5 ideas about a movie: Green Book

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a peculiarly positive movie on race. This is Green Book!

IMDb summary: A working-class Italian-American bouncer becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.

  1. Green Book was written by Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, and Peter Farrelly, who also directed the film. Farrelly has directed some comedies of questionable quality, like Movie 43 and Dumb and Dumber To (he did the original too) just recently. Needless to say, Green Book – an awards movie – is a step-up for sure.
  2. The script of the film was built around the relationship between the two main characters. These two characters were the highlight of the writing as they were so far away from any assumptions that the viewer might have had. The focus on their relationship also made for some strong dialogue between them (some quality monologues towards the end too).
  3. Thematically, the film, not surprisingly, explored racism within the US in the 60s and within (at least at the beginning) a reversed power relationship. The racialization of culture and music were also major topics. Belonging, family, and home were also touched upon.
  4. Stylistically, the picture juggled sadness and seriousness with humour. The chucklesome moments really lightened the mood but, looking back, maybe they had a different purpose – to prove the point that the audience will laugh at a ‘black’ joke but will do nothing to alleviate the position and discrimination against the black people.
  5. Viggo Mortensen’s (Captain Fantastic) and Mahershala Ali’s (Moonlight) performances were brilliant. And the chemistry that they had was also impeccable. If that was Ali on the piano, then he should be lauded just as much as Gosling was for La La Land.

In short, Green Book was a stellar drama that is worthy of all those awards nominations. Can it take the big one though?

Rate: 4.2/5

Trailer: Green Book trailer

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Movie review: Mudbound

Movie reviews

Hello!

Before I start reviewing the major awards contenders, let’s look at one that is on the fringe of the awards voters radar. It’s the Netflix awards offering – Mudbound.

IMDb summary: Two men return home from World War II to work on a farm in rural Mississippi, where they struggle to deal with racism and adjusting to life after war.

Writing

Mudbound was written by Dee Rees and Virgil Williams. I thought that the film’s writing was solid and interesting, though, for the first part of the movie, I wasn’t sure what story it was telling: whether one about a black family’s experience during the WW2 or one about soldiers in and after the war. Only in the second half of the film did the two plotlines converge and made one whole narrative, while the first half seemed a bit confused and all over the place. The domestic set-up, one about a white family moving in next to a black one and having the stereotypical overtly or secretly racist relationship, was average and slow. The foreign set-up – the flashes to the soldiers’ lives during the war – was much more interesting than the domestic front and I wanted to see more of those scenes. It was especially interesting to witness a black man’s encounters with the Europeans. I haven’t seen that aspect explored much on film before. When the two plotlines did meet, Mudbound explored the interplay between race, class, and PTSD. The gender issues, as well as the comparison between black and white families’ distinct problems, were also included.

From the technical point of view, the movie started at the end and then flashed back to the begining of the story. A lot of elements of the plot were given through extensive narration: some of the narration was chilling, and, thus, effective, while other parts seemed annnoying and not essential. As per usual with the film on race, it elicited feelings of anger and disgust. This film, more than any other, portaryed the most radical side of racism in the 20th century the US very overtly, therefore, the feelings it evoked were extremely strong too. And yet, Mudbound ended on a hopeful note and had a message of love not hate. The mixed race friendship as well as the concluding origin of a mixed race family were two strands of hope that were achieved through a lot of pain, hurt, and suffering in the course of the movie.

Directing 

Dee Rees directed Mudbound and did a good job. As I have already mentioned, I wasn’t fully on board with the setup and thought that parts of it were very slow. However, Rees did a brilliant job with crafting striking visuals as well as with weaving the two plot strands neatly together in the second part of the picture. The song, which played during the credits – “Mighty River” by Mary J. Blige, was a lovely touch too.

Acting

Mudbound’s cast was quite stellar. Carey Mulligan (Suffragette, Far From The Madding Crowd), Jason Clarke (Dawn, Everest, and Terminator Genesys – that last film kinda ruined all subsequent performances of Clarke’s for me), and Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad and its spin-off) were all great in the film, though the stand-outs were definitely Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton, Detroit) and Garrett Hedlund (Unbroken) – their scenes together were fascinating. The actress who is, deservedly, getting the majority of the awards’ recognition for this movie was Mary J. Blige – she is a singer too and was actually the one to perform the end credits song for this film. Her acting performance was amazing too: quiet but very powerful.

In short, Mudbound is a well acted-drama about an old-school subject that is still, sadly, super topical.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Mudbound trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Loving

Movie reviews

Hi!

Welcome to a review of a film that started the trend of a different kind of ‘race’ movie being nominated for the big awards. No longer are the films about slavery or the civil rights moments the only ones that the African-American talent can get nominated for. This is a review of Loving.

IMDb summary: The story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, whose challenge of their anti-miscegenation arrest for their marriage in Virginia led to a legal battle that would end at the US Supreme Court.

  1. Loving was written and directed by Jeff Nichols, whose films have always received critical praise but never really got any recognition during the awards season. Loving is his 5th feature. The previous 3 of his films (haven’t seen his debut film Shotgun Stories) all really impressed me with their unique and very personal stories. Take Shelter and Mud were both really good but the original sci-fi picture Midnight Special (his other film from 2016) was like a breath of fresh air in the summer of disappointing sequels and reboots.
  2. In my intro, I mentioned that Loving is not a film about the civil rights moment but it actually kinda is. However, its approach and its focus on the civil rights movement are very different. Loving is not about the big events of the movement that one learns in a history class. It is a personal story about two people who just wanted to live their lives and create a family but were forced to first fight for those rights. And even though The Lovings‘ case was argued and won in the supreme court, the film focused more on the family rather than their court case. The movie almost made the court case and the couple separate from each other. While the court case became something extraordinary, Richard and Mildred remained an ordinary couple. This type of portrayal not only strengthen the argument for their case (that they are just two people who love each and have a right to be married) but also made sure that the viewers would understand that The Lovings aren’t just another name on paper but that they are, indeed, real people.
  3. Like I’ve mentioned already, Loving’s narrative is personal and particular. This goes in line with Jeff Nichols’s previous pictures, which are mostly character studies rather than narrative films. And yet, like Midnight Special or Take Shelter, Loving has a feeling of a wider context and of something bigger and greater being located in the offscreen space. From the narrative structure viewpoint, the film is more or less divided into two parts: The Lovings’ life before the case and the court case + its aftermath. Both parts are equally compelling. Visually, the film is also stunning. Seemingly insignificant shots seem to breathe life.
  4. Ruth Negga stars as Mildred Loving. Mildred was actually the one who started all the court proceedings, so it was really nice to see a female character/a real woman portrayed as an active individual. Negga’s performance was really great and I’m happy to see that she got a few nominations for it. Her career has been on the rise lately. From playing a supporting character on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and having a minor role on Warcraft to starring on Preacher and being a Golden Globe and an Oscar nominee.
  5. Joel Edgerton, who previously worked with Jeff Nichols on Midnight Special, played the role of Richard Loving. His performance was of low energy and quite passive but historically accurate, as Richard has been described as a ‘quiet hero’. Edgerton has received some praised for his previous work on Animal Kingdom, Black Mass, and The Gift, but he also had a few flops with Exodus and Jane Got a Gun. Loving is definitely his best movie yet and I hope that it could be a start of a very positive streak. His 2017 films – Bright (David Ayer’s sci-fi co-starring Will Smith), American Express (Egerton’s brother’s Nash Edgerton’s (longtime stuntman) action flick) and Red Sparrow (Francis Lawrence’s spy thriller) – all have the potential to be great.

In short, Loving tells a different kind of story set during the civil rights movements. It’s slow, personal but universally hopeful. The film also has a lovely cameo from Michael Shannon – a long-time Jeff Nichols’s collaborator.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Loving trailer

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Movie review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 

Movie reviews

Hey Hey Hey!

The wait is finally over! We now have a movie that shows the two greatest superheroes fighting one another. Without further ado, let’s dig-in into Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

IMDb summary: Fearing the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the man of steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs. With Batman and Superman fighting each other, a new threat, Doomsday, is created by Lex Luthor. It’s up to Superman and Batman to set aside their differences along with Wonder Woman to stop Lex Luthor and Doomsday from destroying Metropolis.

Before we start: I have done a preview post for this film, in which I discussed my hopes for the movie and gave you my thoughts on the casting choices, Snyder’s previous work and DCCU in general. I won’t be repeating those things in here, so I highly suggest that you check out that other post first!

Since I’m posting my review on Saturday and the movie has been out for a couple of days, I will be talking about SPOILERS!

Audience

Before BvS was released, a lot of news sites reported that the majority of the presale tickets were bought by men. Saturday, 9am screening that I went to (definitely the earliest screening I’ve ever been to) was also predominately male. I think there was only around 30 people watching the film with me, and only 4 of them were female (me included). The audience was also very adult-centric – there were only 3 or 4 kids in the cinema.

I don’t really know what to make out of this. I refuse to believe that women don’t like comic book movies. Moreover, I cannot believe that children are not interested in a film like this one.

Also, before the movie, they showed The Lego Batman teaser – it was very appropriate and extremely funny (definitely a lot funnier than the film that followed).

Story: Writing, Tone, and Plotlines

BvS’s script was written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer. Terrio is best known for writing the screenplay for 2012’s Argo, while Goyer has written all the Blade movies, all of Nolan’s Batman films and Man of Steel. With such an accomplished duo, it’s quite strange to see that Batman v Superman did not turn out that great, when it comes to story. Let’s go over all the different story and plot points (the good, the average and the bad) one by one:

  • To begin with, BvS was a more Batman-centric movie and that’s perfectly understandable – they needed to establish him as a character. The opening of the film nicely dealt with Bruce’s backstory – the death of his parents and his obsession/fear of bats.
  • – The film had a lot of dream sequences and it was extremely hard to understand, which scenes were set in reality and which ones – only in the minds of the characters (I still don’t know who was the person in Bruce’s dream that told Batman that Lois Lane is the key – I read that it was probably the Flash, travelling back in time. The other dream sequence (Nightmare one) was also an Easter Egg for Darkside (maybe)). Anyway, the decision to blend the reality and the dreams together might have been a creative choice, however, it made the narrative unclear and hard to understand/follow.
  • – The film was more than 2 hours long but all the characters lacked development – I wanted to spend more time with all of them and wasn’t satisfied with a few scenes that I’ve got.
  • – However, there were characters that we spent way too much time with and the pay-off, concerning these characters, was not that great. Those senate hearings and Lex Luthor’s and Senator Finch’s scenes seemed to last forever and didn’t really accomplish much.
  • – Basically, the movie had way too many plotlines and was jumping around way too much. In short, there was at least 5 great movies inside this 1 (average) film. The first two parts of the picture also lacked action and the whole set-up for the final act was generally a bit boring, although it had a few exciting moments.
  • The mother-son relationship was really important in this film and it was actually nice to see this particular family relationship explored on screen. Movies usually tend to focus on father-son or father-daughter relationships. I also enjoyed the clever idea to use both Clark Kent’s mother’s and Bruce Wayne’s mother’s name – Martha – as a linguistic plot-device that not only united them but helped to show their humanity.
  • -/+ While I enjoyed seeing Batman and Superman united in battle, I think that they became ‘friends’ too quickly. It would have been more believable to see them calling each other ‘partners’ or something like that.
  • – Speaking about the believability – BvS (like all others DCCU films) really want to be grounded in reality, that’s why they are so dark and gritty. However, I do believe that real life also has lighter moments. Reality doesn’t automatically mean darkness and depression. Sophisticated and serious superhero films can be at least slightly funny as well (I’m not saying they all have to be comedies like Deadpool). I wish that we would have gotten at least a few more lively/amusing-ish moments to balance out the darkness – the only scenes that had a lighter tone were the romantic ones and I had a lot of problems with them separately.
  • Also, while the first two acts of the film were somewhat realistic and very dark, the final act of the film left the reality behind. And you know what? THAT WAS THE BEST PART OF THE FILM. The more over-the-top and comic book-y it became, the better the film was. That last act improved my opinion on the whole film and definitely increased the rating.
  • +/- More on the final act: Doomsday’s birth and evolution were cool scenes to look at, but felt a bit rushed. Also, the portrayal of the government forces was very one-sided aka negative.
  • – The lighter aka romantic scenes involved Clark Kent and Lois Lane. While the scenes were cute to look at, they did feel out of place. Also, Lois Lane was such a damsel in distress – she was incapable of doing anything by herself and that annoyed me quite a lot.
  • +/- The ending of the film was quite a brave choice on the filmmakers part. However, since the audiences are quite familiar with the ideas of resurrection not only in comic book films but in movies in general, it was quite hard to feel really emotional about the death of Superman. As soon as he died on screen, my mind started racing on how he will be brought back to life. And even before we got that slight teaser (just before the film cut to black), we all knew that he is coming back. So, basically, it was really hard to think that Superman’s death will stick and that it will have any real consequences.
  • I enjoyed the fact that the characters’ alter-egos were as important as their superhero identities. This idea was nicely portrayed in the double funeral of Clark Kent.
  • + BvS also gave us more than a few very on-the-nose teasers for all the other Justice League members as well as the Justice League itself. We saw: the Flash, stopping the store from being robbed, Aquaman, attacking or threatening someone, and Cyborg, just in the process of creation.
  • Lastly, I might be nitpicking, but it seemed that this time they destroyed more stuff aka two cities – both Gotham and Metropolis. The damage that Man of Steel has done now seems minuscule.

Visuals: Directing, Action, and the Costumes

Zack Snyder did a very nice job directing the action scenes. I only wish that we would not have needed to wait for the said action scenes for more than 1.5h. The picture’s color scheme was also very Snydery – dark and shadowy (unnecessarily grim, like the story). The action scenes that we got in the 3rd act of the film were definitely enjoyable,so let’s discuss them a bit more:

  • The titular fight between Batman and Superman was really cool: the Batman’s protective costume was nice, while the usage of the Krypton – a clever solution. I also loved how Superman just slightly pushed Batman with one hand and Bruce went flying. The only thing that I didn’t like about that fight is the fact that Lois Lane just had to appear out of nowhere in the end.
  • The DC’s trio vs. Doomsday was also an exciting battle. This one was very comic-book-y, thus, very unbelievable, thus – the best part of the film. I loved Superman and Doomsday, flying in space, I loved Batman, trying to come up with a solution (because he knew that he can’t fist-fight the devil), and Wonder Woman, just charging into battle.

Costumes and Props

The characters’ costumes are of course very iconic and there is really no point in talking about them in detail, since, they have been revealed long before the movie was released. However, I do want to mention a few things about them:

  1. I loved Batman’s eyes in all of his costumes. I loved how bold his real eyes looked in his normal costume and how threatening were the light-up eyes in his armor.
  2. Superman’s cape game was strong. He looked amazing while flying or just floating in the air.
  3. Lastly, Wonder Woman’s light-up lasso was super cool – it looked amazing on screen.

Music

The film’s soundtrack was created by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL. Junkie XL has previously worked on music for Man of Steel and a bunch of other films (Mad Max: Fury Road, Black Mass, Point Break and Deadpool). Zimmer needs no introduction – he is the king of movie soundtracks in Hollywood (Gladiator, Pearl Harbor, The Last Samurai, Nolan’s Batman films, Pirates of the Carribean franchise, Inception, Interstellar, 12 Years a Slave, Man of Steel and a plethora of other movies have been scored by him).

Acting

  • Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman. Affleck was really good in both the action scenes and the dramatic ones. He probably is the most accomplished actor of this cast, so it is no surprise that his performance was the best one. 2003’s Daredevil should just be wiped out of his resume. We will see Affleck in a cameo role in Suicide Squad, but if you want to watch a non-comic book movie, starring Affleck, I highly suggest both Argo and Gone Girl.
  • Henry Cavill as Kal-El / Clark Kent / Superman. I did enjoy Cavill’s performance but his facial expressions were a bit one-note. He was amazing in the action sequences, though. Last year, we saw Cavill in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Currently, he is working on a war drama Sand Castle.
  • Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Adams was good in the role and it’s not really her fault that the character of Lois was written in the way it was. Basically, I felt that her character was out of place during the majority of the film. I would have liked to see more of her actual journalist side, maybe in scenes opposite Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White – the editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet. As an actress, Adams has had quite a long and rewarding career. I especially liked her newer films – American Hustle and Big Eyes.
  • Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth. My favorite lines of dialogue were spoken by Irons. I really liked his portrayal of Alfred as more of a partner, less like a servant. Also, I recently saw Irons in High-Rise and I also want to watch his other 2016 film – Race.
  • Gal Gadot as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman was my favorite character in the film. Gadot was amazing in the role. She shined in the action sequences and I only wish that she would have had more lines because, for the majority of the film, she just reacted to the events that were happening around her. I can’t wait for her own stand-alone film, coming out next year!
  • Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor (?) – I forgot to talk about Eisenberg being cast as Lex Luthor in the preview but that was because I deliberately wanted to forget this development. From what I saw in the trailer, Eisenberg  did not play the true Lex Luthor – at least not the one that I grew up watching in the cartoons. There was also this rumor floating online that Eisenberg was playing Luthor Jr. but that just seemed like a cheap explanation. Also, Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor Jr. haircut reminded me way too much of the look that his American Ultra character had and it’s safe to say – I did not enjoy that stupid stoner action comedy. Now, having watched the film, I still have mixed feelings about Eisenberg in this role. I enjoyed the fact that he played very modern, young and hip entrepreneur. However, at the same time, my mind was screaming: ‘This is not Lex Luthor, neither Jr. nor Sr.’. His voice was also a bit squeaky throughout the film, so that did not make him seem as a threatening and serious villain. Nevertheless, I liked both his look and the way he acted at the end of the film, in the cell (he has finally lost that stupid hairstyle). So, maybe BvS was just an origin story for the true Lex Luthor? We will probably find that out in the Justice League films.

Lastly, the movie didn’t have a post-credits or end-credits scene, so there is really no point in waiting through more than 5 minutes of credits.

In the end, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a good film that could have been so much better. It unnecessarily wanted to be real and grim. The first two acts were messy and had too many plotlines, while the third act embraced the comic bookiness of the characters and made the ending of the movie – the best part of it. The acting was really good, Gal Gadot’s and Ben Affleck’s performances were the best. I went into this movie really wanting to like it and, to be truthful, was kinda let down. I am excited to see the standalone films of the characters, but I don’t think that they should rush with the Justice League movies, like they are doing right now. Maybe WB will prove me wrong next year.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer

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