Category Archives: Mark Ruffalo

Poor Things-2023

Poor Things-2023

Director Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe

Scott’s Review #1,413

Reviewed December 27, 2023

Grade: A

Yorgos Lanthimos is a peculiar director and the suggestion is for potential viewers to be familiar with his work before seeing his latest film release, Poor Things (2023).

I’ve said recently that other directors like Alexander Payne, Todd Haynes, Quentin Tarantino, and Martin Scorcese can easily be added to this list with a style not for everyone but that Cinemaphiles will salivate for style and texture alone.

Anyone who has seen Lanthimos’s Dogtooth (2009) or The Lobster (2016) will know exactly what I mean.

With Poor Things, he hits a grand slam home run that might garner him some Academy Awards in what can be arguably classified as his most progressive film.

Mentions like the art direction, cinematography, set design, and fantastic performance by Emma Stone must be immediately celebrated and called out as highlights.

The film is hardly mainstream or conventional and way out there channeling a parallel to Frankenstein with frightening and gothic sets and sequences galore.

All with a twisted and refreshing feminist quality.

Ultimately, I was satisfied with the knowledge that I had witnessed a cinematic marvel that encourages repeated viewings.

During the nineteenth century in London, England, Bella Baxter (Stone), is a young woman brought back to life by the brilliant and unorthodox scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe) who is referred to as ‘god’.

He inserts the tender brain of the baby she was carrying when she leaped from a bridge to her death suicide style.

Under Baxter’s protection and supervision, Bella is eager to learn but acts like a toddler with limited speech and motor skills. She teeters around smashing plates with gleeful joy as she discovers her surroundings.

With superior intelligence and a hunger for the worldliness she is lacking, Bella runs off with Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo), a slick and horny lawyer, on a whirlwind adventure across the continents from Lisbon, Portugal to Paris, France, and back to London.

Free from the knowledge and the prejudices women of her time were forced to endure, Bella grows steadfast in her purpose to stand for equality and liberation. She challenges societal norms with her vision and determination.

I can’t think of anyone else to play the role of Bella other than Stone. With wide eyes filled with wonder, she infuses her character with comedy and wit as she asks questions many women have but never dare to utter aloud.

Especially in Victorian London.

Ruffalo is outrageous and Dafoe is hideously stoic. Both actors bring star quality and wacky performances in different ways.

The look of the film is to die for as Lanthimos offers a looming fairy tale set design led by cinematographer Robbie Ryan.

The European cities of Lisbon, Paris, and London are given their chapters in the film and their focus. The waterfront in Lisbon in particular resembles the real city in a gothic and foreboding way.

The hotel in Paris where Bella becomes a prostitute is regal and polished. Bella wonders aloud why the male customers get to decide which woman they want to spend time with instead of the reverse.

It’s a fair question.

Her friend and fellow prostitute introduces her to socialism while Madame Swiney (Kathryn Hunter) explains capitalism.

Finally, the musical score by Jerskin Fendrix offers shrieking classical strings mixed with haunting pizazz and perfectly timed arrangements. They promote tension and drama at just the right moments.

2023 was a fabulous year for women in cinematic terms but not so much by the United States Supreme Court but that’s another story. The bombast and box office enormity of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is followed by Lanthimos’s celebration of the thought-provoking Poor Things.

Both elicit insightfully quirkiness that successfully bulldozes over traditional gender norms with messages that women can do whatever they set out to do which is a vital quality for young minds to be exposed to.

Oscar Nominations: 4 wins-Best Picture, Best Director-Yorgos Lanthimos, Best Actress-Emma Stone (won), Best Supporting Actor-Mark Ruffalo, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design (won), Best Production Design (won), Best Original Score, Best Makeup and Hairstyling (won)

Zodiac-2007

Zodiac-2007

Director David Fincher

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr. 

Scott’s Review #1,134

Reviewed April 16, 2021

Grade: A

Zodiac (2007) is a great film in its mood alone. The attention to detail circa the 1960s and 1970s is spot on and adds to the flavor of the entire experience. The locale of San Francisco is moody and lurking with the antics of the self-professed zodiac killer.

With excellent acting, the sum of its parts adds up to a wonderful film experience.

The film is incredibly well-paced, character-driven, and layered in rich texture. What more can be asked of a cinematic production? It simply has it all and will engage any viewer craving mystery and intrigue.

David Fincher, as the director’s chair, creates a world unto itself with carefully crafted sets, artistic nuances, and of course a superb story. A lesson learned is that sometimes evil exists and cannot be caught despite best efforts and the ramifications are endless.

Painfully, the characters in Zodiac slowly realize this.

Zodiac is based on the best-selling non-fiction book by Robert Graysmith, a pivotal character in the film. The novel is very similar to James Elroy’s 1987 novel The Black Dahlia, another unsolved case set in California.

The film tells the story of the manhunt for the Zodiac Killer, a serial killer who terrorized the foggy San Francisco Bay Area during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Investigators (Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards) and reporters (Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr.) become obsessed with learning the killer’s identity and bringing him to justice.

Meanwhile, Zodiac claims victim after victim and taunts the authorities with endless and specifically graphic letters, bloodstained clothing, and cryptic messages shrouded in menacing phone calls.

The case remains one of the United States’ most infamous unsolved crimes.

Much of the acclaim must go to the three actors cast in the central roles and Gyllenhaal is top of his game in the leading role. As cartoonist Robert Graysmith he is the main hero and the person who spearheads the investigation, prompting disbelievers to listen to him.

Gyllenhaal is sensitive, sympathetic, and obsessed and at first, perceived to be a laughing stock, but audiences will immediately get behind the man and this is thanks to Gyllenhaal’s powerful acting.

The character-driven approach continues as Mark Ruffalo gives a wonderful portrayal of Inspector David Toschi. The tough-as-nails and no-nonsense approach led Toschi into obsession and fudging evidence.

Finally, Robert Downey Jr. provides energetic gusto as Paul Avery, a journalist who turns to drugs and alcohol because of the intensity and emotional investment in the case.

Plenty of red herrings make the film fun and the prime suspect of Arthur Leigh Allen, played by character actor John Carroll Lynch may or may not be the assailant.

It’s breathtaking watching all the twists and turns in this ferociously complex film.

Zodiac is based on real events and reportedly is extremely historically accurate. Fincher and others spent eighteen months conducting their investigation and research into the Zodiac murders.

So, authenticity is everywhere in this film.

Watching a film beginning in 1969 and ending in 1983 is a joy for someone who grew up in that era. Fincher drizzles the film with timely automobiles, clothes, and other sets so it appears to be walking into a time capsule.

I’m sure this only will add to the viewer’s enjoyment.

For fans of films based on the Zodiac Killers, the 1971 film Dirty Harry, starring Clint Eastwood delivers an exceptional experience based on the real-life case.

But Fincher’s Zodiac is just as good.

Despite the behemoth running time- two hours and thirty-seven minutes, Zodiac (2007) is an edge-of-your-seat thriller. The pulsating yet prowling pace is worth several viewings to appreciate the juiciness of all of the elements David Fincher offers.

A hefty round of applause is deserved.

Shutter Island-2010

Shutter Island-2010

Director Martin Scorsese

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio

Scott’s Review #567

Reviewed December 27, 2016

Grade: A-

Shutter Island (2010) is a great, psychological thriller, that being a Scorsese film, I had high expectations for. Lo and behold, I was not disappointed in the slightest.

Scorsese has a knack for making taut films, very violent, and with an edge. This film does not have the gore nor the blood that some of his other films have- especially since the subject matter is not mafia-related.

After Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio), a World War II veteran, turned U.S. Marshall investigates the disappearance of a female patient at a local psychiatric hospital, the case develops unforeseen layers.

The time is the 1950s.

Shutter Island is not your typical, run-of-the-mill thriller- it is much more than that and the complexities build and build. Not to be secondary to the interesting web of plot, but the art and set designs and visual effects are quite impressive- particularly during the storm scenes.

Leonardo DiCaprio is quite the gem, carrying the film in a demanding role, and working so well with Scorsese, as proven by his being a repeat player in his films.

All the performances (even tiny roles) were played with perfection- with flawless nuances- I mainly mean the hospital staff and patients.

The unpleasant violent images may upset some as well as the ending, but I found it to be an edge-of-your-seat, extremely well-made film. I hope that it is remembered for some time.

The Kids Are All Right-2010

The Kids Are All Right-2010

Director Lisa Cholodenko

Starring Julianne Moore, Annette Bening

Scott’s Review #560

Reviewed December 24, 2016

Grade: A

The Kids Are All Right is a fantastic film!

In my opinion, the film is one of the best of the year 2010 and was rewarded with a deserving Best Picture nomination.

Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo were also honored with acting nominations. Bening gives the best performance in the film.

Continuing the trend of more exposure to LGBT issues, The Kids Are All Right tells of a same-sex-centered family dealing with real issues.

Though not dark, the film is not light or played strictly for laughs. It is a family drama that shows how same-sex family units face problems like everyone else, and how they deal with them, never forgetting how much they love each other.

The writing is intelligent, deeply layered, and rich. The acting is superb, and the characters are complex.

The best scene is one where the entire family is eating dinner- suddenly the camera focuses on one person and goes in slow motion, the other voices become muffled and distant, and painful emotion is portrayed on one of the character’s faces as a revelation comes to the surface.

Brilliant.

Even the seemingly unimportant dialogue throughout the film is smart as it shows the bond of the family that cannot ultimately be broken.

The Kids Are All Right (2010) is a worthwhile and compelling film.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress-Annette Bening, Best Supporting Actor-Mark Ruffalo, Best Original Screenplay

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 1 win-Best Feature, Best Director-Lisa Cholodenko, Best Female Lead-Annette Bening, Best Supporting Male-Mark Ruffalo, Best Screenplay (won)

Date Night-2010

Date Night-2010

Director Shawn Levy

Starring Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg

Scott’s Review #481

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Reviewed September 17, 2016

Grade: D+

Date Night is a perfect example of mediocrity in modern filmmaking.

We have two current comedic actors here- Steve Carrell and Tina Fey- circa 2010- at the top of their game.

The filmmaker’s idea is to pair these two and make an appealing romantic comedy appealing to the masses.

The main issue with this film is that the result is generic and quite an average offering.

And the entire film is incredibly plot-driven with no character development to speak of. If I am being too harsh, admittedly there is rather nice chemistry between the two leads, but it is wasted because of sloppy writing.

A couple from the New Jersey burbs, Carrell and Fey portray husband and wife, Phil and Claire Foster. Saddled with two kids and their romance reaching dullsville, Phil decides to take Claire to a ritzy Manhattan restaurant.

When they arrive, they cannot get a table but pretend to be another couple (the Tripplehorns) to obtain their table after the other couple’s no-shows. This leads to a tale of mistaken identity as the Tripplehorns possess a flash drive that a mobster (Ray Liotta) wants.

This then leads to a chase throughout Manhattan to outrun and outwit their pursuers. Wahlberg plays a hunky client of Claire’s, always shirtless, who is meant to threaten Phil and Claire’s marriage.

Several others of the current Hollywood elite- Kristen Wiig, James Franco, Mila Kunis, and Mark Ruffalo, make small and somewhat pointless appearances. Specifically, Franco and Kunis as a stoner-type bickering couple are silly and unnecessary to the story.

Carrell and Fey are quite funny as individuals and as a duo- Date Night, though, does not capitalize on nor showcase their respective talents. The film tries too hard to come up with scenario after scenario of the two on the run and encountering one problematic situation after another.

As the plot of Date Night wears on, I find myself noticing that each situation that occurs is a measure of convenience.

Conveniently, Claire has a client in town (Wahlberg), who is a security expert. They go to him for help and, predictably, his hunkiness bothers Phil and piques Claire’s interest- though of course, we know full well Phil and Claire will end up together- that is how these mainstream films go.

In another scene. Phil and Claire can break into an office building unnoticed, trigger the alarms, conveniently find a needed file, and escape, miraculously all before the police arrive minutes later.

Very plot-driven.

The lead actors in Date Night are appealing and even charming together, but the silly, inane plot makes it unappealing to watch and the slew of stars that somebody decided would be a great addition to a lukewarm film is odd.

The roles written have little bearing on the central plot so it was apparent why they were added.

Date Night (2010) is a film we have seen time and time again with other actors in similar roles.

Foxcatcher-2014

Foxcatcher-2014

Director Bennett Miller

Starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo

Scott’s Review #210

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Reviewed January 2, 2015

Grade: A

Foxcatcher (2014) is a dark, disturbing, psychological thriller that achieves greatness based on its bleak look and great acting.

It is a superb character-driven story, based on true events, led by the talents of actors Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo, each of whom is excellent.

It is a sports film, but hardly predictable as many in this genre typically are.

The film is set in 1987. Brothers Mark and Dave Schultz (Tatum and Ruffalo respectively) are former Olympic gold medal-winning wrestlers attempting to compete in the upcoming 1988 Olympic competitions.

Despite winning a gold medal, Mark (Tatum) lives in squalor and is reduced to giving pep rallies at elementary schools, meant to be done by Dave (Ruffalo), for very little money. Dave is the more successful brother, a family man living a happy existence.

He is more talented than Mark and very driven.

One day Mark is contacted by wealthy philanthropist John du Pont (Carrell) and invited to live with him at his expansive estate in Pennsylvania and train with other aspiring Olympic wrestlers.

John’s attempts at wooing Dave as well initially fail.

From this point in the story, the film delves into psychologically dark territory, mainly the controlling, disturbing behavior of John, as he attempts to control Mark and woo Dave.

John has a damaged relationship with his mother, Jean, wonderfully played by Vanessa Redgrave. Jean feels that John’s obsession with the wrestling world is far beneath him and their relationship is tense and unloving.

The three principal actors involved in the film are worthy of discussion as the film would not be as complex or compelling.

Let’s begin with Channing Tatum- known primarily as a hunky movie star with questionable acting ability, he proves the naysayers wrong.

I cannot help but compare him to a younger Brad Pitt. It took years and many films for him to be recognized as more than a pretty face and abs to die for.

His performance is understated and calm, but nuanced in his laid-back demeanor. Sometimes anger bubbles under the surface.

Carrell is downright creepy as the affluent yet insecure Du Pont.

Throughout the film, the character seems off. Known mostly for silly comedies he is a breakout performance that, I hope, leads to similar meaty roles. Carrell shows he has what it takes to appear in quality films.

Lastly, Mark Ruffalo, who always plays interesting, everyman-type characters, again emits much emotion from his character of Dave Schultz, a successful, driven, athlete who is also a dedicated husband and father.

With lesser casting, Foxcatcher would not have been as interesting.

Questions at the end of the film will arise. What were John du Pont’s motivations? What effect did his mother have on his actions? How could a man with all his power and wealth end up this sad? Were there inappropriate sexual overtures made towards the wrestlers by John?

Foxcatcher (2014) excels at portraying a dark, layered, moody, true story and teaches that wealth does not equate to happiness and in many instances, quite the contrary occurs.

The film is an immense success.

Oscar Nominations: Best Director-Bennett Miller, Best Actor-Steve Carell, Best Supporting Actor-Mark Ruffalo, Best Original Screenplay, Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 1 win-Special Distinction Award (won)

The Normal Heart-2014

The Normal Heart-2014

Director Ryan Murphy

Starring Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer

Scott’s Review #198

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Reviewed December 1, 2014

Grade: B+

The Normal Heart is a 2014 HBO television movie based on the true story of Ned Weeks, an openly gay AIDS activist/writer, played by Mark Ruffalo.

The film is set during the period when the epidemic first surfaced, from 1981-1984, and the challenges and frustrations faced, mostly within the gay community, to bring exposure and assistance to the disease.

Weeks was famous for establishing a group of passionate members who banded together to attempt to hurdle these struggles.

The film was produced by Brad Pitt.

This is wonderful to know as films with this content (AIDS) are often tough to produce. It’s wonderful that Pitt’s wealth and influence were used effectively.

At a vastly different time in the country to be gay, the government did very little to assist with financing funding for treatment or researching a cure for it, which is the main point of the story.

The talented cast makes this film what it is.

Matt Bomer plays Ned’s closeted gay lover, Felix Turner, one of the many casualties of the deadly disease. Bomer lost forty pounds in preparation for the role.

Julia Roberts plays polio-stricken doctor, Emma Brookner, who was instrumental in helping the sick when few others within the medical community wanted to.

Other actors providing support are Alfred Molina, who plays Ned’s supportive, powerful, attorney and brother, and Joe Mantello, who has a terrific meltdown scene as his anger and anguish over the disease not being taken seriously by the government finally bubble to the surface.

Finally, Mark Ruffalo plays Ned competently, but why the slight feminization of the character? The real Ned Weeks was masculine. A needless stereotype the film (or Ruffalo) chose to pursue.

The film shows the discrimination faced by AIDS victims, from an airline pilot refusing to fly a plane carrying a sick patient, to an electrician refusing to enter a patient’s hospital room to fix a television set.

This is sad when one realizes how ridiculous these unfounded fears proved to be.

According to the film’s statistics, a major point of the film is how the United States Government, specifically President Reagan, did very little in the way of funding or even wanting to discuss the issue for years following the initial outbreak, resulting in thousands of lost lives.

And why exactly is Reagan considered a great President?

It makes one ponder. It was only due to beloved Hollywood star Rock Hudson acquiring and dying from the disease and Elizabeth Taylor using her star power to get people involved that finally led to the topic being discussed and action taken on a federal level.

My slight criticism of the film is that it looks and feels like a television movie similar in texture to Behind the Candelabra (2013), another HBO film.

The colors are bright and vivid and look television-like. could have used darker lighting and perhaps a gloomier more dower feel, especially given the subject matter involved in the story.

Otherwise, thumbs up and respect for bringing this story to millions of viewers and hopefully educating those who were not there.