Tag Archives: Cherry Jones

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.

Knight of Cups (2015) Review

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes, offensive language & nudity.
Cast:
Christian Bale as Rick
Cate Blanchett as Nancy
Natalie Portman as Elizabeth
Brian Dennehy as Joseph
Antonio Banderas as Tonio
Wes Bentley as Barry
Isabel Lucas as Isabel
Teresa Palmer as Karen
Imogen Poots as Della
Armin Mueller-Stahl as Fr. Zeitlinger
Freida Pinto as Helen
Cherry Jones as Ruth
Nick Offerman as Scott
Dane DeHaan as Paul
Thomas Lennon as Tom
Joel Kinnaman as Errol
Jason Clarke as Johnny
Katia Winter as Katia
Nicky Whelan as Nicky
Shea Whigham as Jim
Ryan O’Neal as Ryan
Joe Manganiello as Joe
Michael Wincott as Herb
Kevin Corrigan as Gus
Director: Terrence Malick

A writer (Christian Bale) indulging in all that Los Angeles and Las Vegas has to offer undertakes a search for love and self via a series of adventures with six different women.

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I remember waiting for this movie for a long time. I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of it as Terrence Malick is a very polarising filmmaker but after watching and liking Tree of Life (which was quite unconventional as a film), I thought that I had a good chance of enjoying it. I recently watched Knight of Cups and… I really don’t know what to think of it. It is beautiful looking and it has a lot of great actors in it but otherwise it really didn’t do anything for me.

Describing the movie is hard. The basic structure of Knight of Cups is split into segments where Bale interacts with particular people. I’ve only seen 3 of Malick’s movies, Tree of Life, Badlands and now Knight of Cups and I liked the last 2. Even Tree of Life, for how unconventional it was I liked it but most of all, I could actually somewhat understand parts of it. I’m not even sure what Knight of Cups is supposed to be about, I couldn’t connect to it. So with that connection to whatever Malick is going for being gone, it takes away so much from the movie. When I’m just watching all these talented actors just internally monologing some deep poetic speech while the camera just follows them and I don’t understand what its supposed to mean, you can see how I would find it frustrating and pretentious. Don’t get me wrong, Terrence Malick no doubt had some idea of what he was filming, he wasn’t just filming nice looking stuff and calling it art. But whatever he was going for, I didn’t get it at all. The film drags consistently and constantly, at times its borderline a parody of a Terrence Malick movie with how self indulgent it is. I find it very difficult to recommend Knight of Cups to anyone, unless you are a die hard Terrence Malick fan.

There’s not really much to say in terms of acting, whereas most of the characters in a film like Tree of Life had some sort of character, from what I can tell all the characters in Knight of Cups represent ideas or something. Christian Bale here is pretty much like Sean Penn in Tree of Life, except he’s the main ‘character’ and appears from start to finish. He doesn’t really at any point become a character and just feels flat, Bale barely gets to do anything to leave an impression. Supporting actors include Cate Blanchett, Wes Bentley, Antonio Banderas, Natalie Portman and Imogen Poots and while they are good in their ‘roles’, they don’t leave too much of an impression either. Some actors involved were straight up cameos with Jason Clarke and Joe Manganiello, and supposedly Dane DeHaan and Joel Kinnamon was in it as well (I have no idea where they were though). The only performance that really stood out to a degree was Cate Blanchett but even then she’s not in the movie that long.

This movie is shot beautifully like all of Terrence Malick’s films. The locations, lighting, colouring, all of that was great and was probably one of the only things I liked in the whole film. That’s honestly is the only thing that I can guarantee you’ll think with Knight of Cups, that it looks great. The film also seemed to have a dream-like feeling to it, and the score by Hanan Townshend also played a part in that.

Having finally seen it, I can see why Knight of Cups was so divisive. I’m not entirely sure I actually like it myself. And it’s not that I don’t like Terrance Malick as a director, I liked Badlands and Tree of Life, and the latter was very unconventional. I guess I just connected a lot more with Tree of Life than Knight of Cups, which is why with KOC, it really didn’t work for me. I guess the movie is beautiful looking and that’s somewhat enough for me to call it somewhat above average but only just. If you flat out don’t like Terrance Malick’s other films, you’d probably hate Knight of Cups. I’m going to try watching Song to Song sometime soon, and I’m just hoping that Knight of Cups was the most Malick film he ever made.