Review: ‘Bridge of Spies’

bridge of spies review

Bridge of Spies is a biographical Cold War drama directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, and Joel Coen. It stars Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, and Alan Alda.

Based on true events, Tom Hanks is James B. Donovan, an insurance lawyer who is recruited by the CIA to represent and then help negotiate the terms of a Soviet spy (a surprisingly sharp performance from Rylance) who is in captivity. Meanwhile, a U.S. pilot has been captured by the Soviets after getting caught with spy equipment. It’s up to Donovan to make sure a peaceful resolution is reached, despite the overwhelming odds against his favor, especially when he’s forced to go on the other side of the Berlin Wall.

Though this is a beautifully shot film, you’ll notice that a bluish gray tone persists throughout every period setting you’re taken to. It’s unique at times, but it doesn’t quite measure up to the excellent performances and high quality writing (in no small thanks to the pen of the Coen brothers) that ultimately overshadows the decent visuals. Still, there’s much to be said about how well the environments are considered from Donovan’s home in America to the aforementioned scenes in Germany that provide some stunning commentary (mostly by train) about how the Cold War shaped prejudiced and fear mongering attitudes of that time period.

The movie is mostly theater that will set up Tom Hanks for a possible Oscar nomination. But apart from a few good speeches and another Oscar-Worthy performance by Rylance as a supporting actor, it’s not one of Spielberg’s best films. But for Spielberg, that’s still high praise, and Bridge of Spies is easily one of the most entertaining, and important, movies you’ll see this year.

bridge of spies review

Grade: A-

This film has its flaws, but it’s still excellence in genre filmmaking and a film I’d certainly watch again. If you love well-written and masterfully-directed movies, you shouldn’t miss it. But if it takes a lot to hold your attention for two hours, then you may want to wait and rent this one.

If you’ve seen Bridge of Spies, let me know your thoughts in the comments. And be sure to check out our podcast review coming this Sunday, where we’ll talk about the film in more detail.

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni


‘Ant-Man’ Review — Huge Expectations

ant-man review

Part of the Marvel storytelling rulebook is to take a certain character and spin their weaknesses into massive strengths. Their powers are always paradoxes of who they are, from Iron Man’s sarcasm/mad genius angle to Thor’s power/humility character arc.

So if you like how Marvel has crafted these iconic characters so far, then you’ll probably enjoy Ant-Man, which does more or less the same thing with new faces and situations.

Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, a master thief who wants to do right by his daughter (oh, but who doesn’t want that?) He teams up with brilliant scientist Hank Pym (ideally cast as Michael Douglas) and his estranged daughter, Hope (also a well-cast Evangeline Lilly) in order to stop a powerful technology from being sold as a weapon. He’s armed with a suit that lets him shrink in scale, but increase in strength, and he must rely on training from Hank and Hope in order to hone his new skills.

Like Guardians of the Galaxy, this film relies a lot on its self-awareness and wit to balance its silly premise. Edgar Wright (who once helmed the project before getting replaced by Peyton Reed) has his fingerprints all over this film, and thankfully so. Ant-Man’s quick edits and impatience with slow moments makes it a fun, breezy film with a lot of great action.

But the true star of the film is Michael Peña, whose hysterical performance makes you yearn for him in every scene he misses.

Grade: B+

While it’s not the best superhero film (or Marvel film) you’ll ever see, it’s definitely a sign of good things to come.

Extra credits:

  • Yes, there’s an after-credits scene, as well as something during the credits. Thanks to Age of Ultron, we actually have to point that out now.
  • Other critics are liking this movie. It currently has a 76% on Rottentomatoes and “Generally Favorable” reviews from Metacritic.
  • No spoilers if you know all of the hidden easter eggs teasing the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We’ll hit some of that on this week’s podcast, Now Conspiring.
  • I’m already a Paul Rudd fan, and this will go down as one of my favorite performances from him. It’s not his best, but it’s absolutely a good time.

ant-man review

Ant-Man stars Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne, and Corey Stoll as Darren Cross. It was directed by Peyton Reed and co-written by Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, and Paul Rudd.

Review: ‘Inside Out’ Is More Than Some Feelings

I’ve written a more comprehensive review for Inside Out elsewhere, but I thought it would be fitting to craft a shorter review for this site’s readers, many of them being longtime fans of Pixar Animation Studios.

Yes, Inside Out is the latest Pixar feature. It takes you inside the head of an 11-year old girl and tells you her story through her five emotions: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust.

Directed and produced by the team behind Up, this new story is all about the struggles of growing up. Its lessons aren’t cliche, however, in that the final message isn’t simply “do whatever makes you happy.” This is a staple of children movies that Inside Out rightfully tosses in favor of emotional truth.

inside out review

The movie doesn’t pull its heart-wrenching punches, but it’s also decisively clever and humorous. I haven’t laughed this much during a Pixar movie since Finding Nemo, which I consider Pixar’s funniest film ever. For that reason and others, I consider Inside Out Pixar’s overall best movie since Finding Nemo, and I’ve heard many say that the movie even surpasses that level of praise.

It’s easy to give Inside Out a little too much credit. Many of us have been yearning for an original Pixar feature of this caliber for years, and I’ll admit that I wanted this movie to be good. But I know myself, and I think I’m giving Inside Out the proper amount of praise based on both viewings I’ve had of the film so far.

Grade: A.

This is due to some minor nitpicks I have, including a missing antagonist for the movie and some of the film’s over-reliance on themes from other Pixar movies. If you’re curious about the score, then you can check out my full review on Moviepilot, where I discuss the film in detail.

Extra Credits

  • Yes, the movie will likely make you cry, so I suggest you pick a 3D showing that will hide your eyes.
  • Richard Kind voices Bing Bong, who has some of the film’s biggest laughs, next to…
  • Anger. Lewis Black killed it as my favorite emotion of the bunch.
  • I watched this movie in San Fransisco, which is where the movie takes place. This hyped up the setting for me, in that I recognized some of the locations they took right out of the map. I confirmed this with Ralph Eggleston, the art director, when I met him a few months back. Great guy.
  • LAVA is a fun short, especially if you love the ukulele as much as I do. For that reason, it’s a lot higher on my list of favorite shorts than some others, but I also didn’t love Blue Umbrella as much, so my opinion is weird.
  • Yes, this fits into the Pixar Theory. More on that later.

Inside Out was directed by Pete Docter and co-directed by Ronnie del Carmen. It was produced by Jonas Rivera and stars Amy Poehler (Joy), Phyllis Smith (Sadness), Mindy Kaling (Disgust), Lewis Black (Anger), Bill Hader (Fear), and Kaitlyn Dias (Riley).

Review: ‘Jurassic World’ Spared No Expense

Jurassic World mini review

Jurassic World is the fourth movie in the overall Jurassic Park franchise that kicked off 22 years ago. We’ve been waiting 14 years for a new movie, but does this return to Isla Nubar satisfy?

Turns out, it really does. Jurassic World is a ton of a fun, and I had a blast watching it. The enjoyment I gained from the movie even rivals the original Jurassic Park, which was a staple of my childhood (and yours, probably). But it’s a different movie with a different tone, and even some different things to say.

Go on…Review: ‘Jurassic World’ Spared No Expense

‘Aloha’ Review — Jerry Maguire Goes Hawaii

aloha review

There’s a good, maybe even special, movie somewhere inside of Aloha, the latest Cameron Crowe offering that wants to recapture the magic of Crowe’s early, infectious work. Unfortunately, that hidden movie is quite exactly that: hidden. And it’s beneath a final product that feels harshly edited, despite being pretty confident.

Mounds of character-building scenes are replaced with conspicuous exposition and quick bits of dialogue that are meant to be “enough” for us to keep following along in this strange romantic story about a former-military privateer helping a billionaire launch a weaponized satellite. Or something. Oh, and there’s a quirky romance.

Go on…‘Aloha’ Review — Jerry Maguire Goes Hawaii

Review: ‘Tomorrowland’

Tomorrowland is the kind of movie you watch as a kid and love for your whole life, even though adults hated it when it came out.

It’s very imperfect, and the ending is truly atrocious and mishandled. But the good in Tomorrowland far outweighs the bad.

Specifically, this is a Brad Bird film through and through. The cinematography and grand vision behind the movie are unique and incredibly entertaining (isn’t that what a movie should be?) The action and set piece moments are beautifully shot and for once, I can say they’re inspiring.

The film’s saving grace is its superb writing, though I have to give the actors a lot of the credit here. The dialogue is good, but George Clooney, Britt Robertson, and newcomer Raffey Cassidy make it exceptional. Cassidy in particular is about to have a stellar career.

Perhaps I’m going easy on Tomorrowland due to my fondness for Brad Bird as a director and the fact that this film is wholly original (it’s no adaptation or remake). But I was honestly inspired by many moments in this film, even if they were a little uneven and went in strange directions. There’s still plenty to appreciate in this ambitious script of whimsy, and this is a film that kids shouldn’t miss.

Grade: B+. 


Extra credits

  • I just want to reiterate how enchanting Raffey Cassidy was in this film. Just please, Disney, hold off on shoehorning her into some kind of superhero role.
  • Hugh Laurie’s part in this film felt unfinished, much like the location of Tomorrowland itself. Still, he had some great lines as Governor Nix.
  • The house invasion scene is probably the film’s high point, and the set of moments in Tomorrowland that made me feel like a kid again. There’s so much potential in this source material.
  • I’ve been waiting for Britt Robertson to have a truly good performance since…eh…The Longest Ride. She’s great.
  • Yes, the overall message is pretty preachy, but it shouldn’t put anyone off. The “big idea” of Tomorrowland should resonate with everyone. We can and should do better.

Tomorrowland was directed and written by Brad Bird. It was also written by Damon Lindelof. It stars Britt Robertson as Casey Newton, George Clooney as Frank Walker, Hugh Laurie as David Nix, and Raffey Cassidy as Athena. It’s now playing in theaters everywhere.

Thanks for reading! If you like this blog, you can subscribe for weekly updates by clicking the “Subscribe” button on the right sidebar. Or just follow me on Twitter for the latest updates – @JonNegroni

Review: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

mad max fury road

I’m still processing Mad Max: Fury Road. I’m still wrapping my head around the visuals, the world-building, the bold color palette, and what everyone else in the world is talking about right now: the action.

Let’s just get this out of the way. I’ve never seen any of the previous Mad Max” films (just parts of Road Warrior). I went into Fury Road blind, though that will be remedied very soon.

Go on…Review: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

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