Tag Archives: Cory Finley

Bad Education (2020) Review

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Bad Education

Time: 108 Minutes
Cast:
Hugh Jackman as Frank Tassone
Allison Janney as Pam Gluckin
Geraldine Viswanathan as Rachel Bhargava
Alex Wolff as Nick Fleischman
Rafael Casal as Kyle Contreras
Stephen Spinella as Tom Tuggiero
Annaleigh Ashford as Jenny Aquila
Ray Romano as Big Bob Spicer
Director: Cory Finley

The beloved superintendent of New York’s Roslyn school district (Hugh Jackman) and his staff, friends and relatives become the prime suspects in the unfolding of the single largest public school embezzlement scandal in American history.

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I heard of Bad Education a little while ago, it is an HBO movie about an embezzlement scandal that takes place at a school with a cast featuring Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney and Ray Romano. However, what really got my attention of this movie is that it was directed by Cory Finley, who made the great Thoroughbreds some years ago. Bad Education didn’t disappoint, it was greatly written and directed and everyone performed their parts well.

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Bad Education is based off a true story, and while I wasn’t familiar with the real-life details, it definitely was an intriguing story which made for an interesting and entertaining movie to watch. The script from Mike Makowsky was great and felt quite fresh, with some naturalistic dialogue, the tension being raised over the course of the movie, and the third act really delivering. The movie also does feel quite grounded and real, which worked to its benefit. It’s darkly comic too, balancing comedy and drama with its distinct tone. On top of showing things going on behind the scenes at the school with the teachers involved, it also shows it from the perspective of a student (played well by Geraldine Viswanathan) who exposed the embezzlement scandal publicly, and I thought that aspect was handled well too. We do get a little bit of her home life and motivations but it does feel like they could’ve afforded shown more of it. Speaking of things they could’ve added, for as great as it was, I think the third act could’ve been a bit longer and less rushed. Additionally, some storylines could’ve had a little more time spent with them so they felt a little more complete (especially Allison Janney’s who mostly vanishes from the movie once her story is done in like the first half). Bad Education is just under an hour and 50 minutes, and while it’s generally paced well, I think an additional 5-10 minutes would’ve made it a little better. These are minor complaints however.

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The performances are great and really carry this movie, everyone brought their A game to their parts. Leading Bad Education is Hugh Jackman, who is truly outstanding in this movie. He was perfect for this sort of role as a beloved and likable superintendent of the school, and he actually sort of gets you to root for him even though he’s doing illegal things in the movie. You can really understand his perspective and why he does what he does. All in all, I’d say that it’s one of Jackman’s all time best performances, and given his career that is saying a lot. The supporting cast all perform greatly too, including Allison Janney, Ray Romano, Geraldine Viswanathan, Alex Wolff, and Rafael Casal.

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Bad Education is directed well by Cory Finley, with this and Thoroughbreds, he’s shown himself to be a more than capable filmmaker. His new movie isn’t quite as overtly stylised as his first movie, but it’s nonetheless filmed very well, especially considering that it is a TV movie. It’s shot very well, the visual presentation added a lot to the general feel of it. I liked the use of music too, especially the score from Michael Abels.

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Bad Education was a really solid and grounded crime drama. It’s directed well, the script is great, and there’s some great acting from its talented cast. Definitely watch it when you get a chance. I’m really looking forward to seeing more movies from Cory Finley, he’s shown himself to be a real talent to watch with his two films.

Thoroughbreds (2018) Review

Time: 92 Minutes
Cast:
Anya Taylor-Joy as Lily Reynolds
Olivia Cooke as Amanda
Anton Yelchin as Tim
Paul Sparks as Mark
Francie Swift as Mrs. Reynolds
Director: Cory Finley

Childhood friends Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Olivia Cooke) reconnect in suburban Connecticut after years of growing apart. Lily has turned into a polished upper-class teenager who has a fancy boarding school on her transcript and a coveted internship on her resume. Amanda has developed a sharp wit and her own particular attitude but all in the process of becoming a social outcast. Though they initially seem completely at odds, the pair eventually bond and hatch a plan to solve both of their problems.

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Thoroughbreds was one of my most anticipated films of 2018. There was quite a lot of buzz for it already but with Anya Taylor-Joy, Olivia Cooke and Anton Yelchin involved, I was especially hyped for it. Thoroughbreds had actually been out for quite a while in other countries but for some reason didn’t come to New Zealand cinemas. I finally found a way to watch it and having seen it, I can say that it lived up to the hype. Thoroughbreds is a unique and darkly comedic thriller that is really effective and deserves more love and attention.

The script by Cory Finley was originally written for the stage and you can definitely feel that, from the movie being very dialogue driven, to the staging of certain scenes, and it the fact that the movie has title cards separating the film into chapters. Admittedly the movie is a little slow at first but that’s really the only criticism I have. Thoroughbreds is a dialogue heavy movie and the dialogue itself is sharp, strong and really works. It is also a darkly comedic movie, so it’s entertaining despite it being about two girls plotting to murder one of their stepfathers. The script is very well written overall by Finley. Thoroughbreds is about an hour and 30 minutes long, which was a good length overall, aside from the early moments I was fully into the movie.

Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke were absolutely fantastic as the leads, they share perfect chemistry. You really buy them as estranged friends reconnecting, with both of them being similar but different to each other. Cooke’s character doesn’t feel anything and is borderline sociopathic and Taylor-Joy’s character is a narcissist who isn’t quite how she initially appears. It’s interesting watching these characters interact, as they reveal hidden layers of themselves and change over time. While Cooke initially is more the standout at the beginning, as the film progresses Anya really shines as we see more layers to her character and when she makes certain decisions. It’s the little the little subtleties that she shows that particularly makes the performance work so well. The supporting cast are quite good but the stand out is Anton Yelchin. This is sadly the last performance of his career, and honestly this might one of his best performances, he stole every scene he was in. Here he plays a low time drug dealer who Anya and Olivia’s characters blackmail, and Yelchin is very funny and he plays his role so well. He is very much a supporting actor, and you don’t see him a ton, but he was nonetheless great in all of his scenes. All 3 performances were excellent really.

Cory Finley did pretty well for a directorial debut. The cinematography is sharp and really is great. At times the way its staged does almost make it feel like a play, which makes sense considering how the script was already written. The soundtrack is full of beats and other weird noises which only builded up the tension and vibe of the whole movie. As the film continues on you can really feel the tension growing, which of course is helped by the script, dialogue and performances.

Thoroughbreds has a great script, fantastic performances from Anya Taylor-Joy, Olivia Cooke and Anton Yelchin and is a solid directorial debut by Cory Finley. I feel like this little unique movie will become more beloved as it gains more attention. At the moment I think it’s one of the best films of the year and I definitely think that it is worth checking out.