Tag Archives: Vanessa Kirby

Pieces of a Woman (2020) Review

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Pieces of a Woman

Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes, offensive language & nudity
Cast:
Vanessa Kirby as Martha Weiss
Shia LaBeouf as Sean Carson
Ellen Burstyn as Elizabeth Weiss
Molly Parker as Eva Woodward
Sarah Snook as Suzanne
Iliza Shlesinger as Anita Weiss
Benny Safdie as Chris
Jimmie Fails as Max
Director: Kornél Mundruczó

Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean (Shia LaBeouf) are a Boston couple on the verge of parenthood whose lives change irrevocably when a home birth ends in unimaginable tragedy. Thus begins a yearlong odyssey for Martha, who must navigate her grief while working through fractious relationships with her husband and her domineering mother (Ellen Burstyn), along with the publicly vilified midwife, whom she must face in court. A deeply personal, searing, and ultimately transcendent story of a woman learning to live alongside her loss.

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I heard about Pieces of a Woman mainly with regards to awards hype, especially with the lead performance from Vanessa Kirby. I wasn’t really expecting much from the movie beyond that aside from some positive reactions, and that it was being released on Netflix. Pieces of a Woman is a solid enough movie. It definitely could’ve been a lot better, but there’s enough here to make it worth checking out.

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The first act is quite intense as it portraying a childbirth, and everything from the acting to the directing is outstanding in this. It’s by far the most talked about moment in the whole movie and is probably what the film would be largely known for. The movie peaks early with its 20 minute long take of childbirth, however this moment was essential to really put the audience through it and understand the depth of trauma and grief that goes on. So it was kind of inevitable that the rest of the movie wouldn’t reach those heights again, nonetheless I feel like it could’ve been a little better. The rest of the movie is about the after effects and the grief that follows that first act, it’s really a movie that you’re gonna want to watch only once, as it isn’t easy to watch. The movie has a lot of loud bombastic moments of shouting and crying, as well as monologues that not only makes the film feel overdramtised and awards baity, it feels rather hollow and doesn’t have much impact. Also, the film is very predictable, you have a good idea of where it is going, not that it’s the main issue. It’s just that the story and premise aren’t approached in a very interesting way. It could’ve explored much of the relationships between characters but it doesn’t really. The film is seemingly more of a character study centred on the lead character of Martha but it’s somewhat distant from her, so it’s in a bit of an odd spot for the narrative. I really wish the film focused more on the lead character’s individuality and really allowed her to fully explore its themes of loss and grief. For a story that is trying to be intimate, it didn’t feel intimate. Outside of Martha, there are some forgettable characterisations. I have heard some people take issue with some of the odd decisions made by the characters, but they didn’t read to me as tone-deaf or bizarre. They felt completely to real life, it’s just that the characters themselves aren’t particularly well developed or defined. Storywise it does become drawn out, and it doesn’t pick up steam until a little later in the second act. I will say that it did conclude well with the third act and the ending. I wish the middle chunk of the movie was on the same level as its beginning and ending.

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While the acting from everyone is good, this is really Vanessa Kirby’s film, and she’s outstanding in the lead role. I think that Kirby should’ve been given more moments to shine, but she nonetheless gives perhaps one of the most evocative and resonant performance of the past year. She seems to be the only character written with layers because her delivery conveys a lot of the emotions and suffering that she’s going through with a lot of nuance, where everyone else is a surface-level understanding of grief. That’s particularly impressive considering that the character is written in quite a distant way. The rest of the supporting cast are good, including Sarah Snook and Benny Safdie. Ellen Burstyn is great, she is in a somewhat one note role as Martha’s mother, but is able to deliver some powerful moments and fills the story out with her performance and definitely makes up for it.

PIECES OF A WOMAN: (L to R) Vanessa Kirby as Martha, Ellen Burstyn as Elizabeth

The movie is directed by Kornél Mundruczó and I think he did a good job. It’s a tightly directed and shot film, with vital visual elements and compositions, I liked the look of the movie overall. In fact, some aspects of the direction and the editing seem to be more effective with visual moments than some of the actual writing. The long takes are particularly great, especially for the childbirth sequence in the first act. Now looking at that whole scene, it’s pretty clear that not all of it was in one shot as there are some things that happen that would be impossible to do in one complete take. With that said, most of it looks like it was in one shot, and that in itself is impressive.

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Pieces of a Woman is a good movie with great elements but also isn’t as good as it could’ve been. The attempt to look at grief is admirable, but doesn’t explore it well enough. The subject matter and the tone already make it somewhat hard to watch but it’s also hard to be invested when the approach to it isn’t particularly engaging, especially with the writing. With that said, it’s directed well, and some impressive scenes and great acting, especially a fantastic Vanessa Kirby, whose performance alone makes Pieces of a Woman worth watching.

Hobbs & Shaw (2019) Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs
Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw
Idris Elba as Brixton Lore
Vanessa Kirby as Hattie Shaw
Eiza González as Madam M
Eddie Marsan as Professor Andreiko
Helen Mirren as Magdalene “Queenie” Shaw
Director: David Leitch

Ever since hulking lawman Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), a loyal agent of America’s Diplomatic Security Service, and lawless outcast Shaw (Jason Statham), a former British military elite operative, first faced off in 2015’s Furious 7, the duo have swapped smack talk and body blows as they’ve tried to take each other down. But when cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton (Idris Elba) gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever — and bests a brilliant and fearless rogue MI6 agent (Vanessa Kirby), who just happens to be Shaw’s sister — these two sworn enemies will have to partner up to bring down the only guy who might be badder than themselves.

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I like the Fast and Furious movies, ever since the 5th movie they’ve really found a formula that works well, with each entry being rather entertaining blockbusters, if very similar (almost exact). It’s pretty much a given that I’ll be watching each of the following movies in the series in the cinema, but I was particularly looking forward to Hobbs and Shaw. One of the biggest highlights of The Fate of the Furious were the scenes between Dwayne Johnson (Hobbs) and Jason Statham (Shaw), who played off each other very well. That dynamic was so popular that the studio was more than willing to have a team up movie with just the two and not featuring any of the other Fast and Furious series characters. So I was somewhat interested in the movie already. However you add on top of that the casting of Idris Elba and Vanessa Kirby, and it being directed by David Leitch (who co-directed John Wick and directed Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2), I was definitely looking forward to it more than I initially thought I would. Hobbs and Shaw pretty much delivered exactly what I was expecting it to, a really dumb yet entertaining romp held together by the leads and the action.

If you’ve watched a Fast and Furious movie, you basically know what you’re in for. There aren’t really any twists that surprise at all, but they make it simple and not needlessly convoluted, so it works well for what it is. If you really wanted to pick apart the plot you could, but there wouldn’t be much point doing that considering the movie it’s attached to. However they’ve taken an even bigger turn for the ridiculous, yes that’s somehow possible. The movie is about some shadowy organisation who gives their soldiers cyber enhancements and have super futuristic technology. People joke about the Fast and Furious series ending up in space but at this point it’s a certainty that they’ll end up there. It’s pretty close to becoming a full on superhero movie franchise. As per usual with this series, there’s a theme about family (for both Hobbs and Shaw), just this time you don’t see Vin Diesel give a big speech about it, and it still fitted reasonably well within the movie, even with his absence. The Fast and Furious movies (at least since the 5th movie) had a pretty good idea of what they are, while having some level of seriousness to how they approach the characters and plot. However Hobbs and Shaw absolutely knows what it is and isn’t really that serious at all. It’s by far the funniest movie in the series, mostly due to the banter between the two leads. One legitimate problem I guess I have with the movie is that it’s too long. Granted these movies have been growing in length but 2 hours and 10 minutes is at least 5-10 minutes too long. It’s more to really do with some of the action scenes being a little too long, as entertaining as they are.

Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham reprise their roles as the titular characters, and the pairing is one of the main reasons why the movie works so well. Hobbs and Shaw are basically just the actors playing themselves, or at least very similar to the characters have played before, and I get the feeling that the movie knew that. They really do get to shine when the two get to verbally spar with each other, they share great chemistry and are hilarious together. Vanessa Kirby, fresh off her scene stealing role in Mission Impossible: Fallout, is one of the highlights of Hobbs and Shaw. Even among the duo, she shows herself as being very capable and gets to do a lot, especially in the action scenes. I’m glad to see that Kirby is getting to star in more prominent roles in these bigger movies. It is more than a little distracting that she and Statham are supposed to be siblings around the same age considering that there’s at least a couple decades age gap between them, still she’s a more than welcome addition to the series. Idris Elba plays the villain, Elba is always good in everything he’s in, so I was looking forward to seeing him in the role. Unfortunately, he’s not really that great of a villain, really just a generic super soldier who occasionally spouts out monologues about humans evolving that we’ve heard plenty of other villains deliver. However Elba definitely knows what kind of movie he’s in and plays up the role well, and his character of Brixton is threatening enough to actually pose a threat against both of the lead characters combined. There are also some really hilarious cameos which I will not spoil, but needless to say they were hilarious to watch.

One of the things that got my hyped for the movie was director David Leitch involved, I really like the movies that he worked on, the fight scenes in those movies were particularly great. Unfortunately, the fight scenes in Hobbs and Shaw don’t really feel like those featured in John Wick, Atomic Blonde or even Deadpool 2, likely because of the PG-13 rating that he has to keep to. Nonetheless they are still quite entertaining, and possibly amongst the best in the series. As I said earlier, some of the action sequences, notably the prominent action scenes in the second and third acts. However they are still really entertaining and overblown as they should be.

If you don’t like any of the Fast and Furious movies, Hobbs and Shaw definitely won’t change your mind. It’s dumb, it makes no sense, and is absolutely ludicrous. However if you like any of the recent movies in the series, I think you’ll have some fun with it. The people who willing pay to see this movie generally know exactly what they’re going in for, and more than likely they’re going to get it. The ridiculous action scenes, as well Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham and Vanessa Kirby all make it entertaining from start to finish. I don’t have an official ranking of the Fast and Furious series but it’s more than likely one of the best entries.

Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018) Review

Time: 148 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt
Henry Cavill as August Walker
Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell
Simon Pegg as Benjamin “Benji” Dunn
Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust
Sean Harris as Solomon Lane
Angela Bassett as Erica Sloane
Alec Baldwin as Alan Hunley
Vanessa Kirby as White Widow
Frederick Schmidt as Zola
Michelle Monaghan as Julia Meade
Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Two years after Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) had successfully captured Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the remnants of the Syndicate have reformed into another organization called the Apostles. Under the leadership of a mysterious fundamentalist known only as John Lark, the organization is planning on acquiring three plutonium cores. Ethan and his team are sent to Berlin to intercept them, but the mission fails when Ethan saves Luther (Ving Rhames) and the Apostles escape with the plutonium. With CIA agent August Walker (Henry Cavill) joining the team, Ethan and his allies must now find the plutonium cores before it’s too late.

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Mission Impossible: Fallout was one of my most anticipated films of 2018. This action franchise has been running for over 2 decades, and since the 3rd instalment, every film was better than the last. Along with Rogue Nation (originally the best film of the series) director Christopher McQuarrie returning, we have the additions of Henry Cavill, Angela Bassett and Vanessa Kirby. At the very least I was expecting a solid action flick with Tom Cruise doing great stunts and some entertaining action. It certainly was that but it was much more than I thought it would be. Greatly directed, acted and executed, Fallout is not only by far the best instalment in the franchise, but also one of the best action movies in recent years.

One criticism that Fallout might get from some people is that it’s not really not the most unpredictable of stories. If you’re familiar with the Mission Impossible movies or any similar movies, you’re very familiar with these kind of spy plots and it doesn’t really do anything vastly different. You’ll be able to pick up most of what’s going on before it happens. There’s particularly one twist that was being built up throughout the story that audiences will be able to figure out within the first 10/20 minutes. With that said, there was a handling of a repetitive Mission Impossible plot point that I’m very happy was subverted here. Outside some of the predictability of the movie, the story really works for the movie. This is the longest Mission Impossible movie yet, at just under 2 hours and 30 minutes and yet from start to finish I was engrossed. This movie is tonally dark and the stakes are really high, both in terms of scale and on an emotional level. I feel like this movie really utilises the characters really well, at least the main team. Something that separates Ethan Hunt and his team from other action movie characters (particularly in Fallout) is that they are only just pulling off what they set out to do, barely scraping by and making it up as they go along. I lost track of the amount of times I heard phrases like “I’ll figure it out”, “I’m working on it”, and “We’ll make it work”. The plot also challenges the characters, not just Hunt, but also Benji, Luther and Ilsa, putting them in seemingly impossible situations. At the same time it does have a lot of well timed and utilised humour. Fallout does tie back to all the previous Mission Impossible movies (except for the second film, unless I missed anything). However, you don’t have to watch all the previous movies to understand Fallout. As it’s a direct sequel to Rogue Nation however, I think it’s a good idea to watch the 5th movie beforehand at the very least. And if you’re a Mission Impossible fan, I think you’ll be very satisfied with some of the things that happens in this movie. As for the way that the movie ends, it doesn’t necessarily end it on a cliffhanger or do any sequel baiting, but there’s room for future movies and some loose ends that have yet to be tied up, and I’m completely on board for more Mission Impossible movies.

The cast all do very well here. Tom Cruise once again plays Ethan Hunt and as usual he’s great. While Hunt doesn’t have the greatest depth in terms of character, he is effective enough in the movies. Also this is the first time since Mission Impossible 3 that there’s been a movie that has personal stakes involving him. This movie allows Hunt to show his age a little, and really acknowledges that he’s been doing this for a long time. It really does give the character much more depth. Cruise’s commitment, charisma and everything is on display. That’s not even mentioning all the stunts that he takes part in, the running, the driving, the fighting, the flying, every time Ethan Hunt is doing something on screen, it really is Tom Cruise doing all of that. Hopefully future MI films will continue to have stories more personal to Hunt because it really makes the movie stand out, and Cruise is great at it. The rest of the returning cast is great as well. Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg again are good, with Ving as Luther getting to do the most out of the whole franchise, and Simon as Benji doing more field agent work than before. You do feel the lack of Jeremy Renner here (who’s not here because of Avengers 4 filming) but he’ll not doubt be back for Mission Impossible 7. Rebecca Fergusson like in Rogue Nation, stole the show as Ilsa Faust. She’s great in her action scenes and makes a very strong impression as her character. Alec Baldwin is good in his role as the new IMF director and also returning is Sean Harris as Solomon Lane, who’s now the only Mission Impossible villain to appear in more than one movie. Once again he’s great and truly sinister, one of the best villains in the Mission Impossible series (however that’s not saying a lot). We’ve also got some new additions to the Mission Impossible cast. Angela Bassett gets to have some solid moments (although being rather underutilized), and Vanessa Kirby is fantastic in her role, even though she’s very much a supporting actor in the movie. The stand out new actor however is Henry Cavill, as a CIA agent that Ethan Hunt and the IMF are forced to work with. I do wish that his character had a little more depth than what we got but he was really good. His character of August Walker really stands out as being distinctly different from Ethan Hunt, he’s much more intense and ruthless, and he really was a force of nature. As Angela Bassett puts it, Hunt is a scalpel, whereas Walker is a hammer, with him being younger and physically more imposing and stronger. This role really showed a different side to Cavill as an actor, yes he’s great as Superman and as Napoleon Solo in The Man from UNCLE, but he’s proved here that he’s also solid with darker characters, and I do hope he gets more roles like this as well.

The Mission Impossible series usually have the tradition of having different directors for every film to feel distinctly different, Fallout breaks this tradition with Rogue Nation director Christopher McQuarrie returning for the sixth instalment. Despite him directing the previous film, Fallout feels like it was done by a completely different director, McQuarrie really upped his game here. In a lot of good action movies, there are usually a few great action scenes and the rest of the action scenes are decent enough. Here though, pretty much all the action sequences are absolutely fantastic, and had any of them been placed in most other action movies, it would be the best action scene of that film. Whether it involve motorcycles, running, helicopters, cars, you name it, McQuarrie, Cruise and co. perform them wonderfully well. A big part of why they work so well is the cinematography. Along with the movie just generally looking great, during the action sequences there are no unnecessary close ups and no jarring cuts during fight scenes, instead we have wide shots, tracking shots, the cinematography really helped showcase the action and we can see all of it unfold. All the Mad Max Fury Road comparisons that Fallout has been receiving make sense when you watch the movie. I’d say that 90-95% of the movie is practical, and as we know, 100% of Tom Cruise’s stunts was done by Tom Cruise. I wouldn’t know how to really talk about the stand outs action sequences because I’d just end up listing all of them, but some highlights include a brutal and excellently well done fight which takes place in a bathroom, a HALO jump performed by Tom Cruise and a helicopter flying scene. Lorne Balfe does the score and it really adds something to the movie. The constant feeling of uneasiness in the movie comes mostly from the score, giving the film a heightened sense of tension. It does feel like a Hans Zimmer score but that really worked for the movie.

Mission Impossible Fallout takes all the great elements from the previous movies in the series to create a fantastic, thrilling and intense movie, that had me gripped from start to finish. This is definitely the best film in the series and one of the best action movies of recent years. Although I’m not even sure how they would top Fallout, I’m completely on board for future Mission Impossible films. Even if you’re not a big fan of the series, I strongly recommend checking Fallout out, you won’t regret it.