5 ideas about a movie: First Man

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a potential Oscar contender! This is First Man.

IMDb summary: A look at the life of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

  1. First Man was written by Josh Singer (writer of two Oscar winners/contenders The Post and Spotlight), based on a biography by James R. Hansen. The narrative spanned quite a long period of time and had a lot of time jumps (other movies could be made to fill in the gaps – that’s how rich this story is). And yet, even with all the jumping, the plot was still clear and cohesive. The film was also truly an Amstrong biopic because 1) it showcased both his personal life and professional career and 2) it didn’t paint Buzz Aldrin in any favorable light.
  2. First Man was directed by Damien Chazelle of Whiplash and La La Land. Going in to see this film, I wondered whether Chazelle will be able to make a quality non-music related film. And I think he showcased that he is, in fact, very much able to craft a film around any subject with First Man. Even though I knew the ending of the story, I was highly interested and emotionally invested in the progression of the said story. The pacing was also good for the most part – I just wish the film was a tad bit shorter.
  3. Visually, First Man was stunning. The intimate close-ups, especially of the eyes, were very effective. The shaky camera and the constantly mobile frame also made the viewer feel like they were in the cockpit with the astronauts. It’s not a pleasant viewing experience but it served a purpose.
  4. Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049) played the lead in the film and did a great job. I smell another Oscar nomination for him but I don’t know if he’s necessarily worthy of a win. Maybe the Academy will decide that it is his time after all. Nevertheless, his performance was incredibly compelling in a subtle and subdued manner.
  5. The supporting cast of First Man consisted of The Crown’s Claire Foy, who has been popping on the big screen more and more (in Breathe and Unsane and soon in The Girl in a Spider’s Web), Jason Clarke (Terminator 5, Everest), Kyle Chandler (Manchester by the Sea, Game Night), and Corey Stoll (Ant-Man).

In short, First Man is a bit long but a compelling film from a director who still has a long career ahead of him. It’s 3/3 for Chazelle.

Rate: 4.2/5

Trailer: First Man trailer

First_Man_(film)

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Movie review: Mudbound

Movie reviews

Hello!

Before I start reviewing the major awards contenders, let’s look at one that is on the fringe of the awards voters radar. It’s the Netflix awards offering – Mudbound.

IMDb summary: Two men return home from World War II to work on a farm in rural Mississippi, where they struggle to deal with racism and adjusting to life after war.

Writing

Mudbound was written by Dee Rees and Virgil Williams. I thought that the film’s writing was solid and interesting, though, for the first part of the movie, I wasn’t sure what story it was telling: whether one about a black family’s experience during the WW2 or one about soldiers in and after the war. Only in the second half of the film did the two plotlines converge and made one whole narrative, while the first half seemed a bit confused and all over the place. The domestic set-up, one about a white family moving in next to a black one and having the stereotypical overtly or secretly racist relationship, was average and slow. The foreign set-up – the flashes to the soldiers’ lives during the war – was much more interesting than the domestic front and I wanted to see more of those scenes. It was especially interesting to witness a black man’s encounters with the Europeans. I haven’t seen that aspect explored much on film before. When the two plotlines did meet, Mudbound explored the interplay between race, class, and PTSD. The gender issues, as well as the comparison between black and white families’ distinct problems, were also included.

From the technical point of view, the movie started at the end and then flashed back to the begining of the story. A lot of elements of the plot were given through extensive narration: some of the narration was chilling, and, thus, effective, while other parts seemed annnoying and not essential. As per usual with the film on race, it elicited feelings of anger and disgust. This film, more than any other, portaryed the most radical side of racism in the 20th century the US very overtly, therefore, the feelings it evoked were extremely strong too. And yet, Mudbound ended on a hopeful note and had a message of love not hate. The mixed race friendship as well as the concluding origin of a mixed race family were two strands of hope that were achieved through a lot of pain, hurt, and suffering in the course of the movie.

Directing 

Dee Rees directed Mudbound and did a good job. As I have already mentioned, I wasn’t fully on board with the setup and thought that parts of it were very slow. However, Rees did a brilliant job with crafting striking visuals as well as with weaving the two plot strands neatly together in the second part of the picture. The song, which played during the credits – “Mighty River” by Mary J. Blige, was a lovely touch too.

Acting

Mudbound’s cast was quite stellar. Carey Mulligan (Suffragette, Far From The Madding Crowd), Jason Clarke (Dawn, Everest, and Terminator Genesys – that last film kinda ruined all subsequent performances of Clarke’s for me), and Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad and its spin-off) were all great in the film, though the stand-outs were definitely Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton, Detroit) and Garrett Hedlund (Unbroken) – their scenes together were fascinating. The actress who is, deservedly, getting the majority of the awards’ recognition for this movie was Mary J. Blige – she is a singer too and was actually the one to perform the end credits song for this film. Her acting performance was amazing too: quiet but very powerful.

In short, Mudbound is a well acted-drama about an old-school subject that is still, sadly, super topical.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Mudbound trailer

Mudbound_(film)

 

Movie review: Everest

Movie reviews

Hello!

While technically the awards’ season hasn’t started yet, I believe that we have our first solid contender for the Best Picture nomination. You know how every year at least one more mainstream movie gets nominated? (For example, last year it was American Sniper, a year before that – Gravity.) Well, I think that Everest will be this year’s awards nominated blockbuster. Let’s review it!

IMDb summary: A climbing expedition on Mt. Everest is devastated by a severe snow storm.

Everest film is based on the real events of 1996 Mount Everest disaster. I, personally, knew nothing about this tragic event, since I wasn’t even born when it happened. Also, while I knew that the movie was based on real life events, I didn’t want to research them much beforehand, so that I would not spoil anything for myself. However, I will spoil some stuff in this review, so if you haven’t seen the film and don’t know the real story like I didn’t know it, maybe come back to the review after you watch the film. If you know the story or just don’t care about the spoilers, please – read on.

So, as with all Hollywood movies, one usually hopes for a happy ending. Well, it’s not the case with Everest. The most interesting part is the fact that until the very last minute, I was hoping for a happy ending. I was sure that we, as an audience, would get one. And only when the credits and the memorials came up, I’ve realized that this is not that type of a movie. Huge props to the creators of the film, who were able to keep the audience invested into the film till the very end. Also, they were able to break out of the Hollywood movie stereotype/pattern , which has a somewhat predictable ending and a plot filled with cliches.

Not only does this film keep you invested till the very last minute, it affects your emotions a lot. While at the beginning of the film, you can find some inspirational stuff about following your dreams, at the end, you ultimately arrive at the conclusion that some dreams are not worth risking your life for. Or maybe they are for some people? That’s an open discussion. For me, the film was extremely sad, especially the 2nd part of it and the ending was heartbreaking. I don’t really cry in movies, but I was really tearing up in this one. Thank god, that I was the only person in the last row.

Writing 

This screenplay for the film was written by two British screenwriters – William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy. Nicholson was a co-writer on Gladiator and has received an Oscar nomination for that film. He has also written a few of my favorite films – Les Miserables, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and Unbroken (co-writer). Beaufoy has an Oscar for writing a script for Slumdog Millionaire and he was also one of the writers on the second Hunger Games film – Catching Fire.

I loved what they did with the Everest screenplay. The film had a lot of characters, but they all had their little moments to shine. As a result, this necessary character development allowed the viewers to feel connected to the characters and really care for them in the times of crisis.

Also, the idea that companies like Adventure Consultants and Mountain Madness, who specialize in taking tourists to the summit of the Everest, really exist was a surprising one for me. I knew that were people who want to climb to the highest points of Earth, but I guess I never really expected somebody to allow them to do that for profit. Or that anyone would risk their life for such profit. But, I suppose if there are companies who would take tourists to space, you can’t expect people not to look for financial benefits down here on Earth. Also, as with every sport or occupation, there is a type of rush and desire to reach higher (literally, in their case), so I guess it shouldn’t be that shocking to me.

Directing

The film was directed by Baltasar Kormákur from Iceland. I haven’t seen his other films, but I’ve adored the visuals of Everest. From what I saw in the behind the scenes videos, I can tell you that they filmed a lot of this film on location. And even if they used some green screen and CGI, you could never tell the difference – the film was seamlessly edited. In addition, the scenery of the mountain range was beautiful and terrifying and the same time. The actual climbing footage was suspenseful and exciting.

Acting

This movie has a huge ensemble cast full of A-list actors and all of them bring their A-game. (A-listers and their A-game – sorry for the pun). I will only talk about a few of my favorite performances because this review would be way too long if I spoke about each and every character. Also, since in today’s world, you can’t review the movie without mentioning the color of the actors’ skin, I will just tell you that this film’s cast is predominately white. However, whitewashing is not the issue to the masses, because the film depicts real-life events which involved mainly white people. I’ve gotten extremely tired of people noticing the skin color of the actor before they notice the actual person, so, I hope you felt the sarcasm in a few sentences before this one. Let’s move on.

  • Jason Clarke as Rob Hall was the leading man of the film, whose story was the most heartbreaking one. Until the very end of the film, I wanted to believe that he will make it home to his wife and unborn daughter. Keira Knightley played his wife – Jan Arnold – and their conversations on the phone were extremely emotional and one of the saddest parts of the film. Speaking of the actors performances, I have seen a few films starring Clarke, but he never really stood out to me until this film. For example, I thought that he was only okay in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. However, I do believe his role as Rob Hall was his best performance to date and an amazing comeback after Terminator Genisys. Knightley was also amazing in her small part, but I was always a fan of hers, so that wasn’t surprising to me. 
  • Jake Gyllenhaal as Scott Fischer. Gyllenhaal just keeps impressing me more and more with his every film. His role was quite small here because the film had so many characters, but he was really good in it. I also applaud how versatile he is as an actor, not just with his body (Southpaw review), but with his overall mindset and investment into the character. While watching the film, you never really think about Gyllenhaal as an actor or about any other character that he has played before. You just sit there and marvel at a complete transformation of a true actor. 
  • Josh Brolin as Beck Weathers and John Hawkes as Doug Hansen. The reason that I’m putting these two people together is because I want to talk about the contrast that their characters brought to the film. Beck was a rich doctor, who climbed the mountain because he felt depressed at home with his wife, and Doug was a poor mailman, who did the climb to inspire kids from poor families. Beck’s reasons seemed much more selfish than Doug’s. The sad part is that Beck was the one who made it home and Doug didn’t. However, Dough reached the summit and Beck did not. So, their stories and the characters themselves, although contrasting at first, ended up being kinda equal. Beck’s reaction to the news of Doug’s death also added to that equality, because he seemed really upset by it. Speaking about the actors performance, I really enjoyed both of their portrayals of these real life climbers. I’m more familiar with Brolin’s work because he is Thanos in the MCU (very disappointing villain so far) and he also starred in Inherent Vice – the film that I have yet to watch but really want to. Brolin will also start in another movie this year, coming out very soon – Sicario – opposite  Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro (another MCU actor). On the other hand, I don’t know much about his co-star John Hawkes, but I really want to watch Winter’s Bone – a Jennifer Lawrence film which Hawkes also stars in.
  • Sam Worthington as Guy CotterEmily Watson as Helen Wilton and Elizabeth Debicki as Dr. Caroline Mackenzie were the 3 main members of the base camp team. While they were not part of the action of the film, they reaction shots mimicked the audience’s reactions perfectly. To my mind, these actors really played well with each other and were a convincing group. About the actual actors, Debicki has only recently appeared on my radar after The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I really liked her there and felt the same in this film as well. She will also be in this year’s Macbeth with Michael Fassbender – another film which I definitely want to watch. Watson was also a great addition to the cast. I’m not really familiar with her work, but really loved one of her latest films – Testament of Youth, though, she only had a small part in there. Worthington (another Terminator) was also really good in his role. Avatar is still my favorite movie of his and I haven’t seen him do better than that film so far. However, I haven’t seen Cake – last year’s Jennifer Aniston film, which received quite a good word of mouth. True, all the praises were directed at Aniston for her performance, but maybe Worthington was quite good as well. I suppose I need to watch the film to really know.

All in all, Everest is so far my favorite film of this fall and, in my opinion, a strong contender for the awards season. I hope that its release date (an early one) won’t be the thing that stops it from getting the recognition it deserves. The film is visually appealing to the eyes and emotionally captivating for the soul. Huge ensemble cast brings their A-game to the table, while the accomplished screenwriters and the director do justice to this heartbreaking real life disaster story.

Rate: 5/5

Trailer: Everest trailer

Everest_poster

Movie review: Terminator Genisys

Movie reviews

Hello my dear readers!

Let’s continue the summer of sequels and review Terminator Genisys.

I am a kid of the 90s (I was born in late 90s), so I grew up watching Jurassic Park, Terminator and Mission Impossible on TV in the early 2000s. During this summer, we are getting sequels to all 3 of my childhood franchises. Jurassic World was normal (financially successful, a flop with the fans (review)). Sadly, Terminator Genisys is a double flop. So maybe Mission Impossible Rogue Nation will succeed in every aspect? We will find out in August. Anyway, let’s stay on topic and review the film which should be terminated.

Also, if you still plan to watch this film, don’t watch the trailer. The biggest twist and practically all cool action scenes are spoiled in the trailer.

IMDb summary: John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect Sarah Connor, but when he arrives in 1984, nothing is as he expected it to be.

Timeline

The timeline of Terminator films was complicated without this 5th installment but Genisys decided to mess it up completely. Don’t think about this movie in terms of other films – it’s impossible to put it in a timeline, so that it would make sense. You can watch the original James Cameron’s films in order to understand the Easter Eggs but the T1 and T2 won’t help you to understand the plot of T5 at all. However, if you think about this film as stand alone one (a reboot, a new beginning and so forth), it doesn’t makes sense as well. It relies too heavily on the originals but tries too hard change everything and misses the mark. The multiverse and time travelling are tricky things to do and, while I applaud the creators’ efforts, the results are bad. I hope The Flash season 2 will deal better with multiverse.

Reboot

Some people say that this is the 5th film of the franchise, some think it’s a reboot. For me, it’s somewhere in-between. The movie’s plot is definitely different – they tried to do a mash-up of T1’s and T2’s plots with some unnecessary twists added. Basically, they wanted this film to be a new generation’s version of Judgement Day. I have no idea why they wished to remake a perfect movie, by making it worse.

In addition, if you treat this as a reboot, why do you cast the same actors? The Connors have always changed in between movies, so it’s okay to recast them for a reboot, but why keep Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character? I know he is iconic but if you want a fresh start, you have to leave everything behind, even your icons.

Acting/Character by character

Since I am a teenager/young adult, I should like younger actors more, but this time the old Arnold was the best one.

Arnold Schwarzenegger as Guardian/The Terminator – was the best character. His action scenes were the coolest – after all these years he still looks like a bad ass. His comedic timing was also great – the joke about smile worked for me.

Jason Clarke as John Connor was okay. Nothing too good but definitely not bad either. If his reveal wasn’t spoiled in the trailer, the movie would have been more enoyable and interesting for sure.  

Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor. I am a fan of Clarke, I love her on Game Of Thrones but she is no Linda Hamilton. However, I warmed up to her by the end of the film, she won me over but it took some time.

P.S. The Clarkes were playing The Connors – I’ve only noticed that now.

Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese. Courtney has been getting a lot of work recently, but I still haven’t seen him in a role which he would truly make it his own. He was functional in Divergent and Insurgent (review), he didn’t stick to me in Unbroken (review), but I hope he will be awesome in Suicide Squad! (Have you seen the trailer?)

Courtney and Clarke really lacked chemistry at first, but they got there by the end of the film. Their pair and Arnold’s character made for an awesomely awkward trio.

Lee Byung-hun as a T-1000 brought some diversity to the film but I still prefer Robert Patrick in the role. I also was surprised how quickly they defeated him, when it took them the whole T2 to do the same.

J. K. Simmons as Detective O’Brien wasn’t a character but a plot device. But J.K. Simmons, being the master of acting he is, was great in the role. His comedy was nice too.

Matt Smith had a small role, which I don’t wan to spoil. I have only seen a few episodes of the Doctor Who, but after seeing what Matt Smith can do with 5 lines, I’m maybe more interested to try my hand at Doctor Who one more time.Regarding this film, I’ll only say this – if Smith’s role was bigger, the film might have been much better. 

Effects

The CGI looked terrible in some places (young Arnold *facepalm*), but really good in others (John Connor’s robotic body). T-1000 looked cool too, but he looked the same 24 years ago, so that isn’t a big compliment. Action scenes were okay too, they actually were the best part of the film because they did not require any explanation. And when this movie tried to explain something, it starter to sink like a Titanic. Or even faster than a Titanic.

Screenplay

The screenplay was the worst part of the film. The plot made absolutely no sense. I tried to follow it so hard in the first 30 minutes but then just gave up. My dad was napping the whole movie, because he wasn’t able to follow the plot too and then simply did not know what was happening and was snoozing because of boredom. I don’t know if a screenplay by a Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier was really that bad already or did a studio altered it way too much. Kalogridis was an executive producer on Avatar and Lussier wrote a few horror movies, but both of them aren’t really established writers, so maybe that was the problem.

However, I will give them credit for introducing the theme of humanity’s dependence on technology. Genisys app looked like an interesting device but we only had tiny bits of information about it. If the film focused more on the actual technology and less time on time travel and family dynamics, it might have been a really great motion picture.

Directing 

The film is directed by Alan Taylor – he has only directed 5 movies, including Thor 2, which I liked but a lot of people had mixed reactions to it. However, Taylor directed a lot of TV shows, like Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Rome, Mad Men and Game of Thrones. To my mind, after this flop, he won’t be making any movies moving forward, but I hope that he will be able to get some work on TV.

All in all, I loved Arnold as the Terminator once more, the action and acting was tolerable, the plot lacked focus but wrapped itself up nicely, although, it made no sense to begin with.  I advise you not to waste your time on this film or if you do decide to see it – have very low expectations. Mine were too high. I believe that this film will be a huge box office flop and although 6th and 7th installments are slated for 2017 and 2018, I won’t believe that they will be happening, at least not with this creative team. Maybe if James Cameron had the rights back, we would actually get a good Terminator film in the 21st century.

Rate: 3.25/5 

Trailer: (spoiler-y) Terminator Genisys trailer

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