Category Archives: Biography

Capone (2020) Review

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Capone

Time: 116 Minutes
Cast:
Tom Hardy as Fonse
Linda Cardellini as Mae
Matt Dillon as Johnny
Al Sapienza as Ralphie
Kathrine Narducci as Rosie
Noel Fisher as Junior
Director: Josh Trank

The 47-year old Al Capone (Tom Hardy), after 10 years in prison, starts suffering from dementia and comes to be haunted by his violent past.

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I was curious about Capone, it had been announced and made a while ago, and finally we get to see what it is. Fonzo (retitled to Capone for commercial purposes)) would be director Josh Trank’s next movie after Fant4stic, a movie that was infamously known for having a lot of studio interference. Trank had a lot to prove after that, and decided to set his sights on a movie about Al Capone in his last year of his life. With him having made like 1.5 movies, I was expecting something more conventional, but it turned out to be something quite different. The response to the movie has been rather mixed, but I’m glad to be on the side of people who liked it.

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There’s a lot of things that you need to know before watching Capone. First of all, despite the title, don’t expect a full on Al Capone movie. I heard that Josh Trank had issues with renaming Fonzo to Capone, and watching the movie I can see why. Along with the lead character generally being referred to as “Fonze” or “Fonzo” over the course of the movie, with the new title, it really gave the impression that this would be at the very least a straightforward biopic. It’s a biopic in the loosest sense of the word, as I said earlier it is about Capone’s last year of his life as he is suffering from dementia and syphilis, and that’s pretty much all that happens in that movie. There’s a subplot whereby Al Capone hid some money and forgot where it was, and another where the FBI is surveying him because the suspect that he might be faking his illness, but those are only small parts of the plot. For a movie that’s seemingly intended on being more psychological than a full on biopic, those aspects feels tact on, however I know that it was needed as that probably what happened in real life. Probably my biggest disappointment of the movie is that while it does have some unusual stuff, it does feel like it is consciously partly a biopic, and does at times seem to be going through the motions to meet that. Those previously mentioned subplots feel obligatory, as it’s pretty clear that Trank is a lot more interested in other aspects. Capone suffers from hallucinations, and storywise that interested me the most in the movie. There is a specific section around halfway through that was the highlight, as Capone goes through an extended nightmare/dream sequence that is something straight out of a haunted house movie like The Shining or something.

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Another thing that is worth noting is that it is a slow movie and not a lot happens, although I was still on board throughout (that first act does drag quite a bit however). It’s not particularly pleasant to watch either, the very few scenes of violence that are there are brutal, and you are basically watching the main character succumb to dementia further over the course of the film. So for those hoping for a straightforward biopic of Al Capone, there are no doubt other representations of him on the big screen that might better suit what you’re looking for. If you want to know more about him this certainly isn’t the movie for you. Now the question is what the point of the movie is. If it’s to watch a man who has done horrible things being haunted with such things while suffering from illnesses, then Trank succeeded in that, but otherwise I’m not really sure. What kept me on board for the whole thing was the directions that he decided to take the movie. If it was meant to be a character piece or something, I feel like it was missing something. We see him declining, and we see some visions of what happened while he was in his prime, but we don’t really learn anything about him at the same time. Nonetheless it was interesting to watch.

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The acting is generally quite good. The supporting cast is good with Jack Lowden, Noel Fisher and Kyle MacLachlan doing well in their smaller roles. Linda Cardellini and Matt Dillon were the standouts among the supporting cast. Dillon makes the most of his screentime as an associate of Capone, and Cardellini provides the closest thing to an emotional centre of the movie as Capone’s wife, which was needed considering who the protagonist of the whole movie is. However it is absolutely the Tom Hardy show, and he gives his most insane and crazy performance of his entire career as the title character, and that’s saying a lot considering he was in Bronson and Venom, I can certainly say it’s the most acting he’s done in a single performance. Before watching the movie, there was a couple of clips I saw before the movie that certainly gave me pause, he was unintentionally hilarious in them, and he’s kind of like that throughout much of the film. It works better when you watch the movie in its entirety. However it still takes you a while to settle in, especially with the makeup making him look like a demonic vampire and his voice sounding like a mix of Donald Duck, Nick Nolte, and Danny Devito’s The Penguin. Some of his outbursts still were unintentionally funny, but it worked better in the weird tone of the movie. Overall while I can say that I liked his performance, his over the top ‘acting’ moments didn’t work quite as well as the comparatively ‘quieter’ moments for me. He is definitely putting everything into this performance (for better and for worse) and was one of the stand out parts of the film.

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I already knew this from his work on Chronicle, but Josh Trank has shown himself to be a capable director. It’s shot and filmed well generally, but for the most part the technical side is just competent and nothing special. Interestingly, the editing is done by Trank of all people, no doubt wanting to ensure that he wouldn’t be caught in another Fant4stic situation. With that said, it is a little disjointed, and while I get that part of it was purposeful with this being from the perspective of a man slowly losing sense of everything, I’m not sure that was necessarily intentional all the way through. Where the film shines is when it leant into the weirdness, mainly with the hallucinations and dream sequences. The aforementioned dream scene halfway into the movie was a shining aspect, and had Trank committed to more of those sorts of scenes, I think that it could’ve been better.

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Capone won’t work for all people, in fact it won’t work for most people. There are aspects that are unpolished and messy, it might be too gross and gnarly for some people, and I don’t think it quite sticks the landing in what Josh Trank intended. However, despite its flaws I think the movie is decent. The acting is good, with the performance from Tom Hardy being a highlight, and I liked the places that it was taken. As weird as the movie got at points, I kind of wish it went further, as those were definitely the best parts of the movie. What this shows is that Trank has a talent and a vision, and Chronicle wasn’t a fluke. I’d love to see what he does next, especially if he’s not tied down with adapting anything this time.

The King’s Speech (2010) Review

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The King's Speech

Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains offensive language
Cast:
Colin Firth as King George VI
Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue
Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth
Guy Pearce as King Edward VIII
Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill
Derek Jacobi as Cosmo Gordon Lang
Jennifer Ehle as Myrtle Logue
Michael Gambon as King George V
Director: Tom Hooper

King George VI (Colin Firth) tries to overcome his stammering problem with the help of speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) and makes himself worthy enough to lead his country through World War II.

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Despite being an Oscar winning film, The King’s Speech has been given quite the bad rap, ironically it’s because of that. It earned many of the Oscars, including Best Picture, over so many other movies like The Social Network, Inception and Black Swan. Many weren’t happy that this was the movie that won over those films. While I understand many of these reactions, The King’s Speech on its own is pretty good.

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To keep it simple and straightforward, I’ll treat this movie outside of the fact that it won Best Picture, or mention The Social Network, Inception or Black Swan for the duration of this review, which is something that reviews of this movie nowadays can’t stop doing. The King’s Speech is a historical biopic, and the summary of the movie looked pretty boring at first, but thankfully it has a pretty good script. Now part the story is more than likely fictionalised and isn’t completely true, but that’s pretty typical of movies like this, and I don’t think that the inaccuracies would be particularly egregious. This movie is more focussed on George’s speech impediment and him trying to work through it with his speech therapist, rather than the royal family and his role in it, and that is actually to its own benefit. It does have its particularly ‘Oscar moments’, mainly towards the last act, but didn’t take away too much from the rest of the movie. The story plays out pretty much exactly how you’d expect it to, but it had enough going on and enough energy to keep me reasonably interested for the duration of the runtime.

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The acting in this movie is amongst the best part of the movie, if not the main reason to see it. Colin Firth is really great as King George VI, and it’s not just a baity or showy performance like it could’ve been. Firth’s stutter could’ve easily been a gimmick or have been a caricature of people with stammers, but he and the film pulls it off perfectly, and he makes it feel genuine. As good as the rest of the cast and movie is, it wouldn’t work nearly as well without Colin Firth’s outstanding performance at the centre of it. Geoffrey Rush is also good as the speech therapist that George sees to help with his stutter. Firth and Rush are great together on screen, and their interactions are ultimately the driving force of the movie. Other supporting actors like Helena Bonham Carter and Guy Pearce also play their roles as well.

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Tom Hooper directed this reasonably well, and on a technical level is pretty solid. It’s well shot, the score by Alexandre Desplat is pretty good, and the production and costume designs reflect the time period and location appropriately. However it’s very clear that this wasn’t going to be the highlight of the movie, and so I didn’t pay it that much attention.

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I wouldn’t say that The King’s Speech is great, but it is a pretty good movie for what it is. It is definitely better than how it sounds at first, but not enough to make it that memorable. However it’s a solid enough movie, with some great acting, particularly a career best performance from Colin Firth. I do think that it is worth watching, just make sure to not going into it seeing it as a Best Picture winner or anything like that.

Bronson (2009) Review

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Bronson

Time: 92 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1]
Cast:
Tom Hardy as Michael Gordon Peterson/Charles Bronson
Matt King as Paul Daniels
James Lance as Phil Danielson
Amanda Burton as Charlie’s mother
Kelly Adams as Irene Peterson
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

In this drama based on a true story, there’s no one tougher or more brutal in the English penal system than prisoner Michael Peterson, aka Charles Bronson (Tom Hardy). First incarcerated after robbing a jewellery store, the married Bronson is sentenced to seven years. But his incorrigible, savage behaviour quickly gets him in trouble with guards, fellow inmates and even a dog. The only place where Bronson can’t do any harm is in solitary confinement, where he spends most of his time.

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I remember when I was going to watch Bronson for the first time. I liked director Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, and I really liked Tom Hardy as an actor, and it runs out I liked Bronson too. It is for sure one of Refn’s more ‘accessible’ movies (at least when compared to the likes of some of his other movies like Only God Forgives). Having seen it for a second time, I probably like it even more now, a truly bizarre movie in the best possible way, directed greatly and with one of the most impressive performances I’ve seen at the front and centre of this film.

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Bronson is quite the unconventional biopic, its subject is Michael Peterson, also known as Charles Bronson, who is often called the most violent prisoner in Britain. However, Refn’s take on the story isn’t straightforward or what you’d initially expect. First of all, it doesn’t even remotely attempt to paint a sympathetic picture of the character/person, and much of the storytelling is from Bronson’s perspective. In the first 5-10 minutes you pretty early on get a sense as to what kind of movie it is. There are some moments where we get to see Bronson’s more vulnerable side, mainly in the second act. At the same time however, it doesn’t try to explain Charles Bronson, rather letting the audience make up their own answers for him. Bronson is greatly written too, quite entertaining, and even has a fair share of dark comedy in there too. Much of the movie reminds me of A Clockwork Orange, from the style to some of the way certain scenes were handled. As far as issues go, there are some pacing issues towards the second act. Without giving too much away, it’s not quite as outrageous or filled with violence as the first act, but in general you really feel it slow down suddenly, and even some of the energy died down noticeably. Now I still liked the second act and there’s a good reason why the pacing was that slow considering that part of the story, but it’s worth pointing out nonetheless. Bronson is about an hour and 30 minutes long, and that was about the right length for this movie.

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This movie surrounds the character/real life person of Charles Bronson (the criminal, not the actor of course), and so much of the film heavily relies on the actor playing the titular role. Tom Hardy (who wasn’t such a big name just yet back in 2008) did such a fantastic job in the role. This could very well be Hardy’s career best performance, and knowing much of the work he’s done, that’s saying a lot. He’s full of energy, he has the physicality, he’s charismatic, he’s scary, and has such a powerful screen presence that carries much of the movie. He’s incredibly electric and a force of nature in this, you definitely don’t see Hardy at all in this role, moustache aside. Surprisingly, he also portrays Bronson’s emotional side very convincingly too, painting a picture of a man that’s a little more than just violent and insane (even if it’s not neatly laid out what kind of person he is). He really does capture this real life person incredibly well. The rest of the actors in the supporting cast do play their part well, but it is the Tom Hardy show.

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Nicolas Winding Refn’s direction is nothing short of exceptional, much of how he told the story is why this movie works so well. It’s an absolutely stunning looking movie from beginning to end, and unsurprising considering this is Refn, especially when it came to the use of colour. It’s not just the cinematography aspect of the direction that’s great, a conventional biopic it is not. The mix of narration and fourth wall breaks from Hardy’s Bronson works perfectly. In much of the movie he’s talking and performing to a stage audience (mostly shown in the first act). That sort of dies down a bit after the first act, but it nonetheless makes quite the impression. The music choices worked very well for the movie too.

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Bronson is an entertaining and unconventional ‘biopic’, wonderfully directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, but its backbone is Tom Hardy as the titular character, who is absolutely tremendous in the role. I’m not sure that it is for everyone, but I thought it was great. Hardy’s performance alone makes it a must see.

Stuart: A Life Backwards (2007) Review

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Stuart A Life Backwards

Time: 92 Minutes
Cast:
Benedict Cumberbatch as Alexander Masters
Tom Hardy as Stuart Shorter
Director: David Attwood

Stuart (Tom Hardy) is a homeless alcoholic who leads a complicated life because of the disturbing memories of his troubled childhood. His writer friend (Benedict Cumberbatch) chronicles his life and tries to recount every aspect of it.

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I only found out about this movie more recently, the main thing I heard was that Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy were in it, with the latter giving a particularly fantastic performance. I also knew it was a tv movie, and I really didn’t expect much from it (didn’t really know what to expect honestly). Stuart: A Life Backwards was actually better than what I expected, an emotionally honest film, with an outstanding lead performance.

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Stuart: A Life Backwards is based off the biography of the same name. While the story takes place in chronological order, we learn about Stuart’s past in reverse order, like the title of the story implies (and how it was told in the book). This makes for a rather interesting watch as we learn about this man’s life, and what put him in the position that he was in present day. Without getting too deep into it here, A Life Backwards doesn’t shy away from everything that happened with Stuart and the things he does and went through, but the best compliment I can give is that it’s remarkably honest. There is a fair amount of humour thrown in (especially with some interactions between the main two leads), but it is emotionally impactful at the same time. The movie is around 90 minutes long, and the pacing is a little uneven. It drags at points and sometimes feels rushed in others, however I was still rather invested.

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This movie is mainly focussed on its two lead actors, Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch, and both really work in their respective roles. I’ll start with Cumberbatch, who is more the audience surrogate, as he’s playing the author of the biography that the movie is based on. The movie focuses on his interactions with Stuart. We don’t really get to learn about his role of real life person Alexander Masters, and he’s definitely not the main focus of the story, but Cumberbatch still manages to act very well (in a comparatively more subtle way than his co-lead) and also deserves some praise for his own. However, it’s of course Tom Hardy who stands out among everything in this film, giving such an emotionally raw performance and steals every scene he’s in. This might well be his most difficult performance, but it pulled it off excellently. This is some of his best acting, and knowing his long list of great performances, that’s saying a lot. The chemistry between Hardy and Cumberbatch is great and believable, with the friendship between the two driving the movie essentially. It is also nice on another level watching them, especially knowing how known they are as actors now.

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Now Stuart: A Life Backwards is very much a tv movie, it doesn’t have a very big budget, and you feel that throughout. However, it still does some effective things with the direction by David Attwood, not to mention it just feels right for this specific movie. There are some brief moments of animation that may seem out of place, but I think worked well enough for the unconventional style and subject of the story.

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Stuart: A Life Backwards won’t be known by most people, but I really do think it’s worth watching. It’s a pretty good movie by itself, the story is handled with care and told as it should. However, it’s Hardy’s performance which brings it to a whole other level, making it pretty much essential viewing. It might be hard to gain access to a copy of A Life Backwards, but definitely watch it when you get a chance, it’s well worth it.

Legend (2015) Review

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Legend (2015)

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence and offensive language
Cast:
Tom Hardy as Ronald “Ronnie” Kray and Reginald “Reggie” Kray
Emily Browning as Frances Shea
Colin Morgan as Frankie Shea
Christopher Eccleston as Leonard “Nipper” Read
David Thewlis as Leslie Payne
Taron Egerton as Edward “Mad Teddy” Smith
Chazz Palminteri as Angelo Bruno
Paul Bettany as Charlie Richardson
Tara Fitzgerald as Mrs Shea
Aneurin Barnard as David Bailey
Paul Anderson as Albert Donoghue
Director: Brian Helgeland

In the 1960s, Reggie Kray (Tom Hardy) is a former boxer who has become an important part of the criminal underground in London. At the start of the film, his twin brother Ron (Tom Hardy) is locked up in a psychiatric hospital for insanity and paranoid schizophrenia. Reggie uses threats to obtain the premature release of his brother, who is rapidly discharged from hospital. The two brothers unite their efforts to control a large part of London’s criminal underworld. One of their first efforts is to muscle-in on the control of a local night club, using extortion and brutal violence.

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I was always aware of Legend being the movie where Tom Hardy plays two real life gangster twins known as the Krays. From the trailer it certainly looked like it had a lot of potential, and I generally like gangster movies. While it’s not as great as it could’ve been, it’s decent enough, and led by another great performance(s) from Tom Hardy.

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I’m not familiar with the stories about the Krays, but it sounds like there’s a lot of source material that could be used for a great movie. Unfortunately, the plot doesn’t really keep you engaged consistently. Some plotlines are interesting, others not so much. It’s actually a pretty standard gangster movie, with some issues with the script. The most annoying part for me was the narration, it was pretty much explaining everything but that’s not the worst part. The weirdest decision was having the narration by Reggie Kray’s wife played by Emily Browning, she wasn’t present for all the events that happen in the movie, so it was confusing why she was chosen. If they really wanted a narrator, they should’ve given it to Hardy or some other actor who wasn’t a character in the movie. The tone changes all the time, and not in a smart and balanced way, it’s all over the place, additionally you don’t really feel like you get to learn the main characters all that much. While the runtime of over 2 hours and 10 minutes seems like it would be the right length to cover the Krays’ stories, the film just moves a little too slowly to keep you constantly interested. Despite this, it feels like there’s some events the movie didn’t really cover, and instead chose to focus on some less interesting aspects. The script isn’t bad, it’s mostly passable, just not as interesting as it should’ve been.

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Tom Hardy is the main reason to watch this movie, as usual he’s fantastic and really elevated the film. Both the characters of Reggie and Ronnie Kray are very distinct, and Hardy embodies each of them effectively. Although not quite at the level of Hardy, the supporting cast is pretty good, with the likes of Emily Browning, Colin Morgan, Christopher Eccleston, David Thewlis, Taron Egerton and Chazz Palminteri giving some commendable performances.

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Legend is directed by Brian Helgeland, who did reasonably well with his filmmaking work on A Knight’s Tale and 42, but I knew him most for writing L.A. Confidential. His direction on Legend isn’t amazing, but was pretty good and worked for the movie. Now having one actor play dual performances on the screen at the same time isn’t a recent occurrence, but nonetheless they handled that aspect quite well, and made it look convincing.

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Legend had a lot of potential and unfortunately didn’t quite live up to it. For the most part it’s well made, and the cast are good, but although the script isn’t terrible, it’s definitely the weakest part of the movie unfortunately, and wasn’t quite the home run of a film that it looked like it would be at first. However, I’d say that it’s at least worth watching for Tom Hardy’s great performances.

Harriet (2019) Review

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Harriet

Time: 125 Minutes
Cast:
Cynthia Erivo as Araminta “Minty” Ross/Harriet Tubman
Leslie Odom Jr. as William Still
Joe Alwyn as Gideon Brodess
Janelle Monáe as Marie Buchanon
Creator: Kasi Lemmons

From her escape from slavery through the dangerous missions she led to liberate hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad, the story of heroic abolitionist Harriet Tubman (Cynthia Erivo) is told.

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I heard about Harriet because of the awards attention it was receiving, mainly for Cynthia Erivo’s performance. Although I didn’t know that much about her, I heard about how Harriet Tubman was a truly significant historical figure, so I was at least interested in the movie for that, even if it looked like awards bait. While the movie unfortunately isn’t as great as it should’ve been, it was alright and better than I thought it would be.

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Now I can’t speak as to the accuracy of the movie to real life events. I did a brief Google search and clicked on a few articles, and according to what I found, much of what’s in the movie is accurate, however there’s a lot more that the film didn’t cover. Parts of the movie feel very formulaic and a little cliched. Even if these events played in real life like they did here, they didn’t really make it feel fresh or genuine. It also feels a little rushed, while also feeling like there’s a number of things that the movie didn’t cover. From the looks of things, maybe a mini series would’ve been better for the story, but just judging it as being done as one movie, some of the plot and storytelling choices were a little odd. With that said, as someone who knew nothing about Harriet Tubman, I was somewhat interested in the movie from beginning to end in its roughly 2 hour long runtime, just not as much as I hoped I would.

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Cynthia Erivo is the star of the show as Harriet Tubman, and she is really good. I liked her work in 2018 with both Bad Times at the El Royale and Widows, and once again she has shown herself to be a great actress. If there’s a reason to watch this movie, it’s for her performance. The rest of the cast are fine, there wasn’t quite a weak link, but most of them weren’t anything special and stood out either. Out of the supporting cast, Janelle Monae stood out the most in a minor role, playing a character who was created for the movie and didn’t exist in real life.

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The direction of Harriet by Kasi Lemmons was decent. While the movie can look really good at some points (especially with some of the locations), some of the way it was shot looks like a tv movie. The costumes and productions design are good enough and fit the time period and setting. Something that occurs often in the movie is that there are some visions that Harriet has. Now to be fair to this movie, these apparently happened in real life, but the way it’s shot and edited made it come across a little silly in the film (again, like a tv movie).

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Harriet is an okay movie but unfortunately it doesn’t rise above that level, especially disappointing for a movie about such a significant figure in history. The direction is fine, the writing is mostly okay, the supporting cast is good enough, but there’s not a lot in the movie that’s better than that. The exception is Cynthia Erivo’s lead performance which was good, and really was the only reason to see the movie. Even then though, I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s a an absolute must see just for her work alone, as good as it was. I guess if you’re committed to watching every Oscar nominated performance, or if you’ve got 2 hours to spend, then it might be worth checking out if you’re curious about it.

The Report (2019) Review

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The Report

Time: 119 minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, cruelty & offensive language
Cast:
Adam Driver as Daniel Jones
Annette Bening as Dianne Feinstein
Jon Hamm as Denis McDonough
Jennifer Morrison as Caroline Krass
Tim Blake Nelson as Raymond Nathan
Ted Levine as John Brennan
Michael C. Hall as Thomas Eastman
Maura Tierney as Bernadette
Director: Scott Z. Burns

FBI agent Daniel Jones (Adam Driver) performs an exhaustive investigation into the CIA’s use of torture on suspected terrorists. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the CIA adopted new interrogation techniques.

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I heard about The Report for a little while, it was about an important topic about the report of the CIA’s use of torture, and had a lot of talented people involved with the likes of Adam Driver, Annette Bening and Jon Hamm. It’s turned out to be quite good and overall well made, if a slightly too procedural.

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The Report is a straight forward movie. When it comes to movies based on true events like this, there’s a certain kind of genre where it just seems to give cliff notes of information that could’ve been taken from Wikipedia. The Report is sort of that but out of those types of movies, it does this the best. It keeps you engaged to learn everything that’s happening, at least that’s what it did for me. There’s a lot of information being tossed at you, but even if you don’t remember everything perfectly, there’s enough there that you can grasp what’s going on. As you can probably tell already, it’s not an easy watch by any means, given the subject matter. Even outside the flashback scenes which features some torture, it can be maddening and frustrating hearing about all of what happened, and it’s meant to have you feeling that way. I’m not quite sure that The Report will hold up outside of the first viewing, still well made and all that, but after knowing everything it has to say, there’s not much point watching it again. I guess one problem with this movie is that while you’d expect the movie to not go into too much depth with many of the supporting players, you’d expect something with the lead character, that being Daniel Jones played by Adam Driver. It’s verbally expressed early on that Jones isn’t close with anyone, and you can really tell that he’s really committed to this case, but that’s all we learn from him. Not necessarily a bad thing mind you, they can sort of get away with that given the nature of the protagonist, and it’s not necessarily something that’s bothering you if you’re engaged with the rest of the movie.

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The Report has got a great cast who perform very well in their respective roles. Adam Driver continues to prove himself one of the best actors working today. As I said, the movie doesn’t really go into him as a person, but Driver’s acting overcomes that, and once again gives a very strong lead performance. The supporting cast with the likes of Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Tim Blake Nelson, Ted Levine, Michael C. Hall, Corey Stoll and more all provide good performances too.

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I haven’t seen a film from director Scott Z. Burns (he made his last movie over a decade ago, which I haven’t seen), he’s mainly a writer for movies like Side Effects and The Bourne Ultimatum. He’s pretty good as a director, even if he doesn’t really have much of a distinct style. The cinematography is rather basic and not necessarily attractive or stylish, but I guess that fitted the tone and subject matter of the movie quite well.

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I wouldn’t say that The Report is a great movie, but it is an important movie for sure. It’s tightly written and directed and features some really good performances from its talented cast. Yes, it’s a ‘cliff notes’ movie, but it’s a very well made cliff notes movie. It gives you a generally good idea of what happened in an interesting and engaging 2 hour long movie. Definitely check it out when you can.

The Aeronauts (2019) Review

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The Aeronauts

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Felicity Jones as Amelia
Eddie Redmayne as James Glaisher
Phoebe Fox as Antonia
Himesh Patel as John Trew
Vincent Perez as Pierre Rennes
Director: Tom Harper

In 1862 headstrong scientist James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne) and wealthy young widow Amelia Wren (Felicity Jones) mount a balloon expedition to fly higher than anyone in history. As their perilous ascent reduces their chances of survival, the unlikely duo soon discover things about themselves — and each other — that help both of them find their place in the world.

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I heard about The Aeronauts for a little while, before going into it I knew it was Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones returning as an on screen duo 5 years after The Theory of Everything, and that it had something to do with floating in a balloon. There’s a lot here to like, but it’s held back by certain elements, and it could’ve been a lot better.

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Easily the weakest part of the movie is the script. It starts off very rough as it rushes towards the scene main characters leaving on the balloon, with no context or setup whatsoever as to what’s happening. Now the context is then provided through flashbacks, however that’s one of the biggest problems of the movie (if not the biggest), it’s so reliant on flashbacks. When we are on the balloon, The Aeronauts excels, but it comes to a halt every time it does a flashback for both of them back on land, and there’s a lot of them. There doesn’t even seem to be much point in having a narrative structure this way, the flashbacks don’t add anything to the movie. There’s even some scenes showing Felicity’s character being conflicted about whether she’ll even go on the trip, but there’s not even much point given we already know what she decides, not to mention she’s not even a real person, so you can’t put these scenes’ inclusions up to historical accuracy. That’s the other thing too, despite this being advertised as based on true events, don’t look too much into it for historical accuracy. While some parts are accurate like the fact that Eddie Redmayne’s character of James Glaisher did go up in a balloon with someone, that someone wasn’t Felicity Jones’s character of Amelia Wren, in fact she never existed in real life. Come to think of it, embracing it as an inspired but deviating take on the real life story would’ve helped the movie immensely. The movie is an hour and 40 minutes long, which is a good enough length for this story, although the flashbacks did seem to make it feel longer. Outside of the flashbacks, the script and characters did feel fairly weak on their own, merely passable enough.

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The duo performances of Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are good and work rather well for the movie. Felicity Jones is really the star of the show, one of the highlights of the whole movie. I like Eddie Redmayne, and I liked him here, but if you’re not a fan of his acting, you’re still not going to like him here because he does the similar acting style.

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The Aeronauts directed quite well by Tom Harper. I also saw Wild Rose, and while his work on that was decent, he gets to show off a lot more here. The period of 1860s England is really captured well here, the production design, costumes, etc, all of it really fitted the story and setting. The visuals are great too, and of course it’s mainly to do with the scenes up in the balloon. There are some tense and thrilling scenes during those segments too, and they were filmed very effectively. I can only imagine they were something to really watch on the big screen. The score by Steven Price is also quite good and fits with the movie quite well.

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The Aeronauts had potential and indeed they deliver on some of that, however the script unfortunately drags down the movie considerably, especially with the use of flashbacks that only hinder the film. With that said it has some good elements to it that might make it worth checking out, from the duo of Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne, to the visuals and the direction. The movie is only 100 minutes long, so if you’ve got that much time to spare, The Aeronauts is a decent enough watch.

Official Secrets (2019) Review

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Keira Knightley as Katharine Gun
Matt Smith as Martin Bright
Matthew Goode as Peter Beaumont
Rhys Ifans as Ed Vulliamy
Adam Bakri as Yasar Gun
Indira Varma as Shami Chakrabarti
Ralph Fiennes as Ben Emmerson
Director: Gavin Hood

One day in 2003, in the lead up to the Iraq War, British intelligence specialist Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley) receives a memo from the NSA with a shocking directive: the United States is enlisting Britain’s help in collecting compromising information on U.N. Security Council members to blackmail them into voting in favor of an invasion of Iraq. Unable to stand by and watch the world be rushed into war, Gun makes the gut-wrenching decision to defy her government and leak the memo to the press.

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Although there wasn’t a lot of widespread attention given towards Official Secrets, I had been hearing a small amount of positive buzz for it. The premise certainly sounded intriguing, as was the cast assembled for it, so I was interested in checking it out for sure. Having finally seen it, I can confirm that Official Secrets is really good, a tightly directed political thriller, and I don’t know why it’s not receiving much more attention. Worth watching for sure.

Admittedly, Official Secrets starts off a little slow to begin with. It even takes a while for the information to leak and then be published in the story. From that point onwards however, the movie really picked up from being pretty good, to really good. It shows the perspectives of Katharine Gun, who leaked the information, as well as the journalists who break the news. As someone who never knew about this story, it was very interesting and most of all informative watching all of it unfold on screen. It is maddening watching this at times as you see what happened, as it should be given that this really happened in real life, and the story is told as honestly as possible. It’s quite easy for big budget political thrillers about real life stories like this to make up things about what happened just for dramatic purposes. However from what I can tell, it stays as true to the real life story as it possibly can. In the second half it becomes really tense, but it never overplays it, it feels very grounded in reality. Now it is definitely more informative than entertaining, while it’s not one of the most gruelling watches or anything, it’s not exactly fun to watch. But as that type of political thriller, it really succeeds well.

The talented cast all do a great job and are among the highlights of Official Secrets. The main lead is that of Keira Knightley, who gives one of her best performances of her career as Katharine Gun, she’s very believable in her role. However it’s not just her who works, the movie also has Matt Smith and Matthew Goode as journalists, Ralph Fiennes as Katharine’s new lawyer, Adam Bakri as Katharine’s husband, and others like Rhys Ifans and Conleth Hall. All of them play their roles believably, and they really added to the movie.

Gavin Hood directs this very well, it’s a great looking movie and it’s been put together solidly. As I previously said, the scenes of tension are quite effective, without being too overbearing and overblown. It’s all directed at the right level required for the story really, keeping your interest and attention without trying to make it flashy or pretty for the audience.

Official Secrets is one of the most overlooked movies of the year, and it really should be seen by more people. It’s directed and written well, the cast are great, particularly Keira Knightley, and it’s an important story that needs to be known and seen. Watch it for the performances at the very least. Definitely don’t miss it, and see it as soon as you can.

 

Judy (2019) Review

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Judy

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Drug use & offensive language
Cast:
Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland
Finn Wittrock as Mickey Deans
Rufus Sewell as Sidney Luft
Michael Gambon as Bernard Delfont
Jessie Buckley as Rosalyn Wilder
Director: Rupert Goold

Thirty years after starring in “The Wizard of Oz,” beloved actress and singer Judy Garland (Renee Zellweger) arrives in London to perform sold-out shows at the Talk of the Town nightclub. While there, she reminisces with friends and fans and begins a whirlwind romance with musician Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock), her soon-to-be fifth husband.

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I’m not too familiar with Judy Garland, I knew that she was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, that she was an actress and singer, and that she was in the 1950s version of A Star is Born. So a Judy Garland biopic sounded somewhat interesting to me at least. I first heard of this movie’s existence as basically Renee Zellweger’s vehicle for her second acting Oscar award, and it seems certain at this point that she’ll certainly nab the award soon. From the looks of things, Judy seemed like a rather typical and generic biopic on Garland, and unfortunately it is that, despite a good performance at the centre of it all.

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I can’t speak as to the accuracy of the movie to what happened in real life. No matter how much or little accurate it is to true events however, it should be handled in a way that it’s able to work as a movie, and they didn’t seem to make it particularly interesting. As I previously said, Judy on face value looked very much like a typical music biopic, and one of those Oscar bait movies, unfortunately it’s both of those. It follows those familiar story beats, and ultimately feels more like a sad and safe tribute to Judy Garland instead of digging deep into her. While there are some issues that she’s dealing with and they are put on display in the movie, it feels like they are deliberately understating them, and not exploring her or them at all. While I knew more about Garland after watching the movie than before, I still feel like there’s a lot I really didn’t know about her. The most I got out of learning about her were in the few flashback scenes of her early in her career, and those were the most interesting parts of the movie. I know a lot of people really hate the use of flashbacks, but honestly a lot more of them would’ve considerably helped to show and reveal a lot more about her. Sadly much of Judy is mainly just showing her a year before her death, which isn’t necessarily bad but you’ve got to have something interesting to say or show about her if you’re going to do that. The end result is just showing her slow decline… and that’s it, not much exploration of her during this period and why things certain things are happening. You’d think that the movie would connect some of the few flashbacks to the events happening in the movie (present day in the story) in some way, but no. Not to mention it’s really slow. I don’t mind a slow moving movie as long as it has something interesting or compelling to show or say, but Judy isn’t any of that. Each scene on its own is fine, but when you’ve got all these bland scenes one after the other and at such a slow rate, it becomes rather tedious to watch. You get the feeling that this movie felt comfortable just sitting back and letting Renee do her thing, which is great for her but terrible for the rest of the movie. Even the attempts at emotion throughout just come across as hollow, and the melodrama and soap opera-ness became grating than actually affecting. The only time it even gets close to being somewhat genuine was a section with Judy and a fictionalised gay couple, which actually worked alright. Additionally the ending scene was among the best parts of the movie, it gets a little cheesy at a point, but honestly that’s still something compared to the rest of the film.

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Literally the only reason to watch the movie is for Renee Zellweger’s performance as Judy Garland. She’s definitely throwing everything into this role and the movie very much relies on her performance. However, she unfortunately falls victim to the typical clichés that similar roles and movies have, with a different look, doing a different voice, having large emotional moments (leaving awards shows plenty of options of clips to pick for her Best Actress clip) and her character going through the same scenes that we’ve seen plenty of other movies do before. Now they very well may have happened in real life, but the writing lacks enough depth for it to feel genuine. Thankfully, Zellweger carries much of the movie and elevated it just a little bit. Had everything around her been a lot better, I’d probably go so far as to say that she’s incredible. She handles the singing side of things reasonably well too, she’s no Judy Garland, but not many people are. The rest of the cast aren’t lacklasture or anything either. They are decent, with the likes of Finn Wittrock, Jessie Buckley, Rufus Sewell and Michael Gambon doing well in their respective roles.

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Much of Judy is directed okay but there’s nothing that stands out at all about it. Director Rupert Goold previously made True Story, a movie I thought was pretty good and also had more to it on the directing side compared to Judy. Nothing is necessarily bad here, it’s shot and directed reasonably well, on a technical level it’s all fine (the makeup on Renee to make her look like Judy Garland was great). However everything feels like it’s on complete autopilot, and lacks any kind of energy, with maybe the exception of the last scene.

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There’s a lot of potential for a biopic of Judy Garland to be a fantastic movie from a biopic of Judy Garland, but the end result is bland, uninteresting, and not really that good. Even if you want to learn more about Judy, the film doesn’t explore her or really show enough about her for it to be satisfying. Not to say the movie doesn’t have its upsides, the acting is generally good, with the highlight being Renee Zellweger’s performance, and with her winning an Oscar, it might be worth checking it out for that. Beyond the acting however, don’t expect much more beyond that.