Movie review: The Nutcracker and Four Realms

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a first Christmas movie of the 2018 holiday season. If the whole season will be as rocky as its start, then we can just cancel Christmas. This is a quite negative (as you have probably already guessed) review of The Nutcracker and Four Realms.

IMDb summary: A young girl is transported into a magical world of gingerbread soldiers and an army of mice.

Writing

The Nutcracker and Four Realms – a mouthful of a title, huh – was written by Ashleigh Powell. It’s a remake/reimagining of a classic fairytale and a famous ballet. Disney has been making quite a few live-action fairytales. Some of them crashed, like Alice in Wonderland and its sequel. Some blossomed like Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. The Nutcracker seems like it will be joining the first group. I feel like there is a general fatigue of live action fairytales and only the really special ones turn into something. The Nutcracker, being a niche and holiday-specific fairytale, is already a hard sell. The fact that it’s premiering so early in November also almost guarantees that it will have a small opening. Maybe it will play for a long time?

Anyways, speaking of the writing: it wasn’t bad but wasn’t original in any way, shape or form. The message on how to deal with grief was a neat one and the young woman’s journey into self-confidence was also a nice thing to spotlight. The actual adventure was sooo by the numbers. The twist could be seen from miles away. The characters were also just meh. The nutcracker especially was so unexceptional despite being the titular character. The dialogue was very simplistic. It just seemed that this whole film was aimed at a very young audience. And by young, I mean babies.

Directing

The Nutcracker was directed by Lasse Hallström (of The Hundred-Foot Journey and A Dog’s Purpose) and Joe Johnston (of Captain America: The First Avenger) – what a weird duo of directors. And even a weirder end product. They did a good job with the visuals – I cannot fault the film’s production value. The CGI could have been cleaner. The pacing was way off. At least the runtime was fairly decent. To end on a positive note: the ballet scenes and the ballet-inspired credits were nice touches. The score, which included the classic melodies, was good too.

Acting

The Nutcracker’s cast’s performances were a huge letdown. Mackenzie Foy and Jayden Fowora-Knight were both wooden. Hellen Mirren and Morgan Freeman were folding in their performances and were still the best just because they are true pros and can outact everyone in their sleep. Keira Knightley was killing her career with every minute of being on screen. She was both a cartoon and a parody: everything about her performance – from the look to the speech to the behavior – were just so cringe-y. Her work her kinda reminded me of Anne Hathaway in Alice in Wonderland (another unfortunate comparison between the two less than good Disney fairytales).

The actor who played the father – Matthew Macfadyen –  looked like off-brand Armie Hammer. The British comedian Jack Whitehall also had a cameo role – good on him for finally getting into a Disney movie (even if bad one) after being cut from Frozen.

In short, The Nutcracker and Four Realms was a boring film that won’t bring anyone any Christmas joy. A basic narrative, oversaturated visuals, and some cringe-y acting – that’s this picture in one sentence.

Rate: 2.4/5

Trailer: The Nutcracker and Four Realms trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Halloween!

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a horror film by a horror-hater. This is Halloween!

IMDb summary: Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago

  1. Me being a horror-hater, I have never actually seen of the previous numerous Halloween films. Thus, I went into this one knowing the premise and having decent expectations because of all the great reviews. And the expectations were met, in that Halloween was a food film. I’m not sure it was an effective horror film, though.
  2. This may just be a personal thing, but the things that terrify me the most are jump scars and psychological horror. Halloween didn’t have a lot of either of those things. It did look at psychological issues (Mindhunter-like) but didn’t really use them for scarces. The horror of the film was that of a gorry, disgusting kind – and I feel like I have become desensitized to it after watching plenty of R-rated action films.
  3. Halloween was written Jeff FradleyDanny McBride (actor-writer), and David Gordon Green (Stronger) who also directed the film. I enjoyed how the movie reversed some horror tropes and how it explored parenting. I also liked the cohesiveness of the writing as well as the runtime of the film. In a day when I watched two other 2+ hour films, this one felt like an episode of prime TV. I also appreciated how realistic the movie’s writing was and how the teenagers in the movie felt real (similarly to It’s realistic youngsters).
  4. John Carpenter – the director of the original film – was involved with this sequel and mostly worked on the music. It was actually quite a great experience hearing his iconic Halloween theme in a theatre cause, even though I haven’t seen the original or any other films, I did know the theme music cause of how iconic it was/still is.
  5. Halloween’s cast consisted of Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, and Andi Matichak: I absolutely loved how the 3 main characters of the film were 3 strong women of different ages!

In short, Halloween was a well-constructed film with some neat themes and some moments of disgusting horror.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Haloween trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Smallfoot

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to my once-in-a-blue-moon review of an animated film. This time, we are discussing Smallfoot!

IMDb summary: A Yeti is convinced that the elusive creatures known as “humans” really do exist.

  1. Smallfoot was written by Karey Kirkpatrick, Clare Sera, John Requa, and Glenn Ficarra. I actually quite enjoyed the film’s story and how it took a popular myth – that of the bigfoot – and reversed it. The actual story was also well written: it was quite similar to the story’s of a lot of children’s film but it was executed really nicely.
  2. Thematically, Smallfoot wasn’t breaking any grounds either. On the other hand, a big part of the world still can’t make these themes into a reality (looking at you, US), so maybe they are not that common. Smallfoot highlighted the importance of integrity and called for a complex truth rather a simple lie. It invited us to question everything rather than ignore stuff and had an ultimate message that the old way might not necessarily be the right way.
  3. Smallfoot was directed by Karey Kirkpatrick. I didn’t know that going in but this film was actually a musical. I guess its kinda fitting then that a song – Niall Horan’s ‘Finally Free’ that was released as a promo for this movie – was the thing that got me to see the movie. I actually quite enjoyed the rest of the soundtrack too, as I unironically enjoy pop music.
  4. The animation of the movie was really beautiful. It was also used effectively in all the slapstick humor of the film. I wasn’t the biggest fan of that part of the film but all the physical jokes got a great reaction from the audience at my screening. And it wasn’t just the kids who were laughing.
  5. Smallfoot had quite a star-studded voice cast, led by Channing Tatum (Kingsman 2), James Corden (I loved his voice work both here and in Peter Rabbit. His voice is instantly recognizable!), and Zendaya (The Greatest Showman). Common, Gina Rodriguez and even LeBron James also had supporting roles.

In short, Smallfoot was a pleasant all ages film with some neat messages and catchy songs!

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Smallfoot trailer

Movie review: Bohemian Rhapsody

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a film that somehow ended up being my most looked forward to movie of the year. This is the perfect blend of music and movies also knows as Bohemian Rhapsody!

IMDb summary: A chronicle of the years leading up to Queen’s legendary appearance at the Live Aid (1985) concert.

Writing

Bohemian Rhapsody was written by Darkest Hour’s Anthony McCarten and The Crown’s Peter Morgan. I actually enjoyed the writing for the film despite spotting some flaws within it. The main complaint I’ve seen against the writing for this film was its historical inaccuracy. As someone who wouldn’t call herself a fan of Queen (I’m more of an appreciative observer), I couldn’t really spot the inaccuracies so they didn’t bother me.

The second critique that I’ve seen and that I agreed with was the fact that the movie felt choppy and like a collection of snapshots of someone’s life rather than a cohesive plot. However, how can a writer fit a larger than life story into an actual narrative? I think one can make numerous films on the different parts of Queen’s existence but if this film was going for a broad, all-encompassing introduction, I think it was quite successful.

Another interesting think about Bohemian Rhapsody was that I wasn’t sure whether it was a Queen biopic or a Freddie Mercury one. This goes back to the whole discussion whether Mercury was the only important member of Queen (that’s crap, in my mind). I do wish that other members were spotlighted a bit more cause I did enjoy seeing the small bits of their lives too.

Speaking of Mercury, I really liked how he was portrayed on film. The movie did a good job of both celebrating the legendary performer but also showing his flaws. He was never idolized by the movie and that made him seem more real and even more fascinating.

Directing

Bryan Singer (yes, the X-Men director) directed some portion of the film before getting fired. Dexter Fletcher (he did Eddie the Eagle and is currently working on Rocketman – an Elton John biopic) finished the film but, sadly, won’t be getting a director’s credit. I thought that they both did a good job. Yes, the film was a bit choppy but it was still compelling. The scenes of the concerts (especially Live Aid) were highly effective and emotional (I cried more than once during them because of their effectiveness and my current personal state (of going to my favorite band’s gig fee days prior)). Hearing Queen’s song in the theatre was the second best thing to having the opportunity to hear them live. It was also interesting to see so many older people at my screening: my guess was that they grew up with Queen’s music or may have even been fans when they were younger.

Acting

I was sure that Rami Malek will get an Oscar nomination for this role after only seeing the trailer. Having seen the film, I’m now even more sure that he deserves the nomination but I’m more dubious about that happening due to the poor critic reception of the film in general. It would be a shame if this iconic performance of an icon would be paid dust.

Lucy Boynton of Sing Street (another amazing music-related film) was also great. Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, and Joseph Mazzello were amazing as the other members of Queen and I do wish that they would have been given more to do with by the script. Game of Thrones’ Aidan Gillen, The Night Manager’s Tom Hollander, and Downton Abbey’s Allen Leech rounded out the cast playing the managers.

In short, Bohemian Rhapsody was a highly entertaining and enjoyable film. See it if you are a fan and see it if you are not a fan – you’ll be one by the time the credits roll.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Bohemian Rhapsody trailer

Movie review: A Star Is Born

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a potential Oscar movie. In October. I swear the classical awards season stars earlier and earlier every year and I don’t think I can keep up. Anyways, this is A Star is Born!

IMDb summary: A musician helps a young singer and actress find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.

Writing

A Star Is Born was written by Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper (who also directed and starred), and Will Fetters. The 2018 film was the 4th iteration of this story and the 3rd reboot of the original 1937 movie. All the films have differed slightly by having either movie or music stars in the lead roles. I really enjoyed the fact that this time around the focus was on singers and songwriters as when I’ve recently got pretty burned out with movies and their reviews, music became my new main hobby. Thus, this film was kinda the perfect combo of my old and new hobby.

While the characters have shifted between different areas of entertainment throughout the reboots, the stories themselves have always been pretty similar. The same 3 plotlines were also used in the latest version: one’s career going up, the other’s career going down, and a simultaneous romantic involvement of the two stars, the up-and-coming one and the one whose career is in decline. I thought that the interplay between the 3 storylines was really good. However, I had some problems with the pacing of the story. The first and the seconds acts felt like they unraveled organically, however, the third one seemed rushed. The breaking points in both character’s career seemed quite sudden. Why did he completely fell off the wagon that suddenly when he had managed to maintain a steady-ish career up until that point? How did she break through that quickly and at that exact point? I guess that showbiz? One can never predict it?

Directing

Bradley Cooper directed A Star Is Born as his directorial debut and impressed me immensely. The pacing, as I have mentioned before, was a bit strange, but the world-building and the visuals were great. I loved how the viewer got to be onstage with the stars and see an unseen side of a concert. The film could have been a tad bit shorter though. The soundtrack was good, ‘The Shallows’ was my favorite song and I could see it being nominated for an Oscar.

Acting

  • In addition to directing and writing (and producing), Bradley Cooper (Joy) also played the lead and was great! I was also so surprised how good he was at singing!
  • Lady Gaga had her first big screen role in this film. She has previously cameoed or had supporting roles and films and has worked on TV (on American Horror Story). I was lucky enough to see her live 6 years ago, in my first ever big concert which was part of the Born This Way Ball tour. She sounded splendid live back then and was equally as amazing (in both the singing and the acting) in this film! I could see an Oscar nomination in her future.
  • A couple of important supporting roles were played by Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Anthony Ramos, and Rafi Gavron. A few celebrity cameos could also be spotted but this was no Entourage.

In short, A Star Is Born was a bit long but a neat musical romance with some stellar acting and singing performances!

Rate: 4.2/5

Trailer: A Star Is Born trailer

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Movie review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a film that I was looking forward to for a decade! This is Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again!

IMDb summary: Five years after the events of Mamma Mia! (2008), Sophie learns about her mother’s past while pregnant herself.

Writing

Mamma Mia 2 was written by Catherine Johnson (the playwright who wrote the first film as well as the original theatre production), Richard Curtis (the writer of some classic romantic movies, like the Bridget Jones series), Ol Parker (the director of the film). I highly enjoyed the story of the second film. I loved the fact that it was a prequel and a sequel hybrid that took the narrative both forward and backward. I thought that the blend of the two timelines was really neat and the connections that were drawn between the characters in the past and the present allowed the movie to explore some great themes. The multigenerational family dynamics (mother-daughter bonds), family, friendship, love, adventure were all touched upon to some extent. The movie also had some weird accidental meetings that were only there to allow the film to include more musical numbers. I would have been mad about that if they weren’t ABBA songs, which I love unconditionally.

Additionally, it was also interesting to see the tonne difference between this film and the original. While Here We Go Again! was still a fun comedy, it did have a more somber tone than the first film. There was an overwhelming feeling of mourning even if the healthy kind (by ‘healthy’ I mean mourning that is hopeful and has a foreseeable ending). Plus, the majority if not all of the romantic plotlines included a lot of heartbreak and wasted opportunities type of ideas.

Directing

Ol Parker of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movies directed Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again! directed the second film and did a great job. Still, I wonder why Phyllida Lloyd, the director of the first film, didn’t helm the sequel. Was she asked and declined? Wasn’t she asked at all? Up until just last year, her original film was the highest grossing movie directed by a woman. It was also the highest grossing musical. (Wonder Woman and Beauty and the Beast dethroned it from the two top spots).

Anyways, I thought that the second film was crafted beautifully. The transitions between the two timelines and between the different locations in the musical numbers were seamless and beautiful. It was nice to hear some ‘new’ ABBA songs as well as some new takes on the songs used in the first film. The 70s setting of the past timeline was also very fun because it was true to ABBA’s roots. I also loved how self-aware the movie was and how it had a carefree attitude too. My one gripe was the fact that it had some fake looking backgrounds in a few musical numbers.

Acting

Mamma Mia 2 had a great cast. The favorites from the original returned, including Amanda Seyfried (who was recently in Gringo), Meryl Streep (in a cameo appearance / The Post, Florence Foster Jenkins), Dominic Cooper (not gonna lie, was a bit weird to see him as Sky after seeing him on Preacher; he was also in Warcraft not that long ago), Christine Baranski and Julie Walters (the best (and most relatable) duo of friends that I wish to have when I’m older), and Pierce BrosnanColin Firth (Kingsman), and Stellan Skarsgård (all of who have barely aged in 10 years).

Joining them was Lily James (whose film career has been blossoming with Cinderella, Baby Driver, Darkest Hour, Guernsey), Jessica Keenan WynnAlexa DaviesJeremy IrvineHugh Skinner, and Josh Dylan. The younger counterparts were very respectful of the beloved characters that they got to play but also made them their own and were charming in their own right. Lastly, Cher (who should really cover all ABBA songs) and Andy García rounded out the already perfect cast!

In short, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again! is a fun but slightly sad summer musical, certainly worthy of the original!

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again! trailer

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Movie review: Black Panther

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the review of the newest and, arguably, the most important Marvel movie! This is Black Panther!

IMDb summary: T’Challa, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king.

As usual, before I start, my previous MCU reviews are here: Guardians 1 and 2, Avengers 2, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor 3.

Writing

Black Panther was written by the director of the film Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole. I thought that the duo did a stellar job with the script. I’m not going to talk about the plot in detail, so as to keep this review spoiler free, other than to stay that a lot of narrative things happen in this film and a couple of them are quite unexpected. There are also a few of meaningful deaths (that might silence MCU critics who say that nobody ever dies in this universe). What I’m going to discuss more elaborately are the brilliant and multiple thematical concepts of Black Panther.

Just on the surface representational level, this film was a game changer. Black characters were elevated from the roles of the supporting friend/the funny sidekick/the one-scene cameo and were brought to the forefront. It’s also refreshing to see fictional black characters rather than real-life rebel slaves or civil rights activists (those smaller biographical movies are important too, but diversity in the blockbuster field is key as well). Also, even though this movie told a fictional story about fictional characters, it honored and paid homage to a lot of its real-world equivalents/inspirations, which raised a question for me: why haven’t we seen pictures about real, past or current, African tribes that were not documentaries???

Anyways, more on Black Panther paying homage to certain real-world ideas/events. I absolutely loved how the movie honored the connection that Africans have with their ancestors (and how in touch with their spirituality they are) as well their connection with nature (healing herbs, animals as deities). It was also great for the movie to acknowledge the violence within African culture (both the inner to the culture and the one coming from the west). Most importantly, it was just so amazing to see the Afrofuturism ideas on screen, which connected modernity with the traditional side of the culture. Scholars have been racking their brains about how to develop Africa without Westernizing it! Well, just do what Black Panther did: connect the two things rather than make one negate the other!

As the movie’s main character was a sovereign of a country, Black Panther also had some political commentary, mostly about a single country’s relation and obligation to the world. It also explored the well-known idea of the sins of the father reflecting of the children but in a royal context.  The film also had some fascinating things to say about communities, tribes or one’s ‘people’. How do we define that category? Do we draw lines based on race? Ethnicity? Nationality? Culture? Common beliefs and ideals? One of the central conflicts in the film was based on the fact that the villain and the hero of the story had different answers to that question. Speaking of the villain, Killmonger might be Marvel’s best one yet because he wasn’t just a villain but a character in his own right, whose goals were radical yet valid. The viewer could definitely understand his frustrations and reasons for his thinking.

Directing

Ryan Coogler (of Creedand Fruitvale Station) did an amazing job with Black Panther. He realized the visuals of Afrofuturism so well (with the help of production design, of course). The sets were brilliant and the costumes – absolutely impeccable and so cool as well! The action was really great too: fast-paced, intense, and meaningful for the plot. The pacing was also great!  The much-celebrated music of the movie was great (so it has been celebrated for a reason). I wanted to hear even more if it!

Acting

Black Panther assembled a stellar cast, led by Chadwick Boseman (Civil War) in a role that he was born to play. I’d love to see his involvement in the MCU leading to more non-biographical roles for him (cause I have seen him in quite a few biopics). Coogler’s collaborator Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Fantastic Four) played the villain and fully embodied the role, both physically and emotionally. I absolutely loved his character’s Americanized look too. An absolute scene stealer was Letitia Wright as the tech (and actual) princess. I loved her portrayal as a tech genius who was super excited about her creations and I also loved all her outfits and amazing sense of humor (bit cringe-y at times but so relatable). Lupita Nyong’o (The Jungle Book, The Force Awakens) also had a great role in the film – really loved seeing her in a big picture in person (not as in Star Wars, in motion capture).

Walking Dead’s Danai Gurira played an incredible role of the leader of Dora Milaje (who were all so amazing), while the breakout star of last year Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) also had an interesting role to play (I loved how his character’s cape-like looking thing was also a shield). Winston Duke played a fun and multifaceted character too. Some more seasoned talent was also spotlighted: Angela Bassett was great as the mother of the king, while Forest Whitaker (Southpaw, Arrival, Rogue One) was perfect as an elderly statesman. Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis (War For The Planet of The Apes, The Last Jedi) also reprised their earlier roles in the MCU and were great. Freeman was a lovable CIA agent (not a word I’d use to describe a CIA agent, but, oh well), while Serkis was super crazy as one the villains of the film but it was really nice to see him in a non-motion capture performance.

Post-credits/End-credits (bit spoiler-y)

While Black Panther was mostly divorced from the MCU (it didn’t have many Easter Eggs that I could notice except of course the Stan Lee cameo), it did have a neat after-credits scene, where a fan-favorite from Civil War (‘White Wolf’) was defrosted. He seemed to be doing well in Wakanda.

The mid-credits scene was closely related to this picture and had a nice message of peaceful communication. It sounded a tiny bit naive but I can’t really fault hope.

In short, Black Panther was both a great Marvel comic book movie and a sophisticated game-changer in terms of representation for the whole context of modern cinema.

Rate: 4.8/5

Trailer: Black Panther trailer

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Movie review: Pitch Perfect 3

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the end of the acapella era (more like half a decade). This is Pitch perfect 3.

IMDb summary: Following their win at the world championship, the now separated Bellas reunite for one last singing competition at an overseas USO tour, but face a group who uses both instruments and voices.

Pitch Perfect 3 originally came out during Christmas, though it didn’t feature any Christmas songs. At first, I thought that it was a stupid idea to have a musical that features covers of popular songs come out during Christmas and not feature any Christmas songs. However, since I myself was only able to watch the film in January, the lack of Christmas songs made it still watchable after the festive season has ended. So, it was a smart idea not to tie this picture to any specific time after all.

Writing

The third Pitch Perfect film was written by Kay Cannon (writer of the previous Pitch Perfect films) and Mike White (of The Emoji Movie) and I thought that they did a so-so job. The films in this franchise have always been borderline ridiculous but this one went over such border. It didn’t really do anything really original but also somewhat betrayed the brand of the franchise.

The characters of the film were soon established as being down on their luck. Let me ask you this: when have the Bellas started their films in a good place? Never! These movies all begin the same! However, this movie somewhat differed in that it attempted to developed other characters rather than just Becca (a bit late, guys). And yet, by the end of it, the movie solidified Becca as the only important and the main character (also, I’m pretty sure that they did Becca v Bellas idea in the first film already. Still, the message that true family will lift you up rather than tying you down was a cute one). Also, the fact that the other character’s arcs were wrapped up during the credits was an additional proof of how unimportant they are/were to the series.

Speaking about the betrayal of the brand – why on earth did Pitch Perfect 3 though that it could be a crime drama??? Also, why was it necessary for the Bellas to go on that military tour? It literally added nothing to the story. Plus, that whole tour plotline was full of inconsistencies. They got booed (silenced by a siren) in their first performance, then burnt a hotel room, and then they are suddenly liked by the audiences and everyone? Also, to top everything off, the movie partook in some heavy exposition (pointing out the exposition is not enough for me to forgive the fact they that employed it too). Lastly, some moments of writing were meant to be jokes but just turned out stupid. Like ‘Evermoist’. Really?!

Directing

Neither Jason Moore (director of the original) nor Elizabeth Banks (long-time producer and director of the second film) chose to come back and helm the third film, so the reins went to Trish Sie of Step Up: All In (arguably, the worst film in that franchise). I feel like she did as good of a job as she did with her last film (which means she delivered poor results). The movie felt tonally confused, choppy, and lacked a direction. The opening sequence was ridiculous but, I guess, it prepared the viewer the rest of the film. The performances were fine. Only two of them – the riff-off and the finale felt iconic to this series – because the first one belonged to their signature genre and the last one had some heart. The riff-off also presented the acapella v instruments idea that didn’t go anywhere.

One good thing about this picture was the fact that it felt like a true goodbye. It somewhat concluded all the storylines and had a fun end-credits sequence, full of behind the scenes clips from all 3 movies. It was also nice that it was fairly short, as I don’t think I would have been able to sit through another half an hour of it.

Acting 

A lot of old characters and a bunch of new ones appeared in this film and were fighting for the very limited screening. Anna Kendrick (Mike and Dave, Trolls, The Accountant) and Rebel Wilson were the best just because they had somewhat developed storylines. The other Bellas were played by Brittany SnowAnna Camp (Cafe Society), Hailee Steinfeld (had absolutely nothing to do but was there just because she is probably the biggest name in the cast), Hana Mae Lee (who spoke for the first time in the franchise), Ester Dean (who should have been given more solos because she is brilliant!), and Chrissie Fit. The commentators – John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks (Magic Mike, Mockingjay, Power Rangers) came back too and their inclusion in this movie was justified by a paper-thin reason.

The new characters were played by John Lithgow (I thought that Daddy’s Home 2 was a low point for him but this was something else), Matt Lanter (who was the replacement eye candy for the female viewers), Guy Burnett (eye candy number 2), DJ Khaled (who couldn’t act even when playing himself), and Ruby Rose (the ultimate female crush of any straight girl, who also appeared in John Wick 2 recently).

In short, Pitch Perfect 3 felt flat while trying to go out on a high note.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Pitch Perfect 3 trailer

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Movie review: Basmati Blues

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of a movie you have never heard of. I only really find out about it when I was buying a ticket to its screening. This is Basmati Blues.

IMDb summary: A brilliant scientist is plucked out of the company lab and sent to India to sell the genetically modified rice she created – which she doesn’t realize will destroy the farmers she thinks she’s helping.

Writing and Directing

Basmati Blues was written by Dan Baron (who also directed the film), Jeff Dorchen, and Danny Thompson. These filmmakers either don’t have anything else or anything worthy of note on their IMDb pages. Also, they have made this movie back in 2012-2013 and it has been kept from release for 5 years (definitely for a reason(s)). Even now, it has only been released in a handful of countries (either in the cinema or on DVD). I think that the US premiere date is still a couple of months away and even when the picture does come out, there won’t be any advertising for it. So, how bad is it?

Story

Basmati Blues has been justified online as Hollywood’s homage to Bollywood. That justification was an answer to the critique that the movie was just appropriating the culture of India. Whether that was truly the case, I’m not entirely sure. The film seemed to be a somewhat collaborative project between the East and the West (based on a mixture of English and Hindu names in the credits), while the familiar Bollywood traits – songs, dances, bright colors, slapstick humor – seemed to have been celebrated in this picture. Nevertheless, the movie’s lead and the villain were white. The shades of the white savior narrative were present too (at least the said saviour wasn’t male so maybe that’s better? It isn’t). The idea that farmers in India would be so trusting of a Western corporation was just plain stupid. People from the East have little reason to trust the West and, if the West still doesn’t get why, we are gonna be stuck in the current global relations for a long time.

Anyways, even if you divorce the content of the film from its context, it still had problems. The fact that it was sort of a musical about science (at least in the beginning) seemed like a bizarre combo. The villain was so cartoonish – his whole evil corporation belonged in a Sunday morning animation (and he wasn’t cartoonish in a right way for the performance to be seen as a parody). The main character was annoying too – she seemed to be highly intelligent in the lab but clueless about the world, the different cultures, and just life in general. The love story aspect was cliche, cheesy, and predictable (really Hollywood-y). I guess at least from the structural point of view, the film was well-written as the plot ideas that were introduced during the first act, did come back in the third (the horse, the monkey seeds).

Visuals and Music/Dance

Basmati Blues looked okay. The views of India were nice, but then again, I could have watched a documentary to see more of them. A lot of noticeable green screens were used for musical numbers. The numbers themselves were fine. The songs weren’t that catchy and I wanted to see more choreographed dances. Again, I should probably watch a true Bollywood film rather than a Hollywood knockoff to see the things that were lacking here. Genre-wise, Basmati Blues have been classified as a comedy and while it certainly had intentional moments of humor, I was mostly laughing at the unintentional ones (which is both bad and good).

Acting

One person who wishes this film would never come out is Brie Larson, who played the lead. She wasn’t awful in the movie but she also wasn’t great. Her performance here is a far cry from her outing in Room (for which she won an Oscar) and I don’t think that it comes close to her other films either, like Free Fire, The Glass Castle or even Kong.

Somebody who should be even more ashamed of their work on this movie is Donald Sutherland, who was literally a cartoon villain. He recently played a very distinct villain in The Hunger Games but in that franchise, he had a layer of menace and sophistication. I don’t know what he was going for in this film.

The two romantic leads (cause, of course, there had to a love triangle) were played by Utkarsh Ambudkar (TV actor) and Saahil Sehgal. Both of them were as good as the script allowed them to be.

 

In short, Basmati Blues was either Hollywood’s homage to or appropriation of Bollywood. No matter which side of that argument you stand on, I think we can all agree that the final project wasn’t great. And yet, if you are somebody who can enjoy a movie ironically, you might find Basmati Blue hilarious, absurd, or both.

Rate: 2.7/5

Trailer: Basmati Blues trailer

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Movie review: The Greatest Showman

Movie reviews

Hello!

What you get when you take the songwriters of La La Land and add them to a retired Wolverine? This is The Greatest Showman!

IMDb summary: inspired by the imagination of P.T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman is an original musical that celebrates the birth of show business and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.

Writing

The Greatest Showman, written by Jenny Bicks (one of the writers on Sex and the City) and Bill Condon (directed Beauty and the Beast, wrote Chicago, did both on Dreamgirls), is the story of P.T. Barnum. Being a mainstream musical that values entertainment value over accuracy, The Greatest Showman puts a fictional and quite an optimistic spin on a really dark and depressing real-life story. Barnum’s circus was not the safe haven for the different and marginalized, it was a prison for the so-called ‘freaks’ who neither the society nor Barnum himself actually cared for. And while there are some hints in the film for Barnum’s darker side (him turning away from his performers, and following the money and the high society’s acceptance instead), the overall final product can hardly be called a biography. Nevertheless, if one divorces the movie from its source material and takes it as a fictional story, then The Greatest Showman can absolutely be enjoyable (that’s how I enjoyed the movie – by treating it as a fictional musical rather than a biography).

Thematically, the picture explored ideas of hope and celebrated imagination and tolerance (again, take it as a fictional story, not a biography). It also expressed some ideas about hoaxes as lies for a good purpose (felt iffy about that message). The Greatest Showman also attempted to be a celebration of difference, however, it didn’t end up doing much else than just showcasing the difference – what I mean by this is that the script lacked character development for the majority of the performers. P.T. Barum received the most development, him being the lead and all, but even his personal arc was rushed at the beginning.

Directing

A visual effects supervisor Michael Gracey debuted as a director with The Greatest Showman and did quite a good job. Of course, he did get a lot of help from the aforementioned songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (their other credits include Dear Evan Hansen – a new and beloved Broadway musical as well as ‘Runnin’ Home To You’ – the song from The Flash musical episode) and composers John Debney and John Trapanese. The choreographer Ashley Wallen is also responsible for the success of the film’s musical numbers. And the musical numbers were plentiful. While on the first hearing, all of the songs somewhat blended together for me, upon a second listen, I started to appreciate them all separately. While ‘This is Me’ was certainly a great song and deserves the awards recognition it is getting, my favorite track was actually ‘Never Enough’. That song might be a bit too depressing and too real for the academy/other awards voters. What I wish that The Greatest Showman had less of was the reprisals of its songs. There were a lot of them and maybe a bit too many for a less than a 2-hour movie.

I’ve seen a few complaints online about the fact that this old school musical had a modern soundtrack – I actually loved the combo of old and new, but, then again, I liked how The Great Gatsby used modern music and I just love easy pop songs in general. I also loved how the movie realized its setting of a carnival/circus – I always thought that circus was a rich and realistically magical setting that is open to a lot of possibilities. In fact, The Greatest Showman’s circus numbers reminded me a bit of one short carnival sequence in the remake of Fame which I have always adored (linked it here).

Acting

Hugh Jackman (X-Men, Eddie The Eagle) starred in the lead of the film and did a good job. There was a reason why he so desperately wanted to make this movie – he knew he would be very good in it. It took me a few songs to get used to him not singing opera-like classics – I have only really heard him singing in Les Miserables before.

Zac Efron (The Disaster ArtistBaywatch, Mike and Dave, We Are Your Friends) was also really good in the picture and it was fun to see him coming back to his roots – a genre that made him well known in the first place (yes, I did grew up watching him in HSM, don’t judge me). Zendaya (Spider-Man) also delivered a wonderful performance, made even more amazing by the fact that she was actually the one doing the trapeze stunts. Michelle Williams (Manchester By the Sea) was also great in the film and in a less depressing role than she usually plays.

Rebecca Ferguson (The Snowman, MI5) delivered a great performance too – I loved the scene of her and Hugh Jackman just looking at each other. However, the most notable scene of Ferguson’s wasn’t even notable because of Ferguson herself – the aforementioned song ‘Never Enough’ was sung by her character but not by the actress herself. She was only lip syncing to the vocals of  Loren Allred. Lastly, Keala Settle rounded out the cast and was superb.

In short, The Greatest Showman was a great musical with delightful performances that was a bit let down by its mediocre writing

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: The Greatest Showman trailer

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