5 ideas about a movie: The Emoji Movie

Movie reviews

Hello, my dear readers!

Yup, I did it. Didn’t much want to but did it. Let’s just get this over it. This is the review of *sigh* The Emoji Movie!

IMDb summary: Gene, a multi-expressional emoji, sets out on a journey to become a normal emoji.

Before I sink my teeth into that trainwreck of a film, I’d like to praise the animated short that preceded the main feature. The Emoji Movie was accompanied by Puppy!, a Hotel Transylvania short directed by Genndy Tartakovsky. The short picture was cute and relatable and once again proved to me that Hotel Transylvania franchise is the only Sony Pictures Animation series that is worth something. Now, onto the main attraction.

  1. The Emoji Movie was directed by Tony Leondis (he has worked for all the big animation studios before, but only on their lesser known projects), from a script written by Leondis himself, Eric Siegel, and Mike White. The film has already been compared to Inside Out (cause of the focus on emotions), Wreck-it Ralph (cause both films revolve around technology based characters), and The Lego Movie (cause of the obvious corporate advertisement aspect). However, even though The Emoji Movie might be topically similar to these pictures, it vastly differs from them in quality.
  2. If we take the movie’s concept on its own – the emoji culture – it sort of sounds like a good idea. Nevertheless, if we just dig a tiny bit deeper, we soon realize that there is literally no inspiration for a story – an actual narrative – to be created out of the concept. That’s the main problem of this film – the narrative was simply worthless and just a collection of cliches. The conflict of the plot was super artificial too. The film attempted to have an emotional core but did not succeed at all.  Actually, when the emoji characters tried to display or withhold emotions, they seemed borderline psychotic rather than fun or relatable.
  3. The Emoji Movie seems to have been made by filmmakers (or a board of executives) that have zero understanding of their audience. It appears that they were trying to make a movie for a stereotypical millennial who doesn’t really exist. This could be obviously seen in the humor of the film. While half of the jokes were plain bad, the other half was an obvious example of the writers trying too hard and attempting to be cool and ‘in-with-the-kids’. Plus, the tongue-in-cheek jabs at social media culture didn’t really have a place in the film either. One cannot both perpetuate the culture and critique it in the same film.
  4. Despite generally hating the movie, I still found a few positive things in its script. Mostly, these were the spot-on inclusions of the phone related stuff. For example, I liked the fact that the film acknowledged the smiley emoji as being the OG emoticon and how the favorites section was turned into a VIP club.  The realization of the whole phone world wasn’t bad, actually. I liked the inclusion of the spam emails, the viruses, the cloud, Instagram, CandyCrush, Dropbox, Firewall, JustDance (even if the addition of apps was just for promotional/financial purposes) and the viral videos. The 3D animation style was good too but it always is nowadays.
  5. The voice cast of the film consisted of: Deadpool’s T. J. Miller (he was a good choice for such an ”out-there” project, I just wish that the film would have been crazy in a good way and worth his talents), James Corden (he was trying his best and his voice was instantly recognizable), Anna Faris (she was fine), and Logan’s Sir Patrick Stewart (he had like 5 lines in the film and, honestly, the only reason he was cast was so that this  film could have an honor of being the movie that turned a respectable actor into literal poop).

In short, The Emoji Movie was a mess, not even worth the ‘meh’ emoji.

Rate: 2/5

Trailer: The Emoji Movie trailer

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Movie review: Cars 3

Movie reviews

Hello!

The latest Pixar film – Cars 3 – has hit theaters. Let’s see whether the beloved studio can repeat the cinematic success for the gazillionth time.

IMDb summary: Lightning McQueen sets out to prove to a new generation of racers that he’s still the best race car in the world.

I, like the majority of cinephiles, am a huge fan of Pixar and have seen all of their films multiple times. The original Cars picture is one of my favorite Pixar films (it is just outside my top three childhood animated films – Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Monsters, Inc.). However, I can hardly remember what happened in Cars 2. Hopefully, the third film is more in line with the original rather than the sequel. One thing is for sure, Cars is more than a movie franchise – it’s a global merchandise brand (and a cultural/capitalistic phenomenon) as widespread as the Minions.

Writing

Cars 3 was written by a studio’s film developer Kiel Murray, a Pixar veteran writer Bob Peterson, and a writer of sports films Mike Rich, based on a story by the director of the picture Brian Fee, a TV producer Ben Queen, a TV actor Eyal Podell, and quite an inexperienced writer Jonathan E. Stewart (a lot of cooks in the kitchen).

I enjoyed the story of the film quite a lot: I especially liked the ideas and the message. The treatment for the characters was also interesting and worthy of discussion. Let’s star with the themes: I loved the juxtaposition between the modernity and the traditionalism, the rookies and the old-school racers. More importantly, I give props to the movie for making the ultimate message about the combination of both – it’s important to move on while also acknowledging one’s roots (plus, the idea that all seniors have once been rookies).  I also applaud the scriptwriters for including realistic aspects such as the camaraderie between the race cars as well as the bullying that happens within a sport (psychological mind frames) into the script.

The character development was also not bad. The new opponent – Jackson Storm – felt like a stereotype of a millennial (EDM music, flashing neon night club-like lights, and sarcasm). Cruz Ramirez was delightful – not only was she a female racer but a good one too. I loved how hers and McQueen’s relationship was reciprocal – they learned different things from one another and were fluctuated between being students and teachers. I also wonder whether the ending twist of the film means that Ramirez will now be at the forefront of the franchise moving forward. McQueen himself had a good arc in this film too. I liked all the jokes about him being old but I think that he should not have been as cocky as he was – he literally made the same mistake in the first film – shouldn’t he have learned by now?

The returning character of Mater (the tow truck) had barely anything to do. This might have been because he was heavily featured in Cars 2 and nobody liked that, so the filmmakers were careful about using him. However, an homage was paid to another character from the original – the mentor Doc Hudson. The character did not even appear onscreen in person (in car-son?) but the plot revolved about his role in McQueen’s life.

Directing 

Brian Fee made his directorial debut with Cars 3. He has previously worked on Pixar projects as a storyboard artist. For his first directing effort, Fee did a brilliant job. Of course, he had the help of amazing Pixar animators. The animated visuals were astounding as usual and yet I’m still surprised how much emption the animators are able to make these cars convey. The pacing was really good for the most part – the narrative was unraveling quickly – but the film did slow down before the third act (that’s a major problem for a lot of mainstream pictures).

The movie had a few distinct sequences, which I quite liked. Both of the training montages were fun, especially the car aerobics scenes. The wild racing sequence with the bull-like school bus was not something I expected from Pixar but it was, nonetheless, fun to watch. The new stylistic modifications for the cars were cool too but I can’t help but feel that they were included in order to sell more new toys.

Voice work

While I don’t think that the voice cast of the Cars franchise is super iconic, it was still nice to hear the returning actors, like Owen Wilson and the comedian Larry the Cable. The newcomers Armie Hammer and Cristela Alonzo were also great.

Short picture

Before Cars 3, an animated short was screened (this is a usual practice). Dave Mullins’s LOU felt like a cute combo of Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. 

In short, Cars 3 might not be the best Pixar movie but it is definitely a return to form for the franchise. Their next release is the Dia De Los Muertos themed flick Coco and then, a sequel I have been waiting for a decade – The Incredibles 2.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Cars 3 trailer

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Movie review: Moana

Movie reviews

Hello!

The long awaited and newest Disney Princess movie – Moana – has reached theaters, so, let’s talk about it!

IMDb summary: In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by Maui reaches an impetuous Chieftain’s daughter’s island, she answers the Ocean’s call to seek out the demigod to set things right.

Moana is, technically, a 13th Disney Princess film. It has been truly amazing to see how this brand evolved in the past 80 years. I feel that the biggest changes started with 2010’s Tangled and all the films following it have been adapting their stories and characters to fit the contemporary world and I’m excited to see what will Disney do next.

Moana is also Disney’s return to musicals, since Frozen 3 years ago. Can Moana’s soundtrack replicate the success of Frozen’s soundtrack? It is gonna be a bit harder for Moana, as this year, we already had one fairly successful animated musical – Trolls – and we also have another one coming up – Sing.

Lastly, Moana is Disney’s attempt at presenting an indigenous – Polynesian culture – to the global market. Thier last attempt at this with Pocahontas wasn’t the most successful, but I think that Disney learned from their mistakes. They went an extra mile to cast voice actors from appropriate backgrounds and also employed anthropologists to help portray Polynesian culture as accurately as possible. As a student of anthropology and a lover of films, I found that fascinating – maybe this can be my job in the future?

Moana’s story also appealed to me on two personal levels. First of all, I, as a longtime professional(-ish) swimmer, sometimes do feel better in the water than on land, so I loved seeing Moana’s connection to the ocean. Secondly, Moana reminded me of two different books that I read as a kid that both revolved around islands and island culture. One of them was Whale Rider (1987) by Witi Ihimaera about a Maori girl and her journey to becoming her clan’s chief. The other was called Island of the Blue Dolphins (1960) by Scott O’Dell about a Native American girl who gets stranded on an island near California. Both books have been turned into movies, in 2002 and 1964 respectively.

Writing and Story

Jared Bush, who has previously worked on Big Hero 6 and also co-wrote and co-directed Zootopia, wrote the screenplay of Moana but a lot of people got the credits for the story, including the directors of this film Ron Clements and John MuskerBig Hero 6’s directors Chris Williams and Don HallWreck-It Ralph 2’s writer Pamela Ribon, and twin Hawaiian screenwriters Aaron and Jordan Kandell.

For the most part, I really enjoyed the writing for Moana. I loved that the movie opened with a lesson in Polynesian mythology. In general, I thought that this specific culture was represented with respect but it was still made fun. The writing for the two main characters was also great. Where the movie’s magic kinda broke down was in the actual narrative of the film. The first act felt a bit drawn out – I wanted to get onto the adventure part quicker. I felt that the movie was just basically checking things off a list in during the set-up: Moana had Disney staples such as the dead relative/teacher, the overprotective parents, and the idea that everyone should stay in their place. The ending was also a bit predictable and I wish they would have done without the cliches like failing at first try and leaving and coming back in the heat of the battle. Nevertheless, a few narrative ideas that I thought were great was the fact that Moana didn’t have or need a love interest. Also, the final confrontation was female-centric, similarly to Frozen, and I would have had a problem with that if Moana didn’t have strong and cool male character – Maui – as well.

Directing and Animation

Ron Clements and John Musker, who have made such Disney classic as The Little MermaidAlladinHercules, and Princess and the Frog, directed the film and did a wonderful job. The pacing of the film could have been better but I absolutely adored the visuals and the animation. All the environment, especially the ocean, were brought to life just magnificently – the water looked both realistic and magical – so much better than another recent water based animation Finding Dory. The character design was also super cool. Moana actually looked like a real person, with realistic body proportions! Maui looked super cool too – I liked that his tattoos were not only a visual prop but a part of the plot. Moana’s sidekicks were good too. The chicken was mostly used for comic relief which was neither a hit or a miss for me. I wish, however, that they would have brought the piggy along for the ride, as he was super cute. The baby Moana was also so adorable. You couldn’t not fall in love with her. Lastly, one of my favorite parts of the film was the good old training montage for both Moana and Maui.

Music

Tarzan’s composer Mark MancinaHamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, and a member of Oceanic music group Te Vaka – Opetaia Foa’i – all worked on the soundtrack and did an amazing job. To being with, I loved hearing some of the songs in Tokelauan language – it added more authenticity to the film’s atmosphere. The more mainstream pop-songy numbers were also great. I see a lot of potential in one song especially in finally making the world let go of Let it Go – I’m talking about the main song of MoanaHow Far I’ll Go. I liked the version sung by Cravalho much more than Alessia Cara’s credits version. Even though I love Cara and her lyrics, I felt that Cravalho voice just had more emotion and fit the song better. But I can see why Disney wanted a more well-known singer to record a version of the song. Let it Go was also recorded by Idina Menzel and a more mainstream choice Demi Lovato.

Other two songs that I’d like to name are You’re Welcome by Dwayne Johnson. I was super impressed with Johnson’s voice – is there anything he can’t do? The song itself kinda reminded me of another Disney tune whose name I don’t remember, but it just sounded so familiar. The last song I’m gonna mention was the one sung by the crab – that was the only part of the score that I didn’t feel on board with.

Voice cast

  • Auli’i Cravalho was amazing as Moana. Her voice just had so much emotion and fit the character perfectly. I think she has a long career ahead of her, at least I hope so.
  • Dwayne Johnson as Maui was great too. He just had so much charisma in his voice alone. This was only his second voice role. Next year, he has 3 big movies coming up – Fast 8Baywatch, and Jumanji.

In short, Moana was another great picture from Disney. It had spectacular characters, nice thematical ideas and gorgeous animated visuals. I only wish they would have made the story a bit more original.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Moana trailer

P.S. Before Moana, a new Disney short called, Inner Workings, was screened. It was kinda the Inside Out of the body rather than the mind. It was both funny and cute as well as sad and depressing (like Pixar levels sad). Loved the main message – treat yourself, escape the routine and enjoy life!

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Movie review: Finding Dory

Movie reviews

Hello!

The summer is coming to an end but the summer movie season is not over yet, thus, allow me to review another movie. This time, it’s Finding Dory!

IMDb summary: The friendly but forgetful blue tang fish begins a search for her long-lost parents, and everyone learns a few things about the real meaning of family along the way.

I’m a huge Pixar fan (who isn’t?). I have seen all Pixar feature film multiple times and enjoyed the viewing experience immensely, time and time again. Growing up, I would constantly rewatch Monsters, Inc., The Incredibles, and Finding Nemo and these 3 movies are still at the top of ‘My Favorite Animated Pictures of All Time’ list. I was really happy when Monsters Inc got a prequel in 2013 and wasn’t disappointed by it and I also cannot wait for 2019’s The Incredibles 2. I have been waiting for the Finding Nemo sequel for more than a decade, so I was more than excited to see it. Sadly, due to the awful international release schedules, I had to wait 2 months more than the rest of the world. But, the wait is over, so let’s go and find Dory!

The screening of the picture that I attended mostly had kids in the audience. The majority of them weren’t even born when Finding Nemo came out. Needless to say, this kinda made me feel old.

Piper

Before I talk about Finding Dory, I want to briefly touch upon the animated short Piper that they showed before the feature. It was made by Alan Barillaro and was absolutely amazing. The animation looked extremely realistic. The actual plot of the short film was really cute and sweet but still had an important message – it encouraged the viewers to be brave and step out of their comfort zones.

Writing

Finding Dory’s screenplay was written by the director of the film Andrew Stanton and TV writer Victoria Strouse. Stanton wrote and directed Finding Nemo, A Bug’s Life, and WALL-E and has also helped out with the scripts of  Monster’s Inc. and all 3 Toy Story pictures. He is also set to co-write Toy Story 4, while Strouse will be penning the live-action Tinkerbell’s screenplay. I really enjoyed the narrative that they created for this film. The story was both simple and clever, funny and genuine. The character development was never forced but came out organically during the dialogue. The set up for the big adventure was a both obvious and logical. As usual, Pixar also pulled on its viewers’ hearts strings. The jokes worked too even if they got kind dark at times (that bucket of dead fish).

Finding Dory also did a good job of introducing new characters, while also giving some screen time to the old favorites. We did get Dory’s full backstory (prequel) as well as a Finding Nemo sequel (the next adventure). We also find out what happened to the dentist office’s tank gang from the first film in the post-credits scene. Of the new characters, Hank, the octopus, Destiny, the whale shark and Bailey, the beluga whale, were the most interesting and useful to the story. Through Destiny’s character, we found out how Dory learned to speak whale. Hank allowed the movie to move (literally – the octopus was the only one who could go on land), while Bailey was super helpful in the last act. I also really liked the fact that the majority of the new characters had disabilities, so, Dory wasn’t just the only one who was different. In addition, all 3 new supporting fish received small resolutions to their own stories, which tied up the movie nicely.

The overarching theme that was carried out from Finding Nemo was, of course, family. The main focus was shifted from Nemo’s to Dory’s family, but the message of the film remained the same or at least similar. The 2 ideas – that ‘parents have to let their kids go’ and that ‘friends can also become family members’ – were realized and portrayed carefully and cleverly. The ‘just keep swimming’ line (I still have it on my inspiration board, as I’m a competitive swimmer – it is both my motto for life and for swimming) as well as Dory’s philosophy to just kinda live spontaneously and without a plan were also great parts of the movie. Lastly, Finding Dory had a strong anti-captivity message. I wonder if they did that so that the clown fish and the regal blue tang population would not suffer, as this has happened in 2003 after the first flick came out and all the children wanted to have their own Nemo and Dory.

Directing

For the director Andrew Stanton, Finding Dory was his 4th Pixar film and only 5th picture altogether.  I think he did a great job with this project. To begin with, the actual animation of the picture was realized beautifully: the settings of the ocean and all the different aquariums were just absolutely gorgeous, while the character design was the right amount of cartoon mixed with realism. The young Dory was an extremely cute character – those huge eyes were adorable. I also really liked the fact that the movie knew that it was really cute and used to their own advantage – that moment with otters distracting the drivers with their cuteness was a bit meta.

Going back to the animated visuals – the movements of the octopus were so fluid and so real looking too. I also appreciated the fact that they showed so many different locations and even had a lot of action on land. That ending, though, was a bit much and too cartoonish. I know we are talking about a movie with talking fish, but that ‘jumping out of a truck with the slow-mo and that cheesy song’ type of an ending was a bit too out there.

One other criticism of the film was the fact that it did repeat more than a few ideas from Finding Nemo, while slightly repackaging them: once again, we got a lot of action in the aquarium, only this time, the tank stood in the oceanology institute rather than in the dentist’s office. The character traveled in the current with the turtles again. The bird was used for transport for the 2nd time too.

Lastly, guess whose song was playing during the credits? If you though Sia’s, you were correct. This time, it was the song Unforgettable, written especially for this film. Her songs have also been featured in The Shallows and The Neon Demon recently.

Voice work

Since animated movies are dubbed in my home country, I wasn’t able to hear Ellen DeGeneres as Dory, but I’m sure that she was great, like the rest of the cast. I also have to give props to the people who voiced the characters in the Lithuanian version of the film – they did a much better job than the people who dubbed the characters in The BFG film. Spielberg’s live-action fairytale was awful to listen to, while Finding Dory’s dubbing didn’t bother me much or even at all. Nonetheless, I still can not wait to get back to the UK, so that I would be able to enjoy the original English versions of the animated films.

In short, Finding Dory was another great film by Pixar. It wasn’t Finding Nemo, or as original and fresh as Inside Out but way better than the last Pixar feature – The Good Dinosaur. Only one question remains, where do they go now? Will there be a 3rd Finding picture since Pixar has started to dip their toes into the sequel business? Or is this the end for the fishy franchise?

Rate: 4.25/5

Trailer: Finding Dory trailer

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Movie review: Zootopia

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to my last post in the series ‘Movie Reviews of the 2016’s films I’ve missed’. I have already discussed Hardcore Henry and Midnight Special. Today, I will be giving you my thoughts on Zootopia – that Pixar film made by Disney.

IMDb summary: In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox must work together to uncover a conspiracy.

Writing and Themes

Zootopia’s screenplay was written by Jared Bush (has worked on Big Hero 6 and Moana) and Phil Johnston (wrote Wreck-It Ralph), however, a bunch of people have contributed to the story, including Zootopia’s directors, former The Simpson’s director Jim Reardon and even Frozen’s Jennifer Lee among others. Thankfully, this was not the case of ‘too many cooks in the kitchen make a horrible meal’ but a complete opposite. Zootopia’s story was simple yet sophisticated and the concepts that were discussed in this supposedly kids’ movie – very adult and nuanced. The film reminded me a bit of Inside Out – that children’s movie also tackled big and serious issues.

Zootopia had a strong message about the importance of tolerance, knowledge and open-mind and showed the true awfulness of prejudice, bullying, violence, racism, and sexism. It also tackled the question of biological divide through the prey vs. predator metaphor. Zootopia portrayed the consequences of letting the biological divide become a social one and provided nice commentary on issues such as genders norms, racial, financial and religious differences. Other opposing ideas that were touched upon were conservativism vs. liberalism, idealism vs. reality, nature vs. nurture and us vs. them. The line ‘we might have evolved but we are still animals’ was an extremely telling and truthful commentary on the animalistic side of humans – I’m really happy that Zootopia’s creators were not afraid to be so blunt. In additiom., the film also encouraged its viewers to believe in themselves, to fight the self-doubt, to dream and to work towards their goals, to learn from their mistakes, to never quit and prove the nay-sayers wrong. Moreover, Zootopia showed that revenge is never an answer. Lastly, the film had a nice conclusion and wrapped up nicely – the final message that life is complicated and messy but still beautiful was a really good way to end the picture.

Zootopia also had a very strong writing for all its characters. The different species represented different types of people and the choices of species were simultaneously stereotypical and subversive. The two main characters were also very relatable. I could relate to Officer Judy Hopps on a personal level, like, I’m sure, many millennials with big dreams could, but I also understood and appreciated the sarcasm and the irony of Nick Wilde, the fox.

The picture also had amazing jokes and references. ‘Don’t call a bunny cute’ line was perfect and the extended scene with The Godfather was unbelievable. Breaking Bad reference was neat too.  The joke with the sloths was also nice as well as that moment with Nick and Assistant Mayor, a.k.a. the sheep. In general, Zootopia had a lot of funny situations that were organic. The jokes were never pushed too far but happened naturally.

Zootopia, the movie, reminded me of my favorite childhood book What do people do all day?by Richard Scarry. It’s a picture book with some lines of dialogue – probably closest to a comic but not fully a comic. Anyway, What do people do all day? shows simple activities being carried out by various animals. That book is used to introduce kids to different careers and it used to be favorite read from ages 5 till 10. I still like to flick through it when I’m feeling nostalgic.

Directing and Animation

Zootopia was directed by Byron Howard (directed Bolt and Tangled, animated Mulan, Brother Bear and Lilo&Stitch) and Rich Moore (directed Wreck-It Ralph). The two directors, as well as all the Disney’s animators, did a wonderful job. The graphics of the landscapes and the character design were marvelous and realistic. The action – exciting and that montage of Hopps arriving in Zootopia – a perfect locational step up. The attention to detail was also spectacular. For example, Hopps was using her iPhone’s (iCarrot’s) flashlight like so many people do nowadays – this little detail made the film even more realistic and contemporary. I also enjoyed the usage of Shakira’s song Try Everything. It was fun and fit the film perfectly. Basically, I feel like Zootopia transcended the animation genre and was really good buddy-cop comedy and a crime drama that just happened to be animated.

I am really happy that this film was financially and critically successful. Critical success means that it will probably be awarded an Oscar or at least nominated for it. Financial success means that a lot of people saw the film, thus, a lot of people can learn from it – ‘Change starts with all of us’.

Voice Work

All of the members of the cast did a magnificent job. The voices fit the characters perfectly. The leads, Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman, had really good chemistry. Idris Elba as Chief Bogo was also really good – I could instantly tell that that was him. Lately, Elba has been doing a lot of voice work: he voiced characters in The Jungle Book and Finding Dory. The other standout was Nate Torrence as Officer Benjamin Clawhauser, an obese cheetah. I really liked his performance and the character in general.

In short, Zootopia was an amazing film that was gorgeous to look at, but also engaged the viewers intellectually by discussing important and serious, real-world topics. The voice work was also stellar. In general, it was such a cute film (although, never call a bunny cute if you’re a not bunny!)

Rate: 5/5

Trailer: Zootopia trailer

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Best, Worst and Missed Movies of 2015

Movie previews, Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the last movie post of this year! As the clock strikes midnight, I will share with you my very subjective lists of Top 10 best and worst movies of 2015 and I will even include a Top 5 list of movie you missed in theaters!

Disclaimer, when writing my summer list of films, I divided it into different categories and tried to evaluate the films more objectively. Well, this time, I am putting my love for films above my knowledge of films, so this list will definitely lack objectivity. Also, it will not be divided into different genres. In addition, I won’t pay much attention to the ratings I gave these films because these are not their reviews – this is a personal list of preferences. So, without further ado, let me tell you about my favorite and least favorite films as well as a few surprising movies of the year.

P.S I have not seen a lot of movies which are awards contenders this year (like The Revenant, The Hateful 8, Spotlight, Joy, Room), so they obviously could not have made the list. I definitely also have not seen all the mainstream films, which were released in 2015, but I think that I watched enough to make comprehensive lists. I will include links to the reviews of all the films that I have managed to review.

Top 10 BEST films of 2015

  1. Star Wars The Force Awakens
  2. Mad Max Fury Road
  3. Legend
  4. The Martian
  5. Mission Impossible Rogue Nation
  6. Kingsman The Secret Service
  7. Steve Jobs
  8. Inside Out
  9. Brooklyn
  10. Avengers Age of Ultron

Honorable mentions: Mockingjay Part 2, Fast&Furious 7, SicarioBridge of Spies, and Ant-Man.

While Mad Max topped the summer list, Star Wars ultimately triumphed the yearly list, since I had an amazing overall experience waiting for this film as well as watching it. The 3rd – Legend – was the biggest surprise of the year for me and that story somehow remained stuck in my brain. The 4th, 7th and 9th films were great motion pictures about inspiring individuals, while 5th and 6th films were the two best spy films of the year (and we definitely had way too many spy movies in 2015). The list rounds up with one of my favorite animated films from the studio that I grew up with – Pixar. Lastly, as a Marvel fan, I cannot not put at least one film from the MCU on my list, and while lots of people were disappointed in Avengers 2, I had an amazing time watching and couldn’t keep a smile off my face during its  whole run-time.

Top 10 WORST films of 2015

  1. Fantastic Four
  2. Terminator Genisys
  3. Hitman Agent 47
  4. Minions
  5. Hot Pursuit
  6. Tomorrowland
  7. Pixels
  8. American Ultra
  9. Pan
  10. Taken 3

I was sad to put a lot of films on this list. I expected good things from 1st, 2nd and 6th entries and was left extremely disappointed. One franchise was not able to get off the ground for the 3rd time, other series failed while trying to revive itself and one of the more original films of the summer flopped unspeakably. I did not expect much from 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th and 10th and was still let down, even when watching them with extremely low expectations. Hitman was the bad kind of a spy movie and the last three films embodied everything terrible about comedies. I felt really annoyed by no. 4 and no. 9 and I don’t care that these animated (let’s be real, Pan looked so fake that it does not deserves to be called a live action film) motion pictures were made for kids – they were too stupid even for babies. If you liked any of these films, I congratulate you – ‘liking’ or ‘loving’ is a very subjective action and it makes the world as well as cinema debates much more interesting.

Top 5 movies you missed/surprises/guilty pleasures

Some of these films were, I feel, unnecessary panned by critics or totally forgotten bu audiences:

  1. We Are Your Friends – it had the worst opening of the year and was hated by all – I, on the other hand, had a great time with this film – I liked it for what it was  – a summertime popcorn flick with quite a good music.
  2. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – another film, hated by both the critics and the audiences. I loved it: the acting was good, the action and the setting – interesting and it was my kind of comedic relief.
  3. Crimson Peak – the only horror-ish film I have watched this year. It was a disappointment to the majority of the fans of G. del Toro, but for me it was a pleasant surprise – I liked the performances of the 3 leads and the Victorian/Gothic mise-en-scene was wonderfully realized.
  4. Paper Towns – a film based on a different book by John Green (my favorite author) which suffered a lot because it was compared to The Fault In Our Stars way too much. I personally, really liked both films for different reasons and feel that Paper Towns deserves to be looked at as a separate entity.
  5. The Duff – another great coming of age/romantic comedy film for teens – it had amazing performances and a really nice and cute story. It also played with high school stereotypes and came out during the time when I was saying goodbye to high school.

So, these are my long personal lists of best and worst films as well as a shorter list of movies, which deserved more attention, love and money.

I will post a more personal wrap-up post on this blog later tonight, but if you are only interested in the cinema related posts, I want to wish you a very happy new year and all the best of luck in 2016! You will definitely get a lot of movie reviews of the awards’ contenders in January, and then Deadpool will roll into theaters in February, followed by Batman v Superman, Captain America Civil War and a whole bunch of other films. Cheers to the next year!

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Movie review: The Walk

Movie reviews

Hello!

Sorry for the flood of movie reviews on my blog these past few days, but I promise you will get a break after this review. For now, let’s review The Walk – a film about walking on a high wire a few hundred meters in the air. To me, this seems like a ludicrous idea, since I easily trip and fall while walking on a solid ground.

IMDb summary: In 1974, high-wire artist Philippe Petit recruits a team of people to help him realize his dream: to walk the immense void between the World Trade Center towers.

Directing

The reason why I want to start this review with the director – Robert Zemeckis – is because he is the reason that I went to see this film. As you may know, my country of origin is Lithuania (I’ve moved to the UK a few months ago) and Zemeckis has Lithuanian roots, so I felt obliged to support my fellow Lithuanian or half Lithuanian. Moreover, he is a pioneer of visual effects and has made a lot of amazing films including Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, and Cast Away. However, I do not believe that The Walk is his best film or even close to this.

I have mixed feelings regarding this movie. On one hand, some CGI effects looked really fake (the towers at the beginning and the painfully obvious green screen during the exposition inserts – I wonder how did these scenes looked on IMAX) while other sequences were breathtaking (the actual walk or more accurately the walks). The ending sequence with an imaginary wire and the NY skyline dissolving into the black was my favorite shot. The black and white opening with some colorful details was an interesting choice as well. I just wish that this movie was edited more neatly so that beginning and ending would have had a bit more coherence.

Story

The Walk’s screenplay was based on real life events from 1974 when the real life Philippe Petit performed his dangerous and illegal stunt. Zemeckis himself, with the help of Christopher Browne, wrote the script, which could have benefited from the revision (the same with the visuals). Film’s story was really unfocused during the first half of the film and did not engage the viewer fully. It felt both rushed (characters did not receive any development) and the way too slow (lots of time passed with nothing really happening). There was no indication of the passage of time, so the audience couldn’t really tell how much time has passed between scenes – a day or a year? However, as much as I critic this film, I have to admit that the motion picture really shined during the second half when it found its focus: the preparation for walk sequence was even more interesting than the actual walk(s) scene because it had amazing suspense, which later carried on to the actual performance.

Though, while the 2nd part of the film was very enjoyable, some questionable choices were taking me out of the film throughout the whole run-time. For example, the exposition on top of the Statue of Liberty and the breaking of the 4th wall seemed like unnecessary and distracting additions to the film. Moreover, while I loved the European flavor of the film, their explanation of why the characters should speak English instead of French seemed quite stupid to me. Also, the fact that the character of Petit only did a few walks and trained for a bit and was prepared for the walk between the World Trade Center Towers was a bit unbelievable. However, according to google, World Trade Center Walk was only the 4th walk that Petit did IRL, so the movie stuck to the reality in that case. Lastly, while this film was based on real life events and might have wanted to stay as truthful to the real story as possible, some of the details of the plot were quite weird. For instance, why would you allow a guy who has a fear of heights on your team if you are planning to walk on a wire hundreds of meters in the air? It just seemed to be an unnecessary obstacle for Petit’s purpose and the comedic relief that it added was not worth it.

Acting

  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Philippe Petit was the star of this film. I have always been on the fence when it comes to Gordon-Levitt as an actor and I still remain on the fence. He has done some great films but he never really stuck out to me in any of them. I also had quite a lot of issues with his character in this film. I don’t know whether real-life Petit is like this, but the film’s Petit seemed like a very selfish and arrogant man (thief and troublemaker) and just and unlikable character who the viewer had to force himself/herself to like and root for. Furthermore, the way he held himself above the circus artists was not a nice thing to do. Also, why couldn’t they just cast a French actor to play this role? Levitt looks nothing like real life Petit, so it was definitely not the reason why he got the part. Also, I think they CGI-ied his face a bit but that just made it look weird and fake. However, the fakest thing of it all was the Gordon-Levitt’s accent, which took some time to get used to. Lastly, I would be interested to know, how much of the actual wire walking did Gordon-Levitt do and who was his stunt man.
  • Ben Kingsley as Papa Rudy and Charlotte Le Bon as Annie Allix were the two supporting characters, which received some development and I wish we could have spent more time with them since they seemed to be interesting. What mind boggles me the most, is the fact that they managed to cast a French actress in a lead female role but not the male one. Why? Speaking about Kingsley, I mostly remember him as Marvel’s The Mandarin, though he has done some better films than Iron Man 3. The last Le Bon’s film, which I’ve watched, was The Hundred-Foot Journey – I quite liked it. Plus, I have found out that she voiced Joy in the French version of Inside Out.
  • Clément Sibomy, James Badge Dale, César Domboy, Ben Schwartz, Benedict Samuel, and Steve Valentine also had supporting roles in the film. Sadly, they looked like really one-dimensional caricatures of real life people.

To sum up, The Walk was an okay film and so far – my least favorite film of the fall and the least likely candidate for any awards. The plot was messy, the visuals could have been neater and the choices for the actors and their characters – questionable. However, the suspense of the Walk(s) and the CGI of the final sequence made up for the previous shortcomings at least a bit.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: The Walk trailer

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2015 Summer Movies RANKED

Movie reviews

Hello!!

So, the summer movie season is over once again and before we dive into the Oscar season, let’s remember the great, the good and the bad. I will give you my list of summer movies, ranked best to worst and link the majority of them to their actual reviews. I have only missed 6 or 7 reviews, which is applaudable. By the way, the films will be broken into categories: blockbusters, comedies, dramas and animated films. Let’s go!

Disclaimer: Please, don’t get angry with my choices. This list is based mostly on my own opinion, although I am influenced by the critics and box office numbers as well because I, as an amateur reviewer, want to be able to look at films from different angles and want to know how to support my opinion with facts.

Let’s start with the biggest category, which also has the clearest winner!

BLOCKBUSTERS:

  1. Mad Max Fury Road
  2. Mission Impossible Rogue Nation
  3. Avengers Age of Ultron
  4. Ant-Man
  5. Jurassic World
  6. Fast&Furious 7 (technically, not a summer movie, but I’m including it)
  7. The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
  8. San Andreas
  9. Terminator Genisys
  10. Hitman Agent 47
  11. Tomorrowland
  12. Fantastic Four

COMEDIES:

  1. Pitch Perfect 2
  2. Ted 2
  3. Magic Mike XXL
  4. The DUFF
  5. She’s Funny That Way
  6. Pixels
  7. Spy
  8. Trainwreck
  9. Hot Pursuit

DRAMAS:

  1. Paper Towns
  2. Southpaw
  3. Far from the Madding Crowd
  4. Testament of Youth
  5. Irrational Man
  6. We Are Your Friends
  7. Age of Adaline
  8. The Longest Ride

ANIMATED FILMS:

  1. Inside Out
  2. Moomins of the Riviera
  3. Minions

So, as you can tell I didn’t review 4 comedies, 2 dramas, and 1 blockbuster (Moomins review coming in the next few weeks). Comedy is my least favorite genre, so it doesn’t surprise me that I didn’t want to review comedic movies. Sadly, all the last 3 spaces on the comedy list are female-driven films and I would love to support female movies, but I won’t lie and say that I liked them, when I actually didn’t.

Share your lists down below and tell me what was your favorite film of the summer! I’m going to watch Mad Max tomorrow one more time so that I could close the summer with the best film of it.

Bye!

Movie review: Inside Out

Movie reviews

Hello!

The latest Pixar movie finally came out in my country, so let’s review Inside Out (despite the fact that I’m two months late).

I have probably already explained that, in my country, animated movies are dubbed, while all other films only have subtitles. Naturally, it takes more time to dub a movie than to add subtitles, so, as a result, animated movies have a later release date, while live action flicks usually come out in the same week as in the US. The only recent animated film that had a worldwide premiere date was Minions (review), because that film didn’t need a lot of dubbing – minions’ language is universal.

Anyway, let’s talk about Inside Out – a film that, to my mind, all kids should watch. I even go as far as to state that if all children watched movies like Inside Out, the so called Z-generation wouldn’t be regarded as bad as it is and the members of aforementioned generation would definitely have higher levels of emotional intellect, less psychological problems and, most importantly, less bullying between each other.

Not surprisingly, I have seen all Pixar films. I grew up with them! (Pixar released their first film – Toy Story – 2 years before I was born). My favorite top 5 Pixar films are (in no particular order): Ratatouille, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Inside Out. Yes, my dearest movie fanatics, Pixar did it again – they created an amazing film for both kids and adults, which is funny, smart and emotional (as we would expect from a Pixar movie). Although, I was probably the oldest person in the theater (I’m not counting parents who came with their children), I felt like I was a kid again. Inside Out brought back memories of going to the cinema with my mom when I was 4 or 5 years old. In addition, it not only had the nostalgia factor but was interesting for me as an 18 year old. Let’s talk about the different aspect of the film a bit more down bellow.

IMDb summary: After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school.

Directing

Inside Out was directed by Pete Docter who has previously worked on a plethora of Pixar films. He directed the tear-jerker Up and the touching and adventurous Monsters, Inc. Moreover, he received story credit for his work on the first two Toy Story films and WALL-E. He was also the Head Animator on the first computer animation – Toy Story from 1995. His accomplished resume raises expectations for Inside Out to be good and Docter definitely does not disappoint. The film looked amazing visually. The characters were wonderful, the way they moved and talked perfectly represented the emotions that they were conveying; the settings looked like they came from a dream and the memory bubbles and the sounds they made just tied everything together.

Writing

The film’s scripted was written by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley. Docter and the co-director of Inside Out Ronnie del Carmen created the story. (On a side note, Meg Le-Fauve is currently writing Captain Marvel script – she is a good team player for Disney, working first with Pixar and now with Marvel). Inside Out’s script and story are both wonderful. First of all, the premise of creating the film about emotions is genius. I have never seen anything like this done before and, although, I like book, comic book, TV show or video game adaptations to the silver screen, I always appreciate the original idea a lot more. Secondly, not only are the 5 main emotions very realistic, but the insides of the brain are as well. You have the long-term memory, core memories, personality islands, imagination, abstract thoughts, which are all very important and are all equally represented in the movie. I also loved the fact that they acknowledge the fact that you start to forget things as you grow older and make new memories. Furthermore, they main idea of the film that the memories are complex and can be both sad and happy at the same time is just brilliant. The human mind is extremely difficult to understand and the Inside Out, although made for kids, manages to portray this inter-connective mess that we have inside our heads understandably, while doing it justice and not oversimplifying it. I can’t sing enough praises for the script of this film. I hope it gets an Oscar nomination for Best Original Script. I have no doubt that the film will be nominated for Best Animated Feature, unless The Lego Movie incident will resurface.

Characters

I cannot really discuss the voice work because, as I’ve said, I watched the dubbed version of the film. I can, however, talk about the actual emotions. While all the kids loved Joy (I’m guessing that based on how many kids bought Joy’s action figures with their popcorn in the cinema. The line was huge, so I had time to observe, while waiting to get my tickets), my favorite was Sadness. She was the cutest of them all and I felt the strongest connection to her. Maybe that says something about me – my shyness, social anxiety and introvert side might be the one thing that turns me towards Sadness more than towards the other emotions. Moving on, I also really loved the sassiness that Disgust brought and the comic relief that Anger and Fear added to the film. Although, both of these emotions are not that fun in real life. Ending full circle, I enjoyed how the creators of the movie allowed both Joy and the viewers to go on this journey of discovery and understanding and made sure that they would arrive to the same conclusion that it’s okay to be sad and to feel down sometimes. The important thing is to get up and try again.

The actual human characters were also very well realized. Riley’s slow loss of personality islands perfectly reflected on her actions. Her parents were really great parent examples as well. However, I have to say, with all the action happening Inside, the Outside characters were a bit overshadowed. People were the supporting cast, while emotions played the lead.

Pixar’s shorts

The short film Lava (directed and written by Pixar’s animator James Ford Murphy) was shown before Inside Out. It’s a quirky and quite sad (Pixar playing with our emotions as usual) love story of two volcanoes, which ultimately has a happy ending. The short film is a great introduction to Inside Out, which will have its short very soon. Riley’s First Date? will be included in the home video release of Inside Out and will explore Riley’s jump into teenager years and dating. I would love to see the short film when it comes out, however, I don’t think it will be better than my favorite Pixar short – Partly Cloudy. If you have never seen it, go watch it, just bring a box of tissues with you. That short is directed by Peter Sohnwhose first feature-length directorial debut will be released later this year. The Good Dinosaur will come out in November, making 2015 the first year that Pixar released two films.

All in all, Inside Out is my favorite animated movie of this summer and definitely will make it to my top favorite animations of all time list. It’s a complex story, which appeals to all age groups. Moreover, the film is both the funny, impeccably animated adventure flick and the emotional masterpiece that only Pixar can make. If Disney is know for making timeless fairy tales about princesses and Laika – for wonderful stop-motion animation, then Pixar is the king of emotions.

Have a great day!

Rate: 5/5

Trailer: Inside Out trailer

P.S. I love the Inside Out iPhone game. Have you played it? I’ve finally reached the level 50. #soproud