Tag Archives: Jesse Plemons

Jungle Cruise (2021) Review

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Jungle Cruise

Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Dwayne Johnson as Captain Frank “Skipper” Wolff
Emily Blunt as Dr. Lily Houghton
Jack Whitehall as MacGregor Houghton
Édgar Ramírez as Aguirre
Jesse Plemons as Prince Joachim
Paul Giamatti as Nilo Nemolato
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) enlists the aid of wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) to take her down the Amazon in his ramshackle boat. Together, they search for an ancient tree that holds the power to heal — a discovery that will change the future of medicine.

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I heard of Jungle Cruise in the lead up to its release, I knew that it was going to star Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, and that it was based off the theme park ride of the same name in Disneyland. Initially I wasn’t that interested in it, at the very least I found an adaptation of this to be quite a strange idea since all it pretty much is just a jungle ride with not much of a plot to really adapt. However some early responses were fairly positive, and the trailer looked fun enough. So I checked it out for myself and I’m glad I watched it.

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I haven’t been on the Jungle Cruise ride in quite some time so I don’t know if the movie contains many references to it. However from what I can tell, having the movie being based off the ride is just an excuse to have another adventure movie, definitely a throwback to those kinds of film. You definitely get the vibes of Indiana Jones, The Mummy, as well as National Treasure to a degree. If you enjoy those kinds of movies, then you’ll probably have a fun time with this. The plot itself is nothing unpredictable, you can tell what kind of movie you are in for, and as that I found it enjoyable. The first third is a bit slow but once the main characters are on the boat it was a smooth and fast paced ride. There are plenty of jokes throughout and most of them land. Tonally it is mostly consistently light and fun, and the movie knows what kind of film it is. At the same time, it does play around with the tone and gets surprisingly dark at points. One of the most standout yet confusing moments is a flashback sequence that has Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters playing, that makes it feel like it came out of a completely different movie. Definitely a memorable scene, but I can’t figure out whether I liked the inclusion, or whether it shouldn’t have been in it. Although the script is fairly straightforward, at times it can get a bit too convoluted. Also while it always shines whenever its following the main trio, some aspects of the story aren’t the most interesting. There are two villainous storylines, one is more relevant to the story but isn’t as interesting. The other involves Jesse Plemons and is less relevant to the story, but is a lot more fun because of his performance. The finale itself was pretty fun but a bit lacklustre when compared to the rest of the movie.

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The cast were good too and they added a lot to the enjoyment of the movie. Dwayne Johnson once again plays Dwayne Johnson, however for what its worth, he is entertaining, and his familiar personality and charisma works for this film. Emily Blunt was really the star of the whole movie, she’s really good and has a lot to work with in the film. She and Johnson has good chemistry. Jack Whitehall is the third main character as Emily Blunt’s brother and while I wasn’t sure about his character when it started, he actually grows on you as the film progresses. Jesse Plemons plays one of the main villains as a German aristocrat, and he is having a ton of fun here. The character isn’t interesting or memorable, but Plemons adds so much with his fun on screen appearances to make him stand out in the movie.

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Jaume Collet-Sierra being the director was one of the more interesting parts of the movie going into it. He previously made 4 Liam Neeson action movies (Unknown, Non Stop, Run All Night and The Commuter) and some horror movies (including Orphan and The Shallows). I think his work as a director added a lot to the movie. A lot of the action is fast paced, well filmed, and was fun to watch. Where the technical elements falter a little bit is the visual effects, which are a bit of a mixed bag and ranged in quality. I do think that they could’ve afforded to use more practical effects and rely less on CGI, and the CGI itself could be a little unpolished at times.

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As far as Disneyland theme park rides turned into movies, it is no Pirates of the Caribbean, but it was still fun. Jungle Cruise is nothing special when compared to the type of movies it taking inspiration from, but its nonetheless entertaining for what it is and better than it had any right to be. Its directed pretty well, the cast are good, and I was enjoying the experience from beginning to end. If you go in expecting a fun adventure, then that’s what you’ll get.

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021) Review

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

Judas and the Black Messiah

Time: 126 Minutes
Cast:
Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton
Lakeith Stanfield as William “Bill” O’Neal
Jesse Plemons as Roy Mitchell
Dominique Fishback as Deborah Johnson
Ashton Sanders as Jimmy Palmer
Martin Sheen as J. Edgar Hoover
Darrell Britt-Gibson as Bobby Rush
Lil Rel Howery as Wayne
Algee Smith as Jake Winters
Director: Shaka King

Offered a plea deal by the FBI, William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) infiltrates the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party to gather intelligence on Chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya).

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I heard about Judas and the Black Messiah for a while, I already liked the actors involved, but it was the trailer that made it stand out for me. It then quickly became one of my most anticipated movies and it especially came up in awards conversations, particularly with the performances. It was pushed back to the next year but was released early enough so that it could make it to the current upcoming awards season. Judas and the Black Messiah definitely lived up to the acclaim and expectations.

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Judas and the Black Messiah is written incredibly well and is captivating from beginning to end. It’s tightly scripted and compelling, with a strong energy and an intense atmosphere throughout. One of the standout aspects that makes the movie work so well is that it doesn’t feel like a typical biopic, probably because it isn’t. In some ways it feels more like a historical drama/thriller about one person infiltrating a group, and that helps it work even better if anything. The film at its core is about Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton, as well as FBI informant William O’Neal who infiltrates the Black Panther Party. Both storylines get roughly the same amount of screentime and are presented with equal weight, representing an important perspective of a significant time period. The movie is tough to watch at times, it’s a hauntingly tragic powerhouse of a drama that is riveting, even if (and especially if) you know how it ends. One of the biggest surprises of the movie is that it doesn’t shy away from painting the police and the FBI as the bad guys, and it also unapologetic with showing Hampton’s leftist views, both of which you wouldn’t think that a big budget awards movie would do. As you can probably tell from the subject matter, the movie is timely, meaningful and impactful to today’s society. It’s a smart and uncompromising tragedy about fear and power that’s likely to keep you on edge and hooked throughout.

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The acting from everyone in this movie is great. Daniel Kaluuya stars as Fred Hampton, and he didn’t just play him, he truly becomes him. His performance is magnetic and commands a lot of attention every time he’s on screen. He’s not portraying Hampton as a martyr or a hero, but a real person who is fighting for his rights. He inhabits the role perfectly, exuding the same emotions one would expect from him. He’s sensational here, every single line delivery has passion, and those big speeches are where he particularly shines. It’s likely because of Kaluuya’s standout performance that some might forget Lakeith Stanfield’s layered performance as informant William O’Neal, which might be his best work to date. We see much of the film through his eyes, showing us what he went through. Surprisingly, the film never truly demonises his character, bringing sympathy to the role of someone who sold out his own people. You can feel the turmoil within him as he questions whether he’s doing the right thing, as well as the paranoia and shame that eats away at him throughout. It does feel like his role is a bit underwritten, but the performance does a lot to make up for that. The supporting cast in Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, and Ashton Sanders also deliver some great work too.

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Shaka King’s direction is great, he has a very sleek and unique style of filmmaking. From the cinematography, to the production design, the costumes and the score, everything was perfectly constructed. It’s particularly shot beautifully, and the way the ‘action’ scenes were filmed were interesting. King’s makes the film feel very grounded and really helped add to the intense atmosphere in the film.

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Judas and the Black Messiah is a bold and fantastic film that deserves all the praise and accolades. It’s directed incredibly well, it’s written masterfully, and the performances are extraordinary, especially from Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield. Watch it as soon as you get the chance to.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020) Review

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I'm Thinking of Ending Things

Time: 134 Minutes
Cast:
Jesse Plemons as Jake
Jessie Buckley as Young Woman
Toni Collette as Mother
David Thewlis as Father
Director: Charlie Kaufman

Full of misgivings, a young woman (Jessie Buckley) travels with her new boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) to his parents’ secluded farm. Upon arriving, she comes to question everything she thought she knew about him, and herself.

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I’m Thinking of Ending Things was one of my most anticipated films of 2020. Although I haven’t seen any of his directed movies, I am somewhat familiar with Charlie Kaufman’s work having seen Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind which he wrote. Given the plot description and Kaufman as a creator, I was looking forward to seeing how this movie would turn out. Also, there’s the talented cast of Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette and David Thewlis all involved with the film. It turned out to be one of the strangest experiences I have had watching a movie, however I was completely engrossed from beginning to end.

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Charlie Kaufman is known for his odd, creative and surrealist writing. From what I’ve heard, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is his strangest work, and for him that’s saying a lot. I’ll just say upfront that this movie is not for everyone. The plot is seemingly simple, however really describing what this movie is really about is a bit difficult. You have to go into a lot of depth to get to the meat of it all, and it’s a pretty dense movie as it is. The trailer makes it look like a straight up horror movie, even though it’s not really that (kind of a similar situation to Darren Aronofsky’s mother!). It’s an existential horror with unnerving dread that escalates, particularly in the second half. It’s pretty bleak and melancholic, and upon reflecting back on the movie, quite depressing. It’s a very affecting movie, so well written, and Kaufman gives the script so many layers, and gives much to talk about. There are some long conversations covering many topics, particularly on car journeys, mainly between Jake and his girlfriend (Plemons and Buckley respectively). Personally, I found myself really invested in what they had to say, and I think it really worked for me because of the excellent dialogue and the well written and interesting characters. It can be confusing, it is also slow paced for sure, and it is pretty long at 2 hours and 15 minutes in length, so if you don’t find yourself interested in the first 30 minutes or so, you might find I’m Thinking of Ending Things to be quite a struggle to get through. However, I was quite invested and fascinated with what was happening. The last 30 minutes and the ending is rather weird and bizarre, there also isn’t a clear cut explanation for everything at the end. From what I can heard, even the book it is based on was more clear about what happened, so if anything it made me want to read the novel. It also makes me want to revisit this movie to understand everything more.

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The acting from everyone is spectacular. Jesse Plemons has often been cast in supporting roles in plenty of well known movies, but here he gets to play one of the leads and he really shines in one of his best performances. However it’s Jessie Buckley in the main role who stands out the most, delivering a subtle and powerful performance. She’s been great in the likes of Wild Rose, Chernobyl and more, however I think this is her best work. The parents of Jesse Plemons are played by Toni Collette and David Thewlis, and both are fantastic in their segment.

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Charlie Kaufman’s direction was also excellent. The cinematography is truly great, the film is shot with a 4:3 aspect ratio that manages to work surprisingly well. The colour palette is stunning too, whether it be the environment outside with the heavy snow, or the inside of the parents’ house. This movie also has some of the best editing of the year, you really get the feeling that something is really off throughout. When the film does get surrealist (as you’d expect from Kaufman), it’s handled greatly, not to go into spoilers or anything. The music composed by Jay Wadley also adds a lot to the movie too.

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I’m Thinking of Ending Things is an off kilter psychological thriller, with so many layers. It’s written and directed excellently, and the performances are extraordinary, especially from Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons. Days after seeing it I’m still thinking about it. Again it is not for everyone, it’s a pretty strange and confusing film that will frustrate many. However, I think this is a special movie, and I want to watch it again, because there’s a lot to unpack. Definitely one of the highlight films of 2020.

The Irishman (2019) Review

Time: 209 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, cruelty & offensive language
Cast:
Robert De Niro as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran
Al Pacino as James Riddle “Jimmy” Hoffa
Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino
Ray Romano as Bill Bufalino
Bobby Cannavale as Felix “Skinny Razor” DiTullio
Anna Paquin as Peggy Sheeran
Stephen Graham as Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano
Harvey Keitel as Angelo Bruno
Jesse Plemons as Chuckie O’Brien
Director: Martin Scorsese

In the 1950s, truck driver Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) gets involved with Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and his Pennsylvania crime family. As Sheeran climbs the ranks to become a top hitman, he also goes to work for Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) – a powerful Teamster tied to organised crime.

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The Irishman wasn’t just my most anticipated movie of 2019, it was also one of my most anticipated movies ever. The trio of actors of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci all working together was already fantastic, but additionally it was for a gangster movie, and one directed by Martin Scorsese no less. I’ve been hearing about this film being in development for years, and that it had problems being made, mostly because no studio wanted to finance it. I didn’t know whether it would end up being made, neither did De Niro and Scorsese, who were really pushing for it. But after long last, it finally happened and I couldn’t wait to see it. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been going through almost all of Scorsese’s filmography, watching those I haven’t seen beforehand, and re-watching those that I’ve already seen (barring a few) in anticipation. The Irishman is an incredible movie in every regard, incredibly ambitious, but Scorsese and co. really delivered on something special, one of the highlights of the decade for sure.

The Irishman is based on a biography called I Heard You Paint Houses (which as it turns out, was the title which opens up the film), so it’s at least mostly based on real facts and events. Much has already been said about the very long runtime of The Irishman. The longest that Scorsese’s feature films have run was around 3 hours for Casino and The Wolf of Wall Street. The Irishman on the other hand is at 3 and a half hours long, and that certainly sounds intimidating. I wouldn’t say that it flies by and that you don’t feel the length at all. However, it does a lot to keep your attention. The movie actually managed to not be boring, it’s just that you feel overwhelmed by the length and the amount of things going on. There’s a lot to take in, and I’m sure that the movie definitely gets better and better the more you watch it. I will say that although the first half is pretty good, it’s the second half where it really picks up. At that point, there are a lot of moving pieces and rising tensions. In the first half or at least the first third, The Irishman seems like standard Scorsese gangster stuff. That’s not necessarily a bad thing however, as even standard Scorsese gangster territory is pretty great.

Plenty of people who hear the premise but haven’t been looking into it might just think that The Irishman is just another Scorsese mob movie. However it’s much more than that. Goodfellas and Casino are very fast paced, and focusses a lot on the excess and thrills. With The Irishman, gone is the thrill from the environment, the money and the violence. Even the violence (even though it’s not nearly as graphic as his other gangster movies) are without any possible enjoyment, portraying it as what it is, very ugly and unpleasant, and not stylised at all. This story is from the perspective of an aging and dying man, looking back at his life as how it was, with plenty of regrets. Not to mention that lead character Frank Sheeran already operated like a machine or soldier basically, taking no pleasure in the crimes that he had to carry out. So, this is definitely new territory for Martin Scorsese to play within. This is a movie that technology aside, Scorsese couldn’t make back in the 90s amidst his other gangster movies. It required an older man’s handle of the whole story, and he handled it all pretty much perfectly. And for those who still believe that Scorsese somehow endorses their flawed (to say the least) gangster protagonists and their lifestyles, I don’t even see how they’d be able to make that criticism for The Irishman. For a movie that can be sad and dark, it actually has quite a lot of effective humour throughout. The script by Steven Zaillian is really great, with some effective and memorable dialogue, with plenty of interesting things going on. The last hour takes quite a sombre turn, and the last half an hour in particular is particularly sad, as the consequences of everything that Frank has done finally catches up with him. The final shot of the movie in particular is effectively crushing.

For the acting, let’s start with the main trio of actors. Robert De Niro plays Frank Sheeran, a hitman and the titular Irishman. He’s on screen for almost all of the movie and follows him throughout his life. With that said, the movie doesn’t necessarily do a whole lot of exploring of the character, and it’s on purpose. De Niro gives an incredibly subtle performance, he’s not as distinct as you’d think, and does at times almost seems like he is overshadowed by the cast surrounding him. However this seems to be the point, this is type of person that Sheeran was in real life. This is one of De Niro’s best performances, especially within the last hour, where he delivers some truly heartbreaking work. Al Pacino plays Jimmy Hoffa, and this is the best performance I’ve seen from him since the late 90s. Yes it’s showy and loud, and very much like some of his over the top performances in the 90s like in Heat, however that seems to fit Jimmy Hoffa, and he seems to have effectively captured the personality and character of Hoffa. Pacino isn’t just shouting the whole time, he also gives quite an emotional centre to his performance as well, especially with his very close connections to Sheeran, and also Sheeran’s daughter Peggy. Joe Pesci had been in retirement for years, so it’s amazing seeing him back on screen again, and he’s still got it. His other collaborations with Martin Scorsese have been angry, violent and profane filled characters, especially with their gangster movies together. This time his character of Russell Bufalino is a mob boss, who was known in real life as ‘The Quiet Don’, and he’s a lot more subtle here. He’s very controlled, calm and gave the impression of a man who carefully selects every word before he speaks. He actually comes across as friendly, and his friendship with Sheeran feels very genuine. At the same time there’s still a coldness that can be seen within him, and you never forget how dangerous he is. A lot of people cite Goodfellas as his best performance, I’ve always considered his work in Casino to be better. However after seeing this movie, I do believe that his performance as Bufalino is the best work of his career, and if this is indeed the last film that he acts in, then this is the perfect point to end it on.

The rest of the supporting cast is also good, with the likes of Ray Ramano, Bobby Cannavali, Jesse Plemons, and Harvey Keitel showing up briefly and doing some good work in their scenes. Stephen Graham is also a notable player during the movie, as Tony Provenzano, a notable Teamster, whose conflicts with Jimmy Hoffa play a part in the story. Graham was a scene stealer, and more than holds his own against actors like Al Pacino. Much has been said about the lack of female characters, and that the most prominent female character doesn’t have a lot of lines. That character is that of one of Frank Sheeran’s daughters in Peggy, played by Lucy Gallina as the younger version and Anna Paquin as the adult version. It’s been flying around that Paquin basically only had one line in the movie, and talking about her that way is a disservice to the movie, and to the performances. I’ve heard plenty of people saying that she could’ve been removed from the movie and you wouldn’t notice, I couldn’t disagree more. She might not be consistently focussed on like Jimmy Hoffa was in the movie, but she’s nonetheless a constant and significant presence throughout the movie. You don’t get to really know what kind of person Peggy is, because Frank doesn’t know who she is, he wasn’t close with her. What he does remember however are her looks towards him, and those looks are very telling and memorable, as she very clearly knows what he does for a living. The performances by the two actors is incredibly subtle yet powerful, as they convey so much with just a single glance.

Martin Scorsese directs this film excellently as expected. Sure, at first it’s not as crazy as Goodfellas and Casino, but that’s not just because he’s getting old and can’t do that or anything of the sort. His direction feels deliberately restrained, which was absolutely perfect for this movie. As previously mentioned, it doesn’t have a focus on excess and the violence is not stylised at all. Some can talk about how the colour palette isn’t remarkable, I just personally mark up that up to being the fact that it’s an old man looking back at his life through that lens. The cinematography on the whole was great, and Scorsese’s camera movements are remarkable, definitely a master of his craft. Even though his direction is definitely restrained, that’s not to say that The Irishman is without some style. Additionally, when some characters are introduced, text flashes on screen with their name, and how they died and when. Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing is great as usual, and The Irishman ranks amongst her best work on a Scorsese film. Without an editor at her calibre, this movie would feel even longer than it is, but she keeps everything moving from scene to scene. The music is well picked and fits the scenes they are placed in, as per usual for Scorsese. However unlike Casino and Goodfellas (noticing a trend here?), they aren’t quite as memorable, and are much more quieter, appropriate for the movie. Much of the musical highlights of the movie comes from the score by Robbie Robertson, whose score is great throughout. The main theme especially is sinister, and fits perfectly with the tone of the movie. Fittingly, The Irishman utilises silence very well, allowing for the characters to reflect and contemplate.

Time to address the elephant in the room, the CGI used for the de-aging or youthificiation of the main cast. I should note that I saw this on a screen at home on Netflix, not in a large cinema, and from that situation I definitely noticed a lot less problems through that experience. With that said, I’d say that it’s the best use of de-aging I’ve seen in a movie. Even the best use of de-aging in movies I’ve seen like in Blade Runner 2049, they’ve used it in brief moments and not for the entire movie. The closest was with Samuel L. Jackson in Captain Marvel, who was de-aged from start to finish. However The Irishman is a whole other level, with actors nearly in their 80s that need to look as young as their 30s or 40s at least. I know some people said that it would’ve been better to just cast younger actors for the parts, but considering that the entire film is about growing old, that wouldn’t have worked at all. The delay of making the movie if anything was a blessing, because by the time they made it, the de-aging technology had advanced much more than in the early 2010s. The CGI on Al Pacino and Joe Pesci looked pretty much perfect and seamless. In fact there’s a moment where Pesci looks like he was ripped out of the 90s, it was incredibly uncanny. Out of the 3 main leads, it was De Niro that suffered the most, in that early on looked it wasn’t quite perfect. It wasn’t bad it just seemed a little off. With that said, it didn’t bother me as much as it seemed to bother others, I wasn’t too distracted by it. Even if you are distracted by it, you settle into the movie relatively quickly. There is only one complaint I have about the de-aging, and it’s not about the visual effects, but more the movement of the actors. Obviously, they have to make it look like they’re younger men through the way they sit, walk, etc, and a lot of attention has definitely been put towards that, that’s great and all. Occasionally though, you’ll get a scene where you really see the actor’s age. The biggest example is a scene where Sheeran/De Niro beats up a guy in the first half an hour of the movie, the scene is captured mostly in a wide shot and his movements are clearly from a man in his mid 70s and it kind of took me out of the scene. So there are a few scenes where they probably could’ve handled it a little better, but thankfully it doesn’t happen too often.

The Irishman is yet another fantastic film from Martin Scorsese, and is firmly one of his all time best achievements. It’s restrained, reflective, and devastating, featuring great performances, especially from the of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, giving some of the best performances of their careers. There is a lot to take in with this movie, and I definitely intend to revisit it within the next month or so. If you can watch it on the big screen, take that opportunity. You don’t necessarily need to see it in a cinema to love it however, I really loved it with my setup. However if you do it in this way, even if you take a break during viewing, I implore you to not watch this movie over a number of days or anything. It may a Netflix movie but it doesn’t mean that it’s a mini series, it’s meant to be seen as a movie. With that aside, The Irishman sits firmly as one of the all time best films of the year thus far.

Vice (2018) Review

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Christian Bale as Dick Cheney
Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney
Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld
Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush
Alison Pill as Mary Cheney
Lily Rabe as Liz Cheney
Tyler Perry as Colin Powell
Jesse Plemons as Kurt, the narrator
Director: Adam McKay

Gov. George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) of Texas picks Dick Cheney (Christian Bale), the CEO of Halliburton Co., to be his Republican running mate in the 2000 presidential election. No stranger to politics, Cheney’s impressive résumé includes stints as White House chief of staff, House Minority Whip and defense secretary. When Bush wins by a narrow margin, Cheney begins to use his newfound power to help reshape the country and the world.

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Vice (once titled Backseat) was one of my most anticipated movies of 2018. Along with the cast being talented with the likes of Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell involved and it being about Dick Cheney, it would be Adam McKay (who directed The Big Short) who would be taking on this movie about the notorious Vice President of George W. Bush. Despite hearing some early positive buzz, when the full reception of the movie came out, it was pretty divisive, one of the most divisive films of 2018 in fact. I happen to be in the camp of people who liked Vice, even though I get why it didn’t quite work for some people.

Adam McKay wrote the script for Vice and having watched The Big Short somewhat recently you can feel it. Now the movie is based on a true story and title cards at the beginning it makes pretty clear at the beginning that Dick Cheney is a very secretive person and that they tried their hardest to get their information about what happened. I heard some criticisms of the movie being that it’s very biased and intending to be very scathing towards Dick Cheney, I disagree. I knew going in that Adam McKay is a very political person, and he’s already made his opinions on Bush, Cheney and the entire Bush Administration pretty clear. With all that said, McKay seemed to restrain himself from just making the whole film just a hit piece on Cheney, while it is very opinionated and clearly against him, it also attempting to give some humanity to the controversial politician. At the same time though, it’s not trying to glorify him. Naturally as this movie is about politics, it’s going to divide some people with things that are said and how things are portrayed, it’s a given really. As a movie I was pretty interested in what was going on. It really covers Dick Cheney’s life in politics, so this includes his early stage work in the White House, before he’s Bush’s running mate in the 2000s. I think I should point out that despite the title, it’s really the second half of the movie that covers Dick as Vice President, and that’s where it picks up. I get that given this is a biopic about him they needed the first half to show where he got his experience, but I wouldn’t have minded if they picked up the pace a bit. While I wouldn’t say I was bored in the first half, there were portions where I was kind of wanting it to just jump to the Bush/Cheney stuff pretty quickly. The movie is 2 hours and 10 minutes long and while I don’t necessarily think that it should’ve been shorter, I wish that it got to the Bush Administration sooner. The second half is way more compelling and interesting, and that’s where the more hard hitting facts come into play. In terms of criticisms with what was portrayed and what was not, I do feel like they don’t spend enough time with the 9/11 bit. It’s definitely there, but it actually doesn’t stay on that extremely crucial and historical moment for long.

Vice had one of the best trailers of the year, however it implied that it would have a lot more comedy than there ended up being. Some of the humour can be absolutely absurd and it won’t work for some people, it did for me though. The comedy is here to make processing some of these events and facts easier. For one, this movie is pretty political based, and people generally are understandably bored by politics. I will say that I understood more here than with The Big Short, but that might just be because I can follow politics better than the economy. The other reason for the humour is that Vice is a lot darker than you think it would be. From the trailer you would think that it would just be rundown of what Dick Cheney did and that it’ll list off what happened as a result. While it is that and more, it also shows the consequences of his decisions, and I mean like they recreate events. For example there might be a scene where Cheney makes some decisions which might result on people being bombed and it would show glimpses of said bombing happening (the same could be torture, war, etc). Despite the comedy, it’s used more sparingly than you may think. The Big Short had quite a bit of comedy while highlighting a lot of tragic aspects, with Vice there’s much less comedy. I feel like using the comedy makes the harder and more troubling moments hit even harder, because you’re not bracing yourself for how bad things are going to go next. If you feel frustrated, angry or disturbed learning about all of these facts, Vice is kind of doing its job. As for more about how this is all told, I’ll get to that when I talk about the direction of the movie. Side note but Vice also a mid credits scene… a mid credits scene which is unnecessary and didn’t quite work. I get the intention behind that scene but it felt very heavy handed (even for Adam McKay) and was a little silly and not in the right way. The reference to a certain popular action franchise in the last line of the entire movie didn’t help things much either. So no, you aren’t missing much if you leave after the credits start to roll.

Vice has a fantastic cast that all work together great. Christian Bale here gives one of his best performances in his entire career, and considering his acting talent and his endless track record of fantastic performances, that’s saying a lot. Not only does he physically transform into Dick Cheney with yet another large weight gain (he really should stop doing that soon), he just embodies him completely. Even though I haven’t seen a ton of video footage of the real Cheney, the way Bale acts seems exactly like him. It would be easy for any actor to over rely on the weight gain, makeup and transformation, however he uses it to enhance his performance. The way he speaks (out of the corner of his mouth and with a very low voice), moves, all of that felt so much like Cheney. It’s not a showy performance at all, appropriately given the person he’s portraying, it’s a very quiet performance, you can tell even when he’s not saying a single word that he’s thinking and scheming about something. I know that it’s been said many times in the past with plenty of performances, but I forgot so many times that it was Bale playing Dick Cheney (I’m referring more so in the latter parts of the movie, he’s pretty recognisable earlier on). Now I have seen some people complain that the movie doesn’t go into a deep dive into Cheney as a person or necessarily explain him, given that Vice is a biopic about him. Once again I’ll refer to the beginning of the movie how it mentions that Dick Cheney is incredibly secretive, so really there was only so much that one could actually find out about him. Really when it comes to showing what kind of a person he is, you have to look at his actions in the movie and the ways he does them, those things sort of painted a picture of what Cheney really was. One of the best performances of 2018 for sure.

Amy Adams plays Lynne Cheney, the wife of Dick, who actually played a big part in his success. She was actually involved a lot more in the movie than I thought she would be. Adams as usual brings her A-game to this role, I don’t know if I’d consider this to be necessarily one of her all time best performances but it a good performance nonetheless. Steve Carell is charismatic and entertaining as Donald Rumsfeld, who acted as Secretary of Defence for both Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, and is a delight when he’s on screen. Then there’s Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush who is hilarious when he’s on screen. The portrayal basically leans in more that Bush was really incompetent and was manipulated by Cheney and others. I just wished that we got more of Rockwell, he really shows up in the second half of the movie and doesn’t as much screen time as I would’ve liked. Other actors like Tyler Perry who plays Colin Powell are also great in their roles. Something that also should be discussed is Jesse Plemons is as the narrator of the movie, who you see in person quite a lot throughout the movie, talking to the camera. Plemons is an overlooked actor worthy of a lot more recognition and he does a really good job here, really keeping your attention whenever he’s present. There’s a big mystery to his character in his relation to Dick Cheney, and I can certainly say that the reveal was rather unexpected. I’m not exactly sure how I felt about it though. The reveal felt rather pointless, it doesn’t exactly tell us anything new, it’s just surprising that’s all. It might’ve just been better to have Plemons as a random guy narrating everything that happened than actually giving him a role in the story.

Adam McKay’s direction of The Big Short was pretty unique and actually worked quite well to tell the story and explain everything rather well (even though there was a bunch of things that I still don’t understand even after watching it twice). However, he takes his odd brand of filmmaking to the next level with Vice. This might be the most unorthodoxly directed political movie and biopic I’ve seen, especially with regard to the editing. Along with the political baggage, this direction is what will really polarize and divide a lot of people. As for how the story is told and all that, I decided to hold off talking about it till I was talking about the direction, because the two aspects kind of interlink with each other. As previously mentioned the film is narrated, and there is a ton of narration, and there is a ton of explaining everything to the audience. As much as I prefer that they would show rather than tell, it’s pretty hard getting across so much information and having the general audience understanding it. So I don’t see it as McKay condescending and treating people like they’re children, it can be very difficult for most people to understand politics or really be that interested in it, its rather mundane. McKay does some weird choices of portraying scenes, some of it being for humour. For example there’s a scene where both Dick and Lynne have a scene where every line they had was like Shakespearian (this instance it was more done for humour). Things like this at least keeps things interesting as you’re wondering what absurd thing McKay will somehow add in next (Galactus somehow makes an appearance). In that sense, quite a lot of the movie is satirical, and the whole movie seems to bounce between being a straight up serious political biopic with some comedic bits, to a full on absurdist satire. This can be very jarring but it worked for me, even though it can be quite messy at times. As the film covers 3-4 decades, there is a lot of makeup used and it worked really well, mostly being used on Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Steve Carell.

Making a movie about Dick Cheney is not easy but Adam McKay really pulled it off, even though it won’t work for everyone. The performances are nothing short of fantastic, and the way that the story was told was very effective, at times funny, but also very hard hitting. Vice is an unorthodox film for sure but I think it’s better with this direction than without it. I do think that Vice is worth watching at least for the performances, though I’m not quite sure how you’ll feel about the rest of the film.

Game Night (2018) Review

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence, sexual references & offensive language
Cast
Jason Bateman as Max
Rachel McAdams as Annie
Kyle Chandler as Brooks
Billy Magnussen as Ryan
Sharon Horgan as Sarah
Lamorne Morris as Kevin
Kylie Bunbury as Michelle
Jesse Plemons as Gary Kingsbury
Michael C. Hall as The Bulgarian
Director: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein

Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie’s (Rachel McAdams) weekly game night gets kicked up a notch when Max’s brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) arranges a murder mystery party — complete with fake thugs and federal agents. So when Brooks gets kidnapped, it’s all supposed to be part of the game. As the competitors set out to solve the case, they start to learn that neither the game nor Brooks are what they seem to be. The friends soon find themselves in over their heads as each twist leads to another unexpected turn over the course of one chaotic night.

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I wasn’t expecting much from Game Night to be honest. From the trailer is looked like it could be a fun but overall passable comedy. Also, although the directors were involved with writing Spider-Man Homecoming, they also did 2015’s Vacation, which from what was a real misfire of a comedy. However, Game Night was actually a lot better than I thought it would be. It was entertaining and funny throughout, and the performances by the cast and the work by the directors only made it better.

From start to finish, Game Night is really entertaining and not once misses a beat, it never feels slow or uninteresting. This movie takes so many twists and turns that you aren’t really expecting. Granted at times there are so many twists that I have a feeling I might need to rewatch the movie to make sure that they actually makes sense to a degree and if they’re not just throwing in twists for the sake of twists. Also, it is a comedy, so even though the movie gives you things to care about with the characters and the plot, it doesn’t forget what it is, and at times even pokes fun at itself. It doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is, which is a dark comedy. And on the comedy, Game Night is really funny, and its humour is really effective and works very well. On another note, there is another scene after the credits to stick around for, I’m just bringing this up because I missed it myself.

Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are the leads and they are really good here, they share great chemistry and are quite believable as a couple. Jason Bateman does his usual comedic thing here and he is good at it and he’s good here but it’s Rachel McAdams who was actualy one of the stand outs of the movie, she was particularly good. The supporting actors was also really good, with a cast that includes Kyle Chandler, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury. Jesse Plemons is especially a scene stealer as a bit of an awkward neighbour of Bateman and McAdams’s, Plemons at times produced some of the biggest laughs of the movie.

The direction of this movie by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein is particularly great and actually one of the most stand out parts of the movie. It’s very stylised and edited well together. The action sequences, when they happen are actually quite well directed. Apparently Francis Daley and Goldstein are going to direct The Flash movie and given their work here, I’m now totally on board for it. Cliff Martinez always makes very memorable and stand out scores and Game Night was no exception, it really added to the movie a great deal.

Game Night is actually a much better movie than I thought it would be, I had a lot of fun with it and don’t have too many problems with it. The cast was great, the direction by Francis Dalyey and Goldstein was surprisingly stylish and entertaining, the movie is pretty fun overall. Even if you might feel that the trailer doesn’t look all that good I still highly recommend giving Game Night a chance, I am sure that it’ll surprise you in how good it actually is.

American Made (2017) Review

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Contains violence, offensive language & sex scenes
Cast
Tom Cruise as Barry Seal
Sarah Wright as Lucy Seal
Domhnall Gleeson as Monty Schafer
Jayma Mays as Dana Sibota
Jesse Plemons as Sheriff Downing
Director: Doug Liman

Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), a TWA pilot, is recruited by the CIA to provide reconnaissance on the burgeoning communist threat in Central America and soon finds himself in charge of one of the biggest covert CIA operations in the history of the United States. The operation spawns the birth of the Medellin cartel and almost brings down the Reagan White House.

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American Made had me immediately interested with Tom Cruise and Doug Liman involved. Cruise brings his A game to whatever movie he’s involved in (even if the movie isn’t always great) and Doug Liman have directed a lot of great movies with The Bourne Identity and Edge of Tomorrow. Ultimately the movie is quite good, with solid performances, stylistic storytelling and was quite fun overall. I wouldn’t call it a great film and its not one of Doug Liman’s all time best, but it is very entertaining.

The film is very fast paced and kept my interest throughout. There is a lot of unbelievable things that happen in American Made, to the point where they all had to be real (granted I don’t know how accurate the movie is to real life). American Made is quite entertaining, though I think Liman’s direction had a big part of that, and the way he decided to tell the story. Despite it being quite a fun movie, the film doesn’t glorify Barry’s actions, you do get the feeling throughout that what he’s doing a lot of the time is unethical. The film is 1 hour 55 minutes long, which was a good runningtime for this movie overall, it was long enough but it also didn’t overstay its welcome. Honestly I don’t have a whole lot to say about the story, what you see from the trailer of American Made is what you’ll get from the movie, except its more insane and it does handle the dramatic aspects quite well.

Tom Cruise is so great in this movie, I don’t know what the real life Barry Seal was like but for whatever Doug Liman was going for, Cruise seemed to have been perfectly cast. He is so effortlessly likable, despite all the questionable things he does. Cruise was also great at the dramatic aspects of Barry, he wasn’t just Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise again. The supporting cast was also good, such as Domhnall Gleeson who plays a CIA agent who gets Barry Seal to work with him.

Overall I liked Doug Liman’s style, it played a huge part in this movie being entertaining and fun to watch. There are so many insane things that happens in this story, and so this style really was appropriate to show it. At times it did however feel that it was almost trying to have a style similar to Wolf of Wall Street, not that it was necessarily a bad thing, it was just a little distracting at points. One problem I do have with this direction is that this movie is shot handheld, and I never felt like it needed to be. I know Doug Liman often uses handheld/shaky cam quite often but it felt like there was no real purpose to make it that way, it wasn’t an action movie, nor was it a mockumentary style movie, it was very unnecessary.

American Made is fast paced and entertaining, and definitely keeps your interest from beginning to end. With Tom Cruise, the supporting cast, and Liman’s direction, it really works. It’s not going for any awards, and the camerawork is rather questionable and annoying, but it’s a solid movie overall. It’s not necessarily a movie you need to rush out and see in cinemas, but whenever you get a chance, it’s definitely worth checking out.

The Discovery (2017) Review

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Rooney Mara as Isla
Jason Segel as Will Harbor
Jesse Plemons as Toby Harbor
Riley Keough as Lacey
Robert Redford as Thomas Harbor
Director: Charlie McDowell

In the near future, due to a breakthrough scientific discovery by Dr. Thomas Harbor (Robert Redford), there is now definitive proof of an afterlife. While countless people have chosen suicide to reset their existence, others try to decide what it all means. Among them is Dr. Harbor’s son Will (Jason Segal), who has arrived at his father’s isolated compound with a mysterious young woman named Isla (Rooney Mara). There, they discover the strange acolytes who help Dr. Harbor with his experiments.

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The Discovery was one of my most anticipated films of 2017. With its talented cast, its very intriguing premise and trailer, it looked like an interesting and unique movie at the very least. After finally watched this movie, I have to say, it didn’t disappoint. The acting, direction and most of the story was great. There were a couple of aspects which didn’t work well but it’s not enough to affect the overall viewing experience in a major way.

The premise about the aftermath after the discovery of the afterlife is very interesting, and I was invested throughout the entire running time. I never felt bored or confused in the movie (I was however confused at the end but I’ll get to that later). Each twist and turn only increased my curiosity in what direction the film was going in next. For the most part this movie works very well. That’s not to say that everything was as good as it could’ve been. The film does rely on a lot of exposition and while I liked it, I felt like there was too much of it. And then there is the ending… I’m still not sure what I think about it. The ending does add yet another twist to the numerous other twists in the movie. It is such a big twist; however the film doesn’t really allow much time for this twist to play out before the movie ends. The twist itself is one that I’m a little confused about, and I wasn’t sure about what the ending meant. Overall, I guess I sort of liked the ending but I do think it should’ve been handled better.

The acting in this movie is great overall but Rooney Mara delivered the most stand out performance out of everyone. Rooney played her role incredibly well, she also had a lot of humorous moments and lines. Her character was the one I was most interested in throughout. She and Jason Segal played off each other and had great chemistry. Segal was pretty good, however he did feel like a weak link, I’m not sure why it feels that way. Possibly slightly miscast, but he wasn’t bad. Robert Redford is always great, and does have quite a presence here. Other actors like Jason Plemons and Riley Keough were good but they were underused.

The direction and cinematography were great, this film is visually beautiful, both in regard to the way that the film was shot as well as the locations chosen. This film also has this almost eerie feel to it, which is helped by it’s score. I don’t know why but this really made me even more invested and interested in the movie.

The Discovery is very intriguing and interesting throughout. The acting was great (especially from Rooney Mara), the direction by Charlie McDowell is really good, and the story was really riveting. There are some problems I have with the movie, especially with the way they handled the ending but what it gets right, it gets right so well. I definitely recommend giving it a view, it’s now on Netflix. Not everyone loves this movie, but it might just surprise you.