Movie review: A Simple Favor

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of the film that critics love but I was confused by! This is A Simple Favor!

IMDb summary: A woman seeks to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of her best friend.

Writing

A Simple Favor was written by Jessica Sharzer (writer of Nerve and American Horror Story), based on the book of the same name by Darcey Bell. This film a successor of earlier female-centric book-to-movie thrillers like Gone Girl and The Girl on The Train. I have always loved the thriller genre so I was quite excited about the film. I haven’t read the book prior to watching so I had no idea about the plot. And the plot left me speechless and I still don’t know whether in a good or bad way.

I thought that the movie’s set-up was successful and intriguing. However, the complete 180 that the main character did (going from a good friend to a certainty shady person) confused me. I wish we would have seen more of her past ‘darker’ side than just a couple of scenes – maybe I would have believed her transition more. I also thought that the first half of the film felt a bit rushed and then the third act dragged on, with reveals being pilled on top of each other and not allowed to make an impact. The reveals were messy and even laughable at times, and yet, sort of interesting – I was hoping that one final reveal might make everything make sense but I never really got that.

I appreciated the movie’s attempts to explore a variety of adult relationships: friendships, family relationships, romantic or sexual relationships. However, all of them were portrayed as quite toxic and I don’t think that that is quite true to life. Due to these toxic relationships, the characters involved in them did not seem that likable. However, that wasn’t my main issue with them – it’s the fact that they did not appear to think at all or consider the consequences of their actions that annoyed me.

Directing

Paul Feig, quite a well-known director of female-centric comedies, like Bridesmaids and Ghostbusters, left his usual genre but took his skills with him. While A Simple Favor was supposed to be a mystery thriller, it had a plethora of comedic moments, some of which fit and some of which felt completely jarring and out of place. Those 3 parents that were sort of there in the background and would sometimes pop-up to comment on something felt very Bad Moms-esque and annoyed me with their awkwardness.

Acting

Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively – two amazing and under-appreciated actresses – played the leads and were ready great even if I didn’t think that the movie itself was so great. Lively (The Shallows, Cafe Society) fabulous in all those suits and the mysterious character really suited her. It was quite weird seeing Kendrick in a mother’s role as I still have her stuck in my mind as a student or an intern from Pitch Perfect and The Accountant, respectively, and she just seems so young in real life. Henry Golding (of Crazy Rich Asians whose review is coming soon) also had a role in this film and was really good. Hope to see more of him in mainstream films!

In short, A Simple Favor, while a complex and mysterious thriller according to some people, was a messy and awkward film in my view.

Rate: 3.4/5

Trailer: A Simple Favor trailer

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Movie review: Stonehearst Asylum

Movie reviews

Hi!

This past weekend, I went to see the new mystery thriller Stonehearst Asylum. I went to this film for 3 reasons:

  1. Since seeing Cloud Atlas movie I became interested in Jim Sturgess – he plays the main role here.
  2. The movie is based on Edgar Alan Poe’s short story The System of Doctor Tarr and Profesor Fether. I had read Poe’s short story The Pit and the Pendulum in 10th grade and since then became intrigued to read more of his work. I have read the short story this film is based on before going to the movie and I can definitely see why Hollywood producers chose this particular story to turn into a motion picture. It has a tremendous amount of potential possibilities and a tonne of mentioned but unexplored themes.
  3. The work of asylums and the complexity of human mind fascinate me. Moreover, Fox’s Gotham’s story-line about Arkham asylum is my favorite part of that whole show.

Summary (from IMDb): A recent medical school grad who takes a position at a mental institution soon finds himself taken with one of his colleagues — though he has no initial idea of a recent, horrifying staffing change.

Directing

The movie is directed  by Brad Anderson whose most well know films are The Call (2013) with Halee Berry (we watched this one at school during psychology class – that film really shocked me, especially when something like that happened in my own county only recently) and The Machinist (2004) – I’m planning to watch this one.

Visuals and the setting:

The movie is set in 1899. I love period pieces and XIX century is one of my favorite time periods. Imperialism, industrialization, nationalism are 3 words that describe the XIX century. All these events have negative and positive outcomes and I love when history is complex like that and doesn’t give us just straight-up facts but challenges our minds, makes us compare pluses and minuses and lets ourselves decide if disadvantages outweigh the advantages or vice versa.

The color palette and the design of asylum looked believable and really cool too.

Twist (SPOILERS)

The first twist that the patients with Lamb had overthrown the doctors of the asylum and put all the keepers and the true head of the asylum Dr. Salt into cages was predictable and it was also spoiled in the trailer. The movie really had a lot of cliches and I swear, I finished almost all the lines of dialogue in my mind before the characters said the words. When the movie made me think than I had it all figured out, the plot had the twist that I really didn’t expect it to have. I might have predicted it if I had watched more carefully, but I stupidly turned off my mind and just enjoyed the movie. The twist was really nice surprise at the end and made the movie even more better.

Acting/Character by character breakdown

I don’t usually do my reviews like this, but this film had so many characters and all of them did something important. So, let’s begin!

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Jim Sturgess as Edward Newgate – he is the main protagonist and the only character you can root for because his intentions are mostly pure. He is divided between two sides: the cruel patients and not less cruel doctors.  Jim’s acting was great, really good performance.

Kate Beckinsale as Eliza Graves – a troubled woman whose family got rid of her and whose husband beat and used her, so she bit his ear off and ended up in an asylum. She suffers from seizures when touched by men. I wished her back story was explored a bit more.

These two characters, of course, fell in love in the course of the movie. To my mind, their romance was a bit fake and pushed.

Michael Caine as Dr. Salt – a cruel doctor with cruel treating methods. Michale Caine was on screen for only a short time and I never understood his character, he looked no better than a crazy person.

Ben Kingsley as Silas Lamb – mad genius and a killer whose actions I could understand. He was a surgeon in a war and killed few of his patients because they were suffering and dying, so he relieved them of their suffering.

In my opinion, Lamb’s action were justified much better than Salt’s. They could have showed why Salt was acting the way he was because it just seemed that he wanted to break his patients and, while trying to restore their sanity, he only made them more mad. Lamb, on the other hand, clearly had a post dramatic stress disorder after the war.

David Thewlis as Mickey Finn – a crazy supporting character who really lacked the back story. You knew he was crazy but you didn’t know why and as a result, didn’t care for him much.

Sinéad Cusack as Mrs. Pike – the head nurse of the asylum and the only character who was completely selfless and kind. Wish we would have spent more time with her as well.

Sophie Kennedy Clark as Millie – one of the patients who suffered from Salt’s treatments and blossomed when Lamb became the head of the asylum. Her whole plot-line could have been cut because it distracted the viewer form the main events.

Themes and Questions

The movie raised a lot of questions like: Can human actions be justified? Can we know what is right and what is wrong? Are selfless but cruel acts still acts of kindness ? What is insanity? Do we know if we are insane? Is there a cure for insanity? Is it a disease or just another term that describes a person as different? Can people be saved? Is there good side and a bad side or are they are inseparable and undefinable?

All in all,  I liked the visuals and the acting. Some characters were interesting and their actions raised a lot of questions while others could have been developed much more or cut out completely. The twists and clichés mixed together made the movie a plesant experience.

Trailer: Stonehearst Asylum trailer

Rate: 3.5/5 

Stonehearst_Asylum_poster(Google Images)

Movie review: Gone Girl + book

Movie reviews

Hello!

Last night, I went to the early screening of Gone Girl, so this is a spoiler warning, because I am going to review this highly anticipated book-turned-movie thriller.

Summary: With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent. (IMDb)

Book + Changes

I have started reading the book by Gillian Flynn when I had 5 days left till the premiere, so I was on a tight schedule. I really loved the first half of the book, but when the big secret was revealed I was kind of skeptical that this was the big plot twist. It was hard to root for Amy when you’ve found out her mental state but I, as a woman, couldn’t be on Nick’s side as well because he was a cheat.
The ending was really weird. They resolved some stuff out and they were still dragging the story out and then it just suddenly ended. What is more, by the end of the book, probably all the readers were on a Team Nick and he did not get a happy ending. I was really happy when the producers decided to create a whole new ending and the third act. Moreover, the author of the book was the one creating the new material, so this was still her imagination and not some screenwriter altering the original material.  In addition, the new ending meant that all the book readers hadn’t spoiled the movie for themselves.

Note: I wrote that part of the review before going to see that movie, so my comment after watching it: they didn’t change a dam thing. I was hoping that there will be a big, grand change but the story played out the same way it did in the book. Of course, there were a few minor changes but that always happens when you are adapting a book to the big screen. For example, in the book we have read what were they thinking after the reunion .In the movie, we are only guessing what is on their minds from their expressions and their actions. I was a bit disappointed that everything everyone was talking about were these big changes and there weren’t any of them.

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Acting

I believe that Ben Affleck was great choice for the role of Nick – the husband. I have firstly acquainted with Ben as an actor in one of the reruns of Armageddon when I was about 8 or 9. After that, I watched him in Daredevil and Oscar winning Argo (I loved Argo – one of my favorite movies ever) and recently, I got around watching – Gone Baby Gone – a directorial debut of Affleck that has almost the same premise as Gone Girl and even a similar name. In the 2007’s Gone Baby Gone a girl goes missing and in this year’s Gone Girl – a grown women. I still need to check him out in Pearl Harbor – I have heard so much about this movie and I can’t believe that I still haven’t watched it. Shame on me.

As much as I knew about Ben Affleck, I was totally in the dark when it came to Rosamund Pike. I haven’t seen any of her movies (or maybe I have and I just don’t remember her which actually is a bad thing for actors). Nonetheless, I enjoyed her performance; she was a believable (SPOILER) psychopath.

Speaking about the supporting cast, Neil Patrick Harris was, of course, the main scene stealer. He is always perfect in every role and this one was not an exception.  And that SPOILER bed scene – that was one of the most powerfully gross scene I have ever seen. The whole cinema was open-mouthed by the time it ended.

Emily Ratajkowski (Blurred Lines music video girl) played Nick’s mistress Andie, she was quite good too, and her role wasn’t that hard but still props to her for trying to move from her image in Blurred Lines. Then again, this time her boobs also played an important role.

The character I didn’t like in the books but really loved in the movie was detective Rhonda Boney played by Kim Dickens. I really enjoyed her performance and was rooting for Rhonda in the investigation. Tyler Perry was nice Tanner Bolt even thought I imagined him in a completely different way when I was reading the book. Carrie Coon also did a good job as Margo – I loved how she almost always stayed on Nick’s side.

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Directing

The movie is directed by David Fincher who is best known for directing The Girl with the dragon tattoo, The Social Network and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story).  As a long time Facebook user (My name is Lue, and I am an addict), I adored The Social Network and loved seeing Jessie Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake in one movie (too much eye candy).  I was never a fan of The Girl with the dragon tattoo book series, maybe because I was too young when I tried to read them. Furthermore, the critics and the general public weren’t really interested in the movie adaptation so it sort of slipped from my “to watch” list. I have read The Curious Case by Fitzgerald and I want to watch the movie but haven’t found time yet.

In Gone Girl, I really loved Fincher’s attention to details. He really made me believe in these characters and the story. Of course, he has to share these praises with both Gillian Flynn for creating this strong material and great actors who brought these powerful characters to life.

Themes

Both the movie and the book explore the problems of the family. They show how parent’s problems affect their children. They portray what happens when parents raise their child as a god: the kid doesn’t want to let his/hers parents down, she/he becomes a perfectionist. However, at the same time he/she might turn into a spoiled brat. The conclusion: raise you kids in a right way (but god knows what the right way is). The second big theme was a relationship between a husband and a wife and domestic abuse. Nick and Amy’s relationship was toxic and addictive: they could not live together normally, but they couldn’t exist separately as well. Relationships are hard and if you want your relationship to succeed both sides have to work together. Lastly, I loved how they portrayed the importance of media in contemporary world. If society loves you, you are innocent. If they hate you, you are screwed.

All in all, I liked the book, I liked the movie. I wish they would have given us an alternative ending but I am still quite satisfied with what I got. I wouldn’t be surprised if the movie received an Oscar nominations for best adapted screenplay and acting.

Trailer: Gone Girl trailer

Rate: 4.5/5

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Photos: Google Images

Movie review: Transendence

Movie reviews

Hello everybody!

I am back with another movie review. This time it is Transcendence – a film me and my aunt watched this week.

Summary: The movie follows the creation of the artificial intelligence. When one of the researchers of this project (Dr. Will Caster played by Johnny Depp) is shot with a radioactive bullet by gang of people who are fighting against new technologies, his wife (Evelyn Caster played by Rebecca Hall) and science partner (Max Waters played by Paul Bettany) decide to transfer his mind into an artificial intelligence. The thing they have created becomes so powerful, that it is threatening all of humanity. In the end, while believing that the thing they created is not actually Will – their friend and lover, they destroy it by uploading virus into the machine. However, I believe that they should have let it be, because he/it didn’t do anything bad, he/it just wanted to help people (treat blindness, cancer and other illnesses or injuries). The machine or the thing (whatever you want to call it), as it’s dying, explains to Evelyn that he truly is Will, saying he did what he did for her because saving the planet and helping people were her wishes. Still, we have to mention, that while helping them, he turned them into hybrids which were connected to him, so he might have been creating an army of followers. We will never know what his true intentions were.

The movie’s closing shot shows us that, while both Will and Evelyn died, their consciousness is still alive with the help of nano-particles. This means, that the world has one more chance of recreating the artificial intelligence. This also means that we may get a sequel.

Transcendence is directed by cinematographer Wally Pfister in his directorial debut. Because the director is cinematographer the movie is brilliantly shot and there are couple of scenes that are breathtaking.

The movie raised the question for me: Am I self-aware? How can we find an answer to this question? I know that I am aware of the situation I am in, I know who I am, where I am, who is surrounding me, but am I sure that everything I think I know is actually true.? What is more, would someone be so kind and explained to me what the difference between self-consciousness and self-awareness is?

I definitely recommend this movie for all sci-fi fans that love science and especially nanotechnologies. We know so little of them, so I am starting to believe that we can actually achieve things that were shown in this movie in the future. The only criticism I have is that I believe they could have wrapped everything up in a shorter period of time. Let us say in one and a half hour time instead of two hours. After the uploading of Will consciousness into the computer, the action really slows down and you are getting bored a little bit. However, the final scenes make up for the slow middle part. Rate 4.5/5

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCTen3-B8GU

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