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 Americamovies 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 Soldierand 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 (Fargoseason 3), and Michael James Shaw (TV actor).

In short, Avengers: Infinity War is the movie event of the year that has to 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

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5 ideas about a movie: Ghost Stories

Uncategorized

Hello!

I started last week with some American horror, so it’s only right that I start this one with some British horror. This is Ghost Stories!

IMDb summary: Arch sceptic Professor Phillip Goodman embarks upon a terror-filled quest when he stumbles across a long-lost file containing details of three cases of inexplicable ‘hauntings’.

  1. Ghost Stories was written and directed by Andy Nyman (who also played the lead) and Jeremy Dyson. Nyman has worked quite a lot alongside psychological illusionist Derren Brown and that collaboration has influenced a lot of projects, including Ghost Stories, which actually started as a play on West End (co-written by both Nyman and Dyson) and was adapted to film this year.
  2. For the first 70minutes of the movie, I thought that the writing for it was good but not particularly original. The psychic detective character was an interesting one to focus on and his family’s background was also quite fascinating and obviously important. The three cases themselves had some nice themes within (violence, psychosis, family drama) but they seemed quite typical for a horror movie. However, the reveals which occurred in the last 20 minutes completely changed my mind on the wiring: the rapid-fire reveals and explanations made the whole script way more genius than it seemed before. Basically, Ghost Stories had great ‘bigger picture’ writing with some good and some just okay details.
  3. Thematically, Ghost Stories asked whether the supernatural was real and I sort of think that it answered the question by saying that the psychological is the supernatural – inner demons result in outer ones. The second big thematic idea was the statement that things are not what they always seem and that was both true within each individual case and for a whole movie overall, as its story was not what it seemed at first. The finale with the main character being trapt in his own mind was the spookiest idea of the whole film.
  4. The direction of the movie was good too. The documentary-like style opening was cool and I wish that the whole picture continued to be filmed like that. The horror sequences were scary, disturbing and intense but not something one hasn’t seen (especially if you watch a lot of horror movies – I only see a few horror movies per year and I still didn’t found the horror in this one to be particularly original). I feel that the sequences were scarier when the actual supernatural figure wasn’t directly seen: I, personally, fear the unseen way more.
  5. Ghost Stories’ cast consisted of a writer/director Andy Nyman (with whose previous work I was unfamiliar with seeing this movie), Black Mirror’s and The End of a F***ing World’s Alex Lawther (he is amazing at playing characters on the cusp of a mental breakdown, like the ones in the aforementioned TV shows and this film), Martin Freeman (also known as a Tolkien white guy on Black Panther and my main drawn to this film), and Paul Whitehouse (The Death of Stalin). No female characters were present in the film.

In short, Ghost Stories is a spooky ride with some original packaging of familair (but still cool) ideas.

Rate: 3.7/5

Trailer: Ghost Stories

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Movie review: Thoroughbreds

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a movie that enthralled me just with its name. This is Thoroughbreds.

IMDb summary: Two upper-class teenage girls in suburban Connecticut rekindle their unlikely friendship after years of growing apart. Together, they hatch a plan to solve both of their problems-no matter what the cost.

Writing

Thoroughbreds was written by the director Cory Finley. I have seen this movie described as an ‘update on the teen thriller genre’. Even though that sounds like a positive description, I would like to completely bypass the teen genre denomination, as, while the movie is about two teens, its writing is so much more than the writing for just a teen movie. It’s entirely something else.

Thoroughbreds plot revolves around two girls that set off on a mission. But these girls are not just random teenagers: they come from a privileged background that has damaged them. One of them has no emotions, the other controls hers until she doesn’t. And their mission is not a fun adventure but a quest that showcases human capacity and will for violence. It really doesn’t paint the best picture of humanity, especially the supposed best of the best of humanity, also known as the rich upper class. It also doesn’t paint the best picture of people’s understanding of human emotion, as lack of it is always seen as an issue, a deficiency, a mental illness. On the other hand, it does portray the idea of sympathy as a rare phenomenon in modern society very accurately.

Hints (or more than just hints) to the characters being psychopaths are also in the film, as they don’t seem to process human relationships in a healthy way. While the stepfather does appear abusive and not the nicest man, the killing of him is far from justified. It’s only justified in the character’s mind as the reclaiming of control. Finley’s script doesn’t need to reclaim controls as it never lets it go. The narrative is tight and doesn’t have any unnecessary details, while no line of the dialogue feels out of place. All the statements are sharp and to the point but still somewhat natural and realistic sounding. And that name, the thing that first peaked my interest, is perfect. Not only does it captures the privileged nature of the characters (horseriding is a stereotypically popular activity among the upper class), but also showcases how that privilege damages them (children are bred like animals rather than cared for through human connection).

Directing

Thoroughbreds was a directorial debut by Cory Finley and want a brilliant one it was. He took the idea of control from the script and applied it to the whole story, making it tight and controlled. It was brought to life through forceful but contained visuals and cinematography. Restrain was, most likely, encouraged in the actors’ performances too. One part of the movie that is allowed to be a bit less controlled but is still incredibly focused and powerful is the score. It’s unsettling and keeps the tension and suspension all throughout the runtime. Finley’s debut thriller-drama was just so damn good. I have no idea why it is being billed as comedy as there is nothing particularly funny about it, maybe only in ‘this is so morbid, I have to laugh’ kinda way.

Acting

Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One) and Anya Taylor-Joy (Split, soon The New Mutants) were absolutely brilliant in the picture. Their performances were top notch and extremely strong in a subtle way. Cooke’s character’s emotionlessness and Taylor-Joy’s characters privilege and porcelain-like stature were portrayed with such sophistication. Can’t wait to see more from them!

This movie also featured one of the final performances by Anton Yelchin (Star Trek Beyond). Seeing him on screen was a bittersweet moment. It’s such a shame that we have lost an incredibly talented actor at such a young age. His role here was really interesting: his drug dealer character unexpectedly became the one nice person in the film, who received all of the viewers, at least all of my, sympathy.

In short, Thoroughbreds is a fantastic thriller about control (the concept permeates all aspects of the film) and an incredibly promising directorial debut from a new voice in Tinseltown.

Rate: 4.25/5

Trailer: Thoroughbreds trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Isle of Dogs

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of one peculiar little picture. This is Isle of Dogs.

IMDb summary: Set in Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy’s odyssey in search of his lost dog.

  1. Isle of Dogs was written and directed By Wes Anderson and was undeniably his picture. His style of filmmaking is just so unique and different that it is impossible to confuse his films with anyone else’s. While Anderson did write the screenplay himself, the story credits went to Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman (two of Anderson’s frequent collaborators), and Kunichi Nomura (a Japanse actor/writer who was also one of the two casting directors for this film).
  2. I have seen a lot of articles and comments online about Isle of Dogs in relation to the appropriation of Japanese culture. I certainly had a similar thought when watching the movie. I wasn’t entirely sure why the setting had to be Japan, though I found the interplay between the languages – English and Japanese – quite an interesting choice for the film. I also wouldn’t like to state that the filmmaker was definitely appropriating something as I believe that cultures should be shared. And yet, where is the line between respectful homage and appreciation versus malevolent appropriation?
  3. In my mind, Isle of Dogs’ story unfolded on two plains: the surface and the hidden one. The surface story was an elaborate but clear adventure narrative about some dogs and a boy fighting an evil empire. That story was a bit slow but the humor was still snappy (the comedic timing was quite impeccable). The deeper meaning that I took from the picture was the commentary on the modern society, which enjoys nothing more than othering and excluding people that it finds unsuitable for a whole number of reasons (a lot of which relate to the person’s identity).
  4. I highly enjoyed the format of Isle of Dogs. I have always been a fan of the stop-motion animation and I sill find it just so captivating. The amount of work that goes into this style of animation blows my mind every time I see a new film using it. The design of the animals was also great – real but not really. Every shot felt just so material: saturated with objects, colors, and textures. The symmetrical steady shots also felt very Anderson. The film was also very musical in that its score had an underlying beat, constantly ringing in the background, which provided a sort of rhythmic backdrop for the story. The animation, art, and music departments should get as much recognition for this movie as Anderson himself does.
  5. Isle of Dogs’ voice cast was full of Hollywood’s most recognizable and expressive voices that added so much to the picture. Bryan Cranston (Trumbo, Power Rangers), Edward Norton (Collateral Beauty), Bill Murray (The Jungle Book), Jeff Goldblum (ID2, Thor 3), Bob BalabanGreta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards), Scarlett Johansson (Ghost in the Shell, MCU), and Tilda Swinton (Okja, Doctor Strange) all had roles of varying sizes.  On the Japanese front, Koyu Rankin, Kunichi Nomura, Akira Takayama and even Yoko Ono lent their voices to some characters.

In brief, Isle of Dogs was a bizarre and fascinating Wes Anderson-y ride that might or might not have been culturally insensitive.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Isle of Dogs trailer

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Movie review: Unsane

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of a horror movie by a horror hater (also known as a scary cat). This is Unsane!

IMDb summary: A young woman is involuntarily committed to a mental institution, where she is confronted by her greatest fear–but is it real or a product of her delusion?

Writing

Unsane was written by Jonathan Bernstein (journalist) and James Greer (novelist and critic) and I thought that their script was really interesting. First of all, I loved how much information the movie provided about its characters and the story, and yet, how nothing was clear. It sprung the main topic of the film on the viewer in the first few scenes without any preparation. That main question, whether the character was actually insane or not, didn’t actually end up being answered but the ambiguity of it was so intriguing that I wasn’t even mad for not getting concrete answers. I also don’t feel that concrete answers are appropriate when looking at mental illness – a very complex, personal, and still not-fully-understood field.

The main character, aside from her existing (or not) psychological issues, was also super interesting. Her personality and actions weren’t the most sympathetic and yet, the viewer wanted to root for her. It was quite a confusing and frustrating state that the viewer was put in. I also got personally annoyed with the character because of her incapability to work the situation that she was in. That inability might be due to the mental illness? But did it start because of the stalking? Or was there an issue before? Was she ever telling the truth? Why would she play/provoke him? What about that ending? I really didn’t expect the movie to go there but I am sort of fascinated by the fact that it did.

Lastly, the setting of the movie was incredible too. That asylum was both old-school (because it reminded me of a mental institution one might see in old horror movies) but was also super contemporary (because it was just a front for insurance fraud (yey, capitalism?)).

Directing

Unsane was directed by Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike XXL), who was also the cinematographer and the editor of the film. His involvement with this movie was the main reason while I actually subjected myself to watching a horror movie. And it wasn’t really a typical horror movie, but a very fascinating and creepy psychological thriller (and I’m somehow very into that genre, even though it is so closely related to the horror one).

Anyways, Soderbergh has made some bold chances, like breaking away from the big studios and handling the marketing himself with his last film Logan Lucky. He went one step further with Unsane by not even using any of the traditional filmmaking methods – the picture was shot entirely on an iPhone (Tangerinewas also shot on an iPhone, so Unsane isn’t the first ‘bigger’ movie to do that). Thus, the aspect ration of the movie was unusual. The cinematography was super unique too: the viewers had a very direct relationship with the image and seemed to be so close to it. The angles from which the film was shot also differed from the usual ones. That lack of distance between the viewer and the picture kinda made it feel like a documentary movie too. The not-perfect quality of the visuals also added to that feeling of realism. Since it appears that Soderbergh pretty much did everything himself on this picture, the credits of it were surprisingly short. I was halfway down the stairs in the screen and they were already over.

Acting

Unsane was mostly a one-woman show: Claire Foy (Breathe) played the lead and was really incredible. Love the fact that Netflix’s The Crown led to more cinematic roles for her. Joshua Leonard played the stalker and was uncomfortable to watch, both because of what type of character he was playing and because the actual performance was a bit stiff. SNL’s Jay Pharoah was one strand of positivity in the film and I did appreciate the breather/reassurance that the character provided both for the main character and the viewers. Juno Temple (Wonder Wheel) also had a small but quite explosive role. There is also a fun cameo by a big movie star, who has been popping up in all kinds of different projects, lately.

Unsane was an unhinged psychological thriller that left me with more questions than answers, like any good psycho-thriller should do.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Unsane trailer 

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5 ideas about a movie: You Were Never Really Here

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a movie I knew nothing about prior to seeing it. Can’t say I know much more having now seen it. This is You Were Never Really Here.

IMDb summary: A traumatized veteran, unafraid of violence, tracks down missing girls for a living. When a job spins out of control, Joe’s nightmares overtake him as a conspiracy is uncovered leading to what may be his death trip or his awakening.

  1. You Were Never Really Here was written and directed by Lynne Ramsay. Her previous feature – We Need To Talk About Kevin – has been on my ‘to watch’ list for years and I have yet to get to it. Thus, I went into this movie not only not knowing anything about the actual picture but also without any expectations. And I still don’t know how I feel about this movie, even though it’s been 3 weeks since I’ve seen it.
  2. The film won the ‘Best Screenplay’ at the 70th Cannes Film Festival and, at first, I wasn’t sure why, as I didn’t really think this movie had a story. It had a plot and stuff happening but I didn’t see the narrative. Then, I sort of realized that that was an intentional choice. There was barely any dialogue, let alone narration. It was up to a viewer to fill in the blanks and figure out the story. I think that one’s enjoyment of this film solely depends on one’s ability to fill in the gaps themselves or one’s willingness to be content with not knowing.
  3. While the movie never gave enough information neither in the opening nor throughout the rest of the plot, what it did present was intriguing as much as disturbing. These feelings are certainly appropriate for the themes that the movie was exploring: it looked at the concept of one’s inner demons and also showcased abuse (I thought that it questioned whether the main character was a victim or perpetrator of abuse or both? What is the relationship between the two?). What I liked most about this movie was its undeniable focus on the human. The happy ending was also nice but I didn’t trust the movie enough to actually believe it.
  4. The unsettling topics weren’t expressed verbally but they were perfectly showcased visually through a lot of uncomfortable close-ups. The movie was also really slow and that slowness of pace did not allow the viewer to escape from the creepiness of the movie’s world for but a second. Since I cannot see a movie and not automatically connect it with a different movie, I thought that the underwater shots in this film looked like creepier and more realistic takes on The Shape of Water’ water scenes.
  5. The lead in the movie was played by Joaquin Phoenix (Irrational Man) and he was really good. Both sort of scary yet sympathetic. He was my only draw to this picture and I should have known what kinda film I was signing up for, as Phoenix doesn’t really do mainstream (or close to the mainstream) projects. I, personally, was quite lost and confused when watching the movie and I don’t know if it is accessible to the mainstream audiences. My problem with movies like this one is that they don’t encourage me to research them and to potentially get smarter: they just make me feel dumber and angry about it.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: You Were Never Really Here

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Movie review: Ready Player One

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the perfect Easter movie all about them Easter Eggs – Ready Player One.

IMDb summary: When the creator of a virtual reality world called the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune.

Writing

Ready Player One was written by Zak Penn (who worked on The Avengers and some early 2000s Marvel movies) and the author of the original novel Ernest Cline. I have read the book last year and very much enjoyed it. While watching the movie, I didn’t remember all the details, so I wasn’t exactly sure what changes to the narrative were made. However, I do think that the film’s plot was a bit more streamlined than the book’s. Also, as a longtime fan of dystopias of all shapes and sizes, I loved an opportunity to immersive myself in a new one.

What certainly didn’t change (going from the book to the movie) was the plethora of Easter Eggs in the story. In the book, the extensive lists of references were easier to get (or google). Having said that, those lists did feel a bit tedious at times in the text, while a motion picture format is way a more organically fitting format for Easter Eggs. And yet, in my mind, references are harder to get and easier to miss in a visual form. Still, I was quite proud of myself for spotting a lot of cool nods in this film. I’m a sure that I missed a tonne as well too, though.

From the structural point of view, the movie’s writing was good. The opening set-up was a bit heavy-handed and had a lot of narration. That information was necessary for the following story, but I wish that it would have been presented in a less typical fashion. The rest of the narrative was fine – the quest story was entertaining and fairly cohesive, while the characters – interesting and well-developed enough too. Some of the dialogue sounded bit cheesy. Nevertheless, the overall theme and message – to focus on reality rather than the virtual world – was a neat one. Another side message that I got from the movie was a warning to the corporations to not mess with the nerds. Honestly, that just sounds like today’s online discourse when fans go mad if a big company attempts to do something different with the beloved properties.

Directing

Ready Player One was directed by the master Steven Spielberg (Bridge of Spies, The BFG), who somehow managed to find time to film this movie and to also make The Post, both to be released just months apart. I think he did a spectacular job. First of all, he made a good video game movie that is not even based on a video game but feels like a video game. And yet, in addition to feeling and looking like a video game, the movie also feels like a movie – it has a story and characters and a message. My one gripe with the film was that it was a bit long and did slow down in the second act.

While Spielberg has always been known for revolutionary computer effects, he has also always been a filmmaker who championed the practical aspect of the visual effects. Thus, it was really interesting to see him make a movie that is definitely about 80% CGI. This begs the question – how much of what we are seeing is Spielberg’s vision and how much is the impeccable work of the animation and the art departments? Whoever was responsible for those visuals, they were great: appropriately artificial looking yet somehow not fake. The throwback soundtrack was amazing too.

Acting

Tye Sheridan (the new Cyclops in X-Men: Apocalypse), Olivia Cooke, and Lena Waithe played the three main ‘players’ in the game and delivered great performances in both the reality and through motion capture as their characters’ avatars. Ben Mendelsohn (Darkest Hour) was a bit of a mustache-twirling villain. I think his villainous performance in Rogue One had more subtlety. T.J. Miller (Deadpool) was good as the comedic relief (not a big surprise). Simon Pegg (MI: Rogue Nation, Star Trek Beyond) also had a small role, while the new Spielberg favorite Mark Rylance (Dunkirk) was amazing and played such a relatable character (an antisocial nerd afraid of taking a leap. That’s literally what’s going to be written on my tombstone). Every time I see Rylance in a new film, I amazed by his versatility. No surprise that Spielberg is putting him in everything now.

In short, Ready Player One is an entertaining extended homage to pop culture and a lovely celebration of all things nerd.

Rate: 3.8/5

Trailer: Ready Player One trailer

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Movie review: A Wrinkle in Time

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to A Wrinkle in Time review overflowing with disappointment, written by a very sad Disney fangirl.

IMDb summary:  After the disappearance of her scientist father, three peculiar beings send Meg, her brother, and her friend to space in order to find him.

Writing

2018’s A Wrinkle in Time is a cinematic adaptation of a beloved children’s book by the same name by Madeleine L’Engle. I have never read the book myself so the script by Frozen’s Jennifer Lee and a TV writer Jeff Stockwell was my first introduction to the story. And what a disappointment it was (I already would like to apologize for using the word ‘disappointment’ a lot in this review).

The movie started with an incredibly heavy-handed set-up that still failed to tell anything substantial about the world of this story. The whole first act was just a complete mess, full of hints to and half-assed attempts to explain the mythology of the world. Nothing made any sense: this was probably the movie with the vaguest rules of magic. Also, while I did appreciate its attempt to connect magic and science, that whole concept didn’t really end up going anywhere.

The actual story wasn’t great either because it was so choppy. The characters would move from one stage to another in their adventure without any cohesion or continuity. Speaking about the characters: they were not the best either: the three magical ladies were…well, magical and somehow connected to the universe and possessing some vaguely defined powers. The father character was fine but quite unsympathetic. The three children characters were okay: the main girl had the arc of a hesitant hero combined with the struggles of a preteen girl; her brother was an interesting character but the twists relating to his arc weren’t handled well; while their friend didn’t really have anything to do with the story – he was just there to be teased as a love interest.

The movie’s message, all relating to love, family, and being who you are, was nice but handled in both a confused and simplistic fashion. There was no clarity, sophistication, or originality in the story for that type of a typical message to be elevated. I also don’t think that the movie handled the idea of loss very well: it didn’t really show the family as going through the process of acceptance and healing but rather portrayed them as being underwhelmed and incapacitated by their loss. A Wrinkle in Time also tied the faults of humanity to an unknown evil entity, which was a questionable decision.

Lastly, to finish off the writing part, this movie reminded me of Interstellar of all things in two aspects. First, the idea that love is the key to the universe and how it extends through time and space. The second thing was the fact that a father-daughter relationship completely overpowered the father-son one. I guess favoritism in the case of multiple children is very true.

Directing

Ava DuVernay, a celebrated director of Selma and documentary 13th (soon New Gods movie too) had a lot riding on this movie and a lot to accomplish with it. She famously changed the race of the lead character, presented an interracial family and became the first female director of color to be trusted with such a gigantic budget. And, I, sadly, think that all these outside concerns kinda overtook the movie and the actual film turned out to be of a fairly poor quality. While the movie’s runtime was short, the picture itself felt incredibly long due to its slow pace. It also felt choppy and disjointed (mostly due to the faulty screenplay). The budget was probably mostly spent on the CGI which did look great: the colors were vibrant, the designs of the costumes and the sets – really beautiful (except that flying cabbage). The credits were also gorgeous. Overall, the movie looked imaginative. However, it is not enough for a movie to be pretty: if some of those millions of the budget were spent on better writers, the final product would have been much better. A Wrinkle in Time did have a nice pop soundtrack though, so that’s something.

Acting

A Wrinkle in Time featured three child actors in the lead and, while I don’t want to be harsh on them, I also don’t want to sugarcoat my thoughts. Basically, the young actors – Storm Reid, Levi Miller (he was Pan in the failed Pan reboot), and Deric McCabe  – weren’t bad but they did lack diversity in their facial expressions or general energy in their performances. Oprah WinfreyReese Witherspoon (Sing, Home Again), and Mindy Kaling were good, bit cartoonish but that fit their roles. Chris Pine (The Finest Hours, Wonder Woman, Hell or High Water, Star Trek Beyond) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beauty and the Beast) had small roles too and were really great. Lastly, Zach Galifianakis (Tulip Fever) and Michael Peña (Ant-Man, The Martian, 12 Strong, Collateral Beauty) also cameoed and got to wear some weird costumes.

In short, A Wrinkle in Time tries to accomplish a lot of things both behind and in front of the camera but I don’t know whether it manages to succeed in either of its quests.

Rate: 2.7/5

Trailer: A Wrinkle in Time trailer

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Movie review: Love, Simon

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of a gay teen romance that made a straight adult believe in love again. I’m kidding. But also, not really. Anyways, this is Love, Simon!

IMDb summary: Simon Spier keeps a huge secret from his family, his friends, and all of his classmates: he’s gay. When that secret is threatened, Simon must face everyone and come to terms with his identity.

Writing

Love, Simon was written by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger (the showrunners of This is Us), based on the book ‘Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda’ (amazing title, tbh) by Becky Albertalli. I like to think (and pretend) that with me getting older, my tastes are changing and maturing. While that is true to some extent, I’m also very prone to living in the past, so, even though I’m close to finishing university, nothing pleases me more than a trip down memory lane into my high-school years. Thus, I’ll take a high school teen movie any day of the week. From that whole nonsensical babble, you can probably guess that I loved (pun, very much, intended) Love, Simon. Also, I haven’t read the book prior to seeing the movie, so I can’t comment on any plot or character changes. I will say this: the movie definitely made me want to read the book.

So, to begin with, I loved the mix of old teen movie tropes and new contemporary ideas in the writing of the movie. I absolutely loved the message concerning identity – whether related to sexuality or not – and how the reveal of one’s identity is always a scary thing, even when it will probably be accepted. Still, I wish the movie underscored a bit more the fact that the reaction to Simon’s coming out was a borderline, best case scenario. And yet, this movie was more focused on an individual story rather than on broader social issues, so maybe it should not be penalized for not addressing the bigger problems? Maybe its goal was to just tell a love story rather than to make a political statement (let’s leave political statements for Moonlight or Call Me By Your Name?).

And that love story was great. It felt real and heartfelt, but also quite sappy. And why shouldn’t it be sappy? Why hetero-normative stories can be allowed to be so sickly sweet romantic and gay ones not? Everyone deserves a great love story and the movie not only tells that but does it too. Still, while that whole love story was all cute and escapist on screen, please be careful when meeting people online. Catfish situations are plentiful in the real world.

Anyways, going back to talking about the treatment of identity in the movie, this time in relation to the specific identity of a gay teen – I loved how the movie both played into the stereotype but also subverted it. Love, Simon was great at showcasing that one’s sexuality need not be the defining factor of one’s identity and, let alone, whole life. I highly appreciated the film’s underlying focus on the fact that nothing has to change just because somebody comes out as gay. I also really liked the fact that, while the script made the viewers relate to and understand the lead Simon, it also did not over-idealize him. Simon still had flaws and hurt other people and his actions should not be excused just because he had a secret. They should be excused because he was human, like all of us.

Lastly, while Love, Simon had some nice messages about identity and some adorable romantic moments, it also had some great instances of humor. A lot of the jokes and situation were cringe-y and awkward (and very teen appropriate). However, an equal amount of jokes were genuinely laugh-out-loud funny.

Directing

Love, Simon was directed by Greg Berlanti – the master of the DC TV’s Arrowverse as well as the writer/producer of the beloved teen shows like Dawson’s Creek and, more recently, Riverdale. I thought that he did quite a good job with his 3rd feature film that he directed (it has been 8 years since the last one). Berlanti himself is gay but I don’t want to assume that his personal experiences anyway impacted his decision to direct this film.

No matter the reasons, he did a great job. Love, Simon was a well-paced dramedy, with a good mix of lighter comedic moments and deeper emotional scenes. The cinematography and camera work were also both good – typical of a mainstream drama, though some overhead shots were pretty neat and unique. The production/set design was great too. I loved the design of Simon’s room as well as that whole dream sequence about him being gay in college. The soundtrack was lovely too. I loved the final song ‘Wild heart’ by Bleachers.

Acting

Love, Simon’s cast consisted of up-and-coming talent that you might have seen in other films/TV shows aimed at younger (and not only) audiences. The lead was played by Nick Robinson (who was absolutely amazing in this film – real and relatable) who you might remember from Jurassic World but also another YA adaptation Everything, Everything. His friend group consisted of 13 Reasons Why Katherine Langford, X-Men: Apocalypse’s Alexandra Shipp, and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (who had a tiny role in Spider-Man: Homecoming). Keiynan Lonsdale (known by a lot of fans of Berlanti’s work as the Kid Flash on The Flash) and Miles Heizer (also of 13 Reason Why but Nerve too – another modern teen movie) also had small roles in the film.

On the adult front, Josh Duhamel (Transformers 5) and Jennifer Garner played Simon’s parents and had a couple of heartfelt and a couple of funny scenes concerning modern parenting. Tony Hale (weirdly, also from Transformers, but also Veep which I really need to watch) and Natasha Rothwell played the vice-principal and the drama teacher, respectively, and were sort of cartoonish. Their jokes went too far at times but they still somehow worked in the context of the movie.

In short, Love, Simon was a great teen dramedy that had the timeless appeal of a John Hughes’ film and the representation of the modern times!

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Love, Simon trailer

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Movie review: Red Sparrow

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to March – the new ‘it’ month for high-profile movie releases. And it opens with Red Sparrow!

IMDb summary: Ballerina Dominika Egorova is recruited to ‘Sparrow School,’ a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon. Her first mission, targeting a C.I.A. agent, threatens to unravel the security of both nations.

Writing

Red Sparrow was written by Justin Haythe (who wrote two previous Gore Verbinski’s films The Lone Rangerand A Cure For Wellness), based on the book of the same name by Jason Matthews. I found the writing to be quite uneven and I’m going to unpack my ideas more broadly by discussing the narrative and the themes. The film had two parts, each about an hour long. The first hour acted as an extensive set-up and developed the main character quite a lot. The viewers got to follow her life as an everyday citizen (though she was never just an everyday person – she was always special, first as a ballerina and later as a sparrow), then to witness the inciting incident and its consequences: the extensive training to be a tool of the state (more on that in the second part on themes). The set-up was quite long but it did work: the main character’s capacity for the horrific actions that she was going to commit as a sparrow was always present in the set-up.

In the second hour of the film (+20minutes), Red Sparrow’s actual plot unraveled, and sadly, it was quite uneven. The writers really tried crafting a complex and layered story, full of characters with constantly shifting allegiances. And while that sounds all good – actually it is quite fascinating – the mysterious and the secretive nature of the plot was not always realized compellingly. Also, looking back to the plot – not all the dots necessarily connect and make sense. Still, I have to applaud the ending of the story. For a while, it seemed like the movie was headings towards a typical romantic conclusion but then it broke away from all of that and delivered and strong finale with some great double-crosses and twists. Though, the reveal of the mole was a bit heavy-handed and surprising it a bad way a.k.a.it came out of nowhere.

Thematically, I’d like to touch upon two major things: the usage of sex in the film as well as the Russia vs. US standoff. Before going to see the film, I got the impression that the main weapon of the sparrow will be psychological manipulation but I feel like the ads and trailers lied to me. Red Sparrow, in my mind, was missing its promised psychological manipulation and was all about the pure physical manipulation a.k.a. manipulation through sex. And while physical and psychological manipulations are certainly connected, I really wish that the movie would have looked at that actual connection or the psychological side quite a lot more. Also, the usage of sex by a specifically female heroine of the film raised even more questions about the position of female sexuality on film. While it can certainly be seen/used as a strong creative choice, it has also been reduced to a cheap trick quite a few times. Also, there is but a fine line between female sexuality as a form of empowerment or a tool of exploitation. To my mind, Red Sparrow was leaning more towards the second option, as the female sparrows were taught and made to use sex as a weapon by a patriarchal system rather than having chosen it as a weapon out of their own agency.

On the US v Russia front, the picture was certainly successful at establishing the askew nationalistic ideas that were/are so prevalent in Russia and portraying the brainwashing politics accurately. Still, it had an overall message of American heroism as the better/ the winning option. The weird US/Russia antagonism also made the movie’s temporal setting feel rather vague: it could have been set during the Cold War, the early aftermath of it in the late 90s/early 2000s or even just last year.

Directing

Francis Lawrence (the director of the 3 last The Hunger Games films, including my two favorites – Catching Fire and Mockingjay 1) directed Red Sparrow and did an okay job. I highly appreciated the style of the picture: the raw and indie feeling of it as well as the cold and cool tone. However, the slowness of the pace and the length of the movie really minimized the enjoyment of the film. Moreover, the plot (the substance) wasn’t good enough to make up for the lacking pace. The graphic violence and graphic nudity were both present in Red Sparrow and I don’t really know whether they served the plot or were they just there for shock value. During the scenes of violence, Red Sparrow did feel like a more contemporary version of its predecessor Atomic Blonde, while the scenes of creepy nudity were more plentiful than in the whole Fifty Shades franchise.

Acting

Jennifer Lawrence (reunited with F. Lawrence after THG) played the lead of the film and did a good job but she wasn’t great or irreplaceable. Her Russian accent was fine, though, at times, she did sound like she was speaking with a clogged noise (as if she had a cold). Her decision to play this role is probably more interesting than the performance itself. The actress has vocally expressed how uncomfortable she was with the skin tight costume of Mystique in the X-Men movies and yet she was somehow fine with complete nudity in this film? Was this an act of bravery and growth as a performer or a desperate attempt to reclaim some fame? Her fan circle has been decreasing: The Hunger Gamesfinished a with whimper rather than a bang, she annoyed a lot of Marvel/X-Men fans because of her lack of enthusiasm about that series, her various comments on talk shows have also been reacted to quite badly online, and even her last two more serious awards films failed to connect with the audiences or the critics (Joyat least got her another Oscar nomination, while mother! turned out to be a complete disaster).

Some big-name talent was also involved with this film on the supporting front. Joel Edgerton (Bright, Midnight Special, Loving, Black Mass) and Matthias Schoenaerts (Far From The Madding Crowd, The Danish Girl) had two best-developed and most interesting male roles in the film. Jeremy Irons (BvS, High-Rise) and Game of Thrones’ Ciaran Hinds (Justice League) also both appeared but in much smaller, cameo-sized roles. Charlotte Rampling (45 Years, Assasin’s Creed) played the matriarch of the school of the sparrows and it was quite unexpected seeing her in a film with a, supposedly, strong female lead after her sort of anti-women comments a few awards seasons ago (that ran along the lines of ‘women in the West don’t have anything to complain about’).

In short, Red Sparrow was a mediocre thriller that betrayed its message and overstayed its welcome.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Red Sparrow trailer

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