Tag Archives: Tony Hale

Being the Ricardos (2021) Review

BEING THE RICARDOS

Being the Ricardos

Time: 131 minutes
Cast:
Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball
Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz
J.K. Simmons as William Frawley
Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance
Tony Hale as Jess Oppenheimer
Alia Shawkat as Madelyn Pugh
Jake Lacy as Bob Carroll Jr.
Clark Gregg as Howard Wenke
Director: Aaron Sorkin

In 1952, Hollywood power couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz face personal and professional obstacles that threaten their careers, their relationship, and their hit television show.

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Being the Ricardos was a upcoming major awards contender that I had been hearing about for a while. I will admit though that despite not knowing much about it outside of some of the people involved, I was a little sceptical going in. First of all, it was a biopic movie focussing on notable film/tv people, and the movie looked like prime Oscar bait. Also the movie is written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, whose work could be a mixed bag at times, especially when it comes to whatever he directs. Still, it received Oscar nominations for the performances from Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem and J.K. Simmons, so I thought I should check it out, and went into it open minded. Unfortunately, I just don’t think that the movie was particularly good.

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I should state first of all that I am not familiar with Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz or the show I Love Lucy, and went into this movie quite blind. However, even as someone who didn’t know of the subjects beforehand, I just didn’t find the film all that interesting, and I found it fairly dull. If the story of Lucille and Desi in real life was interesting, it certainly didn’t survive being compressed and repackaged into the biopic formula. The story of the movie follows Lucille and Desi over one stressful week, it seems simple enough but somehow the storytelling is very flawed here. The story as it was told just felt so disjointed, while the series of events play out over this particular week, it jumps across multiple points in time with an overreliance on flashbacks and flashforwards which muddles everything. To give context to all these events messily crammed into this movie, characters spent a lot of time stating facts about each other or clunkily discussing historical and cultural elements. For whatever reason, there is this present-day faux documentary framing device running throughout the movie where older versions of the three lead show writers for I Love Lucy are being interviewed. Every so often, the movie would just cut to these talking head mouthpieces, and every time this happened, it would be so disruptive and annoying. The dialogue was already on the nose and obvious, but the fact that they practically spoonfeed us the story by flat out telling us what is happening, it almost feels patronising. Count the number of times you hear “what you’ve got to understand is…” from one character alone.

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Even as someone who aren’t familiar with the true life events, there’s some handling of the history that felt very off. The prime example is this inconsequential aspect where Lucille Ball is rumoured to be a communist. Even within the plot of the movie, it plays a very small part, but from the very beginning of the film it is fixated and focused on so much, to a quite frankly weird degree. You really get the feeling that this is getting into the writer’s own politics over the actual true events. The way that subplot is resolved towards the end in a scene with Javier Bardem on a phone call in front of an audience is hilariously absurd and ludicrous. I didn’t really learn anything from this storyline, the only thing that I can say coming out of it is that I’m confident that Aaron Sorkin would’ve been a supporter of the Hollywood Blacklist. Speaking of Sorkin, you can definitely feel that it’s a movie from him, and I mean that in a bad way. You really do feel like he’s really going for an Oscar here, and it somehow makes the movie even worse. His scripts always seem to have this self-perception of cleverness but it is especially grating here, the faux documentary framing device being an example of one of his decisions that make it harder to watch. Even when you put all of that aside, I just found myself so unengaged by the film as it progresses through the events. I couldn’t be emotionally engaged with the characters, and there was nothing keeping me invested in the story. There was just something dispassionate and underwhelming about the whole experience.

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I would love to say that the acting elevates the movie. While it’s the best part of the movie, its not enough to save the movie. The acting is mostly decent, but much of the cast feel like they are playing caricatures rather than real people. Nicole Kidman is pretty good as Lucille Ball, even if it definitely doesn’t rank amongst her best performances. I will say that annoyingly with the writing she’s given, Lucille does feel like another ‘Sorkin protagonist’, much like how Sorkin wrote Steve Jobs and Abbie Hoffman. To Kidman’s credit though, she comes across as being a fully formed human, especially in contrast to the other actors. It’s just that there weren’t any times throughout the film where I felt that it was anything beyond a decent performance. Javier Bardem is the co-lead in this as Desi Arnaz. He’s fine enough, but like Kidman, its definitely not one of his best performances. Questionable casting choice aside, he is a bit of a caricature and is very hammy. Definitely not bland or boring, but nothing great. The chemistry between Kidman and Bardem just wasn’t there, which is a big mark against it considering that the relationship between the two people was a key part of the movie. J.K. Simmons and Nina Arianda are serviceable in their supporting roles, but don’t get much to do with the writing that they are given.

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Being the Ricardos is directed by Aaron Sorkin, and this film is further proof that Sorkin is at his best when his scripts are directed by anyone else. While the direction is competent, its done so blandly and lacks any kind of personality, especially on a visual level. Even his last two movies had more to them. The costumes, hair, makeup, presentation is nothing special, everything feels like they’re on autopilot.

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I’m sure that the actual story of these people is quite interesting. However, what is presented here is a functional but uninteresting, bland and occasionally grating to watch biopic that fails to engage, from the writing through to the direction. Even the performances aren’t good enough to elevate the movie beyond an average biopic. I’d only recommend this movie to people who want to catch up on the Oscar nominations from this most recent awards season. For what it’s worth, Being the Ricardos was by far the worst movie of this year’s Oscar season that I’ve seen.

Toy Story 4 (2019) Review

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
Tom Hanks as Woody
Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear
Annie Potts as Bo Peep
Tony Hale as Forky
Keegan-Michael Key as Ducky
Jordan Peele as Bunny
Madeleine McGraw as Bonnie
Christina Hendricks as Gabby Gabby
Keanu Reeves as Duke Caboom
Ally Maki as Giggle McDimples
Jay Hernandez as Bonnie’s dad
Lori Alan as Bonnie’s mom
Joan Cusack as Jessie
Director: Josh Cooley

Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the gang embark on a road trip with Bonnie and a new toy named Forky. The adventurous journey turns into an unexpected reunion as Woody’s slight detour leads him to his long-lost friend Bo Peep. As Woody and Bo discuss the old days, they soon start to realize that they’re worlds apart when it comes to what they want from life as a toy.

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Toy Story 4 was a movie I think everyone wasn’t sure how to feel about when it was announced years ago. 9 years ago, we had a perfect conclusion to the series and so it’s difficult to think of a way it could’ve possibly been ended any better. It didn’t help that everything from the trailer just looked like a generic, random and pointless adventure with the familiar characters. So outside of the positive reviews, I wasn’t expecting much going into the movie. To my surprise however, they actually managed to pull it off.

From the trailer Toy Story 4 just looked like a simple adventure, and it is that but it’s pretty entertaining. It doesn’t have a scene even coming close to the incinerator scene in 3 in terms of intensity or emotion. 4 overall feels more like a quieter epilogue taking place after the large scale and epic third act with 3. It has pretty much all that you’d expect from a Toy Story movie, it’s genuinely funny and emotional, and once again works for both children and adults, while not dumbing things down for kids at all. It even has some parts that adults will only pick up, both in terms of story and comedy. They even somehow managed to sneak in a music cue reference to The Shining. It also has a surprisingly fitting end, even more so than Toy Story 3. There’s always ways of bringing back movies for the series, but the way it ends makes it feel like it is final, and it I can’t think of a better way of the series to end.

Much of the main toys that we are familiar with are sidelined, only Woody and Buzz get substantial amounts of screentime. Woody (Tom Hanks) as a character is one of the best parts of each of the Toy Story movies and the 4th movie is no exception. It really focuses on him being sort of a father figure to the character of Forky, and it really shows how far he’s come since the first movie. I’m not exactly on board with what they did with Buzz (Tim Allen) in this movie. He became much less smart, and it wouldn’t be so bad if it was after the first Toy Story, but Toy Story 2 and 3 have established him as a smart leader (even in the first film when he believe he was a space ranger he was smarter than he was here). So it was a step backward for him as a character when he just really didn’t know what he was doing a lot of the time. Bo Peep (Annie Potts) in Toy Story 1 and 2 was just sort of there at the beginning and end of the movies and didn’t get to do anything, in 3 she was completely absent. However in 4, she plays a major role and gets far more to do here. Other than those 3 characters, the newer characters are highlighted more as well. Tony Hale plays Forky, the movie completely surrounds him. In seeing the trailers, I really feel like I wouldn’t like him at all, he seemed like he could’ve been easily annoying. However he surprisingly worked really well, and was certainly something fresh, we’ve seen new toys introduced but not one that was just created. I will say though that it feels like he’s reduced to a plot device in the second half of the movie. Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele play a couple of plushies and their great comedic duo extends to animation form as well, they were among the funniest characters of the movie. Keanu Reeves voices Duke Caboom, a Canadian stunt driver toy and is about as great as you’d expect it to be. Christina Hendricks as Gabby Gabby who plays the closest thing to a villain in this movie, and some things happen with her character that you might not initially expect.

With every Toy Story movie, the quality of the animation increases immensely, and 4 is no exception. As an example, you might remember from Toy Story 3 that there was a flashback scene of Lotso that involved the rain, it looked incredibly realistic. Toy Story 4 opens with scene in the rain, and it looks borderline photorealistic. It’s an absolutely stunning looking movie from beginning to end. A lot of the familiar music heard in the series also reappear here, once again done by Randy Newman.

Toy Story 4 isn’t among the best in the series but it’s still surprisingly good and works as a final conclusion. Everything from the characters (for the most part), the animation, to the writing, the comedy and more is here. If you liked the other Toy Story movies, you should definitely check it out, even if you’re sceptical about it.

American Ultra (2015) Review

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American Ultra

Time: 96 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language & drug use.
Cast:
Jesse Eisenberg as Mike Howell
Kristen Stewart as Phoebe Larson
Topher Grace as Adrian Yates
Connie Britton as Victoria Lasseter
Walton Goggins as Laugher
John Leguizamo as Rose
Bill Pullman as Raymond Krueger
Tony Hale as Peter “Petey” Douglas
Director: Nima Nourizadeh

Small-town stoner Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) spends most of his time getting high and writing a graphic novel. What Mike doesn’t know is that he was trained by the CIA to be a lethal killing machine. When the agency targets him for termination, his former handler activates his latent skills, turning the mild-mannered slacker into a deadly weapon. Now, the utterly surprised Mike must use his newfound abilities to save himself and his girlfriend (Kristen Stewart) from getting smoked.

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American Ultra was a movie I was interested in ever since checking out the trailer, and I thought it would be interesting to see Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart in this sort of action movie. After seeing it I can say that this movie was a lot of fun and I think it should’ve gotten more love and attention than it received. The actors was great, the writing was good, the action is fast paced and it was quite a fun and entertaining movie. It’s not anything special but it’s worth checking out if you find it interesting.

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Just a heads up, even though this movie is marketed as a stoner comedy action movie, American Ultra really isn’t that. The two main characters are stoners and that’s about it, so don’t expect Pineapple Express. The writing for this movie by Max Landis is what really makes this movie great. Even though the movie is silly and has some over the top moments, it’s serious and takes its characters seriously enough and gave them enough development that it makes us care about what is going on and the characters, it’s not a complete cartoon. But at the same time the movie is fun and its enjoyable seeing Eisenberg and Stewart in all of these situations. This movie isn’t one of the best action movies ever made but this movie knows what it is, and for what American Ultra was going for, it achieved it.

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Jesse Eisenberg was really good in this movie, I know that a lot of people have pointed out that usually he acts the same in every movie he’s in but his acting surprisingly really worked for this film and his character. Kristen Stewart was also great, and proved with this film as well as Still Alice that she actually is a good actress. I think she’s repairing her career and starting to get good roles in movies after Twilight really damaged her career. Both of them had great chemistry with each other and also are believable in the action scenes. I felt that Topher Grace did his part as the villain but I felt that he was a little over the top, probably a little miscast. Other supporting actors like John Leguizamo and Walton Goggins also did well in their roles.

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I really liked how the action scenes were filmed and choreographed. They were fast, thrilling, bloody and all around entertaining. Of course they are all over the top and very silly at times, but it still doesn’t go full Shoot Em’ Up or Commando levels of ridiculousness and as I said earlier, American Ultra doesn’t go so left field that it becomes a cartoon and you do actually care about what is going on.

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American Ultra isn’t a film that’s essential to see, it can be very over the top and silly but if you are into action films and are looking for a fun time, it’s a pretty entertaining watch. Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart were really good and worked well with each other, the writing was good, the action was fun and the movie is all around really entertaining. It’s not a great movie and it won’t go down as one of the best action movies of all time but it’s a fun movie, and I do think it’s worth a watch.