Tag Archives: Connie Britton

Promising Young Woman (2020) Review

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Promising Young Woman

Time: 101 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence, deals with rape and suicide
Cast:
Carey Mulligan as Cassandra “Cassie” Thomas
Bo Burnham as Dr. Ryan Cooper
Alison Brie as Madison McPhee
Clancy Brown as Stanley Thomas
Jennifer Coolidge as Susan Thomas
Laverne Cox as Gail
Chris Lowell as Al Monroe
Connie Britton as Dean Elizabeth Walker
Director: Emerald Fennell

Nothing in Cassie’s (Carey Mulligan) life is what it appears to be — she’s wickedly smart, tantalizingly cunning, and she’s living a secret double life by night. Now, an unexpected encounter is about to give Cassie a chance to right the wrongs from the past.

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Promising Young Woman was one of my most anticipated movies of 2020. From the trailer it looked interesting and bold, and Carey Mulligan looked like she was going to be fantastic in the lead role. Despite it being released a bit later than was originally planned, I actually did manage to watch Promising Young Woman in cinemas and I’m glad I did. Promising Young Woman is stylistic, provocative, excellently made and acted, and it is one of the best movies of 2020.

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I won’t say too much about the plot itself, because the less you know going in, the better the experience will be for you. The script from Emerald Fennell was great, I was invested for the entire of its runtime of 113 minutes. One thing worth noting is that the trailer is quite different and not quite representative of the movie. It’s not nearly as violent as I expected it to be (it was given a R18 in New Zealand). However, it was also more disturbing than I expected it to be. It is a little hard to categorise this movie, but the most accurate description I could give is that it is a dark drama and comedy with some thriller elements. The tone does jump all over the place sometimes, but for whatever reason, Fennell pulls it off. It was entertaining and funny at many points, and there’s even a prominent romantic subplot. At the same time the story is still very dark, and a lot of disturbing things happen in it. With the subject matter alone, I can see it potentially being a bit triggering for some people, so keep that in mind before watching. For the most part you don’t really see anything graphic, but rape and sexual assault are nonetheless very prominent aspects of the movie. I’ve seen some people call the movie a bit shallow and honestly I can see why to a degree, even though it was handled much better than I was expecting.

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While Promising Young Woman is sort of a revenge movie, it’s a bit different from what you’d expect from it, taking some aspects in different directions. It might have you a bit confused in its first act as you try to figure out what’s happening, who the main character is, what is she doing, etc. I was on board with the movie throughout, but at a certain point it becomes much more mature and asks questions about the protagonist in a great way. With regard to the main character, the film does not demean her motivations, but it definitely asks if any of the things that she does is actually solving anything. It does slow down towards the middle of the film, but I still liked watching it. Then there’s the elephant in the room, the one aspect that could make or break the movie for many, the third act and particularly the ending. Without going into it too much, the ending goes in quite a different direction compared to the rest of the movie, and will be polarising for some people. Now I must admit that through certain circumstances, I already knew of the ending going into the movie, so it wasn’t as shocking for me like it was for others. Having said that, watching the movie from the perspective of someone who knew what was going to happen, to a degree I felt that it was the inevitable conclusion from looking at the overall story and the lead character. With that said, I can definitely see why some people take issue with it.

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The casting of everyone was pitch perfect. Carey Mulligan gives quite possibly the best performance of her career as lead character Cassie, she was the perfect person to play this role. She covers such a range of emotions over the course of the movie, and there’s even moments where it’s almost like she switches between 2 different personalities in a single scene. The trauma that is a living part of Cassie’s life (which I won’t reveal) doesn’t feel forced when the viewer watches Mulligan act. There’s a lot of nuance to it, and it isn’t just sadness vibes to reflect her trauma. Overall, Carey Mulligan gave such a thrilling, complex performance, she completely owned the role and understood the character so well. The supporting cast really brought so much to the table to make this film work as well. Bo Burnham is surprisingly great as Cassie’s boyfriend. Even if his character’s fairly predictable from a plot perspective, Bo makes the character his own and has excellent chemistry with Mulligan. Clancy Brown and Jennifer Coolidge were funny as Cassie’s parents, and their scenes helped fill out her character in a satisfying way. Other cast members like Alison Brie, Alfred Molina and more also do well in their few (but vital) scenes.

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It’s not just the script from Emerald Fennell that was great, it was her direction of the movie too. This is her debut feature film, and it’s definitely a bold and impressive debut at that. Promising Young Woman is meticulously directed on all fronts. First of all, visually it’s absolutely stunning. The visual element of this film is intoxicating, and Fennell seems to have an already established style that feels signature to her. The use of colour is particularly fantastic. Fennell didn’t overlook one production element down to the set design, to the costume design. The sound design was great and stood out too surprisingly, seeing this in a theatre emphasised this and allowed me to really experience it. The use of music and the music choices themselves are fantastic across the board. The amount of well timed needle drops and the sound mix came together to put you directly in Cassandra’s headspace. For example, there’s one moment where it features a violin rendition of Brittany Spears’s Toxic, and it added so much to the scene it was included in.

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Promising Young Woman is an unpredictable, well crafted, shocking, and timely movie. It’s excellently written and directed, and the casting is perfect, with Carey Mulligan giving her best performance yet. Now it’s for sure one of the most controversial and polarising movies of 2020, and it won’t work for everyone, but I think it’s one of the best movies from that year.

Bombshell (2019) Review

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Bombshell

Time: 109 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language & sexual references
Cast:
Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly
Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson
Margot Robbie as Kayla Pospisil
John Lithgow as Roger Ailes
Connie Britton as Beth Ailes
Rob Delaney as Gil Norman
Mark Duplass as Douglas Brunt
Liv Hewson as Lily Balin
Allison Janney as Susan Estrich
Director: Jay Roach

When Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) slaps Fox News founder Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) with a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, not a soul could predict what would happen next. Her decision leads to Fox News correspondent Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) coming forward with her own story, as well as multiple other women, inciting a movement that reverberates around the world.

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I remember hearing about Bombshell for a while, it was about the sexual harassment in Fox News (specifically about Roger Ailes) and starred Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie in the lead roles. As trailers started being released however, I was starting to be a little concerned about it, especially how the movie looked like a comedy (the use of Billie Eilish’s ‘Bad Guy’ certainly didn’t give off the right vibe. Now a movie about this subject could work, taking on sexual harassment in a work environment such as Fox News. It’s hard to pull off, but if executed well, could result in a truly great and insightful movie. Bombshell is not that movie.

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One of my worries was that Bombshell was going to be a comedy on the whole. Now there wasn’t as much comedy as I thought there would be, but I do wonder if that’s because what they intended as comedy didn’t exactly produce much laughs and I just didn’t pick up that they were jokes in the first place. The thing that immediately comes to mind to this movie is the fact that this is Fox News, and of course people aren’t so into the idea of a movie following people who work at Fox, which is understandable. The movie isn’t necessarily pro Fox News, but it doesn’t full on take on them either. All the shots that they take at Fox are used in jokes, so they felt rather toothless and weak. There’s plenty of deserved criticisms about some of the prominent people at the centre of this story, but they were still victims, and their story still needed to be told. When it comes to the sexual harassment scenes, it’s fittingly uncomfortable, but that’s not exactly an achievement considering that it should feel uncomfortable. To address the elephant in the room, Bombshell is written by the writer of The Big Short (Charles Randolph), and you really feel that. Now I liked The Big Short, but with this movie it really does feel like someone did a half baked attempt at that form of storytelling. There is a lot of explaining to the audience, and that didn’t turn out so well for this movie. This style could potentially work for a movie taking on Fox News on the whole, however for one with sexual harassment as the focus, it doesn’t fit at all. People have talked about how this movie should’ve been written and directed by a woman, given the results here, women behind both roles definitely would’ve resulted in a much better movie. On the whole, Bombshell a real drag to watch, and unfortunately it’s not just because of the difficult subject matter. Lack of entertainment aside, it moves a such a slow pace and not a lot happens in the movie, with the movie not even grabbing your attention all that much. After thinking about Bombshell for a while, I just came to a realisation. This movie is just a whole lot of talking about what happened, sprinkled occasionally with deliberate shocking and disturbing moments about sexual harassment. Most annoying of all, there’s no deeper dive or complexity to it all (not with the people or at Fox), it’s all very surface level and basically a recap of what we mostly already knew happened. Even as someone who didn’t a ton about the story, I didn’t come out of Bombshell knowing much more than before I watched it.

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If there’s one reason to watch this movie, it is the performances. Charlize Theron is great here, managing to embody Megyn Kelly so believably, really great performance. A lot of the other acting is overplayed to some degree, but Theron feels grounded throughout. Nicole Kidman is not getting the awards attention that her co-leads are receiving, but she was quite good as Gretchen Carlson, who made the lawsuit on Roger Ailes. It actually made me wonder why Carlson wasn’t the lead character of the movie instead of Kelly. Margot Robbie plays a composite character, and I didn’t know what to think of that. Part of me got the impression that Robbie’s character might’ve been created because they wanted to have a main character who they could show directly harassed in a scene by Roger Ailes, but maybe I’m just reading too deep into it. Robbie generally acts well in her role, and she gets a couple great moments in the last act or so. John Lithgow plays Roger Ailes, and he played him uncomfortably well, really unpleasant and unsettling to watch when he’s on screen. At the same time, he scarily enough seems like a real human being, Lithgow did a great job on his part. There’s not much to say about the rest of the cast, they can be quite over the top and deliberately performed like a parody at times, but they’re fine enough.

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I’m not too familiar with Jay Roach, I know he made the Austin Powers movies and I’ve seen his last movie Trumbo. Many people have been saying that Bombshell has been heavily inspired by the directing of Adam McKay’s movies, and I can sadly confirm this. From voiceovers, breaking the fourth wall, cameos of people you may know of, you get the drill. Bombshell solidified that no one should be making Adam McKay-like movies other than Adam McKay himself. Now I personally liked The Big Short and Vice quite a bit, if you didn’t like them though, I think that you’d really dislike Bombshell. The camerawork was also documentary-like, and with the office taking up most of the prominent locations in the movie, it made you feel like you’re in an episode of The Office. It really didn’t serve to make the movie better, it just made it distracting and obnoxious to watch. Every time it zoomed in on someone, it gets just a little more annoying, and there are a lot of zoom ins. The visual style is so bland and uninteresting, and the movie relies so much on its visual style, unfortunately there’s not many appealing aspects here. What’s worse is that the style is not even that consistent, for example you only get the fourth wall breaks a few times, making you wonder why they did it at all. With so much of the directing and storytelling choices, it makes you wonder why they didn’t just make a documentary. The only aspect on a technical level that I can really give praise to is the great makeup, from making Theron look like Megyn Kelly and Lithgow like Ailes.

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Bombshell is a very mixed bag to say that least, and it’s a very hard movie to recommend. This topic is not pleasant to sit through (and it shouldn’t be), but it’s also more of a drag, and on top of that you don’t really learn that much from the movie (unless you’ve never heard of the story before) and doesn’t go deeper as it could’ve, also with some questionable writing and direction choices throughout. At the same time, the performances from Theron, Kidman, Robbie, and Lithgow are great, so maybe watch the movie if you really want to see their work here.

 

American Ultra (2015) Review

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American Ultra

Time: 96 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language & drug use.
Cast:
Jesse Eisenberg as Mike Howell
Kristen Stewart as Phoebe Larson
Topher Grace as Adrian Yates
Connie Britton as Victoria Lasseter
Walton Goggins as Laugher
John Leguizamo as Rose
Bill Pullman as Raymond Krueger
Tony Hale as Peter “Petey” Douglas
Director: Nima Nourizadeh

Small-town stoner Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) spends most of his time getting high and writing a graphic novel. What Mike doesn’t know is that he was trained by the CIA to be a lethal killing machine. When the agency targets him for termination, his former handler activates his latent skills, turning the mild-mannered slacker into a deadly weapon. Now, the utterly surprised Mike must use his newfound abilities to save himself and his girlfriend (Kristen Stewart) from getting smoked.

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American Ultra was a movie I was interested in ever since checking out the trailer, and I thought it would be interesting to see Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart in this sort of action movie. After seeing it I can say that this movie was a lot of fun and I think it should’ve gotten more love and attention than it received. The actors was great, the writing was good, the action is fast paced and it was quite a fun and entertaining movie. It’s not anything special but it’s worth checking out if you find it interesting.

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Just a heads up, even though this movie is marketed as a stoner comedy action movie, American Ultra really isn’t that. The two main characters are stoners and that’s about it, so don’t expect Pineapple Express. The writing for this movie by Max Landis is what really makes this movie great. Even though the movie is silly and has some over the top moments, it’s serious and takes its characters seriously enough and gave them enough development that it makes us care about what is going on and the characters, it’s not a complete cartoon. But at the same time the movie is fun and its enjoyable seeing Eisenberg and Stewart in all of these situations. This movie isn’t one of the best action movies ever made but this movie knows what it is, and for what American Ultra was going for, it achieved it.

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Jesse Eisenberg was really good in this movie, I know that a lot of people have pointed out that usually he acts the same in every movie he’s in but his acting surprisingly really worked for this film and his character. Kristen Stewart was also great, and proved with this film as well as Still Alice that she actually is a good actress. I think she’s repairing her career and starting to get good roles in movies after Twilight really damaged her career. Both of them had great chemistry with each other and also are believable in the action scenes. I felt that Topher Grace did his part as the villain but I felt that he was a little over the top, probably a little miscast. Other supporting actors like John Leguizamo and Walton Goggins also did well in their roles.

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I really liked how the action scenes were filmed and choreographed. They were fast, thrilling, bloody and all around entertaining. Of course they are all over the top and very silly at times, but it still doesn’t go full Shoot Em’ Up or Commando levels of ridiculousness and as I said earlier, American Ultra doesn’t go so left field that it becomes a cartoon and you do actually care about what is going on.

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American Ultra isn’t a film that’s essential to see, it can be very over the top and silly but if you are into action films and are looking for a fun time, it’s a pretty entertaining watch. Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart were really good and worked well with each other, the writing was good, the action was fun and the movie is all around really entertaining. It’s not a great movie and it won’t go down as one of the best action movies of all time but it’s a fun movie, and I do think it’s worth a watch.