5 ideas about a movie: The Death of Stalin

Movie reviews

Hello!

I’m taking another break from the mainstream cinema, and reviewing a weird indie. This is The Death of Stalin.

IMDb summary: Follows the Soviet dictator’s last days and depicts the chaos of the regime after his death.

  1. Before going to see this film, I had some reservations because I knew that The Death of Stalin was a comedy and I didn’t think that anything relating to Stalin was a joking matter. That was probably because I was born and grew up in a region that directly suffered underneath his hand – Eastern Europe. He was responsible for the deaths of millions of people from that area, including a few hundred thousand people of my own nation. And while I’m not particularly patriotic and I don’t feel that loyal neither to my country nor to my nation, I do subscribe to the moral framework of the basic humanity.
  2. Nevertheless, I guess nowadays any story/event/concept is open for interpretation and reimagining. And this particular narrative has been reworked by quite a few creators. Produced for the international market, The Death of Stalin is a British made film, directed by a satirist Armando Iannucci (he created the TV show Veep), which’s script by the director himself, David Schneider, Ian Martin, and Peter Fellows, which was based on a French graphic novel by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin, which was itself based on the historical events in the USSR. Also, not only is this film highly international, but its graphic novel roots technically make it into a comic book movie.
  3. My main worry about the film was its potential lack of ethics. I was worried that the movie would come across as making fun of the victims of the situation rather than its culprits. I’m glad to say that this was not the case. The Soviet politicians were the ones receiving all the satirized critique. They were portrayed as the walking real-life caricatures and that’s exactly who they were. The variety of accents that all of the actors employed sounded a bit strange, but I feel like they were employed deliberately, to have a stronger sense of a warped reality. One thing that annoyed me about the writing was the usage of the English swear words instead of the Russian ones. Again, this might have been a creative choice to enhance the cartoonishness of the film, but I think that the Russian swear words would have added some authenticity to the film and complimented the very accurate reproduction of the mise-en-scene (the red color palette and the tasteless pomposity).
  4. The Death of Stalin was also thematically rich and surprisingly contenporray. The film dealt with the ideas of the fake news, fabrication of truth and changing narratives – all of the things we should have left in the past but keep bringing into the future. The picture also did a good job of poking fun at the power struggle and the political plotting, showing these two developments in all their ridiculous glory. Lastly, while the movie was mostly focused on the irony/satire and the comedy of the situation, it also did not shy away from the terror/tragedy aspects of it and showed them quite explicitly.
  5. The Death of Stalin assembled a highly accomplished cast. Jeffrey Tambor (The Accountant), Steve BuscemiMichael PalinSimon Russell BealePaddy ConsidineAndrea Riseborough (Battle of the Sexes), Rupert Friend (Hitman: Agent 47), and Jason Isaacs (Star Trek: Discovery – really want to watch it), and the lone Eastern European actress in a film Olga Kurylenko (she is actually of both Russian and Ukranian ancestry but has a French citizenship).

In short, The Death of Stalin was an effective satirical reimagining that wasn’t that far from the truth.

Rate: 4.2/5

Trailer: The Death of Stalin trailer

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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

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Movie review: Minions

Movie reviews

Hello!

I’ve just came out of the cinema where I’ve watched probably the most anticipated animated movie of the summer – Minions! Let’s review it.

To begin it, I really liked the Despicable Me movie and its sequel. For me personally, the first Despicable Me film is one of the best animated films of the recent years. Maybe it’s not my favorite animation but it is definitely at the top of the list. Sadly, Minions aren’t even going to make that list. Let me explain why.

IMDb Summary: Minions Stuart, Kevin and Bob are recruited by Scarlet Overkill, a super-villain who, alongside her inventor husband Herb, hatches a plot to take over the world.

Minor spoiler ahead!

Setting

I have already mentioned that I love when movies include real historical facts. It was nice to see this trend continuing in Minions. Also, as a European, I liked the fact that a lot of famous individuals, who were represented in the film, were of European origin. For instance, Napoleon, Dracula and even Queen Elizabeth. Inanimate objects were also represented – one of them was the King Arthur’s sword in the stone.

References to real life

Some of the events of the film reminded me of the real life events. For example, when minions were going to the Villain Convention in Orlando, all I could think about was Playlist Live – a YouTube convention that happens in Orlando. The fact that Scarlet Overkill had an appearance in hall H was a slight callback to San Diego Comic Con as well.

The reference that I enjoyed the most was the one where Bob (I think it was Bob) is getting out of the Underground and he runs into the Beatles, walking across the street like on the cover on their album “Abbey Road”.

Childishness

The humor of the film was quite stupid, so I don’t think that this is an all ages film. The parents will probably be bored and will have to suffer. My favorite part, which made me chuckle the most, was when Kevin expanded into a giant and got stuck in that tiny street. I mean, that would really happen in real life and I was always wondering, how these big monsters or other giant creatures don’t get stuck in narrow streets during action films.

Visual appeal

The computer animation has reached its high long ago, but I am still shocked while seeing what can one achieve by just simply drawing on a computer. The amount of work that goes into every little detail is mind boggling and even if I don’t like the story or the characters, I can always appreciate the technical side of the animation.

My favorite prop of the film was definitely Scarlet’s dress – that’s a cool super-villain costume. Also, Bob’s teddy bear was really cute.

Plot

The plot of the film involved a lot of misbehavior which, don’t get me wrong, was funny and entertaining but not a great example for children, especially the young ones. Also, at one point I thought that they were going to recycle the first’s Despicable Me plot and run with it (changing Gru into Scarlet, and the moon into the crown), but they added a few nice twists and turns, which were a nice surprise.

Voices

Since animated movies are mainly aimed at kids, they are dubbed in my country, so I wasn’t able to hear what Sandra Bullock or Jon Hamm brought to the film. However, the minions had their own language which didn’t require any translation. I liked that you could hear a mixture of languages in their language: there was definitely some French (Illumination Entertainment – the production company behind Minions – is of French origin), some Spanish and a bit of English. So, despite the fact that you couldn’t actually understand what the minions were saying, you instantly knew what they meant.

SPOILERS

Could you spot the young Gru and his mom at the Villain Convention? I though that this was going to be the only tie-in with Despicable Me series but I was wrong. The ending shout-out was really cool and unexpected. I loved it a lot.

Overall, I enjoyed the film but it wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be. To my mind, minions work better as side characters and the real stars of the Despicable Me franchise are Margo, Edith, and the cutest one ever- Agnes. Moreover, the real driving force behind that franchise might be the girls relationship with Gru. While I liked how the movie was able to tie in with the main series, I don’t believe that it could stand on its own or that it will stand the test of time.

Rate 3.5/5

Trailer: Minions trailer

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Movie review: Magic in the Moonlight

Movie reviews

Hi!

Love and magic is in the air! Yes you guessed it – it’s Magic in The Moonlight review.

Magic in the Moonlight is another Woody Allen’s visit to Europe – this time to South of France. It stars Emma Stone and Collin Firth.

Summary:  A romantic comedy about an Englishman brought in to help unmask a possible swindle. Personal and professional complications ensue. – Written by Sony Pictures Classics

Setting & Location

The movie is set in 1928 – 1920s one of my favorite eras. I love that after the First World War women had more rights, the world was finally breathing more freely and everybody weren’t  nervous about the upcoming Second World War yet.  The backdrop of South of France is breathtaking as well. It reminded me of the scenery from The Hundred Foot Journey (2014) movie. As you may know from that review, I love little villages and towns of France.

Acting & Directing

I really enjoyed both Emma Stone and Collin Firth in their roles. They were complete opposites and that definitely showed on screen. While Emma’s character Sophie was optimistic, bright, exciting and full of life, Collin’s character Stanley was a depressed pessimist whose world had only dark colors.  It wouldn’t be a Woody Allen’s movie if there weren’t some romance in the air. So, in the end SPOILER they fell in love. It was actually a love at first sight, but Stanley – because of his grim way of thinking and low life expectations – didn’t even notice it.  In addition, my favorite character was probably Stanley’s aunt Vanessa played by Eileen Atkins – she was just so smart and always knew what to say.

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Music

I loved the musical score; I was tapping my foot on the floor every time a melody came on screen. I didn’t think that I would like 1920s jazz but I did.

Story

The plot wasn’t really complicated, pretty much all the action happened in one house. The dialogue was funny, witty and cute. Emma Stone is a great comedy actress – she has a natural talent for characters with a bubbly personality. In my opinion, the whole love story also had a Jane Austin novel vibe. The plot also raised a question for me:  are we really serving some higher purpose or just simply existing?

One of my favorite quotes from the movie was said by Stanley: “You’re born, you commit no crime, and then you’re sentenced to death.”

All in all, I really enjoyed the film, it was engaging, tempting and pleasant. It really sparked my interest in other Woody Allen’s films. I have previously seen Blue Jasmine which I also loved. Throughout the weekend after watching Magic in The moonlight, I watched other Allen’s vacations in Europe: Match Point (London), Vicky Christina Barcelona, To Rome with Love and the one I adored the most because I am a huge literature fanatic – Midnight in Paris. I am also planning to watch You will meet a Tall Dark Stranger and Scoop.

Update: I’ve already watched Scoop – loved it, because I wish to be a journalist. I hope to get a story like that one day.

Trailer: Magic in the Moonlight trailer

Rate: 4/5

I hope you are having a great morning/day/evening. Bye!

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Photos: Google Images

Movie review: Snowpiercer

Movie reviews

Hello!

I have just watched the movie called Snowpiercer and this is going to be my review.

The main reason why I picked this particular movie was because I wanted to see what Chris Evans can do outside his Captain America character. However, other cast members sparked my interest as well: Octavia Spencer and Tilda Swinton both are in this movie.

Short summary:  In 2014 people were trying to stop global warning with CW7 experiment and, as a result, they froze the whole Earth. Survivors of the human race moved to the train called Snowpiercer which was built by Wilford (the keeper of the eternal engine that runs the whole train).The train is divided to sections: poor people live at the tail of the train while rich people are enjoying the good life at the front. The movie follows the story of Curtis Everett – a revolutionist who tries to lead the poor to the front of the train.

First of all, isn’t it ironic that we always thought that the end of the Earth would be when the sun explodes and we all burn with it and, in this film, instead of burning we all freeze to death?

Snowpierer is an epic piece of art. It has a blockbuster qualities as well as deep meaning. This is a kind of science fiction film that makes my nerd heart fly.  I cannot wrap my head around the fact that this movie did not have a worldwide release. It premiered on August 1st, 2013 in South Korea (its home country), when in several movie festivals during September through June and it finally got its release in the US on June 27th (in limited amount of theaters). I believe that this movie should get a global release and even an Oscar nomination. You may ask why? Let me show you: (You might find some spoilers ahead).

1. The movie has a global feeling: It is a South Korean-American movie based on a French graphic novel about the train that goes around the world. One circle of the train is equal to one year.
2. It has a dystopian vibe which is so popular right now.
3. It shows the reality of human violence. When our race is on a brink of extinction we don’t care about each other – we just want to live and this movie portrays every aspect of human selfishness vividly. The movie is definitely not for people with weak nerves: it has a lot of blood in it.
4. The character of Curtis is well-developed. Chris Evans portrays this damaged character amazingly. You feel sorry for him and at the same time you have an emotional connection with him.
5. The premise of the movie and the overall storyline is fresh, new, exciting and interesting.
6. The action is realistic and CGI effects are worth the applause.
7. The movie deals with problems such as: revenge, betrayal, drug abuse, sacrifice, friendship, fight for freedom and what is right and even cannibalism. Seems a lot? Strangely, the movie is not overcrowded and everything has its place.
8. Once again the movie shows that money rules the world and that people will always be divided by how much money they have.
9. The train, for me, had some similarities with the Noah’s ark. Both the ship and the train were striking for balance, even if it meant killing others.
10. The character of Ms.Wilford was a symbol of human insanity and what happens when we go too far.
11. Tilda Swinton does an amazing job in her role. You hate her so much for the things her character does and at first you cannot even recognize her because of all the makeup. That’s a true on-screen transformation.
12.Director Bong Joon-ho is know for movies like The Host (2006), Mother (2009).

One last interesting fact: the movie introduced new kind of food – protein bars made from insects. This idea reminded me of a recent video I watched on YouTube channel called ASAPScience. The video shows a possibility of eating worms and incest in real life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iM8s1ch5TRw

As you might guess, I loved this movie. It will probably be on my top 10 list for sure. Rate 5/5. And I am not the only one who thinks like this – Snowpiercer has a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Movie trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyWfZ9866DE

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