Vice (2018)

Vice

Christian Bale as Former Vice President Dick Cheney.

 

Very few actors do as well as Christian Bale when it comes to immersing into a character, and his take on Dick Cheney in Vice is no exception. It is a knockout performance, but it is one that I wished were in a better movie.

The film begins by telling us that the makers of the film did the best they could since Cheney is such a private man. As is the case with most biopics nowadays, we get a bit of jumping back and forth thru points of history (though thankfully it is not too confusing). We see the beginning of the marriage of Dick and his wife Lynn (Amy Adams, who always does even better work when working with Bale), his meeting of Donald Rumsfeld (an oddly cast Steve Carrell), and his workings all the way to the post of VP to George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell).

The biggest flaw I feel the movie does it is goes for more exaggeration over realism. That is not to say some of the exaggerated parts aren’t funny (such as rolling credits a little too soon). I knew little about Cheney going in, but enough to know how much the man has suffered from heart problems over the years. Eventually, too many heart attack jokes can be pushing it.

Still, none of this takes away from the acting, and while most are well cast (even Tyler Perry does well as Colin Powell), it is clearly all to show more proof how ridiculously talented Christian Bale is as an actor. Yes, the make up department did a fabulous job, but acting is far beyond make up or even imitation. It is about connecting to one’s inner feelings, which Bale is always great at doing (though at some times, it seems he isn’t. This is not because he can’t, but because Cheney struggles to).

Parents, the movie is rated R for good reason, as it is filled with swearing and footage of violence. High School and up.

It seems that the only thing harder than playing Dick Cheney would be making a film about him. Director Adam Mckay (who won an Oscar for helping write 2015’s The Big Short) has given a movie that, even with a wonderful lead performance (and a nice post credit scene), seems a bit too off-putting.

 

Overall: Three and a Half Stars ***1/2

Beautiful Boy (2018)

Beautiful Boy

The only thing nearly as strong as the father/son relationship is the chemistry of the actors.

 

I left Beautiful Boy with a decent amount of disappointment, mainly due to director Felix Van Groeningen, also a contributor to the screenplay. A lot of the story (especially the first half) is rather jumbled in the way of timelines. Yet that does not stop me from recommending the film.

The film tells the true story of Dave Scheff (Steve Carell), whose son Nic (Timothee Chalamet) has recently graduated High School yet dived into the world of drugs (mainly crystal Meth). He spends time between his dad’s house and his mom (Amy Ryan). His dad has remarried Karen (Maura Tierney), with whom he has two kids.

I mentioned before how the time lines are jumbled, since we see Nic at different stages in his life. It would be okay to show different times in Nic’s life, if it made sense to the viewer, which it sadly did not for me.

It is clear as day that the film’s saving grace is the acting. Regardless of screen time, every actor puts their best foot forward (even those in small roles like Oscar winner Timothy Hutton). Carrell first started out as a comedy actor (and still does so very well), yet he managed to cross the line into drama with such ease it is hard to sometimes remember we are looking at Michael Scott or Brick Tamland . His performance is (for the most part) very subtle and nuanced, playing a dad who clearly loves his son, even to the point that he would share a joint with him.

Chalemet is the stand out. He had a breakout year last year with his Oscar nominated work in Call me by your name as well as Lady Bird (both Best Picture nominees). When watching him in Beautiful Boy, it is hard to find any of those characters here. It is the true definition of sublime acting, proving he could very well be at the Oscars again soon.

Parents, the R rating is deserved. There is a good amount of swearing, plenty of thematic drug use, and one sex scene that seemed rather tacked on. High School and above.

There should be no doubt how troubling drug addiction (or any for that matter) is to a soul. Everyone in their life suffers as a result. This is one of the main things that make Beautiful Boy worth watching. That and the powerful performances. I only wish the approach was different.

Overall: Three Stars ***

The Big Short (2015)

THe Big Short

Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling in “The Big Short”.

 

The Banking world has always confused me.

All talks about stocks, bonds, and mortages have always hurt my head. There is a lot of talk about those in The Big Short, but it is dumbed down just enough to keep someone as clueless to banking as me to be entertained (though I was still a little confused).

The first success of the film is the casting. Christian Bale stars as Michael Burry, who is a genius but socially awkward (we learn from a childhood accident). He is one of four outsiders who would go to determine the stock market crash that would be remembered as the worst since the great depression. The other three are Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling, who also narrates the story), Mark Baum (Steve Carrell) and Ben Rickertt (Brad Pitt).

This is a hard movie to follow for some. Still, I am glad I stayed, because it is handled with wit, humor, and respect. It is no surprise the four recently mentioned actors give great performances (mainly Bale and Carrell). What surprised me the most was that this was from director Adam Mckay (mainly known for doing films like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.) This is actually the first film he has made not to star Will Ferrell at all.

Parents, this does have some sexual themes/ nudity in it. There are two scenes in strip clubs. One at the beginning (very short) and one later on (which does go into detail, although the character goes there to talk about money, nothing else). There is also swearing. In short (no pun intended), the movie does deserve its R rating.

I will end by saying that one thing I enjoyed a lot about the film is that it knows a lot of people in the audience will be confused by the terms used. They solve this by simply bringing in random stars to explain them to us (I wish they used more). Who are these stars? I would never ruin that for you.

 

Overall: Three and a Half Stars *** 1/2