Movie review: Their Finest 

Movie reviews

Hello!

The first movie of the year focused on the battle of Dunkirk – Their Finest – has reached theaters, so, let’s review it.

IMDb summary: A British film crew attempts to boost morale during World War II by making a propaganda film after the Blitzkrieg.

While Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk (premiering in July) will tackle and reproduce the actual battle and the evacuation, Lone Scherfig’s film Their Finest is a story about a war propaganda film, based on a fictional story related to the real-life events at Dunkirk, produced in order to raise the patriotism of the nation. The genres and tones of the 2 movies differ vastly: one looks like a grim and serious action drama, while another one is a lighter comedy drama with some romance thrown in as well.

On top of being one of the two films about Dunkirk, Their Finest interested me for 3 reasons: 1. I wanted to see the representation of the British propaganda and how it differed or was similar to the Soviet propaganda – the kind that I’m more familiar with from history classes and from just generally growing up in Eastern/Northern Europe. 2. I have always enjoyed films about filmmaking and as this one centered on screenwriters – an occupation that I would like to pursue – my interest was peaked. 3. The movie started Sam Claflin – an actor, whose career I’ve been following pretty closely. So, let’s see if Their Finest is as ‘fine’ of a picture as the title suggests!

Writing

Their Finest was written by a TV writer Gaby Chiappe, based on novel Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans. From the technical standpoint, the writing for the film was very nice: the narrative was well structured and rich with ideas. Whether or not the ideas worked, is a very subjective question. I, personally, really liked some of the themes but was equally frustrated by the others.

To begin with, the picture focused a lot on the relationship between Gemma Arterton’s and Sam Claflin’s characters. I highly disliked the fact that their professional relationship had to be turned into a romantic one by the end of the film. I find that this happens in a lot of stories, even in the contemporary ones. For example, the way J.K.Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, is portraying the relationship between the two main characters in her Cormoran Strike Series irritates me a lot. And yet, going back to the relationship between the characters in Their Finest, if I considered the said relationship’s romantic aspect separately, I thought that it did work and was convincing. The two individuals seemed pretty evenly matched and their sparring was entertaining to watch. The sudden end to the relationship was also emotionally effective. At first, I deemed that the end might have been too sudden but I later I’ve realized that the scriptwriters intended it to be that way and to convey a message that one never knows what might happen in war.

The second big theme of the picture was Gemma Arterton’s character’s growth as an individual. Her personal story acted very much as a symbol for a lot of women’s stories during the war – how they have finally begun to transition from the domestic spaces into the public ones. Sadly, this process is still is progress, 70+ years later. I thought that the main character was developed quite nicely – I wish we would have found out more about her background and upbringing in Wales, but I really liked her subtle journey towards independence.

Thirdly, the movie explored the screenwriting and the filmmaking business. I really loved this particular aspect of the film and just loved the fact that Their Finest celebrated the movies and tried finding positive attributes of cinema even if it was political cinema. I simply loved Sam Claflin’s character’s enthusiasm about and love for the pictures, especially since his character otherwise seemed really pessimistic and ironic. I could identify with this type of depiction very closely. The way the movie played up the uber-poshness of the actors and of the British actors, to be specific, with Bill Nighy’s character was also really fun.

Lastly, Their Finest dealt with the propaganda filmmaking, not just simple filmmaking. Not only did this type of story provided a different perspective on war, but it also proved to me that the types of propaganda don’t vary much from country to country. Like the Soviet propaganda, some of the British propaganda was very obvious but some of it was something more, just like the-picture-within-the-picture in Their Finest or a real life example, such as Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin. And yet, since both Their Finest and The Nancy Starling (a-movie-within-a-movie) stressed the importance of optimism and happy endings, I can’t help but wonder where exactly did the cinematic propaganda end?

Directing

Their Finest was directed by Lone Scherfig. Although the director is Danish, I thought that she nailed the British feeling of the film. She has already done that earlier with The Riot Club – that movie has really made me question my adoration of the British culture quite a bit. So, Their Finest resembled the previous historic UK-based movies that I’ve reviewed, like SuffragetteTestament of Youthand Far From The Madding Crowd. The fact that the movie was executed with the classical stationary camera work and the steady frame, also added an appropriate old-school yet timeless feel to the picture. The pacing of the picture was also very even. 

Acting

Gemma Arterton played the lead in the film and did a really good job. I hope that this is a career-changing role for her, as so far she has been starring in mostly B-level pictures, like Clash of the TitansPrince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Hansel & Gretel: Witch HuntersI really loved how subtle yet powerful her performance was. My favorite line of hers was the last words to the boyfriend: ‘You shouldn’t have painted me that small’. Her delivery was brilliant. I also though that Arterton’s chemistry with the co-star Sam Claflin was really good and believable. I loved Claflin’s character and the actor’s performance. It was so interesting to see a writer who can express oneself well enough of paper but struggles to do the same face to face. After starting his big screen career by acting the big action flicks, like Pirates of the Caribbean 4 and The Hunger Games franchise, Claflin has mostly stuck to dramas recently, including 2014’s Love, Rosie and 2016’s Me Before You. His next film is also a historical drama – My Cousin Rachel. He has also previously collaborated with the director of Their Finest on The Riot Club.

The supporting cast included established English actors Bill NighyHelen McCroryEddie Marsan, and Richard E. GranJack Huston (American Hustle, Hail, Caesar!and Ben-Hur) also had a minor role.

In short, Their Finest is a brilliant little movie, which, sadly, will be overlooked by the majority of movie-goers and buried by the blockbusters, including the one it shares the topic with. I highly recommend this film for all those interested in history and the art of filmmaking.

Rate: 4.3/5

Trailer: Their Finest trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Free Fire

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of a new British indie movie Free Fire that acted as a great counter-programming to the awful Ghost in the Shell.

IMDb summary: Set in Boston in 1978, a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two gangs turns into a shootout and a game of survival.

  1. Long time readers of my blog will know that I’m a fan of British contemporary cinema. Even before I lived in the UK, I would try to watch all smaller British films that reached my then hometown’s movie theater. It’s pretty sad that the majority of these films do no interest non-European audiences. It’s especially heartbreaking that an amazing film, like Free Fire, will probably go unacknowledged by many global cinema-goers as well. I first found out about the picture in an article in an Empire magazine. The publishing focused on the logistics of the big shoot-out sequence and made me really interested to see the final product.
  2. Free Fire was written and directed by Ben Wheatley, in collaboration with the long-time creative partner – writer and editor Amy Jump. I’m very much a newcomer to Wheatley’s work. The first film of his that I saw was last year’s High-Rise. The dystopian drama was both puzzling and intriguing. It also had a magnificent cast –  Wheatley continued this trend in his next movie too.
  3. The writing for the movie was quite nice. There was no obvious narrative or a story, but the way the character interactions were included within the action was really cool. The attempts at flirting were especially inappropriate in the circumstances of the movie, and, thus, hilarious. In general, the movie was full of actually funny jokes. I laughed out loud multiple times. This group of characters with their various levels of stupidity and all the in-fighting was also super entertaining to watch on screen. Lastly, the decision to loosely tie in the film’s plot to the real historical events in Ireland/Northern Ireland in the 1970s was an interesting choice.
  4.  I also loved the visuals of the film. The big action set-piece was seamlessly executed. The visual craziness was neatly paired with quieter moments full of amazing verbal jabs. Plus, even before everything had escalated, Wheatley succeeded at building tension between the characters, so the start of the shoot-out was somewhat believable even if extremely sudden. The action itself was captured with a mixture of close-ups and wider shots and, while the said action was gritty, bloody, and brutal, it was not literally dark, so one could actually see what was happening on screen. In fact, the color palette was pretty warm – a lot of browns and yellows – a perfect match for the 1970s setting and the tacky costumes. I’m so happy that shoulder pads are no longer in style. What I’m sad about is that this film’s soundtrack and the similar style of music are no longer on the radio.
  5. The film had an amazing cast, full of accomplished and well-known actors. This time around, their ‘acting’ included playing kindergarten-like children in adult bodies and crawling around a lot. The cast’ included big name talent like Brie Larson (Room, Kong), Sharlto Copley (Blomkamp’s films, Hardcore Henry), Armie Hammer (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Birth of a Nation, Nocturnal Animals), Cillian Murphy (In the Heart of the Sea, Anthropoid, soon Dunkirk), and Jack Reynor (Sing Street). I loved Larson’s character as well as her interactions with Murphy’s character – they had this subtle chemistry which really worked. I also liked seeing Hammer actually having fun with the role and loosen up a bit. Reynor has been popping on my radar a lot lately, maybe that he is that one actor whose involvement in the Transformers franchise actually led to some good work? The film’s cast was rounded out by a lot of great but less well-known actors: Babou Ceesay (Eye in the Sky), Enzo Cilenti (small role on GOT), Sam Riley (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Maleficient), Michael Smiley (Black Mirror’s White Bear episode), Noah Taylor (small role on GOT too), Patrick Bergin (Irish screen actor), and Tom Davis and Mark Monero (TV actors).

In short, Free Fire is a super enjoyable action-comedy that works both as an action movie (the craftmanship of the big action sequence is amazing) an as a comedy (the visual jokes as well as small funny moments of dialogue pair off nicely).

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Free Fire trailer

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Movie review: T2: Trainspotting 

Movie reviews

Hi!

What an amazing time to be living in Scotland! This is the review of T2: Trainspotting!

To note: I don’t have a nostalgic connection to this property – I’m coming to it as a complete newcomer (have seen the original, though). So, this could either mean that I can be more objective than the fans or this could suggest that I might not get the movie fully.

IMDb summary: A continuation of the Trainspotting saga reuniting the original characters.

Writing

John Hodge, who wrote the first film, penned the script for its sequel. Both screenplays have been based on the books by Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting and Porno, respectively). I, personally, had mixed feelings on the writing for the film.

I didn’t think that T2 worked as a standalone film, however, maybe it should not have as it was a sequel? It heavily relied on the plot of the first film and created some new material to spring-board off (but not enough to work on its own). It was certainly a continuation of the original narrative – a sequel for the insiders. One could indicate that this movie wasn’t made in Hollywood, as they always try to create sequels which can attract and appeal to the new audiences.  I, personally,  never really believed that Trainspotting needed a sequel but it was definitely nice to catch up with these characters. I just wish the picture was more than the catch-up, because, essentially, just like its characters, the movie was living in the past. And yet, its setting was really contemporary – I loved the moment with the EU loan. It was a super clever and a really modern jab in the post-Brexit world.

To my mind, the best writing moments of the movie were: the writing for Renton – his true backstory (nothing really happened in the film until he told the truth about his past 2 decades) and the ‘Choose life’ speech (I always wanted that t-shirt, but now I definitely need it); the writing for Spud – I loved that he was the one who threw the last punch (with a toilet bowl – neat callback to the toilet scene in T1), thus, subverting the first picture’s notion that he never hurt anybody. I also liked the fact that he was made into a writer, so Spud was kinda a stand-in for Irvine Welsh. It was also interesting that the picture picked a clearer bad guy this time. In the first film, all of them were criminals but they were all sort of likable. This time around, Begbie was clearly supposed to be seen as the antagonist.

Like T1, Trainspotting 2 tackled variety of conceptual topics, like friendship, revenge, addiction, exploitation, betrayal, and opportunities.  It also touched upon the themes of a father-son relationship and the super topical economic migration. Lastly, the main idea of the picture was nostalgia (loved the lines about the characters being ‘tourists in their own youth’ and ‘the world changes even if we don’t’) and the questions whether the characters have wasted their lives and how can they move forward.

Directing 

Danny Boyle came back to direct the sequel to a picture that put him on the map. After the success of 1996’s Trainspotting, he has really made a name for himself with films like 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire (a huge Academy Awards winner), 127 Hours, and Steve Jobs. Although I thought that T2 was slower and more depressing than the original, I still enjoyed it. Plus, this less upbeat tone fit the stage of life that these characters were in. In addition, this time around, Boyle didn’t really go for the shock value – T2 was tamer and less messed up. There weren’t any scenes equal to ‘the baby’ or ‘the worst toilet in Scotland’ sequences from the first one. What stayed the same was the setting of the film – it was realistically gritty – set in the true social reality rather than a cinematic one. And even though the style of directing was less snappy, it was still a visceral experience to watch the film, which was mostly due to Boyle’s impressive and unique camera angles and montages.

I had a variety of favorite moments from the film. I adored the wide shots of Edinburgh, especially during the run sequence. Renton’s and Sick Boy’s lecture in front of the TV was really fun too. I laughed the hardest during Renton’s and Begbie’s first encounter – the divided screen and the toilet cubicles were an amazing setting both from the practical and the narrative stand-point. In general, I loved all the visual references to the T1. The finale was also really well-directed. I really liked the fact that this time around train tracks and trains played more of a role. Also, I though that having all 4 characters come together only in the finale was a cool choice. Lastly, the film’s soundtrack was magnificent. Both familiarly upbeat and a bit more lyrical this time around.

Acting

The original cast came back for the sequel: Ewan McGregor (Angels & DemonsSalmon Fishing in the Yemen, Our Kind of Traitor, soon in Beauty and the Beast) as Renton, Ewen Bremner (soon in Wonder Woman!?) as SpudJonny Lee Miller (Elementary) as Sick Boy, and Robert Carlyle (Once Upon a Time) as Begbie. All of them are still great actors – they have indeed matured in their craft during these past 20 years. My favorite encounters between characters/actors were all the scenes between Renton and Spud and between Renton and Sick Boy.

Kelly Macdonald (Anna Karenina) also appeared briefly as Diane Coulston. Her inclusion was the only thing that seemed like an afterthought. The new female lead – Veronika – was played by a Bulgarian actress Anjela Nedyalkova. She was great in the film – I also really liked the fact that they cast a foreigner in the movie to reflect the actual population of Britain today (and this comes from a foreigner studying at Aberdeen Uni, where one might get 2 Scottish people to every 20 foreigners. Fun fact – the book version of Renton went to Aberdeen Uni too!).

In short, T2: Trainspotting was a great sequel that required the previous knowledge of the material in order to be enjoyed. The direction was still great even if a bit different, while the acting skills of the cast have definitely improved.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: T2: Trainspotting trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Love and Friendship

Movie reviews

Hello!

Today, we are reviewing the most surprisingly successful (both critically and financially) film of the year – Love & Friendship.

IMDb summary: Lady Susan Vernon takes up temporary residence at her in-laws’ estate and, while there, is determined to be a matchmaker for her daughter Frederica — and herself too, naturally.

  1. Love & Friendship’s script was written by Whit Stillman, who also directed the picture. The film’s narrative was an adaptation of Lady Susan by Jane Austen. I have read a few of Austen’s novels (will probably read more in the near future, as I study English Literature) and also seen a couple of cinematic adaptations. Most of the time, I did enjoy the stories but didn’t think of them as anything special, so I was extremely surprised to see that this movie did so well both with the critics and the mainstream audiences.
  2. Made for just $3 million – a tiny budget for a historical picture – Love & Friendship had great mise-en-scene: I really did not expect the sets or the costumes to look this good and to be historically appropriate. Stylewise, the film did, however, reminded of a TV movie, with all those character introductions. Genre-wise, it seemed to be both a parody and homage to Hallmark-type movies too.
  3. Love & Friendship was an entertaining film with the right amount of overdramatization and pretentious. It had a kind of Downton Abbey season 1 vibe. The aristocratic intrigues, which were explored in the film, were both cringe-y and annoying as well as interesting and exciting. The film was basically walking a line between charm and hilariousness. The treatment of women was also well-realized in the film: the strong female characters were not made into feministic cliches as usually tends to happen.
  4. For the most part, smaller and unknown actors brought these iconic characters of literature to life, however, the lead titular character was played by Kate Beckinsale – probably the biggest name of the whole cast. Beckinsale did a great job in the role – she made Lady Susan into a well-rounded character that would appear naive and ignorant in once scene and smart and scheming in another. She was also both venomous and kind, which is not a complimentary union.
  5. Chloë Sevigny and Stephen Fry played supporting roles in the movie and did a great job. However, my favorite actor (and character) from the supporting cast was Xavier Samuel as Reginald DeCource. His character seemed to be too innocent to exist in that world and was the only truly likable character. I knew that Samuel seemed familiar, as I have seen him in a Twilight movie (I was a teenager too:D), Fury, and Frankenstein.

In brief, Love & Friendship was a solid historical dramedy. It didn’t seem as anything particularly special to me personally, but I’m happy for its success.

Rate: 3.75/5

Trailer: Love & Friendship trailer

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Movie review: Allied

Movie reviews

Hello!

Today, I’m reviewing Allied – the movie that ‘broke’ Brangelina, the ‘it’ couple of Hollywood. Okay, I’m kidding –  I don’t actually believe or care much about the rumors. To me, Allied is, first and foremost, a film by a director that is of my native descent (Zemeckis is half-Lithuanian).

IMDb summary: In 1942, an intelligence officer in North Africa encounters a female French Resistance fighter on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressures of war.

Writing

Steven Knight wrote the screenplay for Allied. So far, his accomplishments have been a bit average: I absolutely loved his small film Locke and really enjoyed the stories of The Hundred-Foot Journey and Pawn Sacrifice. However, Knight also penned the script for the so-so picture Burnt and wrote the completely awful Seventh Son as well. His next film will be a different Brad Pitt picture – Wold War Z 2. Speaking of the writing for this film, quality-wise, Allied was a mixed bag , just like Knight’s track record.

I felt that Allied contained two distinct stories which could have been explored in two separate movies. The first suspenseful act of the two characters falling in love on a mission was cool and interesting. It was a successful homage to Casablanca and the Golden Age of Hollywood. The second story – the home life and the investigation – was much slower and less interesting than the preceding set-up. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the fact that this film focused more on the romance and less on the war because I have already seen enough historical films, in which the romantic aspect is relegated to the sidelines and feels out of place. Allied made a decision to be a romantic movie first and a war drama second and stuck with it. I, as I have mentioned, enjoyed and liked this idea, but I can also understand that some people might see it as too sappy and melodramatic. I, personally, found it touching and heartbreaking, although not Casablanca level heartbreaking (Allied didn’t reach the levels of ‘We’ll always have Paris’ is what I’m saying).

Having said that, Allied still did have some pretty nice lines of dialogue and some rather cool concepts. I don’t really know why but I liked the trailer line: ‘Being good at this kind of job is not very beautiful’. I also enjoyed the ideas about love in war – the problem isn’t the action of getting involved, it is feeling something about the involvement. Lastly, I liked how the film underscored that the two main characters could never be trusted, as they were trained to lie.

Directing

Robert Zemeckis, who is responsible for creating a whole slew of cinematic classics – Back To The Future trilogy, Who Framed Robert Rabbit, Forrest Gump, and Cast Away and whose latest films include The Walk and Flight, directed Allied and did quite a good job. The film looked beautiful visually, although the CGI at the beginning (the desert) seemed a tiny bit fake and took me out of the film. Other historical settings were realized nicely, though. Zemeckis also used a lot of time jumps in the film and they did make sense for the most part. Lastly, I did like his long takes that some critics panned. At first, they seemed unnecessarily long to me as well, but then I realized that they were this long for a reason and were meant to show or to indicate something extra.

Acting

I think that the lead duo – Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard – did an amazing job. First, they had crazy good chemistry and made a believable couple – their back and forth dialogue was superb, especially in the first act. Secondly, I think that the two actors nailed the ‘fake’ spy acting and didn’t make it seem cartoony. I was also quite surprised to see Lizzy Caplan in a supporting role and thought that her character was interesting, although, I question the motives behind the decision to include her character. A trio of actors, who seem to constantly appear in historical movies – Jared Francis Harris, Matthew Goode, and Simon McBurney, rounded up the cast of Allied and brought solid performances too.

Actors’ film recommendations:

  • Brad Pitt: Seven, Fight ClubMr. & Mrs. Smith (why not, it is still a good movie), Inglorious Basterds, Fury, The Big Short, By The Sea (even more ironic, as this one is directed by Jolie).
  • Marion Cotillard: Macbeth, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, Big FishLa Vie en Rose for which she won an Oscar should also be on this list, even though I haven’t seen it yet. 
  • Lizzy Caplan: Now You See Me 2, Mean Girls (what a throwback).
  • Jared Harris: Benjamin Button, Lincoln, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
  • Matthew Goode: Downton Abbey, The Imitation Game, Watchmen.
  • Simon McBurney: MI:Rogue Nation, Magic in the Moonlight, The Theory of Everything, Jane Eyre.

In brief, Allied was a solid romantic war drama. It had good acting and a decent story and visuals. However, the film was not groundbreaking, which it could have been, knowing who was involved in its making, both in front and behind the camera.

Rate: 3,75/5

Trailer: Allied trailer

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Movie review: Nocturnal Animals

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another Amy Adams movie review. A few back, I discussed Arrival and today, I’m giving you my thoughts on Nocturnal Animals.

IMDb summary: An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.

In short, I would describe Nocturnal Animals as Hell or High Water and The Neon Demon put together. The more glamorous parts of the film (the bourgeoisie and the art scene), as well as the stylistic look of it, reminded me of The Neon Demon (plus, Demon was about the fashion world, Animals directed by a fashion designer), while the grittier parts – the book’s plot – were reminiscent of Hell or High Water both visually and thematically.

The fashion designer Tom Ford both wrote, directed, and produced Nocturnal Animals. This was his second attempt at making a feature film . I’ve not seen his first movie – A Single Man – but he impressed me a lot this time around, so I will most likely check out his debut movie. He successfully transitioned from designing to filmmaking and I’m excited to see what he will come up with next.

Writing and Story

I absolutely loved the clever and intriguing narrative of the film. All the different storylines – the reality, the book’s plot and the flashbacks – were separately interesting and distinctive but I also liked how they were combined and how they mirrored each other. In general,  I would say that the fipm was based on  thematical dichotomies – Texas vs. LA/NY, parents vs. children, felons vs. victims, past vs. present, and book vs. reality – and all of them were super engaging. I also liked the fact that the movie did not take sides: it critiqued both the southern traditional way of life and the uber modern and stylish world of the urban high classes.

Nocturnal Animals also appealed to me because it explored my biggest anxieties: the most obvious one was, of course, all of the events of the book (kidnap, rape, and murder). However, the fear of becoming like my parents and the anxiety which surrounds the uncertainty of my future are both very familiar and deeply personal to me as well. 

The movie had a very open ending and left some questions unanswered. Three theories immediately sprung up in my mind. 1. Maybe the film’s message was that one cannot truly change the past and it might sometimes be too late to say sorry, so that’s why the ex-husband didn’t show up. 2. Maybe, the novel’s events were just the main character’s way of dealing with the past mistakes a.k.a. putting ideas into a narrative and the ex-husband wasn’t actually a real person. 3. Maybe the book was just one big suicide note and that’s why he didn’t show up?  I’m probably totally wrong but it is fun to speculate and think about it.

Directing and Visuals

Nocturnal Animals had an interesting blend of visuals: it mixed urban lights with rural desserts. I especially loved all the landscape shots – the framed stills would make for some amazing photographs. The way modern art was used in the film was also interesting. I, personally, don’t get modern art but I can appreciate it. However, I got to say – I was a bit weirded out by the opening of the film (nudity) and wasn’t entirely sure if I was even in the right screening. However, I think that that was the point of the scene – it was meant to shock and to showcase the eccentric world of art that the film’s main character inhabited.

Nocturnal Animals was a perfect example of a successfully and tastefully stylized movie. Tom Ford’s design background and eye for textures and colors really assisted him in the choice of visuals. In addition, he dealt with the pacing of the picture very well: it was slow but never dragged – it was suspenseful and mesmerizing without beeing cliche.

Music and Soundtrack

Abel Korzeniowski did the soundtrack for the film. I really liked the instrumental score: it fit both the visuals and the narrative nicely. My favorite track was the one that sounded like the sextet from the movie Cloud Atlas. That particular track accompanied a variety of scenes and was also played during the credits.

Acting

The film had a stellar cast. Amy Adams was magnificent – I liked her performance even more than the Arrival one. Her eye-acting was mesmerizing. I also loved the way the movie played with the fact that Amy Adams’s and Isla Fisher’s look very similar. Jake Gyllenhaal was also brilliant – he lost himself in the role as he usually does. Michael Shannon was also a stand-out – loved his cool yet realistic portrayal of the detective. Lastly, Aaron Taylor-Johnson completely surprised me – this was probably his best role that I have seen yet just because it felt like the most challenging one. He was so good as the crazy, cocky, and eccentric felon. Armie Hammer also appeared in the film in his signature role of  ‘a white privileged businessman’.

Cast’s movie recommendations:

In short, Nocturnal Animals was beautifully stylized film, which also had important themes and interesting narrative ideas to match its gritty and glamorous visuals. The acting was also top-notch.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Nocturnal Animals trailer

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Movie review: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

Movie reviews

Hello Hello Hello!

Welcome to the review of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. If my triple greeting wasn’t enough of a hint – I’m super excited to review this film! A few weeks ago, I’ve done a preview post for this picture, where I talked about my personal relations to this universe as well as the original textbook novella that inspired the movie, so, without further ado, let’s travel back to the beloved magical universe!

IMDb summary: The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.

MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD (gonna give another spoiler warning when I talk about the big reveal)

Writing and Story

The author of the original HP series and all the extra material – J.K.Rowling – is credited as the sole screenwriter for this movie. If that’s the truth (that she wrote the whole script by herself), I have to applaud her. I was a bit worried that she wouldn’t be able to transition from the novel writing to screenwriting (she did collaborate with a few playwrights when writing The Cursed Child play), but she proved me wrong ten times over. I loved how imaginative the story was, how it expanded the already known magical world and how it was just purely entertaining and enjoyable.

Moreover, I loved the fact that this movie and the narrative can and did stood on their own – although Fantastic Beasts is technically an HP prequel, it didn’t rely too heavily on the previous knowledge of and love for this franchise. Also, with all the speculation about the sequels to this film, even before it came out, and the upcoming Grindelwald/Dumbledore arc, I was worried that this movie would get hijacked by the future set-up but it wasn’t! Fantastic Beasts was first and foremost Newt Scamander’s and his beasts’ story, while the teases came in second. An important reveal happened at the end when Newt’s main plot was already over and it wasn’t obvious at all – there was only one spoiler-y visual cue for it in the film. Honestly, if I hadn’t read the rumors online and if I wasn’t actively looking for their evidence in the picture, I would have been super surprised by the reveal.

On top of expanding the magical world, Fantastic Beasts and Rowling did a good job of incorporating the said world into real history. I loved the fact that Newt arrived in NY by boat – that scene reminded me of a similar scene in last year’s Brooklyn. I liked how the New Salem anti-wizard movement had verbal and visual relations to the actual Salem Witch Trials. That jazz club and the whole setting of the 1920s was well realized too – it’s one of my favorite historical eras, so I loved seeing its magical version on screen.  Lastly, the decision to portray the U.S. magical world as more strict and the wizard/muggle relationship as intolerable seemed kinda appropriate for the contemporary world. I wonder if that was Rowling’s way of critiquing the modern and real-life discrimination that we have yet to get rid off.

Another interesting thematical idea were the Obscurials, who are created when a child tries to suppress his/her magical abilities. This was a perfect and a very on-theme/appropriate for the magical world way to encourage the movie’s viewers to be themselves. Furthermore, I applaud J.K.Rowling (just keep clapping) for touching upon quite a dark topic of abuse in a family film.

Lastly, the character development was really nice. I loved the writing for the character of Newt – his backstory was intriguing but I also liked that they remarked that people change and they do leave their pasts behind. I also loved Newt’s life motto – that worrying makes one suffer twice. All the other character, wizards and no-majs alike, were cool and interesting as well. Their inner relationships were cute and natural – they didn’t seem forced or pushed. In general, I’m intrigued enough to want to spend more time with these characters.

Directing and Visuals 

David Yates, who did the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th HP films as well as this year’s live-action Tarzan, directed Fantastic Beasts and did an amazing job. I’m really happy that he was the one directing because he already has such a great knowledge and understanding of this world. I absolutely loved the visuals, starting with the newspaper opening and ending with the epic 3rd act fight. I loved the fact that visuals (like the story) were sorta familiar but not repetitive – fresh and exciting. The design of the actual beasts and of the Obscurials was cool too: scary, inventive but sort of tied to reality.

Yates also did a wonderful job at finding a balance between epic action and slower character moments – the pacing was top-notch. In addition, the cinematographer Philippe Rousselot also deserves the praise for helping bring this world and its action to the big screen in such a spectacular way. Lastly, all the production and set design teams should be honored for their work on the movie, but I want to give a special appreciation shout out to Colleen Atwood, who did the costumes – I absolutely loved all the coats and classy formal costumes. The coats especially reminded me of BBC’s Sherlock which I just finished watching and I’m currently obsessed with.

The score by James Newton Howard was great too, although, I was most excited to hear the familiar theme music, which was originally composed by John Williams. 

Acting

  • Eddie Redmayne was so good as Newt Scamander. I absolutely loved the character because I could relate to him so much (introverts, unite!). Redmayne’s performance was super fitting for the character: awkward, shy, vulnerable but confident and skilled in his field. He was adorable and super likeable too. I have been a fan of Redmayne since 2012’s Les Miserables and although I did enjoy his indie films, like The Theory of Everything and The Danish Girl, I’m quite happy to see him in a more mainstream (and succseful) film (let’s pretend that Jupiter Ascending didn’t happen).
  • Katherine Waterston as Tina Goldstein – I loved her character –  she was an Auror – as well as Waterson’s performance. I wasn’t familair with her as an actres before (although, I did see her in Steve Jobs), but she did impress me. Her next movie is the 2017’s Allien prequel.
  • Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski was amazing too. His character was the funniest and the most likebale and relatable out of the whole cast. I wasn’t familair with Fogler’s work either, but I do hope that he returns as the character of Kowalski in the future films.
  • Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein was great too. I liked the fact that we got to explore a sorta new (mentioned in HP 5) skill of magic – Legilimency – through her character. Sudol is an alternative singer-songwriter, but I was fascinated by her acting abilites too – she portrayed Queenie as a very loveable and free-spirited character, in a realistic and natural way.

BIG SPOILER WARNING

  • Ezra Miller as Credence Barebone. I didn’t predict the reveal concerning his character and I was led to believe that the Obscurial would turn out to be his siter. Nevertheless, his performance was great – I love the facts that Miller can play such weird and closed-off characters, but also be able to embody super likeable and extroverted characters like the Flash (based on the Justice League trailer). I also like the fact that he brings his indie acting skills and makes them work in a mainstream film.
  • Colin Farrell as Percival Graves. I loved Farrell in the role and, as I said, I would not have seen the big reveal if I wasn’t looking for it. I really hope that the filmmakers find a way to bring back Farrell as the real Percival Graves. If not, well then at least we can watch him in other pictures – I still need to check out the highly praised The Lobster.
  • AND The Big Reveal and The Biggest Spoiler …..as speculated online, Johnny Depp is playing Grindelwald and he did have a cameo appearance and a few lines to say in this movie. He looked a bit different than I imagined Grindelwald to be but I am open to Depp proving me wrong since I still believe that he is a great actor, despite the all the mishaps. Now, moving forward, the crucial decision to make for the filmmakers is who to cast as Dumbledore? Grindewald/Dumbledore relationship is super complicated and will obviously be imporatnt in the future films, so the actor that will take on this role not only has to do Dumbledore justice but also have to able to hold his own againt Depp.

SPOILERS END HERE

In short, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is an amazing return to the magical world that should please both the fans (it satisfied me) but should also interest the non-fans as well as people who are new to the franchise (if there are any left, though). The story is fantastic, the acting is great (the cast is full of both movie stars and smaller talent), and the visuals are superb. I’m very much looking forward to another decade of magic!

Rate: 4.9/5

Trailer: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them trailer

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Movie review: Florence Foster Jenkins 

Movie reviews

Good morning/day/evening!

Although the awards’ season doesn’t fully start until the late fall, some potential awards contenders have already had their premieres. I was lucky enough to attend one of such screenings, so, let’s talk about a movie that could possibly get some high brow nominations just because of who is involved in it, both in front and behind the camera. This is the review of Florence Foster Jenkins.

IMDb summary: The story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, despite having a terrible singing voice.

Writing

Florence Foster Jenkins was written by a TV screenwriter Nicholas Martin. This British comedy was based on a quite fascinating true story. The film mainly focused on its titular character, so the writing for the movie was essentially the writing for a specific character.

Florence Foster Jenkins is not a character or an actual person that anyone can like but that anyone can be intrigued by. She was a sweet eccentric. The first act of the film kinda made her into a laughable caricature – a singer that didn’t know that she couldn’t sing. However, the following two acts really added depth to her character and showed that she was actually a caring, friendly and generous individual that had been hurt in the past but didn’t allow these past troubles to define her. Of course, these positive appearances and the optimistic aura were only kept up because she was sheltered from all criticism. Moreover, nobody ever said no to her. Was that because she was sick or because she was rich? The cynic in me is leaning towards the second option but I really do hope that Florence had people in her life, who were taking caring of her out of the goodness of their hearts and not out of the emptiness of their pockets.

I, as a realist/pessimist, don’t think that being exposed to only good things is beneficial to anyone. However, it was advantageous to Florence – she lived her dream and died in it. She might haven’t known how to sing but nobody can’t say that she didn’t sing. I haven’t seen many films who presented music and life in a way that Florence Foster Jenkins did.

Directing

The film was directed by Stephen Frears, who previously directed such pictures as 2006’s awards contender and winner The Queen, 2013’s awards’ contender Philomena and last year’s Lance Armstrong biopic The Program. I wouldn’t be surprised if Florence Foster Jenkins gets a few nominations as well because it is a solid comedy with a very specific atmosphere. This atmosphere will either make you hate or love the movie. Basically, the movie Florence Foster Jenkins was oversaturated with poshness and aristocratic and rich aura. The sense of entitlement and high-class privilege were also abundant. This whole thing was quite laughable in today’s time or in any time for that matter. Since I don’t come from a background like this, that whole affair made me chuckle more than a couple of times. That’s why I think that Florence is a picture for a very specific audience, which is hard to define. If you come from a middle-class background, you will either love the movie and laugh a lot or you will hate it and be offended by it. I wonder how would the viewers from the upper class feel about it – would they see themselves on screen and love it? Or would they see this film as making fun of them?

As I have mentioned, I laughed a lot during this film. Not only did the actual singing scenes and the whole atmosphere were both funny – the reaction shots of the other characters were hilarious as well. Florence Foster Jenkins was both a feel-good and a heartbreaking movie that made me laugh and then put a sad smile on my face. It was nicely tied up with the photos of the real-life Florence during the credits.

Acting

Meryl Streep, of course, is the main awards’ whisperer for this film. She has been nominated for an Oscar 19 times and has won 3 times, the last one being in 2012. I would not be surprised if she gets another nomination because she was is magnificent in the film. It was very interesting to see arguably the best actress of this and the previous generation playing the role  of a terrible actress/singer. My first introduction to Streep as a performer was in the movie musical Mamma Mia – my favorite guilty pleasure film. In the past few years, she has gone back to this genre, with 2014’s Into The Woods, 2015’s Ricki and the Flash and now with Florence Foster Jenkins. Streep has also proved everyone that she can pick any role she likes and just nail it. I also think that if anybody else would have played Florence in this feature, I would have been super annoyed by her as a character. However, Streep added a lot of emotional depth to a seemingly vain caricature and actually made me care about Florence and her first world problems.

Hugh Gran starred as Florence’s last husband St Clair Bayfield. Their relationship was extremely interesting. Throughout the movie, I couldn’t fully figure out if St Clair and their whole friend circle were gold-diggers or did they actually cared about Florence? St Clair did have a girlfriend on a side but he was also always there for Florence – even on her death bed, so there are arguments both for and against the matter. A few of Grant’s films that I have been watching lately were Sense and Sensibility from the 90s as well as the last summer’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. He also has co-starred in one of my favorite films of all time – Cloud Atlas.

The last main member of the cast – the pianist Cosmé McMoon was played by Simon Helberg. His reaction faces were both super awkward and marvelous. The way he was trying not to laugh was also amazing. I felt that the character of Cosmé was a stand-in for the viewer in the picture. The actor who played this role – Simon Helberg – is a talented TV comedian that has been part of the critically acclaimed The Big Bang Theory since 2007. 

In short, Florence Foster Jenkins was an extremely entertaining film that also made me think. I still have conflicting feelings about it and its narrative. I do wish that somebody would have told Florence the truth but, at the same time, I am happy that nobody did it and that she was allowed to live happily and freely as long as possible.

Rate: 4,5/5

Trailer: Florence Foster Jenkins trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Genius

Movie reviews

Hello!

Before Star Trek Beyond, Jason Bourne, and Ghostbusters all roll into theaters, let’s review a smaller film – a historical British drama – Genius.

IMDb summary: A chronicle of Max Perkins’s time as the book editor at Scribner, where he oversaw works by Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others.

  1. I have told you many times that I’m a fan of British contemporary cinema, so I was really excited to see its newest creation. Moreover, I am an English literature student, so the picture’s topic peaked my interest even more. The authors of The Lost Generation are among my favorites, including Hemingway and Fitzgerald. However, I have to admit that, before seeing this film, I was not familiar with the works of Thomas Wolfe. I don’t think that he is as famous as the other two writers, whose works were edited by Perkins. Maybe the length of the novels or their hard subject matter are to blame or maybe I’m just making stuff up. Either way, after seeing and enjoying Genius, I will definitely try reading Look Homeward, Angel as well as Of Time and The River.
  2. Genius’s script was written by John Logan (who is responsible for masterpieces such as Gladiator, The Aviator and Hugo and other pictures like Skyfall and Spectre), based on a book/a true story Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg. I did enjoy the writing for the film but I also had problems with it. Nevertheless, if these so called problems or gripes that I had with the plot are historically accurate, I don’t really have a right to complain. I liked the juxtaposition of the rational editor vs. the passionate writer. I enjoyed the literature references (‘War and Nothing?’) as well as the hints to the broader discussion of family vs. career and originality vs. self-discipline. The ideas regarding the role of the editor were also interesting – I do find the question whether the editor changes the book or makes it better rather interesting. In addition, whether the editor should be a ghost in the shadows or a visible part of the book, are both intriguing concepts to explore. The biggest problem/gripe I had with the writing was the character development – I felt that I did not find out enough about any of them and I also always felt that the bodies on screen were characters and not real people who have come to life. This might be the fault of the actors or the direction that the director took.
  3. Speaking about directing, this was the cinematic directorial debut for a Tony-winning  theater director Michael Grandage. I think that he allowed or asked the actors to go a bit over the top – the overacting was obvious. The color palette of the film was weird as well – neither colorful nor colorless – just kinda bland. I wish he would have made a clearer and stronger statement with the visuals, as he should be very skilled in that aspect, having worked with limited spaces of the stage. I also wish that he would have used the setting of Tthe Jazz Era and The Great Depression a bit more – both of these cultural and social epochs were only hinted at in a few scenes. The editing was also kinda uneven – some scenes ended without being resolved or fully explored. I did enjoy the montage where the characters were editing the second book – it was an efficient filmmaking technique, plot-wise. In the  end, I did enjoy the film but didn’t get enough info from it. Then again, it’s a biographical drama and not a documentary.
  4. The main roles of the film were played by Colin Firth (King’s Speech, Kingsman, Magic in the Moonlight) as Maxwell Perkins and Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes, Anna Karenina, Road to Perditionas Thomas Wolfe. I liked their performances, though questioned the slight overacting that Law did. The again, Wolfe was a passionate and energetic person. Nonetheless, the lack of energy on Firth’s side and the too much of everything on Law’s side made them into an odd pair. But maybe that was the point – they had contrasting personalities, but their friendship, although complex, difficult and straining, was indeed transformative and rewarding. However, the question remains, would Wolfe have succeeded without Perkins? He talked about legacy and he even blamed Perkins for changing his manuscripts too much, but they did remain friends until Wolfe’s death.
  5. Other supporting roles were  played by Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge!, The Hours, The Paperboy) as Aline Bernstein, Dominic West (Testament of Youth, Money Monster) as Ernest Hemingway, Guy Pearce (Memento, Iron Man 3) as F. Scott Fitzgerald. I didn’t like Kidman’s character at all – Bernstein was portrayed as quite a jealous and stereotypical woman. The scene with the gun was way too much. The again, maybe Bernstein was such a person. West’s portrayal of Hemingway was great – although he only had a single scene, his ironic lines about Wolfe were marvelous. The scenes with Pearce were also great – I really liked the juxtaposition of Fitzgerald and Wolfe.

In short, Genius, sadly, was not a genial film.  I think that fans of English/American literature will enjoy, while casual cinema goers won’t miss out on much if they skip it.

Rate: 3,5/5

Trailer: Genius trailer

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Movie review: Far from the Madding Crowd

Movie reviews

Hello!

Let’s take a break from big summer blockbusters and Hollywood comedies and review a British independent film Far from the Madding Crowd, which might be an awards contender later this year.

To begin with, I would like to admit that I am a huge fan of British classical literature, I especially adore the novels and the authors from the late Romantic Period/Victorian Era. (I’m currently reading Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte). I also really enjoy movies made in the UK and made by the people living there. I feel like they are very refreshing and a nice break from Hollywood. I tend to watch a lot of motion pictures that come from Hollywood, so it’s nice to squeeze in a refresher once in a while. (I limit myself to these 2 countries (UK and US) because I know English language the best out of all foreign languages). In short, to my mind, British films have a unique style and an extraordinary view on the world, which I really admire.

Despite the fact that I would consider myself to be a book nerd, I haven’t actually read the Thomas Hardy’s novel Far from the Madding Crowd before going to see the film. I usually try to read the book before watching the movie but the circumstances worked against me this time. However, I have already got this book from the library and I am eager to read it. In addition, this is not the first time when Hardy’s novel is adapted into the motion picture – this is the 4th film based on this classical book. 

IMDb summary: In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor.

Visual appeal

Victorian England is one of my favorite historical eras, so I really loved the setting and simple but beautiful decorations of this film. Most of the action took place in a rural area which had amazing and breathtaking scenery of nature. The costumes and the hairstyles were also magnificent and true to the historical facts as far as I know.

Directing 

The film is directed by a Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg. Sadly, I am not familiar with his work but I really liked what he did in this movie. The cut-to-black transition seemed a bit abrupt sometimes, but they worked well other times, so maybe he should have cut the number of those and revisited their placement. The film’s screenplay was written by David Nicholls – an English novelist and screenwriter. This is not Nicholls’s first time working with classical literature as the main source. He wrote quite a few screenplay’s for BBC adapting Dickens’s, Bronte’s and even Shakespeare’s works to the small screen.

Acting

This movie has a pretty well know and accomplished cast:

Carey Mulligan star as the main character Bathsheba Everdene. I loved how Bathsheba was a strong, independent woman but was still able to be soft on the inside. She was a hopeless romantic and made mistakes in the name of love, but always went back to being a powerful, intelligent and free – an extraordinary occurrence when you considered the time that she lived in. I really enjoyed Mulligan’s performance. Although, my favorite role of hers is still the one in Never Let Me Go – another small British film – a dystopian romance with Keira Knightley and ex-Spider-man Andrew Garfield. Carey was also really good in The Great Gatsby as Daisy. No matter how much you hate the character of Daisy, you cannot not to admit that Mulligan is amazing in that role. Also, as an author and youtuber John Green has said in a Crash Course video on The Great Gatsby – you don’t have to like the character to enjoy the story. Anyway, I went off topic, let’s go back.

Matthias Schoenaerts plays Gabriel Oak – one of 3 love interest of Bathsheba. Gabriel was the most like-able character of the film. His intentions were always pure, his actions – selfless and his words – always truthful. Matthias Schoenaerts did a really nice job. The only other movie of his that I saw was The Loft (the remake version) which I enjoyed, although everybody hated it. I’m interested to see the original Loft where Schoenaerts  plays the same role as in the remake.

Michael Sheen plays William Boldwood – the character who receives the saddest and the most undeserving end. Although, Michael Sheen is a very famous and established actor, I was introduced to him in the Twilight movies. Don’t judge, I was a 12 year old once too. Although, the Volturi family was the best part of that franchise, so maybe it’s not that bad that recognized him from there. I at least know who he is right? Let’s move on.

Tom Sturridge was Sergeant Frank Troy – the last of the love interests. It took me some time to get pass his mustache but his charisma turned him into a definite scene-stealer. Though you could sense that he was bad news, you couldn’t resist him, his smile or his witty tongue.

Juno Temple stared as Fanny Robin – a character who also got an undeserving end. I feel like she was the opposite of Bathsheba – a weaker woman, who depended way too much on the man, Frank Toy to be precise, and, as a result – ended up the way she did (NO SPOILERS). But you can’t really blame her – she was a prisoner of her era and a convict of the circumstances. I would love to see more of actress’s Juno Temple’s work. I have only seen a few movies that she was in and she had really minor roles in those. 2013 Chilean-American psychological thriller Magic Magic seems to be the best option for those, who want to really see what this actress can do.

Music

This movie features a song by Carey Mulligan and Michael Sheen, which I really enjoyed and listened quite a few times outside the cinema. You are welcomed to hear it here: Let No Man Steal Your Thyme. I also really loved the opening and closing instrumental tracks as well as the Far From the Madding Crowd Love Theme. You can find all the soundtrack here.

All in all, I really enjoyed this film for many reason, which are stated above in my review. I would love to see this film getting some attention during the awards season, although it is unlikely for that to happen. Anyway, it wins my own personal Oscar, which is much better that any Academy Award or Golden Globe.

Rate 5/5

Trailer: Far From the Madding Crowd trailer

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