5 ideas about a movie: Blockers

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of a movie that was way better than it trailer suggested it’d be. This is Blockers!

IMDb summary: Three parents try to stop their daughters from having sex on Prom night.

  1. Blockers was written by Brian Kehoe and Jim Kehoe and directed by Kay Cannon (the writer of the Pitch Perfect trilogy) in her directorial debut. I thought that the direction of the film was really good: the comedic timing was great and the pace was neat too. The comedy was pretty raunchy but I didn’t find the raunchiness cheap this time around. The script was great too: I’m gonna discuss it in more detail by talking about the parents and the teenagers separately.
  2. The parents were definitely the real stars of this movie. All the jokes relating to them were hilarious. The scene with the chat and the emojis was amazing and all the following ones – pretty great too. I also appreciated the levity that the parents’ characters brought to the film, as the three characters were dealing with some heavy but thematically-appropriate issues. The ultimate message to trust in the children to make the right decisions and to be strong and independent was really neat and actually seemed heartfelt.
  3. I thought that the set-up of the three girls’ lives was really good too. As soon I saw the first few scenes of them starting school, I instantly believed their friendship and I thought that it was nicely presented throughout the rest of the movie as well. I also enjoyed seeing all the craziness of the prom night – it seemed immensely fun and made me a bit jealous that my own prom night was quite tame compared to that. I also absolutely loved the contemporary and quite enlighted conclusion of the movie that had an unexpected message of female empowerment. You go, girls!
  4. The three of parents were portrayed by Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz (Bright, Suicide Squad) and John Cena (Daddy’s Home 2, Ferdinand). I swear I have already seen Mann play a role of an overprotective mother but I can’t remember in what movie exactly. Or I might just be misremembering and she was just so perfectly cast in this role that I’ve felt that I’ve seen her in it before. Barinholtz was amazing as the unconventionally great dad too, while John Cena keeps astounding me with his acting skills. He and Dwayne Johnson are a few fighters who have transitioned to acting very very successfully.
  5. The three daughters were played by relative newcomers Kathryn NewtonGeraldine Viswanathan, and Gideon Adlon. Newton is the most well known out of the three because she played the lead in Paranormal Activity 4 and also had small roles in Lady Bird and Three Billboards. Viswanathan has mostly starred in TV shows and short movies before. I absolutely loved her performance as ‘a student-athlete going rogue’ in this movie (and found it very relatable). Adlon has also done some TV shows and I swear she looked like a younger version of Alicia Vikander. Would love to see the two of them cast as the younger and older versions of the same character.

In short, Blockers was a hilarious update of an old genre! I definitely recommend it!

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Blockers trailer

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Movie review: Tomb Raider

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to Hollywood’s gazillionth try at making video game movies into a thing. This is Tomb Raider!

IMDb summary: Lara Croft, the fiercely independent daughter of a missing adventurer, must push herself beyond her limits when she finds herself on the island where her father disappeared.

Writing

Tomb Raider was written by Evan Daugherty (of Divergent, The Huntsman, and TMNT), Geneva Robertson-Dworet (according to IMDb, hasn’t written any movies before this one but has 7 announced projects including MCU’s Captain Marvel), and Alastair Siddons (writer of Trespass Against Us – a movie with Michale Fassbender/new Lara Croft’s real-life husband. Fun connection). This film is based on the famous game series (which I have never played) and also acts as the reboot of the previous Lara Croft movie franchise from the early 2000s (which I don’t remember at all but plan on rewatching in April when I have some more free time). The writing for the new Tomb Raider wasn’t bad but it also wasn’t great either. The narrative itself was structured well enough and the story was interesting too. However, all of us have seen this movie before and more than once. We have also previously heard a good portion of the film’s by the numbers dialogue too.

The movie started promising. The set-up was interesting and I did like how contemporary it was (Lara being a deliveroo type of food courier). The only part of the set-up that sort of came out of nowhere was the invention of the villain – Trinity organization was mentioned in passing and was never developed more throughout the film. There were a plethora of hints at it in the closing scenes of the picture but whether the sequel will happen for those hints to result in anything substantial is a big question. No one is sure whether we will get to see Lara with her two signature guns either, which she acquired in the last scene of the film (I did like her with bow and arrows a lot, though). Thematically, Tomb Raider toyed with the ideas of history and the supernatural. I did like the historical quest/puzzle element of the film and I do appreciate the fact that they didn’t go the full supernatural route like The Mummy did. In general, the picture was an okay origin story and a good-enough reintroduction of the character but with so many other big franchises currently being produced, I don’t really know whether there is space for Lara Croft.

Directing

Tomb Raider was directed by a Norwegian director Roar Uthaug and, as far as I can tell, this film was his English language/Hollywood debut. I thought he did a good job realizing the flawed script. The pacing was okay too. I mostly had problems with the tone and the action of the film. The in-camera/on-location action was executed really well and made the movie feel like a tight action film. I especially liked the opening bike chase sequence, the chase on the boats in Hong Kong, and all the hand-to-hand combat in general. However, some other action scenes were really CGI heavy and had so many unbelievable moments that made them laughable. The shipwreck scene was super dark and filmed in a really shaky fashion, while the plane/river sequence just had way too many lucky coincidences. Those over the top, unrealistic action sequences made Tomb Raider feel like a video game movie, which I guess was the point. The final action sequence in the tomb was a mixed bag of good realistic action of an action movie and over the top CGI of a video game movie. I can’t really comprehend why somebody would make a movie lean more towards video game-ness, when the quality and the reaction to all the previous video games was so poor and when that same movie would be so much much better if it went the more classical/grounded action movie route.

Acting

Alicia Vikander played the lead and was actually really good as Lara Croft. Just the physical shape alone that the actress was able to achieve for this role was incredible, worthy of praise, and a bit inspiring. Made me want to do a couple of more extra crunches at the gym. I have always been impressed with Vikander’s indie/awards’ work (like The Danish Girl for which she won an Oscar and even Tulip Fever – the film was bad but she was good in it) and I was really glad to see her cast in a more mainstream/bigger budget/higher profile film. She has had supporting roles in mainstream films before, like – The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Jason Bourne, but this is the first time she is headlining a movie of this scale and hopefully, a whole franchise. Still, I do doubt whether this movie will spawn a franchise but I also don’t think that it will damage Vikander’s career in any way if it doesn’t.

Walton Goggins (The Hateful Eight) was fine as the typical power hungry and blind-to-everything villain and I think I have seen Goggins in this role before (like in The Death Cure just a month ago). Dominic West (Genius, Money Monster) played the role of an equally delirious man and was okay in it. The writing didn’t make either of these characters sympathetic or understandable in any way, shape or form. Daniel Wu (Geostorm) had a small supporting role in the picture and, while he had some neat moments, his character was also forgotten in the third act. Wu has already starred in one video game movie – WarcraftKristin Scott Thomas (Darkest Hour, The Party) appeared too with the promise of a bigger role in the sequel (when and if it happens).

In short, Tomb Raider was an entertaining but forgettable film. It didn’t do much for the video game movie genre but didn’t damage it further (if that is even possible) either.

Rate: 3.3/5

Trailer: Tomb Raider

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BEST, WORST, and MISSED movies of 2017

Movie previews, Movie reviews

Hello!!

Happy New Years Eve!

For most people, it’s a day/night of celebration: partying and drinking. Well, I’m also celebrating but in my own way – by posting my cinema round-up of the year. Like in 2015 and 2016, I’m providing you with my personal list of best and worst films (and I’m linking all of their reviews). A new development for this year is the fact that my top 5 list of obscure, small, ‘missed’ movies/honorable mentions is expanding into a 10 just because I’ve seen too many pictures this year that I want to bring to your attention once again! As always, please don’t bear any hard feelings if our lists don’t match! This post was written in the name of fun and I’m really looking forward to reading your picks in the comments!

BEST Movies:

  1. Logan
  2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  3. Wonder Woman
  4. Blade Runner 2049
  5. Thor: Ragnarok
  6. Beauty and the Beast
  7. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  8. War For The Planet Of The Apes
  9. Wind River
  10. It

Those who read my blog somewhat regularly probably aren’t surprised by the fact that my list contains 4 comic book movies. As much as I love the genre in general, what I loved about these particular films was the fact that they expanded the status quo: Logan brought the sophistication that we haven’t seen since The Dark Knight, while Wonder Woman was a game-changer for the female characters. Thor 3 fixed the weakest MCU trilogy, while Homecoming achieved what was deemed impossible – told the first good Spidey story in a decade. Joining the comic book films, are the three sci-fi juggernauts: Star Wars 8 (no surprise here, though, maybe it is a surprise as I seem to be one of the few who truly enjoyed the picture), Blade Runner sequel (visual and narrative masterpiece), and Apes 3 (an underappreciated finale of a great trilogy). The last 3 pictures bring some more variety genre-wise. Wind River represents drama (as well as my anthropological interests), Beauty and the Beast symbolizes my love for live-action fairytales (and my choice to remain a kid inside), while It is the biggest surprise of the year – the first horror movie that I’ve ever enjoyed.

WORST Movies:

  1. Snatched
  2. Transformers: The Last Knight
  3. Rough Night
  4. The Emoji Movie
  5. Geostorm
  6. Tulip Fever
  7. Suburbicon
  8. The Snowman
  9. American Assasin
  10. The Dark Tower

My worst list has it all: awful comedies (Snatched and Rough Night), confused dramas (Tulip Fever and Suburbicon), and underwhelming action thrillers (American Assasin and The Snowman). It also showcases a genre that should die (disaster films – Geostorm) and a franchise that should do the same (Transformers). The infamous cash grab for the millennials (The Emoji Movie) and the bad kind of Stephen King adaptation (The Dark Tower) finish of the list!

Honorable mentions/Movies you’ve MISSED:

I’ve decided not to number these and divide them into 3 levels of obscurity, from the least known to almost mainstream (or even actually mainstream) films.

To begin with, in the most obscure category, I’ve put The Death of Stalin, The Party, and Free Fire. First is a British adaptation of a French graphic novel, which itself is a reimagining of Russian history; second is more of a character piece than a movie with the shortest runtime of a feature film I’ve seen; and the third is an action movie that builds its story around the main action sequence that last the whole picture.

The second trio of more well known movies consist of The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Their Finest, and T2: Trainspotting. The first is an extraordinary revenge story from a proven director, the second – a romantic take on war and the movie business, and the last is everything I love about my adoptive country of Scotland!

Lastly, the 4 final movies that the majority of moviegoers have heard about and which couldn’t necessarily make my top 10 list but were so unique that they deserved to be mentioned are Paddington 2(a bundle of joy in these dark times), John Wick 2 (a successful sequel in a not that big of a franchise), mother!(the picture that was more fun to analyze than watch), and The Big Sick (a romantic comedy like no other).

And that is it for 2017 cinema! I hope you enjoyed reading my lists! Every year, its gets harder and harder to decide on my picks because of the sheer amount of new movies I’m able to see. Please don’t be mad if your favorite/least favorite movies were not on my lists! Also, if you missed some awards contenders in this post, they might have been excluded because I haven’t seen them yet or because I expect to talk about them a lot during the next two months. Hence, they will get enough praise then, it’s what I’m saying.

Anyways, have a happy 2018 in the cinema and in life!

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Movie review: Tulip Fever

Movie reviews

Hello!

After being pushed back a few years, Tulip Fever has finally reached theaters! Does it have any Oscar potential as its cast list suggests?

IMDb summary: An artist falls for a young married woman while he’s commissioned to paint her portrait during the Tulip mania of 17th century Amsterdam.

Writing

Tulip Fever was written by a playwright and occasional screenwriter Tom Stoppard. His most recent previous film script was the one for 2012’s Anna Karenina. The film’s story and the writing, in general, started out promising but quickly wasted all the said promise. The opening, which set the context of the tulip market and the 17th Amsterdam, as well as the initial details of the actual plot, was quite interesting. However, the more the narrative unraveled, the more unbelievable it became. The ending was especially unsatisfying because the movie didn’t commit to going the full on fantasy route and having a fairytale ending but also wasn’t grounded enough for a realistic conclusion, so it just had one that landed somewhere in the middle. All the characters in the picture were way too interconnected and the twists and turns in the story were mostly lucky coincidences. The drama and the emotional core felt really fake and manufactured as well. Basically, Tulip Fever felt as an old school literary adaptation, which it was exactly: a contemporary yet classical historical romance novel (by Deborah Moggach) with typical yet modernized characters that was turned into a film.

While the final product did not turn out well, as I have said, the promise was there in the details. It was really interesting to see the love and the lack of love juxtaposed through sex scenes. I also liked the exploration of the women’s roles in a patriarchal system and how cunning they had to be to survive, and yet, how they also felt bounded by their duty (Vikander’s character was never entirely sure about her actions) I also appreciated the portrayal of Christoph Waltz’s character – a clueless man, living in privilege, and not even understanding his privilege yet not being malevolent about it. I also liked the hints at the concept of friendship and the hardships it has to endure when spanning multiple caste levels. Lastly, I was really glad to see a historical drama focusing not on The British Empire but on the player that preceded it in the world domination – Holland/The Netherlands.

Directing

Justin Chadwick, who has received some recognition a few years back for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, directed Tulip Fever and did a fabulous job with a flawed script. While he went along with the over the top dramatization of the story, nothing bad can be said about his visuals. Tulip Fever was a gorgeous looking movie, with beautiful and rich shots, full of textures and colors. The costume department should also get a raise because their spectacular collars contributed a lot to the magnificence of the look and helped prove the point that Holland was a powerful country. The artistic close-ups of Vikander reminded me of a fashion film or a high-end makeup ad too. If a movie career doesn’t work out for Chadwick, he should check out the advertising business.

Acting

Tulip Fever had a stellar cast, full of Academy favorites, old (Judi Dench, Christoph Waltz) and new (Alicia Vikander). Vikander (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Danish Girl, Jason Bourne, The Testament of Youth, Anna Karenina) did a fabulous job and she and Waltz (Spectre, Tarzan) made an interesting pair. Their more formal scenes had a feeling of warmness and respect, while their more intimate scenes felt very uncomfortable (which was the goal). In turn, Vikander’s and Dane Deehan’s (Valerian) scenes felt realistically intimate (sexier than Fifty Shades, though, that’s a low bar to be aiming for). BTW, I bought Deehan much more as a struggling lovesick artist than an action hero.

Judi Dench had a fun, although highly fictional role, in the film. Jack O’Connell (Unbroken, Money Monster)and Holiday Grainger (Cinderella, The Finest Hours) delivered neat and likable performances (Grainger’s voice fit the role of the narrator very well). Glee’s Matthew Morrison, Tom Hollander (MI5, The Promise), and model-turned-actress Cara Delevigne (Paper Towns, Suicide Squad, Valerian) also appeared. Lastly, Zach Galifianakis (The Lego Batman) played his typical role, that wasn’t necessary for the movie at all.

In short, Tulip Fever was a beautiful looking but a poorly written picture that had some stellar and wasted acting performances too.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Tulip Fever trailer

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Movie review: Jason Bourne

Movie reviews

Hello!

Hollywood just resurrected one of its spy action franchises, so let’s discuss its latest entry – Jason Bourne.

IMDb summary: The most dangerous former operative of the CIA is drawn out of hiding to uncover hidden truths about his past.

I have told you numerous times that the two spy action series that I’ve followed closely are Mission Impossible and James Bond. I never really knew much about The Bourne franchise or other lesser-known spy projects like Jack Ryan or Jack Reacher. Before going to see Jason Bourne, I did my homework and checked out the original trilogy of the early 2000s as well as The Bourne Legacy spin-off (sort of) that didn’t stick with audiences, which kinda sucks since I’m a fan of Jeremy Renner (just give him his own franchise, don’t bring him in as a replacement). Speaking of the original films – Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum – I would summarize them as a collection of handheld and/or shaky camera cinematography, amnesia plotlines, old computers as props, white old men characters and the signature ‘Come Alone’ line of dialogue. Jokes aside, I did like all of the movies and appreciated their realism and ruggedness. The 3rd picture was my favorite because it was the most intense, had the best action sequences as well as a few subtle heartbreaking character moments.

Writing

The director Paul Greengrass and the editor Christopher Rouse wrote the script for Jason Bourne and did an okay job. I think if they would have brought another screenwriter, the narrative might have been better. Basically, I felt that the movie contained two stories: one was about Jason Bourne and his family, while the other revolved around the CIA and a new kind of spying platform – a social media site. The two plots didn’t have much in common until they were forced together in the 3rd act. Both of these narratives were really interesting separately – the Jason Bourne family secrets would have made for a great personal story, similar to the story of The Bourne Identity. The public safety v private rights story would have made for a great political and modern thriller, kinda like Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

The writing for the characters was much better that the actual story. I liked the fact that Bourne was a morally gray hero who has gotten his hands dirty numerous times. Alicia Vikander’s character was also impressive – she was an interesting blend of conservativism and liberal ideas: she did want to change the system but didn’t pick the best approach to do so. I also liked that, this time, the film had only one agent/asset hunting Bourne because by having only one supporting character of this kind, you can give him development and that’s exactly what they did – he wasn’t just some disposable tool of the villain but an actual character who had personal reasons to dislike Bourne.

Directing

Paul Greengrass, who did Supremacy and Ultimatum as well as Captain Phillips, did a good job directing Jason Bourne. The visual recap of the previous films set the tone and the universe nicely for the following movie. The setting of the Athens during all those protests made the film even more grounded and real-looking. The last car chase was absolutely crazy in a good way. The cinematography by Barry Ackroyd (The Hurt Locker) also worked – it did create an intense feeling of urgency and allowed the movie to have a non-stop pace. This type of handheld cinematography, reminiscent of documentary features, is not my favorite but I appreciate how unique it is in the market oversaturated with over-polished and too perfect looking Hollywood flicks. The Bourne films actually try to do something interesting and different with their visual storytelling, while the other Hollywood action movies are built in the way that an infant could follow and understand them .

Acting

  • Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. Damon has made the character of Bourne his own but I was actually surprised that he returned for this movie as he did sat the 4th film out, so I was thinking that he was done with this franchise, especially bearing in my mind that his career is currently blossoming – he just did the awards’ nominated The Martian. However, maybe coming back for Jason Bourne and its possible sequel was a good idea on Damon’s part as it looks like his next film will crash and burn – The Great Wall’s trailer got a lot of backlash for whitewashing. 
  • Tommy Lee Jones starred as Robert Dewey and was another white old male villain. I honestly don’t know if The Bourne franchise will ever have a different villain. I also don’t know if Lee Jones will ever play a different character than an older white male businessman/politician/doctor/general who is not that likable or good.
  • Alicia Vikander as Heather Lee was a standout member of the cast and I couldn’t be happier. She nailed her dialogue completely. In addition, I’m so proud of her for winning an Oscar for The Danish Girl and really want to see what will she do next. Her upcoming two films The Light Between Oceans and Tulip Fever are on my must-watch list and she has also been cast as the new Lara Kroft.
  • Vincent Cassel as the Asset was okay. He worked well in the action scenes.
  • Julia Stiles appeared, once again, as Nicky Parsons and was good. It was nice to see Stiles in a big film because I don’t think that she had a lot of substantial roles in the recent years. She had a supporting role in Silver Linings Playbook but that was back in 2012.
  • Riz Ahmed as Aaron Kalloor was also a nice addition to the cast. A few years back Ahmed was in Nightcrawler and later this year he will be in Rogue One.

All in all, Jason Bourne was a fun action film. Its narrative seemed confused and without a clear direction, but the action sequences did make up for it and made watching the film and overall entertaining experience.

Rate: 3.75/5

Trailer: Jason Bourne trailer

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5 ideas about 5 movies

Movie reviews

Good morning my dear readers!

In a few days, I will be posting a really long blog post dedicated to the awards’ season. It will be my final post on this topic. Differently from the actual voting system, I will be telling you not only my own personal winners in all the major categories, but I will list all the other films as well. So, you will be able to know my subjective runner-ups and losers. I am mainly doing it this way because 1.it is more of a challenge and I like a cinematic challenge; 2.the majority of these films would have made it into my Best movies of 2015 list but didn’t because I haven’t seen them before January 1st.

In addition, my categories will be very broad – I am picking films that have been nominated for a variety of awards and not just the Oscars. I have rounded up my list to 20 films – 15 of them have been reviewed separately, but I hadn’t given you my thoughts on the rest 5. So, this is where this post starts to make sense – I will give you my brief opinion on the 5 films that I didn’t review before. I am doing 5 reviews in one because I don’t have time to write separate posts for each and every one of these motion pictures. Also, I feel like this type of reviewing (a few reviews in a single post) is a nice callback to my older style of reviewing, when I was just starting to write about films.

So, without further rambling, let’s talk about Concussion, 45 years, Beasts of No nation, Ex-Machina and Straight Outta Compton.

Concussion: directed and written by Peter Landesman (only his 2nd feature film) and starring Will Smith, Concussion, to me, was the biggest snub at the awards’ season. Not only did Will Smith should have received a Best Actors nomination (it was his best performance I have seen in years – his emotional expressions were amazing and the weird accent was, surprisingly, really authentic), but Landesman also deserved to get the Best-Adapted Screenplay nomination. As a fan of sports and movies about sports, I was pleased with Concussion, as it helped me to get one step closer to understanding American football. If you want to watch a few other films, starring Will Smith, may I suggest The Pursuit of Happyness. If you want something lighter in tone and something newer, check out Focus. His and Margo Robbie’s chemistry is amazing in that film – I can’t wait to see both of them in Suicide Squad. Rate: 4.5/5, trailer.

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45 Years: this movie was the last film I watched this awards’ season. It was slow yet nice love story, written and directed by a brit Andrew Haigh.  Two silver screen veterans Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay did subtle and nuanced performances, but I, personally, couldn’t connect with the film, as the subject matter (the 45th wedding anniversary) was so far out of my reach. Nevertheless, the timeless values like love, loyalty, and honesty were portrayed clearly. Rate: 3.5/5, trailer.

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Beasts of No Nation: to begin with, I applaud the creators of this film for being modern and releasing this film digitally (on Netflix). The majority of the Hollywood filmmakers are still against the phenomena of digital release, and while I do understand their worries and concerns, I nonetheless think that they should (at least) try to adapt to the changes if they want to stay relevant. Speaking about the actual film, it was  written, shot, and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga. Why he didn’t get more recognition from the critics and other awards’ voters is beyond me, as he did a spectacular job. Never have I been shocked by a film as much as I was appalled and astonished by Beasts of No Nation. It was both very eye-opening to the cruelty of the contemporary world and sad because of the role that children have in war. The dream/drug sequence was a visual feast (those colors were indescribable) and the performances of the lead Ghanaian young actor Abraham Attah as well as Idris Elba in a supporting role were breathtaking. Rate: 4/5, trailer.

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Ex-Machina: A very early 2015 release, Alex Garland’s Ex-Machina slipped my attention while I was compiling my best movies of 2015 list, so I was really happy that the Academy didn’t repeat my mistake because this film deserves all the recognition. It was an amazing and original sci-fi motion picture in a year of shitty sequels and reboots – basically, this film was the savior of all the science fiction fans last year. Ex-Machina was also a great example that a great filmmaker doesn’t need a huge budget to make an amazing film. Newcomer Alex Garland mixed his artistic vision with scientific imagination and created a movie that can be viewed both as a mainstream sci-fi flick and as a serious film that raises deep existential questions. Lastly, the up-and-coming trio of Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and Oscar Isaac also should be praised for their stellar performances. During 2015, all of these actors not only appeared on my radar but quickly found themselves in my personal best actors list. Vikander blew me away in The Danish Girl, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Testament of Youth and in an older film that I have only watched this year – Anna Karenina, Gleeson appeared in a bunch of films this year, most importantly, The Revenant and Isaac was the fan-favorite and one of my personal favorites in the new Star Wars. Can’t wait to see what these actors will do next with their careers, as I will be following them closely. Rate: 5/5, trailer.

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Straight Outta Compton: the biggest surprise of the summer, Straight Outta Compton was the movie that I skipped when it was first released, and only watched when it started to get some recognition from the critics. As someone who never liked rap music and who knows nothing about the black culture, I thought that I wouldn’t particularly care about this film. I was so so wrong. Director Felix Gary Gray, who is set to direct Fast and Furious 8, and a cast of newcomer actors made me interested in the subject and made me the characters that I could never identify with. That’ an example of true filmmaking. Rate: 4/5, trailer.

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5 ideas about a movie: The Danish Girl

Movie reviews

Hello!

I have been reviewing movies for over 2 years now and I have never before felt afraid to review a film. Well, that was until now. The Danish Girl tells a story of one of the first gender reassignment operations in the world. Sadly, even after all these years, this topic is still highly controversial and dividing. I, personally, believe that all people have a right to be themselves. However, I do not know enough about transgender issues to talk about them (for example, which pronouns are to be used). Thus, I am scared that I will offend someone because of my ignorance, while reviewing this film. Nevertheless, I will try to do my best and I only ask you to be patient and tolerant with me, while I try to handle this difficult and delicate topic and film.

IMDb summary: A fictitious love story loosely inspired by the lives of Danish artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. Lili and Gerda’s marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili’s groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer.

SPOILERS!

  1. The Danish Girl is a semi-fictional and semi-autobiographical story. It first came to life in a book form, written by David Ebershoff. Later, it was adapted into a motion picture, using playwright’s and screenwriter’s Lucinda Coxon’s script. I don’t know how much the narrative has changed when adapting it from textual to the visual medium, but I believe that Coxon did justice to the story. The two main characters were developed slowly and carefully (the end result was really good). In addition, the scarf metaphor at the end of the film was a nice touch. Overall, the movie was very sad but also somewhat hopeful – it is such a cliche thing to say but it is true. Although, Lili died, she died being herself, her true self and that’s the only thing we can all wish for – being able to find our true selves before our time runs out. I,personally, still have lots of looking to do.
  2. The film was directed by Tom Hooper, whose past few films I really enjoyed – The King’s Speech and Les Miserables. While there weren’t many significant shots or anything too surprising in the film coming from Hooper, I applaud him for kinda stepping back and allowing the story to unfold organically. Sometimes, it is even harder to do that than to be really hands on. Nonetheless, I did like the shots with the manually shifting focus – those are always a win for me. I liked the soft pallet of the film as well. Lastly, slight warning – this film does contain quite a lot of nudity, so beware of this, if that somehow bothers you.
  3. Eddie Redmayne was unbelievably amazing both as Einar and Lili. The quivering, tiny movements of the face and the hands portrayed the inner chaos of his character perfectly. I give highest praises to Redmayne for not only giving us this amazing performance but for being brave enough to take on this immensely difficult role in the first place. I can’t imagine a different actor playing Einar/Lili. If I did not want Leonardo DiCaprio to finally win an Oscar for The Revenant, I would a 100% give it to Redmayne for the 2nd year in a row. His physical and mental transformation in The Theory of Everything was amazing to watch, but he upped his game even more in The Danish Girl. If not for Jupiter Ascending, 2015 would have been an absolutely groundbreaking year for Redmayne’s career. I can’t wait for November to come because we will see him in a Harry Potter universe film – Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.
  4. Alicia Vikander also did a magnificent job and proved us all (for like the 3rd time this year) that she is the one to look out for. She portrayed Gerda impeccability and you could see the inner process of her mind (denying at first and them coming to acceptance) on her face in a variety of different emotions. A few of the films, starring Vikander that I have reviewed are The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Anna Karenina, and Testament of Youth. She was also wonderful in Ex Machina and in a tiny role in Burnt. In 2016, we will see Vikander in Tulip FeverThe Light Between Oceans and in a yet untitled 5th Bourne film.
  5. The supporting cast of the film also had a few familiar faces who did a very nice job. Ben Whishaw (Suffragette, Spectre, In The Heart of The Seaplayed another LGBTQ character in a time, when being gay was unacceptable and was a great support for Lili (not at first, but in the end). Matthias Schoenaerts (Far from the Madding Crowd) played a supporting character in Vikander’s Gerda’s plot-line. Lastly, Amber Heard (Magic Mike XXL) starred as a family friend, while Sebastian Koch (Bridge of Spies) played the doctor.

In short, The Danish Girl was an interesting film with stellar performances from the up-and-coming cast. I hope that the film helps to bring the issues of the transgender community to the forefront even more and I do believe that the positive change will happen in a near future.

Rate: 4,5/5

Trailer: The Danish Girl trailer

5 ideas about a movie: Testament of Youth

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another segment of brief movie reviews. You can find the first installment here.

This time, we are talking about Testament of Youth – a 2nd British period piece of this summer. I have done the full review of the 1st one – Far From the Madding Crowd, find it here.

  1. Testament of Youth is a film about World War I. It is based on a memoir by English writer and a pacifist Vera Brittain, who is also the main character of the film (it’s a memoir, so duh-uh). I’m in love with British literature and history, so this film was perfect for me. Also, recently, I have become very interested in books and movies about World Wars, so I’m very happy that I checked this one out as well. It’s a great historical movie and, as you would expect from any wartime movie, it doesn’t have a happy ending. However, the whole plot of the film portrays one particular feeling, which makes the ending seem like a happy one: the feeling of hope. Hope that the world can change and that we, as a race, can learn from our mistakes. Sadly, the film’s characters don’t know the true, but we do – people never learn from the past.
  2. The film is directed by James Kent and written by Juliette Towhidi. However, the most accomplished behind the scenes person on this film is actually the producer – David Heyman. He produced all Harry Potter films and 2013’s Gravity. Visually, the film looks beautiful and the locations are true to historical facts. The famous shot of saying goodbye in a train station, which can be seen in all films about war, is done wonderfully in this film as well.
  3.  The leading lady of the film – Vera Brittain – is played by Alicia Vikander. I loved her in the role. She perfectly portrayed an independent woman, who is smart and knows what she wants from life, but is not afraid to be a romantic as well. I did a review of other Alicia Vikander’s films very recently and spoke more about her as an actress in that post. Find it here.
  4. The leading man of the film is played by Game of Throne’s Kit Harrington. With an unknown fate of Jon Snow, I’m happy that Harrington is developing his movie career. He was brilliant in the role and I’m happy that critics finally seem to like him because his other movies Pompeii and Seventh Son were torn apart by the same critics.
  5. The film’s suppository cast is full of British talent. Kingsman’s Taron Egerton plays Vera’s brother, while Agent Carter’s Hayley Atwell stars as one of the nurses. TV and theater actor Colin Morgan plays a friend of the Brittain’s siblings. All actors deliver top-notch performances.

All in all, it’s a great film for fans of history and for fans of sad but hopeful war movies. The acting is great, the visual appeal – amazing and the story is bound to bring at least a single tear to the viewer’s eye. The film was released in the UK last year and in many parts of the world throughout 2015, but in might be easier to find it online or on DVD, if you want to watch it.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Testament of Youth trailer

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Movie review: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Movie reviews

Hello!

I went to the cinema too many times this week, so I apologize for a bunch of back-to-back movie reviews. I promise the next post will not be about any film! But for now, let’s review The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – to my mind, one of the better films of this summer.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is based on a 1964 TV show with the same name. At first, I was hoping that this film was based on an original idea and only while writing this review I found out that it’s an adaptation of an old TV series. I guess we can’t escape the remake zone anymore…However, while nowadays the word ‘remake’ instantly feels like a bad idea (for example, Fantastic Four), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a really solid and enjoyable film.

IMDb summary: In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons.

History

As you probably know, I am a huge history buff, so any movie set in the past is an instant favorite of mine. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is set during the Cold War – the most recent historical event and it deals with the aforementioned war’s biggest problem – the creation of an atomic bomb. I love when movies interweave real-life events and figures into their plots. The idea of making a CIA agent and a KGB agent work together is also brilliant.

Visuals

Since the movie is set in the 1960s, the costumes play a huge part in the film. If the appearance of the characters miss-matches the timeline, the viewers are instantaneously taken out of the movie. Thankfully, that does not happen in this film. All the costumes are spectacular and appropriate to the period. If you have read my post about the fashion exhibition that I’ve recently visited (here), you may know that 1960s fashion is one of my favorites, so this film definitely appealed to me on that level. And even though I am a girl and should have been jealous of the girls for having amazing dresses, I was feeling a huge suit envy, because the men of the film looked dashing. BTW, the scene in a clothing store is very funny – look out for it.

The setting and the architecture were also wonderful. The characters traveled trough a variety of different locations but all of them were unique and interesting in their own way. The final chase scene on a private island had a beautiful scenery as well,

Directing and Writing

This film was directed and written by Guy Ritchie (Lionel Wigram also helped with the script) who directed the latest Sherlock Holmes adaptation and its sequel starring Robert Downey Jr. Ritchie is also making a King Arthur film set to be released in 2016. (Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur from 2004 is one of my favorite films ever, so I can’t wait for this one as well. On a side note, I’ve already seen Fuqua’s latest film Southpaw, the review of it will be released during the weekend). Speaking about U.N.C.L.E, that film had amazing directing. The shots were heavily stylized, so that definitely made the film stand out from other Hollywood action flicks. While I am not a huge fan of contemporary spy dramas/crime dramas (except Mission Impossible and James Bond), this one, with its historical setting and unique point of you, definitely pleases me. It reminded me a bit of Kingsman The Secret Service (review). That movie had a unique setting and a quirky premise and so did U.N.C.L.E. Both of the films also created their own sub-genre – weird action comedy spy drama. Moreover, while Kingsman had amazing long shots, U.N.C.L.E. had a few unique styles of filming as well. Some scenes looked like they came out straight from a graphic novel, while others reminded me of the actual pages of a comic book with a few different panels appearing on screen. Zoom in/zoom out technique of filming was also present during the final action piece and it looked really cool.

Acting

The main trio of the film was played by Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, and Alicia Vikander.

Henry Cavill (Superman) is British but plays an American. However, his accent never came through and he killed it in this role. Not only did he look amazing but he felt like James Bond from old movies – efficient and confident womanizer.

Armie Hammer played the Russian agent and although Hammer himself is an American, his great-grandfather had ties with the Soviet Union, so there is a small real-life connection with his role. Armie Hammer was also really great in the role and his chemistry with Cavill was amazing. I hope that this will be the redeeming film for Hammer because he only stared in critical and financial flops these past 5 years (for example, The Lone Ranger). His latest successful film – 2010’s The Social Network. 

Swedish actress Alicia Vikander played the leading lady of the film – a German mechanic (I love when movies switch up gender roles – I like cars too and I am a girl) Gabby who was also a British Spy. The twist involving her character was a surprising one for me. Vikander starred in a plethora of movies this year. in 2015, she played the AI in Ex-Machina (loved that film) and an English writer Vera Brittain in the Testament of Youth – a World War I memoir (review coming soon). She also had roles in 2012’s Anna Karenina (review) and 2014’s terrible adaptation of a great book – Seventh Son. I’ve enjoyed almost all the movie that Vikander started in and I can’t wait to see how her career evolves. She will start in a highly anticipated The Danish Girl alongside recent Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne. That film will probably be nominated for an Oscar, so Vikander might get her big break with critics very soon. However, her mainstream career will also get a boost, because she will be in the 5th Bourne film set to be released next year.

The main villain of the film was played by Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki, who shined in a supporting role in 2013’s The Great Gatsby. She did a nice job playing the villainous Victoria Vinciguerra and Italian actor Luca Calvani starred as her husband.

A few accomplished English actors – Jared Harris and
Hugh Grant – provided their services in supporting roles, while German actors Sylvester Groth and Christian Berkel rounded up the cast.

This film definitely had one of the most diverse casts: Americans, Brits, and Germans were sharing the screen with Italians and a Swedish actress. I love when films include a wide variety of nationalities because Hollywood films are seen all around the world, so they should represent all of their audiences and not just the domestic ones.

All in all, The Man from U.N.C.L.E (which stands for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t expect to like the movies as much as I did. The plot was interesting, the action and visual effects – pleasing to the eye and the acting – just superb. They definitely left room for a sequel at the end of the film, but I doubt that they will make it because U.N.C.L.E. isn’t doing so great in a box office. But I will have my fingers crossed and you should too.

Rate 4.5/5

Trailer: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. trailer

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Anna Karenina: the book + the movie

Movie reviews

Good morning!

Welcome to my first ever book v. movie comparison!

Yesterday I’ve finally finished Anna Karenina by XIX century Russian author Leo Tolstoy. This famous novel has been on my radar for a very long time but only last week I actually found time to read it. (My spring break was last week – the week before Easter). As a fan of classical novels and as a history lover, I’ve really enjoyed the book. Prior to reading it, I had no experience with any Russian authors and was kinda bias towards them but Tolstoy’s work completely changed my point of view. Also, despite the fact that I’ve been studying Russian language for quite some time now, I’m still rubbish at it, so I chose to read the book in English instead, though I prefer reading books in their original languages.

The same night, I’ve finished the book, I’ve watched the movie adaptation of it – I chose the newest version – Joe Wright’s 2012 adaptation with Keira Knightley, Jude Law , Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Matthew Macfadyen, Alicia Vikander and Domhnall Gleeson. I believe that the film did justice to Leo Tolstoy’s story and I’m going to explain why I think that.

The director took an interesting approach on the setting of the film. Wright’s choice to portray the story as a theater production was innovative and modern but, at the same time, maintained the feeling of the original material: the posh-ness, the splendor, and the artsy-ness. To my mind, Tolstoy’s characters were very dramatic and sensitive, sometimes even too sensitive. By turning these characters into theater production’s actors, director allowed them to be over-the-top, permitted them to over-react to anything and overanalyze everything. Also, the novel Anna Karenina is extremely long, so I applaud Wright’s ability to tell this complex and lengthy story in 2 hours.  Plus, because all the scenes were set in a theater, they were all shortened but remained true at their core. Moreover, by shortening all of them, the director did not need to cut something out and I always appreciate when book-to-movie adaptations include as much details as they can . (However, in the film one character didn’t attempt suicide as he did in the book and they really compressed the second part of the book into the last 30 minutes of the motion picture). Lastly, the transitions from scene to scene were splendid and flawless.

The visual appeal of the film is unbelievable: the costumes, the hair and the make-up were amazing, the sets – breathtaking and both magical and realistic at the same time. I loved the musical score too! All the actors were perfect in their roles. The dialogue was also really witty and smart. I liked that they cut out all the political discussions: they are interesting to read but not as fun to listen to. (Also, in order to understand some arguments, I usually had to reread those political discussions a few times and you can’t do that in the film).

A few of my favorite scenes:

Both in the book and in the film: Kitty and Levin playing with blocks (if I remember correctly, they used chalk in the book – either way, I loved both versions).

In the book: the first meeting of Anna and Vronsky and the accidental encounter at the train station.

In the film: the ball, the dancing and especially Vronsky/Anna dance.

Both the book and the film explored the themes of society and its judgement if you break certain rules. It also touched on the differences between men’s and women’s rights. In addition, Anna Karenina focuses a lot on the question of adultery and the differences between genders in that aspect. It seems that women are usually the victims: Dolly was the true victim, Betsy – not so much – she could fool around and get away with it while Anna was a completely different story – her circumstances worked against her. Speaking about the men of the book: Stiva was playing with fire and remained unburnt while Vronsky got an unhappy ending. What I’m trying to stay is that, although at first glance it looks like the woman is always the victim, that is not the case sometimes.

Love is another themes explored in this story. To my mind, the story has this nice contrast between its characters: Kitty and Levin were complete opposite of Anna and Vronsky. While one symbolizes the pureness and sensuality of love, the other portrays the passion and the desires. And I, personally, cannot pick one or the other…There is no reason for love…one cannot explain the causes of it…one can just feel it. Additionally, love and jealousy are two sides of the same coin. One cannot exists without the other. This kind of portrayal of love was humane and, though I love fairy-tales (proof), a realistic approach to love is also pleasing and refreshing.

To sum up, despite the fact that I couldn’t relate to any of the characters on any level both in the book and in the movie, I was still mesmerized and completely taken by them. The book broke my heart but the movie just shattered it to pieces completely. From now, both the film and the movie are on my favorite lists and this doomed from the start love story – always on my mind. I only wish that they would make another movie and would focus more on Kitty and Levin this time.

Rate: 5/5 – both the book and the film

Trailer: Anna Karenina (2012)

Next on my reading list – The Perks of being a Wallflower.