Movie review: Bright

Movie reviews

Hello!

A Netflix Christmas offering – Bright – has landed on the beloved streaming platform. Let’s see whether it will make Christmas better or worse.

IMDb summary: Set in a world where mystical creatures live side by side with humans. A human cop is forced to work with an Orc to find a weapon everyone is prepared to kill for.

Writing

Bright was written by Max Landis – a screenwriter who is known for being ‘promising’ rather than for actually delivering quality work. In fact, only his debut Chronicle was worthy of attention, while the follow-ups American Ultra and Viktor Frankenstein were lackluster. Sadly, Bright is joining that list of disappointments.

Bright’s script had a lot of interesting layers, however, not all of the layers meshed together. To begin with, I appreciated the fact that Landis attempted to marry fantasy and modernism – two concepts that rarely work together, at least in my opinion. He also did a good enough job of building the world of his story, though, at times, the movie’s mythology seemed to have been made up as the story went along. The magic wand idea was silly but worked as a plot device. The idea of a bright or basically, a wizard, was an example of an old concept given a new name. The orcs and elves were cool additions, though I wanted to find out more about them – also, I’d have loved if they differed from humans more than just in their appearance.

Speaking about orcs, elves, human, and faeries – these different species provided the movie with some commentary on race and/or caste. Separate human racial comments also seemed to have been present in the film (a few lines about Mexicans being blamed for something suggested to me that there are separations not only between species but within human race itself too). The fact that elves were the top and orcs – the bottom castes made Bright seem a bit like Lord of the Rings in the modern era. Since the antagonism between the species appeared to have been rooted in history, one could theorize that Lords of the Rings is an imaginary prequel to Bright.

At its basic, Bright was a crime thriller with two cops (a rookie and a seasoned one – a Training Day pair) at its center. The focus on police officers allowed the movie to explore real problems within the force – discrimination, corruption, and coverups – in a fictional story. However, the movie’s narrow focus on its two leads was also a hindrance as all of the other characters were painted as one-dimensional villains to the two ‘heroes’. Bright had a tone of supporting characters with their own agendas and their sidelines did not jell well in the film but just sort of converged accidentally and resulted in a messy narrative.

Directing

David Ayer directed the film and did an okay job. He used to be a highly acclaimed critical director (the aforementioned Training Day, End of Watch, and even Fury were all critical hits), however, his career started going downhill with Suicide Squad and is not gonna fair any better after Bright (it has been deemed rotten, plus, the fact that Netflix is distributing it automatically makes it a lesser film to a lot of traditional people in the business). It’s a shame that Ayer wasn’t able to make Bright work as well as he could have as this movie was his safe space – a crime thriller – a genre he has worked and succeeded in before.

I loved the beginning of the visual world building – the opening sequence with the graffiti. However, I wanted Bright to have more unique settings throughout the rest of the picture. The action was good too, though it was mostly just typical gunfights. The pacing of the film wasn’t bad – Bright didn’t drag much.

Acting

The two leads of the film were played by Will Smith (Collateral Beauty), who I have already seen in this role many times, and Joel Edgerton (Midnight Special, Loving), who was the standout despite all that heavy make-up and prosthetics. The multiple villainous characters were played by Noomi Rapace (What Happened To Monday), who barely had any lines and was just mostly fighting – wonder how much of that was done by her and how much by the stunt double; Édgar Ramírez (Point Break, The Girl on The Train), who looked great – a real dapper elf – but didn’t have much to do; Lucy Fry, who had a somewhat redeeming role; Ike Barinholtz (he co-wrote Central Intelligence), whose character was absolutely repugnant, and Alex Meraz, who played a interesting gang leader, who seemed like the most unique chracter in the film.

In short, Bright was an okay picture at best that set out to accomplish a lot of things but felt short with most of them.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Bright trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Cafe Society

Movie reviews

Hello!

The newest Woody Allen picture that hopes to be an awards’ contender has reached theatres, so let’s discuss it!

IMDb summary: In the 1930s, a young Bronx native moves to Hollywood where he falls in love with the secretary of his powerful uncle, an agent to the stars. After returning to New York, he is swept up in the vibrant world of high society nightclub life.

  1. Woody Allen’s filmography is extensive and impressive. I’ve mostly familiar with his latest European adventure films (Match Point, Scoop, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Midnight in ParisYou Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, To Rome With Love and Magic in the Moonlight which I reviewed when it came out in 2014) as well as his latest features set in The States (Blue Jasmine and Irrational Man which I’ve also reviewed). I also really want to watch some of his older classics, starting with Manhattan and Annie Hall. Speaking about his newest picture – Cafe Society – it is a Woody Allen film to the bone. In addition, if Hail, Caesar! was The Coen brothers’ love letter to Hollywood, then Cafe Society is Allen’s homage to the Golden Age of the movie capital as well as a subtle critique of it.
  2. Like always, Allen wrote the script for the movie himself. Once again, he explored his signature ideas, like love and romance, and asked the existential questions. He also invited the viewers to think what would have happened if the characters made different life choices. Looking at the format of the narrative, the film didn’t have a linear story. The plot consisted of character moments/scenes, which were connected with/through narration (done by Allen himself). Since the picture was partially set in Hollywood, it made a lot of movie references, which I, as a cinephile, appreciated. Cafe Society was kinda an absurd comedy but not a dark one – it was full of light, heartfelt satire. It also had an artsy and a dreamy aura about it with a touch of charm.
  3. Woody Allen used his signature camera movements and filming techniques to create this feature. Together with the famous Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, Allen crafted beautiful steady shots that allowed the viewer to calmly appreciate the gorgeous mise-en-scene. The back and forth over the shoulder shots and wipe and fade away transitions brought a classical Hollywood narrative film feeling to the picture, while the tracking shots added some movement and energy. The framing of the picture was neat as well – I loved how the characters moved in and out of the frame and how the filmmakers played with on-and-off-screen spaces. My favorite scene of Cafe Society was Kristen Stewart’s and Steve Carell’s characters’ confrontation with interruptions – it was crafted magnificently and was not only entertaining and funny but emotional and meaningful. Lastly, the movie had Allen’s signature warm color palette and the lovely and quirky upbeat soundtrack.
  4. The two leads were played by Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. This was their 3rd movie together (the first two were Adventureland and American Ultra). The pair had a very subtle chemistry which worked really well in a film like this. I enjoyed seeing Eisenberg in his usual role of an awkward yet adorable guy and did enjoy how he portrayed the character’s transition and growth. While I like Eisenberg the most in the roles likes this one and in films like The Social Network and Now You See Me, I also want to see him trying something different. I actually do want to see what will he do with the character of Lex Luthor as BvS ending was promising. Kristen Stewart was also really good in the film, she probably played her most feminine role yet which was quite interesting to observe. I was used to Stewart playing a rebel of some sorts like in Still Alice or Camp X-Ray.
  5. The supporting cast of the film did a great job as well. I was quite surprised to see Steve Carell (The Big Short) in the film but he was really good – he even made me, as a viewer, empathetic towards a kinda creepy character. Blake Lively was amazing in her small role too – her dazzling look and almost regal and sophisticated yet still flirty demeanor fit the setting of old Hollywood perfectly. I’m finally seeing her movie The Shallows next week. Jeannie Berlin was super funny – I loved how blunt her character was. Corey Stoll (Ant-Man, Black Mass) was also great and added some grunge to the overall glamorous picture. Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect) was also great with her laughing-through-tears scene.

In short, Cafe Society was another great film by Woody Allen. It is a must watch for all the fans of the auteur and I would also recommend it to all the fans of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Cafe Society trailer

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Movie review: The Hateful Eight

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a movie review of a film that would have made my top 10 list if I had seen it last year. However, since distribution companies have not yet figured out that global day-in-day releases are desired by movie fans worldwide, I was only able to see the 8th film by Quentin TarantinoThe Hateful Eight – in January. So, since I am already late to the party, let’s do not waste any more time and review this motion picture.

IMDb summary: In the dead of a Wyoming winter, a bounty hunter and his prisoner find shelter in a cabin currently inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters.

SPOILER ALERT

Quentin Tarantino

The Hateful Eight is the 5th Tarantino’s film that I have seen (I still have Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2 (considered to be a single film), Jackie Brown and Death Proof to go). I do not think that I would be able to pick my favorite film of his. I actually cannot even decide if I like his early work – crime thrillers – more than I like his later historical movies. I also really applaud Tarantino for endorsing the work of other creators. For example, he has worked really hard to introduce Western audiences to Asian cinema. One of the directors that he has spoken highly of is Wong Kar-Wai from Hong Kong. I did my midterm essay on his film – Chunking Express. While I did not get that great of a mark (low B), I loved the process of watching the film, doing research and the finally putting my thoughts on paper (the same as I do in here, only in a more formal fashion). One of the sources that I used in my essay was Tarantino’s commentary on that particular film. He did a casual intro for the film’s DVD with zero formalities and a relaxed attitude – as an everyday person talking to his friends about movies.

And that is one of the reasons why I am a fan of his – he is just like us – a movie fan first and a filmmaker second. His knowledge of films and their history is infinite. More importantly, he respects those who came before him and expresses that in his work. Tarantino blends the cinema’s past (70 mm film gauge, narrative’s division into chapters, intermission, overture, manual focus/racking) and his own creativity and signature style (non-linear narrative (flashbacks), bloody and shocking scenes and ideas, one of a kind characters) perfectly. It all just somehow fits together, no questions asked.

Visually, the film looked beautiful. Both the outdoor and indoor mise-en-scenes were wonderful and utilized very well. Character outfits were also memorable and unique (the furs, the hats, the red tie). I also applaud him for doing a nude scene with a male as we have seen enough naked female bodies on screen already. Speaking about the cinematography, the wide shots looked amazing because of the wide film gauge (although I wish I would have seen the film on a bigger screen – my local theater was showing it on the 5th screen, which is middle sized – it would have been more pleasant to see it on the biggest – no.1 – screen).  In addition, Tarantino’s usage of long and steady takes was also wonderful – although there was only a slight movement, present on the screen, the viewers were fully engaged because of the dialogue.

While this film did not have any iconic monologs (Pulp Fiction), it definitely did have some nice lines, which were brought to life by amazing actors and actresses. The subtle humor and irony were also present and done in a cool way. The build up and the opening were a bit slow, but they did an amazing job of setting everything up before the real action and mystery started. I also appreciated the narration by Tarantino itself – it was a bit surprising but an interesting creative choice – it broke the 4th wall but also sucked you into a story more, by explaining the setup but not really telling anything that would ruin the surprise that would come later.

Music

The Hateful Eight’s score was created by Ennio Morricone, and he won a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score for this soundtrack. I especially liked the usage of the song There Won’t Be Many Coming Home by Roy Orbison during the credits, but the whole score was amazing and build tension perfectly.

Acting

The film had a huge bunch of unique characters. I won’t be able to talk about all of them but all the actors deserve highest praises and at least a mention.

The titular eight:

  • Samuel L. Jackson as Major Marquis Warren a.k.a. “The Bounty Hunter” was amazing as always. I don’t think I have ever seen a film where I did not like his character or where Jackson did a poor job and that certainly has never happened in a Tarantino film. I loved the calm face and the sneaky and amused smile he was doing while telling that graphic story. It was a bit disturbing to listen but captivated you nonetheless. His Lincoln letter was not only a unique prop but an interesting story device. Samuel L. Jackson has had a long and rewarding career and I can’t wait to see what he does next. I hope he will re-team with Tarantino once more and if not – I still have MCU movies to look forward to.
  • Kurt Russell as John Ruth a.k.a. “The Hangman” was also another wonderful character and an amazing performance by Russell. His mustache was also on point. His best scenes were the ones with his prisoner – they had amazing chemistry and wonderful back and forth banter.
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue a.k.a. “The Prisoner” was also really good in this role. I liked the fact that she was a female prisoner and that nobody cared about that and treated her terribly. I also like the fact that she looked awful by the end of the film – this movie broke every ‘beauty’ standard of Hollywood.
  • Walton Goggins as Sheriff Chris Mannix a.k.a.”The Sheriff”. He was my favorite character. While I did not agree with his racist remarks, I loved his genuine reaction to everything and the infinite excitement. Goggins has worked with Tarantino before back in 2012’s Django Unchained. He was also in last year’s awful action comedy American Ultra – he definitely can do better than that and I am so happy that he was great in this film.
  • Demián Bichir as Bob (Marco the Mexican) a.k.a. “The Mexican” – while nothing really stood out to me about his character or the performance of the actor, I did love the reveal involving him and a sign above the bar.
  • Tim Roth as Oswaldo Mobray (English Pete Hicox) a.k.a. “The Little Man”. Another actor who has worked with Tarantino in the 90s. He was good in the film and I loved the sneaky attitude of his – from the very beginning, you could feel that there was something odd about him.
  • Michael Madsen as Joe Gage (Grouch Douglass) a.k.a. “The Cow Puncher”  the quietest of the bunch – looks can be deceiving and the characters in this film learned that.
  • Bruce Dern as General Sanford “Sandy” Smithers a.k.a. “The Confederate” – a spectator of the action that just happened to be in a wrong place, at a wrong time. The character seemed to be a terrible person but I kinda felt bad for him when he had to endure that story.

Supporting cast:

  • James Parks as O.B. Jackson – the driver of the stagecoach who also had no need to be there and met a sad faith. I loved the tassels on his hat.
  • Channing Tatum as Jody Domergue – I knew that Tatum would be in this film because I was very happy for him when the casting announcement was made public. He was not present in the trailer, so I was hoping that his part would be an important one because it might have been spoiler-y. And that’s exactly what it was. I loved the reveal of his character but I also wish that we could have spent more time with him. Tatum has also had a promising career so far. He has a loyal mainstream fanbase (Step Up, Magic Mike and its sequel, 21 and 22 Jump Street) and an Oscar-nominated film on his resume – 2014’s Foxcatcher. Next year, he will star in the comedy Hail, Caesar! and will also start shooting the new Gambit film – while I am excited about that film and the fact that he got the role, I still think that Taylor Kitsch was a perfectly fine Gambit. I guess we will see if Tatum can do it better.
  • The flashback sequence also included a few nice characters who only had a few scenes each. Their names and the actors who portrayed them deserve to be mentioned: Dana Gourrier as Minnie MinkZoë Bell as Six-Horse JudyLee Horsley as EdGene Jones as Sweet Dave and Belinda Owino as Gemma.

All in all, The Hateful Eight was an amazing film and another great example of the greatness of Tarantino. It was the perfect blend of old and new, known and fresh. It had all the trademarks/cliches of Tarantino but it never got boring or predictable. I would love for it to win or at least get a nomination in the Best Ensemble category at the Academy Awards because all the members of the cast did a stellar job. Well, if they don’t get that nomination, the film will probably/definitely get one in Best Picture category.

Rate: 5/5

Trailer: The Hateful Eight trailer

P.S. This has nothing to do with The Hateful Eight (well, not directly at least), but I just can’t shake the idea that a new Adam Sandler movie Ridiculous 6 sounds like a parody of this film. I don’t think it is and I do not plan on watching it, but I just found it funny how both of these names kinda sound similar in my mind and wanted to share my thoughts with you. Bye!

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Best, Worst and Missed Movies of 2015

Movie previews, Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the last movie post of this year! As the clock strikes midnight, I will share with you my very subjective lists of Top 10 best and worst movies of 2015 and I will even include a Top 5 list of movie you missed in theaters!

Disclaimer, when writing my summer list of films, I divided it into different categories and tried to evaluate the films more objectively. Well, this time, I am putting my love for films above my knowledge of films, so this list will definitely lack objectivity. Also, it will not be divided into different genres. In addition, I won’t pay much attention to the ratings I gave these films because these are not their reviews – this is a personal list of preferences. So, without further ado, let me tell you about my favorite and least favorite films as well as a few surprising movies of the year.

P.S I have not seen a lot of movies which are awards contenders this year (like The Revenant, The Hateful 8, Spotlight, Joy, Room), so they obviously could not have made the list. I definitely also have not seen all the mainstream films, which were released in 2015, but I think that I watched enough to make comprehensive lists. I will include links to the reviews of all the films that I have managed to review.

Top 10 BEST films of 2015

  1. Star Wars The Force Awakens
  2. Mad Max Fury Road
  3. Legend
  4. The Martian
  5. Mission Impossible Rogue Nation
  6. Kingsman The Secret Service
  7. Steve Jobs
  8. Inside Out
  9. Brooklyn
  10. Avengers Age of Ultron

Honorable mentions: Mockingjay Part 2, Fast&Furious 7, SicarioBridge of Spies, and Ant-Man.

While Mad Max topped the summer list, Star Wars ultimately triumphed the yearly list, since I had an amazing overall experience waiting for this film as well as watching it. The 3rd – Legend – was the biggest surprise of the year for me and that story somehow remained stuck in my brain. The 4th, 7th and 9th films were great motion pictures about inspiring individuals, while 5th and 6th films were the two best spy films of the year (and we definitely had way too many spy movies in 2015). The list rounds up with one of my favorite animated films from the studio that I grew up with – Pixar. Lastly, as a Marvel fan, I cannot not put at least one film from the MCU on my list, and while lots of people were disappointed in Avengers 2, I had an amazing time watching and couldn’t keep a smile off my face during its  whole run-time.

Top 10 WORST films of 2015

  1. Fantastic Four
  2. Terminator Genisys
  3. Hitman Agent 47
  4. Minions
  5. Hot Pursuit
  6. Tomorrowland
  7. Pixels
  8. American Ultra
  9. Pan
  10. Taken 3

I was sad to put a lot of films on this list. I expected good things from 1st, 2nd and 6th entries and was left extremely disappointed. One franchise was not able to get off the ground for the 3rd time, other series failed while trying to revive itself and one of the more original films of the summer flopped unspeakably. I did not expect much from 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th and 10th and was still let down, even when watching them with extremely low expectations. Hitman was the bad kind of a spy movie and the last three films embodied everything terrible about comedies. I felt really annoyed by no. 4 and no. 9 and I don’t care that these animated (let’s be real, Pan looked so fake that it does not deserves to be called a live action film) motion pictures were made for kids – they were too stupid even for babies. If you liked any of these films, I congratulate you – ‘liking’ or ‘loving’ is a very subjective action and it makes the world as well as cinema debates much more interesting.

Top 5 movies you missed/surprises/guilty pleasures

Some of these films were, I feel, unnecessary panned by critics or totally forgotten bu audiences:

  1. We Are Your Friends – it had the worst opening of the year and was hated by all – I, on the other hand, had a great time with this film – I liked it for what it was  – a summertime popcorn flick with quite a good music.
  2. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – another film, hated by both the critics and the audiences. I loved it: the acting was good, the action and the setting – interesting and it was my kind of comedic relief.
  3. Crimson Peak – the only horror-ish film I have watched this year. It was a disappointment to the majority of the fans of G. del Toro, but for me it was a pleasant surprise – I liked the performances of the 3 leads and the Victorian/Gothic mise-en-scene was wonderfully realized.
  4. Paper Towns – a film based on a different book by John Green (my favorite author) which suffered a lot because it was compared to The Fault In Our Stars way too much. I personally, really liked both films for different reasons and feel that Paper Towns deserves to be looked at as a separate entity.
  5. The Duff – another great coming of age/romantic comedy film for teens – it had amazing performances and a really nice and cute story. It also played with high school stereotypes and came out during the time when I was saying goodbye to high school.

So, these are my long personal lists of best and worst films as well as a shorter list of movies, which deserved more attention, love and money.

I will post a more personal wrap-up post on this blog later tonight, but if you are only interested in the cinema related posts, I want to wish you a very happy new year and all the best of luck in 2016! You will definitely get a lot of movie reviews of the awards’ contenders in January, and then Deadpool will roll into theaters in February, followed by Batman v Superman, Captain America Civil War and a whole bunch of other films. Cheers to the next year!

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Movie review: American Ultra

Movie reviews

Hello!

So, I’ve already told you that I’ve moved to Scotland. However, before boarding my late night flight to Edinburgh on Friday, I had some spare time in the morning to sneak to the cinema for one last time. So, I watched the only new release that had a morning showing time – American Ultra – and this is going to be my review. And also – the official opening of the fall movie season.

IMDb summary: A stoner – who is, in fact, a government agent – is marked as a liability and targeted for extermination. But he’s too well-trained and too high for them to handle.

Writing and Directing

This movie was written by Max Landis of Chronicle. Although I’ve heard a lot of good things about Chronicle, I haven’t actually seen it. Speaking about his American Ultra script and story – it is not that great. For one, the premise of the film made no sense. Why would you send terrible and crazy agents to eliminate another dangerous agent, who would not be dangerous if you just left him alone. Also, I am starting to feel bad for the CIA, because they are always portrayed as the worst organization in the world on the silver screen. Also, the film had way too many characters and way too many subplots, which lacked development and frankly, were not needed at all. Also, this film crossed the line of humanity way too many times. I, for one, couldn’t root for the main character, played by Jesse Eisenberg, just because of how mercilessly he killed others despite the fact that it might not have been his fault. Now I worry about Suicide Squad because there is a very fine line between antagonist and a villain and movie studios shouldn’t expect the viewers to be on a villain’s side.

Lastly, this might make be sound stupid, but I will still say it. This movie really lacked seriousness. I know that this is a stoner-comedy-action flick, but even those time of films can be much more sophisticated and more interesting. When you base a film on a stupid premise and execute it in an SNL skit form, you cannot really end up with a great final product.  The ending of the film was also really crappy and totally unrealistic.

Max Landis’s next film will be coming out later in the year. It’s a horror film and a new adaptation 1818 novel Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – Victor Frankenstein. I am not a fan of horror films, but I might just give Landis one more chance to impress me, just because that film has amazing leading actors – Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy.

While I was disappointed with the story, the directing aspect of the film was quite good. The continuous fight scene in the supermarket at the end of the film was exciting and the animated end credits looked cool as well. Surprisingly, this film was directed by Project X’s Nima Nourizadeh. His skills have definitely improved since the 2012’s found-footage cult flick.

Acting

  1. Jesse Eisenberg as Agent Howell. I don’t even know what to say about his performance. First of all, his hair style was really distracting and I really don’t want to see similar wig on Lex Luthor in BvS but I guess I will just have to deal with it. Eisenberg pulled off his action scenes quite nicely, but I have seen him do better when it comes to dialogue. The Social Network is still my favorite movie of his, though I loved Now You See Me as well.
  2. Kristen Stewart as Phoebe Larson. Kristen played my favorite character in the whole film and I was not expecting to get any twists in her story, but the one we got was quite cool. I also loved that she eventually turned out to be a bad-ass in her own right, despite the fact that Eisenberg’s character wanted to save her. I was always a fan of Kristen’s (yes, I was a 12-year-old Twi-hard once) and loved her in Still Alice and Camp X-Ray. I really want to see Clouds of Sils Maria as well, because Stewart won the prestigious Cesar Award for that film.
  3. Connie Britton as Victoria Lasseter. Victoria was one of the supervisors of the program that turned Eisenberg’s character into an agent. She ultimately tried to save him. The mother-son relationship that they wanted to explore with her and his characters was not really working.
  4.  Walton Goggins as Laugher, John Leguizamo as Rose and Topher Grace as Adrian Yates. Although all of these immensely different actors played different roles, I want to talk about them as a group – a group of caricatures. Their characters were not original and they relied on stereotypical cliches and really stupid humor way too much. Frankly, it was just boring to watch them on screen.

All in all, American Ultra was an okay movie. The acting was good but some characters were way too boring, the story wasn’t that original, while the directorial execution was quite good as a sophomore project of the director. I might have seen way too many spy/agent movies this summer, so my bad opinions towards this film might be influenced by the movie fatigue of this specific genre.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: American Ultra trailer

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