Tag Archives: Maura Tierney

Insomnia (2002) Review

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Insomnia

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and offensive language
Cast:
Al Pacino as Detective Will Dormer
Robin Williams as Walter Finch
Hilary Swank as Detective Ellie Burr
Maura Tierney as Rachel Clement
Martin Donovan as Detective Hap Eckhart
Nicky Katt as Fred Duggar
Paul Dooley as Chief Charlie Nyback
Director: Christopher Nolan

From acclaimed director Chris Nolan (“Memento”) comes the story of a veteran police detective (Al Pacino) who is sent to a small Alaskan town to investigate the murder of a teenage girl. Forced into a psychological game of cat-and-mouse by the primary suspect (Robin Williams), events escalate and the detective finds his own stability dangerously threatened.

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Insomnia is Christopher Nolan’s follow up to Memento, which was the movie that put him on the map as a director to watch. I first saw the 2002 movie some years ago, and I made a more recent rewatch of it to double check what I still thought of it. Although it may pale in comparison to Nolan’s other movies, Insomnia is still quite a good movie, and it’s worth seeing at least once.

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Insomnia is a remake of the Norwegian movie of the same name from 1997, I haven’t watched the original, but I heard both movies have a similar plot. Knowing Christopher Nolan’s movies now, Insomnia is much less ambitious and twisty in comparison. It’s a pretty standard crime thriller, that has your interest but doesn’t necessarily do something special or unexpected… to a degree. As the film goes on, you find that Insomnia is really a character study that just appears like a standard thriller. It focuses on the lead character played by Pacino and the conflicts within him during this case (no spoilers here), and at a certain point at the end of the first act or so, it really adds another layer that makes things more interesting. It especially leads to some interesting interactions between him and the killer. Despite being a Hollywood remake of a foreign movie, Nolan thankfully keeps the movie subdued, and doesn’t allow it to become too explosive or loud.

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Al Pacino plays the lead role of the detective who is sent to investigate the murder case, and I thought he was really convincing. Around this period of time (it was the point after 1995’s Heat), Pacino had been known to be all Shouty Pacino and would be very over the top with his acting. With Insomnia however, outside of some key moments, he gives quite an effectively subtle performance. He plays the flaws, tiredness, moral conflicts and grey area of his character quite well. Robin Williams is in a much darker role than people are used to seeing him in, and it’s one of his finest performances. Both him and Al Pacino really felt equally matched on screen, and their interactions are some of the best scenes of the movie. Hillary Swank also does well in a supporting role as another detective who’s also on the case.

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Christopher Nolan’s direction of Indomnia is pretty solid, it isn’t quite as stylish or special as in some of his other movies, but he still does a good job here. When it comes to the atmospheric elements as well as the psychological aspects, the movie really stands out. Wally Pfister’s cinematography is stunning, and really captures the environment and location excellently. The only fault I have on the technical side is that I think there was some not so great editing towards the last 5-10 minutes of the movie.

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I guess you could say that Insomnia is one of Christopher Nolan’s weakest movies, but it’s nonetheless a decent film that’s very wel made. The plot is generally familiar, but even then, it’s an engaging thriller that keeps your attention throughout. Additionally, it’s directed well by Christopher Nolan, and the cast is good, especially the duo for Al Pacino and Robin Williams. For sure worth a watch.

The Report (2019) Review

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The Report

Time: 119 minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, cruelty & offensive language
Cast:
Adam Driver as Daniel Jones
Annette Bening as Dianne Feinstein
Jon Hamm as Denis McDonough
Jennifer Morrison as Caroline Krass
Tim Blake Nelson as Raymond Nathan
Ted Levine as John Brennan
Michael C. Hall as Thomas Eastman
Maura Tierney as Bernadette
Director: Scott Z. Burns

FBI agent Daniel Jones (Adam Driver) performs an exhaustive investigation into the CIA’s use of torture on suspected terrorists. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the CIA adopted new interrogation techniques.

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I heard about The Report for a little while, it was about an important topic about the report of the CIA’s use of torture, and had a lot of talented people involved with the likes of Adam Driver, Annette Bening and Jon Hamm. It’s turned out to be quite good and overall well made, if a slightly too procedural.

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The Report is a straight forward movie. When it comes to movies based on true events like this, there’s a certain kind of genre where it just seems to give cliff notes of information that could’ve been taken from Wikipedia. The Report is sort of that but out of those types of movies, it does this the best. It keeps you engaged to learn everything that’s happening, at least that’s what it did for me. There’s a lot of information being tossed at you, but even if you don’t remember everything perfectly, there’s enough there that you can grasp what’s going on. As you can probably tell already, it’s not an easy watch by any means, given the subject matter. Even outside the flashback scenes which features some torture, it can be maddening and frustrating hearing about all of what happened, and it’s meant to have you feeling that way. I’m not quite sure that The Report will hold up outside of the first viewing, still well made and all that, but after knowing everything it has to say, there’s not much point watching it again. I guess one problem with this movie is that while you’d expect the movie to not go into too much depth with many of the supporting players, you’d expect something with the lead character, that being Daniel Jones played by Adam Driver. It’s verbally expressed early on that Jones isn’t close with anyone, and you can really tell that he’s really committed to this case, but that’s all we learn from him. Not necessarily a bad thing mind you, they can sort of get away with that given the nature of the protagonist, and it’s not necessarily something that’s bothering you if you’re engaged with the rest of the movie.

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The Report has got a great cast who perform very well in their respective roles. Adam Driver continues to prove himself one of the best actors working today. As I said, the movie doesn’t really go into him as a person, but Driver’s acting overcomes that, and once again gives a very strong lead performance. The supporting cast with the likes of Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Tim Blake Nelson, Ted Levine, Michael C. Hall, Corey Stoll and more all provide good performances too.

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I haven’t seen a film from director Scott Z. Burns (he made his last movie over a decade ago, which I haven’t seen), he’s mainly a writer for movies like Side Effects and The Bourne Ultimatum. He’s pretty good as a director, even if he doesn’t really have much of a distinct style. The cinematography is rather basic and not necessarily attractive or stylish, but I guess that fitted the tone and subject matter of the movie quite well.

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I wouldn’t say that The Report is a great movie, but it is an important movie for sure. It’s tightly written and directed and features some really good performances from its talented cast. Yes, it’s a ‘cliff notes’ movie, but it’s a very well made cliff notes movie. It gives you a generally good idea of what happened in an interesting and engaging 2 hour long movie. Definitely check it out when you can.

Beautiful Boy (2018) Review

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Drug use, sex scenes and offensive language
Cast:
Steve Carell as David Sheff
Timothée Chalamet as Nicholas “Nic” Sheff
Maura Tierney as Karen Barbour
Amy Ryan as Vicki Sheff
Director: Felix Van Groeningen

Teenager Nicolas Sheff (Timothée Chalamet) seems to have it all with good grades and being an actor, artist, athlete and editor of the school newspaper. When Nic’s addiction to meth threatens to destroy him, his father (Steve Carell) does whatever he can to save his son and family.

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Beautiful Boy is a movie I had been hearing about for a while, with it seeming to be a big awards contender. It was a movie based on a true story about drug addiction with Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet involved. When it came out the reception was generally positive, with some slightly mixed reactions, but the performances were highly praised. That’s probably a good summation about what I think of the overall movie, good performances but the rest of the movie is just sort of okay with some issues.

Beautiful Boy doesn’t feel like it was made with the intention to just win awards. You can feel like it came from a well intended place and was meaning to tell an important story about drug addiction. With that said, throughout it just constantly felt like something was missing from the whole movie. It feels oddly mechanical and emotional-less, like it’s trying to resemble an emotional and powerful movie but it doesn’t end up genuinely being that what it aspired to be. It just slipped into being melodramatic a lot of the time, and not in a good way. Even if we put outside the whole emotional feelings not really hitting, there are some issues. Despite it being about drug addiction, it doesn’t really provide any insight into the mind of a drug addict, sure one of the main characters is a drug addict but we don’t really get to know much from his point of view. It doesn’t stretch to being anything more than any other movies about drug addiction. It basically extends to “drugs make him feel better, he is addicted to them but they are killing him” and that’s all we really get from it. Maybe it’s because we get an outsider view about it, with the film from the perspective of the father (Steve Carell) than the drug addict son (Timothée Chalamet), and I think that really worked against it. After watching the movie, I was trying to think about what new things I’ve learned about drug addiction and all that and I realised there was really nothing. At 2 hours long it sort of dragged at points, it wasn’t boring but it does feel rather dull sometimes, and it was made worse by the fact that I didn’t care about what was going on.

The highlight of the movie is definitely the performances. Steve Carell has been having a more dramatic career ever since Foxcatcher back in 2014 and this is yet another solid performance from him. He is convincing enough in the role of a father trying to connect with his son who has these drug problems. Although I will admit, every time he raises his voice and yell (in certain dramatic scenes) I did hear Michael Scott from The Office and what was intended to be a heavily dramatic scene ended up being a little comedic instead. Timothée Chalamet is an actor I admit I haven’t been completely on board with. I think he’s fine enough but I wasn’t on the hype train for him that started when Call Me By Your Name happened. With that said he did give an impressive performance here. The supporting cast with Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan and others also contribute and play their part for the movie. I will say though that even with Carell and Chalamet’s performances being quite good though, it feels like they are being held back a little bit. Like they’re reduced to yelling really loud and having these big ‘acting’ moments rather (especially Carell), which I don’t think utilised the actors as well as they could’ve been.

I’m not familiar with Felix Van Groeningen but his direction works okay enough, nothing great though. Parts of it worked well, others not so much. The stand out part of the direction that really didn’t work at all however was the music. The music choices were really weird and work against the movie whenever when they were present. It really detracts from the mood of the movie and the scenes, any emotion that you may feel in the moment just disappears. Also like I was mentioning earlier, while I get the feeling that everyone was trying to be well intentioned with it, it does come across as being fake and ‘oscar baity’ (I often refrain from using that term but you can probably get what I mean by that).

Beautiful Boy doesn’t completely work as well as I think it was trying to. While it is a well intended movie about an important subject matter, it somehow comes across as being emotionally hollow and just doesn’t connect all that well. Not to mention some of the directing and writing decisions just really didn’t work in the film’s favour. If there’s any reason to watch the movie, its for the performances, particularly those of Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet, who do some great work here.