Movie review: The Big Sick

Movie reviews

Hello!

I had a chance to watch, probably, the most original film of the year and I really want to talk about it. It’s The Big Sick!

IMDb summary: Pakistan-born comedian Kumail Nanjiani and grad student Emily Gordon fall in love but struggle as their cultures clash. When Emily contracts a mysterious illness, Kumail finds himself forced to face her feisty parents, his family’s expectations, and his true feelings.

Writing

The Big Sick was written by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani. They based the script of their actual relationship and Nanjiani also portrayed a version of himself in the film. Gordon has mostly written for TV before, while Nanjiani has done a lot of acting and writing for TV too. The Big Sick was their biggest writing project to date.

The aspect of the film, which has been discussed the most, was its diversity or, more specifically, the ethnicity/race of the main character/actor as well as the cultural commentary provided by the movie. Everyone in the industry was super surprised that a movie with a Pakistani-American actor in the lead could succeed financially (critical success seemed more plausible) or that audiences were actually interested in a different culture.

On top of being interested in a different culture, audiences just usually look for a quality film to watch, and The Big Sick was exactly that. I thought that it had one of the best scripts of the recent romance films because the relationship was written in a realistic manner. The dialogue between the two people was fresh and actually sounded like an interaction between real people: it had moments of awkwardness and comfort, fun and absurdity but was also very sincere. The slight gendered bickering wasn’t out of place either and felt like a believable part of a modern relationship. The cinematic cliches (e.g. a guy listening to the girl’s voicemails after the breakup) didn’t look forced or cringy but actually seemed cute and natural. Lastly, the way Gordon and Nanjiani wrote the ending of the film was just absolutely brilliant. They didn’t go for a grand reveal and an instant fairy tale conclusion but crafted a realistic ending to a relationship – the kind that people have to work for.

Speaking about the portrayal of a different culture, I thought that The Big Sick was very successful in that aspect. I loved how the film presented a varied Pakistani-Muslim community, with some people keeping up with the traditions more and some less. It was also very thoughtful of the movie to showcase a successful arranged marriage (while it might not be for everyone, it can also bring happiness). In addition, I loved how the movie wasn’t afraid to not just present the culture but to critique it (or even joke about it). One of the best moments in the picture was the scene where Nanjiani’s character voiced his doubts about the culture (are the American lifestyle and the Muslim culture at all compatabile?). I loved how in that moment, he both remained respectful of the culture but also wasn’t blinded by it and underscored the importance of his own personal experience. The inclusion of Nanjiani’s career plot-line into the picture also helped to interrogate the culture from more than not just the romance angle, while it also made the story richer and elevated the whole movie.

Another unique part of the film was Nanjiani’s character’s bonding time with his girlfriend’s parents (I haven’t seen anything similar in recent times or maybe ever). Their conversations were really genuine but also fun. The scene of the mother character showing her daughter’s childhood pictures to the boyfriend was so true to life. The way the parent characters were written to behave at the hospital – writing everything down and googling the symptoms – added another layer of realism to the film too. My only slight gripe was the fact that I didn’t think that the inner problems of the parent’s relationship were necessary. However, their addition to the movie didn’t detract from the main relationship too much.

Directing

The Big Sick was directed by Michael Showalter whose previous picture was also a romantic comedy – Hello, My Name is Doris, which was as unique as The Big Sick. Both of these pictures focused on unconventional romantic pairings, be it because of the age or ethnicity of individuals in the relationship.

I thought that Showalter did a very good job directing The Big Sick. I liked the overall aura of the film: it had the authenticity of a documentary film but was approachable as a narrative film. Plus, although it was an indie picture, it had the continuity and flow of a mainstream romantic comedy.

Moreover, The Big Sick was very nicely paced: the story progressed slowly but never dragged, instead, the movie cleverly took its time to build an emotional core of the narrative. The reveals in the story also came organically and weren’t shocking just for the sake of being shocking. Alternatively, they were, again, more focused on the sentimental impact.

Acting

  • Kumail Nanjiani had a few minor roles on the big screen prior to this picture, though he was most well known for being on the main cast of Silicon Valley (a series that I have yet to watch). I wonder how was it for him to play a version of himself – whether it was easy or extremely difficult and whether he had to withhold or embellish his personality for the camera. Overall, I believe that he portrayed the character’s arc very concincigly and I hope that this film’s success can lead to more movie roles for him.
  • Zoe Kazan was also very good in the picture. Her and Nanjiani’s chemistry was amazing too. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano starred as the parent and did a nice job as well. It was delightful to see Hunter in a better film than her last one (BvS) and Romano actually appearing on the screen instead of just voicing the mammoth in the endless Ice Age movies. Lastly, the film’s cast was rounded out by a whole bunch of stand-up comedians, who all delivered excellent performances.

In brief, The Big Sick is one of the most unique romantic comedies I have ever seen. Not only does it have a fresh perspective and an original concept to explore, it is simply just a very well made movie.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: The Big Sick trailer

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Movie review: Baywatch

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of one of the first comedies of this summer’s movie season – Baywatch! Even though the online discussion around this movie has died down before it even started (the film flopped at the US box office), I still decided to see it because of the cast and the brand-recognition! Also, I’m almost 3 weeks late to the aforementioned discussion cause the movie only came out today, where I’m currently staying (the joys of international release schedules!).

IMDb summary: Devoted lifeguard Mitch Buchannon butts heads with a brash new recruit, as they uncover a criminal plot that threatens the future of the bay.

I vaguely remember watching some episodes of the original Baywatch TV series at least a decade ago. Besides, I have always wanted to be a lifeguard myself (especially during the summer), so seeing the shenanigans of the lifeguards had a personal appeal.

Writing

Baywatch’s screenplay was a mixed bag, like so many blockbuster scripts nowadays. What is for sure – the movie definitely did not need 6 screenwriters. The screenplay credits were awarded to Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, while Jay Scherick, David Ronn, Thomas Lennon, and Robert Ben Garant supposedly contributed to the story. Bear in mind, neither of these writers are proven or trustworthy (they haven’t had any big hits yet).

The narrative that these 6 gentlemen crafted for the film was fine. It didn’t make the most sense but I didn’t expect it too. The opening sequence worked (technically) – cause it set up the whole plot neatly (literally, every scene either introduced a character or a plotline – everything happened super mechanically and by the numbers – there was no breathing room) but it wasn’t the most interesting thing to watch. All the different plotlines – the drug smuggling, the lifeguard investigation, the lifeguard v police fight, Efron’s character’s redemption, Johnson’s character’s personal arc, the two (three?) romantic duos – did not really gel at times. The ending was also cheesy and illogical but since it was kinda entertaining and mostly funny rather than cringe-y, I could forget the storytelling flaws.

Another important aspect of the film, of course, this being a comedy, was the humour. Like the story, it was a mixed bag. Some jokes landed and seemed organic enough, while the others made the impression that the filmmakers were just trying too hard. My favourite moment, by far, was the scene where Johnson shouted to Efron: ‘Hey, High School Musical’. Actually, a lot of the nicknames by Johnson worked. The lunch table gag with the salad was good as well as the moment where Efron calls outs their plan for sounding like a plot of a TV show. Nice, 4th wall breaking wink, there. The pop culture references were mostly fine too. However, the whole arc of Ronnie (played by Jon Bass) was too awkwardly painful to watch. I really dislike cheap comic relief within a comedic movie.

The writing for characters was okay too, even if quite scarce. One thing that stuck out to me was the fact that Efron’s character – a swimmer – messed up in the Rio Olympics. That seemed like a jab at the actual real life US swimmer Ryan Lochte, who also got into a scandal in Rio. I might have been reading to much into it, though.

Directing

Horrible Bosses’ director and Pixels‘ executive producer (doesn’t sound too good, huh?) Seth Gordon directed Baywatch and was fine. The pacing was quite wonky – the film really slowed down before the third act, but the third act itself was entertaining enough. The other action sequences worked too – the nursery fight was fun and the lifeguard tryouts were cool – but the CGI could have been way better, the fire especially – it seemed so fake. The slow-mo – a staple of the Baywatch brand – was used extensively, but, in this case, I could let that slide. The final slow-mo shot with all of them running by the beach was actually quite cute, even if we have seen it in the trailers. The bloopers during the credits were also adorable – way more organic and fun than some of the actual jokes.

Acting

Baywatch had a really good cast. Dwayne Johnson (San Andres, Moana, Fast and Furious) basically played himself – a charming, likeable, and super fit man. Zac Efron also played a familiar role – he is always ‘less than clever but sweet guy that needs redemption’ in every comedy ever (Mike and Dave, Neighbours, We Are Your Friends). Efron’s and Johnson’s chemistry was okay but it was not as good as Johnson’s and Kevin Hart’s chemistry in Central Intelligence last year. Next for Johnson –  the Jumanji remake/sequel, while Efron is going back to his musical roots with The Greatest Showman.

Other supporting characters were played by Alexandra Daddario (also from San Andreas), a model Kelly Rohrbach (she was good as a replacement for Pamela Anderson – more natural looking too), Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra in one of her first Hollywood roles (she was fine but I could have done without so many lines stating that ‘oh, she is a woman’), Jon Bass (from Loving), Ilfenesh Hadera, and The Get Down’s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (he is also gonna be in The Greatest Showman and also will have a role in Aquaman).

The two main cameos in 2017’s Baywatch were given to the two most important Baywatch TV series alumni – David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson. Hasselhoff’s cameo was better – he was written into the story, while Anderson’s appearance was just tacked on. Weirdly, Hasselhoff already had a cameo in a summer movie this year – he showed up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

In short, Baywatch is an okay summer comedy. It is not the funniest thing but not the worst either.

Rate: 2.75/5

Trailer: Baywatch trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: The Promise 

Movie reviews

Hello!

During the busy summer blockbuster season, I like to make time for the ‘regular’ movies too. The picture that I’m reviewing today – The Promise – falls exactly into this category.

IMDb summary: Set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, The Promise follows a love triangle between Michael, a brilliant medical student, the beautiful and sophisticated Ana, and Chris – a renowned American journalist based in Paris.

  1. A few months ago, I raised a general question to my dad (who watches lots of movies with me): when will we run out of war stories? Well, I pretty much got my answer while watching The Promise and the short version is – never. Not only do we have lots of modern/current wars to tell stories about, but we still have a ton of untold tales from the past wars. The Promise focuses on the Armenian Genocide inside the Ottoman Empire during the First World War – not a topic that World War I movies have previously touched upon.
  2. The reason why The Promise decided to tell this particular story was because of the film’s source of funding. The entire budget was donated by an American businessman that has Armenian roots – Kirk Kerkorian – and his sole wish was to bring this story into the mainstream consciousness rather than earn money. Sadly, this film didn’t succeed at either – it was a box office bomb, which means that not a lot of people had a chance to witness this narrative.
  3. The Promise was directed by Terry George, from the script by the director himself and the screenwriter Robin Swicord. I thought that the directing was quite solid even if the film was a bit long and dragged at times. However, at the same time, I don’t think that they should have cut anything from the story – I applaud the writers for not oversimplifying the journey that these characters had to take. I would also like to praise them for creating 3 interesting leads who seemed both realistic and believable enough and were also cinematically engaging. It was also nice to see a level of objectivity in a war movie – I believe that it was really important to include a character on the Turkish side who was actually a good person rather than just to paint that whole nation as the villains.
  4. The emotional core of the film was also effective. This real-life story is tragic in itself and the dramatic love triangle (which worked and wasn’t too tearful or cliche) only added extra emotions to the script. A few of especially heart-wrenching moments were the sequence where Oscar Isaac’s character finds his village’s people slaughtered by the river and the shots of the makeshift red-cross flag, placed on the side of the mountain.
  5. The Promise had a stellar cast, full of gifted actors who delivered spectacular dramatic performances. Sadly, not a lot of them were of Armenian descent – I think it would have been nice to spotlight some lesser known Armenian talent. Oscar Isaac was absolutely wonderful – these are the types of roles that I’d like to see more of him in rather than the awful supporting roles in failed blockbusters (X-Men: Apocalypse). Having said that, I would also like to see him continuing to star in more successful big-budget pictures, like Star Wars. Christian Bale (The Big Short) was also really good, although it was quite unusual, seeing him in a role which did not require a lot of physical change. Charlotte Le Bon (The Walk, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Bastille Day) was also amazing. Probably the most well-known Armenian actress on the cast was Westworld’s Angela Sarafyan – she played a small but important role. Other non-American and non-English actors were also included (which seems better than just having Americans and Brits playing Armenians): Mexican Daniel Giménez Cacho, Iranian Shohreh Aghdashloo, Croatian Rade Sherbedgia, Dutch-Tunisian Marwan Kenzari, and Israeli actor Yigal Naor all had supporting roles in the picture.

In short, The Promise is a well-made historical drama that might not sound super original but is, nonetheless, very important, as it tells a forgotten story of the marginalized people.

Rate: 4.25/5

Trailer: The Promise trailer 

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My review: Everything Everything 

Movie reviews

Hello!

Hiding behind all the summer blockbusters, are smaller drama films. This particular one is also on a mission to prove that YA movies are not dead yet. This is Everything Everything.

IMDb summary: A teenager who’s spent her whole life confined to her home falls for the boy next door.

While YA adaptations have been on a high a few years back, they have mostly fallen off the radar. Everything, Everything is the most similar to The Fault In Our Stars but no one expects it to replicate the latter’s success. And yet, it might still be a good movie on its own. As a disclaimer – I had no prior knowledge about the film, hadn’t even seen the trailer, so I’m judging it purely based on what I saw on screen.

Writing

Everything, Everything’s script was written by J. Mills Goodloe (she wrote Nicholas Sparks’s The Best of Me and another romantic drama – The Age of Adaline), based on a book of the same name by Nicola Yoon. I’ve never read the book (and do not plan to), so I can’t comment on any changes if there were any. However, I will say that the characters of the story were quite interesting and fairly realistic – at least I was able to identify with both the girl (she reads a lot and writes reviews, kinda an obvious similarity?) and the guy (me and him both have a cynical outlook on the surface). The dialogue between the two leads sounded realistic enough too. It wasn’t just cute but appropriately awkward and uncomfortable.

What annoyed me in the film the most, was the cliche of the overprotective and the abusive parents. Abuse within a family, accidental or deliberate, is a serious issue but it had been reduced to a young adult movie cliche by Hollywood. The actual concept has been long overdone but it has never been explored successfully or in a way that would elicit a change in the real world. This film just basically reduced the abuse from a guy’s dad into an inciting incident.

The girl’s side of the story was explored more widely but the movie did not delve deeper into the issue. If the legal and psychological backgrounds related to the illness that the girl’s mom has were explored, the movie would have been way more sophisticated and would have been elevated from the level of a YA romance. It would have also been interesting to see how her medical background had affected her sickness. Also, the picture should have said the name of the illness a loud –  Munchausen syndrome by proxy – cause a lot of viewers in my screening were confused by the ending. I don’t think they were entirely sure whether the mom was just malicious or whether she actually had a mental disability.

Directing

A relative newcomer to the filmmaking business, Stella Meghie directed Everything, Everything and did a fairly good job. While the cliches such as the pop songs in the soundtrack and the shots of beautiful locations during the ‘escape’ sequence (here they traveled to Hawai – really reminded me of TFIOS sequence in Amsterdam) were present in the film, it also had a couple of original-looking scenes. I especially loved the visualization of the online conversations through the prism of the girl’s architectural models – the dinner and the library. The recurring visual of the astronaut was also a nice Easter Egg within a movie. Overall, not a bad effort from a fresh director.

Acting

Amandla Stenberg, best known for her role as Rue in the first Hunger Games, played the female lead, while Jurassic World’s Nich Robinson played the male lead. He also has prior YA movie experience – he has previously starred in The Fifth Wave. While watching the film, I actually thought that he was a different actor – the one who played the oldest child in Captain Fantastic – George MacKay. Turns out, they are two different people. Weirdly enough, Stenberg, having just starred alongside Robinson, will now perform next to his doppelganger Mackay in Where Hands Touch.

A Disney Legend Anika Noni Rose (the voice of Tiana) played the role of the overprotective mother and did a good job. She did the best she could with a role that could have been rich but was really shallowly written.

In short, Everything, Everything is a good offering of the dying genre, which I doubt it will save. The cast is talented, the directing is inspiring, but the script is lacking.

Rate: 2.8/5

Trailer: Everything Everything trailer

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Movie review: Passengers

Movie reviews

Hello!

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

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

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

SPOILERS AHEAD

Writing

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

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

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

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

Directing

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

Acting

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

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

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

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

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Passengers trailer

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Movie review: La La Land

Movie reviews

Hello!

Today, I had a chance to see the current awards front-runner – the film La La Land – so let’s review it! I have read a lot of emotional (both positive and negative) tweets about it in my feed these past few weeks, but, as usual, I decided to make up my own mind by watching it.

IMDb summary: A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.

I would like to begin by saying that La La Land is very much an indie picture – it won’t please the majority of the mainstream audiences and it certainly didn’t appeal to the majority of the people at my screening, who were complaining throughout the whole runtime. Despite their actions, I took La La Land for what it was – a niche musical about Hollywood – and had a great time watching it.

Writing

La La Land was written by Damien Chazelle, who also directed the picture. Chazelle is best known for directing and writing 2014’s awards winner Whiplash, but he also wrote the recent 10 Cloverfield Lane. I, personally, found La La Land’s story to be interesting. It wasn’t the most original but it was executed quite well. I, as a fan of cinema, have always enjoyed movies set in LA and Hollywood. Musicals have also always been my guilty pleasure genre. La La Land combined both of these things in a more successful way than Hail, Caesar – another recent film about Hollywood that featured some musical numbers. Lastly, I loved all the homages in La La Land, especially, the Rebel Without a Cause recreation.

Thematically, the film was also quite good. The character development was great as well – the two leads appeared as fully rounded and real characters. I saw some complaints saying that the lead female character was really unlikeable. To my mind, firstly, the characters don’t necessarily have to be likable to interesting. Secondly, I thought that not only the female lead but the male lead had some qualities that made them unlikeable. Besides, real people aren’t always likable too, so why should then the movie characters be over-idealized versions of us? I though that the main pair’s relationship had its ups and downs and that both individuals involved were damaged as well as rewarded by it. She might not have gotten to fulfill her dreams without him but neither would he have reached his goals without her. Not surprisingly, one of my favorite scenes from the writing perspective was their argument over dinner – it had great timing and a lot of emotional weight. Overall, I did enjoy the message of the film, so dream big because somebody has to.

Directing

For the most part, I really enjoyed La La Land’s directing. I loved the mixture of the long tracking shots and the speedy montages. I liked the upbeat energy of it, the dreamy atmosphere, the colorful pallet as well as the beautiful settings and the whole mise-en-scene. However, I think that the picture’s pace was a bit uneven and that the film was a tiny bit too long.

My biggest problem with La La Land was the fact that the movie was confused about its genre. Maybe this was an intentional decision and if so, I don’t think that this particular blend of genres worked. La La Land, at times, was a realistic, grounded, quite modern film, close to a drama. However, a few scenes later, it would very much remind of a filmed theater performance – the levels of overdramatization would go through the roof. This would happen a lot during the musical numbers, which sometimes made the movie seem like a live TV special, like Grease: Live! and Hairspray: Live! I wish the filmmakers would have picked one direction and followed it: either make La La Land into a fully modern or a fully traditional musical.

So, even though La La Land didn’t reach the quality of Singing in the Rain, it still had some pretty enjoyable sequences. A couple of my favorites were all the times when Ryan Gosling’s character played the main theme of the film. I also really like Gosling’s and Stone’s interaction during the ‘I ran’ performance. The dream sequence was also lovely and looked visually stunning. I liked The Messengers’ gig scene too. However, my favorite sequence was the dance with the city’s skyline in the background. 

Music

Justin Hurwitz was responsible for the soundtrack and I think he did a neat job. Although I’m not the biggest fan of jazz, I did appreciate its tunes and all the nostalgia surrounding them in this film. Other songs were beautiful as well but not catchy in that pop-music kinda way. Nevertheless, City of Stars is a magnificent song.

Acting

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone made for a great lead duo. Their chemistry was amazing as usual, as this was not the first time they worked together – they have also started in Crazy, Stupid, Love (one of my favorite romantic comedies) and a passable thriller Gangster Squad. Both of the actors did a good job with their singing – theirs were not the best singing performances I’ve seen in a film but they weren’t the worst either. I absolutely loved the dancing, though. I don’t know if the two of them are going to win any big awards in the acting category but I could definitely spot a few scenes that were included in their awards reels. For Gosling, it could have been any of the piano playing scenes, while for Stone it was most likely the audition storytelling/singing sequence.

A few of my favorite Stone’s film are Easy A, Magic in the Moonlight, Irrational Man, and Birdman. Going forward, she has a sport’s comedy Battle of the Sexes listed for next year. Gosling’s best film are Blue Valentine, Drive, The Big Shortand The Nice Guys. He will star in the Blade Runner sequel next year.

The film’s supporting cast didn’t have much to do in the film, but I’d like to mention two individuals who stood out. First one was, of course, well-known singer John Legend – has was great. The second one – J.K.Simmons – it was nice of him to cameo in a different movie by Chazelle as Whiplash earned Simmons an Academy Award and it was nice of Chazelle to include him in the film for the same reason.

To conclude, La La Land was a gorgeous looking film with a nice story, lovely performances, and great music. However, I can’t recommend it as a must-watch as I think that only a very open minded audience would enjoy it. With musicals, like this one, you just have to go with everything and do not find the random bursting out into song moments awkward or uncomfortable.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: La La Land trailer

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Movie review: Allied

Movie reviews

Hello!

Today, I’m reviewing Allied – the movie that ‘broke’ Brangelina, the ‘it’ couple of Hollywood. Okay, I’m kidding –  I don’t actually believe or care much about the rumors. To me, Allied is, first and foremost, a film by a director that is of my native descent (Zemeckis is half-Lithuanian).

IMDb summary: In 1942, an intelligence officer in North Africa encounters a female French Resistance fighter on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressures of war.

Writing

Steven Knight wrote the screenplay for Allied. So far, his accomplishments have been a bit average: I absolutely loved his small film Locke and really enjoyed the stories of The Hundred-Foot Journey and Pawn Sacrifice. However, Knight also penned the script for the so-so picture Burnt and wrote the completely awful Seventh Son as well. His next film will be a different Brad Pitt picture – Wold War Z 2. Speaking of the writing for this film, quality-wise, Allied was a mixed bag , just like Knight’s track record.

I felt that Allied contained two distinct stories which could have been explored in two separate movies. The first suspenseful act of the two characters falling in love on a mission was cool and interesting. It was a successful homage to Casablanca and the Golden Age of Hollywood. The second story – the home life and the investigation – was much slower and less interesting than the preceding set-up. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the fact that this film focused more on the romance and less on the war because I have already seen enough historical films, in which the romantic aspect is relegated to the sidelines and feels out of place. Allied made a decision to be a romantic movie first and a war drama second and stuck with it. I, as I have mentioned, enjoyed and liked this idea, but I can also understand that some people might see it as too sappy and melodramatic. I, personally, found it touching and heartbreaking, although not Casablanca level heartbreaking (Allied didn’t reach the levels of ‘We’ll always have Paris’ is what I’m saying).

Having said that, Allied still did have some pretty nice lines of dialogue and some rather cool concepts. I don’t really know why but I liked the trailer line: ‘Being good at this kind of job is not very beautiful’. I also enjoyed the ideas about love in war – the problem isn’t the action of getting involved, it is feeling something about the involvement. Lastly, I liked how the film underscored that the two main characters could never be trusted, as they were trained to lie.

Directing

Robert Zemeckis, who is responsible for creating a whole slew of cinematic classics – Back To The Future trilogy, Who Framed Robert Rabbit, Forrest Gump, and Cast Away and whose latest films include The Walk and Flight, directed Allied and did quite a good job. The film looked beautiful visually, although the CGI at the beginning (the desert) seemed a tiny bit fake and took me out of the film. Other historical settings were realized nicely, though. Zemeckis also used a lot of time jumps in the film and they did make sense for the most part. Lastly, I did like his long takes that some critics panned. At first, they seemed unnecessarily long to me as well, but then I realized that they were this long for a reason and were meant to show or to indicate something extra.

Acting

I think that the lead duo – Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard – did an amazing job. First, they had crazy good chemistry and made a believable couple – their back and forth dialogue was superb, especially in the first act. Secondly, I think that the two actors nailed the ‘fake’ spy acting and didn’t make it seem cartoony. I was also quite surprised to see Lizzy Caplan in a supporting role and thought that her character was interesting, although, I question the motives behind the decision to include her character. A trio of actors, who seem to constantly appear in historical movies – Jared Francis Harris, Matthew Goode, and Simon McBurney, rounded up the cast of Allied and brought solid performances too.

Actors’ film recommendations:

  • Brad Pitt: Seven, Fight ClubMr. & Mrs. Smith (why not, it is still a good movie), Inglorious Basterds, Fury, The Big Short, By The Sea (even more ironic, as this one is directed by Jolie).
  • Marion Cotillard: Macbeth, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, Big FishLa Vie en Rose for which she won an Oscar should also be on this list, even though I haven’t seen it yet. 
  • Lizzy Caplan: Now You See Me 2, Mean Girls (what a throwback).
  • Jared Harris: Benjamin Button, Lincoln, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
  • Matthew Goode: Downton Abbey, The Imitation Game, Watchmen.
  • Simon McBurney: MI:Rogue Nation, Magic in the Moonlight, The Theory of Everything, Jane Eyre.

In brief, Allied was a solid romantic war drama. It had good acting and a decent story and visuals. However, the film was not groundbreaking, which it could have been, knowing who was involved in its making, both in front and behind the camera.

Rate: 3,75/5

Trailer: Allied trailer

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Movie review: Me Before You

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another film review of the summer. This time, we are talking about Me Before You – a book-turned-movie, whose story can shortly be described as The Intouchables meets The Fault In Our Stars.

IMDb summary: A girl in a small town forms an unlikely bond with a recently-paralyzed man she’s taking care of.

First of all, let me explain that comparison. Me Before You reminded me of The Intouchables in that both films had unlikely pairs, consisting of two very different, even opposing individuals. TFIOS and Me Before You are obviously similar in that they both showcase sad but hopeful love stories, which are cut short by health problems. In addition, both TFIOS and Me Before You are coming-of-age narratives. Their characters learn to live boldly, step out of their comfort zones and seize the day and, hopefully, spread this message to the viewers.

Writing: Book to Movie Changes and Jokes

Me Before You (the book) was written by Jojo Moyes and she also wrote the screenplay for the cinematic adaptation. So, not surprisingly, there were not any big changes to the story. A few minor things were left out of the film, but nothing too major or surprising. Almost all of the dialogue or at least the majority of the lines came straight from the book, so, since I’ve only recently finished the novel, I knew what the characters would say even before they opened their mouths.

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10 small changes:

  1. Will’s sister Georgina did not appear in the film. She didn’t do anything significant in the book, just stood in the corner and looked angry, so I can definitely see why they chose not to include her.
  2. Will’s dad was not cheating on his wife, at least we’re not told that. Will’s parents didn’t get on well because of Will’s desire to die and that is the same way in the book.
  3. Lou’s family also did not get much attention in the film, definitely less than in the book.
  4. Lou and her sister Treena had a much better relationship in the film than in the book.
  5. Lou’s age was changed from 27 to 26, Will’s – from 35 to 31.
  6. Lou’s had a chance to study in Manchester in the film, while in the book, she had tickets to Australia. She stayed in her hometown in both versions.
  7. Lou’s backstory with the maze and the events that happened there was not included in the film version of the story.
  8. Will’s love of classical music was not explicit. He enjoyed the concert that they went to, but he was also seen listening to dub-step(ish) music in his room.
  9. The tickets to the concert were purchased by Lou in the film, while they were a gift from Will’s friend in the book.
  10. Lou didn’t move in with Patrick in the film, while she briefly did that in the book. Patrick also didn’t know about Will’s wish to end his life, so he didn’t tell anyone this secret as he did in the book. Thus, all the journalists, who were trying to get Lou’s side of the story, when Will went to Switzerland, were not present in the film.

The film was a lot funnier than the book, although the jokes were the same. I guess there is a big difference between reading/imagining the joke and actually seeing/hearing it on screen.

Ending (SPOILER-Y PART)

Both the film’s and the book’s ending were the same. Will choose assisted suicide in Switzerland. It is quite a controversial ending, because euthanasia is such a difficult topic. I also have mixed feelings about it. I applaud the book and the movie for having such a bold ending and for sticking to the topic of individual choice till the end. At the same time, the ending is too sad and depressing to be truly enjoyable.

Directing: Montages, MES, and Favorite scenes

Me Before You was directed by a theater director Thea Sharrock and this was her cinematic debut. I think she did quite a nice job, I only wish she would have stopped Emilia Clarke’s over-dramatization in a few scenes. I liked the two montages – the one who showed the start of the relationship as well as Lou’s learning/planning experience. The opening of the film was also quite quick and condensed – they went over the first 100 pages of the book in 10 minutes or less. Sharrock also included a visual presentation of Will’s life before the accident in that birthday video, which was a good idea, because it gave the viewers more context which, in the book, was given through textual exposition. I also really liked the shots of the scenery – the castle – as well as the fact that they stayed faithful to Lou’s fashion sense from the book. Those bumblebee tights were definitely cute.

My 3 favorite scenes were Lou’s and Will dialogue on the beach. It was really sad but not TFIOS Eulogies sequence sad. The even more emotional scene was their last interaction in Switzerland. That one really got people crying in my screening. Lou’s and Will ‘dance’ at the wedding was also amazing to see.

Music

The film had an excellent soundtrack by Craig Armstrong, who has also recently scored another British romantic drama – Far from the Madding Crowd. I especially like the usage of Ed Sheeran’s songs – Thinking Out Loud and Photograph as well as Don’t Forget About Me by Cloves and Not Today by Imagine Dragons.

Acting

  • Emilia Clarke as Louisa Clark. This was probably the first time that I shared a name (or at least a nickname( with a fictional character. Louisa shortens her name to Lou and I also do that with my name, especially when living abroad, in the UK. Having said that, my and Lou’s similarities end there and yet, I still felt connected to the character. In a few scenes, Emilia Clarke was over-acting a bit too much – Lou was supposed to be awkward but not in a cheesy way –  but overall, she did a nice job. I especially liked her facial expression the concert scenes – so happy just to be there and hear live music, probably for the first time. Last year, Clarke starred in the god awful Terminator Genisys and she was definitely the best part of that film. Her best performance to date is, of course, playing Daenerys on Game of Thrones. Next film on Emilia’s resume – another romantic drama – Voice from the Stone.
  • Sam Claflin as Will Traynor. Claflin is one of my favorite actors since his brief appearance in Pirates of the Carribean 4, live-action Snow White and later on in The Hunger Games series. Recently, he also starred in another romantic drama – Love, Rosie. He was great as Will – a likable a**hole, at least at the beginning. I also liked his facial expression at the concert – showing so many emotions at once and yet not too much. In addition, I think that Claflin did a nice job acting as a person with disabilities a.k.a. not being able to move but still performing/acting. Next on Claflin’s list of films – also a romantic movie, but this time a comedy – Their Finest.
  • Janet McTeer as Camilla Traynor and Charles Dance (Dracula Untold) as Steven Traynor did a good job with the few scenes they had. Seeing Dance and Clarke on screen together was pretty weird, though, after knowing their characters on GOT.
  • Brendan Coyle as Bernard Clark and Samantha Spiro as Josie Clark were also both really good. I liked seeing Coyle getting some work now that Downton Abbey is over. I especially liked his conversation with Lou in her bedroom.
  • Jenna Coleman as Katrina Clark was really charming in the film. Lou’s sister was quite annoying the book, but that, thankfully, was not carried over to the film. Coleman has a cult fanbase because she played a companion of Doctor Who on Doctor Who. I have yet to watch that show.
  • Matthew Lewis as Patrick. The last movie starring Lewis that I’ve seen was probably Harry Potter 8, so it was quite weird seeing him in Me Before You. He did a nice job portraying the Running Man and made him appear less of an a**hole than he seemed to be in the book. He wasn’t a great boyfriend, but then again, Lou should have ended things with him long ago.
  • Steve Peacocke as Nathan was also a great supporting actor. I liked his few interactions with Lou and I wish we would have seen him in a couple more scenes with Will, because in the book, they are quite good friends and like to bet on stuff that Lou will or won’t do.

All in all, Me Before You was an extremely faithful adaptation of a great book. It’s a romantic drama, so I don’t think that it’s everyone’s cup of tea, but the fans of the genre should definitely enjoy the movie. The writing and directing are good as well as the acting for the most part. I really enjoyed the film, although, I loved the book a tiny bit more.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Me Before You trailer

P.S. If you would like to follow Lou’s story, I suggest you read After You –  a sequel written by the author of the first book and the film’s screenplay.

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Movie review: Far from the Madding Crowd

Movie reviews

Hello!

Let’s take a break from big summer blockbusters and Hollywood comedies and review a British independent film Far from the Madding Crowd, which might be an awards contender later this year.

To begin with, I would like to admit that I am a huge fan of British classical literature, I especially adore the novels and the authors from the late Romantic Period/Victorian Era. (I’m currently reading Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte). I also really enjoy movies made in the UK and made by the people living there. I feel like they are very refreshing and a nice break from Hollywood. I tend to watch a lot of motion pictures that come from Hollywood, so it’s nice to squeeze in a refresher once in a while. (I limit myself to these 2 countries (UK and US) because I know English language the best out of all foreign languages). In short, to my mind, British films have a unique style and an extraordinary view on the world, which I really admire.

Despite the fact that I would consider myself to be a book nerd, I haven’t actually read the Thomas Hardy’s novel Far from the Madding Crowd before going to see the film. I usually try to read the book before watching the movie but the circumstances worked against me this time. However, I have already got this book from the library and I am eager to read it. In addition, this is not the first time when Hardy’s novel is adapted into the motion picture – this is the 4th film based on this classical book. 

IMDb summary: In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor.

Visual appeal

Victorian England is one of my favorite historical eras, so I really loved the setting and simple but beautiful decorations of this film. Most of the action took place in a rural area which had amazing and breathtaking scenery of nature. The costumes and the hairstyles were also magnificent and true to the historical facts as far as I know.

Directing 

The film is directed by a Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg. Sadly, I am not familiar with his work but I really liked what he did in this movie. The cut-to-black transition seemed a bit abrupt sometimes, but they worked well other times, so maybe he should have cut the number of those and revisited their placement. The film’s screenplay was written by David Nicholls – an English novelist and screenwriter. This is not Nicholls’s first time working with classical literature as the main source. He wrote quite a few screenplay’s for BBC adapting Dickens’s, Bronte’s and even Shakespeare’s works to the small screen.

Acting

This movie has a pretty well know and accomplished cast:

Carey Mulligan star as the main character Bathsheba Everdene. I loved how Bathsheba was a strong, independent woman but was still able to be soft on the inside. She was a hopeless romantic and made mistakes in the name of love, but always went back to being a powerful, intelligent and free – an extraordinary occurrence when you considered the time that she lived in. I really enjoyed Mulligan’s performance. Although, my favorite role of hers is still the one in Never Let Me Go – another small British film – a dystopian romance with Keira Knightley and ex-Spider-man Andrew Garfield. Carey was also really good in The Great Gatsby as Daisy. No matter how much you hate the character of Daisy, you cannot not to admit that Mulligan is amazing in that role. Also, as an author and youtuber John Green has said in a Crash Course video on The Great Gatsby – you don’t have to like the character to enjoy the story. Anyway, I went off topic, let’s go back.

Matthias Schoenaerts plays Gabriel Oak – one of 3 love interest of Bathsheba. Gabriel was the most like-able character of the film. His intentions were always pure, his actions – selfless and his words – always truthful. Matthias Schoenaerts did a really nice job. The only other movie of his that I saw was The Loft (the remake version) which I enjoyed, although everybody hated it. I’m interested to see the original Loft where Schoenaerts  plays the same role as in the remake.

Michael Sheen plays William Boldwood – the character who receives the saddest and the most undeserving end. Although, Michael Sheen is a very famous and established actor, I was introduced to him in the Twilight movies. Don’t judge, I was a 12 year old once too. Although, the Volturi family was the best part of that franchise, so maybe it’s not that bad that recognized him from there. I at least know who he is right? Let’s move on.

Tom Sturridge was Sergeant Frank Troy – the last of the love interests. It took me some time to get pass his mustache but his charisma turned him into a definite scene-stealer. Though you could sense that he was bad news, you couldn’t resist him, his smile or his witty tongue.

Juno Temple stared as Fanny Robin – a character who also got an undeserving end. I feel like she was the opposite of Bathsheba – a weaker woman, who depended way too much on the man, Frank Toy to be precise, and, as a result – ended up the way she did (NO SPOILERS). But you can’t really blame her – she was a prisoner of her era and a convict of the circumstances. I would love to see more of actress’s Juno Temple’s work. I have only seen a few movies that she was in and she had really minor roles in those. 2013 Chilean-American psychological thriller Magic Magic seems to be the best option for those, who want to really see what this actress can do.

Music

This movie features a song by Carey Mulligan and Michael Sheen, which I really enjoyed and listened quite a few times outside the cinema. You are welcomed to hear it here: Let No Man Steal Your Thyme. I also really loved the opening and closing instrumental tracks as well as the Far From the Madding Crowd Love Theme. You can find all the soundtrack here.

All in all, I really enjoyed this film for many reason, which are stated above in my review. I would love to see this film getting some attention during the awards season, although it is unlikely for that to happen. Anyway, it wins my own personal Oscar, which is much better that any Academy Award or Golden Globe.

Rate 5/5

Trailer: Far From the Madding Crowd trailer

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Movie review: Unbroken

Movie reviews

Hi!
On Monday, I went to the cinema to watch Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken. I have seen several films depicting World War II events from different angles (Schindler’s list, Fury, Inglorious Basterds, Pearl Harbor, Forest of Gods and The Imitation Game) and now Unbroken joins this list.

In short I would describe the film as a mixture of Life of Pi and Fury with a pinch of Forest of Gods and topped of with Edge of Tomorrow.

Unbroken isn’t Angelina’s directorial debut – it’s her 2nd time being behind the camera. The film tells a story of Louis Zamperini – an Olympic athlete who spent the 2nd World War in a prisoner of war camp in Japan after surviving 47 days of a raft in the middle of the ocean. It’s based on a book by Laura Hillenbrand as well as real life events. Sadly, the real Louis Zamperini died in spring of 2014 and didn’t get to see his life on the big screen.

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Acting

Louis Zamperini is portrayed by Jack O’Connell – a British actor who is best known for his work on the TV show Skins. I liked his performance, it was so-so at the beginning of the movie but in the end, when Jack really got into the character, it was just amazing. The emotional dual between him and the Bird truly showed his talent and made me enjoy the scene which was actually horrible and heartbreaking but inspiring at the same time. I would love to see more of his work.

Speaking about the Bird – a Japanese general who tortured Louis both mentally and physically – he was played by a Japanese singer Miyavi. The character seemed a bit cartoon-y to me – almost like a stupid school bully. Nonetheless, I hated the character almost as much as Christoph Waltz’s Hans Landa in the Inglorious Basterds, so Miyavi did a great job as a villain.

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Other cast members included : Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund, Finn Wittrock, Jai Courtney, Luke Treadaway, Jordan Patrick Smith and many others. As you can already tell, this is an all male cast type of movie. I don’t have any problems with that because there were no women at war. However, I do have a problem with the fact that I can’t remember anything about the characters that these actors played with the exceptions of Jack O’Connel and Miyavi. They didn’t develop them well enough and didn’t make me care about them or even remember them at all.

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Visuals and Directing

The movie is beautifully shot and I really liked Angelina’s work as a director. The scenes in the water were cool but sometimes cheesy while prisoner of war camp was portrayed realistically.

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Sport

Louis Zamperini was an Olympic runner and for me as an athlete, the part which told us about his athletic career was the most interesting. I also loved the fact that they didn’t diminish the importance of sport in Louis Zamperini’s life. If he hadn’t been an athlete and hadn’t trained as hard as he did, he probably wouldn’t have survived the war. I loved the clip of the real Louis running with the Olympic torch in 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan.

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Religion

Louis Zamperini also was a religious person, who found God when he needed him the most. Religion’s theme was mentioned in the film but didn’t explored deeply enough. The end of the film was really touching and made me tear up. It showed the importance of forgiveness – sometimes it’s better to turn the other cheek than to raise a fist.

Criticisms

Unbroken received mixed reviews from the critics and was shut down from the award’s season. Overall, I liked the film, though, a few scenes were really unbelievable and took me out of the movie. For example, their fight with a shark – you can’t catch a shark with your bare hands. The pacing had a few problems, but I would still recommend to watch this movie if you are a sport’s fan and interested in history.

Rate 4/5

Trailer: Unbroken trailer

Photos: Screenshots form the trailer.

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