Mark Ruffalo

REVIEW: Dark Waters (2019)

Rob Bilott (Mark Ruffalo), a corporate defence attorney, takes on an environmental lawsuit against the chemical company DuPont that exposes a lengthy history of pollution.

Dark Waters is based on a true story and that makes this film and what the characters go through, all the more amazing and terrifying.

Rob Bilott is contacted by a farmer (Bill Camp) whose cows keep dying, leading him to believe there’s something in the water from a chemical company who has a landfill nearby. This is where Bilott’s investigation starts but over time it becomes clear that it is just one part of a decade’s long conspiracy. It’s like he falls down a rabbit hole and each piece of information he uncovers is as shocking as the last, especially the lengths to which the company goes to to cover things up, and how deadly their practices are.

Something that Dark Waters does well is show how much time and effort it takes to put together this case and get justice for those affected by the pollution. Bilott’s quest for justice takes up years of his life and the scenes of him going through hundreds of boxes of documents is just as gripping as when he’s in court or trying to convince his boss that they should continue with the lawsuit. Dark Waters is also the epitome of one of my favourite things (is it a trope? I don’t think so) in films – competent people being good at their jobs. It’s Bilott’s resilience and ability to think outside the box that allows him to make so much headway even when everything is stacked against him.

All the performances are great here and many of the actors have at least one inspiring or impressive speech. Ruffalo is brilliant as a man who puts everything on the line, including his career and his homelife, to do the right thing, and continuing to fight even when this huge corporation with all their money and power throws so many hurdles in his way to try and stop him. While Dark Waters is definitely Ruffalo’s movie, the supporting cast are all terrific to. Tim Robbins and Bill Pullman deserve a mention but it’s Anne Hathaway that stood out in the supporting cast. She plays Rob Bilott’s wife and while naturally she has a smaller role, it is still an important one. These court cases and the investigation takes up Rob’s life for years, and it’s important to see how this affects his family, and while his wife is understanding of why he has to do this, she is the one keeping everything together.

It’s easy to compare Dark Waters to the likes of Spotlight and Erin Brockovich; Spotlight for Ruffalo and the investigative aspect and Erin Brockovich for the one person fighting against the big corporation. Dark Waters is easily as good as those two films, but it also stands on its own merits. It’s an engaging investigative movie where unfortunately you’re left feeling equal parts stunned and unsurprised that corporate corruption and greed can be so powerful.

It’s a film that needs to be seen, because the products that this company makes are just everyday things that are in everyone’s homes, and I for one was unaware of what the chemicals they produced could do, and how prevalent they are. 5/5.

REVIEW: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

My original review of Thor: Ragnarok from October 2017 is here.

Imprisoned on the planet Sakaar, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is reunited with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) but he must find a way to escape and return to Asgard, where Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, is set to takeover.

Thor: Ragnarok is a weird and wonderful comedy superhero film. It’s bright and colourful, with wacky characters, costumes and settings. It’s very different to the previous Thor films which can be a little jarring but once you accept that it’s showing a different side to these characters, it’s a fun ride.

It’s the characters and their interactions that makes Thor: Ragnarok. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is back and once again you’re not entirely sure if he can be trusted, but through his conversations with Thor you see a different side to their relationship. There’s so many moments in this film where you can see their history and how they really are brothers who have grown up together. Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) is a hard-drinking scavenger and a really interesting new character. Her banter with Thor, and playfulness with the Hulk are unexpected but great. When Thor, Loki, Valkyrie and Hulk (and also Bruce Banner when he makes an appearance) are together, or any combinations of thereof, their chemistry is clear to see.

The action sequences are a lot of fun and exciting. Seeing Thor and Hulk battle is a real joy to watch while the battle for Asgard between Thor, his companions and Hela is one of the best third acts in a Marvel movie. It’s funny, compelling and has a fair few unexpected moments.

There are some uneven moments in Thor: Ragnarok when it comes to balancing the comedy with the drama. Mostly it works, but a couple of times a joke undercuts the emotion of a scene when is a shame.

Thor: Ragnarok is a lot of fun. It’s bizarre but still manages to have some of the best character development we’ve seen for Thor for ages. It also has more serious themes like colonialism and refugees, while still being very funny. 4/5.

REVIEW: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

My original review of Avengers: Age of Ultron from April 2015 is here and my spoiler-filled rambling thoughts on the film from May 2015 are here. I only reread both these posts after I wrote my MCU rewatch review.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) attempt to make a peacekeeping AI named Ultron, but Ultron (James Spader) has its own ideas of what peace on Earth should look like and the Avengers must stop him before he can enact his deadly plan.

Age of Ultron has a lot going on and not all of it is cohesive. It feels like a lot of things crammed into one move. There’s the introduction of the twins, Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen), two characters that present interesting powers, but you never learn more than what’s on the surface with them, especially Pietro. There’s also a lot on infighting in the Avengers team, while some events in the film certainly cause this, there’s also the sense that a lot of them don’t feel like a solid team or even a group of people that like each other. Side by side with the infighting is a surprising romance that is painful to watch – it feels like once the powers that be gave Clint (Jeremy Renner) his secret family, that Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) couldn’t possibly not have a romantic subplot and paired her up with the only other Avenger who didn’t have someone they loved. Then there’s Thor (Chris Hemsworth) who’s pretty redundant to the main plot of the movie and has his own sub-plot which is basically to give the audience a crash course in the Infinity Stones.

Age of Ultron is written and directed by Joss Whedon, the guy who did such a great job with The Avengers and had a decent take on each of the characters in that film. However, a lot of the characters development we’ve seen in various films between these two Avengers movies is just forgotten. Some elements make sense like Tony’s paranoia about aliens and protecting those who he cares about, but straightaway in Age of Ultron you see he’s built a load of robots when he’d partly dealt with his trauma by blowing all his suits up. Also, Steve (Chris Evans) often feels like a caricature of Captain America which is frustrating as we’ve previously seen the man behind the title so well in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The same can be said for Natasha, the version of her you see in Age of Ultron is a massive step backwards from the one in The Winter Solider. She’s still a badass, and while you can obviously have a female character who can fight and fall in love at the same time, the way it’s executed feels rushed and not in-line with what we’ve seen of Natasha’s character previously.

The action sequences are great, and the special effects are still top-notch. The humour that’s throughout the film doesn’t always land and sometimes feels like characters are saying a witty one-liner for the sake of it. The stakes in the final battle do feel high and you want both civilians to be safe and the heroes to succeed and survive, though I feel like a lot of that’s thanks to typical genre conventions and pre-existing affection for the characters rather than because of the characters as they’re shown in this film.

The stuff I really like in Age of Ultron are pretty much anything to do with Clint, surprise family and all, and Wanda. The way the film sets up their relationship is fascinating to me and I’m pleased that so far, those in charge of the MCU have continued to work with their dynamic. When it comes to pretty much anything else in this film, I’m either ambivalent towards it or actively dislike it.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is such a mismatch of themes and story ideas, and it’s a let-down after watching previous MCU movies in quick succession. A lot of characters seem to either take a step back in their development or receive none at all – a potential pitfall with an ensemble cast such as this that Age of Ultron fall right into. 2/5.

REVIEW: The Avengers (2012)

When Loki (Tom Hiddleston) arrives on Earth with plans to enslave humanity, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) attempts to bring together a team of volatile people, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Rufalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), who have the potential to be heroes.

The Avengers is a payoff for forward planning and investing in your characters. It’s hard to believe it now but The Avengers was a bit of a risky move. Yes, there were five films setting up these characters and all previous films were generally well-received and made a lot of money, but that was no guarantee that The Avengers would be a good movie that could balance its large cast of characters, each with their own extensive backstory and big personalities. Luckily, The Avengers managed to do just that.

The Avengers has spectacular set pieces with each action or fight sequence almost better than the last. There is a lot of conflict in this film, whether it’s the heroes against the villains or even the heroes amongst themselves. These are larger than life characters and they do clash, but that makes the moments when they come together as a team all that more satisfying.

The Avengers could have very easily been the Tony Stark Show thanks to him not only being a character we’ve seen the most but also because of Downey Jr’s natural charisma. However, thanks to a clever script that’s not the case. Each character gets their moment in the spotlight, secondary characters like Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) even get a moment of badassery. The script also allows time for these characters to grow while still having a firm understanding each of their motivations.

One of the highest compliments I can give The Avengers is that it feels like a comic book brought to life. The witty one-liners characters have, the way the script drops titbits of characters history or motivations with ease, and how vibrant and exciting it is. There’s a tracking shot, in the final battle, that’s almost lifted from the pages of a comic book with the way the camera moves from one character to another as they fight as a unit.

The Avengers is great because no matter the number of explosions and fights, it never forgets the characters humanity. There’s a real threat from Loki’s actions, as well as from the fact both the heroes and the audience are not sure they can trust Nick Fury and SHIELD. The Avengers is fast-paced, thrilling and funny. Seeing these characters together on screen is a joy, especially as the whole cast give great performances and all have brilliant chemistry with one another. It is one of the best superhero films, and Marvel Studios should be admired for successfully creating a cinematic universe, that so many other studios have been attempting to emulate ever since. 5/5.

REVIEW: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself imprisoned on Sakaar, a planet ruled by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), and is forced to battle in gladiator-style events where he is reunited with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Thor must fight to escape and return to Asgard where the Goddess of Death Hela (Cate Blanchett) has claimed the throne and plots to bring about Ragnarok – the end of everything.

Thor: Ragnarok is big, bright and bold. It’s the most colourful Thor film yet, especially the planet Sakaar. Everything there from the costumes to the sets to the characters, they are all vivid and almost bursting from the screen. Thor: Ragnarok has a lot of humour too. Not all the jokes land but it’s bright world compliments weird and funny characters.

A lot happens in the first thirty minutes of Thor: Ragnarok. There’s a lot of character introductions, references to what happened in the previous Thor standalone film, The Dark World, and set up for the main plot. It bounces all over the place for a time, from various planets including Asgard and Earth until the main story settles on Sakaar. This is a bit disjointing at times and makes it hard to settle in with the flow of the film, especially when the off-beat humour is not really what has been seen in previous Thor films.

Once everything is set up though, that’s when the various characters and their interactions really shine. Any of the moments between Thor, the Hulk (or Bruce Banner when he’s back in the driving seat), scavenger Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and combinations thereof were a joy to watch. The quick-witted banter is great but there’s still some nice moments of character building between them all.

The action sequences are a lot of fun, especially the battle between Thor and the Hulk. Hela proves to be a formidable villain as she wrecks death and destruction on Asgard, with very few standing in her way. She’s probably the most interesting villain since Loki, and her entrance into Thor’s world flips everything both he, and the audience, knows on its head.

Thor: Ragnarok is weird but kind of wonderful. It isn’t perfect and has a lot going on at times, but the cast of characters and their interactions are what makes it. It’s a funny and enjoyable watch. 4/5.

REVIEW: Infinitely Polar Bear (2014)

infinitely polar bear movie posterWhen Maggie (Zoe Saldana) gets into Colombia to get her Master’s degree, her husband Cam (Mark Ruffalo) who has bipolar takes over the responsibility of looking after their two young daughters Amelia (Imogene Wolodarsky) and Faith (Ashley Aufderheide) in Boston.

Infinitely Polar Bear tackles some tough themes. A father with bipolar struggles to look after his children while a mother makes the almost impossible decision to move miles away from her family in order to get a better education and therefore be able to get a better job and a better life for her children. It mostly tackles these themes well but sometimes the humour almost makes light of the situation this family finds themselves in.

Infinitely Polar Bear is funny. Its humour is often weird and kind of off the wall but it’s still funny. That being said, sometimes it’s the sort of humour or situations that’s a bit awkward and uncomfortable but that does put you in the shoes of Amelia and Faith who are often embarrassed by their father’s antics.

The performances in Infinitely Polar Bear are what really stands out. Mark Ruffalo gives a great performance as a man who tries, not always his best, but he does try and he argues and fights with the ones he cares about. The two young actresses are phenomenal and are two actresses to watch out for in the future. They are believable sisters and they have great chemistry with both Ruffalo and Saldana. The whole family work well together and have believable relationships which helps pull you into their story.

Infinitely Polar Bear is a charming film with a brilliant lead performance from Mark Ruffalo, it’s well worth a watch. 4/5.

REVIEW: Spotlight (2015)

spotlight movie posterThe true story of how journalists at the Boston Globe exposed the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese.

When the Boston Globe’s new editor Marty Baron (Live Schreiber) takes over, he tasks the papers investigative team Spotlight to look into claims that the Catholic Church knew about child abuse by priests and had covered it up for decades. This starts a somewhat hesitant investigation to begin with – Boston has a large Catholic populace and the Church is a powerful entity – but as they begin meeting victims of abuse and a lawyer (Stanley Tucci) who will keep fighting for the victims, they realise that they have discovered something huge.

Spotlight is truly an ensemble film. There is no real lead as these journalists are a team, fighting for the same cause. You believe that these people have been working with each other for years and understand how each other tick. Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaton) is the head of the team who knows some of the top dogs that might have been involved with the cover-up while Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) looks out for the victims and wants them to know how important their stories are. Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) gets increasingly more passionate about justice as the case progresses and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) is the guy who looks for minute details to make sure the story is water-tight. They all give great performances as people who are often shocked and dismayed by what they uncover.

The way Spotlight is shot and the lack of showy performances makes it sometimes feel like a documentary, that you are watching these real people struggle with their findings and their desire to expose the truth. The script should be commended as well, there’s no quips and there’s only one real loud argument but that doesn’t stop the film from being captivating.

Spotlight does a great job of not sensationalising this chilling story. It shows that the legwork of investigative journalism often takes months of research and interviews but that doesn’t make it any less tense and thrilling. It also doesn’t talk down to the audience, it expects you to keep track of all these people they’re investigating and talking to and to make the connections yourself.

Spotlight is a gripping and important true story that everyone should see. 5/5.