Movie review: Widows

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of another awards’ hopeful that didn’t look like an awards’ movie from the trailer but is one because of who is involved with it in front and behind the camera. This is Widows.

IMDb summary: Set in contemporary Chicago, amid a time of turmoil, four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities, take fate into their own hands, and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.

Writing

Gillian Flynn, best known as a novelist (Gone Girl) rather than scriptwriter, and the director Steve McQueen wrote the screenplay of Windows. The script was based on a TV show. And that could be felt while watching the film because the movie’s narrative was oversaturated with ideas and plotlines. The movie also felt a bit like a book-adaptation by how dense it was – or that may just be Flynn’s writing style.

I really liked how unique the characters were and how they felt like real, well-rounded people rather than cliches or archetypes. I also appreciated how all the plotlines were handled: the film was complex and clear at the same time. It was also engaging, though I wasn’t completely convinced by the twist. Thematically, the movie didn’t really focus on just a couple of concepts but rather it put a mirror to the contemporary world and portrayed an interplay of issues, including women’s position in society, betrayal, criminality, politics, family, marriage, relationships, and race among others.

Directing

Steve McQueen of 12 Years a Slave directed Widows and did a good job. I appreciated his visual style, the extreme close-ups and how he played with the frame (what was in or outside of it) and depth (front v back). I’m still not entirely sure whether the film was awarded’ material. It was definitely a solid film but was it revolutionary in any way? I don’t think so. I also think it was more thriller-y than drama-y, and the Academy still values dramas above everything else.

Acting

Widows had a diverse cast, and by diverse, I mean diverse in identities that were represented and in the quality or status of actors. Viola Davis (Fences), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) and Colin Farrell (The Beguiled) were there to boost the awards chances of the film. Elizabeth Debicki and Michele Rodriguez are both great actresses but they are still closer to the B than the A-list (they are not main stars of their respective franchises, Marvel and FF, respectively). Liam Neeson is an action star that usually has his movies come out in January (a.k.a. the worst month?), like The Commuter. Some quality TV actors were also part of the cast, and even though they were great, they are still associated more with the small rather than the silver screen, and while that isn’t a bad thing for the audiences, it might be a hard sell when it comes to awards?

In short, Widows was a solid thriller with an engaging story and great execution of it by both the director and the actors.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Widows trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Suspiria

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to the review of one of the weirdest films I’ve seen in a while. And I don’t think I’m using the word ‘weird’ as a compliment in this case. This is Suspiria!

IMDb summary: A darkness swirls at the center of a world-renowned dance company, one that will engulf the artistic director, an ambitious young dancer, and a grieving psychotherapist. Some will succumb to the nightmare. Others will finally wake up.

  1. Suspiria was written by David Kajganich and directed by Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash). It was a remake of a 1977 Italian film of the same name. To put this review shortly, Suspiria was an artsy, 3h long horror film with half of the dialogue in German. If that sounds like a hard sell, it is/was.
  2. The movie’s story was quite incomprehensible to me. Thematically, it tried doing something with ideas of motherhood and matriarchy. I feel like it also wanted to showcase female empowerment. Honestly, I don’t know what the movie’s message was. Is it because I’m stupid? Or that the movie was too pretentious?
  3. It also had a weird setting amidst political events that were not explained fully for a viewer to get. The movie should not assign its viewer’s homework but should be a full package! The ideas on Germany’s generational guilt were interesting but not given enough room to be explored.
  4. The movie was directed in quite an interesting way. It was slow and long. The visuals were disgusting and looked quite CGI-y at times. The focus on the diegetic noise made the movie into an uncomfortable sensory experience too (I swear 65% of the ‘score’ was just breathing noises). The dance sequences were visually pleasing and interesting, though.
  5. The movie had a good cast but I wasn’t really able to judge their performances as I was confused by the plot. Tilda Swinton played a couple of roles (don’t know why as one couldn’t really tell it was her playing one of the characters, thus, no ideas on doubling could be seen?). Dakota Johnson was also there: I guess arthouse films are better than Fifty Shades? I also feel like a lot of the cast mumbled through their dialogue which didn’t make an already confusing plot easier to understand. A film also had a lot of German actors and actual dancers in the cast.

In short, Suspiria was a trainwreck of confusion that reminded me a lot of mother! in a variety ways (thematically and visually).

Rate: ?/5 (confusion strikes again)

Trailer: Suspiria trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: BlacKkKlansman

Movie reviews

Hi!

Welcome to a review of the movie that I saw 2 months ago and can’t really stop thinking about unless I try to review it! This is BlacKkKlansman.

IMDb summary: Ron Stallworth, an African American police officer from Colorado Springs, CO, successfully manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan branch with the help of a Jewish surrogate who eventually becomes its leader. Based on actual events.

  1. BlacKkKlansman was written by Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott (based on a memoir of the same name by Ron Stallworth) and directed by Spike Lee (who also contributed to the script). As a film fan, I have always known of Spike Lee and how he impacted the modern cinema. However, I don’t think I’ve seen any of his previous films in full and I’m kicking myself for that as I absolutely loved BlacKkKlansman.
  2. The story of the film was just fascinating: it was so far out there that it had to be true. It was handled very well in the script, with an appropriate amount of sarcasm and humour but also seriousness and sophistication. Every chucklesome moment was followed by a harsh reality: the viewer paid dearly for laughing.
  3. It was also fascinating in that it seemed poignant and topical. Nothing has really changed in the world and while this type of realization is not an original, first time thing, it doesn’t make it any less effective or emotional.
  4. The film was also very well made from a directing point of view. It was paced well and was engaging. The cinematography was neat and clear. The near-perfect film was also rounded out with a great cast.
  5. The film’s cast consisted of some amazing talent, including Adam Driver, who has been popping up in a variety of arthouse films (Logan Lucky, Midnight Special) in addition to Star Wars and has been doing a stellar job in all of them. John David Washington was also great in the lead and I hope that he gets a lot of recognition for this film.

In short, BlacKkKlansman is an amazing feature that I recommend to everyone. Even though it came out a couple of months ago, I really hope it comes back during the proper awards season and makes some sort of splash.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: BlacKkKlansman trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Assassination Nation

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of the film that left me flabbergasted. This is Assassination Nation.

IMDb summary: After a malicious data hack exposes the secrets of the perpetually American town of Salem, chaos descends and four girls must fight to survive while coping with the hack themselves.

  1. Assassination Nation was written and directed by Sam Levinson as only his second feature film that he has directed and the third one that he has written. It was basically a feminist manifesto wrapped up in a Purge movie. Let’s unpack that:
  2. Assassination Nation featured some quite heavy-handed social commentary. It openly expressed the fact that women should not be silenced by society and that they should fight back. The message was realized within such a radical and extreme and hypocritical plot-line that it was a bit hard to take it seriously. And yet, with everything that is going around in today’s world and the current cultural/political climate, maybe the world of the movie wasn’t that hard to believe. Which makes the whole ordeal even scarier. And maybe then the message of the film should not be subtle either but direct as it was here.
  3. Assassination Nation was also a genre movie: a gory horror picture that both drew the viewers’ attention to the fact that cinema has helped to desensitize violence by simultaneously partaking in such desensitization of violence itself. And I don’t know whether that genre-outside helped the movie to strengthen its message or whether it just distracted from it.
  4. The four main characters were played by Odessa YoungSuki WaterhouseHari Nef, and Abra. I loved how the film had some diversity within this core 4, both in terms of race and gender identification, but how it also didn’t draw too much attention to it but rather presented it as a given fact, a reality that ought to be normalized. Bella ThorneBill Skarsgård (It), and Joel McHale also had supporting roles in the film.
  5. At first glance, Assassination Nation seemed like quite a unique picture to me. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it is actually following in the footsteps of such films as Heathers and, more recently, Thoroughbreds. That is not to say that Assassination Nation wasn’t unique or great in its own right.

In short, Assassination Nation as either confused cringe fest or a brilliant masterpiece. I’m not sure I’ll ever know which one.

Rate: ?/5 (my confusion is refusing to give a number this time)

Trailer: Assassination Nation trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: First Man

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a potential Oscar contender! This is First Man.

IMDb summary: A look at the life of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

  1. First Man was written by Josh Singer (writer of two Oscar winners/contenders The Post and Spotlight), based on a biography by James R. Hansen. The narrative spanned quite a long period of time and had a lot of time jumps (other movies could be made to fill in the gaps – that’s how rich this story is). And yet, even with all the jumping, the plot was still clear and cohesive. The film was also truly an Amstrong biopic because 1) it showcased both his personal life and professional career and 2) it didn’t paint Buzz Aldrin in any favorable light.
  2. First Man was directed by Damien Chazelle of Whiplash and La La Land. Going in to see this film, I wondered whether Chazelle will be able to make a quality non-music related film. And I think he showcased that he is, in fact, very much able to craft a film around any subject with First Man. Even though I knew the ending of the story, I was highly interested and emotionally invested in the progression of the said story. The pacing was also good for the most part – I just wish the film was a tad bit shorter.
  3. Visually, First Man was stunning. The intimate close-ups, especially of the eyes, were very effective. The shaky camera and the constantly mobile frame also made the viewer feel like they were in the cockpit with the astronauts. It’s not a pleasant viewing experience but it served a purpose.
  4. Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049) played the lead in the film and did a great job. I smell another Oscar nomination for him but I don’t know if he’s necessarily worthy of a win. Maybe the Academy will decide that it is his time after all. Nevertheless, his performance was incredibly compelling in a subtle and subdued manner.
  5. The supporting cast of First Man consisted of The Crown’s Claire Foy, who has been popping on the big screen more and more (in Breathe and Unsane and soon in The Girl in a Spider’s Web), Jason Clarke (Terminator 5, Everest), Kyle Chandler (Manchester by the Sea, Game Night), and Corey Stoll (Ant-Man).

In short, First Man is a bit long but a compelling film from a director who still has a long career ahead of him. It’s 3/3 for Chazelle.

Rate: 4.2/5

Trailer: First Man trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: The Hate U Give

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to the review of one of the most important YA/teen films you have ever seen: The Hate U Give!

IMDb summary: Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Now, facing pressure from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what’s right.

  1. The Hate U Give is a cinematic adaptation of a bestselling book of the same name by Angie Thomas. The adapted screenplay was written by Audrey Wells, who, sadly, passed away days before the film’s release. I’ve read the book prior to seeing the film and really loved it. Thus, my expectations were quite high for the film and I’m glad to say the movie has met them.
  2. The importance of The Hate U Give’s story comes from the fact that it feels realistic and real. It doesn’t shy away from the hurtful truth but exposes it in a complex manner. The interplay of topics – friendship, family, community, identity, the system, brutality, violence, race – are all spotlighted and work to create a full picture of the situation. I also wouldn’t exaggerate by saying that this movie isn’t about human rights but rather about life and death.
  3. In addition to being such an important portrayal of a serious worldly issue, The Hate U Give also tries to be a teen movie. That’s where it falters a bit: I felt that the references at the beginning were a bit heavy-handed. I also wasn’t sure about the hopeful ending of the film and yet, I understood the need for it both as an inspirational note to end on and as a marketing ploy (happy endings sell better).
  4. The Hate U Give was directed by George Tillman Jr. and he did a great job with the lacing of the film, though a runtime was a bit long. The director also succeeded in the emotional core of the film: the scenes of the shootings and the riots were as effective as the authentic video of such real-life events, captured with phone cameras.
  5. The Hate U Give’s cast consisted of Amandla Stenberg in the lead (she was absolutely fantastic and hopefully will now be known for this role rather than as Rue from The Hunger Games); Regina Hall (Girls Trip), Russell Hornsby, and Common (I loved the fact that the parents and the uncle also had a function in the story rather than being sidelined); Riverdale’s KJ Apa who grew on me throughout the duration of the film, and Marvel’s Anthony Mackie (was surprised by his appearance in this picture).

In short, The Hate U Give is an angering but necessary watch. Highly recommend!

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: The Hate U Give trailer

5 ideas about a movie: Halloween!

Movie reviews

Hello!

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

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

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

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

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Haloween trailer

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Movie review: Bohemian Rhapsody

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a film that somehow ended up being my most looked forward to movie of the year. This is the perfect blend of music and movies also knows as Bohemian Rhapsody!

IMDb summary: A chronicle of the years leading up to Queen’s legendary appearance at the Live Aid (1985) concert.

Writing

Bohemian Rhapsody was written by Darkest Hour’s Anthony McCarten and The Crown’s Peter Morgan. I actually enjoyed the writing for the film despite spotting some flaws within it. The main complaint I’ve seen against the writing for this film was its historical inaccuracy. As someone who wouldn’t call herself a fan of Queen (I’m more of an appreciative observer), I couldn’t really spot the inaccuracies so they didn’t bother me.

The second critique that I’ve seen and that I agreed with was the fact that the movie felt choppy and like a collection of snapshots of someone’s life rather than a cohesive plot. However, how can a writer fit a larger than life story into an actual narrative? I think one can make numerous films on the different parts of Queen’s existence but if this film was going for a broad, all-encompassing introduction, I think it was quite successful.

Another interesting think about Bohemian Rhapsody was that I wasn’t sure whether it was a Queen biopic or a Freddie Mercury one. This goes back to the whole discussion whether Mercury was the only important member of Queen (that’s crap, in my mind). I do wish that other members were spotlighted a bit more cause I did enjoy seeing the small bits of their lives too.

Speaking of Mercury, I really liked how he was portrayed on film. The movie did a good job of both celebrating the legendary performer but also showing his flaws. He was never idolized by the movie and that made him seem more real and even more fascinating.

Directing

Bryan Singer (yes, the X-Men director) directed some portion of the film before getting fired. Dexter Fletcher (he did Eddie the Eagle and is currently working on Rocketman – an Elton John biopic) finished the film but, sadly, won’t be getting a director’s credit. I thought that they both did a good job. Yes, the film was a bit choppy but it was still compelling. The scenes of the concerts (especially Live Aid) were highly effective and emotional (I cried more than once during them because of their effectiveness and my current personal state (of going to my favorite band’s gig fee days prior)). Hearing Queen’s song in the theatre was the second best thing to having the opportunity to hear them live. It was also interesting to see so many older people at my screening: my guess was that they grew up with Queen’s music or may have even been fans when they were younger.

Acting

I was sure that Rami Malek will get an Oscar nomination for this role after only seeing the trailer. Having seen the film, I’m now even more sure that he deserves the nomination but I’m more dubious about that happening due to the poor critic reception of the film in general. It would be a shame if this iconic performance of an icon would be paid dust.

Lucy Boynton of Sing Street (another amazing music-related film) was also great. Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, and Joseph Mazzello were amazing as the other members of Queen and I do wish that they would have been given more to do with by the script. Game of Thrones’ Aidan Gillen, The Night Manager’s Tom Hollander, and Downton Abbey’s Allen Leech rounded out the cast playing the managers.

In short, Bohemian Rhapsody was a highly entertaining and enjoyable film. See it if you are a fan and see it if you are not a fan – you’ll be one by the time the credits roll.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Bohemian Rhapsody trailer

Movie review: A Star Is Born

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a potential Oscar movie. In October. I swear the classical awards season stars earlier and earlier every year and I don’t think I can keep up. Anyways, this is A Star is Born!

IMDb summary: A musician helps a young singer and actress find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.

Writing

A Star Is Born was written by Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper (who also directed and starred), and Will Fetters. The 2018 film was the 4th iteration of this story and the 3rd reboot of the original 1937 movie. All the films have differed slightly by having either movie or music stars in the lead roles. I really enjoyed the fact that this time around the focus was on singers and songwriters as when I’ve recently got pretty burned out with movies and their reviews, music became my new main hobby. Thus, this film was kinda the perfect combo of my old and new hobby.

While the characters have shifted between different areas of entertainment throughout the reboots, the stories themselves have always been pretty similar. The same 3 plotlines were also used in the latest version: one’s career going up, the other’s career going down, and a simultaneous romantic involvement of the two stars, the up-and-coming one and the one whose career is in decline. I thought that the interplay between the 3 storylines was really good. However, I had some problems with the pacing of the story. The first and the seconds acts felt like they unraveled organically, however, the third one seemed rushed. The breaking points in both character’s career seemed quite sudden. Why did he completely fell off the wagon that suddenly when he had managed to maintain a steady-ish career up until that point? How did she break through that quickly and at that exact point? I guess that showbiz? One can never predict it?

Directing

Bradley Cooper directed A Star Is Born as his directorial debut and impressed me immensely. The pacing, as I have mentioned before, was a bit strange, but the world-building and the visuals were great. I loved how the viewer got to be onstage with the stars and see an unseen side of a concert. The film could have been a tad bit shorter though. The soundtrack was good, ‘The Shallows’ was my favorite song and I could see it being nominated for an Oscar.

Acting

  • In addition to directing and writing (and producing), Bradley Cooper (Joy) also played the lead and was great! I was also so surprised how good he was at singing!
  • Lady Gaga had her first big screen role in this film. She has previously cameoed or had supporting roles and films and has worked on TV (on American Horror Story). I was lucky enough to see her live 6 years ago, in my first ever big concert which was part of the Born This Way Ball tour. She sounded splendid live back then and was equally as amazing (in both the singing and the acting) in this film! I could see an Oscar nomination in her future.
  • A couple of important supporting roles were played by Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Anthony Ramos, and Rafi Gavron. A few celebrity cameos could also be spotted but this was no Entourage.

In short, A Star Is Born was a bit long but a neat musical romance with some stellar acting and singing performances!

Rate: 4.2/5

Trailer: A Star Is Born trailer

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Movie review: Skate Kitchen

Movie reviews

Hello!

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

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

Writing

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

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

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

Directing

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

Acting

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

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

Rate: 4.3/5

Trailer: Skate Kitchen trailer

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