Great is Great (Television Thoughts: The Great, S01 E01, Hulu)

I know I am late to this party, but I just started watching Hulu’s ‘The Great.’ It has been on my list for a while now, but I never really started it. Nicholas Hoult is one of my favorites and you would think I rushed to see it, but I dragged my feet…and it is just my loss. Hoult is great here as Emperor Peter, sly and funny and annoying and hateful all at the same time, changing minute by minute. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised how goo he is, as I have been following him since his ‘Skins’ days. But Elle Fanning is the real draw here. She plays Catherine The Great, and already in the first episode she has shown range few actresses show in a whole season of a show. In just the pilot episode, Fannign has shown Catherine to be at once innocent and virginal, to victimized, to a young lady showing great ambition to a young lady driven by ambition to be the historical figure that Catherine was. I don’t know how accurate this story is (it points to mostly fictional, I read) but this is one delicious watch I shall be savoring.

Race Tales (Film Thoughts: The Banker/Seberg)

How come I don’t really know Anthony Mackie’s work. I looked on IMDB on the films he is known for and to be honest, most of them I have not seen, as much as I watch. He is on the Marvel franchise movies, and Lord knows I avoid those. I guess I am catching up because by chance, I have seen two movies recently with him in it.

bankerHe plays Bernard Garrett in ‘The Banker,’ and it’s a great performance. The film, directed by George Nolfi, tells of two black men in the 1950s who used a front man to acquire real estate properties (some white areas did not allow African Americans to own properties in their areas) and this is a very interesting story. This was supposed to have come out during Oscars season but was delayed because one of the producers get #metoo accusations. I think this is an uneven film, but give it a marginal thumbs up, because the story is very interesting. It does not hurt that this also stars Nicholas Hoult, one of my favorite young actors. The film is well-acted, and the first half is tons of fun. The second half kind of sinks under legalese, but at that point you are already invested in the story.

seberg-german-movie-posterI also liked ‘Seberg,’ starring Kristin Stewart as Jane Seberg. I thought this was a biopic but it isn’t. the film narrates a specific time of her life, in the late 60s when she started to support the Black Panthers, and got targeted by the FBI for it. Stewart is fantastic here, and I will now say she is the most impressive young actress working nowadays. People who judge her just for her work in ‘Twilight’ should wake up and see everything else she is doing. She gives characters so much flash and bone and her Jean Seberg is no different. When the character started to unravel, Stewart handles the characterization so well and you feel everything. Mackie here plays Hakim Jamal, the man who introduces the Black Panthers to her, and consequently Seberg has an affair with him.

Both stories are very well thought, and I appreciate both.

It’s Electric (Movie Thoughts: The Current War)

p13946044_p_v7_aa‘The Current War,’ directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon was originally produced by Harvey Weinstein, but two years ago the film was shuffled. Gomez-Rejon re-edited the film when it found new distributors. It felt promising to me, particularly because of the cast assembled here – Benedict Cumberbatch plays Thomas Edisona nd Michael Shannon plays George Westinghouse, and the film focuses on their rivalry on who will first bring electricity to the masses.

The problem is, we don’t really get a full sense of these characters, and while Cumberbatch and Shannon are both effective in their respective roles, they are saddled with a cumbersome script. Cue in some more characters – Nicholas Hoult as Nikolai Tesla and Tom Holland as Edison’s assistant – and you never know what the film is really trying to say. I wanted the film to work because I was rooting for all these actors (I think I would watch Hoult in anything) and while the film was shot beautifully, their words felt empty.

Romantic Rings (Film Thoughts: Tolkien)

Tolkien-Movie-Poster-600x640I have never been a big fan of fantasy, and I have never read any of J R Tolkien’s books. Even the Lord of The Ring movies have eluded me. So why was I very interested in seeing ‘Tolkien?’  Because it stars Nicholas Hoult, who is one of my favorite young actors. I know this movie wasn’t getting raves, and I truly wasn’t expecting much. And maybe because my expectations are low, I found myself really enjoying it, and I even shed a tear or two in the end. Maybe because I don’t know much about Tolkien’s work and life that I did, though. This film covers his ‘early’ years, before he wrote his first Hobbitt novel. So I approached this as just a story about a young man trying to find his voice, exploring friendships, and falling in love. Director Dome Karukoski doesn’t focus on one thing – it’s part love story, part biography, part war drama – but that didn’t bother me. Maybe because I was enamored with Hoult, who gives a real credible performance. And he has great chemistry with Lily Collins, who plays Edith Bratt, his love interest. When the story goes focuses on their love affairs, it perks up. I could watch the two of them discuss languages, or Wagner, for instance. And for me, I like that the film gives a glimpse of how his imagination spurred the beginnings of the novel, although I understand why it may not be enough for people who a re fans of his literary work. There are a lot of uneven work nowadays, and this may classify as one, but I think it is a worthwhile watch.

The Age of Innocence (Film Thoughts: the Favourite)

FAVWhatever you think of Yorgos Lanthimos’ films, they certainly are very interesting and they make you pay attention. His latest film, ‘The Favourite’ is certainly both. There is a dangerously deranged quality to the film that is hilarious and makes the actors rise to levels you didn’t think they were capable of. There is some great acting here, starting with Olivilia Coleman who plays a frail queen who mostly leaves her decision making to her trusted Sarah (Rachel Weisz) In comes Abigail (Emma Stone) and we see a lose of a balance in the power structure. And then some. And then mayhem ensues. At first, I thought it was kind of bad that there is no one to root for, until you realize that these people exist in a Lanthimos world that they are all crazed evil – you just go along for the ride and check morality at the door. There is delicious fun when Sarah spars with Robert Harley, played by Nicholas Hoult (he has never been better here)  and there is delicious fun when Abigail tries to weasle her way in the Queen’s circle. There’s a lot going on but it it never feels crowded, and when you get to he cynical finale, you even root for everyone as you root for no one. The title is prophetic – ‘The Favourite’ will end up as one of my favorite films of the year.

The Newness Of You (Movie Thoughts: Newness)

1200x630bbThere were a couple of things that excited me about this movie. First of all, it is directed by Drake Doremus, whose last movie, ‘Like Crazy,’ I loved. (He even dedicates this movie ‘For Anton,’ presumably because he starred in that movie) Second, this stars Nicholas Hoult, who is one of my favorite young actors working today. And, this film has been dubbed as the ‘Tindr movie,’ because the whole premise is about a couple who meets on a similar dating app (It’s called Winx in the film) and how that affects and changes dating and relationships in this day and age.

The answer is that, of course, it is a different world out there and at the same time the core values of what we want from a relationship really define how successful it will be. I thought this was a very interesting film, and what it has to say really depends on how you view relationships. It is anchored by realistic performances by Hoult and Laia Costa. But it goes on a bit too long, and at times the film feels like friends of yours who can never decide about their relationships, and the constant are-they-on or are-they-off tugs feel tiresome after a while. But, like it or not, this film shows how the world is today, and explores how we find love and how we keep them.