Movie review: Assasin’s Creed

Movie reviews

Hello!

Notoriously, the video game movies have always been pretty bad. Everybody hoped that this cycle would be broken with this summer’s Warcraft but the majority of people and the critics hated it (I and the Chinese audiences actually liked it a lot). Now, all hopes have been directed towards Assasin’s Creed but it has also been getting some pretty nasty reviews. Similarly to Warcraft, I knew nothing of the mythology of the game before going to see the film. I vaguely remember reading Assasin’s Creed comic, which I got during the free comic book day, but that’s about it when it comes to my knowledge on the subject.

Nevertheless, I was still looking forward to the movie because of its cast and because its blend of the future and the past interested and intrigued me. I used to think that history and modernity were two incompatible concepts, however, I just binged Westworld over Christmas and absolutely loved it, so I thought that maybe Assasin’s Creed could further extend my love for this new concept of fusion. Sadly, while I did like the acting and the atmospheric setting of the film (two things that I was looking forward to), other components of the movie left me pretty disappointed.

IMDb summary: When Callum Lynch explores the memories of his ancestor Aguilar and gains the skills of a Master Assassin, he discovers he is a descendant of the secret Assassins society.

Writing

The film’s script was written by Michael Lesslie (Macbeth), Adam Cooper and Bill Collage (Exodus, Allegiant, 2015’s Transporter). Their track record has not been great and their quality of work really showed in Assasin’s Creed. Let’s mention the things that I liked before going into the negatives. So, I quite liked the mythological ideas of the film – the fact that blood is our main relation to the past and to our ancestry. However, I didn’t think that these ideas were conveyed clearly or interestingly in the film: all the expositional dialogue felt clunky, hard to understand, and, frankly, quite boring. The movie’s commentary on the modern world was clearly wrong too: freedom and free-will are now more important than ever rather than being easily surrendered.

The writing for the characters wasn’t great either. They didn’t receive enough development and the choices that were made for and by the characters were super weird. Cotillard’s character had such an unclear story, her decisions opposed one other from scene to scene. In fact, her whole plotline seemed quite stupid. The cliche artifact didn’t help the story much either. The motivation for the actions of the other assassins was not clear too. Lastly, the ending was unsatisfying – they were hoping for a sequel, which they are not going to get. Why would they not worry about a sequel and make a good stand-alone film for once?

Directing

Macbeth’s director Justin Kurzel helmed Assasin’s Creed and left me kinda baffled. I expected more from a Palme d’Or nominated director. To begin with, the whole jumping around from the past to the present while in the Animus was unnecessary and uneven. In addition, I felt that the majority of the movie’s scenes were cut short. The confused, all-but-the-kitchen-sink camera work, which included everything from the long tracking shots to the first person’s POVs, wasn’t great either. The shaky cam was also not pleasant – the filmmakers should just stop with the shaky action – it has already stopped working for the Bourne series and it originated this technique. Nevertheless, let’s end on a positive note: even though they were unbelieavble, the parkours and the roof jumps did look cool and were entertaining.

Acting

The cast did a pretty good job with the awful material that they have been given. Michael Fassbender (X-Men, Steve Jobs) was great in the lead but his producing input on the movie did not help it. Marion Cotillard (Allied), Jeremy Irons (BvS), Brendan Gleeson (In The Heart of The Sea), and Charlotte Rampling  (45 years) were okay too, although I was quite surprised to see Rampling getting work in a big blockbuster after her last year’s comments on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. Ariane Labed (The Lobster) played probably the most interesting character with a lot of potential that wasn’t tapped into. 

Briefly: Assasin’s Creed wasted a great premise on a cliche story. Throw in some faulty directing and good acting into the mix and you have another forgettable video game movie. I only recommend it to super fans of the game or Fassbender.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: Assasin’s Creed trailer

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Movie review: Allied

Movie reviews

Hello!

Today, I’m reviewing Allied – the movie that ‘broke’ Brangelina, the ‘it’ couple of Hollywood. Okay, I’m kidding –  I don’t actually believe or care much about the rumors. To me, Allied is, first and foremost, a film by a director that is of my native descent (Zemeckis is half-Lithuanian).

IMDb summary: In 1942, an intelligence officer in North Africa encounters a female French Resistance fighter on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressures of war.

Writing

Steven Knight wrote the screenplay for Allied. So far, his accomplishments have been a bit average: I absolutely loved his small film Locke and really enjoyed the stories of The Hundred-Foot Journey and Pawn Sacrifice. However, Knight also penned the script for the so-so picture Burnt and wrote the completely awful Seventh Son as well. His next film will be a different Brad Pitt picture – Wold War Z 2. Speaking of the writing for this film, quality-wise, Allied was a mixed bag , just like Knight’s track record.

I felt that Allied contained two distinct stories which could have been explored in two separate movies. The first suspenseful act of the two characters falling in love on a mission was cool and interesting. It was a successful homage to Casablanca and the Golden Age of Hollywood. The second story – the home life and the investigation – was much slower and less interesting than the preceding set-up. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the fact that this film focused more on the romance and less on the war because I have already seen enough historical films, in which the romantic aspect is relegated to the sidelines and feels out of place. Allied made a decision to be a romantic movie first and a war drama second and stuck with it. I, as I have mentioned, enjoyed and liked this idea, but I can also understand that some people might see it as too sappy and melodramatic. I, personally, found it touching and heartbreaking, although not Casablanca level heartbreaking (Allied didn’t reach the levels of ‘We’ll always have Paris’ is what I’m saying).

Having said that, Allied still did have some pretty nice lines of dialogue and some rather cool concepts. I don’t really know why but I liked the trailer line: ‘Being good at this kind of job is not very beautiful’. I also enjoyed the ideas about love in war – the problem isn’t the action of getting involved, it is feeling something about the involvement. Lastly, I liked how the film underscored that the two main characters could never be trusted, as they were trained to lie.

Directing

Robert Zemeckis, who is responsible for creating a whole slew of cinematic classics – Back To The Future trilogy, Who Framed Robert Rabbit, Forrest Gump, and Cast Away and whose latest films include The Walk and Flight, directed Allied and did quite a good job. The film looked beautiful visually, although the CGI at the beginning (the desert) seemed a tiny bit fake and took me out of the film. Other historical settings were realized nicely, though. Zemeckis also used a lot of time jumps in the film and they did make sense for the most part. Lastly, I did like his long takes that some critics panned. At first, they seemed unnecessarily long to me as well, but then I realized that they were this long for a reason and were meant to show or to indicate something extra.

Acting

I think that the lead duo – Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard – did an amazing job. First, they had crazy good chemistry and made a believable couple – their back and forth dialogue was superb, especially in the first act. Secondly, I think that the two actors nailed the ‘fake’ spy acting and didn’t make it seem cartoony. I was also quite surprised to see Lizzy Caplan in a supporting role and thought that her character was interesting, although, I question the motives behind the decision to include her character. A trio of actors, who seem to constantly appear in historical movies – Jared Francis Harris, Matthew Goode, and Simon McBurney, rounded up the cast of Allied and brought solid performances too.

Actors’ film recommendations:

  • Brad Pitt: Seven, Fight ClubMr. & Mrs. Smith (why not, it is still a good movie), Inglorious Basterds, Fury, The Big Short, By The Sea (even more ironic, as this one is directed by Jolie).
  • Marion Cotillard: Macbeth, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, Big FishLa Vie en Rose for which she won an Oscar should also be on this list, even though I haven’t seen it yet. 
  • Lizzy Caplan: Now You See Me 2, Mean Girls (what a throwback).
  • Jared Harris: Benjamin Button, Lincoln, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
  • Matthew Goode: Downton Abbey, The Imitation Game, Watchmen.
  • Simon McBurney: MI:Rogue Nation, Magic in the Moonlight, The Theory of Everything, Jane Eyre.

In brief, Allied was a solid romantic war drama. It had good acting and a decent story and visuals. However, the film was not groundbreaking, which it could have been, knowing who was involved in its making, both in front and behind the camera.

Rate: 3,75/5

Trailer: Allied trailer

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Movie review: Steve Jobs

Movie reviews

Hello!

I haven’t written a movie review in more than 2 weeks! That seems unreal to me since I have watched at least 5 films in that time, however, the majority of them were for school – feature films for my film studies course and documentaries for my anthropology course. Other movies were old classics for my own enjoyment, like The Sound of Music and V for Vendetta. But now, let’s review a new film and, to my mind, another awards contender – Steve Jobs.

IMDb summary: Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution, to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches, ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac.

I have always been a fan of Steve Jobs and the products of Apple. Yes, I know that they are way too overpriced and that one of the reasons why people buy Mac Books and iPhones is to look prestigious. And I still don’t care. Call me a hypocrite, but I will be a happy hypocrite with my apples.

Speaking about Jobs as a person – he was a genius in his own right. He was an inspiring control freak and a likable asshole. Never has there been such a bipolar and complicated individual. Jobs not only played the orchestra but manipulated it. Some people say that he had no talent, but to me it looks like he had lots of talent – we just did not know what his talent was.

Steve Jobs (2015) is not the first and probably not the last film about this interesting person. Countless documentaries and 4 features films have been created based on his life. The latest feature film (before this one) was 2013’s Jobs directed by Joshua Michael Stern and starring Ashton Kutcher in the titular role. More than 15 books have also been released on the same subject. The book that I want to read the most and would like to recommend to you is Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. The film Steve Jobs (2015) is an adaptation of this 2011 biography.

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Writing and Dialogue

The script was written by Aaron Sorkin who has previously written the script for one of my all time favorite films about a different genius of technology and media Mark ZuckerbergThe Social Network. Surprisingly, this film, being a biographical film, had no voice-over and all the exposition was made through the dialogue. The whole film was driven forward by the dialogue and it demanded the viewers’ attention – if you weren’t listening for at least a second, you could have easily lost the thread of the story. All of the actors did an amazing job with the deliverance of the dialogue – I have no idea how could they find time to breathe in between that back-and-forth non-stop arguing. It was an interesting choice to structure the film in this way and, in my opinion, this choice was the right one. I also enjoyed the fact that the film did not focus on the whole life story and was set in the backstage of the 3 product launch events. I also liked the open ending – I usually penalize the film for having no clear resolution, but when a film  doesn’t need a resolution, there should not be one and Steve Jobs falls into this category.

Directing and Visuals

Steve Jobs film was directed by Danny Boyle. I have only seen one of his previous films – 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire, which I have definitely enjoyed. Speaking about Boyle’s work on this film, I do not have much to say: for me, the visuals were overpowered by the story or the dialogue, to be precise. However, I did enjoy the overlapping visuals in the scene in the corridor, when Fassbender’s character was telling a story (his plans) to Winslet’s character. In addition, I found it interesting how he used different gauges for different parts of the film: 1984 scenes were filmed on 16mm, 1988 on 35mm and 1998 on a digital film strip.

Acting

  • Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc – was amazing. I cannot imagine a different actor in this role. He is an extremely likable actor even if he plays a kinda unlikable character, so he was a perfect choice to play Jobs. Fassbender is a really versatile actor – he does big blockbusters – he is Magneto in the X-Men universe, but he also stars in smaller independent films. I have recently watched Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank, starring Fassbender, and he was really good in that film – I warn you, the movie has a controversial scene, which involves Fassbender’s character. In addition, this year, Fassbender also appeared in Macbeth, which I, sadly, missed. I do plan to check it out some time later. Fassbender also has starred in one of my favorite and one of the most heartbreaking films of all time – 12 Years a Slave and he will be part of the highly anticipated Assassin’s Creed, coming out next year.
  • Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman, marketing executive for Apple and NeXT and Jobs’ confidant in the film – was also really good. I loved how blunt she was with Fassbender’s Jobs and how she wasn’t afraid to tell the truth. Winslet is an established actress since 1997 – the Titanic era. She might be familiar to the younger audiences because of her role in the Divergent series. She will also star in another film this year – The Dressmaker. The trailer paints the film to be an interesting story, although, it looks more like a TV movie to me.
  • Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple and creator of the Apple II provided great support. I prefer Rogen in dramatic roles much more than in comedic ones. However, I liked him in Neighbors. Still, though, I had an allergic reaction to The Interview.
  • Jeff Daniels as John Sculley, CEO of Apple from 1983 to 1993 was also a great addition to the cast playing a slightly similar role to the one he played in The Martian earlier this fall.
  • Katherine Waterston as Chrisann Brennan, Jobs’ former girlfriend and Lisa’s mother and Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld, a member of the original Mac team were also great. I’m not familiar with both of these actors, although, we will see more of them soon. Waterson will be starring in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Stuhlbarg will be in Doctor Strange.
  • Sarah Snook as Andrea “Andy” Cunningham, manager of the Macintosh and iMac launches – I loved how her character provided if not a comic relief, then at least a quick break and a tiny smile, from all that non-stop arguing and dialogue.
  • I would also like to give a shout out to all the young actresses who played Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the daughter of Steve Jobs and Chrisann Brennan: Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo, and Makenzie Moss. They all did a nice job.

All in all, Steve Jobs was an amazing motion picture. Personally, it was the type of film that assures me that my love for cinema is a justifiable and exciting hobby, which I would like to turn into a career one day. The acting was spot on and the dialogue – interesting, engaging and unapologetically on the nose.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Steve Jobs trailer

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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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