Movie review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a film that is supposed to sustain MCU fans till Avengers 4. This is Ant-Man and the Wasp!

IMDb summary: As Scott Lang balances being both a Super Hero and a father, Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym present an urgent new mission that finds the Ant-Man fighting alongside The Wasp to uncover secrets from their past.

As per usual, just before we start, these are my previous MCU reviews: Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Civil War, Doctor Strange, The Winter Soldier, Age of Ultron, Guardians 1and 2, Infinity War, and, of course, the original Ant-Man.

Writing

Ant-Man and the Wasp was written by a whole bunch of writers: Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers (who both have worked on The Lego Batman, Spider-Man and Jumanji before), the star of the film – Paul Rudd, and Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari (another writing duo that doesn’t have a lot of credits on IMDb yet ). I thought that they did a good job with the script. The film had a good opening to catch the viewer up on the previous events and this film’s place in the timeline. It was also rooted in MCU lore but accessible enough for the newcomers. It was also a good sequel as it took Scott Lang’s story further and forwards.

It was also nice to see a female character getting at least half of a solo movie in MCU (finally!). The superhero-couple idea was also neat and was probably the best romantic plotline in MCU (Hulk/Black Widow didn’t really work, Gamora/Starlord always felt rushed, and only Vision/Wanda is/was a neat pairing, just wish it had more screen time). It was also nice to see the idea of the generations of superheroes in the film and the passing of the mantle between the heroes – that happens in the comics all the time but hasn’t really been touched upon in the movies before. The picture’s villain wasn’t the best but also wasn’t bad. Her intentions seemed valid and believable. The movie was also quite chucklesome if not laugh out loud funny. Overall, while I didn’t think that Ant-Man and the Wasp was one of the staple/must-watch MCU films, it was thoroughly enjoyable and a well-written summer actioner.

Directing

Peyton Reed, who directed some amount of the first film (remember that Edgar Wright debacle?), helmed the second film and did a neat job. The pacing was good and the narrative was translated to the screen cohesively. The shrinking action was also inventive and fun to watch.

Mid/Post-credits scenes

The film had two scenes at the end. The mid-credits scene acted as a follow-up to Avengers: Infinity Warand was a continuation of that heartbreak. It also raised some questions about the character’s potential comeback in the 4th Avengersfilm. The post-credits scene was fun but kinda a let-down and not really necessary.

Acting

Paul Rudd as Scott Lang / Ant-Man and Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne / Wasp were both great – likable and believable. Their chemistry worked too. Michael Peña (The Martian, Collateral Beauty, 12 Strong, A Wrinkle in Time) had a couple of great scenes that have become signature of his character’s Luis. Walton Goggins (The Death Cure, The Hateful Eight, Tomb Raider) was good as another slightly off-putting and potentially crazy villain Sonny BurchHannah John-Kamen was also good as Ava Starr / Ghost. It was nice to see Michelle Pfeiffer (mother!) as Janet van Dyne, though she wasn’t in the movie much. Laurence Fishburne (John Wick 2) jumped shipped from DCEU to MCU to portray Bill Foster, a former colleague of Hank Pym’s, played superbly, once again, by Michael Douglas.

In short, Ant-Man and the Wasp was a tasty treat for all MCU fans, broken after Infinity War.

Rate: 4.3/5

Trailer: Ant-Man and the Wasp trailer

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Movie review: A Wrinkle in Time

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to A Wrinkle in Time review overflowing with disappointment, written by a very sad Disney fangirl.

IMDb summary:  After the disappearance of her scientist father, three peculiar beings send Meg, her brother, and her friend to space in order to find him.

Writing

2018’s A Wrinkle in Time is a cinematic adaptation of a beloved children’s book by the same name by Madeleine L’Engle. I have never read the book myself so the script by Frozen’s Jennifer Lee and a TV writer Jeff Stockwell was my first introduction to the story. And what a disappointment it was (I already would like to apologize for using the word ‘disappointment’ a lot in this review).

The movie started with an incredibly heavy-handed set-up that still failed to tell anything substantial about the world of this story. The whole first act was just a complete mess, full of hints to and half-assed attempts to explain the mythology of the world. Nothing made any sense: this was probably the movie with the vaguest rules of magic. Also, while I did appreciate its attempt to connect magic and science, that whole concept didn’t really end up going anywhere.

The actual story wasn’t great either because it was so choppy. The characters would move from one stage to another in their adventure without any cohesion or continuity. Speaking about the characters: they were not the best either: the three magical ladies were…well, magical and somehow connected to the universe and possessing some vaguely defined powers. The father character was fine but quite unsympathetic. The three children characters were okay: the main girl had the arc of a hesitant hero combined with the struggles of a preteen girl; her brother was an interesting character but the twists relating to his arc weren’t handled well; while their friend didn’t really have anything to do with the story – he was just there to be teased as a love interest.

The movie’s message, all relating to love, family, and being who you are, was nice but handled in both a confused and simplistic fashion. There was no clarity, sophistication, or originality in the story for that type of a typical message to be elevated. I also don’t think that the movie handled the idea of loss very well: it didn’t really show the family as going through the process of acceptance and healing but rather portrayed them as being underwhelmed and incapacitated by their loss. A Wrinkle in Time also tied the faults of humanity to an unknown evil entity, which was a questionable decision.

Lastly, to finish off the writing part, this movie reminded me of Interstellar of all things in two aspects. First, the idea that love is the key to the universe and how it extends through time and space. The second thing was the fact that a father-daughter relationship completely overpowered the father-son one. I guess favoritism in the case of multiple children is very true.

Directing

Ava DuVernay, a celebrated director of Selma and documentary 13th (soon New Gods movie too) had a lot riding on this movie and a lot to accomplish with it. She famously changed the race of the lead character, presented an interracial family and became the first female director of color to be trusted with such a gigantic budget. And, I, sadly, think that all these outside concerns kinda overtook the movie and the actual film turned out to be of a fairly poor quality. While the movie’s runtime was short, the picture itself felt incredibly long due to its slow pace. It also felt choppy and disjointed (mostly due to the faulty screenplay). The budget was probably mostly spent on the CGI which did look great: the colors were vibrant, the designs of the costumes and the sets – really beautiful (except that flying cabbage). The credits were also gorgeous. Overall, the movie looked imaginative. However, it is not enough for a movie to be pretty: if some of those millions of the budget were spent on better writers, the final product would have been much better. A Wrinkle in Time did have a nice pop soundtrack though, so that’s something.

Acting

A Wrinkle in Time featured three child actors in the lead and, while I don’t want to be harsh on them, I also don’t want to sugarcoat my thoughts. Basically, the young actors – Storm Reid, Levi Miller (he was Pan in the failed Pan reboot), and Deric McCabe  – weren’t bad but they did lack diversity in their facial expressions or general energy in their performances. Oprah WinfreyReese Witherspoon (Sing, Home Again), and Mindy Kaling were good, bit cartoonish but that fit their roles. Chris Pine (The Finest Hours, Wonder Woman, Hell or High Water, Star Trek Beyond) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beauty and the Beast) had small roles too and were really great. Lastly, Zach Galifianakis (Tulip Fever) and Michael Peña (Ant-Man, The Martian, 12 Strong, Collateral Beauty) also cameoed and got to wear some weird costumes.

In short, A Wrinkle in Time tries to accomplish a lot of things both behind and in front of the camera but I don’t know whether it manages to succeed in either of its quests.

Rate: 2.7/5

Trailer: A Wrinkle in Time trailer

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Movie review: 12 Strong

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of another January release. This time around, it’s 12 Strong!

IMDb summary: 12 Strong tells the story of the first Special Forces team deployed to Afghanistan after 9/11; under the leadership of a new captain, the team must work with an Afghan warlord to take down for the Taliban.

Writing

12 Strong – a biographical action drama – was written by Ted Tally (adapted The Silence of the Lambs all those years ago) and Peter Craig (wrote both parts of Mockingjay and the upcoming Robin Hood and Top Gun 2), based on the non-fiction book ‘Horse Soldiers’ by a journalist Doug Stanton. Overall, the film’s script was very much ‘by the books’ but it also had a couple of original and unique ideas.

The movie’s set-up was typical. It included: a reminder that 9/11 happened (and simultaneously situated this film in a the war on terrorism timeline), a couple of scenes with the family members of the soldiers (and no other character development, except maybe a few bonding scenes with the other soldiers), and a single scene to introduce the villain (and honestly, his actions in the said scene were so despicable that that one scene was enough).

The ideas, which I found original, were few but present. I really liked the warlord’s speech about the difference between a warrior and a soldier. I’ve always thought about these two words as synonyms that meant the same, but, now, I see that they do slightly differ in the reasons for fighting (whether for survival or as a job). The warlord’s (whose beliefs were presented as very Western – was that an authentic feature or did the filmmakers wanted to make him more sympathetic to the Western audiences?) concluding statement, about the US becoming just another tribe in the Middle East rung very true, knowing the events that followed the ones of depicted in this picture. I really wish that the movie had more of a ‘looking back’ perspective like the one expressed in that monologue. Lastly, some questions that this movie (like all the others of this genre) raised but didn’t necessarily answer, for me personally, were: how do the followers of Islam balance their own culture and the human rights (that’s mostly a women right’s question that is interpreted wrongly by some Muslims)? And how can the West help that region achieve freedom and peace without imposing Westernization upon them?

Directing

12 Strong was directed by Nicolai Fuglsig – Danish filmmaker and photojournalist. This was his American film debut and he certainly didn’t do a bad job. Action/terrorism movies are a hard sell and they only really capture the audiences’ atention when they have some awards backing (e.g. The Hurt Locker or, more recently, American Sniper). Fuglsig’s picture didn’t have any big names attached (Hemsworth is only a draw if he is Thor) and it’s coming out in an unfortunate month. Still, the film was quite okay. The shoot-outs were well constructed and intense. The movie aslo did a good job of visualizing the new kind of warfare by showing the choppers in the clouds and the combat on horseback combat.

 

Acting

12 Strong assembled a cast, full of quite well-known actors. Leading them was Chris Hemsworth (Thor 3, The Huntsman, Ghostbusters, In The Heart of The Sea, Avengers 2). He was joined by Michael Shannon (Midnight Special, Nocturnal Animals), another Marvel family member Michael Peña (Ant-Man, The Martian, Collateral Beauty, The Lego Ninjago, Murder on the Orient Express), and the up-and-coming Trevante Rhodes (who got everytbody’s attention with Moonlight and will soon appear in The Predator). A bunch of other actors played the other 8 (of the titular 12) soldiers but, as they didn’t really have a character arc, I don’t see the neccesity to mention them. Navid Negahban played the warlord ally of the American troops: he has played a similar role before multiple times. His next project is a bit different, though – he will be the Sultant in next year’s live-action Alladin.

In short, 12 Strong was a mediocre and by-the-numbers action/drama with some good performances and a few intersting ideas.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: 12 Strong trailer

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Movie review: The Lego Ninjango Movie

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of the 3rd Lego movie and the 2nd one this year. This is The Lego Ninjago Movie!

IMDb summary: Shunned by everyone for being the son of an evil warlord, a teenager seeks to defeat him with the help of his fellow ninjas.

To begin with, I really loved the 2014’s original The Lego Movie and adored the 2017’s The Lego Batman Movie as both a continuation of the Lego franchise and as a parody of the comic book movie/the superhero genre. The Lego Ninjago Movie seemed like a cool expansion of the Lego cinematic series though I didn’t know anything about the Lego ninja sub-brand. Also, I had no idea why they chose to release it this year, so close to The Lego Batman.

Writing

The Lego Ninjago Movie was written by a bunch of screenwriters, way more than it should have had. The two directors Bob Logan and Paul Fisher, and the writers William Wheeler, Tom Wheeler, Jared Stern, and John Whittington. Additionally, the story credits went to Hilary Winston, Dan Hageman, and Kevin Hageman. This just seems excessive: why would not that original children’s movie need 10 writers????

Speaking about that lack of originality: The Lego Ninjago Movie was super similar to The Lego Movie. And while we applauded its originality in 2014, 3 years later and a second-time around, the same ideas just don’t seem that fresh. This film had the same type of a framing device – real-world/live-action set-up which enveloped the lego story. The message – one about encouraging the imagination, play, and the storytelling during childhood – also stayed the same but I can’t really fault it because of how positive even if repetitive it is.

Speaking about the Lego part of the narrative: it was fine but nothing new. The plot focused on the child of a villain (Disney’s Descendants?) and dealt with his experiences as a high schooler (any teen movie ever?) who has a secret superhero life (Big Hero 6?). The ninja characters, in general, seemed to have been inspired by Transformers, Power Rangers, Pacific Rim, and Ironman. I’m guessing that a lot of Japanese/samurai movies were also consulted (and their clips included in the actual film). The elemental powers were cute but old. Lastly, the whole father-son thing was very Star Wars.

The humor of the film wasn’t bad but, at times, it did feel like the movie was trying too hard to be hip and cool (and the kids are cynical these days). That ultimate weapon reveal was super dumb but still hilarious, though.

Directing

The Lego Ninjago Movie had three directors: Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, and Bob Logan – all long time animators but new to directing.  Speaking about that part of the film which they were best at – the animation was spectacular. This animation style still amazes me and I applaud all the animators for achieving the visuals that I haven’t thought possible just a few years back. The pacing was good too, stuff was always happening for the most part and the movie’s runtime wasn’t stretched out for no reason. Also, this quick pace kinda gave a movie a video game-esque feeling, which was good. There were a lot of dances and songs included too, similarly to the other two Lego films. However, The Lego Ninjago Movie differed from its predecessors in one aspect: it actually did feel like a commercial for the Lego toys way much more than the others did. I know that both The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie were ads for Lego too but at least they were not as obvious about it and had something extra (like the originality or the references) to embellish the ad. The Lego Ninjago Movie lacked that extra.

Voice work

The Lego Ninjago Movie assembled quite a stellar voice cast. Of course, one cannot make a ninja movie without Jackie Chan, so he both voiced a character and appeared on screen (I kinda think that he is still appealing to kids, while the adults don’t care much for him anymore). Dave Franco (Nerve, Now You See Me) and Justin Theroux (The Girl on The Train) voiced the son and the father and were fun to listen to. Silicon Valley’s Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) and Zach Woods played the child-friendly version of their characters from the HBO show. Michael Peña (Ant-Man, The Martian, Collateral Beauty), Abbi JacobsonFred Armisen, and Olivia Munn (X-Men) rounded out the cast and delivered good aural performances too.

In short, The Lego Ninjago Movie was an okay addition to the Lego movie franchise. It mostly just rehashed the same stuff and didn’t add anything new but was still entertaining and enjoyable.

Rate: 3.2/5

Trailer: The Lego Ninjago Movie 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: The Martian

Movie reviews

Hello, my dear readers!!

I have missed you so much!! I haven’t written in a while because I was buried underneath piles of work. Living on my own while studying is way harder than I expected it to be. I already cannot even look at pasta and I still have 4 more years to go eating it. Anyway, we are not here to talk about my mundane problems. We are here to review the latest space opera – The Martian. I have actually seen it during the opening weekend but only managed to review it a week later…Sorry…

Also, I would like to give a spoiler warning for The Martian if you have not seen it yet.

BTW, it’s been a month since I started taking Introduction to Film course, so tell me in the comments if my reviewing style has changed somehow (maybe it improved, hopefully?).

Comparison

It is not a secret that in the last few years, we had a few high production astronomical blockbusters – 2013’s Warner Bros’s Gravity and 2014’s Legendary’s Interstellar. Now, 20th Century Fox takes its shot and creates a mixture of those two films (even borrows some actors): The Martian has a plot-line of a ‘lonely astronomer lost in space’ from Gravity and ‘his team trying to save him’ from Interstellar. While I have enjoyed both of these films, The Martian might be my favorite out of all 3. I have also seen this film described as Castaway meets Apollo 11, which, I agree, is an accurate representation.

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The tagline for this film was Bring Him Home and it was definitely true to the film because Mark Watney’s attempt to go home was the scientific and emotional core of the film. Also, for me as a newly created emigrant, it’s a theme near and-and dear to my heart. Yes, I’m not stranded on another planet, but being away from home is hard no matter the distance.

Water on Mars!

This movie had perfect time!! Just before its release, scientists actually found flowing water on Mars. Now, we are one step closer to turning The Martian from Science Fiction to Science Reality. If you like to learn more about this exciting development, I suggest you watch this Sci Show explanatory video.

Story & Writing

The Martian’s screenplay was written by Drew Goddard who has written mainly for TV before this. His credits include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, and Daredevil, which he also helped to produce. His last film script was for World War Z, which I, personally, really enjoyed but sadly been in a minority of moviegoers. Going back to The Martian, I really liked his treatment of this story. Although the movie has no real action, for the most part, a lot of crucial things still happen during the middle of the film and keep the viewer engaged and interested. Nothing happens and a lot of things happen at the same time (we actually just studied films like this in my film class last week). Moreover, it needs to be mentioned that this is not an original story but an adaptation of Andy Weir’s book with the same name. I added it to my reading list and you should too.  I have seen it in bookstores, re-released with the cover that looks like the movie’s poster, so it should be quite easy to get your hands on a copy of it.

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Realism

This movie has been praised for its scientific accuracy and it’s probably the most accurate of the 3 recent astronomical blockbusters. I am not expert on astronomy, physics, botany or any science but I am interested in these fields (that’s one of the reasons why I like sci-fi so much). Anyway, I found this Screen Junkies video on The Martian to be really interesting and helpful in thinking about Movie Science. I love all of their stuff on YouTube , but Movie Science videos are at the top of the list.

Directing and Visuals

The Martian is directed by the fan favorite Ridley Scott. His filmography includes Allien, Blade Runner (got its DVD from the library today), Gladiator, Prometheus and last year’s Exodus. Lots of people had problems with his last film and the whitewashing issue while I loved it. The interpretation of a biblical story was done in much better way than in Noah and the visuals were just stunning. Scott didn’t disappoint with The Martian as well. The Mise-en-Scene (I’ve learned a few fancy words in film class) was just stunning and really realistic while the futuristic technology was realized in a believable fashion as well. The action both on Mars and in the outer space looked amazing too. The NASA base was also a cool set, whose backgrounds could be analyzed separately from the narrative/on their own.

Acting

The titular character of the film and the main start, of course, is Matt Damon. It’s not the first time that Damon is playing a lost astronaut – he had a similar role in Interstellar. However, while he was an extreme douche-bag in that film, here he is a loveable, funny, witty, intelligent and self-efficient character who carries the whole film. Damon’s performance blew me away and definitely turned me into a fan of his. I’ve seen a few of his films and was always on a fence about him, but his role as Mark Watney changed my perspective. I also loved that he was a botanist – you never really see movies that focus on plant biology scientists, films usually tend to pick physics or chemistry scholars, so this was a nice and refreshing change.

While Matt Damon as Mark Watney is the central character of the film, he gets great support from a very diverse, established, and extensive supporting cast. I’m going to divide these characters into Space team and Earth team.

Space team includes:

  • Jessica Chastain as Melissa Lewis, Ares III commander – another Interstellar alumni. Loved her in that film as much as this one.
  • Michael Peña as Rick Martinez, astronaut – the scene-stealer of Ant-Man shined in this film too. Can’t wait to see more of his work.
  • Kate Mara as Beth Johanssen, astronaut – played a similar role to the one she did in Fantastic Four. While they definitely messed up Sue Storm in that film, her character was a great addition to this motion picture’s cast.
  • Sebastian Stan as Chris Beck, astronaut – the Winter Soldier can be more than Marvel’s next Captain America. I am a fan of Stan, so loved seeing him popping up in this film.
  • Aksel Hennie as Alex Vogel, astronaut – rounded up the space part of the cast. Sadly, I’m not familiar with his work, so cannot really comment much, except to say that he was great in this film.

We didn’t get to spend much time with these characters and they didn’t get a lot of development. However, I believe that they served their purpose for this specific film perfectly by providing Matt Damon’s character with great support.

Earth team includes:

We did get to spend more time with the Earth-based part of the cast which had a few surprising performances.

  • Kristen Wiig as Annie Montrose, NASA spokesperson – was the biggest surprise. I have never imagined Wiig in not a comedic role but she blew me away. I wish she would do more action/drama films, but sadly her next movie is Ghostbusters remake, which I have mixed feelings about. Furthermore, I loved her character because she brought the public into the film. I haven’t seen the theme of public’s affect of NASA and NASA’s manipulation of public explored before.
  • Jeff Daniels as Teddy Sanders, head of NASA, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Vincent Kapoor, a NASA mission director, and Sean Bean as Mitch Henderson, a NASA mission director were the powerful trio of NASA and for me, they worked best in their scenes together, because they played off of each others energy. Surprisingly, Sean Bean did not die. Also, seeing him make Lords of the Rings references was amazing!!
  • Donald Glover as Rich Purnell, a NASA astronomer and Mackenzie Davis as Mindy Park, a satellite planner in Mission Control were the 2 younger actors in the Earth team. I liked the nerdy-ness that Glover’s character brought to the film and I appreciated the introduction to Davis as an actress.

Lastly, this film had a few international actors from China: Eddy Ko and Chen Shu. While I don’t know if this side-plot was the part of the original story of the book, but I guess we all know why it was included in the film. Get that Chinese Box Office, Fox!

All in all, this fall is proving to be one of the greatest movie seasons ever! I haven’t seen a film which I didn’t enjoy so far. The Martian is a great adaptation of (I’m sure) an amazing book with wonderful acting from the whole ensemble cast, especially the leading man – Matt Damon. In addition, it has stunning visuals and a strong emotional appeal as well as is scientifically accurate as much as sci-fi film can be accurate.

Rate: 5/5

Trailer: The Martian trailer

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Movie review: Paper Towns

Movie reviews

Hello!

This is a very special blog post, because I’m going to review my favorite book’s movie adaptation. So, let’s travel to the Paper Towns and leT’s gEt loSt AnD fOuNd.

Pre-watching ideas

John Green is my favorite author. I have read all of his books multiple times and, although The Fault In Our Stars is his most famous book and was adapted to the big screen last year (TFIOS review, nail design), my favorite book of his is actually Paper Towns. My Tumblr is even named after that book (link). I am also a huge YouTube fan (my top YouTuber lists here and here), so I closely follow John and his brother Hank Green on all social media (vlogbrothers on YouTube). Their educational channels, gaming channels, Vidcon organization, and, most importantly, charity work to decrease the world suck (Project for Awesome) are all equally amazing. I haven’t found people, who inspire me to do good things for others that much. I’m also really excited that John Green made a deal with one of the biggest Hollywood production companies (Fox 2000) – I can’t wait to see what he will bring to the table, how much heart and soul he will breathe into the Hollywood cash-grabs.

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I’ve eagerly followed the making of the film since it went into pre-production. I’ve highly enjoyed seeing the behind the scenes stuff in vlogbrothers weekly videos as well as on the Internet in general. I was really happy with the casting choices, because I believe that Nat Wolff did a great job in TFIOS and I am really excited to see how Cara Delevingne transitions from modeling to acting. I am a huge fan of hers (I’ll literally buy every magazine if she is on the cover) and I can’t wait for her acting career to blow up.

When Hollywood tries to adapt a book into a motion picture, the fans get really worried about the changes that the producers and the director will have to make. However, since the author of the original material –John Green – is also an executive producer on the film, I have complete faith in him: he won’t allow the core ideas and the overall feeling of the story to be altered.

IMDb summary: A young man and his friends embark upon the road trip of their lives to find the missing girl next door.

Post-watching ideas

Directing 

The film was directed by Jake Schreier. This was only his second time directing a full-length feature, however, his past projects have quite high IMDb ratings. To my mind, Paper Towns will be one of the biggest highlights of his career. The filmed looked amazing. I enjoyed the long continual shots in the abandoned building as well as moments which were shot from the above (like Radar and Angela on a blanket; goods in the supermarket).

Writing

The screenplay was written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber who also wrote TFIOS screenplay. Moreover, they have written a screenplay based on Looking for Alaska – a debut novel by John Green. That book will probably be next of John’s creations to be adapted to the big screen and I believe that they will use the screenplay by Neustadter and Weber because they did an even more amazing job with Paper Towns than with TFIOS. The dialogue was funny and not full of cliches, all the characters were well developed and had moments to shine and the overall message of the film was conveyed very subtly but clearly.

Connection to my personal life

The reason, why I feel connected to this story, is because I relate to all of the characters. I have always been Q – the calm and collected one with a clear life goal and a plan. But I got tired of being predictable and I have always wanted to step out of my comfort zone. Basically, I wanted to be Margo. So, I really hope that my decision to move halfway across the continent after I turn 18 will be a Margo-esc thing to do. You have to get lost, to find yourself, right?

The quote from the book ‘The Town Was Paper But The Memories Were Not’ is also very near and dear to my heart. The people that I have encountered in my life so far have mostly been very ordinary. All of them are happy with their day-to-day life and there is nothing wrong with that. I just want more and I don’t really know what more is yet, but I’m prepared to find out. However, the part of the quote “but the memories were not” to me means that there were a few extraordinary moments in my simple life that were and still are invaluable. I’m ready to leave my paper life but I will always keep the memories.

While watching the film, I’ve also realized that I’m Radar in my group of friends. I am usually the rational one who plans everything, is worried about school, and is scared of breaking the rules. I also have a friend who is as thirsty and funny as Ben. Lastly, my best friend is the Q of our group – she would definitely travel 2000 km for the love of her life.

Acting

  • Nat Wolff as Quentin “Q” did an amazing job. He was so likable and adorable. Furthermore, I highly enjoyed the fact that this film swapped the gender roles and a guy, played by Wolff, was the one chasing after a girl and not the other way around. Nat played a hopeless romantic who learned his lesson perfectly and I really hope that his career will get a boost after this film.
  • Austin Abrams as Ben was a complete scene-stealer like Michael Pena in Ant-man (review of that film). His comedic timing was amazing and his jokes weren’t cliche at all. Even the pee joke worked well and pee jokes never impress me.
  • Justice Smith as Marcus “Radar” was a really cool character too that, as I have mentioned before, represented me completely. And those Black Santas looked amazing – I was really worried that they would cut that part of the film because it’s too weird but I’m so happy that they didn’t. Now I definitely need a Black Santa statue. Is there an official merchandise site that I could get one on? Maybe the DFTBA store will have some.

Also, I really loved how nerdy all the 3 guys were . The Pokemon song and the Valar Morghulis shout-out with a beer sword were amazing.

  • Cara Delevingne as Margo Roth Spiegelman was wonderful and the best casting choice in ..like.. ever. True, she wasn’t in a film much but she was extremely charming in a few scenes she had. This was probably the most successful transition from modeling to acting, I have ever seen. But then again, I’ve always felt that Cara was more than a model. She is a superstar in her own right. However, I might be making the same mistake as Q did, imagining her in a way I think she should be. I guess we will never know if I’m right or mistaken unless I meet her one day, which is unlikely.
  • Halston Sage as Lacey was also a nice addition to the cast. I really liked the idea that her character presented – a pretty girl can be smart too. The outside doesn’t always reflect what is on the inside.
  • Jaz Sinclair as Angela was also an original and well-developed character. I really liked the fact that she is a fan of Ed Sheeran. (I am also a fan – proof). Moreover, I liked how they included her in the final act of the film because she wasn’t a part of the road trip in the book.

Margo’s little sister played by Meg Crosbie was also really great in a few scenes she had. She definitely knew how to profit from her sister’s disappearance.

Spoilers!!

  • Ansel Elgort had a short cameo in the film as a cashier. I hope that his cameo will start a trend and we will get to see an actor from this adaptation in the next film based on a novel by Green. Maybe Cara Delevingne will be one of the students in the boarding school in Looking for Alaska?

Story ideas

The book and the movie both succeed in portraying the following ideas:

  1. Never fall in love with an imaginary person (reminds me of The Great Gatsby, don’t you think?)
  2. Enjoy the little things in life and be smart enough to spot them.
  3. Never judge a book by its cover or a person by their appearance.
  4. Don’t be afraid to jump higher and to run faster – leave your comfort zone.
  5. Try to reach your goal no matter what and if you have no goal or no plan – don’t be scared to look for them.

The premise of the film and the whole concept of the Paper Town is also very interesting and extremely clever. Huge props to John Green, who found such a different idea to base his book on.

Soundtrack

All of the young adult films have amazing soundtracks and this one is no exception. My favorite song is the one from the trailer – To the Top by Twin Shadow (listen on YouTube). Falling by HAIM was also really nice (listen here). Lastly, the song which I don’t think was in the actual film but was featured in the trailer – Smile by Mikky Ekko – is also one of my favorite songs of all time (find it on YouTube).

All in all, even if you are a not a target demographic of this film or if you have never heard anything about John Green and his previous work (if you have never heard about TFIOS, have you been living under a rock?), you still should see this film. It’s a refreshing and realistic love story, which has a deeper meaning and isn’t just another teen flick. It didn’t earn as much money during its opening weekend as TFIOS did, but I believe that it will be a sleeper-hit.

Rate: 5/5 (how else could I rate it?)

Trailer: Paper Towns trailer

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Movie Review: Ant-Man

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another movie review, written by me specially for you. This time, it’s the review of Ant-Man – a film about the superhero with the weirdest name and also, a closing chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s 2nd phase. I hope you’ll like it! Enjoy!

To begin with, you probably know that I am a huge Marvel fan, (my previous reviews of the Marvel films: Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers; thoughts on Phase 3), so I was extremely excited about the film. In short, for all of my fellow MCU fans, I would describe Ant-Man as a mash-up of the first Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy. For all of my mainstream readers, I would like to introduce this as a new and really cool version of Honey,I shrunk the kids with some superhero action and surprising amount of seriousness thrown into the mix. Either way, no matter how do I describe this film, it is irrelevant, because Marvel did it again – they made a solid film that pleases the hearts of the fans (mine included) and is enjoyable for the general public (my dad knew nothing about it and liked it a lot).

IMDb summary: Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, con-man Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.

Spoiler Warning – I advise you to watch the film first and then come back to the review. I will repeat the spoiler warning before talking about huge plot points.

The name

The name of the film suggests that it’s a movie for kids. However, Ant-Man surprises all of us because he is a sophisticated character. I believe that the name might target the film to a different audience that it’s actually meant for. I know one thing for sure: nobody will see this film in my country because the translated name sounds not only childish but stupid. 

The controversy

Our world is ruled by social media, so it’s not a surprise that Hollywood secret don’t stay under locks for long. Probably all movie fans and just general internet users know that Edgar Wright spent a lot of time working on the script of the film and he was set to direct it. However, due to creative differences, he left the project and Peyton Reed stepped in as a director. I don’t want to speak negatively about Wright, but I believe that he should have fought for the project or found ways to reach a compromise if he was really passionate about it. His original screenplay is still used in the film with some minor tweaks and he receives the story and screenplay credits, which is nice. Speaking about directing, I don’t know if Wright would have done a better job, because I really liked what Reed did as well. I always try to allow the work to speak for itself, so, before going to see this film, I didn’t want to let these controversies form my judgement. And you shouldn’t give any influential power to gossip as well.

MCU

This is the first film in a long time, which introduces a new character to the MCU in its own stand-alone film. I believe it was 2011 when we got the last stand-alone film of the MCU – the first Captain America. Granted, Guardians of the Galaxy were also new characters in a separate film, but they were still treated as a team and we didn’t have time to get to know all the them well. Ant-Man is a start of a stand-alone trilogy (probably), which can work on its own but is a great addition to the MCU as well.

The first scene of the film not only explains why the Avengers couldn’t be called for help, but also allows Ant-Man to fit in perfectly with the overall arc of MCU. SPOILERS. It was really nice to see John Slattery back as Howard Stark and Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter. Furthermore, the feud between Howard Stark and Hank Pym sets everything in motion flawlessly. Plus, I liked that they found ways to include Hydra and Shield into the plot.

Visuals

The visuals of the movie are stunning. Ant-Man’s powers are really well realized. And the way they used the ants in action scenes was wonderful. I didn’t even know that there were so many different species of ants and that they could do such things.

The first 30 minutes are a bit slow, but the 2nd half of the film has non-stop action, so the work of animators and editors can definitely be seen there in all of its glory. Moreover, while the movie has a weird and funny premise, the shrinking scenes looked were grounded and realistic. You could actually believe that something like that could be happening in, for example, your neighbors house. The CGI work is really really impeccable. I cannot praise it enough.

My favorite scenes were SPOILERS the ones in the subatomic level. That whole ‘outside of reality’ type of a world was extremely cool and pleasing for the eyes.

Montage

As with all superhero films, this one had a training montage as well. This was, however, probably one of the best training montages I have ever seen. It was funny and serious, it felt like the training was useful for the character and that he really had time to grow as a hero. Also, that montage was quite long, so the training didn’t feel rushed, which happens a lot in other films.

The Cameo of an Avenger (SPOILERS)

We knew that somebody from the Avengers team was going to shown up in the film. I wasn’t really surprised that it was Falcon because he isn’t an A-list Avenger (although, he might be one day, if he is the one who picks up the shield). Moreover, the appearance of Falcon (Anthony Mackie) set up the after credits scene were nicely. I think it is safe to assume that if Ant-Man shows up in Civil War, he will be on Cap’s team. Moreover, we cannot forget that Hank Pym hates The Starks, so he wouldn’t allow Scott to pick Tony’s side. Lastly, we had a chance to see the new Avengers base some more, because we only spent a few minutes there during the Age of Ultron

Also, keep your eyes peeled for Stan Lee cameo because it’s very short. Siri, of all things, has a very funny cameo/reference as well.

Characters and Acting

Paul Rudd as Scott Lang / Ant-Man was really great. I wasn’t familiar with Rudd’s work, because he mainly starred in comedies before becoming the next Marvel Superhero, and I rarely watch comedy movies – I am very picky about them. Anyway, I was extremely impressed with his performance in this film: he sold the action scenes, his comedy was great and I believed his connection with his daughter,

Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne was also really great. I really liked Lily in the Hobbit films when practically nobody liked her there, but I hope that with this film, the people will finally realize what a great actress she is. I will talk more about her in the end (credits).

Also, the way they handled the inevitable falling in love moment between the two leads was amazing. I laughed a lot.

Michael Douglas as Hank Pym was perfection at its finest. It was interesting and refreshing to see a Marvel movie focusing a lot on a more mature and more sophisticated character as well as seeing Marvel Studios casting a seasoned and well accomplished actor in the role. They usually prefer “growing” their own actors.

Corey Stoll as Darren Cross / Yellowjacket was a cool villain. Personally, I believe that Marvel villains are getting better with each film. Yellowjacket was smart, he had a personal connection to our heroes, he had a cool costume and was ruthless with a dash of craziness. What more could you want form a villain? 
Michael Peña as Luis was the comedy gold of this film. His scenes and explanations were amazing, especially the matching lip movements and the words. I want to recreate his style of talking with my friends just to confuse them. Also, their whole heist was really funny and had wonderful jokes. ” Back it up, back it up, we are backing up!!”.
Bobby Cannavale as Paxton (Scott’s ex-wife’s new boyfriend who is also a policeman) – was the only character which I felt was irrelevant in the beginning. He was just there to anger Scott and the audience. Granted, he became more useful in the end, but I still believe we would have been perfectly fine without him. 

Themes

The film main theme is family dynamics. They explored father-daughter (Hank and Hope; Scoot with his daughter) and father-son (Hank and Scott, Hank and Darren) relationships. Furthermore, ideas like ‘jealousy in the family’, ‘secrets which can break a family apart’ and ‘becoming the person that others think you are’ were touched upon as well.

End Credit Scenes (SPOILERS)

This movie has 2 end credits scenes: one middle credits scene and one after credits scene. Both of them are interesting and they actually mean something. Finally, Marvel movie uses the end credits scenes to set something up as they used to do before, as opposed to Guardians’ end credits scene, which was just a funny Easter Egg.

Anyway, the middle credits deal with Hope becoming the Wasp and taking up her mother’s mantel. I believe that they should have added this scene to the main part of the film, because it is really important for Hope’s character development. Throughout the whole movie, it is hinted that she will become the Wasp and everybody in the audience is hoping for it. Mainstream audiences might not wait for the end credits scene and, therefore, they cannot get any closure, so for them it seems that Hope’s character doesn’t get an ending to her story.

The after credits scene is Marvel at it’s finest. We get to see Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson and DUN DUN DUN Bucky Barnes. Yes, the Winter Soldier has been caught! So, now we won’t have to spend any time looking for him in Cap 3 and we can get straight to the the Civil War story. Moreover, this scene solidifies the fact that Ant-Man will side with Captain America.

All in all, I had a great time with Ant-Man. My dad really liked the film as well and he is not a die-hard Marvel fan, just a general movie goer. He has seen a few Marvel films, so he had a general knowledge of what he was getting himself into, but he still couldn’t understand all the references and he enjoyed the film nonetheless. I highly suggest you go see this movie for the great action, interesting and unique characters, a refreshing small scale story, funny jokes and Easter Eggs. If you are still not convinced, go see it just because it’s Marvel and Marvel never misses! Close off Phase 2 with Ant-Man an start the preparation for Phase 3.

Rate 5/5 (obviously)

Trailer: Ant-Man trailer