Movie review: Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a movie that revolves around a character I feel a spiritual connection to. This is Maleficient: Mistress Of Evil!

IMDb summary: Maleficent and her goddaughter Aurora begin to question the complex family ties that bind them as they are pulled in different directions by impending nuptials, unexpected allies, and dark new forces at play.

Out of all Disney dark remakes/reboots/reimagining, 2014’s Maleficent has been somewhat not completely panned by critics, while also being financially successful (in comparison, on the dark front, first Alice was a monetary win, however, the second one had dreadful returns. Neither Nutcracker nor Dumbdidn’t leave an impression on anyone. Some more classical takes like Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast also left a mark. Mary Poppins was a moderate success.

Writing

Maleficent 2 was written by Linda WoolvertonNoah Harpster, and Micah Fitzerman-Blue. All three have written the first film as well, whereas Woolverton also penned the aforementioned Alice remake and its sequel. Even though the screenwriters were continuing their own work, they didn’t really respect it, as the opening narration of this film completely dismissed whatever happened in the first picture. And yet, since the idea of truth not mattering if someone can tell a catchy (even if fake) story was a topic explored within the film, I will let this disregard of the first film slide.

What I won’t let slide was the stupidity of the rest of the story, especially its inciting incident. While I am more than willing to suspend my disbelief and accept the existence of fairies and flying half-humans, I cannot forgive the movie for making its characters lack any intelligence or common sense. The inciting incident of the king being cursed is a horrible scene as it is so obviously not the truth. Aurora’s character is also written horribly. Even though she may be kind-hearted, the fact that she seems so gullable does not make her into a character anyone can root for. And even at the end, Aurora does not seem as if she learned anything. Even though she ultimately begins questioning the events happening around her, she still makes a stupid decision in the third act that cost a different character’s life. But this is Disney, so a happy ending is squeezed in there too, with not much explanation.

Not only does the movie try to say something about fake narratives, but it also goes for the big war or peace question. I would like to give props to the writers for trying to have some kind deeper thematical background to the fairytale but I am afraid the movie does not end up saying anything revelatory. But it’s a fairytale, so should I expected anything even remotely close to that? The film also vastly lacks screentime and more action for its titular character. All the bits of the movie that revolve around Maleficent are the best parts. And yet, the story chooses to spend most of its time with humans.

Directing

Joachim Rønning directed Maleficent 2. Previously, the director has worked on Pirates of the Caribbean 5. This movie suffers from the same problems his other one did. It looks spectacular but is empty story-wise. Cannot really blame the director for the lacking script, though. Rønning here also does his best with what he is given. The costume department and the production team should also be commended.

Acting

Angelina Jolie once again proves to be the case of perfect casting. Her accentuated cheekbones do half the job, though. Still, Jolie manages to balance out sophisticated acting with some dramatic flair needed for the fairytale genre. Michelle Pfeiffer, on the other hand, goes full-cartoon and becomes almost a caricature of the villain. Was the director to scared to tell Pfeiffer to reel it in a bit? Ultimately, the viewer doesn’t know whether they hate the villain Pfeiffer plays or her performance. Jenn Murray who plays Pfeiffer’s sidekick also should have tonned down her performance a bit. Sam Riley is fun to watch as Maleficent’s sidekick once again and he and Jolie do have some fun scenes of strained but enjoyable banter. Elle FanningChiwetel Ejiofor, and Ed Skrein all serve their purpose within the film. Prince Phillip gets recast and is played by Harris Dickinson this time around. He does not really leave any bigger impression than his predecessor Brenton Thwaites did. 

 

In short, Maleficent 2 is a pretty looking but poorly written film. Angelina Jolie shines once again but is not given enough screentime to save the whole film with her spectacular performance.

Rate: 2.75/5

Trailer: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil trailer 

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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: Murder on the Orient Express 

Movie reviews

Hello!

A glamorous whodunit has landed in theatres. This is Murder on the Orient Express.

IMDb summary: A lavish train ride unfolds into a stylish & suspenseful mystery. From the novel by Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express tells of thirteen stranded strangers & one man’s race to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again.

Prior to seeing the film, I had some knowledge about Hercule Poirot: I and my aunt used to play a Poirot video game, where you had to either assist the detective in solving a mystery or you were playing as the detective. In addition, while I haven’t seen any of the previous adaptations of this book, I did go straight to the source and read an original novel by Agatha Christie. I would love to read more of her writings about Poirot but that extensive list is a bit overwhelming.

Writing

Agatha Christie’s detective novel Murder on the Orient Express was adapted to the screenplay format by Michael Green (the writer of 3 (not counting this one) big movies of 2017: Logan, Alien: Covenant, and Blade Runner 2049). I thought that he did a fairly competent job. Since I have read the book only recently, I noticed a few changes in the story, mostly in the set-up, the locations, and the character traits. Other than these small details, the narrative stayed the same and the ending, which I was a bit disappointed by while reading the book, also stayed the same. In the film form, I did not mind the ending that much. I’m just wondering whether that complex reveal and its various tie-ins were explained well enough for a viewer, who wasn’t familiar with the story in the first place, to grasp.

I quite enjoyed the character development that Poirot received. I don’t think these particular details of his past were in the original book but I’m sure they were taken from one of the other Christie’s books of the same series. The emotional vulnerability that the character exhibited in the film made me believe his final decision (the one that came from the heart) more believable. The other characters did not receive much character development unless it was directly related to the case. Since the plot also involved a lot of performative elements, even the character development that was given could not be fully trusted.

Last few points on the script: I feel like it had a more overtly political tone than the book had, or at least elements relating to race, nationality, and governance, were more noticeable in the film. Murder on the Orient Express also had a fair few of chucklesome moments and a surprisingly big amount of sexual innuendos.

Directing

Murder on the Orient Express was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who has quite a lot of experience directing adaptations of classical books (mostly Shakespeare). He has also worked with the fantasy, action, and fairytale genres with Thor, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and Cinderella. Overall, I thought he did a great job with this movie. I believe that the glamour of the setting was well realized, while the limits of it were used for the benefit of the film. The picture had quite a few impressive looking long tracking shots and also a couple of very unique looking straight-overhead/from the top shots. A couple of scenes of more obvious action-y nature were added to keep up the pace of the film, while the extensive interviews of the book were placed in various inventive locations around the train to make them more interesting. The black and white flashback sequences were a nice touch. My only gripe with the visuals of the film was the fact that some wide exterior shots looked really fake and too obviously CGI.

Acting

Kenneth Branagh was quite spectacular as Hercule Poirot. When a director plays the lead in his own film, I always get a bit worried, but I think Branagh handled the challenge well. I think he portrayed the character eccentrically enough but didn’t go into the cartoon territory (which was my worry). Poirot actually seemed like a serious and real person with some unique quirks.

The supporting cast of the film was quite extensive and full of big-name talent. The actors all delivered good enough performances with their limited screen time. Johnny Depp (Pirates 5, Fantastic Beasts, Black Mass, Alice 2) had his most ‘normal’ performance, so maybe the audience members, who have been turning away from him and his over the top roles, will come back? It was also really nice to see Daisy Ridley in a non-Star Wars role and Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Pixels) in another live-action rather than voice role. It was also interesting to spot Michelle Pfeiffer and Judi Dench (Tulip Fever, Spectre) doing something more mainstream after mother! and Victoria&Abdul, respectively.

Penélope CruzWillem Dafoe (Death Note, What Happened To Monday, The Great Wall, TFIOS), Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr.Derek JacobiMarwan Kenzari (The Mummy, The Promise, Ben-Hur), Olivia Colman (The Lobster + she is taking over the role of the queen on The Crown), Lucy Boynton (Sing Street), Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (The Magnificent Seven), Sergei Polunin (he is a ballet dancer, so the count’s jumping kicks were legit), and Tom Bateman all starred in the roles, ranging from small to tiny, but the limited size of their roles did not limit the quality of their performances.

In short, Murder on the Orient Express was quite an enjoyable old-school thriller.

Rate: 3.75/5

Trailer: Murder on the Orient Express trailer

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Movie review: mother!

Movie reviews

Hello!

While I’m definitely more of a mainstream pictures kinda cinephile, I’m not against more arty/experimental films. Darren Aronofsky represents both: while his style is very much unique, his name is well-known to even the most casual moviegoers. Let’s see what his latest movie – mother! – has to offer.

IMDb summary: A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.

Writing

mother! was written by Aronofsky himself. Now, going into the film, I knew what to expect and what not to expect. I didn’t think I was going to see a simple story – neither in its structure nor message. I was right: mother!’s narrative was quite complex (and looped) and it had an abundance of layers of meaning. While I think I understood some of the ideas the script was trying to portray, I’m sure a tonne of others just went completely over my head. Also, the meaning I got might not have been the meaning intended by the filmmaker or understood in the same way by the other viewers. This begs the question – if one makes a movie that is super hard to understand, isn’t he/she just being pretentious? Also, if one makes a movie that only a small percentage of audiences can understand, isn’t one damaging his/her career prospects (art films don’t pay much).

Anyways, let me tell you what mother! was about as explained by people smarter than me online (I’ll tell you my personal interpretation afterward). Supposedly, mother! was a metaphor of a film about the relationship between the mother nature (Lawrence’s mother character) and Judeo-Christian god (Bardem’s Him). The crowds symbolized Christians, while Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel also appeared. Lawrence’s and Bardem’s child was a symbolic version of the baby Jesus. When put in relatively simple terms and while looking back at the picture, I do get that general idea and how it was portrayed. However, while watching the movie, only the Jesus similarly came to my mind. I’m not a religious person (actually, an opposite of that), so I don’t actively search for sacramental imagery or metaphors in the films I watch, so that’s probably why I missed it.

I, personally thought that mother! tried exploring the topics of inspiration and creation of both life and art. I also believed that its main concern was the differences between the female and the male creation (which kinda goes in line with the female mother nature and the masculine God portrayal).

Additionally, just looking on a surface level, I was quite frustrated with the main character of mother! because I perceived her to be a very much traditional (old-school) female figure. She was depicted as needy, dependent, and solely family orientated. If not for the later realization of the mother nature connection, I would have been (still kinda am) disappointed by this portrayal that didn’t achieve much in terms of moving the female characters forward. Why couldn’t mother nature be seen as strong and powerful and completely able to discipline its children a la humans?

Lastly, the commentary that I comprehend the most and was the most intrigued by was the one about fame, cult following, and celebrity worship. These things were portrayed as addictive and damaging: a cautionary tale. However, it looks like I misinterpreted the belief in god for the obsession with celebrities (and, honestly, they aren’t that much different). Besides, if one thinks of mother! as portraying celebrity culture, it’s interesting to note than Aronofsky would then be seen as being both cautious of and partaking in it by going to the film festivals and the premieres, by signing autographs or taking pictures.

Directing

I have highly enjoyed some of the previous films by Aronofsky (The Wrestler and Black Swan, specifically), respected others (Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain) and been angered by some too (Noah). Now, mother! encompassed all of the feelings mentioned.

I really loved the way the movie was filmed – by following the titular character and keeping the focus of the camera mostly on her.The handheld style and the mobile frame are generally very much indie/small budget films’ staples but here, they seemed refined, high-end, glamorous and expensive. mother! did not have a score, only diegetic sounds were heard. This added to the overall distinct ambiance of the film. The close-ups of eyes, the heart-imagery, and the fire/life effects were all interesting and disturbing visuals too. Lastly, there were quite a few tonal shifts in the film. In a heartbeat, mother! would go from low energy creepiness but almost normalcy to complete exaggeration and total escalation.

Acting

Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem delivered stunning performances and basically carried this movie. It was so nice to see Bardem finally starring in a film worthy of his talents, instead of wasting them on Pirates 5. Lawrence was also really good. I loved her look – her grayish blonde hair both made her seem older, more sophisticated but also somewhat timeless/ageless too. I think she should just probably continue doing art/indie films (Joy) because she really doesn’t seem to enjoy the more mainstream work (The Hunger Games, X-Men, or Passengers). Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer were also really good. I’m so happy that they too finally got a chance to showcase the full extent of their acting chops. Domhnall Gleeson (The Revenant, Star Wars, Brooklyn, Anna Karenina, Unbroken, American Made), his actual brother Brian Gleeson, and Kristen Wiig (The Martian, Ghostbusters) all had cameo appearances as well.

In short, mother! was a unique film that both frustrated and intrigued me with its metaphors. Just now, while finishing this review, I came across another potential symbol in the movie and I imagine that I’ll find new ones the longer I think about it. If that’s your forte, then mother! is for you. If you want an easier but no less smart scary thriller, watch It again or for the first time.

Rate: ?/5 (I can barely put this film into words, let alone a single number)

Trailer: mother! trailer

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