Tag Archives: Bobby Cannavale

Mr. Robot Season 3 (2017) Review

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Mr Robot Season 3

Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson
Carly Chaikin as Darlene Alderson
Portia Doubleday as Angela Moss
Martin Wallström as Tyrell Wellick
Christian Slater as Mr. Robot
Michael Cristofer as Phillip Price
Stephanie Corneliussen as Joanna Wellick
Grace Gummer as Dominique “Dom” DiPierro
BD Wong as Whiterose
Bobby Cannavale as Irving
Creator: Sam Esmail

Picking up immediately following the season two cliffhanger, season three explores each character’s motivations and the disintegration between Elliot (Rami Malek) and Mr. Robot (Christian Slater).

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Season 2 of Mr. Robot, while good, did feel a little disappoint when compared to its previous season. While it was ambitious and ended strongly enough, Season 2 was bogged down by self-indulgence and some storylines that seemed to be going nowhere. Even though I liked it, parts of it did feel like a chore to get through. Season 3 however is a noticeable step up and a real return to form for the series, a lot more focused and constantly engaging from beginning to end.

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This goes without saying, but this review will contain spoilers for seasons 1 and 2 of Mr. Robot. The action picks up from where we last left the show, with Elliot having just been shot by fugitive and former E Corp senior VP Tyrell Wellick. Angela is working with both Tyrell and the Dark Army, and Darlene is now serving as an FBI informant for Dom who, along with her colleagues, is still trying to get to the bottom of the E Corp Hack. A large part of season 3’s success comes from how it deals with that season 2 cliffhanger. Something that also made this season quite interesting is that Elliot and Mr. Robot are now individual personalities. This creates a new and interesting dynamic between those characters and others in their sphere. It also gives Season 3 a clearer narrative structure, as Elliot’s two personalities now rarely appear in the same scene together. and aren’t aware what the other is doing. It adds an extra level of tension and allows the audience to better understand every character’s motive, all while avoiding a simplistic ‘good vs evil’ narrative.

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For those already weary at the prospect of more episodes rife with frustrating mind games, just know that in season 3, Mr. Robot is much more consistently assured and compelling than it was in its uneven second season, while still having plenty of floating questions and mysteries. Esmail cleverly retrofitted some of the less clear plot points and character decisions in the past by filling the audience in on the missing parts (even dating back to season one) – all without being too much, or feeling dumbed down and just explained to us.  You do get some of the answers that many of us wanted, including what exactly Tyrell had been doing while he’s been away for most of season 2. It’s a tight season at 10 episodes but it’s very eventful and tense throughout, characters are placed in very dangerous situations in the story. The main arc of the season, centered around the Dark Army’s terrorist attack and Elliot’s attempts to stop it, comes to a head in a sensational midseason double-bill, and I won’t spoil it but it’s excellently done. As season 3 picks up and races forward, the series continues to poke fun at itself, this season particularly has a good sense of humour. Episode 2 for example opens with a mostly upbeat eight-minute sequence that follows Elliot as he re-acclimates to daily life as a corporate drone. The series also gets back to letting viewers dive into big questions of government control, corporate greed, the rights of citizens, and the power and shortcomings of technology. The season doesn’t really end with a cliffhanger, but it does end in a way that makes you excited for season 4.

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The acting from everyone is fantastic as usual. Elliot Alderson and Mr Robot get more focus in this season compared to the last, and thus Rami Malek and Christian Slater get to shine more. With their new dynamic (as mentioned much earlier) this means that Malek and Slater are more united ever as actors because they’re called to dip into each other’s performance tics in specific scenes. Both continue to give very compelling performances. The returning supporting cast including BD Wong, Grace Gummer, Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday, Martin Wallstrom, and Michael Cristofer also perform quite well in their parts. All of their characters are taken in more interesting directions than before, and as a result they get to do a lot more. There’s some particular standouts. Portia Doubleday’s Angela Moss is placed in an interesting position as she’s now working for the Dark Army, and she gets to stand out, especially in the second half. Speaking of which, there’s a lot more screentime for BD Wong as Dark Army leader Whiterose as we learn more about her, and as usually he’s fantastic in the role(s). The biggest surprise however is Tyrell Wellick, played by Martin Wallstrom, he’s taken to a whole other level in this season. It’s almost a reinvention of the character that we knew from him in the first two seasons, and Wallstrom does some excellent shape-shifting to pull that off. Bobby Cannevale also joins the cast as Irving, a fixer of sorts for the Dark Army. Cannavale maintains a chill, chatty demeanour throughout, and was quite entertaining to watch. He could’ve easily come across as too cartoonish, but Cannavale is so immersed in character that it works, he’s terrific.

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Sam Esmail directs every episode, some which started from the second season and continuing through to the very end of the series. Esmail remains a flashy and ambitious filmmaker, framing certain shots to be extra-top-heavy and capturing chaotic scenes via lengthy tracking shots, but in ways that feel more natural and doesn’t feel like it’s showing off. This is a show which moves its cameras like no other, plays with reality like no other, blends timelines across seasons like no other. His use of long one-take shots were particularly effective, it helps that this technique is saved for moments so dramatic you’re not even looking for the cut. Speaking of which, there’s particularly one episode which is made to look like it was in one shot, this episode remains one of the best episodes of the entire series and for good reason, it’s incredible impressive. The score by Mac Quayle is even better here than in the past seasons and it was already amazing.

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Mr. Robot Season 3 is a return to form for the series. From the first episode to the last, it’s a tight, incredibly tense and entertaining ride. The writing is incredible with compelling character work and social commentary, the visually striking direction is only improving as the show continues, and the performances from the stellar cast are fantastic as always. It continues on the ambitions brought forward from season 2 and is as precise and well put together as season 1, while also making itself quite distinct in tone and style. It’s a strong contender for best season of Mr. Robot, it’s between this and the final season.

Motherless Brooklyn (2019) Review

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Motherless Brooklyn

Time: 144 Minutes
Cast:
Edward Norton as Lionel Essrog
Bruce Willis as Frank Minna
Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Laura Rose
Alec Baldwin as Moses Randolph
Willem Dafoe as Paul
Bobby Cannavale as Tony Vermonte
Cherry Jones as Gabby Horowitz
Director: Edward Norton

Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton) is a lonely private detective who doesn’t let Tourette’s syndrome stand in the way of his job. Gifted with a few clues and an obsessive mind, Lionel sets out to solve the murder of Frank Minna (Bruce Willis) — his mentor and only friend. Scouring the jazz clubs and slums of Brooklyn and Harlem, Essrog soon uncovers a web of secrets while contending with thugs, corruption and the most dangerous man in the city.

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I had heard about Motherless Brooklyn for a while, I knew that Edward Norton was directing it, I saw that it had a good cast, and it also was a detective story, which I generally like. I heard it received some mixed reactions, but I was still interested in seeing it whenever I could. Motherless Brooklyn was one of the biggest surprises of the year for me, even if aspects of the script could’ve been slightly improved.

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This film is based off a novel of the same name, with the plot in that being based in the 90s but Norton decided to make the shift towards the 50s for the film. Watching the movie, I couldn’t imagine this story being set in any other time period, it seemed like it was tailor made for that decade. As a mystery detective movie, I really liked it, with twists and revelations sprinkled throughout the plot. I was interested in what was going on, even when it was generally moving at a slower pace. This is a long movie at 2 hours and 25 minutes, and it feels a little too long, even if I was invested throughout. The central detective mystery story is interesting, but occasionally it gets a little side-tracked with other aspects. There are some background elements in here that needed to be fleshed out a little more, and some of the supporting characters needed to be developed a little more. I can see how some would find the ending to be anti-climatic, but for a conclusion to the story, I liked it.

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This movie has a pretty great main cast, with Edward Norton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin, and Willem Dafoe making up the main cast. Norton gives one of his best performances as protagonist Lionel Essrog. It’s a very believable and emotional performance, on the whole he’s great. There’s just one aspect with him that not everyone is going to be on board with, and it is his portrayal of Tourette’s syndrome. It definitely feels overplayed at times, but you settle into it after a while, and for the most part it isn’t overused throughout the movie. Mbatha-Raw is also great, definitely a supporting player, but there is so much nuance and compassion in her performance that she doesn’t let herself get forgotten, she played her role really well. Willis is good but he’s basically a cameo, despite the whole movie surrounding his character’s death. Dafoe is also typically great, and probably even elevated his character with his performance. Baldwin has played many villainous characters, but this role is probably one of his most believable and intimidating, and he really gives a strong performance here and got many chances to shine.

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This is the first film I’ve seen directed by Edward Norton and he’s done a great job with it. Motherless Brooklyn really embraces all the noire elements, from the typical shots seen in the genre, the production design, to the music, and to the protagonist speaking their thoughts over a voiceover. It might seem a little overbearing or blatant at first, but you get used to it after a while, especially if you get wrapped up in the world that the story and the characters exist in. It has some truly stunning cinematography by Dick Pope, and the score by Daniel Pemberton is also one of the standouts of the year, a jazz based score that you really could imagine being in a classic noire. All of these elements work together to get you into the atmosphere and overall story.

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Motherless Brooklyn is clearly a movie that hasn’t really worked for everyone, and it isn’t going to join the ranks of other classic noires like Chinatown or L.A. Confidential, but I actually thoroughly liked it. There are a couple aspects of the script that’s not so great, it can feel slightly bloated and a little messy. On the whole though I thought it was great, with some effective performances, an interesting story, and was directed well by Norton. Definitely worth seeing whenever you can.

The Irishman (2019) Review

Time: 209 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, cruelty & offensive language
Cast:
Robert De Niro as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran
Al Pacino as James Riddle “Jimmy” Hoffa
Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino
Ray Romano as Bill Bufalino
Bobby Cannavale as Felix “Skinny Razor” DiTullio
Anna Paquin as Peggy Sheeran
Stephen Graham as Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano
Harvey Keitel as Angelo Bruno
Jesse Plemons as Chuckie O’Brien
Director: Martin Scorsese

In the 1950s, truck driver Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) gets involved with Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and his Pennsylvania crime family. As Sheeran climbs the ranks to become a top hitman, he also goes to work for Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) – a powerful Teamster tied to organised crime.

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The Irishman wasn’t just my most anticipated movie of 2019, it was also one of my most anticipated movies ever. The trio of actors of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci all working together was already fantastic, but additionally it was for a gangster movie, and one directed by Martin Scorsese no less. I’ve been hearing about this film being in development for years, and that it had problems being made, mostly because no studio wanted to finance it. I didn’t know whether it would end up being made, neither did De Niro and Scorsese, who were really pushing for it. But after long last, it finally happened and I couldn’t wait to see it. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been going through almost all of Scorsese’s filmography, watching those I haven’t seen beforehand, and re-watching those that I’ve already seen (barring a few) in anticipation. The Irishman is an incredible movie in every regard, incredibly ambitious, but Scorsese and co. really delivered on something special, one of the highlights of the decade for sure.

The Irishman is based on a biography called I Heard You Paint Houses (which as it turns out, was the title which opens up the film), so it’s at least mostly based on real facts and events. Much has already been said about the very long runtime of The Irishman. The longest that Scorsese’s feature films have run was around 3 hours for Casino and The Wolf of Wall Street. The Irishman on the other hand is at 3 and a half hours long, and that certainly sounds intimidating. I wouldn’t say that it flies by and that you don’t feel the length at all. However, it does a lot to keep your attention. The movie actually managed to not be boring, it’s just that you feel overwhelmed by the length and the amount of things going on. There’s a lot to take in, and I’m sure that the movie definitely gets better and better the more you watch it. I will say that although the first half is pretty good, it’s the second half where it really picks up. At that point, there are a lot of moving pieces and rising tensions. In the first half or at least the first third, The Irishman seems like standard Scorsese gangster stuff. That’s not necessarily a bad thing however, as even standard Scorsese gangster territory is pretty great.

Plenty of people who hear the premise but haven’t been looking into it might just think that The Irishman is just another Scorsese mob movie. However it’s much more than that. Goodfellas and Casino are very fast paced, and focusses a lot on the excess and thrills. With The Irishman, gone is the thrill from the environment, the money and the violence. Even the violence (even though it’s not nearly as graphic as his other gangster movies) are without any possible enjoyment, portraying it as what it is, very ugly and unpleasant, and not stylised at all. This story is from the perspective of an aging and dying man, looking back at his life as how it was, with plenty of regrets. Not to mention that lead character Frank Sheeran already operated like a machine or soldier basically, taking no pleasure in the crimes that he had to carry out. So, this is definitely new territory for Martin Scorsese to play within. This is a movie that technology aside, Scorsese couldn’t make back in the 90s amidst his other gangster movies. It required an older man’s handle of the whole story, and he handled it all pretty much perfectly. And for those who still believe that Scorsese somehow endorses their flawed (to say the least) gangster protagonists and their lifestyles, I don’t even see how they’d be able to make that criticism for The Irishman. For a movie that can be sad and dark, it actually has quite a lot of effective humour throughout. The script by Steven Zaillian is really great, with some effective and memorable dialogue, with plenty of interesting things going on. The last hour takes quite a sombre turn, and the last half an hour in particular is particularly sad, as the consequences of everything that Frank has done finally catches up with him. The final shot of the movie in particular is effectively crushing.

For the acting, let’s start with the main trio of actors. Robert De Niro plays Frank Sheeran, a hitman and the titular Irishman. He’s on screen for almost all of the movie and follows him throughout his life. With that said, the movie doesn’t necessarily do a whole lot of exploring of the character, and it’s on purpose. De Niro gives an incredibly subtle performance, he’s not as distinct as you’d think, and does at times almost seems like he is overshadowed by the cast surrounding him. However this seems to be the point, this is type of person that Sheeran was in real life. This is one of De Niro’s best performances, especially within the last hour, where he delivers some truly heartbreaking work. Al Pacino plays Jimmy Hoffa, and this is the best performance I’ve seen from him since the late 90s. Yes it’s showy and loud, and very much like some of his over the top performances in the 90s like in Heat, however that seems to fit Jimmy Hoffa, and he seems to have effectively captured the personality and character of Hoffa. Pacino isn’t just shouting the whole time, he also gives quite an emotional centre to his performance as well, especially with his very close connections to Sheeran, and also Sheeran’s daughter Peggy. Joe Pesci had been in retirement for years, so it’s amazing seeing him back on screen again, and he’s still got it. His other collaborations with Martin Scorsese have been angry, violent and profane filled characters, especially with their gangster movies together. This time his character of Russell Bufalino is a mob boss, who was known in real life as ‘The Quiet Don’, and he’s a lot more subtle here. He’s very controlled, calm and gave the impression of a man who carefully selects every word before he speaks. He actually comes across as friendly, and his friendship with Sheeran feels very genuine. At the same time there’s still a coldness that can be seen within him, and you never forget how dangerous he is. A lot of people cite Goodfellas as his best performance, I’ve always considered his work in Casino to be better. However after seeing this movie, I do believe that his performance as Bufalino is the best work of his career, and if this is indeed the last film that he acts in, then this is the perfect point to end it on.

The rest of the supporting cast is also good, with the likes of Ray Ramano, Bobby Cannavali, Jesse Plemons, and Harvey Keitel showing up briefly and doing some good work in their scenes. Stephen Graham is also a notable player during the movie, as Tony Provenzano, a notable Teamster, whose conflicts with Jimmy Hoffa play a part in the story. Graham was a scene stealer, and more than holds his own against actors like Al Pacino. Much has been said about the lack of female characters, and that the most prominent female character doesn’t have a lot of lines. That character is that of one of Frank Sheeran’s daughters in Peggy, played by Lucy Gallina as the younger version and Anna Paquin as the adult version. It’s been flying around that Paquin basically only had one line in the movie, and talking about her that way is a disservice to the movie, and to the performances. I’ve heard plenty of people saying that she could’ve been removed from the movie and you wouldn’t notice, I couldn’t disagree more. She might not be consistently focussed on like Jimmy Hoffa was in the movie, but she’s nonetheless a constant and significant presence throughout the movie. You don’t get to really know what kind of person Peggy is, because Frank doesn’t know who she is, he wasn’t close with her. What he does remember however are her looks towards him, and those looks are very telling and memorable, as she very clearly knows what he does for a living. The performances by the two actors is incredibly subtle yet powerful, as they convey so much with just a single glance.

Martin Scorsese directs this film excellently as expected. Sure, at first it’s not as crazy as Goodfellas and Casino, but that’s not just because he’s getting old and can’t do that or anything of the sort. His direction feels deliberately restrained, which was absolutely perfect for this movie. As previously mentioned, it doesn’t have a focus on excess and the violence is not stylised at all. Some can talk about how the colour palette isn’t remarkable, I just personally mark up that up to being the fact that it’s an old man looking back at his life through that lens. The cinematography on the whole was great, and Scorsese’s camera movements are remarkable, definitely a master of his craft. Even though his direction is definitely restrained, that’s not to say that The Irishman is without some style. Additionally, when some characters are introduced, text flashes on screen with their name, and how they died and when. Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing is great as usual, and The Irishman ranks amongst her best work on a Scorsese film. Without an editor at her calibre, this movie would feel even longer than it is, but she keeps everything moving from scene to scene. The music is well picked and fits the scenes they are placed in, as per usual for Scorsese. However unlike Casino and Goodfellas (noticing a trend here?), they aren’t quite as memorable, and are much more quieter, appropriate for the movie. Much of the musical highlights of the movie comes from the score by Robbie Robertson, whose score is great throughout. The main theme especially is sinister, and fits perfectly with the tone of the movie. Fittingly, The Irishman utilises silence very well, allowing for the characters to reflect and contemplate.

Time to address the elephant in the room, the CGI used for the de-aging or youthificiation of the main cast. I should note that I saw this on a screen at home on Netflix, not in a large cinema, and from that situation I definitely noticed a lot less problems through that experience. With that said, I’d say that it’s the best use of de-aging I’ve seen in a movie. Even the best use of de-aging in movies I’ve seen like in Blade Runner 2049, they’ve used it in brief moments and not for the entire movie. The closest was with Samuel L. Jackson in Captain Marvel, who was de-aged from start to finish. However The Irishman is a whole other level, with actors nearly in their 80s that need to look as young as their 30s or 40s at least. I know some people said that it would’ve been better to just cast younger actors for the parts, but considering that the entire film is about growing old, that wouldn’t have worked at all. The delay of making the movie if anything was a blessing, because by the time they made it, the de-aging technology had advanced much more than in the early 2010s. The CGI on Al Pacino and Joe Pesci looked pretty much perfect and seamless. In fact there’s a moment where Pesci looks like he was ripped out of the 90s, it was incredibly uncanny. Out of the 3 main leads, it was De Niro that suffered the most, in that early on looked it wasn’t quite perfect. It wasn’t bad it just seemed a little off. With that said, it didn’t bother me as much as it seemed to bother others, I wasn’t too distracted by it. Even if you are distracted by it, you settle into the movie relatively quickly. There is only one complaint I have about the de-aging, and it’s not about the visual effects, but more the movement of the actors. Obviously, they have to make it look like they’re younger men through the way they sit, walk, etc, and a lot of attention has definitely been put towards that, that’s great and all. Occasionally though, you’ll get a scene where you really see the actor’s age. The biggest example is a scene where Sheeran/De Niro beats up a guy in the first half an hour of the movie, the scene is captured mostly in a wide shot and his movements are clearly from a man in his mid 70s and it kind of took me out of the scene. So there are a few scenes where they probably could’ve handled it a little better, but thankfully it doesn’t happen too often.

The Irishman is yet another fantastic film from Martin Scorsese, and is firmly one of his all time best achievements. It’s restrained, reflective, and devastating, featuring great performances, especially from the of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, giving some of the best performances of their careers. There is a lot to take in with this movie, and I definitely intend to revisit it within the next month or so. If you can watch it on the big screen, take that opportunity. You don’t necessarily need to see it in a cinema to love it however, I really loved it with my setup. However if you do it in this way, even if you take a break during viewing, I implore you to not watch this movie over a number of days or anything. It may a Netflix movie but it doesn’t mean that it’s a mini series, it’s meant to be seen as a movie. With that aside, The Irishman sits firmly as one of the all time best films of the year thus far.

Ant Man and the Wasp (2018) Review

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Contains violence & coarse language
Cast:
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man
Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne/Wasp
Michael Peña as Luis
Walton Goggins as Sonny Burch
Bobby Cannavale as Jim Paxton
Judy Greer as Maggie
Tip “T.I.” Harris as Dave
David Dastmalchian as Kurt
Hannah John-Kamen as Ava Starr/Ghost
Abby Ryder Fortson as Cassie
Randall Park as Jimmy Woo
Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet van Dyne
Laurence Fishburne as Bill Foster
Michael Douglas as Hank Pym
Director: Peyton Reed

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is grappling with the consequences of his choices as both a superhero and a father. Approached by Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), Lang must once again don the Ant-Man suit and fight alongside the Wasp. The urgent mission soon leads to secret revelations from the past as the dynamic duo finds itself in an epic battle against a powerful new enemy.

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I was somewhat interested in Ant Man and the Wasp. I have to admit I wasn’t super hyped for the movie. Don’t get me wrong, I actually liked the first Ant Man, it was a simple but effective enough comic book movie that was quite entertaining. However with it being released after the juggernaut and emotional chapter that was Infinity War, Ant Man and the Wasp just felt a little off to release months after. Also I had a feeling that the sequel would just be more of the same, fun but nothing really that new. Nonetheless I was interested. Ant Man and the Wasp surprisingly worked very well for what it is, which is a fun and entertaining comedy.

Something that is quite apparent is that this movie is very focussed on being funny and entertaining. It’s like Marvel wanted a lighter movie following Infinity War, that could possibly affect your thoughts on Ant Man and the Wasp, for better or for worse. A problem which could happen with some MCU films is that while the comedy works, often times it would interrupt some more dramatic or emotional scenes. However with Ant Man and the Wasp, there aren’t a ton of emotional scenes, the most is related to Scott Lang and his daughter and Hope van Dyne and Hank Pym with Pym’s wife (played by Michelle Pfeiffer). So there really weren’t many emotional scenes to ruin with comedy. This movie might as well be called a straight up comedy and while I would’ve preferred some more emotional depth to the movie, it does well at what it sets out to do. A criticism of the movie is that it doesn’t have great consequences or stakes, like with the first movie the stake here are very small and personal and I’m completely fine with that. Even so, you don’t ever feel a sense of urgency, you felt it slightly more in the first movie but here you always just know that everything is going to be alright. It’s also rather predictable, with very rare surprises. Really the biggest spoiler of the movie is the credit scenes, you can’t really spoil most of the movie. It’s a rather straightforward superhero movie that doesn’t really do anything particularly surprising, it’s goal was for it to be fun and hilarious and it achieved that. The movie is about 2 hours long and from start to finish I was quite entertained. There are a couple credits scenes, the first is about something that everyone will want to watch following Infinity War, the second is okay but not necessary to watch.

Paul Rudd is once again great as Scott Lang/Ant Man, he’s just so likable and funny, and a real underdog character. It’s very easy to root for him, Rudd’s casting was perfect. It’s been a few years since I’ve watched the first Ant Man for the first time, but I remember him being a little less goofy in the original movie. While he’s not completely stupid or anything, they do put him in more goofy scenarios or make him do some somewhat goofy things, it’s like they were doing that to try to make Evangeline Lilly’s character of The Wasp stand out more in comparison, which wasn’t necessary as she would’ve done that perfectly fine on her own. Lilly as the Wasp is one of the standouts of the movie, she gets to do a lot here and the movie definitely utilises her well. I didn’t buy the sorta romance between her and Scott in the first movie and the same is here. It’s not constantly done again and again to the point of annoyance but it can be distracting at times and doesn’t really work. Michael Douglas is once again great as Hank Pym, perfect casting, here he gets to do even more than in the original movie. Michael Pena like in the first movie is very funny and has some great scenes. Other actors like Laurence Fishburne do their part. The villains often have a chance of being one of the weaker parts in MCU movies (or comic book movies in general), however with Black Panther and Infinity War earlier this year providing great comic book villains in Killmonger and Thanos, the MCU seemed to be making some progress in regards to them. The main villain in Ant Man and the Wasp is Hannah John-Kamen as the character of Ghost, who has unique phasing abilities which can lead to some entertaining action scenes. Also she does have a different backstory and credit from other MCU villains, you can really understand why she does the things she does here. For once the whole “this comic book movie villain isn’t really a villain” description actually applies, it could be argued that Ghost is more just an antagonist than a villain. It seems that all the main MCU villains this year have in common is that they all have strong and defined motivations. Ghost unfortunately isn’t a top tier level villain in the MCU but she’s a reasonably strong second tier villain. The biggest problem is that aside from her powers, the backstory, motivation and the performance, there isn’t enough of her as a character. She has just about enough screentime but it would’ve been a little better if they showed a little more to the character. With that said, the character was actually done well, with her arc being treated well, consistent throughout and not just being a throwaway villain. Also Hannah does do a great job in her role. She fared much better than Walton Goggins, who served to be as a leader of generic disposable henchmen. Goggins really is wasted here as a generic villain. He and his henchmen seem to only be in this movie because the movie needed a large amount of villainous characters that the main characters can fight because the main villain herself didn’t have any. Honestly if they were somehow connected to Ghost, maybe they could’ve worked in some way.

Peyton Reed turns from the first movie to direct Ant Man and the Wasp. The thing that really stood out about the first Ant Man was the unique action scenes that included resizing (mostly shrinking). The sequel really leaned into that more and they got very creative with the action scenes. Other visual aspects such as Ghost’s phasing ability are done pretty well. The visuals can look pretty stunning at times, especially when it comes to the Quantum Realm, which plays a part in this movie. On a side note, like in the first movie there is a flashback scene which utilises de-aging technology and once again it works effectively.

Ant Man and the Wasp is not anywhere near the top tier of Marvel but it is quite entertaining. The cast do well in their roles, it’s visually stunning with some entertaining action scenes and the movie is so fun. It does have its fair share of issues but it achieves what it sets out to do for the most part. If you really liked the first Ant Man, I’m pretty sure that you’ll have a good time with Ant Man and the Wasp.

I, Tonya (2017) Review

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Domestic violence, sexual violence, sex scenes & offensive language
Cast
Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding
Sebastian Stan as Jeff Gillooly
Allison Janney as LaVona Fay Golden
Julianne Nicholson as Diane Rawlinson
Caitlin Carver as Nancy Kerrigan
Bojana Novakovic as Dody Teachman
Paul Walter Hauser as Shawn Eckhardt
Bobby Cannavale as Martin Maddox
Dan Triandiflou as Bob Rawlinson
Director: Craig Gillespie

Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) rises through the ranks of competitive figure skating only to find disgrace when her husband (Sebastian Stan) tries to eliminate her rival.

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I, Tonya had my interest because of the cast (with Margot Robbie and Sebastian Stan), premise and the trailers. I wasn’t very familiar about Tonya Harding and going into it had a very vague knowledge about the incident with her and Nancy Kerrigan. I was expecting from I, Tonya great performances and I definitely got that. But I didn’t expect this to be one of my favourite films of the year. The style, the story, everything somehow worked together to make a great biopic that surprised me on many levels.

I, Tonya covers more than just the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan incident, it also covers Tonya’s life in chronological order, so we actually get to know her before “the incident” occurs. From start to finish it cuts to many of the characters/people in interview tapes who tell their side of the story, sometimes there are conflicting stories, especially between Tonya and her ex husband Jeff. One of the best strengths that the film has is that it is a dark comedy, it makes the film a lot more entertaining than if it just showed the events play out. The comedy somehow works and works seamlessly, it doesn’t feel forced at all. Some of the comedy comes from just how ridiculous some events were and how stupid many of the people were (particularly Tonya’s bodyguard played by Paul Walter Hauser). However, despite the comedy and entertaining style, it doesn’t hold back on a lot of the darker things that happened. A lot of it is quite hard to watch with Tonya having to deal with things such as abuse from both her mother and her husband, and of course the end of Tonya’s career because of the incident with Nancy Kerrigan. As someone who didn’t know a lot about Tonya Harding, let’s just say that events played out like how I didn’t think they would, so I was invested from start to finish, and barely anything took me out of the movie.

Margot Robbie has already proved herself to be a great actress in the past 5 years but with I, Tonya she has delivered her best work yet, she was absolutely phenomenal as Tonya Harding. Margot really transformed into Tonya and brought her to the big screen, a lot of the time you will probably forget that it’s Margot who’s playing her. While we don’t always agree with what Tonya does, we can understand why she does the things she does. There are particularly some scenes that Margot has in the last act which are some of the best pieces of acting that she’s ever done, particularly two certain moments. This is one of the best performances of the year for sure. Sebastian Stan really surprised me as Tonya’s ex husband Jeff Gillooly. Throughout the majority of the film I actually forgot that it was Sebastian Stan who was playing him. His performance shouldn’t be overlooked. Allison Janney is also incredible as Tonya’s abusive mother, she is a force to be reckoned with and steals every scene that she’s in. Although she has some moments which are funny, on the whole she is at times frightening in the way she acts towards Tonya, she really leaves a strong impact. Other actors like Julianne Nicholson and Paul Walter Hauser were also great and played their part well.

The direction by Craig Gillespie was solid, very stylistic. Some people have accused the film of stealing the style from Martin Scorsese’s many crime movies, often calling it Goodfellas on ice and I can see a lot of similarities and why they would say that. It breaks the fourth wall multiple times, many of the characters at times talk to the camera (especially when it cuts to present day in the interview room scenes) and there is a lot of narration. However, something about it just worked here that I didn’t mind that it was essentially trying to imitate a Scorsese style. The one aspect that didn’t work so well however was the use of music, at times the song choices felt a little on the nose and convenient and it was distracting occasionally. The ice skating scenes themselves were great, some of the ice skating was probably not done by Margot but at least for me, I thought they did a good job hiding that.

I, Tonya manages to bring to the big screen not only the story behind Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan incident, but also Tonya’s life story and it was done so well, better than I thought it would be. The way it was directed and portrayed was great and the performances from everyone, especially from Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan and Allison Janney were outstanding and some of the best of the year. One of the biggest things I can say about it is that I’m also pretty sure that Gillespie and the cast and crew have redefined who Tonya Harding is, she is no longer known as just the infamous ice-skater who “supposedly” had another skater’s knee bashed in. I, Tonya is one of the best films of the year and shouldn’t be missed.

Spy (2015) Review

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Spy

Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, Sexual References and Offensive Language
Cast:
Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe/Einar Wegener
Alicia Vikander as Gerda Wegener
Matthias Schoenaerts as Hans Axgil
Ben Whishaw as Henrik
Amber Heard as Ulla
Sebastian Koch as Dr. Warnekros
Director: Paul Feig

Despite having solid field training, CIA analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) has spent her entire career as a desk jockey, working hand-in-hand with dashing agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). Using high-tech equipment and a hidden earpiece, Susan is the guardian angel who helps Bradley avoid danger. However, when Bradley is assassinated by Bulgarian arms dealer Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), Susan wrangles her way into her first undercover assignment to help capture Boyanov and avenge Bradley.

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There have been a lot of spy movies this year, with Kingsman: The Secret Service, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Spectre and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Spy is another one of these movies and like U.N.C.L.E. and Kingsman, is a comedy, and a very good one at that. I haven’t watched any of Melissa McCarthy or Paul Feig’s other movies (Bridesmaids, The Heat) before but now I definitely want to. This movie is really entertaining from start to finish, with good performances, a great script and the movie never had any dull moments.

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When it comes to the plot it wasn’t anything special, someone who isn’t a field agent is forced to become one but despite that, it still worked for the film. The great thing is that they played with the usual plot set up, unlike a lot of films like Get Smart where the spy character isn’t exactly the smartest, McCarthy’s character is great at what she does, making the whole movie more enjoyable as well as fresh and new. With that said, you’re not going to be really focused on the plot, the film was mostly focussed on these characters in these situations and the comedy that insures. This movie is still a comedy and the humour is mixed in well into the movie, and all the actors have at least one great comedic moment in the film.

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This is the first Melissa McCarthy movie I’ve seen and I really liked her here. As I said earlier one thing I like about her character is that it’s not like Get Smart or Pink Panther where the main character is incompetent but yet saves the day (sometimes accidently). Her character here is actually capable and it was very entertaining to watch her be awesome, especially in the action scenes. The supporting cast which had Miranda Hart, Jude Law and Rose Byrne were also really good. The showstealer for me though was Jason Statham. His performance was sort of a parody on his previous action film roles, with him being super intense and overly serious (which he pretty much does in every movie he’s in). There is one moment where he has a monologue which I can only describe as multiple Chuck Norris jokes rolled into one and for me it was the funniest scene in the whole movie.

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The action scenes were actually really good, I haven’t seen The Heat so I don’t know if Spy is the first action movie Paul Feig directed but it was really good. What surprised me is that this movie actually works as an action movie, which really gave Spy even more credibility and separated it from other films with similar premises.

SPY - 2015 FILM STILL - Pictured: Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) clearly has eyes for her partner, superspy Bradley Fine (Jude Law) - Photo Credit: Larry Horricks © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox. All Rights Reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

Spy is a great action comedy movie and I think it’s really worth watching. I haven’t watched any of Paul Feig’s other movies but if they are anywhere near as good as Spy, I would really like to check them out at some point and from this movie alone, I think Paul Feig will deliver a great Ghostbusters movie coming later this year (even if the trailer doesn’t showcase it). From the smart writing, hilarious performances and of course the great comedy, there’s a lot to enjoy about it. Check it out if it interests you.

Ant Man (2015) Review

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Ant Man

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]Violence and Offensive Language
Cast:
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man
Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne
Corey Stoll as Darren Cross
Bobby Cannavale as Paxton
Michael Peña as Luis
Tip “T.I.” Harris as Dave
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon
Wood Harris as Gale
Judy Greer as Maggie
David Dastmalchian as Kurt
Michael Douglas as Hank Pym
Director: Peyton Reed

Armed with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, con-man Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) must embrace his inner-hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), protect the secret behind his spectacular Ant-Man suit from a new generation of towering threats. Against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Pym and Lang must plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.

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Ant Man has been receiving quite a lot of scepticism before its release. Not only was this concept hard to pull off but Edgar Wright’s separation from the project concerned many. Despite this, Ant Man manages to rise above all its potential problems and makes for a great and refreshing addition to the Marvel universe. Ant Man proves once again that Marvel can take a concept that is hard to pull off but actually manage to succeed in delivering.

Marvel's Ant-Man..Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)..Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal..© Marvel 2014

The first thing you need to know is that Ant Man is not a big movie. Go into Ant Man as if you are seeing a heist movie as opposed to a save the world type of movies like Age of Ultron. It’s actually kind of refreshing, it can get a little tiring being bogged down by the large scope and stakes of some of the big movies. It is also a very funny movie, this might actually be the funniest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (either this or Guardians of the Galaxy). Although Edgar Wright has left the project, you can tell from a lot of the scenes, writing and dialogue his work. I would’ve liked to have seen what Wright had in mind for this film but it is still pretty good. Peyton Reed has directed this movie quite well, despite my doubts of his choice of helming this movie. The last thing to know is that Ant Man has 2 credit scenes, so be sure to stick around for them.

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Paul Rudd is great in this film, this is probably the best performance I’ve seen from him so far. He really transitioned into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with ease and I look forward to seeing more of him as Ant Man. Michael Douglas was perfect casting as Hank Pym, it is one of his best performances in a while. Evangeline Lilly was also great as Hank’s daughter, I could really sense a lot of history between her and Michael Douglas. Michael Pena was great and he provided a lot of great comic relief. Villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (for the most part) aren’t that good and while Darren Cross, the villain of this film isn’t that fleshed out, its actor’s Corey Stoll’s performance that makes him one of the better antagonists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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Like with the script, you can definitely see Edgar Wright’s style here, like with its fast editing. The effects to show Ant Man shrinking look really great and the film really takes advantage of its opportunities to create some really great, entertaining and at times hilarious scenes. This film is actually worth watching in 3D, it really does enhance and make the experience much better and that’s not something I usually say about 3D movies. The climax of this film is very enjoyable and it gets very creative and entertaining.

I said in my anticipated movies of 2015 that if Marvel can pull off Ant Man and make it great, I’ll be pretty much sold on any movie that they make, no matter how ridiculous a premise it may sound. They have done that with Ant Man and have made it much more. Looking at this film (and the end credit scenes) I’m excited for Marvel’s next films. So far it looks like today, Marvel can do no wrong (well at least movies by in the Avengers universe).