Movie review: Widows

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of another awards’ hopeful that didn’t look like an awards’ movie from the trailer but is one because of who is involved with it in front and behind the camera. This is Widows.

IMDb summary: Set in contemporary Chicago, amid a time of turmoil, four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities, take fate into their own hands, and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.

Writing

Gillian Flynn, best known as a novelist (Gone Girl) rather than scriptwriter, and the director Steve McQueen wrote the screenplay of Windows. The script was based on a TV show. And that could be felt while watching the film because the movie’s narrative was oversaturated with ideas and plotlines. The movie also felt a bit like a book-adaptation by how dense it was – or that may just be Flynn’s writing style.

I really liked how unique the characters were and how they felt like real, well-rounded people rather than cliches or archetypes. I also appreciated how all the plotlines were handled: the film was complex and clear at the same time. It was also engaging, though I wasn’t completely convinced by the twist. Thematically, the movie didn’t really focus on just a couple of concepts but rather it put a mirror to the contemporary world and portrayed an interplay of issues, including women’s position in society, betrayal, criminality, politics, family, marriage, relationships, and race among others.

Directing

Steve McQueen of 12 Years a Slave directed Widows and did a good job. I appreciated his visual style, the extreme close-ups and how he played with the frame (what was in or outside of it) and depth (front v back). I’m still not entirely sure whether the film was awarded’ material. It was definitely a solid film but was it revolutionary in any way? I don’t think so. I also think it was more thriller-y than drama-y, and the Academy still values dramas above everything else.

Acting

Widows had a diverse cast, and by diverse, I mean diverse in identities that were represented and in the quality or status of actors. Viola Davis (Fences), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) and Colin Farrell (The Beguiled) were there to boost the awards chances of the film. Elizabeth Debicki and Michele Rodriguez are both great actresses but they are still closer to the B than the A-list (they are not main stars of their respective franchises, Marvel and FF, respectively). Liam Neeson is an action star that usually has his movies come out in January (a.k.a. the worst month?), like The Commuter. Some quality TV actors were also part of the cast, and even though they were great, they are still associated more with the small rather than the silver screen, and while that isn’t a bad thing for the audiences, it might be a hard sell when it comes to awards?

In short, Widows was a solid thriller with an engaging story and great execution of it by both the director and the actors.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Widows trailer

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The Awards Season Round-Up 2018

Movie previews, Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the end of the 2018 awards’ season. With the big night – the Academy Awards – just around the corner, I thought it was high time for me to decide on my personal winners. I have done similar posts for 2016 and 2017 awards seasons and linked them accordingly.

This year, I’m switching up the format and instead of listing my favorite to the least favorite filmmakers/films in each category, I’m just gonna be announcing a single personal (subjective) winner out of the nominees. I’ll also write down my objective winner – somebody who I think (when factoring in the previous wins, the critical acclaim, even the box office numbers) will actually get the Oscar. My subjective and objective winners might not always coincide. I’ll also include some of the snubs – people or movies that should have been included in the prestigious top 5 (or top 10 for Best Picture) but didn’t get an invite. Here we go! Don’t forget to tell me your personal winners (who should win and who will win) in the comments!

Lead Actor:

Timothée Chalamet – Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out
Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington – Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Snubs: Tom Hanks – The Post; James Franco – The Disaster Artist; Jamie Bell – Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

  • Objective Winer: Gary OldmanDarkest Hour (he won every major award until this point).
  • Subjective Winners: Timothée ChalametCall Me by Your Name or Daniel Kaluuya Get Out (two incredible actors, both at the beginning of their career – the nominations themselves already solidified them as valuable commodity in Hollywood and the wins, though unlikely, would kickstart their career on even a higher note)

Lead Actress:

Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie – I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird
Meryl Streep – The Post

Snubs: Jessica Chastain – Molly’s Game; Michelle Williams – All The Money In The World; Emma Stone – Battle of the Sexes

  • Objective Winer: Frances McDormandThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (again, she has won every major acting award this season)
  • Subjective Winner: Sally HawkinsThe Shape of Water (there was something so special about her performance that I just have to give it to her)

Supporting Actor:

Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer – All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Snubs: Armie Hammer – Call Me by Your Name

  • Objective Winer: Sam Rockwell Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (won every major award this season)
  • Subjective Winners: Sam Rockwell Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (made an awful caricature into an understandable character – brilliant)

Supporting Actress:

Mary J. Blige – Mudbound
Allison Janney – I, Tonya
Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water

Snubs: Hong Chau – Downsizing; Holly Hunter – The Big Sick; Kristin Scott Thomas – Darkest Hour

  • Objective Winer: Allison JanneyI, Tonya (won every major award – I’m getting tired of repeating this line but there really hasn’t been a lot of surprises this awards season)
  • Subjective Winners: Allison Janney I, Tonya (while all the nominees were good, she was amazing and on a different level altogether)

Director:

Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk
Jordan Peele – Get Out
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water

Snubs: Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Ridley Scott – All the Money in the World; Steven Spielberg – The Post; Sean Baker – The Florida Project; Denis Villeneuve – Blade Runner 2049

  • Objective Winer: Guillermo del ToroThe Shape of Water (the major winner this season who is also a longtime working director that deserves an Oscar)
  • Subjective Winners: Greta GerwigLady Bird (while I didn’t think her movie was as praiseworthy as everyone said, I do think that her directing abilities made it into something more special than a simple YA coming of age tale).

Adapted Screenplay:

James Ivory – Call Me by Your Name
Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber – The Disaster Artist
Scott Frank, James Mangold & Michael Green – Logan
Aaron Sorkin – Molly’s Game
Virgil Williams & Dee Rees – Mudbound

Snubs:  Armando Iannucci, Ian Martin & David Schneider – The Death of Stalin;  Hampton Fancher & Michael Green – Blade Runner 2049 (not sure whether it counts as original or adapted)

  • Objective Winer: Aaron Sorkin Molly’s Game (I think that Sorkin’s name will be enough to persuade the voters)
  • Subjective Winners: Scott Frank, James Mangold & Michael Green Logan (no surprise here, if you read my blog: as much as I like typical awards movies, seeing a mainstream comic book movie winning an Oscar would be absolutely amazing)

Original Screenplay:

Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani – The Big Sick
Jordan Peele – Get Out
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor – The Shape of Water
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Snubs: Sean Baker & Chris Bergoch – The Florida Project;  Steven Rogers – I, Tonya

  • Objective Winner: Martin McDonaghThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
  • Subjective Winners: Emily V. Gordon & Kumail NanjianiThe Big Sick or Jordan PeeleGet Out (again, two more mainstream-esque movies that did something new and unique with familiar genres)

Best Picture:

Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Snubs: The Disaster ArtistThe Big Sick; Molly’s Game; The Florida Project

  • Objective Winner: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (the winner up to this point). Or The Shape of Water (the big nominee that could steal the thunder)
  • Subjective Winners: I would love to see either of my objective winners actually winning. The third subjective pick would be Call Me by Your Name.

And that is is for the 2018th Awards Season! Onto March a.k.a. the warm-up for the summer movie season (A Wrinkle In Time; Red Sparrow; Tomb Raider; Pacific Rim 2; Love, Simon; Ready Player One…this month is going to be big!)

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Movie review: Black Panther

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the review of the newest and, arguably, the most important Marvel movie! This is Black Panther!

IMDb summary: T’Challa, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king.

As usual, before I start, my previous MCU reviews are here: Guardians 1 and 2, Avengers 2, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor 3.

Writing

Black Panther was written by the director of the film Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole. I thought that the duo did a stellar job with the script. I’m not going to talk about the plot in detail, so as to keep this review spoiler free, other than to stay that a lot of narrative things happen in this film and a couple of them are quite unexpected. There are also a few of meaningful deaths (that might silence MCU critics who say that nobody ever dies in this universe). What I’m going to discuss more elaborately are the brilliant and multiple thematical concepts of Black Panther.

Just on the surface representational level, this film was a game changer. Black characters were elevated from the roles of the supporting friend/the funny sidekick/the one-scene cameo and were brought to the forefront. It’s also refreshing to see fictional black characters rather than real-life rebel slaves or civil rights activists (those smaller biographical movies are important too, but diversity in the blockbuster field is key as well). Also, even though this movie told a fictional story about fictional characters, it honored and paid homage to a lot of its real-world equivalents/inspirations, which raised a question for me: why haven’t we seen pictures about real, past or current, African tribes that were not documentaries???

Anyways, more on Black Panther paying homage to certain real-world ideas/events. I absolutely loved how the movie honored the connection that Africans have with their ancestors (and how in touch with their spirituality they are) as well their connection with nature (healing herbs, animals as deities). It was also great for the movie to acknowledge the violence within African culture (both the inner to the culture and the one coming from the west). Most importantly, it was just so amazing to see the Afrofuturism ideas on screen, which connected modernity with the traditional side of the culture. Scholars have been racking their brains about how to develop Africa without Westernizing it! Well, just do what Black Panther did: connect the two things rather than make one negate the other!

As the movie’s main character was a sovereign of a country, Black Panther also had some political commentary, mostly about a single country’s relation and obligation to the world. It also explored the well-known idea of the sins of the father reflecting of the children but in a royal context.  The film also had some fascinating things to say about communities, tribes or one’s ‘people’. How do we define that category? Do we draw lines based on race? Ethnicity? Nationality? Culture? Common beliefs and ideals? One of the central conflicts in the film was based on the fact that the villain and the hero of the story had different answers to that question. Speaking of the villain, Killmonger might be Marvel’s best one yet because he wasn’t just a villain but a character in his own right, whose goals were radical yet valid. The viewer could definitely understand his frustrations and reasons for his thinking.

Directing

Ryan Coogler (of Creedand Fruitvale Station) did an amazing job with Black Panther. He realized the visuals of Afrofuturism so well (with the help of production design, of course). The sets were brilliant and the costumes – absolutely impeccable and so cool as well! The action was really great too: fast-paced, intense, and meaningful for the plot. The pacing was also great!  The much-celebrated music of the movie was great (so it has been celebrated for a reason). I wanted to hear even more if it!

Acting

Black Panther assembled a stellar cast, led by Chadwick Boseman (Civil War) in a role that he was born to play. I’d love to see his involvement in the MCU leading to more non-biographical roles for him (cause I have seen him in quite a few biopics). Coogler’s collaborator Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Fantastic Four) played the villain and fully embodied the role, both physically and emotionally. I absolutely loved his character’s Americanized look too. An absolute scene stealer was Letitia Wright as the tech (and actual) princess. I loved her portrayal as a tech genius who was super excited about her creations and I also loved all her outfits and amazing sense of humor (bit cringe-y at times but so relatable). Lupita Nyong’o (The Jungle Book, The Force Awakens) also had a great role in the film – really loved seeing her in a big picture in person (not as in Star Wars, in motion capture).

Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira played an incredible role of the leader of Dora Milaje (who were all so amazing), while the breakout star of last year Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) also had an interesting role to play (I loved how his character’s cape-like looking thing was also a shield). Winston Duke played a fun and multifaceted character too. Some more seasoned talent was also spotlighted: Angela Bassett was great as the mother of the king, while Forest Whitaker (Southpaw, Arrival, Rogue One) was perfect as an elderly statesman. Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis (War For The Planet of The Apes, The Last Jedi) also reprised their earlier roles in the MCU and were great. Freeman was a lovable CIA agent (not a word I’d use to describe a CIA agent, but, oh well), while Serkis was super crazy as one the villains of the film but it was really nice to see him in a non-motion capture performance.

Post-credits/End-credits (bit spoiler-y)

While Black Panther was mostly divorced from the MCU (it didn’t have many Easter Eggs that I could notice except of course the Stan Lee cameo), it did have a neat after-credits scene, where a fan-favorite from Civil War (‘White Wolf’) was defrosted. He seemed to be doing well in Wakanda.

The mid-credits scene was closely related to this picture and had a nice message of peaceful communication. It sounded a tiny bit naive but I can’t really fault hope.

In short, Black Panther was both a great Marvel comic book movie and a sophisticated game-changer in terms of representation for the whole context of modern cinema.

Rate: 4.8/5

Trailer: Black Panther trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Get Out

Movie reviews

Hello!

Recently, I had some spare time to catch up on the 2017 movies that I’ve already missed and, since this one will definitely come up in the conversation later in the year, during the awards season, I decided to review it. Of course, I’m talking about the modern masterpiece that is Get Out. A note on the review: since I’m at least half a year late to the initial discussion of the film and I also don’t feel qualified enough to give you an extensive look at it, I’ ll just express my brief, general thoughts on it. However, I highly suggest you watch some more in-depth coverage on the picture, cause both the film and the debate surrounding it are truly fascinating.

IMDb summary: It’s time for a young African American to meet with his white girlfriend’s parents for a weekend in their secluded estate in the woods, but before long, the friendly and polite ambiance will give way to a nightmare.

  1. Get Out was a directorial debut (and his first solo screenplay for a feature to be produced) of one-half of the Key&Peele comedic duo – Jordan Peele. While the majority of his previous work has been in the comedy genre and on TV, here, Peele reinvigorated both the horror genre and the modern cinema landscape by injecting some contemporary, very topical, and, most importantly, original ideas, into them.
  2. Get Out tackled the untouched concept of the liberal racism – an even more uncomfortable side of the already dreadful issue. However, no matter how unsettling the issue is, I have always been a strong believer in a necessity to still talk about it, and Get Out did just that. The movie also introduced the concept of racist compliments, which was such a simple and easily noticeable idea that all previous filmmakers have somehow still missed. The picture spread a message of common humanity and I do hope to see it being achieved in my lifetime.
  3. While Peele created a modern, discussion-worthy, masterpiece by taking a simple outline of a narrative and injecting brilliant themes into it, he also created a very entertaining movie. The reveals in the story were subtle yet still shocking and suspenseful, while the viewers’ expectations were constantly played with, from the very beginning to the closing images.
  4. Peele also assembled a great cast for his picture. Daniel Kaluuya, who some people might remember from the 15 Million Merits episode of Black Mirror, was incredible in the lead and I’m so happy that the role in this film led to a boost to his career – he will also star in Black Panther. This Marvel deal could not have happened to a more deserving actor! Girls‘ Allison Williams was also amazing in her role. Her performance had layers and the reveals and shifts in her character were just wonderful to witness.
  5. Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener delivered bone-chilling nuanced performances, while Caleb Landry Jones (American Made) was brilliantly crazy. Lil Rel Howery was delightful as the comic relief and was never out of place. Every time he appeared on the screen, it felt like a much needed minute to catch one’s breath. LaKeith Stanfield (who went on to star in Death Note) also had an interesting cameo role.

In short, Get Out, which has already been hailed as the best movie of 2017, is very deserving of that title. I really don’t remember the last time I saw a film that was both simple and straightforward and yet so complex and layered.

Rate: 5/5

Trailer: Get Out trailer

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Movie review: Sicario

Movie reviews

Hello!

Let’s continue a great fall film season and review Sicario! Sicario means ‘hitman‘ in Spanish and if you want to read my other review of the Hitman film, you can find it here. BTW, this ‘hitman‘ is much better than that Hitman.

IMDb summary: An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.

Story and Writing

Sicario’s script was written by Taylor Sheridan. He is a TV actor and this was his first screenplay. For a debut script, this one was definitely not bad, however, not what I expected it to be. Trailers advertised this film to be an action/drama/thriller, but for me, Sicario felt like a very violent and realistic documentary. Let me elaborate. Hollywood action films usually have a 3 part structure – introduction/establishment, journey/test, and final/resolution – and their narratives have a deadline. Documentary’s, on the other hand, have no real structure and, as a result, no real resolution. And Sicario is that type of film – it shows the viewers only a glimpse, an episode of life on the U.S. – Mexico border. It also fights a small scale battle and does not try to tackle the bigger problem. All of these choices, made by the creators, to narrow down the huge theme of drug cartels, illegal immigrants and smugglers to a specific event meant that the film was very realistic – it didn’t solve a lifelong problem in 2 hours but it tried to move forward with the solution. I also liked how there was no real resolution in the end and no really happy ending. It’s an open ending and anything can happen after the credits start.

In my Anthropology class, we have just finished studying migration and one of the examples that we discussed was the problem surrounding U.S.- Mexico border. We watched a few documentaries, one of them – Which Way Home (directed by Rebecca Cammisa in 2009) struck me the most because it showed children trying to migrate and look for a better life. While their journey seemed dangerous to me then, now, after watching Sicario, I cannot even begin to imagine what horrors are waiting for them on the way. Sicario was extremely violent and it showed the raw, un-retouched and real violence. It’s definitely not an example of a highly choreographed action flick where no real damage is done. The character’s reaction’s to the violence and also very truthful.

Although this movie didn’t have a lot of action scenes, it’s had an amazing suspense. The viewers were held on the edge of their seats because the future was highly unpredictable and nobody knew what will happen next and what the final outcome will be. There weren’t a lot of clues in the film and the plot might have been hard to follow at times, but this was where the suspense and the feeling of a threat really helped this film, by keeping the viewers engaged even if they did not know what was happening.

Directing and Visuals

Sicario was directed by French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve who has previously worked on critically acclaimed Prisoners and who will also contribute to the currently untitled Blade Runner sequel. On a side note, I’ve only watch Blade  Runner for the first time last night and really enjoyed it, though it was quite hard to get used to the slow pacing since I’m used to science fiction movies to be action-packed.

To my mind, Villeneuve did a great job as a director of Sicario and his style really added to the suspense of the film. I especially liked the shots were the characters seemed to disappear into the horizon. The night vision scenes were also interesting – it looked like you were in a video game, actually trying to find something yourself. I’m guessing that that effect was achieved through green lenses either in production or through green filters in post-production.

Acting

This movie had lots of characters, but it mainly focused on 3 of them. I will also talk about a few supporting actors.

  • Emily Blunt as Kate Macer. With every movie I watch, I become a bigger fan of Blunt. She only popped onto my radar last year with Edge of Tomorrow and Into the Woods (that Oscar nomination should have been awarded to her and not to Meryl Streep). She was also really good in this film, you could feel her character’s hopelessness and desperation. I would say that her character had a negative development – everything went downhill for her, starting with the opening scenes of the film. Next year, Blunt will be starring in The Huntsman (Snow White and The Huntsman prequel/spin-off) and I’m still hoping that Marvel will choose her for the part of Captain Marvel. She has also been chosen as the new Mary Poppins.
  • Benicio del Toro as Alejandro Gillick was also amazing in the film, but that really was not that surprising. I loved the shadiness oh his character and felt kinda bad for him because Blunt’s character did not want to trust him based on his race/nationality. However, in the end, she might have been right to do that. Del Toro is also an MCU actor (on top of being in a bunch of other amazing films), so if Blunt becomes Captain Marvel, they can have a reunion! Benicio will also be a part of Start Wars Episode VIII.
  • Josh Brolin as Matt Graver. Only a few weeks ago, I watched another film starting BrolinEverest – and in that one he played a similar character – kinda douche-bag-y, kinda sinister and way overconfident and selfish guy. Brolin played that role well in Everest, so it was not surprising that his performance was believable in Sicario as well.
  • Daniel Kaluuya as Reggie Wayne was Blunt’s character’s partner. I loved their funny and back-and-forth banter. Kaluuya is not an actor that I’m familiar with, would love to check out more of his work.
  • Maximiliano Hernández as Silvio was a really small character who received quite a lot of silent development, though I still did not feel attached to him and, thus, did not care what happened to him.
  • Victor Garber as Dave Jennings. I was really happy to see Garber in this film because I love him on The Flash and can’t wait for Legends of Tomorrow.
  • Jon Bernthal as Ted. As with Brolin, I’ve also recently seen another movie staring BernthalWe Are Your Friends. He played similar roles in both films, however, he met a sadder end in this one while he succeeded in WAYF. Bernthal is amazing as The Punisher on Daredevil Season 2 and he is even getting his own spin-off show on Netflix.

All in all, Sicario was a great documentary-type film with a lot of suspense and a bit of action. It didn’t offer a clear resolution, but the amazing cinematography and splendid performances from the whole cast made up for it.

The last films, which I’m going to check out this month are The Walk and Spectre. Pan and The Last Witch-hunter will slip from my calendar because I’m getting a super strong The Giver/Seventh Son vibe from their trailers. Bye!

Rate: 4/5 

Trailer: Sicario trailer

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