Tag Archives: Michael Stuhlbarg

Hugo (2011) Review

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
Asa Butterfield as Hugo Cabret
Chloë Grace Moretz as Isabelle
Ben Kingsley as Georges Méliès/Papa Georges
Sacha Baron Cohen as Inspector Gustave Dasté
Ray Winstone as Claude Cabret
Emily Mortimer as Lisette
Jude Law as Mr. Cabret
Helen McCrory as Jehanne D’Alcy/Mama Jeanne
Michael Stuhlbarg as René Tabard
Christopher Lee as Monsieur Labisse
Director: Martin Scorsese

Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan who lives in a Paris railway station, tending to the station clocks during his uncle’s (Ray Winstone) mysterious absence. He scrounges food from the vendors and steals mechanical parts from the owner of a toy shop, Georges Melies (Ben Kinglsey). In fact, Hugo’s father was a watchmaker and he has inherited his father’s (Jude Law) talents for all things mechanical. Years before, Hugo’s father found an intricate mechanical man, but they could never figure out how it worked. Hugo befriends Melies’s ward, Isabelle (Chloe Grace-Moretz), and together they have an adventure, one that centres around Méliès himself.

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I recall Hugo being the first movie of Martin Scorsese’s that I saw, and I remember liking it quite a lot when I did. With that said, it had been a while since I’ve last seen it, and I had a feeling that I would appreciate it more upon a more recent viewing, and having watched that more recently, I was right. While it looks as a kids movie and certainly looks like that, it also works as something much more, and is overall very well made.

Hugo may be by far Martin Scorsese’s most age appropriate film, and I think there’s a lot here that kids may like, but there’s more parts to it that they aren’t going to fully get or appreciate. Teenagers are more likely to enjoy it more than kids to be honest. The movie starts off pretty well, however the second half is where the movie really takes an interesting turn, as it becomes Scorsese’s love letter to cinema. At this point of the movie, you begin to get why he chose to direct this. It focuses on an era we don’t see portrayed in film much, that being the silent era, and ends up being a tribute to filmmaker Georges Melies. The only part I didn’t like of the movie was for whatever reason there was sometimes random comedy thrown in, it wasn’t particularly funny and distracted from the rest of the movie. Thankfully it didn’t happen too often, but you are taken out a bit when its present.

The cast generally do a good job in their roles, the only thing that was a little distracting was that you often forget that Hugo is set in France, given that there aren’t many French accents present over the course of the movie. Asa Butterfield was pretty solid in the lead role, and Chloe Grace Moretz was also good, with the two of them sharing some decent chemistry. The supporting cast are also really good, with Ben Kingsley (giving his best performance in a long time here as Georges Melies), Helen McCrory, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jude Law, Christopher Lee and more doing a lot of good work. Some of the actors don’t get to really do much and maybe get like one or two scenes (like Law and Lee) but they do a lot to make you remember them. Now there are some supporting characters which really didn’t serve much purpose outside of some brief comedy. Much of the comic relief surrounds the Station Inspector played by Sacha Baron Cohen, although he occasionally poses as an antagonist to the title character, a lot of the scenes with him are just for comedy. Cohen definitely plays the role as he’s meant to, and the fault isn’t him. There are scenes where they try to imply that there’s more to this character outside of being a cartoonish and typical authority figure in a kids movie, but they never follow through with it really so those moments feel pointless.

Martin Scorsese as usual directs this very well, but this is a very different movie from him, it involves a lot of visual effects which at least up to that point you wouldn’t see him using a ton. Scorsese is one of those filmmakers who uses CGI as tools to tell his story, while Hugo is indeed fantastic to look at and there are plenty of times where you can see it in all its glory, you never get the feeling that it’s just on screen to only look pretty. It’s never at the detriment of the rest of the film. Much praise should also go towards the production design, with this visually modernized France from the 20th Century, making it really appealing to watch. Robert Richardson’s cinematography really captures the whole movie very well, it’s generally a gorgeous looking film throughout.

Putting aside some distracting comic relief, Hugo is on the whole really good and deserves more praise amongst Martin Scorsese’s filmography, even though it was widely praised upon its release, it’s unfortunately been forgotten. It’s a gorgeous movie directed excellently by Scorsese per usual, the cast generally do well in their roles, and it works as both a kids movie and a tribute to cinema, as well as the power of cinema. Definitely worth a watch.

Call Me by Your Name (2017) Review

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Sex scenes
Cast
Timothée Chalamet as Elio Perlman
Armie Hammer as Oliver
Michael Stuhlbarg as Mr. Perlman
Amira Casar as Annella Perlman
Esther Garrel as Marzia
Victoire Du Bois as Chiara
Director: Luca Guadagnino

It’s the summer of 1983, and precocious 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) is spending the days with his family at their 17th-century villa in Lombardy, Italy. He soon meets Oliver (Armie Hammer), a handsome doctoral student who’s working as an intern for Elio’s father. Amid the sun-drenched splendor of their surroundings, Elio and Oliver discover the heady beauty of awakening desire over the course of a summer that will alter their lives forever.

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I heard a lot of excellent things about Call Me by Your Name, it is one of the big awards movies of 2017. So, I had high hopes while keeping my expectations in check before going into it. Before I continue I will confess that I don’t exactly love this movie. Not that there’s anything majorly wrong with Call Me by Your Name, I just really wasn’t invested in much of the movie as I should’ve been. However, I still do think that this is still a good movie, with some solid performances, and excellent direction.

Call Me by Your Name is based off a book, I haven’t read the book so I can’t comment on how they compare. Honestly there’s not much that I can say about this movie. If I was to pinpoint the main reason I didn’t love this movie was that I didn’t have any sort of connection with the romance, story or the characters. Don’t get me wrong, I can like romance movies, the Before Trilogy, Carol, La La Land, I really love them. However, there’s something missing here and it’s the emotional connection. The romance here is more subtle but there are films who have more subtle romances but you really feel an emotional connection (Carol being a strong example). Here I didn’t feel emotionally connected to the romance at all, while the characters aren’t unlikable, I didn’t care about them and how things would end. It seems didn’t quite have the emotional impact on me that it did on others, I was just watching events and the romance progress and I hate to say is but I was very indifferent to the whole thing. This movie is a little long at 2 hours and 10 minutes but I don’t think the problem is the length, it was more so the fact that I just wasn’t invested in this story. My general feeling of this movie is that its just fine. Thankfully the rest of the movie has much stronger elements.

The acting is all pretty good. Timothée Chalamet is great as the lead character, who is going through his coming of age story and discovering his sexuality. Armie Hammer also does a good job and both Chalamet and Hammer have good chemistry. Despite Chalamet and Hammer being pretty good, to me the stand out performance to me was from Michael Stahlburg as Chalamet’s father. There is a particular scene in the third act with him that people are raving over and it is well deserved because he was fantastic.

Even though I don’t love Call Me by Your Name, I have to strongly praise the excellent direction by Luca Guadagnino. The cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom is absolutely beautiful, they really makes use of its location in Italy. The music is also great, especially the score by Sufjan Stevens. Directionwise I have no issues.

Despite everything that I said, I do think that Call Me by Your Name is a solid movie. The performances are good (especially from Stahlburg) and the direction was absolutely beautiful. It’s just that although some aspects about the romance worked (including and especially the leads’ chemistry), I felt emotionally disconnected and I really didn’t care too much about what was going on. And the romance is such an integral part of the movie so that really brought it down for me. I’m probably part of a small minority when it comes to this movie however, most people love it and I think that it is worth watching for yourself.

The Shape of Water (2017) Review

Time: 123 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, horror, sex scenes & offensive language
Cast:
Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito
Michael Shannon as Colonel Richard Strickland
Richard Jenkins as Giles
Octavia Spencer as Zelda Fuller
Doug Jones as Amphibian Man
Michael Stuhlbarg as Dr. Robert Hoffstetler
Director: Guillermo del Toro

Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a mute, isolated woman who works as a cleaning lady in a hidden, high-security government laboratory in 1962 Baltimore. Her life changes forever when she discovers the lab’s classified secret — a mysterious, scaled creature (Doug Jones) from South America that lives in a water tank. As Elisa develops a unique bond with her new friend, she soon learns that its fate and very survival lies in the hands of a hostile government agent (Michael Shannon) and a marine biologist (Michael Stuhlbarg).

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I’ve been hearing a lot about The Shape of Water for a while in the lead up to awards season. I really like Guillermo del Toro, I’ve seen most of his movies and really liked them, even those which aren’t that wholly well received like Crimson Peak. The Shape of Water looked like it would be one of his best yet and having finally seen it, I have to say that this actually just might be Guillermo del Toro’s best film yet, which is saying a lot considering many of the films he’s made. The Shape of Water is absolutely magnificent and already a guaranteed classic.

I loved the story of The Shape of Water, it’s beautiful, it’s dark, it’s absorbing, it dabbles in multiple genres and it all works perfectly. All the major characters are given a lot of depth and their own arcs. Fortunately, the marketing department seemed to learn their lesson from Crimson Peak and knew this time to not market The Shape of Water as a full on horror movie, because it’s definitely not that. Sure, it’s dark at many points, it doesn’t hold back, it’s R rating is well earned and serves the story appropriately. But this isn’t a horror movie. It also feels very grounded in real life, the only difference is that this creature actually exists in the world. The Shape of Water has a very fairy tale-like vibe to it and it actually works well in the film. Del Toro also does well showing why Elisa would fall in love with this creature. As weird as the concept sounds on paper, you completely buy it because del Toro conveys it so well. In fact there are a lot of ‘weird’ elements to the movie and at least for me, I never questioned any of it, as I said, Guillermo del Toro makes it all work. The Shape of Water is around 2 hours long and it is the perfect length. I was consistently absorbed in the story from start to finish and really don’t have any qualms with any of it. I’m not going to go into much more depth in regards to the story, it’s something you really need to experience for yourself.

Everyone is great in this movie. Sally Hawkins is incredible here, she doesn’t speak and has to express her emotions through her facial and body language and she is absolutely wonderful here. While I haven’t seen much from Hawkins, it might be one of her best performances, it’s at the very least one of the best performances of the year. Doug Jones also deserves praise for playing the Amphibian create that Sally’s Elisa falls in love with. He doesn’t say a single word either and can convey so much, unsurprisingly considering how great he is in these kind of roles, he’s pretty much the Andy Serkis of practical effects. He really does give the creature life. Both Hawkins and Jones have so much great chemistry without speaking at all. Michael Shannon as usual is a scene stealer as the antagonist of the film, he does so well at coming across more like a monster than the actual amphibian creature. The other supporting actors are also great and do well to leave an impression, like Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer and Michael Stuhlbarg.

Guillermo del Toro did such a fantastic job at directing this movie, you can definitely tell that it’s his direction. The cinematography by Dan Laustsen was great, the colours particularly were used perfectly, creating some beautiful sequences. There was a sequence in the last act of the movie which was very surprising and comes right out of left field, and yet del Toro somehow made it work. When you watch the movie, you’ll know exactly what moment I’m referring to. Del Toro also does well to fully convey it’s time and setting with the production design, music etc, making it feel authentic to real life. The actual amphibian creature (which is practical) was designed very well and is very believable. The music by Alexandre Desplat was also very effective, very enchanting. Overall I think The Shape of Water is a perfectly directed movie.

Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is incredible, it was even better than I thought it would be, and I thought it was going to be great. The story was great, the performances were all amazing and del Toro’s direction was perfect. The Shape of Water is one of my favourite movies of 2017, Guillermo del Toro really has crafted a beautiful film that deserves to be seen by many. I can already tell that this is going to be a future classic.

Arrival (2016) Review

Amy Adams as Louise Banks in ARRIVAL by Paramount Pictures

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Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast
Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks
Jeremy Renner as Ian Donnelly
Forest Whitaker as Colonel Weber
Michael Stuhlbarg as Agent Halpern
Tzi Ma as General Shang
Director: Denis Villeneuve

Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) leads an elite team of investigators when gigantic spaceships touch down in 12 locations around the world. As nations teeter on the verge of global war, Banks and her crew must race against time to find a way to communicate with the extra-terrestrial visitors. Hoping to unravel the mystery, she takes a chance that could threaten her life and quite possibly all of mankind.

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Arrival (originally called Story of Your Life) was one of the most anticipated films of 2016. With the cast which consisted of Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner and especially Denis Villeneuve’s involvement, I was excited to see what movie we would get. I have to be completely honest, Arrival is one of my favourite movies of the year, and that’s saying a lot considering the movies I’ve seen this year. The story was great, the direction was flawless, the acting was absolutely fantastic, everything fitted nicely into place. Not everyone will love Arrival, you do need to know what sort of movie they are going into. But I personally loved it, and it really deserves a lot of praise.

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From start to finish, Arrival had me completely riveted. I had no idea which direction the story would go in, and I was satisfied with all the twists and how the story turned out. I think it’s a lot better to not know a lot about this movie before seeing it. With this movie, you need to really pay attention to what is going on, especially when it comes to the last act. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say, its very mind bending and cleverly done. The film is also slower paced and you do need to know that going in. I personally liked the pacing, it is quite slow and steady but I think it personally helped tell its story in a much better way. There’s one other thing I should mention: the ending will divide people. I won’t spoil what happens but I personally loved it. It’s the kind of ending that you really have to think about, and it is absolutely perfect. I have no problems with the ending.

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Amy Adams is absolutely spectacular in the movie, this is really her movie. I won’t reveal what happens with her in the story, but she’s absolutely great. This is really one of Amy Adams’s best performances, and that is saying a lot. She definitely deserves a lot of praise. Jeremy Renner was also really great in a supporting role, and added a lot to the movie. The other supporting cast, consisting of actors such as Forrest Whittaker are also great. The acting from all the talented cast was excellent.

Jeremy Renner as Ian Donnelly in ARRIVAL by Paramount Pictures

The cinematography is absolutely beautiful, this is Denis Villeneuve’s best looking movie, and that’s saying a lot, considering that he directed Prisoners, Enemy and Sicario. The CGI was fantastic, at no point was it overused or looked fake. The design of the alien beings and the way it was done was so great and effective, the aliens as a whole were created quite original. The soundtrack by Jóhann Jóhannsson is absolutely beautiful and added a lot to the movie.

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You do need to know what you’re getting into, don’t go into Arrival expecting a fast paced, alien encounter sci-fi movie. It takes the alien encounter story we’ve seen so many times before and takes it to whole new levels. Even though you need to know what type of film you’re watching, the less you know about the film itself the better. There are so many surprises that you won’t predict. I can’t really find any flaw with this movie honestly. Arrival is one of those movies that gets better and better the more I think about it. Go out and see Arrival as soon as possible.

Doctor Strange (2016) Review

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Time: 115 minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Karl Mordo
Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer
Benedict Wong as Wong
Michael Stuhlbarg as Nicodemus West
Benjamin Bratt as Jonathan Pangborn
Scott Adkins as Lucian
Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius
Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One
Director: Scott Derrickson

Dr. Stephen Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) life changes after a car accident robs him of the use of his hands. When traditional medicine fails him, he looks for healing, and hope, in a mysterious enclave. He quickly learns that the enclave is at the front line of a battle against unseen dark forces bent on destroying reality. Before long, Strange is forced to choose between his life of fortune and status or leave it all behind to defend the world as the most powerful sorcerer in existence.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to Doctor Strange, and it was one of my most anticipated films of 2016. As it was a MCU movie, I expected to like it but didn’t know what I would get, the MCU was exploring new territory, magic. And this movie intrigued me the more footage I saw. I have to say, after seeing this movie, Doctor Strange truly surprised me. From its well written and character driven story, the great acting from its stellar cast and of course, it’s spectacular special effects, Doctor Strange is both a fun time and also a really good movie in itself, as well as one of my favourite Marvel movies, and that’s saying a lot.

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I could sell the film on the effects alone but the great thing is, I don’t have to. This film is so well written, it isn’t just a fun time, the characters are for the most part well established and have their own ideologies and identities. This is also one of the best MCU films in terms of its protagonist’s arc, the best since Iron Man. A lot of the other solo MCU films (like Captain America, Thor and Ant Man) had good protagonists but Doctor Strange’s arc is done incredibly well in comparison. At the beginning, Strange is arrogant and a little unlikable and over the course of the film you can see him change over time as he goes through his journey. This arc made Doctor Strange one of the best MCU characters yet (at least for me). Throughout the film, I thought it was well structured, the first act established Strange and took its time with it, which really helped his character arc. The second act brought Kaecillius (the main villain of the film) into the mix and I enjoyed the third act quite a bit. There is an aspect in the last act that I thought could’ve been done better but I can’t really say what it is because it is sort of a spoiler. It’s not major, it involved the final fight, I still liked the sequence though. In terms of the humour, most of it is done well, it’s not bad, constantly overdone or detracted from the seriousness of the situations, but I think they should’ve cut down a little bit of it, there was a little too much of it. I think I should mention that there are two credits scenes, without spoiling anything, I have to say that I loved both of them, and made me even more excited for the future MCU films.

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Even though I thought the characters were for the most part well written, the actors really elevated their characters with their performances. Benedict Cumberbatch is perfectly suited as the titular character. Before anybody asks, no, he wasn’t playing Sherlock Holmes with magic, or just doing an impersonation of Tony Stark. He was and embodied his own special character, as I said, he goes through a huge character arc throughout the film. Now he’s one of my favourite MCU characters. Chiwetel Ejiofor is pretty good in this film (just know that his Karl Mordo is quite different from the comics), I do wish that he had more interactions with Cumberbatch but I’m looking forward to seeing more of him in future movies. Tilda Swinton is really great as The Ancient One, the mystical figure who teaches Strange, I kinda wanted to see more of her though. The MCU has a bad reputation of having weak villains, which is why I was worried when Mads Mikkelsen was cast as the villain, and I am a fan of Mads Mikkelsen. So, is he wasted? Yes… and no. Mads is great in his role, and his character is written well enough, given slightly more depth than most MCU villains, you can truly tell that he believes he’s doing the right thing for the world. At the same time though, he really should’ve been in the movie more, given a little more development and his backstory should’ve been explored more. I guess they wanted to focus more on Strange’s story. Rachel McAdams is pretty much the girlfriend character but she managed to rise above it and did give quite a good performance, her character just should’ve been written better.

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The special effects are truly great, the action is very creative, with buildings turning all over the place, time going into reverse, it’s very… different. I know a lot of people will be saying that this movie rips off Inception, but even if that’s the case, I’m honestly fine with it, Inception is great. The magic is also a nice edition and done so well, it’s fun to watch all these characters use it. I must stress that if you are going to see this movie, go see it in 3D, its an absolute necessity. I will say that at times it runs into the case with “too much effects on screen at the same time” like what happened with the Star Wars Prequels (though not to that extreme). The score by Michael Giacchino is something different from a usual MCU score, it worked for the movie, even if it’s not very memorable in hindsight.

Marvel's DOCTOR STRANGE..L to R: Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)..Photo Credit: Film Frame ..©2016 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

I absolutely loved Doctor Strange. It’s not just a fun movie with great action and spectacular effects, it’s backed up by a well written story, a well developed main character, great acting from it’s very talented cast (which at times elevated the material they worked with), everything that a good comic book movie needs. Looking at things, this is currently my 5th favourite film of the MCU, and I didn’t expect that. I highly recommend seeing Doctor Strange, it’s a great time.