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: Hell or High Water

Movie reviews

Hello!

Today, we are talking about one of the most critically acclaimed indie films of 2016. It’s the review of Hell or High Water.

IMDb summary: A divorced dad and his ex-con brother resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family’s ranch in West Texas.

Writing

Actor-turned-screenwriter Taylor Sheridan wrote Hell or High Water’s script and did an amazing job. This screenplay was actually the winner of 2012’s Black List and I’m really happy that it was turned into a movie, even if 4 years later than it should have been. Sheridan also penned the script for last year’s Sicario – a standout movie of 2015. Both Sicario and Hell or High Water share some similarities: the two stories are both set in the southern states of the US and the particular setting has a role in the narrative. Also, both movies are quite slow – the plots are allowed to unravel by themselves, the films are never rushed and the important moments aren’t just montaged through.

Hell or High Water’s story is also really successful in its emotional appeal. It deals with the universal topic of family and explores the relationship between two brothers superbly. It also does a good job of making the viewers sympathize with all the characters. I, personally, wanted the brother to succeed, even though they were criminals, and I also wanted the two rangers to succeed in their quest.

These sympathies arose from the subtle character development, which was dispersed throughout the whole film. By listening to the dialogue and seemingly random banter we find out a lot about the characters: we discovered the reason for the heists and why the brothers seemed to have an estranged relationship. The friendly teasing between the rangers helped us to get a few hints into the history of the two law-enforcers – we uncovered the ancestry of one of them and the approaching retirement of the other.

Lastly, I really loved the way the ending of the film was written. I always enjoy this type of open-ending when it is done right. Sometimes, when the movie just ends abruptly, without answering any questions, the whole story falls flat but, when the film leaves you with just one or few unresolved issues, like Hell or High Water did, the narrative both finishes and is permitted to live on in the minds of those who witnessed it. Both the characters and the viewers will be haunted by this story.

Directing

A Scottish director David Mackenzie did a magnificent job directing Hell or High Water. He utilized the setting of Texas splendidly and showed the rural areas, the open spaces and the little beat-up towns in long and extremely long tracking shots. He also gave the story a lot of breathing room – although every scene was carefully and beautifully crafted, the movie seemed to flow very organically and naturally. The feature’s color plate was also really nice – warm tons filled the screen and made every shot look like an old vintage photograph.

I also loved all the shots were the modernity and the traditional old-school ways of life were juxtaposed. The setting of Texas, where people still live in old ranches and work with cattle and horses but also have modern gas pumps, was an appropriate location for this juxtaposition. To me, the scene in the gas station was amazing – not only did it have us that unexpected fight but we also got a frame with both a horse and a cowboy and a new sports car with two fake gangster youngsters. Lastly, the fact that everybody seemed to have a gun in the film was not only a funny aspect of the movie but also a very realistic one.

Music

Hell or High Water’s soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis really added to the atmosphere of the film. Fitting to the setting of Texas, the film’s visuals were accompanied by cool country music. The picture also had this really nice instrumental theme to supplement the long tracking shots of the characters driving or moving through a frame in any other way.

Acting

  • Jeff Bridges as Marcus Hamilton, a Texas Ranger was amazing. The way he delivered the jokes and teased other characters was truly enjoyable to watch. It’s probably one of Bridges best performances out of the recent years because he did have a few flops lately, like The Giver or Seventh Son. I hope this role is the signal that he is back on track and I do hope that his contribution to Kingsman 2, coming out next year, will be worth the wait.
  • Chris Pine as Toby Howard was also really good. I’m starting to like Pine more and more in these rugged, less clean-cut and more challenging roles. Yes, he is also good in Hollywood blockbusters, like Star Trek and Into the Woods, but is more fun to see him try something different. A few recent smaller films of his that I suggest you watch are Z for Zachariah and The Finest Hours. Of course, let’s not forget to check out his blockbuster work too – Wonder Woman is only 10 months away.
  • Ben Foster as Tanner Howard was also really good. I’ve only recently started noticing him in films, the last one being The Program, in which he played the lead role of Lance Amstrong. In a few weeks, Foster will also play the main antagonist in Inferno, which I’m also looking forward too.
  • Gil Birmingham as Alberto Parker, Hamilton’s partner was also really good. I hope that the teases that his character received weren’t too offensive to both Mexicans and Native Americans. I really loved his speech about how the white colonialists took everything from his character’s people, only to lose the winnings of the pillage to the banks.

In short, Hell or High Water is one of the best films of the year so far. It’s masterfully crafted and slow, but immensely engaging. The acting is amazing, the writing is spectacular and the directing – excellent. A must watch for any fans of Westerns and heist movies.

Rate: 5/5

Trailer: Hell or High Water trailer

P.S. Weirdly, my next movie review will also be that of a Western – The Magnificient Seven.

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Movie review: Warcraft

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another movie review. This time, we are discussing Warcraft or Warcraft: The Begining – Hollywood’s latest try to make video game movies a thing.

IMDb summary: The peaceful realm of Azeroth stands on the brink of war as its civilization faces a fearsome race of invaders: orc warriors fleeing their dying home to colonize another. As a portal opens to connect the two worlds, one army faces destruction and the other faces extinction. From opposing sides, two heroes are set on a collision course that will decide the fate of their family, their people, and their home.

As you all probably know, Warcraft: The Movie is based on a series of video games (Warcraft and World of Warcraft). I, personally, knew nothing about the game except that it was set in a fantasy world. So, I was part of the audience, which would either make or break this movie – a non-fan who still chooses this film over the others.

In general, I have always been fairly skeptical about video game inspired films. I have seen the worst (Hitman Agent 47), the bad (Pixels, Prince of Persia), the okay (Need For Speed) and the great (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – a film that is not even based on a video game but feels like one). I still need to watch The Angry Birds Movie and I am also quite interested in Assassin’s Creed film because I’m a fan of Fassbender and I have read an Assassin’s Creed comic.

Speaking about Warcraft – it is currently my favorite cinematic adaptation of a video game. I don’t know why the critics are so harsh to judge it and are not evaluating it for what it is. I had an amazing time watching the picture, was a bit lost at first, but quickly found my way. I can’t say ‘No’ to a movie that deals with high fantasy concepts (like LORD, GOT). I’m actually even considering trying out the game or at least researching the role a bit.

SPOILER ALERT

Writing

The film was written by Charles Leavitt and the director Duncan Jones. I though that Warcraft’s script was a bit better than Leavitt’s last film’s – In The Heart Of The Sea – script and vastly better than his second to last’s film’s – Seventh Son – screenplay.

The film had a lot of characters and they didn’t receive much development but I think that they all got enough to peak my interest. I also liked the fact that the characters died, thus, the stakes were high. The ending was kinda weird but I understood why they left it so open – they are hoping for a sequel. I also wish that the film succeeds adequately for this story to be allowed to continue on the big screen.

The film also had nice themes and messages. I liked the notion that the traditions are superior to the leaders. I also liked the inclusion of values such as family, honor, sacrifice and tolerance. The importance of survival and creating/finding a home was also a nice advice to spread.

Directing

The movie was directed by Duncan Jones. I really enjoyed his debut film – an independent sci-fi feature Moon. I also liked what he did with Warcraft. I appreciated the plethora of locations and the world-building in general. The action was also exciting – the shots from the ground-up and the over-the-shoulder-reverse shots actually allowed me to feel like I was in a video game. The CGI was also the best that I’ve seen in years – the faces of the Orcs looked alive – with real emotions and real sweat, blood, tears. The end credits were also excellent.

Acting

The movie’s few had quite a few unfamiliar faces (at least to me), but I did enjoy all of their performances. Some were better, some were worse, but on average, everybody did good.

I really liked Viking’s Travis Fimmel in the lead as Lothar. He was charming, witty and a skilled and loyal fighter. MI: Ghost Protocol’s Paula Patton as Garona was also a nice and interesting character and I liked her role during the finale. The Finest Hours’s Ben Foster as Medivh, the Guardian was also good but a bit cartoonish at times. I was also pleased to see one of my favorite actors Dominic Cooper (Need For Speed and Preacher) as King Llane and I did like his noble act at the end. Cooper’s co-star on Preacher Ruth Negga (Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.) played the Queen Taria and also did a wonderful job – I loved her final speech as well as her interactions with Garona. The last human character, Ben Schnetzer’s Khadgar was a bit annoying at times, but I have a feeling that he will play an even bigger role in the future films.

The CGI/motion capture part of the cast consisted of Toby Kebbell as Durotan, Robert Kazinsky as Orgrim, Daniel Wu as Gul’dan and Anna Galvin as Draka among many others. As I have already mentioned, the effects looked amazing, however, the actors’ performances, underneath the motion capture technology, were also stellar. They not only looked like living beings, they were actually alive on screen. I’m not that familiar with the previous work of these actors, except Kebbell. He was in that awful Fantastic Four film last year, but I think he redeemed himself with Warcraft and will also be in Kong: Skull Island next year. Kazinsky had a small role in Pacific Rim, while Galvin has mostly done TV work. I haven’t seen any film’s with Wu before, but I did like him as the main villain – he did looked menacing and acted appropriately.

All in all, I had a great time with Warcraft. It exceeded my expectations and definitely pleased a non-fan. I had a few fans of the game sitting beside me at the screening and they also seemed really excited and entertained. Hope the sequel happens!

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Warcraft trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Testament of Youth

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another segment of brief movie reviews. You can find the first installment here.

This time, we are talking about Testament of Youth – a 2nd British period piece of this summer. I have done the full review of the 1st one – Far From the Madding Crowd, find it here.

  1. Testament of Youth is a film about World War I. It is based on a memoir by English writer and a pacifist Vera Brittain, who is also the main character of the film (it’s a memoir, so duh-uh). I’m in love with British literature and history, so this film was perfect for me. Also, recently, I have become very interested in books and movies about World Wars, so I’m very happy that I checked this one out as well. It’s a great historical movie and, as you would expect from any wartime movie, it doesn’t have a happy ending. However, the whole plot of the film portrays one particular feeling, which makes the ending seem like a happy one: the feeling of hope. Hope that the world can change and that we, as a race, can learn from our mistakes. Sadly, the film’s characters don’t know the true, but we do – people never learn from the past.
  2. The film is directed by James Kent and written by Juliette Towhidi. However, the most accomplished behind the scenes person on this film is actually the producer – David Heyman. He produced all Harry Potter films and 2013’s Gravity. Visually, the film looks beautiful and the locations are true to historical facts. The famous shot of saying goodbye in a train station, which can be seen in all films about war, is done wonderfully in this film as well.
  3.  The leading lady of the film – Vera Brittain – is played by Alicia Vikander. I loved her in the role. She perfectly portrayed an independent woman, who is smart and knows what she wants from life, but is not afraid to be a romantic as well. I did a review of other Alicia Vikander’s films very recently and spoke more about her as an actress in that post. Find it here.
  4. The leading man of the film is played by Game of Throne’s Kit Harrington. With an unknown fate of Jon Snow, I’m happy that Harrington is developing his movie career. He was brilliant in the role and I’m happy that critics finally seem to like him because his other movies Pompeii and Seventh Son were torn apart by the same critics.
  5. The film’s suppository cast is full of British talent. Kingsman’s Taron Egerton plays Vera’s brother, while Agent Carter’s Hayley Atwell stars as one of the nurses. TV and theater actor Colin Morgan plays a friend of the Brittain’s siblings. All actors deliver top-notch performances.

All in all, it’s a great film for fans of history and for fans of sad but hopeful war movies. The acting is great, the visual appeal – amazing and the story is bound to bring at least a single tear to the viewer’s eye. The film was released in the UK last year and in many parts of the world throughout 2015, but in might be easier to find it online or on DVD, if you want to watch it.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Testament of Youth trailer

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Movie review: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Movie reviews

Hello!

I went to the cinema too many times this week, so I apologize for a bunch of back-to-back movie reviews. I promise the next post will not be about any film! But for now, let’s review The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – to my mind, one of the better films of this summer.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is based on a 1964 TV show with the same name. At first, I was hoping that this film was based on an original idea and only while writing this review I found out that it’s an adaptation of an old TV series. I guess we can’t escape the remake zone anymore…However, while nowadays the word ‘remake’ instantly feels like a bad idea (for example, Fantastic Four), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a really solid and enjoyable film.

IMDb summary: In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons.

History

As you probably know, I am a huge history buff, so any movie set in the past is an instant favorite of mine. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is set during the Cold War – the most recent historical event and it deals with the aforementioned war’s biggest problem – the creation of an atomic bomb. I love when movies interweave real-life events and figures into their plots. The idea of making a CIA agent and a KGB agent work together is also brilliant.

Visuals

Since the movie is set in the 1960s, the costumes play a huge part in the film. If the appearance of the characters miss-matches the timeline, the viewers are instantaneously taken out of the movie. Thankfully, that does not happen in this film. All the costumes are spectacular and appropriate to the period. If you have read my post about the fashion exhibition that I’ve recently visited (here), you may know that 1960s fashion is one of my favorites, so this film definitely appealed to me on that level. And even though I am a girl and should have been jealous of the girls for having amazing dresses, I was feeling a huge suit envy, because the men of the film looked dashing. BTW, the scene in a clothing store is very funny – look out for it.

The setting and the architecture were also wonderful. The characters traveled trough a variety of different locations but all of them were unique and interesting in their own way. The final chase scene on a private island had a beautiful scenery as well,

Directing and Writing

This film was directed and written by Guy Ritchie (Lionel Wigram also helped with the script) who directed the latest Sherlock Holmes adaptation and its sequel starring Robert Downey Jr. Ritchie is also making a King Arthur film set to be released in 2016. (Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur from 2004 is one of my favorite films ever, so I can’t wait for this one as well. On a side note, I’ve already seen Fuqua’s latest film Southpaw, the review of it will be released during the weekend). Speaking about U.N.C.L.E, that film had amazing directing. The shots were heavily stylized, so that definitely made the film stand out from other Hollywood action flicks. While I am not a huge fan of contemporary spy dramas/crime dramas (except Mission Impossible and James Bond), this one, with its historical setting and unique point of you, definitely pleases me. It reminded me a bit of Kingsman The Secret Service (review). That movie had a unique setting and a quirky premise and so did U.N.C.L.E. Both of the films also created their own sub-genre – weird action comedy spy drama. Moreover, while Kingsman had amazing long shots, U.N.C.L.E. had a few unique styles of filming as well. Some scenes looked like they came out straight from a graphic novel, while others reminded me of the actual pages of a comic book with a few different panels appearing on screen. Zoom in/zoom out technique of filming was also present during the final action piece and it looked really cool.

Acting

The main trio of the film was played by Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, and Alicia Vikander.

Henry Cavill (Superman) is British but plays an American. However, his accent never came through and he killed it in this role. Not only did he look amazing but he felt like James Bond from old movies – efficient and confident womanizer.

Armie Hammer played the Russian agent and although Hammer himself is an American, his great-grandfather had ties with the Soviet Union, so there is a small real-life connection with his role. Armie Hammer was also really great in the role and his chemistry with Cavill was amazing. I hope that this will be the redeeming film for Hammer because he only stared in critical and financial flops these past 5 years (for example, The Lone Ranger). His latest successful film – 2010’s The Social Network. 

Swedish actress Alicia Vikander played the leading lady of the film – a German mechanic (I love when movies switch up gender roles – I like cars too and I am a girl) Gabby who was also a British Spy. The twist involving her character was a surprising one for me. Vikander starred in a plethora of movies this year. in 2015, she played the AI in Ex-Machina (loved that film) and an English writer Vera Brittain in the Testament of Youth – a World War I memoir (review coming soon). She also had roles in 2012’s Anna Karenina (review) and 2014’s terrible adaptation of a great book – Seventh Son. I’ve enjoyed almost all the movie that Vikander started in and I can’t wait to see how her career evolves. She will start in a highly anticipated The Danish Girl alongside recent Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne. That film will probably be nominated for an Oscar, so Vikander might get her big break with critics very soon. However, her mainstream career will also get a boost, because she will be in the 5th Bourne film set to be released next year.

The main villain of the film was played by Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki, who shined in a supporting role in 2013’s The Great Gatsby. She did a nice job playing the villainous Victoria Vinciguerra and Italian actor Luca Calvani starred as her husband.

A few accomplished English actors – Jared Harris and
Hugh Grant – provided their services in supporting roles, while German actors Sylvester Groth and Christian Berkel rounded up the cast.

This film definitely had one of the most diverse casts: Americans, Brits, and Germans were sharing the screen with Italians and a Swedish actress. I love when films include a wide variety of nationalities because Hollywood films are seen all around the world, so they should represent all of their audiences and not just the domestic ones.

All in all, The Man from U.N.C.L.E (which stands for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t expect to like the movies as much as I did. The plot was interesting, the action and visual effects – pleasing to the eye and the acting – just superb. They definitely left room for a sequel at the end of the film, but I doubt that they will make it because U.N.C.L.E. isn’t doing so great in a box office. But I will have my fingers crossed and you should too.

Rate 4.5/5

Trailer: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. trailer

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