“The Croods: A New Age” stars Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, Cloris Leachman, Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann, and Kelly Marie Tran. Released on November 25, 2020, the film has the Croods encountering a new family.
The film featured the directorial debut of Joel Crawford, and it is a sequel to the 2013 film “The Croods”. After testing the waters with the simultaneous theater/PVOD release of “Trolls World Tour”, DreamWorks Animation (along with Universal Pictures) went back to the theatrical-only basis with another follow-up to one of their original properties. One that we didn’t expect to come out so soon, and yes, I know that this is long overdue. I had to make sure I have enough money and time to check it out for myself. Brief history lesson here: “The Croods” came out in March 2013 and became a critical and financial hit, resulting in it spawning a franchise that consists of an animated prequel series on Netflix and a sequel that has been in development for seven years. With COVID-19 still swarming around, the studio thought that now was a good time to release the film in theaters for the whole family to enjoy, because Disney wasn’t going to take that risk just yet. I wasn’t expecting “The Croods” to get a sequel, to be honest. I thought the film’s ending was good enough for it to be a “one and done” type of thing. Plus, I thought it was an endearing animated adventure. It’s not one of my favorite films from DreamWorks Animation, but it had enough moments for me to give it a “seal of approval”. However, it did make sense for the studio to release the sequel because Cage is becoming quite successful with his recent animated roles throughout the last couple of years, and Ryan Reynolds has gotten back into the spotlight thanks to his involvement with the “Deadpool” franchise. But is it a necessary follow-up? That’s the big question. Let’s travel back to the stone age and find out.
Taking place after the events of the first film, the story once again follows the caveman family known as The Croods, which consists of father Grug (Cage), daughter Eep (Stone), mother Ugga (Keener), son Thunk (Duke), Gran (Leachman), and their younger daughter Sandy (Kailey Crawford). The Croods, along with Eep’s boyfriend Guy (Reynolds), are still searching for a place they can call home in this vibrant, yet dangerous, world. They later come across a new family known as the Bettermans, who appeared to be more evolved than the Croods and have a personal history with Guy. I guess that explains why they’re called the “Bettermans”…because they think they’re better than everyone else. This newly-evolved family consists of Phil Betterman (Dinklage), Hope Betterman (Mann), and their daughter Dawn Betterman (Tran), who Eep befriends. Of course, they didn’t grow fond of one another right away because of their differences as well as the Bettermans’ attempt to get Guy to stay with them. When their feud resulted in them landing in hot water, the Croods and the Bettermans will have to work together to save themselves from extinction. The first “Croods” film was a fun and heartwarming adventure that teaches its viewers about the importance of not allowing fear to dictate how we should live our lives. In “A New Age”, it teaches kids the importance of appreciating people’s differences, which in my eyes, couldn’t have come at a better time. People have been wasting their energy treating others like garbage because of how different they are, whether it’s based on their skin color or their culture or even their beliefs, and to me, it brings me nothing but disgust. The film displayed the fact that we can all learn to live together, no matter how discrete we are from one another, and I applaud DreamWorks Animation for representing this message in a world full of prehistoric cave people and wild distinct creatures. However, that doesn’t mean that it fits perfectly with the film’s storytelling as well. While it does have its share of charm and vibrancy in its environments and the characters, the story didn’t evolve well enough to keep up with its splendor as it used the formula that worked in its predecessor as an excuse for storytelling and nothing else. If you’ve seen “The Croods” a bunch of times, you might have noticed some similar elements from the original that were presented here in the sequel, such as the stone-age versions of modern-day traditions and the “overprotective parent” scenario. Even though those elements worked fairly well here in terms of the humor, they often came off as formulaic, derivative, and sometimes obnoxious. It also didn’t help that the plot was obviously straightforward to a fault with a few rushed moments that almost took me out of its gorgeous sceneries. It’s not that I hate the story at all. It’s bearable and goofy enough for me and the parents to sit through. It’s the fact that it’s so used to its predecessor’s formula that it lost track of the narrative balance that made the first film a hit in my opinion. In other words, I thought the story in the first film was a bit better. There were a couple of things that kept this sequel from going extinct, and those were the voice cast and the animation. The main cast reprised their respective roles from the first film, ranging from Cage to Reynolds, and they delivered some of their funniest and charming vocal performances in their careers. Thanks to his commitment towards the role of Grug, Nicolas Cage once again shows further proof that he’s still the ruler of all things crazy and should still share the lunacy throne with another lovable goofball Jim Carrey. The film also introduced some new faces in the form of the Bettermans, who are voiced by Dinklage, Mann and Kelly Marie Tran from the “Star Wars” sequel trilogy. I thought Dinklage and Mann did pretty well in their roles as Phil and Hope respectively, but the real show-stopper, in my honest opinion, was Tran, who brought plenty of energy and charisma into her character Dawn. She’s probably one of the best parts of the film because of her personality and her humorous moments. As for the Bettermans themselves, they’re fine enough to be supporting characters. Not great, but fine nonetheless. Another element that stood out for me was the animation, which looked unsurprisingly stunning. From its colorful settings to its unique creature designs, the animation once again showcases the studio’s strengths in providing a sense of imagination in its vigorous style. It also worked well for some of its slapstick shenanigans, including the “Punch-Monkeys”. They’re monkeys that use punching as a form of communication, in case you’re wondering. They can be a bit too cartoony for some people, but hey, if that’s your thing, then you should be fine watching the cartoonish fireworks fly.
Overall, despite its delightful sense of silliness and a lively voice cast, “The Croods: A New Age” isn’t able to keep up with the evolution. There were some moments that may impress families and plenty of fans of the first film such as the characters, the humor, and the animation, but they’re not enough to help the film survive against the dangers of prehistoric life due to its derivative plot elements and its middling storytelling. This is one of the animated follow-ups that are just there to entertain the kids and nothing else, but have enough good stuff to justify their own existence. While far from a cash grab, this is definitely a step down from its predecessor in my opinion. If you enjoyed “The Croods”, then I think you might enjoy this one as well. It all depends on your expectations.
“Outside the Wire" stars Anthony Mackie, Damson Idris, Emily Beecham, Michael Kelly, and Pilou Asbæk. Released on Netflix on January 15, 2021, the film is about an android officer who teams up with a drone pilot to stop a global catastrophe.
The film is directed by Mikael Håfström, who also directed films such as “Vendetta”, “Evil”, “1408”, “The Rite”, and “Escape Plan”. Sometimes the best way to save the world is with the help of a half-human, half-cyborg being. No, I’m not talking about Cyborg from the DC universe. I’m talking about the Falcon himself, Anthony Mackie. Before we see Mackie team up with the Winter Soldier in the upcoming Marvel series for Disney+, the actor is taking on a different kind of action film for Netflix, which is hoping to start off 2021 on the right foot. How, you may ask? By becoming the Winter Soldier himself, of course, without the Hydra brainwashing stuff. This latest action film sees Netflix continuing their hot streak of releasing plenty of new content for us to watch every week since the pandemic hit us hard back in March, which is good because I need a lot of reviews to write this year in case the upcoming theatrical films get delayed again. The only thing I remember from the film’s director is that he’s responsible for reuniting Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger for the 2013 action film, “Escape Plan”, which spawned a trilogy in case you forgot already. Given the fact that “Escape Plan” was pretty enjoyable in my eyes, I should assume that this film will likely get that same treatment as well. With that in mind, let’s see if it’s functional enough to prove my point.
The story follows Lt. Thomas Harp (Idris), a disgraced drone pilot who is sent into a U.S. base in Ukraine as punishment for disobeying an order. There, he’s assigned to work for Captain Leo (Mackie), a military officer who is actually a top-secret android super-soldier. They team up in a race against time to locate a pro-Russian terrorist named Victor Koval (Asbæk) and prevent him from using the nuclear missile silos to wipe out humanity. Netflix has a pretty good track record when it comes to delivering some serviceable action films. Some of them, like “Extraction” and “The Old Guard”, were able to blew my expectations with their heart-pounding action sequences and invigorating stories. Others were basically generic due to the executions of their concepts. “Outside the Wire” just happened to fall into the latter category. If you go into this film expecting nothing but a bunch of gunfights, CGI robots, war, CGI robots, bloody violence, and…you guessed it, CGI robots, I believe that you’ll be mostly impressed with the final result. However, if you’re hoping for it to have an Oscar-worthy story about the casualties of war from a drone pilot’s perspective and the dangers of artificial intelligence, you might as well pack your bags and head on home to be a family man because this film didn’t have that type of programming in its system. To be fair, the film did represent those types of topics, along with some well-handled moments like the action scenes, the gritty setting, and its third act, but they were easily overwritten by its formulaic screenplay and its so-so characters. If you’ve seen the other action films that has two different people saving the world from a bad guy, then you already have seen “Outside the Wire”. I don’t mind a film following the same formula as the ones from before as long as the execution is good, which is one of my personal rules in terms of reviewing movies. Unfortunately, the execution here was anything but good. It’s a conventional sci-fi action film that lacked any strong interest in its themes as well as the main characters themselves. It also didn’t help that the plot took itself a bit too seriously at times, especially for some viewers who want the film to be both fun and serious. As for the cast themselves, I thought they were all right. They’re not complete show-stoppers or anything like that, but they did the best they could in spite of its flawed script. Anthony Mackie continues to impress me with his performance and his stunt work as Leo, resulting in him joining the list of actors finding success outside of their Marvel roles alongside Chris Hemsworth. Along with providing some humorous moments, Mackie knows how to make his character as badass as one might expect from him. Damson Idris, who is known for appearing in films like “Megan Leavey” and “Farming” as well as the television series “Snowfall”, delivered a performance that wasn’t able to come close to matching Mackie’s. Even though I had a soft spot for Idris’s character’s redemption arc, I felt that his acting was a bit dull during a couple of scenes. The action sequences were also pretty enjoyable at times, along with some passable visual effects. While they’re not as energetic as the ones from “Extraction” due to some choppy editing and Håfström’s direction, I did happen to find some amusement seeing Mackie beat the crud out of the bad guys and destroy some bad robots. Gotta take what I can get, I guess.
Overall, despite some entertaining moments, “Outside the Wire” has several bugs in its system that makes it incompatible for modern warfare. Half of the stuff that was in the film were fine enough to keep me engaged, such as Mackie’s performance and the action scenes, but the rest of them were just as rusty as a pile of junk. Due to its cliched screenplay, average characters, and its inability to provide strong depth in its themes, the film wasn’t able to make it out of the war zone alive. It’s watchable for people who enjoyed Mackie in his Marvel Cinematic Universe films as well as people who just want to watch an ordinary action film. For those who want an award-worthy action war film, not so much.
“Charming” stars Demi Lovato, Wilmer Valderrama, Sia, Ashley Tisdale, G.E.M., and Avril Lavigne. Released in Spain on April 20, 2018, followed by a Netflix release on January 8, 2021, the film is about a prince who attempts to break his curse by finding true love.
The film was written and directed by Ross Venokur, who also directed “A.C.O.R.N.S.: Operation Crackdown” and is known for his involvement with the 2004 series “Game Over”. You can already tell how desperate I am to seek out some new content for me to review this year. In fact, I am so desperate that I had to rely on Netflix to find some recent smaller films that people are unfamiliar with. I managed to find one that caught my attention and boy, do I have something to say about this. This latest animated film comes from Vanguard Animation, the production studio that was founded by John H. Williams (the producer of the “Shrek” franchise) and Neil Braun. The studio was responsible for creating some below-average animated films like “Valiant”, “Happily N’Ever After”, and “Space Chimps”. I haven’t watched those films that often, but I do have some fond memories of seeing them for the first time during my middle school days. This is also the third animated film from Vanguard to be released on Netflix, following “Gnome Alone” in 2018 and “Fearless” in 2020. I haven’t seen the latter, unfortunately, but I did happen to watch “Gnome Alone”, and from what I can remember, I thought it was a pretty decent kids movie. Not perfect, but tolerable enough for me to go back to whenever I have nothing else to watch. Anyway, back to the topic at hand. The film was able to debut in theaters in Spain in 2018 (less than three years ago), followed by Europe and Africa throughout that same year and in the United Kingdom a year later. It didn’t get a United States release until Netflix was kind enough to acquire the distribution rights to the film and release it on the service last weekend. It was met with a pretty poor reception from critics as of this writing, which tells me that I’m going to have a lot of fun talking about this one. With that said, let’s see if this film is worthy enough to deserve its “happily ever after”.
The story follows Prince Philipe Charming (Valderrama), a prince who is cursed by his father’s former partner Nemeny Neverwish (Nia Vardalos) to be instantly attractive to every woman in the land until his 21st birthday. As a result, he wound up proposing to the likes of Cinderella (Tisdale), Snow White (Lavigne), and Sleeping Beauty (G.E.M.) despite them not knowing that they’re engaged to the same man. In order to rid himself of this curse, Charming must go on a dangerous quest to find the truest of true loves. There he meets a cunning thief named Lenore (Lovato), who may be the answer to his prayers due to her being the only woman who resisted his curse. Similar to “Shrek” and “Happily N’Ever After”, the film takes the fairy tale concept and flips it around like it was a pancake on a frying pan. “Shrek” managed to make this fresh take work by providing a well-told story and lovable characters. “Happily N’Ever After”, on the other hand, wasn’t so fortunate in terms of its critical reception and box office failure. “Charming” could wind up falling in either direction. It could end up being the next “Shrek” or the next “Happily N’Ever After”. After having the guts to watch it for myself, I can safely assume that it ended up being the latter. When you have something that first came out in a different country and it took a couple of years to appear in the United States, that’s usually not a good sign when it comes to the quality, and “Charming” just happened to become one of the films that prove this theory. To its credit, however, it did provide a suitable message for the kids about what it means to love. Unfortunately, that message has been bogged down by the film’s plot, which severely lacked the charm and energy that the other animated films are known for. Even when the film attempted to be charming and energetic during a few moments, it quickly fell face first on the ground and never recovered. As for the animation itself, I wouldn’t say that it’s downright awful. It definitely had some passable perks like the lighting and the okay-ish character designs, but they weren’t enough to make the style look as appealing as the title character himself. Plus, the animation for the characters’ mouths didn’t exactly match the dialogue at times, and to me, it’s very distracting, so I’m going to give it a point deduction for that. Aside from those two really tiny pros, the film is a forgettable and extremely generic kids film that completely squandered its interesting concept. While the film did have an impressive lineup that have experiences with both acting and singing, I’m afraid to say that their vocal performances weren’t able to deliver the charismatic appeal to their respective characters, who weren’t exactly that memorable to begin with. One of the main things I learned from watching animated movies or shows is that you need to have characters that are engaging and magnetic as well as the voice cast that fit those descriptions. Sadly, this film did not have that. Demi Lovato was able to put some effort into her role as Lenore, who is best described as the female version of Flynn Rider from “Tangled”, but not by much. My only problem with Lenore is the character herself, who obviously forgot the main qualities that made Rider a beloved character. I believe she would’ve been a good character for me to invest in if the writers expand her own perspective on love a bit. On the bright side, Lovato was at least a bit more tolerable than Wilmer Valderrama, who delivered his weakest performance of his career as Philippe Charming. The way he delivered some of his lines were immensely bland and poorly-directed. I’m not even sure if he was the right choice to voice someone like Charming, to be honest. I’m sorry to say this, Valderrama. You’re very talented, but I don’t think this film was right for you. Heck, even the screenplay by Venokur was very weak as it was filled with dumbed-down dialogue and imperfect attempts at poking fun at the fairy tale cliches. Of course, you can’t have an animated musical film without a song or two…or three. To be honest, I thought they’re okay. They’re not great songs, but they’re bearable enough for me to listen to. The first song, “Trophy Boy”, was my personal highlight because of its catchy tune. The other songs, though, ranged from “all right” to “meh”.
Overall, unlike its title character, “Charming” is a charmless and painfully mediocre shell of a prince that didn’t show any love to its intriguing concept. The animation was all right for the most part, and it did offer a fitting message for the kids. Nevertheless, those things don’t mean a gosh darn thing when the storytelling is as dull as watching paint dry. Filled with a lackluster plot, forgettable characters, unconvincing voice performances, and an unbearable screenplay, this so-called “fairy tale” doesn’t even come close to earning its “happily ever after”, resulting in it being not only one of the worst animated films I’ve seen, but also the first bad film of the new year so far in my eyes. It tried to copy the same success as “Shrek” when it comes to spoofing the fairy tale formula, but it lacked the main ingredients that made that film an animated classic in the first place despite the fact that John H. Williams (the producer of “Shrek”) was involved with “Charming” as the producer. Those main ingredients were the story, the characters, the charm, and the humor. This film is nothing but a worthless successor to that beloved animated gem because of the absence of those ingredients. If you’re actually brave enough to watch this film, it’s available on Netflix, and it’s worth watching for the film’s message and its so-so songs. Otherwise, you’re better off watching “Shrek” or reading an actual fairy tale book.
“One Night in Miami” stars Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, and Leslie Odom Jr. Released on December 25, 2020, the film has a group of people hanging out at a Miami hotel room.
The film featured the directorial debut of Regina King, and it is based on the 2013 stage play of the same name by Kemp Powers. What do you get when you put four of the most popular icons in African-American history all in one room? You get a miraculous play debut from writer Kemp Powers, which has now become a movie. Following her continuous success as an actress in film and television, award-favorite Regina King is taking the next step of her superb career: directing her very first feature film. Not just any feature film, however, but a feature film that’s based on a well-received play about a group of well-known African-American legends. If there’s one thing I appreciate from a film, it’s the diversity, both on screen and off. This is another possible awards contender that already premiered last year in a small amount of theaters and has made its way towards a wide release both in theaters and on a streaming service. So far, as of this writing, the reviews for the film have been extremely positive, with the critics praising the story and King’s direction, which should help increase its chance to make an appearance in some of the major awards shows this year. Thankfully, I don’t have to wait too long to see it for myself. My closest cinema is able to show this film today, which gave me an opportunity to check it out before it heads to Amazon Prime Video next weekend. Did I make the right choice? Let’s find out.
The story follows the fictionalized meeting of four African-American icons: human rights activist Malcolm X (Ben-Adir), boxer Muhammad Ali (Goree), football player Jim Brown (Hodge), and singer/songwriter Sam Cooke (Odom Jr.). They meet up in a Miami hotel room to celebrate Ali’s victory over Sonny Liston (Aaron D. Alexander) as well as reflect on their own experiences towards racial problems, and that’s pretty much it. It’s just four guys hanging out in a hotel room for a single night. You might be thinking that this is another play-turned-film in which the entire story takes place in a single location, similar to what “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” did when it comes to the narrative structure. That’s honestly not the case for this one. From what I read about the source material it’s based on, “One Night in Miami” is described as a one-act play in which four characters share the moments of their careers through dialogue in only one location: a small hotel room. The film not only offered that type of structure, but it also expanded upon it in order to further explore these characters before their meeting. This is something that I thought was handled remarkably well because it gives its viewers a clear idea on who these characters are and what they do for a living as well as show them their personal selves. Question is, was it enough to make this night worth remembering? The answer to that is a resounding yes. This is an invigorating and thoughtful depiction of the people behind their legendary personas and the pivotal moment that affected their careers in the African-American community. The only gripes I had with the film, however, were the pacing and the second act. Because of it being a dialogue-driven drama, the film had the tendency to drag a little bit in some moments. I wouldn’t say that it’s boring or anything, but I would say that they could’ve find a way to make those moments a bit shorter. As for the second act, it did feel like I was watching a filmed version of a stage play rather than an actual film at times. Other than that, everything else happened to be top-notch from start to finish. This is another film that showcases its main cast as its greatest strength in terms of their performances and the chemistry between them. Ben-Adir, Goree, Hodge, and Odom Jr. were all given the chance to shine as their respective characters, and unsurprisingly, they didn’t disappoint. Not only were their performances raw and riveting, but their chemistry was fun and believable enough to convince me that they’re imperfect friends with real-life problems. I thought Kingsley Ben-Adir did a marvelous job portraying Malcolm X and matching that character’s mannerisms flawlessly. Eli Goree was highly entertaining as Muhammad Ali, and Leslie Odom Jr., who plays Sam Cooke, continued to represent his wonderful talent as both an actor and a singer. Regina King was given the task to bring Kemp Powers’s play to the screen, which could be a bit challenging given the fact that this was her first film as a director. After watching it for myself, all I can say is that she accomplished that task with ease. Not only did she follow the qualities that made Powers’s play special, but she also delivered on making the dialogue-driven scenes feel realistic, especially during the second act. Speaking of dialogue, the conversations between the main characters were well-written, informative, and pretty engaging, and it’s all thanks to Kemp Powers himself, who has a knack of creating captivating stories set in the African-American community. I honestly couldn’t imagine anyone else writing it besides him. It’s actually quite nice to see someone behind the source material it’s based on write the screenplay for the adaptation because it allowed them to share their own creativity on a different type of media, whether Hollywood agrees with some of their ideas or not. I haven’t seen Powers’s play myself, so I couldn’t compare the two versions, but I do feel that screenplay-wise, Powers is definitely someone I’ll be keeping an eye on in the near future.
Overall, with Regina King behind the camera and its talented cast, “One Night in Miami” is definitely the night that’s worth reminiscing for a long time. Aside from a couple of pacing issues, the film is a thought-provoking and stellar portrayal of the legends we know and the meeting that changed their lives. Thanks to the engrossing performances from the cast, King’s direction, and Powers’s superb screenplay, this is another well-made drama that respectively represents diversity in front of and behind the camera. I would also say that this is another film that offers a lot of stuff for me to take in due to it being a dialogue-driven narrative. There were some stuff that I get, and some stuff that I didn’t understand during my first viewing. I’ll probably revisit the film when it comes out on Prime Video so that I can get a clear picture on the latter, but until then, consider me impressed with how it turned out during my first experience.
“Pieces of a Woman” stars Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Molly Parker, Sarah Snook, Iliza Shlesinger, Benny Safdie, Jimmie Fails, and Ellen Burstyn. Released on December 30, 2020, the film is about a woman who goes on an emotional journey after losing her baby.
The film is directed by Kornél Mundruczó, who also directed films such as “Johanna”, “Delta”, “White God”, and “Jupiter’s Moon”. 2020 may be over, but there are still plenty more films from that year left for me to check out, especially the ones that may wind up being major award contenders. The first possible contender I’ll be looking at today comes from Netflix and Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó who, according to his filmography, hasn’t helmed a film that’s in 100% English until now. What a way for him to step into different territory. I only knew this was coming out when I was doing research on the upcoming films I’m planning on reviewing. I saw the poster for it, noticed that it had Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf, and boom! I was immediately hooked. The film already made its debut in a small amount of theaters last month, and even though it didn’t become a huge critical darling, it did receive a suitable amount of good reviews, most notably due to its cast and its representation of the subject matter. Now, it has made its way to the streaming service for the rest of the public to enjoy…or cry their eyeballs out, whichever works. With that said, let’s see if this tearjerking drama is worth getting some recognition.
The story follows a Boston couple, Martha Weiss (Kirby) and Sean Carson (LaBeouf), whose lives have been changed horrifically. This is due to them losing their baby during a home birth performed by their midwife Eva Woodward (Parker), resulting in the midwife being charged with criminal negligence and being shunned by the public. Martha must now deal with her fractured relationships and learn to cope with her loss in order to face Eva in court. In case it wasn't obvious enough, this is another film that involves the process of grief, especially from the tragic loss of a loved one or a family member. In this case, it’s the sudden death of a newborn baby. Oh yeah, we’re definitely heading down that rabbit hole. This type of topic can be tricky to represent in film, not just because of how uncomfortable it is, but because of the sentimentality of its presentation. If handled incorrectly, it could wind up being an excessive melodrama that resembles a Lifetime movie. Fortunately, for me, that’s not the case here. This is a subtle and realistic depiction of a woman’s journey through grief and loss and how it affects her mentally as well as the people close to her. It’s far from a perfect depiction due to its pacing and the middle section not being on par with the riveting opening sequence and its well-executed ending despite how engaging it was. Nonetheless, it is still a well-made and thoughtful drama that has Kornél Mundruczó consistently blending its depressing and poignant nature with a sense of beauty in Benjamin Loeb’s cinematography. It can definitely be a slow burn for those who wanted to see some sort of excitement in the dramatic scenes. Not even its two-hour-plus runtime can make the situation better, but if you happen to stick around after the opening scene, you might be rewarded with stellar performances from the main cast and a satisfying screenplay by Kata Wéber. The main highlights of the cast would have to be Vanessa Kirby, who takes center stage in a realistic drama after impressing me with her action skills in “Mission: Impossible - Fallout” and “Hobbs & Shaw”, and Ellen Burstyn, who plays Martha’s mother Elizabeth. This was definitely Kirby’s film, and she owned it 100 percent. Similar to the film’s tone, Kirby’s performance was subtle, yet deeply affecting with how well-balanced her acting range was. Based on what I’ve seen, this is something that should help make her presence known during this year's awards season. As for Burstyn herself, she was absolutely stunning, especially during her scenes with Kirby. Shia LaBeouf also managed to impress me once again with his respectable performance as Sean. However, if you’re expecting him to earn a few nominations for his role, I’m afraid that isn’t going to happen as he has been removed from Netflix’s “For Your Consideration” page due to him being accused of alleged abuse by FKA Twigs. This is such a shame because he’s been doing so well with his recent roles, and I would hate to see him go back to square one if the allegations turn out to be true. Going back to the opening sequence, I would say that this was my favorite part of the film mostly because of Mundruczó’s direction and the cinematography. Its long single takes helped keep track of the sequence in great detail, and the commitment of the film’s cast and Mundruczó himself helped make the process of home birth both real and absorbing. It might not suit well for everyone, but for those who don’t mind this type of stuff, it was an impressive way to start off a film like this.
Overall, “Pieces of a Woman” is a grounded and deeply moving portrait of grief that offers plenty of rewards for viewers who are patient. The film’s slow pacing and the middle section prevented it from being a tour de force, but everything else managed to keep it from sinking even further into depression. The performances were stunning, Mundruczó’s direction and Wéber’s script were both top-notch, and the cinematography was simply astonishing. This is another appealing, yet somber, drama that’s powered by the actors themselves as well as its realistic representation. It can be challenging for me to recommend this one to everyone, most notably people who went through that process themselves. However, if you think you can handle this subject matter, then by all means, go check it out.