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Stoker (2013) Review

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Stoker

Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence & sex scenes
Cast:
Mia Wasikowska as India Stoker
Matthew Goode as Charlie Stoker
Nicole Kidman as Evelyn Stoker
Dermot Mulroney as Richard Stoker
Jacki Weaver as Aunt Gwendolyn “Gin” Stoker
Director: Park Chan-wook

After the untimely death of her father, India (Mia Wasikowska) and her mother (Nicole Kidman) are left alone in their estate. Soon, the arrival of her uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), who she never knew existed, is followed by unexpected developments.

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I know of Stoker as Park Chan-wook film starring Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman, and happened to be his English-language debut. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into it outside of the people involved. Having seen it, I wouldn’t say that this is one of his best movies, but almost all of Park’s movies I’ve seen are great, and this is too.

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As it turns out, the screenplay was written by Wentworth Miller, and overall, I thought it was good. It is a very atmospheric, unsettling and mysterious movie, having elements of classic thrillers. The eerie atmosphere is helped by the mystical and mysterious characters in the forefront. It is essentially a gothic mystery drama which dabbles in multiple elements including coming of age, mystery, thriller and unconventional family drama to create a generally compelling story. The story is definitely dark in tone but tame as far as violence is concerned, at least compared to Park Chan-wook’s other movies like his Vengeance trilogy. Instead of relying on overt graphic scenes, it is the suggestion that works for the disturbing elements. The movie does take its time but initially gives you just enough information to have you intrigued. The plot is familiar, and the story can be a little thin and implausible at points. It does require patience as it takes a while to reveal its secrets but I was intrigued throughout. It is also a cold movie with its characters rather distant, but I think that works for the movie’s favour. The movie is 98 minutes long but with the slower pacing it feels closer to like 2 hours, but that’s not necessarily a criticism.

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The performances are great and really make the story even more involving. Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman shine in the lead roles of their strange characters. Wasikowska’s performance in the lead role of India is nuanced and quiet with a lot of hidden emotion that creeps in over time. She’s very mysterious and keeps you guessing what role she plays in the whole story. She was a perfect fit for the role and so far this is the best performance I’ve seen from her. This is also probably the best performance I’ve seen from Matthew Goode as the mysterious uncle of Wasikowska’s character, effectively giving a creepy vibe and a feeling that something is off about him. Nicole Kidman works really well in the movie despite not having a huge amount of screentime, and effectively playing an archetype that has been seen many times before.

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GThe direction from Park Chan-wook is stunning as always, and much of the style is the substance of the whole movie. The movie looks visually beautiful and perfectly shot. With the stylish sets and costumes, it made it difficult to place the film in a context, place or time, making it effectively timeless. The editing is tight and really well done, an example that stands out is one where it transitions from Nicole Kidman’s hair to grass. The transitions particularly stood out. One of the key technical elements is that of the sound editing and mixing, almost like the movie is constructed around them. Much of the movie focuses on the noise of specific objects, and these plays a big part in ramping up tension, in a horror movie like way. The score from Clint Mansell is also solid and works for the movie.

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Stoker again isn’t one of Park Chan-wook’s best movies but it is nonetheless a solid gothic thriller, with an interesting enough story and definitely helped by the strong performances from Wasikowska, Kidman and Goode, and Park’s stylish direction. If you like slow-burn gothic thrillers with a dark and creepy atmosphere I think it’s worth checking out.

Widows (2018) Review

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language & sex scenes
Cast:
Viola Davis as Veronica Rawlings
Michelle Rodriguez as Linda Perelli
Elizabeth Debicki as Alice Gunner
Cynthia Erivo as Belle
Colin Farrell as Jack Mulligan
Brian Tyree Henry as Jamal Manning
Daniel Kaluuya as Jatemme Manning
Jacki Weaver as Agnieska
Carrie Coon as Amanda Nunn
Robert Duvall as Tom Mulligan
Liam Neeson as Harry Rawlings
Director: Steve McQueen

A police shootout leaves four thieves dead during an explosive armed robbery attempt in Chicago. Their widows – Veronica (Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) and Belle (Cynthia Erivo) — have nothing in common except a debt left behind by their spouses’ criminal activities. Hoping to forge a future on their own terms, Veronica joins forces with the other three women to pull off a heist that her husband was planning.

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I have been waiting for Widows for a long time, it’s my most anticipated film of 2018. So many things were going for it, not only is Steve McQueen (Shame and 12 Years a Shame) directing, not only is Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl and Sharp Objects) writing the script, but it also has the biggest cast of the year: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Robert Duvall, Liam Neeson and more make up the talented cast. I was looking forward to seeing McQueen, Flynn and the cast tackling essentially a heist movie, there is so much potential that the combination of talent had. Thankfully it absolutely delivered and unsurprisingly ended up being one of the best films of the year.

Gillian Flynn and Steve McQueen together wrote Widows and it’s a really great script overall. First thing that should be noted is that although it is a ‘heist movie’, it’s not like Heat where you get see a number of heists. The actual heist doesn’t occur until the third act and when it happens it’s actually not that long. Much of Widows consists of the 4 main characters trying to figure out how they are going to pull off the heist, while also following their personal lives following the aftermath of their dead husbands’ failed heist. Widows could’ve easily just been that, and with Flynn and McQueen working on it, and it could’ve been really good. However they go above and beyond that, making it more than just a genre movie. Knowing McQueen especially, I knew that it would be more than just a simple heist movie, and I was right (though it still is his most accessible film by far). There is a lot more going on, for example during the course of the movie, there’s an election going on and the events of the heist could very well affect things that are happening with regard to that. Widows also really takes its time following its characters and their individual plotlines, it really isn’t a fast paced thriller like the trailers have made it out to be. On top of that there’s a lot of thematic elements to the movie that I think most people won’t be expecting going in. As this is Gillian Flynn, there are going to be some twists and they all worked really well. I think there might’ve been some I could figure out but none of them were like glaringly obvious or anything. I think something that some people may take issue with is that there are some things towards the end of the movie that aren’t resolved completely. It’s not like a cliffhanger ending or anything but it doesn’t go into detail with how some plotlines are resolved, some plotlines’ endings are a little ambiguous. That can go for some of the characters as well, for example with Colin Farrell, there is sort of an end to his story but there isn’t quite as much as you’d like. Maybe with some of the characters if we got a little more than what we had it would’ve been better but it was enough. In terms of other problems, the only scene that was out of place was one with Michelle Rodriguez when she goes to try to get information out of someone, and every single person who has seen the movie knows exactly which scene I’m referring to. I’m not really sure what the point of that scene was but it’s a little random. Doesn’t break the movie or anything but it stands out as being a little odd. The movie takes place over 1 month but it feels like it takes place over 2 weeks at most, not really a big issue it’s just something I noticed. On the whole the movie runs for 2 hours and 10 minutes long and aside from that one scene, I was completely on board with everything.

One of the highlights of the movie was the immensely talented cast and no matter how small of a role their had, every single actor was at the top of their game delivering great performances, not a single performance felt miscast or weak. Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo are the main leads who are trying to pull off the heist. Viola Davis is really the lead of this movie and as usual she crushes it in her role, though it’s come to be expected of the powerhouse Davis. She commands a lot of presence and is really the leader of the group but at the same time she still feels very vulnerable, both the film and Viola balance it out well. I’ve really known Michelle Rodriguez just from the Fast and Furious movies but in her role in Widows (a very different kind of heist film) she really shows off a lot of talent, she was really great here. I’d actually like to see Rodriguez in more dramatic work now. Elizabeth Debicki has proved herself as a great actress in things like The Night Manager and The Great Gatsby, but she really gives an impressive performance here. Her character has a lot to deal with, having received abuse from both her husband and her mother, and she played the role very well. Cynthia Erivo made a strong impact in this year’s Bad Times at the El Royale and she’s also great here as not a widow, but someone who comes in to join the group. Something that I liked is how all 4 of them don’t feel like they are at all capable of pulling it off. They’ve never done any heists themselves and so they have to learn to get things done. They also don’t necessarily get along, they are coming together to pull a heist because they have no choice, so it’s interesting watching them work together despite all this.

The rest of the cast are all great as well, no matter how large or small of a role they are in. Colin Farrell and Brian Tyree Henry are great as opposing politicians who are both campaigning for alderman of a prescient (the latter of whom is applying pressure to the widows to get 2 million dollars). Robert Duvall also plays his small role as Farrell’s father quite well. Liam Neeson is also great in a small but significant role as Davis’s husband who was among the criminals who died during the heist and while he’s not in a ton of the movie, he gave his best performance in a while, probably since 2012’s The Grey, he does so much with very little. Out of the supporting cast however, it’s Daniel Kaluuya who’s the standout, playing Brian Tyree Henry’s brother and enforcer. He doesn’t have a ton of scenes but he really makes an impact whenever he’s on screen. He just exudes this uncomfortable vibe in every scene he’s in, and you’re not sure of what he’ll do next, very intimidating. With his Black Mirror appearance, Sicario, Get Out, Black Panther and now Widows, Kaluuya has shown himself to be one of the most exciting actors working today, displaying a very large range. Well deserving of a lot of praise, especially for his performance here. Some actors are pretty much cameos here, like Jon Bernthal, Jacki Weaver and Carrie Coon but they were good in their roles nonetheless.

Steve McQueen’s direction is nothing short of fantastic. This film feels incredibly real, the heist scenes aren’t blown out of proportion and feel very gritty. Some of the directing choices made by McQueen particularly stood out as being fantastic, 2 immediately come to mind. The first one was circling around Kaluuya’s character in one of his intimidating scenes. The second one is in a scene where Colin Farrell and his campaign manager get into a car following a rally and instead of cutting inside, the camera stays on the exterior of the limo as it travels from a derelict urban neighbourhood to a gentrified suburb (where Farrell lives) while the two of them are having a conversation. It was just incredibly visual storytelling. Hans Zimmer’s score is of course great and while you don’t hear a ton of it in the movie, often it really amps up the tension when it’s present.

Widows is fantastic and one of the best films of the year. Everyone in this star studded cast plays their role excellently (with Davis, Debicki and Kaluuya being standouts) and Steve McQueen and Gillian Flynn made what could’ve been a simple heist movie into something much more and is just all around great from start to finish. Not enough people are seeing it and I implore you to go out and see Widows in the cinema, it deserves it and you deserve it.

The Disaster Artist (2017) Review

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast
James Franco as Tommy Wiseau
Dave Franco as Greg Sestero
Seth Rogen as Sandy Schklair
Alison Brie as Amber
Ari Graynor as Juliette Danielle
Josh Hutcherson as Philip Haldiman
Jacki Weaver as Carolyn Minnott
Zac Efron as Dan Janjigian
Director: James Franco

Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) and Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) become friends after meeting each other in an acting class in San Francisco. Hoping to achieve Hollywood stardom, Sestero moves to Los Angeles and signs on to appear in his buddy’s project. Financed with his own money, Wiseau writes, directs and stars in “The Room,” a critically maligned movie that becomes a cult classic.

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The Disaster Artist is one of my most anticipated films of all time. The Room has become a uniquely iconic film that I love for the same reason that many other people love it, because of how bizarrely and hilariously bad it is. I read the book about the behind the scenes of The Room titled The Disaster Artist (written by Greg Sestero) and I was immediately hyped when I saw that they were going to adapt it to the big screen. With James Franco (who both stars and directs), Dave Franco, Seth Rogen and more involved, I couldn’t help but be excited. The Disaster Artist was so great, it was pretty much everything I wanted it to be.

I will admit that it’s been years since I’ve actually read The Disaster Artist so I can’t remember exactly if everything in the movie is accurate to the book but I do think that at least most of it is right. One thing I loved is how this movie wasn’t just a piss take of The Room, it could’ve easily become that. You can tell that everyone who worked on this movie loved The Room and wanted to bring he story behind all that to the big screen. And they really achieved that. Don’t expect this to be just a story about The Room. This film almost feels like its in two parts, one is Tommy and Greg as friends trying to get into Hollywood and then the other is the filming of The Room. There was a good balance of drama and comedy overall, the movie is hilarious (it’ll be particularly funny for fans of The Room) but it also allows you to be invested in this story.

One question that immediately is asked by many when it comes to The Disaster Artist is whether you necessarily needed to have watched The Room beforehand. I’ll say this: you can watch The Disaster Artist without watching The Room but you won’t get the full experience, at the very least try to learn about it and/or watch some clips from it. Fans of The Room will love it, and the best part is that it doesn’t ruin the experience of The Room, it’s a great accompany piece and if anything it makes it even better and helps you appreciate it more. The story of The Disaster Artist is quite inspiring, Tommy Wiseau set out with a dream and ultimately fulfilled that dream. It may have not been exactly what he wanted or expected but he made it in the end. And I think that was shown greatly. Make sure to wait for the post credits scene.

James Franco is absolutely fantastic as Tommy Wiseau. To be honest, the portrayal and performance of Tommy was something I was worried about going in. Franco is a good actor but I’d doubt the performance of any actor cast as Tommy because it can’t just be an impression, he needs to full embody Wiseau as a person (and I read The Disaster Artist, so I knew about some of the things that happened). And he did that. You do not see James Franco, you see Tommy Wiseau. He also portrays Tommy as a real person, it shows his weirdness and doesn’t shy away from how troublesome he was during the shooting of The Room, much of which consists with his very bizarre filmmaking decisions. But it also allows you to really see him as a human being trying to fulfil his dream. Both aspects are balanced well. It poses questions about him that everyone to this day is asking (like how old is he, where was he born and where does he get his seemingly endless supply of money) but it never answers them, still keeping the mystery of Tommy Wiseau. Dave Franco shouldn’t be overlooked either, this is probably the best performance I’ve seen from him. Despite the two being brothers, you quickly forget that, the two share such great chemistry and feel like best friends. There are also a lot of good actors in supporting roles with Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver and Zac Efron, and they are all great here. I do wish that we got a little more of the supporting cast, especially those who played the people who worked on The Room. They are great in their screentime though. There are also some really enjoyable cameos that I won’t spoil.

This film is directed quite well by James Franco. The recreations of The Room were done very well, it is surprising how much attention to detail they had, if you are a fan of The Room you will appreciate these parts a lot. Also the makeup on James Franco was great, making him look as much like Tommy Wiseau as possible without being too over the top.

I had high expectations of The Disaster Artist and it absolutely delivered. The performances were fantastic (from both Francos particularly), the story is great, it is entertaining and for fans of The Room such as myself, it is an absolute must see. Honestly it is a bit of an inspiring movie as well, an very unconventionally inspirational movie. The Disaster Artist is one of my favourite movies of the year and I couldn’t be happier to say that.