Movie review: Avengers: Endgame

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review 11 years in the making. This is Avengers: Endgame!

IMDb summary: After the devastating events of Avengers: Infinity War (2018), the universe is in ruins. With the help of remaining allies, the Avengers assemble once more in order to undo Thanos’ actions and restore order to the universe.

Disclaimer: this review is going to be super vague as I’m trying to avoid spoiling even the smallest moments of the film. Still, I might not always manage to do that, thus, proceed with caution!

Writing

Endgame was written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. The duo has written a lot of previous MCU films, so they certainly have a good knowledge of this universe and these characters. And that shows as the script is just spectacular. So so so much happens in this movie: it is complex yet clear. Also, being the ‘end of an era’ type of a film, Avengers 4 really focuses on the core original Avengers, while the new characters kinda fade into the background. Focusing a film in this way makes sense to me: the newbies have to earn their right to be at the forefront. Moreover, Endgame also does a great job with setting up the future: both a couple of concrete films and just concepts that will hopefully turn into movies. Quite a few very comic-booky concepts too!

In my opinion, where Endgame shines the most is by being the sequel to end all sequels. It continues Infinity War perfectly and deals with all the issues head-on (like the ‘should have gone for the head’ gripe). It also references so so so much stuff from MCU that it makes Easter Eggs a part of the plot. Everything is referenced: lines, whole scenes, and Internet/fan jokes. It is so satisfying spotting the references or the subversion of the references: Marvel really rewards the loyalty of its longtime fans.

While I cannot really talk about the ending in this spoiler-free review, let me just say that it feels poetical. And though it may hurt, we all know it’s right.

Directing

I truly bow my head to Anthony and Joe Russos for giving me my new favourite MCU film (and their previous 3 films – Captain America 2 and 3 and Avengers 3 literally take up all the runner-up spots). The fact that they manage to portray such a complex story with clear editing is unbelievable. Plus, the fact that they succeed in making a 3h movie so engaging is also an achievement. I also appreciate all the different tones/genres that they squeeze into Endgame.

First, Endgame is a comedy: it has so many amazing comedic moments and is also a perfect conclusion (even if a temporary one) to MCU as the more family-friendly/lighter franchise. It takes that statement (that some use as a compliment and some as a critique) and owns it. I believe that these comedic undertones to the film come from The Russos’ directing roots as they did, in fact, made a name for themselves with Arrested Development and Community – two beloved comedy TV series.

Endgame is also a drama: it has depth and character moments aplenty. When I say there was no dry eye in my midnight screening, I mean it.

Endgame is also a superhero actioner through and through. It has all the CGI one would like but it also enhances it by actually making the viewers care about the characters involved rather than the third act just being a clash of random pixels. It has so many goosebump-inducing or so-called ‘money shots’. I especially loved one female empowerment shot that is hopefully not a one-off, but rather a signal to the changing times (though there was a severe lack of female viewers in my screening: really wanted it to be a 50/50 split but it was more like 80/20).

Acting

There is no way that I can possibly name all the cast members involved with this film but I believe that they all did a great job, no matter how short their involvement might have been. The core 6 – Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, and Jeremy Renner – them I will mention by name because their performances should go down as one of the best ever in movie history. The actors got to showcase their dramatic chops so much because we really see the characters as just completely broken people. The fact that the actors also have perfect comedic timing (some especially) make their overall performances that much greater.

Post-credits

With Endgame, Marvel breaks the tradition that it created, and doesn’t have a post-credits scene. And I think that’s perfectly fine: there is nothing to promote or tease moving forward (Spiderman 2 is so separate and also already being promoted with trailers that it doesn’t make sense to stick it on there): Endgame is the end of not one but 3 phases, so let it feel like a definite ending. Besides, there are setups for the future before the credits roll. Also, I believe that the lack of post-credits is also good in that it doesn’t undercut the emotional weight of the ending of the picture. The last scene one sees and remembers is the end.

In short, Avengers: Endgame makes you laugh and cry and everything in between. It also makes sure that you will come back again. Not only for future films but to rewatch this one. Again. And again. And Again. (at least that’s what I’ll be doing).

Rate: 5/5 (I mean, are we surprised? Also, that number rating has never been about objectivity but rather included by necessity).

Trailer: Avengers: Endgame trailer

P.S. If you would like to take a trip down memory lane, these are my previous MCU reviews: Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Civil War, Doctor Strange, The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Age of Ultron, Guardians 1and 2.

Advertisements

Movie review: Avengers: Infinity War

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a movie that requires no introduction – Avengers: Infinity War!

IMDb summary: The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.

As per usual, just before we start, these are my previous MCU reviews: Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Civil War, Doctor Strange, The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Age of Ultron, Guardians 1and 2.

Also, since #ThanosDemandsYourSilence, I’m keeping this review spoiler free!

Writing

Infinity War was written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (the duo who wrote all the Captain America movie and The Chronicles of Narniacinematic adaptations). There were so many things to love in the script. Firstly, the screenwriters did an amazing job handling the plethora of characters that they had to work with. They didn’t have time to develop any of them really so you do kinda need to have seen at least some of the previous movies to really enjoy this one (but then again, if you are watching Infinity War, you have seen some of the previous 18 films for sure). What the screenwriters did manage very successfully was to give each of the characters some meaningful moments that were either emotional and weighty or funny and entertaining. The different scenes of the various characters meeting each other and interacting were just brilliant. The deep cuts to the MCU lore (cameos and tiny plot elements from other films) were also greatly appreciated. I also liked the fact that script fast-tracked over some meetings and explanations, as that made sure that the movie’s pace stayed top-notch. Secondly, they did an amazing job developing the character of Thanos and explaining his motivations and point of view. Marvel officially doesn’t have a problem with villains no more. Thirdly, the movie did a good job of picking a theme – sacrifice – a sticking to it, through and through.

Fourthly, the script delivered on the unexpected twists and the consequences a.k.a. characters we didn’t forsee died, both throughout the film and in the third act. Every one of those deaths meant something and was felt by every fan in the screening. I’m incredibly interested to see how will these consequences be dealt with in the next film: whether Marvel is gonna go back on some of them or all of them. I would love to see a lot of these characters back but I would also love to see them making the ballsiest move in cinema and not bringing any of them back. The film’s post-credits scene – only one but worth the wait – hints at how the universe will move forward and solve the problem, like Thanos (I wrote that in a ‘How do you solve a problem like Maria’ singing voice).

Directing

After nailing the unique political thriller vibes with The Winter Soldier and after managing to work with a massive cast in Civil WarAnthony Russo and Joe Russo were trusted with the biggest Marvel movie yet and they did an excellent job. They made it feel like an event and not just a movie. The vibes this time were cosmic and so so so Marvel Comics-like. The massive group of characters was even bigger this time and all of them were accounted for. The action was epic and explosive and there were so many amazing team-ups and groups during the fight scenes (especially one great episode with my favorite female characters). The quips during the fighting felt very Marvel but not cheesy or annoying. The editing was also clear and seamless.

Acting

Infinity War had an awesome display of that perfect Marvel casting and just listing the whole cast is gonna take forever but here we go: Robert Downey Jr. (his new armor is lit), Chris Hemswort (Thor has a great arc), Mark Ruffalo (interesting things happen with Hulk), Chris Evans (still Cap even if not of America), Scarlett Johansson (loved the new look), Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange has really come into his own), Tom Holland (still a teenager), Chadwick Boseman (still the king), Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen (some great stuff involving the two of them), Anthony Mackie and Don Cheadle (have some great ‘the team-ups of the sidekicks’ moments), Sebastian Stan (also known as a L’Oreal model), Tom Hiddleston (his arc picks up where Ragnarok left off), Idris Elba (his arc might anger some fans/theorists), Benedict Wong (has no cash), Chris Pratt (has a great gag about voice), Pom Klementieff (surprisingly important), Karen Gillan (has a great visual scene), Dave Bautista (the funniest of the cast), Zoe Saldana (Gamora has a briliant arc), Danai Gurira (still a bad-ass), and Letitia Wright (the third member of the science bross) are all back and better than they have ever been.

From the newbies, Peter Dinklage has a gigantic cameo, while Josh Brolin does a great job with the motion capture. Thanos’ pawns are voiced/captured by Terry Notary (mocap performer in Apes, Warcraft, and Kong), Tom Vaughan-Lawlo (little-known actor), Carrie Coon (Fargo season 3), and Michael James Shaw (TV actor).

In short, Avengers: Infinity War is the movie event of the year that has to be watched multiple times to truly be appreciated. My next screening is on Monday, when’s yours?

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Avengers: Infinity War trailer

Avengers_Infinity_war_poster.jpg

Movie review: 12 Strong

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of another January release. This time around, it’s 12 Strong!

IMDb summary: 12 Strong tells the story of the first Special Forces team deployed to Afghanistan after 9/11; under the leadership of a new captain, the team must work with an Afghan warlord to take down for the Taliban.

Writing

12 Strong – a biographical action drama – was written by Ted Tally (adapted The Silence of the Lambs all those years ago) and Peter Craig (wrote both parts of Mockingjay and the upcoming Robin Hood and Top Gun 2), based on the non-fiction book ‘Horse Soldiers’ by a journalist Doug Stanton. Overall, the film’s script was very much ‘by the books’ but it also had a couple of original and unique ideas.

The movie’s set-up was typical. It included: a reminder that 9/11 happened (and simultaneously situated this film in a the war on terrorism timeline), a couple of scenes with the family members of the soldiers (and no other character development, except maybe a few bonding scenes with the other soldiers), and a single scene to introduce the villain (and honestly, his actions in the said scene were so despicable that that one scene was enough).

The ideas, which I found original, were few but present. I really liked the warlord’s speech about the difference between a warrior and a soldier. I’ve always thought about these two words as synonyms that meant the same, but, now, I see that they do slightly differ in the reasons for fighting (whether for survival or as a job). The warlord’s (whose beliefs were presented as very Western – was that an authentic feature or did the filmmakers wanted to make him more sympathetic to the Western audiences?) concluding statement, about the US becoming just another tribe in the Middle East rung very true, knowing the events that followed the ones of depicted in this picture. I really wish that the movie had more of a ‘looking back’ perspective like the one expressed in that monologue. Lastly, some questions that this movie (like all the others of this genre) raised but didn’t necessarily answer, for me personally, were: how do the followers of Islam balance their own culture and the human rights (that’s mostly a women right’s question that is interpreted wrongly by some Muslims)? And how can the West help that region achieve freedom and peace without imposing Westernization upon them?

Directing

12 Strong was directed by Nicolai Fuglsig – Danish filmmaker and photojournalist. This was his American film debut and he certainly didn’t do a bad job. Action/terrorism movies are a hard sell and they only really capture the audiences’ atention when they have some awards backing (e.g. The Hurt Locker or, more recently, American Sniper). Fuglsig’s picture didn’t have any big names attached (Hemsworth is only a draw if he is Thor) and it’s coming out in an unfortunate month. Still, the film was quite okay. The shoot-outs were well constructed and intense. The movie aslo did a good job of visualizing the new kind of warfare by showing the choppers in the clouds and the combat on horseback combat.

 

Acting

12 Strong assembled a cast, full of quite well-known actors. Leading them was Chris Hemsworth (Thor 3, The Huntsman, Ghostbusters, In The Heart of The Sea, Avengers 2). He was joined by Michael Shannon (Midnight Special, Nocturnal Animals), another Marvel family member Michael Peña (Ant-Man, The Martian, Collateral Beauty, The Lego Ninjago, Murder on the Orient Express), and the up-and-coming Trevante Rhodes (who got everytbody’s attention with Moonlight and will soon appear in The Predator). A bunch of other actors played the other 8 (of the titular 12) soldiers but, as they didn’t really have a character arc, I don’t see the neccesity to mention them. Navid Negahban played the warlord ally of the American troops: he has played a similar role before multiple times. His next project is a bit different, though – he will be the Sultant in next year’s live-action Alladin.

In short, 12 Strong was a mediocre and by-the-numbers action/drama with some good performances and a few intersting ideas.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: 12 Strong trailer

12STRONG_Tsr_1sht

 

Movie review: Thor: Ragnarok

Movie reviews

Hello!

What a time to be a nerd! A new Marvel movie is in theatres every 4 months! Is this heaven or what? Without further ado, let’s discuss Thor: Ragnarok!

IMDb summary: Imprisoned, the mighty Thor finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk, his former ally. Thor must fight for survival and race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization.

If it wasn’t obvious from my intro, I’m a huge MCU fan and have reviewed quite a few films of the franchise, thus, I’m linking the said reviews here: Captain America 1+2, Ant-Man, Guardians 1 and Guardians 2, Avengers 2, Civil War, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man: Homecoming.

This review is SPOILER FREE. The discussion involving SPOILERS is located at the end of the page.

Writing

Thor: Ragnarok was written by Eric Pearson (writer of a few MCU one-shots (I wish they were still making them) and writer on Agent Carter), Craig Kyle (comic book writer, producer the first two Thorfilms and of some of Marvel’s direct-to-video animated pictures), and Christopher Yost (longtime collaborator of Kyle, writer of Thor: The Dark World). I loved the writing for this film.

To begin with, I appreciated how dense the narrative was. So much happened in this picture and every second of that 2-hour runtime was packed with plot. It felt like this movie consisted of a couple of films, which was exactly the case. Thor: Ragnarok contained the first third of a Hulk solo movie – the middle part and the ending will probably be folded into Avengers 3and 4. I was a bit worried that the Hulk sideline will feel tacked-on but it didn’t – Bruce Banner and his green friend fit into this picture organically. I loved the fact that we got to see more of Hulk and find out about his own separate personality.

In general, the majority of the main characters had very satisfying character arcs. First of all, Thor went on a journey on finding his path again, while Valkyrie also had to re-find her purpose in life (I loved how she was both badass and had her flaws). Loki attempted to redeem himself in the most questionable and Loki-appropriate way possible and Heimdall got to do something meaningful for once in these films. Skurge’s questioning of morality was great, while Grandmaster’s hijinks were hilarious.

Speaking of the comedy in the film – it was just wonderful. The situational relatable humor, the reactions, the call-backs, the references, and the jabs at the previous MCU events were extremely funny. However, the film also had some heart to it. One particularly touching moment occurred in Norway at the beginning of the film. That scene’s location – Norway – was also a neat nod to the Norse mythology roots of these characters.

MCU films have been notorious for their lack of great villains. I didn’t think that Hela followed this trend. She was both memorable and menacing. I also loved how she had a family connection to the protagonist, and, thus, how the film got an opportunity to explore the notions of family and home. I also enjoyed seeing her be actually threatening, setting the stakes high and having a lasting impact on both Thor and Asgard (physical and emotional).

Directing

Thor: Ragnarok was directed by the incredible filmmaker from New Zealand – Taika Waititi. I was only introduced to his work last year with the awards’ nominated delightful and heartfelt comedy Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Before going to see Ragnarok, I also watched his brilliant vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows. Needless to say, my expectations were high and I’m so glad to say that Waititi delivered on them 100%! Thor: Ragnarok had the heartwarming feeling of Spider-Man: Homecoming, the jokes of Guardians of the Galaxy, and the trippy visuals of Doctor Strange. Nevertheless, it wasn’t just a rehashing of elements from other films, but a refreshing, unique, and immensely entertaining take on them.

The color palette of Thor 3 was just so gorgeous and super vibrant. The location and the character designs have never looked better in a Thor film (the looks reminded me of a mixture of Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings and just 1980s style). The action was just so dynamic and energetic. It was also varied: we got to see a couple of one-on-one fights as well as some epic scale battles and a few spaceship chases. One of my favorite action pieces was the short opening fight between Thor/Loki/Hela in the rainbow bridge. Not on it, but in its stream. The music (by Mark Mothersbaugh) was also nicely incorporated into the film. I’m gonna listen to that Led Zeppelin song every day at the gym now.

Acting

  • Chris Hemsworth (Ghostbusters, The Huntsman, In the Heart of the Sea) had his 5th and best outing as Thor. We already knew that he was great a the role of a hero, but here he also displayed all his comedic chops!
  • Tom Hiddleston (High-Rise, Kong) was sly and charismatic as Loki again (I love the character, so I’ll never complain about seeing him).
  • Cate Blanchett (Carol, Cinderella) had a snake-like quality to her performance of Hela. At the beginning, I thought that she was bordering on being too cartoonish a too bit much but I think she quickly found her footing.
  • Idris Elba (The Mountain Between Us, The Dark Tower, Star Trek Beyond, Bastille Day, Beasts of No Nation) returned as Heimdall and got a chance to do something more in the film than just stand in one room!
  • Jeff Goldblum (ID2) was perfect as Grandmaster. He was doing his Jeff Goldblum thing (I can’t explain it) and that fit the character so well! He, in my mind, had the leeway to go cartoonish and I’m glad he went there at least a bit.
  • Tessa Thompson (Creed) was wonderful as Valkyrie. I loved how Thompson portrayed her character’s flaws, regrets, and determination.
  • Karl Urban (Pete’s Dragon, Star Trek Beyond) as Skurge. I hope that Urban’s involvement with a new comic book property means that he might go back to one of his old ones – the role of Dredd. Nonetheless, I loved seeing him here.
  • Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight, Now You See Me 2) delivered a short but sweet performance as Bruce Banner / Hulk. Immense props to him for his comedic timing too!
  • Anthony Hopkins (Transformers 5) only appeared briefly as Odin but he was responsible for the most touching and the most emotionally-challenging scene of the film, as a dramatic actor of his caliber should be.

In short, Thor: Ragnarok was without a doubt the best Thor film but it also might be one of the best MCU solo films ever! Not only worthy of watching once, but repeated viewing is recommended!

Rate: 4.8/5

MV5BMjMyNDkzMzI1OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODcxODg5MjI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_.jpg

SPOILER-Y PART: 

Since I saw the movie super early (thanks, UK release schedule), I didn’t want to talk about spoiler stuff in the main part of the review, so I’ll just unpack some ideas in more detail here:

  1. Thor: Ragnarok had a great cameo by Doctor Strange. Those, who saw Doctor Strange and waited for the post-credit scene of that film, knew that Sorcerer Supreme will be showing up in Thor 3. It was wonderful to see the character appear on film as being closer to his comic book counterpart – way more advanced in his skill and more in control of his powers than he was when we last saw him.
  2. Matt Damon, of all actors, had a super funny cameo as an Asgardian actor playing Loki. It’s always nice to see a great actor doing some bad acting and Damon nailed his. Stan Lee also had an amazing cameo as the hairdresser. I’m glad that he was the one who supposedly got a chance to change Thor’s look. I feel like, since that change came from Lee, it is somehow automatically canon.
  3. Hela was turned into Thor’s and Loki’s sister for the film (she is the daughter of Loki in the comics). I liked the change because it allowed the movie to explore the differences between Odin’s relationships with each of his kids. Also, the fiction vs truth idea came into play in the movie because of that change.
  4. Some of my favorite jokes, which I didn’t want to spoil were: the Sakar’s infomercial sequence; Loki’s reaction to Hulk throwing Thor around like a ragdoll – Loki experienced the same fate in Avengers; Thor’s attempt to calm Hulk down with Black Widow’s lullaby; and the jabs at Tony Stark. Even if RDJ is not in the film, his presence is always felt. Another delightful comedic part was Taika Waititi’s motion capture and vocal performance as Korg. Waititi is a great comedic actor and I’m glad he got to showcase that here in addition to directing.
  5. Lastly, Thor: Ragnarok had two end-credits scenes. The mid-credits scene was a very vague tease for Avengers: Infinity War, while the post-credits scene was just a fun nod to this particular film.

Movie review: Ghostbusters

Movie reviews

Hello!

Sometimes, there comes a movie that ignites and divides the Internet and the latest film to do so is the new Ghostbusters all-female remake. The last 3 words of the previous sentence tell you everything you need to know about the big fight. Some individuals are angry because it is a female Ghostbusters picture, other are enraged because it is simply a remake of a classical film. The third party consists of trolls, who like to see the world burn.

My personal stance on this film is/was kinda neutral, calm and open. I liked the idea of a female group in a lead since I’m a female cinephilé. The fact that it is a remake and not an original female sci-fi comedy is not great, but it doesn’t infuriate me to the point that I would attack somebody online. I did not grow up with the original films of the 80s or the cartoons of the 80s and 90s – I have seen them and enjoyed the viewing experience but never thought about them as something really special – so maybe my lack of personal emotional ties to the property allowed me to be more distant and level-headed. The critics gave the new film an okay score and, so far, all of the reviews I watched or read deemed the movie fine or okay. So, let’s see what I thought.

IMDb summary: Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat.

Writing

Ghostbusters’s script was written by Katie Dippold and the director Paul Feig. This duo has previously worked on the comedy The Heat, which I loved. Ghostbusters’s story, on the other hand, was only okay. I liked the moments when the characters were going crazy about science and were just unleashing their inner nerds – if this makes more girls try out S.T.E.M. studies, I will count the film as, at least, partially successful. I also liked the inclusion of the online commentators in the movie – that moment felt really meta, knowing the backlash that the feature’s trailer sparked online. I also liked all the movie references: Patrick Swayze shout-out was fun, the Jaws’s reference involving the mayor was spot on and the Clark Kent joke was quite nice, although they could have made some kind of Thor joke, given that that’s the role that Chris Hemsworth actually plays. I also liked the inside references – I liked that they included both Slimer and Stay Puft Marshmallow Man into the picture. I also liked the underlying message of the film that all people seek approval, one way or the other.

On the other hand, some narrative ideas and concepts infuriated me. For one, all of the jokes at the expense of male characters were pushed too far and the whole writing for male characters was just terrible. I know that male dominated films have used female characters as sexualised objects or eye candy, but I don’t want female-driven films repeating the same mistakes. In a world, where universal acclaim is the goal, any kind of vengeful ideas or supposed payback both have no place. The second thing that angered me was the fact that Ghostbusters were too afraid to go all the way – yes, they broke the gender norms and I applaud them for that, but they left all the racial stereotypes for no goddam reason. Moreover, some of the plotlines and plot-twist were way too cliche: what was that Ghostjumpers’s reference? Was that supposed to be a nod to the original Ghostbusters? The whole mayor sideline, while it allowed for some good jokes, did not need to be in the film AGAIN. Lastly, why the big villain of the story could take any shape again? That has been done already (although, I liked that the villain took the shape of their logo). In addition, why did the thing that will destroy the city had to be a huge cloud/vortex/beam? Aren’t there any other ways to destroy the world on screen?

Directing

Paul Feig, who has previously directed Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy – all movies that I actually enjoyed despite not being the biggest fan of comedies – did an okay job with the direction of the Ghostbusters. The CGI looked much better that it did in the 80s, as it should have. The pace of the film was also fine and there were some nice action moments dispersed throughout the runtime of the picture. The scenes during the end credits were also neat and it was also great to hear the original Ghostbusters theme by Ray Parker Jr in a theater once again. In general, the film was kinda cliche but still kinda fun. The main problem I had with the directing of the film was that the Ghostbusters remake didn’t know what it wanted to be. At times, it strived for the action-sci-fi-comedy genre, but it also had numerous moments that belonged to a cartoon parody of a film.

Acting

Melissa McCarthy starred as Dr. Abby Yates, while Kristen Wiig played Dr. Erin Gilbert. They seem to be playing the characters that they always portray – the crazy one and the serious one. Although, to be truthful, McCarthy probably played the least crazy character of her career and I actually really liked her character and the performance. Generally, I do like McCarthy’s characters when she is working with Feig, I just wish she stopped working with her husband Ben Falcone because Tammy and The Boss weren’t great. Wiig’s performance was fine as well, but nothing too special. I like her much more in dramatic rather than comedic roles – she was really good in The Martian.

Kate McKinnon portrayed Dr. Jillian Holtzmann and I had mixed feelings about her character and the portrayal. I liked her look the most out of the 4 leads and she did seem the most interesting and unique. However, at times, her character acted just too weirdly, so that the whole performance turned into a parody and the character into a caricature. McKinnon is mostly known for her sketch comedy work and some of her scenes did feel like over-acted SNL skits. I wish her performance would have been elevated to the big screen level, but I’m still excited to give her another chance, starting with the upcoming Christmas comedy – Office Christmas Party.

While the main pair of the film was supposed to be Wiig’s and McCarthy’s characters, I actually like the chemistry between McCarthy’s and McKinnon’s characters much more and would have loved to see even more of them together.

Leslie Jones portrayed Patty Tolan and was also one of my favorites. Her character was a bit stereotypical but that’s the problem with the writing, not acting, so I’m absolutely disgusted by the hate she received on Twiter. I really liked how Jones delivered her one-liners and snarky reaction remarks and I also appreciated the fact that, through her character, the audiences could at least try to understand the science mumbo-jumbo. Moving forward, Jones will voice a character in SING.

Chris Hemsworth as Kevin Beckman. I hated the writing for Hemsworth’s character and I have no idea why he even chose to play this role, since he has some better things coming up. He still has a few Marvel movies to do, he will be in Star Trek 4 and he just had another mildly but still successful live-action fairytale – The Huntsman. The only saving grace for his character were those few scenes in the end, when he became the main antagonists but even that development didn’t go anywhere interesting.

The cameos: some of the cameos were nice, I especially liked Sigourney Weaver’s and Ernie Hudson’s appearances. Bill Murray’s cameo was a hit and miss for me, it didn’t even seem like he wanted to be there.

All in all, Ghostbusters remake was a mixed bag of a film. It had some nice moments as well as some terrible ones. I don’t think that it deserved so much hate that it received, but I also cannot say that I understand why it had to be made.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Ghostbusters trailer

ghostbusters_ver6_xlg-1

Movie review: The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Movie reviews

Hello!

I just came back from watching The Huntsman: Winter’s War film, so without further ado, let’s talk about it!

To begin with, I was (and still am) surprised that this movie even exists. The first movie was financially profitable, but I didn’t think that it earned enough money to establish a franchise. The critical reception was also so-so (48% on Rotten Tomatoes). Also, that scandal with Kristen Stewart and the director of Snow White and the Huntsman – Rupert Sanders – really overshadowed the movie itself. Basically, I did not expect to see a sequel/prequel and, moreover, I don’t really think that anybody asked for one.

I have the same problem (the fact that they are not needed or asked for) with all the retellings of the fairy-tale movies. In addition, I still question the choice to retell them in such a dark and grim fashion, when the majority of cinema goers are more familiar with and are fans of the children-friendly Disney versions. Having said that, I do applaud the filmmakers for following their artistic vision and for putting a new spin on a well-known property. Also, a lot of these stories are very adult and dark at their core – just read the original versions of all the popular fairytales (we actually even studied them in English literature class during the last term at university), so portraying them in a darker tone is in line with the original tone of the stories. However, when going to see a fairy-tale based/inspired film, I usually want to escape the grim reality of life. Let’s be honest – we have enough of dark and inhumane stuff happening in the real world, we don’t need more of it in movies. So, on the whole, I have very mixed feelings about these fairy-tale movie remakes.

In addition, Snow-White’s story is a tale, which I have a strong personal connection with because I grew up reading it . I still have the actual copy of the book that I used to read the story from – it is on a shelve in my room, in my parent’s house back in Lithuania with all my other most prized possessions a.k.a. other books. On that same shelve, one would be able to find a book entitled Princesses’ Fairytales by Nicola Baxter – basically, I was a hardcore fan of stories about princesses even before I ever saw my first movie, be it a film about princesses or just a random animated feature

Speaking about other films, based on fairy tales, here is my review of 2015’s live-action Cinderella (that post is more of a personal study of feminism). Later this year, a few other fairy-tale inspired live-action films will hit cinemas: one sequel  – Alice Through The Looking Glass and two new remakes – The Jungle Book and The Legend of Tarzan. 

Lastly, before I went to see this film, I did not rewatch neither the 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman nor the Mirror Mirror version from the same year. However, I revisited the original animated picture Snow White and the Seven Dwarves from 1937 (the first feature length animated picture by Disney), and I gotta say, it still holds up. The hand painted 2D animation is refreshing and nostalgia-inducing in a world of 3D computer generated graphics. The songs are still pleasant (but a bit annoying, though), while the story is just a right balance of silly and sweet to be enjoyable. A must watch for any fans of animation from any generation.

So, I have given you a lot of context for this movie (maybe too much). Nevertheless, I will try my best to treat The Hunstman: Winter’s War as a separate entity and to judge it on its own. Let’s try that!

SPOILER ALERT

IMDb summary:  As two evil sisters prepare to conquer the land; two renegades – Eric the Huntsman – who previously aided Snow White in defeating Ravenna, and his forbidden lover, Sara set out to stop them.

Writing

The film’s script was written by a quite unusual duo of screenwriters: Craig Mazin and Evan Spiliotopoulos. Mazin has written scripts for movies like Scary Movie (3 and 4) and The Hangover (Part 2 and 3)Spiliotopoulos has mainly worked on Disney’s direct-to-video animated features, but he has also written 2014’s Hercules (not the best film) and is writing a screenplay for 2017’s live-action Beauty and the Beast. So, The Huntsman was a union of raunchy comedy (by Mazin) and more traditional animated storytelling (by Spiliotopoulos). The question is: was this ‘union’ successful? Somewhat, yes and no. 

First of all, the film was both a prequel and a sequel. It opened with  a short recap of the first film – really good idea because I don’t think that a lot of people remember what happened in the first film. The opening also kinda set up The Huntsman to be a total prequel – ‘a story that happened long before the happily ever after’. However, the prequel plot ended after the first 25 minutes. Then, the movie time jumped 7 years and told us that the events that happened in Snow White and the Huntsman occurred in that 7 years span. The rest 1 hour and 20 minutes were a continuation and an expansion of that story – a sequel.

  • Continuation

The Hunstman had two storylines/ideas that were very reminiscent of the first film:

  1. In the 2012’s Snow White, the Huntsman was mourning his dead wife – this film shows how they met and how she ‘died’.
  2. In the first film, Queen Ravenna feared that Snow White will grow up to be more beautiful than she. In this film, she was fearful of her sister’s daughter for the same reason.
  3. A few people from the first film also cameoed in the sequel: most notably, Sam Claflin as King William, Snow White’s husband and Snow White herself – at least her back – played by someone who was definitely not Kristen Stewart.
  • Expansion

The world of this series was expanded quite a bit. The film gave us the backstory of the Huntsman and added a few new characters, including a new villain/anti-hero –  Ravenna’s sister Freya, the Ice Queen with the frozen heart (literally). Her whole power set was very similar to that of Elsa’s in Frozen. The sibling relationship between sisters was also another aspect, which made this film seem like a live-action Frozen remake. However, the ‘end-game’ of the sisterly relationship in The Huntsman was completely different from the loving reconciliation between Anna and Elsa in Frozen.

Writing: – | + | –

The film was mostly predictable. It was easy to guess that the death of the Huntsman’s wife was only an illusion and that Freya’s baby daughter was killed by her sister/the baby’s aunt. The only thing that I didn’t predict but should have was that whole supposed betrayal by the wife. However, in the end, it turned out to be double-crossing and not a true betrayal (that part I did predict once again).

The movie’s narrative appealed to me because I am a fan of high fantasy worlds and adventure stories that happen in these worlds, like Lord of The Rings or Game of Thrones. I also can’t help but notice that all fantastical stories are usually set in medieval/historic times. Well, I guess medieval history is a bit mysterious, and the leap from mystery to magic is relatively small.

On the other hand, the film annoyed me a few times. First with the addition of the dwarves, who sounded very Scottish by the way. The comic relief that these characters provided was stupid and unnecessary. Also, that whole thing with competing genders wasn’t pleasant either. Lastly, that whole pairing up of the characters was also a cheap conclusion. Nevertheless, the overarching theme of the film was love (the most overdone topic of all), so maybe the pairing up did work. Maybe I just hate love. Am I secretly Freya, or even worse – her sister Ravenna? Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Directing 

Because of the aforementioned scandal, Sanders did not return to direct the sequel/prequel film. He was replaced by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan – the visual effects supervisor of the first film, who was also the director of the second unit. He also was the second unit director on Maleficient.  So, The Huntsman was the French director’s directorial debut (well, full one). I think that he did quite a good job with the film. The fighting scenes were exciting and interesting. The slower ‘talking’ scenes were also nice. Sanders combined close-ups of the actors’ faces with quite wide establishing and scenic shots. The sets, which were showed in those wider shots, were absolutely gorgeous – both the physical and the CGI ones. The costumes were also wonderful – the character design was impeccable and all actors, especially the two queens, looks breathtaking from head to toe. The liquid gold of the mirror was my favorite visual from the first film and it continued to be my favorite visual in the second film as well. The end credits were also very beautiful, paired nicely with the main theme song  – Castle by Halsey .

Acting

Winter’s War had a very start studded cast, led by the four(!) leads in the main roles:

  • Chris Hemsworth as Eric, the Huntsman. Hemsworth was really good in the role, especially in the fight scenes. I kinda feel that Snow White and The Huntsman is a backup franchise for Hemsworth if MCU doesn’t work out (small chance of that happening). Nevertheless, Hemsworth also stars in other pictures – I recently watched 2013’s Rush, in which he was really good. I also have reviewed his In The Heart of The Sea a few months ago. His other 2015 film Blackhat is also a not bad B picture and he was also in the first 10 minutes of 2009’s Star Trek. Going forward, later this year, Chris will be in Ghostbusters.
  • Jessica Chastain  was also really good in her role of  Sara, the Warrior. I loved the fact that she was an archer (who never misses) because I enjoy archery in my free time. Her back and forth bickering with Hemsworth was also good – they definitely had chemistry. I have only seen the most recent Chastain’s films, like Interstellar, The Martian and Crimson Peak. I also want to watch Zero Dark Thirty and A Most Violent Year, in which she stars.
  • Emily Blunt as Freya, the Ice Queen was a believable villain (well, sort of a villain). Her backstory was a bit cliche, but Blunt embraced the flawed writing and gave a great performance. She first appeared on my radar with 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada, but her best roles have come in the past few years, namely in Edge if Tomorrow, Sicario and my ultimate guilty pleasure film – Into The Woods. I am really excited to continue following her career in the near and far future.
  • Charlize Theron as Ravenna, the Evil Queen. Theron did not have that big of a role in this film. She mainly appeared in the first and last acts of the picture. Theron did a nice job, but her character’s power (tar tentacles?) was a bit weird. If you want to see a different film, in which Theron plays a bad-ass, just watch Mad Max Fury Road. I also recently checked out Prometheus (because I will be traveling to the filming locations of that picture’s opening sequence – Isle of Skye) – she is great in that film as well. Lastly, Theron is listed to be in next year’s Fast 8 – that should be interesting.
  • Other cast members included Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Alexandra Roach and Sheridan Smith as the dwarves who annoyed me. Sam Claflin (Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2; Love, Rosie) also had a cameo. BTW, I am really excited for Claflin’s next film Me Before You. In addition, Testament of Youth’s Colin Morgan had a minor role as well.

To sum up, The Huntsman: Winter’s War was a perfectly enjoyable fantasy and adventure picture. The story was a bit cliche and predictable, but it nicely expanded the original narrative of the first film. The visuals were breathtaking while the acting was also believable. It is not a must-see for the majority of cinema goers, but casual fans of the high-fantasy genre should enjoy it. However, really die-hard fantasy fans might find it too generic. Lastly, I kinda feel that if this film is even slightly profitable, Universal will make another, so you might want to watch this one so as to prepare for the future movies.

Rate: 3.75/5

Trailer: The Hunstman: Winter’s War trailer

The+Huntsman+Winter's+War.jpg

 

 

Movie review: In The Heart Of The Sea

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a very late movie review! I had no time to review In The Heart Of The Sea before because of the holiday season. Moreover, I have a bunch of other movie-related blog posts to write before the end of the year, so it’s a high time that I’ve gotten back to work! So, without further ado, let’s talk about a better than I have expected movie adaptation of real life events, which inspired Herman Melville to write a very well know book – Moby-Dick.

IMDb summary: A recounting of a New England whaling ship’s sinking by a giant whale in 1820, an experience that later inspired the great novel Moby-Dick.

To begin with, I was led to believe by a variety of critics, reviewers, and general mainstream moviegoers that this film was shit, so I was pleasantly surprised that I have actually enjoyed the film. It definitely was not perfect, but I thought that it was satisfying enough, especially when watched during Christmas – the most magical time of the year, when we tend to forget or just refuse to notice anything bad. Having said that, while I had a good time watching the film, I did spot quite a few flaws, which I will try to inform you about.

Story/Writing

The screenplay for the film was written by Charles Leavitt who has previously worked on Seventh Son (which I absolutely hated) and is co-writing the script for 2016’s Warcraft. While I thought that the core of this story was interesting, to my mind, the plot was really messy. The pacing was extremely uneven – the action moments would last a second and then they would be followed by a long and boring exposition or just plain nothingness. The time jumps were also quite wonky. The style of the narration was interesting (the main story told in a flashback), but it didn’t make much sense since the narrator could not have known half the facts of the story he was telling. Lastly, the characters weren’t developed that well – they all had a one-trait kind of a backstory.

Themes

I did, however, enjoy the main theme of Man vs. Nature that this movie explored and I am guessing that this theme comes from the book. In The Heart Of The Sea is an adaptation of Nathaniel Philbrick’s book with the same name. I do not plan on reading this particular book, however, I am currently reading Moby-Dick – the supposedly fictional version of the same events. Speaking about the main idea – the film did a good job of portraying humans as worthless and weak things who can’t ever even dream about fully conquering nature. And the last stand-off between the whale and Chris Hemsworth’s character nicely portrayed the fact that some people do understand that. Sadly, the majority of us don’t and by trying to have it all, we usually lose everything.

Directing and Visuals

The movie was directed by Ron Howard of highly praised Apollo 13The Da Vinci Code + Angels and Demons (Inferno coming in 2016) and Rush. One would expect great directing from a person with such an impressive resume, however, I found a lot of problems with the visual aspects of this movie. Firstly, the film had way too many extreme close ups and close ups which made the motion picture feel very claustrophobic, although, it was set on an ocean. The shaky/handheld camera was also used way too much – it was hard for my eyes to follow the action, especially during the storm sequence. Lastly, while the CGI of the whale was quite nice, it was definitely more artificial than realistic. In addition, we only got glimpses of the whale, which was also disappointing. However, while I don’t really like this kind of cinematography, I can at least think of a reason why a director would choose to use it in this particular situation/story. The narrative of In The Heart Of The Sea is a very depressing story, in which people’s lives are turned upside down and all of their dreams and hopes are crushed – the mobile camera and close up shots help to portray this feeling of chaos, which nicely mimics the story. Still, I can’t forgive the filmmakers for the fake CGI and a lack of whale shots.

Acting

  • Chris Hemsworth as Owen Chase – his one trait backstory was the fact that he was a son of a ‘landman’.
  • Benjamin Walker as Captain George Pollard, Jr. – one know feature: comes from a prestigious family.
  • Cillian Murphy as Matthew Joy – might have been an alcoholic.

All of the main actors did a fine job but this was definitely not their best work. While I can appreciate their dedication to the film (they had to undergo quite an extreme physical transformation), I do not think that they brought their A-game –  they simply did the best they could with the material.

Speaking of the actors, Hemsworth is struggling to reach box office numbers and a high level of stardom outside Marvel films, although I am excited to see him back in the role of the Huntsman next year. I don’t know anything about Walker, only that he is not a well know actor and has starred in a few movies which flopped. Murphy was the most successful when working with C. Nolan – that’s how I was personally introduced to him as an actor. BTW, Inception is still one of my favorite films of all time. Murphy doesn’t have any big projects coming up and I don’t really know if will be able to check out his smaller films.

  • Tom Holland as young Thomas Nickerson – I don’t really remember anything interesting about the character that Holland was playing, thus, I don’t really see why he was chosen to play Spiderman in the MCU. I guess we will know the reason when Civil War comes out.
  • Brendan Gleeson as old Thomas Nickerson and Michelle Fairley as Mrs. Nickerson. I liked what Gleeson did as the narrator and I also enjoyed seeing Fairley again –  I haven’t seen her since the Red Wedding.
  • Ben Whishaw as Herman Melville – I liked seeing Whishaw once again this year, because I really like him as an actor, although, his roles are starting to blend together in my mind the more I see of him. This year, he has starred in Suffragette, Spectre and The Danish Girl which I will only be able to see in January.

All in all, In The Heart of The Sea was a fine film. It had lots of flaws but was a perfectly enjoyable popcorn flick for a holiday season.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: In The Heart Of The Sea trailer

Movie review: Avengers 2 Age of Ultron

Movie reviews

Hello!

How are doing? Excited for the weekend? Do you have any plans? Well, if you don’t, then I have a suggestion for you – GO SEE THE AVENGERS!

As you can probably tell from my excitement, I’ve already seen it. It officially opens today (on May 1st), but I attended the early screening which was held on Thursday (April 30th).

I’ve waited for this movie for 3 years and was overly excited to see it. And it definitely didn’t disappoint – I had a huge smile on my face during the whole run-time of the film and eyes open as wide as possible.

I think that this movie doesn’t need a summary so let’s just jump into the review. I should also give you a SPOILER warning here. I will try to keep the biggest spoilers out of the review but I really want to talk about the ending, so be aware of it. I suggest you go see it and then get back to this post.

To begin with, I want to talk about the action. Every year, the film industry pushes the boundaries of CGI and computer graphics and this film was no exception. The fight scenes were amazing, the visuals – breathtaking and the Ultron…he looked like the coolest robot you will ever meet. Vision was also a phenomenon but I will talk more about him later.

The script of the film was also amazing: the character development and the witty dialogue were the driving forces of the film rather than the action pieces. Joss Whedon is a genius and I love his sense of humor. I laughed out loud multiple times…especially during the jokes which involved Thor’s hammer or Cap’s “LANGUAGE!”.

Character by character

RDJ, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth were really great in the film but I want to talk about the newbies first and also about the characters which, sadly, do not have their own franchises.

I loved Brutasha, I hope it can continue. Black Widow’s (Scarlett Johansson) back story was shocking but believable…Mark Rufallo’s Hulk’s issues were also realistic and fitting with the whole “the past will haunt you” feeling.

Speaking about Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) – I was always on Hawkeye’s side (I shoot arrows in my free time) and I love the fact that they brought him to the front of the pack. His plot-line’s twist was also really nice.

The newbies: Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. I really loved both of them: the X-MEN Quicksilver was cool but he had only one scene while MCU Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) actually contributed to a bunch of scenes. However, I am not happy with where his character is going but I can see the creators’ reasons behind that…(legal issues and over-crowded-ness are my two guesses). Elizabeth Olsen was great Scarlet Witch, her hand movements were mesmerizing, I can’t wait to see more of her! Because of her powers, we got glimpses of the memories and dreams of the Avengers and that resulted in a plethora of great cameos! Moreover, they accents didn’t bother me! They sounded pretty natural, not perfect but okay. (I’m also from Eastern/Northern Europe but don’t have any acccent because, all my life, I heard only American and British films and TV series, YT videos, etc.).

Ultron (James Spader) – he is the best villain of the Marvel Universe to date. (Even better than Loki, then again – Loki is more like an antagonist and not a straight up villain by now). Ultron is cruel and funny and surprisingly human-like even though he is a robot.

The Vision (Paul Bettany) – that’s now my favorite character of the MCU (move over, Captain America). I love the way he was created: he is half human, half robot, half AI and half God (he has the mind stone soo…). Plus, I was afraid that the Vision and JARVIS would be the same character but they were two distinct human-beings…well, I guess not human but beings.

Lastly, Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Nick Fury (Samuel L.Jackson) showed up but we were expecting them. I would love it if both of them appeared more often on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. because in the movies their will always be upstaged by the Avengers and in the TV series they could be the leaders of the pack.

Themes

Age of Ultron touched upon themes like the power of humanity and the level of human error and had a really interesting outlook on war and what it means to be a savior. It underlined the importance of team work as well. By now, almost all of us know what will happen in Civil War, so it will be really hearth breaking to see how the team is divided and how friendships are shattered.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe

I love how they were able to bring so many characters in and tie up all the movies into this one. Although, they could have brought a few other females…(Iron Man vs. Thor dialogue). I also really love their usage of the Infinity Stones in this film. Previously, I thought that they were not working as this big plot device that is pushing all the MCU forward but now everything seems in sync.

Infinity stones used so far:

  • Space Stone – Tesseract.
  • Mind or Soul Stone – Loki’s Scepter.
  • Aether – seen in Thor 2.
  • Power stone – Orb – Guardians of the Galaxy

In comics there are stones for Mind, Soul, Power, Space, Time and Reality. We are definitely missing the Time gem so far and either Mind or Soul one (depends on which one was in Loki’s scepter and now on Vision’s head). I guess that means that Aether is the Reality stone? I could believe that.

SPOILER WARNING – going to talk about the ending and the end-credits.

So, at the end of the film we got a new line-up of the Avengers. I will definitely miss the old team but I believe that this is not the end for them. Now, let’s talk about Cap’s 3rd film – Civil War. I wasn’t planing on calling it Avengers 2.5 but I think that I will need to because it will have so many characters!

We surely know that Captain America, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, The Vision, Falcon and War Machine are going to be in it. We all also know that Iron Man will be in it. Jeremy Renner also recently said that he will be filming some stuff for the Civil War. The only 2 characters which I think won’t show up are Thor (because he has his own movie and it looked like he went back to Asgard to figure out what is happening there) and Hulk (the ending was really unclear, so I don’t really have any predictions on what is going to happen but I really hope that he will be back – I loved the science bros). And Spider-Man – he will be there as well because Sony and Marvel made a deal. Dam, I thought that Age of Ultron was a bad-ass team up but Civil War will be on the same level or even more awesome.

And don’t even get me started on what will happen in the Infinity War…If we add all the old Avengers + the new line-up + the Guardians + the new characters which will be introduced till 2018 (Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel and the Inhumans (some of them might only be in part 2)), we will get something epic and spectacular! Don’t forget, we also have the TV characters and the Netflix characters! That would mean that at least 30 characters are needed to battle Thanos who will finally do some work himself ! Avengers 3 mega team up would make my brain explode! But we have to wait until 2018 to get it.

But don’t worry, we still have plenty of cool movies to keep us waiting till then. Ant-Man comes out on July 31st (1 day before my 18th birthday!! Interesting fact – Guardians came out on my birthday last year) and Captain America Civil War will be in theaters in 1 year and 5 days – it premieres on May 6th, 2016!!

So, assemble your friends, family and pets and go watch it! You definitely won’t regret it!

If you are interested, here are a few of my other Marvel posts: Guardians of the Galaxy review, Marvel announcement reaction.

Rate: 50000000000000/5

Trailer: Age of Ultron trailer

International-Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-Poster-700x989