Movie review: Eight Grade

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to the review of Eight Grade or the age I might be stuck in (spoiler, self-realization occurs in this review)!

IMDb summary: An introverted teenage girl tries to survive the last week of her disastrous eighth-grade year before leaving to start high school.

Eight Grade was written and directed by Bo Burnham – a creator that actually got his start on YouTube. Eight Grade is his first feature film. You might also know him from his stand-up work.

Writing

I thought that Eight Grade had a brilliant script and a lot of its success comes from the fact that it was just so real and relatable. I saw myself on that screen in more than one scene and it wasn’t a comfortable (actually, rather cringe-y) experience but it was absolutely necessary. Necessary in terms of making me realise that I’m actually quite happy with being an adult and shouldn’t really pine away after my own lost childhood. Putting some distance between all the versions of you is not a bad thing. It brings clarity and this clarity also leads to the film’s message. Eight Grade tells the viewer to move on from the past if it wasn’t great and to be okay about the uncertainty of the future.

Not only does the film have an appeal towards someone who isn’t in Eight Grade (like me), but it should also be a must watch for all those in middle school, more or less as an example of all the things you shouldn’t be doing. But I guess it’s hard to learn from others’ mistakes so go on forth children and make the wrong friends, say the wrong stuff,  and embarrass yourselves. And if it seems like the end of the world then, trust me, it isn’t. You are your own version of cool and no one else’s. Furthermore, don’t ever let anyone critique you for caring about your teen problems as they are highly important to you and should never be trivialised. Your anxieties are valid and should not be overlooked because of your age.

The film’s appeal doesn’t stop with someone who is in 8th grade or just a bit older. It should also be watched by parents. While parenting isn’t a very obvious topic within the film, it is always there, just like your parents (hopefully) are (so be nice to them!). The scene by the fire has some spectacular dialogue and some neat lessons too. The dialogue in general was really good because it wasn’t completely coherent and eloquent: it was sincere and real instead.

Directing

Eight Grade also has some stellar directing. The film’s usage of online video makes it feel contemporary. However, all the jokes (oooh the dabs) might make the film age quite badly and quickly. It’s a good thing that it has some timeless topics though, John Hughes-esque. However, where Eight Grade tops Hughes’s films is in its portrayal of a real school. There is no Hollywood glamour: there are awkwardness and acne. The clever ways Burnham decides to portray first crushes (with that fabricated tension and dramatic music) are spectacular too as they are both accurate and also funny.

Acting

Elsie Fisher is absolutely magnificent in the role. She looks the part and acts the part impeccably. I really hope she has a long and successful career ahead of her. Josh Hamilton is also really good as the single dad!

In short, Eight Grade is an incredible coming-of-age story for everyone, including but not limited to middle schoolers, new adults (me, an almost uni graduate), and parents!

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Eight Grade trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Five Feet Apart

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to my comeback no.3 at this point. This is Five Feet Apart!

IMDb summary: A pair of teenagers with cystic fibrosis meet in a hospital and fall in love.

  1. Five Feet Apart was written by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis and directed by Justin Baldoni (the actor from Jane the Virgin). The film follows in the vein of such movies as The Fault in Our Stars (probably one of the most famous pictures of the genre), but also Midnight Sun and Everything, Everything (or A Walk to Remember if you want to go more old-school). The aforementioned films as well as countless unnamed others all tend to be cringe-y in some capacity. They also sometimes are very sincere and sweet. This one, to my surprise, leaned more towards the second option.
  2. Instead of cancer (the usual illness of YA romances), this time the main characters suffered from cystic fibrosis. I am no medical professional, thus, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information portrayed on screen. Nevertheless, I felt like I did learn something about the disease. The response from the cystic fibrosis community towards this movie has been mixed like the response in general. I have to admit, I cannot understand those arguing that the film idealizes illness: I have a hard time seeing how a portrayal is automatically an idealization or promotion. Isn’t it up the viewer to critically engage with a story?
  3. On the romance side, the film was both cute and cliched. It undeniably appeals to its target demographic by walking the line between the two. The ending was also both uplifting and heartbreaking.
  4. Directing wise, the script was handled well. The cinematography was clear and the editing – cohesive and concise. I also enjoyed how the production design of hospital rooms was used to enhance and develop the characters. My one gripe with the film was its length – it could have been a tad bit shorter.
  5. The appeal to the demographic also very much depended on the cast of the film. Yup, I’m talking about Cole Sprouse – he was really good in the role and fit the requirements of that particular character perfectly. However, the lead of the film – Haley Lu Richardson – was the main reason why the film felt sincere. You might remember her from Split as one of the cheerleaders James McAvoy tortured. Moises Arias, who I still remember from his Hannah Montana days, was also good in the supporting role.

In short, Five Feet Apart was a surprise of a movie. A quality YA offering rather than a cringe-fest.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Five Feet Apart trailer

Movie review: Glass

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of the most highly anticipated January movie that disappointed a lot of people. This is Glass!

IMDb summary: Security guard David Dunn uses his supernatural abilities to track Kevin Wendell Crumb, a disturbed man who has twenty-four personalities.

M. Night Shyamalan

The movie was directed and written by M. Night Shyamalan – the director that swings from most loved to most hated in a heartbeat. Glass was the third film in the surprise superhero trilogy, also consisting of Unbreakable and Split. Glass was also the film that was supposed to solidify Shyamalan’s return to success after The Visit and Split acted as his comeback (if you don’t remember or have blocked those memories, The Last Airbender and After Earth were the depths he needed to come back from).

Writing

The movie’s script was not great. It had a superb premise and an interesting goal – to create a psychological, realistic, and grounded explanation of superheroes. However, the execution and the final product were questionable at best. While I haven’t seen Unbreakable, I loved Split, and I feel like Glass did injustice to both.

The narrative made little sense. The comic book metaphors sounded cool but fell apart when you thought twice about the . The promise of the big showdown was never kept and the big finale just fizzled out. The twists were not surprising but just a Shyamalan-ian gimmick at this point. The secret society reveal made no sense. The released videos seemed like they would also accomplish the opposite effect – not encourage powers but turn more people against the superheroes. The end that the characters met was cheap: all three of them deserved better, as they all have been interesting throughout these movies.

Directing

The direction of the film was fine. Glass was quite slow and not particularly engaging. The big third act remained just a promise, probably for financial reasons as CGI is expensive and Blumhouse likes making movies on the cheap. Some cool scenes were crafted by the director, I give him that. He also managed to work well with the actors to get amazing performances out of them. But that may be more because of the caliber of the actors.

Acting

Not surprisingly, James McAvoy was truly the standout of the film. Samuel L. Jackson was good too even if a bit cartoonish. Bruce Willis was also good and it was nice seeing him in a film that is not just B level/straight to DVD actioner. Sarah Paulson should get props for playing a senseless character with such conviction too.

In short, Glass was just a glass of disappointment. Wow, that pun makes no sense.

Rate: 2/5

Trailer: Glass trailer

5 ideas about a movie: If Beale Street Could Talk

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to back to my blog that I have neglected for another month. But I’m back (I think), so let’s discuss If Beale Street Could Talk!

IMDb summary: A woman in Harlem embraces her pregnancy while she and her family struggle to prove her fiancé innocent of a crime.

  1. If Beale Street Could Talk is Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to his Oscar-winner Moonlight (remember that La La Land debacle? What a time). The film is based on the book of the same name by James Baldwin. The film is also dedicated to the author. For once, I’m actually somewhat familiar with the source material: while I haven’t read the exact book the movie is adapting, I absolutely loved Baldwin’s novel Giovanni’s Room’. One of my all-time favourites.
  2. I really liked the writing for the movie. I loved how Jenkins managed to tell such a tragic story in such a heartwarming way. If Beale Sreet Could Talk was a romance above anything else: the tragedy and the drama came second and love was the message. Such an emotional response lent a lot to the structure of the film and the clever way Jenkins positioned the narrative non-linearly.
  3. I also loved the mixture of realism and poetics in his directing of the film. The two styles corresponded to the two topical concepts (poetics and love vs tragedy and realism).
  4. The movie was a bit slow but engaging. The slow-moving camera showcased the carefulness and care with which this movie was crafted.
  5. A lot of the film’s success is due to the performances by the cast: the two leads – KiKi Layne and Stephan James – portrayed their respective characters with such innocence and freshness and yet there was also an overlying feeling of sophistication. Regina King and Colman Domingo shined in supporting roles. Dave Franco, Diego Luna, Ed Skrein, and Pedro Pascal make cameo appearances.

In short, If Beale Street Could Talk is a realistically poetical or poetically realistic romantic drama that will break and glue your heart back together multiple times throughout the 2h runtime.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: If Beale Street Could Talk trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to another review that makes me aware of my own age. This is How to train your dragon: The Hidden World!

IMDb summary: When Hiccup discovers Toothless isn’t the only Night Fury, he must seek “The Hidden World”, a secret Dragon Utopia before a hired tyrant named Grimmel finds it first.

  1. How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is the third and final (as final as anything is in Hollywood) instalment in DreamWorks’ Dragons series. I’ve followed this series for a while now: I’ve seen the first one while I was still in middle school, while the second one came out while I was in high-school (I distinctly remember skipping a few lessons at the end of the day to be able to go watch the film with my friends). (reviews of both are here). I’m about to graduate college. I guess it’s fitting that the series’s end is coinciding with the end of a very important and substantial part of my life. Also, 4-5 years between sequels is almost Pixar levels of waiting for a sequel (better than a decade though)
  2. Anyways, How To Train Your Dragon 3 was written and directed Dean DeBlois, who also directed and wrote all the previous films and has also worked on Lilo&Stitch projects before (makes sense: animal(ish) and human relationships seem to be his topic of interest). The film, as mentioned before, was also produced by DreamWorks – a heavyweight studio during my childhood that has fallen off its A-game in the past decade. The Dragons series was its last really successful property, so I hope they can find something else soon. Or is it just gonna be Captain Underpants and The Boss Baby moving forward?
  3. Okay, now onto the actual review of the film. The script was great. The movie mashed the action-adventure story with a romantic drama impeccably. The coupling up idea is not the most original (or one that I personally like), but it was done so well here, that I cannot even find any fault with it. The romantic relationship (both) were so well written. The human one felt so real especially: like it was lived in, similarly to the world of the story. The human-animal relations were brilliant too. And the ending was emotional and highly effective. I know I wasn’t alone in shedding a tear in a screening of only adults.
  4. The visuals of the film were magnificent too. The care and the effort that went into the animation were visible in every frame. The sequence with the lights and colours was a stand-out.
  5. The voice work was just the icing on a very delicious cake. Major props are due to all of the cast: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, F. Murray Abraham, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, and Jonah Hill among others.

In short, How To Train Your Dragon 3 is an amazing piece of animation for all ages.

Rate: 4.8/5

Trailer: How To Train Your Dragon 3 trailer

Movie review: Aquaman

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a good(?) DC movie that took forever to write. This is Aquaman!

IMDb summary: Arthur Curry, the human-born heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, goes on a quest to prevent a war between the worlds of ocean and land.

Writing

Aquaman was written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall with a story by Geoff Johns (who is responsible for the whole od DCEU) and James Wan (who also directed). These writers packed so much into the movie and for a reason. With DCEU’s future being so unclear – the whole thing might be scrapped soon, it looks like the writers attempted to tell a story that could have easily been divided into 2 films or even a whole trilogy. There was a quest upon quest and upon a quest. An origin story on steroids. Weirdly, with so much stuff happening in the film, it didn’t feel messy or convoluted. It somehow worked? I know, I’m as surprised as you’re.

The multiple quests in the film not only helped it to establish quite a few characters but also allowed the film to showcase so much of Aquaman’s world. I also appreciated the fact that the script embraced Aquaman’s inherent silliness but also made it kinda cool. But also still stilly?

Directing

The horror (and FF7) director James Wan really succeeded with Aquaman. He nailed the fast-pace and the hefty script: the movie was long but it never dragged and kept up my attention. I also liked its style – sort of space opera but in the ocean (ocean opera? you heard it here first). Wan also showcased the fact that he definitely can direct stellar action scenes. And yet, like with a lot of films, I could take or leave the big third act battle. The CGI wasn’t always perfect too. But at least you could see the flaws in the CGI rather than having to stare into a dark and gloomy screen.

Acting

The movie has a weird cast. Jason Momoa was good as Aquaman but he already showed that in Justice LeagueAmber Heard was a pleasant surprise because I haven’t seen much of her work or heard any good things about it, to be honest. Willem Dafoe was also good and fit the movie better than some of the other actors. The two stand-outs (not in a good way) were Patrick Wilson and Dolph Lundgren. Their performances were not bad but they felt somehow out of place within a movie like AquamanYahya Abdul-Mateen II was really good though, I’m happy that Moonlight gave a real bump to his career. Nicole Kidman was also good and fit the movie much better than Wilson and Lundgren. I guess actors like Defoe and Kidman are so good that they know how to shift their acting talent according to the movie, while Wilson and Lundgren are maybe more one-note/comfortable in a different film.

In short, Aquaman might be the best DCEU film. It’s certainly up there with Wonder Woman (I might have to still give WW the no. 1 spot just because of political/representation reasons).

Rate: 4/5

Trailer:  Aquaman trailer 

 

5 ideas about a movie: Green Book

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a peculiarly positive movie on race. This is Green Book!

IMDb summary: A working-class Italian-American bouncer becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.

  1. Green Book was written by Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, and Peter Farrelly, who also directed the film. Farrelly has directed some comedies of questionable quality, like Movie 43 and Dumb and Dumber To (he did the original too) just recently. Needless to say, Green Book – an awards movie – is a step-up for sure.
  2. The script of the film was built around the relationship between the two main characters. These two characters were the highlight of the writing as they were so far away from any assumptions that the viewer might have had. The focus on their relationship also made for some strong dialogue between them (some quality monologues towards the end too).
  3. Thematically, the film, not surprisingly, explored racism within the US in the 60s and within (at least at the beginning) a reversed power relationship. The racialization of culture and music were also major topics. Belonging, family, and home were also touched upon.
  4. Stylistically, the picture juggled sadness and seriousness with humour. The chucklesome moments really lightened the mood but, looking back, maybe they had a different purpose – to prove the point that the audience will laugh at a ‘black’ joke but will do nothing to alleviate the position and discrimination against the black people.
  5. Viggo Mortensen’s (Captain Fantastic) and Mahershala Ali’s (Moonlight) performances were brilliant. And the chemistry that they had was also impeccable. If that was Ali on the piano, then he should be lauded just as much as Gosling was for La La Land.

In short, Green Book was a stellar drama that is worthy of all those awards nominations. Can it take the big one though?

Rate: 4.2/5

Trailer: Green Book trailer

Movie review: The Girl in a Spider’s Web

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to another disappointing and dissatisfied review. This is The Girl in a Spider’s Web!

IMDb summary: Young computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist find themselves caught in a web of spies, cybercriminals and corrupt government officials.

Writing

The Girl in a Spider’s Web was written by Jay Basu, Fede Álvarez, and Steven Knight, based on the book by Stieg Larsson. The movie was both a remake and a sequel but was also standalone. If that’s confusing, then it’s a very fitting way to describe this film.

The film was a remake because it recast all of the actors, and, in turn, inevitably altered the characters and changed the viewers’ perception of them. It was also a sequel because the story contained a lot of unexplained things that the viewer just should have known from before (but who really remembers the David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? Ever fewer people (internationally) have seen the Scandinavian films). But the film was also sort-of stand-alone as it had its own set-up.

The screenplay also made me ask what? why? and how? quite a lot and that’s not a good thing. Plus, a lot of decisions made by characters made little or no sense: if being generous, I could take that as a character’s flaw. If I’m harsh, I’d see that as poor writing.

Directing

The movie was directed by Fede Álvarez as his third film but a first non-horror picture. I think you could see that he was trying quite hard with this film. It had a James Bond-y opening sequence: the problem was that Lisbeth is not James Bond or even a James Bond-type. I also wish that the film utilized its setting – Stockholm – much more. It had some action on a lake(?) and one bridge, but, that wasn’t nearly enough for a city famous for its multiple island-structure! The pacing of the picture wasn’t the best either. The action was also very typical.

Acting

The Girl in a Spider’s Web assembled a whole new international cast (Sverrir Gudnason (SWE), Lakeith Stanfield (USA), and Sylvia Hoeks (NED)) that, sadly, was just okay: good but not exceptional. Claire Foy was fine in the lead but this is far from her best work.

In short, The Girl in a Spider’s Web was better than The Snowman but so far from what world-famous Swedish thrillers should be adapted into.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: The Girl in a Spider’s Web trailer

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Movie review: Widows

Movie reviews

Hello!

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

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

Writing

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

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

Directing

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

Acting

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

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

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Widows trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Suspiria

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to the review of one of the weirdest films I’ve seen in a while. And I don’t think I’m using the word ‘weird’ as a compliment in this case. This is Suspiria!

IMDb summary: A darkness swirls at the center of a world-renowned dance company, one that will engulf the artistic director, an ambitious young dancer, and a grieving psychotherapist. Some will succumb to the nightmare. Others will finally wake up.

  1. Suspiria was written by David Kajganich and directed by Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash). It was a remake of a 1977 Italian film of the same name. To put this review shortly, Suspiria was an artsy, 3h long horror film with half of the dialogue in German. If that sounds like a hard sell, it is/was.
  2. The movie’s story was quite incomprehensible to me. Thematically, it tried doing something with ideas of motherhood and matriarchy. I feel like it also wanted to showcase female empowerment. Honestly, I don’t know what the movie’s message was. Is it because I’m stupid? Or that the movie was too pretentious?
  3. It also had a weird setting amidst political events that were not explained fully for a viewer to get. The movie should not assign its viewer’s homework but should be a full package! The ideas on Germany’s generational guilt were interesting but not given enough room to be explored.
  4. The movie was directed in quite an interesting way. It was slow and long. The visuals were disgusting and looked quite CGI-y at times. The focus on the diegetic noise made the movie into an uncomfortable sensory experience too (I swear 65% of the ‘score’ was just breathing noises). The dance sequences were visually pleasing and interesting, though.
  5. The movie had a good cast but I wasn’t really able to judge their performances as I was confused by the plot. Tilda Swinton played a couple of roles (don’t know why as one couldn’t really tell it was her playing one of the characters, thus, no ideas on doubling could be seen?). Dakota Johnson was also there: I guess arthouse films are better than Fifty Shades? I also feel like a lot of the cast mumbled through their dialogue which didn’t make an already confusing plot easier to understand. A film also had a lot of German actors and actual dancers in the cast.

In short, Suspiria was a trainwreck of confusion that reminded me a lot of mother! in a variety ways (thematically and visually).

Rate: ?/5 (confusion strikes again)

Trailer: Suspiria trailer

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