Tag Archives: Steve Carell

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.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

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.

Vice (2018) Review

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Christian Bale as Dick Cheney
Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney
Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld
Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush
Alison Pill as Mary Cheney
Lily Rabe as Liz Cheney
Tyler Perry as Colin Powell
Jesse Plemons as Kurt, the narrator
Director: Adam McKay

Gov. George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) of Texas picks Dick Cheney (Christian Bale), the CEO of Halliburton Co., to be his Republican running mate in the 2000 presidential election. No stranger to politics, Cheney’s impressive résumé includes stints as White House chief of staff, House Minority Whip and defense secretary. When Bush wins by a narrow margin, Cheney begins to use his newfound power to help reshape the country and the world.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

Vice (once titled Backseat) was one of my most anticipated movies of 2018. Along with the cast being talented with the likes of Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell involved and it being about Dick Cheney, it would be Adam McKay (who directed The Big Short) who would be taking on this movie about the notorious Vice President of George W. Bush. Despite hearing some early positive buzz, when the full reception of the movie came out, it was pretty divisive, one of the most divisive films of 2018 in fact. I happen to be in the camp of people who liked Vice, even though I get why it didn’t quite work for some people.

Adam McKay wrote the script for Vice and having watched The Big Short somewhat recently you can feel it. Now the movie is based on a true story and title cards at the beginning it makes pretty clear at the beginning that Dick Cheney is a very secretive person and that they tried their hardest to get their information about what happened. I heard some criticisms of the movie being that it’s very biased and intending to be very scathing towards Dick Cheney, I disagree. I knew going in that Adam McKay is a very political person, and he’s already made his opinions on Bush, Cheney and the entire Bush Administration pretty clear. With all that said, McKay seemed to restrain himself from just making the whole film just a hit piece on Cheney, while it is very opinionated and clearly against him, it also attempting to give some humanity to the controversial politician. At the same time though, it’s not trying to glorify him. Naturally as this movie is about politics, it’s going to divide some people with things that are said and how things are portrayed, it’s a given really. As a movie I was pretty interested in what was going on. It really covers Dick Cheney’s life in politics, so this includes his early stage work in the White House, before he’s Bush’s running mate in the 2000s. I think I should point out that despite the title, it’s really the second half of the movie that covers Dick as Vice President, and that’s where it picks up. I get that given this is a biopic about him they needed the first half to show where he got his experience, but I wouldn’t have minded if they picked up the pace a bit. While I wouldn’t say I was bored in the first half, there were portions where I was kind of wanting it to just jump to the Bush/Cheney stuff pretty quickly. The movie is 2 hours and 10 minutes long and while I don’t necessarily think that it should’ve been shorter, I wish that it got to the Bush Administration sooner. The second half is way more compelling and interesting, and that’s where the more hard hitting facts come into play. In terms of criticisms with what was portrayed and what was not, I do feel like they don’t spend enough time with the 9/11 bit. It’s definitely there, but it actually doesn’t stay on that extremely crucial and historical moment for long.

Vice had one of the best trailers of the year, however it implied that it would have a lot more comedy than there ended up being. Some of the humour can be absolutely absurd and it won’t work for some people, it did for me though. The comedy is here to make processing some of these events and facts easier. For one, this movie is pretty political based, and people generally are understandably bored by politics. I will say that I understood more here than with The Big Short, but that might just be because I can follow politics better than the economy. The other reason for the humour is that Vice is a lot darker than you think it would be. From the trailer you would think that it would just be rundown of what Dick Cheney did and that it’ll list off what happened as a result. While it is that and more, it also shows the consequences of his decisions, and I mean like they recreate events. For example there might be a scene where Cheney makes some decisions which might result on people being bombed and it would show glimpses of said bombing happening (the same could be torture, war, etc). Despite the comedy, it’s used more sparingly than you may think. The Big Short had quite a bit of comedy while highlighting a lot of tragic aspects, with Vice there’s much less comedy. I feel like using the comedy makes the harder and more troubling moments hit even harder, because you’re not bracing yourself for how bad things are going to go next. If you feel frustrated, angry or disturbed learning about all of these facts, Vice is kind of doing its job. As for more about how this is all told, I’ll get to that when I talk about the direction of the movie. Side note but Vice also a mid credits scene… a mid credits scene which is unnecessary and didn’t quite work. I get the intention behind that scene but it felt very heavy handed (even for Adam McKay) and was a little silly and not in the right way. The reference to a certain popular action franchise in the last line of the entire movie didn’t help things much either. So no, you aren’t missing much if you leave after the credits start to roll.

Vice has a fantastic cast that all work together great. Christian Bale here gives one of his best performances in his entire career, and considering his acting talent and his endless track record of fantastic performances, that’s saying a lot. Not only does he physically transform into Dick Cheney with yet another large weight gain (he really should stop doing that soon), he just embodies him completely. Even though I haven’t seen a ton of video footage of the real Cheney, the way Bale acts seems exactly like him. It would be easy for any actor to over rely on the weight gain, makeup and transformation, however he uses it to enhance his performance. The way he speaks (out of the corner of his mouth and with a very low voice), moves, all of that felt so much like Cheney. It’s not a showy performance at all, appropriately given the person he’s portraying, it’s a very quiet performance, you can tell even when he’s not saying a single word that he’s thinking and scheming about something. I know that it’s been said many times in the past with plenty of performances, but I forgot so many times that it was Bale playing Dick Cheney (I’m referring more so in the latter parts of the movie, he’s pretty recognisable earlier on). Now I have seen some people complain that the movie doesn’t go into a deep dive into Cheney as a person or necessarily explain him, given that Vice is a biopic about him. Once again I’ll refer to the beginning of the movie how it mentions that Dick Cheney is incredibly secretive, so really there was only so much that one could actually find out about him. Really when it comes to showing what kind of a person he is, you have to look at his actions in the movie and the ways he does them, those things sort of painted a picture of what Cheney really was. One of the best performances of 2018 for sure.

Amy Adams plays Lynne Cheney, the wife of Dick, who actually played a big part in his success. She was actually involved a lot more in the movie than I thought she would be. Adams as usual brings her A-game to this role, I don’t know if I’d consider this to be necessarily one of her all time best performances but it a good performance nonetheless. Steve Carell is charismatic and entertaining as Donald Rumsfeld, who acted as Secretary of Defence for both Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, and is a delight when he’s on screen. Then there’s Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush who is hilarious when he’s on screen. The portrayal basically leans in more that Bush was really incompetent and was manipulated by Cheney and others. I just wished that we got more of Rockwell, he really shows up in the second half of the movie and doesn’t as much screen time as I would’ve liked. Other actors like Tyler Perry who plays Colin Powell are also great in their roles. Something that also should be discussed is Jesse Plemons is as the narrator of the movie, who you see in person quite a lot throughout the movie, talking to the camera. Plemons is an overlooked actor worthy of a lot more recognition and he does a really good job here, really keeping your attention whenever he’s present. There’s a big mystery to his character in his relation to Dick Cheney, and I can certainly say that the reveal was rather unexpected. I’m not exactly sure how I felt about it though. The reveal felt rather pointless, it doesn’t exactly tell us anything new, it’s just surprising that’s all. It might’ve just been better to have Plemons as a random guy narrating everything that happened than actually giving him a role in the story.

Adam McKay’s direction of The Big Short was pretty unique and actually worked quite well to tell the story and explain everything rather well (even though there was a bunch of things that I still don’t understand even after watching it twice). However, he takes his odd brand of filmmaking to the next level with Vice. This might be the most unorthodoxly directed political movie and biopic I’ve seen, especially with regard to the editing. Along with the political baggage, this direction is what will really polarize and divide a lot of people. As for how the story is told and all that, I decided to hold off talking about it till I was talking about the direction, because the two aspects kind of interlink with each other. As previously mentioned the film is narrated, and there is a ton of narration, and there is a ton of explaining everything to the audience. As much as I prefer that they would show rather than tell, it’s pretty hard getting across so much information and having the general audience understanding it. So I don’t see it as McKay condescending and treating people like they’re children, it can be very difficult for most people to understand politics or really be that interested in it, its rather mundane. McKay does some weird choices of portraying scenes, some of it being for humour. For example there’s a scene where both Dick and Lynne have a scene where every line they had was like Shakespearian (this instance it was more done for humour). Things like this at least keeps things interesting as you’re wondering what absurd thing McKay will somehow add in next (Galactus somehow makes an appearance). In that sense, quite a lot of the movie is satirical, and the whole movie seems to bounce between being a straight up serious political biopic with some comedic bits, to a full on absurdist satire. This can be very jarring but it worked for me, even though it can be quite messy at times. As the film covers 3-4 decades, there is a lot of makeup used and it worked really well, mostly being used on Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Steve Carell.

Making a movie about Dick Cheney is not easy but Adam McKay really pulled it off, even though it won’t work for everyone. The performances are nothing short of fantastic, and the way that the story was told was very effective, at times funny, but also very hard hitting. Vice is an unorthodox film for sure but I think it’s better with this direction than without it. I do think that Vice is worth watching at least for the performances, though I’m not quite sure how you’ll feel about the rest of the film.

The Big Short (2015) Review

Left to right: Steve Carell plays Mark Baum and Ryan Gosling plays Jared Vennett in The Big Short from Paramount Pictures and Regency Enterprises

The Big Short

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive Language and Nudity
Cast:
Christian Bale as Dr. Michael Burry
Steve Carell as Mark Baum
Ryan Gosling as Jared Vennett
Brad Pitt as Ben Rickert
Director: Adam McKay

When four outsiders saw what the big banks, media and government refused to, the global collapse of the economy, they had an idea: The Big Short. Their bold investment leads them into the dark underbelly of modern banking where they must question everyone and everything.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

The Big Short is a movie that interested me because of the great cast and director, and also because of all the awards it was being nominated for. After seeing it I can say that The Big Short is a really good movie that manages to portray a pretty complicated and significant event in history. It has excellent acting, smart writing and does well in explaining what happened with the collapse of the economy. The movie doesn’t always get everything right in the latter aspect but what they get right, they really get right.

thebigshort_photo-01[1]

Director Adam McKay has been mostly known for comedies like Anchorman and Step Brothers but with The Big Short he made his start in drama and I think he did a good job. One of my main concerns going in was the fact that the film needed to explain complicated concepts to the audience, and it could leave the audience lost if not done right. Fortunately the film make it easier through various means such as breaking the fourth wall (a lot of the time with Ryan Gosling’s character), and by doing things like having celebrity cameos explain complicated concepts. I didn’t understand everything that was going on but I got the general idea, so just know going in that you likely won’t get everything that they explain. There are so many characters in the movie that at times it is pretty easy to lose track, however like the concepts, I could get the general idea of who they were and what they were doing.

1452800306790[1]

This cast is huge and A-list. Christian Bale is really good as the guy who basically discovers that the collapse of the economy will happen. You don’t see him as much as some of the other actors but he is great when he’s on screen. Steve Carell gives one of his best performances yet, proving that his dramatic turn in Foxcatcher wasn’t just a one off. Ryan Gosling was also great in this movie, we don’t really get much insight into his character but he was entertaining, even if I would’ve liked if the film explored his character more. Brad Pitt has a small role and doesn’t have a lot of screen time but he is good when he’s on screen. All the other supporting actors do a good job in their roles as well.

img59698_a2d1ef78283b8d9558e17fae56a9a851_1980x820c[1]

The camerawork at times could be a little shaky and handheld, sometimes it worked and other times it was a little distracting. Apart from that I really like the style that McKay used, it’s fast, entertaining and energetic but it’s not stealing the style from The Wolf of Wall Street. The transitions in time periods I thought also was a nice addition, by intercutting lots of clips of key events that happened in history between the previous event and the event it was jumping to.

BGS-03989R1[1]

Although The Big Short at times does misstep with some aspects like the camerawork isn’t always the best and not all the concepts were completely understandable, for the most part The Big Short gets it right, with great writing, excellent performances, a good style and its overall a really good movie. Even if I couldn’t understand everything that was going on, the fact that it managed to get me to understand at least some of the concepts in a movie is worth praising alone. Definitely check this movie out when you get a chance, but know going in that it will be a little more technical and complicated than you would initially imagine.