Movie review: The Predator

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to complete newbies review of The Predator – a 4th (or 6th) movie in the series that I’m completely unfamiliar with!

IMDb summary: When a young boy accidentally triggers the universe’s most lethal hunters’ return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.

Writing

The Predator was written by Fred Dekker and Shane Black (who also directed this film and has also starred in the original while also doing some re-writes on its script). Now, my statement in the opening of this review (that I know nothing) isn’t completely true. Having been a fan of movies almost my entire life, I have seen bits and pieces of the previous films on TV as well as come across plot-details and news about them online. Initially, I thought that I might watch the previous films before seeing The Predator but then I decided that ‘fresh eyes’ type of perspective might also be interesting. And I wasn’t disappointed in that respect – I thought that the film had enough exposition and world building for me to get the plot without having the knowledge of the previous films. I was also able to spot the most famous references as they were pretty heavy-handed with those. And that’s about the only two compliments I can give this movie’s writing.

My other two main complaints were the portrayal of autism and just the intellectual quality of the plot. First of all, portraying autism as a superpower of sorts is not a new thing and has been put to films before. And while I do get the sentiment – trying to empower people with disabilities – I think that these films, including The Predator, achieve the absolute opposite. They showcase one’s disability – autism in this case – as the defining feature that makes people special rather than portraying than as successful individuals despite their disability. Show how people can be successful having dealt with their disability rather than celebrating the disability!

My second negative point about The Predator was just its plot in general. I had so questions many questions starting with ‘why’, ‘what’, and ‘how’ that I honestly lost count. Why the film began as a pretty straight-up action film soon devolved into a mess of plot-lines of multiple Predators and multiple one-dimensional characters (if they even had a single dimension to them). The *spoiler* idea that one of the Predators was humanities savior just gave me an instant flashback to the new Alien movies and their unsuccessful attempts to play with the ideas of human creation, saint-hood, etc.

Directing

Shane Black directed The Predator, while in truth he directed at least two movies within it. A buddy-cop/soldier action comedy (which he knows how to do as The Nice Guys is amazing film) and a more serious/darker action film (which he is not great at (Iron Man 3…). The action itself was pretty decent and I liked the smaller Predator’s probably real costume – it looked intimidating and real. On the other hand, the bigger Predator looked like a cartoon doll and was most definitely CGI (and not particularly effective CGI).

Acting

The Predator’s cast consisted of a variety of lesser known actors, including as Boyd Holbrook (Logan) in the lead and Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight, 12 Strong) as his new soldier-buddy. They had other teammates too but they were highly interchangeable and forgettable. Also, their humor was quite cringe-y most of the time. Jacob Tremblay played Holbrook’s soon and was good. This wasn’t the first time he had to play a disabled person, he also did that in Wonder. His character in Room wasn’t disabled but that was still a very challenging role. Olivia Munn (X-Men: Apocalypse) was fun to watch as the scientist of the group even if her acting style didn’t fit the tone of the group at all. Sterling K.Brown was fine as the human villain too.

In short, The Predator was a lackluster blockbuster that I couldn’t enjoy as a newbie. I feel so sorry for the fans who were expecting something. Or maybe they knew what to expect?

Rate: 3.2/5

Trailer: The Predator trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Borg vs. McEnroe

Movie reviews

Hello!

Sometimes, I go to the cinema without any prior knowledge of a film. This was exactly the case this weekend, when, after watching the other UK wide release – Kingsman 2 – on Thursday, I chose to see Borg vs. McEnroe on Saturday, just because I saw it advertised at the box office.

IMDb summary: The story of the 1980s tennis rivalry between the placid Björn Borg and the volatile John McEnroe.

  1. Borg vs. McEnroe is a Scandinavian movie (more specifically a Swedish one), written by Ronnie Sandahl and directed by a Janus Metz Pedersen (who is Danish rather than Swedish). This is where my level of knowledge ends: I haven’t seen a lot of films from Scandinavia (have seen a couple so that’s something) nor any of the previous pictures by these filmmakers. Pedersen has directed some episodes of the second season of True Detective, though, but I’ve also yet to watch it.
  2. No matter how unfamiliar I was/am with these filmmakers, I have always/universally enjoyed the genre of sports dramas, especially its entries who make me appreciate a sport that I had no prior interest in or make me root for athletes whose names I didn’t know before. I rarely watch tennis on TV and I have maybe played it for fun once or twice in my life. Not surprisingly, I didn’t know anything about Bjorg or McEnroe (I barely know the tennis stars of today). And yet, this film made me care about and also educated me about both the sport and the people involved.
  3. The narrative had an effective structure: at the center of it was the 1980’s Wimbledon tournament, while the scenes from the athletes’ personal lives and flashbacks from their childhoods were interspersed throughout the runtime of the movie.  Thematically, Borg vs. McEnroe touched upon the pressure of the high-level professional sport (the pressure from family, friends, coaches, the public or the pressure that one puts on oneself), the fame that comes with it,  the emotions that runt through it, and, lastly, its pillars of sportsmanship and friendship. The film also mentioned a very interesting idea about tennis being a sport exclusive only for a certain cast/elite group. Later in the fall, Battle of the Sexes will explore how tennis is a gendered sport. My only critique of the script is the fact that I wish they would have situated tennis in a context of all sports, rather than put it on a pedestal as the ‘it/best’ sport.
  4. The directing of the picture was really good. The emotions as well as the intensity were palpable throughout the whole movie, but especially in the 3rd act recreation of the final match. The fact that the movie used a lot of dialogue in the Swedish language (rather than just English, like so many films do in order to reach a wider audience) added a level of authenticity too. The 80s setting was also well-realized and highly appreciated somebody who does wear a headband to gym and has a few color-blocked sweatshirts in her wardrobe.
  5. The two leads: Sverrir Gudnason and Shia Lebouf did a very good job both with the dramatic scenes as well as with the sports scenes (or they had amazing body doubles). Lebouf’s real-life eccentric personality fit his character perfectly. Stellan Skarsgård (one of the few Swedish actors that I know, mostly because he works in Hollywood more than in his native Sweden) was as good as he always is. Tuva Novotny also had a small role in the film, for the first half of it, I mistook her for Noomi RapaceRobert Emms also cameoed as Lithuanian-American tennis player Vitas Gerulaitis, who I’m only mentioning because of the shared heritage between him and me.

In short, Borg vs. McEnroe was an entertaining, informative, and emotional sports drama, with a neat message about rivalry and friendship in a sport: ‘Former Rivals, Best Enemies’.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Borg vs. McEnroe trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Sing Street

Movie reviews

Hello!

I’m continuing my series of ‘catch up’ movie reviews. Today, the focus is on the critically acclaimed indie picture Sing Street.

IMDb summary: A boy growing up in Dublin during the 1980s escapes his strained family life by starting a band to impress the mysterious girl he likes.

  1. John Carney (who I only knew as the director of the musical drama Begin Again) wrote and directed this picture. At the core of Sing Street, he placed a coming of age tale, that everybody has seen before. However, he executed this particular kind of story  immaculately. It felt very personal and relatable – maybe because it was semi-autobiographical. Sing Street centered on young adults in Ireland in the 80s, which alone helped the film to stand out (the only other film that has relations to Ireland that I can name is Brooklyn). In addition, the narrative was very clear and cohesive, while the set-up – quick but not rushed.
  2. Sing Street managed to find a balance between fun and seriousness. It was an upbeat and inspiring story placed in a grim setting of poverty, abuse, and family drama. It’s quirky and dorky in the best way possible. Sing Street was a celebration of art and artistry and it showed that rebellion against the societal norms is not a new thing. I also loved the fact that this feature focused on the relationship between brothers and portrayed the elder brothers as guides and trailblazers.
  3. As I have mentioned, John Carney directed Sing Street and did a neat job. I loved the personal aspect he brought to the film with some handheld camera shots. I liked how he realized the setting of the 80s Ireland (enjoyed the wacky fashion especially) and how he paid homages to the pop culture of the time. Back To The Future homage sequence was both cool and entertaining.
  4. Sing Street featured some amazing tunes from the 80s as well as original songs by the titular band of the film.  A whole bunch of people worked on the music for the picture, including veteran composer Gary Clark, some members of the band Relish, Graham Henderson, Zamo Riffman and even Maroon5’s Adam Levine. As a fan of 80s music, I really loved all the songs. Moreover, it was interesting and refreshing to see a film which focused on more traditional styles of music in contrast to the recent films that had EDM as their subject (We Are Your Friends, XOXO).
  5. Sing Street also had a great and diverse cast. The majority of the young actors, like Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Lucy Boynton, were/are quite unknown but they did such a good job that I think this situation will soon be fixed. A few familiar faces also appear in the film, including Game of Thrones’s Aidan Gillen and Transformers 4’s Jack Reynor who completely surprised me, as I had basically already written him off after the last Transformers movie. Turns out, he is actually a pretty good actor.

In brief, Sing Street was both light and serious coming of age tale, with a unique temporal and spatial setting. The music was also top-notch.

Rate: 4.25/5

Trailer: Sing Street trailer

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Movie review: Everybody Wants Some!!

Movie reviews

Hi!

The newest auteur’s Richard Linklater’s picture – Everybody Wants Some!! has finally hit theatres, so let’s talk about it!

IMDb summary: A group of college baseball players navigate their way through the freedoms and responsibilities of unsupervised adulthood.

Richard Linklater 

American director and screenwriter Richard Linklater has made a lot of great movies: the classic coming-of-age comedy/drama Dazed and Confused, which launched a lot of actors’ careers (Matthew McConaughey’s and Ben Affleck’s especially); the most realistic romantic feature(s) and one of my all time favourite stories – The Before trilogy; and one of the most unique cinematic projects in recent memory – Boyhood (which I thought was a gimmick of a movie until I started studying films and realized how much work and dedication this project had to demand). Now, Linklater is back in the genre that helped him to succeed in the first place. 2016’s Everybody Wants Some!! is a spiritual sequel to 1993’s Dazed and Confused. Dazed was set in the 70s, on the last day of high school. Everybody Wants Some!! continues the coming of age idea into the first weekend of college in the 80s. Fittingly, Linklater directs the film in a very old school way. The film has a lot of slow camera movements, no fancy cuts, and a lot of medium shots in a mobile frame.

Story

Richard Linklater not only directed the film, but he also wrote the screenplay. In the same fashion as Dazed, nothing really happens in Everybody Wants Some!! The viewer is following the characters as they try to adjust to new surroundings, socialize with each other, and find themselves. The film finds an interesting way to explore a topic of identity crisis by making its characters go through different stages of partying – from disco to country and from punk to theater. Linklater also explores the gender dynamics (at times, the film does seem sexist) and especially the masculinity of the athletes: how competitive they are, even when there is no need for it, and how they want to dominate or win, in any given situation. The film’s characters seem stereotypical baseball players, yet at the same time, they are all unique, interesting and, most importantly, real .They are just young adults, who are trying to find or create their identities, who seek approval yet want to be weird and unique (individual v team) and who are afraid to end up ordinary, without achieving anything great. In short, they are all well-rounded and complex characters aka real people. The picture also has plenty of funny moments and a perfect ending line – Welcome to College, mot***f**k**s!. I, honestly, don’t remember the last time I giggled so much in a movie (well, probably in Deadpool).

Acting and Characters

The film had a huge ensemble cast – I will try to talk about as many of the characters/actors as I can.

  • Blake Jenner as Jake. We open the film with Jenner’s Jake, arriving at college, so I guess he should be considered the main character, although, as I’ve said, Everybody Want Some!! is an ensemble movie. Nevertheless, Jenner was great in the film – all of the sides of Jake were believable (both the team-orientated, partying baseball player and more romantic, quieter freshman). I’m so happy that Jenner’s career is picking up, because I have followed it closely, since he appeared on The Glee Project and, later on, Glee. This year he had a small role on Supergirl and is also starring in a few other films.
  • Zoey Deutch as Beverly. Deutch had only a few scenes in the picture but I also believed her as a theater nerd. She definitely has some range as an actress because, in this film, she played a complete opposite of her character in The Vampire Academy (the only other film of hers that I have seen). Speaking about VA – I loved the book series, so that’s why I watched the movie. It wasn’t good but definitely not as bad as the trailer showed it to be.
  • Ryan Guzman as Kenny Roper. Guzman surprised me a lot in the film because I have only seen him in Step Up movies and in The Boy Next Door in not very challenging roles. In this film, he was kinda a douchebag but likable one. His mirror scene was super funny.
  • Tyler Hoechlin as Glen McReynolds. Hoechlin left Teen Wolf to be in the movie because he really liked the role, and after seeing the film, I can understand why. His character was funny and also kinda douche baggy, yet extremely team-orientated – a great leader. Hoechlin’s crop tops were also on point. Next film for Hoechlin – aA Fifty Shades sequel.
  • Glen Powell as Finnegan. The scene stealer and the most interesting character of all. He sounded the smartest and his small monologs were nice to lister to. Powell is currently on Scream Queens.
  • Wyatt Russell as Willoughby. Another interesting character that kinda resembled Dazed and Confused’s David Wooderson aka Matthew McConaughey’s character. While McConaughey couldn’t leave highschool, Russell’s character was not ready to say goodbye to college, baseball, and the student lifestyle. Russell has previously starred in 22 Jump Street.
  • Other cast members included Will Brittain as Billy Autrey, Forrest Vickery as Coma, Temple Baker as Plummer, Tanner Kalina as Brumley, Austin Amelio as Nesbit, Juston Street as Jay Niles, Quinton Johnson as Dale, and Dora Madison Burge as Val.

Costumes 

1980s setting of the film added a lot of humor. The outfits (those prints and bell bottoms), the hair and the mustaches seemed weird in 2016 and yet so cool and chill. I would have loved to live in the 80s. The costumes were created by Kari Perkins while Michaela Farrell and Jennifer Jackson were the two key artists, responsible for makeup and hair.

Music

The film’s soundtrack was also on point. One of the scenes involving music was the singing in the car sequence – Rapper’s Delight by The Sugar Hill Gang– it was amazing. The soundtrack was picked by Linklater himself and this article on IGN nicely explains all the behind-the-scenes thoughts on music.

In short, Everybody Wants Some!! is an interesting exploration of one of the most exciting periods in people’s lives. The characters drift around and the viewer has a chance to chill with them. The costumes and the music are so 80s and so on-point while the acting and the jokes are pleasing as well.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Everybody Want Some!! trailer

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Movie review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Movie reviews

Hi!

Welcome to one of the last big movie reviews this summer – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014).

The 2014 TMNT movie is a reboot of a long running franchise. The world was first acquainted with 4 turtles –Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and Donatello – as a comic book characters. As time went by, beloved character transferred from paper to small screen and eventually to big screen.

I have never been a huge TMNT fan, I mean, I watched a couple of episodes of animation series when I was a kid but I never really followed their whole story. So, because of that, I wasn’t upset with the changes because everything was kind of unknown to me.

I wasn’t expecting this movie to be as good as it was. The film was really funny (elevator scene!), the story was interesting but easy to follow and on top of that we got some really cool action scenes.

Megan Fox was also surprisingly good. She has a lot more experience now, so I am interested to see what she will be able to do in the future. However, the villain of the movie was blank; I wished they would have worked more on him.

The motion capture was great although the voice work – not so much. To my mind, the movement of the lips and the sounds these lips were making seemed a little bit fake in some scenes.

I loved that the movie portrayed a nice family relationship between Splinter and the turtles as well as encouraged team work.

Between all four turtles, Donatello is my favorite because he is super smart, intelligent techno-genius.

One last point: I loved that the movie was only around one and a half hour long because I am getting really tired of these 2 hours+ blockbusters.

Rate 3.5/5

Trailer: TMNT 2014 trailer

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