Tag Archives: Rachel Weisz

Black Widow (2021) Review

BLACK WIDOW

Black Widow

Time: 133 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova
David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian
O-T Fagbenle as Rick Mason
William Hurt as Thaddeus Ross
Ray Winstone as General Dreykov
Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff/Black Widow
Director: Cate Shortland

Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy, and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.

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After playing a large role in many entries in the MCU, the character of Black Widow is finally getting her solo film… and it only took 11 years after her first appearance back in 2010 with Iron Man 2. I will admit that I wasn’t the most excited for the film, of course for the fact that it feels a little late given how long she’s been around and hasn’t received a movie of her own. Then of course there’s the fact that the character died during Avengers Endgame, and so having a film take place earlier on in the timeline feels almost a bit in vain and pointless. In the lead up to Black Widow however, I was sort of looking forward to it. This is partly because of being back to see more movies in the cinema but also probably because it was originally meant to come out a while ago, so I’m just glad for it to be finally here. Black Widow was about as good as I expected it to be, with some of the unfortunate problems that I expected it to have, but also surprising in other areas. Overall I enjoyed it.

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Plotwise, the movie isn’t anything special, but I was interested to see how it played out. For what it is worth, Black Widow does feel a bit different in terms of the MCU movies. It is something of a spy and espionage movie, and does have some Captain America: The Winter Soldier vibes, which is good as it was one of my favourite movies in the MCU. Of course with this being Black Widow’s solo film, this allows us to learn about her past. The movie introduces us to Natasha Romanoff’s “family” in the characters played by Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz and David Harbour. This adds a backstory to Natasha’s life before SHIELD showing a side of her we hadn’t seen before. With that comes themes about dysfunctional and unconventional families as expected and I really liked that aspect. There’s a surprising amount of quiet moments that I did not expect, and moments of people just talking. I don’t see this a downside. The first half was probably the strongest part of the movie, without getting into it too much, the opening was especially good. However around the halfway point it starts to decline a little, when it gets into the third act where it has a pretty standard and generic MCU climax. I know that this is typical for most MCU movies but it stands out more in Black Widow because it feels at odds with the rest of the movie. It really pulls you out of it and it’s rather disappointing.

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In terms of other writing issues, Black Widow is yet another victim of MCU movies having way too many (and poorly timed) quips and jokes, which end up being at odds with the rest of the movie. There are scenes that are serious and quite dark and then some other scenes which are really comedic and played for laughs, and they don’t gel together. The humour occasionally worked but some of them ruined some sentimental moments or felt forced. It makes the tone feel all over the place. I do have some other issues, part of it was the intent of it being made and the context of the film. This movie takes place right after Captain America: Civil War where Black Widow is on the run, Civil War was released 5 years ago and that’s when the movie should’ve been released. If you showed this movie to someone who are just catching up in the MCU right after they saw Civil War and told them that it was also released in 2016, they would probably believe you. So it almost feels pointless watching it now, especially as you know that Black Widow is going to survive the whole movie. Then to a degree it doesn’t feel we’ve learned a whole lot about Natasha. We’ve learnt some of her backstory but not much necessarily about her as a character. Then there’s the feeling that it was made mainly to introduce another character in the MCU more than actually being for her, like it’s not really her movie. A lot of the film was a setup for Yelena Belova which I’m not necessarily hating as her character is one of the highlights. However it didn’t quite feel right with Natasha/Scarlett Johansson being sidelined in her own movie. It needed to work as a proper sendoff for the character and for me it didn’t do that. There is a mid credits scene, which I think is worth sticking around for.

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The cast were one of the highlights of the film. Before this movie, the closest that Scarlett Johansson has gotten to be a lead in a MCU film as her character of Black Widow was in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a co-lead. So here she finally gets to be in the forefront. I will say that this is definitely her best performance as the character if only because she’s the lead this time (sort of), and generally she’s pretty good here. Florence Pugh is the standout of the movie as Yelena Belova, she’s great, she’s hilarious, and steals every scene she’s in. I’m looking forward to seeing more of her in other MCU projects. David Harbour and Rachel Weisz are also really good, rounding out the rest of the “family”. The interactions between the main family were pretty strong and believable, especially between Johansson and Pugh. The film really suffers from the weak villains, it’s an MCU film so not really a big surprise. Ray Winstone effectively plays the main villain as the head of The Red Room, the main antagonists of the movie. I will say it is refreshing to see a more straightforward evil villain as opposed to yet another attempt at making a sympathetic villain. However despite how much the movie builds him up as a big threat, we don’t really see enough of him for him to make an impact. Usually people in these scenarios would to fix this by compensating by giving the lead villain a strong henchman to have the main antagonistic focus. Which brings me to Taskmaster, who in this movie effectively serves as a Winter Soldier stand in, hunting Black Widow. In the comics Taskmaster is an assassin who mimics people’s fighting styles and that aspect is certainly here. I’m not going to pretend that I particularly care about comic book accuracy. However Taskmaster did feel underwhelming here, somewhat adequate in the action scenes but that’s it, certainly not as impactful as the Winter Soldier was in the second Captain America movie. There is a reason provided behind why the character exists so it isn’t just a random assassin or a robot, but we are not given nearly enough time with them. Even the reveal doesn’t go down well enough to create a memorable impact. Ultimately Taskmaster was more of a sidekick to the main villain, and a rather forgettable one at that. As for the identity of Taskmaster, I figured it out surprisingly early on.

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Black Widow is directed by Cate Shortland, and on the whole I think she did a good job, it’s very well shot and put together. The action is generally quite good. A lot of the hand to hand combat is great with some stellar fight choreography, and the sound design really helping with that. It may well be the most brutal MCU movie with regards to the action, you do feel the impact of some of these fight scenes. Where the action suffers is in the third act, with explosions everywhere, over the top scenes, and a whole lot of CGI thrown in. While other MCU climaxes have certainly been more overblown than here, the fact that it’s in this particular movie with very different first two acts makes it feel really out of place. The visual effects are mostly fine and when it gets to the third act they look messy. I’m not going to pretend that it does anything particularly egregious by MCU standards, but it is quite unfortunate to see them fall back on that yet again. The score by Lorne Balfe is pretty good, mostly standing out in the action scenes. Another thing worth mentioning is that this movie actually has opening credits, as in there’s a montage towards the beginning of the movie that’s a credits sequence featuring the names of the main cast and other people who worked on it. Honestly that was rather nice to see in a franchise that hasn’t used them, and this sequence at least tonally gives a hint of it possibly being quite different as a Marvel movie.

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Black Widow does have a lot of issues. It is 5 years late, it doesn’t feel like Black Widow’s movie and isn’t quite the sendoff that she deserves. The humour is at odds with the darker story and tone the movie is going for, as is the overblown third act. With that being said, I did still enjoy watching it. I generally enjoyed the action scenes, I was interested in seeing where the story would go, and the cast were quite good in their roles, especially Florence Pugh. It’s at around the midpoint of the MCU for me, if you like the movies I’d say that it is worth checking out.

The Lovely Bones (2009) Review

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Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence
Cast:
Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon
Stanley Tucci as George Harvey
Mark Wahlberg as Jack Salmon
Rachel Weisz as Abigail Salmon
Susan Sarandon as Grandma Lynn
Michael Imperioli as Detective Len Fenerman
Director: Peter Jackson

After being brutally murdered, 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) watches from heaven over her grief-stricken family (Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz) — and her killer (Stanley Tucci). As she observes their daily lives, she must balance her thirst for revenge with her desire for her family to heal.

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The Lovely Bones looked like it had all the elements for a great film. It had a great cast including Saoirse Ronan and Stanley Tucci, was based off a murder mystery book with fantastical elements, and was directed by Peter Jackson of all people. So it just was a shame that the movie didn’t turn out to be all that good really that good.

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I’ve never read the book of the same name, so I’m just judging the movie as it is. The setup is reasonably straightforward, lead character is killed by killer, and the lead character is in purgatory watching events happen. After that though, it all just sort of falls apart. First of all, the tone is pretty weird and all over the place. As I just said, murder plays a big part of the movie. At the same time there’s a lot of random comedy, for example there’s a particularly comedic scene with Susan Sarandon and it doesn’t work with the rest of the movie. Maybe it was aiming to be a dark comedy of sorts, but I was trying to even look at this it from that angle and that still didn’t work as that. The approach to the afterlife was even weirder, especially with how Jackson decided to portray it on a visual level. Aside from occasionally watching over her family and friends and trying to communicate with them, it’s just Susie watching from her place and not doing much. Not only that but the story too, it is approached with a family friendly sort of way, and that just doesn’t work. Even though it’s not shown on screen, the setup of the movie is that the main character gets raped and murdered by a killer, at this point one probably shouldn’t be trying to make that story a movie with a PG-13 approach. I just wasn’t all that invested with what was going on, not with the thriller and murder level, and not on the supernatural afterlife level either. It’s a shame because there was some potential. After the murder, it felt like they didn’t know what to do with the concept. The writing itself isn’t particularly good, the dialogue can be particularly bad. The ending was particularly weak, and without spoiling anything, the message at the end of all is more than a little questionable, whether it’s intentional or not.

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The cast is pretty talented, but the acting is a bit mixed, there are really two highlights that stand out among the rest. Saoirse Ronan’s acting as the lead character of Susie isn’t one of the best performances of her career, but she plays the role as best as she possibly can, and adds quite a lot to the movie. The highlight performance of the movie however is Stanley Tucci as the killer. This is one of those performances where a familiar and likable actor plays such a dark and different role from what they are used to, and they pulling it off seamlessly. Tucci’s character already shows early signs of being a killer and at times it gets a little silly, but at the same time there are many parts to him that feel creepily naturally. Mark Wahlberg’s performance here is a big of a mixed bag. Generally he’s at least okay enough at acting but his acting here reminded me a lot of his performance from The Happening, and it was just rather hard to take him seriously. Even in the more dramatic scenes he seemed really out of place. Rachel Weisz is a great actress but she does just okay here, honestly she doesn’t get a lot to do in the movie. The rest of the cast is mostly just fine, not bad by any means, but nothing above just decent.

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We all know that Peter Jackson is a really good director, but his direction of The Lovely Bones is a bit all over the place. Most of the work in the real world sections are filmed fine, if nothing spectacular. The visuals are quite large during the afterlife sequences, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily good, they were quite over the top. At times it could be cartoonish and really silly. I will say that as glossy and weird looking as the effects are, it is a good looking movie generally.

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The Lovely Bones unfortunately isn’t that good and is among Peter Jackson’s worst movies. I can’t comment on whether the book delivered these concepts better but whatever the case, the movie didn’t reach its potential with the ideas. Saoirse Ronan and particularly Stanley Tucci were great, and that might make the movie worth watching. Outside of that there’s really not that much. Watch it if you’re curious about it, but you wouldn’t be missing much if you chose to skip it.

The Brothers Bloom (2008) Review

Time: 114 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Mark Ruffalo as Stephen Bloom
Rachel Weisz as Penelope Stamp
Adrien Brody as Bloom Bloom
Rinko Kikuchi as Bang Bang
Maximilian Schell as Diamond Dog
Robbie Coltrane as Maximillen “The Curator” Melvile
Director: Rian Johnson

Twenty-five years of swindling people are too much for Bloom (Adrien Brody) and he wants out of the business. His brother, Stephen (Mark Ruffalo), convinces him to work on one final hustle, targeting an eccentric East Coast heiress named Penelope (Rachel Weisz). The con game fails to play out as planned when Bloom falls in love with the irresistible woman.

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The thing that got me most interested in The Brothers Bloom was the fact that it’s directed by Rian Johnson. Then I heard the likes of Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel Weisz were in the cast, and that interested me even more. I actually knew very little about what the movie was even about before going in, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Even though it’s not at the level of Johnson’s other movies, I still enjoyed The Brothers Bloom considerably.

Movies about conmen have been done before, but The Brothers Bloom is a lighthearted and quirky comedy for the most part, and it’s rather original and entertaining. The movie does have a lot of twists, and I think most of them worked well. Looking back at the plot itself, it seems to be going all over the place at times, there were some periods where I wasn’t quite following along with the story. There were also a few scenes where nothing much seemed to be happening. At times it stopped feeling that fresh and reverted back to scenes typically seen in most conman/heist movies. However, even then I still had a good time watching these characters, they’re generally what makes this movie work so well. The Brothers Bloom mostly has a whimsical tone throughout, and at times some of the more emotional side of the characters and story isn’t shown quite as much as I think it should’ve, even though they do display that in the first two acts. The movie only really starts to get serious towards the end and it’s a rather sudden and dramatic turn in tone. I feel like if the movie had a tone that was a blend of the lighter and serious tones throughout, I think it would’ve been worked a little better. With that said, Rian does deliver on the emotional side in the third act, and the endings for each character were very fitting, without spoiling anything.

Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo are great as two brothers who are conmen who are distinctly different from each other, they share some great chemistry. The two of them are in a con group with Rinko Kikuchi, who also gets some hilarious moments of her own despite not really having any lines of dialogue in the movie. However, it’s Rachel Weisz who’s really the standout of the cast, really lighting up the movie whenever she’s on screen. Even Robbie Coltrane gets to shine in his brief scenes.

Rian Johnson directs this movie very well, it’s a distinctly different movie from Brick, and that definitely extends to the direction and look of everything. You can really tell that he gained a considerably higher budget and has progressed a lot since his debut movie. The Brothers Bloom is very stylistic and visually (especially with the colour pallet) at times resembled a Wes Anderson movie, and I do mean that in a good way.

The Brothers Bloom is probably the weakest movie from Rian Johnson but it’s still quite good for what it is, and it’s not bad having this as your worst movie. It’s quite colourful and entertaining, mostly smartly written, and the cast and memorable characters are great, with Rachel Weisz being a particular stand out. Definitely worth a watch.

The Favourite (2018) Review

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Sexual material, offensive language and content that may disturb
Cast:
Olivia Colman as Anne
Emma Stone as Abigail Hill
Rachel Weisz as Sarah Churchill
Nicholas Hoult as Robert Harley
Joe Alwyn as Samuel Masham
Mark Gatiss as John Churchill
James Smith as Sidney Godolphin
Jenny Rainsford as Mae
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

In the early 18th century, England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. A frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne, and her close friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s ill health and mercurial temper. When a new servant, Abigail (Emma Stone), arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Sarah takes Abigail under her wing, and Abigail sees a chance to return to her aristocratic roots.

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The Favourite is a movie I was looking forward to. While Yorgos Lanthimos isn’t a director for everyone, I have watched The Lobster and Killing of a Sacred Deer and I liked them both, and it would be interesting to see him take on a period piece. On top of that it’s also starring Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone and Nicholas Hoult, all very talented actors. The trailer was very weird and darkly hilarious and looked like something truly unique, so all in all I was really excited for The Favourite. Thankfully The Favourite lived up to all the hype, with the writing, performances and direction all accompanying each other excellently.

This is the first script directed by Yorgos that he didn’t write, with the script instead coming from Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, which was written in the late 90s but was finally adapted to the big screen in 2018. While there’s still some movies I need to get around to watch, I’m pretty sure that The Favourite is the most quotable movie of the year. The dialogue is incredibly sharp, well written and hilarious. The Favourite is actually only 2 hours long and throughout that entire runtime I was really entertained, there was not a single moment where I thought the movie dragged. The Favourite really is one of the best written movies of the year. The Favourite is a dark comedy, and it definitely leans more into being a comedy than a drama. Much of the comedy is poking fun at things that happened at the time like how duck racing was a thing apparently and a very bizarre dance scene involving Rachel Weisz and another character (although the movie doesn’t fall into spoof territory either). Some of the comedy however also comes from situations as well as from the hilarious dialogue (as previously mention). At times The Favourite also leans into the more dramatic and tragic side of the story, and when it does take the forefront in some scenes, it doesn’t feel out of place and really works. The third act is especially tragic and dark. Not spoiling anything, but while I think the ending really works, I’m not quite sure what to make of the last shot of the whole film.

The cast here all did a great job. Something interesting is the way that the actors are directed here. In Yorgos’s other films, while the actors are great in their roles they all speak their dialogue and act in this very unnatural way, and it feels like a very deliberate decision by the director. With The Favourite however, they seemed to have been given much more freedom and seem to act a little more natural. The three main women, Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone are all fantastic in their roles, each giving at the very least one of their best performances of their careers. Olivia Colman plays Queen Anne and her character is very complex, with many layers to her and her behaviour constantly changing from scene to scene and sometimes within the same scene. It’s both a comedic performance and a tragic performance, and Colman effortlessly is great in the role. Rachel Weisz is great as Sarah, the queen’s ‘favourite’ at the beginning of the film, who is her advisor and often the one steering her and making the decisions for her. Emma Stone has already proven herself to be a really great actress but this is really her best performance yet as Abigail, a servant looking to work her way back up the royal ranks. Both of them are fighting over trying to be ‘The Favourite’ and like with Colman’s character, aren’t all that they initially seem to be. Sarah is at first shown to be pretty ruthless and cold, especially towards Anne, however you eventually see more sides to her and that relationship as the story goes on. Same goes for Abigail, at the beginning she is much more of a likable character and one that the audience can seemingly root for, however as time goes on she shows herself to be very manipulative and not at all how she initially appeared to be. All 3 of them have a lot to work with, with their characters being very multi-layered. They aren’t necessarily likable or what you would call ‘good people’ but they are fascinating and entertaining to watch. The supporting cast are also great but it’s Nicholas Hoult who surprisingly stands out among them. Hoult has proven his talents many times before but he really managed to make himself stand out even among the phenomenal performances by the main 3 leads. He plays such a scheming and hilarious politician character and he steals every scene that he’s in. Definitely a performance that deserves a lot more praise than he’s been receiving.

You can definitely tell that this is a Yorgos Lanthimos film with the way the film is directed. There are many parts to the film that feel weird, whether it be with the cinematography, the camera movements, the use of slow-mo, it has that familiar strange vibe that you get from Lanthimos’s other films, and I loved it. The Favourite really is a period piece movie like you’ve never seen it before. With that said, the production design, costumes, really all of those aspects at a level of quality that you’d expect from most period piece movies, it feels authentic in its setting. The use of music was also really great, and really added a lot to the film whenever it was used. The only negative I found with the direction was the use of fish eye lens. I get that it was used to give off a really off-putting and weird vibe, but some of the wide angle shots did that well enough, going fish eye was a little overkill and it was more often than not used in just random moments that don’t call for that. It’s a tad distracting but nothing movie-breaking.

With its killer script, great direction and fantastic performances, The Favourite is one of the best films of the year. It’s also my favourite film by Yorgos Lanthimos, it’s certainly his most entertaining and accessible movie. Definitely a big awards player (and deservedly so), The Favourite is worth a watch whenever you can see it.