Tag Archives: Donald Sutherland

The Undoing (2020) TV Review

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The Undoing

Time:
336 Minutes
Cast:
Nicole Kidman as Grace Fraser
Hugh Grant as Jonathan Fraser
Édgar Ramírez as Detective Joe Mendoza
Noah Jupe as Henry Fraser
Lily Rabe as Sylvia Steinetz
Matilda De Angelis as Elena Alves
Ismael Cruz Córdova as Fernando Alves
Edan Alexander as Miguel Alves
Michael Devine as Detective Paul O’Rourke
Donald Sutherland as Franklin Reinhardt
Noma Dumezweni as Haley Fitzgerald
Director: Susanne Bier

A therapist’s (Nicole Kidman) life unravels after she learns that her husband (Hugh Grant) might be responsible for a widespread disaster.

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I heard about The Undoing for some time, that it’s an HBO mini-series in the murder mystery thriller genre that starred Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant in the lead roles. I didn’t think much of it or have a particularly strong interest in it when it was released, but after it received some TV award show nominations, I thought I might as well check it out. Having watched all the episodes, I’d say overall that it’s decent, but not nearly as good as it could’ve been.

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David E. Kelley, who previously created and wrote Big Little Lies, is the writer and creator of The Undoing and you can definitely feel it. However, it’s not nearly as strong as that other show. The faults mostly lay in the writing, which is the weakest part of the show, though I wouldn’t say it’s bad. It’s decent enough and was enough for me to pay attention to what was happening. Some episodes played out on the slow side, particularly the first two, but I was never bored. This series doesn’t add anything new to the whodunit genre, nor does it do anything better, but it is alright for what it is. As to be expected in this kind of show, there are twists and turns, however I found most of them to be rather lacking in impact. There were maybe 2 twists that I didn’t expect, the rest didn’t really surprise me that much. The ending really sticks out at being very out of place. The last 10-15 minutes were tonally different and felt like they belonged in a completely different movie or show. Much of the story was already a bit far fetched, but it somehow manages to top that. It’s almost like they didn’t know how to really end the show, so they just threw in some random contrived and overblown climax which does nothing but leave the story on a very confused note.

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The Undoing is 6 episodes long and on one hand that sounds alright as that’s not too long (certainly made the idea of watching the show more appealing). At the same time, given how little ground they cover with the story and characters, it does feel like it could’ve just been one feature length film. With it being a 6 hour long mini series, I just expected more from it. The characters aren’t the most interesting or have the most depth, they felt rather thinly written. Another thing to note is what the mystery is building towards, mainly what happened with the murder at the centre of the show, as well as who the killer is. While I won’t spoil anything, the reveal was rather underwhelming. There were plenty of other more unexpected directions that they could’ve taken instead. With that said, even if they were to stick with the direction that they chose (possibly to be faithful to the book), they really could’ve added stuff to that to make it more interesting than it turned out to be. That also applies to the approach to the story, as a whodunnit it’s entertaining but not really surprising or unpredictable despite how hard they try. It’s a show build on red herrings, which isn’t necessarily bad, but the show doesn’t develop those well enough to have them leave an impact or keep you guessing. Potentially it could’ve had a more of a psychological approach, in fact the show is sometimes regarded as a psychological thriller. Although it starts off seemingly like a psychological thriller, by the time it reaches the halfway point that’s not what the show is. Alternatively, it could’ve leaned more into the campiness, as at times it felt like a pulpy thriller (though it unfortunately mostly seemed to be unintentional). That would’ve at least been more entertaining. Either of those approaches could’ve made the series more interesting or more entertaining, as a whodunit though, it’s just fine.

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Essentially, it’s the performances from the cast that carry this show. Nicole Kidman is in the lead role and she is really good. I do think that there are some problems with her character, it feels like there should be more to her character considering that the story is mostly told from her perspective. With that said, Nicole Kidman conveys the emotions necessary, and is quite good here. Hugh Grant is great as Kidman’s husband and a suspect in the murder at the centre of the story. Grant was his usual charming self at times, but also was a darker and more unlikable character compared to most of the role he’s known for playing. It’s the best performance I’ve seen from him, and he displays his immense range in this. Donald Sutherland is also great as Nicole Kidman’s father, he gets some moments to really shine. Noah Jupe also deserves some praise as the son of Kidman and Grant, really getting plenty of chances to stand out among the cast. Another performance worth praising is that of Noma Dumezweni as the defence lawyer for Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman, she was a standout in every single scene she was in.

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All 6 episodes are directed by Susanne Bier, and overall she did a good job with them. It’s good on a technical level, it is well shot and are mostly edited well. There are sometimes flashbacks from when characters imagine what happened, and I think the use of them were a little inconsistent and confusing, especially when it’s meant to be characters’ thinking about events which they haven’t seen themselves.

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The Undoing does enough to entertain for 6 episodes even if it’s not anything special in the genre. However, by the end it’s pretty evident it could be much better, mainly with the writing, and it’s a little underwhelming and disappointing in parts. With that said, it interests and entertains enough, it’s well made, and the performances are great and keep you on board. If you generally like these kinds of plots, then you’ll probably at least enjoy watching it.

Ad Astra (2019) Review

Time: 123 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Brad Pitt as Roy McBride
Tommy Lee Jones as H. Clifford McBride
Ruth Negga as Helen Lantos
Liv Tyler as Eve
Donald Sutherland as Colonel Pruitt
Director: James Gray

Thirty years ago, Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) led a voyage into deep space, but the ship and crew were never heard from again. Now his son (Brad Pitt) — a fearless astronaut — must embark on a daring mission to Neptune to uncover the truth about his missing father and a mysterious power surge that threatens the stability of the universe.

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Ad Astra was a movie I was looking forward to for a little bit. It sounded interesting from the small amounts of details I heard, I liked the cast involved, and the premise sounded like something I could get on board for. I also heard a lot about writer and director James Gray, although The Lost City of Z was the only movie I had seen from him. Nonetheless I wasn’t exactly sure what to really expect going in. Ad Astra is fantastic and amongst the best science fiction films released in recent years.

Despite being misleading, much of the trailers and marketing are vague about the plot, and I also think it’s for your benefit that you don’t know too much going in, so I’ll avoid some plot details. After hearing about how slow Ad Astra was, it surprised me in how it moved much faster than I thought it was. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely a slow moving film, and if you’re not invested with the plot it’s going to be a chore for you. The movie was only 2 hours long and it did feel like it was that long, in a good way. As it was, I was personally wrapped up in the story and what was going on. There was always something happening as lead character Roy goes from place to place towards his goal. What the trailers didn’t indicate that was that it’s a very personal intimate movie. Now with it being about a man trying to find his long lost father it can be assumed that it would involve some personal element, but despite how large scale the movie is, it really is an intimate. When people compared Ad Astra to Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now, they weren’t entirely off, in regards to the journeys that the lead characters go on. It’s a very haunting movie, whether it be the obstacles and other things that Roy encounters or his own personal journey. I also thought the movie ended perfectly.

Brad Pitt plays the lead character of Roy McBride and he’s fantastic in the role. His character is very cold and quiet, and as the events of the movie progress and he begins to learn certain things, that facade begins to deteriorate. He’s very much affected by his father, and things that happened before affected the way that he acts now. There are times where you hear voiceovers from Pitt about his feelings. It’s a very subtle yet powerful and believable performance, one of Pitt’s best work. The supporting cast is good, with Tommy Lee Jones (as Pitt’s father), Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler and Donald Sutherland providing some good work. However don’t expect to see a ton of them throughout. It’s really Pitt who’s at the center of everything, the story is heavily relying on him, thankfully he delivers.

James Gray has directed this movie immensely well. It is absolutely stunning with some outstanding visual effects, Hoyte Van Hoytema has done some great work here and it’s unsurprising that the visuals here rivals Interstellar’s. I won’t go into too much detail about the locations and scenarios that the movie presents and I’m fully aware that this is science fiction and set in the future, but there were times where it seemed like one of the more realistic portrayals of space on the big screen that I’ve seen in a while. You really felt the weight of everything that was happening. The movie is also very contemplative and allows some space for the movie to breathe, usually having Pitt narrate during these moments. Max Richter always produces some very powerful music, and Ad Astra is no exception, it really added a lot to the movie.

No, Ad Astra isn’t going to work for everyone. It’s slower paced, and the trailers seemed to indicate a slightly more action paced and larger scaled movie than it actually was. However I personally loved the movie. It’s a very character driven and personal storyline that I was invested in, directed wonderfully, and the cast were great (particularly Brad Pitt). It’s one of my favourites of the year thus far.

The Hunger Games (2012) Review

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The Hunger Games

Time: 142 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen
Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark
Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne
Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy
Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket
Lenny Kravitz as Cinna
Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow
Director: Gary Ross

Set in a future North America known as “Panem”, the Capitol selects a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each of the twelve outlying districts to compete in the annual “Hunger Games”, a televised fight-to-the-death. The film is centred on Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) – a 16-year-old girl from District 12, who volunteers for her 12-year-old sister, Prim, when Prim’s name is chosen – and Katniss’s fellow District 12 tribute, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), with whom she has some rather dramatic history. Katniss is then rushed to the Capitol, where she undergoes intense training before being thrust into the arena to fight to become the victor of the seventy-fourth annual Hunger Games.

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The Hunger Games is a decent movie and is much better than some of the other young adult book adaptations. However I do think that it is a little overrated. Although the acting is good and the writing is decent, the story wasn’t always engrossing and the action scenes are filmed shakily. Catching Fire greatly improved over the first film but The Hunger Games is still by no means a bad movie. It’s still worth watching if you haven’t seen it already but I don’t think it’s as great as others had said it was.

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I wasn’t completely sucked into the story but it was easy to follow and I was interested in what was going on. The movie was well balanced, with its character developing moments and the action. I also should probably give The Hunger Games credit for having a much darker tone than most young adult book movies. One problem I had with the movie that I wasn’t entirely attached to these characters (except for Katniss), so when certain things happened to them, (for example when certain people died) I didn’t really feel anything for them. I also didn’t really buy the forced love subplot between Katniss and Peeta, it comes out of nowhere, but that’s just a minor flaw of the movie.

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Jennifer Lawrence is great as Katniss, and is by far the most interesting character in the whole movie, which is funny when you consider the fact that Katniss really isn’t an interesting character. All of this comes from Lawrence’s performance, she makes her character interesting and believable. The rest of the cast like Josh Hutcherson and Woody Harrelson do quite well in their roles but I didn’t really remember them as much as Jennifer Lawrence. A problem I had was that some of the other children in the Hunger Games were just one dimensional and generically evil, but I think that’s more of a fault in the writing.

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The action of the film is the worst element of the film and it’s not because it’s poorly set up or anything because I like a lot of the ideas that they had. It’s all to do with the cinematography. It is so shaky and can get very annoying and incomprehensible. The cinematography of the rest of the scenes does look quite good. While I do take issue with the cinematography during the action scenes, the areas do look quite nice and authentic.

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The Hunger Games is a decent film which spawned a lot of other young adult adaptations, some of them better than others. This film doesn’t always succeed, its story wasn’t always interesting and the action scenes are at times incomprehensible. Despite its flaws, I still say it’s still worth watching if you haven’t seen it before. However Catching Fire improved upon this movie and fixed a lot of the issues that this film had, resulting in a great and much better movie.