5 ideas about 5 movies

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a slightly different type of a movie review. Long story short: I have been feeling a bit burned out after writing 2-3 movie reviews per week while also writing a lot of essays for my studies. Thus, as soon as the summer started, I almost stopped writing completely and missed out on reviewing quite a few films. In order to get myself back to writing without pushing myself too much and in order to catch up on the missed reviews ASAP, I decided to review all the 5 films together in 1 post. Thankfully, these movies easily lend themselves to this type of format, as they all have a similar message and some shared ideas.

The movies that I will be discussing are: I Feel Pretty, Life of the Party, Book Club, Eddie, and Tully. You might have heard about some or all of these films. If you know anything about them, then you know what’s their connection: they are all female-driven films that encourage women to live at ever age (yes, even after 30) and however they want (as mothers, as career women, as both or neither, or as whoever they want to be). Let’s go over all the pictures one by one in a bit more detail and see what exactly they were doing with the overarching topic of female empowerment.

I Feel Pretty is the latest Amy Schumer comedy (joining Trainwreck and Snatched), written and directed by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (who did How To Be Single recently). I have always appreciated Schumer’s ‘zero f*cks given’ attitude but never found her jokes particularly funny or original. I had similarly mixed feelings about this film. I wasn’t sure and I’m still not sure whether this movie portrayed character growth or was confused about its message. Was the movie trying to portray body positivity or body shaming? Was it condoning or celebrating egoism and privilege? Were we laughing with or at Schumer’s character? It’s been like 3 months since I saw the film and I’m still not sure. Rate: 3/5

MV5BMGI3ZDRjZTQtMTMyYy00NGI4LWI2MjktNzMyMjg0NjQ2NTY0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTAyODkwOQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,675,1000_AL_.jpg

The second comedy out of the five films, Life of the Party is less raunchy than I Feel Pretty and has a clearer message. Mellisa McCarthy starred and wrote the film, while her husband Ben Falcone directed it (the duo previously worked on Tammy and The Boss together). The main idea of the movie was the female empowerment through higher education, specifically. The film also promoted female friendship and solidarity, which both are super important. On the entertainment side, the movie was funny but a bit cringe-y too. Rate: 3.3/5

life_of_the_party_ver2.jpg

The third comedy of the bunch, Book Club stars the creme de la creme of Hollywood: Diane KeatonJane FondaCandice Bergen, and Mary SteenburgenBill Holderman directed the film (in a directorial debut) from a script written by him and Erin Simms (TV actress). Book Club was my favorite of the three comedies because it had the best-written dialogue and banter and also promoted female friendship not only in college (like Life of the Party) but throughout one’s whole life. It also showcased 4 successful women with different career and life choices (variety is important as any life choice is valid!). Lastly, Book Club, even though inspired by Fifty Shades of Grey, somehow felt the most profound out of all the comedies. Rate: 4/5

MV5BMTc0MDY2MDI3Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjU2MzIyNTM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,641,1000_AL_.jpg

The indie version of Book Club, Eddie is small British drama about not being afraid to live and follow one’s dream at any age. While Book Club gets to the same message through a raunchy book, Edie gets there through hiking in Scotland. Sheila Hancock stars as the frustrating and sympathetic lead, while Elizabeth O’Halloran writes and Simon Hunter directs. In addition to Book Club, this film also reminded me of other indie dramas like The Leisure Seeker and Finding Your Feet! Rate: 3.7/5

MV5BZjJkZjJmOWItN2EwMi00ZDRkLTgxOGItNDc2NzQ1ZWUwMzQ4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzEyMTIxNDc@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,672,1000_AL_.jpg

The last of the films and the second drama of the five, Tully was the film that surprised me the most. Starring Charlize Theron (in another, Monster-esque de-glamourized role) and Mackenzie Davis, written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman (the duo behind Juno), Tully tells the not sugar coated at all story of a tired mother. It has a Bad Moms set-up but doesn’t go the comedy route. Instead, its story goes into an unexpected direction in order to present a message that a simple family life is as valid of a life choice as any other, even if it is no longer promoted as much in the media (‘a career woman’ is the desired ideal these days and my personal ideal too. And yet, this ode to motherhood of a movie states, moms should be celebrated and idolized just as much). Rate: 4/5

MV5BMTU0OTM4NTMyMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDA5MzUwNTM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_.jpg

To conclude, I hope you enjoyed reading my slightly rushed and probably confused take on 5 movies that I’ve seen recently and somehow managed to connect in my own head!

 

Advertisements

Movie review: Red Sparrow

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to March – the new ‘it’ month for high-profile movie releases. And it opens with Red Sparrow!

IMDb summary: Ballerina Dominika Egorova is recruited to ‘Sparrow School,’ a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon. Her first mission, targeting a C.I.A. agent, threatens to unravel the security of both nations.

Writing

Red Sparrow was written by Justin Haythe (who wrote two previous Gore Verbinski’s films The Lone Rangerand A Cure For Wellness), based on the book of the same name by Jason Matthews. I found the writing to be quite uneven and I’m going to unpack my ideas more broadly by discussing the narrative and the themes. The film had two parts, each about an hour long. The first hour acted as an extensive set-up and developed the main character quite a lot. The viewers got to follow her life as an everyday citizen (though she was never just an everyday person – she was always special, first as a ballerina and later as a sparrow), then to witness the inciting incident and its consequences: the extensive training to be a tool of the state (more on that in the second part on themes). The set-up was quite long but it did work: the main character’s capacity for the horrific actions that she was going to commit as a sparrow was always present in the set-up.

In the second hour of the film (+20minutes), Red Sparrow’s actual plot unraveled, and sadly, it was quite uneven. The writers really tried crafting a complex and layered story, full of characters with constantly shifting allegiances. And while that sounds all good – actually it is quite fascinating – the mysterious and the secretive nature of the plot was not always realized compellingly. Also, looking back to the plot – not all the dots necessarily connect and make sense. Still, I have to applaud the ending of the story. For a while, it seemed like the movie was headings towards a typical romantic conclusion but then it broke away from all of that and delivered and strong finale with some great double-crosses and twists. Though, the reveal of the mole was a bit heavy-handed and surprising it a bad way a.k.a.it came out of nowhere.

Thematically, I’d like to touch upon two major things: the usage of sex in the film as well as the Russia vs. US standoff. Before going to see the film, I got the impression that the main weapon of the sparrow will be psychological manipulation but I feel like the ads and trailers lied to me. Red Sparrow, in my mind, was missing its promised psychological manipulation and was all about the pure physical manipulation a.k.a. manipulation through sex. And while physical and psychological manipulations are certainly connected, I really wish that the movie would have looked at that actual connection or the psychological side quite a lot more. Also, the usage of sex by a specifically female heroine of the film raised even more questions about the position of female sexuality on film. While it can certainly be seen/used as a strong creative choice, it has also been reduced to a cheap trick quite a few times. Also, there is but a fine line between female sexuality as a form of empowerment or a tool of exploitation. To my mind, Red Sparrow was leaning more towards the second option, as the female sparrows were taught and made to use sex as a weapon by a patriarchal system rather than having chosen it as a weapon out of their own agency.

On the US v Russia front, the picture was certainly successful at establishing the askew nationalistic ideas that were/are so prevalent in Russia and portraying the brainwashing politics accurately. Still, it had an overall message of American heroism as the better/ the winning option. The weird US/Russia antagonism also made the movie’s temporal setting feel rather vague: it could have been set during the Cold War, the early aftermath of it in the late 90s/early 2000s or even just last year.

Directing

Francis Lawrence (the director of the 3 last The Hunger Games films, including my two favorites – Catching Fire and Mockingjay 1) directed Red Sparrow and did an okay job. I highly appreciated the style of the picture: the raw and indie feeling of it as well as the cold and cool tone. However, the slowness of the pace and the length of the movie really minimized the enjoyment of the film. Moreover, the plot (the substance) wasn’t good enough to make up for the lacking pace. The graphic violence and graphic nudity were both present in Red Sparrow and I don’t really know whether they served the plot or were they just there for shock value. During the scenes of violence, Red Sparrow did feel like a more contemporary version of its predecessor Atomic Blonde, while the scenes of creepy nudity were more plentiful than in the whole Fifty Shades franchise.

Acting

Jennifer Lawrence (reunited with F. Lawrence after THG) played the lead of the film and did a good job but she wasn’t great or irreplaceable. Her Russian accent was fine, though, at times, she did sound like she was speaking with a clogged noise (as if she had a cold). Her decision to play this role is probably more interesting than the performance itself. The actress has vocally expressed how uncomfortable she was with the skin tight costume of Mystique in the X-Men movies and yet she was somehow fine with complete nudity in this film? Was this an act of bravery and growth as a performer or a desperate attempt to reclaim some fame? Her fan circle has been decreasing: The Hunger Gamesfinished a with whimper rather than a bang, she annoyed a lot of Marvel/X-Men fans because of her lack of enthusiasm about that series, her various comments on talk shows have also been reacted to quite badly online, and even her last two more serious awards films failed to connect with the audiences or the critics (Joyat least got her another Oscar nomination, while mother! turned out to be a complete disaster).

Some big-name talent was also involved with this film on the supporting front. Joel Edgerton (Bright, Midnight Special, Loving, Black Mass) and Matthias Schoenaerts (Far From The Madding Crowd, The Danish Girl) had two best-developed and most interesting male roles in the film. Jeremy Irons (BvS, High-Rise) and Game of Thrones’ Ciaran Hinds (Justice League) also both appeared but in much smaller, cameo-sized roles. Charlotte Rampling (45 Years, Assasin’s Creed) played the matriarch of the school of the sparrows and it was quite unexpected seeing her in a film with a, supposedly, strong female lead after her sort of anti-women comments a few awards seasons ago (that ran along the lines of ‘women in the West don’t have anything to complain about’).

In short, Red Sparrow was a mediocre thriller that betrayed its message and overstayed its welcome.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Red Sparrow trailer

images.jpg

Movie review: Fifty Shades Freed

Movie reviews

Hey…there,

Creeped you out yet? That’s good because, oh my dear lord, here we go. This is Fifty Shades Freed. While I did not review the previous two films in the franchise, in honor of its end, I decided to sink my teeth into the last chapter.

IMDb summary: Anastasia and Christian get married, but Jack Hyde continues to threaten their relationship.

Writing

Fifty Shades Freed was written by Niall Leonard, based on the book by his wife’s E.L. James (an author as territorial about her work as her main character is about his partner – if u don’t know what I’m talking about and are interested, read up on the behind the scenes conflict between James and the director of the first film Sam Taylor-Johnson). Now, I’m not proud to admit but I have actually read the books as a teenager and had a good laugh with friends about them. I didn’t really think that they were worthy of or appropriate for cinematic adaptation, but Hollywood doesn’t care about ethics or quality when the prospect of a big paycheck appears on the horizon.

Anyways, my general thoughts on the writing of this franchise have always been twofold. I thought that it was a good thing that Fifty brought BDSM culture into the forefront and the mainstream conversation. What I always hated was the fact that the dominant-submissive relationship never ended when the bedroom’s or the red room’s door were closed: he was creepy and stalkerish IRL too and she seemed to be fine with that. Her reactions to his actions were even more infuriating than his actions themselves. Although, I guess, in this film both of them were jealous and territorial, so maybe they were truly meant for one another.

Speaking about the script of this film: it was fine (bear in my mind that my expectations were extremely low). Freed sort of had two storylines (if you can call them that): the love story and the crime thriller sideline.

Now, the love story was always the backbone of this series, though, what the filmmakers have failed to realize time and time again was that Anna’s and Christian’s relationship was never strong enough to mount the whole plot on (let alone the plots of three movies). Also, while these films (including the last one) really tried showcasing a modern love story, they always ended up playing into the same gender roles and even worse, cliches. Moreover, in this film, the Greys’ romance wasn’t even the only love story (maybe the filmmakers did realise that it wasn’t that great or that there wasn’t anything more to do with it, except to fabricate some shallow and senseless conflict) and an attempt was made to do something with the brother and the best friend characters. Still, I do have to admit that Anna and Christian did share a few sweet and romantic moments, which I think usually get lost in a lot of reviews, but I’m trying to be fair for this movie, so I’m mentioning them.

Anyways, on the thriller side of the movie, things weren’t great either. The thriller plotline lacked exposure and sort of disappeared in the second act before reappearing in the third act when the screenwriter suddenly realized that he needed to close this movie (and the series) with a bang (or at least with an attempt of a bang). Also, the finale really tried to show Anna as independent and resourceful but I think it might have been too late for that.

On the humor side, Fifty Shades Freed had two types of jokes. Firstly, it had those absolutely laughable moments that made no sense (‘let’s have a car chase sequence and then have sex in the car’). The second kind was actually funny moments that came from the film’s awareness about its own silliness (like the exchange ‘Restrain Him! I don’t have anything! Oh, we do! I mean, I can find something…’).

Directing

Fifty Shades Freed was directed by James Foley (he did Darker too and has also directed Glengarry Glen Ross – what a range in the filmography). I guess he did an okay job. The glamorous lifestyle was neat to look at (some quality Audis and nice outfits on display). The pop soundtrack was good too (I did like that they reused ‘Love Me Like You Do’ cause it was such a huge song from the first film). The sex scenes were… well… sex scenes (I’m not analyzing them, pervs). What I will say is that I’m not happy about the inequality in the nudity of this film. Lastly, Freed concluded with the summary sequence, so if you don’t to watch this trilogy but are interested in what the fuss was about, just look up that clip when it ends up online.

Acting

Both Dakota Johnson (Black Mass) and Jamie Dornan are good looking actors, so I do see why they were cast in this series. What I’m sad about is the fact that the two of them are actually quite amazing actors but one cannot really see that in this series. Having said that, while the duo has become infamous for having no chemistry in the previous pictures, I did somewhat believe their relationship in this one. That’s probably because this was the last film and they were genuinely happy to be done with so it appeared that they were actually happy to be Mrs. and Mr. Grey. Anyways, I hope that both of their careers can survive the damage of this franchise.

On the supporting front, there really isn’t much to mention. A bunch of actors like Rita Ora, Bran Daugherty (who went from background actor on Pretty Little Liars to a sideline character on the big screen – progress?), Eric JohnsonEloise MumfordLuke Grimes (The Magnificient Seven), and Arielle Kebbel appeared and sort of just stood or ran around in the background. They served the purpose of the movie, I guess.

In short, Fifty Shades Freed was what it was. If you liked this series, good for you. If you didn’t enjoy it, sorry that you spent money on it.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: Fifty Shades Freed trailer

MV5BMTYxOTQ1MzI0Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzgwMzIxNDM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,631,1000_AL_

Movie review: Tulip Fever

Movie reviews

Hello!

After being pushed back a few years, Tulip Fever has finally reached theaters! Does it have any Oscar potential as its cast list suggests?

IMDb summary: An artist falls for a young married woman while he’s commissioned to paint her portrait during the Tulip mania of 17th century Amsterdam.

Writing

Tulip Fever was written by a playwright and occasional screenwriter Tom Stoppard. His most recent previous film script was the one for 2012’s Anna Karenina. The film’s story and the writing, in general, started out promising but quickly wasted all the said promise. The opening, which set the context of the tulip market and the 17th Amsterdam, as well as the initial details of the actual plot, was quite interesting. However, the more the narrative unraveled, the more unbelievable it became. The ending was especially unsatisfying because the movie didn’t commit to going the full on fantasy route and having a fairytale ending but also wasn’t grounded enough for a realistic conclusion, so it just had one that landed somewhere in the middle. All the characters in the picture were way too interconnected and the twists and turns in the story were mostly lucky coincidences. The drama and the emotional core felt really fake and manufactured as well. Basically, Tulip Fever felt as an old school literary adaptation, which it was exactly: a contemporary yet classical historical romance novel (by Deborah Moggach) with typical yet modernized characters that was turned into a film.

While the final product did not turn out well, as I have said, the promise was there in the details. It was really interesting to see the love and the lack of love juxtaposed through sex scenes. I also liked the exploration of the women’s roles in a patriarchal system and how cunning they had to be to survive, and yet, how they also felt bounded by their duty (Vikander’s character was never entirely sure about her actions) I also appreciated the portrayal of Christoph Waltz’s character – a clueless man, living in privilege, and not even understanding his privilege yet not being malevolent about it. I also liked the hints at the concept of friendship and the hardships it has to endure when spanning multiple caste levels. Lastly, I was really glad to see a historical drama focusing not on The British Empire but on the player that preceded it in the world domination – Holland/The Netherlands.

Directing

Justin Chadwick, who has received some recognition a few years back for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, directed Tulip Fever and did a fabulous job with a flawed script. While he went along with the over the top dramatization of the story, nothing bad can be said about his visuals. Tulip Fever was a gorgeous looking movie, with beautiful and rich shots, full of textures and colors. The costume department should also get a raise because their spectacular collars contributed a lot to the magnificence of the look and helped prove the point that Holland was a powerful country. The artistic close-ups of Vikander reminded me of a fashion film or a high-end makeup ad too. If a movie career doesn’t work out for Chadwick, he should check out the advertising business.

Acting

Tulip Fever had a stellar cast, full of Academy favorites, old (Judi Dench, Christoph Waltz) and new (Alicia Vikander). Vikander (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Danish Girl, Jason Bourne, The Testament of Youth, Anna Karenina) did a fabulous job and she and Waltz (Spectre, Tarzan) made an interesting pair. Their more formal scenes had a feeling of warmness and respect, while their more intimate scenes felt very uncomfortable (which was the goal). In turn, Vikander’s and Dane Deehan’s (Valerian) scenes felt realistically intimate (sexier than Fifty Shades, though, that’s a low bar to be aiming for). BTW, I bought Deehan much more as a struggling lovesick artist than an action hero.

Judi Dench had a fun, although highly fictional role, in the film. Jack O’Connell (Unbroken, Money Monster)and Holiday Grainger (Cinderella, The Finest Hours) delivered neat and likable performances (Grainger’s voice fit the role of the narrator very well). Glee’s Matthew Morrison, Tom Hollander (MI5, The Promise), and model-turned-actress Cara Delevigne (Paper Towns, Suicide Squad, Valerian) also appeared. Lastly, Zach Galifianakis (The Lego Batman) played his typical role, that wasn’t necessary for the movie at all.

In short, Tulip Fever was a beautiful looking but a poorly written picture that had some stellar and wasted acting performances too.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Tulip Fever trailer

Tulip_Fever_poster

Movie review: Elle

Movie reviews

Hello!

The awards season is usually dominated by American and British films, while the non-English language pictures tend to be relegated to the Best Foreign Film Category. However, sometimes a movie escapes this section and gets wider recognition. The French language films (or pictures made by the French) are the ones that succeed at this the most often (The Artist, Amour) and 2016’s Elle is hoping to one of them.

IMDb summary: A successful businesswoman gets caught up in a game of cat and mouse as she tracks down the unknown man who raped her.

Writing and Acting: The main character and the lead actress

Elle is getting the most recognition for the performance of the lead actress – Isabelle Huppert. The film’s story revolves solely around her as the titular character. At first glance, the movie appears to be just another rape victim story that so often gets reduced to just being the awards bait for great actresses (like Downton Abbey’s rape plotline for Joanne Froggatt’s character). However, the character of Elle is so much more than a rape victim: she is complex and multifaceted and so much more than just the victim of her incident. The great Isabelle Huppert meticulously maneuvers this labyrinth of character traits and delivers a mesmerizing performance. And even though I would love for the Academy, the various guilds, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to recognize actresses that play more contemporary strong female characters, I cannot be that mad at them for rewarding Huppert, as she both conforms to the needs of this traditional role and also confronts them.

Now, let’s go over the writing for the main character in more detail. The script was penned by David Birke, based on the novel ‘Oh…’ by Philippe Djian. While I did not necessarily agree with all of their ideas, the film’s writing certainly raised questions.

  1. The fact that the female character is reluctant to speak out and treats the whole situation almost nonchalantly does not set the best example. The romanticization of the rape (Stockholme Syndrome) could also be seen as a problematic or at least a controversial choice.
  2. And yet, I applaud the film for being open about women’s sexual lives. This topic is becoming less and less of a taboo, especially, when films like Fifty Shades of Grey are being made, are seen by many, and then are discussed online (even if not in the most productive way).
  3. While the role of a rape victim might appear as a very traditional female role, the film’s complex commentary on rape and consent is really contemporary and extremely relevant.
  4. The background writing for the main character is super unique too because the female lead is portrayed as working in the field of video games. I don’t think I can name another film with a female character working in such a stereotypically male field.
  5. The personal background of the main character is super rich too. All the different relationships are super complex and interesting separately but the interconnectivity of them is the thing that makes them realistic and even more interesting. The father-daughter relationship affects mother-daughter relationship, while the friendship between the two co-workers suffers because of the cheating.
  6. The fact that the main female character is open to the idea of having multiple lovers and at least a dozen of admirers (employees) was not only a fresh development in the portrayal of female characters but also makes it more believable that this silence and nonchalance would be the way for her to deal with the incident (even if I don’t personally agree with her decisions).
  7. The fact that her father was a murderer and that she might also have violent tendencies adds another interesting layer to the character. Her jealousy and selfishness that would sometimes result in despicable and frankly creepy actions made it hard to see her as a victim but I also think that this might have been a conscious choice. This might show that bad things happen to bad people too or that the victimization or the sainthood of the victims are fickle facades that might not actually be true.

Directing

A well known Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven, best known to the mainstream audiences as the man behind such films, like Total Recall and Showgirls, directed Elle and did a magnificent job. He unfolds this story brilliantly: the viewer is dropped into the film’s world straight up, without any set-up. The rape is showed in the first sequence and later on revisited and showed from different perspective and angles to not only enhance its effect but also to show the different outcomes of it. The whole ‘cat and mouse’ game is also realized neatly: it is slow but suspenseful and intense. The film is truly a psychological thriller with some elements of a great scary movie. It reminds me of Gone Girl, The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, and Panic Room. And yet, it differs from these American films in its atmosphere: European films always seem realistically glamorous instead of being cinematically glamorous. The level of sophistication is also much higher.

Supporting Cast

The film has an extensive supporting cast full of European talent. The secondary roles are filled by Christian BerkelAnne ConsignyVirginie EfiraLaurent LafitteCharles Berling, Alice IsaazJudith Magre, Jonas Bloquet, Vimala Pons and Lucas Prisor and all of them do a fabulous job.

To conclude, Elle is either empowering or subversive and either traditional or contemporary (or both in both cases) film with a complex female lead who is brought to life by the astonishing Isabelle Huppert whose performance is subtle and restrained but still extremely powerful.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Elle trailer

MV5BMTU4MTUyMzI5Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDQwODY2NzE@._V1_SX640_SY720_.jpg

Movie review: The Magnificent Seven

Movie reviews

Hello!

After reviewing a contemporary Western last week (Hell or High Water), today, I turn my attention to the one set in the past – 19th century’s Wild West, to be specific. Let’s discuss The Magnificent Seven.

IMDb summary: Seven gunmen in the old west gradually come together to help a poor  village against savage thieves.

Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven, in terms of both the name and the plot, reminds me of a different recent Western from another accomplished director – of course, I’m talking about Tarantino’s The Hateful EightSadly, that awful Adam Sandler movie The Ridiculous Six also sneaks into my mind. What is up with these names, Hollywood?

2016’s The Magnificient Seven is a remake of the 1960s movie with the same (which, in turn, was a remake of a 1954 Japanese picture Seven Samurai – haven’t seen either of them but plan on watching both). Weirdly, it is not getting almost any hate in comparison to the recent Ben-Hur movie, which was also a remake of the 60s classic. Maybe who is involved in front and behind the camera has something to do with it – Seven has a lot more big name talent attached to it than Ben-Hur.

SPOILER WARNING

Writing: story and character development

The Magnificent Seven’s screenplay was written by an interesting duo: Nic Pizzolatto – the creator of True Detective – and Richard Wenk – writer of such mediocre-ish films like The Expendables 2 and The Mechanic and some better flicks, like his previous collaboration with FuquaThe Equalizer (he is writing that film’s sequel as well). Wenk has also penned Jack Reacher: Never Go Back script – that picture is coming out next month.

I quite enjoyed the story they created for this movie. The narrative was a bit by-the-numbers and predictable – Westerns all tend to have a similar plot – but it was executed quite well. The set-up was clear and efficient and the unfolding resolution worked as well. The movie was a bit uneven in that it had some filler material in between the action pieces. Some of that material was interesting, other – less so, but it was worth to sit through because the action sequences were amazing. I also liked the fact that the story had real consequences and not everyone lived happily ever after when it was all said and done.

The character development was also sufficient. I feared that due to a big number of characters, The Magnificent Seven would suffer from the same thing that undercut Suicide Squad’s success, however, I felt that Pizzolatto and Wenk provided all the characters with a lot more moments of personal development than Ayer did for DC anti-heroes. Some characters could have been developed more – there is always room for improvement – but I felt that the things we did get worked better than I expected them too. In general, all the main heroes of the film were not good people but the screenwriters did make them likable and did made believe that these 7 people could bond in a fairly short amount of time.

Denzel Washington’s and Chris Pratt’s characters received the most scenes. Denzel’s character was nicely set-up as the leader and his personal agenda was quite a neat surprise at the end. Pratt’s character’s role as the prankster of the group was cool – his jokes and comic relief helped to ease the tension. The two characters that were the most compelling to me were played by Ethan Hawke and Byung-hun Lee – I liked their comradeship and backstory and I also felt that they had the best dialogues. Hawke’s character’s paranoia and war guilt was really fascinating part of the film, although, his actions at the end (leaving and coming back) were quite predictable, but I guess this type of character arc (fighting one’s inner guilt) has to end in that particular way.  Vincent D’Onofrio’sManuel Garcia-Rulfo’s and Martin Sensmeier’s characters were a bit one-dimensional (the weird outcast, the Mexican, and the Native American) but they did serve their purpose and nicely rounded up the group.

The writing for the main villain of the film was good too – I liked the fact that he was a corrupt businessman, who took the ideas of capitalism a bit too close to heart. The main (and only, really) female character also had a nice story of revenge/righteousness and I especially liked the detail that she was an active member of the fight, not just a damsel in distress.

Directing: visuals and action

Antoine Fuqua is an accomplished director in Hollywood, though he hasn’t made than many films. The Magnificent Seven is his 11th feature film (though other prominent Hollywood directors have made even less – Tarantino have only released 8, while Nolan – 9 pictures, so I guess quality and talent are way more important than quantity when it comes to directing). My favorite Fuqua’s films are King Arthur and Southpaw, while The Magnificent Seven is taking the 3rd spot. I really liked all the action – both the shoot-outs on the ground and on the horses (really want to ride a horse after watching the picture). I admire all the beautiful locations, the wild nature, and the empty valleys. The camera work (cinematography by Mauro Fiore) was excellent too: the close-ups really helped with the suspense, while the long tracking shots of people riding through frames (in color or in the shadow) were neatly used for transition. In addition, I enjoyed how the final stand-off of the film happened in the same place where everything had started – the church and its yard. The religious symbolism was also fitting, especially for the setting of 19th century US. Lastly, the instrumental score (music by James Horner and Simon Franglen) was excellent, while the credits rounded up the film beautifully.

Acting

  • Denzel Washington as Sam Chisolm was quite good. This wasn’t his best performance, but he worked well in the role. I liked how his character was introduced – we saw his guns before we saw his face. After working with Fuqua on 3 films already, Washington will re-team with the director for The Equalizer’s sequel – filming is supposed to start next year.
  • Chris Pratt as Josh Farraday was also great – he was really charismatic and pulled off the jokes and the teases nicely. This was his follow-up to the uber successful Jurassic World and he did not disappoint me. I cannot wait for his upcoming films as well – Passengers just debuted its trailer and will be released during Christmas, while Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will roll into theaters next summer.
  • Ethan Hawke as Goodnight Robicheaux was amazing too. I liked seeing Hawke, together with Denzel, in a Fuqua movie – reminded me of the Training Day days. Goodnight was kinda the voice of reason/rationality in the group – and Hawke just really knows how to nail this type of role. I’ve seen a lot of his films but my favorite still remains the Before trilogy. He will star in Luc Besson’s Valerian next year.
  • Vincent D’Onofrio as Jack Horne was interesting and weird. The harsh outside look of his character really came into contrast with his inner softness and that squeaky-ish voice. I needed some time to get used to the voice, actually. I enjoyed seeing D’Onofrio in big Hollywood picture and I also think that he deserves to get a lot more prominent roles in mainstream films because he is a very good actor – if you need proof, watch Daredevil.
  • Byung-hun Lee as Billy Rocks and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Vasquez were also great. I liked how one was very calm and collected and the other kinda a hot-head. I am not really familiar with their previous work but would love to see more of them. 
  • Martin Sensmeier as Red Harvest was my favorite supporting character/actor. I loved his look and the fact that he had a traditional bow in a gunfight. I would really like to see some more films about/involving Native Americans, any suggestions?
  • Peter Sarsgaard played Bartholomew Bogue – the villain of the film. I liked how both menacing and cowardly he was. The actor also did a very good job of showing his character’s fear with his eyes. Recently, Sarsgaard had roles in films like Blue Jasmine, Pawn Sacrifice, and Black Mass. He will also be in the awards’ contender Jackie later this year.
  • Haley Bennett as Emma Cullen was also really good. I have only seen her in Hardcore Henry, where she didn’t have much to do, so I was pleasantly surprised by her performance in this film. She pulled off her action scenes and the emotional sequences really well and will also star in The Girl on The Train in a few weeks.
  • Matt Bomer (Magic Mike, The Nice Guys) and Luke Grimes (American Sniper, Fifty Shades) also had small roles and did a fine job. In was nice to see Bomer in another flick – don’t know why he doesn’t get more role as he is really good at what he does. Grimes has two Fifty Shades movies coming up but I don’t think that hs character will get much to do in them.

In short, The Magnificent Seven was a well-made and nicely-acted typical Western. It was entertaining and intense and had an amazing and diverse cast. However, the narrative did lack originality.

Rate: 3.75/5

Trailer: The Magnificent Seven trailer

The-Magnificent-Seven-International-Poster.jpg

5 ideas about a movie: The Nice Guys!

Movie reviews

Hello!

I am not a big comedy person when it comes to movies. I enjoy watching comedic pictures at home, but I rarely go to see them at the cinema. However, I made an exception for The Nice Guys, because it was a comedy/action film, not just comedy and also because I have enjoyed previous films by Shane Black. So, let’s briefly review The Nice Guys!

  1. Shane Black: Black is most well-known for directing and writing Iron Man 3, which I, personally, really enjoyed but did understood why other viewers didn’t. It wasn’t the best Marvel film and not even the best Iron Man film, but it was still vastly better than other comic book films. The other film by Black, which I really liked, is Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It is really similar to The Nice Guys, in that, it has a clever story that combines action/crime and comedy. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is also the film that saved Robert Downey Jr. career and look where he is now.
  2. Writing: The Nice Guys was written by Black and Anthony Bagarozzi. I thought that the writing was really good: the story’s premise/set-up was funny to begin with (it involved a porn star), so all the additional jokes were like the icing on top. The humor was both awkward and uncomfortable but came organically and was very real-life like. The jokes were also really cynical and satirical. In general, the dialogue was rich yet simple.
  3. Directing: Black directed the film and did a nice job. The shoot-outs were interesting, the 70s vibe – cool and cooky, and the stylization – awesome as well. I liked that they used Earth, Wind and Fire’s song September – that added an authentic 70s vibe.
  4. Acting: The Nice Guys were played by Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling and they were not that nice. One of them was quite a shitty father and an alcoholic and the other one was a paid killer. Both of them were not great detectives either. However, I enjoyed the subtle character development that showed their nicer sides. Gosling’s character really cared about his daughter and grieved for his dead wife and Crowe’s character just wanted to matter (that dinner story really made his character more likable). Gosling and Crowe also had great chemistry and their back and forth was amazing (‘did you fall?’ and ‘did you fall again?’ were wonderful moments).
  5. Acting: The supporting cast was pretty great too. The daughter was played by Angourie Rice, who does not have a lot of experience but did a really good job and held her own against Gosling and Crowe. She was the most efficient detective out of the three. Other actors involved with the project were Matt Bomer (Magic Mike, will be in The Magnificent Seven), Margaret QualleyMurielle Telio, and Kim Basinger (who has joined Fifty Shades series as a major character from the books).

In short, The Nice Guys was a nice little buddy crime comedy with amazing jokes, good action and great performances by Gosling, Crowe, and newcomer Rice. A must watch for Black’s fans and a recommended watch for all cinema goers.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: The Nice Guys trailer

nice-guys-movie-poster-2016

Movie review: Southpaw

Movie reviews

Good morning!

I’ve promised to post a review for Southpaw 2 days ago, but I am only posting it now for some reason. Better late than ever, right ? Anyway, let’s start talking about a film already.

Southpaw is the latest Antoine Fuqua’s film, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, and Rachel McAdams. It’s a sports drama distributed by The Weinstein Company. The chairmen of this company – Harvey Weinstein – is known for running very successful Oscar campaigns for the films his company distributes, so Southpaw is expected to get a few nominations as well. And it definitely deserves it! The only thing that might stop this film is its release date. Oscar season usually doesn’t start in summer, but Southpaw is trying to change the game. I hope it succeeds.

IMDb summary: Boxer Billy Hope turns to trainer Tick Willis to help him get his life back on track after losing his wife in a tragic accident and his daughter to child protection services.

Story

The script for Southpaw has been written by Kurt Sutter. Sutter has worked as a writer, producer, and director on various TV shows (Sons of Anarchy being one of them), but this is his first time writing a screenplay for a motion picture. Southpaw is a story about a down-on-his-luck boxer Billy Hope, who, due to circumstances and his own hot temper and anger, loses everything he has, even, excuse the pun, hope to get back on his feet and onto a right path. I have never been a huge fan of boxing, I’ve never really understood the appeal of this sport, or of any martial arts and combat sport. As a result, I haven’t seen a lot of boxing movies, so Southpaw for me was an interesting, exciting and quite a fresh film. However, since I’m an athlete myself, I have seen a lot of movies about sport and all of them, including Southpaw, have the same cliches, like: finding a new coach who used to train one’s unbeatable opponent, getting the necessary motivation because of some random kid’s story, training not only for the title but to provide for one’s family and so forth. Having said that, even though the film is predictable and the biggest twist is spoiled in the trailer, Southpaw is still a great, but depressing story about a man’s fight for his existence, both in the ring and in the actual ‘real’ life.

Values

Southpaw underlines the importance of family a lot; it especially highlights the father-daughter relationship, which is always a winning theme for me, since my dad is my best friend. Furthermore, friendship and fake friends are also a theme that is touched upon in this movie. In addition, the corporate and commercial side of the sport is also discussed. Lastly, a theme, which is very important to all martial arts movies and real life boxers, of mixing the ring with real life is at the core of Southpaw. Interestingly, while a lot of people (including myself) might think that anger is the driving force in all combat sports, this movie tries to show how the actual technique of fighting, speed, and fast thinking are the skills that help one win the fight. Anger can only get you or others close to you killed or at least badly hurt, both in the ring and in day-to-day life.

This movie also has an interesting structure. The thing that sends Billy Hope’s life into a downwards spiral happens in the first 15 minutes and then the audience is asked to sit through 1.5 hours of slow, almost action-less redemption ark, which isn’t very redeeming at first, and only in the last 15 minutes Billy is actually able to get his life back on track. However, there are things and people that he is not able to get back and that will leave a mark on him for the rest of his life. Some consequences are permanent and that’s the sad true that all people have to deal with.

Directing

Southpaw is directed by Antoine Fuqua, who is probably best known to mainstream audiences for directing 2001’s Training Day, starring Denzel Washington and last year’s The Equalizer, also starring Denzel. I’ve seen both of these films but never have been a big fan of them. Personally, I was introduced to Fuqua in 2004 with the film King Arthur. That movie was one of my favorites during childhood and it still is now. The fight scene over a frozen lake is one of my favorite scenes in movies ever and also, that scene, together with Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers final battle scene, are the things that made me want to try my hand at archery! And now, almost 10 years later, it’s still my hobby. Anyway, sorry for going off track, we are here to talk about Southpaw. The fight scenes in that film are shot brilliantly, you feel like you are in the ring with the boxers and that you are actually the one fighting, The dark, brownish and grayish color palette also represent the mood of the film perfectly.

The next Fuqua’s film – the remake of 1960s Western – The Magnificent Seven – will be released next year and it will have a very esteemed cast. Denzel Washington once again will work with Fuqua after taking a 1-year break, fan favorite Chris Pratt and Boyhood’s Ethan Hawke will provide their services and even KingpinVincent D’Onofrio – will stop by.

Acting

Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope. Gyllenhaal deserves much more credit and attention than he gets. He is an extremely versatile actor, both with his emotions and his body. Do you remember how he looked last year in Nightcrawler and how he looks now in Southpaw? I still don’t know why he didn’t get an Academy Awards nomination last year and I will be extremely pissed off if he doesn’t get one this year. I enjoyed Nightcrawler a lot – never has a film or a character in the film made me feel so uncomfortable. I also liked Jake’s performance in movies like 2007’s Zodiac and 2010’s comedy Love and Other Drugs. I really want to check out his earlier work – Donnie Darko and Brokeback Mountain – as well.

Rachel McAdams as Maureen Hope. Usually, when an actress creates an iconic role, it’s hard for said actress to break out of that preconceived notion and stereotype. But Rachel McAdams never had this problem. In 2004, she starred in not one, but two cult classics – Mean Girls and The Notebook. Sadly, she hasn’t been able to recreate that year’s success with a wide variety of films – dramas, comedies and action flicks, but 2015 might be the year. Although her role is small and she isn’t on screen much, she kills it. I loved her character because Maureen Hope was the boss of the family and a strong female character that all movies are trying to create nowadays, but only a few of them actually succeed at doing so.

Oona Laurence as Leila Hope was amazing. Definitely, a young talent to watch. She is already pretty well know in a theater circuit for originating the role of Matilda Wormwood in Matilda on Broadway and for being nominated for a Grammy with the cast of Matilda for a soundtrack of that musical. Moreover, Oona has 7 movies (both short and feature-length) coming out this year and she is only 13 years old! Do you feel like you haven’t done anything with your life? Because I certainly am.

Forest Whitaker as Titus Wills was also a great addition to the cast. His character was believable and realistic as well as a great mentor for Billy Hope. The look of the character was also interesting and unique. I am not really familiar with Whitaker’s other films, although I enjoyed his performance in The Butler.

Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson as Jordan Mains was also surprisingly good. I always expect singers-turned-actors to be quite terrible, but Jackson has quite a broad film career, in addition to being a rapper. His look was also on point – those suits were amazing.

Miguel Gomez as Miguel “Magic” Escobar played the opponent of Billy Hope and was okay. His character was the only one, who, at times, seemed like a cartoon version of himself, meaning he was too over the top.

Rita Ora as Maria Escobar. Ora had a small cameo in the film and was really good in it. Previously, she had a small cameo in Furious 6: Rita met Vin Diesel at some event and they just came up with a role for her on a spot. Since then, Ora has been trying to get into Hollywood, but I don’t think she chose a great franchise as a starting point. I, of course, mean the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey, where she plays Grey’s sister. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, what comes out of it.

To sum up, I enjoyed Southpaw immensely and I have never been a fan of boxing. The movie’s plot was full of sport’s movie’s cliches, but amazing directing from Fuqua and strong performances from the whole cast, especially Jake Gyllenhaal, made up for it. I highly advise you to see this film, because I believe it will resurface when the Awards season kicks in.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Southpaw trailer

Southpaw_poster