Movie review: Eight Grade

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to the review of Eight Grade or the age I might be stuck in (spoiler, self-realization occurs in this review)!

IMDb summary: An introverted teenage girl tries to survive the last week of her disastrous eighth-grade year before leaving to start high school.

Eight Grade was written and directed by Bo Burnham – a creator that actually got his start on YouTube. Eight Grade is his first feature film. You might also know him from his stand-up work.

Writing

I thought that Eight Grade had a brilliant script and a lot of its success comes from the fact that it was just so real and relatable. I saw myself on that screen in more than one scene and it wasn’t a comfortable (actually, rather cringe-y) experience but it was absolutely necessary. Necessary in terms of making me realise that I’m actually quite happy with being an adult and shouldn’t really pine away after my own lost childhood. Putting some distance between all the versions of you is not a bad thing. It brings clarity and this clarity also leads to the film’s message. Eight Grade tells the viewer to move on from the past if it wasn’t great and to be okay about the uncertainty of the future.

Not only does the film have an appeal towards someone who isn’t in Eight Grade (like me), but it should also be a must watch for all those in middle school, more or less as an example of all the things you shouldn’t be doing. But I guess it’s hard to learn from others’ mistakes so go on forth children and make the wrong friends, say the wrong stuff,  and embarrass yourselves. And if it seems like the end of the world then, trust me, it isn’t. You are your own version of cool and no one else’s. Furthermore, don’t ever let anyone critique you for caring about your teen problems as they are highly important to you and should never be trivialised. Your anxieties are valid and should not be overlooked because of your age.

The film’s appeal doesn’t stop with someone who is in 8th grade or just a bit older. It should also be watched by parents. While parenting isn’t a very obvious topic within the film, it is always there, just like your parents (hopefully) are (so be nice to them!). The scene by the fire has some spectacular dialogue and some neat lessons too. The dialogue in general was really good because it wasn’t completely coherent and eloquent: it was sincere and real instead.

Directing

Eight Grade also has some stellar directing. The film’s usage of online video makes it feel contemporary. However, all the jokes (oooh the dabs) might make the film age quite badly and quickly. It’s a good thing that it has some timeless topics though, John Hughes-esque. However, where Eight Grade tops Hughes’s films is in its portrayal of a real school. There is no Hollywood glamour: there are awkwardness and acne. The clever ways Burnham decides to portray first crushes (with that fabricated tension and dramatic music) are spectacular too as they are both accurate and also funny.

Acting

Elsie Fisher is absolutely magnificent in the role. She looks the part and acts the part impeccably. I really hope she has a long and successful career ahead of her. Josh Hamilton is also really good as the single dad!

In short, Eight Grade is an incredible coming-of-age story for everyone, including but not limited to middle schoolers, new adults (me, an almost uni graduate), and parents!

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Eight Grade trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Five Feet Apart

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to my comeback no.3 at this point. This is Five Feet Apart!

IMDb summary: A pair of teenagers with cystic fibrosis meet in a hospital and fall in love.

  1. Five Feet Apart was written by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis and directed by Justin Baldoni (the actor from Jane the Virgin). The film follows in the vein of such movies as The Fault in Our Stars (probably one of the most famous pictures of the genre), but also Midnight Sun and Everything, Everything (or A Walk to Remember if you want to go more old-school). The aforementioned films as well as countless unnamed others all tend to be cringe-y in some capacity. They also sometimes are very sincere and sweet. This one, to my surprise, leaned more towards the second option.
  2. Instead of cancer (the usual illness of YA romances), this time the main characters suffered from cystic fibrosis. I am no medical professional, thus, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information portrayed on screen. Nevertheless, I felt like I did learn something about the disease. The response from the cystic fibrosis community towards this movie has been mixed like the response in general. I have to admit, I cannot understand those arguing that the film idealizes illness: I have a hard time seeing how a portrayal is automatically an idealization or promotion. Isn’t it up the viewer to critically engage with a story?
  3. On the romance side, the film was both cute and cliched. It undeniably appeals to its target demographic by walking the line between the two. The ending was also both uplifting and heartbreaking.
  4. Directing wise, the script was handled well. The cinematography was clear and the editing – cohesive and concise. I also enjoyed how the production design of hospital rooms was used to enhance and develop the characters. My one gripe with the film was its length – it could have been a tad bit shorter.
  5. The appeal to the demographic also very much depended on the cast of the film. Yup, I’m talking about Cole Sprouse – he was really good in the role and fit the requirements of that particular character perfectly. However, the lead of the film – Haley Lu Richardson – was the main reason why the film felt sincere. You might remember her from Split as one of the cheerleaders James McAvoy tortured. Moises Arias, who I still remember from his Hannah Montana days, was also good in the supporting role.

In short, Five Feet Apart was a surprise of a movie. A quality YA offering rather than a cringe-fest.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Five Feet Apart trailer

5 ideas about a movie: If Beale Street Could Talk

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to back to my blog that I have neglected for another month. But I’m back (I think), so let’s discuss If Beale Street Could Talk!

IMDb summary: A woman in Harlem embraces her pregnancy while she and her family struggle to prove her fiancé innocent of a crime.

  1. If Beale Street Could Talk is Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to his Oscar-winner Moonlight (remember that La La Land debacle? What a time). The film is based on the book of the same name by James Baldwin. The film is also dedicated to the author. For once, I’m actually somewhat familiar with the source material: while I haven’t read the exact book the movie is adapting, I absolutely loved Baldwin’s novel Giovanni’s Room’. One of my all-time favourites.
  2. I really liked the writing for the movie. I loved how Jenkins managed to tell such a tragic story in such a heartwarming way. If Beale Sreet Could Talk was a romance above anything else: the tragedy and the drama came second and love was the message. Such an emotional response lent a lot to the structure of the film and the clever way Jenkins positioned the narrative non-linearly.
  3. I also loved the mixture of realism and poetics in his directing of the film. The two styles corresponded to the two topical concepts (poetics and love vs tragedy and realism).
  4. The movie was a bit slow but engaging. The slow-moving camera showcased the carefulness and care with which this movie was crafted.
  5. A lot of the film’s success is due to the performances by the cast: the two leads – KiKi Layne and Stephan James – portrayed their respective characters with such innocence and freshness and yet there was also an overlying feeling of sophistication. Regina King and Colman Domingo shined in supporting roles. Dave Franco, Diego Luna, Ed Skrein, and Pedro Pascal make cameo appearances.

In short, If Beale Street Could Talk is a realistically poetical or poetically realistic romantic drama that will break and glue your heart back together multiple times throughout the 2h runtime.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: If Beale Street Could Talk trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Green Book

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a peculiarly positive movie on race. This is Green Book!

IMDb summary: A working-class Italian-American bouncer becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.

  1. Green Book was written by Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, and Peter Farrelly, who also directed the film. Farrelly has directed some comedies of questionable quality, like Movie 43 and Dumb and Dumber To (he did the original too) just recently. Needless to say, Green Book – an awards movie – is a step-up for sure.
  2. The script of the film was built around the relationship between the two main characters. These two characters were the highlight of the writing as they were so far away from any assumptions that the viewer might have had. The focus on their relationship also made for some strong dialogue between them (some quality monologues towards the end too).
  3. Thematically, the film, not surprisingly, explored racism within the US in the 60s and within (at least at the beginning) a reversed power relationship. The racialization of culture and music were also major topics. Belonging, family, and home were also touched upon.
  4. Stylistically, the picture juggled sadness and seriousness with humour. The chucklesome moments really lightened the mood but, looking back, maybe they had a different purpose – to prove the point that the audience will laugh at a ‘black’ joke but will do nothing to alleviate the position and discrimination against the black people.
  5. Viggo Mortensen’s (Captain Fantastic) and Mahershala Ali’s (Moonlight) performances were brilliant. And the chemistry that they had was also impeccable. If that was Ali on the piano, then he should be lauded just as much as Gosling was for La La Land.

In short, Green Book was a stellar drama that is worthy of all those awards nominations. Can it take the big one though?

Rate: 4.2/5

Trailer: Green Book trailer

Movie review: The Girl in a Spider’s Web

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to another disappointing and dissatisfied review. This is The Girl in a Spider’s Web!

IMDb summary: Young computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist find themselves caught in a web of spies, cybercriminals and corrupt government officials.

Writing

The Girl in a Spider’s Web was written by Jay Basu, Fede Álvarez, and Steven Knight, based on the book by Stieg Larsson. The movie was both a remake and a sequel but was also standalone. If that’s confusing, then it’s a very fitting way to describe this film.

The film was a remake because it recast all of the actors, and, in turn, inevitably altered the characters and changed the viewers’ perception of them. It was also a sequel because the story contained a lot of unexplained things that the viewer just should have known from before (but who really remembers the David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? Ever fewer people (internationally) have seen the Scandinavian films). But the film was also sort-of stand-alone as it had its own set-up.

The screenplay also made me ask what? why? and how? quite a lot and that’s not a good thing. Plus, a lot of decisions made by characters made little or no sense: if being generous, I could take that as a character’s flaw. If I’m harsh, I’d see that as poor writing.

Directing

The movie was directed by Fede Álvarez as his third film but a first non-horror picture. I think you could see that he was trying quite hard with this film. It had a James Bond-y opening sequence: the problem was that Lisbeth is not James Bond or even a James Bond-type. I also wish that the film utilized its setting – Stockholm – much more. It had some action on a lake(?) and one bridge, but, that wasn’t nearly enough for a city famous for its multiple island-structure! The pacing of the picture wasn’t the best either. The action was also very typical.

Acting

The Girl in a Spider’s Web assembled a whole new international cast (Sverrir Gudnason (SWE), Lakeith Stanfield (USA), and Sylvia Hoeks (NED)) that, sadly, was just okay: good but not exceptional. Claire Foy was fine in the lead but this is far from her best work.

In short, The Girl in a Spider’s Web was better than The Snowman but so far from what world-famous Swedish thrillers should be adapted into.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: The Girl in a Spider’s Web trailer

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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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5 ideas about a movie: Suspiria

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to the review of one of the weirdest films I’ve seen in a while. And I don’t think I’m using the word ‘weird’ as a compliment in this case. This is Suspiria!

IMDb summary: A darkness swirls at the center of a world-renowned dance company, one that will engulf the artistic director, an ambitious young dancer, and a grieving psychotherapist. Some will succumb to the nightmare. Others will finally wake up.

  1. Suspiria was written by David Kajganich and directed by Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash). It was a remake of a 1977 Italian film of the same name. To put this review shortly, Suspiria was an artsy, 3h long horror film with half of the dialogue in German. If that sounds like a hard sell, it is/was.
  2. The movie’s story was quite incomprehensible to me. Thematically, it tried doing something with ideas of motherhood and matriarchy. I feel like it also wanted to showcase female empowerment. Honestly, I don’t know what the movie’s message was. Is it because I’m stupid? Or that the movie was too pretentious?
  3. It also had a weird setting amidst political events that were not explained fully for a viewer to get. The movie should not assign its viewer’s homework but should be a full package! The ideas on Germany’s generational guilt were interesting but not given enough room to be explored.
  4. The movie was directed in quite an interesting way. It was slow and long. The visuals were disgusting and looked quite CGI-y at times. The focus on the diegetic noise made the movie into an uncomfortable sensory experience too (I swear 65% of the ‘score’ was just breathing noises). The dance sequences were visually pleasing and interesting, though.
  5. The movie had a good cast but I wasn’t really able to judge their performances as I was confused by the plot. Tilda Swinton played a couple of roles (don’t know why as one couldn’t really tell it was her playing one of the characters, thus, no ideas on doubling could be seen?). Dakota Johnson was also there: I guess arthouse films are better than Fifty Shades? I also feel like a lot of the cast mumbled through their dialogue which didn’t make an already confusing plot easier to understand. A film also had a lot of German actors and actual dancers in the cast.

In short, Suspiria was a trainwreck of confusion that reminded me a lot of mother! in a variety ways (thematically and visually).

Rate: ?/5 (confusion strikes again)

Trailer: Suspiria trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: BlacKkKlansman

Movie reviews

Hi!

Welcome to a review of the movie that I saw 2 months ago and can’t really stop thinking about unless I try to review it! This is BlacKkKlansman.

IMDb summary: Ron Stallworth, an African American police officer from Colorado Springs, CO, successfully manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan branch with the help of a Jewish surrogate who eventually becomes its leader. Based on actual events.

  1. BlacKkKlansman was written by Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott (based on a memoir of the same name by Ron Stallworth) and directed by Spike Lee (who also contributed to the script). As a film fan, I have always known of Spike Lee and how he impacted the modern cinema. However, I don’t think I’ve seen any of his previous films in full and I’m kicking myself for that as I absolutely loved BlacKkKlansman.
  2. The story of the film was just fascinating: it was so far out there that it had to be true. It was handled very well in the script, with an appropriate amount of sarcasm and humour but also seriousness and sophistication. Every chucklesome moment was followed by a harsh reality: the viewer paid dearly for laughing.
  3. It was also fascinating in that it seemed poignant and topical. Nothing has really changed in the world and while this type of realization is not an original, first time thing, it doesn’t make it any less effective or emotional.
  4. The film was also very well made from a directing point of view. It was paced well and was engaging. The cinematography was neat and clear. The near-perfect film was also rounded out with a great cast.
  5. The film’s cast consisted of some amazing talent, including Adam Driver, who has been popping up in a variety of arthouse films (Logan Lucky, Midnight Special) in addition to Star Wars and has been doing a stellar job in all of them. John David Washington was also great in the lead and I hope that he gets a lot of recognition for this film.

In short, BlacKkKlansman is an amazing feature that I recommend to everyone. Even though it came out a couple of months ago, I really hope it comes back during the proper awards season and makes some sort of splash.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: BlacKkKlansman trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: First Man

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a potential Oscar contender! This is First Man.

IMDb summary: A look at the life of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

  1. First Man was written by Josh Singer (writer of two Oscar winners/contenders The Post and Spotlight), based on a biography by James R. Hansen. The narrative spanned quite a long period of time and had a lot of time jumps (other movies could be made to fill in the gaps – that’s how rich this story is). And yet, even with all the jumping, the plot was still clear and cohesive. The film was also truly an Amstrong biopic because 1) it showcased both his personal life and professional career and 2) it didn’t paint Buzz Aldrin in any favorable light.
  2. First Man was directed by Damien Chazelle of Whiplash and La La Land. Going in to see this film, I wondered whether Chazelle will be able to make a quality non-music related film. And I think he showcased that he is, in fact, very much able to craft a film around any subject with First Man. Even though I knew the ending of the story, I was highly interested and emotionally invested in the progression of the said story. The pacing was also good for the most part – I just wish the film was a tad bit shorter.
  3. Visually, First Man was stunning. The intimate close-ups, especially of the eyes, were very effective. The shaky camera and the constantly mobile frame also made the viewer feel like they were in the cockpit with the astronauts. It’s not a pleasant viewing experience but it served a purpose.
  4. Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049) played the lead in the film and did a great job. I smell another Oscar nomination for him but I don’t know if he’s necessarily worthy of a win. Maybe the Academy will decide that it is his time after all. Nevertheless, his performance was incredibly compelling in a subtle and subdued manner.
  5. The supporting cast of First Man consisted of The Crown’s Claire Foy, who has been popping on the big screen more and more (in Breathe and Unsane and soon in The Girl in a Spider’s Web), Jason Clarke (Terminator 5, Everest), Kyle Chandler (Manchester by the Sea, Game Night), and Corey Stoll (Ant-Man).

In short, First Man is a bit long but a compelling film from a director who still has a long career ahead of him. It’s 3/3 for Chazelle.

Rate: 4.2/5

Trailer: First Man trailer

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Movie review: The Nutcracker and Four Realms

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a first Christmas movie of the 2018 holiday season. If the whole season will be as rocky as its start, then we can just cancel Christmas. This is a quite negative (as you have probably already guessed) review of The Nutcracker and Four Realms.

IMDb summary: A young girl is transported into a magical world of gingerbread soldiers and an army of mice.

Writing

The Nutcracker and Four Realms – a mouthful of a title, huh – was written by Ashleigh Powell. It’s a remake/reimagining of a classic fairytale and a famous ballet. Disney has been making quite a few live-action fairytales. Some of them crashed, like Alice in Wonderland and its sequel. Some blossomed like Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. The Nutcracker seems like it will be joining the first group. I feel like there is a general fatigue of live action fairytales and only the really special ones turn into something. The Nutcracker, being a niche and holiday-specific fairytale, is already a hard sell. The fact that it’s premiering so early in November also almost guarantees that it will have a small opening. Maybe it will play for a long time?

Anyways, speaking of the writing: it wasn’t bad but wasn’t original in any way, shape or form. The message on how to deal with grief was a neat one and the young woman’s journey into self-confidence was also a nice thing to spotlight. The actual adventure was sooo by the numbers. The twist could be seen from miles away. The characters were also just meh. The nutcracker especially was so unexceptional despite being the titular character. The dialogue was very simplistic. It just seemed that this whole film was aimed at a very young audience. And by young, I mean babies.

Directing

The Nutcracker was directed by Lasse Hallström (of The Hundred-Foot Journey and A Dog’s Purpose) and Joe Johnston (of Captain America: The First Avenger) – what a weird duo of directors. And even a weirder end product. They did a good job with the visuals – I cannot fault the film’s production value. The CGI could have been cleaner. The pacing was way off. At least the runtime was fairly decent. To end on a positive note: the ballet scenes and the ballet-inspired credits were nice touches. The score, which included the classic melodies, was good too.

Acting

The Nutcracker’s cast’s performances were a huge letdown. Mackenzie Foy and Jayden Fowora-Knight were both wooden. Hellen Mirren and Morgan Freeman were folding in their performances and were still the best just because they are true pros and can outact everyone in their sleep. Keira Knightley was killing her career with every minute of being on screen. She was both a cartoon and a parody: everything about her performance – from the look to the speech to the behavior – were just so cringe-y. Her work her kinda reminded me of Anne Hathaway in Alice in Wonderland (another unfortunate comparison between the two less than good Disney fairytales).

The actor who played the father – Matthew Macfadyen –  looked like off-brand Armie Hammer. The British comedian Jack Whitehall also had a cameo role – good on him for finally getting into a Disney movie (even if bad one) after being cut from Frozen.

In short, The Nutcracker and Four Realms was a boring film that won’t bring anyone any Christmas joy. A basic narrative, oversaturated visuals, and some cringe-y acting – that’s this picture in one sentence.

Rate: 2.4/5

Trailer: The Nutcracker and Four Realms trailer

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