Movie review: The Nutcracker and Four Realms

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a first Christmas movie of the 2018 holiday season. If the whole season will be as rocky as its start, then we can just cancel Christmas. This is a quite negative (as you have probably already guessed) review of The Nutcracker and Four Realms.

IMDb summary: A young girl is transported into a magical world of gingerbread soldiers and an army of mice.

Writing

The Nutcracker and Four Realms – a mouthful of a title, huh – was written by Ashleigh Powell. It’s a remake/reimagining of a classic fairytale and a famous ballet. Disney has been making quite a few live-action fairytales. Some of them crashed, like Alice in Wonderland and its sequel. Some blossomed like Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. The Nutcracker seems like it will be joining the first group. I feel like there is a general fatigue of live action fairytales and only the really special ones turn into something. The Nutcracker, being a niche and holiday-specific fairytale, is already a hard sell. The fact that it’s premiering so early in November also almost guarantees that it will have a small opening. Maybe it will play for a long time?

Anyways, speaking of the writing: it wasn’t bad but wasn’t original in any way, shape or form. The message on how to deal with grief was a neat one and the young woman’s journey into self-confidence was also a nice thing to spotlight. The actual adventure was sooo by the numbers. The twist could be seen from miles away. The characters were also just meh. The nutcracker especially was so unexceptional despite being the titular character. The dialogue was very simplistic. It just seemed that this whole film was aimed at a very young audience. And by young, I mean babies.

Directing

The Nutcracker was directed by Lasse Hallström (of The Hundred-Foot Journey and A Dog’s Purpose) and Joe Johnston (of Captain America: The First Avenger) – what a weird duo of directors. And even a weirder end product. They did a good job with the visuals – I cannot fault the film’s production value. The CGI could have been cleaner. The pacing was way off. At least the runtime was fairly decent. To end on a positive note: the ballet scenes and the ballet-inspired credits were nice touches. The score, which included the classic melodies, was good too.

Acting

The Nutcracker’s cast’s performances were a huge letdown. Mackenzie Foy and Jayden Fowora-Knight were both wooden. Hellen Mirren and Morgan Freeman were folding in their performances and were still the best just because they are true pros and can outact everyone in their sleep. Keira Knightley was killing her career with every minute of being on screen. She was both a cartoon and a parody: everything about her performance – from the look to the speech to the behavior – were just so cringe-y. Her work her kinda reminded me of Anne Hathaway in Alice in Wonderland (another unfortunate comparison between the two less than good Disney fairytales).

The actor who played the father – Matthew Macfadyen –  looked like off-brand Armie Hammer. The British comedian Jack Whitehall also had a cameo role – good on him for finally getting into a Disney movie (even if bad one) after being cut from Frozen.

In short, The Nutcracker and Four Realms was a boring film that won’t bring anyone any Christmas joy. A basic narrative, oversaturated visuals, and some cringe-y acting – that’s this picture in one sentence.

Rate: 2.4/5

Trailer: The Nutcracker and Four Realms trailer

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Movie review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Movie reviews

Hello!

The summer movie season is already in full swing. Let’s see what it has to offer in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales also known as Salazar’s Revenge.

IMDb Summary: Captain Jack Sparrow searches for the trident of Poseidon.

Let’s start with a disclaimer: I have always been a fan of this franchise despite its flaws. The third’s film is my favorite (and I’m definitely in the minority) and its third act – one of my most rewatched action sequences. Also, the role of Jack Sparrow is the only kooky role that I still like Johnny Depp in.

Writing:

Pirates 5’s screenplay was written by Jeff Nathanson (Catch Me If You Can, Indiana Jones 4, next project – the live action Lion King) with some input on the story by Terry Rossio (who had a hand in creating these characters in the first place). In general, I have mixed feelings about the quality of writing for this film and wish it was better because it could have been (like the writing for so many blockbusters these days – come on, Hollywood, just hire some amazing TV writers!).

To begin with, I thought that the set-up for the narrative was too reliant on coincidences, while the twists and turns in the plot – just way too convenient. The film was also going all over the place with the multiple plotlines that were just thrown together. It was nice to see all the old characters and the new one were good too but I just wish they all would have fit into the narrative more organically. Another problem with the reveals in the story is that they came out of nowhere. They were surprising, for sure, but not in a good way. Not in a way ‘I didn’t see it coming but I can retrace the steps of the reveal now’ but more like ‘Oh, so you have come up with this like a year ago and not when you released the previous movies in the series’.

Having critiqued the script, I would now like to mention a few neat writing moments which really impressed me. First, I loved seeing the young Jack Sparrow. In addition to the de-aging technology being really impressive, it was really nice to see Sparrow as an efficient and clever sailor and not just drunk and babbling, even if lovable, idiot. The explanation of how he got the iconic costume and the name was also much appreciated. I also liked the fact that the story of The Turners was continued through their son. The new female lead was also a well-enough written character – I liked that she was a person of science who was confronted by the irrational legends and myths. The feminism aspect could have been handled better, though. The writing for the villain – Salazar – was also quite good. He is no Davy Jones, but then again, Jones had 2 movies worth of development while Salazar had only half of that. Jones might also get even more (further on that in the After-Credits section). Lastly, I also enjoyed the attempt at expanding the mythology of this world.

Directing

The Norvegian directing duo – Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg – best known for their Kon-Tiki film (about an expedition on a raft across the Pacific Ocean) helmed Pirates of the Caribbean 5 and did a good job. Having previous experience with water-centric films definitely helped them because the movie did look gorgeous. The locations themselves and the way they were realized on screen were just spectacular. The action wasn’t bad either – it was definitely entertaining and exciting, just not as impressive as it used to be before. This might be because I have seen too many Pirates of the Carribean movies or just action films in general. One particular action sequence – the first one centered on the robbing of the bank – really reminded me of the 3rd act heist in Fast Five but only done with horses instead of the fast cars. The visuals of the map in the final act (the island that’s the perfect image of the sky) were really cool-looking too.

No Pirates of the Carribean review cannot not mention the soundtrack of the film. It was really nice to hear the iconic theme music as well as the rest of the soundtrack, which, this time around was not done by Hans Zimmer but by his long-time collaborator/student Geoff Zanelli.

Acting

Johnny Depp (Transcendence, Alice, Black Mass) was fine in the movie. He was doing the same thing he always does, but I have already said, this is the only role of his that I can stomach his eccentrics in. Please, God, don’t let him screw up Grindewald in the Fantastic Beasts sequel.

The two new leads this movie introduced were both YA alumni – Brenton Thwaites (of The Giver) and Kaya Scodelario (of The Maze Runner). They were better replacements to Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley than the romantic couple from the previous film – On Stranger Tides – played by Sam Claflin and Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey. I hope that Thwaites’s and Scodelario’s careers can get a boost from this movie but I don’t think we will see more of them in these roles. Maybe in a supporting part in a sequel but I don’t see them getting a solo/duo spin-off (more on that in Post-Credits section).

The villain of the picture – Salazar – was played by Javier Bardem – Hollywood’s go-to Spanish actor for villainous roles (No Country For Old Men, Skyfall). Well, one can’t argue that Bardem is really good at playing these types of characters and he was truly menacing as Salazar – the hunter of pirates. His next project is Aronofsky’s Mother!. 

Geoffrey Rush was also, once again, back in the role of Barbosa. While I felt that his character was kinda tacked on, it was nice to see a different side of him. His demise, however, was mostly wasted and should have been built-up more (both story-wise and emotionally).

David Wenham also appears in a film, playing a secondary villain and a high-ranking officer in the British Navy. He is basically just a replacement for the character that Tom Hollander played (and in a much better way) in the original trilogy.

Post-Credits

If you sit through the 10 minutes of the credits, full of digital artists’ names, you will be treated to a potential teaser for a Will Turner spin-off. I really liked the character in the original trilogy and Orlando Bloom does not seem to be doing much, so a Will Turner or a Turner family-centered spin-off might actually be quite good or could at least happen. Maybe Keira Knightley could also be in it and actually get a few speaking lines (she just cameos and says nothing in Dead Men Tell No Tales). Thwaites’s Henry Turner and his new girlfriend, played by Scodelario, might also have a place in that picture.

In short, if you are a fan of the franchise, you will probably be able to overlook the problems with the movie (like you did many times) and will enjoy it for what it is. For all the regular movie goers – Pirates 5 is a good enough time at the movies but not a required viewing.

Rate: 3.3/5

Trailer: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales trailer

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Movie review: Collateral Beauty

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of a film that was advertised as a spiritual and uplifting story but turned out to be a movie about selfishness and scheming. This is Collateral Beauty.

IMDb summary: Retreating from life after a tragedy, a man questions the universe by writing to Love, Time and Death. Receiving unexpected answers, he begins to see how these things interlock and how even loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.

Writing

Collateral Beauty’s script was written by Allan Loeb, who has written a few so-so comedies and is writing the upcoming sci-fi flick The Space Between Us. I honestly don’t know if anyone even fully read his script before approving the film. Probably not, as the movie was advertised as something completely different.

The main story of the film made no sense. It didn’t have enough of a set-up (one scene is not enough!) and the main character was not developed properly. His one defining feature was the tragedy that occurred in his family. His co-workers’ attempts to help him had extremely conflicting goals: they wanted to make him look like he was crazy but also sort of actually help him? The worst part was, it worked. The one saving grace of the main plotline was that twist in the end when one person turned out to be somebody else. It was completely unrealistic but, after sitting through 1.5h of illogical writing, I was ready to suspend my disbelief and find at least some enjoyment in the film.

Collateral Beauty also had 3 side storylines that had a lot of potential but didn’t receive enough of screentime. Nevertheless, at times, these sidelines, even if underdeveloped, seemed more interesting than the main plotline.

The film also spent at least 10 minutes of its runtime trying to explain its titular concept. Sadly, even after sitting through it, I still have no idea what ‘Collateral Beauty’ is.

Directing

The director of The Devil Wears Prada (all-time personal favorite) David Frankel directed Collateral Beauty and did a somewhat passable job. He did create a few interesting scenes but even those weren’t super special (by this I mean the falling dominos sequences – they looked cool but you can also see them on youtube without going to the cinema). The shots of NY were good looking too, but that’s more of a complement to New York city than to this film. The pacing was okay too. Basically, the director did as good job as he could with the poorly written script. Nonetheless, where Frankel failed was at inspiring his cast.

Acting

The A-list cast was sleepwalking through this film. Will Smith delivered the best performance because this was obviously his Oscar bait movie. Last year’s Concussion was actually an interesting film that was snubbed. Well, Collateral Beauty was overlooked for a reason.

The supporting cast consisted of Edward NortonKeira KnightleyMichael PeñaNaomie HarrisJacob Latimore, Kate Winslet, and Helen Mirren. They did have some nice moments but mostly one could see the disbelief in the lines they were saying reflected in their eyes. The actors and actresses of their caliber should not have been in this film.

Music

The last saving grace for this movie was the song that played during the credits. It was OneRepublic’s (my favorite band) Let’s Hurt Together. Because this song was playing, I did not run out of the screening as fast I wanted to, after watching this snooze fest.

In short, Collateral Beauty was awfully written awards’ bait that crashed and burned. Not worth the money or a cinema trip.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: Collateral Beauty trailer (no point in watching the trailer as it doesn’t represent the final product at all)

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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

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Movie review: Far from the Madding Crowd

Movie reviews

Hello!

Let’s take a break from big summer blockbusters and Hollywood comedies and review a British independent film Far from the Madding Crowd, which might be an awards contender later this year.

To begin with, I would like to admit that I am a huge fan of British classical literature, I especially adore the novels and the authors from the late Romantic Period/Victorian Era. (I’m currently reading Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte). I also really enjoy movies made in the UK and made by the people living there. I feel like they are very refreshing and a nice break from Hollywood. I tend to watch a lot of motion pictures that come from Hollywood, so it’s nice to squeeze in a refresher once in a while. (I limit myself to these 2 countries (UK and US) because I know English language the best out of all foreign languages). In short, to my mind, British films have a unique style and an extraordinary view on the world, which I really admire.

Despite the fact that I would consider myself to be a book nerd, I haven’t actually read the Thomas Hardy’s novel Far from the Madding Crowd before going to see the film. I usually try to read the book before watching the movie but the circumstances worked against me this time. However, I have already got this book from the library and I am eager to read it. In addition, this is not the first time when Hardy’s novel is adapted into the motion picture – this is the 4th film based on this classical book. 

IMDb summary: In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor.

Visual appeal

Victorian England is one of my favorite historical eras, so I really loved the setting and simple but beautiful decorations of this film. Most of the action took place in a rural area which had amazing and breathtaking scenery of nature. The costumes and the hairstyles were also magnificent and true to the historical facts as far as I know.

Directing 

The film is directed by a Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg. Sadly, I am not familiar with his work but I really liked what he did in this movie. The cut-to-black transition seemed a bit abrupt sometimes, but they worked well other times, so maybe he should have cut the number of those and revisited their placement. The film’s screenplay was written by David Nicholls – an English novelist and screenwriter. This is not Nicholls’s first time working with classical literature as the main source. He wrote quite a few screenplay’s for BBC adapting Dickens’s, Bronte’s and even Shakespeare’s works to the small screen.

Acting

This movie has a pretty well know and accomplished cast:

Carey Mulligan star as the main character Bathsheba Everdene. I loved how Bathsheba was a strong, independent woman but was still able to be soft on the inside. She was a hopeless romantic and made mistakes in the name of love, but always went back to being a powerful, intelligent and free – an extraordinary occurrence when you considered the time that she lived in. I really enjoyed Mulligan’s performance. Although, my favorite role of hers is still the one in Never Let Me Go – another small British film – a dystopian romance with Keira Knightley and ex-Spider-man Andrew Garfield. Carey was also really good in The Great Gatsby as Daisy. No matter how much you hate the character of Daisy, you cannot not to admit that Mulligan is amazing in that role. Also, as an author and youtuber John Green has said in a Crash Course video on The Great Gatsby – you don’t have to like the character to enjoy the story. Anyway, I went off topic, let’s go back.

Matthias Schoenaerts plays Gabriel Oak – one of 3 love interest of Bathsheba. Gabriel was the most like-able character of the film. His intentions were always pure, his actions – selfless and his words – always truthful. Matthias Schoenaerts did a really nice job. The only other movie of his that I saw was The Loft (the remake version) which I enjoyed, although everybody hated it. I’m interested to see the original Loft where Schoenaerts  plays the same role as in the remake.

Michael Sheen plays William Boldwood – the character who receives the saddest and the most undeserving end. Although, Michael Sheen is a very famous and established actor, I was introduced to him in the Twilight movies. Don’t judge, I was a 12 year old once too. Although, the Volturi family was the best part of that franchise, so maybe it’s not that bad that recognized him from there. I at least know who he is right? Let’s move on.

Tom Sturridge was Sergeant Frank Troy – the last of the love interests. It took me some time to get pass his mustache but his charisma turned him into a definite scene-stealer. Though you could sense that he was bad news, you couldn’t resist him, his smile or his witty tongue.

Juno Temple stared as Fanny Robin – a character who also got an undeserving end. I feel like she was the opposite of Bathsheba – a weaker woman, who depended way too much on the man, Frank Toy to be precise, and, as a result – ended up the way she did (NO SPOILERS). But you can’t really blame her – she was a prisoner of her era and a convict of the circumstances. I would love to see more of actress’s Juno Temple’s work. I have only seen a few movies that she was in and she had really minor roles in those. 2013 Chilean-American psychological thriller Magic Magic seems to be the best option for those, who want to really see what this actress can do.

Music

This movie features a song by Carey Mulligan and Michael Sheen, which I really enjoyed and listened quite a few times outside the cinema. You are welcomed to hear it here: Let No Man Steal Your Thyme. I also really loved the opening and closing instrumental tracks as well as the Far From the Madding Crowd Love Theme. You can find all the soundtrack here.

All in all, I really enjoyed this film for many reason, which are stated above in my review. I would love to see this film getting some attention during the awards season, although it is unlikely for that to happen. Anyway, it wins my own personal Oscar, which is much better that any Academy Award or Golden Globe.

Rate 5/5

Trailer: Far From the Madding Crowd trailer

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