5 ideas about a movie: The Mountain Between Us

Movie reviews

Hello!

A counterprogramming drama that dared to go against Blade Runner 2049. This is the review of The Mountain Between Us.

IMDb summary: Stranded after a tragic plane crash, two strangers must forge a connection to survive the extreme elements of a remote snow-covered mountain.

  1. The Mountain Between Us was written by Chris Weitz (the writer of Cinderella and Rogue One) and J. Mills Goodloe (the writer of Everything, Everything, The Age of Adaline, The Best of Me), based on the novel of the same name by Charles Martin. The Palestinian/Dutch director Hany Abu-Assad directed the film. While his non-English projects have been well received and even gotten a few Academy Awards nominations, his latest English language project will definitely not reach that level of success.
  2. The Mountain Between Us could be briefly described as Sully + Everest + any generic romantic drama from the last century. As you can probably tell, that last part (the romance) was the thing that I had the most problems with. I really thought that the whole romantic aspect of the movie was extremely forced. I did not buy the two characters as lovers. There is such thing as getting closer when facing a crisis and then there is just bad writing. The strangers to dislike to love arc did not work at all.
  3. I also didn’t particularly appreciate the very traditional archetypes for characters based on their gender. Of course, the female of the two had to be the more emotional one (an old-school damsel in distress), while the man could be rational/logical. Also, the driving factor for the woman had to be family/love/marriage, while the male character would focus on his career more. Having said that, if you are gonna make your character into a doctor (what a lucky coincidence for the plot), I can at least applaud you for picking the specialization that I wanted to practice – neurology.
  4. Structurally, the picture was fine. The opening set-up was efficient and quick even if a bit far-fetched. However, the drawn-out conclusion felt unnecessary and like an afterthought. Visually, the film did look good, mostly because of the gorgeous mountainous settings. However, some of the accidents on the mountain, like the characters falling, seemed rather fake – problems with CGI? Lastly, the inclusion of the dog into the story did nothing for me, as not an animal lover, but I’m sure that it was a positive factor for a lot of moviegoers.
  5. The two leads of the movie were played by Idris Elba (The Dark Tower, Star Trek Beyond, Bastille Day, Beasts of No Nation) and Kate Winslet (Collateral Beauty, Triple 9, Steve Jobs, Insurgent). Their performances were satisfying, cause the both of the actors are professionals, but nothing extraordinary. Also, I feel like their performances were not as good so as to carry the whole movie, which was exactly what they had to do.

In short, The Mountain Between Us was a confused survival/romance drama that felt really dated. A definitely skippable (at the cinema) movie, though it would probably work as a rental.

Rate: 2.7/5

Trailer: The Mountain Between Us trailer

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Movie review: The Glass Castle

Movie reviews, Uncategorized

Hello!

The Captain Fantastic-esque movie for this awards’ season – The Glass Castle – has reached theatres, so let’s see if it is as good as its predecessor.

IMDb summary: A young girl comes of age in a dysfunctional family of nonconformist nomads with a mother who’s an eccentric artist and an alcoholic father who would stir the children’s imagination with hope as a distraction to their poverty.

Writing

The Glass Castle’s script was written by the director of the picture Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham (who wrote the 2017 religious pic The Shack), and Marti Noxon (writer on Buffy and To The Bone). It was based on the memoir of the same name by Jeannette Walls (who was played in the film by Brie Larson). The writing for the film was interesting – it had some great moments but a few flaws too. First, the narrative simultaneously unraveled in two temporal lines, past and present, and these two were connected well-enough. However, the story itself was a bit too long – there were differently quite a few moments which could have been cut and made the plot more tight and streamlined. Nevertheless, the fact that the story was so long and drawn out kinda helped to build a strong emotional core of the film.

The Glass Castle had the Interstellar syndrome of focusing on a single child’s relationship with the parents and kinda letting the other children fade into the background (but, I guess, since the movie was based on one person’s memoir, it’s okay for the film to also have a more centered focus). Thematically, the movie tackled a lot of issues. The most obvious one was the less-than-conventional lifestyle of the family (and this were the Captain Fantastic similarity came in, although, CF was more about living unconventionally, while this one was more about just living in poverty). It was depicted quite well and with enough detail. The second topic was the parent-child relationship. That discussion had the ultimate message that parents need to respect their children’s life choices, even if they might do something different in their place (at least that was my takeaway).

The third issue was the abuse in the family. This problem was depicted in both The Walls’ family and the father’s family. The first recreation of the issue (in The Walls family) was way more well-rounded, while the abuse in the father’s own family (abuse of the mother/grandma) was only just glanced at, which was the biggest flaw in the film. If that was definitely the case of pedophilia, the movie should have looked at it much more. If it wasn’t the case, all the speculations needed to be cleared out way more overtly. Lastly, The Glass Castle also presented an alcoholic character and had one of the best and most accurate representations of the issue. The withdrawal scene, as well as the irrational need for a drink, were very realistic inclusions.

While The Glass Castle did a fairly good job of presenting a variety of issues and topics, I wish it were more critical of them. I saw this being the main complaint in the reviews of the various critics and I completely agree with them. The end of the picture was mostly sugar-coated and very Hollywood-y. While forgiveness is a powerful tool to have, an ability to stand for one’s own beliefs and to cut toxic people from one’s life, no matter how close to them one used to be, are also important life lessons that I wish the film would have added.

Directing

Destin Daniel Cretton, who has previously mostly worked on short films and documentaries, directed The Glass Castle as his 3rd feature film. The pacing of the movie was really slow, and while the emotional connection between the viewer and the characters was quite successfully built, the narrative itself did drag and got too repetitive at times. The cinematography was good, very classic, drama-style one. The director also did a good job of working with the actors and pulling amazing performances out of them.

Acting

The two stand-outs from the cast were Brie Larson (Room, Kong, Free Fire) and Woody Harrelson (Triple 9, Now You See Me 1+2, War For The Planet Of The Apes). Larson has actually previously worked with this director and her involvement in his film post-Oscar win, kinda raised the movie’s profile. Anyway, Larson, once again, proved that she deserved that last Oscar that she won and I hope to see her standing on the Academy stage once more in the future. Harrelson also nailed his role. This time around his performance as an alcoholic was even more believable than in The Hunger Games. Other supporting cast members included Divergent’s Naomi Watts (she was amazing as the eccentric artist mother) and Sarah Shook (Steve Jobs), Josh Caras, and Brigette Lundy-Paine as Jeannette’s siblings. New Girls Max Greenfield also had a fun role, while Ella Anderson did a very good job as the younger version of Jeannette.

In short, The Glass Castle is an interesting biopic that should have analyzed rather than just depicted its source material. The acting is top-notch, though.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: The Glass Castle trailer

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Movie review: The Dark Tower

Movie reviews

Hello!

Recently, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of westerns with both remakes (The Magnificient Seven) and reinventions of the genre (Westworld) hitting the big and the small screens alike. Let’s see whether The Dark Tower can continue the trend.

IMDb summary: The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain, has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black, determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.

Writing

The Dark Tower film is both an adaptation and a continuation of the Stephen King’s book series by the same name. Sony has tasked Akiva GoldsmanJeff PinknerAnders Thomas Jensen, and the director of the picture Nikolaj Arcel with the honor and the burden of crafting the narrative that can equal as well as complement King’s. And, as most of you already know if you read any of the earlier reviews, this group of screenwriters utterly failed. However, I can’t say I’m that surprised. Goldsman has written a lot of bad movies in his day (Batman&Robin, Insurgent, Transformers 5) and the only reasons why he is still working is the fact that he has an Oscar for A Beautiful Mind. Pinkner has already murdered one franchise before it even started by writing The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and, for some reason, he is writing the Venom solo film too. I don’t know much about Jensen’s work because he has mostly worked on Danish films before now. Arcel is also a Danish filmmaker, however, he might actually be known to the English speaking audiences more for a film A Royal Affair, which stars Alicia Vikander and Mads Mikkelsen – two Danish actors who have fully transitioned into Hollywood.

Speaking of the writing for The Dark Tower, I don’t even know where to begin. The whole screenplay just seemed so lazy and uninspired. There was no interesting set-up for a story or any attempt to build an engaging and fascinating world. Maybe the scriptwriters were hoping that all movie goers have read King’s novels and would already know all the mythology so they didn’t bother putting it in the film. The plot itself was so basic. The characters acted in a certain way just because the screenwriters wanted them to and neither their reasons nor motivations could be found in the picture. The character development wasn’t the best either. The gunslinger was reduced to a stereotypical tired hero, back from retirement for one last fight, while the child lead was a walking cliche too – a tragic figure with a heart of gold (the film even had the super overdone cliche of the parents not trusting their child). The villain – the man in black – was fine but he also could have been so much better: more ominous or well explained or explored.

Directing

Nikolaj Arcel didn’t impress anyone, I included, with his directing. The visuals were boring: there was zero originality in the location design – a couple of industrial warehouses, a bunch of disposable huts, and some fake looking and grim CGI exteriors. The action itself wasn’t that exciting either. For one, there wasn’t enough of it. The man in black should have been allowed to do more with his immense powers, while the gunslinger should have shot stuff more. Also, when you have a character whose main trait is his gun shotting skills, create some inventive and fresh gun action scenes rather than just doing the same thing that every movie does. The only cool parts involving the gunslinger were the shots of him reloading the gun as well as the final diversion bullet thing. I wanted to see more of that! The other part of the film that I can sort of compliment was/were the costumes – they looked neat but mostly because they were worn by good looking Hollywood A-listers than can pull off an outfit consisting of both a low-V shirt and a vest. Lastly, the pacing of the movie was super problematic too. The Dark Tower was only around 90 minutes long – one of the shortest blockbusters in recent years – but it dragged all the time and still felt like it was too long.

Acting

I kinda feel bad for Idris Elba (Zootopia, The Jungle Book, Bastille Day, Star Trek Beyond, Finding Dory, Beasts of No Nation) and Matthew McConaughey (Interstellar, Free State of Jones, Kubo and The Two Strings, Sing): they deserve to act in a better movie than this – but I also don’t think that they delivered their best performances that might have saved the film. McConaughey was cool as the man in black. As I have said, he looked good, he was charismatic but his energy was at an all time low. Elba was fine too but he didn’t make a big impression. Tom Taylor played the young boy and did an okay job but he wasn’t a revelation.

In short, The Dark Tower was a huge disappointment that bored me to the death. I really doubt that this franchise will continue, neither on the silver screen nor at everyone’s homes.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: The Dark Tower trailer

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Movie review: War For The Planet Of The Apes

Movie reviews

Hello, 

The third and final installment in the rebooted Apes franchise – War For The Planet Of The Apes – is upon us, so let’s review it.

IMDb summary: After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.

SPOILER ALERT

Writing

War For The Planet Of The Apes broke the trend that most blockbusters follow nowadays and was written by only 2 people instead of a bunch of them. Mark Bomback (who wrote The Wolverine, Insurgent, and the previous entry in the trilogy Dawn) and the director Matt Reeves were the only two screenwriters responsible for the script and, to my mind, that was one of the factors that lead to War’s screenplay being a major success that only had a few minor flaws.

To begin with, I loved the neat recap that played with the titles of the films (Rise, Dawn, War). I also very much enjoyed the direction that this story took with the humans devolving and losing the traits that make them human. The scene in which Woody Harelson’s character exposed that concept was a bit exposition heavy but the idea itself was so interesting that I didn’t care that much. In general, the issues of humanity were even more prevalent than in the previous films and were handled really well. Moreover, I adored the final twists in the plot, where the final battle was more about the human vs human conflict with the apes caught in the middle. Additionally, the idea to have mother nature as the winning agent was a genius one and also helped the action-y third act to tie into Harrelson’s character’s story-idea that apes are more adapted for survival.

Other themes, like Caesar’s struggles of leadership (to stay with the group or be the lone wolf/ape), his drive for revenge and/or survival, and his feelings of guilt and responsibility, were great additions to the narrative that elevated the film. Speaking about Caesar, his death at the end of the movie was quite emotional – he was one of the most memorable sci-fi characters ever that we had a privilege of seeing grow and develop in three, near damn perfect, films.

The new characters in War were excellent additions. The bad ape character was an obvious ploy for comedic relief but he was actually funny (wonder how much of that was improvised and how much was written). The child human character was also really good – she was like a beacon of real humanity and goodness in a war film. Lastly, the few gripes with the picture’s writing I had were mostly illogical gaps in the narrative. For one, the soldier characters were kinda awful at their job, not noticing the little girl or that the apes were gone. Secondly, I wish that the ape characters would have been made to utilize their ape skills more. When Caesar and the band went looking for the colonel, why not make them smell the territory rather than just barge in? Thirdly, this is not really a logical flaw, but I wish that the flower moment with the ape and the girl and that ape’s death scene would have been further apart. It would have given us more time to really get to know the character and would have made the untimely demise even more emotional.

Directing

Matt Reeves took over Rupert Wyatt (he directed Rise) on the second film Dawn and also helmed the final installment War. I loved the continued direction that he first chose for the second film – to treat the movie as a thriller or even a drama but to also have spectacular action moments. War was intense and slow but crafted with such care. The only time the film slowed down too much was the sequences with the apes in the camp before they started planning the escape. Nevertheless, that part had to be in the picture because Caesar had to go through a period of muddled motivations and had to re-find his purpose.

The visuals were amazing: the surroundings of nature were just impeccable and a character in their own right, while the CGI of the apes was absolutely unbelievable as well and even better than it was before (and it was already great). The long takes were awe-inspiring and emotionally driven, like the shot of apes kneeling before Caesar in his introduction or the sweeping shots of the battle. Another emotional moment was the scene of the ‘Apes Together Strong’ sign. Ir really reminded me of The Hunger Games ‘Three Finger Salute’.

Generally, I loved what Reeves did with the final installment in this trilogy and I’m now way more trusting in the fact that he can absolutely nail The Batman solo movie. He recently replaced Ben Affleck as the director of that project and his is also rewriting the script.

Acting

Andy Serkis (LOTR, Star Wars 7, Avengers 2) was back in his element as Caesar and just did his job to perfection. He portrayed so much emotion through all the CGI: some actors can’t even do that with their real faces. He is a mastermind of motion capture and his work must be rewarded or at least recognized. Academy, prove to us that you are not as old fashioned as we think.

Although other actors had to compete with Serkis, they did do a good job with their motion capture performances too. The comedian Steve Zahn was brilliant as the Bad Ape, while the returning talent Karin Konoval and Terry Notary were also really good. I really wish that their motion capture work would lead to more on-screen acting gigs for them. The humans, this time around, were played by Woody Harrelson (Triple 9, Now You See Me 2) – he was great in the villainous role and the young TV actress Amiah Miller – she was a delight to watch as well.

In short, War For The Planet Of The Apes might be the best thriller of this summer and one of the best blockbusters too. It’s smartly written, well-acted, and directed with care on top of being an incredible showcase of what can be achieved with CGI in this day and age.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: War For The Planet Of The Apes trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Rough Night 

Movie reviews

Hello!

After two weeks of back to back volunteering gigs at big sports events, I needed a simple and fun movie. I expected Rough Night to be just that. Let’s see if it were.

  1. Rough Night was written by the director of the film Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs (real-life and comedic partners, who both work on Comedy Central projects). The writing was mostly fine: I liked the topical humor, like the fact that Scarlet Johansson’s politician character looked like Hilary Clinton or that the film made fun of the selfie culture. The ending was a bit out-there but managed to get a few laughs from me, so that’s good. The typical (almost cliche) themes of the friend rivalry and the growing apart were also present.
  2. Aniello’s direction for the movie was okay, though it did seem a bit amateurish, with some neat moments dispersed throughout. The whole idea to set the film in Miami, unfortunately, reminded me of Snatched and how that film was just basically set in a more exotic location so that the actors could go on vacation. The pop soundtrack was fun and summery, though.
  3. The main 5 ladies were played by Scarlett Johansson (Marvel films (Rough Night’s low box office killed any possibilities of a Black Widow movie), The Jungle Book, Hail, Caesar!, Ghost in the Shell), Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters), Jillian BellIlana Glazer, and Zoë Kravitz (Divergent, Mad Max, Fantastic Beasts). Although their characters seemed pretty varied, all of their performances were really similar. My favorite one was actually Kravitz, while McKinnon’s Australian-ness (the actress is American) seemed like a cheap joke that was pushed too far.
  4. The supporting cast of the film was way more fun than the main one. The groom and his friends at the wine tasting sequence (what melodrama were they from? doesn’t matter – it worked), as well as the slow-motion sequence at the shop, were hilarious. The screenwriter of the film Paul W. Downs actually played the part of the groom-to-be. The cameo appearances by Demi Moore and Ty Burrell also added a few laughs.
  5. The movie had two after/during credits scenes. The mid-credits one was a way too long joke involving McKinnon’s character, while the after-credits scene provided some extra revelations about the plot. I didn’t even wait for it, though.

In short, Rough Night (or Bridesmaids: the crime comedy) was an okay summer flick that served some laughs as well as some cringy moments.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Rough Night trailer

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Movie review: Baby Driver

Movie reviews

Hello!

An original movie, in this day and age, is a rarity, and that makes Baby Driver ten times more special than it already is. Let see whether the film can live up to the hype, whether it can prove the worth of original material, and whether it can act as the comeback of Edgar Wright! Plus, can it just be a fun and enjoyable summer movie?

IMDb summary: After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.

Edgar Wright

Baby Driver was both written and directed by the coveted auteur Edgar Wright (one of the few auteurs working in Hollywood). Wright is best known for creating The Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy and cult classic Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. He also worked on the Marvel project Ant-Man before parting ways with the studio. Even though he left Disney/Marvel, he did live to make another movie and Baby Driver very much proves that his career is far from over. So, on a side note, Lord and Miller situation (them being fired from the Han Solo movie) might also turn out fine.

Writing

I very much enjoyed the writing for Baby Driver. The story was tight and simple, but yet also complex and unique. Let’s begin with the main character of Baby – I don’t think I can name another recent character that was so extraordinary. His love for music and driving, his sense of style (those glasses – brilliant), his relationships with his mother, girlfriend, and the deaf foster dad, and a good heart made him not only a relatable but extremely likable lead. And yet, he also had unexpected qualities (like the idea for that brutal kill or just bravery enough to kill). Also, the fact that the movie acknowledged that there are different ways to enjoy music (by hearing AND feeling it) was so great.

The romantic plotline also actually worked, which it rarely does in an action film. I loved the ending shot in black and white: they looked like a couple of criminals from a 60s movie. All the main criminal characters were amazing too and I loved the fact that all of their arcs had a definitive ending and that they weren’t dropped halfway through the runtime. My only gripe was that I didn’t think that Kevin Spacey’s character’s change of heart fully worked. The film also had wonderful humor, some of my favorite parts were the kid in the post office and the butchery metaphor. Lastly, I loved how Wright paid dues to other movies, by either giving them a shout-out or just showing a clip from them on TV. Baby Driver was, truly, a film written by a movie lover for movie lovers.

Directing

From the trailers, Baby Driver seemed like a super fun movie but I didn’t feel that it had the signature flavor of Wright. I was kinda right – Baby Driver was his lowest energy project yet (although it did dial everything up for the finale) and his most mainstream film so far and that is not really a bad thing. It was basically something different yet familiar. I loved all the action sequences and enjoyed the irony of Baby also having to run rather than drive in one of them. I was also impressed by the long takes, especially the one that followed the opening car chase. The signature close-ups were also neat.

Plus, I liked the fact that they used normal looking cars, not super expensive and super fast ones. Thus, Baby Driver was a celebration of driving – a thing that The Fast and The Furious used to have but lost completely in the later installments. Lastly, I cannot write a review for Baby Driver without mentioning the editing and the soundtrack. This is how you edit the visuals into the music. King Arthur and Suicide Squad should watch and learn.

Acting

Baby Driver’s cast was marvelous: it consisted of both proven actors and some up-and-comers. Ansel Elgort (TFIOS, Divergent) was spectacular, they way he acted into the music/with the music was just thrilling to watch. Lily James (Cinderella) was good as his girlfriend: they looked cute together and had chemistry. The cinema veterans Kevin Spacey (House of Cards), Jon Hamm (Keeping Up With The Joneses was actually not bad), Jamie Foxx (Sleepless was the best movie of this January – not much but something), and Jon Bernthal (The Accountant) all brought their A-game and appeared to be having a ton of fun with this picture. Lastly, an unknown (to me) Mexican actress Eiza González was an amazing badass to watch as well.

In short, Baby Driver is the best version of Drive meets American Grafitti. It has great action, funny jokes, cool editing, spectatcular soundtrack and it’s Edgar Wright at his best, even if that ‘best’ is a bit different than we are used to.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Baby Driver trailer

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Movie review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Movie reviews

Good morning/day/evening!

Another YA adaptation from a once visionary director has hit theaters, so, let’s take it apart! This is the review of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children!

IMDb summary: When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that stretches across time, he finds Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. But the danger deepens after he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.

Allow me to begin by saying that I think that this movie (and the book) has one of the coolest names ever. Yes, it is quite long, weird, and hard to remember, but that’s what makes it special. Just the name alone tells you a lot about the story, but, at the same time, doesn’t give anything away. I wanted to start this review with a compliment because I imagine I will be quite hard on the film in the following paragraphs since I had a number of problem with it.

SPOILERS AHEAD

The narrative: the book, the changes, and the screenplay

The trilogy of books by Ransom Riggs that inspired this film was one of the two YA series that I checked out this year, other being the Engelsfors series by M.Strandberg and S.Bergmark Elfgren. I have always been a fan of fantasy, so I knew that I would enjoy the novels. I also really liked the role that the old vintage photographs played in the making of the books and how they were used in the final product. Those pictures really made the series stand out from the other numerous YA franchises out there.

However, before going to see this film, I questioned whether it can become a successful cinematic trilogy since YA adaptations have been going down both in quality and in the box office numbers. Mockingjay Part 2 was a disappointing finale that didn’t earn as much as expected, Allegiant absolutely crashed and burn – didn’t even earn enough to get the final entry in the franchise made into a film and the release of The Maze Runner‘s final movie had to be postponed due to Dylan O’Brien’s injury on set. Will the audiences still want to see The Death Cure a year later? Will they show up to support an altogether new franchise? I guess, we’ll have to wait and see.

The film’s script was written by Jane Goldman – a long time co-writing partner of Matthew Vaughn. Together, they have worked on movies such as Kingsmen: The Secret Service, X-Men: First Class, Stardust and Kick-Ass. Miss Peregrine Home for Peculiar Children was her second solo writing project, first being the period horror picture The Woman in Black.

As usual, when adapting a piece of literature to the big screen, some (or a lot) of details of the narrative are changed. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was no exception. For the first two acts, the film followed the book pretty closely but it did create a completely new and different 3rd act. Concerning the smaller alterations, I’ll try to list as much of them as I could spot:

  1. Emma’s and Olive’s abilities were switched. Emma had the power of air instead of fire, while Olive controlled fire rather than being able to float.
  2. Bronwyn was aged down, while Olive aged up. I understand why they did this: Regarding Bronwyn –  it is more striking to see a little girl lift huge weight rather than a teenager, whereas Olive had to be a teenager for them to have a second romantic couple in the film.
  3. The underwater ship scene went down a different way in the book. They probably wanted to make it more visually interesting in the film and I also think that this scene was the reason they switched Emma’s and Olive’s peculiarities.
  4. Miss Avocet’s involvement in the main narrative was altered.
  5. Jacob’s only normal human friend was cut from the beginning of the story and, in general, in the picture, Jacob was made into an even more of a social outcast than he was in the book.
  6. The hollows were eating the eyes of the peculiars instead of their souls. Since eyes are the window to the soul, this might have been the filmmakers’ attempt to visualize a soul as something material.
  7. Miss Peregrine’s kidnapping was altered and basically, all the 3rd act, which followed the kidnapping, went completely away from the book. The film’s final act had different locations than the book’s (the action happened in the house, on a big ship and in the circus, rather than on a small boat on a sea) and it was also more action-y in the cliche Hollywood way. The decision to use the ship allowed Emma to do more stuff and was a cool effect, but everything that happened after that fell flat. Personally, I think that the modern setting and fantasy don’t mix well, so the whole sequence in the circus in 2016 just seemed ridiculous. It might have looked cool and clever on paper but it appeared childish and stupid on screen. I also get why some people complain that the plot was hard to follow during the 3rd act because it actually was a jumbled mess.

A few other points on the script of the feature. To begin with, the film had an awful amount of obvious exposition. The characters would just sit around listening to each other tell important points of the backstory. Half of that exposition could have been incorporated more organically. Secondly, the writing for Jacob was quite awful – he mostly stood around asking questions or reacting to stuff. He was quite a useless hero – it there will be a sequel, I want him to take charge of his situation much more. Actually, he kinda did that at the end of the film, although we didn’t see it because they just montaged through his individual travels. Thirdly, the writing for Jacob’s parents was paper-thin. They were super one dimensional – their one character trait was the fact that they don’t really care about their son. Lastly, gonna end on a positive note and praise the picture for adding a couple of interesting moments to the story: one, Peregrine shooting the hollow was a cool scene and, two, young Abraham’s call was a nice emotional detail.

Although I try my best to always allow the movie to stand on its own, this time, I’m just gonna come out and say that I liked the book’s story better. I’d love to see a sequel that is closer to the second book’s (Hollow City) plot but I doubt it’s possible since the narrative has gone into a way different direction.

Directing

Tim Burton used to be an imaginary and fantastic director but he seems to have run out of steam lately. I have even done a separate post on his filmography before Alice 2 came out earlier this year. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Tim Burton seemed like a match made in heaven between the source material and the director, however, the movie was just fine. Nothing spectacular or special. The visuals were great, I liked how the film opened with the photos and the letters – it was a nice optical callback to the photographs in the book. The CGI and the design of the monsters were cool too. The slight steampunk vibes were also appreciated. However, the decision to allow (or make) the actors overdramatize some line and scenes, the awkward and choppy editing and the pacing problems (rushing through the setup, dragging in the middle, rushing in the end) were just a few of the flaws of the flick that Burton should have fixed.

Acting

  • Eva Green (Casino Royale, Dark Shadows, 300: Rise of an Empire) as Miss Peregrine. Green is a fabulous actress and she should have been great as Peregrine but her whole performance seemed a bit off to me. She was younger than I imagined Peregrine to be in the book and she also portrayed the character more as a quirky but cool aunt, rather than strict but caring grandma. Nevertheless, she did seem more friendly and open in the movie, which I liked, though, her shaky introduction and the signature Tim Burton crazy/dead eyes weren’t great.
  • Asa Butterfield (Ender’s Game, Hugo, X+Y) as JacobButterfield is one of the most promising young actors working today but his performance here was a bit stiff and low energy. The writing for Jacob was problematic and the performance didn’t save the character either.
  • Ella Purnell (Maleficient) as Emma was good. She and Butterfield did have some chemistry, although, I still think that their love story was creepy and forced. Grandad and grandchild having the same girlfriend. Really!? It is kinda a Twilight type of a coupling, just with switched genders.
  • Lauren McCrostie as Olive was good. She didn’t have much to do, but I’d like to see more of her. Since they aged up the character, they should’ve used her more.
  • Finlay MacMillan as Enoch. Enoch was one of my favorite parts of the books. He could have been such a cool sarcastic character on screen but the actor just portrayed him as super annoying, which was a disappointment.
  • Samuel L. Jackson (Kingsman, The Hateful Eight, Marvel) as Mr. Barron. Jackson is a great actor but here he was kinda a caricature. He was funny and his portrayal of the character did work for the film, but, on its own, the performance would be considered a complete parody.

In summary, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was promising but didn’t really fulfill any of the promises as much as it could have. The story started out good but fell flat in the 3rd act, the directing was disjointed and the acting – only so-so.

Rate: 2.7/5

Trailer: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children trailer

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Movie review: War Dogs

Movie reviews

Hello!

Another buddy comedy has hit theaters, so let’s review it!

IMDb summary: Based on the true story of two young men, David Packouz and Efraim Diveroli, who won a $300 million contract from the Pentagon to arm America’s allies in Afghanistan.

War Dogs is kinda similar to the other to buddy comedies of this summer – The Nice Guys and Central Intelligence, in that they all have a contrasting duo in a lead. The film also shares some topical similarities (greed) with Pain & Gain and even The Wolf of Wall Street.

Writing

War Dogs was written by Stephen Chin, Todd Phillips, and Jason Smilovic, based on Guy Lawson’s book Arms and the Dudes, which was inspired by true events. The film’s narrative was fine – it had a few clever things to say about war, mainly, that was is an economy. It also explored the greed of people and portrayed it as the biggest flaw of humanity. Lastly, the movie touched upon the performative aspect of communication – War Dogs showed how specific individuals can read other people and modify their own manners and appearance to fit the vision that the others have of them.

The first act of the film felt a bit choppy – I couldn’t figure out where the story was going, but in the middle of the 2nd act, everything started to flow nicely. War Dogs also had a lot of narration and, while, to my mind, it worked well, to a lot of movie-goers it is a bad thing. The picture’s ending was a bit abrupt, though. I did not feel that there was a full resolution and I also thought that the two criminals got away way too easily.

Directing

Todd Phillips of The Hangover trilogy was at the helm of this picture and did a good job. War Dogs was quite a slow but really well made and entertaining film. I wanted to see a bit more action but I guess they decided to go the drama route and explore the relationship between the two characters. The intro montage set the stage for the upcoming story neatly and explained the premise clearly and concisely. I also liked the structure of the feature – how it was divided into a bunch of  vignette-like parts. The names of these vignettes, which were just random lines of dialogue, were also cool and perfectly summarized the main ideas of these specific pieces of the film. The soundtrack wasn’t bad either.

Acting

The two leads of the movie were played by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller. Their characters were both clever idiots, only Hill’s character was the more crazy and greedy one, while Teller’s character was presented as the protagonist, the everyday-man that the audiences are supposed to root for.

Hill was amazing as the selfish Efraim Diveroli, the only element of his performance that annoyed me slightly was that laugh. He played a similar character in the already mentioned The Wolf of Wall Street. In addition, Hill isn’t new to the buddy comedy genre – his big break was in Superbad (the teen comedy about two guys), while in the recent years he has returned to the genre with Changing Tatum and 21+22 Jump Street. Now, Hill replaced Tatum with Teller but, thankfully, Hill’s and Teller’s chemistry is as good if not better.

Miles Teller was also great in the role of David Packouz. I’ve told you numerous times that I’m a fan of his and was extremely soud after Fantastic Four turned out the way it did. I hope that Teller will start clicking with the audiences soon, because he is a really talented actor. If you don’t belive me, just watch Whiplash. He was also good in small comedies 21 and Over, Two Night Stand and That Awkward Moment. Going forward, Teller has a boxing movie coming up as well as a drama and an action flick. I don’t know if he will return to the Divergent franchise as the last installment of that series is still up in the air and will probably go to the TV.

An important supporting role was played by Bradley Cooper who also produced the picture. Cooper was fine in the movie but I was actually much more interested to find out that he produces basically all his big films like Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, and American Sniper. Going forward, he has a few voice roles for Marvel/Disney and Universal.

In short, War Dogs was a fine summer picture that had a great release date – if it would have come out earlier in the summer, it would have probably been burried underneath the big blockbusters. The film had okay directing and writing, while the standout feature of the movie were the performances of and the chemistry between the two leads.

Rate: 3,5/5

Trailer: War Dogs trailer

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Movie review: The Divergent Series – Allegiant

Movie reviews

Hello!

Sorry for not writing for more than a week. I was really busy with university work and midterm assignments. But since it’s the weekend, I have a little bit of time to give you my thoughts on The Divergent Series: Allegiant! I swear the names of these films just keep getting longer and longer. Thank God that this one doesn’t have ‘Part 1’ in its name, though.

IMDb summary: After the earth-shattering revelations of Insurgent, Tris must escape with Four beyond the wall that encircles Chicago to finally discover the shocking truth of what lies behind it.

While watching this film, I came to the conclusion that I might have grown out of these dystopian movies or, at least, moved on to a different phase in my life. I also don’t think that I am the only one who did that: I would be really interested to know how financially successful this movie will be and whether the mainstream audiences are still interested in this genre of YA science fiction. But then again, there are only 3 (or only 2, since THG has ended) of dystopian franchises left, while there are more than 10 different comic book series and those movies are always profitable, despite how oversaturated the market is.

SPOILERS

Writing

The script for this film was written by a whole bunch of people: Noah Oppenheim, Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, and Stephen Chbosky. It was, of course, based on the book by Veronica Roth. Chbosky is the one person from this group whose work I am familiar with. He, of course, wrote the book and the screen version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and he also directed that film. That narrative is one of my favorite coming-of-age stories ever. Chobsky is also writing a script for next year’s Beauty and the Beast for Disney’s live action fairytale department.  Meanwhile, Oppenheim has worked in the genre of dystopian fiction before – he was one of the screenwriters on The Maze Runner. Lastly, Cooper and Collage have previously worked together on the controversial Exodus: Gods and Kings film. I think that all the writers of the film did an okay job. The story had some nice moments as well as enough of terrible ones.

Book To Movie

It has been 3 years since I read the book that this movie has been based on, so I do not remember all the tiny details, but I feel that the movie’s story was as faithful as it could be to the original material. As far as I remember, the book had more subplots and more characters, with personal aims, involved in the main events, but I am totally fine with the film cutting out half of them if that makes the plot more concise and focuses up the story. If they would have chosen to include everything from the book into the picture, we would have ended up with a whole lot of narration – basically, it would be the same as listening to the audio book.  Also, the things that were in the book, but weren’t present in this film, might still appear in The Divergent Series: Ascendant. Remember, while this film doesn’t have ‘Part 1’ in its name, it still is only the first half of the final entry into the franchise.

Speculations about Ascendant

Speaking about the story, I think that some of the book things that the were missing from this film but the last movie will probably include are:

  1. Nita’s subplot and rebellion inside the bureau
  2. Caleb’s and Tris’s relationship and the idea of sacrifice
  3. More scenes with Tris and Christina (I don’t think that they had one full scene together in Allegiant at all)
  4. The book ending – HUGE SPOILER for the next film. I remember that I was shocked when I read it in the book and I really hope that they will keep this ending. It’s not only brave and different but a quite nice cinematic twist. This franchise would definitely earn back my respect if they did it.

Changes

A few of the changes that I could spot were:

  1. The whole set- up for the escape was completely different. However, while the premise and the process were altered, the final outcome stayed the same.
  2. The actual group Allegiant played a slightly different role and showed up later in the film’s story than in the book’s story.
  3. A much smaller group of already somewhat established characters participated in the escape in the film.
  4. In the book, there was an inoculation serum which was not present in the film.
  5. I don’t remember anything about the plasma balls and drones in the book. I think that the filmmakers just thought that it would a cool visual,  however, it ended up being a kinda stupid idea.
  6. Lastly, I don’t think that there was such institution as the council in the book.

Gripes about the story

While reading the story in the book, I didn’t really have problems with it, but watching it on screen made me realize how annoying and frustrating it sometimes was/is. For one, the death of Tori was so obvious – why would she deliberately stand further back? Also, how could Evelyn not realize that the memory serum would affect everyone? The film also had kinda an abrupt ending as it was only the first 1 of the bigger picture. Other problems I had with the film were more visual or aural. For one, that 3D exposition in the bureau was obviously meant for the viewers and not the characters. Moreover, the technology and the architecture of the place wasn’t even remotely realistic. Lastly, all the screams, especially in that aircraft, sounded really fake.

Things I liked

Okay, I feel like I have been too harsh on this film, so I will tell you 2 things that I actually enjoyed about the story. Number 1: I liked the idea that old methods in new circumstances will equal to the same mistakes and Number 2: I enjoyed the fact that they didn’t portray David as a straight up villain. He was kinda right in saying that peace is impossible to achieve without the struggle.

Visuals and Directing

Insurgent’s director Robert Schwentke returned to direct the 3rd film. To my mind, he did a good job. I noticed that he used a lot of overhead panning out shots as well as the circle/around traveling shots. The short fight on the plane was probably my favorite action sequence, just because it was the most realistic. The CGI of the film was also okay – nothing too groundbreaking but nothing bad as well.

I really loved the mise-en-scene of the film. That includes the brown/orange/red/yellow wasteland as the setting and the soldiers’ costumes which changed colours (red outdoors, grey and black inside). I also have to praise the editing department for the opening sequence – I liked the futurist and pixelated font in the old school color of gold. It was a nice juxtaposition between tradition and modernity.

Soundtrack

Allegiant’s soundtrack was put together by Joseph Trapanese. I especially liked his pick for the main theme/end credits song – Scars by Tove Lo. Since I’m a fan of Lo, I have been listening to this track even before I watched the movie – I highly recommend you give it a listen even if you don’t plan on watching the film.

Acting

As with all YA movies, the cast consisted of young up-and-coming actors and older more accomplished ones.

  • The ‘youngsters’ were led by Shailene Woodley as Tris. She was good in the action scenes as well as in more challenging dramatic ones. Still, my favorite movie of hers will always be TFIOS. She will be starring in Snowden – a political thriller later this year. Theo James starred as Four, the love interest. He was perfectly fine in the role and is currently working on another Underworld film.
  • Ansel Elgort played Caleb, while Zoë Kravitz starred as Christina. Both of them had really tiny roles, but I quite liked their funny moment together in that aircraft. I am really interested in Elgort’s next project – the movie Billionaire Boys Club.  Kravitz doesn’t really have any big movies coming up, but you can always rewatch Mad Max Fury Road if you want to see a really good movie of hers. 
  • Miles Teller as Peter. I really hated the character of Peter in the book, but I loved him in the film, probably because Teller was playing him. I am a fan of his and would like to forget the disaster of Fantastic Four as quickly as possible. Teller as Peter had basically all the funny lines and one-liners of the film. Next, we will see Miles in the comedy Get a Job and in 3 other films later this year.

The adult cast of the film consisted of Jeff Daniels as DavidNaomi Watts as Evelyn, and Octavia Spencer as Johanna. I feel like, for them, this movie was/is the definition of a paycheck gig.

All in all, Allegiant was an okay film. I didn’t expect much from it to be truthful, so I wasn’t that disappointed. It’s not a must-see, but if you have nothing better to watch or do, you will have a pleasant time watching Allegiant.

Rate: 3.2/5

Trailer: The Divergent Series: Allegiant trailer

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Movie review: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Movie reviews

Hello!

Before the highly anticipated The Hunger Games finale rolls into theaters in November, let’s review the latest entry in a different dystopian franchise, which ultimately will be compared to both THG and Divergent series’ films with or without its permission. Let’s talk about Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.

IMDb summary: After having escaped the Maze, the Gladers now face a new set of challenges on the open roads of a desolate landscape filled with unimaginable obstacles.

The first thing that I would like to mention when talking about this film is the speed at which it was made. The first film in the series (review) was released in September of last year and the studio only greenlit the sequel when they saw, how much money the first film made. So, this means that they had less than a year to shoot and edit the second installment. For me, that seems really fast. Some movies get stuck in stages of pre-production or production for years and this one was shot, edited, advertised and distributed in 10 months time. Usually, such a short production period suggests that the movie was rushed and, consequently, might not be great. Thankfully, that’s not the case with The Scorch Trials.

Book&Writing

As some of you may know, this film franchise is based on a book series by James Dashner. I loved the book series and have read all 3 novels before going to see the first film. Now, I don’t really remember  all the details from the book, but can tell you that they changed a lot of it. However, as I have said numerous time before, I don’t care if the film’s creators alter the plot because I treat the book and the movie as two separate mediums and two different interpretations of the same story. Still, it’s interesting to see what is the same and what is different between the book and the motion picture. Though, which story is better is definitely not the argument that I want to have here.

Anyway, as much as I remember from the book, I can tell you that they did change much. While all the main points of the story were similar and mostly all of the characters from the book made it into the film, the details of the plot differed a lot. To begin with, the Gladers escaped from the facility at the beginning of the story for completely different reasons. Teresa and Thomas couldn’t communicate telepathically, so their relationship wasn’t that well realized in the film as it was in the book. Also, tattoos/title tags on the necks of the Gladers were not present in the film. These tags really raised tension between the characters in the book, so if they would have used them in a film, maybe we would have gotten some more character development/ conflict/dialogue and not just a lot of running. Lastly, the book had no Right Arm subplot and the ending of the film was very different from the ending of the book. However, I can at least imagine how they can get Thomas to a place that he was supposed to be in at the end of The Scorch Trials if they decide to follow the 3rd book a bit more.

The film’s screenplay was written by T.S. Nowlin, so those of you who like the book’s and film’s story to be exactly the same can be angry at him. (Please, don’t be!). Nowlin wrote the screenplay of the first adaptation and will probably be writing the script for the last film as well. He doesn’t have any other writing credits on his IMDb page, but he has produced a few independent films. I applaud his efforts on The Scorch Trials because he handled a plethora of characters and variety of different events, which influenced each other, quite nicely.

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Directing

The movie was directed by Wes Ball. He has also directed the first installment, so there is no shift in the tone. The wide shots in the Scorch were realized beautifully, especially when you could see the profiles of all the characters. Action scenes were also exciting and fun to watch. If Ball returns to direct The Death Cure (an adaptation of the last novel in the series), he said that they won’t split the film into two parts, which I’m very happy about, so I do hope that he returns. That film is planned to be released in 2017, so they will have more time to actually produce it (update: the movie was pushed back to 2018 because of Dylan O’Brien’s injury on set). In addition, Ball is set to direct an adaptation of Fall of Gods – an epic Norse fantasy. I would love to see that one as well.

Visual effects

This movie, as a lot of other dystopian/futuristic films, had a lot of CGI in it. The landscapes were beautiful and the zombie-like-creatures, who were sick with the Flare virus, were scary and ugly. Everything looked very realistic, especially when you factor in the cost of CGI and the budget of this film. The 1st Maze Runner was made for only 35 million dollars, so I don’t think that they’ve spent  a lot more than that on the 2nd film as well. At best, the studio could have given them 50 to 60 million dollars to work with. Other dystopian films cost a lot more, for example, Mockingjay Part 1 had the budget of 125 million dollars, while Insurgent was made for 110 million. To my mind, all of these 3 YA adaptations have the similar level of computer effects, so props to The Scorch Trials for saving money. And yes, I know that big name actresses like Jennifer Lawrence and Shailene Woodley have much bigger salaries than Dylan O’Brien, but even if you take that into consideration, The Scorch Trials still has the smallest amount to spend on visual effects.

Acting

This movie had a lot of character and all of them were realized quite well with a limited amount of screen time. This movie also received a lot of praises for how diverse its cast is.

  • Dylan O’Brien as Thomas was a great leading man as in the first film. He is a great sidekick on Teen Wolf, but he was great in the main role in this film as well. I also liked that he was a leader without a plan. I know that this makes him seem like a shitty leader, but that’s just the realistic portrayal of a young adult in the situation that Thomas was in.
  • Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt and Ki Hong Lee as Minho are one of my favorite supporting characters of all time. I just love the trio that they and Thomas make. In addition, I loved how the director gave some screen time to both Newt and Minho to shine in the action scenes.
  • Rosa Salazar as Brenda and Kaya Scodelario as Teresa were the two very different female leads. I loved how they only implied the love triangle aspect of their story. They set up the twists in the stories of both girls quite nicely as well. On a side note, who would you like Thomas to end up in a long run? Even though, one of them might not make it till the end…
  • Nathalie Emmanuel as Harriet was a supporting character at the end of the film. She is the 2nd of 3 Game Of Thrones actors appearing in this film. First one being Thomas Brodie-Sangster and 3rd one being….
  • Aidan Gillen as Janson. He literally played the futuristic version of Littlefinger. I have no idea if I ever will be able to see actor Aidan Gillen and not think about his iconic role.
  • Giancarlo Esposito as Jorge was a nice addition to the cast. Weirdly, while reading the book, I always imagined him to be much younger, but he worked really well as an older father-like figure.
  • Alan Tudyk as Marcus and Patricia Clarkson as Ava Paige provided great support to the film as well. Alan’s line after Thomas’s speech at the end of the film mirrored my reaction to the same speech perfectly and although, Ava’s role as the evil adult from the government in YA movie is a cliche at this point, she was good in it.
  • Jacob Lofland as Aris Jones, Dexter Darden as Frypan and Alexander Flores as Winston were also great secondary characters and did a great job with what limited screen time they had.

All in all, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is a great adaptation of YA novel as well as an improvement in the franchise. I might be biased, because I am a fan of the dystopian genre, but I highly suggest you go see this film for a number of reasons, for example: if you want to see a male lead in a YA movie after a bunch of female-driven films, if you want more action than you got in Mockingjay Part 1, if you are a fan of any of the up-and-coming actors that are part of this huge cast or if you just want to have a good time at the cinema.

Rate 4.5/5

Trailer: Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

P.S. The review of the 1st film – The Maze Runner – is my most viewed post ever, so I guess this franchise has quite a few loyal fans or at least plenty of people who are interested in it.

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