Tag Archives: Christian Bale

Harsh Times (2005) Review

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Harsh Times

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Contains violence,offensive language and drug use
Cast:
Christian Bale as Jim Davis
Freddy Rodriguez as Mike Alonzo
Eva Longoria as Sylvia
Tammy Trull as Marta
Director: David Ayer

Jim (Christian Bale) is a Gulf War veteran and he believes it is his sworn duty to protect Americans by policing the streets of Los Angeles. His dreams are shattered when he is rejected by the Los Angeles Police Department leaving him and his Mexican paramour in the lurch. Jim is soon offered a position in the Department of Homeland Security leading him to recruit his unemployed best friend Mike (Freddy Rodriguez) to carve a path of devastation across the city.

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Harsh Times was the only film from David Ayer I had yet to see. Although I know that much of the reception to much of his films has been mixed, I like most of Ayer’s other movies (with a couple of exceptions) and I’m a fan of Christian Bale, so I was looking forward to seeing what it would turn out to be, I wasn’t sure what to expect really. Harsh Times was reasonably okay, and I liked watching it, even with some of its glaring issues.

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The script is really the biggest issue of Harsh Times, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. You notice pretty early on that the dialogue is not exactly the strongest. I’ve noticed that in a lot of his written movies (with the exception of Fury, End of Watch and Training Day), the dialogue wasn’t all that great. That aside, it’s also not a movie where it’s easy to get invested in the characters. That’s mainly because there aren’t many (if any) morally good or likable characters in the movie, especially not Christian Bale’s character of Jim. They didn’t stop me from following it while watching it, but I never felt that close to the characters. I can definitely tell that it might turn some people off from it, but it didn’t affect my experience too much. At under 2 hours, it kept me reasonably interested from beginning to end.

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Christian Bale is an incredible actor, and while I wouldn’t rank his work here among his best performances (maybe just outside of the top 10), he’s still great here. While he could easily be an annoying character to have to follow (and with some not so good dialogue), Bale makes him work. He’s driving so much of the movie and holding things together. It may be well worth seeing Harsh Times just for his performance. Freddy Rodriguez was also good as the co-lead, who has almost as much screentime as Bale. The two of them are very convincing as friends, they share some great chemistry. They particularly gets to have some emotional moments towards the end. There isn’t much to say about the rest of the cast, but brief appearances from the likes of Terry Crews and J.K. Simmons were nice to see.

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David Ayer directed Harsh Times well, for a debut movie effort, he did a pretty good job. It’s not amazing, but it works well enough right for this story. It’s not a great looking movie by any means, but that sort of works for the gritty tone and story of the film. There is some slightly annoying editing when it comes to Bale’s character having some breakdowns. I get the point of them, and you don’t really see too much of it, but the way those moments were handled just felt a little over the top.

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Harsh Times is another David Ayer movie which works just fine. I thought it was pretty decent, Ayer directed it well enough, and the story was enough to keep me watching from beginning to end, even if I wasn’t invested in the characters all that much. It does have its very notable flaws however, mostly with regards to the script, and it isn’t one that you must go out and see immediately. However, I think it still might be worth checking out for Christian Bale’s performance at the very least.

The Prestige (2006) Review

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The Prestige

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Contains medium level violence
Cast:
Hugh Jackman as Robert Angier (The Great Danton)
Christian Bale as Alfred Borden (The Professor)
Michael Caine as John Cutter
Piper Perabo as Julia McCullough
Rebecca Hall as Sarah Borden
Scarlett Johansson as Olivia Wenscombe
David Bowie as Nikola Tesla
Andy Serkis as Mr. Alley
Director: Christopher Nolan

Period thriller set in Edwardian London where two rival magicians (Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman), partners until the tragic death of an assistant during a show, feud bitterly after one of them performs the ultimate magic trick – teleportation. His rival tries desperately to uncover the secret of his routine, experimenting with dangerous new science as his quest takes him to the brink of insanity and jeopardises the lives of everyone around the pair.

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I really liked The Prestige when I first saw it, I liked the acting, it was directed well by Christopher Nolan, and it was an interesting an twisty story. However it wasn’t like one of my favourite movies from Nolan, and I sort of just liked it. Watching it again made me love it however, and now it’s now one of my favourites films from him.

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This generally goes for every movie but especially for The Prestige, it really is worth going in not knowing too much, and in this movie it’s better not knowing anything at all. There are many twists and turns, better left to experience for yourself. The movie is driven by the rivalry between the two lead characters played by Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, and it’s really compelling and interesting to watch. It’s also such an original movie, I’ve seen movies of people rivalling each other, and I’ve seen a couple of movies about ‘magic’, but I’ve never seen a combination between the two before. It actually may be among Nolan’s most creative movies. On a first watch it’s really good, pretty intriguing throughout. Watching the movie on a second time is better however, you know the context of what really happened and notice certain hints that you didn’t pick up the first time. Also, you’re not spending time a lot of time trying to figure out what was going on and you really appreciate some of the foreshadowing and the like.

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Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman play the lead characters Alfred Borden and Robert Angier respectively, and they are both fantastic in their parts. The two are constantly up against each other, and both effectively play complex and morally grey characters, with their conflict driving the story. Michael Caine is also great, giving one of his best performances from a Christopher Nolan movie, with this being his most active role in one of Nolan’s movies to date. Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall also do work well enough in supporting roles. David Bowie also appears in a few scenes as Nikola Tesla, and he’s great in his part. Additionally, Andy Serkis plays Tesla’s assistant, Serkis always brings something to every role that he’s in and his part in The Prestige is no exception.

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Christopher Nolan directed this movie excellently as expected, clearly having a more than adequate handling of the story. Wally Pfister’s cinematography is great, and the movie perfectly sets you in the time period. The scenes of ‘magic’ were noticeably presented very well. Many people have compared to Nolan’s work (mainly here) to the magicians like in The Prestige, and that’s definitely fitting, with his use of misdirection, focus and the like to trick the audience, at least on the first watch. The music by David Julyan is also pretty good and worked for the movie, but wasn’t particularly memorable on its own.

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The Prestige is a fantastically put together movie, intelligent, original and engaging from start to finish. Written and directed excellently by Christopher Nolan, and performed greatly by its great cast, it’s definitely worth seeing. If you’ve just watched it once, definitely find some time to watch it again.

American Psycho (2000) Review

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American Psycho

Time: 101 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] contains violence, offensive language & sex scenes
Cast:
Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman
Willem Dafoe as Detective Donald Kimball
Jared Leto as Paul Allen
Josh Lucas as Craig McDermott
Samantha Mathis as Courtney Rawlinson
Matt Ross as Luis Carruthers
Bill Sage as David Van Patten
Chloë Sevigny as Jean
Cara Seymour as Christie
Justin Theroux as Timothy Bryce
Guinevere Turner as Elizabeth
Reese Witherspoon as Evelyn Williams
Director: Mary Harron

In New York City in 1987, a handsome, young urban professional, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), lives a second life as a gruesome serial killer by night. The cast is filled by the detective (Willem Dafoe), the fiancé (Reese Witherspoon), the mistress (Samantha Mathis), the coworker (Jared Leto), and the secretary (Chloë Sevigny). This is a biting, wry comedy examining the elements that make a man a monster.

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With it being just after its 20th anniversary, I thought it was worth watching American Psycho again. I liked it when I saw it, it’s a great movie. I’d probably now consider it to be one of my favourite films of all time. While it was a little polarising upon its release, it became quite a cult classic over time, and is now widely held in high regard. Dark, satirical, over the top and hilarious, it has become one of my favourite movies.

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Now on the surface, it seems like a disturbing horror thriller about a serial killer. You really can’t watch this movie as a straight up thriller however, because it’s not that at all. This film is a dark comedy and has some over the top ridiculous moments, so you can’t take this movie too seriously. It’s very much a satire, especially of 80s Wall Street Yuppie Culture. With viewings after the first one however, it works much better as you pick up even more details that the movie has that you didn’t realise on the first viewing. The ending is a little ambiguous and is easily debatable. I know of a couple of different interpretations of the movie, and without going into it, both versions give the movie layers, making it more than just a darkly funny movie about a narcissistic serial killer. The use of voiceover is pretty much pitch perfect, showing Patrick Bateman’s innermost thoughts, often to hilarious effect. The writing is very strong, and has incredibly quotable dialogue. From what I heard, the book written by Bret Easton Ellis was way more violent and controversial than what the movie showed, and based on some things I heard about it, writer/director Mary Harron and co-writer Guinevere Turner managed to get the right material from it and make the best movie possible. At an hour and 40 minutes long, I was entertained from beginning to end.

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Christian Bale gives possibly his best performance to date as lead character Patrick Bateman. He brought this character to the big screen excellently, and completely embodied him. He was absolutely hilarious and absolutely magnetic on screen. The movie is very reliant on him being great, as he’s at the front of the movie from beginning to end, from the deliveries of lines, the comedic timing, and he definitely brought it. Taking on this role was such a big risk for Bale at this point in his career, in fact he was advised that playing it would be career suicide. However, the risk paid off, and it launched his career even further. It’s basically impossible picturing anyone else in the role of Bateman. There was a case where Leonardo DiCaprio nearly replaced Christian Bale, and as great of an actor that DiCaprio is, I can’t see him or really any other actor delivering what Bale did here. Other actors like Willem Dafoe, Reese Witherspoon and Jared Leto do well in their supporting roles.

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Director Mary Harron directs this movie and she did an excellent job. She managed to capture the feeling of the 80s really well with her direction, especially when it came to the excess. Speaking of the 80s, the music choices were fitting and the use of it in the movie worked perfectly. The violence is bloody and over the top but often times its cartoonish, and most of the time is easily funny, especially when watching much of it on multiple viewings.

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American Psycho is a movie that gets better the more you see it. A dark comedy, excellently written and directed, with a career best performance from Christian Bale at the centre of it, it’s one of my favourites. 20 years later it still holds up quite well. If you haven’t seen it, check it out, especially if you are a fan of dark comedies.

Ford v Ferrari (2019) Review

Time: 152 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby
Christian Bale as Ken Miles
Jon Bernthal as Lee Iacocca
Caitriona Balfe as Mollie Miles
Tracy Letts as Henry Ford II
Josh Lucas as Leo Beebe
Noah Jupe as Peter Miles
Remo Girone as Enzo Ferrari
Ray McKinnon as Phil Remington
Director: James Mangold

American automotive designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and fearless British race car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary vehicle for the Ford Motor Co. Together, they plan to compete against the race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966.

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Ford v Ferrari was one of my most anticipated movies of 2019. With director James Mangold (Logan, Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma) helming this and with a cast that included Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Jon Bernthal and more, there was a lot of talented people involved. With that said, I wasn’t necessarily interesting in racing or race cars, so I wasn’t hyped because of the premise, but I was still interested for the talent involved in it. I actually liked this movie a lot more than I thought I would, what could’ve been a standard racing biopic is elevated immensely by the direction and the acting.

Just to preface this review, I’m not really interested in cars or racing or anything like that, nor did I have any prior knowledge of the real life events. Thankfully it’s still reasonably accessible to those people like me, you can still follow along with what’s going on without being too bored or confused. The first half of the movie is the whole creative process, and I think most of us can be interested in that if it’s handled well, whether fully understand everything that’s going on or not. The last third act for the most part is a massive racing sequence, and it’s quite a rewarding experience. In many ways, Ford v Ferrari is a standard biopic, and at times it definitely feels like it. However it was injected with quite a bit of humanity. While I’m aware that a lot of biopics also have those manufactured emotional moments placed to make the audience care a little bit about the characters, I think Ford v Ferrari does just enough for it to elevate it above most similar movies. Ford v Ferrari is rather long, it’s 2 hours and 30 minutes in fact. While the pacing is generally good and faster than you’d think it would be, I still feel like it could’ve been a little shorter. The early portions are fine but after the initial setup, that’s when the movie really picks up. A very small gripe but we don’t exactly get a sense about how much time has passed. We are told that they have 90 days to build the car but the way the movie progresses, it feels like it didn’t take more than a month.

The performances are really good, and Ford v Ferrari has quite a talented cast. Matt Damon and Christian Bale are great, and they share some convincing onscreen chemistry together. Bale particularly is great, and a real scene stealer throughout. You have some solid work from the supporting cast as well. Jon Bernthal is really good here, he’s a prominent supporting character, and thankfully gets far more screentime than he receives in most of his movies where he’d usually get up to 10 minutes max. Other actors like Josh Lucas and Tracy Letts also play their roles well.

So I said earlier about how Ford v Ferrari is really a standard biopic at its core, however a big reason why it worked so well was James Mangold’s direction. The movie is basically perfect for what it’s trying to be on a technical level. It’s a good looking movie, and they captured the time period and setting really well. And that’s even before I talk about the racing scenes, which you can probably tell are among the highlights of the movie. The racing scenes are engaging, tense and really gripping, it’s very well filmed and it really allows you to see everything and never becomes confusing. It seems that very little CGI was used. This movie cost just under $100 million and you can definitely feel it throughout, they seemed to have utilised that very well. The score by Marco Beltrami does well to helps raise the tension even further.

Ford v Ferrari may not reinvent the genre and you can probably guess 95% of the plot beats or the structure, but I can’t deny that I still had a good time watching it. What made it stand out so much was the performances (especially from Damon and Bale), but also James Mangold, who gives such humanity and energy to what could’ve just been a mediocre biopic at best, and making it something great. If you’re just looking for a racing movie with a bunch of racing tense driving scenes, the whole movie isn’t won’t be like that, but you’ll definitely get your fix here. If you’re like me and aren’t particularly interested in cars or racing, I’d still say that you can get invested in the movie and it’s well worth checking out.

Vice (2018) Review

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Christian Bale as Dick Cheney
Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney
Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld
Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush
Alison Pill as Mary Cheney
Lily Rabe as Liz Cheney
Tyler Perry as Colin Powell
Jesse Plemons as Kurt, the narrator
Director: Adam McKay

Gov. George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) of Texas picks Dick Cheney (Christian Bale), the CEO of Halliburton Co., to be his Republican running mate in the 2000 presidential election. No stranger to politics, Cheney’s impressive résumé includes stints as White House chief of staff, House Minority Whip and defense secretary. When Bush wins by a narrow margin, Cheney begins to use his newfound power to help reshape the country and the world.

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Vice (once titled Backseat) was one of my most anticipated movies of 2018. Along with the cast being talented with the likes of Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell involved and it being about Dick Cheney, it would be Adam McKay (who directed The Big Short) who would be taking on this movie about the notorious Vice President of George W. Bush. Despite hearing some early positive buzz, when the full reception of the movie came out, it was pretty divisive, one of the most divisive films of 2018 in fact. I happen to be in the camp of people who liked Vice, even though I get why it didn’t quite work for some people.

Adam McKay wrote the script for Vice and having watched The Big Short somewhat recently you can feel it. Now the movie is based on a true story and title cards at the beginning it makes pretty clear at the beginning that Dick Cheney is a very secretive person and that they tried their hardest to get their information about what happened. I heard some criticisms of the movie being that it’s very biased and intending to be very scathing towards Dick Cheney, I disagree. I knew going in that Adam McKay is a very political person, and he’s already made his opinions on Bush, Cheney and the entire Bush Administration pretty clear. With all that said, McKay seemed to restrain himself from just making the whole film just a hit piece on Cheney, while it is very opinionated and clearly against him, it also attempting to give some humanity to the controversial politician. At the same time though, it’s not trying to glorify him. Naturally as this movie is about politics, it’s going to divide some people with things that are said and how things are portrayed, it’s a given really. As a movie I was pretty interested in what was going on. It really covers Dick Cheney’s life in politics, so this includes his early stage work in the White House, before he’s Bush’s running mate in the 2000s. I think I should point out that despite the title, it’s really the second half of the movie that covers Dick as Vice President, and that’s where it picks up. I get that given this is a biopic about him they needed the first half to show where he got his experience, but I wouldn’t have minded if they picked up the pace a bit. While I wouldn’t say I was bored in the first half, there were portions where I was kind of wanting it to just jump to the Bush/Cheney stuff pretty quickly. The movie is 2 hours and 10 minutes long and while I don’t necessarily think that it should’ve been shorter, I wish that it got to the Bush Administration sooner. The second half is way more compelling and interesting, and that’s where the more hard hitting facts come into play. In terms of criticisms with what was portrayed and what was not, I do feel like they don’t spend enough time with the 9/11 bit. It’s definitely there, but it actually doesn’t stay on that extremely crucial and historical moment for long.

Vice had one of the best trailers of the year, however it implied that it would have a lot more comedy than there ended up being. Some of the humour can be absolutely absurd and it won’t work for some people, it did for me though. The comedy is here to make processing some of these events and facts easier. For one, this movie is pretty political based, and people generally are understandably bored by politics. I will say that I understood more here than with The Big Short, but that might just be because I can follow politics better than the economy. The other reason for the humour is that Vice is a lot darker than you think it would be. From the trailer you would think that it would just be rundown of what Dick Cheney did and that it’ll list off what happened as a result. While it is that and more, it also shows the consequences of his decisions, and I mean like they recreate events. For example there might be a scene where Cheney makes some decisions which might result on people being bombed and it would show glimpses of said bombing happening (the same could be torture, war, etc). Despite the comedy, it’s used more sparingly than you may think. The Big Short had quite a bit of comedy while highlighting a lot of tragic aspects, with Vice there’s much less comedy. I feel like using the comedy makes the harder and more troubling moments hit even harder, because you’re not bracing yourself for how bad things are going to go next. If you feel frustrated, angry or disturbed learning about all of these facts, Vice is kind of doing its job. As for more about how this is all told, I’ll get to that when I talk about the direction of the movie. Side note but Vice also a mid credits scene… a mid credits scene which is unnecessary and didn’t quite work. I get the intention behind that scene but it felt very heavy handed (even for Adam McKay) and was a little silly and not in the right way. The reference to a certain popular action franchise in the last line of the entire movie didn’t help things much either. So no, you aren’t missing much if you leave after the credits start to roll.

Vice has a fantastic cast that all work together great. Christian Bale here gives one of his best performances in his entire career, and considering his acting talent and his endless track record of fantastic performances, that’s saying a lot. Not only does he physically transform into Dick Cheney with yet another large weight gain (he really should stop doing that soon), he just embodies him completely. Even though I haven’t seen a ton of video footage of the real Cheney, the way Bale acts seems exactly like him. It would be easy for any actor to over rely on the weight gain, makeup and transformation, however he uses it to enhance his performance. The way he speaks (out of the corner of his mouth and with a very low voice), moves, all of that felt so much like Cheney. It’s not a showy performance at all, appropriately given the person he’s portraying, it’s a very quiet performance, you can tell even when he’s not saying a single word that he’s thinking and scheming about something. I know that it’s been said many times in the past with plenty of performances, but I forgot so many times that it was Bale playing Dick Cheney (I’m referring more so in the latter parts of the movie, he’s pretty recognisable earlier on). Now I have seen some people complain that the movie doesn’t go into a deep dive into Cheney as a person or necessarily explain him, given that Vice is a biopic about him. Once again I’ll refer to the beginning of the movie how it mentions that Dick Cheney is incredibly secretive, so really there was only so much that one could actually find out about him. Really when it comes to showing what kind of a person he is, you have to look at his actions in the movie and the ways he does them, those things sort of painted a picture of what Cheney really was. One of the best performances of 2018 for sure.

Amy Adams plays Lynne Cheney, the wife of Dick, who actually played a big part in his success. She was actually involved a lot more in the movie than I thought she would be. Adams as usual brings her A-game to this role, I don’t know if I’d consider this to be necessarily one of her all time best performances but it a good performance nonetheless. Steve Carell is charismatic and entertaining as Donald Rumsfeld, who acted as Secretary of Defence for both Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, and is a delight when he’s on screen. Then there’s Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush who is hilarious when he’s on screen. The portrayal basically leans in more that Bush was really incompetent and was manipulated by Cheney and others. I just wished that we got more of Rockwell, he really shows up in the second half of the movie and doesn’t as much screen time as I would’ve liked. Other actors like Tyler Perry who plays Colin Powell are also great in their roles. Something that also should be discussed is Jesse Plemons is as the narrator of the movie, who you see in person quite a lot throughout the movie, talking to the camera. Plemons is an overlooked actor worthy of a lot more recognition and he does a really good job here, really keeping your attention whenever he’s present. There’s a big mystery to his character in his relation to Dick Cheney, and I can certainly say that the reveal was rather unexpected. I’m not exactly sure how I felt about it though. The reveal felt rather pointless, it doesn’t exactly tell us anything new, it’s just surprising that’s all. It might’ve just been better to have Plemons as a random guy narrating everything that happened than actually giving him a role in the story.

Adam McKay’s direction of The Big Short was pretty unique and actually worked quite well to tell the story and explain everything rather well (even though there was a bunch of things that I still don’t understand even after watching it twice). However, he takes his odd brand of filmmaking to the next level with Vice. This might be the most unorthodoxly directed political movie and biopic I’ve seen, especially with regard to the editing. Along with the political baggage, this direction is what will really polarize and divide a lot of people. As for how the story is told and all that, I decided to hold off talking about it till I was talking about the direction, because the two aspects kind of interlink with each other. As previously mentioned the film is narrated, and there is a ton of narration, and there is a ton of explaining everything to the audience. As much as I prefer that they would show rather than tell, it’s pretty hard getting across so much information and having the general audience understanding it. So I don’t see it as McKay condescending and treating people like they’re children, it can be very difficult for most people to understand politics or really be that interested in it, its rather mundane. McKay does some weird choices of portraying scenes, some of it being for humour. For example there’s a scene where both Dick and Lynne have a scene where every line they had was like Shakespearian (this instance it was more done for humour). Things like this at least keeps things interesting as you’re wondering what absurd thing McKay will somehow add in next (Galactus somehow makes an appearance). In that sense, quite a lot of the movie is satirical, and the whole movie seems to bounce between being a straight up serious political biopic with some comedic bits, to a full on absurdist satire. This can be very jarring but it worked for me, even though it can be quite messy at times. As the film covers 3-4 decades, there is a lot of makeup used and it worked really well, mostly being used on Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Steve Carell.

Making a movie about Dick Cheney is not easy but Adam McKay really pulled it off, even though it won’t work for everyone. The performances are nothing short of fantastic, and the way that the story was told was very effective, at times funny, but also very hard hitting. Vice is an unorthodox film for sure but I think it’s better with this direction than without it. I do think that Vice is worth watching at least for the performances, though I’m not quite sure how you’ll feel about the rest of the film.

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018) Review

Time: 104 Minutes
Cast:
Rohan Chand as Mowgli
Matthew Rhys as John Lockwood
Freida Pinto as Messua
Christian Bale as Bagheera
Benedict Cumberbatch as Shere Khan
Cate Blanchett as Kaa
Tom Hollander as Tabaqui
Andy Serkis as Baloo
Peter Mullan as Akela
Naomie Harris as Nisha
Eddie Marsan as Vihaan
Jack Reynor as Brother Wolf
Louis Ashbourne Serkis as Bhoot
Director: Andy Serkis

Human child Mowgli (Rohan Chand) is raised by a wolf pack in the jungles of India. As he learns the often harsh rules of the jungle, under the tutelage of a bear named Baloo (Andy Serkis) and a panther named Bagheera (Christian Bale), Mowgli becomes accepted by the animals of the jungle as one of their own, but the fearsome tiger Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) doesn’t take a liking to him. But there may be greater dangers lurking in the jungle, as Mowgli comes face to face with his human origins.

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Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (originally titled Jungle Book: Origins) was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. With the direction of Andy Serkis, the involvement of actors like Christian Bale, Benedict Cumberbatch and Cate Blanchett, but most of all a darker and more accurate to the source material adaption of Jungle Book, I was curious about the movie. While not quite great, Mowgli is a solid movie that’s well worth the watch.

It’s difficult to talk about this movie without mentioning Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book, which was pretty much a direct live action adaptation of the animated movie. I will be making some comparisons between the two but I will refrain from talking about which version I prefer. Ultimately both versions are great for what they are. Although I never read the original Jungle Book stories, from what I can tell Mowgli is a much more accurate adaptation of it. The movie is much more darker and while it doesn’t necessarily creep into R territory, there are definitely some scenes that a lot of children will be scared by. That’s not to say that there aren’t some light moments, its just that you won’t see Baloo signing “Bear Necessities” or anything like that. The characters are also rather different from what you remember in the previous Jungle Book movies. For example, Baloo is a grumpy bear who lived closely with the wolves with Mowgli grows up being mentored by him instead of encountering him for the first time during the story, and Kaa isn’t really a threat to Mowgli. The events and focus of the story are a bit different as well, while Mowgli meeting other humans played a small part in the other versions, here it plays a more larger part. So for those who wonder whether it’s just the same movie with a dark filter, it’s not. The movie is an hour and 45 minutes long and from start to finish I was actually liking it quite a bit. This doesn’t necessarily make it better than Favreau’s version but I really liked the dark tone that they went with, and the darker and scarier moments feel earned and not forced at all. The one thing with the story that I didn’t like so much is that it has a very abrupt ending, just a scene or two more and it would’ve improved it much more.

First of all worth talking about when it comes to acting is the titular Mowgli, played by Rohan Chand. Much of this movie relies on him being great and he really was. He was great at the very physical scenes and he was also great at the more emotional parts of the role. There is a reasonably large talented cast involved in the motion capture as well. The cast includes Eddie Marsan, Naomie Harris, Peter Mullan, Tom Hollander and Jack Reynor who are all great. However some stood out more than others. There is Christian Bale as Bagheera, with a bit of different take on him, who’s great. Appearing in front of the camera as well as behind was Andy Serkis who plays Baloo. Again, different take on Baloo and Serkis is an expert when it comes to motion capture, so it’s no surprise that he’s great here, a real scene stealer. Benedict Cumberbatch already played a motion capture role with Smaug in the Hobbit movies and here also plays Shere Khan. Whereas Idris Elba in Favreau’s Jungle Book was an intimidating and menacing force to be reckoned with, Cumberbatch’s feels like a monster or a demon, who is made all the more threatening by his voice. I do wish that we got a little more of him though but he owns every scene that he’s in. Cate Blanchett as Kaa was great. They seemed to have taken inspiration from Favreau’s Jungle Book by having Scarlett Johansson voice Kaa instead of a male actor, and both versions actually worked well with this. However Mowgli’s version works much better for the sheer fact that we get Kaa for more than one scene. We don’t get a ton of her but she steals the scene when she appears, and Blanchett’s voice adds so much to her, giving Kaa a sort of mysterious presence.

Andy Serkis handles this movie well as director and it really looks visually stunning. Unlike the 2016 Jungle Book movie, Mowgli uses motion capture. This makes the characters appear more expressive and really enhances the performances of the actors, and as I said before the performances are great. Most of the time it is great, however there are some character designs which look bizarre and don’t work at all with some of the animals. The lighting compared to The Jungle Book from 2016 is darker but it works for the tone of the movie.

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is solid but I can understand why it was put on Netflix. It was only released a couple of years after the last Jungle Book adaptation, and also it was quite dark, which would no doubt mean that it wouldn’t have that much interest from the general audience. I personally found it to be a well made and different take on the familiar story, and is worth seeing at the very least for the visuals. No matter your thoughts on other The Jungle Book movies, I do recommend at least checking out Mowgli.

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.

2016 Oscar Predictions

When you look at it in the grand scheme of things, movie awards really don’t matter. There are plenty of movies that should win but don’t, some of them don’t even get nominated, and there are some movies that don’t really deserve to win, but win anyway. So no matter what happens during the awards ceremony, it doesn’t really matter. But still, it’s fun to predict what movies will win and at the same time state what you think should win. Since everyone else is doing it, I decided to give my predictions for the 2016 Academy Awards. I have watched most of the films in the major categories but occasionally there’s a movie like The Hateful Eight which I can’t or just haven’t seen, so just keep that in mind.

* – Haven’t seen yet

BEST PICTURE

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The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room*
Spotlight

Will Win – The Revenant
Should Win – The Revenant
Should’ve Been Nominated – Carol

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Best Director

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Adam McKay – The Big Short
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro G. Iñárritu – The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson – Room*
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

Will Win – Alejandro G. Iñárritu – The Revenant
Should Win – George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should’ve Been Nominated – Todd Haynes – Carol

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BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

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Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Will Win – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Should Win – Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

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BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

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Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room*
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years*
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Will Win – Brie Larson, Room
Should Win – Cate Blanchett, Carol
Should’ve Been Nominated – Rooney Mara, Carol (instead of being nominated for supporting)

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BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

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Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Will Win – Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Should Win – Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Should’ve Been Nominated – Benicio Del Toro, Sicario

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ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

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Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight*
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Will Win – Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Should Win – Rooney Mara, Carol

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BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Left to right: Steve Carell plays Mark Baum and Ryan Gosling plays Jared Vennett in The Big Short from Paramount Pictures and Regency Enterprises

The Big Short
Brooklyn
Carol
The Martian
Room*

Will Win – The Big Short
Should Win – The Big Short
Should’ve Been Nominated – Steve Jobs

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BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

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Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina*
Inside Out
Spotlight
Straight Outta Compton*

Will Win – Spotlight
Should Win – Spotlight
Should’ve Been Nominated – The Hateful Eight*

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ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

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Anomalisa*
Boy and the World*
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie*
When Marnie Was There*

Will Win – Inside Out
Should Win – Inside Out

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BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Bridge of Spies – Thomas Newman
Carol – Carter Burwell
The Hateful Eight – Ennio Morricone
Sicario – Johann Johannsson
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – John Williams

Will Win – The Hateful Eight
Should Win – The Hateful Eight
Should’ve Been Nominated – Mad Max: Fury Road – Junkie XL

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BEST SOUND EDITING

Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win – Mad Max: Fury Road

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BEST SOUND MIXING

Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win – Mad Max: Fury Road

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BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

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Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Will Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should’ve Been Nominated – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

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Carol
The Hateful Eight*
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Sicario

Will Win – The Revenant
Should Win – The Revenant
Should’ve Been Nominated – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

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Mad Max: Fury Road
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared*
The Revenant

Will Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win – Mad Max: Fury Road

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BEST COSTUME DESIGN

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Carol
Cinderella
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

Will Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win – Mad Max: Fury Road

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BEST FILM EDITING

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The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Spotlight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should’ve Been Nominated – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

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Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will Win – Mad Max: Fury Road
Should Win – Mad Max: Fury Road

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So what are your thoughts, what do you think will win, what do you think should win and what do you think should’ve been nominated? Comment below and let me know your predictions for 2016.

The Big Short (2015) Review

Left to right: Steve Carell plays Mark Baum and Ryan Gosling plays Jared Vennett in The Big Short from Paramount Pictures and Regency Enterprises

The Big Short

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive Language and Nudity
Cast:
Christian Bale as Dr. Michael Burry
Steve Carell as Mark Baum
Ryan Gosling as Jared Vennett
Brad Pitt as Ben Rickert
Director: Adam McKay

When four outsiders saw what the big banks, media and government refused to, the global collapse of the economy, they had an idea: The Big Short. Their bold investment leads them into the dark underbelly of modern banking where they must question everyone and everything.

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The Big Short is a movie that interested me because of the great cast and director, and also because of all the awards it was being nominated for. After seeing it I can say that The Big Short is a really good movie that manages to portray a pretty complicated and significant event in history. It has excellent acting, smart writing and does well in explaining what happened with the collapse of the economy. The movie doesn’t always get everything right in the latter aspect but what they get right, they really get right.

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Director Adam McKay has been mostly known for comedies like Anchorman and Step Brothers but with The Big Short he made his start in drama and I think he did a good job. One of my main concerns going in was the fact that the film needed to explain complicated concepts to the audience, and it could leave the audience lost if not done right. Fortunately the film make it easier through various means such as breaking the fourth wall (a lot of the time with Ryan Gosling’s character), and by doing things like having celebrity cameos explain complicated concepts. I didn’t understand everything that was going on but I got the general idea, so just know going in that you likely won’t get everything that they explain. There are so many characters in the movie that at times it is pretty easy to lose track, however like the concepts, I could get the general idea of who they were and what they were doing.

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This cast is huge and A-list. Christian Bale is really good as the guy who basically discovers that the collapse of the economy will happen. You don’t see him as much as some of the other actors but he is great when he’s on screen. Steve Carell gives one of his best performances yet, proving that his dramatic turn in Foxcatcher wasn’t just a one off. Ryan Gosling was also great in this movie, we don’t really get much insight into his character but he was entertaining, even if I would’ve liked if the film explored his character more. Brad Pitt has a small role and doesn’t have a lot of screen time but he is good when he’s on screen. All the other supporting actors do a good job in their roles as well.

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The camerawork at times could be a little shaky and handheld, sometimes it worked and other times it was a little distracting. Apart from that I really like the style that McKay used, it’s fast, entertaining and energetic but it’s not stealing the style from The Wolf of Wall Street. The transitions in time periods I thought also was a nice addition, by intercutting lots of clips of key events that happened in history between the previous event and the event it was jumping to.

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Although The Big Short at times does misstep with some aspects like the camerawork isn’t always the best and not all the concepts were completely understandable, for the most part The Big Short gets it right, with great writing, excellent performances, a good style and its overall a really good movie. Even if I couldn’t understand everything that was going on, the fact that it managed to get me to understand at least some of the concepts in a movie is worth praising alone. Definitely check this movie out when you get a chance, but know going in that it will be a little more technical and complicated than you would initially imagine.

American Hustle (2013)

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American Hustle

Time: 138 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld
Amy Adams as Sydney Prosser
Bradley Cooper as Richie Dimaso
Jeremy Renner as Carmine Polito
Jennifer Lawrence as Rosalyn Rosenfeld
Director: David O. Russell

In 1978, a brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who along with his equally cunning and seductive British partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to work for a FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Richie makes a deal for them to help him nab four additional white collar criminals for their ultimate release without charges. Their initial target is Camden, New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), who is trying to revitalize Atlantic City as a gambling mecca, which requires an influx of investments in the millions. DiMaso pushes Irving and Sydney into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia. Irving’s unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down.

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David O. Russell has made another great movie. With a masterful script, great performances and the ability to transport the audience into the 1970s, American Hustle is a great movie. It is a movie that will entertain you, surprise you and overall, it’s a movie that is really enjoyable to watch.

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The script by David O. Russell is absolutely fantastic. The story goes from a range of tones, from being hilarious to being quite tense. There was never a moment where I could predict where the movie would go next. Not making a comparison here, but there were moments in the movie that were reminiscent of Goodfellas, especially with the narrations. The narrations are actually done by multiple people here, which is a risky move but David O. Russell managed to pull it off. There are some flashbacks for some characters and they are tied in and edited very well. Every scene seemed to be interesting and entertaining. All of the characters had layers and go to many places with many emotions, which is made even better with the fact that their actors really understand them.

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Christian Bale is the best he has been in years, physically transformed himself by gaining a ton of weight. It’s not just the weight though; Bale gives really embodies the character that David O. Russell wrote completely. Amy Adams here is the best that I’ve seen her. Bradley Cooper is also really good here, and this just might be his best performance; it’s a tossup between this and Silver Linings Playbook. Jeremy Renner is also really good here giving one of his best performances. Jennifer Lawrence stole every scene she was in, despite her not being in the movie as much as the previously mentioned cast. There is also a surprise cameo that I won’t spoil, which is when the main characters are dealing with the mafia. The actors really played off each other really well and completely embody their characters, giving some of the best performances of their careers.

Jennifer Lawrence;Jack Huston

The film really manages to make the setting feel like the 70s as well as L.A. Confidential managed to make its setting feel like it’s in the 50s. The hairstyles and costumes are really distinctive and fit the time period. The cinematography was in the style of Goodfellas, sometimes the film has longer takes, especially through narrations and it fitted the style they were going for. The soundtrack also really suits the time period and are perfect for every moment that the songs were put in.

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American Hustle is an entertaining and unpredictable movie that is at least worth a watch. There are many people who walked out of this movie, not understanding the hype that most people gave it, so I won’t guarantee that everyone will love it. However at least for me, this is an enjoyable movie, filled to the brim with great performances, excellent writing and overall ends up being a great movie.