Movie review: Red Sparrow

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to March – the new ‘it’ month for high-profile movie releases. And it opens with Red Sparrow!

IMDb summary: Ballerina Dominika Egorova is recruited to ‘Sparrow School,’ a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon. Her first mission, targeting a C.I.A. agent, threatens to unravel the security of both nations.

Writing

Red Sparrow was written by Justin Haythe (who wrote two previous Gore Verbinski’s films The Lone Rangerand A Cure For Wellness), based on the book of the same name by Jason Matthews. I found the writing to be quite uneven and I’m going to unpack my ideas more broadly by discussing the narrative and the themes. The film had two parts, each about an hour long. The first hour acted as an extensive set-up and developed the main character quite a lot. The viewers got to follow her life as an everyday citizen (though she was never just an everyday person – she was always special, first as a ballerina and later as a sparrow), then to witness the inciting incident and its consequences: the extensive training to be a tool of the state (more on that in the second part on themes). The set-up was quite long but it did work: the main character’s capacity for the horrific actions that she was going to commit as a sparrow was always present in the set-up.

In the second hour of the film (+20minutes), Red Sparrow’s actual plot unraveled, and sadly, it was quite uneven. The writers really tried crafting a complex and layered story, full of characters with constantly shifting allegiances. And while that sounds all good – actually it is quite fascinating – the mysterious and the secretive nature of the plot was not always realized compellingly. Also, looking back to the plot – not all the dots necessarily connect and make sense. Still, I have to applaud the ending of the story. For a while, it seemed like the movie was headings towards a typical romantic conclusion but then it broke away from all of that and delivered and strong finale with some great double-crosses and twists. Though, the reveal of the mole was a bit heavy-handed and surprising it a bad way a.k.a.it came out of nowhere.

Thematically, I’d like to touch upon two major things: the usage of sex in the film as well as the Russia vs. US standoff. Before going to see the film, I got the impression that the main weapon of the sparrow will be psychological manipulation but I feel like the ads and trailers lied to me. Red Sparrow, in my mind, was missing its promised psychological manipulation and was all about the pure physical manipulation a.k.a. manipulation through sex. And while physical and psychological manipulations are certainly connected, I really wish that the movie would have looked at that actual connection or the psychological side quite a lot more. Also, the usage of sex by a specifically female heroine of the film raised even more questions about the position of female sexuality on film. While it can certainly be seen/used as a strong creative choice, it has also been reduced to a cheap trick quite a few times. Also, there is but a fine line between female sexuality as a form of empowerment or a tool of exploitation. To my mind, Red Sparrow was leaning more towards the second option, as the female sparrows were taught and made to use sex as a weapon by a patriarchal system rather than having chosen it as a weapon out of their own agency.

On the US v Russia front, the picture was certainly successful at establishing the askew nationalistic ideas that were/are so prevalent in Russia and portraying the brainwashing politics accurately. Still, it had an overall message of American heroism as the better/ the winning option. The weird US/Russia antagonism also made the movie’s temporal setting feel rather vague: it could have been set during the Cold War, the early aftermath of it in the late 90s/early 2000s or even just last year.

Directing

Francis Lawrence (the director of the 3 last The Hunger Games films, including my two favorites – Catching Fire and Mockingjay 1) directed Red Sparrow and did an okay job. I highly appreciated the style of the picture: the raw and indie feeling of it as well as the cold and cool tone. However, the slowness of the pace and the length of the movie really minimized the enjoyment of the film. Moreover, the plot (the substance) wasn’t good enough to make up for the lacking pace. The graphic violence and graphic nudity were both present in Red Sparrow and I don’t really know whether they served the plot or were they just there for shock value. During the scenes of violence, Red Sparrow did feel like a more contemporary version of its predecessor Atomic Blonde, while the scenes of creepy nudity were more plentiful than in the whole Fifty Shades franchise.

Acting

Jennifer Lawrence (reunited with F. Lawrence after THG) played the lead of the film and did a good job but she wasn’t great or irreplaceable. Her Russian accent was fine, though, at times, she did sound like she was speaking with a clogged noise (as if she had a cold). Her decision to play this role is probably more interesting than the performance itself. The actress has vocally expressed how uncomfortable she was with the skin tight costume of Mystique in the X-Men movies and yet she was somehow fine with complete nudity in this film? Was this an act of bravery and growth as a performer or a desperate attempt to reclaim some fame? Her fan circle has been decreasing: The Hunger Gamesfinished a with whimper rather than a bang, she annoyed a lot of Marvel/X-Men fans because of her lack of enthusiasm about that series, her various comments on talk shows have also been reacted to quite badly online, and even her last two more serious awards films failed to connect with the audiences or the critics (Joyat least got her another Oscar nomination, while mother! turned out to be a complete disaster).

Some big-name talent was also involved with this film on the supporting front. Joel Edgerton (Bright, Midnight Special, Loving, Black Mass) and Matthias Schoenaerts (Far From The Madding Crowd, The Danish Girl) had two best-developed and most interesting male roles in the film. Jeremy Irons (BvS, High-Rise) and Game of Thrones’ Ciaran Hinds (Justice League) also both appeared but in much smaller, cameo-sized roles. Charlotte Rampling (45 Years, Assasin’s Creed) played the matriarch of the school of the sparrows and it was quite unexpected seeing her in a film with a, supposedly, strong female lead after her sort of anti-women comments a few awards seasons ago (that ran along the lines of ‘women in the West don’t have anything to complain about’).

In short, Red Sparrow was a mediocre thriller that betrayed its message and overstayed its welcome.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Red Sparrow 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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Collection: Posters + other wall decorations

Uncategorized

Hello!

Welcome to another segment of Collections. I have shared my nail polish and postcards’ collection with you before but now I will show you my room’s wall decorations. Mostly, my walls are covered with posters that represent all of my obsessions (TV shows, movies, books, comics, singers and so forth). All of the posters are custom made or bought at the concerts. Other decorations include a wall clock, couple of paintings I have painted myself, couple of inspirational quotes, my medals from various sports I do and two flags of the countries I wish to live in someday. Let’s begin, shall we?

I have 11 posters, I use to have more but now I have taken them down. My first poster (TVD and GG) are about 5 years old.

I have:

  1. The Vampire Diaries poster
  2. Twilight series poster
  3. Glee poster
  4. Game of Thrones poster
  5. Gossip Girl poster (+ couple of postcards with quotes)
  6. Marvel poster
  7. Pretty little liars poster
  8. Wizards of Waverly place poster
  9. One Direction poster
  10. Lana del Rey poster (bought at the concert in 2013)
  11. Lady Gaga poster (bought at the concert in 2012)

My o’clock is very girly: its Disney pink clock with Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Belle from Beauty and the Beast.

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These 4 paintings are all painted by me using Paint by numbers canvases. The quote underneath them is the quote I saw on one of the swimmers from London 2012 Olympics T-shirt and found it really inspiring, so decided to hang it on my wall.

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Here you can see 55 medals that I have won in swimming, running, bicycle sport and aquathlon. Above them are numbers from running and cycling competitions.

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And here is my favorite part of my room (although, I do love all of it) – US and UK flags. I wish to study in the US and then live for a while in the UK.

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My walls used to be white but 4 years ago we repainted them into orange. I also have an inspiration/mood board above my desk with inspirational quotes, sayings, tiny paintings and symbols that mean something to me, but I am going to save it for a separate post.

So, I hope you liked seeing my room, even if it was just a tiny bit of it. Bye!

Movie review: X-MEN Days of Future Past + a look back to the whole franchise

Movie reviews

Hello my dear readers!

These past few months I have been loving everything Marvel. I watched all the Cinematic Universe movies, all season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in a few days time and even started watching some old movies inspired by comics (Blade, Daredevil , Elektra). In addition, I also tried reading a few comic books and I have to admit – I did not think I would enjoy them that much.

Because I was done with the Avengers team I decided to move on to the X-men. Although, I have heard a lot of negative comments from comic book readers that these movies did not do justice to the real, colorful X-men from the original material, I wanted to see them for myself.

I started with 2000 X-MEN. That was a super solid film that didn’t slow down at all. It was a promising start to a movie franchise. However, I hated Rogue’s character. For God’s sake, she is a mutant and she couldn’t even defend herself, she was like a huge baby, always crying and whining. Also, I watched this movie 14 years after it came out and I got to say – Hugh Jackman didn’t change a bit. Favorite heroes: Storm and Cyclops. Favorite villain: Mystique. 4.5/5

2003 meant the arrival of one thing – X2: X-MEN united. I really enjoyed the overall movie, but it was a bit to complex and overcrowded with storylines. I mean, we had like 9 plotlines if not more: Iceman’s family problems, Stryker’s plans, Government’s plan, Kurt Wagner’s story (I loved that character – so funny), Wolverine’s past, Pyro’s problem, Rogue and Iceman’s love problem, Jean’s, Wolverine’s and Cyclops’ love triangle and that Cerebro stuff once again. We could have reduced that list by half and it would have made for an amazing movie. One last thing – I loved the fact that Mystique and Magneto may seem like good people/mutants, but truly, they are evil to the bone. Favorite character: Iceman. 4/5

In 2006 came the X-MEN the Last Stand. This movie was a huge disappointment, not because it left a lot of mistakes in an overall storyline (I will talk about it more in a second), but because the story of the movie was not interesting enough. Of course, I enjoyed Jean’s transformation, because she wasn’t an interesting character before. But how can you ‘cure’ Magneto and Mystique (Mutation is not a disease) and kill off Cyclops and Professor X in the same movie?  Only thing I enjoyed was Iceman&Kitty. I like that couple much more than I like Iceman&Rogue. 2/5

3 years went by and the first spinoff came out – X-MEN Origins: Wolverine. I don’t have anything much to say about this movie, it was okay. Good acting, weak story. Favorite character: Gambit played by Taylor Kitsch.3/5

And know let’s talk about the movie that messed everything up: X-MEN First class(2011). I would have really enjoyed that story if it weren’t for those mistakes. Nothing added up. It might have worked as a separate movie, but not so much as a prequel to the whole franchise. (You can find a list of mistakes here: http://io9.com/5966264/8-ways-x-men-movie-continuity-is-irretrievably-fucked ) The only thing that I adored about FC was the fact that we got to see the young Xavier. He was pretty wild young adult. I never would have guessed that he would grow into such wise elder. 4/5

In 2013 X-men origins: Wolverine got a sequel – The Wolverine. I liked where the story was set: we finally moved from North America to somewhere else, in this case – to Japan.  What is more, I feel really sorry for Wolverine and his fear of flying. However, I would like to see other X-man in a spot line instead of Wolverine. Separate Mystique’s, Storm’s or Cyclops’ movie anyone? Rate 3.5/5

Note: I have written all these small reviews before watching the new X-men movie. Bellow you will find review of it and the overall conclusion of the post.

X-MEN. Days of Future Past. I went to this movie with low expectations despite having heard a lot of nice things about the film. I was surprised as hell. The movie delivered. I actually feel confident enough to say that this is one my favorite movies from now on.

Reasons why I loved DOFP:
1. First of all, it had a huge ensemble cast: both members from the old team (First class) and a new one.
2. The story was unpredictable and for the last hour of the movie I did not know how they were going to fix things because everything was just messed up.
3. I really enjoyed the new character Quicksilver. He was a fun loving mutant who enjoyed using his powers. I cannot wait to see how Marvel will interpret this character in the Avengers 2.
4. Magneto once again was a villain in this movie. Young Magneto played by Michael Fassbender is one of two of my favorite evil characters (Another is Loki). The main reason why I enjoy both these characters so much is the fact that they have some good qualities and they are not just straight up evil.
5. Another character who brought joy to my face was young Xavier played by James McAvoy. We got a chance to connect to this character even more than in the First Class. We got to see him at his lowest point in life and to follow him on his journey to redemption.
6. Peter Dinklage was also amazing as Bolivar Trask. I just adore everything this actor does after falling in love with his performance on Game of Thrones.
7.One of my favorite scenes – young Xavier’s and old Xavier’s conversation.So powerful and so heartbreaking. (“The world needs you to hope”).
8. And finally, the last thing that made this movie so amazing is the fact that they FIXED ALL THE MISTAKES OF THE PREVIOUS MOVIES. As of today, the first 3 movies as well as both Wolverine spin offs never happened. Let me explain. The First Class was set in the 1960s (it still happened), then follows the Days of Future Past in 1973 and that is it. Everything from now on is changed because of the events in the past. I have read some articles that first two movies of the original trilogy might still have happened, but I don’t believe it. They both are set in the 2000s as well as the tragedy of the Last Stand and The Wolverine. Origins movie was set in 1975-1981, so it also didn’t happened.
Rate 5/5 (without a doubt).

All in all, I would like to say just this. Bryan Singer, the director of X-MEN,X2 and Days of Future Past is the only one who knows how to do a great X-MEN movie. Days of Future Past is by far the best movie in the franchise and it got me really pumped for the further sequels. X-MEN Apocalypse is set to be released in 2016 (May 27th). We got a teaser for it in the post-credit scene.

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