5 ideas about a movie: Isle of Dogs

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of one peculiar little picture. This is Isle of Dogs.

IMDb summary: Set in Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy’s odyssey in search of his lost dog.

  1. Isle of Dogs was written and directed By Wes Anderson and was undeniably his picture. His style of filmmaking is just so unique and different that it is impossible to confuse his films with anyone else’s. While Anderson did write the screenplay himself, the story credits went to Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman (two of Anderson’s frequent collaborators), and Kunichi Nomura (a Japanse actor/writer who was also one of the two casting directors for this film).
  2. I have seen a lot of articles and comments online about Isle of Dogs in relation to the appropriation of Japanese culture. I certainly had a similar thought when watching the movie. I wasn’t entirely sure why the setting had to be Japan, though I found the interplay between the languages – English and Japanese – quite an interesting choice for the film. I also wouldn’t like to state that the filmmaker was definitely appropriating something as I believe that cultures should be shared. And yet, where is the line between respectful homage and appreciation versus malevolent appropriation?
  3. In my mind, Isle of Dogs’ story unfolded on two plains: the surface and the hidden one. The surface story was an elaborate but clear adventure narrative about some dogs and a boy fighting an evil empire. That story was a bit slow but the humor was still snappy (the comedic timing was quite impeccable). The deeper meaning that I took from the picture was the commentary on the modern society, which enjoys nothing more than othering and excluding people that it finds unsuitable for a whole number of reasons (a lot of which relate to the person’s identity).
  4. I highly enjoyed the format of Isle of Dogs. I have always been a fan of the stop-motion animation and I sill find it just so captivating. The amount of work that goes into this style of animation blows my mind every time I see a new film using it. The design of the animals was also great – real but not really. Every shot felt just so material: saturated with objects, colors, and textures. The symmetrical steady shots also felt very Anderson. The film was also very musical in that its score had an underlying beat, constantly ringing in the background, which provided a sort of rhythmic backdrop for the story. The animation, art, and music departments should get as much recognition for this movie as Anderson himself does.
  5. Isle of Dogs’ voice cast was full of Hollywood’s most recognizable and expressive voices that added so much to the picture. Bryan Cranston (Trumbo, Power Rangers), Edward Norton (Collateral Beauty), Bill Murray (The Jungle Book), Jeff Goldblum (ID2, Thor 3), Bob BalabanGreta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards), Scarlett Johansson (Ghost in the Shell, MCU), and Tilda Swinton (Okja, Doctor Strange) all had roles of varying sizes.  On the Japanese front, Koyu Rankin, Kunichi Nomura, Akira Takayama and even Yoko Ono lent their voices to some characters.

In brief, Isle of Dogs was a bizarre and fascinating Wes Anderson-y ride that might or might not have been culturally insensitive.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Isle of Dogs trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: The Florida Project

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the indie of this weekend. This is The Florida Project!

IMDb summary: Set over one summer, the film follows precocious 6-year-old Moonee as she courts mischief and adventure with her ragtag playmates and bonds with her rebellious but caring mother, all while living in the shadows of Disney World.

  1. The Florida Project was written by the director of the film Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch. Baker has previously directed Tangerine (which was co-written and co-produced by Bergoch) – a movie that was both unique in its subject (it focused on a transgender sex worker) and in the way it was filmed (on 3 iPhone 5s). His follow-up picture is also centered around marginalized people, living on the fringes of society (both literally and figuratively – their motel is on the edge of Disney World). This type of social realism filmmaking reminds me of Andrea’s Arnold’s work, especially her last film American Honey, which focused on a traveling sales crew, hopping from motel to motel in the American Midwest.
  2. The Florida Project’s writing elicited mixed feelings out of me, like all films of this kind do. The picture’s message was clear – the society needs to attempt to understand and to help the people, living on its margins. And yet, how can the said help be given when the marginalized individuals don’t even seem to want it, act entitled (when they have no right to do that) or worse, are violent/abusive. What is the solution to this conundrum or the middle ground?
  3. The Florida Project’s story was mostly centered on the little girl and a single summer of her childhood. The movie nicely portrayed the joys of childhood – being wild and free. And yet, it also noted how that freedom of childhood might not be secure or healthy for a child. The mother-daughter relationship on display was also a complex one. While the mother obviously appeared to love her daughter, to love is not enough to be a good mother. The actual physical care and education are as important for the child’s development as the emotional connection. The movie also explored the idea of a community that the individuals on the fringes of society form. The said community was presented as a small society of its own: it had a structure and was held together by the inner relationships of its members.
  4. From the purely visual perspective, The Florida Project looked bright and vibrant. And yet, that was only the surface that hid the underlying problems from view. I loved how the camera juxtaposed the poverty and the prosperity in the wide shots, where the children would be walking past the endless dinners, gifts shops, and billboards. The whole setting was very well realized and was strikingly American. The mobile frame and the pacing were distinctly indie, while the pacing of the film was good too, even if a bit slow. Lastly, the ending sequence of the two girls running through Disney World was interesting. It made the movie seem as if it was pandering to Disney, by showing that the beloved theme park is the true magic kingdom and the land of escapism. But, maybe this positive portrayal was there so that the Mouse House would not sue the whole film, as that sequence was shot without the corporation’s knowledge or consent.
  5. The cast of The Florida Project delivered quite stellar performances. It was great to see Willem Dafoe (What Happened To Monday, Death Note, The Great Wall) in a more sophisticated/non-mainstream project and to witness his full talent on display. The newcomer Brooklynn Prince was delightful as Moonee – the girl at the center of the story. Bria Vinaite starred as Moonee’s mother – the now-actress was actually discovered on Instagram by the director. I really wonder how much of the dialogue between the children actors as well as between the characters of Moonee and her mother was in the script and how much of it was improvised.

In short, The Florida Project is an important piece of social realism that might infuriate or educate its viewers. Or both.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: The Florida Project trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Captain Fantastic

Movie reviews

Hello!

With the awards season in motion, let’s review one of the earliest contenders for this year’s awards. It’s Captain Fantastic!

IMDb summary: In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.

  1. To begin with, Captain Fantastic was written and directed by a longtime TV actor Matt Ross. This was only his second feature film and it is the movie that he got the most recognition for so far (mostly in the festival circuits and less so during the main awards season). I did like his directing but I mostly gonna focus on his writing, as the script is the most interesting part of the movie.
  2. I really enjoyed the unique premise and the out of the ordinary narrative of the film. The living in the woods/far from the society idea has become really popular lately with The Lobster and Hunt for the Wilderpeople also exploring it. However, I think that Captain Fantastic is the best film out of the three when it comes to the commentary on the modern world. I like the fact that this film could be used as a kick-starter for conversations on themes such as the cultural clashes (especially the cultural clashes at home) and the legitimacy of the education system (multiple vs singular way(s) of achieving intelligence). I also appreciate the fact that the movie spotlights a different way to deal with loss.
  3. Captain Fantastic also has a lot to say about capitalism. I, personally, don’t really think that capitalism is the ultimate way to structure the lives and the relationships of people but it still the best system out there. Still, it is good to talk about its flaws, so I believe that movies like Captain Fantastic should exist. And yet, knowing that this film was made in Hollywood by a big business (even if not by one the giant studios) as a product to be consumed kinda undercuts its critique on capitalism. How can one be part of the machine and also go against it? Isn’t that a bit hypocritical? I also find it funny that the movies audiences are basically the complete opposites of the film’s characters. What does that say about us or the film?
  4. Where Captain Fantastic felt short for me was in its lack of appreciation for the middle ground. I felt that, at times, it just went too far to the extreme side and, frankly, turned into a really pretentious picture. Some scenes were definitely cringe-y and uncomfortable and not in a good kind of way. In addition, even though I’m not the biggest fan of society’s norms, even I can admit that there are some great things about the human society. And even though the modern world has its problem, giving up and running away from it is not a suitable option.
  5. The one thing about the film that almost everybody can agree on is the quality of Viggo Mortensen’s performance. It took me at least half of the runtime of the film to figure out that he was the same Viggo Mortensen from Lord of the Rings and I can quite the majority of LOTR. His performance was truly transformative and I’m happy to see that he got a least a few nominations from the major awards. The film had quite an extensive supporting cast as well, as the main character had a lot of children. Young and up-and-coming TV actors took on the majority of the kids’ roles and did quite a nice job. George MacKay was definitely a stand-out performer, but all of them (Samantha IslerAnnalise Basso, Nicholas Hamilton, Shree Crooks, and Charlie Shotwell) deserve to be praised.

In brief, Captain Fantastic is a great conversation-starter of a film that has some flaws but overall is very enjoyable, especially because of the amazing performances by the lead actor and the supporting cast.

Rate: 3.9/5

Trailer: Captain Fantastic trailer

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Running marathon: PINK RUN 2014 Kaunas

Sports

Hi!

Last Sunday, I have participated in the last running marathon this year – PINK RUN 2014. As you have probably already noticed from the photos and the name of the run, all of the participants had to wear something pink: t-shirt, wig or any other pink accessory (there was even a special station where you could get you beard or hair colored with pink spray paint). We did that not because all the runners really like the color pink but because this was a charity run for raising awareness and money to fight breast cancer. 

This disease is very near to my heart because my grandma died form cancer 4 years ago, so, I was eager to participate in this run. Moreover, is always a great fun to run through city with a bunch of strangers dressed in pink wigs:).

A few of my friends also ran this short 5 km distance from one part of the city (Medicine university) to the city center (town square in the old town). After the run all of athletes were given some tea and cookies as a thank you for donating the money and for running. My result was okay, I had a hard time breathing while running because the weather was quite cold and windy. What is more, I didn’t really tried to get a good result because this run had other purpose – to come together as a community and do something good for those who need our help.

Bellow you will find a few photos before the start which I have taken myself. You can find more information about the run here. Article from the local newspaper and photos of a professional photographer here.

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Movie review: The Boxtrolls (+The Equalizer)

Movie reviews

Hello!

First of all, I would like to apologize for not posting much this week. The reason why I did that is because my laptop crashed and it was being repaired for a whole week.  I don’t have a spare one and I could hardly prepare a proper post of my phone. Anyway, let’s get on with this week’s movie review.

On Wednesday, I have finally gone to see The Boxtrolls – newest stop motion animation distributed by Disney. The movie was directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchiand and written by Irena Brignull and Adam Pava.

Summary: Everybody believes that little trolls living underground are monster and that they have stolen a baby a few years ago. An evil man who wants to satisfy his selfish needs tries to eliminate all the boxtrolls from the city but a boy opposes him and even manages to unite 2 different races while destroying the evil – written by myself.

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I went to see this film not because I was interested in the story but because stop-motion graphics amaze me. I appreciate all the hard work that is put into this type of animation. My favorite stop motion flick is Coraline (2009) by director Henry Selick produced by LAIKA studios (The Boxtrolls were also made by LAIKA). I also love Coraline because it is an animation for grown ups. It is pretty scary, dark and has a deep meaning.  What is more, I hate the fact that people think that animation movies are only for kids and Coraline helps to shed that myth away.

Having said that, I believe that The Boxtrolls movie was purely for young kids. I really wanted it to be smarter and a bit more serious. The graphics were nice but sometimes ugly and unpleasant to look at, however, interesting at the same time. It almost seemed like a piece of art and not a film for entertainment. I cannot discuss the voice work, because in my country all the voice overs had been done by different people in my own native language.

Although the movie was quite childish, it still had a few subtle undertones. It portrayed society obsessed with consumerism and people with no sentimental values perfectly. The Boxtrolls also showed altered (in a bad way) relationships between parents and kids. However, movie tackled not only sad issues but encouraged confidence and bravery as well. Outside doesn’t matter, you have to look deeper. The film is considered to be one of the contenders for the Oscar nomination in the category of Best Animation. While I think it might be nominated, I definitely don’t think that it’s going to win.

TrailerThe Boxtrolls trailer

Rate 3.5/5

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That same day, I also saw The Equalizer (I know I am late to the party) with Denzel Washington in the main role. I’m not going to review it because I don’t have much to say, I quite liked it but I wished they would have explained  Robert’s  background and why he was such a great fighter. Moreover, I believe that they could have made a movie at least half an hour shorter and since I was very tired that day and had and IETLS exam the next, I could not wait for the movie to end and for me to finally be able to go to sleep. Rate 3/5

downloadPhotos: Google Images

Movie review: The Giver + book

Movie reviews

Hello!

The Giver movie has finally opened in my country, so this is going to be my review!

From unknown Australian TV director Phillip Noyce comes The Giver – a childrens’ book by Lois Lowry adaptation to the big screen.

Summary:

Lowry’s book The Giver was released in 1993 (It took 21 years to make a movie out of this book!) followed by Gathering Blue (2000), Messenger (2004) and Son (2012). Currently, I am reading the 3rd book and I am enjoying this series, it raises a lot of questions to me and shows what happens to people who forget what is important in life.

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Book to movie changes

The beginning of the movie seemed a bit rushed, they flew through the bigger part of the book in the first 20-30 minutes, so it was natural that they needed to make some stuff up and plus, they had only less than a 100 pages of the book material left. Basically, in my opinion, the book hadn’t had much action or a clear direction where it was going, to what final piece it was building up to. So, while adapting this sort of slow but thought provoking story into an action flick, they just cleared some things and organized the plot. They also upgraded the setting into a much more modern world which is more appealing to today’s viewers. I was really happy that they included more character development and focused a bit more on other characters instead of focusing just on Thomas. Of course, they added some romance, which is a must for a dystopian YA movie, as well. The last big change – picking a clear antagonist: The Chief Elder played by Meryl Streep.

Acting

Streep was amazing as usual. I also enjoyed other big movie stars like Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes and Jeff Bridges in their pay-check roles. Newcomers Odey Rush and Cameron Monaghan also did a nice job. Cameo form Taylor Swift was good but not too memorable. Rising star Brenton Thwaites, which is going to be in 2 more movie this year (Ride and Son of a Gun) and who was also in Maleficient as Prince Phillip and in The Signal (small budget, independent Sci-Fi thriller), did really good job in his role. I also liked how Brenton’s character Jonas spent the bigger part of the movie with a baby and showed that staying with a kids is not just woman’s work.

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Visuals

Now, speaking about the visuals, I loved the transition from black and white to color and I believe that it worked perfectly with the story. All the different shots of the memories seemed a bit chaotic but nice  as well.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie and didn’t mind the changes because all the main plot points stayed the same and some dialogue lines were straight from the book. The film was touching, cute, pleasant but not too complicated. They portrayed human emotions believably, restored my faith in humanity and made me want to be alive and experience everything – even if just for a moment.

Trailer: The Giver trailer

Rate: 4/5

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Photos: Google Images