Movie review: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword 

Movie reviews

Hello!

I’m still playing catch up with the summer movies, so let’s review a picture that some people (small numbers of them as it tanked at the box office) saw last month. It’s King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword.

IMDb summary: Robbed of his birthright, Arthur comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city. But once he pulls the sword from the stone, he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy – whether he likes it or not.

A few general thoughts on the background of the movie: 1. I’m actually a fan of the 2004’s version of King Arthur. It used to be one of my favorite nonanimated childhood movies and the archery sequence on the lake combined with Lord of the Rings: Two Towers final battle were two reasons why I took up archery. 2. While the trailers for the film looked fine, I never expected it to succeed at the box office or to turn a big profit. Neither the two leads are big box office draws, nor is the mythology that the film is based on a hot property. So, bearing that in mind, who, the hell, approved a $175 million budget for this picture?

Writing

2017’s King Arthur’s screenplay was credited to the director Guy Ritchie, producer of HP films Lionel Wigram, and, the writer of the new Robin Hood and The Flash movies, Joby Harold. The Judge’s director David Dobkin contributed to the story as well. In general, the writing was of mixed quality. I thought that the narrative (broadly speaking) was fairly straightforward (an hour of Arthur being called into action, and another hour of him attempting to defeat Jude Law’s character), however, the details within the story were really convoluted and even confused (there was too much happening at once).

Thematically, the concepts of egoism and power were suitably touched upon. The ending teases of the round table and all the knights were also pleasant. Other than that, since I don’t know much of King Arthur mythology from the legends, I can’t comment on the stuff they did or didn’t use.

The script also made a lot of interesting choices with the characters. For example, Arthur was written as a witty, talkative and borderline cocky individual – all these ideas are in opposition to the Arthur I’ve alway imagined – serious, reserved, yet quietly proud (basically, the 2004’s movie’s version). Still, overall, I was quite pleased with a different take on a character. I have also seen a lot of complaints online about the female characters of this film, mostly the lack of them. I can definitely see where these people are coming from – a few female characters that are introduced are either sacrificed, portrayed as obese or sexualized tentacled mermaids or are used for decoration purposes. And yet, the main mage character was also a female and she did shine in the movie and displayed her powers (really vaguely defined ones) in a spectacular fashion. The informant female character did not have much to do but at least she was present. Hers and Jude Law’s characters interactions were actually quite neat.

Directing, Editing and the Soundtrack

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’s and RDJ’s Sherlock Holmes’s director Guy Ritchie helmed King Arthur and did an okay job. The high fantasy medieval setting (which I’m a fan of) was realized quite well (I’m a sucker for the combination of good historical costumes, sword fights, archery, and magic). The epic scope of the film was also worthy of praise. However, the mediocre CGI was quite infuriating, especially in the movie that cost this much to produce. The action scenes – filmed in a video game-like close-ups and slow motion – could have been better too.

The elements of the film, which are the most discussion worthy, were editing and sound design/mixing. The soundtrack on its own (by Daniel Pemberton) was really good and it was, at times, inventively paired with the visuals. However, some combos of image and music did not work. However, even in the bad combos, the song choices weren’t as unfitting as they were in Suicide Squad. A lot of these combination sequences were edited in a music video style – a lot of jump cuts, short snippets of dialogue, and a fast pace. On their own, these sequences seemed quite unique and entertaining (their explosive energy was amazing). However, when these quick sequences were followed by long, drawn-out scenes of people sitting and talking, the final effect turned out to be quite jarring and the whole film – uneven.

 

Acting

  • The two leads of the film were played by Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law. I really liked Hunnam in the titular role and would love to see him getting more cinematic roles but I doubt that that will happen, due to the poor box office of this picture. He previously played the lead in the Pacific Rim and a supporting part in Crimson Peak. The Lost City of Z is his other 2017 release. Jude Law’s (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Genius, Anna Karenina) performance, to my mind, was the best part of this film. He looked good (his armor was basically the silver version of Dominic Cooper’s armor in Warcraft) and he seemed menacing. In the final battle, I would have rather seen him fighting in the said armor rather than a generic CGI monster (his evil form). I also thought that the announcement of Law as the Young Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts sequel will give this movie a boost and some free promo but it doesn’t seem like the said casting news helped much or at all.
  • The two female characters were played by theFrenchh-Spanish actress Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey from Pirates 4 and by The Mummy’s Annabelle Wallis. I really enjoyed the cool and collected performance of Bergès-Frisbey.
  • King Arthur also employed the talents of two GOT actors that can’t seem to espace the middle ages – Aidan Gillen (Baelish) and Michael McElhatton (Bolton). Gillen (who was also recently in Sing Street) did a good job and I could see shades of Baelish in his performance, while McElhatton’s role was just slightly bigger than a cameo.
  • Another two actors, whose involvememnt is worthy of mention, were Djimon Hounsou (Guardians, The Legend of Tarzan) and Eric Bana (The Finest Hours). They both did a fine job with their limited screeentime.

In short, King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword was, to my mind, not as bad as everyone said. The filmmakers made some weird choices with the editing and music (at least they tried something different) and did overcomplicate the plot which lacked (sort of) female characters, and yet, I was still pretty entertained by the final product.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword

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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: 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: Me Before You

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another film review of the summer. This time, we are talking about Me Before You – a book-turned-movie, whose story can shortly be described as The Intouchables meets The Fault In Our Stars.

IMDb summary: A girl in a small town forms an unlikely bond with a recently-paralyzed man she’s taking care of.

First of all, let me explain that comparison. Me Before You reminded me of The Intouchables in that both films had unlikely pairs, consisting of two very different, even opposing individuals. TFIOS and Me Before You are obviously similar in that they both showcase sad but hopeful love stories, which are cut short by health problems. In addition, both TFIOS and Me Before You are coming-of-age narratives. Their characters learn to live boldly, step out of their comfort zones and seize the day and, hopefully, spread this message to the viewers.

Writing: Book to Movie Changes and Jokes

Me Before You (the book) was written by Jojo Moyes and she also wrote the screenplay for the cinematic adaptation. So, not surprisingly, there were not any big changes to the story. A few minor things were left out of the film, but nothing too major or surprising. Almost all of the dialogue or at least the majority of the lines came straight from the book, so, since I’ve only recently finished the novel, I knew what the characters would say even before they opened their mouths.

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10 small changes:

  1. Will’s sister Georgina did not appear in the film. She didn’t do anything significant in the book, just stood in the corner and looked angry, so I can definitely see why they chose not to include her.
  2. Will’s dad was not cheating on his wife, at least we’re not told that. Will’s parents didn’t get on well because of Will’s desire to die and that is the same way in the book.
  3. Lou’s family also did not get much attention in the film, definitely less than in the book.
  4. Lou and her sister Treena had a much better relationship in the film than in the book.
  5. Lou’s age was changed from 27 to 26, Will’s – from 35 to 31.
  6. Lou’s had a chance to study in Manchester in the film, while in the book, she had tickets to Australia. She stayed in her hometown in both versions.
  7. Lou’s backstory with the maze and the events that happened there was not included in the film version of the story.
  8. Will’s love of classical music was not explicit. He enjoyed the concert that they went to, but he was also seen listening to dub-step(ish) music in his room.
  9. The tickets to the concert were purchased by Lou in the film, while they were a gift from Will’s friend in the book.
  10. Lou didn’t move in with Patrick in the film, while she briefly did that in the book. Patrick also didn’t know about Will’s wish to end his life, so he didn’t tell anyone this secret as he did in the book. Thus, all the journalists, who were trying to get Lou’s side of the story, when Will went to Switzerland, were not present in the film.

The film was a lot funnier than the book, although the jokes were the same. I guess there is a big difference between reading/imagining the joke and actually seeing/hearing it on screen.

Ending (SPOILER-Y PART)

Both the film’s and the book’s ending were the same. Will choose assisted suicide in Switzerland. It is quite a controversial ending, because euthanasia is such a difficult topic. I also have mixed feelings about it. I applaud the book and the movie for having such a bold ending and for sticking to the topic of individual choice till the end. At the same time, the ending is too sad and depressing to be truly enjoyable.

Directing: Montages, MES, and Favorite scenes

Me Before You was directed by a theater director Thea Sharrock and this was her cinematic debut. I think she did quite a nice job, I only wish she would have stopped Emilia Clarke’s over-dramatization in a few scenes. I liked the two montages – the one who showed the start of the relationship as well as Lou’s learning/planning experience. The opening of the film was also quite quick and condensed – they went over the first 100 pages of the book in 10 minutes or less. Sharrock also included a visual presentation of Will’s life before the accident in that birthday video, which was a good idea, because it gave the viewers more context which, in the book, was given through textual exposition. I also really liked the shots of the scenery – the castle – as well as the fact that they stayed faithful to Lou’s fashion sense from the book. Those bumblebee tights were definitely cute.

My 3 favorite scenes were Lou’s and Will dialogue on the beach. It was really sad but not TFIOS Eulogies sequence sad. The even more emotional scene was their last interaction in Switzerland. That one really got people crying in my screening. Lou’s and Will ‘dance’ at the wedding was also amazing to see.

Music

The film had an excellent soundtrack by Craig Armstrong, who has also recently scored another British romantic drama – Far from the Madding Crowd. I especially like the usage of Ed Sheeran’s songs – Thinking Out Loud and Photograph as well as Don’t Forget About Me by Cloves and Not Today by Imagine Dragons.

Acting

  • Emilia Clarke as Louisa Clark. This was probably the first time that I shared a name (or at least a nickname( with a fictional character. Louisa shortens her name to Lou and I also do that with my name, especially when living abroad, in the UK. Having said that, my and Lou’s similarities end there and yet, I still felt connected to the character. In a few scenes, Emilia Clarke was over-acting a bit too much – Lou was supposed to be awkward but not in a cheesy way –  but overall, she did a nice job. I especially liked her facial expression the concert scenes – so happy just to be there and hear live music, probably for the first time. Last year, Clarke starred in the god awful Terminator Genisys and she was definitely the best part of that film. Her best performance to date is, of course, playing Daenerys on Game of Thrones. Next film on Emilia’s resume – another romantic drama – Voice from the Stone.
  • Sam Claflin as Will Traynor. Claflin is one of my favorite actors since his brief appearance in Pirates of the Carribean 4, live-action Snow White and later on in The Hunger Games series. Recently, he also starred in another romantic drama – Love, Rosie. He was great as Will – a likable a**hole, at least at the beginning. I also liked his facial expression at the concert – showing so many emotions at once and yet not too much. In addition, I think that Claflin did a nice job acting as a person with disabilities a.k.a. not being able to move but still performing/acting. Next on Claflin’s list of films – also a romantic movie, but this time a comedy – Their Finest.
  • Janet McTeer as Camilla Traynor and Charles Dance (Dracula Untold) as Steven Traynor did a good job with the few scenes they had. Seeing Dance and Clarke on screen together was pretty weird, though, after knowing their characters on GOT.
  • Brendan Coyle as Bernard Clark and Samantha Spiro as Josie Clark were also both really good. I liked seeing Coyle getting some work now that Downton Abbey is over. I especially liked his conversation with Lou in her bedroom.
  • Jenna Coleman as Katrina Clark was really charming in the film. Lou’s sister was quite annoying the book, but that, thankfully, was not carried over to the film. Coleman has a cult fanbase because she played a companion of Doctor Who on Doctor Who. I have yet to watch that show.
  • Matthew Lewis as Patrick. The last movie starring Lewis that I’ve seen was probably Harry Potter 8, so it was quite weird seeing him in Me Before You. He did a nice job portraying the Running Man and made him appear less of an a**hole than he seemed to be in the book. He wasn’t a great boyfriend, but then again, Lou should have ended things with him long ago.
  • Steve Peacocke as Nathan was also a great supporting actor. I liked his few interactions with Lou and I wish we would have seen him in a couple more scenes with Will, because in the book, they are quite good friends and like to bet on stuff that Lou will or won’t do.

All in all, Me Before You was an extremely faithful adaptation of a great book. It’s a romantic drama, so I don’t think that it’s everyone’s cup of tea, but the fans of the genre should definitely enjoy the movie. The writing and directing are good as well as the acting for the most part. I really enjoyed the film, although, I loved the book a tiny bit more.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Me Before You trailer

P.S. If you would like to follow Lou’s story, I suggest you read After You –  a sequel written by the author of the first book and the film’s screenplay.

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Movie review: Suffragette

Movie reviews

Hello!

One of the good things about living in the UK is getting British films early. However, nowadays, finding time to review them is pretty problematic. So, in honor of Suffragette’s limited release in the US (a week later), let’s review it!

IMDb summary: The foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State.

Feelings

Personally, I get really angry when watching movies about minority rights. Although, I should not call women a minority, since we inhabit half of the world. Anyway, Suffragette, like 12 Years a Slave, Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom, The Butler, and a plethora of other movies, angered me in a good kind of way – in a way that makes you want to do something with your life and change the world for the better. For this reason, I believe that everyone should watch Suffragette. In addition, I appreciate movie industry’s efforts to bring important issues to the forefront. How many people would actually research historical facts themselves? But when you put the same story into a visual media format, it instantly gets more attention.

Story&Writing

The film’s script was written by Abi Morgan – a British playwright and screenwriter. I have not seen her previous films, but would love to check them out someday, when I have time to do that. I believe that she did justice to this story. I would like to discuss a few plot points:

  1. The thing that really added a lot of flame into my overall angry/inspired physiological state after watching the film was the male characters. And not the ones who were actual douche bags. The main character’s husband was a terrible person. He acted like a victim and then just gave his son away. Even the detective, who was trying to stop Suffragette movement was a more likable character since he at least could justify his actions by saying that he was only trying to enforce the law (though, the law was definitely wrong that time). But the husband, who should have been supportive, was a complete disappointment. The film did a great job of reversing the roles of male characters and playing upon the viewers’ (or at least my) expectations.
  2. The movie also portrayed the fact that not all women wanted to fight for the cause. And while I disagree with their decision, I still believe that they were entitled to choose. I have already explained to you that I believe in feminism (contemporary way of fighting for women’s rights) as a choice when I reviewed Cinderella. Also, I have recently studied lots of fairy-tales in my English course at university and definitely realized that these stories are not as black and white as one might think.
  3. I loved how the film portrayed Suffragettes as a group. Although the movie focused a lot on one individual, you could still sense that she was a part of something bigger.
  4. Lastly, the end credits included the list of historical dates when women received voting rights in various countries. And sadly, some of the dates were not past but present ones. This just shows that the fight is not over and we have a long way to go. The film’s narrative also portrayed the idea of a long fight: the film was set in 1912 and the actual voting rights in the UK were received only in 1918 (partly) and in 1928 (fully). Other countries established equal voting even later.

Directing&Visuals

Suffragette was directed by Sarah Gavron who had her start making documentaries and later transitioned into narrative films. It is not really surprising that this film was made by a female director since it tackles women’s issues. However, I am really happy that it was directed by a woman, because I do not think that a male voice could have brought this story to live in a proper way. Although, I am not the kind of movie goer who pays a lot of attention to gender, race or skin color of a director, screenwriter or an actor and I believe in absolute equality, I still think that some individuals can tackle some issues better than others. I love how I contradict myself in the same sentence. Eh, what the heck: we can have ‘to each their own’ and ‘everything to all’ in the 21st century.

Talking about the visual aspects of the film, I have to admit that I did not really noticed them since the narrative was so strong. It overpowered both the Mise-En-Scene and Cinematography or it would be better to say that all three elements worked in perfect unison to create a flawless continuity. On a side note, some scenes for the film were filmed in the actual Houses of Parliament! 

Acting

  • Carey Mulligan as Maud Watts was a great leading lady. Her on-screen transition was simultaneously heartbreaking and empowering. Mulligan did a great job. I am a fan of hers – especially loved her last film – Far From The Madding Crowd – where she also played a strong female in a male world in a slightly different (earlier) period. She has also previously worked with the screenwriter of Suffragette in 2011’s Shame.
  • Helena Bonham Carter as Edith Ellyn was also amazing as one would expect. I became a fan of hers back when she was in Harry Potter films, but I also really loved The King’s Speech, Les Miserables and Alice, which she also has starred in. Interesting fact, according to Wikipedia, Bonham Carter is the great-granddaughter of H. H. Asquith, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1908–16, the prime years of the suffrage movement, which he opposed. Great granddaughter is going against her great granddad’s will – props to her.
  • Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst was also a nice addition to the cast. However, I can definitely understand why a lot of people were angry about the false advertisement. Streep had one scene/speech in the film and one encounter with our main character and while she definitely played an important figure of the movement (the leader), she should not have been put on the poster of the film. I would not even call her a supporting actress in this film, at best it was a cameo appearance.
  • Natalie Press as Emily Davison. Interestingly, I was not familiar with this actress only a few weeks ago, but then we watched the short film Wasp by Andrea Arnold in the film class. I really enjoyed that short movie, which portrayed raw social realism realistically. It was one of Press’s early films and she was great back then and is still a great actress now. She should have had that 3rd spot on the poster because of that spoiler-y reason at the end.
  • The cast also included Anne-Marie Duff as Violet Miller. I loved the contrast between her’s and Mulligan’s characters: one was becoming more fearless and independent, while another had to lose her independence for, again, a spoiler-y reason.
  • The two males of the film, whose stories I have already discussed were played by Brendan Gleeson (the detective) and Ben Whishaw (the husband). Previously, I have only seen Gleeson in Harry Potter films as well as in Edge of Tomorrow and Stonehearts Asylum. He will also star in In the Heart of Sea later this year. Speaking about Whishaw, I am a fan of his since Cloud Atlas, so it was quite weird to not like him as a character because he usually plays very likeable ones. He will also star in In the Heart of Sea, which comes out on Christmas, but we will also see him in Spectre next week. He will also be in The Danish Girl – another quite controversial film, which I can’t wait for. Whishaw sure is having a busy 2015.

All in all, Suffragette was a great movie about an important issue. While it might not be an entertaining film to watch, it is definitely an important one. This historical and, at the same time, very recent story was brought to life by amazing on screen performances and splendid off screen work.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Suffragette trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Testament of Youth

Movie reviews

Hello!

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

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

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

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

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Testament of Youth trailer

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