Movie review: It

Movie reviews

Hello!

Let me start this review by saying that I don’t do horror films, especially at the cinema. BUT, since I wanted to christen my new unlimited cinema card and there were no other new releases, I decided to give It a chance. Plus, I have seen all the great reviews and didn’t want to miss out on the movie event of September if not the whole fall.

IMDb summary: A group of bullied kids band together when a monster, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children.

Writing

It belongs to a wave of new smart horror movies (other members being Get Out and Split, both of which I watched – again, not a horror fan here, but I can make an exception for a great film). It owes its smartness to the source material – the beloved novel by Stephen King. And yet, the screenwriters Chase PalmerCary Fukunaga (True Detective, Beasts of No Nation), and Gary Dauberman (Annabelle films) should also be praised for taking a well-known property and adapting it to the big screen (other writers, who have adapted King’s works, proved that it doesn’t always turn out great). While I haven’t read the book, I knew some of the plot details and really liked the bold move of the scriptwriters to focus on just one time period. Before we see the adult side of the story in chapter 2, I will definitely read the book.

While It had stellar moments of horror (2 layers: the supernatural horror of Pennywise and the real-life horror of the abusive parents and the school bullies), the film ultimately was a story about this group of children ‘coming of age’. The movie did an absolutely brilliant job of setting them all up and there were 7 characters to set up! Some films can’t even make me care about their single lead, while, here, I was invested in the lives of a whole bunch of unfamiliar (to me, personally) characters. I also liked how the backstory of the plot (the exposition) was given as a part of the character development (those scenes told the viewer more about Derry as a town AND Ben as a person).

Speaking more about the children – I adored their dialogue and how unfiltered it was. A lot of the film’s jokes also steamed from it and landed most of the time. The preteen/teenage concepts, such as the first love (and the first jealousy), friendship, bullying, puberty, were neatly depicted and never wore too far into being cheesy rather than cute and relatable.  The depiction of fear as subjective and relating to one’s inner demons was so interesting too!

Directing

Andy Muschietti, who first rose to prominence with his directorial debut Mama, did a wonderful job with It. He paced the movie so well and masterfully built its suspense. He also made sure that It earned all of its jump scares. The visuals (cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung) and the music (soundtrack by Benjamin Wallfisch) worked amazingly together to create an uncomfortable yet super engaging sensory experience.

Muschietti should also be given props for directing a group of child actors so well. His decision – to keep Pennywise partially hidden or obscured for some of the runtime – also paid off: the clown was ten times scarier when you could only see his face or one eye. While his whole appearance made for a terrifying sight, the more of It one saw, the more he/she could have gotten used to it.

Acting

It had a brilliant cast of unknown and known child actors, whose performances were a pure delight to watch. Front and center was Jaeden Lieberher, who audiences might already know from Midnight Special or The Book of Henry. He did such an amazing job bringing the character of Bill to live and made that stutter seem believable and natural. Jeremy Ray Taylor (as Ben) and Molly Ringwald of this generation – Sophia Lillis (as Beverly) were also great. Stranger Things’ fans could spot Finn Wolfhard (as Richie) in the picture too. Here, he played the funny, talkative one – a contrasting role to one he plays on the Netflix show. Wyatt Oleff brought a slightly mysterious quality to Stan, Chosen Jacobs made for an extremely likable Mike, while Jack Dylan Grazer contributed to the comedy of the film as Eddie. His mom seemed to be suffering from Munchausen syndrome by proxy (Everything Everything looked at that illness already this year) or she might have just been way too overprotective.

Nicholas Hamilton also did a good job as the bully Henry Bowers, while the youngest member of the cast Jackson Robert Scott was great as the symbol of innocence (Georgie) during the opening of the picture. Lastly, how can I not mention Bill Skarsgård as It/Pennywise the Dancing Clown? While the costume and the makeup departments helped a lot to make Pennywise scary looking, Skarsgård’s performance was the most unsettling thing about the character. The actor was recently in Atomic Blonde, while his next project is also Stephen King related – its the web series Castle Rock.

In short, It was both terrifying and engaging. I, as a viewer, wanted to look away and couldn’t. The script was top-notch, the direction – amazing, while the performances of the cast just a huge cherry on top.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: It 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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Movie review: Inside Out

Movie reviews

Hello!

The latest Pixar movie finally came out in my country, so let’s review Inside Out (despite the fact that I’m two months late).

I have probably already explained that, in my country, animated movies are dubbed, while all other films only have subtitles. Naturally, it takes more time to dub a movie than to add subtitles, so, as a result, animated movies have a later release date, while live action flicks usually come out in the same week as in the US. The only recent animated film that had a worldwide premiere date was Minions (review), because that film didn’t need a lot of dubbing – minions’ language is universal.

Anyway, let’s talk about Inside Out – a film that, to my mind, all kids should watch. I even go as far as to state that if all children watched movies like Inside Out, the so called Z-generation wouldn’t be regarded as bad as it is and the members of aforementioned generation would definitely have higher levels of emotional intellect, less psychological problems and, most importantly, less bullying between each other.

Not surprisingly, I have seen all Pixar films. I grew up with them! (Pixar released their first film – Toy Story – 2 years before I was born). My favorite top 5 Pixar films are (in no particular order): Ratatouille, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Inside Out. Yes, my dearest movie fanatics, Pixar did it again – they created an amazing film for both kids and adults, which is funny, smart and emotional (as we would expect from a Pixar movie). Although, I was probably the oldest person in the theater (I’m not counting parents who came with their children), I felt like I was a kid again. Inside Out brought back memories of going to the cinema with my mom when I was 4 or 5 years old. In addition, it not only had the nostalgia factor but was interesting for me as an 18 year old. Let’s talk about the different aspect of the film a bit more down bellow.

IMDb summary: After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school.

Directing

Inside Out was directed by Pete Docter who has previously worked on a plethora of Pixar films. He directed the tear-jerker Up and the touching and adventurous Monsters, Inc. Moreover, he received story credit for his work on the first two Toy Story films and WALL-E. He was also the Head Animator on the first computer animation – Toy Story from 1995. His accomplished resume raises expectations for Inside Out to be good and Docter definitely does not disappoint. The film looked amazing visually. The characters were wonderful, the way they moved and talked perfectly represented the emotions that they were conveying; the settings looked like they came from a dream and the memory bubbles and the sounds they made just tied everything together.

Writing

The film’s scripted was written by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley. Docter and the co-director of Inside Out Ronnie del Carmen created the story. (On a side note, Meg Le-Fauve is currently writing Captain Marvel script – she is a good team player for Disney, working first with Pixar and now with Marvel). Inside Out’s script and story are both wonderful. First of all, the premise of creating the film about emotions is genius. I have never seen anything like this done before and, although, I like book, comic book, TV show or video game adaptations to the silver screen, I always appreciate the original idea a lot more. Secondly, not only are the 5 main emotions very realistic, but the insides of the brain are as well. You have the long-term memory, core memories, personality islands, imagination, abstract thoughts, which are all very important and are all equally represented in the movie. I also loved the fact that they acknowledge the fact that you start to forget things as you grow older and make new memories. Furthermore, they main idea of the film that the memories are complex and can be both sad and happy at the same time is just brilliant. The human mind is extremely difficult to understand and the Inside Out, although made for kids, manages to portray this inter-connective mess that we have inside our heads understandably, while doing it justice and not oversimplifying it. I can’t sing enough praises for the script of this film. I hope it gets an Oscar nomination for Best Original Script. I have no doubt that the film will be nominated for Best Animated Feature, unless The Lego Movie incident will resurface.

Characters

I cannot really discuss the voice work because, as I’ve said, I watched the dubbed version of the film. I can, however, talk about the actual emotions. While all the kids loved Joy (I’m guessing that based on how many kids bought Joy’s action figures with their popcorn in the cinema. The line was huge, so I had time to observe, while waiting to get my tickets), my favorite was Sadness. She was the cutest of them all and I felt the strongest connection to her. Maybe that says something about me – my shyness, social anxiety and introvert side might be the one thing that turns me towards Sadness more than towards the other emotions. Moving on, I also really loved the sassiness that Disgust brought and the comic relief that Anger and Fear added to the film. Although, both of these emotions are not that fun in real life. Ending full circle, I enjoyed how the creators of the movie allowed both Joy and the viewers to go on this journey of discovery and understanding and made sure that they would arrive to the same conclusion that it’s okay to be sad and to feel down sometimes. The important thing is to get up and try again.

The actual human characters were also very well realized. Riley’s slow loss of personality islands perfectly reflected on her actions. Her parents were really great parent examples as well. However, I have to say, with all the action happening Inside, the Outside characters were a bit overshadowed. People were the supporting cast, while emotions played the lead.

Pixar’s shorts

The short film Lava (directed and written by Pixar’s animator James Ford Murphy) was shown before Inside Out. It’s a quirky and quite sad (Pixar playing with our emotions as usual) love story of two volcanoes, which ultimately has a happy ending. The short film is a great introduction to Inside Out, which will have its short very soon. Riley’s First Date? will be included in the home video release of Inside Out and will explore Riley’s jump into teenager years and dating. I would love to see the short film when it comes out, however, I don’t think it will be better than my favorite Pixar short – Partly Cloudy. If you have never seen it, go watch it, just bring a box of tissues with you. That short is directed by Peter Sohnwhose first feature-length directorial debut will be released later this year. The Good Dinosaur will come out in November, making 2015 the first year that Pixar released two films.

All in all, Inside Out is my favorite animated movie of this summer and definitely will make it to my top favorite animations of all time list. It’s a complex story, which appeals to all age groups. Moreover, the film is both the funny, impeccably animated adventure flick and the emotional masterpiece that only Pixar can make. If Disney is know for making timeless fairy tales about princesses and Laika – for wonderful stop-motion animation, then Pixar is the king of emotions.

Have a great day!

Rate: 5/5

Trailer: Inside Out trailer

P.S. I love the Inside Out iPhone game. Have you played it? I’ve finally reached the level 50. #soproud

Movie review: San Andreas 

Movie reviews

Hello!

I’ve finally found time to watch the newest disaster movie and this is going to be my review. I know that I am more than 3 weeks late but better late than never. Let’s go!

IMDb summary: In the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, a rescue-chopper pilot makes a dangerous journey across the state in order to rescue his daughter.

Directing and Visuals

The film is directed by Brad Peyton. I practically know nothing about him but his work in San Andreas impressed me. The action pieces were really cool and a definite treat for one’s eyes. The CGI was a bit wonky at first, but it got much better as the movie progressed. The falling buildings, cracks, opening on the surface of the Earth, and the tsunami – all looked amazingly real. I also have to give a shout-out to the masses of extras that contributed to this film – they really made me think that the Earth was literately collapsing.

Story

Since this is a disaster movie, one shouldn’t hope for much of a plot. Though, I liked how they portrayed the family dynamics between characters as well as made all the characters relevant. None of them seemed out of place, well maybe just a few of them (more on that latter). The movie also ensured me that the thing, which I should be scared of the most during the time of crisis, is other people. My worst kind of fear (as well as my dad’s, who I watched this movie with) is to be crushed underneath a running crowd.

Character by character

  • Dwayne Johnson as Chief Raymond “Ray” Gaines – no matter what kind of character Dwayne Johnson plays, he is so dam likable. His smile is so heartwarming and while it looks strange on that big body of his, this weird combination turns him into a special kind of a movie star. So, he was definitely the star of this film and I am really happy that he finally shined in a leading role. He was always good as a supporting character (especially in The Fast and The Furious for me personally), but I never really liked him in a lead (last year’s Hercules was a total disaster). Also, speaking about his character – I liked that they made him into helicopter-rescue pilot in this film, because that explained why he could do all the things that he did while looking for his daughter. What I am trying to say is that it all made sense.
  • Carla Gugino as Emma Gaines – I am not familiar with this actress’s work, but I really liked her in the role. Hers and The Rock’s character’s chemistry was also really good. However, I think that the plot-line, concerning their daughter who drowned a few years ago, could have been cut out, because it slowed the movie down. However, it did pay off in the end, when their other daughter was caught in a similar situation.
  • Alexandra Daddario as Blake Gaines – I have only seen Daddario in Percy Jackson movies and she was okay in them. I really enjoyed her performance in this film. I liked her character’s relationship with her father and I also loved the fact that she knew how to survive and what to do in critical situations because of her dad. I have a very special bond with my father too, so I really appreciated that story-ark.
  • Hugo Johnstone-Burt as Ben Taylor – was a nice addition to the cast. I loved his and Daddario’s character’s first encounter. However, I don’t believe that he would have ran to save her after one brief encounter IRL. But this is a movie after all.
  • Art Parkinson as Ollie Taylor – was such a fun character. His comedy relief was organic, fitting, and a nice relief from the action.
  • Ioan Gruffudd as Daniel Riddick – he was the most unlikable character in the film. I couldn’t wait for him to die. He was such a coward too. I have been a fan of Ioan Gruffudd since that King Arthur movie, so I was happy seeing him still getting work. Nowadays, he is more often seen on the small screen rather than on a silver one.
  • Archie Panjabi as Serena Johnson and Paul Giamatti as Dr. Lawrence Hayes served as a really great B story line. I love when movies give scientific explanations (even the fake ones) and Giamatti’s character did exactly that. His monologues were extremely compelling. Panjabi played the reporter who helped Giamatti’s character address the people and I believe that she did a nice job and brought some diversity to the cast.
  • Will Yun Lee as Dr. Kim Park – was another actor which was used mainly for commercial purposes (diversity once again). Sadly, he didn’t had much time to shine.
  • Colton Haynes as Joby – I have no idea why Colton Haynes was in this movie. He had like 5 lines of dialogue and one action scene which wasn’t even that interesting. And he left Arrow for this? His movie career is suppose to be taking off, but he doesn’t have any movies slated for next year. Maybe he is going back to Teen Wolf – another project he left.
  • Kylie Minogue as Susan Riddick – she had a short cameo in the film and, while I love her as singer (concert coverage), I don’t believe she contributed anything to this film.

All in all, this movie had its problems but good acting (for the most part) and exciting action turned this film into a perfect summer blockbuster. This is definitely my favorite disaster movie in a few years. I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did for sure. Moreover, I cannot wait to see more films staring Dwayne Johnson in the lead role at last.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: San Andreas trailer