Movie review: Avengers: Endgame

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review 11 years in the making. This is Avengers: Endgame!

IMDb summary: After the devastating events of Avengers: Infinity War (2018), the universe is in ruins. With the help of remaining allies, the Avengers assemble once more in order to undo Thanos’ actions and restore order to the universe.

Disclaimer: this review is going to be super vague as I’m trying to avoid spoiling even the smallest moments of the film. Still, I might not always manage to do that, thus, proceed with caution!

Writing

Endgame was written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. The duo has written a lot of previous MCU films, so they certainly have a good knowledge of this universe and these characters. And that shows as the script is just spectacular. So so so much happens in this movie: it is complex yet clear. Also, being the ‘end of an era’ type of a film, Avengers 4 really focuses on the core original Avengers, while the new characters kinda fade into the background. Focusing a film in this way makes sense to me: the newbies have to earn their right to be at the forefront. Moreover, Endgame also does a great job with setting up the future: both a couple of concrete films and just concepts that will hopefully turn into movies. Quite a few very comic-booky concepts too!

In my opinion, where Endgame shines the most is by being the sequel to end all sequels. It continues Infinity War perfectly and deals with all the issues head-on (like the ‘should have gone for the head’ gripe). It also references so so so much stuff from MCU that it makes Easter Eggs a part of the plot. Everything is referenced: lines, whole scenes, and Internet/fan jokes. It is so satisfying spotting the references or the subversion of the references: Marvel really rewards the loyalty of its longtime fans.

While I cannot really talk about the ending in this spoiler-free review, let me just say that it feels poetical. And though it may hurt, we all know it’s right.

Directing

I truly bow my head to Anthony and Joe Russos for giving me my new favourite MCU film (and their previous 3 films – Captain America 2 and 3 and Avengers 3 literally take up all the runner-up spots). The fact that they manage to portray such a complex story with clear editing is unbelievable. Plus, the fact that they succeed in making a 3h movie so engaging is also an achievement. I also appreciate all the different tones/genres that they squeeze into Endgame.

First, Endgame is a comedy: it has so many amazing comedic moments and is also a perfect conclusion (even if a temporary one) to MCU as the more family-friendly/lighter franchise. It takes that statement (that some use as a compliment and some as a critique) and owns it. I believe that these comedic undertones to the film come from The Russos’ directing roots as they did, in fact, made a name for themselves with Arrested Development and Community – two beloved comedy TV series.

Endgame is also a drama: it has depth and character moments aplenty. When I say there was no dry eye in my midnight screening, I mean it.

Endgame is also a superhero actioner through and through. It has all the CGI one would like but it also enhances it by actually making the viewers care about the characters involved rather than the third act just being a clash of random pixels. It has so many goosebump-inducing or so-called ‘money shots’. I especially loved one female empowerment shot that is hopefully not a one-off, but rather a signal to the changing times (though there was a severe lack of female viewers in my screening: really wanted it to be a 50/50 split but it was more like 80/20).

Acting

There is no way that I can possibly name all the cast members involved with this film but I believe that they all did a great job, no matter how short their involvement might have been. The core 6 – Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, and Jeremy Renner – them I will mention by name because their performances should go down as one of the best ever in movie history. The actors got to showcase their dramatic chops so much because we really see the characters as just completely broken people. The fact that the actors also have perfect comedic timing (some especially) make their overall performances that much greater.

Post-credits

With Endgame, Marvel breaks the tradition that it created, and doesn’t have a post-credits scene. And I think that’s perfectly fine: there is nothing to promote or tease moving forward (Spiderman 2 is so separate and also already being promoted with trailers that it doesn’t make sense to stick it on there): Endgame is the end of not one but 3 phases, so let it feel like a definite ending. Besides, there are setups for the future before the credits roll. Also, I believe that the lack of post-credits is also good in that it doesn’t undercut the emotional weight of the ending of the picture. The last scene one sees and remembers is the end.

In short, Avengers: Endgame makes you laugh and cry and everything in between. It also makes sure that you will come back again. Not only for future films but to rewatch this one. Again. And again. And Again. (at least that’s what I’ll be doing).

Rate: 5/5 (I mean, are we surprised? Also, that number rating has never been about objectivity but rather included by necessity).

Trailer: Avengers: Endgame trailer

P.S. If you would like to take a trip down memory lane, these are my previous MCU reviews: Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Civil War, Doctor Strange, The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Age of Ultron, Guardians 1and 2.

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The Awards Season Round-Up 2018

Movie previews, Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the end of the 2018 awards’ season. With the big night – the Academy Awards – just around the corner, I thought it was high time for me to decide on my personal winners. I have done similar posts for 2016 and 2017 awards seasons and linked them accordingly.

This year, I’m switching up the format and instead of listing my favorite to the least favorite filmmakers/films in each category, I’m just gonna be announcing a single personal (subjective) winner out of the nominees. I’ll also write down my objective winner – somebody who I think (when factoring in the previous wins, the critical acclaim, even the box office numbers) will actually get the Oscar. My subjective and objective winners might not always coincide. I’ll also include some of the snubs – people or movies that should have been included in the prestigious top 5 (or top 10 for Best Picture) but didn’t get an invite. Here we go! Don’t forget to tell me your personal winners (who should win and who will win) in the comments!

Lead Actor:

Timothée Chalamet – Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out
Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington – Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Snubs: Tom Hanks – The Post; James Franco – The Disaster Artist; Jamie Bell – Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

  • Objective Winer: Gary OldmanDarkest Hour (he won every major award until this point).
  • Subjective Winners: Timothée ChalametCall Me by Your Name or Daniel Kaluuya Get Out (two incredible actors, both at the beginning of their career – the nominations themselves already solidified them as valuable commodity in Hollywood and the wins, though unlikely, would kickstart their career on even a higher note)

Lead Actress:

Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie – I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird
Meryl Streep – The Post

Snubs: Jessica Chastain – Molly’s Game; Michelle Williams – All The Money In The World; Emma Stone – Battle of the Sexes

  • Objective Winer: Frances McDormandThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (again, she has won every major acting award this season)
  • Subjective Winner: Sally HawkinsThe Shape of Water (there was something so special about her performance that I just have to give it to her)

Supporting Actor:

Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer – All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Snubs: Armie Hammer – Call Me by Your Name

  • Objective Winer: Sam Rockwell Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (won every major award this season)
  • Subjective Winners: Sam Rockwell Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (made an awful caricature into an understandable character – brilliant)

Supporting Actress:

Mary J. Blige – Mudbound
Allison Janney – I, Tonya
Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water

Snubs: Hong Chau – Downsizing; Holly Hunter – The Big Sick; Kristin Scott Thomas – Darkest Hour

  • Objective Winer: Allison JanneyI, Tonya (won every major award – I’m getting tired of repeating this line but there really hasn’t been a lot of surprises this awards season)
  • Subjective Winners: Allison Janney I, Tonya (while all the nominees were good, she was amazing and on a different level altogether)

Director:

Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk
Jordan Peele – Get Out
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water

Snubs: Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Ridley Scott – All the Money in the World; Steven Spielberg – The Post; Sean Baker – The Florida Project; Denis Villeneuve – Blade Runner 2049

  • Objective Winer: Guillermo del ToroThe Shape of Water (the major winner this season who is also a longtime working director that deserves an Oscar)
  • Subjective Winners: Greta GerwigLady Bird (while I didn’t think her movie was as praiseworthy as everyone said, I do think that her directing abilities made it into something more special than a simple YA coming of age tale).

Adapted Screenplay:

James Ivory – Call Me by Your Name
Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber – The Disaster Artist
Scott Frank, James Mangold & Michael Green – Logan
Aaron Sorkin – Molly’s Game
Virgil Williams & Dee Rees – Mudbound

Snubs:  Armando Iannucci, Ian Martin & David Schneider – The Death of Stalin;  Hampton Fancher & Michael Green – Blade Runner 2049 (not sure whether it counts as original or adapted)

  • Objective Winer: Aaron Sorkin Molly’s Game (I think that Sorkin’s name will be enough to persuade the voters)
  • Subjective Winners: Scott Frank, James Mangold & Michael Green Logan (no surprise here, if you read my blog: as much as I like typical awards movies, seeing a mainstream comic book movie winning an Oscar would be absolutely amazing)

Original Screenplay:

Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani – The Big Sick
Jordan Peele – Get Out
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor – The Shape of Water
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Snubs: Sean Baker & Chris Bergoch – The Florida Project;  Steven Rogers – I, Tonya

  • Objective Winner: Martin McDonaghThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
  • Subjective Winners: Emily V. Gordon & Kumail NanjianiThe Big Sick or Jordan PeeleGet Out (again, two more mainstream-esque movies that did something new and unique with familiar genres)

Best Picture:

Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Snubs: The Disaster ArtistThe Big Sick; Molly’s Game; The Florida Project

  • Objective Winner: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (the winner up to this point). Or The Shape of Water (the big nominee that could steal the thunder)
  • Subjective Winners: I would love to see either of my objective winners actually winning. The third subjective pick would be Call Me by Your Name.

And that is is for the 2018th Awards Season! Onto March a.k.a. the warm-up for the summer movie season (A Wrinkle In Time; Red Sparrow; Tomb Raider; Pacific Rim 2; Love, Simon; Ready Player One…this month is going to be big!)

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Movie review: I, Tonya

Movie reviews

Hello!

Just in time for Winter Olympics 2018 in PyeongChang, I got a chance to see a biopic of a former Olympic figure skater. This is I, Tonya!

IMDb summary: Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding rises amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the activity is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.

Writing

I, Tonya was written by Steven Rogers – a writer of mostly romantic comedies and dramas. I thought that he did quite an excellent job with a new kind of story for him – a biographical black comedy. Of course, a lot of the appeal of the writing came from the peculiar and fascinating subject matter itself – Tonya Harding’s life. I really liked the structure of the film: the 4th wall breaking interviews + flashbacks. This type of structure didn’t make the movie feel choppy at all but added a layer of almost documentary-like authenticity. I also liked how the first’s part of the movie explored Tonya’s life prior to the event and only the second part focused on the event and its aftermath. By not making the whole movie about the incident with Nancy Kerrigan (who, btw, only showed up briefly – this picture was, truly, Tonya’s story and I’ve seen some supporters of Nancy complain about that online), the filmmakers really made this movie into a well-rounded biography of Tonya’s rather than just a retelling of a single event in her life. I also found the themes that the movie explored very interesting: the two major concepts that the picture looked at were family and sport – both of which intersected in Tonya Harding’s life.

Lately, ‘sport’ movies have been about so much more than just sport (like, Battle of the Sexes, in addition to I, Tonya). Gone are the days of basic inspirational sports movies of underdogs succeeding. Now, the underdogs don’t always win and the hurdles in their way are even higher and more complicated (less black and white too). Also, a recurring topic that I’ve noticed in the latest ‘sports’ movies was elitism in sport, which was explored here through the need of a ‘wholesome American family’ for a world-class skater and in Borg Vs. McEnroe through a need to come from a certain class (the higher the better) to be able to play tennis.

Looking for parallels with the other movies further, interestingly, Tonya Harding wasn’t the only real-life movie heroine this awards’ season who was told all her life that she wasn’t good enough (Molly from Molly’s Game was too). There is no question that her mother was a horrible and abusive parent. However, did that abuse really made Tonya tougher and a champion, as her mom asserted? I’d disagree, as it seems that Tonya went from one abusive family to create an abusive and dysfunctional family of her own. And yet, was she only a product of her upbringing and circumstances? Or whether some of it was completely on her? Was she inherently violent or did she learn violence? Either way, while the movie raised a lot of questions for me (as evident in this paragraph), it did provide me with one clear answer: Tonya deserved better. Also, I do believe that Tonya wasn’t to blame as much as she was blamed (she wasn’t completely blameless either). However, it seems that the skating world really could not past up an opportunity to avenge themselves not only for the incident but for her whole attitude towards them.

But, this is only my takeaway from the film. Other viewers might have understood the message differently and that’s okay because, as the movie itself stated at the very beginning: there are different versions of the truth. However, I do believe that there is a consensus among the viewers about who was the most despicable character in the film. If you didn’t think it was the bodyguard, then you really shouldn’t read this review further. I absolutely hated his character not only for his final actions that damned everyone else but just how he weaseled himself into that situation in the first place. He was truly an idiot, and that special kind of idiot, that, I’m sad to say, only seems to come in the US. Another very American aspect of the movie was the public’s reaction to the incident: Americans are a special nation who love to love celebrities as much as they love to hate them. Though it looks like this trend (of love and hate) is spreading to other parts of the world now too, mostly because of the social media.

Directing

Craig Gillespie (of The Finest Hours and Million Dollar Arm) directed I, Tonya and did a stellar job. He paced and edited the movie really well. The cinematography was great too – I loved how close and intimate the camera was during the skating sequences. The head replacement effect was noticeable in some of those sequences but not as much as to take the viewer out of the movie. The setting of the period was realized spot-on. The breaking of the 4th wall not only during the interview sequences but during the flashbacks was great too and fit the black comedy/’so crazy it has to be true’ tonne of the film. The picture was also incredibly funny but in that ‘I feel horrible for laughing’ kind of a way. I loved its irony and that satirical feeling.  The mirrored visuals in the ending, with Harding twirling on ice vs falling in a boxing, were amazing and quite sad as well.

Acting

Margot Robbie (Goodbye Christopher Robin, Tarzan, The Big Short), who has been steadily increasing her mainstream fanbase with every movie she has starred in, especially Suicide Squad, did an absolutely stellar job as the titular character. She not only acted in the film but also produced it. This role of hers reminded me of Charlize Theron’s performance in Monster, as both actresses got really de-glamourized in order to portray their respective characters. I also loved how Robbie was able to portray Tonya as a graceful dancer who wasn’t girly but rather more masculine. I thought that Robbie’s best scenes in the film (the ones that were definitely in her awards reel) were: 1)her just looking at the mirror before the 1994 Olympics and 2)her reaction to the sentence of the trial. Fun fact: the girl who played young Tonya was Mckenna Grace. In addition to playing the younger version of an actress who is Harley Quinn, she has also starred in Gifted alongside Captain America, a.k.a Chris Evans.

Allison Janney (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, The Girl on the Train) was also incredible in the film and is deservedly getting a lot of awards recognition for it. I wish that Sebastian Stan, who played Tonya’s husband, would have also gotten some awards nods because he too was excellent in the film. Stan has been steadily building quite a successful career for himself too, like Robbie, by starring in the supporting roles in smaller/awards films (The Martian, Logan Lucky) and by portraying a fan favorite character in a big franchise, a.k.a. Bucky in MCU (who was last seen in Civil War plus, a certain post-credits scene in a certain movie.

In short, I, Tonya was a great film with a fascinating subject matter and a stellar execution.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: I, Tonya trailer

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Movie review: Logan Lucky

Movie reviews

Hello!

Steven Soderbergh is back from retirement but the audiences don;t care much. This is Logan Lucky!

IMDb summary: Two brothers attempt to pull off a heist during a NASCAR race in North Carolina.

Writing

Logan Lucky was written by Rebecca Blunt – either a newcomer writer or somebody, working under a pseudonym. There has been speculation online that Blunt lives the UK, while some critics thought that Soderberg himself is hiding underneath that name (because he does that when crediting himself as a cinematographer (as Peter Andrews) and editor (as Mary Ann Bernard). Anyways, whoever this Blunt person is/was, they did a good job on the script. While the core narrative was quite familiar (Hell or High Water-esque – stealing for one’s family), its execution in details was brilliant.

The movie opened with a good set-up of the mundane lives of its characters and established them as people, whose lives did not turn out the way they planned (one of them peaked in high school, the other was suffering from the little brother inferiority complex).

Then, Logan Lucky moved on to showcasing the American culture (the kind that foreign people wouldn’t even dare to call culture), which consisted of children beauty pageants and rural county fairs. However, the star of the said culture and the film was NASCAR – a very American brand of motor-racing. The cherry on top was the prolonged anthem scene. Logan Lucky seemed to be driving home a message, that stuff like this, for better or for worse, happens only in the USA. This type of portrayal could have easily come across as annoying but the underlying sense of irony and satire made it work.

Speaking about the comedic side of Logan Lucky – it was great if not as extensive as I hoped, after watching the trailer. I loved the different pairings of the criminals (The Hitman’s Bodyguardesque) as well as the jokes that were central to the characters (one-handed bartender, the dumb brothers of Joe Bang). Logan Lucky also had a really funny sequence with Sebastian Stan’s driver character (who didn’t seem like he had much to do with the actual plot of the film). Another magnificent and hilarious sequence was the prison riot and the prisoners demanding all GRRM books, getting frustrated that ‘The Winds of Winter’ has yet to be released, and hating the fact that the TV show is going off books. The ‘explosive device’ sequence and the decision to stop midway and explain the chemistry were extremely funny too.

Logan Lucky also had a surprising and really heartfelt scene involving the main character’s daughter’s beauty pageant and the song ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ (by John Denver). That scene should have been the closing images of the picture. However, Logan Lucky did continue and had a concluding detective story that felt like an afterthought. The investigation itself was not that interesting or neccesary. However, that closing sequence did provide some revelations about the main character’s secret dealings and did have a nice ending (well, for now) with all of them sitting in a bar.

Directing

Steven Soderbergh (The Ocean’s trilogy, Magic Mike series, Haywire) did a good job with Logan Lucky but I don’t think that this was his best film. The pacing at the start was a bit slow, however, the movie did pick up its pace, when the action began. However, it started dragging again with that detective-story afterthought. What I appreciated the most about Logan Lucky (and the other films by Soderbergh) was that it felt real. Not necessarily realistic but real, grounded, self-aware, and sprinkled with irony. While the scripts that he directs (or even writes) are usually mainstream, Soderbergh addresses them with unique auteur/indie perspective.

This time around, Soderbergh also approached the distribution of the film uniquely and decided not to partner with any of the big studios. Well, that backfired. Big time. Logan Lucky didn’t win its weekend, nor it showed any staying power by dipping lower and lower in the TOP 10. I really want to know who/what is to blame. Are the audiences just not interested in Soderbergh’s work anymore? Was it the lack of advertisement? Where were all the NASCAR fans? Where were all the grown-up Pixar’s Cars fan (the ones who saw the 2006 film as children and are now adults)? Where were the fans of movies, involving cars, a la Baby Driver?

Acting

Logan Lucky had a really strong cast, lead by a new favorite of Soderbergh’sChanging Tatum (they worked together on Magic Mike, while the other recent Tatum’s films include Hail, Caesar!, The Hateful Eight, Jupiter Ascending, Jump Street). His brother was played by Adam Driver, who is constantly working on smaller, more art-house pictures in between his Star Wars gigs, like Midnight Special, Silence, and Paterson. Daniel Craig (Spectre) also had a very fun role in the film that he seemed to be having a blast while playing. He never appeared to enjoy being Bond that much and, yet, he still signed on to continue being the 007.

The supporting cast included Riley Keough (Mad Max), Katie HolmesKatherine Waterston (Fantastic Beasts), and Hilary Swank (would love to see her going back to the Million Dollar Baby type of projects and the level of success). The majority of them didn’t really play real characters but were used as devices for world-building or the lead’s character development. Seth MacFarlane (Ted, Sing) and Sebastian Stan (Marvel stuff, The Martian) also had cameo roles and their whole separate thing going on in the background.

In short, Logan Lucky was an enjoyable mixture of mainstream and indie, but it didn’t offer anything too special. Neither a disappointment nor really a win for Soderbergh.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Logan Lucky trailer

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Movie review: Captain America: Civil War

Movie reviews

Hello!

I’ve just come back from the cinema where I’ve watched the newest Marvel movie. I have been eagerly waiting for Captain America: Civil War since it was announced and I can’t wait to discuss it with you. I’m also predicting that this post will be quite long, so prepare yourselves! I’ve already done a review of the graphic novel that this movie is based on, so I invite you to read that blog entry before checking out this review! You can also find the reviews of other MCU movies here: Captain America 1&2, Avengers 2, Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy. 

IMDb summary: Political interference in the Avengers’ activities causes a rift between former allies Captain America and Iron Man.

SPOILER ALERT

Audience

Just before I start talking about the movie, I would like to mention a few things about the audience of the film. I complained in BvS’s review that there were only a few female viewers in my screening. Well, Civil War’s screening was also male-centric but there were more female viewers than in the BvS. The screening that I went to was also solely adult, which was kinda weird. Dark DC films are not as appropriate for children as the lighter Marevl films and yet there were a few kids in BvS and no children in Civil War. This might have just been a coincidence, but I still found it strange and worth mentioning.

Writing and Story

Captain America: Civil War was written by a long-time duo of screenwriters – Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. They have written all previous Captain America’s films, Thor: The Dark Wold and will be scripting both parts of the Infinity War. I believe that they more than succeeded with the story of Civil War. In general, Marvel/Disney has done it AGAIN. They not only met my expectations but exceeded them.

To begin with, this film was not an adaptation of the Civil War comic book, and that may annoy some people. Captain America: Civil War was a sequel to Winter Soldier, a continuation of Iron Man’s trilogy, Age Of Ultron’s sequel and a setup/origin story for the new characters. Civil War arc was the thing that tied all of these story lines together but was not the main focus of the film.  I enjoyed the fact that the movie had so many connecting yet different/separate storylines – it gave the feeling of a bigger cohesive universe – Marvel Cinematic Universe – while in BvS all the different plotlines just made the film messy. That’s why you make an epic team-up/versus movie 13th in the franchise, not 2nd.

  • Winter Soldier sequel – the movie expanded the Winter Soldier’s backstory. We found out that in the 1990s Hydra was operating in Russia – moved from the nazis to the soviets. The movie also introduced the idea that there were more Winter Soldiers but never really went anywhere with it. I would have liked an explanation for that blue stuff/liquid.  The new villain of the film (who wasn’t really a villain) also used the info that Black Widow put online at the end of Winter Soldier. Lastly, the character of Crossbones, who was first introduced in Cap 2 as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent (member of the S.T.R.I.K.E. team) was also featured in the Civil War’s opening, while trying to get his revenge on Captain America as well as steal a bio weapon. 
  • Continuation of Iron Man’s story – Tony Stark’s past – his parent’s death – as well as his present actions as an Avenger – played an important role in the film. This film also kinda returned the title of the leader of the Avengers back to Tony. Remember, how at the end of Age of Ultron, Captain America was the one shouting Avengers Assemble? Well, Civil War’s ending kinda suggested that Iron Man is resuming the position of the leader, since Cap is an outlaw now. Or maybe Cap will be leading Secret Avengers? Iron Man became the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. at the end of comic book Civil War, so it’s only right that he is back at the helm of the Avengers in the movie.
  • The film’s main idea, as well as Zemo’s main objective, was to break the empire from the inside – a.k.a break the Avengers from the inside. And while it looks like he succeeded – he certainly thinks that he succeeded – the hopeful ending of the film with the letter and the phone kinda suggests that the Avengers will be back together. Plus, we, as viewers, know that they will be back together since thy will have to fight Thanos.
  • Age of Ultron sequel – Sokovia accords, Zemo’s desire for revenge and Iron Man’s guilt originated in the Avengers sequel and were dealt with in Civil War. Also, the woman who confronted Tony at MIT was probably a nod to the comic book Mrs. Sharpe or she might have been an actual Mrs. Sharpe.
  • The origin stories for new characters: Civil War introduced us to Black Panther and Spider-Man. We got a chance to see T’Challa take on 2 mantels – king’s and warrior’s. We also met the new Peter Parker as well as his aunt – that whole sequence was one of the funniests in the film.

Shout-outs to the missing characters: Both Hulk and Thor were mentioned in the film. The characters wonder about their location and also questioned whose side would they choose. I think it was a good idea to cut them from the film, so as not to overcrowd it, especially when we will see both of them in Thor: Ragnarok 

Jokes: during the first half of the film, I kinda thought that Civil War might probably be the most serious film of the MCU with the smallest amount of jokes. However, then Ant-Man and Spider-Man showed up and went to town. I feel like both of their characters represented us – the viewers – and their actions probably mimic the actions that the fans would make if they met their favorite superheroes.

The writers also did an extremely good job with making the viewers understand and even sympathize  with both conflicting sides. That’s why the action scenes, where the heroes were fighting each other, were so interesting – the audience did not know who to root for. 

Lastly, the film featured a version of the prison for superheroes and it was completely different from the prison in the comics, which is not surprising. Nevertheless, it looked really cool and I wish that we would have gotten a chance to explore it more. 

Directing and Action

The Russo brothers did an amazing job directing the film – I am so glad that they will be the ones in charge of Avengers Infinity War Part 1 and 2. In Civil War, The Russos successfully juggled all the different storylines, gave the viewers enough character moments and plenty of exciting and epic action. It looked like action scenes were filmed with a handheld camera (and were actually done in-camera), so the frame was very mobile – it constantly moved and I needed a few minutes to get used to it. However, after that, I enjoyed all the actions scenes immensely. There were so many of them that they all kinda blurred together – I need a second viewing of the film to pull them all apart. 

Having said that, even though I’ve only seen the film once, I do perfectly remember those iconic shots with both teams charging into battle as well as Iron Man, Winter Soldier and Captain America fighting at the end. I really really enjoyed the sequence of the big battle because of the different fighting pairs and because those pairs constantly shifted. For example, Black Widow wasn’t always fighting Hawkeye and Iron Man wasn’t always going up against Captain America. Cap had a fight with Spidey and Hawkeye tried going against Black Panther. All of the characters moved around non-stop and fought whoever was in their way.

In addition, the other aspect of the film’s action that I liked was the Avengers, combining their powers – especially Scarlet Witch lifting Cap and then working with Falcon. I also would like to applaud the fight choreograpger – James Young – for his amazing work – all of the action scenes were unique and different yet all equally interesting. Moroever, the movie was set all over the world and I really appreciated the international feeling that it had, since Marvel’s fan come from all over the world. Lastly, the picture had an amazing and emotional score by Henry Jackman, who has previously composed music for  X-Men: First ClassCaptain Phillips, Captain America: The Winter SoldierKick-Ass, and Big Hero 6.

Acting and Characters

Although the film had a lot of characters, not any of them felt shoved in – they all fit into the story organically and all got plenty of screentime/development.

Team Captain America:

  • Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America: Evans was, once again, really great in the role. He is the Captain America and I will be very sad if someone else will take his mantel. This might happen in the near future, as the producers have said that Captain America’s story arc that started in The First Avenger is now complete. Moreover, Evans only has Infinity War Part 1 and 2 left of the contract. The way he dropped his shield at the end might be a reference to the fact that the end is near for Roger’s Captain America. I also really loved that they brought back the line ‘I could do this all day’. If you would like to see a non-comic book movie with Evans, may I suggest Snowpiercer.
  • Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier: Stan was also really good in the role. I loved the fact that we find out more of his backstory but I would also like to find out even more about that red book and why those specific words trigger something in him. Plus, I liked his friendly (or not) banter with Falcon – I felt like they were fighting for the position of Steve Roger’s best friend. Lastly, a great non-comic book film, starring Stan, is The Martian, if you are interested.
  • Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson / Falcon: Mackie’s Falcon is slowly becoming my favorite secondary character (and by secondary I mean that he doesn’t have a standalone frannachise). I enjoyed the shots with him fighting and I loved seeing him use the wings to fight and flip over. I also loved how he and Scarlet Witch combined their powers in the opening action scene. I wouldn’t mind if Falcon would get his own movie or at least would be featured on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. If you want to see more of Mackie but don’t want to wait for him to get his on movie or TV show, check out Triple 9.
  • Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton / Hawkeye: Renner was also great as Hawkeye once again. I have always been a fan of his character, since I love archery myself, so I am always happy to see him, although half of the fandom usually is not. I loved the fact that Civil War continued Renner’s and Scarlet Witch’s relationship – he was the one who talked her into going into battle in Age of Ultron, and her brother was the one to die saving Hawkeye, so it was only right that Clint was the one to break Wanda free. Film suggestion for the fans of Renner Mision Impossible: Rogue Nation.
  • Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch: another new favorite. I loved her hand movemets in Age of Ultron and they still look cool in Civil War. Plus, I enjoyed Olsen’s facial expressoons, especially in the opening scene, where she realized what she has done. Also, the way she threwv cars at Iron Man was a pretty great move. Her accent was also consistent and authentic – I especially like her accent because that’s the accent that I have, as an Eastern European (mine is not that strong though). Olsen has previously starred in Godzilla and next year will start in thriller Wind River, alongside Renner.
  • Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter / Agent 13: I was so glad to see more female characters in the comic book film. I loved the fact that they finally came out and said that she is a Carter and a relative of Peggy’s – Steve’s face, when he find that out was nicely confused. That whole scene, however, was quite sad, because I didn’t want to see Peggy go. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the fact that they gave Sharon some action scenes to participate in and that she was an important informant for Team Cap: while no one can replace Peggy, Sharon might be a great substitute. Her kiss with Steve was only a cherry on top – especially when they showed Bucky’s and Sam’s reaction – that shot was priceless and got the most laughs from the audience during my screening. I would love to see Sharon Carter pop up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – that would also mean more work for VanCamp – I used to watch her on Revenge, but that series ended a few years ago, so I’m sure that VanCamp would be open for more work.
  • Paul Rudd as Scott Lang / Ant-Man: I was really happy to see Paul Rudd as Ant-Man. I loved his interactions with Sam as well as his adoration of Cap. And can we just talk about the ‘big distraction’? They turned him into Giant-Man – didn’t even save that for the Ant-Man sequel – and it was epic. The CGI of Giant-Man was also pretty great. Tony Stark’s reaction to him – ‘okay, does anyone on our side have any amazing tricks?’ – was also superb. Scott Lang’s line ‘Hank Pym told me to never trust a Stark’ was also pretty great. Ant-Man sequel is scheduled for 2018, so we still have a few years to wait.

Team Iron Man:

  • Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man: Downey, Jr. could probably play this role in his sleep or, actually, he would not even need to play it, because he is both Tony Stark and Iron Man. I loved the fact that we got to see Downey, Jr. fight as both Tony Stark (that watch was super cool) and Iron Man. The Pepper Pots tie-ins were kinda hit and miss for me, though. Nonetheless, I enjoyed seeing that weird presentation with the hologram of young Tony – the CGI was amazing and that scene also set up the fact that Tony is still dealing with the loss of his parents. Lastly, I would not be surprised if we would get more Iron Man stand-alone films in the near of far future. Then again, Iron Man is set to appear in the new Spider-Man film, so maybe Downey, Jr. will only be appearing in other character’s films moving forward. For those interested, a quite good non-comic book film with Downey, Jr., which was also produced by him, is The Judge. 
  • Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow: an old time favorite of mine (both the character of Black Widow and Scarlett Johansson as an actress). Black Widow was the one who changed sides during the big battle, while in the comics, Spider-Man did that. But, since Spidey is so new to the MCU, it is not surprising that they didn’t use him that much and only featured him in the big battle and in the scenes with Iron Man. Black Widow had a few nice moments with Hawkeye (‘are we still friends?‘) and with Iron Man (‘do you actually agree with me?‘). I still have hope that we will get Black Widow stand-alone film,but until then, check out Johansson in Hail, Caesar! and Lucy.
  • Don Cheadle as James “Rhodey” Rhodes / War Machine: Cheadle was good in the role, but his injury was not that shocking, since he is a secondary character that was mostly features in Phase 1 and at the begining of Phase 2 and is not really that memorable (basically Rhodes only apperead in Iron Man films and the last picture of that trilogy came out 3 yeras ago – nobody really remembers those film that well, especially when we had so many oher MCU films in the past 3 years). By the way, Cheadle’s other big franchise is Ocean’s Eleven/Twelve/Thirteen films, if you want to see more of him.
  • Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther: Boseman was amazing in the role and I think that Marvel has succesfully launched  a new character with the perfect actor to portray it. I loved T’Challa’s few scenes with his father T’Chaka, played by John Kani. I am also interested to see how the character that Martin Freeman played – Everett Ross – will be featured in the Black Panhter stand-alone film. In the comics, Ross is an ally of T’Challa, but at the end of Civil War, they were on different sides. Although, Black Panhter never truly picked a side – he only chose Iron Man because that suited his personal interests. However, after he learned the truth and realized that killing is not a solution, he kinda picked Captain America’s side. Moreover, Black Panhter is hiding the Secret Avengers, as shown in the middle credits scene. Last thought about the new character –  I really liked the accent that Boseman spoke with – it felt authentic and fitting to the character’s heritage. Black Panhter’s stand-alone film is coming out in 2018, but if you want to see more of Boseman, the only other movie of his that I’ve seen and, thus, can reccomend is Draft Day.
  • Paul Bettany as Vision: I loved the little glimpses of the Vision’s personality that we got a chance to see – his scenes alongise Wanda were nice and their short fight was also interesting. I also liked that scene were Vision and Iron Man were discussing the fact that Vision is an AI with feelings, who is also dangerous, powerful and might even be uncrontrolable. Loved to see this idea developed futher. Other Bettany’s films, worth checking out are Legend, and a few not so great ones that you might want to see – Transendence and Mordecai.
  • Tom Holland as Peter Parker / Spider-Man: I was really worried about the new Spider-Man because in the past 10 years, we already had 2 different Spider-Mans. However, all my worries were for nothing – Holland played an amazing and most true to the comics Spider-Man and the most believable Peter Parker. Now I am really excited about his new stand-alone films. It was also really nice that they featured aunt May, played by Marisa Tomei, in Civil War. I loved that awkward scene between aunt May, Tony Stark and Peter. I was first introduced to Holland as an actor in In The Heart of The Sea – that movie is defintely not as bad as its box office numbers suggest.

Other characters:

  • William Hurt as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross: I hated Ross in The Incredible Hulk but I disliked him even more in this film, so I guess Hurt did a good job, making me hate the character that he played. Nevertheles, his character was useful in the movies because his presence added a political aspect and increased the sophistication of the story.
  • Daniel Brühl as Helmut Zemo: Bruhl was really good in the role and he will probably appear in a different MCU film in the future. His story arc in the film – the arc of revenge – was not the most original but it did work. He played up the superheroes against one another in a similar way that Lex Luthor did in BvS. I don’t really know which one of them (if any of the two) was more succesful with his plan. Zemo was not a great villain but I don’t think that the filmmakers intended to portray him as an all-powerful villain. He was just a man, dealing with the loss by getting revenge. Zemo himself has mentioned that ‘more powerful men have went up against the Avengers and lost‘, so he kinda admitted that he was not a great villain. A few of Bruhl’s films that might be wroth your attention are Rush (alongside Thor), Inglourious Basterds (alongside Magneto), The Fifth Estate (alongside Doctor Strange) and Woman in Gold (alongside Deadpool).
  • Stan Lee had his obligatory cameo, this time as a FedEx delivery man – he also had a very cheesy joke – Tony Stank!

Middle-Credits and Post-Credits Scenes

The Middle Credits scene showed Captain America and Winter Soldier in Wakanda. Bucky is being fridged (literally) until someone figures out how to restore his mind. This scene also gave me an idea that Black Panhter might be the new financer of the Secret(?) Avengers – a replacement for Tony Stark.

The Post-Credits scene was a cheeky teaser for the Spider-Man film. It showed Peter Parker back home, trying to explain to aunt May what happened (‘I just picked a fight with Steve from Booklyn’) and also discovering some toys that Tony Stark created for him.

The actual credits of the film were also quite nice and unique. I loved the addition of those shadowy symbols – Anthony Mackie’s name appeared with wings for Falcon, Paul Bettany has a gem for Vision and Tom Holland had a spider-web for Spider-Man and etc.

In short, Captain America: Civil War was/is my new favorite Marvel movie. It had a great and sophisticated story and plenty of jokes. It has amazing character moments as well as exciting non-stop action. Marvel has done it again, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Were/Are you #TeamIronMan or #TeamCaptainAmerica? What did you think of the film and are you planning to see it more than once? I usually don’t do multiple viewings of films at the cinema, but I might make an exception for Civil War.

P.S. I went to see this movie again and enjoyed it even more than the first time because I was able to  focus on the little details. I also realized 3 new-ish things: 

  1. The dialogue was really cleverly written and engaging.
  2. The plot was actually quite complex yet the story was aranged in a way that was easy to follow and not hard to understand – it was sophisticated yet clear.
  3. The movie walked the line between the two idealogies extremely well and neither of the two sides seemed more right or wrong than the other. 

‬Rate: 5/5

Trailer: Captain America: Civil War trailer

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Movie review: The Martian

Movie reviews

Hello, my dear readers!!

I have missed you so much!! I haven’t written in a while because I was buried underneath piles of work. Living on my own while studying is way harder than I expected it to be. I already cannot even look at pasta and I still have 4 more years to go eating it. Anyway, we are not here to talk about my mundane problems. We are here to review the latest space opera – The Martian. I have actually seen it during the opening weekend but only managed to review it a week later…Sorry…

Also, I would like to give a spoiler warning for The Martian if you have not seen it yet.

BTW, it’s been a month since I started taking Introduction to Film course, so tell me in the comments if my reviewing style has changed somehow (maybe it improved, hopefully?).

Comparison

It is not a secret that in the last few years, we had a few high production astronomical blockbusters – 2013’s Warner Bros’s Gravity and 2014’s Legendary’s Interstellar. Now, 20th Century Fox takes its shot and creates a mixture of those two films (even borrows some actors): The Martian has a plot-line of a ‘lonely astronomer lost in space’ from Gravity and ‘his team trying to save him’ from Interstellar. While I have enjoyed both of these films, The Martian might be my favorite out of all 3. I have also seen this film described as Castaway meets Apollo 11, which, I agree, is an accurate representation.

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The tagline for this film was Bring Him Home and it was definitely true to the film because Mark Watney’s attempt to go home was the scientific and emotional core of the film. Also, for me as a newly created emigrant, it’s a theme near and-and dear to my heart. Yes, I’m not stranded on another planet, but being away from home is hard no matter the distance.

Water on Mars!

This movie had perfect time!! Just before its release, scientists actually found flowing water on Mars. Now, we are one step closer to turning The Martian from Science Fiction to Science Reality. If you like to learn more about this exciting development, I suggest you watch this Sci Show explanatory video.

Story & Writing

The Martian’s screenplay was written by Drew Goddard who has written mainly for TV before this. His credits include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, and Daredevil, which he also helped to produce. His last film script was for World War Z, which I, personally, really enjoyed but sadly been in a minority of moviegoers. Going back to The Martian, I really liked his treatment of this story. Although the movie has no real action, for the most part, a lot of crucial things still happen during the middle of the film and keep the viewer engaged and interested. Nothing happens and a lot of things happen at the same time (we actually just studied films like this in my film class last week). Moreover, it needs to be mentioned that this is not an original story but an adaptation of Andy Weir’s book with the same name. I added it to my reading list and you should too.  I have seen it in bookstores, re-released with the cover that looks like the movie’s poster, so it should be quite easy to get your hands on a copy of it.

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Realism

This movie has been praised for its scientific accuracy and it’s probably the most accurate of the 3 recent astronomical blockbusters. I am not expert on astronomy, physics, botany or any science but I am interested in these fields (that’s one of the reasons why I like sci-fi so much). Anyway, I found this Screen Junkies video on The Martian to be really interesting and helpful in thinking about Movie Science. I love all of their stuff on YouTube , but Movie Science videos are at the top of the list.

Directing and Visuals

The Martian is directed by the fan favorite Ridley Scott. His filmography includes Allien, Blade Runner (got its DVD from the library today), Gladiator, Prometheus and last year’s Exodus. Lots of people had problems with his last film and the whitewashing issue while I loved it. The interpretation of a biblical story was done in much better way than in Noah and the visuals were just stunning. Scott didn’t disappoint with The Martian as well. The Mise-en-Scene (I’ve learned a few fancy words in film class) was just stunning and really realistic while the futuristic technology was realized in a believable fashion as well. The action both on Mars and in the outer space looked amazing too. The NASA base was also a cool set, whose backgrounds could be analyzed separately from the narrative/on their own.

Acting

The titular character of the film and the main start, of course, is Matt Damon. It’s not the first time that Damon is playing a lost astronaut – he had a similar role in Interstellar. However, while he was an extreme douche-bag in that film, here he is a loveable, funny, witty, intelligent and self-efficient character who carries the whole film. Damon’s performance blew me away and definitely turned me into a fan of his. I’ve seen a few of his films and was always on a fence about him, but his role as Mark Watney changed my perspective. I also loved that he was a botanist – you never really see movies that focus on plant biology scientists, films usually tend to pick physics or chemistry scholars, so this was a nice and refreshing change.

While Matt Damon as Mark Watney is the central character of the film, he gets great support from a very diverse, established, and extensive supporting cast. I’m going to divide these characters into Space team and Earth team.

Space team includes:

  • Jessica Chastain as Melissa Lewis, Ares III commander – another Interstellar alumni. Loved her in that film as much as this one.
  • Michael Peña as Rick Martinez, astronaut – the scene-stealer of Ant-Man shined in this film too. Can’t wait to see more of his work.
  • Kate Mara as Beth Johanssen, astronaut – played a similar role to the one she did in Fantastic Four. While they definitely messed up Sue Storm in that film, her character was a great addition to this motion picture’s cast.
  • Sebastian Stan as Chris Beck, astronaut – the Winter Soldier can be more than Marvel’s next Captain America. I am a fan of Stan, so loved seeing him popping up in this film.
  • Aksel Hennie as Alex Vogel, astronaut – rounded up the space part of the cast. Sadly, I’m not familiar with his work, so cannot really comment much, except to say that he was great in this film.

We didn’t get to spend much time with these characters and they didn’t get a lot of development. However, I believe that they served their purpose for this specific film perfectly by providing Matt Damon’s character with great support.

Earth team includes:

We did get to spend more time with the Earth-based part of the cast which had a few surprising performances.

  • Kristen Wiig as Annie Montrose, NASA spokesperson – was the biggest surprise. I have never imagined Wiig in not a comedic role but she blew me away. I wish she would do more action/drama films, but sadly her next movie is Ghostbusters remake, which I have mixed feelings about. Furthermore, I loved her character because she brought the public into the film. I haven’t seen the theme of public’s affect of NASA and NASA’s manipulation of public explored before.
  • Jeff Daniels as Teddy Sanders, head of NASA, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Vincent Kapoor, a NASA mission director, and Sean Bean as Mitch Henderson, a NASA mission director were the powerful trio of NASA and for me, they worked best in their scenes together, because they played off of each others energy. Surprisingly, Sean Bean did not die. Also, seeing him make Lords of the Rings references was amazing!!
  • Donald Glover as Rich Purnell, a NASA astronomer and Mackenzie Davis as Mindy Park, a satellite planner in Mission Control were the 2 younger actors in the Earth team. I liked the nerdy-ness that Glover’s character brought to the film and I appreciated the introduction to Davis as an actress.

Lastly, this film had a few international actors from China: Eddy Ko and Chen Shu. While I don’t know if this side-plot was the part of the original story of the book, but I guess we all know why it was included in the film. Get that Chinese Box Office, Fox!

All in all, this fall is proving to be one of the greatest movie seasons ever! I haven’t seen a film which I didn’t enjoy so far. The Martian is a great adaptation of (I’m sure) an amazing book with wonderful acting from the whole ensemble cast, especially the leading man – Matt Damon. In addition, it has stunning visuals and a strong emotional appeal as well as is scientifically accurate as much as sci-fi film can be accurate.

Rate: 5/5

Trailer: The Martian trailer

The Martian movie poster

Captain America 1&2

Movie reviews

So recently, I started to get into superhero – comic book type movies. Right now I am watching all the Marvel universe ones and then I am going to move on to D.C. ones.

I have seen the first film (Captain America: The First Avenger) couple of months ago so I don’t remember all the details. However, I really enjoyed the fact that they connected this fantasy superhero story-line with true events a.k.a World War II.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier The script and writing for this movie were really good. I loved overall story-line and character development. I also enjoyed the fact that there was this really great connection between the 1st and 2nd movies; it gave a strong feeling of continuity. This was truly a sequel to a first movie and not just another action film with the same main character. I also loved the fact that, despite this being a fantasy movie, they showed a real life problem -massive governments control over all military equipment and misuse of personal information.

I also really enjoyed all the bromances: The new one between Steve and Sam was so nice. In my opinion, Sam is a great trustworthy friend that will always have Steve’s back. The closing shot practically gave away the fact that we are going to see this bromance continued to a 3rd film. “On your left” Another friendship that I really enjoyed was between Captain America and Winter Soldier/Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes. I loved the way they brought back the character of Bucky and once again showed us that Captain America fights for people and for his friends even if they are against him. “Cause I am with you till the end of a line”.
The pairing of Captain America and Black Widow was also fun and fresh.

The Shield and Hydra plot line was also very interesting and exciting. It showed us that we always need to be careful because the evil might lurk in the unexpected places. Speaking about the opening shot of the movie, did you know that Captain’s “to do” list is different in the all the countries movie is screened? The last 5 items are the same but first 5 are different. It is a nice detail and shout out to all the different countries. You can read all the different versions here: http://sploid.gizmodo.com/captain-americas-to-do-list-is-different-depending-on-1562463536

The Captain America 3 is planned to be released on May 6, 2016. My favorite video reviews: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8j-hFXaNkE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BicG3dDbbDA

UPDATE: Cap’s 3rd movie will be based on Civil War storyline and Robert Downey Jr. will join the cast as Iron Man.

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