Movie review: Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a movie that revolves around a character I feel a spiritual connection to. This is Maleficient: Mistress Of Evil!

IMDb summary: Maleficent and her goddaughter Aurora begin to question the complex family ties that bind them as they are pulled in different directions by impending nuptials, unexpected allies, and dark new forces at play.

Out of all Disney dark remakes/reboots/reimagining, 2014’s Maleficent has been somewhat not completely panned by critics, while also being financially successful (in comparison, on the dark front, first Alice was a monetary win, however, the second one had dreadful returns. Neither Nutcracker nor Dumbdidn’t leave an impression on anyone. Some more classical takes like Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast also left a mark. Mary Poppins was a moderate success.

Writing

Maleficent 2 was written by Linda WoolvertonNoah Harpster, and Micah Fitzerman-Blue. All three have written the first film as well, whereas Woolverton also penned the aforementioned Alice remake and its sequel. Even though the screenwriters were continuing their own work, they didn’t really respect it, as the opening narration of this film completely dismissed whatever happened in the first picture. And yet, since the idea of truth not mattering if someone can tell a catchy (even if fake) story was a topic explored within the film, I will let this disregard of the first film slide.

What I won’t let slide was the stupidity of the rest of the story, especially its inciting incident. While I am more than willing to suspend my disbelief and accept the existence of fairies and flying half-humans, I cannot forgive the movie for making its characters lack any intelligence or common sense. The inciting incident of the king being cursed is a horrible scene as it is so obviously not the truth. Aurora’s character is also written horribly. Even though she may be kind-hearted, the fact that she seems so gullable does not make her into a character anyone can root for. And even at the end, Aurora does not seem as if she learned anything. Even though she ultimately begins questioning the events happening around her, she still makes a stupid decision in the third act that cost a different character’s life. But this is Disney, so a happy ending is squeezed in there too, with not much explanation.

Not only does the movie try to say something about fake narratives, but it also goes for the big war or peace question. I would like to give props to the writers for trying to have some kind deeper thematical background to the fairytale but I am afraid the movie does not end up saying anything revelatory. But it’s a fairytale, so should I expected anything even remotely close to that? The film also vastly lacks screentime and more action for its titular character. All the bits of the movie that revolve around Maleficent are the best parts. And yet, the story chooses to spend most of its time with humans.

Directing

Joachim Rønning directed Maleficent 2. Previously, the director has worked on Pirates of the Caribbean 5. This movie suffers from the same problems his other one did. It looks spectacular but is empty story-wise. Cannot really blame the director for the lacking script, though. Rønning here also does his best with what he is given. The costume department and the production team should also be commended.

Acting

Angelina Jolie once again proves to be the case of perfect casting. Her accentuated cheekbones do half the job, though. Still, Jolie manages to balance out sophisticated acting with some dramatic flair needed for the fairytale genre. Michelle Pfeiffer, on the other hand, goes full-cartoon and becomes almost a caricature of the villain. Was the director to scared to tell Pfeiffer to reel it in a bit? Ultimately, the viewer doesn’t know whether they hate the villain Pfeiffer plays or her performance. Jenn Murray who plays Pfeiffer’s sidekick also should have tonned down her performance a bit. Sam Riley is fun to watch as Maleficent’s sidekick once again and he and Jolie do have some fun scenes of strained but enjoyable banter. Elle FanningChiwetel Ejiofor, and Ed Skrein all serve their purpose within the film. Prince Phillip gets recast and is played by Harris Dickinson this time around. He does not really leave any bigger impression than his predecessor Brenton Thwaites did. 

 

In short, Maleficent 2 is a pretty looking but poorly written film. Angelina Jolie shines once again but is not given enough screentime to save the whole film with her spectacular performance.

Rate: 2.75/5

Trailer: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil trailer 

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5 ideas about a movie: Gemini Man

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to an overview of Gemini Man! The short version of it is – Funky Title, Forgettable Movie.

IMDb summary: An over-the-hill hitman faces off against a younger clone of himself.

  1. Gemini Man was written by Game Of Throne’s David Benioff, The Hunger Games’s and Overlord’s Billy Ray, and Shazam’s and Goosebumps’s Darren Lemke. For an action film, the script was decent. Yet, I feel like this movie tried to be more than that but was, sadly, let down by its writing. The self-righteous villain and the whole cloning plot line just really fall apart if you think twice about them. At least the cloning thing was not really attempted to be explained with some science mumbo jumbo – it was just sort of stated as a fact and not dwelt on for long. The characters themselves seemed to be somewhat well written: they had neat and quite rich backstories. The characters also get on the same page fairly quickly which made the movie more watchable.
  2. Gemini Man was directed by Ang Lee. Lee has always been a favourite of some yet I don’t think he has ever achieved mainstream acclaim (came close with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Life of Pi). I don’t think that Gemini Man is gonna bring him that either. The movie was paced quite well and had some cool action set-pieces but I felt like its CGI could have been better, especially in 2019. Also, this is not really part of directing, but the film had so much obvious product placement – I guess the computer effects were expensive. Speaking of that:
  3.  The face replacement technology used on the titular character was noticeable. It was really good at times but then there were scenes where the de-aged Will Smith’s face looked like it was floating on whoever’s body they used as a stand it. While that face replacement technology definitely has rich (and scary) potential, I don’t think it works to its full effect when used on the main character (but is a cool effect for a few scenes, especially if used effectively (effectiveness depends on the choice of characters). Similarly, I felt that some of the film’s action didn’t look like it had weight to it: instead, it looked video game-like, as if the characters were rendered on top of the background rather than within it.
  4. Will Smith was great in his double (or more) roles within the film. I felt that his involvement elevated the movie from the levels of forgettable action picture to a slightly average-ish one. And yet, I’m still quite confused about how to classify Smith as an actor. A cult favourite? An action star? A serious dramatic award-worthy actor? Shades of all?
  5. The supporting cast was also okay. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (of 10 Cloverfield Lane) and Benedict Wong (of Doctor Strange) were the standouts. Clive Owen worked in the role but probably because I have already seen him be a bad guy in a suit in a movie very recently – he played the exact same role in The Informer.

In short, Gemini Man is fun but forgettable actioner. It’s elevated by the performances of the leads but let down by some questionable writing choices and dodgy CGI.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Gemini Man trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Hellboy

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a movie that I heard so much bad stuff about that it took me its whole theatre runtime to finally watch it. This is Hellboy on the last day that it’s playing in my local theatre!

IMDb summary: Based on the graphic novels by Mike Mignola, Hellboy, caught between the worlds of the supernatural and human, battles an ancient sorceress bent on revenge.

  1. Hellboy was written by Andrew Cosby and directed by Neil Marshall. Cosby is both a comic book writer and a screenwriter, while Marshall is best know for directing some of the most amazing Game Of Thrones’s episodes. The 2019 movie is not only a comic book adaptation but a reboot of the previous early 00s adaptation – one that I really enjoyed. Sadly, I cannot say the same about this one.
  2. A lot of the faults with the movie are rooted in its script. Fantasy writing is not an easy thing: when done right it makes the viewer believe in the craziest things. When done like it was in Hellboy, it just comes across as illogical and stupid. Additionally, Hellboy also commits the sins that would break any movie: it has too many characters, too much-forced exposition, and too many steps in its plot (it feels episodic and choppy – maybe better as a TV series). It also has a hidden King Arthur movie within cause Hollywood just love making those (in actual King Arthur films and others, like Transformers 6).
  3. Hellboy has a plethora of action which would be quite good if it wasn’t trying so hard to be edgy and brutal. The film goes for cheap gory horror and I guess it delivers on that front. However, the movie is not better because of that achievement. In addition to nasty but still fake looking (some awful CGI is on display in this film) action, Hellboy also makes use of swear words that are just there to justify its R rating rather than to tell us something about the characters that use them. Hellboy also tries to tell the viewer how cool it is by having a rock-y score which is one thing I’ll let slide just because I did like the soundtrack separately from the picture.
  4. Hellboy features some scenes of set up for the future and also has a mid-credits stinger. That scene is just wishful thinking on par of the filmmakers: both wishful thinking in terms of expecting the viewers to be not bored enough to sit through the credits and for anyone to care about the sequel. And that sequel is never happening – the rotten tomatoes score and the box office made sure of that.
  5. Hellboy’s cast is not bad, its just too big. Stranger Things’s David Harbour is good and deals well with acting with so much makeup. Ian McShane is good too but it is him so are we really surprised? I also really enjoyed Daniel Dae Kim’s performance. The rest were so replaceable including Mila Jovovich who is just proving everyone that she will never do anything better than a B actioner (if Residential Evil is even a B level movie rather than D. Oh The Fifth Element times, how far gone they are).

In short, Hellboy is not worthy of attention (didn’t get any either) and forgettable.

Rate: 2/5

Trailer: Hellboy trailer

Movie review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to one of the most painful reviews I’ve ever written. This is Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

IMDb summary: The second installment of the “Fantastic Beasts” series set in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World featuring the adventures of magizoologist Newt Scamander.

Writing

J.K.Rowling wrote the screenplay for the second film: she started this prequel franchise and it doesn’t look like she will let anybody else play in her sandbox. And I really wish she would, because Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was really poorly written.

To begin with, why was this movie called Fantastic Beasts? All of the beasts that were included in the story were completely irrelevant and unnecessary: they were just stuffed into the narrative to justify the title. And the filmmakers know how unnecessary the beasts were: the logo of the film out ‘Fantastic Beasts’ in tiny letters in the corner and gigantic ‘The Crimes of Grindelwald’ in the center. They should have just dropped the first part and have every movie named differently.

Sadly, that wasn’t the beasts were not the only problem with the script. The whole script was one giant problem. The film had way too many plotlines: it tried to continue the plotlines set up by the first film, introduced new storylines, and tried to explain HP lore from years ago. And it just basically failed at everything. The whole narrative felt confused because the storylines did not have much to do with one another or the connections felt forced. A lot of the plotlines by themselves were boring or inconsistent. I did mostly enjoy the hero(s) plotlines but found the villain’s one to be very weak: preachy but not persuasive (the only part of the villain’s arc I enjoyed was the attempt to connect wizarding world to real-life history in his final speech). I also think that the movie had too many characters, all fighting for spotlight rather than sharing the movie like an ensemble should. The twists also did not make much sense but were just meant to shock. The references or the explanations of HP role also had no real place in the story and were just cheap fan service. A fanservice for only hardcore fans, because as a casual fan, I could either not get it. Or those references/explanations were new inventions by J.K.Rowling that she just tried to fit in there. Basically, if the first one felt like it was a return to the beloved world of magic, this one was the death of it. This movie marks the first time that I don’t agree with the canon: honestly, fanfiction and fan theories make more sense.

Directing

David Yates, the director of the first film and 4 last HP films, directed The Crimes of Grindelwald and did a decent job. The movie looked gooded visually and did look like an HP movie (not in the third act: it turned into Hobbit for the final battle). The pacing was not the best: the film felt slow and long but that was mostly because the story was unengaging and confusing.

Acting

The movie had a gigantic cast. Eddie Redmayne was a stand-out: charismatic, loveable, and unique. Katherine Waterston and Dan Fogler were also really good: as the more obvious hero of the story and the comedic relief/audience stand-in, respectively. Alison Sudol was also good even though the script made some weird choices with her character. Ezra Miller didn’t have that much to do despite his character being so integral to the plot. Zoë Kravitz impact. Callum Turner and Claudia Kim were fine too: they didn’t have anything to do with the story, but, hopefully, something is awaiting her characters in the future. Johnny Depp was fine but I have stopped caring about his performances at this point. Jude Law was a very promising Dumbledore, but, again, he should have been in the film more!

In short, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was not a great film. It looked pretty but lacked where it counted: in the story department.

Rate: 2.7/5

Trailer: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

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Movie review: The Nutcracker and Four Realms

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a first Christmas movie of the 2018 holiday season. If the whole season will be as rocky as its start, then we can just cancel Christmas. This is a quite negative (as you have probably already guessed) review of The Nutcracker and Four Realms.

IMDb summary: A young girl is transported into a magical world of gingerbread soldiers and an army of mice.

Writing

The Nutcracker and Four Realms – a mouthful of a title, huh – was written by Ashleigh Powell. It’s a remake/reimagining of a classic fairytale and a famous ballet. Disney has been making quite a few live-action fairytales. Some of them crashed, like Alice in Wonderland and its sequel. Some blossomed like Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. The Nutcracker seems like it will be joining the first group. I feel like there is a general fatigue of live action fairytales and only the really special ones turn into something. The Nutcracker, being a niche and holiday-specific fairytale, is already a hard sell. The fact that it’s premiering so early in November also almost guarantees that it will have a small opening. Maybe it will play for a long time?

Anyways, speaking of the writing: it wasn’t bad but wasn’t original in any way, shape or form. The message on how to deal with grief was a neat one and the young woman’s journey into self-confidence was also a nice thing to spotlight. The actual adventure was sooo by the numbers. The twist could be seen from miles away. The characters were also just meh. The nutcracker especially was so unexceptional despite being the titular character. The dialogue was very simplistic. It just seemed that this whole film was aimed at a very young audience. And by young, I mean babies.

Directing

The Nutcracker was directed by Lasse Hallström (of The Hundred-Foot Journey and A Dog’s Purpose) and Joe Johnston (of Captain America: The First Avenger) – what a weird duo of directors. And even a weirder end product. They did a good job with the visuals – I cannot fault the film’s production value. The CGI could have been cleaner. The pacing was way off. At least the runtime was fairly decent. To end on a positive note: the ballet scenes and the ballet-inspired credits were nice touches. The score, which included the classic melodies, was good too.

Acting

The Nutcracker’s cast’s performances were a huge letdown. Mackenzie Foy and Jayden Fowora-Knight were both wooden. Hellen Mirren and Morgan Freeman were folding in their performances and were still the best just because they are true pros and can outact everyone in their sleep. Keira Knightley was killing her career with every minute of being on screen. She was both a cartoon and a parody: everything about her performance – from the look to the speech to the behavior – were just so cringe-y. Her work her kinda reminded me of Anne Hathaway in Alice in Wonderland (another unfortunate comparison between the two less than good Disney fairytales).

The actor who played the father – Matthew Macfadyen –  looked like off-brand Armie Hammer. The British comedian Jack Whitehall also had a cameo role – good on him for finally getting into a Disney movie (even if bad one) after being cut from Frozen.

In short, The Nutcracker and Four Realms was a boring film that won’t bring anyone any Christmas joy. A basic narrative, oversaturated visuals, and some cringe-y acting – that’s this picture in one sentence.

Rate: 2.4/5

Trailer: The Nutcracker and Four Realms trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Mille 22

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to the review of a typical Mark Wahlberg movie – Mile 22. Honestly, this review could stop here but I’m gonna try to squeeze out a couple hundred words out of this movie.

IMDb summary: An elite American intelligence officer, aided by a top-secret tactical command unit, tries to smuggle a mysterious police officer with sensitive information out of the country.

  1. Mile 22 was written by Graham Roland and Lea Carpenter. The movie’s premise was interesting but its execution in the script left a lot to be desired. The quest to get the ‘package’ to a certain location was chaotic and hard to follow. The twisty ending also did not add anything to the movie. In fact, it made it seem as if the film lacked an ending or a conclusion.
  2. While this movie wasn’t based on any real events, it appeared to be claiming that. It was also interesting to see that Russians are now back as villains in Hollywood films. Still, the main antagonist of the film ended up being the character played by an Indonesian actor.
  3. Speaking of acting, Iko Uwais was the aforementioned Indonesian actor and his performance was the bright spot of the film even if the material that he was given to work with was more or less a typical terrorist role (even with all the double-crossing, of course, it’s him who is the villain). Other supporting roles of varying sizes were played by John Malkovich, Lauren Cohan, and Ronda Rousey.
  4. The lead of the film was played by Mark Wahlberg (All The Money In The World, Daddy’s Home 2, Transformers 6) and this was one of the first times that I hated him in an action movie, mostly because of how his character was written as a cocky show-off with a slow temper. Wahlberg couldn’t make that character charismatic or appealing in any way. Seeing him just annoyed and frustrated me.
  5. Peter Berg, the longtime collaborator of Wahlberg’s (on Patriot’s Day, Lone Survivor, and Deepwater Horizon – all better films than this one) directed Mille 22 and did an okay job at best. The pacing was fine but the action itself was disorienting and hard to follow (or see because of the shaky cam). The action pieces were not particularly original either, just some shootouts in cars or buildings.

In short, Mile 22 is the first real dud in Berg’s/Wahlberg’s professional relationship that is definitely not worth paying for to see on the big screen.

Rate: 2.7/5

Trailer: Mile 22 trailer

Movie review: A Wrinkle in Time

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to A Wrinkle in Time review overflowing with disappointment, written by a very sad Disney fangirl.

IMDb summary:  After the disappearance of her scientist father, three peculiar beings send Meg, her brother, and her friend to space in order to find him.

Writing

2018’s A Wrinkle in Time is a cinematic adaptation of a beloved children’s book by the same name by Madeleine L’Engle. I have never read the book myself so the script by Frozen’s Jennifer Lee and a TV writer Jeff Stockwell was my first introduction to the story. And what a disappointment it was (I already would like to apologize for using the word ‘disappointment’ a lot in this review).

The movie started with an incredibly heavy-handed set-up that still failed to tell anything substantial about the world of this story. The whole first act was just a complete mess, full of hints to and half-assed attempts to explain the mythology of the world. Nothing made any sense: this was probably the movie with the vaguest rules of magic. Also, while I did appreciate its attempt to connect magic and science, that whole concept didn’t really end up going anywhere.

The actual story wasn’t great either because it was so choppy. The characters would move from one stage to another in their adventure without any cohesion or continuity. Speaking about the characters: they were not the best either: the three magical ladies were…well, magical and somehow connected to the universe and possessing some vaguely defined powers. The father character was fine but quite unsympathetic. The three children characters were okay: the main girl had the arc of a hesitant hero combined with the struggles of a preteen girl; her brother was an interesting character but the twists relating to his arc weren’t handled well; while their friend didn’t really have anything to do with the story – he was just there to be teased as a love interest.

The movie’s message, all relating to love, family, and being who you are, was nice but handled in both a confused and simplistic fashion. There was no clarity, sophistication, or originality in the story for that type of a typical message to be elevated. I also don’t think that the movie handled the idea of loss very well: it didn’t really show the family as going through the process of acceptance and healing but rather portrayed them as being underwhelmed and incapacitated by their loss. A Wrinkle in Time also tied the faults of humanity to an unknown evil entity, which was a questionable decision.

Lastly, to finish off the writing part, this movie reminded me of Interstellar of all things in two aspects. First, the idea that love is the key to the universe and how it extends through time and space. The second thing was the fact that a father-daughter relationship completely overpowered the father-son one. I guess favoritism in the case of multiple children is very true.

Directing

Ava DuVernay, a celebrated director of Selma and documentary 13th (soon New Gods movie too) had a lot riding on this movie and a lot to accomplish with it. She famously changed the race of the lead character, presented an interracial family and became the first female director of color to be trusted with such a gigantic budget. And, I, sadly, think that all these outside concerns kinda overtook the movie and the actual film turned out to be of a fairly poor quality. While the movie’s runtime was short, the picture itself felt incredibly long due to its slow pace. It also felt choppy and disjointed (mostly due to the faulty screenplay). The budget was probably mostly spent on the CGI which did look great: the colors were vibrant, the designs of the costumes and the sets – really beautiful (except that flying cabbage). The credits were also gorgeous. Overall, the movie looked imaginative. However, it is not enough for a movie to be pretty: if some of those millions of the budget were spent on better writers, the final product would have been much better. A Wrinkle in Time did have a nice pop soundtrack though, so that’s something.

Acting

A Wrinkle in Time featured three child actors in the lead and, while I don’t want to be harsh on them, I also don’t want to sugarcoat my thoughts. Basically, the young actors – Storm Reid, Levi Miller (he was Pan in the failed Pan reboot), and Deric McCabe  – weren’t bad but they did lack diversity in their facial expressions or general energy in their performances. Oprah WinfreyReese Witherspoon (Sing, Home Again), and Mindy Kaling were good, bit cartoonish but that fit their roles. Chris Pine (The Finest Hours, Wonder Woman, Hell or High Water, Star Trek Beyond) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beauty and the Beast) had small roles too and were really great. Lastly, Zach Galifianakis (Tulip Fever) and Michael Peña (Ant-Man, The Martian, 12 Strong, Collateral Beauty) also cameoed and got to wear some weird costumes.

In short, A Wrinkle in Time tries to accomplish a lot of things both behind and in front of the camera but I don’t know whether it manages to succeed in either of its quests.

Rate: 2.7/5

Trailer: A Wrinkle in Time trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Gringo

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of a film that looked fun but disposable from the trailers and turned out to be exactly that. In fact, it was so disposable that I forgot to write its review for two weeks. This is Gringo!

IMDb summary: GRINGO, a dark comedy mixed with white-knuckle action and dramatic intrigue, explores the battle of survival for businessman Harold Soyinka when he finds himself crossing the line from a law-abiding citizen to a wanted criminal.

  1. Gringo was written by Anthony Tambakis (the writer of Warrior and Jane Got a Gun and the future Suicide Squad 2) and Matthew Stone (a writer of some fairly small and unknown comedies). The writing for the movie was really disappointing because the film was both convoluted (an actual clusterfu*k) and not that interesting (which is an ever worse quality that being messy). The movie also tried having some profound message but it just ended up having way too many metaphorical monologues about animals (gorillas and bears) that made absolutely no sense.
  2. It also tried preaching the idea of remaining a good person but didn’t deliver on that message at all. I mean, at least practice what you preach. Speaking of fun – this movie, being part comedy, had no real humor or any jokes that were actually funny. It was just so bland and stale.
  3. Gringo was directed by stuntman-turned-director Nash Edgerton (yes, he is the brother of Joel Edgerton, the actor). I was fairly disappointed with his second solo directorial outing. For an action comedy movie, the movie really lacked action. It only really turned up the excitement in the last 20 minutes and then quickly lost it. Also, the film tried going for craziness but the problem is that that craziness lacked any entertainment value.
  4. The end of the movie was also super bizarre. Gringo tried going for a cheeky 4th wall break and ended up falling flat on its face as that nod to the audience made no sense in the context of the movie. Moreover, by that point in the runtime, the viewers were already so checked out that they didn’t care at all what the movie was doing. Basically, Gringo was definitely not worthy of a cinema screen and I wouldn’t even recommend it as a rental/streaming movie. It was a B movie at best. More like an F, though.
  5. Gringo assembled a great and unworthy cast full of talent way too big for this movie. But, I guess everyone needs to pay bills (can you hear the chorus sing the words *paycheck gig* in the distance?). David Oyelowo and Joel Edgerton (Red Sparrow, Bright, Loving, Midnight Special, Black Mass) were both fine, though, their characters were really unappealing. Charlize Theron (Mad Max, The Huntsman, FF8, Atomic Blonde) was stuck playing a very old-school female character (oversexualized for the wrong reasons), while Amanda Seyfried had little to nothing to do in the film. Wait, scratch that, Westworld’s Thandie Newton was the one who had absolutely nothing to do in the movie. Lastly, Sharlto Copley (Free Fire, Hardcore Henry) played his usual type of character – kooky and quirky.

In brief, Gringo was an action comedy with no action or humor.

Rate: 2.2/5

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Movie review: Pacific Rim: Uprising

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of Pacific Rim: Uprising – a sequel to a movie I liked but didn’t think warranted a sequel.

IMDb summary: Jake Pentecost, son of Stacker Pentecost, reunites with Mako Mori to lead a new generation of Jaeger pilots, including rival Lambert and 15-year-old hacker Amara, against a new Kaiju threat.

Writing

Pacific Rim: Uprising was written by Emily Carmichael (a writer of short movies and TV series, is also supposed to write Jurassic World 3), Kira Snyder (a TV writer and producer), T.S. Nowlin (the writer of The Maze Runner series), and the director Steven S. DeKnight. I thought that the film’s writing was a mixed bag, like in so many cases with action movies nowadays.

The movie opened on a promising note. I liked the short summary of the first film as well as the background set-up of the main character (though, he was a bit too similar to the main character of the first film – both were great but hesitant pilots because of personal reasons). Still, I liked the fact that the main character for this film had a connection to the characters in the first movie. I also appreciated how this picture expanded the mythos of the world by showcasing new possibilities relating to both Jaegers and Kaiju, aliens and humans. I mean, the mash-up of the two (in each of the pairs) was a kinda obvious but undeniably awesome next step. For the most part, I also didn’t mind the actual plot of this movie: I found the story engaging and unexpected. For a minute, I thought that the movie will go one way (maybe do something with abuse of capitalism and power) but it quickly pulled back and picked a monster-y villain to fight against.

While the movie didn’t have a post-credits scene, it did have a post-logo tease (like Tomb Raider did just last week) about the next movie, suggesting a trip to the alien dimension in Pacific Rim 3 (if or when it happens). I wouldn’t mind seeing that but I’m not holding my breath either.

Directing

Pacific Rim was directed by the now Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water) but he did not return to direct the sequel. Instead, the reins were passed over to Steven S. DeKnight – a TV producer and director, to whom Uprising was a directorial feature debut. He did quite a good job with the movie. The pace was a bit uneven but the action was pretty great. I liked the designs of all the monsters and robots as well as the actual fight sequences. I also appreciated the fact that they were set during the day and one could actually see stuff. I guess the often repeated line from the script – ‘Bigger the Better’ – was sort of true in the case of the action in this film. I only say ‘sort of’ the case because the final action sequence was a bit senseless and overblown, which leads me to my only gripe with this movie (and a lot of PG-13 action movies) – the bloodless destruction porn that the action sequences result in. The viewers have become desensitized to the destruction, so they don’t care much for it anymore: its entertaining to look at but there is no longer any emotional investment. On the believability side – the realism has been gone from action movies since probably the 80s. Massive injuries result in zero bloody wounds, while the aforementioned massive destruction kills nobody. Hmmm…How long will that be the thing? Probably forever.

Acting

Pacific Rim: Uprising assembled an international cast to pander to global audiences (especially China). I didn’t really mind that as I think inclusivity is fun and good for business (and Hollywood is, first and foremost, a business). I thought that John Boyega (SW7, SW8, The Circle, Detroit) was a charming lead and I’m really glad that he got a chance to showcase his comedic chops. Scott Eastwood was fine too, though, I feel like I have seen him in a straight-laced military person in supporting role in many movies before (like Fast and Furious 8, Suicide Squad). Newcomer Cailee Spaeny and Jing Tian (The Great Wall) was good too.

Rinko KikuchiCharlie Day, and Burn Gorman all returned from the first film and had arcs that actually made sense in this movie. Weirdly, Charlie Hunnam did not return – his character would have had a place in the story, so it was probably a behind the scenes issue that sealed his exclusion from the film (maybe the reason was the poor financial performance of King Arthur?).

In short, Pacific Rim: Uprising is, or less, up to par with the first film, so if you liked that one, you will probably enjoy this one. Also, if you like Transformers, Power Rangers, Godzilla/Kong, or all of the above, you will probably find some enjoyment out of this picture too.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Pacific Rim: Uprising trailer

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Movie review: Red Sparrow

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to March – the new ‘it’ month for high-profile movie releases. And it opens with Red Sparrow!

IMDb summary: Ballerina Dominika Egorova is recruited to ‘Sparrow School,’ a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon. Her first mission, targeting a C.I.A. agent, threatens to unravel the security of both nations.

Writing

Red Sparrow was written by Justin Haythe (who wrote two previous Gore Verbinski’s films The Lone Rangerand A Cure For Wellness), based on the book of the same name by Jason Matthews. I found the writing to be quite uneven and I’m going to unpack my ideas more broadly by discussing the narrative and the themes. The film had two parts, each about an hour long. The first hour acted as an extensive set-up and developed the main character quite a lot. The viewers got to follow her life as an everyday citizen (though she was never just an everyday person – she was always special, first as a ballerina and later as a sparrow), then to witness the inciting incident and its consequences: the extensive training to be a tool of the state (more on that in the second part on themes). The set-up was quite long but it did work: the main character’s capacity for the horrific actions that she was going to commit as a sparrow was always present in the set-up.

In the second hour of the film (+20minutes), Red Sparrow’s actual plot unraveled, and sadly, it was quite uneven. The writers really tried crafting a complex and layered story, full of characters with constantly shifting allegiances. And while that sounds all good – actually it is quite fascinating – the mysterious and the secretive nature of the plot was not always realized compellingly. Also, looking back to the plot – not all the dots necessarily connect and make sense. Still, I have to applaud the ending of the story. For a while, it seemed like the movie was headings towards a typical romantic conclusion but then it broke away from all of that and delivered and strong finale with some great double-crosses and twists. Though, the reveal of the mole was a bit heavy-handed and surprising it a bad way a.k.a.it came out of nowhere.

Thematically, I’d like to touch upon two major things: the usage of sex in the film as well as the Russia vs. US standoff. Before going to see the film, I got the impression that the main weapon of the sparrow will be psychological manipulation but I feel like the ads and trailers lied to me. Red Sparrow, in my mind, was missing its promised psychological manipulation and was all about the pure physical manipulation a.k.a. manipulation through sex. And while physical and psychological manipulations are certainly connected, I really wish that the movie would have looked at that actual connection or the psychological side quite a lot more. Also, the usage of sex by a specifically female heroine of the film raised even more questions about the position of female sexuality on film. While it can certainly be seen/used as a strong creative choice, it has also been reduced to a cheap trick quite a few times. Also, there is but a fine line between female sexuality as a form of empowerment or a tool of exploitation. To my mind, Red Sparrow was leaning more towards the second option, as the female sparrows were taught and made to use sex as a weapon by a patriarchal system rather than having chosen it as a weapon out of their own agency.

On the US v Russia front, the picture was certainly successful at establishing the askew nationalistic ideas that were/are so prevalent in Russia and portraying the brainwashing politics accurately. Still, it had an overall message of American heroism as the better/ the winning option. The weird US/Russia antagonism also made the movie’s temporal setting feel rather vague: it could have been set during the Cold War, the early aftermath of it in the late 90s/early 2000s or even just last year.

Directing

Francis Lawrence (the director of the 3 last The Hunger Games films, including my two favorites – Catching Fire and Mockingjay 1) directed Red Sparrow and did an okay job. I highly appreciated the style of the picture: the raw and indie feeling of it as well as the cold and cool tone. However, the slowness of the pace and the length of the movie really minimized the enjoyment of the film. Moreover, the plot (the substance) wasn’t good enough to make up for the lacking pace. The graphic violence and graphic nudity were both present in Red Sparrow and I don’t really know whether they served the plot or were they just there for shock value. During the scenes of violence, Red Sparrow did feel like a more contemporary version of its predecessor Atomic Blonde, while the scenes of creepy nudity were more plentiful than in the whole Fifty Shades franchise.

Acting

Jennifer Lawrence (reunited with F. Lawrence after THG) played the lead of the film and did a good job but she wasn’t great or irreplaceable. Her Russian accent was fine, though, at times, she did sound like she was speaking with a clogged noise (as if she had a cold). Her decision to play this role is probably more interesting than the performance itself. The actress has vocally expressed how uncomfortable she was with the skin tight costume of Mystique in the X-Men movies and yet she was somehow fine with complete nudity in this film? Was this an act of bravery and growth as a performer or a desperate attempt to reclaim some fame? Her fan circle has been decreasing: The Hunger Gamesfinished a with whimper rather than a bang, she annoyed a lot of Marvel/X-Men fans because of her lack of enthusiasm about that series, her various comments on talk shows have also been reacted to quite badly online, and even her last two more serious awards films failed to connect with the audiences or the critics (Joyat least got her another Oscar nomination, while mother! turned out to be a complete disaster).

Some big-name talent was also involved with this film on the supporting front. Joel Edgerton (Bright, Midnight Special, Loving, Black Mass) and Matthias Schoenaerts (Far From The Madding Crowd, The Danish Girl) had two best-developed and most interesting male roles in the film. Jeremy Irons (BvS, High-Rise) and Game of Thrones’ Ciaran Hinds (Justice League) also both appeared but in much smaller, cameo-sized roles. Charlotte Rampling (45 Years, Assasin’s Creed) played the matriarch of the school of the sparrows and it was quite unexpected seeing her in a film with a, supposedly, strong female lead after her sort of anti-women comments a few awards seasons ago (that ran along the lines of ‘women in the West don’t have anything to complain about’).

In short, Red Sparrow was a mediocre thriller that betrayed its message and overstayed its welcome.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Red Sparrow trailer

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