Tenet – Christopher Nolan

Tenet movie review Christopher Nolan

You know the old adage “if you’re not confused af, did you even watch a Chris Nolan movie?” Well his latest offering Tenet may be the pinnacle of his mind-bending on-screen experiences, but it’s extremely enjoyable if you can handle the 2.5 hrs of mental gynmastics.

As Tenet movie reviews go, it might be difficult to find ones that don’t contain spoilers, but most of them have this in common: Tenet is a wild ride and what movie lovers needed after almost 6 months away from the theatres. It starts off with a bang (literally!) and doesn’t let up until the credits roll. It’s almost a good thing that you’ll likely be wearing a mask because there’s a good chance your face will be scrunched up the whole time as you try to follow along at the same pace.

John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman, Ballers) is the star of the show, also known as “The Protagonist”; he’s beyond cool, smooth, likeable, and easily carries the weight of this new sci-fi blockbuster on his shoulders. Robert Pattinson (Twilight saga) provides some light comic relief by playing Neil, the secretive sidekick who also knows a bit more than he lets on. After a thrilling (and ear-ringing) opening scene, the The Protagonist (Washington) is recruited by a mysterious agency to save the world from something worse than a nuclear holocaust: total annihilation by way of “inversion”. Think time travel, but way more complicated. Nolan does have a reputation to keep alive, after all!

Tenet movie review 2020
John David Washington and Rober Pattinson star in Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet
Photo Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon/Warner Bros.

The best thing (or is it the worst thing?) about Chris Nolan films is that he doesn’t spoon feed you anything. That’s why the music is always so damn loud and half the cast is typically wearing some sort of mask (looking at you The Dark Knight Rises, Dunkirk), which makes it harder to hear or read lips if you’re really getting desperate. Tenet is no different, so if these things frustrate you, you won’t get much relief here.

It’s flashy, it’s interesting to watch, and all the characters are pretty darn cool – but all the time bending twists don’t leave much room for in-depth character development or an emotional connection. Both Inception and Interstellar had more substance in that department. But… that’s probably not why you’re interested in seeing Tenet anyway. So it’s not a deal-breaker.

While Tenet also isn’t quite on par with Inception in terms of jaw-dropping visuals and eye-popping action sequences, it is in no way a disappointment. There’s enough gravity (and time) -defying stunts, ruthless bad guys (Kenneth Branagh), mind-bending action, and BWAMMMMs (a wonderful score by Ludwig Göransson instead of Hans Zimmer this time) to keep you entertained until the film’s final moments.

Tenet opened in international theatres on Aug. 26, 2020 and made its way to some U.S. theatres over the Labor Day weekend. It was produced with a whopping $200M budget and after just 2 weeks it has made over $150M at the big office.

It may not be in the 90’s on Rotten Tomatoes, but this score is still pretty solid for such a brainy film (that a good portion of people will not understand at all after the first viewing).

Tenet movie rotten tomatoes score

If you’re going to pick a movie to serve as your back-to-the-movies night out (masked and socially distanced of course), Tenet is a solid choice because that’s how most Nolan movies are meant to be seen: on the big screen with an epic sound system. You may even want to see it again… and again.

Watch the official Warner Bros. trailer here:

The Irishman – Martin Scorsese

the irishman movie review

The internet was flooded with rave reviews after The Irishman was released on Netflix on November 15th, 2019 after a short stint in very limited theatres around the world. There was so much anticipation built up around Martin Scorsese‘s new epic that a whopping 26 million Netflix accounts watched The Irishman within the first week of its release. It had so much praise coming from respected critics – and the nominations from international festivals and awards kept pouring in – that it was a tough one to ignore, even for people who don’t consider themselves Scorsese fans.

The Irishman is a Scorsese film through and through. All the elements that make his films great are present, including Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci (GoodfellasCasinoRaging BullOnce Upon a Time in America) and a runtime of over 2 hours and 30 mins (The DepartedThe AviatorGangs of New YorkThe Wolf of Wall Street). Yes, The Irishman is long. Yes, it’s one-minute shy of 3 hours and 30 mins. Why that is the main discussion point when people bring up negative aspects of this movie is honestly baffling. Martin Scorsese makes long movies; this should be no surprise to anyone. Is every minute of this movie necessary? Absolutely. That’s all that should really matter in the end.

Martin Scorsese’s own words are the best ones to describe what the film is really about:

“…It’s certainly more about looking back, a retrospective, so to speak, of man’s life, and the choices that he’s had to make.”

The film flips back and forth between an aging Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran (Robert De Niro), a war veteran and former hitman for the mob, and his younger self (Robert De Niro + excessive CGI)– taking us from the 50s to the late 70s. Present day Sheeran is reflective and matter-of-fact about his past. He was introduced to the mob through his truck-driving days as a meat deliverer and quickly proved to be a loyal subject and effective killer – taking out anyone he was told to, no questions asked. At one point he is “assigned’ to none other than Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), eventually becoming a trusted friend and confidant to the famous American union leader. Jimmy Hoffa and Frank Sheeran grow close over their years working together, even Sheeran’s closed-off daughter (Anna Paquin) shares a special bond with him. When Hoffa finds himself in a tough position with the powers that be when he becomes a little too outspoken, Sheeran is the voice of reason…that is until Hoffa’s disappearance in 1975.

People have been itching to see more of Hollywood legends Pacino and De Niro in the same film together since they both appeared (although not in the same timeline) in The Godfather Part II in 1974. The pair very briefly appeared together in Michael Mann’s Heat (1995), which only made people want it to happen moreThe Irishman is what we have been waiting decades for (we can just pretend that Righteous Kill never happened in 2008).

Scorsese, De Niro, and Pacino are the big names bringing in the viewers, but most people who see it can agree that the one who shines the most in The Irishman is Joe Pesci. He has never been better and he has never been so…calm. Pesci plays Russell Bufalino, the head of the Northeastern Pennsylvania crime family, and the one who Sheeran answers to. Even though he is the head of a crime family, Russell is just so damn likeable – someone who exudes loyalty and respect, and gets it in return. Both Pesci and Pacino are nominated for Best Supporting Actor – Drama at the 77th Golden Globes.

the irishman robert de niro and al pacino

The acting is phenomenal, the subject matter is interesting, the characters are intriguing and so well developed – the entire thing is nothing short of a masterpiece. Even so, it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. The length as well as the pace will be a bit too long and too slow for some viewers. It’s comes across as a much more mature film than Goodfellas or Casino and if you’re in a certain age bracket (65+), it might even hit you a little harder as you watch the aging actors come to terms with their past decisions. Like most Scorsese movies, it’s not a happy film, it won’t leave you giddy or even smiling. It’s heavy, as violence and betrayal often is.

It’s actually quite sad that many people didn’t get to see this epic mob movie in theatres – the way Scorsese would have wanted it to be seen. Because it was financed by Netflix, the theatrical window was too short and the only theatres playing the movie were the small, independent ones. Plus, there’s some other power struggle going on between studios, big chain theatres, and streaming services. It’s unfortunate that we miss out on seeing movies the way they were intended to be seen because of money and power.

I don’t know a single filmmaker who doesn’t want to design films for the big screen, to be projected before audiences in theaters…Would I like the picture to play on more big screens for longer periods of time? Of course I would. But no matter whom you make your movie with, the fact is that the screens in most multiplexes are crowded with franchise pictures.” – Martin Scorsese (New York Times article)

It’s a crappy deal for visionary filmmakers like Scorsese, but without Netflix, The Irishman never would have been made. So in the words of Russell Bufalino…

joe pesci the irishman

So boot up your Netflix, find 3.5 hours of quiet time, and get it done.

———

This guy got a lot of flak online, but for those who have too many obligations in order to spend 3.5 hours watching a movie, this is a good option to turn this long film into a mini-series.

the irishman viewing guide

Check out this amazing Rotten Tomatoes score (critics and audiences finally agree!):

Watch the official trailer here:

Joker – Todd Philips

Joaquin Phoenix stars in Joker, a Warner Bros. picture

Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Robert DeNiro.
Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros. Entertainment

Joker has been making headline after headline after surpassing 1 billion dollars at the box office this past week, so it only makes sense to share the ReelDecisions movie review while it is still top of mind. Joker has done something that has never been done before; it became the first R-rated movie to cross the billion-dollar mark – all without being released in China. It’s a jaw-dropping achievement, especially for a movie based on a comic book character that is not part of a series (and made with a modest budget). Billion-dollar movies are usually made with huge budgets, not something as little as $55M-70M. But as Joker shows, a well-crafted film mixed with controversy and a character virtually everyone is curious about makes a perfect combination to drive people to the theatre.

Joker’s feat is both surprising and telling. It means there is a huge market for well-crafted, dark films that deal with topical (and polarizing) themes – namely, mental illness and the struggle between rich and poor. Its unparalleled success also may have had something to do with the fact that it was an origin-story for one of the most notorious villains in the DC universe. And not just any origin story either, a gritty and violent one with, arguably, one of the most talented actors at the center of it – Joaquin Phoenix.

Despite the rawness in which it deals with its contents, and the remarkable performance by Joaquin Phoenix, it’s still a tough film to recommend to anyone. At the same time, there are people who have seen this movie 7-10 times in the theatre. But it must be said, Joker will only appeal to a “certain” type of moviegoer, and it is certainly not something that will be universally enjoyed by all. It is not your typical run-of-the-mill comic book movie. It’s not funny, it’s not action-packed, there is virtually no hard-core CG imagery, and the focus is more on believability rather than outrageous otherworldly powers. In other words, it’s more of the “cinema” that Martin Scorsese was talking about rather than more Marvel drivel.

Joker is the origin story for Batman’s arch nemesis, a tale that has never been shown before on the big screen, and one that audiences have been waiting for. Sure, The Joker has been portrayed by a number of Oscar-winning actors on screen (Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Jared Leto), but how The Joker came to be and the troubles he faced in order to morph into one of the best-known villains of all time has never been done. We got a glimpse of how good a Joker arc could be with The Dark Knight (hell, Heath Ledger won an Oscar for it!), but Todd Phillips takes it to another level entirely. He should probably send a big ‘Thank You’ note to Christopher Nolan for successfully priming the market for dark origin storytelling though. At least people had an idea of what to expect with this one.

Joaquin Phoenix stars in Joker

Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a part-time clown who eventually becomes “The Joker”.
Photo credit: Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros. Entertainment

Joker tells the story of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a troubled individual who really got the short end of the stick in life. He has a terrible job, is constantly mistreated by others, has fits of uncontrollable laughter in the worst possible situations, and has ultimately been left behind by the system. Things slowly unravel after finding himself in a number of unfortunate circumstances – including brutal, unprovoked beatings; finding out new truths about his loved ones; being forced to stop medications; and generally feeling rejected and irrelevant. The whole thing is a slow burn and mostly a gritty, dark character study. If that doesn’t appeal to you right off the bat, or if seeing Joaquin at his absolute best isn’t enough to sell it, steer clear.

Even as everything is happening, you feel close to Arthur, you truly understand why he is spiralling out of control and you just wish someone would help him. You can’t really blame him for the criminal things that he does – including murder (hence the controversy before the movie was widely released). From feeling like the scum of the earth to experiencing the feeling of immense power and adrenaline that accompanies his crimes, Arthur slowly transforms into someone else. People were concerned that it glorified gun violence and would inspire it in others, especially in America where everyone is afraid of another movie theatre shooting. Couple all that with corrupt authority figures and depictions of violent protesters reacting to a David (poor) vs. Goliath (rich) type of crime story in Gotham City, you begin to understand why Joker was not even released in China. Yes, there is violence. Yes, there are riots. Yes, the rich get away with terrible things. Is this anything new? Aren’t good movies supposed to get you to draw similarities between real life and fiction?

Joaquin Phoenix stars in Joker, a Warner Bros. picture

Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Robert DeNiro.
Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros. Entertainment

This whole film is a very unique experience, crafted by Todd Phillips who is better known for his R-rated comedies (The Hangover series, Due Date, and Old School). It’s very edgy, fairly long, gritty, and takes acting to the next level. Calling Joaquin’s performance Oscar-worthy is actually an understatement. Plenty of questionable actors have won Oscars; but this, this is a performance that should be studied in the years to come. He wouldn’t even be the first actor to take home the prize after portraying the Joker (Heath Ledger won posthumously for The Dark Knight).

Just because it has grossed over 1 billion dollars doesn’t mean everyone who saw it liked it, or would even see it again. It is a guarantee that some people even hated it. But those who liked it loved it enough to see it multiple times in theatres, contributing to its huge success. Oscar buzz also helps. But a lot of people will actually find it too dark and too violent to be truly enjoyable. It’s something you should see, but something you might not actually like – if that makes any sense. Just be prepared for something you’ve never seen before and to be challenged mentally (perhaps even emotionally).

If film festivals mean anything to you (admittedly, this moviegoer doesn’t always “understand” the big winners at these events), you’ll be happy to hear that the movie received an 8-minute standing ovation at it’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival this year. Whether it takes home any golden statues this year is up for debate, but there’s no denying you’ll be hearing a lot about it for the next 4 months.

The movie may not be funny (at all), but you can bet that Todd Philips and Warner Bros. are laughing all the way to the bank with this one.

Joker was released on October 4, 2019 and has grossed over 1 billion dollars in less than 6 weeks.

Rotten Tomatoes score for Joker starring Joaquin Phoenix

Watch the official trailer here:

Deadpool 2 – David Leitch

Deadpool 2 starring Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, and Julian Dennison.
Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Since the first Deadpool film smashed the box office in 2016 (grossing over $783M worldwide), fans have been waiting for Ryan Reynolds to reprise the role as the vulgar, hilariously honest Wade Wilson. The original broke records for an R-rated film – a rating it wholeheartedly earned – and it was only a matter of time before Deadpool 2 became a reality.

It’s simple; if you enjoyed the first one, you will enjoy the second one.  The quick-witted, nasty outhouse (toilet just doesn’t cut it) humour is about the same, they routinely break the 4th wall, make cheeky pop culture references, and the R-rating is embraced at every turn.  It may not be quite as funny the second time around, but it is still exactly what you would expect the sequel to be.

Deadpool 2 starts off with a literal ‘bang’ as a depressed Wade attempts to kill himself in spectacular fashion. It shouldn’t be a surprise that he lives (he can’t die) and in an attempt to pull himself together (mentally and physically), he works alongside a bunch of X-Men trying to save a seriously disturbed mutant teen from a time-travelling super-villain called Cable (Josh Brolin). There are a number of amusing cameos along the way – watch closely or you might miss them – and it just solidifies what we already know: every one loves working with Ryan Reynolds.

Audience members who were on the fence about the original Tim Miller version have no business watching the second installment (this time by Director David Leitch, of John Wick fame). For those who never got around to seeing Deadpool, don’t worry about it, you’ll still get it. The plot itself isn’t overly complex and you don’t need a whole lot of background to understand what’s going on. A person with a healthy understanding of the X-Men characters will be rewarded, but again, it’s not a requirement.

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Josh Brolin plays a pretty decent villain who, coincidentally, isn’t totally unlike the other famous villain he played this year – Thanos (Avengers: Infinity War). Both “men” are incredibly strong, incredibly misunderstood in their actions, and are killing for “the greater good”. Julian Dennison, a young New Zealand actor in his breakout role of Firefist, will certainly be getting more work after this film. He was endearing, hilarious, and a little creepy all in one. His character is hellbent on revenge for being treated poorly by staff at the orphanage. Feeling sympathy – or any other deep thought for that matter – isn’t necessarily something you would expect in a movie like Deadpool 2, but it still takes you there, albeit just briefly since you know there is always a wisecracking joke around the corner.

Oh, and the end credits are equally amusing. Props to Celine Dion for having a sense of humour in addition to her singing chops. Again, her involvement just proves that everyone loves Ryan Reynolds.

Watch the official trailer here:

Mission: Impossible – Fallout – Christopher McQuarrie

Mission: Impossible – Fallout starring Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames,and Rebecca Ferguson.
Photo credit: Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures

It’s pretty clear that Christopher McQuarrie (Director – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Writer – Edge of Tomorrow) likes working with  Tom Cruise, they have collaborated on five other films before Mission: Impossible – Fallout in various capacities. When a Producer/Director/Writer has a good working relationship with an actor, it typically comes out on the screen. In the case of McQuarrie and Cruise, it has resulted in many wildly successful action films over the last decade, with Fallout having the best opening weekend for the entire six-movie franchise. 

Critics have called Fallout one of the best action movies ever made. And it’s true, the action doesn’t stop – it is pure escapism at its finest. It’s hard to believe that the hanging-from-an-airplane-scene or the underwater-scene-done-in-one-breath could be topped, but the stunts in Fallout do just that.  Yes, stunts – with an “s”. They are the cornerstone of the franchise and, frankly,  no one can do it better than Tom Cruise. It never leaves you doubting the reality of what you’re seeing on screen because you already know it’s real. In a world where visual effects are generally overdone and entire films are done with the help of a green screen, Mission:Impossible still clings to the notion that “real is better than fake”. When it can be pulled off like it is in Ghost Protocol, Rogue Nation, and Fallout, that is most definitely true.

Fallout follows Ethan Hunt and his team on another mission to stop world destruction when a group gets their hands on a set of weaponized plutonium. Again, Hunt finds himself in a compromising situation (or three) when he has to take matters into his own hands to stop the criminal organization. Lane (Sean Harris) is back from the previous film and is hellbent on destroying Hunt and everything he holds dear. In true Mission: Impossible fashion, there’s double crossing, hand-to-handle battle, a lot of running, intriguing villains, and beautiful women. There’s even a surprising connection to the first Mission: Impossible through one of the new characters, but if you don’t catch it, it’s nothing to lose sleep over. Henry CavillVanessa Kirby, and  Angela Bassett are welcomed additions to the franchise and each new character makes Hunt’s journey a little more interesting this time around. 

Photo credit: Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures

Typically after six movies, some of the cast starts to drop off or replacements are used for certain characters. In the case of the Mission: Impossible film franchise, that hasn’t seemed to be the case. It leads one to believe they really enjoy their work. Tom Cruise may not necessarily be the most likable actor due to his religious beliefs and prior talk show antics (Oprah’s couch), but it certainly appears that he is well-liked in Hollywood, and not just for his almost-guaranteed box-office draw. Between all the stunts and the witty banter between characters, the Mission: Impossible movies just look like a lot of fun to be part of – and a big part of that (like it or not) is due to Tom Cruise. Action movies aren’t known for being very genuine and typically whatever “depth” they attempt to throw in usually seems a bit forced. Mission: Impossible has always been a little bit different though – the balance just….works. You’ll laugh, hold your breath, and take Hunt seriously, all at he same time.

It’s an easy franchise to be loyal to. The formula is the same, the actors/characters are the same (for the most part), and it just keeps getting bigger and better. Oh, and Tom Cruise runs. What’s not to like?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to run (Tom Cruise style) to the nearest theatre and watch the latest installment on the big screen. You won’t regret it. *cue iconic theme song*

Watch the official trailer here:

Red Sparrow – Francis Lawrence

Red Sparrow starring Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton.
Photo Credit : Twentieth Century Fox

If you’re looking for an R-rated film with a take-no-prisoners female lead, graphic violence, and full frontal nudity, look no further – Red Sparrow has it all. Unlike most spy movies, this one does everything it can to deglamorize the spy world. Red Sparrow tries to shock you at every turn, and for the most part it succeeds. This is the main reason the film’s reception was hot and cold for the most part. Some found it intriguing and suspenseful, while others were overwhelmed with the violence and thought it cheapened the bleak tale of survival.

The story features a secret Russian government training program that trains its agents to use their bodies and intellect to extract intelligence information from unsuspecting marks. In this case, the mark is a C.I.A agent Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) who is caught up in a complicated Russian-American intelligence battle. It turns out former ballerina Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) is something of an expert in the art of seduction and is tasked with getting Nash to reveal his source, a high-ranking Russian mole. The plotline starts out simple enough, with Egovora being unwillingly thrust into the spy world,  learning the ‘tricks’ of the trade, and beginning her mission. It gets more and more complicated as it goes on as you aren’t sure about anyone’s motives (but that’s the deal with spies, no?). All you do know is that Egovora wants out of the life, and at any cost. Despite the mind-boggle, Red Sparrow stays interesting and – in true spy-thriller fashion – concludes with an epic triple-twist.  It also features the most realistic knife fight ever to be seen on screen. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart, but altogether a really impressive scene for all involved.

Director Francis Lawrence, best known for three Hunger Games films (Catching Fire, Mockingjay Part 1 & Part 2) and I Am Legend, has worked with Jennifer Lawrence and is clearly familiar with her talent. Her craft is certainly on display in Red Sparrow – from her Russian accent to her brief stint as a ballerina to a disturbing rape scene, she is undeniably one of the best actresses of our time and is as far away from being typecast as possible. While he may have directed a number of music videos in the early 2000’s for the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Will Smith (for real…), Francis Lawrence clearly has a passion for darker, dystopian-style films, and Red Sparrow is an obvious example of that. Supporting actors include Jeremy Irons,  Matthias Schoenaerts, and Charlotte Rampling

All in all, Red Sparrow is a good watch. But while some people may have raved about it (in a positive way), it isn’t likely they (or anyone else) will be in the mood to watch it more than once. However, if you can withstand the wrenching torture scenes and typically enjoy a good thriller, taking the time to see it at least once is recommended. You will more than likely be satisfied with the ending – it’s one that sticks with you – and it’s almost-always exciting to see the darker side of the intelligence game. As mentioned before, the spy life depicted in this thriller is anything but glamorous. It turns out it’s not all disguises and martinis after all.

Watch the official trailer here: