Tag Archives: Jessie Buckley

Men (2022) Review

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Men

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language, suicide themes, nudity & content that may disturb
Cast:
Jessie Buckley as Harper Marlowe
Rory Kinnear as Geoffrey
Director: Alex Garland

In the aftermath of a personal tragedy, Harper retreats alone to the beautiful English countryside, hoping to find a place to heal. However, someone or something from the surrounding woods appears to be stalking her. What begins as simmering dread soon becomes a fully formed nightmare, inhabited by her darkest memories and fears.

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Men was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. I like Alex Garland as a writer and a director, and I particularly liked his directing work with Annihilation and Ex Machina. His next film would be a full-on horror movie and would have the excellent talent of Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear. Unfortunately, I had to wait an extra month before I got the chance to see it here, but in that time, I heard the very mixed reception from people who watched it. Men finally released here and I’m glad to say that I liked the movie, even if I didn’t like it as much as I hoped I would.

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Men starts off well at the very least. The first hour is very intriguing as we follow main character Harper (Jessie Buckley) as things about her traumas are revealed to us, and tensions rise as she encounters unsettling things in her new environment. There’s an uneasy atmosphere and seemed to start out as a mystical folk horror, which I thought was effective. Much of the movie can be a bit vague and leans more into atmosphere and vibes over the story, and while not everyone will like that, I thought it worked. I was intrigued to see what would happen next. The tone was interesting; some moments were a bit funny, but I couldn’t tell whether they were intentional or not. This is especially with the ‘horror’ moments. Intentional or not, they result in an off-kilter tone which I actually enjoyed. The third act of is one of the aspects of Men that will linger in the minds of most people who watch it. Some may call it “craziest movie ever”, its really not that crazy or insane for the most part, but the ending certainly is. I can certainly see the metaphor that this gory and grotesque climax is going for, so I won’t reveal too much about what happened, nor the message it was trying to convey. But it just can’t shake the feeling that its only here to be disturbing and memorable. The worst part may be that despite its efforts to be shocking, it generated more laughs than scares with how over the top and goofy it is. This combined with Jessie Buckley’s underwhelmed reactions made me wonder whether it was another intentionally funny moment from Garland. Shock and gore aside, it just doesn’t work as a satisfying conclusion in any way. The ending is so abrupt with no sense of closure, and doesn’t even work as a horror movie ending. Men is a tight film at just over an hour and a half long but it felt like it needed more, the narrative was a little underdeveloped by the end. I think it would’ve been better if it was made as a short film, or if it was longer and fleshed out more of its ideas.

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Third act and tonal issues aside, the problems stack up most of all when you look at the film on a thematic level. Unfortunately, you can’t really watch the movie and understand it without looking at it metaphorically in some way. It doesn’t work when you watch as a simple horror movie, it won’t make sense on any level. Some viewers have labelled Men as pretentious. I try to refrain from calling movies pretentious, not only because it’s a rather blanket statement, but its also very easy and there’s usually a better way at highlighting the specific problem. It is certainly a movie that wants to say something, from some of the conversations and all the symbolism and imagery especially with religion. Despite that, it doesn’t end up having much to say. The themes in Men are blatant which isn’t inherently bad; my problem is that they are a bit too easy and simple, yet the film lingers on them for so long. Men is yet another horror movie about trauma. There seems to be a lot of those especially nowadays, and if you are getting tired of these kinds of horror movies (especially with it being another one from A24), the film might irk you because it practically ticks all the boxes. I will say that it is a decent portrayal of trauma, but it is not an exploration of it by any means. It’s definitely a present aspect throughout the film, but it doesn’t go into depth any depth, and is overall a very basic take on grief. This is probably because even though we spend time with Harper in pretty much every scene, we don’t learn much about her as a character. The other main theme which you can probably guess from the title is about men, masculinity, patriarchy, toxic masculinity, etc. As far as I understood, the theme of Men boils down to “men are all the same, and men are all bad”. Perhaps Alex Garland has a lot more to say, but whatever that is, it doesn’t come across here. Now that theme isn’t necessarily bad, but it doesn’t really lend itself to much interpretation or analysis. It really doesn’t help that its not as propound as the movie seems to think it is. Looking at the plotting and the themes, Men’s script feels like it is very close to being really good, but could’ve done with more drafts in order to nail it. As it is, it felt like it just missed the mark.

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The performances are some of the best parts of the film. Jessie Buckley as usual delivers another outstanding and powerful performance here. You follow along with her as Harper, and while the film really doesn’t give the character much, Buckley sells it so well. She feels like a believable person and makes it all work whether it be conveying the trauma and grief, or the reaction to the present horror events at her new location. I would say that Buckley’s performance alone makes the movie worth watching. The overall cast of the film is quite small, Rory Kinnear makes up most of the supporting cast. He plays almost all the men in the film, separate characters with their own personalities but with the same face. It is an interesting and intriguing gimmick. However outside of a metaphor about men being all the same, the movie really doesn’t do much with that concept. There isn’t even a moment where Harper reacts to this, even when she’s in a room with 4 Rory Kinnears. Nonetheless, he is great here, and his performances are ambitious to say the least. He effectively jumps between different levels of sinister and conveys the differences between of the characters. Kinnear is generally a supporting actor who is in the background in most movies he’s in, but he really gets to shine in Men.

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I think that Alex Garland’s work is once again great here, for all its faults, it is strong on a technical level at least. Rob Hardy’s cinematography is amazing, the visuals are stunning and really take advantage of the beautiful locations, with nice shots of the English countryside and the great production design is put on display well. Without spoiling what happens, the effects for the third act are strong and effectively gory. One of the first things I noticed in the movie was the sound design and sound mixing, which are excellent and were integral to some intense scenes working as well as they did. The soundtrack by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow is really good at setting the right tone for the film and helps to make you feel uneasy. There are a couple of hiccups on a technical level, there is a boy who has the face of Rory Kinnear CGI’d onto him. It looks very weird and uncanny, but I guess it works to make him look unsettling. As previously mentioned, the film didn’t succeed at scares despite its attempts, and came across as being funny than anything.

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Men is a very flawed movie and I think it is definitely the worst of Alex Garland’s directing work so far. I do understand why some people really don’t like the movie. It could’ve used a lot more fleshing out for many of its ideas. While there are clear themes on display, the movie doesn’t seem to have much interest in exploring them despite fixating on them so much. Even outside the themes it does suffer from other issues, including some failed attempts at horror and a third act which might be trying just a little too hard to provoke a reaction. With that said, I still like the movie. I enjoyed the atmosphere and off kilter tone, Alex Garland’s direction is pretty strong with some outstanding visuals (which were amazing to see on the big screen), and the performances from Rory Kinnear and especially Jessie Buckley were fantastic. Men is a divisive movie and its hard to tell who the movie would be for, but I do think it has some great aspects that make it worth checking out if you’re into horror.

Chernobyl (2019) TV Review

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Chernobyl

Cast:
Jared Harris as Valery Legasov
Stellan Skarsgård as Boris Shcherbina
Emily Watson as Ulana Khomyuk
Paul Ritter as Anatoly Dyatlov
Jessie Buckley as Lyudmilla Ignatenko
Adam Nagaitis as Vasily Ignatenko
Con O’Neill as Viktor Bryukhanov
Adrian Rawlins as Nikolai Fomin
Sam Troughton as Aleksandr Akimov
Robert Emms as Leonid Toptunov
David Dencik as Mikhail Gorbachev
Mark Lewis Jones as Vladimir Pikalov
Alan Williams as Charkov
Alex Ferns as Andrei Glukhov
Ralph Ineson as Nikolai Tarakanov
Barry Keoghan as Pavel Gremov
Fares Fares as Bacho
Michael McElhatton as Andrei Stepashin
Creator: Craig Mazin

In April 1986, the city of Chernobyl in the Soviet Union suffers one of the worst nuclear disasters in the history of mankind. Consequently, many heroes put their lives on the line to save Europe.

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I remember when I was first hearing a lot about an HBO show about the events of Chernobyl, it was one of the most highly reviewed and praised mini series’ that I had heard of. So I was going into it fairly optimistic and I really wasn’t expecting it to be as great as it turned out to be. Chernobyl was a truly excellent show, depicting the true life events with such realism and weight that made it hard to watch, but is nonetheless well made on all fronts and riveting from beginning to end.

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The writing for Chernobyl is all around fantastic, and I was completely engaged across its 5 episodes. Not one scene felt unimportant or out of place, it’s just so well put together. Each episode concentrates on its own phase of the disaster, and each phase is handled well. Episode 1 begins with the early moments of the disaster during the initial explosion. After that point, the show approaches the disaster on both a macro and micro scale, as we follow the undertaking that Jared Harris’s Valery Legasov and Stellan Skarsgard’s Boris Shcherbina face when trying to prevent a global catastrophe from occurring after the disaster has occurred. However it also focuses attention to the impact that the explosion had on the citizens of Pripyat such as Jessie Buckley’s pregnant Lyudmilla Ignatenko and Barry Keoghan’s young draftee turned animal exterminator. The story is told with such painstaking attention to detail. It does take liberties, but they seem warranted and it was in service of the overall series. It so perfectly crafts the fear and trauma of the events in such a haunting way. I actually don’t think I’ve watched any piece of live action media that conveys this much dread as HBO’s Chernobyl. It’s also very impressive that it manages to take a threat that feels invisible on screen, and make it feel tangible and dangerous. The miniseries does a great job at commemorating all the countless unknown and forgotten people who risked their lives to try to deal with this situation. The scariest part of the whole show is that these events happened, really adding such a weight to the series when you’re watching. Chernobyl at first beings as a graphic recreation of events, but is more than just a tv series about a tragedy. It’s an exploration about the terrible human and environmental consequences and by the end is a systemic breakdown of a government’s limitations, especially with what they choose to hide. It recounts the major events of the disaster but also gives insight as to why it transpired in the first place. The story feels very grounded in reality throughout, transitioning from being scary, to sad, to even hopeful within seconds. It might be a pretty obvious statement to say but Chernobyl is very bleak and not an easy watch for many reasons. It is very harrowing but it’s a deeply rewarding experience. The end result is a dramatization of events that’s both absorbing and deeply affecting.

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The acting from the cast is all around fantastic. Getting it out of the way, much of the accents from the actors are English, which can be a bit distracting given that they aren’t Russian. However the alternative would be all of these actors attempting Russian accents, so it’s probably for the best. First of all are the leads played by Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgard and Emily Watson, who are all great in their parts. The highlights for me were Harris and Skarsgard who are fantastic as these professionals in uncharted territory as they try their best to make sure the disaster doesn’t become worse than it already is. The chemistry between Harris and Skarsgard was so amazing and their dynamic changes from their first onscreen appearance to their last. The supporting cast are all outstanding too. The highlights among them being Jessie Buckley as the pregnant wife of a firefighter who was one of the first responders to the disaster, Barry Keoghan as a soldier whose job it is to kill infected animals, and Paul Ritter as a Soviet Engineer who was partly responsible for the disaster in the first place.

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It was all incredibly directed too, with all 5 episodes being handled by Johan Renck. On a technical level it is shot beautifully, with the unnerving yet incredible cinematography. The set designs are exceptional, meticulously recreating Soviet controlled Ukraine which is both impressive and hauntingly beautiful. The whole show has this overcast dystopian look to it which is quite appropriate for the story and tone. Although it’s not a show with many ‘action’ scenes, there are some incredibly breath-taking and tense sequences. An example is the depiction of a rooftop radiation-clearing excursion which was absolutely chill inducing, especially helped by the claustrophobic and truly immersive sound design. The makeup and practical effects is truly detailed and outstanding too, making the representation of what happened to people exposed to the radiation hard to look at. Finally, of course is the eerie and otherworldly score from Hildur Guonadottir, which provides the series with this constant unsettling aura. It perfectly fit the show throughout.

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In all honesty, Chernobyl is some of the best made pieces of television I’ve ever seen, and one of the best miniseries’ I’ve watched. It’s phenomenal on all fronts, with the writing, directing and acting, the story is tragic yet absorbing and compelling. It’s not one I really want to experience again, but I think it is worth watching at least one.

The Lost Daughter (2021) Review

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The Lost Daughter

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Olivia Colman as Leda Caruso
Jessie Buckley as Young Leda Caruso
Dakota Johnson as Nina
Peter Sarsgaard as Professor Hardy
Ed Harris as Lyle
Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal

A college professor (Olivia Colman) confronts her unsettling past after meeting a woman (Dakota Johnson) and her young daughter while on vacation in Italy. Her obsession with the woman and her daughter prompts memories of her early motherhood.

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The Lost Daughter is the third of the three movie tickets I secured as part of the NZIFF, and it’s one of my most anticipated movies of 2021. This would be Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut and would consist of a great cast including Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, and Ed Harris. I went in only really knowing the main premise, seeing a trailer, and hearing that some people had split reactions to it. I’m glad to say that I’m one of the people who really liked The Lost Daughter.

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The Lost Daughter is a bit of an unconventional movie, at least with its narrative. Essentially it follows Olivia Colman on a holiday in Greece, she meets a woman with a difficult child (played by Dakota Johnson) and that brings up her own motherhood with her two young girls portrayed in flashbacks (with the younger Colman played by Jessie Buckley). The film then jumps between past and present, revealing the regrets and reflections that Colman has. The plot definitely unravels in an unusual way but very much moves to its own rhythm and pace. It could’ve been a mess of a structure, but Maggie Gyllenhaal pulls it off, I was invested enough in the story and character to want to see and learn more. The Lost Daughter is essentially an unflinching character study following a woman thinking back on her life, and it’s also a look at motherhood which touches on the struggles of parenthood and the toll it takes on the parent. Additionally, it delves into themes like femininity and motherhood, and the feelings and regrets that come from being a mother. It’s not an easy movie to watch, I know that many viewers will struggle to stay following this protagonist with some of the things she does, and it’s a hard topic to cover (and one that a lot of people don’t like to think about). However Gyllenhaal pulls it off by remaining empathetic, not judging its characters, and handles its challenging views on motherhood with a lot of nuance. Its very honest, meditative and human as certain truths are revealed about different characters. In terms of issues with the film, the constant flashbacks can take away from the depth of character work in the present sections, and they are jarring in the first act. Also at the end, some things weren’t as tied up as greatly as I would’ve like, there was particularly one conclusion towards the end which felt a little bit of a let down.

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The acting is phenomenal and one of the best parts of the film. First of all is the lead character Leda, who is a complex character that is full of contradictions. She is selfish and unlikable at times, a very difficult character to play. However both actresses do a superb job at portraying her. The present day Leda is played by Olivia Colman, she is a quiet presence. D plays her with a lot of nuance and in a way that makes you understand her. One of her best performances, and that’s saying a lot considering a lot of her recent work. Jessie Buckley plays the younger Leda, and she was a perfect casting choice as a younger Colman. She’s more showy than Colman’s comparatively subtle performance, but she effectively portrayed her desire for an escape out of her motherly life and really plays up her humanity. Another fantastic performance from Buckley. Both Colman and Buckley are believable as the same person, while avoiding feeling like they’re trying to imitate each other. The two performances are full of empathy and fleshed out versions of the same character. Dakota Johnson is used sparingly in this film but this is very likely one of the best performances I’ve seen from her. She’s able to tell a lot without saying much, even just with her facial expressions, body language and subtle glances. Ed Harris, Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Mescal and Oliver Jackson-Cohen are comparatively short on screentime but all do well to make their presences felt and are good in their parts.

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As I said earlier, this is Maggie Gyllenhaal’s first film as a director and she’s done a great job here. It does feel like a debut movie with some aspects with the camerawork and editing, but it’s a strong debut nonetheless. The eerie atmosphere helped the movie to dive deeper into Leda’s headspace throughout. The cinematography is also great, with making use of the locations in Greece in the present day, but are particularly effective with the close ups of the characters.

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The Lost Daughter is not an easy movie to watch and isn’t for everyone. However I thought it was great. A slowly paced yet engaging and compelling character drama, we’ll directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal, and with phenomenal performances, especially from Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley and Dakota Johnson. The movie will be on Netflix in December, and I think it’s worth checking out at the very least.

The Courier (2021) Review

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The Courier

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Benedict Cumberbatch as Greville Wynne
Merab Ninidze as Colonel Oleg Penkovsky
Rachel Brosnahan as Emily Donovan
Jessie Buckley as Sheila Wynne
Angus Wright as Dickie Franks
Director: Dominic Cooke

The true story of a British businessman (Benedict Cumberbatch) unwittingly recruited into one of the greatest international conflicts in history. Forming an unlikely partnership with a Soviet officer (Merab Ninidze) hoping to prevent a nuclear confrontation, the two men work together to provide the crucial intelligence used to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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I heard some good things about The Courier. It was a cold war spy thriller that had a good cast, with Benedict Cumberbatch leading the movie, and it looked goo from the trailer, so I was interested in checking it out. The Courier was a conventional but solid true story spy thriller that is well worth a watch.

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The Courier is the true story of a salesman turned spy during the Cold War in the early 1960s, and while I know that some people might not be interested in the movie by that description alone, I think the movie is quite accessible on the whole. It keeps things simple, by not getting bogged down by all the details and spy jargon, it makes the movie more streamlined and enjoyable to watch. Along with that, the pacing works quite well. It’s not fast paced by any means; it is on the slower side but done in a thoughtful way that slowly builds up the tension. However, it is also faster than expected considering movies of this specific genre, and doesn’t outstay its welcome, at a runtime of an hour and 50 minutes long. I found the story to be quite interesting, and the script itself was well written. It was clever, witty, it has the right amount of humour and seriousness throughout to make it entertaining to watch, and the dramatic beats worked for me. It does seem to repeating itself to a degree for most of the movie, until it changes into being something different in the third act, which I thought was strong. The friendship between the lead character (played by Cumberbatch) and the Russian spy, two people on the opposite side of the political divide, was particularly compelling to watch. Definitely one of the strongest aspects of the movie. The Courier is a cold war thriller, and as that doesn’t really do anything special to break the mould. It is conventional and similar to other movies about wartime unsung heroes that are intended snag Oscar nominations. However, I was still invested the entire time, so that wasn’t a problem for me.

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The acting is a shining point in the movie. First of all, there’s Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role as the salesman who becomes a spy. This is his best performance since the Imitation Game, and for the most part, he is quite understated. His performance doesn’t just fall back into his bag of snarky tricks as in Sherlock Holmes or many of his other roles. His performance is nuanced and believable, and he particularly shines in the final act. Another great and heartfelt performance is from Merab Ninidze as the Russian spy, working at the same level as Cumberbatch. Some of the acting elevated a lot of their material, both Jessie Buckley and Rachel Brosnahan are in rather thankless roles but do a lot to make up for it. Buckley particularly plays the stock role of “wife who worries about husband” in this sort of movie, however gives a lot in her scenes.

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Dominic Cooke’s direction is pretty solid. It is very well shot and has a nice sharp look to it, with some excellent lighting. The costumes and production designs work for the time period as expected, and there’s a great and suspenseful score from Abel Korzeniowski. If there are any flaws in terms of the technical level, it’s the editing, especially in the first half. Occasionally it feels like its cutting short some of the scenes.

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As far as “based on a real story” Oscar Bait movies set in the Cold War era goes, The Courier is on the more exciting end. Clearly a lot of the movie was handled with care, the story is familiar and conventional but compelling and interesting nonetheless, it’s well shot, and the performances are great, particularly from Cumberbatch, Ninidze and Buckley. I think it’s worth checking out.

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.

Taboo Season 1 (2017) Review

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Taboo Season 1

Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, sexual violence, offensive language & sex scenes
Cast:
Tom Hardy as James Keziah Delaney
Leo Bill as Benjamin Wilton
Jessie Buckley as Lorna Delaney
Oona Chaplin as Zilpha Geary
Stephen Graham as Atticus
Jefferson Hall as Thorne Geary
David Hayman as Brace
Edward Hogg as Michael Godfrey
Franka Potente as Helga von Hinten
Michael Kelly as Edgar Dumbarton
Tom Hollander as Dr George Cholmondeley
Marina Hands as Countess Musgrove
Jonathan Pryce as Sir Stuart Strange
Jason Watkins as Solomon Coop
Nicholas Woodeson as Robert Thoyt
Creator: Steven Knight, Tom Hardy and Chips Hardy

James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy) returns to 1814 London after 10 years in Africa to discover that he has been left a mysterious legacy by his father. Driven to wage war on those who have wronged him, Delaney finds himself in a fact-off against the East India Company, whilst playing a dangerous game between two warring nations, Britain and America.

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I knew about Taboo for some years, I just knew it as some period tv show with Tom Hardy in the lead role, that’s it though. Having watched a number of Hardy’s movies recently however, I thought that it would be the best time to Taboo’s first and currently only season. I eventually got around to it and I’m glad I did. Taboo may have its fair share of issues, but I really liked what I saw from this season.

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One of the biggest comparisons that has been made with this show was to Peaky Blinders, a show that Steven Knight also wrote and created. Both are period crime dramas that star Tom Hardy, but make no mistake, they are very different shows. While Peaky Blinders had its slower moments, it was much more entertaining, flashy and fast placed. Taboo is much more of a slow burn, and that’s probably the main thing that will turn some people off the show. If you intend on watching through all of Taboo going in, I highly recommend watching multiple episodes in each sitting. If you say only watch one episode a day, it more than likely feel like a drag to get through it all. I watched about 2-3 episodes a day and that worked for me. I won’t deny that it was quite slow to begin with, but the further you get into it, the more invested you become and the better it becomes. The second half in particular is better, with the last two episodes standing out the most. While the pacing doesn’t necessarily pick up, the plotlines become more interesting, it’s just that to begin with you’re not as into it just yet. There are 8 episodes in the first season of Taboo, each being an hour long, and I thought that was about the right length for this season. This show also is a little weird, mainly is that there is an element of magic when it comes to Tom Hardy’s character that’s quite present throughout the show, and he even has some visions at times. It doesn’t bother me particularly, but I thought it was worth pointing out, especially with such a gritty show like this that it’s a little stranger than it initially looks.

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Tom Hardy is front and centre for the vast majority, and Taboo is very much his show, in fact he’s the main reason most people even checked this show out. Hardy is reliant as an actor, and his work in this show is no exception. As protagonist James Delaney, Hardy has immense screen presence. Sure Delaney is yet another broody TV anti hero, cunning, ruthless and with a lot of issues, but he works exceptionally well for this show, mainly because of Tom Hardy’s work, especially with the fact that he actually is one of the creators of the show alongside his father and Steven Knight. While Hardy is fantastic as usual, the supporting cast deserve to be noted as well, even if some get more chances to shine than others. Among the highlights were Jessie Buckley, David Hayman, Michael Kelly, Tom Hollander and Jonathan Pryce. Additionally, you have Stephen Graham and Mark Gattis who also work in their roles. The only character I thought was a little mishandled was that of James’s half-sister/lover played by Oona Chaplin, whose story arc was a little half baked and felt like a weak link compared to the rest of the storylines.

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Taboo is directed very well, with the first half by Kristoffer Nyholm and the second half by Anders Engstrom. The period of the 1810s is very well portrayed, from the costumes, the production design, all of it works, also excellently showcased through the cinematography by Mark Patten. Much of the show looks very muddy, grimy and dirty, and that perfectly is in line with the tone of the show. The show doesn’t feature that many scenes of violence (at least compared to the likes of Peaky Blinders), but the violence that occurs can be very brutal and gruesome, so it’s not really a show for the faint of heart. One other technical aspect of the show that is well worth noting is the great score by Max Richter, his themes really added a lot to the show and made already good scenes significantly better. It’s not surprising given that Richter is a really good composer, but this probably ranks among my favourite works of his.

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Taboo isn’t a show for everyone, it is slow, it is gruesome, it gets weird, it takes a while to really come into its own, and not everyone can really get into it. However, if you like dark movies/shows, or even if you just like Tom Hardy, I reckon that it’s worth checking out, at least watch the first 4 episodes. I have no idea whether Taboo is getting another season (with Steven Knight intending this to be a 3 season long series), apparently it is happening but for whatever reason it’s taking a very long time for it to release. As someone who liked the first season, I really want to see it happen. From the point that season 1 ended, it feels like the story of the show has only just started and I want to see where Knight is intending to take this story.

Wild Rose (2019) Review

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Wild Rose

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Jessie Buckley as Rose-Lynn Harlan
Julie Walters as Marion
Sophie Okonedo as Susannah
Director: Tom Harper

Fresh out of prison, a Scottish woman (Jessie Buckley) juggles her job and two children while pursuing her dream of becoming a country music star. She soon gets her chance when she travels to Nashville, Tenn., on a life-changing journey to discover her true voice.

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I only heard of Wild Rose very recently. The main reason I came to hear of it was that the most recent BAFTAs nominated and then awarded Best Actress to the movie’s lead actress Jessie Buckley. Looking into the movie, I heard that it was pretty good and so I decided to go see it for myself. It’s a decent movie for sure, with Buckley’s performance elevating it immensely.

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First and foremost, the story isn’t anything that you haven’t seen before. There’s nothing really bad about the movie but it does hit many cliché plot beats, and that could annoy some people who were hoping for something more fresh. It is quite enjoyable to watch though, and there is a heart behind it all as it also touches upon the idea of pursuing one’s ambitions, and the cost that comes with that. I will say that even if you’re not into country music, that won’t be a problem at all, you’ll be fine with it for this movie at least. At an hour and 40 minutes it goes for as long as it needs to be, although there are some times where the pacing drags and maybe it could’ve cut down up to 10 minutes from the runtime.

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Jessie Buckley is really the star of the whole movie and she does a fantastic job. Looking at the character of Rose-Lynn on paper, she needed to be played by someone who could’ve pulled her off. Rose-Lynn is very flawed to say the least and maybe even unlikable and unsympathetic, but Buckley still somehow manages to make you tolerate and even root for her at points, as she tries to achieve her dream. She goes on a standard character arc, but Buckley’s performance really elevated so much of the character and the movie. Her vocal performances of the music are fantastic as well, and it definitely makes sense knowing that she’s actually a professional singer too. Definitely expect her to be in a lot more movies after this. Julie Walters also does well in a supporting role as Rose’s mother, and she also gets some moments of her own to shine, especially with the scenes between her and Jessie. There’s also Sophie Okonedo who plays her role well as a rich woman that Rose-Lynn begins works for early on, and then has a friend in. There’s not much to say about the rest of the cast but they all play their parts well too.

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Wild Rose is directed reasonably well by Tom Harper, it’s shot and edited well and all that. It’s not directed badly or even blandly, but it’s nothing special really, it feels like there could’ve been something a little more than what was given here. With that said, the cinematography during some of the performance scenes particularly stands out as being really good. The music was pretty good too, and it certainly helps when a lot of the songs are performed by Jessie Buckley, who as I said has a very strong and powerful voice.

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On its own, Wild Rose is a pretty decent movie. It’s directed pretty well, the script is good (if familiar), and features a couple solid supporting performances. However, it’s Jessie Buckley’s excellent star making lead performance that makes it one to definitely check out. It may not be something you haven’t seen before but it’s crowd pleaser, it’s got a lot of good things to it, and is worth seeing.

Judy (2019) Review

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Judy

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Drug use & offensive language
Cast:
Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland
Finn Wittrock as Mickey Deans
Rufus Sewell as Sidney Luft
Michael Gambon as Bernard Delfont
Jessie Buckley as Rosalyn Wilder
Director: Rupert Goold

Thirty years after starring in “The Wizard of Oz,” beloved actress and singer Judy Garland (Renee Zellweger) arrives in London to perform sold-out shows at the Talk of the Town nightclub. While there, she reminisces with friends and fans and begins a whirlwind romance with musician Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock), her soon-to-be fifth husband.

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I’m not too familiar with Judy Garland, I knew that she was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, that she was an actress and singer, and that she was in the 1950s version of A Star is Born. So a Judy Garland biopic sounded somewhat interesting to me at least. I first heard of this movie’s existence as basically Renee Zellweger’s vehicle for her second acting Oscar award, and it seems certain at this point that she’ll certainly nab the award soon. From the looks of things, Judy seemed like a rather typical and generic biopic on Garland, and unfortunately it is that, despite a good performance at the centre of it all.

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I can’t speak as to the accuracy of the movie to what happened in real life. No matter how much or little accurate it is to true events however, it should be handled in a way that it’s able to work as a movie, and they didn’t seem to make it particularly interesting. As I previously said, Judy on face value looked very much like a typical music biopic, and one of those Oscar bait movies, unfortunately it’s both of those. It follows those familiar story beats, and ultimately feels more like a sad and safe tribute to Judy Garland instead of digging deep into her. While there are some issues that she’s dealing with and they are put on display in the movie, it feels like they are deliberately understating them, and not exploring her or them at all. While I knew more about Garland after watching the movie than before, I still feel like there’s a lot I really didn’t know about her. The most I got out of learning about her were in the few flashback scenes of her early in her career, and those were the most interesting parts of the movie. I know a lot of people really hate the use of flashbacks, but honestly a lot more of them would’ve considerably helped to show and reveal a lot more about her. Sadly much of Judy is mainly just showing her a year before her death, which isn’t necessarily bad but you’ve got to have something interesting to say or show about her if you’re going to do that. The end result is just showing her slow decline… and that’s it, not much exploration of her during this period and why things certain things are happening. You’d think that the movie would connect some of the few flashbacks to the events happening in the movie (present day in the story) in some way, but no. Not to mention it’s really slow. I don’t mind a slow moving movie as long as it has something interesting or compelling to show or say, but Judy isn’t any of that. Each scene on its own is fine, but when you’ve got all these bland scenes one after the other and at such a slow rate, it becomes rather tedious to watch. You get the feeling that this movie felt comfortable just sitting back and letting Renee do her thing, which is great for her but terrible for the rest of the movie. Even the attempts at emotion throughout just come across as hollow, and the melodrama and soap opera-ness became grating than actually affecting. The only time it even gets close to being somewhat genuine was a section with Judy and a fictionalised gay couple, which actually worked alright. Additionally the ending scene was among the best parts of the movie, it gets a little cheesy at a point, but honestly that’s still something compared to the rest of the film.

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Literally the only reason to watch the movie is for Renee Zellweger’s performance as Judy Garland. She’s definitely throwing everything into this role and the movie very much relies on her performance. However, she unfortunately falls victim to the typical clichés that similar roles and movies have, with a different look, doing a different voice, having large emotional moments (leaving awards shows plenty of options of clips to pick for her Best Actress clip) and her character going through the same scenes that we’ve seen plenty of other movies do before. Now they very well may have happened in real life, but the writing lacks enough depth for it to feel genuine. Thankfully, Zellweger carries much of the movie and elevated it just a little bit. Had everything around her been a lot better, I’d probably go so far as to say that she’s incredible. She handles the singing side of things reasonably well too, she’s no Judy Garland, but not many people are. The rest of the cast aren’t lacklasture or anything either. They are decent, with the likes of Finn Wittrock, Jessie Buckley, Rufus Sewell and Michael Gambon doing well in their respective roles.

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Much of Judy is directed okay but there’s nothing that stands out at all about it. Director Rupert Goold previously made True Story, a movie I thought was pretty good and also had more to it on the directing side compared to Judy. Nothing is necessarily bad here, it’s shot and directed reasonably well, on a technical level it’s all fine (the makeup on Renee to make her look like Judy Garland was great). However everything feels like it’s on complete autopilot, and lacks any kind of energy, with maybe the exception of the last scene.

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There’s a lot of potential for a biopic of Judy Garland to be a fantastic movie from a biopic of Judy Garland, but the end result is bland, uninteresting, and not really that good. Even if you want to learn more about Judy, the film doesn’t explore her or really show enough about her for it to be satisfying. Not to say the movie doesn’t have its upsides, the acting is generally good, with the highlight being Renee Zellweger’s performance, and with her winning an Oscar, it might be worth checking it out for that. Beyond the acting however, don’t expect much more beyond that.