Movie review: Ocean’s 8

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome back to the sporadic AF movie reviews. Ocean’s 8 is the topic for today.

IMDb summary: Debbie Ocean gathers an all-female crew to attempt an impossible heist at New York City’s yearly Met Gala.

Writing

Ocean’s 8 – a spin-off of the original trilogy rather than its reboot (this is no Ghostbusters) – was written by the director of the film Gary Ross and Olivia Milch (she is writing a Barbie movie next, don’t know how to react to that). There was a lot to like in the script. To begin with, I liked how this action film was kept feminine with the focus on the MetGala and diamonds. A decision to make women steal diamonds might be seen as playing into stereotypes. However, I’d argue that by keeping a feminine focus, Ocean’s 8 fights the stereotype that strong women, especially female action stars, have to be masculine. Some of them might be masculine, while others might prefer femininity (or a mixture of the two). And Ocean’s 8 showcases that by having a variety of women of different colors/shapes/sizes/styles as the core characters. While the character development isn’t plentiful, there is enough of it to make each character necessary and at least a tiny bit interesting.

Additionally, while Ocean’s 8 stands on the shoulders of the original Ocean’s trilogy, it doesn’t lean on them too hard, meaning that one can go into this movie not knowing anything of the first 3 films and completely get the plot of this one. As I wasn’t a fan of the original films, I also didn’t mind some of the developments/reveals about the original characters in this film (some fans might actually be legitimately annoyed by them). Personally, my main problem with this movie was its structure. I loved the first two acts – the pre-heist set-up and the actual heist. However, I feel like the whole 3rd act, rather than being a big finale, was a boring wrap-up that dragged immensely. The investigation and the reveals felt both rushed and like the movie was overstaying its welcome.

Directing

Gary Ross (of the first Hunger Games film and Free State of Jonesdirected Ocean’s 8, while Steven Soderbergh – the director behind Ocean’s 11,12, and 13 – stayed on as a producer. I thought that Ross handled the material well, the narrative made sense and was intense for the most part. Pacing had some issues, especially the pacing of the aforementioned third act. The glitz and the glamours of the MetGala were realized accurately.

Acting

Undeniably, the best part about Ocean’s 8 was its cast: Sandra BullockCate BlanchettAnne HathawayMindy KalingSarah PaulsonAwkwafinaRihanna, and Helena Bonham Carter. I adored the female solidarity and friendship on display. Cate Blanchett (Thor 3, Cinderella, Carol) was my absolute favorite – I loved her character’s outfits, charisma, and just effortless coolness. I also enjoyed seeing Hathaway (Alice 2) playing the gossip sites’ version of herself. I also loved seeing Bullock, back on screen in a lead role as I feel I haven’t seen her in a big movie in ages (since Gravity). Kaling (A Wrinkle in Time) and Paulson (The Post) were also really fun to see. I loved the uber contemporary vibes that Awkwafina brought to the film and I loved seeing Rihanna actually having a character to play rather than just being there to look pretty (*cough, cough*, Valerian. BTW, I’ve been to her concert some years before and wrote about that). Bonham Carter (Suffragette) was also good in the film, though I feel like she played her typical, slightly awkward and over-the-top type of a personality.

Ocean’s 8 also featured some cool celebrity cameos, some neat cameos by the original cast, and a short appearance by James Corden (Peter Rabbit), who is always a delight to see.

In short, Ocean’s 8 was a great all-female thriller. It might not please everyone, but then again, why does it have too?

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Ocean’s 8 trailer

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Movie review: Alice Through The Looking Glass

Movie reviews

Hello!

This summer’s movie season seems to be dominated by comic book movies and live-action fairytales. So, let’s review the latest feature of the second genre – Alice Through The Looking Glass. I’ve  done a preview post for the film, where I discussed its director as well as other cinematic versions of Alice’s story – find it here.

While I didn’t really understand how Snow White and The Huntsman film got a sequel earlier this year (The Huntsman: Winter’s War), I do understand why this fairytale based property turned into a franchise – it earned a lot of money.And by ‘a lot’, I mean more than a billion dollars. I don’t know how it managed to do that, but it did. The Jungle Book – other 2016’s live action fairytale – will probably be joining the billion dollar club soon as well.

Writing

The film was written by Linda Woolverton, who wrote the first Alice live-action film as well as Maleficient and has also worked on stories of Disney animated classics (The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Mulan). I have mixed feelings about the writing and the story of this film. Let’s go over the different parts of the plot point by point:

  1. The film opens with Alice as a Ship’s Captain. While it was definitely cool to see a female heroine in a typically male role, it was also extremely unbelievable, giving the 19th century setting of the film. (+/-)
  2. The film once again explored the gender norms and while this issue always angers me, I feel that it could have been approached in a less annoying, more complex and more satisfying way. (+/-)
  3. The idea of ‘impossible is possible’ was once again depicted in the film. Alice’s hero arc was to start believing in the impossible once again and I think that the film succeeded in portraying this development. (+)
  4. I also really enjoyed the topic of time in the film. How Alice first thought that Time was a villain and thief, but learned that he/it is actually her friend and a gift. In addition, I enjoyed the commentary of how the Time was against her, both literally and figuratively. The idea that when one’s clock runs out of Time, one dies was also quite nice and was interestingly represented in the film. The way Alice learned to heal with Time and parted with her father’s pocket watch at the end of the film was also a nice gesture. The main idea that one cannot change the past but can learn from it was also a wonderful message. Lastly, the character of Time could turn his inner clock to speed up Alice’s monologue – even though I enjoyed the majority of the film, at times, I really wanted to do the same and speed up the movie, but, sadly, couldn’t do that at the cinema. (+)
  5. The film had a lot of obvious exposition, which was really annoying. The screenwriter should have found a more organic way to convey the story rather than just have the characters spelling it out. (-)
  6. The movie also served as a prequel/backstory for the Red Queen, the White Queen, and the Mad Hatter. We found out why the Red Queen was crazy and had such a giant head, that the White Queen is not as innocent as she seemed to be and that Mad Hatter had family problems. While I appreciated the new info and was entertained by it, I also feel that some characters benefit from the lack of backstory – this allows the viewers to fill in the blanks however they like. (+/-)
  7. The pacing of the film was also a bit wonky. It simultaneously felt both rushed (from pit-stop to pit-stop) and like it was dragging on without anything really happening. (-)
  8. The parallels, presented in the film, were quite nice: how the chronosphere could be piloted like a real ship in the ocean of time and how both Alice and The Mad Hatter did not want to end up as their parents but still chose their family over everything else. (+)
  9. The way The Mad Hatter and the other Tea Time participants mocked Time was actually quite funny and clever (e.g. ‘I am ON Time’).(+)
  10. In the middle of the story, Alice returned to the real world for 5 min for no real reason. However, this allowed the scriptwriter to include the example of that stupid ‘science’ of 19th about female hysteria, diagnosed to any strong-headed women – another annoying sequence of the film. (-)
  11. The film’s heroine – Alice –  was also kinda the villain of the film for the majority of ti and it the last act had to fix her previous mistakes. I kinda feel that she managed to fix everything too quickly – I wish there would have been at least a few permanent consequences. Also, the fact that putting back that sphere suddenly settled everything, didn’t make much sense either. (+/-)
  12. The film’s ending was quite touching – Alice’s and The Mad Hatter’s goodbye was both sweet and touching. The ending in the real world was also cool, yet, as I’ve mentioned already, unbelievable in the 19th-century setting. (+/-)

Directing

Tim Burton did not return to direct Alice’s sequel and his presence (the cooky-ness and craziness) was not felt as much as I was expecting it to be felt. Instead, Burton was replaced by James Bobin. Bobin is a TV director and has only directed two feature films in his career – The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted. Like the writing of Alice 2, its directing is also deeply flawed. However, I do feel that somewhere underneath this mediocre/less than mediocre film is a good movie. In general, the film definitely felt less Burton-y a.k.a. less dark, more light-hearted and lighter in the color scheme. The opening shot of the moon turning into Cheshire Cat’s smile was nice. All the visuals were good for the most part, but there were a few scenes where the CGI could have been neater. The actors also should have been told to interact with green screens in a more believable manner and their over-acting should have also been toned downed by the director. There is a difference between cooky-cartoonish characters and cartoon parodies/cliche characters, and I feel that Through The Looking Glasses’s characters, sadly,  belong to the second group.

A few cool visual effects were the Second/Minute/Hour monster, the sequence of the stopped Time and the hand-drawn-like end credits sequence. Questionable visual effects were Red Queen’s fruit/vegetable servants. The costumes, which also belong in the discussion of the visuals, were quite interesting. Alice’s Chinese-inspired costume was cool and impressive as well as the top of Time’s outfit – his bottom (those white tights) were a questionable choice as well.

In general, the way the film was directed left me with a lot of questions. The inconsistency was felt in the story too but it was even more obvious in the directing.

Acting

  • Mia Wasikowska as Alice was okay. Nothing bad but nothing ground-breaking. A film of hers that I’ve enjoyed much more is Jane Eyre.
  • Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter was also fine. Depp knows how to play crazy characters and we all know that. I wish he would take more serious roles like the one in Black Mass.
  • Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen was also serviceable. She screamed once again and acted like the child, because why not? I prefer Bonham Carter in less scream-ish roles – I especially liked her in Les Miserables.
  • Anne Hathaway as the White Queen was probably the most annoying character. Her hands and finger movements were distracting and added nothing to the character. Recent enjoyable films with HathawayThe Intern. Also, watch or re-watch The Devil Wears Prada. She’s really good in that picture.
  • Sacha Baron Cohen as Time was the most interesting character, I just wished that he wouldn’t have acted as clumsy as he did. As I’ve mentioned in the preview post for this film, I hate Baron Cohen’s satirical characters (Borat, Bruno) but really like him in theatrical roles like this one or like the ones in Les Miserables and Hugo.
  • Ed Speelers as James Harcourt. Speelers played the only redeeming male character of the film, so I appreciated the fact that they at least tried to balance the female v male dynamic. I liked Speeler’s reaction shots to the events that were happening around, and, although he didn’t have much to do in the film, I welcomed his presence. If you want to see more of his work, may I suggest the film Plastic.

A few notable actors provided voices for CGI characters, including Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar/Butterfly – I’ve always enjoyed listening to his voice and this film was no exception. I also appreciated the fact that the feature was dedicated to his memory. Stephen Fry voiced the Cheshire Cat and Michael Sheen voiced the White Rabbit alongside a bunch of other actors. Nothing really stood out as exceptional voice work: some characters sounded cool and interesting, while others had quite annoying voices.

Music

The two songs from the soundtrack that I think I’ll listen again are White Rabbit performed by Pink as well as the original song that she has written for the motion picture – Just Like Fire.

In general, Alice Through The Looking Glass was an okay film. It had a lot of flaws in all aspects, but it still somewhat entertained me.

P.S. Sorry if this review is not that great, I’m writing it in an airport, after not sleeping for more than 24 hours.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: Alice Through The Looking Glass trailer

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Movie review: Cinderella 2015 + Frozen Fever

Movie reviews

Hello!

I have just come back from the early screening of Cinderella in honor of International Women’s Day and this is going to be my review! Happy Women’s day to all the women and girls out there too!!

First of all, let’s start with the Frozen short – Frozen Fever – which they showed before the movie. I was really scared that they wouldn’t show it internationally but they did and I am really happy about it!

I loved the short movie even more than the actual Frozen movie! My favorite story line of Frozen was the sister relationship which is also the main focus of the short film. The quirkiness of Anna and Kristoff is also relatable to me and it’s explored in the short too. And did you see how cute Elsa’s little snowmen look? Now Olaf can have brothers and sisters! Elsa’s and Anna’s dresses were also amazing and really spring-like…I also loved that they re-used the line “The cold never bothered me anyway” to introduce the song “Perfect Day“. One last note: I liked the fact that they showed what Hans was doing after what he did in Frozen…That was a nice cameo.

Trailer: Frozen Fever trailer

Rate: 4/5frozen-fever-poster

Now, let’s talk about Cinderella. First of all, I liked that this was a direct remake of the original one with little changes and not a nitty-gritty evil version of it…Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Maleficent and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, however, I do believe that some things don’t have to change because the original story is that good. Some might say that I have a conservative way of thinking and don’t like changes in general but that would be completely untrue. Some might also claim that I am anti-feminist because I like that women are depicted as beautiful dolls with no brain..Again, both of these statements are completely untrue. I have a very liberal view and I also would call myself a modern feminist because both of these ideologies encourage me to choose freely. And, though, I like strong female characters like Katniss from THG , this time, I choose to watch a “sappy” romance because I have a choice. I also will try to argue that Cinderella is a strong female character in her own way.

Acting

I have seen probably all the possible adaptations of the Cinderella, including all the teen remakes (Another Cinderella Story with Selena Gomez was like my favorite childhood movie and introduced me to Selena Gomez whose fan I still am). However, I will admit that I haven’t seen an original Cinderella animation in a long time..It has probably been at least 3-4 years since I’ve last watched it. Though, I’ve recently seen Into The Woods and really liked Anna Kendrick as Cinderella and Chris Pine as Prince Charming…Having said that, I believe that this movie has even better Cinderella and a Prince.

Lilly James as Cinderella was really amazing. She definitely looked the part but she also sold me on both the emotional connection with her parents and the chemistry with The Prince. Their first dance was sensual and sexual at the same time. I also liked her connection with nature and animals. Because I am a fan of Downtown Abbey, it  was also fun for me to see her do all the work while her maid form Downtown (actress Sophie McShera) played one of the evil step-sisters. They kinda exchanged roles for a few hours. Another step sister was played by actress Holiday Grainger. Both actresses did a nice job. They characters were a bit cartoon-ish but then again – this is an adaptation of cartoon.

Richard Madden as Prince Charming. God, I forgot how handsome he was…He was a great Heir to Winterfell in GoT and, in this movie, he was definitely the most charming Prince you could ever find. I believed his and Cinderella’s love at first sight. Strange, how this type of love works in fairy-tales for me but doesn’t work anywhere else (I have Jupiter Ascending in mind (review)).

Cate Blanchett as Lady Tremaine/Evil step-mother – talk about a scene stealer. Cate captivated your attention every-time she was on screen. She was such a great evil step mom. I hated her a lot. If I was in Cinderella’s place, I would have punched her in the face after the first week but I guess I am not that kind.

P.S. her cat – Lucifer – was cool Easter Egg too.

Cinderella’s parents: Hayley Atwell and Ben Chaplin were also great. I am a fan of Hayley (just finished Agent Carter) and I believe that they portrayed a family relationship nicely. My eyes were watering when Hayley’s character was dying..I was also sad that I wasn’t able to see the actress, I like, on screen for a longer period of time.

Derek Jacobi as The King and Stellan Skarsgard as Grand Duke (I guess the director Kennith Branagh of the film had to pick at least one of the actors from Thor – he directed that movie too). I liked that they explored the father-son relationship between The King and The Prince more and added more depth to these characters. The twist on the Grand Duke’s character was also an interesting touch.

Nonso Anozie as the Captain was also a nice addition to the film. His and Prince Charming’s scenes showed The Prince more as a commoner and not a royalty.

Helena Bonham Carter as The Fairy Godmother was also a functional role, though I would have liked to see a fairy godmother more as a sensitive, encouraging character and less like a comic relief character.

Visuals/Costume/Setting

The movie looked breathtakingly beautiful. The costumes were exquisite, the sets looked real and authentic and the overall visual realization of the film was just spectacular. Props to Sandy Powell for costume design, Haris Zambarloukos for cinematography and Martin Walsh for the beautiful editing of the film.

Story

Probably all of you reading this know, how Cinderella’s story plays out. And I really love it for what it is. I am a romantic and I believe in true love and I would like to find true love in my life too, be it at first sight or the second. I also believe that Cinderella encourages young girls to play nice, to fight evil with kindness and goodness, to support each other and stop the bullying. It also shows that if you play nice and stick to your way of thinking, you can achieve what you want. You can win without changing who you are, because you are beautiful as you are. Some might say that Cinderella has the advantage of her beautiful looks and I can agree with them. However, beauty is such a subjective concept, so she might look pretty to some people while others might have a different opinion. In addition, though, our world is changing ever so slightly, you will never convince me that the outside beauty doesn’t matter. It has mattered for centuries and it still matters, because all first impressions, which a crucial while living in a contemporary society, are based on looks.

So, to sum up, I loved this movie, it dragged at some place but it was still a feast for my eyes and for my heart. “Enjoy it while it lasts” – I certainly did and escaped my life in order to spend a few hours in a fairy-tale.

Trailer: Cinderella (2015) trailer

Rate: 4.5/5

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