Movie review: Passengers

Movie reviews

Hello!

I am closing the holiday season by watching and reviewing the last big movie of 2016 – Passengers.

IMDb summary: A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early.

I have been really looking forward to this movie, as it stars two of the biggest stars of today. However, then the paycheck news overshadowed the film and, later on, its critical scores, as well as the box office haul, were lesser than expected, so, I started having some reservations. These reservations were also the reason why I didn’t go out of my way to see this film before I made my best film list for the year. It was probably a good thing, as this movie, most likely, would have ended up on the worst list since  I had quite a few problems with it.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Writing

Passengers was written by Jon Spaihts, who also wrote Prometheous (one big plot hole of a movie), co-wrote Doctor Strange (how?) and is penning the upcoming The Mummy reboot. The majority of the problems I had with the film were because of its narrative. Let’s just go straight to the case: while the big reveal was not surprising to me, as I find out about doing my research before the film, it was still infuriating. I don’t know if I am the only one who finds the fact that Pratt’s character picked a gorgeous young female to keep him company more than unsettling. So, should we all make important decisions that our survival might depend upon based on purely physical attraction? Having read that sentence back, I suddenly realize that this actually happens in the real world constantly. Well, I still don’t want to see that in the sci-fi movies that are supposed to portray the better and brighter future.

Moving aside from the big spoiler-y reveal, the story by itself was not the most original. The movie was mostly a slow and sappy love story, so don’t expect to find any elements of a sci-fi thriller in Passengers (if you want an engaging space opera, just watch Gravity, Interstellar or The Martian). The plot was super predictable for the most part and the action really only picked up when one of the crew members woke up. But, yet again, the movie went back to its romance aspect and had a cliche ending.

The writing for the main female character was not the best either. I didn’t find her to be a particularly likable – she was a bit annoying and pretentious. I know I have championed unlikeable characters before but only if they were interesting. I didn’t find Aurora interesting at all. Her name, in reference to the Sleeping Beauty, might have been the most exciting thing about her.

Despite me hating the bigger part of the story, I want to mention at least a few things I liked. First, the whole discussion about humanity and culpability was interesting even if not handled efficiently or correctly. Secondly, the set-up, the backstory of the ships and the company its belongs to, and Pratt’s Jim’s character development were all quite good. Thirdly, the movie did have a few cute moments and a couple of funny lines that didn’t make me cringe or facepalm.

Directing

The director of The Imitation Game (absolutely adored that picture) Morten Tyldum directed Passengers and did a good job. I loved how the film looked visually: the design of the ship (both the inside and the outside) was stunning and the CGI effects of space and the stars were gorgeous too. All the space walk scenes, as well as the gravity loss at the pool scene, were my favorite (because they didn’t involve a lot of talking, just the visual part of filmmaking). The pacing could have been neater, but overall, I felt that Tyldum did the best he could with a flawed script.

Acting

Chris Pratt (The Magnificent Seven, Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World) was magnificent in the lead. He was charming and likable and made that awfully misogynistic character of Jim seem passable. I liked the fact that his character was an engineer, though, at least that added some logic to the film.

Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games, X-Men, Joy) was also good in the film but that’s a no brainer. What baffles me is why she even took on this role: it wasn’t challenging at all, just a role of a cliche female love interests. It just seemed way bellow Lawrence’s, Academy Award WINNER’s, level. If she only took it for the massive paycheck – well, that is even more problematic, as she doesn’t really want to add the adjective ‘greedy’ to her already sinking image. In addition, the movie’s opening weekend’s domestic box office didn’t even cover her paycheck! If she is not a draw for the movie goers, why would you pay her this much, especially, when this role could have been played by any other young actress.

The film didn’t really have a supporting cast, it was mostly a two people show. Nevertheless, Michael Sheen (Nocturnal Animals, Alice 2, Far From The Madding Crowd) was great as the android bartender, while Laurence Fishburne was also okay in the few scenes he had. His story and passing were probably more emotionally appealing to me than the whole romance of the two leads.

In short, Passengers was an okay movie with some problematic ideas (if you just think about it longer than a minute), stunning visuals and great performances from the overpaid cast.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Passengers trailer

passengers.jpg

Advertisements

Movie review: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Movie reviews

Hello!

The latest film in that other Tom Cruise action-spy franchise has landed in theaters, so, let’s talk about it! This is the review of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.

IMDb summary: Jack Reacher must uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy in order to clear his name. On the run as a fugitive from the law, Reacher uncovers a potential secret from his past that could change his life forever.

While I’ve closely followed Cruise and his Mission: Impossible movies, I managed to somehow miss the first Jack Reacher picture when it was first released in 2012. However, I did my homework and watched it before going to see the sequel. I really enjoyed the narrative of the film: the story was a bit different from the usual action movie plot. It had more of the actual investigation and an interesting dialogue rather just a ton of physical fights. But, when the action did happen, it was quite cool too – it was more rugged and down to earth than the spectacular and over the top action sequences in MI. Jack Reacher’s action reminded me of the action in Jason Bourne films, just with less shaky cam. The characters were fine as well, although the film was mostly a Tom Cruise show.

While the first film was a delightful surprise, the second one was just another uninspired and cliche sequel. I didn’t really have any expectations going into this film and I was right to not expect anything because Jack Reacher: Never Go Back was just an average action movie at best.

Writing

Richard Wenk (The Mechanic, The Equalizer, The Magnificient Seven), the director Edward Zwick and Zwick’s long-time collaborator Marshall Herskovitz wrote the screenplay for the film, adapting Lee Child’s 18th book of the Jack Reacher series. I had a lot of problems with the story. For one, the whole set-up seemed forced and rushed. It took two phone calls for Reacher to want to help Turner, while in the first film, more than 30 minutes had to be spent to actually get Reacher into the action. That whole thing with Turner being wrongly accused seemed like a recycled idea from the first movie as well. And don’t even get me started on that plot-line concerning his maybe-daughter – she was super annoying and was a huge liability to both the characters and the film’s narrative. She had one smart scheme, which we didn’t even see her carrying out – we were just told about it, and a ton of stupid ideas. And why even include her if she turns out to not be his daughter after all? Only to have that cheesy goodbye that didn’t add anything to the picture?

The villain showed up in maybe like 3 or 4 scenes in the whole movie. If you want to see a much better movie about the government contracts and arms’ dealers, then just check out War Dogs. Lastly, while the first film was slow but had a somewhat interesting dialogue about the investigation to fill in the time between the action, its sequel had a ton of small talk that didn’t get the movie anywhere. When it tried to foreshadow or set-up something, it did that in the most obvious way possible. From a thematical standpoint, I did like the overarching military v civilian life debate, however, what I didn’t appreciate was that whole male/female bickering. That plotline was irrelevant and felt out of place even more than the father/daughter storyline.

Directing

Edward Zwick, who has previously worked with Cruise on The Last Samurai and has also directed such films as the biopic Pawn Sacrifice, the war drama Defiance, and the comedy Love & Other Drugs, helmed Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and did an okay job. He opened the film with the sequence from the trailer, which I have seen multiple times before even watching the movie since I go to the cinema a lot. Wish they would have either chose a different scene for the trailer or changed it up a bit for the movie. The overall action was fine but nothing too striking or worth mentioning. I liked the gray colored shots of Reacher visualizing the escape or the past events, but the movie kinda dropped this idea halfway through.

Acting

  • Tom Cruise was good as Jack Reacher but I have come to expect this from him a long time ago. It’s nice to see him doing his own stunts, though – makes the movie a bit more realistic. Cruise also produced this film, like the majority of his action movies, but I’m actually quite interested to see if he will ever direct one. His upcoming pictures are a biographical crime thriller American Made and The Mummy reboot.
  • Cobie Smulders as Susan Turner was quite good too. I was happy to see her getting some work, because since How I Met Your Mother has ended, I haven’t seen much of her, well except in the MCU films, although her role in those is really small. I liked hers and Cruise’s chemistry in this movie and I also thought that she was good in the action scenes.
  • Danika Yarosh as Samantha Dayton a.k.a. the daughter. I don’t want to be angry with the big screen newcomer Yarosh because she was fine in the role, but, as I have already mentioned, her character was written terribly and didn’t even have a place in the film. Yarosh has been mostly acting in various TV shows and I do hope that this mediocre film and a bit cringe-y performance won’t stop her from being cast in more movies.
  • The supporting cast also included a lot of quite unknown (to me) actors, like Aldis HodgePatrick HeusingerHolt McCallany, and Austin Hebert. No one really stood much but they also haven’t been really given a chance to do so.

 In short, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is an average sequel that basically advises its potential viewers to skip it. The story is awful, the directing is okay and while the acting is good, the cast is not given enough solid material to work with. I advise you to Never Go Back to the Jack Reacher films.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back trailer

cqlurvqumaatri2.jpg

 

Movie review: The Magnificent Seven

Movie reviews

Hello!

After reviewing a contemporary Western last week (Hell or High Water), today, I turn my attention to the one set in the past – 19th century’s Wild West, to be specific. Let’s discuss The Magnificent Seven.

IMDb summary: Seven gunmen in the old west gradually come together to help a poor  village against savage thieves.

Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven, in terms of both the name and the plot, reminds me of a different recent Western from another accomplished director – of course, I’m talking about Tarantino’s The Hateful EightSadly, that awful Adam Sandler movie The Ridiculous Six also sneaks into my mind. What is up with these names, Hollywood?

2016’s The Magnificient Seven is a remake of the 1960s movie with the same (which, in turn, was a remake of a 1954 Japanese picture Seven Samurai – haven’t seen either of them but plan on watching both). Weirdly, it is not getting almost any hate in comparison to the recent Ben-Hur movie, which was also a remake of the 60s classic. Maybe who is involved in front and behind the camera has something to do with it – Seven has a lot more big name talent attached to it than Ben-Hur.

SPOILER WARNING

Writing: story and character development

The Magnificent Seven’s screenplay was written by an interesting duo: Nic Pizzolatto – the creator of True Detective – and Richard Wenk – writer of such mediocre-ish films like The Expendables 2 and The Mechanic and some better flicks, like his previous collaboration with FuquaThe Equalizer (he is writing that film’s sequel as well). Wenk has also penned Jack Reacher: Never Go Back script – that picture is coming out next month.

I quite enjoyed the story they created for this movie. The narrative was a bit by-the-numbers and predictable – Westerns all tend to have a similar plot – but it was executed quite well. The set-up was clear and efficient and the unfolding resolution worked as well. The movie was a bit uneven in that it had some filler material in between the action pieces. Some of that material was interesting, other – less so, but it was worth to sit through because the action sequences were amazing. I also liked the fact that the story had real consequences and not everyone lived happily ever after when it was all said and done.

The character development was also sufficient. I feared that due to a big number of characters, The Magnificent Seven would suffer from the same thing that undercut Suicide Squad’s success, however, I felt that Pizzolatto and Wenk provided all the characters with a lot more moments of personal development than Ayer did for DC anti-heroes. Some characters could have been developed more – there is always room for improvement – but I felt that the things we did get worked better than I expected them too. In general, all the main heroes of the film were not good people but the screenwriters did make them likable and did made believe that these 7 people could bond in a fairly short amount of time.

Denzel Washington’s and Chris Pratt’s characters received the most scenes. Denzel’s character was nicely set-up as the leader and his personal agenda was quite a neat surprise at the end. Pratt’s character’s role as the prankster of the group was cool – his jokes and comic relief helped to ease the tension. The two characters that were the most compelling to me were played by Ethan Hawke and Byung-hun Lee – I liked their comradeship and backstory and I also felt that they had the best dialogues. Hawke’s character’s paranoia and war guilt was really fascinating part of the film, although, his actions at the end (leaving and coming back) were quite predictable, but I guess this type of character arc (fighting one’s inner guilt) has to end in that particular way.  Vincent D’Onofrio’sManuel Garcia-Rulfo’s and Martin Sensmeier’s characters were a bit one-dimensional (the weird outcast, the Mexican, and the Native American) but they did serve their purpose and nicely rounded up the group.

The writing for the main villain of the film was good too – I liked the fact that he was a corrupt businessman, who took the ideas of capitalism a bit too close to heart. The main (and only, really) female character also had a nice story of revenge/righteousness and I especially liked the detail that she was an active member of the fight, not just a damsel in distress.

Directing: visuals and action

Antoine Fuqua is an accomplished director in Hollywood, though he hasn’t made than many films. The Magnificent Seven is his 11th feature film (though other prominent Hollywood directors have made even less – Tarantino have only released 8, while Nolan – 9 pictures, so I guess quality and talent are way more important than quantity when it comes to directing). My favorite Fuqua’s films are King Arthur and Southpaw, while The Magnificent Seven is taking the 3rd spot. I really liked all the action – both the shoot-outs on the ground and on the horses (really want to ride a horse after watching the picture). I admire all the beautiful locations, the wild nature, and the empty valleys. The camera work (cinematography by Mauro Fiore) was excellent too: the close-ups really helped with the suspense, while the long tracking shots of people riding through frames (in color or in the shadow) were neatly used for transition. In addition, I enjoyed how the final stand-off of the film happened in the same place where everything had started – the church and its yard. The religious symbolism was also fitting, especially for the setting of 19th century US. Lastly, the instrumental score (music by James Horner and Simon Franglen) was excellent, while the credits rounded up the film beautifully.

Acting

  • Denzel Washington as Sam Chisolm was quite good. This wasn’t his best performance, but he worked well in the role. I liked how his character was introduced – we saw his guns before we saw his face. After working with Fuqua on 3 films already, Washington will re-team with the director for The Equalizer’s sequel – filming is supposed to start next year.
  • Chris Pratt as Josh Farraday was also great – he was really charismatic and pulled off the jokes and the teases nicely. This was his follow-up to the uber successful Jurassic World and he did not disappoint me. I cannot wait for his upcoming films as well – Passengers just debuted its trailer and will be released during Christmas, while Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will roll into theaters next summer.
  • Ethan Hawke as Goodnight Robicheaux was amazing too. I liked seeing Hawke, together with Denzel, in a Fuqua movie – reminded me of the Training Day days. Goodnight was kinda the voice of reason/rationality in the group – and Hawke just really knows how to nail this type of role. I’ve seen a lot of his films but my favorite still remains the Before trilogy. He will star in Luc Besson’s Valerian next year.
  • Vincent D’Onofrio as Jack Horne was interesting and weird. The harsh outside look of his character really came into contrast with his inner softness and that squeaky-ish voice. I needed some time to get used to the voice, actually. I enjoyed seeing D’Onofrio in big Hollywood picture and I also think that he deserves to get a lot more prominent roles in mainstream films because he is a very good actor – if you need proof, watch Daredevil.
  • Byung-hun Lee as Billy Rocks and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Vasquez were also great. I liked how one was very calm and collected and the other kinda a hot-head. I am not really familiar with their previous work but would love to see more of them. 
  • Martin Sensmeier as Red Harvest was my favorite supporting character/actor. I loved his look and the fact that he had a traditional bow in a gunfight. I would really like to see some more films about/involving Native Americans, any suggestions?
  • Peter Sarsgaard played Bartholomew Bogue – the villain of the film. I liked how both menacing and cowardly he was. The actor also did a very good job of showing his character’s fear with his eyes. Recently, Sarsgaard had roles in films like Blue Jasmine, Pawn Sacrifice, and Black Mass. He will also be in the awards’ contender Jackie later this year.
  • Haley Bennett as Emma Cullen was also really good. I have only seen her in Hardcore Henry, where she didn’t have much to do, so I was pleasantly surprised by her performance in this film. She pulled off her action scenes and the emotional sequences really well and will also star in The Girl on The Train in a few weeks.
  • Matt Bomer (Magic Mike, The Nice Guys) and Luke Grimes (American Sniper, Fifty Shades) also had small roles and did a fine job. In was nice to see Bomer in another flick – don’t know why he doesn’t get more role as he is really good at what he does. Grimes has two Fifty Shades movies coming up but I don’t think that hs character will get much to do in them.

In short, The Magnificent Seven was a well-made and nicely-acted typical Western. It was entertaining and intense and had an amazing and diverse cast. However, the narrative did lack originality.

Rate: 3.75/5

Trailer: The Magnificent Seven trailer

The-Magnificent-Seven-International-Poster.jpg

Movie review: Jason Bourne

Movie reviews

Hello!

Hollywood just resurrected one of its spy action franchises, so let’s discuss its latest entry – Jason Bourne.

IMDb summary: The most dangerous former operative of the CIA is drawn out of hiding to uncover hidden truths about his past.

I have told you numerous times that the two spy action series that I’ve followed closely are Mission Impossible and James Bond. I never really knew much about The Bourne franchise or other lesser-known spy projects like Jack Ryan or Jack Reacher. Before going to see Jason Bourne, I did my homework and checked out the original trilogy of the early 2000s as well as The Bourne Legacy spin-off (sort of) that didn’t stick with audiences, which kinda sucks since I’m a fan of Jeremy Renner (just give him his own franchise, don’t bring him in as a replacement). Speaking of the original films – Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum – I would summarize them as a collection of handheld and/or shaky camera cinematography, amnesia plotlines, old computers as props, white old men characters and the signature ‘Come Alone’ line of dialogue. Jokes aside, I did like all of the movies and appreciated their realism and ruggedness. The 3rd picture was my favorite because it was the most intense, had the best action sequences as well as a few subtle heartbreaking character moments.

Writing

The director Paul Greengrass and the editor Christopher Rouse wrote the script for Jason Bourne and did an okay job. I think if they would have brought another screenwriter, the narrative might have been better. Basically, I felt that the movie contained two stories: one was about Jason Bourne and his family, while the other revolved around the CIA and a new kind of spying platform – a social media site. The two plots didn’t have much in common until they were forced together in the 3rd act. Both of these narratives were really interesting separately – the Jason Bourne family secrets would have made for a great personal story, similar to the story of The Bourne Identity. The public safety v private rights story would have made for a great political and modern thriller, kinda like Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

The writing for the characters was much better that the actual story. I liked the fact that Bourne was a morally gray hero who has gotten his hands dirty numerous times. Alicia Vikander’s character was also impressive – she was an interesting blend of conservativism and liberal ideas: she did want to change the system but didn’t pick the best approach to do so. I also liked that, this time, the film had only one agent/asset hunting Bourne because by having only one supporting character of this kind, you can give him development and that’s exactly what they did – he wasn’t just some disposable tool of the villain but an actual character who had personal reasons to dislike Bourne.

Directing

Paul Greengrass, who did Supremacy and Ultimatum as well as Captain Phillips, did a good job directing Jason Bourne. The visual recap of the previous films set the tone and the universe nicely for the following movie. The setting of the Athens during all those protests made the film even more grounded and real-looking. The last car chase was absolutely crazy in a good way. The cinematography by Barry Ackroyd (The Hurt Locker) also worked – it did create an intense feeling of urgency and allowed the movie to have a non-stop pace. This type of handheld cinematography, reminiscent of documentary features, is not my favorite but I appreciate how unique it is in the market oversaturated with over-polished and too perfect looking Hollywood flicks. The Bourne films actually try to do something interesting and different with their visual storytelling, while the other Hollywood action movies are built in the way that an infant could follow and understand them .

Acting

  • Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. Damon has made the character of Bourne his own but I was actually surprised that he returned for this movie as he did sat the 4th film out, so I was thinking that he was done with this franchise, especially bearing in my mind that his career is currently blossoming – he just did the awards’ nominated The Martian. However, maybe coming back for Jason Bourne and its possible sequel was a good idea on Damon’s part as it looks like his next film will crash and burn – The Great Wall’s trailer got a lot of backlash for whitewashing. 
  • Tommy Lee Jones starred as Robert Dewey and was another white old male villain. I honestly don’t know if The Bourne franchise will ever have a different villain. I also don’t know if Lee Jones will ever play a different character than an older white male businessman/politician/doctor/general who is not that likable or good.
  • Alicia Vikander as Heather Lee was a standout member of the cast and I couldn’t be happier. She nailed her dialogue completely. In addition, I’m so proud of her for winning an Oscar for The Danish Girl and really want to see what will she do next. Her upcoming two films The Light Between Oceans and Tulip Fever are on my must-watch list and she has also been cast as the new Lara Kroft.
  • Vincent Cassel as the Asset was okay. He worked well in the action scenes.
  • Julia Stiles appeared, once again, as Nicky Parsons and was good. It was nice to see Stiles in a big film because I don’t think that she had a lot of substantial roles in the recent years. She had a supporting role in Silver Linings Playbook but that was back in 2012.
  • Riz Ahmed as Aaron Kalloor was also a nice addition to the cast. A few years back Ahmed was in Nightcrawler and later this year he will be in Rogue One.

All in all, Jason Bourne was a fun action film. Its narrative seemed confused and without a clear direction, but the action sequences did make up for it and made watching the film and overall entertaining experience.

Rate: 3.75/5

Trailer: Jason Bourne trailer

download (1).jpg

Movie review: Independence Day: Resurgence

Movie reviews

Hello, my dear readers!

Welcome to the review of another sequel of this summer. This time, it is Independence Day: Resurgence – a movie that came out 20 years too late and should have probably been left in the 1990s.

IMDb summary: Two decades after the first Independence Day invasion, Earth is faced with a new extra-Solar threat. But will mankind’s new space defenses be enough?

Roland Emmerich

Roland Emmerich is known for making disaster films. He, of course, made the original Independence Day feature back in 1996 as well as other mindless fun pictures of the 90s and the early 00s: 1998’s Godzilla and 2004’s The Day After Tomorrow. Most recently, he destroyed the world in 2009’s 2012 and burned the White House in 2013’s White House Down. Now, Emmerich is directing a sequel to a film that made him famous and created his brand in the first place.

The first Independence Day was cheesy, campy and yet still fun summer picture. I wasn’t even born when it first premiered, but I’ve seen it multiple times because TV re-runs are a thing. ID1 had a bunch of awesome and even iconic pop-culture moments: the President’s speech, the shot of the White House being blown up and the shot of Smith and Goldblum smoking cigars in the dessert. Hollywood has been trying to make an ID sequel for a long time and they finally did it 20 years later, hoping that it still would be a success. Well, I highly doubt that this is/will be the case. While last year’s summer disaster film San Andreas was both sorta critically acclaimed and profitable, I do not think that the audiences are really interested in these types of disaster films anymore. I, personally, have seen almost all of Emmerich’s films. I have also seen the majority of Michael Bay’s films. Moreover, I live in the world that is pretty f*cked up. Basically, what I am getting at is that the destruction of the world doesn’t surprise or interest people – we have seen it on screen  as well as in real life multiple times.

Writing and the Story

ID2 had 5 screenwriters: the director Emmerich, Dean DevlinNicolas WrightJames A. Woods and James Vanderbilt. Two of them are actors with minimal to no previous writing work and the two screenwriters of the group do not have a great track record either. Vanderbilt, for example, wrote both The Amazing Spider-Man films. While I can deal with a picture having 2-3 scriptwriters, 5 is definitely too much and that showed in the film. The movie’s story was so much bigger that it needed to be: ID2 had too many characters, too many background stories, too many unexplained storylines and too much of everything. It seems that all 5 people, who were responsible for the script, wanted to portray their individual ideas rather than create a great narrative collectively. Also, bigger does not necessarily mean better.

To begin with, the film had a way too long and way too slow set-up in the first half an hour. It also had a way too drawn out boss battle in the last half an hour. Somewhere in between, there was a good 1-hour movie.

The first ID started with the alien invasion, but its sequel had to catch up on all the old characters and introduce the new ones. It also had to set up a vague ‘thing’ that would help defeat the enemy in the end. It was quite hard and frustrating to sit through all of the set-ups since we all knew from the trailers that the aliens were coming back. I wanted to shout at the screen – JUST GET ON WITH IT.

While I did like the fact that we got to see the kid characters from the first film all grown up, I did not see the need to add even more (young and old) characters into the movie. That whole idea of the other virtual species in that ball shaped ship was also too much. All of the ‘humans are cool and efficient, let’s pat each other on the back’ ideas felt like they were shoehorned into the film and made me roll my eyes a few times. Since the President’s speech from the first film turned out fine, they decided to have 2 speeches in this film. Pullman’s character had a new cheesy speech as well as the new President. In general, the dialogue was pretty terrible. All of the sidelines – the kid’s on the bus and Goldblum’s characters father, those random gold diggers on the ship, the pilots attacking or falling, the scientists with that ball ship, the politicians and all the screens, some random African nation fighting the aliens, alien telepathy, government and funding for the scientist – OMG. In short, everything was too convoluted and too over the top. Also, nothing made much sense because not one sideline was explained or explored properly – there wasn’t enough time for a few of them, let alone all of them.

The end of the picture also tried to set up a third film, which I doubt will materialize. Well, maybe in another 2 decades or maybe never for the better.

Directing and the Visuals

While I had a lot of problems with the movie’s story, I did enjoy the visuals. The CGI looked good, as it should, in 2016. The opening recap with the voice-over speech was a cool way to open the film. All the futuristic technology were also visually interesting and I did like the premise that people used the alien technology to make the world better. The battles were also interesting but some of them could have lasted shorter.

Acting

As I have already mentioned, Resurgence had way too many characters, so its ensemble cast was huge. Some of them had better performances, others – worse ones, so overall, acting wise, ID2 was a mixed bag.

Those who came backJeff Goldblum as David LevinsonBill Pullman as Thomas J. WhitmoreBrent Spiner as Dr. Brakish Okun, and Judd Hirsch as Julius Levinson. Goldblum was great in his role and was my favorite part of the film. Pullman felt a bit shoehorned in but was also quite useful. Spiner’s character could have been easily replaced – while I appreciated the fact that he wasn’t a stereotypical gay character, I did not really see the need to keep him alive, or in a coma for 20 years. Why Goldblum’s character’s father played by Judd Hirsch came back, is beyond me. He and his children group, led by Joey King as Samantha only slowed down the film and didn’t contribute at all to its quality.

Will Smith chose not to return for ID2 and was replaced by his ‘son’ and another pilot. I wish Smith would have come back: it is obvious that he didn’t need ID2 since he is getting plenty of work without it, however, the decision to return would have shown some kind of loyalty to the project that helped him transition from TV to movies in the first place. Also, his participation in ID2 might have made the film better. On the other hand, I doubt if there would be enough place for him, with so many unnecessary characters being introduced.

New charactersSela Ward as Elizabeth Lanford, the 45th President, William Fichtner as Joshua Adams, a U.S. General, Deobia Oparei as Dikembe Umbutu, a Congolese warlord, Charlotte Gainsbourg as Dr. Catherine Marceaux, a British medical scientist, and Nicolas Wright as Floyd Rosenberg, an accountant. Ward was terrible in her role: her one-liners to attack were super cheesy and she didn’t help the plot much – definitely should have been cut or replaced. Fichtner played a much better political leader and could have been in charge from the beginning of the film. Oparei was there to add diversity to the cast and while the ideas that were introduced through his character were interesting, there was no time for them. Same goes with Gainsbourg’s psychology ideas – interesting but unexplored. Wright’s character was included for comedic relief, which felt forced, out-of-place and boring. The film would have been better without him.

New pilots: Liam Hemsworth as Jake MorrisonJessie Usher as Dylan Dubrow-Hiller, Maika Monroe as Patricia WhitmoreAngelababy as Rain Lao, and Travis Tope as Charlie Miller. All of the new pilots were fine in their roles but I think the film would have benefitted if it reduced their number. I was happy to see Hemsworth getting more work, now that The Hunger Games franchise is over. Usher’s and Monroe’s characters were also okay and had an organic place in the story since they appeared as kids in the firs film (played by different actors back then). However, Angelababy’s character was obviously there to appeal to the Chinese audiences (get that Chinese box office money, Fox!). What the appeal of Tope’s character was, is beyond me.

In short, Independence Day: Resurgence was a watchable movie, with terrible writing (too many cooks in the kitchen), okay directing and passable acting. A disappointing sequel that had no place in the 21st century.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: Independence Day: Resurgence trailer

Independence-Day-2-poster

Movie review: Hardcore Henry

Movie reviews

Hello!

I’m continuing my series of reviews of the 2016 films that I’ve missed and, this time, I’m giving you my thoughts on Hardcore Henry!

IDMb summary: Henry is resurrected from death with no memory, and he must save his wife from a telekinetic warlord with a plan to bio-engineer soldiers.

Throughout the years, Hollywood has adapted/used a lot of video game narratives (the latest example being the Warcraft film). However, Hardcore Henry is the first (as far as I know) feature film adaptation of the video game cinematography. Hardcore Henry was also made by two opposing countries – Russia and the US. I guess the foreign financial and creative influences on Hollywood come from more than just China.

Writing and Directing

The film was written and directed by a Russian filmmaker Ilya Naishuller. While he did manage to create a visually interesting and exciting product, plot-wise it was kinda boring.

The story and the characters

The film had a lot of exposition and a lack of information. The viewers were never told anything useful and I, personally, felt lost in the story. Henry was basically going from point A to B just because – like on a video game type of a mission. The narrative was confusing for Henry and for the viewer alike. The film also had a very stereotypical Russian aura/feeling. It was set in Russia and featured a lot of stereotypically Russian characters in the background – I don’t know why a Russian filmmaker would use these stereotypes to represent his country and Russian cinema to the world, but, then again, some Russian people are weirdly proud of their negative stereotype.

My favorite line in the film was spoken by the villain and it involved the subversion on US favorite pastime. The saying that in Russia, a lot of bats but no baseballs are sold was spot-on and really funny.

The film had a lot of weird characters. To begin with, Henry had a limited amount/no backstory. His metal arm (and leg) kinda reminded me of Marvel’s Winter Soldier. The fact that he needed re-charging was an interesting idea. The villain of the movie – Akan – was super weird. He had unexplained telekinesis powers and wanted an army of the super soldier just because. Another weirdo – Jimmy – felt like a caricature – his clones/multiple personalities seemed really strange and borderline stupid and the explanation didn’t satisfy me either. That musical number felt out of place and didn’t make much sense as well. Lastly, the wife reveal was not that great – I didn’t care enough about the characters to feel surprised or betrayed.

The visuals and the action

Hardcore Henry is really unique in that it was shot entirely from Henry’s POV (except for a single scene with the kids at the beginning that is repeated a few times). This type of cinematography is, of course, very reminiscent of video game gameplay. It also has similarities with the found footage films and their cinematography. While it was really cool to see a film shot entirely from a single perspective, it was also kinda disorientating. It worked at times – at the beginning, when Henry was waking up with no sound and disorientating visuals, the viewers felt like he/she was waking up in the film’s world as well. Nevertheless, an hour into the film, POV cinematography stopped being interesting and felt like a gimmick – nausea inducing gimmick.

The fact that the film only had  a single perspective, also meant that its frame was narrow and limited – if Henry was not looking at stuff, the viewers could not see it either. I also felt that the film was unnecessarily graphic, in its usage of both sexual and violent content.

A few positive things on the topic of directing: the opening red slow-mo visuals did look nice. The upbeat music during the fights was also fun. The last fight’s song – Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now – was an appropriate and funky choice. Lastly, this whole film was shot with GoPros. The modern technologies continue to amaze me – the video quality of even the simplest contemporary cameras is unbelievable.

Acting

  • The cinematographers Sergey Valyaev and Andrei Dementiev, and the director Ilya Naishuller all played Henry. I would like to praise all of them for acting without showing their face – Hollywood actors would never do that (except Tom HardyBane, Mad Max) – they would like their face to be fully on-screen.
  • Sharlto Copley as Jimmy had a too over-the-top performance and made this parody of a character even more annoying.
  • Danila Kozlovsky as Akan was also too much like a cartoon character. He also kinda looked like Viserys from Game of Thrones S1. I have seen only one other film starring KozlovskyThe Vampire Academy – that picture was not great but better than the trailers advertised.
  • Haley Bennett as Estelle acted like a damsel in distress – a living prop. The only interesting scenes with her was the science stuff when Henry woke up.

In short, Hardcore Henry had style but lacked substance. If that is not a problem for you, you might enjoy the movie, but I wanted something more.

Rate: 2.7/5

Trailer: Hardcore Henry trailer

qfWLO0iXmbvxzyk0ez4pXrgkRDM.jpg

Movie review: Brooklyn

Movie reviews

Hello for the third time today!

I’m desperately trying to catch up on my list of movie reviews before the year ends. I saw this particular film back in autumn but totally forgot to review it, however, it’s better to be late than not to review it at all, so let’s talk about Brooklyn –  the most heart – warming and heart – breaking the film of 2015.

IMDb summary: An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a new romance. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.

Writing + Story + Theme

Brooklyn’s script was written by Nick Hornby, who wrote last year’s Wild. Both Wild and Brooklyn were stories of an individual’s journey and while I was interested in Wild, I completely loved Brooklyn, because I could relate to it so much more and identify myself with the main character. As an Eastern European immigrant in the UK, I also feel extremely homesick sometimes. Of course, I will never truly be able to understand the things that our main character felt, as I live in a different time period. Back then, one could not travel across the ocean easily, while now I could potentially fly home during the weekends (although, that would be extremely unpractical and expensive).

Brooklyn wasn’t based on an original script but was an adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s 2009’s book with the same name. After watching the film, I definitely feel compelled to read the book as well – I hope I will be able to find time for it in 2016. The film’s main character’s arc was written brilliantly – the viewers were able to follow Eilis’s journey from a shy and introverted girl (literally, me) to a young and blossoming women who stood up for herself and made her own decisions. The film also had an extensive supporting cast – all of the smaller characters were also quite well developed with what limited screen time they had.

Lastly, as a cinephile myself, I really appreciated the Singin’ in the Rain reference and the lamp post scene.

Directing + Visuals

The film was directed by  John Crowley who has done a lot of stage work and has also directed the highly praised TV show, True Detective. I am not that familiar with his past work, but I loved what he did in Brooklyn. For one, the 1950s setting was realized beautifully. The cinematography (by Yves Bélanger) was also very picturesque. The costumes were also amazing – Odile Dicks-Mireaux did an amazing job with the look of the characters. I also really liked how the viewers could distinguish the European (Irish) setting from the American one. I feel like the shots in Ireland or about Ireland had warmer tones, while more American based shots had colder tones. I might be looking for something that was not there, however, that’s what my eyes told me.

Acting

  • Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacey was magnificent in the leading role. She was extremely likable and relatable. I was first introduced to Ronan as an actress in the film City of Amber (based on a book that I really liked as a child). Afterward, I watched her in The Host – not that great of a film, although, I adored the book that it was based on – definitely preferred S.Meyer’s writing in The Host over Twilight. In 2014, Ronan had a small role in one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen – The Grand Budapest Hotel – trust me, it looks like a painting has come to live. Next year, Ronan will be starring in The Seagull – a film based on Russian dramatist’s Anton Chekhov’s play of the same name. It should be an interesting motion picture.

Cast in the US:

  • Emory Cohen as Anthony “Tony” Fiorello was a very nice love interest for the main character. Cohen and Ronan had great chemistry and they were a really cute couple. Cohen is the best known for starring in The Place Beyond the Pines and he has 6 movies coming out next year.
  • Jim Broadbent as Father Flood was a nice father figure for Eilis while Julie Walters as Madge Kehoe was her mother away from home (even more caring than her actual mother, if you ask me). Both of these actors have had long and rewarding careers, but I still remember them best from the Harry Potter films, however, I also really liked Broadbent in Cloud Atlas and Walters in Mamma Mia!
  • Jessica Paré as Miss Fortini and Emily Bett Rickards as Patty McGuire were Eilis’s friends. Both of these actresses are better known on the small screen – Paré had starred in Mad Men (which I have yet to watch but really want to) and Bett Rickards currently plays Felicity Smoak on Arrow – one of my favorite female characters on the small screen.

Cast in Ireland:

  • Domhnall Gleeson (as Jim Farrell) appeared in one more film this year. He had a small role and did a good job as usual – I have already told you everything about him in the reviews for Star Wars, Anna Karenina, and Unbroken. I will see The Revenant in January and will probably talk about him once again.
  • Bríd Brennan as Miss Kelly was quite a terrible character but she was supposed to be this way, while Jane Brennan as Mrs. Lacey was intended as a good character of a mother but somehow turned into a very dislikeable one. I feel like Eilis’s mother was really selfish and pushy and did not care much about her daughter.
  • Fiona Glascott as Rose Lacey – Eilis’s sister and the true motherly figure in Eilis’s life. The connection between the two sisters was felt even in the voice-over of the letters.  

To sum up, Brooklyn was a story near and dear to my heart. It had amazing acting and a great ark of the main character. The supporting cast also did an excellent job, while the people working behind the scenes did not disappoint as well.

Rate: 4.75/5

Trailer: Brooklyn trailer 

img_8050-1