Tag Archives: Florence Pugh

Black Widow (2021) Review

BLACK WIDOW

Black Widow

Time: 133 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova
David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian
O-T Fagbenle as Rick Mason
William Hurt as Thaddeus Ross
Ray Winstone as General Dreykov
Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff/Black Widow
Director: Cate Shortland

Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy, and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

After playing a large role in many entries in the MCU, the character of Black Widow is finally getting her solo film… and it only took 11 years after her first appearance back in 2010 with Iron Man 2. I will admit that I wasn’t the most excited for the film, of course for the fact that it feels a little late given how long she’s been around and hasn’t received a movie of her own. Then of course there’s the fact that the character died during Avengers Endgame, and so having a film take place earlier on in the timeline feels almost a bit in vain and pointless. In the lead up to Black Widow however, I was sort of looking forward to it. This is partly because of being back to see more movies in the cinema but also probably because it was originally meant to come out a while ago, so I’m just glad for it to be finally here. Black Widow was about as good as I expected it to be, with some of the unfortunate problems that I expected it to have, but also surprising in other areas. Overall I enjoyed it.

black-widow-marvel-cinematic-universe-future

Plotwise, the movie isn’t anything special, but I was interested to see how it played out. For what it is worth, Black Widow does feel a bit different in terms of the MCU movies. It is something of a spy and espionage movie, and does have some Captain America: The Winter Soldier vibes, which is good as it was one of my favourite movies in the MCU. Of course with this being Black Widow’s solo film, this allows us to learn about her past. The movie introduces us to Natasha Romanoff’s “family” in the characters played by Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz and David Harbour. This adds a backstory to Natasha’s life before SHIELD showing a side of her we hadn’t seen before. With that comes themes about dysfunctional and unconventional families as expected and I really liked that aspect. There’s a surprising amount of quiet moments that I did not expect, and moments of people just talking. I don’t see this a downside. The first half was probably the strongest part of the movie, without getting into it too much, the opening was especially good. However around the halfway point it starts to decline a little, when it gets into the third act where it has a pretty standard and generic MCU climax. I know that this is typical for most MCU movies but it stands out more in Black Widow because it feels at odds with the rest of the movie. It really pulls you out of it and it’s rather disappointing.

Melina-Natasha-and-Yelena-Black-Widow-2021-black-widow-43656552-2048-1536

In terms of other writing issues, Black Widow is yet another victim of MCU movies having way too many (and poorly timed) quips and jokes, which end up being at odds with the rest of the movie. There are scenes that are serious and quite dark and then some other scenes which are really comedic and played for laughs, and they don’t gel together. The humour occasionally worked but some of them ruined some sentimental moments or felt forced. It makes the tone feel all over the place. I do have some other issues, part of it was the intent of it being made and the context of the film. This movie takes place right after Captain America: Civil War where Black Widow is on the run, Civil War was released 5 years ago and that’s when the movie should’ve been released. If you showed this movie to someone who are just catching up in the MCU right after they saw Civil War and told them that it was also released in 2016, they would probably believe you. So it almost feels pointless watching it now, especially as you know that Black Widow is going to survive the whole movie. Then to a degree it doesn’t feel we’ve learned a whole lot about Natasha. We’ve learnt some of her backstory but not much necessarily about her as a character. Then there’s the feeling that it was made mainly to introduce another character in the MCU more than actually being for her, like it’s not really her movie. A lot of the film was a setup for Yelena Belova which I’m not necessarily hating as her character is one of the highlights. However it didn’t quite feel right with Natasha/Scarlett Johansson being sidelined in her own movie. It needed to work as a proper sendoff for the character and for me it didn’t do that. There is a mid credits scene, which I think is worth sticking around for.

G0pRpQd

The cast were one of the highlights of the film. Before this movie, the closest that Scarlett Johansson has gotten to be a lead in a MCU film as her character of Black Widow was in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a co-lead. So here she finally gets to be in the forefront. I will say that this is definitely her best performance as the character if only because she’s the lead this time (sort of), and generally she’s pretty good here. Florence Pugh is the standout of the movie as Yelena Belova, she’s great, she’s hilarious, and steals every scene she’s in. I’m looking forward to seeing more of her in other MCU projects. David Harbour and Rachel Weisz are also really good, rounding out the rest of the “family”. The interactions between the main family were pretty strong and believable, especially between Johansson and Pugh. The film really suffers from the weak villains, it’s an MCU film so not really a big surprise. Ray Winstone effectively plays the main villain as the head of The Red Room, the main antagonists of the movie. I will say it is refreshing to see a more straightforward evil villain as opposed to yet another attempt at making a sympathetic villain. However despite how much the movie builds him up as a big threat, we don’t really see enough of him for him to make an impact. Usually people in these scenarios would to fix this by compensating by giving the lead villain a strong henchman to have the main antagonistic focus. Which brings me to Taskmaster, who in this movie effectively serves as a Winter Soldier stand in, hunting Black Widow. In the comics Taskmaster is an assassin who mimics people’s fighting styles and that aspect is certainly here. I’m not going to pretend that I particularly care about comic book accuracy. However Taskmaster did feel underwhelming here, somewhat adequate in the action scenes but that’s it, certainly not as impactful as the Winter Soldier was in the second Captain America movie. There is a reason provided behind why the character exists so it isn’t just a random assassin or a robot, but we are not given nearly enough time with them. Even the reveal doesn’t go down well enough to create a memorable impact. Ultimately Taskmaster was more of a sidekick to the main villain, and a rather forgettable one at that. As for the identity of Taskmaster, I figured it out surprisingly early on.

BBU-10078_R-1625601543

Black Widow is directed by Cate Shortland, and on the whole I think she did a good job, it’s very well shot and put together. The action is generally quite good. A lot of the hand to hand combat is great with some stellar fight choreography, and the sound design really helping with that. It may well be the most brutal MCU movie with regards to the action, you do feel the impact of some of these fight scenes. Where the action suffers is in the third act, with explosions everywhere, over the top scenes, and a whole lot of CGI thrown in. While other MCU climaxes have certainly been more overblown than here, the fact that it’s in this particular movie with very different first two acts makes it feel really out of place. The visual effects are mostly fine and when it gets to the third act they look messy. I’m not going to pretend that it does anything particularly egregious by MCU standards, but it is quite unfortunate to see them fall back on that yet again. The score by Lorne Balfe is pretty good, mostly standing out in the action scenes. Another thing worth mentioning is that this movie actually has opening credits, as in there’s a montage towards the beginning of the movie that’s a credits sequence featuring the names of the main cast and other people who worked on it. Honestly that was rather nice to see in a franchise that hasn’t used them, and this sequence at least tonally gives a hint of it possibly being quite different as a Marvel movie.

black-widow-film-2021-01

Black Widow does have a lot of issues. It is 5 years late, it doesn’t feel like Black Widow’s movie and isn’t quite the sendoff that she deserves. The humour is at odds with the darker story and tone the movie is going for, as is the overblown third act. With that being said, I did still enjoy watching it. I generally enjoyed the action scenes, I was interested in seeing where the story would go, and the cast were quite good in their roles, especially Florence Pugh. It’s at around the midpoint of the MCU for me, if you like the movies I’d say that it is worth checking out.

Little Women (2019) Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
Saoirse Ronan as Josephine “Jo” March
Emma Watson as Margaret “Meg” March
Florence Pugh as Amy March
Eliza Scanlen as Elizabeth “Beth” March
Laura Dern as Marmee March
Timothée Chalamet as Theodore “Laurie” Laurence
Meryl Streep as Aunt March
Tracy Letts as Mr. Dashwood
Bob Odenkirk as Father March
James Norton as John Brooke
Louis Garrel as Friedrich Bhaer
Chris Cooper as Mr. Laurence
Director: Greta Gerwig

In the years after the Civil War, Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) lives in New York and makes her living as a writer, while her sister Amy (Florence Pugh) studies painting in Paris. Amy has a chance encounter with Theodore (Timothee Chalamet), a childhood crush who proposed to Jo but was ultimately rejected. Their oldest sibling, Meg (Emma Watson), is married to a schoolteacher, while shy sister Beth (Eliza Scanlen) develops a devastating illness that brings the family back together.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I heard quite a bit about Little Women leading up to its release, mainly the people involved with making it, and the awards hype surrounding it. Greta Gerwig’s previous movie (and her debut) was Lady Bird, which I thought was pretty decent. I didn’t read the Little Women book, not have I watched any of the previous adaptations of them, so I really didn’t know what to expect from this most recent version. However I found it to be rather fantastic really, and one of the highlights of 2019.

I can’t comment on how well Little Women does as an adaptation as I’m not familiar with the story. However this movie did such a good job at making me interested in at least checking out the version from the 90s. There are two storylines that the movie cuts between, present day and the past. For some it was jarring and indeed there are moments where it feels that way, however I actually liked how they handled it, the use of parallels worked particularly well. It’s a really heartfelt story as we follow this family through their lives. One thing I had heard going into the movie was that the ending was changed. Knowing the context of the original book and considering the main character throughout the story, I actually liked it, and it made a lot of sense. Although it took a bit for me to get into the story at the start, I didn’t feel like it stretched on for too long, even at 2 hours and 15 minutes. I was invested in what was going on from start to finish. A minor but nonetheless distracting thing is the fact that early in the flashbacks, Florence Pugh’s (who is very clearly an adult) character Amy is supposed to be 13, however for whatever reason they had a scene with her in school with actual 13 year olds. That choice was more than a little distracting, but the scene lasted for less than a minute. Outside of that there aren’t many problems I had with the movie.

The cast on the whole were outstanding. Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson and Eliza Scanlen play the March sisters, and they all work really well, especially with each other. Ronan gives one of her best performances, and Pugh was a standout. Laura Dern does well as the mother of the March sisters, and Timothee Chalamet gives quite possibly my favourite performance from him. The rest of the supporting cast was solid too, with the likes of Meryl Streep, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk Chris Cooper and others really working.

Greta Gerwig directed this movie exceptionally well. It is larger scale compared to Lady Bird, yet manages to make much of this movie feel very personal. I can’t tell how previous versions handled the story, but her version was done in a way where today’s audiences can easily get into it. Everything for the time period works perfectly, from the costumes, to the production design, and more. It’s such a visually stunning movie and looks great, very well shot by Yorick Le Sauz. The score by Alexandre Desplat was quite good and was also fitting for the movie.

Little Women surprised me by in how great it was. Greta Gerwig has directed and written this exceptionally, and the cast all played their parts well. I have seen some people say that this adaptation of the story has the potential to be a future classic, and I can honestly see that happening. Even if you don’t think you’ll like it, I still highly recommend checking it out as soon as you can, it’s one of my favourites of the year.

Midsommar (2019) Review

Time: 147 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence, sex scenes, drug use & suicide
Cast:
Florence Pugh as Dani Ardor
Jack Reynor as Christian Hughes
William Jackson Harper as Josh
Vilhelm Blomgren as Pelle
Will Poulter as Mark
Director: Ari Aster

With their relationship in trouble, a young American couple travel to a fabled Swedish midsummer festival where a seemingly pastoral paradise transforms into a sinister, dread-soaked nightmare as the locals reveal their terrifying agenda.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

The delay on this review warrants an explanation. For many, Midsommar has already been released months ago. However for whatever reason, it took A24 a really long time to release it here in New Zealand, surprising considering that Hereditary (another A24 and Ari Aster directed movie) released here around the same time as everywhere else. So there was an absurd wait for it to come to cinemas here, and as of this moment I’m not even sure if it’ll ever come. The wait was bad enough, but it also seemed like plenty of people were just willing to post screencaps and spoilers about it with no filter whatsoever. So I pretty much knew most of the movie weeks before going into it, so that could be why a lot of the more ‘shocking’ parts really had little to no impact on me. So if at points I sound rather bitter throughout the review, that’s probably why.

Midsommar was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. All I really knew about it was that it is the next film by Ari Aster, who directed Hereditary, which was in itself quite a great horror movie and one of the highlights from 2018. Midsommar was definitely an interesting change in terms of concept, it’s surrounding people who go to a Swedish cult and I was interested in it. As the movie released in most places and time passed, I just wasn’t that hyped for it. Admittedly it’s likely to do with the aforementioned fact that I was spoiled. Nonetheless I got onto watching it as soon as I could watch it in a quality that wasn’t cam footage. I’ve finally seen the movie, and let’s just say that I have some conflicting thoughts about this movie.

Unlike plenty of people who have absolutely no consideration for others, I actually don’t want to spoil this movie for anyone, as it’s probably better experienced going in not knowing too much. So for those who haven’t been spoiled yet, this review is completely spoiler free. I’m fully aware that there is a director’s cut, I don’t know the differences between the cuts since I haven’t seen that version just yet. It’s going to be a while before I watch that however, it’s nearly 3 hours long and I don’t know if I’d be up for that. The theatrical cut is 2 hours and 30 minutes long, and I already had a hard time getting through all of that. The first 20 minutes is quite slow, and already it didn’t start off the best. It takes its time really building up everything or even getting to the primary location of the movie. I didn’t necessarily want it to be rushing through the plot, but I did want it to pick up the pace a little bit. It feels incredibly drawn out, even after it starts getting really ‘wild’ after the first hour. It’s got some horror, but it’s not horror in the traditional sense of a lot of jumpscares and the like. Hereditary was much more of a horror movie than Midsommar, so don’t expect to see similarities in the scares department. That’s not to say that the movie considerably improved when I viewed it as a drama instead of a horror movie however. The movie also has a surprising amount of comedy, and I can at least say that when present it was done well. So if you’re wondering why certain moments appear more comedic than scary, chances are that it was intentional. This movie like Hereditary was about grief, but whereas I felt that movie did it well, Midsommar did it to mixed results (no spoilers). The movie also sort of about toxic relationships, it establishes what direction it is going in but it sure takes it’s time telling it, with not much interesting stuff in between. Some thought has been put into aspects of the cult, but its rather 2 dimensional typical cult stuff. It’s really like you’ve seen similar things like this before. Sure there are some intentionally weird moments I guess, but again I wasn’t invested enough in the characters or the plot to be affected by or care about it. The ending is something that people are conflicted about. Given some of the reactions (because again some people on social media couldn’t just hold back on talking about the ending), I feel like some people are interpreting it wrong. While I’m fine with it, it’s nothing that I loved or anything, it was just like “well, I guess the movie is over”. Though my reaction is probably more to do with the rest of the movie than the actual ending. Now for the inevitable question, did knowing what was going to happen affect my experience? I did know in fact what was going to happen, but given that the movie was 2 hours and a half long, I expected much more to happen in between these moments. However that’s not the case, I could sum up the plot in about a few sentences and the amount of depth with the plotlines in that summary is about as deep as the actual movie goes. Yes the movie has stuff about bad relationships and grief/trauma, but it doesn’t really do anything with them. Not to mention waiting around for certain plot points to occur made the experience somehow even more tedious.

The acting was quite good. The highlight is Florence Pugh as the lead character, easily the closest thing to a complex character in Midsommar. She does display a wide range of emotions, and is really good in the movie. The rest of the characters aren’t really given much in terms of depth. Jack Reynor plays the boyfriend and he does very well, but he more than the rest of the cast really suffers most from not having enough material to work with (though I did hear there’s more stuff with him in the director’s cut). The rest of the cast including Will Poulter, William Jackson Harper and Vilhelm Blomgren were also good.

Ari Aster has definitely continued to expand his talent since Hereditary, going from a movie with a darker pallet to a much brighter one, and usually set out in the open where everything can be seen. There’s a lot of detail put into the location, costumes, production design and the like. It’s very well directed and a really good looking movie overall. If you have a weak stomach you might not be able to handle it, as there is some gore. With that said, none of it actually affected me or really disturbed me, it was sort of just there. The movie at times really seemed like it was trying to be disturbing, given the times it sometimes cut back to the moments of gore, but it didn’t make it any scarier to me. I wasn’t even really unnerved by the movie on the whole, I was just watching what was happening. I guess credit to Aster for only having one jumpscare throughout the whole movie.

Midsommar is a movie that I have some very mixed thoughts on. The direction is pretty good, the acting is great, and some of the ideas did have potential. Even though I don’t dislike the movie however, I do have my issues. The movie is drawn out throughout it’s very long runtime, fails to interest, doesn’t really deliver on the themes it attempts to have a commentary on, and at times was a real chore to get through. Despite its length, it really explores so very little, it made me wonder why this movie even existed. It’s actually quite disappointing to me, I really thought I would like it a lot more. I might need to watch Hereditary again to see if that movie still holds up on a second viewing. Perhaps the director’s cut fixes some of the issues I have, but given the drawn out pacing and the length, let’s just say it’ll be a while before I get around to it. I honestly can’t guarantee whether you’ll like Midsommar or not, even about whether you liked Aster’s previous movie or not. I have seen people who hate Hereditary love this movie, and vice versa. So quite simply, if you’re interested in seeing it, then check it out for yourself.

Outlaw King (2018) Review

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as James Douglas
Florence Pugh as Elizabeth de Burgh
Billy Howle as Edward, Prince of Wales
Tony Curran as Angus MacDonald
Lorne MacFadyen as Nigel Bruce
Alastair Mackenzie as Lord Atholl
James Cosmo as Robert de Brus
Callan Mulvey as John III Comyn
Stephen McMillan as Drew Forfar
Paul Blair as Bishop Lamberton
Stephen Dillane as King Edward I of England
Director: David Mackenzie

After being crowned King of Scotland, legendary warrior Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine) is forced into exile by the English and leads a band of outlaws to help him reclaim the throne.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I heard about Outlaw King for a while. It’s a Netflix movie about Robert the Bruce starring Chris Pine and was directed by David Mackenzie, who made Hell or High Water. I didn’t know much about the subject matter or really what to expect going in outside of that. Despite hearing some mixed things about it, I actually really liked it. It’s on such a large scale and was directed incredibly well, and the cast are fantastic. It is held back rom being as great as it could’ve been by the lack of characterisation and the ending, but it’s nonetheless a really good movie and are well worth the watch.

Outlaw King is 2 hours long but it’s worth noting that 20 minutes were cut from the cut that was first screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, after the runtime and pacing were criticised in early reviews. Apparently, the cut material included a battle scene, a major confrontation backdropped by a waterfall, an eight minute chase sequence and a scene in which Robert the Bruce met William Wallace in the woods. As I didn’t watch the 2 hour and 20 minute cut, I can’t speak to what the removed footage is like or how it worked in the movie. On the whole I was actually liking the movie quite a bit, I didn’t get why some people were having a problem with it. I didn’t really know what to expect with the movie and I followed it pretty well from start to finish, I was invested. One problem that occurred to me however over time was that they weren’t particularly great with the characterisation. This movie definitely seems more plot focussed than character focussed, and the characters here were more used to move the plot forward. We don’t really get to learn much about the characters and people and are really instead just watching them doing things. That’s not to say that we don’t enjoy watching them or anything like that, but that’s probably because of the heavy lifting done by the cast. It turns out that Outlaw King had like 5 writers, the plot had my interest and all that but the whole movie wasn’t quite great.. I heard a criticism about it being some inaccuracies, but I don’t know much about Robert the Bruce or anything like that, so I’ve really got nothing to say on the matter. Then there’s the ending, which is really abrupt. At the end of the movie there’s a battle scene and then after it ends it has these subtitles that pop on screen to explain what happened afterwards, there’s like maybe another brief scene and that’s it. Kind of a disappointing end to an otherwise mostly solid movie.

Despite the characters not really receiving much development and all that, the cast is great and elevated their parts quite a bit. Chris Pine is typically great in the lead role as Robert the Bruce, Pine has now given two of his all time best performances through working with David Mackenzie (the other performance being in Hell or High Water), and I really hope they continue working with each other. He’s quite believable in the role he’s playing (full disclosure, don’t know much about Robert the Bruce) and he pulls off the Scottish accent really well. He’s also very impressive in the big battle scenes. The rest of the cast including Florence Pugh, Billy Howle, Tony Curran, Stephen Dillane and really every actor in this movie do great jobs in their roles. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is actually a standout here, he’s in a rather unhinged role and he particularly shone in the more violent scenes. Both Nocturnal Animals and now Outlaw King have proven ATJ as an actor not to underestimate or overlook.

David Mackenzie showed himself to be a great director with Hell or High Water, and Outlaw King only solidified this. This movie is on such a huge scale, everything from the production design, the costumes, the locations, all of that was fantastic. The cinematography was also great. One of the stand out moments of the movie was the first scene, which is an 8 minute long take and it was immaculately done. Where the film particularly shone was in the big battle scenes, they don’t hold back at all with the violence and as I said, so much was on a large scale. In that, I feel like it should’ve been released in cinemas instead of Netflix, definitely try to watch this one on the biggest screen that you can find.

Outlaw King is maybe not quite as great as it could’ve been with aspects with the characters and the endings not being done all that well, but it was almost at that level. The cast were great and David Mackenzie directed it all incredibly well. It’s well worth the watch, and is one of Netflix’s better released films.