5 ideas about a movie: Status Update

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of a movie you haven’t heard of. This is Status Update – a clear example of what the critics (or angry online commentators) mean when they describe something as ‘millennial’.

IMDb summary: Ross Lynch stars as Kyle Moore, a teenager who after being uprooted by his parents’ separation and unable to fit into his new hometown, stumbles upon a magical app that causes his social media updates to come true.

  1. Status Update was written Jason Filardi (he wrote 17 Again) and directed by a music video director Scott Speer (who also did the last two Step Up movies and the upcoming Midnight Sun). I knew (and didn’t mind) the previous works of the duo, so I’ve had certain expectations about this film beforehand. And… it was exactly what I thought it’d be  – a typical teen dramedy with cringe-y and cool moments in an equal measure.
  2. Status Update tried being super contemporary by focusing on the impact of social media (Nerve did that more than a year ago too) and the fictional app the Universe. While the said app was really nonsensical (magic and technology rarely work together), it did have a smart thematical concept. At its core, the Universe was all about wishful thinking or imagining the best version of one’s life. And while that isn’t a healthy practice, it is also one that all people have partaken in at least once in their life. I know that I have certainly imagined quite a few ‘what if’ versions of my own life. Relating to that, I also appreciated the fact that the movie asked the question ‘who is the real you?’. Is it your social media-self or your real-world self? In the past, I had a definite answer to this question, but now, the answer is becoming harder and harder to find.
  3. While Status Update did some new things, it also heavily relied on the good old teen movie cliches. It had some really cringe-y and on-the-nose dialogue; a lot of jokes that didn’t land; and some walking caricatures for its characters (that phone guy was so annoying). It also attempted to present a diverse high school but really fell flat in its representation of a gay student (hopefully, Love, Simon fixes the trend of awful or non-existent LGBTQ+ representation).
  4. From the directing point of view, Status Update was fine. It was relatively short and the pacing was okay. It was also more musical-esque than I expected (thus, it kinda reminded me of High School Musical, which is not a bad thing to resemble, in my book). It also did look like a TV movie that could have aired on Disney Channel/Nickelodeon/Freeform/The CW. Lastly, more as a side note, I really do wonder whether anybody will remember contemporary teen movies fondly in about 30 years time, similarly to how now people feel nostalgic towards the teen films from the 1980s, like the whole filmography of John Hughes.
  5. Status Update’s cast consisted of mostly Disney Channel alumni: Ross Lynch (of Austin & Ally and Teen Beach moviesand Olivia Holt (of Kickin’ ItGirl vs. Monster, and I Didn’t Do It) played the leads. Although I have been a fan of the Disney Channel in the past, I haven’t really been keeping up with it lately (except Descendants) thus, I didn’t know any of the actors. I feel like they are from a later generation of Disney TV (not the generation of HSM, Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place, or Suite Life). The only actor I knew was Greg Sulkin who has been playing this type of a role for years now: he should really move on. Though, typecasting is a hard thing to escape from. Pitch Perfect’s John Michael Higgins also had a role in the movie, not too dissimilar from the one in the acapella trilogy. 

In short, Status Update made me roll my eyes as much as it made me smile. I don’t think it’s necessarily a cinema admission worthy movie but it’s certainly a great Netflix/background for chores film.

Rate: 3.2/5

Trailer: Status Update trailer

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Movie review: Pitch Perfect 3

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the end of the acapella era (more like half a decade). This is Pitch perfect 3.

IMDb summary: Following their win at the world championship, the now separated Bellas reunite for one last singing competition at an overseas USO tour, but face a group who uses both instruments and voices.

Pitch Perfect 3 originally came out during Christmas, though it didn’t feature any Christmas songs. At first, I thought that it was a stupid idea to have a musical that features covers of popular songs come out during Christmas and not feature any Christmas songs. However, since I myself was only able to watch the film in January, the lack of Christmas songs made it still watchable after the festive season has ended. So, it was a smart idea not to tie this picture to any specific time after all.

Writing

The third Pitch Perfect film was written by Kay Cannon (writer of the previous Pitch Perfect films) and Mike White (of The Emoji Movie) and I thought that they did a so-so job. The films in this franchise have always been borderline ridiculous but this one went over such border. It didn’t really do anything really original but also somewhat betrayed the brand of the franchise.

The characters of the film were soon established as being down on their luck. Let me ask you this: when have the Bellas started their films in a good place? Never! These movies all begin the same! However, this movie somewhat differed in that it attempted to developed other characters rather than just Becca (a bit late, guys). And yet, by the end of it, the movie solidified Becca as the only important and the main character (also, I’m pretty sure that they did Becca v Bellas idea in the first film already. Still, the message that true family will lift you up rather than tying you down was a cute one). Also, the fact that the other character’s arcs were wrapped up during the credits was an additional proof of how unimportant they are/were to the series.

Speaking about the betrayal of the brand – why on earth did Pitch Perfect 3 though that it could be a crime drama??? Also, why was it necessary for the Bellas to go on that military tour? It literally added nothing to the story. Plus, that whole tour plotline was full of inconsistencies. They got booed (silenced by a siren) in their first performance, then burnt a hotel room, and then they are suddenly liked by the audiences and everyone? Also, to top everything off, the movie partook in some heavy exposition (pointing out the exposition is not enough for me to forgive the fact they that employed it too). Lastly, some moments of writing were meant to be jokes but just turned out stupid. Like ‘Evermoist’. Really?!

Directing

Neither Jason Moore (director of the original) nor Elizabeth Banks (long-time producer and director of the second film) chose to come back and helm the third film, so the reins went to Trish Sie of Step Up: All In (arguably, the worst film in that franchise). I feel like she did as good of a job as she did with her last film (which means she delivered poor results). The movie felt tonally confused, choppy, and lacked a direction. The opening sequence was ridiculous but, I guess, it prepared the viewer the rest of the film. The performances were fine. Only two of them – the riff-off and the finale felt iconic to this series – because the first one belonged to their signature genre and the last one had some heart. The riff-off also presented the acapella v instruments idea that didn’t go anywhere.

One good thing about this picture was the fact that it felt like a true goodbye. It somewhat concluded all the storylines and had a fun end-credits sequence, full of behind the scenes clips from all 3 movies. It was also nice that it was fairly short, as I don’t think I would have been able to sit through another half an hour of it.

Acting 

A lot of old characters and a bunch of new ones appeared in this film and were fighting for the very limited screening. Anna Kendrick (Mike and Dave, Trolls, The Accountant) and Rebel Wilson were the best just because they had somewhat developed storylines. The other Bellas were played by Brittany SnowAnna Camp (Cafe Society), Hailee Steinfeld (had absolutely nothing to do but was there just because she is probably the biggest name in the cast), Hana Mae Lee (who spoke for the first time in the franchise), Ester Dean (who should have been given more solos because she is brilliant!), and Chrissie Fit. The commentators – John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks (Magic Mike, Mockingjay, Power Rangers) came back too and their inclusion in this movie was justified by a paper-thin reason.

The new characters were played by John Lithgow (I thought that Daddy’s Home 2 was a low point for him but this was something else), Matt Lanter (who was the replacement eye candy for the female viewers), Guy Burnett (eye candy number 2), DJ Khaled (who couldn’t act even when playing himself), and Ruby Rose (the ultimate female crush of any straight girl, who also appeared in John Wick 2 recently).

In short, Pitch Perfect 3 felt flat while trying to go out on a high note.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Pitch Perfect 3 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: Now You See Me 2

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another movie review of this summer. This time, it’s another sequel – Now You See Me 2 also known as Now You See Me: The Second Act.

IMDb summary: The Four Horsemen resurface and are forcibly recruited by a tech genius to pull off their most impossible heist yet.

2013’s NYSM was a surprising and vastly entertaining film, but if Hollywood would not be so focused on franchises, the movie would not have gotten a sequel. Before going to see the sequel, I actually rewatched the first film, because I’ve heard that NYSM 2 relied heavily on the plot of the first picture and, now having seen the movie, I can confirm that. If you want to really enjoy The Second Act you have to have The First One on your mind. Usually, Hollywood tends to make more of  standalone sequels that do not require homework or any preparation, so I don’t understand why they made an exception this time.

SPOILERS FOR BOTH FILMS

Writing

NYSM 2 was written by the same screenwriter as the first film – Ed Solomon. While I really enjoyed the story that he crafted in 2013, I had quite a few problems with its 2016 continuation.

Firstly, as I have already mentioned, the film’s big reveals relied too heavily on the plot developments of the first film:

  1. The movie made the big deal out of the fact that Dave Franco’s character was alive, but we, as the viewers, find that out at the end of the first film.
  2. The reveal that Morgan Freeman was behind all of the events of the sequel (at least, it looked like it) was meaningless if you did not know what role he played in the first film.
  3.  Ruffalo’s character motivation, as well as his father’s story, were given even more screen time but, once again, the crucial info was only told in the first film.
  4. Michael Caine’s character’s involvement in this film can also only be explained by the events of the first movie.
  5. The EYE was once again present in the film and didn’t do anything useful. The big reveals – who was the EYE’s members and that ending involving the EYE – were also kinda underwhelming.
  6. The 2nd film mentioned why Isla Fisher’s character left (in truth, the actress got pregnant and couldn’t participate in the filming), so I appreciate the fact they at least addressed this development in an appropriate to the story way.
  7. The first film had a quick pace and a straight forward plot, but this one had a really slow setup and a really convoluted yet predictable plot.
  8. The sequel kinda recapped the events of the first film and set up the revenge plot in that opening montage with the voiceover by Freeman, but I don’t really think that that was enough.

A few things that I did enjoy where the pairing-ups of the characters. I liked that Dave Franco’s character was the one with the love interest this time, instead of Jesse Eisenberg. Caplan and Franco had great chemistry, although I did not appreciate the fact that they emphasized a few times that Caplan was the only female horseman.In the first film,  Isla Fisher  was just one of the members of the group, not THE ONLY female member. The other pairs were the Prison Break with Mark Ruffalo’s character and Morgan Freeman’s character as well as the competition for the leadership between Ruffalo and Eisenberg. I also liked the mentor/student relationship between Woody Harrelson’s characters and Dave Franco’s character.

The overarching theme of the two films was the revenge of the sons, so I wonder who will be avenging who in the 3rd film, as they will probably make it.

Directing

The film was directed by Step Up’s Jon M. Chu, whose latest film- Jem and the Holograms was one of the biggest financial and critical flops recent years. He did an okay-ish job this time. I didn’t see the need to set half of the movie in Macau, except to please the Chinese audiences and get their money. Also, if you have to set-up a film Macau, why not use it? We only saw Macau in a few shots of the lights and billboards  and those shots were only used tot transition between the scenes.

Also, this film lacked magic. NYSM had 3 big and somewhat realistic magic shows, while NYSM 2 had a few small performances/moments and a few big-ish ones that were completely unbelievable. To begin with, this time, hypnosis seemed like an easy thing that really everybody could do. The passing of the card/chip trick was cool to look at but completely over-the-top. The water/rain trick was also nice and pleasing visually, but, once again, unbelievable and unrealistic. The final act was pretty cool though and did wrap up the story nicely, so I can at least give the director that. However, the finale did leave a lot of questions unanswered and even the horseman realized that. I wonder if they will address any of the questions in the sequel if they make one.

Acting

Firs of all, let me just say that this film had way too many characters, a few of whom were really unnecessary.

  • Jesse Eisenberg as Danny Atlas – was okay and I finally liked his hair in the film, after suffering through his bad hairstyles in BvS and American Ultra. He was believable as an egoistic illusionist and I did like him in the role. Now, I just hope that I can learn to like him as Lex in Justice League.
  • Mark Ruffalo as Dylan Rhodes was also fine. I enjoyed the fact that we finally got to see him doing a few tricks and I also liked the fact that he took up his right place as the 5th horseman in the end. I don’t think that I’ve ever watched a movie with Ruffalo that I did not enjoy, so any film of his is a good bet, but if you don’t know where to start, just check out his most recent work  with Marvel and in Spotlight.
  • Woody Harrelson as Merritt McKinney/Chase McKinney was good and annoying. I liked the character of Merritt but could not understand the need to include Chase as his twin brother, especially when he was this annoying. I sill haven’t finished watching Harrelson on True Detective, although, I’ve really liked him on THG films. He will also be in War for the Planet of the Apes
  • Dave Franco as Jack Wilder was also good. He is really charming and has a great screen presence. He has mostly done comedic work, in 21/22 Jump Street and Neighbors films. He will also be in Nerve later this year.
  • Daniel Radcliffe as Walter Mabry was good but slightly creepy. I’m happy to see Radcliffe getting some mainstream work in this film as well as in Victor Frankenstein, but none of his post-Harry Potter films were able to reach the level of HP success. I wonder if that is even possible
  • Lizzy Caplan as Lula May was a great addition to the cast. I liked her awkward humour and the line ‘He’s cute, let’s kill him’. I don’t know why Caplan does not get more roles in bigger films, as she is so good. My favorite film from Caplan’s filmography is Bachelorette, in which she starts alongside the former NYSM female lead – Isla Fisher.
  • Jay Chou as Li was only there to add ‘diversity’ and appeal to the Asian audiences.
  • Michael Caine as Arthur Tressler and Morgan Freeman as Thaddeus Bradley were both fine but I am getting angry with both of them. They used to be respectable actors and now they are just doing all the films, the majority of which are paycheck gigs. I would love to see them in more serious films and in more challenging roles.

All in all, Now You See Me 2 was an okay film. It was worse than the seqeul, had an uninspired and messy plot and really unrealistic ‘magic’. Defintely not a must watch, but if you do choose to see it, make sure to re-watch NYSM 1 or at least read its plot online.

Rate: 2.8/5

Trailer: Now You See Me 2 trailer

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Movie review: Everybody Wants Some!!

Movie reviews

Hi!

The newest auteur’s Richard Linklater’s picture – Everybody Wants Some!! has finally hit theatres, so let’s talk about it!

IMDb summary: A group of college baseball players navigate their way through the freedoms and responsibilities of unsupervised adulthood.

Richard Linklater 

American director and screenwriter Richard Linklater has made a lot of great movies: the classic coming-of-age comedy/drama Dazed and Confused, which launched a lot of actors’ careers (Matthew McConaughey’s and Ben Affleck’s especially); the most realistic romantic feature(s) and one of my all time favourite stories – The Before trilogy; and one of the most unique cinematic projects in recent memory – Boyhood (which I thought was a gimmick of a movie until I started studying films and realized how much work and dedication this project had to demand). Now, Linklater is back in the genre that helped him to succeed in the first place. 2016’s Everybody Wants Some!! is a spiritual sequel to 1993’s Dazed and Confused. Dazed was set in the 70s, on the last day of high school. Everybody Wants Some!! continues the coming of age idea into the first weekend of college in the 80s. Fittingly, Linklater directs the film in a very old school way. The film has a lot of slow camera movements, no fancy cuts, and a lot of medium shots in a mobile frame.

Story

Richard Linklater not only directed the film, but he also wrote the screenplay. In the same fashion as Dazed, nothing really happens in Everybody Wants Some!! The viewer is following the characters as they try to adjust to new surroundings, socialize with each other, and find themselves. The film finds an interesting way to explore a topic of identity crisis by making its characters go through different stages of partying – from disco to country and from punk to theater. Linklater also explores the gender dynamics (at times, the film does seem sexist) and especially the masculinity of the athletes: how competitive they are, even when there is no need for it, and how they want to dominate or win, in any given situation. The film’s characters seem stereotypical baseball players, yet at the same time, they are all unique, interesting and, most importantly, real .They are just young adults, who are trying to find or create their identities, who seek approval yet want to be weird and unique (individual v team) and who are afraid to end up ordinary, without achieving anything great. In short, they are all well-rounded and complex characters aka real people. The picture also has plenty of funny moments and a perfect ending line – Welcome to College, mot***f**k**s!. I, honestly, don’t remember the last time I giggled so much in a movie (well, probably in Deadpool).

Acting and Characters

The film had a huge ensemble cast – I will try to talk about as many of the characters/actors as I can.

  • Blake Jenner as Jake. We open the film with Jenner’s Jake, arriving at college, so I guess he should be considered the main character, although, as I’ve said, Everybody Want Some!! is an ensemble movie. Nevertheless, Jenner was great in the film – all of the sides of Jake were believable (both the team-orientated, partying baseball player and more romantic, quieter freshman). I’m so happy that Jenner’s career is picking up, because I have followed it closely, since he appeared on The Glee Project and, later on, Glee. This year he had a small role on Supergirl and is also starring in a few other films.
  • Zoey Deutch as Beverly. Deutch had only a few scenes in the picture but I also believed her as a theater nerd. She definitely has some range as an actress because, in this film, she played a complete opposite of her character in The Vampire Academy (the only other film of hers that I have seen). Speaking about VA – I loved the book series, so that’s why I watched the movie. It wasn’t good but definitely not as bad as the trailer showed it to be.
  • Ryan Guzman as Kenny Roper. Guzman surprised me a lot in the film because I have only seen him in Step Up movies and in The Boy Next Door in not very challenging roles. In this film, he was kinda a douchebag but likable one. His mirror scene was super funny.
  • Tyler Hoechlin as Glen McReynolds. Hoechlin left Teen Wolf to be in the movie because he really liked the role, and after seeing the film, I can understand why. His character was funny and also kinda douche baggy, yet extremely team-orientated – a great leader. Hoechlin’s crop tops were also on point. Next film for Hoechlin – aA Fifty Shades sequel.
  • Glen Powell as Finnegan. The scene stealer and the most interesting character of all. He sounded the smartest and his small monologs were nice to lister to. Powell is currently on Scream Queens.
  • Wyatt Russell as Willoughby. Another interesting character that kinda resembled Dazed and Confused’s David Wooderson aka Matthew McConaughey’s character. While McConaughey couldn’t leave highschool, Russell’s character was not ready to say goodbye to college, baseball, and the student lifestyle. Russell has previously starred in 22 Jump Street.
  • Other cast members included Will Brittain as Billy Autrey, Forrest Vickery as Coma, Temple Baker as Plummer, Tanner Kalina as Brumley, Austin Amelio as Nesbit, Juston Street as Jay Niles, Quinton Johnson as Dale, and Dora Madison Burge as Val.

Costumes 

1980s setting of the film added a lot of humor. The outfits (those prints and bell bottoms), the hair and the mustaches seemed weird in 2016 and yet so cool and chill. I would have loved to live in the 80s. The costumes were created by Kari Perkins while Michaela Farrell and Jennifer Jackson were the two key artists, responsible for makeup and hair.

Music

The film’s soundtrack was also on point. One of the scenes involving music was the singing in the car sequence – Rapper’s Delight by The Sugar Hill Gang– it was amazing. The soundtrack was picked by Linklater himself and this article on IGN nicely explains all the behind-the-scenes thoughts on music.

In short, Everybody Wants Some!! is an interesting exploration of one of the most exciting periods in people’s lives. The characters drift around and the viewer has a chance to chill with them. The costumes and the music are so 80s and so on-point while the acting and the jokes are pleasing as well.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Everybody Want Some!! trailer

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5 ideas about a movie Hail, Caesar! + The Coen Brothers

Movie reviews

Hello!

Since the BvS hysteria has died down and the next superhero craze hasn’t started yet, let’s review a movie that I’m 3 months late to review – Hail, Caesar! by The Coen brothers. In my defense, UK was probably the last place that this movie was released in. However,  I do acknowledge the fact that, although I saw this movie probably 2  months ago, I couldn’t find time to discuss it. Well, better late than never, so without further ado, let’s talk about The Coen brothers themselves and their newest creation – Hail, Caesar!

The Coen Brothers

I would argue that The Coen brothers deserve to be called the modern auteurs of contemporary filmmaking for they distinct style and accomplishments in cinematic storytelling. They are able to take the core archetypes – the premises for either tragic or comedic stories – and make something spectacular and unique out of it. To give a few examples of this, I will briefly discuss their most well-known comedy The Big Lebowski, their most famous tragedy No Country For Old Men and their wonderful combination of these two polar opposites – Fargo.

The Big Lebowski: the kooky and quirky comedy that gave a start to a whole new religion. One of the weirdest films that I have ever watched, yet it still very clear and extremely funny. The story is kinda ridiculous (happens by accident and is a misunderstanding) but the film somehow makes sense in the end.

No Country For Old Men: a slow and suspenseful masterpiece, filmed in wide shots. Aurally haunting because of the lack of score. A great character study in a cohesive style of The Coens but, at the same time, very extraordinary and different.

Fargo: another example of the great usage of the wide and long shots. The film has a lot of  old school ‘fade to black’ transitions and uses the music really well. The mise-en-scene is full of white ‘any-space-whatevers’, as described by Deleuze. And, of course, all the ‘yah’ lines in that Minnesota dialect are iconic. Fargo is probably my favorite film by The Coen brothers.

Other films that The Coen brothers either fully made or only partially contributed to that I have seen are: Inside Llewyn Davis –  very personal story of a musician. This movie introduced me to Oscar Isaac for the very first time. The Coens also worked on Bridge of Spies’s and Unbroken’s scripts. Both of these films are very enjoyable.

Although, I have seen quite a few films made by The Coen duo, but I want to watch a lot more, especially Raising Arizona, Burn After ReadingA Serious Man, Miller’s Crossing, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and True Grit.

Now, let me tell you 5 things about Hail, Caesar!

IMDb summary: A Hollywood fixer in the 1950s works to keep the studio’s stars in line.

  1. To begin with Hail, Caesar! was The Coen brothers’ love letter to old Hollywood. While watching this film, I was taken back to the Golden Age of Hollywood and got a chance to directly witness the behind-the-scenes inner workings of the movie business. Other films about the creation of motion pictures, which you might want to check out if you are interested, are the old school Singin’ in the Rain and the newer ones like Trumbo, Hugo and even Argo.
  2. The actual story of Hail, Caesar! was quite hectic and overwhelming. Some scenes seemed to come out of nowhere, but I guess that just showed how unpredictable the movie business was/is. I really liked the 24h time frame of the plot as well as the fact that we got to see all the aspect of filmmaking: the pre-production, the principal photography and the post-production. The constant narration also did not irritate me. However, a few of the jokes seemed to be quite painfully awkward, at least to me.
  3. Hail, Caesar! explored themes like the manipulation of people, the power of the public image and the importance of movies. It also looked at the business vs. creativity dichotomy of the film industry. The picture also had a lot of religious undertones and Christian imagery. Overall, the picture was a great synthesis of the traditional and the modern.
  4. Hail, Caesar! tied itself to reality/history with that communist screenwriters plot-line, which I did not enjoy that much. It just seemed like the easiest route to go to for the movie that is set during the Cold War. I wish that the end-game of the film would have been different, because I have seen enough movies (from all genres) that have already explored the East vs. West divide of the 20th century and did that in a more compelling way.
  5. Hail, Caesar! had a huge an accomplished cast, but, sadly, this film seemed like a paycheck gig for the majority of the actors. I feel awful for saying this, because this is The Coen brothers’ movie after all. Josh Brolin (Everest, Sicario, Marvel), a long-time collaborator of The Coens, led the cast and did a nice job. George Clooney (Tomorrowland), another favorite of The Coens, seemed to be playing himself (at least that version of him that the media has created). The relative newcomer Alden Ehrenreich played quite a stereotypical character, but he managed to subvert that stereotype. Ralph Fiennes (Spectre), Jonah Hill (Jump Street films), Scarlett Johansson (Marvel, Chef), Fargo’s Frances McDormand as well as Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer) also had minor but very theatrical roles.  Lastly, Channing Tatum (Jump Street, Magic Mike and Step Up films) rounded up the cast. His musical number reminded me a lot of Frank Sinatra’s and Gene Kelly’s performance in 1945’s Anchors Aweigh.

In short, Hail, Caesar! was not the best The Coen brothers’ film, but it was still enjoyable and pleasant. A solid B picture.

Rate: 3.9/5

Trailer: Hail, Caesar! trailer

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Movie review: The Hateful Eight

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a movie review of a film that would have made my top 10 list if I had seen it last year. However, since distribution companies have not yet figured out that global day-in-day releases are desired by movie fans worldwide, I was only able to see the 8th film by Quentin TarantinoThe Hateful Eight – in January. So, since I am already late to the party, let’s do not waste any more time and review this motion picture.

IMDb summary: In the dead of a Wyoming winter, a bounty hunter and his prisoner find shelter in a cabin currently inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters.

SPOILER ALERT

Quentin Tarantino

The Hateful Eight is the 5th Tarantino’s film that I have seen (I still have Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2 (considered to be a single film), Jackie Brown and Death Proof to go). I do not think that I would be able to pick my favorite film of his. I actually cannot even decide if I like his early work – crime thrillers – more than I like his later historical movies. I also really applaud Tarantino for endorsing the work of other creators. For example, he has worked really hard to introduce Western audiences to Asian cinema. One of the directors that he has spoken highly of is Wong Kar-Wai from Hong Kong. I did my midterm essay on his film – Chunking Express. While I did not get that great of a mark (low B), I loved the process of watching the film, doing research and the finally putting my thoughts on paper (the same as I do in here, only in a more formal fashion). One of the sources that I used in my essay was Tarantino’s commentary on that particular film. He did a casual intro for the film’s DVD with zero formalities and a relaxed attitude – as an everyday person talking to his friends about movies.

And that is one of the reasons why I am a fan of his – he is just like us – a movie fan first and a filmmaker second. His knowledge of films and their history is infinite. More importantly, he respects those who came before him and expresses that in his work. Tarantino blends the cinema’s past (70 mm film gauge, narrative’s division into chapters, intermission, overture, manual focus/racking) and his own creativity and signature style (non-linear narrative (flashbacks), bloody and shocking scenes and ideas, one of a kind characters) perfectly. It all just somehow fits together, no questions asked.

Visually, the film looked beautiful. Both the outdoor and indoor mise-en-scenes were wonderful and utilized very well. Character outfits were also memorable and unique (the furs, the hats, the red tie). I also applaud him for doing a nude scene with a male as we have seen enough naked female bodies on screen already. Speaking about the cinematography, the wide shots looked amazing because of the wide film gauge (although I wish I would have seen the film on a bigger screen – my local theater was showing it on the 5th screen, which is middle sized – it would have been more pleasant to see it on the biggest – no.1 – screen).  In addition, Tarantino’s usage of long and steady takes was also wonderful – although there was only a slight movement, present on the screen, the viewers were fully engaged because of the dialogue.

While this film did not have any iconic monologs (Pulp Fiction), it definitely did have some nice lines, which were brought to life by amazing actors and actresses. The subtle humor and irony were also present and done in a cool way. The build up and the opening were a bit slow, but they did an amazing job of setting everything up before the real action and mystery started. I also appreciated the narration by Tarantino itself – it was a bit surprising but an interesting creative choice – it broke the 4th wall but also sucked you into a story more, by explaining the setup but not really telling anything that would ruin the surprise that would come later.

Music

The Hateful Eight’s score was created by Ennio Morricone, and he won a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score for this soundtrack. I especially liked the usage of the song There Won’t Be Many Coming Home by Roy Orbison during the credits, but the whole score was amazing and build tension perfectly.

Acting

The film had a huge bunch of unique characters. I won’t be able to talk about all of them but all the actors deserve highest praises and at least a mention.

The titular eight:

  • Samuel L. Jackson as Major Marquis Warren a.k.a. “The Bounty Hunter” was amazing as always. I don’t think I have ever seen a film where I did not like his character or where Jackson did a poor job and that certainly has never happened in a Tarantino film. I loved the calm face and the sneaky and amused smile he was doing while telling that graphic story. It was a bit disturbing to listen but captivated you nonetheless. His Lincoln letter was not only a unique prop but an interesting story device. Samuel L. Jackson has had a long and rewarding career and I can’t wait to see what he does next. I hope he will re-team with Tarantino once more and if not – I still have MCU movies to look forward to.
  • Kurt Russell as John Ruth a.k.a. “The Hangman” was also another wonderful character and an amazing performance by Russell. His mustache was also on point. His best scenes were the ones with his prisoner – they had amazing chemistry and wonderful back and forth banter.
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue a.k.a. “The Prisoner” was also really good in this role. I liked the fact that she was a female prisoner and that nobody cared about that and treated her terribly. I also like the fact that she looked awful by the end of the film – this movie broke every ‘beauty’ standard of Hollywood.
  • Walton Goggins as Sheriff Chris Mannix a.k.a.”The Sheriff”. He was my favorite character. While I did not agree with his racist remarks, I loved his genuine reaction to everything and the infinite excitement. Goggins has worked with Tarantino before back in 2012’s Django Unchained. He was also in last year’s awful action comedy American Ultra – he definitely can do better than that and I am so happy that he was great in this film.
  • Demián Bichir as Bob (Marco the Mexican) a.k.a. “The Mexican” – while nothing really stood out to me about his character or the performance of the actor, I did love the reveal involving him and a sign above the bar.
  • Tim Roth as Oswaldo Mobray (English Pete Hicox) a.k.a. “The Little Man”. Another actor who has worked with Tarantino in the 90s. He was good in the film and I loved the sneaky attitude of his – from the very beginning, you could feel that there was something odd about him.
  • Michael Madsen as Joe Gage (Grouch Douglass) a.k.a. “The Cow Puncher”  the quietest of the bunch – looks can be deceiving and the characters in this film learned that.
  • Bruce Dern as General Sanford “Sandy” Smithers a.k.a. “The Confederate” – a spectator of the action that just happened to be in a wrong place, at a wrong time. The character seemed to be a terrible person but I kinda felt bad for him when he had to endure that story.

Supporting cast:

  • James Parks as O.B. Jackson – the driver of the stagecoach who also had no need to be there and met a sad faith. I loved the tassels on his hat.
  • Channing Tatum as Jody Domergue – I knew that Tatum would be in this film because I was very happy for him when the casting announcement was made public. He was not present in the trailer, so I was hoping that his part would be an important one because it might have been spoiler-y. And that’s exactly what it was. I loved the reveal of his character but I also wish that we could have spent more time with him. Tatum has also had a promising career so far. He has a loyal mainstream fanbase (Step Up, Magic Mike and its sequel, 21 and 22 Jump Street) and an Oscar-nominated film on his resume – 2014’s Foxcatcher. Next year, he will star in the comedy Hail, Caesar! and will also start shooting the new Gambit film – while I am excited about that film and the fact that he got the role, I still think that Taylor Kitsch was a perfectly fine Gambit. I guess we will see if Tatum can do it better.
  • The flashback sequence also included a few nice characters who only had a few scenes each. Their names and the actors who portrayed them deserve to be mentioned: Dana Gourrier as Minnie MinkZoë Bell as Six-Horse JudyLee Horsley as EdGene Jones as Sweet Dave and Belinda Owino as Gemma.

All in all, The Hateful Eight was an amazing film and another great example of the greatness of Tarantino. It was the perfect blend of old and new, known and fresh. It had all the trademarks/cliches of Tarantino but it never got boring or predictable. I would love for it to win or at least get a nomination in the Best Ensemble category at the Academy Awards because all the members of the cast did a stellar job. Well, if they don’t get that nomination, the film will probably/definitely get one in Best Picture category.

Rate: 5/5

Trailer: The Hateful Eight trailer

P.S. This has nothing to do with The Hateful Eight (well, not directly at least), but I just can’t shake the idea that a new Adam Sandler movie Ridiculous 6 sounds like a parody of this film. I don’t think it is and I do not plan on watching it, but I just found it funny how both of these names kinda sound similar in my mind and wanted to share my thoughts with you. Bye!

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Movie review: Magic Mike XXL

Movie reviews

Hello!

Let’s see where the hell Channing Tatum’s career is going and review Magic Mike XXL. 

I have been closely following Tatum’s career since he appeared in the first Step Up film (review of the whole franchise). That film defined my childhood, so I feel like I must see every movie that Tatum stars in, no matter how boring it might be (BTW,can’t wait for Gambit).  While I applaud his decision to embrace his stripper past, I believe that making a sequel to a 2012’s Magic Mike was a mistake. The original film was fresh and surprising – something the audiences have never seen before. On top of having that surprise element, the film was actually a really great comedy/drama – it had good jokes and some deeper undertones. Sadly, the sequel throws it all away. All we get is a boring road-trip film full of cringe worthy moments and big name actress, who have no purpose being there.

IMDb summary: Three years after Mike bowed out of the stripper life at the top of his game, he and the remaining Kings of Tampa hit the road to Myrtle Beach to put on one last blow-out performance.

Character by character

The ladies

Andie MacDowell had nothing to do and her character could have been played by anybody. Elizabeth Banks stopped by during the final act but didn’t bring anything to the table. The only one who really impressed me was Jada Pinkett Smith. She was amazing emcee and really knew how to get the crowd going. Also, she looked amazing. I wish I could look that good when I am here age. I am used to seeing her with short hair and in a sparkly dress like in Gotham, but she can definitely rock long straight locks and a pant suit.

Amber Heard played the new love interest for Tatum’s character. She seemed interesting at first, but they never really developed her character or explored her past, so she became just another chick in the crowd that Tatum can dance on. 

The guys

All the male entertainers had their moments. I really enjoyed Channing Tatum‘s and Stephen “tWitch” Boss’s last performance (both of the are Step up alumni). Matt Bomer and Donald Glover had some nice singing moments. Joe Manganiello had a funny gas station scene. Kevin Nash and Adam Rodríguez were also part of the cast. This is probably one of the most diverse group of guys in a film in recent years.

Anyway, the dialogue between these actors was really stiff and even cringe worthy. Sentimental moments felt flat, although the team of friendship was quite nicely conveyed. In addition, I liked how they were able to include each performer’s personality and life goals into their stripping.

They also explained why Alex Pettyfer’s and Matthew McConaughey’s characters were missing from the film. We all know the behind the scenes reasons but it’s nice that they addressed that in the film as well.

The music

The soundtrack of the film was quite good too. To be fair, it consisted mostly of the songs are are played on the radio over and over again. But, since I’m okay with pop music, I’d enjoy it. Dam it, I’m trying o hard to find nice things to say about this film.

All in all, it was an okay drama movie and even worse comedy. The dance performance were okay but not that surprising, the dialogue – awkward and wooden and the story – boring and snooze worthy. Lastly, visually, the film was really beautiful. 

Sorry for the short review, I just can’t seen to find anything to say about this film. It was not good but not bad either. It was just there.

Rate: 2.75/5

Trailer: Magic Mike XXL 

P.S. A week has passed since I saw the film and I do remembered it with a smile on my face, so maybe I was to harsh while judging and criticizing it. The film definitely has a staying power.

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Movie review: Step Up 5: All in + a look back to a whole franchise

Movie reviews

Hello!

Another group of movie reviews. Hope you enjoy it!

I have been introduced into Step Up world when I was 9 years old. I remember at that time watching the first Step Up (2006) and falling in love with it. I have seen it countless times and it was like my favorite movie of childhood. Now, as I grow older, I understand that these movies are far from perfect: storylines are really predictable and acting is not that great. However, dancing is badass and no one can argue with that. And let’s face – it is all what we need in a good Step Up movie.

As I said before, I have first seen Step Up (2006) when I was like 9 or 10 years old, my older neighbor who was 13 at that time showed it to me and I remember dancing with her all day after watching it. I liked Channing Tatum in it and I also believe that that story was the most original of them all. Rate 4.5/5

Step Up 2: The Streets (2008) focused more on street dancing and hip hop but most importantly it introduced us to Moose played by Adam Sevani. He acts like glue to this franchise like Agent Coulson is to Marvel Cinematic Universe. He is also my favorite character.  Going back to the movie, that final dance in the rain was my favorite dance number till Step Up 3D came up. Rate 4/5

Step Up 3D (2010) is my favorite step up movie story wise. It also has some sick dance numbers but then again, every Step Up movie that comes out is better than the last one and dance numbers are more kick-ass. I also loved the fact that they brought a lot of previous cast members for the third film and I was also really excited when they decided to do that in the 5th film as well. In addition, I really liked Alyson Stoner’s and Adam Sevani’s pair, their dance number in the street was super fun. My favorite part of the movie is the montage of preparation for the final battle in that game station basement. Rate 5/5

Step Up 4: Revolution (2012) is also a really fun movie which explores the theme of fighting for what is right. It also includes flash mobs which were so hot during 2012. My favorite parts are the dance in the museum and the dance in the office. Rate 5/5

Step Up 5: All in (2014). So, two years came by and we have another Step Up movie. I went to see it on an opening night so spoilers ahead if you don’t want to know anything about this film.  I liked that they brought all the previous cast members and that the main characters were are also well know (the girl (played by Briana Evigan) is from 2nd movie and a boy (played by Ryan Guzman) is from 4th). The whole movie felt like a reunion.

The plot seemed predictable at first but I liked the twist of The Mob turning against new team and then the twist at the end that it was all a scripted reality show. The character development was also better in this movie. We got some Andie’s back story, we also got to know what happened after the events of the 4th film to the Mob, and finally, we followed up on Camille’s and Moose’s love story. 

However, I got to say that, in my opinion, they ran out of ideas when it comes to dancing. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the performances, especially that Sean’s and Andie’s dance of the carousel in the old Vegas Park and Moose’s dance in the bar but they weren’t super fresh, new or exciting. I guess I have seen too many dance movies and previous 4 Step Up films did not do any favors to the choreography of this film. Moreover, since it is Vegas, everything became more about the show and less about the dancing and techniques. Lastly, I would like to mention two little aspects of the movie which I really enjoyed: Robot love and Twin dancers! Rate 4/5

All in all, my favorite Step Up movies are 3rd and 4th, then comes the original movie from 2006 and then The Streets and 5th film are my least favorite. If they make a sequel I will probably watch it, but be less excited. Hope you have a great evening. Bye!

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