Movie review: mother!

Movie reviews

Hello!

While I’m definitely more of a mainstream pictures kinda cinephile, I’m not against more arty/experimental films. Darren Aronofsky represents both: while his style is very much unique, his name is well-known to even the most casual moviegoers. Let’s see what his latest movie – mother! – has to offer.

IMDb summary: A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.

Writing

mother! was written by Aronofsky himself. Now, going into the film, I knew what to expect and what not to expect. I didn’t think I was going to see a simple story – neither in its structure nor message. I was right: mother!’s narrative was quite complex (and looped) and it had an abundance of layers of meaning. While I think I understood some of the ideas the script was trying to portray, I’m sure a tonne of others just went completely over my head. Also, the meaning I got might not have been the meaning intended by the filmmaker or understood in the same way by the other viewers. This begs the question – if one makes a movie that is super hard to understand, isn’t he/she just being pretentious? Also, if one makes a movie that only a small percentage of audiences can understand, isn’t one damaging his/her career prospects (art films don’t pay much).

Anyways, let me tell you what mother! was about as explained by people smarter than me online (I’ll tell you my personal interpretation afterward). Supposedly, mother! was a metaphor of a film about the relationship between the mother nature (Lawrence’s mother character) and Judeo-Christian god (Bardem’s Him). The crowds symbolized Christians, while Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel also appeared. Lawrence’s and Bardem’s child was a symbolic version of the baby Jesus. When put in relatively simple terms and while looking back at the picture, I do get that general idea and how it was portrayed. However, while watching the movie, only the Jesus similarly came to my mind. I’m not a religious person (actually, an opposite of that), so I don’t actively search for sacramental imagery or metaphors in the films I watch, so that’s probably why I missed it.

I, personally thought that mother! tried exploring the topics of inspiration and creation of both life and art. I also believed that its main concern was the differences between the female and the male creation (which kinda goes in line with the female mother nature and the masculine God portrayal).

Additionally, just looking on a surface level, I was quite frustrated with the main character of mother! because I perceived her to be a very much traditional (old-school) female figure. She was depicted as needy, dependent, and solely family orientated. If not for the later realization of the mother nature connection, I would have been (still kinda am) disappointed by this portrayal that didn’t achieve much in terms of moving the female characters forward. Why couldn’t mother nature be seen as strong and powerful and completely able to discipline its children a la humans?

Lastly, the commentary that I comprehend the most and was the most intrigued by was the one about fame, cult following, and celebrity worship. These things were portrayed as addictive and damaging: a cautionary tale. However, it looks like I misinterpreted the belief in god for the obsession with celebrities (and, honestly, they aren’t that much different). Besides, if one thinks of mother! as portraying celebrity culture, it’s interesting to note than Aronofsky would then be seen as being both cautious of and partaking in it by going to the film festivals and the premieres, by signing autographs or taking pictures.

Directing

I have highly enjoyed some of the previous films by Aronofsky (The Wrestler and Black Swan, specifically), respected others (Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain) and been angered by some too (Noah). Now, mother! encompassed all of the feelings mentioned.

I really loved the way the movie was filmed – by following the titular character and keeping the focus of the camera mostly on her.The handheld style and the mobile frame are generally very much indie/small budget films’ staples but here, they seemed refined, high-end, glamorous and expensive. mother! did not have a score, only diegetic sounds were heard. This added to the overall distinct ambiance of the film. The close-ups of eyes, the heart-imagery, and the fire/life effects were all interesting and disturbing visuals too. Lastly, there were quite a few tonal shifts in the film. In a heartbeat, mother! would go from low energy creepiness but almost normalcy to complete exaggeration and total escalation.

Acting

Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem delivered stunning performances and basically carried this movie. It was so nice to see Bardem finally starring in a film worthy of his talents, instead of wasting them on Pirates 5. Lawrence was also really good. I loved her look – her grayish blonde hair both made her seem older, more sophisticated but also somewhat timeless/ageless too. I think she should just probably continue doing art/indie films (Joy) because she really doesn’t seem to enjoy the more mainstream work (The Hunger Games, X-Men, or Passengers). Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer were also really good. I’m so happy that they too finally got a chance to showcase the full extent of their acting chops. Domhnall Gleeson (The Revenant, Star Wars, Brooklyn, Anna Karenina, Unbroken, American Made), his actual brother Brian Gleeson, and Kristen Wiig (The Martian, Ghostbusters) all had cameo appearances as well.

In short, mother! was a unique film that both frustrated and intrigued me with its metaphors. Just now, while finishing this review, I came across another potential symbol in the movie and I imagine that I’ll find new ones the longer I think about it. If that’s your forte, then mother! is for you. If you want an easier but no less smart scary thriller, watch It again or for the first time.

Rate: ?/5 (I can barely put this film into words, let alone a single number)

Trailer: mother! trailer

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Movie review: Jackie

Movie reviews

Hi!

Welcome to a review of the best 1960s film made in the 21st century. It’s Jackie.

IMDb summary: Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children, and define her husband’s historic legacy.

Writing and Acting: the main character and the lead actress

Like I did in the review of Elle, I’m going to combine the writing and the acting parts of this review because like Isabelle Huppert and Elle, Jackie and Natalie Portman are inseparable. Also, when watching Elle, I was sure that Huppert will take the Oscar for playing the titular character. Now, having seen Portman’s performance, I’m not that sure. Honestly, I’d be happy if either of them wins because they both deserve it. Portman already has an Academy Award for Black Swan, while it would be the first one for Huppert.

Anyways, let’s focus on Jackie. The picture’s screenplay was written by Noah Oppenheim who previously wrote some so-so YA adaptations, like The Maze Runner and Allegiant. I can’t actually comprehend how he could be the one who wrote all of these differents scripts. Not only are these films all very varied but the quality of the writing also differs drastically, with Jackie, obviously, being his best script yet. He did win ‘Best Screenplay Award’ at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival for it, so that should tell you all you need to know.

Speaking of the writing in more detail, the picture’s narrative was located in a limited timeframe and had a deep focus on the specific events. The movie was structured as a real-time interview with incorporated flashbacks. It portrayed Jackie as a complex and multifaceted individual. The differences between her public and private persona and between the pre-incident and post-incident Jackie were just fascinating to watch.

I’ve always imagined Jacqueline Kennedy as being sort of innocent, poised, and feminine figure. However, in truth, she was very much a strong-willed individual whose public appearances were always performative. Especially after the assassination, there seemed to be a certain amount of bitterness in her being that might have risen from the feelings of self-guilt. Her relationship with her husband was certainly not easy, with JFK having multiple affairs, but, in the end, she did love him and witnessed him being murdered in her arms. The film also raised the political questions of legacy (both hers and his) and also commented on the famous Camelot parable, but also showed Jackie’s more personal side through her adoration of arts and history, so kudos to the scriptwriter for showing multiple sides of the character/the real person. However, it was Natalie Portman who carried this movie and absolutely nailed the performance. The way she manipulated the different layers of the character and the way she transformed her look, behavior and speech were just magnificent to watch. Jackie would go from episodes of almost panic to showing imaginable strength in a heartbeat, so Portman was able to display a wide variety of her acting skills. She played Jackie as so much more than merely a President’s wife because she was indeed so much more than just that.

Directing

A Chilean director  Pablo Larraín, with whose previous work I’m sadly not familiar with, directed Jackie and did a spectacular job. I loved the temporarily appropriate aspect ratio and the whole old-school feeling of the film. The documentary-like handheld camera work for the flashbacks and the steady mostly 180° shots for the interview sequences also worked. The fact that the interview was shot from the straight-on perspective made the actors’ performances even more effective. The viewers could feel like Jackie was basically speaking directly to them/at them. The filmmakers’ choices of music were also interesting (soundtrack by Mica Levi). The instrumental theme of the picture was very classic with a slightly modern edge. A few moments of it reminded me of the sounds one would hear in a neo-noir thriller.

The supporting cast

The secondary roles of the film (as famous as the role of Jackie herself) were played by moderately known actors. Peter Sarsgaard starred as Robert F. Kennedy, Greta Gerwig played Nancy Tuckerman, Billy Crudup was Theodore H. White/The Journalist, and John Hurt appeared as Father Richard McSorley. The casting director also did a good job in finding an actor who looked quite similar to JFKCaspar Phillipson. Granted, he appeared in only a handful of scenes, but since everybody knows how JFK looked in real life, it was nice to see the picture trying to be as accurate and as seamlessly realistic as possible.

In short, Jackie was a great personal biopic that showed the complexities of the JFK’s assassination’s aftermath and neatly spotlighted the woman who was in the middle of all of it – Jacqueline Kennedy (Onassis)Portman’s performance as the titular character was just brilliant and spectacular.

Rate: 4.2/5

Trailer: Jackie trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Bad Moms

Movie reviews

Hello!

This summer, I have been watching a lot of newly released comedies and reviewing them. This is a bit unusual to me, as I would usually check them out on streaming without bothering to write any reviews. However, I have changed my way, so let’s talk about Bad Moms.  

IMDb summary: When three overworked and under-appreciated moms are pushed beyond their limits, they ditch their conventional responsibilities for a jolt of long overdue freedom, fun, and comedic self-indulgence.

 

  1. Bad Moms was a typical Hollywood comedy. And that’s not a bad thing. Yes, it was cheesy, predictable, full of cliches and some cringy moments. But it was also funny and entertaining. It made me laugh more than a couple of times. It was directed and written by the duo, who wrote the first The Hangover movie and had their directorial debut in 2013 with 21 & Over (loved this one).
  2. Bad Moms’ story proved one thing – I will never have kids. They can literally destroy lives. I don’t think that this was the intended message of the filmmakers, though. I feel that they tried to show how the role of the mother can be challenging, hard but rewarding and still worth it. The montage during the end credits with all the actresses and their mothers portrayed this idea nicely and was a sweet ending touch. I also appreciated the fact that Bad Moms showed that modern moms can have it all.
  3. My favorite part of the film was the supermarket montage. It was fast paced, funny, had the perfect amount of cheesines and a catchy soundtrack. I also enjoyed seeing SuperWoman a.k.a. Lily Singh in the film. She is a famous Youtuber that has an amazing comedy channel. Lily had like 30 seconds of screentime, but I hope that this cameo will help her get more work on the big screen because she is super funny and relatable.
  4. The lead of the movie was played by Mila Kunis, who nailed her role. She has always been good at both comedy (just watch Friends with Benefits) and drama (Black Swan comes to mind). Like any other actress working in Hollywood, she had a few missteps (Jupiter Ascending) but, on the whole, her career has been fairly successful. The two main supporting characters were played by Kristen Bell (Frozen) and Kathryn Hahn (She’s Funny That Way). Bell was great as the quiet, hard-working mom (she just played a similar character in The Boss), while Hahn played a completely opposite and crazy mother well. By the end of the film, these two characters kinda exchanged a couple of personality traits and that was a fine resolution to their personal plotlines.
  5. Other members of the cast included Christina Applegate, whose character was extremely annoying but served the purpose of the picture well. Jada Pinkett Smith (Magic Mike XXL) also had a small role, which, to my mind could have been played by anyone and I don’t know what Pinkett Smith was doing there. She is worth better roles and I also hope that she will return to Gotham as a series regular. The writer of Bridesmaids and Joy – Annie Mumolo – had a small and very stereotypical role too. I think that Mumolo is better off writing comedies rather than starring in them. Lastly, the compulsory love interest for the leading lady was played by Jay Hernandez, who was just in Suicide Squad as El Diablo (the standout character of that feature). I didn’t even recognize him!

All in all, Bad Moms was an entertaining comedy with good performances, solid writing and directing, and a few nice moments. It wasn’t unique or inventive, so I can’t really recommend it to everyone as a must watch.

Rate: 3.25/5

Trailer: Bad Moms trailer

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Movie review: Jupiter Ascending 

Movie reviews

Hi!

So, I’ve recently watched Jupiter Ascending –  a new movie by The Wachowskis siblings and this is going to be my review.

IMDb summary: In a bright and colorful future, a young destitute caretaker gets targeted by the ruthless son of a powerful family, who lives on a planet in need of a new heir, so she travels with a genetically engineered warrior to the planet in order to stop his tyrant reign.

First of all, I am the fan of The Wachowskis. To my mind, The Matrix is a masterpiece but, more importantly, their another movie – Cloud Atlas – is my favorite film ever. There hasn’t been another movie which made me think that hard and analyze every little detail. It’s actually the motion picture that got me interested in movie reviewing in the first place. Having said that, I didn’t particularly like this movie and I desperately wanted to like it just because it was getting such bad reviews…Mine isn’t going to be better..

To begin with, let’s start with the things I liked: setting, visuals and acting.

Setting

The setting and the whole world of the movie reminded me of one of the worlds from the Cloud Atlas (Cloud Atlas is set in 6 different time periods). Jupiter Ascending resembled the futuristic Neo Seoul, 2144 world from that film. Although, it had a more of a cosmic vibe.

Visuals

The Wachowskis always had astonishing visuals and this movie was no exception. The landscapes were breathing and the action sequences exciting and fun even if they were a little bit unbelievable and too long in some parts.

Acting

I believe that all of the actors did a great job. Mila Kunis was great: I love her as an actress both in comedy (Friends with Benefits) and drama (Black Swan). 

Channing Tatum was also good in his role as a human/wolf/angel..However, I had no idea why he got those wings in the end…

Douglas Booth and Tuppence Middleton were also functional in their roles. I have never heard anything about this actress but I know a lot about Douglas and have practically watched all of his movies.

Sean Bean as another human/wolf/angel was also good. Though, as a GoT fan and someone who spends a lot of time on the Internet, I couldn’t stop thinking if he was going to die at some point. 

Eddie Redmayne was the only questionable character in the story. Why did he speak like that? His voice only detracted my attention from the film. BTW, I was really happy when he won an Oscar because I loved him in The Theory of Everything and I even believe that he should have been nominated in 2012 for Les Miserables. But he won now, so there is no reason to be sad about past snubs.

One last note: the movie had a lot of other small characters because The Wachowskis love to have a lot of character (just watch Cloud Atlas). I was happy to see James D’Arcy, who started in Cloud Atlas and recently been in Agent Carter, in the movie too – he made make a short  cameo.

Now, let’s move on to the bad stuff…

Story

The story of the movie was interesting, don’t get me wrong, but it was just way too complicated. The mythology was so rich  and they went into details so much but they never fully explained anything. As a result, you could hardly follow the plot and you weren’t interested in the movie or the faith of the characters. They also did a crap job of setting up a loving relationship between Mila’s character’s family and Mila’s character – I had no idea why she wanted to save them because they have been complete a****les to her.

In addition, that love story was a complete push… They have know each other for 2 days and they have fallen completely in love? I do not believe that at all. But, that’s a movie love, I guess?

Jokes were also kinda mehh: “I love dogs” and that period pad…Really? Only She’s a man with Amanda Bynes knows how to make period jokes.

Themes

Though the story was difficult to comprehend and follow, I have found a couple of themes between the lines, which interested me. First one is time: I loved the quote “Time is the single most precious commodity in the universe“. This saying is so true and so relevant to our modern society. Other themes were capitalism and never stopping consumerism – also great reminders of the contemporary world. The last idea, which sparked my interested, was that our genes have our souls inside them…I love when movies explain religious facts as science facts. Maybe because my favorite movie genre is sci-fi, followed closely by comic book/superhero movies…

All in all, the movie was watchable but not remember-able. I would only recommend it to hard core sci-fi fans and the niche fans of The Wachowskis. 

Trailer: Jupiter Ascending trailer

Rate: 3/5

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