Movie review: Life

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of the annual space movie. For the year 2017, it’s Life.

Life follows in the vein of the sci-fi space films, like 2013’s Gravity, 2014’s Interstellar, 2015’s The Martian, and, I guess, 2016’s Passengers. It’s also kinda similar to the earlier pictures, such as 2009’s Moon and 2007’s Sunshine. Life is the most similar to the last one because both films feature diverse groups of astronauts stuck on a space ship and have horror/slasher elements in addition to the sci-fi themes.

IMDb summary: A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form, that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

Writing

Life was written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (the duo previously co-wrote Zombieland and Deadpool). Story wise, the movie was not the most original but the narrative was still interesting and exciting. The two major themes were human intervention and survival. The character development was minimal but there were still a few nice character moments dispersed throughout. In fact, the movie’s main star was the alien – all the set-up focused on it rather than the humans. Life definitely depicted life beyond earth in an old-school way: the creature was instantly violent rather than communicative like the ones in Arrival. Whether the actual alien of this movie was just the rip-off of the Allien, I don’t know. It definitely appeared similar to that one and it was probably a good idea for this film to come out before Allien: Covenant.

In addition to there being some scenes to depict the character’s backgrounds, the picture also had a couple of sequences of the astronauts doing both scientific experiments and publicity for ISS. I really loved those parts and appreciated the fact that the scriptwriters attempted to show a variety of activities done by the astronauts. The ending of the movie was also interesting. I don’t know whether they didn’t explain what actually happened with the pods (how did they switch?) because they are hoping for a sequel or because they wanted to leave it open for speculation/discussion?

Directing

The Swedish director Daniel Espinosa directed Life. This was his second US-based picture, but he has also directed Child 44 in the UK (really enjoyed that one) and made a couple of films in both Denmark and Sweden. I quite liked what he did with Life. The visuals were just absolutely gorgeous and not once did I think that we weren’t in the real ISS. The pacing and the intensity were also great. The horror elements of the action weren’t cheesy either and didn’t rely too much on the jump scares but used the technique of suspense building and the visceral imagery to elicit a reaction. In fact, some of the scenes were quite gruesome and uncomfortable to watch but they were effective so I can’t fault a movie for that. The camera work was also pretty impressive, especially one of the early long shots that seemingly went all through the space station. The alien POV was also a neat effect.

Acting

The film had a very diverse cast for a narrative reason rather than just for a financial one. The astronauts were played by Jake GyllenhaalRebecca FergusonRyan ReynoldsHiroyuki SanadaAriyon Bakare, and Olga Dihovichnaya.

Seeing Gyllenhaal on screen in yet another movie made me realize that he is one of a few actors who is constantly working. He never seems to fall off the radar even if his pictures don’t earn much. A few of his recent films that I enjoyed are Everest, Southpaw, and, especially, Nocturnal Animals. It was also really nice to see Ferguson in yet another American film (she began her career in Sweden, but has already appeared in MI5, Florence Foster Jenkins, and The Girl on The Train) and I’m excited to continue following her career. For Reynolds, this was his first post-Deadpool film and I think that his role in the marketing campaign for Life was expanded because he is the man behind the Merc with a Mouth. The ad campaign led me to believe that he will be an important part of the picture so I was quite surprised with his character’s story arc.

Sanada, weirdly enough, portrayed a character in Life who very closely resembled his character in Sunshine – a movie which I already mentioned in this review because of its and Life’s similar stories. What a coincidence that these films share an actor too. Bakare has mostly done TV work before now, but he also had cameos in big films like Rogue One and The Dark Knight. Lastly, Dihovichnaya is a newcomer to the Western mainstream cinema but is an established actress in Russian-speaking indie cinema market. I hope that her work in Life will provide her with more opportunities in the West.

In short, Life was a well-made space horror flick. It had a great cast and neat, suspenseful action, which will entertain the majority of the cinema -goers, and an open ending for those who appreciate the intellectual layer in their sci-fi.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Life trailer

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Movie review: Suicide Squad

Movie reviews

Hi!

In 2014, on my birthday, I went to the Guardians of the Galaxy premiere. A year later, I celebrated my entry into adulthood (18th birthday) with Ant-Man. Well, today, I’m continuing this tradition and watching a comic book movie – Suicide Squad – on/around my birthday.

The majority of my knowledge about the actual Task Force X comes from the TV series Arrow. I was really disappointed when WB stop allowing Suicide Squad characters to be featured in the Arrowverse because they were making a movie, so all of these iconic characters were killed off like Red Shirts. If you want something to watch to prepare yourself for the film, I suggest Batman: Assault on Arkham animated movie and the Mad Love episode of the Batman TV series. Also, Gotham TV show has a few nice moments involving these characters. Lastly, I’ve read a few issues of the Suicide Squad comics but definitely would love to read some more, so leave your suggestions in the comments.

IMDb summary: A secret government agency recruits imprisoned supervillains to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for clemency.

The reviews, that have been coming in, have been pretty terrible and made me actually terrified to see the film because I desperately wanted it to be good. Sadly, I think we have another BvS situation on our hands. I didn’t hate Batman v Superman when I first saw it but had a lot of problems with it. Since I loved the concept of that film so much I didn’t want to give up on it, so I watched the Ultimate Edition and absolutely loved it. Suicide Squad feels like a BvS theatrical version – it is missing a ton of stuff that has been cut, including a lot of scenes showed in the trailers, so we will probably see another version of this film released in a near future.

David Ayer

David Ayer has only directed 5 feature-length pictures before he undertook the Suicide Squad project. For the most part, his films have been both critically and commercially successful, except the flop of Sabotage. Nevertheless, Ayer has shown that he can create intense action sequences in limited spaces (Fury and End of Watch). He has also demonstrated his writing skills – just listen to the Training Day’s dialogue – it’s snappy, funny and has a message. Until now, Ayer has made small-scale, more intimate, character-driven films (e.g. Fury – a group of soldiers stuck in a tank, End of Watch – 2 police officers in a car). Suicide Squad is his biggest film to date both cast-wise, story-wise, and budget-wise.

Sadly, I really think that David Ayer should have brought in an additional screenwriter or a co-director because I believe that he bit off more than he could chew. The actual writing on the film was fine but its execution and presentation on screen lacked quality. Moreover, the editing was all over the place again, like with the Batman v Superman.

SPOILER ALERT

The characters

The picture had way too many characters and didn’t give all of them enough of backstory or if it did give the characters some development, it did it in a rushed and really tacked-on way. Deadshot and Harley received the majority of development – Waller just basically told the viewer about them and there were also a few montages of flashbacks. The same happened with Rick Flag and June Moone, the only difference was that they received even less of any actual development. Captain’s Boomerang’s and Killer Croc’s backstories were mostly skipped. Slipknot was only there to be killed off, so no one even bothered to introduce him in any interesting way. Katana felt like an after-thought and didn’t have anything significant to do either, but at least she wasn’t an actual member of the squad, so at least that allowed her to stand out. The only character, whose development seemed to be organic and came out of the story, was El Diablo – he had an emotional monolog in the middle of the story.  I was also surprised by how quickly the Squad became friends or maybe they were just acting that way?

We also had two cameos: Batman appeared in Deadshot’s and Harley’s backstories, while The Flash – in Captain Boomerang’s. The Joker was also in a film – I really liked him as an updated modern gangsta, with a great fashion sense and a lot of sex appeal – and felt that he had a place in Harley’s backstory. However, his appearance in the present day was so-so. He showed up, did some stuff and went away again. And then popped up at the end, again. Didn’t make much sense.

I think that the main character of the Suicide Squad film was probably Amanda Waller – she had the most scenes and an actual place in the plot. The picture also had another soldier character, played by a sort-of well-known actor, but, given that that character’s part in the narrative was minimal, I think the role could have been played by anyone.

I was kinda worried that the movie wouldn’t be able to handle all of its characters, but really hoped that it would find a way to do it, but, sadly, my worries came true. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Harley’s and Joker’s scenes, I loved Rick’s and June’s scenes, I liked seeing Deadshot with his daughter – all of these elements were brilliant separately, but their organization and the way they were put together was just off. The whole first act felt like a big rushed montage, consisting of non-related 10 seconds long scenes, that was just cramming information left and right, without having any cohesion or flow.

So, let’s talk more about those character moments I liked:

Firstly, Joker’s and Harley’s relationship – I loved how it was changed during its transition from the comics to the big screen. Yes, their relationship was still abusive, obsessive and just plain crazy. But, it was not longer one sided – Joker actually seemed to care about Harley, as he should, since he was the one who made her crazy. I loved their moment in the helicopter but, unfortunately, it was cut short. The subtle hints at a possible Harley’s, Joker’s and Deadshot’s love triangle were also there. I would actually love to see this idea portrayed on the big screen. I usually hate love triangles in films because they tend to be extremely cliche, however, when the people involved in the love triangle are a nutjob, a crazy former psychiatrist and a criminal who can’t miss – I’m on board.

Secondly, June Moone’s and Rick Flag’s relationship was nice and I also liked the fact that, when June turned into Enchantress, who became the big bad of the film, at least one member of the squad had personal reasons to go after her/the villain. This made the final fight more emotional. However, Enchantress’s brother seemed like a weird addition. I don’t really know how I feel about him. He did look very cool visually (Enchantress also looked magnificent) but he kinda appeared out of nowhere. Is he a character from the comic books or an original creation?

Thirdly, I loved the back and forth between Deadshot and Rick Flag. Their inside competition and moments of one-liners were extremely entertaining. Captain Boomerang was also a nice addition because his comic relief was on-point.

Finally, I loved that almost all the characters’ reason to fight was their loved ones: Harley had Joker, Deadshot – his daughter, Rick – June, Katana – her husband, and El Diablo – his dead family

The narrative

The actual ‘quest’ of the movie or the mission that the Suicide Squad had to complete was fine. It wasn’t the most inventive but it did kinda work. However, I didn’t understand while the villain had to use a beam of light to destroy the world AGAIN. I just complained about this in my Ghostbusters review.

The visuals and the action

The action of the picture was fine – there were some nice sequences in the 2nd act and the final fight was cool looking, but there wasn’t anything special. I don’t feel like I have to go see the film again just because that one part was amazing. Also, in addition to investigating the editing choices and their negative effects on the story, I question some of the editing arrangements purely from a visual perspective. The slow-motion to fast-motion thing was fine in a few scenes, but got boring real quick. The color filter was also an interesting choice that didn’t necessarily work .

The character costumes were nice. I loved the look of Enchantress, as I’ve said. Her transition shot with the hand as well as that mirror shot were amazing.  The ‘money shot’ where the whole Squad was walking in the street at the end of the second act was also cool. The bar scene was nice and emotional, although it was missing a few intro shots that we’ve seen in the trailer. The darker tone also worked for the benefit of the film because it was paired with humor.

Lastly, I saw the movie in 3D – it was the first film I saw in 3D in a long time – and didn’t think that it added anything. I never was a fan of 3D, always felt that it was a financial gimmick. Are any of you fans of 3D? Can you recommend me a film that has to be watched with 3D because this effect makes it better?

The music

Suicide Squad’s soundtrack was created by Steven Price (Fury, Gravity). All of the song choices were nice but I don’t think that, on the whole, this collection of songs worked as a soundtrack. In some scenes, the music really added something special, in others – it was just distracting. I feel like they tried to make the soundtrack of the film  a character in its own right, similarly to what Guardians of the Galaxy did. However, I think that the music in Guardians was used more subtly and it at least fit the theme, while Suicide Squad’s songs were from all over the place.

The mid-credits scene

Suicide Squad had one mid-credits scene that involved Bruce Wayne, obtaining information from Waller. This was a nice Justice League set-up: now we know how Batman will able to find other meta-humans. We can see him doing just that in the first trailer for the feature, released during comic-con.

Acting

The whoel cast did a good job portraying their characters. Viola Davis (The Help) slay-ed the role of Amanda Waller. Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness, Focus, Concussion) was Deadshot – a badass with a heart of gold underneath the mask of a villain. Margot Robbie (Wolf of Wall Street, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Focus, Legend of Tarzan) was Harley Quinn – the crazy, funny but intelligent psychatrist/psychopath. Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club, Requiem for a Dream, Mr. Nobody) was a great Joker. It took me a second to get used to him, but now I really want to see more of him as the character. There probably isn’t another actor like Leto. He just completely loses himself in the role and tranfroms both physically and psychologically or at least performs in that way.

Joel Kinnaman (Child 44) was also great as Rick Flag. I didn’t know anything about the actor before, so didn’t really know what to expect, but he blew me away. Cara Delevingne (Paper Towns, upcoming Valerian) also worked as Enchantress. While she isn’t the most experienced actress, I can see why they cast her for this role – Enchantress’s had to be portrayed through bodily movements and eyes and that’s what models do every day in their field of work. Jai Courtney (Divergent, Terminator Genisys) as Captain Boomerang was amazing. This is the best work I’ve seen from Courtney. Jay Hernandez (upcoming Bad Moms) as El Diablo and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Trumbo) as Killer Croc were both really good too. I liked Hernandez’s performance in that emotional scene and Akinnuoye-Agbaje did a fine job acting through all that makeup and face paint. Scott Eastwood (Fury, The Longest Ride, upcoming Snowden and Fast 8) was also fine in the pictue – he didn’t have much to do but did okay with what he was given.

In short, I was a bit disappointed by Suicide Squad. Maybe it is my fault – I had too high expectations. I wanted to love this picture completely but couldn’t not notice its flaws. I did love the characters, I liked the story, I appreciated the action and some of the music. However, the way that this whole movie was put together a.k.a edited flabbergasted me – it was missing a lot of connective tissue and a few montages definitely could have been changed into more organic storytelling methods.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Suicide Squad trailer

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Movie review: The Revenant

Movie reviews

Hi!

Let’s continue the seemingly endless awards season and talk about Leo’s 5th try in getting an Oscar for acting – the epic picture The Revenant.

IMDb summary: A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820’s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team.

The Revenant has already picked up a few awards for acting, directing and simply for being the best picture. I do think that it deserves the Academy Award for Best Picture as well, however, I would prefer Mad Max Fury Road to win instead.

Writing

The Revenant’s script was written by Alejandro González Iñárritu and Mark L. Smith, based in part on Michael Punke’s book The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge and real life events. Iñárritu  is a very well know Mexican auteur, who has created a few epic films, including last year’s winner of Best Picture at the Oscars – Birdman. He has also won best directing and original screenplay for Birdman, while Emmanuel Lubezki won for cinematography. Babel is also another film by Iñárritu, which is worth a watch.

The Revenant’s story was really interesting and unbelievable. I liked the usage of dialogue in a foreign language, however, those parts seemed dubbed – a few times it looked like the movements of the lips and the sounds were not precisely synchronized. I also enjoyed the usage of flashbacks and dream sequences for the backstory.

The cunning twist at the end with the switching of the bodies on the horse was really clever. I also liked the idea that revenge is not in human’s hands. The final fight was also really amazing to watch – it contained two of my favorite characters literally killing each other.

Directing

The Revenant had amazing cinematography and directing. It was mainly shot on location with natural light. The long takes (although, not as long as in Birdman) and mobile frames were used once again . There was also a lot of low angle shots and following/dolly shots from the side. The close-ups were also present in the film, so the viewer could clearly see the emotional and physical struggle of the characters. The CGI of the bear was also very realistic and just plainly spectacular.

The mise-en-scene of the film was also both breathtakingly beautiful and stomach wrenching. The setting of the forest, freezing rivers and snowy mountains was amazing. I also really loved the shots with vertical trees and the sunlight/moonlight or torchlight. coming through the tree trunks (these shots were not only beautiful, they were also used as bridges in the narrative, signaling the passages of time). However, the film’s fight scenes were extremely explicit and violent, while the character design was realistic and gritty – the characters’ costumes and the hair (or lack of them) spoke for themselves.

In short, once again, Iñárritu channeled his passion for filmmaking and delivered a masterpiece of gritty realism.

Soundtrack

A lot of intense scenes of the film lacked soundtrack, so the viewer could hear the breath, moans or screams of the characters, which only increased the intensity of the film. However, when the music was used, it was very elevated and grand, it felt like you were listening to a live symphony. This great score was created by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto, and Bryce Dessner.

Acting

While everyone is talking about Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in the film, the film’s entire ensemble cast is really good and everyone deserves recognition and praise.

  • Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass was spectacular. He once again deserves an Oscar and just simply has to get it. If he loses once more, I think he should just stop trying, because I don’t know what else can he do. He completely morphed into the character. The way he looked at the camera in the closing shot of the film also made me shiver – it felt like he was looking deep into my soul. I have seen a lot of DiCaprio’s films, including Django Unchained, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Great Gatsby and a bunch of others, however, I still have quite a few of films, starring DiCaprio, on my list of films to watch, like The Departed and The Aviator.
  • Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald was also truly wonderful. He has proved himself to be an amazing actor a few times this year, first in Mad Max, then in Legend and Child 44 and now in The Revenant. I hated his character and I really like him as an actor, so props to him for being so versatile and for being to play a complete crazy freak. I also really liked the close-up shot of Hardy’s eyes, when he realized that Hugh was onto him. I somehow really noticed the characters’ eyes in this film.
  • Domhnall Gleeson as Captain Andrew Henry was also wonderful and just a complete bad-ass, especially, when he was looking for Fitzgerald back in the camp. I am used to Gleeson playing quite calm characters (Ex Machina, Brooklyn), well, except in Star Wars The Force Awakens. I really liked him in that film, but he just blew me away in The Revenant.
  • Will Poulter as Jim Bridger was also amazing. I was first introduced to him in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, in which his character was really annoying, and then in the comedy We’re the Millers. He then also starred in a few young adult films, like a more serious one – Plastic and the dystopian action one – The Maze Runner. I haven’t seen him in a serious/dramatic role, so I was very surprised at how good he was in The Revenant, so now I would really like to see him take on a few more serious roles like this one.
  • Forrest Goodluck as Hawk made his acting debut and was really good in the role. It was also really nice seeing a person of Native American descent in a film because Hollywood needs as much diversity as it can get.

To sum up, The Revenant was another epic masterpiece by Iñárritu. While I don’t really want it to win the Best Picture award at the Oscars, I would love for it to be awarded Best Director and Best Actor in a Leading Role. Last advice: do not watch this film if you have a weak stomach – despite the fact that the story might interest you, you won’t enjoy the film if you can’t deal with explicit images of blood and guts on screen.

Rate: 4,5/5

Trailer: The Revenant trailer

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