Movie review: Wind River

Movie reviews

Hello!

Let’s take a break from all the summer blockbusters of varying quality and give a chance to the dying genre of the regular movie. This is the review of Wind River.

IMDb summary: An FBI agent teams with a town’s veteran game tracker to investigate a murder that occurred on a Native American reservation.

Taylor Sheridan

Wind River is a thriller, written and directed by Taylor Sheridan. Sheridan’s name might be unfamiliar to a lot of people, but cinephiles should know him for writing two recent marvelous pictures that both had some awards potential – 2015’s Sicario and 2016’s Hell or High Water. While Sheridan didn’t direct any of his previous scripts (Sicario was done by Villeneuve, and Hell or High Water by Mckenzie), he does have some directing experience, having helmed 2011’s horror film, Vile. Wind River is being distributed by the awards whisperers The Weinstein Company. Their involvement combined with Sheridan’s previous track record might actually give Wind River a chance to make some ways during the proper awards season. More importantly, the film highly deserves that.

Writing

Sheridan, similarly to his previous movies, has written a story that’s both thrilling and entertaining but is also thematically clever. Wind River, a film inspired by true events, is set on a Native American reservoir and the first victim of a crime is a young Native American woman. The local police are not equipped to solve the mystery, while FBI is also not willing to pay a lot of attention. This fictionalized account goes very much in line with the real life events (so, ‘inspired by true events’ sentence is accurate). As an anthropology student, I have studied a few cases of Native American women going missing in the north of North America and the local authorities doing nothing to find them (in class, we mostly focused on cases in Canada but the film’s Wyoming’s case was very similar). Wind River’s story at least had a somewhat happy ending and some closure, however, that’s usually not the case in real life. So, it was really nice for a film to end with a sentence about the statistics of missing Native women –  a call to action, even if it will probably go unheard.

The depictions of the reservoir life seemed quite accurate. The problems within a Native American community – the drugs and substance abuse, poverty, the loss of identity and the marginalization – were all mentioned. The relationship between the white Americans and the Native Americans was represented in a variety of ways. The viewers saw both a friendly relationship of a white man being, more or less, a member of a community and an outsider white American being seen as a hostile stranger (at least in the beginning). Lastly, even though some of the ideas and relationships in the film could be seen as very specific and having a limited crossover, the overarching themes of the picture were survival and family – two extremely universal concepts that are understood across all cultures.

I have mentioned the historical facts as well as topics of the movie, let’s now turn our attention to the actual detective story. To begin with, I found it refreshing to see an FBI agent and a local hunter working together and listening to one another, rather than competing to reach the same goal. It was also nice to see a completely professional relationship without any pushed romance being depicted. The reveal of who the criminals were – 5 white, less than bright, drunk men from a working class background – was maybe a bit disappointing at first but, on a second viewing, very much grounded and realistic. Plus, the scene that followed the reveal – the rapid shoot-out – was unexpected in the best way possible and also oddly satisfying.

Directing

While Sheridan’s directing style wasn’t groundbreaking, it was still good in its subtlety. His direction for the picture was mostly elevated by his own amazing writing. Visually, the film looked nice – the sweeping shots of the mountains and snow were naturally gorgeous, while the sequence of the snowmobile action added an element of effortless coolness. The pacing was very good too – the film was constantly building to a crescendo and also delivered on it. Wind River was definitely a great effort from a sort of new director.

Acting

At the center of Wind River, two Marvel stars were reunited – Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen. They both did a magnificent job. It was nice to see Renner continuing his indie/awards career alongside his blockbuster-focused one (he was just recently in Arrival in addition to Civil War, MI5, and Age of Ultron). Elizabeth Olsen (Godzilla) has really come into her own as an actress and is probably now more famous (acting-wise) than her older sisters.

The supporting cast, thankfully, provided an opportunity for some Native American/First Nations talent to shine, like Gil Birmingham (he was also in Hell or High Water), Julia JonesGraham Greene, and Martin Sensmeier. Jon Bernthal (Baby Driver, The Accountant, We Are Your Friends) also appeared in the film, reuniting with Sheridan, after having worked on Sicario with him. 

In short, Wind River is an emotional, smart, and entertaining thriller that deserves more recognition that it will probably get.

Rate: 4.4/5

Trailer: Wind River trailer

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Movie review: The Mummy

Movie reviews, Music

Hello!

Welcome to another movie review of a film that literally could have come out at any time in the last two decades – The Mummy!

IMDb summary: An ancient princess is awakened from her crypt beneath the desert, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia, and terrors that defy human comprehension.

The Mummy is the official beginning of the rebooted Universal Monsters franchise, now titled Dark Universe. The first attempt to revive this classical (1920s-1950s) series happened in 2014 with the release of Dracula Untold, however, since the film underperformed, it was later made non-canon. And yet, I still feel like it might be reinstated into the franchise, as The Mummy is not fairing much better, neither critically nor financially. One last note – Universal’s Monster Dark Universe should NOT be confused with Legendary’s MonsterVerse, which has Godzilla and King Kong instead of The Invisible Man, Frankenstein, and The Mummy.

Writing

The 14th The Mummy film was written by David Koepp (who has worked on some of my favorite pictures – Jurassic Park, Mission Impossible, Panic Room; some stinkers like Indy 4 and Mortdecai; and some who were somewhere in between, like Inferno and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit; he is also writing Indy 5), Christopher McQuarrie (who worked on The Usual Suspects and a trifecta of Tom Cruise films: Jack Reacher, Edge of Tomorrow, and MI 5; he is next both scripting and directing MI 6) and the actor Dylan Kussman (the least accomplished screenwriter on the project – this is only his 3rd project as a writer). The story credits were also given to Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, Doctor Strange, Passengers), the actress Jenny Lumet (she wrote Rachel Getting Married), and the director of the film.

I actually quite enjoyed the writing for The Mummy – it was definitely better than the writing for a few blockbusters that I’ve seen this summer movie season already. The film started on a really solid footing – the set up was good and interesting enough even if a bit heavy-handed and dense (I always liked the mixture of history and fantasy, so maybe that’s why I liked that ancient Egypt sequence)  – but the promising script fizzled out in the 3rd act (the love story and the solution to defeating The Mummy were both predictable). Also, the set-up story was repeated too many times. The viewers did not need to hear the same exposition 3 or more times.

The characters were great though – I liked the fact that we got to see the narrative through the ‘everyman’s’ perspective (even if Tom Cruise isn’t really an ‘everyman’). What I liked the most about his characters was the fact that he was a genuine idiot – let me explain – his character was a thief and not even a very good one, so the stupid actions that he had to make during the plot actually sorta made sense. It would have been illogical if a super smart person acted that certain way that action movie narratives require. I also liked the contrast between the two leads, how she was a scientist and he was totally clueless about most of the stuff except how much everything is worth on the black market. The duo of the two military partners was also good – I liked how one was an adventurer and the other wanted nothing more than not to be there. These contrasts between the characters gave rise to some funny moments. Actually, The Mummy was a way funnier movie in general than I expected it to be. A lot of the funny moments stemed from the awkward encounters or involved characters reacting to stuff – nothing too original but at least these scenes weren’t cringe-y.

Looking to the future of the series, the two main things should be kept in mind. First, Russel Crowe’s double identity (Jekyll and Hyde, good and evil) will probably come into play in the next film. He, as the head of Prodigium, is the connecting tissue for the Dark Universe, so his involvement in all the films is all but guaranteed. Second, Tom Cruise’s character’s double identity, acuired in the final act, will probably be also explored further, maybe in other Dark Universe films or perhaps in The Mummy 2, when or if that movie materializes (the future is unclear due to lukewarm reception from critics and moviegoers alike).

Directing

The Mummy was directed by the screenwriter Alex Kurtzman – this was only his second directorial attempt and it wasn’t a bad one for sure. The pacing was fine and the action sequences were serviceable too. The design of The Mummy was really cool looking as well and her powers were realized well (even if they were really vague). I especially liked that reanimation effect – it lookes appropriatelly disgusting. The world building/the visualization of mythology was fine too. The design for The Mummy’s victims-turned-zombies could have been better though – they looked like they were in/from World War Z. Overall, a good directing effort – not groundbreaking but nothing to be ashamed of either.

Acting

The Mummy had a pretty well-known cast. The biggest name was, of course, Tom Cruise, in the lead role Nick Morton. Say what you want about him as a person, but I still belive that Cruise is a good actor, especially when he is in his element – an action movie. He is good at physical stunts and charming AF. This time around, he also got a chance to show off his comedic skills – haven’t seen those in a while. His next film is Doug Liman’s American MadeAnnabelle Wallis (quite an unknow actress to me) starred as Jennifer Halsey and was good too. This was defintely her biggest role to date. She also had a small part in the new King Arthur film, which I’m finally seeing in a couple of days.

Sofia Boutella played Princess Ahmanet. She has made a name for herself by performing physically interesting or challenging roles in pictures like Kingsman and Star Trek Beyond. Those skills really helped her embody The Mummy as well. Her next film is Atomic BlondeRussell Crowe (Noah, The Nice Guys) was also good as Dr. Henry Jekyll. I like the fact that they were able to get a serious actor into this franchise – maybe that will give it more gravitas?

The comedian/actor Jake Johnson (21 Jump Street, Neighbors, Mike and Dave Need Weding Dates) starred as the sidekick to Tom Cruise’s character and did a good job being the comic relief. Lastly, Marwan Kenzari, who I just saw in The Promise a handful of days ago, played a security officer. I knew he looked familiar and I was rocking my brain, trying to remembering who he was, everytime he appeared on screen. 

In short, while The Mummy is a rocky start to Universal’s Dark Universe, it is a perfectly fine summer action movie. It doesn’t have any deeper themes, but it is also not convoluted, offensive or boring.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: The Mummy trailer

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Movie review: Arrival

Movie reviews

Hello, my dear readers!

An original sci-fi flick – Arrival – has landed in cinemas, so let’s review it! Since I hadn’t seen an inventive science fiction film in theaters for quite some time (I did, however, only recently watched an original sci-fi movie on Netflix, called ARQ – it was quite entertaining), I was super excited to see Arrival. Plus, I’ve also really enjoyed the previous work of the director as well as the cast.

SPOILER ALERT

IMDb summary: A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.

Writing

Eric Heisserer, who has mostly written horror films, penned Arrival’s script and did an absolutely spectacular job. This movie’s narrative was so refreshing – it never went where I expected it to go.

To begin with, I appreciated the fact that this movie focused on a linguist and on the subject of languages and communication. Sci-fi films usually tend to have scientists or military personnel front and center, but this time, these types of characters were relocated to the supporting positions. As someone who studies art and humanities, I was extremely happy to see these subjects as useful in a sci-fi scenario, since usually after watching a science fiction movie, I would regret not studying physics or biology. But now, I can imagine that my language and anthropology skills can also be useful.

On the topic of anthropology, last year, in my symbolic anthropology class we studied the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis that this movie took and made true. The hypothesis states that one’s language determines one’s culture, behavior, and thinking and Amy Adams’s characters mind was heavily impacted by the alien language. On the topic, of Adams’s character – I loved how the plot played up her backstory. Those ‘flashbacks’ were not only a story-telling technique but a part of the actual story. That was amazing and mindblowing.

Like other science fiction films, Arrival explored the topic of humanity. Some of the ideas and dialogue lines sounded a bit ironic and skeptical, especially in the post-Brexit and post-U.S. election context. The notions that the world needs to work together and that peaceful communication come first rather than violent attack/defense are wonderful ideas, but I highly doubt their real-life application. The plot-points about protecting humanity by not talking to other humans seemed like a more realistic outcome of the situation. The media’s role in all of this mess was also a great and topical inclusion for the modern context. Lastly, showcasing the panic as the biggest threat to humanity was also good writing! These thematical parts of the film frustrated me quite a bit, but then again, these kinds of things frustrate me IRL, so I guess the movie just represented the contemporary world and explored its negative aspects and shortcomings really well.

Arrival, like a lot of other sci-fi films, started as a grounded science movie but then quickly escalated into the fiction territory. It asked questions and didn’t answer some of them. With these type of movies, there is always a debate going on whether there was some kind of deeper meaning and I was just too stupid to notice it or whether the film was just badly written and didn’t make much sense. Having said that, I think this debate is part of the beauty of making and writing about motion pictures – they always mean something different to different people. I also believe that Arrival is a brilliant and intriguing film to watch and discuss.

Directing

Denis Villeneuve, who is best known for making 2013’s Prisoners and last year’s Sicario, directed the film and did a wonderful job. The visuals were spectacular: the design of the ships – so simple yet so cool and the long tracking shots – awe inspiring. At first, I wasn’t completely sure about the design of the aliens, but when we got to see them whole, I was pleasantly surprised. The way the communication aspect was visualized was super cool too. I also liked all the inventive and innovative camera angles. On a personal note, I loved Amy Adams’s character’s home – would love to have a house with such a stunning view myself.

I also really liked the pacing of the film – it was slow and suspenseful and did not need some big and over-the-top 3rd act action piece to be memorable and entertaining. The music choices (by Jóhann Jóhannsson) were great as well and really helped to build thrilling, frightening and yet curious type of atmosphere.

Acting

  • Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist was at the center of the film and delivered a really subtle performance. I do believe that these smaller, more indie-like films showcase her talent much more than big blockbusters (BvS). So, I suggest you check out Amy in Nocturnal Animals, American Hustle, and Big Eyes.
  • Jeremy Renner as Ian Donnelly was also great in his role of a scientist. Renner is also one of those actors that is on everyone’s radar and is constantly working but is not a complete A-lister which he should be. He is equally enjoyable to watch in popcorn flicks like Marvel movies and Mission Impossible films and in more serious pictures like The Hurt Locker, The Town, and Kill The Messenger.
  • Forest Whitaker as Colonel Weber and Michael Stuhlbarg as Agent Halpern provided great support and presented a more stereotypical government perspective to the movie. Whitaker still has Rogue One to be released in a month, while Stuhlbarg just had a small role in the recently released Doctor Strange.

In short, Arrival was a visually stunning picture, with an extremely clever and interesting story and some nice thematical concepts and great acting. It is a great conversation starter of a movie.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Arrival trailer

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Best, Worst and Missed Movies of 2015

Movie previews, Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the last movie post of this year! As the clock strikes midnight, I will share with you my very subjective lists of Top 10 best and worst movies of 2015 and I will even include a Top 5 list of movie you missed in theaters!

Disclaimer, when writing my summer list of films, I divided it into different categories and tried to evaluate the films more objectively. Well, this time, I am putting my love for films above my knowledge of films, so this list will definitely lack objectivity. Also, it will not be divided into different genres. In addition, I won’t pay much attention to the ratings I gave these films because these are not their reviews – this is a personal list of preferences. So, without further ado, let me tell you about my favorite and least favorite films as well as a few surprising movies of the year.

P.S I have not seen a lot of movies which are awards contenders this year (like The Revenant, The Hateful 8, Spotlight, Joy, Room), so they obviously could not have made the list. I definitely also have not seen all the mainstream films, which were released in 2015, but I think that I watched enough to make comprehensive lists. I will include links to the reviews of all the films that I have managed to review.

Top 10 BEST films of 2015

  1. Star Wars The Force Awakens
  2. Mad Max Fury Road
  3. Legend
  4. The Martian
  5. Mission Impossible Rogue Nation
  6. Kingsman The Secret Service
  7. Steve Jobs
  8. Inside Out
  9. Brooklyn
  10. Avengers Age of Ultron

Honorable mentions: Mockingjay Part 2, Fast&Furious 7, SicarioBridge of Spies, and Ant-Man.

While Mad Max topped the summer list, Star Wars ultimately triumphed the yearly list, since I had an amazing overall experience waiting for this film as well as watching it. The 3rd – Legend – was the biggest surprise of the year for me and that story somehow remained stuck in my brain. The 4th, 7th and 9th films were great motion pictures about inspiring individuals, while 5th and 6th films were the two best spy films of the year (and we definitely had way too many spy movies in 2015). The list rounds up with one of my favorite animated films from the studio that I grew up with – Pixar. Lastly, as a Marvel fan, I cannot not put at least one film from the MCU on my list, and while lots of people were disappointed in Avengers 2, I had an amazing time watching and couldn’t keep a smile off my face during its  whole run-time.

Top 10 WORST films of 2015

  1. Fantastic Four
  2. Terminator Genisys
  3. Hitman Agent 47
  4. Minions
  5. Hot Pursuit
  6. Tomorrowland
  7. Pixels
  8. American Ultra
  9. Pan
  10. Taken 3

I was sad to put a lot of films on this list. I expected good things from 1st, 2nd and 6th entries and was left extremely disappointed. One franchise was not able to get off the ground for the 3rd time, other series failed while trying to revive itself and one of the more original films of the summer flopped unspeakably. I did not expect much from 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th and 10th and was still let down, even when watching them with extremely low expectations. Hitman was the bad kind of a spy movie and the last three films embodied everything terrible about comedies. I felt really annoyed by no. 4 and no. 9 and I don’t care that these animated (let’s be real, Pan looked so fake that it does not deserves to be called a live action film) motion pictures were made for kids – they were too stupid even for babies. If you liked any of these films, I congratulate you – ‘liking’ or ‘loving’ is a very subjective action and it makes the world as well as cinema debates much more interesting.

Top 5 movies you missed/surprises/guilty pleasures

Some of these films were, I feel, unnecessary panned by critics or totally forgotten bu audiences:

  1. We Are Your Friends – it had the worst opening of the year and was hated by all – I, on the other hand, had a great time with this film – I liked it for what it was  – a summertime popcorn flick with quite a good music.
  2. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – another film, hated by both the critics and the audiences. I loved it: the acting was good, the action and the setting – interesting and it was my kind of comedic relief.
  3. Crimson Peak – the only horror-ish film I have watched this year. It was a disappointment to the majority of the fans of G. del Toro, but for me it was a pleasant surprise – I liked the performances of the 3 leads and the Victorian/Gothic mise-en-scene was wonderfully realized.
  4. Paper Towns – a film based on a different book by John Green (my favorite author) which suffered a lot because it was compared to The Fault In Our Stars way too much. I personally, really liked both films for different reasons and feel that Paper Towns deserves to be looked at as a separate entity.
  5. The Duff – another great coming of age/romantic comedy film for teens – it had amazing performances and a really nice and cute story. It also played with high school stereotypes and came out during the time when I was saying goodbye to high school.

So, these are my long personal lists of best and worst films as well as a shorter list of movies, which deserved more attention, love and money.

I will post a more personal wrap-up post on this blog later tonight, but if you are only interested in the cinema related posts, I want to wish you a very happy new year and all the best of luck in 2016! You will definitely get a lot of movie reviews of the awards’ contenders in January, and then Deadpool will roll into theaters in February, followed by Batman v Superman, Captain America Civil War and a whole bunch of other films. Cheers to the next year!

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Movie review: Bridge of Spies

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another movie review! This time, it’s a review of another Oscar contender! I have actually seen this film almost two weeks ago, but, due to the revision for the exams, I had no time to review it. Anyway, I found a spare minute, so, let’s talk about Bridge of Spies!

IMDb summary: During the Cold War, an American lawyer is recruited to defend an arrested Soviet spy in court, and then help the CIA facilitate an exchange of the spy for the Soviet captured American U2 spy plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers.

Tone

This year, I have seen way too many films about spies and special agents. Some of them were really nice (Rogue Nation), others (Hitman) – not really. It’s a good thing that Bridge of Spies falls into the first category. The film is set during the cold word and its narrative is inspired by real life events. We have already seen a spy film set in the cold war years in  2015 – The Man from U.N.C.L.E. However, that film was a remake of a TV show and had a more fun, upbeat tone and was a popcorn flick/action film. Bridge  of Spies, although set in the same era, approaches the USA vs USSR conflict in a more serious manner – it’s definitely not an action film, but suspenseful thriller/drama.

Directing

The film was directed by the famous Steven Spielberg. Spielberg is probably the first director that I have ever been interested in, even before I became really invested in films and cinema and was just a casual viewer. I couldn’t even pick my favorite movie of his, because he has directed so many films, that are now considered classics. I really love his movies from 1993 – Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List. Saving Private Ryan, E.T., Jaws and Indiana Jones films are all wonderful as well.  Moreover, did you know that Spielberg was in talk to direct a Star Wars film? Sadly, that didn’t happen, but if it had happened, it would have been amazing.

Spielberg, not surprisingly, did a great job with this film as well. All the shots were beautiful and suspenseful. I especially loved the train/wall shot. It had an emotional impact and was beautifully done.

Writing

Bridge of Spies script was written by Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, and Joel Coen. Charman has previously only written one film – a WW2 drama – Suite Française, while the Coen brothers have written numerous critically acclaimed and Oscar-winning films, their last one being Jolie’s Unbroken.

Speaking about this film’s narrative and screenplay – I liked how, although made in the US and by American filmmakers, it did not offer any judgment and presented or at least tried to present both sides of the story and not just the American view on the Cold War.

In addition, I found it interesting how this film had two different stories. Th 1st act of the film was the story of the court case while the 2nd part was the exchange in East Berlin. There wasn’t really the 3rd act in the film, although, a few scenes at the end (the resolution/the aftermath) could be considered to be the 3rd act.

This film also had amazing dialogue and a lot of lines worth quoting. The character development was also quite good.

Themes

The film explored lots of serious themes and asked a few historical questions, which are highly debated in the scientific circles as well. I am actually writing this review the night before my history exam, so my head is buzzing with various names of historians and their arguments on the different controversial topics. One thing I have definitely learned from this course (Uni of Aberdeen’s Europe in the 20th century) is that history is not set. It’s not an objective subject, it’s not just set facts and dates – I have never thought that history has so much subjectivity and debate. However, let me end this paragraph the same way I ended my history essay – with a C. Hitchen’s quote: “Time spent arguing is, oddly enough, almost never wasted.”

So, the few themes and questions touched upon in this film were:

  1. Humanity: people are still people, even in war.
  2. The hypocrisy of rights: American values of liberty and equality are universal, but only to the privileged and the Western. (Read S.Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations for an interesting take on the universality of the Western values).
  3. Who actually won the Cold War? I personally would say that USSR definitely lost the war, but I am not sure that the USA won anything. Americans tend to think that they helped the USSR to fall, but, I have a different opinion since I grew up in Eastern Europe – the most common view there is that the Cold War ended because of the actions of the oppressed people and not because of the questionable help from the West. But that’s a debate for a different conversation. (Found more info about it in M. Sarotte’s book The Collapse.)
  4. The Berlin wall and its symbolic meaning. I was born 7-8 years after the wall fell and when I was 13, I visited Berlin and saw the remains of it that are now turned into a memorial. It’s a very strong and heartbreaking image that rallies up lots of emotions, whenever I remember it. Also, on a lighter note, I have that cliche magnet with a piece of the Berlin Wall on my fridge.
  5. Nation vs individual. Are nation states even a good thing for organizing people into groups? Plus, Hank’s character presented as a silent hero – not just an American one, but a hero of humanity.
  6. The names of the countries. I have always been annoyed by people who call countries by the wrong names. Living in Scotland, it annoys me immensely when people say the UK and have only England in mind. I had the same problem with the film – characters usually said Russia when meaning the Soviet Union, which was a UNION of countries. It’s true that Russia was the leading country and occupied a lot of its neighbors and kept them in the union against their will (my country – Lithuania – included). However, when acknowledging that USSR was a union of countries, we at least acknowledge the existence and uniqueness of other Eastern European countries – they were not Russia and will never be Russia. I feel very annoyed about this issue, because these past few months, I have been meeting lots of people from all over the world and not a lot of them actually know where Lithuania is. They think that the territory of Lithuania belongs to either Poland or Russia. The ignorance reaches the highest level, when, for some people, Europe ends with Germany and the maps in their minds are missing all of the Baltic countries, Belarus, Ukraine and other central/eastern/former Yugoslavian countries.

Acting

  • Tom Hanks as James B. Donovan was the leading man of the film. This was the 4th or 5th time that Hanks collaborated with Spielberg. He did an amazing job with his dialogue and I also loved how you could see a mix of emotions on his face during the intense scenes. His character was also really likable the same way that Hanks is one of the most likable actors ever. It’s hard for me to pick my favorite Hank’s performance. I really enjoyed his later work in Cloud Atlas, Saving Mr. Banks, and Captain Phillips as well as his earlier work in Forrest Gump and The Green Mile.
  • Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel/the soviet spy. I am not familiar with Rylance’s work but I have really enjoyed his performance in this film. I liked how emotionless he was. The line: ‘Would it help?’ was funny and showed the true horribleness of that situation.
  • Austin Stowell as Francis Gary Powers/the American pilot. I am also not familiar with his work, although, he starred in one of my favorite films from last year – Whiplash. He was okay in this film as well, nothing about his performance stood out to me that much.
  • Jesse Plemons as Murphy played a friend of Powers and Plemons performance stood out to me more, maybe because I am more familiar with him as an actor. The same day, I have also watched another movie of his – Black Mass (review coming next). He was also in 2012’s Battleship, which I and my dad enjoyed while critics destroyed it. Anyway, speaking about Plemons, to me he looks like a very charismatic actor, who for some reason just attracts all the attention when he appears on the screen. Good for him and not so good for other actors, placed near him in a shot.

That’s basically all the actors that played the main roles in the narrative or had the best performances. The full list of actors is on the IMDb page right here.

All in all, I really enjoyed Bridge Of Spies. I loved Hank’s performance as well as Spielberg’s directing, although, the writing to me seemed like the strongest part of the film and I really hope that all the scriptwriters will get an Oscar nominations. I am sorry that this review was more a contextual and conceptual one while my other reviews are usually more formal and deal with the actual film and not so much with its themes. I just wanted to try something new and use my new found knowledge on the historical debates.

Have a great rest of the week!

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Bridge of Spies 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.

Movie review: Terminator Genisys

Movie reviews

Hello my dear readers!

Let’s continue the summer of sequels and review Terminator Genisys.

I am a kid of the 90s (I was born in late 90s), so I grew up watching Jurassic Park, Terminator and Mission Impossible on TV in the early 2000s. During this summer, we are getting sequels to all 3 of my childhood franchises. Jurassic World was normal (financially successful, a flop with the fans (review)). Sadly, Terminator Genisys is a double flop. So maybe Mission Impossible Rogue Nation will succeed in every aspect? We will find out in August. Anyway, let’s stay on topic and review the film which should be terminated.

Also, if you still plan to watch this film, don’t watch the trailer. The biggest twist and practically all cool action scenes are spoiled in the trailer.

IMDb summary: John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect Sarah Connor, but when he arrives in 1984, nothing is as he expected it to be.

Timeline

The timeline of Terminator films was complicated without this 5th installment but Genisys decided to mess it up completely. Don’t think about this movie in terms of other films – it’s impossible to put it in a timeline, so that it would make sense. You can watch the original James Cameron’s films in order to understand the Easter Eggs but the T1 and T2 won’t help you to understand the plot of T5 at all. However, if you think about this film as stand alone one (a reboot, a new beginning and so forth), it doesn’t makes sense as well. It relies too heavily on the originals but tries too hard change everything and misses the mark. The multiverse and time travelling are tricky things to do and, while I applaud the creators’ efforts, the results are bad. I hope The Flash season 2 will deal better with multiverse.

Reboot

Some people say that this is the 5th film of the franchise, some think it’s a reboot. For me, it’s somewhere in-between. The movie’s plot is definitely different – they tried to do a mash-up of T1’s and T2’s plots with some unnecessary twists added. Basically, they wanted this film to be a new generation’s version of Judgement Day. I have no idea why they wished to remake a perfect movie, by making it worse.

In addition, if you treat this as a reboot, why do you cast the same actors? The Connors have always changed in between movies, so it’s okay to recast them for a reboot, but why keep Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character? I know he is iconic but if you want a fresh start, you have to leave everything behind, even your icons.

Acting/Character by character

Since I am a teenager/young adult, I should like younger actors more, but this time the old Arnold was the best one.

Arnold Schwarzenegger as Guardian/The Terminator – was the best character. His action scenes were the coolest – after all these years he still looks like a bad ass. His comedic timing was also great – the joke about smile worked for me.

Jason Clarke as John Connor was okay. Nothing too good but definitely not bad either. If his reveal wasn’t spoiled in the trailer, the movie would have been more enoyable and interesting for sure.  

Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor. I am a fan of Clarke, I love her on Game Of Thrones but she is no Linda Hamilton. However, I warmed up to her by the end of the film, she won me over but it took some time.

P.S. The Clarkes were playing The Connors – I’ve only noticed that now.

Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese. Courtney has been getting a lot of work recently, but I still haven’t seen him in a role which he would truly make it his own. He was functional in Divergent and Insurgent (review), he didn’t stick to me in Unbroken (review), but I hope he will be awesome in Suicide Squad! (Have you seen the trailer?)

Courtney and Clarke really lacked chemistry at first, but they got there by the end of the film. Their pair and Arnold’s character made for an awesomely awkward trio.

Lee Byung-hun as a T-1000 brought some diversity to the film but I still prefer Robert Patrick in the role. I also was surprised how quickly they defeated him, when it took them the whole T2 to do the same.

J. K. Simmons as Detective O’Brien wasn’t a character but a plot device. But J.K. Simmons, being the master of acting he is, was great in the role. His comedy was nice too.

Matt Smith had a small role, which I don’t wan to spoil. I have only seen a few episodes of the Doctor Who, but after seeing what Matt Smith can do with 5 lines, I’m maybe more interested to try my hand at Doctor Who one more time.Regarding this film, I’ll only say this – if Smith’s role was bigger, the film might have been much better. 

Effects

The CGI looked terrible in some places (young Arnold *facepalm*), but really good in others (John Connor’s robotic body). T-1000 looked cool too, but he looked the same 24 years ago, so that isn’t a big compliment. Action scenes were okay too, they actually were the best part of the film because they did not require any explanation. And when this movie tried to explain something, it starter to sink like a Titanic. Or even faster than a Titanic.

Screenplay

The screenplay was the worst part of the film. The plot made absolutely no sense. I tried to follow it so hard in the first 30 minutes but then just gave up. My dad was napping the whole movie, because he wasn’t able to follow the plot too and then simply did not know what was happening and was snoozing because of boredom. I don’t know if a screenplay by a Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier was really that bad already or did a studio altered it way too much. Kalogridis was an executive producer on Avatar and Lussier wrote a few horror movies, but both of them aren’t really established writers, so maybe that was the problem.

However, I will give them credit for introducing the theme of humanity’s dependence on technology. Genisys app looked like an interesting device but we only had tiny bits of information about it. If the film focused more on the actual technology and less time on time travel and family dynamics, it might have been a really great motion picture.

Directing 

The film is directed by Alan Taylor – he has only directed 5 movies, including Thor 2, which I liked but a lot of people had mixed reactions to it. However, Taylor directed a lot of TV shows, like Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Rome, Mad Men and Game of Thrones. To my mind, after this flop, he won’t be making any movies moving forward, but I hope that he will be able to get some work on TV.

All in all, I loved Arnold as the Terminator once more, the action and acting was tolerable, the plot lacked focus but wrapped itself up nicely, although, it made no sense to begin with.  I advise you not to waste your time on this film or if you do decide to see it – have very low expectations. Mine were too high. I believe that this film will be a huge box office flop and although 6th and 7th installments are slated for 2017 and 2018, I won’t believe that they will be happening, at least not with this creative team. Maybe if James Cameron had the rights back, we would actually get a good Terminator film in the 21st century.

Rate: 3.25/5 

Trailer: (spoiler-y) Terminator Genisys trailer

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