Tag Archives: Rob Morgan

Don’t Look Up (2021) Review

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Don't Look Up

Time: 138 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes, offensive language, nudity & drug use
Cast:
Leonardo DiCaprio as Dr. Randall Mindy
Jennifer Lawrence as Kate Dibiasky
Rob Morgan as Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe
Cate Blanchett as Brie Evantee
Meryl Streep as Janie Orlean
Jonah Hill as Jason Orlean
Mark Rylance as Peter Isherwell
Tyler Perry as Jack Bremmer
Ron Perlman as Colonel Benedict Drask
Ariana Grande as Riley Bina
Scott Mescudi as DJ Chello
Himesh Patel as Phillip Kaj
Melanie Lynskey as June Mindy
Director: Adam McKay

Two low-level astronomers must go on a giant media tour to warn mankind of an approaching comet that will destroy planet Earth.

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I remember Don’t Look Up at one point being one of my most anticipated films of 2021. It has a massive cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill, Meryl Streep, Timothee Chalamet and more. I also liked Adam McKay’s more recent dramatic work with The Big Short and Vice, and I was interested in him doing a full on satire with his latest film. However as it approached its release date, I had my doubts. The trailers weren’t the best and the reactions coming out of it weren’t exactly confidence inspiring. Still I gave it a chance and overall I’m prepared to say that I like it, though I completely understand why some people dislike it.

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I do like the premise of the movie, with the lead characters trying to warn the world about a coming disaster while the world doesn’t listen, definitely works for a satire. It is a comedy, and while I wouldn’t say it failed, most of the humour didn’t work. There are funny jokes throughout but not as many as you’d hope for. I was generally entertained throughout, even if it was never that great in the first two acts, just a mildly funny comedy with very mixed satire (more on that later). The movie is around 2 hours and 20 minutes long, and it really didn’t need to be that long. I wouldn’t say that I was bored during the movie, but it all felt very drawn out and not a lot happens or is said to really justify that length, and the comedy and satire isn’t good enough to fully sustain things all the way through. I feel like on rewatch I’d find it harder to get through. Strangely enough, it gets into much more dramatic territory in the third act, and its surprisingly quite effective, and its far better than what came earlier. Looking back at the rest of the movie, it actually works much better as a terrifying and depressing end of the world downer (with darkly comedic elements) than a smart political and social satire. Another issue is that the tone is all over the place. McKay’s last two movies jumped between drama and comedy as well, but it feels messier in Don’t Look Up. Until the third act, it just can’t seem to decide whether it’s trying to be an apocalyptic drama and a mostly straight-faced satire, or a full on spoof. I think it needed to either be more straight faced about it or lean much further into absurdity.

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While I enjoy the movie, the actual satire is one of the weaker elements unfortunately. One of the biggest criticisms I’ve seen of Don’t Look Up is that its very obvious and not subtle at all, much like McKay’s last two movies. And I’ll always stay true to my belief that its not inherently bad if a film is more obvious than subtle. Sometimes it is refreshing for a movie to be more direct about things. The problem is that a lot of the satire just feels a bit too obvious, in the sense that its too easy. For example, many of the characters are caricatures meant to represent types or groups of people, but they feel very overdone and a little lazy, the upbeat news anchors, the president and politicians who doesn’t know what they’re doing, dumb celebrities, etc., and McKay doesn’t do anything with them beyond the obvious. There’s nothing particularly daring or insightful said in this film, and the caricatures and not-subtle messaging makes the film hard to be engaging. I will say that some of the ways that people respond in the movie is like how people would respond in real life. However for every one of those moments, there’s moments where the satirising of aspects of today’s society isn’t quite right. An example is when Jennifer Lawrence’s character becomes a meme of sorts, but the memes that are very displayed are outdated top-text and bottom-text meme formats from the 2000s. It doesn’t break the movie or anything but moments like these go towards the film not fully succeeding at being a satire of today. While I wouldn’t say that the movie talks down to people and is condescending (although I can see why people would see it that way), there is a general sense of self-importance, and the feeling that they are more insightful and smarter than they really are. Part of that is the fact that the comet in the film is intended as a metaphor for climate change, and the movie is apparently meant to urge people to take it seriously. If we look at the movie from this perspective, Don’t Look Up really only spreads awareness that climate change exists and does and says nothing beyond that, at most its only preaching to the choir. Also when you really think about it, the comet doesn’t really make for a particularly good metaphor for climate change, especially in the context of the film (without spoiling anything). I wouldn’t normally look this deep into a movie like this, but McKay and his co-writer really seem to believe that they are saying something important about climate change, so I thought it was worth mentioning.

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One of Don’t Look Up’s biggest selling points is its absurdly large cast, which is no doubt why so many people wanted to check it out in the first place. While I wouldn’t say that any of these actors are even close to giving career best performances in this movie, most of them are pretty good in their parts. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence play astronomers who discover the comet heading for Earth and try to warn people about it. This is the third of DiCaprio’s more comedic performances after The Wolf of Wall Street and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, he has shown himself to be surprisingly great at comedy. He’s also really good here at portraying his stressed and panic stricken character, and he especially has a great and notable rage sequence in the second half of the movie. Lawrence is also great and entertaining, she’s especially good in the scenes of comedy. DiCaprio, Lawrence and Rob Morgan (who is also great) are the best performances in the movie because they were the only performances and characters that actually felt somewhat grounded and felt like actual characters, in contrast to every other actor. When Meryl Streep showed up as the president, at first I thought she was phoning her performance, but I actually think she’s pretty good. I soon came to realise that most major actors in the cast play an over the top and obvious caricature, and so they all feel underutilised to a degree. With that said I think most of them actually work in their parts. The highlights for me were Jonah Hill, Timothee Chalamet, and Cate Blanchett, Ron Perlman is also a scene stealer in his 5 minutes. So while it is disappointing that this stacked cast weren’t really utilised to their fullest potential, at least most of them gave decent performances. Notice that I said ‘most’ instead of ‘all’, the sole exception is Mark Rylance, I have no idea what he was doing in this movie. Rylance plays a tech billionaire, and I definitely get the point of his character. He’s a riff on Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and every other rich tech CEO right now, and it makes sense for that kind of character to be in this movie. However, his performance is so weird and strange from his line deliveries and the way he decides to play the role, and not in a good way. I think the best way I can describe it as he’s trying to play Joe Biden playing Elon Musk. I know that everyone is an over-the-top caricature in this movie, but Rylance is on a completely different wavelength from the others that he feels completely out of place.

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Adam McKay’s directing style in this movie won’t work for everyone. Most notable is the editing, which is very fast, messy, and often cuts to a lot of brief clips and images, similar to what McKay did with The Big Short and Vice. If you hated the editing in Vice, you’ll probably hate the editing in Don’t Look Up too. I will admit that I liked the editing in McKay’s unofficial political trilogy, but while I mostly liked the editing in Don’t Look Up, some of it got on my nerves a little bit at points. However, I will say that it actually does work very well in some moments in the third act and worked to give some parts some emotional punch to them. Editing aside, a lot of the other technical elements are strong. Linus Sandgren’s cinematography is great, for the most part its not really a movie that needs to be particularly well shot, but he does make the most of it when he can. Nicholas Britell is reliably great as the composer, and his score is one of the strongest parts of the film. Its definitely not on the level as his some of his other work like Succession or Vice, but its still great. The budget is absolutely insane at $75 million, and watching the movie, most of the film really didn’t need to have that large of a budget. With that said, the scenes involving large visual effects from comets to rockets were quite good.

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Don’t Look Up is already proving to be incredibly divisive amongst people. If you really aren’t a fan of McKay’s style from his past two movies, I think that you’ll find his latest film to be a struggle. I can completely understand why some people are really disliking the movie. I don’t think it really succeeds, particularly as a satire, and even from a comedy standpoint it could’ve been better. Still, it has its moments (both comedic and dramatic), some of the technical elements are strong, and most of the performances from the cast are decent. I recommend checking it out at the very least.

Greyhound (2020) Review

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Greyhound

Time: 91 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] War themes and occasional coarse language
Cast:
Tom Hanks as Commander Ernest Krause
Stephen Graham as Lieutenant Commander Charlie Cole
Rob Morgan as George Cleveland
Elisabeth Shue as Evelyn Frechette
Director:
Aaron Schneider

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Ernest Krause (Tom Hanks) is assigned to lead an Allied convoy across the Atlantic during World War II. His convoy, however, is pursued by German U-boats. Although this is Krause’s first wartime mission, he finds himself embroiled in what would come to be known as the longest, largest and most complex naval battle in history: The Battle of the Atlantic.

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I heard about Greyhound for a little while, I knew of it as a World War 2 movie starring Tom Hanks that was sold to Apple to be released on its streaming service Apple TV. While I was willing to watch it at some point, I didn’t have a great interest in it, really wasn’t expecting much from it. The movie itself is nothing special and a little generic, but overall it was okay.

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Strangely enough, Tom Hanks actually wrote the screenplay of the movie, adapting a historical book called The Good Shephard. Unfortunately, I have to say that the writing is a bit of a mixed bag. First and foremost, there’s really nothing to say about most of the characters, so the moments when some side characters die don’t have any impact at all. The only character that gets any development is Tom Hanks, and even then in his case there’s not much we actually learn about his character. There’s a scene early on with one scene with Elisabeth Shue, which tries to establish some form of characterisation for him, however considering the rest of the movie wasn’t very interested in characterisation, that scene really feels lazy and tact on. I’m not going to act like I dislike movies not having character development, especially when it comes to war movies. I love Dunkirk and I like 1917, and both are war movies with little to no character depth or development. However, those movies still got me somewhat invested in what the characters were doing, even if they were just surviving. With Greyhound however, you don’t really get invested in what is happening at all, it is hard to care about what’s going on beyond them being the main characters, and this is based on a true story mind you. The runtime certainly shows that it is more interested in the spectacle over characters at 90 minutes. Despite that short runtime, it feels much longer than that.

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Tom Hanks is front and centre throughout as the Commander Officer of the Navy Destroyer (called Greyhound). His performance is good, pretty much what you would expect from him at this point, and he was the standout from the movie. As I said previously, the character doesn’t have anything to him. Its completely in Hanks’s solid performance, he has a commanding presence which fits the role well enough, and he portrays well the stress that someone in his position would go through. Everyone else is just fine, no one is bad, but no one is better than serviceable, again though it’s not like they had much to work with.

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Directed by Aaron Schneider, I assumed going in that this would be Greyhound’s strong point, especially with the action, but unfortunately like with the writing it is rather flawed. It seems most of the attention and money has been spent on the large action scenes, however even those are flawed. The action can be pretty good at times, but most of the time it’s unfortunately rather bland. It does try to be tense, but there are some faults in the direction, along with the lack of an engaging story, that kind of takes away from that. The CGI ranged from looking decent to looking a little fake. The colour pallet is rather grey, dark and dull, not that darker colour pallets can’t work (especially if they are trying to go for that grimy war feel), but here it feels rather bland. The editing is pretty standard, and the score is pretty generic. Something that was weird was the use of subtitling random things on screen. It’s not just the text at the beginning giving context going on, literally every time a new ship is introduced to the movie, text will appear above it. I have no idea why they did that. To its credit, the movie does at least aim to be authentic, and doesn’t try to be a typical over the top war movie blockbuster, and as previously mentioned some of the action works. The production value is also good, there was clearly a lot of attention into making the inside of the ship look authentic.

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Greyhound is a mixed bag of a movie. It is rather bland, its script lacks character depth, and it’s not particularly interesting. Even the action which is clearly its focus is at, that aspect is just decent at best, and most of the time it’s just mildly entertaining and generic. The movie is not bad by any means, it does have some good elements to it, Tom Hanks does lead with a good performance, and some moments of the action work. It’s a forgettable 90-minute World War 2 movie, however if you think you’d be interested in it (even just for Tom Hanks), I’d say that it’s worth a look.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019) Review

Time: 121 Minutes
Cast:
Jimmie Fails as Jimmie Fails
Jonathan Majors as Montgomery “Mont” Allen
Danny Glover as Grandpa Allen
Tichina Arnold as Wanda Fails
Rob Morgan as James Sr.
Mike Epps as Bobby
Finn Wittrock as Clayton Newsom
Director: Joe Talbot

Jimmie (Jimmie Fails) and his best friend Mont (Jonathan Majors) try to reclaim the house built by Jimmie’s grandfather, launching them on a poignant odyssey that connects them to their past, even as it tests their friendship and sense of belonging in the place they call home.

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I didn’t really know anything about The Last Black Man of San Francisco outside of it being distributed by A24, but the people who have seen it have mostly raved about it, and it’s even reached many peoples’ best films of the year lists. I’ve been meaning to get around to it for some time, and I finally did. I was going in blind and I found myself to be quite surprised by what I saw, it’s a really great movie that more people should be watching for sure.

First thing to note is that this is a semi biographical movie (partly based off Jimmie Fails’s own life), and it certainly feels that way, it’s very much a personal story. It’s incredibly well written by Rob Richert and director Joe Talbot, particularly with the dialogue. Throughout this movie it just felt so fresh and different, and it kept me interested throughout. There’s just one thing that sort of holds it back a little. It doesn’t seem like the story has a whole lot of focus, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, plenty of movies aren’t necessarily driven by something. However I wasn’t really sure where the movie was moving towards really, so it felt like it meanders a little bit and you’re just following along, seeing what this movie is really about. With that said, it still kept you invested throughout, and I get the feeling that the movie might now be better on a rewatch. Though I’m not sure many people will be revisiting it, as great as it is. It’s rather melancholic and emotional, but in a genuine way, none of the major emotional scenes feel forced or anything. It’s pretty hard selling what this movie is really about, so it’s one that you’ll have to see for yourself.

The acting is quite great, with the main leads being of Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors, and both are fantastic. Both performances feel real and have good chemistry, and you really believe that the two of them are best friends. Supporting actors like Danny Glover, Tichina Arnold, Rob Morgan, Mike Epps, and Finn Wittrock also work in their respective roles.

This is the directorial debut from Joe Talbot, and this is an incredible feature film to start his career with, he’s clearly a very talented filmmaker based off this movie alone. It’s an amazing looking movie (shot by Adam Newport-Berra), featuring some of the best cinematography of the year, and given some of the movies released this year, that’s saying a lot. The score by Emile Mosseri was also fantastic, one of the most memorable movie scores all year. All the music in general really stood out and perfectly fitted the movie., days later the music was still in my head. Pretty much everything on a technical level is handled spectacularly. While it’s not the only reason to watch the movie, it’s worth watching The Last Black Man in San Francisco for the direction alone.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco is one of the biggest surprises from 2019, and it’s really great on the whole. The writing is solid, the acting is fantastic (especially Fails and Majors), and it’s directed spectacularly. It’s fresh, sincere and personal, and was a real stand out from 2019 movies. I’m looking forward to seeing Talbot direct more movies, because he’s shown himself to be a real talent here. Definitely check it out when you can, it deserves a lot more attention than it has been receiving.