5 ideas about a movie: Home Again

Movie reviews

Hello!

Home Again is trying to prove that the rom-com genre is not dead yet. Or is it?

IMDb summary: Life for a single mom in Los Angeles takes an unexpected turn when she allows three young guys to move in with her.

  1. Home Again is a directorial (and writing) debut of Hallie Meyers-Shyer, the daughter of Nancy Meyers – producer and director of various successful rom-coms (she produced her daughter’s first film too). The fact that it is somebody’s first movie explains a lot about it: Home Again was cliched, predictable, cringe-y at times, and real slow at others and, lastly, mostly consisted of elements and plot-points borrowed from other similar films. And yet, I didn’t hate it. If somebody needs an escapist, ‘no-thinking-required’ type of a film to relieve some stress or quiet one’s mind, I recommend you to see Home Again and experience somebody else’s first world problems instead of your own.
  2. The movie tackled three broad ideas: it attempted to be a traditional rom-com, with some sitcom humor, while also being a picture about the film business. Let’s start with that last part, which was, unsurprisingly, my favorite. As a cinephile, I appreciate films which appreciate films. The LA setting, the father director (who looked/came across as pre-Star Wars George Lucas), the aspiring filmmaker characters and their attempt to make a movie were all elements which I adored.
  3. The two other concepts/genres weren’t bad either (but, as I’ve said, nothing remotely original too). I liked the sitcom parts best out of the two, especially the silent reaction faces that the characters would exchange (then again, I love real-life humor). The romcom part was fine too. A bit fairytale-ish but we are talking escapism here (at least they left the ‘happy ending’ slightly ambiguous). By far the best detail of the romantic comedy side of Home Again was the reversal of the trope of the age difference between the two genders: the female character was the older one in a relationship (that is still very much a taboo thing – just look at all the news coverage about the fact that France’s president’s wife is older than him).
  4. The main thing that made Home Again work was its star – Reese Witherspoon (Sing). She has moved away from romcoms and came back to them constantly throughout her career. This instance of return was somewhat successful. She brought some heart into an otherwise shallow picture and was extremely lovable in her role, despite how cliche it was (I mean, are there any other occupations for mothers besides interior design ???).
  5. The film’s supporting cast wasn’t bad either and their performances were fine (again, appropriate for the picture). Nat Wolff (the most well-known out of the three co-leads because of TFIOS, Paper Towns, and Death Note), SNL alumni Jon Rudnitsky and quite an unknown actor Pico Alexander (who has the potential to be the next teen heartthrob) were all fun to watch. For some reason, Michael Sheen (Far From The Madding Crowd, Passengers, Nocturnal Animals) and TV royalty Candice Bergen also appeared in the movie (‘paycheck gigs pay the bills!’).

In short, Home Again is a perfectly serviceable rom-com that you have seen before. It’s a great rental/TV-rerun: a good background movie or a laundry/cooking movie. If you want a more modern take on the genre, check out The Big Sick

Rate: 2.8/5

Trailer: Home Again trailer

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Movie review: Death Note

Movie reviews

Hello!

The latest of Netflix’s original films (and, arguably, the most interesting one) is streaming worldwide, so, let’s talk about it. This is the review of Death Note.

IMDb summary: Light Turner, a bright student, stumbles across a mystical notebook that has the power to kill any person whose name he writes in it. Light decides to launch a secret crusade to rid the streets of criminals. Soon, the student-turned-vigilante finds himself pursued by a famous detective known only by the alias L.

2017’s Death Note is a live-action adaptation of a beloved anime/manga franchise. The Netflix’s version of this IP has been called the ‘American adaptation’ with the hopes of stopping or minimizing the criticism on the topic of whitewashing. Weirdly, I haven’t seen the same argument being used to defend Ghost in the Shell. Also, I find it strange that, in this day and age, somebody would make a movie purely for the American audience, when it is definitely gonna be seen all over the globe.

Writing

Death Note’s script was written by Charles Parlapanides and Vlas Parlapanides (the duo behind 2011’s Immortals – a Henry Cavill pre-Superman film), and Jeremy Slater (who wrote, oh no, 2015’s Fantastic Four). Going in line with the idea of Americanization, the screenwriters efficiently grounded the film’s story in an American life by opening the movie with the sequence set in a stereotypical American high-school. This was a first and a very obvious change from the original material. As I’m not familiar with neither the original Death Note anime or manga, I’d be interested to find out what other changes occurred? How were the characters different (excluding the race switch)? How much of the original plot-points were retained? Were the changes made because of the Americanization or for some other reason? The picture still did have some Japanese elements (mainly two: the word ‘Kira’ and its meaning remained and a few minor Japanese characters were involved in the narrative).

Speaking about the fantasy part of the story – I found it very fascinating and now I get why every anime fan loves Death Note. I thought that the film set up the mystical side of its story very well, although Light’s transition into being the full-on Kira figure was a bit sudden. Nevertheless, I did like that the movie raised questions about the vigilante justice (on a massive scale) and questioned the limits that some people might be willing to push past. Other, more real-world-related topics, which were touched upon in the film, were bullying, anti-socialness, and the unproductive parent-child relationships.

As the narrative is usually made or broken by its characters, let’s discuss them. I very much enjoyed the writing for Light. I loved how smart he was and, yet, how he still made stupid mistakes appropriate for his age (like telling his girlfriend about the book, although, I’m quite happy that the scriptwriters allowed him to ‘show and tell’ rather than act like Iron Fist, who only tells his story without any proof and expects others to believe him). Light’s opposite and equal – L – was also quite nicely realized. I loved the fact that the stand-off between these two was happening on a whole other level of brilliance. Their genius-ness could be seen in 1)L’s initial detective skills and 2)Light’s ability to avoid culpability in the end. I also liked how the main difference – one’s readiness to kill and other’s refusal to, was highlighted in the movie.

Another important character in the film was Mia, Light’s girlfriend. The writing for her was the worst, mostly because the secrets and the reveals, related to her, were fairly obvious. However, I noticed an interesting parallel between Death Note’s notebook having an influence over Mia similarly to how Tom Ridley’s diary had a hold on Ginny in HP2.

Directing

Adam Wingard directed the 2017’s Death Note and did a good job. His previous work mostly belongs to the horror genre and it looks like he brought elements of it to Death Note too and turned the psychological thriller/detective thriller into more of a horror film. He did that by using plenty of jump scares and really gruesome and gory violence. The graphic content didn’t detract from the plot but it didn’t add to it either. The final product also definitely had a feeling of a Hollywood film, due to its soundtrack (by Atticus Ross and Leopold Ross) and all the slow motion (so the Americanization of the property continued from the script into the visuals and the sounds).

The character design of Ryuk was quite good. He looked terrifying enough and kinda reminded me of the clown in the new IT film. I applaud the filmmakers for using mostly practical effects – puppets and costumes -to bring this character to life (CGI was only used for the face). I’ll comment on the look of the other characters in the acting category.

Lastly, the 3rd act of the film was quite strong. The final chase (L going after Light) was neatly paced and I liked its instrumental score and the urban setting. The ferry’s wheel sequence was also exciting and entertainingly crazy, especially when all the characters came clean.

The director’s next project is Godzilla vs. Kong for Legendary’s MonsterVerse.

Acting

Nat Wolff was really good in the lead role of L. He played the lead character as a psychotic but vulnerable genius.Wolff is slowly building his career, he first popped on everyone’s radar with a small part in The Fault in Our Stars and later starred in the John Green follow-up movie Paper Towns.

L was played by Lakeith Stanfield. The actor had previous small roles in Selma, Straight Outta Compton and Get Out (which I’m going to review in a couple of days). The idea to cast an African American actor in the role added some diversity and accuracy for a US-based film. Still, I don’t think that this type of diversity can work as an apology for not casting Asian talent in any of the lead roles. And yet, while the character did not retain neither its original race nor the iconic hair, his sitting position remained the same, which was a nice. Also, if we take the character’s look on its own and don’t compare him to anyone else, I have to admit – L did look very cool .

Mia was played by Margaret Qualley (The Nice Guys). I thought that she was the weakest of the cast. Her character’s shadiness was very obvious, presumably because the actress performance lacked subtlety. Willem Dafoe voiced and did the facial expressions for Ryuk. His voice fit the character neatly and the facial expressions were sinister enough.

In brief, Death Note was an okay adaptation of a beloved anime (but honestly, the bar has been set pretty low by Ghost in the Shell). Whitewashing aside, the film had a couple of writing problems, but, in general, was enjoyable.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Death Note trailer 

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Movie review: Paper Towns

Movie reviews

Hello!

This is a very special blog post, because I’m going to review my favorite book’s movie adaptation. So, let’s travel to the Paper Towns and leT’s gEt loSt AnD fOuNd.

Pre-watching ideas

John Green is my favorite author. I have read all of his books multiple times and, although The Fault In Our Stars is his most famous book and was adapted to the big screen last year (TFIOS review, nail design), my favorite book of his is actually Paper Towns. My Tumblr is even named after that book (link). I am also a huge YouTube fan (my top YouTuber lists here and here), so I closely follow John and his brother Hank Green on all social media (vlogbrothers on YouTube). Their educational channels, gaming channels, Vidcon organization, and, most importantly, charity work to decrease the world suck (Project for Awesome) are all equally amazing. I haven’t found people, who inspire me to do good things for others that much. I’m also really excited that John Green made a deal with one of the biggest Hollywood production companies (Fox 2000) – I can’t wait to see what he will bring to the table, how much heart and soul he will breathe into the Hollywood cash-grabs.

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I’ve eagerly followed the making of the film since it went into pre-production. I’ve highly enjoyed seeing the behind the scenes stuff in vlogbrothers weekly videos as well as on the Internet in general. I was really happy with the casting choices, because I believe that Nat Wolff did a great job in TFIOS and I am really excited to see how Cara Delevingne transitions from modeling to acting. I am a huge fan of hers (I’ll literally buy every magazine if she is on the cover) and I can’t wait for her acting career to blow up.

When Hollywood tries to adapt a book into a motion picture, the fans get really worried about the changes that the producers and the director will have to make. However, since the author of the original material –John Green – is also an executive producer on the film, I have complete faith in him: he won’t allow the core ideas and the overall feeling of the story to be altered.

IMDb summary: A young man and his friends embark upon the road trip of their lives to find the missing girl next door.

Post-watching ideas

Directing 

The film was directed by Jake Schreier. This was only his second time directing a full-length feature, however, his past projects have quite high IMDb ratings. To my mind, Paper Towns will be one of the biggest highlights of his career. The filmed looked amazing. I enjoyed the long continual shots in the abandoned building as well as moments which were shot from the above (like Radar and Angela on a blanket; goods in the supermarket).

Writing

The screenplay was written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber who also wrote TFIOS screenplay. Moreover, they have written a screenplay based on Looking for Alaska – a debut novel by John Green. That book will probably be next of John’s creations to be adapted to the big screen and I believe that they will use the screenplay by Neustadter and Weber because they did an even more amazing job with Paper Towns than with TFIOS. The dialogue was funny and not full of cliches, all the characters were well developed and had moments to shine and the overall message of the film was conveyed very subtly but clearly.

Connection to my personal life

The reason, why I feel connected to this story, is because I relate to all of the characters. I have always been Q – the calm and collected one with a clear life goal and a plan. But I got tired of being predictable and I have always wanted to step out of my comfort zone. Basically, I wanted to be Margo. So, I really hope that my decision to move halfway across the continent after I turn 18 will be a Margo-esc thing to do. You have to get lost, to find yourself, right?

The quote from the book ‘The Town Was Paper But The Memories Were Not’ is also very near and dear to my heart. The people that I have encountered in my life so far have mostly been very ordinary. All of them are happy with their day-to-day life and there is nothing wrong with that. I just want more and I don’t really know what more is yet, but I’m prepared to find out. However, the part of the quote “but the memories were not” to me means that there were a few extraordinary moments in my simple life that were and still are invaluable. I’m ready to leave my paper life but I will always keep the memories.

While watching the film, I’ve also realized that I’m Radar in my group of friends. I am usually the rational one who plans everything, is worried about school, and is scared of breaking the rules. I also have a friend who is as thirsty and funny as Ben. Lastly, my best friend is the Q of our group – she would definitely travel 2000 km for the love of her life.

Acting

  • Nat Wolff as Quentin “Q” did an amazing job. He was so likable and adorable. Furthermore, I highly enjoyed the fact that this film swapped the gender roles and a guy, played by Wolff, was the one chasing after a girl and not the other way around. Nat played a hopeless romantic who learned his lesson perfectly and I really hope that his career will get a boost after this film.
  • Austin Abrams as Ben was a complete scene-stealer like Michael Pena in Ant-man (review of that film). His comedic timing was amazing and his jokes weren’t cliche at all. Even the pee joke worked well and pee jokes never impress me.
  • Justice Smith as Marcus “Radar” was a really cool character too that, as I have mentioned before, represented me completely. And those Black Santas looked amazing – I was really worried that they would cut that part of the film because it’s too weird but I’m so happy that they didn’t. Now I definitely need a Black Santa statue. Is there an official merchandise site that I could get one on? Maybe the DFTBA store will have some.

Also, I really loved how nerdy all the 3 guys were . The Pokemon song and the Valar Morghulis shout-out with a beer sword were amazing.

  • Cara Delevingne as Margo Roth Spiegelman was wonderful and the best casting choice in ..like.. ever. True, she wasn’t in a film much but she was extremely charming in a few scenes she had. This was probably the most successful transition from modeling to acting, I have ever seen. But then again, I’ve always felt that Cara was more than a model. She is a superstar in her own right. However, I might be making the same mistake as Q did, imagining her in a way I think she should be. I guess we will never know if I’m right or mistaken unless I meet her one day, which is unlikely.
  • Halston Sage as Lacey was also a nice addition to the cast. I really liked the idea that her character presented – a pretty girl can be smart too. The outside doesn’t always reflect what is on the inside.
  • Jaz Sinclair as Angela was also an original and well-developed character. I really liked the fact that she is a fan of Ed Sheeran. (I am also a fan – proof). Moreover, I liked how they included her in the final act of the film because she wasn’t a part of the road trip in the book.

Margo’s little sister played by Meg Crosbie was also really great in a few scenes she had. She definitely knew how to profit from her sister’s disappearance.

Spoilers!!

  • Ansel Elgort had a short cameo in the film as a cashier. I hope that his cameo will start a trend and we will get to see an actor from this adaptation in the next film based on a novel by Green. Maybe Cara Delevingne will be one of the students in the boarding school in Looking for Alaska?

Story ideas

The book and the movie both succeed in portraying the following ideas:

  1. Never fall in love with an imaginary person (reminds me of The Great Gatsby, don’t you think?)
  2. Enjoy the little things in life and be smart enough to spot them.
  3. Never judge a book by its cover or a person by their appearance.
  4. Don’t be afraid to jump higher and to run faster – leave your comfort zone.
  5. Try to reach your goal no matter what and if you have no goal or no plan – don’t be scared to look for them.

The premise of the film and the whole concept of the Paper Town is also very interesting and extremely clever. Huge props to John Green, who found such a different idea to base his book on.

Soundtrack

All of the young adult films have amazing soundtracks and this one is no exception. My favorite song is the one from the trailer – To the Top by Twin Shadow (listen on YouTube). Falling by HAIM was also really nice (listen here). Lastly, the song which I don’t think was in the actual film but was featured in the trailer – Smile by Mikky Ekko – is also one of my favorite songs of all time (find it on YouTube).

All in all, even if you are a not a target demographic of this film or if you have never heard anything about John Green and his previous work (if you have never heard about TFIOS, have you been living under a rock?), you still should see this film. It’s a refreshing and realistic love story, which has a deeper meaning and isn’t just another teen flick. It didn’t earn as much money during its opening weekend as TFIOS did, but I believe that it will be a sleeper-hit.

Rate: 5/5 (how else could I rate it?)

Trailer: Paper Towns trailer

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