that’s saying a lot. The dialogue is so well written, very sharp, memorable, riveting and fits perfectly for the moments, Sorkin is known for his exceptional dialogue and his work on Social Network is no exception. It is fantastic from the beginning, the opening scene between Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) is brilliant and helps establish so many things about Mark and it sets him off on his path for the rest of the movie. It’s interesting watching all the events progress, and how things in Mark Zuckerberg’s life would lead him to make actions to take Facebook further. You wouldn’t think that a movie about Facebook would be so interesting and entertaining to watch but it really is, you are genuinely on board with everything that’s happening. It’s like we are right there watching history happen right alongside these characters. What Mark started was something small and grew into something that not even Mark was expecting. Really fantastic writing by Sorkin.

The cast all around were great in their roles. I’m fully aware that some people don’t really like Jesse Eisenberg’s acting style but he was perfect in the role of Mark Zuckerberg. The portrayal of Zuckerberg is great, it doesn’t try to make you like him, just to show what he is like. Andrew Garfield is also really great as Mark’s friend and business partner Eduardo Saverin and his performance was really overlooked, especially by the awards. A big part of the movie is their friendship and they have great chemistry together. Armie Hammer plays two people as the Winklevosses (Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss) and really does give one of his best performances here, being really convincing as two twins. Even Justin Timberlake was really good as Sean Parker, really fitting the role well. Rooney Mara is only in a couple scenes but she does well to leave an impression as Mark’s ex-girlfriend, especially in the first scene of the film. Really everyone was great.

Saying that David Fincher’s direction is great would be redundant, it’s just so stylish and well put together. You wouldn’t think that a movie about Facebook would even need to look that great. On paper, The Social Network just sounded like it needed a good script and an okay direction but Fincher’s handle really adds a lot to the movie. I don’t know where Fincher used all the visual effects in this movie, but he generally uses these in his movies to make things look better like the environment or background. One effect that you can tell was used was the effects for making two Armie Hammers, and I say this because Armie Hammer doesn’t have a twin or a clone (that we know of yet at least). Even though it’s a film from 2010, these effects still really hold up well today and look effortless. The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross was excellent, and with it’s dark ambience really elevated this movie even further.

The Social Network is truly fantastic and yet another one of David Fincher’s all time best films, and that means quite a lot when it comes to him. The talented cast all give tremendous performances, Aaron Sorkin’s writing is top notch, and Fincher with his work here has made one of his best crafted films. It gets better every single time I watch it. As for all these talks about a possible Social Network sequel, as long as Fincher and Sorkin are returning for it, I’d be more than on board for it.

Hamilton (2020) Review

Hamilton-Movie-Cast-and-Li-Manuel-Miranda

Hamilton

Time: 160 Minutes
Cast:
Daveed Diggs as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson
Renée Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler
Jonathan Groff as King George III
Christopher Jackson as George Washington
Jasmine Cephas Jones as Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds
Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton
Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr
Okieriete Onaodowan as Hercules Mulligan and James Madison
Anthony Ramos as John Laurens and Philip Hamilton
Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton
Director: Thomas Kail

The original Broadway production of the award-winning musical that tells the story of Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda), first secretary of the treasury, blending hip-hop, jazz, R&B and Broadway styles, filmed from the Richard Rogers Theater in New York.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I heard about the acclaimed musical Hamilton for some time. Outside of one song however, I really didn’t know much about it, aside from it being about the founding fathers and Lin-Manuel Miranda being the person who created it. With one of the showings being put on Disney+ however, I knew I should probably watch it and see for myself if it worked for me. I’m glad to say that it very much did work for me, and I had a great time with it.

merlin_166357551_689f9e24-de35-4942-b692-804cf3b47da5-superJumbo

Reviewing Hamilton is a bit weird, I’m essentially reviewing a musical, and it’s not even a film adaptation. However, I’ll try my best. I’m not an American History expert, according to some people the musical is accurate in terms of what happens, but I won’t judge it on that level. Though I think the casting and the fact that it is a Broadway musical should automatically give an indication that this probably shouldn’t be taken as being 100% accurate, and shouldn’t be the prime source of education about the founding fathers of America. It is 2 hours and 40 minutes long and it is a long running story, a lot of things happen over the course of the musical, it even has some actors playing more than one character. As overwhelming as it was going into it blind, especially as someone who didn’t really know what to expect, I was pretty invested throughout. It’s entertaining, it’s funny, and it becomes surprisingly emotional at points. By the end I was quite satisfied with what I had watched.

hamilton_025_477bf355

The whole cast of actors do very well in their part in both acting and when it came to singing. The creator of the musical, Lin-Manuel Miranda plays the lead of Alexander Hamilton and does well on his part. I knew about Miranda from other things, with Mary Poppins Returns and His Dark Materials, but I think he did a good job here. I will say that his singing wasn’t the best, especially when compared to the others in the cast, but more than makes it up for his acting, especially in the latter half of the film. There were a few actors who really stood out, Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom were particularly outstanding in their parts of Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Jonathan Groff was only in a few scenes but was fantastic as King George III, a hilarious and entertaining performance that was very memorable in his onscreen moments.

0_t7k2_j2y56jGRl_Y

A big part of the movie is the music, and I thought it was really good. It is one of those musicals where every line is singing, but they pulled it off. A musical about the founding fathers doesn’t sound particularly like it’s prime music material. However the songs are pretty great (there are so many of them too), well written, and there was a lot of genres mixed in including rap, hip hop, jazz and Broadway, and it made the music and overall musical stand out and very entertaining. I’ve only watched the movie/musical once, but with every song on this from this first viewing, I found all of them to be very solid. Production values are top notch too, the choreography was great, and I can imagine it would’ve been a blast watching it in the theatre. In terms of the filming for the movie on Disney+, the direction from Thomas Kail was handled well, and really captured the show as best as possible.

hamilton-2020

I really had no idea if I would like Hamilton going in, but I found it enjoyable, entertaining, and I was engaged from beginning to end. For those who haven’t seen it yet, I think it’s worth seeing it for yourselves, and by experiencing it first on the Disney+ version, you won’t have to pay money to buy tickets to watch it in person. I will say that I’m not sure how I’d feel about it on a rewatch, this is just from the one viewing and it was a lot to take in as it was. However, I think it’s really good and I’m glad I saw it.

Bad Education (2020) Review

https___cdn.cnn_.com_cnnnext_dam_assets_200420114643-bad-education-hbo[1]

Bad Education

Time: 108 Minutes
Cast:
Hugh Jackman as Frank Tassone
Allison Janney as Pam Gluckin
Geraldine Viswanathan as Rachel Bhargava
Alex Wolff as Nick Fleischman
Rafael Casal as Kyle Contreras
Stephen Spinella as Tom Tuggiero
Annaleigh Ashford as Jenny Aquila
Ray Romano as Big Bob Spicer
Director: Cory Finley

The beloved superintendent of New York’s Roslyn school district (Hugh Jackman) and his staff, friends and relatives become the prime suspects in the unfolding of the single largest public school embezzlement scandal in American history.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I heard of Bad Education a little while ago, it is an HBO movie about an embezzlement scandal that takes place at a school with a cast featuring Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney and Ray Romano. However, what really got my attention of this movie is that it was directed by Cory Finley, who made the great Thoroughbreds some years ago. Bad Education didn’t disappoint, it was greatly written and directed and everyone performed their parts well.

hugh-jackman-bad-education[1]

Bad Education is based off a true story, and while I wasn’t familiar with the real-life details, it definitely was an intriguing story which made for an interesting and entertaining movie to watch. The script from Mike Makowsky was great and felt quite fresh, with some naturalistic dialogue, the tension being raised over the course of the movie, and the third act really delivering. The movie also does feel quite grounded and real, which worked to its benefit. It’s darkly comic too, balancing comedy and drama with its distinct tone. On top of showing things going on behind the scenes at the school with the teachers involved, it also shows it from the perspective of a student (played well by Geraldine Viswanathan) who exposed the embezzlement scandal publicly, and I thought that aspect was handled well too. We do get a little bit of her home life and motivations but it does feel like they could’ve afforded shown more of it. Speaking of things they could’ve added, for as great as it was, I think the third act could’ve been a bit longer and less rushed. Additionally, some storylines could’ve had a little more time spent with them so they felt a little more complete (especially Allison Janney’s who mostly vanishes from the movie once her story is done in like the first half). Bad Education is just under an hour and 50 minutes, and while it’s generally paced well, I think an additional 5-10 minutes would’ve made it a little better. These are minor complaints however.

hugh-jackman-geraldine-viswanathan[1]

The performances are great and really carry this movie, everyone brought their A game to their parts. Leading Bad Education is Hugh Jackman, who is truly outstanding in this movie. He was perfect for this sort of role as a beloved and likable superintendent of the school, and he actually sort of gets you to root for him even though he’s doing illegal things in the movie. You can really understand his perspective and why he does what he does. All in all, I’d say that it’s one of Jackman’s all time best performances, and given his career that is saying a lot. The supporting cast all perform greatly too, including Allison Janney, Ray Romano, Geraldine Viswanathan, Alex Wolff, and Rafael Casal.

badeducation-1200-1200-675-675-crop-000000[1]

Bad Education is directed well by Cory Finley, with this and Thoroughbreds, he’s shown himself to be a more than capable filmmaker. His new movie isn’t quite as overtly stylised as his first movie, but it’s nonetheless filmed very well, especially considering that it is a TV movie. It’s shot very well, the visual presentation added a lot to the general feel of it. I liked the use of music too, especially the score from Michael Abels.

1_t16J7kOg4Ot9dy8lYghynQ[1]

Bad Education was a really solid and grounded crime drama. It’s directed well, the script is great, and there’s some great acting from its talented cast. Definitely watch it when you get a chance. I’m really looking forward to seeing more movies from Cory Finley, he’s shown himself to be a real talent to watch with his two films.

The Tale (2018) Review

the-tale-1200-1200-675-675-crop-000000[1]

The Tale

Time: 114 minutes
Cast:
Laura Dern as Jennifer Fox
Isabelle Nélisse as Jenny Fox, age 13
Jessica Sarah Flaum as Jenny Fox, age 15
Ellen Burstyn as Nadine “Nettie” Fox
John Heard as William P. Allens
Jason Ritter as Bill Allens
Frances Conroy as Jane Gramercy
Elizabeth Debicki as Mrs. G
Common as Martin
Director: Jennifer Fox

Jennifer (Laura Dern) has it all, with a loving boyfriend (Common) and a great career as a journalist and professor. But when her mother (Ellen Burstyn) discovers a story – “The Tale” – that Jennifer wrote when she was 13, detailing a special relationship Jennifer had with two adult coaches (Jason Ritter and Elizabeth Debicki), Jennifer returns to the Carolina horse farm where the events transpired to try to reconcile her version of events with the truth.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I had been meaning to watch The Tale for some time. I knew that Laura Dern and Elizabeth Debicki were in it and that it was about the director’s own sexual abuse as a child and I heard some good things about it. The Tale isn’t by any means an easy film to watch but I do think that it is worth taking a look at.

MV5BMjM4MzAwNzgxOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTQwNjUyNTM@._V1_[1]

Handling a subject matter like abuse is definitely touchy and not an easy task for any film to have. I’m actually surprised that it was actually HBO who distributed this movie, it’s probably their most controversial movie and looking at the results, the risk definitely paid off well. This is a great examination of trauma and abuse, and something that definitely helped is that director Jennifer Fox is telling her own story, and that really added a lot. It’s a bit unconventional with the way it tells its story, mainly the flashbacks, with the time period jumping all around the place. In a way it works as it’s Fox looking back at her life, but at times it’s a little too jarring and hard to follow. I will say though that the way they ended the movie and story was great.

MV5BNjQxMjI5MDE0MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDQxNjUyNTM@._V1_[1]

One of the highlights of the movie are the performances. Laura Dern is such an talented and underrated actress and I’m glad that she finally got a lead role in a movie. Here she basically plays Jennifer Fox and this is definitely among her best performances, a powerhouse yet real performance, especially towards the end of the movie. Isabelle Nélisse also plays the younger Jennifer and she’s quite prominent throughout flashbacks and she’s quite convincing in her role. The rest of the cast is great as well. Jason Ritter and Elizbeth Debicki play the two adult coaches that the young Fox had some sort of relationship with and both were really great, especially Debicki. The older versions of the two played by John Heard and Frances Conroy were also great. Ellen Burstyn and Common were also very good as Dern’s mother and boyfriend respectively.

The Tale

Jennifer Fox’s direction was quite good and she knows how to handle her story, even if there were some aspects that didn’t work perfectly. Fox prior to filming The Tale was a documentary filmmaker and at times you can feel it, and I mean it in a good way. There are bits where people in the flashbacks where Elizabeth Debicki, Jason Ritter and even Isabelle Nélisse (who played the younger version of Fox) are being interviewed by the younger and older versions of Fox, with the camera facing the interviewee and all that. As it is about Fox looking back at these people, it made sense and worked for what she was going for. Despite some editing decisions that made the movie a little bit jumpy at times and feeling occasionally like a tv show (given that it’s an HBO movie it’s not that surprising), Fox’s debut at a non-documentary film was quite good.

cq5dam.web.1200.675[1]

The Tale is for sure difficult to watch, but an important look at abuse and trauma, and all around was a really good movie. The highlights were the great performances, particularly from Laura Dern and Elizabeth Debicki, and it was directed very well. While the subject matter is heavy, I’d say that it’s a film well worth watching.

12 Years a Slave (2013) Review

12YearsASlave7273200-131472._V361272161_SX1080_[1]

12 Years a Slave

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence & sexual violence
Cast:
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup/Platt
Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps
Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey
Sarah Paulson as Mary Epps
Paul Dano as John Tibeats
Benedict Cumberbatch as William Ford
Alfre Woodard as Mistress Harriet Shaw
Brad Pitt as Samuel Bass
Director: Steve McQueen

In 1841, African American Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free man, is kidnapped and forced into slavert, under the name ‘Platt’ for 12 years. He faces the hardships of being a slave under the hands of a few different slave owners. Through faith, will power, and courage, Northup must survive and endure those 12 years a slave.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1]

I had seen 12 Years a Slave many years ago for the first time, and it was quite impactful experience. Having rewatched some other Best Picture winning movies recently, I decided I should give this one a watch again, even though I knew it wouldn’t exactly be a pleasant viewing. 12 Years a Slave still holds up 7 years kater and is just as devastating as when I first watched it, a fantastic and harrowing movie that deserves all the acclaim it’s been receiving.

DF-02290FD.psd

Considering the subject matter, one could be forgiven for thinking that the movie might take a manipulative approach, especially considering most of the other movies about slavery, and all the awards that this movie won. However, that aspect was handled right, and I’ll get into some of those aspects a little later. This is first and foremost Solomon Northup’s real life story, and follows him throughout his years of being a slave. The story is handled as honest as possible, and never sensationalises any of it. Now from the title, you know that lead character doesn’t remain a slave for more than 12 years, but the experience isn’t any less harrowing. There are some incredibly impactful and emotional moments that are earned and never feel forced, but genuine.

original-5-

This cast is large and talented, and all of them perform excellently in their parts. Chiwetel Ejiofor is incredible in the lead role of Solomon Northup, conveying so much emotion and pain without having to say much, or even anything. This film is continuously following him from beginning to end, this is his movie, and he carries it all powerfully. The rest of the cast are supporting players in Solomon’s story, but they all play their parts well. There are two standouts among that supporting cast, the first is Michael Fassbender, giving one of his best performances as a slave owner. Fassbender really performs excellently, with his character representing pretty much the worst of humanity, he has such a captivating screen presence. The other standout is Lupita Nyong’o, who gives an incredibly emotional performance in her part. The rest of the cast are great and make the most of their scenes, with the likes of Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfre Woodard, Brad Pitt. Michael Kenenth Williams, and Paul Giamatti.

90[1]

Good writing and acting aside, what 12 Years a Slave would live or die on is the direction. This film needed to be handled by the right person, or it could easily fail. Director Steve McQueen was very much the right person for this movie, and knew how to handle this very sensitive subject. The cinematography from Sean Bobbitt was stunning. Not only that, but McQueen’s use of the camera is effective, forcing the audience watch everything that happens on screen, and not allowing them a chance to look away. When it came to the violence and the aspects of slavery, it was handled in probably best way possible. It’s undeniably brutal and doesn’t shy away from that, and you feel every blow. At the same time, it doesn’t sensationalise or fetishize it, if anything it is uncomfortably casual, and was fitting for the movie. A perfect example of this is a standout moment that takes place a third of the way through, without revealing the context or what the scene is, it’s a few minutes long, full of unbroken shots, and it’s incredibly painful and quiet. Hans Zimmer’s score is great as to be expected, and fitted perfectly with the film.

18TWELVE_SPAN-superJumbo[1]

12 Years a Slave remains an outstanding and moving film, powerfully acted, excellently directed, and is all around masterful. It is incredibly hard to watch (and indeed the rewatch was just as painful as the first watch was) but is a monumental film and quite frankly essential viewing.

Argo (2012) Review

argo-1200-1200-675-675-crop-000000

Argo

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez
Bryan Cranston as Jack O’Donnell
Alan Arkin as Lester Siegel
John Goodman as John Chambers
Director: Ben Affleck

An exfiltration specialist (Ben Affleck) masquerades as a Hollywood producer in order to rescue six Americans who are held captive in Tehran during the US hostage crisis in Iran.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

Oscar Winning Argo received a lot of acclaim when it was released back in 2012, even winning Best Picture in 2013. As it was, I really liked it, it was a very well made historical thriller. I had seen Argo a couple of times, but that was some years ago, and I wanted to check it out again. Having seen it again, my opinion has stayed pretty much the same since the last time, great on a writing, directing and acting level.

John-Goodman-Alan-Arkin-Argo-Ben-Affleck[1]

A large part of what made Argo work greatly was the writing by Chris Terrio, which was very strong, the dialogue is particularly well written, witty, and even surprisingly funny at points. It also balanced the tone rather well, it could have comic moments but it could easily transition to tense and thrilling moments with ease, especially in the second half. Outside of some tense sequences early on, although I was still interested, there were parts in the first act that were a little slow for me and didn’t really have me completely invested. After the first act however, it really picks up, especially once Ben Affleck’s character arrives in Iran. The second half of the movie is where it shines the most, especially with the tense third act. Argo is also tightly written, with almost all the scenes all being relevant to the main plot and doesn’t spend a lot of time on subplots (there’s just a small one with Affleck’s character and his family mainly in the first half), so there’s never a moment wasted. With that said, with so many characters in this movie, it would’ve been nice for some of them to have been developed a little more than they were here. Now there are for sure some inaccuracies in this movie, mainly to make the movie more dramatic and to raise the tension, especially when it came to the last act (and admittedly it was a little overblown at points). However, it’s pretty typical when it comes to movies like this, and it didn’t bother me too much.

maxresdefault[1]

The ensemble cast are great, and they all worked together well. Ben Affleck is in the very clear lead role, and while I probably wouldn’t call it his best acting work, it’s up there and he is quite good. It’s quite a subdued and believable performance, and there’s enough depth given to his character. The supporting cast with the likes of Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, work greatly, the latter two particularly shining. Other members of the cast like Scoot McNairy, Victor Garber and Kyle Chandler also do their parts, no matter how big or small their roles are. I should also mention that although there are some A list actors headlining this movie, the use of character actors really worked effectively.

image[1] (2)

Argo is Ben Affleck’s third directed movie, and he has definitely shown to be a capable filmmaker, and his directing talents had been improving with every film that he makes. Whereas his previous movies Gone Baby Gone and The Town took place in a single city, Argo is on a much larger scale, and Affleck pulled it off very well. The cinematography and editing are top notch, the film is great on a technical level. There are also some very tense sequences that are effective. Even the style was reminiscent of the late 70s (Argo even opening with the old Warner Bros. label), and there was clearly a lot of effort to make everything fit the aesthetics of that era to feel authentic, from the costumes, the sets, etc.

image[1]

Argo is a well made thriller, written and directed excellently, and starring an ensemble cast who work together well, and a great film overall. It’s not without its slight faults, but not enough to take away from the rest of the movie, and it is definitely worth watching if you haven’t seen it already.