Movie review: Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Movie reviews

Hello!

The last of the YA dystopias is coming to an end. This is Maze Runner: The Death Cure.

IMDb summary: Young hero Thomas embarks on a mission to find a cure for a deadly disease known as the “Flare”.

Writing

The Death Cure was written by T.S. Nowlin (the writer of the two previous pictures in this series and the upcoming Pacific Rim: Uprising film), based on the book of the same name by James Dashner. I’ve read the original trilogy more than 5 years ago now, so I hardly remember its plot details (I might have remembered a bit more a year ago, when this film was supposed to come out but, as it was pushed back due to Dylan O’Brien’s injury on set, I’m now more in the dark than I’ve ever was). However, this movie franchise has gone so far off the books (especially in the second film) that my background of having read and not remembering the book hardly impacts the motion picture watching experience. Having said that, I did recount two major things from the last book that managed to stay with for 5+ years and both of these developments were preserved in the film. I was quite upset that the filmmakers kept the first thing (from the selfish fan perspective) but quite glad that they retained the second one (from an objective-ish reviewer perspective). Let me elaborate. Also: SPOILERS!

The first thing I had in my mind was the death of probably my favorite character from the series – Newt. I distinctly remember being very sad after finishing the book and hoping that, when this novel will finally reach the big screen, Newt will be allowed to live. However, I’m not surprised that the screenwriter kept such an ending for one of the main character’s, as his final scene was pretty emotional and made for a great and powerful moment on screen. His nickname for Thomas – Tommy – was heartbreakingly sweet too. The second development that I’ve mentioned as having liked from a more objective point of view was the movie’s (and the book’s) ultimate ending. The film ended with all the surviving characters living on an island (a more realistic version of the safe haven from the books. In the original novels, a portal had to be taken to reach safety rather than just a boat). I’m glad that the screenwriters didn’t change the ending into fairytale/happy one but kept it ambiguous: what will Thomas do with HIS gift? In addition, I feel like a happy ending (like a sequence of the cure being spread to everyone) would have undercut all the losses that the surviving characters had to go through.

Now, having explored some of the narrative details, let’s look at some themes. One of the major topics of discussion for the film was memory (and my musings about remembering or forgetting certain details of the plot somehow feel more appropriate). Another big concept for this series has always been friendship, which was on display here once more (Thomas, Newt, and Minho are one of my favorite trios in YA fiction). The shades of the love triangle (Thomas, Teresa, Brenda) were present too, though, they weren’t on display that much.

My few slight criticism towards the writing were mainly just two and both of them had to do with the antagonists of the series. For one, I have never fully understood the hierarchy within the WCKD. In this film, Ava Paige had to ask somebody else for the permission to start the human trials of the cure as if they haven’t been experimenting on humans for years already to get the vaccine in the first place?! Also, I’m still not entirely sure whether I buy Teresa’s shifting allegiances or it might be that I just don’t understand her character and the scale she uses to judge what is right on.

 

 

Directing

Wes Ball directed The Death Cure (he also did The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials) and did quite an amazing job, especially with only around $60 million budget. The last entry into the franchise was highly action-packed. The said action was also quite varied: the film had a variety of sets (all brown and broken but still cool looking) and a ton of CGI that looked quite good (I’ve seen movies that cost double what this one did and looked four times worse (*cough, cough*, Geostorm). The focus on the action in this film also allowed this series to finally differentiate itself from the other YA dystopias, mainly The Hunger Games. While THG finished off as more of a political thriller, TMR series seems to have always been more about the spectacle and only then about the ideas. The ideas – the attempt to go the political thriller route with the cure only being meant for the privileged – were present but they did feel like an afterthought. The Maze Runner series should not have tried to shy away from its action roots, as these sequences were the best ones in the movie. Having said that, the characters had to break into The Capitol-like city in this film, so maybe these two series aren’t that different after all. I wonder how the Divergent/Allegiant situation is going on? That series probably won’t end ever.

Anyways, the fact that this movie had a lot of action, also helped it with the pace, which was quite fast. The only dip came in the second act, however, the first and the third acts were rapid and intense.  My only critique of the action sequences was that, at times, they were filmed with a bit too much of the shaky cam. Nevertheless, those moments were far and few in between, while the majority of the action was captured by a handheld but steady enough camera, while the mobile frame helped with the intensity. I also loved how the action scenes in the first act (the maze and the grievers; the cranks) were used as a slight reminder of what happened in the previous pictures. Lastly, how nice was it that they the filmmakers (and the suits) didn’t divide the finale of the trilogy into two parts!

Acting

The Death Cure saw the return of all the favorites. Dylan O’BrienThomas Brodie-Sangster, and Ki Hong Lee were all great as my favorite trio: Thomas, Newt, and Minho, respectively. I only wish that they would have shared more scenes together. O’Brien’s TV show – Teen Wolf – has ended last year but he has been steadily racking up movie roles (in this series, Deepwater Horizon, and American Assasin) and seems to be fairing much better than the actual lead of his TV show – Tyler Posey. I really hope that the relative financial success of this franchise will allow Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Ki Hong Lee to be cast in more projects too.

Will Poulter (The Revenant, Detroit) also returned as Gally, while Dexter Darden had some neat moments (operating a crane) as FrypanKaya Scodelario (Pirates 5) was okay as Teresa, while Giancarlo Esposito’s (OkjaJorge and Rosa Salazar’s Brenda were neat to watch in their father-daughter-like relationship. On the villain side, Patricia Clarkson (The Party) was still immaculately dressed in white as Ava Paige, while Littlefinger – Aidan Gillen (Sing Street) as Janson – was doing his thing as usual. Another GOT family member (who also stars in Fast&Furious franchise) Nathalie Emmanuel (as Harriet), as well as ShadowhuntersKatherine McNamara (as Sonya), appeared too, although the film didn’t really know what to do with them, after having introduced them in The Scorch Trials as members from a different maze/test group.

In short, Maze Runner: The Death Cure was an entertaining finale to the, overall, surprisingly strong YA franchise, that pleased my heart and mind. And this praise comes from somebody who was once the biggest fan of the book and this genre in general.

Rate: 3.8/5

Trailer: Maze Runner: The Death Cure trailer

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Movie review: What Happened To Monday

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the review of What Happened To Monday, posted on a Monday. The movie came out on Netflix just recently but it also had a limited release at the cinema, so I’m hesitant to call it a Netflix original, but it still is that, at least partially.

IMDb summary: In a world where families are limited to one child due to overpopulation, a set of identical septuplets must avoid being put to a long sleep by the government and dangerous infighting while investigating the disappearance of one of their own.

What Happened To Monday belongs to the once lucrative dystopian genre. Up until very recently, films like this one were made by all the studios, especially Legendary. Interestingly, the majority of the previous dystopian movies were targeted at young adults, while What Happened To Monday does not feature the letter YA anywhere on its IMDb or wiki page. Nevertheless, it looks and feels like the rest of them, be it YA or not.

Writing

What Happened To Monday was written by Max Botkin and Kerry Williamson. Botkins’s original screenplay for the film was on the 2010’s Blacklist and this picture would have been received so much better if it came out at the beginning of this decade rather than during its second half.

The script had a lot of elements, which I enjoyed. I thought that the world building, while not the most original, was efficient and impressive enough. The flashbacks, which expanded the mythology, were good too. The One Child Policy idea was also interesting and reminded me of a similar system that is used in China, where the policy is obviously not as strict but, nonetheless, exists.

Character wise, the concept of the 7 sisters and the wordplay with their names were both cool. I also enjoyed the idea to have separate vignettes/days that focused on each of the siblings. Plus, the fact that there were 7 leads actually allowed the movie to have higher stakes and kill some of them.

Now, let’s touch upon the flaws in the writing, which was, sadly, plentiful. First, there wasn’t enough characterization for or differentiation between the separate sibling personalities, they all mostly had one character trait each. Most of the time, I didn’t know who was who. The writing for the villains wasn’t great either. The main antagonist was so evil, she bordered on cartoonish, while her pawns – officers of the law – seemed, mostly, really nonchalant about killing people. Monday’s motivation – to save some of her family by betraying other members of the family – didn’t make much sense. Additionally, there were just too much of ‘lucky coincidences’ written into the narrative, like the fact that the finger the Settman siblings were missing was the exact one that unlocked the gun or that cryo-sleep wasn’t actually a thing.

Lastly, while What Happened To Monday started as a personal quest for survival of one family, it, as all dystopian films, ends up being a large scale conflict about toppling the system. I guess if I desire a personal exploration of the dystopian world, I should just watch Black Mirror (well, some of its episodes).

Directing

The Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola, who only has one other English language film Hansel & Greteldirected What Happened To Monday and did an okay job. The futuristic world was well realized visually, even if it looked like a collection of things the viewers have seen in other movies (for example, the film’s poster looked exactly like the poster for The Scorch Trials, only with a gray rather than orange-ish color scheme). The action was fine – more graphic than other dystopian films and more in line with Netflix’s other pictures, like the gruesome violence in Death Note.

Acting

  • Noomi Rapace played 7+1 roles and did a fairly good job, though her performance (in addition the writing) didn’t differ enough from sibling to sibling. Rapace is known for starring in the Swedish versions of The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo films, while the English speaking audiences might remember her from Prometheus and Alien: Covenant’s promotional material. Her next film – Bright – will also be released on Netflix.
  • Willem Dafoe (another Netflix actor, at least for now, he was just in Death Note) had a small role, which he was good in, while Marwan Kenzari (who was recently in The Mummy) also starred. Lastly, Glenn Close played the typical role that a highly respected actor usually plays in a dystopian film. Her involvement was supposed to elevate the project, though, I don’t think that actually happened, as Close herself has mostly fallen off everyone’s radar.

In short, What Happened To Monday is an okay sci-fi dystopian picture that has enough interesting and entertaining ideas to be a worth a watch but lacks originality to be a must see. And yet, if you already have a Netflix account, why not check out the movie?

Rate: 2.9/5

Trailer: What Happened To Monday trailer

 

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Movie review: The Divergent Series – Allegiant

Movie reviews

Hello!

Sorry for not writing for more than a week. I was really busy with university work and midterm assignments. But since it’s the weekend, I have a little bit of time to give you my thoughts on The Divergent Series: Allegiant! I swear the names of these films just keep getting longer and longer. Thank God that this one doesn’t have ‘Part 1’ in its name, though.

IMDb summary: After the earth-shattering revelations of Insurgent, Tris must escape with Four beyond the wall that encircles Chicago to finally discover the shocking truth of what lies behind it.

While watching this film, I came to the conclusion that I might have grown out of these dystopian movies or, at least, moved on to a different phase in my life. I also don’t think that I am the only one who did that: I would be really interested to know how financially successful this movie will be and whether the mainstream audiences are still interested in this genre of YA science fiction. But then again, there are only 3 (or only 2, since THG has ended) of dystopian franchises left, while there are more than 10 different comic book series and those movies are always profitable, despite how oversaturated the market is.

SPOILERS

Writing

The script for this film was written by a whole bunch of people: Noah Oppenheim, Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, and Stephen Chbosky. It was, of course, based on the book by Veronica Roth. Chbosky is the one person from this group whose work I am familiar with. He, of course, wrote the book and the screen version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and he also directed that film. That narrative is one of my favorite coming-of-age stories ever. Chobsky is also writing a script for next year’s Beauty and the Beast for Disney’s live action fairytale department.  Meanwhile, Oppenheim has worked in the genre of dystopian fiction before – he was one of the screenwriters on The Maze Runner. Lastly, Cooper and Collage have previously worked together on the controversial Exodus: Gods and Kings film. I think that all the writers of the film did an okay job. The story had some nice moments as well as enough of terrible ones.

Book To Movie

It has been 3 years since I read the book that this movie has been based on, so I do not remember all the tiny details, but I feel that the movie’s story was as faithful as it could be to the original material. As far as I remember, the book had more subplots and more characters, with personal aims, involved in the main events, but I am totally fine with the film cutting out half of them if that makes the plot more concise and focuses up the story. If they would have chosen to include everything from the book into the picture, we would have ended up with a whole lot of narration – basically, it would be the same as listening to the audio book.  Also, the things that were in the book, but weren’t present in this film, might still appear in The Divergent Series: Ascendant. Remember, while this film doesn’t have ‘Part 1’ in its name, it still is only the first half of the final entry into the franchise.

Speculations about Ascendant

Speaking about the story, I think that some of the book things that the were missing from this film but the last movie will probably include are:

  1. Nita’s subplot and rebellion inside the bureau
  2. Caleb’s and Tris’s relationship and the idea of sacrifice
  3. More scenes with Tris and Christina (I don’t think that they had one full scene together in Allegiant at all)
  4. The book ending – HUGE SPOILER for the next film. I remember that I was shocked when I read it in the book and I really hope that they will keep this ending. It’s not only brave and different but a quite nice cinematic twist. This franchise would definitely earn back my respect if they did it.

Changes

A few of the changes that I could spot were:

  1. The whole set- up for the escape was completely different. However, while the premise and the process were altered, the final outcome stayed the same.
  2. The actual group Allegiant played a slightly different role and showed up later in the film’s story than in the book’s story.
  3. A much smaller group of already somewhat established characters participated in the escape in the film.
  4. In the book, there was an inoculation serum which was not present in the film.
  5. I don’t remember anything about the plasma balls and drones in the book. I think that the filmmakers just thought that it would a cool visual,  however, it ended up being a kinda stupid idea.
  6. Lastly, I don’t think that there was such institution as the council in the book.

Gripes about the story

While reading the story in the book, I didn’t really have problems with it, but watching it on screen made me realize how annoying and frustrating it sometimes was/is. For one, the death of Tori was so obvious – why would she deliberately stand further back? Also, how could Evelyn not realize that the memory serum would affect everyone? The film also had kinda an abrupt ending as it was only the first 1 of the bigger picture. Other problems I had with the film were more visual or aural. For one, that 3D exposition in the bureau was obviously meant for the viewers and not the characters. Moreover, the technology and the architecture of the place wasn’t even remotely realistic. Lastly, all the screams, especially in that aircraft, sounded really fake.

Things I liked

Okay, I feel like I have been too harsh on this film, so I will tell you 2 things that I actually enjoyed about the story. Number 1: I liked the idea that old methods in new circumstances will equal to the same mistakes and Number 2: I enjoyed the fact that they didn’t portray David as a straight up villain. He was kinda right in saying that peace is impossible to achieve without the struggle.

Visuals and Directing

Insurgent’s director Robert Schwentke returned to direct the 3rd film. To my mind, he did a good job. I noticed that he used a lot of overhead panning out shots as well as the circle/around traveling shots. The short fight on the plane was probably my favorite action sequence, just because it was the most realistic. The CGI of the film was also okay – nothing too groundbreaking but nothing bad as well.

I really loved the mise-en-scene of the film. That includes the brown/orange/red/yellow wasteland as the setting and the soldiers’ costumes which changed colours (red outdoors, grey and black inside). I also have to praise the editing department for the opening sequence – I liked the futurist and pixelated font in the old school color of gold. It was a nice juxtaposition between tradition and modernity.

Soundtrack

Allegiant’s soundtrack was put together by Joseph Trapanese. I especially liked his pick for the main theme/end credits song – Scars by Tove Lo. Since I’m a fan of Lo, I have been listening to this track even before I watched the movie – I highly recommend you give it a listen even if you don’t plan on watching the film.

Acting

As with all YA movies, the cast consisted of young up-and-coming actors and older more accomplished ones.

  • The ‘youngsters’ were led by Shailene Woodley as Tris. She was good in the action scenes as well as in more challenging dramatic ones. Still, my favorite movie of hers will always be TFIOS. She will be starring in Snowden – a political thriller later this year. Theo James starred as Four, the love interest. He was perfectly fine in the role and is currently working on another Underworld film.
  • Ansel Elgort played Caleb, while Zoë Kravitz starred as Christina. Both of them had really tiny roles, but I quite liked their funny moment together in that aircraft. I am really interested in Elgort’s next project – the movie Billionaire Boys Club.  Kravitz doesn’t really have any big movies coming up, but you can always rewatch Mad Max Fury Road if you want to see a really good movie of hers. 
  • Miles Teller as Peter. I really hated the character of Peter in the book, but I loved him in the film, probably because Teller was playing him. I am a fan of his and would like to forget the disaster of Fantastic Four as quickly as possible. Teller as Peter had basically all the funny lines and one-liners of the film. Next, we will see Miles in the comedy Get a Job and in 3 other films later this year.

The adult cast of the film consisted of Jeff Daniels as DavidNaomi Watts as Evelyn, and Octavia Spencer as Johanna. I feel like, for them, this movie was/is the definition of a paycheck gig.

All in all, Allegiant was an okay film. I didn’t expect much from it to be truthful, so I wasn’t that disappointed. It’s not a must-see, but if you have nothing better to watch or do, you will have a pleasant time watching Allegiant.

Rate: 3.2/5

Trailer: The Divergent Series: Allegiant trailer

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Movie review: Far from the Madding Crowd

Movie reviews

Hello!

Let’s take a break from big summer blockbusters and Hollywood comedies and review a British independent film Far from the Madding Crowd, which might be an awards contender later this year.

To begin with, I would like to admit that I am a huge fan of British classical literature, I especially adore the novels and the authors from the late Romantic Period/Victorian Era. (I’m currently reading Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte). I also really enjoy movies made in the UK and made by the people living there. I feel like they are very refreshing and a nice break from Hollywood. I tend to watch a lot of motion pictures that come from Hollywood, so it’s nice to squeeze in a refresher once in a while. (I limit myself to these 2 countries (UK and US) because I know English language the best out of all foreign languages). In short, to my mind, British films have a unique style and an extraordinary view on the world, which I really admire.

Despite the fact that I would consider myself to be a book nerd, I haven’t actually read the Thomas Hardy’s novel Far from the Madding Crowd before going to see the film. I usually try to read the book before watching the movie but the circumstances worked against me this time. However, I have already got this book from the library and I am eager to read it. In addition, this is not the first time when Hardy’s novel is adapted into the motion picture – this is the 4th film based on this classical book. 

IMDb summary: In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor.

Visual appeal

Victorian England is one of my favorite historical eras, so I really loved the setting and simple but beautiful decorations of this film. Most of the action took place in a rural area which had amazing and breathtaking scenery of nature. The costumes and the hairstyles were also magnificent and true to the historical facts as far as I know.

Directing 

The film is directed by a Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg. Sadly, I am not familiar with his work but I really liked what he did in this movie. The cut-to-black transition seemed a bit abrupt sometimes, but they worked well other times, so maybe he should have cut the number of those and revisited their placement. The film’s screenplay was written by David Nicholls – an English novelist and screenwriter. This is not Nicholls’s first time working with classical literature as the main source. He wrote quite a few screenplay’s for BBC adapting Dickens’s, Bronte’s and even Shakespeare’s works to the small screen.

Acting

This movie has a pretty well know and accomplished cast:

Carey Mulligan star as the main character Bathsheba Everdene. I loved how Bathsheba was a strong, independent woman but was still able to be soft on the inside. She was a hopeless romantic and made mistakes in the name of love, but always went back to being a powerful, intelligent and free – an extraordinary occurrence when you considered the time that she lived in. I really enjoyed Mulligan’s performance. Although, my favorite role of hers is still the one in Never Let Me Go – another small British film – a dystopian romance with Keira Knightley and ex-Spider-man Andrew Garfield. Carey was also really good in The Great Gatsby as Daisy. No matter how much you hate the character of Daisy, you cannot not to admit that Mulligan is amazing in that role. Also, as an author and youtuber John Green has said in a Crash Course video on The Great Gatsby – you don’t have to like the character to enjoy the story. Anyway, I went off topic, let’s go back.

Matthias Schoenaerts plays Gabriel Oak – one of 3 love interest of Bathsheba. Gabriel was the most like-able character of the film. His intentions were always pure, his actions – selfless and his words – always truthful. Matthias Schoenaerts did a really nice job. The only other movie of his that I saw was The Loft (the remake version) which I enjoyed, although everybody hated it. I’m interested to see the original Loft where Schoenaerts  plays the same role as in the remake.

Michael Sheen plays William Boldwood – the character who receives the saddest and the most undeserving end. Although, Michael Sheen is a very famous and established actor, I was introduced to him in the Twilight movies. Don’t judge, I was a 12 year old once too. Although, the Volturi family was the best part of that franchise, so maybe it’s not that bad that recognized him from there. I at least know who he is right? Let’s move on.

Tom Sturridge was Sergeant Frank Troy – the last of the love interests. It took me some time to get pass his mustache but his charisma turned him into a definite scene-stealer. Though you could sense that he was bad news, you couldn’t resist him, his smile or his witty tongue.

Juno Temple stared as Fanny Robin – a character who also got an undeserving end. I feel like she was the opposite of Bathsheba – a weaker woman, who depended way too much on the man, Frank Toy to be precise, and, as a result – ended up the way she did (NO SPOILERS). But you can’t really blame her – she was a prisoner of her era and a convict of the circumstances. I would love to see more of actress’s Juno Temple’s work. I have only seen a few movies that she was in and she had really minor roles in those. 2013 Chilean-American psychological thriller Magic Magic seems to be the best option for those, who want to really see what this actress can do.

Music

This movie features a song by Carey Mulligan and Michael Sheen, which I really enjoyed and listened quite a few times outside the cinema. You are welcomed to hear it here: Let No Man Steal Your Thyme. I also really loved the opening and closing instrumental tracks as well as the Far From the Madding Crowd Love Theme. You can find all the soundtrack here.

All in all, I really enjoyed this film for many reason, which are stated above in my review. I would love to see this film getting some attention during the awards season, although it is unlikely for that to happen. Anyway, it wins my own personal Oscar, which is much better that any Academy Award or Golden Globe.

Rate 5/5

Trailer: Far From the Madding Crowd trailer

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Movie review: The Divergent Series: Insurgent

Movie reviews

Hello!

So, last night, I went to see the second installment in The Divergent Series – Insurgent and this is going to be my review.Enjoy!

First of all, I would like to give a spoiler warning because I might spoil some details of the film in the review. Still here? Let’s go then.

IMDb summary: Beatrice Prior must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart with the help from others on her side.

As a young adult myself and a fan of dystopian genre, I was really excited about this film. I have read all the books by Veronica Roth about 2 years ago, so, going into this film, I knew what was going to happen. Still, since it’s been quite a long time since I’ve read the original material and I have read a lot of books since then, I couldn’t remember all the details of the story, so I got to experience everything once again, like for the very first time.

Having said that, before I did this review, I reread the plot of the book at The Divergent Wikia page and realized that I would have probably been surprised by the plot of the film even if I had remember the book’s plot because they changed a lot of stuff.

I am usually really open-minded when it comes to book-to-movie adaptations and the changes they make but this time I had a few problems.

To begin with, they left out a lot of characters. Marcus had nothing to do in this film, Tori was also left out for the bigger part and even though they gave Tori’s twist to Evelyn, she was also an undeveloped character. In addition, other characters like Shauna, Lynn, Edward were cut. Christina was forgotten and Uriah didn’t really stick out to me.

Moreover, they changed the story a lot. The whole box and the test story-line was completely different than it was in the book (though I really liked it – not more than the book version but they were on an equal level at least). The book also had more democracy in it: more trials, more meeting and, in the film, they were just straight up killing each other. However, I really liked that they didn’t shy away from the killing in a PG-13 film. The books had a lot of deaths in them (a lot of unnecessary ones, especially the 3rd book – book readers will understand:)) and the movie should portray the cruelty of that wold correctly.  Visuals

You can definitely tell that they spent 110 million dollars on this film because it looks spectacular. I immensely enjoyed all the simulations and the way they were realized. Those particles looked extremely cool. The whole world building and Jeanine’s holographs were also realistic and interesting. I just wish they hadn’t spoiled all the cool Tris’s simulation scenes in the trailers and teasers.

Character by character (acting)

I believe that the 4 main young actors did a great ob. I am a huge Shailene Woodley fan (the whole post about her) and really like her in a role of Tris. I also dig the new haircut: it makes her look more edgy and sophisticated at the same time. Theo James was also good in his role, though, he didn’t have much to do. On the other hand, he will have a bigger role in the 3 and 4 films if they stick to the Allegiant’s (book’s) plot.

Miles Teller was also very good in the role of Peter. I am also a huge fan of his (post about him) and really liked his characters changes of heart. Ansel Elgort – also a favorite of mine (TFIOS!). However, his story-line was a bit weak and the betrayal wasn’t really realized properly.

The adults: Kate Winslet as Jeanine was okay. I wish she would have done more with this role. Evelyn played by Naomi Watts wasn’t realized properly too as I have already mentioned. I wish they would have spent more time with Tori played by Maggie Q because she is one of my favorite characters. The only adult character I really liked was Daniel Dae Kim’s Jack King – the leader of the Candor.

Themes

The dystopian genre always explores the same themes: humanity’s self destruction, society’s division into groups and the cost of rebellion. Interestingly, this particular series also dells deeper into psychological issues of the main character: the ability to forgive oneself and be at peace with oneself. I really like when big Hollywood block-busters have some heart in them.

My favorite quote was said by Evelyn: “I am factionless because I don’t belong to any faction and you are a divergent because you belong to too many” (sorry if I couldn’t remember it word by word). It gives a nice perspective on the differences and ,at the same time, similarities of the people. No matter how different we all are, we are all outsiders of society. There is no inside circle.

All in all, I enjoyed the film but it was far from perfect. Next year, we will be getting Allegiant Part 1 and then Part 2 the year after that. I wish they would have stayed more faithful to the book while making the 2nd film and changed the 3rd book’s story-line but I really doubt that that will happen.

Trailer: Insurgent trailer

Rate: 4/5

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Photos: Screenshots form the trailer, poster – LIONSGATE.

Movie review: The Huger Games Mockingjay Part 1

Movie reviews

Hello!

I have just come home from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 premiere at my local cinema. This is going to be my completely biased review because I am a huge fan of THG and I would much rather turn a blind eye to anything they did wrong than admit that it was wrong. SPOILERS AHEAD

Book to Movie changes

I have read all 3 The Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins 4 years ago when they were released in my mother tongue because, back then, I couldn’t read in English well enough to understand the story. So, since I have read the books quite a long time ago, I couldn’t remember the exact events to the smallest detail. However, this made the movie even more enjoyable for me because I knew that something big was going to happen but didn’t actually know what and could be as excited as other non-readers.

Visuals and Music

The visuals, the scenery and the special effects were great. Cinematography was done by Jo Willems. The film was edited by Alan Edward Bell and Mark Yoshikawa. The district 13 looked exactly as I have imagined it. The musical score by James Newton Howard as well as Katniss’s song were also special additions to the film. Moreover, the whistling of the Mockingjay theme is my ringtone and I jump every time somebody calls me.

Directing

The director Francis Lawrence did an amazing job as with the 2d film .I wish he would have directed the 1st film as well, but they probably will reboot The Hunger Games in 20 years, so he might get his chance.

Touching moments

I have already mentioned one of my favorite touching moments – that Katniss’s song about a hanging tree. I loved how the people sang that song while going to a fight. Plus, the hospital scene and the hand sign sent shivers down my back. All the propaganda videos also contained powerful messages that were touching and terrifying at the same time.

Character by character

Jennifer Lawrence was amazing as Katniss as you would expect. I have so much respect for Lawrence as an actress and I will always be a huge fan of her and will go to see any movie she is in. Katniss is an idol to so many girls in a contemporary world. We can all find a piece of ourselves in her. I can relate to Katniss because we are both stubborn and don’t give up without a fight even if we know that we might definitely lose or at least het hurt in a process. Of course, I haven’t faced the challenges that Katniss has faced with but I channel her strength, energy and power to fight my own everyday battles.

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta: Josh had a chance to shine as an actor and he delivered for sure. Even though you saw him only through a double screen, his eyes, and his facial expressions portrayed so many emotions. And the physical and mental changes he went through were also mind boggling.

Liam Hemsworth as Gale:  I really enjoyed Gale as a character, just wish he would have gotten more screen time. Although, the scene where he is talking about the destruction of the district 12 was an extremely powerful moment.

Sam Claflin as Finnick: I am a huge fan of Sam Claflin. (Review of his last film Love, Rosie here). I really wanted to see more of Finnick on screen. The way he delivered the monologue which was used as a distraction was amazing. His eyes showed so much hate and so much disgust towards capital, although, behind the toughness you could see that he was hurt deeply.

Woody Harrelson as Haymitch: It was strange to see Haymtich sober but I loved his and Katniss dysfunctional/ loving relationship.

Elizabeth Banks as Effie: Effie has undergone so many changes through the franchise. Both her looks and her way of thinking changed tremendously. And I have to say – for the better. She looks so much better without the wigs and the make-up and the puffy dresses. Also, we all know that she grew up in the capital and her ability to see that the capital needs to be destroyed gives me hope that other capital citizens will turn to the good side too.

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch: I have a strong admiration for this actor’s work and I was really sad when I’ve heard the news about his death. The world lost a remarkable talent who will be missed.

Julianne Moore as President Coin: Moore’s performance was great. I have two completely different emotions when talking about her character. I understand that she has to be a cruel and serious president in order for the rebellion to succeed. However, her intentions seem shady to me. It might be the problem only for me because the one thing I can clearly remember from the book is that Coin is not what she seems to be.

Donald Sutherland as President Snow: I have such strong and hateful feelings towards Snow. He is a natural dictator. The biggest problem is, however, not his decisions as a dictator but the pleasure he gets from making them.

Natalie Dormer as Cressida: Natalie is such an intelligent young woman who I admire. I have recently seen the press conference and a few interviews with her about this film and she is so well spoken and so smart. I am also a huge fan of her on Game of Thrones.  Cressida was the most relatable character for me because I would like to make movies one day and I can understand that the events in real life and through a camera lens look completely different.

I also loved Willow Shields as Primrose and Stanley Tucci as Caesar.  Willow grew as an actress alongside her character and Tucci is amazing with fake acting.

Themes

This movie has so many meanings and so many layers. You can talk about it without a break.

The first and the most obvious theme is the fight against dictatorship. Throughout history my country has been occupied several times, and since I am familiar with my country’s history, I can understand the cruelty, the insanity and the inhumanity of dictatorship. But history has already happened and we live in a now and we are dreaming about the future.  This film hits the audience right where it hurts: if we don’t take actions to preserve democracy, we will end up under the iron fist of a dictator once more in a near future.

You can also draw similarities between the movie and the current actions in the Middle East, Africa, Ukraine and other countries where rebellions are rising and where people are fighting for their beliefs. I just wish their beliefs would be based on facts and not speculations and I only want the people to know what they are truly fighting for.

Another theme of the movie is the power of propaganda and the media. As I have said, the camera lenses can manipulate the truth and turn it into a weapon.

Another theme that stuck in to my mind was the inner fight of Katniss. She is dived between her personal and public goals. She wants her nation to be free but she also wants to be happy with Peeta or Gale. I have recently written an essay in my Literature class on this topic and I have come to the conclusion that you cannot succeed in both spheres, you have to pick one. And Katniss still haven’t made a clear decision but she will do it in a 4th film.

The film also portrays the war very realisticly and shows that, in war, there is no honor, no heroism, and no humanity. (This is the view of authors, painters and philosophers from the
Romanticism movement.)

These are the main themes I wanted to discuss. However, the film has so many more details and metaphorical meanings. Every character’s ark is full of examples that we can learn from. For instance, Effie shows us that the upbringing isn’t the only thing that defines a person. Gale’s story ark is all about the ability to cope with the losses and the understanding that sometimes it’s enough to be your best self.

All in all, since I am a huge fan of THG, I can’t give it a bad review even if I wanted to. But I don’t want to! I loved the movie, the themes, the acting, the visuals and, basically, everything about it. The story was smooth and it had flown perfectly, I couldn’t divide the movie into 3 separate acts. Although, some scenes could have been longer and some actors could have gotten more screen time. But I am not complaining, this was only a Part 1 and they were just laying the ground work for an epic closing chapter to this worldwide phenomenon.

Rate: 5/5 (no surprise here, huh?)

Trailer: Mockingjay trailer

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Current favorite actress: Shailene Woodley

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Shailene Woodley is a 22 year old American actress, who started her acting career on the small screen, particularly, in an ABC family’s teen drama The Secret Life of the American Teenager. The show ran for 5 seasons from 2008 till 2013. By the end of it, it had lost a lot of fans because it started repeating the same stories and dragging on the new ones. More importantly, almost all the fans were disappointed with the ending of the series.  I was a loyal fan of the show, started watching it around the 3rd season. Shailene’s character was probably one of the most annoying characters in a history of television for me. Nonetheless, I enjoyed her performance as an actress because she really made me hate that character.

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In 2011, Shailene moved to the big screen and stared in family drama The Descendants alongside George Clooney. For the role in this movie Shailene received recognition form the critics and won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actress as well as was nominated for the Golden Globe in the same category.

The-Descendants

In 2013, she once again received an Independent Spirit Award’s nomination for the lead role in coming of age drama The Spectacular Now. Milles Teller also started in this movie as her love interest and later moved on to be her enemy in Divergent. (See a post about him here).

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2014 were the best year so far for Shailene. She got the lead role of Tris in Divergent – dystopian young adult book to movie adaptation.  Of course, Shailene and Divergent were immediately compared to Jennifer Lawrence and The Hunger Games. I believe that Shailene stood her ground and she was excellent in the film.

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Another big film of 2014 was The Fault in Our Stars (review). Beloved book by youtuber/author John Green was one of the most anticipated book adaptations ever and Shailene got a worldwide recognition as well as praise for her portrayal of Hazel – a teenage girl who knows she is going to die from cancer. Her brother form the Divergent series – Ansel Elgort – also stared (as her love interest this time).

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White Bird in a Blizzard – another independent Shailene’s movie. It was released in 2013 in some countries and only a year later in others.  This movie was super peculiar to me: some themes felt disconnected form others. I couldn’t understand what a mother’s problems had to do with a teenage girl’s sexuality. I guess it showed how bad parenting affects children, what a loveless marriage can do to you and what a strong feeling jealousy is. But how can there be jealousy in a family? That just seemed straight up strange. I have never felt anything remotely close to the things they portrayed. However, I agreed with one idea of the movie: something can look perfect from the outside, but deep under covers, the truth might be completely different.

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Shailene has strong beliefs when it comes to the environment. She tries to help save our nature, uses only ecological make-up and hair products and strongly expresses her opinions about saving and cherishing our world.

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Next in Shailene’s future stand 3 more movies in the Divergent series (2015, 2016 and 2017). She currently doesn’t have any more announced projects but I believe that she has a bright future ahead of her. She definitely deserves an Oscar nomination and I believe she will get one sometime soon for a role in another independent movie.

Shailene’s style:

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Photos: Google Images

Movie review: The Giver + book

Movie reviews

Hello!

The Giver movie has finally opened in my country, so this is going to be my review!

From unknown Australian TV director Phillip Noyce comes The Giver – a childrens’ book by Lois Lowry adaptation to the big screen.

Summary:

Lowry’s book The Giver was released in 1993 (It took 21 years to make a movie out of this book!) followed by Gathering Blue (2000), Messenger (2004) and Son (2012). Currently, I am reading the 3rd book and I am enjoying this series, it raises a lot of questions to me and shows what happens to people who forget what is important in life.

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Book to movie changes

The beginning of the movie seemed a bit rushed, they flew through the bigger part of the book in the first 20-30 minutes, so it was natural that they needed to make some stuff up and plus, they had only less than a 100 pages of the book material left. Basically, in my opinion, the book hadn’t had much action or a clear direction where it was going, to what final piece it was building up to. So, while adapting this sort of slow but thought provoking story into an action flick, they just cleared some things and organized the plot. They also upgraded the setting into a much more modern world which is more appealing to today’s viewers. I was really happy that they included more character development and focused a bit more on other characters instead of focusing just on Thomas. Of course, they added some romance, which is a must for a dystopian YA movie, as well. The last big change – picking a clear antagonist: The Chief Elder played by Meryl Streep.

Acting

Streep was amazing as usual. I also enjoyed other big movie stars like Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes and Jeff Bridges in their pay-check roles. Newcomers Odey Rush and Cameron Monaghan also did a nice job. Cameo form Taylor Swift was good but not too memorable. Rising star Brenton Thwaites, which is going to be in 2 more movie this year (Ride and Son of a Gun) and who was also in Maleficient as Prince Phillip and in The Signal (small budget, independent Sci-Fi thriller), did really good job in his role. I also liked how Brenton’s character Jonas spent the bigger part of the movie with a baby and showed that staying with a kids is not just woman’s work.

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Visuals

Now, speaking about the visuals, I loved the transition from black and white to color and I believe that it worked perfectly with the story. All the different shots of the memories seemed a bit chaotic but nice  as well.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie and didn’t mind the changes because all the main plot points stayed the same and some dialogue lines were straight from the book. The film was touching, cute, pleasant but not too complicated. They portrayed human emotions believably, restored my faith in humanity and made me want to be alive and experience everything – even if just for a moment.

Trailer: The Giver trailer

Rate: 4/5

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Photos: Google Images

Movie review: The Lego Movie

Movie reviews

Hi!
This summer is a movie summer for me, so, without further ado, here is a review of The Lego Movie.

From the start of the movie, it had this cool dystopian vibe which we all know from series like The Hunger Games, Divergent, Delirium and which I really enjoy. The reason why this movie is so relatable and likeable is the fact that it shows us the problems that our society is dealing with – being part of grey mass, losing identity, worshiping a leader (dictator) even if he is crazy, following all the rules and listening to the instructions, not making decisions for ourselves and etc.

The motion picture has so many great, heartwarming messages for kids (adults too), but I think that nowadays not all children (or even mature grown-ups) will understand them. Let me explain why. Our society is overusing modern technologies, we are doing everything with them and, as a consequence, we lack real, face-to-face contact. This physical form of communication is crucial part in our development. Today, we are used to being alone by our laptop or phone from early childhood; we become narrow minded and closed to ourselves. When, as time goes by, we turn into vain and empty, cocky and stubborn things. Of course, I am not saying that everybody is like that, but let’s face it – all of us know at least one person with these personality traits. Also, majority of us have at least one of them inside of us but we are just too afraid and too proud of ourselves to admit our flaws.

Like I said earlier, the film had many great ideas: finding yourself and your place in the world, stressing the importance of working in a team as well as need of optimism; dealing with negativity (do not berry it deep inside, talk it out). What is more that cop character perfectly portrayed our inner fight because we all have a little bit of good cop and bad cop inside. Other problems which were dealt with included both believing in yourself and wanting to be special and remembered for your work. The animation even touched on topics like fake and real friendships and the meaning of sacrifice, the problem of jealousy.

I would also like to praise makers of the movie for their creative use of superheroes and famous people. It was a pleasant Easter egg for so many different fandoms from all the different franchises, sports, science, art and so forth.

Furthermore, the movie was really funny and witty without being vulgar. Nowadays comedies relay on dick jokes too much. In addition, the dialogue was interesting and well written.

From the production point of view – the computer-Lego graphics were awesome. This is a new and fresh idea in the animation business.

All in all, the Lego movie brought a nostalgic smile to my face, reminded me of my childhood and good old days spent playing with Lego’s, building houses and cities and all kinds of stuff. And I got to say: I want a double-deck couch!! Rate 5/5

P.S. The sequel to the movie is planned to be released in 2017.