Movie review: Widows

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of another awards’ hopeful that didn’t look like an awards’ movie from the trailer but is one because of who is involved with it in front and behind the camera. This is Widows.

IMDb summary: Set in contemporary Chicago, amid a time of turmoil, four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities, take fate into their own hands, and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.

Writing

Gillian Flynn, best known as a novelist (Gone Girl) rather than scriptwriter, and the director Steve McQueen wrote the screenplay of Windows. The script was based on a TV show. And that could be felt while watching the film because the movie’s narrative was oversaturated with ideas and plotlines. The movie also felt a bit like a book-adaptation by how dense it was – or that may just be Flynn’s writing style.

I really liked how unique the characters were and how they felt like real, well-rounded people rather than cliches or archetypes. I also appreciated how all the plotlines were handled: the film was complex and clear at the same time. It was also engaging, though I wasn’t completely convinced by the twist. Thematically, the movie didn’t really focus on just a couple of concepts but rather it put a mirror to the contemporary world and portrayed an interplay of issues, including women’s position in society, betrayal, criminality, politics, family, marriage, relationships, and race among others.

Directing

Steve McQueen of 12 Years a Slave directed Widows and did a good job. I appreciated his visual style, the extreme close-ups and how he played with the frame (what was in or outside of it) and depth (front v back). I’m still not entirely sure whether the film was awarded’ material. It was definitely a solid film but was it revolutionary in any way? I don’t think so. I also think it was more thriller-y than drama-y, and the Academy still values dramas above everything else.

Acting

Widows had a diverse cast, and by diverse, I mean diverse in identities that were represented and in the quality or status of actors. Viola Davis (Fences), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) and Colin Farrell (The Beguiled) were there to boost the awards chances of the film. Elizabeth Debicki and Michele Rodriguez are both great actresses but they are still closer to the B than the A-list (they are not main stars of their respective franchises, Marvel and FF, respectively). Liam Neeson is an action star that usually has his movies come out in January (a.k.a. the worst month?), like The Commuter. Some quality TV actors were also part of the cast, and even though they were great, they are still associated more with the small rather than the silver screen, and while that isn’t a bad thing for the audiences, it might be a hard sell when it comes to awards?

In short, Widows was a solid thriller with an engaging story and great execution of it by both the director and the actors.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Widows trailer

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Movie review: The Commuter

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of the first actual 2018 movie – The Commuter.

IMDb summary: A businessman is caught up in a criminal conspiracy during his daily commute home.

Lately, we have been getting quite a few train based movies, like The Girl on The Train and Murder on the Orient Express. While those two films were adaptations of beloved books, The Commuter is an original action film that doesn’t look like it exists purely to start another franchise. Still, it’s a Liam Neeson actioner that is coming out in January, so lower your expectations.

Writing

The Commuter was written by Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi, and Ryan Engle and for the first half of the movie, I thought that this trio was on to something. To begin with, the premise for the train-based movie was inherently intriguing. There is something fascinating about the limited space, the constant movement while being stuck in one place, and the community of people that the daily commuters make up. Also, the script did a good job of setting up the main character – the opening sequence set up his daily routine highly effectively, while the ex-cop plotline worked to explain and justify his abilities, which were displayed throughout the film. The kickstart to the character’s quest/puzzle was kinda riddled with lucky coincidences but it still worked. The film even hinted that it was going to say something profound about human behavior. And then everything went sideways.

The more the film tried to explain its plot, the more convoluted it became. The narrative turned out to be a much ‘larger’ but I really wish that the script would have stuck to the train’s space and tried to make a self-contained story within it. The intensity and the thriller-like vibes were soon lost and replaced by a straight up action film tone. The over-the-top explosions scene was unnecessary, story-wise. The fact that the movie continued after it was also confusing. Lastly, the ending was very much ‘so neat, it only turns out this way in movies’ type of an ending. Oh, and the human behavior message – I had no idea what it was.

Directing

The Commuter was directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. He was responsible for 2016’s summer’s surprise hit The Shallows and has also worked with Liam Neeson before on some actioners. I thought that he did a really good job with the first part of the film (that part that had good writing). The opening sequence was an effective visual set up and the pacing and intensity were really good for the first 45 minutes. Then the movie started to drag a bit and didn’t really know which direction it was going. The CGI explosion was too long, messy, and cheaply looking (though, honestly, I’ve seen more expensive films that looked worse, *cough, cough*, Justice League). The majority of the action as well as the dialogue scenes were filmed in close-ups, which made sense for the limited space, but also made the movie feel a tiny bit claustrophobic. Lastly, the conclusion of the picture went on for too long. It should have wrapped up sooner.

Acting

The Commuter, for better or for worse, was a Liam Neeson show and he was good in it. This is the seasoned action star’s signature role, so he could probably do it in his sleep. However, he always looks like he is actually trying hard and is not just winging it.

 

On the supporting front, a whole bunch of moderately known actors appeared. Vera Farmiga (The Judge) played the mysterious and promising ‘villain’, but her story went nowhere. Patrick Wilson had the ‘bait and switch’ role and was fine in it. Jonathan Banks (Mudbound, Better Call Saul) and Sam Neill (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) appeared in roles that didn’t deserve them, while Downton Abbey’s Elizabeth McGovern and Game of Thrones’ Dean-Charles Chapman (Breathe) played Liam Neeson’s character’s family.

In short, The Commuter was an okay film, with a promising beginning and an underwhelming ending. Not a bad one for January, though.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: The Commuter trailer

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Movie review: Ted 2

Movie reviews

Hello!

Last night, I and a few of my friends went to see Ted 2. Personally, I don’t really consider myself to be a type of person who likes comedies, especially contemporary ones. I think that nowadays comedic movies rely too much on sexual jokes, which lack tastefulness. Nonetheless, I still went to this film, although I knew that it has a lot of sexual jokes. Two main reasons that have driven me to the cinema that night was the fact that I was going with friends – I’ll never say no to them – and secondly, I wanted to see if this was the end of Seth MacFarlane’s career.

IMDb summary: Newlywed couple Ted and Tami-Lynn want to have a baby, but in order to qualify to be a parent, Ted will have to prove he’s a person in a court of law.

To begin with, let’s talk about the first film. I didn’t particularly liked the 2012 Ted. I thought that the premise was interesting but the execution and the overall final product – not so much. I probably liked the 2nd Ted film more than the first.

Seth MacFarlane

This was definitely better tan MacFarlane’s last year’s comedy A Million Ways to Die in a West. While I wanted to cry while watching that one, I laughed quite a lot during this one. Also, I believe that Seth Macfarlane does amazing job a a voice actor. He really brought Ted to life once more. In addition, this film focused a lot on Ted and his own life rather than on his relationship with John as in the first film. However, I still prefer Family Guy over any MacFarlane’s film. 

Story

The movie’s plot was a bit jumbled up. You had a story of Ted getting married, then fighting for his rights, then he needed to go to NY for no real reason and there was also that story-line with Donny and Hasbro. The opening credits sequence was also impressively but way too long. Lastly, the film had a lot of advertising…way TOO much of advertising. 

Adds

Half the time, I felt like I was watching a Hasbro commercial. But they really didn’t paint themselves as a nice company. Plus, that whole NY Comic Con action was a nice advert for San Diego Convention which is coming up. Comic Con footage also allowed them a chance to include a lot of Easter Eggs of different properties.

Easter Eggs

The movie referenced other movies a lot. You could spot call-backs to Jurassic Park, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars, Star Trek, Rocky, Lord of the Rings, and DC comics to name a few. There were also a plethora of references to controversial events. I believe that some of these jokes worked but some felt really flat. Furthermore, not a lot of people could understand all the references because they might have not seen that particular movie or heard anything about that particular event. References were also mainly US based, so there could be some problems with foreign audiences. My friends aren’t really that interested in pop culture or are as gigantic nerds as I am, so they didn’t understand half the jokes.

Jokes

Other half of jokes were aimed at 10 years olds. Poop jokes!? Really? There were also way too much of sexual and racist banter that, while it was funny sometimes, it made me feel bad that I laughed at such stupidity. The finale of the film also played out the same way as it did in the first film. Nothing new there.

Acting

The cast did a nice job. Mark Wahlberg was good, but his character had a smaller role this time. Amanda Seyfried was a nice addition, she replaced Mila Kunis. Since I am a fan of Amanda, I’ve enjoyed her performance and her chemistry with Wahlberg. Jessica Barth was a functional stereotypical blonde and Giovanni Ribisi – cartoon-ish crazy person. 

The film had a lot cameos as well. Morgan Freeman had a small part (the joke about his voice was funny and surprisingly truthful). Liam Neeson showed up – I guess you have to pay your bills somehow. Tom Brady was also there for some reason.

All in all, the movie was a bit of a hot mess but it came through a few times. It’s a great comedy for pop culture fans and a great one for fans of stupid jokes. These two sides really didn’t fit together, so that’s why the movie turned out as it did – with no clear direction.

Rate 3.5/5

Trailer: Ted 2 trailer

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