Movie review: The Secret Life of Pets

Movie reviews

Good morning/day/evening!

The animated movies have been really dominating the box office this summer, so, let’s review one of the latest additions to the genre – The Secret Life of Pets.

IMDb summary: The quiet life of a terrier named Max is upended when his owner takes in Duke, a stray whom Max instantly dislikes.

Recently, there has been quite a few animated pictures about talking animals – we just had Zootopia and the new animated musical SING also has animals as its characters. This concept has always been popular and it is definitely not going anywhere. While the idea to show how animals act when the humans are not around is cool and clever, it is not the most original. Another recent animation that kinda did the same thing was Bolt. So, since the TSLOP can count on originality, it is all about the execution.

Writing: story and ideas

The Secret Life of Pets’ script was written by Brian LynchCinco Paul, and Ken Daurio. This trio has previously worked on other Illumination Entertainment projects like the Despicable Me films and Minions. I’m a fan of the main Despicable Me franchise but can’t really stand its spin-off. I feel like with TSLOP movie, the screenwriters mixed everything I loved about the first property with the things that annoyed me about the second brand.

The positives: 

  1. I liked how the animal characters had both animalistic and human-like features and manners. I also enjoyed how the various stereotypes were played up. Sometimes, human stereotypes were used on animals as a joke: for example, in the scene with the white Pomeranian and the telenovela. In other instances, these stereotypes were subverted and made for an even funnier moment: the poodle who likes rock music was a nice idea and the main antagonist of the film – the anarchist bunny – was also an unexpected and subversive addition to the picture.
  2. I loved the little relatable moments like the scene with the cat and the turkey. That tiny inside competition between the cats and the dogs was also a great real-world tie-in. The inclusion of concepts like the cat videos on YouTube and the vacuum cleaner to be used to get rid of the pets was neat as well.
  3. The idea to make the barking of dogs their language was obvious but still nice and super funny when showed visually on screen.

The negatives:

  1. The film didn’t have the most original narrative – it was a basic save and avenge storyline. It was still an enjoyable adventure to watch but the viewer might feel that he/she has seen it before numerous times.
  2. The picture really got dark at times and I don’t know if those ideas had a place in the film. The picture wasn’t really that sophisticated and it was definitely on a more simplistic side and aimed at the younger audiences, so I don’t think that it was a good idea to show the suffering animals like the tattooed pig or the magician’s rabbit and talk about killing the owners. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to talk about the first thing – that people are not always the nicest to the animals – but I don’t think that a mainstream kids’ movie was a place to do that, maybe if it had a more serious tone, I would have had a different opinion.

Directing: visuals and animation

TSLOP was directed by Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney. Renaud has previously directed the Despicable Me films and has created the voice of the Minions, who he voices in all of the movies that they appear. Cheeny has only directed a few shorts up until now but he has been a production designer on the Illumination Entertainment pictures. I really enjoyed the directing of the film for the most part. I really liked the montages at the beginning which set up the independent world of pets nicely and it was also a great idea to end the movie with corresponding montages – it tied everything together perfectly. The actual animation was also spectacular – the fur of the animals looked excellent and the NY skyline was also realized beautifully – it is so iconic and recognizable even in animated form. The actual character design of the animals was cool and cute too. TSLOP also had a good complimentary soundtrack, I liked the inclusion of the Welcome to New York song. The only sequence of the film that I disliked was that Sausage World – I felt that it was too childish even for a light children’s film and, moreover, those sausages reminded me of Minions too much.

Voice Work

The actors who voiced the animals did a good job. The stand-out for me was Kevin Hart (he voiced the rabbit) – I could instantly recognize his voice and really loved the way he delivered the lines and the one-liners. His character was definitely the funniest and I think that that was because of Hart’s involvement. I’m definitely starting to become a fan of him after this film and Central Intelligence. The great comedian  Louis C.K. voiced the main character – a Jack Russell terrier, while Eric Stonestreet really fit the voice of his character – the large and furry mongrel. Steve Coogan was great as a Sphynx cat – the British accent was somehow appropriate. Lastly, Jenny Slate was a great choice to bring the Pomeranian to life. Slate has recently voiced another animal – a sheep – in Zootopia.

In short, The Secret Life of Pets was an okay film. It was as subversive or adult-friendly as Zootopia but it did make me laugh more than a couple of times and I’m sure that the kids would have a blast watching it.

Rate: 3.7/5

Trailer: The Secret Life of Pets trailer

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Movie review: Warcraft

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another movie review. This time, we are discussing Warcraft or Warcraft: The Begining – Hollywood’s latest try to make video game movies a thing.

IMDb summary: The peaceful realm of Azeroth stands on the brink of war as its civilization faces a fearsome race of invaders: orc warriors fleeing their dying home to colonize another. As a portal opens to connect the two worlds, one army faces destruction and the other faces extinction. From opposing sides, two heroes are set on a collision course that will decide the fate of their family, their people, and their home.

As you all probably know, Warcraft: The Movie is based on a series of video games (Warcraft and World of Warcraft). I, personally, knew nothing about the game except that it was set in a fantasy world. So, I was part of the audience, which would either make or break this movie – a non-fan who still chooses this film over the others.

In general, I have always been fairly skeptical about video game inspired films. I have seen the worst (Hitman Agent 47), the bad (Pixels, Prince of Persia), the okay (Need For Speed) and the great (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – a film that is not even based on a video game but feels like one). I still need to watch The Angry Birds Movie and I am also quite interested in Assassin’s Creed film because I’m a fan of Fassbender and I have read an Assassin’s Creed comic.

Speaking about Warcraft – it is currently my favorite cinematic adaptation of a video game. I don’t know why the critics are so harsh to judge it and are not evaluating it for what it is. I had an amazing time watching the picture, was a bit lost at first, but quickly found my way. I can’t say ‘No’ to a movie that deals with high fantasy concepts (like LORD, GOT). I’m actually even considering trying out the game or at least researching the role a bit.

SPOILER ALERT

Writing

The film was written by Charles Leavitt and the director Duncan Jones. I though that Warcraft’s script was a bit better than Leavitt’s last film’s – In The Heart Of The Sea – script and vastly better than his second to last’s film’s – Seventh Son – screenplay.

The film had a lot of characters and they didn’t receive much development but I think that they all got enough to peak my interest. I also liked the fact that the characters died, thus, the stakes were high. The ending was kinda weird but I understood why they left it so open – they are hoping for a sequel. I also wish that the film succeeds adequately for this story to be allowed to continue on the big screen.

The film also had nice themes and messages. I liked the notion that the traditions are superior to the leaders. I also liked the inclusion of values such as family, honor, sacrifice and tolerance. The importance of survival and creating/finding a home was also a nice advice to spread.

Directing

The movie was directed by Duncan Jones. I really enjoyed his debut film – an independent sci-fi feature Moon. I also liked what he did with Warcraft. I appreciated the plethora of locations and the world-building in general. The action was also exciting – the shots from the ground-up and the over-the-shoulder-reverse shots actually allowed me to feel like I was in a video game. The CGI was also the best that I’ve seen in years – the faces of the Orcs looked alive – with real emotions and real sweat, blood, tears. The end credits were also excellent.

Acting

The movie’s few had quite a few unfamiliar faces (at least to me), but I did enjoy all of their performances. Some were better, some were worse, but on average, everybody did good.

I really liked Viking’s Travis Fimmel in the lead as Lothar. He was charming, witty and a skilled and loyal fighter. MI: Ghost Protocol’s Paula Patton as Garona was also a nice and interesting character and I liked her role during the finale. The Finest Hours’s Ben Foster as Medivh, the Guardian was also good but a bit cartoonish at times. I was also pleased to see one of my favorite actors Dominic Cooper (Need For Speed and Preacher) as King Llane and I did like his noble act at the end. Cooper’s co-star on Preacher Ruth Negga (Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.) played the Queen Taria and also did a wonderful job – I loved her final speech as well as her interactions with Garona. The last human character, Ben Schnetzer’s Khadgar was a bit annoying at times, but I have a feeling that he will play an even bigger role in the future films.

The CGI/motion capture part of the cast consisted of Toby Kebbell as Durotan, Robert Kazinsky as Orgrim, Daniel Wu as Gul’dan and Anna Galvin as Draka among many others. As I have already mentioned, the effects looked amazing, however, the actors’ performances, underneath the motion capture technology, were also stellar. They not only looked like living beings, they were actually alive on screen. I’m not that familiar with the previous work of these actors, except Kebbell. He was in that awful Fantastic Four film last year, but I think he redeemed himself with Warcraft and will also be in Kong: Skull Island next year. Kazinsky had a small role in Pacific Rim, while Galvin has mostly done TV work. I haven’t seen any film’s with Wu before, but I did like him as the main villain – he did looked menacing and acted appropriately.

All in all, I had a great time with Warcraft. It exceeded my expectations and definitely pleased a non-fan. I had a few fans of the game sitting beside me at the screening and they also seemed really excited and entertained. Hope the sequel happens!

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Warcraft trailer

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Movie review: Rise+Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Movie reviews

Hello!

I remember watching Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes as a child and not sleeping for a few days afterwards. With these bad memories from childhood I decide to challenge myself and try the newest Apes’ edition. I hope you enjoy my reviews!

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011).

From quite inexperienced director Rupert Wyatt comes this science-fiction reboot of the beloved franchise. I have seen Tim Burton try to do justice to this series but unfortunately I haven’t seen the original one. I probably should watch it.

Speaking about Rise I really liked this movie. 

James Franco, in my opinion, is one of the greatest actors nowadays and I always enjoy his performance. He fits perfectly in this role as a scientist and a loving son. I felt an emotional connection with Caesar through him.

The film has an amazing premise and it also shows that humans and apes are not as different as we might think.

Human kind is always using animals to try out medicine, makeup and all kinds of stuff and it is no surprise that apes are not happy about it. The movie shows that everything that happens is people’s fault and that they are to blame for all that madness. Apes are just avenging their own kind. And you cannot argue that revenge is not a human emotion, so as a result, you can’t see apes as villains. In this case, they are more like victims, even thought, they are killing humans.

From production point: monkeys jumping though windows looked super cool. Caesar speaking for the first time was such a powerful scene. Action was also great – not too overboard, stayed quite realistic.

Other notes: Young Caesar was such a cute monkey. What is more, I do not know who I hated more Draco Malfoy in HP or Dodge Landon in this movie (both played by Tom Felton). I guess props go to the actor behind these characters – he knows how to provoke strong feelings, particularly hatred.

The first half hour of the movie was super positive and then everything went sour. The first hour and the second half hour are completely different parts of the movie – everything just changes so quickly.

One last thing: Monkeys’ voices are super intimidating and annoying, though, I have a huge interest in them as animals or perhaps I should say as creatures almost equal to human race but exciting and unique in their own way.  

When I had finished the movie I realized that I have seen it before, probably in the movie theater when it came out. However, I enjoyed it as much as the first time around. Rate 4.5/5

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

I have finally found the time to see this movie.  I really enjoyed it but I also have some criticism.

Short summary: The movie picks up 10 years after the events of the first film. Apes are living peaceful life in the forest while humans are destroying themselves with the virus that made apes smarter and also there is a general chaos in the whole wide world. The events of this movie start with a group of people that try to find a dam to produce electricity in the apes’ forest. By accident one of the apes is killed and the Dawn stars.

Let’s start with negative stuff. To my mind, the beginning of the film was too slow and overall the first hour was kinda boring to me. It was interesting to see the culture of apes but the human problems with electricity was the weak spot. And all the human characters were overpowered by apes. Mainly by Caeser and Koba.

Andy Serkis is a genius at playing motion capture characters. He gains a lot of money for his work but he definitely deserves every penny he gets. And he also deserves at least an Oscar nomination if not the win. I wish the Academy would recognize motion capture actors as other ‘real ‘ones.  Of course, we also need to talk about Koba played by Toby Kebell. He was the scene stealer of the century. The plot was pretty slow at first but in the end the movie surprised me in the good way. All the CGI effects and motion capture were amazing as I have previously mentioned.

I loved that the movie got deeper into the theme that humans and apes are alike: they have the same father-son problems, fights growing up; they care about their family and home. My favorite scenes in the movie were, of course, the ending shot of Caesar’s eyes (I also loved the fact that all the apes had human like eyes) and the full circle shot with Koba on a tank. That was really well done.

In comparison with the first film, I think that it was stronger than this one. So Dawn is 4/5 while Rise is 4.5/5. 

Trailer: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer Rate 4/5

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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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Movie review: Noah

Movie reviews

As you might know if you read my blog, me and my dad usually spend our father-daughter time at a movie theater. Last time it was my dad’s turn to choose a movie, so he picked Need for Speed (You can find its review on this blog).  This time I got to choose a movie so, I went for Noah – epic-biblically inspired movie based on myth of Noah – savior of humans. I didn’t choose this film because I am religious or something like that, but because of 3 reason that have names: Douglas Booth, Logan Lerman and Emma Watson. I have loved these actors since I first saw them in big movies.  Emma Watson is always going to be stuck in my mind as Hermione from HP but I was amazed by her performance in a The Bling Ring as well. (review coming soon).  Logan Lerman is perfect Percy Jackson but the first film I have seen him in was The Perks of being a Wallflower – a movie which, I believe, every teenager should watch. Speaking about Douglas Booth, LOL is still one of my favorite movies ever (I liked his chemistry with old Miley Cyrus) and I have watched his last movie – latest adaptation of Romeo and Juliet with Hailee Steinfield. So, with a mind set of “I just want to see my favorite actors” I didn’t really know what to expect from this movie. I was really surprised that director Darren Aronofsky (he did Black Swan back in 2010) picked this story to adapt into a motion picture. I mean, how can you show something that has happened before the recorded history? If you make something up, it becomes a fantasy movie, but you can’t make biblical stories into fantasy movie? Or can you? If I was confused before watching the movie, I am surely got even more confused after it. Maybe it is good to watch movies like that. It makes you think about stuff and really inspires you to dig deep and to look for answers. It was the same for me with the epic Cloud Atlas by The Wachowskis. I still think about it sometimes. But back to Noah. Film tells a story of the descendant of Seth (Seth was one of three sons that Eve and Adam had. When Cain killed Abel, Seth descendants became good people and Cain’s – bad ones.) Noah (played by Russel Crowe) was chosen by the Creator (God’s name is never spoken) to save the animals because they are innocent and to help kill all the people because they destroyed The Earth and turned their backs to the Creator. The main antagonist is played by Ray Winstone, his character name is Tubal-cain. The movie raised a question for me: what makes humans real humans? What is humanity really about? Is it an ability to forgive or ability to be just? When watching a movie I thought that Noah was just stupid for believing someone who may not even exist and for preparing to do some stuff that were not humanly at all. (Sorry if you didn’t understand what I meant by this, but if I explained it more I would have spoiled the entire movie.) I liked the performance of all actors; I believe they were chosen wisely.  However, one of the drawbacks of the movie was these really awkward situations. For example, all people should be vegetarians to be good, Noah is the first drunkard in the world. And finally, that massive rainbow at the end didn’t do any good as well. I would rate this movie 3.5/5. My dad really liked it and we had a very heated conversation about it in the car on a drive home. It is definitely not a movie to watch when you are lazy, but a serious film about humanity problems. I have read that the director said that this was the least biblical interpretation of a biblical story; so maybe, you need to watch it with a different mindset and expectations than those I had. If you give this movie a try and you get confused as I did, leave me a comment down bellow so we could discuss it. We might find answers then:) TRAILER:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qmj5mhDwJQ Image Image Twitter: https://twitter.com/LunaTheia Instagram : http://instagram.com/luknexx Tumblr: http://luna-theia.tumblr.com/