Movie review: The Girl in a Spider’s Web

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to another disappointing and dissatisfied review. This is The Girl in a Spider’s Web!

IMDb summary: Young computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist find themselves caught in a web of spies, cybercriminals and corrupt government officials.

Writing

The Girl in a Spider’s Web was written by Jay Basu, Fede Álvarez, and Steven Knight, based on the book by Stieg Larsson. The movie was both a remake and a sequel but was also standalone. If that’s confusing, then it’s a very fitting way to describe this film.

The film was a remake because it recast all of the actors, and, in turn, inevitably altered the characters and changed the viewers’ perception of them. It was also a sequel because the story contained a lot of unexplained things that the viewer just should have known from before (but who really remembers the David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? Ever fewer people (internationally) have seen the Scandinavian films). But the film was also sort-of stand-alone as it had its own set-up.

The screenplay also made me ask what? why? and how? quite a lot and that’s not a good thing. Plus, a lot of decisions made by characters made little or no sense: if being generous, I could take that as a character’s flaw. If I’m harsh, I’d see that as poor writing.

Directing

The movie was directed by Fede Álvarez as his third film but a first non-horror picture. I think you could see that he was trying quite hard with this film. It had a James Bond-y opening sequence: the problem was that Lisbeth is not James Bond or even a James Bond-type. I also wish that the film utilized its setting – Stockholm – much more. It had some action on a lake(?) and one bridge, but, that wasn’t nearly enough for a city famous for its multiple island-structure! The pacing of the picture wasn’t the best either. The action was also very typical.

Acting

The Girl in a Spider’s Web assembled a whole new international cast (Sverrir Gudnason (SWE), Lakeith Stanfield (USA), and Sylvia Hoeks (NED)) that, sadly, was just okay: good but not exceptional. Claire Foy was fine in the lead but this is far from her best work.

In short, The Girl in a Spider’s Web was better than The Snowman but so far from what world-famous Swedish thrillers should be adapted into.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: The Girl in a Spider’s Web trailer

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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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Movie review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to one of the most painful reviews I’ve ever written. This is Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

IMDb summary: The second installment of the “Fantastic Beasts” series set in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World featuring the adventures of magizoologist Newt Scamander.

Writing

J.K.Rowling wrote the screenplay for the second film: she started this prequel franchise and it doesn’t look like she will let anybody else play in her sandbox. And I really wish she would, because Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was really poorly written.

To begin with, why was this movie called Fantastic Beasts? All of the beasts that were included in the story were completely irrelevant and unnecessary: they were just stuffed into the narrative to justify the title. And the filmmakers know how unnecessary the beasts were: the logo of the film out ‘Fantastic Beasts’ in tiny letters in the corner and gigantic ‘The Crimes of Grindelwald’ in the center. They should have just dropped the first part and have every movie named differently.

Sadly, that wasn’t the beasts were not the only problem with the script. The whole script was one giant problem. The film had way too many plotlines: it tried to continue the plotlines set up by the first film, introduced new storylines, and tried to explain HP lore from years ago. And it just basically failed at everything. The whole narrative felt confused because the storylines did not have much to do with one another or the connections felt forced. A lot of the plotlines by themselves were boring or inconsistent. I did mostly enjoy the hero(s) plotlines but found the villain’s one to be very weak: preachy but not persuasive (the only part of the villain’s arc I enjoyed was the attempt to connect wizarding world to real-life history in his final speech). I also think that the movie had too many characters, all fighting for spotlight rather than sharing the movie like an ensemble should. The twists also did not make much sense but were just meant to shock. The references or the explanations of HP role also had no real place in the story and were just cheap fan service. A fanservice for only hardcore fans, because as a casual fan, I could either not get it. Or those references/explanations were new inventions by J.K.Rowling that she just tried to fit in there. Basically, if the first one felt like it was a return to the beloved world of magic, this one was the death of it. This movie marks the first time that I don’t agree with the canon: honestly, fanfiction and fan theories make more sense.

Directing

David Yates, the director of the first film and 4 last HP films, directed The Crimes of Grindelwald and did a decent job. The movie looked gooded visually and did look like an HP movie (not in the third act: it turned into Hobbit for the final battle). The pacing was not the best: the film felt slow and long but that was mostly because the story was unengaging and confusing.

Acting

The movie had a gigantic cast. Eddie Redmayne was a stand-out: charismatic, loveable, and unique. Katherine Waterston and Dan Fogler were also really good: as the more obvious hero of the story and the comedic relief/audience stand-in, respectively. Alison Sudol was also good even though the script made some weird choices with her character. Ezra Miller didn’t have that much to do despite his character being so integral to the plot. Zoë Kravitz impact. Callum Turner and Claudia Kim were fine too: they didn’t have anything to do with the story, but, hopefully, something is awaiting her characters in the future. Johnny Depp was fine but I have stopped caring about his performances at this point. Jude Law was a very promising Dumbledore, but, again, he should have been in the film more!

In short, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was not a great film. It looked pretty but lacked where it counted: in the story department.

Rate: 2.7/5

Trailer: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

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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: The Grinch

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to another Christmas movie review that’s coming out way too early. This is The Grinch!

IMDb summary: A grumpy Grinch plots to ruin Christmas for the village of Whoville.

  1. The Grinch was written by Michael LeSieur and Tommy Swerdlow. I don’t really have strong feelings about the film’s script: I think it was adequate but didn’t really add anything to the material. The message of belonging and family was a cute one but wasn’t really executed in a way that would make it powerful. What I’m saying is that basically, The Grinch lacked an emotional impact. What I liked best about the writing were the bits of rhymed narration: I thought that they added authenticity to the movie.
  2. Dr. Seuss’ books are absolute children favorites. The 2000 live-action Grinch is a family classic and a Christmas-staple: I clearly remember watching it every year on TV. Thus, since I have fairly fond memories of the last cinematic adaption of this story, maybe that’s why this one seemed unnecessary and average at best.
  3. The Grinch was directed by Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney (two filmmakers that haven’t had that much practice as directors). The animation was absolutely stunning and extremely detailed: one could literally see every individual hair on Grinch’s body. The slapstick humor of the film was a win with the kids at my screen too.
  4. Benedict Cumberbatch voiced the Grinch and was really good. At first, I couldn’t really tell that it was him but after a while, you could distinguish his voice. I don’t know if he bested Jim Carrey’s performance, though. Supporting cast featured the voices of Cameron Seely and Rashida Jones. Pharrell Williams was the narrator.
  5. Before The Grinch, a short Minions film was screened, as both properties belong to the animation money maker that is Illumination entertainment. I don’t really have much to say about the short film (I’m not really a fan of the Minions), but I appreciated the fact that it was actually short (I’m looking at you, Frozen shorts).

In short, The Grinch is a good but, ultimately, unnecessary retelling of well-known Christmas legend.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: The Grinch 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

Movie review: The Nutcracker and Four Realms

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a first Christmas movie of the 2018 holiday season. If the whole season will be as rocky as its start, then we can just cancel Christmas. This is a quite negative (as you have probably already guessed) review of The Nutcracker and Four Realms.

IMDb summary: A young girl is transported into a magical world of gingerbread soldiers and an army of mice.

Writing

The Nutcracker and Four Realms – a mouthful of a title, huh – was written by Ashleigh Powell. It’s a remake/reimagining of a classic fairytale and a famous ballet. Disney has been making quite a few live-action fairytales. Some of them crashed, like Alice in Wonderland and its sequel. Some blossomed like Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. The Nutcracker seems like it will be joining the first group. I feel like there is a general fatigue of live action fairytales and only the really special ones turn into something. The Nutcracker, being a niche and holiday-specific fairytale, is already a hard sell. The fact that it’s premiering so early in November also almost guarantees that it will have a small opening. Maybe it will play for a long time?

Anyways, speaking of the writing: it wasn’t bad but wasn’t original in any way, shape or form. The message on how to deal with grief was a neat one and the young woman’s journey into self-confidence was also a nice thing to spotlight. The actual adventure was sooo by the numbers. The twist could be seen from miles away. The characters were also just meh. The nutcracker especially was so unexceptional despite being the titular character. The dialogue was very simplistic. It just seemed that this whole film was aimed at a very young audience. And by young, I mean babies.

Directing

The Nutcracker was directed by Lasse Hallström (of The Hundred-Foot Journey and A Dog’s Purpose) and Joe Johnston (of Captain America: The First Avenger) – what a weird duo of directors. And even a weirder end product. They did a good job with the visuals – I cannot fault the film’s production value. The CGI could have been cleaner. The pacing was way off. At least the runtime was fairly decent. To end on a positive note: the ballet scenes and the ballet-inspired credits were nice touches. The score, which included the classic melodies, was good too.

Acting

The Nutcracker’s cast’s performances were a huge letdown. Mackenzie Foy and Jayden Fowora-Knight were both wooden. Hellen Mirren and Morgan Freeman were folding in their performances and were still the best just because they are true pros and can outact everyone in their sleep. Keira Knightley was killing her career with every minute of being on screen. She was both a cartoon and a parody: everything about her performance – from the look to the speech to the behavior – were just so cringe-y. Her work her kinda reminded me of Anne Hathaway in Alice in Wonderland (another unfortunate comparison between the two less than good Disney fairytales).

The actor who played the father – Matthew Macfadyen –  looked like off-brand Armie Hammer. The British comedian Jack Whitehall also had a cameo role – good on him for finally getting into a Disney movie (even if bad one) after being cut from Frozen.

In short, The Nutcracker and Four Realms was a boring film that won’t bring anyone any Christmas joy. A basic narrative, oversaturated visuals, and some cringe-y acting – that’s this picture in one sentence.

Rate: 2.4/5

Trailer: The Nutcracker and Four Realms trailer

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