Movie review: Murder on the Orient Express 

Movie reviews

Hello!

A glamorous whodunit has landed in theatres. This is Murder on the Orient Express.

IMDb summary: A lavish train ride unfolds into a stylish & suspenseful mystery. From the novel by Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express tells of thirteen stranded strangers & one man’s race to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again.

Prior to seeing the film, I had some knowledge about Hercule Poirot: I and my aunt used to play a Poirot video game, where you had to either assist the detective in solving a mystery or you were playing as the detective. In addition, while I haven’t seen any of the previous adaptations of this book, I did go straight to the source and read an original novel by Agatha Christie. I would love to read more of her writings about Poirot but that extensive list is a bit overwhelming.

Writing

Agatha Christie’s detective novel Murder on the Orient Express was adapted to the screenplay format by Michael Green (the writer of 3 (not counting this one) big movies of 2017: Logan, Alien: Covenant, and Blade Runner 2049). I thought that he did a fairly competent job. Since I have read the book only recently, I noticed a few changes in the story, mostly in the set-up, the locations, and the character traits. Other than these small details, the narrative stayed the same and the ending, which I was a bit disappointed by while reading the book, also stayed the same. In the film form, I did not mind the ending that much. I’m just wondering whether that complex reveal and its various tie-ins were explained well enough for a viewer, who wasn’t familiar with the story in the first place, to grasp.

I quite enjoyed the character development that Poirot received. I don’t think these particular details of his past were in the original book but I’m sure they were taken from one of the other Christie’s books of the same series. The emotional vulnerability that the character exhibited in the film made me believe his final decision (the one that came from the heart) more believable. The other characters did not receive much character development unless it was directly related to the case. Since the plot also involved a lot of performative elements, even the character development that was given could not be fully trusted.

Last few points on the script: I feel like it had a more overtly political tone than the book had, or at least elements relating to race, nationality, and governance, were more noticeable in the film. Murder on the Orient Express also had a fair few of chucklesome moments and a surprisingly big amount of sexual innuendos.

Directing

Murder on the Orient Express was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who has quite a lot of experience directing adaptations of classical books (mostly Shakespeare). He has also worked with the fantasy, action, and fairytale genres with Thor, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and Cinderella. Overall, I thought he did a great job with this movie. I believe that the glamour of the setting was well realized, while the limits of it were used for the benefit of the film. The picture had quite a few impressive looking long tracking shots and also a couple of very unique looking straight-overhead/from the top shots. A couple of scenes of more obvious action-y nature were added to keep up the pace of the film, while the extensive interviews of the book were placed in various inventive locations around the train to make them more interesting. The black and white flashback sequences were a nice touch. My only gripe with the visuals of the film was the fact that some wide exterior shots looked really fake and too obviously CGI.

Acting

Kenneth Branagh was quite spectacular as Hercule Poirot. When a director plays the lead in his own film, I always get a bit worried, but I think Branagh handled the challenge well. I think he portrayed the character eccentrically enough but didn’t go into the cartoon territory (which was my worry). Poirot actually seemed like a serious and real person with some unique quirks.

The supporting cast of the film was quite extensive and full of big-name talent. The actors all delivered good enough performances with their limited screen time. Johnny Depp (Pirates 5, Fantastic Beasts, Black Mass, Alice 2) had his most ‘normal’ performance, so maybe the audience members, who have been turning away from him and his over the top roles, will come back? It was also really nice to see Daisy Ridley in a non-Star Wars role and Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Pixels) in another live-action rather than voice role. It was also interesting to spot Michelle Pfeiffer and Judi Dench (Tulip Fever, Spectre) doing something more mainstream after mother! and Victoria&Abdul, respectively.

Penélope CruzWillem Dafoe (Death Note, What Happened To Monday, The Great Wall, TFIOS), Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr.Derek JacobiMarwan Kenzari (The Mummy, The Promise, Ben-Hur), Olivia Colman (The Lobster + she is taking over the role of the queen on The Crown), Lucy Boynton (Sing Street), Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (The Magnificent Seven), Sergei Polunin (he is a ballet dancer, so the count’s jumping kicks were legit), and Tom Bateman all starred in the roles, ranging from small to tiny, but the limited size of their roles did not limit the quality of their performances.

In short, Murder on the Orient Express was quite an enjoyable old-school thriller.

Rate: 3.75/5

Trailer: Murder on the Orient Express 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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2017 Summer Movies RANKED

Movie previews, Movie reviews

Good day!

Welcome to the fall/autumn and the post dedicated to the general overview of the 2017 Summer Movie Season. And bear in mind, I’m using the term ‘summer’ very loosely. Since a lot of blockbusters came during the early spring, I extended this movie season’s beginning from May to March, so the time frame we are now working with is March to August. Like in 2016 and 2015, when I ranked the movies of those respective seasons, I’m dividing the pictures into categories by genre as much as that is possible (a few of these films can fit into a couple of genres). Lastly, while the rank I gave these movies when I reviewed them does affect my thought process, it is not the only factor for ranking these films. Some of my ideas about the said films might have changed with time or with a second viewing. Enjoy and tell me your favorite movie of 2017 (so far) in the comments!

Comic Book Movies:

  1. Logan
  2. Wonder Woman
  3. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2
  5. Batman & Harley Quinn

Action Movies:

  1. Baby Driver
  2. Free Fire
  3. Atomic Blonde
  4. Fast & Furious 8

Animated Movies:

  1. Cars 3
  2. The Boss Baby
  3. Despicable Me 3
  4. The Emoji Movie

Sci-Fi Movies:

  1. War for the Planet of the Apes
  2. Okja
  3. Life
  4. Kong: Skull Island
  5. Power Rangers
  6. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
  7. Alien: Covenant
  8. What Happened To Monday
  9. Ghost in the Shell
  10. Transformers: The Last Knight

Fantasy Movies:

  1. Beauty and the Beast
  2. King Arthur: The Legend of The Sword
  3. Death Note
  4. The Mummy
  5. Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
  6. The Dark Tower

Action Comedy/Comedy Movies:

  1. Girls Trip
  2. The Hitman’s Bodyguard
  3. Baywatch
  4. War Machine
  5. Rough Night
  6. Snatched

Drama Movies:

  1. Wind River
  2. Dunkirk
  3. American Made
  4. To The Bone
  5. The Circle
  6. The Glass Castle
  7. Sand Castle

Romantic Drama Movies:

  1. The Big Sick
  2. Their Finest
  3. The Promise
  4. The Beguiled
  5. Everything Everything

I hope you enjoyed my list as well as the summer movies. Onto the awards’ season!

Movie review: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword 

Movie reviews

Hello!

I’m still playing catch up with the summer movies, so let’s review a picture that some people (small numbers of them as it tanked at the box office) saw last month. It’s King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword.

IMDb summary: Robbed of his birthright, Arthur comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city. But once he pulls the sword from the stone, he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy – whether he likes it or not.

A few general thoughts on the background of the movie: 1. I’m actually a fan of the 2004’s version of King Arthur. It used to be one of my favorite nonanimated childhood movies and the archery sequence on the lake combined with Lord of the Rings: Two Towers final battle were two reasons why I took up archery. 2. While the trailers for the film looked fine, I never expected it to succeed at the box office or to turn a big profit. Neither the two leads are big box office draws, nor is the mythology that the film is based on a hot property. So, bearing that in mind, who, the hell, approved a $175 million budget for this picture?

Writing

2017’s King Arthur’s screenplay was credited to the director Guy Ritchie, producer of HP films Lionel Wigram, and, the writer of the new Robin Hood and The Flash movies, Joby Harold. The Judge’s director David Dobkin contributed to the story as well. In general, the writing was of mixed quality. I thought that the narrative (broadly speaking) was fairly straightforward (an hour of Arthur being called into action, and another hour of him attempting to defeat Jude Law’s character), however, the details within the story were really convoluted and even confused (there was too much happening at once).

Thematically, the concepts of egoism and power were suitably touched upon. The ending teases of the round table and all the knights were also pleasant. Other than that, since I don’t know much of King Arthur mythology from the legends, I can’t comment on the stuff they did or didn’t use.

The script also made a lot of interesting choices with the characters. For example, Arthur was written as a witty, talkative and borderline cocky individual – all these ideas are in opposition to the Arthur I’ve alway imagined – serious, reserved, yet quietly proud (basically, the 2004’s movie’s version). Still, overall, I was quite pleased with a different take on a character. I have also seen a lot of complaints online about the female characters of this film, mostly the lack of them. I can definitely see where these people are coming from – a few female characters that are introduced are either sacrificed, portrayed as obese or sexualized tentacled mermaids or are used for decoration purposes. And yet, the main mage character was also a female and she did shine in the movie and displayed her powers (really vaguely defined ones) in a spectacular fashion. The informant female character did not have much to do but at least she was present. Hers and Jude Law’s characters interactions were actually quite neat.

Directing, Editing and the Soundtrack

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’s and RDJ’s Sherlock Holmes’s director Guy Ritchie helmed King Arthur and did an okay job. The high fantasy medieval setting (which I’m a fan of) was realized quite well (I’m a sucker for the combination of good historical costumes, sword fights, archery, and magic). The epic scope of the film was also worthy of praise. However, the mediocre CGI was quite infuriating, especially in the movie that cost this much to produce. The action scenes – filmed in a video game-like close-ups and slow motion – could have been better too.

The elements of the film, which are the most discussion worthy, were editing and sound design/mixing. The soundtrack on its own (by Daniel Pemberton) was really good and it was, at times, inventively paired with the visuals. However, some combos of image and music did not work. However, even in the bad combos, the song choices weren’t as unfitting as they were in Suicide Squad. A lot of these combination sequences were edited in a music video style – a lot of jump cuts, short snippets of dialogue, and a fast pace. On their own, these sequences seemed quite unique and entertaining (their explosive energy was amazing). However, when these quick sequences were followed by long, drawn-out scenes of people sitting and talking, the final effect turned out to be quite jarring and the whole film – uneven.

 

Acting

  • The two leads of the film were played by Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law. I really liked Hunnam in the titular role and would love to see him getting more cinematic roles but I doubt that that will happen, due to the poor box office of this picture. He previously played the lead in the Pacific Rim and a supporting part in Crimson Peak. The Lost City of Z is his other 2017 release. Jude Law’s (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Genius, Anna Karenina) performance, to my mind, was the best part of this film. He looked good (his armor was basically the silver version of Dominic Cooper’s armor in Warcraft) and he seemed menacing. In the final battle, I would have rather seen him fighting in the said armor rather than a generic CGI monster (his evil form). I also thought that the announcement of Law as the Young Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts sequel will give this movie a boost and some free promo but it doesn’t seem like the said casting news helped much or at all.
  • The two female characters were played by theFrenchh-Spanish actress Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey from Pirates 4 and by The Mummy’s Annabelle Wallis. I really enjoyed the cool and collected performance of Bergès-Frisbey.
  • King Arthur also employed the talents of two GOT actors that can’t seem to espace the middle ages – Aidan Gillen (Baelish) and Michael McElhatton (Bolton). Gillen (who was also recently in Sing Street) did a good job and I could see shades of Baelish in his performance, while McElhatton’s role was just slightly bigger than a cameo.
  • Another two actors, whose involvememnt is worthy of mention, were Djimon Hounsou (Guardians, The Legend of Tarzan) and Eric Bana (The Finest Hours). They both did a fine job with their limited screeentime.

In short, King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword was, to my mind, not as bad as everyone said. The filmmakers made some weird choices with the editing and music (at least they tried something different) and did overcomplicate the plot which lacked (sort of) female characters, and yet, I was still pretty entertained by the final product.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword

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Movie review: War Machine

Movie reviews

Hi!

As the counterprogramming to Pirates 5 and Baywatch (review coming in a few weeks cause international release schedules), Netflix released its newest original picture – War Machine. Since I’m not seeing Wonder Woman till Monday, I decided to make War Machine my movie of the weekend. I have already reviewed a Netflix film before and given you my general thoughts on Netflix’s attempt to break into the movie business. Weirdly, that picture was also a war drama – Sand Castle. I didn’t enjoy it much but I’m still hopeful about War Machine.

IMDb summary: A successful, charismatic four-star general, Glenn McMahon, leaps in like a rock star to command NATO forces in Afghanistan, only to be taken down by a journalist’s no-holds-barred exposé

Writing 

War Machine was written by the director of the film David Michôd, based on the non-fiction book The Operators by Michael Hastings. I quite enjoyed a variety of aspects of the writing for this film. To begin with, I loved the acknowledgment of the internationality of the war and the importance of the involvement of the other NATO nation’s as well as of the Afghans themselves.

I also was intrigued by the satirical air of the movie. It was so refhreshing to see a serious issue, like war, being examined with a level of irony, especially nowadays, when everybody gets offended by everything. More importantly, the satirical approach was so suitable for the topic of war because of the inherent hopelessness and even stupidity within it. The lack of final resolution to the narrative was also very appropriate as there isn’t actually a final solution to the war(s) in the Middle East.

In addition to the movie being bold in its choice of tone, it was also very daring in its message. That message sounded simple and yet it is so hard for a lot of Western nations to comprehend: ‘you cannot build a nation at gunpoint’ and ‘don’t invade a country you want to make friends with’.

War Machine was also unique in that it did not focus on the physical fighting of the war but rather looked at the paperwork, the planning, and the advertising side of it. I also loved how the team behind the general was spotlighted – I never did think how much is happening behind the scenes or behind the leader. Moreover, the divide between the military and the polity and all the miscommunication that was occuring was fascinating to see.

The writing for the main character (who is based on a real person) was also really good. I loved how idealistic he was – a sort of guy who makes you believe that there is good in the world. And yet, there were still layers to his idealism and I liked the fact that the movie questioned his motives. Were they trully as altruistic as they seemed? The conclusion to the narrative was also complex. I felt that, even though the article, written by the Rolling Stones journalist (who acted as the movie’s version of the real life author, who wrote the book the script was based on), destroyed the General’s career, this film was quite respectuful of it and him. Ultimately, he was painted in a good light, so to say.

Lastly, to end this long passage on the writing, let’s critique one aspect of the screenplay which was lacking – the structure of the narrative and the way it was presented. Of course, I am talking about narration. I do understand that the narration in this film could be sort of justified by saying that it’s the author/the journalist who is telling a story (and that actor did narrate the whole thing). However, the narration is such a cheap story device. Yes, it makes the plot very clear and is easy to understand. But it also makes it boring. I really wish the story could have been conveyed more organically and cinematically rather than just being spelled out for the viewers verbally.

Directing

David Michôd, a director of shorts and documentaries, helmed War Machine and did a good job. The movie was well-paced and the comedic/satirical atmosphere – well handled. The film did not have a lot of sequences of fighting and they weren’t missed – the dialogue and the character interactions were engaging enough. Having said that, the third act’s action sequence was well-crafted and suspenseful. Another sequence which I really liked was the conference in Germany and the stand-off between the German politician and the General. I also loved the ending shot of the film and how it represented the idea of hopelessness and the closed-loop of war. Same place, same job, different people. Doesn’t really matter who, though.

Acting

Brad Pitt (The Big Short, Allied, By The Sea) delivered career-defining performance as General Glen McMahon. The best I have seen from him in years. The performance was so complex, involving all the parts of the body and the face (especially, the eyebrows and the eyes). Also, he did some amazing voice modification for the role – the play with the accent and intonations was spectacular. I also loved how he delivered a comedic performance without being disrespectful. He should definitely get at least a Golden Globe nomination. Pitt also served as a producer – he does that a lot nowadays. He also produces films he does not star in.

The aforementioned team behind the General consisted of a bunch of actors of varying caliber, including Anthony Hayes, Emory Cohen, RJ Cyler, Daniel Betts, and Topher Grace. They all were good and their chemistry and comradeship seemed believable.

The journalist, who was inspired by the real-life writer, who wrote the book the script was based on, was played by Scoot McNairy. He also narrated the whole movie. Will Poulter and Keith Stanfield played two soldiers ‘on the ground’ who actually did the fighting. Stanfield’s character’s confusion about the war was an interesting aspect. I wish it were explored more.

Tilda Swinton also appeared in a single scene as a German politician. While I can’t comment on her German accent, I thought that she was absolutely amazing in the 5 min she was on screen.  Ben Kingsley also had a small role in the film – a quite typical one for him – that of a leader/person from an Eastern country.

In short, War Machine worked well as a biographical drama and as a war film. More importantly, the commentary provided was not only thought-provoking but presented in an entertaining way.

Rate: 3.7/5

Trailer: War Machine trailer

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Movie review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Movie reviews

Hello!

The summer movie season is already in full swing. Let’s see what it has to offer in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales also known as Salazar’s Revenge.

IMDb Summary: Captain Jack Sparrow searches for the trident of Poseidon.

Let’s start with a disclaimer: I have always been a fan of this franchise despite its flaws. The third’s film is my favorite (and I’m definitely in the minority) and its third act – one of my most rewatched action sequences. Also, the role of Jack Sparrow is the only kooky role that I still like Johnny Depp in.

Writing:

Pirates 5’s screenplay was written by Jeff Nathanson (Catch Me If You Can, Indiana Jones 4, next project – the live action Lion King) with some input on the story by Terry Rossio (who had a hand in creating these characters in the first place). In general, I have mixed feelings about the quality of writing for this film and wish it was better because it could have been (like the writing for so many blockbusters these days – come on, Hollywood, just hire some amazing TV writers!).

To begin with, I thought that the set-up for the narrative was too reliant on coincidences, while the twists and turns in the plot – just way too convenient. The film was also going all over the place with the multiple plotlines that were just thrown together. It was nice to see all the old characters and the new one were good too but I just wish they all would have fit into the narrative more organically. Another problem with the reveals in the story is that they came out of nowhere. They were surprising, for sure, but not in a good way. Not in a way ‘I didn’t see it coming but I can retrace the steps of the reveal now’ but more like ‘Oh, so you have come up with this like a year ago and not when you released the previous movies in the series’.

Having critiqued the script, I would now like to mention a few neat writing moments which really impressed me. First, I loved seeing the young Jack Sparrow. In addition to the de-aging technology being really impressive, it was really nice to see Sparrow as an efficient and clever sailor and not just drunk and babbling, even if lovable, idiot. The explanation of how he got the iconic costume and the name was also much appreciated. I also liked the fact that the story of The Turners was continued through their son. The new female lead was also a well-enough written character – I liked that she was a person of science who was confronted by the irrational legends and myths. The feminism aspect could have been handled better, though. The writing for the villain – Salazar – was also quite good. He is no Davy Jones, but then again, Jones had 2 movies worth of development while Salazar had only half of that. Jones might also get even more (further on that in the After-Credits section). Lastly, I also enjoyed the attempt at expanding the mythology of this world.

Directing

The Norvegian directing duo – Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg – best known for their Kon-Tiki film (about an expedition on a raft across the Pacific Ocean) helmed Pirates of the Caribbean 5 and did a good job. Having previous experience with water-centric films definitely helped them because the movie did look gorgeous. The locations themselves and the way they were realized on screen were just spectacular. The action wasn’t bad either – it was definitely entertaining and exciting, just not as impressive as it used to be before. This might be because I have seen too many Pirates of the Carribean movies or just action films in general. One particular action sequence – the first one centered on the robbing of the bank – really reminded me of the 3rd act heist in Fast Five but only done with horses instead of the fast cars. The visuals of the map in the final act (the island that’s the perfect image of the sky) were really cool-looking too.

No Pirates of the Carribean review cannot not mention the soundtrack of the film. It was really nice to hear the iconic theme music as well as the rest of the soundtrack, which, this time around was not done by Hans Zimmer but by his long-time collaborator/student Geoff Zanelli.

Acting

Johnny Depp (Transcendence, Alice, Black Mass) was fine in the movie. He was doing the same thing he always does, but I have already said, this is the only role of his that I can stomach his eccentrics in. Please, God, don’t let him screw up Grindewald in the Fantastic Beasts sequel.

The two new leads this movie introduced were both YA alumni – Brenton Thwaites (of The Giver) and Kaya Scodelario (of The Maze Runner). They were better replacements to Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley than the romantic couple from the previous film – On Stranger Tides – played by Sam Claflin and Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey. I hope that Thwaites’s and Scodelario’s careers can get a boost from this movie but I don’t think we will see more of them in these roles. Maybe in a supporting part in a sequel but I don’t see them getting a solo/duo spin-off (more on that in Post-Credits section).

The villain of the picture – Salazar – was played by Javier Bardem – Hollywood’s go-to Spanish actor for villainous roles (No Country For Old Men, Skyfall). Well, one can’t argue that Bardem is really good at playing these types of characters and he was truly menacing as Salazar – the hunter of pirates. His next project is Aronofsky’s Mother!. 

Geoffrey Rush was also, once again, back in the role of Barbosa. While I felt that his character was kinda tacked on, it was nice to see a different side of him. His demise, however, was mostly wasted and should have been built-up more (both story-wise and emotionally).

David Wenham also appears in a film, playing a secondary villain and a high-ranking officer in the British Navy. He is basically just a replacement for the character that Tom Hollander played (and in a much better way) in the original trilogy.

Post-Credits

If you sit through the 10 minutes of the credits, full of digital artists’ names, you will be treated to a potential teaser for a Will Turner spin-off. I really liked the character in the original trilogy and Orlando Bloom does not seem to be doing much, so a Will Turner or a Turner family-centered spin-off might actually be quite good or could at least happen. Maybe Keira Knightley could also be in it and actually get a few speaking lines (she just cameos and says nothing in Dead Men Tell No Tales). Thwaites’s Henry Turner and his new girlfriend, played by Scodelario, might also have a place in that picture.

In short, if you are a fan of the franchise, you will probably be able to overlook the problems with the movie (like you did many times) and will enjoy it for what it is. For all the regular movie goers – Pirates 5 is a good enough time at the movies but not a required viewing.

Rate: 3.3/5

Trailer: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales trailer

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Movie review: Their Finest 

Movie reviews

Hello!

The first movie of the year focused on the battle of Dunkirk – Their Finest – has reached theaters, so, let’s review it.

IMDb summary: A British film crew attempts to boost morale during World War II by making a propaganda film after the Blitzkrieg.

While Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk (premiering in July) will tackle and reproduce the actual battle and the evacuation, Lone Scherfig’s film Their Finest is a story about a war propaganda film, based on a fictional story related to the real-life events at Dunkirk, produced in order to raise the patriotism of the nation. The genres and tones of the 2 movies differ vastly: one looks like a grim and serious action drama, while another one is a lighter comedy drama with some romance thrown in as well.

On top of being one of the two films about Dunkirk, Their Finest interested me for 3 reasons: 1. I wanted to see the representation of the British propaganda and how it differed or was similar to the Soviet propaganda – the kind that I’m more familiar with from history classes and from just generally growing up in Eastern/Northern Europe. 2. I have always enjoyed films about filmmaking and as this one centered on screenwriters – an occupation that I would like to pursue – my interest was peaked. 3. The movie started Sam Claflin – an actor, whose career I’ve been following pretty closely. So, let’s see if Their Finest is as ‘fine’ of a picture as the title suggests!

Writing

Their Finest was written by a TV writer Gaby Chiappe, based on novel Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans. From the technical standpoint, the writing for the film was very nice: the narrative was well structured and rich with ideas. Whether or not the ideas worked, is a very subjective question. I, personally, really liked some of the themes but was equally frustrated by the others.

To begin with, the picture focused a lot on the relationship between Gemma Arterton’s and Sam Claflin’s characters. I highly disliked the fact that their professional relationship had to be turned into a romantic one by the end of the film. I find that this happens in a lot of stories, even in the contemporary ones. For example, the way J.K.Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, is portraying the relationship between the two main characters in her Cormoran Strike Series irritates me a lot. And yet, going back to the relationship between the characters in Their Finest, if I considered the said relationship’s romantic aspect separately, I thought that it did work and was convincing. The two individuals seemed pretty evenly matched and their sparring was entertaining to watch. The sudden end to the relationship was also emotionally effective. At first, I deemed that the end might have been too sudden but I later I’ve realized that the scriptwriters intended it to be that way and to convey a message that one never knows what might happen in war.

The second big theme of the picture was Gemma Arterton’s character’s growth as an individual. Her personal story acted very much as a symbol for a lot of women’s stories during the war – how they have finally begun to transition from the domestic spaces into the public ones. Sadly, this process is still is progress, 70+ years later. I thought that the main character was developed quite nicely – I wish we would have found out more about her background and upbringing in Wales, but I really liked her subtle journey towards independence.

Thirdly, the movie explored the screenwriting and the filmmaking business. I really loved this particular aspect of the film and just loved the fact that Their Finest celebrated the movies and tried finding positive attributes of cinema even if it was political cinema. I simply loved Sam Claflin’s character’s enthusiasm about and love for the pictures, especially since his character otherwise seemed really pessimistic and ironic. I could identify with this type of depiction very closely. The way the movie played up the uber-poshness of the actors and of the British actors, to be specific, with Bill Nighy’s character was also really fun.

Lastly, Their Finest dealt with the propaganda filmmaking, not just simple filmmaking. Not only did this type of story provided a different perspective on war, but it also proved to me that the types of propaganda don’t vary much from country to country. Like the Soviet propaganda, some of the British propaganda was very obvious but some of it was something more, just like the-picture-within-the-picture in Their Finest or a real life example, such as Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin. And yet, since both Their Finest and The Nancy Starling (a-movie-within-a-movie) stressed the importance of optimism and happy endings, I can’t help but wonder where exactly did the cinematic propaganda end?

Directing

Their Finest was directed by Lone Scherfig. Although the director is Danish, I thought that she nailed the British feeling of the film. She has already done that earlier with The Riot Club – that movie has really made me question my adoration of the British culture quite a bit. So, Their Finest resembled the previous historic UK-based movies that I’ve reviewed, like SuffragetteTestament of Youthand Far From The Madding Crowd. The fact that the movie was executed with the classical stationary camera work and the steady frame, also added an appropriate old-school yet timeless feel to the picture. The pacing of the picture was also very even. 

Acting

Gemma Arterton played the lead in the film and did a really good job. I hope that this is a career-changing role for her, as so far she has been starring in mostly B-level pictures, like Clash of the TitansPrince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Hansel & Gretel: Witch HuntersI really loved how subtle yet powerful her performance was. My favorite line of hers was the last words to the boyfriend: ‘You shouldn’t have painted me that small’. Her delivery was brilliant. I also though that Arterton’s chemistry with the co-star Sam Claflin was really good and believable. I loved Claflin’s character and the actor’s performance. It was so interesting to see a writer who can express oneself well enough of paper but struggles to do the same face to face. After starting his big screen career by acting the big action flicks, like Pirates of the Caribbean 4 and The Hunger Games franchise, Claflin has mostly stuck to dramas recently, including 2014’s Love, Rosie and 2016’s Me Before You. His next film is also a historical drama – My Cousin Rachel. He has also previously collaborated with the director of Their Finest on The Riot Club.

The supporting cast included established English actors Bill NighyHelen McCroryEddie Marsan, and Richard E. GranJack Huston (American Hustle, Hail, Caesar!and Ben-Hur) also had a minor role.

In short, Their Finest is a brilliant little movie, which, sadly, will be overlooked by the majority of movie-goers and buried by the blockbusters, including the one it shares the topic with. I highly recommend this film for all those interested in history and the art of filmmaking.

Rate: 4.3/5

Trailer: Their Finest trailer

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Movie review: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation + a look back

Movie reviews

Hello!

The latest sequel of the beloved 90s franchise rolls into theaters this weekend, so I’ve decided to spend my Thursday re-watching the first four entries of the series, despite the fact that Mission: Impossible films aren’t known for being very connective to each other. The only things they have in common are the same main character and very subtle references to past events.

1996 ‘s Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible was the film that turned Tom Cruise into an action movie start. Although, the movie is a year older than me, it still holds up today. The suspense is mind blowing and the CIA infiltration scene is one of the best action movie scenes I have ever seen.

2000’s John Woo’s MI-2 is my least favorite film in the series. It turned careful and clever agent Ethan Hunt in cocky- carefree-James Bond wannabee. The action wasn’t that great either, because they exchanged the suspense of the first film into slow motion parkour extravaganza with guns.

In 2006, J.J.Abrams had his directorial debut on the big screen with MI-3 and injected much-needed suspense and energy into the franchise. The series was back on track. Even the, now infamous, lens flares worked really well. I am a huge Abrams fan (Star Trek and Star Wars, are you kidding me?), so I am really happy that he stayed as a producer on the later films. MI3 also had one of my favorite supporting casts. Philip Seymour Hoffman (may he rest in peace) played a great villain and I wish they would find a way to bring back Jonathan Rhys Meyers’s character. This film also introduced us to Simon Pegg’s Benji, but I’m going to talk more about him in the MI5’s review because he is back for the fifth entry.

Ving Rhames’s Luther is also back for the fifth entry, after sitting the 4th one out and only cameo-ing at the end. Can’t wait to see his and Simon Pegg’s character having a hacker dual.

2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is my favorite MI movie to date. Brad Bird did an amazing job (I’m really sad that I hated his last movie – Tomorrowland). MI4 also was the film that added Jeremy Renner into the cast. I was really happy about it, because I believe that Renner doesn’t get enough credit for his work. Plus, his character William Brandt was weaved into the series very organically. Anyway, I can’t wait to see him in Rogue Nation as well.

In short, although I’m not a huge fan of crime dramas or spy movies (or action movie that take place in the present day and urban setup in general), I’ve always made an exception for two franchises – Mission: Impossible being one of them (James Bond – the other). Moreover, I have always applauded the fact that MI films have a truly worldwide appeal because of their international setting and diverse cast. Lastly, I feel like Mission: Impossible films are actually getting better with each entry in the franchise (except maybe MI2). I hope that this trend continues and that MI franchise stays a rare exception of a series, whose quality goes upwards and not downwards.

My review of the latest entry in the franchise – Rogue Nation – is down bellow, should you choose to read it.

IMDb summary: Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate – an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF.

Now, after finally seeing the film, I can assure you that the trend continues and Mission: Impossible movies show no signs of stopping.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Directing and Writing

Rogue Nation was directed by Christopher McQuarrie. This was only his 3rd time directing a motion picture but his 2nd time teaming up with Tom Cruise. They have previously worked on Jack Reacher together. McQuarrie was also one of the writers on the latest Cruise’s film – Edge of Tomorrow (review)Moreover, McQuarrie co-wrote Rogue Nation’s script with Drew Pearce, who was one of the writers on Iron Man 3. As you can see, all the people behind the camera are quite well acquainted with the summer blockbuster genre. And they definitely delivered.

The actions scenes looked amazing, especially the underwater one. It was extremely suspenseful. The car chase scene which turned into the motorcycle chase scene has also been done impeccability. Story-wise, this movie must have had a script consisting of a ton of pages, because a lot of things happen in the film. We have a variety of different locations, proving once more that MI is a global franchise. There is also a plethora of espionage and a bunch of spy gadgets, which, for me, are a few of the most interesting parts of any movie. Moreover, twist and turns did not disappoint. The usage of glass chambers and masks was also cool. The movie’s run time is quite long, but it never drags or slows down.

References and Product Placement

This movie calls back to previous MI films much more than other MI films have ever done. The rabbit’s foot had a nice cameo. The twist with the mission’s message was really cool too. The signature Mission: Impossible theme with a slight moderation was, of course, used in the film as well. Also, when they mentioned Great Britain’s MI6, all I could think about was that the meeting between James Bond and Ethan Hunt would be a-ma-zing! However, this film didn’t have a scene where Hunt is horizontally hanging from a rope. They had a few scenes involving ropes, but none of them were similar to the famous shot from the other 4 films. Nevertheless, the money shot – Cruise on a motorcycle – was in the Rogue Nation.

Now, moving on to my least favorite part of the film – the product placement. They must have tried out all of the models of BMW in this film. And not just BMW cars, but motorcycles as well. In addition, I’m looking for a new laptop to buy and the Rogue Nation really wants me to purchase a DELL computer.

Acting

  • Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt. There isn’t much to say about Cruise in this role. He has made it his own a long time ago and now he just proves everybody – the fans and the studio – that he is irreplaceable to this franchise (at one point, Fox wanted to fire Cruise from the project because of his personal life). The fact that he is 53 years old (!!!!) and still looks great and does his own stunts is mind boggling and deserves a standing ovation.
  • Jeremy Renner as William Brandt was also really great. As I have mentioned, I am really happy that Renner is a part of this franchise. His court scenes were amazing and the twist/betrayal was really good as well.
  • Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn was the scene stealer of the film. I was really happy that he had such a big role in Rogue Nation. His comedic timing was also perfect and a nice addition to the 5th installment.
  • Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust was the most bad-ass and my favorite leading lady of Mission: Impossible films. MI4’s Paula Patton was also a bad-ass, but Ferguson was even better in every aspect. I loved the fact that she didn’t have a romantic relationship with Ethan (where is his wife, BTW?). Also, her double or even triple agent story line made her into one of the most interesting characters in the whole film. I haven’t seen other movies she is in (except Hercules, but we all should forget that that film ever happened), but I really want to watch the TV show she starred in – The White Queen. I had that series on my radar for a long time because Max Irons is in it but still haven’t found time to check it out. Because of Ferguson’s performance in Rogue Nation, The White Queen definitely moved up a few places on my list of TV shows I want to watch.
  • Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell. It was really nice to see him back. And the way they handled Luther’s and Ethan’s friendship (Luther being his oldest friend) was perfect.
  • Sean Harris as Solomon Lane was quite a good villain. Not as good as Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Owen in MI3 but definitely better than most action movie villains of this summer in general. Actually, he kinda reminded me of a comic book character. His long coat and slightly crazy eyes added to comic book-y appearance.
  • Alec Baldwin as Alan Hunley was also a great addition to the cast. I am so happy that we will probably get to see more of him in the sixth film. Because I surely feel that they are going to make more of MI films.
  • Tom Hollander as the Prime Minister. He had a small role and I wasn’t expecting Hollander to be in the film. However, when he was introduced as a Prime Minister, I completely believed it, because I have this image in my mind of Hollander always being the politician or the leader of an organization. This image probably comes from my childhood/early teen years when Hollander played a chairman of East India Trading Company in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

To sum up, I really loved the film. The third and final 90s franchise didn’t disappoint. The story was interesting, the action – exciting and the acting – superb. I really really really want to see more Mission: Impossible films. They make me feel like I am a 9 year old once more.

Sadly (or luckily), this review will NOT self destruct in 5 seconds, so read it as many times as you want.

Rate: 4.9/5 (-0.1 for product placement)

Trailer: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation trailer

P.S. You can find the reviews of this summer’s sequels of the other 90s franchises here: Jurassic World review / Terminator Genisys review.