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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5 ideas about a movie: Halloween!

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a horror film by a horror-hater. This is Halloween!

IMDb summary: Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago

  1. Me being a horror-hater, I have never actually seen of the previous numerous Halloween films. Thus, I went into this one knowing the premise and having decent expectations because of all the great reviews. And the expectations were met, in that Halloween was a food film. I’m not sure it was an effective horror film, though.
  2. This may just be a personal thing, but the things that terrify me the most are jump scars and psychological horror. Halloween didn’t have a lot of either of those things. It did look at psychological issues (Mindhunter-like) but didn’t really use them for scarces. The horror of the film was that of a gorry, disgusting kind – and I feel like I have become desensitized to it after watching plenty of R-rated action films.
  3. Halloween was written Jeff FradleyDanny McBride (actor-writer), and David Gordon Green (Stronger) who also directed the film. I enjoyed how the movie reversed some horror tropes and how it explored parenting. I also liked the cohesiveness of the writing as well as the runtime of the film. In a day when I watched two other 2+ hour films, this one felt like an episode of prime TV. I also appreciated how realistic the movie’s writing was and how the teenagers in the movie felt real (similarly to It’s realistic youngsters).
  4. John Carpenter – the director of the original film – was involved with this sequel and mostly worked on the music. It was actually quite a great experience hearing his iconic Halloween theme in a theatre cause, even though I haven’t seen the original or any other films, I did know the theme music cause of how iconic it was/still is.
  5. Halloween’s cast consisted of Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, and Andi Matichak: I absolutely loved how the 3 main characters of the film were 3 strong women of different ages!

In short, Halloween was a well-constructed film with some neat themes and some moments of disgusting horror.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Haloween trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Smallfoot

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to my once-in-a-blue-moon review of an animated film. This time, we are discussing Smallfoot!

IMDb summary: A Yeti is convinced that the elusive creatures known as “humans” really do exist.

  1. Smallfoot was written by Karey Kirkpatrick, Clare Sera, John Requa, and Glenn Ficarra. I actually quite enjoyed the film’s story and how it took a popular myth – that of the bigfoot – and reversed it. The actual story was also well written: it was quite similar to the story’s of a lot of children’s film but it was executed really nicely.
  2. Thematically, Smallfoot wasn’t breaking any grounds either. On the other hand, a big part of the world still can’t make these themes into a reality (looking at you, US), so maybe they are not that common. Smallfoot highlighted the importance of integrity and called for a complex truth rather a simple lie. It invited us to question everything rather than ignore stuff and had an ultimate message that the old way might not necessarily be the right way.
  3. Smallfoot was directed by Karey Kirkpatrick. I didn’t know that going in but this film was actually a musical. I guess its kinda fitting then that a song – Niall Horan’s ‘Finally Free’ that was released as a promo for this movie – was the thing that got me to see the movie. I actually quite enjoyed the rest of the soundtrack too, as I unironically enjoy pop music.
  4. The animation of the movie was really beautiful. It was also used effectively in all the slapstick humor of the film. I wasn’t the biggest fan of that part of the film but all the physical jokes got a great reaction from the audience at my screening. And it wasn’t just the kids who were laughing.
  5. Smallfoot had quite a star-studded voice cast, led by Channing Tatum (Kingsman 2), James Corden (I loved his voice work both here and in Peter Rabbit. His voice is instantly recognizable!), and Zendaya (The Greatest Showman). Common, Gina Rodriguez and even LeBron James also had supporting roles.

In short, Smallfoot was a pleasant all ages film with some neat messages and catchy songs!

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Smallfoot trailer

Movie review: Skate Kitchen

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to the review of a film you probably haven’t heard of before but really should watch! This is Skate Kitchen!

IMDb summary: A teenaged skateboarder makes friends with a bunch of other skateboarding girls in New York City.

Writing

Skate Kitchen was written by the director of the film Crystal Moselle, Jen Silverman, and Aslihan Unaldi. It told a story of a group of skateboarding girls but was so much more than just that.

First, it explored a subculture that I haven’t seen put to film before (I remember really wanting to learn skateboarding at around 12-13, even bought a board and everything. Never ended up learning it. Oh well, I still have time). It also showcased, celebrated and explores female friendship and female development that happens with one’s friends help (learning from friends, talking openly about explicit topics, questioning one’s beliefs). While 18 seemed like a bot of later than usual time for parents problems and teenage angst, it also drove home the point that development is personal and can happen at a variety of ages. Also, Skate Kitchen had a sweet message about parents – if you actually talk to them, they might be accepting (communication is key). By putting skateboarding culture and female friendship together, the movie also tackled gender roles and broke them with pleasure. Absolutely loved that part.

The main conflict in the film had to do with the idea of a ‘girl code’ or certain rules that govern female (or any) friendships. Another problem that the movie tackled was the youthful hypocrisy of the main character: complaining about to somebody about their friends being bad people while being a bad friend to her own friends.  The ending of the film, where the conflict and the problems were resolved by simply saying sorry seemed a bit weak. In my personal experience, a simple apology does not necessarily work.

Directing

Skate Kitchen was directed by Crystal Moselle, who has mostly done documentaries and short films prior to this. It reminded me a lot of Ingrid Goes West – another colorful, youthful, contemporary, Sundance darling of a film. It was also partially similar to Tangerine and The Florida Project in its focus on a specific underrepresented thing (transgenders and single mothers, respectively) and also with its visual style. Those two films and Skate Kitchen all felt like documentaries. They felt (were) real and intimate, captured with a mobile camera by using a lot of close-ups. The skating (tricks) shots were magnificent too. It was also interesting to see a film, which focused on a ground culture – skating – have so much of its setting be elevated, upon the roofs of new york’s skyscrapers.

Acting

Skate Kitchen’s cast consisted of real skateboarding girls, that the director met on the streets of New York: Rachelle Vinberg, Jules Lorenzo, Ardelia Lovelace, Nina Moran, and Kabrina Adams among others. As they were all previous/real skateboarders, the physical stuff and the stunts were impeccable. The more challenging acting parts – dramatic dialogue and monologue – were a bit stiff but that’s understandable as they were all non-professional actors. The one professional actor of the ensemble was Jaden Smith and he was actually good in the film and not annoying as his real-life persona is.

In short, Skate Kitchen was a fascinating and grounded exploration of female friendship and skateboarding subculture worthy of everyone’s attention.

Rate: 4.3/5

Trailer: Skate Kitchen trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Mille 22

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to the review of a typical Mark Wahlberg movie – Mile 22. Honestly, this review could stop here but I’m gonna try to squeeze out a couple hundred words out of this movie.

IMDb summary: An elite American intelligence officer, aided by a top-secret tactical command unit, tries to smuggle a mysterious police officer with sensitive information out of the country.

  1. Mile 22 was written by Graham Roland and Lea Carpenter. The movie’s premise was interesting but its execution in the script left a lot to be desired. The quest to get the ‘package’ to a certain location was chaotic and hard to follow. The twisty ending also did not add anything to the movie. In fact, it made it seem as if the film lacked an ending or a conclusion.
  2. While this movie wasn’t based on any real events, it appeared to be claiming that. It was also interesting to see that Russians are now back as villains in Hollywood films. Still, the main antagonist of the film ended up being the character played by an Indonesian actor.
  3. Speaking of acting, Iko Uwais was the aforementioned Indonesian actor and his performance was the bright spot of the film even if the material that he was given to work with was more or less a typical terrorist role (even with all the double-crossing, of course, it’s him who is the villain). Other supporting roles of varying sizes were played by John Malkovich, Lauren Cohan, and Ronda Rousey.
  4. The lead of the film was played by Mark Wahlberg (All The Money In The World, Daddy’s Home 2, Transformers 6) and this was one of the first times that I hated him in an action movie, mostly because of how his character was written as a cocky show-off with a slow temper. Wahlberg couldn’t make that character charismatic or appealing in any way. Seeing him just annoyed and frustrated me.
  5. Peter Berg, the longtime collaborator of Wahlberg’s (on Patriot’s Day, Lone Survivor, and Deepwater Horizon – all better films than this one) directed Mille 22 and did an okay job at best. The pacing was fine but the action itself was disorienting and hard to follow (or see because of the shaky cam). The action pieces were not particularly original either, just some shootouts in cars or buildings.

In short, Mile 22 is the first real dud in Berg’s/Wahlberg’s professional relationship that is definitely not worth paying for to see on the big screen.

Rate: 2.7/5

Trailer: Mile 22 trailer