Movie review: A Simple Favor

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of the film that critics love but I was confused by! This is A Simple Favor!

IMDb summary: A woman seeks to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of her best friend.

Writing

A Simple Favor was written by Jessica Sharzer (writer of Nerve and American Horror Story), based on the book of the same name by Darcey Bell. This film a successor of earlier female-centric book-to-movie thrillers like Gone Girl and The Girl on The Train. I have always loved the thriller genre so I was quite excited about the film. I haven’t read the book prior to watching so I had no idea about the plot. And the plot left me speechless and I still don’t know whether in a good or bad way.

I thought that the movie’s set-up was successful and intriguing. However, the complete 180 that the main character did (going from a good friend to a certainty shady person) confused me. I wish we would have seen more of her past ‘darker’ side than just a couple of scenes – maybe I would have believed her transition more. I also thought that the first half of the film felt a bit rushed and then the third act dragged on, with reveals being pilled on top of each other and not allowed to make an impact. The reveals were messy and even laughable at times, and yet, sort of interesting – I was hoping that one final reveal might make everything make sense but I never really got that.

I appreciated the movie’s attempts to explore a variety of adult relationships: friendships, family relationships, romantic or sexual relationships. However, all of them were portrayed as quite toxic and I don’t think that that is quite true to life. Due to these toxic relationships, the characters involved in them did not seem that likable. However, that wasn’t my main issue with them – it’s the fact that they did not appear to think at all or consider the consequences of their actions that annoyed me.

Directing

Paul Feig, quite a well-known director of female-centric comedies, like Bridesmaids and Ghostbusters, left his usual genre but took his skills with him. While A Simple Favor was supposed to be a mystery thriller, it had a plethora of comedic moments, some of which fit and some of which felt completely jarring and out of place. Those 3 parents that were sort of there in the background and would sometimes pop-up to comment on something felt very Bad Moms-esque and annoyed me with their awkwardness.

Acting

Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively – two amazing and under-appreciated actresses – played the leads and were ready great even if I didn’t think that the movie itself was so great. Lively (The Shallows, Cafe Society) fabulous in all those suits and the mysterious character really suited her. It was quite weird seeing Kendrick in a mother’s role as I still have her stuck in my mind as a student or an intern from Pitch Perfect and The Accountant, respectively, and she just seems so young in real life. Henry Golding (of Crazy Rich Asians whose review is coming soon) also had a role in this film and was really good. Hope to see more of him in mainstream films!

In short, A Simple Favor, while a complex and mysterious thriller according to some people, was a messy and awkward film in my view.

Rate: 3.4/5

Trailer: A Simple Favor trailer

Movie review: Phantom Thread

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to one the last awards’ movie reviews. This time around, we are discussing Phantom Thread!

IMDb summary: Set in 1950’s London, Reynolds Woodcock is a renowned dressmaker whose fastidious life is disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who becomes his muse and lover.

Paul Thomas Anderson

Phantom Thread was written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, known for such films as Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Inherent Vice (which I’ve finally watched and was confused by) and There Will Be Blood (my favorite picture of his). His direction for Phantom Thread was very particular (and, in a way, quite spectacular). The writing was also very specific and, while I, personally, found a lot of problems with its content, I could also see how other people might have been fascinated by it. Let’s begin!

Writing

Phantom Thread’s narrative was, at its core, a love story, albeit a twisted and toxic one. The portrayal of such a love story was my main problem with the film. I have seen this movie described as a true representation of what it is like being in a relationship with an artist. To me, this looked like a situation, in which the film’s supposed authenticity of representation was used as a poor justification for the toxic relationship of the characters. Also, the assertion of authenticity raised another problem in my mind: according to this film, artists are borderline divine deities, to be sheltered and protected. In my worldview, artists are humans: flawed individuals rather than godlike figures to be privileged and raised above everyone else.

Going back to the love story, I couldn’t buy its progression. The female character stared the film as timid and quiet and seemed to be perfectly happy to be in an abusive and strict relationship. However, then she changed into a femme fatale (went from 0 (every second word from her mouth in the first half was ‘yes’) to Christian Grey levels) and attempted to reassert some power/or even take full control of the relationship by using quite deadly means. Where did that change come from? I did not see any hints at it at the beginning of the film! Also, if deciding to play-up the female character as this quiet but deadly individual, why not have the whole tonne of the movie be a bit more cynical and sinister rather than romantical? The changes in tonne would have made the whole shift seem a bit more possible. Also, was her goal to lower his defense mechanism really the only thing driving her forward? Or did she just want to weasel herself into his business and was basically a gold digger?

The male character was equally awful. He was privileged, pedantic, ridden with mommy issues (which were never really explored, just mentioned), demanding, superior without any good reason, obsessive, pretentious and controlling workaholic. Was he like that because of a mental illness or was he just an awful human being? Did his eccentricities really make him remarkable? I found that assertion quite questionable. Also, what did he see in the female character? A person to love, a prize to desire or a great model for his clothes/a real life dressmaker’s dummy?

The two ideas of writing that I liked the most (or the only two I liked at all) were the assertions that clothing is powerful and transformative and the character of the sister. Her jealousy of the new girlfriend/wife was a bit weird but I did like the fact that she was done with her brother by the end of the film and experienced growth – escaped the cycle that the other two characters remained stuck in.

Directing

Phantom Thread looked like a 1950s movie with its blurry and grainy visuals and soft colors. The designs themselves were beautiful but they also seemed very much of their own time – old rather than classical (time-transcending). The picture was also really slow, and since the story was either angering or extremely unengaging for me, I felt that it dragged more than a few times.

Acting

The two lead actors – Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps – did a good enough job portraying the character. But, as I found their characters atrocious, I couldn’t really enjoy the actors’ performances. The chemistry between the two actors was interesting. I didn’t see it as positive but rather more confrontational and sometimes awkward, uncomfortable to watch. I don’t think this was Day-Lewis best performance and I certainly don’t think he should retire after it. For Krieps, this was her English-language debut (or one of the first few roles in English) and it was not necessarily the most successful one.

 

 

In short, Phantom Thread was a beautifully shot film, whose writing left me confused and annoyed. Might just be a personal thing, though, as a lot of critics seemed to have loved it.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Phantom Thread trailer

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Movie review: Nocturnal Animals

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another Amy Adams movie review. A few back, I discussed Arrival and today, I’m giving you my thoughts on Nocturnal Animals.

IMDb summary: An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.

In short, I would describe Nocturnal Animals as Hell or High Water and The Neon Demon put together. The more glamorous parts of the film (the bourgeoisie and the art scene), as well as the stylistic look of it, reminded me of The Neon Demon (plus, Demon was about the fashion world, Animals directed by a fashion designer), while the grittier parts – the book’s plot – were reminiscent of Hell or High Water both visually and thematically.

The fashion designer Tom Ford both wrote, directed, and produced Nocturnal Animals. This was his second attempt at making a feature film . I’ve not seen his first movie – A Single Man – but he impressed me a lot this time around, so I will most likely check out his debut movie. He successfully transitioned from designing to filmmaking and I’m excited to see what he will come up with next.

Writing and Story

I absolutely loved the clever and intriguing narrative of the film. All the different storylines – the reality, the book’s plot and the flashbacks – were separately interesting and distinctive but I also liked how they were combined and how they mirrored each other. In general,  I would say that the fipm was based on  thematical dichotomies – Texas vs. LA/NY, parents vs. children, felons vs. victims, past vs. present, and book vs. reality – and all of them were super engaging. I also liked the fact that the movie did not take sides: it critiqued both the southern traditional way of life and the uber modern and stylish world of the urban high classes.

Nocturnal Animals also appealed to me because it explored my biggest anxieties: the most obvious one was, of course, all of the events of the book (kidnap, rape, and murder). However, the fear of becoming like my parents and the anxiety which surrounds the uncertainty of my future are both very familiar and deeply personal to me as well. 

The movie had a very open ending and left some questions unanswered. Three theories immediately sprung up in my mind. 1. Maybe the film’s message was that one cannot truly change the past and it might sometimes be too late to say sorry, so that’s why the ex-husband didn’t show up. 2. Maybe, the novel’s events were just the main character’s way of dealing with the past mistakes a.k.a. putting ideas into a narrative and the ex-husband wasn’t actually a real person. 3. Maybe the book was just one big suicide note and that’s why he didn’t show up?  I’m probably totally wrong but it is fun to speculate and think about it.

Directing and Visuals

Nocturnal Animals had an interesting blend of visuals: it mixed urban lights with rural desserts. I especially loved all the landscape shots – the framed stills would make for some amazing photographs. The way modern art was used in the film was also interesting. I, personally, don’t get modern art but I can appreciate it. However, I got to say – I was a bit weirded out by the opening of the film (nudity) and wasn’t entirely sure if I was even in the right screening. However, I think that that was the point of the scene – it was meant to shock and to showcase the eccentric world of art that the film’s main character inhabited.

Nocturnal Animals was a perfect example of a successfully and tastefully stylized movie. Tom Ford’s design background and eye for textures and colors really assisted him in the choice of visuals. In addition, he dealt with the pacing of the picture very well: it was slow but never dragged – it was suspenseful and mesmerizing without beeing cliche.

Music and Soundtrack

Abel Korzeniowski did the soundtrack for the film. I really liked the instrumental score: it fit both the visuals and the narrative nicely. My favorite track was the one that sounded like the sextet from the movie Cloud Atlas. That particular track accompanied a variety of scenes and was also played during the credits.

Acting

The film had a stellar cast. Amy Adams was magnificent – I liked her performance even more than the Arrival one. Her eye-acting was mesmerizing. I also loved the way the movie played with the fact that Amy Adams’s and Isla Fisher’s look very similar. Jake Gyllenhaal was also brilliant – he lost himself in the role as he usually does. Michael Shannon was also a stand-out – loved his cool yet realistic portrayal of the detective. Lastly, Aaron Taylor-Johnson completely surprised me – this was probably his best role that I have seen yet just because it felt like the most challenging one. He was so good as the crazy, cocky, and eccentric felon. Armie Hammer also appeared in the film in his signature role of  ‘a white privileged businessman’.

Cast’s movie recommendations:

In short, Nocturnal Animals was beautifully stylized film, which also had important themes and interesting narrative ideas to match its gritty and glamorous visuals. The acting was also top-notch.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Nocturnal Animals trailer

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Cinema Camp 2016

Movie previews, Movie reviews

Hello!

On my blog, I usually post movie reviews with a few sightseeing or more personal diary-like entries about my experiences doing various kinds of stuff. Well, today, I’m combining these two types of posts and writing about my weekend, which was spent at a Cinema Conference/Camp.

This particular cinematic event was held for the 7th time and was organized by non-governmental arts organization Meno Avilys. I had a chance to spend almost 4 days in the company of various Lithuanian and foreign filmmakers and film-lovers. The topic of the conference was The Eye of The Cinema, so we focused a lot on cinematography and camera work.

The conference was held at a newly refurbished and renovated Gelgaudiskis Manor and its surrounding areas – this is where the ‘camping’ portion of the weekend comes into the picture. The majority of the participants lived and slept in tents, with the exception of the organizers and specials guests, who stayed at a makeshift hostel. The catering services were established in a school cafeteria, so the whole conference had a ‘children’s camping trip’ kinda aura. However, this aura was also mixed with the feeling of bohemia. It was a strange and long weekend.

I’ll now go through each of the days of the conference and will elaborate on the various lectures and screening I attended.

I and a few of my friends, which are also cinephiles and/or film students, arrived at a camp on Thursday evening (Day 1). After registering and settling in, we had a chance to listen to the opening lecture by the Lithuanian Film Theoretic Lukas Brasiskis on the topic of the Eye of the Cinema. I really enjoyed his presentation and agreed with the idea that the Cinematic Eye can both transform reality and help a person look into it. Afterward, we watched Dziga Vertov’s experimental film Cinema Eye from 1924. We ended the night with philosopher’s Nerijus Milerius piece on the eye and its place in the Snuff Cinema.

Day 2 started with a few workshops, where the aspiring camera operators could learn the tricks of the craft from Lithuanian cameramen Eitvydas Doskus and Vilius Maciulskis. After lunch, the director’s Audrius Stonys lecture on the ethics of documental films took place. Then, another Lithuanian director Deimantas Narkevicius showcased some of his earliest works and held a Q and A session. The day was closed with meet and greet with Polish camera operator Adam Sikora and we also watched a film he has worked on with the director Jerzy SkolimowskiEssential Killing. During the night/late evening, a Russian Rock band Megapolis performed a visual and musical homage to the Soviet films that were never made due to heavy censorship called From the Life of the Planets. I loved the idea of this performance, just wish it wasn’t held so late in the evening.

Day 3 finally saw some female professionals sharing their ideas. The Researcher of Cinema and its Visuals Natalija Arlauskaite gave a lecture on Censorship, while the art critic Agne Narusyte discussed Performative Symbols in Cinema and Photography. The third day of the event also had three of my favorite lectures/screening of the whole camp. First, the American Film Theoretic Gabriel Paletz gave a lecture on Citizen Kane and Movie Climaxes, then the great French cinematographer Agnes Godard held a Q and A gathering and we also watched a movie she made with Claire Denis – Beau Travail. Lastly, we rounded up the night with an In Memoriam assembly for Abbas Kiarostami and enjoyed his brilliant work by watching The Wind Will Carry Us, which I had a chance to study at university.

On the last day of the camp/conference (Day 4), the focus was shifted more to the new technologies and modern ways of looking at cinema. The Lithuanian artist/programmer Bartosh Polonski told the participants about virtual reality and the opportunities that the current technologies create. Before lunch, the Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravicius held a test screening of his documental feature Mariupolis. The cinematic weekend was closed with an open discussion/panel with various operators: the aforementioned Eitvydas Doskus and Vilius Maciulskis, who were joined by Mindaugas Survila and Vytautas Katkus.

Overall, I had a really pleasant time at this event. My background in film is tiny, so I always take every opportunity to learn about the field from the professionals who work in it. I also tend to focus a lot on mainstream films, so it was really nice to be exposed to more experimental and indie features. It was also delightful to learn more about the cinema of my own country, as I do usually watch foreign films, especially those made in the English language. I arrived on Thursday with an open heart and an even opener mind and did not regret a thing. While I might need a break from indie and experimental films , I’m certain that I will be coming back to them more often than I did before.

Thanks for reading!

Photos from the event and the location it was held in:

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5 ideas about a movie: The Neon Demon

Movie reviews

Hello!

Nowadays, the majority of wide theatrical releases are mainstream films, so, whenever I get a chance to see a more experimental motion picture, I take it! Thus, without further ado, let me tell you about The Neon Demon.

IMDb summary: When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.

  1. The Neon Demon is sort of a horror film. I, personally,  don’t really watch any horror movies. However, this one intrigued me because it wasn’t just a straight up mainstream horror flick with jump scares and ghosts. It had elements of psychological drama and thriller. Moreover, it was created by a very artsy indie director Nicolas Winding Refn. I loved Winding Refn’s Drive and I also kinda enjoyed his other film with Ryan Gosling – Only God Forgives. The Neon Demon also explored the world that I’m interested in – the fashion business. The previous films about fashion that I have seen were all very light – Zoolander 1 and 2, The Devil Wears Prada and Confessions of a Shopaholic. On the contrary, The Neon Demon was unapologetically dark. While overall I enjoyed the movie, I also had some problems with it. Basically, I thought that it was visually rich, but lacked substance and was narratively hollow.
  2. Visuals: the director Nicolas Winding Refn is know for beautiful visuals, so it is no surprise that The Neon Demon was a stunning film to look at. Half of the praises should go to Natasha Braier, for her amazing cinematography. If you freeze any frame of the film, you would get an amazing photograph. All of the manipulation of lights, colors and geometrical shapes was remarkable. The slow motion and the close-ups really fit with the slow pace of the film as well. The picture has quite a few bloody scenes, especially near the end, so be aware if that bothers you.
  3. Narrative: the film was written by the director, the screenwriter Mary Laws and the playwright Polly Stenham. I felt that the writing was the weakest part of the film. The main character – the innocent girl from a small town that comes to the city to become a model – was such a cliche. Her transition from innocence to confidence was way too quick as well. All of the faults of the fashion industry were also really predictable. The portrayal of men as sexual predators and the depiction of women as vain and jealous individuals were both stereotypical choices.The film also missed a few plot opportunities. Keanu Reeves’s character appeared in 3 scenes and then disappeared. The over-the-top ending didn’t help the film either.
  4. A few ideas of the story that I liked were the fact that beauty can make money and that beauty has an expiration date. These concepts weren’t really that original but I appreciated their inclusion and depiction. The movie also had quite a lot of symbolism. For me, some of the symbols worked, some didn’t. The symbol of mirrors was cool, but the scene with the cougar kinda went over my head when I first saw the film. The soundtrack by Cliff Martinez was pretty neat too – I liked the inclusion of Sia’s song Waving Goodbye. In general, the whole film felt very much controlled, maybe even strained and over-constructed. There wasn’t really anything organic or natural about it, but I guess the fashion world is really artificial, so the movie set in that world should give off a feeling of fakeness and manufacture.
  5. Acting: I enjoyed the majority of the performances. The conversations between the characters seemed a bit awkward at times but I think that they were intentionally awkward – those scenes were uncomfortable to watch and one must never feel comfortable when watching a more experimental film. Speaking of the actors: Elle Fanning (Maleficent, Super 8) was okay as Jesse. I feel that the lack of originality in the writing for the lead character ruined Fanning’s execution a bit. Karl Glusman was good as Dean – the most normal character of the picture. Jena Malone (The Hunger Games and BvS Ultimate Edition) as Ruby was an absolute scene stealer and really went all the way in this role. Her sex-scene was more than disturbing. Bella Heathcote (Dark ShadowsPride and Prejudice and Zombiesas Gigi was good as well, but I though that model Abbey Lee (Mad Max Fury Road) as Sarah kinda stole all her scenes. Keanu Reeves had a few scenes as Hank and I, personally, thought that anybody could have played his part. Lastly, Desmond Harrington as Jack  was a believable sort of artsy and kinda shady photgrapher.

In short, The Neon Demon was/is defintely an experimental film. It is not easy to watch and might be considered an unsuccessful experiment by the majority of the mainstream audiences. I did enjoy it but kinda had to make myself sit through it at first. Visually, it is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen, while plot-wise it could have been more refined and more sophisticated. If you want to try any of Winding Refn’s films, I suggest you start with Drive, as it is the most accessible one. Maybe leave The Neon Demon and Only God Forgives for some other time. I also want to check out his Bronson film, as it stars my favorite actor – Tom Hardy.

Rate: 3.25/5

Trailer: The Neon Demon trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Money Monster

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of one the smaller and more serious films of the summer – Money Monster.

IMDb summary: Financial TV host Lee Gates and his producer Patty are put in an extreme situation when an irate investor takes over their studio.

  1. Money Monter was written by a TV writer Alan Di Fiore, Jim Kouf, who has written a lot of independent films and Dear John’s writer Jamie Linden. This diverse group of screenwriters has crafted a really interesting narrative, full of amazing and intense dialogue. The story was simple enough to understand for those who don’t know anything about economics (me) and yet still complex, intense and exciting. The comic relief and the jokes were organic and not forced. The themes: ‘value of the human life’ (refusing to help Clooney by not buying the stocks), ‘the broken capitalism’ (‘business is just business’) and ‘life goes on’ (shot of the table football) were also interesting. The plot seemed to be of a very small scale,  but in truth, the overarching story was much bigger and broader. At the end of the film, it seemed that the notion that ‘the rich can get away with anything’ will be proved once again, but the inclusion of the online backlash really subverted this notion and made the movie more connected to the contemporary world.
  2. The film was directed by Jodie Foster, who went the Elizabeth Banks route – from acting to directing. But, to be fair, Foster started directing TV shows and movies way earlier than Banks – back in the 90s. However, then she took a couple of decades break from directing and only started getting behind the camera in the 2010s. She did a great job with Money Monster: the stakes felt high, the pace was fast and the visuals – colorful and unique. I also enjoyed the small time frame – the movies plot started and was resolved in a single day. In general, the film was well-constructed and a solid economic thriller – it actually felt like an action movie but made with dialogue instead of explosions. The end credits song – What Makes the World Go ‘Round (MONEY!) – was also really appropriate and a neat way to finish the film.
  3. I also really enjoyed seeing the behind the scenes or the production side of a TV program. I would like to be a producer or even a director one day and Money Monster showed how the professionals deal with difficult situations.
  4. Money Monster also had a great cast, full of accomplished actors: George Clooney (Hail, Caesar!, Tomorrowland), Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell (Unbroken), Dominic West (Testament of Youth), Caitriona BalfeChristopher Denham, and Giancarlo Esposito (The Maze Runner). All of the actors performed their lines really well, especially Clooney, Roberts and O’Connell. O’Connell’s character acted believably desperate and Clooney’s and Robert’s snappy back-and-forth bickering was one of the best parts of the picture. The way Clooney’s character was trying to talk himself out of the situation was also pretty nice.
  5. If you  enjoyed Money Monster, a few films that I’d like to recommend are The Big Short – a really funny economic drama and The Ides of March – a political thriller, starring and directed by Clooney.

In short, Money Monster was interesting, intense, complex but easily understandable economic drama. The performances, as well as the directing, were both solid but the film’s writing was the best part of it.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Money Monster trailer

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Movie review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of Shadows

Movie reviews

Hello, my dear readers!

Let’s continue the summer movie season and review TMNT: Out of Shadows – a sequel that nobody asked for?

IMDb summary: As Shredder joins forces with mad scientist Baxter Stockman and henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady to take over the world, the Turtles must confront an even greater nemesis: the notorious Krang.

I’ve already done a review for the 2014 reboot of TMNT/the first film in the new series, you can find it here.

Reasons for Going

The 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle film was watchable but nothing great. Previous Michael Bay films were all (almost all) terrible, awful and tragic (Transformers). So, why did I subject myself to TMNT 2? Well, because Stephen Amell joined the cast. I’m a huge fan of Arrow and I’m also a fan of Amell himself, not only as an actor but also as a person. I admire his activism on social media, his charity work and his honest and open communication with the fans. He was the sole reason why I went to see this film.

Writing

The film was written by a duo of screenwriters – Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec. I have mixed feelings about their previous work. They scripted the 2014 TMNT movie, which was average at best, as well as Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – my favorite MI film. The narrative that they created for Out of Shadows is also of mixed quality.

To begin with, I appreciate the inclusion of iconic characters from the TMNT history like Casey Jones, Krang, Rocksteady and Bebop, and Baxter Stockman. At the same time, I don’t think it was such a good idea to bring some of these characters to live-action just because of how cartoonish they are, while, simultaneously, not staying true and faithful to the most realistic character from TMNT animation and comics – April O’Neil. Wouldn’t it be better to give us a proper April O’Neil and leave talking/floating brains behind? Or just bring everything as it is, not just half of it. Why bother with realism, when you have talking ninja turtles as protagonists? Just a thought.

Moving on to the film’s plot, it was convenient AF. The exposition was obvious as well as the villain motivations. The character of The Shredder, while somewhat fixed with the recast, was totally useless, because he was defeated so easily. The teleportation plotline was interesting but the more it was developed, the worse it got. The 3rd act of the film was worth a Transformers movie.

The writing for the turtles improved a bit. They weren’t just one sided cliches – the leader, the brains, the muscle and the jokes. The roles were switched up a bit and the ideas that ‘our differences make us stronger’ and ‘the family always accepts you’ were kinda nice. The other message of the film – that the turtles would go ‘out of shadows’ was touched upon but never fully realized because the public still doesn’t know about the heroes in a half shelf. They probably left that for a 3rd movie.

A few other characters had their own arcs as well. I felt that Casey Jones fit into the story organically and was a nice addition. On the other hand, Vern, once again, was totally unnecessary and was basically shoehorned into the plot. April O’Neil felt like a less sexualized character, but still, she is not the O’Neil from the animated series, that I grew up watching.

Directing

TMNT 2 was directed by Dave Green, whose only other feature film is 2014’s Earth to Echo, which received mixed reviews from the critics. Green’s efforts for this film were good, but the final product – not so much.

The opening shot of the film seemed really cool…until it turned into a product placement. The Halloween parade was visually interesting…until it turned into a plug for Transformers. The action was exciting…until the screen was overloaded with explosions or with unnecessary slow motion. You get the point.

The CGI looked kinda nice (I could almost deal with the fact that all characters looked like they were on steroids) – the turtles’ faces actually had expressions and they even actually seemed realistic-ish – they had sweaty skin during the action scenes and teary eyes during the more emotional sequences. Nevertheless, the CGI of the villain – Krang – was terrible and cartoonish not in a good way/caricature-like. The film perfectly described the look of the character itself – ‘a chewed up piece of gum with a face’.

My favorite visual was probably the traditional graphics of the comic books during the credits. They felt somewhat refreshing, after staring at CGI for 2 hours.

Producing

I mentioned a lot of faults of the movie, but I don’t blame the director or the screenwriters for them. I actually think that they had little to do with the film, as this picture felt like it was made by the studio suits and the executives. TMNT 2 had too many producers and like 5 different production companies. If it was made by a director, a screenwriter and a few producers, it might have turned out much better.

Acting

  • Megan Fox as April O’Neil was fine. Her acting is getting better and I wish all the best for her, but still, she is not the April O’Neil. Her next film is James Franco’s Zeroville.
  • Stephen Amell as Casey Jones, not surprisingly, was my favorite part of the film. I liked his humor as well as his action scenes, which were the most realistic. I hope that Amell can get more movie roles after this as he is absolutely amazing on Arrow. He is also currently working on a film project with his cousin Robbie AmellCode 8.
  • Will Arnett as Vern Fenwick was annoying, as expected. He should just stick with voice work or TV projects.
  • Brian Tee as The Shredder. The decision to recast The Shredder was a good one, however, the decision to make him totally useless and irrelevant to the plot wasn’t. Tee did an okay job, I liked him the beginning of the film, but after that, he became a parody of himself.
  • Tyler Perry as Dr. Baxter Stockman was absolutely the worst. He seemed like a parody of Madea and not a good one. If you want to see a good film, starring Perry, just watch Gone Girl.

The voice work and motion capture for turtles were done by Pete Ploszek (Leonardo), Alan Ritchson (Raphael), Noel Fisher (Michelangelo), and Jeremy Howard (Donatello). Donatello is still my favorite turtle, although, I really liked Raphael in this film, especially after I found out that his idol is Vin DieselGary Anthony Williams and Stephen Farrelly played Bebop and Rocksteady and were fine. Cartoonish, but I guess they had to be like that.

All in all, TMNT: Out of Shadows was an okay film. It was fun but nothing too spectacular. I feel like this is a film for little kids (so I shouldn’t judge it too harshly) that they cannot technically watch because of the PG-13 rating. In short, it had one too many fart jokes for my liking, but was definitely watchable and an improvement on the first film.

Rate: 2.7/5

Trailer: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of Shadows trailer

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Movie review: X-Men: Apocalypse

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the 4th comic book movie review of 2016! This time, we are discussing the latest entry into the X-Men franchise – Apocalypse.

IMDb summary: With the emergence of the world’s first mutant, Apocalypse, the X-Men must unite to defeat his extinction level plan.

Background

X-Men was probably the first superhero trilogy that I have ever watched, even though I wasn’t a big movie fan back then – and by ‘then’ I mean the early 2000s when I was still a kid. At about the same time, I also used to watch the reruns of the 1992-1997  X-Men Animated Series. In 2010, I started getting into movies a lot more and only a year later, First Class came out and I was hooked. The Wolverine’s spin-offs were kinda a hit and miss for me – I always preferred the team up movies. Days of Future Past was the biggest and most welcomed surprise of the 2014 summer movie season –  that film restarted, fixed, and reinvigorate the franchise. I have reviewed DOFP back in 2014 when it just came out and I also looked back at the whole franchise in greater detail – you can find that post here. Nowadays, I am also starting to get into comics – I picked up Marvel’s Mightiest Heroes Wolverine edition, which features Incredible Hulk #181 and Get Mystique! storylines, at my local second-hand bookshop. This edition seemed like a great way to star reading the X-Men comics because it featured a character that I was somewhat familiar with (that meant that I wouldn’t be completely lost in the lore while reading the story). It also provided me with a glimpse into the history of the comic books. The first story of the edition was originally published in 1974, while the second in 2008, so I was not only able to see how the character has changed throughout the years but how the stories and the art have progressed as well. Basically, I had a Crash Course on Wolverine in Comics. 

!SPOILER ALERT!

Writing and Story

The 9th X-Men film was written by Simon Kinberg, who has a mixed track record. Kinberg has previously written such great films as Mr. & Mrs. Smith and 2014’s Days of Future Past. However, he has also worked on X-Men: The Last Stand and last year’s Fantastic Four – two of the worst comic book movies of the decade. With Apocalypse, Kinberg succeeded for the most part. In general, writing was probably the strongest part of the movie.

To begin with, Apocalypse had this old school feeling, reminiscent of the first two X-Men films from the early 2000s. At the same time, the picture was new and fresh in that it continued the reboot/new timeline version of the franchise. This film made a lot of verbal references to The First Class and tied up the loose end of DOFP. The film’s buildup was also kinda slow, with a few small action scenes in between dialogue. The pace really picked up at the end of the 2nd act and during the final battle.

Apocalypse as a villain was also not a bad choice. I appreciated the religious undertones that he had, which were especially obvious in his motivation/purpose. The False God accusations reminded me of BvS a bit as well. His Survival of the Fittest way of thinking was very Darwinistic/Eugenics like. The scene, where Apocalypse was learning about the new world, was also an interesting setup and tied the franchise to the Cold War setting quite nicely. When Apocalypse was destroying those nukes and shouted No More Superpowers!, I felt that this was a partial verbal nod to the famous Scarlet Witch’s line – No More Mutants!. The way Apocalypse could transfer his consciousness but could keep the power of his previous hosts was an interesting idea and his mental battle with Xavier was also pretty neat.

X-Men: Apocalypse also continued the versus idea of this year’s comic book movie season, since, in this picture, the mutants were fighting their fellow mutants. Although, that has always been the basic idea of all X-Men movies – mutant friends becoming mutant enemies and either trying to protect humans or destroy them. Generally, X-Men: Apocalypse felt like a formulaic movie but a well written one. It was not as surprising as DOFP and definitely did not accomplish as much. Nevertheless, it fit into the timeline perfectly and made sense – and that’s the most important aspect that Kinberg should be praised for.

The film also had a few funny moments. The stand-outs to me were the scenes between Moira and Xavier. Seeing Professor X act as a teenage boy was both awkward and amazing. Another nice scene was that Star Wars discussion between Jean, Scott, Jubilee and Nightcrawler. I especially liked Jean’s line how the 3rrd one if always the worst. It was such an obvious jab at The Last Stand (the 3rd X-Men movie that butchered The Dark Phoenix Saga) but it was perfect.

Directing and Visuals

Bryan Singer, once again, directed the film and did a pretty nice job. The stakes felt high and the action was pretty sweet. The X-Men franchise is probably the craziest and the most comic-booky- comic book movie franchise of all time, so I just wish that they would fully embrace the comic book-y-iness and gives us some colorful costumes.

The opening credits sequence was a really cool way to open the movie and nicely showed the passing of time, from Ancient Egypt to the 1980s. Speaking about the 80s, the fashion and the style seemed pretty tame, especially after watching Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!!. That film embraced the campiness of the 80s, while Apocalypse seemed to only be inspired by it.

The X-symbolism as well as the Phoenix shape teaser during the last battle were also nice visual references to the comics. The action scenes where the mutants combined their power were also pretty sweet. My favorite action sequences of the film were: 1. Magneto killing those soldier/guards with the necklace. 2.Quicksilver saving everyone (almost) from the fire. The song, featured in that sequence, was also excellent .

Actings and Characters

The film had a lot of characters and, while the majority of them were really nice additions to the story, others were kinda wasted.

The good:

  • James McAvoy as Charles Xavier / Professor X – McAvoy was really good in the role, once again. I liked him both as a teacher and the war leader. The scene, where he was transmitting Apocalypse’s message, was relly good and showcased McAvoy’s acting abilities nicely. If you want to see more of McAvoy, I really liked him in 2013’s Filth – a really dark and ironic look at mental illness.
  • Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto. Fassbender also nicely portrayed the emotional damage of Erik. The Forest scene with Magneto’s family was amazing. I only wonder if his double crossing was true (‘I didn’t betray you, I betrayed them’). Magneto is known for switching sides, so I, if I was Xavier, I would keep an eye on him, even though it seems like they are friends at the end of the film. If you want to see more of Fassbender, may I suggest Inglourious Basterds, Prometheus, Frank or Steve Jobs
  • Jennifer Lawrence as Raven Darkhölme / Mystique. Lawrence was also amazing in the role, I especially liked that she led the new X-Men, being The First Class alumni herself. I only wish that we would have seen more of her in the blue form. I liked her line about the fact that the lack of war doesn’t mean peace. You have probably seen a lot of Lawrence’s movies (THG), but I suggest you check out her first breakthrough role in Winter’s Bone.
  • Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy / Beast. Hoult has always been one of my favorite actors and I am glad that the filmmakers found some space for Beast in this film. I loved his scene with Raven – ‘I love you!’. Hoult’s movie suggestion – Mad Max Fury Road, although I also want to check out Kill Your Friends
  • Evan Peters as Peter Maximoff / Quicksilver. Quicksilver was my favorite part of DOFP and I was so happy that they didn’t leave him at home in Apocalypse. He was my favorite character – the most efficient in action scenes, the funniest and the one with most potential – I would love to explore his and Magneto’s relationship. I haven’t seen any other films starring Peter, but if you want to check out more of him, I suggest American Horror Story.
  • The new successful additions to the cast in the familiar roles were Sophie Turner as Jean Grey / Phoenix and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Kurt Wagner / Nightcrawler. I’m so happy that Turner is getting more work because of Game of Thrones and I believe that she will be great as the Dark Phoenix. Smit-McPhee also played the Nightcrawler nicely and provided some great comedic relief. I wish we would have seen more of his adaptation to the capitalist world of the west.

The medium:

  • Oscar Isaac as En Sabah Nur / Apocalypse. When the look of Apocalypse was revealed, I did not really like it, and, after seeing the film, I still don’t fully understand the need to cast such a good looking and expressive actor, only to cover him underneath tons of makeup. Although, I, at least, appreciated the eye movements of Apocalypse, but those also felt CGI and not real. Issac’s film suggestions: Star Wars The Force Awakens, Inside Llewyn Davis and Ex-Machina.
  • Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggert. Moira only had two roles in the film: exposition and being a love interest for Xavier. She succeded in both places, but I wanted her to be used more. Byrne is a comedic actress, so all of her movie suggestions are comedies: both Neighbors and its sequel, Bridesmaids and Spy.
  • Tye Sheridan (Mud) as Scott Summers / Cyclops, Olivia Munn (Mordecai) as Elizabeth Braddock / Psylocke, Alexandra Shipp (In Time, minor role) as Ororo Munroe / Storm, and Ben Hardy (EastEnders) as Warren Worthington III / Angel / Archangel were okay additions to the cast. Scott was more interesting in a few scenes before his brother’s death – he turned into a brodding, not-fun, James Marsden’s version of the character way too quickly. Psylocke and Angel were cool in the action scenes, but didn’t have much to do, except stand around Apocalypse. Storm at least had some extra development, with that saying that Mystique is her hero.

The bad (or wasted):

  • Lucas Till as Alex Summers / Havok. Till’s Havok had two purposes in the film – to destroy Cerebro and to die. I don’t really think he was needed at all.
  • Lana Condor as Jubilation Lee / Jubilee was the most wasted character of all. She didn’t even use her powers, so I don’t even know why she was included in the film.

Post-Credits and Future

It has been annouced that the next X-Men film will be set in the 90s and the X-Men team that was formed at the end of Apocalypse will probably be back. I do not know if the Proffesor X, Magneto or Raven will return, as the actors who play them might be working on other projects. Rumours have been floating around that Kinberg wants to try to make The Dark Phoenix Saga again and, after that jab at The Last Stand, I kinda believe this to be true.

Another future project, which is also set in X-Men universe, is the 3rd solo Wolverine movie. In Apocalypse, we found out that, after Stryker got Wolverine at the end of DOFP, he experimented on him. It seems that it is innevitable for Logan not to get the metal claws, even when the timeline changes. When Wolverine showed up, the only thing on my mid was: Well, you can’t make an X-Men movie without Hugh Jackman. I wonder if his solo movie will pick up where Apocalypse left off – with Logan running off into the woods. His and Jean Grey’s scene was kinda creepy and yet somewhat nice callbacks to their relationship in the original trilogy. The post-credits scene showed the Weapon X base being infiltrated by Essex Corpor., which has ties to Mister Sinister from the comics. I wonder will the Weapon X serum(?) have a role in Wolverine’s film or in the next X-Men film. I was kinda expecting the 3rd Wolverine’s standalone film to be an adaptation of the Old Man Logan story, so I don’t know how Essex corp. and Mister Sinister can figure into that.

All in all, X-Men: Apocalypse was a thourougly enjoyable film. It had a great story and a few nice actions scenes. Some characters could have been cut or could have received more development. The 9th installment of the longest running comic-book franchise was not its best entry but defintely not the worst either.

Rate:4/5

Trailer: X-Men: Apocalypse trailer

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Sightseeing: a museum day in Vilnius

Sightseeing

Hello!

I haven’t done a sightseeing post in a very long time but today is the day that I bring it back. Hope you’ll enjoy it!

Some of you may know that my favorite city in Lithuania (my native country) and one of my favorite cities in the world is Vilnius – the capital of Lithuania. I have already done a post about places I enjoy visiting while in Vilnius (find it here). Luckily, today, I had another chance to visit 3 of the capital’s biggest museums, which I can’t wait to tell you all about.

To begin with, me and my aunt visited a fashion exhibition at the Lithuanian Museum of Applied Art (museums site here). Here we saw an exhibition called “Three Centuries of Fashion“. All of the clothes and the accessories, dating back to 18th, 19th and 20th century, were from the collection of Alexandre Vassiliev. He is an internationally acclaimed French (though born in Russia) costume and set designer as well as a fashion historian. His collection truly conveys and reflects the words of the King of France Louis XIV that fashion is a “mirror of history”. 







My favorite pieces were the flapper/swing dresses from the 1920s (a la The Great Gatsby): 

Also, I really loved the puffy dresses and accessories from the 1960s (a la Hairspray):

There was also another exhibition consisting of pieces from slightly newer Vassiliev’s collection. This one was called a ‘Rebellion in a Boudoir‘. Clothes, which were presented, were from the era of the hippies – 1970s. Colorful dresses, crazy prints, punk jackets and grunge vests as well as sequined jumpsuits were all included. ABBA’s music was playing in the background. It felt like falling through a wormhole into my grandpa’s young adult days.







Next, we went to the Lithuanian National Museum (visit its site here) which houses a wide variety of exhibits. You can find a plethora of paintings, old books and statues, ethnographic clothes, swords and spears and many more things, which have one thing in common – they represent the history of Lithuania and its surrounding countries. Surprisingly, you can even find paintings from Japan, which were gifted to counts and dukes of Lithuania and ended up in a museum a few centuries later. There is also a massive reproduction of one of the biggest battles of the medieval Europe – the battle of Grunwald (wiki).

Lastly, we visited the The Museum of Money (link here), which, to my mind, is one of the best if not the best museum in Lithuania for the way it uses modern technologies. The admission to the museum is free but you can do so many things here and not just stare at blank walls. The museum presents the history of the Lithuania’s currencies as well as provides visitors with the information about the world currencies via interactive computer with 9 screens. You can also see a wide variety of international money in person. Plus, a bunch of computers invite you to test your knowledge of money and finance or challenge you to try to guess which country in Europe a certain euro coin belongs to. You can even get a few free souvenirs – one of them is a book mark, which you make by pressing a seal of a coin on a piece of metal in a special machine. Another attraction is a special weighting scale where you can get an official document, which pronounces your worth: you weight yourself and find out how much would you cost in dollars and euros if you were made from gold, silver or platinum.

 Amber as the first currency in trading.

 World currencies – this one is from Hong Kong.

The pyramid made from the smallest currency of Lithuania – a million of cents (pennies). True, these are the pennies of litas (a penny is a one hundredth of a litas) and my country has joined the Euro zone in January of 2015, so these coins have no worth anymore.

The receipt of my own personal worth and a handmade bookmark.

To sum up, I really liked spending a day in Vilnius once again. I love fashion, so, I highly enjoyed seeing the clothes from all the different eras. Moreover, I am a huge history buff, so visiting a national museum was a dream come true. Lastly, who doesn’t like money and doesn’t want to know more about it?

If you ever get a chance to visit the capital of my country, I suggest you check these places out. Sadly, both fashion exhibitions will only be open till the end of October, so don’t miss out. Have a great day! Bye!

Thrift haul (Klaipėda)

Beauty&Fashion

Hello!

Do you remember that I’ve promised to do a thrift haul? Well, I’m keeping my promise!

So, last weekend I visited my aunt who lives in Klaipeda (sightseeing post about that here). Both she and I love thrift-ing, so she took me to the best second-hand stores in her town. We went to at least 5 shops but all of them were from one of two chains of stores: Rubija or Humana (their webpage). Humana has different prices for different clothes and Rubija weights the clothes and you pay for the kilograms and not for individual pieces.

I got way too many tops and a pair of boots which I am extremely excited about. Disclaimer: I am not showing off! I just want to show you that you can get nice stuff on a tight budget. I only paid approximately 10 euros for all of the following:

Firstly, I’ve got this blue and white plaid wide shirt. It’s from the Atmosphere brand. I love wearing shirts like these and have been living in this particular one this whole week. It’s so soft and comfortable and it literally looks good this everything!

Next, I’ve got a simple high-neck grey T-shirt (inspired by Grace Helbig). It’s from a brand SOHO.

Red is one of my favorite colors, so I bought this simple top by Hampton Republic.

Jean jackets are a must for me during spring and summer, so, I felt brave and got this white one! I thought about doing some DIY on it, maybe some tie-dye but I really don’t want to ruin it because it looks nice as it is. Brand – Holiday.

As you might already know, I am a huge GaGa fan so I picked up this black T-shirt with her face on it. I have actually seen her perform live ! I’ve been to one of her Born This Way Ball concerts and this T-shirt is from the merchandise line of that particular tour! I paid cents for it when I could have paid at least 50 euros for it during the concert! A bargain!

P.S. I’ve the same picture that is on the T-shirt as a poster on my wall.

I get dizzy by looking at these next 2 items. The first one is slightly cropped and quite wide stripy top from NEXT. it looks really nice with high waisted pants and skater skirts!

Second item, which induces dizziness, is this white and black no sleeves top with a pattern made of oval shapes. It hangs really nicely, though, it has quite deep cut at the front. However, it pairs up nicely with tuxedo pants! Brand – essence.

Second to last piece was a nod to my childhood! I grew up with Disney movies, I still love them (review of the new Cinderella), I love sporty style, so, this was a perfect blend of all the things I love. It’s a basketball type mesh top with Minnie on it! The back is completely white, so, I’ve got a few white tank tops to wear underneath it because it is very see-through.

And the purchase which I am the happiest about is these Mod 70s inspired boots! (BTW, Mod 70s are on trend this year). I almost didn’t get them, I actually walked out of the store and went back just to get them! They have a white heel and sole and they also have cut-outs at the back! I have only now noticed that one of them is missing a strap but I can fix that: I am planing to make a strap out of a simple black belt.

So, these are all the things I bought! I hope you liked this haul! I will probably do OOTD post next month and a few of these piece will be featured there too.! Have a nice day!