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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Movie review: A Simple Favor

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of the film that critics love but I was confused by! This is A Simple Favor!

IMDb summary: A woman seeks to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of her best friend.

Writing

A Simple Favor was written by Jessica Sharzer (writer of Nerve and American Horror Story), based on the book of the same name by Darcey Bell. This film a successor of earlier female-centric book-to-movie thrillers like Gone Girl and The Girl on The Train. I have always loved the thriller genre so I was quite excited about the film. I haven’t read the book prior to watching so I had no idea about the plot. And the plot left me speechless and I still don’t know whether in a good or bad way.

I thought that the movie’s set-up was successful and intriguing. However, the complete 180 that the main character did (going from a good friend to a certainty shady person) confused me. I wish we would have seen more of her past ‘darker’ side than just a couple of scenes – maybe I would have believed her transition more. I also thought that the first half of the film felt a bit rushed and then the third act dragged on, with reveals being pilled on top of each other and not allowed to make an impact. The reveals were messy and even laughable at times, and yet, sort of interesting – I was hoping that one final reveal might make everything make sense but I never really got that.

I appreciated the movie’s attempts to explore a variety of adult relationships: friendships, family relationships, romantic or sexual relationships. However, all of them were portrayed as quite toxic and I don’t think that that is quite true to life. Due to these toxic relationships, the characters involved in them did not seem that likable. However, that wasn’t my main issue with them – it’s the fact that they did not appear to think at all or consider the consequences of their actions that annoyed me.

Directing

Paul Feig, quite a well-known director of female-centric comedies, like Bridesmaids and Ghostbusters, left his usual genre but took his skills with him. While A Simple Favor was supposed to be a mystery thriller, it had a plethora of comedic moments, some of which fit and some of which felt completely jarring and out of place. Those 3 parents that were sort of there in the background and would sometimes pop-up to comment on something felt very Bad Moms-esque and annoyed me with their awkwardness.

Acting

Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively – two amazing and under-appreciated actresses – played the leads and were ready great even if I didn’t think that the movie itself was so great. Lively (The Shallows, Cafe Society) fabulous in all those suits and the mysterious character really suited her. It was quite weird seeing Kendrick in a mother’s role as I still have her stuck in my mind as a student or an intern from Pitch Perfect and The Accountant, respectively, and she just seems so young in real life. Henry Golding (of Crazy Rich Asians whose review is coming soon) also had a role in this film and was really good. Hope to see more of him in mainstream films!

In short, A Simple Favor, while a complex and mysterious thriller according to some people, was a messy and awkward film in my view.

Rate: 3.4/5

Trailer: A Simple Favor trailer

Movie review: The Post

Movie reviews

Hello!

Spielberg. Hanks. Streep. Need I say more? This is The Post!

IMDb summary: A cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country’s first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between the press and the government.

Writing

The Post was written by Liz Hannah (a first-time writer on a movie) and Josh Singer (who worked on The Fifth Estate and Spotlight – two similar pictures to The Post). I thought that the writers did a really great job and I’d like to explore 3 particular aspects of their writing in a bit more detail. These are the journalism narrative, the commentary on war, and the character development.

To begin with, some of you may know that I once wanted to study journalism and this movie, with its display of amazing investigative journalism, reawakened that dream. The quote from Streep’s character, how news is the first rough draft of history, was brilliant and summed up everything that is great about true journalism. It was also incredibly interesting to see the relationship between the politicians and the press: how they not only used to be in cahoots (and started to be against each other after the events of 1971) but how members of the two occupations had personal relationships, thus, fighting against the politicians wasn’t just a job for journalists, but sometimes an attack on a friend. Hanks‘ characters line, about JFK being a friend rather than a source, perfectly encapsulated that whole conflict. In addition, The Post not only showcased the reporting side of journalism but the business parts of it too. The competition between newspapers, as well as the financial struggles of The Washington Post, were amazing to witness and helped to contextualize the particular events of the film.

The war commentary, as well as the insights into the faulty ideals of the American government, were also fascinating. The Post really showed how fragile American pride was and how the government was determined to put its citizens in jeopardy because they were afraid of embarrassment. And they still got embarrassed and have had a hard time working on that issue. Don’t even get me started on how they attempted to work around that problem with the 2016 election and dug themselves into an even deeper hole (and that’s only one of the parallels between the past events in the movie and the contemporary real ones).

The writing for Streep’s character is the third and last aspect I’d like to discuss. I found her whole character arc very interesting. To begin with, I didn’t think that Katharine Graham was a typical Streep character: she wasn’t untouchable Iron Lady. She was, at times, flustered and not always knew what to say. She was also very much part of her time: her lines about women not even knowing they could want more rang so true and opened my eyes to the fact that gender equality (and still not a full one) has not been a widespread thing for long, if the 1970s was still such a fighting ground for K. The said gender inequality was just perfectly seen in the fact that male characters would speak for her (she had to deal with a lot of manslapining); would question her decisions, or would even silence her. Lastly, the fact that journalism and all other business were dominated by white males also makes me question the legitimacy of the narrative cause it was just one kind of narrative.

Directing

Steven Spielberg (The BFG, so looking forward to Ready Player One) directed The Post and I’d place this film together with Bridge of Spies and Lincoln in his filmography. The picture opened with a battle scene and Spielberg knows how to direct those impeccably. I also loved how the initial focus of the film was on the papers and only then did it move to the actual subjects of this biography. The visualization of journalism – from looking for the sources to writing to printing to distributing – was amazing. I especially loved the sequences with the old school printing press and the one of overnight research at Hanks‘ character’s house. The gender inequality was also well visualized with that single scene of women sitting in a living room and men being left in the dining room. That rung so many visual bells to the 19th century and Downton Abbey, simultaneously. Lastly, the ending of the film – an obvious hint at the Watergate scandal – was spot-on and made me want to find out more about that it. Any recommendations for a good and somewhat accurate Watergate movie?

Acting

Meryl Streep (Suffragette, Florence Foster Jenkins) did a really stellar job with this complex role. Tom Hanks (The Circle, Inferno, Sully, A Hologram for the King, Bridge of Spies) was also really good as the confident, ‘no pulling punches’ editor. Sarah Paulson (Carol) didn’t really have much to do but she did have one great speech. Bob Odenkirk was amazing as one of the reporters at The Washington Post, while Matthew Rhys impressed as Daniel Ellsberg, the original whistleblower (he came way before Edward Snowden or WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange). It was also nice to see two Fargo’s alumni Carrie Coon (Gone Girl) and Jesse Plemons (American Made) in small roles.

In short, The Post was a complex yet straightforward biography that was well written, directed qualitatively and acted impeccably.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: The Post trailer

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Movie review: Justice League

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the review of the most polarizing movie of the year. Is anyone even surprised that the said divisive film is just another entry into the DCEU? This is Justice League.

IMDb summary: Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.

Before moving on to the actual review, I wanted to give you my brief thoughts about the DCEU in general. When Man of Steel came out in 2013, I barely paid any attention to it because I wasn’t into comic book movies much (had watched some Marvel ones and enjoyed them but was still oblivious to the bigger universe). However, 3 years later (in 2016), I had already become a huge fan of MCU, had familiarized myself with the DC character on TV and had started to read comics regularly. Needless to say, I was looking forward to Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. Both films left me sort of baffled. While I wasn’t a fan of the dark/grim atmosphere, I could understand it as a creative choice. What I couldn’t forgive was the messy and unfocused storytelling. Then Wonder Woman came along and was a breath of fresh air (with a meh third act). Now, Justice League is coming together for the first time on the big screen and I have mixed feelings even before I see it. I care about these characters, because I have been dazzled by them in the comics (I read way more of DC than I do Marvel), have caught up with them every week on TV (The Flash) or in animated films (DC animation used to be so good before it started going sideways with The Killing Joke debacle and Batman and Harley weirdness) and even though the movies themselves were flawed, I have enjoyed seeing these versions of Batman and Wonder Woman (somebody please fix Superman, though). I go into the screening hoping for the best while also worrying about the worst.

SPOILER ALERT

Writing

Justice League’s screenplay was written by Chris Terrio (the writer of Argoand BvS, while Zack Snyder helped out with the story. Joss Whedon (Avengers 1 and 2) also received a screenplay credit but it’s not really clear whether he got the credit because he actually changed some of the narrative of the film or just because he couldn’t get a co-directing credit together with Snyder. Anyways, I thought that the movie’s writing was a mixed bag.

Let’s start with the set-up. I highly enjoyed a lot of its elements but didn’t necessarily think that they all jelled well. The film’s set-up had two main goals: to introduce the new characters and the establish the team and to develop a villain for the story. The introductions of the new characters – Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg – were brief but effective. Still, if these characters had solo movies prior to this film, I believe I’d have had a stronger connection to them. Since I already knew this universe’s version of Wonder Woman and Batman (BvS was basically his solo film), they were my favorites of the group.

The dynamics within the team were really neat. I liked the different pairings, the contrast between the rookies and the seniors, and the humor within the group. That last thing felt like an obvious influence of Joss Whedon. What I could have done without was all the sexual nods between Diana and all other members. I wouldn’t have minded a few of them, but the constant stream was not welcomed by me.

Speaking of the villain, Steppenwolf served his purpose but wasn’t amazing. What boggled me was the fact that the DCEU is or was supposed to be this realistic and sophisticated reimagining of the DC characters. And yet, all their villains have been super comic book-y and in no way fitting for the tonne of the franchise. The fact that the main villain had a disposable army, like in all the other comic book films, didn’t bode well for the picture either. Having said that, the army of parademons at least had a trait to make them more interesting – they were feeding on fear – and they also served a bigger purpose in the final act (a.k.a. took down Steppenwolf when he experienced fear).

Justice League also had a plethora of references to the future DCEU projects and I immensely enjoyed spotting them. The more into comics I get, the more Easter Eggs I recognize. I also love to research the references I didn’t spot. Honestly, a huge part of watching these films is reading/watching the coverage of them after the actual screening. Speaking about the future of the DCEU, Justice League had an ending that felt like an answer to the critique of the grimness of the franchise. The sense of hope for the future was established. Now, let’s just pray that the box office numbers allow the DCEU to deliver on their promise of course correction (the opening weekend’s numbers have not been great).

Directing

Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch) helmed the movie during the principal photography, while Joss Whedon directed the reshoots and was responsible for the final edit. The film that premiered in cinemas around the world was an amalgamation of the talents of both these filmmakers. Snyder’s input was evident in the actions scenes, while Whedon’s influence shined in the aforementioned humor of the feature.

Speaking of the action, the team had 3 big action scenes (the individual characters had some smaller action scenes in addition to the 3 team ones). The action sequence underneath the Gotham harbor was neat and a great first showcasing of the team’s powers together (I loved how the seniors Wonder Woman and Batman were doing the majority of the fighting, while the rookies Flash and Cyborg were more about helping the civilians). The Superman v League fight wasn’t bad either. The final action scene was entertaining but I wish it was more epic and more massive in scope. Well, at least they have some space to grow in the following pictures. They also have a lot of space for the improvement of the CGI: it should have been way more photorealistic. Overall, my favorite action scene did not even involve the Justice League themselves. It was the sequence on Themyscira that I found the most inventive and the most enjoyable.

The movie’s runtime has been cut short. What was supposed to be a 2.5 hours film, ended up being less than 2 hours. The set-up felt like it was missing some scenes and that’s why it might have felt choppy. However, the fact that the picture was shorter than expected, made it feel really quick and more fast-paced than it actually was/might have been. Nobody can say that it dragged.

The credits scenes

Justice League had a mid-credits scene consisting of the race between The Flash and Superman – an iconic moment from the comics that was replicated only recently on DCTV with Supergirl and The Flash. The post-credits scene was a hint for the future alliance of the villains and also introduced the viewers to Deathstroke (who just appeared on DCTV/Arrow last/this week).

Acting

The DCEU casting choices have been their best choices concerning the series. Let’s go over the main players as well as their supporting characters.

  • Ben Affleck (The Accountant, Gone Girl) was great as Bruce Wayne / Batman. I really enjoyed his speech about his lack of humanity. Jeremy Irons (High-Rise, Assasin’s Creed) was neat as Alfred Pennyworth, while J. K. Simmons (The Snowman, Renegades, Patriot’s Day, La La Land) had a couple of scenes as James Gordon. I really want that Batman solo film to materialize and see more of these actors in the iconic roles.
  • Henry Cavill (The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Sand Castle) appeared as Clark Kent / Superman, while Amy Adams (Arrival, Nocturnal Animals) reprised her role of Lois Lane (the big guns). Cavill’s infamous mustache was very noticeable and his face looked really wonky in half of the shots. Subsequently, a lot of Superman’s scenes were distracting. However, he didn’t have much of them in the film. He is the character that has appeared in the biggest numbers of movies in the franchise, so we have already been exposed to him a lot. What I did like about Cavill’s performance in Justice League particularly was the fact that he was allowed to be positive and happy to be alive (in contrast to moping and feeling sorry for oneself).
  • Gal Gadot came back as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman and was as perfect as ever. I really want to see her in more movies, outside this or Fast&Furiousfranchises. Connie Nielsen briefly appeared as Hippolyta. I loved that moment with the signal fire for Diana.
  • Ezra Miller (Fantastic Beasts) as Barry Allen / Flash was the standout of the new characters and that was mostly due to Miller’s comedic talents. His enthusiasm was infectious and his reaction faces just hilarious. His love interest Iris West was set to be played by Kiersey Clemons (Flatliners) but was cut from the final film. We did get an intro to Barry’s father Henry Allen played by Billy Crudup (Alien: Covenant), though. That The Flash solo movie might actually be really good and could compete with the TV show.
  • Jason Momoa played Arthur Curry / Aquasman. I loved Momoa in the role but wish he was given something more to do with it. I’m hopeful about his solo movie, though. Amber Heard (Magic Mike XXL, The Danish Girl), who was introduced as Mera, will also re-appear in it.
  • Ray Fisher starred as Victor Stone / Cyborg and was probably the character most integral to the plot of the film. I didn’t know much about Fisher prior to this movie but was really impressed by his performance. He brought heart and soul to Cyborg – qualities which only a good dramatic actor can portray well.
  • Ciarán Hinds (GOT’s King Beyond the Wall) did the motion capture of and provided the voice for Steppenwolf. He was good enough in the role but I do wish that the design of the character would have been more interesting.

In short, Justice League was the second best film in the DCEU (and while it’s not much, it’s something). It had some great character moments (both action and humor ones) but was still plagued by the wider problems of the whole series. Nevertheless, the future is hopeful.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Justice League trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Home Again

Movie reviews

Hello!

Home Again is trying to prove that the rom-com genre is not dead yet. Or is it?

IMDb summary: Life for a single mom in Los Angeles takes an unexpected turn when she allows three young guys to move in with her.

  1. Home Again is a directorial (and writing) debut of Hallie Meyers-Shyer, the daughter of Nancy Meyers – producer and director of various successful rom-coms (she produced her daughter’s first film too). The fact that it is somebody’s first movie explains a lot about it: Home Again was cliched, predictable, cringe-y at times, and real slow at others and, lastly, mostly consisted of elements and plot-points borrowed from other similar films. And yet, I didn’t hate it. If somebody needs an escapist, ‘no-thinking-required’ type of a film to relieve some stress or quiet one’s mind, I recommend you to see Home Again and experience somebody else’s first world problems instead of your own.
  2. The movie tackled three broad ideas: it attempted to be a traditional rom-com, with some sitcom humor, while also being a picture about the film business. Let’s start with that last part, which was, unsurprisingly, my favorite. As a cinephile, I appreciate films which appreciate films. The LA setting, the father director (who looked/came across as pre-Star Wars George Lucas), the aspiring filmmaker characters and their attempt to make a movie were all elements which I adored.
  3. The two other concepts/genres weren’t bad either (but, as I’ve said, nothing remotely original too). I liked the sitcom parts best out of the two, especially the silent reaction faces that the characters would exchange (then again, I love real-life humor). The romcom part was fine too. A bit fairytale-ish but we are talking escapism here (at least they left the ‘happy ending’ slightly ambiguous). By far the best detail of the romantic comedy side of Home Again was the reversal of the trope of the age difference between the two genders: the female character was the older one in a relationship (that is still very much a taboo thing – just look at all the news coverage about the fact that France’s president’s wife is older than him).
  4. The main thing that made Home Again work was its star – Reese Witherspoon (Sing). She has moved away from romcoms and came back to them constantly throughout her career. This instance of return was somewhat successful. She brought some heart into an otherwise shallow picture and was extremely lovable in her role, despite how cliche it was (I mean, are there any other occupations for mothers besides interior design ???).
  5. The film’s supporting cast wasn’t bad either and their performances were fine (again, appropriate for the picture). Nat Wolff (the most well-known out of the three co-leads because of TFIOS, Paper Towns, and Death Note), SNL alumni Jon Rudnitsky and quite an unknown actor Pico Alexander (who has the potential to be the next teen heartthrob) were all fun to watch. For some reason, Michael Sheen (Far From The Madding Crowd, Passengers, Nocturnal Animals) and TV royalty Candice Bergen also appeared in the movie (‘paycheck gigs pay the bills!’).

In short, Home Again is a perfectly serviceable rom-com that you have seen before. It’s a great rental/TV-rerun: a good background movie or a laundry/cooking movie. If you want a more modern take on the genre, check out The Big Sick

Rate: 2.8/5

Trailer: Home Again 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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5 ideas about a movie: The Accountant 

Movie reviews

Hello!

An original thriller – The Accountant – finally premiered in the UK, so, let’s review it!

IMDb summary: As a math savant uncooks the books for a new client, the Treasury Department closes in on his activities and the body count starts to rise.

  1. The Accountant is an original thriller, written by Bill Dubuque, who has previously penned the script for RDJ’s The Judge. I absolutely loved the narrative of this film from a thematical point of view. The movie felt fresh because it had a unique character – an accountant – in the lead (usually, thrillers tends to focus on ex-military personnel, former spies, even politicians). Moreover, the personal background of the character was out of the ordinary and new. The story also had a good mix of personal and professional narrative ideas. Plus, I loved the fact that they made accounting seem interesting, similar like The Big Short made the housing crisis exciting rather than dull. The twists and turns were also unexpected but much appreciated. My only gripe with the screenplay is that I wish the movie would have explained some stuff sooner. There was around 10 min of expositional dialogue full of information just before the 3rd act started and I think that if the scriptwriter would have dispersed that info into a few scenes, the plot would have flowed a bit better.
  2. Gavin O’Connor, whose last two films were Warrior (one of my favorite sports films ever) and Jane Got a Gun, directed The Accountant and did a magnificent job. I loved how subtle his directing was and how he found a good balance between drama and action in a thriller. The visuals, as well as the handling of the mise-en-scene (props and setting used for the purposes of the narrative ) were nice and neat as well. The picture unraveled slowly but was extremely engaging.
  3. Ben Affleck (BvS, Gone Girl) played the lead character and did a spectacular job. I believed that he had the highly-functioning autism and I also appreciated the fact that they spotlighted this type of an individual in a movie. I also applaud the film for trying to show that autistic people are not lesser than everyone else – they are just different and special in their own way. Huge props to the movie and to Ben Affleck for attempting to break social stigmas associated with this supposed illness/condition. I, personally, could also relate to the character, because even though I’m not autistic, I’m quite shy and anti-social, so seeing all the problems that the characters had while communicating with people made me cringe a bit as well as sympathize since it hit so close to home.
  4. Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect, Mike and Dave, Trolls) and Jon Bernthal (WAYF, Sicario) played two supporting characters that had relations to the main character. Kendrick did a nice job with the few scenes she had and I did love her optimism in contrast to Affleck’s calmness and serenity. Bernthal was also great – I did not predict his character’s twist. His character shared some similarities with The Punisher, so I could see why Bernthal wanted to play this role, as I think he really enjoyed playing The Punisher. His solo series is coming out next year.
  5. J.K. Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson played the government personnel and brought a different perspective into the movie. For Simmons, this is one of his 10 movies this year. Two other notable pictures which have premiered at festivals, but haven’t had wide releases are La La Land and Patriot’s Day. I’m also excited for Simmons’s role in next year’s Justice League.  Addai-Robinson was also really good in her role – I was excited to see her on a big screen, as she has mostly done TV until now. I first became a fan of her after she appeared as Amanda Waller on Arrow before Suicide Squad‘s storylines had to be scratched from the small screen.

In short, The Accountant was a great original film that didn’t deserve to be panned by the critics as much. It had good directing, amazing acting and a thematically strong and important story.

Rate: 4/5 

Trailer: The Accountant trailer

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Movie review: The Girl on The Train

Movie reviews, Uncategorized

Hello!

The highly awaited adaptation of the best-selling thriller has finally reached cinemas, so let’s talk about it! This is the review of The Girl on The Train.

IMDb summary: A divorcee becomes entangled in a missing person’s investigation that promises to send shockwaves throughout her life.

The Girl on The Train is an adaptation of the book with the same name, written by journalist-turned-writer Paula Hawkins and published in January of 2015. It has taken Hollywood only around a year and a half to come up with the cinematic version of the same story. The book has been compared to Gone Girl – famous novel by Gillian Flynn (another former journalist, now a published author), but I would also suggest you check out the other two Flynn’s books – Sharp Objects and Dark Places – if you liked The Girl on The Train. J.K.Rowling’s first adult novel – The Casual Vacancy – might also be of some interest to you, as it explores similar topics to The Girl on The Train, namely the idea of the domestic affairs and the concept of the outside image. Another analogous book about a dysfunctional family that is on my to-read list is The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and all its sequels.

To me, the dichotomy of private and public life was one of the most interesting aspects of the source material. The novel also appealed to my inner stalker – I, as the main character Rachel, like to watch strangers around me and imagine their lives or imagine myself in their place. I guess that tells you something about my less-than-stable mental state. I promise I’m not a drunk, though.

Last year, both Gone Girl and Dark Places have been adapted to films and The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo has been turned into a couple of movies (both in Sweden and the US) and I’m sure that the adaptation of The Girl on The Train will be compared to all of them. Some will even go as far as to compare it to Hitchcock’s classics, which isn’t really fair, in my opinion. But, enough of the introduction, let’s get into the actual review of the picture.

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!SPOILER ALERT!

Writing

The Girl on The Train’s script was written by Erin Cressida Wilson. She penned last year’s Men, Women & Children – the only recent film with Adam Sandler that I didn’t hate – I actually even enjoyed it. As per usual, some of the details of the story were changed when adapting the narrative. To begin with, the action was relocated from London to New York for no obvious  creative reason, other than to appeal more to the American audiences. I would have preferred it to be set in England – the gloomy and rainy London would have fit the story more than the city who never sleeps – NY. The screenwriter also cut a few of the creepier details that were in the book, namely a couple of messed up sex scenes. She also gave more traits to some characters: Rachel liked to draw and we actually saw her go to an AA meeting and Megan liked to go on runs. Cathy’s character was altered a bit too, while the character of Martha was an original creation for the picture. The role that the media played in the murder mystery was also diminished in the film.

Other than that, the characters pretty much stayed the same – they were all damaged people, some for a reason, others – without explanation. Then again, some people just are the way they are and there is no deeper tale behind their personality. Rachel basically was digging a hole for herself throughout the film, Megan was playing with fire and got burnt, and don’t even get me started on Anna – she was so willing to turn a blind eye to everything that she kinda made me sick. The 2 male character got a bit less of development but they were both kinda similar – abusive in one way or the other to some extent. Inspector Riley’s character was actually better in the film than in the book – she was super annoying in the novel and actually quite efficient and clever in the film, though she still went after a wrong person.

The narrative was more compressed in the movie than in the book, but all the main themes stayed the same: the desire to create a family was still the most driving plot point of the story (so stereotypical and one that I cannot understand or agree with, then again, I’ve never been family-orientated and this story only reassured my beliefs) and the private life and the public exterior were juxtaposed. The characters looked at each other for an ideal example and lived in a past way too much. The movie also showed the complexity and the dark side of relationships and love and looked at a very important aspect of the modern life – mental problems and depression.

Directing

Tate Taylor, whose previous films include The Help and Get on Up, directed The Girl on The Train and did a fine job. The camera was a bit static, but the visuals of the train in the background of various shots were nice. All the close-ups also worked to make the movie a bit more intimate experience. And yet, the film was quite slow and the numerous flashbacks didn’t really allow the story to go forward – it seemed like something was holding the movie back. The levels of intensity were also low and the buildup to the big twist was basically non-existent. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the big reveal even if I knew it beforehand. I wish that particular sequence would have been longer, though – the picture wrapped up really quickly when the real killer was announced to the audience and the characters. Overall, the directing was a bit flat and I wish Taylor would have done more with the material.

Music

The movie’s soundtrack by Danny Elfman wasn’t really noticeable (which sometimes is a good thing). I liked the instrumental score but wished they used more actual songs. For one, I really liked the trailer’s song Heartless and that comes from a person who highly dislikes Kanye West.

Acting

  • Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow, Into the WoodsSicarioThe Huntsman) as Rachel Watson was absolutely amazing. She played such a believable drunk person – her performance was never over-the-top or too cartoonish. She basically carried this whole movie by herself and I really wish that her work in this film would be recognized with at least a Golden Globe nomination. Her 2 upcoming film are both animated but I’m sure that we will soon get a few announcements about her being cast in some live-action flicks.
  • Haley Bennett (Hardcore Henry) as Megan Hipwell was also really good. She reminded me a bit of both Jennifer Lawrence and Rosamund Pike. Furthermore, Bennett’s acting range is amazing – the character of Megan was completely different from her last cinematic character in The Magnificient Seven. Would love to seem more of her work.
  • Rebecca Ferguson (MI5, Florence Foster Jenkins) as Anna Watson was also great. While reading the book, I really disliked Anna and thought she acted a bit creepy and Ferguson portrayed that well.
  • Justin Theroux as Tom Watson. Theroux played a good villain – that of the worst kind. He seemed to be a good husband and father on the outside, but deep down was a manipulative liar, who managed to believe his own lies, and had no regard for other people’s mental or physical lives. While reading the book, I guessed that he was the killer when I still had around 50 pages left to the big reveal. He just seemed too normal to be a character in the book full of broken people. Going forward, Theroux will be voicing a lord in The Lego Ninjago Movie
  • Luke Evans (The Hobbit trilogy, Dracula Untold, High-Rise) as Scott Hipwell was fine in the role. I kinda feel like he was used as an eye candy for the first half of the film, though. He only said his first line in the 45th minute of the film (I checked). Nonetheless, his few emotional scenes with Blunt were my favorite parts of the movie. His next film is the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, which I’m super excited about!
  • Allison Janney as Detective Sgt. Riley was really good. Janney’s performance made me like the character of Riley much more than I did in the book. Coincidentally, I only just saw another film with her – she had a small role in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
  • Édgar Ramírez (Joy, Point Break) as Dr. Kamal Abdic was fine. He was clearly not Bosnian (that was a big deal in the book) but they still tried to mention his ethnicity in the film which didn’t work. In the book, he was the survivor/refugee of the Yugoslavian wars and this impacted the media’s perception of him as the supposed killer. In the film, they just had Rachel throw the line ‘Where are you from?’ as a possible nod to his background in the book, but that didn’t really work.

In short, The Girl on The Train was an okay movie. The strongest part of it was the acting, while the directing and the writing had to take the back seat. It is not a must watch, but the fans of the book, as well as those who like character/actor-driven films, should check it out.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: The Girl on The Train trailer

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Movie review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of Shadows

Movie reviews

Hello, my dear readers!

Let’s continue the summer movie season and review TMNT: Out of Shadows – a sequel that nobody asked for?

IMDb summary: As Shredder joins forces with mad scientist Baxter Stockman and henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady to take over the world, the Turtles must confront an even greater nemesis: the notorious Krang.

I’ve already done a review for the 2014 reboot of TMNT/the first film in the new series, you can find it here.

Reasons for Going

The 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle film was watchable but nothing great. Previous Michael Bay films were all (almost all) terrible, awful and tragic (Transformers). So, why did I subject myself to TMNT 2? Well, because Stephen Amell joined the cast. I’m a huge fan of Arrow and I’m also a fan of Amell himself, not only as an actor but also as a person. I admire his activism on social media, his charity work and his honest and open communication with the fans. He was the sole reason why I went to see this film.

Writing

The film was written by a duo of screenwriters – Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec. I have mixed feelings about their previous work. They scripted the 2014 TMNT movie, which was average at best, as well as Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – my favorite MI film. The narrative that they created for Out of Shadows is also of mixed quality.

To begin with, I appreciate the inclusion of iconic characters from the TMNT history like Casey Jones, Krang, Rocksteady and Bebop, and Baxter Stockman. At the same time, I don’t think it was such a good idea to bring some of these characters to live-action just because of how cartoonish they are, while, simultaneously, not staying true and faithful to the most realistic character from TMNT animation and comics – April O’Neil. Wouldn’t it be better to give us a proper April O’Neil and leave talking/floating brains behind? Or just bring everything as it is, not just half of it. Why bother with realism, when you have talking ninja turtles as protagonists? Just a thought.

Moving on to the film’s plot, it was convenient AF. The exposition was obvious as well as the villain motivations. The character of The Shredder, while somewhat fixed with the recast, was totally useless, because he was defeated so easily. The teleportation plotline was interesting but the more it was developed, the worse it got. The 3rd act of the film was worth a Transformers movie.

The writing for the turtles improved a bit. They weren’t just one sided cliches – the leader, the brains, the muscle and the jokes. The roles were switched up a bit and the ideas that ‘our differences make us stronger’ and ‘the family always accepts you’ were kinda nice. The other message of the film – that the turtles would go ‘out of shadows’ was touched upon but never fully realized because the public still doesn’t know about the heroes in a half shelf. They probably left that for a 3rd movie.

A few other characters had their own arcs as well. I felt that Casey Jones fit into the story organically and was a nice addition. On the other hand, Vern, once again, was totally unnecessary and was basically shoehorned into the plot. April O’Neil felt like a less sexualized character, but still, she is not the O’Neil from the animated series, that I grew up watching.

Directing

TMNT 2 was directed by Dave Green, whose only other feature film is 2014’s Earth to Echo, which received mixed reviews from the critics. Green’s efforts for this film were good, but the final product – not so much.

The opening shot of the film seemed really cool…until it turned into a product placement. The Halloween parade was visually interesting…until it turned into a plug for Transformers. The action was exciting…until the screen was overloaded with explosions or with unnecessary slow motion. You get the point.

The CGI looked kinda nice (I could almost deal with the fact that all characters looked like they were on steroids) – the turtles’ faces actually had expressions and they even actually seemed realistic-ish – they had sweaty skin during the action scenes and teary eyes during the more emotional sequences. Nevertheless, the CGI of the villain – Krang – was terrible and cartoonish not in a good way/caricature-like. The film perfectly described the look of the character itself – ‘a chewed up piece of gum with a face’.

My favorite visual was probably the traditional graphics of the comic books during the credits. They felt somewhat refreshing, after staring at CGI for 2 hours.

Producing

I mentioned a lot of faults of the movie, but I don’t blame the director or the screenwriters for them. I actually think that they had little to do with the film, as this picture felt like it was made by the studio suits and the executives. TMNT 2 had too many producers and like 5 different production companies. If it was made by a director, a screenwriter and a few producers, it might have turned out much better.

Acting

  • Megan Fox as April O’Neil was fine. Her acting is getting better and I wish all the best for her, but still, she is not the April O’Neil. Her next film is James Franco’s Zeroville.
  • Stephen Amell as Casey Jones, not surprisingly, was my favorite part of the film. I liked his humor as well as his action scenes, which were the most realistic. I hope that Amell can get more movie roles after this as he is absolutely amazing on Arrow. He is also currently working on a film project with his cousin Robbie AmellCode 8.
  • Will Arnett as Vern Fenwick was annoying, as expected. He should just stick with voice work or TV projects.
  • Brian Tee as The Shredder. The decision to recast The Shredder was a good one, however, the decision to make him totally useless and irrelevant to the plot wasn’t. Tee did an okay job, I liked him the beginning of the film, but after that, he became a parody of himself.
  • Tyler Perry as Dr. Baxter Stockman was absolutely the worst. He seemed like a parody of Madea and not a good one. If you want to see a good film, starring Perry, just watch Gone Girl.

The voice work and motion capture for turtles were done by Pete Ploszek (Leonardo), Alan Ritchson (Raphael), Noel Fisher (Michelangelo), and Jeremy Howard (Donatello). Donatello is still my favorite turtle, although, I really liked Raphael in this film, especially after I found out that his idol is Vin DieselGary Anthony Williams and Stephen Farrelly played Bebop and Rocksteady and were fine. Cartoonish, but I guess they had to be like that.

All in all, TMNT: Out of Shadows was an okay film. It was fun but nothing too spectacular. I feel like this is a film for little kids (so I shouldn’t judge it too harshly) that they cannot technically watch because of the PG-13 rating. In short, it had one too many fart jokes for my liking, but was definitely watchable and an improvement on the first film.

Rate: 2.7/5

Trailer: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of Shadows trailer

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Movie review: We Are Your Friends

Movie reviews

Hello, my dear readers!

This blog post is very special. You know why? Because I’m writing this post at Edinburgh Airport. Yes, I have finally turned my dream of 8 years into reality and moved to United Kingdom, Scotland to be specific. However, I won’t be staying in Edinburgh and the reason why I have time to create this blog post is the fact that my train to Aberdeen leaves in only 5 hours. And since I don’t feel like exploring the nightlife of Scotland just yet, I am sitting at the airport writing the review of We Are Your Friends – the last movie I have watched this summer. Without further ado, let’s begin!

IMDb summary: Caught between a forbidden romance and the expectations of his friends, aspiring DJ Cole Carter attempts to find the path in life that leads to fame and fortune.

Briefly, I would describe this film as a mash-up of Project X and High School Musical. What do these two things have in common and more importantly, how are they connected to this film? Well, for one this film has that talking to camera/breaking the 4th wall action that Project X had. Moreover, the hardcore partying and living life in the name of fun are also a few themes that are similar to these two projects. High school musical is another side of the same coin. First of all, We Are Your Friends and HSM share the lead actor – Zac Efron (more on him later). Secondly, both of the films are movie musicals but not in the typical sense. Usually, music numbers in classical musical (Les Miserables for one) make no sense and without them, there would be no film. In HSM and WAYF, musical performances are relevant to the plot and have a more realistic explanation.

Writing and Directing

This movie is written and directed by Max Joseph. I only know him from Casey Neistat’s vlogs on YouTube. I am not really familiar with his previous work (he has directed a lot of documentaries as well as short films in addition to being the co-host of Catfish on MTV), but I think he did a nice job with this motion picture. The movie definitely wasn’t perfect but I believe that it deserved to have a much better opening weekend box office haul than it did have.

Story

The film’s plot was interesting and, while a bit cliché and choppy with tiny specs of cringe-worthy dialogue, it still succeeds at its biggest aim – to bringing EDM music to the level of real music. Now, please don’t get angry with me, but I have always thought that EDM should not be considered a real genre of music. I believed that it was very simple to make and that pressing a few keys on a keyboard of the computer required no real talent whatsoever. However, this movie showed me how ignorant I was and how much work actually goes into the creation of a single EDM piece. WAYF gave soul and substance to the genre as well as showed that magical things can happen when you mix real organic sounds with computer generated ones and sprinkle some emotions on top of it.

Visuals

This film was very appealing to the eyes as well as ears. Club scenes looked amazing and exciting and the explanatory animation and words, appearing on screen, were also nice additions. Some transitions from scene to scene were a bit awkward, but there weren’t many of them for me to penalize the film.

Music

Not surprisingly, this movie had a great soundtrack. The real life DJs, who were responsible for the majority of tracks were Segal and Pyramid. WAYF’s soundtrack was the thing that I was listening on my flight and I highly recommend you to give it a listen even if you don’t see the film.

Acting

Zac Efron as Cole Carter did an excellent job. I was always a fan of his and I believe that he played down-on-his-luck DJ perfectly. As much as I want to see him try his hand at more serious roles, I don’t want him to stop be in easy flicks like this one because he really shines in these types of films.

Wes Bentley as James Reed. The trailer sold this film to be a story about Cole (Efron) and his friends, but Bentley’s character – an older accomplished DJ James Reed had a very prominent role and his and Efron’s character’s relationship is much more developed and much more interesting than all the friendships in Cole’s crew. Bentley, as an actor, have been working for quite a while but he still hasn’t reached the A-list status and I have no idea why because he deserves to be on top with all the big names in the business.

Emily Ratajkowski as Sophie. Emily is known to most people as the girl from the infamous Blurred Lines video but she was also in Gone Girl (review). I liked her in this film, I loved the fact that her character was the boss in the business (meaning she was the one who planned James Reed’s gigs) and I enjoyed seeing her following her dream at the end of the film. I can’t wait to see more from Emily as an actress as well because she has real talent and people should just forget about that damn music video.

Jonny Weston as Dustin, Alex Shaffer as Squirrel and Shiloh Fernandez as Ollie. These three actors played Cole’s friends and sadly, while they were pretty to look at, they were disposable and unforgettable as characters. However, I liked the ideas that they introduced with each of the characters, just wish that the creators would have developed these ideas a bit more. Dustin symbolized the family, Squirrel – dreams and Ollie was the money. My favorite was Squirrel and his dialogue Best Part Of Life Is Before Everything Starts and Are We Ever Gonna Get Better Than This were quite nice additions to the story.

Jon Bernthal as Paige Morrel. Paige was the real estate businessman, who helped Cole and his friends get some money when they needed it. That side story derailed the plot a bit and the pay-off that Ollie would side with Paige at the end was very predictable.

All in all, I have enjoyed this film much more than the majority of people who actually saw it. And there weren’t many of them, to begin with. This movie was a perfect ending chapter of this summer’s films’ season and I was very happy that I chose to spend my last day of summer with We Are Your Friends.

Rate: 4.25/5

Trailer: We Are Your Friends trailer

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