Tag Archives: Margot Robbie

I, Tonya (2018) Movie Review By John Walsh

I, TONYA.png

Director: Craig Gillespie
Writer: Steven Rogers
Stars: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney

I’m not going to lie. I wasn’t familiar with Craig Gillespie as a director prior to this release, nor indeed was I familiar with the colourful Tonya Harding. I was born in 1989, I’m Scottish and had zero interest in ice skating. What the hell attracted me to this film then I hear you ask? Margot Robbie is the answer. She’s a supremely gifted performer and she doesn’t disappoint here again.

If like me, you weren’t aware of the controversy that was to define the titular character back in 1994 then I’ll try my best to give a short history lesson. Emphasis on short. Tonya Harding was something of a fiery, indomitable figure in the world of ice skating. She struggled to gain recognition, plaudits for her performances and was subsequently implicated in an FBI investigation after her rival Nancy Kerrigan was assaulted after a practice session.

This film is undoubtedly a character driven, biopic that tries to delve into the dysfunctional upbringing of Tonya. Gillespie utilises past and present perspectives to focus on her incredibly bizarre, at times abusive relationship with her mother, the impact that had on her as a person and how it forged her career going forward, whilst also shaping public opinion of her.

All of which proved to be quite crucial in shaping the narrative when the sensationalist press kicked into action during the customary media frenzy in 1994. In the short research I’ve done on the real Harding, it seems abundantly clear to me that she was singled out as the villain of the piece. This despite there being little to no evidence of her having any knowledge or involvement in the attack. What this film then seeks to do, is show the human side of the story and it does this rather nicely.

I have to say though, that the early flashbacks with Robbie playing a supposed teenage Harding where a little jarring. No harm to Margot, she’s a beautiful looking lady, but she’s never pulling that age range off. I did enjoy the antagonistic dynamics explored during these between her and Allison Janney’s, LaVona Fay Golden character however. Her mother was the atypical domineering pushy type, determined to see her child become a professional skater at the expense of everything else.

There was more than a hint of sadistic vindictiveness in there too. The scene with her stabbing her daughter in the back was genuinely shocking. And yet despite this, I often found myself laughing at her antics which were full of black humour. Such as paying a heckler to give her daughter abuse and entering her home in the midst of journalistic hounding, with a voice recorder hidden in her clothes. I thought Janney was great here, she went above and beyond to portray this oddity of a woman. She deserved her Oscar nomination and win.

Tonya didn’t seem to have much luck in love either. Fleeing the clutches of her abusive mother and landing into an equally abusive relationship with her Freddy Mercury wannabe, moustachioed, partner, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan).

Her struggle wasn’t contained merely to family and romance issues either. She fought tirelessly for recognition in a sport that placed equal importance on sparkly clean backgrounds, perfectly applied makeup and outfits as it did on performing truly exhilarating and perfectly choreographed routines. Tonya, as the film perfectly shows, had the natural ability, being the first to woman to perform a triple axle, but her common background, peroxide hair and disposition for abusing judges meant she would never reach the top.

And again, it proved pivotal in the witch hunt that transpired after the Nancy Kerrigan attack. She was disliked by many in the sport and was never recovering fully from that setback.

As I said before, Margot Robbie was the main attraction for me going in to see this film. Her performance is incredible. The nature of the story meant that her and Janney needed big showings, effectively they had to carry the film. And they did this. I’ve already spoken about Janney, who impressed me as the prolific smoker and sadistic mother. Robbie however did a splendid job as the voracious skater. She looked demented at times with the makeup, almost unrecognisable and played off her on screen mother, not to mention Sebastian Stan wonderfully.

Visually, the film was reasonable. It was set in the early 90s and looked accurate enough. They utilised many flashbacks which manifested themselves in grainy VHS style footage and looked fine. It reminded me of old Christmas videos of my family from back in the day. The CG was a little off in the skating scenes however, but it didn’t take me out the film or anything.

I can’t really recall the score which should speak for itself really.

If I was to have one other criticism of I, Tonya then it would probably be the slightly contradictory comments and views from different people on the events. This was deliberately done by Gillespie though, effectively letting the audience make their own mind up in regards to who they believe.

Like I said at the beginning, I’m not a fan of ice skating, I wasn’t aware of the Kerrigan/Harding rivalry or the subsequent controversy, so I was very much conflicted on whether to actually watch this film. Thankfully I did give it a shot though because it was an enjoyable and interesting insight into a unique individual with one of the most peculiar mother daughter relationships I’ve ever seen.

I’d have no hesitation in recommending this.

Rating: 4/5

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Suicide Squad (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh

SUICIDE SQUAD

Director: David Ayer
Writer: David Ayer
Stars: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie 

So I decided to finally watch Suicide Squad the other day. It’s honking critic reviews and widespread criticisms of averageness from just about anyone who’d seen it had put me off going to the cinema during its release or even watching upon its arrival to blu-ray. Being in the midst of a comic book movie watching splurge however, freshly coming off the back of both the Wonder Woman and Spider-Man releases, I decided to take the plunge and give it a bash. Before I delve deeper, I’ll start off by saying that shock horror! It’s not a classic, nor is it in the class of the aforementioned films. Having said that though, it’s not anywhere near as bad as I thought it would either.

If you’ve not watched the film yet or perhaps haven’t even heard of the premise behind the name Suicide Squad then I’ll briefly summarise. They’re essentially a group of anti-heroes in captivity that are forced to work together in a series of missions with their impending death at the hands of an explosive implanted into their heads supplying them with a strong motivation to work together.

The unofficial leader in this iteration is Deadshot (Will Smith), a master marksman as the name implies with a chequered hitman past. Then you’ve got Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the bat shit crazy, sidekick and love interest of Mr. J; Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), a man with trust issues that likes to rob banks and throw a boomerang about; El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a introspective Hispanic chap with the nifty ability to wield fire; Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a brooding, ferocious loner who’s appearance resembles a reptile (hence the name) and finally Katana (Karen Fukuhara), a samurai wielding, ninja like superheroine. There’s also Slipknot, but he dies so early that he’s an irrelevance.

Now that’s out the way, I’ll get onto the actual film itself. I didn’t really care for the story here. It was pretty uninspiring, not the most engaging, lacked a proper villain or threat of any kind and it took far too long to introduce the characters. I’d say the opening thirty or forty minutes or so was dedicated to sequentially introducing each of the Suicide Squad members, which is ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, with it essentially being an origin film, chocked full of new characters, it was a necessary evil. I get that and I actually quite enjoyed the little short story, montages that played for each of them. It did do a reasonable job of showing what each was about. They were too damn long though and the story definitely suffered as a result.

And whilst we’re talking about the story, what the hell was that villain all about? The Enchantress? Sorry, nah. She did nothing and I mean nothing throughout the entire film. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and Griggs (Ike Barinholtz) were more impactful in that regard. The former as the leader of the secret government agency tasked with keeping the group in check and the latter a sadistic guard.

It was basically a prolonged introduction followed by a series of interconnected action sequences that seemed to play out across ten blocks worth of the city. To makes matters worse, they criminally underused the Joker character. I’m actually scratching my head in bemusement as to why he was even in it. His character had no rhyme or reason for being near the film, no place in the plot, made even less impact than the terrible Enchantress, seemed to serve solely as a twisted romantic side thread and plot device to delve back into Harley Quinn’s story. I wasn’t even that impressed by Leto’s portrayal either. He’s a cracking, extremely talented actor, but it did nothing for me. It’s a tough act following on from Heath Ledger though and he had little to work off, at least in those scenes that made the final cut, so I’ll try not to be too harsh.

Margot Robbie however was incredible. She’s had a fantastic few years and seems tailor made for the role. Despite being given one liners that would make Arnie cringe, she still managed to overcome it with the standout performance. There was the perfect balance of a sultry, seductress and charming craziness, with genuine funny moments flung in for good measure. I can understand why DC are looking to cash in on thag particular hype train.

Another performance that impressed was Will Smith’s. He managed to come across as a anti-hero badass for the most part, but also brought real humanity to the character. They tried this with a couple of the others too, in particular El Diablo, but Deadshot’s backstory with his daughter and the whole struggle to maintain their relationship was the best developed out with those previously mentioned Harley Quinn flashbacks. That was another disappointing aspect of the film for me. Barring Deadshot and Quinn, there wasn’t much focus on the other members. Killer Croc and Captain Boomerang barely got a mention following the opening ‘reels’ and Katana got one line about her dead husbands soul being trapped in the sword.

This is one area that I feel DC really need to improve upon. It goes back to what I was saying earlier. There were far too many new characters being introduced that really should have been given standalone films prior to this being released. That would’ve freed up more running time for a better plot.

It’s funny because reading this back, it honestly comes across like I hated this film, but I genuinely didn’t. It’s not THAT bad a film. It’s a good bit of fun, harmless, escapism with some interesting (and not so) personalities brought together. The action for the most part was excellent, the soundtrack worked well, was extremely enjoyable and visually it was a complete delight on the eyes. Special shoutout to Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag who was another positive. I’m enjoying his involvement in House of Cards just now and was pleased to see him giving a good account of himself here. That said, the forced romantic sub-plot with him and June Moone (the woman possessed with the Enchantress) at best lacked chemistry, wasn’t very believable and at worst was completely unnecessary.

So my final thoughts on this then. Would I recommend it to anybody else yet to see it? Hmm… depends on whether you can get a good quality video on YouTube with most of Harley Quinn’s scenes or not. No seriously, kidding aside, it’s worth a watch despite the onslaught of negativity that’s plagued it. It’s a deeply flawed film, but there’s still enough positives buried within to recommend giving it at least one viewing.

Rating: 2.5/5

 

The Legend of Tarzan (2016) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

LEGEND OF TARZAN

 

Director: David Yates
Writers: Adam Cozad (screenplay), Craig Brewer (screenplay)
Stars: Alexander Skarsgård, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie

Tarzan is a story that has been told so many times in different mediums and inspired versions of the Lord of the Jungle.

In this incarnation Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård), has been there, done it and bought the leopard print t-shirt as he finds himself acclimatising to his life back in civilised London as John Clayton III. The Prime Minister played by the brilliant Jim Broadbent who communicates an invitation from King Leopold II of Belgium, to come to the Congo and see all the good things that the King is doing for the natives.

Tarzan has no desire to go back to Africa, but he is persuaded by George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), a U.S. government representative who is skeptical of the King’s activities in Africa and wants to see the conditions on the ground for himself.

It turns out that Leopold’s invitation was a set up and that he King was not making as much money from the Congo’s natural resources as he had hoped. Hence why he sent Captain Léon Rom (Christoph Waltz) to Africa seeking out new sources of income. Rom is looking for some rumoured diamond mines when he runs into Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou) and his warriors.

Unaware of how ruthless the Belgians can be, Mbonga offers Rom access to the region’s treasures in exchange for Tarzan, with whom the chief has a score to settle. Hence, King Leopold’s “invitation”. Upon their arrival in the “Free State of Congo”, Tarzan and Jane (Margot Robbie) reunite with old friends, but their joy is short-lived, thanks to Rom’s cruel plan.

Tarzan, does what he can to help the natives, protect his wife Jane and stop Rom, while Williams does his best to keep up and help Tarzan when he can. The scene were Williams takes a leap of faith into the trees from a great height is a little naff as he plummets on to a log unscathed (Hardly First Blood)

“The Legend of Tarzan” updates the character and establishes who he is while giving us a fresh story with a great supporting cast that was let down at times with the characters being a bit unbelievable.

I wasn’t really sure why Samuel L. Jackson’s character was in the film, other than to set Tarzan on his merry way back to his spiritual home he never served a purpose other than to keep Tarzan company.

Jane Clayton played by on form Robbie had her moments but on the whole was really just leverage for Rom against Tarzan.

Christoph Waltz played the villain (as he does) well even if the character was a little unbelievable.

Visually at times I felt the movie let it’s self down with some of the CGI. Don’t get me wrong the effects aren’t appalling and at no point take you out of the movie. Just sometimes especially with the animals you can “just tell”

I give the makers and the writers credit for trying a different spin on the character and story whilst keeping the origins of the legend intact but the plot is a little over the place at times with flash backs (at one point I wasn’t sure if I was in the present day or a flash back) but if you like Tarzan I would give it a go. This movie burner is in no hurry to revisit jungle anytime soon…a bit like John Clayton III at the start of the movie.