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Being the Ricardos (2021) Review

BEING THE RICARDOS

Being the Ricardos

Time: 131 minutes
Cast:
Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball
Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz
J.K. Simmons as William Frawley
Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance
Tony Hale as Jess Oppenheimer
Alia Shawkat as Madelyn Pugh
Jake Lacy as Bob Carroll Jr.
Clark Gregg as Howard Wenke
Director: Aaron Sorkin

In 1952, Hollywood power couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz face personal and professional obstacles that threaten their careers, their relationship, and their hit television show.

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Being the Ricardos was a upcoming major awards contender that I had been hearing about for a while. I will admit though that despite not knowing much about it outside of some of the people involved, I was a little sceptical going in. First of all, it was a biopic movie focussing on notable film/tv people, and the movie looked like prime Oscar bait. Also the movie is written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, whose work could be a mixed bag at times, especially when it comes to whatever he directs. Still, it received Oscar nominations for the performances from Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem and J.K. Simmons, so I thought I should check it out, and went into it open minded. Unfortunately, I just don’t think that the movie was particularly good.

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I should state first of all that I am not familiar with Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz or the show I Love Lucy, and went into this movie quite blind. However, even as someone who didn’t know of the subjects beforehand, I just didn’t find the film all that interesting, and I found it fairly dull. If the story of Lucille and Desi in real life was interesting, it certainly didn’t survive being compressed and repackaged into the biopic formula. The story of the movie follows Lucille and Desi over one stressful week, it seems simple enough but somehow the storytelling is very flawed here. The story as it was told just felt so disjointed, while the series of events play out over this particular week, it jumps across multiple points in time with an overreliance on flashbacks and flashforwards which muddles everything. To give context to all these events messily crammed into this movie, characters spent a lot of time stating facts about each other or clunkily discussing historical and cultural elements. For whatever reason, there is this present-day faux documentary framing device running throughout the movie where older versions of the three lead show writers for I Love Lucy are being interviewed. Every so often, the movie would just cut to these talking head mouthpieces, and every time this happened, it would be so disruptive and annoying. The dialogue was already on the nose and obvious, but the fact that they practically spoonfeed us the story by flat out telling us what is happening, it almost feels patronising. Count the number of times you hear “what you’ve got to understand is…” from one character alone.

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Even as someone who aren’t familiar with the true life events, there’s some handling of the history that felt very off. The prime example is this inconsequential aspect where Lucille Ball is rumoured to be a communist. Even within the plot of the movie, it plays a very small part, but from the very beginning of the film it is fixated and focused on so much, to a quite frankly weird degree. You really get the feeling that this is getting into the writer’s own politics over the actual true events. The way that subplot is resolved towards the end in a scene with Javier Bardem on a phone call in front of an audience is hilariously absurd and ludicrous. I didn’t really learn anything from this storyline, the only thing that I can say coming out of it is that I’m confident that Aaron Sorkin would’ve been a supporter of the Hollywood Blacklist. Speaking of Sorkin, you can definitely feel that it’s a movie from him, and I mean that in a bad way. You really do feel like he’s really going for an Oscar here, and it somehow makes the movie even worse. His scripts always seem to have this self-perception of cleverness but it is especially grating here, the faux documentary framing device being an example of one of his decisions that make it harder to watch. Even when you put all of that aside, I just found myself so unengaged by the film as it progresses through the events. I couldn’t be emotionally engaged with the characters, and there was nothing keeping me invested in the story. There was just something dispassionate and underwhelming about the whole experience.

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I would love to say that the acting elevates the movie. While it’s the best part of the movie, its not enough to save the movie. The acting is mostly decent, but much of the cast feel like they are playing caricatures rather than real people. Nicole Kidman is pretty good as Lucille Ball, even if it definitely doesn’t rank amongst her best performances. I will say that annoyingly with the writing she’s given, Lucille does feel like another ‘Sorkin protagonist’, much like how Sorkin wrote Steve Jobs and Abbie Hoffman. To Kidman’s credit though, she comes across as being a fully formed human, especially in contrast to the other actors. It’s just that there weren’t any times throughout the film where I felt that it was anything beyond a decent performance. Javier Bardem is the co-lead in this as Desi Arnaz. He’s fine enough, but like Kidman, its definitely not one of his best performances. Questionable casting choice aside, he is a bit of a caricature and is very hammy. Definitely not bland or boring, but nothing great. The chemistry between Kidman and Bardem just wasn’t there, which is a big mark against it considering that the relationship between the two people was a key part of the movie. J.K. Simmons and Nina Arianda are serviceable in their supporting roles, but don’t get much to do with the writing that they are given.

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Being the Ricardos is directed by Aaron Sorkin, and this film is further proof that Sorkin is at his best when his scripts are directed by anyone else. While the direction is competent, its done so blandly and lacks any kind of personality, especially on a visual level. Even his last two movies had more to them. The costumes, hair, makeup, presentation is nothing special, everything feels like they’re on autopilot.

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I’m sure that the actual story of these people is quite interesting. However, what is presented here is a functional but uninteresting, bland and occasionally grating to watch biopic that fails to engage, from the writing through to the direction. Even the performances aren’t good enough to elevate the movie beyond an average biopic. I’d only recommend this movie to people who want to catch up on the Oscar nominations from this most recent awards season. For what it’s worth, Being the Ricardos was by far the worst movie of this year’s Oscar season that I’ve seen.

Johnny English Strikes Again (2018) Review

Time: 89 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence & coarse language
Cast:
Rowan Atkinson as Johnny English
Olga Kurylenko as Ophelia
Ben Miller as Angus Bough
Adam James as Pegasus
Emma Thompson as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Pippa Bennett-Warner as Lesley
Jake Lacy as Jason
Director: David Kerr

The new adventure begins when a cyberattack reveals the identities of all active undercover agents in Britain, leaving Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) as the secret service’s last hope. Called out of retirement, English dives headfirst into action with the mission to find the mastermind hacker. As a man with few skills and analogue methods, Johnny English must overcome the challenges of modern technology to make this mission a success.

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It’s been so long since I’ve watched the first two Johnny English movies. They aren’t by any means great comedies but they were comedies that I found funny nonetheless. Johnny English is pretty much to Britain what Maxwell Smart is to America and Inspector Clouseau is to France. Now finally the third movie has come, 7 years after the second movie, which came 8 years after the first movie (never understood the big gap between the movies). Johnny English Strikes Again does pretty much the same thing as the first two movies and if you’re on board with them, you’ll be on board with this movie as well, I certainly was.

If you’ve watched any of the Johnny English movies, you know exactly what kind of movie you’ll be getting with the third movie. It’s full of slapstick humour and the “dumb guy who’s somehow ends up saving the day, often accidently” kind of humour (it’s probably called something else much more eloquent) and it once again works well here (at least for me it did). Johnny English 3 has a lot of jokes that you’d expect, not really doing anything you haven’t seen before. There are often times where you can easily identify the setups and payoffs, you can tell whenever English is going to mess up hilariously or something of the sort. It isn’t an unpredictable comedy, not particularly well written or smart. However, a lot of comedies aren’t well written or smart and yet this one can succeed when others really don’t. I had a good time with it but it’s not very memorable. Nonetheless I had an entertaining time watching it. This movie is less than an hour and 30 minutes long and that was honestly the right length for the movie, it doesn’t ever feel like it’s going to be too long.

Rowan Atkinson once again really shines in this movie as Johnny English, he hasn’t lost the energy that he displayed in the previous movies. He is by far the best part of the movie, and I think that even people who don’t like this movie can at least give credit to him for putting absolutely everything into his comedic delivery and performance. The rest of the cast do fine enough, with Olga Kurylenko, Ben Miller, Emma Thompson and others doing well in their roles. However, it is clear that Johnny English Strikes Again is really Atkinson’s show.

The direction by David Kerr was reasonably okay, for a comedy it serves it’s purpose well enough. The CGI can be pretty cheap a lot of the time, most of the time though the movie doesn’t really need to use much of it, so it’s a pretty small complaint to be had.

If you liked the other Johnny English movies, you’re going to like the 3rd one. If you don’t like them, stay away from this movie because you’ll just dislike it just as much (if not more). If you haven’t seen any of them, watch the original Johnny English, and see how you feel about it. As someone who likes the previous movies however, I really enjoyed it. No, it’s not special or very memorable compared to some other comedies but it keeps everything simple enough, and it is funny from start to finish.

Carol (2015) Review

ROONEY MARA and CATE BLANCHETT star in CAROL

Carol

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex Scenes, Offensive Language and Nudity
Cast:
Cate Blanchett as Carol Aird
Rooney Mara as Therese Belivet
Sarah Paulson as Abby Gerhard
Kyle Chandler as Harge Aird
Jake Lacy as Richard Semco
Director: Todd Haynes

Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) spots the beautiful, elegant Carol (Cate Blanchett) perusing the doll displays in a 1950s Manhattan department store. The two women develop a fast bond that becomes a love with complicated consequences.

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Carol already had my attention when I heard that my two favourite actresses, Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett, were both going to be in the same movie. It had a lot of hype, despite it not winning many of the awards that it was nominated for. After finally seeing Carol I have to say that it is truly one of the best movies of 2015. Todd Haynes’s excellent direction and attention to detail mixed with the great performances from Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett makes this an incredible movie.

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One thing I heard about this movie before going into it is that the romance is much more subtle than in other movies. That’s definitely the case and I thought it was extremely well done, however it wasn’t just the romance that was subtle. The acting and direction allows you to clearly see how the characters are feeling, without too much dialogue needed to get their emotions across. Also you might initially think from the plot summary that a big part of the movie is focussed on how gay people weren’t exactly able to see each other in the 1950s but it smartly focussed more on the actual romance between Carol and Therese, which helped us get pulled even more into the story, if that aspect was included it could’ve taken away the immersement of the love story. This is the first film I’ve seen from Todd Haynes, and after seeing Carol, I really want to see his other movies.

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The acting is excellent from everyone. Cate Blanchett is as usual excellent in one of her best performances yet, and that’s saying a lot considering her performances like in Elizabeth and Blue Jasmine. Another great performance which is often overlooked in this movie is by Rooney Mara. Despite Mara being placed often in Best Supporting Actress in many award ceremonies, the movie is really Therese’s story. She arguably has the hardest job of any of the actors in this movie, a lot of her emotions you get from her eyes, which really is the sign of a great actor. Both of them share great chemistry, there was no moment where I doubted the love between Carol and Therese. The supporting actors also added quite a bit with actors like Sarah Paulson and Kyle Chandler but its Mara and Blanchett’s film.

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Usually with period piece movies, there’s some aspect that doesn’t feel natural with the time period and kind of takes me out of the movie. In the case of Carol however, it puts you right into the 50s with the excellent production design and costumes, which are both things that I don’t usually notice in most films. Todd Haynes’s attention to detail is great and can be clearly seen here. The soundtrack from Carter Burwell was great as well, and helps fit in with the tone that they were going for. By that I noticed that this film almost had some sort of hypnotising effect, and it helped as this movie really felt like a journey with these characters.

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Carol is one of the best movies of 2015, it’s such a shame that it didn’t get as much recognition as it should have. Its excellent performances, the great love story and the production value makes this an amazing movie. I’m not sure if it’s my number 1 favourite movie of the year but I’ll just say that the other movies I gave a 10/10 this year at least had some sort of flaw. With Carol though, I can’t find anything wrong with this movie, everything felt complete and I loved it. Check this movie out as soon as possible.